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EDIE'S PARTICULAR FRIEND.
"How old are you?"-Page 22.
~~m nI mm m
EDIE'S PARTICULAR FRIEND.
BY THE AUTHOR OF TO THE CITY."
PUBLISHED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF
THE COMMITTEE OF GENERAL LITERATURE AND EDUCATION.
APPOINTED BY THE SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING
Sacietg for Vromoting Trmistian rnoMlage,
NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, CHARMING CROSS, W.C.;
43, QUEEN VICTORIA STREET, E.C.;
26, ST. GEORGE'S PLACE, HYDE PARK CORNER, S.W.
BRIGHTON: 135, NORTH STREET.
NEW YORK: E. & J. B. YOUNG 8 Co.
LA UNCEY VERNON;
EDIE'S PARTICULAR FRIEND.
SISTERR LAUNCELOT VERNON," an-
nounced the servant, as she threw
open the drawing-room door.
f j Four pairs of eyes were fixed
on the open doorway with a look
of curiosity, which gave way to one of
amusement when, instead of the gentle-
man all expected to see, in walked a boy
of about eight or nine years old.
He was a slight, delicate-looking little
fellow, dressed in a black velvet suit, with a deep,
8 Launcey Vernon; or,
white lace collar fastened round his throat ; his
fair hair, which was long and curling, fell on
his shoulders, adding to his childish, almost girlish
He made a polite little bow as he entered, then
walked up to Mrs. Dacres with outstretched hand.
My papa said you asked me to come and see
you," he said, as they shook hands.
"We are very glad to see you, and have been
hoping you would come for some time," was the kind
,answer. "I have a number of young people to
introduce you to," continued Mrs. Dacres, looking
round at her four girls, who were sitting working in
the large bow window that opened on to the lawn.
He turned towards them with a smile and another
polite little bow, in so old-fashioned a manner that
he nearly upset the gravity of the youngest of
You must tell me your Christian name, for I am
not quite sure of it," said Mrs. Dacres.
Launcelot; but nurse calls me Launcey."
And your own little friends too, I dare say?"
I have no friends," was his answer. I never have
Edie's Particular Friend. 9
any one to play with me, because papa does not like
a noise," he explained.
"You shall be our friend," said Edith, the youngest
of the girls, a bright, rosy-faced child of about his own
age, who, springing up and taking his hand, shook it
The boy looked at her for a moment thoughtfully,
and then said, Thank you, that will be very nice, for
I like you very much."
"Yes, dear Edith," said her mother, I hope you
and all my children will be friends with Launcey.
Now," she continued, smiling, "I must introduce
them all to you by name. This is Minnie, my
"Girl, mother," corrected Minnie, a tall girl of
fifteen, greeting Launcey with a kiss, quite like a
grown-up lady, he thought.
My eldest girl," said Mrs. Dacres. "Then come
'our twins,' Lottie and Isabel, or, as we call her, Issa;
they are thirteen; and this is Edith."
My friend," put in Launcey.
Yes, your particular friend," added the young lady
Io Launcey Vernon; or,
"What a number of children you have, Mrs.
Dacres!" he said, as he seated himself beside her.
"Well, I suppose we are rather a large party, but
I have not one too many."
You have only seen half of us; we are eight
altogether," said Minnie. There are the three boys,
and baby you have to see yet."
I think Launcey had better wait to hear about the
others, till he knows more of you four," answered
After a little further conversation, Minnie asked,
"Did you come here all alone ? "
No; Phoebe, my nurse, brought me; she is waiting
in the hall. Have I been here long enough? Ought
I to go?" he asked, anxiously.
No, dear; we like you to stay. I wonder if papa
would mind your remaining to have tea with us, and
to see the little ones, for you ought to know us all,"
said Mrs. Dacres.
Oh, do stay," said Edith; "you would like to,
wouldn't you? she added, coaxingly.
"Yes, I should like very much to do so. Shall I
go and tell Phoebe I am to stop ?"
Edie's Particular Friend. 11
But won't your papa mind ?" asked Minnie, who
was mother's right hand with the children, and did
not think it at all the correct thing for so young a boy
to settle matters for himself.
Edith's eyes danced with fun as she said
demurely, "You see, Minnie, all little boys and
girls are not obliged to ask every time they want
to do anything."
Edith," began Minnie, in a shocked tone of voice,
but, seeing her mother look at her sister, with a smile
and shake of the head, said no more.
As Mrs. Dacres left the room to speak to
Phoebe, Launcey said, Papa won't mind ; he
won't know that I have been to tea here till I tell
Won't he miss you ?"
Oh no! I never see him till bedtime."
"What, not all day ?" said Lottie.
Oh, I didn't mean that. I always see him in the
morning, and sometimes in the middle of the day, and
I always say 'good-night' to him."
Not at your dinner? "
Not always. Papa doesn't take lunch: he always
12 Launcey Vernon; or,
breakfasts late." Seeing from their faces that they
were rather astonished at what he had been telling
them, he added, "You know my papa is not like other
people's papas, nurse says. He is very clever, and
writes books, and reads all day and quite late at night
-so he does not like to be disturbed by children, and
you know I am only a child still."
But haven't you a mother ? asked Edith.
The boy's blue eyes filled with tears as he answered,
" Not here; my mother is in heaven. She died when
I was quite a little baby; but I know what she is like
quite well from her picture."
Poor Launcey! said Edith, pityingly.
But I have got papa," he added, eagerly.
"And you shall come here and share our mother,"
continued Edith. What more could she offer him ?
She thought then that "Was not that the very best
thing they had ? "
Mrs. Dacres entered the room before he could
reply to this generous offer, and said, Phcebe
says you may stay, Launcey; come out and speak
to her before she goes;" and taking his hand in
hers she led him from the room, whispering as
Edie's Particular Friend. 13
she passed a few words to Minnie, who nodded in
As the door closed a chorus of voices began, What
a dear little fellow !" from the twins, and from Edith,
"What a horrid man to have for a papa, always
at his books I am glad ours is not like that, aren't
Don't talk so much, Edie. Mother said-"
Oh, I saw her whisper to you."
Do be quiet, Edie, or I can't tell you what she
said. It was that we were not to say anything about
his being lonely-poor little fellow," she added to
"I expected Edith would have informed him that
she thought his father was a horrid sort of one to
have," laughed Issa.
I intend to be very kind to him," was Edith's
"What an old-fashioned boy he is, and not a bit
shy, coming in like that all by himself! "
Fancy," exclaimed Lottie, Bob going to call
anywhere, and announcing himself as 'Mr. Robert
14 Launcey Vernon; or,
All joined in the laugh caused by this idea
The door opening at the moment, Mrs. Dacres and
Launcey came in.
The latter looked inquiringly at the laughing girls,
and Minnie answered the look by saying,
"We were laughing at the idea of Bob calling on
any one and being very polite." She did not like to
add Calling himself Mr. Robert Dacres,' for fear of
hurting Launcey's feelings, and making him think he
had done something unusual.
He looked puzzled as he replied,
Papa says that I must always behave like a gentle-
man, and they are always polite, are they not ?"
"Yes, dear," answered Mrs. Dacres, "a true gentle-
man always is."
"And a Christian gentleman, nurse says; and you
know I must be that, or I shan't go to my mamma,
unless I am."
"True, Launcey dear. God grant that you may be
a true Christian in every sense of the word. Now,
children, I think you may put away your work, and
take Launcey into the garden."
Hurrah I No more work," cried Edith, flinging
Edie's Particular Friend. 15
up the handkerchief she had been hemming into
Launcey laughed at her delight, and said, Don't
you like work? I do."
"You like work-why ? That's the best of being a
boy, that you need not learn to hem-ugh," she added
as she folded it up, "you are done for to-day, so
good-bye till to-morrow."
What work do you do, Launcey? asked Lottie.
I did a piece of woolwork last winter; grounded a
stool for Mrs. Peters, that was our landlady in London.
I had a cough, and could not go out for a long time
-not for weeks."
What a dull time it must have been for you !"
"I always have a cough every winter, but
nurse says it was worse last winter, because it
was so cold."
The twins were busy putting away their work,
and Edith, seeing they meant to go out, also
You are not coming out, are you ?"
Yes, of course we are."
But not with us ; it's not fair. He ought to come
16 Launcey Vernon; or,
with me, for he is my friend. You would rather have
me, wouldn't you, Launcey ? "
He was sadly perplexed what to answer, and
did not like to hurt anyone's feelings by saying he
did not wish to walk with them. Yes," he said, I
should like to go with you; but could not we all go
And the big ones do all the talking! No, thank
you," she answered.
No fear of your not talking, Edie," laughed Issa.
" But you need not be in such a fright: we are going
to our gardens, so you may go where you like."
"It was very kind of Launcey wanting you,
though," said Minnie. "I wish you were as polite,
Now, Minnie, you dear old thing, don't scold. We
are going to have a splendid afternoon, and I will be
so good. Now, Launcey, I am all ready-all but giving
mother a kiss. Come along," and seizing his hand, she
went over to where her mother was sitting, and, throwing
her arm round her neck, she gave and received a loving
"You want one too, Launcey, don't you ?" she said.
Edie's Particular Friend. 17
Her mother stooped and kissed him affectionately,
saying as she did so, "You must not mind my
impetuous little Edie, but must try and teach her to
be quiet and gentle, as you are."
"Then I will teach him to romp in return," was her
laughing answer, as she ran off into the garden.
S the two children disappeared in the
shrubbery, Mother," Isabel began, do
tell us about Mr. Vernon. What sort of
a person is he ?"
"I once heard father say he was a
bookworm; what is that ?" asked Lottie.
"Your father meant that he was very
fond of his books, and spends almost all
his time over them."
"What a dreary sort of a father to
Poor Mr. Vernon," said their mother;
"he has had a great deal of trouble in
his life, I have heard; and since I knew
him also-that was when he first came to
Launcey Vernon. 19
Woodlands, about ten years ago. That winter Mrs.
Vernon was very ill, and the doctors feared con-
sumption, so they went abroad. Then Launcelot
was born. His mother, as he told you, did not live
long after that; she died when he was only a few
Did Mr. Vernon live abroad after that, and keep
Launcey with him ? "
He brought Launcey back to England, and left
him in the care of an aunt who lived in Devonshire.
The child remained with her till he was six years
old, when his father took him abroad with him till
Yes, he said they were in London last spring;
and where is the aunt ? "
She died about two years ago; so, poor boy, he is
left as it were a second time motherless."
Are they going to live here always now? "
That question, dear, I cannot answer. It depends a
great deal on Launcey's health, I expect."
Isn't he a pretty little fellow,-so fair and slight?"
Yes, too fair and slight, I fear. He looks far from
strong, poor little man-he is very like his mother; he
20 Launcey Vernon; or,
has her eyes and gentle expression, and his way of
speaking reminds me of her, too."
The two younger girls had waited to hear all that
their mother knew about Launcey's history, before they
went off to the garden. Minnie lingered behind them
to say to her mother, Is not it sad for poor Launcey to
be so alone? Mother, how could I have managed
without you?" she went on, looking lovingly at her
mother as she spoke. "And then, no brother or
sister. I do feel so sorry for him."
Yes, darling, you see that even children can teach
us something. Don't you think you can learn any-
thing from him ?-not to mind when Edie and Bob
are troublesome, or what you consider troublesome ?"
"Yes, mother, I know what you mean. I will try
and learn that; and we may be very kind to him, may
we not ?"
I hope you will, dear; and I think he will be a very
good companion for Edie. He is almost too quiet for a
child, and she is so bright and lively, it will do him
good to be with her.. Are not you going out, Minnie ? "
Yes, I will go and join the others," and she, too,
went off into the garden.
Edie's Particular Friend. 21
Edith and Launcey had wandered off together, and
were making a tour of inspection through the garden
and shrubberies. There was so much to be seen and
explained. The swing was visited and the summer-
house; by the time they reached the pond, which lay at
the bottom of the meadow at the side of the house, the
two children had become great friends. Neither of
them were shy, so it had not taken them long to be
quite at home with one another.
By the time Launcey had admired the pond, with its
tall rushes and grasses edging the banks, and the white
water-lilies that were floating on its surface, Edie
thought he ought to hear about the absent members of
the family, one of whom was her own especial play-
mate and friend.
It must be confessed that if talking is a sign of
entertaining, Edie was doing her best, for her tongue
was going as fast as ever it could. It was not often
she got such a good listener as Launcey, who was, and
showed that he was, deeply interested in all she was
"You know," she said, "we are not all girls, there
are three boys. There is George, he is quite grown up,
22 Launcey Vernon; or,
and nearly as tall as father; he is seventeen-older than
Minnie. Then there is Bob; he is at a boarding-school
too; I am his chum, he says so himself; that means,"
she explained, I am his great friend, so I ought to be,
because we all seem to come in twos-he is eleven, not
much older than I am."
How old are you ? Launcey managed to ask.
I am nine; two years is nothing, is it ? but with-
out waiting for an answer she rattled on with her
Then Freddy, he is five; he's a dear little boy, but
so fat. And then there is baby May; she's a regular
darling; she was four last May-day. Father calls her
his little May-blossom. She is so pretty, her hair
curls all over her head, and her eyes are blue, some-
thing like yours, only different, and, and-" Here she
had to stop quite breathless, and Launcey asked, What
is your papa like ?"
What, have I not told you about him yet? He is
such a nice man. He is very funny, and makes us laugh,
and he plays with us sometimes, such glorious games.
He is not often angry, except when we are dreadfully
wicked, then he is. He always says,' Children, always
Edie's Particular Friend. 23
remember two things, perfect truthfulness and strict
obedience,' and we know he means it. It is dreadful
to make him angry, but it is more than dreadful
when we vex mother; she looks so sorry that it
makes you feel sorry all over. Now you can
tell me all about yourself; I have told you lots,
haven't I ?"
"I have not much to tell. I've no brothers and
sisters, and no mother-only papa and Phoebe."
Tell me about your papa."
I love him best of all the world, but he is not like
yours; he does not play games and make me laugh, but
he is very nice, he is very clever, and--A'
Do you know, Launcey, I think very clever people
are very stupid." Launcey burst out laughing at this
speech, and Edie joined in merrily, I didn't mean to
say that. I meant very dull."
"I don't know any people who are very clever except
"Well, he is dull."
No, he is not dull," answered Launcey, indignantly,
and with the colour rising in his cheeks. He is quiet;
that is different; I can't explain, but it is."
24 Launcey Vernon; or,
Edie felt quite sorry that she had vexed him, and
remembered Minnie's words, but, alas, too late. Why
hadn't she thought of them before she spoke ?/
I don't know your papa, but he must be very nice,
or you wouldn't be so fond of him. I shouldn't like
any one who wasn't nice; but you have been to lots of
places; tell me about them."
I have been to some lovely places abroad, where
the mountains tower up till they seem to touch the
skies. When I first saw them I felt sure that that was
the way to heaven, and, Edith," he continued, lowering
his voice, I cried when nurse said it was not, but I
was only six then. That was more than two years ago;
I wouldn't now that I am bigger."
Did you ever go up any of them ?"
"Yes, we went up and stayed among the hills,
but never to the top of the great mountains that were
covered with snow. I wish I could tell you what
they were like. I often shut my eyes and see them
"And what else did you see?" asked Edie, as
Launcey stopped, and was lost in the remembrance of
the lovely hills.
Edie's Particular Friend. 25
In the towns there were such lots of places, full of
the most beautiful pictures. They were generally,"
he added, in a graver tone, of our Saviour when
He was a Baby, and He always had His Mother
with Him then. It was only me that never had any
"Poor Launcey," whispered Edie, "but you've got
Him, though, to love and take care of you."
"Yes, I know that," was his answer, his pale face
lighting up with pleasure as he spoke; and when I
have my cough and can't sleep I think about it, and
when I am playing by myself, I think how nice it must
have been for the little boys and girls He played
I never have time to think about anything when I
am playing; how can you? asked Edie, in surprise.
I don't play games like you; I have imaginary
people to play with me, and then I think about it.
Nurse says she is sure He was kind to them, even then.
He could not help being kind."
Must not He have been a good boy, Launcey? He
could never have made His Father angry, or His
Mother sorry by doing dreadful things."
26 Launcey Vernon; or,
The two walked on quietly for a few minutes with-
out speaking, and then Edith, who never could be
silent long, commenced-
"What other pictures did you see? "
There were some of Him on the Cross wearing the
Crown of Thorns-oh! so sad !-they made me feel
ready to cry. He looked so ill and so sorry I "
It must have hurt dreadfully, no wonder He looked
Nurse says He does not mind that sort of pain; it
hurts Him twenty times more when we do naughty
things. When I am naughty, and think of those
pictures, I get sorry and feel so ashamed."
"I will try and do that, and then perhaps I shall
"Can't you remember things?" he asked, in a
"Some things, but I am always forgetting about
things I ought to do, and then I don't do my lessons
properly, and Miss Glover gets vexed with me,
and says I don't try properly, but I do-at least
Who is Miss Glover ?"
Edie's Particular Friend. 27
Oh, I have not told you about her. She is our
governess, and is a dear, except at lessons, and then
she is dreadfully strict. But go on, and tell me more
that you have seen."
Last winter we lived in London."
How nice! exclaimed Edith.
No, it's such a gloomy place; we lived in lodgings
near the Museum."
Did you often go there? interrupted Edith again.
What a lot of questions you ask, Edith "
"That's because I am afraid you won't tell me
everything, and you are rather slow, you know,"
she added; "but I like your slowness better than
The last part of her speech was said in a most
Launcey smiled at this in approval. He did not
mean to be slow, but if Edith liked it, that was all
right; so he went on with an account of his doings,
first asking, "Where had I got to when you inter-
"To the Museum; but I did not interrupt, I only
asked a question."
28 Launcey Vernon; or,
Yes, I went there. Papa used to go there every day
to read books, and he used to write of an evening. I
told you before that he was very clever. He is going
to publish a book, and nurse says no ordinary people
will be able to read it, it's so clever." The last
remark was uttered in a tone of great satisfaction, and
he looked at Edith, quite expecting some remark on it,
but the only answer was-
I shouldn't go to London to read books; you can
do that anywhere. I should go to see the Queen and
all the wonderful things."
It's a horrid place-so dark, and lots of nasty fogs;
the rooms used to be full of smoke, and it made me
Didn't you see anything wonderful ?"
No, and I was very glad when the doctor said I
was not to stay there, so nurse and I went to Torquay,
that's the seaside, and then we came here."
And knew us," answered Edith, giving him an
Before he had time to respond, a voice was heard
calling, Edith, Launcey."
What is it ?" shouted Edith, in return.
Edie's Particular Friend. 29
Tea is ready."
"All right, we are coming," she answered, and they
walked towards the house.
Who was that calling? asked Launcey.
How like she and Isabel are "
"That's because they are twins-lots of people don't
know one from the other."
I don't one bit. Do you ?"
"Of course we do; I'll tell you how you can.
Lottie's eyes are blue, and her voice is louder than
Issa's when she talks. Issa is a little bit taller,
and has brown eyes. You take a good stare at them
But that would be rude."
And you are a true gentleman. Eh ?" laughed
Edie, in a teazing tone.
I want to be," was the grave answer.
Do you know, I think you are a very good boy,"
said Edith; and I tell you what," she went on, pre-
venting his answering, "we are going to be friends,
and I will try and be a true lady."
"I hope so, my Edith," said her mother, who had
30 Launcey Yernon.
come behind them from a side walk, unseen by the
children, and had overheard the last remark. All
ladies come to tea with nice clean hands, and these
little ones of yours are not very presentable; so run
up to the nursery and make yourselves tidy. Take
Launcey with you, and introduce him to nurse."
S- HEN Edith entered the school-
I D room hand-in-hand with her
Snew friend, they found the
"others waiting for them, all
seated round the tea-table.
To Launcelot they seemed a
large assembly, and yet, as
-- he was given to understand, the
whole family were not present.
A happy family party they looked in the snug,
homely old schoolroom.
Somehow or another things always do look old and
worn very soon in a schoolroom, especially in the
32 Launcey Vernon; or,
I suppose children like it better than looking new,
on the same principle that dolly's arm or leg is
broken off, or the mane of the wooden horse cropped,
to make them nicer.
The schoolroom at "The Mount," as the Dacres'
home was called, was no exception to the rule, for
though all was clean and tidy there was the same look
as in most schoolrooms, that of having been well, or ill
used, whichever you like to call it.
The globes in one corner of the room had the paint
of their wooden stands kicked off here and there by
impatient little feet.
The rocking-horse, whose stable was in another
corner of the room, had grown old in their service. No
wonder it was rather the worse for wear," considering
how the poor thing had been worked. He had over and
over again had to carry the whole family at once on
many a long journey, not only to Banbury Cross, but
to Hongkong, and I don't know where else besides.
The table would have shown many a hard-earned
dent and wound, but now it was covered with a snowy
tablecloth and well-filled plates of bread and butter, to
say nothing of home-made cake and jam. Mrs. Dacres
Edie's Particular Friend. 33
during holiday time made tea herself, and was now
sitting at the head of the table. On either side sat the
little ones; on her right hand was curly-headed little
Fred, with rosy cheeks, and round as a ball; on her
left sat Baby May, aged four years, whose appearance
Edith has already described. May was everybody's
darling, the pet and plaything of the whole family.
Beside Fred sat the twins; and the two seats beside
May had been left vacant for the new comers, who
were eagerly welcomed by Fred and May.
You're to sit by me," said the latter to Launcey, as
he came in, raising her little face for a kiss from him,
before he took his seat.
34 Launcey Vernon; or,
You see, Launcey," said Mrs. Dacres, that only
Fred is here to represent my sons. George and Robert
are away, spending their holidays in Scotland with an
I call it too bad of them to go away for all their
holidays, when they are away so much at school as it
is," said Lottie, in an injured tone.
You would not have wished them to miss such a
pleasant visit as they are having?" answ-ered her
No, but it is tiresome not having one's brothers at
home in the holidays."
"Oh, never mind," interrupted Edie; "we have got
a new brother now in Launcey."
I'll tell that to Bob," teazed Issa.
You can if you like, I don't care," was her answer.
Mother," she asked, is not father coming in to tea
this evening? I want Launcey to see him."
"Yes, I expect him in any minute now; he has only
gone down to the farm."
They were chatting and laughing together very
happily when a step was heard in the passage. All
the children exclaimed as they heard it, "There he
Edie's Particular Friend. 35
comes," and Issa jumped up and drew an armchair
towards the table, placing it between her mother and
The door opened, and Mr. Dacres entered.
"Well, children, how are you all getting on; hard
at work ? Why, who is this ? he asked, as his eye
fell on Launcey. Where did you pick up this young
gentleman? Eh, my pet? he asked, lifting May out
of her chair, and giving her a kiss. May nestled close
to him, clinging round his neck with both arms, and
kissing him fondly in return.
It's Launcey Vernon," began the girls one and all.
Launcey stood up at this introduction, and Mr.
Dacres shook him kindly by the hand, saying, "So
you are Launcey Vernon? Well, I am very glad to
see you, my boy; sit down again now, and go on with
"This is 'the children's hour," said Mrs. Dacres,
" and you must all be very happy."
"Yes," added Edith, and we always have father to
ourselves, and we can talk and do whatever we like."
Mr. Dacres had to be settled in his arm-chair and
given his tea, before the children were satisfied, and
36 Launcey Vernon; or,
then came such a flow of conversation, that Launcey
was quite taken aback. He was so accustomed to being
alone, and not to make a noise when papa was near, for
fear of disturbing him, that he listened in surprise to
the Dacres' children laughing and chattering away, and
no one saying Hush," to them. And what a lot they
seemed to have to tell him, he thought.
Has your father been away ? he whispered to Edith.
No, why? she asked.
I thought perhaps he had; you all seem to have so
much to tell him," he answered.
Oh, we always have lots to say; he likes it, don't
you, father ?" she asked, raising her voice.
Like what, Edie?"
Hearing us talk.
"Well, sometimes," he answered slowly, trying to
look very grave.
"You need not look like that, father, because I know
it is all pretence, and I know you like it."
"You are not quite sure that anyone can like such a
noise, are you, Launcey? he said.
The boy smiled brightly as he answered, I like it
very much, I think it is lovely."
Edie's Particular Friend. 37
All laughed at this answer, said so earnestly, and
Mr. Dacres said-
Well, I can promise you as much noise and chatter
as you like in this house, especially from-"
I know it is me you are going to say," put in Edie,
impetuously; he is my particular friend, so, of course,
I must talk to him."
Now, suppose I was not going to say you ? laughed
her father. Suppose I meant this little sprig of pink
'Spose you meant me," lisped May; I will talk to
Launcey; he's a dear little boy, and he has got on such
a pretty dress," she added, stroking his arm softly.
You are such a very old woman, are you not ?"
said her father.
Is not everybody done," demanded Fred, for it's
time to have a game."
All eagerly assented to this proposal; then there was
silence, the children folding their hands and bending
their heads reverently, while May lisped out grace. A
moment's pause, and then came a clatter, and putting
away of chairs, and all went out on to the lawn.
One of the girls brought out a chair for her mother,
38 Launcey Vernon; or,
and then all gathered round their father, clamouring
for a game.
First," said Minnie, "we must explain to Launcey
that we are going to have a regular romp."
What is it to be to-night ? asked Lottie.
"Suppose father's a wolf," said Edith, "and he
comes prowling about, and runs away with one of our
babies, and we all run after him and try to save its life."
Yes, that's the nicest game of all," said Fred, for
there's lots of running about and screaming." The
latter was half the enjoyment to Fred, who dearly
loved to make a noise.
So it was settled, and then began such a game of
romps as Launcey had never had before. All joined,
from Minnie to May, in the fun. It was a wonder
Mrs. Dacres was not deafened by the shrieks, but she
was quite accustomed to the noise, and sat quietly
working and looking on with amusement.
The game first began by all joining hands and
dancing round the chair where their mother sat with
Baby May on her knee.
"She is home, you know," explained Edie to
Edie's Particular Friend. 39
Mr. Dacres, as the wolf, prowled round the dancers,
uttering most terrific growls at which the children all
shrieked in chorus. At last the wolf make a vigorous
pounce, and, seizing May, placed her on his shoulder,
then rushed away, followed by the whole party.
There never was such a wolf. He rushed here, there,
and everywhere, jumping over flower-beds, and abso-
lutely refusing to be caught.
May sat holding on tight to his neck, her eyes
dancing with fun; and laughing and shouting with
delight at every escape.
Launcey entered into the game with his whole heart.
I think if Phoebe had seen her quiet little charge then,
she would not have recognized him in the flushed,
laughing boy who, with eyes sparkling with delight,
was flying about all over the garden-and then what
honour and delight-the wolf jumped over a flower-bed
into his very arms; and he made him a captive, and
rescued the prisoner! What shouts of triumph there
were when they dragged the poor, tired old wolf home
to be judged!
Launcey had the honour of bringing May home, and
restoring her to her mother.
40 Launcey Vernon; or,
Then the wolf had to be tried for his evil-doings.
Fred was the judge; after deep thought he decided the
wolf might be forgiven if he gave them some fruit.
Which verdict was received with great applause.
The younger portion of the party went off to get the
fruit, which they brought back to enjoy while they
"Suppose Minnie tells us a story," proposed Issa,
later on, when their parents had gone in and the
children were alone.
Minnie was in mother's chair, and all the others on
the grass grouped round her, except May, who, as
usual, had seated herself on Minnie's knee.
I know," said Lottie; read us 'Alice in Wonder-
"Yes, let us have 'Alice,' it's such fun."
'Alice,' let us have 'Alice,' joined in the little
"What would Launcey like ?" asked Minnie.
Oh, say 'Alice,' do," entreated Edie.
Yes, I would like 'Alice' very much."
"Well, then, 'Alice' it shall be. Fred, you can run
and fetch it; it's in the schoolroom."
Edie's Particular Friend. 41
Fred toddled off to get it, and while he was away,
Lottie proposed they should all read out by turns.
Not me," said Edith; "you two can if you like.
Do you want to, Launcey ? "
No, thank you," he answered in a low tone.
Minnie saw the boy's face flush as he answered, and
that he looked distressed at the idea of reading out; so
she said, Edith's plan is best; we three can take it in
Launcey looked relieved, and glanced up gratefully
at Minnie, as he leant back against her knee, and she
placed her hand kindly on his shoulder, as she asked,
"Are you comfortable and pleased ?"
Yes, very," was the answer.
Now settle down quietly, and I will begin."
The reading went on for some time, giving great
delight and amusement, till nurse came for the little
No more to-night," said Minnie decidedly, shutting
up the book.
Listen, Minnie," said Lottie. No one must read
it privately, must they ? We will keep it for reading
out, like to-night."
42 Launcey Vernon; or,
"Very well, I will keep it," said Minnie. "And
Launcey will come, too."
"Oh, thank you," was the boy's delighted answer.
" May I come again, do you think?"
"Yes, I am sure mother will let you come as often
as you care to."
Nurse was growing impatient, so the little ones had
to receive their good-night kisses. Fred proposed the
twins should ride them pick-a-back up to the nursery.
All right," said Lottie. Come, Issa, then we must
go and water our gardens. You had better do yours
too, Edie; you did not last night, and it looks horrid."
I forgot it, but I will do it to-night, though it is a
bother. Come, Launcey, and help."
No, Edith, you go alone," said Minnie. I want
to talk to Launcey."
Edith pouted as she said, That's not fair, he is my
friend. Would not you like to come and help me ?"
she asked, coaxingly.
Poor Launcey was in a dilemma. He did not know
how to answer. He did not want to vex Edie, who was
so kind to him, and still he wanted to stay and talk
to Minnie: there was something he wanted to ask her
Edie's Particular Friend. 43
very much. As he hesitated, Minnie came to his
rescue by saying-
Don't be silly, Edith; can't you see he looks tired ?
He is not accustomed to romping, as we are. Make
haste and come back."
Edie's face cleared at this, and she answered, He
does look tired. I won't be long about this business."
And she scampered off.
Did you want to go with her?" Minnie asked.
No, I want to tell you something." He hesitated
for a minute, and then asked, "Can Edie read quite
"Yes, she reads very nicely."
I can't," he said, sadly. I can manage by myself
by spelling out the words, but I couldn't read out, and
I did not like to say so. Was it telling a story when
I said No, thank you'?"
No, dear, and there is no cause to be ashamed at
not being able to read out. I dare say you have not
had a governess, travelling about as you have."
Phoebe taught me my letters, and all I do know.
Last winter papa said I was to have a governess, and
then I was ill and could not do anything."
44 L auncey Vernon; or,
Minnie sat silent for a few minutes, and then said,
" Launcey, I have been thinking of something. Could
not I give you lessons? I should like it so much.
I teach in the Sunday-school, and mother says I do it
Oh, Miss Dacres, what a nice plan "
"Don't say that; say Minnie. I'll ask mamma if
I may. I hear Edie do some reading every morning
while Miss Glover is away, and you could come too.
You are sure you would like to?"
I should like to so much. How kind you are! I
never saw such kind people before."
I don't think we children are. Mother and father
are to everybody."
Can children do kind things ? I mean all children?
You do-but I have nobody to be kind to."
"We all have people to love and be kind to, mother
"You've lots, but I have nobody to be kind to and
help. I have tried. I love Phoebe, and, oh, I do love
And he loves you?" said Minnie, half question-
Edie's Particular Friend. 45
"Dear Launcey," said NMinnie.
Launcey Vernon. 47
"Oh, yes, I know he does very much. When he
kisses me he looks at me I can't tell you how, but I
know then he does. He never says anything, but when
I am ill he comes and looks at me as if he was so
Dear Launcey," said Minnie, stroking his hair
gently, not knowing what to say to him.
Do you know," he went on, in a low voice, and
raising himself from the ground where he had been
sitting, he rested his arms on her knees, and looking at
her with a strangely earnest look on his young face,
said, "I can't talk to papa as I talk to you; I can't
even tell Phoebe; so I have to talk my thoughts in a
whisper to myself in bed at night, because perhaps
my mamma can hear me then. Do you think she
Minnie hesitated for a moment; she had never had
such a question asked her before, and she hardly knew
how to answer.
Do you think she can ?" he repeated, anxiously.
Suddenly there flashed though Minnie's mind a verse
of a hymn Edie very often said-nor Edie only, but one
she herself used to say as a little child-
48 Launcey Vernon; or,
"Through the long night watches
May Thine angels spread
Their white wings above me,
Watching round my bed."
She repeated the lines softly, partly to herself, and
partly to Launcey.
The boy's face lit up as he heard the words. That's
what I mean about angels being near us and taking
care of us," he hastened to say.
Mother says the good angels guard us, and, I
suppose, if they do, they must know about us."
"Of course," said Launcey, hastily. "And as my
mamma is like them, of course she can too," and he
drew a long sigh of relief. He was so glad to hear
anything that confirmed his belief, and his longing to
be sure that, though he could not see her, his
mother was guarding her boy. After a pause, Launcey
began shyly to say, "Are you tired, Minnie? "
No, dear, I was only thinking. What did you
mean by saying you had tried to help? Mother
says, 'That if we try to help others we shall be sure
to succeed, and find ways.'"
Edie's Particular Friend. 49
"I didn't," said Launcey, sadly.
How was it, dear? Tell me."
Phoebe once told me a story about a little boy help-
ing his mother. They were very poor people, and he
worked and got money for her. Papa doesn't want
money, so I can't help him that way. I thought of a
way, though, and went to his room early, before he went
in, and tried to put his papers and books tidy on his
table. When he went in, I followed him-and he said,
quite angrily, 'Who has been meddling with my
papers?' I said, I tried to put them tidy to help
you.' He was not angry then, but said, Don't do it
again, my boy; I never like my papers touched by
anyone, and your little fingers might do a great
deal of mischief.' I never did again, and I was so
Poor Launcey," said Minnie. It is very hard to
fail when you want and try to do right."
"Do you ever find it hard?" the boy asked, in a
"Yes, often, but mother says, 'There would be no
conquest over sin and self if we found things came all
right and easy at once.' "
50 Launcey Vernon ; or,
"Do you think I shall ever be able to help any
one ?" he asked.
"Yes, I am sure you will." Minnie got no further,
for at that moment Edie rushed up, saying, I have
done that at last. Didn't I hurry to get back! Are
you rested, Launcey ?"
Yes, quite, thank you." Then, turning to Minnie,
he said, You will ask Mrs. Dacres about my coming ? "
Do, Minnie dear," said Edie. Ask mother to let
him come to tea to-morrow, and have another game."
It's not that. She," nodding his head to Minnie," is
going to teach me lessons with you, if your mamma
says yes ?"
Hurrah! What a lovely plan Will you give us
No. You are further on than Launcey, because
you have had such a lot of teaching."
I'll let him catch me up, and then we can begin to-
gether," said Edie, nothing loth to have a little idle
time. She liked being able to read story-books, but
doing lessons was a very different thing. "Oh,
Launcey, I forgot to say that Phoebe has come for you,
and wanted you not to be late. I am sorry I forgot it."
Edie's Particular Friend. 51
Minnie rose at this, saying, "We must speak to
mother before we fix on anything, but come in now. It
was very stupid of you, Edie, to forget to tell Launcey
Yes, I know it was-we can hurry in now," was her
calm answer. Nurses always seem to be in such a
They went off in search of Mrs. Dacres, to ask her
consent to their plan, which was gladly given, and then
all went to see their little guest off, and Mrs. Dacres to
speak to Phoebe.
He has been such a good boy, nurse. I hope he
won't be very tired, for he has been having a grand
"Oh, I have been so happy. I think it has been the
happiest day of my life," he said, looking gratefully at
Mrs. Dacres, who smiled as she answered, I am very
glad you have enjoyed being here, and I hope you will
come and spend many more equally happy ones with
us." Then turning to Phoebe, she told her the plans
Minnie had been making with Launcey, adding, "I
will call and see Mr. Vernon about it to-morrow."
Oh, ma'am, I am so sorry, but Mr. Vernon had to
52 Launcey Vernon; or,
leave for London unexpectedly this afternoon. He told
me to say good-bye to Master Launcey for him, but he
wouldn't let me fetch him home, for it would be a pity
to break into his play with his little companions."
Launcey's face fell at this announcement. He was
not only very sorry to have missed saying good-bye
to his papa, but now nothing could be settled about
the lessons he was so anxious to begin. He was
comforted by hearing Phoebe say, She was sure Mr.
Vernon would agree to any plans Mrs. Dacres made
for his little boy's pleasure; he seemed right glad Master
Launcey was stopping here this afternoon. It's a dull
life here for the poor child,' were his very words-and
true ones they are," she added.
"Oh, mother," cried Edie, "he may come again to-
morrow? You know I shall be all alone with the little
ones, for you are going to take the bigger ones out with
you in the carriage. Do let him come," she pleaded.
It is in the afternoon that we are going."
"Not for lessons to-morrow, but to play, I mean.
No one could begin lessons on a Saturday-that is
always meant for a holiday."
Her mother smiled as she said, I shall be very glad
Edie's Particular Friend. 53
if Phoebe will let him come and play with you, and on
Monday, Launcey, you can begin work at i o'clock.
Will that hour suit you, Phoebe ? "
The boy's look of delight expressed his feelings even
better than the broken words of gratitude he tried to
speak when he kissed his good-byes.
As they started for home, Edie screamed after him,
"Come early to-morrow, Launcey, and be sure you
don't forget "-as if such a thing were possible! What
a lot he had to tell nurse on their way home about all
his doings and the dear new friends he had found, and
how much he loved them already!
HE next day was just as
happy, though they were not
such a large party to romp
together. He and Edith
S played very contentedly with the little
S ones, and the two became faster
FF friends than ever. Launcey coaxed
Edith into letting them have a little
reading, to help him to make up to her, to which
she graciously consented, especially as she was to
be mistress instead of, as she generally was, the
As he was so fond of lessons, she promised that she
would ask her mother to let him come the next after-
noon too, to hear their Bible lessons. "Though it is
Launcey Vernon. 55
not a bit like ordinary lessons; this is very nice," she
explained to him.
"We do them in the drawing-room with mother.
Bob and I sit on stools at her feet; she has baby May
on her knee, and Minnie has Fred. Mother reads out
a chapter, and asks us all questions. We answer what
we can, and she explains, and tells us such nice
things about it; and then we go to the piano, Minnie
plays, and we all sing. Father comes in then, and he
and mother listen."
What a nice Sunday you must have said Launcey.
Yes, we do. Mother and father say they want us
to love Sundays all our lives."
"I wish I was your real brother, and then I should
"Oh, you can come just the same as if you were,
To-morrow you can have Bob's stool beside me, and as
he is away at that horrid school, you can have it often."
"Do you think I may come to-morrow?" he asked.
as he said good-bye.
I'll ask mother, and tell you to-morrow morning
after church-mind you wait if you are out first. I
know she will say yes."
56 Launcey Vernon; or,
I do hope she will," was his answer, and he repeated
that hope many times before he saw Edith the next day
to get an answer. It was not very difficult to gain per-
mission from Phoebe, who was only too glad for him
The first thing Edith did as she entered church the
next morning was to take an eager, quick look at the
Vernons' seat to see if her new friend was there. Yes,
there he sat beside Phoebe. Edith turned as she passed
him, and, catching his eye, gave a little nod and smile.
He looked very grave, only returning a timid little
smile to her greeting.
When the Dacres family went out after service they
found him standing waiting for them, beaming with
smiles, and he heard with great delight Mrs. Dacres
ask Phoebe if she would spare him to them for that
Sunday was always a red letter day for the Dacres'
children. It was not to them what a little girl once
said of it, "A day when nothing nice was to be done."
The children at "The Mount" had been always
taught to look upon it as a day of real true happiness
Edie's Particular Friend. 57
They were more with their parents than on any other
day. After an early dinner all together, the elder girls
went with their mother to the Sunday-school, where
they each taught a class.
Edith and Launcey were allowed to go and listen,
Edith sitting by her mother, while Minnie had Launcey
They had a pleasant walk home through the fields,
then came tea, which was a much quieter meal than on
week-days, though just as pleasant, for it is quite
possible for children to be as happy when quiet as
when making a noise, though I think some small
people have an idea that noise is happiness.
Then all went into the drawing-room, where their
mother read and talked with them. Even baby May
understood mother's lessons, they were so simple and
interesting. After that, Minnie took her seat at
the piano, and all the children sang hymns to their
Launcey was so delighted, and a little bit proud,
at being told that he had a sweet little voice of his
Phcebe feared she had let him overtire himself when,
58 Launcey Vernon; or,
late in the evening, some time after she had seen him
snugly tucked up in his little bed, and heard his even-
ing prayer, she heard the poor little fellow sobbing
softly, as if trying not to be heard.
She immediately went to him, asking, anxiously,
"What is it, my darling? Are you ill? Or has
anything vexed you ? Tell your old nurse all
No. I'm not ill or nothing," he sobbed out. I
was only thinking of to-day."
Of to-day Have you not been happy, dear ?"
Oh, yes. I was very happy. But I was thinking
how sorry I am for papa and myself."
"Why, dear ?" asked nurse, in perplexity.
Because," he sobbed out, "we have no mother to
read to us, and there is no one to sing to papa."
"Your papa has you, dear," began nurse.
But I can't sing to him. We seem all alone," he
said, sadly. "Oh, why," he went on, "did God take
away my mamma ? She could not have wanted to go
away from papa and me "
No, dear, that she didn't," nurse answered, her
tears falling fast as she sat down on his bed, and took
Edie's Particular Friend. 59
the poor little fellow in her arms. God knows best,
dear. He wouldn't have done it if it had not been good
But why was it? he persisted.
Listen, Master Launcey, dear. I am a stupid old
woman, and don't know much, but this I do know, that
He loves us, and all that He does is for the best. Ah,
if we only could see it! she added, in a lower tone,
more to herself than to him, but his quick little ears
caught the words, and he asked, "Why can't we
It's very hard for us to see it, especially when we
are young, dear; but it's true for all that, and some day
we shall know."
"When we go to heaven, do you mean? Not
"We shall know then surely, and, perhaps, before,
dearie," was her answer, as she kissed the little tear-
After a little pause, he asked her, Nurse, do
you think when I go to heaven I shall sit on
my mamma's knee, and she will read and tell me
about Jesus ?-no, I forgot, she won't have to read,
60 Launcey Vernon; or,
because she will know, but she can tell me. Do you
think she will ?"
"Bless the child," thought Phoebe, "what queer
notions he has got! "
Then, in answer to his question, she said, I
can't tell that, dear, but we shall be quite happy there.
You know, dear, you will soon be able to read things
for yourself very nicely. And, please God, you will
be spared to your papa for many a long year. You've
a deal to learn and do, Master Launcey," she added,
Yes, I know. I have lots of people to be kind to
and help, Minnie says; and I mean to work hard,
and catch up Edie."
That is right, dear, and you won't cry any more,
will you ? or I shall be afraid to let you be so much up
at 'The Mount.'"
I won't cry any more now, I promise; I'll go to
sleep, and dream I've lots of brothers and sisters to
"That will be the thing to do, dear; and now good-
"Phoebe !" he called after her, in a sleepy voice, as
Edie's Particular Friend. 61
she was leaving the room. "I've just been thinking.
Has not papa plenty of money ?"
Yes, dear. Why ?" she answered.
Well, I think I will ask him to buy me some brothers
and sisters, or even one. I think I will have a sister
just my age, and she shall be like Edie."
B ITTLE Edith Dacres had been
thinking too, and, in fact, had
S quite settled in her own little
mind that Mr. Vernon was a
very unkind sort of papa; but
That was very far from being the
case. Mr. Vernon dearly loved his little
motherless boy, and regretted much the
lonely life his child led. Launcey, having
been so delicate, was not able to go to
school, and that was also the reason why
7 they had remained so long abroad. Mr.
Vernon's work as well as his inclinations
obliged him to be alone and quiet, and he really
did not understand how lonely the boy often was,
Launcey Vernon. 63
and his longing for sympathy and young com-
When, on his return home, he saw how happy
Launcey seemed with his new friends, he began to
understand how much the child had missed them, and
he was deeply grateful to Mrs. Dacres for all her kind-
ness, and gladly accepted all the arrangements that had
been made for Launcey doing lessons and being much
with her children.
The summer holidays were gliding away fast and
happily with Launcey. He went daily to "The
Mount," to do lessons with Minnie, and play with the
younger ones. He was fast improving, not only in his
lessons, but in health and spirits. His laugh was heard
as merrily and nearly as often as Edie's; and the pale,
delicate child with whom we first made acquaintance
was fast growing into a rosy-cheeked, healthy-looking
Launcey often confided to Phcebe, in the long talks
they had together of an evening, how much he wished
they (meaning himself and his nurse) could ask his
little friends to the house, and show them his home.
Many a consultation they held together on the subject
64 Launcey Vernon; or,
of an invitation to tea. Launcey was afraid to ask per-
mission, as he knew that having the Dacres' children to
tea meant a romp and a noise; and much as he loved
his father, he was still too shy with him, and had too
great an awe of his reading and work to propose such
an invasion of their quiet home.
Phoebe's advice was always the same, Just wait a
while, Master Launcey, dear, and we will manage it
somehow "-adding one day, "When your papa goes
away some time we will have them."
No," Launcey said. That would not be the same
thing,-it would look as if I had not even got a papa,
and Edie would be sure to say something about it."
They must wait. But the waiting was not to be for so
long as they expected and feared. As it happened, one
evening, very soon after the above-mentioned conversa-
tion, Launcey was coming in from the garden with a
book in his hand, which he was reading, and was so
interested in it, that he ran against his father, who was
passing through the hall on his way to the dining-room.
"Why, my boy, I didn't know you were so fond of
Launcey flushed with pleasure at this speech, and
Edie's Particular Friend. 65
said, "I am getting on nicely with my reading.
Minnie says I take great pains."
That is right. I must hear all that you are doing
May I come now? he asked, gaining confidence.
"Well, I was going to dinner now, and Phoebe
would not approve of your coming to that, would
Oh, she would not mind. I had late dinner with
Mrs. Dacres once, and Phoebe did not say anything."
"Well, you may come if you like."
He did not need a second invitation, and was very
soon telling his father all about his doings with his
new friends; not only of what he was learning, but of
all the games and fun he had there. To his great
astonishment he found that Mr. Vernon only knew
there were a great many children, but as to their names,
ages, and various accomplishments he was in profound
ignorance. He actually did not know there was such a
person in the world as baby May, whose very humble
servant and admirer Launcey, like all the others, had
Mr. Vernon listened with amusement to his boy's
66 Launcey Vernon; or,
prattle, and found that his little son was really quite as
interesting as the book that used to be his evening
companion before, and he was soon entering into all
Launcey's doings with interest. After that day it
became an understood thing that Launcey's place was
to be beside his father every evening.
Many a pleasant game the boy gave up with the
Dacres' children to be in time. Nothing could persuade
him to miss that hour. Papa liked to have him,"
was what he always said in answer to Edie's entreaties
to stay a little longer. She at last decided he was a
very good boy not to vex his father, for it must be
very dull with such a quiet papa as Mr. Vernon was
in her eyes; but to Launcey it was a real happiness
to be Papa's companion." And the child's life was
expanding and brightening daily in the intercourse
with so many loved ones.
One evening he broached the subject of inviting his
young friends to tea.
You know, papa," he said gravely, Phoebe agrees
with me that we ought to ask them here sometimes."
Papa smiled at the old-fashioned way the boy pre-
ferred his request. And said, Well, ask them here,
Edie's Particular Friend. 67
my boy, whenever you like. Phoebe and you can
arrange it, I dare say."
Oh, yes. Thank you," said Launcey, in great
delight. "It will be my
first party. I want them
to know you, papa. You ---=-----
will come to tea with me
too, won't you?" .
"No, no, Launcey-you j" '"
can have your friends as
often as you like, but don't
ask me to join you."
Oh, papa, why not ? "
You will be happier by
"Oh, I did want you to
see them all I"
Mr. Vernon, seeing how
very disappointed the boy
looked, said, "I will come -----.- .
in, then, and see you all at
tea, but you must not ask me to join you. I could not
amuse you like Mr. Dacres. Don't look so vexed, my
68 Launcey Vernon; or,
boy," he added, "I want you to be very happy with
Thank you, papa. It will be better than nothing
even if you only come in and see them."
Launcey was a'very wise little boy. He remembered
how kind his papa had been about it, and knew he
must not ask or expect too much, so he made up his
mind to be very happy, and make his friends and
guests so too.
There was quite an excitement among the Dacres'
children on receiving Launcey's invitation, which had
arrived at The Mount" the very evening Mr. Vernon
had given his boy leave to ask his friends. Launcey
had written a note to Minnie, as the eldest, asking
them all. Writing the note had been an undertaking
of time and difficulty, but with Phcebe's help it was
finished and despatched before bedtime. It was lucky
it was not an invitation given by Launcey personally,
for the news of the invitation was greeted by Edie with
"What fun May we go, mother? Do let us go to
tea at the Ogre's Castle." For Mr. Vernon was always
known to the younger girls by the title of "The
Ogre." It had been given to him by Edie, on account
Edie's Particular Friend. 69
of the feeling of awe she had at the very thought of his
presence. But she had been very careful that Launcey
should not hear any of them say it, for fear of vexing
The invitation was accepted for the whole party, and
when Launcey arrived the next day, he and Edie went
off directly they had done reading to a quiet spot, where
they were sure of no interruption, and talked over the
party together, and settled everything to both their
satisfactions. They had not very long to wait, as the
party," as Launcey and Edie styled it, was to be the
next day. Phoebe bargained for one day to make
arrangements. Launcey said it could not be more
than one day she was to have, as they really could
not wait longer.
Edith looked the most demure and the quietest of
the party when they first arrived at Woodlands," but
when no Mr. Vernon appeared, she recovered her wild
spirits, and very soon forgot that she was even under
the same roof as "The Ogre."
Phoebe has provided a splendid tea," she remarked.
" Just what we like," and no wonder, when it was
Edith herself who had written, with Launcey, a list of
70 Launcey Vernon ; or,
their favourite things and sent them to Phoebe, "just
to help her in settling." Not one has been forgotten,"
she said to Launcey, when they went and had a peep
together before the others were invited in.
Launcey was most anxious to amuse his guests, and
showed off all his treasures for their amusement before
Now, Edie," he cried; "you are not to go to that
cupboard," as he saw her prowling about the room to
see all that there was to be seen.
It is a regular Bluebeard's cupboard," said Lottie.
" Why may not we look in, Launcey? "
That is my secret," he answered, laughing. You
shall all see before you go."
"One would think this was an 'Ogre's Castle,' with
its secret cupboards !" said Edie, with a sly look at
Minnie, who had been warning her, on their way from
home, to be careful what she said.
So it is," said Launcey, thinking it agoodjoke. "I
am the ogre. Who's the ogress? There is always
one, and sometimes she helps the poor people to escape
before he kills them "
Phoebe should be, then," said Issa.
Edie's Particular Friend. 71
No, no! I vote Minnie. She's a splendid ogress,
now she is looking so grave," said Edie, laughing.
Minnie herself could not help joining the twins in
the laugh against herself. But Launcey took up the
cudgels in defence of his dear Minnie.
I am sure she does not look like one a bit," he said,
Any more than you like an ogre, Launcey. Well,
as tea is ready, I shall take Fred in, and fatten him
up for my supper! "
"Then I shall fatten up May for mine! he said, as
they all trooped into the dining-room.
You are to pour out tea, please, Minnie," he went
on. And May is to sit beside me at the head of the
No grown ups. What fun! I was afraid your
father would be here," said the irrepressible Edie.
Edie said Minnie, reprovingly.
"I thought you liked having father and mother at
tea with us," said Issa.
Oh, that is different, of course-" then seeing she
had made a rude speech, she began, "I mean-I
72 Launcey Vernon; or,
"We know what you mean, dear," said Phoebe,
coming to her help. "You mean nothing unkind.
Now, Mr. Ogre," she went on, what are you going to
fatten the babies on ? And she waited on them with
great delight and amusement.
They were a very merry party, and so absorbed in
their fun and chatter that they did not hear the door
gently open, and Mr. Vernon come in,-who stood
listening for some little time with a quiet smile at all
the nonsense they were talking.
I wonder what is in that cupboard," said Fred, who
had evidently been thinking of it for some time.
Horrors, of course," said Lottie.
Let me be Fatima, and open it; I promise to shriek
very loud when I look in."
No. May is to open it, because she is the
youngest," said Launcey.
"That is always the way. The youngest or the
eldest get everything nice; it's horrid being in the
middle, like me," said Edie.
You were the youngest once." But Edie ignored
the remark altogether.
I wish this was a real castle. I've never been to
Edie's Particular Friend. 73
one. They have all been except me," and she tried
hard to give a great sigh, and look very sad as she
"And me, and me echoed the little ones.
Oh, you are only children, it's very different for me."
At this remark, and the manner in which it was
spoken, Mr. Vernon laughed. All started, and looked
Edie exclaimed with horror, Why it's 'The Ogre I'"
Don't move, please," he said, coming forward and
shaking hands with Minnie. Launcey asked me to
come in and see you, but I am not going to stay and
Thank goodness," whispered Edie to Issa, who sat
Hush, Edie, be quiet I" was the answer, in a low
"So you want to see a real castle, do you ?" Mr.
Vernon asked Edith, who looked very red and uncom-
fortable as she said,
Yes, Mr. Vernon."
Isn't there one to be seen in this neighbourhood
74 Launcey Vernon; or,
"Yes, but it is more than ten miles off," said Minnie.
"We have been there for picnics."
"And not this young lady," said Mr. Vernon, laying
his hand on Edith's shoulder.
It was all the twins could do not to laugh at Edith's
face of discomfort at being the one Mr. Vernon had
chosen to talk to.
Why did not you go ?" he asked.
Because they had not room, and said I was too
This had been a great grievance to Edie, especially
as Bob, who was only two years older, had gone.
"Papa," put in Launcey, "that is Edie, my
"Well, Launcey, you must give a picnic, and take
your friend, and all of them to see the castle. Phcebe
will see to it, and make all the necessary arrangements."
Seeing they were going to begin a chorus of thanks, he
hastily added, "Good-bye to you all," and patting
May's golden curls as he passed, he left the room.
They all waited till the door was shut before they
said a word. Hurrah !" cried Edith. He is not
such an ogre after all."
Edie's Particular Friend. 75
"What do you mean?" asked Launcey, rather sharply.
Minnie hastened to explain to him, what she called
Edith's nonsense, who during the explanation kept
saying, I did not mean it, really-it was only a joke-
I think he is a very nice kind person."
At this testimony to his father's excellence, Launcey
was able to treat "The Ogre as a good joke, for they
all joined Edie in thinking him very kind.
"Are we to go by ourselves, and when shall we go,
Phcebe ?" asked Edith, jumping up from her chair,
and, seizing Phoebe by the waist, she danced her round
"I never saw such a wild young lady in my life,"
was all Phoebe could say, when she was popped, almost
breathless, into a chair.
Mother would not let us go by ourselves, so you
needn't expect it," said Minnie.
Oh, I want mother, and father, and all. Won't it
be fun ?"
I think we ought to wait till the boys come home,
and wind up the holidays with it."
What a lot of us there will be said Launcey, in
76 Launcey Vernon; or,
Yes, we shall fill two carriages, I expect."
Let us count how many," said Issa.
"There are eight of us children to begin with," said
Minnie, "and father and mother, that is ten, and
Launcey and his papa-"
No, don't count him, miss," said Phoebe; I am
sure he won't come."
Don't you think so ?"
I will ask him to," said Launcey, but in his heart
he felt sure he would not after what he had said to him
when he asked him to come in to tea.
"Well, that will be eleven, and most likely Miss
Glover will be home; she makes twelve."
Then there are Phoebe and the man to drive," said
Yes, that is fourteen ; what a nice big party! "
"When is it coming ?" asked May.
"Very soon, darling, because the holidays are over
The boys come home on Tuesday, and go to school
on Friday, so it must be Wednesday or Thursday.
That's decided," said Lottie.
"A whole week; how long! sighed Edie.
Edie's Particular Friend. 77
"We must tell mother before we decide; she and
Phoebe can settle," said Minnie.
Yes, miss, that will be best; if your mamma won't
mind the trouble, I will come up and speak to her about
I don't think I can exist for a whole week without
it began Edie again.
Launcey laughed at her excitement as he answered,
I never saw such a girl as you, Edie; you are always
in such a hurry about everything. I should like this
summer to go on for ever so long."
"I should not, then. I want to be grown up, and be
a traveller. I would not be like George, going to stick
to books in a nasty old town."
How do you know it's a nasty place ?"
Why, Bob said so. He is going to be a sailor, and
see the world,-that is what I should like "
"What would you like to do, Launcey ?" asked
Lottie. "Write books, like your father? "
No. I think I should like to be like yours, and
always live in the country, just like him."
"What cried Edie, and have eight children like
78 Launcey Vernon; or,
"I would not, then. Why, father never goes long
journeys, on account of all of us," said Edie, whose
present idea of happiness was, evidently, taking long
I know what I shall be," said Fred, such a nice
thing. I'll be an engine-man, and always be on the
Fred's wishes generally followed suit with Edie's,
and as hers changed almost daily, Fred's plans had to
alter as often.
"Then, Fred," said Minnie, laughing, "you can
drive the train for Edie to travel in."
"Oh, I shan't stick to trains, I shall go in ships,
and ride on camels and elephants, and those sort
of things," she added, not being quite sure herself
what "those sort of things" were, waving her hand
in a most lordly manner, as if she had everything at
"What will you do, May? asked Launcey.
I'd like to be always a little girl, and people to be
kind to me, as they is now," she replied.
"That is right, missie," said Phoebe, who was an
Edie's Particular Friend. 79
amused listener to their conversation. "You are the
only contented one of the party."
Now, Phoebe, it is your turn," cried one of the girls.
"What will you do ?"
I think I must be housekeeper to Master Launcey,
when he lives in the country."
Yes, that will be beautiful-you shall always live
And your eight children, Launcey ? laughed Lottie.
Yes, she can be their nurse, too. Now you have
not said, nor Minnie."
"Oh," answered Lottie, "we are going to live in
London, and be artists or something."
"What, both of you ? "
Yes. Of course, twins ought always to live
together," said Issa, decidedly; "and we arranged
that a long time ago."
Now, Minnie, it's your turn ?"
I shall live with father and mother, and take care
"I tell you what, Launcey; you can live at'The
Mount,' said Edie, calmly giving away what did not
belong to her.
8o Launcey Vernon; or,
"And what is father to do?" asked Minnie,
By that time, he will be very old indeed, so he can
come here and live with Mr. Vernon. They will be
company for one another; and as mother will be old,
too, Minnie can look after the house for them, and we
can all come and pay them visits, and bring them
nice presents. I think that is a very nice plan for
them, don't you ?"
"Well," said Minnie, you have arranged everything
very nicely, even to turning father and mother out of
their own home I wonder you can talk such a lot of
Edith flushed angrily at this speech, and was
just beginning to return a sharp answer, when
Phoebe, fearing the harmony of the party would be
quite gone if they once began to quarrel, interrupted
Don't you think, Miss Minnie, you might go out
into the garden now, and have a good romp ? I will
bring down your hats."
"Yes, let us," said Lottie, jumping up. "'Hide
and Seek,' who is for it ?"
Edie's Particular Friend. 81
I wonder if it will disturb your father, if we make
a noise ?" said Minnie.
Make a noise! Of course we must," answered
Lottie. "We can't play Hide and Seek' without."
Edie, who had not quite recovered her temper,
which had been sadly ruffled by Minnie's last speech
to her, here put in, shortly and somewhat crossly,
" Just tell him we must make a noise-we can't play
You go and tell him that yourself, then," answered
No. Minnie ought, if Launcey does not like to. It
is always the eldest has it when it is anything nice, so
it ought to be the same when it is nasty."
You do think it nasty, then ?" retorted Issa.
Well, if I was the eldest I might, but I am not."
"I will go and ask him," said Launcey. "I
don't mind asking him anything, he is always kind
-he only does not like being disturbed when he is
Let May go! exclaimed Lottie. No one ever
minds being disturbed by her, or says no to her "
Yes, let May go," was echoed on all sides.
82 Launcey Vernon.
I will go with her," said Launcey.
No. Me will go by myself," said May, who was
quite pleased at being chosen to carry their message,
and the little maid trotted off at once to make her
HERE came a gentle tap at the
door, so low that Mr. Vernon,
who was sitting in his study,
could not hear it, and it had
to be repeated more than once before
it was answered by him.
Come in he called out at last.
After a great fumbling at the
handle, the door slowly opened and
May walked in. Such a tiny rosebud of a girl she
looked, in her dainty white dress and pink ribbons.
Mr. Vernon looked in surprise at his small visitor,
who walked quietly up to him, and, placing a wee
hand on his knee, said,-
84 Launcey Vernon ; or,
Please, they want to play at 'Hide and Seek,' and
they can't do it without making a noise. Will you
mind ?" she added, after having made a little pause to
give him time to reflect.
No; play what you like, and make as much noise
as it pleases you to," he answered, with a smile.
It's them. I don't like making too much noise."
Mr. Vernon only repeated, You can all do as you
"Thank you. I think you are a very kind man."
Then, instead of leaving, as she was expected to do,
she asked, "Why don't you come out too, like our
"I don't know how to play' Hide and Seek,'" he
answered, amused, in spite of himself, at the little
Oh, I'll teach you; it's a very easy game. You shall
hide with me," was her amiable reply. Then going to
the door she called out, Minnie, Launcey, he says you
may make a noise; you are all to do what you like."
Then she returned, and stood quietly by Mr. Vernon.
He was wondering what she meant to do next, but
Edie's Particular Friend. 85
At last May asked, "Will you be long? I don't
mind waiting a little while."
I am not coming out," he answered, half laughing
He was not accustomed to such attentions, and hardly
knew how to accept them.
"You had better; we needn't play; we can look on.
It's very stupid in here."
Don't wait for me."
She only remarked to this, Poor man, what a lot of
lessons you've got to learn. Who makes you learn
them? looking very puzzled over it.
"They are not lessons. I like writing," he
"That is why you like being quiet?"
Yes," he answered, and thought, Now she will be
sure to go." But no. May quietly remarked, They
will make a great noise and screaming when they play.
Come out and talk to me."
It was quite true what she had said. It would certainly
be difficult to do anything that required quiet if there
was to be so much screaming, and May evidently
knew what they did on such occasions. Besides, he
was beginning to find it very hard to resist the
86 Launcey Vernon; or,
pleading little face beside him, so he began to put
away his papers.
May, May," a voice was heard calling, and then
another cried impatiently, "Where are you, May?
When are you coming ?"
I am in here," said May, running to the door.
" You go and begin; we will come."
"All right," was the answer. The children had not
heard very distinctly, and had mistaken the we will
come for May's baby expression of me will come,"
so they started off to play. It was only Launcey who
wondered what May could be doing, and hoped she
was not disturbing papa.
May went back, and waited quietly beside Mr.
Vernon till he rose from his chair.
Will you come and get my hat for me ? she said;
and, placing her hand in his, they went together into
"That is mine," pointing to a large sun bonnet
hanging on the wall.
Mr. Vernon handed it to her. When it was on she
held up her face, saying, "Please tie it." His fingers.
had never undertaken such a task before, and he was
Edie's Particular Friend. 87
rather awkward about it, but at last it was satisfactorily
"Now get yours, and we are quite ready." Then,
slipping her little hand into his, they went out to the
"Would you like one hide ? because there is a lovely
tree to hide behind," she asked.
He declined this, saying he preferred to look on.
Very well, we will walk about." This was an act
of great self-denial on her part, for she would have
dearly liked a game, but she was anxious to give the
"poor man," as she called him, some pleasure. She
felt very sorry for him being left all alone in his study
with no one to talk to or amuse him.
The others stopped their game in astonishment at
the sight of the two walking hand-in-hand,
"You are to go on playing, we will look on,"
Launcey glanced at his father's face to see how he was
taking this conduct. He did not seem to be put out by
it in any way, so Launcey said nothing, and very soon
he as well as the rest of the party were carried away
with the excitement of the game, and Mr. Vernon's
88 Launcey Vernon; or,
presence was forgotten as they ran and shouted to
their hearts' content.
After a walk round the garden, May seated herself on
a bench beside Mr. Vernon, and tried her very best to
make herself agreeable.
As Mr. Vernon listened to the merry voices and
watched the children's happy faces, his gradually
softened, and his thoughts went back to the far-off
days of his youth when all the world was bright
around him. Then long forgotten memories came
crowding into his mind of the brother and sister who
had been his playmates then, now separated from him,
one by death, while the other was far away in a
At the thoughts of his own merry youth he saw
his boy's lonely life in deeper contrast. His had
been so far a solitary life, and I might have made it
brighter," he thought, if I had not shut myself away
from him and brooded over my sorrow. Ah! it would
have all been so different if his mother had lived." He
sighed unconsciously at this thought.
"Are you sorry 'bout anything?" a gentle little voice
Edie's Particular Friend. 89
May seated herself on a bench beside Mr. Ve n.
" May seated herself on a bench beside Mr. Vernon."
Launcey Vernon. 91
"Yes, dear," he answered, "about a great many
"Never mind," she added, cheerfully, it is good
to be sorry, mother says, 'cause then we mean to try
May could not help wondering to herself what
naughty things this grown-up man could have done.
After a pause she uttered her thoughts aloud.
Is grown-up people ever naughty ?"
Mr. Vernon stooped and kissed the little face that
was looking so earnestly up at him, as he said, "Yes,
dear, very often, I fear."
What, just like little children ?"
"Not in quite the same way, perhaps," he began,
hardly knowing how to explain to her.
"Why was you sorry, then?"
"I was sorry," he began, speaking more to himself
than her, "because I was thinking of the past and of
Launcey,-what a dull home and lonely life his has
"Edie says you must be a very dull sort of papa
to have, but Launcey says you are not dull, only
92 Launcey Vernon ; or,
"The loyal little fellow," thought his father, with a
glad smile at the boy's love.
The smile encouraged May to say, "Why don't you
be like our father ?"
At this moment Edie rushed past the tree where they
were sitting, and a voice was heard calling, Edie,
come back, Mr. Vernon won't like it."
Edie immediately turned and tried to escape.
Don't go, Edith," he said, stopping her, "I like to
see you enjoying yourselves."
"Do you really?" she asked, standing before him
with an air of surprise, I thought you hated children."
No, he does not," said May, indignantly.
I don't mean us ourselves, but what we do."
"I have not had much to do with children, but I
don't think I hate them," he answered.
Edie, wild child as she was, instinctively felt that
there was an undertone of pain in his voice as he
"I didn't mean to be rude, really," she said, as
Minnie and Launcey joined them.
"Edith," began the former, "you must not be for-
ward and trouble Mr. Vernon."
Edie's Particular Friend. 93
He spoke to me first."
Yes, I called her; she is not troubling me. Well,
Launcey, my child, have you been very happy? "
"Yes, papa, very; and it's so good of you coming
out to see us," and he squeezed his father's hand
You must not be afraid of me, for I like to see you
all happy. You must come here as often as you like.
It will give Launcey great pleasure; I fear he has
wanted young companions very much."
"Oh, papa!" cried Launcey; "I am very happy
n-; he was going to say now, but stopped himself.
His father noticed the abrupt way he ended, and
guessed the word he meant to have said.
"I hope, Launcey, it will not be only now, but
always. You must go on with your game now, for I
must be going in, and here is a kind little girl ready to
join you, who gave up her own amusement to make an
old man happy," and lifting little May in his arms, he
kissed her, saying, "God bless you, my child; your
little hand has shown me many things to-day."
The children stood very quiet and silent as Mr.
Vernon went into the house; then Launcey said, with
94 Launcey Jernon or,
the tears gathering in his eyes, Isn't he a kind papa,
though he does like being quiet?"
"I shan't call him an ogre any more," said Edie,
softly, but not so softly that it escaped Fred's sharp
He called out, in consternation, "Will there be no
cupboard then ?"
This interruption scattered the quietness that had
stolen over the little party.
Oh, yes! the cupboard is there all right; suppose
we go and ask Phoebe for the key. She took charge of
it in case I should open it too soon."
They found they were not a bit too early, for when
they entered the house they were greeted with the news
that the Dacres' nurse had come to take all the visitors
They pleaded so hard for just a few minutes more
that Nurse could not refuse, and the cupboard was
opened by May. Ii it were found six little paper
parcels, neatly addressed, each containing a present for
one of them. Launcey had ransacked his treasures to
give them each a present; not very valuable, perhaps
some people might have thought, but ones that gave
Edie's Particular Friend. 95
immense pleasure, not only to the recipients but to the
little giver. It had been a real labour of love to
Launcey, the choosing and arranging which was suit-
able to each of his friends, and he was well rewarded
by the delight expressed by all, not only with the
presents, but with the party altogether, which was
pronounced a perfect success.
;.' : -
H E promised picnic was not
likely to be forgotten by any
Y of the party, Launcey giving
p Phoebe very little peace the
following morning, till she
started with him for "The Mount," to
consult with Mrs. Dacres about all the
arrangements as to time, etc. There were
so many ready to give their advice on the
'^ matter that Mrs. Dacres had to turn every
one but Phcebe out of the room, promis-
ing that she would join them on the lawn, after
lessons with Minnie were finished, and tell them what
was settled. When Mrs. Dacres made her appearance
at the promised time the whole party were assembled,
waiting, and she was nearly overwhelmed with the
Launcey Vernon. 97
string of questions they poured forth, all speaking
It was a few minutes before she could get a hearing,
and then all questions were forbidden till she had told
them their plans.
We have settled it is to be on Wednesday, for that
is the only day on which Father can go. The boys will
be back on Tuesday, but there is one disappointment
in store for you."
What's that ?" came from all.
Miss Glover will not be here; she cannot return till
What a pity I That will only make us eleven instead
I think papa would come, now," said Launcey.
Suppose we write him an invitation? said Edie.
Invite him to his own picnic ? laughed Issa.
No, it is Launcey's picnic; his father said it was,"
"I think it was because I said I had never seen
a castle," remarked Edie.
"What conceit I"
It isn't," retorted Edie, flushing angrily.
98 Launcey Vernon ; or,
"Don't quarrel, children. Mr. Vernon wanted to
give you all pleasure, dears, I am sure," said Mrs.
Mother," said Minnie, "would not it be nice if
Launcey wrote the note to show how well he is getting
on with his writing ?" Launcey looked highly delighted
both at this praise and at the proposal that he should
Let us all sign it like a round robin."
"Very well, you can do as you like about that;
Minnie will see to it," said Mrs. Dacres.
"What about the going, mother? We shall want
more than one carriage, we are such a number ? "
"Yes, dear, we shall require two. We will start
about half-past eleven, and have a good long day
Oh, dear, what a lovely day! When will it be?"
asked May, clapping her hands in delight.
I think I shall go to bed early every night, so that
I can sleep and make the time go quicker."
Very well, Edie," laughed her mother; that will
give us a few quiet evenings."
Edith joined in the laugh, as she answered, I think