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nearly dark.

By two of them, at least, that journey in the fading light was never
forgotten. It had been such a happy day, so free from worries and
naughtiness or squabbles, or any cause for regret; and now they were
going home, happy but tired, and longing to be in the dear old untidy,
shabby home again. Kitty, with Tony nestling against her, leaned back
in her corner restfully, and thought of her home with a depth of feeling
she could not have defined. "If it could only be like this always," she
said to herself, "and there is no reason why it shouldn't if only we
were good and every one was nice. I wonder, I wonder if I cannot make
it so that father wouldn't want any one to live with us."

On they rattled and jolted, past the two cottages, with their windows
lighted up now and the blinds drawn; past the little well, its cave
looking dark and mysterious under its green canopy. Kitty, lost to the
others and their talk, gazed with loving eyes at everything.
"Dear little well," she thought. "Dear old 'Rover,' and Gorlay, and
home, how I do love every inch and stick and stone of it! I think I
should die if I had to leave - "

"Kitty, _have you got_ a shilling?" Dan shrieked in her ear with such
vigour that Kitty really leaped in her seat.

"What _is_ the matter?" she demanded crossly. It was not pleasant to be
roused from her musings and brought back thus to everyday, prosaic
matters; and it happened to her so often, or so it seemed.

"I have asked you three times already. Have you got a shilling?
We shall have to get down presently, or we shall be seen, and the men
and all of us will get into a row because we are travelling without
tickets. We had better get down when they come to the 'lotment gardens,
and we must tip them; but Betty has only got tuppence, and I have only
fourpence, and that is all in coppers, mostly ha'pennies. I don't like
to offer it to them."

"I haven't a shilling," said Kitty regretfully. "I have only eightpence
left; the tea cost a good deal," and she produced from her purse a
sixpenny bit and two pennies.

Dan looked at their combined wealth disgustedly. "They'll think we've
been saving up for this little go," he said in a mortified voice;
"but I'll give them the lot, and tell them it is all we have left."

"I don't suppose they will mind ha'pennies," said Kitty consolingly.

"Of course they won't," said Betty, who was rather cross at having to
lay down her beloved rose and dive for her purse; "they aren't so silly.
Besides, they have had our apples and sandwiches already."

"Well, don't remind them of that again," said Kitty anxiously, for it
was just the kind of thing Betty would do; but before she could extract
a promise the engine slowed down and they hastily prepared to dismount.

Dan coloured as he put the sixpenny bit and the coppers into Dumble's
grimy hand. "I am sorry there's such a lot of pence," he said shyly;
"but it is all we've got left, and - and - "

"Aw," said Dumble, who had expected nothing, and was rather embarrassed
than otherwise by their generosity, "thank 'ee kindly, sirs, and young
leddies; there wasn't no 'casion to give us nothing; but thank 'ee very
much all the same, and 'nother time we'll be glad to 'blige 'ee with
'nother lift."

"Thank you very much," said Dan. "But it isn't as much as it looks; it
is only fourteen pence altogether. I - I thought I'd tell you for fear
you'd be disappointed;" and thankful for the darkness which hid his
embarrassment, he joined the others, and with many friendly
"Good-nights" to the "Rover" they started on the last stage of their

Briskly enough they started; but their pace soon changed; their feet
were weary, and there was really no great need to hurry now.
There would be no scoldings or punishments when they got home, even if
they were late, for no one there was very particular as to time, and
there was so much to see that they did not usually see that they stopped
repeatedly to look about them. The cottages were all lighted up now,
and in some of them the blinds had been left undrawn and the windows
open. Even the old wharf, too, had here and there a light gleaming out
of its blackness, adding to the weird mystery of the place, and then in
rattled the "Rover," and drew up panting and throwing out deep breaths
of steam and smoke and sparks, as though she had come at breakneck speed
on urgent business from the extreme limits of the earth, and could
scarcely be restrained from starting off again. In the dim light they
could see Dumble and Tonkin wandering round and lovingly criticizing
their fiery steed. "'Er 'ave gone well to-day," they heard Dumble
saying proudly. "'Er 'ave gone like a little 'are."

"Ay, ay, proper!" responded Tonkin with solemn emphasis. "Since 'er was
cleaned I'd back 'er agin all the new-fangled engines in the world.
Give the 'Rover' a fair bit of line to travel over, and 'er'll - well,
'er'll do it."

The children chuckled to themselves and moved on. "To-night, with the
'Rover' drawn up in it, it doesn't look quite so much like Quilp's Wharf
as usual," said Kitty, looking back lingeringly at the black, ramshackle
collection of old tarred sheds; "but I am sure I shall see Quilp's boy
standing on his head there one day."



On again they went, past more cottages with groups of people gossiping
at their doors, or sitting about on low steps or the edges of the
pavement, enjoying the cool and calm of the summer evening; up the steep
hill where the milk-bottle had come to grief in the morning, past the
carpenter's shop, fast closed now, all but the scent of the wood, which
nothing could keep in.

It was a stiff pull to the top for tired people, but it was reached at
last. With a deep sigh of satisfaction they crossed the quiet street in
leisurely fashion to their own front door, where, summoning what energy
they had left, they gave a friendly "whoop!" to let their arrival be
known, and burst into the house pell-mell; then stopped abruptly, almost
tumbling over each other with the shock, and stared before them in
silent, speechless amazement at a pile of luggage which filled the
centre of the hall. Betty stepped back and looked at the plate on the
door to make quite sure that they had not burst into the wrong house;
but Kitty, with a swift presentiment, realized to whom that luggage
belonged and what it meant, and her heart sank down, down to a depth she
had never known it sink before.

Before she could speak, though, Emily appeared from somewhere, her face
a picture of rage, offended dignity, and fierce determination; but as
soon as she caught sight of the bewildered, wondering quartette, her
whole expression changed. She came to them, as Kitty said afterwards,
as though there had been a death in the family and she had to break the
news to them. But it was an arrival she had to announce, not a
departure, and she announced it abruptly.

"She's come!" she gasped in a whisper more penetrating than a shout; and
her face added, "You poor, poor things, I am sorry for you."

For once Emily's sympathies were with them, and even while staggering
under the blow they had just received, Kitty could not help noticing the

"What? - not Aunt Pike? - to stay?" gasped Dan.

Emily nodded, a world of meaning in the action. "You'd best go up and
speak to her at once, or she'll be crosser than she is now, if that's
possible. She's as vexed as can be 'cause there wasn't nobody to the
station to meet her, nor nobody here when she come."

"But we didn't know. How could we? And who could have even dreamed of
her coming to-day!" they argued hotly and all at once.

"A tellygram come soon after you'd a-gone," said Emily, with a sniff;
"but there wasn't nobody here to open it. And how was we to know what
was inside of it; we can't see through envelopes, though to hear some
people talk you would think we ought to be able to."

Kitty knew it was her duty to check Emily's rude way of speaking of her
aunt, but a common trouble was uniting them, and she felt she could not
be severe then.

"Doesn't father know yet?" she asked.

"No, miss."

"Poor father! Has Aunt Pike really come to _stay_, Emily?"

"I can't make out for certain, miss; but if she isn't going to stay now,
she is coming later on. I gathered that much from the way she talked.
She said it didn't need a very clever person to see that 'twas high time
somebody was here to look after things, instead of me being with my 'ead
out of win - I mean, you all out racing the country to all hours of the
night, and nothing in the house fit to eat - "

Kitty groaned.

"I've got to go and get the spare-room ready as soon as she comes out of
it," went on Emily. "A pretty time for anybody to have to set to to
sweep and dust."

Kitty, though, could not show any great sympathy there; having to sweep
and dust seemed to her at that moment such trifling troubles. "Where is
she now, Emily?"

"In the spare-room."

"Oh, the dust under the bed!" groaned Kitty. "She is sure to see it; it
blows out to meet you every time you move!"

"Never mind that now," said Dan; "it is pretty dark everywhere. But we
had better do a bunk and clean ourselves up a bit before she sees us,"
and he set the example by kicking off his shoes and disappearing like a
streak up the stairs.

In another moment the hall was empty, save for eight very dirty shoes
and the pile of severe-looking luggage.

To convince Aunt Pike that her presence and care were absolutely
unnecessary was the one great aim and object which now filled them all,
and as a means to this end their first idea was to dress, act, and talk
as correctly and unblamably as boys and girls could. So, by the time
the worthy lady was heard descending, they were all in the drawing-room,
seated primly on the stiffest chairs they could find, and apparently
absorbed in the books they gazed at with serious faces and furrowed
brows. To the trained eye the "high-water marks" around faces and
wrists were rather more apparent and speaking than their interest in
their books. Their heads, too, were strikingly wet and smooth around
their brows, but conspicuously tangled and unkempt-looking at the back.

However, on the whole they appeared well-behaved and orderly, and the
expression of welcome their faces assumed as soon as their aunt was
heard approaching was striking, if a little overdone. It was
unfortunate, though, that they and Emily had forgotten to remove their
dirty shoes from the hall, or to light the gas, for Aunt Pike, groping
her way downstairs in the dark, stumbled over the lot of them - stumbled,
staggered, and fell! And of all unyielding things in the world to fall
against, the corner of a tin box is perhaps the worst.

The expression of welcome died out of the four faces, their cheeks grew
white; Kitty flew to the rescue.

"I'm jolly glad it isn't my luggage," murmured Dan, preparing to follow.

"She shouldn't have left it there," said Betty primly.

"I expect it's our shoes she's felled over," whispered Tony in a scared
voice. "I jumped over them when I came down, but I don't 'spect Aunt
Pike could."

Dan and Betty looked at each other with guilty, desperate eyes.

"Well, you left yours first," said Betty, anxious to shift all blame,
"and you ran upstairs first, and - and we did as you did, of course."

"Oh, of course," snapped Dan crossly, "you always do as I do, don't you?
Now go out and tell Aunt Pike that, and suck up to her. If she's going
to live here, it's best to be first favourite." At which unusual
outburst on the part of her big brother Betty was so overcome that she
collapsed on to her chair again, and had to clench her hands tightly and
wink hard to disperse the mist which clouded her eyes and threatened to
turn to rain.

But a moment later the entrance of Aunt Pike helped her to recover
herself - Aunt Pike, with a white face and an expression on it which said
plainly that her mind was made up and nothing would unmake it.
Betty and Tony stepped forward to meet her.

"How do you do, Elizabeth? - How do you do, Anthony? I should have gone
to your bedrooms to see you, thinking naturally that you two, at least,
would be in bed, but I was told you were still racing the country.
Anna goes to bed at seven-thirty, and she is a year older than you,"
looking at Betty very severely.

"Is Anna here too?" asked Kitty, saying anything that came into her head
by way of making a diversion.

"No, she is not. She will join me later. We were just about to move to
another hydropathic establishment when your poor father's letter reached
me, and I felt that, no matter at what sacrifice on my part, it was my
duty to throw up all my own plans and come here at once."

"Then the postman must have missed my letter," said Betty indignantly.
"What a pity! for it would have told you we didn't want - I mean, it
would have saved you the trouble - "

"It was your letter, Elizabeth, which decided me to come," said Mrs.
Pike, turning her attention to poor Betty. "It reached me by the same
post as your poor father's, and when I read it I felt that I must come
at once - that my place was indeed here. So I confided Anna to the care
of friends, and came, though at the greatest possible inconvenience, by
the next train. And what," looking round severely at them all, "did I
find on my arrival? No one in the house to greet me! My nephews and
nieces out roaming the country alone, no one knew where! One maid out
without leave, and the other - well, you might almost say she was out
too, for her head protruded so far from her bedroom window that I could
see it almost from the bottom of the street."

"Emily _will_ hang out of window," sighed Kitty.

"And when I reprimanded her she was most impertinent. Is she always so
when she is reprimanded, Katherine?"

"We - we don't reprimand her," admitted Kitty. "I am afraid she would be
if we did," she added honestly.

At that moment Dan burst into the room carrying a bottle. "If you put
some of this on the bruises," he said, offering it to his aunt, "it'll
take the pain out like anything. Jabez has it for the horses, and I've
used it too; it is capital stuff."

Mrs. Pike looked at the bottle with an eye which for a moment made Kitty
quake, for Dan had brought it in with the fine crust of dirt and grease
on it that it had accumulated during a long sojourn in the coach-house.
But something, perhaps it was Dan's thoughtfulness, checked the severe
remark which had almost burst from her lips.

"Thank you, Daniel," she said, almost graciously. "If you will ask one
of the servants to clean the outside of the bottle, I shall be very glad
of the contents, for I feel sure I have bruised myself severely."

Betty was about to offer her pocket-handkerchief for the purpose when
she remembered that she had not one with her, and so saved herself from
further humiliation.

"At what hour do you dine - or sup?" asked Mrs. Pike, turning to Kitty.

"We have supper at - at - oh, when father is home, or we - or we come home,
or - when it is convenient."

"Or when the servants choose to get it for you, perhaps," said Aunt Pike
sarcastically, but hitting the truth with such nicety that Kitty
coloured. "Well," she went on, "if you can induce the maids to give us
a meal soon I shall be thankful, for I have had nothing since my lunch;
and I really feel, with all the agitation and shocks and blows I have
had this day, as though I were nearly fainting."

Poor Kitty, with a sinking heart, ran off at once, glad to escape, but
overwhelmed with dread of what lay before her. To her relief she found
that Fanny had returned; but Fanny was hot with the first outburst of
indignation at the news that awaited her, and was angry and mutinous,
and determined to do nothing to make life more bearable for any of them.

In response to Kitty's meek efforts to induce her to do her best to make
the supper-table presentable, and not a shame to them all, she refused
point-blank to stir a finger.

"There's meat pasties, and there's a gooseberry tart, and cheese, and
cold plum-pudding, and cake, and butter and jam," she said, enumerating
thing after thing, designed, so it seemed to Kitty, expressly for the
purpose of giving Aunt Pike a nightmare; "and I've got some fish for the
master, that I am going to cook when he comes, and not before."

"O Fanny, do cook it for Aunt Pike, please. It is just the thing for
her, and I am sure father would rather she should have it than that she
should complain that she had nothing to eat - "

"Well, Miss Kitty," burst in Fanny indignantly, "I don't know what _you_
calls nothing. I calls it a-plenty and running over; and if what's good
enough for us all isn't good enough for Mrs. Pike, well - "

"It is _good_ enough, Fanny," urged Kitty; "only, you see, we like it
and can eat it, but Aunt Pike can't. You know the last time she was
here she said everything gave her indigestion - "

"Them folks that is so afflicted," said Fanny, "should stay in their own
'omes, or the 'ospital. I'm sure master don't want patients indoors so
well as out, and be giving up the food out of his own mouth to them.
The bit of fish I've got for master I'm going to keep for master.
If anybody's got to have the indigestion it won't be him, not if I knows
it; he's had nothing to eat to-day yet to speak of, and if nobody else
don't consider him, well, I _must_," and with this parting thrust Fanny
left the kitchen to go to her bedroom.

Kitty longed to be able to depart to her room too, to lock herself in
and fasten out all the worries and bothers, and all thoughts of supper
and Aunt Pike, and everything else that was worrying. "I wish I had
stayed in the woods," she thought crossly; "there would be peace there
at any rate," and her mind wandered away to the river and the little
silvery bays, and the tree-covered slopes rising up and up, and she
tried to picture it as it must be looking then at that moment, so still,
and lonely, and mysterious.

"I'll see that it all looks nice, Miss Kitty," said Emily with unusual
graciousness. She felt really sorry for Kitty and the position she was
in, and having quite made up her mind to leave now that this new and
very different mistress had come, she was not only beginning already to
feel a little sad at the thought of parting from them all, but a lively
desire to side with them against the common enemy. She failed quite to
realize that her past behaviour had reconciled Kitty more than anything
to the "enemy's" presence, and made her coming almost a relief.
"I'll get Fanny to poach some eggs, or make an omelette or something.
Don't you worry about it."

Kitty, immensely relieved and only too glad to follow Emily's last bit
of advice, wandered out and through the yard towards the garden.
She felt she could not go back to the company of Aunt Pike again, for a
few moments at any rate.

Prue was standing with her head out of her window, anxiously wondering
where Jabez was with her supper. Kitty spoke to her and passed on.
She strolled slowly up the steps, past the fateful garden wall and the
terrace above to the next terrace, where stood a pretty creeper-covered
summer-house. It was a warm night, and very still and airless.
Kitty sat down on the step in the doorway of the summer-house, and
staring before her into the dimness, tried to grasp all that had
happened, and what it would mean to them. She thought of their lazy
mornings, when they lay in bed till the spirit moved them to get up; of
the other mornings when they chose to rise early and go for a long walk
to Lantig, or down to Trevoor, the stretch of desolate moorland which
lay about a mile outside the town, and was so full of surprises - of
unexpected dips and trickling streams, of dangerous bogs, and stores of
fruits and berries and unknown delights - that, well though they knew it,
they had not yet discovered the half of them. She thought of their
excursions, such as to-day's, to Wenmere Woods, and those others to
Helbarrow Tors. They usually took a donkey and cart, and food for a
long day, when they went to this last. Her mind travelled, too, back
over their favourite games and walks, and what she, perhaps, loved best
of all, those drives, when she would have the carriage and Prue all to
herself, and would wander with them over the face of the country for

At those times she felt no nervousness, no loneliness, nothing but pure,
unalloyed happiness. Sometimes she would take a book with her, and when
she came to a spot that pleased her, she would turn Prue into the hedge
to graze, while she herself would stay in the carriage and read, or
dismount and climb some hedge, or tree, or gate, and gaze about her, or
lie on the heather, thinking or reading; and by-and-by she would turn
the old horse's head homewards, and arrive at last laden with
honeysuckle or dog-roses, bog-myrtle, ferns, or rich-brown bracken and



The next week or two were full of change, excitement, and unrest.
No one knew what the next day might bring forth, and the children never
felt sure of anything. Any hour might bring a surprise to them, and it
was not likely to be a pleasant surprise - of that they felt sure.
One of the changes decided on was that Dan was to go very soon - the next
term, in fact - to a public school as a boarder.

To all but Dan the news came as an overwhelming blow. Katherine and
Elizabeth, as their aunt persisted in calling them, considered it one of
the most cruel and treacherous acts that Mrs. Pike could have been
guilty of. Of course they blamed her entirely for it. "Dan was to be
turned out of his home-banished - and by Aunt Pike!" they told each

"I expect she will banish us next," said Betty. "If she does, I shall
run away from school and become something - a robber, or a gipsy, or a

But the cruellest part, perhaps, of the blow was that Dan himself did
not resent it. In fact, he showed every sign of delight with the plan,
and was wild with excitement for the term to begin. To the girls this
seemed rank treachery, a complete going over to the enemy, and they felt
it keenly.

"I didn't think Dan would have changed so," said Kitty dejectedly, as
she and Betty lay in their beds discussing the serious state of affairs.

"I don't know," said Betty darkly. "_I_ thought he was very odd the
night Aunt Pike came. First there was the rude way he spoke to me about
my making up to her, and then _he_ went and got that bottle of
embercation for her. _I_ called _that_ sucking up to her."

"But Dan is always polite," said Kitty, warm in defence of him at once.
She might sometimes admit to herself that there was a flaw in her
brother, but she could not endure that any one else should see one;
"and he is always sorry for people when they are hurt, and it was our
fault that she was hurt."

"Yes, it was his fault really," said Betty, whose memory was a good
one - too good at times, some said - "for he was the first to kick off his
boots and leave them there."

"I know; but he didn't tell us to do the same. And you see we had all
agreed to be polite to Aunt Pike, and you could have got the embrocation
for her if you had liked."

"But I don't see why it should be called 'polite' if Dan does it, but
'sucking up' if _I_ do it," argued Betty.

Kitty sighed. She often wished that Betty would not want things
explained so carefully. She never made allowances for changes of mood
or sudden impulses. Kitty herself so constantly experienced both, that
she could sympathize with others who did the same, and as she put it to
herself - "What can you do if you feel sorry for a person that you hated
only a little while before?"

Kitty could not understand the right and the wrong of these things, or
what to do under such circumstances. She wished she could, for they
made her feel mean to one side or the other, and nothing was really
further from her intention.

The next arrangement made - and this was an even greater blow to them
than the "banishment" of Dan - was that Kitty and Betty were to go as day
girls to school, instead of having Miss Pooley to the house.

The plan, being Aunt Pike's, would probably have been objected to in any
case; but to Kitty, with her shy dread of strangers - particularly girls
of her own age - the prospect was appalling, and she contemplated it with
a deep dread such as could not be understood by most girls.

Betty complained loudly, but soon found consolation. "At any rate," she
said, "we need not walk to school with Anna, and we needn't see as much

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