Betty’s plan was beautifully
simple. As Cyril said, he could easily have thought
of it himself. It was nothing more than to effect
a reconcilement between their grandfather and their
mother, and the means to bring it about was to be
“Mother said he was superstitious,”
said Betty; “she says all sailors are.
He doesn’t like omens and things, mother says.
What we want to do is to give him a severe fright.”
She had thought out alone all the
details of her plan, helped only by a few incidental
words of her mother’s. The story of baby
Dorothea being taken to melt a father’s heart,
for instance, had fired Betty with the resolve to
try what baby Nancy could do in that direction.
Cyril was more matter-of-fact.
“If he wouldn’t forgive
mother when she took Dot, he’s not very likely
to soften to you with Baby,” he said.
But Betty had counted that risk too.
“You forget he’s ever
so many years older,” she said. “He’s
an old man now, and it’s quite time he woke
up. I’ve been thinking of everything we’ve
to do and everything we’ve to say.”
“Ghosts don’t talk,” said Cyril.
“They moan,” replied Betty;
“and they do talk. In Lady Anne’s
Causeway there’s a ghost, and it speaks in
sepulchral tones and says: ‘Come hither,
come hither to my home; thy time is come.’”
The little girl’s eyes were
shining; the very thought of that other ghost’s
“sepulchral” tones gave her a thrill down
her back and lifted her out of herself. Of all
her plots and plans, and they were many and various,
there was not one to compare in magnitude with this.
In her thoughts she became a ghost, straightway.
She glided about the house, her lips moved but gave
no sound, her eyes shone. Underneath the exhilaration,
that her ghostly feelings gave, was the smooth sense
of being about to do a great deed that would benefit
every one Cyril, her mother, her father,
Dot, every one. Tears glistened in her eyes as
she thought of the meeting between her grandfather
and her mother, and beheld in fancy her pretty mother
clasped at last in the sea-captain’s arms.
Throughout that Saturday afternoon
she made her preparations, only now and then giving
Cyril a trifling explanation. He was much relieved
to hear he would not be expected to take any active
part in the proceedings, only to be at hand, in hiding,
to help his ghostly sister carry the baby.
Tea was always an early meal at The
Gunyah, that Mr. Bruce might have a long evening at
his writing, and the children at their home lessons.
To-night, after the last cup and saucer
had been washed and dried by Betty and put away by
Dot, and after the baby, had been tucked into her
little crib, by Betty again, a long pleasant evening
seemed to stretch before every one.
Mr. Bruce brought out My Study
Windows, and declared he had “broken up”
till Monday. Mrs. Bruce opened a certain exercise
book her eldest daughter had given her, imploring
secrecy, and Dot sat down to the piano and wandered
stumblingly into Mendelssohn’s Duetto.
The twins, to every one’s entire satisfaction,
“slipped away” Betty to her
bedroom to make her preparations, and Cyril (who was
strictly forbidden even to peep through the key-hole)
to the dark passage that ran from the bedrooms to
the dining-room and front door. He went on with
his plans while he waited. All day he had been
thinking of the rainbow coloured future Betty assured
him was his. He had quite decided to leave school
directly he was adopted, and to have “some one”
come to teach him at home. Of course his grandfather
would not be able to bear him out of his sight.
He had heard of such cases, and supposed he was about
to become one. Then he decided to have a pony,
a nice quiet little thing with a back not too
far from the ground; and he would have a boat and sail
her where the coral islands were, and he would have
a few new marbles and get his grandfather
to have the émus killed.
He had just arrived at the part of
the story where his grandfather was giving orders
for the destruction of his émus, when Betty opened
the bedroom door a crack, and whispered his name.
She shut the door at once, before
he was fairly inside the room, and then he saw her.
Such a strange new Betty she was,
that he almost cried out. Her face was white white
as death; two black cork lines stood for eyebrows,
and black lines lay under her eyes, making them larger
and unnatural-looking. She wore a black gown of
her mother’s, and a black capacious bonnet,
and had a rusty dog chain tied to one arm. She
moved her arm and fixed her eyes on her startled brother.
“Do you hear my clanking chain?”
she asked in what she fondly believed to be “sepulchral
tones.” “Ghosts always have them.
But Cyril hung back somewhat perhaps
the glories of “being adopted” paled beside
the unpleasantness of walking a lonely road in such
a silly game,” he said. “I don’t
see any good in it at all.”
But the little ghost turned upon him spiritedly.
“This isn’t a game at
all,” she said. “This is real.
It’ll make mother friends with grandfather,
and get you adopted. Get baby and come on it
might frighten her if she saw me.”
“They’ll find out that
she’s gone,” said Cyril, still leaning
upon the bed-foot and eyeing his sister distrustfully.
“Let’s chuck it, Betty, we’ll only
get in a row.”
“We won’t get in a row,”
said Betty staunchly. “She’ll be only
too glad when we come back and tell them all.
I didn’t undress Baby to-night, and I put on
her blue sash and everything. All you’ve
to do is to wrap that shawl round her and catch me
up. I’ll be at the gate.”
Baby was used, as were all of the
others except Dot, to an open-air existence.
Most of her daylight hours were spent, either rolling
on the rough lawn, or sleeping in a hammock swung
beneath an apple tree, and as a result, night-tide
found her a very drowsy baby indeed. The children
might romp and sing and chatter around her very cot
as she slept, but she could not steal out of her slumbers
even to blink a golden eyelash at them.
So that when Cyril overtook Elizabeth
at the gate, my Lady Baby was asleep in his arms,
and so she stayed in spite of the thumping of his
heart, and the chatter of the ghost, and the rough
The night was dark with the luminous
darkness of an Australian summer night. The tender
sky was scattered with star-dust, a baby-moon peeped
over the hill-top and the leaves and branches of the
great bush trees lay like dark fretwork over the heavens.
Betty, holding her dress well up,
and Cyril carrying the sleeping baby, hurried through
the belt of bush that lay between their home and their
grandfather’s. Betty strove to instil energy
into her listless brother, telling him stories of
a golden future in store for him. But at the
two-rail fence below “Coral Island Brook,”
Cyril came to a standstill, and urged Betty, who was
under it in a trice and on her feet again, to “come
Betty turned her ghastly face towards
him indignantly. “I won’t,”
she said fiercely. “Give me the baby and
go home yourself if you like.”
Between the outer world of bush and
the house was a slip of ground called the banana grove,
and known in story to both boy and girl, as the play-place
of their mother.
Cyril followed Betty through this
grove, trying to make up his mind as he went, whether
to go or stay. To stay and take his part in the
proceedings; to do and be bold as an inner
voice kept urging him to blend his moans
with Betty’s, and carry the heavy baby; or to
turn upon his heels, and fly through the darkness
from these horrid haunted grounds where his grandsire,
and the great émus and dogs lived; where John
Brown stated he had his dwelling away from
all these terrors to his small cottage home on the
other edge of the bush, where were parents and sisters,
music and lights and another voice urged
So he neither followed Betty nor went
home; but, in dreadful doubt and great fear, he hung
between the two courses in the banana grove, and shivered
at the tree-trunks and the rustling leaves and the
stray patches of moonlight.
And Betty went forward alone with
the baby. Her heart was beating in a sickening
way, but her courage was, as usual, equal to the occasion.
It was far easier to her to go forward than backward
now, and she braced herself up with a few of her stock
phrases “He won’t eat me anyway”;
“It’ll be all the same in a hundred years”;
“No Bruce is afraid ever.”
A great bay window jutted into the
darkness and gave out a blaze of light. This
was the lowest room in the tower portion of the house
and was, as Betty knew, her grandfather’s study.
Betty’s mind was swiftly made
up. All fear had left her, and she stepped into
the soft moonlight a ghost indeed.
She called Cyril, and her voice was
so imperative that he quitted his sheltering tree
and ran to where she stood on the edge of the grove.
“Take Baby,” she said
whisperingly; “I can’t do what I want with
her in my arms.”
“Come home, B B Betty,”
implored the small youth and his teeth
chattered as he spoke “I I
don’t want to be adopted. I ”
“Hush!” urged Betty, and
filled his arms with the baby. “I I
don’t want to be r rich,” cried
Cyril. “It’s b b better
to be poor.”
“H sh!” said Betty again.
“I I don’t
want to be like a c camel!” whimpered
the boy. “R remember about rich
men getting to Heaven.”
“Stay close here with Baby,”
ordered the little ghost, and the next second she
had glided away over the path to the verandah.
She went close to the window three blinds
had been left undrawn and the window panes ran down
to the verandah floor. Surely the room had been
designed expressly for this night.
Cyril, in horror, beheld his sister
creep to the first window and peep in; creep to the
second to the third.
All the other windows were darkened;
only this one room in all the great house seemed to
Then, in the silence which lay everywhere,
a blood-curdling thing happened. Betty’s
“clanking chain” came in contact with something
of iron reared up near the window and gave forth a
fearsome sound. Cold chills played about Cyril’s
back, a distant dog barked and Baby awoke.
Betty at once perceived this to be
the one moment. Many people can recognize their
moment when it has gone. Betty’s talent
lay in seeing it just as it arrived.
If truth must be confessed, fear had
once or twice during this campaign tugged at her heart;
when Cyril had urged home, her greatest desire had
been to flee. But Betty never quite knew herself was
never in any crisis of her life absolutely certain
what this second terribly insistent self would do.
Instead of scampering away with Cyril
through the night, her feet had taken her to the windows,
and the proportions of her plan had grown gloriously,
albeit her heart-beats could be heard aloud.
Now, when her chain clanked, it seemed
to her the war drum had been sounded. She darted
from the verandah across the path and snatched the
baby from her brother’s arms; then, running back
to the verandah, her chain clanked again and again,
and she rent the air with a dismal wail
From the depths of an easy chair whose
back was to her there rose the tall bent figure of
an old man.
Betty had arranged to “rend
the air with wail upon wail” to “press
her pinched white face, and her little one’s,
time after time upon the window pane,” but opportunity
interfered, the window flew up, and Betty crouched
on the floor in terror.
In the banana grove Cyril fled from
tree to tree, crying dismally. The darkness,
the screams, the chain, the opening of the window,
had each and all terrified him almost past endurance.
Now he felt convinced his grandfather was chasing
him with the émus.
Meanwhile Betty on the verandah was
also quaking. A stern voice from the open window
demanded “Who is there?” but her fortitude
was not equal to a wail.
“I heard some one say ‘Father,
Father,’ I’ll swear,” said a somewhat
familiar boyish voice.
“I saw a face,” said the old man.
And then Baby began to whimper piteously,
and Betty’s heart sank into her shabby small
Footsteps were coming her way; the
inevitable was at hand and she recognized it, and
with an effort stood upright cuddling the baby close.
The old man put his hand on her shoulder,
and with a “I’ll just trouble you this
way please,” and not so much as a quaver in his
voice, led her into the brightly-lighted study.
And there followed him “big
John Brown,” of mathematical and pugilistic
He stared at Betty very hard, and
Betty stared at him only for a moment,
though, for Baby began to cry and had to be hushed and
the chain clanked and frightened her while it produced
no visible effect upon her grandfather.
The old man turned sharply to the wondering boy.
“Is this a trick of yours, John?” he demanded
“No,” said Betty, “it’s it’s
only me,” and she looked straight into her grandfather’s
face, although her voice was trembling.
“And who are only you?”
The child hesitated. In a vague
way she felt she would be doing her mother’s
and Cyril’s great future an injury to tell her
name. And yet, quick-witted as she was, it did
not occur to her to find a new one.
The young face in the old black bonnet
looked beseechingly into the man’s.
“Please don’t ask my name,”
“Take off your bonnet.”
She put Baby on the floor at her feet
and pulled off her bonnet. And her dark curly
hair fell loosely around her odd white face.
“Now your name!”
shouted the old captain, as if he were calling to a
sailor high up a mast.
“Elizabeth Bruce,” faltered
the girl, for her reason showed her in a second how
John Brown would give it if she did not.
A certain gleam that had been in the
old man’s eyes went away and his brow grew black
as thunder. Betty instinctively picked up the
baby again and gathered up the train of her dress.
“Ah!” said the old man, breathing hard.
Then suddenly a light dawned on Betty
and she saw things as this old man would see them,
which was the very way of all others that he must not
She repeated swiftly to herself her
old charm against fear “No Bruce is
afraid. I can only die once. He won’t
“It’s all my fault,”
she said, and her brown eyes looked into his brown
ones. “Cyril and I got tried of being poor,
and I I thought it would be a good plan
if you adopted Cyril and and
I came to frighten you.”
“I thought you were old, and and might
be sorry now, and I thought a bit of a fright I
thought if a ghost ”
Her chain clanked and her hands trembled,
and Baby bumped up and down in her arms. The
very remembrance of her words left her, for a great
frown was spreading over the old man’s face.
He turned angrily to the boy.
“Put her out of the door,”
he said. “Put her out of the place!”
and some hot words, fearful and unintelligible some
of them to the small girl, burst from his lips.
And Betty, Baby and chain and all
went out into the darkness. Only the bonnet remained.
Cyril was on the outermost edge of
the grove, and with danger behind him, and Betty and
Baby before his eyes, safe and unhurt, a wave of very
ill-temper swept over him. He refused to have
part in any more of Betty’s “silly games,”
left her to carry the baby unaided, and told her she
had spoilt his chance of ever being adopted. But
he was all the time wishing passionately that he too
had “done and dared” that he
had not crouched there among the trees, afraid and
trembling. A small inner voice, that spoke to
him very sharply after such occasions, told him contemptuously,
that he had been more afraid than a girl; that he had
been a coward; and as soon as he reached their small
lamp-lit home, he ran away from silent Betty and the
babbling baby, to his own bedroom, to cry in loneliness
over this second self who had done the wrong.
And Betty stole silently into her
bedroom. The dining room door was still closed,
and those quiet elder ones were having their “pleasant”
evening. She undressed the baby, and kissed her
over and over, then put her into her little cot and
gave her a dimpled thumb to suck. And she herself
cuddled up very close to her, and began to cry too.
So much for all her show of bravery now.
And a small voice spoke to her also,
and showed her the seamy side of this great deed of
hers. Told her that no one else in all the world
would have dreamed of doing so wrong a thing; pointed
out her mother and father and pretty Dot, Mrs. and
Mr. Sharman as examples of great goodness. When
the baby was placidly sleeping, she sat upright on
the end of her mother’s bed in her earnestness
to “see” if any of those righteous five
would be guilty of the wickedness of becoming ghosts
to frighten an old man. She would have felt easier
at once if she could have convinced herself that they
would; but she could only see each of them rounding
eyes of horror at her, and her sobs, broke out afresh.
The door opened and Cyril came into
the darkness, whispering and whimpering,
“I didn’t play fair, Betty,”
he said “I wish I’d played fair I ”
“Oh,” said Betty sobbingly “Oh,
Cyril, you’re ever so much nobler than I am.
You wouldn’t frighten an old man, neither.
Oh, I wish I was as good as you!”
Whereat a sweet sense of well-doing
stole over Cyril. “Never mind,” he
said cheerfully, “do as I do another time.”
“There won’t be another
time,” said Betty. “I’m going
to turn over a new leaf, and be as good as if I was