Read CHAPTER VIII - THE STORY OF BEOWULF of Milly and Olly, free online book, by Mrs. Humphry Ward, on

Once upon a time there was a great ­”

“Father,” interrupted Milly, “I shall soon be getting tired of ’Once upon a time there was a great king.’”

“Don’t cry till you’re hurt, Milly; which means, wait till I get to the end of my sentence.  Well, once upon a time there was a great ­hero.”

“What is a hero?” asked Olly.

“I know,” said Milly, eagerly, “it’s a brave man that’s always fighting and killing giants and dragons and cruel people.”

“That’ll do to begin with,” said Mr. Norton, “though, when you grow older, you will find that people can be heroes without fighting or killing.  However, the man I am going to tell you about was just the kind of hero you’re thinking of, Milly.  He loved fighting with giants and dragons and wild people, and my story is going to be about two of his fights ­the greatest he ever fought.  The name of this hero was Beowulf, and he lived in a country called Sweden (Milly knows all about Sweden, Olly, and you must get her to show it you on the map), with a number of other brave men who were his friends, and helped him in his battles.  And one day a messenger came over the sea from another country close by, called Denmark, and the messenger said, ’Which of all you brave men will come over and help my master, King Hrothgar, who is in sore trouble?’ And the messenger told them how Hrothgar, for many years past, had been plagued by a monster ­the hateful monster Grendel ­half a man and half a beast, who lived at the bottom of a great bog near the king’s palace.  Every night, he said, Grendel the monster came out of the bog with his horrible mother beside him ­a wolf-like creature, fearful to look upon ­and he and she would roam about the country, killing and slaying all whom they met.  Sometimes they would come stalking to the king’s palace, where his brave men were sleeping round the fire in the big hall, and before anyone could withstand him Grendel would fall upon the king’s warriors, kill them by tens and twenties, and carry off their dead bodies to his bog.  Many a brave man had tried to slay the monster, but none had been able so much as to wound him.

“When Beowulf and his friends had heard this story they thought a while, and then each said to the other, ’Let us go across the sea and rid King Hrothgar of this monster.’  So they took ship and went across the sea to Hrothgar’s country, and Hrothgar welcomed them royally, and made a great feast in their honour.  And after the feast Hrothgar said to Beowulf, ’Now, I give over to you the hall of my palace, that you may guard it against the monster.’  So Beowulf and the brave men who had come over with him made a great fire in the hall, and they all lay down to sleep beside it.  You may imagine that they did not find it very easy to get to sleep, and some of them thought as they lay there that very likely they should never see their homes in Sweden again.  But they were tired with journeying and feasting, and one after another they all fell asleep.  Then in the dead of the night, when all was still, Grendel rose up out of the bog, and came stalking over the moor to the palace.  His eyes flamed with a kind of horrible light in the darkness, and his steps seemed to shake the earth; but those inside the palace were sleeping so heavily that they heard nothing, not even when Grendel burst open the door of the hall and came in among them.  Before anyone had wakened, the monster had seized one of the sleeping men and torn him to pieces.  Then he came to Beowulf; but Beowulf sprang up out of his sleep and laid hold upon him boldly.  He used no sword to strike him, for there was no sword which men could make was strong enough to hurt Grendel; but he seized him with his strong hands, and the two struggled together in the palace.  And they fought till the benches were torn from the walls, and everything in the hall was smashed and broken.  The brave men, springing up all round, seized their swords and would gladly have helped their lord, but there was no one but Beowulf could harm Grendel.

“So they fought, till at last Beowulf tore away Grendel’s hand and arm, and the monster fled away howling into the darkness.  Over the moor he rushed till he came to his bog, and there he sank down into the middle of the bog, wailing and shrieking like one whose last hour was come.  Then there was great rejoicing at Heorot, the palace, and King Hrothgar, when he saw Grendel’s hand which Beowulf had torn away, embraced him and blessed him, and he and all his friends were laden with splendid gifts.

“But all was not over yet.  When the next night came, and Hrothgar’s men and Beowulf’s men were asleep together in the great hall, Grendel’s horrible mother, half a woman and half a wolf, came rushing to the palace and while they were all asleep she carried off one of Hrothgar’s dearest friends ­a young noble whom he loved best of all his nobles.  And she killed him, and carried his body back to the bog.  Then the next morning there was grief and weeping in Heorot; but Beowulf said to the king, ’Grieve not, O king! till we have found out Grendel’s mother and punished her for her evil deeds.  I promise you she shall give an account for this.  She shall not be able to hide herself in the water, nor under the earth, nor in the forest, nor at the bottom of the sea; let her go where she will, I will find a way after her.’

“So Beowulf and his friends put on their armour and mounted their horses, and set out to look for her.  And when they had ridden a long and weary way over steep lonely paths and past caves where dragons and serpents lived, they came at last to Grendel’s bog ­a fearful place indeed.  There in the middle of it lay a pool of black water, and over the water hung withered trees, which seemed as if they had been poisoned by the air rising from the water beneath them.  No bird or beast would ever come near Grendel’s pool.  If the hounds were hunting a stag, and they drove him down to the edge, he would sooner let them tear him to pieces than hide himself in the water.  And every night the black water seemed to burn and flame, and it hissed and bubbled and groaned as if there were evil creatures tossing underneath.  And now when Beowulf and his men came near it, they saw fierce water dragons lying near the edge or swimming about the pool.  There also, beside the water, they found the dead body of Hrothgar’s friend, who had been killed by Grendel’s mother, and they took it up, and mourned over him afresh.

“But Beowulf took an old and splendid sword that Hrothgar had given him, and he put on his golden helmet and his iron war shirt that no sword could cut through, and when he had bade his friends farewell he leapt straight into the middle of the bog.  Down he sank, deeper and deeper into the water, among strange water beasts that struck at him with their tusks as he passed them, till at last Grendel’s mother, the water-wolf, looked up from the bottom and saw him coming.  Then she sprang upon him, and seized him, and dragged him down, and he found himself in a sort of hall under the water, with a pale strange light in it.  And then he turned from the horrible water-wolf and raised his sword and struck her on the head; but his blow did her no harm.  No sword made by mortal men could harm Grendel or his mother; and as he struck her Beowulf stumbled and fell.  Then the water-wolf rushed forward and sat upon him as he lay there, and raised aloft her own sharp dagger to drive it into his breast; but Beowulf shook her off, and sprang up, and there, on the wall, he saw hanging a strange old sword that had been made in the old times, long, long ago, when the world was full of giants.  So he threw his own sword aside and took down the old sword, and once more he smote the water-wolf.  And this time his sword did him good service, and Grendel’s fierce mother sank down dead upon the ground.

“Then Beowulf looked round him, and he saw lying in a corner the body of Grendel himself.  He cut off the monster’s head, and lo and behold! when he had cut it off the blade of the old sword melted away, and there was nothing left in his hands but the hilt, with strange letters on it, telling how it was made in old days by the giants for a great king.  So with that, and Hrothgar’s sword and Grendel’s head, Beowulf rose up again through the bog, and just as his brave men had begun to think they should never see their dear lord more he came swimming to land, bearing the great head with him.

“Then Hrothgar and all his people rejoiced greatly, for they knew that the land would never more be troubled by these hateful monsters, but that the ploughers might plough, and the shepherds might lead their sheep, and brave men might sleep at night, without fear any more of Grendel and his mother.”

“Oh, father!” said Milly, breathlessly, when he stopped.  “Is that all?”

But Olly sat quite still, without speaking, gazing at his father with wide open brown eyes, and a face as grave and terrified as if Grendel were actually beside him.

“That’s all for this time,” said Mr. Norton.  “Why, Olly, where are your little wits gone to?  Did it frighten you, old man?”

“Oh!” said Olly, drawing a long breath.  “I did think he would never have comed up out of that bog!”

“It was splendid,” said Milly.  “But, father, I don’t understand about that pool.  Why didn’t Beowulf get drowned when he went down under the water?”

“The story doesn’t tell us anything about that,” said Mr. Norton.  “But heroes in those days, Milly, must have had something magical about them so that they were able to do things that men and women can’t do now.  Do you know, children, that this story that you have been listening to is more than a thousand years old?  Can you fancy that?”

“No,” said Milly, shaking her head.  “I can’t fancy it a bit, father.  It’s too long.  It makes me puzzled to think of so many years.”

“Years and years and years and years!” said Olly.  “When father’s grandfather was a little boy.”

Mr. Norton laughed.  “Can’t you think of anything farther back than that, Olly?  It would take a great many grandfathers, and grandfathers’ grandfathers, to get back to the time when the story of Beowulf was made.  And here am I telling it to you just in the same way as fathers used to tell it to their children a thousand years ago.”

“I suppose the children liked it so, they wouldn’t let their fathers forget it,” said Milly.  “And then when they grew up they told it to their children.  I shall tell it to my children when I grow up.  I think I shall tell it to Katie to-morrow.”

“Father,” said Olly, “did Beowulf die ­ever?”

“Yes.  When he was quite an old man he had another great fight with a dragon, who was guarding a cave full of golden treasure on the sea-shore; and though he killed the dragon, the dragon gave him a terrible wound, so that when his friends came to look for him they found him lying all but dead in the cave.  He was just able to tell them to make a great mound of earth over him when he was dead, on a high rock close by, that sailors might see it from their ships and think of him when they saw it, and then he died.  And when he was dead they carried him up to the rock, and there they burned his body, and then they built up a great high mound of earth, and they put Beowulf’s bones inside, and all the treasure from the dragon’s cave.  They were ten days building up the mound.  Then when it was all done they rode around it weeping and chanting sorrowful songs, and at last they left him there, saying as they went away that never should they see so good a king or so true a master any more.  And for hundreds of years afterwards, when the sailors out at sea saw the high mound rising on its point of rock, they said one to another, ‘There is Beowulf’s Mount,’ and they began to tell each other of Beowulf’s brave deeds ­how he lived and how he died, and how he fought with Grendel and the wild sea dragons.  There, now, I have told you all I know about Beowulf,” said Mr. Norton, getting up and turning the children off his knee, “and if it isn’t somebody else’s turn now it ought to be.”

“Aunt Emma!  Aunt Emma!” shouted Olly, who was so greedy for stories that he could almost listen all day long without being tired.

But Aunt Emma only smiled through her spectacles and pointed to the window.  The children ran to look out, and they could hardly believe their eyes when they saw that it had actually stopped raining, and that over the tree-tops was a narrow strip of blue sky, the first they had seen for three whole days.

“Oh you nice blue sky!” exclaimed Milly, dancing up and down before the window with a beaming face.  “Mind you stay there and get bigger.  We’ll get on our hats presently and come out to look at you.  Oh! there’s John Backhouse coming down the hill with the dogs.  Mother, may we go up ourselves and ask Becky and Tiza to come to tea?”

“But Aunt Emma must tell us her story first,” persisted Olly, who hated being cheated out of a story by anything or anybody.  “She promised.”

“You silly boy!” said Aunt Emma, “as if I was going to keep you indoors listening to stories just now, when the sun’s shining for the first time for three whole days.  I promised you my story on a wet day, and you shall have it ­never fear.  There’ll be plenty more wet days before you go away from Ravensnest, I’m afraid.  There goes my knitting, and mother’s putting away her work, and father’s stretching himself ­which means we’re all going for a walk.”

“To fetch Becky and Tiza, mother?” asked Milly; and when mother said “Yes, if you like,” the two children raced off down the long passage to the nursery in the highest possible spirits.

Soon they were all walking along the dripping drive past high banks of wet fern, and under trees which threw down showers of rain-drops at every puff of wind.  And when they got into the road beside the river the children shouted with glee to see their brown shallow little river turned into a raging flood of water, which went sweeping and hurrying through the fields, and every now and then spreading itself over them and making great pools among the poor drowned hay.  They ran on to look for the stepping-stones, but to their amazement there was not a stone to be seen.  The water was rushing over them with a great roar and swirl, and Milly shivered a little bit when she remembered their bathe there a week before.

“Well, old woman,” said Mr. Norton, coming up to them, “I don’t suppose you’d like, a bathe to-day ­quite.”

“If we were in there now,” said Olly, watching the river with great excitement, “the water would push us down krick! and the fishes would come and etten us all up.”

“They’d be a long time gobbling you up, Master Fatty,” said his father.  “Come, run along; it’s too cold to stand about.”

But how brilliant and beautiful it was after the rain!  Little tiny trickling rivers were running down all the roads, and sparkling in the sun; the wet leaves and grass were glittering, and the great mountains all around stood up green and fresh against the blue sky, as if the rain had washed the dust off them from top to toe, and left them clean and bright.  Two things only seemed the worse for the rain ­the hay and the wild strawberries.  Milly peered into all the banks along the road where she generally found her favourite little red berries, but most of them were washed away, and the few miserable things that were left tasted of nothing but rain water.  And as for the hay-fields, they looked so wet and drenched that it was hard to believe any sunshine could ever dry them.

“Poor John Backhouse!” said Aunt Emma; “I’m afraid his hay is a good deal spoilt.  Aren’t you glad father’s not a farmer, Milly?”

“Why, Aunt Emma,” said Milly, “I’m always wishing father was a farmer.  I want to be like Becky, and call the cows, and mind the baby all by myself.  It must be nice feeding the chickens, and making the hay, and taking the milk around.”

“Yes, all that’s very nice, but how would you like your hay washed away, and your corn beaten down, and your fruit all spoilt?  Those are things that are constantly happening to John Backhouse, I expect, in the rainy country.”

“Yes, and it won’t always be summer,” said Milly, considering.  “I don’t think I should like to stay in that little weeny house all the winter.  Is it very cold here in the winter, Aunt Emma?”

“Not very, generally.  But last winter was very cold here, and the snow lay on the ground for weeks and weeks.  On Christmas eve, do you know, Milly, I wanted to have a children’s party in my kitchen, and what do you think I did?  The snow was lying deep on the roads, so I sent out two sledges.”

“What are sledges?” asked Olly.

“Carriages with the wheels taken off and two long pieces of wood fastened on instead, so that they slip along smoothly over the snow.  And my old coachman drove one and my gardener the other, and they went round all the farmhouses near by, and gathered up the children, little and big, into the sledges, till the coachman had got eight in his sledge, and the gardener had got nine in his, and then they came trotting back with the bells round the horses’ necks jingling and clattering, and two such merry loads of rosy-faced children.  I wish you had been there; I gave them tea in the kitchen, and afterward we had a Christmas tree in the drawing-room.”

“Oh what fun,” said Milly.  “Why didn’t you ask us too, Aunt Emma?  We could have come quite well in the train, you know.  But how did the children get home?”

“We covered them up warm with rugs and blankets, and sent them back in the sledges.  And they looked so happy with their toys and buns cuddled up in their arms, that it did one’s heart good to see them.”

“Mind you ask us next time, Aunt Emma,” said Milly, hanging round her neck coaxingly.

“Mind you get two pairs of wings by that time, then,” said Aunt Emma, “for mother’s not likely to let you come to my Christmas tree unless you promise to fly there and back.  But suppose, instead of your coming to me, I come to you next Christmas?”

“Oh yes! yes!” cried Olly, who had just joined Aunt Emma and Milly, “come to our Christmas tree, Aunt Emma.  We’ll give you ever such nice things ­a ball and a top, and a train ­perhaps ­and ­”

“As if Aunt Emma would care for those kind of things!” said Milly.  “No, you shall give her some muffetees, you know, to keep her hands warm, and I’ll make her a needlebook.  But, Aunt Emma, do listen!  What can be the matter?”

They were just climbing the little bit of steep road which led to the farm, and suddenly they heard somebody roaring and screaming, and then an angry voice scolding, and then a great clatter, and then louder roaring than ever.

“What is the matter?” cried Milly, running on to the farm door, which was open.  But just as she got there, out rushed a tattered little figure with a tear-stained face, and hair flying behind.

“Tiza!” cried Milly, trying to stop her.  But Tiza ran past her as quick as lightning down the garden path towards the cherry tree, and in another minute, in spite of the shower of wet she shook down on herself as she climbed up, she was sitting high and safe among the branches, where there was no catching her nor even seeing her.

“Ay, that’s the best place for ye,” said Mrs. Backhouse, appearing at the door with an angry face, “you’ll not get into so much mischief there perhaps as you will indoors.  Oh, is that you, Miss Elliot (that was Aunt Emma’s surname)?  Walk in please, ma’am, though you’ll find me sadly untidy this afternoon.  Tiza’s been at her tricks again; she keeps me sweeping up after her all day.  Just look here, if you please, ma’am.”

Aunt Emma went in, and the children pressed in after her, full of curiosity to see what crime Tiza had been committing.  Poor Mrs. Backhouse! all over her clean kitchen floor there were streams of water running about, with little pieces of cabbage and carrot sticking up in them here and there, while on the kitchen table lay a heap of meat and vegetables, which Mrs. Backhouse had evidently just picked up out of the grate before Aunt Emma and the children arrived.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Backhouse, pointing to the floor, “there’s the supper just spoilt.  Tiza’s never easy but when she’s in mischief.  I’m sure these wet days I have’nt known what to do with her indoors all day.  And what must she do this afternoon but tie her tin mug to the cat’s tail, till the poor creature was nearly beside herself with fright, and went rushing about upstairs like a mad thing.  And then, just when I happened to be out a minute looking after something, she lets the cat in here, and the poor thing jumps into the saucepan I had just put on with the broth for our supper, and in her fright and all turns it right over.  And now look at my grate, and the fender, and the floor, and the meat there all messed!  I expect her father’ll give Tiza a good beating when he comes in, and I’m sure I shan’t stand in the way.”

“Oh no, please, Mrs. Backhouse!” said Milly, running up to her with a grave imploring little face.  “Don’t let Mr. Backhouse beat her; she didn’t mean it, she was only in fun, I’m sure.”

“Well, missy, it’s very troiblesome fun I’m sure,” said Mrs. Backhouse, patting Milly kindly on the shoulder, for she was a good-natured woman, and it wasn’t her way to be angry long.  “I don’t know what I’m to give John for his supper, that I don’t.  I had nothing in the house but just those little odds and ends of meat, that I thought would make a nice bit of broth for supper.  And now he’ll come in wet and hungry, and there’ll be nothing for him.  Well, we must do with something else, I suppose, but I expect her father’ll beat her.”

Milly and Olly looked rather awestruck at the idea of a beating from John Backhouse, that great strong brawny farmer; and Milly, whispering something quickly to Aunt Emma, slipped out into the garden again.  By this time father and mother had come up, and Becky appeared from the farmyard, wheeling the baby in a little wooden cart, and radiant with pleasure at the sight of Aunt Emma, whose godchild she was, so that Milly’s disappearance was not noticed.

She ran down the garden path to the cherry tree, and as, in the various times they had been together, Becky and Tiza had taught her a good deal of climbing, she too clambered up into the wet branches, and was soon sitting close by Tiza, who had turned her cotton pinafore over her head and wouldn’t look at Milly.

“Tiza,” said Milly softly, putting her hand on Tiza’s lap, “do you feel very bad?”

No answer.

“We came to take you down to have tea with us,” said Milly, “do you think your mother will let you come?”

“Naw,” said Tiza shortly, without moving from behind her pinafore.

It certainly wasn’t very easy talking to Tiza.  Milly thought she’d better try something else.

“Tiza,” she began timidly, “do your father and mother tell you stories when it rains?”

“Naw,” said Tiza, in a very astonished voice, throwing down her pinafore to stare at Milly.

“Then what do you do, Tiza, when it rains?”

“Nothing,” said Tiza.  “We has our dinners and tea, and sometimes Becky minds the baby and sometimes I do, and father mostly goes to sleep.”

“Tiza,” said Milly hurriedly, “did you mean pussy to jump into the saucepan?”

Up went Tiza’s pinafore again, and Milly was in dismay because she thought she had made Tiza cry; but to her great surprise Tiza suddenly burst into such fits of laughter, that she nearly tumbled off the cherry tree.  “Oh, she did jump so, and the mug made such a rattling!  And when she comed out there was just a little bit of carrot sticking to her nose, and her tail was all over cabbage leaf.  Oh, she did look funny!”

Milly couldn’t help laughing too, till she remembered all that Mrs. Backhouse had been saying.

“Oh, but, Tiza, Mrs. Backhouse says your father won’t have anything for his supper.  Aren’t you sorry you spoilt his supper?”

“Yis,” said Tiza, quickly.  “I know father’ll beat me, he said he would next time I vexed mother.”

And this time the pinafore went up in earnest, and Tiza began to cry piteously.

“Don’t cry, Tiza,” said Milly, her own little cheeks getting wet, too.  “I’ll beg him not.  Can’t you make up anyway?  Mother says we must always make up if we can when we’ve done any harm.  I wish I had anything to give you to make up.”

Tiza suddenly dried her eyes and looked at Milly, with a bright expression which was very puzzling.

“You come with me,” she said suddenly, swinging herself down from the tree.  “Come here by the hedge, don’t let mother see us.”

So they ran along the far side of the hedge till they got into the farmyard, and then Tiza led Milly past the hen-house, up to the corner where the hayricks were.  In and out of the hayricks they went, till in the very farthest corner of all, where hardly anybody ever came, and which nobody could see into from the yard, Tiza suddenly knelt down and put her hand under the hay at the bottom of the rick.

“You come,” she whispered eagerly to Milly, pulling her by the skirt, “you come and look here.”

Milly stooped down, and there in a soft little place, just between the hayrick and the ground, what do you think she saw?  Three large brownish eggs lying in a sort of rough nest in the hay, and looking so round and fresh and tempting, that Milly gave a little cry of delight.

“Oh, Tiza, how be ­utiful!  How did they get there?”

“It’s old Sally, our white hen you know, laid them.  I found them just after dinner.  Mother doesn’t know nothing about them.  I never told Becky, nor nobody.  Aren’t they beauties?”

And Tiza took one up lovingly in her rough, little brown hands, and laid it against her cheek, to feel how soft and satiny it was.

“Oh, and Tiza, I know,” exclaimed Milly eagerly, “you meant these would do for supper.  That would be a lovely make up.  There’s three.  One for Mr. Backhouse, one for Mrs. Backhouse, and one for Becky. ­There’s none for you, Tiza.”

“Nor none for Becky neither,” answered Tiza shortly.  “Father’ll want two.  Becky and me’ll get bread and dripping.”

“Well, come along, Tiza, let’s take them in.”

“No, you take them,” said Tiza.  “Mother won’t want to see me no more, and father’ll perhaps be coming in.”

“Oh, but, Tiza, you’ll come to tea with us?”

“I don’t know,” said Tiza.  “You ask.”

And off she ran as quick as lightning, off to her hiding-place in the cherry tree, while Milly was left with the three brown eggs, feeling rather puzzled and anxious.  However, she put them gently in the skirt of her frock, and holding it up in both hands she picked her way through the wet yard back to the house.

When she appeared at the kitchen door, Aunt Emma and Mrs. Backhouse were chatting quietly.  Mr. and Mrs. Norton, and Olly, had gone on for a little stroll along the Wanwick road, and Becky was sitting on the window-sill with the baby, who seemed very sleepy, but quite determined not to go to sleep in spite of all Becky’s rocking and patting.

“Oh, Mrs. Backhouse,” began Milly, coming in with a bright flushed face, “just look here, what I’ve brought.  Tiza found them just after dinner to-day.  They were under the hayrick right away in the corner, and she wanted to make up, so she showed me where they were, so I brought them in, and there’s two for Mr. Backhouse, and one for you, you know.  And, please, won’t you let Tiza come to tea with us?”

Mrs. Backhouse looked in astonishment at the three eggs lying in Milly’s print skirt, and at Milly’s pleading little face.

“Ay, that’s Sally, I suppose.  She’s always hiding her eggs is Sally, where I can’t find them.  So it was Tiza found them, was it, Missy?  Well, they will come, in very handy for supper as it happens.  Thank you kindly for bringing them in.”

And Mrs. Backhouse took the eggs and put them safely away in a pie-dish, while Becky secretly pulled Milly by the sleeve, and smiled up at her as much as to say,

“Thank you for helping Tiza out of her scrape.”

“And you’ll let Becky and Tiza come to tea?” asked Milly again.

“Well, I’m sure, Miss, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Backhouse, looking puzzled; “Becky may come and welcome, but perhaps it would do Tiza good to stay at home.”

“Don’t you think she’d better have a little change?” said Aunt Emma in her kind voice, which made Milly want to hug her.  “I daresay staying indoors so long made her restless.  If you will let me carry them both off, I daresay between us, Mrs. Backhouse, we can give Tiza a talking to, and perhaps she’ll come back in a more sensible mood.”

“Well, Miss Elliot, she shall go if you wish it.  Come Becky, give me the baby, and go and put your things on.”  And then going to the door, Mrs. Backhouse shouted “Tiza!” After a second or two a little figure dropped down out of the cherry tree and came slowly up the walk.  Tiza had shaken her hair about her face so that it could hardly be seen, and she never looked once at Aunt Emma and Milly as she came up to her mother.

“There, go along, Tiza, and get your things on,” said Mrs. Backhouse, taking her by the arm.  “I wouldn’t have let you go out to tea, you know, if Miss Elliot and Missy hadn’t asked particular.  Mind you don’t get into no more mischief.  And very like those eggs’ll do for father’s supper; so, I daresay, I’ll not say anything to him this time ­just for once.  Now go up.”

Tiza didn’t want to be told twice, and presently, just as Mr. and Mrs. Norton and Olly were coming back from their walk, they met Aunt Emma coming back from the farm holding Becky’s hand, while Milly and Tiza walked in front.

“Well, Tiza,” said Mr. Norton, patting her curly head, I declare I think you beat Olly for mischief.  Olly never spoilt my dinner yet, that I remember.  What should I do to him do you think, if he did?”

“Beat him,” said Tiza, looking up at Mr. Norton with her quick birdlike eyes.

“Oh dear, no!” said Mr. Norton, “that wouldn’t do my dinner any good.  I should eat him up instead.”

“I don’t believe little boys taste good a bit,” said Olly, who always believed firmly in his father’s various threats.  “If you ettened me, father, you’d be ill.”

“Oh no,” said Mr. Norton, “not if I eat you with plenty of bread-sauce.  That’s the best way to cook little boys.  Now, Milly, which of you three girls can get to that gate first?”

Off ran the three little girls full tilt down the hill leading to Ravensnest, with Olly puffing and panting after them.  Milly led the way at first, for she was light and quick, and a very fair runner for her age; but Tiza soon got up to her and passed her, and it was Tiza’s little stout legs that arrived first at Ravensnest gate.

“Oh, Becky!” said Milly, putting her arm round Becky’s neck as they went into the house together, “I hope you may stay a good long time.  What time do you go to bed?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Becky.  “We go when fayther goes.”

“When fayther goes!” exclaimed Milly.  “Why, we go ever so long before father.  Why do you stay up so late?”

“Why, it isn’t late,” said Becky.  “Fayther goes to bed, now it’s summertime, about half-past eight; but in winter, of course, he goes earlier.  And we all goes together, except baby.  Mother puts him out of the way before supper.”

“Well, but how funny,” said Milly, “I can’t think why you should be so different from us.”

And Milly went on puzzling over Becky and her going to bed, till nurse drove it all out of her head by fetching them to tea.  Such a merry tea they had, and after tea a romp in the big kitchen with father, which delighted the little farm children beyond measure.  Some time in the evening, I believe, Aunt Emma managed to give Tiza a little talking to, but none of the other children knew anything about it, except perhaps Becky, who generally knew what was happening to Tiza.