19 NOVEMBER 1910, Page 56



ONE day there arrives at the " Gables," Chiswick, the abode of the Avory family, then suffering under an acute dis- appointment in the matter of their yearly holiday, a caravan, and with the caravan a letter signed " X." explaining that the vehicle is a gift which is to enable the Avory children to see something of their native land. Of course it is received with enthusiasm, though Runcie, the old nurse, has something gloomy to say about blisters and indigestion, indifferent washing and uncomfortable beds. The party is made up with other children; and Janet, a motherly eldest sister, aged fourteen, is put in command. Kink, the gardener, is driver and first lieutenant; a horse is hired at £1 per week, and a bodyguard provided in the shape of a retriever, offered for £3 and purchased for 25s. The expedi- tion is to start from Oxford, to which place Kink is to drive the "Slow Coach," helped by a map of the road which we have reproduced in facsimile from a plate in Britannia Depicta (1753). Any one who knows the look of these things, with the minute crowded lettering, coats-of-arms, compasses, and so forth, will see how useful this was to a man who could but just contrive to read his newspaper. At Oxford they are hospitably entertained by some young friends, and on the next day they begin their tour. Further organisation is found necessary, and officials who bear such titles as Keeper of the Corkscrew and Preserver of Enough Oil in the Beatrice Stove are appointed. Even then all does not go with invariable smoothness. A brisket of beef is to furnish the first supper, and proves as hard as a rock after much stewing. Only when an ingenious youth suggests that the meat should be cut into slices does it become the "supreme stew of the century." The first night, whether spent in the caravan or under it, is not an unqualified success, viewed from the sleep point of view. Blisters, too, are developed, for the Slow Coach will not carry all the travellers, and anew official, the "Regulator of Rests," has her hands full. But there are many pleasant adventures. They meet other caravans, one owned by an artist on a sketching tour, a most delightful person ; another by real gipsies, who are very favourable specimens of their race; they get the better of a policeman, who, zealous in the performance of his duty—it is his first day of wearing his uniform—demands their license; they succour a lady whose ponies have run away, and are introduced to her titled aunt; and they see a caravan giant, seven feet five inches high, without having to pay the customary penny. The only adverse experience comes in the shape of a cunning old Irish- woman, who begs for a lift and pays her fare by stealing a purse. Altogether, the Avory family has a pleasant time, as indeed it was sure to have when the treat was to be provided by an expert so skilful in this kind of entertainment as Mr. Lucas,—that he has been in this Arcadia more than once it is easy to see. And the whole winds up with an admirable surprise. A most delightful story this, and we recommend it with all our heart.