THE HAPPY ADVENTURERS
THE HAPPY ADVENTURERS
LYDIA MILLER MIDDLETON
To Alastair and Margaret
"I tell this tale which is strictly true Just by way of convincing
you How very little since things were made Things have altered in
the building trade." --Kipling.
I. HOW IT BEGAN
II. THE BUILDERS OR THE LITTLE HOUSE
III. THE FORTUNE-MAKERS OR THE CHERRY-GARDEN
IV. THE TREASURE-HUNTERS OR THE DUKE'S NOSE
V. THE GOLD-DIGGERS OR THE MIRACLE
VI. THE GRAPE-GATHERERS OR WHO WAS MR. SMITH?
VII. THE AERONAUTS OR THE FATEFUL STONE
VIII. HOW IT ENDED
"YOU CALLED ME SO I CAME"
"I WISH I COULD MAKE SOMETHING THAT WOULD REACH FROM HERE TO MY
GRIZZEL THREW IN A SMALL HANDFUL OF TEA
DICK STARTED VIOLENTLY
THEY STOOD AND WATCHED THE "KANGAROO" FOR SOME TIME
THERE THEY WERE-OH HOW MOLLY LONGED TO KEEP THEM!
THE HAPPY ADVENTURERS
How it Began
"Dear dear!" said Grannie "woes cluster as my mother used to
"Let us hope that this is the last woe and that now the luck will
turn" said Aunt Mary.
Mollie did not say anything. She had smiled the Guides' smile
valiantly through the worst of her misfortunes but now she was so
tired that she felt nothing short of a hammer and two tacks could
fasten that smile on to her face any longer. So she closed her eyes
and lay back on the cushions feeling that Fate had done its worst
and that no more blows were possible in the immediate future.
Grannie fetched an eiderdown and tucked it cosily round the patient
who looked pale and chilly even on this fine warm day in June while
Aunt Mary tidied away the remains of lotions and bandages left by
"The best thing now will be a little sleep" said Grannie looking
down with kind old eyes at her granddaughter "a little quiet sleep
and then a nice tea with the first strawberries from the garden. I
saw quite a number of red ones this morning and Susan shall give us
Mollie opened her eyes again and tried to look pleased but even the
thought of strawberries and cream could not make her feel really
happy in her heart; for one thing she still felt rather sick.
"That will be lovely" she said as gratefully as she could "and
now I think I _will_ try to go to sleep and perhaps forget things
for a little while--" and in spite of all her efforts a few tears
insisted upon rolling down her cheeks as she thought of home and
Mother's disappointment and the dull time that lay before her.
Mollie Gordon's home was in London in the somewhat dull district of
North Kensington where her father Dr. Gordon had a large but not
particularly lucrative practice and her mother cheerfully made the
best of things from Monday morning till Sunday night. There were
five children: Mollie and her twin brother Dick; Jean Billy and
Bob. They lived in a large ugly house one of a long row of ugly
houses in a dull gardenless street where the sidewalks were paved
and the plane trees which bordered the road were stunted and dusty.
In the near neighbourhood ran a railway line a car line and four
bus routes so that noise and dust were familiar elements in the
Gordons' lives--so familiar indeed that they passed unnoticed.
A month ago Mollie had been in the full swing of mid-term. Every
moment of her life had been taken up with lessons games and
Guiding; the days had been too short for all she wanted to get into
them and if she had been allowed she would certainly have
followed the poet's advice to "steal a few hours from the night"
but fortunately for herself she had a sensible mother whose views
did not coincide with the poet's.
And then in the midst of all her busyness just when she thought
herself quite indispensable to the school play the hockey team and
her Patrol she fell ill with measles. She was not very ill so far
as measles went but her eyes remained obstinately weak and so it
was decided that she should be sent down to the country to stay with
Grannie do no lessons at all and spend as much time as possible in
the open air. Luckily or unluckily according to the point of view
none of the other children had caught the disease so that Mollie
went alone to Chauncery as Grannie's house in Sussex was called.
Chauncery was an old-fashioned house standing in a beautiful garden
surrounded by fields and woods. If Mollie could have had a companion
of her own age she would have been perfectly happy there in spite
of frustrated ambitions and the trial of not being allowed to read;
but the very word "measles" frightened away the neighbours so that
no one came to keep her company and she sometimes felt very lonely.
Nevertheless she had accommodated herself to circumstances and
between playing golf with Aunt Mary driving the fat pony and
learning to milk the pretty Guernsey cows she managed to "put in a
very decent time" as she expressed it. Till this third misfortune
"First measles then eyes and now a sprained ankle" she sighed to
Aunt Mary on the morning after her accident; "what _can_ I do to
pass the time? It's all very well for Baden-Powell to talk but I
can't sing and laugh all day for a week; it would drive you crazy if
I did. I have smiled till my mouth aches. What shall I do next?"
"You poor chicken!" Aunt Mary exclaimed with the most comforting
sympathy. "You have had a run of bad luck and no mistake! We must
invent something. You can't read and you can't sew--how about
knitting? Suppose we knit a scarf in school colours for Dick or a
jumper for yourself to wear when you are better? I could get wool in
the village. That would do to begin with till I think of something
Mollie agreed that it certainly would be better than doing nothing
though hardly an exciting occupation for an active girl of thirteen.
So the scarf was set agoing whilst Grannie read aloud and the
first half of the first day was got through pretty well. But after
lunch the day darkened and rain began to fall in heavy slate-
coloured streaks pouring down the window-panes and streaming across
the greenhouse roof changing the bright daylight into a dismal
twilight and blotting out all view of the garden. It was depressing
weather even for people who were quite well and poor Mollie might
be forgiven for finding it hard to keep up her spirits. She was
tired of knitting tired of being read aloud to and tired of
writing letters to her family.
"How would you like to see some photographs of your father when he
was little?" suggested Grannie at last. "He was the most beautiful
infant I ever saw." She opened a cupboard door as she spoke and
presently came back to Mollie's side with an arm-load of photograph-
albums the kind of albums to be found in country houses filled
with carte-de-visite photographs of old-fashioned people all
standing apparently in the same studio and each resting one hand
on the same marble pillar. The ladies wore spreading crinoline
skirts and had hair brushed in smooth bands on either side of their
high foreheads; the men wore baggy trousers and beards; family
groups were large and those boys and girls taken separately looked
altogether too good for this world.
Mollie smiled at the picture of her father a fat solemn baby in
his mother's arms. She thought but did not say that he was a
remarkably plain child and congratulated herself that she took
after her mother in appearance; though of course Father as she
knew him was not in the least like that infant. At the rest of the
photographs she looked politely but it was hard work to keep from
yawning and at last her mouth suddenly opened of itself and gave a
"That's right" said Grannie "now I'll tuck you up and lower the
blinds and you'll have a nice little nap till tea-time."
Mollie closed her eyes and tried to sleep but sleep would not come.
She missed her morning walk and the fresh air of out-of-doors so
she gave it up opened her eyes again and lay wakefully thinking of
home and Mother Dick and Jean and school. The big clock on the
mantelpiece seemed to go very very slowly its tick loud and
deliberate as though it would say: "Don't think you are going to
get off one single minute--sixty minutes to the hour you have to
live through and there are still two hours till tea-time." The rain
splashed against the window the wind moaned through the tree-tops
and the room got steadily darker.
"Oh dear!" Mollie whispered to herself "what _can_ I do to make the
She sat up and looked round and her eyes fell upon the last of the
photograph-albums--the one she had yawned over. She picked it up
propped it on her knees and lying back against the cushions
turned the pages over. These were all children prim children with
tidy hair and solemn faces. Mollie stopped at the picture of a girl
dressed in a wide-skirted sprigged-muslin frock. Her hair fell in
plump curls from beneath a broad-brimmed hat with long ribbons
floating over one shoulder. Her legs were very conspicuous in white
stockings and funny boots with tassels dangling on their fronts.
"I expect this is how Ellen Montgomery looked in _The Wide Wide
World_" Mollie said to herself. "She would be rather pretty if she
were properly dressed; she looks about my age. I wonder what sort of
time she had--horribly dull probably. No hockey no Guiding no
fox-trots--I expect she danced the polka and recited 'Lives of
great men all remind us' and got pi-jawed ten times a day. I can't
imagine how children endured life in those days. Thank goodness I
wasn't born till 1907! She does look rather nice though--and oh! I
wish you could talk my dear! I _am_ dull."
Just then Aunt Mary began to play the piano in the next room. She
played soft old-fashioned tunes so that her niece might be soothed
to sleep. Mollie did not recognize the tunes but she liked them;
they seemed to sympathize with her as she continued to look at the
prim little girl in the photograph.
"Perhaps she played those very tunes; she looks as if she practised
for one hour a day _regularly_."
As Mollie lay there the sweet old music sounding in her ears and
her eyes steadily fixed on the face of that other child of long ago
it seemed to her that the child smiled at her.
"I am getting sleepy" she said to herself and shut her eyes. But
she did not feel sleepy and soon opened them again. This time there
was no mistake about it--the child in the photograph _was_ smiling
first with her solemn eyes and then with her prim little mouth.
Mollie was so startled that she let the album slip from her lap and
it fell down between the sofa and the wall. She turned round and
after groping in the narrow space for a minute she succeeded in
getting hold of the album again and pulled it up. As she raised her
head and sat up she saw standing beside her sofa as large as
life the prim little girl--wide skirts white stockings tasselled
boots and all.
As Mollie stared "with all her eyes" as people say the little girl
smiled at her again and she noticed that although the child's
dress was so very old-fashioned her smile was quite a To-day smile
so to speak.
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Mollie "who are you?"
"I am a Time-traveller" the child answered speaking in a
peculiarly soft voice. "You called me so I came."
"What on earth is a Time-traveller?" asked Mollie rather surprised
to find that she did not feel in the least alarmed at this sudden
"A person who travels in Time" the child replied. "I am one and
you are one but everybody isn't one. I can't explain so you'd
better not waste time asking questions if you want to travel. I
can't wait here long."
"But--" said Mollie looking bewildered as well she might. "Travel
where? Of course I'd love to come but how can I with a crocked-up
ankle; and what would Grannie say?"
"Those things don't matter to Time-travellers" said the other
child. "We travel about in Time. You haven't got to think about what
is happening here and now--that will be all right. But you have to
make a vow before you begin Time-travelling. Do you know what a vow
"Of course I do" Mollie replied; "I'm a Girl Guide."
"I don't know what a Girl Guide is" said the other girl wrinkling
up her pretty forehead "but a Time-traveller has to vow on her
faith and honour never to say one single word about her adventures
to any grown-up either here or there. You must not ask them
questions that will make them wonder things however much you want
to because they don't understand and would be almost sure to
interfere. Will you vow?"
"Yes I will but you must give me one moment to think. Where shall
I travel to and how long shall I stay?"
"You come along with me to my Time; I don't know how long you will
stay. A year of our Time might be a minute of yours or a minute of
ours might be a year of yours but you will be all right. Have you
ever seen a dissolving view?"
"That's a magic lantern isn't it? Yes Dick once had one. I think
they are rather dull."
"Oh no not if they are properly done. Hugh--" she stopped and then
began again. "You will step into a dissolving view of our Time. It
just begins and ends anyhow and you go out of it again."
"But it's so _queer_" Mollie said doubtfully. "I never _heard_ of
such a thing. I must be dreaming."
The other child shook her head. "No you're not" she said
patiently. She looked around the room as though in search of
inspiration and her eyes fell upon a volume of Shakespeare which
Aunt Mary had been reading: "Do you learn Shakespeare at your
school?" she asked.
"Rather" Mollie answered in a slightly superior voice; "I have
acted in six plays."
"Ah--then you remember what Hamlet says: 'There are more things in
Heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy'."
"We haven't done _Hamlet_ yet" Mollie answered in a less superior
tone "I don't think I quite understand what that means."
"Neither do I" said the child. "That's it you see. Papa says--"
she stopped short again and then went on. "It's nearly time for me
to go--and I can never come back if you don't come this time"
moving away a few steps as she spoke.
"Oh don't go--don't go" Mollie cried. "I do want to come; it won't
do anyone any harm will it?"
The child smiled very sweetly: "Not the least in the world. But
remember the vow. On your faith and honour."
"I vow I vow--on my word of honour as a Guide. I can't say more
"Give me your hand then. Listen to the music and shut your eyes
till I tell you to open them."
Mollie closed her eyes. She had a queer swimmy feeling as if she
were in a high swing and were just swooping down to the lowest
point. All the time Aunt Mary's tunes went on but they seemed to go
farther and farther away.
"Open" said a soft voice.
* * * * *
The darkened room had vanished and the ticking clock; Aunt Mary's
tunes and the rain splashing on the window-panes; the sofa too and
the prim child. And Mollie herself!
* * * * *
She was standing in a sunny road with one foot on a white painted
wooden gate upon which she had evidently been swinging. The gate
opened into a large garden and before her lay a broad path planted
on either side with tall pointed cypress trees their thin shadows
lying across the walk like black bars. Between the trees ran narrow
flower-beds and beyond these stretched a wide open space so
solidly spread with yellow dandelions that it looked as though the
golden floor of heaven had come to rest upon earth. The path with
its sentinel trees led straight as a rod to a distant house long
and low surrounded by a vine-covered veranda. There were strange
sweet smells in the air which felt soft and warm. The sky was
brilliantly blue and on the fence across the road a gorgeous parrot
sat preening its feathers in the sunshine.
Mollie looked about her with curious eyes wondering where she was.
Not in England of that she was sure--there was a different feel in
the air colours were brighter scents were stronger and that
radiant parrot would never perch itself so tranquilly upon an
Then she saw coming down the path a girl of about her own age
dressed in a brown-holland overall trimmed with red braid high to
the throat and belted round the waist. She wore no hat and her
hair fell over her shoulders in plump brown curls. By her side paced
a large dog a rough-haired black-and-white collie with sagacious
brown eyes. He leapt forward with a short bark but the girl laid a
restraining hand on his back:
"Down Laddie down" she said "don't you know a friend when you
see one? Come in Mollie."
And suddenly Mollie knew where she was. This was Adelaide in
Australia; that was the child in the photograph whose name she
knew was Prudence Campbell; and they were living in the year 1878.
The Builders or The Little House
Mollie left the white gate which swung behind her with a sharp
click and walked up the path towards Prudence. Laddie circled round
with a few inquiring sniffs decided that the newcomer was harmless
and stood blinking his eyes in the sunlight his bushy tail waving
slowly from side to side. Prudence slid an arm through Mollie's.
"I'm so glad you've come" she said. "Hugh's little house is all but
finished and he promised to let us up to-day. Let's go and sit
beside Grizzel till he calls."
Mollie's eyes followed the turn of Prue's head and she saw a
younger child seated upon the golden floor beyond the flower-beds.
This child wore an overall of bright blue cotton shaped like
Prue's and her head was covered with short red curls which shone
in the sun like burnished copper. Prudence frowned a little as she
looked at her sister:
"How Grizzel can sit in the middle of that yellow dressed in that
blue with that red hair I can't think" she said. "She calls
herself an artist but it simply puts my teeth on edge. Did you ever
see anything so ugly?"
"Ugly!" Mollie repeated in surprise. "I think it is beautiful just
like a picture in _Colour_. What is she doing?"
The child looked up at that moment and smiled at them. "Hullo
Mollie" she said in a friendly tone as if she were quite well
acquainted with the new arrival "come and see my dandelion-chain;
it's nearly done."
Prudence jumped the flower-bed followed by Mollie and the dog and
all three made their way through the thickly growing dandelions and
seated themselves beside Grizzel. She had filled her lap with
dandelions and was busily occupied in linking them together as
English children link a daisy-chain.
"What are you doing?" Mollie asked again as her eyes followed
Grizzel's chain and she observed that it stretched far away out of
sight among the trees and bushes.
"I am laying a chain right round the garden" Grizzel replied. "When
it is finished it will be the longest dandelion-chain in the world."
"What are you going to do with it?" asked Mollie.
"Nothing" answered Grizzel.
"Then what's the good of making it?" asked Mollie.
"It isn't meant to be any good" answered Grizzel "it's only meant
to be the longest dandelion-chain in the world."
"But there's nothing beautiful about longness" persisted Mollie.
"You wouldn't like to have the longest nose in the world."
"It would be rather nice" said Grizzel working as steadily as the
Princess in Hans Andersen's tale of the "White Swans" "then I could
smell all the delicious smells there are. Mamma says a primrose-
patch in an English wood is delicious."