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- The Stokesley Secret - 20/37 -
"I shall be all the more certain to get the sovereign, or two sovereigns," said Henry to David, the only person whom he could find to listen to him, "if Sam is gone; and everyone will be caring about me."
"And then you'll give it to the pig," said David.
"Oh yes, to be sure. You will grow into a pig yourself if you go on that way, David."
However, David, partaking the family distrust of Hal's birds-in-the- bush, and being started on the subject of the hoard, ran up to Sam, who was learning his lessons by way of something to do, and said, "If you go to London, Sam, may I have your sixpence on Monday for the pig?"
"I don't know that I am going."
"But if you do--or we sha'n't get the pig."
"I don't care."
"Don't you care if we don't get the pig?"
"No. Be off with you."
David next betook himself to his eldest sister, who was trying to write to her father, and finding such a letter harder and sadder work than that to Ida Greville, though no one teased her about writing, blots, or spelling.
"If you go to London, Susie," said he, in the very same words, "may I have your sixpence on Monday for the pig?"
"Oh, Davie, don't be tiresome!"
David only said it over again in the same words, and put his hand down on her letter in his earnestness.
"Come away, Davie," said Miss Fosbrook; "don't tease your sister."
"I want her to say I may have her sixpence on Monday for the pig."
"No, you sha'n't, then," said Susan angrily; "you care for the nasty pig more than for poor Mamma or anyone else, and you sha'n't have it."
So seldom did Susan say anything cross, that everyone looked up surprised. Miss Fosbrook saw that it was sheer unhappiness that made her speak sharply, and would not take any notice, except by gently taking away the pertinacious David.
He was very much distressed at the refusal; and when Miss Fosbrook told him that his brother and sister could not think of such things when they were in such trouble, he only answered, "But Hannah Higgins won't get her pig."
Miss Fosbrook was vexed herself that her friend David should seem possessed with this single idea, as if it shut out all others from his mind. He was consoled fast enough; for Susan, with another great sob, threw down her pen, and coming up to stroke him down with her inky fingers, cried out, "O Davie, Davie, I didn't mean it; I don't know why I said it. You shall have my sixpence, or anything! But, oh dear, I wish the message was come, and we were going to dear Mamma, for I can't write, and I don't know what to do."
Then she went back to her place, and tried to write, and sat with her head on her hand, and dawdled and cried and blotted till it grew so near post-time that at last Miss Fosbrook took the longest of her scrawls, and writing three lines at the bottom to say how it was with them all, directed it to Captain Merrifield, thinking that he would like it better than nothing from home, sent it off, and made Susan come out to refresh her hot eyes and burning head in the garden.
Sam presently came and walked on her other side, gravely and in silence, glad to be away from the chatter and disputes of the younger ones. That summons had made them both feel older, and less like children, than ever before; but they did not speak much, only, when they sat down on a garden bench, as Miss Fosbrook held Susan's hand, she presently found some rough hard young fingers stealing into her own on the other side, and saw Sam's eyes glistening with unshed tears. She stroked his hand, and they dropped fast: but he was ashamed to cry, and quickly dried them.
"I think," she said, "that you will be a man, Sam; take care of Susan, and be a comfort to your father."
"I hope I shall," said Sam; "but I don't know how."
"Nobody can tell how beforehand," she said. "Only watch to see what he may seem to want to have done for him. Sit quietly by, and don't get in the way."
"Were you ever so unhappy, Miss Fosbrook?" asked Susan.
"Yes, once I was, when my father was knocked down by an omnibus, and was very ill."
"Tell us about it?" said Susan.
She did tell them of her week of sorrow and anxious care of the younger children, and the brightening ray of hope at last. It seemed to freshen both up, and give them hopes, for each drew a long sigh of relief; and then Sam said, "Papa wrote to Mr. Carey. She is to be prayed for in church to-morrow."
"Oh," said Susan, with a sound as of dismay, which made Christabel ask in wonder why she was sorry, when, from Susan's half-uttered words, she found that the little girl fancied that a "happy issue out of all her afflictions" meant death.
"Oh no, my dear," she said. "What it means is, that the afflictions may end happily in whatever way God may see to be best; it may be in getting well; it may be the other way: at any rate, it is asking that the distress may be over, not saying how."
"Isn't there some other prayer in the Prayer-book about it?" said Sam, looking straight before him.
"I will show you where to find it, in the Visitation of the Sick. I dare say it has often been read to her."
The boy and girl came in with her, and brought their Prayer-books to her room, that she might mark them.
This had been a strange, long, sad day of waiting and watching for the telegram, and the children even fancied it might come in the middle of the night; but Miss Fosbrook thought this unlikely, and looked for the morrow's post. There was no letter. It was very disappointing, but Miss Fosbrook thought it a good sign, since at least the danger could not be more pressing, and delay always left room for hope.
The children readily believed her; they were too young to go on dwelling long on what was not in sight; and even Susan was cheerful, and able to think about other things after her night's rest, and the relief of not hearing a worse account.
The children might do as they pleased about going to church on saints' days, and on this day all the three girls wished to go, as soon as it had been made clear that even if the message should come before the short service would be over, there would be ample time to reach the station before the next train. Miss Fosbrook was glad to prove this, for not only did she wish to have them in church, but she thought the weary watching for the telegram was the worst thing possible for Susan. Sam was also going to church, but Henry hung back, after accompanying them to the end of the kitchen-garden. "I wouldn't go, Sam; just suppose if the message came without anyone at home, and you had to set out at once!"
"We couldn't," said Sam; "there's no train."
"Oh, but they always put on a special train whenever anyone is ill."
"Then there would be plenty!"
"At least they did when Mr. Greville's mother was ill, so they will now; and then you may ride upon the engine, for there won't be any carriages, you know. I say, Sam, if you go to church, and the telegraph comes, I shall set off."
"You'll do no such thing," said Sam. "You had much better come to church."
"No, I sha'n't. It is like a girl to go to church on a week-day."
"It is much more like a girl to mind what a couple of asses, like the Grevilles, say," returned Sam, taking up his cap and running after his sisters and their governess.
"It is quite right," observed Henry to John and David, who alone remained to listen to him, "that one of us should stay in case the telegraph comes in, and there are any orders to give. I can catch the pony, you know, and ride off to Bonchamp, and if the special train is there, I shall get upon the engine."
"But it is Sam and Susan who are going."
"Oh, that's only because Sam is eldest. I know Mamma would like to have me much better, because I don't walk hard like Sam; and when I get there, she will be so much better already, and we shall be all right; and Admiral Penrose will be so delighted at my courage in riding on the engine and putting out the explosion, or something, that he will give me my appointment as naval cadet at once, and I shall have a dirk and a uniform, and a chest of my own, and be an officer, and get promoted for firing red-hot shot out of the batteries at Gibraltar."
"Master Hal!" exclaimed Purday, "don't throw them little apples about."
"They are red-hot shot, Purday!"
"I'll red-hot shot you if you break my cucumber frames, young gentleman! Come, get out with you."
Probably anxiety made Purday cross as well as everyone else, or else he distrusted Henry's discretion without Sam, for he hunted the little boys away wherever they went. Now they would break the
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