I had such “Joyous Times” transcribing the stories in Joyous Times that I’m going to continue with another book. It is Our Darlings, that I found in a wonderful antique book store in York, England, while on my tour of England, Scotland, and Wales in 2010. I’m going to post the an image of each page, as well as type it out.
The front of Our Darlings has a picture of Santa carrying his bag full of goodies.
This book has an inscription
with love from
In the top right hand corner it says “Christmas 1924”. She also wrote her name and address:
8 Westcommon Gardens
It was published by John F. Shaw & Co., Ltd., 3, Pilgrim Street, London. British Manufacturers.
Oh, did I mention that ‘Our Darling’ little Jean colored some of these otherwise dull-looking pictures? I love it. Really adds a lot to a book for me. Some pictures came painted, but the ones Jean did are in crayon.
On the next page, little Jean wrote her name and address again.
…..and here we get on to the stories! It’s chock-full of stories and a few poems. Miss Interference is our main feature, and it is broken up by unrelated stories sprinkled in between. I don’t know why it was done this way. There must be a reason, I just don’t know it!
By Charles Herbert,
Author of “Nellie’s Boarding School,” “Keeping His Secret,” “Doreen” &c.
A Midnight Adventure.
It was a beautifully moonlit night. The radiance from the sky shed a softened splendour over field, forest and farm, and in the little town of Lockton it brightened up the narrow street, and stole through the old old-fashioned window-panes of the casements of the cottages around the town, and of the houses that were in it.
It was one o’clock in the morning! Most of the inhabitants were soundly sleeping. All of them were supposed to be;— a fact of which Sergeant Cass felt so sure that he was dozing himself, in the police station, when he ought to have been looking after P.C. Murwell, who was on duty that night. But, what did it matter? It was the rarest thing for anything of a really disturbing nature to happen in Lockton, either day or night, and both the constable and his superior officer felt pretty secure.
However, for once, there really were things stirring, of which they ought to have known, and about which they would have given a great deal to have known. While they were taking things easily, two lads, one about nineteen and the other about sixteen, crept out of a cottage in a field, that stood off the Essington Lane, and, carrying a large basket, made their way towards Lockton.
Right at the further end of the straggling High Street, which led from the railway station, there stood a red-brick house, which had been built in the times of Queen Elizabeth. It was double-fronted; and three stories in height. It stood so much at the end of High Street, and so separated from the rest of it, that it was a compliment to it to say it was in the High Street at all. A wall at each side, running from the back of the house and at the end enclosed a long
and narrow garden, and in this garden there were some very fine old cherry-trees, which, at this particular time of July, were laden with ripe fruit, waiting to be picked.
The explanation of the appearance of these two lads, Bob and Harry Leacock, was that they knew of those cherries, and it had occurred to them that if they could manage unseen to get over that wall, strip those trees, and get back with the cherries, across the fields to their cottage, they would be able to sell them next day in Setham-on-Sea, which was a popular seaside resort about three miles away. So, following out this idea, they had waited until, like the police, they imagined everyone in Lockton would be soundly sleeping. Then they stole out intent on stealing in, and then stealing away.
When they reached the beginning of the High Street, Bob Leacock, while his brother Harry worked with the basket underneath the wall of the Council School, went on to see if P.C. Murwell happened to be about by any chance. But that good man was strolling, in the usual way, toward Great Stamford, and there was no sign of him. So, feeling secure, Bob crept back to his brother, and, circling the Council School and the Workhouse Grounds, both made their way through some fields towards the mill, and came out at the other end of the town and at the very back of it, unnoticed and unseen. A few minutes’ stealthy walking brought them to the foot of the garden they had planned to rob. Bob clambered over the shoulders of his brother, who was a very tall youth, and, getting up on the wall, reached down his hand for the basket, and pulled it up. Then he quietly lowered it to the other side. His brother meanwhile flung up a rope ladder with grappling hooks that Bob then fixed on the wall, and in another moment Harry was on the wall too. Then the ladder was thrown up, fixed the other way, and very quickly they were both in the garden.
It was the garden of Mr. Gray, the resident curate of Lockton, which they had decided to rob. Mr. Grey had only been there a few years, and the Restor, who was an elderly man, and ailing in health, had been away the whole time, so that Mr. Gray was the only clergyman in the parish. He found plenty to do, and, unfortunately, his wife, who might have been of great assistance to him, had been ill in bed ever since their last little boy Frankie had been born, and that was three years ago now. But they had a little girl, named Pearl, and she was between nine and ten years old. Not much of an age, was it? But Pearl was older than her years. She spent her days in mothering little Frank and in running to fetch-and-carry for the invalid. She was a remarkable child in every way, as self-possessed as a grown up; and she passed so much time with her father and mother that she was quite grown up herself in her way of speaking and acting.
It was a bit of a pity that so young child should have got into the habit of doing so many things for herself and others. The result had been that she poked her little nose into everything that went on round her in the little town, and what she did not know about Lockton was very little indeed. If anyone was ill, or died, or any baby was born, Pearl was one of the first to hear of it. But there was one thing she was very careful over, and that was to prevent her mother ever being worried by anything that the servants gossipped about.
“I don’t think you had better let mamma know about that,” she would say, quietly, to the maids. “She would only worry that she couldn’t get out to see them.” And the maids would look at one another, after she had gone out of the kitchen, and Cook would say: “Bless her little heart, Miss Pearl is always thinking of the missus!”
This very day it happened that Pearl had rather a trying time. Her mother had been very ill with one of her bad headaches; so she had been keeping little Frank out of her way as much as possible. But Frankie had proved almost too much for her. He had fallen down, and felt that the injury he received in the shape of a tiny bruise called for loud yells; so, behind a closed door, which he struggled hard to open and “get to mummie,” but which Pearl insisted on keeping shut, lest he should; Pearl tried to hush his cries till she
succeeded. But as a result he became bad-tempered and sulky, and there had been no doing anything with him. Then the maids in the kitchen had had a quarrel, and the atmosphere was just as if a thunderstorm were about. Then her father came in late to dinner, and the dinner was spoilt, which worried her, because she felt that when mother was not about it was up to her to see to things.
She liked seeing to them! It had become part and parcel of her existence to nose into everything that went on in the house; and, as they happened to have two very good maids, besides the small girl who looked after Frank, things generally went smoothly. But to-day had been rather exciting to little Pearl, and, somehow, when she went to bed, she couldn’t sleep.
She went up at nine o’clock and sat about in her own dainty little room until ten. Then she got into bed, first of all flinging open the window that looked out upon the garden. But it was nearly midnight before
she fell asleep, and about half-past-one she woke with a start. The moon was pouring its bright beams right across the garden and into her room, and, as she often did when she woke in the night, she sprang out of bed to look at the pretty scene. Then, she nearly cried aloud in astonishment; for there, under her favourite cherry trees, which she had heard her father say were to be stripped to-morrow, she saw the two Leacocks busy at the very task.
She stood there thinking hard for a minute or two. Her first idea was to run in and tell her father; but she knew if she did so she would have to wake her mother as well. That would never do! Then, for the same reason, it will be just as difficult to rouse the maids, for they slept over her mother’s and father’s room, and she could not creep up stairs without waking the rest. So that would never do! There was nothing for it but to creep down the stairs mousy-quiet and let these Leacocks know what she thought of them. So she slipped into her clothes, every now and then going to the window and to see just how far they were getting on with the business.
Suddenly she smiled, and mutter to herself in an old-fashioned way: “That would be a good joke! Yes, I think I’ll wait a bit and let them get on with it. It will save father having to pay to have them picked.”
Sitting down there in the bright moonlight this little made deliberately played a waiting game. The minutes flew by, and the youths below were working with might and main to strip the tree as quickly as possible.
“My,” said Harry, crunching one or two of them in his mouth, “but they’re just that fine and ripe; they ought to sell well to-morrow; but won’t it be rather a job getting the basket over the wall?”
“A bit, p’r’aps,” whispered his brother.” But I’ll get up on the ladder and you put the basket on your head, and it’ll be not that hard to lift them. Get a move on, Harry! There’s never any telling what’ll hap.”
” No one to see,” grunted the other. “There’s no window this side of the house looking on to the gardin, ‘cept the drawing room and the room that little kid of the parson sleeps in. She’ll be sound in the land o’ dreams. So there you are! We’ve done one tree, and I’d think there’s thirty pounds of cherries if there’s one. Get along to the next and leave them a few for remembrance. They’ll think it’s the starlings did it.” And he chuckled, as they went off to the next tree.
They worked swiftly, climbing, pulling, throwing down, and by the time they had stripped three trees they felt it was as well to make a move; but the midget at the window had been watching, and as they neared the end of their task she noiselessly undid the bolt of the kitchen door, crept down the path and suddenly appeared before them with the demand:
“What are you doing to our cherry trees?”
The voice rang out so startingly that the men were utterly taken by surprise. But at last Bob gave vent to a low whistle. There was nothing to be said, and they said it. Two youths, broad shouldered, and one of them lanky beyond the usual height of the labourers about, stood there before this mite of ten years looking as uncomfortable as possible.
It was Pearl herself who relieved the situation.
“It’s rather late,” she said politely, “or rather, it is very early, and if you want any bed I think you had better be getting home. We are much obliged to you for stripping the trees. We were going to have them done to-morrow; so it will save any expense. That is why I didn’t come down before. I thought it such a pity to disturb you.”
Bob looked at Harry, and Harry at Bob. Harry scratched his head, and Bob said, “Well I’m blowed!”
“You can leave your basket here,” she said. “I think it was very good of you to bring it. I’ll go in the kitchen when you have gone and get something to cover it up with to keep it from the starlings, or, perhaps”— as a bright thought struck her—” you might carry it into the kitchen for me and leave it there. If you do it will save trouble. Will you?”
“Yes, Miss,” said Bob, humbly. “We will! But what are you going to do with us? This will mean prison for us, you know, and Harry there’s only just come out. Couldn’t you put a word in with the Reverend Gray, and ask him not to take no action agin us?”
Pearl was enjoying herself vastly. She had stopped these men at their work – – – they were quite clearly afraid of her – – – and so far she had done it all on her own. To tell the truth, inside her she was swelling with pride. She stood thinking, and after a minute or two she said:
” Well, you see there is really no harm done! You have picked the cherries for us; then you’ll have to leave your basket, and it looks a good one; so we are the gainers all round. Bring it in, and in the morning when the maids find it out everyone will think that the Brownies did it. You’ve heard of the Brownies, haven’t you?”
“Can’t say we have, miss,” said Bob.
“Well, they are Scotch fairies. Dad often tells me tales about them. They do the housework for people when they are asleep. So, you see, if I hold my tongue they’ll think that you were Brownies. It will be a fine joke. Come along!”
So these two lads lifted the basket that weighed about seventy-five pounds, and were carrying it in when she said suddenly:
And they stopped.
“Oughtn’t something to be done to punish you two for stealing,” she asked eagerly. “If ever I do wrong I have to be punished. I don’t want you to go to prison, but I think you ought to have something done to you.”
The men looked at one another, and then Harry said: “Yes, miss.”
“Well, what shall it be?”
There was silence, and a very awkward silence for the two youths.
Then Pearl chimed in:
“I think I know. You see, you men never come to church, do you?”
“No, miss. Not since we’ve grown up.”
She shook her little wise head.
“That’s a pity! If you did you’d see the commandment over the communion table. THOU SHALT NOT STEAL, and you would never want to steal cherries. So I tell you what I’ll do. If you promise me to come to church every Sunday for the next month – – – of course, I’ll always be watching to see if you are there – – – then I’ll promise you I will say nothing about it. I will just let them think the Brownies did it.”
And that was how it was settled. The basket was quietly placed inside the kitchen door; the men climbed back over the wall, Pearl watching them in high glee. She went back and climbed to her own room and fell asleep. But the men, as soon as they were safe in the fields, looked at one another, and then Bob threw himself down roared with laughter.
“Oh, that blessed kid!” He laughed. “To see her a-standing there. And we’ve promised to go to church for a month, and look at the commandment.” And he roared afresh.
“All very well,” said Harry. “Wot if she don’t keep ‘er word? ”
“Well, to feel there is nothing between yourselves and prison but the fact that a girl of ten has promised not to say anything about the things you have done is not a very comfortable state of things, is it?”
“‘Wot if she don’t keep ‘er word?” Bob repeated. “Well, if you don’t it’ll be a bad look out for us, that’s all.”
“She may, and then again, she may not,” Harry went on. “And I ain’t only thinking of what’ll ‘appen if she don’t, in the way of fines or ‘prisonment; but if it comes out at the trial as ter wot she made us do, it’ll be the joke of all Lockton, and the joke’ll be agin us. We shall look a couple o’ loonies.”
And they walked off across the fields feeling very flat.
Suddenly Bob said to his brother: “I say, Harry, it’s no good a-worrying, if the young un splits, she splits. But I don’t think she’s that sort. If it comes out, it’ll be ‘cos it leaks out. Anyways, we must turn up at the church.”
( to be continued.)