Part 2 out of 5
After that nothing was written in the book for some time. I looked
about, and so did the others, but I never caught anyone in the act
of doing anything extra; though several of the others have told me
since of things they did at this time, and really wondered nobody
I think I said before that when you tell a story you cannot tell
everything. It would be silly to do it. Because ordinary kinds of
play are dull to read about; and the only other thing is meals, and
to dwell on what you eat is greedy and not like a hero at all. A
hero is always contented with a venison pasty and a horn of sack.
All the same, the meals were very interesting; with things you do
not get at home--Lent pies with custard and currants in them,
sausage rolls and fiede cakes, and raisin cakes and apple
turnovers, and honeycomb and syllabubs, besides as much new milk as
you cared about, and cream now and then, and cheese always on the
table for tea. Father told Mrs Pettigrew to get what meals she
liked, and she got these strange but attractive foods.
In a story about Wouldbegoods it is not proper to tell of times
when only some of us were naughty, so I will pass lightly over the
time when Noel got up the kitchen chimney and brought three bricks
and an old starling's nest and about a ton of soot down with him
when he fell. They never use the big chimney in the summer, but
cook in the wash-house. Nor do I wish to dwell on what H. O. did
when he went into the dairy. I do not know what his motive was.
But Mrs Pettigrew said SHE knew; and she locked him in, and said if
it was cream he wanted he should have enough, and she wouldn't let
him out till tea-time. The cat had also got into the dairy for
some reason of her own, and when H. O. was tired of whatever he
went in for he poured all the milk into the churn and tried to
teach the cat to swim in it. He must have been desperate. The cat
did not even try to learn, and H. O. had the scars on his hands for
weeks. I do not wish to tell tales of H. O., for he is very young,
and whatever he does he always catches it for; but I will just
allude to our being told not to eat the greengages in the garden.
And we did not. And whatever H. O. did was Noel's fault--for Noel
told H. O. that greengages would grow again all right if you did
not bite as far as the stone, just as wounds are not mortal except
when you are pierced through the heart. So the two of them bit
bites out of every greengage they could reach. And of course the
pieces did not grow again.
Oswald did not do things like these, but then he is older than his
brothers. The only thing he did just about then was making a
booby-trap for Mrs Pettigrew when she had locked H. O. up in the
dairy, and unfortunately it was the day she was going out in her
best things, and part of the trap was a can of water. Oswald was
not willingly vicious; it was but a light and thoughtless act which
he had every reason to be sorry for afterwards. And he is sorry
even without those reasons, because he knows it is ungentlemanly to
play tricks on women.
I remember Mother telling Dora and me when we were little that you
ought to be very kind and polite to servants, because they have to
work very hard, and do not have so many good times as we do. I
used to think about Mother more at the Moat House than I did at
Blackheath, especially in the garden. She was very fond of
flowers, and she used to tell us about the big garden where she
used to live; and I remember Dora and I helped her to plant seeds.
But it is no use wishing. She would have liked that garden,
The girls and the white mice did not do anything boldly
wicked--though of course they used to borrow Mrs Pettigrew's
needles, which made her very nasty. Needles that are borrowed
might just as well be stolen. But I say no more.
I have only told you these things to show the kind of events which
occurred on the days I don't tell you about. On the whole, we had
an excellent time.
It was on the day we had the pillow-fight that we went for the long
walk. Not the Pilgrimage--that is another story. We did not mean
to have a pillow-fight. It is not usual to have them after
breakfast, but Oswald had come up to get his knife out of the
pocket of his Etons, to cut some wire we were making rabbit snares
of. It is a very good knife, with a file in it, as well as a
corkscrew and other things--and he did not come down at once,
because he was detained by having to make an apple-pie bed for
Dicky. Dicky came up after him to see what he was up to, and when
he did see he buzzed a pillow at Oswald, and the fight began. The
others, hearing the noise of battle from afar, hastened to the
field of action, all except Dora, who couldn't because of being
laid up with her foot, and Daisy, because she is a little afraid of
us still, when we are all together. She thinks we are rough. This
comes of having only one brother.
Well, the fight was a very fine one. Alice backed me up, and Noel
and H. O. backed Dicky, and Denny heaved a pillow or two; but he
cannot shy straight, so I don't know which side he was on.
And just as the battle raged most fiercely, Mrs Pettigrew came in
and snatched the pillows away, and shook those of the warriors who
were small enough for it. SHE was rough if you like. She also
used language I should have thought she would be above. She said,
Drat you!' and 'Drabbit you!' The last is a thing I have never
heard said before. She said--
'There's no peace of your life with you children. Drat your
antics! And that poor, dear, patient gentleman right underneath,
with his headache and his handwriting: and you rampaging about over
his head like young bull-calves. I wonder you haven't more sense,
a great girl like you.'
She said this to Alice, and Alice answered gently, as we are told
'I really am awfully sorry; we forgot about the headache. Don't be
cross, Mrs Pettigrew; we didn't mean to; we didn't think.'
'You never do,' she said, and her voice, though grumpy, was no
longer violent. 'Why on earth you can't take yourselves off for
the day I don't know.'
We all said, 'But may we?'
She said, 'Of course you may. Now put on your boots and go for a
good long walk. And I'll tell you what--I'll put you up a snack,
and you can have an egg to your tea to make up for missing your
dinner. Now don't go clattering about the stairs and passages,
there's good children. See if you can't be quiet this once, and
give the good gentleman a chance with his copying.'
She went off. Her bark is worse than her bite. She does not
understand anything about writing books, though. She thinks
Albert's uncle copies things out of printed books, when he is
really writing new ones. I wonder how she thinks printed books get
made first of all. Many servants are like this.
She gave us the 'snack' in a basket, and sixpence to buy milk with.
She said any of the farms would let us have it, only most likely it
would be skim. We thanked her politely, and she hurried us out of
the front door as if we'd been chickens on a pansy bed.
(I did not know till after I had left the farm gate open, and the
hens had got into the garden, that these feathered bipeds display
a great partiality for the young buds of plants of the genus viola,
to which they are extremely destructive. I was told that by the
gardener. I looked it up in the gardening book afterwards to be
sure he was right. You do learn a lot of things in the country.)
We went through the garden as far as the church, and then we rested
a bit in the porch, and just looked into the basket to see what the
'snack' was. It proved to be sausage rolls and queen cakes, and a
Lent pie in a round tin dish, and some hard-boiled eggs, and some
apples. We all ate the apples at once, so as not to have to carry
them about with us. The churchyard smells awfully good. It is the
wild thyme that grows on the graves. This is another thing we did
not know before we came into the country.
Then the door of the church tower was ajar, and we all went up; it
had always been locked before when we had tried it.
We saw the ringers' loft where the ends of the bellropes hang down
with long, furry handles to them like great caterpillars, some red,
and some blue and white, but we did not pull them. And then we
went up to where the bells are, very big and dusty among large
dirty beams; and four windows with no glass, only shutters like
Venetian blinds, but they won't pull up. There were heaps of
straws and sticks on the window ledges. We think they were owls'
nests, but we did not see any owls.
Then the tower stairs got very narrow and dark, and we went on up,
and we came to a door and opened it suddenly, and it was like being
hit in the face, the light was so sudden. And there we were on the
top of the tower, which is flat, and people have cut their names on
it, and a turret at one corner, and a low wall all round, up and
down, like castle battlements. And we looked down and saw the roof
of the church, and the leads, and the churchyard, and our garden,
and the Moat House, and the farm, and Mrs Simpkins's cottage,
looking very small, and other farms looking like toy things out of
boxes, and we saw corn-fields and meadows and pastures. A pasture
is not the same thing as a meadow, whatever you may think. And we
saw the tops of trees and hedges, looking like the map of the
United States, and villages, and a tower that did not look very far
away standing by itself on the top of a hill. Alice pointed to it,
'It's not a church,' said Noel, 'because there's no churchyard.
Perhaps it's a tower of mystery that covers the entrance to a
subterranean vault with treasure in it.'
Dicky said, 'Subterranean fiddlestick!' and 'A waterworks, more
Alice thought perhaps it was a ruined castle, and the rest of its
crumbling walls were concealed by ivy, the growth of years.
Oswald could not make his mind up what it was, so he said, 'Let's
go and see! We may as well go there as anywhere.'
So we got down out of the church tower and dusted ourselves, and
The Tower of Mystery showed quite plainly from the road, now that
we knew where to look for it, because it was on the top of a hill.
We began to walk. But the tower did not seem to get any nearer.
And it was very hot.
So we sat down in a meadow where there was a stream in the ditch
and ate the 'snack'. We drank the pure water from the brook out of
our hands, because there was no farm to get milk at just there, and
it was too much fag to look for one--and, besides, we thought we
might as well save the sixpence.
Then we started again, and still the tower looked as far off as
ever. Denny began to drag his feet, though he had brought a
walking-stick which none of the rest of us had, and said--
'I wish a cart would come along. We might get a lift.'
He knew all about getting lifts, of course, from having been in the
country before. He is not quite the white mouse we took him for at
first. Of course when you live in Lewisham or Blackheath you learn
other things. If you asked for a lift in Lewisham, High Street,
your only reply would be jeers. We sat down on a heap of stones,
and decided that we would ask for a lift from the next cart,
whichever way it was going. It was while we were waiting that
Oswald found out about plantain seeds being good to eat.
When the sound of wheels came we remarked with joy that the cart
was going towards the Tower of Mystery. It was a cart a man was
going to fetch a pig home in. Denny said--
'I say, you might give us a lift. Will you?'
The man who was going for the pig said--
'What, all that little lot?' but he winked at Alice, and we saw
that he meant to aid us on our way. So we climbed up, and he
whipped up the horse and asked us where we were going. He was a
kindly old man, with a face like a walnut shell, and white hair and
beard like a jack-in-the-box.
'We want to get to the tower,' Alice said. 'Is it a ruin, or not?'
'It ain't no ruin,' the man said; 'no fear of that! The man wot
built it he left so much a year to be spent on repairing of it!
Money that might have put bread in honest folks' mouths.'
We asked was it a church then, or not.
'Church?' he said. 'Not it. It's more of a tombstone, from all I
can make out. They do say there was a curse on him that built it,
and he wasn't to rest in earth or sea. So he's buried half-way up
the tower--if you can call it buried.'
'Can you go up it?' Oswald asked.
'Lord love you! yes; a fine view from the top they say. I've never
been up myself, though I've lived in sight of it, boy and man,
these sixty-three years come harvest.'
Alice asked whether you had to go past the dead and buried person
to get to the top of the tower, and could you see the coffin.
'No, no,' the man said; 'that's all hid away behind a slab of
stone, that is, with reading on it. You've no call to be afraid,
missy. It's daylight all the way up. But I wouldn't go there
after dark, so I wouldn't. It's always open, day and night, and
they say tramps sleep there now and again. Anyone who likes can
sleep there, but it wouldn't be me.'
We thought that it would not be us either, but we wanted to go more
than ever, especially when the man said--
'My own great-uncle of the mother's side, he was one of the masons
that set up the stone slab. Before then it was thick glass, and
you could see the dead man lying inside, as he'd left it in his
will. He was lying there in a glass coffin with his best
clothes--blue satin and silver, my uncle said, such as was all the
go in his day, with his wig on, and his sword beside him, what he
used to wear. My uncle said his hair had grown out from under his
wig, and his beard was down to the toes of him. My uncle he always
upheld that that dead man was no deader than you and me, but was in
a sort of fit, a transit, I think they call it, and looked for him
to waken into life again some day. But the doctor said not. It
was only something done to him like Pharaoh in the Bible afore he
Alice whispered to Oswald that we should be late for tea, and
wouldn't it be better to go back now directly. But he said--
'If you're afraid, say so; and you needn't come in anyway--but I'm
The man who was going for the pig put us down at a gate quite near
the tower--at least it looked so until we began to walk again. We
thanked him, and he said--
'Quite welcome,' and drove off.
We were rather quiet going through the wood. What we had heard
made us very anxious to see the tower-- all except Alice, who would
keep talking about tea, though not a greedy girl by nature. None
of the others encouraged her, but Oswald thought himself that we
had better be home before dark.
As we went up the path through the wood we saw a poor wayfarer with
dusty bare feet sitting on the bank.
He stopped us and said he was a sailor, and asked for a trifle to
help him to get back to his ship.
I did not like the look of him much myself, but Alice said, 'Oh,
the poor man, do let's help him, Oswald.' So we held a hurried
council, and decided to give him the milk sixpence. Oswald had it
in his purse, and he had to empty the purse into his hand to find
the sixpence, for that was not all the money he had, by any means.
Noel said afterwards that he saw the wayfarer's eyes fastened
greedily upon the shining pieces as Oswald returned them to his
purse. Oswald has to own that he purposely let the man see that he
had more money, so that the man might not feel shy about accepting
so large a sum as sixpence.
The man blessed our kind hearts and we went on.
The sun was shining very brightly, and the Tower of Mystery did not
look at all like a tomb when we got to it. The bottom Storey was
on arches, all open, and ferns and things grew underneath. There
was a round stone stair going up in the middle. Alice began to
gather ferns while we went up, but when we had called out to her
that it was as the pig-man had said, and daylight all the way up,
'All right. I'm not afraid. I'm only afraid of being late home,'
and came up after us. And perhaps, though not downright manly
truthfulness, this was as much as you could expect from a girl.
There were holes in the little tower of the staircase to let light
in. At the top of it was a thick door with iron bolts. We shot
these back, and it was not fear but caution that made Oswald push
open the door so very slowly and carefully.
Because, of course, a stray dog or cat might have got shut up there
by accident, and it would have startled Alice very much if it had
jumped out on us.
When the door was opened we saw that there was no such thing. It
was a room with eight sides. Denny says it is the shape called
octogenarian; because a man named Octagius invented it. There were
eight large arched windows with no glass, only stone-work, like in
churches. The room was full of sunshine, and you could see the
blue sky through the windows, but nothing else, because they were
so high up. It was so bright we began to think the pig-man had
been kidding us. Under one of the windows was a door. We went
through, and there was a little passage and then a turret-twisting
stair, like in the church, but quite light with windows. When we
had gone some way up this, we came to a sort of landing, and there
was a block of stone let into the wall--polished--Denny said it was
Aberdeen graphite, with gold letters cut in it. It said--
'Here lies the body of Mr Richard Ravenal
Born 1720. Died 1779.'
and a verse of poetry:
'Here lie I, between earth and sky,
Think upon me, dear passers -by,
And you who do my tombstone see
Be kind to say a prayer for me.'
'How horrid!' Alice said. 'Do let's get home.'
'We may as well go to the top,' Dicky said, 'just to say we've
And Alice is no funk--so she agreed; though I could see she did not
Up at the top it was like the top of the church tower, only
octogenarian in shape, instead of square.
Alice got all right there; because you cannot think much about
ghosts and nonsense when the sun is shining bang down on you at
four o'clock in the afternoon, and you can see red farm-roofs
between the trees, and the safe white roads, with people in carts
like black ants crawling.
It was very jolly, but we felt we ought to be getting back, because
tea is at five, and we could not hope to find lifts both ways.
So we started to go down. Dicky went first, then Oswald, then
Alice--and H. O. had just stumbled over the top step and saved
himself by Alice's back, which nearly upset Oswald and Dicky, when
the hearts of all stood still, and then went on by leaps and
bounds, like the good work in missionary magazines.
For, down below us, in the tower where the man whose beard grew
down to his toes after he was dead was buried, there was a noise--a
loud noise. And it was like a door being banged and bolts
fastened. We tumbled over each other to get back into the open
sunshine on the top of the tower, and Alice's hand got jammed
between the edge of the doorway and H. O.'s boot; it was bruised
black and blue, and another part bled, but she did not notice it
till long after.
We looked at each other, and Oswald said in a firm voice (at least,
I hope it was)--
'What was that?'
'He HAS waked up,' Alice said. 'Oh, I know he has. Of course
there is a door for him to get out by when he wakes. He'll come up
here. I know he will.'
Dicky said, and his voice was not at all firm (I noticed that at
the time), 'It doesn't matter, if he's ALIVE.'
'Unless he's come to life a raving lunatic,' Noel said, and we all
stood with our eyes on the doorway of the turret--and held our
breath to hear.
But there was no more noise.
Then Oswald said--and nobody ever put it in the Golden Deed book,
though they own that it was brave and noble of him--he said--
'Perhaps it was only the wind blowing one of the doors to. I'll go
down and see, if you will, Dick.'
Dicky only said--
'The wind doesn't shoot bolts.'
'A bolt from the blue,' said Denny to himself, looking up at the
sky. His father is a sub-editor. He had gone very red, and he was
holding on to Alice's hand. Suddenly he stood up quite straight
'I'm not afraid. I'll go and see.'
THIS was afterwards put in the Golden Deed book. It ended in
Oswald and Dicky and Denny going. Denny went first because he said
he would rather-- and Oswald understood this and let him. If
Oswald had pushed first it would have been like Sir Lancelot
refusing to let a young knight win his spurs. Oswald took good
care to go second himself, though. The others never understood
this. You don't expect it from girls; but I did think father would
have understood without Oswald telling him, which of course he
We all went slowly.
At the bottom of the turret stairs we stopped short. Because the
door there was bolted fast and would not yield to shoves, however
desperate and united.
Only now somehow we felt that Mr Richard Ravenal was all right and
quiet, but that some one had done it for a lark, or perhaps not
known about anyone being up there. So we rushed up, and Oswald
told the others in a few hasty but well-chosen words, and we all
leaned over between the battlements, and shouted, 'Hi! you there!'
Then from under the arches of the quite-downstairs part of the
tower a figure came forth--and it was the sailor who had had our
milk sixpence. He looked up and he spoke to us. He did not speak
loud, but he spoke loud enough for us to hear every word quite
plainly. He said--
Oswald said, 'Drop what?'
He said, 'That row.'
Oswald said, 'Why?'
He said, 'Because if you don't I'll come up and make you, and
pretty quick too, so I tell you.'
Dicky said, 'Did you bolt the door?'
The man said, 'I did so, my young cock.'
Alice said--and Oswald wished to goodness she had held her tongue,
because he saw right enough the man was not friendly--'Oh, do come
and let us out--do, please.'
While she was saying it Oswald suddenly saw that he did not want
the man to come up. So he scurried down the stairs because he
thought he had seen something on the door on the top side, and sure
enough there were two bolts, and he shot them into their sockets.
This bold act was not put in the Golden Deed book, because when
Alice wanted to, the others said it was not GOOD of Oswald to think
of this, but only CLEVER. I think sometimes, in moments of danger
and disaster, it is as good to be clever as it is to be good. But
Oswald would never demean himself to argue about this.
When he got back the man was still standing staring up. Alice
'Oh, Oswald, he says he won't let us out unless we give him all our
money. And we might be here for days and days and all night as
well. No one knows where we are to come and look for us. Oh, do
let's give it him ALL.'
She thought the lion of the English nation, which does not know
when it is beaten, would be ramping in her brother's breast. But
Oswald kept calm. He said--
'All right,' and he made the others turn out their pockets. Denny
had a bad shilling, with a head on both sides, and three halfpence.
H. O. had a halfpenny. Noel had a French penny, which is only good
for chocolate machines at railway stations. Dicky had
tenpence-halfpenny, and Oswald had a two-shilling piece of his own
that he was saving up to buy a gun with. Oswald tied the whole lot
up in his handkerchief, and looking over the battlements, he said--
'You are an ungrateful beast. We gave you sixpence freely of our
The man did look a little bit ashamed, but he mumbled something
about having his living to get. Then Oswald said--
'Here you are. Catch!' and he flung down the handkerchief with the
money in it.
The man muffed the catch--butter-fingered idiot!-- but he picked up
the handkerchief and undid it, and when he saw what was in it he
swore dreadfully. The cad!
'Look here,' he called out, 'this won't do, young shaver. I want
those there shiners I see in your pus! Chuck 'em along!'
Then Oswald laughed. He said--
'I shall know you again anywhere, and you'll be put in prison for
this. Here are the SHINERS.' And he was so angry he chucked down
purse and all. The shiners were not real ones, but only
card-counters that looked like sovereigns on one side. Oswald used
to carry them in his purse so as to look affluent. He does not do
When the man had seen what was in the purse he disappeared under
the tower, and Oswald was glad of what he had done about the
bolts--and he hoped they were as strong as the ones on the other
side of the door.
We heard the man kicking and pounding at the door, and I am not
ashamed to say that we were all holding on to each other very
tight. I am proud, however, to relate that nobody screamed or
After what appeared to be long years, the banging stopped, and
presently we saw the brute going away among the trees. Then Alice
did cry, and I do not blame her. Then Oswald said--
'It's no use. Even if he's undone the door, he may be in ambush.
We must hold on here till somebody comes.'
Then Alice said, speaking chokily because she had not quite done
'Let's wave a flag.'
By the most fortunate accident she had on one of her Sunday
petticoats, though it was Monday. This petticoat is white. She
tore it out at the gathers, and we tied it to Denny's stick, and
took turns to wave it. We had laughed at his carrying a stick
before, but we were very sorry now that we had done so.
And the tin dish the Lent pie was baked in we polished with our
handkerchiefs, and moved it about in the sun so that the sun might
strike on it and signal our distress to some of the outlying farms.
This was perhaps the most dreadful adventure that had then ever
happened to us. Even Alice had now stopped thinking of Mr Richard
Ravenal, and thought only of the lurker in ambush.
We all felt our desperate situation keenly. I must say Denny
behaved like anything but a white mouse. When it was the others'
turn to wave, he sat on the leads of the tower and held Alice's and
Noel's hands, and said poetry to them--yards and yards of it. By
some strange fatality it seemed to comfort them. It wouldn't have
He said 'The Battle of the Baltic', and 'Gray's Elegy', right
through, though I think he got wrong in places, and the 'Revenge',
and Macaulay's thing about Lars Porsena and the Nine Gods. And
when it was his turn he waved like a man.
I will try not to call him a white mouse any more. He was a brick
that day, and no mouse.
The sun was low in the heavens, and we were sick of waving and very
hungry, when we saw a cart in the road below. We waved like mad,
and shouted, and Denny screamed exactly like a railway whistle, a
thing none of us had known before that he could do.
And the cart stopped. And presently we saw a figure with a white
beard among the trees. It was our Pig-man.
We bellowed the awful truth to him, and when he had taken it in--he
thought at first we were kidding-- he came up and let us out.
He had got the pig; luckily it was a very small one-- and we were
not particular. Denny and Alice sat on the front of the cart with
the Pig-man, and the rest of us got in with the pig, and the man
drove us right home. You may think we talked it over on the way.
Not us. We went to sleep, among the pig, and before long the
Pig-man stopped and got us to make room for Alice and Denny. There
was a net over the cart. I never was so sleepy in my life, though
it was not more than bedtime.
Generally, after anything exciting, you are punished--but this
could not be, because we had only gone for a walk, exactly as we
There was a new rule made, though. No walks except on the
high-roads, and we were always to take Pincher and either Lady, the
deer-hound, or Martha, the bulldog. We generally hate rules, but
we did not mind this one.
Father gave Denny a gold pencil-case because he was first to go
down into the tower. Oswald does not grudge Denny this, though
some might think he deserved at least a silver one. But Oswald is
above such paltry jealousies.
This is the story of one of the most far-reaching and influentially
naughty things we ever did in our lives. We did not mean to do
such a deed. And yet we did do it. These things will happen with
the best-regulated consciences.
The story of this rash and fatal act is intimately involved--which
means all mixed up anyhow--with a private affair of Oswald's, and
the one cannot be revealed without the other. Oswald does not
particularly want his story to be remembered, but he wishes to tell
the truth, and perhaps it is what father calls a wholesome
discipline to lay bare the awful facts.
It was like this.
On Alice's and Noel's birthday we went on the river for a picnic.
Before that we had not known that there was a river so near us.
Afterwards father said he wished we had been allowed to remain on
our pristine ignorance, whatever that is. And perhaps the dark
hour did dawn when we wished so too. But a truce to vain regrets.
It was rather a fine thing in birthdays. The uncle sent a box of
toys and sweets, things that were like a vision from another and a
brighter world. Besides that Alice had a knife, a pair of shut-up
scissors, a silk handkerchief, a book--it was The Golden Age and is
Ai except where it gets mixed with grown-up nonsense. Also a
work-case lined with pink plush, a boot-bag, which no one in their
senses would use because it had flowers in wool all over it. And
she had a box of chocolates and a musical box that played 'The Man
who broke' and two other tunes, and two pairs of kid gloves for
church, and a box of writing-paper--pink--with 'Alice' on it in
gold writing, and an egg coloured red that said 'A. Bastable' in
ink on one side. These gifts were the offerings of Oswald, Dora,
Dicky, Albert's uncle, Daisy, Mr Foulkes (our own robber), Noel, H.
O., father and Denny. Mrs Pettigrew gave the egg. It was a kindly
housekeeper's friendly token.
I shall not tell you about the picnic on the river because the
happiest times form but dull reading when they are written down.
I will merely state that it was prime. Though happy, the day was
uneventful. The only thing exciting enough to write about was in
one of the locks, where there was a snake--a viper. It was asleep
in a warm sunny corner of the lock gate, and when the gate was shut
it fell off into the water.
Alice and Dora screamed hideously. So did Daisy, but her screams
The snake swam round and round all the time our boat was in the
lock. It swam with four inches of itself--the head end--reared up
out of the water, exactly like Kaa in the Jungle Book--so we know
Kipling is a true author and no rotter. We were careful to keep
our hands well inside the boat. A snake's eyes strike terror into
the boldest breast.
When the lock was full father killed the viper with a boat-hook.
I was sorry for it myself. It was indeed a venomous serpent. But
it was the first we had ever seen, except at the Zoo. And it did
swim most awfully well.
Directly the snake had been killed H. O. reached out for its
corpse, and the next moment the body of our little brother was seen
wriggling conclusively on the boat's edge. This exciting spectacle
was not of a lasting nature. He went right in. Father clawed him
out. He is very unlucky with water.
Being a birthday, but little was said. H. O. was wrapped in
everybody's coats, and did not take any cold at all.
This glorious birthday ended with an iced cake and ginger wine, and
drinking healths. Then we played whatever we liked. There had
been rounders during the afternoon. It was a day to be for ever
marked by memory's brightest what's-its-name.
I should not have said anything about the picnic but for one thing.
It was the thin edge of the wedge. It was the all-powerful lever
that moved but too many events. You see, WE WERE NO LONGER
STRANGERS TO THE RIVER.
And we went there whenever we could. Only we had to take the dogs,
and to promise no bathing without grown-ups. But paddling in back
waters was allowed. I say no more.
I have not numerated Noel's birthday presents because I wish to
leave something to the imagination of my young readers. (The best
authors always do this.) If you will take the large, red catalogue
of the Army and Navy Stores, and just make a list of about fifteen
of the things you would like best--prices from 2s. to 25s.--you
will get a very good idea of Noel's presents, and it will help you
to make up your mind in case you are asked just before your next
birthday what you really NEED.
One of Noel's birthday presents was a cricket ball. He cannot bowl
for nuts, and it was a first-rate ball. So some days after the
birthday Oswald offered him to exchange it for a coconut he had won
at the fair, and two pencils (new), and a brand-new note-book.
Oswald thought, and he still thinks, that this was a fair exchange,
and so did Noel at the time, and he agreed to it, and was quite
pleased till the girls said it wasn't fair, and Oswald had the best
of it. And then that young beggar Noel wanted the ball back, but
Oswald, though not angry, was firm.
'You said it was a bargain, and you shook hands on it,' he said,
and he said it quite kindly and calmly.
Noel said he didn't care. He wanted his cricket ball back. And
the girls said it was a horrid shame.
If they had not said that, Oswald might yet have consented to let
Noel have the beastly ball, but now, of course, he was not going
to. He said--
'Oh, yes, I daresay. And then you would be wanting the coconut and
things again the next minute.'
'No, I shouldn't,' Noel said. It turned out afterwards he and H.
O. had eaten the coconut, which only made it worse. And it made
them worse too--which is what the book calls poetic justice.
Dora said, 'I don't think it was fair,' and even Alice said--
'Do let him have it back, Oswald.'
I wish to be just to Alice. She did not know then about the
coconut having been secretly wolfed up.
We were in the garden. Oswald felt all the feelings of the hero
when the opposing forces gathered about him are opposing as hard as
ever they can. He knew he was not unfair, and he did not like to
be jawed at just because Noel had eaten the coconut and wanted the
ball back. Though Oswald did not know then about the eating of the
coconut, but he felt the injustice in his soul all the same.
Noel said afterwards he meant to offer Oswald something else to
make up for the coconut, but he said nothing about this at the
'Give it me, I say,' Noel said.
And Oswald said, 'Shan't!'
Then Noel called Oswald names, and Oswald did not answer back but
just kept smiling pleasantly, and carelessly throwing up the ball
and catching it again with an air of studied indifference.
It was Martha's fault that what happened happened. She is the
bull-dog, and very stout and heavy. She had just been let loose
and she came bounding along in her clumsy way, and jumped up on
Oswald, who is beloved by all dumb animals. (You know how
sagacious they are.) Well, Martha knocked the ball out of Oswald's
hands, and it fell on the grass, and Noel pounced on it like a
hooded falcon on its prey. Oswald would scorn to deny that he was
not going to stand this, and the next moment the two were rolling
over on the grass, and very soon Noel was made to bite the dust.
And serve him right. He is old enough to know his own mind.
Then Oswald walked slowly away with the ball, and the others picked
Noel up, and consoled the beaten, but Dicky would not take either
And Oswald went up into his own room and lay on his bed, and
reflected gloomy reflections about unfairness.
Presently he thought he would like to see what the others were
doing without their knowing he cared. So he went into the
linen-room and looked out of its window, and he saw they were
playing Kings and Queens--and Noel had the biggest paper crown and
the longest stick sceptre.
Oswald turned away without a word, for it really was sickening.
Then suddenly his weary eyes fell upon something they had not
before beheld. It was a square trap-door in the ceiling of the
Oswald never hesitated. He crammed the cricket ball into his
pocket and climbed up the shelves and unbolted the trap-door, and
shoved it up, and pulled himself up through it. Though above all
was dark and smelt of spiders, Oswald fearlessly shut the trap-door
down again before he struck a match. He always carries matches.
He is a boy fertile in every subtle expedient. Then he saw he was
in the wonderful, mysterious place between the ceiling and the roof
of the house. The roof is beams and tiles. Slits of light show
through the tiles here and there. The ceiling, on its other and
top side, is made of rough plaster and beams. If you walk on the
beams it is all right--if you walk on the plaster you go through
with your feet. Oswald found this out later, but some fine
instinct now taught the young explorer where he ought to tread and
where not. It was splendid. He was still very angry with the
others and he was glad he had found out a secret they jolly well
He walked along a dark, narrow passage. Every now and then
cross-beams barred his way, and he had to creep under them. At
last a small door loomed before him with cracks of light under and
over. He drew back the rusty bolts and opened it. It opened
straight on to the leads, a flat place between two steep red roofs,
with a parapet two feet high back and front, so that no one could
see you. It was a place no one could have invented better than, if
they had tried, for hiding in.
Oswald spent the whole afternoon there. He happened to have a
volume of Percy's Anecdotes in his pocket, the one about lawyers,
as well as a few apples. While he read he fingered the cricket
ball, and presently it rolled away, and he thought he would get it
When the tea-bell rang he forgot the ball and went hurriedly down,
for apples do not keep the inside from the pangs of hunger.
Noel met him on the landing, got red in the face, and said--
'It wasn't QUITE fair about the ball, because H. O. and I had eaten
the coconut. YOU can have it.'
'I don't want your beastly ball,' Oswald said, 'only I hate
unfairness. However, I don't know where it is just now. When I
find it you shall have it to bowl with as often as you want.'
'Then you're not waxy?'
And Oswald said 'No' and they went in to tea together. So that was
all right. There were raisin cakes for tea.
Next day we happened to want to go down to the river quite early.
I don't know why; this is called Fate, or Destiny. We dropped in
at the 'Rose and Crown' for some ginger-beer on our way. The
landlady is a friend of ours and lets us drink it in her back
parlour, instead of in the bar, which would be improper for girls.
We found her awfully busy, making pies and jellies, and her two
sisters were hurrying about with great hams, and pairs of chickens,
and rounds of cold beef and lettuces, and pickled salmon and trays
of crockery and glasses.
'It's for the angling competition,' she said.
We said, 'What's that?'
'Why,' she said, slicing cucumber like beautiful machinery while
she said it, 'a lot of anglers come down some particular day and
fish one particular bit of the river. And the one that catches
most fish gets the prize. They're fishing the pen above Stoneham
Lock. And they all come here to dinner. So I've got my hands full
and a trifle over.'
We said, 'Couldn't we help?'
But she said, 'Oh, no, thank you. Indeed not, please. I really am
so I don't know which way to turn. Do run along, like dears.'
So we ran along like these timid but graceful animals.
Need I tell the intellectual reader that we went straight off to
the pen above Stoneham Lock to see the anglers competing? Angling
is the same thing as fishing.
I am not going to try and explain locks to you. If you've never
seen a lock you could never understand even if I wrote it in words
of one syllable and pages and pages long. And if you have, you'll
understand without my telling you. It is harder than Euclid if you
don't know beforehand. But you might get a grown-up person to
explain it to you with books or wooden bricks.
I will tell you what a pen is because that is easy. It is the bit
of river between one lock and the next. In some rivers 'pens' are
called 'reaches', but pen is the proper word.
We went along the towing-path; it is shady with willows, aspens,
alders, elders, oaks and other trees. On the banks are
flowers--yarrow, meadow-sweet, willow herb, loosestrife, and lady's
bed-straw. Oswald learned the names of all these trees and plants
on the day of the picnic. The others didn't remember them, but
Oswald did. He is a boy of what they call relenting memory.
The anglers were sitting here and there on the shady bank among the
grass and the different flowers I have named. Some had dogs with
them, and some umbrellas, and some had only their wives and
We should have liked to talk to them and ask how they liked their
lot, and what kinds of fish there were, and whether they were nice
to eat, but we did not like to.
Denny had seen anglers before and he knew they liked to be talked
to, but though he spoke to them quite like to equals he did not ask
the things we wanted to know. He just asked whether they'd had any
luck, and what bait they used.
And they answered him back politely. I am glad I am not an angler.
It is an immovable amusement, and, as often as not, no fish to
speak of after all.
Daisy and Dora had stayed at home: Dora's foot was nearly well but
they seem really to like sitting still. I think Dora likes to have
a little girl to order about. Alice never would stand it. When we
got to Stoneham Lock Denny said he should go home and fetch his
fishing-rod. H. O. went with him. This left four of us--Oswald,
Alice, Dicky, and Noel. We went on down the towing-path.
The lock shuts up (that sounds as if it was like the lock on a
door, but it is very otherwise) between one pen of the river and
the next; the pen where the anglers were was full right up over the
roots of the grass and flowers. But the pen below was nearly
'You can see the poor river's bones,' Noel said.
And so you could.
Stones and mud and dried branches, and here and there an old kettle
or a tin pail with no bottom to it, that some bargee had chucked
From walking so much along the river we knew many of the bargees.
Bargees are the captains and crews of the big barges that are
pulled up and down the river by slow horses. The horses do not
swim. They walk on the towing-path, with a rope tied to them, and
the other end to the barge. So it gets pulled along. The bargees
we knew were a good friendly sort, and used to let us go all over
the barges when they were in a good temper. They were not at all
the sort of bullying, cowardly fiends in human form that the young
hero at Oxford fights a crowd of, single-handed, in books.
The river does not smell nice when its bones are showing. But we
went along down, because Oswald wanted to get some cobbler's wax in
Falding village for a bird-net he was making.
But just above Falding Lock, where the river is narrow and
straight, we saw a sad and gloomy sight--a big barge sitting flat
on the mud because there was not water enough to float her.
There was no one on board, but we knew by a red flannel waistcoat
that was spread out to dry on top that the barge belonged to
friends of ours.
Then Alice said, 'They have gone to find the man who turns on the
water to fill the pen. I daresay they won't find him. He's gone
to his dinner, I shouldn't wonder. What a lovely surprise it would
be if they came back to find their barge floating high and dry on
a lot of water! DO let's do it. It's a long time since any of us
did a kind action deserving of being put in the Book of Golden
We had given that name to the minute-book of that beastly 'Society
of the Wouldbegoods'. Then you could think of the book if you
wanted to without remembering the Society. I always tried to
forget both of them.
Oswald said, 'But how? YOU don't know how. And if you did we
haven't got a crowbar.'
I cannot help telling you that locks are opened with crowbars. You
push and push till a thing goes up and the water runs through. It
is rather like the little sliding door in the big door of a
'I know where the crowbar is,' Alice said. 'Dicky and I were down
here yesterday when you were su--' She was going to say sulking, I
know, but she remembered manners ere too late so Oswald bears her
no malice. She went on: 'Yesterday, when you were upstairs. And
we saw the water-tender open the lock and the weir sluices. It's
quite easy, isn't it, Dicky?'
'As easy as kiss your hand,' said Dicky; 'and what's more, I know
where he keeps the other thing he opens the sluices with. I votes
'Do let's, if we can,' Noel said, 'and the bargees will bless the
names of their unknown benefactors. They might make a song about
us, and sing it on winter nights as they pass round the wassail
bowl in front of the cabin fire.'
Noel wanted to very much; but I don't think it was altogether for
generousness, but because he wanted to see how the sluices opened.
Yet perhaps I do but wrong the boy.
We sat and looked at the barge a bit longer, and then Oswald said,
well, he didn't mind going back to the lock and having a look at
the crowbars. You see Oswald did not propose this; he did not even
care very much about it when Alice suggested it.
But when we got to Stoneham Lock, and Dicky dragged the two heavy
crowbars from among the elder bushes behind a fallen tree, and
began to pound away at the sluice of the lock, Oswald felt it would
not be manly to stand idly apart. So he took his turn.
It was very hard work but we opened the lock sluices, and we did
not drop the crowbar into the lock either, as I have heard of being
done by older and sillier people.
The water poured through the sluices all green and solid, as if it
had been cut with a knife, and where it fell on the water
underneath the white foam spread like a moving counterpane. When
we had finished the lock we did the weir--which is wheels and
chains-- and the water pours through over the stones in a
magnificent waterfall and sweeps out all round the weir-pool.
The sight of the foaming waterfalls was quite enough reward for our
heavy labours, even without the thought of the unspeakable
gratitude that the bargees would feel to us when they got back to
their barge and found her no longer a stick-in-the-mud, but
bounding on the free bosom of the river.
When we had opened all the sluices we gazed awhile on the beauties
of Nature, and then went home, because we thought it would be more
truly noble and good not to wait to be thanked for our kind and
devoted action--and besides, it was nearly dinner-time and Oswald
thought it was going to rain.
On the way home we agreed not to tell the others, because it would
be like boasting of our good acts.
'They will know all about it,' Noel said, 'when they hear us being
blessed by the grateful bargees, and the tale of the Unknown
Helpers is being told by every village fireside. And then they can
write it in the Golden Deed book.'
So we went home. Denny and H. O. had thought better of it, and
they were fishing in the moat. They did not catch anything.
Oswald is very weather-wise--at least, so I have heard it said, and
he had thought there would be rain. There was. It came on while
we were at dinner--a great, strong, thundering rain, coming down in
sheets--the first rain we had had since we came to the Moat House.
We went to bed as usual. No presentiment of the coming awfulness
clouded our young mirth. I remember Dicky and Oswald had a
wrestling match, and Oswald won.
In the middle of the night Oswald was awakened by a hand on his
face. It was a wet hand and very cold. Oswald hit out, of course,
but a voice said, in a hoarse, hollow whisper--
'Don't be a young ass! Have you got any matches? My bed's full of
water; it's pouring down from the ceiling.'
Oswald's first thoughts was that perhaps by opening those sluices
we had flooded some secret passage which communicated with the top
of Moat House, but when he was properly awake he saw that this
could not be, on account of the river being so low.
He had matches. He is, as I said before, a boy full of resources.
He struck one and lit a candle, and Dicky, for it was indeed he,
gazed with Oswald at the amazing spectacle.
Our bedroom floor was all wet in patches. Dicky's bed stood in a
pond, and from the ceiling water was dripping in rich profusion at
a dozen different places. There was a great wet patch in the
ceiling, and that was blue, instead of white like the dry part, and
the water dripped from different parts of it.
In a moment Oswald was quite unmanned.
'Krikey!' he said, in a heart-broken tone, and remained an instant
plunged in thought.
'What on earth are we to do?' Dicky said.
And really for a short time even Oswald did not know. It was a
blood-curdling event, a regular facer. Albert's uncle had gone to
London that day to stay till the next. Yet something must be done.
The first thing was to rouse the unconscious others from their deep
sleep, because the water was beginning to drip on to their beds,
and though as yet they knew it not, there was quite a pool on
Noel's bed, just in the hollow behind where his knees were doubled
up, and one of H. O.'s boots was full of water, that surged wildly
out when Oswald happened to kick it over.
We woke them--a difficult task, but we did not shrink from it.
Then we said, 'Get up, there is a flood! Wake up, or you will be
drowned in your beds! And it's half past two by Oswald's watch.'
They awoke slowly and very stupidly. H. O. was the slowest and
The water poured faster and faster from the ceiling.
We looked at each other and turned pale, and Noel said--
'Hadn't we better call Mrs Pettigrew?'
But Oswald simply couldn't consent to this. He could not get rid
of the feeling that this was our fault somehow for meddling with
the river, though of course the clear star of reason told him it
could not possibly be the case.
We all devoted ourselves, heart and soul, to the work before us.
We put the bath under the worst and wettest place, and the jugs and
basins under lesser streams, and we moved the beds away to the dry
end of the room. Ours is a long attic that runs right across the
But the water kept coming in worse and worse. Our nightshirts were
wet through, so we got into our other shirts and knickerbockers,
but preserved bareness in our feet. And the floor kept on being
half an inch deep in water, however much we mopped it up.
We emptied the basins out of the window as fast as they filled, and
we baled the bath with a jug without pausing to complain how hard
the work was. All the same, it was more exciting than you can
think. But in Oswald's dauntless breast he began to see that they
would HAVE to call Mrs Pettigrew.
A new waterfall broke out between the fire-grate and the
mantelpiece, and spread in devastating floods. Oswald is full of
ingenious devices. I think I have said this before, but it is
quite true; and perhaps even truer this time than it was last time
I said it.
He got a board out of the box-room next door, and rested one end in
the chink between the fireplace and the mantelpiece, and laid the
other end on the back of a chair, then we stuffed the rest of the
chink with our nightgowns, and laid a towel along the plank, and
behold, a noble stream poured over the end of the board right into
the bath we put there ready. It was like Niagara, only not so
round in shape. The first lot of water that came down the chimney
was very dirty. The wind whistled outside. Noel said, 'If it's
pipes burst, and not the rain, it will be nice for the
water-rates.' Perhaps it was only natural after this for Denny to
begin with his everlasting poetry. He stopped mopping up the water
'By this the storm grew loud apace,
The water-rats were shrieking,
And in the howl of Heaven each face
Grew black as they were speaking.'
Our faces were black, and our hands too, but we did not take any
notice; we only told him not to gas but to go on mopping. And he
did. And we all did.
But more and more water came pouring down. You would not believe
so much could come off one roof.
When at last it was agreed that Mrs Pettigrew must be awakened at
all hazards, we went and woke Alice to do the fatal errand.
When she came back, with Mrs Pettigrew in a nightcap and red
flannel petticoat, we held our breath.
But Mrs Pettigrew did not even say, 'What on earth have you
children been up to NOW?' as Oswald had feared.
She simply sat down on my bed and said--
'Oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!' ever so many times.
Then Denny said, 'I once saw holes in a cottage roof. The man told
me it was done when the water came through the thatch. He said if
the water lies all about on the top of the ceiling, it breaks it
down, but if you make holes the water will only come through the
holes and you can put pails under the holes to catch it.'
So we made nine holes in the ceiling with the poker, and put pails,
baths and tubs under, and now there was not so much water on the
floor. But we had to keep on working like niggers, and Mrs
Pettigrew and Alice worked the same.
About five in the morning the rain stopped; about seven the water
did not come in so fast, and presently it only dripped slowly. Our
task was done.
This is the only time I was ever up all night. I wish it happened
oftener. We did not go back to bed then, but dressed and went
down. We all went to sleep in the afternoon, though. Quite
without meaning to.
Oswald went up on the roof, before breakfast, to see if he could
find the hole where the rain had come in. He did not find any
hole, but he found the cricket ball jammed in the top of a gutter
pipe which he afterwards knew ran down inside the wall of the house
and ran into the moat below. It seems a silly dodge, but so it
When the men went up after breakfast to see what had caused the
flood they said there must have been a good half-foot of water on
the leads the night before for it to have risen high enough to go
above the edge of the lead, and of course when it got above the
lead there was nothing to stop it running down under it, and
soaking through the ceiling. The parapet and the roofs kept it
from tumbling off down the sides of the house in the natural way.
They said there must have been some obstruction in the pipe which
ran down into the house, but whatever it was the water had washed
it away, for they put wires down, and the pipe was quite clear.
While we were being told this Oswald's trembling fingers felt at
the wet cricket ball in his pocket. And he KNEW, but he COULD
not tell. He heard them wondering what the obstruction could have
been, and all the time he had the obstruction in his pocket, and
never said a single word.
I do not seek to defend him. But it really was an awful thing to
have been the cause of; and Mrs Pettigrew is but harsh and hasty.
But this, as Oswald knows too well, is no excuse for his silent
That night at tea Albert's uncle was rather silent too. At last he
looked upon us with a glance full of intelligence, and said--
'There was a queer thing happened yesterday. You know there was an
angling competition. The pen was kept full on purpose. Some
mischievous busybody went and opened the sluices and let all the
water out. The anglers' holiday was spoiled. No, the rain
wouldn't have spoiled it anyhow, Alice; anglers LIKEe rain. The
'Rose and Crown' dinner was half of it wasted because the anglers
were so furious that a lot of them took the next train to town.
And this is the worst of all--a barge, that was on the mud in the
pen below, was lifted and jammed across the river and the water
tilted her over, and her cargo is on the river bottom. It was
During this speech there were four of us who knew not where to turn
our agitated glances. Some of us tried bread-and-butter, but it
seemed dry and difficult, and those who tried tea choked and
spluttered and were sorry they had not let it alone. When the
speech stopped Alice said, 'It was us.'
And with deepest feelings she and the rest of us told all about it.
Oswald did not say much. He was turning the obstruction round and
round in his pocket, and wishing with all his sentiments that he
had owned up like a man when Albert's uncle asked him before tea to
tell him all about what had happened during the night.
When they had told all, Albert's uncle told us four still more
plainly, and exactly, what we had done, and how much pleasure we
had spoiled, and how much of my father's money we had
wasted--because he would have to pay for the coals being got up
from the bottom of the river, if they could be, and if not, for the
price of the coals. And we saw it ALL.
And when he had done Alice burst out crying over her plate and
'It's no use! We HAVE tried to be good since we've been down here.
You don't know how we've tried! And it's all no use. I believe we
are the wickedest children in the whole world, and I wish we were
This was a dreadful thing to say, and of course the rest of us were
all very shocked. But Oswald could not help looking at Albert's
uncle to see how he would take it.
He said very gravely, 'My dear kiddie, you ought to be sorry, and
I wish you to be sorry for what you've done. And you will be
punished for it.' (We were; our pocket-money was stopped and we
were forbidden to go near the river, besides impositions miles
long.) 'But,' he went on, 'you mustn't give up trying to be good.
You are extremely naughty and tiresome, as you know very well.'
Alice, Dicky, and Noel began to cry at about this time.
'But you are not the wickedest children in the world by any means.'
Then he stood up and straightened his collar, and put his hands in
'You're very unhappy now,' he said, 'and you deserve to be. But I
will say one thing to you.'
Then he said a thing which Oswald at least will never forget
(though but little he deserved it, with the obstruction in his
pocket, unowned up to all the time).
He said, 'I have known you all for four years--and you know as well
as I do how many scrapes I've seen you in and out of--but I've
never known one of you tell a lie, and I've never known one of you
do a mean or dishonourable action. And when you have done wrong
you are always sorry. Now this is something to stand firm on.
You'll learn to be good in the other ways some day.'
He took his hands out of his pockets, and his face looked
different, so that three of the four guilty creatures knew he was
no longer adamant, and they threw themselves into his arms. Dora,
Denny, Daisy, and H. O., of course, were not in it, and I think
they thanked their stars.
Oswald did not embrace Albert's uncle. He stood there and made up
his mind he would go for a soldier. He gave the wet ball one last
squeeze, and took his hand out of his pocket, and said a few words
before going to enlist. He said--
'The others may deserve what you say. I hope they do, I'm sure.
But I don't, because it was my rotten cricket ball that stopped up
the pipe and caused the midnight flood in our bedroom. And I knew
it quite early this morning. And I didn't own up.'
Oswald stood there covered with shame, and he could feel the
hateful cricket ball heavy and cold against the top of his leg,
through the pocket.
Albert's uncle said--and his voice made Oswald hot all over, but
not with shame--he said--
I shall not tell you what he said. It is no one's business but
Oswald's; only I will own it made Oswald not quite so anxious to
run away for a soldier as he had been before.
That owning up was the hardest thing I ever did. They did put that
in the Book of Golden Deeds, though it was not a kind or generous
act, and did no good to anyone or anything except Oswald's own
inside feelings. I must say I think they might have let it alone.
Oswald would rather forget it. Especially as Dicky wrote it in and
'Oswald acted a lie, which, he knows, is as bad as telling one.
But he owned up when he needn't have, and this condones his sin.
We think he was a thorough brick to do it.'
Alice scratched this out afterwards and wrote the record of the
incident in more flattering terms. But Dicky had used Father's
ink, and she used Mrs Pettigrew's, so anyone can read his
underneath the scratching outs.
The others were awfully friendly to Oswald, to show they agreed
with Albert's uncle in thinking I deserved as much share as anyone
in any praise there might be going.
It was Dora who said it all came from my quarrelling with Noel
about that rotten cricket ball; but Alice, gently yet firmly, made
her shut up.
I let Noel have the ball. It had been thoroughly soaked, but it
dried all right. But it could never be the same to me after what
it had done and what I had done.
I hope you will try to agree with Albert's uncle and not think foul
scorn of Oswald because of this story. Perhaps you have done
things nearly as bad yourself sometimes. If you have, you will
know how 'owning up' soothes the savage breast and alleviates the
gnawings of remorse.
If you have never done naughty acts I expect it is only because you
never had the sense to think of anything.
The ones of us who had started the Society of the Wouldbegoods
began, at about this time, to bother.
They said we had not done anything really noble-- not worth
speaking of, that is--for over a week, and that it was high time to
begin again--'with earnest endeavour', Daisy said. So then Oswald
'All right; but there ought to be an end to everything. Let's each
of us think of one really noble and unselfish act, and the others
shall help to work it out, like we did when we were Treasure
Seekers. Then when everybody's had their go-in we'll write every
single thing down in the Golden Deed book, and we'll draw two lines
in red ink at the bottom, like Father does at the end of an
account. And after that, if anyone wants to be good they can jolly
well be good on our own, if at all.'
The ones who had made the Society did not welcome this wise idea,
but Dicky and Oswald were firm.
So they had to agree. When Oswald is really firm, opposingness and
obstinacy have to give way.
Dora said, 'It would be a noble action to have all the
school-children from the village and give them tea and games in the
paddock. They would think it so nice and good of us.'
But Dicky showed her that this would not be OUR good act, but
Father's, because he would have to pay for the tea, and he had
already stood us the keepsakes for the soldiers, as well as having
to stump up heavily over the coal barge. And it is in vain being
noble and generous when someone else is paying for it all the time,
even if it happens to be your father. Then three others had ideas
at the same time and began to explain what they were.
We were all in the dining-room, and perhaps we were making a bit of
a row. Anyhow, Oswald for one, does not blame Albert's uncle for
opening his door and saying--
'I suppose I must not ask for complete silence. That were too
much. But if you could whistle, or stamp with your feet, or shriek
or howl--anything to vary the monotony of your well-sustained
Oswald said kindly, 'We're awfully sorry. Are you busy?'
'Busy?' said Albert's uncle. 'My heroine is now hesitating on the
verge of an act which, for good or ill, must influence her whole
subsequent career. You wouldn't like her to decide in the middle
of such a row that she can't hear herself think?'
We said, 'No, we wouldn't.'
Then he said, 'If any outdoor amusement should commend itself to
you this bright mid-summer day.' So we all went out.
Then Daisy whispered to Dora--they always hang together. Daisy is
not nearly so white-micey as she was at first, but she still seems
to fear the deadly ordeal of public speaking. Dora said--
'Daisy's idea is a game that'll take us all day. She thinks
keeping out of the way when he's making his heroine decide right
would be a noble act, and fit to write in the Golden Book; and we
might as well be playing something at the same time.'
We all said 'Yes, but what?'
There was a silent interval.
'Speak up, Daisy, my child.' Oswald said; 'fear not to lay bare
the utmost thoughts of that faithful heart.'
Daisy giggled. Our own girls never giggle--they laugh right out or
hold their tongues. Their kind brothers have taught them this.
Then Daisy said--
'If we could have a sort of play to keep us out of the way. I once
read a story about an animal race. Everybody had an animal, and
they had to go how they liked, and the one that got in first got
the prize. There was a tortoise in it, and a rabbit, and a
peacock, and sheep, and dogs, and a kitten.'
This proposal left us cold, as Albert's uncle says, because we knew
there could not be any prize worth bothering about. And though you
may be ever ready and willing to do anything for nothing, yet if
there's going to be a prize there must BE a prize and there's an
end of it.
Thus the idea was not followed up. Dicky yawned and said, 'Let's
go into the barn and make a fort.'
So we did, with straw. It does not hurt straw to be messed about
with like it does hay.
The downstairs--I mean down-ladder--part of the barn was fun too,
especially for Pincher. There was as good ratting there as you
could wish to see. Martha tried it, but she could not help running
kindly beside the rat, as if she was in double harness with it.
This is the noble bull-dog's gentle and affectionate nature coming
out. We all enjoyed the ratting that day, but it ended, as usual,
in the girls crying because of the poor rats. Girls cannot help
this; we must not be waxy with them on account of it, they have
their nature, the same as bull-dogs have, and it is this that makes
them so useful in smoothing the pillows of the sick-bed and tending
However, the forts, and Pincher, and the girls crying, and having
to be thumped on the back, passed the time very agreeably till
dinner. There was roast mutton with onion sauce, and a roly-poly
Albert's uncle said we had certainly effaced ourselves effectually,
which means we hadn't bothered.
So we determined to do the same during the afternoon, for he told
us his heroine was by no means out of the wood yet.
And at first it was easy. Jam roly gives you a peaceful feeling
and you do not at first care if you never play any runabout game
ever any more. But after a while the torpor begins to pass away.
Oswald was the first to recover from his.
He had been lying on his front part in the orchard, but now he
turned over on his back and kicked his legs up, and said--
'I say, look here; let's do something.'
Daisy looked thoughtful. She was chewing the soft yellow parts of
grass, but I could see she was still thinking about that animal
race. So I explained to her that it would be very poor fun without
a tortoise and a peacock, and she saw this, though not willingly.
It was H. O. who said--
'Doing anything with animals is prime, if they only will. Let's
have a circus!'
At the word the last thought of the pudding faded from Oswald's
memory, and he stretched himself, sat up, and said--
'Bully for H. O. Let's!'
The others also threw off the heavy weight of memory, and sat up
and said 'Let's!' too.
Never, never in all our lives had we had such a gay galaxy of
animals at our command. The rabbits and the guinea-pigs, and even
all the bright, glass-eyed, stuffed denizens of our late-lamented
jungle paled into insignificance before the number of live things
on the farm.
(I hope you do not think that the words I use are getting too long.
I know they are the right words. And Albert's uncle says your
style is always altered a bit by what you read. And I have been
reading the Vicomte de Bragelonne. Nearly all my new words come
out of those.)
'The worst of a circus is,' Dora said, 'that you've got to teach
the animals things. A circus where the performing creatures hadn't
learned performing would be a bit silly. Let's give up a week to
teaching them and then have the circus.'
Some people have no idea of the value of time. And Dora is one of
those who do not understand that when you want to do a thing you do
want to, and not to do something else, and perhaps your own thing,
a week later.
Oswald said the first thing was to collect the performing animals.
'Then perhaps,' he said, 'we may find that they have hidden talents
hitherto unsuspected by their harsh masters.'
So Denny took a pencil and wrote a list of the animals required.
This is it:
LIST OF ANIMALS REQUISITE FOR THE
CIRCUS WE ARE GOING TO HAVE
1 Bull for bull-fight.
1 Horse for ditto (if possible).
1 Goat to do Alpine feats of daring.
1 Donkey to play see-saw.
2 White pigs--one to be Learned, and the other to play with the
Turkeys, as many as possible, because they can make a noise that
sounds like an audience applauding.
The dogs, for any odd parts.
1 Large black pig--to be the Elephant in the procession.
Calves (several) to be camels, and to stand on tubs.
Daisy ought to have been captain because it was partly her idea,
but she let Oswald be, because she is of a retiring character.
'The first thing is to get all the creatures together; the paddock
at the side of the orchard is the very place, because the hedge is
good all round. When we've got the performers all there we'll make
a programme, and then dress for our parts. It's a pity there won't
be any audience but the turkeys.'
We took the animals in their right order, according to Denny's
list. The bull was the first. He is black. He does not live in
the cowhouse with the other horned people; he has a house all to
himself two fields away. Oswald and Alice went to fetch him. They
took a halter to lead the bull by, and a whip, not to hurt the bull
with, but just to make him mind.
The others were to try to get one of the horses while we were gone.
Oswald as usual was full of bright ideas.
'I daresay,' he said, 'the bull will be shy at first, and he'll
have to be goaded into the arena.'
'But goads hurt,' Alice said.
'They don't hurt the bull,' Oswald said; 'his powerful hide is too
'Then why does he attend to it,' Alice asked, 'if it doesn't hurt?'
'Properly-brought-up bulls attend because they know they ought,'
Oswald said. 'I think I shall ride the bull,' the brave boy went
on. 'A bull-fight, where an intrepid rider appears on the bull,
sharing its joys and sorrows. It would be something quite new.'
'You can't ride bulls,' Alice said; 'at least, not if their backs
are sharp like cows.'
But Oswald thought he could. The bull lives in a house made of
wood and prickly furze bushes, and he has a yard to his house. You
cannot climb on the roof of his house at all comfortably.
When we got there he was half in his house and half out in his
yard, and he was swinging his tail because of the flies which
bothered. It was a very hot day.
'You'll see,' Alice said, 'he won't want a goad. He'll be so glad
to get out for a walk he'll drop his head in my hand like a tame
fawn, and follow me lovingly all the way.'
Oswald called to him. He said, 'Bull! Bull! Bull! Bull!' because
we did not know the animal's real name. The bull took no notice;
then Oswald picked up a stone and threw it at the bull, not
angrily, but just to make it pay attention. But the bull did not
pay a farthing's worth of it. So then Oswald leaned over the iron
gate of the bull's yard and just flicked the bull with the
whiplash. And then the bull DID pay attention. He started when
the lash struck him, then suddenly he faced round, uttering a roar
like that of the wounded King of Beasts, and putting his head down
close to his feet he ran straight at the iron gate where we were
Alice and Oswald mechanically turned away; they did not wish to
annoy the bull any more, and they ran as fast as they could across
the field so as not to keep the others waiting.
As they ran across the field Oswald had a dream-like fancy that
perhaps the bull had rooted up the gate with one paralysing blow,
and was now tearing across the field after him and Alice, with the
broken gate balanced on its horns. We climbed the stile quickly
and looked back; the bull was still on the right side of the gate.
Oswald said, 'I think we'll do without the bull. He did not seem
to want to come. We must be kind to dumb animals.'
Alice said, between laughing and crying--
'Oh, Oswald, how can you!' But we did do without the bull, and we
did not tell the others how we had hurried to get back. We just
said, 'The bull didn't seem to care about coming.'
The others had not been idle. They had got old Clover, the
cart-horse, but she would do nothing but graze, so we decided not
to use her in the bull-fight, but to let her be the Elephant. The
Elephant's is a nice quiet part, and she was quite big enough for
a young one. Then the black pig could be Learned, and the other
two could be something else. They had also got the goat; he was
tethered to a young tree.
The donkey was there. Denny was leading him in the halter. The
dogs were there, of course--they always are.
So now we only had to get the turkeys for the applause and the
calves and pigs.
The calves were easy to get, because they were in their own house.
There were five. And the pigs were in their houses too. We got
them out after long and patient toil, and persuaded them that they
wanted to go into the paddock, where the circus was to be. This is
done by pretending to drive them the other way. A pig only knows
two ways--the way you want him to go, and the other. But the
turkeys knew thousands of different ways, and tried them all. They
made such an awful row, we had to drop all ideas of ever hearing
applause from their lips, so we came away and left them.
'Never mind,' H. O. said, 'they'll be sorry enough afterwards,
nasty, unobliging things, because now they won't see the circus.
I hope the other animals will tell them about it.'
While the turkeys were engaged in baffling the rest of us, Dicky
had found three sheep who seemed to wish to join the glad throng,
so we let them.
Then we shut the gate of the paddock, and left the dumb circus
performers to make friends with each other while we dressed.
Oswald and H. O. were to be clowns. It is quite easy with Albert's
uncle's pyjamas, and flour on your hair and face, and the red they
do the brick-floors with.
Alice had very short pink and white skirts, and roses in her hair
and round her dress. Her dress was the pink calico and white
muslin stuff off the dressing-table in the girls' room fastened
with pins and tied round the waist with a small bath towel. She
was to be the Dauntless Equestrienne, and to give her enhancing act
a barebacked daring, riding either a pig or a sheep, whichever we
found was freshest and most skittish. Dora was dressed for the
Haute ecole, which means a riding-habit and a high hat. She took
Dick's topper that he wears with his Etons, and a skirt of Mrs
Pettigrew's. Daisy, dressed the same as Alice, taking the muslin
from Mrs Pettigrew's dressing-table with- out saying anything
beforehand. None of us would have advised this, and indeed we were
thinking of trying to put it back, when Denny and Noel, who were
wishing to look like highwaymen, with brown-paper top-boots and
slouch hats and Turkish towel cloaks, suddenly stopped dressing and
gazed out of the window.
'Krikey!' said Dick, 'come on, Oswald!' and he bounded like an
antelope from the room.
Oswald and the rest followed, casting a hasty glance through the
window. Noel had got brown-paper boots too, and a Turkish towel
cloak. H. O. had been waiting for Dora to dress him up for the
other clown. He had only his shirt and knickerbockers and his
braces on. He came down as he was--as indeed we all did. And no
wonder, for in the paddock, where the circus was to be, a
blood-thrilling thing had transpired. The dogs were chasing the
sheep. And we had now lived long enough in the country to know the
fell nature of our dogs' improper conduct.
We all rushed into the paddock, calling to Pincher, and Martha, and
Lady. Pincher came almost at once. He is a well-brought-up
dog--Oswald trained him. Martha did not seem to hear. She is
awfully deaf, but she did not matter so much, because the sheep
could walk away from her easily. She has no pace and no wind. But
Lady is a deer-hound. She is used to pursuing that fleet and
antlered pride of the forest--the stag--and she can go like
billyo. She was now far away in a distant region of the paddock,
with a fat sheep just before her in full flight. I am sure if ever
anybody's eyes did start out of their heads with horror, like in
narratives of adventure, ours did then.
There was a moment's pause of speechless horror. We expected to
see Lady pull down her quarry, and we know what a lot of money a
sheep costs, to say nothing of its own personal feelings.
Then we started to run for all we were worth. It is hard to run
swiftly as the arrow from the bow when you happen to be wearing
pyjamas belonging to a grown-up person--as I was--but even so I
beat Dicky. He said afterwards it was because his brown-paper
boots came undone and tripped him up. Alice came in third. She
held on the dressing-table muslin and ran jolly well. But ere we
reached the fatal spot all was very nearly up with the sheep. We
heard a plop; Lady stopped and looked round. She must have heard
us bellowing to her as we ran. Then she came towards us, prancing
with happiness, but we said 'Down!' and 'Bad dog!' and ran sternly
When we came to the brook which forms the northern boundary of the
paddock we saw the sheep struggling in the water. It is not very
deep, and I believe the sheep could have stood up, and been well in
its depth, if it had liked, but it would not try.
It was a steepish bank. Alice and I got down and stuck our legs
into the water, and then Dicky came down, and the three of us
hauled that sheep up by its shoulders till it could rest on Alice
and me as we sat on the bank. It kicked all the time we were
hauling. It gave one extra kick at last, that raised it up, and I
tell you that sopping wet, heavy, panting, silly donkey of a sheep
sat there on our laps like a pet dog; and Dicky got his shoulder
under it at the back and heaved constantly to keep it from flumping
off into the water again, while the others fetched the shepherd.
When the shepherd came he called us every name you can think of,
and then he said--
'Good thing master didn't come along. He would ha' called you some
He got the sheep out, and took it and the others away. And the
calves too. He did not seem to care about the other performing
Alice, Oswald and Dick had had almost enough circus for just then,
so we sat in the sun and dried ourselves and wrote the programme of
the circus. This was it:
1. Startling leap from the lofty precipice by the performing
sheep. Real water, and real precipice. The gallant rescue. O. A.
and D. Bastable. (We thought we might as well put
that in though it was over and had happened accidentally.)
2. Graceful bare-backed equestrienne act on the trained pig,
Eliza. A. Bastable.
3. Amusing clown interlude, introducing trained dog, Pincher, and
the other white pig. H. O. and O. Bastable.
4. The See-Saw. Trained donkeys. (H. O. said we had only one
donkey, so Dicky said H. O. could be the other. When peace was
restored we went on to 5.)
5. Elegant equestrian act by D. Bastable. Haute ecole, on Clover,
the incomparative trained elephant from the plains of Venezuela.
6. Alpine feat of daring. The climbing of the Andes, by Billy,
the well-known acrobatic goat. (We thought we could make the Andes
out of hurdles and things, and so we could have but for what always
happens. (This is the unexpected. (This is a saying Father told
me--but I see I am three deep in brackets so I will close them
before I get into any more).).).
7. The Black but Learned Pig. ('I daresay he knows something,'
Alice said, 'if we can only find out what.' We DID find out all
We could not think of anything else, and our things were nearly
dry--all except Dick's brown-paper top-boots, which were mingled
with the gurgling waters of the brook.
We went back to the seat of action--which was the iron trough where
the sheep have their salt put--and began to dress up the creatures.
We had just tied the Union Jack we made out of Daisy's flannel
petticoat and cetera, when we gave the soldiers the baccy, round
the waist of the Black and Learned Pig, when we heard screams from
the back part of the house, and suddenly we saw that Billy, the
acrobatic goat, had got loose from the tree we had tied him to.
(He had eaten all the parts of its bark that he could get at, but
we did not notice it until next day, when led to the spot by a
The gate of the paddock was open. The gate leading to the bridge
that goes over the moat to the back door was open too. We hastily
proceeded in the direction of the screams, and, guided by the
sound, threaded our way into the kitchen. As we went, Noel, ever
fertile in melancholy ideas, said he wondered whether Mrs Pettigrew
was being robbed, or only murdered.
In the kitchen we saw that Noel was wrong as usual. It was
neither. Mrs Pettigrew, screaming like a steam-siren and waving a
broom, occupied the foreground. In the distance the maid was
shrieking in a hoarse and monotonous way, and trying to shut
herself up inside a clothes-horse on which washing was being aired.
On the dresser--which he had ascended by a chair--was Billy, the
acrobatic goat, doing his Alpine daring act. He had found out his
Andes for himself, and even as we gazed he turned and tossed his
head in a way that showed us some mysterious purpose was hidden
beneath his calm exterior. The next moment he put his off-horn
neatly behind the end plate of the next to the bottom row, and ran
it along against the wall. The plates fell crashing on to the soup
tureen and vegetable dishes which adorned the lower range of the
Mrs Pettigrew's screams were almost drowned in the discarding crash
and crackle of the falling avalanche of crockery.
Oswald, though stricken with horror and polite regret, preserved
the most dauntless coolness.
Disregarding the mop which Mrs Pettigrew kept on poking at the goat
in a timid yet cross way, he sprang forward, crying out to his
trusty followers, 'Stand by to catch him!'
But Dick had thought of the same thing, and ere Oswald could carry
out his long-cherished and general-like design, Dicky had caught
the goat's legs and tripped it up. The goat fell against another
row of plates, righted itself hastily in the gloomy ruins of the
soup tureen and the sauce-boats, and then fell again, this time
towards Dicky. The two fell heavily on the ground together. The
trusty followers had been so struck by the daring of Dicky and his
lion-hearted brother, that they had not stood by to catch anything.
The goat was not hurt, but Dicky had a sprained thumb and a lump on
his head like a black marble door-knob. He had to go to bed.
I will draw a veil and asterisks over what Mrs Pettigrew said.
Also Albert's uncle, who was brought to the scene of ruin by her
screams. Few words escaped our lips. There are times when it is
not wise to argue; however, little what has occurred is really our
When they had said what they deemed enough and we were let go, we
all went out. Then Alice said distractedly, in a voice which she
vainly strove to render firm--
'Let's give up the circus. Let's put the toys back in the
boxes--no, I don't mean that--the creatures in their places--and
drop the whole thing. I want to go and read to Dicky.'
Oswald has a spirit that no reverses can depreciate. He hates to
be beaten. But he gave in to Alice, as the others said so too, and
we went out to collect the performing troop and sort it out into
its proper places.
Alas! we came too late. In the interest we had felt about whether
Mrs Pettigrew was the abject victim of burglars or not, we had left
both gates open again. The old horse--I mean the trained elephant
from Venezuela--was there all right enough. The dogs we had beaten
and tied up after the first act, when the intrepid sheep bounded,
as it says in the programme. The two white pigs were there, but
the donkey was gone. We heard his hoofs down the road, growing
fainter and fainter, in the direction of the 'Rose and Crown'. And
just round the gatepost we saw a flash of red and white and blue
and black that told us, with dumb signification, that the pig was
off in exactly the opposite direction. Why couldn't they have gone
the same way? But no, one was a pig and the other was a donkey, as
Denny said afterwards.
Daisy and H. O. started after the donkey; the rest of us, with one
accord, pursued the pig--I don't know why. It trotted quietly down
the road; it looked very black against the white road, and the ends
on the top, where the Union Jack was tied, bobbed brightly as it
trotted. At first we thought it would be easy to catch up to it.
This was an error.
When we ran faster it ran faster; when we stopped it stopped and
looked round at us, and nodded. (I daresay you won't swallow this,
but you may safely. It's as true as true, and so's all that about
the goat. I give you my sacred word of honour.) I tell you the pig
nodded as much as to say--
'Oh, yes. You think you will, but you won't!' and then as soon as
we moved again off it went. That pig led us on and on, o'er miles
and miles of strange country. One thing, it did keep to the roads.
When we met people, which wasn't often, we called out to them to
help us, but they only waved their arms and roared with laughter.
One chap on a bicycle almost tumbled off his machine, and then he
got off it and propped it against a gate and sat down in the hedge
to laugh properly. You remember Alice was still dressed up as the
gay equestrienne in the dressing-table pink and white, with rosy
garlands, now very droopy, and she had no stockings on, only white
sand-shoes, because she thought they would be easier than boots for
balancing on the pig in the graceful bare-backed act.
Oswald was attired in red paint and flour and pyjamas, for a clown.
It is really IMPOSSIBLE to run speedfully in another man's pyjamas,
so Oswald had taken them off, and wore his own brown knickerbockers
belonging to his Norfolks. He had tied the pyjamas round his neck,
to carry them easily. He was afraid to leave them in a ditch, as
Alice suggested, because he did not know the roads, and for aught
he recked they might have been infested with footpads. If it had
been his own pyjamas it would have been different. (I'm going to
ask for pyjamas next winter, they are so useful in many ways.)
Noel was a highwayman in brown-paper gaiters and bath towels and a
cocked hat of newspaper. I don't know how he kept it on. And the
pig was encircled by the dauntless banner of our country. All the
same, I think if I had seen a band of youthful travellers in bitter
distress about a pig I should have tried to lend a helping hand and
not sat roaring in the hedge, no matter how the travellers and the
pig might have been dressed.
It was hotter than anyone would believe who has never had occasion
to hunt the pig when dressed for quite another part. The flour got
out of Oswald's hair into his eyes and his mouth. His brow was wet
with what the village blacksmith's was wet with, and not his fair
brow alone. It ran down his face and washed the red off in
streaks, and when he rubbed his eyes he only made it worse. Alice
had to run holding the equestrienne skirts on with both hands, and
I think the brown-paper boots bothered Noel from the first. Dora
had her skirt over her arm and carried the topper in her hand. It
was no use to tell ourselves it was a wild boar hunt--we were long
At last we met a man who took pity on us. He was a kind-hearted
man. I think, perhaps, he had a pig of his own--or, perhaps,
children. Honour to his name!
He stood in the middle of the road and waved his arms. The pig
right-wheeled through a gate into a private garden and cantered up
the drive. We followed. What else were we to do, I should like to
The Learned Black Pig seemed to know its way. It turned first to
the right and then to the left, and emerged on a lawn.
'Now, all together!' cried Oswald, mustering his failing voice to
give the word of command. 'Surround him!--cut off his retreat!'
We almost surrounded him. He edged off towards the house.
'Now we've got him!' cried the crafty Oswald, as the pig got on to
a bed of yellow pansies close against the red house wall.
All would even then have been well, but Denny, at the last, shrank
from meeting the pig face to face in a manly way. He let the pig
pass him, and the next moment, with a squeak that said 'There now!'
as plain as words, the pig bolted into a French window. The
pursuers halted not. This was no time for trivial ceremony. In
another moment the pig was a captive. Alice and Oswald had their
arms round him under the ruins of a table that had had teacups on
it, and around the hunters and their prey stood the startled
members of a parish society for making clothes for the poor
heathen, that that pig had led us into the very midst of. They
were reading a missionary report or something when we ran our
quarry to earth under their table. Even as he crossed the
threshold I heard something about 'black brothers being already
white to the harvest'. All the ladies had been sewing flannel
things for the poor blacks while the curate read aloud to them.
You think they screamed when they saw the Pig and Us? You are
On the whole, I cannot say that the missionary people behaved
badly. Oswald explained that it was entirely the pig's doing, and
asked pardon quite properly for any alarm the ladies had felt; and
Alice said how sorry we were but really it was NOT our fault this
time. The curate looked a bit nasty, but the presence of ladies
made him keep his hot blood to himself.