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Title: Melchior's Dream and Other Tales
Author: Ewing, Juliana Horatia Gatty, 1841-1885
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Melchior's Dream and Other Tales" ***

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                           MELCHIOR'S DREAM

                           AND OTHER TALES,



                                  BY

                        JULIANA HORATIA EWING.



                                LONDON:
              SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE,
                 NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, W.C.
                   NEW YORK: E. &  J.B. YOUNG & CO.



       [Published under the direction of the General Literature
                              Committee.]



Dedicated

TO

FOUR BROTHERS AND FOUR SISTERS.



CONTENTS.


    MELCHIOR'S DREAM

    THE BLACKBIRD'S NEST

    FRIEDRICH'S BALLAD

    A BIT OF GREEN

    MONSIEUR THE VISCOUNT'S FRIEND

    THE YEW-LANE GHOSTS

    A BAD HABIT

    A HAPPY FAMILY



EDITOR'S PREFACE.


It is always a memorable era in a mother's life when she first
introduces a daughter into society. Many things contribute to make it
so; among which is the fact of the personal blessing to herself, in
having been permitted to see the day--to have been spared, that is, to
watch over her child in infancy, and now to see her entering life upon
her own account.

But a more uncommon privilege is the one granted to me on the present
occasion, of introducing a daughter into the literary world; and the
feelings of pride and pleasure it calls forth, are certainly not less
powerful than those created by the commoner occurrence. It is my
comfort also to add that these are not overclouded by any painful
anxiety or misgiving. There may be differences of opinion as to the
precise amount of literary merit in these tales; but viewed as the
first productions of a young author, they are surely full of promise;
while their whole tone and aim is so unmistakably high, that even
those who criticize the style will be apt to respect the writer.

I ought here to express a hope that it will not be thought
presumptuous on my part, to undertake the office of introduction. I
beg it to be understood that I address myself especially to those
readers who have (I speak it with deep gratitude and pleasure)
listened kindly and favourably to me for several years past, and who
will, I trust, be no less well disposed towards my daughter's
writings.

To them also it may be interesting to know, that in the "J.H.G." of
"Melchior's Dream," etc., they will find the original of my own
portrait of "Aunt Judy."

But I have still something more to say: another little bit of
gratification to express. What one sister has written, another has
illustrated by her pencil; a cause of double thankfulness in my heart
to Him from whom all good gifts come.

MARGARET GATTY.


NOTE.--_The foregoing Preface was written for the first
edition of "Melchior's Dream, and other Tales." This was published in
1862 under Mrs. Ewing's maiden initials, "J.H.G." It contained the
first five stories in the present volume, and these were illustrated
by the writer's eldest sister, "M.S.G."_



MELCHIOR'S DREAM.

AN ALLEGORY.

"Thou that hast given so much to me, Give one thing more--a
grateful heart."

GEORGE HERBERT.

"Well, father, I don't believe the Browns are a bit better off than we
are; and yet when I spent the day with young Brown, we cooked all
sorts of messes in the afternoon; and he wasted twice as much rum and
brandy and lemons in his trash, as I should want to make good punch
of. He was quite surprised, too, when I told him that our mince-pies
were kept shut up in the larder, and only brought out at meal-times,
and then just one apiece; he said they had mince-pies always going,
and he got one whenever he liked. Old Brown never blows up about that
sort of thing; he likes Adolphus to enjoy himself in the holidays,
particularly at Christmas."

The speaker was a boy--if I may be allowed to use the word in speaking
of an individual whose jackets had for some time past been resigned
to a younger member of his family, and who daily, in the privacy of
his own apartment, examined his soft cheeks by the aid of his sisters'
"back-hair glass." He was a handsome boy too; tall, and like
David--"ruddy, and of a fair countenance;" and his face, though
clouded then, bore the expression of general amiability. He was the
eldest son in a large young family, and was being educated at one of
the best public schools. He did not, it must be confessed, think
either small beer or small beans of himself; and as to the beer and
beans that his family thought of him, I think it was pale ale and
kidney-beans at least.

Young Hopeful had, however, his weak points like the rest of us; and
perhaps one of the weakest was the difficulty he found in amusing
himself without _bothering_ other people. He had quite a monomania for
proposing the most troublesome "larks" at the most inconvenient
moments; and if his plans were thwarted, an Æolian harp is cheerful
compared to the tone in which, arguing and lamenting, he

"Fought his battles o'er again,"

to the distraction of every occupied member of the household.

When the lords of the creation of all ages can find nothing else to
do, they generally take to eating and drinking; and so it came to pass
that our hero had set his mind upon brewing a jorum of punch, and
sipping it with an accompaniment of mince-pies; and Paterfamilias had
not been quietly settled to his writing for half-an-hour, when he was
disturbed by an application for the necessary ingredients. These he
had refused, quietly explaining that he could not afford to waste his
French brandy, etc., in school-boy cookery, and ending with, "You see
the reason, my dear boy?"

To which the dear boy replied as above, and concluded with the
disrespectful (not to say ungrateful) hint, "Old Brown never blows up
about that sort of thing; he likes Adolphus to enjoy himself in the
holidays."

Whereupon Paterfamilias made answer, in the mildly deprecating tone in
which the elder sometimes do answer the younger in these topsy-turvy
days:--

"That's quite a different case. Don't you see, my boy, that Adolphus
Brown is an only son, and you have nine brothers and sisters? If you
have punch and mince-meat to play with, there is no reason why Tom
should not have it, and James, and Edward, and William, and Benjamin,
and Jack. And then there are your sisters. Twice the amount of the
Browns' mince-meat would not serve you. I like you to enjoy yourself
in the holidays as much as young Brown or anybody; but you must
remember that I send you boys to good schools, and give you all the
substantial comforts and advantages in my power; and the Christmas
bills are very heavy, and I have a great many calls on my purse; and
you must be reasonable. Don't you see?"

"Well, father--" began the boy; but his father interrupted him. He
knew the unvarying beginning of a long grumble, and dreading the
argument, cut it short.

"I have decided. You must amuse yourself some other way. And just
remember that young Brown's is quite another case. He is an only son."

Whereupon Paterfamilias went off to his study and his sermon; and his
son, like the Princess in Andersen's story of the Swineherd, was left
outside to sing,

    "O dearest Augustine,
    All's clean gone away!"

Not that he did say that--that was the princess' song--what he said
was,

     "_I wish I were an only son!_"

This was rather a vain wish, for round the dining-room fire (where he
soon joined them) were gathered his nine brothers and sisters, who, to
say the truth, were not looking much more lively and cheerful than
he. And yet (of all days in the year on which to be doleful and
dissatisfied!) this was Christmas Eve.

Now I know that the idea of dulness or discomfort at Christmas is a
very improper one, particularly in a story. We all know how every
little boy in a story-book spends the Christmas holidays.

First, there is the large hamper of good things sent by grandpapa,
which is as inexhaustible as Fortunatus's purse, and contains
everything, from a Norfolk turkey to grapes from the grandpaternal
vinery.

There is the friend who gives a guinea to each member of the family,
and sees who will spend it best.

There are the godpapas and godmammas, who might almost be fairy
sponsors from the number of expensive gifts that they bring upon the
scene. The uncles and aunts are also liberal.

One night is devoted to a magic-lantern (which has a perfect focus),
another to the pantomime, a third to a celebrated conjuror, a fourth
to a Christmas tree and juvenile ball.

The happy youth makes himself sufficiently ill with plum-pudding, to
testify to the reader how good it was, and how much there was of it;
but recovers in time to fall a victim to the negus and trifle at
supper for the same reason. He is neither fatigued with late hours
nor surfeited with sweets; or if he is, we do not hear of it.

But as this is a strictly candid history, I will at once confess the
truth, on behalf of my hero and his brothers and sisters. They had
spent the morning in decorating the old church, in pricking holly
about the house, and in making a mistletoe bush. Then in the afternoon
they had tasted the Christmas soup and seen it given out; they had put
a finishing touch to the snow man by crowning him with holly, and had
dragged the yule-logs home from the carpenter's. And now, the early
tea being over, Paterfamilias had gone to finish his sermon for
to-morrow; his friend was shut up in his room; and Materfamilias was
in hers, with one of those painful headaches which even Christmas will
not always keep away. So the ten children were left to amuse
themselves, and they found it rather a difficult matter.

"Here's a nice Christmas!" said our hero. He had turned his youngest
brother out of the arm-chair, and was now lying in it with his legs
over the side. "Here's a nice Christmas! A fellow might just as well
be at school. I wonder what Adolphus Brown would think of being cooped
up with a lot of children like this! It's his party to-night, and he's
to have champagne and ices. I wish I were an only son."

"Thank you," said a chorus of voices from the floor. They were all
sprawling about on the hearth-rug, pushing and struggling like so many
kittens in a sack, and every now and then with a grumbled
remonstrance:--

"Don't, Jack! you're treading on me."

"You needn't take all the fire, Tom."

"Keep your legs to yourself, Benjamin."

"It wasn't I," etc., with occasionally the feebler cry of a small
sister--

"Oh! you boys are so rough."

"And what are you girls, I wonder?" inquired the proprietor of the
arm-chair with cutting irony. "Whiney piney, whiney piney. I wish
there were no such things as brothers and sisters!"

"_You wish_ WHAT?" said a voice from the shadow by the door, as deep
and impressive as that of the ghost in Hamlet.

The ten sprang up; but when the figure came into the fire-light, they
saw that it was no ghost, but Paterfamilias's old college friend, who
spent most of his time abroad, and who, having no home or relatives of
his own, had come to spend Christmas at his friend's vicarage. "You
wish _what_?" he repeated.

"Well, brothers and sisters are a bore," was the reply. "One or two
would be all very well; but just look, here are ten of us; and it just
spoils everything. If a fellow wants to go anywhere, it's somebody
else's _turn_. If old Brown sends a basket of grapes, it's share and
share alike; all the ten must taste, and then there's about a grape
and a half for each. If anybody calls or comes to luncheon, there are
a whole lot of brats swarming about, looking as if we kept a school.
Whatever one does, the rest must do; whatever there is, the rest must
share; whereas, if a fellow was an only son, he would have the
whole--and by all the rules of arithmetic, one is better than a
tenth."

"And by the same rules ten is better than one," said the friend.

"Sold again," sang out Master Jack from the floor, and went head over
heels against the fender.

His brother boxed his ears with great promptitude, and went on, "Well,
I don't care; confess, sir, isn't it rather a nuisance?"

Paterfamilias's friend looked very grave, and said, quietly, "I don't
think I am able to judge. I never had brother or sister but one, and
he was drowned at sea. Whatever I have had, I have had the whole of,
and would have given it away willingly for some one to give it to. If
any one sent me grapes, I ate them alone. If I made anything, there
was no one to show it to. If I wanted to act, I must act all the
characters, and be my own audience. I remember that I got a lot of
sticks at last, and cut heads and faces to all of them, and carved
names on their sides, and called them my brothers and sisters. If you
want to know what I thought a nice number for a fellow to have, I can
only say that I remember carving twenty-five. I used to stick them in
the ground and talk to them. I have been only, and lonely, and alone,
all my life, and have never felt the nuisance you speak of."

This was a funny account; but the speaker looked so far from funny
that one of the sisters, who was very tender-hearted, crept up to him,
and said, gently--

"Richard is only joking; he doesn't really want to get rid of us. The
other day the curate said he wished he had a sister, and Richard
offered to sell us all for ninepence; but he is only in fun. Only it
is rather slow just now, and the boys get rather cross; at least, we
all of us do."

"It's a dreadful state of things," said the friend, smiling through
his black beard and moustachios. "What is to be done?"

"I know what would be very nice," insinuated the young lady.

"What?"

"If you wouldn't mind telling us a very short story till supper-time.
The boys like stories."

"That's a good idea," said Benjamin. "As if the girls didn't!"

But the friend proclaimed order, and seated himself with the girl in
question on his knee. "Well, what sort of a story is it to be?"

"Any sort," said Richard; "only not too true, if you please. I don't
like stories like tracts. There was an usher at a school I was at, and
he used to read tracts about good boys and bad boys to the fellows on
Sunday afternoon. He always took out the real names, and put in the
names of the fellows instead. Those who had done well in the week he
put in as good ones, and those who hadn't as the bad. He didn't like
me, and I was always put in as a bad boy, and I came to so many
untimely ends I got sick of it. I was hanged twice, and transported
once for sheep-stealing; I committed suicide one week, and broke into
the bank the next; I ruined three families, became a hopeless
drunkard, and broke the hearts of my twelve distinct parents. I used
to beg him to let me be reformed next week; but he said he never would
till I did my Cæsar better. So, if you please, we'll have a story that
can't be true."

"Very well," said the friend, laughing; "but if it isn't true, may I
put you in? All the best writers, you know, draw their characters from
their friends now-a-days. May I put you in?"

"Oh, certainly!" said Richard, placing himself in front of the fire,
putting his feet on the hob, and stroking his curls with an air which
seemed to imply that whatever he was put into would be highly
favoured.

The rest struggled, and pushed, and squeezed themselves into more
modest but equally comfortable quarters; and after a few moments of
thought, Paterfamilias's friend commenced the story of


MELCHIOR'S DREAM.


"Melchior is my hero. He was--well, he considered himself a young man,
so we will consider him so too. He was not perfect; but in these days
the taste in heroes is for a good deal of imperfection, not to say
wickedness. He was not an only son. On the contrary, he had a great
many brothers and sisters, and found them quite as objectionable as my
friend Richard does."

"I smell a moral," murmured the said Richard.

"Your scent must be keen," said the story-teller, "for it is a long
way off. Well, he had never felt them so objectionable as on one
particular night, when, the house being full of company, it was
decided that the boys should sleep in 'barracks,' as they called it;
that is, all in one large room."

"Thank goodness, we have not come to that!" said the incorrigible
Richard; but he was reduced to order by threats of being turned out,
and contented himself with burning the soles of his boots against the
bars of the grate in silence: and the friend continued:--

"But this was not the worst. Not only was he, Melchior, to sleep in
the same room with his brothers, but his bed being the longest and
largest, his youngest brother was to sleep at the other end of
it--foot to foot. True, by this means he got another pillow, for, of
course, that little Hop-o'-my-Thumb could do without one, and so he
took his; but, in spite of this, he determined that, sooner than
submit to such an indignity, he would sit up all night. Accordingly,
when all the rest were fast asleep, Melchior, with his boots off and
his waistcoat easily unbuttoned, sat over the fire in the long
lumber-room which served that night as 'barracks'. He had refused to
eat any supper downstairs to mark his displeasure, and now repaid
himself by a stolen meal according to his own taste. He had got a
pork-pie, a little bread and cheese, some large onions to roast, a
couple of raw apples, an orange, and papers of soda and tartaric acid
to compound effervescing draughts. When these dainties were finished,
he proceeded to warm some beer in a pan, with ginger, spice, and
sugar, and then lay back in his chair and sipped it slowly, gazing
before him, and thinking over his misfortunes.

"The night wore on, the fire got lower and lower, and still Melchior
sat, with his eyes fixed on a dirty old print that had hung above the
mantelpiece for years, sipping his 'brew', which was fast getting
cold. The print represented an old man in a light costume, with a
scythe in one hand and an hour-glass in the other; and underneath the
picture in flourishing capitals was the word TIME.

"'You're a nice old beggar,' said Melchior, dreamily. 'You look like
an old hay-maker who has come to work in his shirt-sleeves, and
forgotten the rest of his clothes. Time! time you went to the
tailor's, I think.'

"This was very irreverent; but Melchior was not in a respectful mood;
and as for the old man, he was as calm as any philosopher.

"The night wore on, and the fire got lower and lower, and at last went
out altogether.

"'How stupid of me not to have mended it!' said Melchior; but he had
not mended it, and so there was nothing for it but to go to bed; and
to bed he went accordingly.

"'But I won't go to sleep,' he said; 'no, no; I shall keep awake, and
to-morrow they shall know that I have had a bad night.'

"So he lay in bed with his eyes wide open, and staring still at the
old print, which he could see from his bed by the light of the candle,
which he had left alight on the mantelpiece to keep him awake. The
flame waved up and down, for the room was draughty; and as the lights
and shadows passed over the old man's face, Melchior almost fancied
that it nodded to him, so he nodded back again; and as that tired him
he shut his eyes for a few seconds. When he opened them again, there
was no longer any doubt--the old man's head was moving; and not only
his head, but his legs, and his whole body. Finally, he put his feet
out of the frame, and prepared to step right over the mantelpiece,
candle, and all.

"'Take care,' Melchior tried to say, 'you'll set fire to your shirt.'
But he could not utter a sound; and the old man arrived safely on the
floor, where he seemed to grow larger and larger, till he was fully
the size of a man, but still with the same scythe and hour-glass, and
the same airy costume. Then he came across the room, and sat down by
Melchior's bedside.

"'Who are you?' said Melchior, feeling rather creepy.

"'TIME,' said his visitor in a deep voice, which sounded as
if it came from a distance.

"'Oh, to be sure, yes! In copper-plate capitals.'

"'What's in copper-plate capitals?' inquired Time.

"'Your name, under the print.'

"'Very likely,' said Time.

"Melchior felt more and more uneasy. 'You must be very cold,' he said.
'Perhaps you would feel warmer if you went back into the picture.'

"'Not at all,' said Time; 'I have come on purpose to see you.'

"'I have not the pleasure of knowing you,' said Melchior, trying to
keep his teeth from chattering.

"'There are not many people who have a personal acquaintance with me,'
said his visitor. 'You have an advantage--I am your godfather.'

"'Indeed,' said Melchior; 'I never heard of it.'

"'Yes,' said his visitor; 'and you will find it a great advantage.'

"'Would you like to put on my coat?' said Melchior, trying to be
civil.

"'No, thank you,' was the answer. 'You will want it yourself. We must
be driving soon.'

"'Driving!' said Melchior.

"'Yes,' was the answer; 'all the world is driving; and you must drive;
and here come your brothers and sisters.'

"Melchior sat up; and there they were, sure enough, all dressed, and
climbing one after the other on to the bed--_his_ bed!

"There was that little minx of a sister with her curls (he always
called them carrot shavings), who was so conceited (girls always are!)
and always trying to attract notice, in spite of Melchior's incessant
snubbings. There was that clever brother, with his untidy hair and
bent shoulders, who was just as bad the other way; who always ran out
of the back door when visitors called, and was for ever moping and
reading: and this, in spite of Melchior's hiding his books, and
continually telling him that he was a disgrace to the family, a
perfect bear, not fit to be seen, etc.--all with the laudable desire
of his improvement. There was that little Hop-o'-my-Thumb, as lively
as any of them, a young monkey, the worst of all; who was always in
mischief, and consorting with the low boys in the village; though
Melchior did not fail to tell him that he was not fit company for
gentlemen's sons, that he was certain to be cut when he went to
school, and that he would probably end his days by being transported,
if not hanged. There was the second brother, who was Melchior's chief
companion, and against whom he had no particular quarrel. And there
was the little pale lame sister, whom he dearly loved; but whom, odd
to say, he never tried to improve at all; his remedy for her failings
was generally, 'Let her do as she likes, will you?' There were others
who were all tiresome in their respective ways; and one after the
other they climbed up.

"'What are you doing, getting on to my bed!' inquired the indignant
brother, as soon as he could speak.

"'Don't you know the difference between a bed and a coach, godson?'
said Time, sharply.

"Melchior was about to retort, but on looking round, he saw that they
were really in a large sort of coach with very wide windows. 'I
thought I was in bed,' he muttered. 'What can I have been dreaming
of?'

"'What, indeed!' said the godfather. 'But, be quick, and sit close,
for you have all to get in; you are all brothers and sisters.'

"'Must families be together?' inquired Melchior, dolefully.

"'Yes, at first,' was the answer; 'they get separated in time. In
fact, everyone has to cease driving sooner or later. I drop them on
the road at different stages, according to my orders,' and he showed a
bundle of papers in his hands; 'but, as I favour you, I will tell you
in confidence that I have to drop all your brothers and sisters before
you. There, you four oldest sit on this side, you five others there,
and the little one must stand or be nursed.'

"'Ugh!' said Melchior, 'the coach would be well enough if one was
alone; but what a squeeze with all these brats! I say, go pretty
quick, will you?'

"'I will,' said Time, 'if you wish it. But, beware that you cannot
change your mind. If I go quicker for your sake, I shall never go slow
again; if slower, I shall not again go quick; and I only favour you so
far, because you are my godson. Here, take the check-string; when you
want me, pull it, and speak through the tube. Now we're off.'

"Whereupon the old man mounted the box, and took the reins. He had no
whip; but when he wanted to start, he shook the hour-glass, and off
they went. Then Melchior saw that the road where they were driving was
very broad, and so filled with vehicles of all kinds that he could not
see the hedges. The noise and crowd and dust were very great; and to
Melchior all seemed delightfully exciting. There was every sort of
conveyance, from the grandest coach to the humblest donkey-cart; and
they seemed to have enough to do to escape being run over. Among all
the gay people there were many whom he knew; and a very nice thing it
seemed to be to drive among all the grandees, and to show his
handsome face at the window, and bow and smile to his acquaintance.
Then it appeared to be the fashion to wrap oneself in a tiger-skin
rug, and to look at life through an opera-glass, and old Time had
kindly put one of each into the coach.

"But here again Melchior was much troubled by his brothers and
sisters. Just at the moment when he was wishing to look most
fashionable and elegant, one or other of them would pull away the rug,
or drop the glass, or quarrel, or romp, or do something that spoilt
the effect. In fact, one and all, they 'just spoilt everything;' and
the more he scolded, the worse they became. The 'minx' shook her
curls, and flirted through the window with a handsome but ill-tempered
looking man on a fine horse, who praised her 'golden locks,' as he
called them; and, oddly enough, when Melchior said the man was a lout,
and that the locks in question were corkscrewy carrot shavings, she
only seemed to like the man and his compliments the more. Meanwhile,
the untidy brother pored over his book, or if he came to the window,
it was only to ridicule the fine ladies and gentlemen, so Melchior
sent him to Coventry. Then Hop-o'-my-Thumb had taken to make signs and
exchange jokes with some disreputable-looking youths in a dog-cart;
and when his brother would have put him to 'sit still like a
gentleman' at the bottom of the coach, he seemed positively to prefer
his low companions; and the rest were little better.

"Poor Melchior! Surely there never was a clearer case of a young
gentleman's comfort destroyed, solely by other people's perverse
determination to be happy in their own way instead of in his. Surely,
no young gentleman ever knew better that if his brothers and sisters
would yield to his wishes, they would not quarrel; or ever more
completely overlooked the fact, that if he had yielded more to theirs
the same happy result might have been attained. At last he lost
patience, and pulling the check-string, bade Godfather Time drive as
fast as he could.

"'For,' said he, 'there will never be any peace while there are so
many of us in the coach; if a fellow had the rug and glass, and,
indeed, the coach to himself, he might drive and bow and talk with the
best of them; but as it is, one might as well go about in a wild-beast
caravan.'

"Godfather Time frowned, but shook his glass all the same, and away
they went at a famous pace. All at once they came to a stop.

"'Now for it,' says Melchior; 'here goes one at any rate.'

"Time called out the name of the second brother over his shoulder; and
the boy stood up, and bade his brothers and sisters good-bye.

"'It is time that I began to push my way in the world,' said he, and
passed out of the coach, and in among the crowd.

"'You have taken the only quiet boy,' said Melchior to the godfather
angrily. 'Drive fast now, for pity's sake; and let us get rid of the
tiresome ones.'

"And fast enough they drove, and dropped first one and then the other;
but the sisters, and the reading boy, and the youngest still remained.

"'What are you looking at?' said Melchior to the lame sister.

"'At a strange figure in the crowd,' she answered.

"'I see nothing,' said Melchior. But on looking again after a while,
he did see a figure wrapped in a cloak, gliding in and out among the
people, unnoticed, if not unseen.

"'Who is it?' Melchior asked of the godfather.

"'A friend of mine,' Time answered. 'His name is Death.'

"Melchior shuddered, more especially as the figure had now come up to
the coach, and put its hand in through the window, on which, to his
horror, the lame sister laid hers and smiled. At this moment the
coach stopped.

"'What are you doing?' shrieked Melchior, 'Drive on! drive on!'

"But even while he sprang up to seize the check-string the door had
opened, the pale sister's face (a little paler now) had dropped upon
the shoulder of the figure in the cloak, and he had carried her away;
and Melchior stormed and raved in vain.

"'To take her, and to leave the rest! Cruel! cruel!'

"In his rage and grief, he hardly knew it when the untidy brother was
called, and putting his book under his arm, slipped out of the coach
without looking to the right or left. Presently the coach stopped
again; and when Melchior looked up the door was open, and at it was
the fine man on the fine horse, who was lifting the sister on to the
saddle before him. 'What fool's game are you playing?' said Melchior,
angrily. 'I know that man. He is both ill-tempered and a bad
character.'

"'You never told her so before,' muttered young Hop-o'-my-Thumb.

"'Hold your tongue,' said Melchior. 'I forbade her to talk to him,
which was enough.'

"'I don't want to leave you; but he cares for me, and you don't,'
sobbed the sister; and she was carried away.

"When she had gone, the youngest brother slid down from his corner and
came up to Melchior.

"'We are alone now, Brother,' he said; 'let us be good friends. May I
sit on the front seat with you, and have half the rug? I will be very
good and polite, and will have nothing more to do with those fellows,
if you will talk to me.'

"Now Melchior really rather liked the idea, but as his brother seemed
to be in a submissive mood, he thought he would take the opportunity
of giving him a good lecture, and would then graciously relent and
forgive. So he began by asking him if he thought that he was fit
company for him (Melchior), what he thought that gentlefolks would say
to a boy who had been playing with such youths as young
Hop-o'-my-Thumb had, and whether the said youths were not scoundrels?
And when the boy refused to say that they were (for they had been kind
to him), Melchior said that his tastes were evidently as bad as ever,
and even hinted at the old transportation threat. This was too much;
the boy went angrily back to his window corner, and Melchior--like too
many of us!--lost the opportunity of making peace for the sake of
wagging his own tongue.

"'But he will come round in a few minutes,' he thought A few minutes
passed, however, and there was no sign. A few minutes more, and there
was a noise, a shout; Melchior looked up, and saw that the boy had
jumped through the open window into the road, and had been picked up
by the men in the dog-cart, and was gone.

"And so at last my hero was alone. At first he enjoyed it very much.
He shook out his hair, wrapped himself in the rug, stared through the
opera-glass, and did the fine gentleman very well indeed. But though
everyone allowed him to be the finest young fellow on the road, yet
nobody seemed to care for the fact as much as he did; they talked, and
complimented, and stared at him, but he got tired of it. For he could
not arrange his hair any better; he could not dispose the rug more
gracefully, or stare more perseveringly through the glass; and if he
could, his friends could do nothing more than they had done. In fact,
he got tired of the crowd, and found himself gazing through the
window, not to see his fine friends, but to try and catch sight of his
brothers and sisters. Sometimes he saw the youngest brother, looking
each time more wild and reckless; and sometimes the sister, looking
more and more miserable; but he saw no one else.

"At last there was a stir among the people, and all heads were turned
towards the distance, as if looking for something. Melchior asked what
it was, and was told that the people were looking for a man, the hero
of many battles, who had won honour for himself and for his country in
foreign lands, and who was coming home. Everybody stood up and gazed,
Melchior with them. Then the crowd parted, and the hero came on. No
one asked whether he were handsome or genteel, whether he kept good
company, or wore a tiger-skin rug, or looked through an opera-glass?
They knew what he had _done_, and it was enough.

"He was a bronzed hairy man, with one sleeve empty, and a breast
covered with stars; but in his face, brown with sun and wind,
overgrown with hair and scarred with wounds, Melchior saw his second
brother! There was no doubt of it. And the brother himself, though he
bowed kindly in answer to the greetings showered on him, was gazing
anxiously for the old coach, where he used to ride and be so
uncomfortable, in that time to which he now looked back as the
happiest of his life.

"'I thank you, gentlemen. I am indebted to you, gentlemen. I have been
away long. I am going home.'

"'Of course he is!' shouted Melchior, waving his arms widely with
pride and joy. 'He is coming home; to this coach, where he was--oh,
it seems but an hour ago! Time goes so fast. We were great friends
when we were young together. My brother and I, ladies and gentlemen,
the hero and I--my brother--the hero with the stars upon his
breast--he is coming home!'

"Alas! what avail stars and ribbons on a breast where the life-blood
is trickling slowly from a little wound? The crowd looked anxious; the
hero came on, but more slowly, with his dim eyes straining for the old
coach; and Melchior stood with his arms held out in silent agony. But
just when he was beginning to hope, and the brothers seemed about to
meet, a figure passed between--a figure in a cloak.

"'I have seen you many times, Friend, face to face,' said the hero;
'but now I would fain have waited for a little while.'

"'To enjoy his well-earned honours,' murmured the crowd.

"'Nay,' he said, 'not that; but to see my home, and my brothers and
sisters. But if it may not be, friend Death, I am ready, and tired
too.' With that he held out his hand, and Death lifted up the hero of
many battles like a child, and carried him away, stars and ribbons and
all.

"'Cruel Death!' cried Melchior; 'was there no one else in all this
crowd, that you must take him?'

"His friends condoled with him; but they soon went on their own ways;
and the hero seemed to be forgotten; and Melchior, who had lost all
pleasure in the old bowings and chattings, sat sadly gazing out of the
window, to see if he could see any one for whom he cared. At last, in
a grave dark man, who was sitting on a horse, and making a speech to
the crowd, he recognized his clever untidy brother.

"'What is that man talking about?' he asked of some one near him.

"'That man!' was the answer. 'Don't you know? He is _the_ man of the
time. He is a philosopher. Everybody goes to hear him. He has found
out that--well--that everything is a mistake.'

"'Has he corrected it?' said Melchior.

"'You had better hear for yourself,' said the man. 'Listen.'

"Melchior listened, and a cold clear voice rang upon his ear,
saying:--

"'The world of fools will go on as they have ever done; but to the
wise few, to whom I address myself, I would say--Shake off at once and
for ever the fancies and feelings, the creeds and customs that shackle
you, and be true. We have come to a time when wise men will not be
led blindfold in the footsteps of their predecessors, but will tear
away the bandage and see for themselves. I have torn away mine, and
looked. There is no Faith--it is shaken to its rotten foundation;
there is no Hope--it is disappointed every day; there is no Love at
all. There is nothing for any man or for each, but his fate; and he is
happiest and wisest who can meet it most unmoved.'

"'It is a lie!' shouted Melchior. 'I feel it to be so in my heart. A
wicked foolish lie! Oh! was it to teach such evil folly as this that
you left home and us, my brother? Oh, come back! come back!'

"The philosopher turned his head coldly, and smiled. 'I thank the
gentleman who spoke,' he said, still in the same cold voice, 'for his
bad opinion, and for his good wishes. I think the gentleman spoke of
home and kindred. My experience of life has led me to find that home
is most valued when it is left, and kindred most dear when they are
parted. I have happily freed myself from such inconsistencies. I am
glad to know that fate can tear me from no place that I care for more
than the next where it shall deposit me, nor take away any friends
that I value more than those it leaves. I recommend a similar
self-emancipation to the gentleman who did me the honour of
speaking.'

"With this the philosopher went his way, and the crowd followed him.

"'There is a separation more bitter than death,' said Melchior.

"At last he pulled the check-string, and called to Godfather Time in
an humble entreating voice.

"'It is not your fault,' he began; 'it is not your fault, Godfather;
but this drive has been altogether wrong. Let us turn back and begin
again. Let us all get in afresh and begin again.'

"'But what a squeeze with all the brats!' said Godfather Time,
ironically.

"'We should be so happy,' murmured Melchior, humbly; 'and it is very
cold and chilly; we should keep each other warm.'

"'You have the tiger-skin rug and the opera-glass, you know,' said
Time.

"'Ah, do not speak of me!' cried Melchior, earnestly. 'I am thinking
of them. There is plenty of room; the little one can sit on my knee;
and we shall be so happy. The truth is, Godfather, that I have been
wrong. I have gone the wrong way to work. A little more love, and
kindness, and forbearance, might have kept my sisters with us, might
have led the little one to better tastes and pleasures, and have
taught the other by experience the truth of the faith and hope and
love which he now reviles. Oh, I have sinned! I have sinned! Let us
turn back, Godfather Time, and begin again. And oh! drive very slowly,
for partings come only too soon.'

"'I am sorry,' said the old man in the same bitter tone as before, 'to
disappoint your rather unreasonable wishes. What you say is admirably
true, with this misfortune, that your good intentions are too late.
Like the rest of the world you are ready to seize the opportunity when
it is past. You should have been kind _then_. You should have advised
_then_. You should have yielded _then_. You should have loved your
brothers and sisters while you had them. It is too late now.'

"With this he drove on, and spoke no more, and poor Melchior stared
sadly out of the window. As he was gazing at the crowd, he suddenly
saw the dog-cart, in which were his brother and his wretched
companions. Oh, how old and worn he looked! and how ragged his clothes
were! The men seemed to be trying to persuade him to do something that
he did not like, and they began to quarrel; but in the midst of the
dispute he turned his head and caught sight of the old coach; and
Melchior seeing this, waved his hands, and beckoned with all his
might. The brother seemed doubtful; but Melchior waved harder, and
(was it fancy?) Time seemed to go slower. The brother made up his
mind; he turned and jumped from the dog-cart as he had jumped from the
old coach long ago, and ducking in and out among the horses and
carriages, ran for his life. The men came after him; but he ran like
the wind--pant, pant, nearer, nearer; at last the coach was reached,
and Melchior seized the prodigal by his rags and dragged him in.

"'Oh, thank GOD, I have got you safe, my brother!'

"But what a brother! with wasted body and sunken eyes; with the old
curly hair turned to matted locks, that clung faster to his face than
the rags did to his trembling limbs; what a sight for the
opera-glasses of the crowd! What a subject for the tongues that were
ever wagging, and complimenting, and backbiting, and lying, all in a
breath, and without sense or scruple! What a sight and a subject for
the fine friends, for whose good opinion Melchior had been so anxious?
Do you think he was as anxious now? Do you think he was troubled by
what they either saw or said; or was ashamed of the wretched prodigal
lying among the cushions? I think not. I think that for the most
foolish of us there are moments in life (of real joy or real sorrow)
when we judge things by a higher standard, and care vastly little for
what 'people say'. The only shame that Melchior felt was that his
brother should have fared so hardly in the trials and temptations of
the world outside, while he had sat at ease among the cushions of the
old coach, that had been the home of both alike. Thank GOD,
it was the home of both now! And poor Hop-o'-my-Thumb was on the front
seat at last, with Melchior kneeling at his feet, and fondly stroking
the head that rested against him.

"'Has powder come into fashion, brother?' he said. 'Your hair is
streaked with white.'

"'If it has,' said the other, laughing, 'your barber is better than
mine, Melchior, for your head is as white as snow.'

"'Is it possible? are we so old? has Time gone so very fast? But what
are you staring at through the window? I shall be jealous of that
crowd, brother.'

"'I am not looking at the crowd,' said the prodigal in a low voice;
'but I see--'

"'You see what?' said Melchior.

"'A figure in a cloak, gliding in and out--'

"Melchior sprang up in horror. 'No! no!' he cried, hoarsely. 'No!
surely no!'

"Surely yes! Too surely the well-known figure came on; and the
prodigal's sunken eyes looked more sunken still as he gazed. As for
Melchior, he neither spoke nor moved, but stood in a silent agony,
terrible to see. All at once a thought seemed to strike him; he seized
his brother, and pushed him to the furthest corner of the seat, and
then planted himself firmly at the door just as Death came up and put
his hand into the coach. Then he spoke in a low steady voice, more
piteous than cries or tears.

"'I humbly beseech you, good Death, if you must take one of us, to
take me. I have had a long drive, and many comforts and blessings, and
am willing if unworthy to go. He has suffered much, and had no
pleasure; leave him for a little to enjoy the drive in peace, just for
a very little; he has suffered so much, and I have been so much to
blame; let me go instead of him.'

"Alas for Melchior! It is decreed in the Providence of GOD,
that, although the opportunities for doing good, which are in the
power of every man, are beyond count or knowledge, yet, the
opportunity once neglected, no man by any self-sacrifice can atone for
those who have fallen or suffered by his negligence. Poor Melchior! An
unalterable law made him the powerless spectator of the consequences
of his neglected opportunities. 'No man may deliver his brother, or
make agreement unto GOD for him, for it cost more to redeem
their souls, so that he must let that alone for ever.' And is it ever
so bitter to 'let alone,' as in a case where we might have acted and
did not?

"Poor Melchior! In vain he laid both his hands in Death's outstretched
palm; they fell to him again as if they had passed through air; he was
pushed aside--Death passed into the coach--'one was taken and the
other left.'

"As the cloaked figure glided in and out among the crowd, many turned
to look at his sad burden, though few heeded him. Much was said; but
the general voice of the crowd was this: 'Ah! he is gone, is he? Well!
a born rascal! It must be a great relief to his brother!' A conclusion
which was about as wise, and about as near the truth, as the world's
conclusions generally are. As for Melchior, he neither saw the figure
nor heard the crowd, for he had fallen senseless among the cushions.

"When he came to his senses, he found himself lying still upon his
face; and so bitter was his loneliness and grief, that he lay still
and did not move. He was astonished, however, by the (as it seemed to
him) unusual silence. The noise of the carriages had been deafening,
and now there was not a sound. Was he deaf? or had the crowd gone? He
opened his eyes. Was he blind? or had the night come? He sat right up,
and shook himself, and looked again. The crowd _was_ gone; so, for
matter of that, was the coach; and so was Godfather Time. He had not
been lying among cushions, but among pillows; he was not in any
vehicle of any kind, but in bed. The room was dark, and very still;
but through the 'barracks' window, which had no blind, he saw the
winter sun pushing through the mist, like a red hot cannon-ball
hanging in the frosty trees; and in the yard outside, the cocks were
crowing.

"There was no longer any doubt that he was safe in his old home; but
where were his brothers and sisters? With a beating heart he crept to
the other end of the bed; and there lay the prodigal, but with no
haggard cheeks or sunken eyes, no grey locks or miserable rags, but a
rosy yellow-haired urchin fast asleep, with his head upon his arm. 'I
took his pillow,' muttered Melchior, self-reproachfully.

"A few minutes later, young Hop-o'-my-Thumb (whom Melchior dared not
lose sight of for fear he should melt away) seated comfortably on his
brother's back, and wrapped up in a blanket, was making a tour of the
'barracks.'

"'It's an awful lark,' said he, shivering with a mixture of cold and
delight.

"If not exactly a _lark_, it was a very happy tour to Melchior, as,
hope gradually changing into certainty, he recognized his brothers in
one shapeless lump after the other in the little beds. There they all
were, sleeping peacefully in a happy home, from the embryo hero to the
embryo philosopher, who lay with the invariable book upon his pillow,
and his hair looking (as it always did) as if he lived in a high wind.

"'I say,' whispered Melchior, pointing to him, 'what did he say the
other day about being a parson?'

"'He said he should like to be one,' returned Hop-o'-my-Thumb; 'but
you said he would frighten away the congregation with his looks. And
then, you know, he got very angry, and said he didn't know priests
need be dandies, and that everybody was humbuggy alike, and thought of
nothing but looks; but that he would be a philosopher like Diogenes,
who cared for nobody, and was as ugly as an ape, and lived in a tub.'

"'He will make a capital parson,' said Melchior, hastily, 'and I shall
tell him so to-morrow. And when I'm squire here, he shall be vicar,
and I'll subscribe to all his dodges without a grumble. I'm the eldest
son. And, I say, don't you think we could brush his hair for him in a
morning, till he learns to do it himself?'

"'Oh, I will!' was the lively answer; 'I'm an awful dab at brushing.
Look how I brush your best hat!'

"'True,' said Melchior. 'Where are the girls to-night?'

"'In the little room at the end of the long passage,' said
Hop-o'-my-Thumb, trembling with increased chilliness and enjoyment.
'But you're never going there! we shall wake the company, and they
will all come out to see what's the matter.'

"'I shouldn't care if they did,' said Melchior, 'it would make it feel
more real.'

"As he did not understand this sentiment, Hop-o'-my-Thumb said
nothing, but held on very tightly; and they crept softly down the cold
grey passage in the dawn. The girls' door was open; for the girls were
afraid of robbers, and left their bed-room door wide open at night, as
a natural and obvious means of self-defence. The girls slept together;
and the frill of the pale sister's prim little night-cap was buried in
the other one's uncovered curls.

"'How you do tremble!' whispered Hop-o'-my-Thumb; 'are you cold?' This
inquiry received no answer; and after some minutes he spoke again. 'I
say, how very pretty they look! don't they?'

"But for some reason or other, Melchior seemed to have lost his voice;
but he stooped down and kissed both the girls very gently, and then
the two brothers crept back along the passage to the 'barracks.'

"'One thing more,' said Melchior; and they went up to the mantelpiece.
'I will lend you my bow and arrows to-morrow, on one condition--'

"'Anything!' was the reply, in an enthusiastic whisper.

"'That you take that old picture for a target, and never let me see it
again.'

"It was very ungrateful! but perfection is not in man; and there was
something in Melchior's muttered excuse--

"'I couldn't stand another night of it.'

"Hop-o'-my-Thumb was speedily put to bed again, to get warm, this time
with both the pillows; but Melchior was too restless to sleep, so he
resolved to have a shower-bath, and to dress. After which, he knelt
down by the window, and covered his face with his hands.

"'He's saying very long prayers,' thought Hop-o'-my-Thumb, glancing at
him from his warm nest; 'and what a jolly humour he is in this
morning!'

"Still the young head was bent, and the handsome face hidden; and
Melchior was finding his life every moment more real and more happy.
For there was hardly a thing, from the well-filled 'barracks' to the
brother bedfellow, that had been a hardship last night, which this
morning did not seem a blessing. He rose at last, and stood in the
sunshine, which was now pouring in; a smile was on his lips, and on
his face were two drops, which, if they were water, had not come from
the shower-bath, or from any bath at all."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Is that the end?" inquired the young lady on his knee, as the story
teller paused here.

"Yes, that is the end."

"It's a beautiful story," she murmured, thoughtfully; "but what an
extraordinary one! I don't think I could have dreamt such a wonderful
dream."

"Do you think you could have eaten such a wonderful supper?" said the
friend, twisting his moustachios.

After this point, the evening's amusements were thoroughly successful.
Richard took his smoking boots from the fire-place, and was called upon
for various entertainments for which he was famous: such as the
accurate imitation of a train just starting, in which two pieces of
bone were used with considerable effect; as also of a bumble-bee, who
(very much out of season) went buzzing about, and was always being
caught with a heavy bang on the heads and shoulders of those who least
expected it; all which specimens of his talents were received with due
applause by his admiring brothers and sisters.

The bumble-bee had just been caught (for the twenty-first time) with a
loud smack on brother Benjamin's ear, when the door opened, and
Paterfamilias entered with Materfamilias (whose headache was better),
and followed by the candles. A fresh log was then thrown upon the
fire, the yule cakes and furmety were put upon the table, and
everybody drew round to supper; and Paterfamilias announced that
although he could not give the materials to play with, he had no
objection now to a bowl of moderate punch for all, and that Richard
might compound it. This was delightful; and as he sat by his father,
ladling away to the rest, Adolphus Brown could hardly have felt more
jovial, even with the champagne and ices.

The rest sat with radiant faces and shining heads in goodly order; and
at the bottom of the table, by Materfamilias, was the friend, as happy
in his unselfish sympathy as if his twenty-five sticks had come to
life, and were supping with him. As happy--nearly--as if a certain
woman's grave had never been dug under the southern sun that could not
save her, and as if the children gathered round him were those of
whose faces he had often dreamt, but might never see.

His health had been drunk, and everybody else's too, when, just as
supper was coming to a close, Richard (who had been sitting in
thoughtful silence for some minutes) got up with sudden resolution,
and said,

"I want to propose Mr. What's-his-name's health on my own account. I
want to thank him for his story, which had only one mistake in it.
Melchior should have kept the effervescing papers to put into the
beer; it's a splendid drink! Otherwise it was first-rate; though it
hit me rather hard. I want to say that though I didn't mean all I said
about being an only son (when a fellow gets put out he doesn't know
what he means), yet I know I was quite wrong, and the story is quite
right. I want particularly to say that I'm very glad there are so many
of us, for the more, you know, the merrier. I wouldn't change father
or mother, brothers or sisters, with any one in the world. It couldn't
be better, we couldn't be happier. We are all together, and to-morrow
is Christmas Day. Thank GOD."

It was very well said. It was a very good speech. It was very well and
very good that while the blessings were with him, he could feel it to
be so, and be grateful.

It was very well, and good also, that the friend, who had neither home
nor kindred to be grateful for, had something else for which he could
thank GOD as heartily. The thought of that something came to
him then as he sat at his friend's table, filling his eyes with tears.
It came to him next day as he knelt before GOD's altar,
remembering in blessed fellowship that deed of love which is the
foundation of all our hope and joy. It came to him when he went back
to his lonely wandering life, and thought with tender interest of that
boyish speech. It came--a whisper of consolation to silence envy and
regret for ever.

"There _is_ something far better. There _is_ something far happier.
There is a better Home than any earthly one, and a Family that shall
never be divided."



THE BLACKBIRD'S NEST.

    "Let me not think an action mine own way,
    But as Thy love shall sway,
    Resigning up the rudder to Thy skill."

    GEORGE HERBERT.


One day, when I was a very little girl (which is a long time ago), I
made a discovery. The place where I made it was not very remote, being
a holly-bush at the bottom of our garden; and the discovery was not a
great one in itself, though I thought it very grand. I had found a
blackbird's nest, with three young ones in it.

The discovery was made on this wise. I was sitting one morning on a
log of wood opposite this holly-bush, reading the story of Goody
Twoshoes, and thinking to myself how much I should like to be like
her, and to go about in the village with a raven, a pigeon, and a lark
on my shoulders, admired and talked about by everybody. All sorts of
nonsense passed through my head as I sat, with the book on my lap,
staring straight before me; and I was just fancying the kind
condescension with which I would behave to everybody when I became a
Goody Twoshoes, when I saw a bird come out of the holly-bush and fly
away. It was a blackbird: there was no doubt of it; and it must have a
nest in the tree, or why had it been there so long? Down went my book,
and I flew to make my discovery. A blackbird's nest, with three young
ones! I stood still at first in pure pleasure at the sight; and then,
little by little, grand ideas came into my head.

I would be very kind to these little blackbirds, I thought; I would
take them home out of this cold tree, and make a large nest of cotton
wool (which would be much softer and better for them than to be where
they were), and feed them, and keep them; and then, when they were
full-grown, they would, of course, love me better than any one, and be
very tame and grateful; and I should walk about with them on my
shoulders, like Goody Twoshoes, and be admired by everybody; for, I am
ashamed to say, most of my day dreams ended with this, _to be admired
by everybody_. I was so wrapped up in these thoughts that I did not
know, till his hands were laid upon my shoulders, that my friend, the
curate of the village, had come up behind me. He lived next door to
us, and often climbed over the wall that divided our garden to bring
me flowers for my little bed. He was a tall, dark, not very young man;
and the best hand at making fire-balloons, mending toys, and making a
broken wax doll as good as new with a hot knitting needle, that you
can imagine. I had heard grown-up people call him grave and silent,
but he always laughed and talked to me.

"What are you doing, little woman?" he said.

"I have got a nest of poor little birds," I answered; "I am so sorry
for them here in the cold; but they will be all right when I have got
them indoors. I shall make them a beautiful nest of cotton wool, and
feed them. Won't it be nice?"

I spoke confidently; for I had really so worked up my fancy that I
felt quite a contemptuous pity for all the wretched little birds who
were hatched every year without me to rear them. At the same time, I
had a general idea that grown-up people always _did_ throw cold water
on splendid plans like mine; so I was more indignant than surprised
when my friend the curate tried to show me that it was quite
impossible to do as I wished. The end of all his arguments was that I
must leave the nest in its place. But I had a great turn for
disputing, and was not at all inclined to give up my point. "You told
me on Sunday," I said, pertly, "that we were never too little to do
kind things; let me do this."

"If I could be sure," he said, looking at me, "that you only wish to
do a kind thing."

I got more angry and rude.

"Perhaps you think I want to kill them," I said.

He did not answer, but taking both my hands in his, said, gravely,
"Tell me, my child, which do you wish most--to be kind to these poor
little birds? or to have the honour and glory of having them, and
bringing them up?"

"To be kind to them," said I, getting very red. "I don't want any
honour and glory," and I felt ready to cry.

"Well, well," he said, smiling; "then I know you will believe me when
I tell you that the kindest thing you can do for these little birds is
to leave them where they are. And if you like, you can come and sit
here every day till they are able to fly, and keep watch over the
nest, that no naughty boy may come near it--the curate, for instance!"
and he pulled a funny face. "That will be very kind."

"But they will never know, and I want them to like me," said I.

"I thought you only wanted to be kind," he answered. And then he began
to talk very gently about different sorts of kindness, and that if I
wished to be kind like a Christian, I must be kind without hoping for
any reward, whether gratitude or anything else. He told me that the
best followers of Jesus in all times had tried hard to do everything,
however small, simply for GOD's sake, and to put themselves
away. That they often began even their letters, etc., with such words,
as, "Glory to GOD," to remind themselves that everything they
did, to be perfect, must be done to GOD, and GOD alone. And that in
doing good kind things even, they were afraid lest, though the thing
was right, the wish to do it might have come from conceit or
presumption.

"This self-devotion," he added, "is the very highest Christian life,
and seems, I dare say, very hard for you even to understand, and much
more so to put in practice. But we must all try for it in the best way
we can, little woman; and for those who by GOD's grace really
practised it, it was almost as impossible to be downcast or
disappointed as if they were already in Heaven. They wished for
nothing to happen to themselves but GOD's will; they did
nothing but for GOD's glory. And so a very good bishop says,
'I have my end, whether I succeed or am disappointed.' So you will
have your end, my child, in being kind to these little birds in the
right way, and denying yourself, whether they know you or not."

I could not have understood all he said; but I am afraid I did not try
to understand what I might have done; however, I said no more, and
stood silent, while he comforted me with the promise of a new flower
for my garden, called "hen and chickens," which he said I was to take
care of instead of the little blackbirds.

When he was gone I went back to the holly-bush, and stood gazing at
the nest, and nursing angry thoughts in my heart. "What a _preach_," I
thought, "about nothing! as if there could be any conceit and
presumption in taking care of three poor little birds! The curate must
forget that I was growing into a big girl; and as to not knowing how
to feed them, I knew as well as he did that birds lived upon worms,
and liked bread-crumbs." And so _thinking wrong_ ended (as it almost
always does) in _doing wrong_: and I took the three little blackbirds
out of the nest, popped them into my pocket-handkerchief, and ran
home. And I took some trouble to keep them out of everyone's
sight--even out of my mother's; for I did not want to hear any more
"grown-up" opinions on the matter.

I filled a basket with cotton wool, and put the birds inside, and took
them into a little room downstairs, where they would be warm. Before I
went to bed I put two or three worms, and a large supply of soaked
bread-crumbs, in the nest, close to their little beaks. "What can they
want more?" thought I in my folly; but conscience is apt to be
restless when one is young, and I could not feel quite comfortable in
bed, though I got to sleep at last, trying to fancy myself Goody
Twoshoes, with three sleek full-fledged blackbirds on my shoulders.

In the morning, as soon as I could slip away, I went to my pets. Any
one may guess what I found; but I believe no one can understand the
shock of agony and remorse that I felt. There lay the worms that I had
dug up with reckless cruelty; there was the wasted bread; and there,
above all, lay the three little blackbirds, cold and dead!

I do not know how long I stood looking at the victims of my
presumptuous wilfulness; but at last I heard a footstep in the
passage, and fearing to be caught, I tore out of the house, and down
to my old seat near the holly-bush, where I flung myself on the
ground, and "wept bitterly." At last I heard the well-known sound of
some one climbing over the wall; and then the curate stood before me,
with the plant of "hen and chickens" in his hands. I jumped up, and
shrank away from him.

"Don't come near me," I cried; "the blackbirds are dead;" and I threw
myself down again.

I knew from experience that few things roused the anger of my friend
so strongly as to see or hear of animals being ill-treated. I had
never forgotten, one day when I was out with him, his wrath over a boy
who was cruelly beating a donkey; and now I felt, though I could not
see, the expression of his face, as he looked at the holly-bush and at
me, and exclaimed, "You took them!" And then added, in the low tone in
which he always spoke when angry, "And the mother-bird has been
wandering all night round this tree, seeking her little ones in vain,
not to be comforted, because they are not! Child, child! has
GOD the Father given life to His creatures for you to destroy
it in this reckless manner?"

His words cut my heart like a knife; but I was too utterly wretched
already to be much more miserable; I only lay still and moaned. At
last he took pity, and lifting me up on to his knee, endeavoured to
comfort me.

This was not, however, an easy matter. I knew much better than he did
how very naughty I had been; and I felt that I had murdered the poor
tender little birds.

"I can never, never, forgive myself!" I sobbed.

"But you must be reasonable," he said. "You gave way to your vanity
and wilfulness, and persuaded yourself that you only wished to be kind
to the blackbirds; and you have been punished. Is it not so?"

"O yes!" I cried; "I am so wicked! I wish I were as good as you are!"

"As I am!"--he began.

I was too young then to understand the sharp tone of self-reproach in
which he spoke. In my eyes he was perfection; only perhaps a little
_too_ good. But he went on:--

"Do you know, this fault of yours reminds me of a time when I was just
as wilful and conceited, just as much bent upon doing the great duty
of helping others in my own grand fashion, rather than in the humble
way which GOD's Providence pointed out, only it was in a much
more serious matter; I was older, too, and so had less excuse. I am
almost tempted to tell you about it; not that our cases are really
quite alike, but that the punishment which met my sin was so
unspeakably bitter in comparison with yours, that you may be thankful
to have learnt a lesson of humility at smaller cost."

I did not understand him--in fact, I did not understand many things
that he said, for he had a habit of talking to me as if he were
speaking to himself; but I had a general idea of his meaning, and said
(very truly), "I cannot fancy you doing wrong."

I was puzzled again by the curious expression of his face; but he only
said, "Shall I tell you a story?"

I knew his stories of old, and gave an eager "Yes."

"It is a sad one," he said.

"I do not think I should like a very funny one just now," I replied.
"Is it true?"

"Quite," he answered. "It is about myself." He was silent for a few
moments, as if making up his mind to speak; and then, laying his head,
as he sometimes did, on my shoulder, so that I could not see his face,
he began.

"When I was a boy (older than you, so I ought to have been better), I
might have been described in the words of Scripture--I was 'the only
son of my mother, and she was a widow.' We were badly off, and she was
very delicate, nay, ill--more ill, GOD knows, than I had any
idea of. I had long been used to the sight of the doctor once or twice
a week, and to her being sometimes better and sometimes worse; and
when our old servant lectured me for making a noise, or the doctor
begged that she might not be excited or worried, I fancied that
doctors and nurses always did say things of that sort, and that there
was no particular need to attend to them.

"Not that I was unfeeling to my dear mother, for I loved her
devotedly in my wilful worldly way. It was for her sake that I had
been so vexed by the poverty into which my father's death had plunged
us. For her sake I worried her, by grumbling before her at our narrow
lodgings and lost comforts. For her sake, child, in my madness, I
wasted the hours in which I might have soothed, and comforted, and
waited on her, in dreaming of wild schemes for making myself famous
and rich, and giving her back all and more than she had lost. For her
sake I fancied myself pouring money at her feet, and loading her with
luxuries, while she was praying for me to our common Father, and
laying up treasure for herself in Heaven.

"One day I remember, when she was remonstrating with me over a bad
report which the schoolmaster had given of me (he said I could work,
but wouldn't), my vanity overcame my prudence, and I told her that I
thought some fellows were made to 'fag,' and some not; that I had been
writing a poem in my dictionary the day that I had done so badly, and
that I hoped to be a poet long before my master had composed a
grammar. I can see now her sorrowful face as, with tears in her eyes,
she told me that all 'fellows' alike were made to do their duty
'before GOD, and Angels, and Men.' That it was by improving
the little events and opportunities of every day that men became
great, and not by neglecting them for their own presumptuous fancies.
And she entreated me to strive to do my duty, and to leave the rest
with GOD. I listened, however, impatiently to what I called a
'jaw' or a 'scold,' and then (knowing the tender interest she took in
all I did) I tried to coax her by offering to read my poem. But she
answered with just severity, that what she wished was to see me a good
man, not a great one; and that she would rather see my exercises duly
written than fifty poems composed at the expense of my neglected duty.
Then she warned me tenderly of the misery which my conceit would bring
upon me, and bade me, when I said my evening prayers, to add that
prayer of King David, 'Keep Thy servant from presumptuous sins, lest
they get the dominion over me.'

"Alas! they had got the dominion over me already, too strongly for her
words to take any hold. 'She won't even look at my poem,' I thought,
and hurried proudly from the room, banging one door and leaving
another open. And I silenced my uneasy conscience by fresh dreams of
making my fortune and hers. But the punishment came at last. One day
the doctor took me into a room alone, and told me as gently as he
could what everyone but myself knew already--my mother was dying. I
cannot tell you, child, how the blow fell upon me--how, at first, I
utterly disbelieved its truth! It seemed _impossible_ that the only
hope of my life, the object of all my schemes and fancies, was to be
taken away. But I was awakened at last, and resolved that,
GOD helping me, while she did live, I would be a better son.
I can now look back with thankfulness on the few days we were
together. I never left her. She took her food and medicine from my
hand; and I received my First Communion with her on the day she died.
The day before, kneeling by her bed, I had confessed all the sin and
vanity of my heart and those miserable dreams; had destroyed with my
own hand all my papers, and had resolved that I would apply to my
studies, and endeavour to obtain a scholarship and the necessary
preparation for Holy Orders. It was a just ambition, little woman,
undertaken humbly, in the fear of GOD, and in the path of
duty; and I accomplished it years after, when I had nothing left of my
mother but her memory."

The curate was silent, and I felt, rather than saw, that the tears
which were wetting my frock had not come from my own eyes, though I
was crying bitterly. I flung my arms round his neck, and hugged him
tight.

"Oh, I am so sorry!" I sobbed; "so very, very sorry!"

We became quieter after a bit; and he lifted up his head and smiled,
and called himself a fool for making me sad, and told me not to tell
any one what he had told me, and what babies we had been, except my
mother.

"Tell her _everything_ always," he said.

I soon cheered up, particularly as he took me over the wall, and into
his workshop, and made a coffin for the poor little blackbirds, which
we lined with cotton-wool and scented with musk, as a mark of respect.
Then he dug a deep hole in the garden and we buried them, and made a
fine high mound of earth, and put the "hen and chicken" plants all
round. And that night, sitting on my mother's knee, I told her
"everything," and shed a few more tears of sorrow and repentance in
her arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many years have passed since then, and many showers of rain have
helped to lay the mound flat with the earth, so that the "hen and
chickens" have run all over it, and made a fine plot. The curate and
his mother have met at last; and I have transplanted many flowers that
he gave me to his grave. I sometimes wonder if, in his perfect
happiness, he knows, or cares to know, how often the remembrance of
his story has stopped the current of conceited day-dreams, and brought
me back to practical duty with the humble prayer, "Keep Thy servant
also from presumptuous sins."



FRIEDRICH'S BALLAD.

A TALE OF THE FEAST OF ST. NICHOLAS.


    "Nè pinger nè scolpir fia più che queti,
    L'anima volta a quell' Amor divino
    Ch'asserse a prender noi in Croce le braccia."

    "Painting and Sculpture's aid in vain I crave,
    My one sole refuge is that Love divine
    Which from the Cross stretched forth its arms to save."

    _Written by_ MICHAEL ANGELO _at the age of 83._


"So be it," said one of the council, as he rose and addressed the
others. "It is now finally decided. The Story Woman is to be walled
up."

The council was not an ecclesiastical one, and the woman condemned to
the barbarous and bygone punishment of being "walled up" was not an
offending nun. In fact the Story Woman (or _Märchen-Frau_ as she is
called in Germany) may be taken to represent the imaginary personage
who is known in England by the name of Mother Bunch, or Mother Goose;
and it was in this instance the name given by a certain family of
children to an old book of ballads and poems, which they were
accustomed to read in turn with special solemnities, on one particular
night in the year; the reader for the time being having a peculiar
costume, and the title of "Märchen-Frau," or Mother Bunch, a name
which had in time been familiarly adopted for the ballad-book itself.

This book was not bound in a fashionable colour, nor illustrated by a
fashionable artist; the Chiswick Press had not set up a type for it,
and Hayday's morocco was a thing unknown. It had not, in short, one of
those attractions with which in these days books are surrounded, whose
insides do not always fulfil the promise of the binding. If, however,
it was on these points inferior to modern volumes, it had on others
the advantage. It did not share a precarious favour with a dozen
rivals in mauve, to be supplanted ere the year was out by twelve new
ones in magenta. It was never thrown aside with the contemptuous
remark,--"I've read that!" On the contrary, it always had been to its
possessors, what (from the best Book downwards) a good book always
should be, a friend, and not an acquaintance--not to be too readily
criticized, but to be loved and trusted. The pages were yellow and
worn, not with profane ill-usage, but with honourable wear and tear;
and the mottled binding presented much such an appearance as might be
expected from a book that had been pressed under the pillow of one
reader, and in the pocket of another; that had been wept over and
laughed over, and warmed by winter fires, and damped in the summer
grass, and had in general seen as much of life as the venerable book
in question. It was not the property of one member of the family, but
the joint possession of all. It was not _mine_, but _ours_, as the
inscription, "For the Children," written on the blank leaf testified;
which inscription was hereafter to be a pathetic memorial to aged eyes
of days when "the children" were not yet separated, and took their
pleasures, like their meals, together.

And after all this, with the full consent of a council of the owners,
the _Märchen-Frau_ was to be "walled up."

But before I attempt to explain, or in any way excuse this seemingly
ungracious act, it may be well to give some account of the doers
thereof. Well, then:--

Providence had blessed a certain respectable tradesman, in a certain
town in Germany, with a large and promising family of children. He had
married very early the beloved of his boyhood, and had been left a
widower with one motherless baby almost before he was a man. A
neighbour, with womanly compassion, took pity upon this desolate
father, and more desolate child; and it was not until she had nursed
the babe in her own house through a dangerous sickness, and had for
long been chief adviser to the parent, that he awoke to the fact that
she had become necessary to him, and they were married.

Of this union came a family of eight, the two eldest of whom were laid
in turn in the quiet grave. The others survived, and, with the first
wife's daughter, made a goodly family party, which sometimes sorely
taxed the resources of the tradesman to provide for, though his
business was good and his wife careful. They scrambled up, however, as
children are wont to do in such circumstances; and at the time our
story opens the youngest had turned his back upon babyhood, and Marie,
the eldest, had reached that pinnacle of childish ambition--she was
"grown up."

A very good Marie she was, and always had been; from the days when she
ran to school with a little knapsack on her back, and her fair hair
hanging down in two long plaits, to the present time, when she
tenderly fastened that same knapsack on to the shoulders of a younger
sister; and when the plaits had for long been reclaimed from their
vagrant freedom, and coiled close to her head.

"Our Marie is not clever," said one of the children, who flattered
himself that _he was_ a bit of a genius; "our Marie is not clever, but
also she is never wrong."

It is with this same genius that our story has chiefly to do.

Friedrich was a child of unusual talent; a fact which, happily for
himself, was not discovered till he was more than twelve years old. He
learnt to read very quickly; and when he was once able, read every
book on which he could lay his hands, and in his father's house the
number was not great. When Marie was a child, the school was kept by a
certain old man, very gentle and learned in his quiet way. He had been
fond of his fair-haired pupil, and when she was no longer a scholar,
had passed many an odd hour in imparting to her a slight knowledge of
Latin, and of the great Linnæus' system of botany. He was now dead,
and his place filled by a less sympathizing pedagogue; and Friedrich
listened with envious ears to his more fortunate sister's stories of
her friend and master.

"So he taught you Latin--that great language! And botany--which is a
science!" the child would exclaim with envious admiration, when he had
heard for the thousandth time every particular of the old
schoolmaster's kindness.

And Marie would answer calmly, as she "refooted" one of the father's
stockings, "We did a good deal of the grammar, which I fear I have
forgotten, and I learnt by heart a few of the Psalms in Latin, which I
remember well. Also we commenced the system of Mr. Linnæus, but I was
very stupid, and ever preferred those plates which pictured the flower
itself to those which gave the torn pieces, and which he thought most
valuable. But, above all, he taught me to be good; and though I have
forgotten many of his lessons, there are words and advice of his which
I heeded little then, but which come back and teach me now. Father
once heard the Burgomaster say he was a genius, but I know that he was
good, and that is best of all;" with which, having turned the heel of
her stocking, Marie would put it out of reach of the kitten, and lay
the table for dinner.

And Friedrich--poor Friedrich!--groaning inwardly at his sister's
indifference to her great opportunities for learning, would speculate
to himself on the probable fate of each volume in the old
schoolmaster's library, which had been sold when he, Friedrich, was
but three years old. Thus, in these circumstances, the boy expressed
his feelings with moderation when he said, "Our Marie is not clever,
but also she is never wrong."

If the schoolmaster was dead, however, Friedrich was not,
nevertheless, friendless. There was a certain bookseller in his native
town, for whom in his spare time he ran messages, and who in return
was glad to let him spend his playhours and half-holidays among the
books in his shop. There, perched at the top of the shelves on a
ladder, or crouched upon his toes at the bottom, he devoured some
volumes and dipped into others; but what he liked best was poetry, and
this not uncommon taste with many young readers was with this one a
mania. Wherever the sight of verses met his eye, there he fastened and
read greedily.

One day, a short time before my story opens, he found, in his
wanderings from shelf to shelf, some nicely-bound volumes, one of
which he opened, and straightway verses of the most attractive-looking
metre met his eye, not, however, in German, but in a fair round Roman
text, and, alas! in a language which he did not understand. There were
customers in the shop, so he stood still in the corner with his nose
almost resting on the bookshelf, staring fiercely at the page, as if
he would force the meaning out of those fair clear-looking verses.
When the last beard had vanished through the doorway, Friedrich came
up to the counter, book in hand.

"Well, now?" said the comfortable bookseller, with a round German
smile.

"This book," said the boy; "in what language is it?"

The man stuck his spectacles on his nose, and smiled again.

"It is Italian, and these are the sonnets of Petrarch, my child. The
edition is a fine one, so be careful." Friedrich went back to his
place, sighing heavily. After a while he came out again.

"Well now, what is it?" said the bookseller, cheerfully.

"Have you an Italian grammar?"

"Only this," said the other, as he picked a book from the shelf and
laid it on the counter with a twinkle in his eye. The boy opened it
and looked up disappointed.

"It is all Italian," said he.

"No, no," was the answer; "it is in French and Italian, and was
printed at Paris. But what wouldst thou with a grammar, my child?"

The boy blushed as if he had been caught stealing, and said hastily--

"I _must_ read those poems, and I cannot if I do not learn the
language."

"And thou wouldst read Petrarch with a grammar," shouted the
bookseller; "ho! ho! ho!"

"And a dictionary," said Friedrich; "why not?"

"Why not?" repeated the other, with renewed laughter. "Why not?
Because to learn a language, my Friedrich, one must have a master, and
exercises, and a phrase-book, and progressive reading-lessons with
vocabulary; and, in short, one must learn a language in the way
everybody else learns it; that is why not, my Friedrich."

"Everybody is nobody," said Friedrich, hotly; "at least nobody worth
caring for. If I had a grammar and a dictionary, I would read those
beautiful poems."

"Hear him!" said the cheerful little bookseller. "He will read
Petrarch. He! If my volumes stop in the shelves till thou canst read
them, my child--ho! ho! ho!" and he rubbed his brushy little beard
with glee.

Friedrich's temper was not by nature of the calmest, and this
conversation rubbed its tenderest points. He answered almost
fiercely--

"Take care of your volumes. If I live, and they _do_ stop in the
shelves, I will buy them of you some day. Remember!" and he turned
sharply round to hide the tears which had begun to fall.

For a moment the good shopkeeper's little mouth became as round as his
round little eyes and his round little face; then he laid his hands on
the counter, and jumping neatly over flung his dead weight on to
Friedrich, and embraced him heartily.

"My poor child! (a kiss)--would that it had pleased Heaven to make
thee the son of a nobleman--(another kiss). But hear me. A man in
Berlin is now compiling an Italian grammar. It is to be out in a month
or two. I shall have a copy, and thou shalt see it; and if ever thou
canst read Petrarch I will give thee my volumes--(a volley of kisses).
And now, as thou hast stayed so long, come into the little room and
dine with me." With which invitation the kind-hearted German released
his young friend and led him into the back room, where they buried the
memory of Petrarch in a mess of vegetables and melted butter.

It may be added here, that the Petrarchs remained on the shelf, and
that years afterwards the round-faced little bookseller redeemed his
promise with pride.

Of these visits the father was to all intents and purposes ignorant.
He knew that Friedrich went to see the bookseller, and that the
bookseller was good-natured to him; but he never dreamt that his son
read the books with which his neighbour's shop was lined, and he knew
nothing of the wild visions which that same shop bred and nourished in
the mind of his boy, and which made the life outside its doorstep
seem a dream. The father and son saw that life from different points
of view. The boy felt that he was more talented than other boys, and
designed himself for a poet; the tradesman saw that the boy was more
talented than other boys, and designed him for the business; and the
opposite nature of these determinations was the one great misery of
Friedrich's life.

If, however, this source of the child's sorrows was a secret one, and
not spoken of to his brothers and sisters, or even to his friend the
bookseller, equally secret also were the sources of his happiness. No
eye but his own ever beheld those scraps of paper which he begged from
the bookseller, and covered with childish efforts at verse-making. No
one shared the happiness of those hours, of which perhaps a quarter
was spent in working at the poem, and three-fourths were given to the
day-dreams of the poet; or knew that the wild fancies of his brain
made Friedrich's nights more happy than his days. By day he was a
child (his family, with some reason, said a tiresome one), by night he
was a man, and a great man. He visited the courts of Europe, and
received compliments from Royalty; _his_ plays were acted in the
theatres; _his_ poems stood on the shelves of the booksellers; he made
his family rich (the boy was too young to wish for money for
himself); he made everybody happy, and himself famous.

Fame! that was the word that rang in his ears and danced before his
eyes as the hours of the night wore on, and he lived through a
glorious lifetime. And so, when the mother, candle in hand, came round
like a guardian angel among the sleeping children, to see that "all
was right," he--poor child!--must feign to be sleeping on his face, to
hide the traces of the tears which he had wept as he composed the
epitaph which was to grace the monument of the famous Friedrich ----,
poet, philosopher, etc. Whoever doubts the possibility of such
exaggerated folly, has never known an imaginative childhood, or wept
over those unreal griefs, which are not the less bitter at the time
from being remembered afterwards with a mixture of shame and
amusement. Happy or unhappy, however, in his dreams the boy was great,
and this was enough; for Friedrich was vain, as everyone is tempted to
be who feels himself in any way singular and unlike those about him.
He revelled in the honours which he showered upon himself, and so--the
night was happy; and so--the day was unwelcome when he was smartly bid
to get up and put on his stockings, and found Fame gone and himself a
child again, without honour, in his own country, and in his father's
house.

These sad dreams (sad in their uselessness) were destined, however, to
do him some good at last; and, oddly enough, the childish council that
condemned the ballad-book decided his fate also. This was how it
happened.

The children were accustomed, as we have said, to celebrate the Feast
of St. Nicholas by readings from their beloved book. St. Nicholas's
Day (the 6th of December) has for years been a favourite festival with
the children in many parts of the Continent. In France, the children
are diligently taught that St. Nicholas comes in the night down the
chimney, and fills the little shoes (which are ranged there for the
purpose) with sweetmeats or rods, according to his opinion of their
owner's conduct during the past year. The Saint is supposed to travel
through the air, and to be followed by an ass laden with two panniers,
one of which contains the good things, and the other the birch, and he
leaves his ass at the top of the chimney and comes down alone. The
same belief is entertained in Holland; and in some parts of Germany he
is even believed to carry off bad boys and girls in his sack,
answering in this respect to our English Bogy.

The day, as may be supposed, is looked forward to with no small amount
of anxiety; very clean and tidy are the little shoes placed by the
young expectants; and their parents--who have threatened and promised
in St. Nicholas's name for a year past--take care that, with one sort
of present or the other, the shoes are well filled. The great
question--rods or sweetmeats--is, however, finally settled for each
individual before breakfast-time on the great day; and before dinner,
despite maternal warnings, most of the said sweetmeats have been
consumed. And so it came to pass that Friedrich and his brothers and
sisters had hit upon a plan for ending the day, with the same spirit
and enjoyment with which it opened.

The mother, by a little kind manoeuvring, generally induced the
father to sup and take his evening pipe with a neighbour, for the
tradesman was one of those whose presence is rather a "wet blanket"
upon all innocent folly and fun. Then she good-naturedly took herself
off to household matters, and the children were left in undisturbed
possession of the stove, round which they gathered with the book, and
the game commenced. Each in turn read whichever poem he preferred; and
the reader for the time being, was wrapt in a huge hood and cloak,
kept for the purpose, and was called the "Märchen-Frau," or Story
Woman. Sometimes the song had a chorus, which all the children sang to
whichever suited best of the thousand airs that are always floating
in German brains. Sometimes, if the ballad was a favourite one, the
others would take part in any verses that contained a dialogue. This
was generally the case with some verses in the pet ballad of
Bluebeard, at that exciting point where Sister Anne is looking from
the castle window. First the Märchen-Frau read in a sonorous voice--

    "Schwester Aennchen, siehst du nichts?"
    (Sister Anne, do you see nothing?)

Then the others replied for Anne--

    "Stäubchen fliegen, Gräschen wehen."
    (A little dust flies, a little grass waves.)

Again the Märchen-Frau--

    "Aennchen, lässt sich sonst nichts sehen?"
    (Little Anne, is there nothing else to be seen?)

And the unsatisfactory reply--

    "Schwesterchen, sonst seh' ich nichts!"
    (Little sister, I see nothing else!)

After this the Märchen-Frau finished the ballad alone, and the
conclusion was received with shouts of applause and laughter, that
would have considerably astonished the good father, could he have
heard them, and that did sometimes oblige the mother to call order
from the loft above, just for propriety's sake; for, in truth, the
good woman loved to hear them, and often hummed in with a chorus to
herself as she turned over the clothes among which she was busy.

At last, however, after having been for years the crowning enjoyment
of St. Nicholas's Day, the credit of the Märchen-Frau was doomed to
fade. The last reading had been rather a failure, not because the old
ballad-book was supplanted by a new one, or because the children had
outgrown its histories; perhaps--though they did not acknowledge
it--Friedrich was in some degree to blame.

His increasing knowledge, the long readings in the bookseller's shop,
which his brothers and sisters neither shared nor knew of, had given
him a feeling of contempt for the one book on which they feasted from
year to year; and his part, as Märchen-Frau, had been on this occasion
more remarkable for yawns than for anything else. The effect of this
failure was not confined to that day. Whenever the book was brought
out, there was the same feeling that the magic of it was gone, and
very greatly were the poor children disquieted by the fact.

At last, one summer's day, in the year of which we are writing, one of
the boys was struck, as he fancied, by a brilliant idea; and as
brilliant ideas on any subject are precious, he lost no time in
summoning a council of his brothers and sisters in the garden. It was
a half-holiday, and they soon came trooping round the great linden
tree--where the bees were already in full possession--and the youngest
girl, who was but six years old, bore the book hugged fast in her two
arms.

The boy opened the case--as lawyers say--by describing the loss of
interest in their book since the last Feast of St. Nicholas. "This did
not," he said, "arise from any want of love to the stories themselves,
but from the fact of their knowing them so well. Whatever ballad the
Märchen-Frau chose, every line of it was so familiar to each one of
them that it seemed folly to repeat it. In these circumstances it was
evident that the greatest compliment they could pay the stories was to
forget them, and he had a plan for attaining this desirable end. Let
them deny themselves now for their future pleasure; let them put away
the Märchen-Frau till next St. Nicholas's Day, and, in the meantime,
let each of them do his best to forget as much of it as he possibly
could." The speaker ceased, and in the silence the bees above droned
as if in answer, and then the children below shouted applause until
the garden rang.

But now came the question, where was the Märchen-Frau to be put? and
for this the suggestive brother had also an idea. He had found
certain bricks in the thick old garden wall which were loose, and when
taken out there was a hole which was quite the thing for their
purpose. Let them wrap the book carefully up, put it in the hole, and
replace the bricks. This was his proposal, and he sat down. The bees
droned above, the children shouted below, and the proposal was carried
amid general satisfaction. "So be it," said the suggestor, in
conclusion. "It is now finally decided. The Märchen-Frau is to be
walled up."

And walled up she was forthwith, but not without a parting embrace
from each of her judges, and possibly some slight latent faith in the
suggestion of one of the party that perhaps St. Nicholas would put a
new inside and new stories into her before next December.

"I don't think I should like a new inside, though," doubted the child
before mentioned, with a shake of her tiny plaits, "or new stories
either."

As this quaint little Fräulein went into the house she met Friedrich,
who came from the bookseller's.

"Friedrich," said she, in a solemn voice, "we have walled up the
'Märchen-Frau.'"

"Have you, _Schwesterchen_?"

This was Friedrich's answer; but it may safely be stated that, if any
one had asked him what it was his sister had told him, he would have
been utterly unable to reply.

He had been to the bookseller's!

The summer passed, and the children kept faithfully to their resolve.
The little sister sometimes sat by the wall and comforted the
Märchen-Frau inside, with promises of coming out soon; but not a brick
was touched. There was something pathetic in the children's voluntary
renouncement of their one toy. The father was too absent and the
mother too busy, to notice its loss; Marie missed it and made
inquiries of the children, but she was implored to be silent, and
discreetly held her tongue. Winter drew on, and for some time a change
was visible in the manners of one of the children; he seemed restless
and uncomfortable, as if something preyed upon his mind. At last he
was induced to unburden himself to the others, when it was discovered
that he couldn't forget the poems in "Märchen-Frau." This was the
grievance.

"It seems as if I did it on purpose," groaned he in self-indignation.
"The nearer the time comes, and the more I try to forget, the clearer
I remember them everyone. You know my pet is Bluebeard; well, I
thought I would forget that altogether, every word: and then when my
turn came to be Märchen-Frau I would take it for my piece. And now, of
all the rest, this is just the one that runs in my head. It is quite
as if I did it on purpose."

Involuntarily the company--who appeared to have forgotten it as little
as he--struck up in a merry tune--

    "Blaubart war ein reicher Mann," etc.[A]

"Oh, don't!" groaned the victim. "That's just how it goes in my head
all along, especially the verse--

    "Stark war seines Körpers Ban,
    Feurig waren seine Blicke,
    Aber ach!--ein Missgeschicke!--
    Aber ach! sein Bart war blau."[B]

"On Sunday, when the preacher gave out the text, I was looking at him,
and it came so strongly into my head that I nearly said it out
loud--'But ah! his beard was blue!' To-day the schoolmaster asked me a
question about Solomon. I could remember nothing but 'Ah! his beard
was blue!' I have tried this week with all my might; and the harder I
try, the better I remember every word. It is dreadful."

[Footnote A: "Bluebeard was a rich man."]

[Footnote B:

    "Strong was the build of his body,
    Fiery were his glances,
    But ah!--disaster!--
    But ah! his beard was blue."]

It was dreadful; but he was somewhat comforted to learn that the
memories of his brothers and sisters were as perverse as his own.
Those ballads were not to be easily forgotten. They refused to give up
their hold on the minds they had nourished and amused so long.

One and all the children were really distressed, with the exception of
Friedrich, who had, as usual, given about half his attention to the
subject in hand; and who now sat absently humming to himself the
account of Bluebeard's position and character, as set forth in
Gotter's ballad.

The others came to the conclusion that there was but one hope
left--that St. Nicholas might have put some new ballads into the old
book--and one and all they made for the hiding-place, followed at a
feebler pace by the little Fräulein, who ran with her lips tightly
shut, her hands clenched, and her eyes wide open with a mixture of
fear and expectation. The bricks were removed, the book unwrapped, but
alas! everything was the same, even to the rough woodcut of Bluebeard
himself, in the act of sharpening his scimitar. There was no change,
except that the volume was rather the worse for damp. It was thrown
down with a murmur of disappointment, but seized immediately by the
little Fräulein, who flung herself upon it in a passion of tears and
embraces. Hers was the only faithful affection; the charm of the
Märchen-Frau was gone.

They were all out of humour with this, and naturally looked about for
some one to find fault with. Friedrich was at hand, and so they fell
upon him and reproached him for his want of sympathy with their
vexation. The boy awoke from a brown study, and began to defend
himself:--"He was very sorry," he said; "but he couldn't see the use
of making such a great fuss about a few old ballads, that after all
were nothing so very wonderful."

This was flat heresy, and he was indignantly desired to say where any
were to be got like them--where even _one_ might be found, when St.
Nicholas could not provide them? Friedrich was even less respectful to
the idea of St. Nicholas, and said something which, translated into
English, would look very like the word _humbug_. This was no answer to
the question "where were they to get a ballad?" and a fresh storm came
upon his head; whereupon being much goaded, and in a mixture of vanity
and vexation of spirit, he let out the fact that "he thought he could
write one almost as good himself."

This turned the current of affairs. The children had an instinctive
belief in Friedrich's talents, to which their elders had not attained.
The faith of childhood is great; and they saw no reason why he should
not be able to do as he said, and so forthwith began to pet and coax
him as unmercifully as they had scolded five minutes before.

"Beloved Friedrich; dear little brother! _Do_ write one for us. We
know thou canst!"

"I cannot," said Friedrich. "It is all nonsense. I was only joking."

"It is not nonsense; we know thou canst! Dear Fritz--just to please
us!"

"Do!" said another. "It was only yesterday the mother was saying,
'Friedrich can do nothing useful!' But when thou hast written a poem
thou wilt have done more than any one in the house--ay, or in the
town. And when thou hast written one poem thou wilt write more, and be
like Hans Sachs, and the Twelve Wise Masters thou hast told us of so
often."

Friedrich had read many of the verses of the Cobbler Poet, but the
name of Hans Sachs awakened no thought in his mind. He had heard
nothing of that speech but one sentence, and it decided him.

_Friedrich can do nothing useful._ "I will see what I can do," he
said, and walked hastily away. Down the garden, out into the road,
away to the mill, where he could stand by the roaring water and talk
aloud without being heard.

"Friedrich can do nothing useful. Yes, I will write a ballad."

He went home, got together some scraps of paper, and commenced.

In half-a-dozen days he began as many ballads, and tore them up one
and all. He beat his brains for plots, and was satisfied with none. He
had a fair maiden, a cruel father, a wicked sister, a handsome knight,
and a castle on the Rhine; and so plunged into a love story with a
moonlight meeting, an escape on horseback, pursuit, capture, despair,
suicide, and a ghostly apparition that floated over the river, and
wrung her hands under the castle window. It seems impossible for an
author to do more for his heroine than take her out of the world, and
bring her back again; but our poet was not content. He had not come
himself to the sentiment of life, and felt a rough boyish disgust at
the maundering griefs of his hero and heroine, who, moreover, were
unpleasantly like every other hero and heroine that he had ever read
of under similar circumstances; and if there was one thing more than
another that Friedrich was determined to be, it was to be original.

He had no half hopes. With the dauntlessness of young ambition, he
determined to do his very best, and that that best should be better
than anything that ever had been done by any one.

Having failed with the sentimental, he tried to write something funny.
Surely such child's tales as Bluebeard, Cinderella, etc., were easy
enough to write. He would make a _Kindeslied_--a child's song. But he
was mistaken; to write a new nursery ballad was the hardest task of
all. Time after time he struggled; and, at last, one day when he had
written and destroyed a longer effort than usual, he went to bed in
hopeless despair.

His disappointment mingled with his dreams. He dreamt that he was in
the bookseller's shop hunting among the shelves for some scraps of
paper on which he had written. He could not find them, he thought, but
came across the Petrarch volumes in their beautiful binding. He opened
one and saw--not a word of that fair-looking Italian, but--his own
ballad that he could not write, written and printed in good German
character with his name on the title-page. He took it in his hands and
went out of the shop, and as he did so it seemed to him, in his dream,
that he had become a man. He dreamt that as he came down the steps,
the people in the street gathered round him and cheered and shouted.
The women held up their children to look at him; he was a Great Man!
He thought that he turned back into the shop and went up to the
counter. There sat the smiling little bookseller as natural as life,
who smiled and bowed to him, as Friedrich had a hundred times seen
him bow and smile to the bearded men who came in to purchase.

"How many have you sold of this?" said Friedrich, in his dream.

"Forty thousand!" with another smile and bow.

Forty thousand! It seemed to him that all the world must have read it.
This was Fame.

He went out of the shop, through the shouting market-place, and home,
where his father led him in and offered pipes and a mug of ale, as if
he were the Burgomaster. He sat down, and when his mother came in,
rose to embrace her, and, doing so, knocked down the mug. Crash! it
went on the floor with a loud noise, which woke him up; and then he
found himself in bed, and that he had thrown over the mug of water
which he had put by his bedside to drink during the thirsty feverish
hours that he lay awake.

He was not a great man, but a child.

He had not written a ballad, but broken a mug.

"Friedrich can do nothing useful."

He buried his face, and wept bitterly.

In time, his tears were dried, and as it was very early he lay awake
and beat his brains. He had added nothing to his former character but
the breaking of a piece of crockery. Something must be done. No more
funny ballads now. He would write something terrible--miserable;
something that should make other people weep as he had wept. He was in
a very tragic humour indeed. He would have a hero who should go into
the world to seek his fortune, and come back to find his lady-love in
a nunnery; but that was an old story. Well, he would turn it the other
way, and put the hero into a monastery; but that wasn't new. Then he
would shut both of them up, and not let them meet again till one was a
monk and the other a nun, which would be grievous enough in all
reason; but this was the oldest of all. Friedrich gave up love stories
on the spot. It was clearly not his _forte_.

Then he thought he would have a large family of brothers and sisters,
and kill them all by a plague. But, besides the want of further
incident, this idea did not seem to him sufficiently sad. Either from
its unreality, or from their better faith, the idea of death does not
possess the same gloom for the young that it does for those older
minds that have a juster sense of the value of human life, and are,
perhaps, more heavily bound in the chains of human interests.

No; the plague story might be pathetic, but it was not miserable--not
miserable enough at any rate for Friedrich.

In truth, he felt at last that every misfortune that he could invent
was lost in the depths of the real sorrow which oppressed his own
life, and out of this knowledge came an idea for his ballad. What a
fool never to have thought of it before!

He would write the history--the miserable bitter history--of a great
man born to a small way of life, whose merits should raise him from
his low estate to a deserved and glorious fame; who should toil, and
strive, and struggle, and when his hopes and prayers seemed to be at
last fulfilled, and the reward of his labours at hand, should awake
and find that it was a dream; that he was no nearer to Fame than ever,
and that he might never reach it. Here was enough sorrow for a
tragedy. The ballad should be written now.

The next day. Friedrich plunged into the bookseller's shop.

"Well, now, what is it?" smiled the comfortable little bookseller.

"I want some paper, please," gasped Friedrich; "a good big bit if I
may have it, and, if you please, I must go now. I will come and clean
out the shop for you at the end of the week, but I am very busy
to-day."

"The condition of the shop," said the little bookseller,
grandiloquently, with a wave of his hand, "yields to more important
matters; namely, to thy condition, my child, which is not of the best.
Thou art as white as this sheet of paper, to which thou art heartily
welcome. I am silent, but not ignorant. Thou wouldst be a writer, but
art not yet a philosopher, my Friedrich. Thou art not fast-set on thy
philosophic equilibrium. Thou hast knocked down three books and a
stool since thou hast come in the shop. Be calm, my child: consider
that even if truly also the fast-bound-eternally-immutable-condition
of everlastingly-varying-circumstance--"

But by this time Friedrich was at home.

How he got through the next three days he never knew. He stumbled in
and out of the house with the awkwardness of an idiot, and was so
stupid in school that nothing but his previous good character saved
him from a flogging. The day before the Feast of St. Nicholas (which
was a holiday) the schoolmaster dismissed him with the severe inquiry,
if he meant to be a dunce all his life? and Friedrich went home with
two sentences ringing in his head--

"Do I mean to be a dunce all my life?"

"Friedrich can do nothing useful."

To-night the ballad must be finished.

He contrived to sit up beyond his usual hour, and escaped notice by
crouching behind a large linen chest, and there wrote and wrote till
his heart beat and his head felt as if it would split in pieces. At
last, the careful mother discovered that Friedrich had not bid her
good-night, and he was brought out of his hiding-place and sent to
bed.

He took a light and went softly up the ladder into the loft, and, to
his great satisfaction, found the others asleep. He said his prayers,
and got into bed, but he did not put out the light; he put a box
behind it to prevent its being seen, and drew out his paper and wrote.
The ballad was done, but he must make a fair copy for the
Märchen-Frau; and very hard work it was, in his feverish excited
state, to write out a thing that was finished. He worked resolutely,
however, and at last completed it with trembling hands, and pushed it
under his pillow.

Then he sat up in bed, and looked round him.

Time passed, and still he sat shivering and clasping his knees, and
the reason he sat so was--because he dared not lie down.

The work was done, and the overstrained mind, no longer occupied,
filled with ghastly fears and fancies. He did not dare to put out the
light, and yet its faint glimmer only made the darkness more horrible.
He did not dare to look behind him, though he knew that there was
nothing there. He trembled at the scratching sound in the wainscot,
though he knew that it was only mice. A sudden light on the window,
and a distant chorus, did not make his heart beat less wildly from
being nothing more alarming than two or three noisy students going
home with torches. Then his light took the matter into its own hands,
and first flared up with a suddenness that almost made Friedrich jump
out of his skin, and then left him in total darkness. He could endure
no longer, and, scrambling out of bed, crossed the floor to where the
warm light came up the steps of the ladder from the room beneath.
There our hero crouched without daring to move, and comforted himself
with the sounds of life below. But it was very wearying, and yet he
dared not go back. A neighbour had "dropped in," and he could see
figures passing to and fro across the kitchen.

At last his sister passed, with the light shining on her golden
plaits, and he risked a low murmur of "Marie! Marie!"

She stopped an instant, and then passed on; but after a few minutes,
she returned, and came up the ladder with her finger on her lips to
enjoin silence. He needed no caution, being instinctively aware that
if one parental duty could be more obvious than another to the
tradesman, it would be that of crushing such folly as Friedrich was
displaying by timely severity. The boy crept back to bed, and Marie
came after him.

There are unheroic moments in the lives of the greatest of men, and
though when the head is strong and clear, and there is plenty of light
and good company, it is highly satisfactory and proper to smile
condescension upon female inanity, there are times when it is not
unpleasant to be at the mercy of kind arms that pity without asking a
reason, and in whose presence one may be foolish without shame. And it
is not ill, perhaps, for some of us, whose acutely strung minds go up
with every discovery, and down with every doubt, if we have some
humble comforter (whether woman or man) on whose face a faithful
spirit has set the seal of peace--a face which in its very
steadfastness is "as the face of an angel."

Such a face looked down upon Friedrich, before which fancied horrors
fled; and he wound his arms round Marie's neck, and laid down his
head, and was comfortable, if not sublime.

After a dozen or so of purposeless kisses, she spoke--

"What is it, my beloved?"

"I--I don't think I can get to sleep," said the poet.

Marie abstained from commenting on this remark, and Friedrich was
silent and comfortable. So comfortable that, though he despised her
opinion on such matters he asked it in a low whisper--"Marie, dost
thou not think it would be the very best thing in the world to be a
great man? To labour and labour for it, and be a great man at last?"

Marie's answer was as low, but quite decided--

"No."

"Why not, Marie?"

"It is very nice to be great, and I should love to see thee a great
man, Friedrich, very well indeed, but the very best thing of all is to
be good. Great men are not always happy ones, though when they are
good also it is very glorious, and makes one think of the words of the
poor heathen in Lycaonia--'The gods have come down to us in the
likeness of men.' But if ever thou art a great man, little brother, it
will be the good and not the great things of thy life that will bring
thee peace. Nay, rather, neither thy goodness nor thy greatness, but
the mercy of GOD!"

And in this opinion Marie was obstinately fixed, and Friedrich argued
no more.

"I think I shall do now," said the hero at last; "I thank thee very
much, Marie."

She kissed him anew, and bade GOD bless him, and wished him
good-night, and went down the ladder till her golden plaits caught
again the glow of the warm kitchen, and Friedrich lost sight of her
tall figure and fair face, and was alone once more.

He was better, but still he could not sleep. Wearied and vexed, he lay
staring into the darkness till he heard steps upon the ladder, and
became the involuntary witness of--the true St. Nicholas.

It was the mother, with a basket in her hand, and Friedrich watched
her as she approached the place where all the shoes were laid out, his
among them.

The children were by no means immaculate or in any way greatly
superior to other families, but the mother was tender-hearted, and had
a poor memory for sins that were past, and Friedrich saw her fill one
shoe after another with cakes and sweetmeats. At last she came to his,
and then she stopped. He lifted up his head, and an indefinable fury
surged in his heart. He had been very tiresome since the ballad was
begun; was she going to put rods into his shoes only? _His_! He could
have borne anything but this. Meanwhile, she was fumbling in the
basket; and, at last, pulled out--not a rod, but--a paper of cakes of
another kind, to which Friedrich was particularly attached, and with
these she lined the shoes thickly, and filled them up with sweetmeats,
and passed on.

"Oh, mother! mother! Far, far too kind!" The awkwardness and
stupidity of yesterday, and of many yesterdays, smote him to the
heart, and roused once more the only too ready tears. But he did not
cry long, he had a happy feeling of community with his brothers and
sisters in getting more than they any of them deserved; to have seen
the St. Nicholas's proceedings had diverted his mind from gloomy
fancies, and altogether, with a comfortable sensation of cakes and
kindness, he fell asleep smiling, and slept soundly and well.

The next day he threw his arms round his mother, and said that the
cakes were "so nice."

"But I don't deserve them," he added.

"Thou'lt mend," said she kindly. "And no doubt the Saint knew that
thou hadst eaten but half a dinner for a week past, and brought those
cakes to tempt thee; so eat them all, my child; for, doubtless, there
are plenty more where they come from."

"I am very much obliged to whoever did think of it," said Friedrich.

"And plenty more there are," said the good woman to Marie afterwards,
as they were dishing the dinner. "Luise Jansen's shop is full of them.
But, bless the boy! he's too clever for anything. There's no playing
St. Nicholas with him."

The day went by at last, and the evening came on. The tradesman went
off of himself to see if he could meet with the Burgomaster, and the
children became rabid in their impatience for Friedrich's ballad.

He would not read it himself, so Marie was pressed into the service,
and crowned with the hood and cloak, and elected Märchen-Frau.

The author himself sat in an arm-chair, with a face as white and
miserable as if he were ordered for execution. He formed a painful
contrast to his ruddy brothers and sisters; and it would seem as if he
had begun already to experience the truth of Marie's assertion, that
"great men are not always happy ones."

The ballad was put into the Märchen-Frau's hands, and she was told
that Friedrich had written it. She gave a quick glance at it, and
asked if he had really invented it all. The children repeated the
fact, which was a pleasant but not a surprising one to them, and Marie
began.

The young poet had evidently a good ear, for the verses were easy and
musical, and the metre more than tolerably correct; and as the hero of
the ballad worked harder and harder, and got higher and higher, the
children clapped their hands, and discovered that it was "quite like
Friedrich."

Why, when that hero was almost at the height of fortune, and the
others gloried in his success, did the foolish author bury his face
upon his arms, and sob silently but bitterly in sympathy?--moreover,
with such a heavy and absorbing grief that he did not hear it, when
Marie stopped for an instant and then went on again, or know that
steps had come behind his chair, and that his father and the
Burgomaster were in the room.

The Märchen-Frau went on; the hero awoke from his unreal happiness to
his real fate, and bewailed in verse after verse the heavy weights of
birth, and poverty, and circumstance, that kept him from the heights
of fame. The ballad was ended.

Then a voice fell on Friedrich's ear, which nearly took away his
breath. It was his father's asking sternly, "What is all this?"

And then he knew that Marie was standing up, with a strange emotion on
her face, and he heard her say--

"It is a poem that Friedrich has written. He has written it all
himself. Every word. And he is but twelve years old!" She was pointing
to him, or, perhaps, the Burgomaster might not have recognized in that
huddled miserable figure the genius of the family.

His was the next voice, and what he said Friedrich could hardly
remember; the last sentences only he clearly understood.

"GOD has not blessed me with children, neighbour. My wife, as
well as I, would be ashamed if such genius were lost for want of a
little money. Give the child to me. He shall have a liberal education,
and will be a great man."

"I shall not," said the tradesman, "stand in the way of his interests
or your commands. I cannot tell what to say to your kindness,
Burgomaster. GOD willing, I hope he will be a credit to the town."

"GOD willing, he will be a credit to his country," said the
Burgomaster.

The words rang in Friedrich's ears over and over again, like the
changes of bells. They danced before his eyes as if he saw them in a
book. They were written in his heart as if "graven with an iron pen
and lead in the rock for ever."

"GOD _willing, I hope he will be a credit to the town._"

"GOD _willing, he will be a credit to his country._"

"_He shall have a liberal education, and will be a_ GREAT
MAN."

Friedrich tried to stand on his feet and thank the Burgomaster; who,
on any other occasion, might have been tempted to suppose him an
idiot, so white and distorted was the child's face, struggling through
tears and smiles. He could not utter a word; a mist began to come
before his eyes, through which the Burgomaster's head seemed to bob up
and down, and then his father's, and his mother's, and Marie's, with a
look of pity on her face. He tried to tell _her_ that he was now a
great man and felt quite happy; but, unfortunately, was only able to
burst into tears, and then to burst out laughing, and then a sharp
pain shot through his head, and he remembered no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

Friedrich had a dim consciousness of coming round after this, and
being put to bed; then he fell asleep, and slept heavily. When he woke
Marie was sitting by his side, and it was dark. The mother had gone
downstairs, she said, and she had taken her place. Friedrich lay
silent for a bit; at last he said,

"I am very happy, Marie."

"I am very glad, dearest."

"Dost thou think father will let the Burgomaster give me a good
education, Marie?"

"Yes, dear, I am sure he will."

"It is very kind," said Friedrich, thoughtfully; "for I know he wants
me for the business. But I will help him some day. And, Marie, I will
be a good man, and when I am very rich I will give great alms to the
poor."

"Thou wilt be a good man before thou art a rich one, I trust," said
his dogmatic sister. "We are accepted in that we have, and not in that
we have not. Thou hast great talent, and wilt give it to the Lord,
whether He make thee rich or no. Wilt thou not, dearest?"

"What dost thou mean, Marie? Am I never to write anything but hymns?"

"No, no, I do not mean that," she said. "I am very ignorant and cannot
rightly explain it to thee, little brother. But genius is a great and
perilous gift; and, oh, Friedrich! Friedrich! promise me just
this:--that thou wilt never, never write anything against the faith or
the teaching of the Saviour, and that thou wilt never use the graces
of poetry to cover the hideousness of any of those sins which it is
the work of a lifetime to see justly, and to fight against manfully.
Promise me just this."

"Oh, Marie! to think that I could be so wicked!"

"No! no!" she said, covering him with kisses. "I know thou wilt be
good and great, and we shall all be proud of our little brother.
GOD give thee the pen of a ready writer, and grace to use it
to His glory!"

"I will," he said, "GOD help me! and I will write beautiful
hymns for thee, Marie, that when I am dead shall be sung in the
churches. They shall be like that Evening Hymn we sing so often. Sing
it now, my sister!"

Marie cleared her throat, and in a low voice, that steadied and grew
louder and sweeter till it filled the house and died away among the
rafters, sang the beautiful hymn that begins--

    "Herr, Dein Auge geht nicht unter, wenn es bei uns Abend wird;"
    (Lord! Thine eye does not go down, when it is evening with us.)

The boy lay drinking it in with that full enjoyment of simple vocal
music which is so innate in the German character; and as he lay, he
hummed his accustomed part in it, and the mother at work below caught
up the song involuntarily, and sang at her work; and Marie's clear
voice breaking through the wooden walls of the house, was heard by a
passer in the street, who struck in with the bass of the familiar
hymn, and went his way. Before it was ended, Friedrich was sleeping
peacefully once more.

But Marie sat by the stove till the watchman in the quaint old street
told the hour of midnight, when (with the childish custom taught her
by the old schoolmaster long ago) she folded her hands, and murmured,

    "Nisi Dominus urbem custodiat, frustra vigilat custos."
    (Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but
    in vain.)

And then she slept also.

The snow fell softly on the roof, and on the walls of the old church
outside, and on the pavement of the street of the poet's native town,
and the night passed and the day came.

There is little more to tell, for that night was the last night of his
sorrowful humble childhood, and that day was the first day of his
fame.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Duke of ---- was an enlightened and generous man, and a munificent
patron of the Arts and Sciences, and of literary and scientific men.
He was not exactly a genius, but he was highly accomplished. He wrote
a little, and played a little, and drew a little; and with fortune to
befriend him, as a natural consequence he published a little, and
composed a little, and framed his pictures.

But what was better and more remarkable than this, was the generous
spirit in which he loved and admired those who did great things in the
particular directions in which he did a little. He bought good
pictures while he painted bad ones; and those writers, musicians, and
artists who could say but little for his performances, had every
reason to talk loudly of his liberality. He was the special admirer of
talent born in obscurity; and at the time of which we are writing
(many years after the events related above), the favourite "lion" in
the literary clique he had gathered round him in his palace, was a
certain poet--the son of a small tradesman in a small town, who had
been educated by the kindness of the Burgomaster (long dead), and who
now had made Germany to ring with his fame; who had visited the Courts
of Europe, and received compliments from Royalty, whose plays were
acted in the theatres, whose poems stood on the shelves of the
booksellers, who was a great man--Friedrich!

It was a lovely evening, and the Duke, leaning on the arm of his
favourite, walked up and down a terrace. The Duke was (as usual) in
the best possible humour. The poet (as was not uncommon) was just in
the slightest degree inclined to be in a bad one. They had been
reading a critique on his poems. It was praise, it is true, but the
praise was not judiciously administered, and the poet was aggrieved.
He rather felt (as authors are not unapt to feel) that a poet who
could write such poems should have critics created with express
capabilities for understanding him. But the good Duke was in his most
cheery and amiable mood, and quite bent upon smoothing his ruffled
lion into the same condition.

"What impossible creatures you geniuses are to please!" he said. "Tell
me, my friend, has there ever been, since you first began your career,
a bit of homage or approbation that has really pleased you?"

"Oh, yes!" said the poet, in a tone that sounded like Oh, no!

"I don't believe it," said the Duke. "Come, now, could you, if you
were asked, describe the happiest and proudest hour of your life?"

A new expression came into the poet's eyes, and lighted up his gaunt
intellectual face. Some old memories awoke within him, and it is
doubtful if he saw the landscape at which he was gazing. But the Duke
was not quick, though kind; he thought that Friedrich had not heard
him, and repeated the question.

"Yes," said the poet. "Yes, indeed I could."

"Well, then, let me guess," said the Duke, facetiously. (He fancied
that he was bringing his crusty genius into capital condition.) "Was
it when your great tragedy of 'Boadicea' was first performed in
Berlin, and the theatre rose like one man to offer homage, and the
gods sent thunder? I wish they had ever treated my humble efforts with
as much favour. Was it then?"

"No!"

"Was it when his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of ---- was pleased to
present you with a gold snuff-box set with diamonds, and to express
his opinion that your historical plays were incomparably among the
finest productions of poetic genius?"

"His Imperial Majesty," said Friedrich, "is a brave soldier; but,
a--hem!--an indifferent critic. I do not take snuff, and his Imperial
Majesty does not read poetry. The interview was gratifying, but that
was not the occasion. No!"

"Was it when you were staying with Dr. Kranz at G----, and the
students made that great supper for you, and escorted your carriage
both ways with a procession of torches?"

"Poor boys!" said the poet, laughing; "it was very kind, and they
could ill afford it. But they would have drunk quite as much wine for
any one who would have taken the inside out of the University clock,
or burnt the Principal's wig, as they did for me. It was a very
unsteady procession that brought me home, I assure you. The way they
poked the torches in each other's faces left one student, as I heard,
with no less than eight duels on his hands. And, oh! the manner in
which they howled my most pathetic love songs! No! no!"

The Duke laughed heartily.

"Is it any of the various occasions on which the fair ladies of
Germany have testified their admiration by offerings of sympathy and
handiwork?"

"No!" roared the poet.

"Are you quite sure?" said the Duke, slyly. "I have heard of
comforters, and slippers, and bouquets, and locks of hair, besides a
dozen of warm stockings knit by the fair hands of ----"

"Spare me!" groaned Friedrich, in mock indignation. "Am I a pet
preacher, that I should be smothered in female absurdities? I have
hair that would stuff a sofa, comforters that would protect a regiment
in Siberia, slippers, stockings ----. I shall sell them, I shall burn
them. I would send them back, but the ladies send nothing but their
Christian names, and to identify Luise, and Gretchen, and Catherine,
and Bettina, is beyond my powers. No!"

When they had ceased laughing the Duke continued his catechism.

"Was it when the great poet G---- (your only rival) paid that handsome
compliment to your verses on ----"

"No!" interrupted the poet. "A thousand times no! The great poet
praised the verses you allude to simply to cover his depreciation of
my 'Captive Queen,' which is among my best efforts, but too much in
his own style. How Germany can worship his bombastic ---- but that's
nothing! No."

"Was it when you passed accidentally through the streets of Dresden,
and the crowd discovered you, and carried you to the hotel on its
shoulders?"

The momentary frown passed from Friedrich's face, and he laughed
again.

"And when the men who carried me twisted my leg so that I couldn't
walk for a fortnight, to say nothing of the headache I endured from
bowing to the populace like a Chinese mandarin? No!"

"Is it any triumph you have enjoyed in any other country in Europe?"

"No!"

"My dear genius, I can guess no more; what, in the name of Fortune,
was this happy occasion--this life triumph?"

"It is a long story, your highness, and entertaining to no one but
myself."

"You do me injustice," said the Duke. "A long story from you is too
good to be lost. Sit down, and favour me."

A patron's wishes are not to be neglected; and somewhat unwillingly
the poet at last sat down, and told the story of his Ballad and of St.
Nicholas's Day, as it has been told here. The fountain of tears is
drier in middle age than in childhood, but he was not unmoved as he
concluded.

"Every circumstance of that evening," he said, "is as fresh in my
remembrance now as it was then, and will be till I die. It is a joy, a
triumph, and a satisfaction that will never fade. The words that
roused me from despair, that promised knowledge to my ignorance and
fame to my humble condition, have power now to make my heart beat, and
to bring hopeful tears into eyes that should have dried with age--

     "GOD _willing, he will be a credit to the town._"

     "GOD _willing, he will be a credit to his country._"

     "_He shall have a liberal education, and will be
      a great man._"

"It is as good as a poem," said the delighted Duke. "I shall tell the
company to-night that I am the most fortunate man in Germany. I have
heard your unpublished poem. By the bye, Poet, is that ballad
published?"

"No, and never will be. It shall never know less kindly criticism than
it received then."

"And are you really in earnest? Was this indeed the happiest triumph
your talents have ever earned?"

"It was," said Friedrich. "The first blast on the trumpet of Fame is
the sweetest. Afterwards, we find it out of tune."

"Your parents are dead, I think?"

"They are, and so is my youngest sister."

"And what of Marie?"

"She married--a man who, I think, is in no way worthy of her. Not a
bad, but a stupid man, with strong Bible convictions on the subject of
marital authority. She is such an angel in his house as he can never
understand in this world."

"Do you ever see her?"

"Sometimes, when I want a rest. I went to see her not long ago, and
found her just the same as ever. I sat at her feet, and laid my head
in her lap, and tried to be a child again. I bade her tell me the
history of Bluebeard, and strove to forget that I had ever lost the
childish simplicity which she has kept so well;--and I almost
succeeded. I had forgotten that the great poet was jealous of my
'Captive Queen,' and told myself it would be a grand thing to be like
him. I thought I should like to see a live Emperor. But just when the
delusion was perfect, there was a row in the street. The people had
found me out, and I must show myself at the window. The spell was
broken. I have not tried it again."

They were on the steps of the palace.

"Your story has entertained and touched me beyond measure," said the
Duke. "But something is wanting. It does not (as they say) 'end
well.' I fear you are not happy."

"I am content," said Friedrich. "Yes, I am happy. I never could be a
child again, even if it pleased GOD to restore to me the
circumstances of my childhood. It is best as it is, but I have learnt
the truth of what Marie told me. It is the good, and not the great
things of my life that bring me peace; or rather, neither one nor the
other, but the undeserved mercies of my GOD!"

       *       *       *       *       *

For those who desire to know more of the poet's life than has been
told, this is added. He did not live to be very old. A painful disease
(the result of mental toil), borne through many years, ended his life
almost in its prime. He retained his faculties till the last, and bore
protracted suffering with a heroism and endurance which he had not
always displayed in smaller trials. The medical men pronounced, on the
authority of a _post-mortem_ examination, that he must for years have
suffered a silent martyrdom. Truly, his bodily sufferings (when known
at last) might well excuse many weaknesses and much moody, irritable
impatience; especially when it is remembered that the mental
sufferings of intellectual men are generally great in proportion to
their gifts, and (when clogged with nerves and body that are ever
urged beyond their strength) that they often mock the pride of
humanity by leaving but little space between the genius and the
madman.

Another fact was not known till he had died--his charity. Then it was
discovered how much kindness he had exercised in secret, and that
three poor widows had been fed daily from his table during all the
best years of his prosperity. Before his death he arranged all his
affairs, even to the disposal of his worn-out body.

"My country has been gracious to me," he said, "and, if it cares, may
dispose of my carcase as it will. But I desire that after my death my
heart may be taken from my body and buried at the feet of my father
and my mother in the churchyard of my native town. At their feet," he
added, with some of the old imperiousness--"strong in death." "At
their feet, remember!"

In one of the largest cities of Germany, a huge marble monument is
erected to the memory of the Great Man. On three sides of the pedestal
are bas-relief designs illustrating some of his works, whereby three
fellow-countrymen added to their fame; and on the fourth is a fine
inscription in Latin, setting forth his talents, and his virtues, and
the honours conferred on him, and stating in conclusion (on the
authority of his eulogizer) that his works have gained for him
immortality.

In a quiet green churchyard, near a quiet little town, under the
shadow of the quaint old church, a little cross marks the graves of a
tradesman and of his wife who lived and laboured in their generation,
and are at rest. Near them, daisies grow above the dust of the
"Fräulein," which awaits the resurrection from the dead. And at the
feet of that simple couple lies the heart of their great son--a heart
which the sickness of earthly hope and the fever of earthly ambition
shall disturb no more.

By the Poet's own desire, "the rude memorial" that marks the spot
contains no more than his initials, and a few words in his native
tongue to mark the foundation of the only ambition that he could feel
in death--

     "Ich verlasse mich auf Gottes Güte immer und ewiglich."

     --_My trust is in the tender mercy of_ GOD _for
     ever and ever._



A BIT OF GREEN.

     "Thou oughtest, therefore, to call to mind the more heavy
     sufferings of others, that so thou mayest the easier bear
     thy own very small troubles."--THE IMITATION OF
     CHRIST.


Children who live always with grass and flowers at their feet, and a
clear sky overhead, can have no real idea of the charm that country
sights and sounds have for those whose home is in a dirty, busy,
manufacturing town--just such a town, in fact, as I lived in when I
was a boy, which is more than twenty years ago.

My father was a doctor, with a very large, if not what is called a
"genteel," practice, and we lived in a comfortable house in a broad
street. I was born and bred there; and, ever since I could remember,
the last sound that soothed my ears at night, and the first to which I
awoke in the morning, was the eternal rumbling and rattling of the
carts and carriages as they passed over the rough stones. I never
noticed if I heard them in the day-time, but at night my chief
amusement, as I lay in bed, was to guess by the sound of the wheels
what sort of vehicle was passing.

"That light sharp rattle is a cab," I thought. "What a noise it makes,
and gone in a moment! One gentleman inside, I should think. There's an
omnibus; and there, jolty-jolt, goes a light cart; that's a carriage,
by the way the horses step; and now, rumbling heavily in the distance,
and coming slowly nearer, and heavier, and louder, this can be nothing
but a brewer's dray!" And the dray came so slowly that I was asleep
before it had got safely out of hearing.

Ours was a very noisy street, but the noise made the night cheerful;
and so did the church clock near, which struck the quarters; and so
did the light of the street lamps, which came through the blind and
fell upon my little bed. We had very little light, except gaslight and
daylight, in our street; the sunshine seldom found its way to us, and,
when it did, people were so little used to it that they pulled down
the blinds for fear it should hurt the carpets. In the room my sister
and I called our nursery, however, we always welcomed it with blinds
rolled up to the very top; and, as we had no carpet, no damage was
done.

But sunshine outside will not always make sunshine shine within, and
I remember one day when, though our nursery was unusually cheerful,
and though the windows were reflected in square patches of sunlight on
the floor, I stood in the very midst of the brightness, grumbling and
kicking at my sister's chair with a face as black as a thunder-cloud.
The reason of my ill-temper was this: Ever since I could remember, my
father had been accustomed, once a year, to take us all into the
country for change of air. Once he had taken us to the sea, but
generally we went to an old farmhouse in the middle of the beautiful
moors which lay not many miles from our dirty black town. But this
year, on this very sunshiny morning, he had announced at breakfast
that he could not let us go to what we called our moor-home. He had
even added insult to injury by expressing his thankfulness that we
were all in good health, so that the change was not a matter of
necessity. I was too indignant to speak, and rushed upstairs into the
nursery, where my little sister had also taken refuge. She was always
very gentle and obedient (provokingly so, I thought), and now she sat
rocking her doll on her knee in silent sorrow, whilst I stood kicking
her chair and grumbling in a tone which it was well the doll could not
hear, or rocking would have been of little use. I took pleasure in
trying to make her as angry as myself. I reminded her how lovely the
purple moors were looking at that moment, how sweet heather smelt,
and how good bilberries tasted. I said I thought it was "very hard."
It wasn't as if we were always paying visits, as many children did, to
their country relations; we had only one treat in the year, and father
wanted to take that away. Not a soul in the town, I said, would be as
unfortunate as we were. The children next door would go somewhere, of
course. So would the little Smiths, and the Browns, and _everybody_.
Everybody else went to the sea in the autumn; we were contented with
the moors, and he wouldn't even let us go there. And, at the end of
every burst of complaint, I discharged a volley of kicks at the leg of
the chair, and wound up with "I can't think why he can't!"

"I don't know," said my sister, timidly, "but he said something about
not affording it, and spending money, and about trade being bad, and
he was afraid there would be great distress in the town."

Oh, these illogical women! I was furious. "What on earth has that to
do with us?" I shouted at her. "Father's a doctor; trade won't hurt
him. But you are so silly, Minnie, I can't talk to you. I only know
it's very hard. Fancy staying a whole year boxed up in this beastly
town!" And I had so worked myself up that I fully believed in the
truth of the sentence with which I concluded--

"_There never_ WAS _anything so miserable!_"

Minnie said nothing, for my feelings just then were something like
those of the dogs who (Dr. Watts tells us)

     "delight
        To bark and bite;"

and perhaps she was afraid of being bitten. At any rate, she held her
tongue; and just then my father came into the room.

The door was open, and he must have heard my last speech as he came
along the passage; but he made no remark on it, and only said, "Would
any young man here like to go with me to see a patient?"

I went willingly, for I was both tired and half-ashamed of teasing
Minnie, and we were soon in the street. It was a broad and cheerful
one, as I said; but before long we left it for a narrower, and then
turned off from that into a side street, where the foot-path would
only allow us to walk in single file--a dirty, dark lane, where surely
the sun never did shine.

"What a horrid place!" I said. "I never was here before. Why don't
they pull such a street down?"

"What is to become of the people who live in it?" said my father.

"Let them live in one of the bigger streets," I said; "it would be
much more comfortable."

"Very likely," he said; "but they would have to pay much more for
their houses; and if they haven't the money to pay with, what's to be
done?"

I could not say, for, like older social reformers than myself, I felt
more sure that the reform was needed, than of how to accomplish it.
But before I could decide upon what to do with the dirty little
street, we had come to a place so very much worse that it put the
other quite out of my head. There is a mournful fatality about the
pretty names which are given, as if in mockery, to the most wretched
of the bye-streets in large towns. The street we had left was called
Rosemary Street, and this was Primrose Place.

Primrose Place was more like a yard than a street; the houses were all
irregular and of different ages. On one side was a gap with palings
round it, where building was going on, and beyond rose a huge black
factory. But the condition of Primrose Place was beyond description. I
had never seen anything like it before, and kept as close to my father
as was consistent with boyish, dignity. The pathway was broken up,
children squalled at the doors and quarrelled in the street, which
was strewn with rags, and bones, and bits of old iron, and shoes, and
the tops of turnips. I do not think there was a whole unbroken window
in all the row of tall miserable houses, and the wet clothes hanging
out on lines stretched across the street, flapped above our heads. I
counted three cripples as we went up Primrose Place. My father stopped
to speak to several people, and I heard many complaints of the bad
state of trade to which my sister had alluded. He gave some money to
one woman, and spoke kindly to all; but he hurried me on as fast as he
could, and we turned at last into one of the houses.

My ill-humour had by this time almost worked itself off in the fresh
air, and the novel scenes through which we had come; and, for the
present, the morning's disappointment was forgotten as I followed my
father through the crowded miserable rooms, and clambered up staircase
after staircase, till we reached the top of the house, and stumbled
through a latched door into the garret. After so much groping in the
dark, the light dazzled me, and I thought at first that the room was
empty. But at last a faint "Good day" from the corner near the window
drew my eyes that way; and there, stretched on a sort of bed, and
supported by a chair at his back, lay the patient we had come to see.

He was a young man about twenty-six years old, in the last stage of
that terrible disease so fatally common in our country--he was dying
of consumption. There was no mistaking the flushed cheek, the
painfully laborious breathing, and the incessant cough; while two old
crutches in the corner spoke of another affliction--he was a cripple.
His gaunt face lighted up with a glow of pleasure when my father came
in, who seated himself at once on the end of the bed, and began to
talk to him, whilst I looked round the room. There was absolutely
nothing in it, except the bed on which the sick man lay, the chair
that supported him, and a small three-legged table. The low roof was
terribly out of repair, and the window was patched with newspaper; but
through the glass panes that were left, in full glory streamed the
sun, and in the midst of the blaze stood a pot of musk in full bloom.
The soft yellow flowers looked so grand, and smelled so sweet, that I
was lost in admiration, till I found the sick man's black eyes fixed
on mine.

"You are looking at my bit of green, master?" he said, in a gratified
tone.

"Do you like flowers?" I inquired, coming shyly up to the bed.

"Do I like 'em?" he exclaimed in a low voice. "Ay, I love 'em well
enough--well enough," and he looked fondly at the plant, "though it's
long since I saw any but these."

"You have not been in the country for a long time?" I inquired,
compassionately. I felt sad to think that he had perhaps lain there
for months, without a taste of fresh air or a run in the fields; but I
was _not_ prepared for his answer.

"_I never was in the country, young gentleman._"

I looked at my father.

"Yes," he said, in answer to my glance, "it is quite true. William was
born here. He got hurt when a boy, and has been lame ever since. For
some years he has been entirely confined to the house. He was never
out of town, and never saw a green field."

Never out of the town! confined to the house for years! and what a
house! The tears rushed to my eyes, and I felt that angry heart-ache
which the sight of suffering produces in those who are too young to be
insensible to it, and too ignorant of GOD's Providence to
submit with "quietness and confidence" to His will.

"My son can hardly believe it, William."

"It is such a shame," I said; "it is horrible. I am very sorry for
you."

The black eyes turned kindly upon me, and the sick man said, "Thank
you heartily, Sir. You mean very kindly. I used to say the same sort
of things myself, when I was younger, and knew no better. I used to
think it was very hard, and that no one was so miserable as I was. But
I know now how much better off I am than most folks, and how many
things I have to be thankful for."

I looked round the room, and began involuntarily to count the
furniture--one, two, three. The "many things" were certainly not
chairs and tables.

But he was gazing before him, and went on: "I often think how thankful
I ought to be to die in peace, and have a quiet room to myself. There
was a girl in a consumption on the floor below me; and she used to sit
and cough, while her father and mother quarrelled so that I could hear
them through the floor. I used to send her half of anything nice I
had, but I found they took it. I did wish then," he added, with a
sudden flush, "that I had been a strong man!"

"How shocking!" I said.

"Yes," he answered; "it was that first set me thinking how many
mercies I had. And then there came such a good parson to St. John's,
and he taught me many things; and then I knew your father; and the
neighbours have been very kind. And while I could work I got good
wage, and laid by a bit; and I've sold a few things, and there'll be
these to sell when I'm gone; and so I've got what will keep me while
I do live, and pay for my coffin. What can a man want more?"

What, indeed! Unsatisfied heart, make answer!

A fit of coughing that shook the crazy room interrupted him here. When
he had recovered himself, he turned to my father.

"Ay, ay, I have many mercies, as you know, Sir. Who would have thought
I could have kept a bit of green like that plant of mine in a place
like this? But, you see, they pulled down those old houses opposite
just before I got it, and now the sun couldn't come into a king's room
better than it comes into mine. I was always afraid, year after year,
that they would build it up, and my bit of green would die; and they
are building now, but it will last my time. Indeed, indeed, I've had
much to be thankful for. Not," he added, in a low, reverential tone,
"not to mention greater blessings. The presence of the LORD!
the presence of the LORD!"

I was awed, almost frightened, by the tone in which he spoke, and by
the look of his face, on which the shadow of death was falling fast.
He lay in a sort of stupor, gazing with his black eyes at the broken
roof, as if through it he saw something invisible to us.

It was some time before he seemed to recollect that we were there, and
before I ventured to ask him. "Where did you get your plant?"

He smiled. "That's a long story, master; but it was this way. You see,
my father died quite young in a decline, and left my mother to
struggle on with eight of us as she could. She buried six, one after
another; and then she died herself, and brother Ben and I were left
alone. But we were mighty fond of one another, and got on very well. I
got plenty of employment, weaving mats and baskets for a shop in the
town, and Ben worked at the factory. One Saturday night he came home
all in a state, and said there was going to be a cheap trip on the
Monday into the country. It was the first there had been from these
parts, though there have been many since, I believe. Neither he nor I
had ever been out of the town, and he was full of it that we must go.
He had brought his Saturday wage with him, and we would work hard
afterwards. Well, you see, the landlord had been that day, and had
said he must have the rent by Tuesday, or he'd turn us out. I'd got
some of it laid by, and was looking to Ben's wages to make it up. But
I couldn't bear to see his face pining for a bit of fresh air, and so
I thought I could stay at home and work on Monday for what would make
up the rent, and he need never know. So I pretended that I didn't
want to go, and couldn't be bothered with the fuss; and at last I set
him off on Monday without me. It was late at night when he came back
like one wild. He'd got flowers in his hat, and flowers in all his
button-holes; he'd got his handkerchief filled with hay, and was
carrying something under his coat. He began laughing and crying, and
'Eh, Bill!' he said, 'thou hast been a fool. Thou hast missed summat.
But I've brought thee a bit of green, lad, I've brought thee a bit of
green.' And then he lifted up his coat, and there was the plant, which
some woman had given him. We didn't sleep much that night. He spread
the hay over the bed, for me to lay my face on, and see how the fields
smelt, and then he began and told me all about it; and after that,
when I was tired with work, or on a Sunday afternoon, I used to say,
'Now, Ben, tell us a bit about the country.' And he liked nothing
better. He used to say that I should go, if he carried me on his back;
but the LORD did not see fit. He took cold at work, and went
off three months afterwards. It was singular, the morning he died he
called me to him, and said, 'Bill, I've been a dreaming about that
trip that thou didst want to go after all. I dreamt--' and then he
stopped, and said no more; but, after a bit, he opened his eyes wide,
and pulled me to him, and he said, 'Bill, my lad, there's such
flowers in heaven, such flowers!' And so the LORD took him.
But I kept the bit of green for his sake."

Here followed another fit of coughing, which brought my father from
the end of the bed to forbid his talking any more.

"I have got to see another patient in the yard," he said, "and I will
leave my son here. He shall read you a chapter or two till I come
back; he is a good reader for his age."

And so my father went. I was, as he said, a good reader for my age;
but I felt very nervous when the sick man drew a Bible from his side,
and put it in my hands. I wondered what I should read; but it was soon
settled by his asking for certain Psalms, which I read as clearly and
distinctly as I could. At first I was rather disturbed by his
occasional remarks, and a few murmured Amens; but I soon got used to
it. He joined devoutly in the "Glory be to the Father"--with which I
concluded--and then asked for a chapter from the Revelation of St.
John. I was more at ease now, and read my best, with a happy sense of
being useful; whilst he lay in the sunshine, folding the sheet with
his bony fingers, with his eyes fixed on the beloved "bit of green,"
and drinking in the Words of Life with dying ears.

"_Blessed are they that dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there
is no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the
glory of_ GOD _does lighten it, and the Lamb is the light
thereof._"

By the time that my father returned, the sick man and I were fast
friends; and I left him with his blessing on my head. As we went home,
my good kind father told me that I was nearly old enough now to take
an interest in his concerns, and began to talk of his patients, and of
the poverty and destitution of some parts of the town. Then he spoke
of the bad state of trade--that it was expected to be worse, and that
the want of work and consequent misery this year would probably be
very great. Finally he added, that when so many were likely to be
starving, he had thought it right that we should deny ourselves our
little annual treat, and so save the money to enable us to take our
part in relieving the distressed.

"Don't you think so, my boy?" he concluded, as we reached the door of
our comfortable (how comfortable!) home.

My whole heart was in my "Yes."

It is a happy moment for a son when his father first confides in him.
It is a happy moment for a father when his son first learns to
appreciate some of the labour of his life, and henceforth to obey his
commands, not only with a blind obedience, but in the sympathizing
spirit of the "perfect love" which "casts out fear." My heart was too
full to thank him then for his wise forbearance and wiser confidence;
but when after some months my sister's health made change of air to
the house of a country relative necessary, great was my pride and
thankfulness that I was well enough to remain at the post of duty by
my father's side.

One day, not long after our visit to William, he went again to see
him; and when he came back I saw by the musk-plant in his hand the
news he brought. Its flowers were lovelier than ever, but its master
was transplanted into a heavenly garden, and he had left it to me.

Mortal man does not learn any virtue in one lesson; and I have only
too often in my life been ungrateful both to GOD and man. But
the memory of lame William has often come across me when I have been
tempted to grumble about small troubles; and has given me a little
help (not to be despised) in striving after the grace of Thankfulness,
even for a "bit of green."



MONSIEUR THE
VISCOUNT'S FRIEND.

A TALE IN THREE CHAPTERS.

    "Sweet are the vses of aduersitie
    Which like the toad, ougly and venemous,
    Weares yet a precious lewell in his head."
                       AS YOU LIKE IT: A.D. 1623.



CHAPTER I.


It was the year of grace 1779. In one of the most beautiful corners of
beautiful France stood a grand old château. It was a fine old
building, with countless windows large and small, with high-pitched
roofs and pointed towers, which in good taste or bad, did its best to
be everywhere ornamental, from the gorgon heads which frowned from its
turrets to the long row of stables and the fantastic dovecotes. It
stood (as became such a castle) upon an eminence, and looked down.
Very beautiful indeed was what it looked upon. Terrace below terrace
glowed with the most brilliant flowers, and broad flights of steps led
from one garden to the other. On the last terrace of all, fountains
and jets of water poured into one large basin, in which were gold and
silver fish. Beyond this were shady walks, which led to a lake on
which floated water-lilies and swans. From the top of the topmost
flight of steps you could see the blazing gardens one below the other,
the fountains and the basin, the walks and the lake, and beyond these
the trees, and the smiling country, and the blue sky of France.

Within the castle, as without, beauty reigned supreme. The sunlight,
subdued by blinds and curtains, stole into rooms furnished with every
grace and luxury that could be procured in a country that then
accounted itself the most highly-civilized in the world. It fell upon
beautiful flowers and beautiful china, upon beautiful tapestry and
pictures; and it fell upon Madame the Viscountess, sitting at her
embroidery. Madame the Viscountess was not young, but she was not the
least beautiful object in those stately rooms. She had married into a
race of nobles who (themselves famed for personal beauty) had been
scrupulous in the choice of lovely wives. The late Viscount (for
Madame was a widow) had been one of the handsomest of the gay
courtiers of his day; and Madame had not been unworthy of him. Even
now, though the roses on her cheeks were more entirely artificial than
they had been in the days of her youth, she was like some exquisite
piece of porcelain. Standing by the embroidery frame was Madame's only
child, a boy who, in spite of his youth, was already Monsieur the
Viscount. He also was beautiful. His exquisitely-cut mouth had a curl
which was the inheritance of scornful generations, but which was
redeemed by his soft violet eyes and by an under-lying expression of
natural amiability. His hair was cut square across the forehead, and
fell in natural curls behind. His childish figure had already been
trained in the fencing school, and had gathered dignity from
perpetually treading upon shallow steps and in lofty rooms. From the
rosettes on his little shoes to his _chapeau à plumes_, he also was
like some porcelain figure. Surely, such beings could not exist except
in such a château as this, where the very air (unlike that breathed by
common mortals) had in the ante-rooms a faint aristocratic odour, and
was for yards round Madame the Viscountess dimly suggestive of
frangipani!

Monsieur the Viscount did not stay long by the embroidery frame; he
was entertaining to-day a party of children from the estate, and had
come for the key of an old cabinet of which he wished to display the
treasures. When tired of this, they went out on to the terrace, and
one of the children who had not been there before exclaimed at the
beauty of the view.

"It is true," said the little Viscount, carelessly, "and all, as far
as you can see, is the estate."

"I will throw a stone to the end of your property, Monsieur," said one
of the boys, laughing; and he picked one off the walk, and stepping
back, flung it with all his little strength. The stone fell before it
had passed the fountains, and the failure was received with shouts of
laughter.

"Let us see who can beat that," they cried; and there was a general
search for pebbles, which were flung at random among the flower beds.

"One may easily throw such as those," said the Viscount, who was
poking under the wall of the first terrace; "but here is a stone that
one may call a stone. Who will send this into the fish-pond? It will
make a fountain of itself."

The children drew round him as, with ruffles turned back, he tugged
and pulled at a large dirty looking stone, which was half-buried in
the earth by the wall. "Up it comes!" said the Viscount, at length;
and sure enough, up it came; but underneath it, his bright eyes
shining out of his dirty wrinkled body--horror of horrors!--there lay
a toad. Now, even in England, toads are not looked upon with much
favour, and a party of English children would have been startled by
such a discovery. But with French people, the dread of toads is
ludicrous in its intensity. In France toads are believed to have
teeth, to bite, and to spit poison; so my hero and his young guests
must be excused for taking flight at once with a cry of dismay. On the
next terrace, however, they paused, and seeing no signs of the enemy,
crept slowly back again. The little Viscount (be it said) began to
feel ashamed of himself, and led the way, with his hand upon the
miniature sword which hung at his side. All eyes were fixed upon the
fatal stone, when from behind it was seen slowly to push forth, first
a dirty wrinkled leg, then half a dirty wrinkled head, with one
gleaming eye. It was too much; with cries of, "It is he! he comes! he
spits! he pursues us!" the young guests of the château fled in good
earnest, and never stopped until they reached the fountain and the
fish-pond.

But Monsieur the Viscount stood his ground. At the sudden apparition
the blood rushed to his heart, and made him very white, then it
flooded back again and made him very red, and then he fairly drew his
sword, and shouting, "_Vive la France!_" rushed upon the enemy. The
sword if small was sharp, and stabbed the poor toad would most
undoubtedly have been, but for a sudden check received by the valiant
little nobleman. It came in the shape of a large heavy hand that
seized Monsieur the Viscount with the grasp of a giant, while a voice
which could only have belonged to the owner of such a hand said in
slow deep tones,

"_Que faites-vous?_" ("What are you doing?")

It was the tutor, who had been pacing up and down the terrace with a
book, and who now stood holding the book in his right hand, and our
hero in his left.

Monsieur the Viscount's tutor was a remarkable man. If he had not been
so, he would hardly have been tolerated at the château, since he was
not particularly beautiful, and not especially refined. He was in holy
orders, as his tonsured head and clerical costume bore witness--a
costume which, from its tightness and simplicity, only served to
exaggerate the unusual proportions of his person. Monsieur the
Preceptor had English blood in his veins, and his northern origin
betrayed itself in his towering height and corresponding breadth, as
well as by his fair hair and light blue eyes. But the most remarkable
parts of his outward man were his hands, which were of immense size,
especially about the thumbs. Monsieur the Preceptor was not exactly in
keeping with his present abode. It was not only that he was wanting in
the grace and beauty that reigned around him, but that his presence
made those very graces and beauties to look small. He seemed to have a
gift the reverse of that bestowed upon King Midas--the gold on which
his heavy hand was laid seemed to become rubbish. In the presence of
the late Viscount, and in that of Madame his widow, you would have
felt fully the deep importance of your dress being _à la mode_, and
your complexion _à la_ strawberries and cream (such influences still
exist); but let the burly tutor appear upon the scene, and all the
magic died at once out of brocaded silks and pearl-coloured stockings,
and dress and complexion became subjects almost of insignificance.
Monsieur the Preceptor was certainly a singular man to have been
chosen as an inmate of such a household; but, though young, he had
unusual talents, and added to them the not more usual accompaniments
of modesty and trustworthiness. To crown all, he was rigidly pious in
times when piety was not fashionable, and an obedient son of the
church of which he was a minister. Moreover, a family that fashion
does not permit to be demonstratively religious, may gain a reflected
credit from an austere chaplain; and so Monsieur the Preceptor
remained in the château and went his own way. It was this man who now
laid hands on the Viscount, and, in a voice that sounded like amiable
thunder, made the inquiry, "_Que faites-vous?_"

"I am going to kill this animal--this hideous horrible animal," said
Monsieur the Viscount, struggling vainly under the grasp of the tutors
finger and thumb.

"It is only a toad," said Monsieur the Preceptor, in his laconic
tones.

"_Only_ a toad, do you say, Monsieur?" said the Viscount. "That is
enough, I think. It will bite--it will spit--it will poison: it is
like that dragon you tell me of, that devastated Rhodes--I am the good
knight that shall kill it."

Monsieur the Preceptor laughed heartily. "You are misled by a vulgar
error. Toads do not bite--they have no teeth; neither do they spit
poison."

"You are wrong, Monsieur," said the Viscount; "I have seen their teeth
myself. Claude Mignon, at the lodge, has two terrible ones, which he
keeps in his pocket as a charm."

"I have seen them," said the tutor, "in Monsieur Claude's pocket. When
he can show me similar ones in a toad's head I will believe.
Meanwhile, I must beg of you, Monsieur, to put up your sword. You must
not kill this poor animal, which is quite harmless, and very useful in
a garden--it feeds upon many insects and reptiles which injure the
plants."

"It shall not be useful, in this garden," said the little Viscount,
fretfully. "There are plenty of gardeners to destroy the insects, and,
if needful, we can have more. But the toad shall not remain. My
mother would faint if she saw so hideous a beast among her beautiful
flowers."

"Jacques!" roared the tutor to a gardener who was at some distance.
Jacques started as if a clap of thunder had sounded in his ear, and
approached with low bows. "Take that toad, Jacques, and carry it to
the _potager_. It will keep the slugs from your cabbages."

Jacques bowed low and lower, and scratched his head, and then did
reverence again with Asiatic humility, but at the same time moved
gradually backwards, and never even looked at the toad.

"You also have seen the contents of Monsieur Claude's pocket?" said
the tutor, significantly, and quitting his hold of the Viscount, he
stooped down, seized the toad in his huge finger and thumb, and strode
off in the direction of the _potager_, followed at a respectful
distance by Jacques, who vented his awe and astonishment in alternate
bows and exclamations at the astounding conduct of the incomprehensible
Preceptor.

"What is the use of such ugly beasts?" said the Viscount to his tutor,
on his return from the _potager_. "Birds and butterflies are pretty,
but what can such villains as these toads have been made for?"

"You should study natural history, Monsieur--" began the priest, who
was himself a naturalist.

"That is what you always say," interrupted the Viscount, with the
perverse folly of ignorance; "but if I knew as much as you do, it
would not make me understand why such ugly creatures need have been
made."

"Nor," said the priest, firmly, "is it necessary that you should
understand it, particularly if you do not care to inquire. It is
enough for you and me if we remember Who made them, some six thousand
years before either of us was born."

With which Monsieur the Preceptor (who had all this time kept his
place in the little book with his big thumb) returned to the terrace,
and resumed his devotions at the point where they had been interrupted
which exercise he continued till he was joined by the Curé of the
village, and the two priests relaxed in the political and religious
gossip of the day.

Monsieur the Viscount rejoined his young guests, and they fed the gold
fish and the swans, and played _Colin Maillard_ in the shady walks,
and made a beautiful bouquet for Madame, and then fled indoors at the
first approach of evening chill, and found that the Viscountess had
prepared a feast of fruit and flowers for them in the great hall.
Here, at the head of the table, with Madame at his right hand, his
guests around, and the liveried lacqueys waiting his commands,
Monsieur the Viscount forgot that anything had ever been made which
could mar beauty and enjoyment; while the two priests outside stalked
up and down under the falling twilight, and talked ugly talk of crime
and poverty that were _somewhere_ now, and of troubles to come
hereafter.

And so night fell over the beautiful sky, the beautiful château, and
the beautiful gardens; and upon the secure slumbers of beautiful
Madame and her beautiful son, and beautiful, beautiful France.

       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER II.


It was the year of grace 1792, thirteen years after the events related
in the last chapter. It was the 2nd of September, and Sunday, a day of
rest and peace in all Christian countries, and even more in gay,
beautiful France--a day of festivity and merriment. This Sunday,
however, seemed rather an exception to the general rule. There were no
gay groups or bannered processions; the typical incense and the public
devotion of which it is the symbol were alike wanting; the streets in
some places seemed deserted, and in others there was an ominous crowd,
and the dreary silence was now and then broken by a distant sound of
yells and cries, that struck terror into the hearts of the Parisians.

It was a deserted bye-street, overlooked by some shut-up warehouses,
and from the cellar of one of these a young man crept up on to the
pathway. His dress had once been beautiful, but it was torn and
soiled; his face was beautiful still, but it was marred by the hideous
eagerness of a face on which famine has laid her hand--he was
starving. As this man came out from the warehouse, another man came
down the street. His dress was not beautiful, neither was he. There
was a red look about him--he wore a red flannel cap, tricolour
ribbons, and had something red upon his hands, which was neither
ribbon nor flannel. He also looked hungry; but it was not for food.
The other stopped when he saw him, and pulled something from his
pocket. It was a watch, a repeater, in a gold filigree case of
exquisite workmanship, with raised figures depicting the loves of an
Arcadian shepherd and shepherdess; and, as it lay on the white hand of
its owner, it bore an evanescent fragrance that seemed to recall
scenes as beautiful and as completely past as the days of pastoral
perfection, when

    "All the world and love were young
    And truth in every shepherd's tongue."

The young man held it to the other and spoke. "It was my mother's," he
said, with an appealing glance of violet eyes; "I would not part with
it but that I am starving. Will you get me food?"

"You are hiding?" said he of the red cap.

"Is that a crime in these days?" said the other, with a smile that
would in other days have been irresistible.

The man took the watch, shaded the donor's beautiful face with a rough
red cap and tricolour ribbon, and bade him follow him. He, who had but
lately come to Paris, dragged his exhausted body after his conductor,
hardly noticed the crowds in the streets, the signs by which the man
got free passage for them both, or their entrance by a little
side-door into a large dark building, and never knew till he was
delivered to one of the gaolers that he had been led into the prison
of the Abbaye. Then the wretch tore the cap of Liberty from his
victim's head, and pointed to him with a fierce laugh.

"He wants food, this aristocrat. He shall not wait long--there is a
feast in the court below, which he shall join presently. See to it,
Antoine! And you, _Monsieur_, _Mons-ieur_! listen to the banqueters."

He ceased, and in the silence yells and cries from a court below came
up like some horrid answer to imprecation.

The man continued--

"He has paid for his admission, this Monsieur. It belonged to Madame
his mother. Behold!"

He held the watch above his head, and dashed it with insane fury on
the ground, and, bidding the gaoler see to his prisoner, rushed away
to the court below.

The prisoner needed some attention. Weakness, and fasting, and horror
had overpowered a delicate body and a sensitive mind, and he lay
senseless by the shattered relic of happier times. Antoine, the gaoler
(a weak-minded man whom circumstances had made cruel), looked at him
with indifference while the Jacobin remained in the place, and with
half-suppressed pity when he had gone. The place where he lay was a
hall or passage in the prison, into which several cells opened, and a
number of the prisoners were gathered together at one end of it. One
of them had watched the proceedings of the Jacobin and his victim with
profound interest, and now advanced to where the poor youth lay. He
was a priest, and though thirteen years had passed over his head since
we saw him in the château, and though toil and suffering and anxiety
had added the traces of as many more, yet it would not have been
difficult to recognize the towering height, the candid face, and,
finally, the large thumb in the little book of ----, Monsieur the
Preceptor, who had years ago exchanged his old position for a
parochial cure. He strode up to the gaoler (whose head came a little
above the priest's elbow), and, drawing him aside, asked, with his old
abruptness, "Who is this?"

"It is the Vicomte de B----. I know his face. He has escaped the
commissaires for some days."

"I thought so. Is his name on the registers?"

"No. He escaped arrest, and has just been brought in, as you saw."

"Antoine," said the priest, in a low voice, and with a gaze that
seemed to pierce the soul of the weak little gaoler; "Antoine, when
you were a shoemaker in the Rue de la Croix, in two or three hard
winters I think you found me a friend."

"Oh! Monsieur le Curé," said Antoine, writhing; "if Monsieur le Curé
would believe that if I could save his life! But--"

"Pshaw!" said the priest, "it is not for myself, but for this boy. You
must save him, Antoine. Hear me, you _must_. Take him now to one of
the lower cells and hide him. You risk nothing. His name is not on the
prison register. He will not be called, he will not be missed; that
fanatic will think that he has perished with the rest of us (Antoine
shuddered, though the priest did not move a muscle) and when this mad
fever has subsided and order is restored, he will reward you. And
Antoine--"

Here the priest pocketed his book, and somewhat awkwardly with his
huge hands unfastened the left side of his cassock, and tore the silk
from the lining. Monsieur le Curé's cassock seemed a cabinet of
oddities. First he pulled from this ingenious hiding-place a crucifix,
which he replaced; then a knot of white ribbon, which he also
restored; and, finally, a tiny pocket or bag of what had been
cream-coloured satin, embroidered with small bunches of heartsease,
and which was aromatic with otto of roses. Awkwardly, and somewhat
slowly, he drew out of this a small locket, in the centre of which was
some unreadable legend in cabalistic-looking character, and which
blazed with the finest diamonds. Heaven alone knows the secret of that
gem, or the struggle with which the priest yielded it. He put it into
Antoine's hand, talking as he did so partly to himself and partly to
the gaoler.

"We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry
nothing out. The diamonds are of the finest, Antoine, and will sell
for much. The blessing of a dying priest upon you if you do kindly,
and his curse if you do ill to this poor child, whose home was my home
in better days. And for the locket--it is but a remembrance, and to
remember is not difficult!"

As the last observation was not addressed to Antoine, so also he did
not hear it. He was discontentedly watching the body of the Viscount,
whom he consented to help, but with genuine weak-mindedness consented
ungraciously.

"How am I to get him there? Monsieur le Curé sees that he cannot stand
upon his feet."

Monsieur le Curé smiled, and stooping, picked his old pupil up in his
arms as if he had been a baby, and bore him to one of the doors.

"You must come no further," said Antoine, hastily.

"Ingrate!" muttered the priest in momentary anger, and then, ashamed,
he crossed himself, and pressing the young nobleman to his bosom with
the last gush of earthly affection that he was to feel, he kissed his
senseless face, spoke a benediction to ears that could not hear it,
and laid his burden down.

"GOD the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be with thee
now and in the dread hour of death. Adieu! we shall meet hereafter."

The look of pity, the yearning of rekindled love, the struggle of
silenced memories passed from his face and left a shining
calm--foretaste of the perpetual Light and the eternal Rest.

Before he reached the other prisoners, the large thumb had found its
old place in the little book, the lips formed the old old words; but
it might almost have been said of him already, that "his spirit was
with the GOD who gave it."

As for Monsieur the Viscount, it was perhaps well that he was not too
sensible of his position, for Antoine got him down the flight of stone
steps that led to the cell by the simple process of dragging him by
the heels. After a similar fashion he crossed the floor, and was
deposited on a pallet; the gaoler then emptied a broken pitcher of
water over his face, and locking the door securely, hurried back to
his charge.

When Monsieur the Viscount came to his senses he raised himself and
looked round his new abode. It was a small stone cell; it was
underground, with a little grated window at the top that seemed to be
level with the court; there was a pallet--painfully pressed and
worn--a chair, a stone on which stood a plate and broken pitcher, and
in one corner a huge bundle of firewood which mocked a place where
there was no fire. Stones lay scattered about, the walls were black,
and in the far dark corners the wet oozed out and trickled slowly
down, and lizards and other reptiles crawled up.

I suppose that the first object that attracts the hopes of a new
prisoner is the window of his cell, and to this, despite his weakness,
Monsieur the Viscount crept. It afforded him little satisfaction. It
was too high in the cell for him to reach it, too low in the prison to
command any view, and was securely grated with iron. Then he examined
the walls, but not a stone was loose. As he did so, his eye fell upon
the floor, and he noticed that two of the stones that lay about had
been raised up by some one and a third laid upon the top. It looked
like child's play, and Monsieur the Viscount kicked it down, and then
he saw that underneath it there was a pellet of paper roughly rolled
together. Evidently it was something left by the former occupant of
the cell for his successor. Perhaps he had begun some plan for getting
away which he had not had time to perfect on his own account,
Perhaps--but by this time the paper was spread out, and Monsieur the
Viscount read the writing. The paper was old and yellow. It was the
fly-leaf torn out of a little book, and on it was written in black
chalk, the words--

     "_Souvenez-vous du Sauveur._" (Remember the Saviour.)

He turned it over, he turned it back again; there was no other mark;
there was nothing more; and Monsieur the Viscount did not conceal from
himself that he was disappointed. How could it be otherwise? He had
been bred in ease and luxury, and surrounded with everything that
could make life beautiful; while ugliness, and want, and sickness, and
all that make life miserable, had been kept, as far as they can be
kept, from the precincts of the beautiful château which was his home.
What were the _consolations_ of religion to him? They are offered to
those (and to those only) who need them. They were to Monsieur the
Viscount what the Crucified Christ was to the Greeks of
old--foolishness.

He put the paper in his pocket and lay down again, feeling it the
crowning disappointment of what he had lately suffered. Presently,
Antoine came with some food; it was not dainty, but Monsieur the
Viscount devoured it like a famished hound, and then made inquiries as
to how he came and how long he had been there. When the gaoler began
to describe him, whom he called the Curé, Monsieur the Viscount's
attention quickened into eagerness, an eagerness deepened by the
tender interest that always hangs round the names of those whom we
have known in happier and younger days. The happy memories recalled by
hearing of his old tutor seemed to blot out his present misfortunes.
With French excitability, he laughed and wept alternately.

"As burly as ever, you say? The little book? I remember it, it was
his breviary. Ah! it is he. It is Monsieur the Preceptor, whom I have
not seen for years. Take me to him, bring him here, let me see him!"

But Monsieur the Preceptor was in Paradise.

That first night of Monsieur the Viscount's imprisonment was a
terrible one. The bitter chill of a Parisian autumn, the gnawings of
half-satisfied hunger, the thick walls that shut out all hope of
escape but did not exclude those fearful cries that lasted with few
intervals throughout the night, made it like some hideous dream. At
last the morning broke; at half-past two o'clock, some members of the
_commune_ presented themselves in the hall of the National Assembly
with the significant announcement:--"The prisons are empty!" and
Antoine, who had been quaking for hours, took courage, and went with
half a loaf of bread and a pitcher of water to the cell that was not
"empty." He found his prisoner struggling with a knot of white ribbon,
which he was trying to fasten in his hair. One glance at his face told
all.

"It is the fever," said Antoine; and he put down the bread and water
and fetched an old blanket and a pillow; and that day and for many
days, the gaoler hung above his prisoner's pallet with the tenderness
of a woman. Was he haunted by the vision of a burly figure that had
bent over his own sick bed in the Rue de la Croix? Did the voice
(once so familiar in counsel and benediction!) echo still in his ears?

"_The blessing of a dying priest upon you if you do well, and his
curse if you do ill to this poor child, whose home was my home in
better days._"

Be this as it may, Antoine tended his patient with all the constancy
compatible with keeping his presence in the prison a secret; and it
was not till the crisis was safely past, that he began to visit the
cell less frequently, and reassumed the harsh manners which he held to
befit his office.

Monsieur the Viscount's mind rambled much in his illness. He called
for his mother, who had long been dead. He fancied himself in his own
château. He thought that all his servants stood in a body before him,
but that not one would move to wait on him. He thought that he had
abundance of the most tempting food and cooling drinks, but placed
just beyond his reach. He thought that he saw two lights like stars
near together, which were close to the ground, and kept appearing and
then vanishing away. In time he became more sensible; the château
melted into the stern reality of his prison walls; the delicate food
became bread and water; the servants disappeared like spectres; but in
the empty cell, in the dark corners near the floor, he still fancied
that he saw two sparks of light coming and going, appearing and then
vanishing away. He watched them till his giddy head would bear it no
longer, and he closed his eyes and slept. When he awoke he was much
better, but when he raised himself and turned towards the
stone--there, by the bread and the broken pitcher, sat a dirty, ugly,
wrinkled toad, gazing at him, Monsieur the Viscount, with eyes of
yellow fire.

Monsieur the Viscount had long ago forgotten the toad which had
alarmed his childhood; but his national dislike to that animal had not
been lessened by years, and the toad of the prison seemed likely to
fare no better than the toad of the château. He dragged himself from
his pallet, and took up one of the large damp stones which lay about
the floor of the cell, to throw at the intruder. He expected that when
he approached it, the toad would crawl away, and that he could throw
the stone after it; but to his surprise, the beast sat quite unmoved,
looking at him with calm shining eyes, and, somehow or other, Monsieur
the Viscount lacked strength or heart to kill it. He stood doubtful
for a moment, and then a sudden feeling of weakness obliged him to
drop the stone, and sit down, while tears sprang to his eyes with the
sense of his helplessness.

"Why should I kill it?" he said, bitterly. "The beast will live and
grow fat upon this damp and loathsomeness, long after they have put
an end to my feeble life. It shall remain. The cell is not big, but it
is big enough for us both. However large be the rooms a man builds
himself to live in, it needs but little space in which to die!"

So Monsieur the Viscount dragged his pallet away from the toad, placed
another stone by it, and removed the pitcher; and then, wearied with
his efforts, lay down and slept heavily.

When he awoke, on the new stone by the pitcher was the toad, staring
full at him with topaz eyes. He lay still this time and did not move,
for the animal showed no intention of spitting, and he was puzzled by
its tameness.

"It seems to like the sight of a man," he thought. "Is it possible
that any former inmate of this wretched prison can have amused his
solitude by making a pet of such a creature? and if there were such a
man, where is he now?"

Henceforward, sleeping or waking, whenever Monsieur the Viscount lay
down upon his pallet, the toad crawled up on to the stone, and kept
watch over him with shining lustrous eyes; but whenever there was a
sound of the key grating in the lock, and the gaoler coming his
rounds, away crept the toad, and was quickly lost in the dark corners
of the room. When the man was gone, it returned to its place, and
Monsieur the Viscount would talk to it, as he lay on his pallet.

"Ah! Monsieur Crapaud," he would say, with mournful pleasantry,
"without doubt you have had a master and a kind one; but, tell me, who
was he, and where is he now? Was he old or young, and was it in the
last stage of maddening loneliness that he made friends with such a
creature as you?"

Monsieur Crapaud looked very intelligent, but he made no reply, and
Monsieur the Viscount had recourse to Antoine.

"Who was in this cell before me?" he asked at the gaoler's next visit.

Antoine's face clouded. "Monsieur le Curé had this room. My orders
were that he was to be imprisoned in secret.'"

Monsieur le Curé had this room. There was a revelation in those words.
It was all explained now. The priest had always had a love for animals
(and for ugly, common animals), which his pupil had by no means
shared. His room at the château had been little less than a menagerie.
He had even kept a glass beehive there, which communicated with a hole
in the window through which the bees flew in and out, and he would
stand for hours with his thumb in the breviary, watching the labours
of his pets. And this also had been his room! This dark, damp cell.
Here, breviary in hand, he had stood, and lain, and knelt. Here, in
this miserable prison, he had found something to love, and on which to
expend the rare intelligence and benevolence of his nature. Here,
finally, in the last hours of his life, he had written on the fly-leaf
of his prayer-book something to comfort his successor, and, "being
dead, yet spoke" the words of consolation which he had administered in
his lifetime. Monsieur the Viscount read that paper now with different
feelings.

There is, perhaps, no argument so strong, and no virtue that so
commands the respect of young men, as consistency. Monsieur the
Preceptor's lifelong counsel and example would have done less for his
pupil than was effected by the knowledge of his consistent career, now
that it was past. It was not the nobility of the priest's principles
that awoke in Monsieur the Viscount a desire to imitate his religious
example, but the fact that he had applied them to his own life, not
only in the time of wealth, but in the time of tribulation and in the
hour of death. All that high-strung piety--that life of prayer--those
unswerving admonitions to consider the vanity of earthly treasures,
and to prepare for death--which had sounded so unreal amidst the
perfumed elegances of the château, came back now with a reality gained
from experiment. The daily life of self-denial, the conversation
garnished from Scripture and from the Fathers, had not, after all,
been mere priestly affectations. In no symbolic manner, but literally,
he had "watched for the coming of his Lord," and "taken up the cross
daily;" and so, when the cross was laid on him, and when the voice
spoke which must speak to all, "The Master is come, and calleth for
thee," he bore the burden and obeyed the summons unmoved.

_Unmoved_!--this was the fact that struck deep into the heart of
Monsieur the Viscount, as he listened to Antoine's account of the
Curé's imprisonment. What had astonished and overpowered his own
undisciplined nature had not disturbed Monsieur the Preceptor. He had
prayed in the château--he prayed in the prison. He had often spoken in
the château of the softening and comforting influences of communion
with the lower animals and with nature, and in the uncertainty of
imprisonment he had tamed a toad. "None of these things had moved
him," and, in a storm of grief and admiration, Monsieur the Viscount
bewailed the memory of his tutor.

"If he had only lived to teach me!"

But he was dead, and there was nothing for Monsieur the Viscount but
to make the most of his example. This was not so easy to follow as he
imagined. Things seemed to be different with him to what they had
been with Monsieur the Preceptor. He had no lofty meditations, no
ardent prayers, and calm and peace seemed more distant than ever.
Monsieur the Viscount met, in short, with all those difficulties that
the soul must meet with, which, in a moment of enthusiasm, has
resolved upon a higher and a better way of life, and in moments of
depression is perpetually tempted to forego that resolution. His
prison life was, however, a pretty severe discipline, and he held on
with struggles and prayers; and so, little by little, and day by day,
as the time of his imprisonment went by, the consolations of religion
became a daily strength against the fretfulness of imperious temper,
the sickness of hope deferred, and the dark suggestions of despair.

The term of his imprisonment was a long one. Many prisoners came and
went within the walls of the Abbaye, but Monsieur the Viscount still
remained in his cell; indeed, he would have gained little by leaving
it if he could have done so, as he would almost certainly have been
retaken. As it was, Antoine on more than one occasion concealed him
behind the bundles of firewood, and once or twice he narrowly escaped
detection by less friendly officials. There were times when the
guillotine seemed to him almost better than this long suspense: but
while other heads passed to the block, his remained on his shoulders;
and so weeks and even months went by. And during all this time,
sleeping or waking, whenever he lay down upon his pallet, the toad
crept up on to the stone, and kept watch over him with lustrous eyes.

Monsieur the Viscount hardly acknowledged to himself the affection
with which he came to regard this ugly and despicable animal. The
greater part of his regard for it he believed to be due to its
connection with his tutor, and the rest he set down to the score of
his own humanity, and took credit to himself accordingly: whereas in
truth Monsieur Crapaud was of incalculable service to his master, who
would lie and chatter to him for hours, and almost forget his present
discomfort in recalling past happiness, as he described the château,
the gardens, the burly tutor, and beautiful Madame, or laughed over
his childish remembrances of the toad's teeth in Claude Mignon's
pocket; whilst Monsieur Crapaud sat well-bred and silent, with a world
of comprehension in his fiery eyes. Whoever thinks this puerile must
remember that my hero was a Frenchman, and a young Frenchman, with a
prescriptive right to chatter for chattering's sake, and also that he
had not a very highly cultivated mind of his own to converse with,
even if the most highly cultivated intellect is ever a reliable
resource against the terrors of solitary confinement.

Foolish or wise, however, Monsieur the Viscount's attachment
strengthened daily; and one day something happened which showed his
pet in a new light, and afforded him fresh amusement.

The prison was much infested with certain large black spiders, which
crawled about the floor and walls; and, as Monsieur the Viscount was
lying on his pallet, he saw one of these scramble up and over the
stone on which sat Monsieur Crapaud. That good gentleman, whose eyes,
till then, had been fixed as usual on his master, now turned his
attention to the intruder. The spider, as if conscious of danger, had
suddenly stopped still. Monsieur Crapaud gazed at it intently with his
beautiful eyes, and bent himself slightly forward. So they remained
for some seconds, then the spider turned round, and began suddenly to
scramble away. At this instant Monsieur the Viscount saw his friend's
eyes gleam with an intenser fire, his head was jerked forwards; it
almost seemed as if something had been projected from his mouth, and
drawn back again with the rapidity of lightning. Then Monsieur Crapaud
resumed his position, drew in his head, and gazed mildly and sedately
before him; _but the spider was nowhere to be seen_.

Monsieur the Viscount burst into a loud laugh.

"Eh, well! Monsieur," said he, "but this is not well-bred on your
part. Who gave you leave to eat my spiders? and to bolt them in such
an unmannerly way, moreover."

In spite of this reproof Monsieur Crapaud looked in no way ashamed of
himself, and I regret to state that henceforward (with the partial
humaneness of mankind in general), Monsieur the Viscount amused
himself by catching the insects (which were only too plentiful) in an
old oyster-shell, and then setting them at liberty on the stone for
the benefit of his friend. As for him, all appeared to be fish that
came to his net--spiders and beetles, slugs and snails from the damp
corners, flies, and wood-lice found on turning up the large stone,
disappeared one after the other. The wood-lice were an especial
amusement: when Monsieur the Viscount touched them, they shut up into
tight little balls, and in this condition he removed them to the
stone, and placed them like marbles in a row, Monsieur Crapaud
watching the proceeding with rapt attention. After awhile the balls
would slowly open and begin to crawl away; but he was a very active
wood-louse indeed who escaped the suction of Monsieur Crapaud's
tongue, as, his eyes glowing with eager enjoyment, he bolted one after
another, and Monsieur the Viscount clapped his hands and applauded.

The grated window was a very fine field for spiders and other insects,
and by piling up stones on the floor, Monsieur the Viscount contrived
to scramble up to it, and fill his friend's oyster-shell with the
prey.

One day, about a year and nine months after his first arrival at the
prison, he climbed to the embrasure of the window, as usual,
oyster-shell in hand. He always chose a time for this when he knew
that the court would most probably be deserted, to avoid the danger of
being recognized through the grating. He was, therefore, not a little
startled at being disturbed in his capture of a fat black spider by a
sound of something bumping against the iron bars. On looking up, he
saw that a string was dangling before the window with something
attached to the end of it. He drew it in, and, as he did so, he
fancied that he heard a distant sound of voices and clapped hands, as
if from some window above. He proceeded to examine his prize, and
found that it was a little round pincushion of sand, such as women use
to polish their needles with, and that, apparently, it was used as a
make-weight to ensure the steady descent of a neat little letter that
was tied beside it, in company with a small lead pencil. The letter
was directed to "_The prisoner who finds this._" Monsieur the Viscount
opened it at once. This was the letter--

"_In prison, 24th Prairial, year 2_.

"_Fellow-sufferer, who are you? how long have you been imprisoned? Be
good enough to answer_."

Monsieur the Viscount hesitated for a moment, and then determined to
risk all. He tore off a bit of the paper, and with the little pencil
hurriedly wrote this reply:--

"_In secret, June 12, 1794_.

"_Louis Archambaud Jean-Marie Arnaud, Vicomte de B., supposed to have
perished in the massacres of September_, 1792. _Keep my secret. I have
been imprisoned a year and nine months. Who are_ you? _how long have_
you _been here_?"

The letter was drawn up, and he watched anxiously for the reply. It
came, and with it some sheets of blank paper.

"_Monsieur_,--_We have the honour to reply to your inquiries, and
thank you for your frankness. Henri Edouard Clermont, Baron de St.
Claire. Valerie de St. Claire. We have been here but two days. Accept
our sympathy for your misfortunes_."

Four words in this note seized at once upon Monsieur the Viscount's
interest--_Valerie de St. Claire_;--and for some reasons, which I do
not pretend to explain, he decided that it was she who was the author
of these epistles, and the demon of curiosity forthwith took
possession of his mind. Who was she? was she old or young? And in
which relation did she stand to Monsieur le Baron--that of wife, of
sister, or of daughter? And from some equally inexplicable cause
Monsieur the Viscount determined in his own mind that it was the
latter. To make assurance doubly sure, however, he laid a trap to
discover the real state of the case. He wrote a letter of thanks and
sympathy, expressed with all the delicate chivalrous politeness of a
nobleman of the old _régime_, and addressed it to _Madame la Baronne_.
The plan succeeded. The next note he received contained these
sentences:--"_I am not the Baroness. Madame my mother is, alas! dead.
I and my father are alone. He is ill, but thanks you, Monsieur, for
your letters, which relieve the_ ennui _of imprisonment. Are you
alone?_"

Monsieur the Viscount, as in duty bound, relieved the _ennui_ of the
Baron's captivity by another epistle. Before answering the last
question, he turned round involuntarily, and looked to where Monsieur
Crapaud sat by the broken pitcher. The beautiful eyes were turned
towards him, and Monsieur the Viscount took up his pencil, and wrote
hastily, "_I am not alone--I have a friend._"

Henceforward the oyster-shell took a long time to fill, and patience
seemed a harder virtue than ever. Perhaps the last fact had something
to do with the rapid decline of Monsieur the Viscount's health. He
became paler and weaker, and more fretful. His prayers were
accompanied by greater mental struggles, and watered with more tears.
He was, however, most positive in his assurances to Monsieur Crapaud
that he knew the exact nature and cause of the malady that was
consuming him. It resulted, he said, from the noxious and unwholesome
condition of his cell; and he would entreat Antoine to have it swept
out. After some difficulty the gaoler consented.

It was nearly a month since Monsieur the Viscount had first been
startled by the appearance of the little pincushion. The stock of
paper had long been exhausted. He had torn up his cambric ruffles to
write upon, and Mademoiselle de St. Claire had made havoc of her
pocket-handkerchiefs for the same purpose. The Viscount was feebler
than ever, and Antoine became alarmed. The cell should be swept out
the next morning. He would come himself, he said, and bring another
man out of the town with him to help him, for the work was heavy, and
he had a touch of rheumatism. The man was a stupid fellow from the
country, who had only been a week in Paris; he had never heard of the
Viscount, and Antoine would tell him that the prisoner was a certain
young lawyer who had really died of fever in prison the day before.
Monsieur the Viscount thanked him; and it was not till the next
morning arrived, and he was expecting them every moment, that Monsieur
the Viscount remembered the toad, and that he would without doubt be
swept away with the rest in the general clearance. At first he thought
that he would beg them to leave it, but some knowledge of the petty
insults which that class of men heaped upon their prisoners made him
feel that this would probably be only an additional reason for their
taking the animal away. There was no place to hide it in, for they
would go all round the room; unless--unless Monsieur the Viscount took
it up in his hand. And this was just what he objected to do. All his
old feelings of repugnance came back; he had not even got gloves on;
his long white hands were bare, he could not touch a toad. It was true
that the beast had amused him, and that he had chatted to it; but,
after all, this was a piece of childish folly--an unmanly way, to say
the least, of relieving the tedium of captivity. What was Monsieur
Crapaud but a very ugly (and most people said a venomous) reptile? To
what a folly he had been condescending! With these thoughts, Monsieur
the Viscount steeled himself against the glances of his topaz-eyed
friend, and when the steps of the men were heard upon the stairs, he
did not move from the window where he had placed himself, with his
back to the stone.

The steps came nearer and nearer, Monsieur the Viscount began to
whistle--the key was rattled in the lock, and Monsieur the Viscount
heard a bit of bread fall, as the toad hastily descended to hide
itself as usual in the corners. In a moment his resolution was gone;
another second, and it would be too late. He dashed after the
creature, picked it up, and when the men came in he was standing with
his hands behind him, in which Monsieur Crapaud was quietly and safely
seated.

The room was swept, and Antoine was preparing to go, when the other,
who had been eyeing the prisoner suspiciously, stopped and said with a
sharp sneer, "Does the citizen always preserve that position?"

"Not he," said the gaoler, good-naturedly. "He spends most of his time
in bed, which saves his legs. Come along, François."

"I shall not come," said the other, obstinately. "Let the citizen show
me his hands."

"Plague take you!" said Antoine, in a whisper. "What sulky fit
possesses you, my comrade? Let the poor wretch alone. What wouldst
thou with his hands? Wait a little, and thou shall have his head."

"We should have few heads or prisoners either, if thou hadst the care
of them," said François, sharply. "I say that the prisoner secretes
something, and that I will see it. Show your hands, dog of an
aristocrat!"

Monsieur the Viscount set his teeth to keep himself from speaking, and
held out his hands in silence, toad and all.

Both the men started back with an exclamation, and François got behind
his comrade, and swore over his shoulder.

Monsieur the Viscount stood upright and still, with a smile on his
white face. "Behold, citizen, what I secrete, and what I desire to
keep. Behold all that I have left to secrete or to desire! There is
nothing more."

"Throw it down!" screamed François; "many a witch has been burnt for
less--throw it down."

The colour began to flood over Monsieur the Viscount's face; but still
he spoke gently, and with bated breath. "If you wish me to suffer,
citizen, let this be my witness that I have suffered. I must be very
friendless to desire such a friend. I must be brought very low to ask
such a favour. Let the Republic give me this."

"The Republic has one safe rule for aristocrats," said the other; "she
gives them nothing but their keep till she pays for their
shaving--once for all. She gave one of these dogs a few rags to dress
a wound on his back with, and he made a rope of his dressings, and let
himself down from the window. We will have no more such games. You may
be training the beast to spit poison at good citizens. Throw it down
and kill it."

Monsieur the Viscount made no reply. His hands had moved towards his
breast, against which he was holding his golden-eyed friend. There are
times in life when the brute creation contrasts favourably with the
lords thereof, and this was one of them. It was hard to part just now.

Antoine, who had been internally cursing his own folly in bringing
such a companion into the cell, now interfered. "If you are going to
stay here to be bitten or spit at, François, my friend," said he, "I
am not. Thou art zealous, my comrade, but dull as an owl. The Republic
is far-sighted in her wisdom beyond thy coarse ideas, and has more
ways of taking their heads from these aristocrats than one. Dost thou
not see?" And he tapped his forehead significantly, and looked at the
prisoner; and so, between talking and pushing, got his sulky companion
out of the cell, and locked the door after them.

"And so, my friend--my friend!" said Monsieur the Viscount, tenderly,
"we are safe once more; but it will not be for long, my Crapaud.
Something tells me that I cannot much longer be overlooked. A little
while, and I shall be gone; and thou wilt have, perchance, another
master, when I am summoned before mine."

Monsieur the Viscount's misgivings were just. François, on whose
stupidity Antoine had relied, was (as is not uncommon with people
stupid in other respects) just clever enough to be mischievous.
Antoine's evident alarm made him suspicious, and he began to talk
about the too-elegant-looking young lawyer who was imprisoned "in
secret," and permitted by the gaoler to keep venomous beasts. Antoine
was examined and committed to one of his own cells, and Monsieur the
Viscount was summoned before the revolutionary tribunal.

There was little need even for the scanty inquiry that in those days
preceded sentence. In every line of his beautiful face, marred as it
was by sickness and suffering--in the unconquerable dignity, which
dirt and raggedness were powerless to hide, the fatal nobility of his
birth and breeding were betrayed. When he returned to the ante-room,
he did not positively know his fate; but in his mind there was a moral
certainty that left him no hope.

The room was filled with other prisoners awaiting trial; and, as he
entered, his eyes wandered round it to see if there were any familiar
faces. They fell upon two figures standing with their backs to him--a
tall, fierce-looking man, who, despite his height and fierceness, had
a restless, nervous despondency expressed in all his movements; and a
young girl who leant on his arm as if for support, but whose steady
quietude gave her more the air of a supporter. Without seeing their
faces, and for no reasonable reason, Monsieur the Viscount decided
with himself that they were the Baron and his daughter, and he begged
the man who was conducting him for a moment's delay. The man
consented. France was becoming sick of unmitigated carnage, and even
the executioners sometimes indulged in pity by way of a change.

As Monsieur the Viscount approached the two they turned round, and he
saw her face--a very fair and very resolute one, with ashen hair and
large eyes. In common with almost all the faces in that room, it was
blanched with suffering; and, it is fair to say, in common with many
of them, it was pervaded by a lofty calm. Monsieur the Viscount never
for an instant doubted his own conviction; he drew near and said in a
low voice, "Mademoiselle de St. Claire!"

The Baron looked first fierce, and then alarmed. His daughter's face
illumined; she turned her large eyes on the speaker, and said simply,
"Monsieur le Vicomte?"

The Baron apologized, commiserated, and sat down on a seat near, with
a look of fretful despair; and his daughter and Monsieur the Viscount
were left standing together. Monsieur the Viscount desired to say a
great deal, and could say very little. The moments went by, and hardly
a word had been spoken.

Valerie asked if he knew his fate.

"I have not heard it," he said; "but I am morally certain. There can
be but one end in these days."

She sighed. "It is the same with us. And if you must suffer, Monsieur,
I wish that we may suffer together. It would comfort my father--and
me."

Her composure vexed him. Just, too, when he was sensible that the
desire of life was making a few fierce struggles in his own breast.

"You seem to look forward to death with great cheerfulness,
Mademoiselle."

The large eyes were raised to him with a look of surprise at the
irritation of his tone.

"I think," she said, gently, "that one does not look forward _to_, but
_beyond_ it." She stopped and hesitated, still watching his face, and
then spoke hurriedly and diffidently:--

"Monsieur, it seems impertinent to make such suggestions to you, who
have doubtless a full fund of consolation; but I remember, when a
child, going to hear the preaching of a monk who was famous for his
eloquence. He said that his text was from the Scriptures--it has been
in my mind all to-day--'_There the wicked cease from troubling, and
there the weary be at rest._' The man is becoming impatient. Adieu!
Monsieur. A thousand thanks and a thousand blessings."

She offered her cheek, on which there was not a ray of increased
colour, and Monsieur the Viscount stooped and kissed it, with a thick
mist gathering in his eyes, through which he could not see her face.

"Adieu! Valerie!"

"Adieu! Louis!"

So they met, and so they parted; and as Monsieur the Viscount went
back to his prison, he flattered himself that the last link was broken
for him in the chain of earthly interests.

When he reached the cell he was tired, and lay down, and in a few
seconds a soft scrambling over the floor announced the return of
Monsieur Crapaud from his hiding-place. With one wrinkled leg after
another he clambered on to the stone, and Monsieur the Viscount
started when he saw him.

"Friend Crapaud! I had actually forgotten thee. I fancied I had said
adieu for the last time;" and he gave a choked sigh, which Monsieur
Crapaud could not be expected to understand. In about five minutes he
sprang up suddenly. "Monsieur Crapaud, I have not long to live, and no
time must be lost in making my will." Monsieur Crapaud was too wise to
express any astonishment; and his master began to hunt for a
tidy-looking stone (paper and cambric were both at an end). They were
all rough and dirty; but necessity had made the Viscount inventive,
and he took a couple and rubbed them together till he had polished
both. Then he pulled out the little pencil, and for the next half hour
composed and wrote busily. When it was done he lay down, and read it
to his friend. This was Monsieur the Viscount's last will and
Testament:--

"_To my successor in this cell._

"To you whom Providence has chosen to be the inheritor of my sorrows
and my captivity, I desire to make another bequest. There is in this
prison a toad. He was tamed by a man (peace to his memory!) who
tenanted this cell before me. He has been my friend and companion for
nearly two years of sad imprisonment. He has sat by my bedside, fed
from my hand, and shared all my confidence. He is ugly, but he has
beautiful eyes; he is silent, but he is attentive; he is a brute, but
I wish the men of France were in this respect more his superiors! He
is very faithful. May you never have a worse friend! He feeds upon
insects, which I have been accustomed to procure for him. Be kind to
him; he will repay it. Like other men, I bequeath what I would take
with me if I could.

"Fellow-sufferer, adieu! GOD comfort you as He has comforted
me! The sorrows of this life are sharp but short; the joys of the next
life are eternal. Think sometimes on him who commends his friend to
your pity, and himself to your prayers.

"This is the last will and testament of Louis Archambaud Jean-Marie
Arnaud, Vicomte de B----."

Monsieur the Viscount's last will and testament was with difficulty
squeezed into the surface of the larger of the stones. Then he hid it
where the priest had hidden _his_ bequest long ago, and then lay down
to dream of Monsieur the Preceptor, and that they had met at last.

The next day was one of anxious suspense. In the evening, as usual, a
list of those who were to be guillotined next morning, was brought
into the prison; and Monsieur the Viscount begged for a sight of it.
It was brought to him. First on the list was Antoine! Halfway down was
his own name, "Louis de B----," and a little lower his fascinated
gaze fell upon names that stirred his heart with such a passion of
regret as he had fancied it would never feel again, "Henri de St.
Claire, Valerie de St. Claire."

Her eyes seemed to shine on him from the gathering twilight, and her
calm voice to echo in his ears. "_It has been in my mind all to-day.
There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at
rest._"

_There_! He buried his face and prayed.

He was disturbed by the unlocking of the door, and the new gaoler
appeared with Antoine! The poor wretch seemed overpowered by terror.
He had begged to be imprisoned for this last night with Monsieur the
Viscount. It was only a matter of a few hours, as they were to die at
daybreak, and his request was granted.

Antoine's entrance turned the current of Monsieur the Viscount's
thoughts. No more selfish reflections now. He must comfort this poor
creature, of whose death he was to be the unintentional cause.
Antoine's first anxiety was that Monsieur the Viscount should bear
witness that the gaoler had treated him kindly, and so earned the
blessing and not the curse of Monsieur le Curé, whose powerful
presence seemed to haunt him still. On this score he was soon set at
rest, and then came the old, old story. He had been but a bad man. If
his life were to come over again, he would do differently. Did
Monsieur the Viscount think that there was any hope?

Would Monsieur the Viscount have recognized himself, could he, two
years ago, have seen himself as he was now? Kneeling by that rough,
uncultivated figure, and pleading with all the eloquence that he could
master to that rough uncultivated heart, the great Truths of
Christianity--so great and few and simple in their application to our
needs! The violet eyes had never appealed more tenderly, the soft
voice had never been softer than now, as he strove to explain to this
ignorant soul, the cardinal doctrines of Faith and Repentance, and
Charity, with an earnestness that was perhaps more effectual than his
preaching.

Monsieur the Viscount was quite as much astonished as flattered by the
success of his instructions. The faith on which he had laid hold with
such mortal struggles, seemed almost to "come natural" (as people say)
to Antoine. With abundant tears he professed the deepest penitence for
his past life, at the same time that he accepted the doctrine of the
Atonement as a natural remedy, and never seemed to have a doubt in the
Infinite Mercy that should cover his infinite guilt.

It was all so orthodox that even if he had doubted (which he did not)
the sincerity of the gaoler's contrition and belief, Monsieur the
Viscount could have done nothing but envy the easy nature of Antoine's
convictions. He forgot the difference of their respective
capabilities!

When the night was far advanced the men rose from their knees, and
Monsieur the Viscount persuaded Antoine to lie down on his pallet, and
when the gaoler's heavy breathing told that he was asleep, Monsieur
the Viscount felt relieved to be alone once more--alone, except for
Monsieur Crapaud, whose round fiery eyes were open as usual.

The simplicity with which he had been obliged to explain the truths of
Divine Love to Antoine, was of signal service to Monsieur the Viscount
himself. It left him no excuse for those intricacies of doubt, with
which refined minds too often torture themselves; and as he paced
feebly up and down the cell, all the long-withheld peace for which he
had striven since his imprisonment seemed to flood into his soul. How
blessed--how undeservedly blessed--was his fate! Who or what was he
that after such short, such mitigated sufferings, the crown of victory
should be so near? The way had seemed long to come, it was short to
look back upon, and now the golden gates were almost reached, the
everlasting doors were open. A few more hours, and then--! and as
Monsieur the Viscount buried his worn face in his hands, the tears
that trickled from his fingers were literally tears of joy.

He groped his way to the stone, pushed some straw close to it, and lay
down on the ground to rest, watched by Monsieur's Crapaud's fiery
eyes. And as he lay, faces seemed to him to rise out of the darkness,
to take the form and features of the face of the priest, and to gaze
at him with unutterable benediction. And in his mind, like some
familiar piece of music, awoke the words that had been written on the
fly-leaf of the little book; coming back, sleepily and dreamily, over
and over again--

"_Souvenez-vous du Sauveur! Souvenez-vous du Sauveur_!"

(Remember the Saviour!)

In that remembrance he fell asleep.

Monsieur the Viscount's sleep for some hours was without a dream. Then
it began to be disturbed by that uneasy consciousness of sleeping too
long, which enables some people to awake at whatever hour they have
resolved upon. At last it became intolerable, and wearied as he was,
he awoke. It was broad daylight, and Antoine was snoring beside him.
Surely the cart would come soon, the executions were generally at an
early hour. But time went on, and no one came, and Antoine awoke. The
hours of suspense passed heavily, but at last there were steps and a
key rattled into the lock. The door opened, and the gaoler appeared
with a jug of milk and a loaf. With a strange smile he set them down.

"A good appetite to you, citizens."

Antoine flew on him. "Comrade! we used to be friends. Tell me, what is
it? Is the execution deferred?"

"The execution has taken place at last," said the other,
significantly; "_Robespierre is dead!_" and he vanished.

Antoine uttered a shriek of joy. He wept, he laughed, he cut capers,
and flinging himself at Monsieur the Viscount's feet, he kissed them
rapturously. When he raised his eyes to Monsieur the Viscount's face,
his transports moderated. The last shock had been too much, he seemed
almost in a stupor. Antoine got him on to the pallet, dragged the
blanket over him, broke the bread into the milk, and played the nurse
once more.

On that day thousands of prisoners in the city of Paris alone awoke
from the shadow of death to the hope of life. The Reign of Terror was
ended!



CHAPTER III.


It was a year of Grace early in the present century.

We are again in the beautiful country of beautiful France. It is the
château once more. It is the same, but changed. The unapproachable
elegance, the inviolable security, have witnessed invasion. The right
wing of the château is in ruins, with traces of fire upon the
blackened walls; while here and there, a broken statue or a roofless
temple are sad memorials of the Revolution. Within the restored part
of the château, however, all looks well. Monsieur the Viscount has
been fortunate, and if not so rich a man as his father, has yet
regained enough of his property to live with comfort, and, as he
thinks, luxury. The long rooms are little less elegant than in former
days, and Madame the present Viscountess's boudoir is a model of
taste. Not far from it is another room, to which it forms a singular
contrast. This room belongs to Monsieur the Viscount. It is small,
with one window. The floor and walls are bare, and it contains no
furniture; but on the floor is a worn-out pallet, by which lies a
stone, and on that a broken pitcher, and in a little frame against the
wall is preserved a crumpled bit of paper like the fly-leaf of some
little book, on which is a half-effaced inscription, which can be
deciphered by Monsieur the  Viscount if by no one else. Above the
window is written in large letters, a date and the word REMEMBER.
Monsieur the Viscount is not likely to forget, but he is afraid of
himself and of prosperity lest it should spoil him.

It is evening, and Monsieur the Viscount is strolling along the
terrace with Madame on his arm. He has only one to offer her, for
where the other should be an empty sleeve is pinned to his breast, on
which a bit of ribbon is stirred by the breeze. Monsieur the Viscount
has not been idle since we saw him last; the faith that taught him to
die, has taught him also how to live--an honourable, useful life.

It is evening, and the air comes up perfumed from a bed of violets by
which Monsieur the Viscount is kneeling. Madame (who has a fair face
and ashen hair) stands by him with her little hand on his shoulder,
and her large eyes upon the violets.

"My friend! my friend! my friend!" It is Monsieur the Viscount's
voice, and at the sound of it, there is a rustle among the violets
that sends the perfume high into the air. Then from the parted leaves
come forth first a dirty wrinkled leg, then a dirty wrinkled head with
gleaming eyes, and Monsieur Crapaud crawls with self-satisfied dignity
on to Monsieur the Viscount's outstretched hand.

So they stay laughing and chatting, and then Monsieur the Viscount
bids his friend good-night, and holds him towards Madame that she may
do the same. But Madame (who did not enjoy Monsieur Crapaud's society
in prison) cannot be induced to do more than scratch his head
delicately with the tip of her white finger. But she respects him
greatly, at a distance, she says. Then they go back along the terrace,
and are met by a man-servant in Monsieur the Viscount's livery. Is it
possible that this is Antoine, with his shock head covered with
powder?

Yes; that grating voice, which no mental change avails to subdue, is
his, and he announces that Monsieur le Curé has arrived. It is the old
Curé of the village (who has survived the troubles of the Revolution),
and many are the evenings he spends at the château, and many the times
in which the closing acts of a noble life are recounted to him, the
life of his old friend whom he hopes ere long to see--of Monsieur the
Preceptor. He is kindly welcomed by Monsieur and by Madame, and they
pass on together into the château. And when Monsieur the Viscount's
steps have ceased to echo from the terrace, Monsieur Crapaud buries
himself once more among the violets.

       *       *       *       *       *

Monsieur the Viscount is dead, and Madame sleeps also at his side;
and their possessions have descended to their son.

Not the least valued among them is a case with a glass front and
sides, in which, seated upon a stone is the body of a toad stuffed
with exquisite skill, from whose head gleam eyes of genuine topaz.
Above it in letters of gold is a date, and this inscription:--

     "MONSIEUR THE VISCOUNT'S FRIEND."

     ADIEU!



THE YEW-LANE GHOSTS

CHAPTER I.

     "Cowards are cruel." OLD PROVERB.


This story begins on a fine autumn afternoon when, at the end of a
field over which the shadows of a few wayside trees were stalking like
long thin giants, a man and a boy sat side by side upon a stile. They
were not a happy-looking pair. The boy looked uncomfortable, because
he wanted to get away and dared not go. The man looked uncomfortable
also; but then no one had ever seen him look otherwise, which was the
more strange as he never professed to have any object in life but his
own pleasure and gratification. Not troubling himself with any
consideration of law or principle--of his own duty or other people's
comfort--he had consistently spent his whole time and energies in
trying to be jolly; and though now a grown-up young man, had so far
had every appearance of failing in the attempt. From this it will be
seen that he was not the most estimable of characters, and we shall
have no more to do with him than we can help; but as he must appear in
the story, he may as well be described.

If constant self-indulgence had answered as well as it should have
done, he would have been a fine-looking young man; as it was, the
habits of his life were fast destroying his appearance. His hair would
have been golden if it had been kept clean. His figure was tall and
strong; but the custom of slinking about places where he had no
business to be, and lounging in corners where he had nothing to do,
had given it such a hopeless slouch that for the matter of beauty he
might almost as well have been knock-kneed. His eyes would have been
handsome if the lids had been less red; and if he had ever looked you
in the face, you would have seen that they were blue. His complexion
was fair by nature and discoloured by drink. His manner was something
between a sneak and a swagger, and he generally wore his cap
a-one-side, carried his hands in his pockets and a short stick under
his arm, and whistled when any one passed him. His chief
characteristic, perhaps, was the habit he had of kicking. Indoors he
kicked the furniture, in the road he kicked the stones, if he lounged
against a wall he kicked it; he kicked all animals and such human
beings as he felt sure would not kick him again.

It should be said here that he had once announced his intention of
"turning steady, and settling, and getting wed." The object of his
choice was the prettiest girl in the village, and was as good as she
was pretty. To say the truth, the time had been when Bessy had not
felt unkindly towards the yellow-haired lad; but his conduct had long
put a gulf between them, which only the conceit of a scamp would have
attempted to pass. However, he flattered himself that he "knew what
the lasses meant when they said no;" and on the strength of this
knowledge he presumed far enough to elicit a rebuff so hearty and
unmistakable that for a week he was the laughing stock of the village.
There was no mistake this time as to what "no" meant; his admiration
turned to a hatred almost as intense, and he went faster "to the bad"
than ever.

It was Bessy's little brother who sat by him on the stile; "Beauty
Bill," as he was called, from the large share he possessed of the
family good looks. The lad was one of those people who seem born to be
favourites. He was handsome, and merry, and intelligent; and, being
well brought up, was well-conducted and amiable--the pride and pet of
the village. Why did Mother Muggins of the shop let the goody side of
her scales of justice drop the lower by one lollipop for Bill than for
any other lad, and exempt him by unwonted smiles from her general
anathema on the urchin race? There were other honest boys in the
parish, who paid for their treacle-sticks in sterling copper of the
realm! The very roughs of the village were proud of him, and would
have showed their good nature in ways little to his benefit had not
his father kept a somewhat severe watch upon his habits and conduct.
Indeed, good parents and a strict home counterbalanced the evils of
popularity with Beauty Bill, and, on the whole, he was little spoilt,
and well deserved the favour he met with. It was under cover of
friendly patronage that his companion was now detaining him; but, all
the circumstances considered, Bill felt more suspicious than
gratified, and wished Bully Tom anywhere but where he was.

The man threw out one leg before him like the pendulum of a clock.

"Night school's opened, eh?" he inquired; and back swung the pendulum
against Bill's shins.

"Yes;" and the boy screwed his legs on one side.

"You don't go, do you?"

"Yes, I do," said Bill, trying not to feel ashamed of the fact,
"Father can't spare me to the day-school now, so our Bessy persuaded
him to let me go at nights."

Bully Tom's face looked a shade darker, and the pendulum took a swing
which it was fortunate the lad avoided; but the conversation continued
with every appearance of civility.

"You come back by Yew-lane, I suppose?"

"Yes."

"Why, there's no one lives your way but old Johnson; you must come
back alone?"

"Of course, I do," said Bill, beginning to feel vaguely uncomfortable.

"It must be dark now before school looses?" was the next inquiry; and
the boy's discomfort increased, he hardly knew why, as he answered--

"There's a moon."

"So there is," said Bully Tom, in a tone of polite assent; "and
there's a weathercock on the church-steeple but I never heard of
either of 'em coming down to help a body, whatever happened."

Bill's discomfort had become alarm.

"Why, what could happen?" he asked. "I don't understand you."

His companion whistled, looked up in the air, and kicked vigorously,
but said nothing. Bill was not extraordinarily brave, but he had a
fair amount both of spirit and sense; and having a shrewd suspicion
that Bully Tom was trying to frighten him, he almost made up his mind
to run off then and there. Curiosity, however, and a vague alarm which
he could not throw off, made him stay for a little more information.

"I wish you'd out with it!" he exclaimed, impatiently. "What could
happen? No one ever comes along Yew-lane; and if they did they
wouldn't hurt me."

"I know no one ever comes near it when they can help it," was the
reply; "so, to be sure, you couldn't get set upon. And a pious lad of
your sort wouldn't mind no other kind. Not like ghosts, or anything of
that."

And Bully Tom looked round at his companion; a fact disagreeable from
its rarity.

"I don't believe in ghosts," said Bill, stoutly.

"Of course you don't," sneered his tormentor; "you're too well
educated. Some people does, though. I suppose them that has seen them
does. Some people thinks that murdered men walk. P'raps some people
thinks the man as was murdered in Yew-lane walks."

"What man?" gasped Bill, feeling very chilly down the spine.

"Him that was riding by the cross-roads and dragged into Yew-lane, and
his head cut off and never found, and his body buried in the
churchyard," said Bully Tom, with a rush of superior information;
"and all I know is, if I thought he walked in Yew-lane, or any other
lane, I wouldn't go within five mile of it after dusk--that's all. But
then I'm not book-larned."

The two last statements were true if nothing else was that the man had
said; and after holding up his feet and examining his boots with his
head a-one-side, as if considering their probable efficiency against
flesh and blood, he slid from his perch, and "loafed" slowly up the
street, whistling and kicking the stones as he went along. As to
Beauty Bill, he fled home as fast as his legs would carry him. By the
door stood Bessy, washing some clothes; who turned her pretty face as
he came up.

"You're late, Bill," she said. "Go in and get your tea, it's set out.
It's night-school night, thou knows, and Master Arthur always likes
his class to time." He lingered, and she continued--"John Gardener was
down this afternoon about some potatoes, and he says Master Arthur is
expecting a friend."

Bill did not heed this piece of news, any more than the slight flush
on his sister's face as she delivered it; he was wondering whether
what Bully Tom said was mere invention to frighten him, or whether
there was any truth in it.

"Bessy!" he said, "was there a man ever murdered in Yew-lane?"

Bessy was occupied with her own thoughts, and did not notice the
anxiety of the question.

"I believe there was," she answered carelessly, "somewhere about
there. It's a hundred years ago or more. There's an old gravestone
over him in the churchyard by the wall, with an odd verse on it. They
say the parish clerk wrote it. But get your tea, or you'll be late,
and father'll be angry;" and Bessy took up her tub and departed.

Poor Bill! Then it was too true. He began to pull up his trousers and
look at his grazed legs; and the thoughts of his aching shins, Bully
Tom's cruelty, the unavoidable night-school, and the possible ghost,
were too much for him, and he burst into tears.



CHAPTER II.

    "There are birds out on the bushes,
       In the meadows lies the lamb,
     How I wonder if they're ever
       Half as frightened as I am?"

C.F. ALEXANDER.


The night-school was drawing to a close. The attendance had been good,
and the room looked cheerful. In one corner the Rector was teaching a
group of grown-up men, who (better late than never) were zealously
learning to read; in another the schoolmaster was flourishing his
stick before a map as he concluded his lesson in geography. By the
fire sat Master Arthur, the Rector's son, surrounded by his class, and
in front of him stood Beauty Bill. Master Arthur was very popular with
the people, especially with his pupils. The boys were anxious to get
into his class, and loath to leave it. They admired his great height,
his merry laugh, the variety of walking-sticks he brought with him,
and his very funny way of explaining pictures. He was not a very
methodical teacher, and was rather apt to give unexpected lessons on
subjects in which he happened just then to be interested himself; but
he had a clear simple way of explaining anything, which impressed it
on the memory, and he took a great deal of pains in his own way. Bill
was especially devoted to him. He often wished that Master Arthur
could get very rich, and take him for his man-servant; he thought he
should like to brush his clothes and take care of his sticks. He had a
great interest in the growth of his moustache and whiskers. For some
time past Master Arthur had had a trick of pulling at his upper lip
whilst he was teaching; which occasionally provoked a whisper of
"Moostarch, guvernor!" between two unruly members of his class; but
never till to-night had Bill seen anything in that line which
answered his expectations. Now, however, as he stood before the young
gentleman, the fire-light fell on such a distinct growth of hair, that
Bill's interest became absorbed to the exclusion of all but the most
perfunctory attention to the lesson on hand. Would Master Arthur grow
a beard? Would his moustache be short like the pictures of Prince
Albert, or long and pointed like that of some other great man whose
portrait he had seen in the papers? He was calculating on the probable
effect of either style, when the order was given to put away books,
and then the thought which had been for a time diverted came back
again--his walk home.

Poor Bill! his fears returned with double force from having been for
awhile forgotten. He dawdled over the books, he hunted in wrong places
for his cap and comforter, he lingered till the last boy had clattered
through the doorway, and left him with a group of elders who closed
the proceedings and locked up the school. But after this further delay
was impossible. The whole party moved out into the moonlight, and the
Rector and his son, the schoolmaster and the teachers, commenced, a
sedate parish gossip, whilst Bill trotted behind, wondering whether
any possible or impossible business would take one of them his way.
But when the turning point was reached, the Rector destroyed all his
hopes.

"None of us go your way, I think," said he, as lightly as if there
were no grievance in the case; "however, it's not far. Good-night, my
boy!"

And so with a volley of good-nights, the cheerful voices passed on up
the village. Bill stood till they had quite died away, and then when
all was silent, he turned into the lane.

The cold night-wind crept into his ears, and made uncomfortable noises
among the trees, and blew clouds over the face of the moon. He almost
wished that there were no moon. The shifting shadows under his feet,
and the sudden patches of light on unexpected objects, startled him,
and he thought he should have felt less frightened if it had been
quite dark. Once he ran for a bit, then he resolved to be brave, then
to be reasonable; he repeated scraps of lessons, hymns, and last
Sunday's Collect, to divert and compose his mind; and as this plan
seemed to answer, he determined to go through the Catechism, both
question and answer, which he hoped might carry him to the end of his
unpleasant journey. He had just asked himself a question with
considerable dignity, and was about to reply, when a sudden gleam of
moonlight lit up a round object in the ditch. Bill's heart seemed to
grow cold, and he thought his senses would have forsaken him. Could
this be the head of ----? No! on nearer inspection it proved to be
only a turnip; and when one came to think of it, that would have been
rather a conspicuous place for the murdered man's skull to have been
lost in for so many years.

My hero must not be ridiculed too much for his fears. The terrors that
visit childhood are not the less real and overpowering from being
unreasonable; and to excite them is wanton cruelty. Moreover, he was
but a little lad, and had been up and down Yew-lane both in daylight
and dark without any fears, till Bully Tom's tormenting suggestions
had alarmed him. Even now, as he reached the avenue of yews from which
the lane took its name, and passed into their gloomy shade, he tried
to be brave. He tried to think of the good GOD Who takes care of His
children, and to Whom the darkness and the light are both alike. He
thought of all he had been taught about angels, and wondered if one
were near him now, and wished that he could see him, as Abraham and
other good people had seen angels. In short, the poor lad did his best
to apply what he had been taught to the present emergency, and very
likely had he not done so he would have been worse; but as it was, he
was not a little frightened, as we shall see.

Yew-lane--cool and dark when the hottest sunshine lay beyond it--a
loitering place for lovers--the dearly-loved play-place of
generations of children on sultry summer days--looked very grim and
vault-like, with narrow streaks of moonlight peeping in at rare
intervals to make the darkness to be felt! Moreover, it was really
damp and cold, which is not favourable to courage. At a certain point
Yew-lane skirted a corner of the churchyard, and was itself crossed by
another road, thus forming a "four-want-way," where suicides were
buried in times past. This road was the old high-road, where the mail
coach ran, and along which, on such a night as this, a hundred years
ago, a horseman rode his last ride. As he passed the church on his
fatal journey did anything warn him how soon his headless body would
be buried beneath its shadow? Bill wondered. He wondered if he were
old or young--what sort of a horse he rode--whose cruel hands dragged
him into the shadow of the yews and slew him, and where his head was
hidden, and why. Did the church look just the same, and the moon shine
just as brightly, that night a century ago? Bully Tom was right. The
weathercock and moon sit still, whatever happens. The boy watched the
gleaming high road as it lay beyond the dark aisle of trees, till he
fancied he could hear the footfalls of the solitary horse--and yet,
no! The sound was not upon the hard road, but nearer; it was not the
clatter of hoofs, but something--and a rustle--and then Bill's blood
seemed to freeze in his veins, as he saw a white figure, wrapped in
what seemed to be a shroud, glide out of the shadow of the yews and
move slowly down the lane. When it reached the road it paused, raised
a long arm warningly towards him for a moment, and then vanished in
the direction of the churchyard.

What would have been the consequence of the intense fright the poor
lad experienced is more than anyone can say, if at that moment the
church clock had not begun to strike nine. The familiar sound, close
in his ears, roused him from the first shock, and before it had ceased
he contrived to make a desperate rally of his courage, flew over the
road, and crossed the two fields that now lay between him and home
without looking behind him.



CHAPTER III.

     "It was to her a real _grief of heart_, acute, as children's
     sorrows often are.

     "We beheld this from the opposite windows--and, seen thus
     from a little distance, how many of our own and of other
     people's sorrows might not seem equally trivial, and equally
     deserving of ridicule!"

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN.


When Bill got home he found the household busy with a much more
practical subject than that of ghosts and haunted yew-trees. Bessy
was ill. She had felt a pain in her side all the day, which towards
night had become so violent that the doctor was sent for, who had
pronounced it pleurisy, and had sent her to bed. He was just coming
downstairs as Bill burst into the house. The mother was too much
occupied about her daughter to notice the lad's condition; but the
doctor's sharp eyes saw that something was amiss, and he at once
inquired what it was. Bill hammered and stammered, and stopped short.
The doctor was such a tall, stout, comfortable-looking man, he looked
as if he couldn't believe in ghosts. A slight frown, however, had come
over his comfortable face, and he laid two fingers on Bill's wrist as
he repeated his question.

"Please, sir," said Bill, "I've seen--"

"A mad dog?" suggested the doctor.

"No, sir."

"A mad bull?"

"No, sir," said Bill, desperately, "I've seen a ghost."

The doctor exploded into a fit of laughter, and looked more
comfortable than ever.

"And _where_ did we see the ghost?" he inquired, in a professional
voice, as he took up his coat-tails and warmed himself at the fire.

"In Yew-lane, sir; and I'm sure I did see it," said Bill, half
crying; "it was all in white, and beckoned me."

"That's to say you saw a white gravestone, or a tree in the moonlight,
or one of your classmates dressed up in a table-cloth. It was all
moonshine, depend upon it," said the doctor, with a chuckle at his own
joke; "take my advice, my boy, and don't give way to foolish fancies."

At this point the mother spoke--

"If his father knew, sir, as he'd got any such fads in his head, he'd
soon flog 'em out of him."

"His father is a very good one," said the doctor; "a little too fond
of the stick, perhaps. There," he added, good-naturedly, slipping
sixpence into Bill's hand, "get a new knife, my boy, and cut a good
thick stick, and the next ghost you meet, lay hold of him and let him
taste it."

Bill tried to thank him, but somehow his voice was choked, and the
doctor turned to his mother.

"The boy has been frightened," he said, "and is upset. Give him some
supper, and put him to bed." And the good gentleman departed.

Bill was duly feasted and sent to rest. His mother did not mention the
matter to her husband, as she knew he would be angry; and occupied
with real anxiety for her daughter, she soon forgot it herself.
Consequently, the next night-school night she sent Bill to "clean
himself," hurried on his tea, and packed him off, just as if nothing
had happened.

The boy's feelings since the night of the apparition had not been
enviable. He could neither eat nor sleep. As he lay in bed at night,
he kept his face covered with the clothes, dreading that if he peeped
out into the room the phantom of the murdered horseman would beckon to
him from the dark corners. Lying so till the dawn broke and the cocks
began to crow, he would then look cautiously forth, and seeing by the
grey light that the corners were empty, and that the figure by the
door was not the Yew-lane Ghost, but his mother's faded print dress
hanging on a nail, would drop his head and fall wearily asleep. The
day was no better, for each hour brought him nearer to the next night
school; and Bessy's illness made his mother so busy, that he never
could find the right moment to ask her sympathy for his fears, and
still less could he feel himself able to overcome them. And so the
night-school came round again, and there he sat, gulping down a few
mouthfuls of food, and wondering how he should begin to tell his
mother that he neither dare, could, nor would, go down Yew-lane again
at night. He had just opened his lips when the father came in, and
asked in a loud voice "Why Bill was not off." This effectually put a
stop to any confidences, and the boy ran out of the house. Not,
however, to school. He made one or two desperate efforts at
determination, and then gave up altogether. He _could_ not go!

He was wondering what he should do with himself, when it struck him
that he would go whilst it was daylight and look for the grave with
the odd verse of which Bessy had spoken. He had no difficulty in
finding it. It was marked by a large ugly stone, on which the
inscription was green and in some places almost effaced.

     SACRED TO THE MEMORY

     OF

     EPHRAIM GARNETT--

He had read so far when a voice close by him said--

"You'll be late for school, young chap."

Bill looked up, and to his horror beheld Bully Tom standing in the
road and kicking the churchyard wall.

"Aren't you going?" he asked, as Bill did not speak.

"Not to-night," said Bill, with crimson cheeks.

"Larking, eh?" said Bully Tom. "My eyes, won't your father give it
you!" and he began to move off.

"Stop!" shouted Bill in an agony; "don't tell him, Tom. That would be
a dirty trick. I'll go next time, I will indeed; I can't go to-night.
I'm not larking, I'm scared. You won't tell?"

"Not this time, maybe," was the reply; "but I wouldn't be in your
shoes if you play this game next night;" and off he went.

Bill thought it well to quit the churchyard at once for some place
where he was not likely to be seen; he had never played truant before,
and for the next hour or two was thoroughly miserable as he slunk
about the premises of a neighbouring farm, and finally took refuge in
a shed, and began to consider his position. He would remain hidden
till nine o'clock, and then go home. If nothing were said, well and
good; unless some accident should afterwards betray him. But if his
mother asked any questions about the school? He dared not, and he
would not, tell a lie; and yet what would be the result of the truth
coming out? There could be no doubt that his father would beat him.
Bill thought again, and decided that he could bear a thrashing, but
not the sight of the Yew-lane Ghost; so he remained where he was,
wondering how it would be, and how he should get over the next
school-night when it came. The prospect was so hopeless, and the poor
lad so wearied with anxiety and wakeful nights, that he was almost
asleep when he was startled by the church clock striking nine; and,
jumping up, he ran home. His heart beat heavily as he crossed the
threshold; but his mother was still absorbed by thoughts of Bessy, and
he went to bed unquestioned. The next day too passed over without any
awkward remarks, which was very satisfactory; but then night-school
day came again, and Bill felt that he was in a worse position than
ever. He had played truant once with success; but he was aware that it
would not do a second time. Bully Tom was spiteful, and Master Arthur
might come to "look up" his recreant pupil, and then Bill's father
would know all.

On the morning of the much-dreaded day, his mother sent him up to the
Rectory to fetch some little delicacy that had been promised for
Bessy's dinner. He generally found it rather amusing to go there. He
liked to peep at the pretty garden, to look out for Master Arthur, and
to sit in the kitchen and watch the cook, and wonder what she did with
all the dishes and bright things that decorated the walls. To-day all
was quite different. He avoided the gardens, he was afraid of being
seen by his teacher, and though cook had an unusual display of pots
and pans in operation, he sat in the corner of the kitchen indifferent
to everything but the thought of the Yew-lane Ghost. The dinner for
Bessy was put between two saucers, and as cook gave it into his hands
she asked kindly after his sister, and added--

"You don't look over-well yourself, lad! What's amiss?"

Bill answered that he was quite well, and hurried out of the house to
avoid further inquiries. He was becoming afraid of everyone! As he
passed the garden he thought of the gardener, and wondered if he would
help him. He was very young and very good-natured; he had taken of
late to coming to see Bessy, and Bill had his own ideas upon that
point; finally, he had a small class at the night-school. Bill
wondered whether if he screwed up his courage to-night to go, John
Gardener would walk back with him for the pleasure of hearing the
latest accounts of Bessy. But all hopes of this sort were cut off by
Master Arthur's voice shouting to him from the garden--

"Hi, there! I want you, Willie! Come here, I say."

Bill ran through the evergreens, and there among the flower-beds in
the sunshine he saw--first, John Gardener driving a mowing-machine
over the velvety grass under Master Arthur's very nose, so there was
no getting a private interview with him. Secondly, Master Arthur
himself, sitting on the ground with his terrier in his lap, directing
the proceedings by means of a donkey-headed stick with elaborately
carved ears; and thirdly, Master Arthur's friend.

Now little bits of gossip will fly; and it had been heard in the
dining-room, and conveyed by the parlour-maid to the kitchen, and
passed from the kitchen into the village, that Master Arthur's friend
was a very clever young gentleman; consequently Beauty Bill had been
very anxious to see him. As, however, the clever young gentleman was
lying on his back on the grass, with his hat flattened over his face
to keep out the sun, and an open book lying on its face upon his
waistcoat to keep the place, and otherwise quite immovable, and very
like other young gentlemen, Bill did not feel much the wiser for
looking at him. He had a better view of him soon, however, for Master
Arthur began to poke his friend's legs with the donkey-headed stick,
and to exhort him to get up.

"Hi! Bartram, get up! Here's my prime pupil. See what we can turn out.
You may examine him if you like. Willie: this gentleman is a very
clever gentleman, so you must keep your wits about you. _He'll_ put
questions to you, I can tell you! There's as much difference between
his head and mine, as between mine and the head of this stick." And
Master Arthur flourished his "one-legged donkey," as he called it, in
the air, and added, "Bartram! you lazy lout! _will_ you get up and
take an interest in my humble efforts for the good of my
fellow-creatures?"

Thus adjured, Mr. Bartram sat up with a jerk which threw his book on
to his boots, and his hat after it, and looked at Bill. Now Bill and
the gardener had both been grinning, as they always did at Master
Arthur's funny speeches, but when Bill found the clever gentleman
looking at him, he straightened his face very quickly. The gentleman
was not at all like his friend ("nothing near so handsome," Bill
reported at home), and he had such a large prominent forehead that he
looked as if he were bald. When he sat up, he suddenly screwed up his
eyes in a very peculiar way, pulled out a double gold eye-glass, fixed
it on his nose, and stared through it for a second; after which his
eyes unexpectedly opened to their full extent (they were not small
ones), and took a sharp survey of Bill over the top of his spectacles;
and this ended, he lay back on his elbow without speaking. Bill then
and there decided that Mr. Bartram was very proud, rather mad, and the
most disagreeable gentleman he ever saw; and he felt sure could see as
well as he (Bill) could, and only wore spectacles out of a peculiar
kind of pride and vain-glory which he could not exactly specify.
Master Arthur seemed to think, at any rate, that he was not very
civil, and began at once to talk to the boy himself.

"Why were you not at school last time, Willie? couldn't your mother
spare you?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Then why didn't you come?" said Master Arthur, in evident
astonishment.

Poor Bill! He stammered as he had stammered before the doctor, and
finally gasped--

"Please, Sir, I was scared."

"Scared? What of?"

"Ghosts," murmured Bill in a very ghostly whisper. Mr. Bartram raised
himself a little. Master Arthur seemed confounded.

"Why, you little goose! How is it you never were afraid before?"

"Please, Sir, I saw one the other night."

Mr. Bartram took another look over the top of his eye-glass and sat
bolt upright, and John Gardener stayed his machine and listened, while
poor Bill told the whole story of the Yew-lane Ghost.

When it was finished, the gardener, who was behind Master Arthur,
said--

"I've heard something of this, Sir, in the village," and then added
more which Bill could not hear.

"Eh, what?" said Master Arthur. "Willie, take the machine and drive
about the garden a-bit wherever you like. Now, John."

Willie did not at all like being sent away at this interesting point.
Another time he would have enjoyed driving over the short grass, and
seeing it jump up like a little green fountain in front of him; but
now his whole mind was absorbed by the few words he caught at
intervals of the conversation going on between John and the young
gentlemen. What could it mean? Mr. Bartram seemed to have awakened to
extraordinary energy, and was talking rapidly. Bill heard the words
"lime-light" and "large sheet," and thought they must be planning a
magic-lantern exhibition, but was puzzled by catching the word
"turnip." At last, as he was rounding the corner of a bed of
geraniums, he distinctly heard Mr. Bartram ask--

"They cut the man's head off, didn't they?"

Then they were talking about the ghost, after all! Bill gave the
machine a jerk, and to his dismay sliced a branch off one of the
geraniums. What was to be done? He must tell Master Arthur, but he
could not interrupt him just now; so on he drove, feeling very much
dispirited, and by no means cheered by hearing shouts of laughter from
the party on the grass. When one is puzzled and out of spirits, it is
no consolation to hear other people laughing over a private joke;
moreover, Bill felt that if they were still on the subject of the
murdered man and his ghost, their merriment was very unsuitable.
Whatever was going on, it was quite evident that Mr. Bartram was the
leading spirit of it, for Bill could see Master Arthur waving the one
legged donkey in an ecstasy, as he clapped his friend on the back till
the eye-glass danced upon his nose. At last Mr. Bartram threw himself
back as if closing a discussion, and said loud enough for Bill to
hear--

"You never heard of a bully who wasn't a coward."

Bill thought of Bully Tom, and how he had said he dared not risk the
chance of meeting with a ghost, and began to think that this was a
clever young gentleman, after all. Just then Master Arthur called to
him; and he took the bit of broken geranium and went.

"Oh, Willie!" said Master Arthur, "we've been talking over your
misfortunes--geranium? fiddle-sticks! put it in your button-hole--your
misfortunes, I say, and for to-night at any rate we intend to help you
out of them. John--ahem!--will be--ahem!--engaged to-night, and unable
to take his class as usual; but this gentleman has kindly consented to
fill his place ("Hear, hear," said the gentleman alluded to), and if
you'll come to-night, like a good lad, he and I will walk back with
you; so if you do see the ghost, it will be in good company. But,
mind, this is on one condition. You must not say anything about
it--about our walking back with you, I mean--to anybody. Say nothing;
but get ready and come to school as usual. You understand?"

"Yes, Sir," said Bill; "and I'm very much obliged to you, Sir, and the
other gentleman as well."

Nothing more was said, so Bill made his best bow and retired. As he
went he heard Master Arthur say to the gardener--

"Then you'll go to the town at once, John. We shall want the things as
soon as possible. You'd better take the pony, and we'll have the list
ready for you."

Bill heard no more words; but as he left the grounds the laughter of
the young gentlemen rang out into the road.

What did it all mean?



CHAPTER IV

     "The night was now pitmirk; the wind soughed amid the
     headstones and railings of the gentry (for we all must die),
     and the black corbies in the steeple-holes cackled and
     crawed in a fearsome manner."

     MANSIE WAUGH.


Bill was early at the night-school. No other of his class had arrived,
so he took the corner by the fire sacred to first-comers, and watched
the gradual gathering of the school. Presently Master Arthur appeared,
and close behind him came his friend. Mr. Bartram Lindsay looked more
attractive now than he had done in the garden. When standing, he was
an elegant though plain-looking young man, neat in his dress, and with
an admirable figure. He was apt to stand very still and silent for a
length of time, and had a habit of holding his chin up in the air,
which led some people to say that he "held himself very high." This
was the opinion that Bill had formed, and he was rather alarmed by
hearing Master Arthur pressing his friend to take his class instead of
the more backward one, over which the gardener usually presided; and
he was proportionably relieved when Mr. Bartram steadily declined.

"To say the truth, Bartram," said the young gentleman, "I am much
obliged to you, for I am used to my own boys, and prefer them."

Then up came the schoolmaster.

"Mr. Lindsay going to take John's class? Thank you, Sir. I've put out
the books; if you want anything else, Sir, p'raps you'll mention it.
When they have done reading, perhaps, Sir, you will kindly draft them
off for writing, and take the upper classes in arithmetic, if you
don't object, Sir."

Mr. Lindsay did not object.

"If you have a picture or two," he said. "Thank you. Know their
letters? All right. Different stages of progression. Very good. I've
no doubt we shall get on together."

"Between ourselves, Bartram," whispered Master Arthur into his
friend's ear, "the class is composed of boys who ought to have been to
school, and haven't; or who have been, and are none the better for it.
Some of them can what they call 'read in the Testament,' and all of
them confound b and d when they meet with them. They are at one point
of general information--namely, they all know what you have just told
them, and will none of them know it by next time. I call it the
rag-tag and bob-tail class. John says they are like forced tulips.
They won't blossom simultaneously. He can't get them all to one
standard of reading."

Mr. Lindsay laughed and said--

"He had better read less, and try a little general oral instruction.
Perhaps they don't remember because they can't understand;"--and the
Rector coming in at that moment, the business of the evening
commenced.

Having afterwards to cross the school for something, Bill passed the
new teacher and his class, and came to the conclusion that they did
"get on together," and very well too. The rag-tag and bob-tail shone
that night, and afterwards were loud in praises of the lesson. "It was
so clear," and "He was so patient." Indeed, patience was one great
secret of Mr. Lindsay's teaching; he waited so long for an answer that
he generally got it. His pupils were obliged to exert themselves when
there was no hope of being passed over, and everybody was waiting.
Finally, Bill's share of the arithmetic lesson converted him to Master
Arthur's friend. He _was_ a clever young gentleman, and a kind one
too.

The lesson had been so interesting--the clever young gentleman,
standing (without his eye-glass) by the blackboard, had been so strict
and yet so entertaining, was so obviously competent, and so pleasantly
kind, that Bill, who liked arithmetic, and (like all intelligent
children) appreciated good teaching, had had no time to think of the
Yew-lane Ghost till the lesson was ended. It was not till the hymn
began (they always ended the night-school with singing), then he
remembered it. Then, while he was shouting with all his might Bishop
Ken's glorious old lines--

    "Keep me, oh keep me, King of kings,"

he caught Mr. Lindsay's eyes fixed on him, and back came the thoughts
of his terrible fright, with a little shame too at his own timidity.
Which of us trusts as we should do in the "defence of the Most High?"

Bill lingered as he had done the last time, and went out with the
"grown-ups." It had been raining, and the ground was wet and sludgy,
though it was fair overhead. The wind was cold, too, and Mr. Lindsay
began to cough so violently, that Bill felt rather ashamed of taking
him so far out of his way, through the damp chilly lane, and began to
wonder whether he could not summon up courage to go alone. The result
was, that with some effort he said--

"Please, Mr. Lindsay, Sir, I think you won't like to come so far this
cold night. I'll try and manage, if you like."

Mr. Lindsay laid one hand on Bill's shoulder, and said quietly--

"No, thank you, my boy, we'll come with you, Thank you, all the same."

"Nevertheless, Bartram," said Master Arthur, "I wish you could keep
that cough of yours quiet--it will spoil everything. A boy was eating
peppermints in the shade of his copy-book this very night. I did box
his ears; but I wish I had seized the goodies, they might have kept
you quiet."

"Thank you," was the reply, "I abhor peppermint; but I have got some
lozenges, if that will satisfy you. And when I smell ghosts, I can
smother myself in my pocket-handkerchief."

Master Arthur laughed boisterously.

"We shall smell one if brimstone will do it. I hope he won't set
himself on fire, or the scenic effect will be stronger than we
bargained for."

This was the beginning of a desultory conversation carried on at
intervals between the two young gentlemen, of which, though Bill heard
every sentence, he couldn't understand one. He made one effort to
discover what Master Arthur was alluding to, but with no satisfactory
result, as we shall see.

"Please, Master Arthur," he said desperately, "you don't think
there'll be two ghosts, do you, Sir?"

"I should say," said Master Arthur, so slowly and with such gravity
that Bill felt sure he was making fun of him, "I should say, Bill,
that if a place is haunted at all there is no limit to the number of
ghosts--fifty quite as likely as one. What do you say, Bartram?"

"Quite so," said Bartram.

Bill made no further attempts to understand the mystery. He listened,
but only grew more and more bewildered at the dark hints he heard, and
never understood what it all meant until the end came; when (as is not
uncommon) he wondered how he could have been so stupid, and why he had
not seen it all from the very first.

They had now reached the turning-point, and as they passed into the
dark lane, where the wind was shuddering and shivering among the
trees, Bill shuddered and shivered too, and felt very glad that the
young gentlemen were with him, after all.

Mr. Lindsay pulled out his watch.

"Well?" said his friend.

"Ten minutes to nine."

Then they walked on in silence, Master Arthur with one arm through his
friend's, and the one-legged donkey under the other; and Mr. Lindsay
with his hand on Bill's shoulder.

"I _should_ like a pipe!" said Master Arthur presently; "it's so
abominably damp."

"What a fellow you are," said Mr. Lindsay. "Out of the question! With
the wind setting down the lane too! you talk of my cough--which is
better, by-the-bye."

"What a fellow _you_ are!" retorted the other. "Bartram, you are the
oddest creature I know. What ever you take up, you do drive at so. Now
I have hardly got a lark afloat before I'm sick of it. I wish you'd
tell me two things--first, why are you so grave to-night? and,
secondly, what made you take up our young friend's cause so warmly?"

"One answer will serve both questions," said Mr. Lindsay. "The truth
is, old fellow, our young friend--[and Bill felt certain that the
'young friend' was himself]--has a look of a little chap I was chum
with at school--Regy Gordon. I don't talk about it often, for I can't
very well; but he was killed--think of it, man!--_killed_ by such a
piece of bullying as this! When they found him, he was quite stiff and
speechless; he lived a few hours, but he only said two words--my name,
and amen."

"Amen?" said Master Arthur, inquiringly.

"Well, you see when the surgeon said it was no go, they telegraphed
for his friends; but they were a long way off, and he was sinking
rapidly; and the old Doctor was in the room, half heart-broken, and he
saw Gordon move his hands together, and he said, 'If any boy knows
what prayers Gordon minor has been used to say, let him come and say
them by him;' and I did. So I knelt by his bed and said them, the old
Doctor kneeling too and sobbing like a child; and when I had done,
Regy moved his lips and said 'Amen;' and then he said 'Lindsay!' and
smiled, and then--"

Master Arthur squeezed his friend's arm tightly, but said nothing, and
both the young men were silent; but Bill could not restrain his tears.
It seemed the saddest story he had ever heard, and Mr. Lindsay's hand
upon his shoulder shook so intolerably whilst he was speaking, that he
had taken it away, which made Bill worse, and he fairly sobbed.

"What are you blubbering about, young 'un?" said Mr. Lindsay. "He is
better off than any of us, and if you are a good boy you will see him
some day;" and the young gentleman put his hand back again, which was
steady now.

"What became of the other fellow?" said Master Arthur.

"He was taken away, of course. Sent abroad, I believe. It was hushed
up. And now you know," added Mr. Lindsay, "why my native indolence has
roused itself to get this cad taught a lesson, which many a time I
wished to GOD when wishes were too late, that that other bully had
been taught _in time_. But no one could thrash him; and no one durst
complain. However, let's change the subject, old fellow! I've got over
it long since: though sometimes I think the wish to see Regy again
helps to keep me a decent sort of fellow. But when I saw the likeness
this morning, it startled me; and then to hear the story, it seemed
like a dream--the Gordon affair over again. I suppose rustic nerves
are tougher; however, your village blackguard shan't have the chance
of committing murder if we can cure him!"

"I believe you half wanted to undertake the cure yourself," said
Master Arthur.

Mr. Lindsay laughed.

"I did for a minute. Fancy your father's feelings if I had come home
with a black eye from an encounter with a pot-house bully! You know I
put my foot into a tender secret of your man's, by offering to be the
performer!"

"How?"

Mr. Lindsay lowered his voice, but not so that Bill could not hear
what he said, and recognize the imitation of John Gardener.

"He said, 'I'd rather do it, if _you_ please, Sir. The fact is, I'm
partial to the young woman myself!' After that, I could but leave John
to defend his young woman's belongings."

"Gently!" exclaimed Master Arthur. "There is the Yew Walk."

From this moment the conversation was carried on in whispers, to
Bill's further mystification. The young gentlemen recovered their
spirits, and kept exploding in smothered chuckles of laughter.

"Cold work for him if he's been waiting long!" whispered one.

"Don't know. His head's under cover, remember!" said the other: and
they laughed.

"Bet you sixpence he's been smearing his hand with brimstone for the
last half hour."

"Don't smell him yet, though."

"He'll be a patent aphis-destroyer in the rose-garden for months to
come."

"Sharp work for the eyelids if it gets under the sheet."

They were now close by the Yews, out of which the wind came with a
peculiar chill, as if it had been passing through a vault. Mr. Bartram
Lindsay stooped down, and whispered in Bill's ear. "Listen, my lad. We
can't go down the lane with you, for we want to see the ghost, but we
don't want the ghost to see us. Don't be frightened, but go just as
usual. And mind--when you see the white figure, point with your own
arm _towards the Church_, and scream as loud as you like. Can you do
this?"

"Yes, Sir," whispered Bill.

"Then off with you. We shall creep quietly on behind the trees; and
you shan't be hurt, I promise you."

Bill summoned his courage, and plunged into the shadows. What could be
the meaning of Mr. Lindsay's strange orders? Should he ever have
courage to lift his arm towards the church in the face of that awful
apparition of the murdered man? And if he did, would the unquiet
spirit take the hint, and go back into the grave, which Bill knew was
at that very corner to which he must point? Left alone, his terrors
began to return; and he listened eagerly to see if, amid the
ceaseless soughing of the wind among the long yew branches, he could
hear the rustle of the young men's footsteps as they crept behind. But
he could distinguish nothing. The hish-wishing of the thin leaves was
so incessant, the wind was so dexterous and tormenting in the tricks
it played and the sounds it produced, that the whole place seemed
alive with phantom rustlings and footsteps; and Bill felt as if Master
Arthur was right, and that there was "no limit" to the number of
ghosts!

At last he could see the end of the avenue. There among the few last
trees was the place where the ghost had appeared. There beyond lay the
white road, the churchyard corner, and the tall grey tomb-stone
glimmering in the moonlight. A few steps more, and slowly from among
the yews came the ghost as before, and raised its long white arm. Bill
determined that, if he died for it, he would do as he had been told;
and lifting his own hand he pointed towards the tomb-stone, and gave a
shout. As he pointed, the ghost turned round, and then--rising from
behind the tomb-stone, and gliding slowly to the edge of the wall,
which separated the churchyard from the lower level of the road--there
appeared a sight so awful, that Bill's shout merged into a prolonged
scream of terror.

Truly Master Arthur's anticipations of a "scenic effect" were amply
realized. The walls and buttresses of the old Church stood out dark
against the sky; the white clouds sailed slowly by the moon, which
reflected itself on the damp grass, and shone upon the flat wet
tomb-stones till they looked like pieces of water. It was not less
bright upon the upright ones, upon quaint crosses, short headstones,
and upon the huge ungainly memorial of the murdered Ephraim Garnett.
But _the_ sight on which it shone that night was the figure now
standing by Ephraim Garnett's grave, and looking over the wall. An
awful figure, of gigantic height, with ghostly white garments clinging
round its headless body, and carrying under its left arm the head that
should have been upon its shoulders. On this there was neither flesh
nor hair. It seemed to be a bare skull, with fire gleaming through the
hollow eye-sockets and the grinning teeth. The right hand of the
figure was outstretched as if in warning; and from the palms to the
tips of the fingers was a mass of lambent flame. When Bill saw this
fearful apparition he screamed with hearty good will; but the noise he
made was nothing to the yell of terror that came from beneath the
shroud of the Yew-lane Ghost, who, on catching sight of the rival
spectre, fled wildly up the lane, kicking the white sheet off as he
went, and finally displaying, to Bill's amazement, the form and
features of Bully Tom. But this was not all. No sooner had the first
ghost started, than the second (not to be behind-hand) jumped nimbly
over the wall, and gave chase. But fear had put wings on to Bully
Tom's feet; and the second ghost being somewhat encumbered by his
costume, judged it wisdom to stop; and then taking the fiery skull in
its flaming hands, shied it with such dexterity, that it hit Bully Tom
in the middle of his back, and falling on to the wet ground, went out
with a hiss. This blow was an unexpected shock to the Bully, who
thought the ghost must have come up to him with supernatural rapidity,
and falling on his knees in the mud, began to roar most lustily:

"Lord, have mercy upon me! I'll never do it no more!"

Mr. Lindsay was not likely to alter his opinion on the subject of
bullies. This one, like others, was a mortal coward. Like other men,
who have no fear of GOD before their eyes, he made up for it by having
a very hearty fear of sickness, death, departed souls, and one or two
other things, which the most self-willed sinner knows well enough to
be in the hands of a Power which he cannot see, and does not wish to
believe in. Bully Tom had spoken the truth when he said that if he
thought there was a ghost in Yew-lane he wouldn't go near it. If he
had believed the stories with which he had alarmed poor Bill, the
lad's evening walk would never have been disturbed, as far as he was
concerned. Nothing but his spite against Bessy would have made him
take so much trouble to vex the peace, and stop the schooling, of her
pet brother; and as it was, the standing alone by the churchyard at
night was a position so little to his taste, that he had drunk pretty
heavily in the public-house for half an hour beforehand, to keep up
his spirits. And now he had been paid back in his own coin, and lay
grovelling in the mud, and calling profanely on the Lord, Whose mercy
such men always cry for in their trouble, if they never ask it for
their sins. He was so confused and blinded by drink and fright, that
he did not see the second ghost divest himself of his encumbrances, or
know that it was John Gardener, till that rosy-cheeked worthy, his
clenched hands still flaming with brimstone, danced round him, and
shouted scornfully, and with that vehemence of aspiration, in which he
was apt to indulge when excited:

"Get hup, yer great cowardly booby, will yer? So you thought you was
coming hout to frighten a little lad, did ye? And you met with one of
your hown size, did ye? Now _will_ ye get hup and take it like a man,
or shall I give it you as ye lie there?"

Bully Tom chose the least of two evils, and staggering to his feet
with an oath, rushed upon John. But in his present condition he was no
match for the active little gardener, inspired with just wrath, and
thoughts of Bessy; and he then and there received such a sound
thrashing as he had not known since he first arrogated the character
of village bully. He was roaring loudly for mercy, and John Gardener
was giving him a harmless roll in the mud by way of conclusion, when
he caught sight of the two young gentlemen in the lane--Master Arthur
in fits of laughter at the absurd position of the ex-Yew-lane Ghost
and Mr. Lindsay standing still and silent, with folded arms, set lips,
and the gold eye-glass on his nose. As soon as he saw them, he began
to shout, "Murder! help!" at the top of his voice.

"I see myself," said Master Arthur, driving his hands contemptuously
into his pockets--"I see myself helping a great lout who came out to
frighten a child, and can neither defend his own eyes and nose, nor
take a licking with a good grace when he deserves it!"

Bully Tom appealed to Mr. Lindsay.

"Yah! yah!" he howled: "will you see a man killed for want of help?"

But the clever young gentleman seemed even less inclined to give his
assistance.

"Killed!" he said contemptuously; "I _have_ seen a lad killed on such
a night as this, by such a piece of bullying! Be thankful you have
been stopped in time! I wouldn't raise my little finger to save you
from twice such a thrashing. It has been fairly earned! Give the ghost
his shroud, Gardener, and let him go; and recommend him not to haunt
Yew-lane in future."

John did so, with a few words of parting advice on his own account.

"Be hoff with you," he said. "Master Lindsay, he speaks like a book.
You're a disgrace to your hage and sect, you are! I'd as soon fight
with an old charwoman. Though, bless you, young gentlemen," he added,
as Bully Tom slunk off muttering, "he _is_ the biggest blackguard in
the place; and what the Rector'll say, when he comes to know as you've
been mingled up with him, passes me."

"He'll forgive us, I dare say," said Master Arthur. "I only wish he
could have seen you emerge from behind that stone! It was a sight for
a century! I wonder what the youngster thought of it! Hi, Willie,
here, Sir! What did you think of the second ghost?"

Bill had some doubts as to the light in which he ought to regard that
apparition; but he decided on the simple truth.

"I thought it looked very horrid, Sir."

"I should hope it did! The afternoon's work of three able-bodied men
has been marvellously wasted if it didn't. However, I must say you
halloed out loud enough!"

Bill coloured, the more so as Mr. Lindsay was looking hard at him over
the top of his spectacles.

"Don't you feel rather ashamed of all your fright, now you've seen the
ghosts without their sheets?" inquired the clever young gentleman.

"Yes, Sir," said Bill, hanging his head. "I shall never believe in
ghosts again, Sir, though."

Mr. Bartram Lindsay took off his glasses, and twiddled them in his
fingers.

"Well, well," he said in a low hurried voice; "I'm not the parson, and
I don't pretend to say what you should believe and what you shouldn't.
We know precious little as to how much the spirits of the dead see and
know of what they have left behind. But I think you may venture to
assure yourself that when a poor soul has passed the waves of this
troublesome world, by whatever means, it doesn't come back kicking
about under a white sheet in dark lanes, to frighten little boys from
going to school."

"And that's very true, Sir," said John Gardener, admiringly.

"So it is," said Master Arthur. "I couldn't have explained that
myself, Willie; but those are my sentiments and I beg you'll attend to
what Mr. Lindsay has told you."

"Yes, Sir," said Bill.

Mr. Lindsay laughed, though not quite merrily, and said--

"I could tell him something more, Arthur, though he's too young to
understand it: namely, that if he lives, the day will come, when he
would be only too happy if the dead might come back and hold out their
hands to us, anywhere, and for however short a time."

The young gentleman stopped abruptly; and the gardener heaved a
sympathetic sigh.

"I tell you what it is, Bartram," muttered Master Arthur, "I suppose
I'm too young, too, for I've had quite enough of the melancholies for
one night. As to you, you're as old as the hills; but it's time you
came home; and if I'd known before what you told me to night, old
fellow, you shouldn't have come out on this expedition. Now, for you,
Willie," added the young gentleman, whirling sharply round, "if you're
not a pattern Solomon henceforth, it won't be the fault of your
friends. And if wisdom doesn't bring you to school after this, I shall
try the argument of the one-legged donkey."

"I don't think I shall miss next time, Sir."

"I hope you won't. Now, John, as you've come so far, you may as well
see the lad safe home; but don't shake hands with the family in the
present state of your fists, or you might throw somebody into a fit.
Good-night!"

Yew-lane echoed a round of "Good-nights;" and Bill and the gardener
went off in high spirits. As they crossed the road, Bill looked round,
and under the trees saw the young gentlemen strolling back to the
Rectory, arm in arm. Mr. Bartram Lindsay with his chin high in the
air, and Master Arthur vehemently exhorting him on some topic, of
which he was pointing the moral with flourishes of the one-legged
donkey.

       *       *       *       *       *

For those who like to know "what became of" everybody, these facts are
added:

The young gentlemen got safely home; and Master Arthur gave such a
comical account of their adventure, that the Rector laughed too much
to scold them, even if he had wished.

Beauty Bill went up and down Yew-lane on many a moonlight night after
this one, but he never saw another ghost, or felt any more fears in
connection with Ephraim Garnett. To make matters more entirely
comfortable, however, John kindly took to the custom of walking home
with the lad after night-school was ended. In return for this
attention, Bill's family were apt to ask him in for an hour; and by
their fire-side he told the story of the two ghosts so often--from the
manufacture in the Rectory barn to the final apparition at the
cross-roads--that the whole family declare they feel just as if they
had seen it.

Bessy, under the hands of the cheerful doctor, got quite well, and
eventually married. As her cottage boasts the finest window plants in
the village, it is shrewdly surmised that her husband is a gardener.

Bully Tom talked very loudly for some time of "having the law of" the
rival ghost; but finding, perhaps, that the story did not redound to
his credit, was unwilling to give it further publicity, and changed
his mind.

Winter and summer, day and night, sunshine and moonlight, have passed
over the lane and the churchyard, and the wind has had many a ghostly
howl among the yews, since poor Bill learnt the story of the murder;
but he knows now that the true Ephraim Garnett has never been seen on
the cross-roads since a hundred years ago, and will not be till the
Great Day.

In the ditch by the side of Yew-lane shortly after the events I have
been describing, a little lad found a large turnip, in which someone
had cut eyes, nose, and mouth, and put bits of stick for teeth. The
turnip was hollow, and inside it was fixed a bit of wax candle. He
lighted it up, and the effect was so splendid, that he made a show of
it to his companions at the price of a marble each, who were well
satisfied. And this was the last of the Yew-lane Ghosts.



A BAD HABIT.

CHAPTER I.

    "Oh, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
    By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
    The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
    For that sweet odour which doth in it live."

    SHAKESPEARE.


My godmother, Lady Elizabeth, used to say, "Most things are matters of
habit. Good habits and bad habits." And she generally added, "_Your_
bad habit, Selina, is a habit of grumbling."

I was always accustomed to seeing great respect paid to anything my
godmother said or did. In the first place, she was what Mrs. Arthur
James Johnson called "a fine lady," and what the maids called "a real
lady." She was an old friend and, I think, a relative of my father,
who had married a little below his own rank--my mother being the
daughter of a rich manufacturer. My father had died before I can
remember things, and Joseph and I lived with our mother and her
friends. At least, we were with our mother when she could bear the
noise; and for the rest of our time, when we were tired of playing
games together, we sat with the maids.

"That is where you learned your little _toss_ and your trick of
grumbling, my dear," my godmother said, planting her gold eye-glasses
on her high nose; "and that is why your mouth is growing out of shape,
and your forehead getting puckered, and your chin poked, and--and your
boots bulged crooked."

"_My boots_, godmother?"

"Your boots, my dear. No boots will keep in shape if you shake your
hips and kick with your heels like a servant out Sunday walking. When
little girls flounce on the high road, it only looks ridiculous; but
when you grow up, you'll never have a clean petticoat, or be known for
a well-bred woman behind your back, unless you learn to walk as if
your legs and your feelings were under your own control. That is why
the sergeant is coming to-morrow and every week-day morning to drill
you and Joseph from ten to eleven whilst you remain here."

And my godmother pressed the leaves of the journal on her lap, and cut
them quite straight and very decisively with a heavy ivory
paper-knife.

I had never been taught that it is bad manners to mutter--nurse
always talked to herself when she was "put out"--and, as I stood in
much awe of Lady Elizabeth, I did not like to complain aloud of her
arrangements. So I turned my doll with a sharp flounce in my arms, and
muttered behind her tarlatan skirts that "I did think we were to have
had whole holidays out visiting."

I believe my godmother heard me; but she only looked at me for a
moment over the top of her gold eye-glasses, and then went on reading
the paper through them.

After a few moments, she laid it down on her lap with her left hand,
and with her right hand took off her eye-glasses and held them between
her fingers.

"I shall be sorry if you don't grow up nice-looking, Selina," she
said. "It's a great advantage to a woman--indeed, to anyone--to be
good-looking. Your mother was a pretty woman, too; and your father--"

Lady Elizabeth stopped, and then, seeming suddenly to see that I was
watching her and waiting, put her glasses before her eyes again, and
continued--

"Your father was a very good-looking gentleman, with a fine face and a
fine figure, beautiful eyes and mouth, very attractive hands, and most
fascinating manners. It will be a pity if you don't grow up
nice-looking."

I grew crimson, partly with mortification and partly with
astonishment. I had a strong natural desire to be pretty, but I felt
sure I had been taught somehow that it was much more meritorious not
to care about it. It certainly did not please me when (if I had
offended them) the maids said I should never be as pretty as Maud Mary
Ibbetson, my bosom friend; but when nurse took the good looking-glass
out of the nursery, and hung up the wavy one which used to be in her
room instead, to keep me from growing vain, I did not dispute her
statement that "the less little girls looked in the glass the better."
And when I went to see Maud Mary (who was the only child of rich
parents, and had a cheval-glass in her own bed-room), it was a just
satisfaction to me to feel that if she was prettier, and could see
herself full length, she was probably vainer than I.

It was very mortifying, therefore, to find that my godmother not only
thought me plain, but gave me no credit for not minding it. I grew
redder and redder, and my eyes filled with tears.

Lady Elizabeth was very nice in one way--she treated us with as much
courtesy and consideration as if we were grown up. People do not think
about being polite to children, but my godmother was very polite.

"My dear child," she said, holding out her hand, "I am very sorry if I
have hurt your feelings. I beg your pardon."

I put my hot and rather dirty little paw among her cool fingers and
diamond rings. I could not mutter to her face, but I said rather under
my sobs that "it seemed such a thing" to be blamed for not being
pretty.

"My dear Selina, I never said anything about your being pretty. I said
I should be sorry if you did not grow up nice-looking, which is quite
another thing. It will depend on yourself whether you are nice-looking
or not."

I began to feel comforted, but I bridled my chin in an aggrieved
manner, which I know I had caught from Mrs. Marsden, the charwoman,
when she took tea in the nursery and told long tales to nurse; and I
said I "was sure it wasn't for want of speaking to" nurse that my hair
did not wave like Maud Mary's, but that when I asked her to crimp it,
she only said, "Handsome is that handsome does, and that ought to be
enough for you, Miss Selina, without _my_ slaving to damp-plait your
hair every night."

I repeated nurse's speech pretty volubly, and with her sharp accent
and accompanying toss. My godmother heard me out, and then she said--

"Nurse quoted a very good proverb, which is even truer than it is
allowed to be. Those who do well grow to look well. My little
goddaughter, that soft child's face of yours can be pinched and pulled
into a nice shape or an ugly shape, very much as you pull and pinch
that gutta-percha head I gave you, and, one way or another, it is
being shaped all along."

"But people can't give themselves beautiful figures, and eyes, and
mouths, and hands, as you said papa had, unless they are born so," I
objected.

"Your father's figure, my dear," said Lady Elizabeth, "was beautiful
with the grace and power which comes of training. He was a military
man, and you have only to look at a dozen common men in a marching
regiment and compare them with a dozen of the same class of men who go
on plodding to work and loafing at play in their native villages, to
see what people can do for their own figures. His eyes, Selina, were
bright with intelligence and trained powers of observation; and they
were beautiful with kindliness, and with the well-bred habit of giving
complete attention to other people and their affairs when he talked
with them. He had a rare smile, which you may not inherit, but the
real beauty of such mouths as his comes from the lips being restrained
into firm and sensitive lines, through years of self-control and fine
sympathies."

I do not quite understand. "Do you mean that I can practise my mouth
into a nice shape?" I asked.

"Certainly not, my dear, any more than you can pinch your nose into
shape with your finger and thumb; but your lips, and all the lines of
your face, will take shape of themselves, according to your temper and
habits.

"There are two things," my godmother continued, after turning round to
look at me for a minute, "there are two things, Selina, against your
growing up good-looking. One is that you have caught so many little
vulgarisms from the servants; and the other is your little bad habit
of grumbling, which, for that matter, is a very ill-bred habit as
well, and would spoil the prettiest eyes, nose, mouth, and chin that
ever were inherited. Under-bred and ill-educated women are, as a
general rule, much less good-looking than well-bred and
highly-educated ones, especially in middle life; not because good
features and pretty complexions belong to one class more than to
another, but because nicer personal habits and stricter discipline of
the mind do. A girl who was never taught to brush her teeth, to
breathe through the nostrils instead of the lips, and to chew with the
back teeth instead of the front, has a very poor chance of growing up
with a pretty mouth, as anyone may see who has observed a middle-aged
woman of that class munching a meat pie at a railway-station. And if,
into the bargain, she has nothing to talk about but her own and her
neighbour's everyday affairs, and nothing to think about to keep her
from continually talking, life, my dear child, is so full of little
rubs, that constant chatter of this kind must almost certainly be
constant grumbling. And constant grumbling, Selina, makes an ugly
under-lip, a forehead wrinkled with frowning, and dull eyes that see
nothing but grievances. There is a book in the library with some
pictures of faces that I must show you. Do you draw at all, my dear?"

"Mamma gave me a drawing-slate on my birthday," I replied, "but Joseph
bothered me to lend it to him, and now he's broken the glass. It _is_
so tiresome! But it's always the way if you lend things."

"What makes you think that it is always the way if you lend things?"
my godmother gently inquired.

"It seems as if it was, I'm sure," was my answer. "It was just the
same with the fish-kettle when cook lent it to the Browns. They kept
it a fortnight, and let it rust, and the first time cook put a drop of
water into it it leaked; and she said it always _was_ the way; you
might lend everything you had, and people had no conscience, but if
it came to borrowing a pepperpot--"

My godmother put up both her long hands with an impatient gesture.

"That will do, my dear. I don't care to hear all that your mother's
cook said about the fish-kettle."

I felt uncomfortable, and was glad that Lady Elizabeth went on
talking.

"Have you and Joseph any collections? When I was your age, I remember
I made a nice collection of wafers. They were quite as pretty as
modern monograms."

"Joseph collected feathers out of the pillows once," I said, laughing.
"He got a great many different sorts, but nurse burned them, and he
cried."

"I'm sorry nurse burned them. I daresay they made him very happy. I
advise you to begin a collection, Selina. It is a capital cure for
discontent. Anything will do. A collection of buttons, for instance.
There are a great many kinds; and if ever some travelled friend crowns
your collection with a mandarin's button, for one day at least you
won't feel a grievance worth speaking of."

I was feeling very much aggrieved as Lady Elizabeth spoke, and
thinking to myself that "it seemed so hard to be scolded out visiting,
and when one had not got into any scrape." But I only said that
"nobody at home ever said that I grumbled so much;" and that I "didn't
know that our servants complained more than other people's."

"I do not suppose they do," said my godmother. "I have told you
already that I consider it a foible of ill-educated people, whose
interests are very limited, and whose feelings are not disciplined.
You know James, the butler, Selina, do you not?"

"Oh, yes, godmamma!"

I knew James well. He was very kind to me, and always liberal when, by
Lady Elizabeth's orders, he helped me to almonds and raisins at
dessert.

"My mother died young," said Lady Elizabeth, "and at sixteen I was
head of my father's household. I had been well trained, and I tried to
do my duty. Amid all the details of providing for and entertaining
many people, my duty was to think of everything, and never to seem as
if I had anything on my mind. I should have been fairly trained _for a
kitchen-maid_, Selina, if I had done what I was told when it was
bawled at me, and had talked and seemed more overwhelmed with work
than the Prime Minister. Well, most of our servants had known me from
babyhood, and it was not a light matter to have the needful authority
over them without hurting the feelings of such old and faithful
friends. But, on the whole, they respected my efforts, and were proud
of my self-possession. I had more trouble with the younger ones, who
were too young to help me, and whom I was too young to overawe. I was
busy one morning writing necessary letters, when James--who was then
seventeen, and the under-footman--came to the drawing room and wished
to speak to me. When he had wasted a good deal of my time in
describing his unwillingness to disturb me, and the years his father
had lived in my father's service, I said, 'James, I have important
letters to write, and very little time to spare. If you have any
complaint to make, will you kindly put it as shortly as you can?' 'I'm
sure, my lady, I have no wish to complain,' was James's reply; and
thereon his complaints poured forth in a continuous stream. I took out
my watch (unseen by James, for I never insult people), and gave him
five minutes for his grievances. He got on pretty fast with them. He
had mentioned the stone floor of his bed-room, a draught in the pantry,
the overbearingness of the butler, the potatoes for the servants' hall
being under-boiled when the cook was out of temper, the inferior
quality of the new plate-powder, the insinuations against his father's
honesty by servants who were upstarts by comparison, his hat having
been spoilt by the rain, and that he never was so miserable in his
life--when the five minutes expired, and I said 'Then, James, you want
to go?' He coloured, and I really think tears stood in his eyes. He
was a good-hearted lad.

"When he began to say that he could never regard any other place as he
looked on this, and that he felt towards his lordship and me as he
could feel towards no other master and mistress, I gave him another
five minutes for what he was pleased with. To do him justice, the list
was quite as long as that of his grievances. No people were like us,
and he had never been so happy in his life. So I said, 'Then, James,
you want to stay?'

"James began a fresh statement, in which his grievances and his
satisfactions came alternately, and I cut this short by saying, 'Well,
James, the difficulty seems to be that you have not made up your mind
what you do want. I have no time to balance matters for you, so you
had better go downstairs and think it well over, and let me know what
you decide.'

"He went accordingly, and when he was driven to think for himself by
being stopped from talking to me, I suppose he was wise enough to
perceive that it is easier to find crosses in one's lot than to feel
quite sure that one could change it for a better. I have no doubt that
he had _not_ got all he might lawfully have wished for, but, different
as our positions were, no more had I, and we both had to do our duty
and make the best of life as we found it. It's a very good thing, dear
child, to get into the habit of saying to oneself, 'One can't have
everything.' I suppose James learned to say it, for he has lived with
me ever since."

At this moment Joseph called to me through the open window which led
into the garden--

"Oh, Selina! I am so sorry; but when I got to the shop I couldn't
remember whether it was a quarter of a yard of ribbon or
three-quarters that you wanted for the doll's hat."

Joseph was always doing stupid things like this. It vexed me very
much, and I jumped up and hastily seized my doll to go out and speak
to him, saying, as I did so, that "boys were enough to drive one wild,
and one might as well ask the poodle to do anything as Joseph." And it
was not till I had flounced out of the drawing-room that I felt rather
hot and uncomfortable to remember that I had tossed my head, and
knitted my brows, and jerked my chin, and pouted my lips, and shaken
my skirts, and kicked up my heels, as I did so, and that my godmother
had probably been observing me through her gold eye-glasses.



CHAPTER II.

"It is easier to prevent ill habits than to break them."--OLD
PROVERB.


I must say that Joseph _was_ rather a stupid boy. He was only a year
younger than me, but I never could make him understand exactly what I
wanted him to do when we played together; and he was always saying,
"Oh, I say, look here, Selina!" and proposing some silly plan of his
own. But he was very good-natured, and when we were alone I let him be
uncle to the dolls. When we spent the day with Maud Mary, however, we
never let him play with the baby-house; but we allowed him to be the
postman and the baker, and people of that sort, who knock and ring,
and we sent him messages.

During the first week of our visit to Lady Elizabeth, the weather was
so fine that Joseph and I played all day long in the garden. Then it
became rainy, and we quarrelled over the old swing and the imperfect
backgammon board in the lumber-room, where we were allowed to amuse
ourselves. But one morning when we went to our play-room, after
drilling with Sergeant Walker, Joseph found a model fortress and
wooden soldiers and cannon in one corner of the room; and I found a
Dutch market, with all kinds of wooden booths, and little tables to
have tea at in another. They were presents from my godmother; and
they were far the best kind of toys we had ever had, you could do so
many things with them.

Joseph was so happy with his soldiers that he never came near the
Dutch fair; and at other times he was always bothering to be allowed
to play with the dolls. At first I was very glad, for I was afraid he
would be coming and saying, "Oh, I say, Selina," and suggesting
things; and I wanted to arrange the shops my own way. But when they
were done, and I was taking the dolls from one booth to another to
shop, I did think it seemed very odd that Joseph should not even want
to walk through the fair. And when I gave him leave to be a
shopkeeper, and to stand in front of each booth in turn, he did not
seem at all anxious to come; and he would bring a cannon with him, and
hide it behind his back when I came to buy vegetables for the dolls'
dinners.

We quarrelled about the cannon. I said no one ever heard of a
greengrocer with a cannon in his shop; and Joseph said it couldn't
matter if the greengrocer stood in front of the cannon so as to hide
it. So I said I wouldn't have a cannon in my fair at all; and Joseph
said he didn't want to come to my fair, for he liked his fortress much
better, and he rattled out, dragging his cannon behind him, and
knocked down Adelaide Augusta, the gutta-percha doll, who was leaning
against the fishmonger's slab, with her chin on the salmon.

It was very hard, and I said so; and then Joseph said there were
plenty of times when I wouldn't let him play with the dolls; and I
said that was just it--when I didn't want him to he wanted, and when I
wanted him to he wouldn't, and that he was very selfish.

So at last he put away his cannon, and came and played at shops; but
he was very stupid, and would look over his shoulder at the fortress
when he ought to have been pretending to sell; and once, when I had
left the fair, he got his cannon back and shot peas out of it, so that
all the fowls fell off the real hooks in the poulterer's shop, and
said he was bombarding the city.

I was very angry, and said, "I shall go straight down, and complain to
godmamma," and I went.

The worst of it was that only that very morning Lady Elizabeth had
said to me, "Remember one thing, my dear. I will listen to no
complaints whatever. No grumbles either from you or from Joseph. If
you want anything that you have not got, and will ask for it, I will
do my best for you, as my little guests; and if it is right and
reasonable, and fair to both, you shall have what you want. But you
must know your own mind when you ask, and make the best of what I can
do for you. I will hear no general complaints whatever."

Remembering this, I felt a little nervous when I was fairly in the
drawing-room, and Lady Elizabeth had laid down her glasses to hear
what I had to say.

"Do you want anything, my dear?" said she.

I began to complain--that Joseph was so stupid; that it seemed so
provoking; that I did think it was very unkind of him, etc.; but Lady
Elizabeth put up her hand.

"My dear Selina, you have forgotten what I told you. If there is
anything that an old woman like me can do to make your father's child
happy, do not be afraid to ask for it, but I will not have grumbling
in the drawing-room. By all means make up your mind as to what you
want, and don't be afraid to ask your old godmother. But if she thinks
it right to refuse, or you do not think it right to ask, you must make
the best of matters as they stand, and keep your good humour and your
good manners like a lady."

I felt puzzled. When I complained to nurse that Joseph "was so
tiresome," she grumbled back again that "she never knew such
children," and so forth. It is always easy to meet grievance with
grievance, but I found that it was not so easy to make up my mind and
pluck up my courage to ask in so many words for what I wanted.

"Shall I ask Joseph to put away his cannon and come and play at your
game for an hour now, my dear? I will certainly forbid him to fire
into your shop."

This did not quite satisfy me. As a matter of fact, Joseph had left
his fortress to play with me; and I did not really think he would
discharge his cannon at the poulterer's again. But I thought myself
hardly used, and I wanted my godmother to think so too, and to scold
Joseph. What else I wanted, I did not feel quite sure.

"I wish you would speak to Joseph," I said. "He would attend to you if
you told him how selfish and stupid he is."

"My dear, I never offered to complain to Joseph, but I will order him
not to molest you, and I will ask him to play with you."

"I'm sure I don't want him to play with me, unless he can play nicely,
and invent things for the dolls to say, as Maud Mary would," was my
reply; for I was getting thoroughly vexed.

"Then I will tell him that unless he can play your game as you wish
it, he had better amuse himself with his own toys. Is there anything
else that you want, my dear?"

I could not speak, for I was crying, but I sobbed out that "I missed
Maud Mary so."

"Who is Maud Mary, Selina?"

"Maud Mary Ibbetson, my particular friend--my _very_ particular
friend," I explained.

I spoke warmly, for at that moment the memory of Maud Mary seemed
adorable, and I longed to pour my complaints into her sympathetic ear.
Besides, I had another reason for regretting that she was not with me.
When we were together, it was she, as a rule, who had new and handsome
toys to exhibit, whilst I played the humbler part of admirer. But if
she had been with me, then, what would not have been my triumph in
displaying the Dutch fair! The longer I thought of her the faster my
tears fell, but they did not help me to think of anything definite to
ask for; and when Lady Elizabeth said, "would you like to go home, my
dear? or do you want me to ask your friend to stay with you?" I had
the grace to feel ashamed of my peevishness, and to thank my godmother
for her kindness, and to protest against wanting anything more. I only
added, amid my subsiding sobs, that "it did seem such a thing," when I
had got a Dutch fair to play at dolls in, that Joseph should be so
stupid, and that dear Maud Mary, who would have enjoyed it so much,
should not be able to see it.



CHAPTER III.

     "Nous aurons aussi la fête dans notre rue."--RUSSIAN
     PROVERB.


Next day, when our drill in the long corridor was over, Lady Elizabeth
told Joseph to bring his fortress, guns, and soldiers into the
library, and to play at the Thirty Years' War in the bay-window from a
large book with pictures of sieges and battles, which she lent him.

To me my godmother turned very kindly and said, "I have invited your
little friend Maud to come and stay here for a week. I hope she will
arrive to-day, so you had better prepare your dolls and your shops for
company."

Maud Mary coming! I danced for joy, and kissed my godmother, and
expressed my delight again and again. I should have liked to talk
about it to Joseph, but he had plunged into the Thirty Years' War, and
had no attention to give me.

It was a custom in the neighbourhood where my mother lived to call
people by double Christian names, John Thomas, William Edward, and so
forth; but my godmother never called Maud Mary anything but Maud.

It was possible that my darling friend might arrive by the twelve
o'clock train, and the carriage was sent to meet her, whilst I danced
up and down the big hall with impatience. When it came back without
her my disappointment knew no bounds. I felt sure that the Ibbetsons'
coachman had been unpunctual, or dear Maud Mary's nurse had been
cross, as usual, and had not tried to get her things packed. I rushed
into the library full of my forebodings, but my godmother only said,
"No grumbling, my dear!" and Joseph called out, "Oh, I say, Selina, I
wish you wouldn't swing the doors so: you've knocked down Wallenstein,
and he's fallen on the top of Gustavus Adolphus;" and I had to compose
myself as best I could till the five o'clock train.

Then she came. Darling Maud Mary!

Perhaps it was because I crushed her new feather in kissing her (and
Maud Mary was very particular about her clothes); perhaps it was
because she was tired with travelling, which I forgot; or perhaps it
was because she would rather have had tea first, that Maud Mary was
not quite so nice about the Dutch fair as I should have liked her to
be.

She said she rather wondered that Lady Elizabeth had not given me a
big dolls' house like hers instead; that she had come away in such a
hurry that she forgot to lock hers up, and she should not be the least
surprised if the kitten got into it and broke something, but "it did
seem rather odd" to be invited in such a very hurried way; that just
when she _was_ going to a big house to pay a grand visit, of course
the dressmaker "disappointed" Mrs. Ibbetson, but "that was the way
things always did happen;" that the last time Mr. Ibbetson was in
Paris he offered to bring her a dolls' railway train, with real
first-class carriages really stuffed, but she said she would rather
have a locket, and that was the very one which was hanging round her
neck, and which was much handsomer than Lucy Jane Smith's, which cost
five pounds in London.

Maud Mary's inattention to the fair and the dolls was so obvious that
I followed my godmother's advice, and "made the best of it" by saying,
"I'm afraid you're very much tired, darling?"

Maud Mary tossed her chin and frowned.

It was "enough to tire anybody," she said, to travel on that
particular line. The railway of which her papa was a director was very
differently managed.

I think my godmother's courtesy to us, and her thoughtful kindness,
had fixed her repeated hints about self-control and good manners
rather firmly in my head. I distinctly remember making an effort to
forget my toys and think of Maud Mary's comfort.

I said, "Will you come and take off your things, darling?" and she
said, "Yes, darling;" and then we had tea.

But next day, when she was quite rested, and had really nothing to
complain of, I did think she might have praised the Dutch fair.

She said it "seemed such a funny thing" to have to play in an old
garret; but she need not have wanted to alter the arrangement of all
the shops, and have everything her own way, as she always had at home,
because, if her dolls' house was hers, my Dutch fair was mine. I did
think, for a moment, of getting my godmother to speak to her, but I
knew it would be of no use to complain unless I had something to ask
for. When I came to think of it, I found that what I wanted was that
Maud Mary should let me manage my own toys and direct the game, and I
resolved to ask her myself.

"Look here, darling," said I, "when I come and play with you, I always
play dolls as you like, because the dolls' house is yours; I wish you
would play my game to-day, as the Dutch fair is mine."

Maud Mary flounced to her feet, and bridled with her wavy head, and
said she was sure she did not want to play if I didn't like her way of
playing; and as to my Dutch fair, her papa could buy her one any day
for her very own.

I was nettled, for Maud Mary was a little apt to flourish Mr.
Ibbetson's money in my face; but if her father was rich, my godmother
was a lady of rank, and I said that "my godmother, Lady Elizabeth,
said it was very vulgar to flounce and toss one's head if one was put
out."

Maud Mary crimsoned, and, exclaiming that she did not care what Lady
Elizabeth or Lady Anybody Else said, she whisked over three shops with
the ends of her sash, and kicked the wax off Josephine Esmeralda's
nose with the heel of her Balmoral boot.

I don't like confessing it, but I did push Maud Mary, and Maud Mary
slapped me.

And when we both looked up, my godmother was standing before us, with
her gold spectacles on her nose.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lady Elizabeth was very kind, and even then I knew that she was very
right.

When she said, "I have asked your friend for a week, and for that
week, my dear, she is your guest, and you must try to please, and
_make the best of it_," I not only did not dispute it; I felt a spirit
of self-suppression and hospitable pride awake within me to do as she
had said.

I think the hardest part of it was that, whatever I did and whatever I
gave up, Maud Mary recognized no effort on my part. What she got she
took as her due, and what she did not get she grumbled about.

I sometimes think that it was partly because, in all that long week,
she never ceased grumbling, that I did; I hope for life.

Only once I said, "O godmamma! how glad I shall be when I am alone
with Joseph again!" And with sudden remorse, I added, "But I beg your
pardon, that's grumbling; and you _have_ been so kind!"

Lady Elizabeth took off her eye-glasses, and held out her hands for
mine.

"Is it grumbling, little woman?" she said. "Well, I'm not sure."

"_I'm_ not sure," I said, smiling; "for you know I only said I should
be so _glad_ to be alone with Joseph, and to try to be good to him;
for he is a very kind boy, and if he is a little awkward with the
dolls, I mean to make the best of it. _One can't have everything_," I
added, laughing.

Lady Elizabeth drew my head towards her, and stroked and kissed it.

"GOD bless you, child," she said. "You _have_ inherited your
father's smile."

       *       *       *       *       *

"But, I say, Selina," whispered Joseph, when I went to look at his
fortress in the bay-window. "Do you suppose it's because he's dead
that she cried behind her spectacles when she said you had got his
smile?"



A HAPPY FAMILY.

CHAPTER I.

    "If solid happiness we prize,
    Within our breast this jewel lies.

       *       *       *       *       *

    From our own selves our joys must flow,
      And peace begins at home."

    COTTON.


The family--our family, not the Happy Family--consisted of me and my
brothers and sisters. I have a father and mother, of course.

I am the eldest, as I remind my brothers; and of the more worthy
gender, which my sisters sometimes forget. Though we live in the
village, my father is a gentleman, as I shall be when I am grown up. I
have told the village boys so more than once. One feels mean in
boasting that one is better born than they are; but if I did not tell
them, I am not sure that they would always know.

Our house is old, and we have a ghost--the ghost of my
great-great-great-great-great-aunt.

She "crossed her father's will," nurse says, and he threatened to flog
her with his dog-whip, and she ran away, and was never heard of more.
He would not let the pond be dragged, but he never went near it again;
and the villagers do not like to go near it now. They say you may meet
her there, after sunset, flying along the path among the trees, with
her hair half down, and a knot of ribbon fluttering from it, and
parted lips, and terror in her eyes.

The men of our family (my father's family, my mother is Irish) have
always had strong wills. I have a strong will myself.

People say I am like the picture of my great-grandfather (the
great-great-great-nephew of the ghost). He must have been a wonderful
old gentleman by all accounts. Sometimes nurse says to us, "Have your
own way, and you'll live the longer," and it always makes me think of
great-grandfather, who had so much of his own way, and lived to be
nearly a hundred.

I remember my father telling us how his sisters had to visit their old
granny for months at a time, and how he shut the shutters at three
o'clock on summer afternoons, and made them play dummy whist by candle
light.

"Didn't you and your brothers go?" asked Uncle Patrick, across the
dinner-table. My father laughed.

"Not we! My mother got us there once--but never again."

"And did your sisters like it?"

"Like it? They used to cry their hearts out. I really believe it
killed poor Jane. She was consumptive and chilly, but always craving
for fresh air; and granny never would have open windows, for fear of
draughts on his bald head; and yet the girls had no fires in their
room, because young people shouldn't be pampered."

"And ye never-r offer-r-ed--neither of ye--to go in the stead of
them?"

When Uncle Patrick rolls his R's in a discussion, my mother becomes
nervous.

"One can't expect boys to consider things," she said. "Boys will be
boys, you know."

"And what would you have 'em be?" said my father. Uncle Patrick turned
to my mother.

"Too true, Geraldine. Ye don't expect it. Worse luck! I assure ye, I'd
be aghast at the brutes we men can be, if I wasn't more amazed that
we're as good as we are, when the best and gentlest of your sex--the
moulders of our childhood, the desire of our manhood--demand so little
for all that you alone can give. There were conceivable uses in women
preferring the biggest brutes of barbarous times, but it's not so now;
and boys will be civilised boys, and men will be civilised men, sweet
sister, when you _do_ expect it, and when your grace and favours are
the rewards of nobleness, and not the easy prize of selfishness and
savagery."

My father spoke fairly.

"There's some truth in what you say, Pat."

"And small grace in my saying it. Forgive me, John."

That's the way Uncle Patrick flares up and cools down, like a straw
bonfire. But my father makes allowances for him; first, because he is
an Irishman, and, secondly, because he's a cripple.

       *       *       *       *       *

I love my mother dearly, and I can do anything I like with her. I
always could. When I was a baby, I would not go to sleep unless she
walked about with me, so (though walking was bad for her) I got my own
way, and had it afterwards.

With one exception. She would never tell me about my godfather. I
asked once, and she was so distressed that I was glad to promise never
to speak of him again. But I only thought of him the more, though all
I knew about him was his portrait--such a fine fellow--and that he
had the same swaggering, ridiculous name as mine.

How my father allowed me to be christened Bayard I cannot imagine. But
I was rather proud of it at one time--in the days when I wore long
curls, and was so accustomed to hearing myself called "a perfect
picture," and to having my little sayings quoted by my mother and her
friends, that it made me miserable if grown-up people took the liberty
of attending to anything but me. I remember wriggling myself off my
mother's knee when I wanted change, and how she gave me her watch to
keep me quiet, and stroked my curls, and called me her fair-haired
knight, and her little Bayard; though, remembering also, how
lingeringly I used just not to do her bidding, ate the sugar when she
wasn't looking, tried to bawl myself into fits, kicked the
nurse-girl's shins, and dared not go upstairs by myself after dark--I
must confess that a young chimpanzee would have as good claims as I
had to represent that model of self-conquest and true chivalry, "the
Knight without fear and without reproach."

However, the vanity of it did not last long. I wonder if that
grand-faced godfather of mine suffered as I suffered when he went to
school and said his name was Bayard? I owe a day in harvest to the
young wag who turned it into Backyard. I gave in my name as Backyard
to every subsequent inquirer, and Backyard I modestly remained.



CHAPTER II.

    "The lady with the gay macaw."

LONGFELLOW.


My sisters are much like other fellows' sisters, excepting Lettice.
That child is like no one but herself.

I used to tease the other girls for fun, but I teased Lettice on
principle--to knock the nonsense out of her. She was only eight, and
very small, but, from the top row of her tight little curls to the
rosettes on her best shoes, she seemed to me a mass of affectation.

Strangers always liked Lettice. I believe she was born with a company
voice in her mouth; and she would flit like a butterfly from one
grown-up person to another, chit-chattering, whilst some of us stood
pounding our knuckles in our pockets, and tying our legs into knots,
as we wished the drawing-room carpet would open and let us through
into the cellar to play at catacombs.

That was how Cocky came. Lettice's airs and graces bewitched the old
lady who called in the yellow chariot, and was so like a cockatoo
herself--a cockatoo in a citron velvet bonnet, with a bird of Paradise
feather. When that old lady put up her eye-glass, she would have
frightened a yard-dog; but Lettice stood on tip-toes and stroked the
feather, saying, "What a love-e-ly bird!" And next day came
Cocky--perch and all complete--_for the little girl who loves birds_.
Lettice was proud of Cocky, but Edward really loved him, and took
trouble with him.

Edward is a good boy. My mother called him after the Black Prince.

He and I disgraced ourselves in the eyes of the Cockatoo lady, and it
cost the family thirty thousand pounds, which we can ill afford to
lose. It was unlucky that she came to luncheon the very day that
Edward and I had settled to dress up as Early Britons, in blue woad,
and dine off earth-nuts in the shrubbery. As we slipped out at the
side door, the yellow chariot drove up to the front. We had doormats
on, as well as powder-blue, but the old lady was terribly shocked, and
drove straight away, and did not return. Nurse says she is my father's
godmother, and has thirty thousand pounds, which she would have
bequeathed to us if we had not offended her. I take the blame
entirely, because I always made the others play as I pleased.

We used to play at all kinds of things--concerts, circuses,
theatricals, and sometimes conjuring. Uncle Patrick had not been to
see us for a long time, when one day we heard that he was coming, and
I made up my mind at once that I would have a perfectly new
entertainment for him.

We like having entertainments for Uncle Patrick, because he is such a
very good audience. He laughs, and cries, and claps, and thumps with
his crutch, and if things go badly, he amuses the rest.

Ever since I can remember anything, I remember an old print, called
"The Happy Family," over our nursery fire-place, and how I used to
wonder at that immovable cat, with sparrows on her back, sitting
between an owl and a magpie. And it was when I saw Edward sitting with
Benjamin the cat, and two sparrows he had brought up by hand,
struggling and laughing because Cocky would push itself, crest first,
under his waistcoat, and come out at the top to kiss him--that an idea
struck me; and I resolved to have a Happy Family for Uncle Patrick,
and to act Showman myself.

Edward can do anything with beasts. He was absolutely necessary as
confederate, but it was possible Lettice might want to show off with
Cocky, and I did not want a girl on the stage, so I said very little
to her. But I told Edward to have in the yard-dog, and practise him in
being happy with the rest of the family pets. Fred, the farm-boy,
promised to look out for an owl. Benjamin, the cat, could have got
mice enough; but he would have eaten them before Edward had had time
to teach him better, so I set a trap. I knew a village-boy with a
magpie, ready tamed.

Bernard, the yard-dog, is a lumbering old fellow, with no tricks. We
have tried. We took him out once, into a snow-drift, with a lantern
round his neck, but he rescued nothing, and lost the lantern--and then
he lost himself, for it was dark.

But he is very handsome and good, and I knew, if I put him in the
middle, he would let anything sit upon him. He would not feel it, or
mind if he did. He takes no notice of Cocky.

Benjamin never quarrels with Cocky, but he dare not forget that Cocky
is there. And Cocky sometimes looks at Benjamin's yellow eyes as if it
were thinking how very easily they would come out. But they are quite
sufficiently happy together for a Happy Family.

The mice gave more trouble than all the rest, so I settled that
Lettice should wind up the mechanical mouse, and run that on as the
curtain rose.



CHAPTER III.

     "Memor esto majorum."

OLD MOTTO.

    "     .     .     .     .

    All my fears are laid aside,
    If I but remember only
    Such as these have lived and died!"

LONGFELLOW.


Do you wish to avoid vexations? Then never have a Happy Family! Mine
were countless.

Fred could not get me an owl. Lettice _did_ want to show off with
Cocky. I had my own way, but she looked sulky and spiteful. I got Tom
Smith's magpie; but I had to have him, too. However, my costume as
Showman was gorgeous, and Edward kept our Happy Family well together.
We arranged that Tom should put Mag on at the left wing, and then run
round behind, and call Mag softly from the right. Then she would hop
across the stage to him, and show off well. Lettice was to let mother
know when the spectators might take their places, and to tell the
gardener when to raise the curtain.

I really think one magpie must be "a sign of sorrow," as nurse says;
but what made Bernard take it into his beautiful foolish head to give
trouble I cannot imagine. He wouldn't lie down, and when he did, it
was with a _grump_ of protest that seemed to forbode failure. However,
he let Cocky scold him and pull his hair, which was a safety-valve for
Cocky. Benjamin dozed with dignity. He knew Cocky wasn't watching for
his yellow eyes.

I don't think Lettice meant mischief when she summoned the spectators,
for time was up. But her warning the curtain to rise when it did was
simple malice and revenge.

I never can forget the catastrophe, but I do not clearly remember how
Tom Smith and I _began_ to quarrel. He was excessively impudent, and
seemed to think we couldn't have had a Happy Family without him and
his chattering senseless magpie.

When I told him to remember he was speaking to a gentleman, he grinned
at me.

"A gentleman? Nay, my sakes! Ye're not civil enough by half. More like
a new policeman, if ye weren't such a Guy Fawkes in that finery."

"Be off," said I, "and take your bird with you."

"What if I won't go?"

"I'll make you!"

"Ye darsen't touch me."

"Daren't I?"

"Ye darsen't."

"I dare."

"Try."

"_Are_ you going?"

"Noa."

I only pushed him. He struck first. He's bigger than me, but he's a
bigger coward, and I'd got him down in the middle of the stage, and
had given him something to bawl about, before I became conscious that
the curtain was up. I only realised it then, because civil, stupid
Fred, arrived at the left wing, panting and gasping--

"Measter Bayard! Here's a young wood-owl for ye."

As he spoke, it escaped him, fluff and feathers flying in the effort,
and squawking, plunging, and fluttering, made wildly for the darkest
corner of the stage, just as Lettice ran on the mechanical mouse in
front.

Bernard rose, and shook off everything, and Cocky went into screaming
hysterics; above which I now heard the thud of Uncle Patrick's crutch,
and the peals upon peals of laughter with which our audience greeted
my long-planned spectacle of a Happy Family!

       *       *       *       *       *

Our Irish uncle is not always nice. He teases and mocks, and has an
uncertain temper. But one goes to him in trouble. I went next morning
to pour out my woes, and defend myself, and complain of the others.

I spoke seriously about Lettice. It is not pleasant for a fellow to
have a sister who grows up peculiar, as I believe Lettice will. Only
the Sunday before, I told her she would be just the sort of woman men
hate, and she said she didn't care; and I said she ought to, for women
were made for men, and the Bible says so; and she said grandmamma said
that every soul was made for GOD and its own final good. She
was in a high-falutin mood, and said she wished she had been
christened Joan instead of Lettice, and that I would be a true Bayard;
and that we could ride about the world together, dressed in armour,
and fighting for the right. And she would say all through the list of
her favourite heroines, and asked me if I minded _their_ being
peculiar, and I said of course not, why should you mind what women do
who don't belong to you? So she said she could not see that; and I
said that was because girls can't see reason; and so we quarrelled,
and I gave her a regular lecture, which I repeated to Uncle Patrick.

He listened quite quietly till my mother came in, and got fidgetty,
and told me not to argue with my uncle. Then he said--

"Ah! let the boy talk, Geraldine, and let me hear what he has to say
for himself. There's a sublime audacity about his notions, I tell ye.
Upon me conscience, I believe he thinks his grandmother was created
for his particular convenience."

That's how he mocks, and I suppose he meant my Irish grandmother. He
thinks there's nobody like her in the wide world, and my father says
she is the handsomest and wittiest old lady in the British Isles. But
I did not mind. I said,

"Well, Uncle Patrick, you're a man, and I believe you agree with me,
though you mock me."

"Agree with ye?" He started up, and pegged about the room. "Faith! if
the life we live is like the globe we inhabit--if it revolves on its
own axis, _and you're that axis_--there's not a flaw in your
philosophy; but IF--Now perish my impetuosity! I've frightened your
dear mother away. May I ask, by the bye, if _she_ has the good fortune
to please ye, since the Maker of all souls made her, for all eternity,
with the particular object of mothering you in this brief patch of
time?"

He had stopped under the portrait--my godfather's portrait. All his
Irish rhodomontade went straight out of my head, and I ran to him.

"Uncle, you know I adore her! But there's one thing she won't do, and,
oh, I wish you would! It's years since she told me never to ask, and
I've been on honour, and I've never even asked nurse; but I don't
think it's wrong to ask you. Who is that man behind you, who looks
such a wonderfully fine fellow? My Godfather Bayard."

I had experienced a shock the night before, but nothing to the shock
of seeing Uncle Patrick's face then, and hearing him sob out his
words, instead of their flowing like a stream.

"Is it possible? Ye don't know? She can't speak of him yet? Poor
Geraldine!"

He controlled himself, and turned to the picture, leaning on his
crutch. I stood by him and gazed too, and I do not think, to save my
life, I could have helped asking--

"Who is he?"

"Your uncle. Our only brother. Oh, Bayard, Bayard!"

"Is he dead?"

He nodded, speechless; but somehow I could not forbear.

"What did he die of?"

"Of unselfishness. He died--for others."

"Then he _was_ a hero? That's what he looks like. I am glad he is my
godfather. Dear Uncle Pat, do tell me all about it."

"Not now--hereafter. Nephew, any man--with the heart of man and not
of a mouse--is more likely than not to behave well at a pinch; but no
man who is habitually selfish can be _sure_ that he will, when the
choice comes sharp between his own life and the lives of others. The
impulse of a supreme moment only focusses the habits and customs of a
man's soul. The supreme moment may never come, but habits and customs
mould us from the cradle to the grave. His were early disciplined by
our dear mother, and he bettered her teaching. Strong for the weak,
wise for the foolish--tender for the hard--gracious for the
surly--good for the evil. Oh, my brother, without fear and without
reproach! Speak across the grave, and tell your sister's son that vice
and cowardice become alike impossible to a man who has never--cradled
in selfishness, and made callous by custom--learned to pamper himself
at the expense of others!"

I waited a little before I asked--

"Were you with him when he died?"

"I was."

"Poor Uncle Patrick! What _did_ you do?"

He pegged away to the sofa, and threw himself on it.

"Played the fool. Broke an arm and a thigh, and damaged my spine,
and--_lived_. Here rest the mortal remains."

And for the next ten minutes, he mocked himself, as he only can.

       *       *       *       *       *

One does not like to be outdone by an uncle, even by such an uncle;
but it is not very easy to learn to live like Godfather Bayard.

Sometimes I wish my grandmother had not brought up her sons to such a
very high pitch, and sometimes I wish my mother had let that unlucky
name become extinct in the family, or that I might adopt my nickname.
One could live up to _Backyard_ easily enough. It seems to suit being
grumpy and tyrannical, and seeing no further than one's own nose, so
well.

But I do try to learn unselfishness; though I sometimes think it would
be quite as easy for the owl to learn to respect the independence of a
mouse, or a cat to be forbearing with a sparrow!

I certainly get on better with the others than I used to do; and I
have some hopes that even my father's godmother is not finally
estranged through my fault.

Uncle Patrick went to call on her whilst he was with us. She is very
fond of "that amusing Irishman with the crutch," as she calls him; and
my father says he'll swear Uncle Patrick entertained her mightily
with my unlucky entertainment, and that she was as pleased as Punch
that her cockatoo was in the thick of it.

I am afraid it is too true; and the idea made me so hot, that if I had
known she was really coming to call on us again, I should certainly
have kept out of the way. But when Uncle Patrick said, "If the yellow
chariot rolls this way again, Bayard, ye need not be pursuing these
archæological revivals of yours in a too early English costume," I
thought it was only his chaff. But she did come.

I was pegging out the new gardens for the little ones. We were all
there, and when she turned her eye over us (just like a cockatoo), and
said, in a company voice--

     "What a happy little family!"

I could hardly keep my countenance, and I heard Edward choking in
Benjamin's fur, where he had hidden his face.

But Lettice never moved a muscle. She clasped her hands, and put her
head on one side, and said--in _her_ company voice--"But you know
brother Bayard _is_ so good to us now, and _that_ is why we are such A
HAPPY FAMILY."

       *       *       *       *       *


_The present Series of Mrs. Ewing's Works is the only authorized,
complete, and uniform Edition published._

_It will consist of 18 volumes, Small Crown 8vo, at 2s. 6d. per vol.,
issued, as far as possible, in chronological order, and these will
appear at the rate of two volumes every two months, so that the Series
will be completed within 18 months. The device of the cover was
specially designed by a Friend of Mrs. Ewing._

_The following is a list of the books included in the Series--_


1. MELCHIOR'S DREAM, AND OTHER TALES.

2. MRS. OVERTHEWAY'S REMEMBRANCES.

3. OLD-FASHIONED FAIRY-TALES.

4. A FLAT-IRON FOR A FARTHING.

5. THE BROWNIES, AND OTHER TALES.

6. SIX TO SIXTEEN.

7. LOB-LIE-BY-THE-FIRE, AND OTHER TALES.

8. JAN OF THE WINDMILL.

9. VERSES FOR CHILDREN, AND SONGS.

10. THE PEACE EGG--A CHRISTMAS MUMMING PLAY--HINTS FOR PRIVATE
THEATRICALS, &c.

11. A GREAT EMERGENCY, AND OTHER TALES.

12. BROTHERS OF PITY, AND OTHER TALES OF BEASTS AND MEN.

13. WE AND THE WORLD, Part I

14. WE AND THE WORLD, Part II.

15. JACKANAPES--DADDY DARWIN'S DOVECOTE--THE STORY OF A SHORT LIFE.

16. MARY'S MEADOW, AND OTHER TALES OF FIELDS AND FLOWERS.

17. MISCELLANEA, including The Mystery of the Bloody Hand--Wonder
Stories--Tales of the Khoja, and other translations.

18. JULIANA HORATIA EWING AND HER BOOKS, with a selection from Mrs.
Ewing's Letters.

       *       *       *       *       *

S.P.C.K., NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, LONDON, W.C.





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