Produced by Andrew Templeton, Juliet Sutherland, Barbara Tozier and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Illustration: “Two funny fair-haired children with their fingers in their mouths”]
MILLY AND OLLY
New Revised Edition
MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
Illustrated by RUTH M. HALLOCK
GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
TO F.A., IN THE NAME OF THE CHILDREN OF FOX HOW, THIS REVIVAL OF A CHILD’S STORY WRITTEN TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO, UNDER THE SPELL OF ROTHA AND FAIRFIELD, IS INSCRIBED BY THE WRITER.
After many years this little book is once more to see the light. The children for whom it was written are long since grown up. But perhaps the pleasure they once took in it may still be felt by some of the Millys and Ollys of to-day. Up in the dear mountain country which it describes, the becks are still sparkling; “Brownholme” still spreads its green steeps and ferny hollows under rain and sun; the tiny trout still leap in its tiny streams; and Fairfield, in its noble curve, still girdles the deep valley where these children played: the valley of Wordsworth and Arnold–the valley where Arnold’s poet-son rambled as a boy–where, for me, the shy and passionate ghost of Charlotte Bronte still haunts the open door-way of Fox How–where poetry and generous life and ranging thought still dwell, and bring their benediction to the passers-by. “Aunt Emma” in her beautiful home, unchanged but for its vacant chairs, is now as she ever was, the friend of old and young; and the children of to-day still press to her side as their elders did before them. The parrot alas! is gone where parrots may; but amid the voices that breathe around Fox How–the voices of seventy years–his mimic speech is still remembered by the children who teased and loved him. For love, while love lasts, gives life to all things small and great; and in those who have once felt it, the love of the Fairfield valley, of the gray stone house that fronts the fells, and of them that dwell therein, is “not Time’s fool–“
“Or bends with the remover to remove.”
MARY A. WARD.
September 18, 1907.
I. Making Plans
II. A Journey North
IV. Out on the Hills
V. Aunt Emma’s Picnic
VI. Wet Days at Ravensnest
VII. A Story-telling Game
VIII. The Story of Beowulf
IX. Milly’s Birthday
X. Last Days at Ravensnest
“Two funny fair-haired children with their fingers in their mouths”
“‘I can’t do without my toys, Nana'”
“The flowers Milly gathered for her mother”
“So they put Olly up on a tall piece of rock, and he sang”
“He was quite sure that h-a-y spelt ‘ham’ and s-a-w spelt ‘was'”
“‘Suppose we have a story-telling game'”
“‘Haven’t you got a bump?’ asked Olly”
“Milly, come down! come down directly! Mother wants you. Do make haste!”
“I’m just coming, Olly. Don’t stamp so. Nurse is tying my sash.”
But Master Olly went on stamping, and jumping up and down stairs, as his way was when he was very much excited, till Milly appeared. Presently down she came, a sober fair-haired little maiden, with blue eyes and a turn-up nose, and a mouth that was generally rather solemn-looking, though it could laugh merrily enough when it tried. Milly was six years old. She looked older than six. At any rate she looked a great deal older than Olly, who was nearly five; and you will soon find out that she was a good deal more than a year and a half wiser.
“What’s the matter, Olly? What made you shout so?”
“Oh, come along, come along;” said the little boy, pulling at his sister’s hand to make her run. “Mother wants to tell us something, and she says it’s a nice something, and I kissed her like anyfing! but she wouldn’t tell me without you.”
Then the two children set off running, and they flew down a long passage to the drawing-room, and were soon scrambling about a lady who was sitting working by the window.
“Well, monkeys, don’t choke me before I tell you my nice something. Sit on my knee Olly. Now, Milly, guess–what have father and I just been talking about?”
“Sending Olly to school, perhaps,” said Milly. “I heard Uncle Richard talking about it yesterday.”
“That wouldn’t be such a nice something,” said Olly, making a long face. “I wouldn’t like it–not a bit. Boys don’t never like going to school. I want to learn my lessons with mother.”
“I know a little boy that doesn’t like learning lessons with mother very much,” said the lady, laughing. “But my nice something isn’t sending Olly to school, Milly. You’re quite wrong–so try again.”
“Oh, mother! is it a strawberry tea?” cried Milly. “The strawberries are just ripe, I know. Gardener told nurse so this morning. And we can have tea on the lawn, and ask Jacky and Francis!”
“Oh, jolly!” said Oliver, jumping off his mother’s knee and beginning to dance about. “And we’ll gather them ourselves–won’t you let us, mother?”
“But it isn’t a strawberry tea even,” said his mother. “Now, look here, children, what have I got here?”
“It’s a map–a map of England,” said Milly, looking very wise. Milly had just begun to learn geography, and thought she knew all about maps.
“Well, and what happens when father and I look at maps in the summertime?”
“Why,” said Milly, slowly, “you and father pack up your things, and go away over the sea, and we stay behind with nurse.”
“I don’t call _that_ a nice something,” said Olly, standing still again.
“Oh, mother, _are_ you going away?” said Milly, hanging round her mother’s neck.
“Yes, Milly, and so’s father, and so’s nurse”–and their mother began to laugh.
“So’s nurse?” said Milly and Olly together, and then they stopped and opened two pairs of round eyes very wide, and stared at their mother. “Oh, mother, mother, take us too!”
“Why, how should father and I get on, travelling about with a pair of monkeys?” said their mother, catching hold of the two children and lifting them on to her knee; “we should want a cage to keep them in.”
“Oh, mother, we’ll be _ever_ so good! But where are we going? Oh, do take us to the sea!”
“Yes, the sea! the sea!” shouted Olly, careering round the room again; “we’ll have buckets and spades, and we’ll paddle and catch crabbies, and wet our clothes, and have funny shoes, just like Cromer. And father’ll teach me to swim–he said he would next time.”
“No,” said Mrs. Norton, for that was the name of Milly’s and Oliver’s mother. “No, we are not going to the sea this summer. We are going to a place mother loves better than the sea, though perhaps you children mayn’t like it quite so well. We’re going to the mountains. Uncle Richard has lent father and mother his own nice house among the mountains and we’re all going there next week–such a long way in the train, Milly.”
“What are mountains?” said Olly, who had scarcely ever seen a hill higher than the church steeple. “They can’t be so nice as the sea, mother. Nothing can.”
“They’re humps, Olly,” answered Milly eagerly. “Great, big humps of earth, you know; earth mixed with stone. And they reach up ever so high, up into the sky. And it takes you a whole day to get up to the top of them, and a whole day to get down again. Doesn’t it, mother? Fraeulein told me all about mountains in my geography. And some mountains have got snow on their tops all year, even in summer, when it’s so hot, and we’re having strawberries. Will the mountains we’re going to, have snow on them?”
“Oh, no. The snow mountains are far away over the sea. But these are English mountains, kind, easy mountains, not too high for you and me to climb up, and covered all over with soft green grass and wild flowers, and tiny sheep with black faces.”
“And, mother, is there a garden to Uncle Richard’s house, and are there any children there to play with?”
“There’s a delightful garden, full of roses, and strawberries and grapes, and everything else that’s nice. And it has a baby river all to itself, that runs and jumps and chatters all through the middle of it, so perhaps Olly may have a paddle sometimes, though we aren’t going to the sea. And the gardener has got two little children, just about your age, Aunt Mary says: and there are two more at the farm, two dear little girls, who aren’t a bit shy, and will like playing with you very much. But who else shall we see there, Milly? Who lives in the mountains too, near Uncle Richard?”
Olly looked puzzled, but Milly thought a minute, and then said quickly, “Aunt Emma, isn’t it, mother? Didn’t she come here once? I think I remember.”
“Yes, she came once, but long ago, when you were quite small. But now we shall see a great deal of her I hope, for she lives just on the other side of the mountain from Uncle Richard’s house, in a dear old house, where I spent many, many happy days when I was small. Great-grandpapa and grandmamma were alive then. But now Aunt Emma lives there quite alone. Except for one creature, at least, an old gray poll-parrot, that chatters away, and behaves as if it were quite sensible, and knew all about everything.”
“Hasn’t she got any pussies, mother?” asked Olly.
“Yes, two I believe; but they don’t get on with Polly very well, so they live in the kitchen out of the way–“
“I like pussies better than pollies,” said Olly gravely.
“Why, what do you know about pollies, old man?”
“Pollies bite, I know they do. There was a polly bited Francis once.”
“Well, and pussies scratch,” said Milly.
“No, they don’t, not if you’re nicey to them,” said Olly; who was just then very much in love with a white kitten, and thought there were no creatures so delightful as pussies.
“Well, suppose you don’t make up your mind about Aunt Emma’s Polly till you’ve seen her,” said Mrs. Norton. “Now sit down on the rug there and let us have a talk.”
Down squatted the children on the floor opposite their mother, with their little heads full of plans and their eyes as bright as sparks.
“I’ll take my cart and horse,” began Olly; “and my big ball, and my whistle, and my wheelbarrow, and my spade, and all my books, and the big scrap-book, and–“
“You can’t, Olly,” exclaimed Milly. “Nurse could never pack all those up. There’d be no room for our clothes. You can take your whistle, and the top, and the picture books, and I can take my dolls. That’ll be quite enough, won’t it, mother?”
“Quite enough,” said Mrs. Norton. “If it’s fine weather you’ll see–you won’t want any toys. But now, look here, children,” and she held up the map. “Shall I show you how we are going to get to the mountains?”
“Oh yes,” said Milly, “that’ll be like my geography lesson–come, Olly. Now mother’ll teach _you_ geography, like Fraeulein does me.”
“That’s lessons,” said Olly, with half a pout, “not fun a bit. It’s only girls like lessons–Boys never do–Jacky doesn’t, and Francis doesn’t, and I don’t.”
“Never mind about it’s being lessons, Olly. Come and see if it isn’t interesting,” said Mrs. Norton. “Now, Milly, find Willingham.”
Willingham was the name of the town where Milly and Oliver lived. It is a little town in Oxfordshire, and if you look long enough on the map you _may_ find it, though I won’t promise you.
“There it is,” said Milly triumphantly, showing it to her mother and Olly.
“Quite right. Now look here,” and Mrs. Norton took a pencil out of her pocket and drew a little line along the map. “First of all we shall get into the train and go to a place called–look, Milly.”
“Bletchley,” said Milly, following where the pencil pointed. “What an ugly name.”
“It’s an ugly place,” said Mrs. Norton, “so perhaps it doesn’t deserve a better name. And after Bletchley–look again, Milly.”
“Rugby,” said Milly, reading the names as her mother pointed, “and then Stafford, and then Crewe–what a funny name, mother!–and then Wigan, and then Warrington, and then Lancaster. Ox-en-holme, Kendal, Wind-er-mere. Oh, mother, what a long way! Why, we’ve got right to the top of England.”
“Stop a bit, Milly, and let me tell you something about these places. First of all we shall get out of the train at Bletchley, and get into another train that will go faster than the first. And it will take us past all kinds of places, some pretty and some ugly, and some big and some small. At Stafford there is an old castle, Milly, where fierce people lived in old days and fought their neighbours. And at Crewe we shall get out and have our dinner. And at Wigan all the trees grow on one side as if some one had come and given them a push in the night; and at Lancaster there’s another old castle, a very famous one, only now they have turned it into a prison, and people are shut up inside it. Then a little way after Lancaster you’ll begin to see some mountains, far, far away, but first you’ll see something else–just a little bit of blue sea, with mountains on the other side of it. And then will come Windermere, where we shall get out and drive in a carriage. And we shall drive right into the mountains, Olly, till they stand up all round us with their dear kind old faces that mother has loved ever since she was a baby.”
The children looked up wonderingly at their mother, and they saw her face shining and her eyes as bright as theirs, as if she too was a child going out for a holiday.
“Oh! And, mother,” said Olly, “you’ll let us take Spot. She can go in my box.”
Now Spot was the white kitten, so Milly and mother began to laugh.
“Suppose you go and ask Spot first, whether she’d like it, Olly,” said Mrs. Norton, patting his sunburnt little face.
A JOURNEY NORTH
Milly and Oliver lived at Willingham, a little town in Oxfordshire, as I have already told you. Their father was a doctor, and they lived in an old-fashioned house, in a street, with a long shady garden stretching away behind it. Milly and Oliver loved their father, and whenever he put his brown face inside the nursery door, two pairs of little feet went running to meet him, and two pairs of little hands pulled him eagerly into the room. But they saw him very seldom; whereas their mother was always with them, teaching them their lessons, playing with them in the garden, telling them stories, mending their frocks, tucking them up in their snug little beds at night, sometimes praising them, sometimes scolding them; always loving and looking after them. Milly and Olly honestly believed that theirs was the best mother in the whole world. Nobody else could find out such nice plays, or tell them such wonderful stories, or dress dolls half so well. Two little neighbours of theirs, Jacky and Francis, had a poor sick mother who always lay on the sofa, and could hardly bear to have her little boys in the room with her. Milly and Oliver were never tired of wondering how Jacky and Francis got on with a mother like that. “How funny, and how dreadful it must be. Poor Jacky and Francis!” It never came into their, heads to say, “Poor Jacky’s mother” too, but then you see they were such little people, and little people have only room in their heads for a very few thoughts at a time.
However, Milly had been away from her mother a good deal lately. About six months before my story begins she had been sent to school, to a kindergarten, as she was taught to call it. And there Milly had learnt all kinds of wonderful things–she had learnt how to make mats out of paper, blue mats, and pink mats, and yellow mats, and red mats; she had learned how to make a bit of soft clay look like a box, or a stool, or a bird’s nest with three clay eggs inside it; she had begun to add up and take away; and, above all, she had begun to learn geography, and Fraeulein–for Milly’s mistress was a German, and had a German name–was just now teaching her about islands, and lakes, and capes, and peninsulas, and many other things that all little girls have to learn about some time or other, unless they wish to grow up dunces.
As for Milly’s looks, I have told you already that she had blue eyes and a turn-up nose, and a dear sensible little face. And she had very thick fair hair, that was always tumbling about her eyes, and making her look, as nurse told her, like “a yellow owl in an ivy bush.” Milly loved most people, except perhaps John the gardener, who was rather cross to the children, and was always calling to them not to walk “on them beds,” and to be sure not to touch any of his fruit or flowers. She loved her father and her mother; she loved Olly with all her whole heart, though he was a tease, she loved her nurse, whom she and Olly called Nana, and who had been with them ever since Milly was born; and she loved Fraeulein, and was always begging flowers from her mother that she might take them to school for Fraeulein’s table. So you see Milly was made up of loving. And she was a thoughtful little girl too, tidy with her dress, quick and quiet at her lessons, and always ready to sit still with her fairy-book or her doll, when mother was busy or tired. But there were two things in which Milly was not at all sensible in spite of her sensible face. She was much too ready to cry when any little thing went wrong, and she was dreadfully afraid of creatures of all sorts. She was afraid of her father’s big dog, she was afraid of the dear brown cow that lived in the field beyond the garden, she was afraid of earwigs. I am even ashamed to say she was afraid of spiders. Once she ran away as if a lion were behind her from a white kitten that pulled her dress with its frolicsome paws to make her play with it; but that, Milly would tell you, was “when I was little,” and she was quite sure she was a good deal braver now.
Now what am I to tell you about Olly?
Olly was just a round ball of fun and mischief. He had brown hair, brown eyes, a brown face, and brown hands. He was always touching and meddling with everything, indoors and out, to see what was inside it, or what it was made of. He liked teasing Milly, he liked his walks, he liked his sleep in the morning, he liked his dinner, he liked his tea, he liked everything in the world, except learning to read, and that he hated. He could only do one thing besides mischief. He could sing all kinds of tunes–quick tunes, slow tunes, and merry tunes. He had been able to sing tunes ever since he was quite a tiny baby, and his father and mother often talked together of how, in about a year, he should be taught to play on the piano, or perhaps on the violin, if he liked it better. You might hear his sharp, shrill little voice, singing about the house and the garden all day long. John the gardener called it “squealin’,” and told Olly his songs were “capital good” for frightening away the birds.
Now, perhaps, you know a little more about Milly and Olly than you did when I began to tell you about them, and it is time you should hear of what happened to them on that wonderful journey of theirs up to the mountains.
First of all came the packing up. Milly could not make up her mind about her dolls; she had three–Rose, Mattie, and Katie–but Rose’s frocks were very dirty, Mattie had a leg broken, and Katie’s paint had been all washed off one wet night, when Olly left her out on the lawn. Now which of these was the tidiest and most respectable doll to take out on a visit? Milly did not know how to settle it.
[Illustration: “‘I can’t do without my toys, Nana'”]
“I think, Nana,” she said at last to her nurse, who was packing the children’s trunk, “I will take Katie. Mother always sends us away when we get white faces to make us look nice and red again; so, perhaps, if I take Katie her colour will come back too, you know.”
“Perhaps it will, Miss Milly,” said nurse, laughing; “anyhow, you had better give me the doll you want directly, for it is time I packed all the toys now. Now, Master Olly, you know I can’t let you take all those things.”
For there was Olly dragging along his wheelbarrow heaped up with toys with one hand, and his cart and horse with a box of bricks standing up in it with the other. He would not listen to what Milly said about it, and he would scarcely listen to nurse now.
“I can’t do without my toys, Nana. I _must_ do mischief if you won’t let me take all my toys; I can’t help it.”
“I haven’t got room for half those, Master Olly, and you’ll have ever so many new things to play with when we get to Ravensnest.”
“There’ll be the new children, Olly,” said Milly, “and the little rivers and all the funny new flowers.”
“Those aren’t toys,” said Olly, looking ready to cry. “I don’t know nothing about them.”
“Now,” said nurse, making a place in the box, “bring me your bricks and your big ball, and your picture-books. There, that’s all I can spare you.”
“Wait one minute,” said Olly, rushing off; and just then Mrs. Norton called nurse away to speak to her in the drawing-room. When nurse came back she saw nobody in the nursery. Milly had gone out in the garden, Olly was nowhere to be seen. And who had shut down the trunk, which was open when she left it? Me-ow, sounded very softly from somewhere close by.
“Why–Spot! Spot!” called nurse.
Me-ow, Me-ow, came again; a sad choky little mew, right from the middle of the children’s trunk. “Master Olly and his tricks again,” said nurse, running to the box and opening it. There, on the top, lay a quantity of frocks that nurse had left folded up on the floor, thrown in anyhow, with some toys scattered among them, and the frocks and toys were all dancing up and down as if they were bewitched. Nurse took out the frocks, and there was the children’s collar-box, a large round cardboard-box with a lid, jumping from side to side like a box in a fairy tale; and such dreadful pitiful little mews coming from the inside! Nurse undid the lid, and out sprang Spot like a flash of lightning, and ran as if she were running for her life out of the door and down the stairs, and safe into the kitchen, where she cuddled herself up in a corner of the fender, wishing with all her poor trembling little heart that there were no such things in the world as small boys. And then nurse heard a kind of kicking and scuffling in the china cupboard, and when she opened it there sat Olly doubled up, his brown eyes dancing like will-o’-the-wisps, and his little white teeth grinning.
“Oh! Nana, she _did_ make a funny me-ow! I just said to her, Now, Spottie, _wouldn’t_ you like to go in my box? and she said, Yes; and I made her such a comfy bed, and then I stuck all those frocks on the top of her to keep her warm. Why did you let her out, Nana?”
“You little mischief,” said Nana, “do you know you might have smothered poor little Spot? And look at all these frocks; do you think I have got nothing better to do than to tidy up after your tricks?”
But nurse never knew how to be very hard upon Olly; so all she did was to set him up on a high chair with a picture-book, where she could see all he was doing. There was no saying what he might take a fancy to pack up next if she didn’t keep an eye on him.
Well, presently all the packing was done, and Milly and Olly had gone to say good-bye to Fraeulein, and to Jacky and Francis. Wednesday evening came, and they were to start early on Thursday morning. Olly begged nurse to put him to bed very early, that he might “wake up krick”–quick was a word Olly never could say. So to bed he went at half-past six, and his head had scarcely touched the pillow two minutes before he had gone cantering away into dreamland, and was seeing all the sights and hearing all the delicious stories that children do see and hear in dreamland, though they don’t always remember them when they wake up. Both Milly and he woke up very early on Thursday morning; and directly his eyes were open Olly jumped out of bed like an india-rubber ball, and began to put on his stockings in a terrible hurry. The noise of his jump woke nurse, and she called out in a sleepy voice:
“Get into bed again, Master Olly, directly. It is only just six o’clock, and I can’t have you out of bed till seven. You’ll only be under my feet, and in everybody’s way.”
“Nana, I won’t be in _anybody’s_ way,” exclaimed Olly, running up to her and scrambling on to her bed with his little bare toes half way into his stockings. “I can’t keep still in my bed all such a long time. There’s something inside of me, Nana, keeps jumping up and down, and won’t let me keep still. Now, if I get up, you know, Nana, I can help you.”
“Help me, indeed!” said nurse, kissing his little brown face, or as much of it as could be seen through his curls. “A nice helping that would be. Come back to bed, sir, and I’ll give you some picture-books till I’m ready to dress you.”
So back to bed Master Olly went, sorely against his will, and there he had to stay till nurse and Milly were dressed, and the breakfast things laid. Then nurse gave him his bath and dressed him, and put him up to eat his bread and milk while she finished the packing. Olly was always very quiet over his meals, and it was the only time in the day when he was quiet.
Presently up rattled the cab, and down ran the children with their walking things on to see father and John lift the boxes on to the top; and soon they were saying good-bye to Susan the cook, and Jenny the housemaid, who were going to stay and take care of the house while they were away; and then crack went the whip, and off they went to the station. On the way they passed Jacky and Francis standing at their gate, and all the children waved their hats and shouted “Hurrah! hurrah!” At the station nurse kept tight hold of Olly till father had got the tickets and put all the boxes into the train, and then he and Milly were safely lifted up into the railway carriage, and nurse and father and mother came next, with all the bags and shawls and umbrellas.
Such a settling of legs and arms and packages there was; and in the middle of it “whew” went the whistle, and off they went away to the mountains.
But they had a long way to go before they saw any mountains. First of all they had to get to Bletchley, and it took about an hour doing that. And oh! what a lovely morning it was, and how fresh and green the fields looked as the train hurried along past them. Olly and Milly could see hundreds and thousands of moon-daisies and buttercups growing among the wet grass, and every now and then came great bushes of wild-roses, some pink and some white, and long pools with yellow irises growing along the side; and sometimes the train went rushing through a little village, and they could see the little children trotting along to school, with their books and slates tucked under their arms; and sometimes they went along for miles together without seeing anything but the white-and-brown cows in the fields, and the great mother-sheep with their fat white lambs beside them. The sun shone so brightly, the buttercups were so yellow, the roses so pink, and the sky so blue, it was like a fairy world. Olly and Milly were always shouting and clapping their hands at something or other, for Milly had grown almost as wild as Olly.
Sh-sh-sh-sh went the train, getting slower and slower till at last it stopped altogether.
“Bletchley, Bletchley!” shouted Olly, jumping down off the seat.
“No, my boy,” said his father, catching hold of him, “we shall stop five more times before we get to Bletchley; so don’t be impatient.”
But at last came Bletchley, and the children were lifted out into the middle of such a bustle, as it seemed to Milly. There were crowds of people at the station, and they were all pushing backward and forward, and shouting and talking.
“Keep hold of me, Olly,” said Milly, with an anxious little face. “Oh, Nana, don’t let him go!”
But nurse held him fast; and very soon they were through the crowd, and father had put them safe into their new train, into a carriage marked “Windermere,” which would take them all the way to their journey’s end.
“That was like lions and bears, wasn’t it, mother?” said Olly, pointing to the crowd in the station, as they went puffing away. Now, “lions and bears” was a favourite game of the children’s, a romping game, where everybody ran about and pretended to be somebody else, and where the more people played, and the more they ran and pushed and tumbled about, the funnier, it was. And the running, scrambling people at the station did look rather as if they were playing at lions and bears.
And now the children had a long day before them. On rushed the train, past towns and villages, and houses and trains. The sun got hotter and hotter, and the children began to get a little tired of looking out of window. Milly asked for a story-book, and was soon very happy reading “Snow White and Rose Red.” She had read it a hundred times before, but that never mattered a bit. Olly came to sit on nurse’s knee while she showed him pictures, and so the time passed away. And now the train stopped again, and father lifted Olly on his knee to see a great church far away over the houses, and taught him to say “Lichfield Cathedral.” And then came Stafford; and Milly looked out for the castle, and wondered whether the castles in her story-books looked like that, and whether princesses and fairy godmothers and giants ever lived there in old times.
After they had left Stafford, Olly began to get tired and fidgety. First he went to sit on his father’s knee, then on mother’s, then on nurse’s–none of them could keep him still, and nothing seemed to amuse him for long together.
“Come and have a sleep, Master Olly,” said nurse. “You are just tired and hot. This is a long way for little boys, and we’ve got ever so far to go yet.”
“I’m not sleepy, Nana,” said Olly, sitting straight up, with a little flushed face and wide-open eyes. “I’m going to keep awake like father.”
“Father’s going to sleep, then,” said Mr. Norton, tucking himself up in a shady corner; “so you go too, Olly, and see which of us can go quickest.”
When Olly had seen his father’s eyes tight shut, and heard him give just one little snore–it was rather a make-believe snore–he did let nurse draw him on to her knee; and very soon the little gipsy creature was fast asleep, with all his brown curls lying like a soft mat over nurse’s arm. Milly, too, shut her eyes and sat very still; she did not mean to go to sleep, but presently she began to think a great many sleepy thoughts: Why did the hedges run so fast? and why did the telegraph wires go up and down as if they were always making curtsies? and was that really mother opposite, or was it Cinderella’s fairy godmother? And all of a sudden Milly came bump up against a tall blue mountain that had a face like a man, and cried out when she bumped upon it!
“Crewe, I declare,” exclaimed father, jumping up with a start. “Why, Olly and I have been asleep nearly an hour! Wake up, children, it’s dinner-time.”
Nurse had to shake Olly a great many times before he would open his sleepy eyes, and then he stood up rubbing them as if he would rub them quite away. Father lifted him out, and carried him into a big room, with a big table in it, all ready for dinner, and hungry people sitting round it. What fun it was having dinner at a station, with all the grown-up people. Milly and Olly thought there never was such nice bread and such nice apple-tart. Nothing at home ever tasted half so good. And after dinner father took them a little walk up and down the platform, and at last, just as it was time to get into the train again, he bought them a paper full of pictures, called the _Graphic_, that amused Olly for a long way.
But it was a long long way to Windermere, and poor Milly and Olly began to get very tired. The trees at Wigan did make them laugh a little bit, but they were too tired to think them as funny as they would have thought them in the morning. They are such comical trees! First of all, the smoke from the smoky chimneys at Wigan has made them black, and stopped the leaves from growing, and then the wind has blown them all over on one side, so that they look like ugly little twisted dwarfs, as if some cruel fairy had touched them with her wand. But Olly soon forgot all about them; and he began to wander from one end to the other of the carriage again, scrambling and jumping about, till he gave himself a hard knock against the seat; and that made him begin to cry–poor tired little Olly. Then mother lifted him on to her knee, and said to him, very softly, “Are you very tired, Olly? Never mind, poor little man, we shan’t be very long now, and we’re all tired, darling–father’s tired, and I’m tired; and look at Milly there, she looks like a little white ghost. Suppose you be brave, and try a little extra hard to be good. Then mother’ll love you an extra bit. And what do you think we shall see soon? such a lovely bit of blue sea with white ships on it. Just you shut your eyes a little bit till it comes, I’ll be sure to tell you.”
And sure enough, after Lancaster, mother gave a little cry, and Olly jumped up, and Milly came running over, and there before them lay the dancing windy blue sea, covered over with little white waves, running and tumbling over each other. And on the other side of it, what did the children see?
“Mother, mother! what is it?” cried Olly, pointing with his little brown hand far away; “is it a fairy palace, mother?”
“Perhaps it is, Olly; anyway, the hill-fairies live there. For those are the mountains, the beautiful mountains we are going to see.”
“But how shall we get across the sea to them?” asked Milly, with a puzzled face.
“This is only a corner of the sea, Milly–a bay. Don’t you remember bays in your geography? We can’t go across it, but we can go round it, and we shall find the mountains on the other side.”
Oh! how fast the train seemed to go now that there was something to look at. Everywhere mountains were beginning to spring up. And when they had said good-bye to the sea, the mountains began to grow taller and taller. What had happened to the houses too? They had all turned white or gray; there was no red one left. And the fields had stone walls instead of hedges; and inside the walls there were small sheep, about as big as the lambs they had seen near Oxford in the morning.
Oxenholme, Kendal, Windermere. How glad the tired children were when the train ran slowly down into Windermere station, and they could jump out and say good-bye to it for a long, long time! They had to wait a little, till father had found all the boxes and put them in the carriage that was waiting for them, and then in they tumbled, nurse having first wrapped them up in big shawls, for it was evening now, and the wind had grown cold. That was a nice drive home among the mountains. How tall and dark and quiet they were. And what was this shining on their left hand, like a white face running beside them, and peeping from behind the trees? Why, it was a lake; a great wide lake, with tiny boats upon it, some with white sails and some without.
“Mother! mother! may we go in those boats some day?” shouted Olly, in a little sharp tired voice, and his mother smiled at him, and said–“Yes, very likely.”
How happy mother looked. She knew all the mountains like old friends, she could tell all their names; and every now and then, when they came to a house, she and father would begin to talk about the people who lived in it, just as if they were talking about people they knew quite well. And now came a little town, the town of Wanwick mother called it, right among the mountains, with a river running round it, and a tall church spire. It began to get darker and darker, and the trees hung down over the road, so that the children could hardly see. On they went, and Olly was very nearly asleep again, when the carriage began to crunch over gravel, and then it stopped, and father called out–“Here we are, children, here we are at Ravensnest.”
And out they all jumped. What were those bright lights shining? Olly and Milly hardly knew where they were going as nurse took them in, and one of Uncle Richard’s servants showed them the way upstairs to the nursery. Such a nice nursery, with candles lit, and a little fire burning, two bowls of hot bread and milk on the table, and in the corner two little white beds, as soft and fresh as nests! In twenty minutes Olly was in one of these little white beds, and Milly in the other. And you may guess whether they were long about going to sleep.
“Poor little souls! How late they are sleeping. They must have been tired last night.”
So said nurse at eight o’clock, when she came back into the nursery from a journey to the kitchen after the breakfast things, and found the children still fast asleep; so fast that it looked as if they meant to go on sleeping till dinner-time.
“Milly!” she called softly, shaking her very gently, “Milly, it’s breakfast-time, wake up!”
Milly began to move about, and muttered something about “whistles” and “hedges” in her sleep.
Then nurse gave her another little shake, and at last Milly’s eyes did try very hard to open–“What is it? What do you want, Nana? Where are we?–Oh, I know!”
And up sprang Milly in a second and ran to the window, her sleepy eyes wide open at last. “Yes, there they are! Come and look, Nana! There, past those trees–don’t you see the mountains? And there is father walking about; and oh! do look at those roses over there. Dress me quick, dress me quick, please, dear Nana.”
Thump! bump! and there was Olly out of bed, sitting on the floor rubbing his eyes. Olly used always to jump out of bed half asleep, and then sit a long time on the floor waking up. Nurse and Milly always left him alone till he was quite woke up. It made him cross if you began to talk to him too soon.
“Milly,” said Olly presently, in a sleepy voice, “I’m going right up the mountains after breakfast. Aren’t you?”
“Wait till you see them, Master Olly,” said nurse, taking him up and kissing him, “perhaps your little legs won’t find it quite so easy to climb up the mountains as you think.”
“I can climb up three, four, six, seven mountains,” said Olly stoutly; “mountains aren’t a bit hard. Mother says they’re meant to climb up.”
“Well, I suppose it’s like going up stairs a long way,” said Milly, thoughtfully, pulling on her stockings. “You didn’t like going up the stairs in Auntie Margaret’s house, Olly.”
Auntie Margaret’s house was a tall London house, with ever so many stairs. The children when they were staying there were put to sleep at the top, and Olly used to sit down on the stairs and pout and grumble every time they had to go up.
But Olly shook his obstinate little head.
“I don’t believe it’s a bit like going up stairs.”
However, as they couldn’t know what it was like before they tried, nurse told them it was no good talking about it. So they hurried on with their dressing, and presently there stood as fresh a pair of morning children as anyone could wish to see, with rosy cheeks, and smooth hair, and clean print frocks–for Olly was still in frocks–though when the winter came mother said she was going to put him into knickerbockers.
And then nurse took them each by the hand and led them through some long passages, down a pretty staircase, and through a swing door, into what looked like a great nagged kitchen, only there was no fireplace in it. The real kitchen opened out of it at one side, and through the door came a smell of coffee and toast that made the children feel as hungry as little hunters. But their own room was straight in front, across the kitchen without a fireplace, a tiny room with one large window hung round with roses, and looking out on to a green lawn.
“Nana, isn’t it pretty? Nana, I think it’s lovely!” said Milly, looking out and clapping her hands. And it _was_ a pretty garden they could see from the window. An up-and-down garden, with beds full of bright flowers, and grass which was nearly all moss, and so soft that no cushion could be softer. In the distance they could hear a little splish-splash among the trees, which came, Milly supposed, from the river mother had told them about; while, reaching up all round the house, so that they could not see the top of it from the window, was the green wild mountain itself, the mountain of Brownholme, under which Uncle Richard’s house was built.
The children hurried through their breakfast, and then nurse covered them up with garden pinafores, and took them to the dining-room to find father and mother. Mr. and Mrs. Norton were reading letters when the children’s curly heads appeared at the open door, and Mrs. Norton was just saying to her husband:
“Aunt Emma sends a few lines just to welcome us, and to say that she can’t come over to us to-day, but will we all come over to her to-morrow and have early dinner, and perhaps a row afterward–“
“Oh, a row, mother, a row!” shouted Olly, clambering on to his mother’s knee and half-strangling her with his strong little arms; “I can row, father said I might. Are we going to-day?”
“No, to-morrow, Olly, when we’ve seen a little bit of Ravensnest first. Which of you remembers Aunt Emma, I wonder?”
“I remember her,” said Milly, nodding her head wisely, “she had a big white cap, and she told me stories. But I don’t quite remember her face, mother–not _quite_.”
“I don’t remember her, not one bit,” said Olly. “Mother, does she keep saying, ‘Don’t do that;’ ‘Go up stairs, naughty boys,’ like Jacky’s aunt does?”
For the children’s playfellows, Jacky and Francis, had an aunt living with them whom Milly and Olly couldn’t bear. They believed that she couldn’t say anything else except “Don’t!” and “Go up stairs!” and they were always in dread lest they should come across an aunt like her.
“She’s the dearest aunt in the whole world,” said mother, “and she never says, ‘Don’t,’ except when she’s obliged, but when she does say it little boys have to mind. When I was a little girl I thought there was nobody like Aunt Emma, nobody who could make such plans or tell such splendid stories.”
“And, mother, can’t she cut out card dolls? asked Milly. Don’t you know those beautiful card dolls you have in your drawer at home–didn’t Aunt Emma make them?”
“Yes, of course she did. She made me a whole family once for my birthday, a father and a mother, and two little girls and two little boys. And each of the children had two paper dresses and two hats, one for best and one for every day–and the mother had a white evening dress trimmed with red, and a hat and a bonnet.”
“I know, mother! they’re all in your drawer at home, only one of the little boys has his head broken off. Do you think Aunt Emma would make me a set if I asked her?”
“I can’t say, Milly. But I believe Aunt Emma’s fingers are just as quick as ever they were. Now, children, father says he will take you out while I go and speak to cook. Olly, how do you think we’re going to get any meat for you and Milly here? There are no shops on the mountains.”
“Then we’ll eat fisses, little fisses like those!” cried Olly, pointing to a plate of tiny red-spotted fish that father and mother had been having for breakfast.
“Thank you, Olly,” said Mr. Norton, laughing; “it would cost a good deal to keep you in trout, sir. I think we’ll try for some plain mutton for you, even if we have to catch the sheep on the mountains ourselves. But now come along till mother is ready, and I’ll show you the river where those little fishes lived.”
Out ran the children, ready to go anywhere and see anything in this beautiful new place, which seemed to them a palace of wonders. And presently they were skipping over the soft green grass, each holding one of father’s hands, and chattering away to him as if their little tongues would never stop. What a hot day it was going to be! The sky overhead was deep blue, with scarcely a cloud, they could hear nothing in the still air but the sleepy cooing of the doves in the trees by the gate, and the trees and flowers all looked as if they were going to sleep in the heat.
“Father, why did that old gentleman at Willingham last week tell mother that it always rained in the mountains?” asked Milly, looking up at the blue sky.
“Well, Milly, I’m afraid you’ll find out before you go home that it does know how to rain here. Sometimes it rains and rains as if the sky were coming down and all the world were going to turn into water. But never mind about that now–it isn’t going to rain to-day.”
Down they went through the garden, across the road, and into a field on the other side of it, a beautiful hay-field full of flowers, with just a narrow little path through it where the children and Mr. Norton could walk one behind another. And at the end of the path what do you think they found? Why, a chattering sparkling river, running along over hundreds and thousands of brown and green pebbles, so fast that it seemed to be trying to catch the birds as they skimmed across it. The children had never seen a river like this before, where you could see right to the very bottom, and count the stones there if you liked, and which behaved like a river at play, scrambling and dancing and rushing along as if it were out for a holiday, like the children themselves.
“What do you think of that for a river, children?” said Mr. Norton. “Very early this morning, when you little sleepyheads were in bed, I got up and came down here, and had my bath over there, look–in that nice brown pool under the tree.”
“Oh, father!” cried both children, dancing round him. “Let us have our baths in the river too. Do ask Nana–do, father! We can have our bathing things on that we had at the sea, and you can come too and teach us to swim.”
“Well, just once perhaps, if mother says yes, and it’s very warm weather, and you get up very _very_ early. But you won’t like it quite as much as you think. Rivers are very cold to bathe in, and those pretty stones at the bottom won’t feel at all nice to your little toes.”
“Oh, but, father,” interrupted Milly, “we could put on our sand shoes.”
“And wouldn’t we splash!” said Olly. “Nurse won’t let us splash in our bath, father, she says it makes a mess. I’m sure it doesn’t make a _great_ mess.”
“What do you know about it, shrimp?” said Mr. Norton, “you don’t have to tidy up. Hush, isn’t that mother calling? Let’s go and fetch her, and then we’ll go and see Uncle Richard’s farm, where the milk you had for breakfast came from. There are three children there, Milly, besides cows and pigs, and ducks and chickens.”
Back ran Milly and Olly, and there was mother watching for them with a basket on her arm which had already got some roses lying in it.
“Oh, mother! where did you get those roses?” cried Milly.
“Wheeler, the gardener, gave them to me. And now suppose we go first of all to see Mrs. Wheeler, and gardener’s two little children. They live in that cottage over there, across the brook, and the two little ones have just been peeping over the wall to try and get a look at you.”
Up clambered Milly and Olly along a steep path that seemed to take them up into the mountain, when suddenly they turned, and there was another river, but such a tiny river, Milly could almost jump across it, and it was tumbling and leaping down the rocks on its way to the big river which they had just seen, as if it were a little child hurrying to its mother.
“Why, mother, what a lot of rivers,” said Olly, running on to a little bridge that had been built across the little stream, and looking over.
“Just to begin with,” said Mrs. Norton. “You’ll see plenty more before you’ve done. But I can’t have you calling this a river, Olly. These baby rivers are called becks in Westmoreland–some of the big ones, too, indeed.”
On the other side of the little bridge was the gardener’s cottage, and in front of the door stood two funny fair-haired little children with their fingers in their mouths, staring at Milly and Olly. One was a little girl who was really about Milly’s age, though she looked much younger, and the other was a very shy small boy, with blue eyes and straggling yellow hair, and a face that might have been pretty if you could have seen it properly. But Charlie seemed to have made up his mind that nobody ever should see it properly. However often his mother might wash him, and she was a tidy woman, who liked to see her children look clean and nice, Charlie was always black. His face was black, his hands were black, his pinafore was sure to be covered with black marks ten minutes after he had put it on. Do what you would to him, it was no use, Charlie always looked as if he had just come out of the coal-hole.
“Well, Bessie,” said Mrs. Norton to the little girl, “is your mother in?”
“Naw,” said Bessie, without taking her fingers out of her mouth.
“Oh, I’m sorry for that. Do you know when she’s likely to be in?”
“Naw,” said Bessie again, beginning to eat her pinafore as well as her fingers. Meanwhile Charlie had been creeping behind Bessie to get out of Olly’s way; for Olly, who always wanted to make friends, was trying to shake hands with him, and Charlie was dreadfully afraid that he wanted to kiss him too.
“What a pity,” said Mrs. Norton, “I wanted to ask her a question. Come away, Olly, and don’t tease Charlie if he doesn’t want to shake hands. Can you remember, Bessie, to tell your mother that I came to see her?”
“Yis,” said Bessie.
“And can you remember, too, to ask her if she will let you and Charlie come down to tea with Miss Milly and Master Olly, this afternoon, at five o’clock?”
“Yis,” said Bessie, getting shyer and shyer, and eating up her pinafore faster than ever.
“Good-bye, then,” said Mrs. Norton.
“Good-bye, Bessie,” said Milly, softly, taking her hand.
Bessie stared at her, but didn’t say anything.
Olly, having quite failed in shaking hands, was now trying to kiss Charlie; but Charlie wouldn’t have it at all, and every time Olly came near, Charlie pushed him away with his little fists. This made Olly rather cross, and he began to try with all his strength to make Charlie kiss him, when suddenly Charlie got away from him, and running to a pile of logs of wood which was lying in the yard he climbed up the logs like a little squirrel, and was soon at the top of the heap, looking down on Olly, who was very much astonished.
“Mother, _do_ let me climb up too!” entreated Olly, as Mrs. Norton took his hand to lead him away. “I want to climb up krick like that! Oh, do let me try!”
“No, no, Olly! come along. We shall never get to the farm if you stay climbing here. And you wouldn’t find it as easy as Charlie does, I can tell you.”
“Why, I’m bigger than Charlie,” said Olly, pouting, as they walked away.
“But you haven’t got such stout legs; and, besides, Charlie is always out of doors all day long, climbing and poking about. I daresay he can do outdoor things better than you can. You’re a little town boy, you know.”
“Charlie’s got a black face,” said Olly, who was not at all pleased that Charlie, who was smaller than he was, and dirty besides, could do anything better than he could.
“Well, you see, he hasn’t got a Nana always looking after him as you have.”
“Hasn’t he got _any_ Nana?” asked Olly, looking as if he didn’t understand how there could be little children without Nanas.
“He hasn’t got any nurse but his mother, and Mrs. Wheeler has a great deal else to do than looking after him. What would you be like, do you think, Olly, if I had to do all the housework, and cook the dinner, and mind the baby, and there was no nurse to wash your face and hands for you?”
“I should get just like shock-headed Peter,” said Olly, shaking his head gravely at the idea. Shock-headed Peter was a dirty little boy in one of Olly’s picture-books; but I am sure you must have heard about him already, and must have seen the picture of him with his bushy hair, and his terrible long nails like birds’ claws. Olly was never tired of hearing about him, and about all the other children in that picture-book.
“What a funny little girl Bessie is, mother!” said Milly. “Do they always say _Naw_ and _Yis_ in this country, instead of saying No and Yes, like we do?”
“Well, most of the people that live here do,” said Mrs. Norton. “Their way of talking sounds odd and queer at first, Milly, but when you get used to it you will like it as I do, because it seems like a part of the mountains.”
All this time they had been climbing up a steep path behind the gardener’s house, and now Mr. Norton opened a door in a high wall, and let the children into a beautiful kitchen-garden made on the mountain side, so that when they looked down from the gate they could see the chimneys of Ravensnest just below them. Inside there were all kinds of fruit and vegetables, but gooseberry bushes and the strawberries had nothing but green gooseberries and white strawberries to show, to Olly’s great disappointment.
“Why aren’t the strawberries red, mother?” he asked in a discontented voice, as if it must be somebody’s fault that they weren’t red. “Ours at home were ripe.”
“Well, Olly, I suppose the strawberries know best. All I can tell you is, that things always get ripe here later than at Willingham. Their summer begins a little later than ours does, and so everything gets pushed on a little. But there will be plenty by-and-by. And suppose just now, instead of looking at the strawberries, you give just one look at the mountains. Count how many you can see all round.”
“One, two, three, five,” counted Olly. “What great big humps! Should we be able to touch the sky if we got up to the top of that one, mother?” and he pointed to a great blue mountain where the clouds seemed to be resting on the top.
“Well, if you were up there just now, you would be all among the clouds, and it would seem like a white fog all round you. So you would be touching the clouds at any rate.”
Olly opened his eyes very wide at the idea of touching the clouds.
“Why, mother, we can’t touch the clouds at home!”
“That comes of living in a country as flat as a pancake,” said Mr. Norton. “Just you wait till we can buy a tame mountain, and carry it to Willingham with us. Then we’ll put it down in the middle of the garden, and the clouds will come down to sit on the top of it just as they do here. But now, who can scramble over that gate?”
For the gate at the other end of the garden was locked, and as the gardener couldn’t be found, everybody had to scramble over, mother included. However, Mr. Norton helped them all over, and then they found themselves on a path running along the green mountain side. On they went, through pretty bits of steep hay-fields, where the grass seemed all clover and moon-daisies, till presently they came upon a small hunched-up house, with a number of sheds on one side of it and a kitchen-garden in front. This was Uncle Richard’s farm; a very tiny farm, where a man called John Backhouse lived, with his wife and two little girls and a baby-boy. Except just in the hay-time, John Backhouse had no men to help him, and he and his wife had to do all the work, to look after the sheep, and the cows, the pigs, the horse, and the chickens, to manage the garden and the hayfield, and to take the butter and milk to the people who wanted to buy it. When their children grew up and were able to help, Backhouse and his wife would be able to do it all very well; but just now, when they were still quite small, it was very hard work; it was all the farmer and his wife could do to make enough to keep themselves and their children fed and clothed.
Milly and Olly were very anxious to see the farmer’s children and looked out for them in the garden as they walked up to the house, but there were no signs of them. The door was opened by Mrs. Backhouse, the farmer’s wife, who held a fair-haired baby in her arms sucking a great crust of brown bread, and when Mr. and Mrs. Norton had shaken hands with her–“I’m sure, ma’am, I’m very pleased to see you here,” said Mrs. Backhouse. “John told me you were come (only Mrs. Backhouse said ‘coom’), and Becky and Tiza went down with their father when he took the milk this morning, hoping they would catch a sight of your children. They have been just wild to see them, but I told them they weren’t likely to be up at that time in the morning.”
“Where are they now?” asked Mrs. Norton. “Mine have been looking out for them as we came along.”
“Well, ma’am, I can’t say, unless they’re in the cherry-tree. Becky! Tiza!”
A faint “Yis” came from the other end of the garden, but still Milly and Olly could see nothing but a big cherry-tree growing where the voice seemed to come from.
“You go along that path, missy, and call again. You’ll be sure to find them,” said Mrs. Backhouse, pointing to the tree. “And won’t you come in, ma’am, and rest a bit? You’ll be maybe tired with walking this hot day.”
So Mr. and Mrs. Norton went into the farmhouse, and the children went hand-in-hand down the garden, looking for Becky and Tiza.
Suddenly, as they came close to the cherry-tree, they heard a laugh and a little scuffling, and looking up, what should they see but two little girls perched up on one of the cherry-tree branches, one of them sewing, the other nursing a baby kitten. Both of them had coloured print bonnets, but the smaller had taken hers off and was rolling the kitten up in it. The little girl sewing had a sensible, sober face; as for the other, she could not have looked sober if she had tried for a week of Sundays. It made you laugh only to look at Tiza. From the top of her curly head to the soles of her skipping little feet, she was the sauciest, merriest, noisiest creature. It was she who was always playing tricks on the cows and the horse, and the big sheep-dogs; who liked nothing so well as teasing Becky and dressing up the kittens, and who was always tumbling into the milkpail, or rolling downstairs, or losing herself in the woods, without somehow ever coming to any harm. If she and Olly had been left alone in the world together they _must_ have come to a bad end, but luckily each of them had wiser people to take care of them.
“Becky,” said Milly, shyly, looking up into the tree, “will you come down and say how do you do to us?”
Becky stuck her needle in her work and scrambled down with a red shy face to shake hands; but Tiza, instead of coming down, only climbed a little higher, and peeped at the others between the branches.
“We came down to the house when fayther took the milk this morning,” said Becky. “We thought maybe we’d see you in the garden. Only Tiza said she’d run away if she did see you.”
“Why doesn’t Tiza come down?” asked Olly, looking hard up into the tree. “I want to see her.”
Thump! What was that rattling down on Olly’s head? He looked down at his feet very much astonished, and saw a bunch of green cherries which Tiza had just thrown at him.
“Throw some more! Throw some more!” he cried out, and Tiza began to pelt him fast, while Olly ran here and there picking them up, and every now and then trying to throw them back at Tiza; but she was too high up for him to reach, and they only came rattling about his head again.
“She won’t come down,” said Becky, looking up at her sister. “Maybe she won’t speak to you for two or three days. And if you run after her she hides in such queer places you can never find her.”
“But mother wants you and her to come to tea with us this afternoon,” said Milly; “won’t Tiza come?”
“I suppose mother’ll make her,” said Becky, “but she doesn’t like it. Have you been on the fell?”
Milly looked puzzled. “Do you mean on the mountain? No, not yet. We’re going to-morrow when we go to Aunt Emma’s. But we’ve been to the river with father.”
“Did you go over the stepping-stones?”
“No,” said Milly, “I don’t know what they are. Can we go this evening after tea?”
“Oh yes,” said Becky, “they’re just close by your house. Does your mother let you go in the water?”
Now Becky said a great many of these words very funnily, so that Milly could hardly understand her. She said “doos” and “oop,” and “knaw,” and “jist,” and “la-ike,” but it sounded quite pretty from her soft little mouth, and Milly thought she had a very nice way of talking.
“No, mother doesn’t let us go in the water here, at least, not unless it’s very warm. We paddle when we go to the sea, and some day father says we may have our bath in the river if it’s very fine.”
“We never have a bath in the river,” said Becky, looking very much astonished at the idea.
“Do you have your bath in the nursery like we do?” asked Milly.
“We haven’t got a nursery,” said Becky, staring at her, “mother puts us in the toob on Saturday nights. I don’t mind it but Tiza doesn’t like it a bit. Sometimes she hides when it’s Saturday night, so that mother can’t find her till it’s too late.”
“Don’t you have a bath except on Saturday?” said Milly. “Olly and I have one every morning. Mother says we should get like shock-headed Peter if we didn’t.”
“I don’t know about him,” said Becky, shaking her head.
“He’s a little boy in a picture-book. I’ll show him you when you come to tea. But there’s mother calling. Come along, Olly. Tiza won’t come down Becky says.”
“She’s a very rude girl,” said Olly, who was rather hot and tired with his game, and didn’t think it was all fun that Tiza should always hit him and he should never be able to hit Tiza. “I won’t sit next her when she comes to tea with us.”
“Tiza’s only in fun,” said Becky, “she’s always like that. Tiza, are you coming down? I am going to get baby out, I heard him crying just now.”
“May you take baby out all by yourself?” asked Milly.
“Why, I always take him out, and I put him to sleep at nights; and mother says he won’t go to sleep for anybody as quick as for me,” said Becky proudly.
Milly felt a good deal puzzled. It _must_ be funny to have no Nana.
“Will you and he,” said Becky, pointing to Olly, “come up this afternoon and help us call the cows?”
“If we may,” said Milly; “who calls them?”
“Tiza and I,” answered Becky; “when I’m a big girl I shall learn how to milk, but fayther says I’m too little yet.”
“I wish I lived at a farm,” said Milly disconsolately.
Becky didn’t quite know what to say to this, so she began to call Tiza again.
“Swish!” went something past them as quick as lightning. It was Tiza running to the house. Olly set out to run after her as fast as he could run, but he came bang up against his mother standing at the farmhouse door, just as Tiza got safely in and was seen no more.
“Ah, you won’t catch Tiza, master,” said Mrs. Backhouse, patting his head; “she’s a rough girl, always at some tricks or other–we think she ought to have been a boy, really.”
“Mother, isn’t Becky very nice?” said Milly, as they walked away. “Her mother lets her do such a lot of things–nurse the baby, and call the cows, and make pinafores. Oh, I wish father was a farmer.”
“Well, it’s not a bad kind of life when the sun shines, and everything is going right,” said Mrs. Norton; “but I think you had better wait a little bit till the rain comes before you quite make up your mind about it, Milly.”
But Milly was quite sure she knew enough about it already to make up her mind, and all the way home she kept saying to herself, “If I could only turn into a little farmer’s girl! Why don’t people have fairy godmothers now like Cinderella?”
OUT ON THE HILLS
Milly and Olly, and the four little Westmoreland children, had a very pleasant tea together in the afternoon of the Nortons’s first day at Ravensnest. Bessie and Charlie certainly didn’t talk much; but Tiza, when once her mother had made her come, thought proper to get rid of a great deal of her shyness, and to chatter and romp so much that they quite fell in love with her, and could not be persuaded to go anywhere or do anything without her. Nurse would not let Milly and Olly go to call the cows, though she promised they should some other day; but she took the whole party down to the stepping-stones after tea, and great fun it was to see Becky and Tiza running over the stepping-stones, and jumping from one stone to another like little fawns. Milly and Olly wanted sorely to go too, but there was no persuading Nana to let them go without their father to fish them out if they tumbled in, so they had to content themselves with dangling their legs over the first stepping-stone and watching the others. But perhaps you don’t quite known what stepping-stones are? They are large high stones, with flat tops, which people put in, a little way apart from each other, right across a river, so that by stepping from one to the other you can cross to the opposite side. Of course they only do for little rivers, where the water isn’t very deep. And they don’t always do even there. Sometimes in the river Thora, where Milly and Olly’s stepping-stones were, when it rained very much, the water rose so high that it dashed right over the stepping-stones and nobody could go across. Milly and Olly saw the stepping-stones covered with water once or twice while they were at Ravensnest; but the first evening they saw them the river was very low, and the stones stood up high and dry out of the water. Milly thought that stepping-stones were much nicer than bridges, and that it was the most amusing and interesting way of getting across a river that she knew. But then Milly was inclined to think everything wonderful and interesting at Ravensnest–from the tall mountains that seemed to shut them in all around like a wall, down to the tiny gleaming wild strawberries, that were just beginning to show their little scarlet balls on the banks in the Ravensnest woods. Both she and Olly went to bed after their first day at Ravensnest with their little hearts full of happiness, and their little heads full of plans. To-morrow they were to go to Aunt Emma’s, and perhaps the day after that father would take them to bathe in the river, and nurse would let them go and help Becky and Tiza call the cows. Holidays _were_ nice; still geography lessons were nice too sometimes, thought Milly sleepily, just as she was slipping, slipping away into dreamland, and in her dreams her faithful little thoughts went back lovingly to Fraeulein’s kind old face, and to the capes and islands and seas she had been learning about a week ago.
[Illustration: “The flowers Milly gathered for her mother”]
The next morning Mr. and Mrs. Norton were busy indoors till about twelve o’clock; and the children wandered about the garden with nurse, finding out many new nooks and corners, especially a delightful steep path which led up and up into the woods, till at last it took the children to a little brown summer-house at the top, where they could sit and look over the trees below, away to the river and the hay-fields and the mountains. And between the stones and this path grew the prettiest wild strawberries, only, as Milly said, it was not much good looking for them yet, for there were so few red ones you could scarcely get enough to taste what they were like. But in a week or two, she and Olly planned that they would take up a basket with some green leaves in it, and gather a lot for father and mother–enough for regular dessert–and some wild raspberries too, for these also grew in the wood, to the great delight of the children, who had never seen any before. They began to feel presently as if it would be nothing very extraordinary to find trees covered with barley sugar or jam tarts in this wonderful wood. And as for the flowers Milly gathered for her mother, they were a sight to see–moon-daisies and meadow-sweet, wild roses and ragged-robins, and bright bits of rhododendrons. For both the woods and the garden at Ravensnest were full of rhododendrons of all colours, pink and red, and white and flame colour; and Milly and Olly amused themselves with making up bunches of different coloured flowers with as many different colours in them as they could find. There were no rhododendrons at Willingham; and the children thought them the loveliest, gayest things they had ever seen.
But at last twelve o’clock came. Nurse tidied the children, gave them some biscuits and milk, and then sent them to the drawing-room to find father and mother. Only Mrs. Norton was there, but she said there was no need to wait for father, as he was out already and would meet them on the way. They were to go straight over the mountain instead of walking round by the road, which would have taken much longer. So off they set–Olly skipping, and chattering as he always did; while Milly stuck close to her mother, telling her every now and then, when Olly left off talking, about their morning in the wood, the flowers they had gathered and the strawberries they had found. At the top of the garden was a little gate, and beside the gate stood Bessie and Charlie, who had really been watching for the children all the morning, though they didn’t dare to come into the garden without leave.
“Bessie, we are going to Aunt Emma’s,” said Milly, running up to them. “Where are you and Charlie going to?”
“Nawhere,” said Bessie, who, as usual, had her pinafore in her mouth, and never said more than one word at a time if she could help it.
“Nowhere! what do you do all the morning, Bessie?”
“I doan’t know,” said Bessie, gravely looking up at her; “sometimes I mind the baby.”
“Do you mind the baby, too? Dear, dear! And what does Charlie do?”
“Nawthing,” said Bessie again. “He only makes himself dirty.”
“Don’t you go to school ever?”
“No, but mother’s going to send us,” said Bessie, whose big eyes grew round and frightened at the idea, as if it was a dreadful prospect. “Are you going to be away for all day?”
“Yes; we shan’t be back till quite evening, mother says. Here she is. Good-bye, Bessie; good-bye, Charlie. Will you come and play with us to-morrow morning?”
Bessie nodded, but Charlie ran off without answering; for he saw Olly coming, and was afraid he might want to kiss him. On the other side of the gate they had to begin to climb up a steep bit of soft green grass; and very hard work it was. After quite a little way the children began to puff and pant like two little steam engines.
“It _is_ a little bit like going upstairs, don’t you think, Olly?” said Milly, sitting down by her mother on a flat bit of gray stone.
“No, it isn’t a bit like going upstairs,” said Olly, shaking his head; for Olly always liked contradicting Milly if he could. “It’s like–it’s like–walking up a house!”
Suddenly they heard far above them a shout of “Hullo!” Both the children started up and looked about them. It was like father’s voice, but they couldn’t see him anywhere.
“Where are you, father?”
“Hullo!” again. And this time it sounded much nearer to them. Where could it be? The children began to run about and look behind the bushes and the rocks, till all of a sudden, just as Milly got near a big rock, out jumped Mr. Norton from behind it with a great shout, and began to run after her. Away ran Milly and Olly as fast as their small feet could carry them, up and down, up and down, till at last there came a steep place–one of Milly’s feet tripped up, down she went, rolling over and over–down came Olly on the top of her, and the two of them rolled away together till they stopped at the bottom of the steep place, all mixed up in a heap of legs and arms and hats and pinafores.
“Here’s a boy and girl tied up in a knot,” said Mr. Norton, scrambling down after them and lifting them up. “There’s no harm done, is there?”
“I’ve got a bump on my arm,” said Milly, turning up her sleeve.
“And I’ve got a scratch on my nose,” said Olly, rubbing it.
“That’s not much for a nice tumble like that,” said Mr. Norton, “you wouldn’t mind another, would you, Milly?”
“Not a bit,” said Milly, merrily skipping along beside him. “Hide again, father.”
“Another day, not now, for we want to get to Aunt Emma’s. But tomorrow, if you like, we’ll come up here and have a capital game. Only we must choose a nice dry place where there are no bogs.”
“What are bogs?” asked Olly.
“Wet places, where your feet go sinking deeper and deeper into the mud, and you can’t find any stiff firm bit to stand on. Sometimes people sink down and down into a bog till the mud comes right over their head and face and chokes them; but we haven’t got any bogs as bad as that here. Now, children, step along in front. Very soon we shall get to the top of the mountain, and then we shall see wonderful things on the other side.”
So Milly and Olly ran on, pushing their way through the great tall fern, or scampering over the short green grass where the little mountain sheep were nibbling, and where a beautiful creeping moss grew all over the ground, which, mother told Milly, was called “Stags’ horn moss,” because its little green branches were so like stags’ horns.
“Now look, children,” shouted their father to them from behind. “Here we are at the top.”
And then, all of a sudden, instead of only the green mountain and the sheep, they could see far away on the other side of the mountain. There, all round them, were numbers of other mountains; and below, at their feet, were houses and trees and fields, while straight in front lay a great big blue lake stretching away ever so far, till it seemed to be lost in the sky.
“Look, look, mother!” cried Milly, clapping her hands, “there’s Windermere lake, the lake we saw when we were coming from the station. Look at that steamer, with all the people on board! What funny little black people. And oh, mother, look at that little boat over there! How can people go out in such a weeny boat as that?”
“It isn’t such a weeny boat, Milly. It only looks so small because it’s such a long way off. When father and I take you and Olly on the lake, we shall go in a boat just like that. And now, instead of looking so far away, look just down here below you, and tell me what you see.”
“Some chimneys, and some trees, and some smoke, ever so far down,” shouted the children. “Is it a house, mother?”
“That’s Aunt Emma’s house, the old house where I used to come and stay when I was a little girl, and when your dear great-grandfather and great-grandmother were alive. I used to think it the nicest place in the world.”
“Were you a very little girl, mother, and were you ever naughty?” asked Milly, slipping her little hand into her mother’s and beginning to feel rather tired with her long walk.
“I’m afraid I was very often naughty, Milly. I used to get into great rages and scream, till everybody was quite tired out. But Aunt Emma was very good to me, and took a great deal of pains to cure me of going into rages. Besides, it always did naughty children good to live in the same house with great-grandmamma, and so after a while I got better. Take care how you go, children, it’s very steep just here, and you might soon tumble over on your noses. Olly, take care! take care! where _are_ you going?”
Where, indeed, was Olly going? Just the moment before the little man had spied a lovely flower growing a little way off the path, in the middle of some bright yellow-green moss. And without thinking of anything but getting it, off he rushed. But oh! splish, splash, splish, down went Olly’s feet, up splashed the muddy water, and there was Olly stuck in a bog.
“Father, pull me out, pull me out!” cried the little boy in terror, as he felt his feet stuck fast. But almost before he could speak there was father close beside him, standing on a round little hump of dry grass which was sticking up out of the bog, and with one grip he got hold of Olly under his arm, and then jump! on to another little hump of grass, jump! on to another, and there they were safe on the path again.
“Oh, you black boy!” cried father and mother and Milly all together. Was there ever such a little object! All his nice clean holland frock was splashed with black mud; and what had happened to his stockings?
“I’ve got mud-stockings on,” shouted Olly, capering about, and pointing to his legs which were caked with mud up to his knees.
“You’re a nice respectable boy to take out to dinner,” said Mrs. Norton. “I think we’ll leave you on the mountain to have dinner with the sheep.”
“Oh no, father,” pleaded Milly, taking Olly fast by the hand. “We can wash him at Aunt Emma’s, you know.”
“Don’t go too close to him, Milly!” exclaimed Mrs. Norton, “or you’ll get as black as he is. We shall have to put him under the pump at Aunt Emma’s, that’s quite certain. But there’s nothing to wash him with here, so he must just go as he is for a bit. Now, Olly, run along and your feet will soon dry. Father’s going first, you go next, just where he goes, I’m coming after you, and Milly shall go last. Perhaps in that way we shall get you down safe.”
“Oh, but, mother, look at my flower,” said Olly, holding it up triumphantly. “Isn’t it a beauty?”
“Shall I tell you what it’s called, Olly? It’s called a butterwort, and it always grows in boggy places; I wouldn’t advise you to go after one again without asking father first.”
It was a very different thing going down the mountain from climbing up it. It seemed only a few minutes before they had got almost to the bottom, and there was a gate leading into a road, and a little village of white houses in front of them. They walked up the road a little way, and then father opened a big gate and let them into a beautiful garden full of rhododendrons like the Ravensnest garden. And who was this walking down the drive to meet them? Such a pretty little elderly lady, with gray hair and a white cap.
“Dear Aunt Emma!” said Mrs. Norton, running up to her and taking both her hands and kissing her.
“Well, Lucy,” said the little lady, holding her hands and looking at her (Lucy was Mrs. Norton’s Christian name), “it _is_ nice to see you all here. And there’s dear little Milly, I remember her. But where’s Olly? I’ve never seen that small creature, you know. Come, Olly, don’t be shy. Little boys are never shy with Aunt Emma.”
“Except when they tumble into bogs,” said Mr. Norton, laughing and pulling Olly forward, who was trying to hide his mud-stockings behind his mother. “There’s a clean tidy boy to bring to dinner, isn’t he, Aunt Emma? I think I’ll take him to the yard and pump on him a little before we bring him in.”
Aunt Emma put up her spectacles to look at Olly.
“Why, Olly, I think Mother Quiverquake has been catching hold of you. Don’t you know about old Mother Quiverquake, who lives in the bogs? Oh, I can tell you splendid stories about her some day. But now catch hold of my hand, and keep your little legs away from my dress, and we’ll soon make a proper boy of you again.”
And then Aunt Emma took one of Milly’s hands and one of Olly’s, and up they went to the house. But I must start another chapter before I begin to tell you what the children saw in Aunt Emma’s house, and of the happy time they spent there.
AUNT EMMA’S PICNIC
Instead of taking them straight into the house, however, Aunt Emma took the children up a little shady path which very soon brought them to a white cottage covered with honeysuckle and climbing roses.
“This is where my coachman’s wife lives,” said Aunt Emma, “and she owns a small boy who might perhaps find you a pair of stockings, Olly, to put on while your own are washed.”
Olly opened his brown eyes very wide at the idea of wearing some other little boy’s stockings, but he said nothing.
Aunt Emma tapped at the door, and out came a stout kind-looking woman.
“Mrs. Tyson, do you think your Johnny could lend my little nephew a pair of his stockings while we get his own washed? Master Olly has been tumbling into a bog by way of making friends with the mountains, and I don’t quite know how I am to let those legs into my dining-room.”
“Dear me, ma’am, but Johnny’ll be proud if he’s got any clean, but I’ll not answer for it. Won’t ye come in?”
In they walked, and there was a nice tidy kitchen, with a wooden cradle in the corner, and a little fair-haired boy sitting by it and rocking the baby. This was Johnny, and Olly looked at him with great curiosity. “I’ve got bigger legs than Johnny,” he whispered solemnly at last to Aunt Emma, while they were waiting for Mrs. Tyson, who had gone upstairs to fetch the stockings.
“Perhaps you eat more bread and milk than Johnny does,” said Aunt Emma, very solemnly too, “However, most likely Johnny’s stockings will stretch. How’s the baby, Johnny?”
“She’s a great deal better, ma’am,” said the little boy, smiling at her. Milly and Olly made him feel shy, but he loved Aunt Emma.
“Have you been taking care of her all the morning for mother?”
“Yes, ma’am, and she’s never cried but once,” said Johnny proudly.
“Well done! Ah! there comes Mrs. Tyson. Now, Olly, sit up on that chair, and we’ll see to you.”
Off came the dirty stockings, and Mrs. Tyson slipped on a pair of woolen socks that tickled Olly very much. They were very thick, and not a bit like his own stockings; and when he got up again he kept turning round and round to look at his legs, as if he couldn’t make them out.
“Do they feel funny to you?” said Mrs. Tyson, patting his shoulder. “Never you mind, little master; I know they’re nice and warm, for I knitted them myself.”
“Mother buys our stockings in the shop,” said Olly, when they got outside again; “why doesn’t Mrs. Tyson?”
“Perhaps we haven’t so many shops, or such nice ones here, Olly, as you have at Willingham; and the people here have always been used to do a great many things for themselves. Some of them live in such lonely places among the mountains that it is very difficult for them to get to any shops. Not very long ago the mothers used to make all the stuffs for their own dresses and their children’s. What would you say, Milly, if mother had to weave the stuff for it every time you had a new dress?”
“Mother wouldn’t give me a great many new dresses,” said Milly, gravely, shaking her head. “I like shops best, Aunt Emma.”
“Well, I suppose it’s best to like what we’ve got,” said Aunt Emma, laughing.
Indoors, Olly’s muddy stockings were given to Aunt Emma’s maid, who promised to have them washed and dried by the time they had to go home, and then, when Mrs. Norton had covered up the black spots on his frock with a clean pinafore she had brought with her, Olly looked quite respectable again.
The children thought they had never seen quite such a nice house as Aunt Emma’s. First of all it had a large hall, with all kinds of corners in it, just made for playing hide-and-seek in; and the drawing-room was full of the most delightful things. There were stuffed birds in cases, and little ivory chessmen riding upon ivory elephants. There were picture-books, and there were mysterious drawers full of cards and puzzles, and glass marbles and old-fashioned toys, that the children’s mother and aunts and uncles, and their great-aunts and uncles before that, had loved and played with years and years ago. On the wall hung a great many pictures, some of them of funny little stiff boys in blue coats with brass buttons, and some of them of little girls with mob-caps and mittens, and these little boys and girls were all either dead now, or elderly men and women, for they were the great-aunts and uncles; and over the mantelpiece hung a picture of a lovely old lady, with bright, soft brown hair and smiling eyes and lips, that looked as if they were just going to speak to the two strange little children who had come for their first visit to their mother’s old home. Milly knew quite well that it was a picture of great-grandmamma. She had seen others like it before, only not so large as this one, and she looked at it quietly, with her grave blue eyes, while Olly was eagerly wandering round the room, spying into everything, and longing to touch this, that, and the other, if only mother would let go his hand.
“You know who that is, don’t you, little woman?” said Aunt Emma, taking her up on her knee.
“Yes,” said Milly, nodding, “it’s great-grandmamma. I wish we could have seen her.”
“I wish you could, Milly. She would have smiled at you as she is smiling in the picture and you would have been sure to have loved her; all little children did. I can remember seeing your mother, Milly, when she was about as old as you, cuddled up in a corner of that sofa over there, in ‘grandmamma’s pocket,’ as she used to call it, listening with all her ears to great-grandmamma’s stories. There was one story called ‘Leonora’ that went on for years and years, till all the little children in it–and the little children who listened to it–were almost grown up; and then great-grandmamma always carried about with her a wonderful blue-silk bag full of treasures, which we used to be allowed to turn out whenever any of us had been quite good at our lessons for a whole week.”
“Mother has a bag like that,” said Milly; “it has lots of little toys in it that father had when he was a little boy. She lets us look at it on our birthdays. Can you tell stories, Aunt Emma?”
“Tell us about old Mother Quiverquake,” cried Olly, running up and climbing on his aunt’s knee.
“Oh dear, no!” said Aunt Emma; “it’s much too fine to-day for stories–indoors, at any rate. Wait till we get a real wet day, and then we’ll see. After dinner to-day, what do you think we’re going to do? Suppose we have a row on the lake to get water-lilies, and suppose we take a kettle and make ourselves some tea on the other side of the lake. What would you say to that, Master Olly?”
The children began to dance about with delight at the idea of a row and a picnic both together, when suddenly there was a knock at the door, and when Aunt Emma said, “Come in!” what do you think appeared? Why, a great green cage, carried by a servant, and in it a gray parrot, swinging about from side to side, and cocking his head wickedly, first over one shoulder and then over the other.
“Now, children,” said Aunt Emma, while the children stood quite still with surprise, “let me introduce you to my old friend, Mr. Poll Parrot. Perhaps you thought I lived all alone in this big house. Not at all. Here is somebody who talks to me when I talk to him, who sings and chatters and whistles and cheers me up wonderfully in the winter evenings, when the rains come and make me feel dull. Put him down here, Margaret,” said Aunt Emma to the maid, clearing a small table for the cage. “Now, Olly, what do you think of my parrot?”
“Can it talk?” asked Olly, looking at it with very wide open eyes.
“It _can_ talk; whether it _will_ talk is quite another thing. Parrots are contradictious birds. I feel very often as if I should like to beat Polly, he’s so provoking. Now, Polly, how are you to-day?”
“Polly’s got a bad cold; fetch the doc–” said the bird at once, in such a funny cracked voice, that it made Olly jump as if he had heard one of the witches in Grimm’s “Fairy Tales” talking.
“Come, Polly, that’s very well behaved of you; but you mustn’t leave off in the middle, begin again. Olly, if you don’t keep your fingers out of the way Polly will snap them up for his dinner. Parrots like fingers very much.” Olly put his hands behind his back in a great hurry, and mother came to stand behind him to keep him quiet. By this time, however, Polly had begun to find out that there were some new people in the room he didn’t know, and for a long time Aunt Emma could not make him talk at all. He would do nothing but put his head first on one side and then on the other and make angry clicks with his beak.
“Come, Polly,” said Aunt Emma, “what a cross parrot you are. One–two–three–four. Now, Polly, count.”
“Polly’s got a bad cold, fetch the doc–” said Polly again while Aunt Emma was speaking. “One–two–six–seven–eight–nine–two–_Quick_ march!”
And then Polly began to lift first one claw and then the other as if he were marching, while the children shouted with laughter at his ridiculous ways and his gruff cracked voice.
Then Aunt Emma went behind him and rapped gently on the table. The parrot stopped marching, stuck his head on one side and listened. Aunt Emma rapped again.
“Come in!” said the parrot suddenly, quite softly, as if he had turned into quite another person. “Hush–sh–sh, cat’s got a mouse!”
“Well, Polly,” said Aunt Emma, “I suppose she may have a mouse if she likes. Is that all you’ve got to tell us? Polly, where’s gardener?”
“Get away! get away!” screamed Polly, while all his feathers began to stand up straight, and his eyes looked fierce and red like two little live coals.
“That always makes him cross,” said Aunt Emma; “he can’t bear gardener. Come, Polly, don’t get in such a temper.”
“Oh, isn’t he like the witches on the broom-sticks in our fairy-book, Olly?” cried Milly. “Don’t you think, Aunt Emma, he must have been changed into something? Perhaps he was a wicked witch once, or a magician, you know, and the fairies changed him into a parrot.”
“Well, Milly, I can’t say. He was a parrot when I had him first, twelve years ago. That’s all I know about it. But I believe he’s very old. Some people say he’s older than I am–think of that! So you see he’s had time to be a good many things. Well, Polly, good-night. You’re not a nice bird to-night at all. Take him away, Margaret.”
“Jane! Jane!” screamed Polly, as the maid lifted up the cage again. “Make haste, Jane! cat’s in the larder!”
“Oh, you bad Polly,” said Aunt Emma, “you’re always telling tales. Jane’s my cook, Milly, and Polly doesn’t like cats, so you see he tries to make Jane believe that our old cat steals the meat out of the larder. Good-bye, Polly, good-bye. You’re an ill-natured old bird, but I’m very fond of you all the same.”
“Do get us a parrot, mother!” said Olly, jumping about round his mother, when Polly was gone.
“How many more things will you want before you get home, Olly, do you think?” asked his mother, kissing him. “Perhaps you’ll want to take home a few mountains, and two or three little rivers, and a bog or two, and a few sheep–eh, young man?”
By this time dinner was ready, and there was the dinner-bell ringing. Up ran the children to Aunt Emma’s room to get their hands washed and their hair brushed, and presently there were two tidy little folks sitting on either side of Aunt Emma’s chair, and thinking to themselves that they had never felt quite so hungry before. But hungry as Milly was she didn’t forget to look out of the window before she began her dinner, and it was worth while looking out of the window in Aunt Emma’s dining-room.
Before the windows was a green lawn, like the lawn at Ravensnest, only this lawn went sloping away, away till there was just a little rim of white beach, and then beyond came the wide, dancing blue lake, that the children had seen from the top of the mountain. Here it was close to them, so close that Milly could hear the little waves plashing, through the open window.
“Milly,” whispered Aunt Emma when they were all waiting for pudding, “do you see that little house down there by the water’s edge? That’s where the boat lives–we call it a boathouse. Do you think you’ll be frightened of the water, little woman?”
“No, I don’t think so,” said Milly, shaking her little wise head gravely. “I am frightened sometimes, very. Mother calls me a little goose because I run away from Jenny sometimes–that’s our cow at home, Aunt Emma, but then she’s got such long horns, and I can’t help feeling afraid.”
“Well, the lake hasn’t got horns, Milly,” said Aunt Emma, laughing, “so perhaps you will manage not to be afraid of it.”
How kind and nice Aunt Emma looked as she sat between the children, with her pretty soft gray hair, and her white cap and large white collar. Mrs. Norton could not help thinking of the times when she was a little girl, and used always to insist on sitting by Aunt Emma at dinner-time. That was before Aunt Emma’s hair had turned gray. And now here were her own little children sitting where she used to sit at their age, and stealing their small hands into Aunt Emma’s lap as she used to do so long ago.
After dinner the children had to sit quiet in the drawing-room for a time, while Aunt Emma and father and mother talked; but they had picture-books to look at, and Aunt Emma gave them leave to turn out everything in one of the toy-drawers, and that kept them busy and happy for a long time. But at last, just when Olly was beginning to get tired of the drawer, Aunt Emma called to them from the other end of the room to come with her into the kitchen for a minute. Up jumped the children and ran after their aunt across the hall into the kitchen.
“Now, children,” said Aunt Emma, pointing to a big basket on the kitchen table, “suppose you help me to pack up our tea-things. Olly, you go and fetch the spoons, and, Milly, bring the plates one by one.”
The tea things were all piled up on the kitchen table, and the children brought them one after another to Aunt Emma to pack them carefully into the big basket.
“Ain’t I a useful boy, Aunt Emma?” asked Olly proudly, coming up laden with a big table-cloth which he could scarcely carry.
“Very useful, Olly, though our table-cloth won’t look over tidy at tea if you crumple it up like that. Now, Milly, bring me that tray of bread and the little bundle of salt; and, Olly, bring me that bit of butter over there, done up in the green leaves, but mind you carry it carefully. Now for some knives too; and there are the cups and saucers, Milly, look, in that corner; and there is the cake all ready cut up, and there is the bread and butter. Now have we got everything? Everything, I think, but the kettle, and some wood and some matches, and these must go in another basket.”
“Aunt Emma,” said Milly, creeping up close to her, “were you ever a fairy godmother?”
“Not that I know of, Milly. Would you like me better if I had a wand and a pair of pet dragons, like old Fairy Blackstick?”
“No,” said Milly, stroking her aunt’s hand, “but you do such nice things, just like fairy godmothers do.”
“Do I, little woman? Aunt Emma likes doing nice things for good children. But now come along, it’s quite time we were off. Let us go and fetch father and mother. Gardener will bring the baskets.”
Such a merry party they were, trooping down to the boathouse. There lay the boat; a pretty new boat, painted dark blue, with a little red flag floating at her bows, and her name, “Ariel,” written in large white letters on the stern. And all around the boathouse stretched the beautiful blue water, so clear and sunny and sparkling that it dazzled Milly’s eyes to look at it. She and Olly were lifted into the boat beside Aunt Emma and mother, father sat in the middle and took the oars, while gardener put the baskets into the stern, and then, untying the rope which kept the boat tied into the boathouse, he gave it a good push with one hand and off she went out into the blue lake, rising up and down on the water like a swan.
“Oh! mother, mother, look up there,” shouted Olly, “there’s the mountain. Isn’t that where we climbed up this morning?”
Yes, there it was, the beautiful green rocky mountain, rising up above Aunt Emma’s house. They could see it all so clearly as they got farther out into the lake; first the blue sky, then the mountain with the little white dots on it, which Milly knew were sheep; then some trees, and in front, Aunt Emma’s house with the lawn and the boathouse. And as they looked all round them they could see far bigger and grander mountains than Brownholme, some near and green like Brownholme, and some far away and blue like the sky, while down by the edge of the lake were hayfields full of flowers, or bits of rock with trees growing on the top of them. The children hardly knew what it was made them so quiet; but I think it was because everything was so beautiful. They were really in the hill-fairies’ palace now.