A Queer Hiding Place
by Mrs. Molesworth
"Don't forget to give Theresa the pound from mamma," said Mabel, as
she kissed her cousin Eleanor one afternoon when saying good-bye. "I
must be quick; it's getting quite dark, and I was to be home early.
Come along, Fred."
"You're sure you've got the pound, are you, Nelly?" asked Fred
mischievously. "Mamma told Mabel about it ever so many times. She's so
famous at remembering things herself, I like hearing her tell you
not to forget."
Eleanor put her hand into her pocket.
"I think I've got it," she said; "I remember it was wrapped in a
piece of blue paper, wasn't it? You gave it me just before we sat down
to play our duet, and I was to say it was for aunt's subscription
to—to—oh dear, I've forgotten," and she stood there in the hall,
where she had come down to see the last of her visitors, looking the
picture of perplexity.
"Oh, you silly girl!" said Mabel, impatiently. "It is mamma's
subscription to Theresa's Christmas dinners' card. There now, don't
you remember? You are so dreadfully absent, Eleanor!"
"I remember now—oh yes, of course. I won't forget again," said the
girl; "little" girl one could scarcely call her, for though she was
only thirteen she was as tall as her elder sister of eighteen.
"Good-night again, Mabel. I must be quick, for I have to write to
Charley before dinner. You know I dine late just now during the
holidays," she added proudly.
"But the pound—the pound itself—have you got it?" repeated Fred.
Again went Eleanor's hand to her pocket.
"Oh dear, I forgot I was feeling for the pound," she exclaimed. "Yes,
here it is! I'll give it to Theresa quite rightly, you'll see."
Eleanor hurried away to write her letter to Charley, for to-morrow
would be Indian mail-day, and she had put it off too late the week
"Now I must give the pound to Theresa at once," she said, again
depositing it in her pocket when she changed her dress for dinner.
Something or other put it out of her head in the drawing-room—poor
Eleanor's head was not a very secure place to keep anything in for
long! It was not till she and her mother and Theresa and her
seventeen-years' old brother Mark were at table, and half way through
dinner, that the unlucky coin again returned into her memory. No
thanks to her memory that it did so! It was only when she pulled out
her handkerchief that the little paper packet came out with it and
fell onto the floor.
"Oh," said Eleanor, as she stooped to pick it up, "what a good thing
I've remembered it! Here, Theresa, here's a pound for you from aunty,
for your—for the—oh, what is it? Your subscription for Christmas
cards—no, I mean your subscription-card for Christmas dinners—yes,
that's what it's for."
"All right," said Theresa, quietly, "I understand. But I wish you had
given it me up-stairs, Nelly, I haven't got a pocket in this thin
skirt. Never mind," and she unwrapped it as she spoke, and placed it
on the table beside her.
"There now," she said, "I can't forget it. It is too conspicuous on
the white cloth."
The sisters were sitting next each other; that is to say, Theresa was
at one end with Mark opposite, and their mother and Eleanor were at
the sides. The table was small, though large enough for a party of
Not long was the gold coin allowed to rest peacefully where Theresa
had placed it. Eleanor's fingers soon picked it up. First she examined
it curiously by the light of the candle beside her, then when she had
satisfied herself as to its date and some other particulars, she took
to "spinning" it on the table. This was not very successful; to spin a
coin well requires a hard surface for it to twirl on. Eleanor tried
once or twice, then ended by "spinning" the sovereign on to the floor.
Down she ducked to pick it up again, thereby attracting her mother's
"Nelly, my dear, what are you stooping down so awkwardly for?" she
"Oh," said Theresa, "it is all that pound. Do leave it alone, child,
or it will be getting lost altogether," and she took it out of her
sister's hand and put it under her wine-glass. "There," she said,
"don't touch it again."
And for a course or two the pound was safe. But Theresa forgot that
wine-glasses are not a fixture; after a while the table was cleared of
them and the crumbs brushed away for dessert. The shining sovereign
was again exposed to full view. Mother, Theresa, and Mark were talking
busily about something interesting, Eleanor's ears were
half-listening, but her restless fingers were unoccupied. They seized
on the coin again, and a new series of experiments with it was the
result, even though she herself was but vaguely conscious what she was
about. At last just as she had found a new trick which amused the
babyish side of her brain greatly, came a remark which thoroughly
caught her attention.
"The day after to-morrow, Nelly, don't forget," said Theresa, "I'm
going to have the Leonards at afternoon tea."
And the talk ran upon the Leonards, till they rose to go upstairs to
the drawing-room. Then came the exclamation from Theresa. "My pound,
Nelly, have you touched it? I put it under my wine-glass, but of
course I forgot—the wine-glasses were changed. Henry," to the
footman, "didn't you see it when you moved the glasses? It was
Henry grew red and stared.
"Yes, ma'am, it was there. I saw it. I left it on the cloth."
Eleanor stared too, though she did not grow red.
"Yes," she said, "it was there. I took it up again, but I'm sure I did
nothing with it."
Nevertheless a diving process into her pocket ensued—in vain; then
she got up and shook herself; then everybody began creeping and
crawling about on the floor—in vain; then Mark got down a candle
under the table, thereby, as it was in a high silver candle-stick,
nearly setting everything on fire; then—then—I need not describe the
well-known and most disagreeable experience of hunting for a lost
object, which of course
"ere it comes to light,
We seek in every corner but the right."
On the whole poor Henry had the worst of it. He was told to examine
"my tray," and to overhaul "my pantry," from top to bottom, which he
did with no result. I think he would gladly have gone down the
drain-pipe leading from "my sink," if he could have got into it.
"It is an uncomfortable affair," said Nelly's mother gravely. "You see
the young man has so newly come."
"But, mother, I am sure I saw it after the dessert was on the table,
and the servants out of the room," said Eleanor eagerly.
"Then, my dear, where is it?"
You can fancy what an unsettled, spoilt evening it was. The ladies
went upstairs at last, but Mark would not give in. He stayed in the
dining-room by himself, searching like a detective. Suddenly there
came a shout of triumph.
"I have found it," he called upstairs; "it is all right, Nelly."
So it was—and where do you think it was?
I will help you to guess by telling you one circumstance. There had
been nuts at dessert.
Well, what of that?
The salt-cellars had been left on the table. And buried in one of
them, shining yellow and bright in the white powder, lay the coin! Was
it not clever of Mark to have thought of it?
"Oh yes," said Eleanor, looking uncommonly ashamed of herself, "I
remember—I pressed it down on to the salt, and then I covered it up.
It looked so comfortable. Oh I am so sorry!"
See what comes of letting your fingers get into the way of "tricks,"
and letting your wits go wool-gathering.
But poor Henry's character was saved.