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The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit*

Part 4 out of 5

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Then suddenly Albert's uncle entered in the midst of a silence
freighted with despairing reflections. The M.F.H. got up and told
his tale: it was mainly lies, or, to be more polite, it was hardly
any of it true, though I supposed he believed it.

'I am very sorry, sir' said Albert's uncle, looking at the bullets.

'You'll excuse my asking for the children's version?'

'Oh, certainly, sir, certainly,' fuming, the fox-hound magistrate

Then Albert's uncle said, 'Now Oswald, I know I can trust you to
speak the exact truth.'

So Oswald did.

Then the white-whiskered fox-master laid the bullets before
Albert's uncle, and I felt this would be a trial to his faith far
worse than the rack or the thumb-screw in the days of the Armada.

And then Denny came in. He looked at the fox on the table.

'You found it, then?' he said.

The M.F.H. would have spoken but Albert's uncle said, 'One moment,
Denny; you've seen this fox before?'

'Rather,' said Denny; 'I--'

But Albert's uncle said, 'Take time. Think before you speak and
say the exact truth. No, don't whisper to Oswald. This boy,' he
said to the injured fox-master, 'has been with me since seven this
morning. His tale, whatever it is, will be independent evidence.'

But Denny would not speak, though again and again Albert's uncle
told him to.

'I can't till I've asked Oswald something,' he said at last. White
Whiskers said, 'That looks bad--eh?'

But Oswald said, 'Don't whisper, old chap. Ask me whatever you
like, but speak up.'

So Denny said, 'I can't without breaking the secret oath.'

So then Oswald began to see, and he said, 'Break away for all
you're worth, it's all right.'

And Denny said, drawing relief's deepest breath, 'Well then, Oswald
and I have got a pistol--shares--and I had it last night. And when
I couldn't sleep last night because of the toothache I got up and
went out early this morning. And I took the pistol. And I loaded
it just for fun. And down in the wood I heard a whining like a
dog, and I went, and there was the poor fox caught in an iron trap
with teeth. And I went to let it out and it bit me--look, here's
the place--and the pistol went off and the fox died, and I am so

'But why didn't you tell the others?'

'They weren't awake when I went to the dentist's.'

'But why didn't you tell your uncle if you've been with him all the

'It was the oath,' H. O. said--

'May I be called a beastly sneak
If this great secret I ever repeat.'

White Whiskers actually grinned.

'Well,' he said, 'I see it was an accident, my boy.' Then he
turned to us and said--

'I owe you an apology for doubting your word--all of you. I hope
it's accepted.'

We said it was all right and he was to never mind.

But all the same we hated him for it. He tried to make up for his
unbelievingness afterwards by asking Albert's uncle to shoot
rabbits; but we did not really forgive him till the day when he
sent the fox's brush to Alice, mounted in silver with a note about
her plucky conduct in standing by her brothers.

We got a lecture about not playing with firearms, but no
punishment, because our conduct had not been exactly sinful,
Albert's uncle said, but merely silly.

The pistol and the cartridges were confiscated.

I hope the house will never be attacked by burglars. When it is,
Albert's uncle will only have himself to thank if we are rapidly
overpowered, because it will be his fault that we shall have to
meet them totally unarmed, and be their almost unresisting prey.


It began one morning at breakfast. It was the fifteenth of
August--the birthday of Napoleon the Great, Oswald Bastable, and
another very nice writer. Oswald was to keep his birthday on the
Saturday, so that his Father could be there. A birthday when there
are only many happy returns is a little like Sunday or Christmas
Eve. Oswald had a birthday-card or two--that was all; but he did
not repine, because he knew they always make it up to you for
putting off keeping your birthday, and he looked forward to

Albert's uncle had a whole stack of letters as usual, and presently
he tossed one over to Dora, and said, 'What do you say, little
lady? Shall we let them come?'

But Dora, butter-fingered as ever, missed the catch, and Dick and
Noel both had a try for it, so that the letter went into the place
where the bacon had been, and where now only a frozen-looking lake
of bacon fat was slowly hardening, and then somehow it got into the
marmalade, and then H. O. got it, and Dora said--

'I don't want the nasty thing now--all grease and stickiness.' So
H. O. read it aloud--

Aug. 14, 1900

'DEAR SIR,--At a meeting of the--'

H. O. stuck fast here, and the writing was really very bad, like a
spider that has been in the ink-pot crawling in a hurry over the
paper without stopping to rub its feet properly on the mat. So
Oswald took the letter. He is above minding a little marmalade or
bacon. He began to read. It ran thus:

'It's not Antiquities, you little silly,' he said; 'it's

'The other's a very good word,' said Albert's uncle, 'and I never
call names at breakfast myself--it upsets the digestion, my
egregious Oswald.'

'That's a name though,' said Alice, 'and you got it out of
"Stalky", too. Go on, Oswald.'

So Oswald went on where he had been interrupted:

Aug. 14,1900.

'DEAR SIR,--At a meeting of the Committee of this Society it was
agreed that a field day should be held on Aug. 20, when the
Society proposes to visit the interesting church of Ivybridge and
also the Roman remains in the vicinity. Our president, Mr
Longchamps, F.R.S., has obtained permission to open a barrow in the
Three Trees pasture. We venture to ask whether you would allow the
members of the Society to walk through your grounds and to
inspect--from without, of course--your beautiful house, which is,
as you are doubtless aware, of great historic interest, having been
for some years the residence of the celebrated Sir Thomas Wyatt.--I
am, dear Sir, yours faithfully,

'Just so,' said Albert's uncle; 'well, shall we permit the eye of
the Maidstone Antiquities to profane these sacred solitudes, and
the foot of the Field Club to kick up a dust on our gravel?'

'Our gravel is all grass,' H. O. said.

And the girls said, 'Oh, do let them come!' It was Alice who said--

'Why not ask them to tea? They'll be very tired coming all the way
from Maidstone.'

'Would you really like it?' Albert's uncle asked. 'I'm afraid
they'll be but dull dogs, the Antiquities, stuffy old gentlemen
with amphorae in their buttonholes instead of orchids, and
pedigrees poking out of all their pockets.'

We laughed--because we knew what an amphorae is. If you don't you
might look it up in the dicker. It's not a flower, though it
sounds like one out of the gardening book, the kind you never hear
of anyone growing.

Dora said she thought it would be splendid.

'And we could have out the best china,' she said, 'and decorate the
table with flowers. We could have tea in the garden. We've never
had a party since we've been here.'

'I warn you that your guests may be boresome; however, have it your
own way,' Albert's uncle said; and he went off to write the
invitation to tea to the Maidstone Antiquities. I know that is the
wrong word but somehow we all used it whenever we spoke of them,
which was often.

In a day or two Albert's uncle came in to tea with a
lightly-clouded brow.

'You've let me in for a nice thing,' he said. 'I asked the
Antiquities to tea, and I asked casually how many we might expect.
I thought we might need at least the full dozen of the best
teacups. Now the secretary writes accepting my kind invitation--'

'Oh, good!' we cried. 'And how many are coming?'
'Oh, only about sixty,' was the groaning rejoinder. 'Perhaps more,
should the weather be exceptionally favourable.'

Though stunned at first, we presently decided that we were pleased.

We had never, never given such a big party.

The girls were allowed to help in the kitchen, where Mrs Pettigrew
made cakes all day long without stopping. They did not let us boys
be there, though I cannot see any harm in putting your finger in a
cake before it is baked, and then licking your finger, if you are
careful to put a different finger in the cake next time. Cake
before it is baked is delicious--like a sort of cream.

Albert's uncle said he was the prey of despair. He drove in to
Maidstone one day. When we asked him where he was going, he said--

'To get my hair cut: if I keep it this length I shall certainly
tear it out by double handfuls in the extremity of my anguish every
time I think of those innumerable Antiquities.'

But we found out afterwards that he really went to borrow china and
things to give the Antiquities their tea out of; though he did have
his hair cut too, because he is the soul of truth and honour.

Oswald had a very good sort of birthday, with bows and arrows as
well as other presents. I think these were meant to make up for
the pistol that was taken away after the adventure of the
fox-hunting. These gave us boys something to do between the
birthday-keeping, which was on the Saturday, and the Wednesday when
the Antiquities were to come.

We did not allow the girls to play with the bows and arrows,
because they had the cakes that we were cut off from: there was
little or no unpleasantness over this.

On the Tuesday we went down to look at the Roman place where the
Antiquities were going to dig. We sat on the Roman wall and ate
nuts. And as we sat there, we saw coming through the beet-field
two labourers with picks and shovels, and a very young man with
thin legs and a bicycle. It turned out afterwards to be a
free-wheel, the first we had ever seen.

They stopped at a mound inside the Roman wall, and the men took
their coats off and spat on their hands.

We went down at once, of course. The thin-legged bicyclist
explained his machine to us very fully and carefully when we asked
him, and then we saw the men were cutting turfs and turning them
over and rolling them up and putting them in a heap. So we asked
the gentleman with the thin legs what they were doing. He said--

'They are beginning the preliminary excavation in readiness for

'What's up to-morrow?' H. O. asked.

'To-morrow we propose to open this barrow and examine it.'

'Then YOU'RE the Antiquities?' said H. O.

'I'm the secretary,' said the gentleman, smiling, but narrowly.

'Oh, you're all coming to tea with us,' Dora said, and added
anxiously, 'how many of you do you think there'll be?'

'Oh, not more than eighty or ninety, I should think,' replied the

This took our breath away and we went home. As we went, Oswald,
who notices many things that would pass unobserved by the light and
careless, saw Denny frowning hard. So he said, 'What's up?'

'I've got an idea,' the Dentist said. 'Let's call a council.' The
Dentist had grown quite used to our ways now. We had called him
Dentist ever since the fox-hunt day. He called a council as if he
had been used to calling such things all his life, and having them
come, too; whereas we all know that his former existing was that of
a white mouse in a trap, with that cat of a Murdstone aunt watching
him through the bars.

(That is what is called a figure of speech. Albert's uncle told

Councils are held in the straw-loft. As soon as we were all there,
and the straw had stopped rustling after our sitting down, Dicky

'I hope it's nothing to do with the Wouldbegoods?'

'No,' said Denny in a hurry: 'quite the opposite.'

'I hope it's nothing wrong,' said Dora and Daisy together.

'It's--it's "Hail to thee, blithe spirit--bird thou never wert",'
said Denny. 'I mean, I think it's what is called a lark.'

'You never know your luck. Go on, Dentist,' said Dicky.

'Well, then, do you know a book called The Daisy Chain?'

We didn't.

'It's by Miss Charlotte M. Yonge,' Daisy interrupted, 'and it's
about a family of poor motherless children who tried so hard to be
good, and they were confirmed, and had a bazaar, and went to church
at the Minster, and one of them got married and wore black watered
silk and silver ornaments. So her baby died, and then she was
sorry she had not been a good mother to it. And--'
Here Dicky got up and said he'd got some snares to attend to, and
he'd receive a report of the Council after it was over. But he
only got as far as the trap-door, and then Oswald, the fleet of
foot, closed with him, and they rolled together on the floor, while
all the others called out 'Come back! Come back!' like guinea-hens
on a fence.

Through the rustle and bustle and hustle of the struggle with
Dicky, Oswald heard the voice of Denny murmuring one of his
everlasting quotations--

'"Come back, come back!" he cried in Greek,
"Across the stormy water,
And I'll forgive your Highland cheek,
My daughter, O my daughter!"'

When quiet was restored and Dicky had agreed to go through with the
Council, Denny said--

'The Daisy Chain is not a bit like that really. It's a ripping
book. One of the boys dresses up like a lady and comes to call,
and another tries to hit his little sister with a hoe. It's jolly
fine, I tell you.'

Denny is learning to say what he thinks, just like other boys. He
would never have learnt such words as 'ripping' and 'jolly fine'
while under the auntal tyranny.

Since then I have read The Daisy Chain. It is a first-rate book
for girls and little boys.

But we did not want to talk about The Daisy Chain just then, so
Oswald said--

'But what's your lark?'Denny got pale pink and said--

'Don't hurry me. I'll tell you directly. Let me think a minute.'

Then he shut his pale pink eyelids a moment in thought, and then
opened them and stood up on the straw and said very fast--

'Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears, or if not ears,
pots. You know Albert's uncle said they were going to open the
barrow, to look for Roman remains to-morrow. Don't you think it
seems a pity they shouldn't find any?'

'Perhaps they will,' Dora said.

But Oswald saw, and he said 'Primus! Go ahead, old man.'

The Dentist went ahead.

'In The Daisy Chain,' he said, 'they dug in a Roman encampment and
the children went first and put some pottery there they'd made
themselves, and Harry's old medal of the Duke of Wellington. The
doctor helped them to some stuff to partly efface the inscription,
and all the grown-ups were sold. I thought we might--

'You may break, you may shatter
The vase if you will;
But the scent of the Romans
Will cling round it still.'

Denny sat down amid applause. It really was a great idea, at least
for HIM. It seemed to add just what was wanted to the visit of the
Maidstone Antiquities. To sell the Antiquities thoroughly would be
indeed splendiferous. Of course Dora made haste to point out that
we had not got an old medal of the Duke of Wellington, and that we
hadn't any doctor who would 'help us to stuff to efface', and
etcetera; but we sternly bade her stow it. We weren't going to do
EXACTLY like those Daisy Chain kids.

The pottery was easy. We had made a lot of it by the stream--which
was the Nile when we discovered its source--and dried it in the
sun, and then baked it under a bonfire, like in Foul Play. And
most of the things were such queer shapes that they should have
done for almost anything--Roman or Greek, or even Egyptian or
antediluvian, or household milk-jugs of the cavemen, Albert's uncle
said. The pots were, fortunately, quite ready and dirty, because
we had already buried them in mixed sand and river mud to improve
the colour, and not remembered to wash it off.

So the Council at once collected it all--and some rusty hinges and
some brass buttons and a file without a handle; and the girl
Councillors carried it all concealed in their pinafores, while the
men members carried digging tools. H. O. and Daisy were sent on
ahead as scouts to see if the coast was clear. We have learned the
true usefulness of scouts from reading about the Transvaal War.
But all was still in the hush of evening sunset on the Roman ruin.

We posted sentries, who were to lie on their stomachs on the walls
and give a long, low, signifying whistle if aught approached.

Then we dug a tunnel, like the one we once did after treasure, when
we happened to bury a boy. It took some time; but never shall it
be said that a Bastable grudged time or trouble when a lark was at
stake. We put the things in as naturally as we could, and shoved
the dirt back, till everything looked just as before. Then we went
home, late for tea. But it was in a good cause; and there was no
hot toast, only bread-and-butter, which does not get cold with

That night Alice whispered to Oswald on the stairs, as we went up
to bed--

'Meet me outside your door when the others are asleep. Hist! Not
a word.'

Oswald said, 'No kid?' And she replied in the affirmation.

So he kept awake by biting his tongue and pulling his hair--for he
shrinks from no pain if it is needful and right.

And when the others all slept the sleep of innocent youth, he got
up and went out, and there was Alice dressed.

She said, 'I've found some broken things that look ever so much
more Roman--they were on top of the cupboard in the library. If
you'll come with me, we'll bury them just to see how surprised the
others will be.'

It was a wild and daring act, but Oswald did not mind.

He said--

'Wait half a shake.' And he put on his knickerbockers and jacket,
and slipped a few peppermints into his pocket in case of catching
cold. It is these thoughtful expedients which mark the born
explorer and adventurer.

It was a little cold; but the white moonlight was very fair to see,
and we decided we'd do some other daring moonlight act some other
day. We got out of the front door, which is never locked till
Albert's uncle goes to bed at twelve or one, and we ran swiftly and
silently across the bridge and through the fields to the Roman

Alice told me afterwards she should have been afraid if it had been
dark. But the moonlight made it as bright as day is in your

Oswald had taken the spade and a sheet of newspaper.

We did not take all the pots Alice had found--but just the two that
weren't broken--two crooked jugs, made of stuff like flower-pots
are made of. We made two long cuts with the spade and lifted the
turf up and scratched the earth under, and took it out very
carefully in handfuls on to the newspaper, till the hole was
deepish. Then we put in the jugs, and filled it up with earth and
flattened the turf over. Turf stretches like elastic. This we did
a couple of yards from the place where the mound was dug into by
the men, and we had been so careful with the newspaper that there
was no loose earth about.

Then we went home in the wet moonlight--at least the grass was very
wet--chuckling through the peppermint, and got up to bed without
anyone knowing a single thing about it.

The next day the Antiquities came. It was a jolly hot day, and the
tables were spread under the trees on the lawn, like a large and
very grand Sunday-school treat. There were dozens of different
kinds of cake, and bread-and-butter, both white and brown, and
gooseberries and plums and jam sandwiches. And the girls decorated
the tables with flowers--blue larkspur and white Canterbury bells.
And at about three there was a noise of people walking in the road,
and presently the Antiquities began to come in at the front gate,
and stood about on the lawn by twos and threes and sixes and
sevens, looking shy and uncomfy, exactly like a Sunday-school
treat. Presently some gentlemen came, who looked like the
teachers; they were not shy, and they came right up to the door.
So Albert's uncle, who had not been too proud to be up in our room
with us watching the people on the lawn through the netting of our
short blinds, said--

'I suppose that's the Committee. Come on!'

So we all went down--we were in our Sunday things--and Albert's
uncle received the Committee like a feudal system baron, and we
were his retainers.

He talked about dates, and king posts and gables, and mullions, and
foundations, and records, and Sir Thomas Wyatt, and poetry, and
Julius Caesar, and Roman remains, and lych gates and churches, and
dog's-tooth moulding till the brain of Oswald reeled. I suppose
that Albert's uncle remarked that all our mouths were open, which
is a sign of reels in the brain, for he whispered--

'Go hence, and mingle unsuspected with the crowd!'

So we went out on to the lawn, which was now crowded with men and
women and one child. This was a girl; she was fat, and we tried to
talk to her, though we did not like her. (She was covered in red
velvet like an arm-chair.) But she wouldn't. We thought at first
she was from a deaf-and-dumb asylum, where her kind teachers had
only managed to teach the afflicted to say 'Yes' and 'No'. But
afterwards we knew better, for Noel heard her say to her mother, 'I
wish you hadn't brought me, mamma. I didn't have a pretty teacup,
and I haven't enjoyed my tea one bit.' And she had had five pieces
of cake, besides little cakes and nearly a whole plate of plums,
and there were only twelve pretty teacups altogether.

Several grown-ups talked to us in a most uninterested way, and then
the President read a paper about the Moat House, which we couldn't
understand, and other people made speeches we couldn't understand
either, except the part about kind hospitality, which made us not
know where to look.

Then Dora and Alice and Daisy and Mrs Pettigrew poured out the tea,
and we handed cups and plates.

Albert's uncle took me behind a bush to see him tear what was left
of his hair when he found there were one hundred and twenty-three
Antiquities present, and I heard the President say to the Secretary
that 'tea always fetched them'.

Then it was time for the Roman ruin, and our hearts beat high as we
took our hats--it was exactly like Sunday--and joined the crowded
procession of eager Antiquities. Many of them had umbrellas and
overcoats, though the weather was fiery and without a cloud. That
is the sort of people they were. The ladies all wore stiff
bonnets, and no one took their gloves off, though, of course, it
was quite in the country, and it is not wrong to take your gloves
off there.

We had planned to be quite close when the digging went on; but
Albert's uncle made us a mystic sign and drew us apart.

Then he said: 'The stalls and dress circle are for the guests. The
hosts and hostesses retire to the gallery, whence, I am credibly
informed, an excellent view may be obtained.'

So we all went up on the Roman walls, and thus missed the cream of
the lark; for we could not exactly see what was happening. But we
saw that things were being taken from the ground as the men dug,
and passed round for the Antiquities to look at. And we knew they
must be our Roman remains; but the Antiquities did not seem to care
for them much, though we heard sounds of pleased laughter. And at
last Alice and I exchanged meaning glances when the spot was
reached where we had put in the extras. Then the crowd closed up
thick, and we heard excited talk and we knew we really HAD sold the
Antiquities this time.

Presently the bonnets and coats began to spread out and trickle
towards the house and we were aware that all would soon be over.
So we cut home the back way, just in time to hear the President
saying to Albert's uncle--

'A genuine find--most interesting. Oh, really, you ought to have
ONE. Well, if you insist--'

And so, by slow and dull degrees, the thick sprinkling of
Antiquities melted off the lawn; the party was over, and only the
dirty teacups and plates, and the trampled grass and the pleasures
of memory were left.

We had a very beautiful supper--out of doors, too-- with jam
sandwiches and cakes and things that were over; and as we watched
the setting monarch of the skies--I mean the sun--Alice said--

'Let's tell.'

We let the Dentist tell, because it was he who hatched the lark,
but we helped him a little in the narrating of the fell plot,
because he has yet to learn how to tell a story straight from the

When he had done, and we had done, Albert's uncle said, 'Well, it
amused you; and you'll be glad to learn that it amused your friends
the Antiquities.'

'Didn't they think they were Roman?' Daisy said; 'they did in The
Daisy Chain.'

'Not in the least,' said Albert's uncle; 'but the Treasurer and
Secretary were charmed by your ingenious preparations for their

'We didn't want them to be disappointed,' said Dora.

'They weren't,' said Albert's uncle. 'Steady on with those plums,
H.O. A little way beyond the treasure you had prepared for them
they found two specimens of REAL Roman pottery which sent every
man-jack of them home thanking his stars he had been born a happy
little Antiquary child.'

'Those were our jugs,' said Alice, 'and we really HAVE sold the
Antiquities. She unfolded the tale about our getting the jugs and
burying them in the moonlight, and the mound; and the others
listened with deeply respectful interest. 'We really have done it
this time, haven't we?' she added in tones of well-deserved

But Oswald had noticed a queer look about Albert's uncle from
almost the beginning of Alice's recital; and he now had the
sensation of something being up, which has on other occasions
frozen his noble blood. The silence of Albert's uncle now froze it
yet more Arcticly.

'Haven't we?' repeated Alice, unconscious of what her sensitive
brother's delicate feelings had already got hold of. 'We have done
it this time, haven't we?'

'Since you ask me thus pointedly,' answered Albert's uncle at last,
'I cannot but confess that I think you have indeed done it. Those
pots on the top of the library cupboard ARE Roman pottery. The
amphorae which you hid in the mound are probably--I can't say for
certain, mind--priceless. They are the property of the owner of
this house. You have taken them out and buried them. The
President of the Maidstone Antiquarian Society has taken them away
in his bag. Now what are you going to do?'

Alice and I did not know what to say, or where to look. The others
added to our pained position by some ungenerous murmurs about our
not being so jolly clever as we thought ourselves.

There was a very far from pleasing silence. Then Oswald got up.
He said--

'Alice, come here a sec; I want to speak to you.'

As Albert's uncle had offered no advice, Oswald disdained to ask
him for any.

Alice got up too, and she and Oswald went into the garden, and sat
down on the bench under the quince tree, and wished they had never
tried to have a private lark of their very own with the Antiquities
--'A Private Sale', Albert's uncle called it afterwards. But
regrets, as nearly always happens, were vain. Something had to be

But what?

Oswald and Alice sat in silent desperateness, and the voices of the
gay and careless others came to them from the lawn, where,
heartless in their youngness, they were playing tag. I don't know
how they could. Oswald would not like to play tag when his brother
and sister were in a hole, but Oswald is an exception to some boys.

But Dicky told me afterwards he thought it was only a joke of
Albert's uncle's.

The dusk grew dusker, till you could hardly tell the quinces from
the leaves, and Alice and Oswald still sat exhausted with hard
thinking, but they could not think of anything. And it grew so
dark that the moonlight began to show.

Then Alice jumped up--just as Oswald was opening his mouth to say
the same thing--and said, 'Of course--how silly! I know. Come on
in, Oswald.' And they went on in.

Oswald was still far too proud to consult anyone else. But he just
asked carelessly if Alice and he might go into Maidstone the next
day to buy some wire-netting for a rabbit-hutch, and to see after
one or two things.

Albert's uncle said certainly. And they went by train with the
bailiff from the farm, who was going in about some sheep-dip and
too buy pigs. At any other time Oswald would not have been able to
bear to leave the bailiff without seeing the pigs bought. But now
it was different. For he and Alice had the weight on their bosoms
of being thieves without having meant it--and nothing, not even
pigs, had power to charm the young but honourable Oswald till that
stain had been wiped away.

So he took Alice to the Secretary of the Maidstone Antiquities'
house, and Mr Turnbull was out, but the maid-servant kindly told us
where the President lived, and ere long the trembling feet of the
unfortunate brother and sister vibrated on the spotless gravel of
Camperdown Villa.

When they asked, they were told that Mr Longchamps was at home.
Then they waited, paralysed with undescribed emotions, in a large
room with books and swords and glass bookcases with rotten-looking
odds and ends in them. Mr Longchamps was a collector. That means
he stuck to anything, no matter how ugly and silly, if only it was

He came in rubbing his hands, and very kind. He remembered us very
well, he said, and asked what he could do for us.

Oswald for once was dumb. He could not find words in which to own
himself the ass he had been. But Alice was less delicately
moulded. She said--

'Oh, if you please, we are most awfully sorry, and we hope you'll
forgive us, but we thought it would be such a pity for you and all
the other poor dear Antiquities to come all that way and then find
nothing Roman--so we put some pots and things in the barrow for
you to find.'

'So I perceived,' said the President, stroking his white beard and
smiling most agreeably at us; 'a harmless joke, my dear! Youth's
the season for jesting. There's no harm done--pray think no more
about it. It's very honourable of you to come and apologize, I'm

His brow began to wear the furrowed, anxious look of one who would
fain be rid of his guests and get back to what he was doing before
they interrupted him.

Alice said, 'We didn't come for that. It's MUCH worse. Those were
two REAL true Roman jugs you took away; we put them there; they
aren't ours. We didn't know they were real Roman. We wanted to
sell the Antiquities--I mean Antiquaries--and we were sold

'This is serious,' said the gentleman. 'I suppose you'd know
the--the "jugs" if you saw them again?'

'Anywhere,' said Oswald, with the confidential rashness of one who
does not know what he is talking about.

Mr Longchamps opened the door of a little room leading out of the
one we were in, and beckoned us to follow. We found ourselves amid
shelves and shelves of pottery of all sorts; and two whole shelves
--small ones--were filled with the sort of jug we wanted.

'Well,' said the President, with a veiled menacing sort of smile,
like a wicked cardinal, 'which is it?'

Oswald said, 'I don't know.'

Alice said, 'I should know if I had it in my hand.'

The President patiently took the jugs down one after another, and
Alice tried to look inside them. And one after another she shook
her head and gave them back. At last she said, 'You didn't WASH

Mr Longchamps shuddered and said 'No'.

'Then,' said Alice, 'there is something written with lead-pencil
inside both the jugs. I wish I hadn't. I would rather you didn't
read it. I didn't know it would be a nice old gentleman like you
would find it. I thought it would be the younger gentleman with
the thin legs and the narrow smile.'

'Mr Turnbull.' The President seemed to recognize the description
unerringly. 'Well, well--boys will be boys--girls, I mean. I
won't be angry. Look at all the "jugs" and see if you can find

Alice did--and the next one she looked at she said, 'This is
one'--and two jugs further on she said, 'This is the other.'

'Well,' the President said, 'these are certainly the specimens
which I obtained yesterday. If your uncle will call on me I will
return them to him. But it's a disappointment. Yes, I think you
must let me look inside.'

He did. And at the first one he said nothing. At the second he

'Well, well,' he said, 'we can't expect old heads on young
shoulders. You're not the first who went forth to shear and
returned shorn. Nor, it appears, am I. Next time you have a Sale
of Antiquities, take care that you yourself are not "sold".
Good-day to you, my dear. Don't let the incident prey on your
mind,' he said to Alice. 'Bless your heart, I was a boy once
myself, unlikely as you may think it. Good-bye.'

We were in time to see the pigs bought after all.

I asked Alice what on earth it was she'd scribbled inside the
beastly jugs, and she owned that just to make the lark complete she
had written 'Sucks' in one of the jugs, and 'Sold again, silly', in
the other.

But we know well enough who it was that was sold. And if ever we
have any Antiquities to tea again, they shan't find so much as a
Greek waistcoat button if we can help it.

Unless it's the President, for he did not behave at all badly. For
a man of his age I think he behaved exceedingly well. Oswald can
picture a very different scene having been enacted over those
rotten pots if the President had been an otherwise sort of man.

But that picture is not pleasing, so Oswald will not distress you
by drawing it for you. You can most likely do it easily for


The tramp was very dusty about the feet and legs, and his clothes
were very ragged and dirty, but he had cheerful twinkly grey eyes,
and he touched his cap to the girls when he spoke to us, though a
little as though he would rather not.

We were on the top of the big wall of the Roman ruin in the Three
Tree pasture. We had just concluded a severe siege with bows and
arrows--the ones that were given us to make up for the pistol that
was confiscated after the sad but not sinful occasion when it shot
a fox.

To avoid accidents that you would be sorry for afterwards, Oswald,
in his thoughtfulness, had decreed that everyone was to wear wire

Luckily there were plenty of these, because a man who lived in the
Moat House once went to Rome, where they throw hundreds and
thousands at each other in play, and call it a Comfit Battle or
Battaglia di Confetti (that's real Italian). And he wanted to get
up that sort of thing among the village people--but they were too
beastly slack, so he chucked it.

And in the attic were the wire masks he brought home with him from
Rome, which people wear to prevent the nasty comfits getting in
their mouths and eyes.

So we were all armed to the teeth with masks and arrows, but in
attacking or defending a fort your real strength is not in your
equipment, but in your power of Shove. Oswald, Alice, Noel and
Denny defended the fort. We were much the strongest side, but that
was how Dicky and Oswald picked up.

The others got in, it is true, but that was only because an arrow
hit Dicky on the nose, and it bled quarts as usual, though hit only
through the wire mask. Then he put into dock for repairs, and
while the defending party weren't looking he sneaked up the wall at
the back and shoved Oswald off, and fell on top of him, so that the
fort, now that it had lost its gallant young leader, the life and
soul of the besieged party, was of course soon overpowered, and had
to surrender.

Then we sat on the top and ate some peppermints Albert's uncle
brought us a bag of from Maidstone when he went to fetch away the
Roman pottery we tried to sell the Antiquities with.

The battle was over, and peace raged among us as we sat in the sun
on the big wall and looked at the fields, all blue and swimming in
the heat.

We saw the tramp coming through the beetfield. He made a dusty
blot on the fair scene.

When he saw us he came close to the wall, and touched his cap, as
I have said, and remarked--

'Excuse me interrupting of your sports, young gentlemen and ladies,
but if you could so far oblige as to tell a labouring man the way
to the nearest pub. It's a dry day and no error.'

'The "Rose and Crown" is the best pub,' said Dicky, 'and the
landlady is a friend of ours. It's about a mile if you go by the
field path.'

'Lor' love a duck!' said the tramp, 'a mile's a long way, and
walking's a dry job this 'ere weather.' We said we agreed with

'Upon my sacred,' said the tramp, 'if there was a pump handy I
believe I'd take a turn at it--I would indeed, so help me if I
wouldn't! Though water always upsets me and makes my 'and shaky.'

We had not cared much about tramps since the adventure of the
villainous sailor-man and the Tower of Mystery, but we had the dogs
on the wall with us (Lady was awfully difficult to get up, on
account of her long deer-hound legs), and the position was a strong
one, and easy to defend. Besides the tramp did not look like that
bad sailor, nor talk like it. And we considerably outnumbered the
tramp, anyway.

Alice nudged Oswald and said something about Sir Philip Sidney and
the tramp's need being greater than his, so Oswald was obliged to
go to the hole in the top of the wall where we store provisions
during sieges and get out the bottle of ginger-beer which he had
gone without when the others had theirs so as to drink it when he
got really thirsty. Meanwhile Alice said--

'We've got some ginger-beer; my brother's getting it. I hope you
won't mind drinking out of our glass. We can't wash it, you
know--unless we rinse it out with a little ginger-beer.'

'Don't ye do it, miss,' he said eagerly; 'never waste good liquor
on washing.'

The glass was beside us on the wall. Oswald filled it with
ginger-beer and handed down the foaming tankard to the tramp. He
had to lie on his young stomach to do this.

The tramp was really quite polite--one of Nature's gentlemen, and
a man as well, we found out afterwards. He said--

'Here's to you!' before he drank. Then he drained the glass till
the rim rested on his nose.

'Swelp me, but I WAS dry,' he said. 'Don't seem to matter much
what it is, this weather, do it?--so long as it's suthink wet.
Well, here's thanking you.'

'You're very welcome,' said Dora; 'I'm glad you liked it.'

'Like it?'--said he. 'I don't suppose you know what it's like to
have a thirst on you. Talk of free schools and free libraries, and
free baths and wash-houses and such! Why don't someone start free
DRINKS? He'd be a ero, he would. I'd vote for him any day of the
week and one over. Ef yer don't objec I'll set down a bit and put
on a pipe.'

He sat down on the grass and began to smoke. We asked him
questions about himself, and he told us many of his secret
sorrows--especially about there being no work nowadays for an
honest man. At last he dropped asleep in the middle of a story
about a vestry he worked for that hadn't acted fair and square by
him like he had by them, or it (I don't know if vestry is singular
or plural), and we went home. But before we went we held a hurried
council and collected what money we could from the little we had
with us (it was ninepence-halfpenny), and wrapped it in an old
envelope Dicky had in his pocket and put it gently on the billowing
middle of the poor tramp's sleeping waistcoat, so that he would
find it when he woke. None of the dogs said a single syllable
while we were doing this, so we knew they believed him to be poor
but honest, and we always find it safe to take their word for
things like that.

As we went home a brooding silence fell upon us; we found out
afterwards that those words of the poor tramp's about free drinks
had sunk deep in all our hearts, and rankled there.

After dinner we went out and sat with our feet in the stream.
People tell you it makes your grub disagree with you to do this
just after meals, but it never hurts us. There is a fallen willow
across the stream that just seats the eight of us, only the ones at
the end can't get their feet into the water properly because of the
bushes, so we keep changing places. We had got some liquorice root
to chew. This helps thought. Dora broke a peaceful silence with
this speech--

'Free drinks.'

The words awoke a response in every breast.

'I wonder someone doesn't,' H. O. said, leaning back till he nearly
toppled in, and was only saved by Oswald and Alice at their own
deadly peril.

'Do for goodness sake sit still, H. O.,' observed Alice. 'It would
be a glorious act! I wish WE could.'

'What, sit still?' asked H. O.

'No, my child,' replied Oswald, 'most of us can do that when we
try. Your angel sister was only wishing to set up free drinks for
the poor and thirsty.'

'Not for all of them,' Alice said, 'just a few. Change places now,
Dicky. My feet aren't properly wet at all.'

It is very difficult to change places safely on the willow. The
changers have to crawl over the laps of the others, while the rest
sit tight and hold on for all they're worth. But the hard task was
accomplished and then Alice went on--

'And we couldn't do it for always, only a day or two--just while
our money held out. Eiffel Tower lemonade's the best, and you get
a jolly lot of it for your money too. There must be a great many
sincerely thirsty persons go along the Dover Road every day.'

'It wouldn't be bad. We've got a little chink between us,' said

'And then think how the poor grateful creatures would linger and
tell us about their inmost sorrows. It would be most frightfully
interesting. We could write all their agonied life histories down
afterwards like All the Year Round Christmas numbers. Oh, do

Alice was wriggling so with earnestness that Dicky thumped her to
make her calm.

'We might do it, just for one day,' Oswald said, 'but it wouldn't
be much--only a drop in the ocean compared with the enormous
dryness of all the people in the whole world. Still, every little
helps, as the mermaid said when she cried into the sea.'

'I know a piece of poetry about that,' Denny said.

'Small things are best.
Care and unrest
To wealth and rank are given,
But little things
On little wings--

do something or other, I forget what, but it means the same as
Oswald was saying about the mermaid.'

'What are you going to call it?' asked Noel, coming out of a dream.

'Call what?'

'The Free Drinks game.'

'It's a horrid shame
If the Free Drinks game
Doesn't have a name.
You would be to blame
If anyone came

'Oh, shut up!' remarked Dicky. 'You've been making that rot up all
the time we've been talking instead of listening properly.' Dicky
hates poetry. I don't mind it so very much myself, especially
Macaulay's and Kipling's and Noel's.

'There was a lot more--"lame" and "dame" and name" and "game" and
things--and now I've forgotten it,' Noel said in gloom.

'Never mind,' Alice answered, 'it'll come back to you in the silent
watches of the night; you see if it doesn't. But really, Noel's
right, it OUGHT to have a name.'

'Free Drinks Company.' 'Thirsty Travellers' Rest.' 'The
Travellers' joy.'

These names were suggested, but not cared for extra.

Then someone said--I think it was Oswald-- 'Why not "The House

'It can't be a house, it must be in the road. It'll only be a

'The "Stall Beautiful" is simply silly,' Oswald said.

'The "Bar Beautiful" then,' said Dicky, who knows what the 'Rose
and Crown' bar is like inside, which of course is hidden from

'Oh, wait a minute,' cried the Dentist, snapping his fingers like
he always does when he is trying to remember things. 'I thought of
something, only Daisy tickled me and it's gone--I know--let's call
it the Benevolent Bar!'

It was exactly right, and told the whole truth in two words.
'Benevolent' showed it was free and 'Bar' showed what was free;
e.g. things to drink. The 'Benevolent Bar' it was.

We went home at once to prepare for the morrow, for of course we
meant to do it the very next day. Procrastination is you know
what--and delays are dangerous. If we had waited long we might
have happened to spend our money on something else.

The utmost secrecy had to be observed, because Mrs Pettigrew hates
tramps. Most people do who keep fowls. Albert's uncle was in
London till the next evening, so we could not consult him, but we
know he is always chock full of intelligent sympathy with the poor
and needy.

Acting with the deepest disguise, we made an awning to cover the
Benevolent Bar keepers from the searching rays of the monarch of
the skies. We found some old striped sun-blinds in the attic, and
the girls sewed them together. They were not very big when they
were done, so we added the girls' striped petticoats. I am sorry
their petticoats turn up so constantly in my narrative, but they
really are very useful, especially when the band is cut off. The
girls borrowed Mrs Pettigrew's sewing-machine; they could not ask
her leave without explanations, which we did not wish to give just
then, and she had lent it to them before. They took it into the
cellar to work it, so that she should not hear the noise and ask
bothering questions.

They had to balance it on one end of the beer-stand. It was not
easy. While they were doing the sewing we boys went out and got
willow poles and chopped the twigs off, and got ready as well as we
could to put up the awning.

When we returned a detachment of us went down to the shop in the
village for Eiffel Tower lemonade. We bought seven-and-sixpence
worth; then we made a great label to say what the bar was for.
Then there was nothing else to do except to make rosettes out of a
blue sash of Daisy's to show we belonged to the Benevolent Bar.

The next day was as hot as ever. We rose early from our innocent
slumbers, and went out to the Dover Road to the spot we had marked
down the day before. It was at a cross-roads, so as to be able to
give drinks to as many people as possible.

We hid the awning and poles behind the hedge and went home to

After break we got the big zinc bath they wash clothes in, and
after filling it with clean water we just had to empty it again
because it was too heavy to lift. So we carried it vacant to the
trysting-spot and left H. O. and Noel to guard it while we went and
fetched separate pails of water; very heavy work, and no one who
wasn't really benevolent would have bothered about it for an
instant. Oswald alone carried three pails. So did Dicky and the
Dentist. Then we rolled down some empty barrels and stood up three
of them by the roadside, and put planks on them. This made a very
first-class table, and we covered it with the best tablecloth we
could find in the linen cupboard. We brought out several glasses
and some teacups--not the best ones, Oswald was firm about
that--and the kettle and spirit-lamp and the tea-pot, in case any
weary tramp-woman fancied a cup of tea instead of Eiffel Tower. H.
O. and Noel had to go down to the shop for tea; they need not have
grumbled; they had not carried any of the water. And their having
to go the second time was only because we forgot to tell them to
get some real lemons to put on the bar to show what the drink would
be like when you got it. The man at the shop kindly gave us tick
for the lemons, and we cashed up out of our next week's

Two or three people passed while we were getting things ready, but
no one said anything except the man who said, 'Bloomin'
Sunday-school treat', and as it was too early in the day for anyone
to be thirsty we did not stop the wayfarers to tell them their
thirst could be slaked without cost at our Benevolent Bar.

But when everything was quite ready, and our blue rosettes fastened
on our breasts over our benevolent hearts, we stuck up the great
placard we had made with 'Benevolent Bar. Free Drinks to all Weary
Travellers', in white wadding on red calico, like Christmas
decorations in church. We had meant to fasten this to the edge of
the awning, but we had to pin it to the front of the tablecloth,
because I am sorry to say the awning went wrong from the first. We
could not drive the willow poles into the road; it was much too
hard. And in the ditch it was too soft, besides being no use. So
we had just to cover our benevolent heads with our hats, and take
it in turns to go into the shadow of the tree on the other side of
the road. For we had pitched our table on the sunny side of the
way, of course, relying on our broken-reed-like awning, and wishing
to give it a fair chance.

Everything looked very nice, and we longed to see somebody really
miserable come along so as to be able to allieve their distress.

A man and woman were the first: they stopped and stared, but when
Alice said, 'Free drinks! Free drinks! Aren't you thirsty?' they
said, 'No thank you,' and went on. Then came a person from the
village--he didn't even say 'Thank you' when we asked him, and
Oswald began to fear it might be like the awful time when we
wandered about on Christmas Day trying to find poor persons and
persuade them to eat our Conscience pudding.

But a man in a blue jersey and a red bundle eased Oswald's fears by
being willing to drink a glass of lemonade, and even to say, 'Thank
you, I'm sure' quite nicely.

After that it was better. As we had foreseen, there were plenty of
thirsty people walking along the Dover Road, and even some from the

We had had the pleasure of seeing nineteen tumblers drained to the
dregs ere we tasted any ourselves. Nobody asked for tea.

More people went by than we gave lemonade to. Some wouldn't have
it because they were too grand. One man told us he could pay for
his own liquor when he was dry, which, praise be, he wasn't over
and above, at present; and others asked if we hadn't any beer, and
when we said 'No', they said it showed what sort we were--as if the
sort was not a good one, which it is.

And another man said, 'Slops again! You never get nothing for
nothing, not this side of heaven you don't. Look at the bloomin'
blue ribbon on 'em! Oh, Lor'!' and went on quite sadly without
having a drink.

Our Pig-man who helped us on the Tower of Mystery day went by and
we hailed him, and explained it all to him and gave him a drink,
and asked him to call as he came back. He liked it all, and said
we were a real good sort. How different from the man who wanted
the beer. Then he went on.

One thing I didn't like, and that was the way boys began to gather.
Of course we could not refuse to give drinks to any traveller who
was old enough to ask for it, but when one boy had had three
glasses of lemonade and asked for another, Oswald said--

'I think you've had jolly well enough. You can't be really thirsty
after all that lot.'

The boy said, 'Oh, can't I? You'll just see if I can't,' and went
away. Presently he came back with four other boys, all bigger than
Oswald; and they all asked for lemonade. Oswald gave it to the
four new ones, but he was determined in his behaviour to the other
one, and wouldn't give him a drop. Then the five of them went and
sat on a gate a little way off and kept laughing in a nasty way,
and whenever a boy went by they called out--

'I say, 'ere's a go,' and as often as not the new boy would hang
about with them. It was disquieting, for though they had nearly
all had lemonade we could see it had not made them friendly.

A great glorious glow of goodness gladdened (those go all together
and are called alliteration) our hearts when we saw our own tramp
coming down the road. The dogs did not growl at him as they had at
the boys or the beer-man. (I did not say before that we had the
dogs with us, but of course we had, because we had promised never
to go out without them.) Oswald said, 'Hullo,' and the tramp said,
'Hullo.' Then Alice said, 'You see we've taken your advice; we're
giving free drinks. Doesn't it all look nice?'

'It does that,' said the tramp. 'I don't mind if I do.'

So we gave him two glasses of lemonade succeedingly, and thanked
him for giving us the idea. He said we were very welcome, and if
we'd no objection he'd sit down a bit and put on a pipe. He did,
and after talking a little more he fell asleep. Drinking anything
seemed to end in sleep with him. I always thought it was only beer
and things made people sleepy, but he was not so. When he was
asleep he rolled into the ditch, but it did not wake him up.

The boys were getting very noisy, and they began to shout things,
and to make silly noises with their mouths, and when Oswald and
Dicky went over to them and told them to just chuck it, they were
worse than ever. I think perhaps Oswald and Dicky might have
fought and settled them--though there were eleven, yet back to back
you can always do it against overwhelming numbers in a book--only
Alice called out--

'Oswald, here's some more, come back!'

We went. Three big men were coming down the road, very red and
hot, and not amiable-looking. They stopped in front of the
Benevolent Bar and slowly read the wadding and red-stuff label.

Then one of them said he was blessed, or something like that, and
another said he was too. The third one said, 'Blessed or not, a
drink's a drink. Blue ribbon, though, by ---' (a word you ought
not to say, though it is in the Bible and the catechism as well).
'Let's have a liquor, little missy.'

The dogs were growling, but Oswald thought it best not to take any
notice of what the dogs said, but to give these men each a drink.
So he did. They drank, but not as if they cared about it very
much, and then they set their glasses down on the table, a liberty
no one else had entered into, and began to try and chaff Oswald.
Oswald said in an undervoice to H. O.--

'Just take charge. I want to speak to the girls a sec. Call if
you want anything.' And then he drew the others away, to say he
thought there'd been enough of it, and considering the boys and new
three men, perhaps we'd better chuck it and go home. We'd been
benevolent nearly four hours anyway.

While this conversation and the objections of the others were going
on, H. O. perpetuated an act which nearly wrecked the Benevolent

Of course Oswald was not an eye or ear witness of what happened,
but from what H. O. said in the calmer moments of later life, I
think this was about what happened. One of the big disagreeable
men said to H. O.--

'Ain't got such a thing as a drop o' spirit, 'ave yer?'

H. O. said no, we hadn't, only lemonade and tea.

'Lemonade and tea! blank' (bad word I told you about) 'and blazes,'
replied the bad character, for such he afterwards proved to be.
'What's THAT then?'

He pointed to a bottle labelled Dewar's whisky, which stood on the
table near the spirit-kettle.

'Oh, is THAT what you want?' said H. O. kindly.

The man is understood to have said he should bloomin' well think
so, but H. O. is not sure about the 'bloomin'.

He held out his glass with about half the lemonade in it, and H. O.
generously filled up the tumbler out of the bottle, labelled
Dewar's whisky. The man took a great drink, and then suddenly he
spat out what happened to be left in his mouth just then, and began
to swear. It was then that Oswald and Dicky rushed upon the scene.

The man was shaking his fist in H. O.'s face, and H. O. was still
holding on to the bottle we had brought out the methylated spirit
in for the lamp, in case of anyone wanting tea, which they hadn't.
'If I was Jim,' said the second ruffian, for such indeed they were,
when he had snatched the bottle from H. O. and smelt it, 'I'd chuck
the whole show over the hedge, so I would, and you young gutter-
snipes after it, so I wouldn't.'

Oswald saw in a moment that in point of strength, if not numbers,
he and his party were out-matched, and the unfriendly boys were
drawing gladly near. It is no shame to signal for help when in
distress--the best ships do it every day. Oswald shouted 'Help,
help!' Before the words were out of his brave yet trembling lips
our own tramp leapt like an antelope from the ditch and said--

'Now then, what's up?'

The biggest of the three men immediately knocked him down. He lay

The biggest then said, 'Come on--any more of you? Come on!'

Oswald was so enraged at this cowardly attack that he actually hit
out at the big man--and he really got one in just above the belt.
Then he shut his eyes, because he felt that now all was indeed up.
There was a shout and a scuffle, and Oswald opened his eyes in
astonishment at finding himself still whole and unimpaired. Our
own tramp had artfully simulated insensibleness, to get the men off
their guard, and then had suddenly got his arms round a leg each of
two of the men, and pulled them to the ground, helped by Dicky, who
saw his game and rushed in at the same time, exactly like Oswald
would have done if he had not had his eyes shut ready to meet his

The unpleasant boys shouted, and the third man tried to help his
unrespectable friends, now on their backs involved in a desperate
struggle with our own tramp, who was on top of them, accompanied by
Dicky. It all happened in a minute, and it was all mixed up. The
dogs were growling and barking--Martha had one of the men by the
trouser leg and Pincher had another; the girls were screaming like
mad and the strange boys shouted and laughed (little beasts!), and
then suddenly our Pig-man came round the corner, and two friends of
his with him. He had gone and fetched them to take care of us if
anything unpleasant occurred. It was a very thoughtful, and just
like him.

'Fetch the police!' cried the Pig-man in noble tones, and H. O.
started running to do it. But the scoundrels struggled from under
Dicky and our tramp, shook off the dogs and some bits of trouser,
and fled heavily down the road.

Our Pig-man said, 'Get along home!' to the disagreeable boys, and
'Shoo'd' them as if they were hens, and they went. H. O. ran back
when they began to go up the road, and there we were, all standing
breathless in tears on the scene of the late desperate engagement.
Oswald gives you his word of honour that his and Dicky's tears were
tears of pure rage. There are such things as tears of pure rage.
Anyone who knows will tell you so.

We picked up our own tramp and bathed the lump on his forehead with
lemonade. The water in the zinc bath had been upset in the
struggle. Then he and the Pig-man and his kind friends helped us
carry our things home.

The Pig-man advised us on the way not to try these sort of kind
actions without getting a grown-up to help us. We've been advised
this before, but now I really think we shall never try to be
benevolent to the poor and needy again. At any rate not unless we
know them very well first.

We have seen our own tramp often since. The Pig-man gave him a
job. He has got work to do at last. The Pig-man says he is not
such a very bad chap, only he will fall asleep after the least drop
of drink. We know that is his failing. We saw it at once. But it
was lucky for us he fell asleep that day near our benevolent bar.

I will not go into what my father said about it all. There was a
good deal in it about minding your own business--there generally is
in most of the talkings-to we get. But he gave our tramp a
sovereign, and the Pig-man says he went to sleep on it for a solid


The author of these few lines really does hope to goodness that no
one will be such an owl as to think from the number of things we
did when we were in the country, that we were wretched, neglected
little children, whose grown-up relations sparkled in the bright
haunts of pleasure, and whirled in the giddy what's-its-name of
fashion, while we were left to weep forsaken at home. It was
nothing of the kind, and I wish you to know that my father was with
us a good deal--and Albert's uncle (who is really no uncle of ours,
but only of Albert next door when we lived in Lewisham) gave up a
good many of his valuable hours to us. And the father of Denny and
Daisy came now and then, and other people, quite as many as we
wished to see. And we had some very decent times with them; and
enjoyed ourselves very much indeed, thank you. In some ways the
good times you have with grown-ups are better than the ones you
have by yourselves. At any rate they are safer. It is almost
impossible, then, to do anything fatal without being pulled up
short by a grown-up ere yet the deed is done. And, if you are
careful, anything that goes wrong can be looked on as the
grown-up's fault. But these secure pleasures are not so
interesting to tell about as the things you do when there is no one
to stop you on the edge of the rash act.

It is curious, too, that many of our most interesting games
happened when grown-ups were far away. For instance when we were

It was just after the business of the Benevolent Bar, and it was a
wet day. It is not easy to amuse yourself indoors on a wet day as
older people seem to think, especially when you are far removed
from your own home, and haven't got all your own books and things.
The girls were playing Halma--which is a beastly game--Noel was
writing poetry, H. O. was singing 'I don't know what to do' to the
tune of 'Canaan's happy shore'. It goes like this, and is very
tiresome to listen to--

'I don't know what to do--oo--oo--oo!
I don't know what to do--oo--oo!
It IS a beastly rainy day
And I don't know what to do.'

The rest of us were trying to make him shut up. We put a carpet
bag over his head, but he went on inside it; and then we sat on
him, but he sang under us; we held him upside down and made him
crawl head first under the sofa, but when, even there, he kept it
up, we saw that nothing short of violence would induce him to
silence, so we let him go. And then he said we had hurt him, and
we said we were only in fun, and he said if we were he wasn't, and
ill feeling might have grown up even out of a playful brotherly act
like ours had been, only Alice chucked the Halma and said--

'Let dogs delight. Come on--let's play something.'

Then Dora said, 'Yes, but look here. Now we're together I do want
to say something. What about the Wouldbegoods Society?'

Many of us groaned, and one said, 'Hear! hear!' I will not say
which one, but it was not Oswald.

'No, but really,' Dora said, 'I don't want to be preachy--but you
know we DID say we'd try to be good. And it says in a book I was
reading only yesterday that NOT being naughty is not enough. You
must BE good. And we've hardly done anything. The Golden Deed
book's almost empty.'

'Couldn't we have a book of leaden deeds?' said Noel, coming out of
his poetry, 'then there'd be plenty for Alice to write about if she
wants to, or brass or zinc or aluminium deeds? We shan't ever fill
the book with golden ones.'

H. O. had rolled himself in the red tablecloth and said Noel was
only advising us to be naughty, and again peace waved in the
balance. But Alice said, 'Oh, H. O., DON'T--he didn't mean that;
but really and truly, I wish wrong things weren't so interesting.
You begin to do a noble act, and then it gets so exciting, and
before you know where you are you are doing something wrong as hard
as you can lick.'

'And enjoying it too' Dick said.

'It's very curious,' Denny said, 'but you don't seem to be able to
be certain inside yourself whether what you're doing is right if
you happen to like doing it, but if you don't like doing it you
know quite well. I only thought of that just now. I wish Noel
would make a poem about it.'

'I am,' Noel said; 'it began about a crocodile but it
is finishing itself up quite different from what I meant it to at
first. just wait a minute.'

He wrote very hard while his kind brothers and sisters and his
little friends waited the minute he had said, and then he read:

'The crocodile is very wise,
He lives in the Nile with little eyes,
He eats the hippopotamus too,
And if he could he would eat up you.

'The lovely woods and starry skies
He looks upon with glad surprise!
He sees the riches of the east,
And the tiger and lion, kings of beast.

'So let all be good and beware
Of saying shan't and won't and don't care;
For doing wrong is easier far
Than any of the right things I know about are.

And I couldn't make it king of beasts because of it not rhyming
with east, so I put the s off beasts on to king. It comes even in
the end.'

We all said it was a very nice piece of poetry. Noel gets really
ill if you don't like what he writes, and then he said, 'If it's
trying that's wanted, I don't care how hard we TRY to be good, but
we may as well do it some nice way. Let's be Pilgrim's Progress,
like I wanted to at first.'

And we were all beginning to say we didn't want to, when suddenly
Dora said, 'Oh, look here! I know. We'll be the Canterbury
Pilgrims. People used to go pilgrimages to make themselves good.'

'With peas in their shoes,' the Dentist said. 'It's in a piece of
poetry--only the man boiled his peas--which is quite unfair.'

'Oh, yes,' said H. O., 'and cocked hats.'

'Not cocked--cockled'--it was Alice who said this. 'And they had
staffs and scrips, and they told each other tales. We might as

Oswald and Dora had been reading about the Canterbury Pilgrims in
a book called A Short History of the English People. It is not at
all short really--three fat volumes--but it has jolly good
pictures. It was written by a gentleman named Green. So Oswald

'All right. I'll be the Knight.'

'I'll be the wife of Bath,' Dora said. 'What will you be, Dicky?'

'Oh, I don't care, I'll be Mr Bath if you like.'

'We don't know much about the people,' Alice said. 'How many were

'Thirty,' Oswald replied, 'but we needn't be all of them. There's
a Nun-Priest.'

'Is that a man or a woman?'

Oswald said he could not be sure by the picture, but Alice and Noel
could be it between them. So that was settled. Then we got the
book and looked at the dresses to see if we could make up dresses
for the parts. At first we thought we would, because it would be
something to do, and it was a very wet day; but they looked
difficult, especially the Miller's. Denny wanted to be the Miller,
but in the end he was the Doctor, because it was next door to
Dentist, which is what we call him for short. Daisy was to be the
Prioress--because she is good, and has 'a soft little red mouth',
and H. O. WOULD be the Manciple (I don't know what that is),
because the picture of him is bigger than most of the others, and
he said Manciple was a nice portmanteau word--half mandarin and
half disciple.

'Let's get the easiest parts of the dresses ready first.' Alice
said--'the pilgrims' staffs and hats and the cockles.'

So Oswald and Dicky braved the fury of the elements and went into
the wood beyond the orchard to cut ash-sticks. We got eight jolly
good long ones. Then we took them home, and the girls bothered
till we changed our clothes, which were indeed sopping with the
elements we had faced.

Then we peeled the sticks. They were nice and white at first, but
they soon got dirty when we carried them. It is a curious thing:
however often you wash your hands they always seem to come off on
anything white. And we nailed paper rosettes to the tops of them.
That was the nearest we could get to cockle-shells.

'And we may as well have them there as on our hats,' Alice said.
'And let's call each other by our right names to-day, just to get
into it. Don't you think so, Knight?'

'Yea, Nun-Priest,' Oswald was replying, but Noel said she was only
half the Nun-Priest, and again a threat of unpleasantness darkened
the air. But Alice said--

'Don't be a piggy-wiggy, Noel, dear; you can have it all, I don't
want it. I'll just be a plain pilgrim, or Henry who killed

So she was called the Plain Pilgrim, and she did not mind.

We thought of cocked hats, but they are warm to wear, and the big
garden hats that make you look like pictures on the covers of
plantation songs did beautifully. We put cockle-shells on them.
Sandals we did try, with pieces of oil-cloth cut the shape of soles
and fastened with tape, but the dust gets into your toes so, and we
decided boots were better for such a long walk. Some of the
pilgrims who were very earnest decided to tie their boots with
white tape crossed outside to pretend sandals. Denny was one of
these earnest palmers. As for dresses, there was no time to make
them properly, and at first we thought of nightgowns; but we
decided not to, in case people in Canterbury were not used to that
sort of pilgrim nowadays. We made up our minds to go as we
were--or as we might happen to be next day.

You will be ready to believe we hoped next day would be fine. It

Fair was the morn when the pilgrims arose and went down to
breakfast. Albert's uncle had had brekker early and was hard at
work in his study. We heard his quill pen squeaking when we
listened at the door. It is not wrong to listen at doors when
there is only one person inside, because nobody would tell itself
secrets aloud when it was alone.

We got lunch from the housekeeper, Mrs Pettigrew. She seems almost
to LIKE us all to go out and take our lunch with us. Though I
should think it must be very dull for her all alone. I remember,
though, that Eliza, our late general at Lewisham, was just the
same. We took the dear dogs of course. Since the Tower of Mystery
happened we are not allowed to go anywhere without the escort of
these faithful friends of man. We did not take Martha, because
bull-dogs do not like walks. Remember this if you ever have one of
those valuable animals.

When we were all ready, with our big hats and cockle-shells, and
our staves and our tape sandals, the pilgrims looked very nice.

'Only we haven't any scrips,' Dora said. 'What is a scrip?'

'I think it's something to read. A roll of parchment or

So we had old newspapers rolled up, and carried them in our hands.
We took the Globe and the Westminster Gazette because they are pink
and green. The Dentist wore his white sandshoes, sandalled with
black tape, and bare legs. They really looked almost as good as
bare feet.

'We OUGHT to have peas in our shoes,' he said. But we did not
think so. We knew what a very little stone in your boot will do,
let alone peas.

Of course we knew the way to go to Canterbury, because the old
Pilgrims' Road runs just above our house. It is a very pretty
road, narrow, and often shady. It is nice for walking, but carts
do not like it because it is rough and rutty; so there is grass
growing in patches on it.

I have said that it was a fine day, which means that it was not
raining, but the sun did not shine all the time.

''Tis well, O Knight,' said Alice, 'that the orb of day shines not
in undi--what's-its-name?--splendour.'

'Thou sayest sooth, Plain Pilgrim,' replied Oswald. ''Tis jolly
warm even as it is.'

'I wish I wasn't two people,' Noel said, 'it seems to make me
hotter. I think I'll be a Reeve or something.'

But we would not let him, and we explained that if he hadn't been
so beastly particular Alice would have been half of him, and he had
only himself to thank if being all of a Nun-Priest made him hot.

But it WAS warm certainly, and it was some time since we'd gone so
far in boots. Yet when H. O. complained we did our duty as
pilgrims and made him shut up. He did as soon as Alice said that
about whining and grizzling being below the dignity of a Manciple.

It was so warm that the Prioress and the wife of Bath gave up
walking with their arms round each other in their usual silly way
(Albert's uncle calls it Laura Matildaing), and the Doctor and Mr
Bath had to take their jackets off and carry them.

I am sure if an artist or a photographer, or any person who liked
pilgrims, had seen us he would have been very pleased. The paper
cockle-shells were first-rate, but it was awkward having them on
the top of the staffs, because they got in your way when you wanted
the staff to use as a walking-stick.

We stepped out like a man all of us, and kept it up as well as we
could in book-talk, and at first all was merry as a dinner-bell;
but presently Oswald, who was the 'very perfect gentle knight',
could not help noticing that one of us was growing very silent and
rather pale, like people are when they have eaten something that
disagrees with them before they are quite sure of the fell truth.

So he said, 'What's up, Dentist, old man?' quite kindly and like a
perfect knight, though, of course, he was annoyed with Denny. It
is sickening when people turn pale in the middle of a game and
everything is spoiled, and you have to go home, and tell the
spoiler how sorry you are that he is knocked up, and pretend not to
mind about the game being spoiled.

Denny said, 'Nothing', but Oswald knew better.

Then Alice said, 'Let's rest a bit, Oswald, it IS hot.'

'Sir Oswald, if you please, Plain Pilgrim,' returned her brother
dignifiedly. 'Remember I'm a knight.'

So then we sat down and had lunch, and Denny looked better. We
played adverbs, and twenty questions, and apprenticing your son,
for a bit in the shade, and then Dicky said it was time to set sail
if we meant to make the port of Canterbury that night. Of course,
pilgrims reck not of ports, but Dicky never does play the game

We went on. I believe we should have got to Canterbury all right
and quite early, only Denny got paler and paler, and presently
Oswald saw, beyond any doubt, that he was beginning to walk lame.

'Shoes hurt you, Dentist?' he said, still with kind striving

'Not much--it's all right,' returned the other.

So on we went--but we were all a bit tired now--and the sun was
hotter and hotter; the clouds had gone away. We had to begin to
sing to keep up our spirits. We sang 'The British Grenadiers' and
'John Brown's Body', which is grand to march to, and a lot of
others. We were just starting on 'Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys
are marching', when Denny stopped short. He stood first on one
foot and then on the other, and suddenly screwed up his face and
put his knuckles in his eyes and sat down on a heap of stones by
the roadside. When we pulled his hands down he was actually
crying. The author does not wish to say it is babyish to cry.

'Whatever is up?' we all asked, and Daisy and Dora petted him to
get him to say, but he only went on howling, and said it was
nothing, only would we go on and leave him, and call for him as we
came back.

Oswald thought very likely something had given Denny the
stomach-ache, and he did not like to say so before all of us, so he
sent the others away and told them to walk on a bit.

Then he said, 'Now, Denny, don't be a young ass. What is it? Is
it stomach-ache?'

And Denny stopped crying to say 'No!' as loud as he could.

'Well, then,' Oswald said, 'look here, you're spoiling the whole
thing. Don't be a jackape, Denny. What is it?'

'You won't tell the others if I tell you?'

'Not if you say not,' Oswald answered in kindly tones.

'Well, it's my shoes.'

'Take them off, man.'

'You won't laugh?'

'NO!' cried Oswald, so impatiently that the others looked back to
see why he was shouting. He waved them away, and with humble
gentleness began to undo the black-tape sandals.

Denny let him, crying hard all the time.

When Oswald had got off the first shoe the mystery was made plain
to him.

'Well! Of all the--' he said in proper indignation.

Denny quailed--though he said he did not--but then he doesn't know
what quailing is, and if Denny did not quail then Oswald does not
know what quailing is either.

For when Oswald took the shoe off he naturally chucked it down and
gave it a kick, and a lot of little pinky yellow things rolled out.
And Oswald look closer at the interesting sight. And the little
things were SPLIT peas.

'Perhaps you'll tell me,' said the gentle knight, with the
politeness of despair, 'why on earth you've played the goat like

'Oh, don't be angry,' Denny said; and now his shoes were off, he
curled and uncurled his toes and stopped crying. 'I KNEW pilgrims
put peas in their shoes--and--oh, I wish you wouldn't laugh!'

'I'm not,' said Oswald, still with bitter politeness.

'I didn't want to tell you I was going to, because I wanted to be
better than all of you, and I thought if you knew I was going to
you'd want to too, and you wouldn't when I said it first. So I
just put some peas in my pocket and dropped one or two at a time
into my shoes when you weren't looking.'

In his secret heart Oswald said, 'Greedy young ass.' For it IS
greedy to want to have more of anything than other people, even

Outwardly Oswald said nothing.

'You see'--Denny went on--'I do want to be good. And if pilgriming
is to do you good, you ought to do it properly. I shouldn't mind
being hurt in my feet if it would make me good for ever and ever.
And besides, I wanted to play the game thoroughly. You always say
I don't.'

The breast of the kind Oswald was touched by these last words.

'I think you're quite good enough,' he said. 'I'll fetch back the
others--no, they won't laugh.'

And we all went back to Denny, and the girls made a fuss with him.
But Oswald and Dicky were grave and stood aloof. They were old
enough to see that being good was all very well, but after all you
had to get the boy home somehow.

When they said this, as agreeably as they could, Denny said--

'It's all right--someone will give me a lift.'

'You think everything in the world can be put right with a lift,'
Dicky said, and he did not speak lovingly.

'So it can,' said Denny, 'when it's your feet. I shall easily get
a lift home.'

'Not here you won't,' said Alice. 'No one goes down this road; but
the high road's just round the corner, where you see the telegraph

Dickie and Oswald made a sedan chair and carried Denny to the high
road, and we sat down in a ditch to wait. For a long time nothing
went by but a brewer's dray. We hailed it, of course, but the man
was so sound asleep that our hails were vain, and none of us
thought soon enough about springing like a flash to the horses'
heads, though we all thought of it directly the dray was out of

So we had to keep on sitting there by the dusty road, and more than
one pilgrim was heard to say it wished we had never come. Oswald
was not one of those who uttered this useless wish.

At last, just when despair was beginning to eat into the vital
parts of even Oswald, there was a quick tap-tapping of horses' feet
on the road, and a dogcart came in sight with a lady in it all

We hailed her like the desperate shipwrecked mariners in the
long-boat hail the passing sail.

She pulled up. She was not a very old lady--twenty-five we found
out afterwards her age was--and she looked jolly.

'Well,' she said, 'what's the matter?'

'It's this poor little boy,' Dora said, pointing to the Dentist,
who had gone to sleep in the dry ditch, with his mouth open as
usual. 'His feet hurt him so, and will you give him a lift?'

'But why are you all rigged out like this?' asked the lady, looking
at our cockle-shells and sandals and things. We told her.

'And how has he hurt his feet?' she asked. And we told her that.

She looked very kind. 'Poor little chap,' she said. 'Where do you
want to go?'

We told her that too. We had no concealments from this lady.

'Well,' she said, 'I have to go on to--what is its name?'

'Canterbury,' said H. O.

'Well, yes, Canterbury,' she said; 'it's only about half a mile.
I'll take the poor little pilgrim--and, yes, the three girls. You
boys must walk. Then we'll have tea and see the sights, and I'll
drive you home--at least some of you. How will that do?'

We thanked her very much indeed, and said it would do very nicely.

Then we helped Denny into the cart, and the girls got up, and the
red wheels of the cart spun away through the dust.

'I wish it had been an omnibus the lady was driving,' said H. O.,
'then we could all have had a ride.'

'Don't you be so discontented,' Dicky said. And Noel said--

'You ought to be jolly thankful you haven't got to carry Denny all
the way home on your back. You'd have had to if you'd been out
alone with him.'

When we got to Canterbury it was much smaller than we expected, and
the cathedral not much bigger than the Church that is next to the
Moat House. There seemed to be only one big street, but we
supposed the rest of the city was hidden away somewhere.
There was a large inn, with a green before it, and the red-wheeled
dogcart was standing in the stableyard and the lady, with Denny and
the others, sitting on the benches in the porch, looking out for
us. The inn was called the 'George and Dragon', and it made me
think of the days when there were coaches and highwaymen and
foot-pads and jolly landlords, and adventures at country inns, like
you read about.

'We've ordered tea,' said the lady. 'Would you like to wash your

We saw that she wished us to, so we said yes, we would. The girls
and Denny were already much cleaner than when we parted from them.

There was a courtyard to the inn and a wooden staircase outside the
house. We were taken up this, and washed our hands in a big room
with a fourpost wooden bed and dark red hangings--just the sort of
hangings that would not show the stains of gore in the dear old
adventurous times.

Then we had tea in a great big room with wooden chairs and tables,
very polished and old.

It was a very nice tea, with lettuces, and cold meat, and three
kinds of jam, as well as cake, and new bread, which we are not
allowed at home.

While tea was being had, the lady talked to us. She was very kind.

There are two sorts of people in the world, besides others; one
sort understand what you're driving at, and the other don't. This
lady was the one sort.

After everyone had had as much to eat as they could possibly want,
the lady said, 'What was it you particularly wanted to see at

'The cathedral,' Alice said, 'and the place where Thomas A Becket
was murdered.'

'And the Danejohn,' said Dicky.

Oswald wanted to see the walls, because he likes the Story of St
Alphege and the Danes.

'Well, well,' said the lady, and she put on her hat; it was a
really sensible one--not a blob of fluffy stuff and feathers put on
sideways and stuck on with long pins, and no shade to your face,
but almost as big as ours, with a big brim and red flowers, and
black strings to tie under your chin to keep it from blowing off.

Then we went out all together to see Canterbury. Dicky and Oswald
took it in turns to carry Denny on their backs. The lady called
him 'The Wounded Comrade'.

We went first to the church. Oswald, whose quick brain was easily
aroused to suspicions, was afraid the lady might begin talking in
the church, but she did not. The church door was open. I remember
mother telling us once it was right and good for churches to be
left open all day, so that tired people could go in and be quiet,
and say their prayers, if they wanted to. But it does not seem
respectful to talk out loud in church. (See Note A.)

When we got outside the lady said, 'You can imagine how on the
chancel steps began the mad struggle in which Becket, after hurling
one of his assailants, armour and all, to the ground--'

'It would have been much cleverer,' H. O. interrupted, 'to hurl him
without his armour, and leave that standing up.'

'Go on,' said Alice and Oswald, when they had given H. O. a
withering glance. And the lady did go on. She told us all about
Becket, and then about St Alphege, who had bones thrown at him till
he died, because he wouldn't tax his poor people to please the
beastly rotten Danes.

And Denny recited a piece of poetry he knows called 'The Ballad of

It begins about Danish warships snake-shaped, and ends about doing
as you'd be done by. It is long, but it has all the beef-bones in
it, and all about St Alphege.

Then the lady showed us the Danejohn, and it was like an
oast-house. And Canterbury walls that Alphege defied the Danes
from looked down on a quite common farmyard. The hospital was like
a barn, and other things were like other things, but we went all
about and enjoyed it very much. The lady was quite amusing,
besides sometimes talking like a real cathedral guide I met
afterwards. (See Note B.) When at last we said we thought
Canterbury was very small considering, the lady said--

'Well, it seemed a pity to come so far and not at least hear
something about Canterbury.'

And then at once we knew the worst, and Alice said--

'What a horrid sell!' But Oswald, with immediate courteousness,

'I don't care. You did it awfully well.' And he did not say,
though he owns he thought of it--

'I knew it all the time,' though it was a great temptation.
Because really it was more than half true. He had felt from the
first that this was too small for Canterbury. (See Note C.)

The real name of the place was Hazelbridge, and not Canterbury at
all. We went to Canterbury another time. (See Note D.)
We were not angry with the lady for selling us about it being
Canterbury, because she had really kept it up first-rate. And she
asked us if we minded, very handsomely, and we said we liked it.
But now we did not care how soon we got home. The lady saw this,
and said--

'Come, our chariots are ready, and our horses caparisoned.'

That is a first-rate word out of a book. It cheered Oswald up, and
he liked her for using it, though he wondered why she said
chariots. When we got back to the inn I saw her dogcart was there,
and a grocer's cart too, with B. Munn, grocer, Hazelbridge, on it.
She took the girls in her cart, and the boys went with the grocer.

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