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This was the children's first and only visit to an English theatre.
But they went again to the Park, and were told that that season which to them seemed but yesterday in its fulness, was already on the wane. This surprised them, as they saw little difference in the numbers present, only noting that if anything the faces of the pleasure-seekers looked more jaded and listless than before.
A few days afterwards, Great-heart put a question to his visitors that brought a warm glow into their cheeks and put their hearts into a flutter of excitement. He asked if they would like shortly to go down with him and look at the sea, cross over it, and go on to a very gay place-Paris ? Think of that! Would they, indeed! It was what they had been longing after, dying for, all along : only they dared not ask so much of him. To see that mighty ocean they had dreamt of, yet nothing more; to visit that city of which all the world seemed to speak but in terms of rapture !
The question had such an effect upon his listeners, raised so excited an outburst of inquiry as to when they were to start, how they were to go, and much more, that Great-heart wished he had broached the subject to them with more caution. So he begged them to take things calmly, or he feared they would
not be able to go at all. This pacified them considerably. The fear arose in their minds of losing this great treat through their own rashness.
"How do we go, dear ?" inquired Trixie, as coolly as she could.
“ There are many ways," was the answer.
“ Let us have as much of the sea as we can," cried the child. (Greedy little maiden !)
Great-heart smiled. “Are you sure you will like it, little one?"
“Of course—why not?” exclaimed Trixie, surprised.
“Not everyone cares for it; it makes some people ill.”
Trixie scorned the notion altogether. “ A waternymph ill on the sea, the idea!”
Great-heart reminded her that she was as much mortal as he was up above here; had left what elfin power she as yet possessed behind, when she came up on this visit to him.
This remark seemed to strike home more to little Dot than the one it was immediately addressed to. The younger sister looked up quickly and said,
“True; we seem to forget that at times. not sure we shall not be ill.”
"Never mind,” cried Trixie. “Let's chance it.” "Which way do you like, dear ?" inquired Dot.
Great-heart said as far as he was concerned he should prefer the longer way. He loved the sea. Indeed he did not think it mattered much, if they went across at all, by which route it were.
If they were destined to be ill, two hours would do it as effectually as five. So they decided to take the longest passage. It was also settled that the journey should be broken at a place Great-heart knew well, close to where the steamers started from. There a day or two was to be spent, to enable the children to rest and take a peep at some inland scenery it was their mentor's wish they should visit.
Then, in a week or two, came the busy time of packing up and preparation for this eventful trip. It was necessary to equip the children in travelling costume. Great-heart had to enlist the kind services of an experienced female acquaintance, a neighbour, for the purpose. The result gave entire satisfaction. It must be confessed that the little people looked well, and evidently anticipated making a sensation. Great-heart gave them each, also, the prettiest bag, fitted with all sorts of nicknacks to carry along with them, with their monograms on them also. It may be imagined how these were treasured. They forgot that such could not be kept by them always; that when the time should come for this visit to end, and the plunge be taken down home again, no such memento could exist. Then would go along with them but the memories of what had passed up above, to be acted on for good or ill in the future that lay before them - for the former, as Great-heart so earnestly hoped and prayed. But then, in the wildness of their joy, what thought they of aught save that present happy time!
The eventful morning came at last when they were to be off abroad—think of that !—and to say good-bye to Lowther Street for a while. Already was that quiet place beginning to put up its shutters, and assume the sombre air which would cling to it until the next season came round again. Most of the families had either left or were preparing to do so, like Trixie and Dot were. The only house that altered not, but stood there grim and friendless as usual, was the great one with the hatchment on its front. That was the same always. It sent a chill through you to look at it. But the old family had left some weeks before, to catch the country in all its beauty, and the nouveaux riches were off very soon, as could be guessed from the preparations going on within, and the appearance of brown paper in the drawing-room windows. Every now and then a waggonette would drive up to the door of some house in the street to take away a load of children and nurses, mamas and papas following their offspring solemnly in the brougham. Carts full of luggage were despatched in advance to the railway stations, in charge of the footmen. As far as Lowther Street was concerned, the season certainly was coming rapidly to a close.
About ten o'clock on the morning mentioned, Ambrose, the page boy, stepped forth and sounded a whistle, which re-echoed shrilly through the stillness. Presently a cab dashed round the corner, thus summoned from a neighbouring rank, and pulled up at Great-heart's door. Then out came the luggage : two neat little boxes belonging to Misses Trixie and Dot, and Great-heart's portmanteau, old and battered with much ill-usage, home and foreign, and looking a
“ travelled” one unmistakably, as did his hat-box. Wrappers were not forgotten either, although the children, no doubt, would have left them behind, for the day was very hot already. But their friend knew they would be wanted when they got into mid-channel, however sultry the weather might be when they started. What forethought this good man had, to be sure !
Then all was ready for the departure on the first stage of their travels. The children turned to take a look at the house they had spent so many happy hours in, where so many lessons had been laid to