To my dear son Paul Bland,
behind whose knowledge of railways
my ignorance confidently shelters.
1: The beginning of things.
2: Peter's coal-mine.
3: The old gentleman.
4: The engine-burglar.
5: Prisoners and captives.
6: Saviours of the train.
7:  For valour.
8: The amateur fireman.
9: The pride of Perks.
10: The terrible secret.
11: The hound in the red jersey.
12: What Bobbie brought home.
13: The hound's grandfather.
14: The End.

Chapter I. The beginning of things.
They were not railway children to begin with.  I don't suppose they
had ever thought about railways except as a means of getting to
Maskelyne and Cook's, the Pantomime, Zoological Gardens, and Madame
Tussaud's.  They were just ordinary suburban children, and they
lived with their Father and Mother in an ordinary red-brick-fronted
villa, with coloured glass in the front door, a tiled passage that
was called a hall, a bath-room with hot and cold water, electric
bells, French windows, and a good deal of white paint, and 'every
modern convenience', as the house-agents say.
There were three of them.  Roberta was the eldest.  Of course,
Mothers never have favourites, but if their Mother HAD had a
favourite, it might have been Roberta.  Next came Peter, who wished
to be an Engineer when he grew up; and the youngest was Phyllis, who
meant extremely well.
Mother did not spend all her time in paying dull calls to dull
ladies, and sitting dully at home waiting for dull ladies to pay
calls to her.  She was almost always there, ready to play with the
children, and read to them, and help them to do their home-lessons.
Besides this she used to write stories for them while they were at
school, and read them aloud after tea, and she always made up funny
pieces of poetry for their birthdays and for other great occasions,
such as the christening of the new kittens, or the refurnishing of
the doll's house, or the time when they were getting over the mumps.
These three lucky children always had everything they needed:
pretty clothes, good fires, a lovely nursery with heaps of toys, and
a Mother Goose wall-paper.  They had a kind and merry nursemaid, and
a dog who was called James, and who was their very own.  They also
had a Father who was just perfect--never cross, never unjust, and
always ready for a game--at least, if at any time he was NOT ready,
he always had an excellent reason for it, and explained the reason
to the children so interestingly and funnily that they felt sure he
couldn't help himself.
You will think that they ought to have been very happy.  And so they
were, but they did not know HOW happy till the pretty life in the
Red Villa was over and done with, and they had to live a very
different life indeed.
The dreadful change came quite suddenly.
Peter had a birthday--his tenth.  Among his other presents was a
model engine more perfect than you could ever have dreamed of.  The
other presents were full of charm, but the Engine was fuller of
charm than any of the others were.
Its charm lasted in its full perfection for exactly three days.
Then, owing either to Peter's inexperience or Phyllis's good
intentions, which had been rather pressing, or to some other cause,
the Engine suddenly went off with a bang.  James was so frightened
that he went out and did not come back all day.  All the Noah's Ark
people who were in the tender were broken to bits, but nothing else
was hurt except the poor little engine and the feelings of Peter.
The others said he cried over it--but of course boys of ten do not
cry, however terrible the tragedies may be which darken their lot.
He said that his eyes were red because he had a cold.  This turned
out to be true, though Peter did not know it was when he said it,
the next day he had to go to bed and stay there.  Mother began to be
afraid that he might be sickening for measles, when suddenly he sat
up in bed and said:
"I hate gruel--I hate barley water--I hate bread and milk. I want to
get up and have something REAL to eat."
"What would you like?" Mother asked.
"A pigeon-pie," said Peter, eagerly, "a large pigeon-pie.  A very
large one."
So Mother asked the Cook to make a large pigeon-pie.  The pie was
made.  And when the pie was made, it was cooked.  And when it was
cooked, Peter ate some of it.  After that his cold was better.
Mother made a piece of poetry to amuse him while the pie was being
made.  It began by saying what an unfortunate but worthy boy Peter
was, then it went on:
      He had an engine that he loved
        With all his heart and soul,
      And if he had a wish on earth
        It was to keep it whole.
      One day--my friends, prepare your minds;
        I'm coming to the worst--
      Quite suddenly a screw went mad,
        And then the boiler burst!
      With gloomy face he picked it up
        And took it to his Mother,
      Though even he could not suppose
        That she could make another;
      For those who perished on the line
        He did not seem to care,
      His engine being more to him
        Than all the people there.
      And now you see the reason why
        Our Peter has been ill:
      He soothes his soul with pigeon-pie
        His gnawing grief to kill.
      He wraps himself in blankets warm
        And sleeps in bed till late,
      Determined thus to overcome
        His miserable fate.
      And if his eyes are rather red,
        His cold must just excuse it:
      Offer him pie; you may be sure
        He never will refuse it.
Father had been away in the country for three or four days.  All
Peter's hopes for the curing of his afflicted Engine were now fixed
on his Father, for Father was most wonderfully clever with his
fingers.  He could mend all sorts of things.  He had often acted as
veterinary surgeon to the wooden rocking-horse; once he had saved
its life when all human aid was despaired of, and the poor creature
was given up for lost, and even the carpenter said he didn't see his
way to do anything.  And it was Father who mended the doll's cradle
when no one else could; and with a little glue and some bits of wood
and a pen-knife made all the Noah's Ark beasts as strong on their
pins as ever they were, if not stronger.
Peter, with heroic unselfishness, did not say anything about his
Engine till after Father had had his dinner and his after-dinner
cigar.  The unselfishness was Mother's idea--but it was Peter who
carried it out.  And needed a good deal of patience, too.
At last Mother said to Father, "Now, dear, if you're quite rested,
and quite comfy, we want to tell you about the great railway
accident, and ask your advice."
"All right," said Father, "fire away!"
So then Peter told the sad tale, and fetched what was left of the
"Hum," said Father, when he had looked the Engine over very
The children held their breaths.
"Is there NO hope?" said Peter, in a low, unsteady voice.
"Hope?  Rather!  Tons of it," said Father, cheerfully; "but it'll
want something besides hope--a bit of brazing say, or some solder,
and a new valve.  I think we'd better keep it for a rainy day.  In
other words, I'll give up Saturday afternoon to it, and you shall
all help me."
"CAN girls help to mend engines?" Peter asked doubtfully.
"Of course they can.  Girls are just as clever as boys, and don't
you forget it!  How would you like to be an engine-driver, Phil?"
"My face would be always dirty, wouldn't it?" said Phyllis, in
unenthusiastic tones, "and I expect I should break something."
"I should just love it," said Roberta--"do you think I could when
I'm grown up, Daddy?  Or even a stoker?"
"You mean a fireman," said Daddy, pulling and twisting at the
engine.  "Well, if you still wish it, when you're grown up, we'll
see about making you a fire-woman.  I remember when I was a boy--"
Just then there was a knock at the front door.
"Who on earth!" said Father.  "An Englishman's house is his castle,
of course, but I do wish they built semi-detached villas with moats
and drawbridges."
Ruth--she was the parlour-maid and had red hair--came in and said
that two gentlemen wanted to see the master.
"I've shown them into the Library, Sir," said she.
"I expect it's the subscription to the Vicar's testimonial," said
Mother, "or else it's the choir holiday fund.  Get rid of them
quickly, dear.  It does break up an evening so, and it's nearly the
children's bedtime."
But Father did not seem to be able to get rid of the gentlemen at
all quickly.
"I wish we HAD got a moat and drawbridge," said Roberta; "then, when
we didn't want people, we could just pull up the drawbridge and no
one else could get in.  I expect Father will have forgotten about
when he was a boy if they stay much longer."
Mother tried to make the time pass by telling them a new fairy story
about a Princess with green eyes, but it was difficult because they
could hear the voices of Father and the gentlemen in the Library,
and Father's voice sounded louder and different to the voice he
generally used to people who came about testimonials and holiday
Then the Library bell rang, and everyone heaved a breath of relief.
"They're going now," said Phyllis; "he's rung to have them shown
But instead of showing anybody out, Ruth showed herself in, and she
looked queer, the children thought.
"Please'm," she said, "the Master wants you to just step into the
study.  He looks like the dead, mum; I think he's had bad news.
You'd best prepare yourself for the worst, 'm--p'raps it's a death
in the family or a bank busted or--"
"That'll do, Ruth," said Mother gently; "you can go."
Then Mother went into the Library.  There was more talking.  Then
the bell rang again, and Ruth fetched a cab.  The children heard
boots go out and down the steps.  The cab drove away, and the front
door shut.  Then Mother came in.  Her dear face was as white as her
lace collar, and her eyes looked very big and shining.  Her mouth
looked like just a line of pale red--her lips were thin and not
their proper shape at all.
"It's bedtime," she said.  "Ruth will put you to bed."
"But you promised we should sit up late tonight because Father's
come home," said Phyllis.
"Father's been called away--on business," said Mother.  "Come,
darlings, go at once."
They kissed her and went.  Roberta lingered to give Mother an extra
hug and to whisper:
"It wasn't bad news, Mammy, was it?  Is anyone dead--or--"
"Nobody's dead--no," said Mother, and she almost seemed to push
Roberta away.  "I can't tell you anything tonight, my pet.  Go,
dear, go NOW."
So Roberta went.
Ruth brushed the girls' hair and helped them to undress.  (Mother
almost always did this herself.)  When she had turned down the gas
and left them she found Peter, still dressed, waiting on the stairs.
"I say, Ruth, what's up?" he asked.
"Don't ask me no questions and I won't tell you no lies," the red-
headed Ruth replied.  "You'll know soon enough."
Late that night Mother came up and kissed all three children as they
lay asleep.  But Roberta was the only one whom the kiss woke, and
she lay mousey-still, and said nothing.
"If Mother doesn't want us to know she's been crying," she said to
herself as she heard through the dark the catching of her Mother's
breath, "we WON'T know it.  That's all."
When they came down to breakfast the next morning, Mother had
already gone out.
"To London," Ruth said, and left them to their breakfast.
"There's something awful the matter," said Peter, breaking his egg.
"Ruth told me last night we should know soon enough."
"Did you ASK her?" said Roberta, with scorn.
"Yes, I did!" said Peter, angrily.  "If you could go to bed without
caring whether Mother was worried or not, I couldn't.  So there."
"I don't think we ought to ask the servants things Mother doesn't
tell us," said Roberta.
"That's right, Miss Goody-goody," said Peter, "preach away."
"I'M not goody," said Phyllis, "but I think Bobbie's right this
"Of course.  She always is.  In her own opinion," said Peter.
"Oh, DON'T!" cried Roberta, putting down her egg-spoon; "don't let's
be horrid to each other.  I'm sure some dire calamity is happening.
Don't let's make it worse!"
"Who began, I should like to know?" said Peter.
Roberta made an effort, and answered:--
"I did, I suppose, but--"
"Well, then," said Peter, triumphantly.  But before he went to
school he thumped his sister between the shoulders and told her to
cheer up.
The children came home to one o'clock dinner, but Mother was not
there.  And she was not there at tea-time.
It was nearly seven before she came in, looking so ill and tired
that the children felt they could not ask her any questions.  She
sank into an arm-chair.  Phyllis took the long pins out of her hat,
while Roberta took off her gloves, and Peter unfastened her walking-
shoes and fetched her soft velvety slippers for her.
When she had had a cup of tea, and Roberta had put eau-de-Cologne on
her poor head that ached, Mother said:--
"Now, my darlings, I want to tell you something.  Those men last
night did bring very bad news, and Father will be away for some
time.  I am very worried about it, and I want you all to help me,
and not to make things harder for me."
"As if we would!" said Roberta, holding Mother's hand against her
"You can help me very much," said Mother, "by being good and happy
and not quarrelling when I'm away"--Roberta and Peter exchanged
guilty glances--"for I shall have to be away a good deal."
"We won't quarrel.  Indeed we won't," said everybody.  And meant it,
"Then," Mother went on, "I want you not to ask me any questions
about this trouble; and not to ask anybody else any questions."
Peter cringed and shuffled his boots on the carpet.
"You'll promise this, too, won't you?" said Mother.
"I did ask Ruth," said Peter, suddenly.  "I'm very sorry, but I
"And what did she say?"
"She said I should know soon enough."
"It isn't necessary for you to know anything about it," said Mother;
"it's about business, and you never do understand business, do you?"
"No," said Roberta; "is it something to do with Government?"  For
Father was in a Government Office.
"Yes," said Mother.  "Now it's bed-time, my darlings.  And don't YOU
worry.  It'll all come right in the end."
"Then don't YOU worry either, Mother," said Phyllis, "and we'll all
be as good as gold."
Mother sighed and kissed them.
"We'll begin being good the first thing tomorrow morning," said
Peter, as they went upstairs.
"Why not NOW?" said Roberta.
"There's nothing to be good ABOUT now, silly," said Peter.
"We might begin to try to FEEL good," said Phyllis, "and not call
"Who's calling names?" said Peter.  "Bobbie knows right enough that
when I say 'silly', it's just the same as if I said Bobbie."
"WELL," said Roberta.
"No, I don't mean what you mean.  I mean it's just a--what is it
Father calls it?--a germ of endearment!  Good night."
The girls folded up their clothes with more than usual neatness--
which was the only way of being good that they could think of.
"I say," said Phyllis, smoothing out her pinafore, "you used to say
it was so dull--nothing happening, like in books.  Now something HAS
"I never wanted things to happen to make Mother unhappy," said
Roberta.  "Everything's perfectly horrid."
Everything continued to be perfectly horrid for some weeks.
Mother was nearly always out.  Meals were dull and dirty.  The
between-maid was sent away, and Aunt Emma came on a visit.  Aunt
Emma was much older than Mother.  She was going abroad to be a
governess.  She was very busy getting her clothes ready, and they
were very ugly, dingy clothes, and she had them always littering
about, and the sewing-machine seemed to whir--on and on all day and
most of the night.  Aunt Emma believed in keeping children in their
proper places.  And they more than returned the compliment.  Their
idea of Aunt Emma's proper place was anywhere where they were not.
So they saw very little of her.  They preferred the company of the
servants, who were more amusing.  Cook, if in a good temper, could
sing comic songs, and the housemaid, if she happened not to be
offended with you, could imitate a hen that has laid an egg, a
bottle of champagne being opened, and could mew like two cats
fighting.  The servants never told the children what the bad news
was that the gentlemen had brought to Father.  But they kept hinting
that they could tell a great deal if they chose--and this was not
One day when Peter had made a booby trap over the bath-room door,
and it had acted beautifully as Ruth passed through, that red-haired
parlour-maid caught him and boxed his ears.
"You'll come to a bad end," she said furiously, "you nasty little
limb, you!  If you don't mend your ways, you'll go where your
precious Father's gone, so I tell you straight!"
Roberta repeated this to her Mother, and next day Ruth was sent
Then came the time when Mother came home and went to bed and stayed
there two days and the Doctor came, and the children crept
wretchedly about the house and wondered if the world was coming to
an end.
Mother came down one morning to breakfast, very pale and with lines
on her face that used not to be there.  And she smiled, as well as
she could, and said:--
"Now, my pets, everything is settled.  We're going to leave this
house, and go and live in the country.  Such a ducky dear little
white house.  I know you'll love it."
A whirling week of packing followed--not just packing clothes, like
when you go to the seaside, but packing chairs and tables, covering
their tops with sacking and their legs with straw.
All sorts of things were packed that you don't pack when you go to
the seaside.  Crockery, blankets, candlesticks, carpets, bedsteads,
saucepans, and even fenders and fire-irons.
The house was like a furniture warehouse.  I think the children
enjoyed it very much.  Mother was very busy, but not too busy now to
talk to them, and read to them, and even to make a bit of poetry for
Phyllis to cheer her up when she fell down with a screwdriver and
ran it into her hand.
"Aren't you going to pack this, Mother?" Roberta asked, pointing to
the beautiful cabinet inlaid with red turtleshell and brass.
"We can't take everything," said Mother.
"But we seem to be taking all the ugly things," said Roberta.
"We're taking the useful ones," said Mother; "we've got to play at
being Poor for a bit, my chickabiddy."
When all the ugly useful things had been packed up and taken away in
a van by men in green-baize aprons, the two girls and Mother and
Aunt Emma slept in the two spare rooms where the furniture was all
pretty.  All their beds had gone.  A bed was made up for Peter on
the drawing-room sofa.
"I say, this is larks," he said, wriggling joyously, as Mother
tucked him up.  "I do like moving!  I wish we moved once a month."
Mother laughed.
"I don't!" she said.  "Good night, Peterkin."
As she turned away Roberta saw her face.  She never forgot it.
"Oh, Mother," she whispered all to herself as she got into bed, "how
brave you are!  How I love you!  Fancy being brave enough to laugh
when you're feeling like THAT!"
Next day boxes were filled, and boxes and more boxes; and then late
in the afternoon a cab came to take them to the station.
Aunt Emma saw them off.  They felt that THEY were seeing HER off,
and they were glad of it.
"But, oh, those poor little foreign children that she's going to
governess!" whispered Phyllis.  "I wouldn't be them for anything!"
At first they enjoyed looking out of the window, but when it grew
dusk they grew sleepier and sleepier, and no one knew how long they
had been in the train when they were roused by Mother's shaking them
gently and saying:--
"Wake up, dears.  We're there."
They woke up, cold and melancholy, and stood shivering on the
draughty platform while the baggage was taken out of the train.
Then the engine, puffing and blowing, set to work again, and dragged
the train away.  The children watched the tail-lights of the guard's
van disappear into the darkness.
This was the first train the children saw on that railway which was
in time to become so very dear to them.  They did not guess then how
they would grow to love the railway, and how soon it would become
the centre of their new life, nor what wonders and changes it would
bring to them.  They only shivered and sneezed and hoped the walk to
the new house would not be long.  Peter's nose was colder than he
ever remembered it to have been before.  Roberta's hat was crooked,
and the elastic seemed tighter than usual.  Phyllis's shoe-laces had
come undone.
"Come," said Mother, "we've got to walk.  There aren't any cabs
The walk was dark and muddy.  The children stumbled a little on the
rough road, and once Phyllis absently fell into a puddle, and was
picked up damp and unhappy.  There were no gas-lamps on the road,
and the road was uphill.  The cart went at a foot's pace, and they
followed the gritty crunch of its wheels.  As their eyes got used to
the darkness, they could see the mound of boxes swaying dimly in
front of them.
A long gate had to be opened for the cart to pass through, and after
that the road seemed to go across fields--and now it went down hill.
Presently a great dark lumpish thing showed over to the right.
"There's the house," said Mother.  "I wonder why she's shut the
"Who's SHE?" asked Roberta.
"The woman I engaged to clean the place, and put the furniture
straight and get supper."
There was a low wall, and trees inside.
"That's the garden," said Mother.
"It looks more like a dripping-pan full of black cabbages," said
The cart went on along by the garden wall, and round to the back of
the house, and here it clattered into a cobble-stoned yard and
stopped at the back door.
There was no light in any of the windows.
Everyone hammered at the door, but no one came.
The man who drove the cart said he expected Mrs. Viney had gone
"You see your train was that late," said he.
"But she's got the key," said Mother.  "What are we to do?"
"Oh, she'll have left that under the doorstep," said the cart man;
"folks do hereabouts."  He took the lantern off his cart and
"Ay, here it is, right enough," he said.
He unlocked the door and went in and set his lantern on the table.
"Got e'er a candle?" said he.
"I don't know where anything is."  Mother spoke rather less
cheerfully than usual.
He struck a match.  There was a candle on the table, and he lighted
it.  By its thin little glimmer the children saw a large bare
kitchen with a stone floor.  There were no curtains, no hearth-rug.
The kitchen table from home stood in the middle of the room.  The
chairs were in one corner, and the pots, pans, brooms, and crockery
in another.  There was no fire, and the black grate showed cold,
dead ashes.
As the cart man turned to go out after he had brought in the boxes,
there was a rustling, scampering sound that seemed to come from
inside the walls of the house.
"Oh, what's that?" cried the girls.
"It's only the rats," said the cart man.  And he went away and shut
the door, and the sudden draught of it blew out the candle.
"Oh, dear," said Phyllis, "I wish we hadn't come!" and she knocked a
chair over.
"ONLY the rats!" said Peter, in the dark.

Chapter II. Peter's coal-mine.
"What fun!" said Mother, in the dark, feeling for the matches on the
table.  "How frightened the poor mice were--I don't believe they
were rats at all."
She struck a match and relighted the candle and everyone looked at
each other by its winky, blinky light.
"Well," she said, "you've often wanted something to happen and now
it has.  This is quite an adventure, isn't it?  I told Mrs. Viney to
get us some bread and butter, and meat and things, and to have
supper ready.  I suppose she's laid it in the dining-room.  So let's
go and see."
The dining-room opened out of the kitchen.  It looked much darker
than the kitchen when they went in with the one candle.  Because the
kitchen was whitewashed, but the dining-room was dark wood from
floor to ceiling, and across the ceiling there were heavy black
beams.  There was a muddled maze of dusty furniture--the breakfast-
room furniture from the old home where they had lived all their
lives.  It seemed a very long time ago, and a very long way off.
There was the table certainly, and there were chairs, but there was
no supper.
"Let's look in the other rooms," said Mother; and they looked.  And
in each room was the same kind of blundering half-arrangement of
furniture, and fire-irons and crockery, and all sorts of odd things
on the floor, but there was nothing to eat; even in the pantry there
were only a rusty cake-tin and a broken plate with whitening mixed
in it.
"What a horrid old woman!" said Mother; "she's just walked off with
the money and not got us anything to eat at all."
"Then shan't we have any supper at all?" asked Phyllis, dismayed,
stepping back on to a soap-dish that cracked responsively.
"Oh, yes," said Mother, "only it'll mean unpacking one of those big
cases that we put in the cellar.  Phil, do mind where you're walking
to, there's a dear.  Peter, hold the light."
The cellar door opened out of the kitchen.  There were five wooden
steps leading down.  It wasn't a proper cellar at all, the children
thought, because its ceiling went up as high as the kitchen's. A
bacon-rack hung under its ceiling.  There was wood in it, and coal.
Also the big cases.
Peter held the candle, all on one side, while Mother tried to open
the great packing-case.  It was very securely nailed down.
"Where's the hammer?" asked Peter.
"That's just it," said Mother.  "I'm afraid it's inside the box.
But there's a coal-shovel--and there's the kitchen poker."
And with these she tried to get the case open.
"Let me do it," said Peter, thinking he could do it better himself.
Everyone thinks this when he sees another person stirring a fire, or
opening a box, or untying a knot in a bit of string.
"You'll hurt your hands, Mammy," said Roberta; "let me."
"I wish Father was here," said Phyllis; "he'd get it open in two
shakes.  What are you kicking me for, Bobbie?"
"I wasn't," said Roberta.
Just then the first of the long nails in the packing-case began to
come out with a scrunch.  Then a lath was raised and then another,
till all four stood up with the long nails in them shining fiercely
like iron teeth in the candle-light.
"Hooray!" said Mother; "here are some candles--the very first thing!
You girls go and light them.  You'll find some saucers and things.
Just drop a little candle-grease in the saucer and stick the candle
upright in it."
"How many shall we light?"
"As many as ever you like," said Mother, gaily.  "The great thing is
to be cheerful.  Nobody can be cheerful in the dark except owls and
So the girls lighted candles.  The head of the first match flew off
and stuck to Phyllis's finger; but, as Roberta said, it was only a
little burn, and she might have had to be a Roman martyr and be
burned whole if she had happened to live in the days when those
things were fashionable.
Then, when the dining-room was lighted by fourteen candles, Roberta
fetched coal and wood and lighted a fire.
"It's very cold for May," she said, feeling what a grown-up thing it
was to say.
The fire-light and the candle-light made the dining-room look very
different, for now you could see that the dark walls were of wood,
carved here and there into little wreaths and loops.
The girls hastily 'tidied' the room, which meant putting the chairs
against the wall, and piling all the odds and ends into a corner and
partly hiding them with the big leather arm-chair that Father used
to sit in after dinner.
"Bravo!" cried Mother, coming in with a tray full of things.  "This
is something like!  I'll just get a tablecloth and then--"
The tablecloth was in a box with a proper lock that was opened with
a key and not with a shovel, and when the cloth was spread on the
table, a real feast was laid out on it.
Everyone was very, very tired, but everyone cheered up at the sight
of the funny and delightful supper.  There were biscuits, the Marie
and the plain kind, sardines, preserved ginger, cooking raisins, and
candied peel and marmalade.
"What a good thing Aunt Emma packed up all the odds and ends out of
the Store cupboard," said Mother.  "Now, Phil, DON'T put the
marmalade spoon in among the sardines."
"No, I won't, Mother," said Phyllis, and put it down among the Marie
"Let's drink Aunt Emma's health," said Roberta, suddenly; "what
should we have done if she hadn't packed up these things?  Here's to
Aunt Emma!"
And the toast was drunk in ginger wine and water, out of willow-
patterned tea-cups, because the glasses couldn't be found.
They all felt that they had been a little hard on Aunt Emma.  She
wasn't a nice cuddly person like Mother, but after all it was she
who had thought of packing up the odds and ends of things to eat.
It was Aunt Emma, too, who had aired all the sheets ready; and the
men who had moved the furniture had put the bedsteads together, so
the beds were soon made.
"Good night, chickies," said Mother.  "I'm sure there aren't any
rats.  But I'll leave my door open, and then if a mouse comes, you
need only scream, and I'll come and tell it exactly what I think of
Then she went to her own room.  Roberta woke to hear the little
travelling clock chime two.  It sounded like a church clock ever so
far away, she always thought.  And she heard, too, Mother still
moving about in her room.
Next morning Roberta woke Phyllis by pulling her hair gently, but
quite enough for her purpose.
"Wassermarrer?" asked Phyllis, still almost wholly asleep.
"Wake up! wake up!" said Roberta.  "We're in the new house--don't
you remember?  No servants or anything.  Let's get up and begin to
be useful.  We'll just creep down mouse-quietly, and have everything
beautiful before Mother gets up.  I've woke Peter.  He'll be dressed
as soon as we are."
So they dressed quietly and quickly.  Of course, there was no water
in their room, so when they got down they washed as much as they
thought was necessary under the spout of the pump in the yard.  One
pumped and the other washed.  It was splashy but interesting.
"It's much more fun than basin washing," said Roberta.  "How sparkly
the weeds are between the stones, and the moss on the roof--oh, and
the flowers!"
The roof of the back kitchen sloped down quite low.  It was made of
thatch and it had moss on it, and house-leeks and stonecrop and
wallflowers, and even a clump of purple flag-flowers, at the far
"This is far, far, far and away prettier than Edgecombe Villa," said
Phyllis.  "I wonder what the garden's like."
"We mustn't think of the garden yet," said Roberta, with earnest
energy.  "Let's go in and begin to work."
They lighted the fire and put the kettle on, and they arranged the
crockery for breakfast; they could not find all the right things,
but a glass ash-tray made an excellent salt-cellar, and a newish
baking-tin seemed as if it would do to put bread on, if they had
When there seemed to be nothing more that they could do, they went
out again into the fresh bright morning.
"We'll go into the garden now," said Peter.  But somehow they
couldn't find the garden.  They went round the house and round the
house.  The yard occupied the back, and across it were stables and
outbuildings.  On the other three sides the house stood simply in a
field, without a yard of garden to divide it from the short smooth
turf.  And yet they had certainly seen the garden wall the night
It was a hilly country.  Down below they could see the line of the
railway, and the black yawning mouth of a tunnel.  The station was
out of sight.  There was a great bridge with tall arches running
across one end of the valley.
"Never mind the garden," said Peter; "let's go down and look at the
railway.  There might be trains passing."
"We can see them from here," said Roberta, slowly; "let's sit down a
So they all sat down on a great flat grey stone that had pushed
itself up out of the grass; it was one of many that lay about on the
hillside, and when Mother came out to look for them at eight
o'clock, she found them deeply asleep in a contented, sun-warmed
They had made an excellent fire, and had set the kettle on it at
about half-past five.  So that by eight the fire had been out for
some time, the water had all boiled away, and the bottom was burned
out of the kettle.  Also they had not thought of washing the
crockery before they set the table.
"But it doesn't matter--the cups and saucers, I mean," said Mother.
"Because I've found another room--I'd quite forgotten there was one.
And it's magic!  And I've boiled the water for tea in a saucepan."
The forgotten room opened out of the kitchen.  In the agitation and
half darkness the night before its door had been mistaken for a
cupboard's.  It was a little square room, and on its table, all
nicely set out, was a joint of cold roast beef, with bread, butter,
cheese, and a pie.
"Pie for breakfast!" cried Peter; "how perfectly ripping!"
"It isn't pigeon-pie," said Mother; "it's only apple.  Well, this is
the supper we ought to have had last night.  And there was a note
from Mrs. Viney.  Her son-in-law has broken his arm, and she had to
get home early.  She's coming this morning at ten."
That was a wonderful breakfast.  It is unusual to begin the day with
cold apple pie, but the children all said they would rather have it
than meat.
"You see it's more like dinner than breakfast to us," said Peter,
passing his plate for more, "because we were up so early."
The day passed in helping Mother to unpack and arrange things.  Six
small legs quite ached with running about while their owners carried
clothes and crockery and all sorts of things to their proper places.
It was not till quite late in the afternoon that Mother said:--
"There!  That'll do for to-day.  I'll lie down for an hour, so as to
be as fresh as a lark by supper-time."
Then they all looked at each other.  Each of the three expressive
countenances expressed the same thought.  That thought was double,
and consisted, like the bits of information in the Child's Guide to
Knowledge, of a question and an answer.
Q. Where shall we go?
A. To the railway.
So to the railway they went, and as soon as they started for the
railway they saw where the garden had hidden itself.  It was right
behind the stables, and it had a high wall all round.
"Oh, never mind about the garden now!" cried Peter.  "Mother told me
this morning where it was.  It'll keep till to-morrow.  Let's get to
the railway."
The way to the railway was all down hill over smooth, short turf
with here and there furze bushes and grey and yellow rocks sticking
out like candied peel from the top of a cake.
The way ended in a steep run and a wooden fence--and there was the
railway with the shining metals and the telegraph wires and posts
and signals.
They all climbed on to the top of the fence, and then suddenly there
was a rumbling sound that made them look along the line to the
right, where the dark mouth of a tunnel opened itself in the face of
a rocky cliff; next moment a train had rushed out of the tunnel with
a shriek and a snort, and had slid noisily past them.  They felt the
rush of its passing, and the pebbles on the line jumped and rattled
under it as it went by.
"Oh!" said Roberta, drawing a long breath; "it was like a great
dragon tearing by.  Did you feel it fan us with its hot wings?"
"I suppose a dragon's lair might look very like that tunnel from the
outside," said Phyllis.
But Peter said:--
"I never thought we should ever get as near to a train as this.
It's the most ripping sport!"
"Better than toy-engines, isn't it?" said Roberta.
(I am tired of calling Roberta by her name.  I don't see why I
should.  No one else did.  Everyone else called her Bobbie, and I
don't see why I shouldn't.)
"I don't know; it's different," said Peter.  "It seems so odd to see
ALL of a train.  It's awfully tall, isn't it?"
"We've always seen them cut in half by platforms," said Phyllis.
"I wonder if that train was going to London," Bobbie said.
"London's where Father is."
"Let's go down to the station and find out," said Peter.
So they went.
They walked along the edge of the line, and heard the telegraph
wires humming over their heads.  When you are in the train, it seems
such a little way between post and post, and one after another the
posts seem to catch up the wires almost more quickly than you can
count them.  But when you have to walk, the posts seem few and far
But the children got to the station at last.
Never before had any of them been at a station, except for the
purpose of catching trains--or perhaps waiting for them--and always
with grown-ups in attendance, grown-ups who were not themselves
interested in stations, except as places from which they wished to
get away.
Never before had they passed close enough to a signal-box to be able
to notice the wires, and to hear the mysterious 'ping, ping,'
followed by the strong, firm clicking of machinery.
The very sleepers on which the rails lay were a delightful path to
travel by--just far enough apart to serve as the stepping-stones in
a game of foaming torrents hastily organised by Bobbie.
Then to arrive at the station, not through the booking office, but
in a freebooting sort of way by the sloping end of the platform.
This in itself was joy.
Joy, too, it was to peep into the porters' room, where the lamps
are, and the Railway almanac on the wall, and one porter half asleep
behind a paper.
There were a great many crossing lines at the station; some of them
just ran into a yard and stopped short, as though they were tired of
business and meant to retire for good.  Trucks stood on the rails
here, and on one side was a great heap of coal--not a loose heap,
such as you see in your coal cellar, but a sort of solid building of
coals with large square blocks of coal outside used just as though
they were bricks, and built up till the heap looked like the picture
of the Cities of the Plain in 'Bible Stories for Infants.'  There
was a line of whitewash near the top of the coaly wall.
When presently the Porter lounged out of his room at the twice-
repeated tingling thrill of a gong over the station door, Peter
said,  "How do you do?" in his best manner, and hastened to ask what
the white mark was on the coal for.
"To mark how much coal there be," said the Porter, "so as we'll know
if anyone nicks it.  So don't you go off with none in your pockets,
young gentleman!"
This seemed, at the time but a merry jest, and Peter felt at once
that the Porter was a friendly sort with no nonsense about him.  But
later the words came back to Peter with a new meaning.
Have you ever gone into a farmhouse kitchen on a baking day, and
seen the great crock of dough set by the fire to rise?  If you have,
and if you were at that time still young enough to be interested in
everything you saw, you will remember that you found yourself quite
unable to resist the temptation to poke your finger into the soft
round of dough that curved inside the pan like a giant mushroom.
And you will remember that your finger made a dent in the dough, and
that slowly, but quite surely, the dent disappeared, and the dough
looked quite the same as it did before you touched it.  Unless, of
course, your hand was extra dirty, in which case, naturally, there
would be a little black mark.
Well, it was just like that with the sorrow the children had felt at
Father's going away, and at Mother's being so unhappy.  It made a
deep impression, but the impression did not last long.
They soon got used to being without Father, though they did not
forget him; and they got used to not going to school, and to seeing
very little of Mother, who was now almost all day shut up in her
upstairs room writing, writing, writing.  She used to come down at
tea-time and read aloud the stories she had written.  They were
lovely stories.
The rocks and hills and valleys and trees, the canal, and above all,
the railway, were so new and so perfectly pleasing that the
remembrance of the old life in the villa grew to seem almost like a
Mother had told them more than once that they were 'quite poor now,'
but this did not seem to be anything but a way of speaking.  Grown-
up people, even Mothers, often make remarks that don't seem to mean
anything in particular, just for the sake of saying something,
seemingly.  There was always enough to eat, and they wore the same
kind of nice clothes they had always worn.
But in June came three wet days; the rain came down, straight as
lances, and it was very, very cold.  Nobody could go out, and
everybody shivered.  They all went up to the door of Mother's room
and knocked.
"Well, what is it?" asked Mother from inside.
"Mother," said Bobbie, "mayn't I light a fire?  I do know how."
And Mother said:  "No, my ducky-love.  We mustn't have fires in
June--coal is so dear.  If you're cold, go and have a good romp in
the attic.  That'll warm you."
"But, Mother, it only takes such a very little coal to make a fire."
"It's more than we can afford, chickeny-love," said Mother,
cheerfully.  "Now run away, there's darlings--I'm madly busy!"
"Mother's always busy now," said Phyllis, in a whisper to Peter.
Peter did not answer.  He shrugged his shoulders.  He was thinking.
Thought, however, could not long keep itself from the suitable
furnishing of a bandit's lair in the attic.  Peter was the bandit,
of course.  Bobbie was his lieutenant, his band of trusty robbers,
and, in due course, the parent of Phyllis, who was the captured
maiden for whom a magnificent ransom--in horse-beans--was
unhesitatingly paid.
They all went down to tea flushed and joyous as any mountain
But when Phyllis was going to add jam to her bread and butter,
Mother said:--
"Jam OR butter, dear--not jam AND butter.  We can't afford that sort
of reckless luxury nowadays."
Phyllis finished the slice of bread and butter in silence, and
followed it up by bread and jam.  Peter mingled thought and weak
After tea they went back to the attic and he said to his sisters:--
"I have an idea."
"What's that?" they asked politely.
"I shan't tell you," was Peter's unexpected rejoinder.
"Oh, very well," said Bobbie; and Phil said, "Don't, then."
"Girls," said Peter, "are always so hasty tempered."
"I should like to know what boys are?" said Bobbie, with fine
disdain.  "I don't want to know about your silly ideas."
"You'll know some day," said Peter, keeping his own temper by what
looked exactly like a miracle; "if you hadn't been so keen on a row,
I might have told you about it being only noble-heartedness that
made me not tell you my idea.  But now I shan't tell you anything at
all about it--so there!"
And it was, indeed, some time before he could be induced to say
anything, and when he did it wasn't much.  He said:--
"The only reason why I won't tell you my idea that I'm going to do
is because it MAY be wrong, and I don't want to drag you into it."
"Don't you do it if it's wrong, Peter," said Bobbie; "let me do it."
But Phyllis said:--
"_I_ should like to do wrong if YOU'RE going to!"
"No," said Peter, rather touched by this devotion; "it's a forlorn
hope, and I'm going to lead it.  All I ask is that if Mother asks
where I am, you won't blab."
"We haven't got anything TO blab," said Bobbie, indignantly.
"Oh, yes, you have!" said Peter, dropping horse-beans through his
fingers.  "I've trusted you to the death.  You know I'm going to do
a lone adventure--and some people might think it wrong--I don't.
And if Mother asks where I am, say I'm playing at mines."
"What sort of mines?"
"You just say mines."
"You might tell US, Pete."
"Well, then, COAL-mines.  But don't you let the word pass your lips
on pain of torture."
"You needn't threaten," said Bobbie, "and I do think you might let
us help."
"If I find a coal-mine, you shall help cart the coal," Peter
condescended to promise.
"Keep your secret if you like," said Phyllis.
"Keep it if you CAN," said Bobbie.
"I'll keep it, right enough," said Peter.
Between tea and supper there is an interval even in the most
greedily regulated families.  At this time Mother was usually
writing, and Mrs. Viney had gone home.
Two nights after the dawning of Peter's idea he beckoned the girls
mysteriously at the twilight hour.
"Come hither with me," he said, "and bring the Roman Chariot."
The Roman Chariot was a very old perambulator that had spent years
of retirement in the loft over the coach-house.  The children had
oiled its works till it glided noiseless as a pneumatic bicycle, and
answered to the helm as it had probably done in its best days.
"Follow your dauntless leader," said Peter, and led the way down the
hill towards the station.
Just above the station many rocks have pushed their heads out
through the turf as though they, like the children, were interested
in the railway.
In a little hollow between three rocks lay a heap of dried brambles
and heather.
Peter halted, turned over the brushwood with a well-scarred boot,
and said:--
"Here's the first coal from the St. Peter's Mine.  We'll take it
home in the chariot.  Punctuality and despatch.  All orders
carefully attended to.  Any shaped lump cut to suit regular
The chariot was packed full of coal.  And when it was packed it had
to be unpacked again because it was so heavy that it couldn't be got
up the hill by the three children, not even when Peter harnessed
himself to the handle with his braces, and firmly grasping his
waistband in one hand pulled while the girls pushed behind.
Three journeys had to be made before the coal from Peter's mine was
added to the heap of Mother's coal in the cellar.
Afterwards Peter went out alone, and came back very black and
"I've been to my coal-mine," he said; "to-morrow evening we'll bring
home the black diamonds in the chariot."
It was a week later that Mrs. Viney remarked to Mother how well this
last lot of coal was holding out.
The children hugged themselves and each other in complicated
wriggles of silent laughter as they listened on the stairs.  They
had all forgotten by now that there had ever been any doubt in
Peter's mind as to whether coal-mining was wrong.
But there came a dreadful night when the Station Master put on a
pair of old sand shoes that he had worn at the seaside in his summer
holiday, and crept out very quietly to the yard where the Sodom and
Gomorrah heap of coal was, with the whitewashed line round it.  He
crept out there, and he waited like a cat by a mousehole.  On the
top of the heap something small and dark was scrabbling and rattling
furtively among the coal.
The Station Master concealed himself in the shadow of a brake-van
that had a little tin chimney and was labelled:--
     G. N. and S. R.
    Return at once to
  White Heather Sidings
and in this concealment he lurked till the small thing on the top of
the heap ceased to scrabble and rattle, came to the edge of the
heap, cautiously let itself down, and lifted something after it.
Then the arm of the Station Master was raised, the hand of the
Station Master fell on a collar, and there was Peter firmly held by
the jacket, with an old carpenter's bag full of coal in his
trembling clutch.
"So I've caught you at last, have I, you young thief?" said the
Station Master.
"I'm not a thief," said Peter, as firmly as he could.  "I'm a coal-
"Tell that to the Marines," said the Station Master.
"It would be just as true whoever I told it to," said Peter.
"You're right there," said the man, who held him.  "Stow your jaw,
you young rip, and come along to the station."
"Oh, no," cried in the darkness an agonised voice that was not
"Not the POLICE station!" said another voice from the darkness.
"Not yet," said the Station Master.  "The Railway Station first.
Why, it's a regular gang.  Any more of you?"
"Only us," said Bobbie and Phyllis, coming out of the shadow of
another truck labelled Staveley Colliery, and bearing on it the
legend in white chalk:  'Wanted in No. 1 Road.'
"What do you mean by spying on a fellow like this?" said Peter,
"Time someone did spy on you, _I_ think," said the Station Master.
"Come along to the station."
"Oh, DON'T!" said Bobbie.  "Can't you decide NOW what you'll do to
us?  It's our fault just as much as Peter's.  We helped to carry the
coal away--and we knew where he got it."
"No, you didn't," said Peter.
"Yes, we did," said Bobbie.  "We knew all the time.  We only
pretended we didn't just to humour you."
Peter's cup was full.  He had mined for coal, he had struck coal, he
had been caught, and now he learned that his sisters had 'humoured'
"Don't hold me!" he said.  "I won't run away."
The Station Master loosed Peter's collar, struck a match and looked
at them by its flickering light.
"Why," said he, "you're the children from the Three Chimneys up
yonder.  So nicely dressed, too.  Tell me now, what made you do such
a thing?  Haven't you ever been to church or learned your catechism
or anything, not to know it's wicked to steal?"  He spoke much more
gently now, and Peter said:--
"I didn't think it was stealing.  I was almost sure it wasn't.  I
thought if I took it from the outside part of the heap, perhaps it
would be.  But in the middle I thought I could fairly count it only
mining.  It'll take thousands of years for you to burn up all that
coal and get to the middle parts."
"Not quite.  But did you do it for a lark or what?"
"Not much lark carting that beastly heavy stuff up the hill," said
Peter, indignantly.
"Then why did you?"  The Station Master's voice was so much kinder
now that Peter replied:--
"You know that wet day?  Well, Mother said we were too poor to have
a fire.  We always had fires when it was cold at our other house,
"DON'T!" interrupted Bobbie, in a whisper.
"Well," said the Station Master, rubbing his chin thoughtfully,
"I'll tell you what I'll do.  I'll look over it this once.  But you
remember, young gentleman, stealing is stealing, and what's mine
isn't yours, whether you call it mining or whether you don't.  Run
along home."
"Do you mean you aren't going to do anything to us?  Well, you are a
brick," said Peter, with enthusiasm.
"You're a dear," said Bobbie.
"You're a darling," said Phyllis.
"That's all right," said the Station Master.
And on this they parted.
"Don't speak to me," said Peter, as the three went up the hill.
"You're spies and traitors--that's what you are."
But the girls were too glad to have Peter between them, safe and
free, and on the way to Three Chimneys and not to the Police
Station, to mind much what he said.
"We DID say it was us as much as you," said Bobbie, gently.
"Well--and it wasn't."
"It would have come to the same thing in Courts with judges," said
Phyllis.  "Don't be snarky, Peter.  It isn't our fault your secrets
are so jolly easy to find out."  She took his arm, and he let her.
"There's an awful lot of coal in the cellar, anyhow," he went on.
"Oh, don't!" said Bobbie.  "I don't think we ought to be glad about
"I don't know," said Peter, plucking up a spirit.  "I'm not at all
sure, even now, that mining is a crime."
But the girls were quite sure.  And they were also quite sure that
he was quite sure, however little he cared to own it.

Chapter III. The old gentleman.
After the adventure of Peter's Coal-mine, it seemed well to the
children to keep away from the station--but they did not, they could
not, keep away from the railway.  They had lived all their lives in
a street where cabs and omnibuses rumbled by at all hours, and the
carts of butchers and bakers and candlestick makers (I never saw a
candlestick-maker's cart; did you?) might occur at any moment.  Here
in the deep silence of the sleeping country the only things that
went by were the trains.  They seemed to be all that was left to
link the children to the old life that had once been theirs.
Straight down the hill in front of Three Chimneys the daily passage
of their six feet began to mark a path across the crisp, short turf.
They began to know the hours when certain trains passed, and they
gave names to them.  The 9.15 up was called the Green Dragon.  The
10.7 down was the Worm of Wantley.  The midnight town express, whose
shrieking rush they sometimes woke from their dreams to hear, was
the Fearsome Fly-by-night.  Peter got up once, in chill starshine,
and, peeping at it through his curtains, named it on the spot.
It was by the Green Dragon that the old gentleman travelled.  He was
a very nice-looking old gentleman, and he looked as if he were nice,
too, which is not at all the same thing.  He had a fresh-coloured,
clean-shaven face and white hair, and he wore rather odd-shaped
collars and a top-hat that wasn't exactly the same kind as other
people's.  Of course the children didn't see all this at first.  In
fact the first thing they noticed about the old gentleman was his
It was one morning as they sat on the fence waiting for the Green
Dragon, which was three and a quarter minutes late by Peter's
Waterbury watch that he had had given him on his last birthday.
"The Green Dragon's going where Father is," said Phyllis; "if it
were a really real dragon, we could stop it and ask it to take our
love to Father."
"Dragons don't carry people's love," said Peter; "they'd be above
"Yes, they do, if you tame them thoroughly first.  They fetch and
carry like pet spaniels," said Phyllis, "and feed out of your hand.
I wonder why Father never writes to us."
"Mother says he's been too busy," said Bobbie; "but he'll write
soon, she says."
"I say," Phyllis suggested, "let's all wave to the Green Dragon as
it goes by.  If it's a magic dragon, it'll understand and take our
loves to Father.  And if it isn't, three waves aren't much.  We
shall never miss them."
So when the Green Dragon tore shrieking out of the mouth of its dark
lair, which was the tunnel, all three children stood on the railing
and waved their pocket-handkerchiefs without stopping to think
whether they were clean handkerchiefs or the reverse.  They were, as
a matter of fact, very much the reverse.
And out of a first-class carriage a hand waved back.  A quite clean
hand.  It held a newspaper.  It was the old gentleman's hand.
After this it became the custom for waves to be exchanged between
the children and the 9.15.
And the children, especially the girls, liked to think that perhaps
the old gentleman knew Father, and would meet him 'in business,'
wherever that shady retreat might be, and tell him how his three
children stood on a rail far away in the green country and waved
their love to him every morning, wet or fine.
For they were now able to go out in all sorts of weather such as
they would never have been allowed to go out in when they lived in
their villa house.  This was Aunt Emma's doing, and the children
felt more and more that they had not been quite fair to this
unattractive aunt, when they found how useful were the long gaiters
and waterproof coats that they had laughed at her for buying for
Mother, all this time, was very busy with her writing.  She used to
send off a good many long blue envelopes with stories in them--and
large envelopes of different sizes and colours used to come to her.
Sometimes she would sigh when she opened them and say:--
"Another story come home to roost.  Oh, dear, Oh, dear!" and then
the children would be very sorry.
But sometimes she would wave the envelope in the air and say:--
"Hooray, hooray.  Here's a sensible Editor.  He's taken my story and
this is the proof of it."
At first the children thought 'the Proof' meant the letter the
sensible Editor had written, but they presently got to know that the
proof was long slips of paper with the story printed on them.
Whenever an Editor was sensible there were buns for tea.
One day Peter was going down to the village to get buns to celebrate
the sensibleness of the Editor of the Children's Globe, when he met
the Station Master.
Peter felt very uncomfortable, for he had now had time to think over
the affair of the coal-mine.  He did not like to say "Good morning"
to the Station Master, as you usually do to anyone you meet on a
lonely road, because he had a hot feeling, which spread even to his
ears, that the Station Master might not care to speak to a person
who had stolen coals.  'Stolen' is a nasty word, but Peter felt it
was the right one.  So he looked down, and said Nothing.
It was the Station Master who said "Good morning" as he passed by.
And Peter answered, "Good morning."  Then he thought:--
"Perhaps he doesn't know who I am by daylight, or he wouldn't be so
And he did not like the feeling which thinking this gave him.  And
then before he knew what he was going to do he ran after the Station
Master, who stopped when he heard Peter's hasty boots crunching the
road, and coming up with him very breathless and with his ears now
quite magenta-coloured, he said:--
"I don't want you to be polite to me if you don't know me when you
see me."
"Eh?" said the Station Master.
"I thought perhaps you didn't know it was me that took the coals,"
Peter went on, "when you said 'Good morning.'  But it was, and I'm
sorry.  There."
"Why," said the Station Master, "I wasn't thinking anything at all
about the precious coals.  Let bygones be bygones.  And where were
you off to in such a hurry?"
"I'm going to buy buns for tea," said Peter.
"I thought you were all so poor," said the Station Master.
"So we are," said Peter, confidentially, "but we always have three
pennyworth of halfpennies for tea whenever Mother sells a story or a
poem or anything."
"Oh," said the Station Master, "so your Mother writes stories, does
"The beautifulest you ever read," said Peter.
"You ought to be very proud to have such a clever Mother."
"Yes," said Peter, "but she used to play with us more before she had
to be so clever."
"Well," said the Station Master, "I must be getting along.  You give
us a look in at the Station whenever you feel so inclined.  And as
to coals, it's a word that--well--oh, no, we never mention it, eh?"
"Thank you," said Peter.  "I'm very glad it's all straightened out
between us."  And he went on across the canal bridge to the village
to get the buns, feeling more comfortable in his mind than he had
felt since the hand of the Station Master had fastened on his collar
that night among the coals.
Next day when they had sent the threefold wave of greeting to Father
by the Green Dragon, and the old gentleman had waved back as usual,
Peter proudly led the way to the station.
"But ought we?" said Bobbie.
"After the coals, she means," Phyllis explained.
"I met the Station Master yesterday," said Peter, in an offhand way,
and he pretended not to hear what Phyllis had said; "he
expresspecially invited us to go down any time we liked."
"After the coals?" repeated Phyllis.  "Stop a minute--my bootlace is
undone again."
"It always IS undone again," said Peter, "and the Station Master was
more of a gentleman than you'll ever be, Phil--throwing coal at a
chap's head like that."
Phyllis did up her bootlace and went on in silence, but her
shoulders shook, and presently a fat tear fell off her nose and
splashed on the metal of the railway line.  Bobbie saw it.
"Why, what's the matter, darling?" she said, stopping short and
putting her arm round the heaving shoulders.
"He called me un-un-ungentlemanly," sobbed Phyllis.  "I didn't never
call him unladylike, not even when he tied my Clorinda to the
firewood bundle and burned her at the stake for a martyr."
Peter had indeed perpetrated this outrage a year or two before.
"Well, you began, you know," said Bobbie, honestly, "about coals and
all that.  Don't you think you'd better both unsay everything since
the wave, and let honour be satisfied?"
"I will if Peter will," said Phyllis, sniffling.
"All right," said Peter; "honour is satisfied.  Here, use my hankie,
Phil, for goodness' sake, if you've lost yours as usual.  I wonder
what you do with them."
"You had my last one," said Phyllis, indignantly, "to tie up the
rabbit-hutch door with.  But you're very ungrateful.  It's quite
right what it says in the poetry book about sharper than a serpent
it is to have a toothless child--but it means ungrateful when it
says toothless.  Miss Lowe told me so."
"All right," said Peter, impatiently, "I'm sorry.  THERE!  Now will
you come on?"
They reached the station and spent a joyous two hours with the
Porter.  He was a worthy man and seemed never tired of answering the
questions that begin with "Why--" which many people in higher ranks
of life often seem weary of.
He told them many things that they had not known before--as, for
instance, that the things that hook carriages together are called
couplings, and that the pipes like great serpents that hang over the
couplings are meant to stop the train with.
"If you could get a holt of one o' them when the train is going and
pull 'em apart," said he, "she'd stop dead off with a jerk."
"Who's she?" said Phyllis.
"The train, of course," said the Porter.  After that the train was
never again 'It' to the children.
"And you know the thing in the carriages where it says on it, 'Five
pounds' fine for improper use.'  If you was to improperly use that,
the train 'ud stop."
"And if you used it properly?" said Roberta.
"It 'ud stop just the same, I suppose," said he, "but it isn't
proper use unless you're being murdered.  There was an old lady
once--someone kidded her on it was a refreshment-room bell, and she
used it improper, not being in danger of her life, though hungry,
and when the train stopped and the guard came along expecting to
find someone weltering in their last moments, she says, "Oh, please,
Mister, I'll take a glass of stout and a bath bun," she says.  And
the train was seven minutes behind her time as it was."
"What did the guard say to the old lady?"
"_I_ dunno," replied the Porter, "but I lay she didn't forget it in
a hurry, whatever it was."
In such delightful conversation the time went by all too quickly.
The Station Master came out once or twice from that sacred inner
temple behind the place where the hole is that they sell you tickets
through, and was most jolly with them all.
"Just as if coal had never been discovered," Phyllis whispered to
her sister.
He gave them each an orange, and promised to take them up into the
signal-box one of these days, when he wasn't so busy.
Several trains went through the station, and Peter noticed for the
first time that engines have numbers on them, like cabs.
"Yes," said the Porter, "I knowed a young gent as used to take down
the numbers of every single one he seed; in a green note-book with
silver corners it was, owing to his father being very well-to-do in
the wholesale stationery."
Peter felt that he could take down numbers, too, even if he was not
the son of a wholesale stationer.  As he did not happen to have a
green leather note-book with silver corners, the Porter gave him a
yellow envelope and on it he noted:--
and felt that this was the beginning of what would be a most
interesting collection.
That night at tea he asked Mother if she had a green leather note-
book with silver corners.  She had not; but when she heard what he
wanted it for she gave him a little black one.
"It has a few pages torn out," said she; "but it will hold quite a
lot of numbers, and when it's full I'll give you another.  I'm so
glad you like the railway.  Only, please, you mustn't walk on the
"Not if we face the way the train's coming?" asked Peter, after a
gloomy pause, in which glances of despair were exchanged.
"No--really not," said Mother.
Then Phyllis said, "Mother, didn't YOU ever walk on the railway
lines when you were little?"
Mother was an honest and honourable Mother, so she had to say,
"Well, then," said Phyllis.
"But, darlings, you don't know how fond I am of you.  What should I
do if you got hurt?"
"Are you fonder of us than Granny was of you when you were little?"
Phyllis asked.  Bobbie made signs to her to stop, but Phyllis never
did see signs, no matter how plain they might be.
Mother did not answer for a minute.  She got up to put more water in
the teapot.
"No one," she said at last, "ever loved anyone more than my mother
loved me."
Then she was quiet again, and Bobbie kicked Phyllis hard under the
table, because Bobbie understood a little bit the thoughts that were
making Mother so quiet--the thoughts of the time when Mother was a
little girl and was all the world to HER mother.  It seems so easy
and natural to run to Mother when one is in trouble.  Bobbie
understood a little how people do not leave off running to their
mothers when they are in trouble even when they are grown up, and
she thought she knew a little what it must be to be sad, and have no
mother to run to any more.
So she kicked Phyllis, who said:--
"What are you kicking me like that for, Bob?"
And then Mother laughed a little and sighed and said:--
"Very well, then.  Only let me be sure you do know which way the
trains come--and don't walk on the line near the tunnel or near
"Trains keep to the left like carriages," said Peter, "so if we keep
to the right, we're bound to see them coming."
"Very well," said Mother, and I dare say you think that she ought
not to have said it.  But she remembered about when she was a little
girl herself, and she did say it--and neither her own children nor
you nor any other children in the world could ever understand
exactly what it cost her to do it.  Only some few of you, like
Bobbie, may understand a very little bit.
It was the very next day that Mother had to stay in bed because her
head ached so.  Her hands were burning hot, and she would not eat
anything, and her throat was very sore.
"If I was you, Mum," said Mrs. Viney, "I should take and send for
the doctor.  There's a lot of catchy complaints a-going about just
now.  My sister's eldest--she took a chill and it went to her
inside, two years ago come Christmas, and she's never been the same
gell since."
Mother wouldn't at first, but in the evening she felt so much worse
that Peter was sent to the house in the village that had three
laburnum trees by the gate, and on the gate a brass plate with W. W.
Forrest, M.D., on it.
W. W. Forrest, M.D., came at once.  He talked to Peter on the way
back.  He seemed a most charming and sensible man, interested in
railways, and rabbits, and really important things.
When he had seen Mother, he said it was influenza.
"Now, Lady Grave-airs," he said in the hall to Bobbie, "I suppose
you'll want to be head-nurse."
"Of course," said she.
"Well, then, I'll send down some medicine.  Keep up a good fire.
Have some strong beef tea made ready to give her as soon as the
fever goes down.  She can have grapes now, and beef essence--and
soda-water and milk, and you'd better get in a bottle of brandy.
The best brandy.  Cheap brandy is worse than poison."
She asked him to write it all down, and he did.
When Bobbie showed Mother the list he had written, Mother laughed.
It WAS a laugh, Bobbie decided, though it was rather odd and feeble.
"Nonsense," said Mother, laying in bed with eyes as bright as beads.
"I can't afford all that rubbish.  Tell Mrs. Viney to boil two
pounds of scrag-end of the neck for your dinners to-morrow, and I
can have some of the broth.  Yes, I should like some more water now,
love.  And will you get a basin and sponge my hands?"
Roberta obeyed.  When she had done everything she could to make
Mother less uncomfortable, she went down to the others.  Her cheeks
were very red, her lips set tight, and her eyes almost as bright as
She told them what the Doctor had said, and what Mother had said.
"And now," said she, when she had told all, "there's no one but us
to do anything, and we've got to do it.  I've got the shilling for
the mutton."
"We can do without the beastly mutton," said Peter; "bread and
butter will support life.  People have lived on less on desert
islands many a time."
"Of course," said his sister.  And Mrs. Viney was sent to the
village to get as much brandy and soda-water and beef tea as she
could buy for a shilling.
"But even if we never have anything to eat at all," said Phyllis,
"you can't get all those other things with our dinner money."
"No," said Bobbie, frowning, "we must find out some other way.  Now
THINK, everybody, just as hard as ever you can."
They did think.  And presently they talked.  And later, when Bobbie
had gone up to sit with Mother in case she wanted anything, the
other two were very busy with scissors and a white sheet, and a
paint brush, and the pot of Brunswick black that Mrs. Viney used for
grates and fenders.  They did not manage to do what they wished,
exactly, with the first sheet, so they took another out of the linen
cupboard.  It did not occur to them that they were spoiling good
sheets which cost good money.  They only knew that they were making
a good--but what they were making comes later.
Bobbie's bed had been moved into Mother's room, and several times in
the night she got up to mend the fire, and to give her mother milk
and soda-water.  Mother talked to herself a good deal, but it did
not seem to mean anything.  And once she woke up suddenly and called
out:  "Mamma, mamma!" and Bobbie knew she was calling for Granny,
and that she had forgotten that it was no use calling, because
Granny was dead.
In the early morning Bobbie heard her name and jumped out of bed and
ran to Mother's bedside.
"Oh--ah, yes--I think I was asleep," said Mother.  "My poor little
duck, how tired you'll be--I do hate to give you all this trouble."
"Trouble!" said Bobbie.
"Ah, don't cry, sweet," Mother said; "I shall be all right in a day
or two."
And Bobbie said, "Yes," and tried to smile.
When you are used to ten hours of solid sleep, to get up three or
four times in your sleep-time makes you feel as though you had been
up all night.  Bobbie felt quite stupid and her eyes were sore and
stiff, but she tidied the room, and arranged everything neatly
before the Doctor came.
This was at half-past eight.
"Everything going on all right, little Nurse?" he said at the front
door.  "Did you get the brandy?"
"I've got the brandy," said Bobbie, "in a little flat bottle."
"I didn't see the grapes or the beef tea, though," said he.
"No," said Bobbie, firmly, "but you will to-morrow.  And there's
some beef stewing in the oven for beef tea."
"Who told you to do that?" he asked.
"I noticed what Mother did when Phil had mumps."
"Right," said the Doctor.  "Now you get your old woman to sit with
your mother, and then you eat a good breakfast, and go straight to
bed and sleep till dinner-time.  We can't afford to have the head-
nurse ill."
He was really quite a nice doctor.
When the 9.15 came out of the tunnel that morning the old gentleman
in the first-class carriage put down his newspaper, and got ready to
wave his hand to the three children on the fence.  But this morning
there were not three.  There was only one.  And that was Peter.
Peter was not on the railings either, as usual.  He was standing in
front of them in an attitude like that of a show-man showing off the
animals in a menagerie, or of the kind clergyman when he points with
a wand at the 'Scenes from Palestine,' when there is a magic-lantern
and he is explaining it.
Peter was pointing, too.  And what he was pointing at was a large
white sheet nailed against the fence.  On the sheet there were thick
black letters more than a foot long.
Some of them had run a little, because of Phyllis having put the
Brunswick black on too eagerly, but the words were quite easy to
And this what the old gentleman and several other people in the
train read in the large black letters on the white sheet:--
A good many people did look out at the station and were
disappointed, for they saw nothing unusual.  The old gentleman
looked out, too, and at first he too saw nothing more unusual than
the gravelled platform and the sunshine and the wallflowers and
forget-me-nots in the station borders.  It was only just as the
train was beginning to puff and pull itself together to start again
that he saw Phyllis.  She was quite out of breath with running.
"Oh," she said, "I thought I'd missed you.  My bootlaces would keep
coming down and I fell over them twice.  Here, take it."
She thrust a warm, dampish letter into his hand as the train moved.
He leaned back in his corner and opened the letter.  This is what he
"Dear Mr.  We do not know your name.
Mother is ill and the doctor says to give her the things at the end
of the letter, but she says she can't aford it, and to get mutton
for us and she will have the broth.  We do not know anybody here but
you, because Father is away and we do not know the address.  Father
will pay you, or if he has lost all his money, or anything, Peter
will pay you when he is a man.  We promise it on our honer.  I.O.U.
for all the things Mother wants.
     "sined Peter.
"Will you give the parsel to the Station Master, because of us not
knowing what train you come down by?  Say it is for Peter that was
sorry about the coals and he will know all right.
Then came the list of things the Doctor had ordered.
The old gentleman read it through once, and his eyebrows went up.
He read it twice and smiled a little.  When he had read it thrice,
he put it in his pocket and went on reading The Times.
At about six that evening there was a knock at the back door.  The
three children rushed to open it, and there stood the friendly
Porter, who had told them so many interesting things about railways.
He dumped down a big hamper on the kitchen flags.
"Old gent," he said; "he asked me to fetch it up straight away."
"Thank you very much," said Peter, and then, as the Porter lingered,
he added:--
"I'm most awfully sorry I haven't got twopence to give you like
Father does, but--"
"You drop it if you please," said the Porter, indignantly.  "I
wasn't thinking about no tuppences.  I only wanted to say I was
sorry your Mamma wasn't so well, and to ask how she finds herself
this evening--and I've fetched her along a bit of sweetbrier, very
sweet to smell it is.  Twopence indeed," said he, and produced a
bunch of sweetbrier from his hat, "just like a conjurer," as Phyllis
remarked afterwards.
"Thank you very much," said Peter, "and I beg your pardon about the
"No offence," said the Porter, untruly but politely, and went.
Then the children undid the hamper.  First there was straw, and then
there were fine shavings, and then came all the things they had
asked for, and plenty of them, and then a good many things they had
not asked for; among others peaches and port wine and two chickens,
a cardboard box of big red roses with long stalks, and a tall thin
green bottle of lavender water, and three smaller fatter bottles of
eau-de-Cologne.  There was a letter, too.
"Dear Roberta and Phyllis and Peter," it said; "here are the things
you want.  Your mother will want to know where they came from.  Tell
her they were sent by a friend who heard she was ill.  When she is
well again you must tell her all about it, of course.  And if she
says you ought not to have asked for the things, tell her that I say
you were quite right, and that I hope she will forgive me for taking
the liberty of allowing myself a very great pleasure."
The letter was signed G. P. something that the children couldn't
"I think we WERE right," said Phyllis.
"Right?  Of course we were right," said Bobbie.
"All the same," said Peter, with his hands in his pockets, "I don't
exactly look forward to telling Mother the whole truth about it."
"We're not to do it till she's well," said Bobbie, "and when she's
well we shall be so happy we shan't mind a little fuss like that.
Oh, just look at the roses!  I must take them up to her."
"And the sweetbrier," said Phyllis, sniffing it loudly; "don't
forget the sweetbrier."
"As if I should!" said Roberta.  "Mother told me the other day there
was a thick hedge of it at her mother's house when she was a little

Chapter IV. The engine-burglar.
What was left of the second sheet and the Brunswick black came in
very nicely to make a banner bearing the legend
and this was displayed to the Green Dragon about a fortnight after
the arrival of the wonderful hamper.  The old gentleman saw it, and
waved a cheerful response from the train.  And when this had been
done the children saw that now was the time when they must tell
Mother what they had done when she was ill.  And it did not seem
nearly so easy as they had thought it would be.  But it had to be
done.  And it was done.  Mother was extremely angry.  She was seldom
angry, and now she was angrier than they had ever known her.  This
was horrible.  But it was much worse when she suddenly began to cry.
Crying is catching, I believe, like measles and whooping-cough.  At
any rate, everyone at once found itself taking part in a crying-
Mother stopped first.  She dried her eyes and then she said:--
"I'm sorry I was so angry, darlings, because I know you didn't
"We didn't mean to be naughty, Mammy," sobbed Bobbie, and Peter and
Phyllis sniffed.
"Now, listen," said Mother; "it's quite true that we're poor, but we
have enough to live on.  You mustn't go telling everyone about our
affairs--it's not right.  And you must never, never, never ask
strangers to give you things.  Now always remember that--won't you?"
They all hugged her and rubbed their damp cheeks against hers and
promised that they would.
"And I'll write a letter to your old gentleman, and I shall tell him
that I didn't approve--oh, of course I shall thank him, too, for his
kindness.  It's YOU I don't approve of, my darlings, not the old
gentleman.  He was as kind as ever he could be.  And you can give
the letter to the Station Master to give him--and we won't say any
more about it."
Afterwards, when the children were alone, Bobbie said:--
"Isn't Mother splendid?  You catch any other grown-up saying they
were sorry they had been angry."
"Yes," said Peter, "she IS splendid; but it's rather awful when
she's angry."
"She's like Avenging and Bright in the song," said Phyllis.  "I
should like to look at her if it wasn't so awful.  She looks so
beautiful when she's really downright furious."
They took the letter down to the Station Master.
"I thought you said you hadn't got any friends except in London,"
said he.
"We've made him since," said Peter.
"But he doesn't live hereabouts?"
"No--we just know him on the railway."
Then the Station Master retired to that sacred inner temple behind
the little window where the tickets are sold, and the children went
down to the Porters' room and talked to the Porter.  They learned
several interesting things from him--among others that his name was
Perks, that he was married and had three children, that the lamps in
front of engines are called head-lights and the ones at the back
"And that just shows," whispered Phyllis, "that trains really ARE
dragons in disguise, with proper heads and tails."
It was on this day that the children first noticed that all engines
are not alike.
"Alike?" said the Porter, whose name was Perks, "lor, love you, no,
Miss.  No more alike nor what you an' me are.  That little 'un
without a tender as went by just now all on her own, that was a
tank, that was--she's off to do some shunting t'other side o'
Maidbridge.  That's as it might be you, Miss.  Then there's goods
engines, great, strong things with three wheels each side--joined
with rods to strengthen 'em--as it might be me.  Then there's main-
line engines as it might be this 'ere young gentleman when he grows
up and wins all the races at 'is school--so he will.  The main-line
engine she's built for speed as well as power.  That's one to the
9.15 up."
"The Green Dragon," said Phyllis.
"We calls her the Snail, Miss, among ourselves," said the Porter.
"She's oftener be'ind'and nor any train on the line."
"But the engine's green," said Phyllis.
"Yes, Miss," said Perks, "so's a snail some seasons o' the year."
The children agreed as they went home to dinner that the Porter was
most delightful company.
Next day was Roberta's birthday.  In the afternoon she was politely
but firmly requested to get out of the way and keep there till tea-
"You aren't to see what we're going to do till it's done; it's a
glorious surprise," said Phyllis.
And Roberta went out into the garden all alone.  She tried to be
grateful, but she felt she would much rather have helped in whatever
it was than have to spend her birthday afternoon by herself, no
matter how glorious the surprise might be.
Now that she was alone, she had time to think, and one of the things
she thought of most was what mother had said in one of those
feverish nights when her hands were so hot and her eyes so bright.
The words were:  "Oh, what a doctor's bill there'll be for this!"
She walked round and round the garden among the rose-bushes that
hadn't any roses yet, only buds, and the lilac bushes and syringas
and American currants, and the more she thought of the doctor's
bill, the less she liked the thought of it.
And presently she made up her mind.  She went out through the side
door of the garden and climbed up the steep field to where the road
runs along by the canal.  She walked along until she came to the
bridge that crosses the canal and leads to the village, and here she
waited.  It was very pleasant in the sunshine to lean one's elbows
on the warm stone of the bridge and look down at the blue water of
the canal.  Bobbie had never seen any other canal, except the
Regent's Canal, and the water of that is not at all a pretty colour.
And she had never seen any river at all except the Thames, which
also would be all the better if its face was washed.
Perhaps the children would have loved the canal as much as the
railway, but for two things.  One was that they had found the
railway FIRST--on that first, wonderful morning when the house and
the country and the moors and rocks and great hills were all new to
them.  They had not found the canal till some days later.  The other
reason was that everyone on the railway had been kind to them--the
Station Master, the Porter, and the old gentleman who waved.  And
the people on the canal were anything but kind.
The people on the canal were, of course, the bargees, who steered
the slow barges up and down, or walked beside the old horses that
trampled up the mud of the towing-path, and strained at the long
Peter had once asked one of the bargees the time, and had been told
to "get out of that," in a tone so fierce that he did not stop to
say anything about his having just as much right on the towing-path
as the man himself.  Indeed, he did not even think of saying it till
some time later.
Then another day when the children thought they would like to fish
in the canal, a boy in a barge threw lumps of coal at them, and one
of these hit Phyllis on the back of the neck.  She was just stooping
down to tie up her bootlace--and though the coal hardly hurt at all
it made her not care very much about going on fishing.
On the bridge, however, Roberta felt quite safe, because she could
look down on the canal, and if any boy showed signs of meaning to
throw coal, she could duck behind the parapet.
Presently there was a sound of wheels, which was just what she
The wheels were the wheels of the Doctor's dogcart, and in the cart,
of course, was the Doctor.
He pulled up, and called out:--
"Hullo, head nurse!  Want a lift?"
"I wanted to see you," said Bobbie.
"Your mother's not worse, I hope?" said the Doctor.
"Well, skip in, then, and we'll go for a drive."
Roberta climbed in and the brown horse was made to turn round--which
it did not like at all, for it was looking forward to its tea--I
mean its oats.
"This IS jolly," said Bobbie, as the dogcart flew along the road by
the canal.
"We could throw a stone down any one of your three chimneys," said
the Doctor, as they passed the house.
"Yes," said Bobbie, "but you'd have to be a jolly good shot."
"How do you know I'm not?" said the Doctor.  "Now, then, what's the
Bobbie fidgeted with the hook of the driving apron.
"Come, out with it," said the Doctor.
"It's rather hard, you see," said Bobbie, "to out with it; because
of what Mother said."
"What DID Mother say?"
"She said I wasn't to go telling everyone that we're poor.  But you
aren't everyone, are you?"
"Not at all," said the Doctor, cheerfully.  "Well?"
"Well, I know doctors are very extravagant--I mean expensive, and
Mrs. Viney told me that her doctoring only cost her twopence a week
because she belonged to a Club."
"You see she told me what a good doctor you were, and I asked her
how she could afford you, because she's much poorer than we are.
I've been in her house and I know.  And then she told me about the
Club, and I thought I'd ask you--and--oh, I don't want Mother to be
worried!  Can't we be in the Club, too, the same as Mrs. Viney?"
The Doctor was silent.  He was rather poor himself, and he had been
pleased at getting a new family to attend.  So I think his feelings
at that minute were rather mixed.
"You aren't cross with me, are you?" said Bobbie, in a very small
The Doctor roused himself.
"Cross?  How could I be?  You're a very sensible little woman.  Now
look here, don't you worry.  I'll make it all right with your
Mother, even if I have to make a special brand-new Club all for her.
Look here, this is where the Aqueduct begins."
"What's an Aque--what's its name?" asked Bobbie.
"A water bridge," said the Doctor.  "Look."
The road rose to a bridge over the canal.  To the left was a steep
rocky cliff with trees and shrubs growing in the cracks of the rock.
And the canal here left off running along the top of the hill and
started to run on a bridge of its own--a great bridge with tall
arches that went right across the valley.
Bobbie drew a long breath.
"It IS grand, isn't it?" she said.  "It's like pictures in the
History of Rome."
"Right!" said the Doctor, "that's just exactly what it IS like.  The
Romans were dead nuts on aqueducts.  It's a splendid piece of
"I thought engineering was making engines."
"Ah, there are different sorts of engineering--making road and
bridges and tunnels is one kind.  And making fortifications is
another.  Well, we must be turning back.  And, remember, you aren't
to worry about doctor's bills or you'll be ill yourself, and then
I'll send you in a bill as long as the aqueduct."
When Bobbie had parted from the Doctor at the top of the field that
ran down from the road to Three Chimneys, she could not feel that
she had done wrong.  She knew that Mother would perhaps think
differently.  But Bobbie felt that for once she was the one who was
right, and she scrambled down the rocky slope with a really happy
Phyllis and Peter met her at the back door.  They were unnaturally
clean and neat, and Phyllis had a red bow in her hair.  There was
only just time for Bobbie to make herself tidy and tie up her hair
with a blue bow before a little bell rang.
"There!" said Phyllis, "that's to show the surprise is ready.  Now
you wait till the bell rings again and then you may come into the
So Bobbie waited.
"Tinkle, tinkle," said the little bell, and Bobbie went into the
dining-room, feeling rather shy.  Directly she opened the door she
found herself, as it seemed, in a new world of light and flowers and
singing.  Mother and Peter and Phyllis were standing in a row at the
end of the table.  The shutters were shut and there were twelve
candles on the table, one for each of Roberta's years.  The table
was covered with a sort of pattern of flowers, and at Roberta's
place was a thick wreath of forget-me-nots and several most
interesting little packages.  And Mother and Phyllis and Peter were
singing--to the first part of the tune of St. Patrick's Day.
Roberta knew that Mother had written the words on purpose for her
birthday.  It was a little way of Mother's on birthdays.  It had
begun on Bobbie's fourth birthday when Phyllis was a baby.  Bobbie
remembered learning the verses to say to Father 'for a surprise.'
She wondered if Mother had remembered, too.  The four-year-old verse
had been:--
     Daddy dear, I'm only four
     And I'd rather not be more.
     Four's the nicest age to be,
     Two and two and one and three.
     What I love is two and two,
     Mother, Peter, Phil, and you.
     What you love is one and three,
     Mother, Peter, Phil, and me.
     Give your little girl a kiss
     Because she learned and told you this.
The song the others were singing now went like this:--
     Our darling Roberta,
     No sorrow shall hurt her
     If we can prevent it
        Her whole life long.
     Her birthday's our fete day,
     We'll make it our great day,
     And give her our presents
        And sing her our song.
     May pleasures attend her
     And may the Fates send her
     The happiest journey
        Along her life's way.
     With skies bright above her
     And dear ones to love her!
     Dear Bob!  Many happy
        Returns of the day!
When they had finished singing they cried, "Three cheers for our
Bobbie!" and gave them very loudly.  Bobbie felt exactly as though
she were going to cry--you know that odd feeling in the bridge of
your nose and the pricking in your eyelids?  But before she had time
to begin they were all kissing and hugging her.
"Now," said Mother, "look at your presents."
They were very nice presents.  There was a green and red needle-book
that Phyllis had made herself in secret moments.  There was a
darling little silver brooch of Mother's shaped like a buttercup,
which Bobbie had known and loved for years, but which she had never,
never thought would come to be her very own.  There was also a pair
of blue glass vases from Mrs. Viney.  Roberta had seen and admired
them in the village shop.  And there were three birthday cards with
pretty pictures and wishes.
Mother fitted the forget-me-not crown on Bobbie's brown head.
"And now look at the table," she said.
There was a cake on the table covered with white sugar, with 'Dear
Bobbie' on it in pink sweets, and there were buns and jam; but the
nicest thing was that the big table was almost covered with flowers-
-wallflowers were laid all round the tea-tray--there was a ring of
forget-me-nots round each plate.  The cake had a wreath of white
lilac round it, and in the middle was something that looked like a
pattern all done with single blooms of lilac or wallflower or
"It's a map--a map of the railway!" cried Peter.  "Look--those lilac
lines are the metals--and there's the station done in brown
wallflowers.  The laburnum is the train, and there are the signal-
boxes, and the road up to here--and those fat red daisies are us
three waving to the old gentleman--that's him, the pansy in the
laburnum train."
"And there's 'Three Chimneys' done in the purple primroses," said
Phyllis.  "And that little tiny rose-bud is Mother looking out for
us when we're late for tea.  Peter invented it all, and we got all
the flowers from the station.  We thought you'd like it better."
"That's my present," said Peter, suddenly dumping down his adored
steam-engine on the table in front of her.  Its tender had been
lined with fresh white paper, and was full of sweets.
"Oh, Peter!" cried Bobbie, quite overcome by this munificence, "not
your own dear little engine that you're so fond of?"
"Oh, no," said Peter, very promptly, "not the engine.  Only the
Bobbie couldn't help her face changing a little--not so much because
she was disappointed at not getting the engine, as because she had
thought it so very noble of Peter, and now she felt she had been
silly to think it.  Also she felt she must have seemed greedy to
expect the engine as well as the sweets.  So her face changed.
Peter saw it.  He hesitated a minute; then his face changed, too,
and he said:  "I mean not ALL the engine.  I'll let you go halves if
you like."
"You're a brick," cried Bobbie; "it's a splendid present."  She said
no more aloud, but to herself she said:--
"That was awfully jolly decent of Peter because I know he didn't
mean to.  Well, the broken half shall be my half of the engine, and
I'll get it mended and give it back to Peter for his birthday."--
"Yes, Mother dear, I should like to cut the cake," she added, and
tea began.
It was a delightful birthday.  After tea Mother played games with
them--any game they liked--and of course their first choice was
blindman's-buff, in the course of which Bobbie's forget-me-not
wreath twisted itself crookedly over one of her ears and stayed
there.  Then, when it was near bed-time and time to calm down,
Mother had a lovely new story to read to them.
"You won't sit up late working, will you, Mother?" Bobbie asked as
they said good night.
And Mother said no, she wouldn't--she would only just write to
Father and then go to bed.
But when Bobbie crept down later to bring up her presents--for she
felt she really could not be separated from them all night--Mother
was not writing, but leaning her head on her arms and her arms on
the table.  I think it was rather good of Bobbie to slip quietly
away, saying over and over, "She doesn't want me to know she's
unhappy, and I won't know; I won't know."  But it made a sad end to
the birthday.
          *          *          *          *          *          *
The very next morning Bobbie began to watch her opportunity to get
Peter's engine mended secretly.  And the opportunity came the very
next afternoon.
Mother went by train to the nearest town to do shopping.  When she
went there, she always went to the Post-office.  Perhaps to post her
letters to Father, for she never gave them to the children or Mrs.
Viney to post, and she never went to the village herself.  Peter and
Phyllis went with her.  Bobbie wanted an excuse not to go, but try
as she would she couldn't think of a good one.  And just when she
felt that all was lost, her frock caught on a big nail by the
kitchen door and there was a great criss-cross tear all along the
front of the skirt.  I assure you this was really an accident.  So
the others pitied her and went without her, for there was no time
for her to change, because they were rather late already and had to
hurry to the station to catch the train.
When they had gone, Bobbie put on her everyday frock, and went down
to the railway.  She did not go into the station, but she went along
the line to the end of the platform where the engine is when the
down train is alongside the platform--the place where there are a
water tank and a long, limp, leather hose, like an elephant's trunk.
She hid behind a bush on the other side of the railway.  She had the
toy engine done up in brown paper, and she waited patiently with it
under her arm.
Then when the next train came in and stopped, Bobbie went across the
metals of the up-line and stood beside the engine.  She had never
been so close to an engine before.  It looked much larger and harder
than she had expected, and it made her feel very small indeed, and,
somehow, very soft--as if she could very, very easily be hurt rather
"I know what silk-worms feel like now," said Bobbie to herself.
The engine-driver and fireman did not see her.  They were leaning
out on the other side, telling the Porter a tale about a dog and a
leg of mutton.
"If you please," said Roberta--but the engine was blowing off steam
and no one heard her.
"If you please, Mr. Engineer," she spoke a little louder, but the
Engine happened to speak at the same moment, and of course Roberta's
soft little voice hadn't a chance.
It seemed to her that the only way would be to climb on to the
engine and pull at their coats.  The step was high, but she got her
knee on it, and clambered into the cab; she stumbled and fell on
hands and knees on the base of the great heap of coals that led up
to the square opening in the tender.  The engine was not above the
weaknesses of its fellows; it was making a great deal more noise
than there was the slightest need for.  And just as Roberta fell on
the coals, the engine-driver, who had turned without seeing her,
started the engine, and when Bobbie had picked herself up, the train
was moving--not fast, but much too fast for her to get off.
All sorts of dreadful thoughts came to her all together in one
horrible flash.  There were such things as express trains that went
on, she supposed, for hundreds of miles without stopping.  Suppose
this should be one of them?  How would she get home again?  She had
no money to pay for the return journey.
"And I've no business here.  I'm an engine-burglar--that's what I
am," she thought.  "I shouldn't wonder if they could lock me up for
this."  And the train was going faster and faster.
There was something in her throat that made it impossible for her to
speak.  She tried twice.  The men had their backs to her.  They were
doing something to things that looked like taps.
Suddenly she put out her hand and caught hold of the nearest sleeve.
The man turned with a start, and he and Roberta stood for a minute
looking at each other in silence.  Then the silence was broken by
them both.
The man said, "Here's a bloomin' go!" and Roberta burst into tears.
The other man said he was blooming well blest--or something like it-
-but though naturally surprised they were not exactly unkind.
"You're a naughty little gell, that's what you are," said the
fireman, and the engine-driver said:--
"Daring little piece, I call her," but they made her sit down on an
iron seat in the cab and told her to stop crying and tell them what
she meant by it.
She did stop, as soon as she could.  One thing that helped her was
the thought that Peter would give almost his ears to be in her
place--on a real engine--really going.  The children had often
wondered whether any engine-driver could be found noble enough to
take them for a ride on an engine--and now there she was.  She dried
her eyes and sniffed earnestly.
"Now, then," said the fireman, "out with it.  What do you mean by
it, eh?"
"Oh, please," sniffed Bobbie.
"Try again," said the engine-driver, encouragingly.
Bobbie tried again.
"Please, Mr. Engineer," she said, "I did call out to you from the
line, but you didn't hear me--and I just climbed up to touch you on
the arm--quite gently I meant to do it--and then I fell into the
coals--and I am so sorry if I frightened you.  Oh, don't be cross--
oh, please don't!"  She sniffed again.
"We ain't so much CROSS," said the fireman, "as interested like.  It
ain't every day a little gell tumbles into our coal bunker outer the
sky, is it, Bill?  What did you DO it for--eh?"
"That's the point," agreed the engine-driver; "what did you do it
Bobbie found that she had not quite stopped crying.  The engine-
driver patted her on the back and said:  "Here, cheer up, Mate.  It
ain't so bad as all that 'ere, I'll be bound."
"I wanted," said Bobbie, much cheered to find herself addressed as
'Mate'--"I only wanted to ask you if you'd be so kind as to mend
this."  She picked up the brown-paper parcel from among the coals
and undid the string with hot, red fingers that trembled.
Her feet and legs felt the scorch of the engine fire, but her
shoulders felt the wild chill rush of the air.  The engine lurched
and shook and rattled, and as they shot under a bridge the engine
seemed to shout in her ears.
The fireman shovelled on coals.
Bobbie unrolled the brown paper and disclosed the toy engine.
"I thought," she said wistfully, "that perhaps you'd mend this for
me--because you're an engineer, you know."
The engine-driver said he was blowed if he wasn't blest.
"I'm blest if I ain't blowed," remarked the fireman.
But the engine-driver took the little engine and looked at it--and
the fireman ceased for an instant to shovel coal, and looked, too.
"It's like your precious cheek," said the engine-driver--"whatever
made you think we'd be bothered tinkering penny toys?"
"I didn't mean it for precious cheek," said Bobbie; "only everybody
that has anything to do with railways is so kind and good, I didn't
think you'd mind.  You don't really--do you?" she added, for she had
seen a not unkindly wink pass between the two.
"My trade's driving of an engine, not mending her, especially such a
hout-size in engines as this 'ere," said Bill.  "An' 'ow are we a-
goin' to get you back to your sorrowing friends and relations, and
all be forgiven and forgotten?"
"If you'll put me down next time you stop," said Bobbie, firmly,
though her heart beat fiercely against her arm as she clasped her
hands, "and lend me the money for a third-class ticket, I'll pay you
back--honour bright.  I'm not a confidence trick like in the
newspapers--really, I'm not."
"You're a little lady, every inch," said Bill, relenting suddenly
and completely.  "We'll see you gets home safe.  An' about this
engine--Jim--ain't you got ne'er a pal as can use a soldering iron?
Seems to me that's about all the little bounder wants doing to it."
"That's what Father said," Bobbie explained eagerly.  "What's that
She pointed to a little brass wheel that he had turned as he spoke.
"That's the injector."
"Injector to fill up the boiler."
"Oh," said Bobbie, mentally registering the fact to tell the others;
"that IS interesting."
"This 'ere's the automatic brake," Bill went on, flattered by her
enthusiasm.  "You just move this 'ere little handle--do it with one
finger, you can--and the train jolly soon stops.  That's what they
call the Power of Science in the newspapers."
He showed her two little dials, like clock faces, and told her how
one showed how much steam was going, and the other showed if the
brake was working properly.
By the time she had seen him shut off steam with a big shining steel
handle, Bobbie knew more about the inside working of an engine than
she had ever thought there was to know, and Jim had promised that
his second cousin's wife's brother should solder the toy engine, or
Jim would know the reason why.  Besides all the knowledge she had
gained Bobbie felt that she and Bill and Jim were now friends for
life, and that they had wholly and forever forgiven her for
stumbling uninvited among the sacred coals of their tender.
At Stacklepoole Junction she parted from them with warm expressions
of mutual regard.  They handed her over to the guard of a returning
train--a friend of theirs--and she had the joy of knowing what
guards do in their secret fastnesses, and understood how, when you
pull the communication cord in railway carriages, a wheel goes round
under the guard's nose and a loud bell rings in his ears.  She asked
the guard why his van smelt so fishy, and learned that he had to
carry a lot of fish every day, and that the wetness in the hollows
of the corrugated floor had all drained out of boxes full of plaice
and cod and mackerel and soles and smelts.
Bobbie got home in time for tea, and she felt as though her mind
would burst with all that had been put into it since she parted from
the others.  How she blessed the nail that had torn her frock!
"Where have you been?" asked the others.
"To the station, of course," said Roberta.  But she would not tell a
word of her adventures till the day appointed, when she mysteriously
led them to the station at the hour of the 3.19's transit, and
proudly introduced them to her friends, Bill and Jim.  Jim's second
cousin's wife's brother had not been unworthy of the sacred trust
reposed in him.  The toy engine was, literally, as good as new.
"Good-bye--oh, good-bye," said Bobbie, just before the engine
screamed ITS good-bye.  "I shall always, always love you--and Jim's
second cousin's wife's brother as well!"
And as the three children went home up the hill, Peter hugging the
engine, now quite its own self again, Bobbie told, with joyous leaps
of the heart, the story of how she had been an Engine-burglar.

Chapter V. Prisoners and captives.
It was one day when Mother had gone to Maidbridge.  She had gone
alone, but the children were to go to the station to meet her.  And,
loving the station as they did, it was only natural that they should
be there a good hour before there was any chance of Mother's train
arriving, even if the train were punctual, which was most unlikely.
No doubt they would have been just as early, even if it had been a
fine day, and all the delights of woods and fields and rocks and
rivers had been open to them.  But it happened to be a very wet day
and, for July, very cold.  There was a wild wind that drove flocks
of dark purple clouds across the sky "like herds of dream-
elephants," as Phyllis said.  And the rain stung sharply, so that
the way to the station was finished at a run.  Then the rain fell
faster and harder, and beat slantwise against the windows of the
booking office and of the chill place that had General Waiting Room
on its door.
"It's like being in a besieged castle," Phyllis said; "look at the
arrows of the foe striking against the battlements!"
"It's much more like a great garden-squirt," said Peter.
They decided to wait on the up side, for the down platform looked
very wet indeed, and the rain was driving right into the little
bleak shelter where down-passengers have to wait for their trains.
The hour would be full of incident and of interest, for there would
be two up trains and one down to look at before the one that should
bring Mother back.
"Perhaps it'll have stopped raining by then," said Bobbie; "anyhow,
I'm glad I brought Mother's waterproof and umbrella."
They went into the desert spot labelled General Waiting Room, and
the time passed pleasantly enough in a game of advertisements.  You
know the game, of course?  It is something like dumb Crambo.  The
players take it in turns to go out, and then come back and look as
like some advertisement as they can, and the others have to guess
what advertisement it is meant to be.  Bobbie came in and sat down
under Mother's umbrella and made a sharp face, and everyone knew she
was the fox who sits under the umbrella in the advertisement.
Phyllis tried to make a Magic Carpet of Mother's waterproof, but it
would not stand out stiff and raft-like as a Magic Carpet should,
and nobody could guess it.  Everyone thought Peter was carrying
things a little too far when he blacked his face all over with coal-
dust and struck a spidery attitude and said he was the blot that
advertises somebody's Blue Black Writing Fluid.
It was Phyllis's turn again, and she was trying to look like the
Sphinx that advertises What's-his-name's Personally Conducted Tours
up the Nile when the sharp ting of the signal announced the up
train.  The children rushed out to see it pass.  On its engine were
the particular driver and fireman who were now numbered among the
children's dearest friends.  Courtesies passed between them.  Jim
asked after the toy engine, and Bobbie pressed on his acceptance a
moist, greasy package of toffee that she had made herself.
Charmed by this attention, the engine-driver consented to consider
her request that some day he would take Peter for a ride on the
"Stand back, Mates," cried the engine-driver, suddenly, "and horf
she goes."
And sure enough, off the train went.  The children watched the tail-
lights of the train till it disappeared round the curve of the line,
and then turned to go back to the dusty freedom of the General
Waiting Room and the joys of the advertisement game.
They expected to see just one or two people, the end of the
procession of passengers who had given up their tickets and gone
away.  Instead, the platform round the door of the station had a
dark blot round it, and the dark blot was a crowd of people.
"Oh!" cried Peter, with a thrill of joyous excitement, "something's
happened!  Come on!"
They ran down the platform.  When they got to the crowd, they could,
of course, see nothing but the damp backs and elbows of the people
on the crowd's outside.  Everybody was talking at once.  It was
evident that something had happened.
"It's my belief he's nothing worse than a natural," said a
farmerish-looking person.  Peter saw his red, clean-shaven face as
he spoke.
"If you ask me, I should say it was a Police Court case," said a
young man with a black bag.
"Not it; the Infirmary more like--"
Then the voice of the Station Master was heard, firm and official:--
"Now, then--move along there.  I'll attend to this, if YOU please."
But the crowd did not move.  And then came a voice that thrilled the
children through and through.  For it spoke in a foreign language.
And, what is more, it was a language that they had never heard.
They had heard French spoken and German.  Aunt Emma knew German, and
used to sing a song about bedeuten and zeiten and bin and sin.  Nor
was it Latin.  Peter had been in Latin for four terms.
It was some comfort, anyhow, to find that none of the crowd
understood the foreign language any better than the children did.
"What's that he's saying?" asked the farmer, heavily.
"Sounds like French to me," said the Station Master, who had once
been to Boulogne for the day.
"It isn't French!" cried Peter.
"What is it, then?" asked more than one voice.  The crowd fell back
a little to see who had spoken, and Peter pressed forward, so that
when the crowd closed up again he was in the front rank.
"I don't know what it is," said Peter, "but it isn't French.  I know
that."  Then he saw what it was that the crowd had for its centre.
It was a man--the man, Peter did not doubt, who had spoken in that
strange tongue.  A man with long hair and wild eyes, with shabby
clothes of a cut Peter had not seen before--a man whose hands and
lips trembled, and who spoke again as his eyes fell on Peter.
"No, it's not French," said Peter.
"Try him with French if you know so much about it," said the farmer-
"Parlay voo Frongsay?" began Peter, boldly, and the next moment the
crowd recoiled again, for the man with the wild eyes had left
leaning against the wall, and had sprung forward and caught Peter's
hands, and begun to pour forth a flood of words which, though he
could not understand a word of them, Peter knew the sound of.
"There!" said he, and turned, his hands still clasped in the hands
of the strange shabby figure, to throw a glance of triumph at the
crowd; "there; THAT'S French."
"What does he say?"
"I don't know."  Peter was obliged to own it.
"Here," said the Station Master again; "you move on if you please.
I'LL deal with this case."
A few of the more timid or less inquisitive travellers moved slowly
and reluctantly away.  And Phyllis and Bobbie got near to Peter.
All three had been TAUGHT French at school.  How deeply they now
wished that they had LEARNED it!  Peter shook his head at the
stranger, but he also shook his hands as warmly and looked at him as
kindly as he could.  A person in the crowd, after some hesitation,
said suddenly, "No comprenny!" and then, blushing deeply, backed out
of the press and went away.
"Take him into your room," whispered Bobbie to the Station Master.
"Mother can talk French.  She'll be here by the next train from
The Station Master took the arm of the stranger, suddenly but not
unkindly.  But the man wrenched his arm away, and cowered back
coughing and trembling and trying to push the Station Master away.
"Oh, don't!" said Bobbie; "don't you see how frightened he is?  He
thinks you're going to shut him up.  I know he does--look at his
"They're like a fox's eyes when the beast's in a trap," said the
"Oh, let me try!" Bobbie went on; "I do really know one or two
French words if I could only think of them."
Sometimes, in moments of great need, we can do wonderful things--
things that in ordinary life we could hardly even dream of doing.
Bobbie had never been anywhere near the top of her French class, but
she must have learned something without knowing it, for now, looking
at those wild, hunted eyes, she actually remembered and, what is
more, spoke, some French words.  She said:--
"Vous attendre.  Ma mere parlez Francais.  Nous--what's the French
for 'being kind'?"
Nobody knew.
"Bong is 'good,'" said Phyllis.
"Nous etre bong pour vous."
I do not know whether the man understood her words, but he
understood the touch of the hand she thrust into his, and the
kindness of the other hand that stroked his shabby sleeve.
She pulled him gently towards the inmost sanctuary of the Station
Master.  The other children followed, and the Station Master shut
the door in the face of the crowd, which stood a little while in the
booking office talking and looking at the fast closed yellow door,
and then by ones and twos went its way, grumbling.
Inside the Station Master's room Bobbie still held the stranger's
hand and stroked his sleeve.
"Here's a go," said the Station Master; "no ticket--doesn't even
know where he wants to go.  I'm not sure now but what I ought to
send for the police."
"Oh, DON'T!" all the children pleaded at once.  And suddenly Bobbie
got between the others and the stranger, for she had seen that he
was crying.
By a most unusual piece of good fortune she had a handkerchief in
her pocket.  By a still more uncommon accident the handkerchief was
moderately clean.  Standing in front of the stranger, she got out
the handkerchief and passed it to him so that the others did not
"Wait till Mother comes," Phyllis was saying; "she does speak French
beautifully.  You'd just love to hear her."
"I'm sure he hasn't done anything like you're sent to prison for,"
said Peter.
"Looks like without visible means to me," said the Station Master.
"Well, I don't mind giving him the benefit of the doubt till your
Mamma comes.  I SHOULD like to know what nation's got the credit of
HIM, that I should."
Then Peter had an idea.  He pulled an envelope out of his pocket,
and showed that it was half full of foreign stamps.
"Look here," he said, "let's show him these--"
Bobbie looked and saw that the stranger had dried his eyes with her
handkerchief.  So she said:  "All right."
They showed him an Italian stamp, and pointed from him to it and
back again, and made signs of question with their eyebrows.  He
shook his head.  Then they showed him a Norwegian stamp--the common
blue kind it was--and again he signed No.  Then they showed him a
Spanish one, and at that he took the envelope from Peter's hand and
searched among the stamps with a hand that trembled.  The hand that
he reached out at last, with a gesture as of one answering a
question, contained a RUSSIAN stamp.
"He's Russian," cried Peter, "or else he's like 'the man who was'--
in Kipling, you know."
The train from Maidbridge was signalled.
"I'll stay with him till you bring Mother in," said Bobbie.
"You're not afraid, Missie?"
"Oh, no," said Bobbie, looking at the stranger, as she might have
looked at a strange dog of doubtful temper.  "You wouldn't hurt me,
would you?"
She smiled at him, and he smiled back, a queer crooked smile.  And
then he coughed again.  And the heavy rattling swish of the incoming
train swept past, and the Station Master and Peter and Phyllis went
out to meet it.  Bobbie was still holding the stranger's hand when
they came back with Mother.
The Russian rose and bowed very ceremoniously.
Then Mother spoke in French, and he replied, haltingly at first, but
presently in longer and longer sentences.
The children, watching his face and Mother's, knew that he was
telling her things that made her angry and pitying, and sorry and
indignant all at once.
"Well, Mum, what's it all about?"  The Station Master could not
restrain his curiosity any longer.
"Oh," said Mother, "it's all right.  He's a Russian, and he's lost
his ticket.  And I'm afraid he's very ill.  If you don't mind, I'll
take him home with me now.  He's really quite worn out.  I'll run
down and tell you all about him to-morrow."
"I hope you won't find you're taking home a frozen viper," said the
Station Master, doubtfully.
"Oh, no," Mother said brightly, and she smiled; "I'm quite sure I'm
not.  Why, he's a great man in his own country, writes books--
beautiful books--I've read some of them; but I'll tell you all about
it to-morrow."
She spoke again in French to the Russian, and everyone could see the
surprise and pleasure and gratitude in his eyes.  He got up and
politely bowed to the Station Master, and offered his arm most
ceremoniously to Mother.  She took it, but anybody could have seen
that she was helping him along, and not he her.
"You girls run home and light a fire in the sitting-room," Mother
said, "and Peter had better go for the Doctor."
But it was Bobbie who went for the Doctor.
"I hate to tell you," she said breathlessly when she came upon him
in his shirt sleeves, weeding his pansy-bed, "but Mother's got a
very shabby Russian, and I'm sure he'll have to belong to your Club.
I'm certain he hasn't got any money.  We found him at the station."
"Found him!  Was he lost, then?" asked the Doctor, reaching for his
"Yes," said Bobbie, unexpectedly, "that's just what he was.  He's
been telling Mother the sad, sweet story of his life in French; and
she said would you be kind enough to come directly if you were at
home.  He has a dreadful cough, and he's been crying."
The Doctor smiled.
"Oh, don't," said Bobbie; "please don't.  You wouldn't if you'd seen
him.  I never saw a man cry before.  You don't know what it's like."
Dr. Forrest wished then that he hadn't smiled.
When Bobbie and the Doctor got to Three Chimneys, the Russian was
sitting in the arm-chair that had been Father's, stretching his feet
to the blaze of a bright wood fire, and sipping the tea Mother had
made him.
"The man seems worn out, mind and body," was what the Doctor said;
"the cough's bad, but there's nothing that can't be cured.  He ought
to go straight to bed, though--and let him have a fire at night."
"I'll make one in my room; it's the only one with a fireplace," said
Mother.  She did, and presently the Doctor helped the stranger to
There was a big black trunk in Mother's room that none of the
children had ever seen unlocked.  Now, when she had lighted the
fire, she unlocked it and took some clothes out--men's clothes--and
set them to air by the newly lighted fire.  Bobbie, coming in with
more wood for the fire, saw the mark on the night-shirt, and looked
over to the open trunk.  All the things she could see were men's
clothes.  And the name marked on the shirt was Father's name.  Then
Father hadn't taken his clothes with him.  And that night-shirt was
one of Father's new ones.  Bobbie remembered its being made, just
before Peter's birthday.  Why hadn't Father taken his clothes?
Bobbie slipped from the room.  As she went she heard the key turned
in the lock of the trunk.  Her heart was beating horribly.  WHY
hadn't Father taken his clothes?  When Mother came out of the room,
Bobbie flung tightly clasping arms round her waist, and whispered:--
"Mother--Daddy isn't--isn't DEAD, is he?"
"My darling, no!  What made you think of anything so horrible?"
"I--I don't know," said Bobbie, angry with herself, but still
clinging to that resolution of hers, not to see anything that Mother
didn't mean her to see.
Mother gave her a hurried hug.  "Daddy was quite, QUITE well when I
heard from him last," she said, "and he'll come back to us some day.
Don't fancy such horrible things, darling!"
Later on, when the Russian stranger had been made comfortable for
the night, Mother came into the girls' room.  She was to sleep there
in Phyllis's bed, and Phyllis was to have a mattress on the floor, a
most amusing adventure for Phyllis.  Directly Mother came in, two
white figures started up, and two eager voices called:--
"Now, Mother, tell us all about the Russian gentleman."
A white shape hopped into the room.  It was Peter, dragging his
quilt behind him like the tail of a white peacock.
"We have been patient," he said, "and I had to bite my tongue not to
go to sleep, and I just nearly went to sleep and I bit too hard, and
it hurts ever so.  DO tell us.  Make a nice long story of it."
"I can't make a long story of it to-night," said Mother; "I'm very
Bobbie knew by her voice that Mother had been crying, but the others
didn't know.
"Well, make it as long as you can," said Phil, and Bobbie got her
arms round Mother's waist and snuggled close to her.
"Well, it's a story long enough to make a whole book of.  He's a
writer; he's written beautiful books.  In Russia at the time of the
Czar one dared not say anything about the rich people doing wrong,
or about the things that ought to be done to make poor people better
and happier.  If one did one was sent to prison."
"But they CAN'T," said Peter; "people only go to prison when they've
done wrong."
"Or when the Judges THINK they've done wrong," said Mother.  "Yes,
that's so in England.  But in Russia it was different.  And he wrote
a beautiful book about poor people and how to help them.  I've read
it.  There's nothing in it but goodness and kindness.  And they sent
him to prison for it.  He was three years in a horrible dungeon,
with hardly any light, and all damp and dreadful.  In prison all
alone for three years."
Mother's voice trembled a little and stopped suddenly.
"But, Mother," said Peter, "that can't be true NOW.  It sounds like
something out of a history book--the Inquisition, or something."
"It WAS true," said Mother; "it's all horribly true.  Well, then
they took him out and sent him to Siberia, a convict chained to
other convicts--wicked men who'd done all sorts of crimes--a long
chain of them, and they walked, and walked, and walked, for days and
weeks, till he thought they'd never stop walking.  And overseers
went behind them with whips--yes, whips--to beat them if they got
tired.  And some of them went lame, and some fell down, and when
they couldn't get up and go on, they beat them, and then left them
to die.  Oh, it's all too terrible!  And at last he got to the
mines, and he was condemned to stay there for life--for life, just
for writing a good, noble, splendid book."
"How did he get away?"
"When the war came, some of the Russian prisoners were allowed to
volunteer as soldiers.  And he volunteered.  But he deserted at the
first chance he got and--"
"But that's very cowardly, isn't it"--said Peter--"to desert?
Especially when it's war."
"Do you think he owed anything to a country that had done THAT to
him?  If he did, he owed more to his wife and children.  He didn't
know what had become of them."
"Oh," cried Bobbie, "he had THEM to think about and be miserable
about TOO, then, all the time he was in prison?"
"Yes, he had them to think about and be miserable about all the time
he was in prison.  For anything he knew they might have been sent to
prison, too.  They did those things in Russia.  But while he was in
the mines some friends managed to get a message to him that his wife
and children had escaped and come to England.  So when he deserted
he came here to look for them."
"Had he got their address?" said practical Peter.
"No; just England.  He was going to London, and he thought he had to
change at our station, and then he found he'd lost his ticket and
his purse."
"Oh, DO you think he'll find them?--I mean his wife and children,
not the ticket and things."
"I hope so.  Oh, I hope and pray that he'll find his wife and
children again."
Even Phyllis now perceived that mother's voice was very unsteady.
"Why, Mother," she said, "how very sorry you seem to be for him!"
Mother didn't answer for a minute.  Then she just said, "Yes," and
then she seemed to be thinking.  The children were quiet.
Presently she said, "Dears, when you say your prayers, I think you
might ask God to show His pity upon all prisoners and captives."
"To show His pity," Bobbie repeated slowly, "upon all prisoners and
captives.  Is that right, Mother?"
"Yes," said Mother, "upon all prisoners and captives.  All prisoners
and captives."

Chapter VI. Saviours of the train.
The Russian gentleman was better the next day, and the day after
that better still, and on the third day he was well enough to come
into the garden.  A basket chair was put for him and he sat there,
dressed in clothes of Father's which were too big for him.  But when
Mother had hemmed up the ends of the sleeves and the trousers, the
clothes did well enough.  His was a kind face now that it was no
longer tired and frightened, and he smiled at the children whenever
he saw them.  They wished very much that he could speak English.
Mother wrote several letters to people she thought might know
whereabouts in England a Russian gentleman's wife and family might
possibly be; not to the people she used to know before she came to
live at Three Chimneys--she never wrote to any of them--but strange
people--Members of Parliament and Editors of papers, and Secretaries
of Societies.
And she did not do much of her story-writing, only corrected proofs
as she sat in the sun near the Russian, and talked to him every now
and then.
The children wanted very much to show how kindly they felt to this
man who had been sent to prison and to Siberia just for writing a
beautiful book about poor people.  They could smile at him, of
course; they could and they did.  But if you smile too constantly,
the smile is apt to get fixed like the smile of the hyaena.  And
then it no longer looks friendly, but simply silly.  So they tried
other ways, and brought him flowers till the place where he sat was
surrounded by little fading bunches of clover and roses and
Canterbury bells.
And then Phyllis had an idea.  She beckoned mysteriously to the
others and drew them into the back yard, and there, in a concealed
spot, between the pump and the water-butt, she said:--
"You remember Perks promising me the very first strawberries out of
his own garden?"  Perks, you will recollect, was the Porter.  "Well,
I should think they're ripe now.  Let's go down and see."
Mother had been down as she had promised to tell the Station Master
the story of the Russian Prisoner.  But even the charms of the
railway had been unable to tear the children away from the
neighbourhood of the interesting stranger.  So they had not been to
the station for three days.
They went now.
And, to their surprise and distress, were very coldly received by
"'Ighly honoured, I'm sure," he said when they peeped in at the door
of the Porters' room.  And he went on reading his newspaper.
There was an uncomfortable silence.
"Oh, dear," said Bobbie, with a sigh, "I do believe you're CROSS."
"What, me?  Not me!" said Perks loftily; "it ain't nothing to me."
"What AIN'T nothing to you?" said Peter, too anxious and alarmed to
change the form of words.
"Nothing ain't nothing.  What 'appens either 'ere or elsewhere,"
said Perks; "if you likes to 'ave your secrets, 'ave 'em and
welcome.  That's what I say."
The secret-chamber of each heart was rapidly examined during the
pause that followed.  Three heads were shaken.
"We haven't got any secrets from YOU," said Bobbie at last.
"Maybe you 'ave, and maybe you 'aven't," said Perks; "it ain't
nothing to me.  And I wish you all a very good afternoon."  He held
up the paper between him and them and went on reading.
"Oh, DON'T!" said Phyllis, in despair; "this is truly dreadful!
Whatever it is, do tell us."
"We didn't mean to do it whatever it was."
No answer.  The paper was refolded and Perks began on another
"Look here," said Peter, suddenly, "it's not fair.  Even people who
do crimes aren't punished without being told what it's for--as once
they were in Russia."
"I don't know nothing about Russia."
"Oh, yes, you do, when Mother came down on purpose to tell you and
Mr. Gills all about OUR Russian."
"Can't you fancy it?" said Perks, indignantly; "don't you see 'im a-
asking of me to step into 'is room and take a chair and listen to
what 'er Ladyship 'as to say?"
"Do you mean to say you've not heard?"
"Not so much as a breath.  I did go so far as to put a question.
And he shuts me up like a rat-trap.  'Affairs of State, Perks,' says
he.  But I did think one o' you would 'a' nipped down to tell me--
you're here sharp enough when you want to get anything out of old
Perks"--Phyllis flushed purple as she thought of the strawberries--
"information about locomotives or signals or the likes," said Perks.
"We didn't know you didn't know."
"We thought Mother had told you."
The three spoke all at once.
Perks said it was all very well, and still held up the paper.  Then
Phyllis suddenly snatched it away, and threw her arms round his
"Oh, let's kiss and be friends," she said; "we'll say we're sorry
first, if you like, but we didn't really know that you didn't know."
"We are so sorry," said the others.
And Perks at last consented to accept their apologies.
Then they got him to come out and sit in the sun on the green
Railway Bank, where the grass was quite hot to touch, and there,
sometimes speaking one at a time, and sometimes all together, they
told the Porter the story of the Russian Prisoner.
"Well, I must say," said Perks; but he did not say it--whatever it
"Yes, it is pretty awful, isn't it?" said Peter, "and I don't wonder
you were curious about who the Russian was."
"I wasn't curious, not so much as interested," said the Porter.
"Well, I do think Mr. Gills might have told you about it.  It was
horrid of him."
"I don't keep no down on 'im for that, Missie," said the Porter;
"cos why?  I see 'is reasons.  'E wouldn't want to give away 'is own
side with a tale like that 'ere.  It ain't human nature.  A man's
got to stand up for his own side whatever they does.  That's what it
means by Party Politics.  I should 'a' done the same myself if that
long-'aired chap 'ad 'a' been a Jap."
"But the Japs didn't do cruel, wicked things like that," said
"P'r'aps not," said Perks, cautiously; "still you can't be sure with
foreigners.  My own belief is they're all tarred with the same
"Then why were you on the side of the Japs?" Peter asked.
"Well, you see, you must take one side or the other.  Same as with
Liberals and Conservatives.  The great thing is to take your side
and then stick to it, whatever happens."
A signal sounded.
"There's the 3.14 up," said Perks.  "You lie low till she's through,
and then we'll go up along to my place, and see if there's any of
them strawberries ripe what I told you about."
"If there are any ripe, and you DO give them to me," said Phyllis,
"you won't mind if I give them to the poor Russian, will you?"
Perks narrowed his eyes and then raised his eyebrows.
"So it was them strawberries you come down for this afternoon, eh?"
said he.
This was an awkward moment for Phyllis.  To say "yes" would seem
rude and greedy, and unkind to Perks.  But she knew if she said
"no," she would not be pleased with herself afterwards.  So--
"Yes," she said, "it was."
"Well done!" said the Porter; "speak the truth and shame the--"
"But we'd have come down the very next day if we'd known you hadn't
heard the story," Phyllis added hastily.
"I believe you, Missie," said Perks, and sprang across the line six
feet in front of the advancing train.
The girls hated to see him do this, but Peter liked it.  It was so
The Russian gentleman was so delighted with the strawberries that
the three racked their brains to find some other surprise for him.
But all the racking did not bring out any idea more novel than wild
cherries.  And this idea occurred to them next morning.  They had
seen the blossom on the trees in the spring, and they knew where to
look for wild cherries now that cherry time was here.  The trees
grew all up and along the rocky face of the cliff out of which the
mouth of the tunnel opened.  There were all sorts of trees there,
birches and beeches and baby oaks and hazels, and among them the
cherry blossom had shone like snow and silver.
The mouth of the tunnel was some way from Three Chimneys, so Mother
let them take their lunch with them in a basket.  And the basket
would do to bring the cherries back in if they found any.  She also
lent them her silver watch so that they should not be late for tea.
Peter's Waterbury had taken it into its head not to go since the day
when Peter dropped it into the water-butt.  And they started.  When
they got to the top of the cutting, they leaned over the fence and
looked down to where the railway lines lay at the bottom of what, as
Phyllis said, was exactly like a mountain gorge.
"If it wasn't for the railway at the bottom, it would be as though
the foot of man had never been there, wouldn't it?"
The sides of the cutting were of grey stone, very roughly hewn.
Indeed, the top part of the cutting had been a little natural glen
that had been cut deeper to bring it down to the level of the
tunnel's mouth.  Among the rocks, grass and flowers grew, and seeds
dropped by birds in the crannies of the stone had taken root and
grown into bushes and trees that overhung the cutting.  Near the
tunnel was a flight of steps leading down to the line--just wooden
bars roughly fixed into the earth--a very steep and narrow way, more
like a ladder than a stair.
"We'd better get down," said Peter; "I'm sure the cherries would be
quite easy to get at from the side of the steps.  You remember it
was there we picked the cherry blossoms that we put on the rabbit's
So they went along the fence towards the little swing gate that is
at the top of these steps.  And they were almost at the gate when
Bobbie said:--
"Hush.  Stop!  What's that?"
"That" was a very odd noise indeed--a soft noise, but quite plainly
to be heard through the sound of the wind in tree branches, and the
hum and whir of the telegraph wires.  It was a sort of rustling,
whispering sound.  As they listened it stopped, and then it began
And this time it did not stop, but it grew louder and more rustling
and rumbling.
"Look"--cried Peter, suddenly--"the tree over there!"
The tree he pointed at was one of those that have rough grey leaves
and white flowers.  The berries, when they come, are bright scarlet,
but if you pick them, they disappoint you by turning black before
you get them home.  And, as Peter pointed, the tree was moving--not
just the way trees ought to move when the wind blows through them,
but all in one piece, as though it were a live creature and were
walking down the side of the cutting.
"It's moving!" cried Bobbie.  "Oh, look! and so are the others.
It's like the woods in Macbeth."
"It's magic," said Phyllis, breathlessly.  "I always knew this
railway was enchanted."
It really did seem a little like magic.  For all the trees for about
twenty yards of the opposite bank seemed to be slowly walking down
towards the railway line, the tree with the grey leaves bringing up
the rear like some old shepherd driving a flock of green sheep.
"What is it?  Oh, what is it?" said Phyllis; "it's much too magic
for me.  I don't like it.  Let's go home."
But Bobbie and Peter clung fast to the rail and watched
breathlessly.  And Phyllis made no movement towards going home by
The trees moved on and on.  Some stones and loose earth fell down
and rattled on the railway metals far below.
"It's ALL coming down," Peter tried to say, but he found there was
hardly any voice to say it with.  And, indeed, just as he spoke, the
great rock, on the top of which the walking trees were, leaned
slowly forward.  The trees, ceasing to walk, stood still and
shivered.  Leaning with the rock, they seemed to hesitate a moment,
and then rock and trees and grass and bushes, with a rushing sound,
slipped right away from the face of the cutting and fell on the line
with a blundering crash that could have been heard half a mile off.
A cloud of dust rose up.
"Oh," said Peter, in awestruck tones, "isn't it exactly like when
coals come in?--if there wasn't any roof to the cellar and you could
see down."
"Look what a great mound it's made!" said Bobbie.
"Yes," said Peter, slowly.  He was still leaning on the fence.
"Yes," he said again, still more slowly.
Then he stood upright.
"The 11.29 down hasn't gone by yet.  We must let them know at the
station, or there'll be a most frightful accident."
"Let's run," said Bobbie, and began.
But Peter cried, "Come back!" and looked at Mother's watch.  He was
very prompt and businesslike, and his face looked whiter than they
had ever seen it.
"No time," he said; "it's two miles away, and it's past eleven."
"Couldn't we," suggested Phyllis, breathlessly, "couldn't we climb
up a telegraph post and do something to the wires?"
"We don't know how," said Peter.
"They do it in war," said Phyllis; "I know I've heard of it."
"They only CUT them, silly," said Peter, "and that doesn't do any
good.  And we couldn't cut them even if we got up, and we couldn't
get up.  If we had anything red, we could get down on the line and
wave it."
"But the train wouldn't see us till it got round the corner, and
then it could see the mound just as well as us," said Phyllis;
"better, because it's much bigger than us."
"If we only had something red," Peter repeated, "we could go round
the corner and wave to the train."
"We might wave, anyway."
"They'd only think it was just US, as usual.  We've waved so often
before.  Anyway, let's get down."
They got down the steep stairs.  Bobbie was pale and shivering.
Peter's face looked thinner than usual.  Phyllis was red-faced and
damp with anxiety.
"Oh, how hot I am!" she said; "and I thought it was going to be
cold; I wish we hadn't put on our--" she stopped short, and then
ended in quite a different tone--"our flannel petticoats."
Bobbie turned at the bottom of the stairs.
"Oh, yes," she cried; "THEY'RE red!  Let's take them off."
They did, and with the petticoats rolled up under their arms, ran
along the railway, skirting the newly fallen mound of stones and
rock and earth, and bent, crushed, twisted trees.  They ran at their
best pace.  Peter led, but the girls were not far behind.  They
reached the corner that hid the mound from the straight line of
railway that ran half a mile without curve or corner.
"Now," said Peter, taking hold of the largest flannel petticoat.
"You're not"--Phyllis faltered--"you're not going to TEAR them?"
"Shut up," said Peter, with brief sternness.
"Oh, yes," said Bobbie, "tear them into little bits if you like.
Don't you see, Phil, if we can't stop the train, there'll be a real
live accident, with people KILLED.  Oh, horrible!  Here, Peter,
you'll never tear it through the band!"
She took the red flannel petticoat from him and tore it off an inch
from the band.  Then she tore the other in the same way.
"There!" said Peter, tearing in his turn.  He divided each petticoat
into three pieces.  "Now, we've got six flags."  He looked at the
watch again.  "And we've got seven minutes.  We must have
The knives given to boys are, for some odd reason, seldom of the
kind of steel that keeps sharp.  The young saplings had to be broken
off.  Two came up by the roots.  The leaves were stripped from them.
"We must cut holes in the flags, and run the sticks through the
holes," said Peter.  And the holes were cut.  The knife was sharp
enough to cut flannel with.  Two of the flags were set up in heaps
of loose stones between the sleepers of the down line.  Then Phyllis
and Roberta took each a flag, and stood ready to wave it as soon as
the train came in sight.
"I shall have the other two myself," said Peter, "because it was my
idea to wave something red."
"They're our petticoats, though," Phyllis was beginning, but Bobbie
"Oh, what does it matter who waves what, if we can only save the
Perhaps Peter had not rightly calculated the number of minutes it
would take the 11.29 to get from the station to the place where they
were, or perhaps the train was late.  Anyway, it seemed a very long
time that they waited.
Phyllis grew impatient.  "I expect the watch is wrong, and the
train's gone by," said she.
Peter relaxed the heroic attitude he had chosen to show off his two
flags.  And Bobbie began to feel sick with suspense.
It seemed to her that they had been standing there for hours and
hours, holding those silly little red flannel flags that no one
would ever notice.  The train wouldn't care.  It would go rushing by
them and tear round the corner and go crashing into that awful
mound.  And everyone would be killed.  Her hands grew very cold and
trembled so that she could hardly hold the flag.  And then came the
distant rumble and hum of the metals, and a puff of white steam
showed far away along the stretch of line.
"Stand firm," said Peter, "and wave like mad!  When it gets to that
big furze bush step back, but go on waving!  Don't stand ON the
line, Bobbie!"
The train came rattling along very, very fast.
"They don't see us!  They won't see us!  It's all no good!" cried
The two little flags on the line swayed as the nearing train shook
and loosened the heaps of loose stones that held them up.  One of
them slowly leaned over and fell on the line.  Bobbie jumped forward
and caught it up, and waved it; her hands did not tremble now.
It seemed that the train came on as fast as ever.  It was very near
"Keep off the line, you silly cuckoo!" said Peter, fiercely.
"It's no good," Bobbie said again.
"Stand back!" cried Peter, suddenly, and he dragged Phyllis back by
the arm.
But Bobbie cried, "Not yet, not yet!" and waved her two flags right
over the line.  The front of the engine looked black and enormous.
It's voice was loud and harsh.
"Oh, stop, stop, stop!" cried Bobbie.  No one heard her.  At least
Peter and Phyllis didn't, for the oncoming rush of the train covered
the sound of her voice with a mountain of sound.  But afterwards she
used to wonder whether the engine itself had not heard her.  It
seemed almost as though it had--for it slackened swiftly, slackened
and stopped, not twenty yards from the place where Bobbie's two
flags waved over the line.  She saw the great black engine stop
dead, but somehow she could not stop waving the flags.  And when the
driver and the fireman had got off the engine and Peter and Phyllis
had gone to meet them and pour out their excited tale of the awful
mound just round the corner, Bobbie still waved the flags but more
and more feebly and jerkily.
When the others turned towards her she was lying across the line
with her hands flung forward and still gripping the sticks of the
little red flannel flags.
The engine-driver picked her up, carried her to the train, and laid
her on the cushions of a first-class carriage.
"Gone right off in a faint," he said, "poor little woman.  And no
wonder.  I'll just 'ave a look at this 'ere mound of yours, and then
we'll run you back to the station and get her seen to."
It was horrible to see Bobbie lying so white and quiet, with her
lips blue, and parted.
"I believe that's what people look like when they're dead,"
whispered Phyllis.
"DON'T!" said Peter, sharply.
They sat by Bobbie on the blue cushions, and the train ran back.
Before it reached their station Bobbie had sighed and opened her
eyes, and rolled herself over and begun to cry.  This cheered the
others wonderfully.  They had seen her cry before, but they had
never seen her faint, nor anyone else, for the matter of that.  They
had not known what to do when she was fainting, but now she was only
crying they could thump her on the back and tell her not to, just as
they always did.  And presently, when she stopped crying, they were
able to laugh at her for being such a coward as to faint.
When the station was reached, the three were the heroes of an
agitated meeting on the platform.
The praises they got for their "prompt action," their "common
sense," their "ingenuity," were enough to have turned anybody's
head.  Phyllis enjoyed herself thoroughly.  She had never been a
real heroine before, and the feeling was delicious.  Peter's ears
got very red.  Yet he, too, enjoyed himself.  Only Bobbie wished
they all wouldn't.  She wanted to get away.
"You'll hear from the Company about this, I expect," said the
Station Master.
Bobbie wished she might never hear of it again.  She pulled at
Peter's jacket.
"Oh, come away, come away!  I want to go home," she said.
So they went.  And as they went Station Master and Porter and guards
and driver and fireman and passengers sent up a cheer.
"Oh, listen," cried Phyllis; "that's for US!"
"Yes," said Peter.  "I say, I am glad I thought about something red,
and waving it."
"How lucky we DID put on our red flannel petticoats!" said Phyllis.
Bobbie said nothing.  She was thinking of the horrible mound, and
the trustful train rushing towards it.
"And it was US that saved them," said Peter.
"How dreadful if they had all been killed!" said Phyllis; "wouldn't
it, Bobbie?"
"We never got any cherries, after all," said Bobbie.
The others thought her rather heartless.

Chapter VII. For valour.
I hope you don't mind my telling you a good deal about Roberta.  The
fact is I am growing very fond of her.  The more I observe her the
more I love her.  And I notice all sorts of things about her that I
For instance, she was quite oddly anxious to make other people
happy.  And she could keep a secret, a tolerably rare
accomplishment.  Also she had the power of silent sympathy.  That
sounds rather dull, I know, but it's not so dull as it sounds.  It
just means that a person is able to know that you are unhappy, and
to love you extra on that account, without bothering you by telling
you all the time how sorry she is for you.  That was what Bobbie was
like.  She knew that Mother was unhappy--and that Mother had not
told her the reason.  So she just loved Mother more and never said a
single word that could let Mother know how earnestly her little girl
wondered what Mother was unhappy about.  This needs practice.  It is
not so easy as you might think.
Whatever happened--and all sorts of nice, pleasant ordinary things
happened--such as picnics, games, and buns for tea, Bobbie always
had these thoughts at the back of her mind.  "Mother's unhappy.
Why?  I don't know.  She doesn't want me to know.  I won't try to
find out.  But she IS unhappy.  Why?  I don't know.  She doesn't--"
and so on, repeating and repeating like a tune that you don't know
the stopping part of.
The Russian gentleman still took up a good deal of everybody's
thoughts.  All the editors and secretaries of Societies and Members
of Parliament had answered Mother's letters as politely as they knew
how; but none of them could tell where the wife and children of Mr.
Szezcpansky would be likely to be.  (Did I tell you that the
Russian's very Russian name was that?)
Bobbie had another quality which you will hear differently described
by different people.  Some of them call it interfering in other
people's business--and some call it "helping lame dogs over stiles,"
and some call it "loving-kindness."  It just means trying to help
She racked her brains to think of some way of helping the Russian
gentleman to find his wife and children.  He had learned a few words
of English now.  He could say "Good morning," and "Good night," and
"Please," and "Thank you," and "Pretty," when the children brought
him flowers, and "Ver' good," when they asked him how he had slept.
The way he smiled when he "said his English," was, Bobbie felt,
"just too sweet for anything."  She used to think of his face
because she fancied it would help her to some way of helping him.
But it did not.  Yet his being there cheered her because she saw
that it made Mother happier.
"She likes to have someone to be good to, even beside us," said
Bobbie.  "And I know she hated to let him have Father's clothes.
But I suppose it 'hurt nice,' or she wouldn't have."
For many and many a night after the day when she and Peter and
Phyllis had saved the train from wreck by waving their little red
flannel flags, Bobbie used to wake screaming and shivering, seeing
again that horrible mound, and the poor, dear trustful engine
rushing on towards it--just thinking that it was doing its swift
duty, and that everything was clear and safe.  And then a warm
thrill of pleasure used to run through her at the remembrance of how
she and Peter and Phyllis and the red flannel petticoats had really
saved everybody.
One morning a letter came.  It was addressed to Peter and Bobbie and
Phyllis.  They opened it with enthusiastic curiosity, for they did
not often get letters.
The letter said:--
"Dear Sir, and Ladies,--It is proposed to make a small presentation
to you, in commemoration of your prompt and courageous action in
warning the train on the --- inst., and thus averting what must,
humanly speaking, have been a terrible accident.  The presentation
will take place at the --- Station at three o'clock on the 30th
inst., if this time and place will be convenient to you.
          "Yours faithfully,
                    "Jabez Inglewood.
"Secretary, Great Northern and Southern Railway Co."
There never had been a prouder moment in the lives of the three
children.  They rushed to Mother with the letter, and she also felt
proud and said so, and this made the children happier than ever.
"But if the presentation is money, you must say, 'Thank you, but
we'd rather not take it,'" said Mother.  "I'll wash your Indian
muslins at once," she added.  "You must look tidy on an occasion
like this."
"Phil and I can wash them," said Bobbie, "if you'll iron them,
Washing is rather fun.  I wonder whether you've ever done it?  This
particular washing took place in the back kitchen, which had a stone
floor and a very big stone sink under its window.
"Let's put the bath on the sink," said Phyllis; "then we can pretend
we're out-of-doors washerwomen like Mother saw in France."
"But they were washing in the cold river," said Peter, his hands in
his pockets, "not in hot water."
"This is a HOT river, then," said Phyllis; "lend a hand with the
bath, there's a dear."
"I should like to see a deer lending a hand," said Peter, but he
lent his.
"Now to rub and scrub and scrub and rub," said Phyllis, hopping
joyously about as Bobbie carefully carried the heavy kettle from the
kitchen fire.
"Oh, no!" said Bobbie, greatly shocked; "you don't rub muslin.  You
put the boiled soap in the hot water and make it all frothy-lathery-
-and then you shake the muslin and squeeze it, ever so gently, and
all the dirt comes out.  It's only clumsy things like tablecloths
and sheets that have to be rubbed."
The lilac and the Gloire de Dijon roses outside the window swayed in
the soft breeze.
"It's a nice drying day--that's one thing," said Bobbie, feeling
very grown up.  "Oh, I do wonder what wonderful feelings we shall
have when we WEAR the Indian muslin dresses!"
"Yes, so do I," said Phyllis, shaking and squeezing the muslin in
quite a professional manner.
"NOW we squeeze out the soapy water.  NO--we mustn't twist them--and
then rinse them.  I'll hold them while you and Peter empty the bath
and get clean water."
"A presentation!  That means presents," said Peter, as his sisters,
having duly washed the pegs and wiped the line, hung up the dresses
to dry.  "Whatever will it be?"
"It might be anything," said Phyllis; "what I've always wanted is a
Baby elephant--but I suppose they wouldn't know that."
"Suppose it was gold models of steam-engines?" said Bobbie.
"Or a big model of the scene of the prevented accident," suggested
Peter, "with a little model train, and dolls dressed like us and the
engine-driver and fireman and passengers."
"Do you LIKE," said Bobbie, doubtfully, drying her hands on the
rough towel that hung on a roller at the back of the scullery door,
"do you LIKE us being rewarded for saving a train?"
"Yes, I do," said Peter, downrightly; "and don't you try to come it
over us that you don't like it, too.  Because I know you do."
"Yes," said Bobbie, doubtfully, "I know I do.  But oughtn't we to be
satisfied with just having done it, and not ask for anything more?"
"Who did ask for anything more, silly?" said her brother; "Victoria
Cross soldiers don't ASK for it; but they're glad enough to get it
all the same.  Perhaps it'll be medals.  Then, when I'm very old
indeed, I shall show them to my grandchildren and say, 'We only did
our duty,' and they'll be awfully proud of me."
"You have to be married," warned Phyllis, "or you don't have any
"I suppose I shall HAVE to be married some day," said Peter, "but it
will be an awful bother having her round all the time. I'd like to
marry a lady who had trances, and only woke up once or twice a
"Just to say you were the light of her life and then go to sleep
again.  Yes.  That wouldn't be bad," said Bobbie.
"When _I_ get married," said Phyllis, "I shall want him to want me
to be awake all the time, so that I can hear him say how nice I am."
"I think it would be nice," said Bobbie, "to marry someone very
poor, and then you'd do all the work and he'd love you most
frightfully, and see the blue wood smoke curling up among the trees
from the domestic hearth as he came home from work every night.  I
say--we've got to answer that letter and say that the time and place
WILL be convenient to us.  There's the soap, Peter.  WE'RE both as
clean as clean.  That pink box of writing paper you had on your
birthday, Phil."
It took some time to arrange what should be said.  Mother had gone
back to her writing, and several sheets of pink paper with scalloped
gilt edges and green four-leaved shamrocks in the corner were
spoiled before the three had decided what to say.  Then each made a
copy and signed it with its own name.
The threefold letter ran:--
"Dear Mr. Jabez Inglewood,--Thank you very much.  We did not want to
be rewarded but only to save the train, but we are glad you think so
and thank you very much.  The time and place you say will be quite
convenient to us.  Thank you very much.
          "Your affecate little friend,"
Then came the name, and after it:--
"P.S. Thank you very much."
"Washing is much easier than ironing," said Bobbie, taking the clean
dry dresses off the line.  "I do love to see things come clean.  Oh-
-I don't know how we shall wait till it's time to know what
presentation they're going to present!"
When at last--it seemed a very long time after--it was THE day, the
three children went down to the station at the proper time.  And
everything that happened was so odd that it seemed like a dream.
The Station Master came out to meet them--in his best clothes, as
Peter noticed at once--and led them into the waiting room where once
they had played the advertisement game.  It looked quite different
now.  A carpet had been put down--and there were pots of roses on
the mantelpiece and on the window ledges--green branches stuck up,
like holly and laurel are at Christmas, over the framed
advertisement of Cook's Tours and the Beauties of Devon and the
Paris Lyons Railway.  There were quite a number of people there
besides the Porter--two or three ladies in smart dresses, and quite
a crowd of gentlemen in high hats and frock coats--besides everybody
who belonged to the station.  They recognized several people who had
been in the train on the red-flannel-petticoat day.  Best of all
their own old gentleman was there, and his coat and hat and collar
seemed more than ever different from anyone else's.  He shook hands
with them and then everybody sat down on chairs, and a gentleman in
spectacles--they found out afterwards that he was the District
Superintendent--began quite a long speech--very clever indeed.  I am
not going to write the speech down.  First, because you would think
it dull; and secondly, because it made all the children blush so,
and get so hot about the ears that I am quite anxious to get away
from this part of the subject; and thirdly, because the gentleman
took so many words to say what he had to say that I really haven't
time to write them down.  He said all sorts of nice things about the
children's bravery and presence of mind, and when he had done he sat
down, and everyone who was there clapped and said, "Hear, hear."
And then the old gentleman got up and said things, too.  It was very
like a prize-giving.  And then he called the children one by one, by
their names, and gave each of them a beautiful gold watch and chain.
And inside the watches were engraved after the name of the watch's
new owner:--
"From the Directors of the Northern and Southern Railway in grateful
recognition of the courageous and prompt action which averted an
accident on --- 1905."
The watches were the most beautiful you can possibly imagine, and
each one had a blue leather case to live in when it was at home.
"You must make a speech now and thank everyone for their kindness,"
whispered the Station Master in Peter's ear and pushed him forward.
"Begin 'Ladies and Gentlemen,'" he added.
Each of the children had already said "Thank you," quite properly.
"Oh, dear," said Peter, but he did not resist the push.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said in a rather husky voice.  Then there
was a pause, and he heard his heart beating in his throat.  "Ladies
and Gentlemen," he went on with a rush, "it's most awfully good of
you, and we shall treasure the watches all our lives--but really we
don't deserve it because what we did wasn't anything, really.  At
least, I mean it was awfully exciting, and what I mean to say--thank
you all very, very much."
The people clapped Peter more than they had done the District
Superintendent, and then everybody shook hands with them, and as
soon as politeness would let them, they got away, and tore up the
hill to Three Chimneys with their watches in their hands.
It was a wonderful day--the kind of day that very seldom happens to
anybody and to most of us not at all.
"I did want to talk to the old gentleman about something else," said
Bobbie, "but it was so public--like being in church."
"What did you want to say?" asked Phyllis.
"I'll tell you when I've thought about it more," said Bobbie.
So when she had thought a little more she wrote a letter.
"My dearest old gentleman," it said; "I want most awfully to ask you
something.  If you could get out of the train and go by the next, it
would do.  I do not want you to give me anything.  Mother says we
ought not to.  And besides, we do not want any THINGS.  Only to talk
to you about a Prisoner and Captive.  Your loving little friend,
She got the Station Master to give the letter to the old gentleman,
and next day she asked Peter and Phyllis to come down to the station
with her at the time when the train that brought the old gentleman
from town would be passing through.
She explained her idea to them--and they approved thoroughly.
They had all washed their hands and faces, and brushed their hair,
and were looking as tidy as they knew how.  But Phyllis, always
unlucky, had upset a jug of lemonade down the front of her dress.
There was no time to change--and the wind happening to blow from the
coal yard, her frock was soon powdered with grey, which stuck to the
sticky lemonade stains and made her look, as Peter said, "like any
little gutter child."
It was decided that she should keep behind the others as much as
"Perhaps the old gentleman won't notice," said Bobbie.  "The aged
are often weak in the eyes."
There was no sign of weakness, however, in the eyes, or in any other
part of the old gentleman, as he stepped from the train and looked
up and down the platform.
The three children, now that it came to the point, suddenly felt
that rush of deep shyness which makes your ears red and hot, your
hands warm and wet, and the tip of your nose pink and shiny.
"Oh," said Phyllis, "my heart's thumping like a steam-engine--right
under my sash, too."
"Nonsense," said Peter, "people's hearts aren't under their sashes."
"I don't care--mine is," said Phyllis.
"If you're going to talk like a poetry-book," said Peter, "my
heart's in my mouth."
"My heart's in my boots--if you come to that," said Roberta; "but do
come on--he'll think we're idiots."
"He won't be far wrong," said Peter, gloomily.  And they went
forward to meet the old gentleman.
"Hullo," he said, shaking hands with them all in turn.  "This is a
very great pleasure."
"It WAS good of you to get out," Bobbie said, perspiring and polite.
He took her arm and drew her into the waiting room where she and the
others had played the advertisement game the day they found the
Russian.  Phyllis and Peter followed.  "Well?" said the old
gentleman, giving Bobbie's arm a kind little shake before he let it
go.  "Well?  What is it?"
"Oh, please!" said Bobbie.
"Yes?" said the old gentleman.
"What I mean to say--" said Bobbie.
"Well?" said the old gentleman.
"It's all very nice and kind," said she.
"But?" he said.
"I wish I might say something," she said.
"Say it," said he.
"Well, then," said Bobbie--and out came the story of the Russian who
had written the beautiful book about poor people, and had been sent
to prison and to Siberia for just that.
"And what we want more than anything in the world is to find his
wife and children for him," said Bobbie, "but we don't know how.
But you must be most horribly clever, or you wouldn't be a Direction
of the Railway.  And if YOU knew how--and would?  We'd rather have
that than anything else in the world.  We'd go without the watches,
even, if you could sell them and find his wife with the money."
And the others said so, too, though not with so much enthusiasm.
"Hum," said the old gentleman, pulling down the white waistcoat that
had the big gilt buttons on it, "what did you say the name was--
"No, no," said Bobbie earnestly.  "I'll write it down for you.  It
doesn't really look at all like that except when you say it.  Have
you a bit of pencil and the back of an envelope?" she asked.
The old gentleman got out a gold pencil-case and a beautiful, sweet-
smelling, green Russian leather note-book and opened it at a new
"Here," he said, "write here."
She wrote down "Szezcpansky," and said:--
"That's how you write it.  You CALL it Shepansky."
The old gentleman took out a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles and
fitted them on his nose.  When he had read the name, he looked quite
"THAT man?  Bless my soul!" he said.  "Why, I've read his book!
It's translated into every European language.  A fine book--a noble
book.  And so your mother took him in--like the good Samaritan.
Well, well.  I'll tell you what, youngsters--your mother must be a
very good woman."
"Of course she is," said Phyllis, in astonishment.
"And you're a very good man," said Bobbie, very shy, but firmly
resolved to be polite.
"You flatter me," said the old gentleman, taking off his hat with a
flourish.  "And now am I to tell you what I think of you?"
"Oh, please don't," said Bobbie, hastily.
"Why?" asked the old gentleman.
"I don't exactly know," said Bobbie.  "Only--if it's horrid, I don't
want you to; and if it's nice, I'd rather you didn't."
The old gentleman laughed.
"Well, then," he said, "I'll only just say that I'm very glad you
came to me about this--very glad, indeed.  And I shouldn't be
surprised if I found out something very soon.  I know a great many
Russians in London, and every Russian knows HIS name.  Now tell me
all about yourselves."
He turned to the others, but there was only one other, and that was
Peter.  Phyllis had disappeared.
"Tell me all about yourself," said the old gentleman again.  And,
quite naturally, Peter was stricken dumb.
"All right, we'll have an examination," said the old gentleman; "you
two sit on the table, and I'll sit on the bench and ask questions."
He did, and out came their names and ages--their Father's name and
business--how long they had lived at Three Chimneys and a great deal
The questions were beginning to turn on a herring and a half for
three halfpence, and a pound of lead and a pound of feathers, when
the door of the waiting room was kicked open by a boot; as the boot
entered everyone could see that its lace was coming undone--and in
came Phyllis, very slowly and carefully.
In one hand she carried a large tin can, and in the other a thick
slice of bread and butter.
"Afternoon tea," she announced proudly, and held the can and the
bread and butter out to the old gentleman, who took them and said:--
"Bless my soul!"
"Yes," said Phyllis.
"It's very thoughtful of you," said the old gentleman, "very."
"But you might have got a cup," said Bobbie, "and a plate."
"Perks always drinks out of the can," said Phyllis, flushing red.
"I think it was very nice of him to give it me at all--let alone
cups and plates," she added.
"So do I," said the old gentleman, and he drank some of the tea and
tasted the bread and butter.
And then it was time for the next train, and he got into it with
many good-byes and kind last words.
"Well," said Peter, when they were left on the platform, and the
tail-lights of the train disappeared round the corner, "it's my
belief that we've lighted a candle to-day--like Latimer, you know,
when he was being burned--and there'll be fireworks for our Russian
before long."
And so there were.
It wasn't ten days after the interview in the waiting room that the
three children were sitting on the top of the biggest rock in the
field below their house watching the 5.15 steam away from the
station along the bottom of the valley.  They saw, too, the few
people who had got out at the station straggling up the road towards
the village--and they saw one person leave the road and open the
gate that led across the fields to Three Chimneys and to nowhere
"Who on earth!" said Peter, scrambling down.
"Let's go and see," said Phyllis.
So they did.  And when they got near enough to see who the person
was, they saw it was their old gentleman himself, his brass buttons
winking in the afternoon sunshine, and his white waistcoat looking
whiter than ever against the green of the field.
"Hullo!" shouted the children, waving their hands.
"Hullo!" shouted the old gentleman, waving his hat.
Then the three started to run--and when they got to him they hardly
had breath left to say:--
"How do you do?"
"Good news," said he.  "I've found your Russian friend's wife and
child--and I couldn't resist the temptation of giving myself the
pleasure of telling him."
But as he looked at Bobbie's face he felt that he COULD resist that
"Here," he said to her, "you run on and tell him.  The other two
will show me the way."
Bobbie ran.  But when she had breathlessly panted out the news to
the Russian and Mother sitting in the quiet garden--when Mother's
face had lighted up so beautifully, and she had said half a dozen
quick French words to the Exile--Bobbie wished that she had NOT
carried the news.  For the Russian sprang up with a cry that made
Bobbie's heart leap and then tremble--a cry of love and longing such
as she had never heard.  Then he took Mother's hand and kissed it
gently and reverently--and then he sank down in his chair and
covered his face with his hands and sobbed.  Bobbie crept away.  She
did not want to see the others just then.
But she was as gay as anybody when the endless French talking was
over, when Peter had torn down to the village for buns and cakes,
and the girls had got tea ready and taken it out into the garden.
The old gentleman was most merry and delightful.  He seemed to be
able to talk in French and English almost at the same moment, and
Mother did nearly as well.  It was a delightful time.  Mother seemed
as if she could not make enough fuss about the old gentleman, and
she said yes at once when he asked if he might present some
"goodies" to his little friends.
The word was new to the children--but they guessed that it meant
sweets, for the three large pink and green boxes, tied with green
ribbon, which he took out of his bag, held unheard-of layers of
beautiful chocolates.
The Russian's few belongings were packed, and they all saw him off
at the station.
Then Mother turned to the old gentleman and said:--
"I don't know how to thank you for EVERYTHING.  It has been a real
pleasure to me to see you.  But we live very quietly.  I am so sorry
that I can't ask you to come and see us again."
The children thought this very hard.  When they HAD made a friend--
and such a friend--they would dearly have liked him to come and see
them again.
What the old gentleman thought they couldn't tell.  He only said:--
"I consider myself very fortunate, Madam, to have been received once
at your house."
"Ah," said Mother, "I know I must seem surly and ungrateful--but--"
"You could never seem anything but a most charming and gracious
lady," said the old gentleman, with another of his bows.
And as they turned to go up the hill, Bobbie saw her Mother's face.
"How tired you look, Mammy," she said; "lean on me."
"It's my place to give Mother my arm," said Peter.  "I'm the head
man of the family when Father's away."
Mother took an arm of each.
"How awfully nice," said Phyllis, skipping joyfully, "to think of
the dear Russian embracing his long-lost wife.  The baby must have
grown a lot since he saw it."
"Yes," said Mother.
"I wonder whether Father will think I'VE grown," Phyllis went on,
skipping still more gaily.  "I have grown already, haven't I,
"Yes," said Mother, "oh, yes," and Bobbie and Peter felt her hands
tighten on their arms.
"Poor old Mammy, you ARE tired," said Peter.
Bobbie said, "Come on, Phil; I'll race you to the gate."
And she started the race, though she hated doing it.  YOU know why
Bobbie did that.  Mother only thought that Bobbie was tired of
walking slowly.  Even Mothers, who love you better than anyone else
ever will, don't always understand.

Chapter VIII. The amateur firemen.
"That's a likely little brooch you've got on, Miss," said Perks the
Porter; "I don't know as ever I see a thing more like a buttercup
without it WAS a buttercup."
"Yes," said Bobbie, glad and flushed by this approval.  "I always
thought it was more like a buttercup almost than even a real one--
and I NEVER thought it would come to be mine, my very own--and then
Mother gave it to me for my birthday."
"Oh, have you had a birthday?" said Perks; and he seemed quite
surprised, as though a birthday were a thing only granted to a
favoured few.
"Yes," said Bobbie; "when's your birthday, Mr. Perks?"  The children
were taking tea with Mr. Perks in the Porters' room among the lamps
and the railway almanacs.  They had brought their own cups and some
jam turnovers.  Mr. Perks made tea in a beer can, as usual, and
everyone felt very happy and confidential.
"My birthday?" said Perks, tipping some more dark brown tea out of
the can into Peter's cup.  "I give up keeping of my birthday afore
you was born."
"But you must have been born SOMETIME, you know," said Phyllis,
thoughtfully, "even if it was twenty years ago--or thirty or sixty
or seventy."
"Not so long as that, Missie," Perks grinned as he answered.  "If
you really want to know, it was thirty-two years ago, come the
fifteenth of this month."
"Then why don't you keep it?" asked Phyllis.
"I've got something else to keep besides birthdays," said Perks,
"Oh!  What?" asked Phyllis, eagerly.  "Not secrets?"
"No," said Perks, "the kids and the Missus."
It was this talk that set the children thinking, and, presently,
talking.  Perks was, on the whole, the dearest friend they had made.
Not so grand as the Station Master, but more approachable--less
powerful than the old gentleman, but more confidential.
"It seems horrid that nobody keeps his birthday," said Bobbie.
"Couldn't WE do something?"
"Let's go up to the Canal bridge and talk it over," said Peter.  "I
got a new gut line from the postman this morning.  He gave it me for
a bunch of roses that I gave him for his sweetheart.  She's ill."
"Then I do think you might have given her the roses for nothing,"
said Bobbie, indignantly.
"Nyang, nyang!" said Peter, disagreeably, and put his hands in his
"He did, of course," said Phyllis, in haste; "directly we heard she
was ill we got the roses ready and waited by the gate.  It was when
you were making the brekker-toast.  And when he'd said 'Thank you'
for the roses so many times--much more than he need have--he pulled
out the line and gave it to Peter.  It wasn't exchange.  It was the
grateful heart."
"Oh, I BEG your pardon, Peter," said Bobbie, "I AM so sorry."
"Don't mention it," said Peter, grandly, "I knew you would be."
So then they all went up to the Canal bridge.  The idea was to fish
from the bridge, but the line was not quite long enough.
"Never mind," said Bobbie.  "Let's just stay here and look at
things.  Everything's so beautiful."
It was.  The sun was setting in red splendour over the grey and
purple hills, and the canal lay smooth and shiny in the shadow--no
ripple broke its surface.  It was like a grey satin ribbon between
the dusky green silk of the meadows that were on each side of its
"It's all right," said Peter, "but somehow I can always see how
pretty things are much better when I've something to do.  Let's get
down on to the towpath and fish from there."
Phyllis and Bobbie remembered how the boys on the canal-boats had
thrown coal at them, and they said so.
"Oh, nonsense," said Peter.  "There aren't any boys here now.  If
there were, I'd fight them."
Peter's sisters were kind enough not to remind him how he had NOT
fought the boys when coal had last been thrown.  Instead they said,
"All right, then," and cautiously climbed down the steep bank to the
towing-path.  The line was carefully baited, and for half an hour
they fished patiently and in vain.  Not a single nibble came to
nourish hope in their hearts.
All eyes were intent on the sluggish waters that earnestly pretended
they had never harboured a single minnow when a loud rough shout
made them start.
"Hi!" said the shout, in most disagreeable tones, "get out of that,
can't you?"
An old white horse coming along the towing-path was within half a
dozen yards of them.  They sprang to their feet and hastily climbed
up the bank.
"We'll slip down again when they've gone by," said Bobbie.
But, alas, the barge, after the manner of barges, stopped under the
"She's going to anchor," said Peter; "just our luck!"
The barge did not anchor, because an anchor is not part of a canal-
boat's furniture, but she was moored with ropes fore and aft--and
the ropes were made fast to the palings and to crowbars driven into
the ground.
"What you staring at?" growled the Bargee, crossly.
"We weren't staring," said Bobbie; "we wouldn't be so rude."
"Rude be blessed," said the man; "get along with you!"
"Get along yourself," said Peter.  He remembered what he had said
about fighting boys, and, besides, he felt safe halfway up the bank.
"We've as much right here as anyone else."
"Oh, 'AVE you, indeed!" said the man.  "We'll soon see about that."
And he came across his deck and began to climb down the side of his
"Oh, come away, Peter, come away!" said Bobbie and Phyllis, in
agonised unison.
"Not me," said Peter, "but YOU'D better."
The girls climbed to the top of the bank and stood ready to bolt for
home as soon as they saw their brother out of danger.  The way home
lay all down hill.  They knew that they all ran well.  The Bargee
did not look as if HE did.  He was red-faced, heavy, and beefy.
But as soon as his foot was on the towing-path the children saw that
they had misjudged him.
He made one spring up the bank and caught Peter by the leg, dragged
him down--set him on his feet with a shake--took him by the ear--and
said sternly:--
"Now, then, what do you mean by it?  Don't you know these 'ere
waters is preserved?  You ain't no right catching fish 'ere--not to
say nothing of your precious cheek."
Peter was always proud afterwards when he remembered that, with the
Bargee's furious fingers tightening on his ear, the Bargee's crimson
countenance close to his own, the Bargee's hot breath on his neck,
he had the courage to speak the truth.
"I WASN'T catching fish," said Peter.
"That's not YOUR fault, I'll be bound," said the man, giving Peter's
ear a twist--not a hard one--but still a twist.
Peter could not say that it was.  Bobbie and Phyllis had been
holding on to the railings above and skipping with anxiety.  Now
suddenly Bobbie slipped through the railings and rushed down the
bank towards Peter, so impetuously that Phyllis, following more
temperately, felt certain that her sister's descent would end in the
waters of the canal.  And so it would have done if the Bargee hadn't
let go of Peter's ear--and caught her in his jerseyed arm.
"Who are you a-shoving of?" he said, setting her on her feet.
"Oh," said Bobbie, breathless, "I'm not shoving anybody.  At least,
not on purpose.  Please don't be cross with Peter.  Of course, if
it's your canal, we're sorry and we won't any more.  But we didn't
know it was yours."
"Go along with you," said the Bargee.
"Yes, we will; indeed we will," said Bobbie, earnestly; "but we do
beg your pardon--and really we haven't caught a single fish.  I'd
tell you directly if we had, honour bright I would."
She held out her hands and Phyllis turned out her little empty
pocket to show that really they hadn't any fish concealed about
"Well," said the Bargee, more gently, "cut along, then, and don't
you do it again, that's all."
The children hurried up the bank.
"Chuck us a coat, M'ria," shouted the man.  And a red-haired woman
in a green plaid shawl came out from the cabin door with a baby in
her arms and threw a coat to him.  He put it on, climbed the bank,
and slouched along across the bridge towards the village.
"You'll find me up at the 'Rose and Crown' when you've got the kid
to sleep," he called to her from the bridge.
When he was out of sight the children slowly returned.  Peter
insisted on this.
"The canal may belong to him," he said, "though I don't believe it
does.  But the bridge is everybody's.  Doctor Forrest told me it's
public property.  I'm not going to be bounced off the bridge by him
or anyone else, so I tell you."
Peter's ear was still sore and so were his feelings.
The girls followed him as gallant soldiers might follow the leader
of a forlorn hope.
"I do wish you wouldn't," was all they said.
"Go home if you're afraid," said Peter; "leave me alone.  I'M not
The sound of the man's footsteps died away along the quiet road.
The peace of the evening was not broken by the notes of the sedge-
warblers or by the voice of the woman in the barge, singing her baby
to sleep.  It was a sad song she sang.  Something about Bill Bailey
and how she wanted him to come home.
The children stood leaning their arms on the parapet of the bridge;
they were glad to be quiet for a few minutes because all three
hearts were beating much more quickly.
"I'm not going to be driven away by any old bargeman, I'm not," said
Peter, thickly.
"Of course not," Phyllis said soothingly; "you didn't give in to
him!  So now we might go home, don't you think?"
"NO," said Peter.
Nothing more was said till the woman got off the barge, climbed the
bank, and came across the bridge.
She hesitated, looking at the three backs of the children, then she
said, "Ahem."
Peter stayed as he was, but the girls looked round.
"You mustn't take no notice of my Bill," said the woman; "'is bark's
worse'n 'is bite.  Some of the kids down Farley way is fair terrors.
It was them put 'is back up calling out about who ate the puppy-pie
under Marlow bridge."
"Who DID?" asked Phyllis.
"_I_ dunno," said the woman.  "Nobody don't know!  But somehow, and
I don't know the why nor the wherefore of it, them words is p'ison
to a barge-master.  Don't you take no notice.  'E won't be back for
two hours good.  You might catch a power o' fish afore that.  The
light's good an' all," she added.
"Thank you," said Bobbie.  "You're very kind.  Where's your baby?"
"Asleep in the cabin," said the woman.  "'E's all right.  Never
wakes afore twelve.  Reg'lar as a church clock, 'e is."
"I'm sorry," said Bobbie; "I would have liked to see him, close to."
"And a finer you never did see, Miss, though I says it."  The
woman's face brightened as she spoke.
"Aren't you afraid to leave it?" said Peter.
"Lor' love you, no," said the woman; "who'd hurt a little thing like
'im?  Besides, Spot's there.  So long!"
The woman went away.
"Shall we go home?" said Phyllis.
"You can.  I'm going to fish," said Peter briefly.
"I thought we came up here to talk about Perks's birthday," said
"Perks's birthday'll keep."
So they got down on the towing-path again and Peter fished.  He did
not catch anything.
It was almost quite dark, the girls were getting tired, and as
Bobbie said, it was past bedtime, when suddenly Phyllis cried,
"What's that?"
And she pointed to the canal boat.  Smoke was coming from the
chimney of the cabin, had indeed been curling softly into the soft
evening air all the time--but now other wreaths of smoke were
rising, and these were from the cabin door.
"It's on fire--that's all," said Peter, calmly.  "Serve him right."
"Oh--how CAN you?" cried Phyllis.  "Think of the poor dear dog."
"The BABY!" screamed Bobbie.
In an instant all three made for the barge.
Her mooring ropes were slack, and the little breeze, hardly strong
enough to be felt, had yet been strong enough to drift her stern
against the bank.  Bobbie was first--then came Peter, and it was
Peter who slipped and fell.  He went into the canal up to his neck,
and his feet could not feel the bottom, but his arm was on the edge
of the barge.  Phyllis caught at his hair.  It hurt, but it helped
him to get out.  Next minute he had leaped on to the barge, Phyllis
"Not you!" he shouted to Bobbie; "ME, because I'm wet."
He caught up with Bobbie at the cabin door, and flung her aside very
roughly indeed; if they had been playing, such roughness would have
made Bobbie weep with tears of rage and pain.  Now, though he flung
her on to the edge of the hold, so that her knee and her elbow were
grazed and bruised, she only cried:--
"No--not you--ME," and struggled up again.  But not quickly enough.
Peter had already gone down two of the cabin steps into the cloud of
thick smoke.  He stopped, remembered all he had ever heard of fires,
pulled his soaked handkerchief out of his breast pocket and tied it
over his mouth.  As he pulled it out he said:--
"It's all right, hardly any fire at all."
And this, though he thought it was a lie, was rather good of Peter.
It was meant to keep Bobbie from rushing after him into danger.  Of
course it didn't.
The cabin glowed red.  A paraffin lamp was burning calmly in an
orange mist.
"Hi," said Peter, lifting the handkerchief from his mouth for a
moment.  "Hi, Baby--where are you?"  He choked.
"Oh, let ME go," cried Bobbie, close behind him.  Peter pushed her
back more roughly than before, and went on.
Now what would have happened if the baby hadn't cried I don't know--
but just at that moment it DID cry.  Peter felt his way through the
dark smoke, found something small and soft and warm and alive,
picked it up and backed out, nearly tumbling over Bobbie who was
close behind.  A dog snapped at his leg--tried to bark, choked.
"I've got the kid," said Peter, tearing off the handkerchief and
staggering on to the deck.
Bobbie caught at the place where the bark came from, and her hands
met on the fat back of a smooth-haired dog.  It turned and fastened
its teeth on her hand, but very gently, as much as to say:--
"I'm bound to bark and bite if strangers come into my master's
cabin, but I know you mean well, so I won't REALLY bite."
Bobbie dropped the dog.
"All right, old man.  Good dog," said she.  "Here--give me the baby,
Peter; you're so wet you'll give it cold."
Peter was only too glad to hand over the strange little bundle that
squirmed and whimpered in his arms.
"Now," said Bobbie, quickly, "you run straight to the 'Rose and
Crown' and tell them.  Phil and I will stay here with the precious.
Hush, then, a dear, a duck, a darling!  Go NOW, Peter!  Run!"
"I can't run in these things," said Peter, firmly; "they're as heavy
as lead.  I'll walk."
"Then I'LL run," said Bobbie.  "Get on the bank, Phil, and I'll hand
you the dear."
The baby was carefully handed.  Phyllis sat down on the bank and
tried to hush the baby.  Peter wrung the water from his sleeves and
knickerbocker legs as well as he could, and it was Bobbie who ran
like the wind across the bridge and up the long white quiet twilight
road towards the 'Rose and Crown.'
There is a nice old-fashioned room at the 'Rose and Crown; where
Bargees and their wives sit of an evening drinking their supper
beer, and toasting their supper cheese at a glowing basketful of
coals that sticks out into the room under a great hooded chimney and
is warmer and prettier and more comforting than any other fireplace
_I_ ever saw.
There was a pleasant party of barge people round the fire.  You
might not have thought it pleasant, but they did; for they were all
friends or acquaintances, and they liked the same sort of things,
and talked the same sort of talk.  This is the real secret of
pleasant society.  The Bargee Bill, whom the children had found so
disagreeable, was considered excellent company by his mates.  He was
telling a tale of his own wrongs--always a thrilling subject.  It
was his barge he was speaking about.
"And 'e sent down word 'paint her inside hout,' not namin' no
colour, d'ye see?  So I gets a lotter green paint and I paints her
stem to stern, and I tell yer she looked A1.  Then 'E comes along
and 'e says, 'Wot yer paint 'er all one colour for?' 'e says.  And I
says, says I, 'Cause I thought she'd look fust-rate,' says I, 'and I
think so still.'  An' he says, 'DEW yer?  Then ye can just pay for
the bloomin' paint yerself,' says he. An' I 'ad to, too."  A murmur
of sympathy ran round the room.  Breaking noisily in on it came
Bobbie.  She burst open the swing door--crying breathlessly:--
"Bill!  I want Bill the Bargeman."
There was a stupefied silence.  Pots of beer were held in mid-air,
paralysed on their way to thirsty mouths.
"Oh," said Bobbie, seeing the bargewoman and making for her.  "Your
barge cabin's on fire.  Go quickly."
The woman started to her feet, and put a big red hand to her waist,
on the left side, where your heart seems to be when you are
frightened or miserable.
"Reginald Horace!" she cried in a terrible voice; "my Reginald
"All right," said Bobbie, "if you mean the baby; got him out safe.
Dog, too."  She had no breath for more, except, "Go on--it's all
Then she sank on the ale-house bench and tried to get that breath of
relief after running which people call the 'second wind.'  But she
felt as though she would never breathe again.
Bill the Bargee rose slowly and heavily.  But his wife was a hundred
yards up the road before he had quite understood what was the
Phyllis, shivering by the canal side, had hardly heard the quick
approaching feet before the woman had flung herself on the railing,
rolled down the bank, and snatched the baby from her.
"Don't," said Phyllis, reproachfully; "I'd just got him to sleep."
          *          *          *          *          *          *
Bill came up later talking in a language with which the children
were wholly unfamiliar.  He leaped on to the barge and dipped up
pails of water.  Peter helped him and they put out the fire.
Phyllis, the bargewoman, and the baby--and presently Bobbie, too--
cuddled together in a heap on the bank.
"Lord help me, if it was me left anything as could catch alight,"
said the woman again and again.
But it wasn't she.  It was Bill the Bargeman, who had knocked his
pipe out and the red ash had fallen on the hearth-rug and smouldered
there and at last broken into flame.  Though a stern man he was
just.  He did not blame his wife for what was his own fault, as many
bargemen, and other men, too, would have done.
         *          *          *          *          *          *
Mother was half wild with anxiety when at last the three children
turned up at Three Chimneys, all very wet by now, for Peter seemed
to have come off on the others.  But when she had disentangled the
truth of what had happened from their mixed and incoherent
narrative, she owned that they had done quite right, and could not
possibly have done otherwise.  Nor did she put any obstacles in the
way of their accepting the cordial invitation with which the
bargeman had parted from them.
"Ye be here at seven to-morrow," he had said, "and I'll take you the
entire trip to Farley and back, so I will, and not a penny to pay.
Nineteen locks!"
They did not know what locks were; but they were at the bridge at
seven, with bread and cheese and half a soda cake, and quite a
quarter of a leg of mutton in a basket.
It was a glorious day.  The old white horse strained at the ropes,
the barge glided smoothly and steadily through the still water.  The
sky was blue overhead.  Mr. Bill was as nice as anyone could
possibly be.  No one would have thought that he could be the same
man who had held Peter by the ear.  As for Mrs. Bill, she had always
been nice, as Bobbie said, and so had the baby, and even Spot, who
might have bitten them quite badly if he had liked.
"It was simply ripping, Mother," said Peter, when they reached home
very happy, very tired, and very dirty, "right over that glorious
aqueduct.  And locks--you don't know what they're like.  You sink
into the ground and then, when you feel you're never going to stop
going down, two great black gates open slowly, slowly--you go out,
and there you are on the canal just like you were before."
"I know," said Mother, "there are locks on the Thames.  Father and I
used to go on the river at Marlow before we were married."
"And the dear, darling, ducky baby," said Bobbie; "it let me nurse
it for ages and ages--and it WAS so good.  Mother, I wish we had a
baby to play with."
"And everybody was so nice to us," said Phyllis, "everybody we met.
And they say we may fish whenever we like.  And Bill is going to
show us the way next time he's in these parts.  He says we don't
know really."
"He said YOU didn't know," said Peter; "but, Mother, he said he'd
tell all the bargees up and down the canal that we were the real,
right sort, and they were to treat us like good pals, as we were."
"So then I said," Phyllis interrupted, "we'd always each wear a red
ribbon when we went fishing by the canal, so they'd know it was US,
and we were the real, right sort, and be nice to us!"
"So you've made another lot of friends," said Mother; "first the
railway and then the canal!"
"Oh, yes," said Bobbie; "I think everyone in the world is friends if
you can only get them to see you don't want to be UN-friends."
"Perhaps you're right," said Mother; and she sighed.  "Come, Chicks.
It's bedtime."
"Yes," said Phyllis.  "Oh dear--and we went up there to talk about
what we'd do for Perks's birthday.  And we haven't talked a single
thing about it!"
"No more we have," said Bobbie; "but Peter's saved Reginald Horace's
life.  I think that's about good enough for one evening."
"Bobbie would have saved him if I hadn't knocked her down; twice I
did," said Peter, loyally.
"So would I," said Phyllis, "if I'd known what to do."
"Yes," said Mother, "you've saved a little child's life.  I do think
that's enough for one evening.  Oh, my darlings, thank God YOU'RE
all safe!"

Chapter IX. The pride of Perks.
It was breakfast-time.  Mother's face was very bright as she poured
the milk and ladled out the porridge.
"I've sold another story, Chickies," she said; "the one about the
King of the Mussels, so there'll be buns for tea.  You can go and
get them as soon as they're baked.  About eleven, isn't it?"
Peter, Phyllis, and Bobbie exchanged glances with each other, six
glances in all.  Then Bobbie said:--
"Mother, would you mind if we didn't have the buns for tea to-night,
but on the fifteenth?  That's next Thursday."
"_I_ don't mind when you have them, dear," said Mother, "but why?"
"Because it's Perks's birthday," said Bobbie; "he's thirty-two, and
he says he doesn't keep his birthday any more, because he's got
other things to keep--not rabbits or secrets--but the kids and the
"You mean his wife and children," said Mother.
"Yes," said Phyllis; "it's the same thing, isn't it?"
"And we thought we'd make a nice birthday for him.  He's been so
awfully jolly decent to us, you know, Mother," said Peter, "and we
agreed that next bun-day we'd ask you if we could."
"But suppose there hadn't been a bun-day before the fifteenth?" said
"Oh, then, we meant to ask you to let us anti--antipate it, and go
without when the bun-day came."
"Anticipate," said Mother.  "I see.  Certainly.  It would be nice to
put his name on the buns with pink sugar, wouldn't it?"
"Perks," said Peter, "it's not a pretty name."
"His other name's Albert," said Phyllis; "I asked him once."
"We might put A. P.," said Mother; "I'll show you how when the day
This was all very well as far as it went.  But even fourteen
halfpenny buns with A. P. on them in pink sugar do not of themselves
make a very grand celebration.
"There are always flowers, of course," said Bobbie, later, when a
really earnest council was being held on the subject in the hay-loft
where the broken chaff-cutting machine was, and the row of holes to
drop hay through into the hay-racks over the mangers of the stables
"He's got lots of flowers of his own," said Peter.
"But it's always nice to have them given you," said Bobbie, "however
many you've got of your own.  We can use flowers for trimmings to
the birthday.  But there must be something to trim besides buns."
"Let's all be quiet and think," said Phyllis; "no one's to speak
until it's thought of something."
So they were all quiet and so very still that a brown rat thought
that there was no one in the loft and came out very boldly.  When
Bobbie sneezed, the rat was quite shocked and hurried away, for he
saw that a hay-loft where such things could happen was no place for
a respectable middle-aged rat that liked a quiet life.
"Hooray!" cried Peter, suddenly, "I've got it."  He jumped up and
kicked at the loose hay.
"What?" said the others, eagerly.
"Why, Perks is so nice to everybody.  There must be lots of people
in the village who'd like to help to make him a birthday.  Let's go
round and ask everybody."
"Mother said we weren't to ask people for things," said Bobbie,
"For ourselves, she meant, silly, not for other people.  I'll ask
the old gentleman too.  You see if I don't," said Peter.
"Let's ask Mother first," said Bobbie.
"Oh, what's the use of bothering Mother about every little thing?"
said Peter, "especially when she's busy.  Come on.  Let's go down to
the village now and begin."
So they went.  The old lady at the Post-office said she didn't see
why Perks should have a birthday any more than anyone else.
"No," said Bobbie, "I should like everyone to have one.  Only we
know when his is."
"Mine's to-morrow," said the old lady, "and much notice anyone will
take of it.  Go along with you."
So they went.
And some people were kind, and some were crusty.  And some would
give and some would not.  It is rather difficult work asking for
things, even for other people, as you have no doubt found if you
have ever tried it.
When the children got home and counted up what had been given and
what had been promised, they felt that for the first day it was not
so bad.  Peter wrote down the lists of the things in the little
pocket-book where he kept the numbers of his engines.  These were
the lists:--
     A tobacco pipe from the sweet shop.
     Half a pound of tea from the grocer's.
     A woollen scarf slightly faded from the draper's, which was the
other side of the grocer's.
     A stuffed squirrel from the Doctor.
     A piece of meat from the butcher.
     Six fresh eggs from the woman who lived in the old turnpike
     A piece of honeycomb and six bootlaces from the cobbler, and an
iron shovel from the blacksmith's.
Very early next morning Bobbie got up and woke Phyllis.  This had
been agreed on between them.  They had not told Peter because they
thought he would think it silly.  But they told him afterwards, when
it had turned out all right.
They cut a big bunch of roses, and put it in a basket with the
needle-book that Phyllis had made for Bobbie on her birthday, and a
very pretty blue necktie of Phyllis's.  Then they wrote on a paper:
'For Mrs. Ransome, with our best love, because it is her birthday,'
and they put the paper in the basket, and they took it to the Post-
office, and went in and put it on the counter and ran away before
the old woman at the Post-office had time to get into her shop.
When they got home Peter had grown confidential over helping Mother
to get the breakfast and had told her their plans.
"There's no harm in it," said Mother, "but it depends HOW you do it.
I only hope he won't be offended and think it's CHARITY.  Poor
people are very proud, you know."
"It isn't because he's poor," said Phyllis; "it's because we're fond
of him."
"I'll find some things that Phyllis has outgrown," said Mother, "if
you're quite sure you can give them to him without his being
offended.  I should like to do some little thing for him because
he's been so kind to you.  I can't do much because we're poor
ourselves.  What are you writing, Bobbie?"
"Nothing particular," said Bobbie, who had suddenly begun to
scribble.  "I'm sure he'd like the things, Mother."
The morning of the fifteenth was spent very happily in getting the
buns and watching Mother make A. P. on them with pink sugar.  You
know how it's done, of course?  You beat up whites of eggs and mix
powdered sugar with them, and put in a few drops of cochineal.  And
then you make a cone of clean, white paper with a little hole at the
pointed end, and put the pink egg-sugar in at the big end.  It runs
slowly out at the pointed end, and you write the letters with it
just as though it were a great fat pen full of pink sugar-ink.
The buns looked beautiful with A. P. on every one, and, when they
were put in a cool oven to set the sugar, the children went up to
the village to collect the honey and the shovel and the other
promised things.
The old lady at the Post-office was standing on her doorstep.  The
children said "Good morning," politely, as they passed.
"Here, stop a bit," she said.
So they stopped.
"Those roses," said she.
"Did you like them?" said Phyllis; "they were as fresh as fresh.
_I_ made the needle-book, but it was Bobbie's present."  She skipped
joyously as she spoke.
"Here's your basket," said the Post-office woman.  She went in and
brought out the basket.  It was full of fat, red gooseberries.
"I dare say Perks's children would like them," said she.
"You ARE an old dear," said Phyllis, throwing her arms around the
old lady's fat waist.  "Perks WILL be pleased."
"He won't be half so pleased as I was with your needle-book and the
tie and the pretty flowers and all," said the old lady, patting
Phyllis's shoulder.  "You're good little souls, that you are.  Look
here.  I've got a pram round the back in the wood-lodge.  It was got
for my Emmie's first, that didn't live but six months, and she never
had but that one.  I'd like Mrs. Perks to have it.  It 'ud be a help
to her with that great boy of hers.  Will you take it along?"
"OH!" said all the children together.
When Mrs. Ransome had got out the perambulator and taken off the
careful papers that covered it, and dusted it all over, she said:--
"Well, there it is.  I don't know but what I'd have given it to her
before if I'd thought of it.  Only I didn't quite know if she'd
accept of it from me.  You tell her it was my Emmie's little one's
"Oh, ISN'T it nice to think there is going to be a real live baby in
it again!"
"Yes," said Mrs. Ransome, sighing, and then laughing; "here, I'll
give you some peppermint cushions for the little ones, and then you
run along before I give you the roof off my head and the clothes off
my back."
All the things that had been collected for Perks were packed into
the perambulator, and at half-past three Peter and Bobbie and
Phyllis wheeled it down to the little yellow house where Perks
The house was very tidy.  On the window ledge was a jug of wild-
flowers, big daisies, and red sorrel, and feathery, flowery grasses.
There was a sound of splashing from the wash-house, and a partly
washed boy put his head round the door.
"Mother's a-changing of herself," he said.
"Down in a minute," a voice sounded down the narrow, freshly
scrubbed stairs.
The children waited.  Next moment the stairs creaked and Mrs. Perks
came down, buttoning her bodice.  Her hair was brushed very smooth
and tight, and her face shone with soap and water.
"I'm a bit late changing, Miss," she said to Bobbie, "owing to me
having had a extry clean-up to-day, along o' Perks happening to name
its being his birthday.  I don't know what put it into his head to
think of such a thing.  We keeps the children's birthdays, of
course; but him and me--we're too old for such like, as a general
"We knew it was his birthday," said Peter, "and we've got some
presents for him outside in the perambulator.
As the presents were being unpacked, Mrs. Perks gasped.  When they
were all unpacked, she surprised and horrified the children by
sitting suddenly down on a wooden chair and bursting into tears.
"Oh, don't!" said everybody; "oh, please don't!"  And Peter added,
perhaps a little impatiently: "What on earth is the matter?  You
don't mean to say you don't like it?"
Mrs. Perks only sobbed.  The Perks children, now as shiny-faced as
anyone could wish, stood at the wash-house door, and scowled at the
intruders.  There was a silence, an awkward silence.
"DON'T you like it?" said Peter, again, while his sisters patted
Mrs. Perks on the back.
She stopped crying as suddenly as she had begun.
"There, there, don't you mind me.  I'M all right!" she said.  "Like
it?  Why, it's a birthday such as Perks never 'ad, not even when 'e
was a boy and stayed with his uncle, who was a corn chandler in his
own account.  He failed afterwards.  Like it?  Oh--" and then she
went on and said all sorts of things that I won't write down,
because I am sure that Peter and Bobbie and Phyllis would not like
me to.  Their ears got hotter and hotter, and their faces redder and
redder, at the kind things Mrs. Perks said.  They felt they had done
nothing to deserve all this praise.
At last Peter said: "Look here, we're glad you're pleased.  But if
you go on saying things like that, we must go home.  And we did want
to stay and see if Mr. Perks is pleased, too.  But we can't stand
"I won't say another single word," said Mrs. Perks, with a beaming
face, "but that needn't stop me thinking, need it?  For if ever--"
"Can we have a plate for the buns?" Bobbie asked abruptly.  And then
Mrs. Perks hastily laid the table for tea, and the buns and the
honey and the gooseberries were displayed on plates, and the roses
were put in two glass jam jars, and the tea-table looked, as Mrs.
Perks said, "fit for a Prince."
"To think!" she said, "me getting the place tidy early, and the
little 'uns getting the wild-flowers and all--when never did I think
there'd be anything more for him except the ounce of his pet
particular that I got o' Saturday and been saving up for 'im ever
since.  Bless us! 'e IS early!"
Perks had indeed unlatched the latch of the little front gate.
"Oh," whispered Bobbie, "let's hide in the back kitchen, and YOU
tell him about it.  But give him the tobacco first, because you got
it for him.  And when you've told him, we'll all come in and shout,
'Many happy returns!'"
It was a very nice plan, but it did not quite come off.  To begin
with, there was only just time for Peter and Bobbie and Phyllis to
rush into the wash-house, pushing the young and open-mouthed Perks
children in front of them.  There was not time to shut the door, so
that, without at all meaning it, they had to listen to what went on
in the kitchen.  The wash-house was a tight fit for the Perks
children and the Three Chimneys children, as well as all the wash-
house's proper furniture, including the mangle and the copper.
"Hullo, old woman!" they heard Mr. Perks's voice say; "here's a
pretty set-out!"
"It's your birthday tea, Bert," said Mrs. Perks, "and here's a ounce
of your extry particular.  I got it o' Saturday along o' your
happening to remember it was your birthday to-day."
"Good old girl!" said Mr. Perks, and there was a sound of a kiss.
"But what's that pram doing here?  And what's all these bundles?
And where did you get the sweetstuff, and--"
The children did not hear what Mrs. Perks replied, because just then
Bobbie gave a start, put her hand in her pocket, and all her body
grew stiff with horror.
"Oh!" she whispered to the others, "whatever shall we do?  I forgot
to put the labels on any of the things!  He won't know what's from
who.  He'll think it's all US, and that we're trying to be grand or
charitable or something horrid."
"Hush!" said Peter.
And then they heard the voice of Mr. Perks, loud and rather angry.
"I don't care," he said; "I won't stand it, and so I tell you
"But," said Mrs. Perks, "it's them children you make such a fuss
about--the children from the Three Chimneys."
"I don't care," said Perks, firmly, "not if it was a angel from
Heaven.  We've got on all right all these years and no favours
asked.  I'm not going to begin these sort of charity goings-on at my
time of life, so don't you think it, Nell."
"Oh, hush!" said poor Mrs Perks; "Bert, shut your silly tongue, for
goodness' sake.  The all three of 'ems in the wash-house a-listening
to every word you speaks."
"Then I'll give them something to listen to," said the angry Perks;
"I've spoke my mind to them afore now, and I'll do it again," he
added, and he took two strides to the wash-house door, and flung it
wide open--as wide, that is, as it would go, with the tightly packed
children behind it.
"Come out," said Perks, "come out and tell me what you mean by it.
'Ave I ever complained to you of being short, as you comes this
charity lay over me?"
"OH!" said Phyllis, "I thought you'd be so pleased; I'll never try
to be kind to anyone else as long as I live.  No, I won't, not
She burst into tears.
"We didn't mean any harm," said Peter.
"It ain't what you means so much as what you does," said Perks.
"Oh, DON'T!" cried Bobbie, trying hard to be braver than Phyllis,
and to find more words than Peter had done for explaining in.  "We
thought you'd love it.  We always have things on our birthdays."
"Oh, yes," said Perks, "your own relations; that's different."
"Oh, no," Bobbie answered.  "NOT our own relations.  All the
servants always gave us things at home, and us to them when it was
their birthdays.  And when it was mine, and Mother gave me the
brooch like a buttercup, Mrs. Viney gave me two lovely glass pots,
and nobody thought she was coming the charity lay over us."
"If it had been glass pots here," said Perks, "I wouldn't ha' said
so much.  It's there being all this heaps and heaps of things I
can't stand.  No--nor won't, neither."
"But they're not all from us--" said Peter, "only we forgot to put
the labels on.  They're from all sorts of people in the village."
"Who put 'em up to it, I'd like to know?" asked Perks.
"Why, we did," sniffed Phyllis.
Perks sat down heavily in the elbow-chair and looked at them with
what Bobbie afterwards described as withering glances of gloomy
"So you've been round telling the neighbours we can't make both ends
meet?  Well, now you've disgraced us as deep as you can in the
neighbourhood, you can just take the whole bag of tricks back w'ere
it come from.  Very much obliged, I'm sure.  I don't doubt but what
you meant it kind, but I'd rather not be acquainted with you any
longer if it's all the same to you."  He deliberately turned the
chair round so that his back was turned to the children.  The legs
of the chair grated on the brick floor, and that was the only sound
that broke the silence.
Then suddenly Bobbie spoke.
"Look here," she said, "this is most awful."
"That's what I says," said Perks, not turning round.
"Look here," said Bobbie, desperately, "we'll go if you like--and
you needn't be friends with us any more if you don't want, but--"
"WE shall always be friends with YOU, however nasty you are to us,"
sniffed Phyllis, wildly.
"Be quiet," said Peter, in a fierce aside.
"But before we go," Bobbie went on desperately, "do let us show you
the labels we wrote to put on the things."
"I don't want to see no labels," said Perks, "except proper luggage
ones in my own walk of life.  Do you think I've kept respectable and
outer debt on what I gets, and her having to take in washing, to be
give away for a laughing-stock to all the neighbours?"
"Laughing?" said Peter; "you don't know."
"You're a very hasty gentleman," whined Phyllis; "you know you were
wrong once before, about us not telling you the secret about the
Russian.  Do let Bobbie tell you about the labels!"
"Well. Go ahead!" said Perks, grudgingly.
"Well, then," said Bobbie, fumbling miserably, yet not without hope,
in her tightly stuffed pocket, "we wrote down all the things
everybody said when they gave us the things, with the people's
names, because Mother said we ought to be careful--because--but I
wrote down what she said--and you'll see."
But Bobbie could not read the labels just at once.  She had to
swallow once or twice before she could begin.
Mrs. Perks had been crying steadily ever since her husband had
opened the wash-house door.  Now she caught her breath, choked, and
"Don't you upset yourself, Missy.  _I_ know you meant it kind if he
"May I read the labels?" said Bobbie, crying on to the slips as she
tried to sort them.  "Mother's first.  It says:--
"'Little Clothes for Mrs. Perks's children.'  Mother said, 'I'll
find some of Phyllis's things that she's grown out of if you're
quite sure Mr. Perks wouldn't be offended and think it's meant for
charity.  I'd like to do some little thing for him, because he's so
kind to you.  I can't do much because we're poor ourselves.'"
Bobbie paused.
"That's all right," said Perks, "your Ma's a born lady.  We'll keep
the little frocks, and what not, Nell."
"Then there's the perambulator and the gooseberries, and the
sweets," said Bobbie, "they're from Mrs. Ransome.  She said: 'I dare
say Mr. Perks's children would like the sweets.  And the
perambulator was got for my Emmie's first--it didn't live but six
months, and she's never had but that one.  I'd like Mrs. Perks to
have it.  It would be a help with her fine boy.  I'd have given it
before if I'd been sure she'd accept of it from me.'  She told me to
tell you," Bobbie added, "that it was her Emmie's little one's
"I can't send that pram back, Bert," said Mrs Perks, firmly, "and I
won't.  So don't you ask me--"
"I'm not a-asking anything," said Perks, gruffly.
"Then the shovel," said Bobbie.  "Mr. James made it for you himself.
And he said--where is it?  Oh, yes, here!  He said, 'You tell Mr.
Perks it's a pleasure to make a little trifle for a man as is so
much respected,' and then he said he wished he could shoe your
children and his own children, like they do the horses, because,
well, he knew what shoe leather was."
"James is a good enough chap," said Perks.
"Then the honey," said Bobbie, in haste, "and the boot-laces.  HE
said he respected a man that paid his way--and the butcher said the
same.  And the old turnpike woman said many was the time you'd lent
her a hand with her garden when you were a lad--and things like that
came home to roost--I don't know what she meant.  And everybody who
gave anything said they liked you, and it was a very good idea of
ours; and nobody said anything about charity or anything horrid like
that.  And the old gentleman gave Peter a gold pound for you, and
said you were a man who knew your work.  And I thought you'd LOVE to
know how fond people are of you, and I never was so unhappy in my
life.  Good-bye.  I hope you'll forgive us some day--"
She could say no more, and she turned to go.
"Stop," said Perks, still with his back to them; "I take back every
word I've said contrary to what you'd wish.  Nell, set on the
"We'll take the things away if you're unhappy about them," said
Peter; "but I think everybody'll be most awfully disappointed, as
well as us."
"I'm not unhappy about them," said Perks; "I don't know," he added,
suddenly wheeling the chair round and showing a very odd-looking
screwed-up face, "I don't know as ever I was better pleased.  Not so
much with the presents--though they're an A1 collection--but the
kind respect of our neighbours.  That's worth having, eh, Nell?"
"I think it's all worth having," said Mrs. Perks, "and you've made a
most ridiculous fuss about nothing, Bert, if you ask me."
"No, I ain't," said Perks, firmly; "if a man didn't respect hisself,
no one wouldn't do it for him."
"But everyone respects you," said Bobbie; "they all said so."
"I knew you'd like it when you really understood," said Phyllis,
"Humph!  You'll stay to tea?" said Mr. Perks.
Later on Peter proposed Mr. Perks's health.  And Mr. Perks proposed
a toast, also honoured in tea, and the toast was, "May the garland
of friendship be ever green," which was much more poetical than
anyone had expected from him.
          *          *          *          *          *          *
"Jolly good little kids, those," said Mr. Perks to his wife as they
went to bed.
"Oh, they're all right, bless their hearts," said his wife; "it's
you that's the aggravatingest old thing that ever was.  I was
ashamed of you--I tell you--"
"You didn't need to be, old gal.  I climbed down handsome soon as I
understood it wasn't charity.  But charity's what I never did abide,
and won't neither."
          *          *          *          *          *          *
All sorts of people were made happy by that birthday party.  Mr.
Perks and Mrs. Perks and the little Perkses by all the nice things
and by the kind thoughts of their neighbours; the Three Chimneys
children by the success, undoubted though unexpectedly delayed, of
their plan; and Mrs. Ransome every time she saw the fat Perks baby
in the perambulator.  Mrs. Perks made quite a round of visits to
thank people for their kind birthday presents, and after each visit
felt that she had a better friend than she had thought.
"Yes," said Perks, reflectively, "it's not so much what you does as
what you means; that's what I say.  Now if it had been charity--"
"Oh, drat charity," said Mrs. Perks; "nobody won't offer you
charity, Bert, however much you was to want it, I lay.  That was
just friendliness, that was."
When the clergyman called on Mrs. Perks, she told him all about it.
"It WAS friendliness, wasn't it, Sir?" said she.
"I think," said the clergyman, "it was what is sometimes called
So you see it was all right in the end.  But if one does that sort
of thing, one has to be careful to do it in the right way.  For, as
Mr. Perks said, when he had time to think it over, it's not so much
what you do, as what you mean.

Chapter X. The terrible secret.
When they first went to live at Three Chimneys, the children had
talked a great deal about their Father, and had asked a great many
questions about him, and what he was doing and where he was and when
he would come home.  Mother always answered their questions as well
as she could.  But as the time went on they grew to speak less of
him.  Bobbie had felt almost from the first that for some strange
miserable reason these questions hurt Mother and made her sad.  And
little by little the others came to have this feeling, too, though
they could not have put it into words.
One day, when Mother was working so hard that she could not leave
off even for ten minutes, Bobbie carried up her tea to the big bare
room that they called Mother's workshop.  It had hardly any
furniture.  Just a table and a chair and a rug.  But always big pots
of flowers on the window-sills and on the mantelpiece.  The children
saw to that.  And from the three long uncurtained windows the
beautiful stretch of meadow and moorland, the far violet of the
hills, and the unchanging changefulness of cloud and sky.
"Here's your tea, Mother-love," said Bobbie; "do drink it while it's
Mother laid down her pen among the pages that were scattered all
over the table, pages covered with her writing, which was almost as
plain as print, and much prettier.  She ran her hands into her hair,
as if she were going to pull it out by handfuls.
"Poor dear head," said Bobbie, "does it ache?"
"No--yes--not much," said Mother.  "Bobbie, do you think Peter and
Phil are FORGETTING Father?"
"NO," said Bobbie, indignantly.  "Why?"
"You none of you ever speak of him now."
Bobbie stood first on one leg and then on the other.
"We often talk about him when we're by ourselves," she said.
"But not to me," said Mother.  "Why?"
Bobbie did not find it easy to say why.
"I--you--" she said and stopped.  She went over to the window and
looked out.
"Bobbie, come here," said her Mother, and Bobbie came.
"Now," said Mother, putting her arm round Bobbie and laying her
ruffled head against Bobbie's shoulder, "try to tell me, dear."
Bobbie fidgeted.
"Tell Mother."
"Well, then," said Bobbie, "I thought you were so unhappy about
Daddy not being here, it made you worse when I talked about him.  So
I stopped doing it."
"And the others?"
"I don't know about the others," said Bobbie.  "I never said
anything about THAT to them.  But I expect they felt the same about
it as me."
"Bobbie dear," said Mother, still leaning her head against her,
"I'll tell you.  Besides parting from Father, he and I have had a
great sorrow--oh, terrible--worse than anything you can think of,
and at first it did hurt to hear you all talking of him as if
everything were just the same.  But it would be much more terrible
if you were to forget him.  That would be worse than anything."
"The trouble," said Bobbie, in a very little voice--"I promised I
would never ask you any questions, and I never have, have I?  But--
the trouble--it won't last always?"
"No," said Mother, "the worst will be over when Father comes home to
"I wish I could comfort you," said Bobbie.
"Oh, my dear, do you suppose you don't?  Do you think I haven't
noticed how good you've all been, not quarrelling nearly as much as
you used to--and all the little kind things you do for me--the
flowers, and cleaning my shoes, and tearing up to make my bed before
I get time to do it myself?"
Bobbie HAD sometimes wondered whether Mother noticed these things.
"That's nothing," she said, "to what--"
"I MUST get on with my work," said Mother, giving Bobbie one last
squeeze.  "Don't say anything to the others."
That evening in the hour before bed-time instead of reading to the
children Mother told them stories of the games she and Father used
to have when they were children and lived near each other in the
country--tales of the adventures of Father with Mother's brothers
when they were all boys together.  Very funny stories they were, and
the children laughed as they listened.
"Uncle Edward died before he was grown up, didn't he?" said Phyllis,
as Mother lighted the bedroom candles.
"Yes, dear," said Mother, "you would have loved him.  He was such a
brave boy, and so adventurous.  Always in mischief, and yet friends
with everybody in spite of it.  And your Uncle Reggie's in Ceylon--
yes, and Father's away, too.  But I think they'd all like to think
we'd enjoyed talking about the things they used to do.  Don't you
think so?"
"Not Uncle Edward," said Phyllis, in a shocked tone; "he's in
"You don't suppose he's forgotten us and all the old times, because
God has taken him, any more than I forget him.  Oh, no, he
remembers.  He's only away for a little time.  We shall see him some
"And Uncle Reggie--and Father, too?" said Peter.
"Yes," said Mother. "Uncle Reggie and Father, too.  Good night, my
"Good night," said everyone.  Bobbie hugged her mother more closely
even than usual, and whispered in her ear, "Oh, I do love you so,
Mummy--I do--I do--"
When Bobbie came to think it all over, she tried not to wonder what
the great trouble was.  But she could not always help it.  Father
was not dead--like poor Uncle Edward--Mother had said so.  And he
was not ill, or Mother would have been with him.  Being poor wasn't
the trouble.  Bobbie knew it was something nearer the heart than
money could be.
"I mustn't try to think what it is," she told herself; "no, I
mustn't.  I AM glad Mother noticed about us not quarrelling so much.
We'll keep that up."
And alas, that very afternoon she and Peter had what Peter called a
first-class shindy.
They had not been a week at Three Chimneys before they had asked
Mother to let them have a piece of garden each for their very own,
and she had agreed, and the south border under the peach trees had
been divided into three pieces and they were allowed to plant
whatever they liked there.
Phyllis had planted mignonette and nasturtium and Virginia Stock in
hers.  The seeds came up, and though they looked just like weeds,
Phyllis believed that they would bear flowers some day.  The
Virginia Stock justified her faith quite soon, and her garden was
gay with a band of bright little flowers, pink and white and red and
"I can't weed for fear I pull up the wrong things," she used to say
comfortably; "it saves such a lot of work."
Peter sowed vegetable seeds in his--carrots and onions and turnips.
The seed was given to him by the farmer who lived in the nice black-
and-white, wood-and-plaster house just beyond the bridge.  He kept
turkeys and guinea fowls, and was a most amiable man.  But Peter's
vegetables never had much of a chance, because he liked to use the
earth of his garden for digging canals, and making forts and
earthworks for his toy soldiers.  And the seeds of vegetables rarely
come to much in a soil that is constantly disturbed for the purposes
of war and irrigation.
Bobbie planted rose-bushes in her garden, but all the little new
leaves of the rose-bushes shrivelled and withered, perhaps because
she moved them from the other part of the garden in May, which is
not at all the right time of year for moving roses.  But she would
not own that they were dead, and hoped on against hope, until the
day when Perks came up to see the garden, and told her quite plainly
that all her roses were as dead as doornails.
"Only good for bonfires, Miss," he said.  "You just dig 'em up and
burn 'em, and I'll give you some nice fresh roots outer my garden;
pansies, and stocks, and sweet willies, and forget-me-nots.  I'll
bring 'em along to-morrow if you get the ground ready."
So next day she set to work, and that happened to be the day when
Mother had praised her and the others about not quarrelling.  She
moved the rose-bushes and carried them to the other end of the
garden, where the rubbish heap was that they meant to make a bonfire
of when Guy Fawkes' Day came.
Meanwhile Peter had decided to flatten out all his forts and
earthworks, with a view to making a model of the railway-tunnel,
cutting, embankment, canal, aqueduct, bridges, and all.
So when Bobbie came back from her last thorny journey with the dead
rose-bushes, he had got the rake and was using it busily.
"_I_ was using the rake," said Bobbie.
"Well, I'm using it now," said Peter.
"But I had it first," said Bobbie.
"Then it's my turn now," said Peter.  And that was how the quarrel
"You're always being disagreeable about nothing," said Peter, after
some heated argument.
"I had the rake first," said Bobbie, flushed and defiant, holding on
to its handle.
"Don't--I tell you I said this morning I meant to have it.  Didn't
I, Phil?"
Phyllis said she didn't want to be mixed up in their rows.  And
instantly, of course, she was.
"If you remember, you ought to say."
"Of course she doesn't remember--but she might say so."
"I wish I'd had a brother instead of two whiny little kiddy
sisters," said Peter.  This was always recognised as indicating the
high-water mark of Peter's rage.
Bobbie made the reply she always made to it.
"I can't think why little boys were ever invented," and just as she
said it she looked up, and saw the three long windows of Mother's
workshop flashing in the red rays of the sun.  The sight brought
back those words of praise:--
"You don't quarrel like you used to do."
"OH!" cried Bobbie, just as if she had been hit, or had caught her
finger in a door, or had felt the hideous sharp beginnings of
"What's the matter?" said Phyllis.
Bobbie wanted to say:  "Don't let's quarrel.  Mother hates it so,"
but though she tried hard, she couldn't.  Peter was looking too
disagreeable and insulting.
"Take the horrid rake, then," was the best she could manage.  And
she suddenly let go her hold on the handle.  Peter had been holding
on to it too firmly and pullingly, and now that the pull the other
way was suddenly stopped, he staggered and fell over backward, the
teeth of the rake between his feet.
"Serve you right," said Bobbie, before she could stop herself.
Peter lay still for half a moment--long enough to frighten Bobbie a
little.  Then he frightened her a little more, for he sat up--
screamed once--turned rather pale, and then lay back and began to
shriek, faintly but steadily.  It sounded exactly like a pig being
killed a quarter of a mile off.
Mother put her head out of the window, and it wasn't half a minute
after that she was in the garden kneeling by the side of Peter, who
never for an instant ceased to squeal.
"What happened, Bobbie?" Mother asked.
"It was the rake," said Phyllis.  "Peter was pulling at it, so was
Bobbie, and she let go and he went over."
"Stop that noise, Peter," said Mother.  "Come.  Stop at once."
Peter used up what breath he had left in a last squeal and stopped.
"Now," said Mother, "are you hurt?"
"If he was really hurt, he wouldn't make such a fuss," said Bobbie,
still trembling with fury; "he's not a coward!"
"I think my foot's broken off, that's all," said Peter, huffily, and
sat up.  Then he turned quite white.  Mother put her arm round him.
"He IS hurt," she said; "he's fainted.  Here, Bobbie, sit down and
take his head on your lap."
Then Mother undid Peter's boots.  As she took the right one off,
something dripped from his foot on to the ground.  It was red blood.
And when the stocking came off there were three red wounds in
Peter's foot and ankle, where the teeth of the rake had bitten him,
and his foot was covered with red smears.
"Run for water--a basinful," said Mother, and Phyllis ran.  She
upset most of the water out of the basin in her haste, and had to
fetch more in a jug.
Peter did not open his eyes again till Mother had tied her
handkerchief round his foot, and she and Bobbie had carried him in
and laid him on the brown wooden settle in the dining-room.  By this
time Phyllis was halfway to the Doctor's.
Mother sat by Peter and bathed his foot and talked to him, and
Bobbie went out and got tea ready, and put on the kettle.
"It's all I can do," she told herself.  "Oh, suppose Peter should
die, or be a helpless cripple for life, or have to walk with
crutches, or wear a boot with a sole like a log of wood!"
She stood by the back door reflecting on these gloomy possibilities,
her eyes fixed on the water-butt.
"I wish I'd never been born," she said, and she said it out loud.
"Why, lawk a mercy, what's that for?" asked a voice, and Perks stood
before her with a wooden trug basket full of green-leaved things and
soft, loose earth.
"Oh, it's you," she said.  "Peter's hurt his foot with a rake--three
great gaping wounds, like soldiers get.  And it was partly my
"That it wasn't, I'll go bail," said Perks.  "Doctor seen him?"
"Phyllis has gone for the Doctor."
"He'll be all right; you see if he isn't," said Perks.  "Why, my
father's second cousin had a hay-fork run into him, right into his
inside, and he was right as ever in a few weeks, all except his
being a bit weak in the head afterwards, and they did say that it
was along of his getting a touch of the sun in the hay-field, and
not the fork at all.  I remember him well.  A kind-'earted chap, but
soft, as you might say."
Bobbie tried to let herself be cheered by this heartening
"Well," said Perks, "you won't want to be bothered with gardening
just this minute, I dare say.  You show me where your garden is, and
I'll pop the bits of stuff in for you.  And I'll hang about, if I
may make so free, to see the Doctor as he comes out and hear what he
says.  You cheer up, Missie.  I lay a pound he ain't hurt, not to
speak of."
But he was.  The Doctor came and looked at the foot and bandaged it
beautifully, and said that Peter must not put it to the ground for
at least a week.
"He won't be lame, or have to wear crutches or a lump on his foot,
will he?" whispered Bobbie, breathlessly, at the door.
"My aunt!  No!" said Dr. Forrest; "he'll be as nimble as ever on his
pins in a fortnight.  Don't you worry, little Mother Goose."
It was when Mother had gone to the gate with the Doctor to take his
last instructions and Phyllis was filling the kettle for tea, that
Peter and Bobbie found themselves alone.
"He says you won't be lame or anything," said Bobbie.
"Oh, course I shan't, silly," said Peter, very much relieved all the
"Oh, Peter, I AM so sorry," said Bobbie, after a pause.
"That's all right," said Peter, gruffly.
"It was ALL my fault," said Bobbie.
"Rot," said Peter.
"If we hadn't quarrelled, it wouldn't have happened.  I knew it was
wrong to quarrel.  I wanted to say so, but somehow I couldn't."
"Don't drivel," said Peter.  "I shouldn't have stopped if you HAD
said it.  Not likely.  And besides, us rowing hadn't anything to do
with it.  I might have caught my foot in the hoe, or taken off my
fingers in the chaff-cutting machine or blown my nose off with
fireworks.  It would have been hurt just the same whether we'd been
rowing or not."
"But I knew it was wrong to quarrel," said Bobbie, in tears, "and
now you're hurt and--"
"Now look here," said Peter, firmly, "you just dry up.  If you're
not careful, you'll turn into a beastly little Sunday-school prig,
so I tell you."
"I don't mean to be a prig.  But it's so hard not to be when you're
really trying to be good."
(The Gentle Reader may perhaps have suffered from this difficulty.)
"Not it," said Peter; "it's a jolly good thing it wasn't you was
hurt.  I'm glad it was ME.  There!  If it had been you, you'd have
been lying on the sofa looking like a suffering angel and being the
light of the anxious household and all that.  And I couldn't have
stood it."
"No, I shouldn't," said Bobbie.
"Yes, you would," said Peter.
"I tell you I shouldn't."
"I tell you you would."
"Oh, children," said Mother's voice at the door.  "Quarrelling
again?  Already?"
"We aren't quarrelling--not really," said Peter.  "I wish you
wouldn't think it's rows every time we don't agree!"  When Mother
had gone out again, Bobbie broke out:--
"Peter, I AM sorry you're hurt.  But you ARE a beast to say I'm a
"Well," said Peter unexpectedly, "perhaps I am.  You did say I
wasn't a coward, even when you were in such a wax.  The only thing
is--don't you be a prig, that's all.  You keep your eyes open and if
you feel priggishness coming on just stop in time.  See?"
"Yes," said Bobbie, "I see."
"Then let's call it Pax," said Peter, magnanimously:  "bury the
hatchet in the fathoms of the past.  Shake hands on it.  I say,
Bobbie, old chap, I am tired."
He was tired for many days after that, and the settle seemed hard
and uncomfortable in spite of all the pillows and bolsters and soft
folded rugs.  It was terrible not to be able to go out.  They moved
the settle to the window, and from there Peter could see the smoke
of the trains winding along the valley.  But he could not see the
At first Bobbie found it quite hard to be as nice to him as she
wanted to be, for fear he should think her priggish.  But that soon
wore off, and both she and Phyllis were, as he observed, jolly good
sorts.  Mother sat with him when his sisters were out.  And the
words, "he's not a coward," made Peter determined not to make any
fuss about the pain in his foot, though it was rather bad,
especially at night.
Praise helps people very much, sometimes.
There were visitors, too.  Mrs. Perks came up to ask how he was, and
so did the Station Master, and several of the village people.  But
the time went slowly, slowly.
"I do wish there was something to read," said Peter.  "I've read all
our books fifty times over."
"I'll go to the Doctor's," said Phyllis; "he's sure to have some."
"Only about how to be ill, and about people's nasty insides, I
expect," said Peter.
"Perks has a whole heap of Magazines that came out of trains when
people are tired of them," said Bobbie.  "I'll run down and ask
So the girls went their two ways.
Bobbie found Perks busy cleaning lamps.
"And how's the young gent?" said he.
"Better, thanks," said Bobbie, "but he's most frightfully bored.  I
came to ask if you'd got any Magazines you could lend him."
"There, now," said Perks, regretfully, rubbing his ear with a black
and oily lump of cotton waste, "why didn't I think of that, now?  I
was trying to think of something as 'ud amuse him only this morning,
and I couldn't think of anything better than a guinea-pig.  And a
young chap I know's going to fetch that over for him this tea-time."
"How lovely!  A real live guinea!  He will be pleased.  But he'd
like the Magazines as well."
"That's just it," said Perks.  "I've just sent the pick of 'em to
Snigson's boy--him what's just getting over the pewmonia.  But I've
lots of illustrated papers left."
He turned to the pile of papers in the corner and took up a heap six
inches thick.
"There!" he said.  "I'll just slip a bit of string and a bit of
paper round 'em."
He pulled an old newspaper from the pile and spread it on the table,
and made a neat parcel of it.
"There," said he, "there's lots of pictures, and if he likes to mess
'em about with his paint-box, or coloured chalks or what not, why,
let him.  _I_ don't want 'em."
"You're a dear," said Bobbie, took the parcel, and started.  The
papers were heavy, and when she had to wait at the level-crossing
while a train went by, she rested the parcel on the top of the gate.
And idly she looked at the printing on the paper that the parcel was
wrapped in.
Suddenly she clutched the parcel tighter and bent her head over it.
It seemed like some horrible dream.  She read on--the bottom of the
column was torn off--she could read no farther.
She never remembered how she got home.  But she went on tiptoe to
her room and locked the door.  Then she undid the parcel and read
that printed column again, sitting on the edge of her bed, her hands
and feet icy cold and her face burning.  When she had read all there
was, she drew a long, uneven breath.
"So now I know," she said.
What she had read was headed, 'End of the Trial.  Verdict.
The name of the man who had been tried was the name of her Father.
The verdict was 'Guilty.'  And the sentence was 'Five years' Penal
"Oh, Daddy," she whispered, crushing the paper hard, "it's not true-
-I don't believe it.  You never did it!  Never, never, never!"
There was a hammering on the door.
"What is it?" said Bobbie.
"It's me," said the voice of Phyllis; "tea's ready, and a boy's
brought Peter a guinea-pig.  Come along down."
And Bobbie had to.

Chapter XI. The hound in the red jersey.
Bobbie knew the secret now.  A sheet of old newspaper wrapped round
a parcel--just a little chance like that--had given the secret to
her.  And she had to go down to tea and pretend that there was
nothing the matter.  The pretence was bravely made, but it wasn't
very successful.
For when she came in, everyone looked up from tea and saw her pink-
lidded eyes and her pale face with red tear-blotches on it.
"My darling," cried Mother, jumping up from the tea-tray, "whatever
IS the matter?"
"My head aches, rather," said Bobbie.  And indeed it did.
"Has anything gone wrong?" Mother asked.
"I'm all right, really," said Bobbie, and she telegraphed to her
Mother from her swollen eyes this brief, imploring message--"NOT
before the others!"
Tea was not a cheerful meal.  Peter was so distressed by the obvious
fact that something horrid had happened to Bobbie that he limited
his speech to repeating, "More bread and butter, please," at
startlingly short intervals.  Phyllis stroked her sister's hand
under the table to express sympathy, and knocked her cup over as she
did it.  Fetching a cloth and wiping up the spilt milk helped Bobbie
a little.  But she thought that tea would never end.  Yet at last it
did end, as all things do at last, and when Mother took out the
tray, Bobbie followed her.
"She's gone to own up," said Phyllis to Peter; "I wonder what she's
"Broken something, I suppose," said Peter, "but she needn't be so
silly over it.  Mother never rows for accidents.  Listen!  Yes,
they're going upstairs.  She's taking Mother up to show her--the
water-jug with storks on it, I expect it is."
Bobbie, in the kitchen, had caught hold of Mother's hand as she set
down the tea-things.
"What is it?" Mother asked.
But Bobbie only said, "Come upstairs, come up where nobody can hear
When she had got Mother alone in her room she locked the door and
then stood quite still, and quite without words.
All through tea she had been thinking of what to say; she had
decided that "I know all," or "All is known to me," or "The terrible
secret is a secret no longer," would be the proper thing.  But now
that she and her Mother and that awful sheet of newspaper were alone
in the room together, she found that she could say nothing.
Suddenly she went to Mother and put her arms round her and began to
cry again.  And still she could find no words, only, "Oh, Mammy, oh,
Mammy, oh, Mammy," over and over again.
Mother held her very close and waited.
Suddenly Bobbie broke away from her and went to her bed.  From under
her mattress she pulled out the paper she had hidden there, and held
it out, pointing to her Father's name with a finger that shook.
"Oh, Bobbie," Mother cried, when one little quick look had shown her
what it was, "you don't BELIEVE it?  You don't believe Daddy did
"NO," Bobbie almost shouted.  She had stopped crying.
"That's all right," said Mother.  "It's not true.  And they've shut
him up in prison, but he's done nothing wrong.  He's good and noble
and honourable, and he belongs to us.  We have to think of that, and
be proud of him, and wait."
Again Bobbie clung to her Mother, and again only one word came to
her, but now that word was "Daddy," and "Oh, Daddy, oh, Daddy, oh,
Daddy!" again and again.
"Why didn't you tell me, Mammy?" she asked presently.
"Are you going to tell the others?" Mother asked.
"Exactly," said Mother; "so you understand why I didn't tell you.
We two must help each other to be brave."
"Yes," said Bobbie; "Mother, will it make you more unhappy if you
tell me all about it?  I want to understand."
So then, sitting cuddled up close to her Mother, Bobbie heard "all
about it."  She heard how those men, who had asked to see Father on
that remembered last night when the Engine was being mended, had
come to arrest him, charging him with selling State secrets to the
Russians--with being, in fact, a spy and a traitor.  She heard about
the trial, and about the evidence--letters, found in Father's desk
at the office, letters that convinced the jury that Father was
"Oh, how could they look at him and believe it!" cried Bobbie; "and
how could ANY one do such a thing!"
"SOMEONE did it," said Mother, "and all the evidence was against
Father.  Those letters--"
"Yes.  How did the letters get into his desk?"
"Someone put them there.  And the person who put them there was the
person who was really guilty."
"HE must be feeling pretty awful all this time," said Bobbie,
"I don't believe he had any feelings," Mother said hotly; "he
couldn't have done a thing like that if he had."
"Perhaps he just shoved the letters into the desk to hide them when
he thought he was going to be found out.  Why don't you tell the
lawyers, or someone, that it must have been that person?  There
wasn't anyone that would have hurt Father on purpose, was there?"
"I don't know--I don't know.  The man under him who got Daddy's
place when he--when the awful thing happened--he was always jealous
of your Father because Daddy was so clever and everyone thought such
a lot of him.  And Daddy never quite trusted that man."
"Couldn't we explain all that to someone?"
"Nobody will listen," said Mother, very bitterly, "nobody at all.
Do you suppose I've not tried everything?  No, my dearest, there's
nothing to be done.  All we can do, you and I and Daddy, is to be
brave, and patient, and--" she spoke very softly--"to pray, Bobbie,
"Mother, you've got very thin," said Bobbie, abruptly.
"A little, perhaps."
"And oh," said Bobbie, "I do think you're the bravest person in the
world as well as the nicest!"
"We won't talk of all this any more, will we, dear?" said Mother;
"we must bear it and be brave.  And, darling, try not to think of
it.  Try to be cheerful, and to amuse yourself and the others.  It's
much easier for me if you can be a little bit happy and enjoy
things.  Wash your poor little round face, and let's go out into the
garden for a bit."
The other two were very gentle and kind to Bobbie.  And they did not
ask her what was the matter.  This was Peter's idea, and he had
drilled Phyllis, who would have asked a hundred questions if she had
been left to herself.
A week later Bobbie managed to get away alone.  And once more she
wrote a letter.  And once more it was to the old gentleman.
"My dear Friend," she said, "you see what is in this paper.  It is
not true.  Father never did it.  Mother says someone put the papers
in Father's desk, and she says the man under him that got Father's
place afterwards was jealous of Father, and Father suspected him a
long time.  But nobody listens to a word she says, but you are so
good and clever, and you found out about the Russian gentleman's
wife directly.  Can't you find out who did the treason because he
wasn't Father upon my honour; he is an Englishman and uncapable to
do such things, and then they would let Father out of prison.  It is
dreadful, and Mother is getting so thin.  She told us once to pray
for all prisoners and captives.  I see now.  Oh, do help me--there
is only just Mother and me know, and we can't do anything.  Peter
and Phil don't know.  I'll pray for you twice every day as long as I
live if you'll only try--just try to find out.  Think if it was YOUR
Daddy, what you would feel.  Oh, do, do, DO help me.  With love
          "I remain Your affectionately little friend
P.S. Mother would send her kind regards if she knew I am writing--
but it is no use telling her I am, in case you can't do anything.
But I know you will.  Bobbie with best love."
She cut the account of her Father's trial out of the newspaper with
Mother's big cutting-out scissors, and put it in the envelope with
her letter.
Then she took it down to the station, going out the back way and
round by the road, so that the others should not see her and offer
to come with her, and she gave the letter to the Station Master to
give to the old gentleman next morning.
"Where HAVE you been?" shouted Peter, from the top of the yard wall
where he and Phyllis were.
"To the station, of course," said Bobbie; "give us a hand, Pete."
She set her foot on the lock of the yard door.  Peter reached down a
"What on earth?" she asked as she reached the wall-top--for Phyllis
and Peter were very muddy.  A lump of wet clay lay between them on
the wall, they had each a slip of slate in a very dirty hand, and
behind Peter, out of the reach of accidents, were several strange
rounded objects rather like very fat sausages, hollow, but closed up
at one end.
"It's nests," said Peter, "swallows' nests.  We're going to dry them
in the oven and hang them up with string under the eaves of the
"Yes," said Phyllis; "and then we're going to save up all the wool
and hair we can get, and in the spring we'll line them, and then how
pleased the swallows will be!"
"I've often thought people don't do nearly enough for dumb animals,"
said Peter with an air of virtue.  "I do think people might have
thought of making nests for poor little swallows before this."
"Oh," said Bobbie, vaguely, "if everybody thought of everything,
there'd be nothing left for anybody else to think about."
"Look at the nests--aren't they pretty?" said Phyllis, reaching
across Peter to grasp a nest.
"Look out, Phil, you goat," said her brother.  But it was too late;
her strong little fingers had crushed the nest.
"There now," said Peter.
"Never mind," said Bobbie.
"It IS one of my own," said Phyllis, "so you needn't jaw, Peter.
Yes, we've put our initial names on the ones we've done, so that the
swallows will know who they've got to be so grateful to and fond
"Swallows can't read, silly," said Peter.
"Silly yourself," retorted Phyllis; "how do you know?"
"Who thought of making the nests, anyhow?" shouted Peter.
"I did," screamed Phyllis.
"Nya," rejoined Peter, "you only thought of making hay ones and
sticking them in the ivy for the sparrows, and they'd have been
sopping LONG before egg-laying time.  It was me said clay and
"I don't care what you said."
"Look," said Bobbie, "I've made the nest all right again.  Give me
the bit of stick to mark your initial name on it.  But how can you?
Your letter and Peter's are the same.  P. for Peter, P. for
"I put F. for Phyllis," said the child of that name.  "That's how it
sounds.  The swallows wouldn't spell Phyllis with a P., I'm certain-
"They can't spell at all," Peter was still insisting.
"Then why do you see them always on Christmas cards and valentines
with letters round their necks?  How would they know where to go if
they couldn't read?"
"That's only in pictures.  You never saw one really with letters
round its neck."
"Well, I have a pigeon, then; at least Daddy told me they did.  Only
it was under their wings and not round their necks, but it comes to
the same thing, and--"
"I say," interrupted Bobbie, "there's to be a paperchase to-morrow."
"Who?" Peter asked.
"Grammar School.  Perks thinks the hare will go along by the line at
first.  We might go along the cutting.  You can see a long way from
The paperchase was found to be a more amusing subject of
conversation than the reading powers of swallows.  Bobbie had hoped
it might be.  And next morning Mother let them take their lunch and
go out for the day to see the paperchase.
"If we go to the cutting," said Peter, "we shall see the workmen,
even if we miss the paperchase."
Of course it had taken some time to get the line clear from the
rocks and earth and trees that had fallen on it when the great
landslip happened.  That was the occasion, you will remember, when
the three children saved the train from being wrecked by waving six
little red-flannel-petticoat flags.  It is always interesting to
watch people working, especially when they work with such
interesting things as spades and picks and shovels and planks and
barrows, when they have cindery red fires in iron pots with round
holes in them, and red lamps hanging near the works at night.  Of
course the children were never out at night; but once, at dusk, when
Peter had got out of his bedroom skylight on to the roof, he had
seen the red lamp shining far away at the edge of the cutting.  The
children had often been down to watch the work, and this day the
interest of picks and spades, and barrows being wheeled along
planks, completely put the paperchase out of their heads, so that
they quite jumped when a voice just behind them panted, "Let me
pass, please."  It was the hare--a big-boned, loose-limbed boy, with
dark hair lying flat on a very damp forehead.  The bag of torn paper
under his arm was fastened across one shoulder by a strap.  The
children stood back.  The hare ran along the line, and the workmen
leaned on their picks to watch him.  He ran on steadily and
disappeared into the mouth of the tunnel.
"That's against the by-laws," said the foreman.
"Why worry?" said the oldest workman; "live and let live's what I
always say.  Ain't you never been young yourself, Mr. Bates?"
"I ought to report him," said the foreman.
"Why spoil sport's what I always say."
"Passengers are forbidden to cross the line on any pretence,"
murmured the foreman, doubtfully.
"He ain't no passenger," said one of the workmen.
"Nor 'e ain't crossed the line, not where we could see 'im do it,"
said another.
"Nor yet 'e ain't made no pretences," said a third.
"And," said the oldest workman, "'e's outer sight now.  What the eye
don't see the 'art needn't take no notice of's what I always say."
And now, following the track of the hare by the little white blots
of scattered paper, came the hounds.  There were thirty of them, and
they all came down the steep, ladder-like steps by ones and twos and
threes and sixes and sevens.  Bobbie and Phyllis and Peter counted
them as they passed.  The foremost ones hesitated a moment at the
foot of the ladder, then their eyes caught the gleam of scattered
whiteness along the line and they turned towards the tunnel, and, by
ones and twos and threes and sixes and sevens, disappeared in the
dark mouth of it.  The last one, in a red jersey, seemed to be
extinguished by the darkness like a candle that is blown out.
"They don't know what they're in for," said the foreman; "it isn't
so easy running in the dark.  The tunnel takes two or three turns."
"They'll take a long time to get through, you think?" Peter asked.
"An hour or more, I shouldn't wonder."
"Then let's cut across the top and see them come out at the other
end," said Peter; "we shall get there long before they do."
The counsel seemed good, and they went.
They climbed the steep steps from which they had picked the wild
cherry blossom for the grave of the little wild rabbit, and reaching
the top of the cutting, set their faces towards the hill through
which the tunnel was cut.  It was stiff work.
"It's like Alps," said Bobbie, breathlessly.
"Or Andes," said Peter.
"It's like Himmy what's its names?" gasped Phyllis.  "Mount
Everlasting.  Do let's stop."
"Stick to it," panted Peter; "you'll get your second wind in a
Phyllis consented to stick to it--and on they went, running when the
turf was smooth and the slope easy, climbing over stones, helping
themselves up rocks by the branches of trees, creeping through
narrow openings between tree trunks and rocks, and so on and on, up
and up, till at last they stood on the very top of the hill where
they had so often wished to be.
"Halt!" cried Peter, and threw himself flat on the grass.  For the
very top of the hill was a smooth, turfed table-land, dotted with
mossy rocks and little mountain-ash trees.
The girls also threw themselves down flat.
"Plenty of time," Peter panted; "the rest's all down hill."
When they were rested enough to sit up and look round them, Bobbie
"Oh, look!"
"What at?" said Phyllis.
"The view," said Bobbie.
"I hate views," said Phyllis, "don't you, Peter?"
"Let's get on," said Peter.
"But this isn't like a view they take you to in carriages when
you're at the seaside, all sea and sand and bare hills.  It's like
the 'coloured counties' in one of Mother's poetry books."
"It's not so dusty," said Peter; "look at the Aqueduct straddling
slap across the valley like a giant centipede, and then the towns
sticking their church spires up out of the trees like pens out of an
inkstand.  _I_ think it's more like
     "There could he see the banners
      Of twelve fair cities shine."
"I love it," said Bobbie; "it's worth the climb."
"The paperchase is worth the climb," said Phyllis, "if we don't lose
it.  Let's get on.  It's all down hill now."
"_I_ said that ten minutes ago," said Peter.
"Well, I'VE said it now," said Phyllis; "come on."
"Loads of time," said Peter.  And there was.  For when they had got
down to a level with the top of the tunnel's mouth--they were a
couple of hundred yards out of their reckoning and had to creep
along the face of the hill--there was no sign of the hare or the
"They've gone long ago, of course," said Phyllis, as they leaned on
the brick parapet above the tunnel.
"I don't think so," said Bobbie, "but even if they had, it's ripping
here, and we shall see the trains come out of the tunnel like
dragons out of lairs.  We've never seen that from the top side
"No more we have," said Phyllis, partially appeased.
It was really a most exciting place to be in.  The top of the tunnel
seemed ever so much farther from the line than they had expected,
and it was like being on a bridge, but a bridge overgrown with
bushes and creepers and grass and wild-flowers.
"I KNOW the paperchase has gone long ago," said Phyllis every two
minutes, and she hardly knew whether she was pleased or disappointed
when Peter, leaning over the parapet, suddenly cried:--
"Look out.  Here he comes!"
They all leaned over the sun-warmed brick wall in time to see the
hare, going very slowly, come out from the shadow of the tunnel.
"There, now," said Peter, "what did I tell you?  Now for the
Very soon came the hounds--by ones and twos and threes and sixes and
sevens--and they also were going slowly and seemed very tired.  Two
or three who lagged far behind came out long after the others.
"There," said Bobbie, "that's all--now what shall we do?"
"Go along into the tulgy wood over there and have lunch," said
Phyllis; "we can see them for miles from up here."
"Not yet," said Peter.  "That's not the last.  There's the one in
the red jersey to come yet.  Let's see the last of them come out."
But though they waited and waited and waited, the boy in the red
jersey did not appear.
"Oh, let's have lunch," said Phyllis; "I've got a pain in my front
with being so hungry.  You must have missed seeing the red-jerseyed
one when he came out with the others--"
But Bobbie and Peter agreed that he had not come out with the
"Let's get down to the tunnel mouth," said Peter; "then perhaps we
shall see him coming along from the inside.  I expect he felt spun-
chuck, and rested in one of the manholes.  You stay up here and
watch, Bob, and when I signal from below, you come down.  We might
miss seeing him on the way down, with all these trees."
So the others climbed down and Bobbie waited till they signalled to
her from the line below.  And then she, too, scrambled down the
roundabout slippery path among roots and moss till she stepped out
between two dogwood trees and joined the others on the line.  And
still there was no sign of the hound with the red jersey.
"Oh, do, DO let's have something to eat," wailed Phyllis.  "I shall
die if you don't, and then you'll be sorry."
"Give her the sandwiches, for goodness' sake, and stop her silly
mouth," said Peter, not quite unkindly.  "Look here," he added,
turning to Bobbie, "perhaps we'd better have one each, too.  We may
need all our strength.  Not more than one, though.  There's no
"What?" asked Bobbie, her mouth already full, for she was just as
hungry as Phyllis.
"Don't you see," replied Peter, impressively, "that red-jerseyed
hound has had an accident--that's what it is.  Perhaps even as we
speak he's lying with his head on the metals, an unresisting prey to
any passing express--"
"Oh, don't try to talk like a book," cried Bobbie, bolting what was
left of her sandwich; "come on.  Phil, keep close behind me, and if
a train comes, stand flat against the tunnel wall and hold your
petticoats close to you."
"Give me one more sandwich," pleaded Phyllis, "and I will."
"I'm going first," said Peter; "it was my idea," and he went.
Of course you know what going into a tunnel is like?  The engine
gives a scream and then suddenly the noise of the running, rattling
train changes and grows different and much louder.  Grown-up people
pull up the windows and hold them by the strap.  The railway
carriage suddenly grows like night--with lamps, of course, unless
you are in a slow local train, in which case lamps are not always
provided.  Then by and by the darkness outside the carriage window
is touched by puffs of cloudy whiteness, then you see a blue light
on the walls of the tunnel, then the sound of the moving train
changes once more, and you are out in the good open air again, and
grown-ups let the straps go.  The windows, all dim with the yellow
breath of the tunnel, rattle down into their places, and you see
once more the dip and catch of the telegraph wires beside the line,
and the straight-cut hawthorn hedges with the tiny baby trees
growing up out of them every thirty yards.
All this, of course, is what a tunnel means when you are in a train.
But everything is quite different when you walk into a tunnel on
your own feet, and tread on shifting, sliding stones and gravel on a
path that curves downwards from the shining metals to the wall.
Then you see slimy, oozy trickles of water running down the inside
of the tunnel, and you notice that the bricks are not red or brown,
as they are at the tunnel's mouth, but dull, sticky, sickly green.
Your voice, when you speak, is quite changed from what it was out in
the sunshine, and it is a long time before the tunnel is quite dark.
It was not yet quite dark in the tunnel when Phyllis caught at
Bobbie's skirt, ripping out half a yard of gathers, but no one
noticed this at the time.
"I want to go back," she said, "I don't like it.  It'll be pitch
dark in a minute.  I WON'T go on in the dark.  I don't care what you
say, I WON'T."
"Don't be a silly cuckoo," said Peter; "I've got a candle end and
matches, and--what's that?"
"That" was a low, humming sound on the railway line, a trembling of
the wires beside it, a buzzing, humming sound that grew louder and
louder as they listened.
"It's a train," said Bobbie.
"Which line?"
"Let me go back," cried Phyllis, struggling to get away from the
hand by which Bobbie held her.
"Don't be a coward," said Bobbie; "it's quite safe.  Stand back."
"Come on," shouted Peter, who was a few yards ahead.  "Quick!
The roar of the advancing train was now louder than the noise you
hear when your head is under water in the bath and both taps are
running, and you are kicking with your heels against the bath's tin
sides.  But Peter had shouted for all he was worth, and Bobbie heard
him.  She dragged Phyllis along to the manhole.  Phyllis, of course,
stumbled over the wires and grazed both her legs.  But they dragged
her in, and all three stood in the dark, damp, arched recess while
the train roared louder and louder.  It seemed as if it would deafen
them.  And, in the distance, they could see its eyes of fire growing
bigger and brighter every instant.
"It IS a dragon--I always knew it was--it takes its own shape in
here, in the dark," shouted Phyllis.  But nobody heard her.  You see
the train was shouting, too, and its voice was bigger than hers.
And now, with a rush and a roar and a rattle and a long dazzling
flash of lighted carriage windows, a smell of smoke, and blast of
hot air, the train hurtled by, clanging and jangling and echoing in
the vaulted roof of the tunnel.  Phyllis and Bobbie clung to each
other.  Even Peter caught hold of Bobbie's arm, "in case she should
be frightened," as he explained afterwards.
And now, slowly and gradually, the tail-lights grew smaller and
smaller, and so did the noise, till with one last WHIZ the train got
itself out of the tunnel, and silence settled again on its damp
walls and dripping roof.
"OH!" said the children, all together in a whisper.
Peter was lighting the candle end with a hand that trembled.
"Come on," he said; but he had to clear his throat before he could
speak in his natural voice.
"Oh," said Phyllis, "if the red-jerseyed one was in the way of the
"We've got to go and see," said Peter.
"Couldn't we go and send someone from the station?" said Phyllis.
"Would you rather wait here for us?" asked Bobbie, severely, and of
course that settled the question.
So the three went on into the deeper darkness of the tunnel.  Peter
led, holding his candle end high to light the way.  The grease ran
down his fingers, and some of it right up his sleeve.  He found a
long streak from wrist to elbow when he went to bed that night.
It was not more than a hundred and fifty yards from the spot where
they had stood while the train went by that Peter stood still,
shouted "Hullo," and then went on much quicker than before.  When
the others caught him up, he stopped.  And he stopped within a yard
of what they had come into the tunnel to look for.  Phyllis saw a
gleam of red, and shut her eyes tight.  There, by the curved, pebbly
down line, was the red-jerseyed hound.  His back was against the
wall, his arms hung limply by his sides, and his eyes were shut.
"Was the red, blood?  Is he all killed?" asked Phyllis, screwing her
eyelids more tightly together.
"Killed?  Nonsense!" said Peter.  "There's nothing red about him
except his jersey.  He's only fainted.  What on earth are we to do?"
"Can we move him?" asked Bobbie.
"I don't know; he's a big chap."
"Suppose we bathe his forehead with water.  No, I know we haven't
any, but milk's just as wet.  There's a whole bottle."
"Yes," said Peter, "and they rub people's hands, I believe."
"They burn feathers, I know," said Phyllis.
"What's the good of saying that when we haven't any feathers?"
"As it happens," said Phyllis, in a tone of exasperated triumph,
"I've got a shuttlecock in my pocket.  So there!"
And now Peter rubbed the hands of the red-jerseyed one.  Bobbie
burned the feathers of the shuttlecock one by one under his nose,
Phyllis splashed warmish milk on his forehead, and all three kept on
saying as fast and as earnestly as they could:--
"Oh, look up, speak to me!  For my sake, speak!"

Chapter XII. What Bobbie brought home.
"Oh, look up!  Speak to me!  For MY sake, speak!"  The children said
the words over and over again to the unconscious hound in a red
jersey, who sat with closed eyes and pale face against the side of
the tunnel.
"Wet his ears with milk," said Bobbie.  "I know they do it to people
that faint--with eau-de-Cologne.  But I expect milk's just as good."
So they wetted his ears, and some of the milk ran down his neck
under the red jersey.  It was very dark in the tunnel.  The candle
end Peter had carried, and which now burned on a flat stone, gave
hardly any light at all.
"Oh, DO look up," said Phyllis.  "For MY sake!  I believe he's
"For MY sake," repeated Bobbie.  "No, he isn't."
"For ANY sake," said Peter; "come out of it."  And he shook the
sufferer by the arm.
And then the boy in the red jersey sighed, and opened his eyes, and
shut them again and said in a very small voice, "Chuck it."
"Oh, he's NOT dead," said Phyllis.  "I KNEW he wasn't," and she
began to cry.
"What's up?  I'm all right," said the boy.
"Drink this," said Peter, firmly, thrusting the nose of the milk
bottle into the boy's mouth.  The boy struggled, and some of the
milk was upset before he could get his mouth free to say:--
"What is it?"
"It's milk," said Peter.  "Fear not, you are in the hands of
friends.  Phil, you stop bleating this minute."
"Do drink it," said Bobbie, gently; "it'll do you good."
So he drank.  And the three stood by without speaking to him.
"Let him be a minute," Peter whispered; "he'll be all right as soon
as the milk begins to run like fire through his veins."
He was.
"I'm better now," he announced.  "I remember all about it."  He
tried to move, but the movement ended in a groan.  "Bother!  I
believe I've broken my leg," he said.
"Did you tumble down?" asked Phyllis, sniffing.
"Of course not--I'm not a kiddie," said the boy, indignantly; "it
was one of those beastly wires tripped me up, and when I tried to
get up again I couldn't stand, so I sat down.  Gee whillikins! it
does hurt, though.  How did YOU get here?"
"We saw you all go into the tunnel and then we went across the hill
to see you all come out.  And the others did--all but you, and you
didn't.  So we are a rescue party," said Peter, with pride.
"You've got some pluck, I will say," remarked the boy.
"Oh, that's nothing," said Peter, with modesty.  "Do you think you
could walk if we helped you?"
"I could try," said the boy.
He did try.  But he could only stand on one foot; the other dragged
in a very nasty way.
"Here, let me sit down.  I feel like dying," said the boy.  "Let go
of me--let go, quick--"  He lay down and closed his eyes.  The
others looked at each other by the dim light of the little candle.
"What on earth!" said Peter.
"Look here," said Bobbie, quickly, "you must go and get help.  Go to
the nearest house."
"Yes, that's the only thing," said Peter.  "Come on."
"If you take his feet and Phil and I take his head, we could carry
him to the manhole."
They did it.  It was perhaps as well for the sufferer that he had
fainted again.
"Now," said Bobbie, "I'll stay with him.  You take the longest bit
of candle, and, oh--be quick, for this bit won't burn long."
"I don't think Mother would like me leaving you," said Peter,
doubtfully.  "Let me stay, and you and Phil go."
"No, no," said Bobbie, "you and Phil go--and lend me your knife.
I'll try to get his boot off before he wakes up again."
"I hope it's all right what we're doing," said Peter.
"Of course it's right," said Bobbie, impatiently.  "What else WOULD
you do?  Leave him here all alone because it's dark?  Nonsense.
Hurry up, that's all."
So they hurried up.
Bobbie watched their dark figures and the little light of the little
candle with an odd feeling of having come to the end of everything.
She knew now, she thought, what nuns who were bricked up alive in
convent walls felt like.  Suddenly she gave herself a little shake.
"Don't be a silly little girl," she said.  She was always very angry
when anyone else called her a little girl, even if the adjective
that went first was not "silly" but "nice" or "good" or "clever."
And it was only when she was very angry with herself that she
allowed Roberta to use that expression to Bobbie.
She fixed the little candle end on a broken brick near the red-
jerseyed boy's feet.  Then she opened Peter's knife.  It was always
hard to manage--a halfpenny was generally needed to get it open at
all.  This time Bobbie somehow got it open with her thumbnail.  She
broke the nail, and it hurt horribly.  Then she cut the boy's
bootlace, and got the boot off.  She tried to pull off his stocking,
but his leg was dreadfully swollen, and it did not seem to be the
proper shape.  So she cut the stocking down, very slowly and
carefully.  It was a brown, knitted stocking, and she wondered who
had knitted it, and whether it was the boy's mother, and whether she
was feeling anxious about him, and how she would feel when he was
brought home with his leg broken.  When Bobbie had got the stocking
off and saw the poor leg, she felt as though the tunnel was growing
darker, and the ground felt unsteady, and nothing seemed quite real.
"SILLY little girl!" said Roberta to Bobbie, and felt better.
"The poor leg," she told herself; "it ought to have a cushion--ah!"
She remembered the day when she and Phyllis had torn up their red
flannel petticoats to make danger signals to stop the train and
prevent an accident.  Her flannel petticoat to-day was white, but it
would be quite as soft as a red one.  She took it off.
"Oh, what useful things flannel petticoats are!" she said; "the man
who invented them ought to have a statue directed to him."  And she
said it aloud, because it seemed that any voice, even her own, would
be a comfort in that darkness.
"WHAT ought to be directed?  Who to?" asked the boy, suddenly and
very feebly.
"Oh," said Bobbie, "now you're better!  Hold your teeth and don't
let it hurt too much.  Now!"
She had folded the petticoat, and lifting his leg laid it on the
cushion of folded flannel.
"Don't faint again, PLEASE don't," said Bobbie, as he groaned.  She
hastily wetted her handkerchief with milk and spread it over the
poor leg.
"Oh, that hurts," cried the boy, shrinking.  "Oh--no, it doesn't--
it's nice, really."
"What's your name?" said Bobbie.
"Mine's Bobbie."
"But you're a girl, aren't you?"
"Yes, my long name's Roberta."
"I say--Bobbie."
"Wasn't there some more of you just now?"
"Yes, Peter and Phil--that's my brother and sister.  They've gone to
get someone to carry you out."
"What rum names.  All boys'."
"Yes--I wish I was a boy, don't you?"
"I think you're all right as you are."
"I didn't mean that--I meant don't you wish YOU were a boy, but of
course you are without wishing."
"You're just as brave as a boy.  Why didn't you go with the others?"
"Somebody had to stay with you," said Bobbie.
"Tell you what, Bobbie," said Jim, "you're a brick.  Shake."  He
reached out a red-jerseyed arm and Bobbie squeezed his hand.
"I won't shake it," she explained, "because it would shake YOU, and
that would shake your poor leg, and that would hurt.  Have you got a
"I don't expect I have."  He felt in his pocket.  "Yes, I have.
What for?"
She took it and wetted it with milk and put it on his forehead.
"That's jolly," he said; "what is it?"
"Milk," said Bobbie.  "We haven't any water--"
"You're a jolly good little nurse," said Jim.
"I do it for Mother sometimes," said Bobbie--"not milk, of course,
but scent, or vinegar and water.  I say, I must put the candle out
now, because there mayn't be enough of the other one to get you out
"By George," said he, "you think of everything."
Bobbie blew.  Out went the candle.  You have no idea how black-
velvety the darkness was.
"I say, Bobbie," said a voice through the blackness, "aren't you
afraid of the dark?"
"Not--not very, that is--"
"Let's hold hands," said the boy, and it was really rather good of
him, because he was like most boys of his age and hated all material
tokens of affection, such as kissing and holding of hands.  He
called all such things "pawings," and detested them.
The darkness was more bearable to Bobbie now that her hand was held
in the large rough hand of the red-jerseyed sufferer; and he,
holding her little smooth hot paw, was surprised to find that he did
not mind it so much as he expected.  She tried to talk, to amuse
him, and "take his mind off" his sufferings, but it is very
difficult to go on talking in the dark, and presently they found
themselves in a silence, only broken now and then by a--
"You all right, Bobbie?"
or an--
"I'm afraid it's hurting you most awfully, Jim.  I AM so sorry."
And it was very cold.
          *          *          *          *          *          *
Peter and Phyllis tramped down the long way of the tunnel towards
daylight, the candle-grease dripping over Peter's fingers.  There
were no accidents unless you count Phyllis's catching her frock on a
wire, and tearing a long, jagged slit in it, and tripping over her
bootlace when it came undone, or going down on her hands and knees,
all four of which were grazed.
"There's no end to this tunnel," said Phyllis--and indeed it did
seem very very long.
"Stick to it," said Peter; "everything has an end, and you get to it
if you only keep all on."
Which is quite true, if you come to think of it, and a useful thing
to remember in seasons of trouble--such as measles, arithmetic,
impositions, and those times when you are in disgrace, and feel as
though no one would ever love you again, and you could never--never
again--love anybody.
"Hurray," said Peter, suddenly, "there's the end of the tunnel--
looks just like a pin-hole in a bit of black paper, doesn't it?"
The pin-hole got larger--blue lights lay along the sides of the
tunnel.  The children could see the gravel way that lay in front of
them; the air grew warmer and sweeter.  Another twenty steps and
they were out in the good glad sunshine with the green trees on both
Phyllis drew a long breath.
"I'll never go into a tunnel again as long as ever I live," said
she, "not if there are twenty hundred thousand millions hounds
inside with red jerseys and their legs broken."
"Don't be a silly cuckoo," said Peter, as usual.  "You'd HAVE to."
"I think it was very brave and good of me," said Phyllis.
"Not it," said Peter; "you didn't go because you were brave, but
because Bobbie and I aren't skunks.  Now where's the nearest house,
I wonder?  You can't see anything here for the trees."
"There's a roof over there," said Phyllis, pointing down the line.
"That's the signal-box," said Peter, "and you know you're not
allowed to speak to signalmen on duty.  It's wrong."
"I'm not near so afraid of doing wrong as I was of going into that
tunnel," said Phyllis.  "Come on," and she started to run along the
line.  So Peter ran, too.
It was very hot in the sunshine, and both children were hot and
breathless by the time they stopped, and bending their heads back to
look up at the open windows of the signal-box, shouted "Hi!" as loud
as their breathless state allowed.  But no one answered.  The
signal-box stood quiet as an empty nursery, and the handrail of its
steps was hot to the hands of the children as they climbed softly
up.  They peeped in at the open door.  The signalman was sitting on
a chair tilted back against the wall.  His head leaned sideways, and
his mouth was open.  He was fast asleep.
"My hat!" cried Peter; "wake up!"  And he cried it in a terrible
voice, for he knew that if a signalman sleeps on duty, he risks
losing his situation, let alone all the other dreadful risks to
trains which expect him to tell them when it is safe for them to go
their ways.
The signalman never moved.  Then Peter sprang to him and shook him.
And slowly, yawning and stretching, the man awoke.  But the moment
he WAS awake he leapt to his feet, put his hands to his head "like a
mad maniac," as Phyllis said afterwards, and shouted:--
"Oh, my heavens--what's o'clock?"
"Twelve thirteen," said Peter, and indeed it was by the white-faced,
round-faced clock on the wall of the signal-box.
The man looked at the clock, sprang to the levers, and wrenched them
this way and that.  An electric bell tingled--the wires and cranks
creaked, and the man threw himself into a chair.  He was very pale,
and the sweat stood on his forehead "like large dewdrops on a white
cabbage," as Phyllis remarked later.  He was trembling, too; the
children could see his big hairy hands shake from side to side,
"with quite extra-sized trembles," to use the subsequent words of
Peter.  He drew long breaths.  Then suddenly he cried, "Thank God,
thank God you come in when you did--oh, thank God!" and his
shoulders began to heave and his face grew red again, and he hid it
in those large hairy hands of his.
"Oh, don't cry--don't," said Phyllis, "it's all right now," and she
patted him on one big, broad shoulder, while Peter conscientiously
thumped the other.
But the signalman seemed quite broken down, and the children had to
pat him and thump him for quite a long time before he found his
handkerchief--a red one with mauve and white horseshoes on it--and
mopped his face and spoke.  During this patting and thumping
interval a train thundered by.
"I'm downright shamed, that I am," were the words of the big
signalman when he had stopped crying; "snivelling like a kid."  Then
suddenly he seemed to get cross.  "And what was you doing up here,
anyway?" he said; "you know it ain't allowed."
"Yes," said Phyllis, "we knew it was wrong--but I wasn't afraid of
doing wrong, and so it turned out right.  You aren't sorry we came."
"Lor' love you--if you hadn't 'a' come--" he stopped and then went
on.  "It's a disgrace, so it is, sleeping on duty.  If it was to
come to be known--even as it is, when no harm's come of it."
"It won't come to be known," said Peter; "we aren't sneaks.  All the
same, you oughtn't to sleep on duty--it's dangerous."
"Tell me something I don't know," said the man, "but I can't help
it.  I know'd well enough just how it 'ud be.  But I couldn't get
off.  They couldn't get no one to take on my duty.  I tell you I
ain't had ten minutes' sleep this last five days.  My little chap's
ill--pewmonia, the Doctor says--and there's no one but me and 'is
little sister to do for him.  That's where it is.  The gell must
'ave her sleep.  Dangerous?  Yes, I believe you.  Now go and split
on me if you like."
"Of course we won't," said Peter, indignantly, but Phyllis ignored
the whole of the signalman's speech, except the first six words.
"You asked us," she said, "to tell you something you don't know.
Well, I will.  There's a boy in the tunnel over there with a red
jersey and his leg broken."
"What did he want to go into the blooming tunnel for, then?" said
the man.
"Don't you be so cross," said Phyllis, kindly.  "WE haven't done
anything wrong except coming and waking you up, and that was right,
as it happens."
Then Peter told how the boy came to be in the tunnel.
"Well," said the man, "I don't see as I can do anything.  I can't
leave the box."
"You might tell us where to go after someone who isn't in a box,
though," said Phyllis.
"There's Brigden's farm over yonder--where you see the smoke a-
coming up through the trees," said the man, more and more grumpy, as
Phyllis noticed.
"Well, good-bye, then," said Peter.
But the man said, "Wait a minute."  He put his hand in his pocket
and brought out some money--a lot of pennies and one or two
shillings and sixpences and half-a-crown.  He picked out two
shillings and held them out.
"Here," he said.  "I'll give you this to hold your tongues about
what's taken place to-day."
There was a short, unpleasant pause.  Then:--
"You ARE a nasty man, though, aren't you?" said Phyllis.
Peter took a step forward and knocked the man's hand up, so that the
shillings leapt out of it and rolled on the floor.
"If anything COULD make me sneak, THAT would!" he said.  "Come,
Phil," and marched out of the signal-box with flaming cheeks.
Phyllis hesitated.  Then she took the hand, still held out stupidly,
that the shillings had been in.
"I forgive you," she said, "even if Peter doesn't.  You're not in
your proper senses, or you'd never have done that.  I know want of
sleep sends people mad.  Mother told me.  I hope your little boy
will soon be better, and--"
"Come on, Phil," cried Peter, eagerly.
"I give you my sacred honour-word we'll never tell anyone.  Kiss and
be friends," said Phyllis, feeling how noble it was of her to try to
make up a quarrel in which she was not to blame.
The signalman stooped and kissed her.
"I do believe I'm a bit off my head, Sissy," he said.  "Now run
along home to Mother.  I didn't mean to put you about--there."
So Phil left the hot signal-box and followed Peter across the fields
to the farm.
When the farm men, led by Peter and Phyllis and carrying a hurdle
covered with horse-cloths, reached the manhole in the tunnel, Bobbie
was fast asleep and so was Jim.  Worn out with the pain, the Doctor
said afterwards.
"Where does he live?" the bailiff from the farm asked, when Jim had
been lifted on to the hurdle.
"In Northumberland," answered Bobbie.
"I'm at school at Maidbridge," said Jim.  "I suppose I've got to get
back there, somehow."
"Seems to me the Doctor ought to have a look in first," said the
"Oh, bring him up to our house," said Bobbie.  "It's only a little
way by the road.  I'm sure Mother would say we ought to."
"Will your Ma like you bringing home strangers with broken legs?"
"She took the poor Russian home herself," said Bobbie.  "I know
she'd say we ought."
"All right," said the bailiff, "you ought to know what your Ma 'ud
like.  I wouldn't take it upon me to fetch him up to our place
without I asked the Missus first, and they call me the Master, too."
"Are you sure your Mother won't mind?" whispered Jim.
"Certain," said Bobbie.
"Then we're to take him up to Three Chimneys?" said the bailiff.
"Of course," said Peter.
"Then my lad shall nip up to Doctor's on his bike, and tell him to
come down there.  Now, lads, lift him quiet and steady.  One, two,
          *          *          *          *          *          *
Thus it happened that Mother, writing away for dear life at a story
about a Duchess, a designing villain, a secret passage, and a
missing will, dropped her pen as her work-room door burst open, and
turned to see Bobbie hatless and red with running.
"Oh, Mother," she cried, "do come down.  We found a hound in a red
jersey in the tunnel, and he's broken his leg and they're bringing
him home."
"They ought to take him to the vet," said Mother, with a worried
frown; "I really CAN'T have a lame dog here."
"He's not a dog, really--he's a boy," said Bobbie, between laughing
and choking.
"Then he ought to be taken home to his mother."
"His mother's dead," said Bobbie, "and his father's in
Northumberland.  Oh, Mother, you will be nice to him?  I told him I
was sure you'd want us to bring him home.  You always want to help
Mother smiled, but she sighed, too.  It is nice that your children
should believe you willing to open house and heart to any and every
one who needs help.  But it is rather embarrassing sometimes, too,
when they act on their belief.
"Oh, well," said Mother, "we must make the best of it."
When Jim was carried in, dreadfully white and with set lips whose
red had faded to a horrid bluey violet colour, Mother said:--
"I am glad you brought him here.  Now, Jim, let's get you
comfortable in bed before the Doctor comes!"
And Jim, looking at her kind eyes, felt a little, warm, comforting
flush of new courage.
"It'll hurt rather, won't it?" he said.  "I don't mean to be a
coward.  You won't think I'm a coward if I faint again, will you?  I
really and truly don't do it on purpose.  And I do hate to give you
all this trouble."
"Don't you worry," said Mother; "it's you that have the trouble, you
poor dear--not us."
And she kissed him just as if he had been Peter.  "We love to have
you here--don't we, Bobbie?"
"Yes," said Bobbie--and she saw by her Mother's face how right she
had been to bring home the wounded hound in the red jersey.

Chapter XIII. The hound's grandfather.
Mother did not get back to her writing all that day, for the red-
jerseyed hound whom the children had brought to Three Chimneys had
to be put to bed.  And then the Doctor came, and hurt him most
horribly.  Mother was with him all through it, and that made it a
little better than it would have been, but "bad was the best," as
Mrs. Viney said.
The children sat in the parlour downstairs and heard the sound of
the Doctor's boots going backwards and forwards over the bedroom
floor.  And once or twice there was a groan.
"It's horrible," said Bobbie.  "Oh, I wish Dr. Forrest would make
haste.  Oh, poor Jim!"
"It IS horrible," said Peter, "but it's very exciting.  I wish
Doctors weren't so stuck-up about who they'll have in the room when
they're doing things.  I should most awfully like to see a leg set.
I believe the bones crunch like anything."
"Don't!" said the two girls at once.
"Rubbish!" said Peter.  "How are you going to be Red Cross Nurses,
like you were talking of coming home, if you can't even stand
hearing me say about bones crunching?  You'd have to HEAR them
crunch on the field of battle--and be steeped in gore up to the
elbows as likely as not, and--"
"Stop it!" cried Bobbie, with a white face; "you don't know how
funny you're making me feel."
"Me, too," said Phyllis, whose face was pink.
"Cowards!" said Peter.
"I'm not," said Bobbie.  "I helped Mother with your rake-wounded
foot, and so did Phil--you know we did."
"Well, then!" said Peter.  "Now look here.  It would be a jolly good
thing for you if I were to talk to you every day for half an hour
about broken bones and people's insides, so as to get you used to
A chair was moved above.
"Listen," said Peter, "that's the bone crunching."
"I do wish you wouldn't," said Phyllis.  "Bobbie doesn't like it."
"I'll tell you what they do," said Peter.  I can't think what made
him so horrid.  Perhaps it was because he had been so very nice and
kind all the earlier part of the day, and now he had to have a
change.  This is called reaction.  One notices it now and then in
oneself.  Sometimes when one has been extra good for a longer time
than usual, one is suddenly attacked by a violent fit of not being
good at all.  "I'll tell you what they do," said Peter; "they strap
the broken man down so that he can't resist or interfere with their
doctorish designs, and then someone holds his head, and someone
holds his leg--the broken one, and pulls it till the bones fit in--
with a crunch, mind you!  Then they strap it up and--let's play at
"Oh, no!" said Phyllis.
But Bobbie said suddenly:  "All right--LET'S!  I'll be the doctor,
and Phil can be the nurse.  You can be the broken boner; we can get
at your legs more easily, because you don't wear petticoats."
"I'll get the splints and bandages," said Peter; "you get the couch
of suffering ready."
The ropes that had tied up the boxes that had come from home were
all in a wooden packing-case in the cellar.  When Peter brought in a
trailing tangle of them, and two boards for splints, Phyllis was
excitedly giggling.
"Now, then," he said, and lay down on the settle, groaning most
"Not so loud!" said Bobbie, beginning to wind the rope round him and
the settle.  "You pull, Phil."
"Not so tight," moaned Peter.  "You'll break my other leg."
Bobbie worked on in silence, winding more and more rope round him.
"That's enough," said Peter.  "I can't move at all.  Oh, my poor
leg!"  He groaned again.
"SURE you can't move?" asked Bobbie, in a rather strange tone.
"Quite sure," replied Peter.  "Shall we play it's bleeding freely or
not?" he asked cheerfully.
"YOU can play what you like," said Bobbie, sternly, folding her arms
and looking down at him where he lay all wound round and round with
cord.  "Phil and I are going away.  And we shan't untie you till you
promise never, never to talk to us about blood and wounds unless we
say you may.  Come, Phil!"
"You beast!" said Peter, writhing.  "I'll never promise, never.
I'll yell, and Mother will come."
"Do," said Bobbie, "and tell her why we tied you up!  Come on, Phil.
No, I'm not a beast, Peter.  But you wouldn't stop when we asked you
"Yah," said Peter, "it wasn't even your own idea.  You got it out of
Bobbie and Phil, retiring in silent dignity, were met at the door by
the Doctor.  He came in rubbing his hands and looking pleased with
"Well," he said, "THAT job's done.  It's a nice clean fracture, and
it'll go on all right, I've no doubt.  Plucky young chap, too--
hullo! what's all this?"
His eye had fallen on Peter who lay mousy-still in his bonds on the
"Playing at prisoners, eh?" he said; but his eyebrows had gone up a
little.  Somehow he had not thought that Bobbie would be playing
while in the room above someone was having a broken bone set.
"Oh, no!" said Bobbie, "not at PRISONERS.  We were playing at
setting bones.  Peter's the broken boner, and I was the doctor."
The Doctor frowned.
"Then I must say," he said, and he said it rather sternly, "that's
it's a very heartless game.  Haven't you enough imagination even to
faintly picture what's been going on upstairs?  That poor chap, with
the drops of sweat on his forehead, and biting his lips so as not to
cry out, and every touch on his leg agony and--"
"YOU ought to be tied up," said Phyllis; "you're as bad as--"
"Hush," said Bobbie; "I'm sorry, but we weren't heartless, really."
"I was, I suppose," said Peter, crossly.  "All right, Bobbie, don't
you go on being noble and screening me, because I jolly well won't
have it.  It was only that I kept on talking about blood and wounds.
I wanted to train them for Red Cross Nurses.  And I wouldn't stop
when they asked me."
"Well?" said Dr. Forrest, sitting down.
"Well--then I said, 'Let's play at setting bones.'  It was all rot.
I knew Bobbie wouldn't.  I only said it to tease her.  And then when
she said 'yes,' of course I had to go through with it.  And they
tied me up.  They got it out of Stalky.  And I think it's a beastly
He managed to writhe over and hide his face against the wooden back
of the settle.
"I didn't think that anyone would know but us," said Bobbie,
indignantly answering Peter's unspoken reproach.  "I never thought
of your coming in.  And hearing about blood and wounds does really
make me feel most awfully funny.  It was only a joke our tying him
up.  Let me untie you, Pete."
"I don't care if you never untie me," said Peter; "and if that's
your idea of a joke--"
"If I were you," said the Doctor, though really he did not quite
know what to say, "I should be untied before your Mother comes down.
You don't want to worry her just now, do you?"
"I don't promise anything about not saying about wounds, mind," said
Peter, in very surly tones, as Bobbie and Phyllis began to untie the
"I'm very sorry, Pete," Bobbie whispered, leaning close to him as
she fumbled with the big knot under the settle; "but if you only
knew how sick you made me feel."
"You've made ME feel pretty sick, I can tell you," Peter rejoined.
Then he shook off the loose cords, and stood up.
"I looked in," said Dr. Forrest, "to see if one of you would come
along to the surgery.  There are some things that your Mother will
want at once, and I've given my man a day off to go and see the
circus; will you come, Peter?"
Peter went without a word or a look to his sisters.
The two walked in silence up to the gate that led from the Three
Chimneys field to the road.  Then Peter said:--
"Let me carry your bag.  I say, it is heavy--what's in it?"
"Oh, knives and lancets and different instruments for hurting
people.  And the ether bottle.  I had to give him ether, you know--
the agony was so intense."
Peter was silent.
"Tell me all about how you found that chap," said Dr. Forrest.
Peter told.  And then Dr. Forrest told him stories of brave rescues;
he was a most interesting man to talk to, as Peter had often
Then in the surgery Peter had a better chance than he had ever had
of examining the Doctor's balance, and his microscope, and his
scales and measuring glasses.  When all the things were ready that
Peter was to take back, the Doctor said suddenly:--
"You'll excuse my shoving my oar in, won't you?  But I should like
to say something to you."
"Now for a rowing," thought Peter, who had been wondering how it was
that he had escaped one.
"Something scientific," added the Doctor.
"Yes," said Peter, fiddling with the fossil ammonite that the Doctor
used for a paper-weight.
"Well then, you see.  Boys and girls are only little men and women.
And WE are much harder and hardier than they are--"  (Peter liked
the "we."  Perhaps the Doctor had known he would.)--"and much
stronger, and things that hurt THEM don't hurt US.  You know you
mustn't hit a girl--"
"I should think not, indeed," muttered Peter, indignantly.
"Not even if she's your own sister.  That's because girls are so
much softer and weaker than we are; they have to be, you know," he
added, "because if they weren't, it wouldn't be nice for the babies.
And that's why all the animals are so good to the mother animals.
They never fight them, you know."
"I know," said Peter, interested; "two buck rabbits will fight all
day if you let them, but they won't hurt a doe."
"No; and quite wild beasts--lions and elephants--they're immensely
gentle with the female beasts.  And we've got to be, too."
"I see," said Peter.
"And their hearts are soft, too," the Doctor went on, "and things
that we shouldn't think anything of hurt them dreadfully.  So that a
man has to be very careful, not only of his fists, but of his words.
They're awfully brave, you know," he went on.  "Think of Bobbie
waiting alone in the tunnel with that poor chap.  It's an odd thing-
-the softer and more easily hurt a woman is the better she can screw
herself up to do what HAS to be done.  I've seen some brave women--
your Mother's one," he ended abruptly.
"Yes," said Peter.
"Well, that's all.  Excuse my mentioning it.  But nobody knows
everything without being told.  And you see what I mean, don't you?"
"Yes," said Peter.  "I'm sorry.  There!"
"Of course you are!  People always are--directly they understand.
Everyone ought to be taught these scientific facts.  So long!"
They shook hands heartily.  When Peter came home, his sisters looked
at him doubtfully.
"It's Pax," said Peter, dumping down the basket on the table.  "Dr.
Forrest has been talking scientific to me.  No, it's no use my
telling you what he said; you wouldn't understand.  But it all comes
to you girls being poor, soft, weak, frightened things like rabbits,
so us men have just got to put up with them.  He said you were
female beasts.  Shall I take this up to Mother, or will you?"
"I know what BOYS are," said Phyllis, with flaming cheeks; "they're
just the nastiest, rudest--"
"They're very brave," said Bobbie, "sometimes."
"Ah, you mean the chap upstairs?  I see.  Go ahead, Phil--I shall
put up with you whatever you say because you're a poor, weak,
frightened, soft--"
"Not if I pull your hair you won't," said Phyllis, springing at him.
"He said 'Pax,'" said Bobbie, pulling her away.  "Don't you see,"
she whispered as Peter picked up the basket and stalked out with it,
"he's sorry, really, only he won't say so?  Let's say we're sorry."
"It's so goody goody," said Phyllis, doubtfully; "he said we were
female beasts, and soft and frightened--"
"Then let's show him we're not frightened of him thinking us goody
goody," said Bobbie; "and we're not any more beasts than he is."
And when Peter came back, still with his chin in the air, Bobbie
"We're sorry we tied you up, Pete."
"I thought you would be," said Peter, very stiff and superior.
This was hard to bear.  But--
"Well, so we are," said Bobbie.  "Now let honour be satisfied on
both sides."
"I did call it Pax," said Peter, in an injured tone.
"Then let it BE Pax," said Bobbie.  "Come on, Phil, let's get the
tea.  Pete, you might lay the cloth."
"I say," said Phyllis, when peace was really restored, which was not
till they were washing up the cups after tea, "Dr. Forrest didn't
REALLY say we were female beasts, did he?"
"Yes," said Peter, firmly, "but I think he meant we men were wild
beasts, too."
"How funny of him!" said Phyllis, breaking a cup.
          *          *          *          *          *          *
"May I come in, Mother?"  Peter was at the door of Mother's writing
room, where Mother sat at her table with two candles in front of
her.  Their flames looked orange and violet against the clear grey
blue of the sky where already a few stars were twinkling.
"Yes, dear," said Mother, absently, "anything wrong?"  She wrote a
few more words and then laid down her pen and began to fold up what
she had written.  "I was just writing to Jim's grandfather.  He
lives near here, you know."
"Yes, you said so at tea.  That's what I want to say.  Must you
write to him, Mother?  Couldn't we keep Jim, and not say anything to
his people till he's well?  It would be such a surprise for them."
"Well, yes," said Mother, laughing, "I think it would."
"You see," Peter went on, "of course the girls are all right and all
that--I'm not saying anything against THEM.  But I should like it if
I had another chap to talk to sometimes."
"Yes," said Mother, "I know it's dull for you, dear.  But I can't
help it.  Next year perhaps I can send you to school--you'd like
that, wouldn't you?"
"I do miss the other chaps, rather," Peter confessed; "but if Jim
could stay after his leg was well, we could have awful larks."
"I've no doubt of it," said Mother.  "Well--perhaps he could, but
you know, dear, we're not rich.  I can't afford to get him
everything he'll want.  And he must have a nurse."
"Can't you nurse him, Mother?  You do nurse people so beautifully."
"That's a pretty compliment, Pete--but I can't do nursing and my
writing as well.  That's the worst of it."
"Then you MUST send the letter to his grandfather?"
"Of course--and to his schoolmaster, too.  We telegraphed to them
both, but I must write as well.  They'll be most dreadfully
"I say, Mother, why can't his grandfather pay for a nurse?" Peter
suggested.  "That would be ripping.  I expect the old boy's rolling
in money.  Grandfathers in books always are."
"Well, this one isn't in a book," said Mother, "so we mustn't expect
him to roll much."
"I say," said Peter, musingly, "wouldn't it be jolly if we all WERE
in a book, and you were writing it?  Then you could make all sorts
of jolly things happen, and make Jim's legs get well at once and be
all right to-morrow, and Father come home soon and--"
"Do you miss your Father very much?" Mother asked, rather coldly,
Peter thought.
"Awfully," said Peter, briefly.
Mother was enveloping and addressing the second letter.
"You see," Peter went on slowly, "you see, it's not only him BEING
Father, but now he's away there's no other man in the house but me--
that's why I want Jim to stay so frightfully much.  Wouldn't you
like to be writing that book with us all in it, Mother, and make
Daddy come home soon?"
Peter's Mother put her arm round him suddenly, and hugged him in
silence for a minute.  Then she said:--
"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that
God's writing?  If I were writing the book, I might make mistakes.
But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way
that's best for us."
"Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
"Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so
sad that I can't believe anything.  But even when I can't believe
it, I know it's true--and I try to believe.  You don't know how I
try, Peter.  Now take the letters to the post, and don't let's be
sad any more.  Courage, courage!  That's the finest of all the
virtues!  I dare say Jim will be here for two or three weeks yet."
For what was left of the evening Peter was so angelic that Bobbie
feared he was going to be ill.  She was quite relieved in the
morning to find him plaiting Phyllis's hair on to the back of her
chair in quite his old manner.
It was soon after breakfast that a knock came at the door.  The
children were hard at work cleaning the brass candlesticks in honour
of Jim's visit.
"That'll be the Doctor," said Mother; "I'll go.  Shut the kitchen
door--you're not fit to be seen."
But it wasn't the Doctor.  They knew that by the voice and by the
sound of the boots that went upstairs.  They did not recognise the
sound of the boots, but everyone was certain that they had heard the
voice before.
There was a longish interval.  The boots and the voice did not come
down again.
"Who can it possibly be?" they kept on asking themselves and each
"Perhaps," said Peter at last, "Dr. Forrest has been attacked by
highwaymen and left for dead, and this is the man he's telegraphed
for to take his place.  Mrs. Viney said he had a local tenant to do
his work when he went for a holiday, didn't you, Mrs. Viney?"
"I did so, my dear," said Mrs. Viney from the back kitchen.
"He's fallen down in a fit, more likely, said Phyllis, "all human
aid despaired of.  And this is his man come to break the news to
"Nonsense!" said Peter, briskly; "Mother wouldn't have taken the man
up into Jim's bedroom.  Why should she?  Listen--the door's opening.
Now they'll come down.  I'll open the door a crack."
He did.
"It's not listening," he replied indignantly to Bobbie's scandalised
remarks; "nobody in their senses would talk secrets on the stairs.
And Mother can't have secrets to talk with Dr. Forrest's stable-man-
-and you said it was him."
"Bobbie," called Mother's voice.
They opened the kitchen door, and Mother leaned over the stair
"Jim's grandfather has come," she said; "wash your hands and faces
and then you can see him.  He wants to see you!"  The bedroom door
shut again.
"There now!" said Peter; "fancy us not even thinking of that!  Let's
have some hot water, Mrs. Viney.  I'm as black as your hat."
The three were indeed dirty, for the stuff you clean brass
candlesticks with is very far from cleaning to the cleaner.
They were still busy with soap and flannel when they heard the boots
and the voice come down the stairs and go into the dining-room.  And
when they were clean, though still damp--because it takes such a
long time to dry your hands properly, and they were very impatient
to see the grandfather--they filed into the dining-room.
Mother was sitting in the window-seat, and in the leather-covered
armchair that Father always used to sit in at the other house sat--
"Well, I never did," said Peter, even before he said, "How do you
do?"  He was, as he explained afterwards, too surprised even to
remember that there was such a thing as politeness--much less to
practise it.
"It's our own old gentleman!" said Phyllis.
"Oh, it's you!" said Bobbie.  And then they remembered themselves
and their manners and said, "How do you do?" very nicely.
"This is Jim's grandfather, Mr. --" said Mother, naming the old
gentleman's name.
"How splendid!" said Peter; "that's just exactly like a book, isn't
it, Mother?"
"It is, rather," said Mother, smiling; "things do happen in real
life that are rather like books, sometimes."
"I am so awfully glad it IS you," said Phyllis; "when you think of
the tons of old gentlemen there are in the world--it might have been
almost anyone."
"I say, though," said Peter, "you're not going to take Jim away,
though, are you?"
"Not at present," said the old gentleman.  "Your Mother has most
kindly consented to let him stay here.  I thought of sending a
nurse, but your Mother is good enough to say that she will nurse him
"But what about her writing?" said Peter, before anyone could stop
him.  "There won't be anything for him to eat if Mother doesn't
"That's all right," said Mother, hastily.
The old gentleman looked very kindly at Mother.
"I see," he said, "you trust your children, and confide in them."
"Of course," said Mother.
"Then I may tell them of our little arrangement," he said.  "Your
Mother, my dears, has consented to give up writing for a little
while and to become a Matron of my Hospital."
"Oh!" said Phyllis, blankly; "and shall we have to go away from
Three Chimneys and the Railway and everything?"
"No, no, darling," said Mother, hurriedly.
"The Hospital is called Three Chimneys Hospital," said the old
gentleman, "and my unlucky Jim's the only patient, and I hope he'll
continue to be so.  Your Mother will be Matron, and there'll be a
hospital staff of a housemaid and a cook--till Jim's well."
"And then will Mother go on writing again?" asked Peter.
"We shall see," said the old gentleman, with a slight, swift glance
at Bobbie; "perhaps something nice may happen and she won't have
"I love my writing," said Mother, very quickly.
"I know," said the old gentleman; "don't be afraid that I'm going to
try to interfere.  But one never knows.  Very wonderful and
beautiful things do happen, don't they?  And we live most of our
lives in the hope of them.  I may come again to see the boy?"
"Surely," said Mother, "and I don't know how to thank you for making
it possible for me to nurse him.  Dear boy!"
"He kept calling Mother, Mother, in the night," said Phyllis.  "I
woke up twice and heard him."
"He didn't mean me," said Mother, in a low voice to the old
gentleman; "that's why I wanted so much to keep him."
The old gentleman rose.
"I'm so glad," said Peter, "that you're going to keep him, Mother."
"Take care of your Mother, my dears," said the old gentleman.
"She's a woman in a million."
"Yes, isn't she?" whispered Bobbie.
"God bless her," said the old gentleman, taking both Mother's hands,
"God bless her!  Ay, and she shall be blessed.  Dear me, where's my
hat?  Will Bobbie come with me to the gate?"
At the gate he stopped and said:--
"You're a good child, my dear--I got your letter.  But it wasn't
needed.  When I read about your Father's case in the papers at the
time, I had my doubts.  And ever since I've known who you were, I've
been trying to find out things.  I haven't done very much yet.  But
I have hopes, my dear--I have hopes."
"Oh!" said Bobbie, choking a little.
"Yes--I may say great hopes.  But keep your secret a little longer.
Wouldn't do to upset your Mother with a false hope, would it?"
"Oh, but it isn't false!" said Bobbie; "I KNOW you can do it.  I
knew you could when I wrote.  It isn't a false hope, is it?"
"No," he said, "I don't think it's a false hope, or I wouldn't have
told you.  And I think you deserve to be told that there IS a hope."
"And you don't think Father did it, do you?  Oh, say you don't think
he did."
"My dear," he said, "I'm perfectly CERTAIN he didn't."
If it was a false hope, it was none the less a very radiant one that
lay warm at Bobbie's heart, and through the days that followed
lighted her little face as a Japanese lantern is lighted by the
candle within.

Chapter XIV. The End.
Life at the Three Chimneys was never quite the same again after the
old gentleman came to see his grandson.  Although they now knew his
name, the children never spoke of him by it--at any rate, when they
were by themselves.  To them he was always the old gentleman, and I
think he had better be the old gentleman to us, too.  It wouldn't
make him seem any more real to you, would it, if I were to tell you
that his name was Snooks or Jenkins (which it wasn't)?--and, after
all, I must be allowed to keep one secret.  It's the only one; I
have told you everything else, except what I am going to tell you in
this chapter, which is the last.  At least, of course, I haven't
told you EVERYTHING.  If I were to do that, the book would never
come to an end, and that would be a pity, wouldn't it?
Well, as I was saying, life at Three Chimneys was never quite the
same again.  The cook and the housemaid were very nice (I don't mind
telling you their names--they were Clara and Ethelwyn), but they
told Mother they did not seem to want Mrs. Viney, and that she was
an old muddler.  So Mrs. Viney came only two days a week to do
washing and ironing.  Then Clara and Ethelwyn said they could do the
work all right if they weren't interfered with, and that meant that
the children no longer got the tea and cleared it away and washed up
the tea-things and dusted the rooms.
This would have left quite a blank in their lives, although they had
often pretended to themselves and to each other that they hated
housework.  But now that Mother had no writing and no housework to
do, she had time for lessons.  And lessons the children had to do.
However nice the person who is teaching you may be, lessons are
lessons all the world over, and at their best are worse fun than
peeling potatoes or lighting a fire.
On the other hand, if Mother now had time for lessons, she also had
time for play, and to make up little rhymes for the children as she
used to do.  She had not had much time for rhymes since she came to
Three Chimneys.
There was one very odd thing about these lessons.  Whatever the
children were doing, they always wanted to be doing something else.
When Peter was doing his Latin, he thought it would be nice to be
learning History like Bobbie.  Bobbie would have preferred
Arithmetic, which was what Phyllis happened to be doing, and Phyllis
of course thought Latin much the most interesting kind of lesson.
And so on.
So, one day, when they sat down to lessons, each of them found a
little rhyme at its place.  I put the rhymes in to show you that
their Mother really did understand a little how children feel about
things, and also the kind of words they use, which is the case with
very few grown-up people.  I suppose most grown-ups have very bad
memories, and have forgotten how they felt when they were little.
Of course, the verses are supposed to be spoken by the children.
     I once thought Caesar easy pap--
       How very soft I must have been!
     When they start Caesar with a chap
       He little know what that will mean.
     Oh, verbs are silly stupid things.
     I'd rather learn the dates of kings!
     The worst of all my lesson things
       Is learning who succeeded who
     In all the rows of queens and kings,
       With dates to everything they do:
     With dates enough to make you sick;--
     I wish it was Arithmetic!
     Such pounds and pounds of apples fill
       My slate--what is the price you'd spend?
     You scratch the figures out until
       You cry upon the dividend.
     I'd break the slate and scream for joy
     If I did Latin like a boy!
This kind of thing, of course, made lessons much jollier.  It is
something to know that the person who is teaching you sees that it
is not all plain sailing for you, and does not think that it is just
your stupidness that makes you not know your lessons till you've
learned them!
Then as Jim's leg got better it was very pleasant to go up and sit
with him and hear tales about his school life and the other boys.
There was one boy, named Parr, of whom Jim seemed to have formed the
lowest possible opinion, and another boy named Wigsby Minor, for
whose views Jim had a great respect.  Also there were three brothers
named Paley, and the youngest was called Paley Terts, and was much
given to fighting.
Peter drank in all this with deep joy, and Mother seemed to have
listened with some interest, for one day she gave Jim a sheet of
paper on which she had written a rhyme about Parr, bringing in Paley
and Wigsby by name in a most wonderful way, as well as all the
reasons Jim had for not liking Parr, and Wigsby's wise opinion on
the matter.  Jim was immensely pleased.  He had never had a rhyme
written expressly for him before.  He read it till he knew it by
heart and then he sent it to Wigsby, who liked it almost as much as
Jim did.  Perhaps you may like it, too.
               THE NEW BOY
     His name is Parr:  he says that he
     Is given bread and milk for tea.
     He says his father killed a bear.
     He says his mother cuts his hair.
     He wears goloshes when it's wet.
     I've heard his people call him "Pet"!
     He has no proper sense of shame;
     He told the chaps his Christian name.
     He cannot wicket-keep at all,
     He's frightened of a cricket ball.
     He reads indoors for hours and hours.
     He knows the names of beastly flowers.
     He says his French just like Mossoo--
     A beastly stuck-up thing to do--
     He won't keep _cave_, shirks his turn
     And says he came to school to learn!
     He won't play football, says it hurts;
     He wouldn't fight with Paley Terts;
     He couldn't whistle if he tried,
     And when we laughed at him he cried!
     Now Wigsby Minor says that Parr
     Is only like all new boys are.
     I know when _I_ first came to school
     I wasn't such a jolly fool!
Jim could never understand how Mother could have been clever enough
to do it.  To the others it seemed nice, but natural.  You see they
had always been used to having a mother who could write verses just
like the way people talk, even to the shocking expression at the end
of the rhyme, which was Jim's very own.
Jim taught Peter to play chess and draughts and dominoes, and
altogether it was a nice quiet time.
Only Jim's leg got better and better, and a general feeling began to
spring up among Bobbie, Peter, and Phyllis that something ought to
be done to amuse him; not just games, but something really handsome.
But it was extraordinarily difficult to think of anything.
"It's no good," said Peter, when all of them had thought and thought
till their heads felt quite heavy and swollen; "if we can't think of
anything to amuse him, we just can't, and there's an end of it.
Perhaps something will just happen of its own accord that he'll
"Things DO happen by themselves sometimes, without your making
them," said Phyllis, rather as though, usually, everything that
happened in the world was her doing.
"I wish something would happen," said Bobbie, dreamily, "something
And something wonderful did happen exactly four days after she had
said this.  I wish I could say it was three days after, because in
fairy tales it is always three days after that things happen.  But
this is not a fairy story, and besides, it really was four and not
three, and I am nothing if not strictly truthful.
They seemed to be hardly Railway children at all in those days, and
as the days went on each had an uneasy feeling about this which
Phyllis expressed one day.
"I wonder if the Railway misses us," she said, plaintively.  "We
never go to see it now."
"It seems ungrateful," said Bobbie; "we loved it so when we hadn't
anyone else to play with."
"Perks is always coming up to ask after Jim," said Peter, "and the
signalman's little boy is better.  He told me so."
"I didn't mean the people," explained Phyllis; "I meant the dear
Railway itself."
"The thing I don't like," said Bobbie, on this fourth day, which was
a Tuesday, "is our having stopped waving to the 9.15 and sending our
love to Father by it."
"Let's begin again," said Phyllis.  And they did.
Somehow the change of everything that was made by having servants in
the house and Mother not doing any writing, made the time seem
extremely long since that strange morning at the beginning of
things, when they had got up so early and burnt the bottom out of
the kettle and had apple pie for breakfast and first seen the
It was September now, and the turf on the slope to the Railway was
dry and crisp.  Little long grass spikes stood up like bits of gold
wire, frail blue harebells trembled on their tough, slender stalks,
Gipsy roses opened wide and flat their lilac-coloured discs, and the
golden stars of St. John's Wort shone at the edges of the pool that
lay halfway to the Railway.  Bobbie gathered a generous handful of
the flowers and thought how pretty they would look lying on the
green-and-pink blanket of silk-waste that now covered Jim's poor
broken leg.
"Hurry up," said Peter, "or we shall miss the 9.15!"
"I can't hurry more than I am doing," said Phyllis.  "Oh, bother it!
My bootlace has come undone AGAIN!"
"When you're married," said Peter, "your bootlace will come undone
going up the church aisle, and your man that you're going to get
married to will tumble over it and smash his nose in on the
ornamented pavement; and then you'll say you won't marry him, and
you'll have to be an old maid."
"I shan't," said Phyllis.  "I'd much rather marry a man with his
nose smashed in than not marry anybody."
"It would be horrid to marry a man with a smashed nose, all the
same," went on Bobbie.  "He wouldn't be able to smell the flowers at
the wedding.  Wouldn't that be awful!"
"Bother the flowers at the wedding!" cried Peter.  "Look! the
signal's down.  We must run!"
They ran.  And once more they waved their handkerchiefs, without at
all minding whether the handkerchiefs were clean or not, to the
"Take our love to Father!" cried Bobbie.  And the others, too,
"Take our love to Father!"
The old gentleman waved from his first-class carriage window.  Quite
violently he waved.  And there was nothing odd in that, for he
always had waved.  But what was really remarkable was that from
every window handkerchiefs fluttered, newspapers signalled, hands
waved wildly.  The train swept by with a rustle and roar, the little
pebbles jumped and danced under it as it passed, and the children
were left looking at each other.
"Well!" said Peter.
"WELL!" said Bobbie.
"_WELL!_" said Phyllis.
"Whatever on earth does that mean?" asked Peter, but he did not
expect any answer.
"_I_ don't know," said Bobbie.  "Perhaps the old gentleman told the
people at his station to look out for us and wave.  He knew we
should like it!"
Now, curiously enough, this was just what had happened.  The old
gentleman, who was very well known and respected at his particular
station, had got there early that morning, and he had waited at the
door where the young man stands holding the interesting machine that
clips the tickets, and he had said something to every single
passenger who passed through that door.  And after nodding to what
the old gentleman had said--and the nods expressed every shade of
surprise, interest, doubt, cheerful pleasure, and grumpy agreement--
each passenger had gone on to the platform and read one certain part
of his newspaper.  And when the passengers got into the train, they
had told the other passengers who were already there what the old
gentleman had said, and then the other passengers had also looked at
their newspapers and seemed very astonished and, mostly, pleased.
Then, when the train passed the fence where the three children were,
newspapers and hands and handkerchiefs were waved madly, till all
that side of the train was fluttery with white like the pictures of
the King's Coronation in the biograph at Maskelyne and Cook's.  To
the children it almost seemed as though the train itself was alive,
and was at last responding to the love that they had given it so
freely and so long.
"It is most extraordinarily rum!" said Peter.
"Most stronery!" echoed Phyllis.
But Bobbie said, "Don't you think the old gentleman's waves seemed
more significating than usual?"
"No," said the others.
"I do," said Bobbie.  "I thought he was trying to explain something
to us with his newspaper."
"Explain what?" asked Peter, not unnaturally.
"_I_ don't know," Bobbie answered, "but I do feel most awfully
funny.  I feel just exactly as if something was going to happen."
"What is going to happen," said Peter, "is that Phyllis's stocking
is going to come down."
This was but too true.  The suspender had given way in the agitation
of the waves to the 9.15.  Bobbie's handkerchief served as first aid
to the injured, and they all went home.
Lessons were more than usually difficult to Bobbie that day.
Indeed, she disgraced herself so deeply over a quite simple sum
about the division of 48 pounds of meat and 36 pounds of bread among
144 hungry children that Mother looked at her anxiously.
"Don't you feel quite well, dear?" she asked.
"I don't know," was Bobbie's unexpected answer.  "I don't know how I
feel.  It isn't that I'm lazy.  Mother, will you let me off lessons
to-day?  I feel as if I wanted to be quite alone by myself."
"Yes, of course I'll let you off," said Mother; "but--"
Bobbie dropped her slate.  It cracked just across the little green
mark that is so useful for drawing patterns round, and it was never
the same slate again.  Without waiting to pick it up she bolted.
Mother caught her in the hall feeling blindly among the waterproofs
and umbrellas for her garden hat.
"What is it, my sweetheart?" said Mother.  "You don't feel ill, do
"I DON'T know," Bobbie answered, a little breathlessly, "but I want
to be by myself and see if my head really IS all silly and my inside
all squirmy-twisty."
"Hadn't you better lie down?" Mother said, stroking her hair back
from her forehead.
"I'd be more alive in the garden, I think," said Bobbie.
But she could not stay in the garden.  The hollyhocks and the asters
and the late roses all seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
It was one of those still, shiny autumn days, when everything does
seem to be waiting.
Bobbie could not wait.
"I'll go down to the station," she said, "and talk to Perks and ask
about the signalman's little boy."
So she went down.  On the way she passed the old lady from the Post-
office, who gave her a kiss and a hug, but, rather to Bobbie's
surprise, no words except:--
"God bless you, love--" and, after a pause, "run along--do."
The draper's boy, who had sometimes been a little less than civil
and a little more than contemptuous, now touched his cap, and
uttered the remarkable words:--
"'Morning, Miss, I'm sure--"
The blacksmith, coming along with an open newspaper in his hand, was
even more strange in his manner.  He grinned broadly, though, as a
rule, he was a man not given to smiles, and waved the newspaper long
before he came up to her.  And as he passed her, he said, in answer
to her "Good morning":--
"Good morning to you, Missie, and many of them!  I wish you joy,
that I do!"
"Oh!" said Bobbie to herself, and her heart quickened its beats,
"something IS going to happen!  I know it is--everyone is so odd,
like people are in dreams."
The Station Master wrung her hand warmly.  In fact he worked it up
and down like a pump-handle.  But he gave her no reason for this
unusually enthusiastic greeting.  He only said:--
"The 11.54's a bit late, Miss--the extra luggage this holiday time,"
and went away very quickly into that inner Temple of his into which
even Bobbie dared not follow him.
Perks was not to be seen, and Bobbie shared the solitude of the
platform with the Station Cat.  This tortoiseshell lady, usually of
a retiring disposition, came to-day to rub herself against the brown
stockings of Bobbie with arched back, waving tail, and reverberating
"Dear me!" said Bobbie, stooping to stroke her, "how very kind
everybody is to-day--even you, Pussy!"
Perks did not appear until the 11.54 was signalled, and then he,
like everybody else that morning, had a newspaper in his hand.
"Hullo!" he said, "'ere you are.  Well, if THIS is the train, it'll
be smart work!  Well, God bless you, my dear!  I see it in the
paper, and I don't think I was ever so glad of anything in all my
born days!"  He looked at Bobbie a moment, then said, "One I must
have, Miss, and no offence, I know, on a day like this 'ere!" and
with that he kissed her, first on one cheek and then on the other.
"You ain't offended, are you?" he asked anxiously.  "I ain't took
too great a liberty?  On a day like this, you know--"
"No, no," said Bobbie, "of course it's not a liberty, dear Mr.
Perks; we love you quite as much as if you were an uncle of ours--
but--on a day like WHAT?"
"Like this 'ere!" said Perks.  "Don't I tell you I see it in the
"Saw WHAT in the paper?" asked Bobbie, but already the 11.54 was
steaming into the station and the Station Master was looking at all
the places where Perks was not and ought to have been.
Bobbie was left standing alone, the Station Cat watching her from
under the bench with friendly golden eyes.
Of course you know already exactly what was going to happen.  Bobbie
was not so clever.  She had the vague, confused, expectant feeling
that comes to one's heart in dreams.  What her heart expected I
can't tell--perhaps the very thing that you and I know was going to
happen--but her mind expected nothing; it was almost blank, and felt
nothing but tiredness and stupidness and an empty feeling, like your
body has when you have been a long walk and it is very far indeed
past your proper dinner-time.
Only three people got out of the 11.54.  The first was a countryman
with two baskety boxes full of live chickens who stuck their russet
heads out anxiously through the wicker bars; the second was Miss
Peckitt, the grocer's wife's cousin, with a tin box and three brown-
paper parcels; and the third--
"Oh! my Daddy, my Daddy!"  That scream went like a knife into the
heart of everyone in the train, and people put their heads out of
the windows to see a tall pale man with lips set in a thin close
line, and a little girl clinging to him with arms and legs, while
his arms went tightly round her.
         *          *          *          *          *          *
"I knew something wonderful was going to happen," said Bobbie, as
they went up the road, "but I didn't think it was going to be this.
Oh, my Daddy, my Daddy!"
"Then didn't Mother get my letter?" Father asked.
"There weren't any letters this morning.  Oh! Daddy! it IS really
you, isn't it?"
The clasp of a hand she had not forgotten assured her that it was.
"You must go in by yourself, Bobbie, and tell Mother quite quietly
that it's all right.  They've caught the man who did it.  Everyone
knows now that it wasn't your Daddy."
"_I_ always knew it wasn't," said Bobbie.  "Me and Mother and our
old gentleman."
"Yes," he said, "it's all his doing.  Mother wrote and told me you
had found out.  And she told me what you'd been to her.  My own
little girl!"  They stopped a minute then.
And now I see them crossing the field.  Bobbie goes into the house,
trying to keep her eyes from speaking before her lips have found the
right words to "tell Mother quite quietly" that the sorrow and the
struggle and the parting are over and done, and that Father has come
I see Father walking in the garden, waiting--waiting.  He is looking
at the flowers, and each flower is a miracle to eyes that all these
months of Spring and Summer have seen only flagstones and gravel and
a little grudging grass.  But his eyes keep turning towards the
house.  And presently he leaves the garden and goes to stand outside
the nearest door.  It is the back door, and across the yard the
swallows are circling.  They are getting ready to fly away from cold
winds and keen frost to the land where it is always summer.  They
are the same swallows that the children built the little clay nests
Now the house door opens.  Bobbie's voice calls:--
"Come in, Daddy; come in!"
He goes in and the door is shut.  I think we will not open the door
or follow him.  I think that just now we are not wanted there.  I
think it will be best for us to go quickly and quietly away.  At the
end of the field, among the thin gold spikes of grass and the
harebells and Gipsy roses and St. John's Wort, we may just take one
last look, over our shoulders, at the white house where neither we
nor anyone else is wanted now.