The Railway Children
Part 4 out of 5
"Nobody will listen," said Mother, very bitterly, "nobody at all.
Do you suppose I've not tried everything? No, my dearest, there's
nothing to be done. All we can do, you and I and Daddy, is to be
brave, and patient, and--" she spoke very softly--"to pray, Bobbie,
"Mother, you've got very thin," said Bobbie, abruptly.
"A little, perhaps."
"And oh," said Bobbie, "I do think you're the bravest person in the
world as well as the nicest!"
"We won't talk of all this any more, will we, dear?" said Mother;
"we must bear it and be brave. And, darling, try not to think of
it. Try to be cheerful, and to amuse yourself and the others. It's
much easier for me if you can be a little bit happy and enjoy
things. Wash your poor little round face, and let's go out into the
garden for a bit."
The other two were very gentle and kind to Bobbie. And they did not
ask her what was the matter. This was Peter's idea, and he had
drilled Phyllis, who would have asked a hundred questions if she had
been left to herself.
A week later Bobbie managed to get away alone. And once more she
wrote a letter. And once more it was to the old gentleman.
"My dear Friend," she said, "you see what is in this paper. It is
not true. Father never did it. Mother says someone put the papers
in Father's desk, and she says the man under him that got Father's
place afterwards was jealous of Father, and Father suspected him a
long time. But nobody listens to a word she says, but you are so
good and clever, and you found out about the Russian gentleman's
wife directly. Can't you find out who did the treason because he
wasn't Father upon my honour; he is an Englishman and uncapable to
do such things, and then they would let Father out of prison. It is
dreadful, and Mother is getting so thin. She told us once to pray
for all prisoners and captives. I see now. Oh, do help me--there
is only just Mother and me know, and we can't do anything. Peter
and Phil don't know. I'll pray for you twice every day as long as I
live if you'll only try--just try to find out. Think if it was YOUR
Daddy, what you would feel. Oh, do, do, DO help me. With love
"I remain Your affectionately little friend
P.S. Mother would send her kind regards if she knew I am writing--
but it is no use telling her I am, in case you can't do anything.
But I know you will. Bobbie with best love."
She cut the account of her Father's trial out of the newspaper with
Mother's big cutting-out scissors, and put it in the envelope with
Then she took it down to the station, going out the back way and
round by the road, so that the others should not see her and offer
to come with her, and she gave the letter to the Station Master to
give to the old gentleman next morning.
"Where HAVE you been?" shouted Peter, from the top of the yard wall
where he and Phyllis were.
"To the station, of course," said Bobbie; "give us a hand, Pete."
She set her foot on the lock of the yard door. Peter reached down a
"What on earth?" she asked as she reached the wall-top--for Phyllis
and Peter were very muddy. A lump of wet clay lay between them on
the wall, they had each a slip of slate in a very dirty hand, and
behind Peter, out of the reach of accidents, were several strange
rounded objects rather like very fat sausages, hollow, but closed up
at one end.
"It's nests," said Peter, "swallows' nests. We're going to dry them
in the oven and hang them up with string under the eaves of the
"Yes," said Phyllis; "and then we're going to save up all the wool
and hair we can get, and in the spring we'll line them, and then how
pleased the swallows will be!"
"I've often thought people don't do nearly enough for dumb animals,"
said Peter with an air of virtue. "I do think people might have
thought of making nests for poor little swallows before this."
"Oh," said Bobbie, vaguely, "if everybody thought of everything,
there'd be nothing left for anybody else to think about."
"Look at the nests--aren't they pretty?" said Phyllis, reaching
across Peter to grasp a nest.
"Look out, Phil, you goat," said her brother. But it was too late;
her strong little fingers had crushed the nest.
"There now," said Peter.
"Never mind," said Bobbie.
"It IS one of my own," said Phyllis, "so you needn't jaw, Peter.
Yes, we've put our initial names on the ones we've done, so that the
swallows will know who they've got to be so grateful to and fond
"Swallows can't read, silly," said Peter.
"Silly yourself," retorted Phyllis; "how do you know?"
"Who thought of making the nests, anyhow?" shouted Peter.
"I did," screamed Phyllis.
"Nya," rejoined Peter, "you only thought of making hay ones and
sticking them in the ivy for the sparrows, and they'd have been
sopping LONG before egg-laying time. It was me said clay and
"I don't care what you said."
"Look," said Bobbie, "I've made the nest all right again. Give me
the bit of stick to mark your initial name on it. But how can you?
Your letter and Peter's are the same. P. for Peter, P. for
"I put F. for Phyllis," said the child of that name. "That's how it
sounds. The swallows wouldn't spell Phyllis with a P., I'm certain-
"They can't spell at all," Peter was still insisting.
"Then why do you see them always on Christmas cards and valentines
with letters round their necks? How would they know where to go if
they couldn't read?"
"That's only in pictures. You never saw one really with letters
round its neck."
"Well, I have a pigeon, then; at least Daddy told me they did. Only
it was under their wings and not round their necks, but it comes to
the same thing, and--"
"I say," interrupted Bobbie, "there's to be a paperchase to-morrow."
"Who?" Peter asked.
"Grammar School. Perks thinks the hare will go along by the line at
first. We might go along the cutting. You can see a long way from
The paperchase was found to be a more amusing subject of
conversation than the reading powers of swallows. Bobbie had hoped
it might be. And next morning Mother let them take their lunch and
go out for the day to see the paperchase.
"If we go to the cutting," said Peter, "we shall see the workmen,
even if we miss the paperchase."
Of course it had taken some time to get the line clear from the
rocks and earth and trees that had fallen on it when the great
landslip happened. That was the occasion, you will remember, when
the three children saved the train from being wrecked by waving six
little red-flannel-petticoat flags. It is always interesting to
watch people working, especially when they work with such
interesting things as spades and picks and shovels and planks and
barrows, when they have cindery red fires in iron pots with round
holes in them, and red lamps hanging near the works at night. Of
course the children were never out at night; but once, at dusk, when
Peter had got out of his bedroom skylight on to the roof, he had
seen the red lamp shining far away at the edge of the cutting. The
children had often been down to watch the work, and this day the
interest of picks and spades, and barrows being wheeled along
planks, completely put the paperchase out of their heads, so that
they quite jumped when a voice just behind them panted, "Let me
pass, please." It was the hare--a big-boned, loose-limbed boy, with
dark hair lying flat on a very damp forehead. The bag of torn paper
under his arm was fastened across one shoulder by a strap. The
children stood back. The hare ran along the line, and the workmen
leaned on their picks to watch him. He ran on steadily and
disappeared into the mouth of the tunnel.
"That's against the by-laws," said the foreman.
"Why worry?" said the oldest workman; "live and let live's what I
always say. Ain't you never been young yourself, Mr. Bates?"
"I ought to report him," said the foreman.
"Why spoil sport's what I always say."
"Passengers are forbidden to cross the line on any pretence,"
murmured the foreman, doubtfully.
"He ain't no passenger," said one of the workmen.
"Nor 'e ain't crossed the line, not where we could see 'im do it,"
"Nor yet 'e ain't made no pretences," said a third.
"And," said the oldest workman, "'e's outer sight now. What the eye
don't see the 'art needn't take no notice of's what I always say."
And now, following the track of the hare by the little white blots
of scattered paper, came the hounds. There were thirty of them, and
they all came down the steep, ladder-like steps by ones and twos and
threes and sixes and sevens. Bobbie and Phyllis and Peter counted
them as they passed. The foremost ones hesitated a moment at the
foot of the ladder, then their eyes caught the gleam of scattered
whiteness along the line and they turned towards the tunnel, and, by
ones and twos and threes and sixes and sevens, disappeared in the
dark mouth of it. The last one, in a red jersey, seemed to be
extinguished by the darkness like a candle that is blown out.
"They don't know what they're in for," said the foreman; "it isn't
so easy running in the dark. The tunnel takes two or three turns."
"They'll take a long time to get through, you think?" Peter asked.
"An hour or more, I shouldn't wonder."
"Then let's cut across the top and see them come out at the other
end," said Peter; "we shall get there long before they do."
The counsel seemed good, and they went.
They climbed the steep steps from which they had picked the wild
cherry blossom for the grave of the little wild rabbit, and reaching
the top of the cutting, set their faces towards the hill through
which the tunnel was cut. It was stiff work.
"It's like Alps," said Bobbie, breathlessly.
"Or Andes," said Peter.
"It's like Himmy what's its names?" gasped Phyllis. "Mount
Everlasting. Do let's stop."
"Stick to it," panted Peter; "you'll get your second wind in a
Phyllis consented to stick to it--and on they went, running when the
turf was smooth and the slope easy, climbing over stones, helping
themselves up rocks by the branches of trees, creeping through
narrow openings between tree trunks and rocks, and so on and on, up
and up, till at last they stood on the very top of the hill where
they had so often wished to be.
"Halt!" cried Peter, and threw himself flat on the grass. For the
very top of the hill was a smooth, turfed table-land, dotted with
mossy rocks and little mountain-ash trees.
The girls also threw themselves down flat.
"Plenty of time," Peter panted; "the rest's all down hill."
When they were rested enough to sit up and look round them, Bobbie
"What at?" said Phyllis.
"The view," said Bobbie.
"I hate views," said Phyllis, "don't you, Peter?"
"Let's get on," said Peter.
"But this isn't like a view they take you to in carriages when
you're at the seaside, all sea and sand and bare hills. It's like
the 'coloured counties' in one of Mother's poetry books."
"It's not so dusty," said Peter; "look at the Aqueduct straddling
slap across the valley like a giant centipede, and then the towns
sticking their church spires up out of the trees like pens out of an
inkstand. _I_ think it's more like
"There could he see the banners
Of twelve fair cities shine."
"I love it," said Bobbie; "it's worth the climb."
"The paperchase is worth the climb," said Phyllis, "if we don't lose
it. Let's get on. It's all down hill now."
"_I_ said that ten minutes ago," said Peter.
"Well, I'VE said it now," said Phyllis; "come on."
"Loads of time," said Peter. And there was. For when they had got
down to a level with the top of the tunnel's mouth--they were a
couple of hundred yards out of their reckoning and had to creep
along the face of the hill--there was no sign of the hare or the
"They've gone long ago, of course," said Phyllis, as they leaned on
the brick parapet above the tunnel.
"I don't think so," said Bobbie, "but even if they had, it's ripping
here, and we shall see the trains come out of the tunnel like
dragons out of lairs. We've never seen that from the top side
"No more we have," said Phyllis, partially appeased.
It was really a most exciting place to be in. The top of the tunnel
seemed ever so much farther from the line than they had expected,
and it was like being on a bridge, but a bridge overgrown with
bushes and creepers and grass and wild-flowers.
"I KNOW the paperchase has gone long ago," said Phyllis every two
minutes, and she hardly knew whether she was pleased or disappointed
when Peter, leaning over the parapet, suddenly cried:--
"Look out. Here he comes!"
They all leaned over the sun-warmed brick wall in time to see the
hare, going very slowly, come out from the shadow of the tunnel.
"There, now," said Peter, "what did I tell you? Now for the
Very soon came the hounds--by ones and twos and threes and sixes and
sevens--and they also were going slowly and seemed very tired. Two
or three who lagged far behind came out long after the others.
"There," said Bobbie, "that's all--now what shall we do?"
"Go along into the tulgy wood over there and have lunch," said
Phyllis; "we can see them for miles from up here."
"Not yet," said Peter. "That's not the last. There's the one in
the red jersey to come yet. Let's see the last of them come out."
But though they waited and waited and waited, the boy in the red
jersey did not appear.
"Oh, let's have lunch," said Phyllis; "I've got a pain in my front
with being so hungry. You must have missed seeing the red-jerseyed
one when he came out with the others--"
But Bobbie and Peter agreed that he had not come out with the
"Let's get down to the tunnel mouth," said Peter; "then perhaps we
shall see him coming along from the inside. I expect he felt spun-
chuck, and rested in one of the manholes. You stay up here and
watch, Bob, and when I signal from below, you come down. We might
miss seeing him on the way down, with all these trees."
So the others climbed down and Bobbie waited till they signalled to
her from the line below. And then she, too, scrambled down the
roundabout slippery path among roots and moss till she stepped out
between two dogwood trees and joined the others on the line. And
still there was no sign of the hound with the red jersey.
"Oh, do, DO let's have something to eat," wailed Phyllis. "I shall
die if you don't, and then you'll be sorry."
"Give her the sandwiches, for goodness' sake, and stop her silly
mouth," said Peter, not quite unkindly. "Look here," he added,
turning to Bobbie, "perhaps we'd better have one each, too. We may
need all our strength. Not more than one, though. There's no
"What?" asked Bobbie, her mouth already full, for she was just as
hungry as Phyllis.
"Don't you see," replied Peter, impressively, "that red-jerseyed
hound has had an accident--that's what it is. Perhaps even as we
speak he's lying with his head on the metals, an unresisting prey to
any passing express--"
"Oh, don't try to talk like a book," cried Bobbie, bolting what was
left of her sandwich; "come on. Phil, keep close behind me, and if
a train comes, stand flat against the tunnel wall and hold your
petticoats close to you."
"Give me one more sandwich," pleaded Phyllis, "and I will."
"I'm going first," said Peter; "it was my idea," and he went.
Of course you know what going into a tunnel is like? The engine
gives a scream and then suddenly the noise of the running, rattling
train changes and grows different and much louder. Grown-up people
pull up the windows and hold them by the strap. The railway
carriage suddenly grows like night--with lamps, of course, unless
you are in a slow local train, in which case lamps are not always
provided. Then by and by the darkness outside the carriage window
is touched by puffs of cloudy whiteness, then you see a blue light
on the walls of the tunnel, then the sound of the moving train
changes once more, and you are out in the good open air again, and
grown-ups let the straps go. The windows, all dim with the yellow
breath of the tunnel, rattle down into their places, and you see
once more the dip and catch of the telegraph wires beside the line,
and the straight-cut hawthorn hedges with the tiny baby trees
growing up out of them every thirty yards.
All this, of course, is what a tunnel means when you are in a train.
But everything is quite different when you walk into a tunnel on
your own feet, and tread on shifting, sliding stones and gravel on a
path that curves downwards from the shining metals to the wall.
Then you see slimy, oozy trickles of water running down the inside
of the tunnel, and you notice that the bricks are not red or brown,
as they are at the tunnel's mouth, but dull, sticky, sickly green.
Your voice, when you speak, is quite changed from what it was out in
the sunshine, and it is a long time before the tunnel is quite dark.
It was not yet quite dark in the tunnel when Phyllis caught at
Bobbie's skirt, ripping out half a yard of gathers, but no one
noticed this at the time.
"I want to go back," she said, "I don't like it. It'll be pitch
dark in a minute. I WON'T go on in the dark. I don't care what you
say, I WON'T."
"Don't be a silly cuckoo," said Peter; "I've got a candle end and
matches, and--what's that?"
"That" was a low, humming sound on the railway line, a trembling of
the wires beside it, a buzzing, humming sound that grew louder and
louder as they listened.
"It's a train," said Bobbie.
"Let me go back," cried Phyllis, struggling to get away from the
hand by which Bobbie held her.
"Don't be a coward," said Bobbie; "it's quite safe. Stand back."
"Come on," shouted Peter, who was a few yards ahead. "Quick!
The roar of the advancing train was now louder than the noise you
hear when your head is under water in the bath and both taps are
running, and you are kicking with your heels against the bath's tin
sides. But Peter had shouted for all he was worth, and Bobbie heard
him. She dragged Phyllis along to the manhole. Phyllis, of course,
stumbled over the wires and grazed both her legs. But they dragged
her in, and all three stood in the dark, damp, arched recess while
the train roared louder and louder. It seemed as if it would deafen
them. And, in the distance, they could see its eyes of fire growing
bigger and brighter every instant.
"It IS a dragon--I always knew it was--it takes its own shape in
here, in the dark," shouted Phyllis. But nobody heard her. You see
the train was shouting, too, and its voice was bigger than hers.
And now, with a rush and a roar and a rattle and a long dazzling
flash of lighted carriage windows, a smell of smoke, and blast of
hot air, the train hurtled by, clanging and jangling and echoing in
the vaulted roof of the tunnel. Phyllis and Bobbie clung to each
other. Even Peter caught hold of Bobbie's arm, "in case she should
be frightened," as he explained afterwards.
And now, slowly and gradually, the tail-lights grew smaller and
smaller, and so did the noise, till with one last WHIZ the train got
itself out of the tunnel, and silence settled again on its damp
walls and dripping roof.
"OH!" said the children, all together in a whisper.
Peter was lighting the candle end with a hand that trembled.
"Come on," he said; but he had to clear his throat before he could
speak in his natural voice.
"Oh," said Phyllis, "if the red-jerseyed one was in the way of the
"We've got to go and see," said Peter.
"Couldn't we go and send someone from the station?" said Phyllis.
"Would you rather wait here for us?" asked Bobbie, severely, and of
course that settled the question.
So the three went on into the deeper darkness of the tunnel. Peter
led, holding his candle end high to light the way. The grease ran
down his fingers, and some of it right up his sleeve. He found a
long streak from wrist to elbow when he went to bed that night.
It was not more than a hundred and fifty yards from the spot where
they had stood while the train went by that Peter stood still,
shouted "Hullo," and then went on much quicker than before. When
the others caught him up, he stopped. And he stopped within a yard
of what they had come into the tunnel to look for. Phyllis saw a
gleam of red, and shut her eyes tight. There, by the curved, pebbly
down line, was the red-jerseyed hound. His back was against the
wall, his arms hung limply by his sides, and his eyes were shut.
"Was the red, blood? Is he all killed?" asked Phyllis, screwing her
eyelids more tightly together.
"Killed? Nonsense!" said Peter. "There's nothing red about him
except his jersey. He's only fainted. What on earth are we to do?"
"Can we move him?" asked Bobbie.
"I don't know; he's a big chap."
"Suppose we bathe his forehead with water. No, I know we haven't
any, but milk's just as wet. There's a whole bottle."
"Yes," said Peter, "and they rub people's hands, I believe."
"They burn feathers, I know," said Phyllis.
"What's the good of saying that when we haven't any feathers?"
"As it happens," said Phyllis, in a tone of exasperated triumph,
"I've got a shuttlecock in my pocket. So there!"
And now Peter rubbed the hands of the red-jerseyed one. Bobbie
burned the feathers of the shuttlecock one by one under his nose,
Phyllis splashed warmish milk on his forehead, and all three kept on
saying as fast and as earnestly as they could:--
"Oh, look up, speak to me! For my sake, speak!"
Chapter XII. What Bobbie brought home.
"Oh, look up! Speak to me! For MY sake, speak!" The children said
the words over and over again to the unconscious hound in a red
jersey, who sat with closed eyes and pale face against the side of
"Wet his ears with milk," said Bobbie. "I know they do it to people
that faint--with eau-de-Cologne. But I expect milk's just as good."
So they wetted his ears, and some of the milk ran down his neck
under the red jersey. It was very dark in the tunnel. The candle
end Peter had carried, and which now burned on a flat stone, gave
hardly any light at all.
"Oh, DO look up," said Phyllis. "For MY sake! I believe he's
"For MY sake," repeated Bobbie. "No, he isn't."
"For ANY sake," said Peter; "come out of it." And he shook the
sufferer by the arm.
And then the boy in the red jersey sighed, and opened his eyes, and
shut them again and said in a very small voice, "Chuck it."
"Oh, he's NOT dead," said Phyllis. "I KNEW he wasn't," and she
began to cry.
"What's up? I'm all right," said the boy.
"Drink this," said Peter, firmly, thrusting the nose of the milk
bottle into the boy's mouth. The boy struggled, and some of the
milk was upset before he could get his mouth free to say:--
"What is it?"
"It's milk," said Peter. "Fear not, you are in the hands of
friends. Phil, you stop bleating this minute."
"Do drink it," said Bobbie, gently; "it'll do you good."
So he drank. And the three stood by without speaking to him.
"Let him be a minute," Peter whispered; "he'll be all right as soon
as the milk begins to run like fire through his veins."
"I'm better now," he announced. "I remember all about it." He
tried to move, but the movement ended in a groan. "Bother! I
believe I've broken my leg," he said.
"Did you tumble down?" asked Phyllis, sniffing.
"Of course not--I'm not a kiddie," said the boy, indignantly; "it
was one of those beastly wires tripped me up, and when I tried to
get up again I couldn't stand, so I sat down. Gee whillikins! it
does hurt, though. How did YOU get here?"
"We saw you all go into the tunnel and then we went across the hill
to see you all come out. And the others did--all but you, and you
didn't. So we are a rescue party," said Peter, with pride.
"You've got some pluck, I will say," remarked the boy.
"Oh, that's nothing," said Peter, with modesty. "Do you think you
could walk if we helped you?"
"I could try," said the boy.
He did try. But he could only stand on one foot; the other dragged
in a very nasty way.
"Here, let me sit down. I feel like dying," said the boy. "Let go
of me--let go, quick--" He lay down and closed his eyes. The
others looked at each other by the dim light of the little candle.
"What on earth!" said Peter.
"Look here," said Bobbie, quickly, "you must go and get help. Go to
the nearest house."
"Yes, that's the only thing," said Peter. "Come on."
"If you take his feet and Phil and I take his head, we could carry
him to the manhole."
They did it. It was perhaps as well for the sufferer that he had
"Now," said Bobbie, "I'll stay with him. You take the longest bit
of candle, and, oh--be quick, for this bit won't burn long."
"I don't think Mother would like me leaving you," said Peter,
doubtfully. "Let me stay, and you and Phil go."
"No, no," said Bobbie, "you and Phil go--and lend me your knife.
I'll try to get his boot off before he wakes up again."
"I hope it's all right what we're doing," said Peter.
"Of course it's right," said Bobbie, impatiently. "What else WOULD
you do? Leave him here all alone because it's dark? Nonsense.
Hurry up, that's all."
So they hurried up.
Bobbie watched their dark figures and the little light of the little
candle with an odd feeling of having come to the end of everything.
She knew now, she thought, what nuns who were bricked up alive in
convent walls felt like. Suddenly she gave herself a little shake.
"Don't be a silly little girl," she said. She was always very angry
when anyone else called her a little girl, even if the adjective
that went first was not "silly" but "nice" or "good" or "clever."
And it was only when she was very angry with herself that she
allowed Roberta to use that expression to Bobbie.
She fixed the little candle end on a broken brick near the red-
jerseyed boy's feet. Then she opened Peter's knife. It was always
hard to manage--a halfpenny was generally needed to get it open at
all. This time Bobbie somehow got it open with her thumbnail. She
broke the nail, and it hurt horribly. Then she cut the boy's
bootlace, and got the boot off. She tried to pull off his stocking,
but his leg was dreadfully swollen, and it did not seem to be the
proper shape. So she cut the stocking down, very slowly and
carefully. It was a brown, knitted stocking, and she wondered who
had knitted it, and whether it was the boy's mother, and whether she
was feeling anxious about him, and how she would feel when he was
brought home with his leg broken. When Bobbie had got the stocking
off and saw the poor leg, she felt as though the tunnel was growing
darker, and the ground felt unsteady, and nothing seemed quite real.
"SILLY little girl!" said Roberta to Bobbie, and felt better.
"The poor leg," she told herself; "it ought to have a cushion--ah!"
She remembered the day when she and Phyllis had torn up their red
flannel petticoats to make danger signals to stop the train and
prevent an accident. Her flannel petticoat to-day was white, but it
would be quite as soft as a red one. She took it off.
"Oh, what useful things flannel petticoats are!" she said; "the man
who invented them ought to have a statue directed to him." And she
said it aloud, because it seemed that any voice, even her own, would
be a comfort in that darkness.
"WHAT ought to be directed? Who to?" asked the boy, suddenly and
"Oh," said Bobbie, "now you're better! Hold your teeth and don't
let it hurt too much. Now!"
She had folded the petticoat, and lifting his leg laid it on the
cushion of folded flannel.
"Don't faint again, PLEASE don't," said Bobbie, as he groaned. She
hastily wetted her handkerchief with milk and spread it over the
"Oh, that hurts," cried the boy, shrinking. "Oh--no, it doesn't--
it's nice, really."
"What's your name?" said Bobbie.
"But you're a girl, aren't you?"
"Yes, my long name's Roberta."
"Wasn't there some more of you just now?"
"Yes, Peter and Phil--that's my brother and sister. They've gone to
get someone to carry you out."
"What rum names. All boys'."
"Yes--I wish I was a boy, don't you?"
"I think you're all right as you are."
"I didn't mean that--I meant don't you wish YOU were a boy, but of
course you are without wishing."
"You're just as brave as a boy. Why didn't you go with the others?"
"Somebody had to stay with you," said Bobbie.
"Tell you what, Bobbie," said Jim, "you're a brick. Shake." He
reached out a red-jerseyed arm and Bobbie squeezed his hand.
"I won't shake it," she explained, "because it would shake YOU, and
that would shake your poor leg, and that would hurt. Have you got a
"I don't expect I have." He felt in his pocket. "Yes, I have.
She took it and wetted it with milk and put it on his forehead.
"That's jolly," he said; "what is it?"
"Milk," said Bobbie. "We haven't any water--"
"You're a jolly good little nurse," said Jim.
"I do it for Mother sometimes," said Bobbie--"not milk, of course,
but scent, or vinegar and water. I say, I must put the candle out
now, because there mayn't be enough of the other one to get you out
"By George," said he, "you think of everything."
Bobbie blew. Out went the candle. You have no idea how black-
velvety the darkness was.
"I say, Bobbie," said a voice through the blackness, "aren't you
afraid of the dark?"
"Not--not very, that is--"
"Let's hold hands," said the boy, and it was really rather good of
him, because he was like most boys of his age and hated all material
tokens of affection, such as kissing and holding of hands. He
called all such things "pawings," and detested them.
The darkness was more bearable to Bobbie now that her hand was held
in the large rough hand of the red-jerseyed sufferer; and he,
holding her little smooth hot paw, was surprised to find that he did
not mind it so much as he expected. She tried to talk, to amuse
him, and "take his mind off" his sufferings, but it is very
difficult to go on talking in the dark, and presently they found
themselves in a silence, only broken now and then by a--
"You all right, Bobbie?"
"I'm afraid it's hurting you most awfully, Jim. I AM so sorry."
And it was very cold.
* * * * * *
Peter and Phyllis tramped down the long way of the tunnel towards
daylight, the candle-grease dripping over Peter's fingers. There
were no accidents unless you count Phyllis's catching her frock on a
wire, and tearing a long, jagged slit in it, and tripping over her
bootlace when it came undone, or going down on her hands and knees,
all four of which were grazed.
"There's no end to this tunnel," said Phyllis--and indeed it did
seem very very long.
"Stick to it," said Peter; "everything has an end, and you get to it
if you only keep all on."
Which is quite true, if you come to think of it, and a useful thing
to remember in seasons of trouble--such as measles, arithmetic,
impositions, and those times when you are in disgrace, and feel as
though no one would ever love you again, and you could never--never
"Hurray," said Peter, suddenly, "there's the end of the tunnel--
looks just like a pin-hole in a bit of black paper, doesn't it?"
The pin-hole got larger--blue lights lay along the sides of the
tunnel. The children could see the gravel way that lay in front of
them; the air grew warmer and sweeter. Another twenty steps and
they were out in the good glad sunshine with the green trees on both
Phyllis drew a long breath.
"I'll never go into a tunnel again as long as ever I live," said
she, "not if there are twenty hundred thousand millions hounds
inside with red jerseys and their legs broken."
"Don't be a silly cuckoo," said Peter, as usual. "You'd HAVE to."
"I think it was very brave and good of me," said Phyllis.
"Not it," said Peter; "you didn't go because you were brave, but
because Bobbie and I aren't skunks. Now where's the nearest house,
I wonder? You can't see anything here for the trees."
"There's a roof over there," said Phyllis, pointing down the line.
"That's the signal-box," said Peter, "and you know you're not
allowed to speak to signalmen on duty. It's wrong."
"I'm not near so afraid of doing wrong as I was of going into that
tunnel," said Phyllis. "Come on," and she started to run along the
line. So Peter ran, too.
It was very hot in the sunshine, and both children were hot and
breathless by the time they stopped, and bending their heads back to
look up at the open windows of the signal-box, shouted "Hi!" as loud
as their breathless state allowed. But no one answered. The
signal-box stood quiet as an empty nursery, and the handrail of its
steps was hot to the hands of the children as they climbed softly
up. They peeped in at the open door. The signalman was sitting on
a chair tilted back against the wall. His head leaned sideways, and
his mouth was open. He was fast asleep.
"My hat!" cried Peter; "wake up!" And he cried it in a terrible
voice, for he knew that if a signalman sleeps on duty, he risks
losing his situation, let alone all the other dreadful risks to
trains which expect him to tell them when it is safe for them to go
The signalman never moved. Then Peter sprang to him and shook him.
And slowly, yawning and stretching, the man awoke. But the moment
he WAS awake he leapt to his feet, put his hands to his head "like a
mad maniac," as Phyllis said afterwards, and shouted:--
"Oh, my heavens--what's o'clock?"
"Twelve thirteen," said Peter, and indeed it was by the white-faced,
round-faced clock on the wall of the signal-box.
The man looked at the clock, sprang to the levers, and wrenched them
this way and that. An electric bell tingled--the wires and cranks
creaked, and the man threw himself into a chair. He was very pale,
and the sweat stood on his forehead "like large dewdrops on a white
cabbage," as Phyllis remarked later. He was trembling, too; the
children could see his big hairy hands shake from side to side,
"with quite extra-sized trembles," to use the subsequent words of
Peter. He drew long breaths. Then suddenly he cried, "Thank God,
thank God you come in when you did--oh, thank God!" and his
shoulders began to heave and his face grew red again, and he hid it
in those large hairy hands of his.
"Oh, don't cry--don't," said Phyllis, "it's all right now," and she
patted him on one big, broad shoulder, while Peter conscientiously
thumped the other.
But the signalman seemed quite broken down, and the children had to
pat him and thump him for quite a long time before he found his
handkerchief--a red one with mauve and white horseshoes on it--and
mopped his face and spoke. During this patting and thumping
interval a train thundered by.
"I'm downright shamed, that I am," were the words of the big
signalman when he had stopped crying; "snivelling like a kid." Then
suddenly he seemed to get cross. "And what was you doing up here,
anyway?" he said; "you know it ain't allowed."
"Yes," said Phyllis, "we knew it was wrong--but I wasn't afraid of
doing wrong, and so it turned out right. You aren't sorry we came."
"Lor' love you--if you hadn't 'a' come--" he stopped and then went
on. "It's a disgrace, so it is, sleeping on duty. If it was to
come to be known--even as it is, when no harm's come of it."
"It won't come to be known," said Peter; "we aren't sneaks. All the
same, you oughtn't to sleep on duty--it's dangerous."
"Tell me something I don't know," said the man, "but I can't help
it. I know'd well enough just how it 'ud be. But I couldn't get
off. They couldn't get no one to take on my duty. I tell you I
ain't had ten minutes' sleep this last five days. My little chap's
ill--pewmonia, the Doctor says--and there's no one but me and 'is
little sister to do for him. That's where it is. The gell must
'ave her sleep. Dangerous? Yes, I believe you. Now go and split
on me if you like."
"Of course we won't," said Peter, indignantly, but Phyllis ignored
the whole of the signalman's speech, except the first six words.
"You asked us," she said, "to tell you something you don't know.
Well, I will. There's a boy in the tunnel over there with a red
jersey and his leg broken."
"What did he want to go into the blooming tunnel for, then?" said
"Don't you be so cross," said Phyllis, kindly. "WE haven't done
anything wrong except coming and waking you up, and that was right,
as it happens."
Then Peter told how the boy came to be in the tunnel.
"Well," said the man, "I don't see as I can do anything. I can't
leave the box."
"You might tell us where to go after someone who isn't in a box,
though," said Phyllis.
"There's Brigden's farm over yonder--where you see the smoke a-
coming up through the trees," said the man, more and more grumpy, as
"Well, good-bye, then," said Peter.
But the man said, "Wait a minute." He put his hand in his pocket
and brought out some money--a lot of pennies and one or two
shillings and sixpences and half-a-crown. He picked out two
shillings and held them out.
"Here," he said. "I'll give you this to hold your tongues about
what's taken place to-day."
There was a short, unpleasant pause. Then:--
"You ARE a nasty man, though, aren't you?" said Phyllis.
Peter took a step forward and knocked the man's hand up, so that the
shillings leapt out of it and rolled on the floor.
"If anything COULD make me sneak, THAT would!" he said. "Come,
Phil," and marched out of the signal-box with flaming cheeks.
Phyllis hesitated. Then she took the hand, still held out stupidly,
that the shillings had been in.
"I forgive you," she said, "even if Peter doesn't. You're not in
your proper senses, or you'd never have done that. I know want of
sleep sends people mad. Mother told me. I hope your little boy
will soon be better, and--"
"Come on, Phil," cried Peter, eagerly.
"I give you my sacred honour-word we'll never tell anyone. Kiss and
be friends," said Phyllis, feeling how noble it was of her to try to
make up a quarrel in which she was not to blame.
The signalman stooped and kissed her.
"I do believe I'm a bit off my head, Sissy," he said. "Now run
along home to Mother. I didn't mean to put you about--there."
So Phil left the hot signal-box and followed Peter across the fields
to the farm.
When the farm men, led by Peter and Phyllis and carrying a hurdle
covered with horse-cloths, reached the manhole in the tunnel, Bobbie
was fast asleep and so was Jim. Worn out with the pain, the Doctor
"Where does he live?" the bailiff from the farm asked, when Jim had
been lifted on to the hurdle.
"In Northumberland," answered Bobbie.
"I'm at school at Maidbridge," said Jim. "I suppose I've got to get
back there, somehow."
"Seems to me the Doctor ought to have a look in first," said the
"Oh, bring him up to our house," said Bobbie. "It's only a little
way by the road. I'm sure Mother would say we ought to."
"Will your Ma like you bringing home strangers with broken legs?"
"She took the poor Russian home herself," said Bobbie. "I know
she'd say we ought."
"All right," said the bailiff, "you ought to know what your Ma 'ud
like. I wouldn't take it upon me to fetch him up to our place
without I asked the Missus first, and they call me the Master, too."
"Are you sure your Mother won't mind?" whispered Jim.
"Certain," said Bobbie.
"Then we're to take him up to Three Chimneys?" said the bailiff.
"Of course," said Peter.
"Then my lad shall nip up to Doctor's on his bike, and tell him to
come down there. Now, lads, lift him quiet and steady. One, two,
* * * * * *
Thus it happened that Mother, writing away for dear life at a story
about a Duchess, a designing villain, a secret passage, and a
missing will, dropped her pen as her work-room door burst open, and
turned to see Bobbie hatless and red with running.
"Oh, Mother," she cried, "do come down. We found a hound in a red
jersey in the tunnel, and he's broken his leg and they're bringing
"They ought to take him to the vet," said Mother, with a worried
frown; "I really CAN'T have a lame dog here."
"He's not a dog, really--he's a boy," said Bobbie, between laughing
"Then he ought to be taken home to his mother."
"His mother's dead," said Bobbie, "and his father's in
Northumberland. Oh, Mother, you will be nice to him? I told him I
was sure you'd want us to bring him home. You always want to help
Mother smiled, but she sighed, too. It is nice that your children
should believe you willing to open house and heart to any and every
one who needs help. But it is rather embarrassing sometimes, too,
when they act on their belief.
"Oh, well," said Mother, "we must make the best of it."
When Jim was carried in, dreadfully white and with set lips whose
red had faded to a horrid bluey violet colour, Mother said:--
"I am glad you brought him here. Now, Jim, let's get you
comfortable in bed before the Doctor comes!"
And Jim, looking at her kind eyes, felt a little, warm, comforting
flush of new courage.
"It'll hurt rather, won't it?" he said. "I don't mean to be a
coward. You won't think I'm a coward if I faint again, will you? I
really and truly don't do it on purpose. And I do hate to give you
all this trouble."
"Don't you worry," said Mother; "it's you that have the trouble, you
poor dear--not us."
And she kissed him just as if he had been Peter. "We love to have
you here--don't we, Bobbie?"
"Yes," said Bobbie--and she saw by her Mother's face how right she
had been to bring home the wounded hound in the red jersey.
Chapter XIII. The hound's grandfather.
Mother did not get back to her writing all that day, for the red-
jerseyed hound whom the children had brought to Three Chimneys had
to be put to bed. And then the Doctor came, and hurt him most
horribly. Mother was with him all through it, and that made it a
little better than it would have been, but "bad was the best," as
Mrs. Viney said.
The children sat in the parlour downstairs and heard the sound of
the Doctor's boots going backwards and forwards over the bedroom
floor. And once or twice there was a groan.
"It's horrible," said Bobbie. "Oh, I wish Dr. Forrest would make
haste. Oh, poor Jim!"
"It IS horrible," said Peter, "but it's very exciting. I wish
Doctors weren't so stuck-up about who they'll have in the room when
they're doing things. I should most awfully like to see a leg set.
I believe the bones crunch like anything."
"Don't!" said the two girls at once.
"Rubbish!" said Peter. "How are you going to be Red Cross Nurses,
like you were talking of coming home, if you can't even stand
hearing me say about bones crunching? You'd have to HEAR them
crunch on the field of battle--and be steeped in gore up to the
elbows as likely as not, and--"
"Stop it!" cried Bobbie, with a white face; "you don't know how
funny you're making me feel."
"Me, too," said Phyllis, whose face was pink.
"Cowards!" said Peter.
"I'm not," said Bobbie. "I helped Mother with your rake-wounded
foot, and so did Phil--you know we did."
"Well, then!" said Peter. "Now look here. It would be a jolly good
thing for you if I were to talk to you every day for half an hour
about broken bones and people's insides, so as to get you used to
A chair was moved above.
"Listen," said Peter, "that's the bone crunching."
"I do wish you wouldn't," said Phyllis. "Bobbie doesn't like it."
"I'll tell you what they do," said Peter. I can't think what made
him so horrid. Perhaps it was because he had been so very nice and
kind all the earlier part of the day, and now he had to have a
change. This is called reaction. One notices it now and then in
oneself. Sometimes when one has been extra good for a longer time
than usual, one is suddenly attacked by a violent fit of not being
good at all. "I'll tell you what they do," said Peter; "they strap
the broken man down so that he can't resist or interfere with their
doctorish designs, and then someone holds his head, and someone
holds his leg--the broken one, and pulls it till the bones fit in--
with a crunch, mind you! Then they strap it up and--let's play at
"Oh, no!" said Phyllis.
But Bobbie said suddenly: "All right--LET'S! I'll be the doctor,
and Phil can be the nurse. You can be the broken boner; we can get
at your legs more easily, because you don't wear petticoats."
"I'll get the splints and bandages," said Peter; "you get the couch
of suffering ready."
The ropes that had tied up the boxes that had come from home were
all in a wooden packing-case in the cellar. When Peter brought in a
trailing tangle of them, and two boards for splints, Phyllis was
"Now, then," he said, and lay down on the settle, groaning most
"Not so loud!" said Bobbie, beginning to wind the rope round him and
the settle. "You pull, Phil."
"Not so tight," moaned Peter. "You'll break my other leg."
Bobbie worked on in silence, winding more and more rope round him.
"That's enough," said Peter. "I can't move at all. Oh, my poor
leg!" He groaned again.
"SURE you can't move?" asked Bobbie, in a rather strange tone.
"Quite sure," replied Peter. "Shall we play it's bleeding freely or
not?" he asked cheerfully.
"YOU can play what you like," said Bobbie, sternly, folding her arms
and looking down at him where he lay all wound round and round with
cord. "Phil and I are going away. And we shan't untie you till you
promise never, never to talk to us about blood and wounds unless we
say you may. Come, Phil!"
"You beast!" said Peter, writhing. "I'll never promise, never.
I'll yell, and Mother will come."
"Do," said Bobbie, "and tell her why we tied you up! Come on, Phil.
No, I'm not a beast, Peter. But you wouldn't stop when we asked you
"Yah," said Peter, "it wasn't even your own idea. You got it out of
Bobbie and Phil, retiring in silent dignity, were met at the door by
the Doctor. He came in rubbing his hands and looking pleased with
"Well," he said, "THAT job's done. It's a nice clean fracture, and
it'll go on all right, I've no doubt. Plucky young chap, too--
hullo! what's all this?"
His eye had fallen on Peter who lay mousy-still in his bonds on the
"Playing at prisoners, eh?" he said; but his eyebrows had gone up a
little. Somehow he had not thought that Bobbie would be playing
while in the room above someone was having a broken bone set.
"Oh, no!" said Bobbie, "not at PRISONERS. We were playing at
setting bones. Peter's the broken boner, and I was the doctor."
The Doctor frowned.
"Then I must say," he said, and he said it rather sternly, "that's
it's a very heartless game. Haven't you enough imagination even to
faintly picture what's been going on upstairs? That poor chap, with
the drops of sweat on his forehead, and biting his lips so as not to
cry out, and every touch on his leg agony and--"
"YOU ought to be tied up," said Phyllis; "you're as bad as--"
"Hush," said Bobbie; "I'm sorry, but we weren't heartless, really."
"I was, I suppose," said Peter, crossly. "All right, Bobbie, don't
you go on being noble and screening me, because I jolly well won't
have it. It was only that I kept on talking about blood and wounds.
I wanted to train them for Red Cross Nurses. And I wouldn't stop
when they asked me."
"Well?" said Dr. Forrest, sitting down.
"Well--then I said, 'Let's play at setting bones.' It was all rot.
I knew Bobbie wouldn't. I only said it to tease her. And then when
she said 'yes,' of course I had to go through with it. And they
tied me up. They got it out of Stalky. And I think it's a beastly
He managed to writhe over and hide his face against the wooden back
of the settle.
"I didn't think that anyone would know but us," said Bobbie,
indignantly answering Peter's unspoken reproach. "I never thought
of your coming in. And hearing about blood and wounds does really
make me feel most awfully funny. It was only a joke our tying him
up. Let me untie you, Pete."
"I don't care if you never untie me," said Peter; "and if that's
your idea of a joke--"
"If I were you," said the Doctor, though really he did not quite
know what to say, "I should be untied before your Mother comes down.
You don't want to worry her just now, do you?"
"I don't promise anything about not saying about wounds, mind," said
Peter, in very surly tones, as Bobbie and Phyllis began to untie the
"I'm very sorry, Pete," Bobbie whispered, leaning close to him as
she fumbled with the big knot under the settle; "but if you only
knew how sick you made me feel."
"You've made ME feel pretty sick, I can tell you," Peter rejoined.
Then he shook off the loose cords, and stood up.
"I looked in," said Dr. Forrest, "to see if one of you would come
along to the surgery. There are some things that your Mother will
want at once, and I've given my man a day off to go and see the
circus; will you come, Peter?"
Peter went without a word or a look to his sisters.
The two walked in silence up to the gate that led from the Three
Chimneys field to the road. Then Peter said:--
"Let me carry your bag. I say, it is heavy--what's in it?"
"Oh, knives and lancets and different instruments for hurting
people. And the ether bottle. I had to give him ether, you know--
the agony was so intense."
Peter was silent.
"Tell me all about how you found that chap," said Dr. Forrest.
Peter told. And then Dr. Forrest told him stories of brave rescues;
he was a most interesting man to talk to, as Peter had often
Then in the surgery Peter had a better chance than he had ever had
of examining the Doctor's balance, and his microscope, and his
scales and measuring glasses. When all the things were ready that
Peter was to take back, the Doctor said suddenly:--
"You'll excuse my shoving my oar in, won't you? But I should like
to say something to you."
"Now for a rowing," thought Peter, who had been wondering how it was
that he had escaped one.
"Something scientific," added the Doctor.
"Yes," said Peter, fiddling with the fossil ammonite that the Doctor
used for a paper-weight.
"Well then, you see. Boys and girls are only little men and women.
And WE are much harder and hardier than they are--" (Peter liked
the "we." Perhaps the Doctor had known he would.)--"and much
stronger, and things that hurt THEM don't hurt US. You know you
mustn't hit a girl--"
"I should think not, indeed," muttered Peter, indignantly.
"Not even if she's your own sister. That's because girls are so
much softer and weaker than we are; they have to be, you know," he
added, "because if they weren't, it wouldn't be nice for the babies.
And that's why all the animals are so good to the mother animals.
They never fight them, you know."
"I know," said Peter, interested; "two buck rabbits will fight all
day if you let them, but they won't hurt a doe."
"No; and quite wild beasts--lions and elephants--they're immensely
gentle with the female beasts. And we've got to be, too."
"I see," said Peter.
"And their hearts are soft, too," the Doctor went on, "and things
that we shouldn't think anything of hurt them dreadfully. So that a
man has to be very careful, not only of his fists, but of his words.
They're awfully brave, you know," he went on. "Think of Bobbie
waiting alone in the tunnel with that poor chap. It's an odd thing-
-the softer and more easily hurt a woman is the better she can screw
herself up to do what HAS to be done. I've seen some brave women--
your Mother's one," he ended abruptly.
"Yes," said Peter.
"Well, that's all. Excuse my mentioning it. But nobody knows
everything without being told. And you see what I mean, don't you?"
"Yes," said Peter. "I'm sorry. There!"
"Of course you are! People always are--directly they understand.
Everyone ought to be taught these scientific facts. So long!"
They shook hands heartily. When Peter came home, his sisters looked
at him doubtfully.
"It's Pax," said Peter, dumping down the basket on the table. "Dr.
Forrest has been talking scientific to me. No, it's no use my
telling you what he said; you wouldn't understand. But it all comes
to you girls being poor, soft, weak, frightened things like rabbits,
so us men have just got to put up with them. He said you were
female beasts. Shall I take this up to Mother, or will you?"
"I know what BOYS are," said Phyllis, with flaming cheeks; "they're
just the nastiest, rudest--"
"They're very brave," said Bobbie, "sometimes."
"Ah, you mean the chap upstairs? I see. Go ahead, Phil--I shall
put up with you whatever you say because you're a poor, weak,
"Not if I pull your hair you won't," said Phyllis, springing at him.
"He said 'Pax,'" said Bobbie, pulling her away. "Don't you see,"
she whispered as Peter picked up the basket and stalked out with it,
"he's sorry, really, only he won't say so? Let's say we're sorry."
"It's so goody goody," said Phyllis, doubtfully; "he said we were
female beasts, and soft and frightened--"
"Then let's show him we're not frightened of him thinking us goody
goody," said Bobbie; "and we're not any more beasts than he is."
And when Peter came back, still with his chin in the air, Bobbie
"We're sorry we tied you up, Pete."
"I thought you would be," said Peter, very stiff and superior.
This was hard to bear. But--
"Well, so we are," said Bobbie. "Now let honour be satisfied on
"I did call it Pax," said Peter, in an injured tone.
"Then let it BE Pax," said Bobbie. "Come on, Phil, let's get the
tea. Pete, you might lay the cloth."
"I say," said Phyllis, when peace was really restored, which was not
till they were washing up the cups after tea, "Dr. Forrest didn't
REALLY say we were female beasts, did he?"
"Yes," said Peter, firmly, "but I think he meant we men were wild
"How funny of him!" said Phyllis, breaking a cup.
* * * * * *
"May I come in, Mother?" Peter was at the door of Mother's writing
room, where Mother sat at her table with two candles in front of
her. Their flames looked orange and violet against the clear grey
blue of the sky where already a few stars were twinkling.
"Yes, dear," said Mother, absently, "anything wrong?" She wrote a
few more words and then laid down her pen and began to fold up what
she had written. "I was just writing to Jim's grandfather. He
lives near here, you know."
"Yes, you said so at tea. That's what I want to say. Must you
write to him, Mother? Couldn't we keep Jim, and not say anything to
his people till he's well? It would be such a surprise for them."
"Well, yes," said Mother, laughing, "I think it would."
"You see," Peter went on, "of course the girls are all right and all
that--I'm not saying anything against THEM. But I should like it if
I had another chap to talk to sometimes."
"Yes," said Mother, "I know it's dull for you, dear. But I can't
help it. Next year perhaps I can send you to school--you'd like
that, wouldn't you?"
"I do miss the other chaps, rather," Peter confessed; "but if Jim
could stay after his leg was well, we could have awful larks."
"I've no doubt of it," said Mother. "Well--perhaps he could, but
you know, dear, we're not rich. I can't afford to get him
everything he'll want. And he must have a nurse."
"Can't you nurse him, Mother? You do nurse people so beautifully."
"That's a pretty compliment, Pete--but I can't do nursing and my
writing as well. That's the worst of it."
"Then you MUST send the letter to his grandfather?"
"Of course--and to his schoolmaster, too. We telegraphed to them
both, but I must write as well. They'll be most dreadfully
"I say, Mother, why can't his grandfather pay for a nurse?" Peter
suggested. "That would be ripping. I expect the old boy's rolling
in money. Grandfathers in books always are."
"Well, this one isn't in a book," said Mother, "so we mustn't expect
him to roll much."
"I say," said Peter, musingly, "wouldn't it be jolly if we all WERE
in a book, and you were writing it? Then you could make all sorts
of jolly things happen, and make Jim's legs get well at once and be
all right to-morrow, and Father come home soon and--"
"Do you miss your Father very much?" Mother asked, rather coldly,
"Awfully," said Peter, briefly.
Mother was enveloping and addressing the second letter.
"You see," Peter went on slowly, "you see, it's not only him BEING
Father, but now he's away there's no other man in the house but me--
that's why I want Jim to stay so frightfully much. Wouldn't you
like to be writing that book with us all in it, Mother, and make
Daddy come home soon?"
Peter's Mother put her arm round him suddenly, and hugged him in
silence for a minute. Then she said:--
"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that
God's writing? If I were writing the book, I might make mistakes.
But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way
that's best for us."
"Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
"Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so
sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I can't believe
it, I know it's true--and I try to believe. You don't know how I
try, Peter. Now take the letters to the post, and don't let's be
sad any more. Courage, courage! That's the finest of all the
virtues! I dare say Jim will be here for two or three weeks yet."
For what was left of the evening Peter was so angelic that Bobbie
feared he was going to be ill. She was quite relieved in the
morning to find him plaiting Phyllis's hair on to the back of her
chair in quite his old manner.
It was soon after breakfast that a knock came at the door. The
children were hard at work cleaning the brass candlesticks in honour
of Jim's visit.
"That'll be the Doctor," said Mother; "I'll go. Shut the kitchen
door--you're not fit to be seen."
But it wasn't the Doctor. They knew that by the voice and by the
sound of the boots that went upstairs. They did not recognise the
sound of the boots, but everyone was certain that they had heard the
There was a longish interval. The boots and the voice did not come
"Who can it possibly be?" they kept on asking themselves and each
"Perhaps," said Peter at last, "Dr. Forrest has been attacked by
highwaymen and left for dead, and this is the man he's telegraphed
for to take his place. Mrs. Viney said he had a local tenant to do
his work when he went for a holiday, didn't you, Mrs. Viney?"
"I did so, my dear," said Mrs. Viney from the back kitchen.
"He's fallen down in a fit, more likely, said Phyllis, "all human
aid despaired of. And this is his man come to break the news to
"Nonsense!" said Peter, briskly; "Mother wouldn't have taken the man
up into Jim's bedroom. Why should she? Listen--the door's opening.
Now they'll come down. I'll open the door a crack."
"It's not listening," he replied indignantly to Bobbie's scandalised
remarks; "nobody in their senses would talk secrets on the stairs.
And Mother can't have secrets to talk with Dr. Forrest's stable-man-
-and you said it was him."
"Bobbie," called Mother's voice.
They opened the kitchen door, and Mother leaned over the stair
"Jim's grandfather has come," she said; "wash your hands and faces
and then you can see him. He wants to see you!" The bedroom door
"There now!" said Peter; "fancy us not even thinking of that! Let's
have some hot water, Mrs. Viney. I'm as black as your hat."
The three were indeed dirty, for the stuff you clean brass
candlesticks with is very far from cleaning to the cleaner.
They were still busy with soap and flannel when they heard the boots
and the voice come down the stairs and go into the dining-room. And
when they were clean, though still damp--because it takes such a
long time to dry your hands properly, and they were very impatient
to see the grandfather--they filed into the dining-room.
Mother was sitting in the window-seat, and in the leather-covered
armchair that Father always used to sit in at the other house sat--
THEIR OWN OLD GENTLEMAN!
"Well, I never did," said Peter, even before he said, "How do you
do?" He was, as he explained afterwards, too surprised even to
remember that there was such a thing as politeness--much less to
"It's our own old gentleman!" said Phyllis.
"Oh, it's you!" said Bobbie. And then they remembered themselves
and their manners and said, "How do you do?" very nicely.
"This is Jim's grandfather, Mr. --" said Mother, naming the old
"How splendid!" said Peter; "that's just exactly like a book, isn't
"It is, rather," said Mother, smiling; "things do happen in real
life that are rather like books, sometimes."
"I am so awfully glad it IS you," said Phyllis; "when you think of
the tons of old gentlemen there are in the world--it might have been
"I say, though," said Peter, "you're not going to take Jim away,
though, are you?"
"Not at present," said the old gentleman. "Your Mother has most
kindly consented to let him stay here. I thought of sending a
nurse, but your Mother is good enough to say that she will nurse him
"But what about her writing?" said Peter, before anyone could stop
him. "There won't be anything for him to eat if Mother doesn't
"That's all right," said Mother, hastily.
The old gentleman looked very kindly at Mother.
"I see," he said, "you trust your children, and confide in them."
"Of course," said Mother.
"Then I may tell them of our little arrangement," he said. "Your
Mother, my dears, has consented to give up writing for a little
while and to become a Matron of my Hospital."
"Oh!" said Phyllis, blankly; "and shall we have to go away from
Three Chimneys and the Railway and everything?"
"No, no, darling," said Mother, hurriedly.
"The Hospital is called Three Chimneys Hospital," said the old
gentleman, "and my unlucky Jim's the only patient, and I hope he'll
continue to be so. Your Mother will be Matron, and there'll be a
hospital staff of a housemaid and a cook--till Jim's well."
"And then will Mother go on writing again?" asked Peter.
"We shall see," said the old gentleman, with a slight, swift glance
at Bobbie; "perhaps something nice may happen and she won't have
"I love my writing," said Mother, very quickly.
"I know," said the old gentleman; "don't be afraid that I'm going to
try to interfere. But one never knows. Very wonderful and
beautiful things do happen, don't they? And we live most of our
lives in the hope of them. I may come again to see the boy?"
"Surely," said Mother, "and I don't know how to thank you for making
it possible for me to nurse him. Dear boy!"
"He kept calling Mother, Mother, in the night," said Phyllis. "I
woke up twice and heard him."
"He didn't mean me," said Mother, in a low voice to the old
gentleman; "that's why I wanted so much to keep him."
The old gentleman rose.
"I'm so glad," said Peter, "that you're going to keep him, Mother."
"Take care of your Mother, my dears," said the old gentleman.
"She's a woman in a million."
"Yes, isn't she?" whispered Bobbie.
"God bless her," said the old gentleman, taking both Mother's hands,
"God bless her! Ay, and she shall be blessed. Dear me, where's my
hat? Will Bobbie come with me to the gate?"
At the gate he stopped and said:--
"You're a good child, my dear--I got your letter. But it wasn't
needed. When I read about your Father's case in the papers at the
time, I had my doubts. And ever since I've known who you were, I've
been trying to find out things. I haven't done very much yet. But
I have hopes, my dear--I have hopes."
"Oh!" said Bobbie, choking a little.
"Yes--I may say great hopes. But keep your secret a little longer.
Wouldn't do to upset your Mother with a false hope, would it?"
"Oh, but it isn't false!" said Bobbie; "I KNOW you can do it. I
knew you could when I wrote. It isn't a false hope, is it?"
"No," he said, "I don't think it's a false hope, or I wouldn't have
told you. And I think you deserve to be told that there IS a hope."
"And you don't think Father did it, do you? Oh, say you don't think
"My dear," he said, "I'm perfectly CERTAIN he didn't."
If it was a false hope, it was none the less a very radiant one that
lay warm at Bobbie's heart, and through the days that followed
lighted her little face as a Japanese lantern is lighted by the
Chapter XIV. The End.
Life at the Three Chimneys was never quite the same again after the
old gentleman came to see his grandson. Although they now knew his
name, the children never spoke of him by it--at any rate, when they
were by themselves. To them he was always the old gentleman, and I
think he had better be the old gentleman to us, too. It wouldn't
make him seem any more real to you, would it, if I were to tell you
that his name was Snooks or Jenkins (which it wasn't)?--and, after
all, I must be allowed to keep one secret. It's the only one; I
have told you everything else, except what I am going to tell you in
this chapter, which is the last. At least, of course, I haven't
told you EVERYTHING. If I were to do that, the book would never
come to an end, and that would be a pity, wouldn't it?
Well, as I was saying, life at Three Chimneys was never quite the
same again. The cook and the housemaid were very nice (I don't mind
telling you their names--they were Clara and Ethelwyn), but they
told Mother they did not seem to want Mrs. Viney, and that she was
an old muddler. So Mrs. Viney came only two days a week to do
washing and ironing. Then Clara and Ethelwyn said they could do the
work all right if they weren't interfered with, and that meant that
the children no longer got the tea and cleared it away and washed up
the tea-things and dusted the rooms.
This would have left quite a blank in their lives, although they had
often pretended to themselves and to each other that they hated
housework. But now that Mother had no writing and no housework to
do, she had time for lessons. And lessons the children had to do.
However nice the person who is teaching you may be, lessons are
lessons all the world over, and at their best are worse fun than
peeling potatoes or lighting a fire.
On the other hand, if Mother now had time for lessons, she also had
time for play, and to make up little rhymes for the children as she
used to do. She had not had much time for rhymes since she came to
There was one very odd thing about these lessons. Whatever the
children were doing, they always wanted to be doing something else.
When Peter was doing his Latin, he thought it would be nice to be
learning History like Bobbie. Bobbie would have preferred
Arithmetic, which was what Phyllis happened to be doing, and Phyllis
of course thought Latin much the most interesting kind of lesson.
And so on.
So, one day, when they sat down to lessons, each of them found a
little rhyme at its place. I put the rhymes in to show you that
their Mother really did understand a little how children feel about
things, and also the kind of words they use, which is the case with
very few grown-up people. I suppose most grown-ups have very bad
memories, and have forgotten how they felt when they were little.
Of course, the verses are supposed to be spoken by the children.
I once thought Caesar easy pap--
How very soft I must have been!
When they start Caesar with a chap
He little know what that will mean.
Oh, verbs are silly stupid things.
I'd rather learn the dates of kings!
The worst of all my lesson things
Is learning who succeeded who
In all the rows of queens and kings,
With dates to everything they do:
With dates enough to make you sick;--
I wish it was Arithmetic!
Such pounds and pounds of apples fill
My slate--what is the price you'd spend?
You scratch the figures out until
You cry upon the dividend.
I'd break the slate and scream for joy
If I did Latin like a boy!
This kind of thing, of course, made lessons much jollier. It is
something to know that the person who is teaching you sees that it
is not all plain sailing for you, and does not think that it is just
your stupidness that makes you not know your lessons till you've
Then as Jim's leg got better it was very pleasant to go up and sit
with him and hear tales about his school life and the other boys.
There was one boy, named Parr, of whom Jim seemed to have formed the
lowest possible opinion, and another boy named Wigsby Minor, for
whose views Jim had a great respect. Also there were three brothers
named Paley, and the youngest was called Paley Terts, and was much
given to fighting.
Peter drank in all this with deep joy, and Mother seemed to have
listened with some interest, for one day she gave Jim a sheet of
paper on which she had written a rhyme about Parr, bringing in Paley
and Wigsby by name in a most wonderful way, as well as all the
reasons Jim had for not liking Parr, and Wigsby's wise opinion on
the matter. Jim was immensely pleased. He had never had a rhyme
written expressly for him before. He read it till he knew it by
heart and then he sent it to Wigsby, who liked it almost as much as
Jim did. Perhaps you may like it, too.
THE NEW BOY
His name is Parr: he says that he
Is given bread and milk for tea.
He says his father killed a bear.
He says his mother cuts his hair.
He wears goloshes when it's wet.
I've heard his people call him "Pet"!
He has no proper sense of shame;
He told the chaps his Christian name.
He cannot wicket-keep at all,
He's frightened of a cricket ball.
He reads indoors for hours and hours.
He knows the names of beastly flowers.
He says his French just like Mossoo--
A beastly stuck-up thing to do--
He won't keep _cave_, shirks his turn
And says he came to school to learn!
He won't play football, says it hurts;
He wouldn't fight with Paley Terts;
He couldn't whistle if he tried,
And when we laughed at him he cried!
Now Wigsby Minor says that Parr
Is only like all new boys are.
I know when _I_ first came to school
I wasn't such a jolly fool!
Jim could never understand how Mother could have been clever enough
to do it. To the others it seemed nice, but natural. You see they
had always been used to having a mother who could write verses just
like the way people talk, even to the shocking expression at the end
of the rhyme, which was Jim's very own.
Jim taught Peter to play chess and draughts and dominoes, and
altogether it was a nice quiet time.
Only Jim's leg got better and better, and a general feeling began to
spring up among Bobbie, Peter, and Phyllis that something ought to
be done to amuse him; not just games, but something really handsome.
But it was extraordinarily difficult to think of anything.
"It's no good," said Peter, when all of them had thought and thought
till their heads felt quite heavy and swollen; "if we can't think of
anything to amuse him, we just can't, and there's an end of it.
Perhaps something will just happen of its own accord that he'll
"Things DO happen by themselves sometimes, without your making
them," said Phyllis, rather as though, usually, everything that
happened in the world was her doing.
"I wish something would happen," said Bobbie, dreamily, "something
And something wonderful did happen exactly four days after she had
said this. I wish I could say it was three days after, because in
fairy tales it is always three days after that things happen. But
this is not a fairy story, and besides, it really was four and not
three, and I am nothing if not strictly truthful.
They seemed to be hardly Railway children at all in those days, and
as the days went on each had an uneasy feeling about this which
Phyllis expressed one day.
"I wonder if the Railway misses us," she said, plaintively. "We
never go to see it now."
"It seems ungrateful," said Bobbie; "we loved it so when we hadn't
anyone else to play with."
"Perks is always coming up to ask after Jim," said Peter, "and the
signalman's little boy is better. He told me so."
"I didn't mean the people," explained Phyllis; "I meant the dear
"The thing I don't like," said Bobbie, on this fourth day, which was
a Tuesday, "is our having stopped waving to the 9.15 and sending our
love to Father by it."
"Let's begin again," said Phyllis. And they did.
Somehow the change of everything that was made by having servants in
the house and Mother not doing any writing, made the time seem
extremely long since that strange morning at the beginning of
things, when they had got up so early and burnt the bottom out of
the kettle and had apple pie for breakfast and first seen the
It was September now, and the turf on the slope to the Railway was
dry and crisp. Little long grass spikes stood up like bits of gold
wire, frail blue harebells trembled on their tough, slender stalks,
Gipsy roses opened wide and flat their lilac-coloured discs, and the
golden stars of St. John's Wort shone at the edges of the pool that
lay halfway to the Railway. Bobbie gathered a generous handful of
the flowers and thought how pretty they would look lying on the
green-and-pink blanket of silk-waste that now covered Jim's poor
"Hurry up," said Peter, "or we shall miss the 9.15!"
"I can't hurry more than I am doing," said Phyllis. "Oh, bother it!
My bootlace has come undone AGAIN!"
"When you're married," said Peter, "your bootlace will come undone
going up the church aisle, and your man that you're going to get
married to will tumble over it and smash his nose in on the
ornamented pavement; and then you'll say you won't marry him, and
you'll have to be an old maid."
"I shan't," said Phyllis. "I'd much rather marry a man with his
nose smashed in than not marry anybody."
"It would be horrid to marry a man with a smashed nose, all the
same," went on Bobbie. "He wouldn't be able to smell the flowers at
the wedding. Wouldn't that be awful!"
"Bother the flowers at the wedding!" cried Peter. "Look! the
signal's down. We must run!"
They ran. And once more they waved their handkerchiefs, without at
all minding whether the handkerchiefs were clean or not, to the
"Take our love to Father!" cried Bobbie. And the others, too,
"Take our love to Father!"
The old gentleman waved from his first-class carriage window. Quite
violently he waved. And there was nothing odd in that, for he
always had waved. But what was really remarkable was that from
every window handkerchiefs fluttered, newspapers signalled, hands
waved wildly. The train swept by with a rustle and roar, the little
pebbles jumped and danced under it as it passed, and the children
were left looking at each other.
"Well!" said Peter.
"WELL!" said Bobbie.
"_WELL!_" said Phyllis.
"Whatever on earth does that mean?" asked Peter, but he did not
expect any answer.
"_I_ don't know," said Bobbie. "Perhaps the old gentleman told the
people at his station to look out for us and wave. He knew we
should like it!"
Now, curiously enough, this was just what had happened. The old
gentleman, who was very well known and respected at his particular
station, had got there early that morning, and he had waited at the
door where the young man stands holding the interesting machine that
clips the tickets, and he had said something to every single
passenger who passed through that door. And after nodding to what
the old gentleman had said--and the nods expressed every shade of
surprise, interest, doubt, cheerful pleasure, and grumpy agreement--
each passenger had gone on to the platform and read one certain part
of his newspaper. And when the passengers got into the train, they
had told the other passengers who were already there what the old
gentleman had said, and then the other passengers had also looked at
their newspapers and seemed very astonished and, mostly, pleased.
Then, when the train passed the fence where the three children were,
newspapers and hands and handkerchiefs were waved madly, till all
that side of the train was fluttery with white like the pictures of
the King's Coronation in the biograph at Maskelyne and Cook's. To
the children it almost seemed as though the train itself was alive,
and was at last responding to the love that they had given it so
freely and so long.
"It is most extraordinarily rum!" said Peter.
"Most stronery!" echoed Phyllis.
But Bobbie said, "Don't you think the old gentleman's waves seemed
more significating than usual?"
"No," said the others.
"I do," said Bobbie. "I thought he was trying to explain something
to us with his newspaper."
"Explain what?" asked Peter, not unnaturally.
"_I_ don't know," Bobbie answered, "but I do feel most awfully
funny. I feel just exactly as if something was going to happen."
"What is going to happen," said Peter, "is that Phyllis's stocking
is going to come down."
This was but too true. The suspender had given way in the agitation
of the waves to the 9.15. Bobbie's handkerchief served as first aid
to the injured, and they all went home.
Lessons were more than usually difficult to Bobbie that day.
Indeed, she disgraced herself so deeply over a quite simple sum
about the division of 48 pounds of meat and 36 pounds of bread among
144 hungry children that Mother looked at her anxiously.
"Don't you feel quite well, dear?" she asked.
"I don't know," was Bobbie's unexpected answer. "I don't know how I
feel. It isn't that I'm lazy. Mother, will you let me off lessons
to-day? I feel as if I wanted to be quite alone by myself."
"Yes, of course I'll let you off," said Mother; "but--"
Bobbie dropped her slate. It cracked just across the little green
mark that is so useful for drawing patterns round, and it was never
the same slate again. Without waiting to pick it up she bolted.
Mother caught her in the hall feeling blindly among the waterproofs
and umbrellas for her garden hat.
"What is it, my sweetheart?" said Mother. "You don't feel ill, do
"I DON'T know," Bobbie answered, a little breathlessly, "but I want
to be by myself and see if my head really IS all silly and my inside
"Hadn't you better lie down?" Mother said, stroking her hair back
from her forehead.
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