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- The Spanish Chest - 5/39 -
Edith looked doubtful. "I ought to ask Sister," she said. "Star thought we were just going on the sands."
"And so we are," replied Roger. "We're taking a train that runs on the sands," he mimicked in a teasing, boyish way. "Why don't you call it a beach?"
"Because it _is_ sands," retorted Edith with a pretty flash of spirit that Roger already delighted to arouse. "The tram-line is far beyond the shingle."
[Illustration: "FOR A LONG TIME PEOPLE SUPPOSED THEY WERE CALLED MARTELLO TOWERS FROM THE MAN WHO BUILT THEM."]
"Shingle!" gasped Roger, staring in that direction. "I don't see any."
"The pebbles, cobbles, beyond the sands," explained Edith.
"Oh, excuse _me_," chuckled Roger. "I thought they were plain stones. Didn't see anything particularly wooden about them."
Edith looked at him. A few days had made her feel very well acquainted with these friendly young people, but Roger was often surprising.
"Oh, cut it short, Roger," drawled Win. "Run back, will you, and tell Mother that we want to go into town. She won't care and I don't believe Miss Estelle will either, but we ought to mention it. Hustle, because I think that train is coming."
Roger obligingly bolted back, received a nod of possible comprehension from a mother very much absorbed in an important letter, and arrived just as the others boarded the steam tram, a funny affair with a kind of balcony along one side where people who preferred the air could stay instead of going inside. Edith and Frances exchanged smiles of happiness.
"I haven't been to St. Helier's often," Edith confided. "Just to market once with Nurse, and once to choose curtains with Sister. We thought the drapers' shops quite excellent."
Fran's attention was held for an instant, but after all it seemed only reasonable that draperies should be purchased at a draper's.
"Isn't the beach lovely?" she confided. "It would be fun to walk back."
"We might," said Edith. "Would Win care if we did? Or could he do it too?"
"He couldn't walk so far," said Fran, "but he won't mind if we want to. Win is angelic about not stopping us from doing things he can't do himself."
"Has he always had to be so careful?" asked Edith. She and Frances sat at a little distance from the boys. Roger was peering around into the cab of the tiny engine; Win watched the water as it broke on the beach.
"Always," said Frances. "He was just a tiny baby when they knew something was wrong with his heart. It isn't painful and may never be any worse. Only he must take great care not to get over-tired. Ever so many doctors have seen him and they all say the same thing,--that if he is prudent and never does too much, he may outlive us all. Just now in London, he and Mother went to a specialist but all he told Win was that he must cultivate the art of being lazy. Mother says the worst was when he was too little to realize that he mustn't do things. Now, of course, he understands and takes care of himself. It's hard on Win but Mother says it's good for Roger and me. It does make Roger more thoughtful. He says anything he likes to Win and pretends to tease him, but if you notice, you'll see that he does every single thing Win wants and always looks to see if he's all right. It helps me too, for I'm ashamed to fuss over trifles when Win has so much to bear."
The little tram was traveling at a moderate pace toward town, stopping at several tiny stations where more and more people entered.
"I can't get used to hearing people talk French," said Frances. "It seems so odd when Jersey is a part of England."
"The French spoken here isn't that of Paris," remarked her brother, rising from his seat. "It's Norman French."
"I know I can't understand it easily," confessed Edith, "and Sister has always taken pains to teach me. I'm glad it isn't all my fault."
The train came to a stand on the esplanade of St. Helier's. The four stopped to look over the sea-wall, to the beach far below, across to the long stone piers forming the artificial sea basin and up to Fort Regent overhanging the town like a war-cloud.
"That fort looks stuck on the cliff like a swallow's nest," commented Roger. "Look, there's a snow-white sea-gull!"
"There's another with a black tail," exclaimed Edith. "Oh, aren't they beautiful!"
"In the United States is a city that put up a monument to the sea- gulls," said Win. "Salt Lake City, ever so far inland. A fearful plague of grasshoppers ate everything green and turned the place into a desert. They came the second summer, but something else came too. Over the Rocky Mountains, away from the Pacific Ocean, flew a great flock of gulls and ate the grasshoppers. Their coming seemed so like a miracle that the city erected a beautiful monument to them."
"Did they ever come again?" asked Edith, greatly impressed.
"No," said Win. "Just that once."
"Without doubt it was a miracle," said Edith so reverently that the three looked at her.
Roger gave a little snort, started to say something, looked again at Edith's rapt face and changed his mind. "Boston ought to put up a monument, too," he remarked at length. "Miracles happen every summer in Boston. The city swelters with the mercury out of sight and then along steps the east wind. In ten minutes, everybody puts on coats and stops drinking ice-water. Some tidy miracle-worker, our east wind."
"Especially in winter," said Win laughing. "I'm afraid a monument to the east wind wouldn't be popular along in January. Shall we come on? Let's go up this street. I've a map, but things look rather crooked, so we'd better keep together."
The quartette started, Roger and Win leading the way. St. Helier's streets are indeed crooked, and paved with cobble stones of alarming size and sonorous qualities. Numerous men and boys tramped along in wooden sabots which made a most unearthly clatter. Even little girls wore them, though otherwise their dress was not unusual. Outside one shop hung many of the clumsy foot- gear, the price explaining their evident popularity.
Signs over shops were as often French as English and sometimes both. At one corner, the party met a man ringing a bell and uttering a proclamation in French. At the next corner he stopped to announce it in English and the interested boys found that he was advertising a public auction. No one else seemed in the least attentive to his remarks.
Fifteen minutes' loitering through narrow, ill-paved streets, crowded with hurrying people and a great number of dogs, brought the four to an open square of irregular shape with a gilded statue at one end. Its curious draperies caught Win's observant eye and he walked around it thoughtfully.
"What a very queer costume!" he remarked as he completed his circuit. "What is it doing on a statue of an English king?"
Win spoke aloud, not noticing that the others were beyond hearing, but his inquiry was answered by a gentleman who chanced to be passing.
"It is a Roman statue," he volunteered, "rescued from a shipwreck. The thrifty Jerseymen considered it too good to be wasted, so they gilded it and placed it here in the Royal Square in honor of George the Second."
Win smiled as he turned to the speaker, a tall, thin Englishman in riding dress. His bearing suggested a military training and a second glance showed an empty coat-sleeve.
"This group of buildings may interest you," the speaker added. "They contain the Court House, Parliament rooms and a small public library."
Touching his riding-crop to his hat in response to Win's thanks, he turned into a side street where a young man mounted on a handsome horse sat holding the bridle of another. With interest Win watched them ride away. Even from a distance, something about the younger man struck a chord of recollection in Win's usually reliable memory. He was almost certain that somewhere, at some time, they had met. Yet he could not think of any American acquaintance of that age who would be at all likely to be riding about the island of Jersey, his companion not only an Englishman, but obviously an ex-army officer.
Still, the impression of familiarity was strong and Win was yet wondering about it as he slowly climbed the stairs leading to the public library.
Protesting somewhat, the others followed to look at a rather uninviting room, appealing to them far less than to Win, already on the trail for local history. The attendant proved obliging and after supplying Win with several books brought out a shabby brown volume.
"We have one of your writers on our shelves," he remarked with a smile, offering the book to Frances.
"Poems of Oliver Wendell Holmes," she read aloud. "Haven't you any other American authors?" she demanded in amazement. "And how did you know I was an American?"
The librarian shook his head. "I have often thought we should have
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