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Back To Billabong by Mary Grant Bruce

Part 2 out of 5

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"Poor soul!" he thought. "She's had her gruel, evidently. Now I
suppose I'll get mine."

A bell whirred sharply. The alert office-boy sprang to the
summons, returning immediately.

"Mr. M'Clinton can see you now, sir."

Bob followed him through the oaken door, and along a narrow passage
to a room where a spare, grizzled man sat at a huge roll-top desk.
He rose as the boy shut the door behind his visitor.

"Well, Captain Rainham. How do you do?"

Bob gripped the lean hand offered him--it felt like a claw in his
great palm. Then he sat down and looked uncomfortably at the

"I had thought to have seen you here before, Captain."

"I suppose I should have shown up," said Bob--concealing the fact
that the idea had never occurred to him. "But I've been very busy
since I've been back to England."

"And what brings you now?"

"I'm all but demobilized," Bob told him, "and I'm trying to get

"What--in this office?"

"Heavens, no!" ejaculated Bob, and at once turned a fine red.
"That is--I beg your pardon, sir; but I'm afraid I'm not cut out
for an office. I want to get something to do in the country, where
I can support my sister."

"Your sister? But does not your father support her? She is an
inmate of his house, is she not?"

"Very much so," said Bob bitterly. "She's governess, and lady-
help, and a good many other things. You couldn't call it a home.
Besides, we have always been together. I want to take her away."

"And what does your father say?"

"He says she mustn't go. At least, that's what my stepmother says,
so my father will certainly say it too."

"Your sister is under age, I think?"

"She's just nineteen--I'm over twenty-two. Can my father prevent
her going with me, sir?"

"Mph," said the lawyer, pondering. "Do I gather that the young
lady is unhappy?"

"If she isn't, it's because she has pluck enough for six people,
and because she always hopes to get away."

"And do you consider that you could support her?"

"I don't know," said Bob unhappily. "I would certainly have
thought I could, but there seems mighty little chance for a fellow
whose only qualification is that he's been fighting Huns for nearly
five years. I've answered advertisements and interviewed people
until my brain reels; but there's nothing in it, and I can't leave
Tommy there."

"Tommy?" queried the lawyer blankly.

Bob laughed.

"My sister, I mean, sir. Her name's Cecilia, but, of course, we've
never called her that. Even Aunt Margaret called her Tommy."

Mr. M'Clinton made no reply. He thought deeply for a few moments.
Then he looked up, and there was a glint of kindness in his hard
grey eyes.

"I think you had better tell me all about it, Captain Rainham.
Would it assist you to smoke?"

"Thanks awfully, sir," said Bob, accepting the proffered cigarette.
He plunged into his story; and if at times it was a trifle
incoherent, principally from honest wrath, yet on the whole
Cecilia's case lost nothing in the telling. The lawyer nodded from
time to time, comprehendingly.

"Aye," he said at last, when Bob paused. "Just so, just so. And
why did you come to me, Captain?"

"I want your advice, sir," Bob answered. "And I should like to
know something about my aunt's property--if I can hope for any help
from that source. I should have more chance of success if I had a
little capital to start with. But I understand that most of it was
lost. My father seemed very disappointed over the small amount she
left." He hesitated. "But apart from money, I should like to know
if I am within the law in taking my sister away."

Mr. M'Clinton thought deeply before replying.

"I had better speak frankly to you, Captain Rainham," he said.
"Your aunt, as you probably know, did not like your father. I am
not sure that she actually distrusted him. But she considered him
weak and indolent, and she recognized that he was completely under
the thumb of his second wife. Your late aunt, my old friend, had
an abhorrence for that lady that was quaint, considering that she
had scarcely ever seen her." He permitted himself the ghost of a
smile. "She was deeply afraid of any of her property coming under
the control of your father--and through him, of his wife. And so
she tied up her money very carefully. She left direct to you and
your sister certain assets. The rest of her property she left, in
trust, to me."

"To you, sir?"

"Aye. Very carefully tied up, too," said Mr. M'Clinton, with a
twinkle. "I can't make ducks and drakes of it, no matter how much
I may wish to. It is tied up until your sister comes of age. Then
my trust ceases."

"By Jove!" Bob stared at him. "Then--do we get something?"

"Certainly. Unfortunately, many of your aunt's investments were
very hard hit through the war. Certain stocks which paid large
dividends ceased to pay altogether; others fell to very little.
The sum left to you and your sister for immediate use should have
been very much larger, but all that is left of it is the small
allowance paid to you both. I imagine that a smart young officer
like yourself found it scarcely sufficient for tobacco."

"I've saved it all," said Bob simply. "A bit more, too."

"Saved it!" said the lawyer in blank amazement. "Do you tell me,
now? You lived on your pay?"

"Flying pay's pretty good," said Bob. "And there was always Tommy
to think of, you know, sir. I had to put something away for her,
in case I crashed."

"Dear me," said Mr. M'Clinton. "Your aunt had great confidence in
you as a boy, and it seems she was justified. I'm very glad to
hear this, Captain, for it enables me to do with a clear conscience
something which I have the power to do. There is a discretionary
clause in your aunt's will, which gives me power to realize a
certain sum of money, should you need it. I could hand you over
about three thousand pounds."

"Three thousand!" Bob stared at him blankly.

"Aye. And I see no reason why I should not do it--provided I am
satisfied as to the use you will make of it. As a matter of form I
should like a letter from your commanding officer, testifying to
your general character."

"That's easy enough," said Bob. "But--three thousand! My hat,
what a difference it will make to Tommy and me! Poor old Aunt
Margaret--I might have known she'd look after us."

"She loved you very dearly. And now, Captain, about your sister."

"She's the big thing," said Bob. "Can I kidnap her?"

"It's rather difficult to say just how your father might act. Left
to himself, I do not believe he would do anything. But urged by
your stepmother, he might make trouble. And the good lady is more
likely to make trouble if she suspects that there is any money
coming to your sister."

"That's very certain," Bob remarked. "I wish to goodness I could
get her right out of England, sir. How about Canada?"

The lawyer pondered.

"Do you know any one there?"

"Not a soul. But I suppose one could get introductions. And one
can always get Government expert advice there, I believe, to
prevent one chucking away one's money foolishly."

Mr. M'Clinton nodded approvingly.

"I don't know, but you might do worse," he said. "I believe in
these new countries for young people; the old ones are getting
overcrowded and worn out. And your relations are likely to give
trouble if you are within their reach. A terrible woman, that
stepmother of yours; a terrible woman. She came to see me with
your father; he said nothing, but she talked like a mill-race.
Miss Tommy has my full sympathy. A brawling woman in a wide house,
as the Scripture says. I reproach myself, Captain, that I did not
inquire personally into Miss Tommy's well-being. She told you
nothing of her trials, you say, during the war?"

"Not a word. Wrote as if life were a howling joke always. I only
found out for myself by accident a few months ago."

"A brave lassie. Well, I'll do what I can to help you, Captain.
I'll keep a lookout for a likely land investment for your money,
and endeavour to prepare a good legal statement to frighten Mrs.
Rainham if she objects to your taking your sister away. Much may
be done by bluffing, especially if you do it very solemnly and
quietly. So keep a good heart, and come and see me next time
you're in London. Miss Tommy will be in any day, I presume, after
the telegram you told me about?"

"Sure to be," said Bob. "She'll be anxious for her letters. I'm
leaving one for her, if you don't mind, and I'll write to her again
to-night." He got up, holding out his hand. "Good-bye--and I
don't know how to thank you, sir."

"Bless the boy--you've nothing to thank me for," said the lawyer.
"Just send me that letter from your commanding officer, and
remember that there's no wild hurry about plans--Miss Tommy can
stand for a few weeks longer what she has borne for two years."

"I suppose she can--but I don't want her to," Bob said.

The brisk office-boy showed him out, and he marched down the grey
streets near Lincoln's Inn with his chin well up. Life had taken a
sudden and magical turn for the better. Three thousand pounds!--
surely that meant no roughing it for Tommy, but a comfortable home
and a chance of success in life. It seemed a sum of enormous
possibilities. Everything was very vague still, but at least the
money was certain--it seemed like fairy gold. He felt a sudden
desire to get away somewhere, with Tommy, away from crowded England
to a country where a man could breathe; his heart rejoiced at the
idea, just as he had often exulted when his aeroplane had lifted
him away from the crowded, buzzing camp, into the wide, free places
of the air. Canada called to him temptingly. His brain was
seething with plans to go there when, waiting for a chance to cross
a crowded thoroughfare, he heard his own name.

"Asleep, Rainham?"

Bob looked up with a start. General Harran, the Australian, was
beside him, also waiting for a break in the crawling string of
motor-buses and taxi-cabs. He was smiling under his close-clipped

"I beg your pardon, sir," stammered the boy, coming to the salute
stiffly. "I was in a brown study, I believe."

"You looked it. I spoke to you twice before you heard me. What is
it?--demobilization problems?"

"Just that, sir," said Bob, grinning. "Most of us have got them, I
suppose--fellows of my age, anyhow. It's a bit difficult to come
down to earth again, after years spent in the air."

"Very difficult," Harran agreed gravely. He glanced down with
interest at the alert face and square-built figure of the boy
beside him. There were so many of them, these boys who had played
with Death for years. They have saved their country from horror
and ruin, and now it seemed very doubtful if their country wanted
them. They were in every town in England, looking for work; their
pitiful, plucky advertisements greeted the eye in every newspaper.
The problem of their future interested General Harran keenly. He
liked his boys; their freshness and pluck and unspoiled enthusiasm
had been a tonic to him during the long years of war. Now it hurt
him that they should be looking for the right to live.

"I'm just going to lunch, Rainham," he said. "Would you care to
come with me?"

Bob lifted a quaintly astonished face.

"Thanks, awfully, sir," he stammered.

"Then jump on this 'bus, and we'll go to my club," said the
General, swinging his lean, athletic body up the stairs of a
passing motor-'bus as he spoke. Bob followed, and they sped,
rocking, through the packed traffic until the General, who had sat
in silence, jumped up, threaded his way downstairs, and dropped to
the ground again from the footboard of the hurrying 'bus--with a
brief shake of the head to the conductor, who was prepared to check
the speed of his craft to accommodate a passenger with such
distinguished badges of rank. Bob was on the ground almost as
quickly, and they turned out of the crowded street into a quieter
one that presently led them into a silent square, where dignified
grey houses looked out upon green trees, and the only traffic was
that of gliding motors. General Harran led the way into one of the
grey houses, up the steps of which officers were constantly coming
and going. A grizzled porter in uniform, with the Crimean medal on
his tunic, swung the door open and came smartly to attention as
they passed through. The General greeted him kindly.

"How are you, O'Shea? The rheumatism better?"

"It is, sir, thank you." They passed on, through a great hall
lined with oil-paintings of famous soldiers, and trophies of big
game from all over the world; for this was a Service club, bearing
a proud record of soldier and sailor members for a hundred years.
Presently they were in the dining-room, already crowded. The
waiter found them a little table in a quiet corner.

There was a sprinkling of men whom Bob already knew; he caught
several friendly nods of recognition us he glanced round. Then
General Harran pointed out others to him--Generals, whose names
were household words in England--a notable Admiral, and a Captain
with the V.C. ribbon--earned at Zeebrugge. He seemed to know every
one, and once or twice he left his seat to speak to a friend--
during which absence Bob's friends shot him amazed glances, with
eyebrows raised in astonishment that he should be lunching with a
real Major-General. Bob was somewhat tongue-tied with bewilderment
over the fact himself. But when their cold beef came, General
Harran soon put him at his ease, leading him to talk of himself and
his plans with quiet tact. Before Bob fairly realized it he had
unfolded all his little story--even to Tommy and her hardships.
The General listened with interest.

"And was it Tommy I saw you with on Saturday?"

"Yes, sir. She was awfully interested because it was you," blurted
Bob. "You see, she and I have always been pals. I'm jolly keen to
get some place to take her to."

"And you think of Canada. Why?"

"Well--I really don't know, except that it would be out of reach of
England and unpleasantness," Bob answered. "And my money would go
a lot further there than here, wouldn't it, sir? Three thousand
won't buy much of a place in England--not to make one's living by,
I mean."

"That's true. I advise every youngster to get out to one of the
new countries, and, of course, a man with a little capital has a
far greater chance. But why Canada? Why not Australia?"

"There's no reason why not," said Bob laughing. "Only it seems
further away. I don't know more of one country than the other--
except the sort of vague idea we all have that Canada is all cold
and Australia all heat!"

General Harran laughed.

"Yes--the average Englishman's ideas about the new countries are
pretty sketchy," he said. "People always talk to me about the
fearfully hot climate of Australia, and seem mildly surprised if I
remark that we have about a dozen different climates, and that we
have snow and ice, and very decent winter sports, in Victoria. I
don't think they believe me, either. But seriously, Rainham, if
you have no more leaning towards one country than the other, why
not think of Australia? I could help you there, if you like."

"You, sir!" Bob stammered.

"Well, I can pull strings. I dare say I could manage a passage out
for you and your sister--you see, you were serving with the
Australians, and you're both desirable immigrants--young and
energetic people with a little capital. That would be all right, I
think, especially now that the first rush is over. And I could
give you plenty of introductions in Australia to the right sort of
people. You ought to see something of the country, and what the
life and work are, before investing your money. It would be easy
enough to get you on to a station or big farm--you to learn the
business, and your sister to teach or help in the house. She
wouldn't mind that for about a year, with nice people, would she?"

"Not she!" said Bob. "It was her own idea, in fact; only I didn't
want to let her work. But I can see that it might be best. Only I
don't know how to thank you, sir--I never imagined--"

General Harran cut him short.

"Don't worry about that. If I can help you, or any of the flying
boys, out of a difficulty, and at the same time get the right type
of settlers for Australia--she needs them badly--then I'm doing a
double-barrelled job that I like. But see here--do I understand
that what you really want to do is to take your sister without
giving your father warning? To kidnap her, in short?"

"I don't see anything else to do, sir. I spoke to him a while ago
about taking her away, and he only hummed and hawed and said he'd
consult Mrs. Rainham. And my stepmother will never let her go as
long as she can keep her as a drudge. We owe them nothing--he's
never been a father to us, and as for my stepmother--well, she
should owe Tommy for two years' hard work. But honestly, to all
intents and purposes, they are strangers to us--it seems absolutely
ridiculous that we should be controlled by them."

"You say your aunt's family lawyer approves?"

"Yes, or he wouldn't let me have the money. I could get him to see
you, sir, if you like; though I don't see why you should be
bothered about us," said Bob flushing.

"Give me his address--I'll look in on him next time I'm in
Lincoln's Inn," said the General. "Your own, too. Now, if I get
you and your sister passages on a troopship, can you start at short
notice--say forty-eight hours?"

Bob gasped, but recovered himself. After all, his training in the
air had taught him to make swift decisions.

"Any time after the fifteenth, sir. I'll be demobilized then, and
a free agent. I'll get my kit beforehand."

"Don't get much," counselled the General. "You can travel in
uniform--take flannels for the tropics; everything you need in
Australia you can get just as well, or better, out there. Most
fellows who go out take tons of unnecessary stuff. Come into the
smoking-room and give me a few more details."

They came out upon the steps of the club a little later. Bob's
head was whirling. He tried to stammer out more thanks and was cut
short, kindly but decisively.

"That's all right, my boy. I'll send you letters of introduction
to various people who will help you, and a bit of advice about
where to go when you land. Tell your sister not to be nervous--she
isn't going to a wild country, and the people there are much the
same as anywhere else. Now, good-bye, and good luck"; and Bob
found himself walking across the Square in a kind of solemn

"This morning I was thinking of getting taken on as a farm hand in
Devonshire, with Tommy somewhere handy in a labourer's cottage," he
pondered. "And now I'm a bloated capitalist, and Tommy and I are
going across the world to Australia as calmly as if we were off to
Margate for the day! Well, I suppose it's only a dream, and I'll
wake up soon. I guess I'd better go back and tell Mr. M'Clinton;
and I've got to see Tommy somehow." He bent his brows over the
problem as he turned towards Lincoln's Inn.



"Are you there, miss?"

The sepulchral whisper came faintly to Cecilia's ears as she sat in
her little room, sewing a frock of Queenie's. The children were
out in the garden at the back of the house. Mrs. Rainham was
practising in the drawing-room. The sound of a high trill floated
upwards as she opened the door.

"What is it, Eliza?"

"It's a letter, miss. A kid brought it to the kitchen door--a bit
of a boy. Arsked for me as if 'e'd known me all 'is life--called
me Elizer! 'E's waitin' for an answer. I'll wait in me room,
miss, till you calls me." The little Cockney girl slipped away,
revelling in furthering any scheme to defeat Mrs. Rainham and help

Cecilia opened the letter hurriedly. It contained only one line.

"Can you come at once to Lincoln's Inn? Important.--BOB."

Cecilia knitted her brows. It was nearly a month since the
memorable evening when she and Bob had revolted; and though she was
still made to feel herself in disgrace, and she knew her letters
were watched, the close spying upon her movements had somewhat
relaxed. It had been too uncomfortable for Mrs. Rainham to keep it
up, since it made heavy demands upon her own time, and interfered
with too many plans; moreover, in spite of it, Cecilia had slipped
away from the house two or three times, going and coming openly,
and replying to any questions by the simple answer that she had
been to meet Bob. Angry outbreaks on the part of her stepmother
she received in utter silence, against which the waves of Mrs.
Rainham's wrath spent themselves in vain.

Indeed, the girl lived in a kind of waking dream of happy
anticipation, beside which none of the trials of life in Lancaster
Gate had power to trouble her. For on her first stolen visit to
Mr. M'Clinton's office the wonderful plan of flight to Australia
had been revealed to her, and the joy of the prospect blotted out
everything else. Mr. M'Clinton, watching her face, had been amazed
by the wave of delight that had swept over it.

"You like it, then?" he had said. "You are not afraid to go so

"Afraid--with Bob? Oh, the farther I can get from England the
better," she had answered. "I have no friends here; nothing to
leave, except the memory of two bad years. And out there I should
feel safe--she could not get a policeman to bring me back." There
was no need to ask who "she" was.

Cecilia had made her preparations secretly. She had not much to
do--Aunt Margaret had always kept her well dressed, and the simple
and pretty things she had worn two years before, and which had
never been unpacked since she put on mourning for her aunt, still
fitted her, and were perfectly good. It had never seemed worth
while to leave off wearing mourning in Lancaster Gate--only when
Bob had come home had she unpacked some of her old wardrobe. Much
was packed still, and in store under Mr. M'Clinton's direction,
together with many of Aunt Margaret's personal possessions. It was
as well that it was so, since Mrs. Rainham had managed to annex a
proportion of Cecilia's things for Avice. To Lancaster Gate she
had only taken a couple of trunks, not dreaming of staying there
more than a short time. So packing and flitting would be easy,
given ordinary luck and the certain co-operation of Eliza. Her few
necessary purchases had been made on one of her hurried excursions
with Bob; she had not dared to have the things sent home, and they
had been consigned in a tin uniform case to Bob's care.

She pondered over his note now, knitting her brows. It would be
easy enough to act defiantly and go at once; but if this meant that
the final flight were near at hand she did not wish to excite anew
her stepmother's anger and suspicion. Then, as she hesitated, she
heard a heavy step on the stairs, and she crushed the note
hurriedly into her pocket.

Mrs. Rainham came into the room without the formality of knocking--
a formality she had never observed where Cecilia was concerned.
The afternoon post had just come, and she carried some letters in
her hand.

"Cecilia, I want you to put on your things and go to Balding's for
me," she said, her voice more civil than it had been for a month.
"I'm asked up to Liverpool for a few days; my sister there is
giving a big At Home--an awfully big thing, with the Lady Mayoress
and all the Best People at it--and she wants me to go up. I
suppose she'll want me to sing."

"That is nice," said Cecilia, speaking with more truth than Mrs.
Rainham guessed. "What will you wear?"

"That's just it," said her stepmother eagerly. "My new evening
dress isn't quite finished--we ran short of trimming. I can't go
out, because the Simons are coming in to afternoon tea; so you just
hurry and go over to Balding's to match it. I got it there, and
they had plenty. Here's a bit." She held out a fragment of gaudy
sequin trimming. "I think you could finish the dress without me
getting in the dressmaker again--she's that run after she makes a
regular favour of coming."

"Very well," said Cecilia--who would, at the moment, have agreed to
sew anything or everything that might hasten her stepmother's
journey. "When do you go?"

"The day after to-morrow. I'll stay there a few days, I suppose;
not worth going so far for only one evening. Mind, Cecilia, you're
not to have Bob here while I'm away. When I come back, if I'm
satisfied with you, I'll see about asking him again."

"That is very good of you," said the girl slowly.

"Well, that's all right--you hurry and get ready; there's always a
chance they may have sold out, because it was a bargain line, and
if they have you'll have to try other places. I don't know what on
earth I'll do if you can't match it." She turned to go, and then
hesitated. "I was thinking you might take Avice with you--but
you'll get about quicker alone, and she isn't ready. The tubes and
buses are that crowded it's no catch to take a child about with
you." In moments of excitement Mrs. Rainham's English was apt to
slip from her. At other times she cultivated it carefully,
assisted by a dramatic class, which an enthusiastic maiden lady,
with leanings towards the stage, conducted each winter among
neighbouring kindred souls.

Cecilia had caught her breath in alarm, but she breathed a sigh of
relief as the stout, over-dressed figure went down the narrow
stairs, with a final injunction to hurry. There was, indeed, no
need to give Cecilia that particular command. She scribbled one
word, "Coming," on Bob's note, thrust it into an envelope and
addressed it hastily, and then tapped on the wall between the
servants' room and her own.

Eliza appeared with the swiftness of a Jack-in-the-box, full of
suppressed excitement.

"Lor! I fought she was never goin'," she breathed. "Got it ready,
Miss? The boy'll fink I've gorn an' eloped wiv it." She took the
envelope and pattered swiftly downstairs.

A very few moments saw Cecilia flying in her wake--to Balding's
first, as quickly as tube and motor-bus could combine to take her,
since she dared not breathe freely until Mrs. Rainham's commission
had been settled. Balding's had never seemed so huge and so
complicated, and when she at length made her way to the right
department the suave assistant regretted that the trimming was sold
out. It was Cecilia's face of blank dismay that made him suddenly
remember that there was possibly an odd length somewhere, and a
search revealed it, put away in a box of odds and ends. Cecilia's
thanks were so heartfelt that the assistant was mildly surprised.

"For she don't seem the sort to wear ghastly stuff like that," he
pondered, glancing after the pretty figure in the well-cut coat and

Outside the great shop Cecilia glanced up and caught the eye of a
taxi-driver who had just set down a fare.

"I'll be extravagant for once," she thought. She beckoned to the
man, and in a moment was whirring through the streets in the
peculiar comfort a motor gives to anyone in a hurry in London--
since it can take direct routes instead of following the roundabout
methods of buses and underground railways. She leaned back,
closing her eyes. If this summons to Bob indeed meant that their
sailing orders had come, she would need all her wits and her
coolness. For the first time she realized what her stepmother's
absence from home might mean--a thousandfold less plotting and
planning, and no risk of a horrible scene at the end. Cecilia
loathed scenes; they had not existed in Aunt Margaret's scheme of
existence. Since Bob's plans had become at all definite, she had
looked forward with dread to a final collision with Mrs. Rainham--
it was untold relief to know that it might not come.

She hurried up the steps of Mr. M'Clinton's office. The alert
office boy--who had been Bob's messenger to Lancaster Gate--met

"You're to go straight in, miss. The Captain's there."

Bob was in the inner sanctum with Mr. M'Clinton. They rose to meet

"Well--are you ready, young lady?" the old man asked.

"Is it--are we to sail soon?"

"Next Saturday--and this is Monday. Can you manage it, Tommy?"
Bob's eyes were dancing with excitement.

"Oh, Bobby--truly?" She caught at his coat sleeve. "When did you

"I had a wire from General Harran this morning. A jolly good ship,
too, Tommy; one of the big Australian liners--the Nauru. You're
all ready, aren't you?"

"Oh, yes. And there's the most tremendous piece of luck, Bobby--
Mrs. Rainham's going away on Wednesday!"

"Going away! How more than tactful!" ejaculated Bob. "Where is
she going?"

"To Liverpool."

"Liverpool? Oh, by Jove!" Bob ended on a low whistle, while his
face assumed a comical expression of dismay. He turned to the
lawyer. "Did you ever hear of anything so queer?"

"Queer? Why?" demanded Cecilia.

"Well, it looks as if she wanted to see the last of you, that's
all. The Nauru sails from Liverpool."

"Bobby!" Cecilia's face fell. "I thought we went from Gravesend
or Tilbury, or somewhere."

"So did I. But the General's wire says Liverpool, so it seems we
don't," said Bob. "And that she-dragon is going there too!"

"I don't think you need really worry," Mr. M'Clinton said drily.
"Liverpool is not exactly a village. The chances are that if you
went there, trying to meet some one, you would hunt for him for a
week in vain. And you'll probably go straight from the train to
the docks, so that you won't be in the least likely to encounter
Mrs. Rainham."

"Why, of course, we'd never run into her in a huge place like
Liverpool," Bob said, laughing. "Don't be afraid, Tommy--you'll
have seen the last of her when you say good-bye on Wednesday."

"It seems too good to be true," said Cecilia solemnly. "I remember
how I felt once before, when she went away to visit her sister in
Liverpool; the beautiful relief when one woke, to think that not
all through the day would one even have to look at her. It's
really very terrible to look at her often; her white face and hard
eyes seem to fascinate one. Oh, I don't suppose I ought to talk
like that, especially here." She looked shamefacedly at Mr.
M'Clinton, and blushed scarlet.

Both men laughed.

"The good lady had something of the same effect on me," Mr.
M'Clinton admitted. "I found her a very terrible person. Cheer
up, Miss Tommy, you've nearly finished with her. And, now, what
about getting you away?"

Cecilia turned to her brother.

"What am I to do, Bob?"

"We'll have to go to Liverpool on Friday," Bob replied promptly.
"I can't find out the Nauru's sailing time, and it isn't safe to
leave it until Saturday. There's a train somewhere about two
o'clock that gets up somewhere about seven or eight that evening.
Mr. M'Clinton and I don't want to leave it to the last moment to
get your luggage away from Lancaster Gate. Can you have it ready
the night before?"

"It would really be safer to take it in the afternoon," Cecilia
said after a moment's thought. "Mrs. Rainham's absence will make
that quite easy, for I know I can depend upon Eliza and Cook. I
can get my trunks ready, leave them in my room, and tell Eliza you
will be there to call for them, say, at four o'clock. Then I take
the three children out for a walk, and when we return everything is
gone. Will that do?"

"Perfectly," said Bob, laughing. "And four o'clock suits me all
right. Then you'll saunter out on Friday morning with an
inoffensive brown paper parcel containing the rest of your worldly
effects, and meet me for lunch at the Euston Hotel. Is that

"Quite. I suppose I had better put no address on my trunks?"

"Not a line--I'll see to that. And don't even mention the word
'Australia' this week, just in case your eye dances unconsciously,
and sets people thinking! I think you'd better cultivate a
downtrodden look, at any rate until Mrs Rainham is out of the
house; at present you look far too cheerful to be natural--doesn't
she, sir?"

"You have to see to it that she does not look downtrodden again,
after this week," said Mr. M'Clinton. "Remember that, Captain--
she's going a long way, and she'll have no one but you."

"I know, sir. But, bless you, it's me that will look downtrodden,"
said Bob with a grin. "She bullies me horribly--always did." He
slipped his hand through her arm, and they looked up at him with
such radiant faces that the old man smiled involuntarily.

"Ah, I think you'll be all right," he said. "Remember, Miss Tommy,
I'll expect to hear from you--fairly often, too. I shall not say
good-bye now--you'll see me on Friday at luncheon."

They found themselves down in the grey precincts of Lincoln's Inn,
which, it may be, had rarely seen two young things prancing along
so dementedly. In the street they had to sober down, to outward
seeming; but there was still something about them, as they hurried
off to find a teashop to discuss final details, that made people
turn to look at them. Even the waitress beamed on them, and
supplied them with her best cakes--and London waitresses are a
bored race. But at the moment, neither Cecilia nor Bob could have
told you whether they were eating cakes or sausages.

"The money is all right," Bob said. "It'll be available at a
Melbourne bank when we get there; and meanwhile, there's plenty of
ready money, with what I've saved and my war gratuity. So if you
want anything, Tommy, you just say so, and don't go without any
pretties just because you think we'll be in the workhouse."

"Bless you--but I don't really need anything," she told him
gratefully. "It would be nice to have a little money to spend at
the ports, but I think we ought to keep the rest for Australia,
don't you, Bob?"

"Oh, yes, of course; but you're not to go without a few pounds if
you want 'em," said Bob. "And, Tommy, don't leave meeting me on
Friday until lunch time. I'll be worrying if you do, just in case
things may have gone wrong. Make it eleven o'clock at the Bond
Street tube exit, and if you're not there in half an hour I'll
jolly well go and fetch you."

"I'll be there," Cecilia nodded. "You had better give me the half-
hour's grace, though, in case I might be held up at the last
moment. One never knows--and Avice and Wilfred are excellent
little watchdogs."

"Anyhow, you won't have the she-dragon to reckon with, and that's a
big thing," Bob said. "I don't see how you can have any trouble--
Papa certainly will not give you any."

"No, he won't bother," said Cecilia slowly. "It's queer to think
how little he counts--our own father."

"A pretty shoddy apology for one, I think," Bob said bitterly.
"What has he ever done for us? But I'd forgive him that when I
can't forgive him something else--the way he has let you be treated
these two years."

"He hasn't known everything, Bobby."

"He has known quite enough. And if he had the spirit of a man he'd
have saved you from it. No; we don't owe him any consideration,
Tommy; and he saw to it years ago that we should never owe him any
affection. So we really needn't worry our heads about him. By the
way, there are to be some Australians on the Nauru who General
Harran says may be of use to us--I don't remember their names, but
he's going to give me a letter to them. And probably there will be
some other flying people whom I may know. I think the voyage ought
to be rather good fun."

"I think so, too. It will be exciting to be on a troopship,"
Cecilia said. "But, then, anything will be heavenly after
Lancaster Gate!"

She hurried home, as soon as the little meal was over, knowing that
Mrs. Rainham would be impatiently awaiting her. Luckily, her
success in matching the trimming made her stepmother forget how
long she had been away; and from that moment until a welcome four-
wheeler removed the mistress of the house on Wednesday, she sewed
and packed for her unceasingly. Her journey excited Mrs. Rainham
greatly. She talked almost affably of her sister's grandeur, and
of the certainty of meeting wealthy and gorgeously dressed people
at her party.

"Not that I'll be at all ashamed of my dress," she added, looking
at the billowy waves on which Cecilia was plastering yet more
trimming. "Unusual and artistic, that's what it is; and it'll show
off my hair. Don't forget the darning when I'm gone, Cecilia.
There's a tablecloth to mend, as well as the stockings. I'll be
home on Saturday night, unless they persuade me to stay over the

Cecilia nodded, sewing busily.

"And just see if you can't get on a bit better with the children.
You've got to make allowances for their high spirits, and treat
them tactfully. Of course you can't expect them to be as obedient
to you as they would be to a regular governess, you being their own
half-sister, and not so much older than Avice, after all. But tact
does wonders, especially with children."

"Yes," said Cecilia, and said no more.

"Well, just bear it in mind. I don't suppose you'll see much of
your father, so you needn't worry about him. But don't let Eliza
gossip and idle; she never does any work if she's not kept up to
it, and you know you're much too familiar with her. Always keep
girls like her at a distance, and they'll work all the better,
that's what I say. Treat her as an equal, and the next thing you
know she'll be trying on your hats!"

"I haven't caught Eliza at that yet," said Cecilia with the ghost
of a smile.

"It'll come, though, if you're not more stand-offish with her--you
mark my words. Keep them in their place--that's what I always do
with my servants and governesses," said Mrs. Rainham without the
slightest idea that she was saying anything peculiar. "Now, I'll
go and put my things out on my bed, and as soon as you've finished
that you can come up and pack for me."

Cecilia stood at the hall door that afternoon to watch her go--
bustling into the cab, with loud directions to the cabman, her hard
face full of self-importance and satisfaction. The plump hand
waved a highly scented handkerchief as the clumsy four-wheeler
moved off.

"To think I'll never see you again!" breathed the girl. "It seems
too good to be true!"

A kind of wave of relief seemed to have descended upon the house.
The children were openly exulting in having no one to obey; an
attitude which, in the circumstances, failed to trouble their half-
sister. Eliza went about her work with a cheery face; even Cook,
down in the basement, manifested lightness of heart by singing love
songs in a cracked soprano and by making scones for afternoon tea.
Mark Rainham did not come home until late--he had announced his
intention of dining at his club. Late in the evening he sauntered
into the dining-room, where Cecilia sat sewing.

"Still at it?" he asked. He sat down and poked the fire. "What
are you sewing?"

"Just darning," Cecilia told him.

He sat looking at her for a while--at the pretty face and the well-
tended hair; and who shall say what thoughts stirred in his dull

"You look a bit pale," he said at last. "Do you go out enough?"

"Oh, yes, I think so," Cecilia answered in astonishment. Not in
two years had he shown so much interest in her; and it braced her
to a sudden resolve. She had never been quite satisfied to leave
him without a word; whatever he was, he was still her father. She
put her darning on her knee, and looked at him gravely.

"You know Bob is demobilized, don't you, Papa?"

"Yes--he told me so," Mark Rainham answered.

"And you know he wants to take me away?"

Her father's eyes wavered and fell before her.

"Oh, yes--but the idea's ridiculous, I'm afraid. You're under age,
and your stepmother won't hear of it." He poked the fire savagely.

"But if Bob could make a home for me! We have always been
together, you know, Papa."

"Oh, well--wait and see. Time enough when you're twenty-one, and
your own mistress; Bob will have had a chance to make good by then.
I--I can't oppose my wife in the matter--she says she's not strong
enough to do without your help."

"But she never seems satisfied with me."

Mark Rainham rose with an irritably nervous movement.

"Oh, no one is ever perfect. I suspect, if each of you went a
little way to meet the other, things would be better. Your
stepmother says her nerves are all wrong, and I'm sure you do take
a great deal of trouble off her shoulders."

"Then you won't let me go?" The girl's low voice was relentless,
and her father wriggled as though he were a beetle and she were
pinning him down.

"I--I'm afraid it's out of the question, Cecilia. I should have to
be very satisfied first that Bob could offer you a home--and by
that time he'll probably be thinking of getting married, and won't
want you. Why can't you settle down comfortably to living at

"There isn't any home for me apart from Bob," said the girl.

"Well, I can't help it." Mark Rainham's voice had a hopeless tone.
He walked to the door, and then half turned. "If you can make my
wife agree to your going, I won't forbid it. Good night."

"Good night," said Cecilia. The slow footsteps went up the stairs,
and she turned to her darning with a lip that curled in scorn.

"Well, that let's me out. I don't owe you anything--not even a
good-bye note on my pincushion," she said presently; and laughed a
little. She folded a finished pair of socks deliberately, and,
rising, stretched her arms luxuriously above her head. "Two more
days," she whispered. She switched off the light, and crept
noiselessly upstairs.



"Well, if you ask me, she's up to something," said Avice with

"How d'you mean?" Wilfred looked up curiously.

"Lots of things. She looks all different. First of all--look how
red she is all the time, and the excited look in her eyes."

"That's all look--look!" jeered her brother. "Girls always have
those rotten ideas about nothing at all. Just because Cecilia's
got a bit sunburnt, and because she's havin' an easy time 'cause
Mater's away--"

"Oh, you think because you're a boy, you know everything," retorted
his sister hotly. "You just listen, and see if I've got rotten
ideas. Did you know, she's kept her room locked for days?"

"Well--if she has? That's nothing."

"You shut up and let me go on. Yesterday she forgot, and left it
open while she was down talking to Cook, and I slipped in. And
there was one of her great big trunks, that she always keeps in the
box room, half-packed with her things. I nicked this necklace out
of it, too," said Avice with triumph, producing a quaint string of
Italian beads.

"Good business," said Wilfred with an appreciative grin. "Did she
catch you?"

"Not she--I can tell you I didn't wait long, 'cause she always
comes upstairs as quick as lightning. She did come, too, in an
awful hurry, and locked up the room--I only got out of the way just
in time. And every minute she could, yesterday, she was up there."

"Well, I don't see much in that."

"No, but look here, I got another chance of looking into her room
this morning, and that trunk was gone!"

"Gone back to the box-room," said Wilfred with superiority.

"No, it wasn't--I went up and looked. And her other trunk's not
there, either."

"Oh, you're dreaming! I bet she'd just pushed it under her bed."

"Pooh!" said Avice. "That great big trunk wouldn't go under her
bed--you know she's only got a little stretcher-bed. And I tell
you they'd both gone. I bet you anything she's going to run away."

"Where'd she run to?"

"Oh, somewhere with Bob."

"Well, let her go."

"Yes, and Mater 'd have to spend ever so much on a new governess;
and most likely she'd be a worse beast than Cecilia. And no
governess we ever had did half the things Mater makes Cecilia do to
help in the house. Why she's like an extra servant, as well as a
governess. Mater told me all about it. I tell you what, Wilfred,
it's our business to see she doesn't run away."

"All right," said Wilfred, "I suppose we'd better watch out. When
do you reckon she'd go? People generally run away at night, don't

"Well, anyone can see she's just taking advantage of Mater being
away. Yes, of course she'd go at night. She might have sent her
boxes away yesterday by a carrier--I bet that horrid little Eliza
would help her. Ten to one she means to sneak out to-night--she
knows Mater will be home to-morrow."

"What a sell it will be for her if we catch her!" said Wilfred with
glee. "I say, what about telling Pater?"

Avice looked sour.

"I did tell him something yesterday, and he only growled at me. At
least, I said, 'Do you think Cecilia would ever be likely to run
away?' And he just stared at me, and then he said, 'Not your
business if she does.' So I'm not going to speak to him again."

"Well, we'd better take it in turns to watch her," Wilfred said.
"After dark's the most likely time, I suppose, but we'd better be
on the look-out all the time. Where's she now, by the way?"

"Why, I don't know. I say, she's been away a long time--I never
noticed," said Avice, in sudden alarm. "She said we were to go on
with our French exercises--and that's ages ago."

"Come on and see," said Wilfred jumping up.

Outside the room he caught Avice by the arm.

"Kick off your shoes," he said. "We'll sneak up to her room."

They crept up silently. The door of Cecilia's room was ajar.
Peeping in, they saw her standing before her tiny looking-glass,
pinning on her hat. A small parcel lay upon her bed, with her
gloves and parasol. The children were very silent--but something
struck upon the girl's tightly strung nerves. She turned swiftly
and saw them.

"What are you doing?" she demanded. "How dare you come into my

"Why, we thought you were lost," said Avice. "We finished our
French ages ago. Where are you going?"

"I am going out," said Cecilia. "I'll set you more work to do
while I'm away."

"But where are you going?"

"That has nothing to do with you. Come down to the schoolroom."

Avice held her brother firmly by the arm. Together they blocked
the way.

"Mater wouldn't let you go out in lesson time. I believe you're
going to run away!"

A red spot flamed in each of Cecilia's white cheeks.

"Stand out of my way, you little horrors!" she said angrily. She
caught up her things and advanced upon them.

"I'm hanged if you're going," said Wilfred doggedly. He pushed her
back violently, and slammed the door.

The attic doors in Lancaster Gate, like those of many London
houses, were fitted with heavy iron bolts on the outside--a
precaution against burglars who might enter the house by rooms
ordinarily little used. It was not the first time that Cecilia had
been bolted into her room by her step-brother. When first she
came, it had been a favourite pastime to make her a prisoner--until
their mother had made it an offence carrying a heavy penalty, since
it had often occurred that Cecilia was locked up when she happened
to need her.

But this time Cecilia heard the heavy bolt shoot home with feelings
of despair. It was already time for her to leave the house. Bob
would be waiting for her in Bond Street, impatiently scanning each
crowd of passengers that the lift shot up from underground. She
battered at the door wildly.

"Let me out! How dare you, Wilfred? Let me out at once!"

Wilfred laughed disagreeably.

"Not if we know it--eh, Avice?"

"Rather not," said Avice. "What d'you think Mater'd say to us if
we let you run away?"

"Nonsense!" said Cecilia, controlling her voice with difficulty.
"I was going to meet Bob."

There was silence, and a whispered consultation. Then Avice spoke.

"Will you give us your word of honour you weren't going to run

Words of honour meant little to the young Rainhams. But they knew
that Cecilia held it as a commonplace of decent behaviour that
people did not tell lies. They had, indeed, often marvelled that
she preferred to "take her gruel" rather than use any ready untruth
that would have shielded her from their mother's wrath. Avice and
Wilfred had no such scruples on their own account: but they knew
that they could depend upon Cecilia's word. They were, indeed,
just a little afraid of their own action in locking her up; their
mother might have condoned it as "high spirits," but their father
was not unlikely to take a different view. So they awaited her
reply with some anxiety.

Cecilia hesitated. Never in her life had she been so tempted.
Perhaps because the temptation was so strong she answered swiftly.

"No--I won't tell you anything of the kind. But look here--if you
will let me out I'll give you each ten shillings."

Ten shillings! It was wealth, and the children gasped. Wilfred,
indeed, would have shot back the bolt instantly. It was Avice who
caught at his arm.

"Don't you!" she whispered. "It'll cost heaps more than that to
get a new governess--and we'll make Mater give us each ten
shillings for keeping her. I say, we'll have to get the Pater

"How?" Wilfred looked at her blankly.

"Easy. You go to the post office and telephone to him at his
office. Tell him to come at once. I'll watch here, in case Eliza
lets her out. Run--hard as you can. Mater'll never forgive us if
she gets away."

Wilfred clattered off obediently, awed by his sister's urgency.
Avice sat down on the head of the stairs, close to the bolted door;
and when Cecilia spoke again, repeating her offer, she answered her
in a voice unpleasantly like her mother's:

"No, you don't, my fine lady. Wilfred's gone for the Pater--he'll
be here presently. You just stay there quietly till he comes."

"Avice!" The word was a wail. "Oh, you don't know how important
it is--let me out. I'll give you anything in the world."

"So'll Mater if I stop your little game," said Avice. "You just
keep quiet."

Eliza's sharp little face appeared at the foot of the flight of

"Wot's up, Miss Avice? Anyfink wrong with Miss 'Cilia?"

"Nothing to do with you," said Avice rudely. "I'm looking after
her." But Cecilia's sharp ears had caught the new voice.

"Eliza! Eliza!" she called.

The girl came up the stairs uncertainly. Avice rose to confront

"Now, you just keep off," she said. "You're not coming past here.
The master'll be home directly, and till he comes, no one's going
up these stairs." She raised her voice, to drown that of Cecilia,
who was speaking again.

Eliza looked at her doubtfully. She was an undersized, wizened
little Cockney, and Avice was a big, stoutly-built girl--who held,
moreover, the advantage of a commanding position on the top step.
In an encounter of strength there was little doubt as to who would
win. She turned in silence, cowed, and went down to the kitchen,
while Avice sang a triumphant song, partly as a chant of victory,
and partly to make sure that no one would hear the remarks that
Cecilia was steadily making. She herself had caught one phrase--
"Tell my brother"--and her sharp little mind was busy. Did that
mean that Bob would be coming, against its mistress's orders, to
Lancaster Gate.

In the kitchen Eliza poured out a frantic appeal to Cook.

"She's got Miss 'Cilia locked up--the little red-'eaded cat! An'
Master Wilfred gorn to fetch the Master! Oh, come on, Cookie
darlin', an' we'll let 'er out."

Cook shook her head slowly.

"Not good enough," she said. "I got a pretty good place. I ain't
goin' to risk it by 'avin' a rough-an'-tumble with the daughter of
the 'ouse on the hattic stairs. You better leave well alone, Liza.
You done your bit, 'elpin' 'er git them trunks orf yes'day."

"Wot's the good of 'avin the trunks off if she can't go, too?"
demanded Eliza.

"Oh, she'll git another chance. Don't worry your 'ead so much over
other people's business. If the Master comes 'ome an' finds us
scruffin' 'is daughter, 'e'll 'and us both over to the police for
assault--an' then you'll 'ave cause for worry. Now you git along
like a good gel--I got to mike pastry." Cook turned away

Wilfred had come home and had raced up the stairs.

"Did you get him?" Avice cried.

"No--he was out. So I left a message that he was to come home at
once, 'cause something was wrong."

"That'll bring him," said Avice with satisfaction. "Now, look
here, Wilf--I believe Bob may come. You go and be near the front
door, to block Eliza, if he does. Answer any ring."

"What'll I say if he comes?"

"Say she's gone out to meet him--if he thinks that, he'll hurry
back to wherever they were to meet. Don't give him a chance to get
in. Hurry!"

"Right," said Wilfred, obeying. He sat down in a hall chair, and
took up a paper, with an eye wary for Eliza. Half an hour passed
tediously, while upstairs Cecilia begged and bribed in vain. Then
he sprang to his feet as a ring came.

Bob was at the door; and suddenly Wilfred realized that he had
always been afraid of Bob. He quailed inwardly, for never had he
seen his half-brother look as he did now--with a kind of still,
terrible anger in his eyes.

"Where's Cecilia?"

"Gone out," said the boy.


"Gone to meet you."

"Did she tell you so?"

"Yes, of course--how'd I know if she didn't?"

"Then that's a lie, for she wouldn't tell you. Let me in."

"I tell you, she's gone out," said Wilfred, whose only spark of
remaining courage was due to the fact that he had prudently kept
the door on the chain. "And Mater said you weren't to come in

From the area below a shrill voice floated upwards.

"Mr. Bob! Mr. Bob! Daon't you believe 'im. They got Miss 'Cilia
locked up in 'er room."

"By Jove!" said Bob between his teeth. "Bless you, Eliza! Open
that door, Wilfred, or I'll make it hot for you." He thrust a foot
into the opening, with a face so threatening that Wilfred shrank

"I shan't," he said. "You're not going to get her."

"Am I not?" said Bob. He leaned back, and then suddenly flung all
his weight against the door. The chain was old and the links eaten
with rust--it snapped like a carrot, and the door flew open. Bob
brushed Wilfred out of his way, and went upstairs, three at a time.

Avice blocked his path.

"You aren't coming up."

"Oh, yes, I think so," Bob said. He stooped, with a quick
movement, and picked her up, holding her across his shoulder, while
she beat and clawed unavailingly at his back. So holding her, he
thrust back the bolt of Cecilia's door and flung it open.

"Did you think they had got you, Tommy?"

She could only cling to his free arm for a moment speechless. Then
she lifted her face, her voice shaking, still in fear.

"We must hurry, Bob. They've sent for Papa."

"Have they?" said Bob, with interest. "Well, not a regiment of
papas should stop you now, old girl. Got everything?"

Cecilia gathered up her things, nodding.

"Then we'll leave this young lady here," said Bob. He placed Avice
carefully on Cecilia's bed, and made for the door, having the
pleasure, as he shot the bolt, of hearing precisely what the
younger Miss Rainham thought of him and all his attributes,
including his personal appearance.

"A nice gift of language, hasn't she?" he said. "Inherits it from
her mamma, I should think." He put his arm round Cecilia and held
her closely as they went downstairs, his face full of the joy of
battle. Wilfred was nowhere to be seen, but by the door Eliza
waited. Bob slipped something into her hand.

"I expect you'll lose your place over this, Eliza," he said.
"Well, you'll get a better--I'll tell my lawyer to see to that.
He'll write to you--by the way, what's your surname? Oh, Smithers--
I'll remember. And thank you very much."

They shook hands with her, and passed out into the street. Cecilia
was still too shaken to speak--but as Bob pulled her hand through
his arm and hurried her along, her self-control returned, and the
face that looked up at his presently was absolutely content. Bob
returned the look with a little smile.

"Didn't you know I'd come?" he asked. "You dear old stupid."

"I knew you'd come--but I thought Papa would get there first,"
Cecilia answered. "Somehow, it seemed the end of everything."

"It isn't--it's only the beginning," Bob answered.

There was a narrow side street that made a short cut from the tube
station to the Rainhams' home; and as they passed it Mark Rainham
came hurrying up it. Bob and Cecilia did not see him. He looked
at them for a moment, as if reading the meaning of the two happy
faces--and then shrank back into an alley and remained hidden until
his son and daughter had passed out of sight. They went on their
way, without dreaming that the man they dreaded was within a
stone's throw of them.

"So it was that," said Mark Rainham slowly, looking after them.
"Out of gaol, are you--poor little prisoner! Well, good luck to
you both!" He turned on his heel, and went back to his office.



"We're nearly in, Tommy."

Cecilia looked up from her corner with a start, and the book she
had been trying to read slipped to the floor of the carriage.

"I believe you were asleep," said Bob, laughing. "Poor old Tommy,
are you very tired?"

"Oh, nothing, really. Only I was getting a bit sleepy," his sister
answered. "Are we late, Bob?"

"Very, the conductor says. This train generally makes a point of
being late. I wish it had made a struggle to be on time to-night;
it would have been jolly to get to the ship in daylight." Bob was
strapping up rugs briskly as he talked.

"How do we get down to the ship, Bob?"

"Oh, no doubt there'll be taxis," Bob answered. "But it may be no
end of a drive--the conductor tells me there are miles and miles of
docks, and the Nauru may be lying anywhere. But he says there's
always a military official on duty at the station--a transport
officer, and he'll be able to tell me everything." He did not
think it worth while to tell the tired little sister what another
man had told him, that it was very doubtful whether they would be
allowed to board any transport at night, and that Liverpool was so
crowded that to find beds in it might be an impossibility. Bob
refused to be depressed by the prospect. "If the worst came to the
worst, there'd be a Y.W.C.A. that would take in Tommy," he mused.
"And it wouldn't be the first time I've spent a night in the open."
Nothing seemed to matter now that they had escaped. But, all the
same, there seemed no point in telling Tommy, who was extremely
cheerful, but also very white-faced.

They drew into an enormous station, where there seemed a dense
crowd of people, but no porters at all. Bob piled their hand
luggage on the platform, and left Cecilia to guard it while he went
on a tour of discovery. He hurried back to her presently.

"Come on," he said, gathering up their possessions. "There's a big
station hotel opening on to the platforms. I can leave you sitting
in the vestibule while I gather up the heavy luggage and find the
transport officer. I'm afraid it's going to take some time, so
don't get worried if I don't turn up very soon. There seem to be
about fifty thousand people struggling round the luggage vans, and
I'll have to wait my turn. But I'll be as quick as I can."

"Don't you worry on my account," Cecilia said. "This is ever so
comfortable. I don't mind how long you're away!" She laughed up
at him, sinking into a big chair in the vestibule of the hotel.
There were heavy glass doors on either side that were constantly
swinging to let people in or out; through them could be seen the
hurrying throng of people on the station, rushing to and fro under
the great electric lights, gathered round the bookstall, struggling
along under luggage, or--very occasionally--moving in the wake of a
porter with a barrow heaped with trunks. There were soldiers
everywhere, British and Australian, and officers in every variety
of Allied uniform.

An officer came in with a lady and two tiny boys--Cecilia
recognized them as having been passengers on their train. With
them came an old Irish priest, who had met them, and the officer
left them in his care while he also went off on the luggage quest.
The small boys were apparently untired by their journey; they
immediately began to use the swinging glass doors as playthings to
the imminent risk of their own necks, since they were too little to
be noticed by anyone coming in or out, and were nearly knocked flat
a dozen times by the swing of the doors. The weary mother spent a
busy time in rescuing them, and was not always entirely successful--
bumps and howls testified to the doors being occasionally quicker
than the boys. Finally, the old priest gathered up the elder, a
curly-haired, slender mite, into his arms and told him stories,
while his plump and solemn brother curled up on his mother's knee
and dozed. It was clearly long after their bed-time.

The procession of people came and went unceasingly, the glass doors
always aswing. In and out, in and out, men and women hurried, and
just beyond the kaleidoscope of the platforms moved and changed
restlessly under the glaring arc lights. Cecilia's bewildered mind
grew weary of it all, and she closed her eyes. It was some time
later that she woke with a start, to find Bob beside her.

"Sleepy old thing," he said. "Oh, I've had such a wild time,
Tommy; to get information of any kind is as hard as to get one's
luggage. However, I've got both. And the first thing is we can't
go on board to-night."

"Bob! What shall we do?"

"I was rather anxious about that same thing myself," said Bob,
"since everyone tells me that Liverpool is more jammed with people
than even London--which is saying something. However, we've had
luck. I went to ask in here, never imagining I had the ghost of a
chance, and they'd just had telegrams giving up two rooms. So
we're quite all right; and so is the luggage. I've had all the
heavy stuff handed over to a carrier to be put on the Nauru to-
morrow morning."

"You're the great manager," said Cecilia comfortably. "Where is
the Nauru, by the way?"

"Sitting out in the river, the transport officer says. She doesn't
come alongside until the morning; and we haven't to be on board
until three o'clock. She's supposed to pull out about six. So we
really needn't have left London to-day--but I think it's as well we

"Yes, indeed," said Cecilia, with a shiver. "I don't think I could
have stood another night in Lancaster Gate. I've been awake for
three nights wondering what we should do if any hitch came in our

"Just like a woman!" said Bob, laughing. "You always jump over
your hedges before you come to them." He pulled her gently out of
her chair. "Come along; I'll have these things sent up to our
rooms, and then we'll get some dinner--after which you'll go to
bed." It was a plan which sounded supremely attractive to his

Not even the roar and rattle of the trains under the station hotel
kept Cecilia awake that night. She slept, dreamlessly at first;
then she had a dream that she was just about to embark in a great
ship for Australia; that she was going up the gangway, when
suddenly behind her came her father and her stepmother, with Avice,
Wilfred and Queenie, who all seized her, and began to drag her
back. She fought and struggled with them, and from the top of the
gangway came Mr. M'Clinton and Eliza, who tugged her upwards.
Between the two parties she was beginning to think she would be
torn to pieces, when suddenly came swooping from the clouds an
areoplane, curiously like a wheelbarrow, and in it Bob, who leaned
out as he dived, grasped her by the hair, and swung her aboard with
him. They whirred away over the sea; where, she did not know, but
it did not seem greatly to matter. They were still flying between
sea and sky when she woke, to find the sunlight streaming into her
room, and some one knocking at her door.

"Are you awake, Tommy?" It was Bob's voice. "Lie still, and I'll
send you up a cup of tea."

That was very pleasant, and a happy contrast to awakening in
Lancaster Gate; and breakfast a little later was delightful, in a
big sunny room, with interesting people coming and going all the
time. Bob and Cecilia smiled at each other like two happy
children. It was almost unbelievable that they were free; away
from tryanny and coldness, with no more plotting and planning, and
no more prying eyes.

Bob went off to interview the transport officer after breakfast,
and Cecilia found the officer's wife with the two little boys
struggling to attend to her luggage, while the children ran away
and lost themselves in the corridors or endeavoured to commit
suicide by means of the lift. So Cecilia took command of them and
played with them until the harassed mother had finished, and came
to reclaim her offspring--this time with the worry lines smoothed
out of her face. She sat down by Cecilia and talked, and presently
it appeared that she also was sailing in the Nauru.

"Indeed, I thought it was only wives who were going," she said. "I
didn't know sisters were permitted."

"I believe General Harran managed our passages," Cecilia said. "He
has been very kind to my brother."

"Well, you should have a merry voyage, for there will be scarcely
any young girls on board," said Mrs. Burton, her new friend. "Most
of the women on the transports are brides, of course. Ever so many
of our men have married over here."

"You are an Australian?" Cecilia asked.

"Oh, yes. My husband isn't. He was an old regular officer, and
returned to his regiment as soon as war broke out. I don't think
there will be many women on board: the Nauru isn't a family ship,
you know."

"What is that?" Cecilia queried.

"Oh, a ship with hundreds of women and children--privates' wives
and families, as well as officers'. I believe they are rather
awful to travel on--they must be terrible in rough weather. The
non-family ships carry only a few officers' wives, as a rule: a
much more comfortable arrangement for the lucky few."

"And we are among the lucky few?"

"Yes. I only hope my small boys won't be a nuisance. I've never
been without a nurse for them until last night. However, I suppose
I'll soon get into their ways."

"You must let me help you," Cecilia said. "I love babies." She
stroked Tim's curly head as she spoke: Dickie, his little brother,
had suddenly fallen asleep on his mother's knee.

Mrs. Burton smiled her thanks.

"Well, it is pleasant to think we shan't go on board knowing no
one," she said. "I hope our cabins are not far apart. Oh, here is
my husband; I hope that means all our luggage is safely on board."

Colonel Burton came up--a pleasant soldierly man, bearing the
unmistakable stamp of the regular officer. They were still
chatting when Bob arrived, to be introduced--a ceremony which
appeared hardly necessary in the case of the colonel and himself.

"We've met at intervals since last night in various places where
they hide luggage," said the colonel. "I'm beginning to turn faint
at the sight of a trunk!"

"It's the trunks I can't get sight of that make me tremble,"
grinned Bob. "One of mine disappeared mysteriously this morning,
and finally, after a breathless hunt, turned up in a lamp-room--
your biggest Saratoga, Tommy! Why anyone should have put it in a
lamp-room seems to be a conundrum that is going to excite the
station for ever. But there it was."

"And have they really started for the ship?" asked Cecilia.

"Well--I saw them all on a lorry, checked over my list with the
driver's, and found everything right, and saw him start," said Bob,
laughing. "More than that no man may say."

"It would simplify matters if we knew our cabin numbers," said
Colonel Burton. "But we don't; neither does anyone, as far as I
can gather, since cabins appear to be allotted just as you go on
board--a peculiar system. Can you imagine the ghastly heap of
miscellaneous luggage that will be dumped on the Nauru, with
frenzied owners wildly trying to sort it out!"

"It doesn't bear thinking of," said Bob, laughing. "Come along,
Tommy, and we'll explore Liverpool."

They wandered about the crowded streets of the great port, where
may, perhaps, be seen a queerer mixture of races than anywhere in
England, since ships from all over the world ceaselesly come and go
up and down the Mersey. Then they boarded a tram and journeyed out
of the city, among miles of beautiful houses, and, getting down at
the terminus, walked briskly for an hour, since it would be long
before there would be any land for them to walk on again. They got
back to the hotel rather late for lunch, and very hungry; and
afterwards it was time to pack up their light luggage and get down
to the docks. General Harran had warned them to take enough hand-
baggage to last them several nights, since it was quite possible
that their cabin trunks would be swept into the baggage room, and
fail to turn up for a week after sailing.

A taxi whisked them through streets that became more and more
crowded. The journey was not a long one; they turned down a slope
presently, and drew up before a great gate across the end of a pier
where two policemen were on duty to prevent the entrance of anyone
without a pass. Porters were there in singular numbers--England
had grown quite used to being without them; and Bob had just
transferred their luggage to the care of a cheerful lad with a
barrow when Cecilia gave a little start of dismay.

"Bob, I've left my watch!"

"Whew!" whistled her brother. "Where?"

"I washed my hands just before I left my room," said the shamefaced
Cecilia. "I remember slipping it off my wrist beside the basin."

"Well, there's no need to worry," said Bob cheerfully. "Ten to one
it's there still. You'll have to take the taxi and go back for it,
Tommy: I can't leave the luggage, and I may be wanted to show our
papers, besides; but you won't have any difficulty. Come along,
and I'll see that the policeman lets you through when you come

The constable was sympathetic. He examined Cecilia's passport,
declared that he would know her anywhere again, and that she had no
cause for anxiety.

"Is it time? Sure, ye'll be tired of waitin' on the ould pier
hours afther ye get back," he said cheerfully. "I know thim
transports. Why, there's not one of the throops marched in yet.
There comes the furrst lot."

A band swung round the turn of the street playing a quickstep:
behind it, a long line of Australian soldiers, marching at ease,
each man with his pack on his shoulder. A gate with a military
sentry swung wide to admit them, and they passed on to where a high
overhead bridge carried them aboard a great liner moored to the

"'Tis the soldiers have betther treatment than the officers whin it
comes to boardin' transports," said the friendly policeman. "They
get marched straight on board. The officers and their belongin's
has to wait till they've gone through hivin knows what formalities.
So you needn't worry, miss, an' take your time. The ould ship'll
be there hours yet."

The taxi driver appeared only too glad of further employment, and
Cecilia, much cheered, though still considerably ashamed of
herself, leaned back comfortably in the cab as they whisked through
the streets. At the hotel good fortune awaited her, for a
chambermaid had just found her watch and had brought it to the
office for safe keeping. Cecilia left her thanks, with something
more substantial, for the girl, and hurried back to the cab.

The streets seemed more thronged than ever, and presently traffic
was blocked by a line of marching men--more "diggers" on their way
to the transport. Cecilia's chauffeur turned back into a side
street, evidently a short cut. Half-way along it the taxi jarred
once or twice and came to a standstill.

The chauffeur got out and poked his head into the bonnet,
performing mysterious rites, while Cecilia watched him, a little
anxiously. Presently he came round to the door.

"I'm awful sorry, miss," he said respectfully. "The old bus has
broke down. I'm afraid I can't get another move out of 'er--I'll
'ave to get 'er towed to a garage."

"Oh!" said Cecilia, jumping out. "Do you think I can find another
near here?"

"You oughter pick one up easy in the street up there," said the
chauffeur. "Plenty of 'em about 'ere. Even if you shouldn't,
miss, you can get a tram down to the docks--any p'liceman 'll
direct you. You could walk it, if you liked--you've loads of
time." He touched his cap as she paid him. "Very sorry to let you
down like this, miss--it ain't my fault. All the taxis in England
are just about droppin' to pieces--it'll be a mercy when repair
shops get goin' again."

"It doesn't matter," Cecilia said cheerfully. She decided that she
would walk; it would be more interesting, and the long wait on the
pier would be shortened. She set off happily towards the main
street where the tram lines ran, feeling that short cuts were not
for strangers in a big city.

Even in the side street the shops were interesting. She came upon
a fascinating curio shop, and stopped a moment to look at the queer
medley in its window; such a medley as may be seen in any port
where sailor-men bring home strange things from far countries. She
was so engrossed that she failed to notice a woman who passed her,
and then, with an astonished stare, turned back. A heavy hand fell
on her wrist.


She turned, with a little cry. Mrs. Rainham's face, inflamed with
sudden anger, looked into her own. The hard grasp tightened on her

"What are you doing here, you wicked girl? You've run away."

At the moment no speech was possible to Cecilia. She twisted her
arm away fiercely, freeing herself with difficulty, and turning,
ran, with her stepmother at her heels. Once, Mrs. Rainham gasped
"Police!" after which she required all the breath to keep near the
flying girl. The street was quiet; only one or two interested
passers-by turned to look at the race, and a street urchin shouted:
"Go it, red 'ead--she's beatin' yer!"

It follows naturally, when one person pursues another through city
streets, that the pursued falls under public suspicion and is
liable to be caught and held by any officious person. Cecilia felt
this, and her anxiety was keen as she darted round the corner into
the next street, looking about wildly for a means of escape. A big
van, crawling across the road, held Mrs. Rainham back for a moment,
giving her a brief respite.

Just in front of her, a block in the traffic was beginning to move.
A taxi was near her. She held up her hand desperately, trying to
catch the driver's eye. He shook his head, and she realized that
he was already engaged--there was a pile of luggage beside him with
big labels, and a familiar name struck her--"H.M.T. Nauru." A
girl, leaning from the window of the taxi, met her glance, and
Cecilia took a sudden resolve. She sprang forward, her hand on the

"I am a passenger by the Nauru. Could you take me in your car?"
she gasped.

"Why, of course," said the other girl. "Plenty of room, isn't
there, dad?"

"Yes, certainly," said the other occupant of the cab--a big,
grizzled man, who looked at the new-comer in blank amazement. He
had half risen, but there was no time for him to assist his self-
invited guest; she had opened the door and jumped in before his
daughter had finished speaking. Leaning forward, Cecilia saw her
stepmother emerge from the traffic, crimson-faced, casting wild and
wrathful glances about her. Then her wandering eye fell upon
Cecilia, and she began to run forward. Even as she did the
chauffeur quickened his pace, and the taxi slid away, until the
running, shouting figure was lost to view.

Cecilia sat back with a gasp, and began to laugh helplessly. The
others watched her with faces that clearly showed that they began
to suspect having entertained a lunatic unawares.

"I do beg your pardon," said Cecilia, recovering. "It was
inexcusable. But I was running away."

"So it seemed," said the big man, in a slow, pleasant voice. "I
hope it wasn't from the police?"

"Oh no!" Cecilia flushed. "Only from my stepmother. My own taxi
had just broken down, and she found me, and she would have made a
scene in the street--and scenes are so vulgar, are they not? When
I saw Nauru on your luggage, you seemed to me to have dropped from

She looked at them, her pretty face pink, her eyes dancing with
excitement. There was something appealing about her, in the big
childish eyes, and in the well-bred voice with its faint hint of a
French accent. The girl she looked at could hardly have been
called pretty--she was slender and long-limbed, with honest grey
eyes and a sensitive mouth that seemed always ready to break into
smiles. A little smile hovered at its corners now, but her voice
held a note of protection.

"I don't think we need bother you to tell us," she said. "In our
country it's a very ordinary thing to give anyone a lift, if you
have a seat to spare. Isn't it, daddy?"

"Of course," said her father. "And we are to be fellow-passengers,
so it was very lucky that we were there in the nick of time."

Cecilia looked at them gratefully. It might have been so
different, she thought; she might have flung herself on the mercy
of people who would have been suspicious and frigid, or of others
who would have treated her with familiarity and curious questioning.
These people were pleasantly matter-of-fact; glad to help, but
plainly anxious to show her that they considered her affairs none
of their business. There was a little catch in her throat as she

"It is very good of you to take me on trust--I know I did an
unwarrantable thing. But my brother, Captain Rainham, will explain
everything, and he will be as grateful to you as I am. He is at
the ship now."

"Then we can hand you over to his care," said her host. "By the
way, is there any need to guard against the--er--lady you spoke of?
Is she likely to follow you to the docks?"

"She doesn't know I'm going," said Cecilia, dimpling. "Of course,
if it were in a novel she would leap into a swift motor and bid the
driver follow us, and be even now on our heels--"

"Goodness!" said the other girl. She twisted so that she could
look out of the tiny window at the back; turning back with a
relieved face.

"Nothing near us but a carrier's van and a pony cart," she said.
"I shouldn't think you need worry."

"No. I really don't think I need. My stepmother did see me in the
taxi, but her brain doesn't move very swiftly, nor does she, for
that matter--and I'm sure she wouldn't try to follow me. She
knows, too, that if she found me she couldn't drag me away as if I
were two years old. Oh, I'm sure I'm safe from her now," finished
Cecilia, with a sigh of relief.

"At any rate, if she comes to the docks she will have your brother
to deal with," said the big man. "And here we are."

They got out at the big gate where the Irish policeman greeted
Cecilia with a friendly "Did ye find it now, miss?" and beamed upon
her when she held up her wrist, with her watch safely in its place.
He examined her companions' passports, but let her through with an
airy "Sure, this young lady's all right," which made Cecilia feel
that no further proof could be needed of her respectability. Then
Bob came hurrying to meet her.

"I was just beginning to get uneasy about you," he said. "Did you
have any trouble?"

"My taxi broke down," Cecilia answered. "But this lady and
gentleman most kindly gave me a seat, and saved me ever so much
trouble. I'll tell you my story presently."

Bob turned, saluting.

"Thanks, awfully," he said. "I wasn't too happy at letting my
little sister run about alone in a strange city, but it couldn't be

"I'm very glad we were there," said the big man. "Now, can you
tell me where luggage should go? My son and a friend are somewhere
on the pier, I suppose, but it doesn't seem as though finding them
would be an easy matter."

The pier, indeed, resembled a hive in which the bees have broken
loose. Beside it lay the huge bulk of the transport, towering high
above all the dock buildings near. Already she swarmed with
Australian soldiers, and a steady stream was still passing aboard
by the overhead gangway to the blare and crash of a regimental
march. The pier itself was crowded with officers, with a
sprinkling of women and children--most of them looking impatient
enough at being kept ashore instead of being allowed to seek their
quarters on the ship. Great heaps of trunks were stacked here and
there, and a crane was steadily at work swinging them aboard.

"We can't go aboard yet, nobody seems to know why," Bob said. "An
individual called an embarkation officer, or something of the kind,
has to check our passports; he was supposed to be here before three
o'clock, but there's no sign of him yet, and every one has to wait
his convenience. It's hard on the women with little children--the
poor mites are getting tired and cross. Luggage can be left in the
care of the ship's hands, to be loaded; I'll show you where, sir,
if you like. Is this yours?" His eye fell on a truck-load of
trunks, wheeled up by a porter, and lit up suddenly as he noticed
the name on their labels.

"Oh--are you Mr. Linton?" he exclaimed. "I believe I've got a
letter for you, from General Harran."

"Now, I was wondering where I'd heard your name before, when your
sister happened to say you were Captain Rainham," said the big man.
"How stupid of me--of course, I met Harran at my club this week,
and he told me about you." He held out his hand, and took Bob's
warmly; then he turned to his daughter. "Norah, it's lucky that we
have made friends with Miss Rainham already, because you know she's
in our care, after a fashion."

Norah Linton turned with a quick smile.

"I'm so glad," she said. "I've been wondering what you would be
like, because we didn't know of anyone else on board."

"General Harran told my brother that you would befriend us, but I
did not think you would begin so early," Cecilia said. "Just
fancy, Bob, they rescued me almost from the clutches of the she-

Bob jumped.

"You don't mean to say you met her?"

"I did--as soon as my cab broke down. And I lost my head and ran
from her like a hare, and jumped into Mr. Linton's car!"

Bob regarded her with solemn amazement.

"So this is what happens when I let you go about alone!" he
ejaculated. "Why, you might have got yourself into an awful mess--
it might have been anybody's car--"

"Yes, but it wasn't," said his sister serenely. "You see, I looked
at Miss Linton first, and I knew it would be all right."

The Lintons laughed unrestrainedly.

"That's your look of benevolent old age, Norah," said her father.
"I've often noticed it coming on."

"I wish you'd mention it to Wally," Norah said. "He might treat me
with more respect if you did."

"I doubt it; it isn't in Wally," said her father. "Now, Rainham,
shall we see about this luggage?"

They handed it over to the care of deck hands, and watched it
loaded, with many other trunks, into a huge net, which the crane
seized, swung to an enormous height and then lowered gently upon
the deck of the Nauru. Just as the operation was finished two
figures threaded their way through the crowd towards them;
immensely tall young officers, with the badge of a British regiment
on their caps.

"Hullo, dad," said the taller--a good-looking grave-faced fellow,
with a strong resemblance to Norah. "We hardly expected you down
so early."

"Well, Norah and I had nothing to do, so we thought we might as
well come; though it appears that we would have been wiser not to
hurry," said Mr. Linton. "Jim, I want to introduce you to two
courageous emigrants--Miss Rainham, Captain Rainham--my son."

Jim Linton shook hands, and introduced his companion, Captain
Meadows, who was dark and well built, with an exceedingly merry

"We've been trying to get round the powers that be, to make our way
on board," he said. "The chief difficulty is that the powers that
be aren't there; everything is hung up waiting for this blessed
official. I suppose the honest man is sleeping off the effects of
a heavy lunch."

"If he knew what hearty remarks are being made about him by over
two hundred angry people, it might disturb his rest," said Wally
Meadows. "Come along and see them--you're only on the fringe of
the crowd here."

"Wally's been acting as nursemaid for the last half hour," Jim
said, as they made their way along the pier. "He rescued a curly-
haired kid from a watery grave--at least, it would have been in if
he hadn't caught it by the hind leg--and after that the kid refused
to let him go."

"He was quite a jolly kid," said Wally. "Only he seems to have
quicksilver in him, instead of blood. I'm sorry for his mother--
she'll have a packed time for the next five weeks." He sighed.
"Hide me, Norah--there he is now!"

The curly-haired one proved to be little Tim Burton, who detached
himself from his mother on catching sight of Wally, and trotted
across to him with a shrill cry of "There's mine officer!"--whereat
Wally swung him up on his shoulder, to his infinite delight. Mrs.
Burton hurried up to claim her offspring, and was made known to
every one by Cecilia.

"It's such an awful wait," she said wearily. "We came here soon
after two o'clock, thinking we would get the children on board
early for their afternoon sleep; now it's after four, and we have
stood here ever since. It's too tantalizing with the ship looking
at us, and the poor babies are so tired. Still, I'm not the worst
off. Look at that poor girl."

She pointed out a white-faced girl who was sitting in a drooping
attitude on a very dirty wooden case. She was dainty and refined
in appearance; and looking at her, one felt that the filthy case
was the most welcome thing she had found that afternoon. Her
husband, an officer scarcely more than a boy, stood beside, trying
vainly to hush the cries of a tiny baby. She put up her arms
wearily as they looked at her.

"Oh, give her to me, Harry." She took the little bundle and
crooned over it; and the baby wailed on unceasingly.

"Oh!" said Norah Linton. She took a quick stride forward. They
watched her accost the young mother--saw the polite, yet stiff,
refusal on the English girl's face; saw Norah, with a swift decided
movement stoop down and take the baby from the reluctant arms,
putting any protest aside with a laugh. A laugh went round the
Linton party also.

"I knew she'd get it," said Jim.

"Rather!" his friend echoed. "But she hasn't arms enough for all
the babies who want mothering here."

There were indeed plenty of them. Tired young mothers stood about
everywhere, with children ranging from a few months to three or
four years, all weary by this time, and most of them cross.
Harassed young husbands, unused to travelling with children--
unused, indeed, to anything but War--went hither and thither trying
to hasten the business of getting on board--coming back, after each
useless journey, to try and soothe a screaming baby or restrain a
tiny boy anxious to look over the edge of the pier. It was only a
few minutes before Cecilia had found a mother exhausted enough to
yield up her baby without much protest; and Jim and Wally Meadows
and Bob "adopted" some of the older children, and took them off to
see the band; which diversions helped to pass the time. But it was
after five o'clock before a stir went round the pier, and a rush of
officers towards a little wooden room at the foot of the gangway
told that the long-waited-for official had arrived.

"Well, we won't hurry," said Mr. Linton. "Let the married men get
on first."

There were not many who did not hurry. A few of the older officers
kept back; the majority, who were chiefly subalterns, made a dense
crowd about the little room, their long-pent impatience bursting
out at last. Passports examined, a procession began up the
gangway; each man compelled to halt at a barrier on top, where two
officers sat allotting cabins. It was difficult to see why both
these preliminaries could not have been managed before, instead of
being left until the moment of boarding; the final block strained
every one's patience to breaking-point.

The Lintons and the Rainhams were almost the last to board the
ship, having, not without thankfulness, relinquished their adopted
babies. The officers allotting berths nodded comprehendingly on
hearing the names of the two girls.

"Oh yes--you're together." He gave them their number.

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