Sydney, seeing the sudden fear in the child’s face as he turned his eyes towards the elder-tree, thought he had hit on a very happy plan for keeping Walter away.
“I’ve given him a fright,” said he, as he went back to where his sisters were sitting by the edge of the stream. “I’ve told him there’s a ghost in that tree. He won’t come past it in a hurry.”
Loo laughed, but Lena said: “He’ll really believe it, Sydney. He’s such a nervous sort of a child.”
“I want him to believe it,” said Sydney. “He’s such an inquisitive little chap that he’d have been coming down here to see my wheel when I wasn’t about. I don’t know what mother asked him for. He’s a perfect nuisance.”
“Mother wants us to be kind to him,” said Lena; “you know she said so. Poor little thing! He hasn’t got a mother, and he’s always left with servants now.”
“The best place for him,” exclaimed Sydney. “Why should he bother us and spoil our holiday?”
“He’s a stupid little thing,” said Loo.
Lena was silent. “He’s not like other children,” she said, after a minute, “but how can he be? Mother says he has never had any jolly times or any children to play with.”
“O, well,” said Sydney carelessly, “he’s got Madge and Johnny now, and that ought to be enough.” And then he forgot all about Walter in the interest of fixing his wheel.
Meanwhile Walter went slowly back again through the garden, his heart full of bitter disappointment. He did so want to see that wheel! He had been dreaming about it all night, for he had known that it was to be fixed and tried the next day. He had been watching for an opportunity ever since Sydney and his sisters had gone to the stream. It came when nurse went indoors with Johnny, and Madge got sulky and buried herself in a picture-book. That was the moment when he stole away unobserved. If only he could have had one peep! He wouldn’t have touched it, not for the world; he only wanted to look at the wonderful thing, and to see if he could perhaps make one some day. He would like to try now, but he was not allowed to have a knife, and he did not know where to get wood. Then when he went home there would be no stream and no new sorts of play.
Just then he heard Madge calling him.
“Come here and play, Walter,” she said. “I’ll be a bear among the trees and I’ll run out and catch you.”
“I don’t like that game, Madge,” said he; “you roar so loud and then I think it really is a bear.”
“You baby!” said she. “Well, Johnny and nurse will play and you can run away.”
No, he could not do that. He would play too, and try to remember all the time that it was only Madge roaring among the trees and not really a bear.
The next day it happened that there was a large picnic party, to which all the elders were invited, including Sydney, Loo, and Lena. So the three younger children, with nurse and Baby and the other servants, had it all to themselves. It was rather a dull day, Walter thought. He was thinking about the wheel and wondering if it was turning merrily in the stream, or if Sydney had put it away. He would have given worlds to go and see, but he never got the chance. When the children went to the kitchen garden it was to walk round with nurse.