OUR NEXT-DOOR- NEIGHBOUR;
c -:-. .--. L-
' Here we are,' cries Sibyl, 'upon the top of the garden wall.'-P. 41.,
A STORY FOR
'STUMPS,' 'SOMEBODY,' RAGS AND TATTERS,' 'PAT,' ETC.
WELLS GARDNER, DARTON & CO.,
3, PATERNOSTER BUILDINGS, E.C.,
AND 44, VICTORIA STREET, S.W.
Sourtf o 2ifion.
TO THE VERY DEAR GRANNIE OF EIGHTY-THREE,
MRS. EDWARD MAINWARING,
WITH A GREAT DEAL OF LOVE,
AND AN EARNEST HOPE THAT SHE MAY LIVE FOR MANY YEARS YET
TO BE A SOURCE OF HAPPINESS TO US WHO LOVE HER,
AND TO SHOW TO ALL WHO COME NEAR HER
HOW SWEET AND GOOD AND LOVELY
OLD AGE CAN BE.
I. WHO TOLD THE STORY? I
II. THE COUNTRY AND A COW 4
III. WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR 19
IV. FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL 36
V. 'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES' 49
VI. LOOKING IN 59
VII. 'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US 71
VIII. UNDER THREE UMBRELLAS -87
IX. GRANNIE REFUSES TO BE NEIGHBOURLY 95
X. FROM THE HOLE IN THE HEDGE II
XI. MOLLY, SIBYL, AND PRINCE CHARMING 118
XII. THE ROOM WITHOUT A DOOR 129
XIII. GRANNIE'S VERY OLD FRIEND 146
X1V. GETTING BACK 158
XV. JACOB'S LITTLE GIRLS 170
OUR NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOUR.
WHO TOLD THE STORY?
THIS is a story the fairies told me. Just as they
told it to me do I tell it to you, word for word.
It is very nice to be a favourite of the fairies,
and to have stories told you. In the first place, it
is pleasant to hear the stories; and in the second
place, if people find fault with them, say they are
too long or too short, too improbable or very dull,
then you can shrug your shoulders and say, 'I have
nothing to do with that; the fairies told it to me.'
If you want to hear the fairies' stories, you must
feel-well, I don't quite know how to express it, but
I think the only word that means what I want to
say is a pretty Scotch word--eerie. And the eerie
feeling, so far as I can describe it, is just this.
2 WHO TOLD THE STORY?
First, you must feel a tiny bit-sad, I was going
to say, but perhaps pensive would be better. Then
you must sit down in a very large, comfortable,
softly-cushioned chair, and you must not think
about anything. You must try not even to think
whether you are thinking. Then open your ears
wide, and shut your eyes tight, and after awhile
you will hear a distant booming sound, much the
same noise the insects make when they chatter
together in the lime-trees in the early summer days;
just a lazy, muffled, humming noise.. This is the
fairies bringing the story to you.
Then, when they get quite close to you, you hear
nothing but the story which they pour into your
ears. They are such tiny people, and they have
such tiny voices, that it takes hundreds of them,
speaking all together, before the story can reach
your ears. But they never get out of tune or time,
and all their voices, though they speak so many at
once, are only like the chiming of a lovely silver
And so the story goes on.
WHO TOLD THE STORY? 3
This is a useful thing to know, is it not? For
if you are dull or low-spirited, or want amusing, all
you have to do is to lie back in an easy-chair and
coax the eerie feeling to come to you. When once
you feel eerie, the story will soon begin.
And if you do not succeed the first time, do not
give it up. Perhaps the fairies have been unusually
busy, have used up all their stories, and are making
fresh ones. Remember the useful little rhyme:
'Tis a lesson you should heed,
Try, try, try again;
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try, try again.'
I feel the eerieness creeping over me and a far-off
humming in my ears. Now the patter of tiny feet
and the faint sweet chiming of their voices, the
like a silver bell. The story is coming, coming,
coming; fast, faster, faster. Do you want to hear
it? Hush! You must be very quiet, not talk even
in whispers, or you will drive the fairies away.
THE COUNTRY AND A COW.
'CERISETTE,' says a sad little voice.
'Yes, Master Arthur, here I am, dear. Do you
It is very hot to-day, isn't it ?-and my head
aches,' says the sad voice, with a sigh at the end
'What shall I do for you, my dear one?' says
Cerisette, a nice-looking French maid, sitting down
upon a low chair by Arthur's side, and arranging
the cushions of his couch more comfortably.
'There, that is better, is it not? And now I will
dip this soft handkerchief in eau-de-Cologne and
water, and lay it across your poor aching forehead,
and fan you with this large Chinese fan. What a
beautiful air it makes this warm day! Is it not
doing your head good already, Master Arthur?'
THE COUNTRY AND A COW 5
'Yes, thank you, Cerisette ; it does feel as if it
was getting better,' says Arthur gratefully; then
he shuts his eyes, and Cerisette, thinking he may
be dropping off to sleep, fans him softly, and is
The place is a big room in a big house in the
big town of London, and the time is about four
o'clock in the afternoon. The sun, who has
travelled a great many miles to-day, has turned
his bright face round, and is looking straight in at
the windows-that is, he would be looking straight
in if it were not for the red and white sun-blinds
which are drawn closely down, and which he finds
rather in his way. It is not everyone who can
bear the sun to look them in the face in summer,
when he is so very hot and bright, and little Arthur,
with his headache and his tiredness, must have the
room kept as dark as possible.
The minutes pass. There is no sound heard but
the roll of a carriage now and then, and the silvery
chiming of the clock upon the mantelpiece. It has
just chimed half-past four when Arthur opens his
'My headache is much better, Cerisette,' he says.
'I need not have the handkerchief again. And
THE COUNTRY AND A COW
please do not fan me any more, or it will make your
'Nothing ever tires me that I can do for you,
Master Arthur,' answers Cerisette. 'But I wish
you could grow stronger and better, my poor little
one. It makes my heart ache and ache to watch
you as you lie, so white and tired. But, there! I
must not talk like this. If the good God pleases,
I hope I shall soon see the day when you have a fine
colour in your pale cheeks, and can run about and
shout and dance with other children.'
Arthur does not answer except by a sad smile,
which makes the tears start into Cerisette's black
eyes. She brushes them away hastily with the back
of her hand before Arthur has time to notice them,
and then she says cheerfully :
'But you do not know the news, my little one-
the news your papa told me this morning. There
is a gentleman visitor coming to -see you this after-
'Do you mean a doctor?' asks Arthur.
'So many doctors have come,' says Arthur dole-
fully, 'and they always look at me and say, Poor
little fellow!" Then they thump me on the back
THE COUNTRY AND A COW
and front with a trumpet, and then they give me
some nasty medicine to take. But they never make
me feel any better. I wish this one was not coming,
Cerisette; I am so tired of being looked at. If I
begged father very much indeed not to let him
come, do you think father would mind ?'
'Yes, I am sure Mr. Adair would mind a great
deal,' says Cerisette decidedly. For this morning
when he told me of it his face brightened all over,
and he said, I have great faith in this gentleman,
Cerisette, and I really think he will do my boy
good-perhaps make him quite well and strong."
Those are your papa's very words, dear Master
Arthur. I kept them in my memory that I might
repeat them to you word for word as he said them.'
Arthur sighs. 'I wonder what he will be like,'
'Who can tell?' answers Cerisette cheerfully.
'But if we are patient we shall soon see. The
clock has just chimed the quarter to five. After it
has chimed again he will be here.'
I wonder,' says Arthur dreamily, 'if he will be
short and wear spectacles, like the doctor who came
last. I don't like spectacles; it is just as if four
eyes were looking at you instead of two.'
8 THE COUNTRY AND A COW
'No, no,' says Cerisette. 'Not another doctor
with spectacles-oh no! One of those is quite
'But perhaps he will have a big voice and talk
very loud, the same as the doctor who came upon
my birthday,' said Arthur plaintively. 'Do you
'Do I not?' says Cerisette fondly. 'Is there
anything that happens to my poor dear lamb that
I do not remember? It gave you a headache and
spoilt your birthday. But this gentleman will be
different, we will hope. Ah! there is a carriage
stopping at the door. These gentlemen doctors are
so punctual; for it is only just upon the stroke of
five. Now, listen, Master Arthur, and soon you
will hear their footsteps coming up the stairs.'
There is no need to bid Arthur listen, for a
light of pleasure steals over his face, and his lips
curve into a happy smile as, with-one finger pressed
upon them, he turns his face round. This is the
hour to which Arthur's thoughts turn from the
time that his father leaves home in the morning;
for this is the hour which Mr. Adair never fails,
however he may be engaged, to devote to his little
son. The footsteps come nearer, the door is thrown
THE COUNTRY AND A COW 9
open, and Arthur, with a smothered cry of joy,
twines his arms closely round his father's neck, and
draws down the dear face that he may cover it with
kisses. Then, with a sigh of great content, he
lays his curly yellow head upon his father's broad
shoulder, and caresses his cheek with a small white
'Arthur,' says Mr. Adair, after a moment's pause,
'I have brought a gentleman-a friend of mine-to
Arthur has entirely forgotten there is anyone else
in the room save his father; but now that he
remembers, he raises himself, and holds out his
hand to be shaken. Then, as he falls back among
his cushions, he looks at the stranger earnestly and
He need have no fear of the spectacles, for the
eyes that meet his are as brown and bright as his
own ; and the voice that reaches his ear is as gentle,
and quiet, and kind as a woman's should be.
'It is curious, is it not?' says the new doctor,
'that you and I should have the same Christian
'Are they the same?' says Arthur, roused to
THE COUNTRY AND A COW
'Yes. You are Arthur Adair, and I am Arthur
'How funny!' says Arthur. 'And I was not
named after father, you know. I was called Arthur
after a good king who lived a great many years
ago; and father is very fond of the poetry someone
has written about him. Have you read it?'
'Yes,' answers the doctor absently. Then he
straightens himself, for he has been bending over
Arthur, and his eyes sweep for one instant round
He sees what a beautiful room it is, and how
everything has been thought of that could give
pleasure to Arthur. The walls are covered with
lovely paintings ; the windows are filled with sweet,
growing flowers ; the chairs and sofas are cushioned
with soft cushions which invite you, by their very
look, to sit down and rest upon them. In one
corner stands a rocking-horse as large as a small
Shetland pony, and from the bookcases story-books
in gay bindings show their faces. A large table is
covered by a fort with hundreds of soldiers in
different uniforms, and tiny cannons that go off
almost as well as real ones-better, perhaps, because
though they give a splendid bang, and smoke real
THE COUNTRY AND A COW i
smoke, they do not kill or hurt anybody. Upon
the floor lies a Noah's ark, and the animals, carved
out of ivory, are in a heap beside it.
And the doctor's eyes from roving round the
room come back to the little man upon the sofa,
whose curly yellow head rests so quiet, and whose
brown eyes are so pathetically asking for something
that will do him good, and make him like other
children. Then, for a few minutes, the doctor
stands quite still and looks at him.
But in these few minutes he is learning a great
deal about Arthur. Nobody speaks; Arthur and
his father are both silent, but there is a wonderful
fairy, whose name you must guess, and she whispers
to the doctor the story of Arthur's life.
She tells him that Arthur has lived for seven
years in that big house with no other playfellow
than Cerisette, for his mother died when he was
quite a baby. His father loves him dearly, but
he is a grave, busy man, and he can only spare a
few hours out of the whole long day to be with his
little son. Arthur has every toy he wishes for and
that money can buy, but he has no one to share
them with him-no brother, sister, or- friends to
help him make merry over his games-and he soon
12 THE COUNTRY AND A COW
grew tired of inventing games with only himself to
play them. It is such dreary work playing by one's
self, just to amuse one's self; there is no fun to be
got out of it. So, after his hour's lessons with his
father in the morning are over, Arthur has fallen
into the habit of doing nothing but lie upon the
sofa and look forward to his father's return at five
o'clock in the afternoon. When it is fine he rides,
or drives, or walks; but he only goes out because
father wishes it, and he always does what father tells-
him. And he is very glad to get home again, to
nestle down among his cushions and wonder if it is
nearly time for father to be back.
Not any of the gay people in the parks, not the
pretty flowers that grow there, nor the shops full
of things they pass on their road to and fro, ever
win a smile or a look from Arthur. He is a little
snail curled snugly round in his own shell, and not
even putting out a horn to see if anybody is near
him or not. God never meant people to think
about themselves all day long, to live altogether
for themselves, as if there was no one else in the
world. First, we should think of God-how to
love Him and please Him. Next, we should think
of other people-what we can do that will be kind
THE COUNTRY AND A COW
to them and help them. Last of all, if there is any
time left, we can think of ourselves. It is very
hard this, hard even for grown-up people, but the
more you try to follow this plan while you are
children, the easier it will be for you by-and-by as
the years roll on, and you find yourselves growing old.
But it is not quite Arthur's fault that he has
curled himself round in his shell. He tries very
hard to be a good little boy, and do everything his
father tells him; and God, who has been thinking
a great deal about him, is going to show him the
way to get out of his shell, and to be of use to
And every minute the doctor has been thinking
these thoughts Arthur has been watching him very
closely-watching to see his hand go into his pocket
and bring out the trumpet which he knows so well,
and has seen so often.
This doctor, however, does nothing of the kind.
When he has been silent awhile he sits down by
Arthur's side, and takes his thin white hand into
the grasp of his firm, strong fingers.
Now, little man,' he says cheerfully, 'I hope we
shall have you bonny and well in a few weeks. But
I am going to give you a funny kind of medicine.'
THE COUNTRY AND A COW
'Will it be very nasty?' asks Arthur dolefully;
'I have had so much nasty medicine.'
That just depends upon yourself, whether you
call it nasty or not. I should like it.'
What is it ?' asks Arthur.
'That you must find out for yourself. It is a
riddle. I am going to order you into the country.
Not to any part of the country, for that would do
you no good, but to a particular part of the country
where I know of a nice house to be let. There is a
pretty garden and an orchard with an Alderney cow
grazing in it. The cow can be had with the house,
and I want you to run about in the garden and
drink plenty of new milk and cream. There are
two C's for you- Country and Cow. You will
'Oh yes,' says Arthur. But is that the medicine ?
You said it was a riddle, and that is so easy-Country
You will not find the medicine until you get
there,' says the doctor. It is a particular kind of
medicine, and can only be got where I am sending
'Does it grow in the garden?' inquires Arthur,
with great interest.
THE COUNTRY AND A COW 15
It does not grow in any garden, though it is not
very far off,' says the doctor. 'But that is all I
shall tell you now; the rest you will find out when
you are there.'
'And you really think it will do him good?' asks
'I am as sure of it as we can be of anything in
this world,' says the doctor decidedly. I will talk
it over with you by-and-by. The place of which I
am thinking is not far from town-an hour by rail,
not more. That will suit you, will it not?'
'Perfectly,' answers Mr. Adair, 'for I shall be
able to run down from Saturday to Monday. Arthur
must go down alone with Cerisette at first, for it
will be some few weeks before I can join him
But Arthur's eyes fill with a sudden rush of tears
as he finds he is to be separated from his father, and
he holds out his arms in a perfect wail of grief.
'Oh, father, father,' he sobs, 'do not send me
away from you-please do not! I would rather stay
here and be ill, than go away and be well if you are
not with me.'
'Hush, Arthur!' says Mr. Adair soothingly, yet
gravely. 'It vexes me very much indeed, more
16 THE COUNTRY AND A COW
than I can say, to see you so pale, and thin, and
tired-unlike other children, in fact. If it does you
good, and if I wish it very much, it will be right for
you to go away from me for a little while.'
'Do you wish it very much, father?' asks Arthur
'Very much indeed, my boy,' is the answer.
'Then I will go,' says Arthur, choking back his
tears and smiling-a wintry little smile.
'That is my brave boy,' says Mr. Adair, patting
the head covered with yellow curls. I shall be able
to run down every Saturday until the Monday. And
when my holidays come we shall have a nice time of
'But it will be very dull until then, father,' says
Arthur, a wee bit dolefully.
'Wait until you get there,' says the doctor.
'After you have tried my medicine you may not
find it so dull as you seem to expect.'
'I wonder what your medicine is,' says Arthur,
smiling in spite of himself.
Ah! it is indeed a puzzle. I do not think you
will guess. I shall tell your father, but I shall ask
him to keep it a secret.'
I shall try and guess,' says Arthur.
THE COUNTRY AND A COW 17
'Now say good-bye, and go and tell Cerisette the
news,' says Mr. Adair.
Arthur not only shakes hands with the doctor,
but lifts up his face to be kissed, and then goes
along the corridor to another room, where Cerisette
is preparing his tea.
'We are going into the country, Cerisette,' he
says eagerly. 'And I am to drink plenty of milk.
There is an Alderney cow in the orchard where we
are going. I wonder if one of the cows in my
Noah's ark is an Alderney, Cerisette?'
'I should think it is,' answers Cerisette. 'And
did he order you any medicine, this new gentleman
'That is the funny part,' says Arthur. 'It is a
real riddle, Cerisette. He will not tell me what the
medicine is, but I am to wait until I get there. It
does not grow in the garden, but it is near the
garden. I am so anxious to taste it. The doctor
says he should like it very much indeed. What can
'Ah! what can it be?' says Cerisette, delighted at
finding the boy so much brighter. 'It must be very
wonderful medicine, Master Arthur.'
'Very,' says Arthur. 'You can only get it down
i8 THE COUNTRY AND A COW
in that country, Cerisette. I like the new doctor
very much indeed.'
'I am very happy,' says Cerisette. 'Did not I
say that perhaps you would, Master Arthur ?'
'He does not wear spectacles, and he has a kind
voice, and he did not thump me with a trumpet. I
wish he would come again. I am hungry, and I
want my tea badly. Is it nearly ready, Cerisette?'
'Quite ready,' says Cerisette, beaming upon him,
for it is very seldom Arthur ever feels hungry or
wants to eat. He generally eats as a duty.
But I think the snail is beginning to put one ot
its horns a little way out of its shell. What do you
say about it ?
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR.
IN a pretty village not far from London stand three
houses side by side. They are not all the same size ;
indeed, there is so much difference in them that they
have been called in fun, 'The big bear, the middle-
sized bear, and the little bear.'
The big bear is a large red house, built very
square, and with a paved courtyard around it.
Not much of it can be seen from the roadside, for
it is shut in by trees, but peeping over the hedge is
a black board with white letters, which tells everyone
who passes to and fro that this house is 'to let.'
The middle-sized bear is oddly built. At one
time it must have been a small house with just a
door, a window on each side of it, and three windows
above. Then people lived in it who did not find it
large enough, so they added another story. Then
[ 9 ] 2-2
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
others who came after them added an arm shooting
out in one direction, and then a leg, and so on.
This makes it much more comfortable inside, no
doubt, but it gives it, to look at, an untidy appear-
ance. The garden is an old-fashioned one, with
gravel walks and straight flower borders. At the
back of the house is an orchard, and upon the right
side a smooth closely-shaven lawn slopes down to a
tiny river, which on fine sunshiny days looks like a
silver ribbon winding .in and out of the fresh green
And, squeezed in between these two large houses,
is a long, low cottage, with a veranda running all
round it. This is the little bear. But though
small, it is not to be despised, for it is prettier than
either of its grander neighbours. There is a path
leading up to it, and over this a trellis-work has
been raised, and roses of every colour and shade
have been coaxed to twine themselves- round about
it, and form a beautiful covered archway, which in
summer-time is perfectly lovely. It is just as though
somebody was being married every day to walk up
this path and have the roses showering their blossoms
upon you-dark-red satiny leaves, shining creamy
ones, pale pink, bright pink, flaming crimson, rich
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
yellow, and some as white and soft as drifting flakes
of snow-you crush them under your feet as you go
Then the garden is so full of flowers that it is
difficult to know which to pick, and which to leave.
You come upon such pretty surprises, too, for there
are little wooden and wicker chairs so cunningly
arranged under drooping branches of trees, that
you do not see them until you find yourself nearly
sitting down in them. Jacob, the old gardener, is
very proud of this garden. He says it is 'like a
picter what has a good many sides to it.'
Though these three houses are sometimes called
for fun The Three Bears,' yet they have three real
names belonging to them.
The big bear is The Red House.
The middle-sized bear is Riverside.
The little bear is Shadie Cottage.
And now to go on with the story:
It is one of the longest days in the year, and the
sun has made up his mind to have a very good
time, and not to go to sleep until he is obliged.
He is shining now, though it is past seven o'clock,
almost as gaily as he did in the middle of the day.
The birds are singing so loud, the roses smelling
22 WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
so sweet, it seems very hard to have to go indoors
such a lovely evening as this.
That is just what two little girls think who
are sitting in one of those cosy seats at Shadie
Cottage. When the clock strikes half-past seven,
they ought to be preparing for bed, and it is not
far off half-past seven now.
The eldest of these two little sisters is seven
years old. She is short for her age, and very
plump. Her face is round and rosy, a pair of large,
roguish dark-blue eyes shining out of it, and fair
hair waving lightly over her forehead and nearly
falling into her eyes.
Sibyl, more than two years younger than Molly,
is taller for her age and much slighter. Her face
is thinner, and her eyes, instead of being blue, are a
shadowy green. Her hair is several shades darker
than her sister's, and curls in natural curls over her
neck and shoulders.
They are both dressed alike in brown-hollands
with broad crimson sashes, and their heads and
necks are well covered by two large sun-bonnets,
which protect them from the sun. They are out so
much all day long that these are quite necessary.
For some time these two sisters have been sitting
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR 23
hand-in-hand, both their faces turned towards River-
side. The chimneys and the upper windows are
all they can see of it from where they sit, for a
gray stone wall divides their garden from their
'It is just one, two, three, four, five,' says Molly,
counting upon four fingers and a thumb of a very
plump hand. 'It just one-two-three-four-is
it four or is it five days, Sibyl, since the man took
away the board with "This house to let" written
It is five days,' answers Sibyl ; 'one, two, three,
'I think it is only four,' says Molly. 'Let us go
back and count them. There was the day the man
fetched away the board, that is one ; then there was
the day that old Mrs. Grey's dog broke his leg, that
is two ; then there was the day that little Tim fell
into the water when he was getting watercress for
tea, that is three; then there was the day that Uncle
Edward's letter came to say he was coming himself,
that is four; then there is to-day, and that makes
five. But, Sibyl, are you quite sure Jacob said that
the people were coming to-day?'
'Quite sure, sister,' says Sibyl.
24 WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
'Why didn't you ask him what time they were
coming, and who they were, and what they were
like, and all about them?' says Molly.
'Cause he said he couldn't answer any more
kestons,' says Sibyl, with a pout. He was dread-
He is often cross,' says Molly quietly. Grannie
says it's his complaint that makes him cross. I never
can remember the name of Jacob's complaint. It is
something that begins with a donkey.'
'I don't 'member the name,' says Sibyl. 'But do
you think it is his complaint what coughs so quare,
'Grannie says so,' answers Molly.
'I hear wheels!' exclaims Sibyl, holding up a thin,
sunburnt hand. 'The next-door neighbours are
coming, sister; let us go and meet them.'
They are off their seats in a second, and hurrying
down the rose path, treading the sweet leaves under
their feet as they bound along, while a fresh shower
are shaken upon their sun-bonnets and pitter-patter
down upon them like great drops of rain.
Molly and Sibyl are breathless when they reach the
gate. They fling it wide open and rush out just in
time to see a farmer's gig coming along at a slow trot.
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
'Oh, it's Farmer Morton's night!' says Molly.
' Why, I quite forgot!'
So did I,' says Sibyl. Wouldn't he be sorry,
sister, if he knew we had quite forgotten him ?'
'We were thinking so much about our next-door
neighbours,' says Molly.
'Good-evening, little ladies!' and Farmer Morton
pulls up his horse. 'And how are you this lovely
'Quite well, thank you. Are you quite well?'
they chime in both together.
'Very hearty indeed, thank you, little ladies,'
answers Farmer Morton. Then, giving a mysterious
nod, he says in a whisper: 'Do you know what day
it is to-day?'
Midsummer Eve!' shout the sisters with one
The day when the fairies are very busy,' says
'Is it only to-day they are busy?' interrupts Sibyl.
'They are more or less busy all the year round,'
answers Farmer Morton.
'Only to-night they wisit at each others' houses,
and give a grand party, and have a great deal of
fun,' says Sibyl.
26 WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
Well, they are very fond of making presents
on Midsummer Eve to people they like,' says the
farmer. 'And as I was passing by they gave me
these presents to give to you;' and Farmer Morton
pulls out of his pocket four parcels, two of which
he hands to Molly and two to Sibyl.
It is so kind of the fairies!' says Sibyl, dancing
in a high state of glee ; while Molly adds :
'We ought to say "Thank you very much" to
them. Shall you see them on your way home,
'Well, they might be somewhere about,' answers
'Then please thank them very much,' says
'And wery much from me,' says Sibyl. 'Molly
would write them a nice letter, and I would draw
them a pretty picture, if we knew where they lived.
How should we direct it, Farmer Morton? And
which of the fairies sent these lovely presents ?'
Oh, they don't like to be thanked,' says Farmer
Morton, flourishing his whip as if he were in a
hurry. 'Nothing offends the fairies so much as
thanking them. It doesn't matter which of them
it was what gave them, Miss Sibyl. It's all the same
Farmer Morton pulls out of his pocket four parcels, two of which he
hands to Molly and two to Sibyl.-P. 26.
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
as if all the fairies had sent the presents. It's only a
Oh, then they showed it you,' says Sibyl. You
know what it is. How tight the fairies tie their
parcels ;' and her little fingers tug at the string.
'Yes, they are uncommon good at tying up
parcels,' says Farmer Morton. Now, good-evening,
little ladies. Take care of the dew when it falls,
and don't get your feet wet.' And he drives away
quickly, for he is later than usual to-night, and he
has a mother watching for him.
The dew is not falling yet,' says Molly, holding
the dry sole of her shoe so that Sibyl can see. The
sun won't go to sleep for a long time. They have
not even begun to get his bed ready, and it takes
them a long while to make it properly.'
There is a bit of red blanket and a corner of a
gold sheet,' says Sibyl, waving her hand towards the
west, where tiny streaks of crimson and amber show
'The fairies have sent us such nice presents,' says
Molly. Mine is a packet of gingerbread and a
workbox, Oh, what a dear little thimble, sister!'
Mine is just the same as yours,' says Sibyl, who
has managed to pull off the string. 'Oh, what
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
'licious gingerbread! I wonder how the fairies knew
we liked gingerbread? I wonder-do you think
Farmer Morton told them, Molly?'
'Perhaps he did,' says Molly, who is too busy to
think much about it.
'What nice needles!' says Sibyl. 'They have
gold eyes to them. Look, sister !'
I hope that as they are fairy needles they will do
my work better, and not prick my finger so much,'
answers Molly gravely. 'Just see, this finger is all
red and the skin torn'-and she holds out a fat
'Mine is nearly as bad,' says Sibyl, as she com-
pares her finger with Molly's.
'It is a good thing the fairies sent us these
needles, or we should have worn our fingers to the
bone in time,' says Molly.
'That would be drefful,' gasps Sibyl. 'Why, we
should be like the man Uncle Edward told us about,
who took off his flesh and sat in his bones-only in
his bones. Think of that, Molly !'
'But you don't believe that story, do you?' says
Molly. 'Why, it was only one of Uncle Edward's
make-believes, and not a real story. Don't cry,
Sibyl. I am a great deal older than you, and I tell
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR 29
you it is not true. These needles are lovely, sister;
the fairies sent them on purpose, because they knew
the others were nasty and wouldn't work and pricked
our fingers. Listen! there is Maria calling us. Oh,
Sibyl, you run the quickest. Please run in and ask
her to let us sit up a wee bit longer. It isn't Mid-
summer Eve every day.'
'But suppose our next-door neighbours come
while I am away,' says Sibyl, lingering, and turning
a pair of wistful eyes towards the chimneys of River-
side, from whence the smoke is curling gaily up-
'They won't, if you are very quick,' says Molly;
'and if they do, I'll call very loud.'
Sibyl lingers for a moment, and then runs off.
Molly goes back to their two little chairs, where
Sibyl soon joins her-red, panting, breathless, but in
'Twenty more minutes Maria says we may sit up,
but no longer, Molly.'
'That will do nicely,' says Molly, settling herself
comfortably. 'They must come in twenty minutes.
And I have thought of such a nice game to play,
Sibyl. We will guess what our next-door neighbours
will be like, and we will see who will be most right.'
30 WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
I guess they will be a nice old lady and gentle-
man, just the same as Mr. and Mrs. Bertram, who
had us in to tea so often, and loved us so much,'
cries Sibyl eagerly.
What beautiful cakes they gave us!' says Molly.
'And such 'licious strawberries and cream!' says
'Those were such happy days!' says Molly,
shaking her head mournfully ; and such a long
time ago-two whole weeks, Sibyl! And the man
was so unkind he would lock the gates, and we
couldn't even get in to stroke the dear cow, and tell
her we were so sorry that her master and mistress
'I hope the new master and mistress will be wery
kind to the dear cow,' says Sibyl. 'Now, Molly, I
have had my guess, and it is your turn.'
I guess they will be a tall lady and gentleman,
with twenty little boys, some of them littler than we
are, some of them bigger, and some of them the
same size,' says Molly boldly.
'Twenty!' says Sibyl. 'Oh, Molly, what made
you think of such a great many, and why didn't you
make some of them girls?'
'Because that is what I guess,' answers Molly.
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
'But we shall soon see, for they will have to come
But 'they' do not. The birds, except the night-
ingales, hush their songs, the sun moves nearer to
the lovely bed preparing for him, the dews begin to
fall so thick and fast that Maria comes to hurry
them in. She turns a deaf ear to all entreaties for
'just five minutes more,' and tells them to go at
once to their grandmamma, and then upstairs to her.
Grannie is the dearest old lady in a story-book or
out of it. She is sitting in a large arm-chair, which
is quite her own, and which no one else ever thinks
of sitting in. It is drawn near the window, and she
has a fleecy snow white shawl thrown over her
shoulders, and her snow-white hair tucked away
under a snow-white cap. She has such a soft, round,
kissable face; I am sure you would want to kiss her
if you were to know her. She has another cap on
now-a cap the sisters call 'Grannie's thinking cap.'
The room where Grannie is sitting is always a
dark room, with odd nooks and corners, and lighted
only by two small windows. To-night it is darker
than usual, for the blinds are half-way down-most
likely Maria has forgotten to pull them up when the
sun left the room. Perhaps it is the dusky light, or
32 WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
perhaps Grannie, with her still white face and figure,
looks a tiny bit like someone from another world-
perhaps it is both these things together, but cer-
tainly the sisters do not talk so boldly of the fairies
as they did an hour ago in the broad sunshine. They
show Grannie the presents, and tell her the story
about them in very low voices, and with mysterious
little nods and waving of the hands. Grannie sug-
gests boldly that Farmer Morton had more to do
with the presents than the fairies; but they are both
so indignant at the mere idea that she leans back in
her chair, and says:
'Well, my dears, have it all your own way. If
you choose to think the fairies sent them, pray do.
And if it pleases you both, I am quite satisfied.'
'But, Grannie,' argues Molly, 'the needles show
they are fairy needles. They have gold eyes; and
they are sent to do our hemming nicely and not
prick our fingers.'
If they do your hemming better, I shall not be
the one to grumble, my dear,' says Grannie. 'For I
must say the half-side of the handkerchief you
hemmed to-day was disgraceful.'
'That was the fault of those horrid, common
needles, Grannie,' speaks up Sibyl. 'We tried to
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
make them work, and they wouldn't; they broke
six of themselves, Grannie, trying to do the piece of
hemming you set me.'
'Six! Dear me,' says Grannie, 'that is very waste-
ful. Six needles a day for you alone! Why, just
think what a number that would be at the end of the
'It was wery stupid of them to break,' says Sibyl.
'I told them so, but they wouldn't 'tend to me. But
these fairy needles! You will see how beautiful they
will work to-morrow, Grannie.'
'Indeed, I hope so, my dear,' says Grannie. 'Now
say me your psalm, and then run off to bed. You
are later than usual to-night.'
With folded hands they stand before Grannie, and
say verse by verse Psalm xxiii. Then they kiss her,
and race upstairs to bed, Sibyl winning the race by a
whole length of the passage.
There is a proverb which declares that 'a watched
pot never boils.' It means that if you are watching
for something, it very often does not come until you
have grown tired, and have given up looking for it.
And so it happens to-night; for the sisters have
just begun to undress, when the fly, for which they
waited so long and so patiently, drives up to River-
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR
side. If they had heard the wheels, I am sure they
would have scampered downstairs, with only half
their clothes upon them, to have a peep at 'our
next- door neighbours.' But luckily they hear
nothing. They have won a hard-fought battle,
and are jumping about in high glee. They wake
very early in the morning, somewhere about four
o'clock in the summer-time, but Grannie has .given
strict orders that they are not to wake Maria to
dress them before half-past six. Now they have
coaxed Maria to ask Grannie if they may not get
up at six o'clock to-morrow for a great treat.
Grannie says 'Yes,' but that they are to understand
it is to be only to-morrow, and not any other
'It is lucky people don't take houses every day
in the week,' says Maria, 'for you are a couple of
wild Indians to-night. Now, Miss Sibyl, come and
have your nightdress on at once.'
'The sooner we go to bed and to sleep the sooner
the morning will be here,' says Molly, sobering
down. 'Oh, Maria, why won't you let us get up
with the sun? He gets up beautiful and early.'
'The sun has his work to do, and you have
yours,' says Maria. 'And your work is to be good
WAITING FOR THE NEIGHBOUR 35
and obedient children, and to do as your grand-
mamma tells you.'
'Grandmamma is such a long name,' says Sibyl.
' I like Grannie best.'
'Shut your eyes tight, Sibyl, and go to sleep,'
says Molly, as she nestles down in one little white
bed, and Sibyl does the same in another. 'It will
soon be morning.'
Sibyl, who is sucking her thumb to send her to
sleep, murmurs, as she opens her eyes a tiny bit :
'And then when morning comes, then we shall
see our next-door neighbours.'
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL.
SUCH a great deal of work the sun has got through
this morning before many people were awake. He
has swept the fresh sweet dew off the grass, and
dried the scented hay that is lying about. He has
fallen upon the gray sea and broken it up into
thousands of silver ripples. He has kissed the buds
into full-grown flowers, and warmed the earth and
ripened the fruit. Oh, there is no end to the
beautiful work the sun has been doing this morning,
and now he is staring very hard at Molly and Sibyl
as they stand talking together.
They are too busy to think about him at all, only
as he comes in their eyes, in spite of their large sun-
bonnets, they go blinking, blinking, blinking, like a
couple of dear little white fluffy owls just brought
into the sunshine.
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL 37
I know where Jacob has left the short ladder,'
Molly is saying ; but one short ladder is not much
use. You would like to see as soon as me, wouldn't
'Oh yes,' answers Sibyl eagerly, 'of course I
should. You won't go up without me, Molly?
Couldn't we both go up the same ladder ?'
'I am afraid we should push each other off,'
answers Molly. 'But oh, Sibyl, there is the hall
chair what turns into steps, you know.'
'Oh yes! let us fetch it at once,' says Sibyl,
The maids are at breakfast in the kitchen, so the
children have the front of the house to themselves.
The chair is oak, and very heavy, and it takes them
some time to push it to where they want it to go-
against the stone wall which separates their garden
from that of Riverside. Then they fetch the short
ladder from its hiding-place, and put it side by side
with the chair ladder, and seat themselves down for
a few minutes' rest. They are red and hot, and
not nearly so clean and nice as when they left their
bedroom nearly two hours ago.
I wonder if Uncle Edward came last night,' says
38 FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL
'Oh yes,' answers Molly; 'he is sure to have
come. He always comes when he says he will.
Now, if you are rested, Sibyl, let us go up the
ladder, and we shall soon see our next-door neigh-
bours; they are sure to be in the garden now.'
Step by step the two sisters mount the ladders,
until they can see into the next garden. Then they
cuddle their white chins upon the dusty wall, and
look eagerly around them.
The smoke is curling out of the chimneys as it
did last night; upon every side stretch the straight
old-fashioned flower-borders, while before them
gleams the cool green turf with its silver edge-
that narrow river running so silently along. Many
a time have the sisters paddled in it, dragging out
the watercress in great handfuls, and then leaving
it to bake in the sun. The old lady and gentleman
who lived at Riverside for some months loved the
two children dearly, and they were as much at home
there as in Shadie Cottage, running all over the
place like a couple of white cats. But Mr. and
Mrs. Bertram have gone to live near a married son,
and Molly and Sibyl are looking out for new next-
Everything is very still and quiet this summer
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL 39
morning. There is no sound of any kind to be
heard : no chattering voices, no pitter-patter of feet,
no people, big or little, taking a walk in the
The pair of blue eyes and the pair of green eyes
search every nook and corner eagerly, quickly,
brightly. Then Sibyl's face lengthens, Molly's
grows very blank, and they squeeze their chins
closer against the top of the dirty wall.
Perhaps we are too early,' says Molly, in a dis-
'They must be wery lazy,' says Sibyl, with con-
tempt; we have been up a great while.'
Let us sit down and wait,' suggests Molly.
It is difficult for two small people with very short
legs to turn about on the top of a ladder and sit
down upon a wall. They are quite careful, but
once Sibyl nearly turns a somersault into our next-
door neighbour's garden. Luckily for her, Molly
seizes hold of her dress just in time to save her.
The sun is shining very hot this morning,' says
Sibyl fretfully; 'I wish he would turn his face
another way. He's looking round the corner of my
sun-bonnet, and burning my cheeks drefful!'
At this instant the front-door they are both so
40 FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL
anxiously watching opens, then shuts again, and
Arthur, fresh from the hands of Cerisette, steps out
upon the gravel path.
He awoke early this morning-so early that he
heard the lowing of the dear cow' as they milked
her for his breakfast. He was so anxious to look for
his new medicine, that he gave Cerisette no peace
until she dressed him to let him go out.
He is dressed in a sailor suit of some soft white
stuff, and a broad-brimmed sailor hat is set far back
upon his yellow head. He walks slowly along, his
eyes glancing right and left, as if in search of some-
Molly and Sibyl hold their breath; then Sibyl
whispers gently :
'Our next-door neighbour, Molly !'
'And such a nice next-door neighbour!' Molly
whispers in an admiring voice.
Grannie says we is to love our neighbours,' says
Sibyl, still in a whisper. 'And I think Grannie
would like us to love our next-door neighbour a
wery great deal.'
Arthur is just passing under the wall.
'We will speak to him,' says Molly. 'Good-
morning, next-door neighbour. Are you very well?'
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL 41
Arthur jumps at the sound of the voice; then
looks about to see from whence it comes--loks
everywhere but up at the garden wall.
'Here we are,' cries Sibyl, 'up here-upon the
top of the garden wall. We have been watching
for you such a long time.'
'Were you not very late in getting up?' says
Molly, with gentle reproach. 'We have been up
hours, and we were so anxious to see you.'
'I was up much earlier than usual this morning,'
says Arthur, looking in perplexity at his strange
visitors, seated at their ease upon the top of the wall.
The two sun-bonnets are bent eagerly towards
him, the pair of roguish dark-blue eyes and the pair
of serious green ones are taking him in from head to
foot. Arthur blushes rosy-red from his slender white
throat to the roots of his yellow curls.
'Are you all by yourself?' asks Sibyl.
'Cerisette came with me yesterday,' says Arthur;
'and the servants came the day before.'
'Who is Cerisette?' inquires Molly. Is she your
'Oh no!' replies Arthur. She is a French nurse.
But she has been with me ever since I was born, and
she speaks English almost as well as French.'
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL
Then we shan't have to talk French to her,
shall we ?' says Sibyl in a tone of relief 'Cause
we don't know it. Grannie is going to get some-
one to teach us wery soon.'
'Shall you stay here a long time?' says Molly.
'We do not know yet,' says Arthur. If it does
me good, perhaps we shall. The doctor ordered me
to come into the country and drink plenty of milk
from the cow.'
He is about to tell them of the curious, mysterious
medicine, hoping they may help him to find it, when
Sibyl interrupts eagerly:
'Ah, the dear cow! We know her wery well.'
'Did she belong to you once?' asks Arthur.
'No,' answers Molly. 'But we often went in to
tea at your house when Mr. and Mrs. Bertram lived
there a great while ago, before you came. And we
had strawberries and cream.'
'It was 'licious,' says Sibyl. 'The dear cow's
cream is wery nice, and so is the strawberries, too!'
Won't you come into our cottage and see our
grannie ?' asks Molly. 'She would like to see you,
for we have been telling her ever so many days that
our next-door neighbour would be coming soon.'
'She isn't our grannie, but our great-grannie,'
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL 43
Sibyl explains ; 'and that is two grannies in one.
So that it is much nicer than one grannie. But
great-grannie is so long to say, and we call her
Grannie for short.'
It is a pity you can't get over the wall,' says
Molly, but there is no ladder your side. If you
run down to the big gates, we will meet you and
show you the way.'
I had better tell Cerisette where I am going, if
you can wait,' says Arthur.
We can't wait,' says Molly ; 'and we will bring
you back quite safe. Make haste and run fast.'
Arthur stands uncertain for an instant, but the
bonnets have disappeared below the wall, so he
follows Molly's directions, runs across the lawn and
out at the iron gate.
He meets the sisters in the lane, and they take
him between them, each holding a clean fair hand
of his in one of their grubby brown ones. Up the
rose-walk they go, and the full-blown roses of
yesterday merrily shake their dainty, many-coloured
leaves upon the three children as they pass under-
'How pretty it is! And how sweet the roses
smell!' says Arthur.
44 FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL
'Yes, aren't they 'licious ?' says Sibyl, sniffing.
'You must come into the drawing-room first, 'cause
we have something to show you. You did not know,
did you, that the fairies are our friends?'
'No,' says Arthur in a very astonished voice.
'Yes,' replies Sibyl, dancing gaily on before him;
'and they sent us a present-two lovely presents
each! Sit in that chair and we will show them to
The workboxes are much admired, and a corner
of the packets opened that the brown, crackling
gingerbread may be seen.
'But we must not eat it until Grannie says we
may,' and Sibyl puts it quickly out of sight; 'and
we had better not give you any until Grannie says
you may have it, 'tickerlarly if you have been ill ;'
and Sibyl, who is fond of using hard words, repeats
with great pride, ''tickerlarly if you have been
Uncle Edward has come,' says Molly, who had
slipped out of the room while Sibyl was showing
the presents. I tried his door, and it was locked,
but I heard him splashing about in his bath. Such
a beautiful bath he must be having, sister, for he is
making such a great noise.'
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL
Poor Uncle Edward,' says Sibyl, shaking her
head. 'That is 'cause he can't wash himself when
he is in London. Maria says water is wery scarce
,in London, and when he comes here I s'pose he has
to wash himself wery much to get himself clean.'
Oh,' says Arthur eagerly and earnestly, but that
is not true about not getting water in London. We
live in London, and I have just as much water for
my bath there as I had for my bath here this morning
-quite as much.'
'Do you live in London?' says Sibyl. 'Then, of
course, you know our Uncle Edward. How glad he
will be to see you again!'
'He only lives in London part of the year,'
explains Molly. 'He is down here staying with
Grannie and Sibyl and me very often. Whenever
he can spare time he runs down.'
Perhaps father knows him,' says Arthur,' but I
don't think I do.'
'Oh, you will 'member him when you see him,'
says Sibyl. 'Now, you had better come up and let
us show you to Grannie.'
He can look at this picture-book first,' says
Then they prepare to take their visitor upstairs.
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL
You go first, Sibyl, to show the way,' says Molly;
'and I will come after you with Arthur.'
They reach the landings where the bedrooms are.
Sibyl's fingers are closing upon the handle of a door
when Molly turns to Arthur.
'You won't be frightened at seeing Grannie in
a nightcap, will you?' she says. 'Grannie always
wears a nightcap when she is in bed, you know.'
'Oh!' says Arthur, drawing back, and speaking in
a surprised voice. 'But I would rather not go in
until-until-your Grannie is dressed. She would
not like it-I am sure she would not like it.'
'Oh, Grannie does not mind,' says Sibyl, opening
her eyes wide. She lets us run in and out.'
'Are you afraid of the night-cap?' says Molly
reproachfully. I didn't think you would be.'
'No, I am not,' says Arthur in a distressed voice.
He is too shy to explain, but he is a true little
gentleman, and he feels that a stranger going in to
Grannie suddenly is quite different to Molly and
Sibyl running in and out. He says no more, how-
ever, and Molly seizes his hand to drag him along.
Sibyl is about to fling open the door with a flourish
when a handle close by is turned, and a gentleman
stands in the midst of them.
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL 47
'Good-morning, my nieces, and what is all this
noise about?' he says. 'Whom have you here,
Molly? I hear the fairies have been at work in
these parts. Perhaps this is a fairy prince. Little
Prince Charming, eh?'
'He is our next-door neighbour, uncle,' says
Molly, 'and we are just going to take him in and
show him to Grannie.'
'I am sure Grannie will be very glad to see him
later on, when she is dressed and downstairs,' says
Uncle Edward. But now it is time for breakfast.
Will Prince Charming stay and have some with us?'
'Oh, I forgot Cerisette !' says Arthur quickly and
timidly. 'She does not know where I am, and I
ought to have told her. I must not stay any longer,
We will send in and tell her you are here,' says
Uncle Edward. I am sure you want some break-
fast to bring colour into those white cheeks. You
should divide your roses, Molly, and give him half.'
'I would if I could,' says Molly, rubbing her
'There must be something done to you both
before you are fit to have breakfast with me,' says
Uncle Edward, looking at his nieces in disgust.
FROM THE TOP OF THE WALL
'What has happened to you? You might be two
little pigs instead of two little girls.'
This is true, for their knees are grimy, their hands
black, their clean frocks soiled and crumpled, their
sashes under their arms, and their faces smeared by
being rubbed upon the dirt at the top of the stone
wall. Such a contrast they are to Arthur in his
fresh white suit, and with his clean fair hands and
face, and smooth yellow curls.
'But we have been up so long that we have had
time to get dirty,' says Molly cheerfully.
'Yes, and you have only just washed, so it's no
wonder you are clean, Uncle Edward,' says Sibyl in
'I heard you splashing about, and making such a
great noise in your bath,' says Molly.
It seems that even the walls have ears in this
house,' murmurs Uncle Edward. 'But come to
breakfast clean and respectable, if you can. I shall
take Prince Charming with me, and then you will
be down all the sooner.
'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES.'
BREAKFAST is laid in the veranda, out of reach of
the sun, but where a gentle wind blows soft kisses to
them across from the roses.
'That is better,' says Uncle Edward, as Molly and
Sibyl appear with clean faces and hands, well-washed
legs, and fresh dresses and sashes. 'But I wonder
how long you will remain so?'
That 'pends upon what we do after breakfast,'
remarks Sibyl wisely.
'Yes,' says her uncle; 'I fancy if I meet you in
an hour, you will be like two chimney-sweeps.'
Don't you love chimney-sweeps, Uncle Edward?'
asks Sibyl wistfully.
'They are very useful in their way. What made
you ask such an odd question, Sibyl?'
'Cause Jacob doesn't,' says Sibyl. He says he
[49 ] A
50 'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES'
lived next door to one once, and he was that grimy
he couldn't abide him. But you would love a
chimney-sweep if he was your neighbour, wouldn't
you, uncle? 'Cause Grannie says we ought to love
'One might have a worse neighbour than a
chimney-sweep,' replies Uncle Edward.
'Do you think you should love him well enough
to kiss him, even if he was wery sooty?' asks Sibyl
'I really have never thought about it,' says Uncle
Edward, 'and it is a subject which requires a great
deal of thought, Sibyl. Now, tell me Prince
Charming's name when he is not Prince Charming,
for I have heard you call him nothing but "our
'My name is Arthur Adair,' answers Prince
Charming for himself
'And are you alone with your French nurse?'
asks Uncle Edward.
'Father will come very soon,' says Arthur ; 'but
he cannot get away yet, because Parliament is sitting.'
'How many eggs is she sitting upon?' asks Molly
briskly. 'Because we have a hen called Draggle-
tail, and she is sitting upon eleven eggs.'
'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES'
Parliament is not a hen,' says Uncle Edward, 'but
a great many men who meet together in two large
houses called the House of Lords and the House of
Commons. They make laws, and-talk about them.'
'Ah,' says Sibyl, I thought it was a quare name
for a hen.'
'And oh, Uncle Edward,' cries Molly, laying a
sticky hand upon his heather-mixture coat; 'we
want to ask you a question.'
'Ask as many as you please,' he replies, gently
moving the plump hand from his coat-sleeve.
'I forgot. You don't like stickiness,' says Molly,
'and my hands are rather sticky. But it's no use
going to wash them, because I mean to have some
'If you please,' corrects her uncle.
'If you please,' says Molly meekly.
'And now, what wonderful question is it you
want to ask me?'
I know,' cries Sibyl suddenly. Let me 'splain
about it, Molly.'
'No, no!' says Molly. 'I began, and I must
ex-plain. You are too young to ex-plain, Sibyl.
You can't say your words p'operly. You should
say ex-plain, not 'splain.'
52 'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES'
They are very fond of each other, these two
sisters, but they do sometimes have a tiny quarrel.
Molly is rather fond of laying down the law, and
Sibyl, who has a will of her own, often resents this.
She likes to imagine she can say long words quite
correctly, and she is very touchy upon the subject.
The tears start to her eyes now, but she turns to her
plate, and pretends to be eating as if nothing is the
Tender-hearted Molly is not often unkind, and
she is sorry for what she has said as soon as the
words have left her lips.
'I will tell half, Sibyl, and you shall tell half,' she
says, with a repentant look at her sister.
But Sibyl does not speak.
'Come and sit on my knee, and have a big
strawberry,' says Uncle Edward.
She is soon herself again, and then Uncle Edward
'Now, Molly, go on with your story, and Sibyl
shall help you with it.'
Arthur lives in London and you live in London,
and you do not know each other,' says Molly, 'and
we think it so funny that you both live in the same
place and don't know each other.'
'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES' 53
'There are a great many people in London,'
replies her uncle, and it is impossible in a large
place like that to know everybody.'
'How quare !' says Sibyl. 'Why, this is a big
place, and we know everybody in it-don't we, Molly?'
'I have no doubt you do; and not only every
person, but every dog, and cat, and hen, and duck,
and chicken,' says Uncle Edward.
'Only this year's ducks and chickens,' says Molly
earnestly. Last year's ducks and chickens always
grow up like the ducks and chickens of the year
before that, and we never can tell them apart, can
'No,' says Sibyl thoughtfully. 'But it is so
quare, Uncle Edward, not knowing all the people
'Not at all quare,"' replies Uncle Edward, 'for,
if you remember, I have told you often, and shall
tell you again, that you are the two greatest little
gossips that ever lived. No one can equal you.'
'But Grannie says we are to love our neighbour,'
says Molly, 'and she says she does not mean only
our next-door neighbour, but all the people around'
-and Molly spreads out her fat hands and waves
54 'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES'
'Yes, and now we wisit at all the houses, and loves
them all wery much,' says Sibyl. 'But we mean to
love our next-door neighbour the best. I am so
glad he is not a chimney-sweep and sooty. Let me
go back to my place by his side, please, uncle.'
'And leave me?' says Uncle Edward, pretending
to cry. 'Oh, you changeable little woman! Another
time I shall be the one to desert you.'
I don't believe you,' says Sibyl, shaking her curls
at him. 'You will always let me come and sit on
your knee when I like, I know.'
'When you are clean,' adds Uncle Edward.
'But, uncle,' says Molly, too earnest about the
subject to let it drop, 'you can't love people if you
don't know them, can you ? And if you don't know
your neighbours in London, you can't love them.'
'But I do know a few people in London, and I
believe I love them-some of them, at any rate,'
replies Uncle Edward. 'You have no idea what a
large place London is, Molly. There are hundreds
of streets, with big houses and little houses filling
them up. Ask Prince Charming, and he will tell
'Oh yes,' says Arthur. 'London is a very large
place indeed, and it takes a long, long time, even in a
'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES'
carriage, to go from one end of it to another. This
is only a tiny, tiny place by the side of it.'
'It is quite big enough,' says Sibyl quickly. It
takes us a long while to wisit at all the houses.'
'Yes, I suppose so,' says Arthur meekly.
'I have not asked after my old friend Jacob yet,'
says Unclc Edward. 'When I was here last his
asthma was bad-
'That is the word I wanted to remember,' says
Molly; 'I was sure it began with a donkey.'
'Jacob is very c'oss,' says Sibyl, shaking her head
gravely. 'Molly wouldn't speak to him all day
yesterday. He knew who was coming to be our
next-door neighbour, and I went all by myself to ask
him. Molly wouldn't come with me.'
'Oh, Molly, Molly,' says Uncle Edward seriously.
'That does not seem much like loving your neigh-
bour," does it?'
Molly blushes redder, and hangs her head until
her gold-brown curls hide her scarlet cheeks.
'He was so very rude, uncle,' she says, with
'He called Molly and me bad names,' says Sibyl
What did he call you ?' asks her uncle.
56 'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES'
'"A couple of chattering magpies,"' answers
'And why did he call you that?' says Uncle
'The day before yesterday it rained fast,' replies
Molly, 'and the weeds grow up after the rain. And
we thought we were doing good by pulling them up,
'Then Jacob came,' puts in Sibyl, and he was
d'eadfully c'oss. He said we had pulled up the
seed and left the weeds. But we thought they was
'And he said,' continues Molly, 'that we were
quite old enough to know nasty weeds from good
seed, and that we were always talking so much, and
that was why we wouldn't learn which were the seeds
and which were the weeds.'
And then he called us a pair of chattering mag-
pies,"' says Sibyl. 'Now, wasn't he c'oss, Uncle
'I think it was a "couple," not a "pair,"' says
I think it was a pair,"' says Sibyl.
I am almost sure it was a couple,"' says Molly
'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES'
'I am quite sure it was a "pair,"' says Sibyl
'Poor Jacob !' says Uncle Edward pityingly.
'What between you and his asthma, he has rather
a bad time of it, I am afraid.'
Grannie says it is his donkey complaint what
makes him c'oss,' says Sibyl.
Don't you think you may have something to do
with it?' begins their Uncle Edward, but Sibyl
interrupts him hastily with:
Here is the French nurse. Now, you are quite
sure, Arthur, we shan't have to talk French to
Cerisette, in her anxiety about Arthur, has ap-
peared to carry him off. She says he must go
indoors and rest. Later on he can come in again,
if the little ladies are so kind as to want him.
The little ladies' can hardly be coaxed to give
him up; they meant to have kept him all day. But
Cerisette is firm. Mr. Adair is not here, and she is
responsible. But she promises Arthur shall have tea
with them, and that she will bring him in about four
o'clock in the afternoon.
The sisters each take one of his hands, and insist
upon walking with him to his own gate. To the
58 'A COUPLE OF CHATTERING MAGPIES'
very last they have a hope in their hearts that
Cerisette will invite them in to be with him. But
she does not. Perhaps it does not occur to her.
So Molly and Sibyl are left behind, their two wistful
faces squeezed against the bars of the gate, watching
Arthur as far as they can see him.
THE sisters coax Grannie for a whole holiday, because
they do not feel they can settle down to anything
to-day. And their tongues never cease to talk about
'our next-door neighbour.' Dear Grannie, in her
arm-chair near the window, has knitted on with a
patient smile, while she listens to the descriptions
they give of little Prince Charming. Sibyl takes
great pains to impress upon Grannie that his eyes are
the same colour as those of Mr. Strong's collie dog,
and Molly says his nose is kyline.' This puzzles
Grannie until she finds out that Molly means aquiline.
They have done everything they can think of to
give Prince Charming pleasure. They have gathered
a large bouquet for him, running off with some of
Jacob's choicest blossoms when that poor old man's
back is turned. They have asked cook to make
1 59 ]
60 LOOKING IN
some of their favourite cakes; they have picked
the fruit, and chosen the prettiest spot in the garden
where they will have tea. And now they are
dressed in clean white frocks with blue sashes, their
hair tied with blue ribbons, and they are thinking
that four o'clock will never come.
A quarter to four, and Molly and Sibyl stand
in the middle of the drawing-room hand in hand.
Their eyes are fixed upon the clock, and they are
worrying Grannie with-
'Now, isn't it four o'clock, Grannie? Are you
quite sure it isn't? You said it was fifteen minutes
to four a long, long while ago.'
'Twelve minutes to four,' says Grannie, in a re-
signed voice. I cannot make it go quicker, my
dears, and I believe my watch is true time-at least,
so your uncle says.'
'But you are not quite sure,' says Sibyl.
'As sure as I need to be,' says Grannie. 'It is
only a minute or two wrong, if any. Now, my
dears, be patient for a short time.'
For three minutes they are like mice; then Sibyl
'Now it must be time, Grannie.'
'It's sure to be four now,' says Molly.
LOOKING IN 61
'Nine minutes to four,' says Grannie. 'But, my
dears, as you are so anxious for your little neighbour
to come, why don't you go and meet him?'
Nothing could give them greater pleasure, and
with an air of relief they run away.
They quite expect to meet him in the lane,
hurrying towards them; but there is no sign of
him there, nor in the drive when they peep through
They do not squeeze their faces against the bars
as they did this morning, but walk boldly up to the
house to call for him.
The hall-door is shut, and the bell is beyond
Molly's reach, even when she stands upon the
extreme tips of her square toes.
I can't reach it,' she says, panting, and with a
rosy face. 'I shall have to lift you up, Sibyl, and
you must give a loud pull. They will know it is
Sibyl brings two strong, willing little hands to
bear upon the bell, and it rings such a peal that it
sounds as if a band of soldiers were insisting upon
They will hear that,' says Molly, shaking herself
to set herself to rights.
I pulled it nice and loud, didn't I?' says Sibyl.
In their eagerness to be let in, they press so close
against the door that when it is opened suddenly
they fall flat upon their faces in the hall. They are
helped up at once, and a voice hopes that they have
not hurt themselves.
An old man stands before them dressed in black,
and with a kind, grave face.
We came to fetch- begins Molly, then stops.
'Prince Charming' is on the tip of her tongue, but
perhaps the old man would not know who is meant.
She has forgotten Arthur's surname, and so has Sibyl.
Their faces look very blank for an instant, then they
brighten as the same thought crosses the mind of
each, and they say boldly, the two voices sounding
like one :
We came to fetch our next-door neighbour.'
The grave butler puts his hand before his mouth
to hide a grave smile that creeps over it. But no
doubt he has heard about Molly and Sibyl, for he
crosses the hall, and leads the way to the drawing-
room at once.
It is just the same furniture as it was when Mr.
and Mrs. Bertram lived here,' says Sibyl, when they
LOOKING IN 63
'It is a furnished house, and that means it is let
with the furniture and all,' says Molly.
This is the big armchair what dear Mr. Bertram
used to sit in,' says Sibyl, wriggling herself back into
it. 'Come and sit by the side of me, sister; it is
quite comfy for two.'
As they sit side by side, their arms twined
lovingly round each other's necks, you can see that,
though alike in some ways, in others they are very
different. Molly's face is so much plumper, and
her hair fairer. It waves in fluffy bits of down over
a broad white brow ; while Sibyl's face is smaller and
thinner, and her hair is done up in front in one
large curl upon the top of her head, and kept in
its place with a hair-pin.
'Do you know, Sibyl,' says Molly suddenly, I've
been thinking-and I am sure Grannie never pays
visits without a bonnet on-we ought to have had
on our best bonnets, just as we do when we pay
visits with Grannie.'
Molly's solemn voice overawes Sibyl. She puts her
hand to the top of her head, and pats it dolefully.
'Do you think Arthur will mind ?' she says.
'Perhaps he won't,' says Molly; 'but there is the
man who opened the door.'
We didn't mean to pay a real, regular wisit,' says
Sibyl; 'we only came to meet Arthur.'
'Yes,' replies Molly slowly; 'but the man didn't
He must have thought it wery quare,' says Sibyl.
'Hadn't you better 'splain about the bonnets,
He must have thought we didn't know how to
behave,' says Molly gravely. What shall we say
to him, Sibyl?'
But Sibyl shakes her head hopelessly, and falls to
work to suck her thumb. She does this if she is
worried, or sad, or perplexed, and she seems to find
great comfort from it.
'Tell him we only looked in,' she says.
But Molly takes no notice of this idea.
'I tell you what, Sibyl,' she says at last, in a
bright voice, 'we will ask Prince Charming to
explain to the man.'
Sibyl takes her thumb out of her mouth with an
air of relief, and looks admiringly at Molly.
'That is beautiful. You always do think such
lovely things, Molly ; you are so clever.'
Molly kisses her,
'I am glad I thought of it,' she says. 'And, do
you know, I have thought another thought since we
have been sitting here.'
'Yes : I am sure we ought not to be both sitting
in one chair. I have been to pay visits with
'So have I,' says Sibyl hastily; 'don't leave me
'I won't,' says Molly ; 'only I've been the
oftenest, because I am so much older than you.
But, Sibyl, when you paid visits, you never saw
Grannie and another person sitting in one chair,
did you ?'
'I don't 'member,' replies Sibyl slowly. 'You
went only two days ago-don't you 'member for
'I'm trying,' says Molly thoughtfully. 'We
went to visit Mr. and Mrs. Strong, and we sat in
the sitting-room where the glass thing with the
A 'serva-story,' says Sibyl.
'Grannie did not sit in the same chair with Mrs.
Strong, and she didn't sit in the same chair with
Mr. Strong, and she didn't sit in the same chair
66 LOOKING IN
with me; so she must have sat in a chair all. by
'Then we will sit in chairs all by ourselves,' says
Sibyl, springing up. 'Come 'long, sister, which
shall we choose?'
A few seconds later, when Prince Charming
enters, instead of the two little girls cuddled cosily
back in one armchair, he finds them a great way
apart from each other, sitting upon the tallest and
straightest chairs the room contains, their toes stuck
stiffly out before them, their backs very erect, and
their faces trying hard to look as if their best
bonnets were not in the wardrobe at home, but
where they want them to be-upon the top of their
bright little heads.
As Arthur appears, the sisters give a cry of
mingled delight and admiration; their stiffness
vanishes in an instant, and they jump down from
their high seats and run forward to greet him.
He has put off his morning suit, and is dressed
in an old-fashioned, quaint costume of dark sapphire
blue velvet, silk stockings to match, and shoes
with sparkling buckles. The dark blue is set off
by a falling collar and ruffles of old lace yellow
with age, and in his hand he holds a cap to match
the velvet, with a buckle to match his shoes set upon
one side of it. His cheeks are flushed, his brown
eyes bright with excitement, and his lips curve into a
happy smile as he sees his two little visitors.
Molly and Sibyl are lost in admiration. What
they would like to do would be to throw their four
warm arms round his neck and draw him down for
a good hug. But he is so much more a Prince
Charming now than even he was this morning, and
for once shyness steps in, and they content themselves
with standing still and looking at him.
We want to explain something,' says Molly,
taking his hand and speaking earnestly. We
thought we should meet you in the lane, and we
didn't put on our bonnets 'cause we were in a,
hurry. And we want you to tell the man that
this is not a real, regular visit, but we only just
looked in to fetch you because you were so late.'
And tell him,' puts in Sibyl hastily, 'that we
really and truly do know how to behave ourselves,
for Grannie always takes Molly or me when she goes
to pay wisits.'
I am sorry I was so late,' says Arthur, and
that you had all the trouble of coming to fetch me.'
'Oh, it was not any trouble. We liked it,' says
Molly; 'and perhaps you were not very late, only
we were rather early. The clock wouldn't go after
we got ready.'
'Don't forget to tell the man,' says Sibyl.
'Had I better tell him now ?' asks Arthur.
'I think it would be safest,' says Molly, because
you might be sleepy and forget this evening.'
The butler is holding the door open for them.
Arthur steps up to him and says a few words in a
low voice. Molly and Sibyl stand gravely hand-in-
hand, watching the butler's face. He does not even
smile, and their dignity is satisfied.
A little while later the drawing-room door at
Shadie Cottage is thrown widely open, and Grannie
is waked up so suddenly from a nap, that she rubs
her eyes and blinks them, wondering if she is dream-
ing still, for coming towards her is a slender figure
with a head covered with yellow curls and earnest
brown eyes looking out of it. He is dressed in
dark blue and creamy white, and as he advances,
two voices cry from the background:
'Grannie, here is Prince Charming !'
'Ah yes! Just for the moment I forgot,' says
Grannie, sitting upright, and putting on her spectacles
to have a better view of her visitor. 'I ought to
have remembered you were coming, my dear, for
Molly and Sibyl have been talking about you the
whole day. But old ladies like a nap now and
then. And when you came in I was waked up
so suddenly that for the moment I could not
remember who you were.'
I flung the door open,' says Sibyl penitently. I
am so sorry, Grannie.'
Never mind,' says Grannie. And how are you,
my dear?' turning to Arthur. I hear you came
down here because you are so delicate.'
Cerisette thinks I am better already, thank you,'
You are very thin, my dear,' says Grannie. I
hope you will grow fatter before you go away.'
'But he has only just come, Grannie,' says Sibyl
quickly. And I want him to live here all his life
And if he lives to be as old as I am, that will be
a very long time,' says Grannie.
'Our Grannie is everybody's Grannie,' says Sibyl;
and she is to be yours, too, Arthur. You must
call her Grannie just as we do, and you will never
have another Grannie who will be half as nice.'
Here is Maria with my tea. You don't have
70 LOOKING IN
yours until by-and-by,' says Grannie, but you can
stay and see me eat mine if you like.'
But may we not take him out and show him the
garden?' asks Sibyl coaxingly.
Do as you please, my dears, so that you do not
tire Arthur. He is not so strong as you are, and
you must have some mercy upon his poor legs.'
I'll take care of him, Grannie,' says Molly in a
motherly voice; and, with Prince Charming between
them, they pass out into the garden.
IT IS ALL ATWEEN US.
AFTER tea the two sisters take Arthur to show him
It is a fair-sized, uncarpeted room, with a cup-
board built into the wall, a strongly-made table,
a few chairs, and a large wide sofa, covered with
old-fashioned, well-worn chintz. The floor, table,
chairs, and sofa are crowded with toys, or, rather,
pieces of toys. You may search the whole room
from one end to the other, and I do not believe
you will find a single toy that is whole and sound.
There are many animals, but not one animal with
it own four legs upon its own proper body. Lying
down by the sofa is a cow that seems quite itself,
but if you take it in your hand and examine it,
you will find that Sibyl, in her hurry to mend it
when Jacob's glue-pot was nice and handy, has put
[ 71 ]
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
a horse's head upon it instead of its own. There
is an odd-looking creature staring down at you
from the table. There is a familiar air about it,
yet you cannot think what animal it is meant to
be. It is the body of a donkey with the head of a
water-spaniel glued on to it. Sibyl took up the first
head that happened to be near her, and as it fitted
she put it on. She is very proud of her work, and
has a great affection for that animal. Sometimes
she calls it 'my dear dog,' sometimes i my dear
donkey.' One name does as well as the other.
'Nothing belongs to nobody in this room,' says
Sibyl in a lordly voice, and waving her hands about
as she stands by Arthur's side. 'Nothing belongs to
nobody here. It is all atween us.'
Such a wistful look comes into Arthur's brown
eyes, and curves the corners of his mouth. This is
just what he has missed all his life long. Every-
thing has always been his very own. Nothing has
ever been 'atween us.' Think what it would be
to live alone in the world, and have no one to share
things with us. We cannot -enjoy anything alone.
If it is only a book we read, or a thought we think,
how naturally we turn to talk over it with a friend
we love, or of whose sympathy we are- sure. And
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
as our pleasures are double if we share them, so
our sorrows are only half-sorrows if we can tell
them and be comforted. A great deal of mischief
is done every day by the bad habit of brooding
over things when we are alone. Perhaps someone
is a little unkind to us, and we sit down and brood
over it. We wrap it up and keep it to ourselves,
and bit by bit it grows, until at last, like the cloud
which was at first no bigger than a man's hand, it
fills the whole of our world, and is the means of
separating us from someone who is very dear to us.
And just in the same way Arthur had brooded
about his father, and thought, when he was absent,
only of the time when he would come again, so
that he had become the sad and spiritless little boy he
was when we saw him in his London home. There
is no sadder person than the Miller of the Dee-if
he ever lived-and he, you know, is proud of saying:
I care for nobody, no, not I,
And nobody cares for me.'
And I am not sure but that loving one person, only
one person, with a very exclusive love, is not quite
as bad as the Miller of the Dee, who cared 'for
nobody.' It is no wonder, is it, that if he cares for
nobody, nobody cares for him?
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
And a great longing is stirred in Arthur's heart as
his wistful brown eyes glance over the broken toys
and rest upon the happy pair of sisters. He does
not clearly understand where the difference lies, but
he only knows that he is yearning to share his
treasures with them, not only his toys, but some of
the love that the good God has given to all of us,
and which has waked up in Arthur at that tiny
speech of Sibyl's, 'it is all atween us.
So the little fellow, who is usually so sober and
quiet, stretches out his arms as if he would embrace
the whole roomful of broken toys, and cries with
quivering lips and big tears springing into his brown
'Oh, please, may I bring my toys here-and may
they be all between us ? Please, please, let me bring
'Oh yes,' answers Molly in a matter-of-fact,
surprised voice; 'you can bring as many of your
toys as you like. There is plenty of room.'
'Oh, plenty of room. Bring them all, every one
of them,' says Sibyl gleefully. 'I 'spect they are
great beauties. When will you bring them, Arthur ?'
'To-morrow,' says Arthur, sobering down into
his quiet self once more.
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
That will be wery nice,' says Sibyl in a satisfied
voice. But what makes your face so wery red,
Prince Charming? Is the room too hot? but I am
'fraid there isn't another window we can open.'
Half an hour later, when Uncle Edward looks in,
he finds the party of three quite at home. Prince
Charming is sitting upon the ground, his velvet suit
and silk stockings soiled and dusty, while Molly
upon one side of him, and Sibyl upon the other,
each with an arm twined lovingly round his neck,
are kissing and hugging him to their hearts'
'You are choking your visitor,' is Uncle Edward's
greeting, as the sisters pounce upon him.
'No, oh no!' says Sibyl in a shocked voice; 'we
have given him a good tea, and now we are amoosing
him. Come and help amoose him, Uncle Edward.'
'Sit down upon the sofa,' says Molly, upsetting
the toys to make way for him.
'It's old, but it's very comfy,' says Sibyl, doing
the honours of their furniture.
You need not introduce me to this sofa,' says
Uncle Edward, sitting upon it and leaning back;
'I knew it when I was a baby-this sofa and I have
been friends for nearly forty years.'
76 'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
'Oh, uncle,' cries Sibyl, 'why, how is it your hair
'I had no idea you were so old,' says Molly,
putting her head upon one side and regarding him
with fresh interest.
'Then, perhaps you will listen to me with greater
respect,' says Uncle Edward, for I have a complaint
to make. Prepare yourselves for a trial, and let me
see if you are innocent or guilty.'
The two sisters stand very upright before Uncle
Edward ; they clasp their hands behind their backs,
their faces trying to keep grave, but little dimples
peep out and play hide-and-seek every now and then.
'We are going to be tried,' explains Sibyl to
Arthur; 'but don't cry, 'cause it's only make-
'Uncle Edward is the judge, and we are the
prisoners,' says Molly.
'I wish you were a little more sorry,' says Uncle
Edward. 'Do you know what you have done ?'
'No,' says Molly.
'No,' says Sibyl.
'Then, are you innocent, or guilty?'
'Innocent,' cry the two voices.
'When I came home this evening,' says Uncle
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US' 77
Edward, 'I went to my room to dress for dinner;
I took off my coat, and walked to the wash-hand
stand to plunge my face into a basin of water- '
That was wery bad for you if you was hot,'
interrupts Sibyl, shaking her head. Maria says so
-it will make your face spotty.'
'The water was not cold but lukewarm, which
makes all the difference,' says Uncle Edward.
'Before I dipped my face I stretched out my hand
for a sponge-there was no sponge. That was
quaree," as Sibyl would say, but it was quarter "
still when I found that nail-brushes, tooth-brush,
in fact, every one of my things had vanished as if a
conjuror had whisked them away.'
The sisters' faces dimple with delight. Molly
claps her hands, and says gleefully :
'Of course you couldn't find them, because we
have been tidying up for you. Granny likes us to
'Yes, and your room was in such a litter,' says
Sibyl reprovingly. 'It wanted tidying up dreadful
-and we had nothing else to do. It looked lovely
when we left it.'
'After a long hunt I found my nail-brushes,
tooth-brush, and sponges where I least expected to
78 'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
find them--in the drawer with my clean shirts.
One of my hair-brushes was upon the top shelf in
'We threw it up,' says Sibyl. It tumbled down
a great many times, the stupid thing, but it stayed
up at last.'
The other brush I found inside one of my best
It fitted in so nicely,' says Molly, 'and there was
no room for it anywhere else.'
The boots themselves I found in the wardrobe
underneath my dress-coat, and my slippers lay upon
the top of my collars and cuffs. My nail-scissors I
found in the box where I keep my diamond studs-
'They was lovely,' says Sibyl delightedly. 'They
shined like stars. Molly and me tried them on, and
we wondered why you never wear them when you
'Now, you must listen and be serious,' says Uncle
Edward, putting one hand on the shoulder of each
of them and drawing them to him. I cannot allow
you to go into my room at all, if you do not promise
me.that you will not tidy up-as you call it-again.
You can tidy up your own rooms as much as you
please. I am sure this room, for instance, wants
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
tidying up, if ever a room did, and you can begin
upon it to-morrow morning.'
'Oh, but that would never do,' cries Molly, with
a blank face. We can never find anything when it
is tidy-can we, sister?'
'No, never !' cries Sibyl. 'Oh, we don't like the
room tidy at all, Uncle Edward.'
'Ah, that is just the case with me. I can never
find anything when my room is tidy, so I hope you
will remember the golden rule, and do unto others
as you would they should do unto you." Now,
what are you going to say?'-and Uncle Edward
releases them from his grasp.
'We are very sorry,' says Molly, her roguish blue
eyes looking her uncle straight in the face.
'We will never do so no more,' says Sibyl, rolling
her pinafore in her hands, and poking one of her
shoulders nearly up to her ears.
'We hope you will forgive us,' says Molly.
'And we give you a thousand kisses,' says Sibyl,
springing upon him; and Molly follows her example,
their four arms clasped tightly round his neck,
while kisses rain down upon his cheeks, forehead,
nose, moustaches, hair, and some of them even fall
upon the back of his coat.
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
'And how have they been amoosing you, Prince
Charming?' asks Uncle Edward, when he has breath
enough to speak.
'They have shown me the garden and their play-
room, and I have been very happy, thank you,' says
Arthur shyly. 'And Molly says I may bring my
toys here, and we can have them all between us.
Will not that be nice?'-and his brown eyes brighten
as he looks to Uncle Edward for sympathy.
'Very nice indeed, if you don't mind having them
broken,' says Uncle Edward, shrugging his shoulders
and sweeping a glance around him. 'Where is that
china tea-set I brought you from London, Molly,
about ten days ago ? Not a piece of it left to tell
the tale, I suppose ?'
Oh yes,' replies Molly, with pride, 'we have been
very careful over it, and have only had it out now
and then. There is only the sugar-basin broken,
and the lid of the teapot, and a few cups, and saucers,
and plates. Grannie is going to join them together
with some stuff that mends china beautiful. She will
mend your china and make it as good as new, Uncle
'Thank you,' says Uncle Edward. 'But as I
have no little nieces living up in London with me,
IT IS ALL ATWEEN US' 81
my china does not want joining. And how about
the doll I brought you, Sibyl, the same time I
brought Molly the tea-set ?'
She is as good as new,' says Sibyl cheerfully.
'She broke her two legs and her two arms, but
Molly put her on two fresh legs and two fresh arms,
and then her head fell off, and I put her on Lady
Mildred's head, because Lady Mildred had lost her
body, and now she is quite as good as new. Would
you like to see her, Uncle Edward ?'
No, thank you,' says her uncle dryly. By-the-
by, children, I had a letter by the morning's post,
which I did not read until after breakfast, and then
I found in it a great piece all about Prince Charming.'
Oh!' cries Sibyl, dropping an armful of toys with
a loud clatter upon the floor, do let us hear it-do
tell us about it!' while Molly, just as eager, presses
close against her uncle's knees, and peeps over his
You cannot read it, little woman,' he says ; but
when I have found the place, I will read it to you.
Here it is. Dr. Courtney writes: "I have sent
down to be your next-door neighbour a delicate little
fellow called Arthur Adair. I was his father's fag
when we were at school together, and even now I
82 'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
remember how easy my fagging was when compared
with that of the other fellows. We did not meet,
after we left school, until a few weeks ago, when we
came across each other's path, and found out we had
been old schoolfellows. He told me about his only
son, how many doctors had seen him, and how little
better he seemed to get, and he asked me to look in
upon him one day. I did so, and luckily thought of
the empty house next door I saw when I was staying
with you. It is not country air he wants so much as
bright companions to cheer him and interest him,
and those two little nieces of yours will be the very
best medicine for him."'
Oh!' cries Arthur eagerly,' then that was what
the doctor meant.' And he explains to the three the
mystery about the strange medicine he was to find at
How quare,' says Sibyl thoughtfully, for Molly
and me to be two bottles of medicine. But we are
wery nice medicine, aren't we, Prince Charming?'
'Very nice indeed,' says Arthur.
Now I will finish about it,' says Uncle Edward,
reading from the letter : '"Will you ask your
mother if she will be so kind as to call, and let him
see as much of Molly and Sibyl as she thinks fit ? I
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
know her kind heart, and I do not hesitate to ask
her this. Molly and Sibyl will work wonders, and,
under their care, I expect to find my little patient in
a few weeks quite bonny and bright. I have only
seen him once, but he struck me as being a very
sweet little fellow, and your nieces---" There,'
says Uncle Edward, as he folds up the letter rather
hastily, that is all I need read. The rest does not
'But it was about us,' says Molly suspiciously.
'You did not finish about us; we want to know
what more Dr. Courtney said about us.'
It is sure to be something wery nice,' says Sibyl,
'for he was a wery nice man. Do read it, please,
Uncle Edward'-very coaxingly.
Not a word more,' replies their uncle, putting
the letter into his pocket-book. 'Dr. Courtney
little thinks you made your next-door neighbour's
acquaintance so soon.'
'Why, of course,' says Molly serenely ; 'Grannie
says it is only neighbourly to call upon your next-
'But you did not wait for Grannie,' says Uncle
Edward; 'and I must say you have what Sibyl calls
a quare way of managing your affairs down here.
84 IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
When we want to know our neighbours in London,
we do not climb up ladders and sit upon the top of a
wall to see them come out of their house.'
'The wall was too high for us to peep over, and
we were obliged to climb up the ladders,' says Molly.
But the faces of the sisters grow very red as they
call to mind their visit this afternoon without their
bonnets. What would their uncle say to that ? He
would be quite sure that people in London would
never pay visits with bare heads and without being
But it wasn't a real, regular wisit,' says Sibyl in a
comforting whisper, as they gaze into each other's
startled eyes. It was only looking in.'
'That was all,' Molly whispers softly back.
Uncle Edward is talking to Prince Charming, and
does not hear the whisper. Arthur's eyes shone
while he listened to the letter, and now they are
lighting up with a new interest as he forgets his
shyness, and puts his hand upon Uncle Edward's
'I am so glad that the nice doctor knew father
when he was a boy like me,' he says softly. Do
you think I shall ever see him again to ask him what
father did and all about him?'
IT IS ALL ATWEEN US' 85
'I am sure you will,' answers Uncle Edward, for
I fancy, from what Dr. Courtney says, that he and
your father are getting firm friends. And if you
stay here long enough you will see him, for he often
runs down for a couple of days' rest. He is a great
friend of mine.'
"Only stays long enough,"' quotes Sibyl, bristling.
'Why, Prince Charming is not going away never no
more. Grannie is his Grannie, and you are his
Uncle Edward, and Molly and me are his sisters,
and these toys '-waving her hand-' are all to be
atween him as well as atween Molly and me.'
As for the toys, I don't think much of that part
of the bargain,' says Uncle Edward. 'What do you
say, Prince Charming?'
Arthur colours brightly.
'It is so nice,' he says, 'because they are to be
between us. I have had my toys to myself, and I
do not care for them a bit. But you are so kind
to me ;' and, to the children's great surprise, he lays
his head down upon Uncle Edward's shoulder and
'Why, he must have hurt himself!' says Sibyl.
' I'll run and ask Grannie for some sticking-plaster.
Don't cry, dear Arthur.'
'IT IS ALL ATWEEN US'
'Kiss the place and make it well,' says Molly
Let him alone,' says Uncle Edward, who under-
stands all about it now. 'He will be quite himself
soon. Let him cry in peace.'
'I am crying because I am so happy,' says Arthur
between his sobs.
'Now, how wery quare of you, Prince Charming!'
says Sibyl. 'Molly and me only cry when we aren't
happy, or when we have hurt ourselves.'
'Never mind,' says Molly. He will be himself
soon-Uncle Edward says so. Don't cry, Prince
Charming-no, do cry, I mean, if it.does you good;'
and she pats his yellow curls with quite a motherly
touch. 'We love him very much indeed-don't we,
'Wery, wery much,' replies Sibyl; and each of
them presses a grave kiss upon the back of his
neck, and both stand quietly hand-in-hand beside
him until his tears have stopped.
UNDER THREE UMBRELLAS.
THE beautiful summer days pass like a dream to
the three happy children, Molly, Sibyl, and Arthur.
They are always together; either Arthur is with them
at Shadie Cottage, or they are with him at Riverside.
Cerisette has grown used to the sisters and their
odd ways. At first she was really afraid they would
lead Arthur into danger-break his neck, or some-
thing ; but by degrees she learnt to trust them, and
now she has become quite fond of the 'English
little ladies,' as she calls them.
Arthur is not rosy or plump-I do not suppose
he will ever be either of those things, even if he
lives to be a big man-but he is quite different
to what he was when first he came to Riverside.
There is a touch of healthy colour in his cheeks;
his eyes are bright; he runs about and plays, and
88 UNDER THREE UMBRELLAS
laughs, and does not get sleepy until the evening;
and then, as all children know, the dustman goes
round and throws dust into their eyes, and they are
obliged to feel sleepy whether they wish it or no.
Arthur's toys have been carried into the play-
room at Shadie Cottage, and, it need hardly be said,
there is not a whole one left. The carved ivory
animals from the large Noah's ark are only fit for
the doctor. The reindeer lies upon the floor, a
front leg missing and a slender horn broken off;
the elephant's trunk is in two pieces ; a cow has lost
a tail; a horse's head is in a corner, its body some-
where else ; a squirrel is looking in vain for the nut
he was cracking ; and a splendid Newfoundland dog
has only one ear. But then, as Sibyl carefully
explains to Arthur, You cannot find out how to
join things together unless they are broken ;' and
Arthur is so happy that the destruction of his toys
does not trouble him, though he is by nature a most
careful little man, and his things are just as whole
and nice when he has finished with them as when
they first came into his possession.
'Arthur,' says Sibyl one day, turning suddenly
to him, 'why is it that when your papa goes away
you run to your bedroom, and shut your door tight,
UNDER THREE UMBRELLAS
and won't come to play with Molly and me for a
wery long time?'
'I am always so sorry when father goes away,'
says Arthur; 'but I know it vexes him to see me
cry, so I wait until he has gone, and then I shut
myself in my room and have a good cry. But
father is coming next week to stay here for his
holiday, and that will be nice !'
It is wery quare about your crying,' says Sibyl,
looking at him with a puzzled expression. 'Molly
and me could cry sometimes when somebody wery
nice goes away, but we couldn't cry after they had
gone; we shouldn't have time.'
'Should not you?' says Arthur meekly. 'But
then I have plenty of time-I have not so much
to do as you and Molly.'
'That is wery true,' says Sibyl. 'Now, this after-
noon you must come with us, Prince Charming.
We are going to see whether Mrs. Grey's chickens
are hatched, and if Nannie Straw is better, and oh!
a great many other things. Molly has written them
down upon a piece of paper, as long as that, in
small writing. Molly's small writing is wery clever
-nobody else, can read it 'cept herself. You can't,
can you, Arthur?'
UNDER THREE UMBRELLAS
'No,' answers Arthur; 'I tried the other day,
and found I could not.'
Here she is,' says Sibyl, as Molly comes towards
them, a piece of paper in one hand, a pencil in the
other, and with altogether an air of business about
'I was wondering where you both were,' she says.
'We shall have to start directly after dinner, and
we shall not be home until tea-time. You must
put on your biggest hat, Arthur, and please bring
an umbrella, because it is so hot.'
'Oh, I don't want an umbrella,' pleads Arthur-
' I really don't.'
'Oh yes, you do,' says Molly briskly. 'We are
all going to take umbrellas to-day : Sibyl is to have
Grannie's, I shall have Uncle Edward's, and you
can have one of your papa's. Parasols are no use
with a hot sun--Grannie said so to Maria the other
day, when Maria wanted her to take the little
parasol with the lace round. Grannie said : "That
is only for show, Maria ; I want something that will
be of use to-day. Bring me my umbrella, please."'
And Arthur says nothing, but meekly submits.
Molly always has her own way with him.
Early in the afternoon they start, and they take
' Sibyl's umbrella shuts with a loud snap, and she falls down, her head and
shoulders folded up in it.-P. 91.