The Bald'ln Library
17 Z tD n
I I--I I- 'I I-- -I
PIIIL AND THE VICAR.
"ASAPH WOOD," "GILMORY," "THE BLACK WITCH OF HONEYCRITCH,"
"WANTED A CAMEL," ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY J. NASH.
PUBLISHED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE COMMITTEE
OF GENERAL LITERATURE AND EDUCATION APPOINTED BY THE
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE.
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE,
NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, W.C.;
43, QUEEN VICTORIA STREET, E.C.
BRIGHTON: 129, NORTH STREET.
NEW YORK: E. & J B. YOUNG AND CO.
C. J. L. J.
IN FLOWERDEW ALLEY.
Scarce a glimpse of azure heaven
Gleamed above that narrow street."
A. A. PROCTOR.
T was a perfect day in the very heart
of summer, with an almost cloudless
sky overhead, and one long uninter-
rupted reign of golden sunshine.
To thousands of boys and girls it meant a
day for picnics and boating parties, for long
rambles in shady lanes, or butterfly hunts, or
romps in the hayfields, or games of cricket to-
wards sunset, when the long shadows of the trees
grow yet longer on the grass, and the evening
air is heavy with the scent of the countless
But to the ragged, white-faced, hungry-eyed
boys and girls, who were dragging out an exist-
ence, too mournful for words, in a miserable court
known as Flowerdew Alley-in one of those
wretched London districts built over the dank,
sodden marshes of the Thames-that summer
day, which to country children meant only a
wealth of flowers and fruit and all the joys that
sunshine always brings, brought nothing but
choking dust and foul smells and a larger share
of suffering to the sick, and an increase of
weariness to those who had never known what
it was to enjoy the bright spirits and untiring
energy of childhood.
Ah my child-readers, you who can wander
at will where the works of the Lord are revealed "
in your pleasant country homes, and to whom
all the joys and delights of country life come as
a matter of course-you will never realize the
existence that thousands of men and women,
and, saddest of all, little children, are condemned
to drag out in the hidden courts and alleys of
our great cities.
It is hard for you and me, who have never
known what hunger and destitution mean, to
picture those terrible haunts, where grim poverty
and ignorance and vice meet one on every side,
where, instead of pure fresh air and lovely views
and the singing of birds, evil smells and heart-
breaking sights and ghastly sounds take their
place, till even the faces of the little children,
with their keen eyes and sharpened features,
become stamped with the universal degradation
IN FLOWERDEW ALLEY.
and misery, and seem to reflect the terrible
surroundings in which the whole of their sad,
short lives have been spent.
On the summer day on which our story
opens two small boys, about nine years old,
were to be seen talking eagerly to each other in
one corner of Flowerdew Alley. They were
both ragged, thin, and white-faced, but yet, even
to a cursory observer, they were far too unlike
each other to be taken for brothers. One was
dark-haired, with large brown eyes; whilst
the other rejoiced in a thick thatch of the
most brilliant red hair, and a pair of light-blue
A few yards off from them a group of squalid
children were quarrelling over a dead cat; a
little further on, some rough lads were playing
tricks with an unlucky poodle, which one of
their number had managed to steal from its
owner that morning; whilst close at the boys'
very elbow, an old woman was hawking a basket
of rotten gooseberries, and inviting all the in-
mates of the court to purchase her "fresh-
gathered fruit at a halfpenny a pint !"
At any other time each and all of these
goings-on would have proved attractive to our
two little friends, but to-day they had no eyes
or ears to spare to their surroundings.
I tell yer, Phil, it's easily done, if yer only
have the sense of a sparrer," Dan, the red-haired
boy, was saying. I'll tip yer the wink, and the
lady what teaches us will never spot yer, if only
yer'll stick close to me, and duck up and down
as I tell yer. None of the other coves will split
on yer, you bet. They're in too great a funk
of me for that," added the boy, doubling a bony
little fist as he spoke, which certainly did not
look very formidable.
"I'd like to come; I'd like to chance it," said
Phil; and the look of wistfulness in his large
dark eyes was positively mournful. Oh, Dan,
wouldn't it be a lark if I could do it, and take
'em in ?"
"Yer will, if yer ain't an ass," was Dan's
rejoinder. "Look here, Phil! Come on with
me now, and I'll show yer just where we shall
have to stand to-morrer to be counted over."
"Not I; I can't come along with yer now,"'
said Phil, standing up and shouldering a large
package of newly made match-boxes. I've got
to pitch these in at Jenkins's, and she'll make it
hot for me, if I'm home after time." So saying,
the boy began to move on, but presently he
stopped short and looked back. "Dan," he
called. "Dan, I say, look here! I won't say
'no' any more. I will go along with yer to-
morrow, and take my chance."
"In course yer will," said Dan; and a good
time we'll have of it. My wig won't yer open
your eyes when you once get behind bellowing
Billy, and see all there is to be seen!"
"Yes, if only some one don't nab me first,"
IN FLOWERDEW ALLEY.
said poor Phil in a less hopeful tone, as he went
on his way with his load of match-boxes.
So ended the dialogue between Dusty Dan-
so called from a corruption of his nickname,
"Brick Dust," to which his brilliant colouring
had given rise-and Phil, otherwise known as
" Match-box Phil," he being rarely to be seen
unencumbered by several gross of newly finished
match-boxes, either piled on his head, or slung
at his back, or tucked under his arm, on his
daily rounds to the warehouse to deliver them.
Poor Phil had absolutely no belongings, being,
as he would have told you, an "orphing," and,
indeed, looking into his old child's face, you
would have found it hard to believe that mother's
lips had ever kissed those pinched, sharpened
cheeks, or that mother's hands had ever smoothed
the rough, tangled, dark locks from the deeply
lined forehead. No, he had never belonged to
anybody in the sense of being an object of value
to any person.
The dimmest recesses of his memory held the
picture of an old woman, whom he had once
called "Granny," and who had sometimes given
him kind words, but more often hasty blows;
but his recollections concerning her were very
vague, which was but natural, seeing that for the
last five years-more than the half of his little
life-Phil had been at the mercy of one Mrs.
Styles, who had-never found it necessary to tell
him any of his own history, or to explain to
him the terms on which they stood with each
Only one fact poor Philip knew well-for
that knowledge had come to him through years
of neglect and ill-treatment-namely, that he
was "no flesh or blood of hers," and that he was
nothing but an "orphing," who wasn't worth the
salt he ate.
That information, emphasized more often
than not by a shower of cruel blows, had been
hurled so constantly at Phil, that he had ceased
to attach any importance to it. Early, very
early in life, his baby feet had grown used to
treading only the stony places in life's rugged
road, and he had become so accustomed to Mrs.
Styles's treatment of him, that it would have
seemed quite unnatural to Philip if she had
altered her usual behaviour to him.
As he often said to his friend Dan, he knew
pretty well now what to expect from "the old
girl," and had learnt the worst of her.
Poor Philip! Ay, pity him, my readers, but,
at the same time, don't be too hard upon the
wretched woman who made the misery of the
child-life dependent upon her. She was one of
those weary toilers who, if they will not starve,
must work harder than any beast of burden.
For fourteen hours every day, Sunday included
-for, for these white slaves of our great cities
there is no day of rest,-poor Mrs. Styles worked
on at the task allotted to her, making a gross
IN PLOWERDEW ALLEY. 9
of match-boxes-that is, a dozen dozen outsides
and a dozen dozen insides for twopence half-
penny, and out of that payment finding her own
paste, and earning at the end of her week of
unremitting labour something a little under six
What wonder if, with her weary, exhausted
frame, her one long monotony of grinding toil,
poor Mrs. Styles grew ill-tempered, and even
cruel to those dependent upon her. Besides
Phil, she had an invalid husband and a bed-
ridden mother to share the one corner of the
wretched room-for which she paid no less than
eighteenpence a week-and the scanty stock of
food which the remainder of her earnings
Her husband had once been in good work at
the docks, but a fall down a ship's hold had
resulted in an injury to his spine, and paralysis
had supervened, reducing him to a state of utter
helplessness. Like the poor, bedridden old
mother, who was entirely crippled with rheu-
matism, John Styles would lie hour after hour
watching his wife's swiftly moving hands, and
sighing with that weary patience which seems
the special heritage of the suffering poor, that he
was forced to lie still and starve.
Neither the man nor the old woman were
ever unkind to Phil, and sometimes, indeed, the
former would raise his voice in remonstrance
when the boy fell a victim to more than his
IO MATCH-BOX PHIL,
usual share of ill-treatment; but with the best
will in the world, poor souls, they could not
have done much to improve his circumstances,
and the one little gleam of light which found its
way into Phil's troubled life did not come from
either John Styles or his mother-in-law.
A GLEAM AMIDST GLOOM.
Here some Christ-like spirit, pure and gentle,
Sheddeth moisture on the desert spot."
T OOKING at that squalid room which
Phil had learnt to call "home,"
V and of which only half belonged
to the Styleses, no one could have
supposed that Phil's bright spot, of which we
spoke in our last chapter, could have been found
within those four bare walls. And yet so it was.
In the corner opposite to that inhabited by
the Styleses, lay, day and night, winter and
summer, a pale, hump-backed, crippled boy. He
was a match-box maker, like the rest of his
room-fellows, and from early dawn till far into
the night poor Seth's hands, so thin and claw-
like, were moving ceaselessly. Only now and
again, at rare intervals, when overtaxed nature
gained the mastery, Seth's head would fall back
against the wall-pillows he had none-and his
eyes would close for very weariness. At such
moments as these-strange as it may seem in
such surroundings-a smile would flicker across
the drawn white face, like a pale, watery sun-
beam, and on these occasions, if Phil happened
to be at hand, he would creep up to Seth and
whisper, "Are you seeing them beautiful things
now, Seth? Tell me about 'em again-do."
For Seth Reid had not spent all his life in
those sin-defiled haunts of prayerless lips and
ruined souls. He was seventeen when our story
begins, but till within the last five years he had
been a thorough country boy, without a wish or
a thought beyond the happy village and pleasant
lanes where his lot had been cast. Seth had
never been able to join in other boys' games,
but his intense love of nature, his keen interest
in all the birds and insects and flowers which
came within even his limited reach, had more
than compensated him for the privations which
his crippled limbs inflicted upon him. Almost
unconsciously, Seth was as entirely devoted to
the worship of Nature as were those old-world
folk of long, long ago, who, knowing very little
about themselves, and nothing of the things they
saw around them, fancied that everything had
the same kind of life which they themselves had.
To watch either sunrise or sunset was a daily
source of delight to him, and at times, when he
had been too ill to leave his bed in the little
cottage at home, Seth had been quite happy
observing the clouds as they floated past his
window, his fancy fashioning them now into
A GLEAM AMIDST GLOOM.
grand old giants seated on monstrous thrones of
snowy vapour, now into splendid warriors on
huge, dragon-like steeds, or again into vast
flocks of fleecy sheep scudding across the sky,
whilst the smaller, more transparent cloudlets,
Seth always loved to fancy were the white-
winged angels, speeding to and fro on their
As for the flowers, they seemed to be Seth's
own heritage. There was not a bank or a copse
within his reach-and on good days with his
crutches Seth could walk a fair distance-of the
flowers of which he could not have given you an
inventory. He knew where to look for any rare
specimen of flower, fern, or moss; he could
literally put his finger on the spots on the chalk
hills where, the bee orchises grew; and if any
one, from the old flower-loving vicar downwards,
wanted information about any uncommon local
plant, Seth Reid was always the person referred
to. His father was a bricklayer, who might
have done well enough had he been content to
remain in his native village and rest satisfied
with the moderate wages which he earned there.
He had only one other child besides Seth, a
little girl, ten years younger than her brother,
and devotedly fond of Seth. Soon after Nannie's
birth, Reid's wife had died, arid, as so often
happens, the mother's death was followed by
the break-up of what had till then been one of
the happiest homes in the village.
14 MATCH-BOX PHIL.
Tempted by the prospect of higher wages, and
no longer restrained by his wife's remonstrances
against sacrificing the children's welfare, Reid
had sold up his small possessions and started
off to London before Nannie was two years
old. At first he had done fairly well, but after
a-time, owing to slackness of trade, he fell out
of work, and at last was reduced to taking em-
ployment in a stoneyard at the rate of nine-
pence a day.
On first going to London, the Reids had
rented three little rooms, which it had been
Seth's pride to keep as neat as his mother would
have done, but by degrees they had sunk from
one poor locality to a still worse one, till at last
one corner of the wretched room in Flowerdew
Alley was all the semblance of home that was
left to them. By that time want of food and
insufficient clothing and foul air had done their
work upon Seth, and reduced him to the feeble,
helpless cripple he now was. And yet perhaps
in all that great city there was no life which, in
proportion to the means at its command, shed
more gentle sunlight on its immediate surround-
ings than did poor Seth's. To Nannie, he was
her whole world, the centre upon which her very
being hung; to Philip, he was nothing less than
a hero, for he had seen so much with his own
eyes of which Phil had only dreamt; whilst to
those other poor souls who shared the con-
finement of that squalid prison-like room, Seth
A GLEAM AMIDST GLOOM.
was a soothing, refining influence, of which they
themselves were vaguely conscious.
No one in that room was tired of hearing
Seth talk of his country home and all its joys
-and beauties; and when the boy would describe
his happy wanderings through the springtide
copses, all blue and yellow with their carpets of
hyacinths and primroses, and how he listened for
the first "jug, jug" of the nightingales or the
cry of the dear old cuckoo, or when he spoke of
the summer lanes with their wealth of wild
roses and honeysuckle, or of the harvest field
with the golden corn, all ready for the reapers'
sickle,-the wearied, worn faces of his listeners
would grow a shade less hard, hearing Seth's
stories of a better land, and now and again they
would declare-those who had not always dwelt
in that house of bondage-that they fancied
almost they could see the meadows, with the
fresh green grass all white and gold with the
daisies and buttercups, and could hear once
more the creaking of the waggons and the songs
of the reapers bringing home their harvest.
And if, indeed, the pictures of that sweet
country life contrasted all too grimly with the
sad reality of their own, so that tears would
well up in their heavy, care-dimmed eyes, I do
not think those tears did harm to those who
shed them, but served rather as refreshing dews
to keep one last spot soft and green in the
weary desert of their parched and barren hearts.
In those happier days of his, Seth had been a
Sunday school boy, and now the only treasure
which he could really call his own, and which,
alas none of his companions wished to dispute
with him, was a tattered Prayer-book, in which
he still read in his rare moments of leisure, and
from which he taught Nannie her catechism.
He had tried to teach Philip too, but with very
little success; and though the boy had learnt
to say "Our Father," and would repeat it at
Nannie's bidding, it had been from the child
and not her brother that Phil had learnt this
simple prayer. Phil would always come over to
Seth's corner and listen for hours to tales of the
latter's life at Thorndale, but the sight of the
tattered Prayer-book would invariably send him
flying to the further end of the room. He was
not a good little boy in the sense of saying his
prayers or wishing to be taught about God or
heaven. No one but Seth had ever spoken to
him on such subjects; and though Phil had often
promised him that he would go along with
"Dusty Dan" to the Sunday Ragged School in
an adjoining alley, he had never got further
than the door of the class-room. He had never
been taught to say his prayers, kneeling at his
mother's knee. No one had ever tried to raise
his thoughts above the loathsome sights and
sounds of the squalid places in which his childish
ideas had taken root, or to talk to him of that
other kingdom of which he was an inheritor;
A GLEAM AMIDST GLOOM.
no one, indeed, had ever troubled themselves to
tell the boy whether he were even baptized
And what to Seth seemed the saddest part of
it all was, that Phil cared very little about it
himself, and declared that anyway now it
wouldn't make much difference to him.
"Ah! if you could only get down to Thorn-
dale and be taught for a bit in the Sunday
school," Seth would say when overcome by
despair of trying to teach Phil himself, "you
would understand it all then, fast enough."
"I'd like to go to Thorndale," Phil would
answer; "but catch me going to any of your
Sunday schools. It's the cherry orchards I'd
make for, you bet, or some old cove's fruit
garding. My wig, won't it be a lark if I ever
gets down there! "
For Philip's projected flight to Thorndale was
a favourite topic of whispered conversation
amongst those three ragged children, Seth,
Nannie, and Phil, as they sat huddled together
in their dingy corner; for Phil had quite resolved
that somehow or other on the first favourable
opportunity he would, as he termed it, cut the
concern and make tracks for the country.
When he was once outside London, he was
quite sure it would be an easy matter to find
the road to Thorndale, for Seth assured him
that in the country there was no huge network
of long streets, with great tall houses blocking
out the distant view; there were no rattling
cabs and omnibuses to run you down, if you
stood still in the middle of the road to think
which way you would take; there was no police-
man to bid you move on, if you wished to rest
for a bit by the way. Only fresh green grass
beneath your feet and tall shade-giving trees
overhead, and plenty of moss-grown banks or
snug corners in overgrown copses, where the
weary wayfarer might rest all night, with the
nightingales to sing you to sleep and the stars
of heaven to gleam down upon you, instead of
the flaring gaslamps at the corners of the street,
and all the jarring sounds which always filled the
night in Flowerdew Alley and made it hideous.
When Phil had once reached Thorndale, he
was to go to a certain long, low thatched house
at the top of the village, with a large yard and
a pond in front of it, and which was known far
and wide as May Farm, and where, Seth assured
him, the kindly housewife would give him a
welcome, if Phil said that Seth Reid had sent
him. She was the children's aunt; and though
the Reids had long ago lost all connection with
their old friends and relations, yet Seth felt
sure, knowing his aunt's nature, that the sound
of his name, coupled with the sight of Phil's
wan white face, would ensure him kindly treat-
ment at her hands.
It was always part of the programme that
Phil should time his arrival at May Farm for
A GLEAM AMIDST GLOOM. 19
either haymaking time or harvesting, so that he
should at once be taken on as an extra hand.
"And then," said the boy, "won't I work just
about and make 'em that satisfied, that chances
are they'll nab me for ever after as a regular
Anyway, he was to earn enough money to
bring him back to London to fetch Seth and
Nannie and give them a good time in Thorndale.
Oh, the sunny threads, which the exercise of
a little imagination may weave into the tapestry
of the darkest clouds of life I
HATCHING A PLOT.
"Beneath the loveliest dream there coils a fear."
EVER before had Phil so quickly
accomplished his errand to the great
match-box warehouse as on this
summer evening on which our story
In spite of the heavy sultriness, which made
most people feel so weary and listless, Phil sped
along as if he had wings to his feet, only bent
on delivering his match-boxes as soon as possible,
so that he might fly back to Seth and Nannie,
and tell them how that their long-dreamt dream
was really about to be fulfilled, and that before
another sunset he would actually be treading the
lanes and meadows of that happy land of which
Seth had talked so much.
But with the caution peculiar to those poor
children whose natural dove-like innocence has
long ago been choked by this world's wisdom,
Phil was very prudent in imparting his informa-
HATCHING A PLOT.
tion. It was not till he felt quite sure that all
the other inmates of the room were either asleep
or entirely absorbed in finishing their daily tasks,
that he crept over to Seth's side and began a low
conversation with him and Nannie.
At first both children made sure that Phil was
"It couldn't never be true," said little Nannie;
and there was a pathos in her wistful, eager tone
which would have gone to your heart.
Over and over again Phil had to explain how it
was all Dusty Dan's planning, and how Dan had
promised that if Phil came along with him to
the station at eight o'clock next morning, he
would manage somehow to smuggle him in
amongst the two hundred and odd ragged
children who were going down into the country
for their yearly school treat.
"You've only to duck down at the right
moment, and you'll be right enough, you bet,"
Dusty Dan had declared. Joe Hart got smug-
gled in that way last year; and though) to be
sure, he was spotted when we'd got out of the
first tunnel, teacher hadn't the heart to turn him
And," continued Phil, if so be I was spotted
at the station, I wouldn't be worse off than I am
now. The parson and the ladies might jaw me
a bit, but that wouldn't break no bones, and I'll
only have to make a better sort of a try next
That's true," said Seth; but do you know
what part of the country you're going to,
"What part !" echoed the boy. "Why, 'tis the
country. That's enough, isn't it ? I expect, when
I am once there, I'll manage to find Thorndale."
"But the country is ever so big," said Seth,
"and Thorndale was reckoned but a small
village, and maybe you're going quite opposite
Don't matter; if Thorndale's in the country,
and I'm going into the country, I'll be bound
to find it anyhow," said Phil, to whose mind the
term country represented a monster kind of
street, in which he had only to seek for Thorn-
dale as he would have sought the number of a
house in any given street.
"Ah," sighed Seth, "if only I could go along
with you-just to put you in the right way, you
know. Shute is the name of the station, and
that's better than three miles from Thorndale;
and it's up ever so steep a hill you go for most
of the way, till you come to the toll-bar. There's
a big cherry tree grows close against the gate.
The fruit will be about ripe now, and Jerry, the
old man what keeps the. toll, has got a patch
over one eye- But there, you're not minding
a word I'm saying, Phil," broke off Seth, be-
coming suddenly aware that Philip's thoughts
were clearly not following his description of one-
HATCHING A PLOT.
"I was thinking," said Phil, "how on earth I
could let you know, and Nannie too, how I gets
on, for you'll both be ever so anxious to hear
"Oh yes," said Nannie, for we'll have to be
getting ready for you to fetch us away, 'cause
you will come for us again-won't you, Phil ?"
"In course I will," he answered; and then, after
a moment's thought, he added, "Well, anyway
Dan's in the secret, and he'll come and tell you,
soon as ever he comes back here, how I manages
about getting lost. I'll have to look sharp and
dodge behind some 'bus when the ladies ain't
looking, or try-- "
"But there ain't no 'bus in the country,"
broke in Seth; "you'll have to hide behind a
haystack, or in a ditch more likely."
"Well, I'll hide in something, you bet," said
"And you'll remember May Farm, and Mrs.
Brailey our aunt," said Seth; "and you'll tell
her about us, and how we want bad to come
"Yes," chimed in Nannie, and you'll tell her
how Seth says I'm grown handy enough to do
many an odd job, and p'raps when I'm a bit
older take a turn at the milking," she added,
quite forgetting that she had never, to her
knowledge, seen a live cow in her life.
I would like to be going up that Thorndale
hill once more," sighed poor Seth. "You'll think
of me, won't you, Phil, as you goes along between
the high hedges? They'll be all aglow with the
dog-roses and foxgloves now;" and he turned
his face to the bare dirty wall, and closed his
eyes, as though to shut out the sight of his
miserable surroundings, whilst he stole away
from them all in fancy to the pleasant scenes of
Nobody heeded the two great tears which
presently rolled down his sunken cheeks, not
even little Nannie, she was so absorbed in
thinking of all that lay before Philip. His
flight. into the country had been talked of so
much and so often by these poor little exiles,
that now that he actually stood on the threshold
of his enterprise Nannie felt quite bewildered.
It seems awful queer like ; and when I think
about it all, something seems to choke me just
here," she said, putting her hand to her throat,
whilst a troubled look came into her face which
was akin to pain rather than pleasure.
"Ay," said Phil, whose spirits were rising, "it
will be an awful spree. I'll have a lot to tell you,
Nannie, when I come back again ;" and, in the
exuberance of his glee, Phil promptly stood on
his head, as only a gutter boy can.
But this time he had gone too far, and a sharp
reprimand from Mrs. Styles, who bade him come
and lie down in his own corner and have done
with them tomfooleries, had the effect of sobering
him, and, with a whispered promise to Nan that
HATCHING A PLOT.
he would bid her good-bye first thing next morn-
ing, Phil went off to sleep.
Nor was he the first to awake next day. The
pale grey light of early morning was only just
beginning to steal into the room, when a gentle
touch on his forehead roused him, and Phil saw
little Nan standing beside him.
In one hand she held a tiny screw of news-
paper, in the folds of which lay a small ragged
lock of her yellow hair.
"Take it along with you, Phil," she whispered,
"just for a something to remember us by, for
maybe if you've nothing at all, when you comes
into that beautiful place yonder, you'll forget
all about Flowerdew Alley, and Seth, and-me"
-and here the corners of her mouth quivered
ominously-" but if you'll always keep that,
chances are 'twill mind you now and then about
us, and how we be waiting here ever so long,
a-hoping for you to come back and fetch us."
"Never you fear. I won't forget you, Nan,"
said Phil, but he took the fold of paper all the
same. I'll come back for you just as fast as
ever I can."
"Ay, and you'll find us waiting and wanting
you ever so bad," said Nan. And then, after a
moment's hesitation, she went on, "And, Phil, I
wanted to ask you one thing more : when you're
away from us, will you-will you promise just
to say 'Our Father' when you gets up first thing
in the morning ? Seth says we can't expect God
to take no care of us if we don't ask Him, you
know. And I'd like to think that when we are
saying 'Our Father' here, Seth and I, you is
saying just the same out in the beautiful country."
"I'll never remember to say it all through,"
said Phil, "not by myself; 'tis different when. I
say it with you and Seth."
For a minute Nan looked perplexed; then, her
face suddenly brightening, she suggested," I know,
then. You say just 'Our Father' every morning
regular-only them two words; you'll remember
them, Phil-and then tell God, 'Nan will finish
the rest,' and I'll say it always a double time-
once for us, and once for you. That'll be fine,
won't it, Phil ?"
"Ay," he said, nodding his head. I promise
that, and I won't forget."
And so those children parted that summer
To the oldest, most world-worn man there's a
kind of magical charm in the sound of a former
playfellow's name; but how much tenderer is
the link that binds us to those whom we may
call our misery-fellows! "Tears that we have
shared with another make the best cement for
friendship," says a French writer; and so it had
proved in the case of these three poor garret
"It's our only friend that is gone; 'tis that
what makes me feel so badly," said Nannie some
hours later to Seth, by way of excuse for the
HATCHING A PLOT. 27
tears that would come in sudden showers all
through that morning. We'll miss him terribly."
Ay; but he's coming back again," said her
brother. "He promised to come back again to
us, certain sure."
He promised to say' Our Father,'" said little
Nan, as if the thought of that promise gave her
the most comfort,
THE FIRST STEP.
"And all above, broad summer day!
And all below, bright summer land !"
MONGST all the bright-faced, eager-
hearted children who were gathered
together at one of the great London
stations on this golden summer
morning, ready to start on their country ex-
pedition, no heart beat faster, no breath came
shorter, than did poor Match-box Phil's, as he
dodged first behind one child and then another,
trembling in every limb, lest some one should
see him, and discover that he was not one of the
There stood the long line of third-class
carriages, specially engaged for the accommo-
dation of the small holiday-makers, drawn up
close to the platform. There was only one step
-and such a little step too-from where Phil
was standing to these tempting vehicles of
escape; if only he could once be smuggled
THE FIRST STEP.
through the ordeal of counting heads, if only
he could once find himself being carried down
the line with the rest of his ragged comrades,
all would be well.
The success of his venture meant to Phil
glorious freedom and unclouded happiness in
the unknown country, so fondly dreamt of;
failure meant a sorrowful return to the dreary
city home-which was no home to him-and
Nan's and Seth's bitter disappointment as well
as his own.
Phil had taken his place in the crowd of little
ones close beside Dan, and he was so over-
excited, so ready to laugh or cry at a moment's
notice, that when his friend gave him a sharp
poke in the ribs, accompanied by the informa-
tion that wasn'tnt their regular teacher as was
taking them, but some other old girl, whom
Dan had never seen before," Phil could not
collect his scattered wits sufficiently to under-
stand that this change of superintendents could
in any way influence the success of his enter-
She's a new hand at it all, and we'll do her
yet," muttered Dick by way of explanation.
"She's awfully out of it," added the gutter boy.
And awfully out of it," indeed, did that poor
good lady feel, as she stood on the platform,
with a long register of names in her hand, short
of sight, and still shorter of memory, and re-
gretting bitterly in her inmost soul the good
nature which had prompted her to place herself
in this trying position. The truth was that her
niece, who should have been in charge of Dusty
Dan's class that day, had fallen ill at the last
moment, and her distress at the thought of her
unshepherded flock had been so great, that her
elderly aunt had volunteered to go on the
expedition in her stead. But though she had
been fully instructed as to the right number of
children-some fifty-for whom she would be
responsible, and had been directed to call them
over singly by name, and make each answer in
turn, she had likewise received such a volume
of instructions not to let Tom Miles put his
head out of the carriage window, or Fred Smith
frighten the others in the tunnels, and to be sure
and not allow Charlie Brown to eat his neigh-
bour's share of cake as well as his own,-that by
the time poor Miss Sandars arrived on the scene
of action, and found herself surrounded by the
troop of wildly excited children, she was so
bewildered and so nervous,'that, though she did
go through the name-calling and did feebly
endeavour to number her charges, Phil could
not have attempted his escape under more
The names had been called, the counting was
over, and Phil had escaped detection, when all
at once a voice was heard close to Phil's elbow,
saying in very loud tones, "Teacher, I say, this
'ere cove don't belong to us ;" and a grimy little
THE FIRST STEP.
paw, belonging to one Hal Jones, was pointed
The attack from this quarter was so un-
expected, and took Phil by such surprise, that
for the moment he gave himself up for lost, and
began stammering out some helpless sort of
excuse. But Dusty Dan came to the rescue
manfully. He was grand in the emergency.
"Chain up, you duffer," he whispered to Phil;
and then, with the utmost promptitude, he dealt
such a sudden blow to a small boy who stood
between himself and Hal Jones, that he sent the
former tumbling head foremost over the latter,
so that the next minute both lads were sprawling
together on the platform, and so busy abusing
each other, that Phil was no longer made the
object of attention. They were still squabbling
by the time both Dan and his friend had been
safely packed into one of the well-filled carriages,
sitting side by side.
"I telled yer it would be all right," whispered
Dusty, with a broad grin; and then, when the
guard had whistled and the train had puffed
out of the station, and the children with one
consent had burst out into a long ringing cheer,
poor Phil's delight and excitement were almost
beyond his control.
It was all so strange, so wonderful-the rapid
motion of the train, the sight of the rows of
houses as they passed by them, and which
seemed -to Phil to be moving as fast as they
were moving themselves; then the gradual
gliding from the outskirts of the great, smoky
city into the greener suburbs, with their pic-
turesque little villas and trim gardens,-it was all
so bewildering to the poor gutter child that, as
he said afterwards, he had to keep "a-pulling of
his hair and a-pinching of his self" to make sure
that it was he, Match-box Phil, that was really
sitting on the carriage seat, looking out at all
these new and beautiful sights. It happened to
be a very pretty line of country through which
they were travelling ; but had their journey led
them through the barest downs and dreariest
marshes, it would all have seemed fairyland to
Phil. Close by the window he sat, his eyes
fixed hungrily on the different scenes through
which they were passing so rapidly. Now it was
a sunlit meadow, with cattle basking lazily in
the shade of the clumps of trees, or standing
knee-deep in some reed-fringed stream; now
they were hurrying past long stretches of forest-
land, with here and there an opening in the
glades, where pheasants were strutting in the full
beauty of their summer plumage, and hares were
scurrying to and fro amidst the thick under-
wood; or, again, the train would carry them
close to some pretty village, which, like its rustic
inhabitants, seemed to have run down to the
very edge of the line for the express purpose of
viewing the passing travellers.
"You like it fine, don't you, Phil ?" whispered
THE FIRST STEP.
Dan, when two-thirds of the journey had been
got over, and Philip's unwonted silence was
beginning to make his friend doubtful of the
success of the undertaking.
"Just about," answered Phil in a tone which
carried conviction; but still he did not turn his
face from the window, perhaps because just then
two great tears had gathered in his eyes.
What had brought them there at such a time,
do you think? The train was just carrying
them past a pretty bit of woodland, intersected
by a sandy road, overhung with birches and
oaks. The trunk of a fallen tree lay half across
the pathway, and on it was seated a little girl,
her lap full of summer flowers. The sunlight
filtered down through the branches on the
child's yellow hair-for her calico bonnet lay at
her feet, and two red admiral butterflies were
hovering over it-and the face which she lifted
from her nosegay was a picture of rosy round-
ness, sadly unlike the .pale, pinched cheeks of
the poor little maidens in Flowerdew Alley, and
yet the sight of that country child in the sun-
shiny copse brought a sudden pain to Phil's
heart, reminding him of that other little girl,
whom he had left behind in rags and dirt and
squalor, and between whom and himself such a
whole world seemed now to lie.
"Oh, Nan, Nan, however shall I find you
again ?" he murmured.
It seemed a lifetime to Phil since Nan had
stood beside him in the early grey of the morn-
ing, and thrust the lock of tangled hair into his
hand, which was to serve as a talisman in his
Where is Thorndale, I wonder ?" he thought.
Had they passed it, or were they coming to it
Up till now, in the midst of his excitement,
Phil had entirely forgotten that he had a special
mission, and that Seth and Nan had sent him
out for the express purpose of finding Thorndale,
but the glimpse of that little girl had recalled it
all to him now.
Of course it was no good asking any of his
companions if they had ever heard of Seth's
home; but all at once Phil screwed up his
courage to address Miss Sandars. Growing
crimson to the roots of his hair, and starting
out of his place, he stammered out an inquiry
as to whether the lady knew where Thorndale
"Thorndale!" No, she had never heard of
such a place, and she bade Philip sit down again
quietly, adding that they would soon be leaving
the train now.
Poor Phil! his first endeavour to fulfil his
mission had certainly not been successful; but
perhaps, he thought, some of those gentlemen
who wore the coats with silver braid and buttons,
and who appeared to know everything about
everybody, and who seemed to Phil to sprout
THE FIRST STEP.
out of all the platforms, would be able to en.
lighten him. At any rate, he would ask them
at the earliest opportunity.
But now the train stopped, and a deafening
cheer from all the line of carriages announced
that Stourton, the goal of their railway journey,
had been reached.
"It was the time when lilies blow,
And clouds are highest up in air."
HOUGH the station of Stourton was
three miles distant from the little
village of Rookhurst, where the
London children were to be enter-
tained, it was quite evident that even at Stourton
their arrival had been duly expected and pro-
vided for. The station-yard was crowded with
vans and open waggons drawn up in readiness
to transport the little holiday-makers to the
scene of the feast. Not only the squire, who
was to be their host, but several good-natured
farmers had lent their teams and waggons for
the occasion, and a pretty sight it was to see
the strong, glossy-coated horses standing two
abreast in the large open vans, with branches of
roses and poppies in their ears and their tails
plaited up with straw and crimson braid, whilst
each time they tossed back their heads the air
was filled with the music of their tiers of bells.
And what a hurry all the children were in to
exchange the close, shut-up railway carriages
for the wide, roomy waggons. But even in
the short transit from the platform to the station-
yard Phil found time to pluck at a porter's arm
and ask if he knew the way to Thorndale.
"Never heard tell of such a place," said the
man shortly, brushing past Phil.
Nor did the latter dare linger to explain further,
for, close at his heels, Hal Jones was following,
and again Phil heard his horrid squeaky voice
"That 'ere chap don't belong to us, teacher."
"No, that he don't," echoed another small
voice; and Phil began to quake.
Happily, however, both remarks were drowned
in the hubbub and bustle occasioned by the
packing away of all the children into the various
Never to his dying day will poor Philip forget
his impressions as he drove along through the
narrow lanes, shut in on each side by the tall
hedges. To have the pure blue sky overhead,
undimmed by the clouds of murky smoke; to
have soft green banks on either side instead of
rows of squalid hbuses; and in the place of the
dirty, broken pavement underfoot, the country
road, with its fringe of grass and wayside flowers,
was indeed like passing from darkness to light.
S True, those roadside blossoms were dusty enough
after the fashion of all wayfarers, but that did
not tarnish the gold of the dandelions or dim
the green of the grass to eyes all unused to feast
on Nature's commonest gifts. At the foot of
the first long hill-and there were several between
Stourton and Rookhurst-most of the elder
children were turned out to walk; but the
experiment was not repeated after the first
Once on their own feet, they were simply like
mad creatures. Off went their hats to serve as
nets for the butterflies, which most of them
believed were only "flowers what could fly;"
whilst dozens of little legs, which never till now
had climbed anything but garret stairs, went
clambering up the banks, only, as a rule, to slip
back again with more or less of a tumble into
the dusty road below.
High on the dry, sunny hedgerows the fox-
gloves were hanging out their crimson bells on
their tall firm stalks, serving as regular decoys
to the eager little crowd below. Of course, every
one was crazy to secure one of those glorious
spikes for themselves, until their enthusiasm
was suddenly quenched.
Phil, who was leading the 'storming party,
had reached his goal; he was just grasping one
of the strong, downy stalks with its peals of
bells, when all at once, over the hedge and
almost into his very face, came the head of a
great red cow, scattering dismay and confusion
beyond description among the city-bred boys,
With a piercing shriek of terror, Phil staggered
backwards, and, like a shower of loose stones
which had suddenly been dislodged, down into
the road the motley crew came tumbling, wide-
eyed and panting with fright; indeed, so alarmed
were some of them that they set off running
down the hill with their faces towards the station
and their backs to the waggons as fast as they
could go. The sight of that terrible beast-she
was a very sleepy, mild-eyed old cow-had been
enough to make them willing to decline all
further acquaintance with the country, and it
required no little persuasion and coaxing on the
part of their teachers to prevail on them to turn
back and allow themselves to be safely placed
into the vans again.
After that it was agreed that there should be
no more getting in or out on the road until
Rookhurst was actually reached. So they
drove along at a steady pace, the good-natured
waggoners declaring afterwards that it was for
all the world like having a May swarm of bees
behind them, for the children kept up a perpetual
buzz of wonder and admiration.
Now they shrieked with delight as they drove
under a group of elder trees and watched the
small white starry blossoms coming down in a
shower amongst them, and then they fairly
screamed with joy at the sight of a scarlet clover
field upon which the midday sun was blazing
The corn-fields, too, standing nearly ready
for the harvest, and stained here and there with
the red poppies, evoked shouts of admiration;
whilst, when they actually entered Rookhurst,
the cottagers, standing at their garden gates to
watch the arrival of the vans, trembled for the
safety of those fruit trees whose branches over-
hung the roadway. So many little hands were
outstretched to strip the boughs of their tempting,
albeit unripe, bounty, so many eyes were turned
greedily upon them, that the drivers whipped up
their horses into a brisk trot, and so the whole
cavalcade reached the manor in grand style.
And the welcome which greeted them there
was more than enough to make the children
forget the forbidden fruit left behind in the
village, and even the terrible wild beast which
had scared them down from the foxglove hedge.
All the Rookhurst school-children were drawn
up on either side of the long chestnut avenue
which led to the house, each armed with huge
nosegays and garlands to be given to their city
"Oh, if Nan and Seth could have but half of
these !" thought Phil, gazing down on the bunch
of roses and honeysuckles which had fallen to
his share; and when, along with the others, he
was marshalled into his place at the long dinner-
table, spread under the trees in the park, his
bewilderment reached its height. He had never
in all his life been to a school-feast before, so
that the mere fact of being surrounded by plenty
of good things was a great novelty to him.. At
first he felt as if he could neither eat nor drink,
and sat staring helplessly at his piled-up plate
and the flowers which lay beside it, thinking
wistfully of two wan white faces in the dreary
garret in Flowerdew Alley, till something seemed
to rise up in his throat and nearly choke him.
"I say, tuck in, Phil, I tell you," said Dan at
his elbow; "tuck as much inside you as you
can, and then bag the rest, for if you're going to
give 'em the slip, you'd best pocket all you can
lay hands on, for I'll be bound you won't get
such a blooming chance of blowing yourself out
That was sound, practical advice, and in
another minute Phil was acting on it. When
they were once tasted, the mutton-pies and
plum-puddings were so good that Phil found it
no hardship to obey Dan's orders to the letter;
and when he had eaten his fill, his conscience
.was elastic enough to allow him to stuff all he
could lay hands on into his pocket. The meat
was very greasy and the plum-pudding was very
sticky, but Phil was not very particular in these
After dinner began all manner of romps and
races, for which prizes were given with no
grudging hand, interspersed occasionally with
scrambles for nuts and sweets in the long green
It was a most entrancing afternoon-the sky
was so blue, the flowers were so bright, the good
folk at Rookhurst were so kind, and every ont
was so happy, that though Phil had agreed with
Dan that he'should seize the first opportunity
after dinner "to make a bolt of it," when tea-
time came round he was still laughing amongst
his play-fellows, unwilling to tear himself away
from all the fun and the feasting. Moreover,
he had gained three glittering halfpence in the
races, and the longing to carry them back with
the flowers to Seth and Nannie, made him waver
in his purpose of running away still further into
the country. Besides, after all, making his
escape was not such an easy matter as Dan had
represented. Dan had talked of their being
turned into the hayfields to wander about
amongst the new-cut grass as they liked, but
the haying was long ago over; and though, when
he discovered this, Dan had cheered Phil by
promising they would be taken to a copse to
gather blackberries, it soon dawned on them
that that too was a vain hope, for if it was too
late in the year for haymaking, it was too early
for blackberrying, and Phil felt that as long
as they remained in the park he could not
get outside the gates without attracting atten-
"Dan, I say, I'll have to wait and make a try
for it from the station," Phil said, as they got up
"Then you may as lief chuck it up altogether,"
replied Dan, "for you won't get off there, I can
tell you. My wig!"--Dan was very fond of
invoking that fiery part of his person-" my wig !
I believe as it is you've missed your chance
altogether, sure as eggs are eggs."
And poor Phil began to think so too, and now
that he feared it was too late he began to feel
very sad. He wondered if he could make friends
with any of the country children and persuade
them to hide him away; but, to the sharp-
witted town child, those little rustics seemed so
hopelessly slow of comprehension, that after a
time he determined they'd be no go."
Presently, however, a ray of hope burst through
his cloud of despair. It only wanted an hour to
six o'clock, the time for home going, but the list
of pleasures provided for them was not exhausted
yet. The children were all to go in various
detachments to the farmhouses close round
Rookhurst and see the cows being milked, and
each drink in turn a mug of new milk. Phil,
being one of the biggest, was told off for the
most distant farm, the road to which lay through
a long grass meadow, from which a stile led into
a corn-field-where the wheat was growing so
thick and high that the golden ears were actually
taller than some of the children-and then, lastly,
through a small but thickly wooded copse. The
teachers in charge of the party were very careful
to count their children both coming and going
through that bit of woodland, for more than one
small deserter had been known to hide in its
tangled glades; but from the corn-field they
apprehended no danger, which was well for Phil.
And when, two hours later, the wearied though
happy children were counted over at the station,
every one answered duly to the names entered
on the roll, and their keepers and guardians
stepped into the train with a self-congratulatory
sigh that for once in a way no one was missing
from their ragged regiment.
"My eyes! he's given 'em the slip, and no
mistake," muttered Dusty Dan, rubbing his
hands together in silent glee, as he screwed
himself into the corner of the third-class carriage.
"Lorks, but I'd like to have known how he
ALONE IN A STRANGE LAND.
Quick let me fly, and cross into yon farther field "
T was not actually amongst the corn
that Philip had hidden himself, but
in a deep dry ditch which ran along
at the bottom of the field and at the
foot of the hedge, which served as a division
between the field and a long stretch of wood-
land on the other side.
Into this ditch Phil crept on all fours, but he
was too shrewd to remain there one minute
after he had seen the last straggler of the party
disappear from sight. Then, quick as thought,
he scrambled up the bank and through the
hedge, caring nothing, London-bred though he
was,, for the thorns and briars, into the wood
He had no fixed plan of action, no intention
of going in any special direction; his one and
only idea was to fly, as fast and as far as he could
from the road which led back to Stourton Station.
He was only vaguely conscious of two facts
which might help to guide him in shaping his
course. On his right hand, he knew, was the
farm from which he had just come; on his left
was the park; he must therefore make for a
middle way between the two. So he plunged
into the thickest part of the wood, carefully
avoiding anything that looked like a footpath,
and battling bravely with the boughs and bushes
which impeded his every step. How long he
actually took to work his way through the wood
Phil never knew, but it seemed to him nearly a
lifetime before he observed that the underwood
began to disappear and the trees to grow at
greater intervals from each other, and discovered
that his progress had brought him to the limits
of the wood and to the edge of the high-road.
After the shelter of the copse, with its thick
overhanging boughs, the broad white road seemed
terribly public to Phil, as he stood on the margin
of the wood and looked out timidly on his strange
It was still much too light, he felt sure, to
make it safe for him to venture on to the high-
road, so he determined to look out for a snug
hiding-place in the wood and wait there till the
evening twilight should enable him to continue
his wanderings unobserved in this unknown
country. Before long he fixed on a comfortable
spot at the foot of a big fir tree, where the
bracken was growing so high that he could lay
r I. -:
7-7 p. i
PHIL PROMPTLY CLOSED HIS EYES AND FELL FAST ASLEEP.
ALONE IN A STRANGE LAND.
his small person down in safety, with no chance
of any passer-by discovering him.
"And I'll just bide here till 'tis time for lamp-
lighting," thought Phil, "and then I'll sneak out
and bolt up the road as fast as I can go. I'd
like to ask the first person I'll meet where-
abouts Thorndale is, but I'll wait till I get a
good way off from here, 'cause else some one
might guess I belonged to the feasting lot, and
split on me."
So, curling himself up in the bracken, and
reflecting with satisfaction that one pocket held
three-halfpence in hard cash and that the other
was crammed with pudding and pies, Phil, with
the firm intention of keeping wide awake so as
to be ready to pursue his flight at the first
favourable opportunity, promptly closed his eyes
and fell fast asleep. The sound of the heavy
rumbling waggons as they went by on the road
close at hand could not disturb his dreams, all
used as he was to the hideous noises of a night
in the East End; but what did rouse him at last
was the soft touch of a little fluffy rabbit rubbing
against his hand as he lay sleeping at the foot
of the fir tree. Then poor Phil started up in
utter bewilderment, and took full five minutes to
remember where he was and how he had come
there. A distant clock was striking twelve. The
sky was overcast with thick clouds, and had Phil
been in the least bit weatherwise, he would have
known that a thunderstorm was just beginning;
but he only thought that now, at any rate, it
was dark enough to make it safe for him to
venture on to the road. Dim and overcast
though it was, the road still showed white
enough to enable Phil to find it easily, and when
he had once reached it he was conscious of a
sense of freedom at being no longer surrounded
by the tall trees, which looked so weird and
gigantic in the semi-darkness of the summer
"I'll get on fine now," thought Phil, to whose
pavement-worn feet the soft grass fringe by the
roadside seemed like beautiful velvet. There
were no cottages in sight; but he hadn't gone
far before the sound of wheels made him turn
his head, and presently a light cart drove up
carrying two red lamps. As it overtook Phil
the wheels stopped, and when a man's voice
called out to him, asking what he was doing on
the road at that time of night, poor Phil was so
terrified that instead of attempting to answer,
he took to his heels and ran for his life. But
the faster he went, the faster came on the cart,
till at last, deadbeat, he dropped down by the
bank, prepared for the worst consequences, and
only knowing that he could not run another step
to save his life. In his own mind, he never
doubted that the man who was pursuing him
was one of the bobbies, whom the missus had
set to catch him, and as he lay gasping on the
bank, with the thunderstorm bursting in fury
ALONE IN A STRANGE LAND.
round him, visions of beatings worse than he had
ever yet known and grim pictures of prison cells
rose up before his closely shut eyes. But he
was not going to be captured without making
one desperate struggle, and when a heavy hand
came down on his shoulder, he mustered all his
failing strength and struck out at the figure
bending over him. But, to his surprise, the blow
was not returned; he was only set on his feet
with rather a rough shaking, whilst his pursuer
repeated his question good-naturedly enough,
as to what Phil was about at that time of
Somewhat reassured, Phil muttered that he
was going to see his grandmother-Dusty Dan
had told him that a grandmother was always
a useful person to quote on emergencies-and
that he had lost his way.
H'm, I don't think much of the grandmother,"
replied the man. "Grandmothers are mighty
handy pegs for hanging lies on; but, anyway, 'tis
pouring wet, and you're but a bit of a shaver to
be out at this hour; so get you up along with
me in the mail-cart, and I'll drive you as far as
I'm going, at any rate."
The offer was a tempting one, but Phil's early
education had made him suspicious and taught
him to be always on the look out for traps.
His hesitation, however, was cut short, for without
more ado the mail-man hoisted him into the cart,
tucked him round in a waterproof rug, and then
drove on at a brisk rate to make up for the ten
minutes' delay. The man's manner was kind for
all his roughness, and if Phil could only have
felt sure that he was not a bobby in disguise,
he would gladly have accepted his invitation to
screw himself into a corner and go to sleep;
but as it was, he only replied, with more candour
"Not I; I ain't so jolly green as all that."
He was not in the habit of receiving kindness
from strangers, and the real state of the case
would never have entered his head, namely, that
Amos Lee, the Stourton mail-man, was so afraid
of his nightly drive of thirty miles through the
lonely roads, that, as his wife confidentially
assured her neighbours, "Amos would give a
sovereign to any two-year-old who'd sit up in
the cart along with him."
In spite of Phil's ungracious rejoinder, his
companion did not leave him alone, and the boy
had hard work to answer his string of questions
without betraying his real history. Happily for
him, Amos's wits were even duller than those of
most rustics, so that it never struck him to connect
the ragged urchin beside him with the party of
City children who had passed through Stourton
that day, and between, whose appearance and
Phil there was a striking family likeness.
In course of time Philip took courage to ask
if they were near Thorndale, and if anything was
known of Mrs. Brailey, of May Farm.
ALONE IN A STRANGE LAND.
"And in what part of the country may that
be ?" asked the mail-man.
"What part!" echoed Phil; "why, it's in the
country, I tell yer."
"Bless yer heart! but the country's as good
as nowhere," was the reply. Whereabouts in
the country is it ? "
Oh, as to that, I don't know for certain,"
said Phil. "But it can't much matter; the
country is the country, sure."
"Well, if you ain't the queerest little cure "
exclaimed worthy Amos. I'spose, now, you've
never been out of London before." Then, after
a pause, he added, "But how, in the name of
fortune, did yer manage to get so far as this ?"
This was getting on very dangerous ground,
but Phil was spared the necessity of finding
an answer, for at that moment the mail-cart
stopped in front of the Norgate post-office, and
Amos Lee suddenly remembered that here he
must part company with his little friend.
"Unless maybe you'd like to drive back
again," he said rather maliciously.
"No, no, thank yer," said Phil, scrambling
down from the cart, and reflecting with pleasure
on the many miles which he had now put between
himself and his friends,
Thou through the fields and through the woods dost stray,
Roaming the country-side, a truant boy."
ELL, Nan, is it all right?" The
speaker was Seth, and though the
question was asked in a scarcely
audible whisper, he was quivering
with suppressed excitement.
It's all right," returned Nan in the same low
tone. "I've seen Dusty, and he says Phil got
left behind in a big yellow field, and he expects
he's ever so far up the country by now; and
Dusty says--" But here Nan broke off and
grew suddenly silent, for just then she was
aware that Mrs. Styles's eyes were fixed upon
her, and Nan was terribly afraid of arousing her
suspicion in any way.
There had been a tremendous hue and cry cn
the previous evening when no Phil had appeared
at the usual hour to fetch his daily load of
match-boxes; and though Mrs. Styles did not
actually accuse the two trembling children in
the opposite corner of being connected with
Phil's disappearance, yet she found a vent for
her rage by promising the whole room in general,
and Seth and Nan in particular, that every bone
in Phil's body should be beaten as fine as saw-
dust soon as ever he came within arm's-length
of her. She'd teach him to run away again,
that she would. Having heard nothing of the
day's outing to Rookhurst, it never entered Mrs.
Styles's head that Phil's wanderings had led him
"Seth, I hope he's happy," whispered Nan
after a long interval of silence.
"No fear; he's bound to be jolly enough if
he's in the country," replied her brother.
"But it seems so long since he went away,"
said the child, and her large blue eyes were
bright with unshed tears, "and maybe he's got
amongst strangers who ain't good to him, and
maybe he's longing after all to be here again."
But that was very far from being the case.
Just at that moment Phil was sauntering through
a lovely country lane, drinking in all the beauties
of a summer sunrise, in a way that those who
are country-bred and born can hardly under-
stand. The heavy thunder shower, which had
soaked Phil's poor little ragged clothes, had
freshened up the dusty leaves and parched
banks, and washed the honeysuckle and dog-
roses, which grew in rich luxuriance all along
that pleasant lane. Phil was so deeply interested
in his surroundings, that he quite forgot to think
of the effect which he might produce on the
passers-by, and when more than one rustic, on
their way to their morning's work, paused and
looked round at the ragged little figure shambling
along under the hedge, it never struck him that
there could be anything unusual in his appear-
ance to attract their attention. There were
such hundreds and tens of hundreds like himself
"spilt like blots about the city" whence he
came, that Phil never deamt of appearing re-
markable. Country children are martyrs to
self-consciousness, whereas the street arab is
never troubled by any such feeling.
It was about nine o'clock when Phil entered a
small, straggling village, and stood still to watch
a group of children on the green outside the
school-house. He had never seen cricket going
on before, and the game was so fascinating to
Phil that when, at the sound of a loud bell, bat
and ball were thrown aside, and the boys ran off
to the school-house, Phil could not forbear
Oh, my eye what a blooming sell!"
"I say, look out for that gipsy chap," said
one of the bigger boys ; "he'll bag the stumps,
if we don't take care."
But Phil had already moved on, and was half
way down the village street by then. Most of
the cottage doors were standing open, and into
all of these he thrust his unkempt head, with
his ragged cap set all awry over one ear, thereby
startling more than one worthy cottager. Nor
did he greatly reassure them by his answer to
their inquiry as to what he wanted, namely, that
he only wished "to spy at 'em a bit."
Now and again Phil lingered to ask if they
could direct him to Thorndale, and though the
answer was always "No," he did not lose heart;
he felt sure that, sooner or later, he must find it,
and, meanwhile, life under these new conditions
was very charming to him. The rain had soaked
the remainder of his stolen goods from yester-
day's feast, but yet, as he sat under a wayside
ash tree, and fished out the sodden, broken meat
from his very moist pocket, Phil thought it all
tasted uncommonly good.
I'll have to spend one of my halfpennies on
a bit of bread for to-night's supper," he said to
himself as he concluded his repast, and another
to-morrow morning for breakfast. That'll only
leave one halfpenny; and what will I do when
that's gone?" Then all at once Phil's hands
went up over his eyes, and muttering, "Oh,
Nan, I'd nearly quite forgot," he did his best
to stumble through the Lord's Prayer. "I
expect I'll get on fine now," he reflected,
"though I wouldn't like Nan to know how I
all but clean forgot it, and first go off too. My
eye! I wonder how old Mother Styles and her
match-boxes is getting on. Catch me sweating
over them again." Then, as his hand touched a
little fold of paper in his other pocket, Phil's
face grew a shade graver, and he murmured,
"Ah, poor Nan! I'll have to go back and fetch
After his rest under the ash tree, Phil trudged
bravely on. Nearly every one on that sultry
June day was groaning with the heat; but to
Phil, whose whole life had been passed in stuffy,
evil-smelling courts and alleys, with never a
breath of pure air to correct the unwholesome
atmosphere, the green lanes, even though the
midday sun was pouring down full upon them,
Every now and again he stopped to peep
through park palings, or over the garden gates
of the various gentlemen's houses that he passed,
and more than once he was sorely tempted to
steal inside the drives, and take a nearer survey;
but there was something in the trim, well-kept
gravel sweeps that awed him, and it was only
into the garden of a small, low-thatched cottage
that he did finally venture to make his way.
But though it was a very tiny pleasure-ground,
it was perhaps as tempting as any that Phil had
passed that day. All the front of the cottage-
wall was hidden from view by a wealth of
Banksia roses, their tender yellow blossoms con-
trasting well with the deep red buds of the
Austrian briar; whilst the tidy beds and borders
were perfect pictures, with their groups of tall
white lilies and clumps of fiery poppies and
rows of golden-hearted daisies, interspersed with
velvet pansies of every hue, from the palest blue
to the richest purple, and dear, old-fashioned
snapdragons and nodding columbines filling up
every nook and cranny.
Just as Phil leant over the gate, a tidy young
woman came out of the cottage with a wide-
necked, empty bottle in her hand, which she
proceeded to fill, in the most ruthless fashion,
with the blossoms of the tall white lilies, bruising
their snowy petals in her hands, and then crush-
ing them into the bottle.
"Oh, I say, missus, hold hard!" shrieked
Phil, starting forward and seizing her arm; "it's
downright murder to use 'em beautiful things
that way. Why, it would send our Nan just oft
her head for joy to have only one of 'em white
flowers for her own."
As Phil's dirty little fingers closed round her
wrist, and startled the good woman so that she
nearly let fall the bottle, her first impulse was to
say something sharp, but the earnestness of the
boy's tone and the reproachful look in his great
dark eyes went straight to her motherly heart.
Eh! and where on earth have you come
from, my lad? she asked, scanning him from
top to toe. Nowhere from here about, I'll be
bound, or you'd know the good of these lily
flowers when you gets bad cuts and bruises.
Bless yer! I'm not a-wasting of them. I'm
going to spill a drop of spirits on them, and
make 'em into ever so fine a lotion. 'Tis from
some big town you come, I warrant."
"Ay," said Phil, "from a very big town, ever
so far away, where we'd think all the world of
them beautiful things as you is squeezing up
"Well, you shall have a whole big stalk full
of blossoms to carry home with you if you like,
and welcome," said the woman.
"But I'm not going home-at least, not just
yet," said Phil; and then, gaining courage from
the interest which was evident in his new friend's
kindly face, Philip blurted out his whole story,
though ten minutes ago, before he had found
his way into that garden amongst the lilies and
roses, he would, as he would have expressed it,
been "blowed" sooner than tell any one the
So you're a runaway laddie, are you ? said
the woman; and there were tears in her eyes
now. "Well, come along indoors, and let me
scrub your hands and face a bit, and I'll give
you a mouthful of dinner. You're sure, quite
sure," she added, holding Phil's face between
her hands, "that there ain't no mother a-waiting
for you at home, and a-wondering why you
don't come back ? "
"No fear," said Phil, looking up at her so
frankly that she felt she could trust him. "I've
never known father or mother all my life, and
there's no one in the whole world as would ever
want to set eyes on me again, 'cept little Nan
and Seth. Soon as ever I've found Thorndale,
I'll tramp back again to them, and I'll bring
'em here, that I will, and Nan shall have a pull
for herself at 'em tall white things," he added,
as if he were making a very magnificent promise
to his hostess.
"But don't you know nothing about where
Thorndale is ? asked the latter. "Seems such
a wild-goose chase, if you don't know no more
than just the name."
"But 'tis in the country," said Phil, "and it's
nigh some station too; but I can't mind the
name of that just now, but, you bet, I'll find it
in time. My! is all that for me?" he con-
tinued, as his new friend placed a great pile-of
bread and dripping before him, and invited him
to make a good meal.
He needed no second bidding, and it was
with real pleasure that Mrs. West watched the
food disappearing; "for sure," she reflected, "if
ever there was a starveling in this world, that's
"Well, now," she said aloud, "I wonder if
you'll remember my name-Mrs. Abel West;
and the name of the village is Merely, and if
you should get into trouble and find you can't
get along, come back to me, and I expect our
good vicar will give you a helping hand. He
comed out of London hisself, and often talks to
us about you poor gutter children, and I'll be
bound he'd know what to do for you if, after all,
you wanted to get back to your friends."
H'm! I'll remember," said Phil, nodding his
head; "but I 'spect Mrs. Brailey will do our
job for us. My what a blow out I've had !"
he continued, getting up and stretching himself.
"Well, I'd best be making tracks, I suppose."
"Ay, but take this along with you against
supper-time comes," said Mrs. West, putting up
two slices of bread, with a shaving of fat pork
between them, which Phil tucked into his
"Cracky !" cried Phil, "if only Nan and Seth
was here "
"Good-bye, laddie," said the kind-hearted
woman, and her hands rested tenderly on his
ragged cap, "and I wish you good speed on
your journey, that I do."
"And thank yer ever so much," said Phil,
turning slowly away. But before he had reached
the garden wicket he was back again, holding
an old match-box, which had been thrown out
on the path. They takes a world of trouble to
make," he said, putting it down carefully on the
I come to pluck your berries."
A BOUT five miles beyond Merely, and
screened off from the road by a high
hedge of closely clipped yews, stood
a large red-brick pile of buildings,
known to all the country round as Winterton's
Grammar School. It was so called after its
founder-a very benevolent individual, most
people would have told you, provided they did
not happen to be any of the farmers whose
fields and orchards adjoined the grammar
school grounds, for to these latter the name of
Winterton was only one degree less abhorrent
than the two hundred boys themselves, who
had been brought into their midst by the
liberality of the deceased wealthy merchant.
And they had some excuse for not blessing
his memory, as perhaps he himself would have
admitted could he have seen one half of the
damage wrought in various ways by these
incorrigible youths at different seasons of the
year. It was in vain that the head-master intro-
duced fresh rules prohibiting all trespassing on
neighboring grounds, and invented fresh penal-
ties for the transgressors of such bye-laws; in
some way or other the rules were evaded, and
the penalties escaped, till, in the bitterness of
their soul, the farmers declared that the masters
were nothing better than a pack of old women,
and quite unfit to keep school. Just now the
cherry orchards were, in more senses than one, a
fruitful ground of complaint. It was a splendid
cherry year, and the trees were so laden that
many of the branches had actually to be propped
up, lest they should be broken by the weight of
their own fruit. And as Phil, worn out with his
afternoon's tramp, sat down on the top of a stile
leading into one of these tempting orchards, he
thought he had never seen anything so perfectly
beautiful before. He was just considering
whether those cherries were placed so near the
road for the benefit of the passers-by, when he
heard a great rush of feet behind him, and
helter-skelter over the stile and through the
hedge came about a dozen boys, all flying in
one direction, as if for their lives. The first
comer toppled poor Phil off the stile into the
dusty road, whilst another spilt a whole cap full
of cherries over him. and never, to Phil's sur-
prise, turned back to pick them up.
"Well, if I ever," said Philip, getting up from
SI'LL BE BOUND YOU'RE ONE OF THE LOT THAT STOLE MY FOWLS LAST
NIGHT." Page 63.
5.Z~4-;C P .~
the road and beginning to cram the cherries
into his mouth. "Well, if I---" But his
soliloquies were cut short.
"Oh, you've been trying your hand at it too,
have you?" said a loud, angry voice, and two
heavy hands came down upon Phil's shoulder.
"Well, I'll make an example of you, anyhow,"
and therewith the owner of the cherry orchard
swung Phil over the stile as if he had been a
wisp of straw, and led him into a backyard,
scolding and shaking him at every step. "And
I'll be bound you're one of the lot that stole my
fowls last night," went on the farmer; "so speak
up and tell the truth, or 'twill be the worse for
I've not got no lot," said Phil, "and I never
"Oh, didn't you!" said the farmer. "Well,
then, you can just bide in there till you happen
to remember what you did steal, and the sooner
you do that the better for you." And so saying,
he opened the darkest and dingiest of coal-holes,
and, thrusting Phil in head foremost, fastened
the door on the outside, and left him to his own
very miserable reflections.
Whatever was going to happen to him next ?
he thought. Would he be left there to die?
There was a small hole, cut high up in the wall,
and through the three iron bars, which were
placed perpendicularly, Phil could see a streak
of blue sky and a branch of a big elder tree,
which grew close by, otherwise all was dark.
He was looking up at this hole in despair,
wondering if he could anyhow climb up and
squeeze himself through the narrow slits between
the bars, when the elder bough was suddenly
swayed to one side, and a boy's face appeared
at the little opening.
"Don't howl out," said the new-comer; "but
look here, you young Tatter-Jack, it was hard
luck on you to leave you to old Blake's mercy,
when it was us that bagged the cherries, so look
here. Can you read ?"
"No," said Phil.
Well, it doesn't matter. You catch hold of
this paper, and show it to the old chap when he
comes to bully you again, and I promise you
he'll let you go fast enough; he won't want to
keep you five minutes in his company, when he
has once read that. But don't for the life of
you let out how you came by it, or the game
will be spoilt." So saying, the speaker threw
down a slip of paper, which fell at Phil's feet,
disappearing himself from view at the same time.
Wondering much what magic charm those
few words scrawled upon a half sheet could
contain, Phil picked up the paper and put it into
his pocket, and then waited anxiously for a
chance of showing it to his gaoler, and testing
the worth of his unknown friend's help.
It was growing unbearably hot in that stuffy
coal-hole, and Phil began to think he must be
suffocated. He heard the sound of many foot-
steps going to and fro in the yard, some light
and quick, others slow and heavy; but none
stopped at his prison door-every one passed
him by. A clock close at hand struck six, seven,
eight, and then by degrees the sounds in the
yard ceased, and poor Phil began to fear that
every one had gone indoors for the night, and
that he was doomed to remain in his stifling
cell, at any rate, till next morning.
For the first time in the last forty-eight hours
Philip wished himself back again in Flowerdew
Alley, with the load of match-boxes on his
back, and Mother Styles's rasping voice and
sharp blows, for, at any rate, he knew the worst
of all that. And then, unable any longer to
bear the dark and the loneliness and the terrible
feeling that some awful punishment was hang-
ing over him, Phil burst into a loud fit of crying.
Presently, however, he checked his sobs to listen
to the sound of some one fumbling with the
fastening of his door. In another minute it had
been opened very cautiously, and a little head
appeared in the narrow crack.
"Boy," said a childish voice,- trembling with
excitement, "don't cry any more. Father has
sat down to supper, so I've jumped out of bed,
and I've come to let you out." And then, as
the door opened wider, Phil saw a very small
girl standing on the threshold, with little bare
feet peeping out" from the edge of a shawl, in
which she had evidently wrapt herself round
in haste to conceal her scanty toilette. "You
must make haste," she went on, and as Phil
seemed rather slow in availing himself of this
chance of escape, she came a step nearer and
pulled him towards the door.
But once outside his dark hole in the cool
twilight, Phil recovered the use of his wits,
though his limbs felt sadly cramped and stiff
from his long confinement in such close quarters.
"You haven't a minute to lose," whispered
the child. "You must fly through the black
gate opposite, then keep close against the hedge
all down one side of the meadow. There's a pond
at the bottom, so look out till you come to the
new haystacks ; and if you get behind them and
feel about, you'll find a hole or two in the hedge
where you can creep through into the road, and
when you're once there you'll be safe enough.
Only don't stop and look back, for any sake;
run just as hard as you can, even if you hear
people running behind you, for mind, if you're
once caught it will be all up with you."
She lingered for one moment to make sure
that Phil had got through the door safely, then
she stole indoors again, back into her little bed.
Phil found the first part of the child's direc-
tions very easy to follow. Very cautiously he
crept through the gate, and then, once in the
meadow, ran as fast as he could under shelter
of the hedge. But he hadn't gone far before he
became aware of steps following him closely.
Nearer and nearer they came, stopping when
Phil paused for a moment in his headlong flight
to listen, and make sure that 'twas not his fancy,
and then coming on again when he started
afresh. He did not dare look round, he only
felt in his pocket to make sure that that won-
derful bit of paper was safe, and then on he
sped, stumbling over mole-hills, and striking
himself against trees and palings, and very
nearly slipping into the big pond at the end of
the field, of which the little girl had warned
him. And still the steps followed closer and
closer, and now Phil seemed actually to hear
the heavy breathing of his pursuers-for he felt
sure that more than one pair of feet were behind
him-by the time he had reached the haystacks,
behind which he was to seek for a way of escape
through the hedge. But Phil's tired legs were
failing beneath him, whilst those of his fol-
lowers seemed to be gaining strength and
If you're once caught it will be all up with
you," the little girl had said, and the words rang
and roared in Phil's ears, compelling him to
push on, though he felt as if he must drop to
the ground. He had rounded the haystacks
now, and he was groping in the uncertain light
to find an opening-no matter how small-in
the quick-set hedge, when the dreadful steps
stopped immediately behind him, and some-
thing wet and soft was thrust into his neck; and
then a sound, which to Phil's terrified ears
resembled nothing he had ever heard before,
broke on the evening stillness. One being could
never have produced such an awful noise;
nothing less than a whole band of raving lunatics
could have produced such an unearthly com-
bination of shrieks, groans, and shouts. Phil
felt quite convinced of that, and, nearly mad
with terror, he dashed through the hedge,
scratching his face and tearing his poor rags,
and alighted on the high-road. Immediately
opposite to him was a low wall, over which Phil
promptly clambered, arriving in what seemed to
him a most extraordinary place. It was not
quite a field, nor yet quite a garden, and, as far
as he could see in the dim light, there were
queer-looking shapes, both grey and white,
dotted about, but whether they were men or
women Phil could not tell. And all the time
that fearful noise on the other side of the hedge
was still going on. It was clear he could not
afford to stand still. He made one step forward,
stumbled over a mound, picked himself up again
and blundered on, not knowing where he was
going, but only bent on flying beyond the reach
of the awful monster or monsters behind him.
If only Phil had looked back he might have
seen that at that moment, at any rate, no one
was following him, for Farmer Blake's donkey,
which had been the cause of his terror, had
AS SCAPE-GOAT. 69
finished his braying; but, alas! for him, he
looked neither behind nor before, and the con-
sequence was that all at once the ground
beneath his feet gave way, and in another
second Phil had fallen head foremost into an
EVERY MAN'S HAND AGAINST HIM.
"Now it is the time of night,
That the graves all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite
In the churchyard paths to glide."
"' ON my word, there's a set-out in the
churchyard, and no mistake. Just
you come and see, Sam ;" and the
speaker, the sexton's wife at Ever-
shot, beckoned to her husband to join her in the
doorway of their cottage. "The children are
getting too owdacious," she went on. "Look at
em now, a-crowding round old Master Brown's
open grave, and he not so much as in it himself,
poor fellow !"
Surely, in the circumstances, "poor Master
Brown was hardly to be pitied for t/at.
"Well, if he ain't there, some one else is,"
returned the sexton, shading his eyes and look-
ing intently across his bit of cabbage garden
into the churchyard beyond, which had been the
scene of his grave-digging labours on the previous
EVERY MAN'S HAND AGAINST HIM. 71
evening. "Tell you what it is, wife. Some of
the young rascals have got into the hole; for
do you see that handful of stones as was chucked
up from below? And a fine mess they must be
making of my tidy job; but I'll let them know
what I think of them, and no mistake."
Therewith the gouty old sexton hobbled off
towards the churchyard, with stick uplifted and
many muttered threats; but before he reached
the grave, which was'at the furthest corner from
the gate, the young vicar had already preceded
him, and at his approach the score of boys and
girls had dispersed like a flight of sparrows
"Beg pardon, sir," called out the sexton, "but
have they done much damage to my inside?"
(He meant the inside of Master Brown's grave.)
He was surprised to see the vicar kneeling down
on the grass and looking intently into the open
"Not much, I think," answered Mr. Palmer.
"But come and lend us a hand, Dodd. There's
a small trespasser here, who seems in a bad
"And sarve him right too," growled Dodd,
whose interest in the unfortunate being was so
small that before complying with the vicar's
request he began deliberately to examine the
extent of the damage which his handiwork
above ground had sustained. "Sarve him
right," he went on, treading down various lumps
of loosened earth with the heel of his boot, and
if I had the making of laws, whoever jumped
into a /open grave should be made to stop
"Ay, but he didn't jump in," said Mr. Palmer.
"He fell in, poor lad, and our children have
been ill-treating him shamefully, that's clear."
Then, stretching down into the opening and
taking Phil's hand, he went on, "That's right,
my boy, hang on. Now, Dodd, look out that I
don't fall in head foremost myself."
Then for the first time the sexton con-
descended to look at his strange foe; and cer-
tainly a more utterly forlorn little object or one
more fit to appeal to any one's compassion,
could not have been presented, even to this
vengeance-thirsting old tyrant. His face and
hands, blackened from his sojourn in the farmer's
coal-hole, his clothes plastered with the moist
clay at the bottom of the newly-made grave,
and his nose bleeding from a recent blow from
a sharp stone, poor little Match-box Phil looked
a living appeal to pity. At first he had been
stunned by his fall, then, after recovering himself
sufficiently to make a few vain attempts to get
out of his strange new quarters, he had fallen
asleep in his narrow bed, with the newly cut
earth closing him in on either side, and only a
strip of starry sky overhead. And thus the
weary little waif had slept sweetly enough, in
spite of his surroundings, till a troop of children
EVERY MAN'S HAND AGAINST HIM. 73
-drawn to the churchyard, as village children
always are, by the attraction of a new-made
grave-had discovered Phil lying there. At
first they were frightened; then, their love of
bullying the helpless gaining the upper hand,
first one and then another had thrown a handful
of dust and small stones down on him, till at
last they had not only thoroughly woken Phil,
but they had likewise roused a spirit of retaliation
in him, so that as fast as one set of missiles
reached him, another handful flew back again
amongst his assailants. At stone-throwing the
gutter boy was quite as much of an expert as
any of the country children.
And the battle was waxing so warm between
both parties that, if the vicar had not come up
when he did, real injury might have befallen
poor Phil, seeing that he had only one chance
against so many. Nevertheless, with his in-
domitable pluck, no sooner was he safely landed
on the upper ground, than, slipping from Mr.
Palmer's grasp, he flew off through the church-
yard gate, to have a regular mill," as he would
have termed it, with his enemies. These were
all assembled on the green, and into their midst
Phil rushed, striking out right and left, and
using, I am afraid, very ugly words.
But here again the vicar came to the rescue.
He was greatly touched by the boy's deplorable
plight, and at the same time equally amused by
the spirit he displayed. Ragged, bony, and
bleeding, he looked little better than a live
skeleton, standing amongst the stout, rosy-
cheeked rustics, but the great dark eyes, which
looked out of his pinched face, were all aglow
with indignation and excitement.
It required more force than Mr. Palmer ex-
pected to drag this pugnacious little waif from
his own destruction ; nor was Phil at all grateful
to him for his interference. Besides, as the vicar
collared him and led him off to the vicarage, he
did not feel at all sure that he was not going
back into some black hole again. He felt
reassured, however, when his new friend led the
way into a comfortable room, where the morning
sun was pouring in, and where he was told to
sit down, and that some breakfast should be
"You'll want something hot to eat and drink
after your cold, damp bed," said the vicar
kindly. "I mustn't wait a minute now "-he
had been on his way to a sick person when the
uproar in the churchyard had caused him to
turn aside-"but Patty, my old housekeeper,
will take care of you, and when I come back
you must tell me how you found your way into
Thereupon Mr. Palmer went in search of his
housekeeper, and it was well for Phil's peace of
mind that he did not overhear their conversation.
"Look here, Patty," began her young master,
"there's a poor little lad in the parish room who
EVERY MAN'S HAND AGAINST HIM. 75
has evidently had some rough usage from the
world at large and from our school-children in
particular. I've brought him in to have some
breakfast, and just keep your eye on him till I
come back, for if he can, I'm quite sure he'll
give you the slip and be off to fight the village
boys again. Be sure you don't let him go till I
come back. The lad interests me, and I want
to hear his history."
"Gracious me, Master Hugh! said Patty, a
sour-visaged old dame, who, when she wished to
rebuke her master, always pretended to forget
that he was out of petticoats, "you don't mean
to say that you've brought a rank, raw stranger
into the house ? Why, he's most likely stole all
the silver spoons and forks by now. Well, if I
ever did What would your poor mamma say ?"
"Now, nonsense, Patty," said Master Hugh
good-temperedly. He is a waif and a stray,
and a very dirty one; but that'll please you all
the better, because you can scrub him to your
heart's content. But he's not a thief, I'm sure
of that; he is too plucky to be a sneak."
Oh, I dare say !" said Patty, with a sniff.
"I suppose the next thing will be that you'll be
keeping him on as an odd boy, or maybe as
your own page.''
"Ay, that's a good idea, now; you shall have
him to train, Patty," said Mr. Palmer, with a
malicious smile. "But, now, just go and look
after him, and remember to keep him indoors."
With anything but a benignant countenance,
Patty bustled into the parish room. Nor did the
sight of poor Phil's battered condition go far
towards softening her crusty temper. It was
only when, after tasting his bowl of porridge, he
fixed his eyes upon her, remarking solemnly, "I
say, missus, this is just about good stuff," that
the compliment to her own cookery touched her
heart; and, looking at him a little more atten-
tively, she began involuntarily to feel an awaken-
ing interest in Master Hugh's ragamuffin, and
by the time Pbhil had eaten three relays of
porridge, and drunk a huge cup of milk, she had
made up her mind to question him a little as to
his personal history.
When she returned, however, from delivering
his breakfast things to Dinah, the kitchen-maid,
with special injunctions "to wash 'em up in a
double lot of soda, for nobody could tell what
they might have caught from such as he," Patty
found Phil, with his head laid down upon the
sunny window-seat, fast asleep.
"Poor little lad !" she said almost tenderly,
bending over him to draw down the blind.
" Well, I'll just let him sleep on quietly till I'm
through with my work."
But. somehow, though it was jam-making
morning, and, as a rule, nothing could move her
from her big preserving-pan, to-day Patty could
not rest quietly in her kitchen. Backwards and
forwards to the parish room she went, peeping
EVERY MAN'S HAND AGAINST HIM. 77
in at the door to see if Phil were still asleep,
and then stealing away on tiptoe, only to return
to the charge a few minutes later.
"Soon as ever he wakes up," she said to
Dinah, "I'll give his hands and face a good
scrub; so fill your big black kettle and put it on,
for we won't stint the water, anyway."
Well-trained Dinah did as she was bid, and
put the kettle on; but that hot water was
never used-at least, not for Phil; for on
the occasion of Mrs. Patty's twentieth excur-
sion to the parish room her eye fell upon a
slip of paper which had evidently fallen out
of Philip's pocket on to the floor. Seeing
that it was written upon, Patty, with woman-
like curiosity, immediately pounced on it, and
examined it. But she had scarcely had time to
read the score of words scrawled on it, before
Phil was roused by her shrieks of dismay, and
awoke to see the housekeeper backing out of
the room away from him as fast as she could,
and vociferating to him to get through the open
window into the garden, and then fly from the
place as fast as his legs could carry him.
"Go, I say! go, go she cried, "or I'll have
you put in prison, or transplanted"-she pro-
bably meant transported-" or-or--"
But Phil did not wait to hear the full measure
of her promises. He was beginning to get used
to enforced flights now; and when the vicar
returned home a little later, he found not only
no trace of his poor gutter-boy, but Mrs. Patty
walking about the ground floor of his house,
with her petticoats tucked up very high, and a
huge mop in one hand and a large bucket of
disinfecting fluid in the other.
"My good Patty, what is happening ?" he
"What's going to happen' you'd better ask,
Master Hugh," was the grim reply. "If we're
not all dead corpses by to-morrow or the day
after, my name ain't Patty Stone.' Only just
step outside and look on the stump of the old
apple tree-'tis all dead atop, so it won't have
no fruit to be hurt by it-and you'll see fast
enough the sort of customer you've brought in
amongst us all."
Mr. Palmer did step out, as requested, and
there, hanging from the tree, where Patty had
nailed it-having first shielded her hands in
double gloves, which she buried with the tongs
afterwards-was poor Phil's wonderful talisman;
and on it, writ large in schoolboy writing, stood
the following statement:-
"I'm the last left alive of a family of nineteen
children, all of whom, with father and mother,
died last week of small-pox. Kind Christians,
give me a home."
A crash, a cry of agony, and that was all we heard."
ETH, do you know, it is a whole week
since he went away," whispered
Nan. She never dared say Phil's
name now. There had been a
terrible commotion in that wretched, over-
crowded room when the fact that Phil had really
run away became a certainty, and Mrs. Styles's
impotent rage leading her to seek some victim
on whom to wreak it, she had turned upon
Nan and Seth, and a storm of blows and bad
words had fallen to the lot of Phil's poor little
accomplices. However, ever will he come back
to fetch us away ?" Nannie had sobbed, holding
her poor bruised hands before her face. "Oh,
Seth, I wish we had gone along with him, that
"So we would have gone if we could," said
the elder brother soothingly; "but wouldn'tt
have been very far that any of us would have
travelled at that rate," and he looked down at his
crutches with a weary sigh.
"Will many, many more weeks have to go
by before he comes back, do you think ?" Nan
asked. It didn't take Dusty Dan more than a
day to go into the country and come back again."
Nay," said Seth, but then he hadn't to hunt
about to find Thorndale; and, you see, 'tis no
good Phil's coming back till he's found aunt."
"P'raps he'll forget us; p'raps we'll never,
never see him again," said Nan, with a whole
world of wistful sorrow in her blue eyes. "I
wonder where he is now. I wonder whether he's
happy, and if he is thinking of us."
Thinking of Nannie, Phil certainly was at that
moment, but he was not happy. After his
sudden expulsion from the rectory, he had trudged
on through the lanes and villages and occasional
towns for four days and nights, sleeping under
hedges and once in an empty outhouse belong-
ing to a wayside farm, sometimes picking up a
little broken meat from some charitable cottager.
Once he had held a doctor's carriage outside a
house for more than an hour, and had earned
sixpence thereby, and this had been a veritable
windfall to poor Phil, and had kept him from
But on this evening, whilst Nan was specula-
ting on his whereabouts, he was, as the saying
is, "very down on his luck." He had spent
his last penny, and though since daybreak
he had been on the look out for a job which
might enable him to earn something, no one
had come in his way to want a gate opened
or a horse held, and now at this sunset hour
poor Phil found himself alone on a desolate bit
of waste common ground, feeling very tired, very
hungry, and terribly lonely. To him it seemed
much more than a week since he had crouched
beside Seth's squalid couch in the twilight
room and discussed the whispered plans for his
flight into the country. He had grown tired of
asking people the way to Thorndale; no one
seemed to have heard of such a place, and
he began to feel sure that after all the name of
the village had been changed, just as the names
of streets sometimes were.
He had not eaten anything since midday,
and, high-spirited boy as he was, his poor little
heart was beginning to fail him. In another
minute he would have sought relief in a
burst of tears, when suddenly a fresh turn
was given to his thoughts by the arrival on
the scene of four village lads, about the same
age as himself. One of them, the biggest,
was carrying a bag, whilst each of the three
others was holding a mongrel cur by a string.
Presently they came to a dead stop not many
yards from where Phil was sitting, half hidden
by an enormous gorse bush. There was some-
thing in their faces and in the guilty manner in
which they looked all around them, evidently to
make sure that no one was at hand to see them,
that instantly awakened Phil's suspicions. They
were up to no good, he felt sure, and, prompted
by curiosity to see what would follow, he came
out from his hiding-place and joined the
At first seeing him, the boys hesitated, but
a whispered, "That little chap don't matter a
straw," from the one who had the bag, and who
was evidently the ringleader, reassured them.
Now, look out, you fellows," said the big lad;
"keep the dogs well in till I give the word ; and
now here goes." So saying, he loosened the
string of the bag, and amidst a chorus of "hisses "
from the boys, a miserable cat leapt out, almost
frantic with fright and seeming to understand
perfectly that those three low-bred curs would
presently be let loose to hunt her.
Phil had once seen Nan's tabby cat, the
only treasure which the child had ever called
her own, worried to death by dogs, and his blood
boiled at the prospect of this poor animal's fate.
Forgetful of his footsoreness and weariness, he
threw himself between the cat and her tormentors,
and his sudden interference so surprised the
village boys that for an instant they stood
motionless, still holding the dogs in check whilst
the poor cat's ginger tail was fast disappearing
in the distance. But their stupefaction only
lasted for a few moments; then, disappointed of
their cruel sport, the lads turned round and,
setting the dogs upon Philip, went to work to
chase ,him. Against one or even two boys, and
as many dogs, Phil would have been ready to try
his strength hand to hand, but with four op-
ponents, all bigger than himself, and these backed
up by three ill-looking dogs, anything like a fair
fight was out of the question.
I must make a bolt of it," thought Phil; and,
swift as an arrow, he faced round and fled past
his tormentors, thus disconcerting them at start-
ing, for they had fully expected that he would
fly in front of them.
But Phil knew well what he was about. The
path before him was unknown ground, but on
the road he had just travelled over he remem-
bered that there was a field to the right skirting
the back of several farm-buildings, and he felt
certain that if he could once find himself in that
meadow, he should be safe from his pursuers;
for there would be sure to be some one about
who would -protect him from them. But the
field was much further off than Phil had fancied,
and though at first he had had something of
a start of the boys and dogs, yet now they
were on his heels, and he felt that he could
not go much farther. His poor, tired feet were
cut and bruised by the sharp stones, which
he had no time to avoid; his breath was almost
gone; the blood was hammering in his ears
like short, sharp blows; and the green hedges
and the white road seemed all to be whirled
into one confused mass before his fainting senses.
And all the time the dogs came nearer and
nearer, urged on by their cruel masters, and
now the foremost was scarcely a dozen feet
"If they once lay hold on me they'll kill me
outright," thought Phil, still struggling on with
failing limbs and panting breath. Then as the
conviction that he could go no further overcame
him, his eyes were gladdened by the sight of the
field he had had in view. Gathering up all his
little strength for one supreme effort, he bounded
over the stile and ran straight across the meadow.
He heard the boys' voices behind him, shouting
loudly, "Stop, stop, I say;" but, of course, he
never turned his head, never slackened his pace.
Had he done so, it might have struck him
that the tones were those of warning, rather than
A minute later the sound of a crash, followed
by a piercing cry, reached the lads as they too
clambered over the stile, and the little flying
figure, which till then had been full in view of
them, had now suddenly disappeared.
What had happened ? Had the earth opened
her mouth and swallowed him up? It looked
very like it; but those boys, with faces grown all
at once ashy white, knew better. Exchanging
looks of unutterable dismay, and too aghast to
speak, they flew from the field, and never ceased
running till they had put a long stretch of road
CRUEL SPORT. 8g
and nearly all the common between themselves
and the scene of the disaster.
Then one of the boys spoke for the first time.
" It'll be brought in murder," he said, his teeth
chattering as he spoke, "and we'll all swing
for it. If any of the Priory lot was on the look
out, we're as good as hanged now."
A CHANGE OF SCENE.
Their diet was of wheaten bread,
And milk and oats and straw,
Thistles or lettuces instead,
And sand to scour their maw."
HE Priory was a picturesque old man-
sion, built of red brick, and half
timbered, with dark roofs, flecked
here and there with patches of lichen,
and high, quaint chimneys. A wide green lawn
stretched in front of the house, set round with
lime and elm trees, through whose branches, on
the July evening of which we write, the rays of
the sinking sun were falling in shafts of golden
There was not a creature stirring in the large
well-kept garden, and from the look of the house
you might have supposed that all its inhabitants
had either run away or fallen asleep; the blinds
were drawn down in most of the windows, and
no one was to be seen at any of the others.
A CHANGE OF-SCENE.
The truth was, that the masterof the Priory, old
Squire Oswell, a Justice of the Peace and a
very mighty man in his own neighbourhood,
was at that moment eating his seven o'clock
dinner in the library at the other side of the
house, where a bad fit of gout was imprisoning
him, whilst his two little grandchildren, who
with himself represented the household, were
amusing themselves after their own fashion in
the meadows that skirted the kitchen garden.
It was in vain that their nurse exhorted them
"to play prettily like little ladies and gentle-
men," in the flower garden or on the long lime
avenue, instead of" rampaging about the fields
and woods, like any cottager's children for all
the world." Little Gertrude and Hector Oswell
turned a deaf ear to her admonitions, and no
sooner was leave given for play, than off they
flew to their beloved "Long Meadow," which,
with its fringe of old walnut trees at one end
and a half dried up fish-pond at the other, made
a most delightful playground.
Here, in a disused shed, Gertrude and Hector
kept their rabbits; that is, by night, for by day
their hutches were carefully carried under the
walnut trees, in order to give them all the fresh
air and sunlight possible. It was wonderful
what a deal of occupation, and consequently
amusement, these bunnies gave their owners.
They were four in number. Brighteyes was
Gertrude's pet, a large white one; then there
8S MATCH-BOX' PHIL.
was Sepoy, a splendid black fellow, without a
single white hair in his soft jetty coat; whilst
the third rabbit, a brown one, claimed special
notice from the fact of his having only three legs.
He had lost the fourth, in very early youth,
through coming into close contact with a
treacherous gin; but this disaster, though at
first it cost his protectors many bitter tears,
because they feared that every one would vote
for his death, turned out, after all, to be no such
great calamity. The remnant of the shattered
limb healed itself up very satisfactorily, and the
mutilated hero learnt to hop about so blithely
on his curtailed allowance of legs, "that now,"
said Hector, "that it doesn't hurt him any more,
it's rather fun for a change to have a three-legged
rabbit." And as at the time of his accident
Gertrude had just been reading in her Greek
history about the three-legged stool on which the
Delphian Oracle sat, she proposed, and Hector
strongly seconded, that Brownie, as he had
been hitherto called, should henceforward be
known as Tripod.
The fourth rabbit was a new-comer, and as
yet was hardly looked upon as a member of
the family. He had come to them, as Hector
explained, "under rather odd cirstances." The
fact was, that on Hector's last birthday he had
chosen for a present a new rabbit-hutch. He
had particularly asked for a double one, because,
as he confided to Gertrude, he thought the
A CHANGE OF SCENE.
bunnies ought to have a day room, as well as
sleeping rooms; but, alas the obstinate bunnies
could see no advantage in this arrangement, and
all of them kept pertinaciously to their own
little corners, where their troughs were always
'"I'll tell you what," said Gertrude. It seems
a pity to waste half a hutch; let's write a board
and put it up to say the other half is to let.
There are lots of rabbits running about in the
woods; one of them might like to come and take
This proposal found great favour with Hector,
and so, after due consideration, a board-it was
the bottom of a night-light box with the sides
torn away-was erected over the new hutch,
inscribed as follows :-
"Lodging for a singel rabit; a wood one may
On the second day, however, finding that
some mischievous person had turned wood into
" wooden," Gertrude took down her notice-board
and changed the word into a "wild" one. In
spite of this liberality as to the sort of candidate
who might be considered eligible, no one did
apply, till one fine morning, the very day, in fact,
before this July evening, Gertrude and Hector,
on going to their hutch, found a little grey, long-
eared tenant sitting up in their hitherto unlet
room. How he managed to let himself in, and
shut the door so carefully after him, was a
mystery which neither brother nor sister could
Perhaps if they had caught sight of old Martin,
the gardener, who, in his blue apron, was watch-
ing them from behind a haystack, with a broad
grin-on his face, they might have found some
clue to the puzzle.
"It was instink, I expect," said Hector.
"P'raps it was reason," said Gertrude.
Anyway, there he was, and the next thing to
be done was to celebrate his arrival by making
a grand feast in his honour.
All that morning Gertrude was busy writing
notes of invitations to the rabbits, which Hector
posted in the weedy pond, whilst the afternoon
was devoted to preparing the banquet. It was
to be spread under the walnut trees, and to
begin precisely when the great gong sounded
indoors for grandpapa's dinner. Ruth, the
housemaid, had lent a duster for a table-cloth,
whilst a large old pickle-bottle filled with
peonies made a great feature in the centre of
the spread, which was certainly composed of
rather odd dishes. There was a little trough of
bran mash for each rabbit to begin with, and, to
give this course a festive appearance, Gertrude
had stuck a double daisy in the middle of the
moist bran ; then there was an entrde of parsley,
succeeded by slices of raw carrot; whilst a very
choice dish of lettuces soaked in milk closed and
crowned the banquet.
A CHANGE OF SCENE.
"It was rather disagreeable of the rabbits,"
Hector remarked, "not to sit still in their places
at the edge of the duster, and to drag their food
all over the-grass."
But still, on the whole, the feast went off very
satisfactorily, and Hector was just making a
" good-night" speech to his guests, in which he
bade them to treat the new bunny kindly, and
exhorted the latter not to be too uppish as he
was only a new-comer, when Gertrude uttered a
cry of dismay. With one skip and a bound, the
grey rabbit had turned his little white tail on
the assembled company, and had disappeared
through a hole in the hedge to the meadow
"And it's the field where we mustn't go," said
Oh, nonsense !" cried Hector. "I don't care
if I do get punished; I shall go and look for
But just at that moment Betty, the nursery-
maid, came running down the long meadow,
with the unwelcome news that they had over-
stayed their bedtime, and that nurse would be
ever so angry if they did not come indoors
Nurse's orders were never disobeyed, so sadly
and slowly the three old rabbits were restored
to their hutches, whilst as the children turned
indoors they cudgelled their brains for the best
means to adopt to recover their lost Greycoat.
92 MATCH-BOX PHIL.
"Hector, I know," said Gertrude, as they
climbed upstairs together. "I'll wake up ever
so early to-morrow morning, and I'll come and
call you before any one's awake, and then we'll
go out and hunt for our poor rabbit. It's naughty
to go, I suppose, because we have been forbidden ;
but still, that bunny must have been sent to us
for us to take care of it, and we oughtn't to mind
getting scolded for trying to save his life, a bit
more than fathers and mothers in story-books
mind suffering all sorts of things just to save
their own children."
A VOICE FROM THE DEPTHS.
"Child, I see thee child, I've found thee
'Midst of the quiet all around thee."
T'S not the least good my going to
bed, for I'm sure I shan't sleep a
wink all night, wondering where
poor Greycoat is," Hector had
declared as he bade Gertrude good night.
Nevertheless, when next morning before five
Gertrude stole noiselessly into his little room, she
found him so sound asleep, that it took a great
deal of shaking and loud whispering to awaken
him. It was only by frequently reminding
him that if they did not make haste, nurse would
be sure to get up and come and look for them,
that Gertrude at last succeeded in rousing him.
Once out of bed, Hector's dressing was soon
accomplished, but when it came to the point of
saying his prayers, he was perplexed.
It seems rather funny," he said, "to ask to
be made good all day when we know we're
going to do a rather naughty thing."