Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

This is what we wrote with H. O.'s blood, only the blood gave out when
we got to 'Restored', and we had to write the rest with crimson lake,
which is not the same colour, though I always use it, myself, for
painting wounds.

While Oswald was writing it he heard Alice whispering to the prisoner
that it would soon be over, and it was only play. The prisoner left off
howling, so I pretended not to hear what she said. A Bandit Captain has
to overlook things sometimes. This was the letter--

'Albert Morrison is held a prisoner by Bandits.
On payment of three thousand pounds he will be
restored to his sorrowing relatives, and all
will be forgotten and forgiven.'

I was not sure about the last part, but Dicky was certain he had seen it
in the paper, so I suppose it must have been all right.

We let H. O. take the letter; it was only fair, as it was his blood it
was written with, and told him to leave it next door for Mrs Morrison.

H. O. came back quite quickly, and Albert-next-door's uncle came with
him.

'What is all this, Albert?' he cried. 'Alas, alas, my nephew! Do I find
you the prisoner of a desperate band of brigands?'

'Bandits,' said H. O; 'you know it says bandits.'

'I beg your pardon, gentlemen,' said Albert-next-door's uncle, 'bandits
it is, of course. This, Albert, is the direct result of the pursuit of
the guy on an occasion when your doting mother had expressly warned you
to forgo the pleasures of the chase.'

Albert said it wasn't his fault, and he hadn't wanted to play.

'So ho!' said his uncle, 'impenitent too! Where's the dungeon?'

We explained the dungeon, and showed him the straw pallet and the ewer
and the mouldering crusts and other things.

'Very pretty and complete,' he said. 'Albert, you are more highly
privileged than ever I was. No one ever made me a nice dungeon when I
was your age. I think I had better leave you where you are.'

Albert began to cry again and said he was sorry, and he would be a good
boy.

'And on this old familiar basis you expect me to ransom you, do you?
Honestly, my nephew, I doubt whether you are worth it. Besides, the sum
mentioned in this document strikes me as excessive: Albert really is
_not_ worth three thousand pounds. Also by a strange and unfortunate
chance I haven't the money about me. Couldn't you take less?'

We said perhaps we could.

'Say eightpence,' suggested Albert-next-door's uncle, 'which is all the
small change I happen to have on my person.'

'Thank you very much,' said Alice as he held it out; 'but are you sure
you can spare it? Because really it was only play.'

'Quite sure. Now, Albert, the game is over. You had better run home to
your mother and tell her how much you've enjoyed yourself.'

When Albert-next-door had gone his uncle sat in the Guy Fawkes armchair
and took Alice on his knee, and we sat round the fire waiting till it
would be time to let off our fireworks. We roasted the chestnuts he
sent Dicky out for, and he told us stories till it was nearly seven.
His stories are first-rate--he does all the parts in different voices.
At last he said--

'Look here, young-uns. I like to see you play and enjoy yourselves, and
I don't think it hurts Albert to enjoy himself too.'

'I don't think he did much,' said H. O. But I knew what Albert-next-
door's uncle meant because I am much older than H. O. He went on--

'But what about Albert's mother? Didn't you think how anxious she would
be at his not coming home? As it happens I saw him come in with you, so
we knew it was all right. But if I hadn't, eh?'

He only talks like that when he is very serious, or even angry. Other
times he talks like people in books--to us, I mean.

We none of us said anything. But I was thinking. Then Alice spoke.

Girls seem not to mind saying things that we don't say. She put her
arms round Albert-next-door's uncle's neck and said--

'We're very, very sorry. We didn't think about his mother. You see we
try very hard not to think about other people's mothers because--'

Just then we heard Father's key in the door and Albert-next-door's uncle
kissed Alice and put her down, and we all went down to meet Father. As
we went I thought I heard Albert-next-door's uncle say something that
sounded like 'Poor little beggars!'

He couldn't have meant us, when we'd been having such a jolly time, and
chestnuts, and fireworks to look forward to after dinner and everything!

CHAPTER 8
BEING EDITORS

It was Albert's uncle who thought of our trying a newspaper. He said he
thought we should not find the bandit business a paying industry, as a
permanency, and that journalism might be.

We had sold Noel's poetry and that piece of information about Lord
Tottenham to the good editor, so we thought it would not be a bad idea
to have a newspaper of our own. We saw plainly that editors must be
very rich and powerful, because of the grand office and the man in the
glass case, like a museum, and the soft carpets and big writing-table.
Besides our having seen a whole handful of money that the editor pulled
out quite carelessly from his trousers pocket when he gave me my five
bob.

Dora wanted to be editor and so did Oswald, but he gave way to her
because she is a girl, and afterwards he knew that it is true what it
says in the copy-books about Virtue being its own Reward. Because you've
no idea what a bother it is. Everybody wanted to put in everything just
as they liked, no matter how much room there was on the page. It was
simply awful! Dora put up with it as long as she could and then she
said if she wasn't let alone she wouldn't go on being editor; they could
be the paper's editors themselves, so there.

Then Oswald said, like a good brother: 'I will help you if you like,
Dora,' and she said, 'You're more trouble than all the rest of them!
Come and be editor and see how you like it. I give it up to you.' But
she didn't, and we did it together. We let Albert-next-door be sub-
editor, because he had hurt his foot with a nail in his boot that
gathered.

When it was done Albert-next-door's uncle had it copied for us in
typewriting, and we sent copies to all our friends, and then of course
there was no one left that we could ask to buy it. We did not think of
that until too late. We called the paper the Lewisham Recorder;
Lewisham because we live there, and Recorder in memory of the good
editor. I could write a better paper on my head, but an editor is not
allowed to write all the paper. It is very hard, but he is not. You
just have to fill up with what you can get from other writers. If I
ever have time I will write a paper all by myself. It won't be patchy.
We had no time to make it an illustrated paper, but I drew the ship
going down with all hands for the first copy. But the typewriter can't
draw ships, so it was left out in the other copies. The time the first
paper took to write out no one would believe! This was the Newspaper:

THE LEWISHAM RECORDER

EDITORS: DORA AND OSWALD BASTABLE

------------
EDITORIAL NOTE

Every paper is written for some reason. Ours is because we want to sell
it and get money. If what we have written brings happiness to any sad
heart we shall not have laboured in vain. But we want the money too.
Many papers are content with the sad heart and the happiness, but we are
not like that, and it is best not to be deceitful. EDITORS.

There will be two serial stories; One by Dicky and one by all of us. In
a serial story you only put in one chapter at a time. But we shall put
all our serial story at once, if Dora has time to copy it. Dicky's will
come later on.

SERIAL STORY
BY US ALL

CHAPTER I--by Dora

The sun was setting behind a romantic-looking tower when two strangers
might have been observed descending the crest of the hill. The eldest,
a man in the prime of life; the other a handsome youth who reminded
everybody of Quentin Durward. They approached the Castle, in which the
fair Lady Alicia awaited her deliverers. She leaned from the
castellated window and waved her lily hand as they approached. They
returned her signal, and retired to seek rest and refreshment at a
neighbouring hostelry.

------------
CHAPTER II--by Alice

The Princess was very uncomfortable in the tower, because her fairy
godmother had told her all sorts of horrid things would happen if she
didn't catch a mouse every day, and she had caught so many mice that now
there were hardly any left to catch. So she sent her carrier pigeon to
ask the noble Strangers if they could send her a few mice--because she
would be of age in a few days and then it wouldn't matter. So the fairy
godmother--- (I'm very sorry, but there's no room to make the chapters
any longer.-ED.)

------------
CHAPTER III--by the Sub-Editor

(I can't--I'd much rather not--I don't know how.)

------------
CHAPTER IV--by Dicky

I must now retrace my steps and tell you something about our hero. You
must know he had been to an awfully jolly school, where they had turkey
and goose every day for dinner, and never any mutton, and as many helps
of pudding as a fellow cared to send up his plate for--so of course they
had all grown up very strong, and before he left school he challenged
the Head to have it out man to man, and he gave it him, I tell you.
That was the education that made him able to fight Red Indians, and to
be the stranger who might have been observed in the first chapter.

------------
CHAPTER V--by Noel

I think it's time something happened in this story. So then the dragon
he came out, blowing fire out of his nose, and he said--

'Come on, you valiant man and true, I'd like to have a set-to along of
you!'

(That's bad English.--ED. I don't care; it's what the dragon said. Who
told you dragons didn't talk bad English?--Noel.)

So the hero, whose name was Noeloninuris, replied--

'My blade is sharp, my axe is keen,
You're not nearly as big as a good many
dragons I've seen.'

(Don't put in so much poetry, Noel. It's not fair, because none of the
others can do it.--ED.)

And then they went at it, and he beat the dragon, just as he did the
Head in Dicky's part of the Story, and so he married the Princess, and
they lived--- (No they didn't--not till the last chapter.--ED.)

------------
CHAPTER VI--by H. O.

I think it's a very nice Story--but what about the mice? I don't want
to say any more. Dora can have what's left of my chapter.

------------
CHAPTER VII--by the Editors

And so when the dragon was dead there were lots of mice, because he used
to kill them for his tea but now they rapidly multiplied and ravaged the
country, so the fair lady Alicia, sometimes called the Princess, had to
say she would not marry any one unless they could rid the country of
this plague of mice. Then the Prince, whose real name didn't begin with
N, but was Osrawalddo, waved his magic sword, and the dragon stood
before them, bowing gracefully. They made him promise to be good, and
then they forgave him; and when the wedding breakfast came, all the
bones were saved for him. And so they were married and lived happy ever
after.

(What became of the other stranger?--NOEL. The dragon ate him because he
asked too many questions.--EDITORS.)

This is the end of the story.

INSTRUCTIVE

It only takes four hours and a quarter now to get from London to
Manchester; but I should not think any one would if they could help it.

A DREADFUL WARNING. A wicked boy told me a very instructive thing about
ginger. They had opened one of the large jars, and he happened to take
out quite a lot, and he made it all right by dropping marbles in, till
there was as much ginger as before. But he told me that on the Sunday,
when it was coming near the part where there is only juice generally, I
had no idea what his feelings were. I don't see what he could have said
when they asked him. I should be sorry to act like it.

------------
SCIENTIFIC

Experiments should always be made out of doors. And don't use
benzoline.--DICKY. (That was when he burnt his eyebrows off.--ED.)

The earth is 2,400 miles round, and 800 through--at least I think so,
but perhaps it's the other way.--DICKY. (You ought to have been sure
before you began.--ED.)

------------
SCIENTIFIC COLUMN

In this so-called Nineteenth Century Science is but too little
considered in the nurseries of the rich and proud. But we are not like
that.

It is not generally known that if you put bits of camphor in luke-warm
water it will move about. If you drop sweet oil in, the camphor will
dart away and then stop moving. But don't drop any till you are tired
of it, because the camphor won't any more afterwards. Much amusement
and instruction is lost by not knowing things like this.

If you put a sixpence under a shilling in a wine-glass, and blow hard
down the side of the glass, the sixpence will jump up and sit on the top
of the shilling. At least I can't do it myself, but my cousin can. He
is in the Navy.

------------
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Noel. You are very poetical, but I am sorry to say it will not do.

Alice. Nothing will ever make your hair curl, so it's no use. Some
people say it's more important to tidy up as you go along. I don't mean
you in particular, but every one.

H. O. We never said you were tubby, but the Editor does not know any
cure.

Noel. If there is any of the paper over when this newspaper is
finished, I will exchange it for your shut-up inkstand, or the knife
that has the useful thing in it for taking stones out of horses' feet,
but you can't have it without.

H. O. There are many ways how your steam engine might stop working. You
might ask Dicky. He knows one of them. I think it is the way yours
stopped.

Noel. If you think that by filling the garden with sand you can make
crabs build their nests there you are not at all sensible.

You have altered your poem about the battle of Waterloo so often, that
we cannot read it except where the Duke waves his sword and says some
thing we can't read either. Why did you write it on blotting-paper with
purple chalk?--ED. (Because YOU KNOW WHO sneaked my pencil.--NOEL.)

------------
POETRY

The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold,
And the way he came down was awful, I'm told;
But it's nothing to the way one of the Editors comes down on me,
If I crumble my bread-and-butter or spill my tea.
NOEL.
------------
CURIOUS FACTS

If you hold a guinea-pig up by his tail his eyes drop out.

You can't do half the things yourself that children in books do, making
models or soon. I wonder why?--ALICE.

If you take a date's stone out and put in an almond and eat them
together, it is prime. I found this out.--SUB-EDITOR.

If you put your wet hand into boiling lead it will not hurt you if you
draw it out quickly enough. I have never tried this.--DORA.

------------
THE PURRING CLASS

(Instructive Article)

If I ever keep a school everything shall be quite different. Nobody
shall learn anything they don't want to. And sometimes instead of
having masters and mistresses we will have cats, and we will dress up in
cat skins and learn purring. 'Now, my dears,' the old cat will say,
'one, two, three all purr together,' and we shall purr like anything.

She won't teach us to mew, but we shall know how without teaching.
Children do know some things without being taught.--ALICE.

------------
POETRY
(Translated into French by Dora)

Quand j'etais jeune et j'etais fou
J'achetai un violon pour dix-huit sous
Et tous les airs que je jouai
Etait over the hills and far away.

Another piece of it

Mercie jolie vache qui fait
Bon lait pour mon dejeuner
Tous les matins tous les soirs
Mon pain je mange, ton lait je boire.

------------
RECREATIONS

It is a mistake to think that cats are playful. I often try to
get a cat to play with me, and she never seems to care about the
game, no matter how little it hurts.--H. O.

Making pots and pans with clay is fun, but do not tell the
grown-ups. It is better to surprise them; and then you must say
at once how easily it washes off--much easier than ink.--DICKY.

------------
SAM REDFERN, OR THE BUSH RANGER'S BURIAL

By Dicky

'Well, Annie, I have bad news for you,' said Mr Ridgway, as he entered
the comfortable dining-room of his cabin in the Bush. 'Sam Redfern the
Bushranger is about this part of the Bush just now. I hope he will not
attack us with his gang.'

'I hope not,' responded Annie, a gentle maiden of some sixteen summers.

Just then came a knock at the door of the hut, and a gruff voice asked
them to open the door.

'It is Sam Redfern the Bushranger, father,' said the girl.

'The same,' responded the voice, and the next moment the hall door was
smashed in, and Sam Redfern sprang in, followed by his gang.

------------
CHAPTER II

Annie's Father was at once overpowered, and Annie herself lay bound with
cords on the drawing-room sofa. Sam Redfern set a guard round the
lonely hut, and all human aid was despaired of. But you never know. Far
away in the Bush a different scene was being enacted.

'Must be Injuns,' said a tall man to himself as he pushed his way
through the brushwood. It was Jim Carlton, the celebrated detective.
'I know them,' he added; 'they are Apaches.' just then ten Indians in
full war-paint appeared. Carlton raised his rifle and fired, and
slinging their scalps on his arm he hastened towards the humble log hut
where resided his affianced bride, Annie Ridgway, sometimes known as the
Flower of the Bush.

------------
CHAPTER III

The moon was low on the horizon, and Sam Redfern was seated at a
drinking bout with some of his boon companions.

They had rifled the cellars of the hut, and the rich wines flowed like
water in the golden goblets of Mr Ridgway.

But Annie had made friends with one of the gang, a noble, good-hearted
man who had joined Sam Redfern by mistake, and she had told him to go
and get the police as quickly as possible.

'Ha! ha!' cried Redfern, 'now I am enjoying myself!' He little knew that
his doom was near upon him.

Just then Annie gave a piercing scream, and Sam Redfern got up, seizing
his revolver. 'Who are you?' he cried, as a man entered.

'I am Jim Carlton, the celebrated detective,' said the new arrival.

Sam Redfern's revolver dropped from his nerveless fingers, but the next
moment he had sprung upon the detective with the well-known activity of
the mountain sheep, and Annie shrieked, for she had grown to love the
rough Bushranger.

(To be continued at the end of the paper if there is room.)

------------
SCHOLASTIC

A new slate is horrid till it is washed in milk. I like the green spots
on them to draw patterns round. I know a good way to make a slate-
pencil squeak, but I won't put it in because I don't want to make it
common.--SUB-EDITOR.

Peppermint is a great help with arithmetic. The boy who was second in
the Oxford Local always did it. He gave me two. The examiner said to
him, 'Are you eating peppermints?' And he said, 'No, Sir.'

He told me afterwards it was quite true, because he was only sucking
one. I'm glad I wasn't asked. I should never have thought of that, and
I could have had to say 'Yes.'--OSWALD.

------------
THE WRECK OF THE 'MALABAR'

By Noel

(Author of 'A Dream of Ancient Ancestors.') He isn't really--but
he put it in to make it seem more real.

Hark! what is that noise of rolling
Waves and thunder in the air?
'Tis the death-knell of the sailors
And officers and passengers of the good ship Malabar.

It was a fair and lovely noon
When the good ship put out of port
And people said 'ah little we think
How soon she will be the elements' sport.'

She was indeed a lovely sight
Upon the billows with sails spread.
But the captain folded his gloomy arms,
Ah--if she had been a life-boat instead!

See the captain stern yet gloomy
Flings his son upon a rock,
Hoping that there his darling boy
May escape the wreck.

Alas in vain the loud winds roared
And nobody was saved.
That was the wreck of the Malabar,
Then let us toll for the brave.
NOEL.

------------
GARDENING NOTES

It is useless to plant cherry-stones in the hope of eating the fruit,
because they don't!

Alice won't lend her gardening tools again, because the last time Noel
left them out in the rain, and I don't like it. He said he didn't.

------------
SEEDS AND BULBS

These are useful to play at shop with, until you are ready. Not at
dinner-parties, for they will not grow unless uncooked. Potatoes are
not grown with seed, but with chopped-up potatoes. Apple trees are grown
from twigs, which is less wasteful.

Oak trees come from acorns. Every one knows this. When Noel says he
could grow one from a peach stone wrapped up in oak leaves, he shows
that he knows nothing about gardening but marigolds, and when I passed
by his garden I thought they seemed just like weeds now the flowers have
been picked.

A boy once dared me to eat a bulb.

Dogs are very industrious and fond of gardening. Pincher is always
planting bones, but they never grow up. There couldn't be a bone tree.
I think this is what makes him bark so unhappily at night. He has never
tried planting dog-biscuit, but he is fonder of bones, and perhaps he
wants to be quite sure about them first.

------------
SAM REDFERN, OR THE BUSHRANGER'S BURIAL

By Dicky

CHAPTER IV AND LAST

This would have been a jolly good story if they had let me finish it at
the beginning of the paper as I wanted to. But now I have forgotten how
I meant it to end, and I have lost my book about Red Indians, and all my
Boys of England have been sneaked. The girls say 'Good riddance!' so I
expect they did it. They want me just to put in which Annie married, but
I shan't, so they will never know.

We have now put everything we can think of into the paper. It takes a
lot of thinking about. I don't know how grown-ups manage to write all
they do. It must make their heads ache, especially lesson books.

Albert-next-door only wrote one chapter of the serial story, but he
could have done some more if he had wanted to. He could not write out
any of the things because he cannot spell. He says he can, but it takes
him such a long time he might just as well not be able. There are one
or two things more. I am sick of it, but Dora says she will write them
in.

LEGAL ANSWER WANTED. A quantity of excellent string is offered if you
know whether there really is a law passed about not buying gunpowder
under thirteen.--DICKY.

The price of this paper is one shilling each, and sixpence extra for the
picture of the Malabar going down with all hands. If we sell one
hundred copies we will write another paper.

* * *

And so we would have done, but we never did. Albert-next-door's uncle
gave us two shillings, that was all. You can't restore fallen fortunes
with two shillings!

CHAPTER 9
THE G. B.

Being editors is not the best way to wealth. We all feel this now, and
highwaymen are not respected any more like they used to be.

I am sure we had tried our best to restore our fallen fortunes. We felt
their fall very much, because we knew the Bastables had been rich once.
Dora and Oswald can remember when Father was always bringing nice things
home from London, and there used to be turkeys and geese and wine and
cigars come by the carrier at Christmas-time, and boxes of candied fruit
and French plums in ornamental boxes with silk and velvet and gilding on
them. They were called prunes, but the prunes you buy at the grocer's
are quite different. But now there is seldom anything nice brought from
London, and the turkey and the prune people have forgotten Father's
address.

'How _can_ we restore those beastly fallen fortunes?' said Oswald. 'We've
tried digging and writing and princesses and being editors.'

'And being bandits,' said H. O.

'When did you try that?' asked Dora quickly. 'You know I told you it
was wrong.'

'It wasn't wrong the way we did it,' said Alice, quicker still, before
Oswald could say, 'Who asked you to tell us anything about it?' which
would have been rude, and he is glad he didn't. 'We only caught Albert-
next-door.'

'Oh, Albert-next-door!' said Dora contemptuously, and I felt more
comfortable; for even after I didn't say, 'Who asked you, and cetera,' I
was afraid Dora was going to come the good elder sister over us. She
does that a jolly sight too often.

Dicky looked up from the paper he was reading and said, 'This sounds
likely,' and he read out--

'L100 secures partnership in lucrative business for sale of
useful patent. L10 weekly. No personal attendance necessary.
Jobbins, 300, Old Street Road.'

'I wish we could secure that partnership,' said Oswald. He is twelve,
and a very thoughtful boy for his age.

Alice looked up from her painting. She was trying to paint a fairy
queen's frock with green bice, and it wouldn't rub. There is something
funny about green bice. It never will rub off; no matter how expensive
your paintbox is--and even boiling water is very little use.

She said, 'Bother the bice! And, Oswald, it's no use thinking about
that. Where are we to get a hundred pounds?'

'Ten pounds a week is five pounds to us,' Oswald went on--he had done
the sum in his head while Alice was talking--'because partnership means
halves. It would be A1.'

Noel sat sucking his pencil--he had been writing poetry as usual. I saw
the first two lines--

I wonder why Green Bice
Is never very nice.

Suddenly he said, 'I wish a fairy would come down the chimney and drop a
jewel on the table--a jewel worth just a hundred pounds.'

'She might as well give you the hundred pounds while she was about it,'
said Dora.

'Or while she was about it she might as well give us five pounds a
week,' said Alice.

'Or fifty,' said I.

'Or five hundred,' said Dicky.

I saw H. O. open his mouth, and I knew he was going to say, 'Or five
thousand,' so I said--

'Well, she won't give us fivepence, but if you'd only do as I am always
saying, and rescue a wealthy old gentleman from deadly peril he would
give us a pot of money, and we could have the partnership and five
pounds a week. Five pounds a week would buy a great many things.'

Then Dicky said, 'Why shouldn't we borrow it?' So we said, 'Who from?'
and then he read this out of the paper--

MONEY PRIVATELY WITHOUT FEES
THE BOND STREET BANK
Manager, Z. Rosenbaum.

Advances cash from L20 to L10,000 on ladies' or gentlemen's
note of hand alone, without security. No fees. No inquiries.
Absolute privacy guaranteed.

'What does it all mean?' asked H. O.

'It means that there is a kind gentleman who has a lot of money, and he
doesn't know enough poor people to help, so he puts it in the paper that
he will help them, by lending them his money--that's it, isn't it,
Dicky?'

Dora explained this and Dicky said, 'Yes.' And H. O. said he was a
Generous Benefactor, like in Miss Edgeworth. Then Noel wanted to know
what a note of hand was, and Dicky knew that, because he had read it in
a book, and it was just a letter saying you will pay the money when you
can, and signed with your name.

'No inquiries!' said Alice. 'Oh--Dicky--do you think he would?'

'Yes, I think so,' said Dicky. 'I wonder Father doesn't go to this kind
gentleman. I've seen his name before on a circular in Father's study.'

'Perhaps he has.' said Dora.

But the rest of us were sure he hadn't, because, of course, if he had,
there would have been more money to buy nice things. Just then Pincher
jumped up and knocked over the painting-water. He is a very careless
dog. I wonder why painting-water is always such an ugly colour? Dora
ran for a duster to wipe it up, and H. O. dropped drops of the water on
his hands and said he had got the plague. So we played at the plague
for a bit, and I was an Arab physician with a bath-towel turban, and
cured the plague with magic acid-drops. After that it was time for
dinner, and after dinner we talked it all over and settled that we would
go and see the Generous Benefactor the very next day. But we thought
perhaps the G. B.--it is short for Generous Benefactor--would not like
it if there were so many of us. I have often noticed that it is the
worst of our being six--people think six a great many, when it's
children. That sentence looks wrong somehow. I mean they don't mind
six pairs of boots, or six pounds of apples, or six oranges, especially
in equations, but they seem to think you ought not to have five brothers
and sisters. Of course Dicky was to go, because it was his idea. Dora
had to go to Blackheath to see an old lady, a friend of Father's, so she
couldn't go. Alice said _she_ ought to go, because it said, 'Ladies _and_
gentlemen,' and perhaps the G. B. wouldn't let us have the money unless
there were both kinds of us.

H. O. said Alice wasn't a lady; and she said _he_ wasn't going, anyway.
Then he called her a disagreeable cat, and she began to cry.

But Oswald always tries to make up quarrels, so he said--

'You're little sillies, both of you!'

And Dora said, 'Don't cry, Alice; he only meant you weren't a grown-up
lady.'

Then H. O. said, 'What else did you think I meant, Disagreeable?'

So Dicky said, 'Don't be disagreeable yourself, H. O. Let her alone and
say you're sorry, or I'll jolly well make you!'

So H. O. said he was sorry. Then Alice kissed him and said she was
sorry too; and after that H. O. gave her a hug, and said, 'Now I'm
_really and truly_ sorry,' So it was all right.

Noel went the last time any of us went to London, so he was out of it,
and Dora said she would take him to Blackheath if we'd take H. O. So as
there'd been a little disagreeableness we thought it was better to take
him, and we did. At first we thought we'd tear our oldest things a bit
more, and put some patches of different colours on them, to show the G.
B. how much we wanted money. But Dora said that would be a sort of
cheating, pretending we were poorer than we are. And Dora is right
sometimes, though she is our elder sister. Then we thought we'd better
wear our best things, so that the G. B. might see we weren't so very
poor that he couldn't trust us to pay his money back when we had it.
But Dora said that would be wrong too. So it came to our being quite
honest, as Dora said, and going just as we were, without even washing
our faces and hands; but when I looked at H. O. in the train I wished we
had not been quite so particularly honest.

Every one who reads this knows what it is like to go in the train, so I
shall not tell about it--though it was rather fun, especially the part
where the guard came for the tickets at Waterloo, and H. O. was under
the seat and pretended to be a dog without a ticket. We went to Charing
Cross, and we just went round to Whitehall to see the soldiers and then
by St James's for the same reason--and when we'd looked in the shops a
bit we got to Brook Street, Bond Street. It was a brass plate on a door
next to a shop--a very grand place, where they sold bonnets and hats--
all very bright and smart, and no tickets on them to tell you the price.
We rang a bell and a boy opened the door and we asked for Mr Rosenbaum.
The boy was not polite; he did not ask us in. So then Dicky gave him
his visiting card; it was one of Father's really, but the name is the
same, Mr Richard Bastable, and we others wrote our names underneath. I
happened to have a piece of pink chalk in my pocket and we wrote them
with that.

Then the boy shut the door in our faces and we waited on the step. But
presently he came down and asked our business. So Dicky said--

'Money advanced, young shaver! and don't be all day about it!'

And then he made us wait again, till I was quite stiff in my legs, but
Alice liked it because of looking at the hats and bonnets, and at last
the door opened, and the boy said--

'Mr Rosenbaum will see you,' so we wiped our feet on the mat, which said
so, and we went up stairs with soft carpets and into a room. It was a
beautiful room. I wished then we had put on our best things, or at least
washed a little. But it was too late now.

The room had velvet curtains and a soft, soft carpet, and it was full of
the most splendid things. Black and gold cabinets, and china, and
statues, and pictures. There was a picture of a cabbage and a pheasant
and a dead hare that was just like life, and I would have given worlds
to have it for my own. The fur was so natural I should never have been
tired of looking at it; but Alice liked the one of the girl with the
broken jug best. Then besides the pictures there were clocks and
candlesticks and vases, and gilt looking-glasses, and boxes of cigars
and scent and things littered all over the chairs and tables. It was a
wonderful place, and in the middle of all the splendour was a little old
gentleman with a very long black coat and a very long white beard and a
hookey nose--like a falcon. And he put on a pair of gold spectacles and
looked at us as if he knew exactly how much our clothes were worth.

And then, while we elder ones were thinking how to begin, for we had all
said 'Good morning' as we came in, of course, H. O. began before we
could stop him. He said:

'Are you the G. B.?'

'The _what_?' said the little old gentleman.

'The G. B.,' said H. O., and I winked at him to shut up, but he didn't
see me, and the G. B. did. He waved his hand at _me_ to shut up, so I had
to, and H. O. went on--'It stands for Generous Benefactor.'

The old gentleman frowned. Then he said, 'Your Father sent you here, I
suppose?'

'No he didn't,' said Dicky. 'Why did you think so?'

The old gentleman held out the card, and I explained that we took that
because Father's name happens to be the same as Dicky's.

'Doesn't he know you've come?'

'No,' said Alice, 'we shan't tell him till we've got the partnership,
because his own business worries him a good deal and we don't want to
bother him with ours till it's settled, and then we shall give him half
our share.'

The old gentleman took off his spectacles and rumpled his hair with his
hands, then he said, 'Then what _did_ you come for?'

'We saw your advertisement,' Dicky said, 'and we want a hundred pounds
on our note of hand, and my sister came so that there should be both
kinds of us; and we want it to buy a partnership with in the lucrative
business for sale of useful patent. No personal attendance necessary.'

'I don't think I quite follow you,' said the G. B. 'But one thing I
should like settled before entering more fully into the matter: why did
you call me Generous Benefactor?'

'Well, you see,' said Alice, smiling at him to show she wasn't
frightened, though I know really she was, awfully, 'we thought it was so
_very_ kind of you to try to find out the poor people who want money and
to help them and lend them your money.'

'Hum!' said the G. B. 'Sit down.'

He cleared the clocks and vases and candlesticks off some of the chairs,
and we sat down. The chairs were velvety, with gilt legs. It was like
a king's palace.

'Now,' he said, 'you ought to be at school, instead of thinking about
money. Why aren't you?'

We told him that we should go to school again when Father could manage
it, but meantime we wanted to do something to restore the fallen
fortunes of the House of Bastable. And we said we thought the lucrative
patent would be a very good thing. He asked a lot of questions, and we
told him everything we didn't think Father would mind our telling, and
at last he said--

'You wish to borrow money. When will you repay it?'

'As soon as we've got it, of course,' Dicky said.

Then the G. B. said to Oswald, 'You seem the eldest,' but I explained to
him that it was Dicky's idea, so my being eldest didn't matter. Then he
said to Dicky--'You are a minor, I presume?'

Dicky said he wasn't yet, but he had thought of being a mining engineer
some day, and going to Klondike.

'Minor, not miner,' said the G. B. 'I mean you're not of age?'

'I shall be in ten years, though,' said Dicky. 'Then you might repudiate
the loan,' said the G. B., and Dicky said 'What?'

Of course he ought to have said 'I beg your pardon. I didn't quite
catch what you said'--that is what Oswald would have said. It is more
polite than 'What.'

'Repudiate the loan,' the G. B repeated. 'I mean you might say you
would not pay me back the money, and the law could not compel you to do
so.'

'Oh, well, if you think we're such sneaks,' said Dicky, and he got up
off his chair. But the G. B. said, 'Sit down, sit down; I was only
joking.'

Then he talked some more, and at last he said--'I don't advise you to
enter into that partnership. It's a swindle. Many advertisements are.
And I have not a hundred pounds by me to-day to lend you. But I will
lend you a pound, and you can spend it as you like. And when you are
twenty-one you shall pay me back.'

'I shall pay you back long before that,' said Dicky. 'Thanks, awfully!
And what about the note of hand?'

'Oh,' said the G. B., 'I'll trust to your honour. Between gentlemen,
you know--and ladies'--he made a beautiful bow to Alice--'a word is as
good as a bond.'

Then he took out a sovereign, and held it in his hand while he talked to
us. He gave us a lot of good advice about not going into business too
young, and about doing our lessons--just swatting a bit, on our own
hook, so as not to be put in a low form when we went back to school.
And all the time he was stroking the sovereign and looking at it as if
he thought it very beautiful. And so it was, for it was a new one.
Then at last he held it out to Dicky, and when Dicky put out his hand
for it the G. B. suddenly put the sovereign back in his pocket.

'No,' he said, 'I won't give you the sovereign. I'll give you fifteen
shillings, and this nice bottle of scent. It's worth far more than the
five shillings I'm charging you for it. And, when you can, you shall
pay me back the pound, and sixty per cent interest--sixty per cent,
sixty per cent.'

'What's that?' said H. O.

The G. B. said he'd tell us that when we paid back the sovereign, but
sixty per cent was nothing to be afraid of. He gave Dicky the money.
And the boy was made to call a cab, and the G. B. put us in and shook
hands with us all, and asked Alice to give him a kiss, so she did, and
H. O. would do it too, though his face was dirtier than ever. The G. B.
paid the cabman and told him what station to go to, and so we went home.

That evening Father had a letter by the seven-o'clock post. And when he
had read it he came up into the nursery. He did not look quite so
unhappy as usual, but he looked grave.

'You've been to Mr Rosenbaum's,' he said.

So we told him all about it. It took a long time, and Father sat in the
armchair. It was jolly. He doesn't often come and talk to us now. He
has to spend all his time thinking about his business. And when we'd
told him all about it he said--

'You haven't done any harm this time, children; rather good than harm,
indeed. Mr Rosenbaum has written me a very kind letter.'

'Is he a friend of yours, Father?' Oswald asked. 'He is an
acquaintance,' said my father, frowning a little, 'we have done some
business together. And this letter--' he stopped and then said: 'No;
you didn't do any harm to-day; but I want you for the future not to do
anything so serious as to try to buy a partnership without consulting
me, that's all. I don't want to interfere with your plays and
pleasures; but you will consult me about business matters, won't you?'

Of course we said we should be delighted, but then Alice, who was
sitting on his knee, said, 'We didn't like to bother you.'

Father said, 'I haven't much time to be with you, for my business takes
most of my time. It is an anxious business--but I can't bear to think
of your being left all alone like this.'

He looked so sad we all said we liked being alone. And then he looked
sadder than ever.

Then Alice said, 'We don't mean that exactly, Father. It is rather
lonely sometimes, since Mother died.'

Then we were all quiet a little while. Father stayed with us till we
went to bed, and when he said good night he looked quite cheerful. So
we told him so, and he said--

'Well, the fact is, that letter took a weight off my mind.' I can't
think what he meant--but I am sure the G. B. would be pleased if he
could know he had taken a weight off somebody's mind. He is that sort
of man, I think.

We gave the scent to Dora. It is not quite such good scent as we
thought it would be, but we had fifteen shillings--and they were all
good, so is the G. B.

And until those fifteen shillings were spent we felt almost as jolly as
though our fortunes had been properly restored. You do not notice your
general fortune so much, as long as you have money in your pocket. This
is why so many children with regular pocket-money have never felt it
their duty to seek for treasure. So, perhaps, our not having pocket-
money was a blessing in disguise. But the disguise was quite
impenetrable, like the villains' in the books; and it seemed still more
so when the fifteen shillings were all spent. Then at last the others
agreed to let Oswald try his way of seeking for treasure, but they were
not at all keen about it, and many a boy less firm than Oswald would
have chucked the whole thing. But Oswald knew that a hero must rely on
himself alone. So he stuck to it, and presently the others saw their
duty, and backed him up.

CHAPTER 10
LORD TOTTENHAM

Oswald is a boy of firm and unswerving character, and he had never
wavered from his first idea. He felt quite certain that the books were
right, and that the best way to restore fallen fortunes was to rescue an
old gentleman in distress. Then he brings you up as his own son: but if
you preferred to go on being your own father's son I expect the old
gentleman would make it up to you some other way. In the books the
least thing does it--you put up the railway carriage window--or you pick
up his purse when he drops it--or you say a hymn when he suddenly asks
you to, and then your fortune is made.

The others, as I said, were very slack about it, and did not seem to
care much about trying the rescue. They said there wasn't any deadly
peril, and we should have to make one before we could rescue the old
gentleman from it, but Oswald didn't see that that mattered. However,
he thought he would try some of the easier ways first, by himself.

So he waited about the station, pulling up railway carriage windows for
old gentlemen who looked likely--but nothing happened, and at last the
porters said he was a nuisance. So that was no go. No one ever asked
him to say a hymn, though he had learned a nice short one, beginning
'New every morning'--and when an old gentleman did drop a two-shilling
piece just by Ellis's the hairdresser's, and Oswald picked it up, and
was just thinking what he should say when he returned it, the old
gentleman caught him by the collar and called him a young thief. It
would have been very unpleasant for Oswald if he hadn't happened to be a
very brave boy, and knew the policeman on that beat very well indeed. So
the policeman backed him up, and the old gentleman said he was sorry,
and offered Oswald sixpence. Oswald refused it with polite disdain, and
nothing more happened at all.

When Oswald had tried by himself and it had not come off, he said to the
others, 'We're wasting our time, not trying to rescue the old gentleman
in deadly peril. Come--buck up! Do let's do something!'

It was dinner-time, and Pincher was going round getting the bits off the
plates. There were plenty because it was cold-mutton day. And Alice
said--

'It's only fair to try Oswald's way--he has tried all the things the
others thought of. Why couldn't we rescue Lord Tottenham?'

Lord Tottenham is the old gentleman who walks over the Heath every day
in a paper collar at three o'clock--and when he gets halfway, if there
is no one about, he changes his collar and throws the dirty one into the
furze-bushes.

Dicky said, 'Lord Tottenham's all right--but where's the deadly peril?'

And we couldn't think of any. There are no highwaymen on Blackheath
now, I am sorry to say. And though Oswald said half of us could be
highwaymen and the other half rescue party, Dora kept on saying it would
be wrong to be a highwayman--and so we had to give that up.

Then Alice said, 'What about Pincher?'

And we all saw at once that it could be done.

Pincher is very well bred, and he does know one or two things, though we
never could teach him to beg. But if you tell him to hold on--he will
do it, even if you only say 'Seize him!' in a whisper.

So we arranged it all. Dora said she wouldn't play; she said she
thought it was wrong, and she knew it was silly--so we left her out, and
she went and sat in the dining-room with a goody-book, so as to be able
to say she didn't have anything to do with it, if we got into a row over
it.

Alice and H. O. were to hide in the furze-bushes just by where Lord
Tottenham changes his collar, and they were to whisper, 'Seize him!' to
Pincher; and then when Pincher had seized Lord Tottenham we were to go
and rescue him from his deadly peril. And he would say, 'How can I
reward you, my noble young preservers?' and it would be all right.

So we went up to the Heath. We were afraid of being late. Oswald told
the others what Procrastination was--so they got to the furze-bushes a
little after two o'clock, and it was rather cold. Alice and H. O. and
Pincher hid, but Pincher did not like it any more than they did, and as
we three walked up and down we heard him whining. And Alice kept
saying, 'I _am_ so cold! Isn't he coming yet?' And H. O. wanted to come
out and jump about to warm himself. But we told him he must learn to be
a Spartan boy, and that he ought to be very thankful he hadn't got a
beastly fox eating his inside all the time. H. O. is our little
brother, and we are not going to let it be our fault if he grows up a
milksop. Besides, it was not really cold. It was his knees--he wears
socks. So they stayed where they were. And at last, when even the
other three who were walking about were beginning to feel rather chilly,
we saw Lord Tottenham's big black cloak coming along, flapping in the
wind like a great bird. So we said to Alice--

'Hist! he approaches. You'll know when to set Pincher on by hearing
Lord Tottenham talking to himself--he always does while he is taking off
his collar.'

Then we three walked slowly away whistling to show we were not thinking
of anything. Our lips were rather cold, but we managed to do it.

Lord Tottenham came striding along, talking to himself. People call him
the mad Protectionist. I don't know what it means--but I don't think
people ought to call a Lord such names.

As he passed us he said, 'Ruin of the country, sir! Fatal error, fatal
error!' And then we looked back and saw he was getting quite near where
Pincher was, and Alice and H. O. We walked on--so that he shouldn't
think we were looking--and in a minute we heard Pincher's bark, and then
nothing for a bit; and then we looked round, and sure enough good old
Pincher had got Lord Tottenham by the trouser leg and was holding on
like billy-ho, so we started to run.

Lord Tottenham had got his collar half off--it was sticking out sideways
under his ear--and he was shouting, 'Help, help, murder!' exactly as if
some one had explained to him beforehand what he was to do. Pincher was
growling and snarling and holding on. When we got to him I stopped and
said--

'Dicky, we must rescue this good old man.'

Lord Tottenham roared in his fury, 'Good old man be--' something or
othered. 'Call the dog off.'

So Oswald said, 'It is a dangerous task--but who would hesitate to do an
act of true bravery?'

And all the while Pincher was worrying and snarling, and Lord Tottenham
shouting to us to get the dog away. He was dancing about in the road
with Pincher hanging on like grim death; and his collar flapping about,
where it was undone.

Then Noel said, 'Haste, ere yet it be too late.' So I said to Lord
Tottenham--

'Stand still, aged sir, and I will endeavour to alleviate your
distress.'

He stood still, and I stooped down and caught hold of Pincher and
whispered, 'Drop it, sir; drop it!'

So then Pincher dropped it, and Lord Tottenham fastened his collar
again--he never does change it if there's any one looking--and he said--

'I'm much obliged, I'm sure. Nasty vicious brute! Here's something to
drink my health.'

But Dicky explained that we are teetotallers, and do not drink people's
healths. So Lord Tottenham said, 'Well, I'm much obliged any way. And
now I come to look at you--of course, you're not young ruffians, but
gentlemen's sons, eh? Still, you won't be above taking a tip from an
old boy--I wasn't when I was your age,' and he pulled out half a
sovereign.

It was very silly; but now we'd done it I felt it would be beastly mean
to take the old boy's chink after putting him in such a funk. He didn't
say anything about bringing us up as his own sons--so I didn't know what
to do. I let Pincher go, and was just going to say he was very welcome,
and we'd rather not have the money, which seemed the best way out of it,
when that beastly dog spoiled the whole show. Directly I let him go he
began to jump about at us and bark for joy, and try to lick our faces.
He was so proud of what he'd done. Lord Tottenham opened his eyes and he
just said, 'The dog seems to know you.'

And then Oswald saw it was all up, and he said, 'Good morning,' and
tried to get away. But Lord Tottenham said--

'Not so fast!' And he caught Noel by the collar. Noel gave a howl, and
Alice ran out from the bushes. Noel is her favourite. I'm sure I don't
know why. Lord Tottenham looked at her, and he said--

'So there are more of you!' And then H. O. came out.

'Do you complete the party?' Lord Tottenham asked him. And H. O. said
there were only five of us this time.

Lord Tottenham turned sharp off and began to walk away, holding Noel by
the collar. We caught up with him, and asked him where he was going,
and he said, 'To the Police Station.' So then I said quite politely,
'Well, don't take Noel; he's not strong, and he easily gets upset.
Besides, it wasn't his doing. If you want to take any one take me--it
was my very own idea.'

Dicky behaved very well. He said, 'If you take Oswald I'll go too, but
don't take Noel; he's such a delicate little chap.'

Lord Tottenham stopped, and he said, 'You should have thought of that
before.' Noel was howling all the time, and his face was very white, and
Alice said--

'Oh, do let Noel go, dear, good, kind Lord Tottenham; he'll faint if you
don't, I know he will, he does sometimes. Oh, I wish we'd never done
it! Dora said it was wrong.'

'Dora displayed considerable common sense,' said Lord Tottenham, and he
let Noel go. And Alice put her arm round Noel and tried to cheer him
up, but he was all trembly, and as white as paper.

Then Lord Tottenham said--

'Will you give me your word of honour not to try to escape?'

So we said we would.

'Then follow me,' he said, and led the way to a bench. We all followed,
and Pincher too, with his tail between his legs--he knew something was
wrong. Then Lord Tottenham sat down, and he made Oswald and Dicky and
H. O. stand in front of him, but he let Alice and Noel sit down. And he
said--

'You set your dog on me, and you tried to make me believe you were
saving me from it. And you would have taken my half-sovereign. Such
conduct is most--No--you shall tell me what it is, sir, and speak the
truth.'

So I had to say it was most ungentlemanly, but I said I hadn't been
going to take the half-sovereign.

'Then what did you do it for?' he asked. 'The truth, mind.'

So I said, 'I see now it was very silly, and Dora said it was wrong, but
it didn't seem so till we did it. We wanted to restore the fallen
fortunes of our house, and in the books if you rescue an old gentleman
from deadly peril, he brings you up as his own son--or if you prefer to
be your father's son, he starts you in business, so that you end in
wealthy affluence; and there wasn't any deadly peril, so we made Pincher
into one--and so--' I was so ashamed I couldn't go on, for it did seem
an awfully mean thing. Lord Tottenham said--

'A very nice way to make your fortune--by deceit and trickery. I have a
horror of dogs. If I'd been a weak man the shock might have killed me.
What do you think of yourselves, eh?'

We were all crying except Oswald, and the others say he was; and Lord
Tottenham went on--'Well, well, I see you're sorry. Let this be a
lesson to you; and we'll say no more about it. I'm an old man now, but
I was young once.'

Then Alice slid along the bench close to him, and put her hand on his
arm: her fingers were pink through the holes in her woolly gloves, and
said, 'I think you're very good to forgive us, and we are really very,
very sorry. But we wanted to be like the children in the books--only we
never have the chances they have. Everything they do turns out all
right. But we _are_ sorry, very, very. And I know Oswald wasn't going to
take the half-sovereign. Directly you said that about a tip from an old
boy I began to feel bad inside, and I whispered to H. O. that I wished
we hadn't.'

Then Lord Tottenham stood up, and he looked like the Death of Nelson,
for he is clean shaved and it is a good face, and he said--

'Always remember never to do a dishonourable thing, for money or for
anything else in the world.'

And we promised we would remember. Then he took off his hat, and we
took off ours, and he went away, and we went home. I never felt so
cheap in all my life! Dora said, 'I told you so,' but we didn't mind
even that so much, though it was indeed hard to bear. It was what Lord
Tottenham had said about ungentlemanly. We didn't go on to the Heath for
a week after that; but at last we all went, and we waited for him by the
bench. When he came along Alice said, 'Please, Lord Tottenham, we have
not been on the Heath for a week, to be a punishment because you let us
off. And we have brought you a present each if you will take them to
show you are willing to make it up.'

He sat down on the bench, and we gave him our presents. Oswald gave him
a sixpenny compass--he bought it with my own money on purpose to give
him. Oswald always buys useful presents. The needle would not move
after I'd had it a day or two, but Lord Tottenham used to be an admiral,
so he will be able to make that go all right. Alice had made him a
shaving-case, with a rose worked on it. And H. O. gave him his knife--
the same one he once cut all the buttons off his best suit with. Dicky
gave him his prize, Naval Heroes, because it was the best thing he had,
and Noel gave him a piece of poetry he had made himself--

When sin and shame bow down the brow
Then people feel just like we do now.
We are so sorry with grief and pain
We never will be so ungentlemanly again.

Lord Tottenham seemed very pleased. He thanked us, and talked to us for
a bit, and when he said good-bye he said--

'All's fair weather now, mates,' and shook hands.

And whenever we meet him he nods to us, and if the girls are with us he
takes off his hat, so he can't really be going on thinking us
ungentlemanly now.

CHAPTER 11
CASTILIAN AMOROSO

One day when we suddenly found that we had half a crown we decided that
we really ought to try Dicky's way of restoring our fallen fortunes
while yet the deed was in our power. Because it might easily have
happened to us never to have half a crown again. So we decided to dally
no longer with being journalists and bandits and things like them, but
to send for sample and instructions how to earn two pounds a week each
in our spare time. We had seen the advertisement in the paper, and we
had always wanted to do it, but we had never had the money to spare
before, somehow. The advertisement says: 'Any lady or gentleman can
easily earn two pounds a week in their spare time. Sample and
instructions, two shillings. Packed free from observation.' A good deal
of the half-crown was Dora's. It came from her godmother; but she said
she would not mind letting Dicky have it if he would pay her back before
Christmas, and if we were sure it was right to try to make our fortune
that way. Of course that was quite easy, because out of two pounds a
week in your spare time you can easily pay all your debts, and have
almost as much left as you began with; and as to the right we told her
to dry up.

Dicky had always thought that this was really the best way to restore
our fallen fortunes, and we were glad that now he had a chance of trying
because of course we wanted the two pounds a week each, and besides, we
were rather tired of Dicky's always saying, when our ways didn't turn
out well, 'Why don't you try the sample and instructions about our spare
time?'

When we found out about our half-crown we got the paper. Noel was
playing admirals in it, but he had made the cocked hat without tearing
the paper, and we found the advertisement, and it said just the same as
ever. So we got a two-shilling postal order and a stamp, and what was
left of the money it was agreed we would spend in ginger-beer to drink
success to trade.

We got some nice paper out of Father's study, and Dicky wrote the
letter, and we put in the money and put on the stamp, and made H. O.
post it. Then we drank the ginger-beer, and then we waited for the
sample and instructions. It seemed a long time coming, and the postman
got quite tired of us running out and stopping him in the street to ask
if it had come.

But on the third morning it came. It was quite a large parcel, and it
was packed, as the advertisement said it would be, 'free from
observation.' That means it was in a box; and inside the box was some
stiff browny cardboard, crinkled like the galvanized iron on the tops of
chicken-houses, and inside that was a lot of paper, some of it printed
and some scrappy, and in the very middle of it all a bottle, not very
large, and black, and sealed on the top of the cork with yellow sealing-
wax.

We looked at it as it lay on the nursery table, and while all the others
grabbed at the papers to see what the printing said, Oswald went to look
for the corkscrew, so as to see what was inside the bottle. He found
the corkscrew in the dresser drawer--it always gets there, though it is
supposed to be in the sideboard drawer in the dining-room--and when he
got back the others had read most of the printed papers.

'I don't think it's much good, and I don't think it's quite nice to sell
wine,' Dora said 'and besides, it's not easy to suddenly begin to sell
things when you aren't used to it.'

'I don't know,' said Alice; 'I believe I could.' They all looked rather
down in the mouth, though, and Oswald asked how you were to make your
two pounds a week.

'Why, you've got to get people to taste that stuff in the bottle. It's
sherry--Castilian Amoroso its name is--and then you get them to buy it,
and then you write to the people and tell them the other people want the
wine, and then for every dozen you sell you get two shillings from the
wine people, so if you sell twenty dozen a week you get your two pounds.
I don't think we shall sell as much as that,' said Dicky.

'We might not the first week,' Alice said, 'but when people found out
how nice it was, they would want more and more. And if we only got ten
shillings a week it would be something to begin with, wouldn't it?'

Oswald said he should jolly well think it would, and then Dicky took the
cork out with the corkscrew. The cork broke a good deal, and some of
the bits went into the bottle. Dora got the medicine glass that has the
teaspoons and tablespoons marked on it, and we agreed to have a
teaspoonful each, to see what it was like.

'No one must have more than that,' Dora said, 'however nice it is.'

Dora behaved rather as if it were her bottle. I suppose it was, because
she had lent the money for it.

Then she measured out the teaspoonful, and she had first go, because of
being the eldest. We asked at once what it was like, but Dora could not
speak just then.

Then she said, 'It's like the tonic Noel had in the spring; but perhaps
sherry ought to be like that.'

Then it was Oswald's turn. He thought it was very burny; but he said
nothing. He wanted to see first what the others would say.

Dicky said his was simply beastly, and Alice said Noel could taste next
if he liked.

Noel said it was the golden wine of the gods, but he had to put his
handkerchief up to his mouth all the same, and I saw the face he made.

Then H. O. had his, and he spat it out in the fire, which was very rude
and nasty, and we told him so.

Then it was Alice's turn. She said, 'Only half a teaspoonful for me,
Dora. We mustn't use it all up.' And she tasted it and said nothing.

Then Dicky said: 'Look here, I chuck this. I'm not going to hawk round
such beastly stuff. Any one who likes can have the bottle. Quis?'

And Alice got out 'Ego' before the rest of us. Then she said, 'I know
what's the matter with it. It wants sugar.'

And at once we all saw that that was all there was the matter with the
stuff. So we got two lumps of sugar and crushed it on the floor with one
of the big wooden bricks till it was powdery, and mixed it with some of
the wine up to the tablespoon mark, and it was quite different, and not
nearly so nasty.

'You see it's all right when you get used to it,' Dicky said. I think
he was sorry he had said 'Quis?' in such a hurry.

'Of course,' Alice said, 'it's rather dusty. We must crush the sugar
carefully in clean paper before we put it in the bottle.'

Dora said she was afraid it would be cheating to make one bottle nicer
than what people would get when they ordered a dozen bottles, but Alice
said Dora always made a fuss about everything, and really it would be
quite honest.

'You see,' she said, 'I shall just tell them, quite truthfully, what we
have done to it, and when their dozens come they can do it for
themselves.'

So then we crushed eight more lumps, very cleanly and carefully between
newspapers, and shook it up well in the bottle, and corked it up with a
screw of paper, brown and not news, for fear of the poisonous printing
ink getting wet and dripping down into the wine and killing people. We
made Pincher have a taste, and he sneezed for ever so long, and after
that he used to go under the sofa whenever we showed him the bottle.

Then we asked Alice who she would try and sell it to. She said: 'I
shall ask everybody who comes to the house. And while we are doing
that, we can be thinking of outside people to take it to. We must be
careful: there's not much more than half of it left, even counting the
sugar.'

We did not wish to tell Eliza--I don't know why. And she opened the
door very quickly that day, so that the Taxes and a man who came to our
house by mistake for next door got away before Alice had a chance to try
them with the Castilian Amoroso. But about five Eliza slipped out for
half an hour to see a friend who was making her a hat for Sunday, and
while she was gone there was a knock. Alice went, and we looked over the
banisters. When she opened the door, she said at once, 'Will you walk
in, please?' The person at the door said, 'I called to see your Pa,
miss. Is he at home?'

Alice said again, 'Will you walk in, please?'

Then the person--it sounded like a man--said, 'He is in, then?'

But Alice only kept on saying, 'Will you walk in, please?' so at last
the man did, rubbing his boots very loudly on the mat.

Then Alice shut the front door, and we saw that it was the butcher, with
an envelope in his hand. He was not dressed in blue, like when he is
cutting up the sheep and things in the shop, and he wore knickerbockers.
Alice says he came on a bicycle. She led the way into the dining-room,
where the Castilian Amoroso bottle and the medicine glass were standing
on the table all ready.

The others stayed on the stairs, but Oswald crept down and looked
through the door-crack.

'Please sit down,' said Alice quite calmly, though she told me
afterwards I had no idea how silly she felt. And the butcher sat down.
Then Alice stood quite still and said nothing, but she fiddled with the
medicine glass and put the screw of brown paper straight in the
Castilian bottle.

'Will you tell your Pa I'd like a word with him?' the butcher said, when
he got tired of saying nothing.

'He'll be in very soon, I think,' Alice said.

And then she stood still again and said nothing. It was beginning to
look very idiotic of her, and H. O. laughed. I went back and cuffed him
for it quite quietly, and I don't think the butcher heard.

But Alice did, and it roused her from her stupor. She spoke suddenly,
very fast indeed--so fast that I knew she had made up what she was going
to say before. She had got most of it out of the circular.

She said, 'I want to call your attention to a sample of sherry wine I
have here. It is called Castilian something or other, and at the price
it is unequalled for flavour and bouquet.'

The butcher said, 'Well--I never!'

And Alice went on, 'Would you like to taste it?'

'Thank you very much, I'm sure, miss,' said the butcher.

Alice poured some out.

The butcher tasted a very little. He licked his lips, and we thought he
was going to say how good it was. But he did not. He put down the
medicine glass with nearly all the stuff left in it (we put it back in
the bottle afterwards to save waste) and said, 'Excuse me, miss, but
isn't it a little sweet?--for sherry I mean?'

'The _Real_ isn't,' said Alice. 'If you order a dozen it will come quite
different to that--we like it best with sugar. I wish you _would_ order
some.' The butcher asked why.

Alice did not speak for a minute, and then she said--

'I don't mind telling _you_: you are in business yourself, aren't you?
We are trying to get people to buy it, because we shall have two
shillings for every dozen we can make any one buy. It's called a purr
something.'

'A percentage. Yes, I see,' said the butcher, looking at the hole in
the carpet.

'You see there are reasons,' Alice went on, 'why we want to make our
fortunes as quickly as we can.'

'Quite so,' said the butcher, and he looked at the place where the paper
is coming off the wall.

'And this seems a good way,' Alice went on. 'We paid two shillings for
the sample and instructions, and it says you can make two pounds a week
easily in your leisure time.'

'I'm sure I hope you may, miss,' said the butcher. And Alice said again
would he buy some?

'Sherry is my favourite wine,' he said. Alice asked him to have some
more to drink.

'No, thank you, miss,' he said; 'it's my favourite wine, but it doesn't
agree with me; not the least bit. But I've an uncle drinks it. Suppose
I ordered him half a dozen for a Christmas present? Well, miss, here's
the shilling commission, anyway,' and he pulled out a handful of money
and gave her the shilling.

'But I thought the wine people paid that,' Alice said.

But the butcher said not on half-dozens they didn't. Then he said he
didn't think he'd wait any longer for Father--but would Alice ask Father
to write him?

Alice offered him the sherry again, but he said something about 'Not
for worlds!'--and then she let him out and came back to us with the
shilling, and said, 'How's that?'

And we said 'A1.'

And all the evening we talked of our fortune that we had begun to make.

Nobody came next day, but the day after a lady came to ask for money to
build an orphanage for the children of dead sailors. And we saw her. I
went in with Alice. And when we had explained to her that we had only a
shilling and we wanted it for something else, Alice suddenly said,
'Would you like some wine?'

And the lady said, 'Thank you very much,' but she looked surprised.

She was not a young lady, and she had a mantle with beads, and the beads
had come off in places--leaving a browny braid showing, and she had
printed papers about the dead sailors in a sealskin bag, and the seal
had come off in places, leaving the skin bare. We gave her a
tablespoonful of the wine in a proper wine-glass out of the sideboard,
because she was a lady. And when she had tasted it she got up in a very
great hurry, and shook out her dress and snapped her bag shut, and said,
'You naughty, wicked children! What do you mean by playing a trick like
this? You ought to be ashamed of yourselves! I shall write to your
Mamma about it. You dreadful little girl!--you might have poisoned me.
But your Mamma. . .'

Then Alice said, 'I'm very sorry; the butcher liked it, only he said it
was sweet. And please don't write to Mother. It makes Father so
unhappy when letters come for her!'--and Alice was very near crying.

'What do you mean, you silly child?' said the lady, looking quite bright
and interested. 'Why doesn't your Father like your Mother to have
letters--eh?'

And Alice said, 'OH, you . . . !' and began to cry, and bolted out of
the room.

Then I said, 'Our Mother is dead, and will you please go away now?'

The lady looked at me a minute, and then she looked quite different, and
she said, 'I'm very sorry. I didn't know. Never mind about the wine.
I daresay your little sister meant it kindly.' And she looked round the
room just like the butcher had done. Then she said again, 'I didn't
know--I'm very sorry . . .'

So I said, 'Don't mention it,' and shook hands with her, and let her
out. Of course we couldn't have asked her to buy the wine after what
she'd said. But I think she was not a bad sort of person. I do like a
person to say they're sorry when they ought to be--especially a grown-up.
They do it so seldom. I suppose that's why we think so much of it.

But Alice and I didn't feel jolly for ever so long afterwards. And when
I went back into the dining-room I saw how different it was from when
Mother was here, and we are different, and Father is different, and
nothing is like it was. I am glad I am not made to think about it every
day.

I went and found Alice, and told her what the lady had said, and when
she had finished crying we put away the bottle and said we would not try
to sell any more to people who came. And we did not tell the others--we
only said the lady did not buy any--but we went up on the Heath, and
some soldiers went by and there was a Punch-and-judy show, and when we
came back we were better.

The bottle got quite dusty where we had put it, and perhaps the dust of
ages would have laid thick and heavy on it, only a clergyman called when
we were all out. He was not our own clergyman--Mr Bristow is our own
clergyman, and we all love him, and we would not try to sell sherry to
people we like, and make two pounds a week out of them in our spare
time. It was another clergyman, just a stray one; and he asked Eliza if
the dear children would not like to come to his little Sunday school.
We always spend Sunday afternoons with Father. But as he had left the
name of his vicarage with Eliza, and asked her to tell us to come, we
thought we would go and call on him, just to explain about Sunday
afternoons, and we thought we might as well take the sherry with us.

'I won't go unless you all go too,' Alice said, 'and I won't do the
talking.'

Dora said she thought we had much better not go; but we said 'Rot!' and
it ended in her coming with us, and I am glad she did.

Oswald said he would do the talking if the others liked, and he learned
up what to say from the printed papers.

We went to the Vicarage early on Saturday afternoon, and rang at the
bell. It is a new red house with no trees in the garden, only very
yellow mould and gravel. It was all very neat and dry. Just before we
rang the bell we heard some one inside call 'Jane! Jane!' and we thought
we would not be Jane for anything. It was the sound of the voice that
called that made us sorry for her.

The door was opened by a very neat servant in black, with a white apron;
we saw her tying the strings as she came along the hall, through the
different-coloured glass in the door. Her face was red, and I think she
was Jane.

We asked if we could see Mr Mallow.

The servant said Mr Mallow was very busy with his sermon just then, but
she would see.

But Oswald said, 'It's all right. He asked us to come.'

So she let us all in and shut the front door, and showed us into a very
tidy room with a bookcase full of a lot of books covered in black cotton
with white labels, and some dull pictures, and a harmonium. And Mr
Mallow was writing at a desk with drawers, copying something out of a
book. He was stout and short, and wore spectacles.

He covered his writing up when we went in--I didn't know why. He looked
rather cross, and we heard Jane or somebody being scolded outside by the
voice. I hope it wasn't for letting us in, but I have had doubts.

'Well,' said the clergyman, 'what is all this about?'

'You asked us to call,' Dora said, 'about your little Sunday school. We
are the Bastables of Lewisham Road.'

'Oh--ah, yes,' he said; 'and shall I expect you all to-morrow?'

He took up his pen and fiddled with it, and he did not ask us to sit
down. But some of us did.

'We always spend Sunday afternoon with Father,' said Dora; 'but we
wished to thank you for being so kind as to ask us.'

'And we wished to ask you something else!' said Oswald; and he made a
sign to Alice to get the sherry ready in the glass. She did--behind
Oswald's back while he was speaking.

'My time is limited,' said Mr Mallow, looking at his watch; 'but
still--' Then he muttered something about the fold, and went on: 'Tell
me what is troubling you, my little man, and I will try to give you any
help in my power. What is it you want?'

Then Oswald quickly took the glass from Alice, and held it out to him,
and said, 'I want your opinion on that.'

'On _that_,' he said. 'What is it?'

'It is a shipment,' Oswald said; 'but it's quite enough for you to
taste.' Alice had filled the glass half-full; I suppose she was too
excited to measure properly.

'A shipment?' said the clergyman, taking the glass in his hand.

'Yes,' Oswald went On; 'an exceptional opportunity. Full-bodied and
nutty.'

'It really does taste rather like one kind of Brazil-nut.' Alice put
her oar in as usual.

The Vicar looked from Alice to Oswald, and back again, and Oswald went
on with what he had learned from the printing. The clergyman held the
glass at half-arm's-length, stiffly, as if he had caught cold.

'It is of a quality never before offered at the price. Old Delicate
Amoro--what's its name--'

'Amorolio,' said H. O.

'Amoroso,' said Oswald. 'H. O., you just shut up--Castilian Amoroso--
it's a true after-dinner wine, stimulating and yet. . .'

'_Wine_?' said Mr Mallow, holding the glass further off. 'Do you _know_,'
he went on, making his voice very thick and strong (I expect he does it
like that in church), 'have you never been _taught_ that it is the
drinking of _wine_ and _spirits_--yes, and _beer_, which makes half the homes
in England full of _wretched_ little children, and _degraded_, _miserable_
parents?'

'Not if you put sugar in it,' said Alice firmly; 'eight lumps and shake
the bottle. We have each had more than a teaspoonful of it, and we were
not ill at all. It was something else that upset H. O. Most likely all
those acorns he got out of the Park.'

The clergyman seemed to be speechless with conflicting emotions, and
just then the door opened and a lady came in. She had a white cap with
lace, and an ugly violet flower in it, and she was tall, and looked very
strong, though thin. And I do believe she had been listening at the
door.

'But why,' the Vicar was saying, 'why did you bring this dreadful fluid,
this curse of our country, to _me_ to taste?'

'Because we thought you might buy some,' said Dora, who never sees when
a game is up. 'In books the parson loves his bottle of old port; and
new sherry is just as good--with sugar--for people who like sherry. And
if you would order a dozen of the wine, then we should get two
shillings.'

The lady said (and it _was_ the voice), 'Good gracious! Nasty, sordid
little things! Haven't they any one to teach them better?'

And Dora got up and said, 'No, we are not those things you say; but we
are sorry we came here to be called names. We want to make our fortune
just as much as Mr Mallow does--only no one would listen to us if we
preached, so it's no use our copying out sermons like him.'

And I think that was smart of Dora, even if it was rather rude.

Then I said perhaps we had better go, and the lady said, 'I should think
so!'

But when we were going to wrap up the bottle and glass the clergyman
said, 'No; you can leave that,' and we were so upset we did, though it
wasn't his after all.

We walked home very fast and not saying much, and the girls went up to
their rooms. When I went to tell them tea was ready, and there was a
teacake, Dora was crying like anything and Alice hugging her. I am
afraid there is a great deal of crying in this chapter, but I can't help
it. Girls will sometimes; I suppose it is their nature, and we ought to
be sorry for their affliction.

'It's no good,' Dora was saying, 'you all hate me, and you think I'm a
prig and a busybody, but I do try to do right--oh, I do! Oswald, go
away; don't come here making fun of me!'

So I said, 'I'm not making fun, Sissy; don't cry, old girl.'

Mother taught me to call her Sissy when we were very little and before
the others came, but I don't often somehow, now we are old. I patted
her on the back, and she put her head against my sleeve, holding on to
Alice all the time, and she went on. She was in that laughy-cryey state
when people say things they wouldn't say at other times.

'Oh dear, oh dear--I do try, I do. And when Mother died she said,
"Dora, take care of the others, and teach them to be good, and keep them
out of trouble and make them happy." She said, "Take care of them for
me, Dora dear." And I have tried, and all of you hate me for it; and to-
day I let you do this, though I knew all the time it was silly.'

I hope you will not think I was a muff but I kissed Dora for some time.
Because girls like it. And I will never say again that she comes the
good elder sister too much. And I have put all this in though I do hate
telling about it, because I own I have been hard on Dora, but I never
will be again. She is a good old sort; of course we never knew before
about what Mother told her, or we wouldn't have ragged her as we did.
We did not tell the little ones, but I got Alice to speak to Dicky, and
we three can sit on the others if requisite.

This made us forget all about the sherry; but about eight o'clock there
was a knock, and Eliza went, and we saw it was poor Jane, if her name
was Jane, from the Vicarage. She handed in a brown-paper parcel and a
letter. And three minutes later Father called us into his study.

On the table was the brown-paper parcel, open, with our bottle and glass
on it, and Father had a letter in his hand. He Pointed to the bottle
and sighed, and said, 'What have you been doing now?' The letter in his
hand was covered with little black writing, all over the four large
pages.

So Dicky spoke up, and he told Father the whole thing, as far as he knew
it, for Alice and I had not told about the dead sailors' lady.

And when he had done, Alice said, 'Has Mr Mallow written to you to say
he will buy a dozen of the sherry after all? It is really not half bad
with sugar in it.'

Father said no, he didn't think clergymen could afford such expensive
wine; and he said _he_ would like to taste it. So we gave him what there
was left, for we had decided coming home that we would give up trying
for the two pounds a week in our spare time.

Father tasted it, and then he acted just as H. O. had done when he had
his teaspoonful, but of course we did not say anything. Then he laughed
till I thought he would never stop.

I think it was the sherry, because I am sure I have read somewhere about
'wine that maketh glad the heart of man'. He had only a very little,
which shows that it was a good after-dinner wine, stimulating, and yet
. . .I forget the rest.

But when he had done laughing he said, 'It's all right, kids. Only don't
do it again. The wine trade is overcrowded; and besides, I thought you
promised to consult me before going into business?'

'Before buying one I thought you meant,' said Dicky. 'This was only on
commission.' And Father laughed again. I am glad we got the Castilian
Amoroso, because it did really cheer Father up, and you cannot always do
that, however hard you try, even if you make jokes, or give him a comic
paper.

CHAPTER 12
THE NOBLENESS OF OSWALD

The part about his nobleness only comes at the end, but you would not
understand it unless you knew how it began. It began, like nearly
everything about that time, with treasure-seeking.

Of course as soon as we had promised to consult my Father about business
matters we all gave up wanting to go into business. I don't know how it
is, but having to consult about a thing with grown-up people, even the
bravest and the best, seems to make the thing not worth doing
afterwards.

We don't mind Albert's uncle chipping in sometimes when the thing's
going on, but we are glad he never asked us to promise to consult him
about anything. Yet Oswald saw that my Father was quite right; and I
daresay if we had had that hundred pounds we should have spent it on the
share in that lucrative business for the sale of useful patent, and then
found out afterwards that we should have done better to spend the money
in some other way. My Father says so, and he ought to know. We had
several ideas about that time, but having so little chink always stood
in the way.

This was the case with H. O.'s idea of setting up a coconut-shy on this
side of the Heath, where there are none generally. We had no sticks or
wooden balls, and the greengrocer said he could not book so many as
twelve dozen coconuts without Mr Bastable's written order. And as we
did not wish to consult my Father it was decided to drop it. And when
Alice dressed up Pincher in some of the dolls' clothes and we made up
our minds to take him round with an organ as soon as we had taught him
to dance, we were stopped at once by Dicky's remembering how he had once
heard that an organ cost seven hundred pounds. Of course this was the
big church kind, but even the ones on three legs can't be got for one-
and-sevenpence, which was all we had when we first thought of it. So we
gave that up too.

It was a wet day, I remember, and mutton hash for dinner--very tough
with pale gravy with lumps in it. I think the others would have left a
good deal on the sides of their plates, although they know better, only
Oswald said it was a savoury stew made of the red deer that Edward shot.
So then we were the Children of the New Forest, and the mutton tasted
much better. No one in the New Forest minds venison being tough and the
gravy pale.

Then after dinner we let the girls have a dolls' tea-party, on condition
they didn't expect us boys to wash up; and it was when we were drinking
the last of the liquorice water out of the little cups that Dicky said--

'This reminds me.'

So we said, 'What of?'

Dicky answered us at once, though his mouth was full of bread with
liquorice stuck in it to look like cake. You should not speak with your
mouth full, even to your own relations, and you shouldn't wipe your
mouth on the back of your hand, but on your handkerchief, if you have
one. Dicky did not do this. He said--

'Why, you remember when we first began about treasure-seeking, I said I
had thought of something, only I could not tell you because I hadn't
finished thinking about it.'

We said 'Yes.'

'Well, this liquorice water--'

'Tea,' said Alice softly.

'Well, tea then--made me think.' He was going on to say what it made
him think, but Noel interrupted and cried out, 'I say; let's finish off
this old tea-party and have a council of war.'

So we got out the flags and the wooden sword and the drum, and Oswald
beat it while the girls washed up, till Eliza came up to say she had the
jumping toothache, and the noise went through her like a knife. So of
course Oswald left off at once. When you are polite to Oswald he never
refuses to grant your requests.

When we were all dressed up we sat down round the camp fire, and Dicky
began again.

'Every one in the world wants money. Some people get it. The people
who get it are the ones who see things. I have seen one thing.'

Dicky stopped and smoked the pipe of peace. It is the pipe we did
bubbles with in the summer, and somehow it has not got broken yet. We
put tea-leaves in it for the pipe of peace, but the girls are not
allowed to have any. It is not right to let girls smoke. They get to
think too much of themselves if you let them do everything the same as
men. Oswald said, 'Out with it.'

'I see that glass bottles only cost a penny. H. O., if you dare to
snigger I'll send you round selling old bottles, and you shan't have any
sweets except out of the money you get for them. And the same with you,
Noel.'

'Noel wasn't sniggering,' said Alice in a hurry; 'it is only his taking
so much interest in what you were saying makes him look like that. Be
quiet, H. O., and don't you make faces, either. Do go on, Dicky dear.'

So Dicky went on.

'There must be hundreds of millions of bottles of medicines sold every
year. Because all the different medicines say, "Thousands of cures
daily," and if you only take that as two thousand, which it must be, at
least, it mounts up. And the people who sell them must make a great
deal of money by them because they are nearly always two-and-ninepence
the bottle, and three-and-six for one nearly double the size. Now the
bottles, as I was saying, don't cost anything like that.'

'It's the medicine costs the money,' said Dora; 'look how expensive
jujubes are at the chemist's, and peppermints too.'

'That's only because they're nice,' Dicky explained; 'nasty things are
not so dear. Look what a lot of brimstone you get for a penny, and the
same with alum. We would not put the nice kinds of chemist's things in
our medicine.'

Then he went on to tell us that when we had invented our medicine we
would write and tell the editor about it, and he would put it in the
paper, and then people would send their two-and-ninepence and three-and-
six for the bottle nearly double the size, and then when the medicine
had cured them they would write to the paper and their letters would be
printed, saying how they had been suffering for years, and never thought
to get about again, but thanks to the blessing of our ointment--'

Dora interrupted and said, 'Not ointment--it's so messy.' And Alice
thought so too. And Dicky said he did not mean it, he was quite decided
to let it be in bottles. So now it was all settled, and we did not see
at the time that this would be a sort of going into business, but
afterwards when Albert's uncle showed us we saw it, and we were sorry.
We only had to invent the medicine. You might think that was easy,
because of the number of them you see every day in the paper, but it is
much harder than you think. First we had to decide what sort of illness
we should like to cure, and a 'heated discussion ensued', like in
Parliament.

Dora wanted it to be something to make the complexion of dazzling
fairness, but we remembered how her face came all red and rough when she
used the Rosabella soap that was advertised to make the darkest
complexion fair as the lily, and she agreed that perhaps it was better
not. Noel wanted to make the medicine first and then find out what it
would cure, but Dicky thought not, because there are so many more
medicines than there are things the matter with us, so it would be
easier to choose the disease first. Oswald would have liked wounds. I
still think it was a good idea, but Dicky said, 'Who has wounds,
especially now there aren't any wars? We shouldn't sell a bottle a
day!' So Oswald gave in because he knows what manners are, and it was
Dicky's idea. H. O. wanted a cure for the uncomfortable feeling that
they give you powders for, but we explained to him that grown-up people
do not have this feeling, however much they eat, and he agreed. Dicky
said he did not care a straw what the loathsome disease was, as long as
we hurried up and settled on something. Then Alice said--

'It ought to be something very common, and only one thing. Not the
pains in the back and all the hundreds of things the people have in
somebody's syrup. What's the commonest thing of all?'

And at once we said, 'Colds.'

So that was settled.

Then we wrote a label to go on the bottle. When it was written it would
not go on the vinegar bottle that we had got, but we knew it would go
small when it was printed. It was like this:

BASTABLE'S
CERTAIN CURE FOR COLDS
Coughs, Asthma, Shortness of Breath, and all infections of the
Chest

One dose gives immediate relief
It will cure your cold in one bottle
Especially the larger size at 3s. 6d.
Order at once of the Makers
To prevent disappointment

Makers:

D., O., R., A., N., and H. O. BASTABLE
150, Lewisham Road, S.E.

Book of the day: