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AN INCIDENT N A DONKEYRIDE. 43
AN INCIDENiT IN A DONKEY.RIDE. P. 43
"MISS BARTON'S BICYCLE," "TROUBLESOME COUSINS," ETC.
WITH FRONTISPIECE BY C. /J.STANILAND
NATIONAL SOCIETY'S DEPOSITORY
BROAD SANCTUARY, WESTMINSTER
NEW YORK: THOMAS WHITTAKER, 2 AND 3, BIBLE HOUSE
[All rights reserved]
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
Dorothy's Stepmother. Price is.
Troublesome Cousins. Price Is.
Miss Barton's Bicycle. Price is.
NATIONAL SOCIETY'S DEPOSITORY, SANCTUARY,
I. LEARNING TO MILK...
II. AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
III. GWEN'S PRESENTIMENT .
IV. AUNT MILLIE ...
V. DAN'S IDEA ...
VI. THE PLOT THICKENS ...
VII. GRANDMAMMA'S LECTURE ...
... ... 32
... ... 61
... ... 72
... ... 8
... ... IO3
LEARNING TO MILK
think of something fresh to do,
Gwenie! We've played that
precious race-game every night
this week!" Daniel said irritably.
Gwendolyn had had measles since he
had, and had been just as ill; but it was
an understood thing that it was her busi-
ness to amuse him.
"Do think of something else!" he
repeated; and Gwenie wrinkled up her
forehead and pondered deeply.
LEARNING TO MILK
"There's chess-we haven't played
chess for months," she suggested doubt-
But Daniel shook his head. A game
of skill which his sister generally won
was not to his liking at all.
"Draughts, then, or 'Beggar my
Neighbour,' or the spelling game.
Let's do 'Constantinople.' There's
lots of paper in the Davenport, and I've
got two pencils." And this time Daniel
It isn't much fun with only two people
to play; but we must do something. We'll
take two minutes for each letter, and
whoever thinks of most words altogether
shall choose what we're both to do till
bedtime," he suggested, pulling out the
big Waterbury watch which grandmamma
had given him last birthday, and of which
he was intensely proud.
Gwendolyn got hold of two more
words than he did; but it was a close
LEARNING TO MILK
tussle, and the game proved so interesting
that she elected to go on with it for the
rest of the evening-till Emma the house-
maid, whose business it was to look after
the two children, appeared with milk and
seed-cake for supper.
It's going to be fine to-morrow, Miss
Gwendolyn. Tom says so," remarked
Emma, encouragingly, as she left the room.
Tom was supposed to be the most weather-
wise individual in the farm-yard.
"That's consoling. It's poor fun having
measles and coming to the country to get
over them, when you never have a chance
of going out without getting wet through.
What shall we do to-morrow, if it really is
fine ?" demanded Daniel, with his mouth
full of seed-cake.
"Get up early and go out before break-
fast," returned Gwenie, promptly.
"Well, of course. There wouldn't be
much sense in staying indoors if it's fine.
What shall we do when we are out, I
LEARNING TO MILK
meant?" Dan said impatiently. He liked-
his sister to make all the suggestions,
because having some one to blame if they
turned out badly was satisfactory.
"We needn't do anything, just at first,
need we ? It's all new, and we don't know
what the place is like. Couldn't we walk
about and think of something to do after
breakfast? There's a pond somewhere,
with little fish in it."
Sticklebacks, I suppose. They aren't
fit to eat. But we might catch some
alive, and keep them in a finger-glass or
foot-bath or something. It'll be worth
while starting an aquarium, if there's a
place here for us to catch things in."
"How are we going to catch them,
though ? In a butterfly-net ? They dart
about like wildfire," Gwenie said doubt-
"Then I don't think your butterfly-net
would be much good-you wouldn't be
quick enough with it. But they'll come
LEARNING TO MILE
in a minute, if we get some proper fish-
hooks, and bits of raw meat. I know
a chap who used to catch hundreds," Dan
"That must have been nice. Only we
haven't got any fish-hooks."
Nor had the other chap, till he went
into a shop and bought some, which is
what I thought of proposing that we should
do," suggested Daniel, sarcastically. Girls
were so stupid-there wasn't an ounce of
go or enterprise in their composition.
"But therearen't any proper shops in
the village-only a post-office, where they
sell sweets and writing-paper, and the
blacksmith's. Besides, how much do fish-
hooks cost ?" demanded Gwendolyn,
"About a farthing each, I think. They
needn't be made of gold or silver either.
And the village shops aren't the only
ones we've got to depend on-there's a
little town called Oxford, which it would
LEARNING TO MILK
be just possible for us to get at," returned
Daniel. He meant to be a great man
when he grew up, and prided himself on
being full of resources.
We couldn't go there to-morrow,
though, could we? It's six miles off; so
it would cost ever so much to go by train,
and it's so horrid to wait," Gwenie said
"We needn't go by train. You ought
to be able to walk six miles. Nobody is
likely to notice what we're doing to-morrow,
so we can go directly after breakfast.
Grandpapa said we were to be out of
doors all day long."
"But it isn't only the six miles there-
it's six miles back, as well," returned
Gwenie, doubtfully. "Not that I mind.
If they really mean to let us be out all
day, and aren't going to look after us
much, and you don't mind sitting down
to rest pretty often, I can do it quite
easily. We might ask if they'd let us
LEARNING TO MILK 13
have dinner out in the fields, and take it
with us. We could start quite early, and
not come back till teatime, if we did
"Yes; but it wouldn't do. They'd want
us to have plates and tumblers and all
sorts of things, if we asked to have dinner
out of doors. You can't mention a picnic
without people wanting to pack you a
hamperful of crockery. They'd think we
only wanted it in the fields just for fun, so
they wouldn't consider weight."
"We might turn all the crockery out,
though, and just tie up enough to eat in
something. That's what gipsies do; and
those big, red handkerchiefs of yours would
hold a lot," suggested Gwenie. "We
couldn't be expected to carry a hamperful
of crockery twelve miles, just because
somebody packed it up for us."
Daniel wrinkled his brows, and thought
a little. Fellows like himself, who hadn't
any brothers, had to make the best of their
LEARNING TO MILK
sisters; but Gwenie was so stupid and so
awkward to manage. If she once got it
into her head that the grown-up people
might disapprove of the expedition if they
knew all about it, she would most probably
decline to go altogether.
Aunt Millie was away, and Mrs. Wilton
herself was an invalid, so that her grand-
children scarcely ever saw her at all; but
Daniel was quite sharp enough to know
that for him and. Gwenie to wander off
miles away by themselves, stopping when it
pleased them, to eat their dinner out of hand-
kerchiefs by the roadside, without forks, or
plates, or other civilized appliances, was
not a proceeding which was likely to meet
with her approval.
"You see, they mightn't like it if they
saw we hadn't used the plates and
things," he began doubtfully. "It isn't
as if this was our own home and the
servants and people knew all about us."
"No; and we can't smear the plates
LEARNING TO MILK
over and make them look as though they
had been used, because it would be deceit-
ful. I wish I didn't always see how easy
it would be to manage everything if one
wasn't straight about it," Gwenie said
I wish you hadn't such a priggish way
of giving out that you're quite above doing
anything you oughtn't to. Other people
can keep from doing mean things, like
making plates look as though they have
been used when they haven't, without
boasting about it. You ought to be
ashamed of yourself for having such ideas!"
Dan said sharply.
!' But we can't help Satan putting bad
thoughts into our hearts. We don't even
know exactly when he's going to do it,
till it has happened. Mr. Bertram said so.
And as long as we get help to turn them
out again-- "
Gwenie stopped, with crimson cheeks;
Dan was looking so annoyed.
LEARNING TO MILK
Really, Gwen, I wish you'd curl up !"
he broke in angrily. I know all that,
and you know I know it; and you aren't
good enough yourself to be always preach-
ing to other people. Who stole the pre-
served pears ?"
Gwendolyn's eyes filled with tears, and
she hid her face, with a quick, impulsive
little movement which was natural to her.
It was so cruel of Dan. If he had ever
done anything very dreadful, like stealing
fruit, and had been found out and punished
and forgiven, she would never have been
mean enough to remind him of it; but
boys, somehow, were different. And it
was part of her punishment, she supposed,
that some people never would forget-
only it was so long ago. It was nearly
five years actually, since cook had left ever
so many preserved pears lying about at
home, and she had taken some when no
one was looking, and had nearly broken
her heart afterwards with all the shame
LEARNING TO MILK
and disgrace and misery that her piece of
wickedness had brought her.
Dan's conscience bristled up and began
to prick a little. Gwendolyn looked so
crushed and crestfallen, and she had been
so perky and bright and full of life two or
three minutes ago.
"Well, cheer up, old girl. We all do
things we shouldn't occasionally; and I
believe I'm rather a brute to chuck stones
about in this fashion. Anyhow, we've
wandered rather far from the point. You
see, for one thing, if they packed an elabo-
rate hamper, it wouldn't be quite polite of
us not to take the whole of it; and--"
"Perhaps it wouldn't. But, Daniel,"
interposed Gwen, with a suspicious little
gurgle, which sounded as though she hadn't
done crying, "why shouldn't we tell Emma
plainly that we'd rather not have a hamper ?
We might just say we only wanted some
food to tie up in a bundle, and then there
wouldn't be any bother about it."
LEARNING TO MILK
Dan shook his head. Gwen never could
take anything in. But she hadn't quite
done crying yet, and he wanted to make
up to her for that unkind reference to the
preserved pears, and didn't mean to speak
sharply to her again just yet.
"I think we'd better give up the idea
of taking dinner with us. You ought to
manage if we start directly after having it
here to-morrow. Tea isn't till six; and I
don't suppose anybody would mind if we
were late," he said presently.
"No, as we always have it alone. Emma
only puts it on the table and goes away.
I shouldn't think she'd notice if we weren't
in quite at the right time; and I think I
can walk twelve miles. Only you mustn't
be too cross if I want to stop rather often
on the way home," Gwen said doubtfully.
Dan woke up first next morning. The
sun was shining, the birds were singing,
and the little American clock, which his
sister had saved up money enough to give
LEARNING TO MILK
him last Christmas, assured him that it
was only half-past five o'clock.
Gwen was sleeping in a little room which
opened out of his. She had lain awake
for ever so long during the night, sobbing
softly to herself, and wondering whether
people ever were going to forget about
those horrid preserved pears; but the
regular breathing, which sounded quite dis-
tinctly through the closed door, made it very
evident that she was far from being awake
now. Dan sprang out of bed, opened the
door cautiously, and crept quietly up to
her. He didn't want her to wake till he
woke her. The sun, which was shining
full upon her curly chestnut hair, turned-
up nose, and little freckled face, showed
the patchy redness which last night's cry-
ing had left about her eyelids very plainly;
and Daniel shook his head with an odd
mixture of regret and satisfaction.
She isn't a beauty, that's one comfort.
Looking in the glass'll keep her from
20 LEARNING TO MILK
being conceited instead of making her
want to spend money on clothes and worry
about her complexion, like some girls do.
I wouldn't swop her, though, for any other
fellow's sister that I'm acquainted with.
Wake up, old girl!" And he shook the
shoulder that Gwendolyn wasn't lying on
She opened her eyes, and started up
"It isn't late ? What is the matter ?
Oh, I suppose you want to go out before
breakfast ?" she muttered sleepily.
Yes, I do. You know we arranged to
last night. Do wake up a bit! You've
been snoring loud enough to rouse the
neighbourhood," Dan remarked encourag-
Gwen- pulled herself together at once,,
and sat straight up in bed.
"Snoring? Nonsense! I'm sure I
haven't. You're only just awake your-
self !" she retorted angrily.
LEARNING TO MILK
Daniel's superior smile was so aggra-
"All right, old lady, we won't dispute
the point. Somebody was snoring, and
they've stopped since you woke; but it
may have been a ghost, of course. You
get your things on as quick as you can,
and we'll go and look for the stickleback
pond. I'll wait for you outside the hall-
door." And Daniel disappeared, slamming
the door in a manner which startled Gwen
Oh dear, just like a boy He'll wake
everybody, and grannie won't like it.
Emma told us she objected to noise last
night; I shall get dressed first, and go in
and warn him." Accordingly, just as Dan
was in the act of pulling on his hobnail
boots Gwendolyn crept in on tip-toe,
carrying hers in her hand.
"You haven't got your boots on yet.
Oh, that's right! Don't you think we'd
better put them on downstairs ? Grannie
LEARNING TO MILK
doesn't like a noise; and if we wake her
up, I'm so afraid she'll be angry."
Oh-hang it Well, perhaps she will.
Though why grown-up people should
mind noise so much more than we do, I
never can understand-here goes !" And
carefully propping his door open with
a chair, Master Dan set an excellent
example of noiselessness by sliding silently
down the banisters, and waiting in a sort
of heap for his sister in the hall below.
Don't know exactly what we're to do
when we are out," he remarked, when
But the tinkling of a bell in the distance
apparently furnished her with an idea.
"That's the cow-bell, I'm quite sure.
Mother said, when she was a little girl
the cow-bell always used to ring at six
o'clock. Let's go and see," she sug-
"Go and see what-a bell ringing?
That doesn't sound strictly exciting,"
LEARNING TO MILK
Dan said, tugging vigorously at his boot-
lace, which had been broken pretty often
and wasn't quite long enough. But Gwen-
dolyn knew what she was talking about.
Of course not-the bell stops ringing
directly. But it means milking-time, and
by the time we get to the byre they'll
have collected all the cows ready to begin.
And, perhaps, if Tom's in a good temper,
he'll let us have a try and milk one of
them; and then if I don't learn enough to
be a governess, I can go out to the
colonies, and be a dairymaid when I'm
grown up," she said eagerly.
Oh, all right! Milking is girl's work,
though; so I'll look on. Perhaps, when
you've succeeded in milking a tumblerful,
if you ever do, you'll offer your brother
some of it. Supper didn't make a very
lasting impression on me last night, some-
how, and breakfast isn't till eight," Dan
remarked rather gloomily.
"No-and I'm hungry too. But hot
24 LEARNING TO MILK
milk is nearly as satisfying as bread and
butter, so it will be all right," Gwen said
"Hot milk? There isn't a fire out
there. You aren't going to bring it back
to the kitchen and boil it, are you ? Dan
"Of course not. Dan, do you really
mean to say you didn't know that milk is
hot-warm anyway-when it comes from
the cow ? It's thick and frothy too, and
just as good for one as a tonic. Mother
used to drink it every morning when she
lived here, and she thinks perhaps that's
why she was so much stronger when she
was a little girl, than she's ever been since,"
Gwen explained, in some astonishment.
It was so very seldom, she had always
been given to understand, that girls knew
anything which boys didn't.
Oh, warm-of course You spoke as
if it was going to be boiling," Dan said
sheepishly. "You girls always are so
LEARNING TO MILK 25
casual and inaccurate. That's how it is
you can't make as much as we do when
you're grown up, and don't do properly
for doctors, or newspaper reporters, or
"We do do for doctors-some of us,
and lots of the things in newspapers are
written by women. Besides, I'd rather be
a woman than a man any day. It's ever
so much nicer when you get old and can't
work, and have to spend most of the time
indoors, particularly if you haven't some-
body always about on purpose to amuse
you," retorted Gwen, indignantly. I
wouldn't be a boy for anything !"
"Sour grapes! They'll get ripe later
on, when I go abroad, and begin to have
adventures. You've got the best of it
now, anyway, because you're going to
milk, and I'm going to look on," Dan
said admirably. He didn't want Gwen to
get into one of her agitated moods at this
hour of the day.
26 LEARNING TO MILK
The cows were standing ready in their
separate stalls, and Tom was talking to
two or three of the maids, and apparently
waiting to begin. He eyed the children
"We-we've come to ask a favour.
Miss Gwendolyn wants to do some
milking," Dan said boldly. He wanted
secretly to do some on his own account,
but was rather afraid of being clumsy,
and making himself ridiculous. Tom did
not look altogether best pleased.
"The cows don't take kindly to new
hands. Has the young lady ever milked
before ?" he asked gruffly.
"No, she hasn't. She only wants to
"And if it's a bother to you, I won't
try at all. I only wanted to see if I could
do it-just once," Gwen broke in eagerly;
"we thought you wouldn't mind."
I don't, miss, if it's only for a minute
or two. But there's more in milking than
LEARNING TO MILK
people think, and those cows is easily put
out. I must choose you a quiet one."
And Tom's eyes ran down his stock
thoughtfully. "Jenny '11 do as well as
any of them. You'd better sit here,
missie!" and Gwen took her seat on a
three-cornered stool, alongside of the
nearest cow, obediently.
"You take the pail thusly-between
your knees, Miss Gwendolyn," explained
Jane, the kitchen maid, advancing to
relieve Tom, who was beginning to look
rather put upon. "And then you turns
your attention to getting the milk into
it; not over your pinafore, as, just to
begin with, is what is most likely."
"But I can't make the milk come at
all," complained Gwen presently, after one
or two utterly ineffectual attempts.
She was getting hot and uncomfortable,
and Dan was beginning to snigger con-
"A good many can't just at first. You
LEARNING TO MILK
want to persevere a bit. That's better!"
as a thin stream of white fluid appeared
"Yes, but it's only with one hand. My
left isn't doing anything at all. And I
can't hold that pail between my knees-
it's had to go down on the ground," Gwen
"Well, the milk you have got has gone
into it. That's more than them as tries
for the first time can say generally," Jane
said admiringly. You'd better stop now,
or we shall never get done, and to-morrow
it'll come first rate."
Gwen didn't want to stop-she felt
quite sure that she was going to improve
immensely immediately; but Jane was
looking a little impatient, so she got up
"I think I'll just have one go. Your
performance wasn't up to much," Dan
said suddenly. And before Jane had
time to remonstrate he had popped down
LEARNING TO MILK
on the stool his sister had vacated, and
wedged the pail in between his knees,
with a professional air which was rather
annoying to the last performer.
"That's all very well, but you've no
skirts. I could have managed ever so
much better if I hadn't had any," she said
Dan was going to succeed at once, evi-
dently, and he was quite conceited enough
already. But the milk didn't come, though
he worked away vigorously; and Gwen-
dolyn's crestfallen air began to disappear.
"You haven't got any at all, and I
believe you're hurting the cow. She
didn't twitch about half as much as that
with me. She's going to kick -take
care!" as Dan sprang to his feet, just
too late, unfortunately, to circumvent
Jenny, who had managed to kick the
pail. of milk all over him, by way of
intimating that she was thoroughly sick
of being experimented on.
30 LEARNING TO MILK
"Oh dear! Milk stains, and you've
only got two suits! What a pity it wasn't
me. My frock would wash," Gwen said
sorrowfully. "Those knickerbockers will
be in no end of a mess."
"It won't show. We can sponge it
off. Commend me to girls for whining
over everything Jenny's an ill-tempered
brute, though, and I propose we don't
have anything more to do with her," Dan
returned, shaking himself ruefully.
"So do I propose it, nor with none of
the others neither. There'd be a fine row
about all that milk being spilt if Miss
Millie was to home," observed Tom
gruffly. "You London young ladies and
gentlemen seem to me to do best out
of the farm-yard."
"Which means that you'll be glad to
get rid of us. I think perhaps, Gwen, we
had better make ourselves scarce. You've
got to clean up these garments of mine,
and get them dried by the kitchen fire
LEARNING TO MILK
somehow before eight o'clock. I'm
awfully sorry I let that sulky beast
upset all your milk."
And the two children proceeded to
make the best of their way back to the
house, without, as Tom remarked, so
much as "thank you" for all the precious
time he had spent on them.
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
"c OBODY would ever know that
milk had been spilt all over
those knickerbockers of yours.
I'm quite proud of them. But I used
nearly all the ammonia mother gave me
taking out the stains, so we shall have to
try and not have any more accidents,"
observed Gwendolyn, thoughtfully.
"There won't be a chance of having
any more learning to milk. Tom's one
of the most disagreeable people I ever
met. He was quite rude to me in the
kitchen just now when I said that very
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 33
likely we should go and have another shot
some other morning," Dan said gruffly.
"Perhaps it was because he knew you
oughtn't to be in the kitchen. Emma
told me grannie didn't like it when she
saw me coming out with your knicker-
bockers. And we never remembered to
thank Tom for starting us this morning,
which we ought to have, because it wasn't
his work, and we hindered him and Jane
too. I don't think he'll be disagreeable
if we are civil."
Humph! Well, what's that you're
writing ? demanded Dan, suddenly.
Gwen didn't generally write letters that
he didn't know about.
"It's a letter to a man in Oxford who
keeps fishing-tackle. Jane told me his
name; and she said he'd send us six hooks
all ready to use if I sent him threepence
in stamps. I was going to ask you about
it," Gwen said, reddening uncomfortably.
What's the good of going to work in
34 AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
that round-about fashion ? I thought we
were going to fetch them this afternoon."
"Yes; only it's a long way, and I wasn't
sure if you'd asked grannie-it all seemed
rather a muddle when we were talking
about it yesterday." Gwen faltered awk-
wardly. "I thought perhaps you'd be
rather glad to have them got this way-
it's so much easier."
"That's a matter of opinion-besides,
you ought to have asked me. I don't
suppose you know how to write a business
letter in the very least. Let's see." And
Dan drew out the blotted sheet of note-
paper which his sister was trying to hide
under her blotting-pad, and examined it
"DEAR MR. ROPER,
My brother and I rekwire some
fish hooks. We rekwest you to send 6
and inclose threpence in stamps.
"Your affecate little friend,
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 35
"That won't do at all, Gwen. I knew
you wouldn't know how to do it properly;
but I really should have thought you
might have turned out something better
than that. The spelling isn't right, and
your beginning and ending is ridiculous.
You don't begin 'Dear Mr. So-and-So'
to tradesmen, and you don't want any
expressions of affection at the end either.
It's extremely lucky that that letter wasn't
posted before I saw it."
"I'm very sorry, but I thought you put
'your affectionate friend' to everybody
who wasn't a relation. And spelling is so
difficult. Do tell me exactly which words
aren't spelt right, and I'll try and re-
member," murmured Gwendolyn, humbly.
"That's precisely what you wouldn't be
able to do, if you were shown what was
wrong without taking any trouble to find
out. You'd better look every single word
you've used up in the dictionary, and copy
out those you've spelt wrong about fifty
36 AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
times. That'll do much better than getting
me to tell you," Daniel returned evasively.
He felt privately almost certain that for
one thing there were four e's in three-
pence, but was not quite sure enough to
Oh, very well-when there's time I
wish we could get a grown-up person to
play spelling games with us," Gwen said
"That wouldn't be any good. I look
after you when we're doing that. And
now, if you'll allow anybody but yourself
to make suggestions, I'll tell you what
I've thought of. Do you remember those
donkey-rides we used to have on the sands
at Brighton ?"
Rather! I should just think so!
Wouldn't it be fun if we could have some
more?" ejaculated Gwendolyn, brighten-
ing up at the recollection.
"That's just what I've come to the con-
clusion that we can have, if you're sure
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 37
that you really would like it," returned
Daniel, mysteriously. "There's a man in
the village who keeps three, and wants to
let them out to people for a shilling an
hour; it's ninepence if you take them
for more than one hour. How would you
like to ride to Oxford and back on one of
"Awfully. Of course I should. But
how could we ? Grannie mightn't like it;
and it would cost such a lot!" objected
Gwendolyn the prudent.
It would cost something, of course; but
I've asked grandmamma, and she doesn't
mind, and she's given me four shillings to
pay for a ride. I told her one hour wouldn't
be worth getting stiff for. We ought to
do the whole business in three hours quite
easily," explained Daniel, not, unfortu-
nately, thinking it necessary to mention
that he had not told grannie that he
wanted to ride to Oxford and back with
his sister, or that he had received strict
38 AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
orders not to venture any distance without
"That's nice. But if it's going to take
us three hours, four shillings isn't enough.
That'll only pay for two hours if we're
going to have a donkey apiece," re-
turned Gwendolyn, still looking rather
Pocket money with her and Daniel was
very far from being plentiful.
I thought I told you they only charged
ninepence if you took the animals for more
than an hour. And I'm going to square
it with the man, and make him let us have
them the third hour for sixpence, which
will make it all right. If you want to
come, all you've got to do is to be ready
at two sharp, and leave business details
to me." Which Gwendolyn, who loved
riding as indulged in for the only time in
her life on the Brighton sands, was very
glad to do.
And what about the donkey-boy ?"
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 39
inquired Dan, when his bargain was almost
"The donkey-boy. Well, sir, any other
afternoon I wouldn't let the donkeys out
without him. But he's got business some-
where else to-day, and if you're accustomed
to ride, and will be responsible for the
animals, I don't mind making an excep-
tion. It'll save you sixpence, which is
what I have to charge if he's out for any
length of time."
Dan hesitated. Grannie certainly had
said that they weren't to go out without
the donkey-boy, and, therefore, as the
donkey-boy couldn't come, he knew per-
fectly well that the expedition ought to be
given up. But it was such a lovely day,
and they really wanted the fishing-tackle.
Besides, when he had once made up his
mind to do anything really nice, he never
could bear to be disappointed. Broad
roads are such pleasant, easy places to walk
along, and Daniel wasn't quite man enough
40 AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
at present to realize that it is generally
only the narrow, uphill, stony ones that
lead us on to places that are worth getting
"Oh, I see! Then, as he can't come,
I suppose we must manage without him.
I'll bring the beasts safe back to you
myself." And with that, Master Dan and
his guilty conscience and the donkeys set
off for the Manor House as fast as possible.
"Are you quite sure we can do it in
three hours ? These donkeys don't seem
inclined to go particularly fast," Gwen
"No; that one you're on is an obstinate
brute. I can see it by the way he holds
his ears. I only hope he won't suddenly
take it into his head to stop altogether.
However, perhaps it's better than having
an animal who insists on galloping all the
way as you aren't used to riding. That
saddle is all right, isn't it ?"
"Ye-es, I suppose so. I'm not sure
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 41
that it's altogether as tight as it might be;
but perhaps it's only my imagination. It's
such a long time since we had those rides
at Brighton," returned Gwen, doubtfully.
"If you mean that there's something
wrong, and you'd like me to get off and
see what it is, I wish you'd say so. The
saddle seemed right enough when we
started, and it's just as it was then now,
as far as I can see," grunted Dan.
Gwen was a fussy little thing, and
evidently half afraid of the animal she was
riding, but she would gain more courage
as they went on.
"Oh, then of course it's all right! I
shall get used to it presently. But I
wish you wouldn't ride quite so fast. My
donkey won't go."
So it appears. I really think you'll
have to beat him a bit. We shall be all
day on the road if he goes on like this,"
Dan returned discontentedly.
I shouldn't like to beat him, even if
42 AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
I'd got a stick, which I haven't. And
shaking the reins doesn't seem to have
any effect. Don't go on like that!" as
Daniel's steed made a sudden spurt for-
ward. I can't possibly manage to keep
up with you!"
So I see. This sort of thing won't do.
If you aren't going to beat him yourself,
I shall have to do it for you. What's the
matter now ?"
"I don't know, only he won't go on.
Do come and help me, Dan; I can't make
him move!" cried Gwen, in desperation.
Joseph, her donkey, had come to a full
stop, his fore feet planted firmly on the
ground in a slanting position, and his ears
laid back with a look of determination.
"He wants a good beating. I shall
have to get off and come to him," said
Dan, slipping off his own donkey and
fastening it with a slipknot to the fence.
" It's lucky I've got a riding whip, as you
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 43
Hadn't I better get off ? Suppose he
kicks ?" queried Gwen, eyeing her brother's
"He won't; the worst he'll do is to
start off rather suddenly. You stick on
tight, and don't be a coward," advised
Daniel. I'll make him go somehow."
But apparently this was easier said than
done. Joseph's skin- must have been as
tough as his disposition was obstinate;
for not one inch, either backwards or
forwards, could he be induced to move.
I really don't quite see what we are to
do if he's going to glue himself to the
ground like this all the afternoon. You
can't have been riding him properly, Gwen;
it's too tiresome," Daniel said at last, stop-
ping from want of breath. Even if we
give the whole thing up, and don't try to
get to Oxford, I don't see how we're ever
to get the brute home, unless we tie a rope
round him and help my donkey to tug
him back to the village. They'd no
44 AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
business to let out such an aggravating
There's somebody coming, isn't there ?
It's a man with a bath-chair. Perhaps he
understands donkeys," suggested Gwen-
dolyn, looking over her shoulder anxiously.
"I'm not going to ask anybody to help,
it would be all over the village in no time;
besides, what's the good ? You can't do
anything to a donkey but beat him, or
drag him along by main force, if he won't
go. I wish that bath-chair would turn
round the corner," muttered Daniel,
But the bath-chair evidently had no
idea of doing anything of the sort. It
and the man and the old lady in it came
straight on, and presently the old lady
pulled out a pair of opera-glasses and
proceeded to inspect Joseph and the
children pretty intently.
Daniel had turned his attention to
Joseph again, but suddenly Gwendolyn,
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 45
who was still peering anxiously over her
shoulder, gave a cry of recognition-
It's grandmamma! How funny! I
never knew she went out in a bath-chair.
Do let me get down and speak to her!"
she cried eagerly.
Daniel looked round awkwardly.
Oh, well, we can't get out of it! You
can get down, if you want to," he said
slowly. The bath-chair had been advanc-
ing steadily, and was nearly upon them.
Mrs. Wilton put down her opera-glasses
and signed to the man to stop.
What is the meaning of this, Daniel ?"
she asked stiffly, taking no notice of
Gwendolyn, who had slipped thankfully
off Joseph, and run up to the bath-chair.
S"It's-you said we could go for a
donkey ride," muttered that young man,
"With the donkey-boy, I said. What
have you done with him ?"
Daniel shuffled off the foot he was
46 AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
standing on to the other, and got very
red. He felt so small and foolish and
generally ashamed of himself.
"We haven't got a donkey-boy-they
couldn't let us have one this afternoon,"
he said at last.
Then, what did you mean by coming
out on donkeys at all ? Didn't you know
perfectly well that you ought to have let
your ride wait for another day ? demanded
grandmamma indignantly. It had always
been an anxiety having children in the
house when Millie was away, but she
approved of putting young people on their
honour, and it had never occurred to her
that her own daughter's children were not
to be trusted. Daniel hung his head and
looked nervously at Gwendolyn, who was
standing by with wide-open eyes.
"Yes, I believe I did. Only it was
such a lovely day, and we wanted to go
to Oxford for some fishing-tackle. Gwen
didn't know anything about it," Dan blurted
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 47
out, wishing that the ground would open
and swallow him, or that, at any rate,
something would happen to take his
grandmother's attention off, and break
the awful silence which ensued when he
stopped speaking. He felt quite grateful,
when Joseph, who was still standing stock
still, suddenly stuck his tail straight out
and brayed loudly.
What is the matter with that animal ?"
inquired Mrs. Wilton.
He's only braying. That's what
donkeys generally do when they think
it's going to rain," murmured Gwendolyn,
"I mean, why were you beating him,
and what was he standing still in the
middle of the road for?" went on Mrs.
Wilton, eyeing Daniel expectantly. That
young gentleman was still shuffling about
and looking extremely foolish.
"Gwen couldn't manage him. He
wouldn't go," he said sulkily.
48 AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE
"You didn't seem able to manage him
either, from what I saw. Pray, what did
you intend to do if you couldn't persuade
him to move ?"
"We hadn't quite decided," began
Daniel; but Mrs. Wilton broke in again
before he could finish his sentence.
"Oh, then I think I had better decide
for you! Will you kindly go back to the
village at once, and tell the man those
donkeys belong to that you can't manage
them, and that I shall be much obliged if
he will either send or come for them
himself as soon as possible ? Gwendolyn
can stay here; there is plenty of room for
her in my bath-chair, and I mean to take
her back with me."
Poor Daniel! This ignominious con-
fession of failure was not to his taste at
all, but grandmamma spoke decidedly,
and he didn't see any way of getting out
"But it's only Joseph who won't go.
AN UNLAWFUL DONKEY RIDE 49
I can ride the other donkey back if Gwen
isn't to come, can't I ? he said anxiously.
Certainly not. Go at once, and do as
I told you. You would probably get into
just the same predicament over again;
and, in any case, I don't consider that you
are fit to be trusted alone with another
donkey," returned grandmamma, severely;
and, after that, Master Daniel felt that
there was nothing to be done but make
tracks on foot for the village as fast as
it HY didn't you tell me that we
weren't supposed to go with-
out a donkey-boy yesterday?
Grandmamma made me so uncomfortable
on the way home. She seemed to think
the whole business perfectly awful," Gwen-
dolyn was saying sadly.
I'm afraid it was rather bad. I
oughtn't to have done it. You're to be
depended on for jumping on a fellow when
he's down, of course-you wouldn't be a
girl if you weren't," Dan returned dis-
consolately. He was feeling crushed and
cross and miserable.
GWIEN'S PRESENTIMENT 51
"You know I didn't mean to jump upon
you. Oh, Dan, there's a telegram!"
ejaculated Gwendolyn, suddenly.
"Very likely. But I don't see why you
should be so excited about it. It can't
have anything to do with you. I hate the
way you girls have got of flattening your
noses against the window and making
guesses at other people's business," growled
He felt thoroughly inclined for a quarrel
with somebody; but for this purpose
Gwendolyn had no intention of offering
her services. She had had a long lecture
anent the sisterly influence which ought
to be exercised over all brothers in the
bath-chair yesterday, and meant to begin
by trying to smooth hers down into an
amiable frame of mind again as soon as
The telegraph boy did not go away, but
remained dawdling about by the hall door
as though he were waiting for an answer.
52 GWEN'S PRESENTIMENT
Presently the door opened, and Emma
'came in looking white and mysterious.
"Will Master Daniel go and speak to
the mistress, please, at once ?" she said,
and then disappeared so promptly that
there wasn't time to ask her a single
"What's that about? We can't have
done anything else, can we?" queried
"No, of course not-if we don't know
it. But it might be something about that
telegram-do go and see! I wish grannie
had sent for me too!" Gwendolyn said
It was so horrid having to wait all by
herself in the schoolroom while Daniel was
being talked to about something exciting.
SHe came back presently, looking grave
"You were right for once, old lady-
that telegram did concern us. Father has
been sent for to India in a hurry, and he's
got to sail next Thursday, so mother
wants us to go back at once, so as to see
him before he goes. Grandmamma is
dreadfully sorry we have to go so soon,
and she's going to give us ten shillings
each to spend in amusing ourselves at
Wimbledon, where we shall have to stay
for the rest of the holidays, I suppose.
Mother will be awfully cut up."
"I should think so! Next Thursday-.
why, this is Saturday!" gasped Gwen,
with wide-open eyes. "And India is
such a long way off. I wish we could
"We can't, because there aren't any
decent schools for me in India, and the
climate wouldn't be good for you. If it
wasn't for us mother would go-it's only
for a year," Daniel said thoughtfully.
"Oh, I'm glad she isn't going! How
horrid it would be, particularly when you
were at school, with nobody but a gover-
ness and servants!"
54 GWEN'S PRESENTIMENT
"Yes; you wouldn't have much of a
time all by yourself; but girls have to put
up with being dull," Dan remarked de-
cidedly. "We'd better go upstairs and
see about packing now. Grannie said we
were to start this afternoon."
So there was an end of Gwen and
Daniel's visit to the country for the
present. Dan didn't say much, but he
was very quiet and depressed and different
from his usual blustering little self.
Everything would have been different
if it hadn't been for that wretched donkey
episode the day before. It was so horrid
to feel that he was going away in disgrace
and leaving a bad impression behind.
And being forgiven hadn't done away
with the uncomfortable feeling he had
when anything reminded him of yester-
day's escapade at all.
Gwen was very full of business, and
managed to get on with the packing with-
out assistance from Emma in a manner
G IWENS PRESENTIMENT
which caused that good woman very con-
"It's plain you're not used to being
waited on, Miss Gwenie-the way you've
collected everything and forgotten nothing
is simply wonderful. There's some good,
after all, comes from Master Daniel's
domineering ways-- "
But Emma never got a chance of
finishing her sentence, and the storm of
indignation which interrupted it, rather
altered her estimate of Miss Gwendolyn's
The house at Wimbledon was rather
in confusion when the children arrived
that night. Boxes and packing-cases were
everywhere, and Tosca, the family cat, was
wandering about with his tail in the air and
an expression of worry and dissatisfaction
about him which clearly indicated that he
strongly disapproved of the general dis-
turbance of household comforts.
Nobody was very communicative just at
first, but Gwendolyn caught sight of some-
thing in one of the passages which filled
her with a vague sense of uneasiness.
"That's mother's box; it's got her
initials on it. What do they want to turn
that out for ?" she asked suddenly.
"Perhaps father's going to take it, or
very likely some of the things he means to
leave behind are going to be packed away
in it. Or very possibly it's been stuck out
in the landing simply because mother's
room is being turned out. Housemaids
can't sweep under beds when they're all
stuffed up with band-boxes and things,"
returned Daniel. "You certainly have a
most extraordinary hankering after other
So Gwen, who was one of those little
girls with fine, easily tumbled hair, who
are never very difficult to snub, said no
more just then.
But there was something different from
usual in her mother's manner-something
which Gwendolyn could not have de-
scribed, but which made her restless and
uneasy. She kept looking at Daniel when
they were down in the drawing-room after
dinner, to see if he felt it too. But he
went on placidly teasing Tosca, and wan-
dering about from one part of the room to
another, just as he generally did when
nobody told him not to; asking questions
now and then about his father's journey,
but apparently not having any idea of the
dreadful something else which might
possibly be kept behind.
At last, when bedtime came, and the
children got up to go, Gwendolyn could
not bear it any longer. It was naughty,
she knew perfectly well that it was
naughty, to guess and pry and try to find
out things that her parents did not wish
her to know, and if she hadn't done it
perhaps she wouldn't have been so miser-
able; but, as it was, her pent-up feelings
were too much for her and she suddenly
58 GWEN'S PRESENTIMENT
subsided into a burst of tears in the middle
of her "good-night" kiss, in a manner
which caused Daniel to fairly gasp with
"What's the matter? What in all the
world is the matter now ? She was all right
two minutes ago! Girls are odd sorts of
people," he ejaculated blankly.
But Mrs. Kregford seemed to under-
stand all about it.
"You go on upstairs, Daniel. I'll bring
Gwendolyn up presently," was all she said;
and in about half an hour a very pale, tear-
stained little person arrived in Daniel's
room to explain her queer behaviour.
"Mother's coming up to say good night
to us both over again; but I'm to tell you
all about it first. We weren't to have
known just for a day or two, only I
guessed," she began timidly.
"Weren't to have known what? For
goodness' sake do come to the point. I'm
sick of mysteries," Dan cried impatiently.
GWEN'S PRESENTIMENT 59
"That mother's going too. She is
going, after all, because father wants her to.
But it's only for a year," Gwen explained,
in an awe-struck tone. Being left behind
in England without any parents at all,
seemed such a terrible thing that she
couldn't speak about it above a whisper.
Dan, for once, was startled out of his
superiority. His eyes opened very wide
Oh-h What's to become of us ?" he
"We're to stay here-just for a little,
till the house is let."
"By ourselves ?" demanded Daniel,
brightening visibly. What high old times
they might have!
But Gwenie shook her head.
"No, of course not. Aunt Millie's
coming to look after us; and then, when
the house is let, she's going to take us
back to grandmamma."
Dan made a disrespectful little grimace.
60 GWEN'S PRESENTIMENT
"Aunt Millie-ugh She won't do any-
thing to amuse us unless she wants to;
and she won't let us amuse ourselves if it
interferes with her, either. I only hope the
house'll let soon."
"Aunt Millie doesn't, because she's
going to be married, and her young man
can get at her here. Besides, she wants
to shop, and we're so near London," Gwen
returned discouragingly. Mother said
she wouldn't wonder if we were still here
when you had to go back to school."
"Oh! Well, if you haven't anything
more cheerful than that to tell one, I
think you'd better go back to bed. It's
the only place you're fit for; you look like
a sort of hybrid between a ghost and a
squeezed lemon as it is. Good night,"
Dan said so decidedly that, though Gwen
felt lonely and inclined to stop and talk,
she really thought that she had better do,
as he told her.
" --HIS house feels lively, I must
say," remarked Dan, resignedly.
They had just come back from
seeing the big steamer, with their father
and mother in it, off. Gwendolyn had
been more or less dissolved in tears since
an early hour in the morning, and his own
eyes were suffering from a prickly sensa-
tion, which necessitated a good deal of
"That's my fault; but I'm going to
cheer up-mother .said we were to.
You're going to take me for a walk on
the common after dinner, aren't you ?"
62 AUNT MILLIE
"Yes. Father said we were to spend
the rest of the holidays hunting for a bit
of white heather, and send it to him for
luck, in a registered envelope, as soon as
we found it-only I don't believe it grows
anywhere but in Scotland."
"Yes, it does--in lots of places. But
I'm afraid there isn't any on the common,
except what grows right under gorse
bushes, so that it can't get any sun, and
that's no good. But I know some girls
who found a whole lot of sundews eating
flies down by Czesar's Camp, and if white
heather is hopeless it would be rather fun
to go and look for them."
Which side of Casar's Camp ?"
demanded Daniel, somewhat mystified.
Gwen always had had a way of prowl-
ing about with other girls when he was
away at school, and discovering all sorts
of odd things that he never bothered his
"The side nearest to Robin Hood
AUNT MILLIE 63
church. You know where that little
stream with the brown rushes is. Ella
Monson said she thought it was the only
place near London that you could get
them," explained Gwendolyn. I meant
to have asked you to go there as soon as
you came home-if it hadn't been for the
"Then we'll go this afternoon; and, if
we find any, we'll start an aquarium in the
back garden. There's a cracked foot-bath
upstairs that I could dig a hole for, and
there are heaps of flies about to feed them
"Yes; but you don't want an aquarium
for sundews," interrupted Gwendolyn.
"They're plants-the only kind of car-
nivorous plants that there are-in this
country, anyway-and they catch their
own flies. Their mouths are all sticky,
so that when a fly settles there it can't
escape, and the sundew just sucks it down
as slowly as it wants to." She wanted to
64 AUNT MILLIE
give as much information as she could,
without making it too evident that she
had found out that Daniel didn't know
what the carnivorous plants in question
were. Botany wasn't a boy's science, no
doubt; but still he never liked her to
know more about anything than he did.
However, as usual, he rose to the occasion,
though rather lamely.
I never suggested putting sundews in
the aquarium, did I ? We can have frogs
and newts and such-like creatures inside,
and plant plants that like water round
the banks. The foot-bath is cracked, so
water'll always be oozing slowly out, and
keep the ground near like a marsh. The
worst of it is that when we've got the
whole thing to perfection it'll be just time
for me to go back to school."
Gwendolyn wrinkled her brows thought-
fully. She wished Daniel wasn't so fond
of trying to slip out of being in the wrong.
He always managed to make it sound as
AUNT MILLIE 65
though he had been right from the be-
ginning, and never seemed to suspect that
people couldn't help seeing this and know-
ing that he hadn't. She felt pretty sure
that it was a habit which ought to be got
rid of, only just at present, when she was
continually doing something wrong herself,
home truths on the subject wouldn't come
well from her.
I hope we sha'n't forget to fill it up
with water pretty often. Because, if the
water is always oozing out it won't last
very long," she said presently.
"Is that what you were pondering
about so deeply ? Well, I hope we sha'n't,
though, if we did, it wouldn't matter much
if we hadn't any fish. Frogs do all right
without water for a bit."
Yes; they don't like being in water
always. We shall have to get some slips
of board to float about on the top for them
to rest on," suggested Gwen.
"That's not a bad idea when the tank's
66 AUNT MILLIE
half empty; but if we leave pieces of board
in when it's full all the frogs will jump off
them and get lost. That would never do,
because they'd hop off into the house and
all sorts of places where there wasn't any
water, and die for want of it. You never
saw such a miserable looking object as a
frog who's lost his way and had to live in
dry places for a day or two," returned
Daniel, with an air of wisdom.
"Yes. I found one of mine in the
housemaid's cupboard like that. Its eyes
were so dull, and it was all limp and flabby,
with nothing shiny about it anywhere.
We put it on a damp sponge and sprinkled
it with water, and it got all right; but
mother said I was never to keep frogs
indoors any more. That one escaped out
of my room."
I should have thought you'd have
known better than to keep such creatures
there any time. Were they big ones ?"
AUNT MILLIE 67
"Oh no, quite babies; the biggest of
them could have ,sat on a half-crown.
There are always heaps of young ones on
the common early in the summer. I had
them in a bath with a little water and bits
of wood floating about just as we're going
to do outside. They always seemed quite
happy, and I never kept the same ones
for more than a week; but of course after
one of them had escaped, I shouldn't have
cared to go on doing it any way. He was
nearly dead when we found him, but he
looked at me so reproachfully. And the
worst of it was that until I actually put
him on the sponge and began sprinkling
him, I don't believe he thought I was
going to be kind to him. He tried as
hard as ever he could to get away," con-
fessed Gwendolyn, her face clouding over
at the recollection.
"No wonder; I call it beastly cruel to
keep frogs in bedrooms," returned Daniel,
with more truth than elegance. You'd
A UNT MILLIE
better run upstairs and change your frock
now, or you'll keep me waiting for ever so
long after dinner."
There wasn't any white heather on
Wimbledon common, and apparently just
then not any sundews either, at least the
children couldn't find any, and returned
home slightly depressed in consequence.
They did not notice that the gate was
open when they got there, or that there
were fresh carriage-wheel marks on the
drive; but there was a bundle of wraps and
a new Bradshaw on the hall-table which
attracted Daniel's attention at once.
"Hallo, Aunt Millie must have come;
I thought she wasn't due until to-morrow "
he exclaimed, with more surprise than
pleasure. Mother said to-morrow,
"No; she wasn't quite sure. We'd
better go to the drawing-room, hadn't we ?
It's so dull to arrive at a place and have
nobody but servants to greet you," Gwen
said anxiously. She felt it was her business
to do the honours in her mother's absence.
But the young lady seated in the
drawing-room with a tiny afternoon tea-
tray on the table beside her, did not seem
to be suffering from any lack of comfort,
She was dressed in a pretty pale mauve
cambric with a good deal of lace about it,
and a bunch of Neapolitan violets pinned
rather high up on the left side.
Gwendolyn felt unpleasantly conscious
of her own shabby serge frock and muddy
boots, and came forward looking rather
more awkward than usual. But Aunt
Millie did not seem to notice that any-
thing was wrong, and jumped up from her
seat at once as though she were pleased to
Presently she took up a little morocco
bag which lay beside the tea-tray, and
produced a small brown-paper parcel
"That is chocolate-chocolate creams, I
think they are. I thought they would
amuse you this evening as I have to go
out to dinner. You must eat them all up
between you," she said, putting the package
into Gwendolyn's hands.
And somehow, after that, both children
came to the conclusion that Aunt Millie
would be just as well pleased if they went
"I knew she wanted us to go, by the
way she kept looking at that yellow book
with the picture on it," whispered Gwen,
Daniel's mouth was so full of chocolate
cream that he couldn't answer for a
"Well, that's all right; I'm sure we
didn't want to stop. She knows the right
place to go to for lolly-pops, anyway," he
said at last approvingly. Besides, we've
got them all to ourselves, as it is, and if she
hadn't been going out to dinner, she might
have wanted to eat some of them herself.
AUNT MILLIE 7
There's a silver lining to every cloud,
according to your copy book, and this
one's of a nature that it's pretty easy to
A sage conclusion which, as it was
intended to, put an end to Gwendolyn's
grumbling for the present.
S DON'T think there's anything
else we ought to get. You
have plenty of socks, Dan,
haven't you ?" Aunt Millie inquired rather
Daniel was going back to school next
week, and they had been undergoing a
long afternoon's shopping at the stores,
which wasn't to her taste at all.
"Yes, I believe so; my hair wants
cutting," he suggested gruffly. There was
another very different suggestion that he
wanted to make, only courage isn't given
to everybody for everything.
Your hair ? Oh, nonsense! That can
be done at Wimbledon. You can go
round to that shop in the village by your-
self. We didn't come up to London to do
things that can be done just as well down
there, and it's quite time we thought of
going home. I don't want to get back
later than five," said Aunt Millie, who had
arranged to have tea in the drawing-room
waiting for her.
Outside the underground station that
they were making for, were a number of
gaily coloured placards. Daniel, who
knew the way, and had been walking on in
front a little, came to a full stop in front of
one of them.
That's at Dariel's Theatre, and there's
an afternoon performance next Saturday.
Mother said it was the only play going on
now that she'd like us to see, and father
meant to take us, only he hadn't time," he
Miss Millie Wilton glanced up at the
74 DAN'S IDEA
pictorial advertisement doubtfully. A
crowd of oddly dressed people, with pistols,
were streaming out of a cave, and in the
distance a gentleman on an elephant was
rapidly disappearing. She liked going to
the theatre now and then well enough,
when she could choose her piece, but an
afternoon performance full of adventures
evidently intended for schoolboys, when
she wasn't staying actually in London,
and the thermometer would probably be
about eighty degrees in the shade, was
another matter. However, the children
hadn't given her much trouble, and there
was a beseeching look round the corners
of Daniel's mouth, which made her rather
"That means you want me to take you,
I suppose ?" she said slowly.
"Oh no; I'm sure Daniel didn't mean
to give a hint!" cried Gwendolyn, flushing
crimson; but the young man in question
did not do much to back her up,
No-o. Only somebody has always
taken us somewhere every other holi-
days," he said, still gazing at the gorgeous
representations in front of him with longing
"I see. Well, perhaps-I won't abso-
lutely promise, but, perhaps, if I'm not
busy, I'll bring you both up to see it next
Saturday. Only you must be very good;
and remember, I haven't exactly promised,"
Aunt Millie said, as they turned into the
But she didn't promise, Daniel. I'm
just as disappointed as you are; but it
isn't fair to talk as though she had
promised when she didn't," Gwendolyn
Daniel was standing at the other end
of the room, looking out of the window,
to hide the tears which would come, and
biting his lips with vexation.
"She could take us quite easily if she
chose-garden-parties don't matter. Be-
sides, it's a great deal worse for me than
it is for you. All the other chaps at
school will have heaps of things to talk
about, and I sha'n't have been anywhere,
or seen anything," he said bitterly.
"Yes," it's too bad; but I don't know
what we're to do. Are you quite sure
Aunt Millie wouldn't let us go together ?"
demanded Gwendolyn, brightening sud-
denly. "You're ever so much bigger
than you were last Christmas, when
mother wouldn't let you take me."
But Daniel shook his head.
I'm afraid it's no good; she wouldn't
take the responsibility. Though what sort
of things grown-up people are so fond of
thinking I should allow to happen to you
I can't imagine. She wants us to go to
that performance at the Drill Hall in-
stead," he said moodily.
That ought to be nice, oughtn't it ?
There are pictures about it everywhere,"
Gwendolyn said hopefully.
But Dan was not to be comforted.
It isn't a London show-all the other
chaps will get taken to something in
London. Don't you think if you went to
Aunt Millie and begged very hard, with
the water-taps turned on, like they gene-
rally are when things don't please you, it
might have some effect ?"
But Gwendolyn didn't think it would,
and wasn't at all inclined to try.
Aunt Millie wants to go to that garden-
party so badly that I'm quite sure she
wouldn't give it up. She's sent to London
for a wreath of forget-me-nots to put in
her best hat on purpose to wear with a
lovely dress she's had made out of a lot
of pale blue silk that somebody sent her
from India, and Sir Thomas and Lady
Maxwell are going to call for her in a
carriage. She was quite cross after you
had been to her just now, and told me
78 DAN'S IDEA
that she forbade either of us to mention
the subject to her again," she said
Daniel was pacing up and down the
room by this time, stamping his foot with
"I thought grown-up people-ladies
anyway-always gave up wanting to do
things just to please themselves, when
they grew up. Mother never seems to
think about herself! he said impatiently.
"No; but then mother is mother! She's
better than anybody else. I don't think
people generally leave off trying to enjoy
themselves when they grow up. Any
way, Aunt Millie hasn't. We shall just
have to make the best of the Drill Hall,"
"Gwen-oh, you're awake! That's
right. I've got an idea!" exclaimed
Daniel, putting in an early appearance in
his sister's room on Saturday morning.
Gwendolyn had wakened early too, and
was curled up among her pillows, reading
"That's nice. Tell me all about it!"
she said eagerly.
But Daniel didn't seem in a hurry to
begin. He hesitated, and shuffled about
in a manner which, to say the least of it,
was, for him, decidedly unusual.
"After all, I'm not quite sure that it
will do to tell you. Girls always funk
everything so," he said at last.
Gwendolyn's colour rose. This was
really too bad.
I don't funk things! Don't you re-
member how I learnt to swim in deep
water, with only a rope tied round-- "
she began indignantly.
But Daniel wouldn't let her finish.
"For goodness' sake, don't give us any
more of that bragging! You're so fat you
couldn't possibly help learning to swim
directly. I believe you could earn your
80 DAN'S IDEA
living perfectly well as a buoy, if other
trades failed he put in derisively.
"As a boy? Boys don't find it any
easier to earn their living than girls do
-you're talking rubbish!" Gwen said in
some confusion. Of course she oughtn't
to have advertised herself in that con-
ceited fashion, and it was mean to remind
Daniel that he had taken ever so much
longer learning to swim than she had.
"As a.B U 0 Y, stupid. Buoys are
great big pieces of wood on something
that float about on the top of water to
warn people when there are dangerous
rocks underneath. They have to be
fastened to the bottom with a rope, some-
how; but they've nothing else to do but
keep themselves afloat, which the laws of
gravity, or whatever it is looks after that
sort of thing, arranges for them. It 'ud
be rather a bother feeding you-that's the
only thing. You'd have to have a bit
of board tied round your neck so that
it would float in front, and do to put
your meals on," wound up Daniel, thought-
"Aren't you going to tell me what you
really came to talk about ? It isn't very
kind to talk as though you didn't care any
more about me than you do for bits of
wood," Gwen said reproachfully. Dan
didn't mean, of course; but she used to
feel pretty sure sometimes that he wasn't
as fond of her as she was of him, and she
never had quite learned to like being
made fun of.
You shouldn't jump to conclusions.
I never said I wouldn't row out in a boat
to visit you occasionally, which is more
than one does for buoys of the usual
description. And we're just coming 'to
the other thing-only you girls fly off into
high strikes so, if one tells you anything
without a little preparation."
"Oh Well, I'm quite prepared," Gwen
said meekly. She only hoped secretly
that she wasn't going to be asked to help
in anything naughty.
All right; then we'll begin. It's about
that piece at Dariel's. It seems to me
that there isn't any reason why we shouldn't
go, after all." And Dan stopped short,
eyeing his sister oddly.
Isn't there ? That's nice. But who's
going to take us ?" she asked eagerly.
Dan's eyes wandered over to the window,
and he went on looking out of it, instead
of at the person he was speaking to, which
wasn't the way with him generally.
"I don't see that it's necessary for
anybody to take me. I'm going to take
you," he said presently.
"That would be jolly; only, are you
quite sure Aunt Millie '11 let us ?" queried
Gwen, not very brightly.
"Aunt Millie? Well, I don't see that
she need be asked. She's never told-us
not to go; and it doesn't make any differ-
ence to her."
Gwen caught her breath in sheer
"But she came to look after us, instead
of mother. We can't go without telling
her," she said at last.
"That's all Tommy-rot. She's given
me five shillings to pay for the Drill Hall,
and it can't matter to her whether we go
there or to the other place-which would
be more fun. There's no reason why we
should say anything about it. You always
make such a fuss about things," Dan
"I don't think we ought to do it. I'm
sure it isn't right," Gwen said feebly.
It was dreadfully difficult to go against
her brother. He was so tall and strong
and decided about things; and, besides, he
had got her into the way of doing what
he wanted rather blindly.
"Stuff and nonsense Why shouldn't
it be right ? We haven't been told not to
do it. Besides, how much do you suppose
Aunt Millie will care where we go so long
as we get back in decent time ?"
Gwendolyn thought Aunt Millie might
care, and didn't agree with him otherwise;
but, as often happened, let herself be talked
round at last.
"Only, for one thing, I don't believe
we shall have enough money. There'll
be the train as well as the tickets, and
I'm sure five shillings isn't enough," she
"That'll be all right. We must pay
for the train out of our own money-we've
got enough. You manage to be ready
directly after dinner. Aunt Millie's going
out to lunch, but she said we were to
have it early, because of the Drill Hall.
Meanwhile, we'd better prepare for break-
fast." And Master Daniel walked off,
thoroughly satisfied with his morning's
THE PLOT THICKENS
HIS train seems to take a tre-
mendous time getting to London.
I believe it stops at every sta-
tion," Gwen remarked discontentedly.
I'm quite sure it does. All the trains
on this line do. But the theatre's close
to the station, and the doors aren't open
till two, so it's all right."
"What are you going to do if five
shillings isn't enough for the tickets? I'm
quite sure mother generally pays more
than that," Gwen said again presently.
Daniel looked rather blue for a minute.
THE PLOT THICKENS
"Perhaps she does; but it isn't so ex-
pensive if you don't go to reserved seats.
We're going to be all right," he said
But he looked nearly as bewildered as
Gwen did when they actually got to the
theatre-there were such crowds of people
standing about outside, and nobody seemed
able to tell them exactly where to go.
Eventually they got into the box-office
by mistake, and there Daniel learnt that
his sister's original surmise had been
I don't think -we'd better bother about
tickets, as we're in a hurry; and, anyway,
this isn't the place for us to come to.
There's another place called the pit which
you're supposed to go to if you only want
to pay half-a-crown-and there's rather
a crowd there generally, so you'd better
come along," he said, looking so crestfallen
that Gwendolyn felt certain the man in
the box-office had been rude to him.
THE PLOT THICKENS 67
She opened her eyes very wide when
they got to the long curved line of human
beings outside the pit entrance. Every-
body looked so dirty and common, and
altogether unlike the people that they were
accustomed to associate with. Dan's face
was rather white, but he had no idea of
"You keep close up behind me, Gwen.
We sha'n't have very long to wait," he
said shortly; and Gwendolyn, who saw
that they were fairly in for the whole
business now, kept her opinion of their
surroundings to herself.
Presently a fat woman, who had been
eating peppermints steadily in front, offered
her some red and white bull's-eyes in a
paper bag, and her somewhat indignant
refusal of these delicacies produced re-
marks which caused Daniel to grind his
teeth. Then a nigger with a banjo began
making a most unearthly noise, after which
he dodged about among the audience
THE PLOT THICKENS
collecting halfpence. Daniel pulled out
one of his half-crowns with some coppers
and dropped a penny into the outstretched
cap with a lordly air.
Presently there was a sudden move-
ment-a sort of upheaval in the crowd,
and the children felt themselves being
pushed rapidly onward.
"Stick fast on to me; don't let the
people shove in front of you," whispered
He did not want Gwendolyn to know
it, but he was beginning to wish himself
at home. He never would have let her
in for this sort of thing if he had only
known exactly what it was. At last they
came to the little window where somebody
was giving out tickets.
"I want seats for two, please. And
my sister is under thirteen. Doesn't that
mean half price ? he added suddenly.
The man shook his head as he pushed
the tickets forward.
THE PLOT THICKENS
"No 'arf price here. Five shillings,
So Daniel put his hand in his pocket
with a grimace. One and threepence
would very nearly have paid their railway
But what in the world had become of
those half-crowns ? Surely he had put
them in the right-hand pocket. Dan's
face grew very glum as he drew his hand
out empty. There was no hole in the
lining, so the coins could not have slipped
out that way-but they were nowhere to
be found in that pocket or in any other.
The man behind the window placed
his hand on the tickets and drew them
back. Daniel's expression explained
"If you've had your pocket picked,
young man, you may as well go off at
once. We don't give credit here; and
you're blocking up other people's way,"
he said gruffly.
90 THE PLOT THICKENS
Daniel turned a very scared grief-
stricken countenance round to Gwen.
"Have you any money?" he asked
despairingly. But of course she had none
at all. "Then I'm awfully sorry, but we
shall just have to go home. Unless "-
and Daniel brightened up with a sudden
happy thought as he pulled out his Water-
bury watch and chain-" unless you will
give me the tickets in exchange for these ?"
But the man only laughed and shook his
There's no pawnshop here. You
clear out, young gent," was all he said.
So Daniel took hold of his sister's arm,
and began elbowing his way out into the
street. He kept his head turned away,
hoping she wouldn't see that his cheeks
were flaming and his eyes full of tears;
but, when they got out into the open,
another unpleasant discovery awaited him.
"The tickets-the railway tickets, I
mean-are gone too! Oh, Gwen, what
THE PLOT THICKENS 91
a mess I've got you into!" he exclaimed
Gwendolyn was sobbing quietly, too,
by this time; but she struggled hard to
recover herself and make the best of it.
"We-we might take a cab and pay
for it when we get home. Cook would
give us the money, if Aunt Millie wasn't
in," she suggested faintly.
But this did not fall in with Master
Daniel's views at all. He had not arrived
at being sorry for anything but the con-
sequences of his wrong-doing at present,
and still treasured faint hopes of being
able to conceal everything-hopes which,
fortunately for him, circumstances did not
lose much time in frustrating.
"That wouldn't do at all. We might
as well write an account of our proceedings
for the newspaper, or tell the town-crier
all about them at once. But there's no
reason why we shouldn't walk home. It's
only about eight miles; and, if we're lucky
92 THE PLOT THICKENS
in finding the way and start at once, we
ought to get home just about the same
time as if we had gone to the Drill Hall.
Don't you think that would be best?"
he asked, catching his breath a little.
But Gwendolyn's head was turned
away. She had caught sight of somebody
she knew-somebody who had likewise
caught sight of her, and was coming
towards them with rapid strides. It was
Mr. Bertram, the vicar-their father's
"Daniel and Gwendolyn! The very
two young people I've been looking for!
How did you manage to get brought up
here ? he asked, in some amazement.
Daniel's face was a study. There was
evidently no chance of slipping safely out
of everything now.
"We weren't brought up-we came.
That is, Dan brought me," Gwen ex-
Mr. Bertram's face grew very grave.
THE PLOT THICKENS 93
I don't understand that at all. I met
your Aunt Millie going out to lunch this
morning, and she told me that, as she was
unable to bring you up to town herself
this afternoon, she had arranged for you
to go to the performance at the Drill Hall
instead. So I, naturally, don't understand
what you are both doing here."
Mr. Bertram fixed his keen eyes on
Daniel; and that young man winced per-
"I didn't mean-Aunt Millie never
exactly said that we weren't to come up to
London," he stammered feebly.
"That means that she implied it-that
you understood perfectly well what she
meant, but that you nevertheless deliber-
ately chose to bring your sister up here in
her absence, thinking no doubt that you
were quite certain not t6 be found out.
Upon my word, you are a boy to be
proud of!" wound up Mr. Bertram, indig-
THE PLOT THICKENS
Gwen had started crying afresh, while
Daniel hung his head and shuffled
awkwardly from one foot to the other.
"Aunt Millie ought to have taken us.
She was only going to a garden-party to
please herself," he muttered sullenly at
"Ought to have taken you, indeed!
As though aunts were bound to consider
their nephews' and nieces' amusements
before everything. I wonder what the
present generation of young people are
coming to?" and Mr. Bertram's eyes
wandered anxiously over to a small group
of his own offspring standing some yards
off, with a big cousin to look after them,
almost as though he thought Daniel's
duplicity and impudence might be in-
"And, as it happens, if you had been
good, and honourable, and obedient, you
would have got exactly what you wanted.
I had two tickets more than I need have
THE PLOT THICKENS
used for this entertainment, and was coming
up to see if you would like to go, when I
met your aunt. She told me all about
her plans for you, but you had gone when
we got to your house, and we could not
find you anywhere about the Drill Hall,
either," he went on suddenly.
Gwen's tears were falling fast.
"And now we've lost the money, and
can't go at all," she sobbed sorrowfully.
"When this is once over, I don't ever
mean to do anything naughty again!"
Lost the money? How's that? Oh,
you've had your pockets picked, I sup-
pose," remarked Mr. Bertram, taking no
notice of this last somewhat imprudent
statement. "Well, I must say if that's
what's happened, it serves you both right.
Not that I would have allowed you to
go in, even if you had had the tickets and
everything ready. How do you propose
to get home ?"
Daniel hesitated. He felt pretty sure
THE PLOT THICKENS
that his proposition on the subject would
not meet with Mr. Bertram's approval.
However, Gwendolyn, as usual, came
straight to the point at once.
"We're going to walk. That's the
only way, as Dan's lost the return tickets,
and we haven't any more money. It isn't
too far, and there are plenty of people to
ask about the way," she said confidently.
Mr. Bertram gazed first at one culprit
and then at the other in blank amazement.
"Do you actually mean to say that you
intended to take your sister for a ten-mile
walk through the slums of London, just
on the chance of finding your way correctly,
and getting home in safety ? A very poor
chance, I should imagine, considering what
an incapable escort you have proved your-
self to be! I don't know how to be thank-
ful enough that I happened to catch you
in the act. Would you just wait where
you are for a minute," he exclaimed at last,
walking over to the corner where his
THE PLOT THICKENS 97
own children were clustered together, and
speaking a few hasty words to the big
cousin who was apparently in charge of
the party. Then he came back to Dan
"You can come along with me, young
people-one on each side, if you please,"
he said decidedly. "I am going to take
you straight home, and don't mean to lose
sight of you until your Aunt Millie returns
to take charge of you herself. And if she
takes my advice, she won't let either of
you out of her sight again, either, as long
as she has the misfortune to be considered
responsible for you. Children who can't
be trusted never ought to be left alone."
And with this crushing remark, Mr.
Bertram proceeded to walk off in the
direction of the station, with one of the
culprits hurrying along on each side of
He put them both in front of him at
the booking-office, and took the tickets