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The Stokesley Secret   By: (1823-1901)

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This etext was produced from the 1902 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email


by Charlotte M. Yonge


"How can a pig pay the rent?"

The question seemed to have been long under consideration, to judge by the manner in which it came out of the pouting lips of that sturdy young five year old gentleman, David Merrifield, as he sat on a volume of the great Latin Dictionary to raise him to a level with the tea table.

Long, however, as it had been considered, it was unheeded on account of one more interesting to the general public assembled round the table.

"I say!" hallooed out a tall lad of twelve holding aloft a slice taken from the dish in the centre of the table, "I say! what do you call this, Mary?"

"Bread and butter, Master Sam," replied rather pettishly the maid who had brought in the big black kettle.

"Bread and butter! I call it bread and scrape!" solemnly said Sam.

"It only has butter in the little holes of it, not at the top, Miss Fosbrook," said, in an odd pleading kind of tone, a stout good humoured girl of thirteen, with face, hair, and all, a good deal like a nice comfortable apricot in a sunny place, or a good respectable Alderney cow.

"I think it would be better not to grumble, Susan, my dear," replied, in a low voice, a pleasant dark eyed young lady who was making tea; but the boys at the bottom of the table neither heard nor heeded.

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary," was Sam's cry, in so funny a voice, that Miss Fosbrook could only laugh; "is this bread and scrape the fare for a rising young family of genteel birth?"

"Oh!" with a pathetic grimace, cried the pretty faced though sandy haired Henry, the next to him in age, "if our beloved parents knew how their poor deserted infants are treated "

"A fine large infant you are, Hal!" exclaimed Susan.

"I'm an infant, you're an infant, Miss Fosbrook is an infant a babby."

"For shame, Hal!" cried the more civilized Sam, clenching his fist.

"No, no, Sam," interposed Miss Fosbrook, laughing, "your brother is quite right; I am as much an infant in the eye of the law as little George."

"There, I said I would!" cried Henry; "didn't I, Sam?"

"Didn't you what?" asked Susan, not in the most elegant English.

"Why, Martin Greville twitted us with having a girl for a governess," said Henry; "he said it was a shame we should be taken in to think her grown up, when she was not twenty; and I said I would find out, and now I have done it!" he cried triumphantly.

"Everybody is quite welcome to know my age," said Miss Fosbrook, the colour rising in her cheek. "I was nineteen on the last of April; but I had rather you had asked me point blank, Henry, than tried to find out in a sidelong way."

Henry looked a little surly; and Elizabeth, a nice looking girl, who sat next to him and was nearest in age, said, "Oh! but that would have been so rude, Miss Fosbrook."

"Rude, but honest," said Miss Fosbrook; and Susan's honest eyes twinkled, as much as to say, "I like that;" but she said, "I don't believe Hal meant it."

"I don't care!" said Sam. "Come, Mary, this plate is done more bread and butter; d'ye hear? not bread and gammon!" and he began the chant, in which six voices joined till it became a roar, pursuing Mary down to the lower regions:

"Thick butter and thin bread, Or it shall be thrown at Mary's head; Thick bread and thin butter, Is only fit for the ducks in the gutter."

Elizabeth looked appealingly at Miss Fosbrook; but Miss Fosbrook was leaning back in her chair, her handkerchief up to her mouth, in fits of laughing, seeing which, the children bawled louder and louder; and Elizabeth only abstained from stopping her ears because she knew that was the sure way to be held fast, and have it bellowed into them.

Little Annie blundered in her eagerness upon

"Thick bread and thin butter,"

whereupon there was a general outcry... Continue reading book >>

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