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- Beechcroft at Rockstone - 70/74 -

nothing to do but that everlasting sketching.'

'He must have been very sorry to be obliged to retire.'

'Horrid! It was weak, and he might have been in Egypt, well out of the way. No, I didn't mean that'---as Kalliope looked shocked---'but he might have been getting distinction and promotion.'

'He used to be very kind,' said Kalliope, in a tone of regretful remonstrance. 'It was he who taught me first to draw.'

'He! What, Fa---Captain Henderson?'

'Yes; when I was quite a little girl, and he had only just joined. He found me out before our quarters at Gibraltar trying to draw an old Spaniard selling oranges, and he helped me, and showed me how to hold my pencil. I have got it still---the sketch. Then he used to lend me things to copy, and give me hints till---oh, till my father said I was too old for that sort of thing! Then, you know, my father got his commission, and I went to school at Belfast.'

'And you have never seen him since?'

'Scarcely. Sometimes he was on leave in my holidays, and you know we were at the depot afterwards, but I shall always feel that all that I have been able to do since has been owing to him.'

'And how you will enjoy studying at Florence!'

'Oh, think what it would be if I could ever do a reredos for a church! I keep on dreaming and fancying them, and now there really seems a hope. Is that Arnscombe Church?'

'Yes, you know it has been nicely restored.'

'We had the columns to do. The reredos is alabaster, I believe, and we had nobody fit to undertake that. I so longed for the power! I almost saw it.'

'Have you seen what it is?'

'No; I never had time.'

'I suppose it would be too tiring for you now; but we could see the outside.'

Gillian forgot that Arnscombe, whose blunt gray spire protruded through the young green elms, lay in a little valley through which a stream rushed to the sea. The lane was not very steep, but there were loose stones. Bruno stumbled, he was down; the carriage stood still, and the two girls were out on opposite sides in a moment, Gillian crying out---

'Don't be frightened---no harm done!'---as she ran to the pony's head. He lay quite still with heaving sides, and she felt utterly alone and helpless in the solitary road with an invalid companion whom she did not like to leave.

'I am afraid I cannot run for help,' said Kalliope quietly, though breathlessly; 'but I could sit by the horse and hold his head while you go for help.'

'I don't like. Oh, here's some one coming!'

'Can I be of any use?'

Most welcome sound!---though it was actually Captain Henderson the ubiquitous wheeling his bicycle up the hill, knapsack of sketching materials on his back.

'Miss Merrifield! Miss White! I trust no one is hurt!'

'Oh no, thank you, unless it is the poor pony! Kally, sit down on the bank, I insist! Oh, I am so glad you are come!'

'Can you sit on his head while I cut the traces?'

Gillian did that comfortable thing till released, when the pony scrambled up again, but with bleeding knees, hip, and side, though the Captain did not think any serious harm was done; but it was even more awkward at the moment that both the shafts were broken!

'What is to be done?' sighed Gillian. 'Miss White can't walk. Can I run down to the village to get something to take her home?'

'The place did not look likely to supply any conveyance better than a rough cart,' said their friend.

'It is quite impossible to put the poor pony in anyhow! I don't mind walking in the least; but you know how ill she has been.'

'I see. Only one thing to be done,' said the Captain, who had already turned the carriage round by the stumps of the shafts; 'you must accept me in lieu of your pony.'

'Oh yes, thank you!' cried Gillian eagerly. 'I can lead poor Bruno, and take care of your bicycle. Jump in, Kally!'

Kalliope, who had wisely abstained from adding a useless voice to the discussion, here demurred. She could not think of such a thing; they could very well wait in the carriage while Captain Henderson went on to the town on his bicycle and sent out a midge.

But there were showers about, and a damp feeling in the lane. Both the others thought this perilous; besides that, there might be rude passengers to laugh at their predicament; and Captain Henderson protested that the weight was nothing. He prevailed at last; and she allowed him to hand her into the basket, when she could hardly stand, and wrap the dust-cloth about her. Thus the procession set forth, Gillian with poor drooping Bruno's rein in one hand and the other on the bicycle, and the Captain gallantly drawing the carriage with Kalliope seated in the midst. He tramped on so vigorously as quite to justify his declaration that it was no burthen to him. It was not a frequented road, and they met no one in the least available to do more than stare or ask a question or two, until, as they approached the town and Rockstone Church was full in view, who should appear before their eyes but Sir Jasper, Wilfred carrying on his back a huge kite that had been for many evenings in course of construction, and Fergus acting as trainbearer.

Thus came on the first moment of Gillian's explanation, as Sir Jasper took the poor pony from her and held counsel over the damage, with many hearty thanks to Captain Henderson.

'I am sure, sir, no one could have shown greater presence of mind than the young ladies,' said that gentleman; and her father's 'I am glad to hear it!' would have gratified Gillian the more, but for the impish grimace with which Wilfred favoured her behind Kalliope's impassive back.

The kite-fliers turned, not without an entreaty from the boys that they might go on alone and fly their kite.

'No, no, boys,' said their father---'not here; we shall have the kite pulling you into the sea over the cliffs. I must take the pony home; but I will come if possible to-morrow.'

Much disappointed, they went dolefully in the rear, grumbling sotto voce their conviction that there would be no wind to-morrow, and that it was all 'Fangs's' fault in some incomprehensible manner.

At Cliff House Kalliope was carefully handed out by Sir Jasper, trying, but with failing voice, to thank Captain Henderson, and declaring herself not the worse, though her hand shook so much that the General was not content without giving her his arm up the stairs, and telling Maura that he should send Mrs. Halfpenny up to see after her. The maimed carriage was left in the yard, and Captain Henderson then took charge of his iron horse, and the whole male party proceeded to the livery stables; so that Gillian was able to be alone, when she humbly repeated to her mother the tale parents have so often to hear of semi-disobedience leading to disaster, but with the self-reproach and sorrow that drew the sting of displeasure. Pity for Bruno, grief for her mother's deprivation, and anxiety for Kalliope might be penance and rebuke sufficient for a bit of thoughtlessness. Lady Merrifield made no remark; but there was an odd expression in her face when she heard who had come so opportunely to the rescue.

Sir Jasper brought a reassuring account of the poor little steed, which would be usable again after a short rest, and the blemish was the less important as there was no intention of selling him. Mrs. Halfpenny, too, reported that her patient was as quiet as a lamb. 'She wasn't one to fash herself for nothing and go into screaming cries, but kenned better what was fitting for one born under Her Majesty's colours.'

So there was nothing to hinder amusement when at dinner Sir Jasper comically described the procession as he met it. Kalliope White, looking only too like Minerva, or some of those Greek goddess statues they used to draw about, sitting straight and upright in her triumphal car, drawn by her votary; while poor Gillian came behind with the pony on one side and the bicycle on the other, very much as if she were conducting the wheel on which she was to be broken, as an offering to the idol.

'I think,' said Mysie, 'Captain Henderson was like the two happy sons in Solon's story, who dragged their mother to the temple.'

'Only they died of it,' said Gillian.

'And nobody asked how the poor mother felt afterwards,' added Lady Merrifield.

'I thought they all had an apotheosis together,' said Sir Jasper. 'Let us hope that devotion may have its reward.'

There was a little lawn outside the drawing-room windows at Il Lido. Lady Merrifield was sitting just within, and her husband had just brought her a letter to read, when they heard Wilfred's impish voice.

'Jack---no, not Jack---Fangs!'

'But Fangs's name is Jack, so it will do as well,' said Valetta's voice.

'Hurrah---so it is! Jack---'

'Hush, Wilfred---this is too foolish!' came Gillian's tones in remonstrance.

Beechcroft at Rockstone - 70/74

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