The Wonderful Garden/Chapter 12
The Other Book
They found the second book. It was not so very heavy as the other, but in it, too, there were only three or four pages of ladies in crinolines and gentlemen in whiskers and chokers, leaning against marble pillars, with velvet curtains loosely draped in the background.
'Be careful,' Charlotte urged; 'be quite ready to fly before you start it.
But when they pressed the little catch and sprang towards the door ready to 'fly,' no silvery sound met the ear. In an awe-struck silence they went slowly back to the table.
And now, looking more closely, they saw that the catch was not made to press down, but to slide along. Charlotte pushed it. A lid flew up, and there was a space that had perhaps once held a musical-box, but now held a reel of silk, an old velvet needle-book with a view of the Isle of Wight painted on it outside, and inside, needles red with many a year's rust, a box of beads with a glass top, a bone silk-winder, a netting-needle, and a sheet of paper with some finely-pencilled writing on it.
'Bother!' said Charles. 'Let's start the other musical-book.'
But Charlotte was looking at the beads and Caroline was looking hard at the writing.
'What jolly little different beads not a bit like now,' said Charlotte; and Caroline said:
'It's a list of books, that's all. I say,' she added, in quite another voice. 'that Thessalonian book is underlined, hard, I wonder why?' She unfolded the paper and turned it over. 'There's another underlined, Pope's Ill something,' she said.
'Iliad,' said Charles, looking over her shoulder. 'I always know Latin words the minute I see them, even if I don't know what they mean. Let's start the other musical box.'
'No,' said Caroline, quickly. 'Let's find Pope's What's-its-name. There's only those two underlined. It's a clue, that's what it is. Come on, and don't make a row, I feel we're on the brink of—the very brink. Punctuality and despatch.'
'All the books in the dining-room's names are in a book at the end of the bottom shelf,' said Charles. 'I know, because I thought it was the book; the cover's something like the one in the picture.'
It was easy to find Pope's Iliad in the catalogue. '1 vol. Top shelf. Case 6. Number 39,' it said. Then there was a rush and a dragging of chairs to the spot. Caroline, being the tallest, reached the volume and got it down.
'The cover feels loose in my hand,' she said. 'Oh, I do believe it is!'
It was. From the loose boards whose back pretended that they were covering Mr. Alexander Pope's translation of the Greek epic, another and quite different book came forth. A thin brown book, the second book of the picture! Charlotte climbed on a chair expressly to compare the two. There was no doubt of it. The two were the same. Inside was yellowy paper with a queer sort of waviness about it, and large print of that curious old-fashioned kind where the s's are all like f's, except at the ends of words.
'We can read this,' said Charles, hopefully. 'I mean even you can. It's not Latin this time. Let's take it to Uncle and tell him we've found it. Won't he be delighted with us?'
'We promised not to bother for a week,' Charlotte reminded him. 'Let's keep it for a week, and then we'll give him the two together. He won't be able to believe his eyes. It is an eyesore, isn't it?'
'I think what you mean's a sight for sore eyes,' Caroline suggested. 'Let's have a look. Is it spells?'
'It looks like all about being ill,' said Charlotte, doubtfully; 'but it's very hard with these s's pretending to be f's, and the spelling is rum, isn't it?'
'All spelling's rum, I think,' said Charles, 'especially ie's and ei's.'
'I.E., except after C.'said Charlotte absently. 'It says, "Government and Virtues. It is under the Moon!"'
'I don't know. It goes on: "It is a good wound-e herb-e, and the juice taken in wine helpeth the jaundice, and is ſovereign for the plague, if ſo be the ſufferer be not too far gone in it."'
'What does? What is?'
'"The flowers,"' Charlotte read on, '"be large and yellow in forme and in others paler and ſmaller. The ſtalk is two feet high, and divideth himſelf into many ſpreading branches."'
'wort. It's all about plants, I think, and what they're good for.'
'How glorious!' Caroline cried, and clapped her hands. 'Now we've got all three. The spells, and the medicine, and the Language of. And what one won't do the other will. Hist! Not a word!' They had only just time to return to the sitting-room and to throw the book into a chair and sit down on it as the door opened and Harriet entered with the tea-tray.
The Uncle did not come in to tea. Only Mrs. Wilmington looked in for a moment to say that Rupert's cold was worse, and that they had better not see him again that day.
'And please don't be up and down stairs all the time in your heavy boots,' she added.
'Our feet don't seem to please her today somehow, whatever we put them in,' said Charlotte. 'I wish we could give her something to make her like us. We might just as well be black-beetles.'
'What we've got to do,' said Caroline, pouring out milk, 'is to get Rupert better. I felt all the time in the drawing-room how hateful it is for him to be out of things like this. If we could work something out of the three books, I'm sure he would get all right in no time. A threefold spell; that's what we want.'
'Well, we can't have it then,' said Charlotte. 'I should think two books would be ample. It's only a cold he's got. It might want the three if it was plague or wounds or jauntry—jaundice, or whatever it is.'
They spread out the book on the table as soon as tea was cleared away, and put their heads together over the yellow pages. But it was some time before they could find anything that seemed as though it could possibly do Rupert any good.
'What a beastly lot of herbs there are in the world,' Charlotte remarked. And Charles reminded her that they called any old flower an herb in books.
'What I can't understand,' he added, 'is how people can possibly have so many disgusting things the matter with them—palsy and leprosy and quinsy, and all the other things as well.'
I don't suppose people have them now,' said Caroline consolingly. 'Aunt Emmeline says Hygiene has got on so nicely, people don't have nearly such awful things the matter with them as they used. Look at the Black Death in fourteen hundred something. You never hear of black deaths now.'
I wonder whether funerals are black because of that,' said Charles. 'I think there's something in Latin about Black Death knocking the back of the horseman with an even foot.'
'I always did think Latin was nonsense,' said Charlotte.
Their eyes were quite tired of the yellow paper and the long s's before the great idea occurred to them. It was Caroline who had it.
'Let's look up Roses,' she said. 'I'm sure the rose is Rupert's lucky flower. Perhaps if we made a conserve, or a decoction, or a tincture, or something——'
'We promised not to give anyone anything for their insides. I've just remembered,' said Charles. 'How rotten!'
'Never mind—let's look! We'll make it a spell as well. Out of the Language of. I expect it'll work all right. Find Rose.'
They found Rose—pages and pages of it. The author of the Herbal had plenty to say. As he himself put it, 'If I ſhould ſet down here all uſes of the roſe my booke would be already too long.'
But after diligent search they found out that the rose is under the dominion of Venus.
'That's all right,' said Charles. 'She had a little boy of her own. So she'd know.'
Also that the decoction of roses 'is proper to cool the heat of fevers.'
'Only we don't know what fever Rupert's got,' Charles said. 'It might be the scarlet kind or the swine kind, if humans have that.'
They also found that the rose was 'a conſiderable reſtorative. The bitterneſs of the roſes when they be freſh is of good uſe to cure choler and watery humours.'
'I suppose watery humours means when you're in the humour to cry; he isn't that,' said Charlotte.
Farther down the page they found, 'The moiſt conſerve of roſes mixed with mithridate and taken together is good for thoſe that are troubled with diſtillations of rheum from the brain to the eyes and the noſe.'
'That's it!' cried Caroline. 'I knew the rose would do the trick! I know a cold in the head is rheum. That's French. I dare say it's Latin too,' she added, hastily. 'But I never knew before that colds come from your brain. I expect that's what makes you feel so duffing when you've got a cold.'
If a doubt was still left in any breast, it was set at rest when they learned that 'Red roſes procure reſt and ſleep,' and that 'a ſtrong tincture of the roſe maketh a pleaſant julep, calmeth delirium, and helpeth the action of the bark.'
'Rest's what he wants—the Wil-cat said so.' Caroline shut the book with a bang. 'And if roses help the action of the bark, that's the very thing. She said the cough wanted easing.'
'Does bark mean cough?' Charles asked, doubtfully.
'You may depend it did in those old times,' Caroline assured him. 'Aunt Emmeline told me lots of the words they call slang now were book-words once. "Swank" wasn't slang in Shakespeare's time, she said. And it's stopped raining. Let's get the roses. And we can think about how we'll give them afterwards. Perhaps if he just smelt them?'
'There was an old Roman Johnny,' said Charles, instructively; 'he asked all his friends to a party and let down tons of rose-leaves on them till they died. Couldn't we do that to Rupert? Not till he died, of course, but till he got better.'
'We might cover him with rose-leaves,' said Caroline, delighted with the romantic idea, 'like babes in the wood. Let's get pillow-cases full—I know where the linen-room is—and hide them till every one's in bed. And then put them over him. We ought to put something out of the Language of as well. Iceland moss means health, I believe. Only there isn't any.'
A hasty search in the Language of Flowers informed them that nemophila meant 'success everywhere,' and, as nothing better could be found, it was decided to mix a few nemophila flowers with the rose-leaves.
'There was a secret Society once called The Rosicurians. Aunt Emmeline told me,' said Caroline. 'We shall be that if the rose's cure Rupert. I like being long-ago things, don't you?'
The garden was very wet indeed. Even in mackintoshes it was difficult to avoid getting wet through. Every tree dripped on their heads, and the water from the soaked rose-leaves ran up their sleeves and down their necks. There were so many fully-blown roses that it was easy enough to fill the three frilled linen pillow-cases, though of course it isn't the sort of thing that is done all in a minute.
It was nearly bedtime when the three dripping children, each carrying a dripping sack of rose-leaves, stood outside the arbour which led to the secret passage. They had gone out that way.
'I know we were told not to,' Charlotte had said, 'but it was only the Wil-cat who told us, and it was only because the Uncle doesn't like other people to use the passage. And of course we'll tell him afterwards, and he'll say it was all right. When we've cured Rupert every one will say how clever.'
Yet now at the last they hesitated.
'I do wish I could remember,' said Caroline, frowning, 'whether we did promise not to go through the passage, or whether it was only that we were told not to. It really does make all the difference, doesn't it?'
(It often happens that grown-up people think children are disobedient because really and truly the children can't remember whether they promised or not, and naturally they give themselves the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes the grown-ups do not, in their turn, give the children this benefit.)
Neither Charles nor Charlotte could remember having promised.
'Then here goes!' said Caroline, pushing open the door. The candle they had put there in readiness gave them enough light to fasten the bolts by and also to find the recess in the vault of the passage which they had decided to use to hide the rose leaves in.
They listened at the other door, got safely into the passage, and up to their rooms. Caroline pulled off her wet things, put on her bath slippers, and crept down with her bath-towel to rub away the water that had dripped on the floor by the door of the room where the secret staircase was. They feared so wet a patch might prove a clue to Mrs. Wilmington. But Mrs. Wilmington was with Rupert, putting cold bandages on a very hot head, and before she left him for the night the stones were dry.
Perhaps you would not like to go down a secret staircase in the middle of the night and into an underground passage, even to fetch rose leaves to cure a sick friend? But the three C.'s were not afraid of the darkness. Their mother had always accustomed them to go about in the dark. It was a sort of game to them, to feel their way about the house without a light, and to fetch sweets which their mother would put ready for them. She used to tell them exactly where to find the little packets, and so the dark was always mixed up in their minds with sweets and expectation and pleasant things. And they only had to go down the house stairs in the dark. Directly they got to the secret stair of course they lighted the candle.
And now you see them in their quilted red dressing-gowns, carrying up the wet sacks of rose leaves. They felt their way to Rupert's room. In it a night-light was burning dimly. They lighted the dressing-table candles.
'Hullo!' said Rupert; 'who's that?'
'It's only us,' whispered Caroline. 'Is the fever very hot?'
'It is now,' said Rupert; 'it was cold just now. I wish I could go to sleep. I can't, though. I feel all hot and then all cold. It is beastly.'
'We've brought you something nice and cool,' said Charlotte. 'You get out of bed and you'll see.'
Rupert, his eyes very bright and his cheeks a bright scarlet, tumbled out of bed in a very long night-shirt and rolled into the arm0chair by the bed-head. Caroline threw a blanket over him.
'I must,' she said, when he protested; 'they always do when you're ill and they're making your bed.'
The children turned back the bedclothes and emptied three sacks of dripping rose-leaves on to the bed.
'Now,' said Charles, shivering a little himself, 'get in. I should think that's enough to cool the hottest fever.'
Rupert rolled into bed. He was really very feverish—if he had not been, he would never have rolled into that couch of wet red rose-leaves.
'Oh, how ripping!' he said. 'It's lovely; so cold, so cold. You are bricks to bring them. And how sweet they are! No, don't cover me up. That's what Mrs. Wilmington does. Let me get cool.'
'They always cover you up,' said Caroline, severely. 'Lie still, or the spell won't work.'
'Oh, is it a spell?' said Rupert. 'I thought it was rose leaves. Sacks of them, sacks and sacks and sacks and sacks and sacks. Each sack had a cat, each cat had a kit, you know. I say, if I talk nonsense, it's because I want to. You're not to think I don't know it's nonsense.'
'You're not to talk at all, even if you could talk sense,' said Charlotte, tucking the bedclothes very tightly round his neck. 'Lie still and say, "I am much better. I am quite well!" I have an aunt called Emmeline, and she never has a doctor, and she always says that.'
'I am much better. I am quite well,' said Rupert, obediently. 'I am much better. I am quite well. I am much better. I am a bell. I shall ring presently for Mrs. Wilmington. I have a clapper inside my head. I am much better. I am a bell.' And so on, for a very long time.
'This is the delirium it talked about in the book,' said Caroline in a satisfied tone, and held the blankets down more firmly.
Rupert rolled into bed.
Presently Rupert began to shiver, and Caroline fetched the eiderdowns from the beds of the three, while the others held the blankets tightly round Rupert, who now no longer seemed to know at all what he was saying, nor whom he was saying it to. He talked about India, and seemed to fancy that Charles was his ayah and Caroline his syce. Charlotte he mistook for the Murdstone man, which was very painful for her. But they held the blankets tightly round him, even when he said it was too hot out there in the sun and begged to have the punkahs set going.
Then quite suddenly he went to sleep; they waited a little, and when they were quite sure that he was asleep they took up the fur hearthrug and put that on his bed for fear he should take cold, and then they crept back to their own beds—rather chilly places without their eiderdowns.
'I know the spell will work,' were Caroline's last words. 'You'll see, Rupert will be all right in the morning.'
At five o'clock Mrs. Wilmington crept into Rupert's room to see if he needed anything. The floor was strewn with wet, cold, crushed rose-leaves, and on it lay two wet sheets. Rupert, rolled in a tangle of blankets, eiderdowns, and hearthrug, was sleeping as a healthy baby sleeps. She laid her hand very gently on his forehead. It was cool and soft
By breakfast-time Rupert was much better. The fever had gone.
'So you see the spell did work,' said Caroline. 'Rupert is much better. I sometimes think we are much cleverer than grown-up people think we are. Rupert is much better.'
But all the three C.'s had dreadful colds in their heads.