THE SHADOW OF A SHADE.
“The world would
lose its finest joys
Without its little girls and boys;
Their careless glee and simple ruth,
And innocence and trust and truth;
Ah! what would your poor poet do
Without such little folk as you?”
“Well, anyhow,” observed Mr. Nicholas Swan, the gardener, when the children came home and told him how Peter had cried—“anyhow, there’s one less on you now to run over my borders. He was as meek as Moses, that child was, when first he came, but you soon made him as audacious as any of you.”
“So they did, Nicholas dear,” said one of the twins, a tall, dark haired child.
“Oh, it’s Nicholas dear, is it, Miss Barbara? Well, now, what next?”
“Why, the key of the fruit-house—we want the key.”
“Key, indeed! Now, there’s where it is. Make a wry path through your fields, and still you’ll walk in it! I never ought to ha’ got in the habit of lending you that key. What’s the good of a key if a man can never keep it in his pocket? When I lived up at Mr. Daniel Mortimer’s, the children never had my key—never.”
“Well, come with us, then, and give us out the pears yourself. We won’t take one.”
Nicholas, with a twin on each side, and the other children bringing up the rear, was now walked off to the fruit-house, grumbling as he went.
“I left Mr. Mortimer’s, I did, because I couldn’t stand the children; and now the world’s a deal fuller of ’em than it was then. No, Miss Gladys, I’m not a-going any faster; I wouldn’t run, if it was ever so. When the contrac’ was signed of my wages, it was never wrote down that I had to run at any time.”
And having now reached the fruit-house, he was just pulling out his big key, when something almost like shame showed itself in his ruddy face, as a decided and somewhat mocking voice addressed him.
“Well, Nicholas, I’m just amazed at ye! I’ve lived upward of sixty years in this island, Scotland and England both, and never did I see a man got over so by children in my life! Talking of my niece’s children, are ye—Mrs. Daniel Mortimer’s? I wonder at ye—they were just nothing to these.”
Here Mr. Swan, having unlocked the door, dived into the fruit-house, and occupied himself for some moments in recovering his self-possession and making his selection; then emerging with an armful of pears, he shouted after Miss Christie Grant, who had got a good way down the walk by this time.
“I don’t deny, ma’am, that these air aggravating now and then, but anyhow they haven’t painted my palings pink and my door pea-green.”
Miss Christie returned. She seldom took the part of any children, excepting for the sake of argument or for family reasons; and she felt at that moment that the Daniel Mortimers were related to her, and that these, though they called her “aunt,” were not.