And now, little readers, I meant to have tumbled you off my knee, and sent you up to bed, for I fancy my story has not kept you from getting sleepy. But there is nursie making signs to me, as much as to say, "Go on talking; amuse the little ones a bit longer, please, for the bath isn't ready and the water isn't hot, and I can't have them yet."
What shall I tell you about? Oh, I know! that second visit of mine to Beecham. It was only a very short one, so five minutes' talk will tell you all about it.
I was a great tall girl then, and I had just left school, when grandmamma's letter came, asking Bobby and me to come and spend a few days at the Park with Lottie, and Harry, and Alick. I couldn't say, "No, thank you," if I had wished to, for it was likely to be the last time we five should meet for a long time. Harry, now a young lieutenant with brass buttons and fair moustache, was bound on a long voyage, which would have some fighting at the end; and Lottie was to be married in a fortnight, and to go off to Australia; and Alick, too, was just starting on a tour with his tutor, after which he was to go to a great college in Germany. But there was another reason for our visit which I did not know till I got there, though, I fancy, mamma did. Grandmamma met us with a very tearful welcome, and it was natural for us all to feel sad as we looked at her, so aged since we saw her last, and in her deep, deep mourning. We couldn't help thinking of the blue sea far away, with the soft spicy wind blowing from the beautiful coral islands over the quiet waves, which had so cruelly sucked in dear Uncle Hugh's brave ship and all on board. But the pleasure of meeting soon put away all sad thoughts, and I think even grandmamma looked bright and contented as she listened to our merry talk.
It was in the middle of the long summer days, and we rambled about through the gardens, and orchards, and shrubberies where we had played as little children, and laughed over the remembrance of our childish tricks and troubles. Then there was that long talk with grandmamma, and afterwards with Bobby, in her room. When Lottie and I found ourselves alone together just at bed-time, how much we had to say! It seemed to me a little difficult to talk over all her affairs, though when, after some time, she called upon me to admire my two tall cousins, I was quite ready to do so. Yet my own rosy, round-faced, romping schoolboy brother was much more in my thoughts now.
I don't think I had ever known till now that my mother was grandmamma's eldest child, so it had never struck me that, now that dear uncle was gone, Bobby, and not Harry, would be master of Beecham Park! How strange it did seem! I thought of the funny boy's blushing awkwardness when grandmamma had told him, and then of his confession to me that "it was a horrid bore, he had so meant to be a discoverer, and get lost in Africa like Dr. Livingstone; and now, he supposed, he couldn't!" And just before I went to sleep that night I thought of his last words about it a few hours ago, as he threw his strong arm over my shoulder:--
"I say, Sis, it'll be ever so long first--that's one comfort!--but if ever I do have to come and live here, you'll come too, won't you? Then you can see after it all, you know, and then it won't be quite so bad!"
Should I? Would Beecham ever be my real home? And Jane--Jane down at the Lodge with her three rosy, tidy little daughters. Wasn't this just what she said years ago when she first brought me to Beecham? "What if Master Bobby should grow up some day to find it all his own, and he the lord of it all!"
So it had come to pass, and Beecham, dear beautiful Beecham, was to be really _ours_!
That was a dozen years ago, my small friends; how funny it seems now!