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the bread and milk, as he anticipated, and rightly, a heavy day in store for them.
Breakfast over, the question of how this first day should be spent was once more brought up. When it was put to the little ones to be settled, it provoked such a torrent of suggestion and argument, that Great-heart foresaw it would be hopeless to expect any definite decision in that quarter, at any rate until too late to set about anything satisfactorily. So he decided for them, selecting what he called the “ largest plum in his educational pie” for the first experience. This was a morning, and later on an afternoon, in The Park !
To anticipate time and events a little, while Misses Trixie and Dot are preparing for their walk.
You might almost count up on your fingers the number of houses in this tiny street they were staying in; some quite mansions, others doll-like in their minuteness. Great-heart's was the smallest, squeezed up by itself in a corner. But about one and all, in their quiet repose, reigned a look of comfort. Ease, luxury, and wealth spoke there upon their fronts. Whatever of passion or of sorrow intruded behind, no vulgar sign thereof was reflected to the passer-by. Silently they stood, great and small, side by side, looking down with proud indifference. Yet, even as the faces of you who read these lines change with your varying moods, so did these dwellings in their several methods and at their different seasons alter. During the dull autumn and winter months, with tightened blind, knockerless perchance, they frowned upon you in sombre darkness. Then in the fresh spring of the year, not spontaneously or suddenly, but one by one and leisurely, would signs of liveliness lighten them up a bit, to smile forth at length during the gay summertide in all their glory of new paint, bright flower, spotless step, and burnished knocker. Then at such time would each row by turns catch the scorching sun of noon, or be bathed in a glorious shadow when the sun sunk down later away to westward.
Just now the little place wore its brightest look, now in the full tide of that mystic period of the London season ; with but one exception, where, erect and gloomy, stood a great mansion, bearing upon it a hatchment, that emblem of an aristocratic death, which, as you glanced thereat, forced your thoughts away from their pleasanter groove of fancies.
This dainty spot had no outlet at that end farthest from you as you entered ; a great house, where lived a duke, stopped the way. But connecting it with another haunt of fashion round the corner was a narrow, flagged passage on the left, running between two high walls, and dissected down its centre by an iron bar. The children, as they gazed at the pedestrian traffic through there, often wondered at the use of this obstruction. Great-heart told them its presence had often puzzled him too; but he presumed it was for the purpose of keeping out nursemaids with their perambulators, or hilarious butcher boys with their baskets. Certain it is that no such vulgar things as these ever intruded themselves within the sacred precincts of Lowther Street. If placed with this object, the bar certainly answered its purpose; but to stout, elderly fashionables, taking short cuts in a hurry, Trixie and Dot thought it anything but acceptable. An odd thing about the place, too, and one which much perplexed the children at first, was the entire absence of "tradespeople" during those busy hours of the morning usually given up to them,--say from half-past eight or nine until noon. People in Lowther Street certainly ate and drank as others did (sometimes, indeed, more than was quite good for them), yet no plebeian signs of provisioning ever made themselves visible there. No butcher with his cart ever dashed at headlong speed round that corner; no baker ever wheeled his hand-truck over that clean-swept pavement; as to a cat's-meat man, or a purveyor of muffins-oh dear!
It seems everything came in in quiet, orderly fashion, as far as the consumers knew anything about it, at the “tradesmen's entrances” in the Mews behind.
One thing Great-heart did that highly scandalized his neighbours, although the younger members of the families were delighted with the innovation. He actually had the audacity to invite a “ Punch and Judy” exhibition up into Lowther Street, paying the proprietors extravagantly for a select performance to his visitors. It was a treat, indeed, for them, and they enjoyed Punch's vagaries largely. But Dot did not quite like the way the grave, inoffensive little dog was treated, and quite shuddered when the truncheon passed so alarmingly near his nose. The gibbet scene had to be much “cut down ” also; it was far too realistic for the little people.
The day for most of those who lived in this quiet nook seemed to begin late indeed, shockingly so in
(As an instance, Trixie had caught sight of a noble lord shaving himself as late as noon one day !) But Great-heart was an exception. Often he had been out walking or riding before he ran up to wake his little charges, slumbering peacefully after their excitements. At other times, they would be up early too, and sitting on their mentor's knee, take a humorous lecture from him that made them laugh merrily. He would try to sketch the characters of the inmates opposite as suggested by the appearance of their dwellings during the early morning hours, from basement to attic. He drew a picture and a moral from the servants' quarters at No. 7, in favourable contrast to those at No. 5 adjoining. Because, as in the one case all was punctuality in the matter of blinds going up, in the other there would be noise and bustling scramble visible through the windows, after their blinds had been tugged up violently much later. He prophesied a good old family as long residents at the orderly house ; nouveaux riches at the more unpunctual one. Then, as the light was let in at the dining and drawingroom floors, it could be seen by the state of the rooms that what occurred downstairs was reproduced there also : the No. 7 people went about their work quietly, those at No. 5, being always late, were noisy and flurried, and there were evidently a good many mutual recriminations going on between housemaids, upper and under, as they hurried about. Higher up, too, where the bedrooms and nurseries were, the same surmises were conveyed. Whereas at the one house the valet opened the window and partly raised the blind of the old gentleman's dressing-room at half-past seven to the minute, and the others followed with proportionate regularity to be all up by eight, at the other there was no system whatever, the sleepers getting up in desultory fashion