The Baldwin Library
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WILD MARSH -MARIGOLDS.
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-( Ly ,t
J C SAU, .. .4 E1ri ,. I. .. ,
JAo SAiUDERS INfDULGKS HIS ANGm THOUGHTS.
Author of "Seven Sons;" "Spoilt Guy;" "The Family Failing;" &c.
BLACKIE & SON, 49 & 50 OLD BAILEY, EC.;
GLASGOW, EDINBURGH, AND DUBLIN.
I. THE ACCIDENT, . . 7
II. THE KINGOUPs, . ...... 20
III. SUSPECTED .... . .. 35
IV. NOT GUILTY, .. ...... .49
THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
WISH I were delicate," said Jack
"I am very glad you are not. I
have quite enough to do to look
after six children as it is, without having the
eldest delicate," replied his mother, who was
standing at a wash-tub with her arms in soap-
suds up to her elbows.
"But if I were pale and sickly like Tommy
Atkins you would get rid of me for three
weeks, but master says only six of the delicate
boys can go; so there is not a chance for me,
because I am never ill, though if I were he,
would have chosen me, as I have not lost
any marks this term. And, oh! mother, you
8 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
don't know how I want to see what the coun-
try is like, and the birds and the flowers.
Those other fellows who are going don't care
half as much about it as I do. Tommy Atkins
said if it weren't for the food he would just
as soon be at home."
"Well, never mind; perhaps you'll go into-
the .country one of these fine days, though
may be not yet awhile. But we mostly get
what we wish for very much, sooner or later
I think, though it seldom comes when we are
thinking about it or in the way we expect.
But here comes father; perhaps if you tell
him all about it he will take you with him
to-night for a treat," said Mrs. Saunders, as
the door opened and a working-man with a
bag of tools on his shoulders came in.
The new-comer put down his bag, and seat-
ing himself, was at once surrounded by four
or five children, varying in age from two to
nine, who clambered on their father's knees,
while their mother wiped her hands and made
the tea, which Jack had been. getting ready.
The small house in which this scene took
place stood in a narrow street in Bermondsey,
with hundreds of other houses all of the same
pattern round it; some larger, some smaller,
some dirtier, some duller; but all of the same
class, and all let off in rooms whose number
THE ACCIDENT. 9
varied not according to the size of tlhe family,
but according to the wages of the father.
John Saunders was a navvy, and earned two
pounds a week, so could afford two rooms, and
an attic for his boys to sleep in, and was far
better off than many of his neighbours. He
was a steady man, a good husband and a kind
father, though his children saw but little of
him; for as part of his duty was night-work
he always went to bed immediately after tea
and slept till eleven o'clock, when he had to go
to the Underground Railway, and at midnight,
when all the trains had ceased running, walk
along the railroad with a gang and see that
the line was all right, and if anything required
repairing the gang had to do it. This took
him from two to three hours, sometimes longer,
so he seldom got home till three o'clock, and
had to be off to work again at seven; so, ex-
cept on Sundays, the children rarely saw him
but just for this half hour at tea-time.
Father," said Jack as they sat down to tea,
"what do you. think ? There has been a lady-
such a pretty lady too-from some society at
school to-day, and she told master if six of us
boys liked to pay six shillings her society
would send us into the country to board, where
we should be well fed and cared for, for three
weeks; only master must choose the boys that
10 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
wanted the change the most, the weakest boys
in the school, so of course I can't be one, and
yet I would give anything to go into the coun-
try. They are to go fifty miles out of London,
some to the sea and some to the country. Isn't
it splendid for them? The society pays the
railway fare and all the board and lodging
except two shillings a week, and if the children
are very poor and very sickly they pay that
"And here is Jack wishing he were delicate
that he might go," said Jack's mother.
"So he should if I hadn't so many children
to feed. But look here, Jack, if I can manage
it we will go into the country some day this
summer for the day. I have not seen a green
field myself for ten years or more."
I have never seen one at all, and this is for
three whole weeks and fifty miles away from
London," sighed Jack, who seemed to delight
in tantalizing himself by dwelling on the ad-
vantages the happy delicate boys he so much
envied were to enjoy.
"Look here, Jack! Would you like to go
with me on my night-duty to-night for a
treat?" asked John Saunders.
Jack assented, though not so joyfully as
usual, for, as a rule, he considered to go the
night round with his father as his greatest
THE ACCIDENT. 11
treat; though it would be difficult to say
wherein the pleasure lay, unless it was being
in his father's society.
"All right! Go and lie down and get a good
sleep then, and I must turn in too; so good
night, little ones."
Five or six hours later Jack was trotting by
his father's side through the gas-lit streets to
the Moorgate Street Station, from whence they
had to walk through the tunnel, examining
the rails, to Gower Street. The gang consisted
of four men, each carrying some tools and a
lantern; and little Jack, who, being allowed to
carry his father's lantern, felt he was of some
use in the world, and was accordingly happy,
though visions of green fields, as he pictured
them to himself, occasionally floated across his
mind as he tramped along through the foul air
of the dark tunnel, turning his father's lantern
on to the rail he was examining. For the
most part the men performed their work in
silence; now and then they shouted across to
each other, but the sound of their hammers on
the rails was the most frequent noise which
broke the stillness. It was work they none of
them liked, and yet it is work which has to
be done every night all the year round, and
unless conscientiously done a terrible accident
might be the consequence. As a rule all they
12 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
have to do is to examine the line; sometimes
repairs are necessary, but they are rather ex-
ceptions. On this particular night they got
on quickly, and had already nearly reached
Gower Street Station, the end of their beat,
without finding anything amiss, when suddenly
John Saunders called to Jack to stop, and
after one or two knowing taps with his ham-
"Ah! I thought so. Evans, this rail is loose;
just give a hand here, will you?"
Evans, who with Saunders was examining
the up-line, was on in front a few paces and
did not like being called back just as he thought
he had finished his work, so he grumblingly
complied. The necessary repairs took about a
quarter of an hour, during which time Jack
sat on the ground watching his father and
Evans at their work. Meanwhile the other
two men on the down-line had reached the
station, and turned back examining the up-line
till they reached Saunders; for it was one of
the rules for the whole gang to leave together,
all working as hard as they could till their
work was over. Jack was turning to look at
the other men approaching, when Evans, who
forgot the child was behind him, gave his
hammer an extra strong swing for the final
stroke, and unfortunately caught Jack a blow
THE ACCIDENT. 13
on the back, which if it had been on his head
might have killed him. As it was it knocked
him over, and he fell insensible across the
The exclamations of the other men called
Saunders' attention to what had happened, for
he was so intent on his work that he did not
see the accident. No sooner was he aware of
it than he rushed forward, and raising his boy
in his strong, brawny arms, bent anxiously
over him, while Evans poured out a string of
apologies for his carelessness.
"Poor little chap, he is badly hurt, I fear,"
said one man.
Take him to the hospital, Saunders," said
"I hope I have not done him any harm. I
never saw the child," said Evans, who in the
weird light of the lanterns looked as pale as
"Fetch a stretcher from the station, will
you? I am afraid some of his bones are broken.
I dare not move him without one," said Saun-
ders, as he gazed sadly at his little son's un-
Evans and one of the men ran off to comply
with this request, and in a few minutes re-
turned with a stretcher, on which Jack was
carried to the nearest hospital, where a doctor
14 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
was called up and the child undressed, ex-
amined, and put to bed in less than an hour
from the time the blow was struck, his father
remaining to hear the doctor's report before
he returned to break the sad news to his
The half hour of suspense which John Saun-
ders endured while the doctor was attending
to his boy seemed to him interminable, but at
last the doctor came and told him there were
no bones broken; the blow had been on the
spine and had caused concussion of the brain;
the child was still unconscious, but he might
be so for some hours; it was a very serious
but by no means a hopeless case; if Saunders
could call in the morning on his way to his
work he could hear how he was going on, as
by that time there would be a change one way
or the other.
Poor Sauniders went his way to Bermondsey
with a very heavy heart, dreading the task
before him of waking his wife and telling her
her boy was lying half killed at the hospital.
As it happened, Saunders' task was simplified
somewhat, for Mrs. Saunders was awake when
he got home, and seeing him enter alone,
guessed something had happened; but no
sooner did she hear what than she declared
her intention of going at once to the hospital
THE ACCIDENT. 15
and demanding to see her boy, and it was with
great difficulty her husband persuaded her to
wait till the morning, or rather till seven
o'clock, for the day was already beginning to
break. Saunders, who was worn out with
fatigue and excitement, threw himself in his
clothes on to the bed, and was fast asleep
almost as soon as his head touched the pillow.
But there was no more sleep for Jack's mother
until she had seen her boy; so getting up she
dressed and then waited as patiently as she
could for six o'clock, when she woke Saunders,
gave him some breakfast, and while he was
eating it, went in to a neighbour's house to ask
if she would come and take care of the children
while she went to the hospital. An hour later
Saunders and his wife were in the waiting-
room, longing yet dreading to know the fate
of their boy. At last, after what seemed a
lifetime to the trembling mother, a nurse
came in and told them that Jack had recovered
consciousness about an hour after his father
left for a few minutes, and since then he had
been conscious at intervals. The doctor had
ordered him to be kept perfectly quiet, and
to 'all Mrs. Saunders' entreaties to see him
the nurse was deaf, promising, however, if
Jack were well enough the next day, which
was a visiting-day, to allow her to sit with
16 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
him for an hour or two. The nurse assured
the parents she believed the child would re-
cover, though it might be necessary for him to
remain where he was for a week; but he would
be better fed and cared for there than he could
be at home, and Mrs. Saunders saw this, though
she felt it was hard not to be by her boy's
The next afternoon when she reached the
hospital she was allowed to go to the accident-
ward, where Jack was lying looking very
happy and comfortable, if very pale. He was
delighted to see his mother, and assured her
if only his head did not ache he should not
mind being in the hospital. He did not re-
member in the least what had happened to
him; and finding talking tired him, Mrs. Saun-
ders only stayed a little while, promising to
come again the next visiting-day, which was
the following Friday. The visiting hours were
from two till four, but Mrs. Saunders did not
arrive till three on Friday afternoon, having
been detained on her way. When she reached
Jack's ward she found him still in bed, but
looking much better than he did when she
last saw him on Tuesday.
How are you, my boy?"
Much better, mother. I think I am nearly
well, but nurse says she is going to keep me in
THE ACCIDENT. 17
bed till Sunday, because I am quiet there, and
if I were up she would have me running all
over the place to-day, and I should be worse
Nurse is about right there, I think, though
you do look well to-day, Jack."
"I should think I did. Why, mother, just
guess who has been to see me."
"I don't know, Jack; Tommy Atkins, per-
Tommy Atkins! no. Teacher has been,
mother, and he has promised to try and get
me sent into the country next week; he is
coming on Sunday to tell me if I can go, and
if I can I am to go as soon as I am well
There, Jack! didn't I tell you perhaps you
would go after all? I was right, though I
little thought how it was to come about, poor
"Poor! why, I don't mind this accident a
bit if it ends in my going to the country, and
master said he is almost sure I shall be able to
go," said Jack, who was so excited about the
country that he could talk of nothing else, till,
as his mother was leaving, he asked if his
father would come and see him on Sunday.
Sunday came, and with it Jack's father and
schoolmaster, who met in the hospital-yard;
18 THE WILD MA1SH-\IMARIGOLDS.
the latter bringing the glorious news, as Jack
called it, that it was all settled, and he was to
go into the country the next Wednesday for
Jack's joy was at first too great for words,
but at last his tongue was loosed and he poured
out a host of questions as to where he was
going, how he was to get there, where he was
to live, how far the place was from London,
what sort of country it was, till at last the
schoolmaster laughed and said he would not
answer any more questions, but leave him to
find out all the rest when he got there. But
Jack had already learnt enough to give him
plenty of food for meditation till the time
came; he was to go home on Tuesday and
start for Hampton on Wednesday morning.
The place he was going to was more than fifty
miles from London, and was in the midst of
very pretty country; there were hills and val-
leys, a river and a canal, fields and woods and
a large breezy common on which stood the
cottage in which Jack was to lodge. His father
was more interested in hearing who the people
were who were to have charge of his boy, and
when Jack's curiosity was a little appeased
learned that it was a sergeant, with a wife and
one little boy about Jack's age, to whose care
he was to be intrusted, though as the sergeant
THE ACCIDENT. 19
was under orders to hold himself in readiness
for foreign service at any moment, the chances
were that his wife alone would be left to look
ON Wednesday afternoon there might have
been seen coming down a path across the
steep meadows which led from Hampton on
the top of the hill to Combe station in the
valley beneath, a tall fine-looking man in a
sergeant's uniform with two medals on his
breast. He carried a little cane in his hand
with which he whipped off the heads of the
innocent buttercups and daisies which grew in
his path. Behind him ran a rosy-cheeked urchin
of ten years, who paid as little attention to the
beautiful scenery around them as his father,
and continually lagged behind to inspect nests
he knew of on the way; having satisfied him-
self that the starlings in the roof of the ruined
cottage he had just been climbing up would be
fledged in a few days, that the robins in the
low hedge of yonder orchard, with their great
mouths wide open, were being duly attended
to by their parents; that the young cuckoo
had ousted the young hedge-sparrows from
their nest in the blackthorn, fence, and was
monopolizing the attention of the good little
parent sparrows, who spent the whole day in
THE KINGCUPS. 21
feeding the greedy little bird, Ernest Hill ran
after his father wondering what the London
boy who was coming to live with them for
three weeks would be like. Suddenly a small
crowd of people by the bank of the canal
which ran at the bottom of the hill they were
descending on the near side of the railway
attracted Ernest's attention.
"Look, father! there is a crowd by the
canal. I wonder what has happened; do you
"Yes, I see; but I see the train is signalled
too, so come on quickly or we shall be late,"
replied the sergeant.
Ernest required no second bidding, for his
curiosity as to what had happened at the canal
was excited, and he ran full tilt down the hill-
side till he reached the bottom, when the ser-
geant caught sight of something which was
going on.in the group below which caused him
to shout to his boy to stop.
Impatient and curious as he was, Ernest
obeyed immediately from habit, for though he
was an only child and the apple of his father's
eye, he had been brought up to obey implicitly
without hesitation or inquiry as to the reason
for the command given.
"Wait a minute, my boy, there has been a
sad accident I am afraid," said the sergeant as,
22 THE WILD IMARSH-MARIGOLDS.
taking hold of his boy's hand, he advanced to
the little group standing on the towing-path
by the lock and asked what had happened.
The spectators pointed silently to the lifeless
form of a young girl stretched on the ground,
while two men tried by moving her arms to
"Is she dead, father?" asked Ernest in an
"I am afraid so; they have been at this for
half-an-hour, but she may recover; she was
not in the water two minutes when my son
rescued her," said an elderly man.
"How did it happen?" asked Sergeant Hill.
"She and some of the hands from this mill
here were playing, the others dared her to
cross over the lock gates, the poor girl tried to
do it, caQght her dress on a nail, slipped, and
Just then there was a stir in the little
group; the efforts made by the men, were re-
laxed as the girl gave a gasp or two, and see-
ing that respiration was returning they placed
her in an easy position, applied smelling-salts,
and used the usual means to restore conscious-
She will do now; we will carry her into
the mill in a few minutes. There are blankets
all ready," said one of the men, which good
THE KINGCUPS. 23
news caused some hysterical sobs in the little
group which had been anxiously watching the
proceedings for the last half-hour.
Just then the whistle of a train caused Ser-
geant Hill to look up, and to his astonishment
he saw that while he had been absorbed in
looking at the half-drowned girl the train he
had come to meet had stopped at Combe, and
was already on its way further west.
"Come, Ernest, we are too late. I hope the
child had the sense to get out. See the train
has left the station."
The station was not two minutes' walk from
the spot they were standing on, and in less
time than that Ernest and his father were on
the platform; there they found two or three
passengers and some porters standing round a
little boy on whose jacket was tacked a paper
with "Jack Saunders. To be left at Combe
Station till called for" written on it. It was
our little friend Jack, looking very pale and as
delicate as he could have desired. He saw
Sergeant Hill's red jacket approaching, and
exclaimed, "There he is," before Hill had time
"Here we are, my little man, right enough,
and here you are, there is no mistake about
that," said the sergeant, pointing to Jack's ticket.
"No, sir," laughed Jack; "but I have had an
24 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
accident and I can't remember things well, so
mother was afraid I might forget what station
to get out at and put this paper on me; it may
come off now."
"I am sorry we were late, Jack, but where
is your luggage? I'll tell you what made us
miss the train as we go home."
"This is all, sir," said Jack, whose very
modest baggage consisted of a newspaper par-
cel and a few things tied up in a red pocket-
handkerchief, which Sergeant Hill took charge
of, and then led the way across the canal bridge
back into the meadows.
Jack followed as in a dream. This then
was the country; how beautiful it was! far
more beautiful than he had expected; the
meadows were carpeted with golden butter-
cups and white daisies on the bright green
grass, such a different green to the grass Jack
had occasionally seen in London squares; and
then the trees-how lovely they were in their
fresh green foliage, not yet thick enough at
the end of May to hide the tracery of their
branches; and the blue clear sky, how lovely
it was; but Jack had no time for the sky, he
dashed on to the grass and began to fill his
hands with buttercups, daisies, and the golden
rays of the dandelion, that handsomest and
most despised of weeds.
THE KINGCUPS. 25
"Father, he is actually gathering dandelions
and daisies!" said Ernest, seizing his father's
arm and speaking in a tone of contempt.
"Poor little fellow! I suppose he has never
seen a green field before; he looks as if he
wanted a little fresh air," said the sergeant,
watching the eager delight with which Jack
plucked and gazed at his treasures.
"Look here, Ernest, while I think of it, you
are not to go on to the towing-path till I give
you leave, do you hear? I don't want you or
Jack to be toppling into the canal or to be up
to any nonsense at the locks like that poor
girl. You understand now, you are not to go
on the towing-path till I say you may."
"Yes, father, I understand; but tell Jack to
come on, I want my tea," said Ernest.
"So does he, poor child, I should think; he
has had no dinner to-day. Come, Jack, there
are plenty more flowers in the fields higher up,
and the common where we live is covered with
Much better than those common things
you have there; there are cowslips and prim-
roses in the next meadow, wood-anemones and
blue-bells on the banks and in the woods, and
our common is covered with the purple orchis,"
"I don't know the names of any flowers ex-
26 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
cept buttercups and daisies, but I think these
are beautiful," said Jack, gazing at his nosegay
"Don't you know a primrose or a cowslip?
Come on with me and I'll soon show you," said
Ernest, wondering at the ignorance of his new
acquaintance, as Jack now followed him up
the sward into the next meadow to learn what
primroses and cowslips were like.
But Jack's ignorance of country things
struck Ernest still more forcibly when, as they
passed a farm-yard near the top of the hill, he
asked what those birds were, pointing to an
old turkey-cock who with his wives was strut-
ting about the yard, and by the time Ernest
had recovered from this proof of the darkness
in which London boys lived, Jack gave him
another shock by exclaiming, "Oh! look at
those blackbirds!" as they passed a large field
in which a number of rooks had just assembled
for their evening meal.
"Blackbirds! those are not blackbirds, they
are rooks; they live in the rookery at the rec-
tory. They are four times as big as blackbirds,"
"Well, they are birds, and they are black
and beautiful," said Jack, watching the rooks
as they stalked about the field or perched on
the stone walls which inclosed it, or flapped
THE KINGCUPS. 27
their great wings and fluttered about near the
ground, which was quite black with them.
"Do they sing ?" asked Jack at last.
No," laughed Ernest; "they caw. You can
hear them in the evening when they get back
to the rookery cawing till long after dark, and
they are at it again by daybreak. But, come,
let's go home and I will show you how to make
those cowslips into balls after tea."
Jack, who was feeling tired and was not
accustomed to steep hills, walked on slowly to
the top, where Sergeant Hill was waiting for
them; but when Jack reached the top he turned
to look at the view for the first time, for
hitherto the flowers and the objects near him
had absorbed his attention. Now, when the
lovely scene of the fresh spring meadows they
had just climbed sloping down to the valley
below, with its mills dotted about the canal
banks, the village of. Combe with its pretty
church, stretching half-way up the opposite
hill, whose sides were clothed with pines and
larches, the whole scene was so fair and lovely-
so exceeded little Jack's highest expectations,
that the tears rose unbidden to hisblue eyes,
his lips quivered, and if it would not have dis-
graced him for ever in his own eyes he would
have burst into tears. As it was, the quick eyes
of the sergeant detected his tears, and thinking
28 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
the child felt lonely at coming among strangers,
he held out his hand kindly as he said:
Come along, my boy, you'll soon get used
to us all. I daresay you are tired and want
something to eat."
It is not that, sir; it is only because it is so
beautiful," said Jack blushing, and wondering
if the sergeant would think him a little idiot.
Ernest would, he knew. What the sergeant
really thought was that the child was ill-fed
and only half recovered from his accident, and
that when he had been a week or two in the
country with plenty of good food he would
think no more about the scenery than Ernest
A few minutes brought them to the large
wide open common on the edge of which, in a
cluster of furze bushes now one mass of burn-
ing golden blossoms, stood the Hills' cottage;
the little garden in front was a blaze of tulips,
whose brilliant colours almost took Jack's
breath away; but he was not allowed to stop
and gaze his fil1 on them, for Mrs. Hill, a pretty
young woman in a pretty gray dress, who Jack
inwardly thought looked like a lady, came for-
ward and led him into the cottage, where tea
was already waiting for them. Jack was sup-
plied with a large bowl of beautiful rich milk,
some cold bacon, home-cured, some home-made
THE KINGCUPS. 29
bread, and the most delicious butter he had
ever tasted, to all of which he did ample jus-
tice, and under their influence his tongue was
loosed and he chatted away quite at his ease
to the sergeant. And now Ernest found that
their visitor was not so ignorant as he had
fancied. Jack knew all about the war which
was then going on in South Africa, and
appeared to know more about politics than the
sergeant; and as for general information Jack
was far ahead of Ernest in that, and the won-
derful things he told them about London, and
the Underground Railway, and the electric
light, and the Thames Embankment, and St.
Paul's Cathedral, made Ernest look upon him
with awe and wonder; though how a boy who
had seen and knew so much could have lived to
be ten years old and not know a rook from a
blackbird, nor a turkey when he saw one, and
who could gather dandelions and daisies for a
nosegay, passed Ernest's understanding.
Jack was so tired that he was glad to go to
bed soon after tea, agreeing with Mrs. Hill
that as he had three weeks in which to explore
the country he might very well wait till the
next day to begin; but he was up and out on
the common soon after seven, so anxious- was
he to make the most of his time. After break-
fast Ernest had to go to school at Hampton,
30 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
across the common, and Jack was told he
might go with him if he could find his way
back alone; after which he helped Mrs. Hill to
feed the fowls, fetched water from the well for
her, peeled the potatoes, and made himself so
useful that she was delighted with him, and,
in return, suggested that if he liked to gather
some flowers for his mother and little brothers
and sisters one day she would pay the postage
for him. The next few days passed only too
quickly and happily; it was fine weather, and
Jack spent the greater part of his time out of
doors. He soon learnt his way about, and if
the others were unable to go with him-went
for a ramble by himself, always coming home
laden with wild flowers, for which he had a
passion; he was very sharp, and before he had
been a week in the country he knew almost
as much about birds and where they built as
"Ernest," said Mrs. Hill one morning when
Jack had been just a week with them, "I want
you to go to the station when you come out of
school, and see if there is a parcel for me."
"Can't Jack go, mother; it is such a long
way?" said Ernest.
"No; Jack is gone to the wood to gather
flowers to send to his mother, and then he will
have to take them to Hampton to post this
THE KINGCUPS. 31
afternoon; you can go by the road and come
up the steep pitch over the fields."
Ernest made no further objection, though
he inwardly wished the parcel a very long
way off, so that he might have gone to the
wood with Jack, who would be gathering
garlic for lilies-of-the-valley, and would never
find the best places for cowslips and bluebells
without him, and would certainly send some
of his favourite dandelions up to London un-
less stopped. However, Ernest went to the
station after school and found a small parcel
for his mother there. The parcel was from a
shoemaker's, and evidently contained a pair of
bobts, which Ernest concluded were for him-
self, and so was consoled for the walk he had
had. It was a warm day, and having ran most
of the way to the station Ernest was hot, so
when he reached the bridge over the canal he
stopped and stood looking at the cool green
water, longing to bathe in it. As he looked
his eye caught some bright yellow kingcups
growing on the bank a little way down the
"There are the marsh-marigolds, I forgot to
show them to Jack, and there is a whole bed
of them further on; how I should like to get
some for him to send to his mother! I wish
father hadn't told me not to go on the towing-
32 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
path, for I can't get them unless I do. I
wonder if he would mind if I went."
Ernest stood for some time debating what
to do, when unfortunately the innocent blue
eyes of some forget-me-nots looked appealingly
up to him from the bank, and these proved
irresistible. Forget-me-nots as well as marsh-
marigolds, and Jack had never seen either; his
father could not mind; and so Ernest went.
First he knelt and gathered the forget-me-nots,
and then walked along the towing-path to the
marsh-marigolds; but they were not so fine as
he expected, so he wandered on for half a mile
in search of larger ones. At last he spied
through a gap in the hedge which bounded
the path a large bed of them "shining like fire,"
in a swampy, low-lying meadow. Here they
grew in perfection, their great golden cups al-
most as large as a water-lily, and their glossy
green leaves looking so cool and refreshing in
the sunlight. Kingcups indeed! Right royal
they looked with their golden heads gently
drooping with the weight of their glory; what
would Jack say to these monarchs of the
What would Jack say? was Ernest's only
thought as he filled his hands till he could hold
no more; but as he returned to the towing-path
another thought took possession of him, What
THE KINGCUPS. 33
would his father say? Never in his life before
had Ernest disobeyed his father, so he had no
idea what the consequences would be; only as
he went home he became more and more con-
scious of his wrong-doing, for Sergeant Hill,
being accustomed to military discipline, had
brought up his boy to consider disobedience to
his parents as a thing he was almost incapable
of, and now Ernest had been guilty of a most
flagrant act, and as he realized this he felt ex-
ceedingly uncomfortable. The very marigolds
were hanging their handsome heads and gently
closing their petals as if to tell him they were
ashamed of him. What would his father say?
Why should he know, and how should he
know unless you tell him? whispered some
little demon in his ear; but Ernest would not
listen to this voice. He will know, because I
shall tell him as soon as I get home, I am not
a coward; besides, if I explain how it happened
perhaps he won't be so angry, thought Ernest;
though that his father would be angry and
would certainly punish him he felt quite cer-
tain. How he wished he had never ventured
on to the forbidden path, and when, on mount-
ing the hill, he saw that he might have got
into the field where the kingcups were growing
without going on the towing-path at all, he
felt so angry with himself that if it had not
34 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
been for Jack he would have thrown the
flowers away there and then.
Say you got them in the field without going
on the path, whispered the voice of Ernest's
bad angel again; but again Ernest answered
inwardly, I won't, I'll tell the truth as soon as
I get home.
Apparently he was in no particular hurry
to get home, for he dawdled up the hill-side,
now and then throwing himself on the grass
to rest, until a passing train in the valley below
warned him that it was already past their
dinner-hour, and no advantage would be gained
by coming in late for dinner, a practice his
father greatly disliked, so Ernest picked him-
self up and walked on slowly and sadly as he
thought of the confession he had to make as
soon as he got home. Slow as he was he
reached the cottage in due course and with
trembling fingers lifted the latch, expecting to
find dinner half over, though as- the odds were
greatly against his getting any that day that
was not of much consequence.
W HEN Ernest walked in, to his astonish-
ment, instead of seeing his father and
mother and Jack seated at the dinner-table,
there was no sign of dinner and no one in the
kitchen but his mother, who was crying over
some needlework she was pretending to do.
Where is father, mother? and Jack, where
is he?" asked Ernest in amazement, as he
threw the tiresome kingcups, as he now called
them, on to the table.
"Jack is not back yet; but have not you
seen your father? Didn't you go to the station?"
asked Mrs. Hill.
Yes, but I didn't see father. Where is he,
mother?" asked Ernest, beginning to fear some-
thing had happened.
Come here, Ernest, my poor little boy.
Father is gone, dear; he had a telegram two
hours ago to say he must join his regiment at
once, they are to sail from Plymouth to-morrow
morning; he had just time to catch the half-
past twelve train, and as that is always a
quarter of an hour late he felt sure of seeing
you at the station; I can't think how you
36 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
missed him. Poor father, he will be so sorry
not to have said good-bye to his little son, for
God only knows when we shall see his dear
face again, Ernest, now that he has gone to
that dreadful war; but I dare not think of that.
Tell me how you came to miss your father;
did you go to the station directly you came
out of school?"
"Yes, I went at once. I must have got
there before half-past twelve, for I ran the
whole way. I had left before father arrived,
I expect," said Ernest, who had turned very
"What a pity, father will be so sorry! He
felt certain of seeing you; but he told me to
tell you in case he missed you, that he left his
very best love for you, and he hoped you
would be as good and obedient to me as you
had always been to him; 'he never disobeyed
me in his life,' he added."
This was too much for Ernest, and although
he considered tears a disgrace to a boy of his
age he hid his face in his mother's lap and
sobbed bitterly. Why had he been so foolish
as to go after those kingcups? It was quite
true that he never had disobeyed his father
before in his life, and now he had done so at
the very moment when that kind father was
taken away from him, perhaps for ever. Ernest
felt as if his heart would break when he
thought he might never see his father again,
never have the opportunity of telling him of
his fault, never hear him speak the sweet words
of forgiveness the boy so longed to hear. Oh
if he could only undo the work of the last hour
or two, if he could only feel the same happy
light heart he felt when he left for school that
morning! Now he felt as if he could never be
happy again, and Mrs. Hill, who thought the
boy was fretting for his father, tried in vain
to comfort him, till at last, thinking to turn
his thoughts into another channel, she asked:
But it is much later than I thought, it just
struck two. Why, Ernest, where did you go
after you left the station?"
To her surprise Ernest only sobbed more
bitterly at this question, and she began to sus-
pect there must be some other reason for his
grief than his father's sudden departure.
What is it, Ernest? Tell me, have you
got into any trouble at school, or what is it?"
Very slowly and reluctantly Ernest told his
mother amid many tears what had happened
the day he and his father went to meet Jack,
how he had then been forbidden to go upon
the towing-path, and how the marsh-marigolds
had tempted him to disobey.
I meant to have told father directly I got
38 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
home, and now I can never tell him perhaps,"
Yes you can, Ernest, and you must, though
I am afraid it will grieve your father very
much, just as he is going away too, when he
wanted all the comfort we could give him.
You can write to him and tell him exactly how
it happened, and how sorry you are about it,
and he will get it before he sails to-morrow
"But I sha'n't get an answer till he gets to
Africa, shall I, mother?"
"I don't think you deserve one, Ernest, but
I am nearly sure you will have one. Father
will write to me by the pilot, and I expect he
will put a letter in to you. But I forgot all
about dinner, I will get some ready directly
for you and me, and then you can write to
father, and Jack shall post it with his flowers
when he comes in; he won't be back yet, for I
gave him some sandwiches and cake to take
with him, and I shall not allow you to go out
Ernest made no reply to this, but silently
helped his mother to lay the cloth for their
dinner, a meal which neither of them did
justice to, and both were glad when the farce
of eating was over. After dinner Ernest sat
down to his task of writing to his father, and
as he was no fonder of eating humble-pie than
the generality of people are, he found it by no
means an agreeable one. At last, after spoiling
one or two sheets of paper, he finished his
letter, and to his relief his mother told him he
might send it without showing it to her. He
felt happier when this was done, but it was
very sad without his father, and to have to
spend his half-holiday in the house this lovely
June afternoon was very dull. But Ernest
knew he deserved to be punished, and bore it as
philosophically as he could. About four o'clock
Jack came back from his walk in the woods,
laden with moss and flowers; blue hyacinths,
wild lilies of the valley, some orchids and a
large bunch of marguerites, which he had
found on a piece of waste ground. Jack was
very sorry to hear the sergeant was gone away,
for he had grown to like him very much, and
naturally enough he attributed the traces of
tears on Ernest's face to his parting with his
"Oh what splendid buttercups those are!
Where did you find them, Ernest? I never
saw such beauties," said Jack, catching sight
of the kingcups which Mrs. Hill had put into
"They are marsh-marigolds, Jack. Golden-
cups, some people call them. Ernest got them
40 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
for you; but I am sorry to say he disobeyed
his father in getting them, so pack them up at
once out of sight. I will give you a little
hamper; you have gathered such a quantity of
flowers a box like a cigar-box will never hold
Jack now went out of the kitchen with Mrs.
Hill to fetch the hamper, carrying his flowers
"I'll come back for the marsh-marigolds,
Ernest," said Jack, who had his own reasons
for wishing to pack his hamper alone.
Presently he returned to the kitchen with
the hamper nearly filled with flowers.
"I shall never get all these flowers of yours
in, Ernest. Look," said Jack as he crammed
the hamper as full as he could without crush-
ing his wealth of flowers, and still a large hand-
ful of kingcups remained on the table.
"Do you mean to say you've filled that
hamper with flowers?" asked Ernest.
"Nearly; there is something I wanted to
send to mother at the bottom of the basket,
but all the rest are flowers," said Jack.
Ernest wondered what the something else
was, but Jack evidently had no intention of
telling him, and Mrs. Hill just then came in
and said it was high time to sew the hamper
up; after which she told Jack she would go to
post with him, as she thought the walk and
the air would do her good.
"Won't you come, Ernest?" said Jack.
"No; Ernest is not to go out any more to-
day. I am very sorry, as it is his half-holiday,
but I must punish him for his disobedience.
Run and make yourself tidy, Jack, and then
we will start; or you can run after me, for I
am not a quick walker, and we have none too
A few minutes later Jack caught Mrs. Hill
up, and as she gave him a scrutinizing glance
to see if he were tidy, her eyes fell on his boots,
which were dreadfully shabby, and she remem-
bered for the first time the parcel she had sent
Ernest to fetch, which contained a pair of new
boots for Jack, whose very scanty wardrobe
distressed Mrs. Hill. Clean Jack certainly was,
for in honour of Mrs. Hill's company he had
scrubbed his hands and his face till his cheeks
were almost as rosy as Ernest's, but that was
all that could be said for him. Clambering up
trees and walls to peep into birds' nests, and
jumping over ditches and through hedges after
wild flowers had by no means improved his
shabby suit of clothes, and kind-hearted as
Mrs. Hill was, it was rather a trial to her to
be seen in Hampton in company with an al-
most ragged boy, so when they reached the
42 THE WILD MIARSH-MARIGOLDS.
town she sent Jack in one direction to get
some butter for tea, while she took the hamper
to the post-office.
"How heavy this hamper is! There must
be something besides flowers in it. I hope it
is not overweight," thought Mrs. Hill as she
entered the post-office with the said hamper,
which she found weighed over seven pounds,
and would therefore go cheaper by rail. This
,was rather tiresome, as it involved going to
the station, which was quite in the other direc-
tion, and Mrs. Hill was afraid Jack would be
tired after his long walk; but when she re-
joined him he begged so hard to be allowed to
go with her, declaring he was not at all tired,
that she yielded.
"What have you put in the hamper, Jack,
to make it so heavy? There must be some-
thing else besides flowers in it," said Mrs.
"Yes, there is," said Jack colouring; but he
evidently did not wish to tell what the some-
thing was, so Mrs. Hill, though wondering
what it could be, did not press the matter any
Jack took such delight in his walk that
Mrs. Hill, heavy-hearted as she was, could not
help enjoying it also. The boy not only noticed
every bird and flower they came across, but
for him the birds not only sang but spoke
"Listen, Mrs. Hill, do you hear that black-
bird? 'What are you doing?' it seems to say
as plainly as possible. 'Pretty Dick, pretty
Dick, pretty Dick.' Did you hear that? I be-
lieve that is a blackbird too, but I am not
sure. There is a thrush over there. Can't you
hear that saying, 'See about it, see about it.'
And there is that cuckoo; I should like to
wring its neck, it never says anything but
cuckoo all the day long. Look at those swal-
lows, how happy they must be, soaring about
all day long."
"Why, Jack, you seem to know almost as
much about birds as Ernest, who has lived all
his life in the country."
Oh, no, I don't; but I soon should if I lived
here," said Jack.
"And would you like to live here?" asked
Mrs. Hill, thinking, now her husband was gone,
it might be good for Ernest to have a com-
"Yes, very much, if father and mother and
all the others lived here too; but I could not
leave them. I am the eldest, and have to help
mother, and father too sometimes," said Jack.
"But perhaps they would spare you for six
months. You could go to school with Ernest,
44 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
and you would grow so strong you would be
more use when you went home than you are
But the society won't pay for me for more
than three weeks, and father could not afford
it, I know," said Jack.
"But I should not want to be paid. I want
a companion for Ernest, and if you would like
to stay all the summer I shall be very glad
to have you. Shall I write and ask your
Jack's look of delight was sufficient answer,
and Mrs. Hill promised to write in a day or
two; a promise she did not keep, though, for
when she got home something happened which
made her change her mind.
"By the way, Ernest, what did you do with
the parcel you fetched from the station to-
day?" said Mrs. Hill as Ernest bade her
good-night, Jack having gone to bed an hour
"I put it down with the kingcups, mother;
but I don't see it anywhere," said Ernest, look-
ing about the room.
"It must be there, Ernest, if you put it
there. I have not touched it; in fact I have
not seen it at all. I have been so upset to-
day that I did not think to ask you for it
SIt is not in the room anywhere, mother,
and I am certain I brought it in and threw it
on the table with those flowers. You must
have taken it upstairs by mistake. It is a
pair of boots for me, isn't it? I'll go and see
if you put them in my room."
"Stay, Ernest, it is no use going, I am quite
sure I have not seen the parcel. Moreover,
though it is a pair of boots, they are not for
you. I bought them for Jack, because his are
nearly worn out. Where can they be? They
must be found if you are quite sure you
brought them in," said Mrs. Hill, getting up to
look also for the missing parcel.
"Oh, but I am quite sure. Why, what else
could I have done with them, mother?" said
But hunt as much as they would, and both
Ernest and his mother spent half an hour in
searching for the missing parcel, it was all in
vain, it could not be found. So at last they
gave it up, concluding that Jack must have
put it out of the way.
The next morning almost the first question
asked of Jack was if he had touched a parcel
containing a pair of new boots, and when Jack
declared he had not seen a parcel at all the
search was resumed, Mrs. Hill declaring it must
be in the house somewhere.
46 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
It was a Sunday, and before they went'to
church Mrs. Hill was convinced the parcel was
not in the house, though where it could be was
a mystery; and she and Ernest could talk of
little else. Jack maintained Ernest could not
have brought it home, for if he had it would
have been found. And this so annoyed Ernest,
who was positive he had put the parcel down
with the kingcups, that the boys got quite to
high words about it, and Mrs. Hill was obliged
to say she would not have the subject men-
tioned again that day.
Coming out of the church, however, while
the boys went off for a walk, she mentioned
the missing parcel to a neighbour, and the
neighbour, who had felt rather jealous of the
Hills' lodger ever since Jack came, charitably
suggested Jack had taken it. Mrs. Hill re-
pudiated the notion at once, saying what could
he have done with the boots. He could not
wear them without her knowing it, moreover
they were certainly not in the house. But
when she got home the suggestion rankled in
her mind, and she remembered that the ham-
per Jack had sent to his mother yesterday was
remarkably heavy; it really was quite possible
he had sent them up with the flowers, intend-
ing, to wear them when he got home. As her
neighbour had said, she really knew nothing
whatever of Jack or his parents. It was quite
possible she and her husband were deceived,
and he might be dishonest after all. If so,
what harm he might do to Ernest; how she
wished her husband were with her that she
might consult him as to what she ought to do!
Jack had been very mysterious about what
else he had put in the hamper, she remembered,
and then he had tried to shift the blame on to
Ernest by saying he could not have brought
the parcel home. All this was suspicious, and
before the two boys came home to dinner she
had worked herself up to believing Jack to be
a thief, and a most ungrateful boy. Her man-
ner to him unconsciously changed, though Jack,
who seemed full of fun and spirits, probably
at the idea of remaining all the summer in the
country, did not observe it, or if he did only
thought Mrs. Hill was so grave and silent be-
cause her husband had gone away.
"I-cannot think what has become of that
parcel," said Mrs. Hill to Ernest after Jack had
gone to bed.
"I should like to know what Jack put in
that hamper yesterday. He would not tell
me, and when I asked him this afternoon
again he told me it was no business of mine,"
said Ernest in a very meaning tone.
But Mrs. Hill could not bear her boy to
48 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
suspect Jack of dishonesty, even though she
had begun to do so herself. So telling him
she wished no more to be said about the par-
cel, it was gone where no one knew, and the
less said about it the better, she sent Ernest
to bed. But after he was gone she sat think-
ing for a long while about the mysterious dis-
appearance of the boots. The result of her
meditations was that she resolved to say no-
thing to Jack of her suspicions, but to watch
him carefully, and leave him as little alone
with Ernest as possible for the rest of the
three weeks he was with them, and then on
the day he left she would tell him that the
boots were originally intended for him, and
that as he had been so dishonest as to appro-
priate them she had been unable to keep her
promise of asking his parents to allow him to
remain with her for the summer. She also
made up her mind to say nothing further to
Ernest about it, thinking it better for both the
boys that their relations to each other should
remain unchanged, especially as she intended
to keep her eye too sharply on Jack for him
to do Ernest any harm.
THE postman was not a very frequent visitor
Sat the Hills cottage, but on the Tuesday
after Sergeant Hill went away he brought two
letters-one for Mrs. Hill and one for Jack.
Mrs. Hill's letter was from her husband, writ-
ten on board the transport, and sent by the
pilot, who left the steamer after piloting them
safely past the Eddystone Rocks. There was
a letter inclosed for Ernest, who coloured crim-
son when his mother handed it to him, and
took it out to read in the garden, lest he
should be unable to hide his feelings from
Jack if he remained in the same room, though
as it happened Jack was too much taken up
with the first letter he had ever received in
his life to pay any attention to anything else.
Ernest's letter was not a long one. It ran
"Off PLYMOUTH SOUND,
On board H.M. Transport Assistance.
"My dearest Ernest,-Your letter grieved
me very much, though at the same time I was
very glad you wrote and told me of your fault,
which, as I see you are very sorry for, I freely
50 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
forgive. To obey is the first duty of every
child in the world as it is of every soldier in
the army; and as I have often told you, you
will never make a good soldier until you have
learnt to obey, and you will never make a
good son unless you learn obedience. It is
hard to obey sometimes, I know; every one
who has tried knows it; but, as you will learn
when you are a man, it is easier to obey than
to command, and impossible to command until
you have learnt to obey. And now,my little son,
God bless you, and grant that this your first
act of disobedience may also be your last! If
I had been at home I should have punished
you, but as I believe my boy to be a noble
nature, I think the very fact of his only act
of disobedience having been unconsciously
committed at the moment when I was leaving
him, perhaps for a soldier's death, will be a
severer punishment than any I could have in-
flicted. Kiss mother for me, and believe me,
your loving father,
ERNEST JOHN HILL."
Ernest read this letter over several times,
though each time he read it the unbidden
tears blinded his eyes, and when he went in to
breakfast, Mrs. Hill, who had been crying over
her own letter, saw by the expression on her
NOT GUILTY. 51
boy's face his father's words had not been
written in vain. Ernest went to deliver his
father's message, and both mother and son
kissed each other and cried over their letters
in spite of Jack's presence, till at last, perhaps
thinking it would amuse her to do so, Jack
offered his mother's letter to Mrs. Hill to read.
Mrs. Hill, for her own reasons, read the letter,
one passage of which puzzled her, it was the
postscript to this effect:
"The children were delighted with the cakes,
and I did as you told me with the parcel I
found at the bottom of the basket."
Here seemed proof positive of Jack's guilt,
and yet he certainly did not look the least like
a thief as he sat eating his bowl of bread and
milk, and if he were, why did he show her this
letter, which, was calculated to confirm her
suspicions? unless indeed he had forgotten the
"What cakes did you send the children?"
asked Mrs. Hill as she returned the letter.
"Those you gave me for my dinner the day
I went for the flowers," said Jack.
"But did you have nothing all day from
breakfast to tea, Jack?"
"No, but I get plenty of food other days,
and I knew Tom and Susie had never tasted
cakes like those you make," said Jack.
52 THE WILD MIARSH-MARIGOLDS.
Mrs. Hill said no more till Ernest was gone
to school, not wishing him to know that the
lost parcel was in the hamper as they suspected;
but when she was alone with Jack she asked
him suddenly, as he helped her to cook the
dinner, what was in the parcel. Jack coloured
as he answered:
"I don't know exactly."
"You don't know, Jack! where did you get
the parcel from then?"
"Well, of course I know what kind of thing
was in it, but I mean I don't know exactly,
and I don't want to tell you," said Jack quite
"But, Jack, I must know what was in that
parcel, I insist upon you telling me," said Mrs.
Jack looked up in astonishment, when sud-
denly it flashed upon him that she suspected
him of having stolen the lost boots. He was
a passionate little fellow if roused, and the hot
angry blood rushed into his face as he blurted
out in a tone Mrs. Hill had never heard him
"Do you think I put that parcel of boots
into the hamper?"
"Hush, Jack! you forget how to speak to
me. I am afraid you did."
Then I didn't. I am not a thief. I would
NOT GUILTY. 53
rather go barefoot all the rest of my life than
steal a pair of boots. I won't stop another
hbur here, I'll go home now;" and before Mrs.
Hill could stop him Jack dashed out of the
house, and the next minute was tearing down
the steep green meadows over the daisies and
buttercups to the station, like a wild animal
running from the huntsmen.
In his excitement he quite forgot that Mrs.
Hill had the return half of his railway ticket,
and it was only when he reached the platform
that he remembered this. It was of course
impossible to go without it, so he turned back
into the meadows, and throwing himself on the
ground buried his face in the sweet grass and
cried passionately. How dare Mrs. Hill sus-
pect him of dishonesty! He would not stand
it. Dearly as he loved the country, and much
as he was enjoying his visit, he would not stay
with people who thought him a thief. He
must wait till to-morrow now, he supposed, for
he was too angry with Mrs. Hill to trust him-
self to ask properly for his ticket just yet, but
if she refused to give it him to-morrow he
would walk home, follow the line the whole
way, rather than stay till his three weeks were
up, which would not be till to-morrow week.
Yes, he was quite determined about this, and
he was sure his father and mother would not
54 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
wish him to stay where he was so unjustly
suspected. For a long while Jack lay on the
grass indulging in a great many very angry
thoughts, and vowing he would not touch
another morsel in the Hills' house; this he
thought would force Mrs. Hill to give him his
railway ticket, but here Jack was reckoning
without his host, as he found when he got
home. But he had no intention of going back
at present; as this was his last day in the
country he determined to make the most of
it. He had sixpence in his pocket which Ser-
geant Hill had given him one day, and with
this he thought he could buy food enough to
last him that day and the next till he got
home; so at last he rose from his nest in
among the daisies and started on a long ramble.
But somehow, though it was a beautiful June
day, and the birds were singing as blithely as
ever, and the country he roamed over was
wild and romantic in its beauty, Jack did not
enjoy himself. The truth was, the discord
was within him, and the storm which was
raging there destroyed all the harmony and
peace of the fair scene around him. All day
long Jack's anger boiled in him, and all day
long he remained out of doors, sometimes walk-
ing, sometimes resting, drinking from the clear
springs he came across constantly, and satis-
NOT GUILTY. 55
fying his hunger with some bread he bought
as he went along.
At last, between seven and eight o'clock, to
Mrs. Hill's great relief, for she had been very
anxious about him all day long, he entered the
little garden gate, looking very pale and tired
after his long walk.
"Here he is, mother. Why, Jack, where
have you been? We have been out for hours
looking for you. Aren't you tired and hun-
gry?" said Ernest.
"He looks worn out. Come, Jack; come
and have some supper. I have written to your
mother, and we won't say any more about the
parcel till I hear from her," said Mrs. Hill,
beginning to cut some cold meat off a joint
which stood on the table for Jack's supper.
I don't wish for any supper-I mean I am
not going to eat anything in this house again.
I only want my ticket, please. I am going
home to-morrow. I could not go to-day
because I had not it with me," said Jack, se-
cretly longing for some supper after his long
"Don't be silly, Jack. I shall not give you
your ticket till I get an answer to my letter,
and then if I find I am wrong, as I hope I am,
I shall be the first to own it. Now come to
56 THE WILD MIARSH-MARIGOLDS.
"No, thank you. I am going home to-
morrow. If you don't give me my ticket I
shall walk," said Jack, with an emphasis on
the word "my."
Mrs. Hill could hardly believe it was the
quiet, good, happy little Jack she had known
for the last fortnight, speaking to her in this
tone; but ignoring it, she tried to persuade him
to eat, until, finding all her efforts were in
vain, she suggested he should go to bed, hop-
ing by the morning he would be in a different
mind. But Jack was too deeply wounded to
forget what had happened in one night, and
seeing Mrs. Hill had made up her mind not to
give him the ticket, he made up his to go
without it; so he rose before Ernest was
awake the next morning, and dressing himself
quietly, let himself out of the house, fully
determined never to return to people who
thought him a thief.
He was less angry this morning, and as he
strolled down to the station he began to won-
der what could have become of the lost parcel,
and again he thought Ernest never could have
brought it into the house, but must have lost
it on the way home. He went after those
kingcups for me; very likely he lost it while
he was gathering them; if so, I daresay it has
been picked up long ago by some dishonest
NOT GUILTY. 57
person, and so they'll never know I am not a
thief. I have a great mind to go and look.
I know where Ernest found those marsh-
marigolds; it is not very much out of my way,
and I should like to take some away with me,
though they'll be dead long before I get home,
for even if I get some lifts on carts and wag-
ons it will take me two or three days. I'll go
and see if I can find the place Ernest went to.
Thus thinking Jack wandered through the
dewy meadows while the skylarks chanted
their matin song, poised overhead so high as
to be invisible, for as the days get longer and
the sun rises higher in the heavens, the lark
rises higher and remains longer in the skies.
The early morning is truly the king of the day,
and as Jack wandered on the long sweet grass
studded with the snow-white fringed stars of
the daisies and the golden discs of the butter-
cups, he felt very sorry that he was going
back to the narrow streets of Bermondsey.
Presently he reached the field in which the
marsh-marigolds grew, and as soon as le en-
tered it he saw a patch of ground covered with
large golden stars and bright glossy heart-
shaped leaves. He made for this spot at once,
and as he suspected, found it was a bed of
kingcups, with which he began to fill his
hands, forgetting in his admiration for the
58 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
handsome blossoms the real aim of his visit,
when suddenly he kicked against something in
the long grass, half hidden by the great shin-
ing leaves of the marsh-marigolds, and stoop-
ing down, picked up a parcel, the brown paper
of which was in places so sodden with dew
and water that pieces fell off as Jack raised it
and disclosed a pair of boots none the better
for lying a week in the damp grass.
There was no doubt that it was the parcel
Ernest had been sent to fetch, for there was a
label on it, upon which Jack could still dis-
tinguish Mrs. Hill's name. It was, then, just
as he had always maintained, Ernest had never
brought the parcel home, and yet they had
been so unjust as to accuse him of stealing it.
But though Jack was not then conscious of it,
he was unjust too, for he forgot that circum-
stances were very much against him, and he
had refused to give any explanation of the
contents of the parcel he had sent to his
mother. All he thought of was the triumph
he should feel when he rushed into the cottage
with the lost parcel in his hands, and convinced
Ernest he had been right all along.
It did not take Jack long to get back to the
Hills', though when he dashed into the kitchen
Ernest was not yet down, only Mrs. Hill was
there making the breakfast.
NOT GUILTY. 59
There, Mrs. Hill, there is the parcel. Er-
nest never brought it home after all. I said
he didn't. I found it in the meadow among
the marsh-marigolds. Now I hope you believe
I am not a thief," said Jack, throwing rather
than putting the offending parcel on to the table.
"Found it among the golden-cups Oh! Jack,
I am so glad it is found, and so sorry I sus-
pected you of taking it. But you see Ernest
was so certain he brought the parcel home,
and I knew no one else could have touched it.
And then when I saw by your mother's letter
you had sent her a parcel, and you would not
tell me what was in it, even you will, I think,
allow it looked rather suspicious. But you
must forgive us for misjudging you so, will
you?" and as Mrs. Hill spoke she put her arm
round Jack's neck, and somehow all Jack's
pride and anger vanished in a moment, and
colouring deeply he said very meekly:
"Please, I am so sorry I was so angry."
"Never mind, Jack, we have both some-
thing to forgive, so we will agree to say no
more about it. And now I'll tell you what
we will do. You and I will go by train to
county town to-day, and you shall see the
cathedral, and then as those boots were for
you, and are, I fear, ruined by the damp, I will
buy you another pair."
60 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
"Thank you, Mrs. Hill," said Jack, who
seemed to have something else to say, when
the door opened and Ernest came in.
"Why, here are the boots! Where did you
find them, mother?" asked Ernest in astonish-
"Jack found them in the field among the
marsh-marigolds, where you left them the
day your father went away," said Mrs. Hill
Ernest looked very disconcerted at this piece
of news, and seeing his mother was angry
with him he sat down in silence to his break-
fast, while Jack began chattering away about
"Are we going to county town to-day,
mother?" said Ernest, plucking up courage to
"I am and Jack is. You are going to school.
And before you go take those boots up into
your room. I sha'n't buy you any others this
summer; and I hope, Ernest, this will be a
lesson to you never to be so positive as you
were about bringing that parcel home, and
above all never to disobey your father or me
again, for you see disobedience, like all other
sin, is sure to bring trouble in its wake. The
consequences of sin are certain to overtake us
sooner or later, and we never know how much
NOT GUILTY. 61
we may injure others by our wrong-doing.
Your carelessness and disobedience have caused
Jack to be suspected unjustly, and but for a
lucky accident might have shortened his visit
with us, and put an end to our friendship for
ever. Now I hope we shall always be good
friends, and if Jack will stay with us till the
end of the summer he can begin school after
the holidays with you. Will you stay, Jack?"
Jack coloured up and hesitated, and Mrs.
Hill, thinking he was perhaps still on stilts at
least with Ernest for having suspected him,
and seeing Ernest was with difficulty choking
down some sobs that threatened to become
audible if he were required to speak, she added
You must forgive Ernest too, Jack. He
did not mean to be unkind, you know."
"I know. I am not cross with Ernest, Mrs.
What is it, then? Don't you wish to stay
"Oh, yes, very much. I want to tell you
what was in the parcel I sent to mother, and I
am afraid you will laugh at me."
"I promise we won't do that, Jack; but you
need not tell us unless you like. I am sure
you sent nothing you ought not to have
62 THE WILD MARSH-MARIGOLDS.
"It was only some stones I picked up near
a quarry, but they looked like things I have
seen in the British Museum, and I wanted
Tom to take them to school and ask the master
if they were any use."
The idea of sending stones from a quarry to
London struck Ernest as so ridiculous that in
spite of his mother's promise he burst into a
peal of laughter.
"Don't laugh, Ernest. Jack is quite right;
he has found some fossils. I heard the vicar
tell your father one day there were a great
many in this district, and people sometimes
bring him very fine specimens."
"I wish I had shown them to you, Mrs. Hill,"
So do I, Jack, for then we should not have
had this misunderstanding. I think the fewer
secrets we have the better. It is a pity to
make a mystery about nothing. However,
this is our first and last quarrel, I hope,
And so it was, although Jack did not go
back to London till just before Christmas, and
then he left with a promise that his summer
holidays should always be spent with the
The wild marsh-marigolds bloomed and died
five times before Sergeant Hill came home
NOT GUILTY. 63
from Africa, but when Ernest met him it was
with a clear conscience, for he knew his mother
could truly say- his first act of disobedience
was his last.
O'ThG I I