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Title: We and the World, Part I - A Book for Boys
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 "We and the World, Part I - A Book for Boys" ***

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                      WE AND THE WORLD:

                       A BOOK FOR BOYS.


                           PART I.


                             BY
                    JULIANA HORATIA EWING.



        SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE,
            LONDON: NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, W.C.
               BRIGHTON: 129, NORTH STREET.
              NEW YORK: E. & J.B. YOUNG & CO.



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



                           DEDICATED
                     TO MY TWELVE NEPHEWS,
           WILLIAM, FRANCIS, STEPHEN, PHILIP, LEONARD,
                    GODFREY, AND DAVID SMITH;
               REGINALD, NICHOLAS, AND IVOR GATTY;
               ALEXANDER, AND CHARLES SCOTT GATTY.

                                            J.H.E.



WE AND THE WORLD.



CHAPTER I.

     "All these common features of English landscape evince a calm and
     settled security, and hereditary transmission of home-bred virtues
     and local attachments, that speak deeply and touchingly for the
     moral character of the nation."--WASHINGTON IRVING'S _Sketch Book_.


It was a great saying of my poor mother's, especially if my father had
been out of spirits about the crops, or the rise in wages, or our
prospects, and had thought better of it again, and showed her the bright
side of things, "Well, my dear, I'm sure we've much to be thankful for."

Which they had, and especially, I often think, for the fact that I was
not the eldest son. I gave them more trouble than I can think of with a
comfortable conscience as it was; but they had Jem to tread in my
father's shoes, and he was a good son to them--GOD bless him for it!

I can remember hearing my father say--"It's bad enough to have Jack
with his nose in a book, and his head in the clouds, on a fine June
day, with the hay all out, and the glass falling: but if Jem had been a
lad of whims and fancies, I think it would have broken my poor old
heart."

I often wonder what made me bother my head with books, and where the
perverse spirit came from that possessed me, and tore me, and drove me
forth into the world. It did not come from my parents. My mother's
family were far from being literary or even enterprising, and my
father's people were a race of small yeomen squires, whose talk was of
dogs and horses and cattle, and the price of hay. We were
north-of-England people, but not of a commercial or adventurous class,
though we were within easy reach of some of the great manufacturing
centres. Quiet country folk we were; old-fashioned, and boastful of our
old-fashionedness, albeit it meant little more than that our manners and
customs were a generation behindhand of the more cultivated folk, who
live nearer to London. We were proud of our name too, which is written
in the earliest registers and records of the parish, honourably
connected with the land we lived on; but which may be searched for in
vain in the lists of great or even learned Englishmen.

It never troubled dear old Jem that there had not been a man of mark
among all the men who had handed on our name from generation to
generation. He had no feverish ambitions, and as to books, I doubt if
he ever opened a volume, if he could avoid it, after he wore out three
horn-books and our mother's patience in learning his letters--not even
the mottle-backed prayer-books which were handed round for family
prayers, and out of which we said the psalms for the day, verse about
with my father. I generally found the place, and Jem put his arm over my
shoulder and read with me.

He was a yeoman born. I can just remember--when I was not three years
old and he was barely four--the fright our mother got from his fearless
familiarity with the beasts about the homestead. He and I were playing
on the grass-plat before the house when Dolly, an ill-tempered dun cow
we knew well by sight and name, got into the garden and drew near us. As
I sat on the grass--my head at no higher level than the buttercups in
the field beyond--Dolly loomed so large above me that I felt frightened
and began to cry. But Jem, only conscious that she had no business
there, picked up a stick nearly as big as himself, and trotted
indignantly to drive her out. Our mother caught sight of him from an
upper window, and knowing that the temper of the cow was not to be
trusted, she called wildly to Jem, "Come in, dear, quick! Come in!
Dolly's loose!"

"I drive her out!" was Master Jem's reply; and with his little straw
hat well on the back of his head, he waddled bravely up to the cow,
flourishing his stick. The process interested me, and I dried my tears
and encouraged my brother; but Dolly looked sourly at him, and began to
lower her horns.

"Shoo! shoo!" shouted Jem, waving his arms in farming-man fashion, and
belabouring Dolly's neck with the stick. "Shoo! shoo!"

Dolly planted her forefeet, and dipped her head for a push, but catching
another small whack on her face, and more authoritative "Shoos!" she
changed her mind, and swinging heavily round, trotted off towards the
field, followed by Jem, waving, shouting, and victorious. My mother got
out in time to help him to fasten the gate, which he was much too small
to do by himself, though, with true squirely instincts, he was trying to
secure it.

But from our earliest days we both lived on intimate terms with all the
live stock. "Laddie," an old black cart-horse, was one of our chief
friends. Jem and I used to sit, one behind the other, on his broad back,
when our little legs could barely straddle across, and to "grip" with
our knees in orthodox fashion was a matter of principle, but impossible
in practice. Laddie's pace was always discreet, however, and I do not
think we should have found a saddle any improvement, even as to safety,
upon his warm, satin-smooth back. We steered him more by shouts and
smacks than by the one short end of a dirty rope which was our apology
for reins; that is, if we had any hand in guiding his course. I am now
disposed to think that Laddie guided himself.

But our beast friends were many. The yellow yard-dog always slobbered
joyfully at our approach; partly moved, I fancy, by love for us, and
partly by the exciting hope of being let off his chain. When we went
into the farmyard the fowls came running to our feet for corn, the
pigeons fluttered down over our heads for peas, and the pigs humped
themselves against the wall of the sty as tightly as they could lean, in
hopes of having their backs scratched. The long sweet faces of the
plough horses, as they turned in the furrows, were as familiar to us as
the faces of any other labourers in our father's fields, and we got fond
of the lambs and ducks and chickens, and got used to their being killed
and eaten when our acquaintance reached a certain date, like other
farm-bred folk, which is one amongst the many proofs of the adaptability
of human nature.

So far so good, on my part as well as Jem's. That I should like the
animals "on the place"--the domesticated animals, the workable animals,
the eatable animals--this was right and natural, and befitting my
father's son. But my far greater fancy for wild, queer, useless,
mischievous, and even disgusting creatures often got me into trouble.
Want of sympathy became absolute annoyance as I grew older, and wandered
farther, and adopted a perfect menagerie of odd beasts in whom my
friends could see no good qualities: such as the snake I kept warm in my
trousers-pocket; the stickleback that I am convinced I tamed in its own
waters; the toad for whom I built a red house of broken drainpipes at
the back of the strawberry bed, where I used to go and tickle his head
on the sly; and the long-whiskered rat in the barn, who knew me well,
and whose death nearly broke my heart, though I had seen generations of
unoffending ducklings pass to the kitchen without a tear.

I think it must have been the beasts that made me take to reading: I was
so fond of Buffon's _Natural History_, of which there was an English
abridgment on the dining-room bookshelves.

But my happiest reading days began after the bookseller's agent came
round, and teased my father into taking in the _Penny Cyclopædia_; and
those numbers in which there was a beast, bird, fish, or reptile were
the numbers for me!

I must, however, confess that if a love for reading had been the only
way in which I had gone astray from the family habits and traditions, I
don't think I should have had much to complain of in the way of blame.

My father "pish"ed and "pshaw"ed when he caught me "poking over" books,
but my dear mother was inclined to regard me as a genius, whose learning
might bring renown of a new kind into the family. In a quiet way of her
own, as she went gently about household matters, or knitted my father's
stockings, she was a great day-dreamer--one of the most unselfish kind,
however; a builder of air-castles, for those she loved to dwell in;
planned, fitted, and furnished according to the measure of her
affections.

It was perhaps because my father always began by disparaging her
suggestions that (by the balancing action of some instinctive sense of
justice) he almost always ended by adopting them, whether they were wise
or foolish. He came at last to listen very tolerantly when she dilated
on my future greatness.

"And if he isn't quite so good a farmer as Jem, it's not as if he were
the eldest, you know, my dear. I'm sure we've much to be thankful for
that dear Jem takes after you as he does. But if Jack turns out a
genius, which please God we may live to see and be proud of, he'll make
plenty of money, and he must live with Jem when we're gone, and let Jem
manage it for him, for clever people are never any good at taking care
of what they get. And when their families get too big for the old house,
love, Jack must build, as he'll be well able to afford to do, and Jem
must let him have the land. The Ladycroft would be as good as anywhere,
and a pretty name for the house. It would be a good thing to have some
one at that end of the property too, and then the boys would always be
together."

Poor dear mother! The kernel of her speech lay in the end of it--"The
boys would always be together." I am sure in her tender heart she
blessed my bookish genius, which was to make wealth as well as fame, and
so keep me "about the place," and the home birds for ever in the nest.

I knew nothing of it then, of course; but at this time she used to turn
my father's footsteps towards the Ladycroft every Sunday, between the
services, and never wearied of planning my house.

She was standing one day, her smooth brow knitted in perplexity, before
the big pink thorn, and had stood so long absorbed in this brown study,
that my father said, with a sly smile,

"Well, love, and where are you now?"

"In the dairy, my dear," she answered quite gravely. "The window is to
the north of course, and I'm afraid the thorn must come down."

My father laughed heartily. He had some sense of humour, but my mother
had none. She was one of the sweetest-tempered women that ever lived,
and never dreamed that any one was laughing at her. I have heard my
father say she lay awake that night, and when he asked her why she could
not sleep he found she was fretting about the pink thorn.

"It looked so pretty to-day, my dear; and thorns are so bad to move!"

My father knew her too well to hope to console her by joking about it.
He said gravely: "There's plenty of time yet, love. The boys are only
just in trousers; and we may think of some way to spare it before we
come to bricks and mortar."

"I've thought of it every way, my dear, I'm afraid," said my mother with
a sigh. But she had full confidence in my father--a trouble shared with
him was half cured, and she soon fell asleep.

She certainly had a vivid imagination, though it never was cultivated to
literary ends. Perhaps, after all, I inherited that idle fancy, those
unsatisfied yearnings of my restless heart, from her! Mental
peculiarities are said to come from one's mother.

It was Jem who inherited her sweet temper.

Dear old Jem! He and I were the best of good friends always, and that
sweet temper of his had no doubt much to do with it. He was very much
led by me, though I was the younger, and whatever mischief we got into
it was always my fault.

It was I who persuaded him to run away from school, under the, as it
proved, insufficient disguise of walnut-juice on our faces and hands.
It was I who began to dig the hole which was to take us through from the
kitchen-garden to the other side of the world. (Jem helped me to fill it
up again, when the gardener made a fuss about our having chosen the
asparagus-bed as the point of departure, which we did because the earth
was soft there.) In desert islands or castles, balloons or boats, my
hand was first and foremost, and mischief or amusement of every kind, by
earth, air, or water, was planned for us by me.

Now and then, however, Jem could crow over me. How he did deride me when
I asked our mother the foolish question--"Have bees whiskers?"

The bee who betrayed me into this folly was a bumble of the utmost
beauty. The bars of his coat "burned" as "brightly" as those of the
tiger in Wombwell's menagerie, and his fur was softer than my mother's
black velvet mantle. I knew, for I had kissed him lightly as he sat on
the window-frame. I had seen him brushing first one side and then the
other side of his head, with an action so exactly that of my father
brushing his whiskers on Sunday morning, that I thought the bee might be
trimming his; not knowing that he was sweeping the flower-dust off his
antennæ with his legs, and putting it into his waistcoat pocket to make
bee bread of.

It was the liberty I took in kissing him that made him not sit still
any more, and hindered me from examining his cheeks for myself. He began
to dance all over the window, humming his own tune, and before he got
tired of dancing he found a chink open at the top sash, and sailed away
like a spot of plush upon the air.

I had thus no opportunity of becoming intimate with him, but he was the
cause of a more lasting friendship--my friendship with Isaac Irvine, the
bee-keeper. For when I asked that silly question, my mother said, "Not
that I ever saw, love;" and my father said, "If he wants to know about
bees, he should go to old Isaac. He'll tell him plenty of queer stories
about them."

The first time I saw the bee-keeper was in church, on Catechism Sunday,
in circumstances which led to my disgracing myself in a manner that must
have been very annoying to my mother, who had taken infinite pains in
teaching us.

The provoking part of it was that I had not had a fear of breaking down.
With poor Jem it was very different. He took twice as much pains as I
did, but he could not get things into his head, and even if they did
stick there he found it almost harder to say them properly. We began to
learn the Catechism when we were three years old, and we went on till
long after we were in trousers; and I am sure Jem never got the three
words "and an inheritor" tidily off the tip of his tongue within my
remembrance. And I have seen both him and my mother crying over them on
a hot Sunday afternoon. He was always in a fright when we had to say the
Catechism in church, and that day, I remember, he shook so that I could
hardly stand straight myself, and Bob Furniss, the blacksmith's son, who
stood on the other side of him, whispered quite loud, "Eh! see thee, how
Master Jem _dodders_!" for which Jem gave him an eye as black as his
father's shop afterwards, for Jem could use his fists if he could not
learn by heart.

But at the time he could not even compose himself enough to count down
the line of boys and calculate what question would come to him. I did,
and when he found he had only got the First Commandment, he was more at
ease, and though the second, which fell to me, is much longer, I was not
in the least afraid of forgetting it, for I could have done the whole of
my duty to my neighbour if it had been necessary.

Jem got through very well, and I could hear my mother blessing him over
the top of the pew behind our backs; but just as he finished, no less
than three bees, who had been hovering over the heads of the workhouse
boys opposite, all settled down together on Isaac Irvine's bare hand.

At the public catechising, which came once a year, and after the second
lesson at evening prayer, the grown-up members of the congregation used
to draw near to the end of their pews to see and hear how we acquitted
ourselves, and, as it happened on this particular occasion, Master Isaac
was standing exactly opposite to me. As he leaned forward, his hands
crossed on the pew-top before him, I had been a good deal fascinated by
his face, which was a very noble one in its rugged way, with snow-white
hair and intense, keenly observing eyes, and when I saw the three bees
settle on him without his seeming to notice it, I cried, "They'll sting
you!" before I thought of what I was doing; for I had been severely
stung that week myself, and knew what it felt like, and how little good
powder-blue does.

With attending to the bees I had not heard the parson say, "Second
Commandment?" and as he was rather deaf he did not hear what I said. But
of course he knew it was not long enough for the right answer, and he
said, "Speak up, my boy," and Jem tried to start me by whispering, "Thou
shalt not make to thyself"--but the three bees went on sitting on Master
Isaac's hand, and though I began the Second Commandment, I could not
take my eyes off them, and when Master Isaac saw this he smiled and
nodded his white head, and said, "Never you mind me, sir. They won't
sting the old bee-keeper." This assertion so completely turned my head
that every other idea went out of it, and after saying "or in the earth
beneath" three times, and getting no further, the parson called out,
"Third Commandment?" and I was passed over--"out of respect to the
family," as I was reminded for a twelvemonth afterwards--and Jem pinched
my leg to comfort me, and my mother sank down on the seat, and did not
take her face out of her pocket-handkerchief till the workhouse boys
were saying "the sacraments."

My mother was our only teacher till Jem was nine and I was eight years
old. We had a thin, soft-backed reading book, bound in black cloth, on
the cover of which in gold letters was its name, _Chick-seed without
Chick-weed_; and in this book she wrote our names, and the date at the
end of each lesson we conned fairly through. I had got into Part II.,
which was "in words of four letters," and had the chapter about the Ship
in it, before Jem's name figured at the end of the chapter about the Dog
in Part I.

My mother was very glad that this chapter seemed to please Jem, and that
he learned to read it quickly, for, good-natured as he was, Jem was too
fond of fighting and laying about him: and though it was only "in words
of three letters," this brief chapter contained a terrible story, and an
excellent moral, which I remember well even now.

It was called "The Dog."

"Why do you cry? The Dog has bit my leg. Why did he do so? I had my bat
and I hit him as he lay on the mat, so he ran at me and bit my leg. Ah,
you may not use the bat if you hit the Dog. It is a hot day, and the Dog
may go mad. One day a Dog bit a boy in the arm, and the boy had his arm
cut off, for the Dog was mad. And did the boy die? Yes, he did die in a
day or two. It is not fit to hit a Dog if he lie on the mat and is not a
bad Dog. Do not hit a Dog, or a cat, or a boy."

Jem not only got through this lesson much better than usual, but he
lingered at my mother's knees, to point with his own little stumpy
forefinger to each recurrence of the words "hit a Dog," and read them
all by himself.

"_Very_ good boy," said Mother, who was much pleased. "And now read this
last sentence once more, and very nicely."

"Do--not--hit--a--dog--or--a--cat--or--a--boy," read Jem in a high
sing-song, and with a face of blank indifference, and then with a hasty
dog's-ear he turned back to the previous page, and spelled out, "I had
my bat and I hit him as he lay on the mat" so well, that my mother
caught him to her bosom and covered him with kisses.

"He'll be as good a scholar as Jack yet!" she exclaimed. "But don't
forget, my darling, that my Jem must never 'hit a dog, or a cat, or a
boy.' Now, love, you may put the book away."

Jem stuck out his lips and looked down, and hesitated. He seemed almost
disposed to go on with his lessons. But he changed his mind, and
shutting the book with a bang, he scampered off. As he passed the
ottoman near the door, he saw Kitty, our old tortoise-shell puss, lying
on it, and (moved perhaps by the occurrence of the word _cat_ in the
last sentence of the lesson) he gave her such a whack with the flat side
of _Chick-seed_ that she bounced up into the air like a sky-rocket, Jem
crying out as he did so, "I had my bat, and I hit him as he lay on the
mat."

It was seldom enough that Jem got anything by heart, but he had
certainly learned this; for when an hour later I went to look for him in
the garden, I found him panting with the exertion of having laid my
nice, thick, fresh green crop of mustard and cress flat with the back of
the coal-shovel, which he could barely lift, but with which he was still
battering my salad-bed, chanting triumphantly at every stroke, "I had my
bat, and I hit him as he lay on the mat." He was quite out of breath,
and I had not much difficulty in pummelling him as he deserved.

Which shows how true it is, as my dear mother said, that "you never know
what to do for the best in bringing up boys."

Just about the time that we outgrew _Chick-seed_, and that it was
allowed on all hands that even for quiet country-folk with no learned
notions it was high time we were sent to school, our parents were spared
the trouble of looking out for a school for us by the fact that a school
came to us instead, and nothing less than an "Academy" was opened within
three-quarters of a mile of my father's gate.

Walnut-tree Farm was an old house that stood some little way from the
road in our favourite lane--a lane full of wild roses and speedwell,
with a tiny footpath of disjointed flags like an old pack-horse track.
Grass and milfoil grew thickly between the stones, and the turf
stretched half-way over the road from each side, for there was little
traffic in the lane, beyond the yearly rumble of the harvesting waggons;
and few foot-passengers, except a labourer now and then, a pair or two
of rustic lovers at sundown, a few knots of children in the blackberry
season, and the cows coming home to milking.

Jem and I played there a good deal, but then we lived close by.

We were very fond of the old place and there were two good reasons for
the charm it had in our eyes. In the first place, the old man who lived
alone in it (for it had ceased to be the dwelling-house of a real farm)
was an eccentric old miser, the chief object of whose existence seemed
to be to thwart any attempt to pry into the daily details of it. What
manner of stimulus this was to boyish curiosity needs no explanation,
much as it needs excuse.

In the second place, Walnut-tree Farm was so utterly different from the
house which was our home, that everything about it was attractive from
mere unaccustomedness.

Our house had been rebuilt from the foundations by my father. It was
square-built and very ugly, but it was in such excellent repair that one
could never indulge a more lawless fancy towards any chink or cranny
about it than a desire to "point" the same with a bit of mortar.

Why it was that my ancestor, who built the old house, and who was not a
bit better educated or farther-travelled than my father, had built a
pretty one, whilst my father built an ugly one, is one of the many
things I do not know, and wish I did.

From the old sketches of it which my grandfather painted on the parlour
handscreens, I think it must have been like a larger edition of the
farm; that is, with long mullioned windows, a broad and gracefully
proportioned doorway with several shallow steps and quaintly-ornamented
lintel; bits of fine work and ornamentation about the woodwork here and
there, put in as if they had been done, not for the look of the thing,
but for the love of it, and whitewash over the house-front, and over the
apple-trees in the orchard.

That was what our ancestor's home was like; and it was the sort of house
that became Walnut-tree Academy, where Jem and I went to school.



CHAPTER II.

     _Sable_:--"Ha, you! A little more upon the dismal (_forming their
     countenances_); this fellow has a good mortal look, place him near
     the corpse; that wainscoat face must be o' top of the stairs; that
     fellow's almost in a fright (that looks as if he were full of some
     strange misery) at the end of the hall. So--but I'll fix you all
     myself. Let's have no laughing now on any provocation."--_The
     Funeral_, STEELE.


At one time I really hoped to make the acquaintance of the old miser of
Walnut-tree Farm. It was when we saved the life of his cat.

He was very fond of that cat, I think, and it was, to say the least of
it, as eccentric-looking as its master. One eye was yellow and the other
was blue, which gave it a strange, uncanny expression, and its
rust-coloured fur was not common either as to tint or markings.

How dear old Jem did belabour the boy we found torturing it! He was much
older and bigger than we were, but we were two to one, which we reckoned
fair enough, considering his size, and that the cat had to be saved
somehow. The poor thing's forepaws were so much hurt that it could not
walk, so we carried it to the farm, and I stood on the shallow
doorsteps, and under the dial, on which was written--

                     "Tempora mutantur!"--

and the old miser came out, and we told him about the cat, and he took
it and said we were good boys, and I hoped he would have asked us to go
in, but he did not, though we lingered a little; he only put his hand
into his pocket, and very slowly brought out sixpence.

"No, thank you," said I, rather indignantly. "We don't want anything for
saving the poor cat."

"I am very fond of it," he said apologetically, and putting the sixpence
carefully back; but I believe he alluded to the cat.

I felt more and more strongly that he ought to invite us into the
parlour--if there was a parlour--and I took advantage of a backward
movement on his part to move one shallow step nearer, and said, in an
easy conversational tone, "Your cat has very curious eyes."

He came out again, and his own eyes glared in the evening light as he
touched me with one of his fingers in a way that made me shiver, and
said, "If I had been an old woman, and that cat had lived with me in the
days when this house was built, I should have been hanged, or burned as
a witch. Twelve men would have done it--twelve reasonable and
respectable men!" He paused, looking over my head at the sky, and then
added, "But in all good conscience--mind, in all good conscience!"

And after another pause he touched me again (this time my teeth
chattered), and whispered loudly in my ear, "Never serve on a jury."
After which he banged the door in our faces, and Jem caught hold of my
jacket and cried, "Oh! he's quite mad, he'll murder us!" and we took
each other by the hand and ran home as fast as our feet would carry us.

We never saw the old miser again, for he died some months afterwards,
and, strange to relate, Jem and I were invited to the funeral.

It was a funeral not to be forgotten. The old man had left the money for
it, and a memorandum, with the minutest directions, in the hands of his
lawyer. If he had wished to be more popular after his death than he had
been in his lifetime, he could not have hit upon any better plan to
conciliate in a lump the approbation of his neighbours than that of
providing for what undertakers call "a first-class funeral." The good
custom of honouring the departed, and committing their bodies to the
earth with care and respect, was carried, in our old-fashioned
neighbourhood, to a point at which what began in reverence ended in
what was barely decent, and what was meant to be most melancholy became
absolutely comical. But a sense of the congruous and the incongruous was
not cultivated amongst us, whereas solid value (in size, quantity and
expense) was perhaps over-estimated. So our furniture, our festivities,
and our funerals bore witness.

No one had ever seen the old miser's furniture, and he gave no
festivities; but he made up for it in his funeral.

Children, like other uneducated classes, enjoy domestic details, and
going over the ins and outs of other people's affairs behind their
backs; especially when the interest is heightened by a touch of gloom,
or perfected by the addition of some personal importance in the matter.
Jem and I were always fond of funerals, but this funeral, and the fuss
that it made in the parish, we were never likely to forget.

Even our own household was so demoralized by the grim gossip of the
occasion that Jem and I were accused of being unable to amuse ourselves,
and of listening to our elders. It was perhaps fortunate for us that a
favourite puppy died the day before the funeral, and gave us the
opportunity of burying him.

              "As if our whole vocation
               Were endless imitation----"

Jem and I had already laid our gardens waste, and built a rude wall of
broken bricks round them to make a churchyard; and I can clearly
remember that we had so far profited by what we had overheard among our
elders, that I had caught up some phrases which I was rather proud of
displaying, and that I quite overawed Jem by the air with which I spoke
of "the melancholy occasion"--the "wishes of deceased"--and the
"feelings of survivors" when we buried the puppy.

It was understood that I could not attend the puppy's funeral in my
proper person, because I wished to be the undertaker; but the happy
thought struck me of putting my wheelbarrow alongside of the brick wall
with a note inside it to the effect that I had "sent my carriage as a
mark of respect."

In one point we could not emulate the real funeral: that was carried out
"regardless of expense." The old miser had left a long list of the names
of the people who were to be invited to it and to its attendant feast,
in which was not only my father's name, but Jem's and mine. Three yards
was the correct length of the black silk scarves which it was the custom
in the neighbourhood to send to dead people's friends; but the old
miser's funeral-scarves were a whole yard longer, and of such stiffly
ribbed silk that Mr. Soot, the mourning draper, assured my mother that
"it would stand of itself." The black gloves cost six shillings a pair,
and the sponge-cakes, which used to be sent with the gloves and scarves,
were on this occasion ornamented with weeping willows in white sugar.

Jem and I enjoyed the cake, but the pride we felt in our scarves and
gloves was simply boundless. What pleased us particularly was that our
funeral finery was not enclosed with my father's. Mr. Soot's man
delivered three separate envelopes at the door, and they looked like
letters from some bereaved giant. The envelopes were twenty inches by
fourteen, and made of cartridge-paper; the black border was two inches
deep, and the black seals must have consumed a stick of sealing-wax
among them. They contained the gloves and the scarves, which were
lightly gathered together in the middle with knots of black gauze
ribbon.

How exquisitely absurd Jem and I must have looked with four yards of
stiff black silk attached to our little hats I can imagine, if I cannot
clearly remember. My dear mother dressed us and saw us off (for, with
some curious relic of pre-civilized notions, women were not allowed to
appear at funerals), and I do not think she perceived anything odd in
our appearance. She was very gentle, and approved of everything that was
considered right by the people she was used to, and she had only two
anxieties about our scarves: first, that they should show the full four
yards of respect to the memory of the deceased; and secondly, that we
should keep them out of the dust, so that they might "come in useful
afterwards."

She fretted a little because she had not thought of changing our gloves for
smaller sizes (they were eight and a quarter); but my father "pish"ed and
"pshaw"ed, and said it was better than if they had been too small, and that
we should be sure to be late if my mother went on fidgeting. So we pulled
them on--with ease--and picked up the tails of our hatbands--with
difficulty--and followed my father, our hearts beating with pride, and my
mother and the maids watching us from the door. We arrived quite
half-an-hour earlier than we need have done, but the lane was already
crowded with complimentary carriages, and curious bystanders, before whom
we held our heads and hatbands up; and the scent of the wild roses was lost
for that day in an all-pervading atmosphere of black dye. We were very
tired, I remember, by the time that our turn came to be put into a carriage
by Mr. Soot, who murmured--"Pocket-handkerchiefs, gentlemen"--and,
following the example of a very pale-faced stranger who was with us, we
drew out the clean handkerchiefs with which our mother had supplied us, and
covered our faces with them.

At least Jem says he shut _his_ eyes tight, and kept his face covered
the whole way, but he always _was_ so conscientious! I held my
handkerchief as well as I could with my gloves; but I contrived to peep
from behind it, and to see the crowd that lined the road to watch us as
we wound slowly on.

If these outsiders, who only saw the procession and the funeral, were
moved almost to enthusiasm by the miser's post-mortem liberality, it may
be believed that the guests who were bidden to the feast did not fail to
obey the ancient precept, and speak well of the dead. The tables (they
were rickety) literally groaned under the weight of eatables and
drinkables, and the dinner was so prolonged that Jem and I got terribly
tired, in spite of the fun of watching the faces of the men we did not
know, to see which got the reddest.

My father wanted us to go home before the reading of the will, which
took place in the front parlour; but the lawyer said, "I think the young
gentlemen should remain," for which we were very much obliged to him;
though the pale-faced man said quite crossly--"Is there any special
reason for crowding the room with children, who are not even relatives
of the deceased?" which made us feel so much ashamed that I think we
should have slipped out by ourselves; but the lawyer, who made no
answer, pushed us gently before him to the top of the room, which was
soon far too full to get out of by the door.

It was very damp and musty. In several places the paper hung in great
strips from the walls, and the oddest part of all was that every article
of furniture in the room, and even the hearthrug, was covered with
sheets of newspaper pinned over to preserve it. I sat in the corner of a
sofa, where I could read the trial of a man who murdered somebody
twenty-five years before, but I never got to the end of it, for it went
on behind a very fat man who sat next to me, and he leaned back all the
time and hid it. Jem sat on a little footstool, and fell asleep with his
head on my knee, and did not wake till I nudged him, when our names were
read out in the will. Even then he only half awoke, and the fat man
drove his elbow into me and hurt me dreadfully for whispering in Jem's
ear that the old miser had left us ten pounds apiece, for having saved
the life of his cat.

I do not think any of the strangers (they were distant connections of
the old man; he had no near relations) had liked our being there; and
the lawyer, who was very kind, had had to tell them several times over
that we really had been invited to the funeral. After our legacies were
known about they were so cross that we managed to scramble through the
window, and wandered round the garden. As we sat under the trees we
could hear high words within, and by and by all the men came out and
talked in angry groups about the will. For when all was said and done,
it appeared that the old miser had not left a penny to any one of the
funeral party but Jem and me, and that he had left Walnut-tree Farm to a
certain Mrs. Wood, of whom nobody knew anything.

"The wording is so peculiar," the fat man said to the pale-faced man and
a third who had come out with them; "'left to her as a sign of sympathy,
if not an act of reparation.' He must have known whether he owed her any
reparation or not, if he were in his senses."

"Exactly. If he were in his senses," said the third man.

"Where's the money?--that's what I say," said the pale-faced man.

"Exactly, sir. That's what _I_ say, too," said the fat man.

"There are only two fields, besides the house," said the third. "He must
have had money, and the lawyer knows of no investments of any kind, he
says."

"Perhaps he has left it to his cat," he added, looking very nastily at
Jem and me.

"It's oddly put, too," murmured the pale-faced relation. "The two
fields, the house and furniture, and everything of every sort therein
contained." And the lawyer coming up at that moment, he went slowly back
into the house, looking about him as he went, as if he had lost
something.

As the lawyer approached, the fat man got very red in the face.

"He was as mad as a hatter, sir," he said, "and we shall dispute the
will."

"I think you will be wrong," said the lawyer, blandly. "He was
eccentric, my dear sir, very eccentric; but eccentricity is not
insanity, and you will find that the will will stand."

Jem and I were sitting on an old garden-seat, but the men had talked
without paying any attention to us. At this moment Jem, who had left me
a minute or two before, came running back and said: "Jack! Do come and
look in at the parlour window. That man with the white face is peeping
everywhere, and under all the newspapers, and he's made himself so
dusty! It's such fun!"

Too happy at the prospect of anything in the shape of fun, I followed
Jem on tiptoe, and when we stood by the open window with our hands over
our mouths to keep us from laughing, the pale-faced man was just
struggling with the inside lids of an old japanned tea-caddy.

He did not see us, he was too busy, and he did not hear us, for he was
talking to himself, and we heard him say, "Everything of every sort
therein contained."

I suppose the lawyer was right, and that the fat man was convinced of
it, for neither he nor any one else disputed the old miser's will. Jem
and I each opened an account in the Savings Bank, and Mrs. Wood came
into possession of the place.

Public opinion went up and down a good deal about the old miser still. When
it leaked out that he had worded the invitation to his funeral to the
effect that, being quite unable to tolerate the follies of his
fellow-creatures, and the antics and absurdities which were necessary to
entertain them, he had much pleasure in welcoming his neighbours to a
feast, at which he could not reasonably be expected to preside--everybody
who heard it agreed that he must have been mad.

But it was a long sentence to remember, and not a very easy one to
understand, and those who saw the plumes and the procession, and those
who had a talk with the undertaker, and those who got a yard more than
usual of such very good black silk, and those who were able to remember
what they had had for dinner, were all charitably inclined to believe
that the old man's heart had not been far from being in the right
place, at whatever angle his head had been set on.

And then by degrees curiosity moved to Mrs. Wood. Who was she? What was
she like? What was she to the miser? Would she live at the farm?

To some of these questions the carrier, who was the first to see her,
replied. She was "a quiet, genteel-looking sort of a grey-haired widow
lady, who looked as if she'd seen a deal of trouble, and was badly off."

The neighbourhood was not unkindly, and many folk were ready to be civil
to the widow if she came to live there.

"But she never will," everybody said. "She must let it. Perhaps the new
doctor might think of it at a low rent, he'd be glad of the field for
his horse. What could she do with an old place like that, and not a
penny to keep it up with?"

What she did do was to have a school there, and that was how Walnut-tree
Farm became Walnut-tree Academy.



CHAPTER III.

    "What are little boys made of, made of?
     What are little boys made of?"
                                _Nursery Rhyme_.


When the school was opened, Jem and I were sent there at once. Everybody
said it was "time we were sent somewhere," and that "we were getting too
wild for home."

I got so tired of hearing this at last, that one day I was goaded to
reply that "home was getting too tame for me." And Jem, who always
backed me up, said, "And me too." For which piece of swagger we
forfeited our suppers; but when we went to bed we found pieces of cake
under our pillows, for my mother could not bear us to be short of food,
however badly we behaved.

I do not know whether the trousers had anything to do with it, but about
the time that Jem and I were put into trousers we lived in a chronic
state of behaving badly. What makes me feel particularly ashamed in
thinking of it is, that I know it was not that we came under the
pressure of any overwhelming temptations to misbehave and yielded
through weakness, but that, according to an expressive nursery formula,
we were "seeing how naughty we could be." I think we were genuinely
anxious to see this undesirable climax; in some measure as a matter of
experiment, to which all boys are prone, and in which dangerous
experiments, and experiments likely to be followed by explosion, are
naturally preferred. Partly, too, from an irresistible impulse to "raise
a row," and take one's luck of the results. This craving to disturb the
calm current of events, and the good conduct and composure of one's
neighbours as a matter of diversion, must be incomprehensible by
phlegmatic people, who never feel it, whilst some Irishmen, I fancy,
never quite conquer it, perhaps because they never quite cease to be
boys. In any degree I do not for an instant excuse it, and in excess it
must be simply intolerable by better-regulated minds.

But really, boys who are pickles should be put into jars with sound
stoppers, like other pickles, and I wonder that mothers and cooks do not
get pots like those that held the forty thieves, and do it.

I fancy it was because we happened to be in this rough, defiant,
mischievous mood, just about the time that Mrs. Wood opened her school,
that we did not particularly like our school-mistress. If I had been
fifteen years older, I should soon have got beyond the first impression
created by her severe dress, close widow's cap and straight grey hair,
and have discovered that the outline of her face was absolutely
beautiful, and I might possibly have detected, what most people failed
to detect, that an odd unpleasing effect, caused by the contrast between
her general style, and an occasional lightness and rapidity and grace of
movement in her slender figure, came from the fact that she was much
younger than she looked and affected to be. The impression I did receive
of her appearance I communicated to my mother in far from respectful
pantomime.

"Well, love, and what do you think of Mrs. Wood?" said she.

"I think," chanted I, in that high brassy pitch of voice which Jem and I
had adopted for this bravado period of our existence--"I think she's
like our old white hen that turned up its eyes and died of the pip.
Lack-a-daisy-dee! Lack-a-daisy-dee!"

And I twisted my body about, and strolled up and down the room with a
supposed travesty of Mrs. Wood's movements.

"So she is," said faithful Jem. "Lack-a-daisy-dee! Lack-a-daisy-dee!"
and he wriggled about after me, and knocked over the Berlin
wool-basket.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" said our poor mother.

Jem righted the basket, and I took a run and a flying leap over it, and
having cleared it successfully, took another, and yet another, each one
soothing my feelings to the extent by which it shocked my mother's. At
the third bound, Jem, not to be behindhand, uttered a piercing yell from
behind the sofa.

"Good gracious, what's the matter?" cried my mother.

"It's the war-whoop of the Objibeway Indians," I promptly explained, and
having emitted another, to which I flattered myself Jem's had been as
nothing for hideousness, we departed in file to raise a row in the
kitchen.

Summer passed into autumn. Jem and I really liked going to school, but
it was against our principles at that time to allow that we liked
anything that we ought to like.

Some sincere but mistaken efforts to improve our principles were made, I
remember, by a middle-aged single lady, who had known my mother in her
girlhood, and who was visiting her at this unlucky stage of our career.
Having failed to cope with us directly, she adopted the plan of talking
improvingly to our mother and at us, and very severe some of her
remarks were, and I don't believe that Mother liked them any better
than we did.

The severest she ever made were I think heightened in their severity by
the idea that we were paying unusual attention, as we sat on the floor a
little behind her one day. We were paying a great deal of attention, but
it was not so much to Miss Martin as to a stock of wood-lice which I had
collected, and which I was arranging on the carpet that Jem might see
how they roll themselves into smooth tight balls when you tease them.
But at last she talked so that we could not help attending. I dared not
say anything to her, but her own tactics were available. I put the
wood-lice back in my pocket, and stretching my arms yawningly above my
head, I said to Jem, "How dull it is! I wish I were a bandit."

Jem generally outdid me if possible, from sheer willingness and loyalty
of spirit.

"_I_ should like to be a burglar," said he.

And then we both left the room very quietly and politely. But when we
got outside I said, "I hate that woman."

"So do I," said Jem; "she regularly hectors over mother--I hate her
worst for that."

"So do I. Jem, doesn't she take pills?"

"I don't know--why?"

"I believe she does; I'm certain I saw a box on her dressing-table.
Jem, run like a good chap and see, and if there is one, empty out the
pills and bring me the pill-box."

Jem obeyed, and I sat down on the stairs and began to get the wood-lice
out again. There were twelve nice little black balls in my hand when Jem
came back with the pill-box.

"Hooray!" I cried; "but knock out all the powder, it might smother them.
Now, give it to me."

Jem danced with delight when I put the wood-lice in and put on the lid.

"I hope she'll shake the box before she opens it," I said, as we
replaced it on the dressing-table.

"I hope she will, or they won't be tight. Oh, Jack! Jack! _How many do
you suppose she takes at a time?_"

We never knew, and what is more, we never knew what became of the
wood-lice, for, for some reason, she kept our counsel as well as her own
about the pill-box.

One thing that helped to reconcile us to spending a good share of our
summer days in Walnut-tree Academy was that the school-mistress made us
very comfortable. Boys at our age are not very sensitive about matters
of taste and colour and so forth, but even we discovered that Mrs. Wood
had that knack of adapting rooms to their inhabitants, and making them
pleasant to the eye, which seems to be a trick at the end of some
people's fingers, and quite unlearnable by others. When she had made the
old miser's rooms to her mind, we might have understood, if we had
speculated about it, how it was that she had not profited by my mother's
sound advice to send all his "rubbishy odds and ends" (the irregularity
and ricketiness and dustiness of which made my mother shudder) to be
"sold at the nearest auction-rooms, and buy some good solid furniture of
the cabinet-maker who furnished for everybody in the neighbourhood,
which would be the cheapest in the long-run, besides making the rooms
look like other people's at last." That she evaded similar
recommendations of paperhangers and upholsterers, and of wall-papers and
carpets, and curtains with patterns that would "stand," and wear best,
and show dirt least, was a trifle in the eyes of all good housekeepers,
when our farming-man's daughter brought the amazing news with her to
Sunday tea, that "the missus" had had in old Sally, and had torn the
paper off the parlour, and had made Sally "lime-wash the walls, for all
the world as if it was a cellar." Moreover, she had "gone over" the
lower part herself, and was now painting on the top of that. There was
nothing for it, after this news, but to sigh and conclude that there
was something about the old place which made everybody a little queer
who came to live in it.

But when Jem and I saw the parlour (which was now the school-room), we
decided that it "looked very nice," and was "uncommonly comfortable."
The change was certainly amazing, and made the funeral day seem longer
ago than it really was. The walls were not literally lime-washed; but
(which is the same thing, except for a little glue!) they were
distempered, a soft pale pea-green. About a yard deep above the wainscot
this was covered with a dark sombre green tint, and along the upper edge
of this, as a border all round the room, the school-mistress had painted
a trailing wreath of white periwinkle. The border was painted with the
same materials as the walls, and with very rapid touches. The white
flowers were skilfully relieved by the dark ground, and the varied tints
of the leaves, from the deep evergreen of the old ones to the pale
yellow of the young shoots, had demanded no new colours, and were
wonderfully life-like and pretty. There was another border, right round
the top of the room; but that was painted on paper and fastened on. It
was a Bible text--"Keep Innocency, and take heed to the thing that is
right, for that shall bring a man Peace at the last." And Mrs. Wood had
done the text also.

There were no curtains to the broad, mullioned window, which was kept
wide open at every lattice; and one long shoot of ivy that had pushed in
farther than the rest had been seized, and pinned to the wall inside,
where its growth was a subject of study and calculation, during the many
moments when we were "trying to see" how little we could learn of our
lessons. The black-board stood on a polished easel; but the low seats
and desks were of plain pine like the floor, and they were scrupulously
scrubbed. The cool tint of the walls was somewhat cheered by coloured
maps and prints, and the school-mistress's chair (an old carved oak one
that had been much revived by bees-wax and turpentine since the miser's
days) stood on the left-hand side of the window--under "Keep Innocency,"
and looking towards "Peace at the last." I know, for when we were all
writing or something of that sort, so that she could sit still, she used
to sit with her hands folded and look up at it, which was what made Jem
and me think of the old white hen that turned up its eyes; and made
Horace Simpson say that he believed she had done one of the letters
wrong, and could not help looking at it to see if it showed. And by the
school-mistress's chair was the lame boy's sofa. It was the very old
sofa covered with newspapers on which I had read about the murder, when
the lawyer was reading the will. But she had taken off the paper, and
covered it with turkey red, and red cushions, and a quilt of brown
holland and red bordering, to hide his crumpled legs, so that he looked
quite comfortable.

I remember so well the first day that he came. His father was a parson
on the moors, and this boy had always wanted to go to school in spite of
his infirmity, and at last his father brought him in a light cart down
from the moors, to look at it; and when he got him out of the cart, he
carried him in. He was a big man, I remember, with grey hair and bent
shoulders, and a very old coat, for it split a little at one of the
seams as he was carrying him in, and we laughed.

When they got into the room, he put the boy down, keeping his arm round
him, and wiped his face and said--"How deliciously cool!"--and the boy
stared all round with his great eyes, and then he lifted them to his
father's face and said--"I'll come here. I do like it. But not to-day,
my back is so bad."

And what makes me know that Horace was wrong, and that Mrs. Wood had
made no mistake about the letters of the text, is that "Cripple
Charlie"--as we called him--could see it so well with lying down. And he
told me one day that when his back was very bad, and he got the fidgets
and could not keep still, he used to fix his eyes on "Peace," which had
gold round the letters, and shone, and that if he could keep steadily to
it, for a good bit, he always fell asleep at the last. But he was very
fanciful, poor chap!

I do not think it was because Jem and I had any real wish to become
burglars that we made a raid on the walnuts that autumn. I do not even
think that we cared very much about the walnuts themselves.

But when it is understood that the raid was to be a raid by night, or
rather in those very early hours of the morning which real burglars are
said almost to prefer; that it was necessary to provide ourselves with
thick sticks; that we should have to force the hedge and climb the
trees; that the said trees grew directly under the owner's bedroom
window, which made the chances of detection hazardously great; and that
walnut juice (as I have mentioned before) is of a peculiarly
unaccommodating nature, since it will neither disguise you at the time
nor wash off afterwards--it will be obvious that the dangers and
delights of the adventure were sufficient to blunt, for the moment, our
sense of the fact that we were deliberately going a-thieving.

"Shall we wear black masks?" said Jem.

On the whole I said "No," for I did not know where we should get them,
nor, if we did, how we should keep them on.

"If she has a blunderbuss, and fires," said I, "you must duck your
head, remember; but if she springs the rattle we must cut and run."

"Will her blunderbuss be loaded, do you think?" asked Jem. "Mother says
the one in _their_ room isn't; she told me so on Saturday. But she says
we're never to touch it, all the same, for you never can be sure about
things of that sort going off. Do you think Mrs. Wood's will be loaded?"

"It may be," said I, "and of course she might load it if she thought she
heard robbers."

"I heard father say that if you shoot a burglar outside it's murder,"
said Jem, who seemed rather troubled by the thought of the blunderbuss;
"but if you shoot him inside it's self-defence."

"Well, you may spring a rattle outside, anyway," said I; "and if hers
makes as much noise as ours, it'll be heard all the way here. So mind,
if she begins, you must jump down and cut home like mad."

Armed with these instructions and our thick sticks, Jem and I crept out
of the house before the sun was up or a bird awake. The air seemed cold
after our warm beds, and the dew was so drenching in the hedge bottoms,
and on the wayside weeds of our favourite lane, that we were soaked to
the knees before we began to force the hedge. I did not think that grass
and wild-flowers could have held so much wet. By the time that we had
crossed the orchard, and I was preparing to grip the grandly scored
trunk of the nearest walnut-tree with my chilly legs, the heavy peeling,
the hard cracking, and the tedious picking of a green walnut was as
little pleasurable a notion as I had in my brain.

All the same, I said (as firmly as my chattering teeth would allow) that
I was very glad we had come when we did, for that there certainly were
fewer walnuts on the tree than there had been the day before.

"She's been at them," said I, almost indignantly.

"Pickling," responded Jem with gloomy conciseness; and spurred by this
discovery to fresh enthusiasm for our exploit, we promptly planned
operations.

"I'll go up the tree," said I, "and beat, and you can pick them as they
fall."

Jem was, I fear, only too well accustomed to my arrogating the first
place in our joint undertakings, and after giving me "a leg up" to an
available bit of foothold, and handing up my stick, he waited patiently
below to gather what I beat down.

The walnuts were few and far between, to say nothing of leaves between,
which in walnut-trees are large. The morning twilight was dim, my hands
were cold and feebler than my resolution. I had battered down a lot of
leaves and twigs, and two or three walnuts; the sun had got up at last,
but rather slowly, as if he found the morning chillier than he expected,
and a few rays were darting here and there across the lane, when Jem
gave a warning "Hush!" and I left off rustling in time to hear Mrs.
Wood's bedroom lattice opened, and to catch sight of something pushed
out into the morning mists.

"Who's there?" said the school-mistress.

Neither Jem nor I took upon us to inform her, and we were both seized
with anxiety to know what was at the window. He was too low down and I
too much buried in foliage to see clearly. Was it the rattle? I took a
hasty step downwards at the thought. Or was it the blunderbuss? In my
sudden move I slipped on the dew-damped branch, and cracked a rotten one
with my elbow, which made an appalling crash in the early stillness, and
sent a walnut--pop! on to Jem's hat, who had already ducked to avoid the
fire of the blunderbuss, and now fell on his face under the fullest
conviction that he had been shot.

"Who's there?" said the school-mistress, and (my tumble having brought
me into a more exposed position) she added, "Is that you, Jack and Jem?"

"It's me," said I, ungrammatically but stoutly, hoping that Jem at any
rate would slip off.

But he had recovered himself and his loyalty, and unhesitatingly
announced, "No, it's me," and was picking the bits of grass off his
cheeks and knees when I got down beside him.

"I'm sorry you came to take my walnuts like this," said the voice from
above. She had a particularly clear one, and we could hear it quite
well. "I got a basketful on purpose for you yesterday afternoon. If I
let it down by a string, do you think you can take it?"

Happily she did not wait for a reply, as we could not have got a word
out between us; but by and by the basketful of walnuts was pushed
through the lattice and began to descend. It came slowly and unsteadily,
and we had abundant leisure to watch it, and also, as we looked up, to
discover what it was that had so puzzled me in Mrs. Wood's
appearance--that when I first discovered that it was a head and not a
blunderbuss at the window I had not recognized it for hers.

She was without her widow's cap, which revealed the fact that her hair,
though the two narrow, smooth bands of it which appeared every day
beyond her cap were unmistakably grey, was different in some essential
respects from (say) Mrs. Jones's, our grey-haired washer-woman. The more
you saw of Mrs. Jones's head, the less hair you perceived her to have,
and the whiter that little appeared. Indeed, the knob into which it was
twisted at the back was much of the colour as well as of the size of a
tangled reel of dirty white cotton. But Mrs. Wood's hair was far more
abundant than our mother's, and it was darker underneath than on the
top--a fact which was more obvious when the knot into which it was
gathered in her neck was no longer hidden. Deep brown streaks were
mingled with the grey in the twists of this, and I could see them quite
well, for the outline of her head was dark against the white-washed
mullion of the window, and framed by ivy-leaves. As she leaned out to
lower the basket we could see her better and better, and, as it touched
the ground, the jerk pulled her forward, and the knot of her hair
uncoiled and rolled heavily over the window-sill.

By this time the rays of the sun were level with the windows, and shone
full upon Mrs. Wood's face. I was very much absorbed in looking at her,
but I could not forget our peculiar position, and I had an important
question to put, which I did without more ado.

"Please, madam, shall you tell Father?"

"We only want to know," added Jem.

She hesitated a minute, and then smiled. "No; I don't think you'll do it
again;" after which she disappeared.

"She's certainly no sneak," said I, with an effort to be magnanimous,
for I would much rather she had sprung the rattle or fired the
blunderbuss.

"And I say," said Jem, "isn't she pretty without her cap?"

We looked ruefully at the walnuts. We had lost all appetite for them,
and they seemed disgustingly damp, with their green coats reeking with
black bruises. But we could not have left the basket behind, so we put
our sticks through the handles, and carried it like the Sunday picture
of the spies carrying the grapes of Eshcol.

And Jem and I have often since agreed that we never in all our lives
felt so mean as on that occasion, and we sincerely hope that we never
may.

Indeed, it is only in some books and some sermons that people are
divided into "the wicked" and "the good," and that "the wicked" have no
consciences at all. Jem and I had wilfully gone thieving, but we were
far from being utterly hardened, and the school-mistress's generosity
weighed heavily upon ours. Repentance and the desire to make atonement
seem to go pretty naturally together, and in my case they led to the
following dialogue with Jem, on the subject of two exquisite little
bantam hens and a cock, which were our joint property, and which were
known in the farmyard as "the Major and his wives."

These titles (which vexed my dear mother from the first) had suggested
themselves to us on this wise. There was a certain little gentleman who
came to our church, a brewer by profession, and a major in the militia
by choice, who was so small and strutted so much that to the insolent
observation of boyhood he was "exactly like" our new bantam cock. Young
people are very apt to overhear what is not intended for their
knowledge, and somehow or other we learned that he was "courting" (as
his third wife) a lady of our parish. His former wives are buried in our
churchyard. Over the first he had raised an obelisk of marble, so costly
and affectionate that it had won the hearts of his neighbours in
general, and of his second wife in particular. When she died the gossips
wondered whether the Major would add her name to that of her
predecessor, or "go to the expense" of a new monument. He erected a
second obelisk, and it was taller than the first (height had a curious
fascination for him), and the inscription was more touching than the
other. This time the material was Aberdeen granite, and as that is most
difficult to cut, hard to polish, and heavy to transport, the expense
was enormous. These two monstrosities of mortuary pomp were the pride of
the parish, and they were familiarly known to us children (and to many
other people) as "the Major's wives."

When we called the cock "the Major," we naturally called the hens "the
Major's wives."

"My dears, I don't like that name at all," said my mother. "I never like
jokes about people who are dead. And for that matter, it really sounds
as if they were both alive, which is worse."

It was during our naughty period, and I strutted on my heels till I must
have looked very like the little brewer himself, and said, "And why
shouldn't they both be alive? Fancy the Major with two wives, one on
each arm, and both as tall as the monuments! What fun!"

As I said the words "one on each arm," I put up first one and then the
other of my own, and having got a satisfactory impetus during the rest
of my sentence, I crossed the parlour as a catherine-wheel under my
mother's nose. It was a new accomplishment, of which I was very proud,
and poor Jem somewhat envious. He was clumsy and could not manage it.

"Oh!" ejaculated my mother, "Jack, I must speak to your father about
those dangerous tricks of yours. And it quite shocks me to hear you talk
in that light way about wicked things."

Jem was to my rescue in a moment, driving his hands into the pockets of
his blouse, and turning them up to see how soon he might hope that his
fingers would burst through the lining.

"Jacob had two wives," he said; and he chanted on, quoting imperfectly
from Dr. Watts's _Scripture Catechism_, "And Jacob was a good man,
therefore his brother hated him."

"No, no, Jem," said I, "that was Abel. Jacob was Isaac's younger son,
and----"

"Hush! Hush! Hush!" said my mother. "You're not to do Sunday lessons on
week-days. What terrible boys you are!" And, avoiding to fight about
Jacob's wives with Jem, who was pertinacious and said very odd things,
my mother did what women often do and are often wise in doing--she laid
down her weapons and began to beseech.

"My darlings, call your nice little hens some other names. Poor old
mother doesn't like those."

I was melted in an instant, and began to cast about in my head for new
titles. But Jem was softly obstinate, and he had inherited some of my
mother's wheedling ways. He took his hands from his pockets, flung his
arms recklessly round her clean collar, and began stroking (or
_pooring_, as we called it) her head with his grubby paws. And as he
_poored_ he coaxed--"Dear nice old mammy! It's only us. What can it
matter? Do let us call our bantams what we like."

And my mother gave in before I had time to.

The dialogue I held with Jem about the bantams after the walnut raid was
as follows:

"Jem, you're awfully fond of the 'Major and his wives,' I suppose?"

"Ye-es," said Jem, "_I am_. But I don't mind, Jack, if you want them for
your very own. I'll give up my share,"--and he sighed.

"I never saw such a good chap as you are, Jem. But it's not that. I
thought we might give them to Mrs. Wood. It was so beastly about those
disgusting walnuts."

"I can't touch walnut pickle now," said Jem, feelingly.

"It'd be a very handsome present," said I.

"They took a prize at the Agricultural," said Jem.

"I know she likes eggs. She beats 'em into a froth and feeds Charlie
with 'em," said I.

"I think I could eat walnut pickle again if I knew she had the bantams,"
sighed Jem, who was really devoted to the little cock-major and the
auburn-feathered hens.

"We'll take 'em this afternoon," I said.

We did so--in a basket, Eshcol-grape wise, like the walnuts. When we
told Mother, she made no objection. She would have given her own head
off her shoulders if, by ill-luck, any passer-by had thought of asking
for it. Besides, it solved the difficulty of the objectionable names.

Mrs. Wood was very loth to take our bantams, but of course Jem and I
were not going to recall a gift, so she took them at last, and I think
she was very much pleased with them.

She had got her cap on again, tied under her chin, and nothing to be
seen of her hair but the very grey piece in front. It made her look so
different that I could not keep my eyes off her whilst she was talking,
though I knew quite well how rude it is to stare. And my head got so
full of it that I said at last, in spite of myself, "Please, madam, why
is it that part of your hair is grey and part of it dark?"

Her face got rather red, she did not answer for a minute; and Jem, to my
great relief, changed the subject, by saying, "We were very much obliged
to you for not telling Father about the walnuts."

Mrs. Wood leaned back against the high carving of her old chair and
smiled, and said very slowly, "Would he have been very angry?"

"He'd have flogged us, I expect," said I.

"And I expect," continued Jem, "that he'd have said to us what he said
to Bob Furniss when he took the filberts: 'If you begin by stealing
nuts, you'll end by being transported.' Do you think Jack and I shall
end by being transported?" added Jem, who had a merciless talent for
applying general principles to individual cases.

Mrs. Wood made no reply, neither did she move, but her eyelids fell,
and then her eyes looked far worse than if they had been shut, for there
was a little bit open, with nothing but white to be seen. She was still
rather red, and she did not visibly breathe. I have no idea for how many
seconds I had gazed stupidly at her, when Jem gasped, "Is she dead?"

Then I became terror-struck, and crying, "Let's find Mary Anne!" fled
into the kitchen, closely followed by Jem.

"She's took with them fits occasional," said Mary Anne, and depositing a
dripping tin she ran to the parlour. We followed in time to see her
stooping over the chair and speaking very loudly in the
school-mistress's ear,

"I'll lay ye down, ma'am, shall I?"

But still the widow was silent, on which Mary Anne took her up in her
brawny arms, and laid her on "Cripple Charlie's" sofa, and covered her
with the quilt.

We settled the Major and his wives into their new abode, and then
hurried home to my mother, who put on her bonnet, and took a bottle of
something, and went off to the farm.

She did not come back till tea-time, and then she was full of poor Mrs.
Wood. "Most curious attacks," she explained to my father; "she can
neither move nor speak, and yet she hears everything, though she
doesn't always remember afterwards. She said she thought it was
'trouble,' poor soul!"

"What brought this one on?" said my father.

"I can't make out," said my mother. "I hope you boys did nothing to
frighten her, eh? Are you sure you didn't do one of those dreadful
wheels, Jack?"

This I indignantly denied, and Jem supported me.

My mother's sympathy had been so deeply enlisted, and her report was so
detailed, that Jem and I became bored at last, besides resenting the
notion that we had been to blame. I gave one look into the strawberry
jam pot, and finding it empty, said my grace and added, "Women are a
poor lot, always turning up their eyes and having fits about nothing. I
know one thing, nobody 'll ever catch _me_ being bothered with a wife."

"Nor me neither," said Jem.



CHAPTER IV.

    "The bee, a more adventurous colonist than man."
                                         W.C. BRYANT.

    "Some silent laws our hearts will make,
       Which they shall long obey;
     We for the year to come may take
       Our temper from to-day."--WORDSWORTH.


"You know what an Apiary is, Isaac, of course?"

I was sitting in the bee-master's cottage, opposite to him, in an
arm-chair, which was the counterpart of his own, both of them having
circular backs, diamond-shaped seats, and chintz cushions with frills.
It was the summer following that in which Jem and I had tried to see how
badly we could behave; this uncivilized phase had abated: Jem used to
ride about a great deal with my father, and I had become intimate with
Isaac Irvine.

"You know what an Apiary is, Isaac?" said I.

"A what, sir?"

"An A-P-I-A-R-Y."

"To be sure, sir, to be sure," said Isaac. "An _appyary_" (so he was
pleased to pronounce it), "I should be familiar with the name, sir, from
my bee-book, but I never calls my own stock anything but the beehives.
_Beehives_ is a good, straightforward sort of a name, sir, and it serves
my turn."

"Ah, but you see we haven't come to the B's yet," said I, alluding to
what I was thinking of.

"Does your father think of keeping 'em, sir?" said Isaac, alluding to
what he was thinking of.

"Oh, he means to have them bound, I believe," was my reply.

The bee-master now betrayed his bewilderment, and we had a hearty laugh
when we discovered that he had been talking about bees whilst I had been
talking about the weekly numbers of the _Penny Cyclopædia_, which had
not as yet reached the letter B, but in which I had found an article on
Master Isaac's craft, under the word Apiary, which had greatly
interested me, and ought, I thought, to be interesting to the
bee-keeper. Still thinking of this I said,

"Do you ever take your bees away from home, Isaac?"

"They're on the moors now, sir," said Isaac.

"_Are_ they?" I exclaimed. "Then you're like the Egyptians, and like the
French, and the Piedmontese; only you didn't take them in a barge."

"Why, no, sir. The canal don't go nigh-hand of the moors at all."

"The Egyptians," said I, leaning back into the capacious arms of my
chair, and epitomizing what I had read, "who live in Lower Egypt put all
their beehives into boats and take them on the river to Upper Egypt.
Right up at that end of the Nile the flowers come out earliest, and the
bees get all the good out of them there, and then the boats are moved
lower down to where the same kind of flowers are only just beginning to
blossom, and the bees get all the good out of them there, and so on, and
on, and on, till they've travelled right through Egypt, with all the
hives piled up, and come back in the boats to where they started from."

"And every hive a mighty different weight to what it was when they did
start, I'll warrant," said Master Isaac enthusiastically. "Did you find
all that in those penny numbers, Master Jack?"

"Yes, and oh, lots more, Isaac! About lots of things and lots of
countries."

"Scholarship's a fine thing," said the bee-master, "and seeing foreign
parts is a fine thing, and many's the time I've wished for both. I
suppose that's the same Egypt that's in the Bible, sir?"

"Yes," said I, "and the same river Nile that Moses was put on in the ark
of bulrushes."

"There's no countries I'd like to see better than them Bible
countries," said Master Isaac, "and I've wished it more ever since that
gentleman was here that gave that lecture in the school, with the Holy
Land magic-lantern. He'd been there himself, and he explained all the
slides. They were grand, some of 'em, when you got 'em straight and
steady for a bit. They're an awkward thing to manage, is slides, sir,
and the school-master he wasn't much good at 'em, he said, and that
young scoundrel Bob Furniss and another lad got in a hole below the
platform and pulled the sheet. But when you did get 'em, right side up,
and the light as it should be, they _were_ grand! There was one they
called the Wailing Place of the Jews, with every stone standing out as
fair as the flags on this floor. John Binder, the mason, was at my elbow
when that came on, and he clapped his hands, and says he, 'Well, yon
beats all!' But the one for my choice, sir, was the Garden of Gethsemane
by moonlight. I'd only gone to the penny places, for I'm a good size and
can look over most folks' heads, but I thought I must see that a bit
nearer, cost what it might. So I found a shilling, and I says to the
young fellow at the door (it was the pupil-teacher), 'I must go a bit
nearer to yon.' And he says, 'You're not going into the reserved seats,
Isaac?' So I says, 'Don't put yourself about, my lad, I shan't interfere
with the quality; but if half a day's wage 'll bring me nearer to the
Garden of Gethsemane, I'm bound to go.' And I went. I didn't intrude
myself on nobody, though one gentleman was for making room for me at
once, and twice over he offered me a seat beside him. But I knew my
manners, and I said, 'Thank you, sir, I can see as I stand.' And I did
see right well, and kicked Bob Furniss too, which was good for all
parties. But I'd like to see the very places themselves, Master Jack."

"So should I," said I; "but I should like to go farther, all round the
world, I think. Do you know, Isaac, you wouldn't believe what curious
beasts there are in other countries, and what wonderful people and
places! Why, we've only got to ATH--No. 135--now; it leaves off at
_Athanagilde_, a captain of the Spanish Goths--he's nobody, but there
are _such_ apes in that number! The Mono--there's a picture of him, just
like a man with a tail and horrid feet, who used to sit with the negro
women when they were at work, and play with bits of paper; and a Quata,
who used to be sent to the tavern for wine, and when the children pelted
him he put down the wine and threw stones at them. And there are
pictures in all the numbers, of birds and ant-eaters and antelopes, and
I don't know what. The Mono and the Quata live in the West Indies, I
think. You see, I think the A's are rather good numbers; very likely,
for there's America, and Asia, and Africa, and Arabia, and Abyssinia,
and there'll be Australia before we come to the B's. Oh, Isaac! I do
wish I could go round the world!"

I sighed, and the bee-master sighed also, with a profundity that made
his chair creak, well-seasoned as it was. Then he said, "But I'll say
this, Master Jack, next to going to such places the reading about 'em
must come. A penny a week's a penny a week to a poor man, but I reckon I
shall have to make shift to take in those numbers myself."

Isaac did not take them in, however, for I used to take ours down to his
cottage, and read them aloud to him instead. He liked this much better
than if he had had to read to himself--he said he could understand
reading better when he heard it than when he saw it. For my own part I
enjoyed it very much, and I fancy I read rather well, it being a point
on which Mrs. Wood expended much trouble with us.

"Listen, Isaac," said I on my next visit; "this is what I meant about
the barge"--and resting the Penny Number on the arm of my chair, I read
aloud to the attentive bee-master--"'Goldsmith describes from his own
observation a kind of floating apiary in some parts of France and
Piedmont. They have on board of one barge, he says, threescore or a
hundred beehives----'"

"That's an appy-ary if ye like, sir!" ejaculated Master Isaac,
interrupting his pipe and me to make way for the observation.

"Somebody saw 'a convoy of _four thousand_ hives----' on the Nile," said
I.

The bee-master gave a resigned sigh. "Go on, Master Jack," said he.

"'--well defended from the inclemency of an accidental storm,'" I
proceeded; "'and with these the owners float quietly down the stream;
one beehive yields the proprietor a considerable income. Why, he adds, a
method similar to this has never been adopted in England, where we have
more gentle rivers and more flowery banks than in any other part of the
world, I know not; certainly it might be turned to advantage, and yield
the possessor a secure, though perhaps a moderate, income.'"

I was very fond of the canal which ran near us (and was, for that
matter, a parish boundary): and the barges, with their cargoes, were
always interesting to me; but a bargeful of bees seemed something quite
out of the common. I thought I should rather like to float down a gentle
river between flowery banks, surrounded by beehives on which I could
rely to furnish me with a secure though moderate income; and I said so.

"So should I, sir," said the bee-master. "And I should uncommon like to
ha' seen the one beehive that brought in a considerable income. Honey
must have been very dear in those parts, Master Jack. However, it's in
the book, so I suppose it's right enough."

I made no defence of the veracity of the _Cyclopædia_, for I was
thinking of something else, of which, after a few moments, I spoke.

"Isaac, you don't stay with your bees on the moors. Do you ever go to
see them?"

"To be sure I do, Master Jack, nigh every Sunday through the season. I
start after I get back from morning church, and I come home in the dark,
or by moonlight. My missus goes to church in the afternoons, and for
that bit she locks up the house."

"Oh, I wish you'd take me the next time!" said I.

"To be sure I will, and too glad sir, if you're allowed to go."

That _was_ the difficulty, and I knew it. No one who has not lived in a
household of old-fashioned middle-class country folk of our type has any
notion how difficult it is for anybody to do anything unusual therein.
In such a well-fitted but unelastic establishment the dinner-hour, the
carriage horses, hot water, bedtime, candles, the post, the wash-day,
and an extra blanket, from being the ministers of one's comfort, become
the stern arbiters of one's fate. Spring cleaning--which is something
like what it would be to build, paint, and furnish a house, and to "do
it at home"--takes place as naturally as the season it celebrates; but
if you want the front door kept open after the usual hour for drawing
the bolts and hanging the robbers' bell, it's odds if the master of the
house has not an apoplectic fit, and if servants of twelve and fourteen
years' standing do not give warning.

And what is difficult on week-days is on Sundays next door to
impossible, for obvious reasons.

But one's parents, though they have their little ways like other
people, are, as a rule--oh, my heart! made sadder and wiser by the
world's rough experiences, bear witness!--very indulgent; and after a
good many ups and downs, and some compromising and coaxing, I got my
way.

On one point my mother was firm, and I feared this would be an
insuperable difficulty. I must go twice to church, as our Sunday custom
was--a custom which she saw no good reason for me to break. It is easy
to smile at her punctiliousness on this score; but after all these
years, and on the whole, I think she was right. An unexpected compromise
came to my rescue, however: Isaac Irvine's bees were in the parish of
Cripple Charlie's father, within a stone's throw (by the bee-master's
strong arm) of the church itself, which was a small minster among the
moors. Here I promised faithfully to attend Evening Prayer, for which we
should be in time; and I started, by Isaac Irvine's side, on my first
real "expedition" on the first Sunday in August, with my mother's
blessing and a threepenny-bit with a hole in it, "in case of a
collection."

We dined before we started, I with the rest, and Isaac in our kitchen;
but I had no great appetite--I was too much excited--and I willingly
accepted some large sandwiches made with thick slices of home-made bread
and liberal layers of home-made potted meat, "in case I should feel
hungry" before I got there.

It pains me to think how distressed my mother was because I insisted on
carrying the sandwiches in a red and orange spotted handkerchief, which
I had purchased with my own pocket-money, and to which I was deeply
attached, partly from the bombastic nature of the pattern, and partly
because it was big enough for any grown-up man. "It made me look like a
tramping sailor," she said. I did not tell her that this was precisely
the effect at which I aimed, though it was the case; but I coaxed her
into permitting it, and I abstained from passing a certain knowing
little ash stick through the knot, and hoisting the bundle over my left
shoulder, till I was well out of the grounds.

My efforts to spare her feelings on this point, however, proved vain.
She ran to the landing-window to watch me out of sight, and had a full
view of my figure as I swaggered with a business-like gait by Isaac's
side up the first long hill, having set my hat on the back of my head
with an affectation of profuse heat, my right hand in the bee-master's
coat-pocket for support, and my left holding the stick and bundle at an
angle as showy and sailor-like as I could assume.

"And they'll just meet the Ebenezer folk coming out of chapel, ma'am!"
said our housemaid over my mother's shoulder, by way of consolation.

Our journey was up-hill, for which I was quite prepared. The blue and
purple outline of the moors formed the horizon line visible from our
gardens, whose mistiness or clearness was prophetic of the coming
weather, and over which the wind was supposed to blow with uncommon
"healthfulness." I had been there once to blow away the whooping-cough,
and I could remember that the sandy road wound up and up, but I did not
appreciate till that Sunday how tiring a steady ascent of nearly five
miles may be.

We were within sight of the church and within hearing of the bells, when
we reached a wayside trough, whose brimming measure was for ever
overflowed by as bright a rill as ever trickled down a hill-side.

"It's only the first peal," said Master Isaac, seating himself on the
sandy bank, and wiping his brows.

My well-accustomed ears confirmed his statement. The bells moved too
slowly for either the second or the third peal, and we had twenty
minutes at our disposal.

It was then that I knew (for the first but not the last time) what
refreshment for the weary a spotted handkerchief may hold. The
bee-master and I divided the sandwiches, and washed them down with
handfuls of the running rill, so fresh, so cold, so limpid, that (like
the saints and martyrs of a faith) it would convert any one to
water-drinking who did not reflect on the commoner and less shining
streams which come to us through lead pipes and in evil communication
with sewers.

We were cool and tidy by the time that the little "Tom Tinkler" bell
began to "hurry up."

"You're coming, aren't you?" said I, checked at the churchyard gate by
an instinct of some hesitation on Isaac's part.

"Well, I suppose I am, sir," said the bee-master, and in he came.

The thick walls, the stained windows, and the stone floor, which was
below the level of the churchyard, made the church very cool. Master
Isaac and I seated ourselves so that we had a good view within, and
could also catch a peep through the open porch of the sunlit country
outside. Charlie's father was in his place when we got in; his
threadbare coat was covered by the white linen of his office, and I do
not think it would have been possible even to my levity to have felt
anything but a respectful awe of him in church.

The cares of this life are not as a rule improving to the countenance.
No one who watches faces can have failed to observe that more beauty is
marred and youth curtailed by vulgar worry than by almost any other
disfigurement. In the less educated classes, where self-control is not
very habitual, and where interests beyond petty and personal ones are
rare, the soft brows and tender lips of girlhood are too often puckered
and hardened by mean anxieties, even where these do not affect the girls
personally, but only imitatively, and as the daily interests of their
station in life. In such cases the discontented, careworn look is by no
means a certain indication of corresponding suffering, but there are too
many others in which tempers that should have been generous, and faces
that should have been noble, and aims that should have been high, are
blurred and blunted by the real weight of real everyday care.

There are yet others; in which the spirit is too strong for mortal
accidents to pull it down--minds that the narrowest career cannot
vulgarize--faces to which care but adds a look of pathos--souls which
keep their aims and faiths apart from the fluctuations of "the things
that are seen." The personal influence of natures of this type is
generally very large, and it was very large in the case of Cripple
Charlie's father, and made him a sort of Prophet, Priest, and King over
a rough and scattered population, with whom the shy, scholarly poor
gentleman had not otherwise much in common.

It was his personal influence, I am sure, which made the congregation so
devout! There is one rule which, I believe, applies to all
congregations, of every denomination, and any kind of ritual, and that
is, that the enthusiasm of the congregation is in direct proportion to
the enthusiasm of the minister; not merely to his personal worth, nor
even to his popularity, for people who rather dislike a clergyman, and
disapprove of his service, will say a louder Amen at his giving of
thanks if his own feelings have a touch of fire, than they would to that
of a more perfunctory parson whom they liked better. As is the
heartiness of the priest, so is the heartiness of the people--with such
strictness that one is disposed almost to credit some of it to actual
magnetism. _Response_ is no empty word in public worship.

It was no empty word on this occasion. From the ancient clerk (who kept
a life-interest in what were now the duties of a choir) to some gaping
farm-lads at my back, everybody said and sang to the utmost of his
ability. I may add that Isaac and I involuntarily displayed a zeal which
was in excess of our Sunday customs; and if my tongue moved glibly
enough with the choir, the bee-master found many an elderly parishioner
besides himself and the clerk who "took" both prayer and praise at such
independent paces as suited their individual scholarship, spectacles,
and notions of reverence.

It crowned my satisfaction when I found that there was to be a
collection. The hymn to which the churchwardens moved about, gathering
the pence, whose numbers and noisiness seemed in keeping with the rest
of the service, was a well-known one to us all. It was the favourite
evening hymn of the district. I knew every syllable of it, for Jem and I
always sang hymns (and invariably this one) with my dear mother, on
Sunday evening after supper. When we were good, we liked it, and,
picking one favourite after another, we often sang nearly through the
hymn-book. When we were naughty, we displayed a good deal of skill in
making derisive faces behind my mother's back, as she sat at the piano,
without betraying ourselves, and in getting our tongues out and in again
during the natural pauses and convolutions of the tune. But these
occasional fits of boyish profanity did not hinder me from having an
equally boyish fund of reverence and enthusiasm at the bottom of my
heart, and it was with proud and pleasurable emotions that I heard the
old clerk give forth the familiar first lines,

     "Soon shall the evening star with silver ray
      Shed its mild lustre o'er this sacred day,"

and got my threepenny-bit ready between my finger and thumb.

Away went the organ, which was played by the vicar's eldest
daughter--away went the vicar's second daughter, who "led the singing"
from the vicarage pew with a voice like a bird--away went the choir,
which, in spite of surplices, could not be cured of waiting half a beat
for her--and away went the congregation--young men and maidens, old men
and children--in one broad tide of somewhat irregular harmony. Isaac did
not know the words as well as I did, so I lent him my hymn-book; one
result of which was, that the print being small, and the sense of a hymn
being in his view a far more important matter than the sound of it, he
preached rather than sang--in an unequal cadence which was perturbing to
my more musical ear--the familiar lines,

     "Still let each awful truth our thoughts engage,
      That shines revealed on inspiration's page;
      Nor those blest hours in vain amusement waste
      Which all who lavish shall lament at last."

During the next verse my devotions were a little distracted by the
gradual approach of a churchwarden for my threepenny-bit, which was hot
with three verses of expectant fingering. Then, to my relief, he took
it, and the bee-master's contribution, and I felt calmer, and listened
to the little prelude which it was always the custom for the organist to
play before the final verse of a hymn. It was also the custom to sing
the last verse as loudly as possible, though this is by no means
invariably appropriate. It fitted the present occasion fairly enough.
From where I stood I could see the bellows-blower (the magnetic current
of enthusiasm flowed even to the back of the organ) nerve himself to
prodigious pumping--Charlie's sister drew out all the stops--the vicar
passed from the prayer-desk to the pulpit with the rapt look of a man
who walks in a prophetic dream--we pulled ourselves together, Master
Isaac brought the hymn book close to his glasses, and when the
tantalizing prelude was past we burst forth with a volume which merged
all discrepancies. As far as I am able to judge of my own performance,
I fear I _bawled_ (I'm sure the boy behind me did),

     "Father of Heaven, in Whom our hopes confide,
      Whose power defends us, and Whose precepts guide,
      In life our Guardian, and in death our Friend,
      Glory supreme be Thine till time shall end!"

The sermon was short, and when the service was over Master Isaac and I
spent a delightful afternoon with his bees among the heather. The
"evening star" had come out when we had some tea in the village inn, and
we walked home by moonlight. There was neither wind nor sun, but the air
was almost oppressively pure. The moonshine had taken the colour out of
the sandy road and the heather, and had painted black shadows by every
boulder, and most things looked asleep except the rill that went on
running. Only we and the rabbits, and the night moths and the beetles,
seemed to be stirring. An occasional bat appeared and vanished like a
spectral illusion, and I saw one owl flap across the moor with level
wings against the moon.

"Oh, I _have_ enjoyed it!" was all I could say when I parted from the
bee-master.

"And so have I, Master Jack," was his reply, and he hesitated as if he
had something more to say, and then he said it. "I never enjoyed it as
much, and you can thank your mother, sir, with old Isaac's duty, for
sending us to church. I'm sure I don't know why I never went before when
I was up yonder, for I always took notice of the bells. I reckon I
thought I hadn't time, but you can say, with my respects, sir, that
please GOD I shan't miss again."

I believe he never did; and Cripple Charlie's father came to look on him
as half a parishioner.

I was glad I had not shirked Evening Prayer myself, though (my sex and
age considered) it was not to be expected that I should comfort my
mother's heart by confessing as much. Let me confess it now, and confess
also that if it was the first time, it was not the last that I have had
cause to realize--oh women, for our sakes remember it!--into what light
and gentle hands GOD lays the reins that guide men's better selves.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most remarkable event of the day happened at the end of it. Whilst
Isaac was feeling the weight of one of his hives, and just after I lost
chase of a very peculiar-looking beetle, from his squeezing himself away
from me under a boulder, I had caught sight of a bit of white heather,
and then bethought me of gathering a nosegay (to include this rarity) of
moor flowers and grasses for Mrs. Wood. So when we reached the lane on
our way home, I bade Isaac good-night, and said I would just run in by
the back way into the farm (we never called it the Academy) and leave
the flowers, that the school-mistress might put them in water. Mary Anne
was in the kitchen.

"Where's Mrs. Wood?" said I, when she had got over that silly squeak
women always give when you come suddenly on them.

"Dear, dear, Master Jack! what a turn you did give me! I thought it was
the tramp."

"What tramp?" said I.

"Why, a great lanky man that came skulking here a bit since, and asked
for the missus. She was down the garden, and I've half a notion he went
after her. I wish you'd go and look for her, Master Jack, and fetch her
in. It's as damp as dear knows what, and she takes no more care of
herself than a baby. And I'd be glad to know that man was off the place.
There's wall-fruit and lots of things about, a low fellow like that
might pick up."

My ears felt a little hot at this allusion to low fellows and garden
thieving, and I hurried off to do Mary Anne's bidding without further
parley. There was a cloud over the moon as I ran down the back garden,
but when I was nearly at the end the moon burst forth again, so that I
could see. And this is what I saw:--

First, a white thing lying on the ground, and it was the widow's cap,
and then Mrs. Wood herself, with a gaunt lanky-looking man, such as Mary
Anne had described. Her head came nearly to his shoulder, as I was well
able to judge, for he was holding it in his hands and had laid his own
upon it, as if it were a natural resting-place. And his hair coming
against the darker part of hers, I could see that his was grey all over.
Up to this point I had been too much stupefied to move, and I had just
become conscious that I ought to go, when the white cap lying in the
moonlight seemed to catch his eye as it had caught mine; and he set his
heel on it with a vehemence that made me anxious to be off. I could not
resist one look back as I left the garden, if only to make sure that I
had not been dreaming. No, they were there still, and he was lifting the
coil of her hair, which I suppose had come down when the cap was pulled
off, and it took the full stretch of his arm to do so, before it fell
heavily from his fingers.

When I presented myself to my mother with the bunch of flowers still in
my hand, she said, "Did my Jack get these for Mother?"

I shook my head. "No, Mother. For Mrs. Wood."

"You might have called at the farm as you passed," said she.

"I did!" said I.

"Couldn't you see Mrs. Wood, love?"

"Yes, I saw her, but she'd got the tramp with her."

"What tramp?" asked my mother in a horror-struck voice, which seemed
quite natural to me, for I had been brought up to rank tramps in the
same "dangerous class" with mad dogs, stray bulls, drunken men, and
other things which it is undesirable to meet.

"The great lanky one," I explained, quoting from Mary Anne.

"What was he doing with Mrs. Wood?" asked my mother anxiously.

I had not yet recovered from my own bewilderment, and was reckless of
the shock inflicted by my reply.

"_Pooring_ her head, and kissing it."



CHAPTER V.

     "To each his sufferings; all are men
        Condemned alike to groan.
      The tender for another's pain--"
                                      GRAY.


Not even the miser's funeral had produced in the neighbourhood anything
like the excitement which followed that Sunday evening. At first my
mother--her mind filled by the simplest form of the problem, namely,
that Mrs. Wood was in the hands of a tramp--wished my father to take the
blunderbuss in his hand and step down to the farm. He had "pish"ed and
"pshaw"ed about the blunderbuss, and was beginning to say more, when I
was dismissed to bed, where I wandered back over the moors in uneasy
dreams, and woke with the horror of a tramp's hand upon my shoulder.
After suffering the terrors of night for some time, and finding myself
no braver with my head under the bedclothes than above them, I began
conscientiously to try my mother's family recipe for "bad dreams and
being afraid in the dark." This was to "say over" the Benedicite
correctly, which (if by a rare chance one were still awake at the end)
was to be followed by a succession of the hymns one knew by heart. It
required an effort to _begin_, and to _really try_, but the children of
such mothers as ours are taught to make efforts, and once fairly
started, and holding on as a duty, it certainly did tend to divert the
mind from burglars and ghosts, to get the beasts, creeping things, and
fowls of the air into their right places in the chorus of benedictions.
That Jem never could discriminate between the "Dews and Frosts" and
"Frost and Cold" verses needs no telling. I have often finished and
still been frightened and had to fall back upon the hymns, but this
night I began to dream pleasanter dreams of Charlie's father and the
bee-master before I got to the holy and humble men of heart.

I slept long then, and Mother would not let me be awakened. When I did
open my eyes Jem was sitting at the end of the bed, dying to tell me the
news.

"Jack! you have waked, haven't you? I see your eyes. Don't shut 'em
again. What _do_ you think? _Mrs. Wood's husband has come home!_"

I never knew the ins and outs of the story very exactly. At the time
that what did become generally known was fresh in people's minds Jem and
I were not by way of being admitted to "grown-up" conversations; and
though Mrs. Wood's husband and I became intimate friends, I neither
wished nor dared to ask him more about his past than he chose to tell,
for I knew enough to know that it must be a most intolerable pain to
recall it.

What we had all heard of the story was this. Mr. Wood had been a head
clerk in a house of business. A great forgery was committed against his
employers, and he was accused. He was tried, condemned, and sentenced to
fourteen years' penal servitude, which, in those days, meant
transportation abroad. For some little time the jury had not been
unanimous. One man doubted the prisoner's guilt--the man we afterwards
knew as the old miser of Walnut-tree Farm. But he was over-persuaded at
last, and Mr. Wood was convicted and sentenced. He had spent ten years
of his penal servitude in Bermuda when a man lying in Maidstone Jail
under sentence of death for murder, confessed (amongst other crimes of
which he disburdened his conscience) that it was he, and not the man who
had been condemned, who had committed the forgery. Investigation
confirmed the truth of this statement, and Mr. Wood was "pardoned" and
brought home.

He had just come. He was the tramp.

In this life the old miser never knew that his first judgment had been
the just one, but the doubt which seems always to have haunted
him--whether he had not helped to condemn the innocent--was the reason
of his bequest to the convict's wife, and explained much of the
mysterious wording of the will.

It was a tragic tale, and gave a terrible interest to the gaunt,
white-haired, shattered-looking man who was the hero of it. It had one
point of special awe for me, and I used to watch him in church and think
of it, till I am ashamed to say that I forgot even when to stand up and
sit down. He had served ten years of his sentence. Ten years! Ten times
three hundred and sixty-five days! All the days of the years of my life.
The weight of that undeserved punishment had fallen on him the year that
I was born, and all that long, long time of home with Mother and Father
and Jem--all the haymaking summers and snowballing winters--whilst Jem
and I had never been away from home, and had had so much fun, and
nothing very horrid that I could call to mind except the mumps--he had
been an exile working in chains. I remember rousing up with a start from
the realization of this one Sunday to find myself still standing in the
middle of the Litany. My mother was behaving too well herself to find me
out, and though Jem was giggling he dared not move, because he was
kneeling next my father, whose back was turned to me. I knelt down, and
started to hear the parson say--"show Thy pity upon all prisoners and
captives!" And then I knew what it is to wish when it is too late. For I
did so wish I had really prayed for prisoners and captives every Sunday,
because then I should have prayed for that poor man nearly all the long
time he had been so miserable; for we began to go to church very early,
and one learns to pray easier and sooner than one learns anything else.

All this had happened in the holidays, but when they were over school
opened as before, and with additional scholars; for sympathy was wide
and warm with the school-mistress. Strangely enough, both partners in
the firm which had prosecuted Mr. Wood were dead. Their successors
offered him employment, but he could not face the old associations. I
believe he found it so hard to face any one, that this was the reason of
his staying at home for a time and helping in the school. I don't think
we boys made him uncomfortable as grown-up strangers seemed to do, and
he was particularly fond of Cripple Charlie.

This brought me into contact with him, for Charlie and I were great
friends. He was as well pleased to be read to out of the Penny Numbers
as the bee-master, and he was interested in things of which Isaac
Irvine was completely ignorant.

Our school was a day-school, but Charlie had been received by Mrs. Wood
as a boarder. His poor back could not have borne to be jolted to and
from the moors every day. So he lived at Walnut-tree Farm, and now and
then his father would come down in a light cart, lent by one of the
parishioners, and take Charlie home from Saturday to Monday, and then
bring him back again.

The sisters came to see him too, by turns, sometimes walking and
sometimes riding a rough-coated pony, who was well content to be tied to
a gate, and eat some of the grass that overgrew the lane. And often
Charlie came to _us_, especially in haytime, for haycocks seem very
comfortable (for people whose backs hurt) to lean against; and we could
cover his legs with hay too, as he liked them to be hidden. There is no
need to say how tender my mother was to him, and my father used to look
at him half puzzledly and half pitifully, and always spoke to him in
quite a different tone of voice to the one he used with other boys.

Jem gave Charlie the best puppy out of the curly brown spaniel lot; but
he didn't really like being with him, though he was sorry for him, and
he could not bear seeing his poor legs.

"They make me feel horrid," Jem said. "And even when they're covered
up, I know they're there."

"You're a chip of the old block, Jem," said my father, "I'd give a
guinea to a hospital any day sooner than see a patient. I'm as sorry as
can be for the poor lad, but he turns me queer, though I feel ashamed of
it. I like things _sound_. Your mother's different; she likes 'em better
for being sick and sorry, and I suppose Jack takes after her."

My father was wrong about me. Pity for Charlie was not half of the tie
between us. When he was talking, or listening to the penny numbers, I
never thought about his legs or his back, and I don't now understand how
anybody could.

He read and remembered far more than I did, and he was even wilder about
strange countries. He had as adventurous a spirit as any lad in the
school, cramped up as it was in that misshapen body. I knew he'd have
liked to go round the world as well as I, and he often laughed and
said--"What's more, Jack, if I'd the money I would. People are very kind
to poor wretches like me all over the world. I should never want a
helping hand, and the only difference between us would be, that I should
be carried on board ship by some kind-hearted blue-jacket, and you'd
have to scramble for yourself."

He was very anxious to know Isaac Irvine, and when I brought the
bee-master to see him, they seemed to hold friendly converse with their
looks even before either of them spoke. It was a bad day with Charlie,
but he set his lips against the pain, and raised himself on one arm to
stare out of his big brown eyes at the old man, who met them with as
steady a gaze out of his. Then Charlie lowered himself again, and said
in a tone of voice by which I knew he was pleased, "I'm so glad you've
come to see me, old Isaac. It's very kind of you. Jack says you know a
lot about live things, and that you like the numbers we like in the
_Penny Cyclopædia_. I wanted to see you, for I think you and I are much
in the same boat; you're old, and I'm crippled, and we're both too poor
to travel. But Jack's to go, and when he's gone, you and I'll follow him
on the map."

"GOD willing, sir," said the bee-master; and when he said that, I knew
how sorry he felt for poor Charlie, for when he was moved he always said
very short things, and generally something religious.

And for all Charlie's whims and fancies, and in all his pain and
fretfulness, and through fits of silence and sensitiveness, he had never
a better friend than Isaac Irvine. Indeed the bee-master was one of
those men (to be found in all ranks) whose delicate tenderness might not
be guessed from the size and roughness of the outer man.

Our neighbours were all very kind to Mr. Wood, in their own way, but
they were a little impatient of his slowness to be sociable, and had, I
think, a sort of feeling that the ex-convict ought not only to enjoy
evening parties more than other people, but to be just a little more
grateful for being invited.

However, one must have a strong and sensitive imagination to cultivate
wide sympathies when one lives a quiet, methodical life in the place
where one's father and grandfather lived out quiet methodical lives
before one; and I do not think we were an imaginative race.

The school-master (as we used to call him) had seen and suffered so much
more of life than we, that I do not think he resented the clumsiness of
our sympathy; but now I look back I fancy that he must have felt as if
he wanted years of peace and quiet in which to try and forget the years
of suffering. Old Isaac said one day, "I reckon the master feels as if
he wanted to sit down and say to hisself over and over again, 'I'm a
free man, I'm a free man, I'm a free man,' till he can fair trust
himself to believe it."

Isaac was probably right, and perhaps evening parties, though they are
meant for treats, are not the best places to sit down and feel free in,
particularly when there are a lot of strange people who have heard a
dreadful story about you, and want to see what you look like after it.

During the summer holidays Jem and I were out the whole day long. When
we came in I was ready for the Penny Numbers, but Jem always fell
asleep, even if he did not go to bed at once. My father did just the
same. I think their feeling about houses was of a perfectly primitive
kind. They looked upon them as comfortable shelter for sleeping and
eating, but not at all as places in which to pursue any occupation.
Life, for them, was lived out-of-doors.

I know now how dull this must have made the evenings for my mother, and
that it was very selfish of me to wait till my father was asleep (for
fear he should say "no"), and then to ask her leave to take the Penny
Numbers down to the farm and sit with Cripple Charlie.

Now and then she would go too, and chat with Mrs. Wood, whilst the
school-master and I were turning the terrestrial globe by Charlie's
sofa; but as a rule Charlie and I were alone, and the Woods went round
the homestead together, and came home hand in hand, through the garden,
and we laughed to think how we had taken him for a tramp.

And sometimes on a summer's evening, when we talked and read aloud to
each other across a quaint oak table that had been the miser's, of
far-away lands and strange birds of gorgeous plumage, the school-master
sat silent in the arm-chair by the open lattice, resting his white head
against the mullion that the ivy was creeping up, and listened to the
blackbirds and thrushes as their songs dropped by odd notes into
silence, and gazed at the near fields and trees, and the little
homestead with its hayricks on the hill, when the grass was apple-green
in the gold mist of sunset: and went on gazing when that had faded into
fog, and the hedgerow elms were black against the sky, as if the eye
could not be filled with seeing, nor the ear with hearing!



CHAPTER VI.

     "Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
      Turns his necessity to glorious gain."
                                         WORDSWORTH.


"Jack," said Charlie, "listen!"

He was reading bits out of the numbers to me, whilst I was rigging a
miniature yacht to sail on the dam; and Mrs. Wood's husband was making a
plan of something at another table, and occasionally giving me advice
about my masts and sails. "It's about the South American forests," said
Charlie. "'There every tree has a character of its own; each has its
peculiar foliage, and probably also a tint unlike that of the trees
which surround it. Gigantic vegetables of the most different families
intermix their branches; five-leaved bignonias grow by the side of
bonduc-trees; cassias shed their yellow blossoms upon the rich fronds of
arborescent ferns; myrtles and eugenias, with their thousand arms,
contrast with the elegant simplicity of palms; and among the airy
foliage of the mimosa the ceropia elevates its giant leaves and heavy
candelabra-shaped branches. Of some trees the trunk is perfectly smooth,
of others it is defended by enormous spines, and the whole are often
apparently sustained by the slanting stems of a huge wild fig-tree. With
us, the oak, the chestnut, and the beech seem as if they bore no
flowers, so small are they and so little distinguishable except by
naturalists; but in the forests of South America it is often the most
gigantic trees that produce the most brilliant flowers; cassias hang
down their pendants of golden blossoms, vochisias unfold their singular
bunches; corollas, longer than those of our foxglove, sometimes yellow
or sometimes purple, load the arborescent bignonias; while the chorisias
are covered, as it were, with lilies, only their colours are richer and
more varied; grasses also appear in form of bamboos, as the most
graceful of trees; bauhinias, bignonias, and aroideous plants cling
round the trees like enormous cables; orchideous plants and bromelias
overrun their limbs, or fasten themselves to them when prostrated by the
storm, and make even their dead remains become verdant with leaves and
flowers not their own.'"

Though he could read very well, Charlie had, so far, rather stumbled
through the long names in this description, but he finished off with
fluency, not to say enthusiasm. "'Such are the ancient forests,
flourishing in a damp and fertile soil, and clothed with perpetual
green.'"

I was half-way through a profound sigh when I caught the school-master's
eye, who had paused in his plan-making and was listening with his head
upon his hand.

"What a groan!" he exclaimed. "What's the matter?"

"It sounds so splendid!" I answered, "and I'm so afraid I shall never
see it. I told Father last night I should like to be a sailor, but he
only said 'Stuff and nonsense,' and that there was a better berth
waiting for me in Uncle Henry's office than any of the Queen's ships
would provide for me; and Mother begged me never to talk of it any more,
if I didn't want to break her heart"--and I sighed again.

The school-master had a long smooth face, which looked longer from
melancholy, and he turned it and his arms over the back of the chair,
and looked at me with the watchful listening look his eyes always had;
but I am not sure if he was really paying much attention to me, for he
talked (as he often did) as if he were talking to himself.

"I wanted to be a soldier," he said, "and my father wouldn't let me. I
often used to wish I had run away and enlisted, when I was with
Quarter-master McCulloch, of the Engineers (he'd risen from the ranks
and was younger than me), in Bermuda."

"Bermuda! That's not very far from South America, is it?" said I,
looking across to the big map of the world. "Is it very beautiful, too?"

The school-master's eyes contracted as if he were short-sighted, or
looking at something inside his own head. But he smiled as he answered--

"The poet says,

     'A pleasing land of drowsy-head it is,
      Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
      And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
      For ever flushing round a summer sky.'"

"But are there any curious beasts and plants and that sort of thing?" I
asked.

"I believe there were no native animals originally," said the
school-master. "I mean inland ones. But the fowls of the air and the
fishes of the sea are of all lovely forms and colours. And such corals
and sponges, and sea-anemones, blooming like flowers in the transparent
pools of the warm blue water that washes the coral reefs and fills the
little creeks and bays!"

I gasped--and he went on. "The commonest trees, I think, are palms and
cedars. Lots of the old houses were built of cedar, and I've heard of
old cedar furniture to be picked up here and there, as some people buy
old oak out of English farm-houses. It is very durable and deliriously
scented. People used to make cedar bonfires when the small-pox was
about, to keep away infection. The gardens will grow anything, and plots
of land are divided by oleander hedges of many colours."

"Oh--h!" ejaculated I, in long-drawn notes of admiration. The
school-master's eyes twinkled.

"Not only," continued he, "do very gaudy lobsters and quaint cray-fish
and crabs with lanky legs dispute your attention on the shore with the
shell-fish of the loveliest hues; there is no lack of remarkable
creatures indoors. Monstrous spiders, whose bite is very unpleasant,
drop from the roof; tarantulas and scorpions get into your boots, and
cockroaches, hideous to behold and disgusting to smell, invade every
place from your bed to your store-cupboard. If you possess anything,
from food and clothing to books and boxes, the ants will find it and
devour it, and if you possess a garden the mosquitoes will find you and
devour you."

"Oh--h!" I exclaimed once more, but this time in a different tone.

Mr. Wood laughed heartily. "Tropical loveliness has its drawbacks, Jack.
Perhaps some day when your clothes are moulded, and your brain feels
mouldy too with damp heat, and you can neither work in the sun nor be
at peace in the shade, you may wish you were sitting on a stool in your
uncle's office, undisturbed by venomous insects, and cool in a November
fog."

I laughed too, but I shook my head.

"No. I shan't mind the insects if I can get there. Charlie, were those
wonderful ants old Isaac said you'd been reading about, Bermuda ants?"

I did not catch Charlie's muttered reply, and when I looked round I saw
that his face was buried in the red cushions, and that he was (what Jem
used to call) "in one of his tempers."

I don't exactly know how it was. I don't think Charlie was jealous or
really cross, but he used to take fits of fancying he was in the way,
and out of it all (from being a cripple), if we seemed to be very busy
without him, especially about such things as planning adventures. I knew
what was the matter directly, but I'm afraid my consolation was rather
clumsy.

"Don't be cross, Charlie," I said; "I thought you were listening too,
and if it's because you think you won't be able to go, I don't believe
there's really a bit more chance of my going, though my legs _are_ all
right."

"Don't bother about me," said Charlie; "but I wish you'd put these
numbers down, they're in my way." And he turned pettishly over.

Before I could move, the school-master had taken the papers, and was
standing over Charlie's couch, with his right hand against the wall, at
the level of his head, and his left arm hanging by his side; and I
suppose it was his attitude which made me notice, before he began to
speak, what a splendid figure he had, and how strong he looked. He spoke
in an odd, abrupt sort of voice, very different from the way he had been
talking to me, but he looked down at Charlie so intensely, that I think
he felt it through the cushions, and lifted his head.

"When your father has been bringing you down here, or at any time when
you have been out amongst other people, have you ever overheard them
saying, 'Poor chap! it's a sad thing,' and things of that kind, as if
they were sorry for you?"

Cripple Charlie's face flushed scarlet, and my own cheeks burned, as I
looked daggers at the school-master, for what seemed a brutal
insensibility to the lame boy's feelings. He did not condescend,
however, to meet my eyes. His own were still fixed steadily on
Charlie's, and he went on.

"_I've heard it._ My ears are quick, and for many a Sunday after I came
I caught the whispers behind me as I went up the aisle, 'Poor man!'
'Poor gentleman!' 'He looks bad, too!' One morning an old woman, in a
big black bonnet, said, 'Poor soul!' so close to me, that I looked
down, and met her withered eyes, full of tears--for me!--and I said,
'Thank you, mother,' and she fingered the sleeve of my coat with her
trembling hand (the veins were standing out on it like ropes), and said,
'I've knowed trouble myself, my dear. The Lord bless yours to you!'"

"It must have been Betty Johnson," I interpolated; but the school-master
did not even look at me.

"You and I," he said, bending nearer to Cripple Charlie, "have had our
share of this life's pain so dealt out to us that any one can see and
pity us. My boy, take a fellow-sufferer's word for it, it is wise and
good not to shrink from the seeing and pitying. The weight of the cross
spreads itself and becomes lighter if one learns to suffer with others
as well as with oneself, to take pity and to give it. And as one learns
to be pained with the pains of others, one learns to be happy in their
happiness and comforted by their sympathy, and then no man's life can be
quite empty of pleasure. I don't know if my troubles have been lighter
or heavier ones than yours----"

The school-master stopped short, and turned his head so that his face
was almost hidden against his hand upon the wall. Charlie's big eyes
were full of tears, and I am sure I distinctly felt my ears poke
forwards on my head with anxious curiosity to catch what Mr. Wood would
tell us about that dreadful time of which he had never spoken.

"When I was your age," he said bluntly, "I was unusually lithe and
active and strong for mine. When I was half as old again, I was stronger
than any man I knew, and had many a boyish triumph out of my strength,
because I was slender and graceful, and this concealed my powers. I had
all the energies and ambitions natural to unusual vigour and manly
skill. I wanted to be a soldier, but it was not to be, and I spent my
youth at a desk in a house of business. I adapted myself, but none the
less I chafed whenever I heard of manly exploits, and of the delights
and dangers that came of seeing the world. I used to think I could bear
anything to cross the seas and see foreign climes. I did cross the
Atlantic at last--a convict in a convict ship (GOD help any man who
knows what that is!), and I spent the ten best years of my manhood at
the hulks working in chains. You've never lost freedom, my lad, so you
have never felt what it is not to be able to believe you've got it back.
You don't know what it is to turn nervous at the responsibility of being
your own master for a whole day, or to wake in a dainty room, with the
birds singing at the open window, and to shut your eyes quickly and pray
to go on dreaming a bit, because you feel sure you're really in your
hammock in the hulks."

The school-master lifted his other hand above his head, and pressed both
on it, as if he were in pain. What Charlie was doing I don't know, but I
felt so miserable I could not help crying, and had to hunt for my
pocket-handkerchief under the table. It was full of acorns, and by the
time I had emptied it and dried my eyes, Mr. Wood was lifting Charlie in
his arms, and arranging his cushions.

"Oh, thank you!" Charlie said, as he leant back; "how comfortable you
have made me!"

"I have been sick-nurse, amongst other trades. For some months I was a
hospital warder."

"Was that when----" Charlie began, and then he stopped short, and said,
"Oh, I beg your pardon!"

"Yes; it was when I was a convict," said the school-master. "No offence,
my boy. If I preach I must try to practise. Jack's eyes are dropping out
of his head to hear more of Bermuda, and you and I will put our whims
and moods on one side, and we'll all tell travellers' tales together."

Cripple Charlie kept on saying "Thank you," and I know he was very sorry
not to be able to think of anything more to say, for he told me so. He
wanted to have thanked him better, because he knew that Mr. Wood had
talked about his having been a convict, when he did not like to talk
about it, just to show Charlie that he knew what pain, and not being
able to do what you want, feel like, and that Charlie ought not to fancy
he was neglected.

And that was the beginning of all the stories the school-master used to
tell us, and of the natural history lessons he gave us, and of his
teaching me to stuff birds, and do all kinds of things.

We used to say to him, "You're better than the Penny Numbers, for you're
quite as interesting, and we're sure you're true." And the odd thing was
that he made Charlie much more contented, because he started him with so
many collections, whilst he made me only more and more anxious to see
the world.



CHAPTER VII.

     "Much would have more, and lost all."--_English Proverb_.

     "Learn you to an ill habit, and ye'll ca't custom."
                                             _Scotch Proverb_.


The lane was full of colour that autumn, the first autumn of the
convict's return. The leaves turned early, and fell late, and made the
hedges gayer than when the dog-roses were out; for not only were the
leaves of all kinds brighter than many flowers, but the berries (from
the holly and mountain-ash to the hips and haws) were so thick-set, and
so red and shining, that, as my dear mother said, "they looked almost
artificial."

I remember it well, because of two things. First, that Jem got five of
the largest hips we had ever seen off a leafless dog-rose branch which
stuck far out of the hedge, and picked the little green coronets off, so
that they were smooth and glossy, and egg-shaped, and crimson on one
side and yellow on the other; and then he got an empty chaffinch's nest
close by and put the five hips into it, and took it home, and persuaded
Alice our new parlourmaid that it was a robin redbreast's nest with eggs
in it. And she believed it, for she came from London and knew no better.

The second thing I remember that autumn by, is that everybody expected a
hard winter because of the berries being so fine, and the hard winter
never came, and the birds ate worms and grubs and left most of the hedge
fruits where they were.

November was bright and mild, and the morning frosts only made the
berries all the glossier when the sun came out. We had one or two
snow-storms in December, and then we all said, "Now it's coming!" but
the snow melted away and left no bones behind. In January the snow lay
longer, and left big bones on the moors, and Jem and I made a slide to
school on the pack track, and towards the end of the month the mill-dam
froze hard, and we had slides fifteen yards long, and skating; and
Winter seemed to have come back in good earnest to fetch his bones away.

Jem was great fun in frosty weather; Charlie and I used to die of
laughing at him. I think cold made him pugnacious; he seemed always
ready for a row, and was constantly in one. The January frost came in
our Christmas holidays, so Jem had lots of time on his hands; he spent
almost all of it out of doors, and he devoted a good deal of it to
fighting with the rough lads of the village. There was a standing
subject of quarrel, which is a great thing for either tribes or
individuals who have a turn that way. A pond at the corner of the lower
paddock was fed by a stream which also fed the mill-dam; and the
mill-dam was close by, though, as it happened, not on my father's
property. Old custom made the mill-dam the winter resort of all the
village sliders and skaters, and my father displayed a good deal of
toleration when those who could not find room for a new slide, or wished
to practise their "outer edge" in a quiet spot, came climbing over the
wall (there was no real thoroughfare) and invaded our pond.

Perhaps it is because gratitude is a fatiguing virtue, or perhaps it is
because self-esteem has no practical limits, that favours are seldom
regarded as such for long. They are either depreciated, or claimed as
rights; very often both. And what is common in all classes is almost
universal amongst the uneducated. You have only to make a system of
giving your cast-off clothes to some shivering family, and you will not
have to wait long for an eloquent essay on their shabbiness, or for an
outburst of sincere indignation if you venture to reserve a warm jacket
for a needy relative. Prescriptive rights, in short, grow faster than
pumpkins, which is amongst the many warnings life affords us to be just
as well as generous. Thence it had come about that the young roughs of
the village regarded our pond to all winter intents and purposes as
theirs, and my father as only so far and so objectionably concerned in
the matter that he gave John Binder a yearly job in patching up the wall
which it took them three months' trouble to kick a breach in.

Our neighbours were what is called "very independent" folk. In the
grown-up people this was modified by the fact that no one who has to
earn his own livelihood can be quite independent of other people; if he
would live he must let live, and throw a little civility into the
bargain. But boys of an age when their parents found meals and hobnailed
boots for them whether they behaved well or ill, were able to display
independence in its roughest form. And when the boys of our
neighbourhood were rough, they were very rough indeed.

The village boys had their Christmas holidays about the same time that
we had ours, which left them as much spare time for sliding and skating
as we had, but they had their dinner at twelve o'clock, whilst we had
ours at one, so that any young roughs who wished to damage our pond were
just comfortably beginning their mischief as Jem and I were saying grace
before meat, and the thought of it took away our appetites again and
again.

That winter they were particularly aggravating. The December frost was
a very imperfect one, and the mill-dam never bore properly, so the boys
swarmed over our pond, which was shallow and safe. Very few of them
could even hobble on skates, and those few carried the art no farther
than by cutting up the slides. But thaw came on, so that there was no
sliding, and then the young roughs amused themselves with stamping holes
in the soft ice with their hobnailed heels. When word came to us that
they were taking the stones off our wall and pitching them down on to
the soft ice below, to act as skaters' stumbling-blocks for the rest of
that hard winter which we expected, Jem's indignation was not greater
than mine. My father was not at home, and indeed, when we had complained
before, he rather snubbed us, and said that we could not want the whole
of the pond to ourselves, and that he had always lived quietly with his
neighbours and we must learn to do the same, and so forth. No action at
all calculated to assuage our thirst for revenge was likely to be taken
by him, so Jem and I held a council by Charlie's sofa, and it was a
council of war. At the end we all three solemnly shook hands, and
Charlie was left to write and despatch brief notes of summons to our
more distant school-mates, whilst Jem and I tucked up our trousers,
wound our comforters sternly round our throats, and went forth in
different directions to gather the rest.

(Having lately been reading about the Highlanders, who used to send
round a fiery cross when the clans were called to battle, I should have
liked to do so in this instance; but as some of the Academy boys were no
greater readers than Jem, they might not have known what it meant, so we
abandoned the notion.)

There was not an Academy boy worth speaking of who was in time for
dinner the following day; and several of them brought brothers or
cousins to the fray. By half-past twelve we had crept down the field
that was on the other side of our wall, and had hidden ourselves in
various corners of a cattle-shed, where a big cart and some sail-cloth
and a turnip heap provided us with ambush. By and by certain familiar
whoops and hullohs announced that the enemy was coming. One or two
bigger boys made for the dam (which I confess was a relief to us), but
our own particular foes advanced with a rush upon the wall.

"They hevn't coomed yet, hev they?" we heard the sexton's son say, as he
peeped over at our pond.

"Noa," was the reply. "It's not gone one yet."

"It's gone one by t' church. I yeard it as we was coming up t' lane."

"T' church clock's always hafe-an-hour fasst, thee knows."

"It isn't!"

"It is."

"T' church clock's t' one to go by, anyhow," the sexton's son
maintained.

His friend guffawed aloud.

"And it's a reight 'un to go by too, my sakes! when thee feyther shifts
t' time back'ards and for'ards every Sunday morning to suit hissen."

"To suit hissen! To suit t' ringers, ye mean!" said the sexton's son.

"What's thou to do wi' t' ringers?" was the reply, enforced apparently
by a punch in the back, and the two lads came cuffing and struggling up
the field, much to my alarm, but fortunately they were too busy to
notice us.

Meanwhile, the rest had not been idle at the wall. Jem had climbed on
the cart, and peeping through a brick hole he could see that they had
with some difficulty disengaged a very heavy stone. As we were turning
our heads to watch the two lads fighting near our hiding-place, we heard
the stone strike with a heavy thud upon the rotten ice below, and it was
echoed by a groan of satisfaction from above.

("Ready!" I whispered.)

"You'll break somebody's nose when it's frosted in," cried Bob Furniss,
in a tone of sincere gratification.

"Eh, Tim Binder! there'll be a rare job for thee feyther next spring,
fettling up this wall, by t' time we've done wi' it."

"Let me come," we heard Tim say. "Thou can't handle a stone. Let me
come. Th' ice is as soft as loppered milk, and i' ten minutes, I'll fill
yon bit they're so chuff of skating on, as thick wi' stones as a
quarry."

("Now!" I said.)

Our foes considerably outnumbered us, but I think they were at a
disadvantage. They had worked off a good deal of their steam, and ours
was at explosion point. We took them by surprise and in the rear. They
had had some hard exercise, and we were panting to begin. As a matter of
fact those who could get away ran away. We caught all we could, and
punched and pummelled and rolled them in the snow to our hearts'
content.

Jem never was much of a talker, and I never knew him speak when he was
fighting; but three several times on this occasion, I heard him say very
stiffly and distinctly (he was on the top of Tim Binder), "I'll fettle
thee! I'll fettle thee! I'll fettle thee!"

The battle was over, the victory was ours, but the campaign was not
ended, and thenceforward the disadvantages would be for us. Even real
warfare is complicated when men fight with men less civilized than
themselves; and we had learnt before now that when we snowballed each
other or snowballed the rougher "lot" of village boys, we did so under
different conditions. _We_ had our own code of honour and fairness, but
Bob Furniss was not above putting a stone into a snowball if he owed a
grudge.

So when we heard a rumour that the bigger "roughs" were going to join
the younger ones, and lie in wait to "pay us off" the first day we came
down to the ice, I cannot say we felt comfortable, though we resolved to
be courageous. Meanwhile, the thaw continued, which suspended
operations, and gave time, which is good for healing; and Christmas
came, and we and our foes met and mingled in the mummeries of the
season, and wished each other Happy New Years, and said nothing about
the pond.

How my father came to hear of the matter we did not know at the time,
but one morning he summoned Jem and me, and bade us tell him all about
it. I was always rather afraid of my father, and I should have made out
a very stammering story, but Jem flushed up like a turkey-cock, and gave
our version of the business very straightforwardly. The other side of
the tale my father had evidently heard, and we fancied he must have
heard also of the intended attack on us, for it never took place, and
we knew of interviews which he had with John Binder and others of our
neighbours; and when the frost came in January, we found that the stones
had been taken out of the pond, and my father gave us a sharp lecture
against being quarrelsome and giving ourselves airs, and it ended
with--"The pond is mine. I wish you to remember it, because it makes it
your duty to be hospitable and civil to the boys I allow to go on it.
And I have very decidedly warned them and their parents to remember it,
because if my permission for fair amusement is abused to damage and
trespass, I shall withdraw the favour and prosecute intruders. But the
day I shut up my pond from my neighbours, I shall forbid you and Jack to
go on it again unless the fault is more entirely on one side than it's
likely to be when boys squabble."

My father waved our dismissal, but I hesitated.

"The boys won't think we told tales to you to get out of another fight?"
I gasped.

"Everybody knows perfectly well how I heard. It came to the sexton's
ears, and he very properly informed me."

I felt relieved, and the first day we had on the ice went off very
fairly. The boys were sheepish at first and slow to come on, and when
they had assembled in force they were inclined to be bullying. But Jem
and I kept our tempers, and by and by my father came down to see us,
and headed a long slide in which we and our foes were combined. As he
left he pinched Jem's frosty ear, and said, "Let me hear if there's any
real malice, but don't double your fists at every trifle. Slide and let
slide! slide and let slide!" And he took a pinch of snuff and departed.

And Jem was wonderfully peaceable for the rest of the day. A word from
my father went a long way with him. They were very fond of each other.

I had no love of fighting for fighting's sake, and I had other interests
besides sliding and skating; so I was well satisfied that we got through
the January frost without further breaches of the peace. Towards the end
of the month we all went a good deal upon the mill-dam, and Mr. Wood
(assisted by me as far as watching, handing tools and asking questions
went) made a rough sledge, in which he pushed Charlie before him as he
skated; and I believe the village boys, as well as his own
school-fellows, were glad that Cripple Charlie had a share in the winter
fun, for wherever Mr. Wood drove him, both sliders and skaters made way.

And even on the pond there were no more real battles that winter. Only
now and then some mischievous urchin tripped up our brand-new skates,
and begged our pardon as he left us on our backs. And more than once,
when "the island" in the middle of the pond was a very fairyland of
hoar-frosted twigs and snow-plumed larches, I have seen its white
loveliness rudely shaken, and skating round to discover the cause, have
beheld Jem, with cheeks redder than his scarlet comforter, return an
"accidental" shove with interest; or posed like a ruffled robin
redbreast, to defend a newly-made slide against intruders.



CHAPTER VIII.

     "He it was who sent the snowflakes
      Sifting, hissing through the forest;
      Froze the ponds, the lakes, the rivers,
      *       *       *       *       *
      Shinbegis, the diver, feared not."
                                _The Song of Hiawatha_.


The first day of February was mild, and foggy, and cloudy, and in the
night I woke feeling very hot, and threw off my quilt, and heard the
dripping of soft rain in the dark outside, and thought, "There goes our
skating." Towards morning, however, I woke again, and had to pull the
quilt back into its place, and when I started after breakfast to see
what the dam looked like, there was a sharpish frost, which, coming
after a day of thaw, had given the ice such a fine smooth surface as we
had not had for long.

I felt quite sorry for Jem, because he was going in the dog-cart with my
father to see a horse, and as I hadn't got him to skate with, I went
down to the farm after breakfast, to see what Charlie and the Woods were
going to do. Charlie was not well, but Mr. Wood said he would come to
the dam with me after dinner, as he had to go to the next village on
business, and the dam lay in his way.

"Keep to the pond this morning, Jack," he added, to my astonishment.
"Remember it thawed all yesterday; and if the wheel was freed and has
been turning, it has run water off from under the ice, and all may not
be sound that's smooth."

The pond was softer than it looked, but the mill-dam was most tempting.
A sheet of "glare ice," as Americans say, smooth and clear as a
newly-washed window-pane. I did not go on it, but I brought Mr. Wood to
it early in the afternoon, in the full hope that he would give me leave.

We found several young men on the bank, some fastening their skates and
some trying the ice with their heels, and as we stood there the numbers
increased, and most of them went on without hesitation; and when they
rushed in groups together, I noticed that the ice slightly swayed.

"The ice bends a good deal," said Mr. Wood to a man standing next to us.

"They say it's not so like to break when it bends," was the reply; and
the man moved on.

A good many of the elder men from the village had come up, and a group,
including John Binder, now stood alongside of us.

"There's a good sup of water atop of it," said the mason; and I noticed
then that the ice seemed to look wetter, like newly-washed glass still,
but like glass that wants wiping dry.

"I'm afraid the ice is not safe," said the school-master.

"It's a tidy thickness, sir," said John Binder, and a heavy man, with
his hands in his pockets and his back turned to us, stepped down and
gave two or three jumps, and then got up again, and, with his back still
turned towards us, said,

"It's reight enough."

"It's right enough for one man, but not for a crowd, I'm afraid. Was the
water-wheel freed last night, do you know?"

"It was loosed last night, but it's froz again," said a bystander.

"It's not freezing now," said the school-master, "and you may see how
much larger that weak place where the stream is has got since yesterday.
However," he added, good-humouredly, "I suppose you think you know your
own mill-dam and its ways better than I can?"

"Well," said the heavy man, still with his back to us, "I reckon we've
slid on this dam a many winters afore _you_ come. No offence, I hope?"

"By no means," said the school-master; "but if you old hands do begin
to feel doubtful as the afternoon goes on, call off those lads at the
other end in good time. And if you could warn them not to go in rushes
together--but perhaps they would not listen to you," he added with a
spice of malice.

"I don't suppose they would, sir," said John Binder, candidly. "They're
very venturesome, is lads."

"I reckon they'll suit themselves," said the heavy man, and he jumped on
to the ice, and went off, still with his back to us.

"If I hadn't lived so many years out of England and out of the world,"
said the school-master, turning to me with a half-vexed laugh, "I don't
suppose I should discredit myself to no purpose by telling fools they
are in danger. Jack! will you promise me not to go on the dam this
afternoon?"

"It is dangerous, is it?" I asked reluctantly; for I wanted sorely to
join the rest.

"That's a matter of opinion, it seems. But I have a wish that you should
not go on till I come back. I'll be as quick as I can. Promise me."

"I promise," said I.

"Will you walk with me?" he asked. But I refused. I thought I would
rather watch the others; and accordingly, after I had followed the
school-master with my eyes as he strode off at a pace that promised
soon to bring him back, I put my hands into my pockets and joined the
groups of watchers on the bank. I suppose if I had thought about it, I
might have observed that though I was dawdling about, my nose and ears
and fingers were not nipped. Mr. Wood was right,--it had not been
freezing for hours past.

The first thing I looked for was the heavy man. He was so clumsy-looking
that I quite expected him to fall when he walked off on to ice only fit
for skaters. But as I looked closer I saw that the wet on the top was
beginning to have a curdled look, and that the glassiness of the
mill-dam was much diminished. The heavy man's heavy boots got good
foothold, and several of his friends, seeing this, went after him. And
my promise weighed sorely on me.

The next thing that drew my attention was a lad of about seventeen, who
was skating really well. Indeed, everybody was looking at him, for he
was the only one of the villagers who could perform in any but the
clumsiest fashion, and, with an active interest that hovered between
jeering and applause, his neighbours followed him up and down the dam.
As I might not go on, I wandered up and down the bank too, and
occasionally joined in a murmured cheer when he deftly evaded some
intentional blunderer, or cut a figure at the request of his particular
friends. I got tired at last, and went down to the pond, where I
ploughed about for a time on my skates in solitude, for the pond was
empty. Then I ran up to the house to see if Jem had come back, but he
had not, and I returned to the dam to wait for the school-master.

The crowd was larger than before, for everybody's work-hours were over;
and the skater was still displaying himself. He was doing very difficult
figures now, and I ran round to where the bank was covered with people
watching him. In the minute that followed I remember three things with
curious distinctness. First, that I saw Mr. Wood coming back, only one
field off, and beckoned to him to be quick, because the lad was
beginning to cut a double three backwards, and I wanted the
school-master to see it. Secondly, that the sight of him seemed suddenly
to bring to my mind that we were all on the far side of the dam, the
side he thought dangerous. And thirdly, that, quickly as my eyes passed
from Mr. Wood to the skater, I caught sight of a bloated-looking young
man, whom we all knew as a sort of typical "bad lot," standing with
another man who was a great better, and from a movement between them, it
just flashed through my head that they were betting as to whether the
lad would cut the double three backwards or not.

He cut one--two--and then he turned too quickly and his skate caught in
the softening ice, and when he came headlong, his head struck, and
where it struck it went through. It looked so horrible that it was a
relief to see him begin to struggle; but the weakened ice broke around
him with every effort, and he went down.

For many a year afterwards I used to dream of his face as he sank, and
of the way the ice heaved like the breast of some living thing, and fell
back, and of the heavy waves that rippled over it out of that awful
hole. But great as was the shock, it was small to the storm of shame and
agony that came over me when I realized that every comrade who had been
around the lad had saved himself by a rush to the bank, where we huddled
together, a gaping crowd of foolhardy cowards, without skill to do
anything or heart to dare anything to save him.

At that time it maddened me so, that I felt that if I could not help the
lad I would rather be drowned in the hole with him, and I began to
scramble in a foolish way down the bank, but John Binder caught me by
the arm and pulled me back, and said (I suppose to soothe me),

"Yon's the school-master, sir;" and then I saw Mr. Wood fling himself
over the hedge by the alder thicket (he was rather good at high jumps),
and come flying along the bank towards us, when he said,

"What's the matter?"

I threw my arms round him and sobbed, "He was cutting a double three
backwards, and he went in."

Mr. Wood unclasped my arms and turned to the rest.

"What have you done with him?" he said. "Did he hurt himself?"

If the crowd was cowardly and helpless, it was not indifferent; and I
shall never forget the haggard faces that turned by one impulse, where a
dozen grimy hands pointed--to the hole.

"He's drowned dead." "He's under t' ice." "He went right down," several
men hastened to reply, but most of them only enforced the mute
explanation of their pointed finger with, "He's yonder."

For yet an instant I don't think Mr. Wood believed it, and then he
seized the man next to him (without looking, for he was blind with rage)
and said,

"He's yonder, _and you're here_?"

As it happened, it was the man who had talked with his back to us. He
was very big and very heavy, but he reeled when Mr. Wood shook him, like
a feather caught by a storm.

"You were foolhardy enough an hour ago," said the school-master. "Won't
one of you venture on to your own dam to help a drowning man?"

"There's none on us can swim, sir," said John Binder. "It's a bad
job"--and he gave a sob that made me begin to cry again, and several
other people too--"but where'd be t' use of drowning five or six more
atop of him?"

"Can any of you run if you can't swim?" said the school-master. "Get a
stout rope--as fast as you can, and send somebody for the doctor and a
bottle of brandy, and a blanket or two to carry him home in. Jack! Hold
these."

I took his watch and his purse, and he went down the bank and walked on
to the ice; but after a time his feet went through as the skater's head
had gone.

"It ain't a bit of use. There's nought to be done," said the bystanders:
for, except those who had run to do Mr. Wood's bidding, we were all
watching and all huddled closer to the edge than ever. The school-master
went down on his hands and knees, on which a big lad, with his hands in
his trouser-pockets, guffawed.

"What's he up to now?" he asked.

"Thee may haud thee tongue if thee can do nought," said a mill-girl who
had come up. "I reckon he knows what he's efter better nor thee." She
had pushed to the front, and was crouched upon the edge, and seemed very
much excited. "GOD bless him for trying to save t' best lad in t'
village i' any fashion, say I! There's them that's nearer kin to him and
not so kind."

Perhaps the strict justice of this taunt prevented a reply (for there
lurks some fairness in the roughest of us), or perhaps the crowd, being
chiefly men knew from experience that there are occasions when it is
best to let a woman say her say.

"Ye see he's trying to spread hisself out," John Binder explained in
pacific tones. "I reckon he thinks it'll bear him if he shifts half of
his weight on to his hands."

The girl got nearer to the mason, and looked up at him with her eyes
full of tears.

"Thank ye, John," she said. "D'ye think he'll get him out?"

"Maybe he will, my lass. He's a man that knows what he's doing. I'll say
so much for him."

"Nay!" added the mason sorrowfully. "Th' ice 'll never hold him--his
hand's in--and there goes his knee. Maester! maester!" he shouted, "come
off! come off!" and many a voice besides mine echoed him, "Come off!
come off!"

The girl got John Binder by the arm, and said hoarsely, "Fetch him off!
He's a reight good 'un--over good to be drownded, if--if it's of no
use." And she sat down on the bank, and pulled her mill-shawl over her
head, and cried as I had never seen any one cry before.

I was so busy watching her that I did not see that Mr. Wood had got back
to the bank. Several hands were held out to help him, but he shook his
head and said--"Got a knife?"

Two or three jack-knives were out in an instant. He pointed to the alder
thicket. "I want two poles," he said, "sixteen feet long, if you can,
and as thick as my wrist at the bottom."

"All right, sir."

He sat down on the bank, and I rushed up and took one of his cold wet
hands in both mine, and said, "Please, please, don't go on any more."

"He must be dead ever so long ago," I added, repeating what I had heard.

"He hasn't been in the water ten minutes," said the school-master,
laughing, "Jack! Jack! you're not half ready for travelling yet. You
must learn not to lose your head and your heart and your wits and your
sense of time in this fashion, if you mean to be any good at a pinch to
yourself or your neighbours. Has the rope come?"

"No, sir."

"Those poles?" said the school-master, getting up.

"They're here!" I shouted, as a young forest of poles came towards us,
so willing had been the owners of the jack-knives. The thickest had
been cut by the heavy man, and Mr. Wood took it first.

"Thank you, friend," he said. The man didn't speak, and he turned his
back as usual, but he gave a sideways surly nod before he turned. The
school-master chose a second pole, and then pushed both before him right
out on to the ice, in such a way that with the points touching each
other they formed a sort of huge A, the thicker ends being the nearer to
the bank.

"Now, Jack," said he, "pay attention; and no more blubbering. There's
always plenty of time for giving way _afterwards_."

As he spoke he scrambled on to the poles, and began to work himself and
them over the ice, wriggling in a kind of snake fashion in the direction
of the hole. We watched him breathlessly, but within ten yards of the
hole he stopped. He evidently dared not go on; and the same thought
seized all of us--"Can he get back?" Spreading his legs and arms he now
lay flat upon the poles, peering towards the hole as if to try if he
could see anything of the drowning man. It was only for an instant, then
he rolled over on to the rotten ice, smashed through, and sank more
suddenly than the skater had done.

The mill-girl jumped up with a wild cry and rushed to the water, but
John Binder pulled her back as he had pulled me. Martha, our housemaid,
said afterwards (and was ready to take oath on the gilt-edged Church
service my mother gave her) that the girl was so violent that it took
fourteen men to hold her; but Martha wasn't there, and I only saw two,
one at each arm, and when she fainted they laid her down and left her,
and hurried back to see what was going on. For tenderness is an acquired
grace in men, and it was not common in our neighbourhood.

What was going on was that John Binder had torn his hat from his head
and was saying, "I don't know if there's aught we _can_ do, but I can't
go home myself and leave him yonder. I'm a married man with a family,
but I don't vally _my_ life if----"

But the rest of this speech was drowned in noise more eloquent than
words, and then it broke into cries of "See thee!--It is--it's t'
maester! and he has--no!--yea!--he _has_--he's gotten him. Polly, lass!
he's fetched up thy Arthur by t' hair of his heead."

It was strictly true. The school-master told me afterwards how it was.
When he found that the ice would bear no longer, he rolled into the
water on purpose, but, to his horror, he felt himself seized by the
drowning man, which pulled him suddenly down. The lad had risen once, it
seems, though we had not seen him, and had got a breath of air at the
hole, but the edge broke in his numbed fingers, and he sank again and
drifted under the ice. When he rose the second time, by an odd chance it
was just where Mr. Wood broke in, and his clutch of the school-master
nearly cost both their lives.

"If ever," said Mr. Wood, when he was talking about it afterwards, "if
ever, Jack, when you're out in the world you get under water, and
somebody tries to save you, when he grips _you_, don't seize _him_, if
you can muster self-control to avoid it. If you cling to him, you'll
either drown both, or you'll force him to do as I did--throttle you, to
keep you quiet."

"Did you?" I gasped.

"Of course I did. I got him by the throat and dived with him--the only
real risk I ran, as I did not know how deep the dam was."

"It's an old quarry," said I.

"I know now. We went down well, and I squeezed his throat as we went. As
soon as he was still we naturally rose, and I turned on my back and got
him by the head. I looked about for the hole, and saw it glimmering
above me like a moon in a fog, and then up we came."

When they did come up, our joy was so great that for the moment we felt
as if all was accomplished; but far the hardest part really was to come.
When the school-master clutched the poles once more, and drove one under
the lad's arms and under his own left arm, and so kept his burden
afloat whilst he broke a swimming path for himself with the other, our
admiration of his cleverness gave place to the blessed thought that it
might now be possible to help him. The sight of the poles seemed
suddenly to suggest it, and in a moment every spare pole had been
seized, and, headed by our heavy friend, eight or ten men plunged in,
and, smashing the ice before them, waded out to meet the school-master.
On the bank we were dead silent; in the water they neither stopped nor
spoke till it was breast high round their leader.

I have often thought, and have always felt quite sure, that if the heavy
man had gone on till the little grey waves and the bits of ice closed
over him, not a soul of those who followed him would--nay, _could_--have
turned back. Heroism, like cowardice, is contagious, and I do not think
there was one of us by that time who would have feared to dare or
grudged to die.

As it was, the heavy man stood still and shouted for the rope. It had
come, and perhaps it was not the smallest effect of the day's teaching,
that those on the bank paid it out at once to those in the water till it
reached the leader, without waiting to ask why he wanted it. The grace
of obedience is slow to be learnt by disputatious northmen, but we had
had some hard teaching that afternoon.

When the heavy man got the rope he tied the middle part of it round
himself, and, coiling the shorter end, he sent it, as if it had been a
quoit, skimming over the ice towards the school-master. As it unwound
itself it slid along, and after a struggle Mr. Wood grasped it. I fancy
he fastened it round the lad's body; and got his own hands freer to
break the ice before them. Then the heavy man turned, and the long end
of the line, passing from hand to hand in the water, was seized upon the
bank by every one who could get hold of it. I never was more squeezed
and buffeted in my life; but we fairly fought for the privilege of
touching if it were but a strand of the rope that dragged them in.

And a flock of wild birds, resting on their journey at the other end of
the mill-dam, rose in terror and pursued their seaward way; so wild and
so prolonged were the echoes of that strange, speechless cry in which
collective man gives vent to overpowering emotion.

It is odd, when one comes to think of it, but I know it is true, for two
sensible words would have stuck in my own throat and choked me, but I
cheered till I could cheer no longer.



CHAPTER IX.

     "In doubtful matters Courage may do much:--In desperate
    --Patience."--_Old Proverb_.


The young skater duly recovered, and thenceforward Mr. Wood's popularity
in the village was established, and the following summer he started a
swimming-class, to which the young men flocked with more readiness than
they commonly showed for efforts made to improve them.

For my own part I had so realized, to my shame, that one may feel very
adventurous and yet not know how to venture or what to venture in the
time of need, that my whole heart was set upon getting the school-master
to teach me to swim and to dive, with any other lessons in preparedness
of body and mind which I was old enough to profit by. And if the true
tales of his own experiences were more interesting than the Penny
Numbers, it was better still to feel that one was qualifying in one's
own proper person for a life of adventure.

During the winter Mr. Wood built a boat, which was christened the
_Adela_, after his wife. It was an interesting process to us all. I hung
about and did my best to be helpful, and both Jem and I spoiled our
everyday trousers, and rubbed the boat's sides, the day she was painted.
It was from the _Adela_ that Jem and I had our first swimming-lessons,
Mr. Wood lowering us with a rope under our arms, by which he gave us as
much support as was needed, whilst he taught us how to strike out.

We had swimming-races on the canal, and having learned to swim and dive
without our clothes, we learnt to do so in them, and found it much more
difficult for swimming and easier for diving. It was then that the
trousers we had damaged when the _Adela_ was built came in most
usefully, and saved us from having to attempt the at least equally
difficult task of persuading my mother to let us spoil good ones in an
amusement which had the unpardonable quality of being "very odd."

Dear old Charlie had as much fun out of the boat as we had, though he
could not learn to dive. He used to look as if every minute of a pull up
the canal on a sunny evening gave him pleasure; and the brown Irish
spaniel Jem gave him used to swim after the boat and look up in
Charlie's face as if it knew how he enjoyed it. And later on, Mr. Wood
taught Bob Furniss to row and Charlie to steer; so that Charlie could
sometimes go out and feel quite free to stop the boat when and where he
liked. That was after he started so many collections of insects and
water-weeds, and shells, and things you can only see under a microscope.
Bob and he used to take all kinds of pots and pans and nets and dippers
with them, so that Charlie could fish up what he wanted, and keep things
separate. He was obliged to keep the live things he got for his
fresh-water aquarium in different jam-pots, because he could never be
sure which would eat up which till he knew them better, and the
water-scorpions and the dragon-fly larvæ ate everything. Bob Furniss did
not mind pulling in among the reeds and waiting as long as you wanted.
Mr. Wood sometimes wanted to get back to his work, but Bob never wanted
to get back to his. And he was very good-natured about getting into the
water and wading and grubbing for things; indeed, I think he got to like
it.

At first Mr. Wood had been rather afraid of trusting Charlie with him.
He thought Bob might play tricks with the boat, even though he knew how
to manage her, when there was only one helpless boy with him. But Mrs.
Furniss said, "Nay! Our Bob's a bad 'un, but he's not one of that sort,
he'll not plague them that's afflicted." And she was quite right; for
though his father said he could be trusted with nothing else, we found
he could be trusted with Cripple Charlie.

It was two days before the summer holidays came to an end that Charlie
asked me to come down to the farm and help him to put away his fern
collection and a lot of other things into the places that he had
arranged for them in his room; for now that the school-room was wanted
again, he could not leave his papers and boxes about there. Charlie
lived at the farm altogether now. He was better there than on the moors,
so he boarded there and went home for visits. The room Mrs. Wood had
given him was the one where the old miser had slept. In a memorandum
left with his will it appeared that he had expressed a wish that the
furniture of that room should not be altered, which was how they knew it
was his. So Mrs. Wood had kept the curious old oak bed (the back of
which was fastened into the wall), and an old oak press, with a great
number of drawers with brass handles to them, and all the queer
furniture that she found there, just as it was. Even the brass
warming-pan was only rubbed and put back in its place, and the big
bellows were duly hung up by the small fire-place. But everything was so
polished up and cleaned, the walls re-papered with a soft grey-green
paper spangled with dog-daisies, and the room so brightened up with
fresh blinds and bedclothes, and a bit of bright carpet, that it did
not look in the least dismal, and Charlie was very proud and very fond
of it. It had two windows, one where the beehive was, and one very sunny
one, where he had a balm of Gilead that Isaac's wife gave him, and his
old medicine-bottles full of cuttings on the upper ledge. The old women
used to send him "slippings" off their fairy roses and myrtles and
fuchsias, and they rooted very well in that window, there was so much
sun.

Charlie had only just begun a fern collection, and I had saved my
pocket-money (I did not want it for anything else) and had bought him
several quires of cartridge-paper; and Dr. Brown had given him a packet
of medicine-labels to cut up into strips to fasten his specimens in
with, and the collection looked very well and very scientific; and all
that remained was to find a good place to put it away in. The drawers of
the press were of all shapes and sizes, but there were two longish very
shallow ones that just matched each other, and when I pulled one of them
out, and put the fern-papers in, they fitted exactly, and the drawer
just held half the collection. I called Charlie to look, and he hobbled
up on his crutches and was delighted, but he said he should like to put
the others in himself, so I got him into a chair, and shut up the full
drawer and pulled out the empty one, and went down-stairs for the two
moleskins we were curing, and the glue-pot, and the toffy-tin, and some
other things that had to be cleared out of the school-room now the
holidays were over.

When I came back the fern-papers were still outside, and Charlie was
looking flushed and cross.

"I don't know how you managed," he said, "but I can't get them in. This
drawer must be shorter than the other; it doesn't go nearly so far
back."

"Oh yes, it does, Charlie!" I insisted, for I felt as certain as people
always do feel about little details of that kind. "The drawers are
exactly alike; you can't have got the fern-sheets quite flush with each
other," and I began to arrange the trayful of things I had brought
up-stairs in the bottom of the cupboard.

"I _know_ it's the drawer," I heard Charlie say. ("He's as obstinate as
possible," thought I.)

Then I heard him banging at the wood with his fists and his crutch. ("He
_is_ in a temper!" was my mental comment.) After this my attention was
distracted for a second or two by seeing what I thought was a bit of
toffy left in the tin, and biting it and finding it was a piece of
sheet-glue. I had not spit out all the disgust of it, when Charlie
called me in low, awe-struck tones: "Jack! come here. Quick!"

I ran to him. The drawer was open, but it seemed to have another drawer
inside it, a long, narrow, shallow one.

"I hit the back, and this sprang out," said Charlie. "It's a secret
drawer--and look!"

I did look. The secret drawer was closely packed with rolls of thin
leaflets, which we were old enough to recognize as bank-notes, and with
little bags of wash-leather; and when Charlie opened the little bags
they were filled with gold.

There was a paper with the money, written by the old miser, to say that
it was a codicil to his will, and that the money was all for Mrs. Wood.
Why he had not left it to her in the will itself seemed very puzzling,
but his lawyer (whom the Woods consulted about it) said that he always
did things in a very eccentric way, but generally for some sort of
reason, even if it were rather a freaky one, and that perhaps he thought
that the relations would be less spiteful at first if they did not know
about the money, and that Mrs. Wood would soon find it, if she used and
valued his old press.

I don't quite know whether there was any fuss with the relations about
this part of the bequest, but I suppose the lawyer managed it all right,
for the Woods got the money and gave up the school. But they kept the
old house, and bought some more land, and Walnut-tree Academy became
Walnut-tree Farm once more. And Cripple Charlie lived on with them, and
he was so happy, it really seemed as if my dear mother was right when
she said to my father, "I am so pleased, my dear, for that poor boy's
sake, I can hardly help crying. He's got two homes and two fathers and
mothers, where many a young man has none, as if to make good his
affliction to him."

It puzzles me, even now, to think how my father could have sent Jem and
me to Crayshaw's school. (Nobody ever called him Mr. Crayshaw except the
parents of pupils who lived at a distance. In the neighbourhood he and
his whole establishment were lumped under the one word _Crayshaw's_, and
as a farmer hard by once said to me, "Crayshaw's is universally
disrespected.")

I do not think it was merely because "Crayshaw's" was cheap that we were
sent there, though my father had so few reasons to give for his choice
that he quoted that among them. A man with whom he had had business
dealings (which gave him much satisfaction for some years, and more
dissatisfaction afterwards) did really, I think, persuade my father to
send us to this school, one evening when they were dining together.

Few things are harder to guess at than the grounds on which an
Englishman of my father's type "makes up his mind"; and yet the
question is an important one, for an idea once lodged in his head, a
conviction once as much his own as the family acres, and you will as
soon part him from the one as from the other. I have known little
matters of domestic improvements, in which my mother's comfort was
concerned and her experience conclusive, for which he grudged a few
shillings, and was absolutely impenetrable by her persuasions and
representations. And I have known him waste pounds on things of the most
curious variety, foisted on him by advertising agents without knowledge,
trial, or rational ground of confidence. I suppose that persistency, a
glibber tongue than he himself possessed, a mass of printed rubbish
which always looks imposing to the unliterary, that primitive
combination of authoritativeness and hospitality which makes some men as
ready to say Yes to a stranger as they are to say No at home, and
perhaps some lack of moral courage, may account for it. I can clearly
remember how quaintly sheepish my father used to look after committing
some such folly, and how, after the first irrepressible fall of
countenance, my mother would have defended him against anybody else's
opinion, let alone her own. Young as I was I could feel that, and had a
pretty accurate estimate of the value of the moral lecture on faith in
one's fellow-creatures, which was an unfailing outward sign of my
father's inward conviction that he had been taken in by a rogue. I knew
too, well enough, that my mother's hasty and earnest Amen to this
discourse was an equally reliable token of her knowledge that my father
sorely needed defending, and some instinct made me aware also that my
father knew that this was so. That he knew that it was that tender
generosity towards one's beloved, in which so many of her sex so far
exceeds ours, and not an intellectual conviction of his wisdom, which
made her support what he had done, and that feeling this he felt
dissatisfied, and snapped at her accordingly.

The dislike my dear mother took to the notion of our going to Crayshaw's
only set seals to our fate, and the manner of her protests was not more
fortunate than the matter. She was timid and vacillating from wifely
habit, whilst motherly anxiety goaded her to be persistent and almost
irritable on the subject. Habitually regarding her own wishes and views
as worthless, she quoted the Woods at every turn of her arguments, which
was a mistake, for my father was sufficiently like the rest of his
neighbours not to cotton very warmly to people whose tastes,
experiences, and lines of thought were so much out of the common as
those of the ex-convict and his wife. Moreover, he had made up his mind,
and when one has done that, he is proof against seventy men who can
render a reason.

To rumours which accused "Crayshaw's" of undue severity, of discomfort,
of bad teaching and worse manners, my father opposed arguments which he
allowed were "old-fashioned" and which were far-fetched from the days of
our great-grandfather.

A strict school-master was a good school-master, and if more parents
were as wise as Solomon on the subject of the rod, Old England would not
be discredited by such a namby-pamby race as young men of the present
day seemed by all accounts to be. It was high time the boys did rough it
a bit; would my mother have them always tied to her apron-strings? Great
Britain would soon be Little Britain if boys were to be brought up like
young ladies. As to teaching, it was the fashion to make a fuss about
it, and a pretty pass learning brought some folks to, to judge by the
papers and all one heard. His own grandfather lived to ninety-seven, and
died sitting in his chair, in a bottle-green coat and buff breeches. He
wore a pig-tail to the day of his death, and never would be contradicted
by anybody. He had often told my father that at the school _he_ went to,
the master signed the receipts for his money with a cross, but the usher
was a bit of a scholar, and the boys had cream to their porridge on
Sundays. And the old gentleman managed his own affairs to ninety-seven,
and threw the doctor's medicine-bottles out of the window then. He died
without a doubt on his mind or a debt on his books, and my father
(taking a pinch out of Great-Grandfather's snuff-box) hoped Jem and I
might do as well.

In short, we were sent to "Crayshaw's."

It was not a happy period of my life. It was not a good or wholesome
period; and I am not fond of recalling it. The time came when I shrank
from telling Charlie everything, almost as if he had been a girl. His
life was lived in such a different atmosphere, under such different
conditions. I could not trouble him, and I did not believe he could make
allowances for me. But on our first arrival I wrote him a long letter
(Jem never wrote letters), and the other day he showed it to me. It was
a first impression, but a sufficiently vivid and truthful one, so I give
it here.


"CRAYSHAW'S (for that's what they call it here, and a beastly hole it is).
                                                           "_Monday_.

"MY DEAR OLD CHARLIE,--We came earlier than was settled, for Father got
impatient and there was nothing to stop us, but I don't think old
Crayshaw liked our coming so soon. You never saw such a place, it's so
dreary. A boy showed us straight into the school-room. There are three
rows of double desks running down the room and disgustingly dirty, I
don't know what Mrs. Wood would say, and old Crayshaw's desk is in front
of the fire, so that he can see all the boys sideways, and it just stops
any heat coming to them. And there he was, and I don't think Father
liked the look of him particularly, you never saw an uglier. Such a
flaming face and red eyes like Bob Furniss's ferret and great big
whiskers; but I'll make you a picture of him, at least I'll make two
pictures, for Lewis Lorraine says he's got no beard on Sundays, and
rather a good one on Saturdays. Lorraine is a very rum fellow, but I
like him. It was he showed us in, and he did catch it afterwards, but he
only makes fun of it. Old Crayshaw's desk had got a lot of canes on one
side of it and a most beastly dirty snuffy red and green handkerchief on
the other, and an ink-pot in the middle. He made up to Father like
anything and told such thumpers. He said there were six boys in one
room, but really there's twelve. Jem and I sleep together. There's
nothing to wash in and no prayers. If you say them you get boots at your
head, and one hit Jem behind the ear, so I pulled his sleeve and said,
'Get up, you can say them in bed,' But you know Jem, and he said, 'Wait
till I've done, _God bless Father and Mother_,' and when he had, he went
in and fought, and I backed him up, and them old Crayshaw found us, and
oh, how he did beat us!

"----_Wednesday_. Old Snuffy is a regular brute, and I don't care if he
finds this and sees what I say. But he won't, for the milkman is taking
it. He always does if you can pay him. But I've put most of my money
into the bank. Three of the top boys have a bank, and we all have to
deposit, only I kept fourpence in one of my boots. They give us
bank-notes for a penny and a halfpenny; they make them themselves. The
sweet-shop takes them. They only give you eleven penny notes for a
shilling in the bank, or else it would burst. At dinner we have a lot of
pudding to begin with, and it's very heavy. You can hardly eat anything
afterwards. The first day Lorraine said quite out loud and very polite,
'Did you say _duff before meat_, young gentlemen?' and I couldn't help
laughing, and old Snuffy beat his head horridly with his dirty fists.
But Lorraine minds nothing; he says he knows old Snuffy will kill him
some day, but he says he doesn't want to live, for his father and mother
are dead; he only wants to catch old Snuffy in three more booby-traps
before he dies. He's caught him in four already. You see, when old
Snuffy is cat-walking he wears goloshes that he may sneak about better,
and the way Lorraine makes booby-traps is by balancing cans of water on
the door when it's ajar, so that he gets doused, and the can falls on
his head, and strings across the bottom of the door, not far from the
ground, so that he catches his goloshes and comes down. The other
fellows say that old Crayshaw had a lot of money given him in trust for
Lorraine, and he's spent it all, and Lorraine has no one to stick up for
him, and that's why Crayshaw hates him.

"----_Saturday_. I could not catch the milkman, and now I've got your
letter, though Snuffy read it first. Jem and I cry dreadful in bed.
That's the comfort of being together. I'll try and be as good as I can,
but you don't know what this place is. It's very different to the farm.
Do you remember the row about that book Horace Simpson got? I wish you
could see the books the boys have here. At least I don't wish it, for I
wish I didn't look at them, the milkman brings them; he always will if
you can pay him. When I saw old Snuffy find one in Smith's desk, I
expected he would half kill him, but he didn't do much to him, he only
took the book away; and Lorraine says he never does beat them much for
that, because he doesn't want them to leave off buying them, because he
wants them himself. Don't tell the Woods this. Don't tell Mother Jem and
I cry, or else she'll be miserable. I don't so much mind the beatings
(Lorraine says you get hard in time), nor the washing at the sink--nor
the duff puddings--but it is such a beastly hole, and he is such an old
brute, and I feel so dreadful I can't tell you. Give my love to Mrs.
Wood and to Mr. Wood, and to Carlo and to Mary Anne, and to your dear
dear self, and to Isaac when you see him.
                                      "And I am your affectionate friend,
                                                                 "JACK.

"P.S. Jem sends his best love, and he's got two black eyes.

"P.S. No. 2. You would be sorry for Lorraine if you knew him. Sometimes
I'm afraid he'll kill himself, for he says there's really nothing in the
Bible about suicide. So I said--killing yourself is as bad as killing
anybody else. So he said--is stealing from yourself as bad as stealing
from anybody else? And we had a regular _argue_. Some of the boys
argle-bargle on Sundays, he says, but most of them fight. When they
differ, they put tin-tacks with the heads downwards on each other's
places on the forms in school, and if they run into you and you scream,
old Snuffy beats you. The milkman brings them, by the half-ounce, with
very sharp points, if you can pay him. Most of the boys are a horrid
lot, and so dirty. Lorraine is as dirty as the rest, and I asked him
why, and he said it was because he'd thrown up the sponge; but he got
rather red, and he's washed himself cleaner this morning. He says he has
an uncle in India, and some time ago he wrote to him, and told him about
Crayshaw's, and gave the milkman a diamond pin, that had been his
father's, and Snuffy didn't know about, to post it with plenty of
stamps, but he thinks he can't have put plenty on, for no answer ever
came. I've told him I'll post another one for him in the holidays. Don't
say anything about this back in your letters. He reads 'em all.

"----_Monday_. I've caught the milkman at last, he'll take it this
evening. The lessons here are regular rubbish. I'm so glad I've a good
knife, for if you have you can dig holes in your desk to put collections
in. The boy next to me has earwigs, but you have to keep a look-out, or
he puts them in your ears. I turned up a stone near the sink this
morning, and got five wood-lice for mine. It's considered a very good
collection."



CHAPTER X.

     "But none inquired how Peter used the rope,
      Or what the bruise that made the stripling stoop;
      None could the ridges on his back behold,
      None sought him shiv'ring in the winter's cold.
      *       *       *       *       *
      The pitying women raised a clamour round."
                                  CRABBE, _The Borough_.


A great many people say that all suffering is good for one, and I am
sure pain does improve one very often, and in many ways. It teaches one
sympathy, it softens and it strengthens. But I cannot help thinking that
there are some evil experiences which only harden and stain. The best I
can say for what we endured at Crayshaw's is that it _was_ experience,
and so I suppose could not fail to teach one something, which, as Jem
says, was "more than Snuffy did."

The affection with which I have heard men speak of their school-days and
school-masters makes me know that Mr. Crayshaw was not a common type of
pedagogue. He was not a common type of man, happily; but I have met
other specimens in other parts of the world in which his leading quality
was as fully developed, though their lives had nothing in common with
his except the opportunities of irresponsible power.

The old wounds are scars now, it is long past and over, and I am grown
up, and have roughed it in the world; but I say quite deliberately that
I believe that Mr. Crayshaw was not merely a harsh man, uncultured and
inconsiderate, having need and greed of money, taking pupils cheap,
teaching them little or nothing, and keeping a kind of rough order with
too much flogging,--but that the mischief of him was that he was
possessed by a passion (not the less fierce because it was unnatural)
which grew with indulgence and opportunity, as other passions grow, and
that this was a passion for cruelty.

One does not rough it long in this wicked world without seeing more
cruelty both towards human beings and towards animals than one cares to
think about; but a large proportion of common cruelty comes of
ignorance, bad tradition and uncultured sympathies. Some painful
outbreaks of inhumanity, where one would least expect it, are no doubt
strictly to be accounted for by disease. But over and above these common
and these exceptional instances, one cannot escape the conviction that
irresponsible power is opportunity in all hands and a direct temptation
in some to cruelty, and that it affords horrible development to those
morbid cases in which cruelty becomes a passion.

That there should ever come a thirst for blood in men as well as tigers,
is bad enough but conceivable when linked with deadly struggle, or at
the wild dictates of revenge. But a lust for cruelty growing fiercer by
secret and unchecked indulgence, a hideous pleasure in seeing and
inflicting pain, seems so inhuman a passion that we shrink from
acknowledging that this is ever so.

And if it belonged to the past alone, to barbarous despotisms or to
savage life, one might wisely forget it; for the dark pages of human
history are unwholesome as well as unpleasant reading, unless the mind
be very sane in a body very sound. But those in whose hands lie the
destinies of the young and of the beasts who serve and love us, of the
weak, the friendless, the sick and the insane, have not, alas! this
excuse for ignoring the black records of man's abuse of power!

The records of its abuse in the savage who loads women's slender
shoulders with his burdens, leaves his sick to the wayside jackal, and
knocks his aged father on the head when he is past work; the brutality
of slave-drivers, the iniquities of vice-maddened Eastern
despots;--such things those who never have to deal with them may afford
to forget.

But men who act for those who have no natural protectors, or have lost
the power of protecting themselves, who legislate for those who have no
voice in the making of laws, and for the brute creation, which we win to
our love and domesticate for our convenience; who apprentice pauper boys
and girls, who meddle with the matters of weak women, sick persons, and
young children, are bound to face a far sadder issue. That even in these
days, when human love again and again proves itself not only stronger
than death, but stronger than all the selfish hopes of life; when the
everyday manners of everyday men are concessions of courtesy to those
who have not the strength to claim it; when children and pet animals are
spoiled to grotesqueness; when the good deeds of priest and physician,
nurse and teacher, surpass all earthly record of them--man, as man, is
no more to be trusted with unchecked power than hitherto.

The secret histories of households, where power should be safest in the
hands of love; of hospitals, of schools, of orphanages, of poorhouses,
of lunatic-asylums, of religious communities founded for GOD'S worship
and man's pity, of institutions which assume the sacred title as well as
the responsibilities of Home--from the single guardian of some rural
idiot to the great society which bears the blessed Name of Jesus--have
not each and all their dark stories, their hushed-up scandals, to prove
how dire is the need of public opinion without, and of righteous care
within, that what is well begun should be well continued?

If any one doubts this, let him pause on each instance, one by one, and
think of what he has seen, and heard, and read, and known of; and he
will surely come to the conviction that human nature cannot, even in the
very service of charity, be safely trusted with the secret exercise of
irresponsible power, and that no light can be too fierce to beat upon
and purify every spot where the weak are committed to the tender mercies
of the consciences of the strong.

Mr. Crayshaw's conscience was not a tender one, and very little light
came into his out-of-the-way establishment, and no check whatever upon
his cruelty. It had various effects on the different boys. It killed one
in my day, and the doctor (who had been "in a difficulty" some years
back, over a matter through which Mr. Crayshaw helped him with bail and
testimony) certified to heart disease, and we all had our
pocket-handkerchiefs washed, and went to the funeral. And Snuffy had
cards printed with a black edge, and several angels and a broken lily,
and the hymn--

     "Death has been here and borne away
        A brother from our side;
      Just in the morning of his day,
        As young as we he died."

--and sent them to all the parents. But the pupils had to pay for the
stamps. And my dear mother cried dreadfully, first because she was so
sorry for the boy, and secondly because she ever had felt uncharitably
towards Mr. Crayshaw.

Crayshaw's cruelty crushed others, it made liars and sneaks of boys
naturally honest, and it produced in Lorraine an unchildlike despair
that was almost grand, so far was the spirit above the flesh in him. But
I think its commonest and strangest result was to make the boys bully
each other.

One of the least cruel of the tyrannies the big boys put upon the little
ones, sometimes bore very hardly on those who were not strong. They used
to ride races on our backs and have desperate mounted battles and
tournaments. In many a playground and home since then I have seen boys
tilt and race, and steeplechase, with smaller boys upon their backs, and
plenty of wholesome rough-and-tumble in the game; and it has given me a
twinge of heartache to think how, even when we were at play, Crayshaw's
baneful spirit cursed us with its example, so that the big and strong
could not be happy except at the expense of the little and weak.

For it was the big ones who rode the little ones, with neatly-cut
ash-sticks and clumsy spurs. I can see them now, with the thin legs of
the small boys tottering under them, like a young donkey overridden by a
coal-heaver.

I was a favourite horse, for I was active and nimble, and (which was
more to the point) well made. It was the shambling, ill-proportioned
lads who suffered most. The biggest boy in school rode me, as a rule,
but he was not at all a bad bully, so I was lucky. He never spurred me,
and he boasted of my willingness and good paces. I am sure he did not
know, I don't suppose he ever stopped to think, how bad it was for me,
or what an aching lump of prostration I felt when it was over. The day I
fainted after winning a steeplechase, he turned a bucket of cold water
over me, and as this roused me into a tingling vitality of pain, he was
quite proud of his treatment, and told me nothing brought a really good
horse round after a hard day like a bucket of clean water. And (so much
are we the creatures of our conditions!) I remember feeling something
approaching to satisfaction at the reflection that I had "gone till I
dropped," and had been brought round after the manner of the
best-conducted stables.

It was not that that made Jem and me run away. (For we did run away.)
Overstrain and collapse, ill-usage short of torture, hard living and
short commons, one got a certain accustomedness to, according to the
merciful law which within certain limits makes a second nature for us
out of use and wont. The one pain that knew no pause, and allowed of no
revival, the evil that overbore us, mind and body, was the evil of
constant dread. Upon us little boys fear lay always, and the terror of
it was that it was uncertain. What would come next, and from whom, we
never knew.

It was I who settled we should run away. I did it the night that Jem
gave in, and would do nothing but cry noiselessly into his sleeve and
wish he was dead. So I settled it and told Lorraine. I wanted him to
come too, but he would not. He pretended that he did not care, and he
said he had nowhere to go to. But he got into Snuffy's very own room at
daybreak whilst we stood outside and heard him snoring; and very loud he
must have snored too, for I could hear my heart thumping so I should not
have thought I could have heard anything else. And Lorraine took the
back-door key off the drawers, and let us out, and took it back again.
He feared nothing. There was a walnut-tree by the gate, and Jem said,
"Suppose we do our faces like gipsies, so that nobody may know us." (For
Jem was terribly frightened of being taken back.) So we found some old
bits of peel and rubbed our cheeks, but we dared not linger long over
it, and I said, "We'd better get further on, and we can hide if we hear
steps or wheels." So we took each other's hands, and for nearly a mile
we ran as hard as we could go, looking back now and then over our
shoulders, like the picture of Christian and Hopeful running away from
the Castle of Giant Despair.

We were particularly afraid of the milkman, for milkmen drive about
early, and he had taken a runaway boy back to Crayshaw's years before,
and Snuffy gave him five shillings. They said he once helped another boy
to get away, but it was a big one, who gave him his gold watch. He would
do anything if you paid him. Jem and I had each a little bundle in a
handkerchief, but nothing in them that the milkman would have cared for.
We managed very well, for we got behind a wall when he went by, and I
felt so much cheered up I thought we should get home that day, far as it
was. But when we got back into the road, I found that Jem was limping,
for Snuffy had stamped on his foot when Jem had had it stuck out beyond
the desk, when he was writing; and the running had made it worse, and at
last he sat down by the roadside, and said I was to go on home and send
back for him. It was not very likely I would leave him to the chance of
being pursued by Mr. Crayshaw; but there he sat, and I thought I never
should have persuaded him to get on my back, for good-natured as he is,
Jem is as obstinate as a pig. But I said, "What's the use of my having
been first horse with the heaviest weight in school, if I can't carry
you?" So he got up and I carried him a long way, and then a cart
overtook us, and we got a lift home. And they knew us quite well, which
shows how little use walnut-juice is, and it is disgusting to get off.

I think, as it happened, it was very unfortunate that we had discoloured
our faces; for though my mother was horrified at our being so thin and
pinched-looking, my father said that of course we looked frights with
brown daubs all over our cheeks and necks. But then he never did notice
people looking ill. He was very angry indeed, at first, about our
running away, and would not listen to what we said. He was angry too
with my dear mother, because she believed us, and called Snuffy a bad
man and a brute. And he ordered the dog-cart to be brought round, and
said that Martha was to give us some breakfast, and that we might be
thankful to get that instead of a flogging, for that when _he_ ran away
from school to escape a thrashing, his father gave him one thrashing
while the dog-cart was being brought round, and drove him straight back
to school, where the school-master gave him another.

"And a very good thing for me," said my father, buttoning his coat,
whilst my mother and Martha went about crying, and Jem and I stood
silent. If we were to go back, the more we told, the worse would be
Snuffy's revenge. An unpleasant hardness was beginning to creep over me.
"The next time I run away," was my thought, "I shall not run home." But
with this came a rush of regret for Jem's sake. I knew that Crayshaw's,
did more harm to him than to me, and almost involuntarily I put my arms
round him, thinking that if they would only let him stay, I could go
back and bear anything, like Lewis Lorraine. Jem had been crying, and
when he hid his face on my shoulder, and leaned against me, I thought it
was for comfort, but he got heavier and heavier, till I called out, and
he rolled from my arms and was caught in my father's. He had been
standing about on the bad foot, and pain and weariness and hunger and
fright overpowered him, and he had fainted.

The dog-cart was counter-ordered, and Jem was put to bed, and Martha
served me a breakfast that would have served six full-grown men. I ate
far more than satisfied me, but far less than satisfied Martha, who
seemed to hope that cold fowl and boiled eggs, fried bacon and pickled
beef, plain cakes and currant cakes, jam and marmalade, buttered toast,
strong tea and unlimited sugar and yellow cream, would atone for the
past in proportion to the amount I ate, if it did not fatten me under
her eyes. I really think I spent the rest of the day in stupor. I am
sure it was not till the following morning that I learned the decision
to which my father had come about us.

Jem was too obviously ill to be anywhere at present but at home; and my
father decided that he would not send him back to Crayshaw's at all, but
to a much more expensive school in the south of England, to which the
parson of our parish was sending one of his sons. I was to return to
Crayshaw's at once; he could not afford the expensive school for us
both, and Jem was the eldest. Besides which, he was not going to
countenance rebellion in any school to which he sent his sons, or to
insult a man so highly recommended to him as Mr. Crayshaw had been.
There certainly seemed to have been some severity, and the boys seemed
to be a very rough lot; but Jem would fight, and if he gave he must
take. His great-grandfather was just the same, and _he_ fought the
Putney Pet when he was five-and-twenty, and his parents thought he was
sitting quietly at his desk in Fetter Lane.

I loved Jem too well to be jealous of him, but I was not the less
conscious of the tender tone in which my father always spoke even of
his faults, and of the way it stiffened and cooled when he added that I
was not so ready with my fists, but that I was as fond of my own way as
Jem was of a fight; but that setting up for being unlike other people
didn't do for school life, and that the Woods had done me no kindness by
making a fool of me. He added, however, that he should request Mr.
Crayshaw, as a personal favour, that I should receive no punishment for
running away, as I had suffered sufficiently already.

We had told very little of the true history of Crayshaw's before Jem
fainted, and I felt no disposition to further confidences. I took as
cheerful a farewell of my mother as I could, for her sake; and put on a
good deal of swagger and "don't care" to console Jem. He said, "You're
as plucky as Lorraine," and then his eyes shut again. He was too ill to
think much, and I kissed his head and left him. After which I got
stoutly into the dog-cart, and we drove back up the dreary hills down
which Jem and I had run away.

That Snuffy was bland to cringing before my father did not give me hope
that I should escape his direst revenge; and the expression of
Lorraine's face showed me, by its sympathy, what _he_ expected. But we
were both wrong, and for reasons which we then knew nothing about.

Cruelty was, as I have said, Mr. Crayshaw's ruling passion, but it was
not his only vice. There was a whispered tradition that he had once been
in jail for a misuse of his acquirements in the art of penmanship; and
if you heard his name cropping up in the confidential conversation of
such neighbours as small farmers, the postman, the parish overseer, and
the like, it was sure to be linked with unpleasingly suggestive
expressions, such as--"a dirty bit of business," "a nasty job that," "an
awkward affair," "very near got into trouble," "a bit of bother about
it, but Driver and Quills pulled him through; theirs isn't a nice
business, and they're men of t' same feather as Crayshaw, so I reckon
they're friends." Many such hints have I heard, for the 'White Lion' was
next door to the sweet-shop, and in summer, refreshment of a sober kind,
with conversation to match, was apt to be enjoyed on the benches
outside. The good wives of the neighbourhood used no such euphuisms as
their more prudent husbands, when they spoke of Crayshaw's. Indeed one
of the whispered anecdotes of Snuffy's past was of a hushed-up story
that was just saved from becoming a scandal, but in reference to which
Mr. Crayshaw was even more narrowly saved from a crowd of women who had
taken the too-tardy law into their own hands. I remember myself the
retreat of an unpaid washer-woman from the back premises of Crayshaw's
on one occasion, and the unmistakable terms in which she expressed her
opinions.

"Don't tell me! I know Crayshaw's well enough; such folks is a curse to
a country-side, but judgment overtakes 'em at last."

"Judgment," as the good woman worded it, kept threatening Mr. Crayshaw
long before it overtook him, as it is apt to disturb scoundrels who keep
a hypocritical good name above their hidden misdeeds. As it happened, at
the very time Jem and I ran away from him, Mr. Crayshaw himself was
living in terror of one or two revelations, and to be deserted by two of
his most respectably connected boys was an ill-timed misfortune. The
countenance my father had been so mistaken as to afford to his
establishment was very important to him, for we were the only pupils
from within fifty miles, and our parents' good word constituted an
"unexceptionable reference."

Thus it was that Snuffy pleaded humbly (but in vain) for the return of
Jem, and that he not only promised that I should not suffer, but to my
amazement kept his word.

Judgment lingered over the head of Crayshaw's for two years longer, and
I really think my being there had something to do with maintaining its
tottering reputation. I was almost the only lad in the school whose
parents were alive and at hand and in a good position, and my father's
name stifled scandal. Most of the others were orphans, being cheaply
educated by distant relatives or guardians, or else the sons of poor
widows who were easily bamboozled by Snuffy's fluent letters, and the
religious leaflets which it was his custom to enclose. (In several of
these cases, he was "managing" the poor women's "affairs" for them.) One
or two boys belonged to people living abroad. Indeed, the worst bully in
the school was a half-caste, whose smile, when he showed his gleaming
teeth, boded worse than any other boy's frown. He was a wonderful
acrobat, and could do extraordinary tricks of all sorts. My being nimble
and ready made me very useful to him as a confederate in the exhibitions
which his intense vanity delighted to give on half-holidays, and kept me
in his good graces till I was old enough to take care of myself. Oh, how
every boy who dreaded him applauded at these entertainments! And what
dangerous feats I performed, every other fear being lost in the fear of
him! I owe him no grudge for what he forced me to do (though I have had
to bear real fire without flinching when he failed in a conjuring trick,
which should only have simulated the real thing); what I learned from
him has come in so useful since, that I forgive him all.

I was there for two years longer. Snuffy bullied me less, and hated me
the more. I knew it, and he knew that I knew it. It was a hateful life,
but I am sure the influence of a good home holds one up in very evil
paths. Every time we went back to our respective schools my father gave
us ten shillings, and told us to mind our books, and my mother kissed us
and made us promise we would say our prayers every day. I could not bear
to break my promise, though I used to say them in bed (the old form we
learnt from her), and often in such a very unfit frame of mind, that
they were what it is very easy to call "a mockery."

GOD knows (Who alone knows the conditions under which each soul blunders
and spells on through life's hard lessons) if they were a mockery. _I_
know they were unworthy to be offered to Him, but that the habit helped
to keep me straight I am equally sure. Then I had a good home to go to
during the holidays. That was everything, and it is in all humbleness
that I say that I do not think the ill experiences of those years
degraded me much. I managed to keep some truth and tenderness about me;
and I am thankful to remember that I no more cringed to Crayshaw than
Lorraine did, and that though I stayed there till I was a big boy, I
never maltreated a little one.



CHAPTER XI.

     "Whose powers shed round him in the common strife
      Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
      A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
      *       *       *       *       *       *
      Or if an unexpected call succeed,
      Come when it will, is equal to the need."
                            WORDSWORTH'S _Happy Warrior._


Judgement came at last. During my first holidays I had posted a letter
from Lewis Lorraine to the uncle in India to whom he had before
endeavoured to appeal. The envelope did not lack stamps, but the address
was very imperfect, and it was many months in reaching him. He wrote a
letter, which Lewis never received, Mr. Crayshaw probably knew why. But
twelve months after that Colonel Jervois came to England, and he lost no
time in betaking himself to Crayshaw's. From Crayshaw's he came to my
father, the only "unexceptionable reference" left to Snuffy to put
forward.

The Colonel came with a soldier's promptness, and, with the utmost
courtesy of manner, went straight to the point. His life had not
accustomed him to our neighbourly unwillingness to interfere with
anything that did not personally concern us, nor to the prudent patience
with which country folk will wink long at local evils. In the upshot
what he asked was what my mother had asked three years before. Had my
father personal knowledge or good authority for believing the school to
be a well-conducted one, and Mr. Crayshaw a fit man for his responsible
post? Had he ever heard rumours to the man's discredit?

Replies that must do for a wife will not always answer a man who puts
the same questions. My great-grandfather's memory was not evoked on this
occasion, and my father frankly confessed that his personal knowledge of
Crayshaw's was very small, and that the man on whose recommendation he
had sent us to school there had just proved to be a rascal and a
swindler. Our mother had certainly heard rumours of severity, but he had
regarded her maternal anxiety as excessive, etc., etc. In short, my dear
father saw that he had been wrong, and confessed it, and was now as
ready as the Colonel to expose Snuffy's misdeeds.

No elaborate investigation was needed. An attack once made on Mr.
Crayshaw's hollow reputation, it cracked on every side; first hints
crept out, then scandals flew. The Colonel gave no quarter, and he did
not limit his interest to his own nephew.

"A widow's son, ma'am," so he said to my mother, bowing over her hand as
he led her in to dinner, in a style to which we were quite unaccustomed;
"a widow's son, ma'am, should find a father in every honest man who can
assist him."

The tide having turned against Snuffy, his friends (of the Driver and
Quills type) turned with it. But they gained nothing, for one morning he
got up as early as we had done, and ran away, and I never heard of him
again. And before nightfall the neighbours, who had so long tolerated
his wickedness, broke every pane of glass in his windows.

During all this, Lewis Lorraine and his uncle stayed at our house. The
Colonel spent his time between holding indignant investigations, writing
indignant letters (which he allowed us to seal with his huge signet),
and walking backwards and forwards to the town to buy presents for the
little boys.

When Snuffy ran away, and the school was left to itself, Colonel Jervois
strode off to the nearest farm, requisitioned a waggon, and having
packed the boys into it, bought loaves and milk enough to breakfast
them all, and transported the whole twenty-eight to our door. He left
four with my mother, and marched off with the rest. The Woods took in a
large batch, and in the course of the afternoon he had for love or money
quartered them all. He betrayed no nervousness in dealing with numbers,
in foraging for supplies, or in asking for what he wanted. Whilst other
people had been doubting whether it might not "create unpleasantness" to
interfere in this case and that, the Colonel had fought each boy's
battle, and seen most of them off on their homeward journeys. He was
used to dealing with men, and with emergencies, and it puzzled him when
my Uncle Henry consulted his law-books and advised caution, and my
father saw his agent on farm business, whilst the fate of one of
Crayshaw's victims yet hung in the balance.

When all was over the Colonel left us, and took Lewis with him, and his
departure raised curiously mixed feelings of regret and relief.

He had quite won my mother's heart, chiefly by his energy and tenderness
for the poor boys, and partly by his kindly courtesy and deference
towards her. Indeed all ladies liked him--all, that is, who knew him.
Before they came under the influence of his pleasantness and politeness,
he shared the half-hostile reception to which any person or anything
that was foreign to our daily experience was subjected in our
neighbourhood. So that the first time Colonel Jervois appeared in our
pew, Mrs. Simpson (the wife of a well-to-do man of business who lived
near us) said to my mother after church, "I see you've got one of the
military with you," and her tone was more critical than congratulatory.
But when my mother, with unconscious diplomacy, had kept her to
luncheon, and the Colonel had handed her to her seat, and had stroked
his moustache, and asked in his best manner if she meant to devote her
son to the service of his country, Mrs. Simpson undid her
bonnet-strings, fairly turned her back on my father, and was quite
unconscious when Martha handed the potatoes; and she left us wreathed in
smiles, and resolved that Mr. Simpson should buy their son Horace a
commission instead of taking him into the business. Mr. Simpson did not
share her views, and I believe he said some rather nasty things about
swaggering, and not having one sixpence to rub against another. And Mrs.
Simpson (who was really devoted to Horace and could hardly bear him out
of her sight) reflected that it was possible to get shot as well as to
grow a moustache if you went into the army; but she still maintained
that she should always remember the Colonel as a thorough gentleman, and
a wonderful judge of the character of boys.

The Colonel made great friends with the Woods, and he was deeply
admired by our rector, who, like many parsons, had a very military
heart, and delighted in exciting tales of the wide world which he could
never explore. It was perhaps natural that my father should hardly be
devoted to a stranger who had practically reproached his negligence, but
the one thing that did draw him towards the old Indian officer was his
habit of early rising. My father was always up before any of us, but he
generally found the Colonel out before him, enjoying the early hours of
the day as men who have lived in hot climates are accustomed to do. They
used to come in together in very pleasant moods to breakfast; but with
the post-bag Lorraine's uncle was sure to be moved to voluble
indignation, or pity, or to Utopian plans to which my father listened
with puzzled impatience. He did not understand the Colonel, which was
perhaps not to be wondered at.

His moral courage had taken away our breath, and physical courage was
stamped upon his outward man. If he was anything he was manly. It was
because he was in some respects very womanly too, that he puzzled my
father's purely masculine brain. The mixture, and the vehemence of the
mixture, were not in his line. He would have turned "Crayshaw's"
matters over in his own mind as often as hay in a wet season before
grappling with the whole bad business as the Colonel had done. And on
the other hand, it made him feel uncomfortable and almost ashamed to see
tears standing in the old soldier's eyes as he passionately blamed
himself for what had been suffered by "my sister's son."

The servants one and all adored Colonel Jervois. They are rather acute
judges of good breeding, and men and maids were at one on the fact that
he was a visitor who conferred social distinction on the establishment.
They had decided that we should "dine late so long as The Gentleman" was
with us, whilst my mother was thinking how to break so weighty an
innovation to such valuable servants. They served him with alacrity, and
approved of his brief orders and gracious thanks. The Colonel did
unheard-of things with impunity--threw open his bedroom shutters at
night, and more than once unbarred and unbolted the front door to go
outside for a late cigar. Nothing puzzled Martha more than the nattiness
with which he put all the bolts and bars back into their places, as if
he had been used to the door as long as she had.

Indeed he had all that power of making himself at home, which is most
fully acquired by having had to provide for yourself in strange places,
but he carried it too far.

One day he penetrated into the kitchen (having previously been rummaging
the kitchen-garden) and insisted upon teaching our cook how to make
curry. The lesson was much needed, and it was equally well intended, but
it was a mistake. Everything cannot be carried by storm, whatever the
military may think. Jane said, "Yes, sir," at every point that
approached to a pause in the Colonel's ample instructions, but she never
moved her eyes from the magnificent moustache which drooped above the
stew-pan, nor her thoughts from the one idea produced by the
occasion--that The Gentleman had caught her without her cap. In short
our curries were no worse, and no better, in consequence of the shock to
kitchen etiquette (for that was all) which she received.

And yet we modified our household ways for him, as they were never
modified for any one else. On Martha's weekly festival for cleaning the
bedrooms (and if a room was occupied for a night, she scrubbed after the
intruder as if he had brought the plague in his portmanteau) the
smartest visitor we ever entertained had to pick his or her way through
the upper regions of the house, where soap and soda were wafted on high
and unexpected breezes along passages filled with washstands and
clothes-baskets, cane-seated chairs and baths, mops, pails and brooms.
But the Colonel had "given such a jump" on meeting a towel-horse at
large round a sharp corner, and had seemed so uncomfortable on finding
everything that he thought was inside his room turned outside, that for
that week Martha left the lower part of the house uncleaned, and did not
turn either the dining or drawing rooms into the hall on their appointed
days. She had her revenge when he was gone.

On the day of his departure, my lamentations had met with the warmest
sympathy as I stirred toffy over Jane's kitchen fire, whilst Martha
lingered with the breakfast things, after a fashion very unusual with
her, and gazed at the toast-rack and said, "the Colonel had eaten
nothing of a breakfast to travel on." But next morning, I met her in
another mood. It was a mood to which we were not strangers, though it
did not often occur. In brief, Martha (like many another invaluable
domestic) "had a temper of her own"; but to do her justice her ill
feelings generally expended themselves in a rage for work, and in taking
as little ease herself as she allowed to other people. I knew what it
meant when I found her cleaning the best silver when she ought to have
been eating her breakfast; but my head was so full of the Colonel, that
I could not help talking about him, even if the temptation to tease
Martha had not been overwhelming. No reply could I extract; only once,
as she passed swiftly to the china cupboard, with the whole Crown Derby
tea and coffee service on one big tray (the Colonel had praised her
coffee), I heard her mutter--"Soldiers is very upsetting." Certainly,
considering what she did in the way of scolding, scouring, blackleading,
polishing and sand-papering that week, it was not Martha's fault if we
did not "get straight again," furniture and feelings. I've heard her say
that Calais sand would "fetch anything off," and I think it had fetched
the Colonel off her heart by the time that the cleaning was done.

It had no such effect on mine. Lewis Lorraine himself did not worship
his uncle more devoutly than I. Colonel Jervois had given me a new
ideal. It was possible, then, to be enthusiastic without being unmanly;
to live years out of England, and come back more patriotic than many
people who stayed comfortably at home; to go forth into the world and be
the simpler as well as the wiser, the softer as well as the stronger for
the experience? So it seemed. And yet Lewis had told me, with such tears
as Snuffy never made him shed, how tender his uncle was to his
unworthiness, what allowances he made for the worst that Lewis could say
of himself, and what hope he gave him of a good and happy future.

"He cried as bad as I did," Lewis said, "and begged me to forgive him
for having trusted so much to my other guardian. Do you know, Jack,
Snuffy regularly forged a letter like my handwriting, to answer that one
Uncle Eustace wrote, which he kept back? He might well do such good
copies, and write the year of Our Lord with a swan at the end of the
last flourish! And you remember what we heard about his having been in
prison--but, oh, dear! I don't want to remember. He says I am to forget,
and he forbade me to talk about Crayshaw's, and said I was not to
trouble my head about anything that had happened there. He kept saying,
'Forget, my boy, forget! Say GOD help me, and look forward. While
there's life there's always the chance of a better life for every one.
Forget! forget!'"

Lewis departed with his uncle. Charlie went for two nights to the moors.
Jem's holidays had not begun, and in our house we were "cleaning down"
after the Colonel as if he had been the sweeps.

I went to old Isaac for sympathy. He had become very rheumatic the last
two years, but he was as intelligent as ever, and into his willing ear I
poured all that I could tell of my hero, and much that I only imagined.

His sympathy met me more than half-way. The villagers as a body were
unbounded in their approval of the Colonel, and Mrs. Irvine was even
greedier than old Isaac for every particular I could impart respecting
him.

"He's a _handsome_ gentleman," said the bee-master's wife, "and he
passed us (my neighbour, Mrs. Mettam, and me) as near, sir, as I am to
you, with a gold-headed stick in his hand, and them lads following after
him, for all the world like the Good Shepherd and his flock."

I managed not to laugh, and old Isaac added, "There's a many in this
village, sir, would have been glad to have taken the liberty of
expressing themselves to the Colonel, and a _depitation_ did get as far
as your father's gates one night, but they turned bashful and come home
again. And I know, for one, Master Jack, that if me and my missus had
had a room fit to offer one of them poor young gentlemen, I'd have given
a week's wage to do it, and the old woman would have been happy to her
dying day."



CHAPTER XII.

     "GOD help me! save I take my part
        Of danger on the roaring sea,
      A devil rises in my heart,
        Far worse than any death to me."
                            TENNYSON'S _Sailor-boy_.


The fact that my father had sent me back against my will to a school
where I had suffered so much and learnt so little, ought perhaps to have
drawn us together when he discovered his mistake. Unfortunately it did
not. He was deeply annoyed with himself for having been taken in by
Snuffy, but he transferred some of this annoyance to me, on grounds
which cut me to the soul, and which I fear I resented so much that I was
not in a mood that was favourable to producing a better understanding
between us. The injustice which I felt so keenly was, that my father
reproached me with having what he called "kept him in the dark" about
the life at Crayshaw's. At my age I must have seen how wicked the man
and his system were.

I reminded him that I had run away from them once, and had told all
that I dared, but that he would not hear me then. He would not hear me
now.

"I don't wish to discuss the subject. It is a very painful one," he said
(and I believe it was as physically distressing to him as the thought of
Cripple Charlie's malformation). "I have no wish to force your
confidence when it is too late," he added (and it was this which I felt
to be so hard). "I don't blame you; you have other friends who suit you
better, but you have never been fully open with me. All I can say is, if
Mr. Wood was better informed than I have been, and did not acquaint me,
he has behaved in a manner which---- There--don't speak! we'll dismiss the
subject. You have suffered enough, if you have not acted as I should
have expected you to act. I blame myself unutterably, and I hope I see
my way to such a comfortable and respectable start in life for you that
these three years in that vile place may not be to your permanent
disadvantage."

I was just opening my lips to thank him, when he got up and went to his
tall desk, where he took a pinch of snuff, and then added as he turned
away, "Thank GOD I have _one_ son who is frank with his father!"

My lips were sealed in an instant. This, then, was my reward for that
hard journey of escape, with Jem on my back, which had only saved him;
for having stifled envy in gladness for his sake, when (in those bits
of our different holidays which overlapped each other) I saw and felt
the contrast between our opportunities; for having suffered my harder
lot in silence that my mother might not fret, when I felt certain that
my father would not interfere! My heart beat as if it would have pumped
the tears into my eyes by main force, but I kept them back, and said
steadily enough, "Is that all, sir?"

My father did not look up, but he nodded his head and said, "Yes; you
may go."

As I went he called me back.

"Are you going to the farm this afternoon?"

To my own infinite annoyance I blushed as I answered, "I was going to
sit with Charlie a bit, unless you have any objection."

"Not at all. I only asked for information. I have no wish to interfere
with any respectable friends you may be disposed to give your confidence
to. But I should like it to be understood that either your mother or I
must have some knowledge of your movements."

"Mother knew quite well I was going!" I exclaimed "Why, I've got a
parcel to take to Mrs. Wood from her."

"Very good. There's no occasion to display temper. Shut the door after
you."

I shut it very gently. (If three years at Crayshaw's had taught me
nothing else, it had taught me much self-control.) Then I got away to
the first hiding-place I could find, and buried my head upon my arms.
Would not a beating from Snuffy have been less hard to bear? Surely sore
bones from those one despises are not so painful as a sore heart from
those one loves.

Our household affections were too sound at the core for the mere fact of
displeasing my father not to weigh heavily on my soul. But I could not
help defending myself in my own mind against what I knew to be
injustice.

Jem "frank with his father"? Well he might be, when our father's
partiality met him half-way at every turn. _That_ was no fancy of mine.
I had the clearest of childish remembrances of an occasion when I wanted
to do something which our farming-man thought my father would not
approve, and how when I urged the fact that Jem had already done it with
impunity, he shook his head wiseacrely, and said, "Aye, aye, Master
Jack. But ye know they say some folks may steal a horse, when other
folks mayn't look over the hedge."

The vagueness of "some folks" and "other folks" had left the proverb
dark to my understanding when I heard it, but I remembered it till I
understood it.

I never was really jealous of Jem. He was far too good-natured and
unspoilt, and I was too fond of him. Besides which, if the mental tone
of our country lives was at rather a dull level, it was also wholesomely
unfavourable to the cultivation of morbid grievances, or the dissection
of one's own hurt feelings. If I had told anybody about me, from my dear
mother down to our farming-man, that I was misunderstood and wanted
sympathy, I should probably have been answered that many a lad of my age
was homeless and wanted boots. As a matter of reasoning the reply would
have been defective, but for practical purposes it would have been much
to the point. And it is fair to this rough-and-ready sort of philosophy
to defend it from a common charge of selfishness. It was not that I
should have been the happier because another lad was miserable, but that
an awakened sympathy with his harder fate would tend to dwarf egotistic
absorption in my own. Such considerations, in short, are no
justification of those who are responsible for needless evil or
neglected good, but they are handy helps to those who suffer from them,
and who feel sadly sorry for themselves.

I am sure the early-begun and oft-reiterated teaching of daily
thankfulness for daily blessing was very useful to me at Crayshaw's and
has been useful to me ever since. With my dear mother herself it was
merely part of that pure and constant piety which ran through her daily
life, like a stream that is never frozen and never runs dry. In me it
had no such grace, but it was an early-taught good habit (as instinctive
as any bodily habit) to feel--"Well, I'm thankful things are not so with
me;" as quickly as "Ah, it might have been thus!" Looking at the fates
and fortunes and dispositions of other boys, I had, even at Snuffy's
"much to be thankful for" as well as much to endure, and it was a good
thing for me that I could balance the two. For if the grace of
thankfulness does not solve the riddles of life, it lends a willing
shoulder to its common burdens.

I certainly had needed all my philosophy at home as well as at school.
It was hard to come back, one holiday-time after another, ignorant
except for books that I devoured in the holidays, and for my own
independent studies of maps, and an old geography book at Snuffy's from
which I was allowed to give lessons to the lowest form; rough in looks,
and dress, and manners (I knew it, but it requires some self-respect
even to use a nail-brush, and self-respect was next door to impossible
at Crayshaw's); and with my north-country accent deepened, and my
conversation disfigured by slang which, not being fashionable slang, was
as inadmissible as thieves' lingo; it was hard, I say, to come back
thus, and meet dear old Jem, and generally one at least of his
school-fellows whom he had asked to be allowed to invite--both of them
well dressed, well cared for, and well mannered, full of games that were
not in fashion at Crayshaw's, and slang as "correct" as it was
unintelligible.

Jem's heart was as true to me as ever, but he was not so thin-skinned as
I am. He was never a fellow who worried himself much about anything, and
I don't think it struck him I could feel hurt or lonely. He would say,
"I say, Jack, what a beastly way your hair is cut. I wish Father would
let you come to our school:" or, "Don't say it was a dirty trick--say it
was a beastly chouse, or something of that sort. We're awfully
particular about talking at ----'s, and I don't want Cholmondley to hear
you."

Jem was wonderfully polished-up himself, and as pugnacious on behalf of
all the institutions of his school as he had once been about our pond. I
got my hair as near right as one cutting and the town hair-cutter could
bring it, and mended my manners and held my own with good temper. When
it came to feats of skill or endurance, I more than held my own. Indeed,
I so amazed one very "swell" little friend of Jem's whose mother (a
titled lady) had allowed him to spend part of the summer holidays with
Jem for change of air, that he vowed I must go and stay with him in the
winter, and do juggler and acrobat at their Christmas theatricals. But
he may have reported me as being rough as well as ready, for her
ladyship never ratified the invitation. Not that I would have left home
at Christmas, and not that I lacked pleasure in the holidays. But other
fashions of games and speech and boyish etiquette lay between me and
Jem; hospitality, if not choice, kept him closely with his
school-fellows, and neither they nor he had part in the day-dreams of my
soul.

For the spell of the Penny Numbers had not grown weaker as I grew older.
In the holidays I came back to them as to friends. At school they made
the faded maps on Snuffy's dirty walls alive with visions, and many a
night as I lay awake with pain and over-weariness in the stifling
dormitory, my thoughts took refuge not in dreams of home nor in castles
of the air, but in phantom ships that sailed for ever round the world.

The day of the interview with my father I roused myself from my
grievances to consider a more practical question. Why should I not go to
sea? No matter whose fault it was, there was no doubt that I was
ill-educated, and that I did not please my father as Jem did. On the
other hand I was strong and hardy, nimble and willing to obey; and I had
roughed it enough, in all conscience. I must have ill luck indeed, if I
lit upon a captain more cruel than Mr. Crayshaw. I did not know exactly
how it was to be accomplished, but I knew enough to know that I could
not aim at the Royal Navy. Of course I should have preferred it. I had
never seen naval officers, but if they were like officers in the army,
like Colonel Jervois, for instance, it was with such a port and bearing
that I would fain have carried myself when I grew up to be a man. I
guessed, however, that money and many other considerations might make it
impossible for me to be a midshipman; but I had heard of boys being
apprenticed to merchant-vessels, and I resolved to ask my father if he
would so apprentice me.

He refused, and he accompanied his refusal with an unfavourable
commentary on my character and conduct, which was not the less bitter
because the accusations were chiefly general.

This sudden fancy for the sea--well, if it were not a sudden fancy, but
a dream of my life, what a painful instance it afforded of my habitual
want of frankness!--This long-concealed project which I had suddenly
brought to the surface--I had talked about it to my mother years ago,
had I, but it had distressed her, and even to my father, but he had
snubbed me?--then I had been deliberately fostering aims and plans to
which I had always known that my parents would be opposed. My father
didn't believe a word of it. It was the old story. I must be peculiar
at any price. I must have something new to amuse me, and be unlike the
rest of the family. It was always the same. For years I had found more
satisfaction from the conversation of a man who had spent ten years of
his life in the hulks than from that of my own father. Then this Indian
Colonel had taken my fancy, and it had made him sick to see the
womanish--he could call it no better, the _weak-womanish_--way in which
I worshipped him. If I were a daughter instead of a son, my caprices
would distress and astonish him less. He could have sent me to my
mother, and my mother might have sent me to my needle. In a son, from
whom he looked for manly feeling and good English common-sense, it was
painful in the extreme. Vanity, the love of my own way, and want of
candour--(my father took a pinch of snuff between each count of the
indictment)--these were my besetting sins, and would lead me into
serious trouble. This new fad, just, too, when he had made most
favourable arrangements for my admission into my Uncle Henry's office as
the first step in a prosperous career. I didn't know; didn't I? Perhaps
not. Perhaps I had been at the Woods' when he and my mother were
speaking of it. But now I did know. The matter was decided, and he hoped
I should profit by my opportunities. I might go, and I was to shut the
door after me.

I omit what my father said of the matter from a religious point of
view, though he accused me of flying in the face of Providence as well
as the Fifth Commandment. The piety which kept a pure and GOD-fearing
atmosphere about my home, and to which I owe all the strength I have
found against evil since I left it, was far too sincere in both my
parents for me to speak of any phase of it with disrespect. Though I may
say here that I think it is to be wished that more good people exercised
judgment as well as faith in tracing the will of Heaven in their own.
Practically I did not even then believe that I was more "called" to that
station of life which was to be found in Uncle Henry's office, than to
that station of life which I should find on board a vessel in the
Merchant Service, and it only discredited truth in my inmost soul when
my father put his plans for my career in that light. Just as I could not
help feeling it unfair that a commandment which might have been fairly
appealed to if I had disobeyed him, should be used against me in
argument because I disagreed with him.

I did disagree with him utterly. Uncle Henry's office was a gloomy
place, where I had had to endure long periods of waiting as a child when
my mother took us in to the dentist, and had shopping and visiting of
uncertain length to do. Uncle Henry himself was no favourite with me. He
was harder than my father if you vexed him, and less genial when you
didn't. And I wanted to go to sea. But it did not seem a light matter to
me to oppose my parents, and they were both against me. My dear mother
was thrown into the profoundest distress by the bare notion. In her view
to be at sea was merely to run an imminent and ceaseless risk of
shipwreck; and even this jeopardy of life and limb was secondary to the
dangers that going ashore in foreign places would bring upon my mind and
morals.

So when my father spoke kindly to me at supper, and said that he had
arranged with Mr. Wood that I should read with him for two hours every
evening, in preparation for my future life as an articled clerk, my
heart was softened. I thanked him gratefully, and resolved for my own
part to follow what seemed to be the plain path of duty, though it led
to Uncle Henry's office, and not out into the world.

The capacity in which I began life in Uncle Henry's office was that of
office boy, and the situation was attended in my case with many
favourable conditions. Uncle Henry wished me to sleep on the premises,
as my predecessor had done, but an accidental circumstance led to my
coming home daily, which I infinitely preferred. This was nothing less
than an outbreak of boils all over me, upon which, every domestic
application having failed, and gallons of herb tea only making me
worse, Dr. Brown was called in, and pronounced my health in sore need of
restoration. The regimen of Crayshaw's was not to be recovered from in a
day, and the old doctor would not hear of my living altogether in the
town. If I went to the office at all, he said, I must ride in early, and
ride out in the evening. So much fresh air and exercise were imperative,
and I must eat two solid meals a day under no less careful an eye than
that of my mother.

She was delighted. She thought (even more than usual) that Doctor Brown
was a very Solomon in spectacles, and I quite agreed with her. The few
words that followed gave a slight shock to her favourable opinion of his
wisdom, but I need hardly say that it confirmed mine.

He had given me a kindly slap on the shoulder, which happened at that
moment to be the sorest point in my body, and I was in no small pain
from head to foot. I only tightened my lips, but I suppose he bethought
himself of what he had done, and he looked keenly at me and said, "You
can bear pain, Master Jack?"

"Oh, Jack's a very brave boy," said my dear mother. "Indeed, he's only
too brave. He upset his father and me terribly last week by wanting to
go to sea instead of to the office."

"And much better for him, ma'am," said the old doctor, promptly; "he'll
make a first-rate sailor, and if Crayshaw's is all the schooling he's
had, a very indifferent clerk."

"That's just what I think!" I began, but my mother coloured crimson with
distress, and I stopped, and went after her worsted ball which she had
dropped, whilst she appealed to Doctor Brown.

"Pray don't say so, Doctor Brown. Jack is _very_ good, and it's all
_quite_ decided. I couldn't part with him, and his father would be _so_
annoyed if the subject----"

"Tut, tut, ma'am!" said the doctor, pocketing his spectacles; "I never
interfere with family affairs, and I never repeat what I hear. The first
rules of the profession, young gentleman, and very good general rules
for anybody."

I got quite well again, and my new life began. I rode in and out of the
town every day on Rob Roy, our red-haired pony. After tea I went to the
farm to be taught by Mr. Wood, and at every opportunity I devoured such
books as I could lay my hands on. I fear I had very little excuse for
not being contented now. And yet I was not content.

It seems absurd to say that the drains had anything to do with it, but
the horrible smell which pervaded the office added to the
distastefulness of the place, and made us all feel ill and fretful,
except my uncle, and Moses Benson, the Jew clerk. He was never ill, and
he said he smelt nothing; which shows that one may have a very big nose
to very little purpose.

My uncle pooh-poohed the unwholesome state of the office, for two
reasons which certainly had some weight. The first was that he himself
had been there for five-and-twenty years without suffering by it; and
the second was, that the defects of drainage were so radical that (the
place belonging to that period of house-building when the system of
drainage was often worse than none at all) half the premises, if not
half the street, would have to be pulled down for any effectual remedy.
So it was left as it was, and when Mr. Burton, the head clerk, had worse
headaches than usual, he used to give me sixpence for chloride of lime,
which I distributed at my discretion, and on those days Moses Benson
used generally to say that he "fancied he smelt something."

Moses Benson was an articled clerk to my uncle, but he had no
pretensions to be considered a gentleman. His father kept a small shop
where second-hand watches were the most obvious goods; but the old man
was said to have money, though the watches did not seem to sell very
fast, and his son had duly qualified for his post, and had paid a good
premium. Moses was only two or three years older than I, not that I
could have told anything about his age from his looks. He was sallow,
and had a big nose; his hands were fat, his feet were small, and I think
his head was large, but perhaps his hair made it look larger than it
was, for it was thick and very black, and though it was curly, it was
not like Jem's; the curls were more like short ringlets, and if he bent
over his desk they hid his forehead, and when he put his head back to
think, they lay on his coat-collar. And I suppose it was partly because
he could not smell with his nose, that he used such very strong
hair-oil, and so much of it. It used to make his coat-collar in a horrid
state, but he always kept a little bottle of "scouring drops" on the
ledge of his desk, and when it got very bad, I knelt behind him on the
corner of his stool and scoured his coat-collar with a little bit of
flannel. Not that I did it half so well as he could. He wore very
odd-looking clothes, but he took great care of them, and was always
touching them up, and "reviving" his hat with one of Mrs. O'Flannagan's
irons. He used to sell bottles of the scouring drops to the other
clerks, and once he got me to get my mother to buy some. He gave me a
good many little odd jobs to do for him, but he always thanked me, and
from the beginning to the end of our acquaintance he was invariably
kind.

I remember a very odd scene that happened at the beginning of it.

Mr. Burton (the other clerk, whose time was to expire the following
year, which was to make a vacancy for me) was a very different man from
Moses Benson. He was respectably connected, and looked down on "the
Jew-boy," but he was hot-tempered, and rather slow-witted, and I think
Moses could manage him; and I think it was he who kept their constant
"tiffs" from coming to real quarrels.

One day, very soon after I began office-life, Benson sent me out to get
him some fancy notepaper, and when I came back I saw the red-haired Mr.
Burton standing by the desk and looking rather more sickly and cross
than usual. I laid down the paper and the change, and asked if Benson
wanted anything else. He thanked me exceedingly kindly, and said, "No,"
and I went out of the enclosure and back to the corner where I had been
cutting out some newspaper extracts for my uncle. At the same time I
drew from under my overcoat which was lying there, an old railway volume
of one of Cooper's novels which Charlie had lent me. I ought not to have
been reading novels in office-hours, but I had had to stop short last
night because my candle went out just at the most exciting point, and I
had had no time to see what became of everybody before I started for
town in the morning. I could bear suspense no longer, and plunged into
my book.

How it was in these circumstances that I heard what the two clerks were
saying, I don't know. They talked constantly in these open enclosures,
when they knew I was within hearing. On this occasion I suppose they
thought I had gone out, and it was some minutes before I discovered that
they were talking of me. Burton spoke first, and in an irritated tone.

"You treat this young shaver precious different to the last one."

The Jew spoke very softly, and with an occasional softening of the
consonants in his words. "How obsherving you are!" said he.

Burton snorted. "It don't take much observation to see that. But I
suppose you have your reasons. You Jews are always so sly. That's how
you get on so, I suppose."

"You Gentiles," replied Moses (and the Jew's voice had tones which gave
him an infinite advantage in retaliating scorn), "you Gentiles would do
as well as we do if you were able to foresee and knew how to wait. You
have all the selfishness for success, my dear, but the gifts of prophecy
and patience are wanting to you."

"That's nothing to do with your little game about the boy," said
Burton; "however, I suppose you can keep your own secrets."

"I have no secrets," said Moses gently. "And if you take my advice, you
never will have. If you have no secrets, my dear, they will never be
found out. If you tell your little designs, your best friends will be
satisfied, and will not invent less creditable ones for you."

"If they did, you'd talk 'em down," said Burton roughly. "Short of a
woman I never met such a hand at jaw. You'll be in Parliament yet----"
("It is possible!" said the Jew hastily,) "with that long tongue of
yours. But you haven't told us about the boy, for all you've said."

"About this boy," said Moses, "a proverb will be shorter than my jaw.
'The son of the house is not a servant for ever.' As to the other--he
was taken for charity and dismissed for theft, is it not so? He came
from the dirt, and he went back to the dirt. They often do. Why should I
be civil to him?"

What reply Mr. Burton would have made to this question I had no
opportunity of judging. My uncle called him, and he ran hastily
up-stairs. And when he had gone, the Jew came slowly out, and crossed
the office as if he were going into the street. By this time my
conscience was pricking hard, and I shoved my book under my coat and
called to him: "Mr. Benson."

"You?" he said.

"I am very sorry," I stammered, blushing, "but I heard what you were
saying. I did not mean to listen. I thought you knew that I was there."

"It is of no importance," he said, turning away; "I have no secrets."

But I detained him.

"Mr. Benson! Tell me, please. You _were_ talking about me, weren't you?
What did you mean about the son of the house not being a servant for
ever?"

He hesitated for an instant, and then turned round and came nearer to
me.

"It is true, is it not?" he said. "Next year you may be clerk. In time
you may be your uncle's confidential clerk, which I should like to be
myself. You may eventually be partner, as I should like to be; and in
the long run you may succeed him, as I should like to do. It is a good
business, my dear, a sound business, a business of which much, very
much, more might be made. You might die rich, very rich. You might be
mayor, you might be Member, you might--but what is the use? _You will
not._ You do not see it, though I am telling you. You will not wait for
it, though it would come. What is that book you hid when I came in?"

"It is about North American Indians," said I, dragging it forth. "I am
very sorry, but I left off last night at such an exciting bit."

The Jew was thumbing the pages, with his black ringlets close above
them.

"Novels in office-hours!" said he; but he was very good-natured about
it, and added, "I've one or two books at home, if you're fond of this
kind of reading, and will promise me not to forget your duties."

"Oh, I promise!" said I.

"I'll put them under my desk in the corner," he said; "indeed, I would
part with some of them for a trifle."

I thanked him warmly, but what he had said was still hanging in my mind,
and I added, "Are there real prophets among the Jews now-a-days, Mr.
Benson?"

"They will make nothing by it, if there are," said he; and there was a
tone of mysteriousness in his manner of speaking which roused my
romantic curiosity. "A few of ush (very few, my dear!) mould our own
fates, and the lives of the rest are moulded by what men have within
them rather than by what they find without. If there were a true prophet
in every market-place to tell each man of his future, it would not alter
the destinies of seven men in thish wide world."

As Moses spoke the swing door was pushed open, and one of my uncle's
clients entered. He was an influential man, and a very tall one. The Jew
bent his ringlets before him, almost beneath his elbow, and slipped out
as he came in.



CHAPTER XIII.

     "Then, hey for boot and horse, lad,
        And round the world away!
      Young blood must have its course, lad,
        And every dog his day."--C. KINGSLEY.


Moses Benson was as good as his word in the matter of books of
adventure. Dirty books, some without backs, and some with very greasy
ones (for which, if I bought them, I seldom paid more than half-price),
but full of dangers and discoveries, the mightiness of manhood, and the
wonders of the world. I read them at odd moments of my working hours,
and dreamed of them when I went home to bed. And it was more fascinating
still to look out, with Charlie's help, in the Penny Numbers, for the
foreign places, and people, and creatures mentioned in the tales, and to
find that the truth was often stranger than the fiction.

To live a fancy-life of adventure in my own head, was not merely an
amusement to me at this time--it was a refuge. Matters did not really
improve between me and my father, though I had obeyed his wishes. It
was by his arrangement that I spent so much of my time at home with the
Woods, and yet it remained a grievance that I liked to do so. Whether my
dear mother had given up all hopes of my becoming a genius I do not
know, but my father's contempt for my absorption in a book was unabated.
I felt this if he came suddenly upon me with my head in my hands and my
nose in a tattered volume; and if I went on with my reading it was with
a sense of being in the wrong, whilst if I shut up the book and tried to
throw myself into outside interests, my father's manner showed me that
my efforts had only discredited my candour.

As is commonly the case, it was chiefly little things that pulled the
wrong way of the stuff of life between us, but they pulled it very much
askew. I was selfishly absorbed in my own dreams, and I think my dear
father made a mistake which is a too common bit of tyranny between
people who love each other and live together. He was not satisfied with
my _doing_ what he liked, he expected me to _be_ what he liked, that is,
to be another person instead of myself. Wives and daughters seem now and
then to respond to this expectation as to the call of duty, and to
become inconsistent echoes, odd mixtures of severity and hesitancy,
hypocrites on the highest grounds; but sons are not often so
self-effacing, and it was not the case with me. It was so much the case
with my dear mother, that she never was of the slightest use (which she
might have been) when my father and I misunderstood each other. By my
father's views of the moment she always hastily set her own, whether
they were fair or unfair to me; and she made up for it by indulging me
at every point that did not cross an expressed wish of my father's, or
that could not annoy him because he was not there. She never held the
scales between us.

And yet it was the thought of her which kept me from taking my fate into
my own hands again and again. To have obeyed my father seemed to have
done so little towards making him satisfied with me, that I found no
consolation at home for the distastefulness of the office; and more than
once I resolved to run away, and either enlist or go to Liverpool (which
was at no great distance from us) and get on board some vessel that was
about to sail for other lands. But when I thought of my mother's
distress, I could not face it, and I let my half-formed projects slide
again.

Oddly enough, it was Uncle Henry who brought matters to a crisis. I
think my father was disappointed (though he did not blame me) that I
secured no warmer a place in Uncle Henry's affections than I did. Uncle
Henry had no children, and if he took a fancy to me and I pleased him,
such a career as the Jew-clerk had sketched for me would probably be
mine. This dawned on me by degrees through chance remarks from my father
and the more open comments of friends. For good manners with us were not
of a sensitively refined order, and to be clapped on the back
with--"Well, Jack, you've got into a good berth, I hear. I suppose you
look to succeed your uncle some day?" was reckoned a friendly
familiarity rather than an offensive impertinence.

I learned that my parents had hoped that, as I was his nephew, Uncle
Henry would take me as clerk without the usual premium. Indeed, when my
uncle first urged my going to him, he had more than hinted that he
should not expect a premium with his brother's son. But he was fond of
his money (of which he had plenty), and when people are that, they are
apt to begin to grudge, if there is time, between promise and
performance. Uncle Henry had a whole year in which to think about
foregoing two or three hundred pounds, and as it drew to a close, it
seemed to worry him to such a degree, that he proposed to take me for
half the usual premium instead of completely remitting it; and he said
something about my being a stupid sort of boy, and of very little use to
him for some time to come. He said it to justify himself for drawing
back, I am quite sure, but it did me no good at home.

My father had plenty of honourable pride, and he would hear of no
compromise. He said that he should pay the full premium for me that
Uncle Henry's other clerks had had to pay, and from this no revulsion of
feeling on my uncle's part would move him. He was quite bland with Uncle
Henry, and he was not quite bland towards me.

When I fairly grasped the situation (and I contrived to get a pretty
clear account of it from my mother), there rushed upon me the conviction
that a new phase had come over my prospects. When I put aside my own
longings for my father's will; and every time that office life seemed
intolerable to me, and I was tempted to break my bonds, and thought
better of it and settled down again, this thought had always remained
behind: "I will try; and if the worst comes to the worst, and I really
cannot settle down into a clerk, I can but run away then." But
circumstances had altered my case, I felt that now I must make up my
mind for good and all. My father would have to make some little
sacrifices to find the money, and when it was once paid, I could not let
it be in vain. Come what might, I must stick to the office then, and for
life.

Some weeks passed whilst I was turning this over and over in my mind. I
was constantly forgetting things in the office, but Moses Benson helped
me out of every scrape. He was kinder and kinder, so that I often felt
sorry that I could not feel fonder of him, and that his notions of fun
and amusement only disgusted me instead of making us friends. They
convinced me of one thing. My dear mother's chief dread about my going
out of my own country was for the wicked ways I might learn in strange
lands. A town with an unpronounceable name suggested foreign iniquities
to her tender fears, but our own town, where she and everybody we knew
bought everything we daily used, did not frighten her at all. I did not
tell her, but I was quite convinced myself that I might get pretty deep
into mischief in my idle hours, even if I lived within five miles of
home, and had only my uncle's clerks for my comrades.

During these weeks Jem came home for the holidays. He was at a public
school now, which many of our friends regarded as an extravagant folly
on my father's part. We had a very happy time together, and this would
have gone far to keep me at home, if it had not, at the same time,
deepened my disgust with our town, and my companions in the office. In
plain English, the training of two good schools, and the society of boys
superior to himself, had made a gentleman of Jem, and the contrast
between his looks and ways, and manners, and those of my uncle's clerks
were not favourable to the latter. How proud my father was of him! With
me he was in a most irritable mood; and one grumble to which I heard him
give utterance, that it was very inconvenient to have to pay this money
just at the most expensive period of Jem's education, went heavily into
the scale for running away. And that night, as it happened, Jem and I
sat up late, and had a long and loving chat. He abused the office to my
heart's content, and was very sympathetic when I told him that I had
wished to go to sea, and how my father had refused to allow me.

"I think he made a great mistake," said Jem; and he told me of "a
fellow's brother" that he knew about, who was in the Merchant Service,
and how well he was doing. "It's not even as if Uncle Henry were coming
out generously," he added.

Dear, dear! How pleasant it was to hear somebody else talk on my side of
the question. And who was I that I should rebuke Jem for calling our
worthy uncle a curmudgeon, and stigmatising the Jew-clerk as a dirty
beast? I really dared not tell him that Moses grew more familiar as my
time to be articled drew near; that he called me Jack Sprat, and his
dearest friend, and offered to procure me the "silver-top" (or
champagne)--which he said I must "stand" on the day I took my place at
the fellow desk to his--of the first quality and at less than cost
price; and that he had provided me gratis with a choice of "excuses"
(they were unblushing lies) to give to our good mother for spending that
evening in town, and "having a spree."

From my affairs we came to talk of Jem's, and I found that even he, poor
chap! was not without his troubles. He confided to me, with many
expressions of shame and vexation, that he had got into debt, but having
brought home good reports and even a prize on this occasion, he hoped to
persuade my father to pay what he owed.

"You see, Jack, he's awfully good to me, but he will do things his own
way, and what's worse, the way they were done in his young days. You
remember the row we had about his giving me an allowance? He didn't want
to, because he never had one, only tips from his governor when the old
gentleman was pleased with him. And he said it was quite enough to send
me to such a good and expensive school, and I ought to think of that,
and not want more because I had got much. We'd an awful row, for I
thought it was so unfair his making out I was greedy and ungrateful, and
I told him so, and I said I was quite game to go to a cheap school if he
liked, only wherever I was I did want to be 'like the other fellows.' I
begged him to take me away and to let me go somewhere cheap with you;
and I said, if the fellows there had no allowances, we could do without.
As I told him, it's not the beastly things that you buy that you care
about, only of course you don't like to be the only fellow who can't buy
'em. So then he came round, and said I should have an allowance, but I
must do with a very small one. So I said, Very well, then I mustn't go
in for the games. Then he wouldn't have that; so then I made out a list
of what the subscriptions are to cricket, and so on, and then your
flannels and shoes, and it came to double what he offered me. He said it
was simply disgraceful that boys shouldn't be able to be properly
educated, and have an honest game at cricket for the huge price he paid,
without the parents being fleeced for all sorts of extravagances at
exorbitant prices. And I know well enough it's disgraceful, what we have
to pay for school books and for things of all sorts you have to get in
the town; but, as I said to the governor, why don't you kick up a dust
with the head master, or write to the papers--what's the good of rowing
us? One must have what other fellows have, and get 'em where other
fellows get 'em. But he never did--I wish he would. I should enjoy
fighting old Pompous if I were in his place. But they're as civil as
butter to each other, and then old Pompous goes on feathering his nest,
and backing up the tradespeople, and the governor pitches into the
young men of the present day."

"He did give you the bigger allowance, didn't he?" said I, at this pause
in Jem's rhetoric.

"Yes, he did. He's awfully good to me. But you know, Jack, he never paid
it quite all, and he never paid it quite in time. I found out from my
mother he did it on purpose to make me value it more, and be more
careful. Doesn't it seem odd he shouldn't see that I can't pay the
subscriptions a few shillings short or a few days late? One must find
the money somehow, and then one has to pay for that, and then you're
short, and go on tick, and it runs up, and then they dun you, and you're
cleaned out, and there you are!"

At which climax old Jem laid his curly head on his arms, and I began to
think very seriously.

"How much do you owe?"

Jem couldn't say. He thought he could reckon up, so I got a pencil and
made a list from his dictation, and from his memory, which was rather
vague. When it was done (and there seemed to be a misty margin beyond),
I was horrified. "Why, my dear fellow!" I exclaimed, "if you'd had your
allowance ever so regularly, it wouldn't have covered this sort of
thing."

"I know, I know," said poor Jem, clutching remorsefully at his curls.
"I've been a regular fool! Jack! whatever you do--never tick. It's the
very mischief. You never know what you owe, and so you feel vague and
order more. And you never know what you don't owe, which is worse, for
sometimes you're in such despair, it would be quite a relief to catch
some complaint and die. It's like going about with a stone round your
neck, and nobody kind enough to drown you. I can't stand any more of it.
I shall make a clean breast to Father, and if he can't set me straight,
I won't go back; I'll work on the farm sooner, and let him pay my bills
instead of my schooling--and serve old Pompous right."

Poor Jem! long after he had cheered up and gone to bed, I sat up and
thought. When my premium was paid where was the money for Jem's debts to
come from? And would my father be in the humour to pay them? If he did
not, Jem would not go back to school. Of that I was quite certain. Jem
had thought over his affairs, which was an effort for him, but he always
thought in one direction. His thoughts never went backwards and forwards
as mine did. If he had made up his mind, there was no more prospect of
his changing it than if he had been my father. And if the happy terms
between them were broken, and Jem's career checked when he was doing so
well!--the scales that weighed my own future were becoming very uneven
now.

I clasped my hands and thought. If I ran away, the money would be there
for Jem's debts, and his errors would look pale in the light of my
audacity, and he would be dearer than ever at home, whilst for me were
freedom, independence (for I had not a doubt of earning
bread-and-cheese, if only as a working man): perhaps a better
understanding with my father when I had been able to prove my courage
and industry, or even when he got the temperate and dutiful letter I
meant to post to him when I was fairly off; and beyond all, the desire
of my eyes, the sight of the world.

Should I stay now? And for what? To see old Jem at logger-heads with my
father, and perhaps demoralized by an inferior school? To turn my own
back and shut my eyes for ever on all that the wide seas embrace; my
highest goal to be to grow as rich as Uncle Henry or richer, and perhaps
as mean or meaner? Should I choose for life a life I hated, and set
seals to my choice by drinking silver-top with the Jew-clerk?--No,
Moses, no!

       *       *       *       *       *

I got up soon after dawn and was in the garden at sunrise the morning
that I ran away. I had made my plans carefully, and carried them out, so
far with success.

Including the old miser's bequest which his lawyer had paid, there were
thirteen pounds to my name in the town savings-bank, and this sum I had
drawn out to begin life with. I wrapped a five-pound note in a loving
letter to Jem, and put both into the hymn-book on his shelf--I knew it
would not be opened till Sunday. Very few runaways have as much as eight
pounds to make a start with: and as one could not be quite certain how
my father would receive Jem's confession, I thought he might be glad of
a few pounds of his own, and I knew he had spent his share of the
miser's money long ago.

I meant to walk to a station about seven miles distant, and there take
train for Liverpool. I should be clumsy indeed, I thought, if I could
not stow away on board some vessel, as hundreds of lads had done before
me, and make myself sufficiently useful to pay my passage when I was
found out.

When I got into the garden I kicked my foot against something in the
grass. It was my mother's little gardening-fork. She had been tidying
her pet perennial border, and my father had called her hastily, and she
had left it half finished, and had forgotten the fork. A few minutes
more or less were of no great importance to me, for it was very early,
so I finished the border quite neatly, and took the fork indoors.

I put it in a corner of the hall where the light was growing stronger
and making familiar objects clear. In a house like ours and amongst
people like us, furniture was not chopped and changed and decorated as
it is now. The place had looked like this ever since I could remember,
and it would look like this tomorrow morning, though my eyes would not
see it. I stood stupidly by the hall table where my father's gloves lay
neatly one upon the other beside his hat. I took them up, almost
mechanically, and separated them, and laid them together again finger to
finger, and thumb to thumb, and held them with a stupid sort of feeling,
as if I could never put them down and go away.

What would my father's face be like when he took them up this very
morning to go out and look for me? and when--oh when!--should I see his
face again?

I began to feel what one is apt to learn too late, that in childhood one
takes the happiness of home for granted, and kicks against the pricks of
its grievances, not having felt the far harder buffetings of the world.
Moreover (which one does not think of then), that parental blunders and
injustices are the mistakes and tyrannies of a special love that one may
go many a mile on one's own wilful way and not meet a second time.
Who--in the wide world--would care to be bothered with my confidence,
and blame me for withholding it? Should I meet many people to whom it
would matter if we misunderstood each other? Would anybody hereafter
love me well enough to be disappointed in me? Would other men care so
much for my fate as to insist on guiding it by lines of their own
ruling?

I pressed the gloves passionately against my eyes to keep in the tears.
If my day-dreams had been the only question, I should have changed my
mind now. If the home grievances had been all, I should have waited for
time and patience to mend them. I could not have broken all these
heart-strings. I should never have run away. But there was much more,
and my convictions were not changed, though I felt as if I might have
managed better as regards my father.

Would he forgive me? I hoped and believed so. Would my mother forgive
me? I knew she would--as GOD forgives.

And with the thought of her, I knelt down, and put my head on the hall
table and prayed from my soul--not for fair winds, and prosperous
voyages, and good luck, and great adventures; but that it might please
GOD to let me see Home again, and the faces that I loved, ah, so dearly,
after all!

And then I got up, and crossed the threshold, and went out into the
world.


                        END OF PART I.



               RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LIMITED,
                      LONDON & BUNGAY.



_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.





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