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A harum-scarum schoolgirl by Angela Brazil

The Hewlitts arranged to make an excursion in a wagonette


"Is

it possible to look over it?"

The guide shook her head emphatically.

"No. Mrs. Elliot won't have anyone coming. She's an old lady and very infirm, and she can't bear to see strangers about the place. At one time she'd let people look round with a guide, but she found them so bothersome she stopped it. One day some Americans came and peeped through the windows when she was having her lunch, and wouldn't go away."

"I'm sorry they were Americans," put in Mrs. Hewlitt. "My countrymen don't often so forget their manners, I'm glad to say."

"Well, at any rate," smiled the guide, "both English and Americans made themselves nuisances, and she wouldn't let any more tourists come near. She has the great gates locked, and whoever wants to go in, no matter on what errand, must ring the lodge-keeper's bell, and it's only her own visitors, or the tradespeople with meat and groceries and such like as are admitted. They say she's gone almost queer in her head about it."

"What a pity!" sighed Diana.

"Still, you can hardly blame her," added Mrs. Hewlitt. "It must be very trying to live in a show place. I'm afraid, Lenox, you'll have to give up the idea of going over it. Is anything to be seen from the road?"

"Nothing of the house; it's all hidden by the trees.

You can only see the great gates."

"It would hardly be worth a four-mile walk, just for the gates," decided Mrs. Hewlitt. "If the car's not ready yet we'll just take a conveyance and drive to Ratcliffe this afternoon."

The car repair proved a tougher job than either Giles or the blacksmith had anticipated, and, as it apparently could not be finished for many hours, the Hewlitts arranged to make an excursion in a wagonette, and, as the inn seemed comfortable, to return to the village, spend the night there, and proceed on their way the next morning. Though her mother had dismissed all question of visiting the old Manor House, Diana still harped on the subject. She and Lenox talked it over in private after dinner. They were sitting in the porch of the hotel, watching the lights begin to gleam in the windows down the village street. Mr. and Mrs. Hewlitt were writing letters; Giles and Loveday had disappeared into the garden to try to hear a nightingale reputed to sing there.

"Len," said Diana, "you oughtn't to leave this place without seeing your ancestral home. Think of having an ancient ancestral family home! It's an immense idea! Aren't you just crazy to go and look at it?"

Lenox rolled his cigarette carefully, and lighted it before replying.

"So crazy that I mean to go," he admitted at last. "Don't say anything about it to the others, but I'm planning to get up early, climb over the Manor House wall, and take a peep at the outside of the old place at any rate before anybody's about. That much won't do the old lady's nerves any harm. Besides, who's to find out?"

"What a ripping notion!" Diana drew her breath admiringly. "Oh, Len, I _must_ go too! I simply _must_! I'd give everything in the world to see your family manor. That woman said it has a moat. I've never seen a real moated British manor."

"If you could be up by five?" suggested Lenox.

"Couldn't I? Just you wait and see! I'll be all dressed and ready and standing in the hall by five o'clock. Oh, what _topping_ fun! Don't let us tell a soul about it. We'll just keep it to ourselves."

"_Ra_--ther! I'm not going prating about my plans, I can tell you."


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