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How They Camped Out
by [?]

On they went again, with the wind at their backs, caring little for the snow that now fell fast, or the gathering twilight, since they were going toward home they thought. It was a very long half-hour before Pat brought them to the country-house, which was shut up for the winter. With difficulty they ploughed their way up to the steps, and scrambled on to the piazza, where they danced about to warm their feet till Mark unlocked the door and let them in, leaving Pat to enjoy a doze on his seat.

“Make haste, boys; it is cold and dark here, and we must get home. Mamma will be so anxious, and it really is going to be a bad storm,” said Gwen, whose spirits were damped by the gloom of the old house, and who felt her responsibility, having promised to be home early.

Off went the boys to attic and cellar, being obliged to light the lantern left here for the use of whoever came now and then to inspect the premises. The girls, having found books and doll, sat upon the rolled-up carpets, or peeped about at the once gay and hospitable rooms, now looking very empty and desolate with piled-up furniture, shuttered windows, and fireless hearths.

“If we were going to stay long I’d have a fire in the library. Papa often does when he comes out, to keep the books from moulding,” began Gwen, but was interrupted by a shout from without, and, running to the door, saw Pat picking himself out of a drift while the horses were galloping down the avenue at full speed.

“Be jabbers, them villains give a jump when that fallin’ branch struck ’em, and out I wint, bein’ tuk unknownst, just thinkin’ of me poor cousin Mike. May his bed above be aisy the day! Whist now, miss dear! I’ll fetch ’em back in a jiffy. Stop still till I come, and kape them b’ys quite.”

With a blow to settle his hat, Patrick trotted gallantly away into the storm, and the girls went in to tell the exciting news to the lads, who came whooping back from their search, with baskets of nuts and apples.

“Here’s a go!” cried Mark. “Old Pat will run half-way to town before he catches the horses, and we are in for an hour or two at least.”

“Then do make a fire, for we shall die of cold if we have to wait long,” begged Gwen, rubbing Rita’s cold hands, and looking anxiously at little Gus, who was about making up his mind to roar.

“So we will, and be jolly till the blunderbuss gets back. Camp down, girls, and you fellows, come and hold the lantern while I get wood and stuff. It is so confoundedly dark, I shall break my neck down the shed steps.” And Mark led the way to the library, where the carpet still remained, and comfortable chairs and sofas invited the chilly visitors to rest.

“How can you light your fire when you get the wood?” asked Ruth, a practical damsel, who looked well after her own creature comforts and was longing for a warm supper.

“Papa hides the matches in a tin box, so the rats won’t get at them. Here they are, and two or three bits of candle for the sticks on the chimney-piece, if he forgets to have the lantern trimmed. Now we will light up, and look cosey when the boys come back.”

And producing the box from under a sofa-cushion, Gwen cheered the hearts of all by lighting two candles, rolling up the chairs, and making ready to be comfortable. Thoughtful Alice went to see if Pat was returning, and found a buffalo-robe lying on the steps. Returning with this, she reported that there was no sign of the runaways, and advised making ready for a long stay.

“How mamma will worry!” thought Gwen, but made light of the affair, because she saw Rita looked timid, and Gus shivered till his teeth chattered.