“INFANTS!” said Geoffrey, popping his head round the nursery door, “come up in the orchard; I’ve rigged up such a jolly swing there!”

Priscilla and Loveday looked up from their play quite excited by the news. They were keeping a shop at the moment—a book-shop—and had all their nursery books and all the bits of paper and string they could collect arranged before them on the window-seat, which made a splendid counter. Books made such nice parcels, and were so easy to wrap up. On the counter, too, they had an old Japanese jewel-case that their mother had given them some time ago; it had two drawers, with handles, so made a beautiful till for their money, and they were doing such good business that already the till was heavy with the weight of the cowries it held.

Priscilla had just wrapped up her “Playing Trades,” and handed it across the counter to a customer, saying, “That will be half-a-crown—thank you,” and was searching the till for a sixpenny-piece, when Geoffrey opened the nursery door and popped his head in. Business came to a standstill at once, and the two little shopwomen hurried away, leaving books, and till, and everything. Half-way down the stairs Priscilla stopped.

“Loveday,” she said, “don’t you think it would be rather nice if you bought some sweets with your penny, and we ate them while we were swinging?”

Loveday nodded.

“You will both wait for me while I am gone to buy them, won’t you? You won’t be mean, and go on and begin to swing till I come?”

“All right,” said Geoffrey; “we’ll wait if you don’t take too long.” Loveday, being the only one possessed of any wealth, had to be treated with consideration. “Cut along, infant!”

Loveday had actually taken two steps, but Geoffrey’s words brought her back again.

“I don’t think you ought to call us infants,” she said severely. “It doesn’t sound at all nice, and if you do it again I don’t think I shall give you a single sweet. We aren’t infants; father said so. Infants are—are—well, we aren’t infants.”

“I think we will go on and begin to swing,” said Geoffrey, to tease her—“don’t you, Prissy? If we wait for the end of this conversation I am afraid the tree will die of old age.”

“I don’t know how you can like to be such a rude boy,” said Loveday cuttingly. “Nobody thinks rude boys funny or nice.”

There were two sweet-shops quite near to Dr. Carlyon’s house, and the children were allowed to go alone to both of them. Mrs. Tickell’s was on one side of the street, and Mrs. Wall’s was almost opposite. Mrs. Tickell was the favourite with the children; she was always more pleasant and smiling and patient than Mrs. Wall, and gave more generous measure. On the other hand, the children found Mr. Tickell rather a drawback. True, he was not often in the shop, as he was generally busy in the bakehouse, for the Tickells, in addition to having sweets and apples, and prize-packets and little china figures, made cakes and pasties and jam-tarts to sell. But when Mr. Tickell was in the shop he always stood by the half-door, and asked the most trying questions, such as: “Now, can you say to me your six times right through without a mistake?” or, “Can you tell me when Henry the Eighth began to reign?” Once he even asked Geoffrey to say his dates right through, before the Conquest and all. It was really dreadful, and as he always stood by the door, there was no escaping him.

But Mrs. Tickell was so kind, and Emily, their daughter, was so beloved by the children, that they bore with Mr. Tickell for their sakes, and the shop remained their favourite.

Mr. Wall was of no account at all; the children had a notion that he would be kind if he were left to himself, but that he was afraid of Mrs. Wall. He very seldom spoke, and when he did it was only to say something that they all thought very silly, such as “Fine weather this for little ducks,” or something equally aggravating. So they put him down in their minds as a weak creature, and took very little interest in him. Mrs. Wall was a very solemn and unsmiling person. She never grew friendly as Mrs. Tickell did. Priscilla heard some one once telling a story of the Walls’ only son, who had died, she gathered, in some tragic, mysterious way a long time ago, before she was born or was old enough to remember anything. But what struck her even more than the story was the remark, “And Mrs. Wall has never smiled since.”

After that, whenever she was within sight of Mrs. Wall, Priscilla was always watching her to see if this was true or not. She would hardly believe that she did not forget sometimes, and smile before she remembered; but Priscilla had never yet seen her do so.

“It must be dreadful for Mr. Wall to have her always looking so—so cross,” she confided to her father one day. “As for him, I don’t think he could smile if he wanted to; his mouth is so very wide it couldn’t possibly go any wider.”

To-day Loveday ran off with her penny in her hand to buy some bull’s-eyes at Mrs. Tickell’s, but, as usual, she examined both the shop windows thoroughly first, that she might get some idea as to how best to lay out her money, and she was very glad she did, for in Mrs. Wall’s window there was quite a large assortment of new things; there were pink and white sugar mice, black liquorice babies with red lips and blue eyes, sugar bird-cages, and little cocoa-nut fish-cakes. They were all two a penny but the mice, and those were a farthing each.

Loveday felt, after gazing for some time, that she must have one of the dolls, and that she wanted two of the mice. So she pushed open the shop door and went in. A bell behind the door jangled loudly, so Loveday knew that Mrs. Wall was upstairs “cleaning,” and that Mr. Wall was absent, for the bell was always unhung and placed on the counter if they were at hand.

Loveday liked to find the shop empty—it gave her time to look about; but to-day, when she had looked about her for a few minutes, she remembered that Geoffrey and Priscilla were waiting for her, and would begin without her if she did not make haste, so she hammered sharply on the counter with her penny, to make Mrs. Wall hurry. Silence followed. She waited again what seemed to her a very long time, then knocked once more, this time even more loudly. Still silence.

During the next few minutes Loveday quite changed her mind as to what she would spend her money on. She suddenly remembered that Emily Tickell had told her she had some beautiful rose-drops coming in, and some honey-drops; and Loveday loved both. Besides which, the thought crossed her mind that it might not be easy to divide the two mice and the one doll. The mice were very hard to break, and she could not give the whole doll to one; it would not be fair. She wished then that she had not come to Mrs. Wall’s, and was just wondering if she could creep out of the shop again without being seen, when she heard a sound, and Mrs. Wall opened the little glass-topped door, and came up the two steps leading from the parlour to the shop. She looked rather crosser and sterner than usual.

“I had only just gone up to change,” she said sharply, “and as sure as ever I go, that bell is certain to ring. What can I do for you, miss?”

Loveday felt uncomfortable; her heart was quite set now on getting the rose-drops and the honey-drops, and not the doll or the mice, but what could she say or do! Then a way out of her difficulty suddenly opened out before her.

“Please, can you change a penny for me?” she asked very politely.

Mrs. Wall did not say anything, but her lips set a little more tightly than usual as she went to the till and took out two halfpennies.

“Thank you,” said Loveday, with a sigh of relief, and, hurrying out, she flew across the road to the Tickells’ shop, almost opposite. As she reached the door she glanced back for one more look at Mrs. Wall’s fascinating store, but all she saw was Mrs. Wall’s cold stern eye looking after her with anything but an amiable expression in it, and she turned with relief to Emily Tickell’s welcoming smile.

When at last she reached the orchard with her two precious packets in her hands, Geoffrey and Priscilla were busy arranging a bit of wood for a seat for the swing. They had not been swinging, they assured her, at least only just trying it to see if it was all right, and Loveday was satisfied and distributed her sweets.

But as soon as the sweets were in their mouths they began, and what a glorious time they did have for a while!

They swung so high, and it seemed so dangerous and exciting, and sometimes they took it in turns to swing, sometimes two got on together, and once even the three of them.

“Perhaps we hadn’t better all get on together again,” said Priscilla after that, looking at the slim skipping-rope they had all been depending on. “It isn’t a very strong one, is it?”

“Strong enough,” said Geoffrey.

“Let’s play something else now,” said Loveday, flinging herself down on the grass. “I am tired of swinging, and it makes me feel rather sick.”

Priscilla was sitting in the swing, just lazily moving it. “What shall we do, then?” she asked reluctantly. “I don’t think we will stop quite yet; let’s go on for a little while longer, just one or two more swings, and you watch us, Loveday, like a darling.”

“I can’t watch you,” said Loveday; “it makes my head swing too.”

“I tell you what,” said Geoffrey, “we’ll just have one more good turn, then I’ll get out the sticks and hoops, and we’ll have a game of ‘La Grace.’ You sit where you are, Prissy, and when I’ve given you a good start I’ll spring up at the back of you. Loveday, you can look away if it makes you giddy;” and with the same he sent the swing with Prissy in it flying up through the air, then back she came, and up she went again and back; but this time Geoffrey held on the ropes, and as the swing swung forward the third time, he sprang up on his feet on to the seat. The ropes quivered and strained, and for a moment their flight was checked; then on they went again, up and down and up; then, with a scream and a heavy thud, they both came down to the ground, Priscilla underneath, Geoffrey on top of her.

Loveday was too bewildered to cry or to scream. At first, in fact, she did not realise what had happened. She thought they were playing some game, and that in a moment they would both jump up with a laugh and a shout; and yet—Priscilla was so very white and still, and lay so long, and though Geoffrey often groaned in fun and pretended to be hurt, it was somehow not quite like this; and when at last Geoffrey tried to get up, but only screamed and fell back again, Priscilla still never made a sound or a movement. Geoffrey made one more effort, and dragged himself off Priscilla; but he could not get up, for every time he tried to raise himself on his arm, the pain was greater than he could bear.

“I believe I’ve broken my shoulder—or something!” he gasped. “Loveday, run quick, and tell some one to come! Get father, and—Prissy, Prissy”—he broke off to call his sister. “Oh, why doesn’t she open her eyes? Prissy, speak; do speak.”

He tried to move her, but he could not manage that.

“Run, Loveday, as fast as ever you can—do!”

He looked so ill and scared, and Priscilla looked so dreadful, lying so still with her arms all crumpled up under her, that Loveday nearly fainted with fear; but she ran and ran as she had never run before, and all the way her clear shrill voice rang out: “Daddy, mother, Nurse, come quick! Where are you? Oh, do come!” She called so loudly, and there was such real distress in her voice, that by the time she reached the house her father was hurrying out to meet her; and before she had gasped out half her tale of woe, he had gathered her up in his arms, and, followed by, it seemed, the whole household, was rushing to the orchard, where Priscilla lay as Loveday had left her, and Geoffrey, as pale now as Priscilla, was still struggling to get up and at the same time to choke back the tears of pain that would force their way up.

Then there followed a busy, sad, painful time, when, between them all, they got the two injured ones to bed, and attended to their hurts. Geoffrey’s shoulder was not fractured, but it was dislocated, and he had strained and bruised both arms.

“If you had fallen backwards,” said Dr. Carlyon gravely, “instead of forwards, you would probably have dislocated your neck. How could you run yourself and your sisters into such a danger? It was most culpable of you.”

“It seemed all right,” groaned poor Geoffrey, “and I don’t know now why we fell. The branch was a strong one——”

“Yes, but the rope was not, and you put it up loosely, so that it rubbed every time you swung, and, of course, rubbed through in a very little while. You shall see the frayed ends when you are well enough; perhaps it will help to teach you how a swing should not be hung.”

Poor Priscilla had a fractured arm and a cut head, and was badly bruised all over; and when, poor child, she awoke from her unconsciousness, she found herself one big block of pain from head to heels, or so it seemed to her. But worst of all, perhaps, was the dreadful pain in her head from the blow, and the jerk, and the shock. She could not endure a ray of light, nor a sound, nor to speak or be spoken to.

Poor Loveday crept into the bedroom time after time to be near her. She brought her best books and her favourite toys, her paint-box, and even her pink parasol to lend, or to give to Priscilla, if by doing so Priscilla could only be got to look better and to take some interest in things. But Priscilla lay very still and white, moaning occasionally, and did not look at Loveday or her treasures, or seem able to take any interest in anything, and poor little Loveday crept away again, feeling perfectly miserable, and at her wits’ end, for if those things failed, she really did not know what could be done. And if she went to Geoffrey she only felt more miserable, for he was so remorseful and unhappy, and kept on saying such dreadful things about himself for having caused it all, that one could not dare ask him to play, or even to read aloud, or to do anything.

At last Loveday grew to look so ill and moped, that her father and mother decided it would be better for her to go away for a little while to more cheerful surroundings, or she would be ill too. But then came the question: “Where could she go?”

“Granny would have her, and be delighted to,” said Mrs. Carlyon, “but I don’t know how to get her up there. I couldn’t possibly travel up and back all in one day, and I should not like to be longer away from home just now. Nor can you be spared either.”

“And I would like her to have sea air,” said Dr. Carlyon. “I think it would be much better for her.”

“And I would like her to be where she could have a child or so to play with,” added Mrs. Carlyon.

So it seemed they had to find a place for Loveday with children, not very far from home, but by the sea. It was Nurse who settled the difficulty at last.

“I suppose you wouldn’t like to send her to Bessie, down at Porthcallis, sir, would you? She’s got a nice little cottage, and close to as nice a bit of safe, sandy beach as you could find anywhere, made on purpose for children, I should think, and her own little boy must be nearly as old as Miss Loveday. Bessie does understand children too, and she is very fond of Miss Loveday.”

This was one of Nurse’s great anxieties. She could not bear the idea of her “baby” being sent away; but if it was better for her that she should—and Nurse saw that it was—she was anxious that she should go to some one who loved her and would make her happy.

Bessie Lobb had been a housemaid for a few years with Dr. and Mrs. Carlyon when Geoffrey and Priscilla were babies. She had left to get married before Loveday was born, but she had been back several times to Trelint to visit her relations, and had always come several times to see her former master and mistress, and children, and Nurse.

Every one hailed Nurse’s suggestion with joy, for Porthcallis was only about fifteen miles from Trelint. The beach was, as Nurse said, very safe, the air was beautiful; and Bessie was a good, kind, trustworthy body, and her husband was a nice respectable man, and devoted to children.

Mrs. Carlyon wrote to Bessie at once, and very quickly a reply came to say that Bessie would be proud and pleased to have Miss Loveday. She had a spare bedroom that Miss Loveday could have, and she would do her best to make her comfortable and happy.

“That is capital,” said Mrs. Carylon, greatly relieved that matters were settling themselves so well. “I will write to Bessie at once, and say I will bring Loveday on Thursday.”

“Then I had better set to work at once to sort out my toys and begin to pack, I suppose,” said Loveday, in a tone of great importance, “or I am sure I shall never be ready in time.”

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