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"Well-where have you been, Gladys? Why, it's quite dark," I exclaimed, raising myself in bed; "it must be dreadfully late."

"Of course it is: ten o'clock, getting on to eleven."

"What have you been about, then?"

"Keep awake, child, do," cried Gladys. "I'm coming into bed with you for a talk, and you must listen. There's a man with mother at the gate outside the wood; it's pouring with rain, and mother has been standing there for the last hour talking. I've watched them from the tool-house."

"It's a shame of anybody to keep mother out in the rain. Is it the schoolmaster, or Hinton, ?"


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as would have happened in real sleep. Yet our mother did not notice this, we thought; she turned and left us, and we heard her talking softly to herself as she went away.

What a strange Sunday the next day was! Our stepfather left the house early to do duty at an outlying district church, the service of which he shared with a neighbouring rector. There was

to be no service in our little village that morning. This happened once every month. It was our mother's custom on these occasions to attend to the Sundayschool herself, and we were often allowed to help in our fashionstraightening the rows of baby children, examining pockets, frowning over nuts and apples, and generally assuming grown-up airs. The afternoons of these days were very happy ones: we had nother all to ourselves, and we sat together in the garden under the dear old walnut-tree's shade; we had our tea brought out there sometimes too, and mother seemed as young as ourselves; we were all children in the happy days when Theodora was with us. When the click of the garden-gate, announcing the return of the rector, sounded, we used to spring up, we children, each in her place, and dash away into the shrubbery, or pick up our books and make for the house and our play - room, anywhere away from the man who claimed our mother for his companion for the rest of the day. The evening service that followed brought with it always a sense of peace, for the end of such a day was like closing the door upon a treasure-house of sweetnesses that had already been fully enjoyed, and that yet remained an overflowing store of good things, to feed upon if days of famine should ever come.

Sunday, the 9th of July, stands out the first of our fasting days. It never seemed properly to begin, it never really ended. Mother did not come down to breakfast until long after Sunday-school time, and she said nothing about going to school when she did come. Oh the breakfast that Sunday morning! If we could have known it was the last meal we should ever eat with mother, would Gladys have scolded because the milk for the coffee was burnt? would Wynne have pushed impatiently away the little dainties that habitually fell to his share? I was moody and preoccupied, or seemed to be so rather; I could not really have been, or every little detail of that half-hour would not have been pictured on my brain as it has been in leaden mosaics. There was fruit on the table and wasps were troublesome, and Gladys insisted on fighting them off with a carving - knife which she held continually in her right hand, managing all eatables with the other. She made a dash in the direction of Wynne's face once, and nearly cut him. Wynne flipped with a knotted pocket - handkerchief wherever a fly happened to settle on the table-cloth. A butterfly flew in through the open window, and I roused myself to assert that it was one I had tamed in the garden and that it knew me. Wynne flipped it, and Gladys laughed at me. Mother was rest less, and got up for every little thing she wanted, but did not seem to want anything after she had got it she took no notice of us. Yes, it was mother herself, after all, who was not with us; but

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held loosely to one another, ready, too ready, to slip apart.

Mother was the first to leave the room; I followed. Wynne and Gladys had begun to quarrel over the puppy; W Vynne was in a tormenting mood, and Gladys, who always protected weak creatures, would not let him have his way with the young thing. The noise of their dispute irritated me. I went off and shut myself up in a room alone. The room I went into was on the quiet side of the house, and I placed myself near the window that overlooked the unkempt little plantation which we called the Wood. There was silence amongst the trees that morning; it was a heavy day, and clouds hung low overhead. Underneath this window there was a small side-door that led into the plantation, opening from a passage that connected the hall-room and the wash-house. We never went in and out that way, and the door was little used by any one, excepting on washing-days. As I was listening to the silence, I heard this door being pushed open from the inside: it grated against the flagstone, then steps approached from the path outside close to the house; somebody came in, and the door was closed again. I could see nothing; but I knew as well as if I had seen that Gladys's beggar had just come into the house. Was it mother who let him in? And if she did, why did she? And was the beggar Uncle Llewellyn, and was mother hiding him from us or from any one? I heard nothing more, and becoming tired of speculation, I fetched from the schoolroom an old favourite story-book, and settled myself for a spell of quiet pleasure. I never stirred or thought again of the world I lived in until I finished the last page of my book; then

suddenly I began to wonder what was happening to the day. Surely it was getting very late; but no servants seemed to be moving about, there was nothing to show that dinner - time was coming. Down I flew, then, with a sudden impulse to the dining-room to look for everybody. The dining-room was empty, so was the drawingroom. I heard voices in the servants' premises, and opening the swing-door that led into the kitchen, I soon saw what was going on, with Wynne and Gladys at any rate. They were cooking— Gladys, with red cheeks, standing over the fire, Wynne waiting about to fulfil her commands.

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'Why, what's up?" I cried as I came in.

"O Madeleine! Martha's taken herself off, just fancy! It's not her Sunday out, you know; so Ellen's gone, and Martha and everybody, and Wynne and I are getting the dinner ready. Here, Wynne, quick; you go and lay the cloth. Mad, I've made such delicious soup, full of sauces, just the sort mother likes."

"Where is mother, Gladys?"
"Don't know."

"What's the matter, Wynne ?" I exclaimed, as Wynne came back into the kitchen with the tablecloth still on his arm and a look of disappointment on his face.

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"Father's home," said Wynne. Why, whatever o'clock can it be then? How oddly the day has gone to be sure!"

"Well, I suppose we can have some dinner all the same. Where is he, Wynne ?"

"In the hall-room with mother, and they're all talking so loud." "All Who?"

"Oh, father and mother."

"But you said all, Wynne. Did you see anybody else? Did the hall-room door open or any

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Nobody else?"

Nobody," said Wynne. But somehow I felt sure he had seen some other person all the same.

"Go and lay the cloth," said Gladys, and turned again to the soup. Wynne had scarcely been gone a minute when he came back a second time, and this time his eyes glistened with pleased excitement.

"I say," he began, "there are two men outside the front doorone's a policeman — and they're trying to get in. There, they've rung the bell. Do you hear?"

I should think we did hear. Such a loud, decided, crisis-creating sort of bell-pull it sounded to my ears, and everything rushed into my head at once that I had read or imagined of sudden catastrophes.

Yet it only was the doorbell, and there was only Wynne's word for the fact of there being a policeman outside, and how could he know?

"Of course," said Gladys, impressively, "after you throw stones at the post-office cat. I warned you, Wynne."

Before she could look round Wynne was gone, flying up-stairs to his room at the furthest extremity of a long passage, into bed with all his clothes on, the quilt pulled right over his head. Baby!" remarked Gladys, and she thoroughly enjoyed the fright he was having.

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Hush, Gladys! who's that going to the door to let them in ?" "Father."

Three sets of heavy steps sounded in the hall, and the

hall-room door closed after three persons who went in. Gladys and I spoke in whispers then; we drew close to the kitchen side of the green-baize swinging-door, and held it open the smallest degree with trembling fingers. I had infected Gladys with a fear for which I had no name. There was no loud talking now in the room, at least we heard none. It seemed ages before the next thing happened, and the tension of expectation was at full strain all the time.

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The hall-room door opened again, and this time four sets of men's steps sounded along the hall. There was no voice heard, no word spoken. The latch of the front door was drawn aside; we just heard it; but in the same instant almost our ears were pierced by a shriek that made our hearts stand still, and there was a sound of flying feet from the room towards where the men were waiting to pass out of the house. The front door opened, the sound of rain reached us where we stood hidden, and then came the slam that told us the men were gone; and after that another sound, and then awful stillness. Gladys and I could bear no more; we pushed out into the hall. Mother lay stretched across the stone pavement of the threshold, white and with her eyes shut. Our stepfather stood looking down upon her with a dark face and a helpless air. We rushed towards her, but he motioned us away, and finally took the body with difficulty in his arms, staggered with it upstairs, and laid the helpless form upon mother's bed. Then he shut the door upon himself and her.

"O Gladys, Gladys!" I cried, "what shall we do? Is our mother dead?"

We sat down in the passage as near to her door as we could get,

and listened for any sounds that might come. It began to grow dusk, and we were still there. At length Wynne came creeping down the passage, leaving his bedroom door open.

"Are they gone?" he asked under his breath.

We shook our heads, and gave him no answer, only I drew him down to me, and made him lay his head upon my lap.

"Are they gone, Madeleine?" asked Wynne again.

"Be quiet, silly," Gladys said. "Madeleine, there's somebody moving inside."

Just at that minute Wynne's bedroom door slammed in a sudden gust of wind. It began to rain heavily, and the drops fell like little lumps of lead on the skylight. Our stepfather opened the door of the bedroom, and found us all sitting there together.

"Go away entirely, children," he said in his usual formal voice: all his self-possession seemed to have come back. "Your mother is asleep, and she must not be disturbed."



We made him tell us again that mother was really asleep and nothing else, and then we sented to do as he told us. left his and mother's part of the house, and went down the long passage to our own. Wynne clung to me.

There had been a flash of lightning whilst we were talking outside mother's door, and Wynne could never bear to be alone in a thunderstorm. He enticed me to come into his room and stay with him until he should be asleep. How long a time I spent trying to soothe his fears I do not know, or which of us fell asleep first; but I know that when something awoke me I was lying outside Wynne's bed, and that he was sleeping. I had never undressed, and it was

daylight. Was this another day, then? All time seemed to have ceased for us. I was existing in some intermediate state that was neither death nor life, in which I was without sensation, and where I comprehended nothing. This was what I seemed aware of inwardly and outside-for I got up and went to the window, and looked out I met the cold pallor of the white dawn.

Wynne's bedroom was next to the passage whose window was overshadowed by a great appletree, the tree in which Theodora saw or fancied she saw a man's face staring at her on last Christmas Eve. I opened Wynne's bedroom door and stepped outside and stood close to the window. On my left hand was the passage, on the right a door which led to the backstairs, and this door now stood open. The early apples on that tree, our first summer apples, were beginning to ripen; they showed large and shapely even in that pale light against the leaves. As I looked I recalled an old story mother used to tell us of her childhood, of certain apple-trees in the orchard near her father's Welsh garden; how she and Llewellyn used to haunt these on early autumn mornings. The very laugh came back to my recollection that Theodora used to give at one particular part of the story -my God! I shrank with numbing fear, for in the instant that I recalled it I heard the laugh again, the very same low chuckling laugh of a child. Sweet mother! you were not a ghost then, no shadowy untouchable creature. But oh! even further away-lost, lost, lost! I had just power left to turn round in order to find out where the laugh came from, and as I turned I felt the slight wind of some thing or creature passing me swiftly.

There was nothing to be seen in the passage, but down the stairs when I looked that way I saw mother rapidly descending. She went so quickly I could only tell that she was gone. I felt my lips grow white, my mouth was parched, a cloud closed over me, I slipped down on the floor and became insensible. Martha found there, Gladys told me when I lay some hours afterwards on my bed, turning from side to side, trying to smother my moans.

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Everybody is looking for her now," Gladys continued. Gladys was dry-eyed; she looked nerved and alert, excitement was vitalising her.

"Don't stay with me, Gladys, if you can do anything," I said, and Gladys left me.

This was the silent day of our crisis. The house was deserted; nothing happened. When Gladys returned she knew no more than she had done when she went away; there was nobody she could question with the hope of learning more than we already knew. Towards night the silent stage passed. I recall this period in its stages, terribly marked. An indescribable sound of tumult reached me where I lay: the house seemed suddenly to be full of people, or rather it was as if conflicting presences pervaded its atmosphere; dismay and trouble came in and took possession. On the other side of the house I was aware at length that the noise was resolving itself into Mother was intelligible sounds. there, I felt. She was being taken up-stairs by several people, of whom our stepfather was one, and there was a doctor present; I knew his voice. Mother was being persuaded up, led up, forced up; everything was being done to her against her will, I was certain of that, and I longed to rush out and protect her.

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