The little runaways

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Material Information

Title:
The little runaways
Series Title:
Red nursery series
Physical Description:
127, 5 p. : ill. ; 19 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
Capes, M. Harriet M
Gülich, John ( Illustrator )
Sunday School Union (England) ( Publisher )
Publisher:
Sunday School Union
Place of Publication:
London
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Children -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Runaway children -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Romanies -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Nannies -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Friendship -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Obedience -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Orphans -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Publishers' advertisements -- 1899   ( rbgenr )
Bldn -- 1899
Genre:
Publishers' advertisements   ( rbgenr )
novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
England -- London

Notes

Statement of Responsibility:
by M. Harriet M. Capes ; with illustrations by John Gülich and others
General Note:
Date of publication from inscription.
General Note:
Publisher's advertisements follow text.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002223045
notis - ALG3293
oclc - 271655418
System ID:
UF00089011:00001


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GIPSIESS 1" WHISPERED LAURIE SOFTLY.


Frontispiece. ]


[See page 37.






THE RED NURSERY SERIES


THE



LITTLE RUNAWAYS







BY

M. HARRIET M. CAPES
Author of "Two Little Brothers," etc.


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN OULICH AND OTHERS






LONDON:
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION
57 & 59 LUDGATE HILL, E.C.













- -~Ai


CONTENTS




CHAP. PAGE
I. LAURIE'S GRIEVANCE 9
II. LAURIE'S PLAYFELLOW 8

III. RUNNING AWAY 29

IV. IN THE GIPSIES' CAMP 38

V. A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY 47

VI. THE SEARCH 58

VII. IN REAL TROUBLE 67

VIII. A FRIEND IN NEED 77
IX. JOE'S RESOLVE 88

X. A LONG TRAMP 96
XI. ANXIOUS FRIENDS. 106

XII. THE RESCUE .. 117



















LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



PAGE
GIPSIESS !" WHISPERED LAURIE SOFTLY ..Frontfisiece

SAD AND ANGRY THOUGHTS FILLED HIS MIND 15

"RUTHIE!" HE SAID, "I WANT TO TELL YOU SOMETHING' 23

IT HAD BEGUN TO RAIN A LITTLE, AND THE SKY WAS DULL

AND GREY 51

c"YOU SHAN'T HIT HER ] CRIED LAURIE 71

THE ARRIVAL AT THE FAIR .79

HE COULD SEE A GREAT PATCH OF LIGHT LOW DOWN IN THE

SKY 99

"DRINK THIS BEFORE YOU TRY TO TELL US WHAT YOU CAME

FOR" .. III

THE LITTLE KING SPRANG TO HIS FEET, AND CRIED

FATHER 123


















THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS

-4---

CHAPTER I.

LAURIE'S GRIEVANCE.


f'J .AURIE ELIOT ought to have
been a very happy little boy,
for he had everything a little
boy could possibly desire.
He lived in the very pretti-
est house in a pretty village, where there was a
common, with geese on it always waddling about
in a concited way, as if it belonged to them alone,
9







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


and a pond where the white ducks swam and
quacked all day long.
Then he had a garden of his very own in the
big one that was round the house, and he was
allowed to dig and rake and hoe it as he pleased,
to plant flowers or vegetables in it just as he felt
inclined, and to dig them up again the next day
to see how much they had grown, without any
more scolding from his mother than, "What a
silly little boy you are!"
Inside the pretty house he had a nursery,
papered with a beautiful shiny paper, with fairy-
tale pictures printed on it, and a rocking-horse, and
a box of tools, and a box of real bricks, not made
of wood, but of red and white clay, besides other
toys of many kinds.
There was a kitten, too, a tabby Persian kitten,
that never scratched except when Laurie squeezed
her so hard that she had to scratch to get a little
breath.
Laurie's father was a soldier, and had been far
away in India for three years; and Laurie had






LAURIE'S GRIEVANCE


almost forgotten what he was like, although every
morning he kissed the portrait of him that stood on
the table in his little bedroom next his mother's,
and said, Good-morning, father dear "; and every
night after he had said his prayers, he kissed it
again, and said, "Good-night, father, and God
bless you."
Captain Eliot was coming home very soon now,
and Laurie felt sure he should remember him
directly he saw him; and every day he and his
mother talked of the happy days they would have
when father was with them, and planned all sorts
of walks, and picnics, and pleasures which they
were to enjoy together.
Now, don't you think Laurie Eliot ought to
have been a very happy little boy ?
Yet, one bright autumn morning, when the sun
shone in at the nursery window, and his bread-and-
milk was neither too hot nor too cold, and just
sweet enough, and the rocking-horse looked on
cheerfully, Laurie was so far from happy that he
burst out crying at the breakfast-table, when nurse







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


said crossly that he had got out of bed on the
wrong side, and that he was a "regular spoilt
child, and if he was hers she'd soon see what a
good whipping would do for him !"
Laurie's mother had gone away the day before
to stay with some friends for a couple of nights.
It was not convenient that she should take him
with her; so, with many kisses and promises from
Laurie that he would be good-very good-during
her short time of absence, she had started by
herself.
Do be good and obedient to nurse, like my
own dear boy," mother had said; and Laurie had
really meant to do right.
But nurse had an unpleasant way of making
him feel naughty, however good his intentions
were; she always seemed to take for granted that
boys were born naughty, and ought to be scolded
and punished all day long.
I'm not doing anything wrong!" Laurie said
angrily sometimes, for he had a fine temper of his
own, too.







LAURIE'S GRIEVANCE


"Well, if you're not now, I'll be bound you
will be before five minutes are over," nurse
would retort; and Laurie felt her to be unkind
and unfair, though he did not know how to
say so.
He really had intended to be very good this
time; but mother had not been gone half an hour
before he and nurse had quarrelled, and all his
good resolutions had flown, as, with scarlet face
and angry eyes, he had answered her sharp
speeches, until she had carried him, kicking and
struggling, into his little bedroom, and locked him
in, to rage and scream until the remembrance of
his absent mother made him bury his head in the
pillow, and cry himself into quietness.
Nurse did not mean to be unkind; she only
thought that, boys, being troublesome by nature,
ought to be kept in order; and Laurie was so
much with his mother, that, as a rule, he felt
quite able to bear nurses scoldings and re-
bukes.
But this morning it was different.







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


Ever since mother went away yesterday, he
had been left entirely to nurse's management; and
as nurse was resolved to show that she at least
did not spoil little boys, Laurie's life had not been
the cheerful one it generally was.
"Now, Master Laurie," she said severely,
"behave yourself, and eat your bread and milk
this moment, or you'll just go without. Not a bit
of anything else will you have until you've finished
every drop of that."
"I don't want it-I don't want anything!"
sobbed Laurie.
Stuff and nonsense !" said nurse; "eat it up
at once, and don't let us have any more tan-
trums."
She went on with her own breakfast; and
presently Laurie wiped his eyes, and began his
bread-and-milk, eating it at first in a doleful way,
very slowly and stopping between each spoonful,
and then as he tasted how nice it was, and felt he
was hungry, finishing it, and his bread-and-butter
too.







LAURIE'S GRIEVANCE 15

But although he ate his breakfast, and said
his grace, and put his chair against the wall


,1 1...-_
-I ,-


SAD AND ANGRY THOUGHTS FILLED HIS MIND.

obediently, the smiles did not come back to his
face; and when nurse told him he might go into







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


the garden and play, he went slowly, and without
any of his usual shouts and jumps.
He walked along the path to his own little
garden, and there he sat down on his wheelbarrow
and thought.
His eyes were fixed on a plant of white verbena,
the pride of his garden, which he had allowed to
grow until it was quite a respectable size; but he
did not see it : his mind was so full of thought.
He was thinking how he should get through the
time of his mother's absence. It seemed as if it
would never pass; it seemed as if she would never
come home again, but as if he and nurse would
spend the rest of their lives in battles over every
single thing that happened.
Oh, I can't bear it! cried the poor little boy.
"I hate her! She's a nasty, cross, disagreeable
thing! Oh, I wisk mother wouldn't go away!
It's very unkind of her!"
For a long time he sat on the wheelbarrow
swinging his feet to and fro, while sad and angry
thoughts filled his mind. Then all at once he






LAURIE'S GRIEVANCE 17

started up, with his cheeks crimson and his eyes
shining.
I'll run away!' he said; I'll run away, and
then she'll be sorry "




















CHAPTER II.


LAURIE'S PLAYFELLOW.


so happened that on the very
day when Laurie Eliot had
made up his mind to run
away from home, and so make
nurse sorry for her unkind


behaviour, the little girl who lived next
door was also feeling herself very badly
treated.
It must be owned, however, that while Laurie
really had some cause for complaint, Ruth Lambert
had none but what she made for herself. Indeed,
18


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sah`






LAURIE'S PLAYFELLOW


I am afraid it must be confessed that Miss Ruth
Lambert was a spoilt child. But then she was
such a winsome and lovable little maid, that her
naughtiness was always forgotten as soon as the
smile came back to her lips and the dimple to her
pretty pink cheek.
Ruth was an orphan. Her father and mother
had died while she was still a baby, and ever since
she could remember she had lived with her grand-
mother and her Aunt Lucy in the house next to
Laurie's, and the two children had played together
all their lives.
Grandmamma and Aunt Lucy both spoiled
Ruth; but each thought it was the other's petting
which was to blame for Ruthie's self-will and fits
of naughtiness.
The real fact was that they both spoiled the
little orphan equally; and if it had not been that
she had a generous little heart under her self-willed
ways, she would have been ruined by knowing
that she could do just what she pleased with both
grandmother and aunt.






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


This morning, Ruthie, like Laurie, had begun
by refusing to eat her bread-and-milk.
"Nasty stuff! she said; I am tired of it."
But instead of nurse's severe reproof to Laurie,
her grandmother had said mildly-
"Oh, don't say that, dear! Those are not
pretty words for a good little girl to use."
I'm not a good little girl! said Ruth-quite
truly, I am afraid; "and I don't want the nasty
stuff: I want some bacon."
Ruth! said Aunt Lucy, with what she fancied
great severity, I cannot allow you to speak rudely
to your grandmother."
"Oh, my dear," said grandmamma hastily,
" I'm sure Ruthie did not mean to be rude; did
you, darling? Perhaps the poor child is really
tired of bread-and-milk every day. Give her a bit
of bacon-just the least bit."
"You spoil her dreadfully, mother," said Aunt
Lucy. "When I was a child it was an unheard-of
thing for us to have bacon at breakfast."
But Ruth got her bit of bacon, and, would you







LAURIE'S PLAYFELLOW


believe it ? Aunt Lucy ate Ruth's bread-and-milk,
since it seemed wrong to waste it.
Many a poor little girl would be glad-and
gratefud--to have such a basin of beautiful bread-
and-milk," Aunt Lucy said; but Ruthie cheerfully
nibbled her bacon, quite easy under her aunt's
reproof.
She certainly was a spoilt child; but, as I said,
she had a generous little heart under her spoilt
ways, and really loved the kind grandmother and
aunt who had taken the place of father and mother,
and who thought they could never do enough to
make up to the little orphan for the early loss of
her parents.
After breakfast, Aunt Lucy gave an hour to
Ruth's lessons. It was an hour which was not
always entirely pleasant to either of them. Ruth
was a bright child and learned easily; but when
she chose, she could be as stupid and tiresome
as the dullest of children.
This morning she had a naughty fit, in spite
of getting her own way about the bacon, and







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


poor Aunt Lucy's patience was tried to the
utmost.
You are a very naughty little girl," she said
at last; "I was going to take you to the town to
buy a present for grandmamma's birthday, but
I shall certainly not do so now. It is no use your
crying; you must learn that you can't always
have your own way, however badly you behave."
And for once in a way Aunt Lucy was firm.
Ruth's tears did not move her; and even when
Ruth appealed to grandmamma, and grandmamma,
unable to bear the sight of the little one's tear-
stained face, said mildly to her daughter, I'm
sure she'll be good now, and won't be so naughty
again, if you will let her go this once," Aunt Lucy
answered, No, mother; it's no good; she must
learn to be obedient."
After Aunt Lucy had started, grandmamma
gave Ruth some sweets, to console her for her
disappointment. It is true she gave her some
good advice at the same time; but I am afraid
Ruthie liked the sweets better than the advice.



























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sc RUT]HIE" HE SAID, I WANT TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.'







LAURIE'S PLAYFELLOW


She ate them sulkily, however, and afterwards
went out into the garden in a temper very far from
sweet. The smiles had left her lips and the dimple
her cheeks, and as she walked she kicked the toes
of her shoes against the gravel in the way only an
ill-tempered child can.
At the end of the garden there was a hedge
that divided it from the Eliots', and just behind
one bit of the hedge was Laurie's own little
garden.
As Ruth came near the hedge she saw behind
it a small blue figure she knew to be Laurie's, and
at the same moment he caught sight of her white
pinafore and sun-bonnet.
He ran towards the hedge.
"Ruthie!" he said, in a gentle whisper;
"Ruthie! come through the gate; I want to tell
you something."
"Oh! I don't wan't to," said the spoilt child
fretfully; "you're always telling me things I don't
care about."
"Do come, Ruthie!" said Laurie, still in the







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


same eager low voice; "it really is something
you'll like to know."
Ruth went slowly to the little white gate
which led from one garden into the other, and
opened it.
Well ?" she said, rather crossly.
Ruthie," said Laurie excitedly, I'm going to
run away.
All Ruth's ill-temper vanished in her astonish-
ment. "Run away!" she cried.
"Don't call out so!" said Laurie quickly;
" she'll hear, if you do."
'What for should you run away ?" asked the
little girl.
"Nurse," answered Laurie; "she's a horrid,
cross, unkind thing! I hate her, and I won't stay
with her-and then she'll be sorry. I don't care;
she shouldn't be so horrid! "
But where will you run to ? asked Ruthie.
"I don't know; somewhere where she can't
find me. I won't let her find me. I'll hide
in a barn, or a wood, or something," said Laurie







LAURIE'S PLAYFELLOW


valiantly. I don't care if there is wild beasts.
I'm not afraid of them-they're nicer than her, I
know!"
Oh, what fun !" cried Ruth. "Oh, Laurie! do
let me go with you! Aunt Lucy was so nasty and
cross to-day-she wouldn't let me go to the town
with her. I'm sure she's as bad as nurse-almost
as bad, anyhow; and she'll be sorry, too, when she
finds I've run away. Do let me come "
Laurie looked a little doubtful.
You won't cry, will you ? he said; and you
won't be afraid of wild beasts, or spiders, or frogs
-or anything ? 'Cos you know it'll be a long way,
and you mitr/z be tired, and there might be a lion;
or anyhow, I'm sure there's frogs and things in the
woods."
I won't cry-really and truly I won't cry,
Laurie; and I won't be frightened-only if it's a
real lion," she added prudently; "and I don't
believe lions do live in woods, do they? "
"I don't know-not quite know," said Laurie;
"but anyhow, I know there's frogs."








28 THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS

Oh, Laurie I don't mind a bit about frogs-
or anything-if you'll only let me run away with
you. It would be such fun!"
"Very well," said Laurie, "you shall come
too."

















CHAPTER III.

RUNNING AWAY.


HE first thing to be thought of
was how to get away without
!; being seen.
'--'',:' 9!B I That was pretty easy just
then, for nurse would not look
for Laurie until she was ready to take him for
his usual morning walk; and as Aunt Lucy had
already started for the town, no one would think
anything but that Ruth was either in her grand-
mother's garden, or had gone, as usual, to play
with Laurie.






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


"We shall want something to eat," said Laurie,
"'cos we're going a long way-twenty miles, I
shouldn't wonder, or twenty-five."
Ruthie opened her eyes wide.
P'r'aps there'll be things to eat in the woods,"
she said; blackberries-and nuts-and things.
Oh, I wish I hadn't eaten all my sweeties!"
Laurie was looking thoughtful.
I think Sarah would give me a bit of cake-
two bits-if I gave her a kiss-a nice kiss," he said;
"she's not cross like nurse. You wait here, Ruthie,
and I'll go in and ask her before nurse calls me."
Sarah was not fond of nurse, and she had heard
Laurie crying over his breakfast, and had said to
cook-
"There she is again, worriting that poor child
out of his blessed little life I wish his ma was at
home-that I do. It's a sin and a shame to see her
a-spoiling of his temper like that, when he's a lamb
for goodness if he's let alone."
So when Laurie appeared with his petition for a
bit of cake-two bits, because Ruthie wanted one







RUNNING AWAY


too-she cut two substantial slices and gave them
to him at once, without asking for the kiss Laurie
had intended to bribe her with.
So he kissed her out of gratitude instead, and
said-
I wish nurse was as nice and pretty as you,
Sarah."
And Sarah kissed him back, although she said-
Go along with you, do, Master Laurie; you're
that artful with your compliments! "
Laurie bethought himself of his own little basket,
which hung on a hook in the store-room, and put
his slices of cake carefully into it; and as he went
back to Ruth he pulled two or three apples from
the branches of a low-growing tree, and then felt
that he had made ample preparation for the walk
that was to be, perhaps, of twenty-five miles.
Ruth was waiting just where he had left her.
Did she give you any ? she said.
Two slices-two large slices! said Laurie
excitedly; "but we mustn't eat them for a long,
long time, Ruthie. Let's make haste and go."







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


Hand in hand the two children slipped through
the little gate at the end of the garden, and were
out upon the village green.
Laurie knew the way to the woods very well : it
was a walk he often went with his mother, although
he had never yet gone very far into their green
depths; for the woods themselves were a mile
away from the village, and Mrs. Eliot was delicate,
and could not walk very far.
But Laurie's sturdy little legs carried him well;
and Ruth trotted beside him, full of pride in being
allowed to run away in his company.
By this time the thought that they were running
away from anyone-unkind nurse or kind Aunt
Lucy-had almost passed away from their childish
minds. They only felt it was a delightful adventure,
and were too ignorant to know its risks.
I intend to go to mother," said Laurie, as they
trotted along. I 'member the name of the place
she's gone to-most of it, at least ; it's called Guild-
ford. I daresay we shall see it somewhere on a
sign-post; and I'm almost sure I should know it, 'cos






RUNNING AWAY


mother spelled it to me- G-U-I-L-D-F-O-R-D.
I'll tell her nurse was so cross, I couldn't bear it
any longer. She won't be angry, I know--she'll
be glad to see me."
They had reached the entrance to the woods
now; and Laurie drew the little girl without hesi-
tation into the one path he knew, and even on
that he had been but a short way.
But Laurie was a brave and spirited little fellow,
and not often afraid.
For a while they followed the winding path,
until ripening nuts or blackberries tempted them
into side alleys, or specially enticing little open-
ings in the wood came in sight. It was all very
delightful. The sun glanced through the thick
boughs overhead, and shone upon the green
grass where the trees left open spaces. All sorts
of beautiful little insects skipped or crawled
amongst the grass, and the birds twittered in the
branches.
Laurie, I'm so hungry !" said Ruth suddenly.
"Aren't you hungry ?"
3







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


Laurie had been too full of delight in the charms
of the wood to think about it before; but now that
Ruth's words reminded him, he too felt he was
hungry-very hungry.
The cake in the basket looked very inviting,
and it was not many minutes before both slices
had disappeared down the two little throats. Two
of the apples went the same way. Then Laurie
said gravely-
"We mustn't eat the other two yet, Ruthie,
'cos you know we might be hungry again before
we get to Guildford."
So the two other apples were left in the basket,
and, refreshed by their meal, the children started
off once more.
For a little while they went on with lighter
steps and hearts, talking and laughing and finding
pleasure in all they saw. Then presently Ruthie's
smiles and dimples began to disappear, and her
poor little feet to lag a little.
I'm so tired!" she said piteously, and began
to cry.







RUNNING AWAY


You promisedyou wouldn't cry, or be afraid-
or anything! cried Laurie indignantly.
It's such a long way !" sobbed Ruthie; and
I'm so tired! I want Aunt Lucy-and I'm so
hungry and thirsty! I want my tea! "
Laurie was a manly little boy.
Don't cry, Ruthie dear, don't cry! he said;
"eat one of the apples, and then we'll go on and
find the sign-post. It's sure to tell us the way
to Guildford."
So Ruthie and he ate the two apples that
were left, and felt better.
The sun was getting low now, and the trees
threw long shadows on the open spaces. Laurie
took the little girl's hand, and began to lead her
quickly through the bushes into a path he saw
beyond.
We'll go on quite quick now," he said, his own
brave little heart a little dismayed by the look of
evening coming on, and by the feeling that the
wood was all around them, and that he had not the
least idea where they were.







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


Fortunately the path he had seen did lead out
of the wood, and in a little while they saw before
them the open country.
The sun had set, and it was growing darker
every moment. Ruth clung to him tightly, and at
every little sound amongst the trees on each side of
them, trembled and cried out.
Just as they got almost to the end of the path
there was a low growl, and some large animal tore
quickly through the bushes.
Oh, Laurie! it's a lion screamed poor little
Ruth, and, rushing wildly forwards, dragged him
with her out upon a wide common at the end of
the wood.
A rough tent stood upon the grass not far from
them, and a covered cart was near to it. The horse
was cropping the grass; and as the frightened
children came out of the dark wood, the animal
Ruth had taken for a lion came bounding out after
them.
It was a large black-and-tan collie dog.
A rough-looking man lay upon the grass at the







RUNNING AWAY 37

entrance to the tent, and a woman with curly black
hair and dark skin was picking up bits of dry wood
to put upon a fire which made a bright blaze upon
the ground, under an iron pot which hung over it
from three sticks tied together at the top.
Laurie and Ruth clutched each other's hands
tight and stared at the strange scene.
Gipsies! whispered Laurie softly.



















CHAPTER IV.

IN THE GIPSIES' CAMP.


HEN Laurie whispered "Gipsies!"
to Ruth, as they stood looking
Sat the tent and the fire and the
dark woman picking up sticks,
the little girl squeezed his arm
tighter still, and said in a frightened voice-
Let's run back, Laurie; I'm afraidd of gipsies!"
Laurie was a brave little boy, but Ruth's fright
made him feel timid too; and they were about
to steal back softly into the wood, when the
dog came towards them, barking as if he were
33







IN THE GIPSIES' CAMP


angry at their coming near his friends the
gipsies.
At the sound, the woman looked up and caught
sight of the children.
Down, Worry, down! she cried angrily; and
then she turned and said something the children
did not understand to the man who had been lying
on the grass, and he got up -heavily and came
towards the fire.
"Where are you bound for, my pretty little
gentleman and lady?" asked the woman, coming
towards the children with a smile that showed her
strong white teeth; "it's late for such as you to
be wandering in the woods."
She looked kind, Laurie thought,-kinder than
nurse,-and he was tired and hungry, and they had
lost their way, and he did not know how they
should ever reach Guildford and dear mother
that night, unless they were quite close now;
so he thought he might ask this dark, smiling
woman if she knew what road they ought to
take.







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


Do you know the right way to Guildford ?"
he asked, looking straight at her with his brave
blue eyes. "I'm 'fraid we've come the wrong
way, and I do so want to get to Guildford to-
night!"
The woman stared.
Guildford! she began; why, that's-"
Then she stopped, and went on in quite a
different tone-
What do you want to go to Guildford for,
my pretty gentleman?"
"I want to find mother," said poor Laurie,
beginning to feel very miserable and home-sick
all of a sudden ; "she's gone there for two days,
and nurse was so cross, and me and Ruthie thought
we'd run away."
He had not intended to tell the woman all
this, but speaking of his mother, who somehow
seemed very far away now, upset his poor little
heart, and he and Ruthie were both crying from
fatigue and fright and hunger before he had
finished his little story.







IN THE GIPSIES' CAMP


The woman gave a sharp look at the man,
and he nodded to her in a surly way before she
spoke.
He was not kind-looking at all: his face was
red and rough, and he wore an ugly cap of rabbit-
skin on his head, and had a scarlet-and-yellow
handkerchief twisted round his thick throat.
But the woman went on smiling.
Why, if this ain't lucky! she said; "why, me
and my man are just on our way to Guildford this
very night, and we'll be as pleased as anything to
give you a lift. It isn't fitting two such little
gentlefolks as you should be walking the woods in
the dark. And I'll be bound you're hungry too
-ain't you? "
"Yes-very," said Laurie; "we've only had
a slice of cake each and two apples all day."
"Well, you just come along of me and get
your supper; and then we'll be off, so as to reach
Guildford and find your ma as soon as ever it's
light again."
The prospect of food and rest, and, above all,







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


of seeing mother so soon, gave Laurie back all
his brave spirit, and he drew Ruth forward towards
the blazing fire.
A nice smell came from the iron pot, and made
the children feel how hungry they were; for they
had had no dinner or tea that day.
The woman again said something they did not
understand to the man, and he came forward.
"Your servant, master and miss," he said in a
deep, gruff voice; good evening."
"How do you do, sir?" said Laurie timidly.
The big rough man was not half so pleasant to
look at as the woman, with her white teeth and
smiling black eyes.
"Very well so fur," answered the man, "hoping
I see you and miss the same. Where's the boy?"
he went on angrily to the woman.
"In the tent," she answered; "he says his
head's bad again."
Lazy young dog! growled the man; I'll
give him something to make his head bad if he
plays any tricks on me. I'll-"






IN THE GIPSIES' CAMP


The woman gave him a warning nod and
looked towards the children, who were staring at
him with fear in their eyes.
Don't you be afraid of him, my dears," she
said; "he don't mean no harm--it's only his
way."
As she spoke, she thrust a great iron ladle
into the pot and brought up in it large pieces of
meat and potatoes, which she put into tin plates.
The plates were not very clean, and the children
found it difficult to use the large steel knives and
forks the gipsy woman gave them; but they were
very hungry, so they set to work on the lumps of
meat and the potatoes, and afterwards felt much
the better for the food.
The man did not trouble himself about a fork,
but cut great mouthfuls of the meat with his
pocket-knife, and afterwards gnawed the bones
like a dog, before he flung them to Worry, who
sat on the grass by his side, impatiently waiting
for his share, and getting a kick or a rough word
instead, if he whined or came too close.







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


The children looked at the rough man with
awe, and were glad when he got up, and began to
put the pot and other things that lay about into
the cart, before harnessing the horse.
"Here, Joe!" called the woman presently; "if
you want any supper you'd better make haste, or
you'll have to go without. Come out of that
tent, anyways. Yer dad's going to put it in
the cart."
As she spoke, a thin pale boy of about fourteen
crawled out of the tent, and came slowly towards
the fire. He was not in the least like the rough
man or the dark woman, but had a delicate white
face and pale blue eyes, and looked very tired
and ill.
When he caught sight of the two children, he
started and turned very red.
"Who are they ?" he said quickly.
"A young gentleman and lady as have lost their
way, and been so kind as to take their supper with
us. They're coming on with us to Guildford," she
continued, looking hard at the pale boy; "so mind







IN THE GIPSIES' CAMP


you make yourself pleasant to them, or I'll know
the reason why."
Her face did not look nearly so pleasant, Laurie
thought, when she was speaking to the boy, as
it had done when she was smiling at him and
Ruthie.
"To Guildford!" cried the boy; "why-"
I said Guildford, didn't I ?" said the woman
angrily. Didn't you hear? And if you want
any supper, you'd best be quick about it."
"I don't want any supper," said the boy; "my
head's too bad-I'm sick."
All the time he spoke he was looking earnestly
at the children.
Well, please yourself," said the woman; "let
it alone, if you like "; and she began to put the tin
plates together, keeping an eye on the boy all the
while, and ordering him here and there, to carry
things for her to the cart.
Laurie and Ruth were so tired out that they
fell asleep almost as soon as they were put into the
covered cart. The man and woman walked beside







46 THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS

it for a long time after they started, and talked in
low voices to each other, while the pale boy toiled
behind them.
Laurie fell asleep, happy in the thought of seeing
his mother the next morning; but he was awakened
once before daylight by Ruthie sobbing in her
sleep, "Aunt Lucy! dear Aunt Lucy!"

















CHAPTER V.

A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY.


]- r l AURIE woke the next morning
( with a start, and looked round
him, bewildered at finding him-
self in a place so unlike his cosy
S little white bed at home.
For a moment he could not remember where he
was, until his eyes fell upon Ruth, still asleep
under the shawl the dark woman had laid over
her. The horse was jogging along still, as if it
had never stopped all night, and Laurie could
hear the steps of the man and the woman
47






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


outside, and their voices now and then as they
talked.
The pale boy was sitting in front of the cart,
his head leaning against the side of the cover.
Every few minutes the movement of the cart jerked
his head forward, and made him open his eyes.
Laurie's brave little heart fell; it was all so
new and strange. "Ruthie!" he said softly;
" Ruthie, are you awake ?"
Ruth sat up at the sound of his voice, looking
about her with startled eyes.
Oh, Laurie she said, is it really you ? I was
dreaming about grandmamma and Aunt Lucy."
The woman looked in at the back of the cart.
"Well, little miss and master," she said, "you're
awake, are you ? You've had a fine long sleep."
Laurie was wide awake now, and the events of
the day before had come back to his mind quite
clearly.
"Have we come to Guildford yet?" he asked
eagerly. You said we should be there when it got
light; and it's light now-rather light, anyhow."







A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY


"We'll reach Guildford right enough, in good
time, my little gentleman," said the gipsy woman;
"we're almost there now. Don't you be in no
hurry. There's plenty of time before you-ain't
there, Sam ?"
The gruff man outside gave a short rude laugh
in answer, and the woman laughed too.
I should like to get out and walk," said Laurie;
"I'm tired of being in this dark place. Me and
Ruthie can walk miles and miles without being
tired-can't we, Ruthie ?"
The woman looked at the man before she
answered, and he nodded and stopped the horse.
"Well, come along," said the woman, "it'll do
you good to have a run; but you'll have to get back
again pretty soon, or we'll never get to Guildford
to-day."
She lifted Laurie and Ruth out, and they trotted
beside her for some minutes. She took a couple
of crusts out of her pocket and gave them to the
children. Here's your breakfasts," she said. As
the children munched the dry bread, perhaps they
4







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


thought that the bread-and-milk they had at home
was nicer.
It had begun to rain a little, and the sky was
dull and grey. They were going along a country
road between high hedges, over which they could
not see, and when, here and there, they came to a
gate, there were fields stretching away on every
side, with scarcely a house to be seen.
Now Laurie had very little idea of what Guild-
ford was like; but his mother had told him it was
a town, and he knew that in a town there were
streets and houses.
His heart began to fall again-it seemed such
a very long way to Guildford!
The woman took some water out of a stone jar
and gave it them to drink, and she spoke to them
from time to time; but all the while she kept
looking about, as if she were expecting something.
Presently there was the sound of wheels upon
the road behind them. "Jump up, now!" she said
quickly; and before Laurie could answer that he
liked walking best, she had lifted them both into



















































IT HAD BEGUN TO RAIN A LITTLE, AND THE SKY WAS DULL AND GREY.







A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY


the cart, and pulled the flapping curtains at the
back close together.
A few moments later a cart with two men in it
came up and passed them.
The pale boy, Joe, was awake now; and as the
cart passed he jumped up suddenly, and looked as
if he were trying to call to the two men in it; but
they did not look at him, and he sat down again,
his face paler than ever.
He had not spoken to the children yet; but he
looked at them very often, as if he wanted to say
something.
It was raining fast now, and the woman bade
them keep inside the cart and be good. So they
jogged on uncomfortably for several hours, and yet
seemed to get no nearer to Guildford and mother.
Joe had got down long ago, and was walking
at the horse's head, and the man and woman were
both inside the cart.
The children thought the man looked rougher
and crosser than ever; and even the woman had
left off smiling at them, and hardly spoke.






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


Presently they stopped for the horse to rest
and feed; and then the woman got out the remains
of the meat they had had for supper last night, and
divided it amongst them all; but the children felt
as if they could not eat in that dark cart, with the
surly man and the silent woman so close to them.
Joe kept looking at them all the while; but the
woman had ordered him roughly to the end of the
cart farthest from them.
The boy looked so gentle and kind that they
would have liked to speak to him.
After they had eaten the meat, and the horse
was being got ready to start again, Laurie said
timidly to the woman once more-
When shall we get to Guildford ?-it's suck a
long way. I do want to see mother dreadfully-I do."
Before the woman could answer, the man
growled out-
"Why don't yer tell 'im the truth? There
ain't no danger now."
Be quiet, you stoopid, do!" answered the
woman; leave it to me, and mind the horse. Now,







A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY


you be a good little gentleman," she went on
coaxingly to Laurie. "We'll be at Guildford in
no time now. You just wait a bit."
Laurie sat down again beside Ruthie; and the
two children nestled close to each other as the cart
rumbled on and on.
It was growing dark when they began to pass
houses here and there along the road; and by and
by the houses came closer and closer together, and
then they were going along a street with houses on
each side, and lights twinkling in the windows.
"It's Guildford!" cried Laurie, starting up; I
know it's Guildford "
The woman, who had been sitting in front of
the cart for the last part of the way, turned round
and laughed.
"You're a knowing little chap," she said;
"trust you to know Guildford when you see it!"
"Let's get out now!" cried Laurie eagerly.
"Oh, do stop the horse and let us get out!"
"Wait a bit, my lively young gentleman," said
the woman in quite a different tone; you've had







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


a fine ride all for nothing, and now you'll have to
bide my time."
Laurie began to sob with grief and disappoint-
ment; and Ruthie, seeing his trouble, burst into
tears too.
The woman's smiles were quite gone: she took
hold of Laurie's shoulder and shook him roughly.
"Stop that noise!" she cried fiercely. "Stop
that noise this moment, or I'll give you something
you won't like! "
Sheer fright at her face and her angry words
made the children obey her; and they sat huddled
together, the tears running down their cheeks, but
quite silent.
The woman leaned out of the cart and spoke
to the man, and he turned the horse's head and led
him down a street that turned away from the one
they had been in. This street was narrow and dark,
and there were only a few houses in it.
As they went on, these became still fewer, until
at last they had passed them all, and came out upon
a bare open place, like a common.







A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY 57

The rain had ceased, and there was a streak of
light in the sky over where the sun had set. The
wind blew drearily across the common, and in the
distance could be seen the lights of the town.
The cart stopped, and the man began to take
the horse out of the shafts.
Then Laurie threw himself on the floor of the
cart with a loud cry. "Oh, mother where are
you? Oh, mother! come to me!" And Ruthie
sank down beside him, and clung to him with sobs
and tears.



















CHAPTER VI.


THE SEARCH.


S.'l T was not until Laurie and Ruth
had been gone some time that
-I nurse began to wonder what
I"S- had become of Laurie.
SShe had been very busy in
many ways, and she was used to his spending a good
many hours in the garden, sometimes with a favour-
ite book, sometimes busy with his spade and wheel-
barrow.
But presently she began to think that if they
were to get back in time for dinner, she had better
58






THE SEARCH


be thinking of taking him out for his morning walk;
so she looked from the nursery window into the
garden.
Laurie was nowhere to be seen; but from that
window she could not see the spot where he had
his own little plot; so she went into another room,
where the window looked right across to it.
The wheelbarrow was standing where Laurie
had left it; but no Laurie was to be seen.
Nurse leaned out of the window.
"Master Laurie! Master Laurie!" she called.
"Come and get ready to go out! It's nearly
twelve o'clock."
No answer came back. Again she called, but
in vain.
Then she went down into the garden, feeling
vexed with Laurie for keeping her waiting, and
intending to scold him for not answering.
She walked quickly to the end of the garden,
where Laurie's little plot was, calling as she went,
and growing crosser every moment.
When she could not find him there, she turned







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


into the kitchen garden, which was divided from
the other by a hedge and an iron gate. Here
Barnes, the gardener, was at work, digging
potatoes.
"Where's Master Laurie?" she cried im-
patiently; I've been looking for him everywhere,
and calling till I'm hoarse. Have you seen him ?"
Barnes was not very fond of nurse. He finished
digging up the great root he was at work on before
he answered, and then, as he went on pulling the
potatoes off it one by one, he said slowly-
Master Laurie? No, I haven't set eyes on
him this morning."
"Not set eyes on him this morning!" cried
nurse indignantly; you're blind, I take it, then.
Why, he's been in the garden ever since
breakfast!"
"I'm not saying he ain't," said Barnes in the
same slow way; I'm saying I ain't set eyes on
him, that's all. Maybe he's gone round to the
little girl next door. All I can say is, I ain't seen
him."







THE SEARCH


Nurse went off again to the end of the garden,
and opened the little white gate between it and the
next, through which Ruthie had come that morning,
to find her playmate on the point of "running
away."
No one was in Mrs. Lambert's garden.
Aunt Lucy, we know, had gone to the town;
but Ruth's grandmother sat at work near the
open window of a pretty sitting-room looking into
the garden.
Good-morning, nurse," she said, as nurse came
up. "Where are the children ? "
That's just what I want to find out, ma'am,"
said nurse. I sent Master Laurie into the garden
just after breakfast, and I've been busy ever since;
and I can't find him neither here nor there. I
thought he might have slipped in here to play with
Miss Ruth."
Ruthie went into the garden soon after break-
fast too," said Mrs. Lambert. "I thought she
was in your garden with Laurie, for I saw her
myself go through the gate a long time ago."







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


"Whatever can have become of them both?"
said nurse. "I've told Master Laurie a score of
times never to go outside the front gates without
telling me."
"I hope they have not been getting into any
kind of mischief," said Mrs. Lambert, looking a
little anxious, as she put down her work and rose
from her chair. I'll walk down the garden with
you, nurse, and see if they have been so naughty
as to go out into the road."
So Mrs. Lambert and nurse went again all
through both gardens, calling every minute the
names of the two children.
When they had gone all over both gardens,
they went out at the gate of Mrs. Eliot's house and
looked anxiously up and down the road, and across
the village green, where the geese were waddling
as usual. By this time Barnes had joined them;
and now he walked quickly across the green, and
looked hard into the pond where the white ducks
were swimming about.
"Don't be frightened, ma'am," he said, as he






THE SEARCH


came back to Mrs. Lambert; "there's nothing
there. It stands to reason they couldn't both 'ave
falling' in at once; and anyway, Master Laurie, he's
a brave 'un, if ever there was 'un."
Several people had come out of the cottages
round the green now. It was such a quiet little
village, that the unusual sight of nurse, Barnes, and
Mrs. Lambert, in only her cap and no bonnet,
standing outside the gate and talking eagerly about
something, brought the people out of their houses
to see what was the matter.
Have you seen the children anywhere about ? "
Mrs. Lambert asked of several of the women.
No, no one had chanced to see them; and
everyone began talking at once, each saying what
she thought was the most likely thing to have
happened.
Mrs. Lambert and nurse were really alarmed by
this time; and finding that no one could give them
any tidings of the truants, they went indoors, to find
out if by any chance they were playing in one of
the rooms, and had not heard themselves called.






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


But they were nowhere to be found.
Sarah, on being questioned, owned that Laurie
had coaxed two slices of cake from her, one for
himself and one for Ruth; but this proved nothing
except that the two children had been together that
morning.
Then Aunt Lucy came back from the town.
She looked very grave when she heard of the
children's disappearance; but she seemed to know
what to do better than nurse or grandmamma.
First she went once more over both gardens
and all the rooms in both houses; then she told
nurse and Barnes each to go on different roads,
while she herself went on a third, to see if the
children had wandered away and perhaps lost
themselves.
She could not believe that such small creatures
could have gone very far: she felt sure they would
be found very soon, and well scolded for frightening
them all so much.
But hours went by in the search, and yet it was
all in vain.






THE SEARCH


Nurse was in a terrible state now, crying with
fright, and worn out with walking about; and Mrs.
Lambert was broken-hearted.
Aunt Lucy had to think for everyone. "What-
ever will his ma say sobbed nurse, "if he's lost
for good and all; and the captain just a-coming
home, too!"
Mother," said Aunt Lucy suddenly, "we must
get her back. It's not right she should not know.
We are doing our best-but she ought to know
before to-night."
But who's to tell her ? cried Mrs. Lambert.
" Poor thing who's to tell her ?"
"I must," said Aunt Lucy bravely; I must go
and fetch her. I will tell the policeman to keep a
look-out, and nurse and Barnes must go on seeking.
There's a train from the town to Guildford in an
hour. I can catch that, and bring her back before
night. I hope and pray we may find the children
safe at home by the time we get back."
But it was not to be.
When Aunt Lucy and Mrs. Eliot drove up to
5







66 THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS

the door, pale with fear and anxiety, there was no
pattering of little feet or sound of little voices to
greet them; only the dreadful news that nothing
whatever had been found out about the children's
disappearance.
While Laurie and Ruth slept in the gipsies' cart,
fancying they were journeying towards Guildford
and Laurie's mother, she and Aunt Lucy were
wide awake, still seeking them everywhere with
breaking hearts.
If Laurie and Ruth had only known!



















CHAPTER VII.

IN REAL TROUBLE.
i^\

S? HEN poor Laurie fell crying
on the floor of the cart, with
Ruth clinging piteously to him,
the gipsy woman left them for
a moment, sobbing in each
other's arms.
"Oh, Laurie! Laurie! what shall we do?"
whispered poor little Ruthie. "She's a bad,
wicked woman, I know. Oh, please, Laurie,
please don't let her beat me!"
No, I won't let her, Ruthie dear! brave little
67







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


Laurie whispered. But oh! I wish mother would
find us! I don't know how to find mother now!"
The woman had been talking to the man in
a low voice; and now, ordering Joe to look to
the horse, he walked away quickly down the road
by which they had come from the town.
The gipsy woman began getting out some food.
The children said they did not want any; but
she said so angrily, "None of your nonsense,
now! Eat it at once, and let's have no words
about it!" that they dared not refuse.
Laurie felt a little bolder when he had eaten
his supper, and he looked straight at the woman
with his poor little tear-filled eyes, and spoke in
imploring tones-
Oh, do please take us to Guildford! Mother
will be so sorry; and I do so want to see mother-"
His voice broke down when he had got so far,
and Ruth burst into tears afresh.
The gipsy woman looked at them both very
fiercely, so that they were frightened.
"No!" she said; "I ain't going to take you






IN REAL TROUBLE


to Guildford, so let's have no more ado about it.
You're going along of us, I tell you; so the sooner
you make up your minds to it, and give over
howling about it, the better. I'll let you alone
to-night; but I warn you fairly, if I have any
more of it to-morrow, I'll give you a beating you
won't forget in a hurry."
The poor children were so terribly frightened
by her cruel words that they said not a word in
answer. They sat looking at her with wide eyes
and pale cheeks, trembling and silent.
The sickly-looking boy Joe said not a word;
but when Laurie's eyes at last left off staring at
the cruel woman, he saw that Joe was looking
at him and Ruth very earnestly; and somehow he
felt sure that Joe was sorry for them, although he
dared not say so.
The man had not come back before the two
children, tired with grief and tears, had fallen
asleep, to dream of home and the dear friends
they had left there.
Very early the next morning the woman woke







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


them. She told Laurie to take off his own clothes
and put on a rough suit,. by no means new, such
as he had never worn before.
For a moment Laurie was on the point of
saying he would do nothing of the sort; then he
remembered her fierce words last night, and obeyed.
But when Ruth felt her unfastening her pretty
pink cotton fiock, to put on her a half-dirty one
of dingy woollen stuff, the little girl resisted with
all her might.
"I won't! I won't!" she cried. "I don't want
that nasty frock-I won't wear it!"
"Won't you ?" was all the woman said; but as
she said the words, she lifted her hand and struck
the child a hard blow on her little bare shoulder
which left a scarlet mark.
Laurie's brave spirit rose in generous fury.
He rushed at the woman and seized her arm with
all his small strength.
"You shan't hit her!" he cried; "you bad,
wicked woman-you shan't hit her!"
The woman said nothing at all; but she took






IN REAL TROUBLE 71

hold of Laurie, and beat him with her heavy hand
until Ruth screamed with fear and grief.


"YOU SHAN'T HIT HER!" CRIED LAURIE.

"Now, have you had-enough?" said the
woman. Next time you'll know what to expect."






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


She seized Ruth roughly, and finished chang-
ing her pretty clothes for the mean ones she had
brought; and then, telling them they had better
do as they were told, or it would be the worse
for them, she left them in the cart, while she went
about her work outside, helping the man to get
ready to move on.
Then again through the long day the cart
jogged along the country roads, as it had done
yesterday. Sometimes they stopped for an hour
or two to rest the horse, and the poor children
were taken out to walk about a little, or to sit on
the grass by the wayside or on some common
land.
They had not dared to make any more appeals
to the cruel woman, but sat close together, too
miserable even to cry.
Joe never came near them. Laurie wished
he would, for he remembered the kind look the
pale boy had given them last night; but he kept
away from them all day.
It was getting towards evening again, when






IN REAL TROUBLE


the cart stopped for the night, and the tent was
put up on a bit of waste land.
The gipsy man and woman had been talking
angrily to each other several times during the
day. It seemed as if they could not agree about
something they proposed doing. And poor Joe
had suffered; for, when they grew most angry with
each other, it seemed as if 'each of them thought
the best way to show it was by scolding or beating
the silent, pale-faced boy.
When they had eaten their supper, with great
draughts from a stone jar to wash it down,
presently they both grew drowsy, and began to
nod and then to fall asleep.
The two children sat on the grass a little way
off, afraid to speak or move lest they might wake
them, and Joe was away near the cart.
But presently Laurie saw him coming very
softly towards them, holding up his hand to pre-
vent them saying anything. He crept quite
close to Laurie, and began to whisper very low
in his ear.






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS .


"Don't be afraid of me!" he said. "I'm not
their son, though they say so. It's a lie! My
real dad sold me to them two years ago come
Michaelmas. He said I d never be any use to
him. But don't you ever believe I'm their son.
I hate 'em! I'd have run away long ago, only
they'd kill me if they caught me. I did try
once-" He paused, and Laurie whispered fear-
fully, "Did they beat you ? "
"Beat me! I should think they did beat me
-I thought I was dead!"
The. children shuddered and clung together.
Then Laurie whispered piteously-
Won't they ever let us go home ?"
"Never, if they know it!" said Joe.
A little moan burst from poor Laurie's lips.
Hush, hush!" said Joe, looking fearfully
round at the gipsies. They were too sound
asleep, however, to be disturbed by that sad little
sound.
Laurie looked into the boy's kind face with
his blue eyes imploringly.






IN REAL TROUBLE


"Joe, dear Joe!" he whispered, "do help us
-do tell us how to get away from these bad,
wicked, cruel people! Oh, do, do take us
back!"
As he spoke, he put his little soft hand into
Joe's hard brown one, and pressed it tight.
Ruthie was crying softly now, and through
her tears she looked at Joe with eyes that
seemed to make Laurie's words all the more
piteous.
Joe had a tender heart, in spite of having been
sold by his own father and ill-treated for two years
by his cruel masters; and he had pitied the two
poor children from the first moment when the
gipsies had got hold of them, for he knew too
well how false was the pretence of taking them
to Guildford.
"I'll help you if I can. I promise I will-
there!" he said earnestly. "You mustn't talk
to me, or they'll know. But I'll try and think
of something."
Before Laurie could say more than Oh, thank






76 THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS

you, Joe, thank you!" the woman had stirred in
her sleep, and Joe crept away as softly as he had
come. When the gipsies awoke, he was by the
cart as before, and Laurie and Ruth were still on
the grass, as they had been all the time.


















CHAPTER VIII.

A FRIEND IN NEED.


,..;:. LL that night the cart travelled
'' V onwards, and Joe said not an-
't other word to Laurie or Ruth.
r. -. Indeed, he kept away from
>- them all the time, as if to make
the gipsies think that he cared nothing for the
children and their trouble.
But they felt a little comforted when they
remembered his words of last night; and once or
twice, when they were left alone together, Laurie
put his arm round Ruth and whispered, Don't be
77






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


afraid, Ruthie dear; I know he's good-I know
he'll help us to get home."
It was scarcely light when they turned into the
street of a country town.
Laurie did not ask this time if it was Guild-
ford; he felt only too sure in his poor, sad little
heart that it was not.
All the houses were still shut up, the blinds
were down in all the windows, and only here and
there a labourer was going along the road to his
work.
Presently they came to a great piece of common
or waste land, and here a strange sight met the
children's eyes.
On the worn grass stood a number of large carts
and vans, the horses belonging to which had been
taken out and tied to posts. These vans all stood
on the outside of a large circle, formed by posts
with ropes stretched between them, at one end of
which was a kind of high platform or stage. The
inside of the circle was filled with wooden benches
and chairs.





.~ ~ -
-4


1~t ~,


THE ARRIVAL AT THE FAIR.






A FRIEND IN NEED


Some of the vans were brightly painted and
gilt, with little chimneys in their roofs, and
windows, with muslin curtains over them, along
their sides. Others were made of strong iron
bars, like great cages; and were indeed the cages
of the wild beasts, which were still asleep in their
dens.
Men lay about on the ground between the
vans, some of them wrapped in coats and rugs,
some sleeping on the bare earth; and everything
was very quiet.
The cart made but little noise on the grass as
they drove up amongst the vans.
The gipsy man got down, and began walking
about between the vans as if he were looking for
something. Presently he came back.
It's all right," he said to the woman, they're
here right enough "; and he led the horse towards
one of the largest vans, which stood at some little
distance.
They're all asleep still, I warrant," said the
woman; "we'll have to wait a bit."
6






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


They had not long to wait. In a very short
time a rough-looking man, very like the gipsy
himself, put his head out of the door of the van.
He had heard the cart come up, and wanted to
know what it was.
"Hullo, Sam! Hullo, Liz!" he said; "I
didn't look for you till the middle of the day.
Brought any luck with you this time?"
Sam muttered something in answer which the
children could not hear, and then the other man
said, All right, keep 'em close; I shan't want 'em
till night."
Now the people in the other vans began to
open their doors and come out, and to arrange the
stalls, and make ready the merry-go-rounds and
swings and cocoanuts; for it was the great Fair
Week of the town, and every boy and girl there
would have thought it a terrible loss to miss the
fine sights, which came but once a year.
If Laurie and Ruthie had been the happy little
boy and girl they were only two days ago, how
they too would have enjoyed the Fair! Ruthie






A FRIEND IN NEED


might have felt a little afraid of the poor wild
beasts shut up in their cages, and even Laurie
might have felt a little sick and uncomfortable
seated on a prancing horse in the merry-go-round,
which turned so swiftly to the music which it
played as it turned; but the stalls of toys and
sweets and cakes, and the waxwork figures, and
the clowns and tumblers and conjurers-all these
would have been a delightful pleasure if they had
been free and happy, instead of unhappy little
prisoners in the dark cart, far away from home
and friends, and not knowing if they should ever
see them again.
The gipsy Sam had been away a great part
of the day. Once he had brought the other man
who was so like him into the cart, where the
children were crouching.
The two men had looked hard at Laurie and
Ruth. They had said nothing; but the man who
was like Sam had nodded, as if he liked the look
of them, and had spoken in a low voice to the
woman whom he called Liz as he got down.






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


In the afternoon the gipsy woman dressed
herself in her best clothes and went to walk about
in the Fair. Before she went, she ordered the
children to keep where they were, declaring she
would beat them if they moved out of the cart
while she was away.
Poor little things! they were so worn out with
grief and fright that they never thought of dis-
obeying her.
"You keep things straight while I'm gone,"
she said to Joe, "or I'll tell yer dad,' and he'll
break every bone in yer body for yer."
Joe said nothing in answer, but went on briskly
polishing up a bit of the horse's harness. He did
not come near the children for some minutes
after the woman had gone. Then he got into
the cart and sat down by them, all the time
keeping his eye upon the door, so that he might
jump up as soon as ever he heard Liz coming
back.
Do you know what they're going to do with
you ?" he said, speaking quickly, as if he were in






A FRIEND IN NEED


a hurry to say all he had to say before there was
a chance of his being stopped.
No," said Laurie. "Oh, Joe, what are they
going to do with us ? "
"They're going to sell you to that chap what
come here just now," said Joe. He's Sam's
brother, he is; and it's him that owns the play-
acting show at night at the Fair."
Sell us! cried both the children. Oh, Joe,
don't let him-don't let him sell us!"
"You're to be the King and Queen, dressed
up all fine and grand," said Joe. It'll be better,
anyways, than being cooped up in this dark cart all
day and all night."
Oh, Joe, don't let him sell us!" was all Laurie
could say. Oh, Joe, you said you'd help us-
you promised."
That's the truth," said Joe; "and I will if I
can. Look here, my lad: Can you write-write a
letter, I mean-or can little miss here ? "
Laurie shook his head. Both he and Ruth could
read easy words, but writing was beyond them.






THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


"No more can I-more's the pity," said Joe.
" Father said he wasn't going to waste his money
on learning of me useless trash, he says. I can't
read even. It would be no go their trying to run
away from us," he went on, as if he were talking
to himself; they'd never get off, and they wouldn't
know the way neither. Let me think."
He sat for a few moments silent. Then he
said quickly, What's your name, little un ?"
Laurie Eliot," said Laurie.
And little Miss's ? asked Joe again.
Ruth Lambert," said Laurie.
"And what's the name of the place where you
live-where you. runned away from?" asked Joe
once more.
Willow Green," said both children together.
"Oh, Joe dear, do take us back !"
Joe shook his head.
"I can't," he said; "they'd kill us all-you
don't know what brutes they are. Let me think
-let me think. I will help you all I can, but I
must think first how to do it. It's not easy."






A FRIEND IN NEED 87

Just as he said the last words there was a
sound of voices close outside--the voice of the
gipsy woman talking to someone else.
Joe jumped up, slipped out of the cart at the
other end; and when the woman entered, Laurie
and Ruth were alone as she had left them.












.7 i


CHAPTER IX.


JOE'S RESOLVE.


.T'., seemed to the two poor
ir children, when Joe went away,
I f that all help and comfort was
S gone from them. Joe was
their only hope; and if he was
not able to help them, it seemed to them that
they would never see home, and mother, and
grandmamma, and Aunt Lucy again.
"Oh, Laurie!" whispered Ruth, "I wish we
hadn't runned away! I wish I was back with dear
grandmamma and Aunt Lucy! "
88






JOE'S RESOLVE


Laurie's whole aching little heart was in the sob
he gave in answer.
I don't know what mother will do without me !"
he said miserably.
The gipsy woman's voice came closer, and she
got into the cart. Another woman was with her-
a fat woman very smartly dressed, with long gold
earrings, and red feathers in her hat. She did
not look so fierce as Liz; and when she saw the
children she said, Why, Liz, they're real beauties!
You couldn't 'a done better."
She took up one of Ruth's fair curls as she
spoke. Aunt Lucy was very proud of Ruthie's
long fair hair, and was used to brush it out herself
morning and night.
Just the very thing !" said the fat woman.
The children stared at her with wide-open eyes.
The kindness of her way of speaking, after all the
misery they had gone through, gave them hopes
again.
"Well, my dears," she said, "you're going to come
along o' me and have your teas, and then you'll be






90 THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS

dressed in such fine clothes as never you see before,
with crowns-real golden crowns-on your heads,
and sit on a golden throne, and it'll all be as easy
and pleasant as eating. Such fine times you'll 'ave,
the two of you."
It was true, then-it was as Joe had said: they
were going to be sold. Joe had told them his
father had sold him to the gipsies, and now the
gipsies were going to sell teem in the same way.
Laurie looked at the woman's fat, jolly face, and
her smile made him feel bold enough to make one
last appeal.
"Oh, please!" he cried, "we don't want to be
dressed up and wear crowns, and be kings and
queens! We want to go home-oh, do please take
us home! I'll love you if you'll take us home, and
mother'll love you too! "
The fat woman left off smiling.
Now, don't let us have any more of that!"
she said. "Im going to treat you kind if you
behave yourselves and do as you're bid; but if you
don't, you'll have to be made to. So you'd better







JOE'S RESOLVE


make up your minds to it at once, and let's have no
more words about it. It's no use crying about it,
and so I tell you."
You'll have to beat 'em out of it," said the
gipsy woman; "and the sooner you do it the
better."
But the other answered, "I ain't so fond o'
beating as all that. Let 'em alone a bit and they'll
come round, I'll be bound."
Meanwhile, Joe was leaning against the outside
of the cart, and heard every word of what was going
on within. It was by accident that he had over-
heard earlier in the day scraps of the talk between
Sam and the other man, and had discovered what
they intended doing with the poor children.
Joe was a poor, ignorant boy. Since the death
of his mother, when he was quite little, he had
never known a home or any sort of kindness or
care. His father had been almost as cruel to him
as the gipsies were, and Joe had grown so used
to ill-treatment that he looked for nothing else for
himself. Sometimes he thought of the time when







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


he should be a man and able to keep himself, and
get away from that horrible cart, and the man and
woman who pretended to be his parents for fear
lest they should get into trouble for buying and
then ill-treating the poor, sickly little fellow.
But in spite of his wretched life, Joe's heart was
still a kind and gentle heart; and although he could
patiently bear to be scolded and beaten and ill-
treated himself, he could not bear to see the misery
of the two poor children. He had pitied and
longed to help them from the first moment when
he knew that, instead of really intending to put
them on their way to Guildford, the gipsies meant
to steal them, for the sake of their clothes and the
gain they might make out of them.
Joe's heart had been heavy with thinking.day
and night how he might help Laurie and Ruth;
but he had been so long under the gipsies' cruel
rule that it seemed to him almost impossible that
the children could ever get free.
But when Laurie had implored him to take them
back, a sort of light had come into Joe's mind; and






JOE'S RESOLVE


as he stood leaning against the outside of the cart
and listening to the talk within, a plan was forming
in his head.
It took him a long time to think it out, and it
made him feel hot and then cold with fear to know
that he was plotting against the cruel man and
woman who had so long been his masters; but his
pity for the children was greater even than his fear.
I can't take them back, that's certain," he was
saying to himself; "we'd never get off without
being seen, and it would be a hundred times worse
for us all if we was caught. But supposing I was
to slip away at night, there's so many coming and
going about here, I could pass easy without being
seen. Supposing I was to walk back to that place
-Willow Green he called it-and tell his mother,
and little miss's folks. It would be a long walk,
but p'r'aps I'd get a lift here and there; and if I
started at night, they wouldn't miss me before day-
light come."
He thought hard for a few minutes.
I'll do it," he said eagerly to himself. They







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


can't make it much worse for me here than it is
already; and if I can help it, those two poor little
children shan't be treated like me."
It was a brave plan; for Joe had not a penny of
his own, and no means of paying for food or lodging,
or a lift by the way.
But pity made him brave and clever.
He resolved that he would keep quite away
from the children, lest the gipsies should suspect
that they had had anything to do with his flight.
The Fair, he knew, was to go on for a week, and
he hoped to reach Willow Green and bring help
long before the end of that time.
So, when he saw Laurie and Ruth being taken
from the cart by the two women, and across to the
great tent where they were to play their parts that
night as King and Queen, he made no attempt to
speak to them, but pretended not to see them at all.
At supper he contrived to slip parts of his share
int6 his pocket. The gipsy woman was in high
good humour, and helped him so largely that he
could easily put some by without being noticed.






JOE'S RESOLVE


After supper both the man and the woman went
out into the Fair.
Bright lights were beginning to flare all round
the great circle, and at the other end of it Joe
heard the scraping of fiddles and blowing of
trumpets in the tent where the acting was to be.
He thought of poor little Laurie and Ruth
dressed up in their fine clothes, with their poor
little hearts aching with misery; and the thought
made him feel that he would do anything in the
world to save them from it.
He waited a little while until he was sure the
gipsies were quite gone. Then he slipped away
from the bright circle of lights into the darkness,
and in a few minutes was walking quickly away
from the town by the road they had come the night
before.


















CHAPTER X.

A LONG TRAMP.


SiOE walked quickly until he had


S behind him. He met few
I people on the road; for every-
.- one was at the Fair, except
the babies and the very old people. It was the
great time for the town.
Long after Joe had got out on the high road by
which they had come last night, he could hear far-
off sounds of music and shouting; and even after he
was too far away to hear these sounds, he could
90






A LONG TRAMP


see a great patch of light low down in the sky,
which he knew came from the flaring lamps all
round the circle, where poor little Laurie and
Ruth must now be appearing as King and Queen
in the great tent where the acting was to take
place.
The thought made his courage rise still higher,
and he walked on bravely.
It was very dark in the road; there were high
hedges on each side of it, with here and there a
great tree making the shadows still deeper and
darker; but Joe kept well out in the middle of
the road. He knew he must in time reach the
town where they had halted the first night with
the children, and where the man had got the rough
clothes for which they had been made to change
their own pretty ones. And he knew that by
following this road he was going in the right
direction; but he was not at all sure of the distance
or of the time it would take.
He tramped on bravely mile after mile, and
hour after hour. His boots were none of the best,
7







THE LITTLE RUNAWAYS


and as he walked he felt that sundry holes in them
were fast gaping wider and wider. They'll last
my journey," he said hopefully to himself; but he
said it out loud, as if he were answering someone
else and wanted to convince him.
Presently it began to rain a little, and then
to rain faster and faster, until it was pouring
heavily.
Joe's thin clothes kept the wet out but poorly,
and soon they were soaked through. He felt the
damp oozing through the holes in his wretched
boots against his feet. It made the walking far
harder, but he held bravely on his way..
He had walked a good many miles before he
saw the first faint light of the dawn beginning to
lighten the grey sky, while every moment the
hedges and trees grew more distinct. The rain
had ceased, but he was wet through, tired, and
hungry.
I musn't eat a bit yet awhile," he said; "for
I don't know when I shall get any more."
The sky was beginning to clear now, and pre-


















































HE COULD SEE A GREAT PATCH OF LIGHT LOW DOWN IN THE SKY.