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OVER THE SEA. Stories of Two
WORLDS. Edited by A. PATCHETT MARTIN. Crown
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TWICE FOUR. Original Stories by
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Told after Tea
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M. & C. Lee
Authors of "The Oak Staircase," "Rosamond Fane," &c.
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Ethclina E. DlIl and Edith Huime
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GRIFFITH FARRAN &
NEWBERY HOUSE, 39 CARING
The Rights of Tralnslation and of Reproduction are Reserved
KITTY'S UNFORTUNATE BIRTHDAY Y
A PICNIC IN THE LUMiBER-RF0011
A WEEK IN THE DARK
LAURIE'S MOTTOc' :
CHAPlN il '
AUA7NT MARRIED : :,_ ;. 4'-
List of Coloured Illmustra onzs.
"LUCEM SPERO" Frontispiece
TO FACE PAGE
"SHE LED THE WAY TO THE PLAY-ROOM" 9
THE RESCUED HAMPER 13
LAURIE'S FOSTER-MOTHER. 29
"A TALKING JACKDAW" 37
"HE WAS OFTEN TAKEN FROM HIS CAGE
TO BE NURSED AND PETTED" 40
AUNT MARJORIE 48
BUYING THE WHITE MICE 50
And Twenty-eikt Black and White Drawings in
TOLD AFTER TEA.
KITTY'S UNFORTUNATE BIRTHDAY.
N the first place it was wet. That is always a misfortune
on one's birthday And when this falls in July, and one
has arranged to have a picnic on it, and the pigeon-pies,
and the jellies and tarts, are all ready, and lots of
children invited to come, and the morning has been so
bright that every one of them has arrived, what can be
S more provoking than to see the rain at one o'clock
(that unhopeful hour for the weather to change) coming
Steadily down, while the sky gets more and more over-
cast, and one's grown-up relations keep on saying,
What a good thing it is we hadn't started!"
The boys didn't think it a good thing at all.
As Harold said, "What an awful lark it would have
S- been if the rain had come on after we had got to the
woods! We could have made tents out of the cloaks
and shawls, and stayed there till it was fine again;
perhaps even camped out all night!"
On the other hand, Kitty reflected that if it must
rain on her birthday, it would have been nicer if it had
--begun much sooner, so that none of the guests would
have been able to come; and then, at any rate, she
could have curled herself up on the sofa in the school-
room, and read her new story-books-birthday presents,
all of them-in peace.
But there was no chance of that to-day.
She knew very well that she was hostess, and queen of the day besides. Noblesse
oblige-and she led the way to the play-room with a valiant determination not to cry,
which was put to a very severe test when the children had to pass that window in the
corridor which overlooked the stable-yard, where the horses were being taken out of the
waggonette and the other carriages, and one could distinctly see all the hampers and
lunch-baskets stored under the seats and on the coach-box.
The children came to a dead stop here.
There was a kind of fascination in watching all the carefully-made preparations
unmade again: the horses being hurried under cover and those tempting-looking baskets
carried back, one by one, into the house.
io TOLD AFTER TEA.
"There go the apricot puffs," said Hugh gloomily. I know cook put them into
"Well, you'll eat them indoors, instead of out-of-doors, silly boy; that's all the
difference," observed Celia, in rather too elder-sisterly a tone for Hugh's patience-con-
sidering, as he reflected, that she was not his elder sister, but only a cousin staying in the
house. Kitty never made these remarks; but then Hugh and Kitty were not on the same
sort of terms as Celia and her brothers, Harold and Ben, who seemed to be always
"All the difference and isn't it enough ?" said Hugh impatiently. "Where's the fun
of sitting round the dining-room table and eating jam puffs ? One can do that any day.
Hallo look there !"
As Hugh spoke, the children saw one of the horses, which had just been released from
the shafts, turn in a leisurely manner out of the yard gate, which was wide open, and which
led into the lane.
After snatching a tuft of grass, pricking his ears, and looking from right to left in an
enquiring manner, he suddenly shied violently away from the gate, and set off at a brisk
trot down the lane.
"What made him shy like that ?" said Ben, rather wonderingly.
KITTY'S UNFORTUNATE BIRTHDAY. II
Oh, I say !" cried Hugh. "Don't you see ? Little vagabonds !"
In fact, the children had not been the only interested spectators of the scene in the
Two little gipsy-boys, who seemed, notwithstanding ragged clothes and bare feet, to
be utterly indifferent to rain and wind, had been swinging on the gate and watching the
bustle going on in the yard ever since the morning.
I do believe those gipsy-boys opened the gate on purpose," remarked Harold, "and
I T't "
that one of them flung his cap at the horse to make him go down the road. Look! he's
picking it up again. They think they'll get something for pretending to help to catch the
But the gipsy-boys had apparently even darker designs than Harold suspected. One
of them ran up to the grooms, who had just come back from the house to fetch another
hamnper, and pointed down the road.
But he did not follow the men when they rushed off to intercept the runaway horse.
He waited till they were out of sight, and the other coachmen safe inside the stables, and
then-his companion emerging like a shadow from the bushes-in one instant, they were
both on the coach-box of the waggonette, had dragged the last hamper from under the
TOLD AFTER TEA.
seat, had cut its fastenings, and were cramming all the most portable contents into their
mouths and pockets.
"Oh! oh! oh! My birthday cake is in that hamper, I know!" cried poor Kitty.
"I saw cook pack it, and she iced it so beautifully, and wrote my name on it in pink
sugar! Oh, Hugh! don't let them- "
But Hugh, Ben, and Harold were off already; though whether their feelings were
most powerfully affected by the disappearance of the birthday cake, or the. prospect of a
fight, it were hard to say.
Of course the younger boys went after them, and Kitty, Celia, and the other little
girls, their guests, awaited impatiently at the window for their re-appearance in the yard.
Celia threw up the sash, and screamed at the top of her voice, "Thieves, thieves Be
off with you!"
But the wind must have carried her voice away completely; for now the biggest
gipsy-boy was hauling the hamper off the box, and with a hasty glance round, to see if all
was safe, he and the other little fellow caught it' up between them, directly they had it on
the ground, and began to run towards the gate.
They were wonderfully nimble. Even with the heavy hamper between them they
had reached the road, and turned the corner before the rescue party had half crossed
But Harold's long legs were gaining on them, Hugh was close behind him; in another
minute the thieves were overtaken, and a violent scuffle for the possession of the hamper
The gipsies, seeing only two small assailants of about their own size (for Ben and the
little boys had not appeared upon the scene), evidently thought it worth while to make
a stand for the chance of getting off with their plunder before any further alarm could-
They set down the hamper, and it seemed to the eyes of the anxiously watching girls
KITTY'S UNFORTUNATE BIRTHDAY.
at the window that only a moment's struggle took place before the eldest gipsy-boy put
out his foot and tripped Harold up, while the youngest ran at Hugh with his head down,
like a little goat, and butted him backwards into a muddy puddle. They had actually
snatched up the hamper, and were off again, before the cousins had regained their feet.
But the momentary delay had done its work. In the meantime, Ben had gone
straight to the stable, and given the alarm to the grooms. They came running out at this
juncture, and the marauders, seeing, with one backward glance, that their pursuers were
gaining on them, once more dropped the hamper, and, unencumbered, fled away down the
lane at a pace which tookthem out of sight of the watchers at the window in about five
Kitty clapped her hands when the hamper was thrown down for the second time, and
began to think the affair was over. Hitherto it had unrolled itself before their eyes like
a scene at a play-simple to understand and most exciting to watch. But now it became
-The two grooms, being able-bodied young fellows, and very angry with the gipsy boys,
continued the chase; and Harold and Hugh, the moment they could get on their legs
again, were rushing after them. But Harold had been rather shaken by his fall, and Hugh
had had all the wind knocked out of him. They were soon left so hopelessly far behind
that they slackened speed, and Ben shouting out something, they stopped ; and presently,
coming slowly back to where he stood, by the discarded hamper, began to examine its
That was natural enough perhaps, but why should Hugh presently toss his cap in the
air, and begin to caper?
And why should the cousins take the trouble to carry the heavy basket between them
not only as far as the coach-house, where they might have put it under shelter from the
rain, but all the way across the stable-yard towards a side door that led to the laundry ?
Kitty could not make it out.
Now, from the laundry you could get up by the back stairs to the top of the house,
TOLD AFTER TEA.
and so into the play-room, which was a long garret with a raftered roof, and a door at
SKitty and Celia looked at each other. What could the boys be bringing the hamper
to the laundry for ?
Let's go and see !" said Kitty. And with one consent, the whole posse of little girls
started off along the corridor, up the nursery stairs, through passages and bedrooms, till
they reached the lumber room at one end, just as the boys, very much out of breath, muddy
and rain-bespattered, were struggling with the hamper up the last steps of the back stairs
and into the doorway at the other end.
"Hurrah, Kitty cried Hugh, "your cake isn't a bit hurt. Those little ragamuffins
hadn't found it out. It was packed all by itself in a cardboard box at the bottom of the
"Oh, Hugh! how very nice of you and Harold to save it. And I hope you weren't
hurt! That horrid boy did hit you so hard."
I'm all right enough," replied her brother, "but I must say I wish I could have had
it out with him. If I'd only had a little more wind, and Ben hadn't had his splendid idea,
we might have caught them up, after all."
What is his splendid idea ? asked Kitty, rather puzzled ; "and where is Ben ? "
Gone to ask leave," replied her brother, whose explanations, perhaps owing to his
recent violent exertions, were more brief than lucid.
He and Harold were now sitting on the hamper to recover their breath (chairs were
rather scarce in the lumber room), and they refused any further enlightenment on the
subject until Ben's return, by which time they had succeeded in working up the girls to a
high pitch of curiosity and interest.
It's of no use telling you till then," they kept on saying, "because you would be
so disappointed if we didn't get leave; and it really is such a splendid plan! All for your
sake, Kitty, to make up for not going to the woods."
And the tiresome creatures would do nothing but nudge each other, whisper sugges-
tions, presumably about the details of the splendid plan," and then go into fits of laughter
till Ben came back.
A PICNIC IN THE LUMBER-ROOM.
IT certainly is a good idea," said Kitty rather anxiously.
She had at last succeeded in getting Hugh into a corner to consult, while Ben was
expounding to the others his splendid plan, which was nothing less than this-that they
should have Kitty's birthday picnic indoors, up in the lumber-room, making it look as
much like a wood as possible, spreading the table-cloth on the floor, and eating the
contents of the rescued hamper, instead of going down stairs and having their dinner
primly in the dining-room with the grown-up guests.
But what did father and mother say, exactly ? demanded Kitty, who was possessed
of a conscience, and had, deep down in her heart, a lurking suspicion that Ben did not own
such a commodity.
Hugh pounced upon Ben and insisted that he should tell Kitty the exact words in
which leave had been granted.
Uncle Frank said that he had no objection, but I must ask my aunt," Ben replied.
You know that is what he always does say when we ask to do anything. And then he
and some of the other men went out to see if the horse had been caught, or those little
brats, the gipsies."
"I should like to go too," observed Harold. It would be much better fun than
being mewed up here."
"So should I ; but it's of no use thinking of that. It is raining in such torrents that
they came back almost directly."
Well, and what did mother say?" asked the persistent Kitty.
Oh, she laughed, and said, 'Does Kitty really wish it ? Well, her birthday treat
has been quite spoiled, so, if it's any consolation to her--' and just then another carriage
drove up to the door with some more people, so I came away."
There! you hear!" cried Hugh triumphantly. "And you do wish it, don't you,
Puss ?" he went on in a coaxing tone after Ben had turned away. "You know we had
all the trouble of rescuing your cake, and bringing it up here, so you might agree, like a
jolly girl as you are."
And of course Kitty gave in. When Hugh called her Puss," and spoke in that sort
of voice, there was nothing she would not do for him. Besides, the plan would really be
great fun, "if only," as she whispered to Hugh, Celia and her brothers would not quarrel
so dreadfully over everything."
It really was a great relief, and removed Kitty's last objection, when Celia (who had
pricked up her ears at the mention of more guests in the drawing-room) said with her
most grown-up air, Well, children, you may do as you please. But I think I shall dine
down stairs. If some more people have come to lunch, Auntie may be glad of one of us to
help to entertain them."
Kitty really had to hold Hugh, to prevent his showing his delight in some very audible
and demonstrative manner, and he would mutter in her ear,
"'Joy go with her, in a bottle of moss,
If she never comes back it'll be no loss!
16 TOLD AFTER TEA.
As if mother wanted her help to entertain people," he went on. However, I'm
very glad she has got that idea into her head, if it gets her away from us."
Who can they be ? said Kitty out loud, in order to put a stop to Hugh's confidences.
" I didn't know any one else was expected."
These people have come to stay," observed Ben. I saw some luggage at the top of
Kitty's curiosity would not have been so easily satisfied, and she would probably have
spent a good many more minutes in wondering, if her attention had not presently become
absorbed in the business of unpacking the hamper, of sending Hugh for knives, forks,
plates, and a table-cloth, which of course had been packed in some other basket, and in
anxious consideration as to whether a pigeon pie, a dish of ham sandwiches, and a dozen
lobster patties would be enough substantial food for ten hungry children, supplemented by
the birthday cake, and such sweets as had not been touched by the gipsy boys.
Of course "the little ones" would think that as long as there were plenty of jam
puffs no other food was needed. Indeed, Teddie and Bob had already surreptitiously
made off with a few tarts out of the top layer of good things, which Kitty had laid
aside, as having been hopelessly spoiled by the
C They were not very muddy," Teddie de-
S' lar ed, in excuse for his greediness. But he
looked rather abashed at Kitty's face of
astonishment and disgust; and when Harold
t told him he was a little pig, he puckered up
his face for a good cry, as the only method
S left to him of disarming further criticism.
.s If Teddie begins to cry now," observed
his sister Rose in a low voice, "you won't
S1 be able to make him happy again all
tn And Kitty, mindful of the laws of
hospitality, was about to soothe Teddie's
feelings by the offer of a particularly fine
lobster patty, when a most opportune
diversion was created by a knock at the door.
"If you please, Miss Kitty," said cook's voice in a powerful whisper, could I speak
to you one minute ? Look here, dearie," she went on, as soon as she had got Kitty outside
the door, "it's above and beyond me why you should want to eat your birthday dinner
sitting on the floor in this dusty old garret-but that's no reason why you shouldn't have
enough. So I've brought you up these cold chickens-and you won't have no trouble
in carving them, miss, for they're all separated, and only tied together with them little
bows of white satin ribbon. And here's the apricot puffs : I know Master Hugh is partial
to them, and there's plenty left for down stairs."
"Oh, thank you, cook !" cried Kitty joyfully. "I was just thinking we should have
to pretend we were wrecked on a desert island, and were obliged to portion out our food
into equal shares, and then, you know, nobody could complain. It would have been rather
fun, I think, but they'll like this much the best."
I should rather think they would murmured Mrs. Cook to herself, wondering, as
she went down stairs, at the extraordinary tastes of children.
If you'll believe me," she said to Thompson the butler, "there they were, all
sitting on the empty packing cases and trunks as is stored up there, with their plates
in their laps, as pleased as Punch, and Miss Kitty quite ready to be content with what
those dratted tramps had left in the hamper, for the sake of the play."
Perhaps the butler, who was getting old and fat, was secretly rather glad that the
children had elected to eat their dinner up stairs, where they would not require any waiting
A PICNIC IN THE LUMBER-ROOM. 17
on. He might even have gone the length of' thinking that it wouldn't do Miss Kitty and
her guests much harm if they did have only half a dinner for once in their lives : but he
did not venture to propound these revolutionary sentiments to cook, and merely observed
in a moral and sententious manner that it showed children didn't know when they were
well off, and he hoped they might never be as much in want of a dinner as those poor
little gipsies were."
They did look half-starved, to be sure," said the cook relenting. "They have been
hanging about here the last two days, and if they'd only come to the back door like
Christians, I'd have given them some food. But when it comes to the owdacious little
monkeys trying to steal things as it took me hours and hours to make, I've no patience
with them. And if I was you, Thompson, I'd look sharp after the plate to-day; there's
no knowing what they'll be up to next."
Th.ompson laughed, and observed that the gipsy boys had had a fright, and that, in
all probability, nothing more would be heard of them: an opinion which afterwards proved
to be entirely mistaken.
The picnic dinner went off admirably. Teddie's tears were quite dried up long before
it was over; and it was his own idea, at the close of the entertainment, to stand on a very
rickety packing case, while he made a speech to the following effect:
Here's Kitty's health, and I hope she'll enjoy her birthday! Amen."
The toast was drunk in ginger ale and zoedone, with tremendous cheers; and of
course it could not have been the effect of these celebrated non-intoxicants that made the
boys so rampageous afterwards.
Indeed, to do them justice, the "rampageousness" did not set in till late in the
afternoon, after they had tried their best to play all manner of games which could, by no
possibility, be played to any advantage except out of doors.
TOLD AFTER TEA.
Cricket and racquets, even football, was attempted, and an ingenious variety of paper-
chasing, in which the hare was only allowed to drop, at intervals, a very small pinch of
sawdust out of an old doll magnanimously sacrificed by Kitty
F r.- this purpose.
f course this last game could not be carried on in the
S pl.'. -roiom only; and in the course of the peregrinations which
it ,:intailed, over the upper part of the large rambling old house,
Lthe boys made a find, in an obscure corner, which they con-
e sidered most valuable and important. If it had not
been for that discovery, and for another (too brilliant)
idea occurring to Ben, they might have gone on peace-
S fully paper-chasing for the rest of the afternoon.
S" It was decidedly the most successful of the games
Sj they had tried, and actually had the merit of being
S entirely harmless (except from a housemaid's point of
.. view) to everything concerned, with the exception of
Kitty's doll, Belinda, whose stout little body wasted
away under the process with such rapidity, that the soul
of her mistress was filled with anxiety and compunction.
But never mind," she said to Freda and Rose, whose
Sf- .rnpathy was vehement, and almost indignant, "after all, I
:an1 easily pretend she's had a bad illness. And if I wrap
Sher up in. the pink woolly shawl, and draw her about in the
Sperambulator for a bath-chair, I dare say the other dolls won't
S il n.-tice how thin the poor dear has grown."
The boys came back from their last paper chase armed with
the weapons which they had discovered in a dusky corner of the long corridor. And
these were the bows and arrows belonging to a former generation of young people who
had amused themselves with archery in those antediluvian days before lawn tennis, or even
croquet, was invented.
They would be most useful, the boys explained, to people living in the back
woods as they were doing. "They were just the sort of
things," Hugh said, "that they wanted." ,
He and Harold had already slung quivers on their
backs, and were each fitting an arrow to the string before .
they had decided what they were to aim at.
Hugh looked round the room. Kitty and the other
little girls were consulting together in one corner over f
the emaciated form of Belinda, and in another Ben was
explaining to the younger boys the second splendid plan" i
which had come into his head that day, in which the nursery
kettle, which he had just made a raid upon, was to
play an important part. '
I'll tell you what we might do," Harold said. -
"There are those old pictures leaning up against the
wall. They have been there ever since we came to
stay with you, and nobody seems to care about them. Why '
shouldn't we make targets of them ? "
All right," replied his cousin. There's one I particu-
larly hate. It used to hang in the dining-room, and when
it came up here, Kitty and I turned its face to the wall directly. I shouZd enjoy
having a shot at that; its eyes do follow one about so."
If we hit it in the eye it shall count as a gold, then," Harold said ; and they ran to
disinter the pictures from their corner, and to set them up at the end of the room.
If Kitty had not been so absorbed in the woes of Belinda she would, doubtless, have
A PICNIC IN THE LUM1BER-ROOM.
found out sooner what dreadfully mischievous undertakings the boys were, one and all,
embarking into. But it was not until that injured creature was pronounced to be out of
danger, and had taken several drives in her bath-chair, that the little girls happened to
look towards the opposite corner of the room, and beheld Ben, Teddie, and Bob, on their
knees, surrounding a thin curl of smoke which rose, apparently, from the floor.
"Oh, look, Freda cried Kitty in rather a scared voice. "What is Ben doing?
Surely he can't have lit a fire on the floor "
Hold your tongue, you silly!" said Ben in an undertone, as he rose from the
crouching position in which he had been sitting. Of course it's not on the floor. Don't
you see we've lighted it on the tin tray that belongs to the cockatoo's old cage ? We
shall soon have the kettle boiling for a regular gipsy tea."
But you mustn't, Ben. I'm sure you mustn't. Mother wouldn't like it at all," cried
Kitty earnestly, as Ben composedly proceeded to tie the nursery kettle to a stout piece of
string which he had hung over a beam, below which was actually sputtering and smoking
a small flame, fed by little bits of broken up deal boxes, a good deal
of paper, and some shavings out of the luncheon hamper.
There's nowhere for the smoke to go out, that's the woi t." Ih
observed, sneezing violently; but it's not in the least dangei..u '
"How can you say so?" Kitty cried indignantly. '" \\-.:t
might catch the string of the kettle in a minute, and their. tll '
beam. Ben, if you don't put it out I musttell Harold and Hu.-h
Ben laughed derisively. "Tell away," he said,
"they wouldn't care. I didn't think you were such a
fidget, Kitty. You are as bad as Celia. If you want
to tell tales of somebody, you'd better tell of your
precious brother. Hes doing much worse things than
Kitty flushed angrily. She and Hugh did not ,
consider their cousins remarkable for politeness ; but j'/
Ben had never said anything quite so rude as this "
I'm sure Hugh wouldn't --" she began: but
looking round hastily, to verify her words, she beheld I
a sight that made her forget, for a moment, even Ben
and his fire.
At the other end of the long room, was propped up on two chairs, a large oil painting,
representing a man in the prime of life, dressed in some sort of official robe, and holding
in his hand a roll of parchment.
It was a portrait of one of Kitty's ancestors who had been Secretary of State to
Charles the Second. And well she knew the gaze of grave disapproval with which he was
regarding his young descendants, from across the lumber-room. She and Hugh, when
they were quite little children, had always objected to being left alone in the room with
that picture. Whether the strongly marked, rather harsh, features had gathered that look
of disdain and reprobation from long contemplation of the follies of an unworthy master,
and a dissolute court, Hugh and Kitty neither knew nor cared. They merely considered
the Secretary as a wet blanket and a kill-joy, and were very glad when he was taken out
of the dining-room that something might be done to his frame, and put away in the
lumber-room preparatory to being sent to London to be cleaned.
Much as she hated him, however, it never would have occurred to Kitty to do him any
harm. She knew her father valued the picture highly; that it was painted by some great
artist, and that Hugh would most certainly get into a dreadful scrape if he did it any
And there he stood, not ten yards away from it, his bow bent, aiming full at the
face of the devoted Secretary Kitty rushed forward and caught his arm.
20 TOLD AFTER TEA.
Don't touch me," he cried angrily, entirely absorbed in what he was doing. Stop
one moment, Kitty, I must have this shot."
Oh Hugh, Hugh! what will father say?" cried Kitty imploringly. "I know it's
very valuable; I know we mustn't touch it."
Perhaps, even then, Hugh might have listened if Harold had not laughed such a very
disagreeable laugh, and pulled Kitty off, calling out:
Now then, fire away You are not a baby, to be dictated to by a girl for ever."
Hugh raised his bow once more, and the arrow sped. But Kitty, struggling, freed
herself at the same moment, and with a vague idea of knocking up the arrow, rushed
forward towards the picture.
A PICNIC IN- THE LUMBER-ROOM. 21
It all happened in a moment. The boys' warning shout, a hasty attempt, on
Kitty's part, to turn her head away, while she threw up one hand to ward off the
arrow; and then that sharp burning pain in her eye, and her loud scream of terror,
while she pressed her hands tight over her face with a horrible conviction that she was
blinded for life.
Hugh tossed away his bow, and rushed to his sister's side, entreating her to tell
him where she was hurt. But poor Kitty only moaned and cried, and the other
children gathered round her in awe-stricken silence; Rose and Freda beginning to
cry too, from sympathy.
Ben, with characteristic caution, hastily trod out his fire, divining that the accident,
whether it was "all girls' nonsense as he was disposed to think, or not, would certainly
bring some disapproving elders on the scene.
TOLD AFTER TEA.
And Bob took the most sensible course of all, by tearing down stairs, as fast as
his fat legs would carry him, and bursting into the drawing-room where Kitty's mother
was sitting on the sofa, listening absorbedly to a pretty, rosy young lady who seemed
to be telling her some very interesting piece of news.
A tall gentleman was standing by the window, talking with equal earnestness
to Kitty's father: and there were other guests too, among whom Celia was really
making herself very useful, pouring out cups of tea, and talking, with much self-
possession and graciousness, to several people at once.
"What do you want, Bob ?" she asked, in a tone of kind patronage. "You mustn't
interrupt Auntie, unless it is something of great importance."
Celia looked very mysterious and important herself, for though the rosy young lady
had made no confidences to her, she had pretty well guessed that some extremely
interesting family affair was being discussed, and that it behoved her to do what she
could to amuse the uninitiated, and leave her uncle and aunt free to attend to these
new guests, whose unexpected arrival, perhaps, accounted for the unusual amount of
time which had been accorded to the children that afternoon, in which to carry out
their own devices.
Bob took no notice of Celia or of any one else, but pushed his way through the
guests straight to the sofa where Kitty's mother was sitting, and said, with the utmost
directness, Please come up stairs at once to Kitty. Hugh has shot her with an arrow
and she's hurt dreadfully, but we don't know where."
A WEEK IN THE DARK.
I REALLY don't see how I am to bear it," said Kitty to herself as she sat up on
the sofa in her mother's sitting-room, and pressed her hands over her eyes.
The eyes had a bandage over them, and the room was darkened.
It's all very well for that doctor to talk as if it was nothing at all to be in the dark
for a week. I dare say he never tried it !"
That doctor" was no other than the tall gentleman who had been talking so
earnestly to Kitty's father when the accident happened. He was a man whose opinion,
was worth having, but before giving it he had
examined her eyes, and bandaged them, and
she had been put to bed, and had
sobbed herself to sleep in a good deal
of pain and discomfort. And it was
not until now that the morning had
come that he was able to relieve her
anxious parents by the assurance that
things were not as bad as they had ,
at first feared, and that their little
girl's sight was quite safe.
You must keep up her spirits,"
he said, when he and Kitty's mother
had at last left her, and were having a
consultation in another room. "Above
all things don't let her cry, there's
nothing that will do her so much
harm; and with care, she will be well
in a week. The arrow must have
struck something else first, and only glanced l
off into the eye; she may consider herself .
very fortunate to have got off so easily."
But the doctor's point of view diffe:-c..:,
as usual, a good deal from that of the patient.
To Kitty's childish mind, now that her
first fright was over, the idea that she would have to be kept in the dark for a week
seemed very nearly as dreadful as if she had been told she would be blind for life, and the
tears which were so bad for her were just beginning to come when a voice, from the other
end of the room, said : How do you know the doctor has never tried being in the dark
for a week ? "
Kitty started violently, and turned her head from side to side in bewilderment. She
had not yet learned to distinguish where sounds came from, with the accuracy of a blind
person. And this sound was such a very unexpected one !
"Aunt Marjorie!" she said, doubtfully, and then in a tone of delighted astonishment,
" Can it really be you ?"
"It really is, Don't move, my darling, I'm coming to you," said the voice. And the
24 TOLD AFTER TEA
rosy young lady mentioned in our last chapter ran across the room and took poor blind-
folded Kitty in her arms.
"Why, how did you come ? When did you come ?" cried Kitty between her hugs
and kisses. "I never heard a word about it, nor Hugh either, I'm sure."
"That's because you chose to have your birthday dinner up in the lumber-room," said
Aunt Marjorie. Grannie and I, and-and-some one else I'll tell you about presently,
all arrived, quite unexpectedly, just before luncheon yesterday."
"And nobody told us What a shame," said Kitty. I remember now, Ben did say
somebody had come, and I wondered who it could be."
"We were so busy down stairs, talking over some business," murmured Aunt Marjorie
almost in a tone of apology.
"And we were so busy up stairs, arranging the picnic," said Kitty, forgetting her
troubles for a moment, and laughing. It really was great fun at first, till the boys got so
wild-but then-then there was the accident !-and after that I
never thought of anything else. Oh dear, oh dear What a long
*1S time ago it seems. Oh, Auntie, don't you think I am a very
unfortunate person ? and isn't that doctor horrid to
Essay I mayn't see the light for a week ? "
"You mustn't say a word against the doctor,
Puss," said Aunt Marjorie, turning rosier than ever
in spite of the darkness. "He's a great friend of
mine; and I mean you to like him very much before
Syou have done with him. Besides, my deary, don't
you know how thankful we all are that you will \only
j have to be in the dark for a week ? Your father and
mother were very unhappy about you last night. And
as for poor Hugh, he was quite wild, and kept on
i saying it was all his fault, and that he should never
be happy again."
S. "Oh, Auntie-I know-indeed, indeed, I am
thankful, really; and I do mean to try and bear it
S. properly; I only want to have one real good grumble
first. And as for poor Hugh, he never meant it,
you know; it was more my fault than his. But I
"i didn't know an arrow went so quick."
"How the boys could be so naughty as to try
and shoot with bows and arrows up there I cannot
think. But tell me how it all happened, Kitty," said
her aunt, thinking it might draw off the child's atten-
tion from her eyes, to give an account of the affair which, even now, remained something
of a mystery to the elders, between Hugh's violent self-accusations, and the shuffling of
Harold and Ben ; especially as the other little birthday-guests, who had been witnesses
of the accident, had all been carried off home by their various guardians, to be out of the
way, as soon as it was found that Kitty's injury was likely to be serious.
But Hugh had recovered his balance now that Kitty was pronounced to be better, and
while she was telling the whole story of her unfortunate birthday to Aunt Marjorie, he was
making a very full confession to his father of his own share in the disaster. There is no
doubt both Hugh and Harold richly deserved the severe lecture they received-Harold
perhaps the most, considering that he was two years older than Hugh, and deliberately
tried to shift some of the blame of the accident on to Kitty for getting in the way."
Nor did all Ben's foresight for his own interests get him off scot-free. Nurse had
speedily discovered the loss of her kettle, and with an indignant conviction that them
boys" had something to do with it, had cross-questioned little Teddie when she was
putting on his things to go away.
"Oh, yes," Teddie said mournfully, "Ben had got a kettle, a very nice kettle, and
A WEEK IN THE DARK. 25
they were just going to boil it, and have such fun, when Kitty got shot, and there
was an end of everything !"
Even then, nurse did not believe the boiling was intended to be anything but a make-
believe affair, until, on going, herself, to the lumber-room to rescue her property (with
the idea of making a cup of arrowroot for her poor dear Miss Kitty),
she discovered the fresh smoke-marks on the bright copper sides .:.f *
cherished kettle, and the blackened string with which it had been t..i l
to the beam. Ben had quite forgotten to hide this evidence :.'l- ,
crimes, and a very little further search revealed the tin tray :. tr,_
cockatoo's old cage, containing the still warm ashes
of a veritable fire!
"Really me, ma'am, it made me all of a tremble,"
said nurse afterwards, while relating this terrible dis-
covery to her mistress. We might have had the
house burnt over our heads almost before we knew .
anything about it. He'd hidden away that tray under
a bit of old carpeting ; and there was the fire still
smouldering in it I dare say he thought we were all so busy
attending to Miss Kitty that we shouldn't find it out. Master ..
Hugh is mischieful enough, goodness knows, but Master Ben is
sly, and that's what I never could put up with."
By the time Aunt Marjorie had heard all the different '
versions of the children's proceedings, she began to perceive that
Kitty was really a little bit of a heroine, for not only was she -
blameless of all the mischief, but had been hurt in a gallant
attempt to save her father's picture from the boys.
"Poor dear little Puss," she said affectionately, leaning ..
her cheek against Kitty's as the child nestled up to her, .
" I certainly do think you have been very hardly used,' .
and I mean to help you as much as I can, for, to tell the
truth, I feel rather guilty myself. If Grannie and I
hadn't come just then, and kept your mother down stairs,
talking about our own affairs, she would never have left you so long to entertain your
guests all by yourself, and then you wouldn't be having all this pain to bear, now."
TOLD AFTER TEA.
Kitty gave her-aunt a grateful hug. "Oh, the pain isn't half so bad to-day,"
she said, trying to speak cheerfully. It's the being in the dark I mind so much.
I never did like being in the dark ; I always see such horrid things."
"But, Kitty, why should you only see horrid things ? Why shouldn't you try
and see nice things 'in your mind's eye, Horatio' ? When I'm in the dark (especially
in those long journeys one has so many of, abroad), I always try to think over again
of all the beautiful things and places I have been seeing: and you can't think how
clearly they come out-like a picture. I think one remembers them better ever after."
"Ah, that's all very well when you know you'll see the light again next morning,"
said Kitty dismally. Do you sup-
po..e their 'mind's eye' is much
.l. .:.:rlfort to people who are always
in the dark ?"
S',l" h' Indeed I do. Don't you remem-
bc r those verses out of a poem I
.Ice made into a story for you?
SI 1:,rought the wise and brave of ancient days
To cheer the cell where Raleigh pined
I lighted Milton's darkness with the blaze
I Of the bright ranks that guard the eternal
So' t"What was it but their 'mind's
t,-e' that did that for Milton and
S ""-i '~leigh ?"
"I see," said Kitty thought-
In your mind's eye, eh, Puss ?
Depend upon it you will see a
great many interesting things
with it, while you are in the
dark, if you will only look out
4 ffor them."
Kitty smiled. "Well, I'll try,"
she said more hopefully. "But
you won't think me very silly,
,'will you, Auntie, to care so
much about the light? Even
that horrid doctor-well, I won't
call him horrid if you'd rather
not-even he said it wasn't silly
to care about the light, but the more I cared about it, the more careful I ought to be
not to try and use my eyes until he gave me leave. He said he hated the dark himself,
and was always trying to get more light. By the by, Auntie, what was it you said
when you first came into the room about his having once been in the dark for a
"Ah, you must get him to tell you that story. I only know he was once in an
earthquake in Sicily. I think he and several other people were buried in the
ruins of a house for nearly a week, it took so long to get them out; and besides,
no one knew at first where they were. They had only some apples to eat; and there
was one tiny streak of light which could be seen if you sat in one particular corner.
And they took it in turns to sit there because the light was such a comfort to them."
A WEEK IN THE DARK.
Poor things !" said Kitty, they really were much worse off than I am. Do you
think that is why he hates the dark, and wants to get more light so much ?"
"I suspect he was thinking of his 'mind's eye' when he said that. But you had
better ask him. He ought to, be able to tell you lots of stories, he has travelled about so
Do you think he would ? said Kitty eagerly. "I shall ask him to-morrow. For 1
really think," she continued, relapsing into a pensive tone, considering how ill I am, that
he, or somebody, ought to tell me a story every day till I'm well-eh, Auntie ? "
Aunt Marjorie laughed. "You wretch "she said; I know what you are driving at. I
call that trading on your misfortunes. However, considering all you have gone through
you shall have a story-quite new, and quite true-I only heard it the other day-about a
little boy who hated the dark as much as you do."
"Was he silly ? Don't make him silly I" entreated Kitty anxiously, seized with a
sudden fear that this too appropriate little boy might be intended to point a moral at her.
I don't think he was at all silly," said Aunt Marjorie emphatically; "but you shall
judge for yourself. Here comes your mother, now, so you won't want me any longer; but
if you'll invite me to tea with you, up here this afternoon, I'll tell you the story of
Kitty accepted this offer with rapture, and in due time, after a cosy meal, all to them-
selves," in the course of which, the merits of Kitty's birthday-cake had been duly pro-
nounced upon, Aunt Marjorie began her tale.
ONCE upon a time there lived in a cottage near the sea, a little boy of seven years
old, whose name was Laurie.
This cottage was in a fishing village in the south of England, and belonged to one of the
steadiest and most thriving of the fishermen.
But Laurie was not one of Mat Ledbitter's children. His father was a gentleman,
LAURIE'S MOTTO. 29
who had sailed away in his yacht to the Polar Seas, leaving Laurie in the care of his
foster-mother, Mat Ledbitter's wife.
Laurie's own mother had died before he could remember, and he had been put out to
nurse with Mrs. Ledbitter; and these seven years of his life had been spent between his
foster-mother's cottage and his father's yacht. But it was nearly a year now since the last
cruise with his father, for the Alethea was on a longer voyage than she had ever been
before, and Mat Ledbitter and his wife had lately had fears that it was very doubtful
whether she would ever come back again.
But neither Laurie nor his foster-brothers and sisters guessed anything of this.
There were five of the little Ledbitters, most of them older than Laurie. Eunice, the
eldest, was thirteen, and as sensible and capable as a girl of thirteen could be. Then came
Jerry, and David, who were big sturdy boys of nine and ten, and little Sally and
Young as he was at the time when that last cruise with his father had come to an end,
Laurie was old enough to miss his companionship more than his elders thought possible.
j /' ae1
The change from his life on board the yacht to the Ledbitters' cottage was a change that
he was old enough now to feel very keenly.
He had heard one of the neighbours saying to his foster-mother, while they were
spreading their washing on the beach to dry, how "little master must be pleased enough
to get back home again among her young ones. She reckoned it must be moping work for
a child to be on board ship for months together, with nothing but men folk," and Laurie
said nothing, being rather a shy, reticent child. All the same, he knew well enough that
he was not exactly pleased to come back; that it was not "moping work"; that
the menfolk on board the Alethea were very good company; and that, excepting for
Eunice, he had never felt one moment's yearning to be on shore again amidst "the
30 TOLD AFTER TEA.
Still, he was not unhappy on the whole. Mrs. Ledbitter cared as much for him as if
he had been her own child, though since the last little foster-brother and sister had come
into the world, perhaps she had been too busy to see as much of him, or, as Mat Ledbitter
said, to cocker him," as she had a year or two ago.
An aunt of his, who lived in London, had offered to have him with her until the return
of the Alethea from the Northern Seas; but his father's theory was that a fisherman's
cottage might not be the best possible place for him if the boy had been a few years older,
but that a child of Laurie's age would be healthier and happier there, under the wing of his
good foster-mother, than anywhere else where it was practicable to place him. Mrs.
Ledbitter would see that he had wholesome food and plenty of it, and he would be far
better running about in the fresh air of Faircombe, than sitting in his aunt's London
drawing-room or driving in her brougham in the Park.
Laurie did spend most of his time out on the sands. His foster brothers and the other
children of the village went to school, morning and afternoon ; but Laurie was a child who
could always play by himself when there were no playfellows to the fore ; and he used to
enjoy himself very much upon the shore, while Eunice-her school days were over now-
sat upon the beach minding" the two baby children.
Laurie could read quite as well as Jerry and David (a good deal better than David,
indeed), though he could not write, or say the multiplication table, as they could. His
father had taught him to read, he thought; but he did not remember learning his letters,
or being taught to spell out of a spelling-book. He did not remember that there ever was
a time when he could not read-at all events, easy baby-books-and for a long time he had
been able and willing to read any book that fell in his way. Not that they did fall in
his way very often, nowadays. There was The Pilgrim's Progress with illustrations, that
was kept in the curious old oaken chest that stood in Mrs. Ledbitter's kitchen, and
Eunice's books that she had got as prizes at school, and a few of his own that he had
read over and over again.
In his father's cabin, on board the Alethea, there used to be heaps of books ; and he
used to dip into them, reading anything in them that interested him, whether he quite
understood it or not, and skipping the rest. But there were some which were his very own ;
a big blue volume of Andersen's Fairy Tales, The Little Duke, and Macaulay's Lays of
Ancient Rome, among others, which had accompanied him through the cruise in the
Mediterranean, and which now lived in the oak chest-the dower-chest, as Mrs. Ledbitter
called it, which, she used to tell the children, had been in the family since the time of her
great grandmother; one of those chests which used to contain the wardrobe of a bride,
with a little inner box to hold her money.
LA URIE'S MOTTO.
Another of Laurie's possessions that lived in the dower-chest-in the little inner box-
was an old-fashioned seal ring, a thick gold hoop set with one amethyst, and on which
was engraved his father's coat-of-arms and the family motto, LUCEM SPERO." It had
been given to him by his father the morning when he had taken leave of him at the
Ledbitters' cottage, and set sail for the northern seas. His father had tied it round his
neck with a piece of ribbon ; but Mrs. Ledbitter, after a week or two, began to realize the
risk that it ran of being lost on the beach while the children were at play, or of being
taken from him by some of the older village boys, who, she suspected, were capable of
bullying him when his foster brothers were not by. So she got him to consent to its lying
in cotton wool in the depths of the dower-chest; and Laurie used to look at it from time
to time, and read the Latin motto.
He did not understand it, but he often wondered what it meant. He had a vague
remembrance of his father's looking at it with one of the officers on board the Alethea
6 t -..
and of hearing him say that one word meant light" ; but that morning, when the ring
had been tied round his neck, it had somehow never occurred to him to ask the meaning of
He began to reflect on it one afternoon, when the tide was going down, and he and
the little Ledbitters were standing on the shore, watching a pilot-boat put off to the
assistance of a distant vessel crossing the mouth of the bay.
The children were all back from school now, for it was quite late in the afternoon.
The sun was low, and there was a glow in the sky which threw a bright track on the sea,
and across the wet sands. Perhaps it was the pathway of light which reminded Laurie of
the motto on the seal ring. He wished he could find some one who knew what it meant.
Mrs. Ledbitter didn't know; but then, as she said herself, she wasn't a scholar; she'd
not had the schooling children had nowadays." And Eunice (though she had the most
schooling of the family) didn't either.'
It came into Laurie's head as he looked round at the groups of children loitering
about on the shore, that he would write the words of his motto, which he knew by heart,
TOLD AFTER TEA.
on the sand, with a stick, and see if there were any among the bigger boys who could tell
him their meaning.
He could not really write, but he drew the printed letters with a piece broken off a
withered fir branch, which had been blown down on to the beach ; and presently some of
the younger children came and stood round him.
Laurie had taught little Sally most of her letters, and she was eager to impress the
.- --- A4 ArT *'i
few children who were smaller than herself by shouting out such as she happened to
S for Sally a deep voice said suddenly, just as Laurie was beginning the second
LA URIE'S MOTTO.
word, and he started and looked behind him, whilst Sally scuttled off as fast as her little
legs could go, followed by a straggling train of children, to where Eunice was sitting on the
beach with the baby.
"And so you were giving Sally a Latin lesson ?" said the Vicar, who had been
standing behind the children for the last minute or two.
He was on his way to a cottage some distance along the shore, and though he had
stopped more than once to have a word with some of the fisher lads as he passed,
Laurie had been too much wrapped up in his own ideas to perceive him till now.
He coloured, and stood grasping his piece of stick in silence.
I didn't know you had begun Latin," continued the Vicar, laying his hand on the
boy's shoulder, and looking down at him kindly.
I haven't. I don't know what it means," Laurie said, flushing again, as he looked
at the unfinished motto he had been tracing on the sand. I thought it must be Latin !"
he went on after a long pause, glancing up at the Vicar's face.
It was a pleasant, friendly face, and Laurie reflected that he had been rather silly not
to ask the Vicar what his motto meant, long ago.
"There's Mr. Gregory,-he'd know," Eunice had said one day; but somehow Laurie
had never felt as if he could wind himself up to appeal to Mr. Gregory before.
And where did you find it-this bit of Latin that you were writing on the sand ? "
asked the Vicar, rather surprised, and at the same time amused, as he looked at Laurie's
serious, earnest little face.
It's on my ring that father gave me. It's meant to seal letters with. Mother keeps
it in the oak chest, for fear that I should lose it."
"Well, now, suppose you trace the rest of the words," said the Vicar ; and I'll see if
I can tell you what they mean."
Laurie's face brightened, and he proceeded to finish his big S and trace the
"Lucem Spero!" read the Vicar. "And you would like to know what that
Yes, please," Laurie answered, raising his eyes to the Vicar's kind face.
"Well, then, 'Spero' means I hope'-' I hope for Light.' You see it takes four words
in English to say what can be said in two in Latin. Is there anything else on the seal
besides those two words ? "
Yes," said Laurie, who had been listening intently, yes, there is a bird with a long
bill, just over the words."
Ah I yes, I thought so. That would be your father's crest. You know, in the days
when men wore helmets, they used to have what were called crests upon them, that
their followers might know them in a battle-field ; and what is engraved underneath it, is
"I hope for-Light!" repeated Laurie slowly, after a silence. "I think it's a nice
meaning. I'm glad I know what it means."
Yes, and now you know what it means, remember that it is your motto too, just as
much as your father's."
It was evident that this was a new idea to Laurie. The Vicar, who had seen him
now and then at the Ledbitters' cottage, and with the children on the beach, had never
seen his face so full of expression as now.
"I think I must have been about as old as you when I began Latin," he said,
after looking down reflectively at the motto traced on the sand. "How old are you ? "
Seven," said Laurie promptly, "and father said one ought to begin Latin when one
"Ah quite right! To be sure one should," returned the Vicar. "Well, look here !
Suppose you ask Mrs. Ledbitter to let you come to me to-morrow at four o'clock, and I'll
look up my old Latin grammar; and I'll wager you'll soon be able to read a Latin motto
34 TOLD AFTER TEA.
without wanting me to help you. Good night. I shall come and ask to look at your seal
The Vicar went on his way, and Laurie stood gazing after him for a few minutes as he
paced along the shore.
The meaning of those Latin words interested him for a reason which had never
occurred to the Vicar; and perhaps now that the sunset had died away, and it was
getting on towards bed-time, it made more impression on him than it would have done in
His feeling about darkness was unusually strong. No one but Eunice knew what
real and intense misery he went through when he was left in the dark alone. And
there seemed no special reason for it. He had never been locked up in dark cupboards,
or frightened by cruel nurses with stories of ghosts or bogey-men."
That had always been a thing the captain spoke very strongly about," Mrs. Ledbitter
used to say; but there it was, nevertheless Laurie was more absurdly, almost abjectly
afraid of the dark than any child, "gentle or simple," that Nurse Ledbitter had ever had to
It is true that he had never slept in a room alone until he came to Faircombe. He
had always had a little berth in his father's cabin ; and the door was always open between
that and the bigger cabin, where the captain used to sit, reading or writing, after his little son
was in bed. And so it was natural enough that it should never have entered either his father's
head or his own, that he could work himself up into an agony of fright as soon as the
candle was taken out, and he was left alone in the dark, in the little blue-washed room in
his foster-mother's cottage. A pretty little room it was, under the slope of the roof, with
a narrow lattice window opening out on to the thatch. Laurie could see the sea from it
when he stood on a chair, on the top of his portmanteau.
His father had made a point of his having a room to himself, and had fitted it up very
comfortably and prettily; and considering that the rooms which the other children had
between them, were only half as big, Laurie ought to have appreciated the privilege of a
room of his own. But though his fears seemed quite ridiculous to him in the morning-in
fact, dwindled into quite a dwarfish size, just like the impish Selbst in his favourite story
of The Hope of the Katzekopfs, they always came back again at night, as gigantic and
tyrannical as ever.
Mrs. Ledbitter, who had found him crying and trembling the first night after he had
been left with her, did her best to comfort him, and for some time would stay in the room
till he went to sleep; but her husband maintained that she was wrong to cocker the boy,
that he would never outgrow this whim if he was always tied to her apron-string ; and
that the captain would not be best pleased to see his son grow up a coward. And so
Mrs. Ledbitter would try to impress upon Laurie that he was getting too old to be so
silly; and Mat (on principle) would never fail to chaff him if he chanced to be at home
when the children's bed-time came ; while as for Jerry and David, they teased him on the
subject so intolerably that Laurie suddenly fired up, and hitting out "from the shoulder "
in a way that one of the yachtsmen had taught him, knocked Jerry into the dripping-pan.
At this juncture Mrs. Ledbitter interfered, and things went more smoothly. The boys got
to be less aggressive, and Laurie, after a time, was supposed to have grown out of his dislike
of the dark.
But all the same, Laurie himself and Eunice knew that it was there. The moment
there was a thread of light coming through the chinks of the shutters or beneath the
door, it was over; but, as soon as the room was dark, his dread came upon him again.
Eunice, being a perceptive girl as well as a particularly tender-hearted one, saw that he
could not help it, and contrived to leave his door ajar, and set a candle down somewhere
near, or to slip in and say a word to him from time to time, or to let him hear her singing
as she went up and down stairs ; anything just to let him know that he was not actually
And Laurie knew that she would never let out his secret to the boys. She always
understood, without being told, what he would rather not talk of before them.
This evening, after his conversation with the Vicar, he rushed over the strip of wet
sand and over the steep ridge of beach, eager to pour out everything to Eunice. How he
had at last discovered the meaning of the words on the seal; how he was to go to-morrow
to the vicarage to begin Latin ; and how the Vicar wanted to come some day and look at the
ring. But Mrs. Ledbitter was standing in the doorway calling them to come in to supper ;
and Jerry and David had joined Eunice and the little ones; so it was not till supper was
cleared away, and Eunice had at last rocked the baby to sleep, and was out on the doorstep
knitting, that he was able to get her to himself. She could knit as well in the dusk as in
36 TOLD AFTER TEA.
the daylight; in fact, she could talk or read as she knitted, without needing to look at
"Well, Laurie, I was wondering what Mr. Gregory was talking about to you on the
shore so long," she said, as he came out and sat on the step beside her.
Oh, Euny, dear, he was very kind; and he told me what the words on my ring
meant, and he said they were Latin, and that they meant 'I hope for the Light.' It's
called a motto; and he said I was to remember it was my motto as well as my
"Why, Laurie!" exclaimed Eunice, looking up and pausing for a moment in her
knitting, how curious that your motto should be that "
"Yes, I'm glad I know it means that. I wish I'd asked Mr. Gregory before, as you
wanted me, Euny. It's like the verse, you know, that verse in the Psalms, that you said I
ought to say when I lie awake. 'Send out Thy Light and Thy Truth, that they may lead
me, and bring me to Thy holy hill, and to Thy dwelling.' "
"Yes, I suppose it means the same," Eunice said meditatively; and they sat silent tor
the next few moments, Eunice knitting away mechanically, and Laurie leaning his head
against her knee.
Presently Mrs. Ledbitter called to him that it was time to go to bed, and he started
up in reply, more alertly than he had ever been known to do since he came to the
Mother will let me go to Mr. Gregory to-morrow, won't she, Euny ? he said as they
went upstairs together. And, oh! do you think she'll let me take my ring to show him ?
It couldn't get lost, just going there-that little way, could it ? Do beg her to let me,
Euny, won't you ? "
Mrs. Ledbitter, for her part, was well pleased to let him go to the vicarage to learn
Latin ; for it had been rather on her mind for some time, that her little foster-son ought
to have the sort of teaching that young gentlemen of his age usually did have. It was
only natural, she thought, that the captain should not wish him to go to the village school.
Yes, I suppose it means the same," Eunice said meditatively ; and they sat silent for
the next few moments, Eunice knitting away mechanically, and Laurie leaning his head
against her knee.
Presently Mrs. Ledbitter called to him that it was time to go to bed, and he started
up in reply, more alertly than he had ever been known to do since he came to the
Mother will let me go to Mr. Gregory to-morrow, won't she, Euny ? he said as they
went upstairs together. "And, oh do you think she'll let me take my ring to show him ?
It couldn't get lost, just going there--that little way, could it ? Do beg her to let me,
Euny, won't you ?"
Mrs.. Ledbitter, for her part, was well pleased to let him go to the vicarage to learn
Latin ; for it had been rather on her mind for some time, that her little foster-son ought
to have the sort of teaching that young gentlemen of his age usually did have. It was
only natural, she thought, that the captain should not wish him to go to the village school.
And, to be sure," as she said to her husband, he was a boy that would get to know a
lot without schooling-he was that fond of his book. Still, it was always the custom
that young gentlemen should learn Latin. She had lived in gentlemen's families, and she
knew. And she felt sure that the captain would take it very kind of Mr. Gregory."
It was not quite so easy, however, to persuade her to allow Laurie to get his precious
seal out of the oak chest and take it with him to the vicarage. He might just as well
wait till the Vicar came to call, and let him look at it there, she said. But Laurie was so
set upon having it with him, that the Vicar might see it that very day," that she consented
at length to tie it-round his neck with a ribbon, as his father had done, and tuck it safely
into his blouse.
"'Tisn't far to go, to be sure," she observed, as he set off at a sedate and business-
like pace, "and it isn't as if he was playing about the sands with the other children
Mind you come straight back, my dearie; and don't go down to the beach first-with
your best boots on, too!"
It was, indeed, a very short walk to the vicarage; and there seemed, undoubtedly.
less risk of any misfortune to him or his ring on the way to Mr. Gregory's than he ran
when he spent a much longer time wandering about on the beach.
Laurie spent a very pleasant time with the Vicar, who had a gift for teaching. The
Latin lesson was as interesting as a game, and he was sorry it was over so soon. Latin, it
seemed to him, must be ever so much easier than the lessons David and Jerry did at
school, and which they asserted were so atrociously "hard," and "stupid."
The Vicar had been most interested in looking at the ring. He showed Laurie a
collection he had of impressions of old seals, engraved with coats of arms, or crests with
mottoes, and told him how some of them had come to be adopted by the particular family
to whom they belonged, and he promised, much to Laurie's satisfaction, to let him come
twice a week for a Latin lesson.
He was walking home at a leisurely pace, finishing the slice of plum cake which
Mr. Gregory's housekeeper had given him, and pausing occasionally to open the little
Latin grammar, bound in buff leather speckled with black, in which Mr. Gregory's name
was written with the date of fifty years ago, when a figure, in a fisherman's blue jersey
and red cap, vaulted over a gate leading into a clover field the other side of the hedge,
and a rough voice exclaimed, Hi! young un stop, I say "
Laurie turned round, somewhat surprised, for it was the voice of Dan Norris, one of
the fisherboys, who at this time of day was usually out in his father's boat, or down on the
sands, or low rocks, shrimping, or perhaps setting lobster-pots.
He was a big fellow of about sixteen, with a sullen mouth and an unpleasant
disingenuous look in his eyes. He was not very well spoken of in Faircombe, and Mrs.
Ledbitter had always tried not to let her boys foregatherr with him." Laurie had never
seen much of Dan, but he had imbibed his fostermother's prejudice against him, and it
seemed such an unusual proceeding for Dan to be in the clover field, just at this time of
day, that it gave him an uncomfortable sensation, he hardly knew why, to be suddenly
hailed by him at the very moment when he was out of sight of the vicarage, and not yet
in sight of home.
Look here, now," said Dan, coming up with him, "you've been up yon', to the
Parson's, haven't you ?"
Laurie nodded, and walked on again, eager to get to the next turn in the lane, when
he would be in sight of the cottage. But Dan had more to say.
"What did a little chap like you want with him ?" he went on, keeping by the little
He's teaching me Latin," replied Laurie shortly.
Aye, but you'd something beside to talk about," returned Dan. Now, look here! I
know what you'd got to show him, when you went up from Ledbitter's just now, and I
want to have a look at it."
38 TOLD AFTER TEA.
Laurie did not quite know what to make of this request. He was not at all
unwilling to show his ring, if Dan really did care to see it. He had always had a certain
pride in it, and all that Mr. Gregory had told him had taught him to appreciate it
even better than before. But he mistrusted Dan; perhaps he only intended to chaff him,
and it seemed rather rude to refuse, (Laurie's father had always taught him to be
courteous). Still, it was strange how Dan should have known anything about his having
taken the ring to Mr. Gregory.
-Poor Mrs. Ledbitter! Little did she think, when she sent her foster-son to the
vicarage, with the ring strung round his neck, and tucked carefully into his blouse,
remarking to Eunice that she shouldn't feel easy till it was back in the chest again,"
that it was she herself who would, unwittingly, be the cause of its danger.
She had no idea that Dan had been sent by his father on some errand to her husband,
and was in the back kitchen, overhearing all that she said to Laurie, before she despatched
him to his Latin lesson.-
"Now then! out with it!" said Dan, in a more peremptory, bullying tone than
This kind of tone, however, instantly made Laurie feel disinclined to produce his
ring, and he only walked on without speaking. But he had not got to the turn in the
road from which the Ledbitters' cottage was in sight, before Dan's hand was on his
Come, now Are you going to haul out that ring or not ?" he growled.
Laurie flushed crimson, and made a violent effort to wrench his shoulder out of
Let me go !" he cried passionately, "or I won't show it you. You've no right to
"Shut up, you little varmint!" said Dan, giving him a cuff on the head. Haven't I
as much right to look at it as the Parson ?" and in spite of Laurie's desperate attempts
to break away, he managed to get hold of the ribbon, and drag the ring out of his
Laurie felt pretty sure that when once it was in Dan's clutches he should never
see it again. What would he have given now, to have let his foster-mother follow her
own will, and have waited to show the ring till Mr. Gregory should come to the cottage.
He could only cling to the ribbon with all his might; but he could not have held on
to it much longer-in fact Dan was in the very act of forcing open his hand-when the
sound of wheels made him start and leave hold, and the next instant the doctor's gig
was coming rapidly up behind them.
Dan waited to say under his breath, Mind, I'll have that ring out of you yet! and
if you let out a word of this to any one, I'll break every bone in your body, and it'll be
the worse for all of 'em as well as you." Then he ran on, and was over the gate into
the clover field again before the gig had overtaken him.
Dan had not accomplished what he wanted yet; but he had succeeded very com-
pletely in spoiling all Laurie's pleasure in his Latin lessons, and had sent him home in a
state of mind which very much surprised his usual confidante Eunice, considering the
buoyant spirits in which he had started on his expedition.
But he did not dare tell her what was the matter, Dan's threats were too fresh in his
mind for that. He felt as if they even extended to those numerous and cherished pets
which he and the Ledbitter boys were bringing up between them. He would bear any-
thing rather than that these should suffer; but all the flavour was taken out of his
intercourse with them, and he spent the rest of the day in trying to solve the problem of
how he could protect them, and his ring too, from an enemy who seemed to him a great
deal more powerful for harm than he really was.
Of course it was very silly of him to be so frightened; but it must be remembered
that he was only seven years old, and that there were one or two stories current in the
LA URIE'S MOTTO. 39
village, of Dan's cruelty to helpless things, which turned the child sick whenever he thought
Laurie was very fond of all sorts of animals. The very first thing that had
beguiled him from gazing regretfully after the Aleth/ea on the day when his father sailed
away to the North seas, had been Jerry's proposal to show him a brood of lop-eared
rabbits, and the discovery that the wicker cage which hung by the cottage door contained
a talking jackdaw, went far to reconcile him to living under the same roof.
What if the talk only consisted of the words, "Naughty Jacko !" and "Come along,
Sail!" Laurie was perfectly sure that he could teach it to whistle God Save the Queen,"
and did actually succeed in taming it enough to admit of its hopping about the garden
path, without getting into worse mischief than the good nature of Mrs. Ledbitter and
Eunice would put up with.
But Laurie's greatest favourite was his own particular property, a tame pigeon, which
had been a great pet on board the Alethea, and which he had brought with him when he
came to the Ledbitters'.
There were pigeons at the cottage, too, who were for ever fluttering and settling, and
sunning themselves, and cooing on its ample thatched roof; but they were only allowed a
bowing acquaintance with Whitewings, who lived in a cage, and despised the black-rocks
and fantails. So thought Laurie-at least ever since he had been told by a friend of Mat
Ledbitter's that his bird was a carrier, "a homing pigeon," one of the sort who wherever
they were let fly could find their way back.
"Ay, even across the water, as he had proved many a time from Antwerp and
TOLD AFTER TEA.
And this friend, who was a publican, and a "fancier," even offered what, to Mat,
was a large sum of money, "if little master would like, at any time, to part with his
But Laurie's refusal, accompanied by tears and a very red face, was so decided that
the fancier begged his pardon ; and Mat, with a slap on the back, had to cheer him by a
promise that Whitewings should be sacred-no one should ever meddle with him but his
owner. Mat's word was to be relied upon, and Laurie felt at peace enough to listen
with interest to all the wonderful stories which the fancier had to tell of "homers"
and their flights.
Twenty miles in as many minutes! Could it possibly be true? And Whitewings
could do it !
His wings had been clipped on board the Alethea, because there he had only been
allowed to run about on deck, and take short, momentary flights, which lasted not much
longer than the foam-flash on the crests of the little waves that rose and fell on the
sunny beach of Faircombe.
But Laurie reflected that they had never been cut since he came to the cottage, and
need not ever be cut again. And what might not be accomplished when they grew
to their proper length ?
He listened again to what the fancier was saying to Mat, and heard of what
wonderful use the pigeons had been in the great siege of Paris, which was just
How they had flown backwards and forwards with a little quill in which a tiny
letter was rolled up, tied under those swift untiring wings, and safe above the deadly
shells, the smoke of the cannon, and the rattle of musketry, had brought tidings of the
starving city to friends far away outside, when post, and railway, and telegraph wires
were useless, and every path was guarded, except "the way of a bird in the air."
It was like a fairy-tale to Laurie, and a fairy-tale that was true.
He hung on every word the fancier said, and when he was gone, roamed away on to
the downs, and sat thinking of Whitewings and his capabilities, till an idea darted into
his childish mind which made him sit suddenly upright, clasp his knees with both his
hands, and stare, with wide eyes, over down, and cliff, and headland, at the dim, blue
horizon-line where the hull of the Alethea had last vanished from his view.
He had not heard from his father for a very long time, for the Alethea was bound
for regions out of the track of homeward-bound vessels; and since he had received
a long, carefully printed letter, so plain that he could read it for himself, dated from
Peterhead, the only news had been a scrap of a note to Mrs. Ledbitter, forwarded by a
returning whaler, whose captain had spoken the Alethea off the coast of Spitzbergen.
And there were no posts where the Alethea was gone, Laurie knew that. Mat
Ledbitter had often told him how his father, who was a real A.I., and no mistake," had
fitted out his yacht, and gone north for no other purpose than that of finding out the fate,
and if possible, rescuing, a crew of Arctic explorers, who had not been heard of for more
than a year.
All this he knew. And knowing it had considerably damped his desire of learning to
write. For if one couldn't write to one's father, what was the use of sitting in a cramped
position at a table making crooked strokes and blots, when one might be out on the beach
or the downs or feeding the rabbits and pigeons in the garden ?
But if Whitewings could be his messenger !
Whitewings had been brought up on board the yacht, and therefore, so argued Laurie
to himself, of course he could find his way back to it. He knew nothing about any other
home, he had never been let fly at Faircombe, he was a true homer," so the fancier had
declared, and the yacht was his home, so, no doubt, he would fly over the sea, and carry a
note tucked under his wing as safely as those pigeons flew from Paris.
It all seemed so simple and easy, that Laurie longed to try his plan at once, and had
half risen from his seat, with the intention of fetching Whitewings, when he was stopped by
the recollection of a difficulty that seemed at first insurmountable.
It was not that his pigeon had never been trained. That necessity did not enter
Laurie's head, any more than the wild impossibility of the feat he was expecting it to
perform. It appeared to him that Whitewings was perfectly equipped for his share in the
adventure, and could carry a message to the ends of the earth, if only-oh shameful and
provoking ignorance-his master were able to write it.
It is true he could print-in very big capitals-with the letters before him he wanted
to copy. But when he remembered the immense amount of room on his slate, that even
his own name took up, and then thought of all he wanted to say in his letter, and of the
tiny roll the fancier had described, his hopes sank ; and he recognized with a heavy sigh
that he must learn to write-small-on paper-with pen and ink, before this delightful
scheme could possibly be carried out.
But he did not give up his purpose for all that. He meant to carry it out, and carry
it out unaided, too.
Even if any of the Ledbitter household had been capable of writing the tiny copper-
plate hand he imagined himself learning, he would not have confided in them.
Although he had the strongest faith, himself, in Whitewings' powers, he had an
instinctive feeling that Jerry and David would laugh at his notion; and their father,
perhaps, think it his duty to put a stop to it. Grown-up people were so odd. You never
could be sure what they would call silly," or dangerous," or, for some reason or other,
After that day he struggled valiantly with pen and ink ; astonished Eunice by his
constant demands for sheets of ruled paper, and had got as far as being able to write, My
dear Father," without using up more than the first page, when his adventure with Dan
frightened him so much as to put everything else, for the time, out of his head.
He got to have a morbid idea that wherever he put the ring Dan would find it,
and was quite as much afraid of meeting him without having it to show, as he was
of letting him look at it. He was afraid to play about on the sands or the downs
alone, now,.and wondered dismally how he should get to the vicarage for his next
Jerry and David were away at school for the greater part of the day, and the school
was a good way off, which was one of the reasons why he and little Sally did not go with
Mrs. Ledbitter remarked, at last, to Eunice that the child was moping, and that she
was afraid that, after all, learning that hard stuff mightn't do him any good ; but the day
on which she made this discovery was her washing-day, and what could she do but give
him a kiss, and a big apple, and tell him to go and play on the beach?
The apple was some momentary comfort, but Eunice noticed that he did not call
Sally, and scamper away to the shore with it as he once would have done, but sauntered
listlessly to Whitewings' cage, and stood there thoughtfully munching, for a long, long
time. She had time to carry out a whole basketful of clothes, and spread them on the
beach to dry, before she saw him run indoors and mount the stairs to his own little
After that she had to go into the back kitchen, and plunge her arms into the wash-tub
again, and so busy were she and her mother, all the rest of the morning, that they had no
further time to bestow upon Laurie, and Eunice had to comfort herself with the reflec-
tion that when he ran upstairs his face was brighter than she had seen it look since the
day he went to the vicarage.
In fact, while eating his apple and staring at Whitewings, a way out of his difficulties
had gradually evolved itself in his mind.
He was a long way off yet from being able to write that letter to his father which
Whitewings was to carry, but why shouldn't he send him the ring ? Tied on to White-
TOLD AFTER TEA.
wings' leg it would be far out of the reach of any scheme of Dan's for getting hold of it.
And his father would know who it came from. He would be glad to think that Laurie
had not forgotten him. Oh if he could only guess how much he wanted to be on board
the A lethea again.
Perhaps he could manage to write Come home" small enough to be rolled up in
It was when he arrived at -this point in his meditations, that Laurie ran indoors to
struggle once more with the difficulties of pen and ink. He did succeed at last in writing
those two words ; and having stuffed his little scroll inside the quill, which he had long ago
prepared for it, he provided himself with a piece of pack thread, and stole softly down the
The old oak chest, where Mrs. Ledbitter kept the best clothes of Mat and the boys,
her own silver-plated tea-pot, and sundry other treasures, was never locked.
Laurie stood quite still for a moment, listening, until he had assured himself by the
sounds of splashing and rubbing, that were going on in the back kitchen, that Eunice and
her mother could hear nothing else, and then-using all his strength to do it-pushed up
the heavy lid. Inside, on the left hand, was the little locker which is nearly always to be
found as part of the fittings of a veritable dower chest ; and this contained, among other
valuables, the ring; still strung on to the piece of black ribbon. He twitched it off, with
a sense of guilt he could not quite get rid of, and hurriedly shutting up the lids again
scrambled to his feet, and made for the door.
Whitewings was certainly very tame.
Without at all realizing what he was expected to do with it, he made no objection to
having the ring and the quill fastened to his leg; for Laurie was gentle and deft when he
handled animals, and though Whitewings was never allowed to fly, he was often taken
from his cage to be nursed and petted. Indeed he was rather surprised on the present
occasion that the play lasted such a little while.
Almost immediately, his master popped him under his jacket, and began to run towards
the shore. He wanted, above all things, to avoid Sally and the neighbours' children, and
he made for a retreat of his own behind some big boulders, where he often hid when he
wanted to read in peace, and where he could, unobserved, hold Whitewings on his lap, kiss
the beautiful changeful colours of his breast, and cuddle him affectionately for the last
He would have liked to do this a great deal longer, if a haunting fear that Dan would
come round the corner had not hurried all his movements.
And so, before very long, he stood up, and holding the bird in both hands, in the
manner he had heard the fancier describe, threw him up' into the air, and watched with an
anxiously beating heart, to see what would happen next.
One bewildering flutter and flash of snowy feathers, and he was off-out of sight as
it seemed to the dazzled eyes of his master,-then reappearing high up in the air, eddying
round and round in wider and wider circles, and at last vanishing, a tiny speck in the
broad pathway of white light with which the sun was flooding the sea.
It was done! The messenger was off, the ring was safe, and Dan was defeated.
Laurie followed his first impulse; tossed his cap in the air, and gave a wild hurra of
triumph and excitement, when Whitewings finally decided on his course and flew due
seaward over the little bay. For in that direction the Alethea, too, had disappeared,
shaping, at first, a westerly course, to avoid the rocks and shallows of the coast.
But in that involuntary cheer the last bubble of his excitement evaporated. White-
wings and the ring were his last links with the yacht, and with his father, and they were
both gone, now.
The, thought of going back to see his pet's empty cage came over him with a pang
which no previous thought had prepared him for. The tears rushed into his eyes, and sky
and sea danced together in a prismatic haze when he turned away from them to go home.
He made his way up the last ridge of shingle very slowly, and his steps got slower and
slower as he walked towards the cottage.
He felt as if he should like to sit on the doorstep instead of going in to dinner, and
look at the bright track on the sea over which Whitewings had flown. If he could but
have been tied on like the ring, and be rushing through the air towards the North Pole !
It was certainly an immense relief to think the ring was safe out of Dan's clutches, but he
missed Whitewings more and more every minute, and he did not feel by any means sure
as to what Mrs. Ledbitter would say when she knew that the ring was no longer in its
home in the dower chest, hidden in cotton wool; but fastened to the leg of a pigeon, and
flying over the open sea at the rate of twenty miles an hour.
As to the rest, Mat Ledbitter and the boys would be derisive, and ask all manner of
questions about why he did it; and how could he answer without divulging about Dan ?
._ __ ,-.. .. .
Well, perhaps no one knew yet that the ring was not in the chest, so he could wait till .he
was alone with Eunice, and then tell her how he had despatched it to his father by White-
wings. As to Dan, he would have given anything to be able to tell her about him, but.that
was out of the question.
When he mounted the step with very reluctant feet, and glanced in at the kitchen
door, he expected to see everyone at dinner, and to be asked where he had been wandering
all this time: but the cloth was not even laid, the pot was on the fire still, and the house-
hold in general, including Mat (who was at home to-day, having been out all night fishing),
standing round the open dower-chest.
Jerry was holding the jackdaw, who was struggling and squawking, and giving occasional
sharp dabs with his bill, at Jerry's knuckles.
Oh, Laurie, Laurie," cried little Sally, trotting up to him, your ring's lost !"
"Ah, there he is, poor dear said Mrs. Ledbitter, compassionately. "And to think
that it should be took when it was laid safe back again in the chest at home And I to
be saying only t'other day, that it would be you that would be'bound to lose it if you took
it to the Vicarage."
"Aye, he's took it, that rascal, sure enough," observed Mat. "But its strange how
TOLD AFTER TEA.
he could have got at it, when there was you and Euny about the kitchen all the morning,
and Sally prowlin' round after you, in and out."
Laurie still stood on the threshold, taken aback and bewildered. Had they found out
about Dan ? The rascal" who Mat affirmed had taken the ring, who could he be but
Dan ? But how could they have found out ?
"I only opened the chest a minute to get a packet of tea out," continued Mrs.
Ledbitter, "and while I was filling the caddy, he just hopped on to the edge of the
inside locker. He must have pecked it open, I suppose, and when I come to look round,
there he was sitting as bold as brass, shaking about the ribbon that the ring had been
It's like the photograph in Mr. Gregory's parlour," said Eunice, where the magpie
got the spoon, and the maid was sent to prison for stealing it."
Mischievous beast! That's what he is," said Mat gruffly. It 'ud serve him right to
have his neck wrung."
Laurie took in the situation now. The rascal in question was not Dan, but the jack-
daw The next moment he had sprung into the group in the kitchen, snatched the bird
out of Jerry's scratched and bleeding hands, and was kissing its shining black feathers, and
holding it nestled up to his own breast.
He sha'n't have his neck wrung He didn't steal it Whitewings has got it, and
he's gone to the North Pole !" Laurie looked defiantly round the circle as he spoke. Those
two tears he had shed for Whitewings were still standing on his cheeks, but he wasn't
going to cry any more now.
Mercy on us What does the child mean ? said Mrs. Ledbitter, looking completely
Pigeons don't steal rings; you know that well enough, little 'un," said Mat, slowly,
giving his head a rub, in order to clear his ideas. And, besides, how could the bird have
got out of his cage ? "
Jerry and David grinned at Laurie's explanation, which they really thought was made
up on the spur of the moment, to save Jacko from his fate. But Eunice, who had slipped
out of the room, here came running back to say, Whitewings' cage is empty-he's gone,
sure enough! Oh, Laurie--" and here she stopped, for the little boy was looking at
her with an expression which she did not quite understand.
If any thief's been here stealing the child's things, I'll be even with him, as sure as
my name's Ledbitter," said honest Mat, whose intellect was by no means as rapid as his
daughter's and who was very far from having a glimmering of the truth which she had
Nobody has stolen anything," repeated Laurie, quite impatiently. "Don't you
understand ? I have sent Whitewings to find the Alethea, and the ring is tied on to his
Mrs. Ledbitter gave vent to a loud exclamation of dismay, and Mat to a low
whistle, and a prolonged shake of the head. "What made you go for to do such a
wild-goose thing as that, little'un ?" he said at last. That's weighing anchor before
the chart's laid down, with a vengeance."
"Whitewings doesn't want a chart," said Laurie proudly. "He's a Carrier-Pigeon,
and he'll find his way back to the Alethea wherever she is. Don't you remember what
the fancier said ? "
"Aye, aye. I remember well enough," said Mat, breaking into a momentary smile,
and then turning very grave again. "That's all very well, if so be the Alethea--but
there-Lord love you, child! nobody knows where the Alethea is-and how should a
pigeon find out ? Even if she's still afloat--"
Hash, father!" said Mrs. Ledbitter hastily, pulling her husband by the sleeve.
" Never mind that. It's very naughty of you, Laurie, to think of doing such a thing. I
don't suppose you'll ever see the ring or the pigeon again."
LA URIE'S MOTTO.
Yes I shall; when papa comes home," said the little boy confidently; but there was
a quaver in his voice as he looked at Eunice. Oh, Euny! you know he'll come home
again soon. Why do you look like that ?"
Yes, yes ; of course, of course he will, dearie," said Eunice; mother only meant
that perhaps poor Whitewings couldn't fly so far."
Surely you weren't such a silly as to think a pigeon could follow a yacht all the way
to the North seas! said Jerry contemptuously. He'll either come back here to-night or
get shot by some of these trippers that are always blazing away at the sea-gulls-that's
what'll happen to-him."
Jerry's words were not intended to be so cruel as they sounded. He wanted, like
Eunice, to distract the child's thoughts from his father, whose return the whole Ledbitter
family considered much more doubtful than that of Whitewings. But coming when they
did, they were too much for Laurie, who was already in the clutch of a cold fear for his
father which had never seized him before. And then to be told that Whitewings would
most probably be shot!
He didn't cry. He only turned very pale, and, releasing himself from Eunice's kind
arm, walked away upstairs to his own rdom. Nor were there any tears even when he had
reached that refuge. In this respect he was quite unlike Mrs. Lcdbitter's children, any one
of whom would have howled out his griefs for five minutes, and been as quickly pacified.
When Laurie was in trouble he always laid his head down on his arm, and this on the
window-sill, and so remained, motionless and inconsolable, for as long a space of time as
the others would allow him to be at peace.
This was how Eunice found him, half an hour afterwards, when her mother insisted
on his being fetched down to dinner. Mrs. Ledbitter's motherly heart was, in reality,
yearning over her nursling, vexed as she was with him for sending away the valuable ring
for the safe-keeping of which she felt responsible. She had never realized before how set
his heart was on his father; and only that very morning Mat had been hearing, from some
Plymouth sailors that, according to all reasonable calculations, the Aleth/ea would have been
heard of ere this, unless she had been caught and nipped in the ice, like many a good ship
before her, in which case her fate was certain.
I don't suppose he'll eat much dinner, mother," Eunice had said, when, after
several uneasy glances at Laurie's empty place, Mrs. Ledbitter had told her to go and
"I'd let the boy have his sulk out, if I was you, Sue," observed Mat, placidly.
"'Twon't hurt him to go without his dinner for once."
He ain't sulky ; bless his heart ;" said Mrs. Ledbitter, in a perturbed tone. He's
frettin' about his father, now ; I'll be bound. Who'd have thought he'd have caught it
up so quick-what you said about the Alethea And what possessed him to send off the
bird like that He's the old-fashionedest child that ever I did see."
In these last words Mrs. Ledbitter and her neighbours usually accounted for every-
thing in Laurie's disposition which differed from those of the other children. It was a
convenient phrase : but why the Faircombe mothers always used it to describe a nature
that was cast in a particularly fresh and original mould it is hard to say.
Laurie fulfilled Eunice's prediction, and ate very little dinner.
Nobody scolded him any more about the disposal of Whitewings, though Sally beset
him with questions as to where and how he had flown the bird. He said as little as he
could, and as soon as the boys were off to school, ran down to the shore again without
volunteering any explanation, even to Eunice.
Mat strolled away to the quay after his dinner, to smoke and lounge with his brother
fishermen, till the tide should serve them again, which would not be till just before sunset.
And Eunice sent little Sally to play with the neighbours' children, that Laurie might be
free from her constant demands that he would build her a higher sandcastle than he had
ever done before.
46 TOLD AFTER TEA.
Mrs. Ledbitter and her daughter talked and wondered a good deal over the. White-
wings affair that afternoon, as they folded and sprinkled the newly washed clothes,: ready
for ironing ; but, as they knew nothing about the part which Dan played in the business,
they had no clue to the real reason of Laurie's extraordinary conduct. Eunice had
resisted her own strong desire to run down to the shore, after the forlorn little figure
which stood at the margin of the sea, throwing pebbles into the water. She thought she
would wait till bed time came, and then perhaps Laurie would tell her all she wanted to
know, of his own accord ; but, before that hour arrived, she was wishing vehemently that
she had not waited so long.
That Sally should come in alone, to tea was nothing surprising: but by the time that
Jerry and David appeared, having made sundry excursions on their way home from
school, after rabbits, lapwings, and blackberries, it was getting very late, and Mrs. Led-
bitter began to wonder aloud, what Laurie was up to now.
She wondered and waited all through tea-time, and at last, roused perhaps to a
livelier anxiety than usual, owing to his morning's proceedings, she left Eunice to put
little Sally to bed ; took the baby (who of course chose to be inconveniently wakeful,) in
her arms, and hurried down to the beach in search of her missing foster-child.
The little quay from whence the fishing boats put off was nearly deserted by this time.
The boats were away with the tide: most of the fishermen's children were gone home to
bed, and among the few moving specks which represented distant row-boats, how was
Mrs. Ledbitter to guess that one contained Laurie, trying to row with sculls much too large
for him, and with the rudder-lines tied round his waist to keep the helm amidships !
Some hours before Mrs. Ledbitter sallied forth on to the sands in quest of her foster-
son, a little sailing boat had been passing within sight of Faircombe, about half a mile from
the mouth of the bay. It was not one of the regular fishing boats, but it was full of fishing-
tackle of various sorts, as well as jars, phials, little pails, tin cases, etc. And the crew
amounted only to three-an old fisherman, a boy, and a wiry sun-burnt man in spectacles,
who wore a grey felt hat with a pointed crown, and a very wide brim.
Their boat rounded the group of rocks on the east coast of the bay, and kept the same
course for a little way. Then she cast anchor, and remained gently rocking to and fro,
while the man in spectacles was busied in drawing up all manner of strange things from
the "Deep's untrampled floor, with green and purple sea-weed strown," taking them on
board with a landing-net, observing them with a magnifying glass, and occasionally putting
something into a tin pail, jar, or phial.
Suddenly, as he was bending over the side of the boat, intent upon drawing up his net,
and the old man and the boy were doing something to the sail, there came a splash in the
clear water, and a white bird, with a blood-stained wing, was fluttering and struggling in
the waves, at about an arm's length from the boat.
It's one o' they lads as passed us rowing westward just now," said the old fisherman.
They must be having a shot at the gulls and kittiwakes otherwhile, and like as not, if
they do hit one they only wound him, poor thing !"
"This is not a gull nor a kittiwake," said the man in spectacles, adroitly contriving to
land the bird with his net, which he had hastily hauled up. It's a pigeon, and a carrier
pigeon, too. Look !" and he pointed to a quill, and something that looked like a gold
ring, tied to the wounded bird's leg. But now we'll see where he's hurt; not badly, I
fancy, or he could hardly have flown so far since he was hit."
The Naturalist was evidently as much at home when examining the wounded bird as
he was in the case of the sea-monsters that came up in his dredging-net. A glance, and
a few gentle dexterous touches satisfied him that though the wing had been slightly injured,
no vital part had been hurt, and that there was a chance of the wing being able to be patched
up enough for use again, but only for fluttering about at home-not for crossing the sea,
at all events
Maybe it's that fancier as was down at Faircombe one day, as flew him," said the
boy. He was telling a lot about his pigeons, and how he could send them miles and
miles, and over to foreign parts, with letters tied on to 'em."
'But what fancier would tie such a ring as this to a pigeon's leg?" exclaimed the
.. ,,'- -.' ,.'
Naturalist, who had been scrutinizing it through his glasses. Bless my soul! this is very
extraordinary. I know this ring. It belongs to one of my oldest friends, the man of all
others I have been longing to hear of. No one knows if he is alive or dead. Every one
in the country wants to know. He always wore that seal ring. But where could this
bird have come from ?"
He hurriedly cut the string that fastened the quill, and drew out a tightly-rolled bit
48 TOLD AFTER TEA.
of paper, which was somewhat damaged by the sea-water. He could only make out the
word home in big, scrawling letters. Who had written it ? and when, and where ? And
what was the meaning of it ? It was not possible that the pigeon could have been flown
by the man who used to be the possessor of that ring, if he was, as his friend supposed,
still out of every one's reach, in a world of ice. But then, how did it fall into the hands of
anybody else ?
The Naturalist placed the wounded bird carefully in a wicker basket that lay in the
bottom of the boat. He was silent and thoughtful while they were making their way back
to his home, a village westward of Faircombe Bay. The sun had long gone down by the
time they had passed Faircombe, and had come in sight of a mass of rocks in which were
some caverns, which were nearly under water except when the tide was at its lowest, at
which time people studying marine zoology would make occasional expeditions to them ;
for sea anemones abounded there, and some were very rare ones, not to be found elsewhere.
The Naturalist had often explored these caverns, and had for some time had an idea
of going one evening (after sun-down) with a lantern, to see the anemones, white and fawn,
and rose-colour, and orange, at the moment when they were expanding to their very fullest,
like chrysanthemums in full bloom. He had brought a lantern with him on this occasion,
meaning to have a look at the anemones on his way home, when it would be low tide.
Now, however, his mind was so full of this perplexing affair of the carrier-pigeon and his
ok friend's ring, that he had forgotten all about it, till the old fisherman exclaimed, Why
there's an empty boat drifting about, a stone's-throw from the caverns There must be
some one there, and it must have got unmoored. Well, it's lucky for him that we came
along; he'd not have been here by sunrise, to-morrow. The tide '11 be on the turn in
another ten minutes."
The Naturalist looked up with an exclamation of dismay, and saw, sure enough, a small
rowing boat floating helplessly over the waves. No one was to be seen on the little ledge
of shingle outside the entrance to the cavern, and it was possible that the boat might have
drifted there from some much greater distance : but clearly, the only thing to be done was
to pull in as quickly as possible, and see if its owner was to be found in the caves, before
the turn of the tide.
The Naturalist leaped out as they touched the ledge, and went a step or two into the
cavern. He was just about to strike a fusee, and light the spirit-lamp which he had taken
with him out of the boat, when he saw something white near the ground, close to the
entrance, and bending down to examine it, found, to his surprise a little boy, crouching
down close to the wet rocky wall.
Hallo, little man," he said in astonishment, "how in the world do you come to be
The answer was in a half-choked sob.
"There, there, never mind," said the Naturalist kindly, lifting him up, and setting him
on his feet. "You shall tell me all about it presently, when we go home in my boat.
Now, I am going to light my lamp. We shall be able to make acquaintance then, better
than we can in the dark."
When the lamp shone out, the child gave a long sigh of relief, and glanced round the
cavern with a half curious, half scared look.
But are you all alone ? the Naturalist asked.
"Yes, I came in the boat by myself, and I let one of the oars fall, and it floated
away ; and at last the boat touched here, and I got out, and I couldn't moor the boat; so
it floated away, too. Then it got darker and darker, and I thought I should be here all
through the night.
The Naturalist remembered the old boatman's words: "He wouldn't be here by
sunrise to-morrow." It was indeed well for the boy that he had happened to "come
along" just then ; but he could quite understand that the thought of being alone in these
caverns all through the night, in a darkness that might be felt," was the worst fear that
could have come to the mind of a child of that age.
If you knew these caves as well as I do," he said, "you would not mind being here
in the dark. I know every cranny of them, and what beautiful things you can see in the
light. Do you know, I brought this lamp with me this evening on purpose to see how
they looked at night. See here !" and he held the lamp over a little rock pool at their
It was fringed with pink sea-weed, and under the clear water, were crimson anemones,
with all their tentacles waving, and a salmon-coloured madrepore, and a tiny starfish.
" I think I should see all these with my inner eye, if I had to be here in the dark."
The child looked, and the misery of the last few hours vanished like a dream when
one awaketh: even the still darker, inner caverns were like fairy-land to him, now that the
light was there, and that he was no more alone. There was not, however, much time for
exploring the cave by lamp-light. The tide had already turned, and the boatman was
anxious to get under way. But the Naturalist had won the heart of the brown-eyed little
boy in the holland blouse, and before the boat was off, he had told how his name was
Laurie, and how he lived at Faircombe with his foster-parents, because his father was in
the Northern seas, and how he had sent a ring and a letter to him, fastened to the leg of a
carrier-pigeon ; and how, when they said at home, that his pigeon would never find the
way, and would perhaps be shot, he thought he would get into the old boat which he had
rowed in sometimes with his foster-father, and follow Whitewings, along the pathway of
golden light over which the bird had flown ; so that if he had lost his way and turned
TOLD AFTER TEA.
back, he might meet him; or-perhaps-he might even go on and on till he found his
This was the story Laurie told his new friend, and strange to say, the Naturalist was
able to go on with it.
Before the boatman had rowed them half way to Faircombe, Whitewings was once
more in Laurie's arms, and Laurie was hearing his story: how the Naturalist had rescued
him from a watery grave, and had recognized the ring which had belonged to his
old friend and schoolfellow, the captain of the Alethea, and how he had been at his wits'
end to guess who could have sent the ring and the letter, and what was the message they
What an unhoped for light shone upon Laurie with the return of that strangely
recovered ring !
In after years he always looked back on that night as one of his brightest and
most vivid memories--the night, as it seemed to him, on which his soul first awoke-on
which there came to him suddenly the knowledge of what he wanted to be and to do
when he was a man-how he would learn the secrets of those depths beneath him full
of "happy living things," whose beauty no tongue might declare-and of those darkling
heights above, which no longer seemed dreadful, as he looked up into them from the stern-
sheets of the swiftly gliding boat ; while the Naturalist sat with his arm round him, and
pointed out the friendly stars by which the sailors find their way ; and talked to him about
his father, and how these same stars would help to guide him home.
Laurie thought he would like that swift, steady motion to go on all night; he should
never be tired of it. But by and bye the salt wind changed happiness into sleepiness,
and he knew nothing more until he awoke to the lights of the cottage, and found himself
being kissed and cried over in Mrs. Ledbitter's arms ; while Eunice, between tears and
smiles, ran upstairs to assure Jerry and David that he was safe, and down again to hover
over him, and provide him with food and drink-all of them talking and feeling as if he
had been lost for weeks.
It was quite a revelation to Laurie to find how much they all cared. It had crossed
his mind when he was alone in the cave, that mother and Eunice would be sorry fdr
him if they knew how miserable he was, but to hear that they had sent messengers far
and wide to look for him, that Jerry had wandered on the shore till long after dark in a
vain search, that David had cried himself to sleep when he couldn't be found, all these
things made him feel very sorry, and ashamed of his wild expedition, but oh, so much less
lonely and bitter, so much happier than when, forlorn and desperate, he had started off,
fancying, foolish little creature that he was, that every one disapproved of his doings, and
that nowhere nearer than the deck of the Alethea could understanding and sympathy
As for his terror of Dan, which had been one of the causes of his flight, he had almost
forgotten it in the excitement of later events; but, behold, even that weight was lifted off
his mind now.
The doctor in the gig, whose coming on the scene had made Dan take to flight, had
seen the struggle between the big boy and the little one, and the blow which Dan had
administered; and when Mrs. Ledbitter met him in the course of her distracted search,
and told him that a boat was missing and Laurie too, he remembered what he had
witnessed. Dan fell under suspicion; and to clear himself of the accusation of having
mischievously sent the child adrift, was frightened into confessing all that he knew, though
of course he declared that he "only meant to tease the young 'un," and had no idea of
frightening him into running away.
If b %
LA URIE'S 1MOcTO.
Thus did Laurie's troubles, one by one, melt away.
He was a wise man who said that if "It never Rains but it Pours;" it is also true that
"It never Clears but it holds up a Great While." The very day after Laurie's meeting
-with the Naturalist the last cloud in his horizon cleared away.
News came to Faircombe of the safety of the Alethea. The Naturalist brought the
newspaper in which the tidings appeared, and read it aloud to the Ledbitter family, to the
pride and delight of Laurie, and the extreme delectation of Mat and the boys.
The Alet/ea had done all she set out to do, and more besides ; she had saved a
shipwrecked crew, she had made fresh discoveries in the Polar seas, she was sailing home
now, on a full tide of honour and prosperity. In a very few weeks Laurie might hope to
see his father again ; the Captain," as Mat called him, whose name was in everybody's
mouth as a model of courage, resource, and endurance-who had pressed on to his purpose,
and brought his crew back again, safe and sound to a man, through dangers and privations
which might well have excused them for turning back before their work of rescue was
With such a bright hope as this dawning upon him, Laurie might surely feel that
he should never be afraid of the dark again.
A UNT7 MARJORIES SECRET.
AUNT MARJORIE was much too experienced a Scheherezade" to tell her tale all
at one sitting. Though she came up faithfully every afternoon, and joined Kitty at tea-
time, there were many interruptions to the story that followed when tea was over.
Either she had letters to write, or Grannie wanted her, or worst of all "that horrid
doctor," whose rival claims Kitty deeply resented, would ask her to come for either a walk
or a drive, and there was an end of the story-telling till next day.
On the whole, however, Kitty bore the various delays pretty well. After she had
had her real good grumble she did make an effort to be patient in the darkness, to use
her mind's eye," as Aunt Marjorie had suggested, in recalling pleasant, instead of painful
images, difficult though it was to conquer its strong tendency to show her, over and
over again, the picture of the Secretary propped up against the wall, Hugh standing
with his bow bent, while she struggled with Harold, or rushed forward to stop the flight
of the arrow.
It was in order to lose sight of this haunting vision that she began to try and recall
the earlier events of her birthday ;-the raid on the hamper,
and the fight she had witnessed from the corridor window
And then, it was, she suddenly remembered that she had
-' never heard what had been the result of the grooms' chase
after the gipsy boys. Hugh would know; she was expecting
him at that minute to feed her white mice, and she would
certainly ask him the question.
Hugh was so remorseful for the injury he had inflicted
that he was most indefatigable in his attentions to his sister,
and, if he had been allowed, would have brought to amuse
her the whole menagerie of his pets, and hers, into the sanc-
g. tuary of his mother's sitting-room. But nurse had rebelled;
m and as it was found that the bull-finch would not sing in the
dark, nor the fox-terrier stay there a moment longer than
h. e could help, Kitty was obliged to content herself with a
cage containing a couple of white mice, which were her latest
acquisitions, and which Hugh undertook to clean and feed
for her, while she was ill.
It was difficult to understand what pleasure she could
get out of their society, as she could not see them; but
she assured her mother that they were "a great comfort," and so the cage was allowed
to be sometimes on her lap, sometimes on the table by her side; and when Hugh came he
would take them out and place them in her hand, that she might stroke and kiss them,
and hear him describe how tame they were getting, and how fat ard sleek they were
growing, on their diet of nuts, and chopped up apple.
Hugh was quite ready to talk about the gipsy boys, being very much interested
himself in the latest news concerning them.
He told Kitty that though the grooms had soon lost sight of them in the rain and
AUNT MARJORIE'S SECRET.
mist, they had been traced next day to a gipsy encampment on a neighboring common,
where it had been easy enough to capture them, as the men belonging to it had been taken
by the police the night before, in the act of robbing a hen-roost, and there were only one
or two women and some small children to be seen. No attempt was made to conceal
the boys, the women saying coldly that the brats were none of theirs, and that at any
rate they would get a good meal in jail, which was more than they had had for a week.
"And where are they now ?" asked Kitty, who was rapidly forgiving them their
onslaught on the tartlets.
In the lock-up, I believe," Hugh said. But to-day a policeman came and told father
that they would be brought before the magistrates to-morrow, and that Harold and
I would have to go and give evidence, because we actually saw them trying to steal
Kitty made a sort of sound of dismay. You won't like that, will you ?" she said
doubtfully. I shouldn't like it at all, if it was me."
"Well, no, I would much rather have had our fight out, and have finished with
them, then and there," said Hugh,
thinking regretfully of his unavenged
fall in the mud. .
Harold says it will only serve -
them right to be sent to prison, but I 'L'
don't know-I shall hate giving evi-
dence against the poor little beggars 1
if they really were half-starved."
Are you sure you should know "
their faces again ? "
I should know that chap anywhere
who knocked me down. He had an
orange-coloured cap, and dark hair,
and the blackest eyes I ever saw."
Oh, yes I remember the cap,"
said Kitty. I couldn't see his face d i
clearly from the window; but I re- .
member thinking I had seen that cap
before, somewhere. Where could it
have been!" c
He could not tell her, and Kitty e
relapsed into thought, while Hugh "...' ,
played with the white mice, who be-
haved in what he considered a very .
endearing manner-crawling all over
him, and going to sleep in his waist-
coat pocket. They certainly were re-
markably tame, considering that Kitty had only bought them about a week ago.
I know cried Kitty suddenly. Of course ; how could I be so stupid! It was
that very boy, with the orange cap, who sold me the white mice. It was just before you
came home for the holidays. I met him in the lane, and at first he asked half-a-crown
for them, and then eighteenpence; and when I said I had only sixpence left he came
"What! you got the two mice, and the cage for sixpence? He must have been
uncommonly hard up to let you have them for that," said her brother. "Why, the cage
alone is worth more."
He did seem very sorry to part with them, I remember," said Kitty. Poor fellow !
perhaps he was dreadfully hungry, and I was thinking of nothing but getting the mice."
Well, I must say I think you had the best of the bargain. If he has had nothing
TOLD AFTER TEA.
to eat since, but what that sixpence would buy him, I don't wonder at his trying to steal
our hamper-that is, if it really was him. But how about the other fellow-was he there
when you bought the mice?"
"There was a boy who came up just when we had settled it, and he seemed rather
cross with the first one for having sold them. Oh dear, oh dear! perhaps it was all my
fault, they took to stealing."
That's nonsense ; gipsies are all thieves," said the more sober-minded Hugh. "Look
at the robbery of that farmer's hen-roost."
Do you know, Hugh, I don't think those boys were gipsies. I remember they spoke
a sort of broken English. I think they must be French or Italian ; perhaps the gipsies
had kidnapped them! They always do in books, you know. And what was it you said
the gipsy women said when the boys were caught ?-that 'the brats were none of theirs.'
Oh, how I wish I might use my eyes I would ask father to take me as well -as you
to-morrow, and see if they were the same."
He'll soon find out for himself," said Hugh; "he'll be on the Bench to-morrow, you
know. Let's tell him all about the white mice now, and perhaps'he can manage to prevent
the boys being sent to prison, if he thinks they don't deserve it."
Kitty caught at this very sensible advice ; and the result of a long conversation with
her father was that he went to the county town next day armed with a minute description
of Kitty's victims," as Hugh called them, having given a promise to find out all he could
about them, and if possible, and desirable, lighten their punishment if they were convicted.
Kitty and Hugh privately agreed that the white mice ought to go too, because
(as she said), unless the boys saw them, Hugh would never be able to make them under-
stand that she wanted either to give them back, or to pay a fair price for keeping them.
And so they went also to the county town in the obscurity of Hugh's pocket ; but a much
more efficient interpreter was found in the doctor, who rose immensely in Kitty's estimation
when she discovered that he knew so many languages that he would be able to discourse
with the boys in their own tongue, whether they proved to be French, German, Spanish
Kitty found it very difficult indeed to keep from getting impatient that afternoon.
Her mother, and Grannie, and Aunt Marjorie, and Celia came and sat with her, and they
told stories, and played at all the games they could think of, that could be played in
the dark-" Twenty Questions," and "What's My Thought Like?" "Proverbs," and
"How, When, and Where?"
But Kitty was so absorbed in wondering how her father and Hugh were progressing,
and what was likely to be the fate of her dear Nibble and Longtail, that she played in
a very half-hearted way, and declared she couldn't think of any proverb except When
the cat's away the mice will play." While as for what her thought was like, it seemed,
as Aunt Marjorie said, to have a resemblance to nothing but a black-eyed boy in an
orange-coloured cap, which became monotonous after two or three repetitions.
At last, after several false alarms, the carriage wheels were really heard on the drive,
and Celia ran to the window to look out.
Oh, Kitty !" she cried, what do you think ?-well, I am surprised "
"What at? Do be quick and tell me," said her cousin, impatiently.
Don't you think it's very odd ?" Celia went on, appealing to Aunt Marjorie, who
had joined her at the window, and quite forgetting how she was tantalizing poor Kitty.
"Well, I shouldn't have supposed Uncle Frank would think it right to do that!"
"They have brought back those two gipsy boys with them on the coach box. That's
what Celia means, Kitty, dear," explained Aunt Marjorie; while Grannie was observing
rather drily that what Uncle Frank thought it right to do, and what little girls like Celia
might suppose he ought to do, were two very different things, and that Uncle Frank
probably knew best how to manage his own business.
Celia did not quite dare to be impertinent to Grannie, so she could only vent her
AUNT MARJORIE'S SECRET.
feelings by flouncing out of the room ; saying to Harold and Hugh whom she met racing
up the stairs, eager to tell the history of the day to any one who would listen, that for her
part, she did not approve of encouraging thieves, and had no wish to hear anything more
about the gipsy boys.
That's all rot," Harold said rather provokingly. "You know you are dying to hear
why they've come home with us."
Indeed, no," Celia said in her most dignified tone," I am going to my own room. If
such people are to be allowed about the place, I think it is only right to lock up my
Harold shouted with laughter. "Come along, Hugh," he said, "never mind silly
Celia. She always was an owl, and she always will be. I can't think why I should have
such a sister; Kitty's worth a dozen of her."
Hugh was so entirely in agreement with his cousin here, that he might have expressed
his feelings too warmly for politeness, if Ben had not luckily made his appearance at the
moment, and assailed them with a shower of questions which Hugh left Harold to answer,
while he ran on to Kitty's room.
There was much to tell, but before he did anything else, Hugh extracted Nibble and
Longtail from his waistcoat pocket, and laid them in his sister's lap. Kitty gave an
exclamation of joy.
Oh Hugh, may I really keep them ? Are you sure it isn't unkind? What did
"They want you to have them," he said. Oh, Kitty, those poor boys they have
gone through so much But it's all over now; father has been so kind, and the doctor's a
trump. I don't know what we should have done without him. We couldn't make head
or tail of their English, nor any one else in the Court either. Father tried French, but it
was of no use; so then the doctor offered to translate, and he jabbered away with them
for ever so long in Italian."
"Well, and what did they say about stealing the hamper ? "
Oh, they didn't attempt to deny it. They couldn't, you know. They saw Harold
and me, and knew us directly; I could see that, when they were brought in. But they
declared they were starving."
Oh, Hugh They're not going to be sent to prison, are they "
No, no They were convicted, of course ;" replied Hugh, rather proud of his legal
knowledge and phraseology, and they were to be imprisoned for a month, or else pay a
fine. But of course they hadn't a penny in the world, so father paid it, and we've brought
them home. Didn't you know ?"
So Aunt, Marjorie said. Well, go on."
I will, if you'll let me. And you'd better listen, Kitty ; for it really is quite as good
as a story."
Kitty wriggled in her chair with delight. They were kidnapped by the gipsies,
then I knew it! she murmured to herself; but Hugh heard her.
They were not / he shouted, half laughing, half indignant. Nothing of the sort.
And they're not noblemen in disguise, or anything romantic at all,-not even orphans !-
so perhaps you won't care to hear about them any longer."
Yes, I shall! Please tell me, dear Hugh, and I won't interrupt any more."
Well then, their names are Jacopo and Baptista Dossi, and they told the doctor that
their father is a fisherman in a little village in Sicily (I forget the name, but he knew it
directly). And their parents are dreadfully poor, for they were ruined, somehow, in an
earthquake there was there a year or two ago, and their father is ill. They came to
England under the idea that they could make a lot of money for their mother by playing
the concertina and showing their white mice in London. They had a rascally old uncle
settled there, who promised all sorts of fine things. But when they got to him he was
horrid to them. They had to draw his piano-organ about, and though they really did
make some money, he took all their earnings, so that they were never able to send anything
TOLD AFTER TEA.
to their mother. And he used to get tipsy, and beat them; and altogether behaved so
shamefully that at last they ran away from him. Then they thought they would tramp back
to Plymouth, which was the way they came to London, and get taken on board some ship,
and work their passage out to Sicily again ; and it was then that they fell in with the gipsies,
who really were rather kind to them on the whole; only they were so awfully hard up,
But, Hugh," said his mother, who had come into the room again, according to
promise, to have tea with Kitty, while Grannie and Aunt Marjorie went down stairs,
"when did you hear all this ? Not in the Court, surely ? "
No, only some of it. The rest the doctor told us coming home."
And what makes him think the boys' story is to be depended on ?"
Why, that is the curious part of it," said Hugh. One of the reasons is, that
he knows that village in Sicily that they say they come from, very well; and he was
there at the very time that earthquake happened."
"What! the earthquake Aunt Marjorie told me about?" cried Kitty excitedly.
How very odd, and nice and interesting! How could you say there was nothing
romantic about them !"
"And he knew the name of their parents quite well, and said it was true they,
and a lot more people were ruined by it," Hugh went on. "But of course, as father
said, that doesn't prove what sort of boys these are."
And what is going to become of them now ? You haven't told us yet why father
brought them back with him."
"It's only for one night, you know, mother, so Celia need not be so absurd.
Did you hear ?-she has actually gone to lock up her jewelleryy'! Father declares that
the doctor is responsible for whatever they may do :-but of course he is really going
to take care that they haven't any chance of getting into mischief. And to-morrow
morning the doctor is going to take them down to Plymouth, where his father's yacht
is lying, and put them under the care of the captain, who is just starting for a
cruise in the Mediterranean. And so they will be taken straight home. And the captain
is to find out, when he gets there, if they can't be put into the way of earning an honest
How very, very kind of the doctor," cried Kitty joyfully. I'll never call him
horrid any more."
Some one, who came into the room as Kitty said this, looked at her mother, and
smiled as he caught the last words.
"When I come back from Plymouth," he said, I shall hope to take off this bandage
of yours for good. That will open your eyes to my merits, I'm sure, if nothing else
will. And I sincerely trust you will never have occasion to call me horrid again."
Kitty turned very red. She was, naturally, a very polite little person, and would
not for the world hurt anybody's feelings if she could help it.
"Indeed I didn't mean to be rude," she said quite piteously; but I didn't hear
you come in, and-and-I haven't called you horrid for ever so long, have I, mother ?"
"No, no. Kitty is really very grateful to you," said her mother, coming to the
rescue, especially for what you are going to do for these boys."
"Well, I think I am bound to dispose of them somehow, after saddling you with
them for the night. But I was going down to Plymouth, at any rate, to see my father
before he is off for the Mediterranean, so I thought I might as well take them with me.
(They'll be well looked after on board, and can't get into much mischief.) I want,"
he added, in a lower tone, intended only for the ear of Kitty's mother, "to have the
pleasure of telling my father about Marjorie, instead of only writing. And, as soon
as he knows, there can be an end of this absurdly transparent secret."
Kitty's mother smiled consentingly. Well," she said, I think it is a very good
plan, and I don't think I need even lock up my jewellery, like Celia. They shall sleep
in the room next the coachman's, and he can turn the key on them at night."
AUNT MARJORIE'S SECRET.
It's very good of you," said the doctor warmly. "I don't think they'll betray your
hospitality. I believe they were telling me a true story, for more reasons than one.
After the magistrate's sitting was over, I managed to get a talk with the gipsies who
were had up for this hen-roost robbery; and they told me these poor little Italians
had evidently been dreadfully knocked about before they fell in with them. (They
have the marks of old bruises on them still.) And one of the gipsies owned that
he had put them up to stealing the hamper, because he said they were not bring-
ing in a penny for their keep. It seems they had tried to sell the concertina, after
parting with the white mice, but couldn't find a purchaser."
"Poor things!" said Kitty's mother, "I suppose their knowing so little English
made everything much worse for them."
Much worse. But they had managed to tell the gipsies nearly all they told me.
I think they got on better with them than with most people. Gipsies travel about,
so that these men actually knew a little Italian, and the boys had picked up a few words
Romany! Was that the queer language you were talking to the gipsies?" asked Hugh.
"Yes; Romany is gipsy language. I shouldn't have got anything out of them
if I had spoken English, though they know it well. They'll always tell you a great deal
more if you speak their own tongue."
I say exclaimed Hugh, "it's awfully useful, though, to know Romany. I wish I
might learn it instead of Latin."
The doctor laughed. "You were wishing just now, as we came home, that you knew
Italian," he said. Latin would help you most there. Romany may chance to be useful
once or twice in one's life, perhaps, but Latin comes into nearly everything."
Hugh sighed deeply as he heard this oft-repeated truth quoted to him once more.
But he could not deny his own wish, which had come upon him with great force when he was
watching the little Italians talking and gesticulating with the doctor; and even more strongly,
when he had produced the white mice and had seen the evident recognition between them
and their former masters, and had tried in vain to make out all that the boys wanted- to
tell him about their intelligence and capabilities.
It was a lucky thought of yours-sending the mice," he said confidentially to Kitty,
as soon as they were once more alone. Father rather thought, at first, that the boys had
better be sent to a Reformatory, as one of the other magistrates suggested; but when I
put the mice down on the table, and Baptista (that's the one who sold them to you) called
them, and they scampered across and raced up his sleeve, and nestled in his hair, nobody
could help laughing-not even the policeman. Nobody knew I had brought them, or they
wouldn't have let me do it, I dare say. But I think father felt more inclined to help the
boys after that, because, you know, it showed, at any rate, that they must have been kind-
hearted, or the mice wouldn't have been so glad to see them again,"
Of course not," said Kitty with decision. How very glad I am you took them I
was sure those boys couldn't be very horrid, or their mice wouldn't have been so tame and
friendly. Why, they weren't a bit afraid of me, even the very first day I had them. I'll
tell you what !-I shall call them Jacopo and Baptista, instead of Nibble and Longtail; it
will be much prettier, and so uncommon And, Hugh, you needn't tell Harold and the
others, because they'd be sure to say it was silly ; but I want you to give my boy-Orange-
cap-this half-crown I had on my birthday, and then I shall feel that these dear old things
really are my very own."
The day came, at last, when Kitty's week in the dark was really over.
Just as she was getting quite clever in feeling her way about, and almost too clever,
nurse declared, in distinguishing footsteps, and guessing the meaning of sounds, the doctor
returned from Plymouth-after spending two or three days there with his father-to take
the bandage from her eyes, and declare that they were as well as ever they had been in her
TOLD AFTER TEA.
What a happy day that was !
At first she raced all over the grounds with Hugh and her cousins, looked at the
S horses, the dogs, the tortoise, the guinea-pigs, the goat and the bantams; paid a visit to
the strawberry bed, and inspected her own garden, where everything had grown and
flourished in the most surprising fashion, Harold and Hugh having weeded and watered
during her blindness with great care and faithfulness.
At last, when the others had wandered away on some quest of their own, Kitty, quite
tired with her exertions, came and threw herself down on the lawn by Aunt Marjorie, who
was sitting on the bench under the lime-tree with the doctor.
She was always with the doctor now," Hugh said discontentedly. But Kitty was
not surprised to hear this: for not only was the doctor's transparent secret a secret no
longer, but, as she told Hugh rather contemptuously, she had guessed it all along."
Now that she had seen the doctor, face to face, Kitty was graciously pleased to accept
him as an uncle. She thought he looked nice," and, besides, was largely consoled for
losing Aunt Marjorie, by the prospect of having a wedding in the house. Hugh despised
this last source of consolation, however, and gloomily observed that the only nice thing
about it was that the doctor's father had that yacht, in which he hoped some day to have
a chance of sailing.
The mention of the yacht reminded Kitty of Jacopo and Baptista, and it was in order
to hear what the doctor had to say about them, that she presented herself, rather apolo-
getically, under'the lime-tree.
Aunt Marjorie made her very welcome, and the doctor was quite willing to tell her
what she called "the end of the story," though there really was not much to tell that
she did not know already.
The boys had behaved very well during the short time they were under the roof of
Kitty's father; either because they did not dare to risk their chance of being sent back
to their own sunny land, or because they were genuinely grateful for the kindness that
had been shown them; and the doctor said that the sailors on board the yacht gave an
equally good report of them.
The cook is an Italian," he explained, "so he fraternized with them directly. Now
that they are not afraid of being either starved or beaten, they are the merriest little grigs
you can imagine, and by the time the Alethea is through the Straits, they'll have made
friends with everybody on board."
The Alethea Is that the name of the yacht ? How very odd," said Kitty thought-
fully. That was the name of the yacht in Aunt Marjorie's story! But perhaps she took
it from your father's ?"
Kitty was very busily turning round a ring on her aunt's finger, which she had never
observed there before, all the time she was speaking, so she did not look up, or she
might have seen the look of fun in Aunt Marjorie's eyes.
Alethea is a very unusual name for a yacht," the doctor began, when Kitty in-
terrupted him in a tone of the greatest excitement.
"Oh, Aunt Marjorie,please let me look at what is engraved on your ring. It is so
difficult to read it backwards. Why, it can't be-surely it can't be 'Lucem Spero' ? "
Kitty stopped, and looked from Aunt Marjorie, who was smiling, to the doctor, who
was decidedly mystified.
"Why can't it be 'Lucem Spero'?" he said. "Don't you think it is a very good
motto? I should have thought it was exactly what you would have appreciated-that
is, if you know what it means."
'Yes, yes, I know," cried Kitty. It means, 'I Hope for the Light.' But where did
Aunt Marjorie get it ? I have never seen her wear it before."
Really, I begin to think you are a very inquisitive young lady," said the doctor,
looking rather amused. I have just given it her, if you must know."
Kitty sprang to her feet that she might face the doctor. Her cheeks were red, and
her eyes were bright with intelligence. I'm really not inquisitive, generally," she said
AUNT MARJORIE'S SECRET.
with great earnestness, "but please may I ask you one or two more questions ? Aunt
Marjorie knows I don't mean to be rude." And without waiting for an answer, which she'
feared might be a refusal, Kitty hurried on-" Is your Christian name Laurence ?"
I don't mind confiding in you so far as to admit that it is," said the doctor, with
I thought so," said Kitty, nodding triumphantly; and added, half to herself, And
the name of the yacht is the Alethea--and then there's the ring--I see !--I see it
I begin to think you see rather too much now you have got your eyes back. I shall-
have to put that bandage on again," said the doctor looking rather mischievous.
Aha! You can't bandage my mind's eye. That's what I am seeing with now,"
cried Kitty, stepping out of his reach. "Didn't you once tie that ring to a pigeon's leg,
and let it fly ? and weren't they both picked up by a boat, and brought back to you ?"
Oh, you're a witch," said the doctor, looking, to Kitty's great delight, really surprised
for a moment, and then relaxing into a hearty laugh, as she clapped her hands and danced
round the lime tree with delight at her own sagacity.
"Then you're Laurie, and it was your story Aunt Marjorie told me. And Lucem
Spero' is your motto !" she cried. How glad I am to know that! It makes everything
so much more interesting!"
I didn't know I'd been made to point a moral, and adorn a tale already," said the
doctor, looking with pretended reproach at Aunt Marjorie, who laughed, as she said,
You adorned a tale, certainly; but I don't think I managed to extract quite as
TOLD AFTER TEA.
much moral out of you as I wished. I wanted to show Kitty how much one might see in
the dark. Whereas the moral of Laurie's motto, if it has a moral, is that it is right and
desirable, and really praiseworthy, to long after the light."
"But the two things are not so separate after all, are they ?" the doctor said
thoughtfully. Surely the thing to do is to use every ray of light one can get, inner or
outer, and wish for more. See through a glass darkly, by all means, if there's no other
way of seeing, but that doesn't prevent your wanting to see face to face-in fact it makes
you wish it all the more."
RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BUNGAY.
L-e -. *Inad