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- The Happy Adventurers - 1/38 -


THE HAPPY ADVENTURERS

[Illustration: YOU CALLED ME, SO I CAME]

The Happy Adventurers

BY

LYDIA MILLER MIDDLETON

To Alastair and Margaret

"I tell this tale, which is strictly true, Just by way of convincing you How very little, since things were made, Things have altered in the building trade." --Kipling.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. HOW IT BEGAN II. THE BUILDERS, OR THE LITTLE HOUSE III. THE FORTUNE-MAKERS, OR THE CHERRY-GARDEN IV. THE TREASURE-HUNTERS, OR THE DUKE'S NOSE V. THE GOLD-DIGGERS, OR THE MIRACLE VI. THE GRAPE-GATHERERS, OR WHO WAS MR. SMITH? VII. THE AERONAUTS, OR THE FATEFUL STONE VIII. HOW IT ENDED

ILLUSTRATIONS

"YOU CALLED ME, SO I CAME"

"I WISH I COULD MAKE SOMETHING THAT WOULD REACH FROM HERE TO MY BROTHER"

GRIZZEL THREW IN A SMALL HANDFUL OF TEA

DICK STARTED VIOLENTLY

THEY STOOD AND WATCHED THE "KANGAROO" FOR SOME TIME

THERE THEY WERE-OH, HOW MOLLY LONGED TO KEEP THEM!

THE HAPPY ADVENTURERS

CHAPTER I

How it Began

"Dear, dear!" said Grannie, "woes cluster, as my mother used to say."

"Let us hope that this is the last woe, and that now the luck will turn," said Aunt Mary.

Mollie did not say anything. She had smiled the Guides' smile valiantly through the worst of her misfortunes, but now she was so tired that she felt nothing short of a hammer and two tacks could fasten that smile on to her face any longer. So she closed her eyes and lay back on the cushions, feeling that Fate had done its worst and that no more blows were possible in the immediate future.

Grannie fetched an eiderdown and tucked it cosily round the patient, who looked pale and chilly even on this fine warm day in June, while Aunt Mary tidied away the remains of lotions and bandages left by the doctor.

"The best thing now will be a little sleep," said Grannie, looking down with kind old eyes at her granddaughter, "a little quiet sleep and then a nice tea, with the first strawberries from the garden. I saw quite a number of red ones this morning, and Susan shall give us some cream."

Mollie opened her eyes again and tried to look pleased, but even the thought of strawberries and cream could not make her feel really happy in her heart; for one thing, she still felt rather sick.

"That will be lovely," she said, as gratefully as she could, "and now I think I _will_ try to go to sleep, and perhaps forget things for a little while--" and, in spite of all her efforts, a few tears insisted upon rolling down her cheeks as she thought of home, and Mother's disappointment, and the dull time that lay before her.

Mollie Gordon's home was in London, in the somewhat dull district of North Kensington, where her father, Dr. Gordon, had a large but not particularly lucrative practice, and her mother cheerfully made the best of things from Monday morning till Sunday night. There were five children: Mollie and her twin brother Dick; Jean, Billy, and Bob. They lived in a large, ugly house, one of a long row of ugly houses in a dull gardenless street, where the sidewalks were paved, and the plane trees which bordered the road were stunted and dusty. In the near neighbourhood ran a railway line, a car line, and four bus routes, so that noise and dust were familiar elements in the Gordons' lives--so familiar, indeed, that they passed unnoticed.

A month ago Mollie had been in the full swing of mid-term. Every moment of her life had been taken up with lessons, games, and Guiding; the days had been too short for all she wanted to get into them, and, if she had been allowed, she would certainly have followed the poet's advice to "steal a few hours from the night", but, fortunately for herself, she had a sensible mother whose views did not coincide with the poet's.

And then in the midst of all her busyness, just when she thought herself quite indispensable to the school play, the hockey team, and her Patrol, she fell ill with measles. She was not very ill, so far as measles went, but her eyes remained obstinately weak, and so it was decided that she should be sent down to the country to stay with Grannie, do no lessons at all, and spend as much time as possible in the open air. Luckily, or unluckily, according to the point of view, none of the other children had caught the disease, so that Mollie went alone to Chauncery, as Grannie's house in Sussex was called.

Chauncery was an old-fashioned house standing in a beautiful garden surrounded by fields and woods. If Mollie could have had a companion of her own age, she would have been perfectly happy there, in spite of frustrated ambitions and the trial of not being allowed to read; but the very word "measles" frightened away the neighbours, so that no one came to keep her company, and she sometimes felt very lonely. Nevertheless, she had accommodated herself to circumstances, and, between playing golf with Aunt Mary, driving the fat pony, and learning to milk the pretty Guernsey cows, she managed to "put in a very decent time", as she expressed it. Till this third misfortune befell her.

"First measles, then eyes, and now a sprained ankle," she sighed to Aunt Mary on the morning after her accident; "what _can_ I do to pass the time? It's all very well for Baden-Powell to talk, but I can't sing and laugh all day for a week; it would drive you crazy if I did. I have smiled till my mouth aches. What shall I do next?"

"You poor chicken!" Aunt Mary exclaimed, with the most comforting sympathy. "You have had a run of bad luck and no mistake! We must invent something. You can't read and you can't sew--how about knitting? Suppose we knit a scarf in school colours for Dick, or a jumper for yourself to wear when you are better? I could get wool in the village. That would do to begin with, till I think of something better."

Mollie agreed that it certainly would be better than doing nothing, though hardly an exciting occupation for an active girl of thirteen. So the scarf was set agoing, whilst Grannie read aloud, and the first half of the first day was got through pretty well. But after lunch the day darkened and rain began to fall in heavy slate- coloured streaks, pouring down the window-panes and streaming across the greenhouse roof, changing the bright daylight into a dismal twilight, and blotting out all view of the garden. It was depressing weather even for people who were quite well, and poor Mollie might be forgiven for finding it hard to keep up her spirits. She was tired of knitting, tired of being read aloud to, and tired of writing letters to her family.

"How would you like to see some photographs of your father when he was little?" suggested Grannie at last. "He was the most beautiful infant I ever saw." She opened a cupboard door as she spoke, and presently came back to Mollie's side with an arm-load of photograph- albums, the kind of albums to be found in country houses, filled with carte-de-visite photographs of old-fashioned people, all standing, apparently, in the same studio, and each resting one hand on the same marble pillar. The ladies wore spreading crinoline skirts, and had hair brushed in smooth bands on either side of their high foreheads; the men wore baggy trousers and beards; family groups were large, and those boys and girls taken separately looked altogether too good for this world.

Mollie smiled at the picture of her father, a fat, solemn baby in his mother's arms. She thought, but did not say, that he was a remarkably plain child, and congratulated herself that she took after her mother in appearance; though, of course, Father, as she knew him, was not in the least like that infant. At the rest of the photographs she looked politely, but it was hard work to keep from yawning, and at last her mouth suddenly opened of itself and gave a great gape.

"That's right," said Grannie, "now I'll tuck you up and lower the blinds, and you'll have a nice little nap till tea-time."

Mollie closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but sleep would not come. She missed her morning walk and the fresh air of out-of-doors, so she gave it up, opened her eyes again, and lay wakefully thinking of home and Mother, Dick and Jean, and school. The big clock on the mantelpiece seemed to go very, very slowly, its tick loud and deliberate, as though it would say: "Don't think you are going to get off one single minute--sixty minutes to the hour you have to live through, and there are still two hours till tea-time." The rain splashed against the window, the wind moaned through the tree-tops, and the room got steadily darker.

"Oh dear!" Mollie whispered to herself, "what _can_ I do to make the time pass?"


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