INTRODUCTION: ABOUT ARTHUR B. REEVE AND HIS CRAIG KENNEDY STORIES
THE SILENT BULLET, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE WAR TERROR, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE TREASURE-TRAIN, by Arthur B. Reeve
GUY GARRICK, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE SOCIAL GANGSTER, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE ROMANCE OF ELAINE, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE POISONED PEN, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE EAR IN THE WALL, by Arthur B. Reeve
GOLD OF THE GODS, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE DREAM DOCTOR, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE FILM MYSTERY, by Arthur B. Reeve
CONSTANCE DUNLAP, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE MASTER MYSTERY, by Arthur B. Reeve
THE CONSPIRATORS, by Arthur B. Reeve
WITHOUT WITNESSES, by L. T. Meade and Clifford Halifax
A MASTER OF MYSTERIES, by L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace
THE SECRET OF EMU PLAIN, by L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace
THE TRAGEDY OF A THIRD SMOKER, by C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne
MISS BRACEGIRDLE DOES HER DUTY, by Stacy Aumonier
THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE, by Brander Matthews
THE FLYING DEATH, by Samuel Hopkins Adams
THROUGH THE WALL, by Cleveland Moffett
THE COPPER BULLET, by John Russell Fearn
JOHN THORNDYKE’S CASES, by R. Austin Freeman
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The four children had rather peculiar names. The eldest girl was called Iris, which, as everybody ought to know, means rainbow--indeed, there was an Iris spoken of in the old Greek legends, who was supposed to be Hera's chief messenger, and whenever a rainbow appeared in the sky it was said that Iris was bringing down a message from Hera. The Iris of this story was a very pretty, thoughtful little girl, aged ten years. Her mother often talked to her about her name, and told her the story which was associated with it. The eldest boy was called Apollo, which also is a Greek name, and was supposed at one time to belong to the most beautiful boy in the world. The next girl was called Diana, and the youngest boy's name was Orion.
The school was situated in the suburbs of the popular town of Merrifield, and was known as the Great Shirley School. It had been endowed some hundred years ago by a rich and eccentric individual who bore the name of Charles Shirley, but was now managed by a Board of Governors. By the express order of the founder, the governors were women; and very admirably did they fulfil their trust. There was no recent improvement in education, no better methods, no sanitary requirements which were not introduced into the Great Shirley School. The number of pupils was limited to four hundred, one hundred of which were foundationers and were not required to pay any fees; the remaining three hundred paid small fees in order to be allowed to secure an admirable and up-to-date education under the auspices of the great school.
It was an intensely hot July day--not a cloud appeared in the high blue vault of the sky; the trees, the flowers, the grasses, were all motionless, for not even the gentlest zephyr of a breeze was abroad; the whole world seemed lapped in a sort of drowsy, hot, languorous slumber. Even the flowers bowed their heads a little weariedly, and the birds after a time ceased singing, and got into the coolest and most shady parts of the great forest trees. There they sat and talked to one another of the glorious weather, for they liked the heat, although it made them too lazy to sing.
Hester Thornton stepped out of the drawing-room at the Grange, and, walking a little way down the broad gravel sweep, began to listen intently. Hester was about seventeen--a slender girl for her age. Her eyes were dark, her eyebrows somewhat strongly marked, her abundant hair, of a much lighter shade of brown, was coiled in close folds round her well-shaped head.
When Primrose opened her eyes on the world she brought back a little bit of spring to her mother's heart.
Mrs. Mainwaring had gone through a terrible trouble--a trouble so dark and mysterious, so impossible to feel reconciled to, that her health had been almost shattered, and she had almost said good-bye to hope.
Mrs. Merriman and Lucy were standing at the white gates of Sunnyside, waiting for the arrival of the girls. Mrs. Merriman had soft brown hair, soft brown eyes to match, and a kindly, gentle face. Lucy was somewhat prim, very neat in her person, with thick fair hair which she wore in two long plaits far below her waist, a face full of intensity and determination, and a slightly set and formal way of speaking.
PRISCILLA'S trunk was neatly packed. It was a new trunk and had a nice canvas covering over it. The canvas was bound with red braid, and Priscilla's initials were worked on the top in large plain letters. Her initials were P. P. P., and they stood for Priscilla Penywern Peel. The trunk was corded and strapped and put away, and Priscilla stood by her aunt's side in the little parlor of Penywern Cottage.
“Nancy dear, I cannot break it to you. I must tell it to you at once, and God help you to bear it. Your mother is better in one sense—in the sense that God has taken her away from all her pains. She won’t ever be tired or ill or sorry any more, and she will never again have aches or wakeful nights or sad days; she has gone to God. There is a beautiful heaven, you know, Nan, and—— Oh, good gracious! what ails the child?”
Nan had given one smothered scream and had rushed from the room. Fast—very fast—did the little feet run upstairs. Mrs. Esterleigh’s room was on the third floor. Past the drawing-room landing she ran, where a good-natured-looking old gentleman resided. He was coming out of his comfortable drawing-room, and he saw the scared little face. He knew, of course, what had happened, and he wondered if the child knew. He called to her:
“Nancy, come in and sit by my fire for a little.”
But she did not heed him. She ran past the second floor; no one called her here or detained her. There was a very cross old maid who lived on that floor, and Nancy had always hated her. She ran on and on. Presently she reached her mother’s room.
“It is not true,” she gasped. “It is that dreadful Mrs. Richmond trying to frighten me. It is not a bit true—not a bit.” And then she took the handle and tried to turn it and to open the door, but the door was locked.
“Mother, mother!” she shrieked. “Mother, it is me—it is Nan. Don’t let them keep me out. Get some one to open the door. Mother, mother!”
Footsteps sounded in the room, and an elderly woman, whom Nancy had never seen before, opened the door, came quickly out, and stood with her back to it.
“You must go away, my dear little girl,” she said. “I will bring you to see your mother presently. Go away now, dear; you cannot come in.”
“But I will. You shall not keep me out. You are hurting mother. You have no right to be in the room with her;” and Nancy pommelled at the woman’s hands and arms. But she was strong and masterful, and presently she picked up the exhausted child and carried her right downstairs.
“Oh! give her to me,” said Mrs. Richmond. “Poor little child! Nancy dear, I am so sorry for you! And I promise, darling, to be a mother to you.”
“Don’t!” said Nan. “I don’t want you as a mother—no, I don’t want you.”
“Never mind, I will be a friend to you—an aunt—anything you like. I have promised your own dear mother; and she is quite well, and it would be selfish to wish her back.”
“But I want to be selfish; I want to have her back,” said Nan. “I don’t believe that God has come and taken her. He would not take mother and leave me; it is not likely, is it?”
“God sometimes does so, and He has His wise reasons.”
“I don’t believe it. You only want me not to go to her, and you are telling me lies.”
“It is the truth, Nancy; and I wish for your sake it were not. Will you come back with me to-night, dear?”
“I won’t. I won’t ever go to you. I will always stay just outside mother’s door until they let me in. I do not believe she is dead—no, not for a moment.”
In vain Mrs. Richmond argued and pleaded and coaxed; Nan was firm. Presently the good lady had to consult with Mrs. Vincent, who promised to look after the child. The landlady was now all tears and good-nature, and she assured Mrs. Richmond that Nan should have all her wants attended to.
“I have got a very nice, good-natured servant-girl,” she said. “Her name is Phoebe. I will send her upstairs, and she shall sit in the room with Miss Nan, and if necessary stay with her to-night.”
“Very well,” said Mrs. Richmond. “It is the best that I can do; but, oh dear! how anxious I feel about the unhappy child!”
The occasion was an important one, and the Angel’s rosebud lips were pursed up in her anxiety, and her dark, pretty brows were somewhat raised, and her very blue eyes were fixed on her own charming little reflection.
“Shall it be buttercups, or daisies, or both?” thought the Angel to herself.
A box of wild flowers, which had come up from the country that day, lay handy. There were violets and primroses, and quantities of buttercups and daisies, amongst these treasures.
“Mother likes me when I am pretty, father likes me anyhow,” she thought, and then she stood and contemplated herself, and pensively took up a bunch of daisies and held them against her small, slightly flushed cheek, and then tried the effect of the buttercups in her golden brown hair. By-and-by, she skipped away from the looking-glass, and ran up to a tall, somewhat austere lady, who was seated at a round table, writing busily.
“What do you want, Sibyl? Don’t disturb me now,” said this individual.
“It is only just for a moment,” replied the Angel, knitting her brows, and standing in such a position that she excluded all light from falling on the severe-looking lady’s writing-pad.
“Which is the prettiest, buttercups or daisies, or the two twisted up together?” she said.
“Oh, don’t worry me, child, I want to catch this post. My brother is very ill, and he’ll be so annoyed if he doesn’t hear from me. Did you say buttercups and daisies mixed? Yes, of course, mix them, that is the old nursery rhyme.”
The little Sibyl stamped a small foot encased in a red shoe with an impatient movement, and turned once more to contemplate herself in the glass. Miss Winstead, the governess, resumed her letter, and a clock on the mantelpiece struck out seven silvery chimes.
“They’ll be going in to dinner; I must be very quick indeed,” thought the child. She began to pull out the flowers, to arrange them in little groups, and presently, by the aid of numerous pins, to deck her small person.