The Baldwin Librauy
I. IN DISGRACE, . .. .. 7
II. SYLVIA'S FRIENDS,. . . 25
III. THE BROKEN PROMISE, ... . . 36
IV. IN FARLEY WOOD,. . . .. 47
V. TEDDY'S DOINGS, .. . .... .... 75
VI. SYLVIA'S TRIUMPH.. .. ...... 84
E bright autumn morning a little girl stood
gazing somewhat dolefully out of the nursery
window into the street below. The street
ran through the pleasant village of Woodleigh, and
was a very bright and cheerful-looking street too, for
in it was transacted all the small business concerns of
the little place; in fact the village might be described
as having its beginning as well as its end in this one
street. The one butcher, the baker, the grocer-who,
in addition to his proper goods, sold crockery and
-tinware-all had their shops here; not to speak of
that one most beloved and frequented of the more
juvenile portion of the population-the. little general
shop, where Hannah Webb displayed a tempting store
of bull's-eyes, peppermints, tops and toys, judiciously
varied with tapes and buttons, thread, cotton and
wool for thrifty housewives, in addition to a hundred
trifles too numerous to be described.
Here, pressing their noses against the small diamond-
paned window, the youth of Woodleigh spent many
a happy and exciting hour in the discussion of how
the sum of one penny, belonging to a single fortunate
member of the nose-flattened group, might be spent
to the greatest advantage; the whole troop, as a rule,
when the momentous question had been decided,
accompanying the owner of the said penny into the
dark little shop, listening with grave consideration
to his or her request for a penn'orth of bull's-eyes, or
a ha'porth of peppermint and a sheet of theatrical
characters-still to be obtained in that obscure village
-and fixing solemn, attentive eyes on Hannah as
she weighed out the goodies, as though it were the
first time they had happened to see the performance,
whereas it was repeated daily, and many times a day,
before their eyes as purchasers, or for their entertain-
ment as they peered through the lattice.
Here, too, the good wives of the village spent many
a delightful hour of gossip and criticism of one
another's doings, husbands, children, and general
affairs, while they turned over and made their bargains
from Mrs. Webb's modest store of haberdashery,
generally parting from her well pleased with both her
and themselves; since nothing gives one such a pleasant
IN DISGRACE. 9
feeling of superior merit as criticising one's neighbour
with a sympathizing friend; and Hannah Webb was
too wary a confidante not to agree with each critic in
her turn that is to say, with the last speaker.
"Law !" she would say, "it's turn and turn about, and
nobody the worse!"
This was indeed the fact, for the village housewives
lived in great amity and good-will with one another as
a rule, and if Mrs. Barnwell did think Mrs. Turner
ought to be ashamed'of herself for letting that great
gal of hers flaunt out on a Sunday in a hat with a
great orstrich feather as might a' done for Miss Sylvia,
but was a deal too fine for the likes of Sally Turner;
and if Mrs. Turner, hearing of the remark, hastened to
retort that anyhow her husbandd spent his wages on his
own family, and not at the White 'orse, like some
people's husbandss she could mention if so minded,-
still, these little amenities were soon forgotten, and
Mrs. Barnwell and Mrs. Turner would meet at the
"Mothers' Tea," which was given each Christmas by
Mrs. Burton, the rector's wife, and talk to each other
just as amiably and copiously as they drank their
hot, sweet tea, and ate their thick plum-cake and
bread and butter.
At the end of the village street, where it began to
lose itself in the, country road that ran its way for
many miles, dusty in the heat and muddy in the rains,
stood the smithy, a long, low, dusky shed, with its
heart of living fire ever and anon blazing up into
fierce flame under the breath of the bellows, whence
all day long came the familiar yet always new and
entrancing clink of iron beaten on the anvil. Under
the smithy eaves, watching the flying sparks, and
listening to the iron music, were always to be found
such of the village children as home, or school, or the
delights of Hannah Webb's window left at liberty for
the unfailing charms of the shaping of the glowing
horse-shoe, the rhythmical swing and beat of the ham-
mer, and the smith's kind blackened face and muscular
At the other end of the village, where the village
street led into the high-road to Winston, the county
town three or four miles away, stood half-a-dozen or
more houses of some pretensions; one or two so close
to the red brick footpath that passing walkers there
could look straight into their lower windows, others
a little back, and approached by green doors, set in
the high walls that hid their first stories. Over these
walls, ivy and Virginia creeper and climbing roses had
straggled from the gardens within, and greeted the
passer-by with their beauty and scent, or deluged
him with rain-drops should he walk unwarily beneath
their garlands after a shower.
It was from an upper window in one of these wall-
enclosed houses that the Miss Sylvia, who had been
thought worthy of Sally Turner's "orstrich feather,
gazed disconsolate on the bright autumn morning I
Her wistful dark eyes were not looking either up or
down the village street, neither towards the forge to
her right, nor towards Hannah Webb's little shop to
her left, although both these spots held a high place
in her affections; they were fixed on a neat dog-cart
which stood in the road just opposite the green door
belonging to her home, the spirited horse pawing the
ground as if impatient to be off with his master to the
town, while Job, the groom, stood by, patting his
And Sylvia was not going! She was in dis-
Sylvia Brooke was an only daughter, though not an
only child; her brother Geoffrey, a boy of eleven, and
a little baby brother eighteen months old, shared her
home and her father and mother's love-shared, but
in very unequal proportions.
Mrs. Brooke adored and spoiled her handsome, fair-
haired, pink-cheeked boy, a good and honest lad in
the main, who showed fewer evil effects of his mother's
unwise petting than might have been expected; and
as to the Baby Teddy, surely there never had been or
would be such a baby before or again. Its mother at
least thought so, and since many other mothers have
thought the same of other babies, it must be concluded
that babies, as a race, are more of the nature of pro-
digies than the surprising numbers in which they visit
this earth would seem to show.
But for her little slender, dark-skinned, dark-eyed
daughter Mrs. Brooke had no such admiring worship.
The love she bore her was of a very different character,
and such as gave but little sense of warmth to the
child's sensitive nature.
Sylvia had never forgotten how-sitting apart with
her doll, silent and attentive, while her mother talked
with a visitor-she had heard her say in answer to
some question, "Oh, you know I don't care about
Miss Milner, the visitor, a young lady with a pretty
bright young face and blue eyes, which the little girl
had been gazing at with the admiration which even in
childhood we feel for personal charms we do not our-
selves possess, looked quickly round at the child, as if
imagining that her mother must have spoken in ignor-
ance of her presence; but Mrs. Brooke's languid, "Oh,
you need not mind Sylvia; she does not notice. If it
were Geoffrey now-but he is so unusually intelligent
for his age!" undeceived her.
This was some years ago, for Sylvia was nine years
old now; but she had not forgotten that her mother
did not "care about girls;" nor had she forgotten
either that when she said good-bye that day, Miss
Milner had put her arm round her and kissed her as
her own mother but seldom did.
Children's hearts are deep and very silent, and even
the tenderest comprehension and sympathy find it
difficult to fathom their inmost unformed thoughts
and hopes and fears -Mrs. Brooke had never even
attempted to fathom her little daughter's. Poor
woman! It was not that she was really unkind or cruel;
she would have resented vehemently any accusation
of injustice in the division of her love for her children;
probably she would have shed tears over it-for she
was given to tears, being a delicate, languid sort of
woman, with a great reputation for being gentle and
"ladylike," and a secret contempt for women who
were of stronger or juster nature. "Sylvia was really
such an odd child," she would have said; "so vehe-
ment and impulsive at times, at others so moody
and ill-tempered, you never knew how to manage
If you had answered that perhaps the child needed
a little of the wealth of love lavished on her brother,
yearned, without knowing what she wanted, for a
hearty motherly kiss, a tender "God bless you, dear!"
such as Geoffrey won often and often from his mother's
lips, she would probably have repeated fretfully that
Sylvia was such an odd child, so different to Geoff
with his affectionate ways, so talkative and excitable
at one time, so silent and dull at others.
And it was all true; Sylvia was quite different from
her brother, she was impulsive and vehement at
times, and moody and ill-tempered at others; but in
her mother's heart there was not the understanding
love for her that would have brought forth and
fostered the best in her, and helped her to fight
against the worst. And stranger still, Mrs. Brooke
had no conception of the loving depths in her little
daughter's heart, and looked upon her as a far from
affectionate child; so blind did her want of sym-
pathetic insight make her.
Even the child's appearance-her clear olive skin,
her curly black hair, her large liquid eyes which could
widen into soft clear radiance, or dart passionate
glances, or cloud over moodily; her spare, light little
figure-told against her with her mother, whose
beauty, considerable in her youth, was of the soft
pink-and-white kind which charms by its suggestion
of flowers and all soft and dainty things.
Mrs. Brooke was no longer very young, but much
of her prettiness remained, and her complexion had
been inherited by Geoffrey and the baby Teddy, while
poor Sylvia had carried her "oddity" even into her
face and form and was as dark as a gypsy.
"The image of the Vernons!" sighed Mrs. Brooke
to her mother, who was paying her a visit. (Mr.
Brooke's mother had been a Vernon, and little Sylvia's
colouring had come to her direct from her maternal
grandmother, skipping a generation; for Mr. Brooke,
like his wife, was fair, and had been pink and white
in his youth). "I can't think how John and I can
have had such a dark child-so fair as we both are.
It is very provoking. People tell me Sylvia will be a
beauty-a real brunette beauty. I can assure you Mr.
Evelyn raves about her eyes-positively raves; but I
must confess I fail to see it. I never could admire
that dusky sort of complexion. It seems to me so
unladylike-almost unwomanly, indeed."
"Nonsense, Emily!" answered her mother, a hand-
some elderly lady, the image of what her daughter
would be at her age, but with a great deal more
energy and decision in face and manner than Mrs.
Brooke's life of languid delicacy was likely to de-
velop. "Nonsense, Emily! the child's well enough;
and she's a perfect little lady anyhow, whatever her
complexion is. Besides, there's no need to puzzle your
head overmuch about how she came by her dark skin.
Look at John's mother-Sylvia will be her Grand-
mother Brooke over again."
Mrs. Brooke sighed; John's admiration for his
mother's appearance remained a sore point with her.
Let him be as fond of her as ever he liked; indeed she
had nothing to say against her, she was as kind a
mother-in-law as any woman could wish for-but she
could not help feeling that, with a wife of such
exquisite colouring and generally refined appearance
as a standard of female excellence, John was not
justified in keeping to his opinion that his mother was
the finest lady and the best-looking woman of her age
in the world.
In fact, in his secret heart, I think John felt
glad that his little daughter took her looks from his
mother instead of his fair-skinned wife or his ruddy
Sylvia's father owned the deepest love and alle-
giance of Sylvia's childish heart-quite unknown to
him for a long time. Mr. Brooke was a happy-natured,
cheerful man, a kind and attentive husband if at
times a little given to laugh at his wife's languid ways
and over-refinements, and an affectionate and in-
dulgent father. He saw but little of them, being
greatly absorbed in the business which took him to
the town every day immediately after breakfast, and
from which he returned to dinner too late to see
enough of his children to know much of their thoughts
or ways. He was of opinion that children, while
they were still young, should be chiefly the mother's
care, and except for certain broad rules of conduct
which his integrity of nature made binding on them
as well as on himself, and which he would not allow
to be broken through, he left his wife to manage the
family in her own way.
If he noticed occasionally, with a certain unpleasant
surprise, that his little daughter was by no means her
mother's favourite,-that she was sharply taken to
task for childish faults that passed without comment'
in Geoffrey-he smothered the thought by assuring
himself that it would all come right in time, sym-
pathy would arise between Sylvia and her mother
when the girl grew older and less odd; for since his
wife was always lamenting over the child's peculiar-
ities he supposed there must be something in it.
But he noticed to more purpose, that on the other
hand his eldest son was running a fair chance of being
completely spoiled by constant petting; and therefore,
with masculine dread of scenes and entreaties and
tears, made arrangements for his attendance at the
Grammar School at Winston, and having informed his
wife of his decision, and patiently argued away her
reproaches for his cruelty in depriving her of her boy
without any warning, had carried his point, and from
that day had taken Geoffrey in to the town with him
every morning, left him at school, and let him walk
back every afternoon in time to delight his mother's
eyes at her tea-table.
It was a small incident that opened Mr. Brooke's
eyes to the hidden store of love for him in his little
daughter's heart; but once opened they were never
closed to it again, and he repaid it with love of his
own all the greater that it had something of remorse
in it for his blindness. This was how it came about.
Every morning Sylvia and her mother were wont
to struggle through an hour or two of lessons, too
commonly painful to both teacher and learner.
For lessons it would be more correct to say arith-
metic, for Sylvia was a quick and ready learner of all
else, fond of reading, and intelligent in everything but
those terrible sums. For these she seemed to have an
utter incapacity in her early years, and the more
figures were drummed into her head the less she
seemed to comprehend what they meant.
Mrs. Brooke said Sylvia was incurably stupid.
Sylvia said nothing, but may have thought that to be
so often told so was not quite the way to make her
more clever. Mrs. Brooke declared Sylvia was sullen,
and, alas! it was too often true; but then Sylvia may
have felt, without power of expressing it, that her
mother's irritable, confusing corrections of her mis-
takes was not conducive to good temper any more
than to a clear understanding of the subject in hand.
One day, when the irritation on both sides had
caused the lesson-hour to be even more painful than
usual, Sylvia had been dismissed in disgrace, and
forbidden in consequence to go nutting with Geoffrey
on his return from school in the afternoon. Mrs.
Brooke's representations of the enormity of Sylvia's
conduct, and the impossibility of teaching such a
wilful and stupid child when she herself was so far
from strong, and her nerves so easily upset-as he
knew-at last worked her husband up to consent to
go into the. nursery and "speak seriously" to the
small culprit. He went unwillingly enough; he hated
scoldings and uncomfortable things in general, and he
had very little idea of what he intended to say.
Sylvia was sitting disconsolately at the open win-
dow, quite alone, for Geoffrey was out, and Nurse was
putting Baby to bed.
The mournful pose of the little figure did not do
much towards helping Mr. Brooke to severe words, but
either some trace of real or assumed sternness in his
face, or the unusual fact of his appearance in the
nursery at that hour, seemed to the child so ominous
that the great dark eyes she raised to his were dilated,
and the blood rose in her olive cheek.
Mr. Brooke's kind heart smote him, but he went to
work bravely. He sat down, and drawing the child
towards him began with due severity:
"Sylvia, I hear from your mother that you have
been a very naughty girl to-day-"
He stopped suddenly, for the child had broken into
a storm of sobs and tears so violent that it frightened
him. All the father-and mother-in his heart rose
up then, and he took the forlorn little culprit on his
knee, and with his arm tight round her and her face
pressed against his breast, held her until the paroxysm
was over and she could listen to him.
"Why, Sylvia, my dear, what is it?" he said then,
with a quite novel and horrible feeling of remorse at
his heart, for the thought had pierced -him like an
arrow that she had felt afraid of him.
2U SYLVIA BROOKE.
"You weren't frightened, my darling, were you?-
You weren't afraid of your own father, Sylvia? "
The child put both her arms round his neck and
clasped him tight, her face still hidden in his breast.
"Oh, no! oh, no!" she whispered in a quivering
voice. "Oh, father, I do love you so!"
Mr. Brooke's own voice was not quite steady nor
his eyes quite clear as he raised the little tear-stained
face to his and kissed it tenderly more than once, and
he vowed to himself that come what might his little
girl should never miss a father's love and care while
he lived. Aloud he said only, "Don't you think I love
my Sylvia, too?" and felt an odd sense of relief from
suspense when the child answered by a tighter clasp
of his neck, and a tremulous "Yes, father dear."
So ended the "serious talk" Mr. Brooke had under-
taken to have with his daughter; but although he
told his wife that he had spoken to Sylvia, and felt
certain the lessons would go on better for the future,
somehow he said nothing of the effect his words had
on her, or of her protestation of love for him-it
seemed to him a sacred confidence. Which goes to
prove that, in spite of his fair skin and blue eyes, Mr.
Brooke was more like his mother and his daughter
than appeared at first sight.
As for Geoffrey, who, it has been said, was an
honest and healthy-minded boy, as incapable of mean-
ness or deliberate unkindness as his father, whom he
resembled in character as much as he resembled his
mother in face and comeliness, he and Sylvia were
great friends and allies and had many a happy hour
together; for Sylvia had great powers of enjoyment
and could throw herself heart and soul into games
and pursuits when lessons and moody thoughts and
blind endeavours to gain her mother's favour were
If Geoffrey was inclined to laugh at her fancies
and "nonsense," he owned she was not a coward at
any rate; she could climb trees like a boy, and if she
was more or less afflicted with the general feminine
incapacity for throwing a stone properly, even at that
she was not so bad as some girls-Daisy Burton, for
instance, who, if she aimed at one object, invariably
hit another, unless the stone somehow got unac-
countably behind instead of in front of her.
Geoffrey both loved and admired his mother with
a love and admiration which, boy as he was, had
something in them of his father's manly toleration
of her weaknesses. Probably he was quite aware of
her indulgence of him and her want of sympathy with
his sister, since such things are appreciated by children
-in a way that their habitual shyness of explaining
their thoughts to their elders makes difficult to believe;
but considering the dangers of such a state of things
it had but small effect on his relations with Sylvia,
who returned his affection with all the ardour of her
22 SYLVIA BROOKE.
vehement nature, and in spite of her mother's decided
preference for him admired him in her childish way
as much as her mother did. She keenly felt a sense
of something wanting in her mother's love for her,
but in her generous nature there was no jealousy.
As for the baby, he was the admitted pet of the
household-a lovely, soft, fair, dimpled darling, at
what motherly women call "just the interesting age,"
his rosy tongue twisting his ambitious attempts at
speech into that "little language" which is the sweetest
on earth; his plump legs failing under him at mo-
ments and letting him in for unexpected and sudden
sittings on the floor; and his blue eyes limpid with
that heaven's own light which he had so lately
Sylvia adored him, and was adored' by him in return;
she could always bring back his merry laugh after his
feelings had been hurt by such indignities as having
his face washed when he did not like it, or the soft
golden rings of his curly hair combed out. Nurse,
who was young and lively, found Miss Sylvia a great
help-so steady and trustworthy, she said. More
often than her mistress knew or would have permitted
she would leave Baby to Sylvia's care, and the little
girl was proud of the trust.
For a long time after the day when Sylvia and her
father had their explanation, the lessons went so well
that Mrs. Brooke congratulated herself on her wisdom
IN DISGRACE. 23
in having persuaded her husband to speak seriously
to the child.
Perhaps the certainty that her father dearly loved
her unconsciously helped Sylvia to do her best, for
happiness is a great brightener of the wits; and it was
a real happiness to the little girl to know for certain
-not only as part of a general rule that parents love
their children-that the father she loved so dearly
returned her affection in full. Perhaps Mrs. Brooke
herself felt better and stronger and less easily irritated
by her daughter's failings. However it was, the les-
sons for some considerable time were not the weariness
and pain to both parties they had been of old.
But imperceptibly things changed again, and to a
great extent the old state of things returned once
It began by Mrs. Brooke accusing her husband of
spoiling Sylvia, whereupon he retorted with some
angry words about her petting of Geoffrey and wish-
ing to turn the boy into a perfect milksop. Then
Mrs. Brooke cried, and he apologized for his violence,
while retaining his opinion; but the incident ruffled
Mrs. Brooke's nerves, and that day the sums went a
good deal awry. Sylvia's thoughts were away among
the sunny woods and the reapers in the golden corn-
fields, and on being sharply reprimanded for her
absent answers the old moody look began to creep
into her eyes once more.
And so the lesson-hour went on day after day,
sometimes peacefully, sometimes much the reverse,
until one morning, after some very flagrant and appa-
rently wilful mistake of Sylvia's, her mother dismissed
her, telling her that as a punishment for her negli-
gence and ill-temper she would be kept at home on
the following morning instead of going for a promised
drive to the station with her father and Geoffrey, who
were to leave her to come home in charge of Job, the
coachman, while they went on by railway to her
Grandmother Brooke's, where they were to stay for
Mr. Brooke looked vexed when his wife told him
of Sylvia's disgrace, and even tried to mollify her
anger so far as to permit Sylvia to enjoy the drive
on condition of the little girl's promise to behave well
at her lessons during his three days' absence; but
Mrs. Brooke was inexorable. She said Sylvia should
be made to understand that she must not defy her
mother's authority, and if her father encouraged her
in her naughtiness there would be no bearing with her.
It was true Sylvia had been naughty, and he could
not hold her blameless; but he was sorry. So he
sighed and said no more. But when he saw the child
with the old moody, sullen look in her eyes, and felt
she needed comfort in spite of her evil doings, he put
his arm round her and drew her to him before he
"Sylvia, I am sorry; but give me a kiss and pro-
mise me to be a good girl while I am away, and do
just what your mother tells you."
And Sylvia once more flung her arms round his
neck, and promised with tears that she "would be
good-indeed she would be good always!"-a large
promise but a very sincere one.
And so it came to pass that on that bright autumn
morning she stood at the nursery window gazing
longingly at the dog-cart and Job.
THE little Brookes had not many companions of
their own age, for among the few houses of the
better kind in the village, their own and that of the
rector, Mr. Burton, were the only two made bright by
Tom and Daisy Burton, the two eldest of the rec-
tor's large young family, were the chief companions
and playmates of Geoffrey and Sylvia Brooke, Tom
and Geoffrey especially being sworn friends and fel-
lows in fun and mischief of all kinds. Daisy was a
delicate, fretful child, and in spite of the love between
her and Sylvia their pleasure in each other's society -
was too often marred by bickerings, of which Sylvia
always repented bitterly, with resolutions of better
behaviour for the future, like those of older people
not always remembered when the occasion for putting
them into practice arose. But the two little girls
were nevertheless really fond of each other, and some
of Sylvia's happiest hours were spent in the rectory
garden, into which kind, overworked Mrs. Burton
was glad to turn her large young brood on fine days
to let them disport themselves, play, and quarrel and
make up again as they pleased.
Next door to the Brookes lived Mr. Evelyn, the
doctor-the Mr. Evelyn who, as Mrs. Brooke said,
"raved" about Sylvia's eyes. Sylvia looked upon
him as quite an elderly man; indeed on being once
pressed to say how old she thought him she had shyly
hazarded fifty as probably near the mark. In reality
he was five-and-thirty, though his rather grave and
stern face made him look more than his years even to
older eyes than little Sylvia's. Not that Sylvia had
ever found him stern; she could not remember the
time when she did not know and love him, and she
treated him with an affectionate and caressing con-
fidence which probably gave him an opportunity of
seeing in those dark eyes, under their long black
lashes, a brightness and beauty which her mother
failed to recognize.
SYLVIA'S FRIENDS. 27
The child could just remember the time when Mr.
Evelyn had not lived alone in the house next her home;
a time when his mother, a gentle, sweet-faced elderly
lady, lived with him, and petted and made much of
her dear "Will." She could just remember-like
something seen in a pleasant dream-the flower-scented
parlour in which Mrs. Evelyn used to sit, with its
window opening on to the sunny garden, and how
sometimes as she sat at the piano and played softly
to please the child, who had an instinctive love for
music, her son would come in quietly and sink into
a chair, a dreamy far-away expression creeping into
his eyes-dark almost as Sylvia's own-and a peaceful,
gentle look stealing over his serious face.
But Mrs. Evelyn had been dead some years now,
and her son lived alone in the pretty house under the
strict rule of his elderly housekeeper, Mrs. Barker, of
whom Geoffrey and Sylvia stood much in awe. The
pretty parlour no longer looked as pretty as it had
done in Mrs. Evelyn's days, for neatness was Mrs.
Barker's sole idea of prettiness. But not seldom Mr
Evelyn rejoiced Sylvia's heart by inviting her to come
in and pour out his otherwise solitary cup of tea for
him; and if the little maid enjoyed his company
above measure, and gained many a bit of knowledge
and always sympathetic kindness from him, I think
he too gained somewhat from her lively prattle and
her unfeigned love for him and belief in his powers.
20t SYLVIA BROOKE.
"Really, Mr. Evelyn," Mrs. Brooke would say in
her gentle languid voice, "you spoil that child dread-
fully; you make so much of her that she will grow
quite unbearably conceited."
The doctor laughed.
"On the contrary, Mrs. Brooke," he answered, "it
is I who am likely to grow conceited and be spoilt.
Such a fervent believer as Sylvia is enough to make
any man set up for a prophet even in his own
At the big red house at the end of the village
nearest to Winston lived Mrs. Fane, an old lady
whose splendid raiment and severe manner-this last
designed to impress upon any small delinquent that
"children should be seen and not heard"-had a
sobering and somewhat alarming effect upon Sylvia's
fanciful mind on the rare occasions of their meeting.
"Why are you afraid of Mrs. Fane, Sylvia?" asked
the doctor one day when that lady had happened to
come upon him and the child together peering into
Hannah Webb's window, in the lively discussion of
how Sylvia could best lay out a new sixpence he had
presented her with.
The little girl blushed. I don't like her," she said
hesitating; "she makes me feel-so little-and silly.
But oh, I do-love Miss Milner!"
Miss Milner, the pretty young lady whose first kiss
Sylvia had never forgotten, was Mrs. Fane's niece;
and it was at that lady's house that she was paying
her yearly six weeks' visit on the occasion the child
remembered so well. Since then she had seen Miss
Milner many times, and had formed for her one of
those romantic attachments that children are so prone
to form for their elders, especially if those elders are
pretty and sympathetic. Miss Milner was both, and
her gentle heart had opened wide to take in the little
girl, who seemed somehow to have been defrauded of
her full share of mother's love. She did not invite
her to tea, as Mr. Evelyn did-probably her aunt
would not have approved of such spoiling. "Children
should be kept in their proper place-the nursery,"
she was wont to declare; and one is inclined to agree
to some extent with this opinion in these days, when
the only place considered not the "proper place" for
the children is just that nursery.
But Miss Milner often came to ask permission for
Sylvia to accompany her on long rambles over the
country, or on shopping expeditions into Winston.
It must not be thought that Mrs. Brooke was ever wil-
fully unkind to her little daughter, that she grudged
her pleasure or treated her in a consciously unjust
manner. If Mr. Evelyn or Betty Milner liked to have
the trouble of the child, she had not the slightest
objection, she said; only she could not understand
what they found so amusing and interesting about
her. With her she was silent and reserved, unless
she was in one of her impulsive moods, which were
still more difficult to manage.
"Elizabeth," said Mrs. Fane in the deep decided
voice that had such an effect on Sylvia (she always
called her niece Elizabeth in full), you bring that
Brooke child much too forward; you and William
Evelyn are ruining her between you. Imagine my
seeing him this morning putting his nose against
Hannah Webb's window, for all the world like the
village boys, and gravely discussing with that chit the
merits of penny toys! I have known William Evelyn
since he was a baby; and I felt it my duty to tell him
a medical man ought to have something better to do
at eleven o'clock in the morning than dawdling at a
toy-shop window with a child who ought to be in the
proper place-the nursery."
"What did Will-what did Mr. Evelyn say, Aunt
Deborah?" said Miss Milner, who did not seem so
much shocked at the doctor's delinquencies as Mrs.
"In my young days, Elizabeth," her aunt went on
still more severely, "young ladies did not speak of
gentlemen by their Christian names. But there are
no young ladies now perhaps, as there are no children."
Miss Milner's colour rose a little, but she did not
speak, and Mrs. Fane continued:
"William Evelyn, like most of you young people
nowadays, has no respect for his elders. He turned
SYLVIA'S FRIENDS. 31
off my well-meant advice with some foolish joke about
that ugly, brown-faced child having asked his opinion
as a great medical authority on the wholesomeness of
bulls'-eyes! Extremely impertinent, I consider, to a
woman old enough to be his mother!"
Miss Milner smiled. "I am sure he meant you no
disrespect, Aunt Deborah," she pleaded. "Mr. Evelyn
couldn't be impertinent to anyone."
Mr. Evelyn must have returned the good opinion
Miss Milner had of him, to judge by the way he
received Sylvia's expression of love for that young
lady on the morning in question.
"But oh, I do love Miss Milner!" the little girl had
"That's right, Sylvia," he had answered; "so
At home among the servants Sylvia's best friends
were Job the groom and Cook, both of whom had
known her ever since she was born. Job was a de-
voted adherent of both her and Geoffrey. They wor-
ried his life out at times, extorting terrible threats of
complaints to "the master," and other dire penalties,
such as turning them out of the stable-yard once for
all-threats quite understood by the offenders to be
only a form of words of no importance whatever.
Sylvia was Cook's especial favourite; she found
Master Geoffrey too much of the nature of a whirl-
wind in her scrupulously-kept kitchen. But many a
happy holiday morning did Sylvia spend with the
kind old woman, who had grown gray and portly in
the service of two generations of Brookes. Perhaps
the child's likeness to her Grandmother Brooke, whom
Cook had served and loved in past days, was one
reason of her affection for the little girl. So Sylvia
learned from her to make bread and pastry; and
sundry rather dirty and uneatable little rolls used
from time to time to make their appearance on Mr.
Brooke's plate at dinner, with Sylvia's triumphant
assurances that Cook had let her make them "on
purpose for a surprise to him."
I don't know if Mr. Brooke had the gallantry ac-
tually to eat these samples of his daughter's skill, but
at least he always received them with proper gratitude
and thanks, and thereby warmed their maker's loving
In return for Cook's lessons in her own art, Sylvia
was wont to impart to her the stores of learning she
extracted from her lessons and the books she read.
She even at one time entertained the soaring ambition
of teaching Cook French-as much of that language,
that is, as she was mistress of herself. But Cook
proved so impervious to the charms of "Ol est ma
chatie? Je ne sais pas," that the attempt had to be
"If so be you wanted to call the cat-not that she
'ad any great love for 'em herself-why not say 'cat'
and a' done with it?" she asked. And Sylvia's views
of the advantage of calling that animal "chatte" instead
were not at that time defined enough to enable her to
answer the question satisfactorily to herself, much less
If a person 'as the privilege of being a born Briton
-as never will be slaves-" said Cook, "it seems like
flying' in the face of Providence to be learning' of furrin
languages when you 'ave a good one of your own."
Sylvia had a very vague notion, as indeed most
people have, of the real meaning of that mysterious
action, "flying in the face of Providence;" but she
gave up teaching Cook French after that.
History and geography did not fare much better at
Cook's uncompromising hands. She was inclined to
look upon the whole succession of the kings and
queens of England as purely imaginary characters,
and even as such showed not the slightest respect for
them, lumping them all together as a "queer lot,"
with the exception perhaps of "Good Queen Bess"-
her favourable opinion in this case being perhaps won
by that monarch having died unmarried; for Cook
was used to say that she had never seen the man she
would change her name for. Jane Brown she had
been born and Jane Brown she would die, please
goodness; and the great queen seemed to have been
of the same way of thinking, from what she heard.
As to geography, which, like most little girls,
Sylvia thought extremely interesting, Cook's ideas
of the divisions of the globe were of the very faintest.
The one fact she held most firmly to was the great
danger of inadvertently "crossing the line," which she
evidently regarded as a visible and substantial obstruc-
tion when you happened to go to sea. She had been
a great traveller when she was a young gal, she said,
and was in service in a very "'igh family," with whom
she had once journeyed by sea all the way from Lon-
don to Plymouth. All through this long and perilous
voyage she had apparently been haunted by the pro-
bability not only of coming upon "the line," but also
of making shipwreck on the "Silver Sands"-by
which she probably meant the Goodwin Sands.
Sylvia listened with respect and awe to these tales
of thrilling adventure. She felt somehow that there
must be some slight confusion about "the line," which
she knew to be the equator dividing the globe in half,
and situated, she thought, farther from the shores of
England than Cook's story seemed to show; but this
did not detract from the interest of the story itself in
Cook used to say that she had been "a rare scholard"
when she was young; but either that was so long ago
that she had had time to forget a good deal, or else
the standard of learning must have been rather low
when she was a child. In real truth, I think in her
heart she was inclined, like a good many other people,
to despise "book-learning" a little. It was all very
well for "the gentry" and folks that could sit with
their hands before them, "but it was just them books
that set the boys and girls up in their own conceit now-
adays, with their fine 'ats and feathers and fallals."
But Cook still kept religiously to one piece of read-
ing. Every Sunday night, when the kitchen hearth
was swept, and the fire bright, and the kettle singing
its pleasant song, she would bring out her big Bible,
and holding it out at arms'-length, the candle between
her and the book, she would spell out a chapter to
herself, by the aid of her glasses, with a grave and
I am inclined to think that her "rare" scholarship
had dwindled down to that one achievement; but I
am sure she derived a sense of dutiful pleasure from
it, and I know that, in spite of her poor store of
knowledge, she was one of those who deserve to the
fullest extent the highest commendation promised to
even the best of us-"Well done, thou good and
THE BROKEN PROMISE.
SYLVIA stood at the nursery window on that bright
autumn morning when my story began until her
father's cheery voice, crying, "Sylvia, Sylvia! aren't
you coming down to say good-bye to me and Geoff!"
rang out from below. Then she quickly withdrew
her gaze from Job and the dog-cart, and ran lightly
downstairs to kiss father and brother with that im-
pulsive affection no trouble or naughtiness ever caused
"Be a good girl while I am away, Sylvia dear,"
said this tender-hearted father, "and you shall drive
with me to Heresford on Saturday afternoon."
. Now Heresford was an earthly paradise to Sylvia.
For in that pretty village, some eight miles off,
stood an old farmhouse her father went to visit at
intervals; and in its beautiful old-fashioned kitchen-
garden bordered with sweet-scented flowers, and
among the joys of its great, yard where were fowls
and pigs and dogs and horses, or in the milking-shed
where the patient cows stood awaiting each her turn
at Sally the milkmaid's hand, Sylvia could roam at
her will, while her father talked with the old farmer
and his wife.
THE BROKEN PROMISE.
Then Mrs. Haynes would call her in to a meal of
sweet creamy milk and fruit and home-made cake;
and then would come the greatest joy of all-the
drive home alone with her father, through the waning
evening light, along the scented lanes, under the clear
starry sky or in the first beams of the silver moon,
while perhaps the glowworms shone in the wayside
ditch like stars that had fallen to earth and lost their
way, and white or dusky moths flitted across their
path. Sylvia's active tongue generally ceased its
prattle at such times, and her eyes grew large and
dreamy as she sat by her father's side, often with her
little head resting against his shoulder, and her small
soul filled with an unspeakable delight that kept her
These evening drives with her father were the
greatest joy, the most longed-for treat of Sylvia's
So Mr. Brooke's parting words soothed the ache of
regret she felt at her loss of the promised drive to the
station and back, and she came into the house after
watching the progress of the dog-cart till the turn of
the road hid it from her sight with a bright face, and
getting out her lesson-books, fell to her tasks with
so great a determination to keep her promise to her
father and be "a good girl" that the dreaded sums
went better than usual, and Mrs. Brooke had no occa-
sion to say more than half a dozen times, "Sylvia,
how can you be so stupid!" or "Really, Sylvia, there
is no getting anything into your head. Do try to
show some little sense!"
But this was a mere nothing, and when lessons
were over Sylvia could run upstairs to fetch her
garden hat and have a romp with Baby, with a clear
conscience and a delightful conviction that, if only
she could manage to be no more stupid and tiresome
at to-morrow and the next day's arithmetic lesson than
she had been to-day, Saturday's drive to beautiful
Heresford was certain.
Hope is a great incentive to exertion, and next day
things went equally well-so well, indeed, that almost
for the first time since arithmetic had become the
bugbear of poor Sylvia's lesson-hours her mother said
kindly: "Why can't you always be as good as you
have been to-day, Sylvia ?"
It was not a very high compliment, but it brought
the colour into the little girl's cheeks with pleasure,
and the stirring in her heart of the love for her mother
which lay hid there always ready to spring forth at a
"O, Mammal" she began hesitatingly (Mrs. Brooke
insisted on being called "Mamma;" she thought it
more refined than the now commoner "Mother")-
"0, Mammal I do try-indeed, I do try!" Her eyes
began to fill and her voice choked.
"If you tried, Sylvia," answered her mother, "you
THE BROKEN PROMISE. 39
would succeed; it is just because you don't try that I
complain. But I hope now you intend to do better
for the future. You may run across and ask if Daisy
may come to dinner and go out with you and Nurse
and Baby this afternoon."
You see Mrs. Brooke was really anxious to do what
was right and kind by her little daughter, and wished
to reward her good behaviour; only she did not under-
stand that if she could have taken Sylvia in her arms
and answered her pleading little speech with a loving
"Yes, dear; I know you do!" the child's heart would
have repaid the concession a hundredfold with grateful
love and loyalty. Sylvia could not have explained
this, though she felt the chill all ardently loving
natures feel when repulsed. But she went gladly to
beg for Daisy's company, and the two little girls spent
a very happy afternoon together, laughing and chat-
tering in their own way as older girls do in theirs, and
Sylvia forgot the troubled sense of disappointment;
and when Mr. Evelyn, hearing the merry voices in
the garden next his own, came in and begged to be
allowed to carry off Miss Burton and Miss Brooke to
cheer him at his tea, who so proud as she as she
poured it out with discreet care and dignity from the
old-fashioned silver tea-pot and cream-jug?
Mrs. Barker was gracious enough to send in for the
young ladies not only a plate of hot buttered toast,
but a glass dish of strawberry jam of hdr own making;
and when the two little girls had done full justice to
these dainties Mr. Evelyn brought out all the books
that Sylvia most delighted in, and with an eager little
maid on each side of him, with flushed cheeks and
bright eyes upon his face, told stories, and explained
pictures, and answered difficult questions in a manner
that the people who thought him stern would not
have recognized as his.
It was, indeed, a delightful afternoon, but it had
to come to an end all too soon-like most delightful
things. Its pleasures, and the expectation of her
father's and Geoffrey's return the next day, and-
joy of joys!-the hoped-for drive to Heresford on
Saturday, excited Sylvia's lively brain, and as Nurse
helped her to undress she chattered like a young
sparrow of Mr. Evelyn and his books, and Mrs.
Barker's beautiful tea and her own part in dispen-
But, alas! the next day, the day which was to be
made so happy by the return of her father and brother,
the day before the one settled for the drive to Heres-
ford, Sylvia came to grief again over her sums. Per-
haps it was just the anticipation of the pleasant pros-
pect before her that excited the child and made her
restless; perhaps Mrs. Brooke, a little flurried by the
departure from the usual placid course of her daily
life, involved in her having arranged to drive to Win-
ston in the afternoon to make calls there and after-
THE BROKEN PROMISE.
wards fetch her husband and son from the station,
was even more ready than usual to feel irritated by
any inattention, real or fancied, on Sylvia's part;
perhaps both causes combined to produce the result;
but anyhow the result was that Sylvia grew first
hopelessly muddled over what her mother reasonably
enough called "a sum in simple addition a baby might
have done," and then, under Mrs. Brooke's irritable
rebukes, sullenly silent. At last she was dismissed
to her own little bed-room till dinner-time, with
more of real anger than was often shown by her
mother, whose management was usually conducted
on the plan of fretful complaining against her
stupidity and temper.
When Sylvia reached her own little harbour of
refuge, she flung herself face downwards on her little
white bed and cried with the despairing passion of
grief of childhood. She had intended to be so good-
so very good-all the time Father was away; and now
it was all of no use. There was no pleasure in the
thought of his home-coming with Geoff-he would
hear how naughty she had been, and the drive to
Heresford would be forbidden! And she had promised
him she would be good-and now she had broken her
promise, and he could never trust her again! Amid
all the misery the poor child suffered as she lay weep-
ing on her bed, that thought ached the worst. "Be a
good girl while I am away, Sylvia dear," he had said
to her just before he went, and that was only three
days ago! And now Mamma had spoken to her in a
voice and in words so angry and severe that they had
frightened her. It was no good trying to be good! if
she didn't try it came to just the same thing. She
did so want Father to have heard how good his Sylvia
had been, because she had promised him she would be
-and now! "Dear Father!" sobbed the poor child to
herself, with passionate remorseful love.
"Miss Sylvia," said Nurse's voice beside her,
"come and wash your hands for dinner. Why, my good
gracious me!" she went on as she caught sight of the
child's tear-stained face, "whatever are you a crying
about now? You've made yourself a perfect fright!"
Sylvia made no answer; she was tired out with
grief and tears. She meekly washed her face and
hands and put on her clean pinafore under Nurse's
direction, and went into the nursery to wait till the
Nurse was young and careless, though very fond of
the baby, her charge, and kind after her way to Sylvia,
who, as I have said, eased her of many a small duty
by her constant willingness to do anything in her
power for that young hero, her beloved little brother.
"There, now, Miss," she said; "what a pity it is
you can't always be as you were last night-so lively
and cheerful! It's very bad for the eyes to cry so
much, I've heard say."
THE BROKEN PROMISE.
Sylvia's lip quivered; but Nurse, going on with-
"There, you just hold Baby a minute while I go
down to see if his broth's ready," put her into the low
rocking-chair and Baby on to her lap; and Sylvia, left
alone with the darling, laid her sad face to his bloom-
ing cheek, and kissing and caressing him, and listening
to his baby prattle, some of the soreness went out of
her poor little heart.
Nurse came up presently, having been rather longer
away than was absolutely necessary, and then the bell
rang, and Sylvia sighed and went down to dinner.
Mrs. Brooke had had time to feel that perhaps all
the blame of the morning's misfortunes could not with
entire justice be laid at Sylvia's door; moreover, the
look of the pale, tear-washed little face with its mourn-
ful dark eyes, roused the motherly feeling that did not
often display itself towards her. As the child took
her accustomed place at the table with a certain diffi-
dent and nervous look which would have gone to Mr.
Brooke's heart had he seen it, Mrs. Brooke's voice
was kinder than usual as she said: Say grace, Sylvia;"
and the childish heart, sensitive to every shade of
change, felt more at ease. She raised her dark eyes
timidly to her mother's face, but said nothing.
"I see you are sorry for your behaviour this mor-
ning, Sylvia," said Mrs. Brooke, we will say no more
about it; try to behave better to-morrow."
The dark eyes filled again. I-am-sorry-most
44: SYLVIA BROOKE.
-because I promised--" the child began and could
get no farther.
"Well, well," said her mother hastily, unwilling to
have more tears, "it is all over now; don't cry any
more about it. Only try to be a good girl"
So Sylvia gulped down her tears, and ate her dinner
in silence, but a shade less miserable than she had
Dinner had not long been over, Baby had come
downstairs for his daily after-dinner hour, and Sylvia's
face was beginning to regain more of its brightness,
when in came Miss Milner in her pretty white dress
and broad hat, with a bunch of pink roses at her belt,
and looking so pretty, and like a sweet pink rose her-
self, that the child's eyes followed all her movements
with even greater admiration than usual.
Miss Milner greeted Mrs. Brooke with her usual
bright, sincere manner, kissed Baby, who made a grab
at her roses but luckily missed them, and then drew
her small admirer towards her with the affection she
always showed her, and giving her a hearty kiss, began:
"Mrs. Brooke, you told me you were going out
calling this afternoon on your way to meet Mr. Brooke
and Geoff, and I know there will not be room for
Sylvia in the dog-cart; so may I borrow her for the
afternoon Aunt Deborah has an old friend-a lady
she has not met for years-spending the day with her,
and they are so happy talking over old times and
THE BROKEN PROMISE. 45
memories that I am only in the way. I want to spend
a happy afternoon in Farley Wood, and I should enjoy
it so much more if Sylvia were with me."
Sylvia's heart leapt and then fell. An afternoon in
the woods with her dear Miss Milner would be un-
speakable delight; but then-she had been so naughty
at her sums, her mother had been so exceedingly dis-
pleased with her-she would never consent to her go-
ing after that. She looked at her with imploring eyes
while these thoughts rushed through her mind, and
again Mrs. Brooke felt a slight pang of something like
"Well I don't know," she began, and hesitated-
"Sylvia has been a very naughty girl to-day (Sylvia's
heart sank down and down); but-well, she promises
me to do better to-morrow, and on that condition I
will allow her to go with you, Betty."
"Oh, thank you, Mamma! thank you!" cried the
little girl with light breaking all over her face; "may
I go upstairs and put on my things nowl"
Permission given, Sylvia ran upstairs to get ready,
while Mrs. Brooke and Betty Milner chatted with
each other, and made smaller talk still for the baby.
"How pretty you look to-day, Betty!" said Mrs.
Brooke. "Oh dear! I wish Sylvia had your colouring."
"My colouring!" laughed the girl. "Why, Mrs.
Brooke, I have nothing to boast of compared to your
own (this was not in fact so, for Miss Milner's dark
eyebrows and lashes and golden-brown hair gave her
a great advantage over Mrs. Brooke's uniform fairness)
-mine is nothing to boast of compared to your own;
and as to Sylvia, she will be a brilliant beauty in a
few years' time-you'll be so proud of her you won't
know what to do-when I shall be a poor fading drab
uninteresting creature that people will say could never
have been thought even pretty!"
"How you exaggerate, dear!" said Mrs. Brooke;
"but it is so pleasant to see young folks so light-
hearted-it goes off soon enough, goodness knows."
She sighed gently like one oppressed with cares.
Mrs. Brooke possessed an excellent husband, fine
and healthy children, a good income, a comfortable
house, and indeed as many comforts as woman could
desire; but, like many another matron, she laboured
under the impression that no unmarried person knew
anything of the real troubles or difficulties of life, and
she was wont to discourse movingly to girls on this
Miss Milner, whose own distant home was a not
very happy or congenial one, with an irascible father
and a jealous stepmother but little older than herself,
and whose holiday visits to her aunt, Mrs. Fane, were
not altogether delightful, felt some half-resentful
amusement at her implied freedom from all care; but
she only laughed in answer, and asked at what time
Sylvia must be back.
IN FARLEY WOOD.
"Well," said Mrs. Brooke, "the time we shall get
home is not quite certain, for I am not quite sure that
John may not have something to do in the town on
his way from the station. But anyhow she had better
be in by six; her father would be put out if she were
not here to welcome him-you know he makes such a
ridiculous fuss about her-and we can't be back before
that, I should think."
IN FARLEY WOOD.
8A Miss Milner and Sylvia walked through the
Village street, which lay sleeping in the after-
noon sunshine of a beautiful autumn day, the child
was very silent. Glad as she was to have been per-
mitted the pleasure, delighted as she felt at the
prospect of a whole afternoon in the lanes and woods
with her dear Miss Milner, the pleasure was damped
by one little regret. Her mother, in giving her per-
mission, had spoken of her naughtiness in the mor-
ning, and Sylvia's sensitive heart was troubled at the
thought of Miss Milner's knowing it. She did so
like Miss Milner to be fond of her-she did so hope
that the knowledge of her bad behaviour would make
no difference in her love.
The first sight of the little girl's face had been quite
enough to tell her friend that something had gone
wrong, and she had often enough heard Mrs. Brooke's
complaints of Sylvia's stupidity and obstinacy to be
aware that the child was not seldom in disgrace; but
she felt it wiser and kinder to ignore the tale the
dark eyes with their traces of recent tears told until
she discovered if Sylvia would be helped most by
speech or by silence.
So they walked through the village, and then
turned into the deep-cut lane which led to Farley
Wood-a lane where the trees formed an arch which
let the sun through in lines and spots broken by
It was a lovely day in the beginning of October,
warm almost as summer, and yet with that slight
briskness in the air which sets the blood leaping.
Here and there in the hedge a late wild strawberry
showed its crimson knob, and a few blackberries were
still hanging to the brambles, a glory now of purple,
brown, and crimson leaves. The briony berries were
burning red, and the dog-wood and wild guelder-rose
showed their clusters of vivid scarlet. In the woods
the trees were putting on their livery of orange and
crimson and russet, and here and there a scarlet
maple stood up like a pillar of fire.
Very few words passed between the girls; Sylvia
put her hand through Betty's arm and pressed
IN FARLEY WOOD.
herself against her as they loitered on their way, but
it was not until they reached a gate along the lane-a
gate which was a favourite resting-place of theirs-
that they began to talk in earnest.
From this gate, lying in the wide valley beyond,
they could see the town of Winston, floating, it
almost seemed, in the magic haze of distance in the
October sunshine. The tall spire of the abbey
church stood up above the mist, and there came to
them from it the faint sweet sound of the bells for
which it was famous.
"Listen, Sylvia!" said Miss Milner softly; and they
stood leaning on the gate, the girl's heart and the
child's each answering after its kind to the far-off
Miss Milner's heart must have been full of some
sweetness of its own, for the blue eyes grew soft and
dreamy, and a little smile crept round her lips, and
the pink roses in her cheeks deepened.
Suddenly she heard a sort of gasp by her side, and
looking at Sylvia, saw she was crying. Her kind
arms were round the child in a moment.
"What is it, darling' What has gone wrong?" she
whispered tenderly; and Sylvia sobbed out:
"I didn't want you to know I was naughty! You
won't care about me now, and-"
"Not care about you, Sylvia! Why, you know I
love you dearly, and always shall! There, dear, don't
cry about it. Come inside the gate and sit down and
tell me all about it."
She led the poor child into the pleasant meadow
beyond the gate, and there Sylvia told her tale of
childish grief and remorse, lying with her face hidden
in her friend's lap.
She told how she did try very often, but she could
not understand about sums, and then Mamma said she
was obstinate, and then she (Sylvia) grew angry and
naughty, and would not try any more. And with
still deeper grief and remorse she went on to tell how
she had promised Father she would be good all the
time he was away, and he had said if she kept her
promise he would drive her to Heresford on Saturday;
and now she had been naughtier than ever to-day,
and she certainly would not be allowed to go; and
besides-worst of all-Father would think she had
not really tried to keep her promise at all.
"I don't think so, Sylvia," said Miss Milner, gently
smoothing the dark head in her lap; for Miss Milner
was quick-sighted enough to have long ago discovered
that Sylvia's love for her father was fully returned.
"I don't think so, indeed, dear. Your father will be
sorry that you have not kept your word, but I am
quite sure he will know you tried to keep it."
"Do you think so-really, truly'" asked the child,
raising her head and fixing her dark eyes entreatingly
on her friend.
IN FARLEY WOOD. 51
"Really and truly, Sylvia, I am quite sure he will,
and love his little girl all the more for having even
tried to do right. Why, Sylvia, we all do wrong at
times; I know I do often enough. But I hope you
don't intend to leave off loving me, do you?"
"No, no!" cried the child, seizing her hand and
squeezing it against her tear-stained little cheek. "I
do love you so!--and so does Mr. Evelyn-he said so."
The pink roses in Miss Milner's cheek turned to
damask, and there came the sweetest smile round her
"Did he?" she said. "Well, then I have at least
two-" and left her speech unfinished.
"Sylvia," she began again, and seemed to be going
to say something more. "No-nothing," she added,
and gave Sylvia a very tender kiss.
"Now, dear," she said, "don't make yourself un-
happy any more; let us get on to Farley Wood and
rest there. I have brought a story-book with me, and
when we are tired of wandering about and talking, I
will read you the prettiest story I can find in it."
Sylvia's face brightened under her friend's bright
words. She dearly loved a story, and many a happy
half-hour had she spent out-of-doors, lying with her
head in Miss Milner's lap, her ears drinking in every
word that fell from her lips, and her dark eyes fixed
on the -reader's face with constant admiration.
By and by from the deep lane they turned into the
woodland path that led into Farley Wood, and follow-
ing it among the trees came to the spot which was
their favourite resort. Here, in an open grass-grown
space, was a spring, famous among the country-folk
for the great purity of its water. Long ago it had
been fenced about with a low brick wall, a mass now
of ivy, wild geranium, and moss; a bucket hung
within by an iron chain, and a tin cup was attached to
a nail in the wall, that so the thirsty wayfarer might,
after raising the bucketful of pure ice-cold water, have
the means of drinking a portion of it with ease and
Miss Milner and Sylvia seated themselves upon the
sweet dry grass by the wall, and leaning against the
ivy-covered brickwork, rested from their walk and
basked in the mellow afternoon sunshine, filled with
that sense of sweet indolence and content of which a
wood in autumn knows the secret so well. A pied'
wagtail alighted almost at their feet, and, unabashed
by their silent presence, made his little quick runs
with accompanying flirtings of his long tail. Then a
robin perched on a bough close by and sang them his
song of cheerful sentiment, while a little dusty bright-
eyed lizard slipped out of the grass so close to Sylvia
that it had run over her hand before it knew where
It was all so sweet and peaceful and beautiful that
the soreness in the child's heart insensibly died away
IN FARLEY WOOD,
under the touch of the great Mother Nature's hand.
Miss Milner's assurance of her father's trust in her had
consoled her immensely, and the woods did the rest;
so that presently, at the sight of a pitched battle
between two sparrows over a fallen seed, her clear
childish laugh rang out among the trees, and Miss
Milner, awakened from a daydream-a pleasant one,
to judge by her happy look-and catching sight of
the recovered brightness of the little girl's face,
laughed too from pure gaiety of heart.
"How lovely it all is, isn't it?" she said. "And yet
how few people one ever meets in the woods! Sylvia,
would you like the story now, or do you like best just
to sit still and do nothing?"
"The story, please," said Sylvia, who was not yet
old enough to feel the whole charm of silent absorption
in Nature's doings.
Miss Milner drew a little book from her pocket,
and began to turn over its leaves.
"I wonder which one you would like best?" she
"I daresay I should like them all best," said
Miss Milner laughed.
"Here is one about woods," she said; "that seems
appropriate to-day, doesn't it?" and Sylvia, settling
herself comfortably against the wall, her eyes fixed on
Miss Milner's face, the girl began:
THE SECRET OF THE WOODS.
In a country so far away that few ever find it, and
yet so near to some of us that it needs but a step
forward to reach it, in the very midst of a great forest
of fir-trees, there once stood a little hut, so hidden
amongst the trunks and so like them in colour and
appearance that it would have needed a keen eye to
Cushions of soft green moss and yellow stone-crop
decked its roof, and to its old walls clung tufts of
wild geranium, brightening them with its green leaves
and pink blossoms, and shedding its wholesome fra-
grance into the warm air until the waning year,
when the vivid crimson of its autumn foliage glowed
and burned like a flame.
Around the hut the tall fir-trees stood straight and
strong, as if to guard it, their dark heads making a
canopy for shade in the noonday heat or for shelter
in rough weather; their trunks glowing red in the
evening light, while their fallen needles made a soft
and perfumed carpet around it from year's end to
Here and there amongst the firs other trees showed
their bright verdure; the graceful birch with its silver
stem and drooping fountains of foliage stood in a
green space apart, or the oak-tree put forth bud and
IN FARLEY WOOD.
leaf, and saw its acorns form and ripen and fall,
undisturbed but by the leaping squirrel.
In this quiet place Nature held sway unmolested,
and there were none to look upon her ways but one
who dwelt in the little hut, and he was but a child..
How long he had lived there, or how he came there
he knew not; but it had been his shelter ever since he
could remember, and he knew and wished for no
other. The forest, so vast that in all his wanderings
he had never neared its limits, was his home, the
home of his heart; its fruits gave him food when he
was hungry, its silver springs water to quench his
thirst, and the wild creatures of the wood were his
playmates and companions.
The squirrel would leap upon his shoulder and brush
his cheek with its bushy tail, the birds came to his
hand for food or gently pecked at him to attract his
notice, and the shy field-mice played their pretty antics
around him as fearless of him as of the tall tree beneath
which he sat, a charmed spectator of all that beautiful
wild woodland life; while overhead-loud or low, soft
or strong, now a gentle sighing and anon a wild moan-
ing-sang for ever the voice of the wind through the
fir-trees, the eternal song of the woods.
And as day by day went on, and month by month,
and year by year, that song that is the voice of silence
was but more and more beloved of him, and he was
content to listen entranced and happy, until-'slowly,
00 SYLVIA BROOKE,
slowly-a thought woke in his heart-far away at first,
and only a dream-thought-that the lonely and beloved
woods held, hidden from mankind, but yet perchance
to be discovered by some one happy man, a secret-
the supreme secret it might be, the key to unlock the
mysteries of life and death, and make of the universe
one vast harmony.
And the dream-thought grew and grew until it
alone was real, and all else a dream; and day by day
and night by night he haunted the woods, longing
with passionate desire to wring from them their mean-
ing and the clue to their language, which must surely
come at last to ears opened by such worship as his.
As he stood motionless among the tall trees, in their
shadow, while their high heads bent and swayed one
towards another in the sunshine, his heart was full of
a wild delight in their beauty and the music of the
wind sighing through their branches. The wonderful
carpet of verdure and fallen pine needles at his feet;
the green alleys filled with the glow of the golden
sunshine and pierced by its shafts; the songs of the
birds; the soft, swift rustle of the mouse among the
undergrowth; the quick leap of the squirrel from bough
to bough overhead; the varied glory of the butterfly's
wing, and the shining mail and glancing gauze of the
dragon-fly; above all, the moon riding high in the
heavens and irradiating the silent woods with her
beams, all mingled in his longing, and gave strength
IN FARLEY WOOD.
to it; but it was the voice of the woods, the song of
the wind amongst them that he knew held the heart
of the secret-its supreme revelation. Nevertheless
he listened and longed in vain, though there were times
when he felt himself so near it that it seemed the next
moment-nay, the moment itself-must make it his-
when it seemed that the song must take words for his
straining ears. Then once more it eluded him, and
was but the voice of the wind among the trees.
So the days went on and he was a man, and his
heart grew hot and impatient within him, and he said
to himself that his old love, the woods of his birth,
had deceived him; either they did not hold the great
secret at all, or they refused to part with it. Well, he
would go elsewhere and seek it. The woods were wide,
so wide that he had till now thought of them as limit-
less, and it would be a far journey to their edge, but
some day-he did not know when-he would follow
some woodland path to its end and find what lay
beyond. But he felt a traitor while he thought these
thoughts. Many a time the charm of the woods came
over him again, and he wondered at himself for a while
that he should have a wish to leave the beloved haunts
of all his life; but the spell was broken and again he
would fly from the beauty he had loved, and throwing
himself on his couch in the dim hut, lie tossing and
miserable with heartaching for he knew not what.
When these moods were on him, the woodland
creatures, his old playmates, shrank away from him,
doubting and alarmed, as if they understood something
of his mind, and felt the tie between him and them
Then, at last, one night after a day of helpless long-
ing and misery-one cloudy night when the moon was
away, and when he supposed that the denizens of the
wood, all but the wakeful owl and bat, were sleeping,
and naught but the tall trees would witness his flight
-he softly opened the door of the hut and stepped out
into the darkness. As the door fell to noiselessly a
sudden chill and fear fell upon him as of something
lost or gone for ever, and he turned as if to re-enter.
If a bird had chirped or a mouse squeaked at that
moment, he would have laid his hand once more upon
the latch; but all was silent, and he turned again and
set forth upon his way.
The night was dark and the forest paths narrow
and difficult with their overarching trees and dense
undergrowth, and he knew the distance to be very
great, though its actual length he had never learned.
How was it then that so few steps brought him into
a track he had never noticed before? How did it
come to pass that this track led him so swiftly and so
easily into an open space where few trees were, and
whence it seemed to him in the summer darkness that
he was looking upon a great plainly
He walked forward a few more steps and then
IN FARLEY WOOD.
turned to cast a farewell glance upon his woods; the
darkness was thinning before the coming dawn, but
no wood was to be seen. The increasing light fell
upon him, a solitary figure in a wide landscape of hill
and valley, and on the horizon the towers of a great
Then his heart leapt up with exultation and longing
for the new life before him, and with one look back
towards where the vanished forest had been, he set
his face towards the city.
In the great city of towers and palaces, amongst the
young men and maidens, in the midst of song and
laughter and music, his soul on fire with the glory of life
and his eyes filled with its beauty, dwelt the child of
the woods. Day by day he rose eager for his draught
of life and learning, and music aid beauty; night by
night he lay down to dream it over again and long for
the morrow. How far off and dim seemed now the
old woodland days-the little hut, the wind's song in
the trees, the old passionate desire to pierce the heart
of the mystery they guarded! He laughed gaily now
when he remembered all this-gaily, but with a tender
gaiety, as we laugh over the remembered follies and
fancies of our childhood. Could it be really he, the
darling of the city, the prince among his fellows,
the admired of all, who had grown to manhood
solitary in that humble hut amid the trees; whose
most intimate companions had been the wild creatures
of the wood; who had felt that there, in the solemn
forest, under the moonlight, lurked the great secret?
How far away and foolish it seemed! Why, there
was no secret after all but to drink the cup of life to
the very dregs, to live and enjoy every hour-every
moment-to the utmost, to seize the passing joy, to
make the fleeting hour one's own!
But sometimes, at night, when the wind was high
and the stars blazing and flickering in the deep vault of
space, and he could not sleep for the surge of life in
his heart, he would throw open his casement and lean
far out, gazing over the level plains. Then it seemed
to him that very far away on the horizon's verge, so
dim and indistinct that he knew not if it were a reality
or only a shadowy illusion, he caught a glimpse once
more of the forest he knew of old lying sombre and
mysterious under the sparkling stars; and into his soul
there crept again for a little space so vivid a memory
of that old love and longing, that the life of the city
fell away from him like a dream, and nothing was true
but the old life and love.
But the feeling passed, and when morning came and
woke him afresh, the old life was once more the
dream and the new the reality.
So for many a day he lived and laughed, until at
length the life of mirth and dance and song, of rose-
strewn paths and the golden wine-cup, began to pall
IN FARLEY WOOD.
upon him and he grew weary of it all; and the secret
was still unsolved. The woods were vanished-for in
the broad daylight never a hint of them showed upon
the horizon-and the road to them he did not know,
even if he had wished to find it; and that he did not
in spite of his weariness, except at passing moments
when night brought their distant outline, or the vision
of it, to his wakeful eyes.
No; the city was his home now, and in it he would
remain. And so he lived on there, while one by one
the reckless companions of his youth fell like himself
into gravity and weariness, or dropped out of know-
ledge and were seen no more, leaving no trace in the
gay city with its castles and towers, which forgot them
each one as he went.
And he loved a noble lady of the land and laid his
heart at her feet, and when she smiled and accepted
the royal gift like a queen he felt he had found the
secret at last, and that all his days until this supreme
one had been waste and weariness. But the noble
lady was false; false her heavenly eyes, and false her
smiling mouth, and she gave him back his heart nigh
broken with despairing pain, and the secret was still
Many a day he mourned silent and alone. Then he
arose and cried to friendship to heal his wounds; and
he chose one from among his fellows to be the friend
of his heart, his guide and example, and together they
followed learning and wisdom, and gathered strength
and knowledge from all they touched, and in high con-
verse and mutual love and trust they walked amongst
men, doing good to all, the while their names grew
sweet in all mouths.
But the most faithful friendship cannot shield the
beloved from the dart of Death.
His friend lay dead before him, and pray and
entreat he ever so urgently and tenderly, answer was
there none;-and the dark grave hid the secret well.
Love and friendship both gone and life made empty
by their loss, he fled from amongst men now, and
building himself a solitary tower on the outskirts of
the great city, he lived alone with knowledge, seeking
if he might so forget the faded glories of his youth-
the baffled hopes and longings of his manhood. There
he lived and studied; pursuing nature to her inmost
recesses where science weighs the very stars in the
heavens. And science told him many a secret, but
never the supreme one for which he had yearned in
the woods of his birth, and for all his wisdom there
came no more to him the old sense of something to
be discovered-the key that would unlock the whole
mystery of life.
So the days and months and years went by again,
and youth was long long past and his face towards the
Then, one clear night, as he sat in his tower watch-
IN FARLEY WOOD.
ing the full moon rise and put out the stars, his back
towards the city and its shining lights, his face towards
the wide plain, something, some faint echo of days
long past, plucked at his heart-strings, making them
vibrate as they had not done for many a long day.
A strange yearning for he knew not what, a blind cry
for something but half understood, shook his very
He rose and leaned far out from the casement.
Before him the moon's silver disk swam upwards
into the clear sky. Was it the same moon that had
swayed his childish heart-the moon he had loved in
the woods? The woods!-ah! where were they?-
where and how could they be found if one had a mind
to seek them? Were they a reality? Had they ever
existed, or were they but a childish dream-was all
life but a dream? And the secret-the secret that
had haunted him so long-was that but the dream of
A soft wind sighing fanned his cheek, the moon's
rays silvered the broad plain, and somewhere near by
the tower's foot a nightingale began to sing. With
the song there sprang up in his soul a mighty rush of
remorseful desire for the old woodland life, the silence
and the music of the trees, the old worship of the
beauty and the search for the mystery it both ex-
pressed and hid.
Then with a low cry of longing he laid his forehead
upon his clasped hands, and a tear-unwonted visitor
to his quiet eyes-fell over them. When he looked up
once more the moon had risen high in the heavens and
the nightingale had hushed her song for a time. He
gazed, across the spreading plain, lying in a haze of
silvered gray in the moonlight, towards the far-off
horizon; and as he looked-slowly, slowly, and leagues
away on the very verge where earth and sky met-
there grew into shadowy form a mighty forest his
heart recognized with a leap of joy and welcome.
Delaying not a moment, he descended his tower,
turned at its foot to wave a last farewell to the sleep-
ing city where so much of his life had passed and lay
buried, and setting forth across the plain began his
journey homeward to the land of his birth.
It was a long and toilsome journey this time, but
hope kept his heart up, and the thought of all the
woods might hold for him.
At last, one peaceful evening, as the sun's last rays
shed a golden radiance on hut and flower, he raised his
eyes from long pondering to see before him a dense
wall of foliage, a forest of dark pine and fir-the goal
of his long journey. With a cry of joy he made a
step forward and was once more in the heart of his
So again the little hut sheltered him, the clear
spring gave him water, the wild fruits food, and weary
and worn he returned to nature to be comforted and
IN FARLEY WOOD.
soothed as she had tended and protected his happy
Once more he lay at the foot of the giant fir-trees
and heard the magic music of the wind in their highest
branches. Once more he watched the unfolding of
leaf and blossom, the life of tree and herb, and listened
to that charmed silence of the woods which is but the
more intense from its myriad voices. The shy squirrel
as of old sped from branch to branch, until, embold-
ened by his motionless attitude, it ventured near him
and looked curiously at him with its bright eyes. The
song the robin sang to his mate might have been the
very same song, sung by the very same bird, that had
charmed his boyhood. Time and change lost their
meaning as he listened; and as the shades of evening:
fell, and twilight silenced the songs of day, the night-
ingales, whose notes had seemed less rare among them,.
began their solitary melodies and made night musical.
So day by day he haunted the woods with the pas-
sionate love of his boyhood increased tenfold, and day
by day grew into greater intensity his belief that here-
at last, after all that had come and gone-loves and
hates, and hopes and fears, and disappointments and,
failures-joys and sorrows alike grown shadowy now,
he should find the secret of life, that mysterious secret
which should reveal the inner harmony of the universe,
and which every pulse of his being had strained to.
Some day-somehow-he knew not when, or after
what strange fashion-the mysterious whisper of the
trees to one another would become plain to him, the
secret would be his for evermore, and he should see
into the very heart of life and count its beatings at
And the days went by and the love and the yearn-
ing grew greater; but the forest had not spoken, nor
the spirit of the woods taken on any visible shape to
satisfy his eyes wasted with the fire of his great
It was midsummer now, and the sun's rays fell all
day long in bright shafts and gleams through the
green roof upon the earth beneath, where nature's new
beauty was fast concealing the faded record of what
had been last year's fresh young life.
At night the waxing moon sent her silver beams
amongst the tall trunks, and looked down upon the
solitary worshipper with her gentle radiance as though
she pitied him. For now he lay pale and wan beneath
the trees, all his life in the hollow eyes which still be-
sought of his ancient love, the woods, that their secret
might be his before he died.
At dawn, while the moon paled in the brightening
sky, there came a little breeze, a soft wind which woke
the trees to a lazy whispering.
"It is coming now!" he said, and he sat up with
wide eyes and straining ears to listen.
IN FARLEY WOOD.
But the whisper died away, and presently the sun
was high in the heavens once more and the secret a
And the sun sank and sank in the glowing west,
leaving a paling glory behind wherein shone the lamp
of the evening star to herald the radiance of the full
moon. Before her coming star after star brightened
slowly in the darkening sky, and when her first beams
silvered the soft gloom of the woods, and the bats
flitted noiselessly in and out of her rays, and the trees
began again their rustling talk, once again he said:
"Surely I shall find it now!"
But the soft voices of the night, though they kept
their old mysterious enchantment for him, made
nothing clear but his own vain longings.
At last there came a day when the little breeze
wooed the trees at dawn, and the sun rose and gilded
the topmost spires of the trees and woke the woodland
life to gladness; but he who had loved Nature, and
sought her secret with unquenchable devotion and
desire, lay weak and weary beneath the trees, and
lifting his wasted eyes to all that -beauty sighed
"0 woods I have loved, I die of my vain long-
And the sun ran his course through the long day,
and his beams fell lovingly on the weary worshipper,
but could not bring back the light to his tired eyes;
the squirrel ventured boldly to his very hand, and
the birds twittered close around him to bring a wan
smile to his white lips. Ever and anon a little wind
arose and the trees whispered overhead. Then some-
thing of the old passion shone in his eyes, but it
passed, and he only sighed wearily.
Evening came and the star with its lamp, and then
the moon swam up into the sky and silvered the
woods once more. Airy forms like embodied mist
seemed to flit in and out amongst the trunks of the
trees, and from time to time a light laugh like an
echo of elfin revelry woke the silence as if to mock
Suddenly he sat up, all the fire of his old desire, all
the ardour of his search, all the passion of his love
in his hollow eyes-wide open now and shining with
expectancy-his ears strain and his lips apart.
It was coming at last! His long seeking was well-
nigh over now-the supreme secret would be his
before he died!
All around -him the trees bent and swayed as if to
embrace him, while amongst their branches the soft
night wind rose and fell; and as he listened there
came an ineffable joy into his pale face and shining
Was yonder shadowy form coming nearer and
nearer in the radiant moonlight the very spirit of
IN FARLEY WOOD. 69
the woods grown visible at last to his longing eyes,
and charged to deliver the great secret to his longing
With a wild cry of supreme delight he arose and
fell at the Shadow's feet.
He had learned the secret now, but the pale smil-
ing lips held it fast; and the moon faded, and the
sun rose and dried the dew, and the wind and the
trees sang and sighed their old mysterious song for
the closed eyes and deaf ears of their lover, to charm
his last sleep as they had charmed his first.
Sylvia's eyes had grown large and dreamy as she
listened, and when the story was finished she was
silent for a while.
"Did you like that story?" asked Miss Milner.
The child sighed,
"Yes, very much," she said; "but I wanted him
to find it!"
"So he did, dear," answered Miss Milner; "so we
all shall some day."
The child knitted her brows.
"But what was it?" she asked, 'II want to know
what it was."
"Ah, Sylvia! I don't know myself; but we shall
discover some day."
Sylvia still looked puzzled.
"I wish-" she began, and then suddenly breaking
off with childish impulsiveness. "Oh, there's some
one coming along the path!" she cried. "Oh! could
it be Father ?"
"Father is not to be home till six o'clock at
earliest," said Miss Milner with a funny little smile.
"Oh, it's Mr. Evelyn!" exclaimed Sylvia; "I know
his brown hat-I'm so glad! Mr. Evelyn! Mr. Evelyn!
we're here!" she called as she started off to run to-
wards the doctor.
Miss Milner stood quite still and said nothing at
all, but she did not seem as much surprised as Sylvia
was; perhaps because the happy event was not quite so
unexpected on her part. She smiled as Sylvia, cling-
ing to Mr. Evelyn's arm, brought him up in triumph
to her side; but she did not shake hands with him,
which Sylvia thought rather odd.
"How did you know where to find us?" she asked.
"Why, you told me yourself this morning," he
answered; and she laughed merrily.
"Did IV" she said.
"Am I in the way?" he asked. "I will go away if
You must ask Sylvia," said the girl.
"Sylvia never finds me in the way; do you,
"Oh, that's not fair! as if she could say yes when
you ask her yourself! Sylvia, listen to me and don't
IN FARLEY WOOD. 71
mind what he says;-don't you have a great deal too
much of Mr. Evelyn?"
The child had been listening to the talk between
her two companions, a little mystified by its tone, but
this question was quite intelligible to her and she had
no doubt whatever about her answer to it.
"If I saw Mr. Evelyn every moment of the day,"
she said fervently, "I should never have too much of
Mr. Evelyn was not so unmindful of his little
friend's constant affection and loyalty as not to re-
ward her with a very kind look and "Thank you, my
dear little Sylvia," before he turned again to Miss
Milner and said:
"Ah, Betty! I wish you could say as much."
Betty laughed again her gay sweet laugh.
"Don't flatter yourself with that idea," she said.
Why won't you make a poor fellow a pretty
speech for once in a way?" said Mr. Evelyn; "it
wouldn't cost you anything, and it would please him."
"Because, William Evelyn-as Aunt Deborah
would say-you, like all the young people of the
present day, have such a very good opinion of your-
self that there is no need to add to your conceit."
She looked at him with sweet impertinence as she
"Do you really think that, Betty?" he said a little
Y7 SYLVIA BROOKE.
The girl's expression changed swiftly.
"No, I don't," she said very gravely and earnestly.
"I don't. Why, Will, don't you know that I wouldn't
have you different from what you are for anything in
the wide world? Don't you know that I don't make
you pretty speeches because if I once began I should
not know where to end?"
"Betty, my darling-" began the doctor; but she
:stopped him, laughing, with her pretty, hand on his
"William Evelyn, you forget we are not alone.
What would Aunt Deborah say "
"I don't care what all the Aunt Deborahs in the
world say!" he exclaimed; "but never mind, I can
"Well, let go my hand anyhow, and tell me what
time it is. I'm sure it must be getting late, and
Sylvia must be at home by six."
The doctor obeyed.
"Half-past five," he said; "look, the sun is quite
"Good gracious!" exclaimed the young lady; "we
have only just time to get back before six. Sylvia,
dear, where is that book? Oh, I put it in my pocket,
of course! How thoughtless of me not to remember
about the time before. It's all your fault, Will, you
"It won't take us half an hour to get back," said
IN FARLEY WOOD.
the doctor; "and you'll have my valuable assistance.
Come along, Sylvia, take my hand and I'll help you
over the ground."
The little girl had been looking from one to the
other of her friends a little puzzled by their talk and
behaviour, which seemed somehow new to her. But
she took Mr. Evelyn's hand with the feeling of
contented safety his presence always gave her, and
the three set off.
Sylvia was aware that as Miss Milner walked on
the other side of Mr. Evelyn he drew her hand through
his arm and held it in his. She looked up with an
involuntary glance of inquiry in her eyes.
"Tell her, Will," said Miss Milner; "I thought I
could, but somehow-I couldn't manage it."
Sylvia," began the doctor, "you love Miss Milner,
I know-you have told me so often. Well, would
you be glad to hear that she is coming to live in
Woodleigh-not only to stay at Mrs. Fane's every
"Oh, are you-are you really?" cried the child with
sparkling eyes. "Oh, I am so glad! Isn't Mrs. Fane
"Well," answered Mr. Evelyn, "I hope she is.
But, Sylvia, Miss Milner is not going to live with
Mrs. Fane; she is going to be much nearer to you.
Wouldn't you like to have her near you-next door to
"Next door!" said the child with eyes full of wonder.
"Next door-at your house ?"
"Yes, at my house. Sylvia, she is going to be my
wife, and we are all going to be so happy. Are you
not glad, dear?"
"Oh, yes! yes!" cried the little girl, so excited with
the news that she was fain to stop and throw herself
upon Miss Milner to kiss and caress her.
Miss Milner held the child in her arms and returned
her kisses tenderly. I knew I could trust to Sylvia's
welcome," she said.
"Well, Sylvia," said the doctor, haven't you kept a
kiss for your old playfellow ?" and Sylvia tore herself
from Betty's arms to throw herself into Will's.
You are the very first person we have told, Sylvia,"
said Mr. Evelyn, "and you shall be the very first
person that comes to tea with us-with Betty and
"Oh, how nice! how delicious! Oh, do be married
as soon as ever you can!" cried Sylvia, skipping from
They both laughed.
"It can't be too soon for me, Sylvia," said Mr.
Evelyn; and so talking and laughing they passed
through the village and reached Sylvia's home.
"We're not too late after all," said Miss Milner;
"the stable gates are shut. Make haste in, dear, and
be ready to welcome your father as soon as he arrives.
Good-night, dear, good-night!" and with loving fare-
wells to both her kind friends Sylvia ran into the
house and upstairs to her little bed-room.
M1EANWHILE, during Sylvia's absence, Nurse had
been finding time hang rather heavy on her
hands. First of all, Baby had been fractious over
being dressed for his afternoon airing, and had made
sundry pulls at Nurse's cherished "fringe," which she
was in the habit of curling elaborately with a hot iron,
to Baby's ever-recurring delight in the process. Per-
haps some unformed idea of doing the most unpleasant
thing he could do to her in revenge for her forcing his
unwilling little arms into the sleeves of his pelisse,
led to his pulling the aforesaid fringe, but anyhow
he did so, whereupon Nurse slapped him-not hard
enough to really hurt him, for she was a very kind-
hearted girl in the main and devoted to her nursling;
but the slap offended his dignity and he lamented
loudly, and for a long time would not be comforted
by caresses or coaxing-or even sugar. When he was
at length appeased, and, having vindicated his right to
7'0 SYLVIA BROOKE,
an opinion, allowed himself to be dressed-as good as
gold, as Nurse said-the afternoon was getting on,
and a special appointment for four o'clock Nurse had
made to meet Susan, Mrs. Burton's nurse, who was
also to be out with her numerous charges at that hour,
would in all probability fall through, since by this
time Susan must think she was not coming and would
have left the trysting-place. Nurse was much vexed
at the idea, for the subject of the expected discussion
was to have been the merits and "intentions" of a
certain George Tatlock, a young farmer of the neigh-
bourhood, who had given signs of having fallen a
victim to Nurse's high-coloured comeliness. And if
Susan had really imagined her unable or unwilling
to keep her appointment, the discussion-down to the
slightest detail and up to the most soaring possibili-
ties-of this most interesting theme must he given up
at least till the next day, perhaps longer.
Nurse hurried Baby into his perambulator, and
hastened to the place of meeting; but, alas! her fears
were realized. She waited ten minutes-twenty-
half an hour, with the faint hope that it was Susan
who was late; but no Susan came. Master Teddy
resented the delay, and teased in baby fashion from
time to time to be permitted to get out and walk;
and at last Nurse gave up her hope, and pushed for-
ward in that of meeting her friend returning-by the
same way she had gone. However, Susan must either
have decided to come home by a different road, or have
originally taken one of the three that led from the
meeting-place different to that chosen by Nurse, for
they did not meet.
Considering that Baby's misdemeanours were solely
responsible for the delay which had spoilt her plans,
Nurse was to be commended for not slapping him
again. She did not, though she rattled the perambu-
lator along the road in a way that shook him up some-
what, while it relieved her irritated feelings. Baby
seemed in no way to connect the two ideas in his
mind, however, and prattled to "Nanna" as cheer-
fully and innocently as the jolting left him breath for;
probably he looked upon it as an accident of travel
to which it was beneath his dignity to object.
Nurse had not quite recovered her usual good-
humour when she and her young charge got home.
She was a little rough with him as she took off his
out-of-door garments, while he looked at her with
that infantine surprise at her conduct which is irre-
sistibly conducive to repentance and kisses in the
aggressor. He had probably quite forgotten his own
bad behaviour; but perhaps he remembered Nurse's
slap, and was prepared to resent a repetition of it.
But Nurse attempted nothing of the kind; she only
laid the tea for him and herself-for Sylvia was to
have hers with Geoffrey at their parents' dinner on
their return-with more clatter than was absolutely
necessary, and after the meal was over, made her pre-
parations for the child's bath and undressing without
her usual chatter of loving nonsense to him. The
nursery was dark, for the window was small and of
diamond-paned glass, heavily leaded, and the evening
light was fading. Nurse lighted a couple of candles,
and, putting one on the table and the other on the
chimney-piece, took Baby on her knee and was on the
point of unfastening his white frock, when Ellen, the
housemaid, looked into the room.
"I say, Mary," she began, "wouldn't you like to
know who's in the kitchen?"
"Who ?" asked Nurse, a look of intelligence bright-
ening her face. You don't never mean to tell me
it's that George Tatlock? The idea of his coming
after me here! Like his impudence!" and she tossed
her head with affected pride. Did he ask for me,
"Why, of course he did, as if you didn't know
that!" said Ellen. "Aren't you coming down to see
"How can I leave the child?" exclaimed Nurse.
"It's just my luck! Wherever can Miss Sylvia be?
Her Mar 'ld be very angry if she knew she was out so
late. She'd a taken care of Baby for a minute."
"Oh, I'll look after him," answered Ellen good-
naturedly; "he'll be good enough with me, I'll be
bound. Won't you, Baby?"
TEDDY'S DOINGS. 79
Baby had been looking on at this colloquy with an
air of the deepest interest, but without making any
remark of his own; but now being directly addressed,
he rubbed his pretty curly head against Nurse's
shoulder and piped:
"1 want Nanna-Nanna not go!"
"I won't be a minute, my blessed pet," said Nanna,
hugging him to her and covering his fat neck and
arms with kisses. "You stay, like a good boy, with
Ellen, and Nanna '11 bring him up something nicey-
nicey out of the kitchen. Here, Ellen, take him,"
she went on; "I'll be up again in a minute. But it
does seem a pity to miss him (him meant George Tat-
lock this time) when he's come a purpose, don't it?"
The good-natured Ellen assented, and taking Baby
on her lap set to work to amuse that young gentle,
man to the best of her ability during the "minute" of
Nurse's proposed absence.
Somehow the minute grew a rather long one; it
lengthened itself- so much, indeed, that by degrees
Ellen began to feel a little aggrieved. It was all very
well to be good-natured and offer to take another
person's work; but then that obliged person ought to
have some little consideration and not keep one all
night waiting for her return. Mary might remember
that she had all her own work to do in the bed-rooms;
and missus would be in a fine way if she found no hot
water in her room on her arrival. Besides, Baby was
growing sleepy, and consequently a little fretful; he
refused to look on Ellen any longer as a sufficient
substitute for his Nanna," for whom he asked every
few minutes in a pathetic voice that threatened a
speedy change into a cry.
Ellen sat on some few minutes longer in that state
of irritation with another which dims one's own sense
of right, and at last rose hastily, sat Baby on the
floor, and with strict injunctions to him to keep quite
still till she came back, and not touch anything, went
quickly downstairs to interrupt the farewell of Mr.
George Tatlock and the offending Nurse with an angry
reminder that if some people could find time to spend
hours dawdling at the backdoor, she, for her part,
had her work to do, and couldn't put off doing of it
no longer for no one.
"All right, Ellen," answered Nurse, "I'm coming.
You needn't be in such a taking about it. I'm sure I
haven't been ten minutes."
The farewells were delayed even after that for a few
moments, and then Nurse came back into the kitchen,
a look of great consequence and satisfied vanity on her
comely face. Ellen, who was still there, in spite of
her pressing need to set about her work, wore an air
of offence; but the sight of her brought back in an
instant to Nurse's remembrance her neglect of her
"Goodness gracious, Ellen!" she cried, "where's
Baby? Is Miss Sylvia come in? You didn't leave him
by himself, surely?"
"Yes, I did," answered Ellen a little sulkily; "I
came down to look for you. Bless you! he's right
enough; he was sitting on the floor as happy as a
But Nurse had not staid to listen to more; she had
flown upstairs to her forsaken nursling, angry with
Ellen and repenting of her own carelessness.
Meanwhile, Baby, left alone, had at first sat on con-
tentedly enough. Having made an ineffectual attempt
to make a plaything of the soap, which insisted on
slipping out of his dimpled fingers just when he
thought he had made it an easy prey, and then having
turned his attention to an endeavour at unbuttoning
the straps of his little shoes, with a laudable wish to
help in the intricacies of his own toilet, which did not
meet with the success it deserved, he began to look
about him for some fresh and stirring form of amuse-
Suddenly he caught sight of the very thing he
wanted-something beautiful in itself; for had not
his sleepy eyes watched its wavering brightness night
after night until the tired lids fell over them? and in
addition possessing the charm of. a forbidden pleasure,
for "No, no; Baby must not touch the candle!" was a
saying familiar to his ears.
Baby scrambled to his feet, and seizing the end of
the table-cloth to help him, in the act, to his great
delight, drew the coveted candle almost to the table's
edge. A moment more and he had seized it, over-
balanced himself in his eagerness, and fallen on his
back, candle and all.
When Mr. Evelyn and Miss Milner left Sylvia at
the house door she ran at once up into her own little
bed-room, took off her hat, washed her hands,
smoothed her hair, put on her pretty white serge
frock, and then went along the passage to the
nursery, intending to wile away the time until the
return of the dog-cart in looking out for its coming
from the window at which she had sadly watched its
going three days ago. Baby must be in bed by now,
she thought, and Nurse would enforce silence until he
was fast asleep; but she would persuade her to leave
the blind undrawn that she might catch the very first
sight of the carriage as it came through the village.
She had been so happy with her two friends, and Miss
Milner's kind words had so soothed and comforted the
little girl's heart in the remorse she felt over the
failure of her promise to her father, that she had
almost forgotten it. But now the thought of it came
back to her, and she sighed. The drive to Heresford
she had so longed for was gone, she felt sure; but if
father would only believe she had really tried to be
a good girl-and Miss Milner had assured her he
TEDDY'S DOINGS. 83
would-she could give up the drive with- compara-
tively little regret.
Sylvia loitered a little along the passage while these
thoughts passed through her mind, and she had
almost reached the nursery door, when a cry from
behind it-a strange, frightened cry-that seemed to
be in Baby's voice and yet unlike, made her start
forward, fling open the door, and rush in hastily.
On the floor, by the table from which the cloth had
almost slipped, lay the little brother, the candlestick
beside him, and a quivering tongue of flame creeping
along his white frock.
The child's heart gave one of those awful leaps that
seem to stop life itself, but she uttered no cry. Some
half-formed memory of stories of danger by fire and
its prevention sprang, under the agony of fear for her
darling Teddy, into full comprehension and action, and
seizing the blanket laid ready by the bath for him to
stand on, she threw it over him, and regardless of his
cries and struggles, pressed it tightly round him until
every particle of flame was extinguished.
Then the child's strength and heart failed, and
overcome by the terrible shock and the pain of her
scorched hands, she fell forward across the little
brother whose precious life she had saved without a
thought of her own, pale and senseless.
nRS. BROOKE had spent avery agreeable afternoon.
If she had felt for a moment a slight sensation
of regret with regard to Sylvia before she left home,
and had thought for a moment that she might have
been a little hard on her that morning, it left but
little impression on her mind, accustomed to account
for all failures of patience on her own part, and
inability to "manage the child, by the often-repeated
excuse of Sylvia's obstinacy and oddness; so easily do
we find the most excellent excuses for our own short-
comings in those of others.
The day was a delightful one for driving, the horse
as steady as he was spirited, Job a trustworthy whip
-for Mrs. Brooke was nervous-and last, but very
far from least, she had on a new bonnet from Paris of
the latest fashion, and which her glass told her was
extremely becoming. Any lady living in a country
village, starting on a round of calls in the neighbour-
ing town, and conscious of so great an advantage in
the matter of millinery, will understand with what
complacency Mrs. Brooke set forth on her drive.
The event did not disappoint her expectation; the.
Paris bonnet was an undoubted success. Several of her
lady friends complimented her on it; one, a great
admirer of her pink prettiness, adding that she would
look well in anything, but that in this triumph of the
milliner's art she was really lovely. And the charms of
the bonnet were more subtly, but perhaps even more
agreeably, testified to by the way in which one or two
other ladies, though silent on its merits, furtively
kept their eyes on it while appearing absorbed in
conversation with its wearer. Mrs. Brooke knew at
such moments, as certainly as if they had told her,
that they were considering the possibility of keeping
its general features sufficiently in their memory to
order something of the same sort at Miss Gunter's-
the first milliner in Winston. Her pleasure in this
sincerest form of flattery was not diminished by any
fear that Miss Gunter's efforts would approach in
"style" the Parisian head-gear; and, as we all know,
style is the one mark to be aimed at in millinery.
Mrs. Brooke's visit had taken so much time, all the
ladies she had called on being at home, that she had
at last to hurry to the station to meet her husband
and son. For a wonder the train was exact to its
time, and in a very few minutes the whole party were
in the dog-cart.
"I must go into the office for half a minute," said
Mr. Brooke, "just to see if there are any letters of
importance; but I won't keep you waiting more than
a second. I'll bring them home to look through."
He drew up at his office as he spoke and leaped
"Nothing of much consequence," he said as he
mounted to his seat, and they started again.
When they were out of the town and on the country
road to Woodleigh, and after Mrs. Brooke had asked
all dutiful questions about his mother's health and
doings, and had listened with motherly tenderness
and admiration to Geoff's account of his share in the
brief holiday, Mr. Brooke, who had asked how Sylvia
and Teddy were in the first instant of the meeting
with his wife, said suddenly, after being silent for
I wish I could have taken Sylvia too. My mother
would have been so glad to have her there for a bit,
and it would have done the child good-though I
should miss her sweet face. She must pay her grand-
mother a visit some day soon. By George! Emily,
she'll be the very image of my mother when she's
Now there were two things in Mr. Brooke's speech
that rendered it not altogether pleasant to his wife;
for, as we know, her husband's admiration for his
mother was somewhat of a sore point with her, and
his reference to Sylvia's "sweet face," which she had
inherited from that mother, was also something of an
"I can't have Sylvia spoiled by spending any length
SYLVIA'S TRIUMPH. 87
of time with your mother," she said coldly. "I don't
wish her to have her head turned with flattery, and
petting, and running wild, and then have her back
more tiresome and difficult to manage than ever.
Only to-day she has been as naughty over her lessons
as she well could be (the twinge of remorse Mrs.
Brooke had felt for her own share in Sylvia's bad
behaviour was quite forgotten, you see, under the
irritation her husband's words caused); yes, ex-
tremely naughty. You must speak seriously to her
about it, for she is quite beyond me. If she goes to
your mother to be allowed to do just as she pleases,
there will be no doing anything with her."
Mr. Brooke slashed at an overhanging bough with
"Good heavens, Emily!" he said in a voice that
betrayed strong annoyance, "can't you let three days
pass without bringing that unfortunate child to grief
over something or other? She's always in disgrace
about one thing or another."
"I bringing her to grief, John!" in a tone of deep
offence; "I bring her to grief, indeed! You know as
well as I do that it is Sylvia's own ill-temper and
obstinacy that bring her into disgrace. I am sure I
do my very utmost to manage her in the right way,"
she went on plaintively; "but it's no use."
Mr. Brooke was silent for a moment-perhaps try-
ing to find words to broach a subject hitherto tacitly
avoided between them without rousing his wife's
sense of injury. He felt it had been a cowardly avoid-
ance on his part, caused by his dislike to "scenes" or
reproaches; Then he said gently:
"Wouldn't it be possible to try a little love, Emily?
No, don't fly out at me; I am not accusing you of
having no love for the child, and I don't doubt for a
moment you're trying to do your duty by her. But
she's a loving little soul, God bless her!-as I dis-
covered only too late, to my shame-and I can't but
believe that if you could give her a little of the love
-the kind of love, I mean-you give Geoff and Teddy,
you'd find her wonderfully amenable to it."
Mrs. Brooke was silent, and he hoped his words
had made the impression he desired; so, instead of
leaving them to work, what does the honest man do
but add, perhaps with some vague idea that his wife
was likely to be more moved by outside criticism than
by his own:
"Even my mother noticed when she' was last here
how differently you treated: Sylvia and her brothers."
Mrs. Brooke actually bristled with indignation.
"I am deeply obliged to your mother for her inter-
ference with my affairs," she said in icy tones; So it
was in consequence of your discussions with her over
my conduct that you made this grand plan' of sending
Sylvia to visit her grandmother! Many thanks for
your kindness; but I prefer to keep Sylvia at home,
SYLVIA'S TRIUMPH. 89
where I can save her from Mrs. Brooke's spoiling,
although day by day I have to endure the effect yours
has on her."
"Well, you can congratulate yourself on there being
no chance of her showing any evil effects from yours,
at any rate!" said her husband with biting sarcasm,
and fell silent again, angry with her for what he called
her "hardness"-angry with himself for his want of
tact in bringing his mother's name into the question.
"Well," he thought wearily to himself, "I must
give the child a double share of love. But it's hard
lines for a girl to have to put up with 'duty' instead
of love from her own mother. My poor Sylvia!"
Mrs. Brooke did not address her husband again.
She spoke over her shoulder from time to time to
Geoffrey, who during his parents' discourse had been
too busy recounting the events of his holiday to Job
to pay any attention to its subject; but to Mr. Brooke
:she did not say another word until they drew up at
their own gate, when her frigid "Thank you," as he
helped her to alight, did not speak of any relaxation
of her sense of offence with him.
The house-door was unfastened, as it always stood
in that peaceful village, and they entered. The hall
was empty; but Sarah, the parlour-maid, was laying
the table in the dining-room.
"Why, where's Sylvia?" said her father. "Sarah,
isn't Miss Sylvia in?"
"Yes, sir," said Sarah; "she came in a short time
ago. She must be upstairs in the nursery."
Mr. Brooke ran hastily up the stairs. Somehow
the way his wife had received his words on the sub-
ject of her treatment of the little girl had waked a
great tenderness in his fatherly heart for the one of
his children least loved of their mother, and he felt
an impulse to greet his little daughter with unusual
warmth-to kiss and caress her so tenderly as to hide
the coldness his ill-judged addition to his first speech
might probably bring into his wife's manner to
Geoffrey had gone round into the stable-yard with
Job, and Mrs. Brooke had already begun to ascend
the stairs towards her room. Before she reached the
landing she uttered a sharp exclamation and hurried
towards the nursery door, for her baby's voice in loud
lamentation was heard from within, and she and her
husband entered at the same moment.
No one was to be seen, but from the other side of
the table Teddy's cries still rang forth. Father and
mother both started forward, and there lay the little
brother and sister, Baby lamenting at the top of his
voice, unable to extricate himself from the blanket in
which Sylvia had wound him, but otherwise unhurt;
while the little girl lay across him, her scorched hands
still clutching the sides of the blanket and her face
hidden from sight in it. The dragged table-cloth, the
SYLVIA'S TRIUMPH. 91
fallen candle, and Nurse's absence told the tale with-
out any need of explanation.
Father and mother seized each a child, with a cry
of My baby, my baby!" from the poor mother; while
Mr. Brooke's low "Sylvia, my darling!" as he lifted
the senseless child in his strong arms and gazed terror-
stricken into her white face, would have filled his little
daughter's head with joy could she have heard it.
Baby's frightened cries had ceased almost as soon
as he was in his mother's arms, and she came quickly
to her husband's side as he sat with Sylvia's limp
form pressed against his breast, while he examined
every limb to see if she was seriously hurt. The
sight of the poor reddened little hands drew a groan
"0, John!" said Mrs. Brooke tremulously, "is she-
she isn't-dead, is she!' 0, Sylvia! my dear Sylvia!"
How often Sylvia had longed to hear her name so
endearingly spoken in her mother's voice-longed in
vain! She had bought it at the risk of her life now,
and her ears were deaf to it.
"No, no," said Mr. Brooke; "she is not dead, thank
God! She's in a dead faint. Ring the bell and order
some brandy, and send for Evelyn immediately. Thank
God the little fellow's all right, anyhow!"
As Mrs. Brooke obeyed, Nurse rushed into the
room, her master and mistress having arrived un-
known to her while she was still prolonging her fare-
well to George Tatlock. She stood aghast when the
group within met her sight, and then burst out crying.
"Stop that!" said Mr. Brooke sternly. "This is
not the time for explanations or reproaches. Do what
you can to help now. Send someone round to Mr.
Evelyn and ask him to come at once, and then take
the baby and let your mistress help me."
The girl obeyed, and coming back silent and sub-
missive, took Teddy and wept over him with many
tearful caresses, while Mr. and Mrs. Brooke did every-
thing in their power to restore Sylvia to consciousness.
For a long time she showed no sign of life; then her
lips stirred and parted and she gave a faint sigh; and
then her dark eyes opened, at first blankly, then full
of trouble and perplexity, to find herself lying in her
father's arms, and, wonder of wonders! her mother
kneeling beside her, love and anxiety in her face!
The troubled look in the child's eyes melted into
one of clear comprehension, and she half-raised herself
in her father's arms.
"Where's Baby?" she said weakly; "oh, where's nmy
darling Baby? 0, Father! he isn't dead, is he?"
"No, my darling, no!" cried the father and mother
in a breath; and Mrs. Brooke burst into tears.
"You saved his life, my little Sylvia!" her father
-continued; "we owe his precious little life to you!"
The child gave a long sigh. "I thought he must
:be dead," she.said; and then, "Where is he?"
Mrs. Brooke rose, and taking Teddy from Nurse's
arms, where she sat apart crooning over him and
watching with beating heart for Sylvia's recovery,
brought the little fellow to where the child lay against
her father's breast. She knelt down with the little
one in her arms to bring his pretty face close to his
sister's; and then Sylvia put her two arms round him
and kissed and cuddled him to her heart's content,
until Mr. Evelyn came hastily into the room, looking
grave and anxious, for he had been out when Ellen,
horror-struck at the result of her carelessness in leav-
ing Baby alone with the lighted candle within his
reach, had rushed round to beg Mrs. Barker to send
the doctor in as soon as ever he got back, for Miss
Sylvia and the baby were "dreadfully burned!"
Under Mr. Evelyn's directions the little girl was un-
dressed and put to bed, lest the shock and fright, and
the fainting-fit that had ensued on them, should have
any evil effects. The flame had scorched Sylvia's
hands, and now that the excitement of the danger and
her fears for Teddy's life were past, they began to
ache and burn. Mr. Evelyn wrapped them in oil and
wool, and she was laid cosily in her little white bed,
and then the ache grew less, and she lifted up her face
to kiss the doctor good-night with one of her sweetest
You are a brave little woman," said her old friend;
"we shall be proud to have you for our first guest."
After Mr. Evelyn had gone, and Geoff had entreated
to be allowed just to go in and tell his sister what
a "regular brick" she was, Sylvia had at last fallen
asleep, her father remaining some time by her side,
lest, left alone, the terror of the remembrance of the
past danger might come over her. A little later,
however, she woke suddenly with a frightened start
at what she thought must be the middle of the night,
to see by the light of the candle her mother sitting
by her side.
"Mamma!" said the child softly.
"What is it, my dear I" asked Mrs. Brooke in a tone
Sylvia had not often heard addressed to herself from
those lips. "Are you thirsty?"
"Yes, Mamma," she answered.
Mrs. Brooke brought her some milk and water and
held it to her lips.
Sylvia laughed a childish little laugh.
"How funny it seems to have no hands!" she said.
SPerhaps Mrs. Brooke thought at that moment from
what awful loss and grief those little scorched hands
had saved her, and at what risk; for there were tears
of both love and remorse in her eyes as she put down
the cup, and bending over her daughter, put her arm
round her and said brokenly:
Sylvia, dear, I am sorry I was cross to you to-day;
we must try to get on better for the future."
It was not a very eloquent speech or magnificent
SYLVIA'S TRIUMPH. "95
concession, but it was a great one for such a nature as
Mrs. Brooke's to make, and perhaps meant as much
from her as a passionate declaration of sorrow from
another; Anyhow it was enough, and more than
enough, for the generous heart of her little daughter.
"0, Mamma! it was my fault!" she cried. "I
will try to do my sums properly."
"I am sure you will, dear," answered her mother,
kissing her again. "But now lie down and try to get
Sylvia obeyed, and lay quiet and at peace in the
thought that she was the happiest little girl in the
world; for Baby was not hurt, Father always loved her
dearly, she was to be Mr. Evelyn's and Miss Milner's
very first guest at tea, Geoff had called her a brick,"
and now the one thing she had longed for was come
to her, for Mamma really loved her. So thinking she
fell fast asleep, and did not even wake when Father
came in later, and kneeling by her bed laid his head
down by the little dark one he loved so well, and
thanked God with tears that the light of the lustrous
eyes had not been quenched in darkness that day, and
that his little daughter's courage had snatched her
beloved little brother from a frightful death.