The Project Gutenberg eBook of Two Little Waifs

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Title: Two Little Waifs

Author: Mrs. Molesworth

Illustrator: Walter Crane

Release date: April 29, 2012 [eBook #39567]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Annie McGuire.This book was produced from
scanned images of public domain material from the Google
Print archive.



"Well, dears," she said, "and what are you playing at?"—Page 4.





Two small figures, hurrying along hand-in-hand, caught the attention of several people.—Page 166.






CHAPTER I.Papa has sent for us
CHAPTER II.Poor Mrs. Lacy
CHAPTER III.A pretty Kettle of Fish
CHAPTER IV."What is to be Done?"
CHAPTER V.In the Rue Verte
CHAPTER VI.Among the Sofas and Chairs
CHAPTER VII.The kind-looking Gentleman
CHAPTER VIII.A Fall Downstairs
CHAPTER IX.From Bad to Worse
CHAPTER X."Avenue Gérard, No. 9"
CHAPTER XI.Walter's Tea-Party
CHAPTER XII.Papa at Last


"Well, dears," she said, "and what are you playing at?"
In another moment the little party was making its way through the station
She placed the whole on a little table which she drew close to the bed
"Oh don't, don't cross that dreadful street," Gladys exclaimed
Anna opened the door sharply, as she did everything, and in so doing overthrew the small person of Roger
"Go along there," she said, "and then turn to the left, and you will see the name 'Avenue Gérard' at the corner"
Walter was having a tea-party!

"It would both have excited your pity, and have done your heart good, to have seen how these two little ones were so fond of each other, and how hand-in-hand they trotted along."

The Renowned History of Goody Two-Shoes.

[Pg 1]



"It's what comes in our heads when we
Play at 'Let's-make-believe,'
And when we play at 'Guessing.'"

Charles Lamb.

It was their favourite play. Gladys had invented it, as she invented most of their plays, and Roger was even more ready to play at it than at any other, ready though he always was to do anything Gladys liked or wanted. Many children would have made it different—instead of "going over the sea to Papa," they would have played at what they would do when Papa should come over the sea to them. But that was not what they had learnt to look forward to, somehow—they were like two little swallows, always dreaming of a sunny fairyland they knew not where, only "over the sea," and in these dreams and plays they found the brightness and happiness which they were still too[Pg 2] young to feel should have been in their everyday baby life.

For "Mamma" was a word that had no real meaning to them. They thought of her as of a far-away beautiful angel—beautiful, but a little frightening too; cold and white like the marble angels in church, whose wings looked so soft, till one day Roger touched them, and found them, to his strange surprise, hard and icy, which made him tell Gladys that he thought hens much prettier than angels. Gladys looked a little shocked at this, and whispered to remind him that he should not say that: had he forgotten that the angels lived up in heaven, and were always good, and that Mamma was an angel? No, Roger had not forgotten, and that was what made him think about angels; but they weren't pretty and soft like Snowball, the little white hen, and he was sure he would never like them as much. Gladys said no more to him, for she knew by the tone of his voice that it would not take very much to make him cry, and when Roger got "that way," as she called it, she used to try to make him forget what had troubled him.

"Let's play at going to Papa," she said; "I've thought of such a good way of making a ship with[Pg 3] the chairs, half of them upside down and half long-ways—like that, see, Roger; and with our hoop-sticks tied on to the top of Miss Susan's umbrella—I found it in the passage—we can make such a great high pole in the middle. What is it they call a pole in the middle of a ship? I can't remember the name?"

Nor could Roger; but he was greatly delighted with the new kind of ship, and forgot all about the disappointment of the angels in helping Gladys to make it, and when it was made, sailing away, away to Papa, "over the sea, over the sea," as Gladys sang in her little soft thin voice, as she rocked Roger gently up and down, making believe it was the waves.

Some slight misgiving as to what Miss Susan would say to the borrowing of her umbrella was the only thing that interfered with their enjoyment, and made them jump up hastily with a "Oh, Miss Susan," as the beginning of an apology, ready on Gladys's lips when the door opened rather suddenly.

But it was not Miss Susan who came in. A little to their relief and a good deal to their surprise it was Susan's aunt, old Mrs. Lacy, who seldom—for she was lame and rheumatic—managed to get as far as the nursery. She was kind and gentle, though rather[Pg 4] deaf, so that the children were in no way afraid of her.

"Well, dears," she said, "and what are you playing at?"

"Over the sea, Mrs. Lacy," said Gladys. "Over the sea," repeated Roger, who spoke very plainly for his age. "Going over the sea to Papa; that's what we're playing at, and we like it the best of all our games. This is the ship, you see, and that's the big stick in the middle that all ships have—what is it they call it? I can't remember?"

"The mast," suggested Mrs. Lacy.

"Oh yes, the mast," said Gladys in a satisfied tone; "well, you see, we've made the mast with our hoop-sticks and Miss Susan's umbrella—you don't think Miss Susan will mind, do you?" with an anxious glance of her bright brown eyes; "isn't it high, the—the mart?"

"Mast," corrected Mrs. Lacy; "yes, it's taller than you, little Gladys, though you are beginning to grow very fast! What a little body you were when you came here first," and the old lady gave a sigh, which made Roger look up at her.

"Has you got a sore troat?" he inquired.

"No, my dear; what makes you think so?"

[Pg 5]

"'Cos, when my troat was sore I was always breaving out loud like that," said Roger sympathisingly.

"No, my throat's not sore, dear, thank you," said the old lady. "Sometimes people 'breathe' like that when they're feeling a little sad."

"And are you feeling a little sad, poor Mrs. Lacy?" said Gladys. "It's not 'cos Miss Susan's going to be married, is it? I think we shall be very happy when Miss Susan's married, only p'raps it wouldn't be very polite to say so to her, would it?"

"No, it wouldn't be kind, certainly," said the old lady, with a little glance of alarm. Evidently Miss Susan kept her as well as the children in good order. "You must be careful never to say anything like that, for you know Susan has been very good to you and taken great care of you."

"I know," said Gladys; "but still I like you best, Mrs. Lacy."

"And you would be sorry to leave me, just a little sorry; I should not want you to be very sorry," said the gentle old lady.

Gladys glanced up with a curious expression in her eyes.

"Do you mean—is it that you are sad about?—has[Pg 6] it come at last? Has Papa sent for us, Mrs. Lacy? Oh Roger, listen! Of course we should be sorry to leave you and—and Miss Susan. But is it true, can it be true that Papa has sent for us?"

"Yes, dears, it is true; though I never thought you would have guessed it so quickly, Gladys. You are to go to him in a very few weeks. I will tell you all about it as soon as it is settled. There will be a great deal to do with Susan's marriage, too, so soon, and I wouldn't like you to go away without your things being in perfect order."

"I think they are in very nice order already," said Gladys. "I don't think there'll be much to do. I can tell you over all my frocks and Roger's coats if you like, and then you can think what new ones we'll need. Our stockings are getting rather bad, but Miss Susan thought they'd do till we got our new winter ones, and Roger's second-best house shoes are——"

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Lacy, smiling, though a little sadly, at the child's business-like tone; "I must go over them all with Susan. But not to-day. I am tired and rather upset by this news."

"Poor Mrs. Lacy," said Gladys again. "But can't you tell us just a very little? What does Papa say?[Pg 7] Where are we to go to? Not all the way to where he is?"

"No, dear. He is coming home, sooner than he expected, for he has not been well, and you are to meet him somewhere—he has not quite fixed where—in Italy perhaps, and to stay there through the winter. It is a good thing, as it had to be, that he can have you before Susan leaves me, for I am getting too old, dears, to take care of you as I should like—as I took care of him long ago."

For Mrs. Lacy was a very, very old friend of the children's father. She had taken care of him as a boy, and years after, when his children came to be left much as he had been, without a mother, and their father obliged to be far away from them, she had, for love of her adopted son, as she sometimes called him, taken his children and done her best to make them happy. But she was old and feeble, sometimes for days together too ill to see Gladys and Roger, and her niece Susan, who kept house for her, though a very active and clever young lady, did not like children. So, though the children were well taken care of as far as regarded their health, and were always neatly dressed, and had a nice nursery and a pleasant garden to play in, they were, though they were not old enough[Pg 8] to understand it, rather lonely and solitary little creatures. Poor old Mrs. Lacy saw that it was so, but felt that she could do no more; and just when the unexpected letter from their father came, she was on the point of writing to tell him that she thought, especially as her niece was going to be married, some new home must be found for his two little waifs, as he sometimes called them.

Before Mrs. Lacy had time to tell them any more about the great news Miss Susan came in. She looked surprised to see her aunt in the nursery.

"You will knock yourself up if you don't take care," she said rather sharply, though not unkindly. "And my umbrella—my best umbrella! I declare it's too bad—the moment one's back is turned."

"It's the mast, Miss Susan," said Gladys eagerly. "We thought you wouldn't mind. It's the mast of the ship that's going to take us over the sea to Papa."

Some softer feeling came over Susan as she glanced at Gladys's flushed, half-frightened face.

"Poor little things!" she said to herself gently. "Well, be sure to put it back in its place when you've done with it. And now, aunt, come downstairs with me, I have ever so many things to say to you."

[Pg 9]

Mrs. Lacy obeyed meekly.

"You haven't told them yet, have you, aunt?" said Susan, as soon as they were alone.

"Yes, I told them a little," said the old lady. "Somehow I could not help it. I went upstairs and found them playing at the very thing—it seemed to come so naturally. I know you will think it foolish of me, Susan, but I can't help feeling their going, even though it is better for them."

"It's quite natural you should feel it," said Susan in a not unkindly tone. "But still it is a very good thing it has happened just now. For you know, aunt, we have quite decided that you must live with us——"

"You are very good, I know," said Mrs. Lacy, who was really very dependent on her niece's care.

"And yet I could not have asked Mr. Rexford to have taken the children, who, after all, are no relations, you know."

"No," said Mrs. Lacy.

"And then to give them up to their own father is quite different from sending them away to strangers."

"Yes, of course," said the old lady, more briskly this time.

"On the whole," Miss Susan proceeded to sum up, "it could not have happened better, and the[Pg 10] sooner the good-byings and all the bustle of the going are over, the better for you and for me, and for all concerned, indeed. And this leads me to what I wanted to tell you. Things happen so strangely sometimes. This very morning I have heard of such a capital escort for them."

Mrs. Lacy looked up with startled eyes.

"An escort," she repeated. "But not yet, Susan. They are not going yet. Wilfred speaks of 'some weeks hence' in his letter."

"Yes; but his letter was written three weeks ago, and, of course, I am not proposing to send them away to-day or to-morrow. The opportunity I have heard of will be about a fortnight hence. Plenty of time to telegraph, even to write, to Captain Bertram to ensure there being no mistake. But anyway we need not decide just yet. He says he will write again by the next mail, so we shall have another letter by Saturday."

"And what is the escort you have heard of?" asked Mrs. Lacy.

"It is a married niece of the Murrays, who is going to India in about a fortnight. They start from here, as they are coming here on a visit the last thing. They go straight to Marseilles."

[Pg 11]

"But would they like to be troubled with children?"

"They know Captain Bertram, that is how we came to speak of it. And Mrs. Murray is sure they would be glad to do anything to oblige him."

"Ah, well," said Mrs. Lacy. "It sounds very nice. And it is certainly not every day that we should find any one going to France from a little place like this." For Mrs. Lacy's home was in a rather remote and out-of-the-way part of the country. "It would save expense too, for, as they have no longer a regular nurse, I have no one to send even as far as London with them."

"And young Mrs. ——, I forget her name—her maid would look after them on the journey. I asked about that," said Susan, who was certainly not thoughtless.

"Well, well, we must just wait for Saturday's letter," said Mrs. Lacy.

"And in the meantime the less said about it the better, I think," said Susan.

"Perhaps so; I daresay you are right," agreed Mrs. Lacy.

She hardly saw the children again that day. Susan, who seemed to be in an unusually gracious[Pg 12] mood, took them out herself in the afternoon, and was very kind. But they were so little used to talk to her, for she had never tried to gain their confidence, that it did not occur to either Gladys or Roger to chatter about what nevertheless their little heads and hearts were full of. They had also, I think, a vague childish notion of loyalty to their old friend in not mentioning the subject, even though she had not told them not to do so. So they trotted along demurely, pleased at having their best things on, and proud of the honour of a walk with Miss Susan, even while not a little afraid of doing anything to displease her.

"They are good little things after all," thought Susan, when she had brought them home without any misfortune of any kind having marred the harmony of the afternoon. And the colour rushed into Gladys's face when Miss Susan sent them up to the nursery with the promise of strawberry jam for tea, as they had been very good.

"I don't mind so much about the strawberry jam," Gladys confided to Roger, "though it is very nice. But I do like when any one says we've been very good, don't you?"

"Yes," said Roger; adding, however, with his usual[Pg 13] honesty: "I like bofe, being praised and jam, you know, Gladdie."

"'Cos," Gladys continued, "if we are good, you see, Roger, and I really think we must be so if she says so, it will be very nice for Papa, won't it? It matters more now, you see, what we are, 'cos of going to him. When people have people of their own they should be gooder even than when they haven't any one that cares much."

"Should they?" said Roger, a little bewildered. "But Mrs. Lacy cares," he added. Roger was great at second thoughts.

"Ye—s," said Gladys, "she cares, but not dreadfully much. She's getting old, you know. And sometimes—don't say so to anybody, Roger—sometimes I think p'raps she'll soon have to be going to heaven. I think she thinks so. That's another reason, you see," reverting to the central idea round which her busy brain had done nothing but revolve all day, "why it's such a good thing Papa's sent for us now."

"I don't like about people going to heaven," said Roger, with a little shiver. "Why can't God let them stay here, or go over the sea to where it's so pretty. I don't want ever to go to heaven."

[Pg 14]

"Oh, Roger!" said Gladys, shocked. "Papa wouldn't like you to say that."

"Wouldn't he?" said Roger; "then I won't. It's because of the angels, you know, Gladdie. Oh, do you think," he went on, his ideas following the next link in the chain, "do you think we can take Snowball with us when we go?"

"I don't know," said Gladys; and just then Mrs. Lacy's housemaid, who had taken care of them since their nurse had had to leave them some months before, happening to bring in their tea, the little girl turned to her with some vague idea of taking her into their confidence. To have no one but Roger to talk to about so absorbing a matter was almost too much. But Ellen was either quite ignorant of the great news, or too discreet to allow that she had heard it. In answer to Gladys's "feeler" as to how hens travelled, and if one might take them in the carriage with one, she replied matter-of-factly that she believed there were places on purpose for all sorts of live things on the railway, but that Miss Gladys had better ask Miss Susan, who had travelled a great deal more than she, Ellen.

"Yes," replied Gladys disappointedly, "perhaps she has; but most likely not with hens. But have[Pg 15] you stayed at home all your life, Ellen? Have you never left your father and mother till you came here?"

Whereupon Ellen, who was a kindly good girl, only a little too much in awe of Miss Susan to yield to her natural love of children, feeling herself on safe ground, launched out into a somewhat rose-coloured description of her home and belongings, and of her visits as a child to the neighbouring market-town, which much amused and interested her little hearers, besides serving for the time to distract their thoughts from the one idea, which was, I daresay, a good thing. For in this life it is not well to think too much or feel too sure of any hoped-for happiness. The doing so of itself leads to disappointment, for we unconsciously paint our pictures with colours impossibly bright, so that the real cannot but fall short of the imaginary.

But baby Gladys—poor little girl!—at seven it is early days to learn these useful but hard lessons.

She and Roger made up for their silence when they went to bed, and you, children, can better imagine than I can tell the whispered chatter that went on between the two little cots that stood close[Pg 16] together side by side. And still more the lovely confusion of happy dreams that flitted that night through the two curly heads on the two little pillows.

[Pg 17]



"For the last time—words of too sad a tone."

An Old Story and other Poems.

Saturday brought the expected letter, which both Mrs. Lacy and Susan anxiously expected, though with different feelings. Susan hoped that nothing would interfere with the plan she had made for the children's leaving; Mrs. Lacy, even though she owned that it seemed a good plan, could not help wishing that something would happen to defer the parting with the two little creatures whom she had learnt to love as much as if they had been her own grandchildren.

But the letter was all in favour of Susan's ideas. Captain Bertram wrote much more decidedly than he had done before. He named the date at which he was leaving, a very few days after his letter, the date at which he expected to be at Marseilles, and went[Pg 18] on to say that if Mrs. Lacy could possibly arrange to have the children taken over to Paris within a certain time, he would undertake to meet them there at any hour of any day of the week she named. The sooner the better for him, he said, as he would be anxious to get back to the south and settle himself there for the winter, the doctor having warned him to run no risks in exposing himself to cold, though with care he quite hoped to be all right again by the spring. As to a maid for the children—Mrs. Lacy having told him that they had had no regular nurse for some time—he thought it would be a good plan to have a French one, and as he had friends in Paris who understood very well about such things he would look out for one immediately he got there, if Mrs. Lacy could find one to take them over and stay a few days, or if she, perhaps, could spare one of her servants for the time. And he begged her, when she had made her plans, to telegraph, or write if there were time, to him at a certain hotel at Marseilles, "to wait his arrival."

Susan's face had brightened considerably while reading the letter; for Mrs. Lacy, after trying to do so, had given it up, and begged her niece to read it aloud.

"My sight is very bad this morning," she said,[Pg 19] and her voice trembled as she spoke, "and Wilfred's writing was never very clear."

Susan looked at her rather anxiously—for some time past it had seemed to her that her aunt was much less well than usual—but she took the letter and read it aloud in her firm distinct voice, only stopping now and then to exclaim: "Could anything have happened better? It is really most fortunate." Only at the part where Captain Bertram spoke of engaging a maid for the journey, or lending one of theirs, her face darkened a little. "Quite unnecessary—foolish expense. Hope aunt won't speak of it to Ellen," she said to herself in too low a voice for Mrs. Lacy to hear.

"Well, aunt?" she said aloud, when she had finished the letter, but rather to her surprise Mrs. Lacy did not at once reply. She was lying on her couch, and her soft old face looked very white against the cushions. She had closed her eyes, but her lips seemed to be gently moving. What were the unheard words they were saying? A prayer perhaps for the two little fledglings about to be taken from her wing for ever. She knew it was for ever.

"I shall never see them again," she said, loud[Pg 20] enough for Susan to hear, but Susan thought it better not to hear.

"Well, aunt," she repeated, rather impatiently, but the impatience was partly caused by real anxiety; "won't you say what you think of it? could anything have happened better than the Murrays' escort? Just the right time and all."

"Yes, my dear. It seems to have happened wonderfully well. I am sure you will arrange it all perfectly. Can you write to Wilfred at once? And perhaps you had better see Mrs. Murray again. I don't feel able to do anything, but I trust it all to you, Susan. You are so practical and sensible."

"Certainly," replied Susan, agreeably surprised to find her aunt of the same opinion as herself; "I will arrange it all. Don't trouble about it in the least. I will see the Murrays again this afternoon or to-morrow. But in the meantime I think it is better to say nothing more to the children."

"Perhaps so," said Mrs. Lacy. Something in her voice made Susan look round. She was leaving the room at the moment. "Aunt, what is the matter?" she said.

Mrs. Lacy tried to smile, but there were tears in her eyes.

[Pg 21]

"It is nothing, my dear," she said. "I am a foolish old woman, I know. I was only thinking"—and here her voice broke again—"it would have been a great pleasure to me," she went on, "if he could have managed it. If Wilfred could have come all the way himself, and I could have given the children up into his own hands. It would not have seemed quite so—so sad a parting, and I should have liked to see him again."

"But you will see him again, dear aunt," said Susan; "in the spring he is sure to come to England, to settle probably, perhaps not far from us. He has spoken of it in his letters."

"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Lacy, "but——"

"But what?"

"I don't want to be foolish; but you know, my dear, by the spring I may not be here."

"Oh, aunt!" said Susan reproachfully.

"It is true, my dear; but do not think any more of what I said."

But Susan, who was well-principled, though not of a very tender or sympathising nature, turned again, still with her hand on the door-handle.

"Aunt," she said, "you have a right to be consulted—even to be fanciful if you choose. You have[Pg 22] been very good to me, very good to Gladys and Roger, and I have no doubt you were very good to their father long ago. If it would be a comfort to you, let me do it—let me write to Wilfred Bertram and ask him to come here, as you say, to fetch the children himself."

Mrs. Lacy reflected a moment. Then, as had been her habit all her life, she decided on self-denial.

"No, my dear Susan," she said firmly. "Thank you for proposing it, but it is better not. Wilfred has not thought of it, or perhaps he has thought of it and decided against it. It would be additional expense for him, and he has to think of that—then it would give you much more to do, and you have enough."

"I don't mind about that," said Susan.

"And then, too," went on Mrs. Lacy, "there is his health. Evidently it will be better for him not to come so far north so late in the year."

"Yes," said Susan, "that is true."

"So think no more about it, my dear, and thank you for your patience with a silly old woman."

Susan stooped and kissed her aunt, which from her meant a good deal. Then, her conscience quite at rest, she got ready to go to see Mrs. Murray at once.

[Pg 23]

"There is no use losing the chance through any foolish delay," she said to herself.

Two days later she was able to tell her aunt that all was settled. Mrs. Murray had written to her niece, Mrs. Marton, and had already got her answer. She and her husband would gladly take charge of the children as far as Paris, and her maid, a very nice French girl, who adored little people, would look after them in every way—not the slightest need to engage a nurse for them for the journey, as they would be met by their father on their arrival. The Martons were to spend two days, the last two days of their stay in England, with Mrs. Murray, and meant to leave on the Thursday of the week during which Captain Bertram had said he could meet the children at any day and any hour. Everything seemed to suit capitally.

"They will cross on Friday," said Susan; "that is the Indian mail day, of course. And it is better than earlier in the week, as it gives Captain Bertram two or three days' grace in case of any possible delay."

"And will you write, or telegraph—which is it?" asked Mrs. Lacy timidly, for these sudden arrangements had confused her—"at once, then?"

"Telegraph, aunt? No, of course not," said Susan a little sharply, "he will have left ——pore several[Pg 24] days ago, you know, and there is no use telegraphing to Marseilles. I will write to-morrow—there is plenty of time—a letter to wait his arrival, as he himself proposed. Then when he arrives he will telegraph to us to say he has got the letter, and that it is all right. You quite understand, aunt?"

"Oh yes, quite. I am very stupid, I know, my dear," said the old lady meekly.

A few days passed. Gladys had got accustomed by this time to the idea of leaving, and no longer felt bewildered and almost oppressed by the rush of questions and wonderings in her mind. But her busy little brain nevertheless was constantly at work. She had talked it all over with Roger so often that he, poor little boy, no longer knew what he thought or did not think about it. He had vague visions of a ship about the size of Mrs. Lacy's drawing-room, with a person whom he fancied his father—a tall man with very black whiskers, something like Mrs. Murray's butler, whom Miss Susan had one day spoken of as quite "soldier-like"—and Roger's Papa was of course a soldier—standing in the middle to hold the mast steady, and Gladys and he with new ulsters on—Gladys had talked a great deal about new ulsters for the journey—waving flags at each side. Flags were[Pg 25] hopelessly confused with ships in Roger's mind; he thought they had something to do with making boats go quicker. But he did not quite like to say so to Gladys, as she sometimes told him he was really too silly for a big boy of nearly five.

So the two had become rather silent on the subject. Roger had almost left off thinking about it. His little everyday life of getting up and going to bed, saying his prayers and learning his small lessons for the daily governess who came for an hour every morning, eating his breakfast and dinner and tea, and playing with his toy-horses, was enough for him. He could not for long together have kept his thoughts on the strain of far-away and unfamiliar things, and so long as he knew that he had Gladys at hand, and that nobody (which meant Miss Susan in particular) was vexed with him, he asked no more of fate! And when Gladys saw that he was much more interested in trying to catch sight of an imaginary little mouse which was supposed to have been nibbling at the tail of his favourite horse in the toy-cupboard, than in listening to her wonderings whether Papa had written again, and when Miss Susan was going to see about their new ulsters, she gave up talking to him in despair.

[Pg 26]

If she could have given up thinking so much about what was to come, it would have been better, I daresay. But still it was not to be wondered at that she found it difficult to give her mind to anything else. The governess could not make out why Gladys had become so absent and inattentive all of a sudden, for though the little girl's head was so full of the absorbing thought, she never dreamt of speaking of it to any one but Roger. Mrs. Lacy had not told her she must not do so, but somehow Gladys, with a child's quick delicate instinct of honour, often so little understood, had taken for granted that she was not to do so.

"Everything comes to him that has patience to wait," says the Eastern proverb, and in her own way Gladys had been patient, when one morning, about a week after the day on which Susan had told her aunt that everything was settled, Miss Fern, the daily governess, at the close of lessons, told her to go down to the drawing-room, as Mrs. Lacy wanted her.

"And Roger too?" asked Gladys, her heart beating fast, though she spoke quietly.

"Yes, I suppose so," said Miss Fern, as she tied her bonnet-strings.

The children had noticed that she had come into the schoolroom a little later than usual that morning,[Pg 27] and that her eyes were red. But in answer to Roger's tender though very frank inquiries, she had murmured something about a cold.

"That was a story, then, what she said about her eyes," thought sharp-witted Gladys. "She's been crying; I'm sure she has." But then a feeling of pity came into her mind. "Poor Miss Fern; I suppose she's sorry to go away, and I daresay Mrs. Lacy said she wasn't to say anything about it to us." So she kissed Miss Fern very nicely, and stopped the rest of the remarks which she saw Roger was preparing.

"Go and wash your hands quick, Roger," she said, "for we must go downstairs. Mine are quite clean, but your middle fingers are all over ink."

"Washing doesn't take it away," said Roger reluctantly. There were not many excuses he would have hesitated to use to avoid washing his hands!

"Never mind. It makes them clean anyway," said Gladys decidedly, and five minutes later two very spruce little pinafored figures stood tapping at the drawing-room door.

"Come in, dears," said Mrs. Lacy's faint gentle voice. She was lying on her sofa, and the children went up and kissed her.

"You has got a cold too—like Miss Fern," said[Pg 28] Roger, whose grammar was sometimes at fault, though he pronounced his words so clearly.

"Roger," whispered Gladys, tugging at her little brother under his holland blouse. But Mrs. Lacy caught the word.

"Never mind, dear," she said, with a little smile, which showed that she saw that Gladys understood. "Let him say whatever comes into his head, dear little man."

Something in the words, simple as they were, or more perhaps in the tone, made little Gladys suddenly turn away. A lump came into her throat, and she felt as if she were going to cry.

"I wonder why I feel so strange," she thought, "just when we're going to hear about going to Papa? I think it is that Mrs. Lacy's eyes look so sad, 'cos she's been crying. It's much worse than Miss Fern's. I don't care so much for her as for Mrs. Lacy," and all these feelings surging up in her heart made her not hear when their old friend began to speak. She had already said some words when Gladys's thoughts wandered back again.

"It came this morning," the old lady was saying. "See, dears, can you read what your Papa says?" And she held out a pinky-coloured little sheet of[Pg 29] paper, not at all like a letter. Gladys knew what it was, but Roger did not; he had never seen a telegram before.

"Is that Papa's writing?" he said. "It's very messy-looking. I couldn't read it, I don't think."

"But I can," said Gladys, spelling out the words. "'Ar—arrived safe. Will meet children as you prop—' What is the last word, please, Mrs. Lacy?"

"Propose," said the old lady, "as you propose." And then she went on to explain that this telegram was in answer to a letter from Miss Susan to their father, telling him all she had settled about the journey. "This telegram is from Marseilles," she said; "that is the town by the sea in France, where your dear Papa has arrived. It is quite in the south, but he will come up by the railway to meet you at Paris, where Mr. and Mrs. Marton—Mrs. Marton is Mrs. Murray's niece, Gladys—will take you to."

It was a little confusing to understand, but Mrs. Lacy went over it all again most patiently, for she felt it right that the children, Gladys especially, should understand all the plans before starting away with Mr. and Mrs. Marton, who, however kind, were still quite strangers to them.

Gladys listened attentively.

[Pg 30]

"Yes," she said; "I understand now. But how will Papa know us, Mrs. Lacy? We have grown so, and——" she went on, rather reluctantly, "I am not quite sure that I should know him, not just at the very first minute."

Mrs. Lacy smiled.

"No, dear, of course you could not, after more than four years! But Mr. Marton knows your Papa."

Gladys's face cleared.

"Oh, that is all right," she said. "That is a very good thing. But"—and Gladys looked round hesitatingly—"isn't anybody else going with us? I wish—I wish nurse wasn't married; don't you, Mrs. Lacy?"

The sort of appeal in the child's voice went to the old lady's heart.

"Yes, dear," she said. "But Susan thinks it will be quite nice for you with Léonie, young Mrs. Marton's maid, for your Papa will have a new nurse all ready. She wrote to tell him that we would not send any nurse with you."

Gladys gave a little sigh. It took some of the bloom off the delight of "going to Papa" to have to begin the journey alone among strangers, and she saw that Mrs. Lacy sympathised with her.

[Pg 31]

"It will save a good deal of expense too," the old lady added, more as if thinking aloud, and half forgetting to whom she was speaking.

"Will it?" said Gladys quickly. "Oh, then, I won't mind. We won't mind, will we, Roger?" she repeated, turning to her little brother.

"No, we won't," answered Roger solemnly, though without a very clear idea of what he was talking about, for he was quite bewildered by all he had heard, and knew and understood nothing but that he and Gladys were going somewhere with somebody to see Papa.

"That's right," said Mrs. Lacy cheerfully. "You are a sensible little body, my Gladys."

"I know Papa isn't very rich," said Gladys, encouraged by this approval, "and he'll have a great lot more to pay now that Roger and I are going to be with him, won't he?"

"You have such very big appetites, do you think?"

"I don't know," said Gladys. "But there are such lots of things to buy, aren't there? All our frocks and hats and boots. But oh!" she suddenly broke off, "won't we have to be getting our things ready? and do you think we should have new ulsters?"

"They are ordered," said Mrs. Lacy. "Indeed,[Pg 32] everything you will need is ordered. Susan has been very busy, but everything will be ready."

"When are we to go?" asked Gladys, suddenly remembering this important question.

The sad look came into Mrs. Lacy's eyes again, and her voice trembled as she replied: "Next Thursday, my darling."

"Next Thursday," repeated Gladys; and then catching sight of the tears which were slowly welling up into Mrs. Lacy's kind eyes—it is so sad to see an aged person cry!—she suddenly threw her arms around her old friend's neck, and, bursting out sobbing, exclaimed again: "Next Thursday. Oh, dear Mrs. Lacy, next Thursday!"

And Roger stood by, fumbling to get out his pocket-handkerchief, not quite sure if he should also cry or not. It seemed to him strange that Gladys should cry just when what she had wanted so much had come—just when it was all settled about going to Papa!

[Pg 33]



"The cab-wheels made a dreamy thunder
In their half-awakened ears;
And then they felt a dreamy wonder
Amid their dream-like fears."

Lavender Lady.

Gladys said something of the same kind to herself when, looking round her in the railway carriage on that same Thursday morning, she realised that the long, long looked-forward-to day had come. She and Roger had actually started on their journey to Papa! Yet her eyes were red and her face was pale. Little Roger, too, looked subdued and sober. It had never been so in their plays; in their pretence goings to Papa they were always full of fun and high spirits. It was always a beautiful sunny day to begin with, and to-day, the real day, was sadly dull and dreary, and cold too; the children, even though the new[Pg 34] ulsters were in all their glory, shivered a little and drew closer together. The rain was falling so fast that there was no use trying to look out of the window, when fields and trees and farmhouses all seem to fly past in a misty confusion. Mr. Marton was deep in his Times; Mrs. Marton, after settling the children in the most comfortable places and doing all she could think of, had drawn a book out of her travelling-bag and was also busy reading. Roger, after a while, grew sleepy, and nodded his head, and then Mrs. Marton made a pillow for him on the arm of the seat, and covered him up with her rug. But Gladys, who was not at all sleepy, sat staring before her with wide open eyes, and thinking it was all very strange, and, above all, not the very least bit like what she had thought it would be. The tears came back into her eyes again when she thought of the parting with Mrs. Lacy. She and Roger had hardly seen their kind old friend the last few days, for she was ill, much more ill than usual, and Susan had looked grave and troubled. But the evening before, she had sent for them to say good-bye, and this was the recollection that made the tears rush back to the little girl's eyes. Dear Mrs. Lacy, how very white and ill she looked, propped up by pillows on the old-fashioned sofa in[Pg 35] her room—every article in which was old-fashioned too, and could have told many a long-ago tender little story of the days when their owner was a merry blooming girl; or, farther back still, a tiny child like Gladys herself! For much of Mrs. Lacy's life had been spent in the same house and among the same things. She had gone from there when she was married, and she had come back there a widow and childless, and there she had brought up these children's father, Wilfred, as she often called him even in speaking to them, the son of her dearest friend. All this Gladys knew, for sometimes when they were alone together, Mrs. Lacy would tell her little stories of the past, which left their memory with the child, even though at the time hardly understood; and now that she and Roger were quite gone from the old house and the old life, the thought of them hung about Gladys with a strange solemn kind of mystery.

"I never thought about leaving Mrs. Lacy when we used to play at going," she said to herself. "I never even thought of leaving the house and our own little beds and everything, and even Miss Susan. And Ellen was very kind. I wish she could have come with us, just till we get to Papa," and then, at the thought of this unknown Papa, a little tremor came[Pg 36] over the child, though she would not have owned it to any one. "I wonder if it would have cost a very great deal for Ellen to come with us just for a few days. I would have given my money-box money, and so would Roger, I am sure. I have fifteen and sixpence, and he has seven shillings and fourpence. It could not have cost more than all that," and then she set to work to count up how much her money and Roger's added together would be. It would not come twice together to the same sum somehow, and Gladys went on counting it up over and over again confusedly till at last it all got into a confusion together, for she too, tired out with excitement and the awakening of so many strange feelings, had fallen asleep like poor little Roger.

They both slept a good while, and Mr. and Mrs. Marton congratulated themselves on having such very quiet and peaceable small fellow-travellers.

"They are no trouble at all," said young Mrs. Marton. "But on the boat we must of course have Léonie with us, in case of a bad passage."

"Yes, certainly," said her husband; "indeed I think she had better be with us from London. They will be getting tired by then."

"They are tired already, poor pets," said Mrs.[Pg 37] Marton, who was little more than a girl herself. "They don't look very strong, do they, Phillip?"

Mr. Marton took the cigarette he had just been preparing to enjoy out of his mouth, and turned towards the children, examining them critically.

"The boy looks sturdy enough, though he's small. He's like Bertram. The girl seems delicate; she's so thin too."

"Yes," agreed Mrs. Marton. "I don't mind, and no more does Léonie; but I think it was rather hard-hearted of Susan Lacy to have sent them off like that without a nurse of their own. If she had not been so worried about Mrs. Lacy's illness, I think I would have said something about it to her, even at the last. Somehow, till I saw the children, I did not think they were so tiny."

"It'll be all right once we get to Paris and we give them over to their father," said Mr. Marton, who was of a philosophical turn of mind, puffing away again at his cigarette. "It will have saved some expense, and that's a consideration too."

The children slept for some time. When they awoke they were not so very far from London. They felt less tired and better able to look about them and ask a few modest little questions. And when they got[Pg 38] to London they enjoyed the nice hot cup of tea they had in the refreshment room, and by degrees they began to make friends with Léonie, who was very bright and merry, so that they were pleased to hear she was to be in the same carriage with them for the rest of the journey.

"Till you see your dear Papa," said Léonie, who had heard all the particulars from her young mistress.

"Yes," said Gladys quietly—by this time they were settled again in another railway carriage—"our Papa's to be at the station to meet us."

"And we're to have a new nurse," added Roger, who was in a communicative humour. "Do you think she'll be kind to us?"

"I'm sure she will," said Léonie, whose heart was already won.

"She's to teach us French," said Gladys.

"That will be very nice," said Léonie. "It is a very good thing to know many languages."

"Can you speak French?" asked Roger.

Léonie laughed, "Of course I can," she replied, "French is my tongue."

Roger sat straight up, with an appearance of great interest.

"Your tongue," he repeated. "Please let me see[Pg 39] it," and he stared hard at Léonie's half-opened mouth. "Is it not like our tongues then?"

Léonie stared too, then she burst out laughing.

"Oh, I don't mean tongue like that," she said, "I mean talking—language. When I was little like you I could talk nothing but French, just like you now, who can talk only English."

"And can't everybody in France talk English too?" asked Gladys, opening her eyes.

"Oh dear no!" said Léonie.

Gladys and Roger looked at each other. This was quite a new and rather an alarming idea.

"It is a very good thing," Gladys remarked at last, "that Papa is to be at the station. If we got lost over there," she went on, nodding her head in the direction of an imaginary France, "it would be even worse than in London."

"But you're not going to get lost anywhere," said Léonie, smiling. "We'll take better care of you than that."

And then she went on to tell them a little story of how once, when she was a very little girl, she had got lost—not in Paris, but in a much smaller town—and how frightened she was, and how at last an old peasant woman on her way home from market had[Pg 40] found her crying under a hedge, and had brought her home again to her mother. This thrilling adventure was listened to with the greatest interest.

"How pleased your mother must have been to see you again!" said Gladys. "Does she still live in that queer old town? Doesn't she mind you going away from her?"

"Alas!" said Léonie, and the tears twinkled in her bright eyes, "my mother is no longer of this world. She went away from me several years ago. I shall not see her again till in heaven."

"That's like us," said Gladys. "We've no Mamma. Did you know?"

"But you've a good Papa," said Léonie.

"Yes," said Gladys, rather doubtfully, for somehow the idea of a real flesh-and-blood Papa seemed to be getting more instead of less indistinct now that they were soon to see him. "But he's been away such a very long time."

"Poor darlings," said Léonie.

"And have you no Papa, no little brothers, not any one like that?" inquired Gladys.

"I have some cousins—very good people," said Léonie. "They live in Paris, where we are now going. If there had been time I should have liked to go to[Pg 41] see them. But we shall stay no time in Paris—just run from one station to the other."

"But the luggage?" said Gladys. "Mrs. Marton has a lot of boxes. I don't see how you can run if you have them to carry. I think it would be better to take a cab, even if it does cost a little more. But perhaps there are no cabs in Paris. Is that why you talk of running to the station?"

Léonie had burst out laughing half-way through this speech, and though she knew it was not very polite, she really could not help it. The more she tried to stop, the more she laughed.

"What is the matter?" said Gladys at last, a little offended.

"I beg your pardon," said Léonie; "I know it is rude. But, Mademoiselle, the idea"—and here she began to laugh again—"of Monsieur and Madame and me all running with the boxes! It was too amusing!"

Gladys laughed herself now, and so did Roger.

"Then there are cabs in Paris," she said in a tone of relief. "I am glad of that. Papa will have one all ready for us, I suppose. What time do we get there, Léonie?"

Léonie shook her head.

[Pg 42]

"A very disagreeable time," she said, "quite, quite early in the morning, before anybody seems quite awake. And the mornings are already so cold. I am afraid you will not like Paris very much at first."

"Oh yes, they will," said Mrs. Marton, who had overheard the last part of the conversation. "Think how nice it will be to see their Papa waiting for them, and to go to a nice warm house and have breakfast; chocolate, most likely. Do you like chocolate?"

"Yes, very much," said Gladys and Roger.

"I think it is not you to be pitied, anyway," Mrs. Marton went on, for the half-appealing, half-frightened look of the little things touched her. "It's much worse for us three, poor things, travelling on all the way to Marseilles."

"That's where Papa's been. Mrs. Lacy showed it me on the map. What a long way! Poor Mrs. Marton. Wouldn't Mr. Marton let you stay at Paris with us till you'd had a rest?"

"We'd give you some of our chocolate," said Roger hospitably.

"And let poor Phillip, that's Mr. Marton," replied the young lady, "go all the way to India alone?"

[Pg 43]

The children looked doubtful.

"You could go after him," suggested Roger.

"But Léonie and I wouldn't like to go so far alone. It's nicer to have a man to take care of you when you travel. You're getting to be a man, you see, Roger, already—learning to take care of your sister."

"I have growed a good big piece on the nursery door since my birthday," agreed Roger complacently. "But when Papa's there he'll take care of us both till I'm quite big."

"Ah, yes, that will be best of all," said Mrs. Marton, smiling. "I do hope Papa will be there all right, poor little souls," she added to herself. For, though young, Mrs. Marton was not thoughtless, and she belonged to a happy and prosperous family where since infancy every care had been lavished on the children, and somehow since she had seen and talked to Gladys and Roger their innocence and loneliness had struck her sharply, and once or twice a misgiving had come over her that in her anxiety to get rid of the children, and to waste no money, Susan Lacy had acted rather hastily. "Captain Bertram should have telegraphed again," she reflected. "It is nearly a week since he did so. I wish I had[Pg 44] made Phillip telegraph yesterday to be sure all was right. The Lacys need not have known anything about it."

But they were at Dover now, and all these fears and reflections were put out of her head by the bustle of embarking and settling themselves comfortably, and devoutly hoping they would have a good passage. The words meant nothing to Gladys and Roger. They had never been on the sea since they were little babies, and had no fears. And, fortunately, nothing disturbed their happy ignorance, for, though cold, the sea was very smooth. They were disappointed at the voyage being made in the dark, as they had counted on all sorts of investigations into the machinery of the "ship," and Roger had quite expected that his services would be required to help to make it go faster, whereas it seemed to them only as if they were taken into a queer sort of drawing-room and made to lie down on red sofas, and covered up with shawls, and that then there came a booming noise something like the threshing machine at the farm where they sometimes went to fetch butter and eggs, and then—and then—they fell asleep, and when they woke they were being bundled into another railway carriage! Léonie was carrying[Pg 45] Roger, and Gladys, as she found to her great disgust—she thought herself far too big for anything of the kind—was in Mr. Marton's arms, where she struggled so that the poor man thought she was having an attack of nightmare, and began to soothe her as if she were about two, which did not improve matters.

"Hush, hush, my dear. You shall go to sleep again in a moment," he said. "But what a little vixen she is!" he added, when he had at last got Gladys, red and indignant, deposited in a corner.

"I'm too big to be carried," she burst out, half sobbing. "I wouldn't even let Papa carry me."

But kind Mrs. Marton, though she could hardly help laughing, soon put matters right by assuring Gladys that lots of people, even quite big grown-up ladies, were often lifted in and out of ships. When it was rough only the sailors could keep their footing. So Gladys, who was beginning to calm down and to feel a little ashamed, took it for granted that it had been very rough, and told Mr. Marton she was very sorry—she had not understood. The railway carriage was warm and comfortable, so after a while the children again did the best thing they could under the circumstances—they went to sleep. And so, I think, did their three grown-up friends.

[Pg 46]

Gladys was the first to wake. She looked round her in the dim morning light—all the others were still asleep. It felt chilly, and her poor little legs were stiff and numb. She drew them up on to the seat to try to warm them, and looked out of the window. Nothing to be seen but damp flat fields, and trees with a few late leaves still clinging to them, and here and there a little cottage or farmhouse looking, like everything else, desolate and dreary. Gladys withdrew her eyes from the prospect.

"I don't like travelling," she decided. "I wonder if the sun never shines in this country."

A little voice beside her made her look round.

"Gladdie," it said, "are we near that place? Are you sure Papa will be there? I'm so tired of these railways, Gladdie."

"So am I," said Gladys sympathisingly. "I should think we'll soon be there. But I'm sure I shan't like Paris, Roger. I'll ask Papa to take us back to Mrs. Lacy's again."

Roger gave a little shiver.

"It's such a long way to go," he said. "I wouldn't mind if only Ellen had come with us, and if we had chocolate for breakfast."

But their voices, low as they were, awakened[Pg 47] Léonie, who was beside them. And then Mrs. Marton awoke, and at last Mr. Marton, who looked at his watch, and finding they were within ten minutes of Paris, jumped up and began fussing away at the rugs and shawls and bags, strapping them together, and generally unsettling everybody.

"We must get everything ready," he said. "I shall want to be free to see Bertram at once."

"But there's never a crowd inside the station here," said his wife. "They won't let people in without special leave. We shall easily catch sight of Captain Bertram if he has managed to get inside."

"He's sure to have done so," said Mr. Marton, and in his anxiety to catch the first glimpse of his friend, Mr. Marton spent the next ten minutes with his head and half his body stretched out of the window long before the train entered the station, though even when it arrived there the dim light would have made it difficult to recognise any one.

Had there been any one to recognise! But there was not. The train came to a stand at last. Mr. Marton had eagerly examined the faces of the two or three men, not railway officials, standing on the platform, but there was no one whom by any possibility he could for a second have taken for Captain[Pg 48] Bertram. Mrs. Marton sat patiently in her place, hoping every instant that "Phillip" would turn round with a cheery "all right, here he is. Here, children!" and oh, what a weight—a weight that all through the long night journey had been mysteriously increasing—would have been lifted off the kind young lady's heart had he done so! But no; when Mr. Marton at last drew in his head there was a disappointed and perplexed look on his good-natured face.

"He's not here—not on the platform, I mean," he said, hastily correcting himself. "He must be waiting outside; we'll find him where we give up the tickets. It's a pity he didn't manage to get inside. However, we must jump out. Here, Léonie, you take Mrs. Marton's bag, I'll shoulder the rugs. Hallo there," to a porter, "that's all right. You give him the things, Léonie. Omnibus, does he say? Bless me, how can I tell? Bertram's got a cab engaged most likely, and we don't want an omnibus for us three. You explain to him, Léonie."

In another moment the little party was making its way through the station.

Which Léonie did, and in another moment the little party was making its way through the station, among the crowd of their fellow-passengers. Mr. Marton first, with the rugs, then his wife holding[Pg 49] Gladys by the hand, then Léonie and Roger, followed by the porter bringing up the rear. Mrs. Marton's heart was not beating fast by this time; it was almost standing still with apprehension. But she said nothing. On they went through the little gate where the tickets were given up, on the other side of which stood with eager faces the few expectant friends who had been devoted enough to get up at five o'clock to meet their belongings who were crossing by the night mail. Mr. Marton's eyes ran round them, then glanced behind, first to one side and then to the other as if Captain Bertram could jump up from some corner like a jack-in-the-box. His face grew graver and graver, but he did not speak. He led his wife and the children and Léonie to the most comfortable corner of the dreary waiting-room, and saying shortly, "I'm going to look after the luggage and to hunt up Bertram. He must have overslept himself if he's not here yet. You all wait here quietly till I come back," disappeared in the direction of the luggage-room.

Mrs. Marton did not speak either. She drew Gladys nearer her, and put her arm round the little girl as if to protect her against the disappointment which she felt was coming. Gladys sat perfectly silent. What she was expecting, or fearing, or even[Pg 50] thinking, I don't believe she could have told. She had only one feeling that she could have put into words, "Everything is quite different from what I thought. It isn't at all like going to Papa."

But poor little Roger tugged at Léonie, who was next him.

"What are we waiting here in this ugly house for?" he said. "Can't we go to Papa and have our chocolate?"

Léonie stooped down and said something to soothe him, and after a while he grew drowsy again, and his little head dropped on to her shoulder. And so they sat for what seemed a terribly long time. It was more than half an hour, till at last Mr. Marton appeared again.

"I've only just got out that luggage," he said. "What a detestable plan that registering it is! And now I've got it I don't know what to do with it, for——"

"Has he not come?" interrupted his wife.

Mr. Marton glanced at Gladys. She did not seem to be listening.

"Not a bit of him," he replied. "I've hunted right through the station half a dozen times, and it's an hour and a half since the train was due. It cannot[Pg 51] be some little delay. It's a pretty kettle of fish and no mistake."

Mrs. Marton's blue eyes gazed up in her husband's face with a look of the deepest anxiety.

"What is to be done?" she said.

[Pg 52]



"That is the question."


Yes, "what was to be done?" That was certainly the question. Mr. Marton looked at his wife for a moment or two without replying. Then he seemed to take a sudden resolution.

"We can't stay here all the morning, that's about all I can say at present," he said. "Come along, we'd better go to the nearest hotel and think over matters."

So off they all set again—Mr. Marton and the rugs, Mrs. Marton and Gladys, Léonie and Roger—another porter being got hold of to bring such of the bags, etc., as were not left at the station with the big luggage. Gladys walked along as if in a dream; she did not even wake up to notice the great wide street and all the carriages, and omnibuses, and carts,[Pg 53] and people as they crossed to the hotel in front of the station. She hardly even noticed that all the voices about her were talking in a language she did not understand—she was completely dazed—the only words which remained clearly in her brain were the strange ones which Mr. Marton had made use of—"a pretty kettle of fish and no mistake." "No mistake," that must mean that Papa's not coming to the station was not a mistake, but that there was some reason for it. But "a kettle of fish," what could that have to do with it all? She completely lost herself in puzzling about it. Why she did not simply ask Mrs. Marton to explain it I cannot tell. Perhaps the distressed anxious expression on that young lady's own face had something to do with her not doing so.

Arrived at the hotel, and before a good fire in a large dining-room at that early hour quite empty, a slight look of relief came over all the faces. It was something to get warmed at least! And Mr. Marton ordered the hot chocolate for which Roger had been pining, before he said anything else. It came almost at once, and Léonie established the children at one of the little tables, drinking her own coffee standing, that she might attend to them and join in[Pg 54] the talking of her master and mistress if they wished it.

Roger began to feel pretty comfortable. He had not the least idea where he was—he had never before in his life been at a hotel, and would not have known what it meant—but to find himself warmed and fed and Gladys beside him was enough for the moment; and even Gladys herself began to feel a very little less stupefied and confused. Mr. and Mrs. Marton, at another table, talked gravely and in a low voice. At last Mr. Marton called Léonie.

"Come here a minute," he said, "and see if you can throw any light on the matter. You are more at home in Paris than we are. Mrs. Marton and I are at our wits' end. If we had a few days to spare it would not be so bad, but we have not. Our berths are taken, and we cannot afford to lose three passages."

"Mine too, sir," said Léonie. "Is mine taken too?"

"Of course it is. You didn't suppose you were going as cabin-boy, did you?" said Mr. Marton rather crossly, though I don't think his being a little cross was to be wondered at. Poor Léonie looked very snubbed.

"I was only wondering," she said meekly, "if I[Pg 55] could have stayed behind with the poor children till——"

"Impossible," said Mr. Marton; "lose your passage for a day or two's delay in their father's fetching them. If I thought it was more than that I would send them back to England," he added, turning to his wife.

"And poor Mrs. Lacy so ill! Oh no, that would never do," she said.

"And there's much more involved than our passages," he went on. "It's as much as my appointment is worth to miss this mail. It's just this—Captain Bertram is either here, or has been detained at Marseilles. If he's still there, we can look him up when we get there to-morrow; if he's in Paris, and has made some stupid mistake, we must get his address at Marseilles, he's sure to have left it at the hotel there for letters following him, and telegraph back to him here. I never did know anything so senseless as Susan Lacy's not making him give a Paris address," he added.

"He was only to arrive here yesterday or the day before," said Mrs. Marton.

"But the friends who were to have a nurse ready for the children? We should have had some address."

"Yes," said Mrs. Marton self-reproachfully. "I[Pg 56] wish I had thought of it. But Susan was so sure all would be right. And certainly, in case of anything preventing Captain Bertram's coming, it was only natural to suppose he would have telegraphed, or sent some one else, or done something."

"Well—all things considered," said Mr. Marton, "it seems to me the best thing to do is to leave the children here, even if we had a choice, which I must say I don't see! For I don't know how I could send them back to England, nor what their friends there might find to say if I did—nor can we——"

"Take them on to Marseilles with us?" interrupted Mrs. Marton. "Oh, Phillip, would not that be better?"

"And find that their father had just started for Paris?" replied her husband. "And then think of the expense. Here, they are much nearer at hand if they have to be fetched back to England."

Mrs. Marton was silent. Suddenly another idea struck her. She started up.

"Supposing Captain Bertram has come to the station since we left," she exclaimed. "He may be there now."

Mr. Marton gave a little laugh.

"No fear," he said "Every official in the place[Pg 57] knows the whole story. I managed to explain it, and told them to send him over here."

"And what are you thinking of doing, then? Where can we leave them?"

Mr. Marton looked at his watch.

"That's just the point," he said. "We've only three hours unless we put off till the night express, and that is running it too fine. Any little detention and we might miss the boat."

"We've run it too fine already, I fear," said Mrs. Marton dolefully. "It's been my fault, Phillip—the wanting to stay in England till the last minute."

"It's Susan Lacy's fault, or Bertram's fault, or both our faults for being too good-natured," said Mr. Marton gloomily. "But that's not the question now. I don't think we should put off going, for—another reason—it would leave us no time to look up Bertram at Marseilles. Only if we had had a few hours, I could have found some decent people to leave the children with here, some good 'pension,' or——"

"But such places are all so dear, and we have to consider the money too."

"Yes," said Mr. Marton, "we have literally to do so. I've only just in cash what we need for ourselves, and I couldn't cash a cheque here all in a minute,[Pg 58] for my name is not known. But something must be fixed, and at once. I wonder if it would be any good if I were to consult the manager of this hotel? I——"

"Pardon," said Léonie, suddenly interrupting. "I have an idea. My aunt—she is really my cousin, but I call her aunt—you know her by name, Madame?" she went on, turning to Mrs. Marton. "My mother often spoke of her"—for Mrs. Marton's family had known Léonie's mother long ago when she had been a nurse in England—"Madame Nestor. They are upholsterers in the Rue Verte, not very far from here, quite in the centre of Paris. They are very good people—of course, quite in a little way; but honest and good. They would do their best, just for a few days! It would be better than leaving the dear babies with those we knew nothing of. I think I could persuade them, if I start at once!" She began drawing her gloves on while she was speaking. And she had spoken so fast and confusedly that for a moment or two both Mr. and Mrs. Marton stared at her, not clearly taking in what she meant.

"Shall I go, Madame?" she said, with a little impatience. "There is no time to lose. Of course if you do not like the idea—I would not have thought of it except that all is so difficult, so unexpected."

[Pg 59]

"Not like it?" said Mr. Marton; "on the contrary I think it's a capital idea. The children would be in safe hands, and at worst it can't be for more than a couple of days. If Captain Bertram has been detained at Marseilles by illness or anything——"

"That's not likely," interrupted Mrs. Marton, "he would have written or telegraphed."

"Well, then, if it's some stupid mistake about the day, he'll come off at once when we tell him where they are. I was only going to say that, at worst, if he is ill, or anything wrong, we'll telegraph to Susan Lacy from Marseilles and she'll send over for them somehow."

"Should we not telegraph to her at once from here?"

Mr. Marton considered.

"I don't see the use," he said at last. "We can tell her nothing certain, nothing that she should act on yet. And it would only worry the old lady for nothing."

"I'm afraid she's too ill to be told anything about it," said Mrs. Marton.

"Then the more reason for waiting. But here we are losing the precious minutes, and Léonie all ready to start. Off with you, Léonie, as fast as ever you[Pg 60] can, and see what you can do. Take a cab and make him drive fast," he called after her, for she had started off almost with his first words. "She's a very good sort of a girl," he added, turning to his wife.

"Yes, she always has her wits about her in an emergency," agreed Mrs. Marton. "I do hope," she went on, "that what we are doing will turn out for the best. I really never did know anything so unfortunate, and——"

"Is it all because of the kettle of fish? Did Papa tumble over it? Oh, I wish you'd tell me!" said a pathetic little voice at her side, and turning round Mrs. Marton caught sight of Gladys, her hands clasped, her small white face and dark eyes gazing up beseechingly. It had grown too much for her at last, the bewilderment and the strangeness, and the not understanding. And the change from the cramped-up railway carriage and the warm breakfast had refreshed her a little, so that gradually her ideas were growing less confused. She had sat on patiently at the table long after she had finished her chocolate, though Roger was still occupied in feeding himself by tiny spoonfuls. He had never had anything in the way of food more interesting than this chocolate, for it was still hot, and whenever he left it for a moment a skin[Pg 61] grew over the top, which it was quite a business to clear away—catching now and then snatches of the eager anxious talk that was going on among the big people. And at last when Léonie hurried out of the room, evidently sent on a message, Gladys felt that she must find out what was the matter and what it all meant. But the topmost idea in her poor little brain was still the kettle of fish.

"If Papa has hurt himself," Gladys went on, "I think it would be better to tell me. I'd so much rather know. I'm not so very little, Mrs. Marton, Mrs. Lacy used to tell me things."

Mrs. Marton stooped down and put her arms round the pathetic little figure.

"Oh, I wish I could take you with me all the way. Oh! I'm so sorry for you, my poor little pet," she exclaimed girlishly. "But indeed we are not keeping anything from you. I only wish we had anything to tell. We don't know ourselves; we have no idea why your father has not come."

"But the kettle of fish?" repeated Gladys.

Mrs. Marton stared at her a moment, and then looked up at her husband. He grew a little red.

"It must have been I that said it," he explained. "It is only an expression; a way of speaking, little[Pg 62] Gladys. It means when—when people are rather bothered, you know—and can't tell what to do. I suppose it comes from somebody once upon a time having had more fish than there was room for in their kettle, and not knowing what to do with them."

"Then we're the fish—Roger and I—I suppose, that you don't know what to do with?" said Gladys, her countenance clearing a little. "I'm very sorry. But I think Papa'll come soon; don't you?"

"Yes, I do," replied Mr. Marton. "Something must have kept him at Marseilles, or else he's mistaken the day after all."

"I thought you said it was 'no mistake!'" said Gladys.

Mr. Marton gave a little groan.

"Oh, you're a dreadful little person and no—there, I was just going to say it again! That's only an expression too, Gladys. It means, 'to be sure,' or 'no doubt about it,' though I suppose it is a little what one calls 'slang.' But you don't know anything about that, do you?"

"No," said Gladys simply, "I don't know what it means."

"And I haven't time to tell you, for we must explain to you what we're thinking of doing. You[Pg 63] tell her, Lilly. I'm going about the luggage," he added, turning to his wife, for he was dreadfully tender-hearted, though he was such a big strong young man, and he was afraid of poor Gladys beginning to cry or clinging to them and begging them not to leave her and Roger alone in Paris, when she understood what was intended.

But Gladys was not the kind of child to do so. She listened attentively, and seemed proud of being treated like a big girl, and almost before Mrs. Marton had done speaking she had her sensible little answer ready.

"Yes, I see," she said. "It is much better for us to stay here, for Papa might come very soon, mightn't he? Only, supposing he came this afternoon he wouldn't know where we were?"

"Mr. Marton will give the address at the station, in case your Papa inquires there, as he very likely would, if a lady and gentleman and two children arrived there from England this morning. And he will also leave the address here, for so many people come here from the station. And when we get to Marseilles, we will at once go to the hotel where he was—where he is still, perhaps; if he has left, he is pretty sure to have given an address."

[Pg 64]

"And if he's not there—if you can't find him—what will you do then?" said Gladys, opening wide her eyes and gazing up in her friend's face.

Mrs. Marton hesitated.

"I suppose if we really could not find your father at once, we should have to write or telegraph to Miss Susan."

Gladys looked more distressed than she had yet done.

"Don't do that, please," she said, clasping her hands together in the way she sometimes did. "I'd much rather stay here a little longer till Papa comes. It would be such a trouble to Miss Susan—I know she did think we were a great trouble sometimes—and it would make Mrs. Lacy cry perhaps to have to say good-bye again, and she's so ill."

"Yes, I know she is," said Mrs. Marton, surprised at the little girl's thoughtfulness. "But you know, dear, we'd have to let them know, and then most likely they'd send over for you."

"But Papa's sure to come," said Gladys. "It would only be waiting a little, and I don't mind much, and I don't think Roger will, not if I'm with him. Will they be kind to us, do you think, those friends of Léonie's?"

[Pg 65]

"I'm sure they will; otherwise you know, dear, we wouldn't leave you with them. Of course it will only be for a day or two, for they are quite plain people, with quite a little house."

"I don't mind, not if they're kind to us," said Gladys. "But, oh! I do wish you weren't going away."

"So do I," said Mrs. Marton, who felt really very nearly breaking down herself. The sort of quiet resignation about Gladys was very touching, much more so than if she had burst out into sobs and tears. It was perhaps as well that just at that moment Mr. Marton came back, and saying something in a low voice to his wife, drew her out of the room, where in the passage stood Léonie.

"Back already," exclaimed Mrs. Marton in surprise.

"Oh yes," Léonie replied, "it was not far, and the coachman drove fast. But I thought it better not to speak before the children. It is a very little place, Madame. I wonder if it will do." She seemed anxious and a little afraid of what she had proposed.

"But can they take them? That is the principal question," said Mr. Marton.

"Oh yes," said Léonie. "My aunt is goodness[Pg 66] itself. She understands it all quite well, and would do her best; and it would certainly be better than to leave them with strangers, and would cost much less; only—the poor children!—all is so small and so cramped. Just two or three little rooms behind the shop; and they have been used to an English nursery, and all so nice."

"I don't think they have been spoilt in some ways," said Mrs. Marton. "Poor little Gladys seems to mind nothing if she is sure of kindness. Besides, what else can we do? And it is very kind of your aunt to consent, Léonie."

"Yes, Madame. It is not for gain that she does it. Indeed it will not be gain, for she must find a room for her son, and arrange his room for the dear children. They have little beds among the furniture, so that will be easy; and all is very clean—my aunt is a good manager—but only——"

Léonie looked very anxious.

"Oh I'm sure it will be all right," said Mr. Marton. "I think we had better take them at once—I've got the luggage out—and then we can see for ourselves."

The children were soon ready. Gladys had been employing the time in trying to explain to poor little[Pg 67] Roger the new change that was before them. He did not find it easy to understand, but, as Gladys had said, he did not seem to mind anything so long as he was sure he was not to be separated from his sister.

A few minutes' drive brought them to the Rue Verte. It was a narrow street—narrow, at least in comparison with the wide new ones of the present day, for it was in an old-fashioned part of Paris, in the very centre of one of the busiest quarters of the town; but it was quite respectable, and the people one saw were all well-dressed and well-to-do looking. Still Mr. Marton looked about him uneasily.

"Dreadfully crowded place," he said; "must be very stuffy in warm weather. I'm glad it isn't summer; we couldn't have left them here in that case."

And when the cab stopped before a low door leading into a long narrow shop, filled with sofas and chairs, and great rolls of stuffs for making curtains and beds and mattresses in the background, Mr. Marton's face did not grow any brighter. But it did brighten up, and so did his wife's, when from the farther end of the shop, a glass door, evidently leading into a little sitting-room, opened, and an elderly woman, with a white frilled cap and a bright healthy[Pg 68] face, with the kindliest expression in the world, came forward eagerly.

"Pardon," she said in French, "I had not thought the ladies would be here so soon. But all will be ready directly. And are these the dear children?" she went on, her pleasant face growing still pleasanter.

"Yes," said Mrs. Marton, who held Gladys by one hand and Roger by the other, "these are the two little strangers you are going to be so kind as to take care of for a day or two. It is very kind of you, Madame Nestor, and I hope it will not give you much trouble. Léonie has explained all to you?"

"Oh yes," replied Madame Nestor, "poor darlings! What a disappointment to them not to have been met by their dear Papa! But he will come soon, and they will not be too unhappy with us."

Mrs. Marton turned to the children.

"What does she say? Is she the new nurse?" whispered Roger, whose ideas, notwithstanding Gladys's explanations, were still very confused. It was not a very bad guess, for Madame Nestor's good-humoured face and clean cap gave her very much the look of a nurse of the old-fashioned kind. Mrs. Marton stooped down and kissed the little puzzled face.

"No, dear," she said, "she's not your nurse. She[Pg 69] is Léonie's aunt, and she's going to take care of you for a few days till your Papa comes. And she says she will be very, very kind to you."

But Roger looked doubtful.

"Why doesn't she talk p'operly?" he said, drawing back.

Mrs. Marton looked rather distressed. In the hurry and confusion she had not thought of this other difficulty—that the children would not understand what their new friends said to them! Gladys seemed to feel by instinct what Mrs. Marton was thinking.

"I'll try to learn French," she said softly, "and then I can tell Roger."

Léonie pressed forward.

"Is she not a dear child?" she said, and then she quickly explained to her aunt what Gladys had whispered. The old lady seemed greatly pleased.

"My son speaks a little English," she said, with evident pride. "He is not at home now, but in the evening, when he is not busy, he must talk with our little demoiselle."

"That's a good thing," exclaimed Mr. Marton, who felt the greatest sympathy with Roger, for his own French would have been sadly at fault had he had to say more than two or three words in it.

[Pg 70]

Then Madame Nestor took Mrs. Marton to see the little room she was preparing for her little guests. It was already undergoing a good cleaning, so its appearance was not very tempting, but it would not have done to seem anything but pleased.

"Anyway it will be clean," thought Mrs. Marton, "but it is very dark and small." For though it was the best bedroom, the window looked out on to a narrow sort of court between the houses, whence but little light could find its way in, and Mrs. Marton could not help sighing a little as she made her way back to the shop, where Mr. Marton was explaining to Léonie about the money he was leaving with Madame Nestor.

"It's all I can possibly spare," he said, "and it is English money. But tell your aunt she is sure to hear in a day or two, and she will be fully repaid for any other expense she may have."

"Oh dear, yes," said Léonie, "my aunt is not at all afraid about that. She has heard too much of the goodness of Madame's family to have any fears about anything Madame wishes. Her only trouble is whether the poor children will be happy."

"I feel sure it will not be Madame Nestor's fault if they are not," said Mrs. Marton, turning to the kind[Pg 71] old woman. It was all she could say, for she felt by no means sure that the poor little things would be able to be happy in such strange circumstances. The tears filled her eyes as she kissed them again for the last time, and it was with a heavy heart she got back into the cab which was to take her husband and herself and Léonie to the Marseilles station. Mr. Marton was very little happier than his wife.

"I wish to goodness Susan Lacy had managed her affairs herself," he grumbled. "Poor little souls! I shall be thankful to know that they are safe with their father."

Léonie was sobbing audibly in her pocket-handkerchief.

"My aunt will be very kind to them, so far as she understands. That is the only consolation," she said, amidst her tears.

[Pg 72]



"The city looked sad. The heaven was gray."

Songs in Minor Keys.

"Gladdie, are you awake?"

These were the first words that fell on Gladys's ears the next morning. I cannot say the first sounds, for all sorts of strange and puzzling noises had been going on above and below and on all sides since ever so early, as it seemed to her—in reality it had been half-past six—she had opened her eyes in the dark, and wondered and wondered where she was! Still in the railway carriage was her first idea, or on the steamer—once she had awakened enough to remember that she was not in her own little bed at Mrs. Lacy's. But no—people weren't undressed in the railway, even though they did sometimes lie down, and then—though the sounds she heard were very queer—she soon felt she was not moving. And bit by bit it all came back to her—about the long tiring[Pg 73] journey, and no Papa at the station, and Mr. and Mrs. Marton and Léonie all talking together, and the drive in the cab to the crowded narrow street, and the funny old woman with the frilled cap, and the shop full of chairs and sofas, and the queer unnatural long afternoon after their friends went away, and how glad at last she and Roger were to go to bed even in the little stuffy dark room. How dark it was! It must still be the middle of the night, Gladys thought for some time, only that everybody except herself and Roger seemed to be awake and bustling about. For the workroom, as Gladys found out afterwards, was overhead, and the workpeople came early and were not particular about making a noise. It was very dull, and in spite of all the little girl's courage, a few tears would make their way up to her eyes, though she tried her best to force them back, and she lay there perfectly quiet, afraid of waking Roger, for she was glad to hear by his soft breathing that he was still fast asleep. But she could not help being glad when through the darkness came the sound of his voice.

"Gladdie, are you awake?"

"Yes, dear," she replied, "I've been awake a long time."

"So have I," said Roger in all sincerity—he had[Pg 74] been awake about three minutes. "It's very dark; is it the middle of the night?"

"No, I don't think so," Gladys replied. "I hear people making a lot of noise."

"Gladdie," resumed Roger half timidly—Gladys knew what was coming—"may I get into your bed?"

"It's very small," said Gladys, which was true, though even if it had not been so, she would probably have tried to get out of Roger's proposal, for she was not half so fond of his early morning visits as he was. In the days of old "nurse" such doings were not allowed, but after she left, Gladys had not the heart to be very strict with Roger, and now in spite of her faint objection, she knew quite well she would have to give in, in the end.

"So's mine," observed Roger, though Gladys could not see what that had to do with it. But she said nothing, and for about half a minute there was silence in the dark little room. Then again.

"Gladdie," came from the corner, "mayn't I come? If we squeezed ourselves?"

"Very well," said Gladys, with a little sigh made up of many different feelings. "You can come and try."

But a new difficulty arose.

"I can't find my way in the dark. I don't 'amember[Pg 75] how the room is in the light," said Roger dolefully. "When I first waked I couldn't think where we were. Can't you come for me, Gladdie?"

"How can I find my way if you can't," Gladys was on the point of replying, but she checked herself! She felt as if she could not speak the least sharply to her little brother, for he had nobody but her to take care of him, and try to make him happy. So she clambered out of her bed, starting with the surprise of the cold floor, which had no carpet, and trying to remember the chairs and things that stood in the way, managed to get across the room to the opposite corner where stood Roger's bed, without any very bad knocks or bumps.

"I'm here," cried Roger, as if that was a piece of news, "I'm standing up in my bed jigging up and down. Can you find me, Gladdie?"

"I'm feeling for you," Gladys replied. "Yes, here's the edge of your cot. I would have found you quicker if you had kept lying down."

"Oh, then, I'll lie down again," said Roger, but a cry from Gladys stopped him.

"No, no, don't," she said. "I've found you now. Yes, here's your hand. Now hold mine tight, and see if you can get over the edge. That's right. Now[Pg 76] come very slowly, round by the wall is best. Here's my bed. Climb in and make yourself as little as ever you can. I'm coming. Oh, Roger, what a squeeze it is!"

"I think it's littler than my bed," said Roger consolingly.

"It's not any bigger anyway," replied Gladys, "we might just as well have stayed in yours."

"Is it because they're poor that the beds is so very little?" asked Roger in a low voice.

"Oh, no, I don't think so," said Gladys gravely. "They've very nice beds; I think they're almost quite new."

"Mine was very comfitable," said Roger. "Do you think all poor childrens have as nice beds?"

"I'm afraid not," said Gladys solemnly. "I'm afraid that some haven't any beds at all. But why do you keep talking about poor children, Roger?"

"I wanted to know about them 'cos, you see, Gladys, if Papa wasn't never finded and we had to stay here, we'd be poor."

"Nonsense," said Gladys rather sharply, in spite of her resolutions, "it couldn't be like that; of course Papa will come in a few days, and—and, even if he didn't, though that's quite nonsense, you know, I'm[Pg 77] only saying it to make you see, even if he didn't, we'd not stay here."

"Where would we go?" said Roger practically.

"Oh, back to Mrs. Lacy perhaps. I wouldn't mind if Miss Susan was married."

"I would rather go to India with them," said Roger. Gladys knew whom he meant.

"But we can't, they've gone," she replied.

"Are they gone, and Léonie, that nice nurse—are they gone?" said Roger, appalled.

"Yes, of course. They'll be nearly at India by now, I daresay."

Roger began to cry.

"Why, you knew they were gone. Why do you cry about it now—you didn't cry yesterday?" said Gladys, a little sharply it must be confessed.

"I thought," sobbed Roger, "I thought they'd gone to look for Papa, and that they'd come to take us a nice walk every day, and—and——" He did not very well know what he had thought, but he had certainly not taken in that it was good-bye for good to the new friends he had already become fond of. "I'm sure you said they were gone to look for Papa," he repeated, rather crossly in his turn.

"Well, dear," Gladys explained, her heart smiting[Pg 78] her, "they have gone to look for Papa. They thought they'd find him at the big town at the side of the sea where the ships go to India from, and then they'd tell him where we were in Paris, and he'd come quick for us."

"Is this Paris?" asked Roger.

"Yes, of course," replied Gladys.

"I don't like it," continued the little boy. "Do you, Gladys?"

"It isn't like what I thought," said Gladys; "nothing's like what I thought. I don't think when we go home again, Roger, that I'll ever play at pretend games any more."

"How do you mean when we go home?" said Roger. "Where's home?"

"Oh, I don't know; I said it without thinking. Roger——"

"What?" said Roger.

"Are you hungry?" asked Gladys.

"A little; are you?"

"Yes, I think I am, a little," replied Gladys. "I couldn't eat all that meat and stuff they gave us last night. I wanted our tea."

"And bread and butter," suggested Roger.

"Yes; at home I didn't like bread and butter[Pg 79] much, but I think I would now. I daresay they'd give it us if I knew what it was called in their talking," said Gladys.

"It wouldn't be so bad if we knew their talking," sighed Roger.

"It wouldn't be so bad if it would get light," said his sister. "I don't know what to do, Roger. It's hours since they've all been up, and nobody's come to us. I wonder if they've forgotten we're here."

"There's a little tiny, weeny inch of light beginning to come over there. Is that the window?" said Roger.

"I suppose so. As soon as it gets more light I'll get up and look if there's a bell," decided Gladys.

"And if there is?"

"I'll ring it, of course."

"But what would Miss—— Oh, Gladys," he burst out with a merry laugh, the first Gladys had heard from him since the journey. "Isn't I silly? I was just going to say, 'What would Miss Susan say?' I quite forgot. I'm not sorry she's not here. Are you, Gladdie?"

"I don't know," the little girl answered. Truth to tell, there were times when she would have been very thankful to see Miss Susan, even though she[Pg 80] was determined not to ask to go back to England till all hope was gone. "I'm not——" but what she was going to say remained unfinished. The door opened at last, and the frilled cap, looking so exactly the same as yesterday that Gladys wondered if Madame Nestor slept in it, only if so, how did she keep it from getting crushed, appeared by the light of a candle surrounding the kindly face.

"Bon jour, my children," she said.

"That means 'good-morning,'" whispered Gladys, "I know that. Say it, Roger."

Why Roger was to "say it" and not herself I cannot tell. Some unintelligible sound came from Roger's lips, for which Gladys hastened to apologise.

"He's trying to say 'good-morning' in French," she explained, completely forgetting that poor Madame Nestor could not understand her.

"Ah, my little dears," said the old woman—in her own language of course—"I wish I could know what you say. Ah, how sweet they are! Both together in one bed, like two little birds in a nest. And have you slept well, my darlings? and are you hungry?"

The children stared at each other, and at their old hostess.

"Alas," she repeated, "they do not understand.[Pg 81] But they will soon know what I mean when they see the nice bowls of hot chocolate."

"Chocolate!" exclaimed both children. At last there was a word they could understand. Madame Nestor was quite overcome with delight.

"Yes, my angels, chocolate," she repeated, nodding her head. "The little servant is bringing it. But it was not she that made it. Oh, no! It was myself who took care it should be good. But you must have some light," and she went to the window, which had a curtain drawn before it, and outside heavy old-fashioned wooden shutters. No wonder in November that but little light came through. It was rather a marvel that at eight o'clock in the morning even a "tiny weeny inch" had begun to make its way.

With some difficulty the old woman removed all the obstructions, and then such poor light as there was came creeping in. But first she covered the two children up warmly, so that the cold air when the window was opened should not get to them.

She placed the whole on a little table which she drew close to the bed.

"Would not do for them to catch cold, that would be a pretty story," she muttered to herself, for she had a funny habit of talking away about everything she did. Then, when all was air-tight again, there came a knock at the door. Madame Nestor opened[Pg 82] it, and took from the hands of an invisible person a little tray with two steaming bowls of the famous chocolate and two sturdy hunches of very "hole-y" looking bread. No butter; that did not come within Madame Nestor's ideas. She placed the whole on a little table which she drew close to the bed, and then wrapping a shawl round the children, she told them to take their breakfast. They did not, of course, understand her words, but when she gave Roger his bowl and a preliminary hunch of bread into his hands, they could not but see that they were expected to take their breakfast in bed.

"But we're not ill," exclaimed Gladys; "we never stay in bed to breakfast except when we're ill."

Madame Nestor smiled and nodded. She had not a notion what Gladys meant, and on her side she quite forgot that the children could not understand her any better than she understood them.

"We never stay in bed to breakfast unless we're ill," repeated Gladys more loudly, as if that would help Madame Nestor to know what she meant.

"Never mind, Gladdie—the chocolate's very good," said Roger.

As before, "chocolate" was the only word Madame Nestor caught.

[Pg 83]

"Yes, take your chocolate," she repeated; "don't let it get cold," and she lifted Gladys's bowl to give it to her.

"Stupid old thing," murmured Gladys, "why doesn't she understand? I should like to throw the chocolate in her face."

"Oh, Gladdie," said Roger reproachfully, "think what a mess it would make on the clean sheets!"

"I was only in fun—you might know that," said Gladys, all the same a little ashamed of herself.

Madame Nestor had by this time left the room with a great many incomprehensible words, but very comprehensible smiles and nods.

"I think breakfast in bed's very good," said Roger. Then came a sadder exclamation. "They've given me a pudding spoon 'stead of a teaspoon. It's so big—it won't hardly go into my mouth."

"And me too," said Gladys. "How stupid French people are! We'll have to drink it out of the bowls, Roger. How funny it is not to have tea-cups!"

"I think it's best to take it like soup," said Roger; "you don't need to put the spoon so much in your mouth if you think it's soup."

"I don't see what difference that makes," returned Gladys. But anyhow the chocolate and the bread disappeared, and then the children began to wonder[Pg 84] how soon they might get up. Breakfast in bed wasn't so bad as long as there was the breakfast to eat, but when it was finished and there was no other amusement at hand they began to find it very tiresome. They had not so very long to wait, however, before Madame Nestor again made her appearance.

"Mayn't we get up?" cried both children, springing up in bed and jumping about, to show how ready they were. The old lady seemed to understand this time, but first she stood still for a moment or two with her head on one side admiring them.

"The little angels!" she said to herself. "How charming they are. Come now, my darlings, and get quickly dressed. It is cold this morning," and she took Roger in her arms to lift him down, while Gladys clambered out by herself. Their clothes were neatly placed in two little heaps on the top of the chest of drawers, which, besides the two beds and two or three chairs, was the only furniture in the room. Madame Nestor sat down on one of the chairs with Roger on her knee and began drawing on his stockings.

"Well done," she said, when one was safely in its place; "who would have thought I was still so clever a nurse!" and she surveyed the stockinged leg with much satisfaction. Roger seemed quite of her opinion,[Pg 85] and stuck out the other set of pink toes with much amiability. He greatly approved of this mode of being dressed. Miss Susan had told Ellen he was big enough, at five years old, to put on his stockings himself, and she had also been very strict about sundry other nursery regulations, to which the young gentleman, in cold weather especially, was by no means partial. But he was not to get off as easily as he hoped. His silence, which with him always meant content, caught Gladys's attention, which till now had been taken up with her own stockings, as she had a particular way of her own of arranging them before putting them on.

"Roger," she exclaimed when she turned round and saw him established on Madame Nestor's motherly lap; "what are you thinking of? You haven't had your bath."

Roger's face grew red, and the expression of satisfaction fled.

"Need I——?" he was beginning meekly, but Gladys interrupted him indignantly:

"You dirty little boy," she said. "What would Miss Susan say?" at which Roger began to cry, and poor Madame Nestor looked completely puzzled.

"We didn't have a bath last night, you know, because in winter Miss Susan thinks once a day is[Pg 86] enough. But I did think we should have had one, after the journey too. And anyway this morning we must have one."

But Madame Nestor only continued to stare.

"What shall I say? How can I make her understand?" said Gladys in despair. "Where's the little basin we washed our faces and hands in yesterday, Roger?" she went on, looking round the room. "Oh, I forgot—it was downstairs. There's no basin in this room! What dirty people!" then noticing the puzzled look on Madame Nestor's face, she grew frightened that perhaps she was vexed. "Perhaps she knows what 'dirty' means," she half whispered to herself. "Oh dear, I don't mean to be rude, ma'am," she went on, "but I suppose you don't know about children. How can I explain?"

A brilliant idea struck her. In a corner of the room lay the carpet-bag in which Miss Susan had packed their nightgowns and slippers, and such things as they would require at once. There were, too, their sponges; and, as Miss Susan had been careful to point out, a piece of soap, "which you never find in French hotels," she had explained to Gladys. The little girl dived into the bag and drew out the sponges and soap in triumph.

[Pg 87]

"See, see," she exclaimed, darting back again to the old lady, and flourishing her treasure-trove, "that's what I mean! We must have a bath," raising her voice as she went on; "we must be washed and sponged;" and suiting the action to the word she proceeded to pat and rub Roger with the dry sponge, glancing up at Madame Nestor to see if the pantomime was understood.

"Ah, yes, to be sure," Madame Nestor exclaimed, her face lighting up, "I understand now, my little lady. All in good time—you shall have water to wash your face and hands as soon as you are dressed. But let me get this poor little man's things on quickly. It is cold this morning."

She began to take off Roger's nightgown and to draw on his little flannel vest, to which he would have made no objection, but Gladys got scarlet with vexation.

"No, no," she cried, "he must be washed first. If you haven't got a bath, you might anyway let us have a basin and some water. Roger, you are a dirty boy. You might join me, and then perhaps she'd do it."

Thus adjured, Roger rose to the occasion. He slipped off Madame Nestor's knee, and stepping out[Pg 88] of his nightgown began an imaginary sponging of his small person. But it was cold work, and Madame Nestor seeing him begin to shiver grew really uneasy, and again tried to get him into his flannels.

"No, no," said Roger, in his turn—he had left off crying now—even the cold wasn't so bad as Gladdie calling him a dirty boy. Besides who could tell whether, somehow or other, Miss Susan might not come to hear of it? Gladys might write her a letter. "No, no," repeated Roger valorously, "we must be washed first."

"You too," said Madame Nestor in despair; "ah, what children!" But her good-humour did not desert her. Vaguely understanding what they meant—for recollections began to come back to her mind of what Léonie's mother used to tell her of the manners and customs of her nurseries—she got up, and smiling still, though with some reproach, at her queer little guests, she drew a blanket from the bed and wrapped it round them, and then opening the door she called downstairs to the little servant to bring a basin and towel and hot water. But the little servant did not understand, so after all the poor old lady had to trot downstairs again herself.

"My old legs will have exercise enough," she said[Pg 89] to herself, "if the Papa does not come soon. However!"

"I'm sure she's angry," whispered Roger to Gladys inside the blanket, "we needn't have a bath every day, Gladdie."

"Hush," said Gladys sternly. "I'm not going to let you learn to be a dirty boy. If we can't have a bath we may at least be washed."

"But if Papa's coming for us to-day or to-morrow," Roger said, "the new nurse could wash us. I don't believe Papa's coming for us," he went on as if he were going to cry again. "I believe we're going to stay here in this nugly little house always—and it's all a trick. I don't believe we've got any Papa."

Poor Gladys did not know what to say. Her own spirits were going down again, for she too was afraid that perhaps Madame Nestor was vexed, and she began to wonder if perhaps it would have been better to let things alone for a day or two—"If I was sure that Papa would come in a day or two," she thought! But she felt sure of nothing now—everything had turned out so altogether differently from what she had expected that her courage was flagging, and she too, for the first time since their troubles had begun, followed Roger's example and burst into tears.

[Pg 90]



"They wake to feel
That the world is a changeful place to live in,
And almost wonder if all is real."

Lavender Lady.

So it was rather a woe-begone looking little couple, crouching together in the blanket, that met old Madame Nestor's eyes when, followed by the little servant with the biggest basin the establishment boasted of, and carrying herself a queer-shaped tin jug full of hot water and with a good supply of nice white towels over her arm, she entered the room again.

"How now, my little dears?" she exclaimed; "not crying, surely? Why, there's nothing to cry for!"

Gladys wiped her eyes with the skirt of her little nightgown, and looked up. She did not know what[Pg 91] the old woman was saying, but her tone was as kind as ever. It was very satisfactory, too, to see the basin, small as it was, and still more, the plentiful hot water.

"Thank you, ma'am," said Gladys gravely, and nudging Roger to do the same. Everybody, she had noticed the day before, had called the old lady "madame," but that was the French for "ma'am" Léonie had told her, so she stuck to her native colours.

"Thank you," repeated Roger, but without the "ma'am." "It sounds so silly, nobody says it but servants," he maintained to Gladys, and no doubt it mattered very little whether he said it or not, as Madame Nestor didn't understand, though she was quick enough to see that her little guests meant to say something civil and kind. And the washing was accomplished—I cannot say without difficulty, for Roger tried to stand in the basin and very nearly split it in two, and there was a great splashing of water over the wooden floor—on the whole with success.

Poor Madame Nestor! When she had at last got her charges safely into their various garments, she sat down on a chair by the bed and fairly panted!

[Pg 92]

"It's much harder than cooking a dinner," she said to herself. "I can't think how my cousin Marie could stand it, if they have this sort of business every morning with English children. And five, six of them as there are sometimes! The English are a curious nation."

But she turned as smilingly as ever to Gladys and Roger; and Gladys, seeing that she was tired, and being sensible enough to understand that the kind old woman was really giving herself a great deal of trouble for their sake, went and stood close beside her, and gently stroked her, as she sometimes used to do—when Miss Susan was not there, be it remarked—to Mrs. Lacy.

"I wish I knew how to say 'thank you' in French," said Gladys to Roger. But Madame Nestor had understood her.

"Little dear," she said in her own language, "she thinks I am tired." The word caught Gladys's ear—"fatigued," she interrupted, "I know what that means. Poor Mrs. Nest," she explained to her little brother, "she says she's fatigued. I think we should kiss her, Roger," and both children lifted up their soft fresh rosy lips to the old woman, which was a language that needed no translation.

[Pg 93]

"Little dears," she repeated again, "but, all the same, I hope we shall soon have some news from the Papa. Ah!" she interrupted herself; "but there is the clock striking nine, and my breakfast not seen to. I must hasten, but what to do with these angels while I am in the kitchen?"

"Take them with you; children are very fond of being in a kitchen when they may," would have seemed a natural reply. But not to those who know what a Paris kitchen is. Even those of large grand houses would astonish many English children and big people, too, who have never happened to see them, and Madame Nestor's kitchen was really no better than a cupboard, and a cupboard more than half filled up with the stove, in and on which everything was cooked. There could be no question of taking the children into the kitchen, and the tiny room behind the shop was very dark and dull. Still it was the only place, and thither their old friend led them, telling them she must now go to cook the breakfast and they must try to amuse themselves; in the afternoon she would perhaps send them out a walk.

Two words in this were intelligible to Gladys.

"We are to be amused, Roger," she said, "and we are to promenade, that means a walk where the band[Pg 94] plays like at Whitebeach last summer. I wonder where it can be?"

The glass door which led into the shop had a little curtain across it, but one corner was loose. This Gladys soon discovered.

"See here, Roger," she said, "we can peep into the shop and see if any one comes in. Won't that be fun?"

Roger took his turn of peeping.

"It aren't a pretty shop," he said, "it's all chairs and tables. I'd like a toy-shop, Gladdie, wouldn't you?"

"It wouldn't be much good if we mightn't play with the toys," Gladys replied. "But I'll tell you what, Roger, we might play at beautiful games of houses in there. We could have that corner where there are the pretty blue chairs for our drawing-room, and we might pay visits. Or I might climb in there behind that big sofa and be a princess in a giant's castle, and you might come and fight with the giant and get me out."

"And who'd be the giant?" asked Roger.

"Oh, we can pretend him. I can make a dreadful booing when I see you coming, and you can pretend you see him. But you must have a sword. What[Pg 95] would do for a sword?" she went on, looking round. "They haven't even a poker! I wish we had Miss Susan's umbrella."

"Here's one!" exclaimed Roger, spying the umbrella of Monsieur Adolphe, Madame Nestor's son, in a corner of the room. It was still rather damp, for poor Adolphe had had to come over in the heavy rain early that morning from the neighbouring inn where he had slept, having, as you know, given up his room to the two little strangers, and his mother would have scolded him had she noticed that he had put it down all dripping, though as the floor was a stone one it did not much matter. And the children were not particular. They screwed up the wet folds and buttoned the elastic, and then shouldering it, Roger felt quite ready to fight the imaginary giant.

There was a little difficulty about opening the door into the shop, and rather too little about shutting it, for it closed with a spring, and nearly snapped Roger and his umbrella in two. But he was none the worse save a little bump on his head, which Gladys persuaded him not to cry about. It would never do to cry about a knock when he was going to fight the giant, she assured him, and then she set to work, planning the castle and the way Roger was to come[Pg 96] creeping through the forest, represented by chairs and stools of every shape, so that he grew quite interested and forgot all his troubles.

It really turned out a very amusing game, and when it was over they tried hide-and-seek, which would have been famous fun—there were so many hiding-holes among the bales of stuffs and pillows and uncovered cushions lying about—if they had had one or two more to play at it with them! But to playfellows they were little accustomed, so they did not much miss them, and they played away contentedly enough, though quietly, as was their habit. And so it came about that Madame Nestor never doubted that they were in the little back-room where she had left them, when a ring at the front door of the shop announced a customer.

This door was also half of glass, and when it was opened a bell rang. Gladys and Roger were busy looking for new hiding-places when the sudden sound of the bell startled them.

"Somebody's coming in," whispered Gladys; "Roger, let's hide. Don't let them see us; we don't know who they are," and quick as thought she stooped down in a corner, drawing her little brother in beside her.

[Pg 97]

From where they were they could peep out. Two ladies entered the shop, one young and one much older. The face of the older one Gladys did not distinctly see, or perhaps she did not much care to look at it, so immediately did the younger one seize her fancy. She was very pretty and pleasant-looking, with bright brown hair and sweet yet merry eyes, and as she threw herself down on a seat which stood near the door, Gladys was able to see that she was neatly and prettily dressed.

"Aren't you tired, Auntie?" she said to the other lady.

"A little. It is farther than I thought, and we have not much time. I wonder what colour will be prettiest for the curtains, Rosamond?"

"The shade of blue on that sofa over in the corner is pretty," said the young lady.

Gladys pinched Roger. It was precisely behind the blue-covered sofa that they were hiding.

"I wish they would be quick," said the elder lady. "Perhaps they did not hear the bell."

"Shall I go to the door and ring it again?" asked the one called Rosamond.

"I don't know; perhaps it would be better to tap at the glass door leading into the house. Madame[Pg 98] Nestor sits in there, I fancy. She generally comes out at that door."

"I don't fancy she is there now," said the young lady. "You see we have come so early. It has generally been in the afternoon that we have come. Madame Nestor is probably busy about her 'household avocations' at this hour," she added, with a smile.

"I wonder what that means," whispered Gladys. "I suppose it means the dinner."

Just at that moment the door opened, and Madame Nestor appeared, rather in a flutter. She was so sorry to have kept the ladies waiting, and how unfortunate! Her son had just gone to their house with the patterns for the curtains. He would have sent yesterday to ask at what hour the ladies would be at home, but they had all been so busy—an unexpected arrival—and Madame Nestor would have gone on to give all the story of Léonie's sudden visit to beg a shelter for the two little waifs, had not the ladies, who knew of old the good dame's long stories, cut her short as politely as they could.

"We are very hurried," said the one whom the young lady called "auntie." "I think the best thing to be done is to get home as quickly as we can, and[Pg 99] perhaps we shall still find your son there; if not, he will no doubt have left the patterns, so please tell him to try to come this evening or to-morrow morning before twelve, for we must have the curtains this week."

Of course—of course—Madame Nestor agreed to everything as amiably as possible, and the ladies turned to go.

"Are you much troubled with mice?" said the younger lady as they were leaving. "I have heard queer little noises two or three times over in that corner near the blue sofa while we were speaking."

Old Madame Nestor started.

"Mice!" she exclaimed. "I hope not. It would be very serious for us—with so many beautiful stuffs about. I must make them examine, and if necessary get a cat. We have not had a cat lately—the last was stolen, she was such a beauty, and——"

And on the old body would have chattered for another half-hour, I daresay, had not the ladies again repeated that they were very hurried and must hasten home.

The idea of mice had taken hold of Madame Nestor's mind; it made her for the moment forget the children, though in passing through the little room[Pg 100] where she had left them she had wondered where they were. She hurried into the workroom to relate her fears, and Gladys and Roger, as soon as she had left the shop, jumped up, not sorry to stretch their legs after having kept them still for nearly a quarter of an hour.

"I wonder if she'd be angry at our playing here," said Gladys. "What fun it was hiding and those ladies not knowing we were there! I think they were nice ladies, but I wish they had kept on talking properly. I liked to hear what they said."

"Why doesn't everybody talk properly here if some does?" asked Roger.

"I suppose," said Gladys, though she had not thought of it before, it had seemed so natural to hear people talking as she had always heard people talk—"I suppose those ladies are English. I wish they had talked to us, Roger. Perhaps they know Papa."

"They couldn't talk to us when they didn't know us was there," said Roger, with which Gladys could not disagree. But it made her feel rather sorry not to have spoken to the ladies—it would have been very nice to have found some one who could understand what they said.

"I wish we hadn't been hiding," she was going to[Pg 101] say, but she was stopped by a great bustle which began to make itself heard in the sitting-room, and suddenly the door into the shop opened, and in rushed Madame Nestor, followed by the servant and two or three of the workpeople.

"Where are they, then? Where can they have gone, the poor little angels?" exclaimed the old lady, while the servant and the others ran after her repeating:

"Calm yourself, Madame, calm yourself. They cannot have strayed far—they will be found."

Though the children could not understand the words, they could not misunderstand the looks and the tones, and, above all, the distress in their kind old friend's face. They were still half hidden, though they were no longer crouching down on the floor. Out ran Gladys, followed by Roger.

"Are you looking for us, Mrs. Nest?" she said. "Here we are! We've only been playing at hiding among the chairs and sofas."

Madame Nestor sank down exhausted on the nearest arm-chair.

"Oh, but you have given me a fright," she panted out. "I could not imagine where they had gone," she went on, turning to the others. "I left them as[Pg 102] quiet as two little mice in there," pointing to the sitting-room, "and the moment my back was turned off they set."

"It is always like that with children," said Mademoiselle Anna, the forewoman. She was a young woman with very black hair and very black eyes and a very haughty expression. No one liked her much in the workroom—she was so sharp and so unamiable. But she was very clever at making curtains and covering chairs and sofas, and she had very good taste, so Madame Nestor, who was, besides, the kindest woman in the world, kept her, though she disliked her temper and pride.

"Poor little things—we have all been children in our day," said Madame Nestor.

"That is possible," replied Mademoiselle Anna, "but all the same, there are children and children. I told you, Madame, and you will see I was right; you do not know the trouble you will have with these two little foreigners—brought up who knows how—and a queer story altogether it seems to me," she added, with a toss of her head.

Gladys and Roger had drawn near Madame Nestor. Gladys was truly sorry to see how frightened their old friend had been, and she wished she knew how to[Pg 103] say so to her. But when Mademoiselle Anna went on talking, throwing disdainful glances in their direction, the children shrank back. They could not understand what she was saying, but they felt she was talking of them, and they had already noticed her sharp unkindly glances the evening before.

"Why is she angry with us?" whispered Roger.

But Gladys shook her head. "I don't know," she replied. "She isn't as kind as Mrs. Nest and her son. Oh I do wish Papa would come for us, Roger!"

"So do I," said the little fellow.

But five minutes after, he had forgotten their troubles, for Madame Nestor took them into the long narrow room where she and her son and some of their workpeople had their meals, and established them at one end of the table, to have what she called their "breakfast," but what to the children seemed their dinner. She was very kind to them, and gave them what she thought they would like best to eat, and some things, especially an omelette, they found very good. But the meat they did not care about.

"It's so greasy, I can't eat it," said Gladys, after doing her best for fear Madame Nestor should think her rude. And Roger, who did not so much mind the greasiness of the gravy, could not eat it either because[Pg 104] it was cooked with carrots, to which he had a particular dislike. They were not dainty children generally, but the stuffy room, and the different kind of cooking, and above all, perhaps, the want of their usual morning walk, seemed to take away their appetite. And the sight of Mademoiselle Anna's sharp contemptuous face across the table did not mend matters.

"I wish we had some plain cold meat and potatoes," said Gladys, "like what we had at home. I could even like some nice plain bread and butter."

"Not this bread," said Roger, who was beginning to look doleful again. "I don't like the taste of this bread."

So they both sat, watching all that was going on, but eating nothing themselves, till Madame Nestor, who had been busy carving, caught sight of them.

"They do not eat, those poor dears," she said to her son; "I fear the food is not what they are accustomed to—but I cannot understand them nor they me. It is too sad! Can you not try to find out what they would like, Adolphe? You who speak English?"

Monsieur Adolphe got very red; he was not generally shy, but his English, which he was rather given to boasting of when there was no need for using[Pg 105] it, seemed less ready than his mother had expected. However, like her, he was very kind-hearted, and the sight of the two grave pale little faces troubled him. He went round to their side of the table.

"You not eat?" he said. "Miss and Sir not eat nothing. Find not good?"

Gladys's face brightened. It was something to have some one who understood a little, however little.

"Oh yes," she said, timidly afraid of appearing uncivil, "it is very good; but we are not hungry. We are not accustomed to rich things. Might we—" she went on timidly, "do you think we might have a little bread and butter?"

Monsieur Adolphe hesitated. He found it much more difficult than he had had any idea of to understand what Gladys said, though she spoke very plainly and clearly.

"Leetle—leetle?" he repeated.

"A little bread and butter," said Gladys again. This time he understood.

"Bread and butter; I will go see," he answered, and then he hurried back to his mother, still busy at the side-table.

"They do not seem accustomed to eat meat," he said, "they ask for bread and butter."

[Pg 106]

"The greedy little things!" exclaimed Mademoiselle Anna, who had got up from her seat on pretence of handing a plate to Madame Nestor, but in reality to hear all that was going on. "How can they be so bold?"

"It is the custom in England," said the old lady. "My cousin has often told me how the children there eat so much bread and butter. But I have no fresh butter in the house. Would not preserves please them? Here, Françoise," she went on, calling to the little servant. "Fetch some preserves from the cupboard, and give some with some bread to the poor little angels."

"What a to-do to be sure!" muttered Anna to Adolphe. "I only hope your mother will be paid for the trouble she is giving herself, but I much doubt it. I believe it is all a trick to get rid of the two little plagues. English of the good classes do not leave their children to anybody's tender mercies in that way!"

"That is true," said Adolphe, who, though he had a good deal of his mother's kind-heartedness, was easily impressed by what Anna said. "And they have certainly a curious accent. I had difficulty in understanding them. I never heard an accent like it in English."

[Pg 107]

"Exactly," said Anna, tossing her head, "they are little cheats—no one will come for them, and no money will be sent. You will see—and so will your mother. But it will be too late. She should have thought twice before taking on herself such a charge."

"I am quite of your opinion," said Adolphe. "Something must be done; my mother must be made to hear reason. If no one comes to fetch them in a day or two we must do something—even if I have to take them myself to the English Embassy."

"Quite right, quite right, Monsieur Adolphe," said Anna spitefully.

But Madame Nestor heard nothing of what they were saying. She was seated quite contentedly beside the children, happy to see them enjoying the bread and jam which they much preferred to the greasy meat, even though the bread tasted a little sour, though she could not persuade them to take any wine.

"It isn't good for children," said Gladys gravely, looking up into her face. But poor Madame Nestor shook her head.

"It is no use, my dears," she said in her own language. "I cannot understand! Dear me—I do[Pg 108] wish the Papa would come. Poor dear angels—I fear I cannot make them happy! But at least I can wash up the dishes for Françoise and let her take them out a walk. You will like that—a nice promenade, will you not?"

Gladys jumped up joyfully.

"The promenade, Roger—we're going to hear the band play. Won't that be nice? Come let us go quick and get ready."

Madame Nestor was enchanted.

[Pg 109]



"A friendly pleasant face he had,
They really thought him very nice,
And when adown the street he'd gone
They nodded to him twice."

Chance Acquaintances.

They were soon ready, for though Gladys had had vague thoughts of trying to explain that she would like the big trunk unfastened to get out their "best" things, she gave up the idea when Madame Nestor got down the new ulsters which she evidently thought quite good enough, and proceeded to wrap them both up warmly. It was cold, she said, and thanks to the way she glanced out-of-doors when she made this remark, at the same time carefully covering up their throats with the white silk handkerchiefs they had had for the journey, Gladys understood her.

"We don't look very nice, do we, Roger?" said[Pg 110] the little girl, as with her brother's hand in hers, and Françoise, who was short and stout, and wore a big frilled cap, following close behind. "If there are a lot of children where the band plays we shall seem very plain. But I daresay it doesn't matter, and these ulsters are very warm."

For it was very cold. It was one of those gray sunless days, less uncommon in Paris than some people imagine, and the Rue Verte was narrow and the houses composing it very high, so that stray gleams of sunshine did not very easily get into it. The children shivered a little as they stood for a moment hesitating as to which way Françoise meant them to go, and one or two foot-passengers passing hurriedly, as most people do in that busy part of the town, jostled the two little people so that they shrank back frightened.

"Give me your hands, little Sir and little Miss," said the sturdy peasant girl, catching hold of them, placing one on each side of her as she spoke. It went rather against Gladys's dignity, but still in her heart she was glad of Françoise's protection, though even with that they were a good deal bumped and pushed as they made their way along the narrow pavement.

[Pg 111]

"It will be nicer when we get to the Boulevards," said Françoise; "there the pavement is so much wider."

But Gladys did not understand. She thought the girl said something about bulls and large, and she looked up half frightened, expecting to see a troop of cattle coming along the street. There was, however, nothing of the kind to be seen.

"It's not like Whitebeach," said Gladys, trying to make Roger hear across Françoise's substantial person. But it was no use. Narrow as the street was, great heavy waggons and lurries came constantly following each other over the stones, so that the noise was really deafening, and it was impossible to hear what was said. By peeping sometimes in front of Françoise and sometimes behind her, Gladys could catch sight of Roger's little figure. He was looking solemn and grave; she could tell that by the way he was walking, even when she did not see his face.

"I'm afraid he's very cold, poor little boy," thought Gladys to herself, quite forgetting her own little red nose and nipped fingers in concern for her brother.

It was a little better after a while when they got out of the narrow street into a much wider one. Too wide Gladys thought it, for the rush of carts and carriages and omnibuses and cabs was really frightening.[Pg 112] She saw some people venturing to cross over to the other side in the midst of it all—one lady with a little boy, not much bigger than Roger, especially caught her attention. But she shut her eyes rather than watch them get across—which they did quite safely after all—so terrified was she of seeing them crushed beneath some of the monsters on wheels which seemed to the child's excited imagination to be pounding down one after the other on purpose to knock everything out of their way, like some great engines of war. And she squeezed Françoise's hand so tight that the girl turned round in a fright to see if any one was hurting Gladys, when a slight movement to one side made her fancy the little servant was intending to try to cross.

'Oh don't, don't cross that dreadful street,' Gladys exclaimed.

"Oh don't, don't cross that dreadful street," Gladys exclaimed. And Françoise understood what she meant, thanks to her tugs the other way, and set to work assuring her she had no such intention.

"Are you frightened of crossing?" said a voice close beside her—an English voice belonging to a gentleman who had heard her piteous entreaty.

"Yes, dreadfully. I'm sure we'll be killed if she takes us over," replied Gladys, lifting her little white face and troubled eyes to the stranger.

[Pg 113]

He turned to Françoise and explained to her that it was hardly safe to attempt to cross, especially as the little girl was so frightened. He spoke, of course, in French, which seemed to him as easy as his own language, and Françoise replied eagerly. Then again the stranger turned to Gladys:

"You need not be afraid, my dear little girl," he said, and his kind voice somehow made the tears come to her eyes, "your nurse does not wish to cross. You have not been long here, I suppose—you don't understand French?"

"No," said Gladys, gulping down a sob, "we've—we've only just come."

"Ah well, you'll soon feel more at home, and be able to explain all you mean for yourself. Good-bye," and raising his hat as perhaps an altogether Englishman would not have done to so little a girl, he smiled again, and in another moment had disappeared in the crowd.

"The nurse seems kind enough, but she's rather stupid—just a peasant. And those children look so refined. But they don't seem happy, poor little souls. I wonder who they can be," said the young man to himself as he walked away.

"I wish he was our Papa," said Roger.

[Pg 114]

"So do I," said Gladys. And then a queer sort of regret came over her that she had not said more to him. "Perhaps he knows Papa, and could have helped us to find him," was the vague thought in her childish brain. It seemed to her that any English-speaking person in this great town of Paris must know "Papa," or something about him.

Françoise walked on; she wished for nothing better than a stroll along the Boulevards, even though this was by no means the best part of them, or containing the prettiest shops. But Gladys kept wishing for the "promenade" and the band. At the corner of a side-street she caught sight of a church at a little distance with some trees and green not far from it. It looked quieter and less crowded, and Gladys was seized with a wish to explore in that direction.

She tugged at Françoise.

"Mayn't we go up there?" she said, pointing in the direction of the trees. Françoise understood her. She was a good-natured girl, and turned with the children as Gladys wished, though it was against her liking to leave the noisy crowded Boulevards for the quieter side-streets.

When they got close to the trees they turned out[Pg 115] to be in a little enclosure with railings, a very small attempt at a "square garden," for there were houses round it on all sides, and, cold as it was, a few nurses and children were walking about it and looking cheerful enough, though no doubt they wished they were not so far away from the prettier parts of Paris where the parks and walks for children are so lively and amusing. Gladys looked round with a mixture of approval and disappointment.

"It must be here that the band plays," she said to Roger; "but it isn't here to-day. And it's a very small place for a promenade; not nearly so pretty as it was at Whitebeach. But we might play here if it wasn't so cold. And there are nice benches for sitting on, you see."

"I don't like being here," said Roger, shaking his head. "I'd like to go home."

"Home"—again the word fell sadly on the little mother-sister's ear. But she said nothing to remind Roger of how homeless they were, though she could not help sighing when she thought of the only "going home" there was for them; the little dark bare cheerless bedroom, and the shop filled with sofas and chairs. Poor Madame Nestor doing her best, but understanding so little what a nice bright cosy[Pg 116] nursery was like, and still worse, Mademoiselle Anna's sharp eyes flashing angrily at them across the table at meat times!

"Wouldn't you like to have a run, Roger?" said Gladys suddenly. "It would make us feel warmer, and there's a nice straight bit of path here."

Roger made no objection. He let go of Françoise's hand and took his sister's, and by signs Gladys managed to explain to the girl what they meant to do.

"One, two, three, and away," she called out with an attempt at merriment, and off they set. Roger's stumpy little legs could not go as fast as Gladys's longer and thinner ones, but she took care not to let him find that out, and she was rewarded by the colour in his cheeks, and the brighter look in his eyes when they got back to Françoise again.

"That's right," said she good-naturedly, and in her heart I think she too would have enjoyed a run, had it not been beneath her dignity to behave in so childish a manner within sight of the dignified nurses in their big cloaks and caps with streaming ribbons, who were strutting up and down the little enclosure.

But it grew colder and grayer.

"One could almost think it was going to snow," said Françoise, looking up at the sky. Gladys saw[Pg 117] her looking up, but did not, of course, understand her words.

"I wonder if she thinks it's going to rain," she said to Roger. "Anyway it's dreadfully cold," and she gave a little shiver.

"We had better go home," said Françoise, for she was so accustomed to talking about everything she did that even the knowledge that she was not understood did not make her silent. And taking a hand of each child, she turned to go. Gladys and Roger did not mind; they felt tired, though they had not walked nearly so far as they often did at home, and cold, and there had been nothing in their walk to raise their poor little spirits, except perhaps the momentary glance of the bright-faced young Englishman.

"That gentleman we met looked very kind, didn't he?" said Gladys to Roger, when they had got back to the Rue Verte, and Françoise was helping them to take off their boots.

"Yes," said Roger, in his sober little voice, "I wish——"

"What?" said Gladys.

"I wish he was our Papa!" said Roger again, with a sigh.

"He couldn't be," said Gladys, "he's too young."

[Pg 118]

"He was much bigger than you; he was bigger than her," persisted Roger, pointing to Françoise, for like many little children he could not separate the idea of age from size, and Gladys knew it was no use trying to explain to him his mistake.

"Anyway, he isn't our Papa," she said sadly. "I wonder what we shall do now," she went on.

"Isn't it tea time?" asked Roger.

"I'm afraid they don't have tea here," said Gladys. "There's some wine and water and some bread on the table in the little room behind the shop. I'm afraid that's meant for our tea."

She was right; for when Françoise took them downstairs Madame Nestor immediately offered them wine and water, and when Gladys did her best to make the old lady understand that they did not like wine, she persisted in putting two or three lumps of sugar into the water in the glasses, which Roger did not object to, as he fished them out before they were more than half melted, and ate instead of drinking them, but which Gladys thought very nasty indeed, though she did not like not to take it as she had already refused the wine.

"I wish I could get out my doll," said she, "I don't know what to play with, Roger."

[Pg 119]

"I wish I could get my donkey," said Roger. And Madame Nestor saw that they looked dull and dreary, though she did not know what they said. A brilliant idea struck her. "I will get them some of the packets of patterns to look at," she said, "that will amuse them," and off she trotted to the workroom.

"Find me the books of patterns, the prettiest ones, of the silky stuffs for curtains, and some of the cretonnes," she said to one of the young girls sewing there.

Mademoiselle Anna looked up suspiciously.

"Is there some one in the shop?" she said. "Shall I call Monsieur Adolphe? He has just gone to the other workroom."

"No, no, do not trouble yourself," said Madame Nestor. "I only want the patterns to amuse my two little birds in there," and she nodded her head towards the room where the children were.

Anna gave her head a little toss.

"There is no letter about them yet, I suppose," she said.

"Of course not. How could there be?" replied the old lady. "The poor things have been here but one night. I do not see why you should trouble[Pg 120] yourself to be so cross about them. You are not yet mistress of this house," upon which Anna murmured something about being sorry to see Madame Nestor troubled about the children, that was her only reason, she knew Madame to be so good, etc.

Madame Nestor said no more, for it was seldom she spoke sharply to any one, and, to tell the truth, she was a little afraid of Anna, who some time or other was to be married to Adolphe, and take the place of the old lady, who looked forward then to having some rest in a little home of her own. She did not wish to quarrel with Anna, for she knew she would make a clever and useful wife to her son, but still unkindness to any one, above all to these little helpless strangers, made her really angry.

She made the young workwoman help her to carry the big books of patterns to the little sitting-room, and at sight of them Gladys and Roger started up. They were pleased at the prospect of anything to do, poor little things, even lessons would have been welcome, and they were greatly delighted when, as well as the books, Madame Nestor produced a lot of scraps of cretonne with gay flowers and birds in all colour, and made them understand they might do as they liked with them.

[Pg 121]

"Let's cut them out," exclaimed Gladys, "we can cut out lovely things and then afterwards we can paste them on white paper and make all sorts of things with them."

But there were no scissors! Gladys opened and shut the middle and forefingers of her right hand repeating "scissors," till Madame Nestor understood and not only lent her a pair of her own, but sent a little way down the street to buy a little pair with blunt ends for Roger, so afraid was she of his cutting himself.

"Oh, how nice," exclaimed both children, jumping up to kiss the kind old woman. "Now we can cut out beautifully, and when we are tired of cutting out we can look at these lovely patterns," said Gladys, as she settled herself and Roger comfortably at the table, and Madame Nestor went off to the workroom again, quite satisfied about them for the time.

"You see there are some things to be got really very nice in Paris, Roger," said Gladys in her prim old-fashioned way. "These scissors are really very nice, and I don't think they were dear. Madame Nestor gave the boy a piece like a small sixpence, and he brought her a halfpenny back. That isn't dear."

[Pg 122]

"What did he bring her a halfpenny for? Do they sell halfpennies in the shops here?" asked Roger, looking very puzzled.

"No, of course not. You're too little to understand. That's what they call 'giving change,'" replied Gladys, wisely. "Ellen told me that once when I went to a shop with her to buy something for Miss Susan. Now, Roger, will you cut out that blue bird, and I'll do these pinky flowers? Then afterwards we can paste them as if the bird was flying out of the flowers; won't that be pretty?"

"I'd rather do the flowers," said Roger. "The bird's nose is so twisty—I can't do it."

"Very well," said Gladys good-naturedly. "Then I'll do it, and you take the flowers. See they go in nice big rounds—you can easily do them."

And for an hour or two the children were as really happy as they had been for a good while, and when the thought of their father and what had become of him pressed itself forward on Gladys, she pushed it back with the happy trust and hopefulness of children that "to-morrow" would bring good news.

In a part of Paris, at some distance from the Rue Verte, that very afternoon three people were sitting[Pg 123] together in a pretty drawing-room at "afternoon tea." They were two ladies—a young, quite young one, and an older. And the third person was a gentleman, who had just come in.

"It's so nice to find you at home, and above all at tea, Auntie," he said to the elder lady. "It is such a horrid day—as bad as London, except that there's no fog. You haven't been out, I suppose?"

"Oh yes, indeed we have," replied the young lady. "We went a long way this morning—walking—to auntie's upholsterer, quite in the centre of the town. It looks very grim and uninviting there, the streets are so narrow and the houses so high."

"I've walked a good way too to-day," said the young man.

"I am glad to hear it, my boy," said his aunt. "I have been a little afraid of your studying too hard this winter, at least not taking exercise enough, and you being so accustomed to a country life too!"

"I don't look very bad, do I?" said the young man, laughing. He stood up as he spoke, and his aunt and sister glanced at him with pride, though they tried to hide it. He was tall and handsome, and the expression of his face was particularly bright and pleasant.

[Pg 124]

"You are very conceited," said his sister. "I am not going to pay you any compliments."

He sat down again, and a more serious look came into his face; for some moments he did not speak.

"What are you thinking about, Walter?" asked his sister.

Walter looked up.

"I was thinking about two little children I met to-day," he said. "Away over on the Boulevard X—— ever so far."

"That is not so very far from where we were this morning," interrupted the aunt.

"They were such tiny things, and they looked so forlorn and so unhappy; I can't get them out of my head," said Walter.

"Did you give them anything? Did they seem quite alone?" asked Rosamond.

Walter laughed.

"You don't understand," he said; "they were not beggars. Bless me! I shouldn't like to encounter that very imperious little lady if she thought I had made you think they were beggars."

"'Imperious little lady,' and 'poor forlorn little things;' what do you mean, Walter?" said Rosamond.

[Pg 125]

"I mean what I say. They did look forlorn little creatures, and yet the small girl was as imperious as a princess. They were two little English children, newly arrived evidently, for they didn't understand a word of French. And they were being taken care of by a stupid sort of peasant girl turned into a 'bonne.' And the little girl thought the nurse was going to cross the street, and that she and the small boy would be killed, and she couldn't make the stupid owl understand, and I heard them talking English, and so I came to the rescue—that was all."

"It isn't anything so very terrible," said the aunt. "No doubt they and their bonne will learn to understand each other in a little."

"It wasn't that only," said Walter reflectively; "there was something out of gear, I am sure. The children looked so superior to the servant, and so—so out of their element dragging up and down that rough crowded place, while she gaped at the shop windows. And there was something so pathetic in the little girl's eyes."

"In spite of her imperiousness," said Rosamond teasingly.

"Yes," said Walter, without smiling. "It was queer altogether—the sending them out in that part[Pg 126] of the town with that common sort of servant—and their not knowing any French. I suppose the days are gone by for stealing children or that sort of thing; but I could really have fancied there was something of the kind in this case."

Rosamond and her aunt grew grave.

"Poor little things!" they said. "Why did you not ask them who they were or where they came from, or something?" added Rosamond.

"I don't know. I wish I had," said Walter. "But I'm not sure that I would have ventured on such a freedom with the little girl. I'm not indeed."

"Then they didn't look frightened—the maid did not seem cross to them?"

"Oh no, she was good-natured enough. Just a great stupid. No, they didn't look exactly frightened, except of the horses and carriages; but bewildered and unhappy, and out of their element. And yet so plucky! I'm certain they were well-bred children. I can't make it out."

"Nor can I," said Rosamond. "I wonder if we shall ever hear any more about them."

Curiously enough she dreamt that night that she was again in the furniture shop in the Rue Verte, and that she heard again a noise which she thought[Pg 127] to be mice, but that pulling back a chair to see, she came upon two little children, who at once started to their feet, crying: "We're the boy and girl he met. Take us home, do. We're not mice, and we are so unhappy."

[Pg 128]



"Oh! what's the matter? what's the matter?"

Goody Blake.

Some days passed; they were much the same as the first, except that the children—children-like—grew used to a certain extent to the things and people and manners and ways of the life in which they found themselves. Roger now and then seemed pretty contented, almost as if he were forgetting the strange changes that had come over them; so long as every one was kind to him, and he had Gladys at hand ready, so far as was possible for her, to attend to his slightest wish, he did not seem unhappy. But on the other hand, the least cross word, or one of Mademoiselle Anna's sharp looks, or even the want of things that he liked to eat, would set him off crying in a way he had never done before, and which nearly broke Gladys's heart. For she, though[Pg 129] she seemed quiet and contented enough, was in reality very anxious and distressed. She was of an age to understand that something really serious must be the matter for her and Roger to be left with strangers in this way—no letters coming, no inquiries of any kind being made, just as if she and her little brother were forgotten by all the world! She could write a little, and once or twice she said to herself that if it went on very long she would try to send a letter to Miss Susan; but then again, when she remembered how glad that young lady had been to get rid of them, how she had disliked the idea of their staying with Mrs. Lacy after her marriage—for all this by scraps of conversation, remarks of servants, and so on, Gladys had been quick enough to find out—she felt as if she would rather do anything, stay anywhere, rather than ask Miss Susan to take them back. And then from time to time hope would rise strong in her, and she would wake in the morning firmly convinced that "Papa would come to-day"—hopes, alas, only to be disappointed! She was beginning to understand a little of what was said by those about them. Madame Nestor was as kind as ever, and her son, who had taken a great fancy to Roger, was decidedly kinder than he had[Pg 130] been at first. With them alone Gladys felt she would not have minded anything so much; but she could see that Anna's dislike to them increased, and the child dreaded the hours of the meals, from the feeling of the hard scornful looks that Anna was then sure to cast on her.

One day she overheard some talking between her and Madame Nestor. The young woman seemed angry, and the old one was remonstrating with her. Gladys heard that they were speaking about money, and also about some one going away, but that was all she could make out, though they were talking quite loud, and did not seem to mind her being there.

"If only Anna was going away," thought Gladys, "I wouldn't mind anything. I wouldn't mind the not having baths, or tea, or bread and butter, or—or all the things we had at home, if only there was nobody to look so fierce at us. I'd almost rather be Madame Nestor's little servant, like Françoise, if only Anna would go away."

It almost seemed as if her wishes had been overheard by some fairy, for the next morning, when they were called to the second breakfast—which the children counted their dinner—Anna's place was[Pg 131] empty! Gladys squeezed Roger's hand under the table, and whispered to him: "She's gone, I do believe she's gone." Then looking up at Madame Nestor she saw her kind old face looking decidedly jollier than usual.

"Yes," she said, nodding her head; "Anna is away. She has gone away for a few days."

Gladys understood her partly but not altogether, but she did not mind. She was only too pleased to find it true, and that was the happiest day they had since they came to the Rue Verte. Madame Nestor sent out to the pastry-cook's near by for some nice little cakes of a kind the children had never tasted before, and which they found delicious, and Monsieur Adolphe said he would get them some roasted chestnuts to eat if they liked them. He found the words in a dictionary which he showed Gladys with great pride, and pointed them out to her, and was quite delighted when she told him how to pronounce them, and added: "I like roast chestnuts very much."

"Mademoiselle shall give me some lessons of English," he said to his mother, his round face beaming with pleasure. "You are quite right, they are little gentlepeople, there is no doubt of it; and I feel sure the Papa will come to fetch them in a few[Pg 132] days. He will be very grateful to us for having taken such care of them—it may be a good thing in the end even from a business point of view, for I should have no objection to extend our English connection."

No thought of gain to themselves in any way had entered Madame Nestor's head; but she was too pleased to see her son in such a good humour about the children to say anything to disagree with him.

"He has a good heart, my Adolphe," she said to herself. "It is only Anna that makes him seem what he is not; if she would but stay away altogether! And yet, it would be difficult to find her equal in other ways."

"Speaking of English," she said aloud, "reminds me that those English ladies will be getting impatient for their curtains. And the trimming has not yet come; how slow those makers are! It is a fortnight since they promised it for the end of the week."

"It does not matter much," said Adolphe, "for no one can make them up properly except Anna. She should not have gone away just now; she knows there are several things that require her."

"That is true," said Madame Nestor, and so it was. Mademoiselle Anna seemed purposely to have[Pg 133] chosen a most inconvenient time for going off on a visit to her family, and when Madame Nestor reproached her for this she had replied that with all the money the Nestors had received for the two little strangers, they could well afford to engage for the time a first-rate workwoman to replace her. This was the conversation Gladys had heard and a little understood. Poor Madame Nestor, wishing to keep up the children's dignity, had told every one that Mr. Marton had left her plenty of money for them, making the most of the two or three pounds which was all he had been able to spare, and of which she had not as yet touched a farthing.

But whether Anna's absence was inconvenient or not, it was very pleasant to most people concerned. Adolphe himself took the children out a walk, and though Gladys was at first not quite sure that it was not a little beneath her dignity to let the young man be her "chaperon," she ended by enjoying it very much. Thanks to his broken English and the few French words she was now beginning to understand, they got on very well; and when he had taken them some way out of Paris—or out of the centre of the town rather—in an omnibus, she was obliged to own that it was by no means the gray, grim, crowded,[Pg 134] noisy, stuffy place it had seemed to her those first days in the Rue Verte. Poor little Roger was delighted! The carriages and horses were to him the most beautiful sight the world could show; and as they walked home down the Champs Elysées it was quite difficult to get him along, he wanted so constantly to stand still and stare about him.

"How glad I am we had on our best things!" said Gladys, as she hung up her dark-blue braided serge jacket and dress—for long ago Madame Nestor had been obliged to open the big trunk to get out a change of attire for the children—"aren't you, Roger?" She smoothed dawn the scarlet breast on her little black felt hat as she spoke. "This hat is very neat, and so is my dress; but still they are very plain compared to the things all the children that we saw had on. Did you see that little girl in green velvet with a sort of very soft fur, like shaded gray fluff, all round it? And another one in a red silky dress, all trimmed with lace, and a white feather as long—as long as——"

"Was it in that pretty big wide street?" asked Roger. "I saw a little boy like me with a 'plendid coat all over gold buttons."

"That was a little page, not a gentleman," said[Pg 135] Gladys, rather contemptuously. "Don't you remember Mrs. Ffolliot's page? Only perhaps he hadn't so many buttons. I'd like to go a walk there every day, wouldn't you?"

But their conversation was interrupted by Madame Nestor's calling them down to have a little roll and a glass of milk, which she had discovered they liked much better than wine and water.

"If only there would come a letter, or if Papa would come—oh, if Papa would but come before that Anna comes back again, everything would get all right! I do hope when he does come that Papa will let me give a nice present to Mrs. Nest," thought Gladys to herself as she was falling asleep that night.

The next day was so bright and fine, that when the children saw Monsieur Adolphe putting on his coat to go out early in the morning they both wished they might go with him, and they told him so. He smiled, but told them in his funny English that it could not be. He was going out in a hurry, and only about business—some orders he was going to get from the English ladies.

"English ladies," repeated Gladys.

"Yes; have you not seen them? They were here one day."

[Pg 136]

"We saw them," said Gladys, smiling, "but they did not see us. They thought we were mice," but the dictionary had to be fetched before Adolphe could make out what "mice" meant, even though Roger turned it into "mouses" to make it plainer. And then he had to hurry off—it was a long way, he said, in the Avenue Gérard, close to the Champs Elysées, that these ladies lived.

"Avenue Gérard," repeated Gladys, in the idle way children sometimes catch up a name; "that's not hard to say. We say avenue in English too. It means a road with lots of trees. Are there lots of trees where those ladies live, Mr. 'Dolph?"

But "Mr. 'Dolph" had departed.

After these bright days came again some dreary autumn weather. The children "wearied," as Scotch people say, a good deal. They were even glad on the fourth day to be sent out a short walk with Françoise.

"I wonder if we shall see that nice gentleman again if we go up that big street?" said Roger.

"I don't think we shall," said Gladys. "Most likely he doesn't live there. And it's a great many days ago. Perhaps he's gone back to England."

It was indeed by this time nearly a fortnight[Pg 137] that the little waifs had found refuge in the Rue Verte.

The walk turned out less disagreeable than their first one with Françoise. They did go up the Boulevard, where the servant had some commissions, but they did not meet the "nice gentleman." They came home, however, in very good spirits; for at the big grocer's shop, where Françoise had bought several things, one of the head men had given them each an orange. And chattering together about how they should eat them—whether it was nicest to suck them, or to cut them with a knife, or to peel them and divide them into what are familiarly called "pigs"—the two children, with Françoise just behind them, reached the shop in the Rue Verte.

The door stood open—that was a little unusual, but they did not stay to wonder at it, but ran in quickly, eager to show their oranges to their kind old friend. The door leading to the room behind the shop stood open also, and the children stopped short, for the room was full of people, all talking eagerly and seemingly much excited. There were all the workpeople and one or two neighbours, but neither Madame Nestor nor her son. Françoise, who had caught sight of the crowd and already overheard[Pg 138] something of what they were saying, hurried forward, telling the children as she passed them to stay where they were, and frightened of they knew not what, the two little creatures took refuge in their old corner behind the blue sofa.

"What can it be?" said Gladys.

"P'raps Papa's come," suggested Roger.

Gladys's heart gave a great leap, and she sprang up, glancing in the direction of the little crowd of people. But she quickly crouched down again.

"Oh no," she said. "It can't be that. Françoise would not have told us to stay here. I'm afraid somebody's ill. It seems more like that."

Her instinct was right. By degrees the talking subsided, and one or two of the workpeople went off to their business, and a moment or two after, when Adolphe Nestor suddenly made his appearance, there was a general hush, broken only by one or two voices inquiring "how she was."

"Do you hear that, Roger?" whispered Gladys, nudging her brother; "they're asking how she is. That means Mrs. Nest, I'm sure. She must be ill."

Roger said nothing, but listened solemnly.

"Her was quite well when us went out," he observed, after a considerable pause.

[Pg 139]

"Yes, but sometimes people get ill all of a sudden," said Gladys. Then, after a moment, "Roger," she said, "I think I'll go and ask. I shall be so unhappy if poor Mrs. Nest is ill."

"So will I," said Roger.

They got up from the floor, and hand in hand crept timidly towards the door. Françoise was still standing there, listening to Adolphe, who was talking to the two or three still standing there. Françoise turned at the sound of the children's footsteps, and raised a warning finger. But Gladys put her aside, with what "Walter" would have called her imperious air.

"Let us pass," she said. "I want to speak to Mr. 'Dolph."

The young man heard the sound of his own name.

"What is it?" he said quickly, in French.

"I want to know what's the matter. Is Mrs. Nest ill?" asked Gladys. But she had to repeat her question two or three times before Adolphe understood it He was flurried and distressed—indeed, his eyes looked as if he had been crying—and that made it more difficult for him to catch the meaning of the child's words. But at last he did so.

[Pg 140]

"Ah!" he exclaimed. "Yes, there is much the matter. My poor mother—she has fallen downstairs and broken her leg."

Gladys clasped her two hands together.

"Broken her leg," she repeated. "Oh, poor Mrs. Nest! Oh, it must hurt her dreadfully."

At this Roger burst out crying. Adolphe turned round, and picked him up in his arms.

"Poor little fellow," he said, "yes, he, too, is very sorry. What we are to do I know not. Anna away, too. I hope you will be very good and quiet children. Françoise, too, will be so busy—you will do all you can to give no trouble, will you not? I wish we had news of the Papa!" he added, as he turned away.

He did not speak at all unkindly, but he seemed very much troubled, and with his broken English it was very difficult for Gladys to follow all he said.

"May I go and see poor Mrs. Nest?" she said timidly.

"No, no; you cannot see her for a long time," replied Adolphe hastily, as he left the room.

"I must send a telegram to Mademoiselle Anna," he added to Françoise, and unfortunately for her[Pg 141] peace of mind, Gladys understood him. She turned away, her lips quivering.

"Come upstairs, dear," she said to her little brother. "Come to our room and I will take off your things."

Roger followed her obediently. Françoise had disappeared into the kitchen, where more than ever she was needed, as there was no one else to see about the dinner—so the two little things climbed upstairs by themselves. It was already growing dusk—the dull little room looked cheerless, and felt chilly. Roger looked up into Gladys's eyes as she was unfastening his coat.

"Are you crying, Gladdie?" he said, in his little soft sad tone.

Gladys turned away a moment to wipe her eyes. If she had not done so she would probably have burst into a terrible fit of tears, for never had she felt so miserable and desolate. Her pride, too, was aroused, for she saw most plainly that she and Roger were more than ever a sad burden and trouble. But what could she do? What could any little girl of seven years old have done in such a case?

The sight of Roger's meek sad face gave her a kind of strength. For his sake she must keep up[Pg 142] anyway the appearance of cheerfulness. So she kissed him, and answered quietly:

"I am very sorry for poor Mrs. Nest. She has been so kind to us."

"Yes," said Roger. Then a bright idea struck him. "I'll say my prayers for her to be made better to-night. Will you, Gladdie?"

"Yes," said Gladys, and there was comfort in the thought to her, for it brought with it another. "I'll ask God to help us," she thought to herself, "and when I go to bed I'll think and think, and perhaps He'll put something in my head. Perhaps I must try to write to Miss Susan."

The loss of Madame Nestor's constant kindness was quickly felt. No one came near the children, and when Gladys crept downstairs there was no light in the little sitting-room—no glasses of milk and plate of rolls waiting for them on the table, as had become a habit. And Roger was cold and hungry! He had asked Gladys to go down and look if there was any "goûter," as they had learnt to call this afternoon luncheon, and when she came up again and told him "no," the poor little fellow, frightened, and cold, and hungry, burst into loud sobbing. Gladys was so afraid it would be heard, and[Pg 143] that they would be scolded for disturbing Madame Nestor, that she persuaded Roger to get into bed, where she covered him up warmly, and promised to tell him a story if he would leave off crying.

It was not easy to keep her promise—she felt so on the point of bursting into tears herself that she had to stop every now and then to clear her throat, and she was not sorry when, on one of these occasions, instead of Roger's shrill little voice urging her to "go on. What do you stop for, Gladdie?" she heard by his regular breathing that he had fallen asleep. She had no light, but she felt about to be sure he was well covered, and then, leaning her head on the side of his bed, she tried to "think."

"I would not mind anything so much if Anna was not coming back," she said to herself. "But if she is here, and poor Mrs. Nest shut up in her room, she can do anything she likes to us, for Mr. 'Dolph wouldn't know; and if I told him he'd think I was very naughty to bother him when his mother was ill. I think I must write to Miss Susan—at least, if Anna is very unkind, I will—unless—unless—oh, if it would but happen for Papa to come to-morrow, or a letter! I'll wait till to-morrow and see—and perhaps Anna won't come back, not—not if Papa's in[Pg 144] the train—she'd run away if she saw him, if he had Mrs. Nest's cap on, she'd"—and that was all, for before Gladys had settled what she would do, she too, as you see, had fallen asleep.

She slept some time—an hour or two—and she awoke, feeling cold and stiff, though what had awakened her she did not at first know, till again, bringing with it the remembrance of having heard it before, the sound of a voice calling her reached her ears.

"Mademoiselle—Mademoiselle Gladees," it said, "why do you not come? The dinner is all ready, and I have called you so many times." It was Françoise, tumbling up the narrow stair in the dark. Gladys heard her fumbling at the door, and called out "Françoise!" Then Roger woke and started up, trembling. "What is it—what is the matter, Gladdie?" he cried, and Gladys had to soothe and pet him, and say it was only Françoise; and Françoise in the meantime had got into the room, exclaiming at their having no light, and pulling a box of matches from her pocket, struck one, and hunted about till she found a bit of candle.

It was a rather melancholy scene that the end of candle lighted up.

[Pg 145]

"So—you have been asleep!" exclaimed the servant; "well, perhaps it was the best thing. Well, come down now, Monsieur Adolphe is asking for you," and she would scarcely let them wait to dip their hands in water and smooth their tumbled hair.

"What will become of them when she comes back and poor Madame ill in bed, who can say?" the peasant girl muttered to herself as she led them downstairs. "I wish their friends would come to fetch them—I do. It's certainly very strange for rich people to leave their children like that," and Françoise shook her head.

Monsieur Adolphe received the children kindly. He had been a little alarmed when Françoise had told him she could not find them in the sitting-room, for he knew it would trouble his poor mother greatly if she found her little favourites were neglected, for the thought of them was one of the things most troubling the poor woman in the middle of her suffering.

"If but the Papa would come for them," she had already said to her son. "I know not what to do. I think we must ask some advice. Anna dislikes them so; and if she comes back to-morrow——"

"She may not come till the day after," said[Pg 146] Adolphe. "Do not trouble yourself about anything just now. The children are all right for the moment."

"And you will be kind to them at dinner, and give them nice pieces. They do not eat much, but they are used to more delicate cooking than ours."

"Reassure yourself. I will do all as you would yourself. And if you keep quiet, my good Mamma, perhaps in a day or two you can see them for yourself. The great thing is to keep quiet, and that will keep down the fever, the doctor says," repeated poor Adolphe, who was really a good and affectionate son.

"Ah, yes," thought poor Madame Nestor, "that is all very well, but at my age," for she was really old—old to be the mother of Adolphe, having married late in life, "at my age one does not break one's leg for nothing. But the good God knows best. If my time has come, so be it. I have no great anxiety to leave behind me, like some poor women, thank Heaven! Only these poor children!"

And thanks to what Madame Nestor had said, and thanks in part, too, to his kind feelings, Adolphe was very friendly to the children at dinner; and in reply to their timid inquiries about his mother, told them that the doctor thought she was going on well,[Pg 147] and in a day or two they might see her, if they were very good and quiet. So the meal passed off peacefully.

"After all," thought Adolphe, "they do not cost one much. They eat like sparrows. Still it is a great responsibility—poor little things!"

He took Roger in his arms and kissed him when he said good-night, and Gladys would have gone to bed feeling rather less unhappy, for Françoise put in her head to say she would come in half an hour to help to undress "Monsieur Roger," but for some words she overheard among some of the young workwomen, which she understood only too well—that Mademoiselle Anna was returning the next morning!

"I must write to Miss Susan," thought the little girl, as she at last fell asleep.

[Pg 148]



"Their hearts were laden
With sorrow, surprise, and fear."

Princess Bopeep.

Nobody came to wake the children the next morning. They slept later than usual, and when Gladys woke it was already as light as ever it was in the dull little room. But it was very cold—the weather had turned to frost in the night, which made the air clearer and brighter, and in their own warm rooms at Mrs. Lacy's the children would have rejoiced at the change. Here it was very different.

Gladys lay waiting some time, wondering if no one was coming with their chocolate and bread, forgetting at first all that had happened the day before. By degrees it came back to her mind, and then she was no longer surprised at their being left alone.

[Pg 149]

"Anna has come back," she thought to herself, "and she won't let them bring us our breakfast."

She got out of bed, glad to see that Roger was still sleeping, and crossed the room, the cold wooden floor striking chill to her bare feet. She reached the door and opened it, peering down the narrow dark staircase.

"Françoise," she called softly, for the kitchen was nearer than the workroom, and she hoped perhaps Françoise would come to her without Anna knowing. But no one answered. She heard voices in the distance—in the kitchen they seemed to be—and soon she fancied that she distinguished the sharp tones of Mademoiselle Anna, ordering about the poor little cook. Gladys quickly but softly shut the door and crossed the room again on tiptoes. She stood for a moment or two hesitating what to do. It was so cold that she felt half inclined to curl herself up in bed again and try to go to sleep! But if Roger woke, as he was sure to do soon—no, the best thing was for her to get dressed as quickly as possible. She bravely sponged herself as well as she could with the cold water, which was now always left in the room in a little jug; "no chance of any hot water to-day!" she thought to herself as she[Pg 150] remembered how unhappy she had been that first morning at not having a bath, and then went on to dress, though not without a good deal of difficulty, as several of her little under-garments fastened behind. Not till the last button was secured did Roger wake.

"Gladdie," he said in a sleepy tone, "are you dressed. We haven't had our chocolate, Gladdie."

"Never mind, Roger dear," said Gladys. "They're all very busy to-day, you know, so I've got up and dressed quickly, and now I'll go down and bring up your breakfast. Unless you'd rather get up first?"

Roger considered. He was in rather a lazy mood, which was perhaps just as well.

"No," he decided. "I'll have my breakfast first. And you can eat yours beside me, can't you, Gladdie?"

"Yes," said Gladys, "that will be very nice."

She spoke with a cheerfulness she was far from feeling, for in her heart she felt by no means sure of getting any breakfast at all. But just as she was turning to go a slight knocking was heard at the door. It was more like a scratching indeed, as if the person were afraid of being heard outside as well as by those in the room.

[Pg 151]

"Mademoiselle," came in a loud whisper after the queer rapping had gone on for some time, "are you awake? Open—I have the hands full."

It was Françoise. Gladys opened. The little servant, her round red face rounder and redder than usual, for she had been all the morning at the kitchen fire, and had besides been passing through unusual excitement, stumped into the room, a bowl, from which the steam of some hot liquid was rising, in one hand, and a plate with a large hunch of bread in the other.

She put them down on the little table and wiped her hot face with her apron.

"Ah, Mademoiselle," she said, "no one would believe it—the trouble I have had to get some breakfast for you! She would not have it—lazy little creatures, she called you—you might come down and get it for yourselves—a piece of dry bread and some dripping soup—that was all she would have given you, and I know you are not used to that. So what did I do but wait till her back was turned—the cross cat—and then in with the milk and a tiny bit of chocolate—all I could find, and here it is! Hot, at any rate; but not very good, I fear."

[Pg 152]

Gladys did not, of course, understand a quarter of the words which Françoise rattled off in her queer Norman-French; but her wits were sharpened by anxiety, and she gathered quite enough of the sense of the little servant's long speech to feel very grateful to her. In her hurry Françoise had poured all the chocolate—or hot milk rather, for there was very little chocolate in the composition—into one bowl; but the children were too hungry to be particular. They drank turn-about, and finished by crumbling up the remains of the bread in the remains of the milk and eating it with the spoon, turn-about also, Françoise standing by, watching them with satisfaction! Suddenly she started.

"I must run down," she said, "or she will be after me again. I wish I could stay to help you to dress Monsieur Roger, but I dare not," and gathering up the dishes in her apron so that they could not be seen, she turned to go.

"Dress him as quickly as you can," she said to Gladys, "and then she cannot say you have given any trouble. But stay—I will see if I cannot get you a little hot water for the poor bébé."

And off she set, to appear again in a minute with a tin jug of hot water which she poured out into the[Pg 153] basin at once for fear the absence of the tin jug should be discovered.

"She has eyes on every side of her head," she whispered as she went off again.

Roger's toilet was accomplished more luxuriously than poor Gladys's own, and he was quite bright and happy with no fear of Mademoiselle Anna or any one else, chirping like a little bird, as his sister took him down the narrow staircase to the room behind the shop where they spent the mornings.

"Hush, Roger dear, we must be very quiet because poor Mrs. Nest is ill, you know," she said, when his shrill little voice rose higher and higher, for he had had an exceedingly good night and felt in excellent spirits.

"She can't hear us down here," replied Roger. But Gladys still repeated her "hush," for, in reality, it was Anna who she feared might overhear Roger's chatter. She looked about for something to keep him quiet, but could see nothing. It was warm in the sitting-room—though if Anna could have done so, she would have ordered Françoise not to light the fire for the little plagues, as she called them—but except for that they would have been happier up in their bedroom, where Gladys had discovered a[Pg 154] few of Roger's toys in a corner of the big trunk, which, however, Madame Nest had not allowed them to bring down.

"When the Papa comes, I wish him to find all your things in good order," she had said. "The toys might get broken, so while you are here I will find you things to amuse you."

But this morning the bundle of cretonne and cut-out birds and flowers was not to be seen!

"I must tell Roger stories all the morning, I suppose," thought Gladys, and she was just going to propose doing so, when Roger, who had been standing peeping through the glass door which led into the shop, suddenly gave a cry of pleasure.

"Oh, Gladdie," he said, "see what a pretty carriage and two prancey horses at the door!"

Gladys ran to look—the shop door was wide open, for one of the apprentice boys was sweeping it out, and they could see right into the street. The carriage had stopped, as Roger said, and out of it stepped one of two people seated in it. It was the younger of the two ladies that the children had seen that first day in the Rue Verte when they were hidden behind the blue sofa in the corner.

She came forward into the shop.

[Pg 155]

"Is there no one here?" she said in French.

The apprentice, very dusty and looking rather ashamed, came out of a corner. It was not often that ladies in grand carriages came themselves to the little shop, for though the Nestors had some very good customers, Monsieur Adolphe usually went himself to their houses for orders.

"I will call some one," said the boy, "if Mademoiselle will have the goodness to wait a moment," and he disappeared through a little door in the corner of the shop which led into the workroom another way.

The young lady shivered a little—it was very cold—and then walked about, glancing at the furniture now and then. She seemed to think it too cold to sit down. There was certainly no dearth of chairs!

"I wonder if we should ask her to come in here," said Gladys. But before she had time to decide, the door by which the boy had gone out opened again and Mademoiselle Anna appeared. She came forward with the most gracious manner and sweetest smiles imaginable. Gladys, who had never seen her like that, felt quite amazed.

The young lady received Anna's civilities very[Pg 156] calmly. She had never seen her before, and thought her rather a vulgar young woman. But when Anna begged her to come for a moment into the sitting-room while she went to fetch the patterns the young lady had come for she did not refuse.

"It is certainly bitterly cold this morning," she said.

"And we are all so upset—by the sad accident to our poor dear Madame—Mademoiselle must excuse us," said Anna, leading the way to the sitting-room as she spoke.

Rosamond stopped short.

"An accident to that good Madame Nestor. I am very sorry," she exclaimed.

Anna opened the door sharply, as she did everything, and in so doing overthrew the small person of Roger.

"Ah, yes," Anna went on in her honeyed tones, "it is really too sad. It was—but will not Mademoiselle come out of the cold, and I will tell her about it," she went on, backing towards the glass door. It opened inwards; the children, very much interested in watching the little scene in the shop, and not quite understanding Anna's intention, had not thought of getting out of the way. Anna opened the door sharply, as she did everything, and in so doing overthrew the small person of Roger, whose short fat legs were less agile than the longer and[Pg 157] thinner ones of his sister. Gladys sprang away like a kitten, but only to spring back again the next moment, as a doleful cry rose from poor Roger.

"You're not hurt, darling, are you?" she said, as she knelt down to pick him up.

Roger went on crying softly. He preferred to take his time about deciding that he wasn't hurt. And in the meantime the stranger young lady had come into the room and was looking round her in some surprise.

"Has the little boy fallen down?" she asked in French. "Poor little fellow! Are they Madame Nestor's grandchildren?"

"Oh dear, no," replied Anna, casting a contemptuous glance at Gladys and Roger, who, crouching on the floor in a corner of the always dusky little room, could not be very clearly distinguished. "Get up," continued she, turning to them, "get up at once and go to your own room."

Frightened by her tone and by Roger's continued sobbing, Gladys dragged him up from the floor as well as she could, and escaped with him by the door leading upstairs, near to which they happened to be. Something in the sudden change of Anna's tone roused the young lady's suspicions.

[Pg 158]

"Who are they, then?" she asked again. "And are you sure the little boy is not hurt?"

"He cries for nothing, Mademoiselle—he is always crying. They are children our good Madame has taken in out of charity; it is very difficult to manage with them just now, poor little things. They have been so neglected and are so troublesome; but we must do our best till our dear Madame gets better," and then she went on into a long description of the accident, how she herself had just gone to spend two days with her sister, whom she had not seen for years, when she had been recalled, etc., etc., all told so cleverly that Rosamond went away, thinking that after all she must be a very good sort of young woman, and that it was not right to yield to prejudice. Yet still she could not quite forget the glimpse she had had of the two little creatures taken in "out of charity," and the sound of Roger's stifled sobs.

Gladys and he stayed upstairs till they were called down to "déjeûner." It was cold, but they minded the cold less than sharp words and unkind looks. Gladys wrapped Roger up in a shawl and pulled a blanket off the bed for herself, and then they both cuddled down together in a corner, and[Pg 159] she told him all the stories she could think of. By twelve o'clock they were very hungry, for in spite of Françoise's endeavours they had had much less breakfast than usual, but they had no idea what time it was, and were too frightened to go down, and there they would have stayed, all day perhaps, if Adolphe, reminded of them by his poor mother's constant questions, had not sent one of the apprentice boys to fetch them down, and meek and trembling the two poor little things entered the long narrow room where all the members of the household were seated round the table.

But there was no kindly welcome for them as at dinner the day before. Monsieur Adolphe's usually good-humoured face looked worried and vexed.

"Sit down and take your food," he said coldly. "I am very sorry to hear from Mademoiselle Anna how troublesome you have been this morning. I thought you, Mademoiselle, as so much older than your brother, who is really only a baby, would have tried to keep him quiet for the sake of my poor mother."

Gladys's face turned scarlet; at first she could scarcely believe that she had heard aright, for it was very difficult to understand the young man's bad[Pg 160] English, but a glance at his face showed her she was not mistaken. She clasped her hands in a sort of despair.

"Oh, Mr. 'Dolph," she said, "how can you think we would be so naughty? It was only that Roger fell down, and that made him cry."

"Do not listen to her," said Anna in a hard indifferent tone, "naughty children always make excuses."

But the sight of the real misery in Gladys's face was too much for kind-hearted Adolphe. He noticed, too, that both she and Roger were looking pale and pinched with cold, and he had his own doubts as to Anna's truthfulness, though he was too much under her to venture to contradict her.

"Don't cry, my child," he said kindly. "Try to be very good and quiet the rest of the day, and eat your déjeûner now."

Gladys made a valiant effort to choke down her tears.

"Is Mrs. Nest better to-day," she asked.

The son shook his head.

"I fear not," he replied sadly; "she has a great deal of fever. And I am, unfortunately, obliged to go into the country for a day or two about some important business."

[Pg 161]

"You are going away! oh, Mr. 'Dolph, there will be no one to take care of us," cried Gladys, the tears rushing to her eyes again.

The young man was touched by her distress.

"Oh yes, yes," he said; "they will all be very kind to you. I will speak to them, and I shall be soon back again, and you and my little Roger will be very good, I am sure."

There was nothing more to be said. Gladys tried to go on eating, though her hunger had quite left her, and it was difficult to swallow anything without crying again. Only one thought grew clearer in her mind—"I must write to Miss Susan."

During the rest of the meal Adolphe kept talking to Anna about the work and other things to be seen to while he was away.

"You must be sure to send to-morrow early to put up those curtains at the English ladies'—9 Avenue Gérard."

"9 Avenue Gérard—that is their new house," said Anna, and the address, which she had already heard twice repeated, caught Gladys's ear.

"And tell the one who goes to ask for the patterns back—those the young lady took away to-day. Oh, by the bye, did she see the children?" asked Adolphe.

[Pg 162]

"No, you may be sure. That is to say, I hurried them out of the way, forward little things. It was just the moment she was here, that he, the bébé there, chose for bursting out crying," replied Anna.

"I hope she did not go away with the idea they were not kindly treated," said Adolphe, looking displeased.

"She thought nothing about them—she hardly caught sight of them."

"She did not see that they were English—her country-people?"

"Certainly not," replied Anna. "Do you think I have no more sense than to bother all your customers with the history of any little beggars your mother chooses to take in?"

"I was not speaking of all the customers—I was speaking of those English ladies who might have taken an interest in these children, because they too are English—or at least have given us some advice what to do. I have already been thinking of asking them. But now it may be too late if they saw the children crying and you scolding them; no doubt, they will either think they are naughty disagreeable children or that we are unkind to them. Either will do harm. You have made a great mistake."

[Pg 163]

He got up and left the room, afraid perhaps of saying more, for at this moment he could not afford to quarrel with Anna. Poor man, his troubles seemed to be coming on him all at once! Gladys understood very little of what they were saying, but she saw that Adolphe was not pleased with Mademoiselle Anna, and it made her fear that Anna would be still crosser to Roger or her. But she took no notice of them, and when they had finished she called Françoise, and told her to take them into the sitting-room and make up the fire.

"P'raps she's going to be kind now, Gladdie," said Roger, with the happy hopefulness of his age. But Gladys shook her head.

Monsieur Adolphe set off that afternoon.

For the first day or two things went on rather better than Gladys had expected. Anna had had a fright, and did not dare actually to neglect or ill-treat the children. So Gladys put off writing to Miss Susan, which, as you know, she had the greatest dislike to doing till she saw how things went on. Besides this same writing was no such easy matter for her. She had neither pen, ink, nor paper—she was not sure how to spell the address, and she had not a halfpenny of money! Very likely if she had[Pg 164] spoken of her idea to Adolphe he would have been only too glad for her to write, but Anna was a very different person to deal with.

"If I asked her for paper and a pen she would very likely scold me—very likely she wouldn't like me to write while Mr. 'Dolph is away, for fear he should think she had been unkind and that that had made me do it," reflected Gladys, whose wits were much sharpened by trouble. "And I daren't make her angry while we're alone with her."

Thus the letter was deferred. Things might possibly have gone smoothly till Adolphe's return, for Anna wished to avoid any upset now she saw how strongly the Nestors felt on the subject. But unfortunately bad-tempered people cannot always control themselves to act as their common sense tells them would be best even for themselves. And Mademoiselle Anna had a very bad and violent temper, which often got quite the mastery of her.

So the calm did not last long.

[Pg 165]



"One foot up and the other foot down,
For that is the way to London town.
And just the same, over dale and hill,
'Tis also the way to wherever you will."

Old Rhyme.

It was a very cold day, colder than is usual in Paris in November, where the winter, though intense while it lasts, seldom sets in before the New Year. But though cold, there had been sufficient brightness and sunshine, though of a pale and feeble kind, to encourage the Mammas of Paris either to take out their darlings themselves or to entrust them to the nurses and maids, and nursery governesses of all nations who, on every fairly fine day, may be seen with their little charges walking up and down what Roger called "the pretty wide street," which had so[Pg 166] taken his fancy the day of the expedition with Monsieur Adolphe.

Among all the little groups walking up and down pretty steadily, for it was too cold for loitering, or whipping tops, or skipping-ropes, as in finer weather, two small figures hurrying along hand-in-hand, caught the attention of several people. Had they been distinctly of the humbler classes nobody would have noticed them much, for even in this aristocratic part of the town one sometimes sees quite poor children threading their way among or standing to admire the little richly-dressed pets who, after all, are but children like themselves. And sometimes a burst of innocent laughter, or bright smiles of pleasure, will spread from the rich to the poor, at the sight of Henri's top having triumphed over Xavier's, or at the solemn dignity of the walking doll of five-year-old Yvonne.

But these two little people were evidently not of the lower classes. Not only were they warmly and neatly dressed—though that, indeed, would hardly have settled the question, as it is but very seldom in Paris that one sees the children of even quite humble parents ill or insufficiently clad—but even though their coats and hats were plain and unfashionable,[Pg 167] there was about them a decided look of refinement and good-breeding. And yet they were alone!

"Who can they be?" said one lady to another. "Just see how half-frightened and yet determined the little girl looks."

"And how the boy clings to her. They are English, I suppose—English people are so eccentric, and let their children do all sorts of things we would never dream of."

"Not the English of the upper classes," replied the first lady, with a slight shade of annoyance. "You forget I am half English myself by my mother's side, so I should know. You take your ideas of the English from anything but the upper classes. I am always impressing that on my friends. How would you like if the English judged us by the French they see in Leicester Square, or by the dressmakers and ladies' maids who go over and call themselves governesses?"

"I wouldn't like it, but I daresay it is often done, nevertheless," said the other lady good-naturedly. "But very likely those children do not belong to the upper classes."

"I don't know," said the first lady. She stopped as she spoke and looked after the children, who had[Pg 168] now passed them, thoughtfully. "No," she went on, "I don't think they are common children. I fancy there must be something peculiar about them. Can they have lost their way? Antoinette," she added suddenly, turning round. "You may think me very foolish and eccentric—'English,' if you like, but I am going to run after them and see if there is anything the matter. Look after Lili for a moment for me, please."

Antoinette laughed.

"Do as you please, my dear," she said.

So off hastened, in her rich velvet and furs, the other lady. It was not difficult to overtake the children, for the two pairs of legs had trotted a long way and were growing weary. But when close behind them their new friend slackened her pace. How was she to speak to them? She did not know that they were English, or even strangers, and if they were the former that did not much mend matters, for, alas! notwithstanding the half British origin she was rather fond of talking about, the pretty young mother had been an idle little girl in her time, and had consistently declined to learn any language but her own. Now, she wished for her Lili's sake to make up for lost time, and was looking[Pg 169] out for an English governess, but as yet she dared not venture on any rash attempts. She summoned up her courage, however, and gently touched the little girl on the shoulder, and all her suspicions that something unusual was in question were awakened again by the start of terror the child gave, and the pallid look of misery, quickly followed by an expression of relief, with which she looked up in her face.

"I thought it was Anna," she half whispered, clutching her little brother's hand more tightly than before.

"Mademoiselle—my child," said the lady, for the dignity on the little face, white and frightened as it was, made her not sure how to address her. "Can I do anything to help you? You are alone—have you perhaps lost your way?"

The last few words Gladys, for she of course it was, did not follow. But the offer of help, thanks to the kind eyes looking down on her, she understood. She gazed for a moment into these same eyes, and then seeming to gather confidence she carefully drew out from the pocket of her ulster—the same new ulster she had so proudly put on for the first time the day of the journey which was to[Pg 170] have ended with "Papa" and happiness—a little piece of paper, rather smudgy-looking, it must be owned, which she unfolded and held up to the lady. On it were written the words—

"9 Avenue Gérard."

"Avenue Gérard," repeated the lady; "is that where you want to go? It is not far from here."

But seeing that the child did not take in the meaning of her words, she changed her tactics. Taking Gladys by the hand she led her to one side of the broad walk where they were standing, and pointing to a street at right angles from the rows of houses bordering the Champs Elysées.

"Go along there," she said, "and then turn to the left and you will see the name, 'Avenue Gérard,' at the corner."

"Go along there," she said, "and then turn to the left and you will see the name, 'Avenue Gérard,' at the corner."

She pointed as she spoke; then she stooped, and with the sharp point of the tiny umbrella she carried, traced in lines the directions she had given, in the gravel on which they were standing. Gladys considered for a moment in silence, then she lifted her head and nodded brightly.

"I understand," she said, "and thank you very much."

Then taking Roger's hand, which, while speaking to the lady she had let go, she smiled again, and whispering something to her brother which made him pluck off his little cap, the two small pilgrims set off again on their journey. The lady stood for a moment looking after them, and I think there were tears in her eyes.

"I wonder if I could have done more for them," she said to herself, "Fancy Lili and Jean by themselves like that! But they know where they have to go to—they are not lost."

"How kind she was," said Gladys, as she led her little brother in the direction the lady had pointed out. "It is not far now, Roger, dear—are you very tired?"

Roger made a manful effort to step out more briskly.

"Not so very, Gladdie. But oh, Gladdie, I was so frightened when I felt you stop and when I saw your face. Oh, Gladdie, I thought it was her."

"So did I," said Gladys with a shiver.

"Would she have put us in prison?" he asked.

"I don't know," said Gladys. "I heard her say something to Françoise about the police. I don't know if that means prison. But these ladies won't let her, 'cos you know, Roger, they're English, like us."

"Is all French peoples naughty?" inquired Roger meekly.

[Pg 171]
[Pg 172]

"No, you silly little boy," giving him a small shake, "of course not. Think of Mrs. Nest, and Françoise, and even that lady—oh, I didn't mean to make you cry. You're not silly—I didn't mean it, dear."

But Roger could not at once stop his tears, for they were as much the result of tiredness and excitement as of Gladys's words.

"Gladdie," he went on plaintively, "what will you do if those ladies aren't kind to us?"

"They'll help me to send a tele—you know what I mean—a letter in that quick way, to Miss Susan," replied Gladys confidently. "That's all I'm going to ask them. They'd never refuse that."

"And could Miss Susan get here to-day, do you think?"

Gladys hesitated.

"I don't quite know. I don't know how long it takes people to come that way. But I'm afraid it costs a good deal. We must ask the ladies. Perhaps they'll get us a little room somewhere, where Anna can't find us, till Miss Susan sends for us."

"But," continued Roger, "what will you do if they're out, Gladdie?"

Gladys did not answer. Strange to say, practical[Pg 173] as she was, this possibility had never occurred to her. Her one idea had been to make her way to the Avenue Gérard at once, then it had seemed to her that all difficulties would be at an end.

"What's the good of saying that, Roger," she said at last. "If they're out we'll——"


"Wait till they come in, I suppose."

"It'll be very cold waiting in the street—like beggars," grumbled Roger. But he said it in a low tone, not particularly wishing Gladys to hear. Only he was so tired that he had to grumble a little.

Suddenly Gladys pulled up.

"There it is," she said. "Look up there, Roger; that's the name, 'Av-e-nue Gér-ard.' It's just a street. I thought an avenue would have been all trees, like in the country. Nine—I wonder which is nine?"

Opposite to where they stood was No. 34. Gladys led Roger on a little bit and looked at the number on the other side. It was 31, and the next beyond that was 29.

"It's this way. They get littler this way," she exclaimed. "Come on, Roger, darling—it's not far."

"But if we've to wait in the street," repeated[Pg 174] Roger faintly, for he was now possessed by this new idea.

Gladys said nothing—perhaps she did not hear.

"Twenty-seven, twenty-five, twenty-three," she said, as they passed each house, so intent on reaching No. 9 that she did not even feel frightened. Between seventeen and fifteen there was a long space of hoardings shutting off unbuilt-upon ground—nine seemed a very long time of coming. But at last—at last!

It was a large, very handsome house, and Gladys, young as she was, said at once to herself that the English ladies, as she had got into the way of calling them, must be very very rich. For she did not understand that in Paris one enormous house, such as the one she was standing before, contains the dwellings of several families, each of which is often as large as a good-sized English house, only without stairs once you have entered, as all the rooms are on one floor.

"I wonder which is the front door," said Gladys. "There seem so many in there." For the great doors of the entrance-court stood open, and, peeping in, it seemed to her that there was nothing but doors on every side to be seen.

"We must ask," she at last said resolutely, and foraging in her pocket she again drew forth the[Pg 175] crumpled piece of paper with "No. 9 Avenue Gérard," and armed with this marched in.

A man started up from somewhere—indeed he had been already watching them, though they had not seen him. He was the porter for the whole house.

"What do you want—whom are you looking for?" he said. At first, thinking they were little beggars or something of the kind, for the courtyard was not very light, he had come out meaning to drive them away. But when he came nearer them he saw they were not what he had thought, and he spoke therefore rather more civilly. Still, he never thought of saying "Mademoiselle" to Gladys—no children of the upper classes would be wandering about alone! Gladys's only answer was to hold out the bit of paper.

"Avenue Gérard, No. 9," read the man. "Yes, it is quite right—it is here. But there is no name. Who is it you want?"

"The English ladies," replied Gladys in her own tongue, which she still seemed to think everybody should understand. She had gathered the meaning of the man's words, helped thereto by his gesticulations.

"The English ladies—I don't know their name."

[Pg 176]

Only one word was comprehensible by the porter.

"English," he repeated, using of course the French word for "English." "It must be the English ladies on the second floor they want. No doubt they are some of the poor English those ladies are so kind to. And yet—" he looked at them dubiously. They didn't quite suit his description. Anyway, there was but one answer to give. "The ladies were out; the children must come again another day."

Gladys and Roger, too, understood the first four words. Their worst fears had come true!

If Gladys could have spoken French she would perhaps have found courage to ask the man to let them come in and wait a little; for as, speechless, still holding poor Roger by the hand, she slowly moved to go, she caught sight of a cheerful little room where a bright fire was burning, the glass door standing half open, and towards which the porter turned.

"That must be his house," thought Gladys in a sort of half-stupid dreamy way. It was no use trying to ask him to let them go in and wait there. There was nowhere for them—he seemed to think they were beggars, and would perhaps call the police if they didn't go away at once. So she drew[Pg 177] Roger out into the street again, out of the shelter of the court, where the wind felt rather less piercing, and, without speaking, wandered a few steps down the street they had two minutes ago toiled along so hopefully.

"Where are you going, Gladdie? What are you going to do? I knew they'd be out," said Roger, breaking into one of his piteous fits of crying.

Gladys's heart seemed as if it was going to stop. What was she going to do?

Wait in the street a little, she had said to Roger. But how could they? The wind seemed to be getting colder and colder; the daylight even was beginning to fade a little; they were not only cold, they were desperately hungry, for they had had nothing to eat except the little bowl of milk and crust of bread—that was all Françoise had been able to give them early that morning. She had been out at the market when the children ran away from Anna in one of her terrible tempers, so Gladys had not even been able to ask her for a few sous with which to get something to eat. Indeed, had Françoise been there, I daresay they would have been persuaded by her to wait till Adolphe came home, for he was expected that evening, though they did not know it!

[Pg 178]

"Roger, darling, try not to cry so," said Gladys, at last finding her voice. "Wait a moment and I'll try to think. If only there was a shop near, perhaps they'd let us go in; but there are no shops in this street."

No shops and very few passers-by, at this time of day anyway. A step sounded along the pavement just as Gladys had drawn Roger back to the wall of the house they were passing, meaning to wipe his eyes and turn up the collar of his coat to keep the wind from his throat. Gladys looked up in hopes that possibly, in some wonderful way, the new-comer might prove a friend in need. But no—it was only a man in a sort of uniform, and with a black bag strapped in front. Gladys had seen one like him at the Rue Verte; it was only the postman. He glanced at them as he passed; he was a kind-hearted little man, and would have been quite capable of taking the two forlorn "bébés" home to his good wife to be clothed and fed—for there are many kind Samaritans even in careless, selfish big towns like Paris—but how were they to guess that, or how was he to know their trouble? So he passed on; but a house or two farther on he stopped again, being accosted by a gentleman coming quickly up the street in the other direction,[Pg 179] just as he was turning in to the courtyard of No. 9.

"There is only a paper for you, sir," he said to the young man, whom he evidently knew, in answer to his inquiry. "Will you take it?"

"Certainly," was the reply; and both, after a civil good-evening, were going on their way when a sound made them stop. It was Roger—all Gladys's efforts had been useless, and his temper as well as his courage giving way he burst into a loud roar. He was too worn out to have kept it up for long at such a pitch, but while it lasted it was very effective, for both the gentleman and the postman turned back.

"I noticed these children a moment ago," said the latter. "I wondered if they had lost their way, but I dared not wait."

"I'll see what it is," said the young man good-naturedly. But the postman lingered a moment.

"What's the matter?" asked the young man in French. "What's the little boy crying for?" he went on, turning to Gladys.

But her answer astonished him not a little. She stared blankly up in his face without speaking for a moment. Then with a sort of stifled scream she rushed forward and caught his hands.

[Pg 180]

"Oh you're the nice gentleman we met—you are—don't say you're not. You're the English gentleman, aren't you? Oh, will you take care of us—we're all alone—we've run away."

Walter kept her poor little hands in his, but for half a moment he did not speak. I think there were tears in his eyes. He had so often thought of the little pair he had met on the Boulevards, that somehow he did not seem to feel surprised at this strange meeting.

"My little girl," he said kindly, "who are you? Where have you run away from? Not from your home? I remember meeting you; but you must tell me more—you must tell me everything before I can help you or take you where you want to go."

"No. 9 Avenue Gérard; that's where we were going," replied Gladys confusedly. "But they're out—the ladies are out."

"And we have to wait in the stre-eet," sobbed Roger.

Walter started.

"9 Avenue Gérard," he said; "how can that be? Whom do you know there?"

"Some ladies who'll be kind to us, and know what we say, for they're English. I don't know their name," answered Gladys.

[Pg 181]

Walter saw there was but one thing to be done. He turned to the postman.

"I know who they are," he said rapidly in French, with the instinctive wish to save this little lady, small as she was, from being made the subject of a sensational paragraph in some penny paper. "I have seen them before. They had come to see my aunt, who is very kind to her country-people, and were crying because she was out. It will be all right. Don't let yourself be late. I'll look after them."

And relieved in his mind the postman trotted off.

Walter turned to Gladys again.

"I live at No. 9," he said. "Those ladies are my aunt and my sister. So the best thing you can do is to come in with me and get warm. And when my aunt comes home you shall tell us all your troubles, and we will see what to do."

"And you won't give us to the police?" asked Gladys, with a sudden misgiving. "We've not done anything naughty. Will the ladies come soon?"

For though on the first impulse she had flown to Walter with full confidence, she now somehow felt a little frightened of him. Perhaps his being on such good terms with the postman, whose uniform vaguely recalled a policeman to her excited imagination, or[Pg 182] his speaking French so easily and quickly, had made her feel rather less sure of him. "You won't give us to the police?" she repeated.

Walter could hardly help smiling.

"Of course not," he answered. "Come now, you must trust me and not be afraid. Give me your hand, my little man; or stay, he's very tired, I'll carry him in."

And he lifted Roger in his arms, while Gladys, greatly to her satisfaction, walked quietly beside them, her confidence completely restored.

"He's very polite, and he sees I'm big," she said to herself as she followed him into the court, past the porter's bright little room, from whence that person put out his head to wish Walter a respectful "good-evening," keeping to himself the reflection which explains so many mysteries to our friends across the water, that "the English are really very eccentric. One never knows what they will be doing next."

[Pg 183]



"They felt very happy and content and went indoors and sat to the table and had their dinner."—The Almond Tree.

Brothers Grimm.

Rosamond and her aunt had a good many commissions to do that afternoon. They had not long before this changed their house, and there were still a great many pretty things to choose and to buy for the new rooms. But though it was pleasant work it was tiring, and it was, too, so exceedingly cold that even in the comfortable carriage with its hot-water bottles and fur rugs, the young girl shivered and said to her aunt she would be glad to be at home again, and to get a nice hot cup of tea.

"Yes," said her aunt, "and it is getting late. At this time of year the days seem to close in so suddenly."

[Pg 184]

"I'm afraid it is going to be a severe winter. I do so dislike severe winters, Auntie," said Rosamond, who had spent some part of her life in a warm climate.

"So do I," said her aunt, with a sigh, "it makes everything so much harder for the poor. I really think it is true that cold is worse to endure than hunger."

"You are so kind, Auntie dear," said Rosamond. "You really seem as if you felt other people's sufferings your own self. I think it is the little children I am most sorry for. Perhaps because I have been such a spoilt child myself! I cannot imagine how it would be possible to live through what some children have to live through. Above all, unkindness and neglect. That reminds me——"

She was going to tell her aunt of the children she had seen at Madame Nestor's, and of the sharp way the young woman in the shop had spoken to them, but just at that moment the carriage turned into the courtyard of their house, and the footman sprung down and opened the door.

"I wonder what put those children in my head just now?" thought Rosamond, as she followed her aunt slowly up the wide thickly-carpeted staircase.[Pg 185] "I suppose it was talking of the poor people, though they were not exactly poor."

But a moment or two later she really felt as if her thoughts had taken shape, or that she was dreaming, when she caught sight of the most unexpected picture that presented itself to herself and her aunt on opening the door of their pretty "little drawing-room."

Walter was having a tea-party!

The room was brightly lighted, the fire was burning cheerily—not far from it stood the low afternoon tea-table covered with a white cloth and heaped up with plates of bread-and-butter and cakes—while the tea-urn sang its pleasant murmur. And the group round the table? That was the astonishing part of it. Walter was having a tea-party!

For an instant—they had opened the door softly and he was very much taken up with his guests—the aunt and niece stood looking on without any one's hearing them. Walter was seated in a big arm-chair, and perched on his knee was a very tiny little boy in an English sailor dress. He was a pretty fair child, with a bright pink flush on his face, and he seemed exceedingly happy and to be thoroughly enjoying the cup of hot but mild tea and slice of cake which his host was pressing on him. And on a small chair just[Pg 186] opposite sat a pale-faced dark-eyed little girl with an anxious look on her face, yet at the same time an expression of great content. No wonder; she was only seven years old! Fancy the relief it must have been to delicate little Gladys to find herself again in a room like this—to have the comfort of the delicious fire and the food even, to which she was accustomed—above all, to see Roger safe and happy; if only it would last!

"This tea isn't too strong for him, is it, Gladys?" Walter said.

And Gladys leaning forward examined it with a motherly air, that was both pathetic and amusing.

"No, that's quite right. That's just like what he had it at home."

The aunt and niece looked at each other.

"Who can they be?" whispered the aunt; but Rosamond, though she had scarcely seen the faces of the children in the Rue Verte, seemed to know by instinct. But before she had time to speak, Walter started up; the whisper, low as it was, had caught his ear and Gladys's too. She too got up from her seat and stood facing the ladies, while her cheeks grew still paler, and the anxious look quite chased away the peaceful satisfaction from her poor little face.

[Pg 187]

"Auntie!" said Walter, and in his voice too there was a little anxiety, not lost on Gladys. For though he knew his aunt to be as kind as any one could be, still it was a rather "cool" thing, he felt, to have brought in two small people he had found in the street without knowing anything whatever about them, and to be giving them tea in her drawing-room. "Auntie," he repeated, "this young lady, Miss Gladys Bertram, and her little brother had come to see you, to ask your help. I found them waiting in the street, the concierge had told them you were out; it was bitterly cold, and they had come a very long way. I brought them in and gave them tea, as you see."

His face had flushed as he spoke, and there was a tone of appeal in his voice; he could not before Gladys add what was on his lips: "You are not vexed with me?"

"You did quite right, my dear boy," said his aunt heartily. "Rosamond and I are cold and tired too. We should like a cup of tea also, and then these little friends of ours will tell us all they have to tell."

"I have seen them before," added Walter in a lower tone, going nearer his aunt under pretext of getting her a chair. "You remember the children on[Pg 188] the Boulevards I told you about the other day? It is they."

But Gladys, who till then had stood still, gazing at the ladies without speaking, suddenly sprang forward and almost threw herself into "Auntie's" arms.

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" she exclaimed, bursting into tears. "I was just thinking perhaps you'd be vexed with him," she pointed to Walter, "and he's been so kind, and it is so nice here. Oh, we couldn't, we couldn't go back there!" and clasping her new friend still more closely she sobbed as if her overcharged heart would break.

Auntie and Rosamond soothed her with the kindest words they could find, and then Auntie, who always had her wits about her, reminded Gladys that they too were very anxious to have a cup of tea, would she help to pour it out? She evidently knew all about it, whereupon Gladys's sobs and tears stopped as if by magic, and she was again the motherly capable little girl they had seen her on entering the room.

Tea over—before thinking of taking off their bonnets—Auntie and Rosamond, and Walter too, made Gladys tell them all she had to tell. It was a little difficult to follow at first, for, like a child she[Pg 189] mixed up names and events in rather a kaleidoscope fashion. But at last by dint of patience and encouragement and several "beginnings again at the beginning," they got a clear idea of the whole strange and yet simple story, all of which that was known to Gladys herself, you, my little readers, already know, except the history of the last miserable day in the Rue Verte, when Anna's temper had got the better of her prudence to such an extent as to make Gladys feel they could bear it no longer. She had struck them both in her passion that very morning when Françoise was at the market, and wild with fear, more for Roger than herself, Gladys had set off to ask help and advice from the only people she knew of in all great Paris who could understand her story.

"Except him," added Gladys, nodding at Walter, "but we didn't know where he lived. I couldn't write to Miss Susan, for I hadn't any paper or envelopes. I thought I'd wait till Mr. 'Dolph came home and that he'd let me write, but I don't know when he's coming, and I hadn't any money, and if she—oh! if she had struck Roger again it might have killed him. He's so little, you know," and Gladys shuddered.

[Pg 190]

There was silence for a few moments. Then Auntie turned to Walter.

"The first thing to be done, it seems to me, is for you to go to the Rue Verte to tell the Nestors—Madame Nestor, that is to say—where these little people are. She will be very uneasy, I fear, poor woman."

"Anna won't tell her, I don't think," said Gladys. "Poor Mrs. Nest—she is so kind. I shouldn't like her to be unhappy."

"And," continued the lady, "you must ask for the children's clothes."

Gladys's eyes glistened.

"Do you mean, are you going to let us stay here?" she said; "I mean till to-morrow, perhaps, till Miss Susan can come?"

"Where else could you go, my dears?" said Auntie kindly.

"I don't know; I—I thought perhaps you'd get us a little room somewhere, and Miss Susan would pay it when she comes. I thought perhaps you'd send her a tele—, you know what I mean, and perhaps she could come for us that way. It's so quick, only it costs a great deal, doesn't it?"

Auntie and Rosamond had hard work to prevent themselves laughing at this queer idea of Gladys's,[Pg 191] but when her mistake was explained to her, she took it very philosophically.

"Then do you think I should write to Miss Susan to-day?" said Gladys. "You'll help me, won't you?" she added, turning to Rosamond. "I don't know very well how to write the address."

"Of course I will help you, dear," said Rosamond, but her aunt interrupted.

"I do not think little Gladys need write to-night," she said. "Indeed, perhaps it may be as well for me to write for her to the lady she speaks of. But now, Walter, you had better go off at once, and bring back the children's belongings with you. What were you going to say, dear?" for Gladys seemed as if she were going to speak.

Gladys's face grew red.

"Anna said once that she would sell our big trunk and all our best clothes—I mean she said Mrs. Nest would—to get money for all we had cost them. But I'm sure Mrs. Nest wouldn't. And when Papa comes he'll pay everything."

The elder lady looked at Walter.

"Try and bring away everything with you," she said. "Take Louis, so that he may help to carry out the boxes. Do your best anyway."

[Pg 192]

It turned out easier than Auntie had feared, for Walter found Adolphe Nestor already returned, and in a state of frantic anxiety about the children. Knowing that they could not be in better hands than those in which they had placed themselves, he was only too thankful to let them remain there, and gave Walter all the information he could about Mr. and Mrs. Marton, who had confided the children to his mother's care.

"She can tell you all about the family better than I," he said. "I think even she has the address of Madame Marton's mother, where her cousin was so long nurse. Oh, they are in every way most respectable, and indeed one can see by the children themselves that they are little gentlepeople. There must be something sadly amiss for the father not to have come for them. I fear even that he is perhaps dead."

Then he went on to tell Walter that he had told Anna he could no longer keep her in his employment, and that all was at an end with her.

"And indeed," he said, his round face getting very red, "I think no man would be happy with a wife with such a temper," in which Walter, who at eighteen considered himself very wise, cordially agreed.

[Pg 193]

Adolphe had not told his mother of the children's flight, for she was still very feverish and excitable; but he said she would be relieved to know where they had found refuge. And then he gave Walter the English money which Mr. Marton had left for their use, and which his mother had kept unbroken.

Walter took it, though reluctantly, but he saw that it would have hurt Adolphe to refuse it; and he also reflected that there were other ways in which the Nestors could be rewarded for their kindness. And so he left the Rue Verte with all the children's belongings safely piled on the top of the cab, and with a much more friendly feeling to the upholsterer than he had expected to have, promising to let him know the result of the inquiries his aunt intended immediately to set on foot; and also assuring him that they should not leave Paris without coming to say good-bye to him and his kind old mother.

When the two tired but happy little people were safely in bed that night, their three new friends sat round the fire to have a good talk about them.

"It is a very strange affair, really," said Walter. "I'm more than half inclined to agree with Nestor that the father must be dead."

"But even then," said Auntie, "the friends in[Pg 194] England who had charge of them would have known it, and would have sent to inquire about them."

"That 'Miss Susan,' as they call her, seems to me to have thought of nothing but the easiest way to get rid of them," said Rosamond indignantly. "She should never have let them start without a letter or a telegram of Captain Bertram's being actually in Paris, and, as far as I can make out from little Gladys, she had not got that—only of his arrival at Marseilles and his intention of coming."

"Did Gladys mention Marseilles? Does she know where it is?" asked Walter.

"Yes, she said the old lady whom they were very fond of showed it to her on the map, and explained that it was the town in France 'at which the big ships from India stopped,' Gladys is quite clear about all that. She is a very clever child in some ways, though in others she seems almost a baby."

"Nothing about her would surprise me after her managing to find her way here," said Auntie. "Just fancy her leading that baby, Roger, all the way here from the Rue Verte!"

"Do you know how she did?" said Rosamond. "She tore a little piece of paper off the edge of a newspaper and wrote the address, 'Avenue Gérard 9,'[Pg 195] on it with an end of pencil she found lying about; and she showed this bit of paper to anybody 'kind-looking' whom they met, and thus she got directed. Was it not a good idea? She said if she had asked the way the French people would not have understood her speaking."

"Then what do you decide to do, Auntie?" said Walter. "Shall I telegraph in the morning to this Miss Susan, or will you write?"

Auntie hesitated.

"I don't see how you can do either with much chance of it reaching her," said Rosamond. "Gladys, you know, said she was going to be married."

"Well, supposing in the first place," said Auntie, "we were to telegraph to the principal hotels at Marseilles and ask if Captain Bertram is there—it would do no harm—it is just possible that by some mistake he is all this time under the belief that the children are still in England."

"That's not likely," said Walter; "no one would stay on at a hotel in Marseilles all this time for no reason—three weeks, it must be. But it's not a bad idea to telegraph there first."

"Gladys would be so pleased if it proved not to be necessary to send to 'Miss Susan' at all," said[Pg 196] Rosamond, who seemed to have obtained the little girl's full confidence.

"Well, we shall see," said Auntie. "In the meantime the children are safe, and I hope happy."

"Mr. and Mrs. Marton must be in India by this time," said Walter. "They don't seem to have been to blame in the least—they did the best they could. It might be as well to write to them if we had their address."

"Perhaps old Madame Nestor may have it," said Rosamond. "The maid—her niece or cousin, whichever it is—may have left it with her."

"We can ask," said Auntie. "But it would take a good while to hear from India, and very likely they would have very little to tell, for there is one thing that strikes me," she went on thoughtfully, "which is, the Martons cannot have thought there was anything wrong when they got to Marseilles, otherwise they would have written or telegraphed to the Rue Verte, and certainly to the friends in England."

She looked up as if to read in the faces of her two young companions how this struck them.

"That's true," said Walter.

"But it only adds to the mystery," said Rosamond.

"Supposing," said Walter, "that the address has[Pg 197] been lost—that of the Nestors, I mean—and that all this time Captain Bertram is hunting up and down Paris for his children?"

"That does not seem to me likely," said Auntie. "He would have telegraphed back to England."

"Where it wouldn't have been known, Rosamond," said Walter. "Rather to Mr. Marton in India."

"If he had his address," said Walter again.

"Well, anyway that could be got in England," said Auntie, a little impatiently. "No, no, Walter, it can't be that. Why, supposing Captain Bertram were here looking for his children, the police could have found them for him in a couple of days. No; I very much fear there is more wrong than a mere mistake. Poor little dears—they still seem to have such unbounded faith in 'Papa's coming.' I only trust no harm has come over him, poor man."

Walter telegraphed the next morning in his aunt's name to the two principal hotels at Marseilles, to inquire if Captain Bertram was or had been there. From one came back the answer, "No such name known." From the other the information that Captain Bertram had not yet returned from Nice, and that letters and his luggage were waiting for him at the hotel.

[Pg 198]

"Just read this, aunt," he said, hurrying into the drawing-room, and Auntie did so. Then she looked up.

"It is as I feared, I feel sure," she said. "Walter, you must go to Nice yourself, and make inquiries."

"I shall start to-night," said the young fellow readily.

"Stay a moment," said Auntie again. "We have the Times advertisements for the last few days; it may be as well to look over them."

"And the Saturday papers, with all the births, marriages, and deaths of the week put in at once," said Rosamond. "You take the Times," she added to her brother, going to a side-table where all the papers were lying in a pile, "and I'll look through the others."

For a few moments there was silence in the room. Gladys and Roger were very happy with some of their toys, which they had been allowed to unpack in the dining-room. "Bertram, Bertram, no, I see nothing. And there's no advertisement for two lost cherubs in the agony columns either," said Walter.

Suddenly Rosamond gave a little exclamation.

"Have you found anything?" asked Auntie.

[Pg 199]

"Nothing about Captain Bertram," she replied. "But I think this must be the old lady they lived with. 'Alicia, widow of the late Major-General Lacy,' etc., etc., 'at Market-Lilford on the 16th November, aged 69.' I am sure it is she, for Gladys's second name is 'Alicia,' and she told me it was 'after Mrs. Lacy.'"

"Poor old lady—she must have been very kind and good. That may explain 'Miss Susan's' apparent indifference. It was fully a fortnight ago, you see."

"Must I tell Gladys?" said Rosamond.

"Not yet, I think," said Auntie. "We may have worse to tell her, poor child."

"I don't know that it would be worse," said the young girl. "They can't remember their father."

"Still, they have always been looking forward to his coming. If it ends in good news, it will make them—Gladys especially—very happy."

"As for Roger, perfect happiness is already his," said Rosamond. "He asks no more than weak tea and bread-and-butter, Gladys always at hand, a good fire, and nobody to scold him."

[Pg 200]



"And now, indeed, there lacked nothing to their happiness as long as they lived."—The Golden Bird.

Brothers Grimm.

Walter went off to Nice that night. The children were not told distinctly the object of his journey. They were allowed to know that he might be passing near "the big town by the sea," which poor Mrs. Lacy, in her kind anxiety to make all clear, had pointed out to Gladys on the map; but that was all, for Auntie wished to save them any more of the nervous suspense and waiting of which they had had so much. She wished, too, to save them any suffering that could be avoided, from the fear of the sorrow, really worse than any they had yet known, which she often dreaded might be in store for them.

"Let us make them as happy as ever we can for[Pg 201] these few days," she said to Rosamond. "Nothing like happiness for making children strong and well, and they will soon forget all their past troubles."

And Rosamond was only too ready to give her assistance to the kind plan, so that in all their lives Gladys and Roger had never been so much made of. The ladies were too wise to overdo it; they found too that it was very easy to amuse these simple little creatures, who had never known since they were born the slightest approach to "spoiling" or indulgence. Everything pleased them. The mere living in the pretty luxurious house—the waking up in the morning to the sight of the bright dainty room, where already a cheerful little fire would be blazing, for the weather continued exceedingly cold. The tempting "little breakfast" of real bread-and-butter and tea—for both Gladys and Roger found they had got very tired of chocolate—the capacious bath and abundance of hot water—above all, the kind and loving and gentle looks and words which surrounded them—all these would have been enough to make them happy. And a drive in Auntie's beautiful carriage, either into the centre of the town "to see the shops," or now and then to visit one of the wonderful old churches with their mysterious height of roof and softly brilliant windows,[Pg 202] and sometimes, still better, the beautiful swelling organ music which seemed to them to come from nowhere, yet to be everywhere. Ah! those expeditions were a delight Gladys had never even dreamt of, and which little Roger could scarcely take in. They very much changed their opinion of Paris in those days, and no longer called it "an ugly dirty town," as it had seemed to them in their first experience at the Rue Verte.

"And when Papa comes, we'll take him to see all these beautiful places, won't we?" said Gladys, for with rest and peace of mind had come back all her pretty childish hope and trust in that "coming."

"Yes, dear," said Rosamond. But then she began quickly to speak to the little girl of the pretty colours of the still remaining beech leaves in the Bois de Boulogne, through which for a change they were that day driving. For she could not reply with any confidence in her tone, and she did not want the child to find out her misgiving. Walter had been gone three days and had written twice—once a hurried word to tell of his arrival, once the following day to tell of failure. He had been to two or three of the hotels but had found no traces of Captain Bertram, but there still remained several others, and he hoped to[Pg 203] send by his next letter if not good yet anyway more certain news.

So Auntie still put off writing to "Miss Susan," for though since seeing the announcement of Mrs. Lacy's death she did not blame her as much as at first, she yet could not feel it probable that the young lady was suffering great anxiety.

"In any case I had better wait till Walter tells us something," she said to Rosamond. "And when I do write I do not know how to address the letter. Gladdie is sure she was to be married a very few days after they left, but she cannot remember the name of the gentleman, whom she has only seen once or twice, as he lived at a distance, and had made Miss Susan's acquaintance away from her home."

"Address to her maiden name—it would be sent after her," suggested Rosamond.

"But Gladdie is not sure what that is," replied Auntie, half laughing. "She doesn't know if it is 'Lacy,' or if she had a different name from her aunt. She is such a baby in some ways. I am sure she has not the slightest idea what our surnames are. You are 'Rosamond' and I am 'Auntie.'"

"Or 'Madame' when she speaks of you to the servants. She is getting on so nicely with her[Pg 204] French, Auntie. That reminds me Louis has been to the Rue Verte, and has brought back word that Madame Nestor is much better, and would be so delighted to see the children any day we can send them."

"Or take them," said Auntie. "I would not like them to go without us the first time, for fear they should feel at all frightened. And yet it is right for them to go. They must always be grateful to Madame Nestor, who did her very best for them."

"Gladys confided to me she would be a little afraid of going back, though she knows that Anna is no longer there. But she says she will feel as if they were going back to stay there, and as if this would turn out to be only a beautiful dream."

"Poor little dear," said Auntie.

"And she's going to take her new doll—both to show her off, and that she may feel she isn't a dream! She has such funny ideas sometimes. Auntie——"

"What, dear?"

"If Walter can't find the father—I suppose I should say if he is dead—what is to be done?"

"We must find out all we can—through that Miss Susan, I suppose—as to who are the children's[Pg 205] guardians, and what money they have, and all about it."

"I wish we could adopt them," said Rosamond. "We're rich enough."

"Yes; but that is not the only question. You are almost sure to marry."

"I don't know that," said Rosamond, but her face flushed a little.

"And Walter, too, some day."

"Oh, Auntie! Walter! Why he's only eighteen."

"Well, all the same, time goes on, and adopting children often causes complications. Besides, it is not likely that they have no relations."

"Well, we shall see what the next letter says," said Rosamond.

It was not a letter after all, but a telegram, and this was what it said:—

"Found Bertram. Will explain all. Returning to-morrow."

The aunt and niece looked at each other.

"He might have said a little more," said the latter. "This is only enough to rouse our curiosity."

"We must say nothing to the children yet," decided Auntie.

"I do hope, as he is alive," said Rosamond, "that[Pg 206] he's a nice good sort of man. If he weren't, that would be worse than anything—having to give up the children to him," and she looked quite unhappy.

"Don't let your imagination run away with you so, my dear child," said Auntie. "It's very unlikely that he's not nice in every way. Remember what Gladys says of his kind letters, and how fond Mrs. Lacy was of him, and how she always taught them to look forward to his return. No; my fears are about his health, poor fellow."

The children went the next morning with Rosamond and her maid to see Madame Nestor, and Rosamond brought back with her to show her aunt a letter Madame Nestor had just received, which threw a little light on one part of the subject. It was from Léonie telling of Mr. and Mrs. Marton's arrival at their destination, and alluding to the children as if she had no doubt that they had only been left two or three days at the Rue Verte. "Monsieur," meaning Mr. Marton, "was so glad," she wrote, "to find at Marseilles that the children's Papa was going on to Paris almost at once. He had left a letter for Captain Bertram at the hotel, as he had gone to Nice for a day or two;[Pg 207] and Madame had only just had time to write to the ladies in England to tell how it had all been. And she was writing by this mail to ask for news of the "dear little things," as she called Gladys and Roger. They had thought of them all the way, and Madame thanked Madame Nestor so much for her kindness. She—Léonie—hoped very much she would see them again some day. Then she presented her compliments to her cousin Adolphe, and promised to write again soon—and that was all."

"It is still mysterious enough," said Auntie; "but it shows the Martons were not to blame. As Mr. Marton has written to England again, we shall probably be hearing something from 'Miss Susan' before long. It is strange she has not written before, as she has had the Rue Verte address all this time, I suppose."

And here, perhaps, as 'Miss Susan' is not, to my mind nor to yours either, children, I feel sure, by any means the most interesting person in this little story, though, on the other hand, she was far from without good qualities, it may be as well to explain how it had come to pass that nothing had been heard of her.

Mrs. Lacy grew rapidly worse after the children[Pg 208] left, but with her gentle unselfishness she would not allow her niece's marriage to be put off, but begged her on the contrary to hasten it, which was done. Two days after it had taken place, Susan, who had gone away for a very short honeymoon, was recalled. She never left Mrs. Lacy again till she died. I think the saddest part of dying for the dear old lady was over when she had said good-bye to her little favourites. For some time Susan felt no anxiety about the children, for, from Marseilles, she had heard from young Mrs. Marton of Captain Bertram's not having met them in Paris, and of the arrangement they had been obliged to make. But, that arrived at Marseilles, they had found he had gone two days before to Nice, to look for a house for his children, the landlord said, whom he was going to Paris to fetch. He had left all his luggage there, and had intended to be back this day or the day before, the landlord was not sure which, and to go on to Paris. No doubt he would be returning that same evening, only, unfortunately, his newly-arrived friends Mr. and Mrs. Marton would have gone, but he faithfully promised to deliver to him at once the letter Mr. Marton wrote and left for him.

"It seems the only thing to do," added young Mrs.[Pg 209] Marton, "and I do hope it will be all right. Captain Bertram must have mistaken a day. Anyway he will know where to find the children, I enclose their address to you too—at least I will get it from Léonie before I shut this letter, for I do not remember it, so that in case you do not hear soon from Captain Bertram you can write there."

But in her hurry—for just as she was finishing the letter, her husband called to her that they must be off—the young lady forgot to enclose the address! So there was nowhere for Susan to write to, when, as the days went on and no letter came from Captain Bertram, she did begin to grow uneasy, not exactly about the children's safety, but about their father having gone for them.

"Still," she said to her husband, "if he had not got them with him, he would have written to ask where they were. He was never a very good correspondent. But I wonder he hasn't written to ask how my aunt is. I hope there is nothing the matter. I hope I did not do wrong in letting them go without actually knowing of his being in Paris."

Of course her husband assured her she had not. But her conscience was not at rest, for Susan had[Pg 210] grown gentler now that she was happily married, and she was softened too by the thought of her kind aunt's state. All through the last sad days the children kept coming into her mind, and though Mrs. Lacy was too weak even to ask about them, Susan felt almost guilty when she finally tried to thank her for her goodness.

"I don't deserve it," she thought, "I was not kind to the two human beings she loved best," and she wrote over and over again to Captain Bertram at the Marseilles hotel, begging him to send her news of the children, and when Mrs. Marton's letter came from India repeating what she had before written from Marseilles, but with of course no further news, and no mention of the Paris address, poor Susan became so unhappy that her husband promised to take her over to make inquiries in person if no answer came to another letter he sent to Marseilles to the landlord of the hotel, begging him to tell all he knew of Captain Bertram's movements. This letter brought a reply, as you will hear, from Captain Bertram himself.

It was evening before Walter arrived. Gladys and Roger were in bed and asleep. Auntie and Rosamond were waiting for him with the greatest anxiety to hear his news. He looked bright and cheery as[Pg 211] he came into the room, still enveloped in his wraps, which he began to pull off.

"It's nice and warm in here," he said; "but, oh, it's so cold outside. And it was so mild and sunny down there; I would have liked to stay a day or two longer. It was to please him I hurried back so quickly—poor man, he is in such a state about the children!"

"But, Walter, what is the meaning of it all? Why has he not come himself?"

"Do you like him?" put in Rosamond.

"Awfully," said Walter boyishly. "He's just what you would expect their father to be. But I'm forgetting—I haven't told you. He's been dreadfully ill—he can only just crawl a step or two. And all this time he's not had the slightest misgiving about the children, except the fear of not living to see them again of course. He's not had the least doubt of their being safe in England; and only just lately, as he began to get well enough to think consecutively, he has wondered why he got no letters. He was just going to try to write to that place—Market-Lilford—when I got there. So he was mystified too! But we got to the bottom of it. This was how it was. He was feeling ill at Marseilles—he had put off too long in[Pg 212] India—and he thought it was the air of the place, and as he had some days to pass before he was due in Paris, he went on to Nice, thinking he'd get all right there and be able to look about for a house if he liked it. But instead of getting all right he broke down completely. He wrote out a telegram to tell Miss Susan that he was ill, and that she must not start the children. It would have been in plenty of time to stop them, had she got it, but she never did."

"Never got it," repeated both ladies.

"No; the waiter told him it was all right, but it wasn't. His writing was so bad that at the office they couldn't read the address, and the message was returned from London the next day; and by that time he was so ill that the doctor wouldn't allow them to ask him a thing, and he probably wouldn't have understood them if they had. This, you see, he's only found out since I got there. The doctor was meaning to tell him, but he took his time about it, and he did not know how important it was. So, in a way, nobody was to blame except that Miss Susan. That's what Bertram says himself; but while I was there he telegraphed to Marseilles for his letters. There were several from her, and the last so frantic that he's writing to say it's all right; especially as she's been[Pg 213] very cut up about the poor old lady's death. But she shouldn't have started the children till he telegraphed from Paris. Besides, he had told her to send a maid with them for the journey. It wasn't the Martons' fault; they did their best."

"Was he distressed at hearing of Mrs. Lacy's death?" asked Auntie.

"Very," said Walter; "it put him back, the doctor said; but he'll be all right when he sees the children. If you had seen him when I told him about their finding their way to us, not even knowing our names, all over Paris! He didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He's weak still, you know. And then he's so dreadfully grateful to us! I was glad to get away."

"And when does he want them?" said Rosamond dolefully.

"As soon as possible. He can't come north this winter. And he's not rich, I can see. So I was thinking——"

"What, my boy?"

"It is so cold here," repeated Walter; "it really feels terrible to come back to. Supposing we all go down there for a couple of months or so, to escape the cold? We could keep the children till Bertram is strong again and able to make his plans. I think[Pg 214] we'd feel quite queer without them now. Besides, I promised him to bring them back to him."

"What do you say, Rosamond?" said Auntie.

"I should like it very much. It would be so nice not to part with them just yet."

So it was decided. You can imagine how much had to be told to the children the next day. Mingled sadness and happiness—warp and woof of the web of life!

But when they found themselves once more on the railway, with the kind friends they had learnt to know so well, really on the way to "Papa," I think the happiness was uppermost.

He proved to be the dearest of Papas; not the very least like what they had imagined him. "Of course not," Gladys said; "people and things are never like what one fancies they will be." But though he was older and grayer, and perhaps at first sight a little sadder than she had expected, he grew merry enough in the great happiness of having them with him, and as he gradually got strong and well again he seemed, too, to become younger.

"Anyway," said Gladys, a few weeks after their arrival at Nice, "he couldn't be nicer, could he, Roger?" in which opinion Roger solemnly agreed.

[Pg 215]

"And now he's getting better," she added; "it's not a bad thing he's been ill, for it's made the doctor say he must never go back to India again."

Is that all there is to tell about the "two little waifs?" I think I must lift the curtain for an instant "ten years later," to show you little Roger a tall strong schoolboy, rather solemn still, but bidding fair to be all his father could wish him, and very devoted to a tiny girl of about the age at which we first saw Gladys, and who, as her mother is pretty Rosamond, he persists in calling his "niece," and with some show of reason, for her real uncle, "Walter," is now the husband of his sister Gladys!

And long before this, by the bye, another marriage had come to pass which it may amuse you to hear of. There is a new Madame Nestor in the Rue Verte, as well as the cheery old lady who still hobbles about briskly, though with a crutch. And the second Madame Nestor's first name is "Léonie." She is, I think, quite as clever as Mademoiselle Anna, and certainly very much better tempered.

And whenever any of the people you have heard of in this little book come to Paris, you may be sure[Pg 216] they pay a visit to the little old shop, which is as full as ever of sofas and chairs, and where they always receive the heartiest welcome from the Nestor family.

I wish, for my part, the histories of all "little waifs" ended as happily!


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Grant Allen.
Bernard H. Becker.
William Black.
J. Comyns Carr.
Austin Dobson.
Archibald Geikie, F.R.S.
A. J. Hipkins.
Professor Huxley, P.R.S.
Richard Jefferies.
F. W. Maitland.
Frederick Pollock.
J. H. Shorthouse.
R. L. Stevenson.
A. C. Swinburne.
The Author of "John Halifax, Gentleman."
Charlotte M. Yonge.


Harry Furniss.
C. Napier Hemy.
Burne Jones.
Robert Macbeth.
A. Morrow.
J. W. North.
L. R. O'Brien.
Alfred Parsons.
D. G. Rossetti.
L. Alma Tadema.
Charles Whymper.


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W. & J. Cheshire.
Theodor Knesing.
O. Lacour.
R. Paterson.
W. Quick.