The Project Gutenberg eBook of Ralph Trulock's Christmas Roses

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Title: Ralph Trulock's Christmas Roses

Author: Annette Lyster

Release date: September 21, 2023 [eBook #71699]

Language: English

Original publication: London: The Religious Tract Society, 1921


Transcriber's note: Unusual and inconsistent spelling is as printed.


















Author of

"The Boy who never lost a Chance," etc.






4 Bouverie Street & 65 St. Paul's Churchyard



























IN one of the midland counties of England, there is a village of considerable size; of such size indeed that the inhabitants sometimes call it a town; but it must be confessed that, in spite of this, it is straggling of aspect. I think myself that it is a mistake to call it a town, because as a village it is a large place, whereas, considered as a town, it is disappointing; but no doubt this is a matter of opinion. The name of the place is Fairford, and it is divided by a shallow stream into two parts, High and Low Fairford. It took its name from the existence of a ford, which but is not much used, as there has long been an excellent stone bridge over the river. None but the Low Fairford boys, on their way to school in High Fairford, ever use the ford now, but they seem to prefer it to this day.

High Fairford contains not only the school but the post-office, the market-place, shops, and several houses of respectable size and appearance, which all cluster round the church and parsonage. Then Low Fairford, to which you go by a street so steep that it is like the roof of a house, and across the little bridge at the foot of the hill,—is merely a straggling street of cottages, which stand farther and farther apart until they are lost altogether, and you reach the border of a great piece of wood, the remains of a very celebrated forest in which Robin Hood once carried on business in the very "taking" fashion peculiar to that class of hero.

In a large flat space, close to the forest, there are twelve pretty houses all in a row. They stand separate, each in a little garden, and a broad road sweeps all round them, bounded on one side by the low walls of the gardens, on the other by a high wall with two gates, one in front and one at the back. That into the forest is seldom opened, but the one which faces the village is open all day.

These twelve houses were built more than a hundred and fifty years ago, by a lady who owned all the land in those parts, and who was the last of her race and name. Hers had been a grand family, and though active enough in all the troubles of their times, they had contrived to keep their property together. But if the property did not diminish, the family did, and ended at last in one young orphan girl, Mabel Greatrex; whose name will outlive those of all the rest of her house. This young girl, being rich and fair, had no lack of suitors for her hand. But she was a long time before she met with one to her mind; so long that people had begun to say that she would never marry at all. But the right man came at last, and married she was, in the church of High Fairford; and the wedding party was coming gallantly down the hill and over the ford, on horseback, according to the fashion of the day, when the bridegroom's horse slipped on a stone in the water, grew frightened and restive, struggled out of the stream on the Low Fairford side, and scoured away towards the forest. No one was alarmed, for Sir Henry was a gallant rider; but while they watched how he was bringing his horse under control again, they saw him carried under the branch of great tree, which swept him from the saddle and left him dead for his bride to find when she galloped up.

Mabel never married again, though she was still young. And when she had somewhat recovered the first shock of her grief, she caused these houses to be built on the spot which had been so fatal to her—and she called the place "Lady Mabel's Rest." It was built, said the legend over the gate, "To the glory of God and the good of His poor." There were six men and six women, with a warden to see after them, who had comfortable rooms over the principal gate; and Lady Mabel framed the rules herself, and secured to them many privileges before she passed away, leaving her great possessions to distant kindred who did not bear her name, but leaving (as she said in her will) "to her native place something by which to remember kindly the last of her race."

So wisely and so well had Lady Mabel done her work, that the machinery she set going is going on well to this day. The rector of the parish for the time being manages the affairs of the charity, and is well paid for so doing. The only conditions for election are, respectability, poverty, and being a native of Fairford; the most deserving person of those whose names are sent in is to have the preference. As a general rule the selection is wisely made, but an occasional mistake occurs once in a way, of course.

Two vacancies had just been filled up when my story opens: a man and a woman having been chosen to fill them. It happened that the two vacant houses stood together at the end of the row. The rector, who had been abroad with his delicate wife, had come home to arrange about the selection, and had then returned to the South of France, leaving his curate and his curate's wife to make acquaintance with the new-comers.

The curate was a young man, and this was the first time that he had been left in sole charge, so he was naturally anxious to do his best, and his sweet little bride was anxious to make every one as happy as she was herself. So, on Christmas Eve, this young couple betook themselves to Lady Mabel's Rest, to visit the ten families they already knew, and to see the two new inmates for the first time.

Mrs. Cloudesley had provided herself with a quantity of Christmas roses from the rectory garden, which she had made up into twelve nosegays, one for each family. "Let them be ever so proud," said she, "a few flowers cannot offend them."

Ten of the nosegays were disposed of when the pair knocked at the door of the last house but one, and awaited with some interest the appearance of Mrs. Short, of whom they knew nothing but the name, and the fact that she was a widow.

The door was opened after a short pause by a round little woman, with a round face, a round nose, a round mouth, and a pair of—no, her eyes were not round, because they were almost invisible, lost in the plumpness of her face. But she opened them as wide as she could when she saw her visitors; and then they completed the series of O's which composed her features. She wore a cherry-coloured merino dress, warm, and a snowy apron and cap: the latter with a cherry-coloured rosette on the top, the last round thing about her. She smiled and curtsied, and looked very picturesque, thought Mrs. Cloudesley.

"You are Mrs. Short, I think?" said that young lady, after waiting in vain for her husband to speak. He said afterwards that he thought she could manage it better than he could; and I daresay he was right.

"Yes, miss, I am; and will you walk in, miss? For it's bitter cold, surely; and though I haven't got my furniture settled quite to my mind yet, perhaps you and the young gentleman will excuse that."

"Oh, yes; we know you only came two days ago. This is Mr. Cloudesley, you know, and I am Mrs. Cloudesley; and we promised Mrs. Barton to call and see you as soon as we could."

The round woman burst into a fat, smothery laugh, as she answered,—

"A married lady, and me calling of you miss; but re'lly you do look so young, you must excuse it. Walk in, ma'am, and you, sir, if you'll be so good."

She opened the door of her little parlour as she spoke, and in they all walked. Mr. Cloudesley felt a little surprised at the furniture; for though many of the old inmates of the Rest were well off in that respect, it was not usual for a new-comer to possess such comforts as he saw here. A carpet covered the floor, a handsomely gilt clock stood on the chimneypiece, reflected in a mirror of some size; warm curtains hung over the window, a bright fender, thick rug,—everything, in fact, of the best; and also, it must be confessed, of the most hideous, so gaudy was the colour of each article, where colour was possible. A large, luxurious easy chair stood close to the fire, which burned brightly, and a small round table was drawn up beside it. The other chairs were of the common shape, and were covered with Berlin wool flowers which made Mrs. Cloudesley feel quite uncomfortable, they were so brilliant. Into the easy chair the fat lady sank, having first drawn forward two of the less comfortable ones for her guests.

Mrs. Cloudesley looked about for something to talk about; not a book was to be seen, not even a newspaper.

"You are making your sitting-room very comfortable," said she, looking round again.

"Ah, yes, indeed, ma'am; the furniture is very 'andsome, thanks be to 'evin. Yet it do make me sad-like to look at it—but there! That's me all over! As my poor Matthew, that's dead and buried, poor fellow, used to say of me. I'm too good-natured for my own 'appiness."

Mrs. Cloudesley, failing to see the connection between the furniture and the good-nature, looked inquiringly at the speaker.

"You know, miss,—leastways, ma'am, only it's ridiculous,—I'm a Fairford woman, of course, or I couldn't be here; but I married a Londoner, and never saw Fairford for thirty year! My 'usbin were a baker, and my son,—the only child I have, I may fairly say; for as to my daughter Jane, poor thing she's lost to me, and may be dead or may be alive, I know no more than if I was dead myself,—he's a baker, too, and has a very good shop—and of course I've lived with him and kep' his places beautiful. But there, young men is fools,—he goes and marries! And I haven't a word to say against her, a civil little body, and decent in her ways, but selfish, very selfish, poor Seliner is, and ever will be; a boy the first year, and a girl the next, and then a girl again, and then a boy again, and so on, and this year twins! No, miss,—ma'am, I mean,—the twins done it; the 'ouse is small, and when one twin ain't crying the other is, and I'm not so young as once I were, and I said I'd like a little rest and time to mind on my latter end—" (with a glance at the curate, who was listening gravely), "before my time came to die. My good Matthew left me but little money, and that little is gone now; and, of course, he never thought I should have to leave my 'ome in my old age; but the furniture was mine, some he left me by will, and some I bought myself since he was took, and that's what I meant just now, miss—ma'am—I'm feared they'll miss it, though I left them everything I could do without—I'm that good-natured."

She smiled her fat smile, and closed her little twinkling eyes, as if the contemplation of her good-nature was too much for her. But if she had stated that her gorgeous purchases had been made with her son's money; that her right had only extended to taking furniture for two rooms; and had also described what she had left for the use of her son's family, adding that "Seliner" had said, "Let her take it all, if she will only go," perhaps the Cloudesleys might have opened their eyes with quite a different feeling. As it was, Mrs. Cloudesley felt a little puzzled.

"Do you care for reading?" she said, presently. "For we can lend you books, if you wish."

"Indeed, I'm no great reader, ma'am. I like to have a bit of work on 'and as will be a credit to me—them flower pieces are all my own, cross-stitch every bit of 'em; but I think I shall have no time for it now. By the time I get my places as nice as I like to have 'em, and my little meal cooked and ate, there'll be little time for idling."

"Well, but reading is not idling," said Gilbert Cloudesley.

"Ain't it, sir? Well, I don't know. A-settin' with a book in my 'and, doing nothing, I should be asleep in five minutes, sir, that's certing; even, as I said, if I had time."

"But you'll keep a girl, won't you?" asked the lady. "Miss Jones—your neighbour, you know,—she regularly trains girls for service, and so well that they always get good places when they leave her."

"Well, but you see, miss, I'm very pertic'ler, and gels is so careless and dirty, and breaks and eats so much; and I never could bear to be scolding; that's me all over, as my poor Matthew used to say. I'd rather do the work than be scolding for ever, as Miss Jones do. Besides, I like to do summut myself; I'm none of your idle ones, nor do I set up to be a fine lady."

"Miss Jones," said the curate, "says she would rather do the work herself, too; but, you see, it is a way in which she can be of use, and so she goes on with it."

"Of course, sir; and I'll think of it," said Mrs. Short smoothly. "Won't you read a little to me, sir, before you go?" she added, folding her fat hands and smiling encouragingly at him.

"Not to-day," he said, quietly; "it is late, and we must leave you now."

"And I have brought you these flowers, Mrs. Short—Christmas roses, you see. I am so fond of them. They come to tell us that we are never forgotten at any time of the year, and that summer will come again."

"Thank you, ma'am, I'm much obliged," Mrs. Short replied, taking the flowers and laying them on the table without a glance at their fair, fragile faces.

"I have a bunch for your neighbour, too, you see," Mrs. Cloudesley went on, seeing that she eyed the basket curiously.

Mrs. Short laughed. "For Ralph Trulock!" said she. "Flowers and he won't go well together. Poor Trulock! Such a cross-grained body! Are you going, ma'am? Well, I hope you'll come again some day. I'm greatly obliged for the visit,—and the posy," she added, after a moment's pause.

She opened the door for them, bidding them good-bye again with great cordiality. A poor lad had ventured into her little front garden, and seemed inclined to address them, but Mrs. Short retreated hastily, crying,—

"Oh, what a miserable-looking creetur! I must run in, ma'am, or the sight of him will spoil my appetite for my tea, I'm that good-natured."

The Cloudesleys looked at each other, the lady puzzled, the gentleman amused.

"A kind-hearted woman, May?"

"Yes, Gilbert," in a doubtful voice. "I dare say she is. Do give that boy sixpence, dear."

"No, Mrs. Cloudesley; that is an extravagant notion, quite unfit for a curate's wife. Besides, I will not encourage begging; but we'll see who he is. Very likely he wants work rather than charity."

A few words with the boy, and then they went on to the next house, and knocked at the door of Mr. Trulock's home. It was opened after a little while by a tall, stooping man with grey hair and a thin, grave face,—more than grave, indeed, for it was both stern and sad. He was decently dressed, but not warmly; and he looked cold, and not particularly glad to see them, little Mrs. Cloudesley thought, as she held on tight to her husband's arm, and gave it a little pinch, as much as to say, "You must speak this time."

"Mr. Trulock?" said the curate.

"That is my name, sir," said the tall man, in a sad, toneless voice, as if speaking were a trouble to him.

"I am Mr. Cloudesley, the curate of this parish; and this is my wife. We came to pay you a visit this Christmas Eve, that we may not be quite strangers when we meet to-morrow."

"Thank you, sir, and you, madam. If you will walk in,—but I have no place fit to bring a lady to."

Mr. Cloudesley was so struck with the unwilling air of this invitation, that he was about to say "some other day," and leave the place, when his wife surprised him by walking in. Something in the forlorn man touched little May's warm heart, and leaving her husband's side she entered the house quickly, saying:

"It is too cold to stand talking at the door."

The little parlour was in size and shape exactly the same as the one they had just left. But here there was no carpet, no curtain, no easy chair, and—worst of all—no fire. Four cane chairs and a small table formed the furniture.

"I was sitting in the kitchen, madam," said Mr. Trulock, looking at the bonnie, pleasant face of his little visitor, "and there is a fire there, though not a good one."

May followed him to the kitchen, which certainly was less cold than the parlour, and contained rather more furniture, though of the plainest and cheapest kind. A windsor chair, with arms, but no cushions, was drawn up close to the struggling fire, and in this Mr. Trulock placed the lady, and then slowly brought forward a seat for Mr. Cloudesley, and another for himself.

"You will want a nice tidy girl to keep you comfortable," said May. "Miss Jones will find you one—she knows all the nice girls in the place."

"Thank you, madam, but I want no girl. It is my wish to do without one, if I can at all."

"You have some relative who will live with you, then? No! Surely you will not live quite alone."

"Madam, I must be alone," he said sadly. "A servant would make no difference."

Then he seemed to repent having said so much, and May could get no more out of him. He was civil enough, but only answered, "Yes, madam," or, "No, madam," except that he admitted that he was fond of reading, and they promised to lend him books.

Then May took out the last of her twelve nosegays.

"Do you care for flowers, Mr. Trulock?"

"No, madam." Then he saw that she had brought him some, and added, with a mournful smile, "You mean these for me? Thank you, madam, 'twas a kind thought. I will get a glass to put them in. What are they? 'Tis a strange time of the year for flowers."

"They are Christmas roses, Mr. Trulock."

"It seems unnatural for flowers to blossom now," the old man said, as he placed them in water. "Summer and youth and flowers—winter and old age and no flowers at all; that's how things go, madam."

May had risen to say good-bye, she put her small hand into his, and looking up with tears in her eyes, for his voice was very sad, she said,—

"Yet there are Christmas roses, you see."

"For such as you," he answered.

"For you," she said earnestly. "Only have faith and patience, and open your heart to the sunshine God sends, and the sweet flowers of charity—I like the word, even though love may be more correct—will blossom round your path."

When they were gone, Trulock sat gazing at the fair, pure blossoms, but he murmured, "Not for me! Not for me!"

Mrs. Short forgot to put her flowers in water, and threw them out the next morning, muttering contemptuously,—

"Rubbishy things! If it had even been a bit of holly, now, to stick in my pudding!"







BONNIE May Cloudesley caught cold on that Christmas Day, and was so ill that as soon as she was fit to travel, her husband took her home to her mother to be nursed for a while. Very dreary and uncomfortable the poor fellow was during her absence; and when she came home, quite recovered, he informed her that she must never be ill again, as he could not possibly get on without her.

"Nonsense, Gilbert! Why, we have not been married a year—and how did you get on all the thirty-four years before you even knew me?"

"I don't know, May. But it just shows how short a time it takes to spoil a man; for I was really rather a jolly kind of bachelor."

But at the notion of her shy, silent, grave Gilbert ever having been a jolly bachelor, May laughed in the most unkind and disrespectful way.

"You may laugh," said Gilbert; and May seemed to agree with him, for she did laugh very heartily. Then she said,—

"How are all the poor people, Gilbert. How is the boy we met at Lady Mabel's Rest? And oh! How are the two new people there going on?"

"I have seen Mrs. Short several times, and she always tells me what a good kind of woman she is. I've nothing to say against it—she ought to know, of course. Mr. Trulock I have only seen in church; he is always out when I call."

"I must go there to-morrow. When does Mr. Barton come home?"

"Not until June, I think," replied Mr. Cloudesley.

May kept her word, and the next day, putting on her warmest wraps, for it was bitter February weather, she trotted down the hill, over the bridge, and away to Lady Mabel's Rest. She paid one or two visits—one to Miss Jones. Miss Jones was that unnatural thing, a very disagreeable Christian. She had a heart of gold, loved her Master and served Him for love's sake, but she had a queer temper and a natural love of fault-finding. If she had not been a good woman, she would have been a most censorious one; as it was, she never permitted herself to speak ill of the absent, but she "took it out" in scolding. She was greatly pleased to see Mrs. Cloudesley, and had a hundred questions to ask about Polly Burr, a girl whom she had trained, and who was now Mrs. Cloudesley's cook.

"Polly is a really good girl," said May, "and an excellent servant. You really have a gift for training servants, Miss Jones."

Miss Jones's dark, solemn face softened into a pleased smile.

"A poor gift, ma'am," said she.

"Not poor at all," replied May. "How many Fairford girls have you trained for service, now?"

"Seventeen altogether, ma'am. Three are married, two died, three emigrated, and the rest are doing well in their place—all but one. One, poor thing—well, well, we don't know the end yet."

"No, indeed," said May; "and we can pray, you know. That's always a comfort, isn't it? Have you made acquaintance with your new neighbours yet?"

"I knew them both long ago, ma'am."

"I was in hopes that Mrs. Short would follow your good example, and take a girl to train."

"Martha Short will never take that much—No, ma'am, she has no girl."

"Do you find her a pleasant neighbour?"

"We don't see much of each other, ma'am."

"You knew Mr. Trulock also, didn't you say?"

"Yes, ma'am, and his wife—she was a schoolfellow of mine. A decent man, Ralph always was, and at one time a very rich one; but there was something about the son—I never heard the rights of it. It killed poor Annie, I believe; and Ralph looks heartbroken himself. I see very little of him—he is out all day. There never was such a man for going about the country."

Mrs. Cloudesley's next visit was to Mr. Trulock, or rather to his door, for her knock brought no one to let her in. Mrs. Short's door opened, and that dumpy dame put out her round head and called out:

"You need not knock again, ma'am, for Mr. Trulock is out; and out he always is, I may truly say. I couldn't abear to see you knocking, standing there in the bitter wind, you that has lately had a cold too; I'm that good-natered. 'Do as you'd be done by,' is my motter, and I wouldn't fancy standing out in the cold;—you're welcome back, Mrs. Cloudesley,—and won't you walk in?"

"I was coming to see you," replied May, going round to the door, and following the waddling steps of Mrs. Short into the parlour. If that room had surprised her on her first visit, it fairly astounded her now! The handsome chiffonier with glass doors, the wax flowers under a bell shade, the pictures in their massive gilt frames! These last were three in number, and one of them represented Mrs. Short—a shade less round than Mrs. Short was now, but still an undeniable likeness,—looking sentimental with all her might at a miniature which she held out straight before her—so straight, in fact, that only half the miniature could be got into the picture at all. The second picture represented the late Mr. Short, a thin little man with a deprecating smile upon his face, carrying in his hand a bunch of flowers, of which he seemed mortally afraid. The third was that of the youthful son of this worthy couple, a fat, staring boy with crimson cheeks, hard and shiny as two rosy apples. He was depicted drawing by a string a toy horse—black with red spots. The horse was very well done: it was quite as wooden and as little like a real horse as the original had been.

"You're looking at my picter, ma'am! Ah, I'm greatly altered since that was done. It was a minnychure of my poor diseased—" (probably meant for deceased) "father that I 'ad in my 'and, ma'am, and I requested of the artiss to put in my poor father's face, but would you believe it, he refused! He said I wanted to get two 'eads out of him for the price of one! Some folks is wonderful ill-natered. That's my poor Matthew, as is dead and buried, poor man! Very like him it is, but you never saw him. And that's my son Matt; and I hope he'll do well and be 'appy, though he's not been quite the son he might have been to his widowed mother, as did for him for years, and kept his places like a 'pictur.' But there! I'll never mention it to mortal, nor remember it against him—I'm too good-natured for that!"

"How is Mr. Trulock getting on?" said May, longing to interrupt the flow of words. "Has he got a servant yet?"

"No, ma'am, nor won't! I've been at him about it dozens of times, for it spoils my disjection to see him look the way he does—half-starved—half-clothed, too, I may say; for though decent, yet very threadbare and scant, ma'am, as your own heyes may tell you. But there! I might as well talk to a stone, the best I get is, 'You've no gel yourself'; and it's vain to tell him that I'm a woman and he's a man, and so the cases is very differential. And what is he starving himself for, now? As I says to him, while there was a chance of righting the business and keeping his connection together, it was all very well to be miserly; but now that he's broke, and had to retire to this place, which others that expected it as little, though never keeping a carriage nor having a viller at 'Ackney, mightn't he as well make use of the comforts provided for him, and not go on pinch, pinch, and look at a friendly neighbour as if he'd like to bid her to mind her own business? But there! A hard man Ralph Trulock ever was—hard to his son, and hard to all, and hard he'll be, to his dying day."

"He does not look like a hard man, exactly," said May Cloudesley.

"Ah, but if you knew his story, ma'am, which I can tell it to you, for I know it well. I've known him all my life."

May by no means wished to listen to gossip of this kind; but she found she must listen to Mrs. Short, or abruptly say good-bye, and this she did not like to do. She was not one of those who have one manner for the rich and another for the poor; so it was as impossible for her to interrupt Mrs. Short rudely, as if she had been my Lady Short, and the vulgar little crowded parlour a spacious reception room; so she heard her perforce.

"Ralph and me were married in the same year, and his shop—it was a shop then, afterwards an establishment, if you please—was in our street. My Matthew was a baker,—I ain't ashamed of it,—Ralph Trulock was a master tailor, what they call a milingtery tailor, uniforms and the like, and officers always going in and out, going to India and sich. He got on wonderful—often I said to my poor Matthew that's dead and buried, that pride will have fall, and a 'aughty sperrit goes before bankruptcy, which is as true a word as any other Solomon ever said. And yet it lasted a long time, too. Mrs. Trulock had her carriage, and Fred his pony, and afterwards his horse, and they lived in a viller like the gentry, and Ralph looked down on Matthew and me, as if we were no more than a couple of our own penny rolls. The boy grew up—and a fine young man to look at—but got into fine company through knowing the officers that came to the shop, and it was he could spend faster than Ralph could save. And his father was terrible hard on him—Ah! A hard man Trulock was, even then, and—"

Here the welcome sound of a knock at the door reached May's ears. She sprang from her chair, saying, "That is Mr. Cloudesley; he promised to come for me."

"I'll let him in, ma'am—what, you must go? Well, I must finish my story. Fred spent everything, and then ran away because the father was so hard on him, and left Trulock in debt awful—he's never got before the world since, and had to pay half a crown in the pound, and the wife died—"

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Short, but Mr. Cloudesley must find it very cold."

"Yes, ma'am, I must let the dear gentleman in. And Ralph, ma'am—I have my own suspicions about the way things went at the last; but that's neither here nor there, and certain it is his behaviour killed his wife; and when Fred ventured back, he cursed him frightful, and has always sent back his letters, just tore up, and—"

"I really must not keep Mr. Cloudesley waiting any longer; that is the third time he has knocked," cried May in desperation; and going quickly to the door, she opened it herself.

Mrs. Short followed her as fast as she could, and began at once:

"Well, sir, you must not think me unmannerly for letting your good lady open the door for you, for we were so interested in what we were saying, that we quite forgot that you had knocked, and then when you knocked again she ran like a hare, and I hadn't a chance with her. Must you go at once, sir? Well, ma'am, call again soon, and I'll tell you plenty more about him; but you may take my word for it, he brought that boy up very badly, and then turned on him, broke his wife's heart, and owes a mint o' money, leastways did, but went through the courts, you know, and got himself whitewashed; and what he's starving himself for now I don't know, and I'd give my ears to find out, though not curious by nater."

"Good evening, Mrs. Short," said May gravely, as she took her husband's arm and turned away.

"Oh, Gilbert, I do not like Mrs. Short; and if what she has been telling me is true, we shall not like Mr. Trulock either."

"What has she told you? You look half dead, May."

"Nothing tries me like having to listen to talk like that; but she told me—" and May repeated the substance of Mrs. Short's story.

"Well, I know nothing of the man myself, but this is certain," said Mr. Cloudesley in reply. "Mrs. Short may abandon her suspicion that he behaved dishonourably in any way; for if he had, he would not have been admitted here. I fancy he is very unhappy, poor old fellow; you must make friends with him, May."

"But, Gilbert, if he really turned his son out of doors and cursed him?"

"If that is true, he must be a miserable man, May."

"You are right. Yes, Gilbert, I'll go and see him again."

May Cloudesley went several times to visit Mr. Trulock before she found him at home; and her ineffectual knock at his door never failed to bring Mrs. Short to hers, urging her to come in and "have a chat." Sometimes May escaped, but more often she was obliged to go in and listen unwillingly to much gossip, principally about poor old Ralph, but many of the other neighbours were also discussed. Still Ralph was plainly a mystery to her, and (of course in the most good-natured spirit) Mrs. Short talked incessantly about him. At last Mrs. Cloudesley determined to go quite early some day, and try if she could catch Trulock; before he was off on his wanderings. It was not quite ten o'clock when she raised her hand to knock at his door, and before she had reached the knocker the door opened, and Ralph, in a worn great-coat and shabby muffler, stood before her. He looked even more depressed than when she had seen him last.

"Good morning, Mr. Trulock. I am a very early visitor, but later in the day you are never at home, and I wanted so much to see you."

"You are very good, madam. I don't know why any one should trouble themselves about such as I am now. Will you walk in, madam?—though I fear you will find it cold."

"Oh, I am very well wrapped up; I don't mind the cold."

"I sit in the kitchen, madam, in order to keep but one fire," said Ralph, leading the way to that very melancholy apartment, where he placed her in a chair near the grate; she perceived that the fire was raked out, and the dismal chill of the room was most depressing.

May looked round, and then up into the face of the old man, and wondered if she could venture to beg him to allow himself the comforts he so sadly needed. He was watching her with a strange, sad smile.

"I know what you are thinking, madam," he said. "My neighbour, Mrs. Short, has been telling me that she informed you that I am starving myself to death; and I have no doubt she told you more than that. She would not spare me. I was a fool to come here—but truly I had little choice. She has given me a bad name with every one."

May could not deny this, so she said:

"I wish you would make yourself a little more comfortable, Mr. Trulock. I cannot bear to think of the life you seem to lead. This place, you know, was meant to make those who live here comfortable."

"I am as comfortable as I—wish to be," Ralph replied.

"But—please forgive me for speaking plainly—you know this place—the money here—was meant to be used to make you comfortable; don't you think you ought to use it as it was intended?"

"Comfort, Mrs. Cloudesley, is a matter of feeling; if I do what I wish to do, I am more comfortable than I should be if I were doing what I don't wish."

He sat down as he spoke, for hitherto he had been standing, and said: "Madam, you are very kind to me, and I should not wish you to think worse of me than I deserve. I don't know what you may have heard from Mrs. Short, nor even what you may conclude from my own words and conduct. May I briefly tell you the truth concerning myself, madam, and then at least I shall know that you are not misled about me."

"Indeed, I will listen with great interest," said May. "I fear you have had many trials."

"I have, indeed; but people say I brought them on myself."

"That, even if true, does not lighten them."

"No," he replied, with his slow, grave smile; "that is true; but it hinders sympathy, I find. You know, perhaps, that I began life as an apprentice in a great military outfitting shop in London? I was hard-working and careful, and got on well. I set up for myself when I married, as my wife had a little money, and I had saved. I prospered greatly. My business grew and grew; I was soon a rich man. I had the best wife, madam, that ever man was blessed with, and a fine boy—only the one child. I said I would make a gentleman of him. I gave him every advantage—I never said No to him—I—"

His voice trembled, and he was silent for a minute.

"Madam, I find that I cannot speak much of him, even now. I do not believe he ever knew what he was to me. I ruined him by over-indulgence—letting him have too much money; and then, when I began to fear he was going astray, I pulled him up too short. Then—I see it now—I went as much too far the other way—would give him no money, and wanted to part him from all his acquaintance, because I thought they helped to make him idle. He was idle—that I know—but he was good and affectionate until—Well, he rebelled; got into debt; borrowed money right and left. My business went down, for I was forced to make my customers pay up their bills, and that makes discomfort. People naturally go where they get credit. All went wrong with me; and my poor Annie took the boy's misdoing so much to heart that she lost her health."

"Poor thing—oh, poor mother!" whispered May.

"The boy went from bad to worse. At last—I never told this to mortal before except my poor Annie, and she guessed it. I had a large sum of money coming to me, and I depended on it, as I had a great payment to make. He knew it; he went the day before I was to receive it, and got it, saying I had a sudden need for it, and had sent him. And then he disappeared. I concealed his—theft—from every one except my wife—she guessed it, and it finished what his wild doings had begun. She never held her head up again, madam. She pined away, longing for her boy, that she might try to bring him to a sense of his faults; but he never came. I put advertisements in the paper, begging him to come home, and that all should be forgiven; but he never saw them. He was abroad, I believe. At last—she died; and the night before her funeral, Fred, knowing nothing of this, came home. He came in on me suddenly, and I had no heart to speak. He said he had seen the advertisement at last, and had come home to confess that he was married,—and he told me who the girl was. A good girl, I believe; but she belonged to bad people—low, dishonest folk, in a small way of trade—and my heart rose up against the thought of her bearing my Annie's name, and she lying in her coffin. I got up—" Ralph straightened himself and spoke louder, "I opened the door; I said, 'Your mother lies dead upstairs, murdered by you. You have brought her to the grave, and me to ruin. Go to the wife you have chosen—never let me see your face again.'"

"Oh, Mr. Trulock! Surely he did not take you at your word? Surely he saw that you were speaking wildly?"

"He had his faults, madam, but want of affection was never one of them. He tried again and again—he both wrote and came to the house; but I would neither see him nor read his letters. I was mad, I think; mad with sorrow and anger. At last he got a friend to trick me into reading one letter, the last he ever wrote to me. He said he saw that I could not forgive him, although he hoped I would believe that he had not meant to leave his mother to die without seeing him; that he was going to emigrate, and that he would repay the money he had taken from me as soon as he could. I have never heard of him since—not a word."

"He will come yet," said May; but Trulock shook his head.

"I think he must be dead," he said in a low voice. "Then I began to try to pay my creditors, and retrieve my business. I struggled on alone, madam, for twelve weary years, during which I never spent an unnecessary penny—only to fail at last. I paid seventeen and sixpence in the pound, and—I must pay the other half-crown before I die. That is what I am saving for, Mrs. Cloudesley. I can allow myself no comforts until that is done."

May was crying, and made no answer.

"God bless you, madam, for those tears!" said Trulock, earnestly. "You're sorry for Annie;—yes, and you would have learned to love her—you would have loved Annie."

"I'm crying for you, not for her," May said, looking up. "I'm so sorry; yours has been a sad, sad life. Annie is at rest."

"Yes," he answered, "Annie is in heaven; she was a saint, if ever there was one."

"Ah!" said May, smiling. "How that takes the sting out of the sorrow! But will you let me tell my husband what you have told me? And I will try to see you soon again, and tell you if he thinks that you are doing right now. Gilbert is so upright—he would know."

"You may tell him, but no one else, madam, if you please. I do not care to defend myself; let people believe Mrs. Short if they like. I care nothing for their opinion."

"Yet you must be very lonely."

"I don't care for company; I feel as if every one was a stranger, and must always be so—and I think I don't wish it otherwise."

"Mr. Trulock, that is not the way to grow Christmas roses."

"But I told you none would grow for me, madam."

"They won't grow except in their own soil. Good-bye,—when shall I have a chance of seeing you again?"

"I cannot have you troubled to come out so early on my account," Ralph answered. "If you will leave word at the gate, appointing your own time, I will be here. You have been very kind, madam, and I feel it deeply; but do not mistake me, I do not promise to be ruled by what you and Mr. Cloudesley may advise."

"Yet we may talk it over with you. Good-bye then, Mr. Trulock. I will leave a message for you."

As May hurried away, she heard Mrs. Short calling her. She stopped, and that worthy dame actually followed her, cold as it was.

"You've sat a long time with Trulock," said she. "I hope, ma'am, that he was civil?"

"Civil!" said May, laughing. "Oh dear, yes, Mrs. Short. I like Mr. Trulock very much indeed. Good morning, for I have sat so long with him that I must hurry home now."

Mrs. Short retired to her house, much disgusted.

"After all I've told her, not to tell me one word of what passed between 'em! I could see that she cried,—but the winders is so small! It's very ill-natured of her; and if I did right I'd never tell her another thing!"







SEVERAL engagements prevented Mrs. Cloudesley going to Lady Mabel's Rest as soon as she had intended, but at last she succeeded in keeping an hour or two clear for her visit, so she sent a message to Mr. Trulock very early, to say that she would be with him at one o'clock, if convenient to him. She was such a punctual little body, that she ran past Mrs. Short's windows just as that lady's gorgeous clock struck one, and for a wonder she got by unperceived, for it was Mrs. Short's dinner hour, and she had no eyes for the passers-by. Mr. Trulock took her at once into the kitchen, where he had a good fire burning, and for the first time May saw what a snug room that kitchen could be.

"Well, Mr. Trulock, did you think I had forgotten you? You don't know how busy we have been."

"I had no fear that you would forget me," Trulock answered, quietly.

"Mr. Cloudesley would have come with me—for he is so much interested in what you told me; but he fancied that as you had spoken to me before, you might like to talk to me this time also."

"Well, I think Mr. Cloudesley is right," said Trulock with a smile. "I don't know that I could talk to any one else as I did that day to you. I wondered at myself when you were gone, for I had not meant to trouble you with so long a story."

"But you did not trouble me, except that I was sorry for you. Well, it seems that my husband saw a letter, written by a Mr. Arnott, and signed by all your other creditors, which was sent to Mr. Barton when you were named for this place; in which they say that your conduct had been so honourable as to command their admiration; that they had had dealings with you for many years, and felt that in spite of your failure they had lost nothing by the connection."

"I saw the letter," said Trulock, shortly.

"And they said that they were all most anxious to secure your election; that they could quite afford to lose the very trifling sums you had not paid, and that they had written to you to that effect."

"So they did. But, young lady, I could not rest in my grave knowing that I owed any one a penny."

"Your creditors were all rich men, I think?"

"All of them. Except in the way of business I never owed a penny, and I dealt only with the best houses."

"Suppose you had not been elected to the Rest, I think they meant to have made a subscription for you, Mr. Trulock."

"Madam!" said the old man almost fiercely, "I would have gone to the poorhouse before I accepted their charity!"

"Ah, Mr. Trulock! That is what Gilbert bid me say to you!"

"What?" cried Ralph, with a start. "That I ought to have done that—gone to the poorhouse?"

"No, no,—but that you must look well to it that in this matter you are not governed by pride rather than by any better feeling."

"I have always been a proud man," Ralph answered, drawing himself up. "Mrs. Cloudesley, in living on the barest necessaries of life—and that I do, for bread and water are my usual food, and I roam the country to keep myself warm, to save firing,—I am doing the only thing that can reconcile me to life. People talk of me now as a beaten man, glad to hide my head in an almshouse, because ill-health, sorrow, and age made it impossible for me to begin life again. But before I die, I will prove to these proud, successful men, that I was not so utterly beaten; that, in spite of age, and failing health, and sorrow to boot, I fought the battle and kept my honourable name. When I have paid the money, I may be able to feel grateful to Arnott and the rest for what they said and did—as it is, I can only just keep from hating them."

May looked at him with a deep sorrow in her sweet eyes.

"Oh, Mr. Trulock," she said, "do forgive me if I speak my mind—and Gilbert's, for he thinks as I do about it. Is that a Christian spirit? Your creditors wished to forgive you this debt, they felt kindly towards you, and were glad that you should not be left in poverty. You are in an asylum planned to make those who have been unfortunate forget their difficulties and pass a peaceful life, with every comfort, even to the power of doing something for others. But you refuse to accept anything, either from your old friends or from poor dead Lady Mabel; you shut-up your heart, and will admit no happiness, no kind feeling,—but just fight on, doggedly, to do what no one wants you to do—to pay back money which no one needs (for the sums are too small to make any difference to prosperous men), and all because you are too proud to accept a kindness from any one, living or dead."

"The money may make no difference to them," said Ralph; "but it makes all the difference in the world to me."

"But only because you are proud. Why should you not allow men who think well of you to show you a kindness? Why not submit to the failure of your business, and try to find peace here, where there are so many who would be friendly if you would allow them? And Lady Mabel didn't mean her bequest to be used except for the benefit of those to whom she left it."

"I asked Mr. Barton if there was any rule obliging me to spend the money, and he said certainly I might do as I liked," Ralph replied. "Madam, I warned you that I could not promise to be guided by you. You were kind to me, and I thought I should like you to know the plain truth from my own lips; and then you listened so kindly that I was led on to say more than I intended. But I could not change my nature at this time of day, madam. A proud man and a hard man I have always been; giving nothing for nothing, accepting no favours. I've lived so, and I could live no other way. What good would the money do me? I don't want to sink into a mere eating machine, like Mrs. Short. I don't care to seek the company of my neighbours. All I ask is, to be left in peace to go my own way."

"Yet it does not make you happy."

"Happy! How could I be happy? I have lost all I ever loved,—I loved but two, and they are gone. I don't look for happiness, madam,—not in this world."

"Nor in the next," said May Cloudesley, in her soft, sorrowful voice; "for you are not going the way that leads to it."

"Mrs. Cloudesley!" cried Ralph, half startled, half angry. "I am a Christian, madam, I believe. I have never doubted the religion I learned from my mother, the religion that my Annie loved so well."

"You have never doubted it," said May; "but you have never lived it. 'Love is the fulfilling of the law,'—'If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.' I have only your own word to go upon, but you say yourself that you have been a proud man and a hard man, keeping far from you all the charities of life. Oh, don't fancy for a moment that your belief is Faith. Faith means Obedience,—Obedience is Love in action. I am not able to make my meaning plain, but my husband will if you will talk to him. Dear Mr. Trulock, do think over what you have told me, and then compare your own life with that of our one perfect Example, who lived on charity, and spent His life in doing good, without return. I have angered you, but indeed I did not mean to do so."

And poor May, overcome both by a feeling of pity and by a sense of inability to make her meaning clear, burst into tears.

Trulock looked very much disturbed. He rose quickly and brought some water, and watched anxiously until she was quite composed. Then he said:

"I should prefer not to speak to Mr. Cloudesley, madam; but I will think of what you have said. I am not vexed that you should speak plainly; I like plain speaking. I don't see that you are right, though; and if I did, I doubt that I could change now."

"Shall I tell you how to begin?" said May.

He shook his head; but she went on: "Help some one, be kind to some one who needs kindness; use some of your money to relieve those who need relief; say kind words to some one in sorrow. That's the soil in which you must grow your Christmas roses," she concluded with a smile.

Trulock looked argumentative.

"Madam," said he; "you will say I am no judge, but I have heard so many sermons against that kind of thing. It seems to me that you imply that I can be saved by works."

"There is no question here of being saved," said May, quickly. "You must be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, or not at all. But you say you have faith, and I say with St. James—'Show me thy faith by thy works'; for I think that a faith which leaves us just what nature made us, must be a dead faith, don't you? We all have our besetting sin to conquer, and it seems to me that pride is yours; but if you had love in your heart it would turn out pride. And I think that though we cannot make ourselves feel love all at once, yet we can do kind things, and then our hearts will grow soft and warm. And I am sure that if you were doing kind things for others, you would not dislike so much to accept kindness from others; at least, I think so. But I am very young and ignorant, and, I'm afraid, very presumptuous too, to talk to you like this. You'll forgive me, though, won't you, Mr. Trulock?"

She looked up so sweetly, that he found himself assuring her that he had nothing to forgive, which a moment before had not been his opinion at all.

May went home and told her husband all that had passed.

"Well," said he, "you told him some plain truths, May; but you were quite right. Now we must let him alone a bit. I fancy he will not stand too much good advice; we'll wait and see how things go."

In May's opinion, things did not go well. Mr. Trulock changed none of his habits, and was always out when she called. Mrs. Short assured her that he was living like a slave or a wild Indian, just bread and water on week days, and a morsel of meat on Sundays only, and a cup of tea once in a way—not regular at all. Miss Jones said she had invited him to dine with her, and that he had refused, not very courteously. And May had no choice but to follow her husband's advice and "let him alone," for the simple but sufficient reason that she could by no means get at him.







RALPH TRULOCK had never been a very happy man. Even when his worldly affairs prospered, and his wife, whom he tenderly loved, and who deserved his love, was with him; even before his son's behaviour gave him cause for anxiety,—he had not been a happy man. He had had all that the world could give him, and if you had asked him what more he wanted, he would probably have said, "Nothing;" and yet he did want something, and want it so badly that his heart was never at rest for the lack of it.

The truth is, he was trying to satisfy an immortal spirit with mortal things, and no one ever yet succeeded in doing that, excepting those who are too dull to look beyond mere eating and drinking, warmth and comfort. Of this class, Mrs. Short was a tolerable specimen; but Ralph cared little for these things. His idol was of a higher order: it was his own opinion of himself. He did not greatly care for other people's admiration, but he must satisfy himself. His notion was, that a man should be perfectly just, utterly truthful and upright, fulfil all his engagements honourably, and never ask or accept a favour. He did not add, consciously, "and never give any one anything except what they earn," but he acted on that principle, though he never interfered with his wife's charities. He believed that if he lived thus, perfectly righteous in all his dealings, he should certainly go to heaven, even if he never felt any of those warmer religious feelings of which his wife sometimes spoke. She had quite a different kind of religion; but that was all right: she was a woman, and humility and dependence become a woman, but men should be made of sterner stuff.

Mrs. Trulock was a timid, gentle creature, far too humble even to think that Ralph could need to be taught anything. She taught her boy carefully, and when he went astray her loving heart broke, and she died, expressing with her last breath a belief that "Fred would remember what she had taught him, yet." I don't suppose she had ever heard the story of the mother of St. Augustine, but she might have said with her, "He must be saved, for he is the child of many tears and many prayers."

But if Ralph Trulock had never been a thoroughly happy man, he was certainly a very miserable man now. He had never been idle in his life; and here he was with nothing to do but to see on how little he could keep body and soul together, that he might rid himself of the hated obligation he now lay under, to men whose equal he had once been. May Cloudesley's sweet face and sympathetic manner had thrown him off his guard, and he had spoken to her more freely than he had ever spoken before, even to himself, for he hardly knew that he had it in him to feel and speak thus until he found himself doing it. And then that little traitor, May, having stolen softly within his guard of proud silence, had used her opportunity to stick a little dagger into his very heart!

Twenty times a day he told himself that she was only a silly young woman, and that he knew better than she did; twenty times a day he resolved to think no more of her words. But they kept coming back to him, and would not be forgotten. He had always read a small portion of the Bible on Sundays, and he found himself now, sorely against his will, remembering that the spirit of the words he read agreed with what May had said, more than with his own opinions. He could not keep his mind from trying to make out a case for himself, and he could not help knowing that he failed; that no text bore him out in his opinions. Still he was haunted by one text which he could not remember exactly, but in which the words, "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly?" certainly occurred; and he imagined that if he could only find that verse, he could return to his old way of thinking comfortably, and forget May's little dagger.

After much searching, he found the text at last; but it did not turn out a comfort to him. "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly—" oh that it had stopped there! But it went on—"and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" So not even this solitary text, on which he had built so much, would bear the meaning he wished to find in it. Nay, might not May have used it against him?

"To love mercy!" How could he set about that? He need not relax his stern self-denial much,—not at all, in fact; but he might give a small portion of what he saved, and it would only delay his hoped-for payment a little.

Though Ralph looked so old, he was only sixty-five, so he hoped he had time enough before him to permit of a little delay. And his conscience would not let him go on without making some effort to walk by the new light which May had let in upon him. He began to look about for some one whom he might help, and one seldom looks long for that!

One afternoon in June—it was June now, for it took him a long time to arrive at this point in his mental struggle—he went into Fairford to buy himself some new shirts; his old ones had gone beyond even his not unskilful repairs. There was a good shop in High Fairford. Price's, and to that shop he betook himself. The young man at the shirt counter told him that he had not a shirt of the particular size he asked for in the house, but that there were a number actually in hand, and if he would sit down and wait a few minutes, one of the workwomen had promised him four that very day, "and she is always punctual," concluded the young man.

Not caring to return next day, Ralph took a seat and waited. Presently a girl—a child rather, though there was a staid, responsible air about her that was wondrous womanly—came quickly up the shop, and laying a parcel on the counter, said to the young shopman,—

"Please, sir, I have brought home the four shirts."

"I told you she was punctual, Mr. Trulock!" said the shopman.

"Why, you don't mean to say that this child is one of your workers!" said Ralph.

"And a very handy worker too! No need to look over these shirts—there's never any scamped stitches in Miss Garland's work," added the young man pleasantly, as he opened the parcel and took out the four shirts. They were wonderfully well-made—you must remember that Ralph's trade had made him a good judge of needlework—every part was as well done as the girl could do it, the button-holes were well worked, and the buttons conscientiously sewed on. It was all so clean, too. Ralph conceived a good opinion of the girl at once. He bought the shirts, and paid for them: he saw the girl cast a quick glance upon the sixteen shillings he laid down, and give her head a little shake. She was paid for her work at once—three shillings. Ralph lingered near the door: something in the girl's face pleased and yet puzzled him, and he wanted to see more of her. She came out in a moment, but was passing him without notice, when he said to her,—

"Do you get only ninepence a piece for making these shirts?"

"That is all," she answered with a sigh; "but, sir, it is better than nothing."

"How long does it take you to make one?" he asked.

"One whole day and most of another. Now I have got petticoats to make—with braid on them; like doing that, I get on quicker."

"Your mother should not let you sew so much," said Ralph. "It is bad for a growing girl."

"I have no mother, sir, and neither has poor Ollie."

"Neither has who?"

"Ollie—Oliver, my little brother, sir."

Ralph thought she said the name oddly.

"Oliver?" he repeated. "Is that what you said?"

"That is the same name, but Ollie's mother was French, and we have lived in France, where they say it as I do."

"You and Ollie lived in France?" Mr. Trulock said. He felt strangely interested in the child. She was a rather pretty little girl, with a pale round face and very soft dark eyes: she wore her short dark hair tucked away behind her little ears, and she was dressed in a plain and scanty black cotton frock, her straw hat being trimmed with a morsel of fresh black crape. Something in her look, her voice, and above all her smile, interested him: they reminded him of some one, he could not think of whom—the slight foreign accent puzzled him, perhaps.

She answered his question after a momentary hesitation,—

"Yes; me and Ollie and our father."

Two great tears slowly welled up and then ran down her cheeks: she put up her small right hand to rub them away, and he saw how the forefinger was seamed with needle marks.

"And now there are only me and Ollie," she added quietly.

"You are here with friends I suppose?"

"No, sir; we have no friends here. Father was on his way here when his illness came on—he bid me come here. I expected to find his people here, but no one even knows the name. I suppose they lived here long ago, and are all gone away now."

"Do you mean to tell me, child," said old Ralph half angrily, "that you and this boy are alone in the world?"

"Indeed we are—quite, quite alone," the girl answered, with that quiet sadness which was so like some one, if he could only remember who it was.

"But you have money?" he said, turning to look at her.

"Oh yes, I have a little money. When my father died; he had some money,—I do not know exactly how much—they took some to pay the doctor, and the bill at the hotel, and—for his funeral. Oh, I don't want to speak about it, sir!" and again the big tears rolled down, and the poor little hard-working hand went up to her face. But after a moment she went on again: "I am keeping all I have left very carefully. I work as hard as I can, and so does Ollie, though he can only run with messages, of course. I want to keep the little I have until winter."

"How long have you been here?" asked Ralph.

"I forget exactly. Oh, there's Ollie!"

A beautiful boy of about seven years sprang up from his game of marbles,—he was playing with a lot of young urchins on the pavement. They were about half-way down the steep hill now, and Ollie had not seen his sister until she called out his name; how his black eyes danced when he saw her! And with what glee he held up a fourpenny piece, crying,—

"See what I have here! A monsieur gave me this for picking up his whip!"

"Why, you've been very fortunate to-day, Ollie—twopence in the morning for carrying a parcel, and now this; how much is it—fourpence? Well done, Ollie!"

"Take it, Ruthie; I may lose it," the boy said gravely, and then returned to his marbles.

"We live here, sir," said Ruth, stopping at the door of a small bakery. "Good-bye, and I hope you will like your shirts."

Mr. Trulock shook hands with her—a mode of saying good-bye which seemed to puzzle her not a little. He lingered until she had passed through the shop. She paused and bought a fourpenny loaf, and he heard her ask for:

"A stale one, if you please, ma'am;" then she vanished through a door behind the counter, and Ralph entered the shop.

"Plain or fancy, sir?" said the old woman who stood behind the counter.

"I don't want any bread, thank you," Ralph answered; "I want to ask a question about the child who has just passed through your shop."

"Do you know anything about her, sir?" asked the woman eagerly.

"Why, I wanted to know if you do?" replied Ralph.

"Not much, sir; she and the boy, Ollie she calls him, came here more than a month ago. I had been to Derby on business, and they came in the same train, and came on by the omnibus from the Forest station, and Ruth began to talk to me. She asked me if I knew people of the name of Garland in Fairford; and I said there never was a Garland in the place since I could remember, and that is sixty years and more. It isn't a Fairford name at all, as I told her. She looked so frightened and downcast, that I began to ask questions; then she told me that her father, who had brought the two children from France to Southampton, had died there, sudden-like; and that he had told her his father lived in Fairford, and she was to come here to him; he'd been coming here himself, poor man. I took the children in for the night, and made inquiry next day; but it was as I thought, no Garland was ever known here."

"It would be some other Fairford, perhaps—there are places of the same name in other counties," suggested Ralph, much interested.

"No, sir; Fairford, —shire was written on the box the children brought with them, in the poor man's own writing."

"But have they no means of living, ma'am, except by what they can earn?"

"None; there's a box with good, comfortable clothes for both of them, and the same belonging to the poor father; and Ruth has a little money laid by, but only a few pounds. And that's all. I advised Ruth to save it up and work hard, and she's a wise little creature, used to manage things and to be busy. She pays me nothing for the little room they sleep in, and I am glad to help them so far; but I'm too poor to do more. My business is not what it used to be, nor what it ought to be," she added with a sigh, and a look round the dingy little shop, into which indeed no one had come since Ralph's own arrival. "I got her work from Price's; she's a handy worker."

"Will you give the child this, ma'am, and tell her it is from the old man to whom she was talking?" said Ralph, giving her half a crown.

"Indeed I will, sir, gladly, and very kind it is of you sir. Good evening."

Ralph walked home. The child's face haunted him. That likeness was so perplexing. Annie had fair straight hair and grey eyes; this girl had brown eyes and dark curly hair, yet her smile was like Annie's, and her quiet voice was like Annie's too, in spite of the accent.

Ralph longed to see the child again, he could not help thinking of her. He determined to offer to make further and more efficient inquiries than had as yet been made about the relatives the poor father had evidently expected to find at Fairford. In other ways, too, he thought he could be of use; and the fancy he had taken to the girl made it easier for him to determine to keep his half-formed resolution by helping her.

With these thoughts, he went up the hill to church on the following Sunday, and on his way home called at the little shop. It was closed, of course; but when he had knocked three or four times the old woman opened the door, and to his horror she was drunk. He asked for the children, and she mumbled out that they had gone to the Forest, and in reply to further questions she would only mutter "to the Forest, to the Forest," with an idiotic laugh. Ralph walked on, passed the gate of Lady Mabel's Rest, and went along the Forest Road. He would go a little way, he thought, and perhaps might meet the children.







IT was a lovely day, and the road through the remains of the great forest had never looked more beautiful. Some hawthorn blossoms still lingered in the hedges, and under the trees the ground was blue with wild hyacinths. Here and there a delicate tuft of stellaria, or a carpet-like patch of the pale blue speedwell, varied the colouring, and wild roses of wonderful size and beauty, some of quite a deep crimson, waved in the soft warm breeze. Over all this, the green light coming through the trees shed its own peculiar beauty.

Ralph was not insensible to the loveliness of the scene, though he could not have talked about it. He walked on and on, looking up every glade that opened upon him; but not seeing the children, was just about to turn back when a merry shout of laughter met his ear. The ground rose suddenly on the left side of the road, and it was from that side the sound came. Ralph easily crossed the low wall, climbed the steep bank, and looked round.

A little way back from the road a tree had been felled, or had fallen, and it was now nearly buried in ferns and bluebells. On the trunk of this tree, face to face, with their feet tucked up under them, sat the two children; a small basket lay between them, and each of them had a large piece of bread in one hand. Ollie had a bunch of watercress in the other, and the girl a cup without any handle. She was in the act of making a beautiful bow to Ollie, and Ralph heard the words,—

"So I conclude by wishing you many happy returns of the day, Mr. Oliver Garland; and I drink your health, sir, once more."

Ollie laughed—such gleeful music as his laugh was!

"Thank you, Mam'selle Garland; you are very polite. That was a beautiful speech, Ruthie. I can't make speeches—not in English at least, and you will not let me talk French."

"No; for you must learn to speak English always. It vexes people to talk to them so that they don't understand."

"Mrs. Cricklade was vexed, certainly," replied Ollie. "Ruthie, if you had plenty of money, what present would you give me to-day?"

"A pair of shoes," was the prompt reply.





"No, no, you stupid Ruthie," the boy cried, with another laugh. "If you had plenty of money, you would have bought me new shoes when that great hole came," peeping at his foot as he spoke. "Something for pleasure, Ruthie."

"Should you like a book—with coloured pictures, of course?"

"Yes; but I would rather have a knife with two blades in it."

"Very well," said Ruth, "I would give you a knife with two blades in it; and you, Ollie, would cut yourself badly before night; so it is as well for your sake that I have not plenty of money."

How long Ralph would have stood watching them—he had never noticed children much before, not even his own son—I do not know; but at this moment Ollie caught sight of him.

"Ruthie, here is a man," said he.

"Oh! It is the gentleman who sent me the money," cried Ruth, springing up, and running to Ralph's side with glowing cheeks and brilliant eyes.

"I never saw you again, sir, to thank you. It was very kind of you; I felt so rich!"

"Not rich enough," said Ralph, with a grave smile, "to buy a knife with two blades."

"No," she answered, smiling; "and this is poor Ollie's birthday. He is seven years old to-day, and he begged me to come out here instead of going to church. I don't think," she added, in a low tone, "that Ollie cares much about going to church yet. So we put our dinner in a basket, and we found watercress; and it has been so pleasant."

"I came this way to look for you," said Ralph. "I went to your lodgings, and saw Mrs. Cricklade," he added, looking at Ruth.

"Yes," she said, answering the look frankly. "Oh, but it is a pity! She is always so on Sunday. And yet she is such a kind woman, sir."

"I want to talk to you," Ralph said, slowly. He was pondering a grave question. The children's dinner had consisted, he perceived, of bread and watercress. Now he had at home a certain meat-pie, which was his usual Sunday dinner, because he could buy it on Saturday, ready baked, and just warm it up in his little oven on Sunday. Generally, he left enough for his Monday's dinner too, and he never had meat on any other day. Still, he felt inclined to bring the children home, and to give them a good dinner and a cup of tea.

"I will!" thought he. "The poor little creatures." Then he said aloud, "Will you come home with me, both of you? Come and dine with me."

"Thank you, sir, but we have had our dinner," said Ruth.

"Ruthie, I could eat another dinner quite well," said Ollie from his perch on the tree.

"Then come along," said Ralph.

Ruth looked embarrassed for a moment, but he added, "Do come, it is not very far," and I suppose his kind intentions were plainer from his manner than from his words for she smiled, ran back to the tree and packed up the remains of the feast (the cress and the cup, for the bread was all gone), took a huge bunch of flowers from behind a bush, and professed herself ready to set out.

"Where do you live, sir?" inquired Ollie, perching his hat on the top of such a mass of black curls that the hat seemed quite unnecessary. "Ruthie, give me the basket, it is not too heavy for me now, you know."

"I live in Lady Mabel's Rest," said Mr. Trulock.

"Sir," said Ruth, "is there any one there named Garland?"

"No, child. Not one."

"So the man at the gate said when I asked him; but he seemed so cross that I almost thought he might have said it to get rid of us."

"Mrs. Cricklade told me that you expected to find some relatives in Fairford."

"Yes; one at all events—our grandfather. But I can find no one of the name at all. There don't seem to be any Garlands in Fairford."

"What has been done to discover them?" asked Ralph.

"Mrs. Cricklade got the clerk to look in some books that are kept in the church, and they said if any Garlands had been married, or baptized, or buried in Fairford, it would be written in those books."

"And a very stupid book that must be," interrupted Ollie, gravely.

"And Mrs. Cricklade spoke to Mr. Needham, the lawyer, and to one or two old people, and to the police; and she says when the rector comes home she will speak to him too."

"Well, we'll ask leave to look over the list of the people who have lived in Lady Mabel's Rest for the last twenty years; and then when we have had our dinner, we will have a talk and see what more may be done."

By this time they had reached the open road, and in a few minutes more they arrived at the gate of the Rest. Ollie asked rather nervously if the man at the gate would surely let them out again; but Ruth was delighted with the orderly look, the gardens and neat houses.

Mrs. Short was sunning herself at her open window, having just eaten her dinner, and very like a large tortoiseshell cat she looked, as she sat blinking in her easy chair, half asleep. But she was wide awake in a moment when she saw Ralph and his two companions; in fact, having perceived that Ralph did not return home as usual after church, she had stationed herself in the window to watch for him, and to discover, if possible, why he had so far departed from his usual custom.

"Bless us all! Two young beggars, as I'm a living woman! And he carrying a posy as big as a broom! Why, neighbour! Mr. Trulock,—I say, don't be in such a hurry; where ever did you pick up them two little beggars?"

"We are not beggars," cried Ollie, indignantly. "We didn't ask for anything."

"These are friends of mine who are going to dine with me," said Ralph, while Ruth quieted Ollie.

"Friends!" squeaked Mrs. Short. "I didn't know you had any friends here—not such young ones as that, at least. Who are they? What's their name?"

Ralph had by this time got the key into the lock of his door, and opening it for the children to pass in, he said:

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Short, but I'm in haste, and a little hard of hearing, as you know;" and in he went, shutting the door behind him.

"Nasty, crusty creetur' he ever was and ever will be! Says he's in haste, no—but likes to keep a body wondering. But I'll know who he's got with him before I'm very much older."

She rolled herself off her arm-chair, and waddled to the hall door; down her own garden and up that belonging to Ralph in less time than one could reasonably have expected her to take. Her knock was heard by the trio in Ralph's kitchen. Ralph went to the window—then strode to the door.

"Oh, Mr. Trulock, it's not often you have company," began Mrs. Short, in her oiliest voice, "and so I says to myself, 'So short of china and sich as he is, very like he hasn't a plate a piece for 'em,' so I came to offer a loan (I know you'll be careful) of anything you may require. Now ain't I a good-natured neighbour?"

"Thank you, but I have all I want," said Ralph. "Good morning, ma'am," and again the door closed.

Mrs. Short retired, fuming.

When Ralph returned to his kitchen, Ruth and Ollie had taken off their hats and were standing before the little oven, from which there came forth a most appetising smell. Ralph began to look about for plates, etc., but before he could bring them to the table, Ruth came up to him and said with a smile:

"May I set the table, sir?"

"Do, child. I am tired, and shall be glad to sit down."

He watched the child from his corner. Ollie, after a moment's hesitation, came and climbed upon his knee. Poor Ralph felt a strange thrill at his heart. Poor Fred! Poor lost Fred! How often, when he was a handsome little fellow with fair curls, had he climbed up just as Ollie did, and laid his head where Ollie laid his now! If the boy had had fair hair, Ralph would have broken down.

Ruth looked about presently and said,—

"Where do you keep your table-cloths, sir?"

"I have none, Ruth."

"And a very good plan too," said Ollie; "then if one spills things it does not so much matter;" and Ollie nodded his head gravely, like one who has made up his mind.

Ruth said nothing, though her prejudices were decidedly in favour of table-cloths; but she looked at the table, which was stained and soiled. She got a cloth and some water in a quiet, business-like way, washed the table, dried it, laid the knives and forks in order, and then carefully heated the plates with hot water. Ralph felt a curious pleasure in watching her, she moved so quietly and was so handy-like Annie. Then she said, "May I take the dinner out of the oven, sir?"

"You'll burn yourself, I'm afraid," said Ralph.

The girl laughed—a little comfortable chuckle of amusement—at such a foolish notion. She opened the oven and peeped in, and in half a second the pie was safe on the table.

"I knew it was a pie!" said Ollie, triumphantly.

Ralph brought out bread, and filled a jug with water; they all sat down, and very soon the pie-dish only remained to witness that there had been a pie!

"Now, Ruth," said Ralph Trulock, when dinner was quite over, "I want to have a little talk with you. I want you to tell me all about yourself and your father, for perhaps I may be able to help you to find out your people; but to do that I must know all about you. We must lose no time; for when winter comes what are you to do?"

"Winter's such a long, long way off," said Ollie. "What is the good of thinking of it yet? Don't fret, Ruthie!" and he stroked her cheek with his little brown hand.

"No, Ollie, I won't fret; but Mr. Trulock will help us, perhaps, to find our grandfather. May Ollie go and play in the garden, sir? he'll like that better than sitting quiet."

Ralph assented, and the boy went off quite happy. He had seen a lot of daisies in the ill-kept grass, and was soon at work making a daisy chain.

"If we talk about father, Ollie would cry," Ruth said. "He is so little, that if I don't talk, he forgets; and so I pretend to forget too. But I cannot help thinking very often how sorry father would be that we should be so poor, and that Ollie should not go to school any more. I have talked to Mrs. Cricklade, but though she is kind, she does not help me—she does not always understand. But I am sure, sir, that you will know what to do; and I am very, very grateful to you," she added, earnestly. She had such a pretty voice, low and gentle; Ralph felt more drawn to her every moment.

"Your father brought you to Southampton, Mrs. Cricklade told me," he said. "But, Ruth, do you tell me the whole story—all you know about yourself."

"We came from Canada first. I think I was born there, and I know my mother died there, though I don't remember it. I only remember father, even when I was quite young,—younger than Ollie is now. Father did everything for me; we were very poor, I think."

"That was in Canada?" asked Ralph.

"Yes, in Montreal. Father was in an office, but he was very badly paid, because he was a bad accountant. Then he got a letter. I remember that day well, because he was so pleased. He told me that when he was coming to Canada, the ship was wrecked, and many of the passengers lost. He could swim well, and when he had got my mother on shore, he went back and saved others—among them a young Frenchman, who must have been drowned but for him, because he couldn't swim at all. This young gentleman was very grateful, and he promised that when he became his father's partner, he would do something for father if he wanted help. So he wrote for him to go to Bordeaux."

"And you went? Was Ollie born then?"

"Oh no!" Ruth said, opening her eyes wide. "Why, this was years and years ago! Father was caretaker of the great stores; we lived in rooms in the stores. And he married Ollie's mother, and I loved her very much. But she only lived a little while, she died when Ollie was a baby. She told me she gave Ollie to me, and that I must take care of him."

"Had she any relatives in Bordeaux?"

"She was an orphan; I don't think she had any relatives at all."

"Then you were father's little housekeeper?" said Ralph.

"Yes, but we had a servant. Ah, we were very happy; only father never was merry, you know. He said—"

"Well, child, go on."

"But you didn't know him, so you may think he had done something wrong. Nov, father couldn't have done anything really wrong. But he used to tell me that he deserved all his sorrows, and that the reason we were so poor was that he was saving money to pay some one; and 'then,' he said, 'I may be forgiven.'"

"Did he ever mention the name of his creditor?"

"No, never, sir. Well, one day father came home looking quite unhappy and excited. He said to me, 'Pack up all your clothes, and Ollie's and mine, in the big American trunk; for we must go to England, and perhaps we may never come back here again.' I asked why; but he said I would not understand, but that he had heard something which made him want to go to his father. I remember he said, 'I will wait no longer; surely he will forgive me now.' And he wrote cards to put on the trunk, and we came to Southampton in a ship belonging to the firm."

"And the address he wrote was to Southampton?"

"No, no, to Fairford, —shire."

"And at Southampton, he was taken ill, Mrs. Cricklade told me."

"Yes; but the doctor said he must have been ill a long time. He seemed to me just the same until in the night (the ship had sailed for Bordeaux again, and he had been on board getting some things we had forgotten) I found him standing beside my bed. 'Get up, Ruthie,' he said, 'but don't wake the boy;' and he stooped and kissed Ollie. 'I don't feel well,' he said, and went back to his room. I got up quickly and ran to him. He was lying on the bed, his face was grey-looking and not as usual. I rang the bell, and they sent for a doctor and gave him brandy. It was all of no use. He was in such pain—pain in his heart, he said, that he could hardly breathe, and very soon we found that he could not speak. He tried so hard, and tried to write too."

"I have the paper still, but there are no plain words on it. He said, 'Fairford'; and I said; 'I am to go there with Ollie,' and he seemed content. Then he said, 'My father!' and I said I would go to him. But he began about something else; he said, 'You lock,' and I thought he meant lock the box, because he had a small box with some money in it; so I locked it, but I'm afraid that was not what he wanted done, for though the doctor was begging him to be quiet, he sat up suddenly and tried again to speak—and then—then he was dead."

Quiet tears ran down her cheeks, and the old man, all unused as he was to such offices, took her little hand in his and dried her eyes with his handkerchief.

"I must not cry," Ruth sobbed out, "or it will fret Ollie. They gave me all the money that was left after paying every one, and a servant from the hotel came part of the way with us. But I could not find my grandfather; and what I shall do I don't know."

"The first thing to do, Ruth, is to write to the firm in Bordeaux. They may be able to explain, perhaps, or there may be letters for your father lying there at this moment."

"I don't know; Monsieur Oliver is away, and old Monsieur Mordan never liked father, though he had saved his only son. He would not give him a holiday. Father had to give up his place. Another man came the day before we left."

"Still, no doubt he will tell us if he knows anything that can help us. And we will put an advertisement in the newspaper, to find your grandfather. We can write that now."

He got paper and pencil, and began to write:

"'The children of—' What was your father's Christian name, Ruth?"

"Frederick, sir."

"'The children of Frederick Garland, late of Bordeaux, who died suddenly at Southampton on the —. What day of the month, Ruth?"

"The thirty-first."

"The thirty-first of March last, are at Fairford, —shire, and are anxious to communicate with their grandfather. Do you know his Christian name?"

"No, sir, I never heard it."

"'Mr. Garland,' then, 'whom they expected to find in Fairford. Apply to Mr. Ralph Trulock, Lady Mabel's Rest, Fairford.' There, I'll pay for this, Ruth, so you need not think about it."

"Pay for it! Do you pay for things being put in the paper? I never knew that. Thank you, sir. And will you write for me to Monsieur Mordan?"

"I will; give me his address now."

"'Oliver Mordan, Esq.,' you must not say Monsieur, mind, for he is an Englishman by birth, and hates to be mistaken for a Frenchman. I have heard father say that he fancied one reason of Monsieur Mordan's dislike to him was that when he first came to Bordeaux, he thought Monsieur was a Frenchman. Monsieur Oliver did not mind—his mother was a Frenchwoman."

Mr. Trulock wrote the address, which Ruth had to spell for him, and then he said,—

"Now we will have tea."

"Won't you let me get it ready, while you sit quiet and rest? And may I wash the dinner things?"

Ralph had no objection, for it must be confessed that these constant washings and arrangings were a great burden to him. It was very pleasant to sit there and watch the neat-handed little maid as she polished and rubbed, and set everything straight and tidy.

"Now I will call Ollie, for if we don't mind, we shall be late for evening church," said Ruth. She ran to the door, and came back looking a little alarmed.

"Oh, Mr. Trulock, Ollie is not there. Nor is he anywhere inside the wall, for I looked well all about."

Ralph came to the door, looked out, meditated, and men remarked,—

"Don't be frightened, Ruth; I suspect I know where he is. I ought to have remembered she was sure to pounce upon him."

He walked off, with anxious Ruth beside him, and knocked at Mrs. Short's door. On the steps lay a broken daisy chain.







OLLIE GARLAND had been very happy making his daisy chain sitting on the ragged grass plot which formed the so-called garden in front of Ralph's house. He was too innocent, and so was Ruth, to be aware of the danger he incurred by playing in the streets with the little urchins of his own age, whom he met there; it was not exactly the school one would have chosen for a child hitherto kept rather too much apart. But he had taken no harm as yet. As water runs off the feathers of a water-bird, so evil failed to penetrate the soft armour of the boy's innocence. Still, he was happier in the Forest with Ruth, or even here, alone among the daisies. Presently his chain was so long that he determined to lay it along the gravel path, in order that its full magnificence might be seen by Ruth as she came out. But while thus occupied, he heard a voice calling:

"Boy! Little boy! You there—come here, I want to speak to you."

Ollie looked up; there was the fat old woman who had called him and his sister beggars; and it was to him she spoke, he perceived.

"Come here," she cried again, beckoning with her hand. "Come here, child. Bless the boy! I shan't eat you; I only want to speak to you."

Ollie took up his daisy chain and scrambled over the low stone wall which divided the gardens. Rather slowly and reluctantly, he went up the white steps and stood before Mrs. Short, whom he regarded with considerable disfavour, expressed in his large dark eyes.

"Here's a piece of luck!" murmured Mrs. Short. "Now I shall find out everything, in spite of old Crusty. Come in, child; don't bring that trumpery in to spoil my carpet, though."

She snatched the daisy chain from the child's unwilling hand, breaking it, of course, for daisy chains are not made to bear rough handling; throwing it down on the steps, she bore her captive off triumphantly, pushing him along before her. She took him to her parlour, and lifting him suddenly in her short, stout arms, plumped him down rather roughly on one of the least ornamental of her chairs.

Now, Ollie was a very quick child, and sensitive too, as quick children generally are; her muttered words about finding out everything had by no means escaped him, and had enlightened him as to the reason of his capture, of which he disapproved in every way, entirely disliking Mrs. Short's manners. So he quickly determined that whatever questions this dumpy dame asked him, he would answer in French, which came as natural to him as English, if not more so; but which he surmised would be quite the reverse of natural to Mrs. Short: at least, Mrs. Cricklade had failed to understand it.

"Well, child," said Mrs. Short, seating herself snugly in her padded chair, panting a little after her exertions, "Tell me now, what is your name?"

"Oliver Garland," replied Ollie, making the name sound very unlike an English one.

"Laws, now! Olivia Golong—what a name! And a boy to be Olivia, too! Bless us! You're a furrineer, then, I do suppose?"

Ollie rolled his eyes, but said nothing.

"And where do you come from, Olivia?" inquired Mrs. Short.

Ollie assured her in French, that he came from the moon.

Mrs. Short desired him to speak English, "Which I know you can speak it," said she.

"I can," replied Ollie.

"Then tell me where you come from," cried the tantalized lady.

Ollie relapsed into French, and this time stated that he came from the Red Sea.

"Look here," said Mrs. Short, impressively. "You tell me what I want to know, and I'll give you a piece of cake. See if I don't now. I'll show it to you."

She repaired to a corner cupboard, and produced a rich cake, off which, with a deep sigh, she cut a very thin slice, and laid it on the table before the child.

"Now, Olivia," said she, "tell me."

"I am not hungry, thank you, madame," said Ollie.

"But this is cake!" screamed Mrs. Short. "Lovely rich pound cake, made with my own 'ands. It's delicious—that's what it is."

"Then eat it up, madame," answered Ollie, mildly.

Mrs. Short could have danced with rage, only that her figure was not suited to such violent exercise.

"You unmannerly cub!" said she. "Answer my questions in good English, or I shall box your ears soundly."

"I shall not speak any more English at all," said Ollie, gravely. "But if you touch me, I shall roar, and Ruth will hear me."

And to this determination, he adhered. Mrs. Short tried bribes and persuasions in vain, and she was afraid to strike him. Ollie sat quietly on his perch, pouring forth replies to everything she said, but all in what she called his nasty furrin' tongue; and not one word of common sense could she get out of him, as she afterwards remarked. At last the knock at the door, of which I have already spoken, concluded this vexatious interview.

"That's Ruthie!" cried Ollie, dropping off his chair and making for the door; but, remembering himself, he turned and made a polite bow to Mrs. Short, saying:

"Mille pardons, madame—adieu!" And then Mrs. Short, watching in dumb dismay from her window, saw the party return to Ralph's house.

"Did Mrs. Short ask you many questions?" asked Ralph.

"A great many; she never stopped, sir!"

"And did you answer? But of course you couldn't help it. What a plague," thought he, "the old woman will be, if she has got the whole story from the boy."

"Yes, I answered her," replied Ollie with a grave smile. "Only—I spoke in French; and she did not like it, sir."

Ralph actually laughed, for the first time for many years, so that the sound almost startled him.

They went to church together, and I cannot say that Ollie's behaviour there was edifying, though he was quiet enough; for he fell fast asleep, and lay with his head in Ruth's lap, looking like a beautiful picture. Mrs. Short would hardly have recognised her saucy tormentor in this lovely sleeping cherub. Ralph's heart grew softer with every glance; he could not fix his mind on the sermon at all; but I think the two children were the text to an unspoken sermon, preached to Ralph alone.

Ruth and Ollie went home after church, thanking him so heartily for their pleasant day, "and all the trouble you are going to take for us," Ruth added, that poor crusty old Ralph felt wonderfully happy.

Next day, after a good deal of thought, he wrote his letter to Mr. Mordan, and then left home, but not, as usual, to wander aimlessly about the country. He went up the hill, and betook himself to the curate's house. Somewhat to his surprise, he got away without being pounced upon by Mrs. Short; but in truth, that good lady felt a little shy of him, not knowing what he might say about Ollie's enforced visit the day before.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Cloudesley were at home, and Ralph was at once taken to their pretty little sitting-room. May sprang up gladly,—

"Have you come to see me at last, Mr. Trulock, to make up for your being always out when I go to see you?" she said; and as she spoke she found a comfortable chair for him.

"You are very kind, madam," he said, in his formal way, "and I am very glad to see you look so well. But I only ventured to call on a little matter of business—or not business exactly, but to ask Mr. Cloudesley something."

"What is it, Trulock?" said Mr. Cloudesley, pushing aside his writing-desk. "Anything that I can do for you?"

"Not for me, sir, but for a little boy—his name is Garland, and I want to know if he can go to the Greatrex school for a time. I know it is intended for the children of Fairford people only, and, as far as I can make out, this child does not belong to Fairford; but it is a pity that he should be running idle about the streets."

"Garland! I don't know the name," said Mr. Cloudesley.

"No, sir; it is not a Fairford name. These children—for the girl is no more than a child herself, Heaven help her!—came over from France with their father, who said he was coming to Fairford to see his father. The poor young man died at Southampton, and from the girl's story I should conclude that he had given up his situation, and undertaken the journey, having reason to believe that his life was near an end. He did not tell the child this,—it is only my own idea. With his last breath, he urged her to come on here to her grandfather, and she obeyed, of course; but no one of the name was ever known here."

"Have they been here long?"

"Since the early part of April, sir. They lodge at Mrs. Cricklade's; she keeps a baker's shop half-way down the hill."

"Ah! That accounts for my not hearing of them. Mrs. Cricklade contrives to keep out of my way, or to be wonderfully busy when I call."

"I met the girl in Price's shop, sir: she works for them, and what she earns is nearly all they have to depend on. I have undertaken to write to Bordeaux, and to advertise for the grandfather, but meantime it seems a pity that little Oliver should be running about the streets."

"Nor is Mrs. Cricklade's the best place for them," remarked May.

"No; but until we get an answer from Bordeaux, I thought they might as well stay there, as the old woman is very kind to them."

"Well, perhaps you are right," replied May, and was going on to say that she would call and see the children, when to her surprise her husband gave her a look which she knew meant "don't." And if this surprised her, how much more was she amazed to hear Gilbert making some difficulty about admitting the boy to the Greatrex school.

"I fear he hardly belongs to the class for which the school is intended," he remarked. "Most likely, when you have found the relatives, they will be indignant that he should have been sent to a school of this kind. Perhaps we may as well wait a bit, at least."

"Well, sir, I hardly like it for him. He is a fine little fellow, and very innocent. His sister cannot spare time to see after him."

"Still, considering that the grandfather may turn up any day, I hardly like to take the responsibility."

"I will take it upon myself, sir. I have been advising the girl, and I will advise her to send him."

"Oh, very well, then. There is a penny a week to pay, I suppose she can manage that? And threepence a week extra secures to the children a meal in the middle of the day—a good dinner, too, for it is partly provided by Lady Mabel's bequest. That's fourpence a week; you will tell the girl, and the child can begin to-morrow. I will see Mr. Manders about it in the evening."

"Fourpence a week," said Ralph with a sigh. "I will remember, sir."

Then he said good-bye, and departed.

"Gilbert, why did you stop me just now? And why did you not admit this poor child free? You can, can you not?"

"I can; but don't you see how interested old Trulock is in them? Is it not the very thing we could have wished for the poor old fellow—something to draw him out of his shell? And would you interfere with him? You'll find that this fourpence a week will be paid by Ralph himself, and that by degrees he'll give more care and thought to these children than if we took them up. Then he would feel that they were all right; but if we leave them to him, he won't neglect them. Why, he looked quite softened when he spoke of them."

"I should never have thought of all that!" cried May admiringly. "It is not for nothing that you come from the North, sir. You are a long-headed personage. Poor old Ralph! I do like him, Gilbert."

Ralph went to see Ruth, and found her hard at work, and Ollie sitting beside her, looking, with his soft bright eyes and restless movements, not unlike a newly-caught bird in a cage. Ruth explained his presence by telling her friend that some of the boys had had a fight, and had hurt one another, and Ollie had run home quite horrified. This smoothed the way for the mention of the school, at the idea of which, particularly when the "good dinner" was mentioned, Ruth's sweet brown eyes glistened with joy. Ollie was glad, too, for he liked learning, though he was nervous at the notion of going among strangers alone.

"But you must go alone, for I could not spare time to go with you, Ollie. And besides, I don't know them any more than you do," said Ruth.

"I will come for you and go with you the first day, Ollie," said Ralph, not without a feeling of surprise at himself.

"Mr. Trulock, I do think you are the kindest person in the world!" cried Ruth earnestly.

"You won't find many to agree with you there," replied Ralph drily.

"That fat woman called you Old Crusty," remarked Ollie.

"You should not have said that Ollie," Ruth said reprovingly. "She did not mean Mr. Trulock to hear it. Well, sir, I hope our grandfather may turn out to be just like you," she added, turning to Ralph.

Mr. and Mrs. Cloudesley were at breakfast the next morning, when past the window went Ralph Trulock, and by his side, holding by his hand, and chattering gaily, with dark eyes raised fearlessly to the stern old face, was the loveliest boy, May declared, that she had ever seen.

"See how well the spell works," said Gilbert.

"I knew Trulock had a kind heart," she replied, "if I could only get at it. He speaks of his wife so tenderly."

"These children are finding their way to it, I suspect," answered Mr. Cloudesley. "Now, May, let them quite alone. Trulock will be the better for being left to manage everything for himself."

"Oh, yes," said May; "but I suppose I may look at that boy when I go to the school for the singing!"

In a few days, Ralph received the following answer from Mr. Mordan:

   "DEAR SIR,—"

   "I know nothing more of the late Frederick Garland than the facts with which, from your letter, I suppose you to be already acquainted. Thirteen or fourteen years ago, he saved my son's life, the ship in which they had taken passages for Canada being wrecked off the coast of Ireland. My son did not go to Canada at all, and therefore saw nothing of Garland until I became the senior, and he the junior partner of our firm, and then he begged of me to find a situation for this young man, as he had ascertained that he had not got on well in America. Garland came to Bordeaux at once; but as he was no accountant, though evidently an educated man, I could give him nothing better than a place as what you call a storekeeper, which he filled for eight years, giving every satisfaction as to honesty and general good character. I know nothing more of him, and my son, who is at present absent, travelling in the East, does not, to the best of my belief, know anything that could assist you in your search for his relatives. The girl he married here was an orphan, and had no relatives living. Garland stated to me that he hoped to remain in England with his father; but he said no more than this. He left no debts here, nor is there anything due to him; but I always fancied he was saving money, as, though in receipt of a good salary, he lived in a very economical way. He must have had some drain upon his income of which I am ignorant."

"I remain,"
"Your obedient servant,"

And the advertisement in the Times was put in again and again, till it had cost quite a little fortune, and yet it never was answered. Ruth and Ollie seemed to be abandoned by all the world, except poor "crusty" Ralph Trulock, who at first grudged every sixpence they cost him. But Ruth had crept into his heart, and Ollie was such a bright, innocent, creature—the more he saw of them, the more he loved them. And they loved him, which was not wonderful, as every little pleasure they enjoyed that summer came from him. The Sunday dinner party became quite an institution: first came church, then dinner, then a long walk in the Forest.

Ruth worked hard all the week, but as Ollie got his dinner at school, and many a little present came from Ralph, she got on very well. Her black calico wore out, and she did not replace it, but wore a coloured dress; quietly remarking that "Father would not mind, because he knew she loved him as well as ever." Ralph said something about her father "not knowing," but Ruth, after a little distressed thought, smiled and answered,—

"Would not the angels tell him? You know they come and go still, though we cannot see them; and he would be sure to ask questions about Ollie and me. They will have told him that although we could not find our grandfather, God has given us a good friend."

The rector came home presently, and then Mr. Cloudesley had a holiday, and went away for awhile. Mr. Barton had a great deal to do, and was not a great visitor; and seeing Ralph in church every Sunday, he was quite satisfied about him.







SO passed the summer months, and autumn, too, glided by swiftly. Yet, in spite of all her hard work and all her care, Ruth had been obliged to spend part of the money she had hoped to keep for winter use. Ollie wanted shoes, and then she herself required a new pair; and though she put off getting them as long as she could, she had to get them at last. Mrs. Cricklade, too, who had at first refused to take rent from her, now, seeing that Ralph Trulock had "taken them up," as she put it, made her pay a shilling a week for her attic—though the old woman seemed half ashamed of herself, too, for taking it. She advised Ruth to tell Mr. Trulock, knowing that he could pay it. But Ruth never told him; she thought it would be like asking for further help; and from his way of living she believed him to be very poor, and therefore felt the more grateful to him for the help he already gave her, particularly that fourpence a week for Ollie. For of course Ollie soon discovered the truth about this payment, and at once told Ruth.

So the few pounds she had had in store had begun to melt away; and Ruth, to Ralph's dismay, began to look pale and thin. When really cold weather came, he found that the girl never lighted her tiny fire until Ollie was coming home from school; and though she was well and warmly dressed, she seemed to suffer terribly from the cold.

Poor Ralph! he already spent upon these children more than the portion of his savings which he had supposed would satisfy his conscience; and yet his conscience was not satisfied, and his very heart ached for Ruth. He thought of applying to the Cloudesleys for help for the children; but Mr. Cloudesley had made it very plain that he considered the little Garlands as being under Ralph's special care; besides, the Cloudesleys were not rich, and he was ashamed to go to them after what had passed between himself and May. The rector had been obliged to go abroad again for the winter; there was no one to help the children but Ralph himself.

Often, when Ruth tidied up his place on Sunday afternoon, while Ollie chattered away to him, he thought how pleasant it would be to bring them home to live with him. He had a right to have some one to keep house for him, and could easily get leave to keep, Ollie; for, as I have said, the rules at Lady Mabel's Rest were very few, and were framed for the express purpose of making the inmates comfortable. But if he did this, he must give up his idea of saving; and that meant that he must lie under an obligation to Arnott and the rest for ever. Nay, that he must feel grateful to them; for a feeling of fair dealing made him certain that if he accepted the kindness, it would be his duty to be grateful. Grateful! Thankful to Arnott and the rest for their charity! And all that he might support a couple of children who had no claim upon him. No; he could not and he would not, and that was the end of the matter. But the matter would not be ended! Ralph could get no peace of mind, and he sometimes almost hated sweet May Cloudesley for having said the words which had caused him all this worry.

It was an early winter, and snow fell in October, which is not common even in Fairford—though Fairford is a cold place. Ralph, stinting himself more than ever in his vain attempt to walk two ways at once, found himself one morning unable to rise from his bed. A sudden, severe attack of rheumatism, such as he had suffered from once before, had seized him, and there he lay, groaning and helpless. When the milk-boy clattered his can against the hall door, Ralph succeeded in making him hear his shouts; and desired him to tell the warden that he was ill, and could not stir. But the boy, a lazy, stupid fellow, contented himself with telling Mrs. Short, to whose house he went next. And Mrs. Short, delighted at the opportunity of prying into Ralph's affairs, not only did not tell any one else, but having eaten an excellent breakfast, went to pay a visit to her sick neighbour.

Ralph's door was open, thanks to the milk-boy, and the keen frosty wind rushing into the house made it very cold indeed. Mrs. Short shivered, and almost thought she would turn back and send word to the warden; but curiosity—no, no, not curiosity, for she murmured to herself, "I'm that good-natured, I must see the poor feller—" prevailed, and shutting the door, she went upstairs. Ralph had heard the sounds of her approach, and was very glad to have his door shut, for the cold was excessive. But when at the door of his bare little room appeared the squat form and round face of his inquisitive neighbour, the old man positively groaned. For her part, Mrs. Short no sooner saw how ill he looked, than she squeaked dismally, and exclaimed:

"For my sake, Mr. Trulock, don't tell me you've got anything infectagious! Seeing your door wide open, and no signs of you about, I made bold to come and see if you was poorly; for as my poor Matthew, that's dead and buried, poor man, used to say, I'm that good-natured that I always want to know what's the matter with my neighbours, and what I can do for 'em. But there, good-nater is one thing, and infectagious diseases is another, and is my dread all my days. Can't you even speak? Oh la! I doubt he's dying. Oh, Mr. Trulock, are you actially a-past speaking?"

"No!" thundered Ralph. "If you will give me time, Mrs. Short, I will speak, never you fear."

"And is it infectagious?" inquired Mrs. Short, earnestly. "Infectagious" was the word she used; and without ever having followed "Alice" through the looking-glass, she had made this portmanteau word for herself, by mingling together infectious and contagious.

Had Ralph been wary, he would have abstained from replying, and her fears might have got the better of her "good-nater;" but he was in such pain, and was besides so annoyed at her presence, that he incautiously replied:

"No! I never heard that rheumatism was catching, ma'am."

"Rheumatism! Now what a mercy, neighbour that it is no worse; and that it was Martha Short, and no other woman, that came to you! For my poor Matthew was that martyr to rheumatism, that I've heard him say more than once, that between his bones and my clack, he wished he was dead; which dead he is now, poor dear man, and so I hope he's satisfied. As to his saying that about my clack, it was only because he was ill, you know; for when in 'ealth, my Matthew loved to hear me speak, and I often wished for his sake that I was more inclined that way than I ever was. For I'm a silent woman, and that's the truth," she concluded, with a sound between a titter and a sigh, expressive of modesty and merit combined. "And you've had no breakfast, I'll be bound," she added.

"I don't want any," growled Ralph. "If you'll kindly let the warden know that I am ill, and should be glad to see the doctor, that's all I shall trouble you to do for me."

"Trouble! Did any one ever know Martha Short to name trouble when a neighbour wanted her in his house? And what could Mr. Hingston do for you; or the doctor either, honest man? Doctors ain't no use for rheumatism, not a bit. Warmth and a good nuss—and you shall see what a nuss my Matthew lost in me when he died!"

Ill as he was, Ralph was tickled by this very extraordinary notion, and gave utterance to a short, cross-sounding laugh. Mrs. Short beamed upon him.

"Why, there now! that's right, you're in better sperrits a'ready. Now I'll go down and bring up some coal, and I'll light you a fire; and then I'll boil a kettle and make you a stiff glass of punch, and you'll get a good heat and be all right again before, night."

Ralph looked serious enough now.

"Mrs. Short," said he, "I will not have a fire, thank you; and there are no spirits in the house."

Mrs. Short had a store of spirits in her own house, and yet, strange to say, her good-nature did not prompt her to offer him any.

"A cup of tea, then," said she, "that's next best;" and she bustled downstairs before he could speak. What Ralph endured, lying there helpless, and listening to that woman fussing about downstairs, ransacking cupboards and tumbling out the contents of drawers—no one will ever know. She brought up coal, in spite of him, and lighted a blazing fire. Then she made some tea, and insisted upon his drinking it too; nay, when she found that he could not hold the cup to his lips, she actually fed him with it. It got very cold in the process, and was besides so strong that it made him feverish. Then she piled more coal on the fire, and went home to see after her dinner. She had never been silent all this time for five seconds together, so her departure was a great relief.

It was on the third day of Ralph's illness that Ruth Garland, getting alarmed about him, because it was so long since he had been to see her, actually laid aside her work, put on her warm jacket, and ran down the hill to Lady Mabel's Rest, to see after her kind friend. She met Mr. Hingston, the warden, in the gate. Hingston knew her, having often seen her with Ralph, and stopped to speak to her.

"Well, Miss Garland, I suppose you have come to inquire for Mr. Trulock. He'll be all right again soon—Mrs. Short told me so last night."

"Oh, sir, has he been ill, then?"

"He has been very poorly, but Mrs. Short has been taking good care of him, and he refused to see me or have the doctor."

"I wish I had known," said Ruth.

"Well, knowing how fond the old man is of you and your little brother, I wanted to let you know, but he sent me word not to do so, as he would rather not have you coming to him. He said he wanted no one but Mrs. Short."

Ruth looked at him with a startled air.

"No one but Mrs. Short! Oh, Mr. Hingston, did you hear him say that?"

"No; I tell you, he won't see me. He is a very old fellow, you know."

Ruth was young, and out-spoken, as young people are apt to be.

"I don't believe he did say it," said she, "and I will see him;" and she marched on towards his house.

Mrs. Short, who was on the watch, darted out upon her. Now I must explain that Mrs. Short, for reasons which will soon become evident, was rather weary of her self-imposed task, and therefore not sorry to see Ruth, though for appearance sake she pounced upon her, screaming—

"Stop, Ruth Golong!" For thus, and in no other fashion, did she pronounce the name, declaring that she had it from Olivia before he learned to say it in English. "You can't go to see Mr. Trulock; he's ill in bed."

"I must see him, ma'am," said Ruth, firmly.

"Well, if he's angry, don't blame me, that's all. You'll find he has a fancy in his head about you; I don't know where he got it from. I never mentioned your name but once, to ask should I send for you; but you mustn't mind that, sick folk has fancies. My Matthew, that's dead, was full of 'em. Well, go if you will go. He's the miserablest old; there's not a peck of coal nor a grain of tea nor anything whatever left in the house, and he won't give me a penny to get things for him."

Ruth went on without replying; she opened the door and went in, turning the key in the lock to keep Mrs. Short out. Her light step on the stairs was heard by the poor old man, and it was with a look of hopeful expectation that his stern old face was turned towards the door.

"What, Ruth!" he said: "you have come at last."

"Mr. Trulock! Oh, I would have been here before—I did not know that you were ill. I am sure that woman told you that she had sent for me; didn't she now?"

"She did; and that you would not come because you were very busy and knew nothing of nursing; but I did not believe her, Ruth."

"Nor did I believe that you refused to see me, and the warden and the doctor, but wished to have Mrs. Short and no one else! Oh, Mr. Trulock, she's a dreadful woman."

"How did you get leave to come in, Ruth? I heard her voice outside."

"I did not ask leave. She said there was nothing left in the house; and that you would not give her money to buy things for you. I suppose you have no money just now; but never mind, I have some, you know."

"I succeeded then!" cried Ralph in triumph. "When I found that she would come, and would not let any one else come, I made up my mind to starve her out, and I have!"

"But you look as if you have starved yourself, too," answered Ruth, looking anxiously at him.

"Now you will let me manage for you, won't you? Please do. I will go out and get some things; and may I bring Ollie here when he comes home from school, that he may not be lonely?"

"Certainly; and, Ruth, give me that box, and I will give you money to buy what we want."

Ruth opened the box with a key which he gave her, and in it she saw a sovereign and a few shillings. "Is this all you have?" she asked.

"All I have in the house," he answered, and did not perceive that she understood him to mean that he had no more until his next payment came in. He gave it all to her and said,—

"Make it go as far as you can, my child."

Ruth ran home (Mrs. Short kept out of sight), and left a message for Ollie; then, with her needlework in a basket, she went out again and made several purchases for Ralph. Followed by a man with a cart, in which a bag of coal and her little parcels made a rather poor show, she returned to the Rest. She stopped at the gate to tell the warden that there had been some mistake, and that she hoped the doctor would come to see Mr. Trulock; and then she set to work in earnest. But how different were her neat-handed, quiet proceedings, to Mrs. Short's incessant fuss and chatter! Ralph fell asleep and dreamed that his Annie had come back to him.







RALPH TRULOCK'S illness proved a very tedious one, but he never was in any actual danger, and he was right well cared for after little Ruth came to him. Every morning, as soon as Ollie had left home for school, Ruth took her work and ran down the hill to the Rest, and Ollie there after school hours. They went back to Cricklade's every night, leaving Ralph made thoroughly comfortable, with a tiny fire to keep him company until he fell asleep. Since Annie died Ralph had never been so happy, and he dreamed every night either that she was still alive or that Ruth was Annie grown young again; and every day he became more convinced that Ruth really was like Annie, which he thought very curious, as he did not think there could be any relationship to account for it.

Once or twice, while he was still very ill, Ralph asked the child if his money were not all gone; but until the day came round when the pensions of the inmates of the Rest were paid, Ruth always said that she had enough. If he had not been ill, and rather dull and sleepy, he would have known that no money ever yet held out as this did, but he was too stupid just then to reason. When the pensioners were paid, the warden brought Ralph's to the house and paid him a visit, giving the money into his own hand, as he was bound to do. And thus Ruth knew nothing of the amount he received; but she took money from him next day for his own use.

At last, he was really better, quite well, the doctor said, and only needing to get up his strength again. The doctor desired him to take a glass of "good sound wine" every day, for that he really required it. Ruth was present when this was said, and the next day when she was going out to the shops, she said,—

"What wine shall I ask for, Mr. Trulock?"

"None, child; none. I can't afford it," said Ralph, his face getting back something of the old uneasy expression which had of late been passing away.

"Oh, Mr. Trulock! Could you not get even one bottle? Now it is because you have helped us that you cannot afford it, and that makes me so unhappy."

"No, Ruth; not for that reason, my dear. I—I have a claim upon my income,—I am not free to spend it as I choose."

"Why, that's what father used to say!" cried Ruth wonderingly. "But, Mr. Trulock, let me go to the doctor, or to Mr. Cloudesley; either of them would help you."

"I cannot, Ruthie. I could not take charity, I am a proud man—I fear too proud. Even now I would rather die than accept charity."

Ruth considered for a moment in her grave, childlike wisdom; and then with her usual directness, she said,—

"I think we ought to take help, though, when we really want it. You know the rich are told to help the poor, and so I suppose the poor ought to take the help when they are willing to give it."

"There are plenty to take it," said Ralph.

"I took your help," she answered simply; "but I know you didn't mean it in that way. You mean that idle, extravagant poor people will get money, and not work for themselves; but then it seems a pity that the good poor people should not get some of it; don't you think so? Particularly when they want it as badly as you do."

"I cannot do it, dear. I cannot explain why, but ought not to want help; and I will not take it."

Ruth said no more, but tied on her hat and trotted off with her basket on her arm. Once out of the house, she paused thoughtfully.

"I don't know what wine to get," she murmured, "nor what the price ought to be, nor even where to get it. I must ask some one. Not Mrs. Short—and Mrs. Cloudesley would offer to send him some. But I can go to Miss Jones; she won't scold me, I hope, as she scolds poor Maria Freak."

Maria Freak was Miss Jones's last new girl, and a few days ago she had complained sorely to Ruth of her mistress's continual fault-finding. While waiting at the door, Ruth heard voices, and could distinguish Miss Jones's own monotonous thin tones, going on, and on, and on, in a very exasperating style.

"If you allow yourself to acquire such slovenly ways, Maria—or to continue them, I should say, for you don't need to acquire them, having them by nature—you'll never make a parlour-maid, so don't think it. You'd better turn your mind to being a kitchen or scullery-maid, and to stay so all your life, and—"

"There's a knock at the door, miss," said Maria.

"Why don't you go to it, then? Don't I tell you often never to keep any one waiting?"

"How could I go, and you jawing of me?" inquired Maria sulkily.

"Say ma'am, not miss, Maria,—and speaking, not jawing. You're the most hopeless girl I ever trained yet. Go to the door, child."

"Is that you, Ruth Garland?" cried Maria. "And did you hear her? Did you ever hear the like?"

"Does she always go on so?" said Ruth.

Maria grinned. "Oh no—only when I do something she don't like. I used to think I must run away home; but, bless you, she's real kind except with her tongue. Was it to see me you came?"

"No; but because I want Miss Jones to help me. I want to know something."

"She's your woman then, for she knows everything, and she'd go round the gravel road of the Rest barefoot to help you, and scold all the time, so that you'd think she hated you," replied Maria.

"Miss Jones," she called aloud, "Ruth Garland wants to speak to you."

Miss Jones came up the passage, looking particularly grim. Ruth explained her errand; Miss Jones replied by putting on her bonnet and going with her—leaving Maria, as she sadly remarked, to spoil a nice dinner in the cooking.

"But you see, Ruth, the best wine in Fairford is to be had at Hawes's, of the Blue Bear; and that is no place for a girl like you to go to alone."

The wine was purchased—three bottles. Miss Jones made a good bargain with Hawes, and then lectured Ruth well for wearing her hat thrown back too much, which, Miss Jones averred, gave her a bold-faced look. She advised her to cut her curls shorter, or to brush her hair straight and pin it up tight to her head; and then she bought half a pound of sweets for Ollie, because Ruth, passing the shop, said she wished she had a penny to spare, for Ollie was so fond of sweet things. Then they went home—or rather, Miss Jones went home, and Ruth returned to Mr. Trulock.

Presently she appeared at his side with a glass of wine and a biscuit on a little tray.

"Please, Mr. Trulock, wouldn't this be the best time to take your wine? I bought three bottles, and that will last a long time. I used some of the money I had been keeping up; and you know, sir, you have spent more than that on us, and it would not be right that you should want this wine while we have money lying by. So you must not be angry, please."

Ralph's face was worth looking at. Angry he was not; but he was both touched and troubled.

"Ruthie," he said, "you should not have done this."

"Oh, indeed, indeed I ought! What do I not owe to you, sir? If you only knew how lonely and frightened I felt before I had you; and then you are so poor, and yet you helped us!"

"Well, give me the wine, Ruthie; as to the money, I will settle that with you when I am well again."

Ralph got better quickly now; but a fresh misfortune occurred before he was quite well again. Ollie came from school one day, heavy and sick (not to say cross); Ruth took him home to put him to bed, and ran down to the Rest in the morning to say that "Ollie was out in measles."

"So I cannot come any more to you just now, sir; but what a comfort it is that you are so nearly well! May I ask Miss Jones to come in and see you? she would do your shopping for you."

"No, thank you, dear, I am quite able to get out now, and I shall soon be creeping up the hill to see after you and Ollie. Has the doctor seen him yet?"

"No; nor am I going to send for him. I had them myself last year, and father never had a doctor to see me, because he said I was not bad, and neither is Ollie. I must keep him warm and take good care of him."

She lingered for a minute. All her little store was gone, and attending on Ralph had left her but little time for needlework. But she could not bring herself to speak. He was old, and poor, and suffering, and how could she ask him for money? It would have been like asking for the price of the wine back again. So she went home, and, by Mrs. Cricklade's advice, she took some of her father's clothes to a pawn-shop, and asked the man there what he would give her for them. The pawnbroker was very civil, and explained the system to her very clearly; but poor innocent Ruth telling him her reason for wanting money, he made a great favour of giving her a mere trifle for the good clothes, because he said he must keep them separate, coming as they did from an infected house. So with five shillings for her poor father's best suit, Ruth went home, spending the greater part of it on the way; for she must have coal to keep Ollie warm.

Ralph had hoped to see the children the next day, but it snowed, and he was afraid to go so far. Then followed a sharp frost, and he was laid up again for some days; so altogether some time had passed before he succeeded in creeping up the hill as far as Mrs. Cricklade's shop. He went early, and to his horror found the shop closed, and the neighbours told him that they had not seen Mrs. Cricklade that morning.

"She was a sad drinker," the woman next door told him, "and lately she has seldom been quite sober, and her bread is so bad that she has lost all her custom; and often has she said to me that she'd run off in the night before quarter-day came round again, for that she had nothing laid by to pay her rent. And I asked her where she'd go, and she said she didn't know, and didn't care. So yesterday the shop didn't open—that was nothing new, for often it was closed for the best part of the day lately—but I am surprised that she hasn't opened it yet; at least I should be, only I am sure she has run off."

"And the children!" cried Ralph, turning pale. "Ruth and Ollie—where are they?"

"Oh, she said they had a friend somewhere in Fairford that would take them in, and you may be sure that she sent them off yesterday. Only the boy was sick in bed, to be sure."

"I am their only friend here, and they did not come to me. Are you sure Mrs. Cricklade is gone?"

"Indeed, sir, I am not sure of anything about her. She and I were friends once, but of late 'twas borrow, borrow, with her, and I was obliged to keep her at a distance. And then they had the measles, you know; that is, Ollie had, and I didn't want my children to get them. I have not seen Ruth, oh, I don't know when."

Ralph turned away in despair, and to his great delight he saw Mr. and Mrs. Cloudesley coming down the street. May spied him instantly.

"Why, Mr. Trulock, I'm glad to see you so far from home, for I suppose you are quite well again," she began blithely; but perceiving his troubled looks, she said quickly, in quite a different tone:

"What is the matter; see, Gilbert."

"I hope there is nothing really wrong, madam," said poor Ralph, trying to smile. "But I am startled. Ruth has not been with me for a long time (the boy was ill, you know), and this good woman tells me that the shop here was closed all yesterday, and that she thinks Mrs. Cricklade has run away; and—where can the children be?"

Mr. Cloudesley asked several questions, and made himself master of the state of affairs, as far as any one knew them. Then he said:

"You had better go home, May, and we'll have our walk later. You've never had measles, and I don't want you to catch them. And we may have to get into this house."

May turned and went home at once, like the sensible little woman she was, causing no delay by objecting.

"Who is the owner of the house?" Mr. Cloudesley asked the friendly neighbour.

"I don't know, sir; but Mr. Gambit, he collects the rents."

"Gambit, who lives in Rest View Cottage? Then we had better go there at once, Trulock. He may know all about it."

To Mr. Gambit they accordingly went, but he did not know all about it, nor, in fact, did he know anything. But he had plenty to say, for all that.

"A drunken creature she was becoming, sir, and getting worse every time I saw her. I daresay the people are right, and that she has run off. Very likely she has murdered the poor children in her drunken fit, and then just cut her stick."

Mr. Gambit was one of those people who like to anticipate the worst, in order that no one may imagine them taken by surprise; but poor Ralph, not being aware of this peculiarity, was horribly frightened.

Mr. Gambit came with them now, but before they reached the house a messenger came after him, and he was obliged to run home again, some one having called on business. Ralph and Mr. Cloudesley returned to Hill Street, where they found a small crowd collected to stare at the shutters of the little shop.

"We must get in," said Mr. Cloudesley.

"Must you, sir?" said a man among the crowd; "rather you nor me, sir. Once afore she didn't open, and we took fright and busted in, and how she did jaw us, to be sure!"

"That must be borne," said Mr. Cloudesley. "We must see about the children; but we had better knock first."

And knock they did, both loud and long, but no sound was heard in the shut-up house. The party was now reinforced by a policeman, who promptly climbed the next door neighbour's wall, dropped into the yard, and presently opened the shop door.

"Come in, reverend sir, and you, Mr. Trulock," said he; and when they had squeezed through the half-opened door, he shut it fast, to the infinite disgust of the crowd.

"I have seen nobody, sir; there does not seem to be any one in the house. I called up the stairs and got no answer. I hardly expect to find the children here."

"My children!" cried Ralph, and rushed up the little creaking stairs with all the speed of fear; his rheumatism actually frightened away for the time. The others followed him as he went swiftly up to the attics. But he reached the children's room first.

"Ruth!" he gasped, "Ruthie! Answer me, child, for Heaven's sake."

"Oh!" cried a small voice, "is that you, Mr. Trulock? Oh, thank God! I have been praying so hard that it might be you ever since I heard the knocking. Ruthie is here lying over me, and I can't get her to move. Oh, do come and see what's the matter with Ruthie."

On the bed, his pretty face wild with fear, lay Ollie, and over him, face downward, lay Ruth; and when Ralph lifted her, he thought for one dreadful moment that she was dead. But Mr. Cloudesley saw that she breathed, though faintly, and taking her from the old man, he carried her to the window, which he opened wide.

"Water," said he. There was none in the room, but the policeman tramped downstairs to get some. Ruth opened her eyes and saw Ralph Trulock.

"Was it all a dream? Can dreams be so dreadful?" she said in a whisper. "Oh, Mr. Trulock, have I been asleep and dreamed it all?"

She sat up and looked round.

"No," she said, "I'm afraid it's true. Oh, poor thing, poor thing; it is too dreadful!" And with a cry of horror she fainted again.

"What is it, Ollie?" asked Mr. Cloudesley, while he bathed the girl's face and rubbed her hands—such poor little, thin, cold hands!

"I don't know, sir," Ollie said, dismally. "Ruth said she must go down again, even if Mrs. Cricklade beat her, for we had nothing in the room, not even water. And so she went, but in a moment she came running back, and fell down on the bed, and never said a word until you came."

"Was it long before we came?" said Ralph.

"Hours and hours!" said poor Ollie. It had not really been very long, but it had truly seemed so to the terrified and helpless child. "I couldn't move, because Ruth fell upon me; and oh, but I am hungry and thirsty, and frightened too. Ruth was so dead, you know."

Ruth was again recovering consciousness.

"Sit down on the bed, Trulock, and hold her in your arms—do. Let her see only you and Ollie. Peters wants me to go with him, and he will find out what frightened her. Here, Ollie, drink this water, and I will bring you something better as soon as I can."

Peters, who had been standing at the door, beckoning incessantly for Mr. Cloudesley to follow him, now led the way to the next floor. There, on the narrow landing-stage, he stopped short.

"I don't wonder the child was scared well-nigh to death, sir," said he. "I don't know yet whether it's 'visitation of Providence,' or 'feller-deasy,' but whatever it is the old woman is lying dead in her bed!"

"Dead!" exclaimed Mr. Cloudesley. "The poor old creature! But are you sure she is dead? Let us go and see, for we ought to send for the doctor if not."

"It's the coroner she wants, poor soul, not the doctor," remarked Peters, as he followed him into the room.

A moment's inspection satisfied Mr. Cloudesley that the poor old woman was indeed dead, and had been dead for some hours. On a little table near the bed lay a candlestick with a burned-out candle in it, a quart bottle of whisky, nearly empty, and a breakfast-cup.

"Do you think it's 'feller-deasy,' sir?" inquired Peters.

"Not intentional, but a case of murder, Peters, and there stands the murderer," pointing to the bottle.

"True for you, reverend sir; and not the first murder he's committed—not by many. Pity as he can't be hanged for it! But you see, sir, she is surely dead; and I must lock the door now, and keep things as they are for the coroner. If you'd take my advice, sir, you'd remove the children; the girl will have to appear at the inquest, but she'd be best out of the house now."

"You're quite right there, Peters, if she is fit to be moved, but such a shock may have made her really ill. I can be of no use here, so I shall leave you to do your duty, and see to the children. I must run first to the Blue Bear, and beg for a little soup for the boy."

"Don't you let any one in, sir, and send some one to the station for the sergeant, and I will keep the people out until you get the children off. Any of the boys out there will run to the station for you."

Any of the boys! No, but all the boys; for when Mr. Cloudesley made it plain that he really did not mean to admit any of them to the mysterious house, the next best thing, in the estimation of the youth of Fairford, was to run to the police station in a long, straggling, vociferating procession. Every boy there had his own private theory as to what had happened, and every boy roared out that theory at the policemen as loud as he could yell. And consequently the whole available police force of Fairford (consisting of two men, and the wife and baby of the absent Peters) rushed up the hill to the scene of action, under the impression that Mrs. Cricklade had poisoned Ruth and Oliver Garland, stuck a knife into old Mr. Trulock and Peters the policeman, and driven Mr. Cloudesley from the house in terror of his life!

Meantime Mr. Cloudesley had procured a fine bowl of good soup from good-natured Mrs. Hawes, and had returned to the children's attic. He found Ruth much recovered, though still faint and weak. A few spoonfuls of soup they persuaded her to swallow, but she shivered and seemed hardly able to do so. What did her far more good was to watch Ollie—who was quite "over" the measles, and very hungry—absorbing the good soup with much satisfaction.

"I like a soup," said the little Frenchman.

"Come here, Trulock; I want a word with you. Ruth will sit there and watch her big baby. Trulock, the poor child has had a terrible shock. Mrs. Cricklade is dead, must have died some hours ago, and Ruth must have gone to her room, and found her lying there. Peters says that Ruth will be better out of the house until the inquest, for everybody would be questioning her. What shall we do with the children?"

"I will take them home, sir. Ollie has been telling me that they have been in sore want. I didn't know it, you may be sure, but I am to blame all the same. The poor child, sir, she has had no work, for of course they couldn't employ her while the boy had measles; and I thought she had money laid by, but it seems it had been spent by degrees. Any way, I'll take them home for the present."

"Very good. Then I will go to the Cottage Hospital, and ask Mrs. Francis if we can have their old cab; and if so, I will bring it to the door at once. Ollie ought to be well wrapped up. Have him ready, for we shall not be able to keep the neighbours out much longer. And don't ask Ruth any questions as yet; let her tell you of herself. Don't let Mrs. Short get at her, Trulock," added Mr. Cloudesley with a smile.

"No fear of that, sir," replied Trulock grimly.

Mr. Cloudesley found that the aged cab which was maintained at the little hospital in High Fairford was fortunately at home, and so without loss of time the two Garlands were carried off to Lady Mabel's Rest. The crowd seemed rather disappointed when the children appeared at the door, apparently uninjured; but the truth was now be coming generally known, and there was great excitement in the town. One woman was heard by Mr. Cloudesley to say with great solemnity,—

"And I bought a loaf from her only a week ago—think of that now, and there she lies dead now!"

Mr. Cloudesley failed to see how the purchase of that particular loaf affected the matter one way or the other, but he was very glad that he had not allowed his pretty May to enter the house.







BY the time the cab reached Lady Mabel's Rest, Ruth Garland had quite regained both her senses and her self-command. She was even ready to lift Ollie out of the cab, but this Mr. Cloudesley would not allow her to do.

"Why, Ruth," he said, "the boy is nearly as big as yourself; but you're an ambitious little party, and think you can do everything. I'll whisk him into the house before he can say Jack Robinson."

"But why should I say Jack Robinson?" inquired Ollie, laughing.

"Little boy," said Mr. Cloudesley, setting him gently on his feet in the hall, "your education has been dreadfully neglected! You are seven years old, and you never heard of Jack Robinson!"

"No, sir; is he in English history, or in Roman? No, he can't be in Roman history; I suppose I have not come to him yet."

"Let me know what you think of him when you do," said Mr. Cloudesley. "Now I must take the old cab back to the hospital; so good-bye, all of you. Mr. Trulock, don't let Ruth sit up late to-night. Indeed, I am not sure that I would not send her to bed, as well as Master Curlypate here."

Ollie was soon disposed of, Ruth contriving a comfortable bed for him by the help of sundry pillows and a big chair cushion. Then the question arose, where was a bed for poor Ruth herself?

However, Ralph bethought himself of kind Miss Jones, and never remembered, in his anxiety to make Ruth comfortable, that he was actually asking a favour of his neighbour! Miss Jones was delighted to be appealed to, and lent everything that was wanted. She begged Ralph to allow her to provide a nice meal for the two children that afternoon, that he might have nothing to do but to take care of Ruth. Ollie was soon fast asleep, and then it was that Ruth told her story. Ralph was rather unwilling to let her speak of it at all, but she declared she should feel better when she had told him.

"Poor Mrs. Cricklade!" she said; "you don't know what a kind-hearted woman she was. When we first came to Fairford, she took so much trouble about us, and let us live there rent-free. But when she found that you were helping us, she began to drink again; she had never quite left it off, but she only drank on Sunday, or quite late at night for some time; now she began to drink much more. She made me pay rent, and yet more than once she gave me back the shilling, and said, 'It's not me, Ruthie, it's the devil that has possession of me that makes me take your hard-earned shilling.' That was after she found out that you didn't pay the rent for me."

"But I never knew that you paid rent, Ruth."

"No," she said, colouring. "You did too much for us already. But though she gave me back the shilling, she generally came for it again at night, and was so noisy and angry that she frightened me very much. Then Ollie got ill, you know; and I pawned poor father's clothes to keep us until I could get work again."

"But, Ruth, you had money laid by, dear," interrupted Ralph anxiously.

Ruth grew crimson, and tried to answer carelessly. "Very little of it was left: the rent came out of it, and—other things."

"That wine for me," groaned Ralph, "and I never paid you. Oh, Ruth, you ought to have told me."

"How could I, sir? you had been ill, you are nearly as poor as I am, and you had given us so much help. I knew you had not the money, and that you would pay me when you had it."

"I had plenty, dear child. Oh, I have been a fool! Never mind, Ruth, finish your story now, and I can explain some other time."

"Well, you know the man could only give me a very little for father's clothes, because of the risk of infection. I got five shillings the first day; then I got three for other things. But after that, Ollie was so poorly that I did not like to leave him, and I asked Mrs. Cricklade to go for me; and, poor thing, she never would have done this if she had been quite herself, but she came home quite tipsy, and told me she had lost all the money except one shilling. And I had no coal left! I was so vexed that I said, Oh, Mrs. Cricklade, you will not keep it from me! Do give me my money, please.' But she was terribly angry, and she struck me and drove me upstairs before her. I had to bolt our door to keep her out; and she stood on the landing-place for ever so long, calling to me that I had accused her of stealing. And after all, perhaps I was mistaken, and she had really lost it. That was yesterday."

"Yes, and you had no fire, and it was a bitter night."

"I had no fire and no food, for I was afraid to go down again. But Ollie was beginning to get well, you know; and this morning he said he was hungry. I knew he ought to get food, so I ventured down. I had no water left besides, and I thought she would be in bed, because it was very early, quite dark still. I found the place all shut-up, and though I looked about I could see no food of any kind (I knew she would not mind if I borrowed from her for Ollie); so I went up again and coaxed Ollie to wait until it was light. I thought that if I found the poor thing was not yet quite recovered, I should not be so much afraid if it were light and people were moving about, because I could call from the window."

"I think we both fell asleep, and when we awoke it was quite light, and I ventured down again. I went to her door and knocked again and again, but there was no answer. Then I went in, and she was asleep, I thought. I spoke to her, shouted to her, but she never stirred; so I was frightened, and was going away, when it struck me that she was very, very still. I went back and took her hand. Oh, Mr. Trulock, it was so cold! I ran upstairs to Ollie then; I was so frightened I did not know what I was doing. And the next thing I knew was that you were giving me water. How did you come there?"

"I should have come to see you before, my dear, only I had another sharpish turn,—not so bad as the first, but I was afraid to be out, and I little knew how things were with you. When I did get so far, I found the place all shut-up. We had to get help to open it; and it was well that I was able to go that morning, for—there's a knock. No, dear, don't you stir. It is Miss Jones, I'm sure, and I'll let her in."

Ralph was so sure that the person who knocked was Miss Jones, that he opened his door wide, standing aside to let her pass in with the expected tray; and the visitor did pass in, but there was no tray, and, to his horror, it was Mrs. Short! Taking advantage of his mistake, she waddled up the little hall as fast as her rapidly increasing size would permit, and was actually in the little parlour before Ralph had recovered his senses. He rushed after her, and found her embracing Ruth with every appearance of affection.

"You poor, unfortunate, ill-used child!" she panted out. "To think that to-day, of all the days in the year, I should have gone to Derby to buy a warm shawl; for as to choice of colours, there's no such thing at Price's, but dum-ducketty-mud colour and greys, that looks like poorhouse folk. My 'art bleeds for you, Ruth Golong. I'm that good-natured, I never could bear malice. I know you behaved rude-like when you turned me out, as one may say, when Mr. Trulock was so bad. But truly he was over the worst of it by that time, and so it did him no harm getting a unexperienced nuss instead of me. But there, I forgive and forget, Ruth, my dear. I'm full of sympathy with you. And now tell me all about it. I'm told the wicked old creetur beat you and half killed Ollie, and then killed herself a-purpose; is that true, child? Is it true, Ruth Golong? Can't you speak, child?"

"Ruth," said Ralph, "I think this noise may waken Ollie; you'd better go and have a look at him."

"Mrs. Short," continued Ralph, "there will be an inquest to-morrow, and Ruth will be the principal witness. So she must not be talked to about the matter now. And Ollie has the measles, ma'am; did you ever have them?"

"Oh yes, when I was a little gel."

"I've known several people have them a second time," remarked Ralph thoughtfully; "and they go hard with people of a full habit, and not so young as they have been."

Mrs. Short grew red with fear and anger mixed. "Good evening," said she, "and I only hope you won't take 'em yourself, Mr. Trulock; for full habit or no full habit, you're little or no better than a walking skelington, and can't have it in you to throw out a rash handsome."

With this cutting remark she tossed her head and left the house, Ralph laughing to himself as she disappeared. Before he could call Ruth down again, Miss Jones and her tray made their appearance, and Ruth was kissed and fed and put to bed, with the utmost tenderness, to a running accompaniment of scolding that was wonderful to listen to.

The inquest took place next day. Ralph took Ruth to the house, and Miss Jones sat with Ollie during their absence. Ruth's evidence was given with such modest self-possession, and was so clear and plain, that it did not matter that no one else could give any evidence at all, except to the fact that the woman was dead. The verdict was "Died of alcoholic poisoning;" and then the inquest was over, and nothing remained but for the parish authorities to bury the poor remains of one who had once been a kind-hearted, honest, hard-working woman. Ruth had spoken so gratefully of her kindness, that the memory of a time when Mrs. Cricklade was a pleasant neighbour was revived among the listeners, and one woman said, as they all watched the funeral going up the hill next morning,—

"Poor soul! She was a good creetur, for sure,—a kind body; no fault but the drink."

"Ah, Mrs. Jeffars," said Miss Jones, who had been collecting Ruth's few possessions, and was now at the door, "there's the misfortune. That one fault swallows up all the good qualities one may happen to have. She was a kind woman, as you say, and yet she took rent from that poor child, and struck and abused her more than once. And she was an honest woman too, and yet you see she took the child's money that she was trusted with, to get drink. Whatever a person may have been, never reckon on them, once they take to drinking; for the one thing that's certain about a drunkard is, that he'll do anything to get the means of drinking."

Miss Jones walked off down the hill, followed by a man carrying Ruth's big trunk.

Mrs. Jeffars looked thoughtfully after her.

"She couldn't have known that I take it sometimes," she thought; "but I'll never touch it again. I might go on and on, by degrees, until I ended like that, and disgraced my Paul that's at sea. I'll go this very evening, God helping me, and take the pledge—and I'll take the bottle, and leave it with Mrs. Francis for the use of the hospital."

And she kept her word, and kept the pledge too; so Miss Jones had said a word in season for once, at all events.

Ruth was far from well for some days, and Ralph felt very miserable. The girl had been so badly fed, and so thoroughly chilled, that the shock found her weak and nervous, and therefore had more effect upon her than it would have had some weeks before. She could not sleep, and every noise made her start violently, and turn quite sick and faint. The doctor said, however, that there was nothing seriously wrong, and that with care and quiet she would soon be quite herself again. And after about a fortnight she was much better; and as to Ollie, he was as well as ever again.

"Mr. Trulock," said Ruth, "don't you think I may go to Price's for work again now? Ollie is quite well, and I think he may begin to go to school. And—I wonder where I could find a lodging?" she asked slowly.

"Ollie had better not go back to school until after the Christmas holidays, I think," said Ralph; "and as to the other matters, I will talk to you to-morrow, Ruth."

And taking his hat, Ralph opened the hall door and was passing out, when Ruth ran after him.

"Won't you put on your great-coat, sir, and your comforter? You don't take a bit of care of yourself, Mr. Trulock!"

"I have a good caretaker in you," said he, coming back to her.

Ruth helped him to put on the coat, mounting on a chair for that purpose, and wrapped the comforter round his neck, tucking in the ends snugly.

"Now you may go," said she; "but don't stay out very late, please."

"Bless the child's sweet face!" muttered Ralph. "She certainly grows more like my Annie every day, or else I fancy it as I grow fonder of her. Well, the time has come for me to decide. I can't let things drift any longer, for she won't, the little creature. I must do either one thing or the other, and I'll make up my mind before I eat another meal. I'll go into the Forest—it will be quiet there—and think."

He walked along the forest road until he reached the place where he had found the children on that bright sunny Sunday when he first brought them to his home. This was a still, grey day, very unlike that other, but it was not very cold, here among the trees. Ralph clambered up the bank, found the fallen tree, and seated himself upon it. There he remained deep in thought for some time: then he rose and paced to and fro, then sat down again. At last, he covered his face with his hands and groaned aloud, "I can't! I can't do it!" But even as he said the words he knew and felt that he could do it.

Ralph had been reading his Bible to better purpose lately than when he only searched for texts wherewith to confound Mrs. Cloudesley. He had learned many lessons during the last few months. To distrust himself; to fear that he might be mistaken, and May Cloudesley right; to wish earnestly to do what God would have him do, and to ask for help to do it;—all this and more had Ralph Trulock learned, partly from May, partly from Ruth, but still more from his Bible, which had begun to take such new meanings lately. And now he asked for guidance, and felt that he had it—that he knew what he ought to do; now he asked for strength to do it, and even while he said aloud, "I cannot," he felt that he could. And when at last, he walked home, very tired and worn with the conflict, he went up to his own room and, without waiting to take off his great-coat, wrote the following letter:

"Lady Mabel's Rest,"


   "I never wrote to thank you, and those who joined you, in writing to Mr. Barton on my behalf; but I hope you will forgive me, and let me explain why I did not write, and thank you all now."

   "When I first came here, I had no intention of accepting your kindness except for a time. My health was broken, and I was unfit for work; but I had made up my mind to save every penny I could until I had paid off the small sum still remaining due to all of you with whom I used to have dealings; and then, if my strength would permit, leave this place, and look out for some small situation as clerk or caretaker, which would support me. With these plans before me, I did not write. I felt sore and angry at needing even temporary help, and soothed my pride by continually telling myself that in the end you, and not I, should be the gainer."

   "But God in His mercy has led me, by means into which I cannot enter (as it would take up so much of your time) to see that such a state of feeling is not right in His eyes. I am old and feeble now, and you all meant to secure peace and comfort for one whom you had known long, and who had been unfortunate. It was nothing but pride that made me resist this kind feeling, as I acknowledge I once did, and determine not to profit by it. I see this now."

   "So I write to thank you, and through you, if you will allow me, my other creditors, for your kind consideration, which I thankfully accept; and the benefits which you have secured to me I hope henceforth to share with others even more helpless than I am myself."

"I remain,"
"Very faithfully yours,"

Ralph put his letter into a cover and addressed it, but did not close it. Next day he went to the garden and asked if he might keep Ollie,—Ruth he had a right to keep, as his housekeeper, or "gel," as Mrs. Short put it. The warden said he was sure there would be no difficulty about it, and promised to arrange it all, for him. Then Ralph toiled up the hill to High Fairford, and went to see Mrs. Cloudesley.

"Madam," said he, "as long ago as last Christmas you said a few words to me, to which I would scarcely listen at the time, but which I could not forget, though I surely did my best. You spoke to me of my pride, of which up to that time I had been very proud; you spoke to me of love and kindness—things I had hardly thought of for years. You advised me to help some one, and that I should find my heart growing softer—and you were right, madam. I began to search the Bible for something to justify my own opinion, and I could not find what I wanted; but I found a great deal about love and humility. And Ruth Garland, madam, has taught me much. If you will kindly look over this letter, you will see that I am in earnest."

May, with tears in her eyes, took the letter and read it. Then she looked up at him with a smile upon her pleasant face, though the tears were there still.

"Now that is what I like in you so much!" she said heartily. "I always knew that you would do what was right the moment you saw it. You don't know how happy you have made me by telling me all this. In trying to help people, one fails so often—and the worst failure of all is, when they acknowledge that they are in the wrong, but won't make any change. One gets sadly disheartened then. It's quite delightful to know a person who no sooner sees what is right, but he goes and does it."

"You must not think that of me," Ralph said sadly. "I think I saw it some time ago, but I would not acknowledge it: and how nearly I lost my children by that delay!"

"Well, it was not a very long delay," said May kindly. "I like your little Ruth so much. I'm sure you will never repent having befriended her: and as to the boy, he is a darling."

"Yes, madam, a fine boy. I will ask you to tell Mr. Cloudesley that Ollie will not attend the Greatrex School any more. I shall send him to Mr. Hawthorne as a day boy, and, when he is older, get him into the Commercial school in Foxton. I think I could do that."

After a little more conversation, Ralph went home, to have a talk with Ruth.







A BRIGHT little fire burned that evening in Ralph Trulock's parlour, and at one side of it sat Ralph, in the easiest chair the house contained (and, with the help of pillows, Ruth had made him very snug, though the chair was by nature angular and uncompromising). Opposite him, in a low wooden chair, sat Ruth, her small fingers plying her knitting-needles with great zeal, while her eyes rested fondly on Ollie, who was stretched at lazy length upon the little rug between the other two, reading a book lent him by Miss Jones. Ollie lay face downward, his round chin propped up on his two hands, and the firelight playing upon his dark hair and bright face, made him "quite a picture," as Ruth privately told herself. Oh, if Ollie could always have such a fire as that to bask before! For the child loved warmth like a little cat.

"Ruth, do you remember what you said to me yesterday about getting work?" said Ralph.

Ruth started and blushed, half afraid that he had discovered what was in her thoughts at the moment.

"Oh yes," she said hurriedly; "do you think people would be afraid of the measles now?"

"No, I don't suppose they would. But, Ruth, I don't want you to work for Price's any more. I want you and Ollie to stay here with me."

"Always?" exclaimed Ollie, turning over on his back suddenly, and gazing up at the speaker. "Oh, Mr. Trulock! Never go back to Mrs. Cricklade again! That would be so lovely!"

Ollie did not know, even yet, that Mrs. Cricklade was dead. He had not been told at the time because he was still weak, and Ruth had shrunk from the subject afterwards.

"Mr. Trulock," said Ruth, "you are good—too good. You would only have to pinch yourself for us: it could not be. Ollie, don't say any more, dear."

"Listen to me, Ruth," said Ralph earnestly. "You think I am very poor, and I don't wonder at that, because I have given you good reason to think so. But I am not really poor. I have as much to live on as any one else in the Rest: as much as Mrs. Short, or Mrs. Archer, and you know she has six children."

Ollie gave a quick look round the room, mentally contrasting it with Miss Jones's and Mrs. Short's parlour; but Ruth shook her head and answered,—

"You told me once, you know, that there was a claim upon your money. I remember it, because it was what father used to say when people told him he ought to send me to a better school."

"Yes, I told you so, and I thought so at the time. But I was wrong, Ruth. I was too proud to accept a kindness, but I have made up my mind to accept it, and to spend my money in making us all happy and comfortable. You shall keep house for me, my dear, and I can teach you in the evenings,—I'm a fair scholar in a plain way. And Ollie shall go to a good school, and get a good education."

"Oh! Oh, Mr. Trulock! if I were only sure that you would not be making yourself poor for us."

"I shall be richer, Ruthie, than I ever thought to be, for I shall have a daughter and a—"

He stopped short. He could not say the word "son." Poor lost Fred!

"You mean me," said Ollie. "But, Mr. Trulock, we ought to be called your grandchildren," he added after a little reflection. "We're too little to be your children, don't you think? Ruthie, what makes you cry? I think it is too good to be true. You know how cold it is at Mrs. Cricklade's, and she is very often cross too! She hit you often, I know she did. Oh, Ruthie, do say you will stay here. It can't be wrong—is it, Mr. Trulock?"

"It would be wrong and unkind to leave me," replied Ralph quickly.

"Oh, I am only too glad to stay—you know that," Ruth cried, springing up and running to his side. "I only feared—"

"Have no fears, my dear child. We shall be very comfortable, and I hope very happy too. I thank God for my two dear children."

So the question was settled, and the little Garlands stayed with Ralph. Ollie had a holiday, as we know, but he was not allowed to be idle, for Ruth found employment for him. She set to work, with a charwoman to assist, to clean the house from top to bottom, and Ollie was as busy as any one. What a polishing and brightening that house got, to be sure! Ralph bought a little additional furniture too; and altogether his abode quite lost the poverty-stricken air which had so distressed May Cloudesley.

Christmas Eve came round again, and Mr. and Mrs. Cloudesley betook themselves to Lady Mabel's Rest, to pay a short visit to each house. May had persuaded her mother to send her a great hamper of apples, nuts, pears, gingerbread, and jam tarts, that she might have little presents for the children, for she knew them all now, and loved nothing better than giving them pleasure. She had some small gift for every one, mostly made by her own hands, and that intended for Mrs. Short was a pretty woollen mat to ornament her table. Mrs. Short liked the mat better than the flowers of last year, but she was intensely curious to know what Mrs. Cloudesley was taking next door, to Mr. Trulock and the Garlands, and May was quite determined that she should not find out. Mrs. Short had a long list of grievances to mourn over, and was not nearly so alert and lively as she had been on that day last year. A whole year of eating more than enough for two had told upon her.

"Mr. Trulock never was much of a neighbour," she said, "as you know, Mrs. Cloudesley; but when he was tramping the country from morning till night, and never had a bit or sup in his house that a proper-minded person would care to eat, it did not matter so much. But now, ma'am, things is very different, and they set down to as good meals in a plainish way as any one could desire, and Ruth is learning cooking from Miss Jones, and she's learned her to make coffee, and cakes, and things tossed up in the frying-pan—and I must say the smell is most tempting—and it's all one gets of them. And if I want anything off the common, I may just turn to and cook it, which gets to tire one, somehow; but never once, ma'am, has they said, 'Mrs. Short, will you step in to tea?' and I that nussed Trulock when every one else forsook him!"

"You should have a servant, Mrs. Short," said May, for want of something to say. "She would be company for you."

"Gels eat so much," said Mrs. Short pensively. "I've a good appetite, ma'am: I re'lly don't see how I could afford a gel. When I say a good appetite, I don't mean a appetite as can eat anything, but if I gets what I like I can pick a good little bit; but anything in the way, say of a sweetbread, now, or mutton kidneys, or a Yorkshire 'Am, or a veal pie or the like,—which I re'lly require such food, ma'am,—they cost a deal, and no common gel can be expected to cook 'em. I can't afford a gel, and that's the truth."

"Oh, Mrs. Short, you are no worse off than your neighbours, you know."

"Well, I don't know how they manage," said Mrs. Short thoughtfully.

"I think," said silent Mr. Cloudesley suddenly, "that by thinking a little of other people, and not spending every penny they have upon themselves alone, they seem to get more comfort out of this life even, to say nothing of a life beyond this. Come, May, it is getting late."

Mrs. Short was offended, and showed them to the door in silence. Her "Good-afternoon, ma'am," was the stiffest thing imaginable.

"That poor woman! She always depresses me, Gilbert. Why did you not say more to her? It is so very sad."

"There was no use in saying more, my dear. One can't say more than one sharp thing, and anything less sharp would not get through the poor thing's coating of fat. Now, perhaps that small harpoon may stick."

The door of Ralph's house was opened by Ollie whose cheeks were crimson with excitement.

"Please come into the parlour, ma'am, and I'll tell them. We're all in the kitchen mixing the pudding."

"Ah, Ollie! Let me go into the kitchen and see the fun," said May. "Ruth won't mind."

"Indeed she won't mind," said Ollie. "Come along. Will you come, sir? You've no idea, ma'am, how many things have to go in a pudding, a real English plum-pudding. We never saw one in France. Ruth wrote the list and went to the shops, but when she came home, she had forgotten both the suet and the nutmeg, and I had to run for them. Ruthie, here's Mrs. Cloudesley, she wants to see the fun,—I suppose she means the pudding; and Mr. Cloudesley came too."

May stood to look at the scene before her, with all the pleasure and sympathy she so truly felt, looking out of her sweet eyes. Standing before the fire with a cookery book in his hand, was Ralph Trulock; at the table, mixing the various ingredients in a basin, was Ruth, her hand in no state to be shaken. Her face was very grave. It was a great undertaking. Ralph, on the contrary, looked amused and happy. What a contrast to the man May had seen for the first time that day last year!

May helped to finish the mixing, and then to tie the pudding in a cloth; and it was well she was there, as otherwise the due flouring of the cloth would have been forgotten, and Ruth's pudding would not have presented the handsome appearance it did present the next day. May had brought Ollie some apples and Ruth a little book; but for Ralph she produced a bunch of Christmas Roses, saying:

"I hardly think you want these now, Mr. Trulock?"

"Truly, madam, they grow by my own fireside now; and for great part my thanks are due to you. You first told me how to grow them."

"I expect that's a parable," said Ollie, gravely. "Isn't it, Mr. Trulock?"

"It is, Ollie."

"And we are the flowers?" said the boy with a nod of his curly head.

"You! You are a weed, Master Ollie!" cried May laughing; "And an ill weed too. Don't you know the old saying that 'Ill weeds grow apace'?"


Mr. Cloudesley's sharp harpoon stuck fast, but the effect was not exactly what he wished!

A day or two after Christmas, Ruth was running home from Miss Jones's house, where she had been having a lesson in clear starching from that notable lady, when she was surprised to hear Mrs. Short calling to her, in very dulcet and amiable tones.

"Where are you, ma'am?" inquired Ruth, after looking round in vain.

"In my own kitching, Ruth, and the 'all door is open. You just step here, I want a word with you."

"Oh dear!" thought Ruth, "And I can't venture to talk French to her, like that saucy Ollie. What can she want?"

She found Mrs. Short sitting in a well-padded beehive chair before the kitchen range. A basket at her feet contained various brushes, saucers, and bits of rag, and her face beamed with complacency and self-satisfaction.

"Good-day, Ruth Golong," said she. "I've been thinking how kind Miss Jones is, teaching you so much and having you there so constant; and I feel I ought to help both you and her a bit."

"Yes, ma'am," said Ruth doubtfully.

"Yes, indeed, Ruth; which I am a very notable woman, my dear, and can teach you even better than Miss Jones can, though the gentry do think such a heap of her. My Matthew, that's dead and gone, poor fellow, used to say that for cleanly ways and housekeeping generally, there was not a woman to equal his wife in England; and if not in England, where? For it's not to be thought that amongst poor benighted furriners and sich,—black, some of 'em, I'm told, and copper-coloured others,—would be as nice in them respects as a English woman. So I've made up my mind as it's selfish in me to keep all that knowledge locked up in my own buzzom, and take it, as one may say, out of the world with me when the time comes as I must leave all my little comforts and go to a better place, and therefore I'm going to teach you, Ruth Golong. And as it's best to begin at the beginning, we'll begin by learning to black up the kitching range. I've everything ready; so now, my dear, you begin. Here's a rag, rub the rust off first with ile—this bottle's the ile."

"But, ma'am," said Ruth, "I have learned to do all this, and my dinner is in the oven, and no one is there to look to it; for Mr. Trulock and Ollie are gone for a walk."

"Well, you know, Ruth, there's the comfort of a oven, your dinner is a-cooking all the same and will never miss you. Here, child, take the rag."

Ruth, unwillingly enough, took the proffered rag and removed the rust as directed. She was rather vexed, but being shy could think of no way of escape.

"Now here's the blacklead, child, and this is the brush. Rub it on well, dear—oh, that won't do at all—rub hard—harder—quick now, up and down the bar. That's more like it. Good, my dear!"

In this manner did the good creature keep her pupil to the task until the grate was polished to her liking, and Ruth in a glow with heat and vexation.

"Now," said she, "that's not bad, my dear, for a beginning. A few more lessons, and you'll black a grate with any one living, you will indeed. Now there's a great art in lighting of a oven. Some folks will take an hour or more to do it. Very disconvenient these here little ovens are, as have a fire all to themselves. You take a shovel full of lighted coal, my dear," etc., etc.

Again poor Ruth found herself unable to escape, the fire was lighted under Mrs. Short's directions.

"That's enough for one day, my dear," said the old woman. "I'll call you in again whenever I can make time to give you another lesson. Good-day, Ruth Golong; you're a handy gel, and will do us credit yet."

Ruth escaped as fast as she could, and ran home, half angry, but more than half amused. Mrs. Short rose from her chair and got her neatly made veal pie from her cupboard.

"Sich a comfort," she murmured, "to get the grate done. Mrs. Cloudesley's sure to hear of it. It will be nearly as good as having a gel, and it's no more than good-natured to teach that poor orphian to get a living, as that crusty old feller may turn her out to do for herself any day."

Mrs. Cloudesley did hear of it, and so did Mr. Cloudesley; and what a laugh May had at her husband about his "harpoon!"

For some time after this Ruth's life was rendered a burden to her by the exactions of her "good-natered" neighbour; but at last she was obliged to rebel, and told Mrs. Short that she had not time to do the work of two houses. Mrs. Short characterized this as an act of the basest ingratitude, and was never tired of telling any one who would listen, how she tried to befriend that set-up-thing, Ruth Golong, and how the gel turned upon her with langwich which was too violent to be repeated!

In consequence of Ruth's vile ingratitude, it became plain to Mrs. Short that she must do one of three things, none of which she entirely liked. She might return to doing the work herself, which her rapidly increasing size rendered both difficult and distasteful to her. Or she might leave the work undone—cease to keep her place so beautifully clean, and attend merely to her cooking; to do her justice, this idea only suggested itself to be rejected. Or again, she might get a "gel." This she would do, she decided, after much deliberation.

The next point was, to get a "gel" for as little wages as possible—for none, if it could be managed. She therefore wrote to her son, offering in the handsomest manner to take "his Mary Kate" off his hands, educating her to be a notable woman like herself, and leaving to her such sums as she should have saved before her death. But Mat Short was very fond of his children, and they were not fond of their grandmother! Moreover Mat did not believe in the savings, for as he said to his wife, "Mother'd eat five hundred a year if she had it!" This obliging offer was declined. Mary Kate howled from the moment she heard her grandmother's letter read until the reply was safely posted. Then, and not till then, did Mrs. Short bethink herself of her long-lost daughter.

Now, though she always spoke of Jane as lost, Jane might more properly be said to be merely mislaid. Mrs. Short did not know where she was, simply because she had never inquired! Jane had offended her mother while very young, by going out as a servant, owing to what Mrs. Short called "competition of temper" at home. Then she had married, and Mrs. Short, then a widow, had cast her off: people were unkind enough to say that she feared lest Jane might expect a little help occasionally. Now, however, the case was different, and Mrs. Short caused a little quiet inquiry to be made about Jane, and discovered that she was a widow, with one son, who was at sea. Mrs. Short piously declared that it was "quite a Prominence," and forthwith wrote to Jane whose name, by way of a joke, was Mrs. Long,—to invite her to be a comfort to her mother's declining years.

Mrs. Long, who was again in service, thought she might as well try, in spite of the "competition" I have mentioned; or perhaps she knew that her temper had improved since the last competition, and wished to try again. At all events, she came, and great was Ollie's amusement at the queer contrast presented by Mrs. Long and Mrs. Short when he first saw them, on their way to church together, on the first Sunday after Mrs. Long's arrival. Mrs. Short, broader than she was long, waddling up the hill in her handsome tartan shawl, the tartan of some clan which was addicted to colour, and did not mind being seen a good way off. Mrs. Long, a very tall, thin woman, with an expression of meek obstinacy in her face, stalking beside her mother in a shabby, rusty black cloak, and a bonnet which looked as if she had accidentally sat down upon it.

But before long (I don't mean that for a pun) Mrs. Short found that she had made a great mistake, and, what was worse, one that could not be un-made. Jane's temper had quite the best of the competition now! She did not scold or storm, she seldom even answered again; but she smiled sourly when her affectionate mother tried to feed her upon bacon and cabbage, while she herself dined upon various costly delicacies. After a brief struggle, Jane had her own way, and her full share of such good things as were going. But these were not as plenty as of old.

Mrs. Long remarked that it was her mother's plain duty to save a certain sum weekly, to form a little fortune for her when she should be again left homeless by the old woman's death. She not only pointed out this duty, but she saw that it was done. She made the old woman fairly comfortable, however, and nursed her carefully when she required it; but she ruled her completely, and altogether things were not to Mrs. Short's mind, and she sometimes mournfully wished that she had "got a gel."

"But there," she said, "that's me all over; I couldn't get Jane out of my head, thinking she might be actially in want, and I in comfort; I'm too good-natured, that's the truth, and Jane don't take after me!"

"That's the Long and the Short of it!" As saucy Ollie Garland remarked when he heard this lament.







A YEAR passed very quietly and happily in Ralph Trulock's house. Ollie was going to school now, and Ruth was a busy and a happy little woman, and had grown much stronger and less nervous than she had been when she first came to Lady Mabel's Rest. Ralph gave her lessons every evening, when the day's work was over, and was making a good scholar of her in a plain, old-fashioned way. Mrs. Cloudesley taught her various kinds of fancy-work, and Miss Jones made her a first-rate cook and a capital housekeeper in every way. So Ruth bade fair to be an accomplished woman, according to my notions. If a woman can do with her own hands, and do well, everything that is needed for the comfort of her household; can read and enjoy books on a variety of subjects in two languages; can keep accounts well, and write a good hand, and has, moreover, an employment for her leisure hours which she likes and excels in,—I call her an accomplished woman, though she may never have learned to torture my ears with "a tune" on the piano, or to paint roses which look like miniature red cabbages. If a woman in Ruth's rank of life is a genius, let her learn music or drawing by all means. But oh, fathers and mothers of Great Britain and Ireland, do give up the idea that "a little music" and "just half a dozen lessons in flower-painting" are necessary for all your daughters.

Well, one lovely day in April, Ralph was alone in the garden in front of his house. Ruth had gone to meet Ollie on his way home from school. Ralph was sitting on a chair close to his door, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the scent of a little patch of violets which were just coming into bloom. Ruth and Ollie had contrived to make the front garden quite pretty, and to grow some common vegetables in the one at the back of the house. Looking up, because he heard the little gate squeak, as it always did when opened, Ralph beheld a gentleman in deep mourning coming up the walk. A slight, well-made young man, with a moustache and small imperial—not an Englishman, evidently, Ralph concluded.

"Excuse me, sir," said the stranger, "is your name Ralph Trulock?"

"It is, sir," said Ralph, standing up.

"I shall be glad to have a little private conversation with you. Shall we be interrupted or overheard here?" With a glance of his quick black eyes towards Mrs. Short's window, where truly the worthy creature was flattening her nose against the glass with great ardour.

"We can go to the parlour," said Ralph, inwardly wondering who the man might be.

They went in accordingly, and sat down.

"Mr. Trulock, my name is Mordan,—Oliver Mordan, of Bordeaux."

"Indeed!" cried Ralph with a start. "Then I suppose I know why you are here, sir. I wrote to Mr. Mordan about a year ago,—but not, I should think, to you."

"You wrote! You know why I am here!" exclaimed Mr. Mordan, flourishing his hands about rather more than Ralph thought becoming. "Doubtless it was to my dear father that you wrote; but I never heard of it, nor did I find your letter among his papers. My father, Mr. Trulock, died some months ago."

Ralph tried to look sorry, but he was so full of anxiety to know why Mr. Mordan was here, that he did not succeed particularly well.

"Will you tell me why you wrote to my father, sir? I was in the East, travelling for my proper distraction—for my own amusement, I would say. I returned in haste, to find my father dying. Business has occupied every moment since his death. I could not fulfil the request of my poor friend until now, nor seek for his children, concerning whose fate I am extremely anxious."

"Anxious about the children, sir! Then it was not to see them that you came here?"

"No; but do you tell me in seriousness that they are here? Ah, what a relief! It is only lately that the circumstances of my poor friend's death became known to me. I was far away—no letters reached me for a very long time. The packet containing his last letter missed me, and was sent to me by a friend from Damascus, quite recently. I returned, summoned because my father was ill; I never heard his voice again, though he lived for many weeks; he was speechless. Then, as no doubt you are aware, there was a change of Government in France; this naturally occasioned difficulties in business, and seriously injured our house, so recently deprived of its experienced chief. I have been obliged to devote every moment, every energy, to the work of saving our house. Then came these letters—my friend's last among them. Then I make inquiries more particular—begin to fear his children may be in want—follow him to England, partly to see you, sir, still more to find the helpless little ones. But I presume their father gave them directions how to act. I had feared that his death was too sudden to admit of that."

"So it was," replied Ralph. "He only said they were to go to Fairford, to their grandfather."

"But that was enough," said Mr. Mordan, smiling.

"They came on, poor children," pursued Ralph, wondering what on earth the man meant by that, "and began to inquire for their grandfather."

"And they found you?" said Mr. Mordan, still mysteriously pleased about something.

"Well, I don't know about finding," said Ralph, slowly, with a puzzled look. "I made acquaintance with Ruth Garland accidentally, and was led on by little and little to take an interest in her. They live with me now, and I hope, sir, that you won't take them from me, for it would break my heart to part with them now; though I know I have no claim to keep them, if they wish to go, and you can do better for them than I can—as I make no doubt you could, sir."

Mr. Mordan was the one to look puzzled now. After a little thought, he said:

"We are at cross-purposes, Mr. Trulock. You call the children Garland; do you know them only by that name?"

"Why, of course, only by that name," replied Ralph.

"And they came here, acting on the few words from their father of which you have spoken; and they failed to find their grandfather?"

"Failed entirely," said Ralph. "Never was a Garland in Fairford."

"And you took them to your home, and now love them as if they were your own?" went on Oliver Mordan, earnestly.

"Just so, sir," said Ralph.

"Mr. Trulock, the ways of God are very wonderful, as my dear mother used to say. Let me think a little. I must not be too sudden. I must ask you a question which may agitate you. Tell me, sir, had you not once a son?"

"Yes, one son."

"Named Frederick," said Mr. Mordan, "the same name as my poor friend."

Ralph turned white—then tried to rise from his chair, gasping out,—

"Frederick—oh, it cannot be—yet I always thought Ruth like my Annie; oh, sir, tell me quickly, are these his children? Tell me!"

Mr. Mordan sprang up and opened the window; then seizing a newspaper which lay on the table, he fanned the old man vigorously until he had recovered himself a little. Then he said,—

"You were too quick for me. But you have guessed rightly. No one knew his real name, not even myself. He told me his story when he came to Bordeaux, but not his name. He told me he had wronged his father, that he feared he had ruined his business; that the only reparation he could make would be to provide for the old age of this father whom he had so injured, and he asked me to help him. To save money, he denied himself and his family every luxury. I managed his affairs, for he had no head for business; all his money was in my hands. My father knew nothing of it, he never much liked my friend—I know not why. I owed my life to him, but without that I should have loved him. This letter of which I speak—his last—told me his real name, and told me also that his father, after a long and gallant struggle with misfortune, had been obliged to give up his business—had been forced to accept an asylum here."

"'I know my father,' he wrote; 'this will break his heart. I dared not interfere while I still hoped he would succeed; but now I will go to him, with the children. Surely he will forgive me, and let me pay what he has not been able to pay, and make his old age comfortable, even though I cannot restore to him what he has lost by my misdoing.'"

"Oh, my boy, my dear Fred! So your mother was right; the good she taught you was not forgotten!"

"He was a good man, Mr. Trulock. A repentant, humble-minded man. My mother liked him well, and she was angel."

"He must have been good, from the way he taught his children. And my little Ruth! How the look of Annie puzzled me, and I even tried to persuade myself it was fancy."

Mr. Mordan rose.

"I will leave you now," he said, "for I see you are unable just now to attend to business. But, if you will permit, I will come in the evening. You will wish to tell the children,—yes, I will come at six this evening."

"You are very kind, sir; I feel it more than I can say. I shall be better able to thank you then. Truly at this moment I am not good for much."

Fancy Ruth's amazement to meet "Monsieur Oliver" in the gateway of Lady Mabel's Rest. Ollie had quite forgotten him, but Ruth knew him at once. He kissed them both, and told them that he had been very unhappy about them, and had come to Fairford to seek them. Then he bid them run home, as Mr. Trulock had something truly surprising to tell them. So they rushed home, in no small excitement, to find Ralph crying like a child.

"Oh, what is it?" said Ruth. "He said—Monsieur Oliver did—that you had something to tell us; but it must be something bad. He wants to take us away, but we won't go. We cannot leave you now; can we, Ollie?"

"It is nothing bad," said Ollie; "I can see that. Wait a little, Ruthie, and he will tell us."

"Ruth, Ollie! My dear, dear children! No one can take you from me now. Wonderful are the guidings of the Almighty! He led you to your rightful home, He prepared my hard heart to welcome you. Children, your father was my son, my only son, Frederick. Ruth, you have a good right to be like my dear Annie. Oh, if she had but seen this day!"

I need not describe the children's excitement and delight. For a long time they could talk of nothing else.

"Do you remember that we wished our grandfather might be just like you?" said Ollie, kissing Ralph affectionately. "Well, Ruth, what have you discovered now? You look so surprised."

"Because, Ollie, do you remember how dear father tried to say something, and I thought it was 'You lock,' and locked his box. It was 'Trulock,' I am sure it was; don't you think so, Mr. Trulock?"

"I am sure you are right, dear. My poor Fred! But you must learn to call me grandfather, now, Ruthie."

"That won't be hard," said Ruth fondly.

When Mr. Mordan returned to the Rest at six o'clock, he found Mr. Trulock quite himself again, and Ruth and Ollie ready to welcome him with delight, and to give him a cup of tea, which he greatly enjoyed; also Ruth's tea-cake, for the cookery at the Fairford inn did not much please him. He showed them the letter written just before his journey to England by Frederick Trulock, and a copy of the poor fellow's will, a brief document, leaving all he had to his father, and his two children to his father's care. The sum thus made over was not a very large one, not a fortune, by any means, but it was enough to make the future of the children no matter of anxiety to their grandfather.

Ralph's first step was to write to Mr. Arnott, offering to pay the two-and-sixpence in the pound, which had once made him so miserable. His creditors, one and all, begged him not to do so, and Ralph thanked them, and accepted their kindness frankly, for the children's sake.

Ralph made no change in his life for some months for he was anxious to act prudently for the interests of his charge. Then, as Ollie declared that of all things he wished to be a bookseller, he purchased the shop and good-will of a person in that line of business in the chief town of the county in which Fairford stood. And so, of course, he gave up his house in Lady Mabel's Rest.

Ruth was quite sorry to leave it, and to part with her kind friend, Miss Jones. From her other friend, Mrs. Cloudesley, she would not be parted, as Mr. Cloudesley had accepted a living in the very town to which the Trulocks were going. Ralph manages the business so well that they are very comfortable and prosperous, and the old man's life is a very happy one.

"My Christmas Roses," he says sometimes to May Cloudesley, "they make my old age the brightest time I have known!"