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UNIVERSITY OF N.C AT CHAPEL HILL
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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"A tall, handsome lady came in, and
Shivers flew to her arms."
A Christmas Fairy
JOHN STRANGE WINTER
FRANCES E. CROMPTON
WITH TWENTY-SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS
HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY
. opyright. igcx), by HENRY ALTEAJUS COMPANY
A CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
^Uf BY JOHN STRANGE WINTER.
Q? f T was getting very near to Christmas-time, and all
the boys at Miss Ware's school were talking excitedly
about going home for the holidays, of the fun they
_ would have, the presents they would receive on
Christmas morning, the tips from Grannies, Uncles,
and Aunts, of the pantomimes, the parties, the never-ending
joys and pleasures which would be theirs.
"I shall go to Madame Tussaud's and to the Drury Lane
pantomime," said young Fellowes, "and my mother will give
a party, and Aunt Adelaide will give another, and Johnny
Sanderson and Mary Greville, and ever so many others. I
shall have a splendid time at home. Oh ! Jim, I wish it were
all holidays like it is when one's grown up."
"My Uncle Bob is going to give me a pair of skates —
clippers," remarked Harry Wadham.
"My father's going to give me a bike," put in George
6 A CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
"Will you bring it back to school with you?" asked
"Oh! yes, I should say so, if Miss Ware doesn't
"I say. Shivers," cried Fellowes, "where are you going to
spend your holidays?"
"I'm going to stop here," answered the boy called Shivers,
in a very forlorn tone.
"Here — with old Ware? — oh, my! Why can't vou go
"I can't go home to India," ansvv'ered Shivers — his real
name, by the bye, was Egerton, Tom Egerton.
"No — who said you could ? But haven't you any relations
Shivers shook his head. "Only in India," he said
"Poor old chap; that's rough luck for you. Oh, I'll tell
you what it is, you fellows, if I couldn't go home for the
holidays — especially at Christmas — I think I'd just sit down
"Oh! no, you wouldn't," said Shivers; "you'd hate it, and
you'd get ever so home-sick and miserable, but you wouldn't
die over it. You'd just get through somehow, and hope some-
thing would happen before next 3'ear, or that some kind fairy
or other would "
"Bosh ! there are no fairies nowadays," said Fellowes.
"See here. Shivers, I'll write home and ask my mother if she
won't invite you to come back with me for the holidays."
"Will you really?"
"Yes, I will : and if she says yes, we shall have such a
splendid time, because, you know, we live in London, and go
to everything, and have heaps of tips and parties and fun."
"Perhaps she will say no," suggested poor little Shivers,
A CHRISTMAS FAIRY. 7
who had steeled himself to the idea that there would be no
Chi'istmas holidays for him, excepting that he would have no
lessons for so man)' weeks.
"My mother isn't at all the kind of woman wlfo says no,"
Fellowes declared loudly.
in a few days' time, however, a letter arrived from his
iiiother, which he opened eagerly.
"ily own darling boy," it said, "I am so very sorry to
have to tell you that dear little Aggie is down with scarlet
fever, and so you cannot come home for your holidays, nor
yet bring your young friend with you, as I would have loved
you to do if all had been well here. Your Aunt Adelaide
\\'ould have had you there, but her two girls have both got
scarlatina — and I believe Aggie got hers there, though, of
course, poor Aunt Adelaide could not help it. I did think
about your going to Cousin Rachel's. She most kindly offered
to invite you, but, dear boy, she is an old lady, and so partic-
ular, and not used to boys, and she lives so far from anything
which is going on that you would be able to go to nothing,
so 3'our father and I came to the conclusion that the very
best thing that you could do tinder the circumstances is for
you to stay at Miss Ware's and for us to send your Christmas
to you as Avell as Ave can. It won't be like being at home,
darling boy, but you will try and be happy — -won't you, and
make me feel that you are helping me in this dreadful tim.e.
Dear little Aggie is very ill, very ill indeed. We have two
nurses. Nora and Connie are shut aAvay in the morning-room
and to the back stairs and their OAvn rooms with Miss Ellis,
and have not seen us since the dear child was first taken ill.
Tell your young friend that I am sending you a hamper from
Buszard's, with double of everything, and I am writing to Miss
Ware to ask her to take you both to anything that may be
8 A CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
going on in Cross Hampton. And tell him that it makes me
so much happier to think that you won't be alone. —
,, "Your own Mother."
"This letter will smell queer, darling ; it will be fumigated
It must be owned that when Bertie Fellowes received this
letter, which was neither more nor less than a shattering of
all his Christmas hopes and joys, that he fairly broke down,
and hiding his face upon his arms as they rested on his desk,
sobbed aloud. The forlorn boy from India, who sat next to
him, tried every boyish means of consolation that he could
think of. He patted his shoulder, whispered many pitying
words, and, at last, flung his arm across him and hugged him
tightly, as, poor little chap, he himself many times since his
arrival in England, had ivished someone would do to him.
At last Bertie Fellowes thrust his mother's letter into his
friend's hand. "Read it," he sobbed.
So Shivers made himself master of Mrs. Fellowes' letter
and understood the cause of the boy's outburst of grief. "Old
fellow," he said at last, "don't fret over it. It might be
worse. Why, j^ou might be like me. with your father and
mother thousands of miles away. When -A-ggie is better, you'll
be able to go home — and it'll help your mother if she thinks
you are almost as happy as if you were at home. It must be
worse for her — she has cried ever so over her letter — see, it's
The troubles and disappointments of youth are bitter while
they last, but they soon pass, and the sun shines again. By the
time Miss Ware, who was a kind-hearted, sensible, pleasant
woman, came to tell Fellowes how sorry she was for him and
his disappointment, the worst had gone by. and the boy was
resigned to what could not be helped.
A CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
"Well, after all, one man's meat is anoth^TMn's poison,
she said, smiling down on the two boys; "poor Tom has
been looking forward to spending his holidays all alone with
us, and now he will have a friend with him. Try to look on
the bright side, Bertie, and to remember how much worse it
would have been if there had been no boy to stay with you."
"I can't help being disappointed, Miss Ware," said Bertie,
his eyes filling afresh and his lips quivering.
"No, dear boy, you would be anything but a nice boy if
you were not. But I want you to try and think of your poor
mother, who is full of trouble and anxiety, and to write to her
as brightly as you can, and tell her not to worry about ypu more
than she can help."
"Yes," said Bertie; but he turned his head away, and it
was evident to the school-mistress that his heart was too full
to let him say more.
Still, he was a good boy, Bertie Fellowes, and when he
2 — Christniar. Ftiiry.
lO A CHRISIMAS FAIRY.
wrote home to his mother it was quite a bright every-day kind
of letter, telling her how sorry he was about Aggie, and detail-
ing a few qf the ways in which he and Shivers meant to spend
their holidays. His letter ended thus : — •
"Shivers got a letter from his mother yesterday with three
pounds in it : if you happen to see Uncle Dick, will you tell
him I want a 'Waterbury" dreadfully?"
The last day of the term came, and one by one, or two by
two, the various boys went awa}^ until at last only Bertie
Fellowes and Shivers were left in the great house. It had
never appeared so large to either of them before. The school-
room seemed to have grown to about the size of a church, the
dining-room, set now with only one table instead of three, was
not like the same, while the dormitory, which had never before
had any room to spare, was like a wilderness. To Bertie
Fellowes it was all dreary and wretched — to the boy from
India, who knew no other house in England, no other thought
came than that it was a blessing that he had one companion
left. "It is miserable," groaned poor Bertie as they strolled
into the great echoing school-room after a lonely tea. set at one
corner of the smallest of the three dining-tables ; "just think
if we had been on our way home now — ho"\v dififerent !"
"Just think if T had been left here by myself," said Shivers
- — and he gave a shiver which fully justified his name.
"Yes — but " began Bertie, then shamefacedly and with
a blush, added, "you know, when one wants to go home ever
so badly, one never thinks that some chaps haven't got a home
to go to."
The evening went by — discipline was relapsed entirely and
the two boys went to bed in the top empty dormitory, and
told stories to each other for a long time before they went
to sleep. That night Bertie Fellowes dreamt of Madame
Tussaud'? and the great pantomime at Drury Lane, and poor
A CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
Shivers of a long creeper-covered bungalow far away in the
shining East, and they both cried a little under the bed-clothes.
Yet each put a brave face on their desolate circumstances to the
other, and so another day began.
This was the day before Christmas Eve, that delightful
day of preparation for the greatest festival in all the year —
the day when in most households there are many little mysteries
afoot, when parcels come and go, and are smothered away so
12 A CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
as to be ready when Santa Claus comes his rounds ; when some
are busy decking the rooms with holly and mistletoe : when the
cook is busiest of all, and savoury smells rise from the kitchen,
telling of good things to be eaten on the morrow.
There were some preparations on foot at Minchin House,
though there was not the same bustle and noise as is to be
found in a large faniil}'. And quite early in the morning came
the great hamper of which Mrs. Fellowes had spoken in her
letter to Bertie. Then just as the early dinner had come to
an end, and Aliss Ware was telling the two boys that she would
take them round the town to look at the shops, there was a
tremendous peal at the bell of the front door, and a voice was
heard asking for Master Egerton In a trice Shivers had
sprung to his feet, his face quite white, his hands trembling,
and the next moment the door was thrown open, and a tall
handsome lady came in, to whom He flew with a sobbing cry
of "Aunt Laura ! Aunt Laura !"
Aunt Laura explained in less time than it takes me to write
this, that her husband. Colonel Desmond, had had left to him
a large fortune and that they had come as soon as possible
to England, having, in fact, only arrived in London the
previous day. "I was so afraid, Tom darling," she said in
ending, "that we should not get here till Christmas Day was
over, and I was so afraid you might be disappointed, that I
would not let Mother tell you we were on our way home.
I have brought a letter from Mother to Miss Ware — and you
must get your things packed up at once and come back with
me by the six o'clock train to town. Then Uncle Jack and
I will take you everywhere, and give you a splendid time, you
dear little chap, here all by yourself."
For a minute or two Shivers' face was radiant; then he
caught sight of Bertie's down-drooped mouth, and turned to
A CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
"Dear Aunt Laura," he said, holding her hand very fast
with his o^/n, "I'm awfully sorry, but I can't go."
"Can't go? and why not?"
"Because I can't go and leave Fellowes here all alone," he
said stoutly, though he could scarcely keep a suspicious quaver
out of his voice. "When I was going to be alone, Fellowes
wrote and asked his mother to let me go liome with him, and
she couldn't, because his sister has got scarlet fever, and they
daren't have either of us ; and he's got to stay here — and he's
never been away at Christmas before — and — and — I can't go
away and leave him by himself, Aunt Laura — and — "
For the space of a moment or so, Mrs. Desmond stared
A CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
at the boy as if she could not believe her ears; then she caught
hold of him and half smothered him with kisses.
"Bless you, you dear little chap, you shall not leave him:
you shall bring him along and we'll all enjoy ourselves
together. \\' hat's his name ?— Bertie Fellowes ! Bertie, my
man, you are not very old yet, so I'm going to teach you a
lesson as well as ever I can — it is that kindness is never wasted
in this world. I'll go out now and telegraph to your mother —
I don't suppose she will refuse to let you come with us."
A couple of hours later she returned in triumph, waving a
telegram to the two excited boys.
"God bless you, yes, until all our licarts," it ran ; "you have
taken a load off our minds."
And so Bertie Fellowes and Shivers found that there was
such a thins: as a fairv after all.
^ ELENA FRERE and her two younger brothers,
Willie and Leigh, were on the whole very good
children. They were obedient and affectionate and
very truthful. Perhaps it was not very difficult for
them to be good, for they had a happy home, wise
and kind parents, and a quiet regular life. None of
them had ever been at school, for Mrs. Frere liked home
teaching best for girls, and the little boys were as yet too young
for anything else. Willie was only seven and a half, and Leigh
six. Helena was nearly ten.
They lived in the country — quite in the country, and a
rather lonely part too. So they had almost no companions
of their own ag^e, and the few there were within reach they
seldom saw. One family in the neighborhood, where there
were children, alwa3'S spent seven months abroad; another
home was saddened by the only son being a cripple and unable
l6 NOT QUITE TRUE.
to walk or play; and the boys and girls of a third family were
rather too old to be playfellows with our little people.
"It really seems," said Helena sometimes, "it really seems
as if I was never to have a proper friend of my own. It's much
worse for me than for Willie and Leigh, for they've got each
other," which was certainly true.
Still, she was not at all an unhappy little girl, though
she was very sorry for herself sometimes, and did not always
quite agree with her Alother when she told her that it was
better to have no companions than any whom she could not
"I don't know that. Mamma," Helena would reply. "It
would be nice to have other little girls to play with, even if
they weren't quite perfection."
You can easily imagine therefore that there was great
excitement and delight when these children heard, one day,
that a new family was coming to live in the very next house
to theirs — only about half a mile ofif, by a short cut across the
Park — and that in this family there were children ! There
were four — Nurse said three, and old Mrs. Betty at the lodge,
who was Nurse's aunt, and rather a gossip, said four. But
both were sure of one thing — that the newcomers — the children
of the family, that is to say — were just about the right ages
for "our young lady and gentlemen."
And before long, Helena and her brothers were able to
tell Nurse and Mrs. Betty more than they had told them.
For Mrs. Frere called at Hailing ^'^^ood, which was the name
of the neighboring house, and a few days afterwards, Mrs.
Kingley returned her call, and fortunately found the children's
Mother at home. So all sorts of questions were asked
and answered, and when Helena and the boys came in
from their walk, Mr:^ Frere had a whole budget of news
NOT QUITE TRUE.
There were four Kingleys, but the eldest was a girl of
sixteen, whom the children put aside at once as "no good," and
listened impatiently to hear about the others.
"Next to Sybil," said their Mother, "comes Hugh;
he is four years younger — only twelve — and then Freda, nearly
eleven, and lastly Maggie, a 'tom-boy,' her Mother calls her,
"I shall like her awfully if she's a tom-boy," said Helena
very decidedly, while Willie and I.eigh looked rather puzzled.
They had never heard of a tom-boy before, and could not
make out if it meant a boy or a girl, till afterwards, when
Helena explained it to them, and then Willie said he
had thought it must mean a girl, " 'cos of Maggie being a
"I hope 3'ou will like them all," said Mrs. Frere. "By
their Mother's account they seem to be very hearty, sensible
3 — Christinas Fairy.
I8 ' NOT QUITE TRUE.
children; indeed, she says they are just a httle wild, for she
and Mr. Kingley have been a great deal abroad, and the three
younger children were for two years with a lady, who was
rather too old to look after them properly."
"How dreadfully unhappy they must have been," said
Helena, in a tone of pity.
"No," said her Mother, "I don't think they were unhappy.
On the contrary, they were rather spoilt and allowed to run
wild. Of course I am telling you this just as a very little
warning, in case Hugh and his sisters ever propose to do
anything you do not think I should like. Do not give in for
fear of vexing them; they will like you all the better in the
end if they see you try to be as good and obedient out of
sight, as when your Father and I are with you. Do you
understand, dears ?"
"Yes," said Helena, "of course we won't do anything
naughty, Mamma," though in her heart she thought that
"running wild" sounded rather nice.
"And you boys?" added their Mother, "do you under-
"Yes, Mamma," they said, Willie adding, "If you're not
there or Nurse, we'll do whatever Nelly says."
"That's right," said Mrs. Frere. "Nelly, you hear? —
the responsibility is on your shoulders, you see, dear, "
but she smiled brightly. For she felt sure that Helena was to
It had been arranged by the two Mammas that the three
Kingley children Avere to spend the next afternoon at Hailing
Park, the Frere's home. They were to come early, between
two and three, and their Mother and Sybil would drive ove\
to fetch them about five. Some other friends of Mrs. Frere's
were expected too, Vv'hich would give Mrs. Kingley an oppor-
tunity of meeting her new neighbors.
NOT QUITE TRUE. I9
"Must we have our best things on then, Mamma?" asked
Helena, rather dolefuHy.
Mrs. Frere glanced at her. It was full summer-time —
late in June. The little girl looked very nice in a pretty pink-
and white cotton, though it could not have passed muster as
perfectly fresh and spotless.
"No," she said, "a clean frock like the one you have on
will do quite well — or stay, yes, a white frock would be nicer.
And tell Nurse that the boys may wear their white serge suits
— it is so nice and dry out-of-doors I don't think they could
get dirty if they tried."
And, as I have said already, the little Freres were not at all
To-morrow afternoon came at last, and with it, to the
delight of Helena and her brothers, the expected guests. They
arrived in a pony-cart, driven by Hugh, who seemed quite
in his element as a coachman, and they all three jumped
out very cleverly without losing any time about it. Mrs.
Frere and her three were waiting for them on the lawn,
but anyone looking on would have thought that the King-
leys were the "at home" ones of the party, for they shook
hands in the heartiest way, and began talking at once, while
the little Freres all seemed shy and timid, and almost
Their Mother felt just a little vexed with them. Then
she said to herself that she must remember how very seldom
they had had any playfellows, and that it was to be
expected that they would feel a little strange.
"I daresay you will enjoy playing out of doors far more
than in the house, as it is such a lovely day," she said. "Your
Mamma and Sybil will be coming before very long, will they
not?" she added, turning to Freda.
"About four o'clock," Freda replied; "but I don't want
NOT QUITE TRUE.
four o'clock to come too soon ; we should like a good long
time for playing first."
Mrs. Frere smiled.
"Well, it is scarcely half-past two yet," she said. "When
four o'clock or half-past four comes, I daresay you will not
feel sorry, for you will have had time to get hungry by then."
"All right," said Freda ; "come along then, Nelly," for she
had already caught up Helena's short name. "Hugh and
Maggie and I have got heaps of fun in our heads."
She caught hold of Helena's hand as she spoke and
started off, the others following. Mrs. Frere stood looking
after them with a smile, though there was a little anxiety in
her face too.
"I hope they will be careful," she thought; "I can
trust Helena, but these children are rather overpowering.
Still, it would scarcely have done to begin checking them the
moment they arrived.
'HE grounds of Hailing Park were very large,
the lawns and flower-beds near the house were
most carefully kept, and just now in their full
summer beauty. The first thought of the little
Freres was to show their new friends all over this
ornamental part, for the Hailing roses were rather famed,
and Helena knew the names of the finest and rarest
\But Freda Kingley flew past the rosebuds without
stopping or letting Helena stop, and, excited by her
example, the three boys and Maggie came rushing after them,
till the run almost grew into a race, so that when at last the
very active young lady condescended to pull up to take breath,
Helena was redder and hotter than she had ever been before
in her life. Indeed, for a moment or two, she was almost
frightened — her heart beat so fast, and there was such a
"choky" feeling in her throat. She could not speak, but
stood there gasping.
Freda burst out laughing.
"I say," she exclaimed, "you're in very bad condition;
isn't she, Hugh?"
22 NOT QUITE TRUE.
Helena stared, which made Freda laugh still more, Hugh
"I don't understand what you mean," said the little girl at
last, when she could speak.
"Oh, it's nothing you need mind," said Hugh good-
naturedly, "It only means you're not up to much running — ■
you've not been training yourself for it. Freda was nearly as
bad once, before I went to school; she didn't understand, you
see. But the first holidays I took her in hand, and she's not bad
now — not for a girl. Fll take you in hand if you like."
"Thank you," said Helena; "no, I don't think I want
to be taken in hand. I don't care to run so fast. Won't you
come back again to see the ilowers near the house? And the
tennis-court is very nice for puss-in-the-corner or Tom
"We know a game or two worth scores of those old-
fashioned things — don't we, Freda?" said Hugh. "But I
daresay the tennis-ground's rather jolly, if it's a good big one;
we can look it up later on. First of all I want to see the stream.
We caught sight of it; it looks jolly enough."
"And there's a bridge across it," said Maggie, speaking
for the first time, "a ducky little bridge. It would be fun
to stand on it and throw stones down to make the fishes
Willie broke in at this.
"The fish aren't so silly," he said. "The water-hens
would scatter away, I daresay, if you threw stones. But
Papa doesn't like us to startle them, so it would be no good
"^^^ater-hens !" exclaimed the Kingley children all
together. "What are they like? Do let's go and look at them.
We've never seen any."
"And most likely we won't see them now," said Helena.
It was not so easy to get down by the bank."
24 NOT QUITE TRUE.
"They're very shy creatures. And we mustn't startle them,
as Wilhe says."
"Oh, bother !" said Freda ; it wouldn't hurt them for once.
And who would know ? Anyway, let's go to the bridge."
And off she set again, though not quite so fast. Indeed,
it would have been impossible to race as she had done across
the lawn, for the wa}' to the stream from where they were
standing, lay across very high ground, though there was a
proper path, or road, leading to the bridge if they had not
come b)^ the "cross-country" route.
It was very pretty when they got there, so wild and
picturesque — you could have imagined yourself miles and
miles away from any house, in some lonely stretch of
country. Even the restless Kingley children were struck by
it, and stood still in admiration for about a quarter
of a minute.
"I say, it's awfully jolly heie," said Hugh. "I wish
we had a stream and a bridge like this in our grounds."
But almost immediately he began fidgeting about again
— leaning over, till Helena felt sure he would tumble in, and
twisting himself about to see what there was to be seen below
"I know what zvottld be fun," said Freda suddenly.
"What?" exclaimed the others.
"Wading," she replied. "If we clamber down the side of
the bank — it isn't so very steep — we could get right under the
bridge. There's a bit of dry ground at each side of the water,
isn't there, Hugh ? We could make that our dressing-room,
or our bathing-van, whichever you like to call it."
"But," interrupted Helena, "you couldn't undress; we've
no bathing-dresses, and "
"How stupid 3^ou are!" interrupted Freda, in her turn.
"We'd have to take off our shoes and stockings, of course,
NOT QUITE TRUE. 25
and we can't do that on the sloping bank; under the bridge
is just the place. And we can pretend it's the sea, and that
we're going to bathe properl}-, and shiver and shudder and
push each other in. Oh! it'll be great fun — come along,
all of you, do."
And somehow she got them all to go — not that she
had any' difficulty in persuading her own brother and sister ;
they were, as they would themselves have expressed
it, "up to anything" ; but the three Freres knew quite well
that it was not the sort of play — especially for Helena — that
their Mother would have approved of. It was very muddy
down under the bridge, and the paddling about in cold
fresh water, when one is already overheated, is not a very
wholesome thing to do. Nor were they dressed for this sort
But Freda and Hugh had got the upper hand of them.
Helena could not bear to be laughed at, and Willie was terribly
afraid of being thought "soft" by a real schoolboy like Hugh.
It was not so easy to get down by the bank without acci-
dents, and before they reached the "dressing-room," frocks and
knickerbockers already told a tale.
"Never mind," said Freda, "it'll brush ofif when its dry, and
even if it doesn't cfgite, you can't be expected never to get the
least bit dirty. Now let's get off our shoes and stockings as
quick as we can," and down she plumped and began unbutton-
ing her own shoes without further ado.
"I think I'd rather not wade," said Helena.
"Oh. what rubbish !" cried Freda. "In I'll go first and
show you how jolly it is," and in another moment, in she went,
paddling about on the firmer ground in the middle of the
stream, after some very muddy slips or slides to get there.
"It's all right once you get out here," she called back.
"Awfully jolly — as cold as ice; come along."
— ^Christmas Fairy.
26 NOT QUITE TRUE.
And in a few minutes all six children were waddling about
in the not very clear water, for the stirred-up mud at the edge
had quite spoiled the look of things for the time being, and
I am sure the waterfowl, and the fish, and even the water-rats
were extraordinarily frightened at the strange things that were
happening, poor dears!
All went well, or fairly well, for some time, though little
Leigh's face began to look very blue, and his teeth chattered,
and but for his fear of being thought a baby, I rather think he
would have begun to cry.
Helena did not notice him for some time; she was feeling
a little giddy and queer herself, and found it not too easy to
keep her skirts, short as they were, out of the water, and her-
self on her feet. There were some sharp pebbles among those
that made the bed of the stream, and she had never before tried
walking barefoot out of doors, even on a smooth surface, and
therefore found it very difficult.
But when at last she hapiJened to catch sight of her little
brother, she started violently and nearly lost her balance. "Go
back at once, Leigh," she cried. "Look at him, Freda — he's
all white and blue."
Freda was a kind-hearted girl, and she too was startled.
"Fll take him to the bank — he'll be all right when Lve
rubbed his feet," she exclaimed, and she hurried forward. But
for all her good intentions she only made matters worse.
Instead of taking hold of the child to help him, she man-
aged to push him over — and in another second Leigh wac
floundering in the mud at the edge of the little stream!
OOR Leigh! What an object
he was !
At first the three Kingleys burst
J*^ But when Helena and Willie
turned upon them sharply, they quickly
grew serious, for they were far from
unkind children, and the sight of their
little friend's real distress and fear made
them anxious to help to put things to
"He's as white as a sheet," said
Helena, who was almost in tears. "And
shivering so. Oh ! Leigh dear, do you
feel very bad?"
"N-no, don't cry, Nelly," said the
little boy. "It's — it's my jacket and
knickerbockers I mind about."
Freda turned him round promptly.
"It's only on one side," she said ; "and a lot of it will brush
off the jacket, at least, and after all, the knickerbockers can
be washed. What I mind about is you're shivering so.
Sit down, young man — here's a nice dry place, and I'll give
your feet a good rub."
28 NOT QUITE TRUE.
So she did, using for that purpose one of her brother
Hugh's long rough stockings, quite lieedless of his grumbKng.
She was certainly a very energetic girl. In a few minutes
Leigh's feet were in a glow, and the color crept back to his face
again, and he left off shivering.
"There now," she said, "you are all right again, or at
least you will be, when you've run home and got a clean
jacket. After all, you're quite dry underneath — the mud is
thick and hasn't soaked through. Now, what had we best
"Get him home as quick as possible some back way,
so that we won't meet anyone, I should saj^" said Hugh,
as he drew on his stockings, ver}' glad to have recovered
But just as he spoke, there came a well-known sound —
well known at least to the Frere children, for it was their
Mother's voice calling them.
"Nell-ly! Nell-ly! ^^^ill-ie! Will! where are you?" it
They looked at each other.
"It's Mamma," said Willie.
"\\'hat can have made her come out so soon?" said Helena.
"She was going to wait till the other ladies came to tea, and
then she said she and Sybil would stroll out with them, and
see what we were doing in the garden. But I never thought
they'd come down here — we scarcely ever do, "cos Nurse thinks
we'll fall into the water."
Nurse's fears were not without reason, were they?
"We mustn't be seen like this," said Freda, "that's certain.
Let's crouch in here quite quietly for a minute or two, till
they're out of the way — don't speak or anything. Hush ! per-
haps we can hear their voices."
Hiding from Mamma was a new experience to Helena and
NOT QUITE TRUE.
her brothers, and they did not Hke the feehng of it. But just
now there was nothing else to do, and Freda had taken it all
into her own hands. So they did as she said.
No sound of voices reached them for some moments,
but they heard footsteps overhead. Several people were
crossing the bridge. "Goodness gracious," said Freda, in
a whisper, "we've only just hidden ourselves in time. Do
come closer, and don't speak, whatever you do," though no
one had been speaking but herself.
30 NOT QUITE TRUE.
Then the steps stopped, and a faint murmur was heard, but
not loud enough to distinguish the words; and then the new-
comers' steps moved on again.
The children began to breathe more freely.
"Better stay quiet another minute or two," said Freda.
But Helena was not happy in her mind about little Leigh.
"It's so damp and chilly in here under the bridge," she
said to Freda. "He's sure to catch cold unless he gets a
run in the sunshine."
"He must be awfully delicate then,", said Hugh, with
some contempt in his voice. "You should see the wettings
we get — even Maggie, and she's a girl."
At this Leigh grew very red, and Helena found he was
going to burst out cr3ang, which would not have been a very
good way of showing he was a man, I consider.
But Freda told Hugh not to talk nonsense, for she was
sensible enough to know that what Helena said was true.
"I'll peep out now," said she, "and if the coast is
clear, I'll 'cooey' to you very softly, like we do at T spy,'
and then you can all come out. I'll wait for you at the
top of the bank. It's a bother to go up it and down and up
again — it's such slippery work."
She peeped out as she said — cautiously at first; then
again encouraged, she made her way half way up the bank and
glanced round her.
It seemed safe enough.
The group of ladies was to be seen at some little
distance now; thev were returning towards the house by
the proper road, which it would be easy for the children
And in her satisfaction, Freda gave a loud "cooey" —
much louder than was needed, as her companions were close
NOT QUITE TRUE.
Out popped all the heads
from below the bridge, but
before their owners had tune
to begin to climb the bank,
they were stopped by a
"Hush," and an energetic
shake of the head from ■■
Freda, who next, greatly to
their surprise, flopped
straight down among the
high grass at the top, and
lay there motionless and
The reason for this was
soon explained. Again came the crj' — "Nell-y! Will-ie!
Nell-y !" from Mrs. Frere, and a whistle, which Hugh Kingley
whispered to the others was his sister Sybil's.
"They've heard Freda's cooey,' " he said. "What a goose
she was to call so loud !"
Again there was nothing for it but to stay cjuiet, which was
becoming very tiresome.
The Frere children began to think that their ideas of "great
fun," and the Kingley's, did not at all agree.
"Wasting all the afternoon in this nasty damp hole, and
risking Leigh's getting really ill," thought Helena.
And at last she sprang up and called out to Freda.
"I won't stay here any longer," she cried. "Whether we
are scolded or not, I won't. It isn't safe for Leigh."
"How cross you are !" said Freda coolly. "I was just going
to tell you to come out. I think it's all right now ; they've
moved on. We can make a rush for the house across the grass,
somehow, can't wc? There must be some back way in, where
we shouldn't meet anyone. Then 3'ou and I can take Leigh up
32 NOT QUITE TRUE.
to the nursery and say he had an accident, which is quite true
— and when he's clean again he can come out to us and your
Mamma needn't know anything about it. The rest of us are
all quite tidy — quite as tidy as can be expected after running
Helena did not reply. She was feeling too annoyed and
vexed, and she did not like Freda's wish to hide what had
really caused their troubles.
But she took Leigh by the hand — Freda, it must be allowed,
taking him kindly by the other, and they all set off as fast as
they could to the house. They could not go quite straight for
fear of being seen; they had to "dodge" once or twice, but in
the end they got safely there without meeting anyone more
formidable than a tradesman's cart driving away from the
stables, or an under-gardener laden with a basketful of
Xurse looked grave, as she well might do, when she saw
Leigh's plight. But Freda had a very pleasant bright manner,
and Nurse was quite satisfied with her explanations.
And as the run home had brought back the color to the
little boy's cheeks, nothing much was said as to the fear of his
having caught cold.
^OME half an hour or so afterwards, all the party,
the children included, assembled on the lawn for
Nurse had seized the opportunity of Helena's run-
ning in with Leigh, to "tidy her up a bit," and Freda
"y too had not objected to a little setting to rights, so that
* ^ both girls looked quite in order.
^ And Willie and Hugh had also removed all traces
of their adventures ; only Maggie was still rather rumpled and
crumpled, but as she was counted a tom-boy at all times, it
did not so much matter.
"What became of j'-ou all, this afternoon?" asked Mrs.
Frere. "We walked down to the bridge to look for you, as
one of the men said he had seen you going that way. And I am
sure I heard one of you 'cooeying' — did I not? Yet when
il called, no one replied."
5 — Chrisiiiias Fairy. g,*^
34 NOT QLITE TRUE.
The children looked at each other. Mrs. Frere felt
"What is the mystery?" she said, though with a smile.
"Oh," began Freda, "there wasn't any mystery — we
were only " She stopped, for she felt that Helena's eyes
were fixed on her, and Freda was not by nature an
untruthful child. It was through her heedlessness and
wildness that she often got into what she would have
called "scrapes," from which there seemed often no escape but
by telling falsehoods, or at least allowing what was not the case
to be believed.
She grew red, and Mrs. Frere, feeling that it was not
very kind to cross-question a guest, finished her sentence for
"Hiding?" she said. "Were you hiding?" though she
wondered why Freda should blush and hesitate about so
simple a thing.
"Yes," said Helena quickly, replying instead of Freda,
"yes. Mamma, we ivcre hiding — under the bridge."
At the moment she only felt glad to be able to say
what /;; z^'ords was true.
For hiding they certainly had been. And Mrs. Frere,
thoroughly trusting Flelena, turned away and thought no more
about it, only adding that it must have been rather dirty under
the bridge ; another time she would advise them to find a
"I suppose it was 'T spy' you were playing at," she said, and
she did not notice that no one answered her.
The rest of the afternoon passed quietly enough.
Hugh and Freda were rather imusually quiet, at which
their ^Mother and elder sister rejoiced.
"I do hope," said Sybil, as she drove home Avith Mrs.
Kingley, leaving the younger ones to follow as they had
NOT QUITE TRUE.
come, "I do hope those Frere children, though they are
younger, wiU have a good influence upon Hugh and the girls,
Freda especially. She has been getting wilder and wilder.
And Helena is such a lady-like, well-bred little girl."
"I hope so too," said her Mother. "I own I was a little
afraid of our children startling the Freres, but they seem to
have got on all right."
"Good night, dears," said Mrs. Frere to her three
children an hour or so later. "Vou were nappy with your
new friends, I hope ? I think they seem nice children, and they
were very quiet and well-behaved to-day. Leigh, my boy, you
look half asleep — are yau very tired?"
"My eyes are tired,' said Leigh, "and my head, rather."
"Well, off with you to bed, then," she said cheerfully. She
would not have felt or spoken so cheerfully if she could have
seen into her little daughter's heart.
36 NOT QUITE TRUE.
Nurse too noticed that Leigh looked pale and heavy-
She said she was afraid he had somehow caught cold. So
she gave him something hot to drink after he was in bed, and
soon he was fast asleep, breathing peacefully.
"He can't be very bad," thought Helena, "if he sleeps so
But though she tried not to be anxious about him, she her-
self could not succeed in going to sleep.
She tossed about, and dozed a little, and then woke
up again — wider awake each time, it seemed to her. It
was not all anxiety about Leigh ; the truth was, her con-
science was not at peace ; she felt as if she deserved to be
anxious about her little brother, for she saw clearly now,
how she had been to blame — first, for giving in to the Kingleys
in doing what she knew her ]\Iother would not have approved
of, and besides, and even worse than that — in concealing the
wrong-doing, and telling what was "not quite true" to her
The tears forced their way into Helena's eyes when
she owned this to herself, and at last she felt that she
could bear it no longer.
She got softly out of bed without waking Nurse, and made
her way to the little room where Willie slept alone.
"Willie," she said at the door, almost in a whisper,
but Willie Iieard her. He, too, for a wonder, was not
able to sleep well to-niglnt, and he at once sat straight up in
"Yes, Nelly," he said, in a low, though frightened voice,
"what is it? Is Leigh ill?"
"No," Helena replied : "at least, T hope not, though
I'm awfully unhappy about him. It's partly that and
partly — everything, Willie — all we did this afternoon. And
NOT QUITE TRUji. 37
worst of all," and here poor Nelly had hard work to choke
down a lump that began to come in her throat, "I didn't tell
Mamma the truth, when she asked what we were doing, you
"Yes," said Willie, "I remember. You said we were hiding,
and so we were."
"But it wasn't quite true the way I let her think it,"
persisted Helena. "Even if the words were true, the thinking
wasn't. And it has made me so dreadfully unhappy. I didn't
know how to wait till the morning to tell her — I know I
shan't go to sleep all night," and she did indeed look very
white and miserable.
Willie considered ; he had good ideas sometimes, though
Helena often called him slow and stupid.
"I know what," he said. "You shall write a letter to
Mamma — now, this minute. I've got paper and ink and pens
and everything, in my new birthday writing-case, and
I've got matches. Since my birthday. Papa said I might have
them in my room."
For Willie was a very careful little boy. If there was
no likelihood of his "setting the Thames on fire," his
Father had said once, "there was even less fear of his
setting the house on fire," and though Willie did not quite
understand about the "Thames" — how could a riz'er burn?
— he saw that Papa meant something nice, so he felt quite
And the next morning", the first thing Mrs. Frere saw on
her toilet-table was a note addressed rather shakily in pencil,
to "dear Mamma."
It was only a few lines, but it made her hurry to throw on
her dressing-gown and hasten to the nursery.
"How is Leigh?" were her first words to Nurse.
"He's got a little cold in his head, ma'am, but nothing
38 NOT QUITE TRUE.
much," was the cheerful reply, and Mamma saw by the child's
face that there were no signs of anything worse.
"But, Miss Helena," Nurse went on, "has had a bad night,
and her head is aching, so I thought it better to keep her in bed
Poor Nelly ! she had not much appetite for breakfast, and
the first thing she did when Mamma's dear face appeared at the
door was to burst into tears.
But such tears do good, and still more relief was the
telling the whole story, ending up with —
"Oh, Mamma, dear Mamma, I couldn't bear to think I had
told you what was not quite true. And Willie feels just
For Willie bad crept in too, looking very grave, and wink-
ing his eyes hard to keep from crying.
It was all put right, of course; there was really no
need for their Mother to show them where they had been
wrong. They knew it so well. And Leigh did not
get ill, after all.
Freda Kingley had had a lesson too, I am glad to say.
That very afternoon she and Hugh walked over to
Hailing Park, to "find out" if Leigh was all right.
And this gave Mrs. Frere a good opportunity of showing
the kind-hearted but thoughtless children the risk they
had run of getting themselves and their little friends into real
trouble — above all, by concealing their foolish plav, and caus-
ing Nelly and her little brothers for the first time in their lives
to act at all deceitfully.
"You Avill be afraid to let them play with us any more,"
said Freda very sadly, "and Fm sure I don't wonder."
"No dear," said her new friend. "On the contrarv, I shall
now feel sure that I may trust you and Hugh and
NOT QUITE TRUE.
Freda grew red with pleasure.
"You may indeed," she said; "I promise you we won't
lead them into mischief and — and if ever we do, we'll tell you
all about it at once."
Mrs. Frere laughed at this quaint way of putting it.
"I don't think my children will be any the worse for a little
more 'running wild' than they have had," she said.
"And we won't be any the worse for having to think a little
before we rush off on some fun," said Freda. "I really never
did see before how A-ery easy it would be to get into telling
regular stories, if you don't take care."
IT'S a welly aiixietious thing, yoasting chestnuts is,"
Rupert said, shaking his head seriously.
Rupert is only four years old, but he is very
fond of grand words. He speaks quite plainly and
nicely. Nurse says (excepting the z''s and r'jr), only, of course,
he cannot remember always just the shape of the big words;
but he uses much grander ones than I do, though I am
But he is the nicest little boy in all the world, and we do
love eacli other better than anybody else at all, after
Mother and Father.
We made what Rupert calls an "arranglement" about
always being friends with each other; that was the night we
roasted the chestnuts.
6 — Cliiisti'ias Fairy.
IN THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
It v/as one of the most interesting things we had ever done
— and then to be allowed to do it alone ! You see, this was
It was, the dreadfullest day we can remember in all our
Because you know, first of all, Mother was so ill. And then
there was abirthda)- party we were to have gone to.
And Sarah, who is the housemaid, said she didn't see
why we couldn't go just the same, and Nurse said very
sharp! }• :
"I'm not going to let them go, I can tell you, with things
as they are."
And then she said, in another kind of voice :
" Rupert knelt down on the rug.'
44 !>' THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
"Just sujapose they had to be sent for to go in to the
And then she went away again into Mother's dressing-
That was another horrid thing, that nobody seemed to be
able to look after us at all ; we could have got into all sorts of
mischief if we had wanted, but everything was so dreadful that
it made us not want.
There were two doctors, who went and came several
times, and someone they called Nurse, but she wasn't our
And our Nurse could not be in the nursery with us, but
kept shutting herself up in Mother's dressing-room, and that
made us be getting into everybody's way.
So at last, when evening came. Nurse sent us down to the
drawing-room, because somebody had let the nursery fire
go almost out, and she told us to stay there and be good,
and Father said he would perhaps come and sit with us
But I don't know what we should have done there so
long if Sarah had not brought us a plate of chestnuts, and
shown us how to roast them.
(We feel sure that Nurse would not have allowed it by
ourselves, and would have called it "playing with fire," but
Father looked in at us once, and did not stop us at all, but
onlv said we were very good, and Cook and Sarah kept
looking in too, and they were very kind, only rather quiet and
So that was how it was that we came to be allowed to be
roasting chestnuts in the drawing-room by ourselves, which
does seem a little funny, if you did not know about that
"There's onlv two left now," Rupert said.
IN THE CHIMNEY CORNER. 45
We hadn't eaten all the plateful, of course, because so many
of them, when they popped, had popped quite into the fire, and
we were not to try to get them out.
We had roasted one each for Sarah, and for Cook, and
for Nurse, and for Father, and of course the biggest of
all for Mother.
We thought she might enjoy it when she got better. And
they were all done, and there were only two left besides what
we had eaten and lost.
So we put them together on the bar to roast, and
Rupert said :
"One for you, and one for me. Yours is the light one, and
mine is the dark one."
And I said :
"Yes, and let us do them as Sarah did with two of them,
and try if they will keep together till they are properly done,
and then it will be as if we kept good friends and loved each
So that was what Rupert called the "anxietious" part,
because, you know, one of them might have flown into the fire
before the other was roasted, and we were so excited about it
that T believe we should have cried.
But they were the nicest chestnuts of all the plateful, and
that was the nicest thing of all that long day that had so many
nasty ones in it.
For the dark chestnut and the light one kept together all
the time, and split quite quietly and comfortably, and began
to have a lovely smell, and then we thought it was fair to rake
"Those chestnuts were welly fond of each other," said
Rupert, in his solemnest way, while they were cooling in the
fender. "Like 3^ou and me, Nella."
"And so we'll promise on our word-of-honors to be
46 IN THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
friends like them and love each other for always and always,"
And we held each other's hands, and when the chestnuts
were cooled and peeled, ate them up, and enjoyed them most
of all the chestnuts.
But after we had made that play last as long as we could,
and it grew later and later, it began to seem miserabler than
And nobody came to take us to bed, although it did
feel so dreadfully like bedtime, and nobody brought us any
bread-and-milk, and chestnuts do not really make a good sup-
per, even if you have roasted them yourself. And I tried to
tell Rupert "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," but he grew cross
because I couldn't tell it as well as Mother.
So I said :
"Well, let us lie down here on the rug, and perhaps if we
make believe, it will seem like going to bed."
But Rupert said, how could he go to bed without saying
his prayers, and he was so tired and cross that I said :
"Well, you say yours, and I'll hear them."
And so Rupert knelt down on the rug, and said his prayers,
and I heard them ; at least, I mean, we tried : but I couldn't
always remember what came next, and then lie remembered
that he wanted ^Mother, and burst out crying.
So I did not know what to do any more, and I could only
huggle him, as he calls it, and wipe his eyes on my frock, and
w'e sat there and huggled each other.
And I think we fell asleep in the chimney corner after
At least, the next thing we remember is being picked up by
Father and Xurse, and Xurse carried Rupert upstairs, and
Father carried me.
And I said :
IN THE CHIMNEY CORNER. 47
"We've tried to be good, Father, but we were obliged to
go to sleep on the floor — just there; we really and truly
couldn't keep awake any longer."
And Father did not think it naughty, I am sure, for he
kissed us both ever so many times at the nursery door, with a
great big hug, although he went away without speaking.
And Nurse undressed us as quickly as she could, and as
Rupert calls it, '"scused" our baths, for we were so dreadfully
sleepy; and I did think once that Nurse seemed to be crying,
but I was too tired to notice any more.
And that was the end of the dreadfullest day we have ever
It began to be happier quite soon next day, for Granny
came, and stayed with us, and had time to love us very much.
We told her about the chestnuts, and she thought it
ever so nice.
And she told us something too, two things, and one was
very beautiful, and one was very dreadful.
And the beautiful thing was that God had sent us a baby
sister on that dreadful evening. But then He saw that He
could take better care of her than even Mother and Nurse,
and He loved her so much that He sent an angel to fetch
her away again.
And though we were sorry not to have the little sister (and
that was another reason to make Rupert and me love each
other all the more, Granny said), yet she told us how beau-
tiful it was to know that Baby Lucy would never do a
naughty thing, or say a naughty word, but always be kept
quite safe now.
And the dreadful thing was — but I can only say it in
a whisper — that God had almost taken Mother away, to be
with Baby Lucy too.
But He looked down at us, and at Father, Granny said,
and was sorry for us ; and T think the time when He was sorry
IN THE CHIMNF.y CORNER.
was when Rupert was crying, and I was tryiug to hear his
prayers, because He must ha\-e seen that I could not be hkp-
Mother to Rupert, not however much I tried.
And so He was sorry for us, and Mother staj^ed.