BRDYA'S DREADFUL SCRAPE
By Mrs. E. M. Field
Bryda was awakened from her pleasant morning sleep by a strange sound.
Her window was partly open, but something struck against the upper
sash; it was not a bird that had lost its way, nor a wasp come to look
for jam, for as Bryda raised her head something that could only be a
handful of light gravel or shot struck the window again, and at the
same time a clear, shrill whistle sounded outside.
Bryda hastily sprang up. One does not care much about dress at nine
years old, so in white nightdress and dark twisted hair she fearlessly
put her head out of the window, and saw, to her delight, her cousin,
Maurice Gray, a boy some two years younger than herself, with his
queer, ugly little Scotch terrier, Toby, standing on the lawn. She
need not be sad for want of a playmate to-day.
"Get up and dress!" cried Maurice. "Aren't you ashamed, my Lady
Lie-in-bed? Come out directly!"
Bryda did not need a second invitation. A very short time indeed
passed before she was by Maurice's side.
His father had brought him over, he said; his father wanted to see
grandfather about some business, so he had started off very early.
Maurice was dreadfully hungry, and, as the grannies never breakfasted
till ten, he and Bryda each got a thick slice of bread and jam from
the good-natured cook, and then went off to the garden, Bryda running
races with Toby, who mostly had the best of it. You see he had four
legs to Bryda's two.
They went to the vinery, and acted a little play, which, however,
wanted a few more actors sadly. It was so puzzling for Bryda to be
both the imprisoned princess and the ogre at once; and when Maurice,
the valiant knight, slew Toby for a dragon, and stepped over his
corpse (or would have done, if Toby had been a little more dead, and
not run away every other minute), it got really puzzling, and it was
well that the breakfast-bell rang at that moment.
Breakfast was rather a long, dull affair. Uncle James, Maurice's
father, explained to grandfather a great deal about a drainage scheme;
and grandmother, every five minutes, asked her maid Martha, who stood
behind her chair, to tell her what it was all about, which Martha had
to do in very loud whispers over and over again.
Maurice and Bryda were very glad to run out again, with special
directions from grandmother to keep off wet grass, and not get into
mischief. This, they thought, could not possibly happen. This time
they rambled into the farmyard. Bryda would not look for more kittens,
but tried to make friends with some small balls of fluff, which meant
some day to be turkeys. At one corner of the yard was a deep tank, or
little pond, full of a dark brown, rather thick fluid, which was used
in the garden and fields, and had a great effect in the way of making
things grow. Bryda and her cousin stood looking at it.
"I declare," said Bryda, "it's like the Styx!"
"I don't see any sticks," said ignorant Maurice, who had never learned
that the old heathens believed the souls of dead people went in a
ferryboat across a dark river called the Styx, and that the old man
who rowed the boat was called Charon.
Bryda thought it would be capital fun to act this little scene.
Certainly the treacle-colored stuff in the pool looked nasty enough to
do very well for this dark river.
As to Maurice, he was younger than his cousin, and when they were
together she always invented the games, although he had been to school
already, and thought girls generally were very little use.
So when Bryda explained what she wanted to do, he only said that he
did not know how to act a story that he had never heard; to which
Bryda only answered quietly, and as if it were a fact no one could
think of doubting for a moment, "You don't know anything about
anything, Maurice. Sit down there—no! not on a cabbage, but on the
wheelbarrow—and I will tell you all about it."
So she told him the story, in the middle of which the wheelbarrow
upset, because Maurice laughed. So he sat on a log of wood, and Bryda
picked up the wheelbarrow, got into it, and began in the words of one
of her lesson-books, with a little alteration to suit the occasion.
"Friend! Roman! Countryman! lend me your ears! I am Charon—"
"What?" asked Maurice.
"Don't spoil my speech! You may only say 'Hear, hear!' as they do in
"But suppose I don't want to hear?"
Bryda had no notion of what they would do under such unlikely
circumstances; so, after thinking a little, she merely said, "Don't be
silly, Maurice!" And that sort of answer puts an end to any argument
"This is my dog Cerberus, with three heads," went on Bryda, pointing
"My! what a lot of bones he would eat!" said his master.
Bryda suddenly jumped down from her rather unsteady pulpit.
"Oh, we will have fun! Here, Maurice, put on my white pinafore.
You shall be a ghost, and I will get into the tub with my dog
Cerberus, and ferry you over the river," she said.
"It won't hold two," said Maurice, looking rather doubtfully at the
rotten tub which Bryda pushed into the filthy waters, making a splash
and a most horrible smell as it went in.
"Oh, ghosts don't want much room! Now, Cerberus, in you go!" and in
the poor dog went, hastily and ungracefully; being, in fact, thrown in
After one howl he resigned himself, and lay down at the bottom of the
tub, into which unsteady boat Bryda, armed with her own small spade,
followed with Maurice's help.
Having balanced herself by crouching down, so as to bring the center
of gravity to the right place, she proceeded to paddle, or, as she
called it, to row with the little wooden spade, splashing a good deal,
and, of course, making the tub turn round and round, and wriggle very
uncomfortably in the pool. "Well, it doesn't matter," said Charon,
giving up in despair, and looking very red in the face. "We can
pretend I crossed the Styx to fetch you. Now I must speak to the soul
in Latin, because, of course, Charon and Cerberus talked Latin
"I suppose Cerberus barked in Latin—all three mouths at once," said
Maurice; "what a horrid row it must have been!"
"Now talk away," said Bryda.
"But we don't know Latin; I've only just begun at hic, haec, hoc."
"That doesn't matter; we must make it up, of course. If we put 'us'
or 'o' at the end of every word it will sound exactly like the stuff
Cousin Ronald learns. Now: Poor-us soul-us, do-us you-us want-o to cross
"Yes-o," replied Maurice promptly.
"Then-us come-o—oh! oh!" screamed Bryda, making the last word very
long indeed; for she trod on the one tail of the dog Cerberus,
causing that remarkable animal to jump up howling. Charon's ferryboat
was not built to allow of athletic sports on board, so it went over,
and Bryda went in.
Oh, dear! what word can describe the filthy mess into which Bryda was
plunged up to her waist! the smell of it, and the chill, horrible
feeling! Fortunately, she had just taken Maurice's hand, to help in
"the soul," who indeed felt very lucky to escape such a voyage!
Maurice was able to help her, but, soaked to the waist and ready to
cry, she scrambled up to dry land.
By way of mending matters, the dog Cerberus, who may be supposed to
have become Toby again, had gone in altogether, and was rather pleased
with himself. So he came and had a good shake close to Bryda, so as to
splash all the rest of her small person, and then ran round and round,
expressing his delight by all sorts of queer noises.
But, oh! here was a mess! And this after the trouble of yesterday, and
all Bryda's good resolutions! It was too dreadful, and tears came fast
to her eyes.
But kind Maurice, instead of laughing, pitied her. "Don't cry," he
said; "can't you wash?"
"I might run," said Bryda dolefully, remembering what dreadful
things happened to frocks that "ran."
"That stuff might run off," said Maurice; "come on."
And she followed meekly to the nearest greenhouse, where was a large
tub of fresh water, and beside it a big squirt or syringe used for
watering plants high up in the greenhouse.
"Oh, Maurice dear, I never will call you stupid again!" cried Bryda,
delighted, as Maurice filled the syringe and set to work upon her.
What fun that was! It was almost worth the fright of that horrid
splash, and almost—not quite, perhaps—worth the disgrace Bryda would
certainly be in with nurse. Such peals of laughter followed each shower
that the quiet cows in the fields beyond lifted up their great heavy
heads, and stared with brown eyes of mild astonishment.
Can you imagine the sort of figure Bryda was when grandmother came out
in her wheel-chair to take a turn in the sunshine? Soaked from head to
foot; streams of clean water, and others of the horribly smelling
stuff into which she had plunged, pouring off her in all directions!
She did indeed look a miserable little guilty thing, hanging her head
while grandmother looked at her through her gold eyeglass, evidently
so surprised and shocked that she could find no words for a few
minutes, and at last could only tell her she must never! never! never!
do such dreadful things again. If she did, the consequences would be
* * * * *
This row of stars must stand for those dreadful consequences, for
Bryda never heard them! Uncle James and grandfather had come up by
this time, and she fled, as fast as wet, clinging clothes would let
her, to the house. It was "out of the frying-pan into the fire,"
though, for nurse's wrath was really something too dreadful; and the
way in which she ended, by saying that she supposed Miss Bryda would
like better to make mud pies in the streets than to play with other
Christians, hurt the child's feelings dreadfully. I am sorry to say
she walked out of the nursery with damp, smooth hair and a clean
frock, but with her head so very much in the air that her namesake,
Saint Bride, or Bridget, or Bryda, would have been quite shocked.
"You see, Cousin Salome," she said afterwards, "it was such a dose of
disgraces, and I meant to be so wise, and clever, and useful."
"Did you ask to be made wise, and clever, and useful?" asked Salome
Bryda hung her head. She had forgotten that, I am afraid she dressed
so quickly in the morning to join Maurice that she never remembered
to ask the Helper of the helpless to make her what she would like to
"I have been so miserable, Cousin Salome," she added; "I don't believe
Mary Queen of Scots could have been more wretched if she had had her
head cut off three times running."
How this was to be managed did not seem to strike Bryda as puzzling.
She and Maurice had so often acted the execution of Mary of Scotland,
with an armchair for the block, and an umbrella for an ax, that they
were quite used to the queen having her head cut off very often
without minding it in the least, or being any the worse for it
But, certainly, it is very tiresome when our most amusing games end in
some mischief that we never dreamed of doing! It was not so very long
before this dreadful accident in the tub that Bryda, who had been
reading English history, told Maurice they would act King Canute and
his courtiers on the seashore.
So she put two chairs, and collected all the water she could from
every jug and water-bottle she could find, so as nearly to fill a bath
placed in front of the two chairs on which she and Maurice sat.
"So they put chairs close by the seashore as the tide came in,"
related Bryda, "and the little waves came nearer and nearer. And the
courtiers said, 'Oh king, let us move a little higher up.' But Canute
said, 'Why should we? Did you not say I was such a great king that no
doubt even the sea would obey me?' And the courtiers held their stupid
tongues, for they knew very well that they had said so. But the tide
kept on coming, and presently the courtiers got up and ran away, for
the water was halfway up the legs of their chairs, and they had
already been sitting with their knees up to their noses."
But here Bryda, trying to get herself into this graceful position,
lost her balance, and rolled off her chair, falling on the edge of the
bath; which, of course, upset, and made a higher tide in the nursery
than had ever been seen there before, for the water flowed in every
direction, and the children, ashamed and frightened though they were,
could not help laughing at the way in which a pair of Bryda's shoes
floated about like little canoes, till one that had a hole at the side
turned over and went down.
This happened at Bryda's own home, before her father and mother went
away. Mother was not pleased, of course; but still she was not quite
so dreadfully shocked as the grannies were at the adventure in the old