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round the form of the depressed Judith, thus transforming her into a valiant captain in the French service.
The next thing was to place them behind the screen with Mabel's help, their heads and scarlet cloaks appearing above.
"There! now they look just like soldiers peering over the walls to see if the enemy is coming. Now then, Mabel, you must be the queen, and Minnie your maid of honour, so you must go and sit over there, and wait until I have taken the place. I'm the king going in front, and all the army is following behind. See, this is my sword," he explained, brandishing one of the longest and stoutest of his grandpapa's walking-sticks, which he had fetched from the hall; " and now I'm going to make the attack. I'm very brave, you know, and I'm going to try and run General Lang through the body. I must bring him down first, and then the others."
"Take care, Charlie! Oh, do take care!" shrieked Minnie, as she saw her brother prepare to make a thrust at Lady Geraldine, and for the first time realised the danger that threatened her favourite. But her entreaty came too late; for Charlie's valour had led him to make such an exceedingly vigorous onset, that not only did the general, the captain, and the private all disappear together behind the walls at the first blow, but the walls themselves came tumbling down, burying beneath them the brave defenders of the fortress.
He stood aghast, contemplating the wreck, whilst Minnie set up a dismal wail as she perceived the fate which had overtaken her family. It certainly was trying to know that her best-beloved belongings lay buried beneath the walls of Calais, having been slain in indiscriminate slaughter by her own brother.
"It's too bad of you!" she sobbed, accompanying her words with a thump on Charlie's back. "It's very cruel to kill them all at once! And I would never have lent them to you if I had known what you were going to do."
"I didn't mean to do it," returned Charlie, taking no notice of the thumps wherewith Minnie was relieving her feelings. "I meant to send them down in turn, and then pretend they had surrendered the place to us, and go in and take possession. But I suppose I hit too hard."
"It was a great shame to kill my dolls," still wailed Minnie. "I only had Lady Geraldine on my last birthday, and she was such a beauty!" she added, with a fresh burst of sobs.
But how do you know they are killed?" interposed Mabel. “ Perhaps they may not be so badly hurt as you think. Let us pull them out from under the screen."
"I'm very sorry," said the boy, putting his arm. round her, and trying to give her a kiss to comfort her, though he did not succeed in doing so.
But it was a forlorn hope, and sad was the spectacle that met their gaze when, after some little difficulty, they had succeeded in raising the screen. There lay the Lady Geraldine, her beautiful face and arms broken into fragments, whilst Judith beside her was in the same pitiable plight. Both were entirely past recovery. It was only wooden Sally that was at all recognisable amidst the havoc and ruin. Minnie's tears redoubled.
"Don't cry any more, there's a pet," said Charlie. "I didn't mean to do it, and I'm very sorry; and I'll give you all my pocket-money for ever so long to buy some new dolls. And we'll get a handsomer one than Miss Judith, for you know she wasn't a beauty. There now, you won't cry any more, will you?"
But the prospect held out of replacing Lady Geraldine and Miss Judith seemed so vague and distant in little Minnie's eyes, whilst her loss was so fresh and real, that she could not at once conquer her grief, and she was still sitting on the floor sobbing when the door opened, and Mrs. Lang appeared.
Her eye fell upon a scene of confusion. "What does all this mean? What have you been doing, children? And why is Minnie crying?"
"I've killed both her dolls," explained Charlie ruefully. "Really, you know, though, I only meant to pretend. But they've been killed in battle, and that was a glorious end, so I don't think Minnie need cry so much about it."
The little girl, however, did not seem to derive much consolation from the thought of their having thus fallen in the service of their country.
"But what is this?" suddenly exclaimed Mrs. Lang, taking hold of the general's martial cloak. "It is actually the cashmere cushion I am working, all tumbled and crumpled up into a rag. Charlie, is this your doing?"
"Yes, grandma," returned the delinquent, looking a little abashed. "I thought you would lend it, because we couldn't find anything else that would do for a soldier, and we were playing at the taking of Calais. It was going to be such fun, only the screen came down with a smash and stopped it all."
"It is a wonder it did not do still more harm in falling. And here is my knitting, with one-half of it at least pulled out," went on Mrs. Lang, as she disentangled the remains of her comforter from the motionless form of the defunct Judith. "Really, Charlie, this is very naughty of you. You ought to
I would have said he had his match
in Mabel, and that she was more likely to lead him into mischief than she was to keep him out of it.
Mrs. Lang turned to little Minnie, and was about to endeavour to console her under her misfortune and her bereavement when dinner was announced, and the general entering the room at the same moment, the three children were at once sent up to the nursery.
CHAPTER VI.-LAST HONOURS TO THE
Charlie tried to console her, but his efforts did not seem to meet with much success.
HE nursery was a spacious room of irregular shape, with two latticed windows on one side, and a large bay window at the farther end. Nurse and her assistant, Jane, were sitting at work at a round table at the top of the room, and the children, betaking themselves to the broad, old-fashioned window-seat in the bay, were far enough off to be out of earshot of their elders.
Minnie was still holding in her arms the mutilated forms of her unfortunate family, whilst her little face still wore a sorrowful expression.
"'ll tell you what we'll do," cried Mabel suddenly, with almost startling energy, as if she felt she had hit upon a plan which would be effectual in comforting the child under her bereavement. "We'll give them an honourable burial."
"Give them what?" asked little Minnie.
"A grand funeral: a soldier's funeral. That is what is done to great people -generals like the Duke of Wellington was; and as they fell in battle, all possible honour, of
course, must be paid them."
"Capital!" exclaimed Charlie approvingly ; whilst Minnie doubtfully said, "Where shall you bury them?"
"Well, great generals are buried in Westminster Abbey, I know, because Miss Poole has told me all about it. But we can't put them there, so we must think of some other place."
"I know what will do for their coffin," replied Charlie, producing out of a cupboard a light, oblong wooden box, in which were some old toys, which he hastily turned out. "This will be the very thing."
The next step was to lay therein the headless and armless trunk of the late Lady Geraldine, alias General Lang, as well as that of Judith, whose short-lived promotion to the dignity of captain had brought with it such disastrous results. The lid was closed down after Minnie had taken a last tearful glance, and then the three resumed their places in the window-seat, in grave consultation as to the next step in their programme.
"In under the bed," suggested Minnie, who was more anxious to escape a nocturnal expedition than to pay due honours to the memory of the brave officers. "If we push the box back to the far end it will be quite out of sight."
"Minnie, you're a goose!" remarked her brother, not over politely. "Don't you know they must be put somewhere where nobody can ever get at them? or else they wouldn't be properly buried. What do you say to digging a hole in the garden?" he said, throwing out the idea as a suggestion, and glancing at Mabel to see if she approved of it,
Oh, no, no, Charlie, don't do that!" cried Minnie, alarmed at the idea of being led out in the dead of the night upon such a dismal errand as that would be.
"And it would be difficult to get out of doors without any one's knowing, wouldn't it?" said Mabel.
"Yes, I suppose it would," assented the boy, reluctantly.
After a moment's profound consideration a bright idea seemed to occur to him, and he proceeded to divulge it to his companions.
roll in. So it possessed one quality at least in common with a grave: it retained what had once been committed to it. Thus it appeared to combine all that was necessary.
At an angle of the staircase was a curiously shaped projecting Gothic window, below which stood a tank for the reception of rain-water. He had before now amused himself, when unobserved, by dropping things into it, and trying to fish them out again, in which latter endeavour he never succeeded; whilst he had once unintentionally lost a favourite top by letting it slip out of his hands and
"That will be the very thing," agreed Mabel. "And we can let down the box-the coffin I meanby cords, and pretend it is some place on the city walls. Because, as the people were shut up in Calais, I dare say they couldn't get out to the cemetery to bury their friends. Or perhaps they didn't have cemeteries in those days; I don't know about that. But at any rate this must do for us this time."
"Yes; and we must bury them to-night," said Charlie, "because you won't be here to-morrow night. Now, Minnie, you must keep awake till nurse is gone off fast asleep, and then slip out quietly."
Minnie, thinking remonstrance useless, and having, moreover, a habit of assenting to everything Charlie wished, made no further objection. Besides, she was in a measure relieved to find that it was only half-way down the staircase she would have to go, instead of out into the garden, perhaps even the shrubbery, as she had at one time feared. And yet, if Charlie had insisted upon that latter course she would have yielded the point, so accustomed was she to follow him in everything he wished.
The conversation had all along been carried on in guarded tones, so that nurse and Jane at the other end of the room, talking together over their work, were quite unaware of the plot the three little heads had been forming.
It was finally arranged that Charlie should give the signal for starting by tapping gently at Mabel's door; for as his little room opened out of that in which nurse and Minnie slept, and the door of communication was left open at night, he could easily ascertain when nurse had fallen safely asleep, and intimate the same to Minnie..
"Mind you both try and keep awake,” was his last whispered injunction when bed-time at last
The hour arrived at length: that mysterious hour, “at dead of night,” fixed upon for the celebration of the obscquies of the brave, but unfortunate, defenders of Calais.
It was not so late, however, as Charlie thought, for nurse had come up to bed earlier than usual that night, and had fallen asleep almost directly she had lain down. But her heavy breathing testified to the soundness of her repose; and having ascertained, by peeping through the crack in his door, that the gas on the stairs was already out, and therefore, as he supposed, everybody in the
house safe in their beds, he considered that the right moment had come.
Stealing noiselessly through the half-open door into the next room, he stood for a few moments on tiptoe beside nurse's bed, eagerly scanning her face, and intently listening to her breathing. Then giving a little nod of satisfaction, he passed round to his sister's bed.
"Minnie, dear, you must come now; it's time for the funeral."
A little half-smothered sigh and a few rubs of her sleepy eyes, and then she prepared obediently to follow her brother's bidding by getting out of
The room was not in total darkness, as nurse always burnt a night-light: and though it was only giving a feeble glimmer, it was better than nothing, as it enabled them to grope their way about without fear of running against chairs or tables, and thus making a noise that might have disturbed the sleeper. As it was, Charlie kept his eye well on her, with his finger on his lips to enforce silence upon Minnie, whilst he hurried her into his own little room adjoining.
On the way he had taken possession of a black shawl of nurse's, which was lying on the top of the chest of drawers, and which had not escaped his quick eye.
"This will do capitally for you to put on, Minnie; because, you know, you ought to be in mourning, as you are chief mourner; and this will cover you right over."
It was folded square, and on being opened out and pinned round the child's neck, it not only enveloped her, but quite trailed on the ground behind her.
Minnie's sleepy blue eyes would scarcely keep open, so heavy were the little lids; but Charlie was all life and animation, looking as if he really were so devoid of proper feeling as to enjoy the idea of a funeral. But there was, to say the least, a certain novelty and excitement attending a ceremony that had to be performed in the middle of the night, when all the other members of the household were in their beds buried in slumber, thus leaving the house free for the children to roam in as they chose.
"I wonder I never thought of this sort of thing before; it was a capital idea of Mabel's," remarked Charlie, feeling very brisk and somewhat elated, in spite of his little sister's want of alacrity and rather depressed air; which, however, was more befitting the occasion than his own lively spirits, had he stayed to consider in any way the propriety of the thing.
Nothing could be found for Charlie's mourning
save an old black scarf, which he tied round his arm, observing that Minnie was black enough for both. Then producing two bits of cord, which he had secured and placed ready for use before going to bed, he passed them under the box, and giving two ends to his sister, took the others in his own hand, that they might thus carry the coffin slung between them.
Mabel was all on the alert, and soon after receiving Charlie's signal issued from her room, attired in her dark waterproof, which she had wrapped round her over her scarlet dressing-gown, as being of a more suitable colour for the occasion.
As they emerged upon the landing Minnie found, to her relief, that it was not so dark as she had feared it would be, for the moon was shining in brightly through the oriel window, shedding a broad white streak of light full on that part of the staircase which they had to descend. The three children were just crossing this belt, and standing full in the flood of silver light which fell upon them, when a door facing them-a swing door, which shut off a long passage, leading to another part of the house -suddenly opened, and the figure of a man stood before them !
Minnie uttered a low startled shriek of terror, but Charlie and Mabel retained their self-possession, considering it would be cowardly to turn and flee ; though, as the figure was in shadow they neither of them recognised it for the moment, and, it must be confessed, both of them felt a little inward quaking.
"Charlie and Minnie!" exclaimed the voice of General Lang, in tones of utter astonishment; " and Mabel too! Why, children, what in the world are you doing here?"
His eye was taking in with no little sense of amusement the picture before him: the broad oak staircase bathed in moonlight, with three barefooted little figures standing upon it, one in long trailing funereal garments, which set off her golden curls and fair face, whilst behind appeared Mabel's dark eyes, gleaming with fun and daring. His glance also took in the deal box, suspended on ropes, which he saw was swung between the two children.
"What is the meaning of all this?" he demanded. "What are you up to, my young man ?"
"We are going to bury two of the brave defenders of Calais, who were killed on the walls," returned Charlie, nothing daunted, or, at least, trying to appear so.
"Ah! I heard of their being slain just now," said the general, unable to refrain from entering into the joke. "But why are you burying them by night? Such things generally take place in the day-time."
Charlie gave their authority for thinking it more correct in this case to choose the night, quoting Mabel's line of poetry.
"So, my young lady, you've been having a hand in this; and I shouldn't wonder if you were the instigator of it all," said the general, turning upon her with a look that was meant to be fierce, but was not, after all, very terrible to encounter, for Mabel could see that a smile was lurking in his eyes.
"But where were you intending to lay their remains?" he demanded of Charlie.
The latter explained.
"A nice young man you are, I must say," laughed the general, "to be poisoning the water by burying dead men in the tank!-though, to be sure, it is not drinking water. Still, my fine fellow, and you young ladies, though I am sorry to disturb your little arrangements, I feel bound to order you at once to the right-about, and send you ignominiously back to your beds. There's Minnie shivering, and she'll be catching cold next. You deserve a good scolding, all of you," he added, again trying to look fierce as he shook his fist at them.
Minnie thought it was meant in earnest, and was beginning to cry.
This was too much for the kind-hearted general. Catching her up in his arms he gave her little pale cheek a kiss, which partly chased away the frightened look in her eyes.
you only followed Charlie's bidding.
Then, turning to the boy, he said, "Remember, you must never attempt any more nightly expeditions, or you will have to be well punished. What will nurse say, I should like to know, when she hears about it?"
"Oh! don't tell her, grandpapa, please don't!" entreated Minnie, clasping him round the legs. "Do please say you won't tell her anything about it!"
"I'll put the case into grandmamma's hands, and leave it to her discretion whether to speak of it or not," was all the general would promise; and then, without further parley, he sent them all back to their rooms.
But he had more than one hearty laugh as he told his wife about the little apparitions he had come upon whilst making his nightly rounds, and the comical look of consternation written on the three faces on being detected in their secret enterprise.
Mabel was very sorry when her visit came to an end next day, and she had to say farewell to her new friends. But Mrs. Lang kindly said she must come again.
"I wish I could stay with you always, and never go away again!" exclaimed the little girl, as she flung her arms round her kind hostess. "You are much more like mamma than Aunt Alicia." (To be continued.)
"I'm not angry with you, my child, for I know
HEY had started in search of wonderful
wings, or a palace of gleaming stone; but the road was dusty and dreary and straight, and the sun was so scorching and hot; so they turned at length through a narrow gate that led to a shady spot, and they rested awhile 'neath a spreading tree, and at once all their fancies they seemed to see.
Wee Nell saw a gnome all wrinkled and old, who guarded the mines underground; and Joan saw a palace of jewels and gold, where the queen of the fairies was crowned; and baby, well, baby saw nothing at all-for she couldn't read yet, you see, and a story to her was just sound let fall with a sort of melody; and how could she hope to see fairies with wings, when she never had heard of such wonderful things?