Part 3 out of 3
(A halfpenny for all bottles returned)
Of course the next thing was for one of us to catch a cold and try what
cured it; we all wanted to be the one, but it was Dicky's idea, and he
said he was not going to be done out of it, so we let him. It was only
fair. He left off his undershirt that very day, and next morning he
stood in a draught in his nightgown for quite a long time. And we
damped his day-shirt with the nail-brush before he put it on. But all
was vain. They always tell you that these things will give you cold,
but we found it was not so.
So then we all went over to the Park, and Dicky went right into the
water with his boots on, and stood there as long as he could bear it,
for it was rather cold, and we stood and cheered him on. He walked home
in his wet clothes, which they say is a sure thing, but it was no go,
though his boots were quite spoiled. And three days after Noel began to
cough and sneeze.
So then Dicky said it was not fair.
'I can't help it,' Noel said. 'You should have caught it yourself, then
it wouldn't have come to me.'
And Alice said she had known all along Noel oughtn't to have stood about
on the bank cheering in the cold.
Noel had to go to bed, and then we began to make the medicines; we were
sorry he was out of it, but he had the fun of taking the things.
We made a great many medicines. Alice made herb tea. She got sage and
thyme and savory and marjoram and boiled them all up together with salt
and water, but she _would_ put parsley in too. Oswald is sure parsley is
not a herb. It is only put on the cold meat and you are not supposed to
eat it. It kills parrots to eat parsley, I believe. I expect it was
the parsley that disagreed so with Noel. The medicine did not seem to
do the cough any good.
Oswald got a pennyworth of alum, because it is so cheap, and some
turpentine which every one knows is good for colds, and a little sugar
and an aniseed ball. These were mixed in a bottle with water, but Eliza
threw it away and said it was nasty rubbish, and I hadn't any money to
get more things with.
Dora made him some gruel, and he said it did his chest good; but of
course that was no use, because you cannot put gruel in bottles and say
it is medicine. It would not be honest, and besides nobody would
Dick mixed up lemon-juice and sugar and a little of the juice of the red
flannel that Noel's throat was done up in. It comes out beautifully in
hot water. Noel took this and he liked it. Noel's own idea was
liquorice-water, and we let him have it, but it is too plain and black
to sell in bottles at the proper price.
Noel liked H. O.'s medicine the best, which was silly of him, because it
was only peppermints melted in hot water, and a little cobalt to make it
look blue. It was all right, because H. O.'s paint-box is the French
kind, with Couleurs non Veneneuses on it. This means you may suck your
brushes if you want to, or even your paints if you are a very little
It was rather jolly while Noel had that cold. He had a fire in his
bedroom which opens out of Dicky's and Oswald's, and the girls used to
read aloud to Noel all day; they will not read aloud to you when you are
well. Father was away at Liverpool on business, and Albert's uncle was
at Hastings. We were rather glad of this, because we wished to give all
the medicines a fair trial, and grown-ups are but too fond of
interfering. As if we should have given him anything poisonous!
His cold went on--it was bad in his head, but it was not one of the kind
when he has to have poultices and can't sit up in bed. But when it had
been in his head nearly a week, Oswald happened to tumble over Alice on
the stairs. When we got up she was crying.
'Don't cry silly!' said Oswald; 'you know I didn't hurt you.' I was
very sorry if I had hurt her, but you ought not to sit on the stairs in
the dark and let other people tumble over you. You ought to remember
how beastly it is for them if they do hurt you.
'Oh, it's not that, Oswald,' Alice said. 'Don't be a pig! I am so
miserable. Do be kind to me.'
So Oswald thumped her on the back and told her to shut up.
'It's about Noel,' she said. 'I'm sure he's very ill; and playing about
with medicines is all very well, but I know he's ill, and Eliza won't
send for the doctor: she says it's only a cold. And I know the
doctor's bills are awful. I heard Father telling Aunt Emily so in the
summer. But he _is_ ill, and perhaps he'll die or something.'
Then she began to cry again. Oswald thumped her again, because he knows
how a good brother ought to behave, and said, 'Cheer up.' If we had
been in a book Oswald would have embraced his little sister tenderly,
and mingled his tears with hers.
Then Oswald said, 'Why not write to Father?'
And she cried more and said, 'I've lost the paper with the address. H.
O. had it to draw on the back of, and I can't find it now; I've looked
everywhere. I'll tell you what I'm going to do. No I won't. But I'm
going out. Don't tell the others. And I say, Oswald, do pretend I'm in
if Eliza asks. Promise.'
'Tell me what you're going to do,' I said. But she said 'No'; and there
was a good reason why not. So I said I wouldn't promise if it came to
that. Of course I meant to all right. But it did seem mean of her not
to tell me.
So Alice went out by the side door while Eliza was setting tea, and she
was a long time gone; she was not in to tea. When Eliza asked Oswald
where she was he said he did not know, but perhaps she was tidying her
corner drawer. Girls often do this, and it takes a long time. Noel
coughed a good bit after tea, and asked for Alice.
Oswald told him she was doing something and it was a secret. Oswald did
not tell any lies even to save his sister. When Alice came back she was
very quiet, but she whispered to Oswald that it was all right. When it
was rather late Eliza said she was going out to post a letter. This
always takes her an hour, because she _will_ go to the post-office across
the Heath instead of the pillar-box, because once a boy dropped fusees
in our pillar-box and burnt the letters. It was not any of us; Eliza
told us about it. And when there was a knock at the door a long time
after we thought it was Eliza come back, and that she had forgotten the
back-door key. We made H. O. go down to open the door, because it is
his place to run about: his legs are younger than ours. And we heard
boots on the stairs besides H. O.'s, and we listened spellbound till the
door opened, and it was Albert's uncle. He looked very tired.
'I am glad you've come,' Oswald said. 'Alice began to think Noel--'
Alice stopped me, and her face was very red, her nose was shiny too,
with having cried so much before tea.
She said, 'I only said I thought Noel ought to have the doctor. Don't
you think he ought?' She got hold of Albert's uncle and held on to him.
'Let's have a look at you, young man,' said Albert's uncle, and he sat
down on the edge of the bed. It is a rather shaky bed, the bar that
keeps it steady underneath got broken when we were playing burglars last
winter. It was our crowbar. He began to feel Noel's pulse, and went on
'It was revealed to the Arab physician as he made merry in his tents on
the wild plains of Hastings that the Presence had a cold in its head.
So he immediately seated himself on the magic carpet, and bade it bear
him hither, only pausing in the flight to purchase a few sweetmeats in
He pulled out a jolly lot of chocolate and some butterscotch, and grapes
for Noel. When we had all said thank you, he went on.
'The physician's are the words of wisdom: it's high time this kid was
asleep. I have spoken. Ye have my leave to depart.'
So we bunked, and Dora and Albert's uncle made Noel comfortable for the
Then they came to the nursery which we had gone down to, and he sat down
in the Guy Fawkes chair and said, 'Now then.'
Alice said, 'You may tell them what I did. I daresay they'll all be in
a wax, but I don't care.'
'I think you were very wise,' said Albert's uncle, pulling her close to
him to sit on his knee. 'I am very glad you telegraphed.'
So then Oswald understood what Alice's secret was. She had gone out and
sent a telegram to Albert's uncle at Hastings. But Oswald thought she
might have told him. Afterwards she told me what she had put in the
telegram. It was, 'Come home. We have given Noel a cold, and I think
we are killing him.' With the address it came to tenpence-halfpenny.
Then Albert's uncle began to ask questions, and it all came out, how
Dicky had tried to catch the cold, but the cold had gone to Noel
instead, and about the medicines and all. Albert's uncle looked very
'Look here,' he said, 'You're old enough not to play the fool like this.
Health is the best thing you've got; you ought to know better than to
risk it. You might have killed your little brother with your precious
medicines. You've had a lucky escape, certainly. But poor Noel!'
'Oh, do you think he's going to die?' Alice asked that, and she was
'No, no,' said Albert's uncle; 'but look here. Do you see how silly
you've been? And I thought you promised your Father--' And then he gave
us a long talking-to. He can make you feel most awfully small. At last
he stopped, and we said we were very sorry, and he said, 'You know I
promised to take you all to the pantomime?'
So we said, 'Yes,' and knew but too well that now he wasn't going to.
Then he went on--
'Well, I will take you if you like, or I will take Noel to the sea for a
week to cure his cold. Which is it to be?'
Of course he knew we should say, 'Take Noel' and we did; but Dicky told
me afterwards he thought it was hard on H. O.
Albert's uncle stayed till Eliza came in, and then he said good night in
a way that showed us that all was forgiven and forgotten.
And we went to bed. It must have been the middle of the night when
Oswald woke up suddenly, and there was Alice with her teeth chattering,
shaking him to wake him.
'Oh, Oswald!' she said, 'I am so unhappy. Suppose I should die in the
Oswald told her to go to bed and not gas. But she said, 'I must tell
you; I wish I'd told Albert's uncle. I'm a thief, and if I die to-night
I know where thieves go to.' So Oswald saw it was no good and he sat up
in bed and said--'Go ahead.' So Alice stood shivering and said--'I
hadn't enough money for the telegram, so I took the bad sixpence out of
the exchequer. And I paid for it with that and the fivepence I had.
And I wouldn't tell you, because if you'd stopped me doing it I couldn't
have borne it; and if you'd helped me you'd have been a thief too. Oh,
what shall I do?'
Oswald thought a minute, and then he said--
'You'd better have told me. But I think it will be all right if we pay
it back. Go to bed. Cross with you? No, stupid! Only another time
you'd better not keep secrets.'
So she kissed Oswald, and he let her, and she went back to bed.
The next day Albert's uncle took Noel away, before Oswald had time to
persuade Alice that we ought to tell him about the sixpence. Alice was
very unhappy, but not so much as in the night: you can be very
miserable in the night if you have done anything wrong and you happen to
be awake. I know this for a fact.
None of us had any money except Eliza, and she wouldn't give us any
unless we said what for; and of course we could not do that because of
the honour of the family. And Oswald was anxious to get the sixpence to
give to the telegraph people because he feared that the badness of that
sixpence might have been found out, and that the police might come for
Alice at any moment. I don't think I ever had such an unhappy day. Of
course we could have written to Albert's uncle, but it would have taken
a long time, and every moment of delay added to Alice's danger. We
thought and thought, but we couldn't think of any way to get that
sixpence. It seems a small sum, but you see Alice's liberty depended on
it. It was quite late in the afternoon when I met Mrs Leslie on the
Parade. She had a brown fur coat and a lot of yellow flowers in her
hands. She stopped to speak to me, and asked me how the Poet was. I
told her he had a cold, and I wondered whether she would lend me
sixpence if I asked her, but I could not make up my mind how to begin to
say it. It is a hard thing to say--much harder than you would think.
She talked to me for a bit, and then she suddenly got into a cab, and
'I'd no idea it was so late,' and told the man where to go. And just as
she started she shoved the yellow flowers through the window and said,
'For the sick poet, with my love,' and was driven off.
Gentle reader, I will not conceal from you what Oswald did. He knew all
about not disgracing the family, and he did not like doing what I am
going to say: and they were really Noel's flowers, only he could not
have sent them to Hastings, and Oswald knew he would say 'Yes' if Oswald
asked him. Oswald sacrificed his family pride because of his little
sister's danger. I do not say he was a noble boy--I just tell you what
he did, and you can decide for yourself about the nobleness.
He put on his oldest clothes--they're much older than any you would
think he had if you saw him when he was tidy--and he took those yellow
chrysanthemums and he walked with them to Greenwich Station and waited
for the trains bringing people from London. He sold those flowers in
penny bunches and got tenpence. Then he went to the telegraph office at
Lewisham, and said to the lady there:
'A little girl gave you a bad sixpence yesterday. Here are six good
The lady said she had not noticed it, and never mind, but Oswald knew
that 'Honesty is the best Policy', and he refused to take back the
pennies. So at last she said she should put them in the plate on
Sunday. She is a very nice lady. I like the way she does her hair.
Then Oswald went home to Alice and told her, and she hugged him, and
said he was a dear, good, kind boy, and he said 'Oh, it's all right.'
We bought peppermint bullseyes with the fourpence I had over, and the
others wanted to know where we got the money, but we would not tell.
Only afterwards when Noel came home we told him, because they were his
flowers, and he said it was quite right. He made some poetry about it.
I only remember one bit of it.
The noble youth of high degree
Consents to play a menial part,
All for his sister Alice's sake,
Who was so dear to his faithful heart.
But Oswald himself has never bragged about it. We got no treasure out
of this, unless you count the peppermint bullseyes.
THE ROBBER AND THE BURGLAR
A day or two after Noel came back from Hastings there was snow; it was
jolly. And we cleared it off the path. A man to do it is sixpence at
least, and you should always save when you can. A penny saved is a
penny earned. And then we thought it would be nice to clear it off the
top of the portico, where it lies so thick, and the edges as if they had
been cut with a knife. And just as we had got out of the landing-window
on to the portico, the Water Rates came up the path with his book that
he tears the thing out of that says how much you have got to pay, and
the little ink-bottle hung on to his buttonhole in case you should pay
him. Father says the Water Rates is a sensible man, and knows it is
always well to be prepared for whatever happens, however unlikely.
Alice said afterwards that she rather liked the Water Rates, really, and
Noel said he had a face like a good vizier, or the man who rewards the
honest boy for restoring the purse, but we did not think about these
things at the time, and as the Water Rates came up the steps, we
shovelled down a great square slab of snow like an avalanche--and it
fell right on his head. Two of us thought of it at the same moment, so
it was quite a large avalanche. And when the Water Rates had shaken
himself he rang the bell. It was Saturday, and Father was at home. We
know now that it is very wrong and ungentlemanly to shovel snow off
porticoes on to the Water Rates, or any other person, and we hope he did
not catch a cold, and we are very sorry. We apologized to the Water
Rates when Father told us to. We were all sent to bed for it.
We all deserved the punishment, because the others would have shovelled
down snow just as we did if they'd thought of it--only they are not so
quick at thinking of things as we are. And even quite wrong things
sometimes lead to adventures; as every one knows who has ever read about
pirates or highwaymen.
Eliza hates us to be sent to bed early, because it means her having to
bring meals up, and it means lighting the fire in Noel's room ever so
much earlier than usual. He had to have a fire because he still had a
bit of a cold. But this particular day we got Eliza into a good temper
by giving her a horrid brooch with pretending amethysts in it, that an
aunt once gave to Alice, so Eliza brought up an extra scuttle of coals,
and when the greengrocer came with the potatoes (he is always late on
Saturdays) she got some chestnuts from him. So that when we heard Father
go out after his dinner, there was a jolly fire in Noel's room, and we
were able to go in and be Red Indians in blankets most comfortably.
Eliza had gone out; she says she gets things cheaper on Saturday nights.
She has a great friend, who sells fish at a shop, and he is very
generous, and lets her have herrings for less than half the natural
So we were all alone in the house; Pincher was out with Eliza, and we
talked about robbers. And Dora thought it would be a dreadful trade,
but Dicky said--
'I think it would be very interesting. And you would only rob rich
people, and be very generous to the poor and needy, like Claude Duval.'
Dora said, 'It is wrong to be a robber.'
'Yes,' said Alice, 'you would never know a happy hour. Think of trying
to sleep with the stolen jewels under your bed, and remembering all the
quantities of policemen and detectives that there are in the world!'
'There are ways of being robbers that are not wrong,' said Noel; 'if you
can rob a robber it is a right act.'
'But you can't,' said Dora; 'he is too clever, and besides, it's wrong
'Yes you can, and it isn't; and murdering him with boiling oil is a
right act, too, so there!' said Noel. 'What about Ali Baba? Now then!'
And we felt it was a score for Noel.
'What would you do if there _was_ a robber?' said Alice.
H. O. said he would kill him with boiling oil; but Alice explained that
she meant a real robber--now--this minute--in the house.
Oswald and Dicky did not say; but Noel said he thought it would only be
fair to ask the robber quite politely and quietly to go away, and then
if he didn't you could deal with him.
Now what I am going to tell you is a very strange and wonderful thing,
and I hope you will be able to believe it. I should not, if a boy told
me, unless I knew him to be a man of honour, and perhaps not then unless
he gave his sacred word. But it is true, all the same, and it only
shows that the days of romance and daring deeds are not yet at an end.
Alice was just asking Noel _how_ he would deal with the robber who
wouldn't go if he was asked politely and quietly, when we heard a noise
downstairs--quite a plain noise, not the kind of noise you fancy you
hear. It was like somebody moving a chair. We held our breath and
listened and then came another noise, like some one poking a fire. Now,
you remember there was no one _to_ poke a fire or move a chair downstairs,
because Eliza and Father were both out. They could not have come in
without our hearing them, because the front door is as hard to shut as
the back one, and whichever you go in by you have to give a slam that
you can hear all down the street.
H. O. and Alice and Dora caught hold of each other's blankets and looked
at Dicky and Oswald, and every one was quite pale. And Noel whispered--
'It's ghosts, I know it is'--and then we listened again, but there was
no more noise. Presently Dora said in a whisper--
'Whatever shall we do? Oh, whatever shall we do--what _shall_ we do?' And
she kept on saying it till we had to tell her to shut up.
O reader, have you ever been playing Red Indians in blankets round a
bedroom fire in a house where you thought there was no one but you--and
then suddenly heard a noise like a chair, and a fire being poked,
downstairs? Unless you have you will not be able to imagine at all what
it feels like. It was not like in books; our hair did not stand on end
at all, and we never said 'Hist!' once, but our feet got very cold,
though we were in blankets by the fire, and the insides of Oswald's
hands got warm and wet, and his nose was cold like a dog's, and his ears
were burning hot.
The girls said afterwards that they shivered with terror, and their
teeth chattered, but we did not see or hear this at the time.
'Shall we open the window and call police?' said Dora; and then Oswald
suddenly thought of something, and he breathed more freely and he said--
'I _know_ it's not ghosts, and I don't believe it's robbers. I expect
it's a stray cat got in when the coals came this morning, and she's been
hiding in the cellar, and now she's moving about. Let's go down and
The girls wouldn't, of course; but I could see that they breathed more
freely too. But Dicky said, 'All right; I will if you will.'
H. O. said, 'Do you think it's _really_ a cat?' So we said he had better
stay with the girls. And of course after that we had to let him and
Alice both come. Dora said if we took Noel down with his cold, she would
scream 'Fire!' and 'Murder!' and she didn't mind if the whole street
So Noel agreed to be getting his clothes on, and the rest of us said we
would go down and look for the cat.
Now Oswald _said_ that about the cat, and it made it easier to go down,
but in his inside he did not feel at all sure that it might not be
robbers after all. Of course, we had often talked about robbers before,
but it is very different when you sit in a room and listen and listen
and listen; and Oswald felt somehow that it would be easier to go down
and see what it was, than to wait, and listen, and wait, and wait, and
listen, and wait, and then perhaps to hear _it_, whatever it was, come
creeping slowly up the stairs as softly as _it_ could with _its_ boots off,
and the stairs creaking, towards the room where we were with the door
open in case of Eliza coming back suddenly, and all dark on the
landings. And then it would have been just as bad, and it would have
lasted longer, and you would have known you were a coward besides. Dicky
says he felt all these same things. Many people would say we were young
heroes to go down as we did; so I have tried to explain, because no
young hero wishes to have more credit than he deserves.
The landing gas was turned down low--just a blue bead--and we four went
out very softly, wrapped in our blankets, and we stood on the top of the
stairs a good long time before we began to go down. And we listened and
listened till our ears buzzed.
And Oswald whispered to Dicky, and Dicky went into our room and fetched
the large toy pistol that is a foot long, and that has the trigger
broken, and I took it because I am the eldest; and I don't think either
of us thought it was the cat now. But Alice and H. O. did. Dicky got
the poker out of Noel's room, and told Dora it was to settle the cat
with when we caught her.
Then Oswald whispered, 'Let's play at burglars; Dicky and I are armed to
the teeth, we will go first. You keep a flight behind us, and be a
reinforcement if we are attacked. Or you can retreat and defend the
women and children in the fortress, if you'd rather.'
But they said they would be a reinforcement.
Oswald's teeth chattered a little when he spoke. It was not with
anything else except cold.
So Dicky and Oswald crept down, and when we got to the bottom of the
stairs, we saw Father's study door just ajar, and the crack of light.
And Oswald was so pleased to see the light, knowing that burglars prefer
the dark, or at any rate the dark lantern, that he felt really sure it
_was_ the cat after all, and then he thought it would be fun to make the
others upstairs think it was really a robber. So he cocked the pistol--
you can cock it, but it doesn't go off--and he said, 'Come on, Dick!'
and he rushed at the study door and burst into the room, crying,
'Surrender! you are discovered! Surrender, or I fire! Throw up your
And, as he finished saying it, he saw before him, standing on the study
hearthrug, a Real Robber. There was no mistake about it. Oswald was
sure it was a robber, because it had a screwdriver in its hands, and was
standing near the cupboard door that H. O. broke the lock off; and there
were gimlets and screws and things on the floor. There is nothing in
that cupboard but old ledgers and magazines and the tool chest, but of
course, a robber could not know that beforehand.
When Oswald saw that there really was a robber, and that he was so
heavily armed with the screwdriver, he did not feel comfortable. But he
kept the pistol pointed at the robber, and--you will hardly believe it,
but it is true--the robber threw down the screwdriver clattering on the
other tools, and he _did_ throw up his hands, and said--
'I surrender; don't shoot me! How many of you are there?'
So Dicky said, 'You are outnumbered. Are you armed?'
And the robber said, 'No, not in the least.'
And Oswald said, still pointing the pistol, and feeling very strong and
brave and as if he was in a book, 'Turn out your pockets.'
The robber did: and while he turned them out, we looked at him. He was
of the middle height, and clad in a black frock-coat and grey trousers.
His boots were a little gone at the sides, and his shirt-cuffs were a
bit frayed, but otherwise he was of gentlemanly demeanour. He had a
thin, wrinkled face, with big, light eyes that sparkled, and then looked
soft very queerly, and a short beard. In his youth it must have been of
a fair golden colour, but now it was tinged with grey. Oswald was sorry
for him, especially when he saw that one of his pockets had a large hole
in it, and that he had nothing in his pockets but letters and string and
three boxes of matches, and a pipe and a handkerchief and a thin tobacco
pouch and two pennies. We made him put all the things on the table, and
then he said--
'Well, you've caught me; what are you going to do with me? Police?'
Alice and H. O. had come down to be reinforcements, when they heard a
shout, and when Alice saw that it was a Real Robber, and that he had
surrendered, she clapped her hands and said, 'Bravo, boys!' and so did
H. O. And now she said, 'If he gives his word of honour not to escape, I
shouldn't call the police: it seems a pity. Wait till Father comes
The robber agreed to this, and gave his word of honour, and asked if he
might put on a pipe, and we said 'Yes,' and he sat in Father's armchair
and warmed his boots, which steamed, and I sent H. O. and Alice to put
on some clothes and tell the others, and bring down Dicky's and my
knickerbockers, and the rest of the chestnuts.
And they all came, and we sat round the fire, and it was jolly. The
robber was very friendly, and talked to us a great deal.
'I wasn't always in this low way of business,' he said, when Noel said
something about the things he had turned out of his pockets. 'It's a
great come-down to a man like me. But, if I must be caught, it's
something to be caught by brave young heroes like you. My stars! How
you did bolt into the room,--"Surrender, and up with your hands!" You
might have been born and bred to the thief-catching.'
Oswald is sorry if it was mean, but he could not own up just then that
he did not think there was any one in the study when he did that brave
if rash act. He has told since.
'And what made you think there was any one in the house?' the robber
asked, when he had thrown his head back, and laughed for quite half a
minute. So we told him. And he applauded our valour, and Alice and H.
O. explained that they would have said 'Surrender,' too, only they were
reinforcements. The robber ate some of the chestnuts--and we sat and
wondered when Father would come home, and what he would say to us for
our intrepid conduct. And the robber told us of all the things he had
done before he began to break into houses. Dicky picked up the tools
from the floor, and suddenly he said--
'Why, this is Father's screwdriver and his gimlets, and all! Well, I do
call it jolly cheek to pick a man's locks with his own tools!'
'True, true,' said the robber. 'It is cheek, of the jolliest! But you
see I've come down in the world. I was a highway robber once, but
horses are so expensive to hire--five shillings an hour, you know--and I
couldn't afford to keep them. The highwayman business isn't what it
'What about a bike?' said H. O.
But the robber thought cycles were low--and besides you couldn't go
across country with them when occasion arose, as you could with a trusty
steed. And he talked of highwaymen as if he knew just how we liked
Then he told us how he had been a pirate captain--and how he had sailed
over waves mountains high, and gained rich prizes--and how he _did_ begin
to think that here he had found a profession to his mind.
'I don't say there are no ups and downs in it,' he said, 'especially in
stormy weather. But what a trade! And a sword at your side, and the
Jolly Roger flying at the peak, and a prize in sight. And all the black
mouths of your guns pointed at the laden trader--and the wind in your
favour, and your trusty crew ready to live and die for you! Oh--but
it's a grand life!'
I did feel so sorry for him. He used such nice words, and he had a
'I'm sure you weren't brought up to be a pirate,' said Dora. She had
dressed even to her collar--and made Noel do it too--but the rest of us
were in blankets with just a few odd things put on anyhow underneath.
The robber frowned and sighed.
'No,' he said, 'I was brought up to the law. I was at Balliol, bless
your hearts, and that's true anyway.' He sighed again, and looked hard
at the fire.
'That was my Father's college,' H. O. was beginning, but Dicky
said--'Why did you leave off being a pirate?'
'A pirate?' he said, as if he had not been thinking of such things.
'Oh, yes; why I gave it up because--because I could not get over the
'Nelson was sea-sick,' said Oswald.
'Ah,' said the robber; 'but I hadn't his luck or his pluck, or
something. He stuck to it and won Trafalgar, didn't he? "Kiss me,
Hardy"--and all that, eh? _I_ couldn't stick to it--I had to resign.
And nobody kissed _me_.'
I saw by his understanding about Nelson that he was really a man who had
been to a good school as well as to Balliol.
Then we asked him, 'And what did you do then?'
And Alice asked if he was ever a coiner, and we told him how we had
thought we'd caught the desperate gang next door, and he was very much
interested and said he was glad he had never taken to coining.
'Besides, the coins are so ugly nowadays,' he said, 'no one could really
find any pleasure in making them. And it's a hole-and-corner business
at the best, isn't it?--and it must be a very thirsty one--with the hot
metal and furnaces and things.'
And again he looked at the fire.
Oswald forgot for a minute that the interesting stranger was a robber,
and asked him if he wouldn't have a drink. Oswald has heard Father do
this to his friends, so he knows it is the right thing. The robber said
he didn't mind if he did. And that is right, too.
And Dora went and got a bottle of Father's ale--the Light Sparkling
Family--and a glass, and we gave it to the robber. Dora said she would
Then when he had had a drink he told us about bandits, but he said it
was so bad in wet weather. Bandits' caves were hardly ever properly
weathertight. And bush-ranging was the same.
'As a matter of fact,' he said, 'I was bush-ranging this afternoon,
among the furze-bushes on the Heath, but I had no luck. I stopped the
Lord Mayor in his gilt coach, with all his footmen in plush and gold
lace, smart as cockatoos. But it was no go. The Lord Mayor hadn't a
stiver in his pockets. One of the footmen had six new pennies: the
Lord Mayor always pays his servants' wages in new pennies. I spent
fourpence of that in bread and cheese, that on the table's the tuppence.
Ah, it's a poor trade!' And then he filled his pipe again.
We had turned out the gas, so that Father should have a jolly good
surprise when he did come home, and we sat and talked as pleasant as
could be. I never liked a new man better than I liked that robber. And
I felt so sorry for him. He told us he had been a war-correspondent and
an editor, in happier days, as well as a horse-stealer and a colonel of
And quite suddenly, just as we were telling him about Lord Tottenham and
our being highwaymen ourselves, he put up his hand and said 'Shish!' and
we were quiet and listened.
There was a scrape, scrape, scraping noise; it came from downstairs.
'They're filing something,' whispered the robber, 'here--shut up, give
me that pistol, and the poker. There is a burglar now, and no mistake.'
'It's only a toy one and it won't go off,' I said, 'but you can cock
Then we heard a snap. 'There goes the window bar,' said the robber
softly. 'Jove! what an adventure! You kids stay here, I'll tackle it.'
But Dicky and I said we should come. So he let us go as far as the
bottom of the kitchen stairs, and we took the tongs and shovel with us.
There was a light in the kitchen; a very little light. It is curious we
never thought, any of us, that this might be a plant of our robber's to
get away. We never thought of doubting his word of honour. And we were
That noble robber dashed the kitchen door open, and rushed in with the
big toy pistol in one hand and the poker in the other, shouting out just
like Oswald had done--
'Surrender! You are discovered! Surrender, or I'll fire! Throw up
your hands!' And Dicky and I rattled the tongs and shovel so that he
might know there were more of us, all bristling with weapons.
And we heard a husky voice in the kitchen saying--
'All right, governor! Stow that scent sprinkler. I'll give in. Blowed
if I ain't pretty well sick of the job, anyway.'
Then we went in. Our robber was standing in the grandest manner with
his legs very wide apart, and the pistol pointing at the cowering
burglar. The burglar was a large man who did not mean to have a beard,
I think, but he had got some of one, and a red comforter, and a fur cap,
and his face was red and his voice was thick. How different from our
own robber! The burglar had a dark lantern, and he was standing by the
plate-basket. When we had lit the gas we all thought he was very like
what a burglar ought to be.
He did not look as if he could ever have been a pirate or a highwayman,
or anything really dashing or noble, and he scowled and shuffled his
feet and said: 'Well, go on: why don't yer fetch the pleece?'
'Upon my word, I don't know,' said our robber, rubbing his chin.
'Oswald, why don't we fetch the police?'
It is not every robber that I would stand Christian names from, I can
tell you but just then I didn't think of that. I just said--'Do you
mean I'm to fetch one?'
Our robber looked at the burglar and said nothing.
Then the burglar began to speak very fast, and to look different ways
with his hard, shiny little eyes.
'Lookee 'ere, governor,' he said, 'I was stony broke, so help me, I was.
And blessed if I've nicked a haporth of your little lot. You know
yourself there ain't much to tempt a bloke,' he shook the plate-basket
as if he was angry with it, and the yellowy spoons and forks rattled.
'I was just a-looking through this 'ere Bank-ollerday show, when you
come. Let me off, sir. Come now, I've got kids of my own at home,
strike me if I ain't--same as yours--I've got a nipper just about 'is
size, and what'll come of them if I'm lagged? I ain't been in it long,
sir, and I ain't 'andy at it.'
'No,' said our robber; 'you certainly are not.' Alice and the others
had come down by now to see what was happening. Alice told me
afterwards they thought it really was the cat this time.
'No, I ain't 'andy, as you say, sir, and if you let me off this once
I'll chuck the whole blooming bizz; rake my civvy, I will. Don't be hard
on a cove, mister; think of the missis and the kids. I've got one just
the cut of little missy there bless 'er pretty 'eart.'
'Your family certainly fits your circumstances very nicely,' said our
robber. Then Alice said--
'Oh, do let him go! If he's got a little girl like me, whatever will
she do? Suppose it was Father!'
'I don't think he's got a little girl like you, my dear,' said our
robber, 'and I think he'll be safer under lock and key.'
'You ask yer Father to let me go, miss,' said the burglar; ''e won't 'ave
the 'art to refuse you.'
'If I do,' said Alice, 'will you promise never to come back?'
'Not me, miss,' the burglar said very earnestly, and he looked at the
plate-basket again, as if that alone would be enough to keep him away,
our robber said afterwards.
'And will you be good and not rob any more?' said Alice.
'I'll turn over a noo leaf, miss, so help me.'
Then Alice said--'Oh, do let him go! I'm sure he'll be good.'
But our robber said no, it wouldn't be right; we must wait till Father
came home. Then H. O. said, very suddenly and plainly:
'I don't think it's at all fair, when you're a robber yourself.'
The minute he'd said it the burglar said, 'Kidded, by gum!'--and then
our robber made a step towards him to catch hold of him, and before you
had time to think 'Hullo!' the burglar knocked the pistol up with one
hand and knocked our robber down with the other, and was off out of the
window like a shot, though Oswald and Dicky did try to stop him by
holding on to his legs.
And that burglar had the cheek to put his head in at the window and say,
'I'll give yer love to the kids and the missis'--and he was off like
winking, and there were Alice and Dora trying to pick up our robber, and
asking him whether he was hurt, and where. He wasn't hurt at all,
except a lump at the back of his head. And he got up, and we dusted the
kitchen floor off him. Eliza is a dirty girl.
Then he said, 'Let's put up the shutters. It never rains but it pours.
Now you've had two burglars I daresay you'll have twenty.' So we put up
the shutters, which Eliza has strict orders to do before she goes out,
only she never does, and we went back to Father's study, and the robber
said, 'What a night we are having!' and put his boots back in the fender
to go on steaming, and then we all talked at once. It was the most
wonderful adventure we ever had, though it wasn't treasure-seeking--at
least not ours. I suppose it was the burglar's treasure-seeking, but he
didn't get much--and our robber said he didn't believe a word about
those kids that were so like Alice and me.
And then there was the click of the gate, and we said, 'Here's Father,'
and the robber said, 'And now for the police.'
Then we all jumped up. We did like him so much, and it seemed so unfair
that he should be sent to prison, and the horrid, lumping big burglar
And Alice said, 'Oh, _no_--run! Dicky will let you out at the back door.
Oh, do go, go _now_.'
And we all said, 'Yes, _go_,' and pulled him towards the door, and gave
him his hat and stick and the things out of his pockets.
But Father's latchkey was in the door, and it was too late.
Father came in quickly, purring with the cold, and began to say, 'It's
all right, Foulkes, I've got--' And then he stopped short and stared at
us. Then he said, in the voice we all hate, 'Children, what is the
meaning of all this?' And for a minute nobody spoke.
Then my Father said, 'Foulkes, I must really apologize for these very
naughty--' And then our robber rubbed his hands and laughed, and cried
'You're mistaken, my dear sir, I'm not Foulkes; I'm a robber, captured
by these young people in the most gallant manner. "Hands up, surrender,
or I fire," and all the rest of it. My word, Bastable, but you've got
some kids worth having! I wish my Denny had their pluck.'
Then we began to understand, and it was like being knocked down, it was
so sudden. And our robber told us he wasn't a robber after all. He was
only an old college friend of my Father's, and he had come after dinner,
when Father was just trying to mend the lock H. O. had broken, to ask
Father to get him a letter to a doctor about his little boy Denny, who
was ill. And Father had gone over the Heath to Vanbrugh Park to see
some rich people he knows and get the letter. And he had left Mr Foulkes
to wait till he came back, because it was important to know at once
whether Father could get the letter, and if he couldn't Mr Foulkes would
have had to try some one else directly.
We were dumb with amazement.
Our robber told my Father about the other burglar, and said he was sorry
he'd let him escape, but my Father said, 'Oh, it's all right: poor
beggar; if he really had kids at home: you never can tell--forgive us
our debts, don't you know; but tell me about the first business. It
must have been moderately entertaining.'
Then our robber told my Father how I had rushed into the room with a
pistol, crying out . . . but you know all about that. And he laid it on
so thick and fat about plucky young-uns, and chips of old blocks, and
things like that, that I felt I was purple with shame, even under the
blanket. So I swallowed that thing that tries to prevent you speaking
when you ought to, and I said, 'Look here, Father, I didn't really think
there was any one in the study. We thought it was a cat at first, and
then I thought there was no one there, and I was just larking. And when
I said surrender and all that, it was just the game, don't you know?'
Then our robber said, 'Yes, old chap; but when you found there really
_was_ someone there, you dropped the pistol and bunked, didn't you, eh?'
And I said, 'No; I thought, "Hullo! here's a robber! Well, it's all up,
I suppose, but I may as well hold on and see what happens."'
And I was glad I'd owned up, for Father slapped me on the back, and said
I was a young brick, and our robber said I was no funk anyway, and
though I got very hot under the blanket I liked it, and I explained that
the others would have done the same if they had thought of it.
Then Father got up some more beer, and laughed about Dora's
responsibility, and he got out a box of figs he had bought for us, only
he hadn't given it to us because of the Water Rates, and Eliza came in
and brought up the bread and cheese, and what there was left of the neck
of mutton--cold wreck of mutton, Father called it--and we had a feast--
like a picnic--all sitting anywhere, and eating with our fingers. It
was prime. We sat up till past twelve o'clock, and I never felt so
pleased to think I was not born a girl. It was hard on the others; they
would have done just the same if they'd thought of it. But it does make
you feel jolly when your pater says you're a young brick!
When Mr Foulkes was going, he said to Alice, 'Good-bye, Hardy.'
And Alice understood, of course, and kissed him as hard as she could.
And she said, 'I wanted to, when you said no one kissed you when you
left off being a pirate.' And he said, 'I know you did, my dear.' And
Dora kissed him too, and said, 'I suppose none of these tales were
And our robber just said, 'I tried to play the part properly, my dear.'
And he jolly well did play it, and no mistake. We have often seen him
since, and his boy Denny, and his girl Daisy, but that comes in another
And if any of you kids who read this ever had two such adventures in one
night you can just write and tell me. That's all.
You have no idea how uncomfortable the house was on the day when we
sought for gold with the divining-rod. It was like a spring-cleaning in
the winter-time. All the carpets were up, because Father had told Eliza
to make the place decent as there was a gentleman coming to dinner the
next day. So she got in a charwoman, and they slopped water about, and
left brooms and brushes on the stairs for people to tumble over. H. O.
got a big bump on his head in that way, and when he said it was too bad,
Eliza said he should keep in the nursery then, and not be where he'd no
business. We bandaged his head with a towel, and then he stopped crying
and played at being England's wounded hero dying in the cockpit, while
every man was doing his duty, as the hero had told them to, and Alice
was Hardy, and I was the doctor, and the others were the crew. Playing
at Hardy made us think of our own dear robber, and we wished he was
there, and wondered if we should ever see him any more.
We were rather astonished at Father's having anyone to dinner, because
now he never seems to think of anything but business. Before Mother died
people often came to dinner, and Father's business did not take up so
much of his time and was not the bother it is now. And we used to see
who could go furthest down in our nightgowns and get nice things to eat,
without being seen, out of the dishes as they came out of the dining-
room. Eliza can't cook very nice things. She told Father she was a
good plain cook, but he says it was a fancy portrait. We stayed in the
nursery till the charwoman came in and told us to be off--she was going
to make one job of it, and have our carpet up as well as all the others,
now the man was here to beat them. It came up, and it was very dusty--
and under it we found my threepenny-bit that I lost ages ago, which
shows what Eliza is. H. O. had got tired of being the wounded hero, and
Dicky was so tired of doing nothing that Dora said she knew he'd begin
to tease Noel in a minute; then of course Dicky said he wasn't going to
tease anybody--he was going out to the Heath. He said he'd heard that
nagging women drove a man from his home, and now he found it was quite
true. Oswald always tries to be a peacemaker, so he told Dicky to shut
up and not make an ass of himself. And Alice said, 'Well, Dora began'--
And Dora tossed her chin up and said it wasn't any business of Oswald's
any way, and no one asked Alice's opinion. So we all felt very
uncomfortable till Noel said, 'Don't let's quarrel about nothing. You
know let dogs delight--and I made up another piece while you were
Quarrelling is an evil thing,
It fills with gall life's cup;
For when once you begin
It takes such a long time to make it up.'
We all laughed then and stopped jawing at each other. Noel is very
funny with his poetry. But that piece happened to come out quite true.
You begin to quarrel and then you can't stop; often, long before the
others are ready to cry and make it up, I see how silly it is, and I
want to laugh; but it doesn't do to say so--for it only makes the others
crosser than they were before. I wonder why that is?
Alice said Noel ought to be poet laureate, and she actually went out in
the cold and got some laurel leaves--the spotted kind--out of the
garden, and Dora made a crown and we put it on him. He was quite
pleased; but the leaves made a mess, and Eliza said, 'Don't.' I believe
that's a word grown-ups use more than any other. Then suddenly Alice
thought of that old idea of hers for finding treasure, and she said--'Do
let's try the divining-rod.'
So Oswald said, 'Fair priestess, we do greatly desire to find gold
beneath our land, therefore we pray thee practise with the divining-rod,
and tell us where we can find it.'
'Do ye desire to fashion of it helms and hauberks?' said Alice.
'Yes,' said Noel; 'and chains and ouches.'
'I bet you don't know what an "ouch" is,' said Dicky.
'Yes I do, so there!' said Noel. 'It's a carcanet. I looked it out in
the dicker, now then!' We asked him what a carcanet was, but he wouldn't
'And we want to make fair goblets of the gold,' said Oswald.
'Yes, to drink coconut milk out of,' said H. O.
'And we desire to build fair palaces of it,' said Dicky.
'And to buy things,' said Dora; 'a great many things. New Sunday frocks
and hats and kid gloves and--'
She would have gone on for ever so long only we reminded her that we
hadn't found the gold yet.
By this Alice had put on the nursery tablecloth, which is green, and
tied the old blue and yellow antimacassar over her head, and she said--
'If your intentions are correct, fear nothing and follow me.'
And she went down into the hall. We all followed chanting 'Heroes.' It
is a gloomy thing the girls learnt at the High School, and we always use
it when we want a priestly chant.
Alice stopped short by the hat-stand, and held up her hands as well as
she could for the tablecloth, and said--
'Now, great altar of the golden idol, yield me the divining-rod that I
may use it for the good of the suffering people.'
The umbrella-stand was the altar of the golden idol, and it yielded her
the old school umbrella. She carried it between her palms.
'Now,' she said, 'I shall sing the magic chant. You mustn't say
anything, but just follow wherever I go--like follow my leader, you
know--and when there is gold underneath the magic rod will twist in the
hand of the priestess like a live thing that seeks to be free. Then you
will dig, and the golden treasure will be revealed. H. O., if you make
that clatter with your boots they'll come and tell us not to. Now come
on all of you.'
So she went upstairs and down and into every room. We followed her on
tiptoe, and Alice sang as she went. What she sang is not out of a
book--Noel made it up while she was dressing up for the priestess.
Ashen rod cold
That here I hold,
Teach me where to find the gold.
When we came to where Eliza was, she said, 'Get along with you'; but
Dora said it was only a game, and we wouldn't touch anything, and our
boots were quite clean, and Eliza might as well let us. So she did.
It was all right for the priestess, but it was a little dull for the
rest of us, because she wouldn't let us sing, too; so we said we'd had
enough of it, and if she couldn't find the gold we'd leave off and play
something else. The priestess said, 'All right, wait a minute,' and
went on singing. Then we all followed her back into the nursery, where
the carpet was up and the boards smelt of soft soap. Then she said, 'It
moves, it moves! Once more the choral hymn!' So we sang 'Heroes' again,
and in the middle the umbrella dropped from her hands.
'The magic rod has spoken,' said Alice; 'dig here, and that with courage
and despatch.' We didn't quite see how to dig, but we all began to
scratch on the floor with our hands, but the priestess said, 'Don't be
so silly! It's the place where they come to do the gas. The board's
loose. Dig an you value your lives, for ere sundown the dragon who
guards this spoil will return in his fiery fury and make you his
So we dug--that is, we got the loose board up. And Alice threw up her
arms and cried--
'See the rich treasure--the gold in thick layers, with silver and
diamonds stuck in it!'
'Like currants in cake,' said H. O.
'It's a lovely treasure,' said Dicky yawning. 'Let's come back and
carry it away another day.'
But Alice was kneeling by the hole.
'Let me feast my eyes on the golden splendour,' she said, 'hidden these
long centuries from the human eye. Behold how the magic rod has led us
to treasures more--Oswald, don't push so!--more bright than ever
monarch--I say, there _is_ something down there, really. I saw it shine!'
We thought she was kidding, but when she began to try to get into the
hole, which was much too small, we saw she meant it, so I said, 'Let's
have a squint,' and I looked, but I couldn't see anything, even when I
lay down on my stomach. The others lay down on their stomachs too and
tried to see, all but Noel, who stood and looked at us and said we were
the great serpents come down to drink at the magic pool. He wanted to
be the knight and slay the great serpents with his good sword--he even
drew the umbrella ready--but Alice said, 'All right, we will in a
minute. But now--I'm sure I saw it; do get a match, Noel, there's a
'What did you see?' asked Noel, beginning to go for the matches very
'Something bright, away in the corner under the board against the beam.'
'Perhaps it was a rat's eye,' Noel said, 'or a snake's,' and we did not
put our heads quite so close to the hole till he came back with the
Then I struck a match, and Alice cried, 'There it is!' And there it
was, and it was a half-sovereign, partly dusty and partly bright. We
think perhaps a mouse, disturbed by the carpets being taken up, may have
brushed the dust of years from part of the half-sovereign with his tail.
We can't imagine how it came there, only Dora thinks she remembers once
when H. O. was very little Mother gave him some money to hold, and he
dropped it, and it rolled all over the floor. So we think perhaps this
was part of it. We were very glad. H. O. wanted to go out at once and
buy a mask he had seen for fourpence. It had been a shilling mask, but
now it was going very cheap because Guy Fawkes' Day was over, and it was
a little cracked at the top. But Dora said, 'I don't know that it's our
money. Let's wait and ask Father.'
But H. O. did not care about waiting, and I felt for him. Dora is
rather like grown-ups in that way; she does not seem to understand that
when you want a thing you do want it, and that you don't wish to wait,
even a minute.
So we went and asked Albert-next-door's uncle. He was pegging away at
one of the rotten novels he has to write to make his living, but he said
we weren't interrupting him at all.
'My hero's folly has involved him in a difficulty,' he said. 'It is his
own fault. I will leave him to meditate on the incredible fatuity--the
hare-brained recklessness--which have brought him to this pass. It will
be a lesson to him. I, meantime, will give myself unreservedly to the
pleasures of your conversation.'
That's one thing I like Albert's uncle for. He always talks like a
book, and yet you can always understand what he means. I think he is
more like us, inside of his mind, than most grown-up people are. He can
pretend beautifully. I never met anyone else so good at it, except our
robber, and we began it, with him. But it was Albert's uncle who first
taught us how to make people talk like books when you're playing things,
and he made us learn to tell a story straight from the beginning, not
starting in the middle like most people do. So now Oswald remembered
what he had been told, as he generally does, and began at the beginning,
but when he came to where Alice said she was the priestess, Albert's
'Let the priestess herself set forth the tale in fitting speech.'
So Alice said, 'O high priest of the great idol, the humblest of thy
slaves took the school umbrella for a divining-rod, and sang the song of
'Invocation perhaps?' said Albert's uncle. 'Yes; and then I went about
and about and the others got tired, so the divining-rod fell on a
certain spot, and I said, "Dig", and we dug--it was where the loose
board is for the gas men--and then there really and truly was a half-
sovereign lying under the boards, and here it is.'
Albert's uncle took it and looked at it.
'The great high priest will bite it to see if it's good,' he said, and
he did. 'I congratulate you,' he went on; 'you are indeed among those
favoured by the Immortals. First you find half-crowns in the garden,
and now this. The high priest advises you to tell your Father, and ask
if you may keep it. My hero has become penitent, but impatient. I must
pull him out of this scrape. Ye have my leave to depart.'
Of course we know from Kipling that that means, 'You'd better bunk, and
be sharp about it,' so we came away. I do like Albert's uncle.
I shall be like that when I'm a man. He gave us our Jungle books, and
he is awfully clever, though he does have to write grown-up tales.
We told Father about it that night. He was very kind. He said we might
certainly have the half-sovereign, and he hoped we should enjoy
ourselves with our treasure-trove.
Then he said, 'Your dear Mother's Indian Uncle is coming to dinner here
to-morrow night. So will you not drag the furniture about overhead,
please, more than you're absolutely obliged; and H. O. might wear
slippers or something. I can always distinguish the note of H. O.'s
We said we would be very quiet, and Father went on--
'This Indian Uncle is not used to children, and he is coming to talk
business with me. It is really important that he should be quiet. Do
you think, Dora, that perhaps bed at six for H. O. and Noel--'
But H. O. said, 'Father, I really and truly won't make a noise. I'll
stand on my head all the evening sooner than disturb the Indian Uncle
with my boots.'
And Alice said Noel never made a row anyhow. So Father laughed and
said, 'All right.' And he said we might do as we liked with the half-
sovereign. 'Only for goodness' sake don't try to go in for business
with it,' he said. 'It's always a mistake to go into business with an
We talked it over all that evening, and we decided that as we were not
to go into business with our half-sovereign it was no use not spending
it at once, and so we might as well have a right royal feast. The next
day we went out and bought the things. We got figs, and almonds and
raisins, and a real raw rabbit, and Eliza promised to cook it for us if
we would wait till tomorrow, because of the Indian Uncle coming to
dinner. She was very busy cooking nice things for him to eat. We got
the rabbit because we are so tired of beef and mutton, and Father hasn't
a bill at the poultry shop. And we got some flowers to go on the
dinner-table for Father's party. And we got hardbake and raspberry
noyau and peppermint rock and oranges and a coconut, with other nice
things. We put it all in the top long drawer. It is H. O.'s play
drawer, and we made him turn his things out and put them in Father's old
portmanteau. H. O. is getting old enough now to learn to be unselfish,
and besides, his drawer wanted tidying very badly. Then we all vowed by
the honour of the ancient House of Bastable that we would not touch any
of the feast till Dora gave the word next day. And we gave H. O. some
of the hardbake, to make it easier for him to keep his vow. The next
day was the most rememorable day in all our lives, but we didn't know
that then. But that is another story. I think that is such a useful way
to know when you can't think how to end up a chapter. I learnt it from
another writer named Kipling. I've mentioned him before, I believe, but
he deserves it!
'LO, THE POOR INDIAN!'
It was all very well for Father to ask us not to make a row because the
Indian Uncle was coming to talk business, but my young brother's boots
are not the only things that make a noise. We took his boots away and
made him wear Dora's bath slippers, which are soft and woolly, and
hardly any soles to them; and of course we wanted to see the Uncle, so
we looked over the banisters when he came, and we were as quiet as
mice--but when Eliza had let him in she went straight down to the
kitchen and made the most awful row you ever heard, it sounded like the
Day of judgement, or all the saucepans and crockery in the house being
kicked about the floor, but she told me afterwards it was only the tea-
tray and one or two cups and saucers, that she had knocked over in her
flurry. We heard the Uncle say, 'God bless my soul!' and then he went
into Father's study and the door was shut--we didn't see him properly at
all that time.
I don't believe the dinner was very nice. Something got burned I'm
sure--for we smelt it. It was an extra smell, besides the mutton.
I know that got burned. Eliza wouldn't have any of us in the kitchen
except Dora--till dinner was over. Then we got what was left of the
dessert, and had it on the stairs--just round the corner where they
can't see you from the hall, unless the first landing gas is lighted.
Suddenly the study door opened and the Uncle came out and went and felt
in his greatcoat pocket. It was his cigar-case he wanted. We saw that
afterwards. We got a much better view of him then. He didn't look like
an Indian but just like a kind of brown, big Englishman, and of course
he didn't see us, but we heard him mutter to himself--
'Shocking bad dinner! Eh!--what?'
When he went back to the study he didn't shut the door properly. That
door has always been a little tiresome since the day we took the lock
off to get out the pencil sharpener H. O. had shoved into the keyhole.
We didn't listen--really and truly--but the Indian Uncle has a very big
voice, and Father was not going to be beaten by a poor Indian in talking
or anything else--so he spoke up too, like a man, and I heard him say it
was a very good business, and only wanted a little capital--and he said
it as if it was an imposition he had learned, and he hated having to say
it. The Uncle said, 'Pooh, pooh!' to that, and then he said he was
afraid that what that same business wanted was not capital but
management. Then I heard my Father say, 'It is not a pleasant subject:
I am sorry I introduced it. Suppose we change it, sir. Let me fill
your glass.' Then the poor Indian said something about vintage--and that
a poor, broken-down man like he was couldn't be too careful. And then
Father said, 'Well, whisky then,' and afterwards they talked about
Native Races and Imperial something or other and it got very dull.
So then Oswald remembered that you must not hear what people do not
intend you to hear--even if you are not listening and he said, 'We ought
not to stay here any longer. Perhaps they would not like us to hear--'
Alice said, 'Oh, do you think it could possibly matter?' and went and
shut the study door softly but quite tight. So it was no use staying
there any longer, and we went to the nursery.
Then Noel said, 'Now I understand. Of course my Father is making a
banquet for the Indian, because he is a poor, broken-down man. We might
have known that from "Lo, the poor Indian!" you know.'
We all agreed with him, and we were glad to have the thing explained,
because we had not understood before what Father wanted to have people
to dinner for--and not let us come in.
'Poor people are very proud,' said Alice, 'and I expect Father thought
the Indian would be ashamed, if all of us children knew how poor he
Then Dora said, 'Poverty is no disgrace. We should honour honest
And we all agreed that that was so.
'I wish his dinner had not been so nasty,' Dora said, while Oswald put
lumps of coal on the fire with his fingers, so as not to make a noise.
He is a very thoughtful boy, and he did not wipe his fingers on his
trouser leg as perhaps Noel or H. O. would have done, but he just rubbed
them on Dora's handkerchief while she was talking.
'I am afraid the dinner was horrid.' Dora went on. 'The table looked
very nice with the flowers we got. I set it myself, and Eliza made me
borrow the silver spoons and forks from Albert-next-door's Mother.'
'I hope the poor Indian is honest,' said Dicky gloomily, 'when you are a
poor, broken-down man silver spoons must be a great temptation.'
Oswald told him not to talk such tommy-rot because the Indian was a
relation, so of course he couldn't do anything dishonourable. And Dora
said it was all right any way, because she had washed up the spoons and
forks herself and counted them, and they were all there, and she had put
them into their wash-leather bag, and taken them back to Albert-next-
'And the brussels sprouts were all wet and swimmy,' she went on, 'and
the potatoes looked grey--and there were bits of black in the gravy--and
the mutton was bluey-red and soft in the middle. I saw it when it came
out. The apple-pie looked very nice--but it wasn't quite done in the
apply part. The other thing that was burnt--you must have smelt it, was
'It is a pity,' said Oswald; 'I don't suppose he gets a good dinner
'No more do we,' said H. O., 'but we shall to-morrow.'
I thought of all the things we had bought with our half-sovereign--the
rabbit and the sweets and the almonds and raisins and figs and the
coconut: and I thought of the nasty mutton and things, and while I was
thinking about it all Alice said--
'Let's ask the poor Indian to come to dinner with _us_ to-morrow.' I
should have said it myself if she had given me time.
We got the little ones to go to bed by promising to put a note on their
dressing-table saying what had happened, so that they might know the
first thing in the morning, or in the middle of the night if they
happened to wake up, and then we elders arranged everything.
I waited by the back door, and when the Uncle was beginning to go Dicky
was to drop a marble down between the banisters for a signal, so that I
could run round and meet the Uncle as he came out.
This seems like deceit, but if you are a thoughtful and considerate boy
you will understand that we could not go down and say to the Uncle in
the hall under Father's eye, 'Father has given you a beastly, nasty
dinner, but if you will come to dinner with us tomorrow, we will show
you our idea of good things to eat.' You will see, if you think it
over, that this would not have been at all polite to Father.
So when the Uncle left, Father saw him to the door and let him out, and
then went back to the study, looking very sad, Dora says.
As the poor Indian came down our steps he saw me there at the gate.
I did not mind his being poor, and I said, 'Good evening, Uncle,' just
as politely as though he had been about to ascend into one of the gilded
chariots of the rich and affluent, instead of having to walk to the
station a quarter of a mile in the mud, unless he had the money for a
'Good evening, Uncle.' I said it again, for he stood staring at me. I
don't suppose he was used to politeness from boys--some boys are
anything but--especially to the Aged Poor.
So I said, 'Good evening, Uncle,' yet once again. Then he said--
'Time you were in bed, young man. Eh!--what?'
Then I saw I must speak plainly with him, man to man. So I did. I
'You've been dining with my Father, and we couldn't help hearing you say
the dinner was shocking. So we thought as you're an Indian, perhaps
you're very poor'--I didn't like to tell him we had heard the dreadful
truth from his own lips, so I went on, 'because of "Lo, the poor
Indian"--you know--and you can't get a good dinner every day. And we
are very sorry if you're poor; and won't you come and have dinner with
us to-morrow--with us children, I mean? It's a very, very good dinner--
rabbit, and hardbake, and coconut--and you needn't mind us knowing
you're poor, because we know honourable poverty is no disgrace, and--' I
could have gone on much longer, but he interrupted me to say--'Upon my
word! And what's your name, eh?'
'Oswald Bastable,' I said; and I do hope you people who are reading this
story have not guessed before that I was Oswald all the time.
'Oswald Bastable, eh? Bless my soul!' said the poor Indian. 'Yes, I'll
dine with you, Mr Oswald Bastable, with all the pleasure in life. Very
kind and cordial invitation, I'm sure. Good night, sir. At one o'clock,
'Yes, at one,' I said. 'Good night, sir.'
Then I went in and told the others, and we wrote a paper and put it on
the boy's dressing-table, and it said--
'The poor Indian is coming at one. He seemed very grateful to me for my
We did not tell Father that the Uncle was coming to dinner with us, for
the polite reason that I have explained before. But we had to tell
Eliza; so we said a friend was coming to dinner and we wanted everything
very nice. I think she thought it was Albert-next-door, but she was in
a good temper that day, and she agreed to cook the rabbit and to make a
pudding with currants in it. And when one o'clock came the Indian Uncle
came too. I let him in and helped him off with his greatcoat, which was
all furry inside, and took him straight to the nursery. We were to have
dinner there as usual, for we had decided from the first that he would
enjoy himself more if he was not made a stranger of. We agreed to treat
him as one of ourselves, because if we were too polite, he might think
it was our pride because he was poor.
He shook hands with us all and asked our ages, and what schools we went
to, and shook his head when we said we were having a holiday just now.
I felt rather uncomfortable--I always do when they talk about schools--
and I couldn't think of anything to say to show him we meant to treat
him as one of ourselves. I did ask if he played cricket. He said he
had not played lately. And then no one said anything till dinner came
in. We had all washed our faces and hands and brushed our hair before
he came in, and we all looked very nice, especially Oswald, who had had
his hair cut that very morning. When Eliza had brought in the rabbit
and gone out again, we looked at each other in silent despair, like in
books. It seemed as if it were going to be just a dull dinner like the
one the poor Indian had had the night before; only, of course, the
things to eat would be nicer. Dicky kicked Oswald under the table to
make him say something--and he had his new boots on, too!--but Oswald
did not kick back; then the Uncle asked--
'Do you carve, sir, or shall I?'
Suddenly Alice said--
'Would you like grown-up dinner, Uncle, or play-dinner?'
He did not hesitate a moment, but said, 'Play-dinner, by all means.
Eh!--what?' and then we knew it was all right.
So we at once showed the Uncle how to be a dauntless hunter. The rabbit
was the deer we had slain in the green forest with our trusty yew bows,
and we toasted the joints of it, when the Uncle had carved it, on bits
of firewood sharpened to a point. The Uncle's piece got a little burnt,
but he said it was delicious, and he said game was always nicer when you
had killed it yourself. When Eliza had taken away the rabbit bones and
brought in the pudding, we waited till she had gone out and shut the
door, and then we put the dish down on the floor and slew the pudding in
the dish in the good old-fashioned way. It was a wild boar at bay, and
very hard indeed to kill, even with forks. The Uncle was very fierce
indeed with the pudding, and jumped and howled when he speared it, but
when it came to his turn to be helped, he said, 'No, thank you; think of
my liver. Eh!--what?'
But he had some almonds and raisins--when we had climbed to the top of
the chest of drawers to pluck them from the boughs of the great trees;
and he had a fig from the cargo that the rich merchants brought in their
ship--the long drawer was the ship--and the rest of us had the sweets
and the coconut. It was a very glorious and beautiful feast, and when
it was over we said we hoped it was better than the dinner last night.
And he said:
'I never enjoyed a dinner more.' He was too polite to say what he
really thought about Father's dinner. And we saw that though he might
be poor, he was a true gentleman.
He smoked a cigar while we finished up what there was left to eat, and
told us about tiger shooting and about elephants. We asked him about
wigwams, and wampum, and mocassins, and beavers, but he did not seem to
know, or else he was shy about talking of the wonders of his native
We liked him very much indeed, and when he was going at last, Alice
nudged me, and I said--'There's one and threepence farthing left out of
our half-sovereign. Will you take it, please, because we do like you
very much indeed, and we don't want it, really; and we would rather you
had it.' And I put the money into his hand.
'I'll take the threepenny-bit,' he said, turning the money over and
looking at it, 'but I couldn't rob you of the rest. By the way, where
did you get the money for this most royal spread--half a sovereign you
We told him all about the different ways we had looked for treasure, and
when we had been telling some time he sat down, to listen better and at
last we told him how Alice had played at divining-rod, and how it really
had found a half-sovereign.
Then he said he would like to see her do it again. But we explained
that the rod would only show gold and silver, and that we were quite
sure there was no more gold in the house, because we happened to have
looked very carefully.
'Well, silver, then,' said he; 'let's hide the plate-basket, and little
Alice shall make the divining-rod find it. Eh!--what?'
'There isn't any silver in the plate-basket now,' Dora said. 'Eliza
asked me to borrow the silver spoons and forks for your dinner last
night from Albert-next-door's Mother. Father never notices, but she
thought it would be nicer for you. Our own silver went to have the dents
taken out; and I don't think Father could afford to pay the man for
doing it, for the silver hasn't come back.'
'Bless my soul!' said the Uncle again, looking at the hole in the big
chair that we burnt when we had Guy Fawkes' Day indoors. 'And how much
pocket-money do you get? Eh!--what?'
'We don't have any now,' said Alice; 'but indeed we don't want the other
shilling. We'd much rather you had it, wouldn't we?'
And the rest of us said, 'Yes.' The Uncle wouldn't take it, but he
asked a lot of questions, and at last he went away. And when he went he
'Well, youngsters, I've enjoyed myself very much. I shan't forget your
kind hospitality. Perhaps the poor Indian may be in a position to ask
you all to dinner some day.'
Oswald said if he ever could we should like to come very much, but he
was not to trouble to get such a nice dinner as ours, because we could
do very well with cold mutton and rice pudding. We do not like these
things, but Oswald knows how to behave. Then the poor Indian went away.
We had not got any treasure by this party, but we had had a very good
time, and I am sure the Uncle enjoyed himself.
We were so sorry he was gone that we could none of us eat much tea; but
we did not mind, because we had pleased the poor Indian and enjoyed
ourselves too. Besides, as Dora said, 'A contented mind is a continual
feast,' so it did not matter about not wanting tea.
Only H. O. did not seem to think a continual feast was a contented mind,
and Eliza gave him a powder in what was left of the red-currant jelly
Father had for the nasty dinner.
But the rest of us were quite well, and I think it must have been the
coconut with H. O. We hoped nothing had disagreed with the Uncle, but we
THE END OF THE TREASURE-SEEKING
Now it is coming near the end of our treasure-seeking, and the end was
so wonderful that now nothing is like it used to be. It is like as if
our fortunes had been in an earthquake, and after those, you know,
everything comes out wrong-way up.
The day after the Uncle speared the pudding with us opened in gloom and
sadness. But you never know. It was destined to be a day when things
happened. Yet no sign of this appeared in the early morning. Then all
was misery and upsetness. None of us felt quite well; I don't know why:
and Father had one of his awful colds, so Dora persuaded him not to go
to London, but to stay cosy and warm in the study, and she made him some
gruel. She makes it better than Eliza does; Eliza's gruel is all little
lumps, and when you suck them it is dry oatmeal inside.
We kept as quiet as we could, and I made H. O. do some lessons, like the
G. B. had advised us to. But it was very dull. There are some days
when you seem to have got to the end of all the things that could ever
possibly happen to you, and you feel you will spend all the rest of your
life doing dull things just the same way. Days like this are generally
wet days. But, as I said, you never know.
Then Dicky said if things went on like this he should run away to sea,
and Alice said she thought it would be rather nice to go into a convent.
H. O. was a little disagreeable because of the powder Eliza had given
him, so he tried to read two books at once, one with each eye, just
because Noel wanted one of the books, which was very selfish of him, so
it only made his headache worse. H. O. is getting old enough to learn
by experience that it is wrong to be selfish, and when he complained
about his head Oswald told him whose fault it was, because I am older
than he is, and it is my duty to show him where he is wrong. But he
began to cry, and then Oswald had to cheer him up because of Father
wanting to be quiet. So Oswald said--
'They'll eat H. O. if you don't look out!' And Dora said Oswald was too
Of course Oswald was not going to interfere again, so he went to look
out of the window and see the trams go by, and by and by H. O. came and
looked out too, and Oswald, who knows when to be generous and forgiving,
gave him a piece of blue pencil and two nibs, as good as new, to keep.
As they were looking out at the rain splashing on the stones in the
street they saw a four-wheeled cab come lumbering up from the way the
station is. Oswald called out--
'Here comes the coach of the Fairy Godmother. It'll stop here, you see
if it doesn't!'
So they all came to the window to look. Oswald had only said that about
stopping and he was stricken with wonder and amaze when the cab really
did stop. It had boxes on the top and knobby parcels sticking out of the
window, and it was something like going away to the seaside and
something like the gentleman who takes things about in a carriage with
the wooden shutters up, to sell to the drapers' shops. The cabman got
down, and some one inside handed out ever so many parcels of different
shapes and sizes, and the cabman stood holding them in his arms and
grinning over them.
Dora said, 'It is a pity some one doesn't tell him this isn't the
house.' And then from inside the cab some one put out a foot feeling
for the step, like a tortoise's foot coming out from under his shell
when you are holding him off the ground, and then a leg came and more
parcels, and then Noel cried--
'It's the poor Indian!'
And it was.
Eliza opened the door, and we were all leaning over the banisters.
Father heard the noise of parcels and boxes in the hall, and he came out
without remembering how bad his cold was. If you do that yourself when
you have a cold they call you careless and naughty. Then we heard the
poor Indian say to Father--
'I say, Dick, I dined with your kids yesterday--as I daresay they've
told you. Jolliest little cubs I ever saw! Why didn't you let me see
them the other night? The eldest is the image of poor Janey--and as to
young Oswald, he's a man! If he's not a man, I'm a nigger! Eh!--what?
And Dick, I say, I shouldn't wonder if I could find a friend to put a
bit into that business of yours--eh?'
Then he and Father went into the study and the door was shut--and we
went down and looked at the parcels. Some were done up in old, dirty
newspapers, and tied with bits of rag, and some were in brown paper and
string from the shops, and there were boxes. We wondered if the Uncle
had come to stay and this was his luggage, or whether it was to sell.
Some of it smelt of spices, like merchandise--and one bundle Alice felt
certain was a bale. We heard a hand on the knob of the study door after
a bit, and Alice said--
'Fly!' and we all got away but H. O., and the Uncle caught him by the
leg as he was trying to get upstairs after us.
'Peeping at the baggage, eh?' said the Uncle, and the rest of us came
down because it would have been dishonourable to leave H. O. alone in a
scrape, and we wanted to see what was in the parcels.
'I didn't touch,' said H. O. 'Are you coming to stay? I hope you are.'
'No harm done if you did touch,' said the good, kind, Indian man to all
of us. 'For all these parcels are _for you_.'
I have several times told you about our being dumb with amazement and
terror and joy, and things like that, but I never remember us being
dumber than we were when he said this.
The Indian Uncle went on: 'I told an old friend of mine what a pleasant
dinner I had with you, and about the threepenny-bit, and the divining-
rod, and all that, and he sent all these odds and ends as presents for
you. Some of the things came from India.'
'Have you come from India, Uncle?' Noel asked; and when he said 'Yes' we
were all very much surprised, for we never thought of his being that
sort of Indian. We thought he was the Red kind, and of course his not
being accounted for his ignorance of beavers and things.
He got Eliza to help, and we took all the parcels into the nursery and
he undid them and undid them and undid them, till the papers lay thick
on the floor. Father came too and sat in the Guy Fawkes chair. I cannot
begin to tell you all the things that kind friend of Uncle's had sent
us. He must be a very agreeable person.
There were toys for the kids and model engines for Dick and me, and a
lot of books, and Japanese china tea-sets for the girls, red and white
and gold--there were sweets by the pound and by the box--and long yards
and yards of soft silk from India, to make frocks for the girls--and a
real Indian sword for Oswald and a book of Japanese pictures for Noel,
and some ivory chess men for Dicky: the castles of the chessmen are
elephant-and-castles. There is a railway station called that; I never
knew what it meant before. The brown paper and string parcels had boxes
of games in them--and big cases of preserved fruits and things. And the
shabby old newspaper parcels and the boxes had the Indian things in. I
never saw so many beautiful things before. There were carved fans and
silver bangles and strings of amber beads, and necklaces of uncut gems--
turquoises and garnets, the Uncle said they were--and shawls and scarves
of silk, and cabinets of brown and gold, and ivory boxes and silver
trays, and brass things. The Uncle kept saying, 'This is for you, young
man,' or 'Little Alice will like this fan,'or 'Miss Dora would look well
in this green silk, I think. Eh!--what?'
And Father looked on as if it was a dream, till the Uncle suddenly gave
him an ivory paper-knife and a box of cigars, and said, 'My old friend
sent you these, Dick; he's an old friend of yours too, he says.' And he
winked at my Father, for H. O. and I saw him. And my Father winked
back, though he has always told us not to.
That was a wonderful day. It was a treasure, and no mistake! I never
saw such heaps and heaps of presents, like things out of a fairy-tale--
and even Eliza had a shawl. Perhaps she deserved it, for she did cook
the rabbit and the pudding; and Oswald says it is not her fault if her
nose turns up and she does not brush her hair. I do not think Eliza
likes brushing things. It is the same with the carpets. But Oswald
tries to make allowances even for people who do not wash their ears.
The Indian Uncle came to see us often after that, and his friend always
sent us something. Once he tipped us a sovereign each--the Uncle
brought it; and once he sent us money to go to the Crystal Palace, and
the Uncle took us; and another time to a circus; and when Christmas was
near the Uncle said--
'You remember when I dined with you, some time ago, you promised to dine
with me some day, if I could ever afford to give a dinner-party. Well,
I'm going to have one--a Christmas party. Not on Christmas Day, because
every one goes home then--but on the day after. Cold mutton and rice
pudding. You'll come? Eh!--what?'
We said we should be delighted, if Father had no objection, because that
is the proper thing to say, and the poor Indian, I mean the Uncle, said,
'No, your Father won't object--he's coming too, bless your soul!'
We all got Christmas presents for the Uncle. The girls made him a
handkerchief case and a comb bag, out of some of the pieces of silk he
had given them. I got him a knife with three blades; H. O. got a siren
whistle, a very strong one, and Dicky joined with me in the knife, and
Noel would give the Indian ivory box that Uncle's friend had sent on the
wonderful Fairy Cab day. He said it was the very nicest thing he had,
and he was sure Uncle wouldn't mind his not having bought it with his
I think Father's business must have got better--perhaps Uncle's friend
put money in it and that did it good, like feeding the starving. Anyway
we all had new suits, and the girls had the green silk from India made
into frocks, and on Boxing Day we went in two cabs--Father and the girls
in one, and us boys in the other.
We wondered very much where the Indian Uncle lived, because we had not
been told. And we thought when the cab began to go up the hill towards
the Heath that perhaps the Uncle lived in one of the poky little houses
up at the top of Greenwich. But the cab went right over the Heath and
in at some big gates, and through a shrubbery all white with frost like
a fairy forest, because it was Christmas time. And at last we stopped
before one of those jolly, big, ugly red houses with a lot of windows,
that are so comfortable inside, and on the steps was the Indian Uncle,
looking very big and grand, in a blue cloth coat and yellow sealskin
waistcoat, with a bunch of seals hanging from it.
'I wonder whether he has taken a place as butler here?' said Dicky.
'A poor, broken-down man--'
Noel thought it was very likely, because he knew that in these big
houses there were always thousands of stately butlers.
The Uncle came down the steps and opened the cab door himself, which I
don't think butlers would expect to have to do. And he took us in. It
was a lovely hall, with bear and tiger skins on the floor, and a big
clock with the faces of the sun and moon dodging out when it was day or
night, and Father Time with a scythe coming out at the hours, and the
name on it was 'Flint. Ashford. 1776'; and there was a fox eating a
stuffed duck in a glass case, and horns of stags and other animals over
'We'll just come into my study first,' said the Uncle, 'and wish each
other a Merry Christmas.' So then we knew he wasn't the butler, but it
must be his own house, for only the master of the house has a study.
His study was not much like Father's. It had hardly any books, but
swords and guns and newspapers and a great many boots, and boxes half
unpacked, with more Indian things bulging out of them.
We gave him our presents and he was awfully pleased. Then he gave us
his Christmas presents. You must be tired of hearing about presents,
but I must remark that all the Uncle's presents were watches; there was
a watch for each of us, with our names engraved inside, all silver
except H. O.'s, and that was a Waterbury, 'To match his boots,' the
Uncle said. I don't know what he meant.
Then the Uncle looked at Father, and Father said, 'You tell them, sir.'
So the Uncle coughed and stood up and made a speech. He said--
'Ladies and gentlemen, we are met together to discuss an important
subject which has for some weeks engrossed the attention of the
honourable member opposite and myself.'
I said, 'Hear, hear,' and Alice whispered, 'What happened to the guinea-
pig?' Of course you know the answer to that.
The Uncle went on--
'I am going to live in this house, and as it's rather big for me, your
Father has agreed that he and you shall come and live with me. And so,
if you're agreeable, we're all going to live here together, and, please
God, it'll be a happy home for us all. Eh!--what?'
He blew his nose and kissed us all round. As it was Christmas I did not
mind, though I am much too old for it on other dates. Then he said,
'Thank you all very much for your presents; but I've got a present here
I value more than anything else I have.'
I thought it was not quite polite of him to say so, till I saw that what
he valued so much was a threepenny-bit on his watch-chain, and, of
course, I saw it must be the one we had given him.
He said, 'You children gave me that when you thought I was the poor
Indian, and I'll keep it as long as I live. And I've asked some friends
to help us to be jolly, for this is our house-warming. Eh!--what?'
Then he shook Father by the hand, and they blew their noses; and then
Father said, 'Your Uncle has been most kind--most--'
But Uncle interrupted by saying, 'Now, Dick, no nonsense!' Then H. O.
said, 'Then you're not poor at all?' as if he were very disappointed.
The Uncle replied, 'I have enough for my simple wants, thank you, H. O.;
and your Father's business will provide him with enough for yours.
Then we all went down and looked at the fox thoroughly, and made the
Uncle take the glass off so that we could see it all round and then the
Uncle took us all over the house, which is the most comfortable one I
have ever been in. There is a beautiful portrait of Mother in Father's
sitting-room. The Uncle must be very rich indeed. This ending is like
what happens in Dickens's books; but I think it was much jollier to
happen like a book, and it shows what a nice man the Uncle is, the way
he did it all.
Think how flat it would have been if the Uncle had said, when we first
offered him the one and threepence farthing, 'Oh, I don't want your
dirty one and three-pence! I'm very rich indeed.' Instead of which he
saved up the news of his wealth till Christmas, and then told us all in
one glorious burst. Besides, I can't help it if it is like Dickens,
because it happens this way. Real life is often something like books.
Presently, when we had seen the house, we were taken into the drawing-
room, and there was Mrs Leslie, who gave us the shillings and wished us
good hunting, and Lord Tottenham, and Albert-next-door's Uncle--and
Albert-next-door, and his Mother (I'm not very fond of her), and best of
all our own Robber and his two kids, and our Robber had a new suit on.
The Uncle told us he had asked the people who had been kind to us, and
Noel said, 'Where is my noble editor that I wrote the poetry to?'
The Uncle said he had not had the courage to ask a strange editor to
dinner; but Lord Tottenham was an old friend of Uncle's, and he had
introduced Uncle to Mrs Leslie, and that was how he had the pride and
pleasure of welcoming her to our house-warming. And he made her a bow
like you see on a Christmas card.
Then Alice asked, 'What about Mr Rosenbaum? He was kind; it would have
been a pleasant surprise for him.'
But everybody laughed, and Uncle said--
'Your father has paid him the sovereign he lent you. I don't think he
could have borne another pleasant surprise.'
And I said there was the butcher, and he was really kind; but they only
laughed, and Father said you could not ask all your business friends to
a private dinner.
Then it was dinner-time, and we thought of Uncle's talk about cold
mutton and rice. But it was a beautiful dinner, and I never saw such a
dessert! We had ours on plates to take away into another sitting-room,
which was much jollier than sitting round the table with the grown-ups.
But the Robber's kids stayed with their Father. They were very shy and
frightened, and said hardly anything, but looked all about with very
bright eyes. H. O. thought they were like white mice; but afterwards we
got to know them very well, and in the end they were not so mousy. And
there is a good deal of interesting stuff to tell about them; but I
shall put all that in another book, for there is no room for it in this
one. We played desert islands all the afternoon and drank Uncle's health
in ginger wine. It was H. O. that upset his over Alice's green silk
dress, and she never even rowed him. Brothers ought not to have
favourites, and Oswald would never be so mean as to have a favourite
sister, or, if he had, wild horses should not make him tell who it was.
And now we are to go on living in the big house on the Heath, and it is
Mrs Leslie often comes to see us, and our own Robber and Albert-next-
door's uncle. The Indian Uncle likes him because he has been in India
too and is brown; but our Uncle does not like Albert-next-door. He says
he is a muff. And I am to go to Rugby, and so are Noel and H. O., and
perhaps to Balliol afterwards. Balliol is my Father's college. It has
two separate coats of arms, which many other colleges are not allowed.
Noel is going to be a poet and Dicky wants to go into Father's business.
The Uncle is a real good old sort; and just think, we should never have
found him if we hadn't made up our minds to be Treasure Seekers! Noel
made a poem about it--
Lo! the poor Indian from lands afar,
Comes where the treasure seekers are;
We looked for treasure, but we find
The best treasure of all is the Uncle good and kind.
I thought it was rather rot, but Alice would show it to the Uncle, and
he liked it very much. He kissed Alice and he smacked Noel on the back,
and he said, 'I don't think I've done so badly either, if you come to
that, though I was never a regular professional treasure seeker. Eh!--