THE STOKESLEY SECRET
THE STOKESLEY SECRET
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
"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
"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
"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. "Nanny likes thick bread and
thin butter let her have it!" and Sam Henry and Johnnie directed a
whole battery of their remaining crusts towards her cup which would
presently have been upset into her lap but for Miss Fosbrook who
recovered herself and said gravely "This must not be Sam; I shall
send you away from the table if you do."
Sam wanted to see whether she would and threw the crust.