Chapter 196568433

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleTHE FIELD-MARSHAL AND HER STAFF.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196568433
Full Date1880-12-25
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count8495
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleLeader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)
Trove TitleThe Babes in the Wood. An English Christmas Story. Being Reminiscences of a Breaking-Up Party at Hollyhock House
article text

THE BABES IN THE WOOD. ? »

AN ENGLISH CHRISTMAS STORY.

BEING REMINISCENCES OF A BREAKING UP PART* AT HOLLYHOCK HOUSE.

CuapikrI.— TnB FieiiD-Mabsiiaii and her Si'AFr.

I am ono of the old girk. Please do not misunderstand me. In point of age I am not very ancient, I am oncof the old girlBof Holly hock House. I am now Mrs. Sidcup Bottom ley, and I havo a littlo boy and a littlo girl of my own. I don't think Mrs. Sidcup Bottom ley sounds nearly bo pretty or bo simple as Clara Dashwood, but a girl has to sacrifice a

good deal when she gets married. When I was a girl in my teens (oh ! those teens, how delightful thoy seem when ono is a staid old matron of-four-and-twenty !), I was a boarder at Hollyhock House, Not Hollyhock Houso Academy, or Seminary, or College, or even Establishment, bo it observed. Miss Flinders hated pretension, and everything of that 'sort. She ' went in' for simplicity. We wero not her ' youn£ Ir.dies,' but her 'girls,' She did not call herself a Lady Principal ; she said, ' I am a schoolmistress.' The fact was she had an almost morbid dread of anything like pseudo-refinement. I. have heard that bofore her timo tho school was called ' Tho Fuchsias,' nnd that sho changed tho name for tho purpose of instilling a whole some practical lesson into, girls who were shaky over their h's, just as tho late Lady Dufferin inserted that lino in ' Kathleen Mavournoen,' 'The horn of the hunter is heard o'er the hill,' with the misohievouB in tent of puzzling cockney singers. Still, thoro were plenty of hollyhocks in the garden whilo I was there. What great nodding giants they seemed when I firat camo ! Afterwards thoy grew Bhorter, or elae I grow taller, I don't think hollyhocks are nice flowers for a girls' school. Their petals abound with earwigs, nnd tho earwigs used to como into our bedrooms, and lie hidden in our clothes. Perhaps Miss Flinders thought that this was a piece of whole somo discipline, for sho had no patience with girls '^vho screamed at the sight of toads or mico, or oven black beetles. ' They are the Almighty's creatures,' sho would say, ' they have as much right hero ns you or I.' The worthy lady, however, was not 6trictly logical, for sho kept two vigilant cats, soveral mouso traps, and a constant supply of phosphor paste in the kitchen. Where was Hollyhock Houso ? That you shall be told in a moment. Of courso you know Westboumo Grove? And perhaps equally of courso you know tho High Street of Clapliam? And, perhaps— though I won't answer for this— you are famillarlyacquatnted with Highbury.crescent ? Well, Hollyhock House was situated within 100 miles of each of theso threo places. Now you aro as wise as I wish yon to be, Miss Flinders was small and spare, with a profile like that of tho late Duke of .Welling ton. Altogether, thero was a good deal of the military martinet about her, and so tho girls nicknamed her the Field-Marshal, or, for short, F.M. Our Chief had of course her subordinate officers, First, her .two sisters, who wero wonderfully unlike both herself and each other. Miss Isabella was much taller and younger and softer and moro sentimental than the Field-Marshal. Sho had beon a beauty in her youth, and sho was still on tho right sido of forty, but of: course wo insolent Bchool-girls regarded her as tho roughly autumnal. Sho was still de cidedly good-looking, but she wore her rather scanty Btraw-tlntod hair in long cork screw ringlets which, in our opinion, did not improve her personal ap pearance. Sho was known amongst ns as Narcissus, Miss Martha, the third sister, was a littler younger than Isabella, though sho looked older. She was short and dumpy, sho had a broad, good-humored, weather-beaten face, and, as Bhe was in the habit of going about in a sort of yachting hat, and hod altogether a Bcrnl-nautical aspect, she was christened the Boatswain. The Boat swain did not toach. Thero was an Impression amongst us that she was extremely, illiterate, » ? ' . ? : -

dinners, sho chaffered with and paid the &£» people, sho mado out tho washing bills T^JI spelling, like herself, was eccentric, and T^i member she used to spell ' pockct.handkcr.il chiefs in about six different ways, all equallvS erroneous. Wo made fun of hot, but we likorl H her, nnd tho littlo ones, who were indebted! to her for many small kindnesses, really adored M her. * M Miss Flinders was feared and respected but 8 not immensely beloved, while Miss Isabella M M is the way with beauties, had rather nn uncer- 1 tain temper— sweet as sugar one day, and souc 1 ns lemon-juice tho next. Besides, she had her I favorites, nnd that is always an offenco with 1 thoso who nre not the favorites. The Field I Marshal, I must admit, was sternly impartial, I I need not describe tho other assiatant I teachers, except to observo that Mademoisello 1 Celestino, the 'native of Paris' (with a strong 1 Provencal accent), was rathor yollow, rather I bony, rathor moustachy, and very voluble 1 in her complaints of tho villanons English I climate. ° I

But I must mention ono other personage, 1 tho only male human creaturo on the premises I except old Bradford who tended tho garden I cleaned tho knivc3 and boots, and carried our I boxes up and down stairs. This other person ago was Captain Flinders, the father of tho Misses Flinders. Ho had been in tho Boat India Company's service, had Bold out, had attempted to make his fortune by speculating in Mincing-lane, and was now, in his old a'e (Mrs. Flinders had died years before), glad to seek an asylum in his daughters' houso. Ho j was a most unobtrusive old gentleman, hU } apartment was in a remote corner of tho es. 1 tablishment, and, except on brenking-updav, wo I saw scarcely anything of him. If on going up or downstairs wo sometimes chanced to meet a tall silvery-haired old man of military aspect, j ho drew aside to let U3 pas3, nnd saluted ns punctiliously, but without speaking. Thoro was an idea that ho was bullied by the Field Marshal but petted by the Boatswain. Once, when Miss Flinders and Miss Isabella went

away on important scholastic business, nnd 1 Miss Martha was left in hoIo chargo, a I delicious odor of tobacco was perceptible on 1 tho third floor landing, and it was reported, by 1 an inquisitive girl who applied her cyo to a R certain keyhole; that the captain was seen 1 smoking a cigar, and - Miss Martha mixing i something hot in a tumbler which looked lilie i negus. § With tho observation that Hollyhock Hou.w I contained in my timo thirty boarders and 5 about twelve day scholars, I shall conclude my $j introductory chapter, g Chatter II, — The Pboceshion Interrupted, §j When tho first week of December draw to g a closo, school girls begin anxiously to count ra tho days, Even at this women's rights' perio* S — and we have gradually established our right M to soveral nico things whioh were formerly fij monopolised by men — girls aro much worse off H than boys in cold 'weather. Miss Flinders M used to encourage out-of-door game?, but || somehow girls either can't or won't ran about H and keep themselves warm as boys can. Then || in December, when tho weather ia almost euro g to be foggy or frosty or sloppy, and whoa n fingers and toes aro apt to be chilblainy, tho « solemn two-and-two constitutional prorocnado £5 is an especial infliction, m Yet it was during one of theso disciplinarian K walks that the incidont occurred which is, if I ffi may use the expression, the well-spring from ffl which tins narrative flows. f| It was a particularly raw morning, half if freezing.- and half thawing, and, though dread- M fully afraid of being pelted, wo wero envying M the street boys their furtive snow-balling (as M soon as the policeman's back was turned), g when suddenly our procession camo to a stand- ffl still. A being in tho garb of a gentleman had || accosted Miss Isabella, who, with tlio Parisian ffl nativo, was marching at our head. Instead of M indignantly rebuffing, tho monster, Narcissus ffl blushed almost as prettily as if eho had been || sweot soventeen, her lips parted into a umilo, m her eyes Bparkled, Bhe drow her hand from her W muff and presented it to the audacious stranger, E| who held it in his shjimeless grasp during two M minutes of- an animated conversation. The M unknown then raised his hat, bowed specially || to Narcissus, and generically to tho other in- ||| mates of Hollyhock House, after whioh h» M took his.departuro, and pur procession nwrai M| on again. I fear you will think wo wero Tcry 8| frivolous, but girls will bo girls, and this littlo ffl advonture formed tho staple' subject of coaver- «| sation amongst us for at least twenfy.-f our houra ffl afterwards, , B| Ono of us even ventured to question tho gooa- g| naturedMias Martha on the subject, Sho ma M in tho kitchen with her yachting-hat on (M°g ffi susceptible to draughts), and, girt around wUi M a brown holland apron, was engaged in malunS H§ mincemeat. isj « What was ho liko, child?' she askod. || 'He was tall and thin, with a hook nose, Eg iron-grey hair, a vory big moustacho, and no K| whiBkers.' .. . .. , H 'It sounds liko Tom Silcock,' qooth tho || Boatswain. ' Dear, dear, who'd ha' tbougnt m of poor Tom coming baok 1' ^ M With theso words she went.onohoppmff.8' || nothing more could be got.out of her. ^ || The promenade incident i-WV°°d™&M H Saturday morning. On th.follo^M^ ' g§ evening, aftortea, Jane, the P^hS«*« I into the school roomi and »»id,'M«»Jruuu' M

?S 1 iro M'ss Daskwood to step into tlio ; t fho study w«s tho apartment whero parents '$ w Miss Flinders on confidential business, aud % (lew ' wiggings ' of extra strength were ad 'ioinlatercd to ua girls. ? So I arose in fear and fLmUing, trying to recall all tho crimes Iliad M [jjclj committed. M The study was a snng little chamber. Tho 1 ju jhero (unlike ours) always burnt brightly. if Ha Field- Marshal aat at a desk covered with M Brrespondence. She was flanked by the coles ilU nnd terrestrial worlds. Theso globes if gently impressed illiterate parents. In tho ^bickgrouod hung a cage containing a green | pjrrot who was remarkable- because he never fi ipokf. At tho Field-Marshal's sido aat her | lister Narcissus, busily docketing letters. I » Sit down, Clara. Dont't bu afraid. I'm | ,ot going to scold,' said tho Field- Marshal. I Ttao gracious words reassured me. I ' Tho fact is, Clara,' continued F.M., quito I iShfAj, ' I son' ^or you to ^ 3'0ur advico, as I joa nro-one of my oldest girls, and have, I 1 hear, ft decided taste for acting.' 1 What could bo coming noxt? I wondered. | But all I said was meekly and interrogatively, I « Yes, Miss Flinders t' 1 'Hitherto, as you know, our breaking-up I putties have been very simple affairs. Only a I little part-singing and some dancing. This 1 (ime I thought of having a little play 1 icted.' 1 ' Ob.! it would bo so nice, Miss Flinders I' I I exclaimed, enthusiastically. I 'iBhallnotinterfero in it myself,' pursued I Mis Flinders. ' I shall let my sister Isa I bella nnd some of you elder girlti manage it. ! I make only two conditions. The getting it I op miHt interEero as little aa possible- with tho I tegular school work, and tho play must be very I simple, nnd suited to tho understanding of tho I little ones. I should suggest, Isabella, Borne I fu'ry tale or nursery legend, not burlesqued, I tat told gravely and naturally.' ' That is just my idea, Clementina' (this ras our worthy Field-Marshal's Christian mmo), replied Narcissus. ' What do yon say, Clara, to The Babes in tho Wood ?' ' Delightful 1' I cried, dapping my hands, for, in ray excitement, I forgot that I was sic liDg in the dreaded study. ' As on this occasion wo shall like a good number of onr friends to seo tho entertain ment,' said Mis3 Flinders, ' I Bhall, with duo precaution, relax the usual rules about in vitations.' .With these words she. waved her pen graciously, indicating that the audience had terminated. Chapter III.— Preparation and Demorali sation. ' Tho gotting up o! tho play must interfere 83 Iittlo n3 possible with the regular school work.' It was very aay /or the Field-Marshal to say this ; it wa3 very difficult for U3 to oh serroher precept. Outwardly matters went on pretty smoothly, but in reality wo wero all more or less ' demoralised.' We might be learning French or German, geography or his tory, hut wo were always thinking about the play. Tho Babes in tho Wood intruded them reives into our drawing lessons, into our piano forte practice, into our calisthonic exercises. Even after wo wero supposed to bo safe in bed we held impromptu rchenrsals. Tho Field Jtarshal, however, perceived Iittlo or nothing otthu, partly because at this season of tho year aho was always busy with Iett--r3 to parents and with accounts, partly because Mi«3 Isabella, instead of diligently reporting, &3 was her usual custom, broaches of disci pline, had completely and heartily allied her self to us girls. Ever sinoo that moraorable Saturday morning her temper bad undorgono a change. It was no longer uncertain. It stood constantly at Set Fair. And ono day wo girls sotetl another phenomenon. She npponred without tho chorished corkscrew curls. She had done hor hair in tho modern fashion, and this, wocd to her vivacity and good temper, mado Iff look Dearly ten yeora younger. Was it lie prospect of tho play which had effected this metamorphosis (I liko a good long Word tonetimcB), or was there' somo othor cause in tie background? Tho causo in the baokgronnd presently ap isircd in tho foreground. Ono day Miss I lobelia (we folt it was unkind any longer to I tall her Narcissus) addressed us thus : — I ' My sister ha? consentod to permit the old lamily friend who bos composed tho words of I om Iittlo play to como and help you rehearse it. I At this apparently unobtrusive monosyllablo I *« gayo a simultaneous start. Up to that moment wo had all believed that tho 'old family friend' was a lady, especially as tho I«y w«a written out in an unmistakably 'eminino hand, closely resembling Miss k''!8 (nho afterwards admitted that sho I \n, co'1'0^ '' ' to 'void any unpleasantness.') Who could this mysterious ho be? It could totbeoldBradfoot, thocloanerof knives and I rata, for he would scarcely bo described as an I to family friend, and it was not likely to bo r' fwty-visible Captain Flinders, Miss I 'abolU did not deign to gratify our curiosity 'present She merely Bald : I ifi,1*0 '*' thoroforo oon^o here this evening I t. tta- an^ Ploa3°i &&-, have your dresses, *»?? ready, as he has some Iittlo experience' in '^matters.' Homo of my male roadors may perhaps be E3ed Khafc w« wore, so ploauad to act tho *-Ul« In the Wood, a legend which 'affords '9 UtUe scope for female character. But '»«1 eirla delight in drosring op oa men, ana ' we' period o£ the story was. laid in tho

reign of Charles II., U,Ore was an opportunity for some picturesquo costumes. Miss Flinders hail given orders that nothing in tho way of dress or property was to be bought or hired winch could bo mado by our own ingenuity, and r think, considering the short time wo had for preparation, that wo worked most indus triously and cloverly. Even tho wigs, all except mine, wero home-made. As I was to act tho principal character, that is to say, tho -Wicked Uncle, I felt that I ought to bo dressed with unusual care, nnd so, with Miss Isabella's connivance, I porsunded papa to hire for mo a magnificent Cavalier peruke. When dressed I was so beautifnlly disguised that no ono could possibly havo known me. I am very fair, my eyes are bluo (not grey, but real china bluo), and my hair is a golden auburn; in fact (before I was married) Mr. Bottomley (perhaps yon will re member that I am Mrs. B.) used to vow that I was tho imago of ono of Kaffaelle's celebrated pictures. So much for the real girl ; now for tho disguised girl. My raven black lovelocks hung over my shoulders, my upper lip was adorned with a splendid moustache (I borrowed from my brother Frank), my eyebrows were corked, I woro a grey doublot slashed with ncarlot, Frank's shooting boots (they wore horribly big, even over my own), and tho anti gropelos (I hopo I have spelt that word right) which papa dons on muddy days to savo his trousers. All tho girls said I looked splendid, but more like Sir Charles Scdlcy or Rochester, or some other of tho gay'courtiers of the Merry Monarch, than like tho horrid, mean, sneaking, murderous villain of our play. But why should not a villain be good-looking ? I argued. I d.iy say the real wicked uncle (I think he lived in Norfolk) was handsome, or ho would not bo easily havo imposed on his worthy brother-in-law. At all event3, I was deter mined that I would not make myself ugly. I shall not say too much about the re hearsal, or I shall bo telling a twice-told talo when I como to describo tho actual per formance. Tho tea-things had scarcely boon cleared away when there sounded a sonorous rattat at at the door, accompanied by a loud ring. We were all on tho tiptoe of expectation, and, as we knew that none but masculine muscles could cause such a clamor, wo folt instinctively that tho visitor was 'he,' tho mysterious ' he ' whom wo were all longiug to behuld. Cuapteb IV.— The 'Old Fahilt Fuiend.' As you havo probably surmised, though we (simple girls did not, ' ho ' proved to be the man who stoppod our procession that Saturday morning. Ho came iu evening dress, which wo thought a gentlemanlike attention. I may observe, by the way, too, now that I am a married woman, and have had a good deal of experience, that, although men abuse evening dress, it generally becomes them better than any other attire. Tho Field-Marshal was not present. Sho wa3 deep in parental letters. We were not sorry. Neither was tho Boatswain present. She was on tho basoment story, preparing for tho coming feast. Miss Isabella was there fore left to do the honors. She simply said : ' Young ladies, this is Mr. Silcock, an old family friend, who will perhaps be ablo to give you some help in preparing the play.' Mr. Silcock bowed, politely and comprehen sively, and then, instead of observing that tho night was fine although rather foggy, or complimenting us (as somo silly girls ex pected) on onr charming appearance, ho ad dressed us thuB : ?'' 'Ladies, if you are ready wo will bogin at once. I havo tho book of the play in my pockot.' And with a gravity and earnestness which put to Bhamo our schoolgirlish inclination to giggle, ho drow tho sofa forward, and requested the attention of thoso young ladies who wero to enact the parts of Sir Geoffrey and Lady Cromer (tho dying paronts of tho Babo3 in tho Wood), tho Babes themsolves, tho Doctor, the Nurso, and last but assuredly not lc.ist, the Wicked Undo, tho Honorable Eichard Buggies, by that accomplished and versatile performer, Miss Clara Doahwood. Wo began with an undress rehearsal. A Iittlo difficulty arose at tho very outset. Sir Geoffrey and Lady Cromer arranged themselves side by sido on the sofa. Mr. Silcock ob served (with an air of perfect solemnity) that when tho characters were dressed this arrange ment would have a perilously farcical effect, and would romind tho Bpeotators of Mr. and Mrs. Caudlo during the immortal curtain lec tures. Wo all' folt that there was something in our stage manager's objection, especially when Adelaide.. Postans (Lady Cromer), tho fattest girl in the school, commonly called ' Adipose,' rolled off tho narrow Bofa on to the floor. Not ono of tho risiblo muscles (if thero wero any) in Mr, Silcock's facejvos moved by this incident. Ha merely obsorved with gloomy, earnestness, ' Pray bo caroful, young ladles I An incident liko that will spoil all.. People will fancy wo are playing a burlosque, and thoy will laugh where thoy ought to cry.' Thore upon tho dying parents were relesatcd to sepa rato beds, and the rehoarsal proceeded. Moat of us (Mr. Silcock said I was an honorable exception) wero terribly wooden and inartiou late at first. Wo ontered and retreated in a tottering and undecided manner, and we ad dressed our speeches to an imaginary confidant nestling in tho bosom of our dresses, ii x— t— t— tut, young ladies,' exclaimed our instructor; 'this will never do. Who can listen to you if you mumble lika tint f

And therewith ho mado U3 do it over and ' over again till he was tolerably satisfied. Ho was so stem and so exacting that roo3t of tho girls who had looked forward to tho ' evening as a frolic began to bo rathor frightonod ' and sulky. I overheard ono of tho Babes whisper to tlio other, ' I say, Loo, I'd as soon ' bo doing geography as this.' Without vanity, ! I, Clara Dashwood, may say that iu this re spect ulso I wa.5 an honorable exception to theso ether foolish girls. I have a' genuine tasto for . the drama, and Mr. SMcock's enthusiastic so verity delighted mo. He seemed just what I should supposo a professional acting manager to bo, only ho used no abusive language, which ' Inm told they often do. But when driven to ! tho vergo of irritation by the stupidity of his ' pupils ho had a habit of rapping smartly on ? tho table with a paper knife, which had a ! startling effect on feminine nerve3, and per haps was a voicoless way of swearing, O£ mo I know he approved from tho very first. Al though his face remained stern, I caught his eye several time3 resting on mo complacently. ? This business-liko method of rehearsing took a long timo, and moat of us woro looking for ward to a promised bread-and-cheeso supper, when Mr. Silcoek; using tho paper knife with moro than usual Iouduos3 as a signal, shouted out, ' Now, Iadie3, wo'll try tho piece in char acter, I givo you half an hour to dress.' ' And as it will savo time, and I daro say you aro tired,' addod Miss Isabella, ' sup per will bo servod to you while you are dressing.' Miss Isabella's addition was received with applause, and then wo all trooped upstairs, Oh ! what a Babel of tongues thore was ! Everybody had como up either to dress or to help somebody elso to dros3, and overybody mado up for the enforced silence of the re hearsal by ceaseless clwttor. I wonder if Mr, Silcock's cars felt hot. Ho was tho chief subject of our talk. Ho was prononnccd ? handsome, but very horrid and school- '? mastcrish, and it was confidently stated that , Miss Isabella had sat watching him with an ' air of undisguised admiration, as if he was the cleverest and tho most perfoct of beings, Altogether, we mado up a picture (only more refined nnd ladylike I hopo) liko that by j Hogarth of tho Strolling Players dressing in ? a barn. I, for example, was munching my bread and cheese, while little Jenny Davics, the hump-back, who has luito a turn for ' drossing other people up, vas standing on a chair corlcing my eyebrows j thon ono of tho babes burst into tears because some one upset a glass of milk down her ne:k ; while one of . thoKobins (they woro tho tvo tiniest girls in the school) got into a nervous fright, fearing bIio would have to wear her bird-head for the rest of her natural life. (They wero real pan tomimo heads, which Papi hired at his own expense from a placo near! Covont Gardon to make tlio thing as complete as possible.) ? At last wo were all dressed aud camo down stair?, passing between two lanes of admiring schoolfellows, while in the background ap peared the Boa twain with floury hands, brandishing a rolling-pin which, aided by tho yachting-hat, had tho effect of a tolescopo. Tho spectators tittered incessantly, nor were we actresses ablo to keep onr countenances until wo wero brought to our bearings by a smart tap from tho paper-knifo. Mr, Silcock j seemed to soo nothing comical in tho scone, ho i was as grave as if ho had jbsen going to loc- I i tnro on Moral Philosophy, and ho kept us I hard at work till the unheard-of hour of eleven p.m. ' I believe he would havo gono on for an hour or two longer but that Jaiio camo in, and with a grave face whispered to Miss Isabella. Miss Isabella, also waxing grave, passed the whlspor , on to Mr. Silcock, who thereupon once moro commanded attention with the inevitable paper-knife, and said, ' Ladie3, it is lato ; wo will close tho rehearsal at once, You havo mado progress ; but thero is still much to bo done. Ihopotobeallowodatleaat ono moro opportunity.' With tho3o words, andj with a comprehen bivo bow, ho dismissed^ us, Wo wero all pretty tired, indeed orio of tho Robins was found fast asleep in a corner with her pantomimo-heail on, Wo guessed why tho rehoaraal had ended so abruptly. Tho : Field-Marshal had Bent down a peremptory message 'Eleven o'clock, Jane, and still going on with this tomfoolery (that was tho epitaph sho used, Miss Clara); toll my sister to send them all to bod this instant.' | We had had enough of tho stage for ono ; evening, but wo were fatod to witness another dramatic incident, as wo wero crossing tho hall. Mr. Silcock had put on his overcoat, and, hat in hand, was just bidding good-night to Narcissus, when Captain Flinders came in! by tho aid of a latoh-koy. He belonged to a chess-club (Jane used to insinuate that they played othor games besides chess) which tho Field-Marshal allowed him to visit once a week, and on theso occasions he was entrusted with a latch-key, '.'..: Mr. Silcock advanced towards him and said politely, ' Captain Flinders, it is many yoars since we met. Perhaps you do hot remember mo.' ?, ; Tho Captain drew himself up stiffly and rcpliod, 'I remember you but too woll, sir. You aro Thomas Silcock, tho son of the man who lured mo to rain, sir. I have the honor to wish you a good evening, sir.' And, with a bow of portontous formality, tho old gentle, man took his accustomed. flat-candlestick, and hobbled upstairs. . j Tired 03 wo were, we girls had no much ta ( talk about after we got to bod that we worti not all asleep before the clock struck two, ' . ? I

Ciiatteu V. — Invitations. In former years the invitations to tho brcak ing-up entertaiumonts at Hollyhock House had been jealously restricted. Vory few parents evcu were 03kod. They took up va luable space, and impeded tho operations of tho dancers. And how about young men, who, in tho eyes of schoolgirls, are moro in teresting than parents on those occasions ? Well, no young men wero admitted unless they %vsro actually brothers of girls then at the school. Cousins or friends oi brothers were rigorously shut out. Thon tho young men themsolvcs wero carefully winnowed and Bitted. Each girl was held sternly responsible for tho moral charactor of the brother or brothers whom sho was permitted to invite, I remember tho coso of Keginald Wilkinson, who waltzed beautifully, and whose behavior was apparently irreproachable. But just as he was putting on hia coat to go something fell from tho pocket out on to the floor of tho hall. The Fiold-Marshal, who happened to bo standing by, said with Bevoro politeness, pointing a finger in tho direction of tho article in question, ' I believe that is your property, Mr. Wilkinson.' Poor Reginald blushed, stooped, and regained his meerschaum pipe. It was a beauty, and it was broken by tho tumble. He was never asked again. Tho conduct of Herbert Adams wa3 oven moro reprehensible. At tho beginning of the January term ho addressed an impassioned lovo letter to Emily Cane, that pretty bronze colored girl from Barbadoes. Silly Emily showed her billcl-doux to half-a-dozen con fidants. The news reached tho Field Marshal's ears. Sho paraded us, and'deliverod a brief stern oration. ' Should such a thing ever happen again, no moro young men sliall be iu vitod ; you will havo to bo content with girls for your partners.' In spite of this Miss Cane afterwards became Mrs. Herbert Adams. Tho marriage did not turn out at all happily, a proof of the Field-Marshal's prevision. ' Who,' bIio said, ' but a fool could expect a man to make a good husband who began by a clandestine correspondence ?' On this occasion, however, as Miss Flinders proiniBed, tho usual restrictions were not enforced in their ordinary severity. My father and ? mother, for example, were invited, and my brother Frank was permitted to bring one male friend, subject to his parents' ap proval. The friend, by tho way, was no friend of Frank's at all ; ho was a gentleman whoso acquaintance my father had made during those law proceedings which arose out of Auut Matilda's legacy. Ho was a bar rister of the Middlo Templo, and his name was Sidcup Bottomloy. (N.B.— As tho inqui sitivo creature will persist in looking over my shouldor while I write this, I cannot express at fraukly as I should like my first impressions concerning him). I almost wonder iliss Flinders had never asked my parents before, seeing that thoy lived in London, and that she, tho Field-Marshal, was fond of ' the services,' being heraelf the daughter of nn army man. For I was tho only Admiral's daughter iu tho school, and I think it confers a certain prcsti-zc on a school (espe cially where thero is a largo mercantile element) to havo an Admiral's daughter in it. Then my father is a very well-informed and an agreeablo man in conversation, so long as ho steers clear of naval subjects. It is a Ion' timo since ho has been to sea, and ho detests the changes (though ho admits thoy aro inevit able) which have been made in tho ' Queen's Naveo.' When ho sees in tho paper 'Another Ironclad Ashore,' ho rends out tho paragraph with a grim relish, and ho almost Iose3 his temper when torpedoes aro discussed. My school-fellows looked forward to the arrival of tho Admiral with mingled awo and curiosity, and Iittlo Laura Kilpatrick asked mo gravely if ho would wear a cockod hat and epaulettes. Tho great day was now clo3o at hnnd. Thanks to Mr. Silcock'B indofatigablo coach ing, wo were well up in our parts, and the wholo school, both performers and- spectators, wore oquolly on tho tiptoe of expectation. Chatteb VI.— The Play. Tho evontful evening had arrivod, and tho Hollyhock Houso Dramntio Troupe wore all assembled ready dressed behind tho curtain. Even the Bobins, although. they would not havo to appear until tho last act, had got their bird-heads on, but as they had now learnt the secret of unfastening them, and as, though proud of then: masks, the extra covering mode their faces hot, thoy woro perpetually chang ing, ds the whim took them, from robins into small girls, and anon from small girls into robins. As, after the usual tea and coffee; the ploy was to be tho Brat entertainment of the evening, it had been advised by that consci entious stage-manager, Mr. Silcock, that those of us who wero performers should not go among our friends until the acting was finished. I know, howovor, that Papa and Mamma, and their friend Mr. Bottomley, bad arrived safoly;. because my brother Frank (who is largely gifted with a sort of insinuating im pudence) had managed to got behind tho cur tain, and, having got there, ho contrived to stop there, under the pretoxt of making him self extremely useful. I boliove ho won Mub iBabolla's heart by a gross pieco of flattery. Ho professed to beliovo that sho was ono of his sister's schoolfellows, and expressed un feigned surpriso on learning that she was the second educational corner-stono on which Hollyhock House was built. At all events she appointed him to help Captain Flinders in the management of the curtain. The old gentleman liked on breaking-up rights to think that he wu making himself

useful, but ho positively declined to eerv{ under Mr. Silcock, although, owing, I beliovoj to tbo Boatswain's influence, he was morp civil to him than on tho first night of theii - meeting. Tho curtain wa3, if not a work of high art, a work of coasiderablo ingenuity. It was literally a thing of shrods and patches, and had taken a good many buBy fingers to bow it together. Frank said it looked liko ft Brob dignaglan bed-quilt. Wo had purposely left Bomo spy-holes in it ; and while Frank was convulsing my billy school-fellows by saying in a hoareo whisper, 'Now then, ladies and gents, jest a going to begin. Honly vun penny 1' I was peeping at the house. Tho sight terrified mo. Such rows upon rows of faces ! It look ''' liko tho Opera to my heated imagination—.! really did. - Thero, in tho front row, sat papa and'^ mamma, Tho Admiral, to Laura Kilpiitrick's fioro disappointment, was not iu uniform. Ho looked, sho complained afterwards, just like any other nico old gentleman, and not in tlio least as if ho wero goiug to sing 'Captain .Crosstree is my name.' He had not even a telescope under his arm. By mamma'* eido sat Mr. ? Eottomley. Intelligent looking, I thought (jjirla in thelt teens aro very pert), and gentleman like, but decidodly elderly. Over thirty. And wearing spectacles. I never could havo sup posed at that moment that I Should marry a man who woro spectacles. But Woman sup poses, and Man proposes. Somebody is again looking over my Bhoulder. ' Don't. If you ticklo my car liko that, Sid, darling, I can't write.' Mr. Silcock, after ca3ting an anxious glance around, to make suro that all i3 in ordor, tingles a little boll. Tlio orchestra — it is quito a respectable orchestra— piano, cornet, and violin, all amateur unpaid talent — ceases tho lively waltz, and softly plays a suitably pathetic air, again the bell tingles, and our variegated curtain parts asunder iu the centre, disclosing an apartment in the mansion of Sir Geoffrey Cromer, the said apartment being re. presented by a coiiplo of Fronch bedsteads, a washstand, a cheat of drawers, and some chairs, Tlio funiituro savors rather of Tottenham Court-road than of the seventeenth century, but tho worthy couplo who aro dying (in sopa rato beds) have a decidedly antique appearance, Sir Geoffrey Cromer wearing a most amplo beard which flows half way down the counter pano, nnd his worthy damo a mob-cap o£ gigantic dimensions. To them enters their faithful nurso. aud as she pours s6me'tae3ieinft— '— from a phinl,'4ho utters wordB of compaseionato interest in their sad condition. Let ino drop tho 'historical present,' and observe, that in amateur acting it is a fearful ordeal to have the first speech. Lucy Bayden was, we thought, a Belf-possessed little person, but as Nurse she was at first totally inaudible, AH that tho audience heard, I fear, was Mr. Silcock's agonised 'Speak up I' from tho wing, and the result was a slight tendency to titter. But matters were somewhat mended when a knock was heard without, and the Doctor, was ushered in. A most imposing figure, tho Doctor, in black tights and with silver buckles on his shoes, and the knob of his cano perpetually hold up to his nose. Ho waa meant to be slightly comic, and ho quito scored a point by tho realistic Manner in which he sat down and wrote a prescription. Presently it was my turn, as tho Wicked Uncle, Richard Ruggles. I was afterwards told that I seemed quite Bolf -possessed, but I really folt horribly nervous. I did not daro look at tho front Beats, but kept my eyes fixed on somo small girls on the extreme bock benches. However, I had been bo effectually drilled by the indofatigablo Silcock (for regard, ing mo as a promising pupil, he had given me several extra lessons in private) that I Bpoke mj part with boldness and confidence, and corned somo applause by my hypocritical assump tion of intense affoction. Of course- there wero contretemps. In the midst of my most pathetic speech, kneeling at Sir Geoff rey'a bedside, with my hand on tho flaxen head of one of thoBabes.I Bpied Frank making horrible grimaces at ma from tho wing. I felt inclined to rush off and box his ears, when suddenly I discovered thero was method in his madness. My lovely moustache gradually slipped down sideways, and was sticking. diagonally across my lips. I had scarcely sot it right when a burst of laughter aroso from the audience. I feared that I was the culprit, but found it was the Doctor. In bowing his farewells, his flowing periwig had stuck to his three-cornered bat, exposing to publio view Miss Ithbda Tyroll's remarkably fiery head of hair. I hope thin mishap did not spoil tho pathos of the closing, scene, when I, on my wicked knees, vowod to cherish and protoct thoso orphan babes. At all events, vociferous applause fol lowed tbo fall of tbo ourtain, and wo were all called forward to mako our respective bows and curtseys. The vigilant Silcock had fore seen the possibility of this, and had taken cars that Sir Geoff ry and Lady Cromor, whoso heads only were visible in bed, should be suit ably dressed from top to too, in case they should be called forward to bow their acknow ledgments, During the Interval botweon tho first and second acts, Frank, who had managed to puce himself on tolerably intimate terms with tho puissant Silcock, who to us poor girls scemoij so inaccessible, besought a favor from that gentleman, ? * - ? ' I say,' lie exclaimed, . ' do lot me go on aa ono of tho murderers. It won't matter having three. I shall mako; such a jolly murderer, j I've got such », splendid voko.' A* ho Mi(|

this in what he called a 'burglar's whisper,' of course all the silly girls went into fits of laughter. But Mr. Silcock tois adamantine on this point. Neither in the original tradition nor iu the present version (his own -version, by tho way) were there more than two murderers, and he could not permit tho innovation. This act contained my most effective situa tion, where, in a most effusively sentimental speech, I handed over my two small relatives to the care of the two hired ruffian*. Tho pathos of the scene was heightened by the fact that one of the Babes was really crying. Mr. Silcock had discovered at the last moment that she was imperfect in her part, and scolded her with such severity that tho poor child burst into tears. No ono would have guessod that these smeary-faced, scowling, slouching villains were really two of the prettiest girls in the school. Did this disjuisement, then, argue great self denial on their part? lam not sure about that. Perhaps they were anticipating the admiration they would elicit by sheer force of contrast when they appeared as their natural ? selves. But, though truculent scoundrels to look at, they were very disappointing when they opened their mouths. They spoke in the Softest, sweetest accents, and one of them had a alight lisp. ' Tantivy,' observed Frank, mockingly, at the wing, ' a thtage murderer with a ihlight lithp. You ought to havo had my gin-and-fog voice, Mr. Silcock, you know yon ought,' The opinion of the audience, however, be come morei favorable as tho scene advanced, and the murderers drew their swords to decide whether the Babes should bo killed outright, or left to take their chance iu the wood. Their 3words were of metal with blunt points, and, thanks to Mr. Silcock's careful coaching, they hacked at each other ? with such hearty good will that our rather frigid audience got quite excited, and Frank, losing all sense of pro priety, shouted from the wing, 'Brayvo, brayvo ! Never saw it better done on the Surrey side.' In deference to tho feelings of an audience mostly composed of women, Mr. Silcock had in the third act diverged from tho tradi tional story. Everybody' knows that, accord ing to the orthodox version, the Babes, worn out by fatigue and hunger, lie down to die, and are buried by the Bobins under a pile of leaves, the wicked uncle dying afterwards ^conscisncejjimitten and wretched. But we ten tler-hearted maidens could not }%pr to have it so. And therefore, to please us, Mr. Silcock made an innovation. After the Kobins have strewn their leaves (they were real leaves, which old Bradfoot had collected and brought in in a sack) and have sung their little dirge, a lady and gentleman of benevolent Quakerly aspect como walking by. (They were the snme.girls who had repre sented Sir G. and Lady Cramer). A3 they go along together hand-in-hand, ? they speak of the exceeding happiness of their wedded life. There is but one drawback. Tlicy havo no children. Then they perceive the little mound, and the Eobins hop towards them beseechingly. They sweep off the covering of leavns hastily, and find the Babes beneath, la the life still in them? They use every effort (we looked up the in. t tractions of tlio Royal Humane Socioty on this point), and presently the Babes' pulses begin to beat, and their eyes to open. They think that their parents have returned to life, and tho worthy couple do not undeceive them, Now vengeance is at hand to wreak itself on me, the Wicked Uncle. I return to the wood to make sure that my hirelings have executed my sanguinary behests (I quote the exact words of Mr. Silcock's version) 5 but tho dogn of justico aro at my heels in the shape of two Bow-street runners (the murderers of the last ?»ct in a fresh disguise). They seize me, I fall on my knees, and, hypocritical to the last, thank Heaven that my villanous intents havo teen frustrated. The Babes beseech their newly-found father and mother to apare me, because, wickedly as I have behaved, I am still their uncle. . And so the curtain falls for the last time unid what Frank styles thunders of applause, but which may be more truthfully described as p fair amount of decorous clapping. Frank iurther informs us that tho last 'act went first rate ;' but doubts whether thero woro Bow itreet runners in the reign of Charles the Second, and says that their costume rather re minded him of what ho supposes Saracenic *' bobbies' were in tho days of Ivanhoe. Cjupteb VII.— Finale. Sidcup is again looking over my shoulder, *nd has again tickled my ear, with hia whiskers. ?'? ' ' You are really very provoking, sir.' Now, he has stolen my pen, and insists on what he ifilla'an interpolation. What follows in brackets 13 by him. [I enjoyed that oveniig nmasdngly. Tho play itself was rather poor stilted stuff, but it waa free from all offence, and then the girls acted in such an innocent, unaffected way. {But when tho Wicked Undo camo'onj I could see there was' mpro original stuff in her than In the others. 'That is our Clara,' observed ;Mrs. Dash wood, and the Admiral rubbed hia chanda with parental delight: I beeamo curious ?to know what 'our Clara' would bo liko but ?^ttS^01- BoinS dark «Jidfi do s-Iiw inarriba? ^' *'' Noxr tlmt .»'* '-%'t admire anybody, one

fair being exceptcd). How surprised I was when tho Admiral said, 'Allow me, Mr. Bottomley, to introduce my daughter.' I was struck all of a heap. What ! this soft-eyed, fair-skinned, gentle-looking creature, can this be the Wicked XJnclo ? At that moment I made a resolve. Before a week had passed I confided my feelings to the Admiral and his wife. They heard me with approval, but bade mo wait a year before I declared myself. Meanwhile I wooed discreetly, and when the twelvemonth came to an end, I spoke. When tho critical moment camo my darling yielded her consent so easily, I could scarcely believe in my good fortune. We havo now had nearly four years of happy wedded life, — in fact, a continuous honeymoon. I bless the memory of Thomas Silcock. But for him and for his play, I should not perhaps havo drawn this prize in the lottery of women.] ' There, my darling, that will do. That is enough about tho loves of tho Bottomleys.' ? Now for tho Silcock mystery, though, after all, it was not much of a mystery. One day, after tho holidays began, Frank burst into the drawing-roum in his usual impetuous way, and said : — . ? ? ' I say, Clara, I've found out all about your friend, Tom Silcock. No wonder ho looked on the play-acting as serious business. Why, he's been a pro. himself.' ' A pro. !— What is that ?' ' A professional actor. Listen. I met a fellow who knowB all these theatre people: Silcock has been a regular tragedy star. Played Shakspearian parts all over America and Australia under the name of Hector Bcllairs. Then, when he'd saved a few thousand pounds, ho determined to give up the stage and return to business. Ho was originally brought up in a colonial broker's office. And now he's going to bo married.' ' Who to ?' I asked, eagerly and ungram matically. My friend didn't know. Some old sweet heart, -he thinks. '.' I hope it's Miss Isabella !' I exclaimed, earnestly. 'Who's Miss Isabella?' ' Why, the Miss Flinders you flirted with behind the scenes, Frank.' 'Oh! that's Bellairs's beloved, ia it? Sho seemed rather a jolly sort of woman. Not a bit like tho Field Marshal, eh, Clara? I shouldn't care to tackle her.' I was so interested that I did what I had never done in all my school career before. I actually paid a visit (escorted by Frank) to Hollyhock House during the holidays. It seemed so funny going thero when there were no girls. Of the trio of sisters only tho Boat swain was at home. As usual, she wore her yachting hat (some girls declaro sho slept in it), and she and Jane were taking stock of the linen, and were surronnded by white moun tains of sheets, tablecloths, dinner napkins, dusters and towels. I craved a private inter view, which she at once granted. 'Yes, it is Isabella, my dear,' quoth the Boatswain, heartily, 'and I am delighted both for her sake and for poor Tom's. No, it is not true that Tom's father lured my father to his ruin. Ono was as bad as the other. They both wanted to make money, and to make it easily. So they went speculating in rice, and sugar, and indigo and all manner of things. The Captain had tho money, and Mr. Silcock had the brains. Then tho markets went down, and all' was Io3t. Mr. Silcock became a bankrupt, and died soon after. Poor Tom, his son,' and Isabella had been attached for years, but after the smash my father couldn't hoar tho namo of Silcock mentioned without flying into a fury. Ah ! my dear, you only know him as a quiet, broken-down old man. Well, as Tom's prospects were blighted by his father's bankruptcy, ho went abroad. For a long time he wrote regularly ?to Isabella ; then suddenly ho said he would not write again till ho could claim her as his wife. He took care, ho has since told us, to keep himself informod about her, but sho knew nothing till that day ho Btopped the Bchool when wo were out for a walk. Dear, dear, I am so happy.' And thereupon tho good soul burst into tears,' and wiped her eyes with a clean teacloth whioh buo had inadvertently carried off in her hand. Tho wedding took place during tho next Midsummer holidays, just after I had left school for good. I was invited, and went. Everything paB3ed off prosperously, and tho Captain made a speech to the effect that tho name of Silcock was no longer hateful to him, and that he wished to bury the past in oblivion. Miss Flinders, otherwise the Field Marshal, still presides over the destinies of Hollyhock House, aided by the Boatswain, who continues to wear her traditional headgear. An efficient teacher has replaced Miss Isabella, who as Mrs. Thomas Silcock 13 no longer interested in educational topics. Feeding bottles, specifies against teething pains, Lilliputian socks and underclothing, are her chief sources of devotion just now. She came to lunch tho other day, and wo' had a long baby- talk, arid a grand Baby Show, my two against her one. And as I live in Norwood, and sho in that suburb which lies west of the Regent's Park, wo may fitly call our respective children tho Babes in tho Wood. ? [the end,] '