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perceive anything barbarous or outlandish in the man's appearance.

"I'm glad I've met you," she said, in her clear dulcet voice, "for you
can tell me where I am. I want to get to Sleepy Hollow, Dr. Maybright's
place - am I far away?"

"Two miles, as the crow flies," responded the man.

"But I can't go as the crow flies. What is the best way to walk? Can't
you show me?"

"No-a. I be sleepy. Have you got a coin about you, Miss?"

"Money? No. I left my purse at home. I have not got a watch either, nor
a chain, but I have got a little ring. It is very thin, but it is pure
gold, and I am fond of it. I will give it to you if you will take me the
very nearest way to Sleepy Hollow."

The man grinned again. "You _be_ a girl!" he said, in a tone of
admiration. "Yes, I'll take you; come."

He turned on his heel, shambled on in front, and Flower followed.

In this manner the two walked for some time. Suddenly they mounted a
ridge, and then the man pointed to where the Doctor's house stood, snug
in its own inclosure.

"Thank you," said Flower.

She took a little twist of gold off her smallest finger, dropped it into
the man's dirty, open palm, and began quickly to descend the ridge in
the direction of the Hollow. It was nearly three o'clock when she
entered the cool, wide entrance-hall. The house felt still and restful.
Flower acknowledged to herself that she was both tired and hungry, but
her main idea to revenge herself on Polly was stronger than either
fatigue or hunger. She walked into the dining-room, cut a thick slice
from a home-made loaf of bread, broke off a small piece to eat at once,
and put the rest into her pocket. A dish of apples stood near; she
helped herself to two, stowed them away with the bread in the capacious
pocket of her green cloth dress, and then looked around her. She had got
to Polly's home, but how was she to accomplish her revenge? How strike
Polly through her most vulnerable point?

She walked slowly upstairs, meditating as she went. Her own little
bower-like room stood open; she entered it. Polly's hands had been
mainly instrumental in giving choice touches to this room; Polly's
favorite blue vase stood filled with flowers on the dressing-table, and
a lovely photograph of the Sistine Madonna which belonged to Polly hung
over the mantelpiece. Flower did not look at any of these things. She
unlocked a small drawer in a dainty inlaid cabinet, which she had
brought with her from Ballarat, took out two magnificent diamond rings,
a little watch set with jewels, and a small purse, very dainty in
itself, but which only held a few shillings. She put all these treasures
into a small black velvet bag, fastened the bag round her neck by a
narrow gold chain, and then leaving her room, stood once more in a
contemplative attitude on the landing.

She was ready now for flight herself, for when she had revenged herself
on Polly, she must certainly fly. But how should she accomplish her
revenge? what should she do? She thought hard. She knew she had but
little time, for the Doctor and the children might return at any moment.

In the distance she heard the merry laugh of Polly's little sister,
Pearl. Flower suddenly colored, her eyes brightened, and she said to
herself:

"That is a good idea; I will go and have a talk with Nurse. I can find
out somehow from Nurse what Polly likes best."

She ran at once to the nurseries.

"My dear Miss Flower," exclaimed Nurse. "Why, wherever have you been,
Miss? I thought you was with the others. Well! you do look tired and
fagged."

"I have walked home," said Flower, carelessly. "I didn't care to be out
so long; picnics are nothing to me; I'm accustomed to that sort of thing
on a big scale at Ballarat, you know. I walked home, and then I thought
I'd have a chat with you, if you didn't mind."

"For sure, dear. Sit you down in that easy chair, Miss Flower; and would
you like to hold baby for a bit? Isn't she sweet to-day? I must say I
never saw a more knowing child for her age."

"She is very pretty," said Flower, carelessly. "But I don't think I'll
hold her, Nurse. I'm not accustomed to babies, and I'm afraid she might
break or something. Do you know I never had a baby in my arms in my
life? I don't remember David when he was tiny. No, I never saw anything
so young and soft and tiny as this little Pearl; she _is_ very pretty."

"Eh, dear lamb," said Nurse, squeezing the baby to her heart, "she's the
very sweetest of the sweet. Now you surprise me, Miss Flower, for I'd
have said you'd be took up tremendous with babies, you has them winsome
ways. Why, look at the little dear, she's laughing even now to see you.
She quite takes to you, Miss - the same as she does to Miss Polly."

"She takes to Polly, does she?" said Flower.

"Take to her? I should say so, Miss; and as to Miss Polly, she just
worships baby. Two or three times a day she comes into the nursery, and
many and many a time she coaxes me to let her bathe her. The fact is,
Miss Flower, we was all in a dreadful taking about Miss Polly when her
mamma died. She was quite in a stunned sort of state, and it was baby
here brought her round. Ever since then our little Miss Pearl has been
first of all with Miss Polly."

"Give her to me," said Flower, in a queer, changed voice. "I've altered
my mind - I'd like to hold her. See, is she not friendly? Yes, baby,
kiss me, baby, with your pretty mouth. Does she not coo - isn't she
perfect? You are quite right, Nurse. I do like to hold her, very much
indeed."

"I said she'd take to you, Miss," said Nurse, in a gratified voice.

"So she does, and I take to her. Nurse, I wonder if you'd do something
for me?"

"Of course I will, my dear."

"I am so awfully hungry. Would you go down' to the kitchen and choose a
nice little dinner for me?"

"I'll ring the bell, Miss Dalrymple. Alice shall bring it to you on a
tray here, if you've a mind to eat it in the nursery."

"But I do want you to choose something; do go yourself, and find
something dainty. Do, Nursie, please Nursie. I want to be spoiled a
little bit; no one ever spoils me now that my mamma is dead."

"Bless the child!" said good-natured and unsuspicious Nurse. "Of course
I'll go, if you put it that way, Missy. Well, take care of baby, Miss
Flower. Don't attempt to carry her; hold her steady with your arm firm
round her back. I'll bring you your dinner in ten minutes at latest,
Miss."




CHAPTER V.

FORSAKEN.


The moment Nurse's footsteps died away Flower sprang to her feet,
snatched up a white wool shawl, which lay over the baby's cot, wrapped
it round her, and flew downstairs with the little creature in her arms.

Out through a side door which stood open ran Flower, down by the
shrubbery, over the stile, and in a few moments she was out again on the
wide, wild, lonely moor with Polly's pet pressed close to her beating
heart. Long before Nurse had returned to the nursery Flower had reached
the moor, and when poor, distracted Nurse discovered her loss, Flower
had wriggled herself into the middle of a clump of young oak-trees, and
was fondling and petting little Pearl, who sat upright on her knee. From
her hiding-place Flower could presently hear footsteps and voices, but
none of them came near her, and for the present baby was contented, and
did not cry. After a time the footsteps moved further off, and Flower
peeped from her shelter.

"Now, baby, come on," she said. She wrapped the shawl again firmly round
the little one, and started with a kind of trotting motion over the
outskirts of the moor. She was intensely excited, and her cheeks were
flushed with the first delicious glow of victory. Oh, how sorry Polly
would be now for having attempted to oppose her. Yes, Polly would know
now that Flower Dalrymple was not a person to be trifled with.

She was really a strong girl, though she had a peculiarly fragile look.
The weight of the three months' old baby was not very great, and for a
time she made quite rapid progress. After she had walked about a mile
she stood still to consider and to make her plans. No more ignorant girl
in all England could perhaps be found than this same poor silly,
revengeful Flower; but even she, with all her ideas Australian, and her
knowledge of English life and ways simply null and void, even she knew
that the baby could not live for a long time without food and shelter on
the wide common land which lay around. She did not mean to steal baby
for always, but she thought she would keep her for a month or two, until
Polly was well frightened and repentant, and then she would send her
back by some kind, motherly woman whom she was sure to come across. As
to herself, she had fully made up her mind never again to enter the
doors of Sleepy Hollow, for it would be impossible for her, she felt, to
associate with any people who had sat down to dinner with the
kitchen-maid. Holding the baby firmly in her arms, Flower stood and
hesitated. The warm fleecy white shawl sheltered little Pearl from all
cold, and for the present she slept peacefully.

"I must try and find some town," thought Flower. "I must walk to some
town - the nearest, I suppose - with baby. Then I will sell one of my
rings, and try to get a nice woman to give me a lodging. If she is a
motherly person - and I shall certainly look out for some one that
is - I can give her little Pearl when I get tired of her, and she can
take her back to Sleepy Hollow. But I won't give Pearl up for the
present; for, in the first place she amuses me, and in the next I wish
Polly to be well punished. Now I wonder which is the nearest way to the
town? If I were at Ballarat, I should know quickly enough by the
sign-posts placed at intervals all over the country, but they don't seem
to have anything of the sort here in barbarous England. Now, how shall I
get to the nearest town without meeting any one who would be likely to
tell Dr. Maybright?"

Flower had scarcely expressed herself in this fashion before once again
the rough-looking man crossed her path. She greeted him quite joyfully.

"Oh! you're just the person I want," she exclaimed. "I've got my purse
now, and a little money in it. Would you like to earn a shilling?"

"Sure-_ly_," said the man. "But I'd a sight rather 'arn two," he added.

"I'll give you two. I have not got much money, but I'll certainly give
you two shillings if you'll help me now. I have got a little baby
here - a dear little baby, but she's rather heavy. I am running away
with her to revenge myself on somebody. I don't mind telling you that,
for you look like an outlaw yourself, and you'll sympathize with me. I
want you to carry baby for me, and to take us both to the nearest town.
Do you hear? Will you do it?"

"Sure-_ly_," said the man, favoring Flower with a long, peculiar glance.

"Well, here's baby; you must be very careful of her. I'll give you
_three_ shillings after you have taken her and me to the nearest town;
and if you are really kind, and walk quickly, and take us to a nice
restaurant where I can have a good dinner - for I am awfully
hungry - you shall have something to eat yourself as well. Now walk on
in front of me, please, and don't waste any more time, for it would be
dreadful if we were discovered."

The man shambled on at once in front of Flower; his strong arms
supported little Pearl comfortably, and she slumbered on in an unbroken
dream.

The bright sunlight had now faded, the short October day was drawing in,
the glory and heat of the morning had long departed, and Flower, whose
green cloth dress was very light in texture, felt herself shivering in
the sudden cold.

"Are you certain you are going to the nearest town?" she called out to
the man.

"Sure-_ly_," he responded back to her. He was stepping along at a
swinging pace, and Flower was very tired, and found it difficult to keep
up with him. Having begged of him so emphatically to hurry, she did not
like to ask him now to moderate his steps. To keep up with him at all
she had almost to run; and she was now not only hungry, cold, and tired,
but the constant quick motion took her breath away. They had left the
border of the moor, and were now in the middle of a most desolate piece
of country. As Flower looked around her she shivered with the first real
sensation of loneliness she had ever known. The moor seemed to fill the
whole horizon. Desolate moor and lowering sky - there seemed to be
nothing else in all the world.

"Where is the nearest town?" she gasped at last. "Oh, what a long, long
way off it is!"

"It's miles away!" said the man, suddenly stopping and turning round
fiercely upon her; "but ef you're hungry, there's a hut yer to the left
where my mother lives. She'll give you a bit of supper and a rest, ef so
be as you can pay her well."

"Oh, yes, I can pay her," responded Flower. The thought of any shelter
or any food was grateful to the fastidious girl now.

"I am very hungry and very tired," she said. "I will gladly rest in your
mother's cottage. Where is it?"

"I said as it wor a hut. There are two dawgs there: be you afeard?"

"Of _dogs_? I am not afraid of anything!" said Flower, curling her short
lip disdainfully.

"You _be_ a girl!" responded the man. He shambled on again in front, and
presently they came in sight of the deserted hermit's hut, where Polly
and Maggie a few weeks before had been led captive. A woman was standing
in the doorway, and by her side, sitting up on their haunches, were two
ugly, lean-looking dogs.

"Down, Cinder and Flinder!" said the woman. "Down you brutes! Now,
Patrick, what have you been up to? Whatever's that in your arms, and
who's a-follering of yer?"

"This yer's a babby," said the man, "and this yer's a girl. She,"
pointing to Flower, "wants to be took to the nearest town, and she have
money to pay, she says."

"Oh! she have money to pay?" said the wife of Micah Jones - for it was
she. "Them as has money to pay is oilers and oilers welcome. Come in,
and set you down by the fire, hinney. Well, well, and so you has brought
a babby with you! Give it to me, Pat. What do you know, you great
hulking feller! about the tending of babbies?"

The man gladly relinquished his charge, then pointed backwards with his
finger at Flower.

"She's cold and 'ungry, and she has money to pay," he said.

"Come in, then, Missy, come in; yer's a good fire, and a hunk of cheese,
and some brown bread, and there'll be soup by-and-by. Yes," winking at
her son, "there'll be good strong soup by-and-by."

Flower, who had come up close to the threshold of the hut, now drew back
a step or two. At sight of the woman her courage had revived, her
feeling of extreme loneliness had vanished, and a good deal of the
insolence which often marked her bearing had in consequence returned to
her.

"I won't go in," she said. "It looks dirty in there and I hate dirt. No,
I won't go in! Bring me some food out here, please. Of course I'll pay
you."

"Highty-tighty!" said the woman. "And is wee babby to stay out in the
cold night air?"

"I forgot about the baby," said Flower. "Give her to me. Is the night
air bad for babies?" she asked, looking up inquiringly at the great
rough woman who stood by her side.

Flower's utter and fearless indifference to even the possibility of
danger had much the same effect on Mrs. Jones that it had upon her son.
They both owned to a latent feeling of uneasiness in her presence. Had
she showed the least trace of fear; had she dreaded them, or tried in
any way to soften them, they would have known how to manage her. But
Flower addressed them much as she would have done menials in her kitchen
at home. The mother, as well as the son, muttered under her
breath - "Never see'd such a gel!" She dropped the baby into Flower's
outstretched arms, and answered her query in a less surly tone than
usual.

"For sure night air is bad for babes, and this little 'un is young. Yes,
werry young and purty."

The woman pulled aside the white fluffy shawl; two soft clear brown eyes
looked up at her, and a little mouth was curved to a radiant smile.

"Fore sure she's purty," said the woman. "Look, Patrick. She minds me
o' - well, never mind. Missy, it ain't good for a babe like that to be
out in the night air. You're best in the house, and so is the babe. The
dawgs shan't touch yer. Come into the house, and I'll give yer what
supper's going, and the babe, pretty crittur, shall have a drink of
milk."

"I would not injure the baby," said Flower. She held both arms firm
round it, and entered the smoky, dismal hut.

The wife of Micah Jones moved a stool in front of the fire, pushed
Flower rather roughly down on it, and then proceeded to cut thick
hunches of sour bread and cheese. This was quite the coarsest food
Flower had ever eaten, and yet she never thought anything more
delicious. While she ate the woman sat down opposite her.

"I'll take the babe now and feed it," she said. "The pretty dear must be
hungry."

It was not little Pearl's way to cry. It was her fashion to look
tranquilly into all faces, and to take calmly every event, whether
adverse or otherwise. When she looked at Flower she smiled, and she
smiled again into the face of the rough woman who, in consequence, fed
her tenderly with the best she had to give.

"Is the soup done?" said the rough man, suddenly coming forward. "It's
soup I'm arter. It's soup as'll put life into Miss, and give her a mind
to walk them miles to the nearest town."

The woman laughed back at her son.

"The soup's in the pot," she said. "You can give it a stir, Pat, if you
will. Nathaniel will be in by-and-by, and he'll want his share. But you
can take a bowl now, if you like, and give one to Missy."

"Ay," said the man, "soup's good; puts life into a body."

He fetched two little yellow bowls filled one for Flower, stirring it
first with a pewter spoon.

"This'll put life into you, Miss," he said.

He handed the bowl of soup to the young girl. All this time the woman
was bending over the baby. Suddenly she raised her head.

"'Tis a bonny babe," she said. "Ef I was you, Pat, I wouldn't stir
Missy's soup. I'd give her your own bowl. I has no quarrel with Miss,
and the babe is fair. Give her your own soup, Patrick."

"It's all right, mother, Miss wouldn't eat as much as in my bowl. You
ain't 'ungry enough for that, be you, Miss?"

"I am very hungry," said Flower, who was gratefully drinking the hot
liquid. "I could not touch this food if I was not _very_ hungry. If I
want more soup I suppose I can have some more from the pot where this
was taken. What is the matter, woman? What are you staring at me for?"

"I think nought at all of you," said the woman, frowning, and drawing
back, for Flower's tone was very rude. "But the babe is bonny. Here,
take her back, she's like - but never mind. You'll be sleepy, maybe, and
'ud like to rest a bit. I meant yer no harm, but Patrick's powerful, and
he and Nat, they does what they likes. They're the sons of Micah Jones,
and he was a strong man in his day. You'd like to sleep, maybe, Missy.
Here, Patrick, take the bowl from the girl's hand."

"I do feel very drowsy," said Flower. "I suppose it is from being out
all day. This hut is smoky and dirty, but I'll just have a doze for five
minutes. Please, Patrick, wake me at the end of five minutes, for I
must, whatever happens, reach the nearest town before night."

As Flower spoke her eyes closed, and the woman, laying her back on some
straw, put the baby into her arms.

"She'll sleep sound, pretty dear," she said. "Ef I was you I wouldn't
harm her, just for the sake of the babe," she concluded.

"Why, mother, what's took you? _I_ won't hurt Missy. It's her own fault
ef she runs away, and steals the baby. That baby belongs to the doctor
what lives in the Hollow; it's nought special, and you needn't be took
up with it. Ah, here comes Nathaniel. Nat, I've found a lass wandering
on the moor, and I brought her home, and now the mother don't want us to
share the booty."

Nathaniel Jones was a man of very few words indeed. He had a fiercer,
wilder eye than his brother, and his evidently was the dominant and
ruling spirit.

"The moon's rising," he said; "she'll be at her full in half an hour. Do
your dooty, mother, for we must be out of this, bag and baggage, in half
an hour."

Without a word or a sigh, or even a glance of remorse, Mrs. Jones took
the cap from Flower's head, and feeling around her neck discovered the
gold chain which held the little bag of valuables. Without opening this
she slipped it into her pocket. Flower's dainty shoes were then removed,
and the woman looked covetously at the long, fine, cloth dress, but
shook her head over it.

"I'd wake her if I took it," she said.

"No, you wouldn't, I drugged the soup well," said Pat.

"Well, anyhow, I'll leave her her dress. There's nought more but a
handkerchief with a bit of lace on it."

"Take the baby's shawl," said Nathaniel, "and let us be off. If the moon
goes down we won't see the track. Here, mother, I'll help myself to the
wrap."

"No, you won't," said the woman. "You don't touch the babe with the pale
face and the smile of Heaven. I'm ready; let's go."

The dogs were called, and the entire party strode in single file along a
narrow path, which led away in a westerly direction over Peg-Top Moor.




CHAPTER VI.

WITHOUT HER TREASURE.


"There is a great fuss made about it all," said Polly.

This was her remark when her father left the pleasant picnic dinner and
drove away over the moor in search of Flower.

"There is a great fuss made over it all. What is Flower more than any
other girl? Why should she rule us all, and try to make things
uncomfortable for us? No, David, you need not look at me like that. If
Flower has got silly Australian notions in her head, she had better get
rid of them as fast as possible. She is living with English people now,
and English people all the world over won't put up with nonsense."

"It isn't Flower's ways I mean," said David. "Her ways and her thoughts
aren't much, but it's - it's when she gets into a passion. There's no
use talking about it - you have done it now, Polly! - but Flower's
passions are awful."

David's eyes filled slowly with tears.

"Oh, you are a cry-baby," said Polly. She knew she was making herself
disagreeable all round. In her heart she admired and even loved David;
but nothing would induce her to say she was sorry for any part she had
taken in Flower's disappearance.

"Everything is as tiresome as possible," she said, addressing her
special ally, Maggie. "There, Mag, you need not stare at me. Your brain
will get as small as ever again if you don't take care, and I know
staring in that stupid way you have is particularly weakening to the
brain. You had better help George to pack up, for I suppose Nell is
right, and we must all begin to think of getting home. Oh, dear, what a
worry it is to have to put up with the whims of other people. Yes, I
understand at last why father hesitated to allow the strangers to come
here."

"I wouldn't grumble any more, if I were you, Polly," said Helen. "See
how miserable David looks. I do hope father will soon find Flower. I did
not know that David was so very fond of her."

"David is nervous," retorted Polly, shortly. Then she turned to and
packed in a vigorous manner, and very soon after the little party
started on their return walk home. It was decidedly a dull walk. Polly's
gay spirits were fitful and forced; the rest of the party did not
attempt to enjoy themselves. David lagged quite behind the others; and
poor Maggie confided to George that somehow or other, she could not tell
why, they were all turning their eyes reproachful-like on her. The sun
had gone in now in the heavens, and the children, who had no sunshine in
their hearts just then, had a vivid consciousness that it was late
autumn, and that the summer was quite at an end.

As they neared the rise in the moor which hid Sleepy Hollow from view,
David suddenly changed his position from the rear to the van. As they
approached the house he stooped down, picked up a small piece of paper,
looked at it, uttered a cry of fear and recognition, and ran off as fast
as ever he could to the house.

"What a queer boy David is!" was on Polly's lips; but she could scarcely
say the words before he came out again. His face was deadly white, he
shook all over, and the words he tried to say only trembled on his lips.

"What is it, David?" said the twins, running up to him.

"She'll believe me now," said David.

He panted violently, his teeth chattered.

"Oh! David, you frighten us! What can be the matter? Polly, come here!


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