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Title: Holiday House - A Series of Tales
Author: Sinclair, Catherine, 1800-1864
Language: English
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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.

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HOLIDAY HOUSE:

A SERIES OF TALES.

Dedicated to Lady Diana Boyle.


BY CATHERINE SINCLAIR,

AUTHORESS OF "MODERN ACCOMPLISHMENTS," "MODERN SOCIETY,"
"HILL AND VALLEY," "CHARLIE SEYMOUR," &c. &c.


  "Young heads are giddy, and young hearts are warm,
  And make mistakes for manhood to reform."

                                        Cowper.


NEW-YORK:
PUBLISHED BY ROBERT CARTER,
NO. 58 CANAL STREET.

1839.



New-York:
Printed by Scatcherd and Adams,
No. 38 Gold Street.



PREFACE

    "Of all the paper I have blotted, I have written nothing without the
    intention of some good. Whether I have succeeded or not, is for
    others to judge."
                                        Sir William Temple.


The minds of young people are now manufactured like webs of linen, all
alike, and nothing left to nature. From the hour when children can
speak, till they come to years of discretion or of indiscretion, they
are carefully prompted what to say, and what to think, and what to look,
and how to feel; while in most school-rooms nature has been turned out
of doors with obloquy, and art has entirely supplanted her.

When a quarrel takes place, both parties are generally in some degree to
blame; therefore if Art and Nature could yet be made to go hand in hand
towards the formation of character and principles, a graceful and
beautiful superstructure might be reared, on the solid foundation of
Christian faith and sound morality; so that while many natural weeds and
wild flowers would be pruned and carefully trained, some lovely blossoms
that spring spontaneously in the uncultivated soil, might still be
cherished into strength and beauty, far excelling what can be planted or
reared by art.

Every infant is probably born with a character as peculiar to himself as
the features in his countenance, if his faults and good qualities were
permitted to expand according to their original tendency; but education,
which formerly did too little in teaching "the young idea how to shoot,"
seems now in danger of over-shooting the mark altogether, by not
allowing the young ideas to exist at all. In this age of wonderful
mechanical inventions, the very mind of youth seems in danger of
becoming a machine; and while every effort is used to stuff the memory,
like a cricket-ball, with well-known facts and ready-made opinions, no
room is left for the vigour of natural feeling, the glow of natural
genius, and the ardour of natural enthusiasm. It was a remark of Sir
Walter Scott's many years ago, to the author herself, that in the rising
generation there would be no poets, wits, or orators, because all play
of imagination is now carefully discouraged, and books written for young
persons are generally a mere dry record of facts, unenlivened by any
appeal to the heart, or any excitement to the fancy. The catalogue of a
child's library would contain Conversations on Natural Philosophy,--on
Chemistry,--on Botany,--on Arts and Sciences,--Chronological Records of
History,--and travels as dry as a road-book; but nothing on the habits
or ways of thinking, natural and suitable to the taste of children;
therefore, while such works are delightful to the parents and teachers
who select them, the younger community are fed with strong meat instead
of milk, and the reading which might be a relaxation from study, becomes
a study in itself.

In these pages the author has endeavoured to paint that species of
noisy, frolicsome, mischievous children which is now almost extinct,
wishing to preserve a sort of fabulous remembrance of days long past,
when young people were like wild horses on the prairies, rather than
like well-broken hacks on the road; and when, amidst many faults and
many eccentricities, there was still some individuality of character and
feeling allowed to remain. In short, as Lord Byron described "the last
man," the object of this volume is, to describe "the last boy." It may
be useful, she thinks, to show, that amidst much requiring to be
judiciously curbed and corrected, there may be the germs of high and
generous feeling, and of steady, right principle, which should be the
chief objects of culture and encouragement. Plodding industry is in the
present day at a very high premium in education; but it requires the
leaven of mental energy and genius to make it work well, while it has
been remarked by one whose experience in education is deep and
practical, that "those boys whose names appear most frequently in the
black book of transgression, would sometimes deserve to be also most
commonly recorded, if a book were kept for warm affections and generous
actions."

The most formidable person to meet in society at present, is the mother
of a promising boy, about nine or ten years old; because there is no
possible escape from a volume of anecdotes, and a complete system of
education on the newest principles. The young gentleman has probably
asked leave to bring his books to the breakfast-room,--can scarcely be
torn away from his studies at the dinner-hour,--discards all
toys,--abhors a holiday,--propounds questions of marvellous depth in
politics or mineralogy,--and seems, in short, more fitted to enjoy the
learned meeting at Newcastle, than the exhilarating exercises of the
cricket-ground; but, if the axiom be true, that "a little learning is a
dangerous thing," it has also been proved by frequent, and sometimes by
very melancholy experience, that, for minds not yet expanded to
maturity, a great deal of learning is more dangerous still, and that in
those school-rooms where there has been a society for the suppression of
amusement, the mental energies have suffered, as well as the health.

A prejudice has naturally arisen against giving works of fiction to
children, because their chief interest too often rests on the detection
and punishment of such mean vices as lying and stealing, which are so
frequently and elaborately described, that the way to commit those
crimes is made obvious, while a clever boy thinks he could easily avoid
the oversights by which another has been discovered, and that if he does
not yield to similar temptations, he is a model of virtue and
good-conduct.

In writing for any class of readers, and especially in occupying the
leisure moments of such peculiarly fortunate young persons as have
leisure moments at all, the author feels conscious of a deep
responsibility, for it is at their early age that the seed can best be
sown which shall bear fruit unto eternal life, therefore it is hoped
this volume may be found to inculcate a pleasing and permanent
consciousness, that religion is the best resource in happier hours, and
the only refuge in hours of affliction.

Those who wish to be remembered for ever in the world,--and it is a very
common object of ambition,--will find no monument more permanent, than
the affectionate remembrance of any children they have treated with
kindness; for we may often observe, in the reminiscences of old age, a
tender recollection surviving all others, of friends in early days who
enlivened the hours of childhood by presents of playthings and comfits.
But above all, we never forget those who good-humouredly complied with
the constantly recurring petition of all young people in every
generation, and in every house--"Will you tell me a story?"

In answer to such a request, often and importunately repeated, the
author has from year to year delighted in seeing herself surrounded by a
circle of joyous, eager faces, listening with awe to the terrors of Mrs.
Crabtree, or smiling at the frolics of Harry and Laura. The stories,
originally, were so short, that some friends, aware of their popularity,
and conscious of their harmless tendency, took the trouble of copying
them in manuscript for their own young friends; but the tales have since
grown and expanded during frequent verbal repetitions, till, with
various fanciful additions and new characters, they have enlarged into
their present form, or rather so far beyond it, that several chapters
are omitted, to keep the volume within moderate compass.

Paley remarks, that "any amusement which is innocent, is better than
none; as the writing of a book, the building of a house, the laying out
of a garden, the digging of a fish-pond, even the raising of a
cucumber;" and it is hoped that, while the author herself has found much
interesting occupation in recording these often repeated stories, the
time of herself and her young readers may be employed with some degree
of profit, or she will certainly regret that it was not better occupied
in the rearing of cucumbers.



HOLIDAY HOUSE.



CHAPTER I.

CHIT CHAT.

  A school-boy, a dog, and a walnut tree,
  The more you strike 'em, the better they be.


Laura and Harry Graham could scarcely feel sure that they ever had a
mama, because she died while they were yet very young indeed; but Frank,
who was some years older, recollected perfectly well what pretty
playthings she used to give him, and missed his kind, good mama so
extremely, that he one day asked if he might "go to a shop and buy a new
mama?" Frank often afterwards thought of the time also, when he kneeled
beside her bed to say his prayers, or when he sat upon her knee to hear
funny stories about good boys and bad boys--all very interesting, and
all told on purpose to show how much happier obedient children are, than
those who waste their time in idleness and folly. Boys and girls all
think they know the road to happiness without any mistake, and choose
that which looks gayest and pleasantest at first, though older people,
who have travelled that road already, can tell them that a very
difficult path is the only one which ends agreeably; and those who
begin to walk in it when they are young, will really find that "wisdom's
ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." It was
truly remarked by Solomon, that "even a child is known by his doings,
whether his work be pure, and whether it be right." Therefore, though
Frank was yet but a little boy, his friends, who observed how carefully
he attended to his mama's instructions, how frequently he studied his
Bible, and how diligently he learned his lessons, all prophesied that
this merry, lively child, with laughing eyes, and dimpled cheeks, would
yet grow up to be a good and useful man; especially when it became
evident that, by the blessing of God, he had been early turned away from
the broad road that leadeth to destruction, in which every living person
would naturally walk, and led into the narrow path that leadeth to
eternal life.

When his mama, Lady Graham, after a long and painful illness, was at
last taken away to the better world, for which she had been many years
preparing, her only sorrow and anxiety seemed to be that she left behind
her three such very dear children, who were now to be entirely under the
care of their papa, Sir Edward Graham; and it was with many prayers and
tears that she tried to make her mind more easy about their future
education, and future happiness.

Sir Edward felt such extreme grief on the death of Lady Graham, that
instead of being able to remain at home with his young family, and to
interest his mind as he would wish to have done, by attending to them,
he was ordered by Dr. Bell, to set off immediately for Paris, Rome, and
Naples, where it was hoped he might leave his distresses behind him
while he travelled, or at all events, forget them.

Luckily the children had a very good, kind uncle, Major David Graham,
and their grandmama, Lady Harriet Graham, who were both exceedingly
happy to take charge of them, observing that no house could be cheerful
without a few little people being there, and that now they would have
constant amusement in trying to make Frank, Harry, and Laura, as happy
as possible, and even still happier.

"That is the thing I am almost afraid of!" said Sir Edward, smiling.
"Uncles and grandmamas are only too kind, and my small family will be
quite spoiled by indulgence."

"Not if you leave that old vixen, Mrs. Crabtree, as governor of the
nursery," answered Major Graham, laughing. "She ought to have been the
drummer of a regiment, she is so fond of the rod! I believe there never
was such a tyrant since the time when nursery-maids were invented. Poor
Harry would pass his life in a dark closet, like Baron Trenck, if Mrs.
Crabtree had her own way!"

"She means it all well. I am certain that Mrs. Crabtree is devotedly
fond of my children, and would go through fire and water to serve them;
but she is a little severe perhaps. Her idea is, that if you never
forgive a first fault, you will never hear of a second, which is
probably true enough. At all events, her harshness will be the best
remedy for your extreme indulgence; therefore let me beg that you and my
mother will seldom interfere with her 'method,' especially in respect to
Harry and Laura. As for Frank, if all boys were like him, we might make
a bonfire of birch rods and canes. He is too old for nursery discipline
now, and must be flogged at school, if deserving of it at all, till he
goes to sea next year with my friend Gordon, who has promised to rate
him as a volunteer of the first class, on board the Thunderbolt."

In spite of Mrs. Crabtree's admirable "system" with children, Harry and
Laura became, from this time, two of the most heedless, frolicsome
beings in the world, and had to be whipped almost every morning; for in
those days it had not been discovered that whipping is all a mistake,
and that children can be made good without it; though some
old-fashioned people still say--and such, too, who take the God of truth
for their guide--the old plan succeeded best, and those who "spare the
rod will spoil the child." When Lady Harriet and Major Graham spoke
kindly to Harry and Laura, about anything wrong that had been done, they
both felt more sad and sorry, than after the severest punishments of
Mrs. Crabtree, who frequently observed, that "if those children were
shut up in a dark room alone, with nothing to do, they would still find
some way of being mischievous, and of deserving to be punished."

"Harry!" said Major Graham one day, "you remind me of a monkey which
belonged to the colonel of our regiment formerly. He was famous for
contriving to play all sorts of pranks when no one supposed them to be
possible, and I recollect once having a valuable French clock, which the
malicious creature seemed particularly determined to break. Many a time
I caught him in the fact, and saved my beautiful clock; but one day,
being suddenly summoned out of the room, I hastily fastened his chain to
a table, so that he could not possibly, even at the full extent of his
paw, so much as touch the glass case. I observed him impatiently
watching my departure, and felt a misgiving that he expected to get the
better of me; so after shutting the door, I took a peep through the
key-hole, and what do you think Jack had done, Harry? for, next to Mr.
Monkey himself, you are certainly the cleverest contriver of mischief I
know."

"What did he do?" asked Harry eagerly; "did he throw a stone at the
clock?"

"No! but his leg was several inches longer than his arm, so having
turned his tail towards his object, he stretched out his hind-paw, and
before I could rush back, my splendid alabaster clock had been upset and
broken to shivers."

Laura soon became quite as mischievous as Harry, which is very
surprising, as she was a whole year older, and had been twice as often
scolded by Mrs. Crabtree. Neither of these children intended any harm,
for they were only heedless lively romps, who would not for twenty
worlds have told a lie, or done a shabby thing, or taken what did not
belong to them. They were not greedy either, and would not on any
account have resembled Peter Grey, who was at the same school with
Frank, and who spent all his own pocket-money, and borrowed a great deal
of other people's, to squander at the pastry-cook's, saying, he wished
it were possible to eat three dinners, and two breakfasts, and five
suppers every day.

Harry was not a cruel boy either; he never lashed his pony, beat his
dog, pinched his sister, or killed any butterflies, though he often
chased them for fun, and one day he even defended a wasp, at the risk of
being stung, when Mrs. Crabtree intended to kill it.

"Nasty, useless vermin!" said she angrily, "What business have they in
the world! coming into other people's houses, with nothing to do! They
sting and torment every body! Bees are very different, for they make
honey."

"And wasps make jelly!" said Harry resolutely, while he opened the
window, and shook the happy wasp out of his pocket handkerchief.

Mrs. Crabtree allowed no pets of any description in her territories, and
ordered the children to be happy without any such nonsense. When Laura's
canary-bird escaped one unlucky day out of its cage, Mrs. Crabtree was
strongly suspected by Major Graham, of having secretly opened the door,
as she had long declared war upon bulfinches, white mice, parrots,
kittens, dogs, bantams, and gold fish, observing that animals only made
a noise and soiled the house, therefore every creature should remain in
its own home, "birds in the air, fish in the sea, and beasts in the
desert." She seemed always watching in hopes Harry and Laura might do
something that they ought to be punished for; and Mrs. Crabtree
certainly had more ears than other people, or slept with one eye open,
as, whatever might be done, night or day, she overheard the lowest
whisper of mischief, and appeared able to see what was going on in the
dark.

When Harry was a very little boy, he sometimes put himself in the
corner, after doing wrong, apparently quite sensible that he deserved to
be punished, and once, after being terribly scolded by Mrs. Crabtree, he
drew in his stool beside her chair, with a funny penitent face, twirling
his thumbs over and over each other, and saying, "Now, Mrs. Crabtree!
look what a good boy I am going to be!"

"You a good boy!" replied she contemptuously: "No! no! the world will be
turned into a cream-cheese first!"

Lady Harriet gave Harry and Laura a closet of their own, in which she
allowed them to keep their toys, and nobody could help laughing to see
that, amidst the whole collection, there was seldom one unbroken. Frank
wrote out a list once of what he found in this crowded little
store-room, and amused himself often with reading it over afterwards.
There were three dolls without faces, a horse with no legs, a drum with
a hole in the top, a cart without wheels, a churn with no bottom, a kite
without a tale, a skipping-rope with no handles, and a cup and ball that
had lost the string. Lady Harriet called this closet the hospital for
decayed toys, and she often employed herself as their doctor, mending
legs and arms for soldiers, horses, and dolls, though her skill seldom
succeeded long, because play-things must have been made of cast-iron to
last a week with Harry. One cold winter morning when Laura entered the
nursery, she found a large fire blazing, and all her wax dolls sitting
in a row within the fender staring at the flames. Harry intended no
mischief on this occasion, but great was his vexation when Laura burst
into tears, and showed him that their faces were running in a hot stream
down upon their beautiful silk frocks, which were completely ruined, and
not a doll had its nose remaining. Another time, Harry pricked a hole in
his own beautiful large gas ball, wishing to see how the gas could
possibly escape, after which, in a moment, it shrivelled up into a
useless empty bladder,--and when his kite was flying up to the clouds,
Harry often wished that he could be tied to the tail himself, so as to
fly also through the air like a bird, and see every thing.

Mrs. Crabtree always wore a prodigious bunch of jingling keys in her
pocket, that rung whenever she moved, as if she carried a dinner bell in
her pocket, and Frank said it was like a rattlesnake giving warning of
her approach, which was of great use, as everybody had time to put on a
look of good behaviour before she arrived. Even Betty, the under
nursery-maid, felt in terror of Mrs. Crabtree's entrance, and was
obliged to work harder than any six house-maids united. Frank told her
one day that he thought brooms might soon be invented, which would go by
steam and brush carpets of themselves, but, in the meantime, not a grain
of dust could lurk in any corner of the nursery without being dislodged.
Betty would have required ten hands, and twenty pair of feet, to do all
the work that was expected; but the grate looked like jet, the windows
would not have soiled a cambric handkerchief, and the carpet was
switched with so many tea-leaves, that Frank thought Mrs. Crabtree often
took several additional cups of tea in order to leave a plentiful supply
of leaves for sweeping the floor next morning.

If Laura and Harry left any breakfast, Mrs. Crabtree kept it carefully
till dinner time, when they were obliged to finish the whole before
tasting meat; and if they refused it at dinner, the remains were kept
for supper. Mrs. Crabtree always informed them that she did it "for
their good," though Harry never could see any good that it did to
either of them; and when she mentioned how many poor children would be
glad to eat what they despised, he often wished the hungry beggars had
some of his own hot dinner, which he would gladly have spared to them;
for Harry was really so generous, that he would have lived upon air, if
he might be of use to anybody. Time passed on, and Lady Harriet engaged
a master for some hours a-day to teach the children lessons, while even
Mrs. Crabtree found no other fault to Harry and Laura, except that in
respect to good behaviour their memories were like a sieve, which let
out every thing they were desired to keep in mind. They seemed always to
hope, somehow or other, when Mrs. Crabtree once turned her back, she
would never shew her face again; so their promises of better conduct
were all "wind without rain,"--very loud and plenty of them, but no good
effect to be seen afterwards.

Among her many other torments, Mrs. Crabtree rolled up Laura's hair
every night on all sides of her head, in large stiff curl-papers, till
they were as round and hard as walnuts, after which, she tied on a
night-cap, as tightly as possible above all, saying this would curl the
hair still better. Laura could not lay any part of her head on the
pillow, without suffering so much pain that, night after night, she sat
up in bed, after Mrs. Crabtree had bustled out of the room, and quietly
took the cruel papers out, though she was punished so severely for doing
so, that she obeyed orders at last and lay wide awake half the night
with torture; and it was but small comfort to Laura afterwards, that
Lady Harriet's visitors frequently admired the forest of long glossy
ringlets that adorned her head, and complimented Mrs. Crabtree on the
trouble it must cost her to keep that charming hair in order. Often did
Laura wish that it were ornamenting any wig-block, rather than her own
head; and one day Lady Harriet laughed heartily, when some strangers
admired her little grand-daughter's ringlets, and Laura asked, very
anxiously, if they would like to cut off a few of the longest, and keep
them for her sake.

"Your hair does curl like a cork-screw," said Frank, laughing. "If I
want to draw a cork out of a beer bottle any day, I shall borrow one of
those ringlets, Laura!"

"You may laugh, Frank, for it is fun to you and death to me," answered
poor Laura, gravely shaking her curls at him. "I wish we were all bald,
like uncle David! During the night, I cannot lie still on account of
those tiresome curls, and all day I dare not stir for fear of spoiling
them, so they are never out of my head."

"Nor off your head! How pleasant it must be to have Mrs. Crabtree
combing and scolding, and scolding and combing, for hours every day!
Poor Laura! we must get Dr. Bell to say that they shall be taken off on
pain of death, and then, perhaps, grandmama would order some Irish
reapers to cut them down with a sickle."

"Frank! what a lucky boy you are to be at school, and not in the
nursery! I wish next year would come immediately, for then I shall have
a governess, after which good-bye to Mrs. Crabtree, and the wearisome
curl-papers."

"I don't like school!" said Harry. "It is perfect nonsense to plague me
with lessons now. All big people can read and write, so, of course, I
shall be able to do like others. There is no hurry about it!"

Never was there a more amiable, pious, excellent boy than Frank, who
read his Bible so attentively, and said his prayers so regularly every
morning and evening, that he soon learned both to know his duty and to
do it. Though he laughed heartily at the scrapes which Harry and Laura
so constantly fell into, he often also helped them out of their
difficulties; being very different from most elderly boys, who find an
odd kind of pleasure in teazing younger children--pulling their
hair--pinching their arms--twitching away their dinners--and twenty
more plans for tormenting, which Frank never attempted to enjoy, but he
often gave Harry and Laura a great deal of kind, sober, good advice,
which they listened to very attentively while they were in any new
distress, but generally forgot again as soon as their spirits rose.
Frank came home only upon Saturdays and Sundays, because he attended
during most of the week at Mr. Lexicon's academy, where he gradually
became so clever, that the masters all praised his extraordinary
attention, and covered him with medals, while Major Graham often filled
his pockets with a reward of money, after which he ran towards the
nearest shop to spend his little fortune in buying a present for
somebody. Frank scarcely ever wanted anything for himself, but he always
wished to contrive some kind generous plan for other people; and Major
Graham used to say, "if that boy had only sixpence in the world, he
would lay it all out on penny tarts to distribute among half-a-dozen of
his friends." He even saved his pocket-money once, during three whole
months, to purchase a gown for Mrs. Crabtree, who looked almost
good-humoured during the space of five minutes, when Frank presented it
to her, saying, in his joyous merry voice, "Mrs. Crabtree! I wish you
health to wear it, strength to tear it, and money to buy another!"

Certainly there never was such a gown before! It had been chosen by
Frank and Harry together, who thought nothing could be more perfect. The
colour was so bright an apple-green, that it would have put any body's
teeth on edge to look at it, and the whole was dotted over with large
round spots of every colour, as if a box of wafers had been showered
upon the surface. Laura wished Mrs. Crabtree might receive a present
every day, as it put her in such good-humour, and nearly three weeks
after passed this, without a single scold being heard in the nursery;
so Frank observed that he thought Mrs. Crabtree would soon be quite out
of practice.

"Laura!" said Major Graham, looking very sly one morning, "have you
heard all the new rules that Mrs. Crabtree has made?"

"No!" replied she in great alarm; "what are they?"

"In the first place, you are positively not to tear and destroy above
three frocks a-day; secondly, you and Harry must never get into a
passion, unless you are angry; thirdly, when either of you take
medicine, you are not to make wry faces, except when the taste is bad;
fourthly, you must never speak ill of Mrs. Crabtree herself, until she
is out of the room; fifthly, you are not to jump out of the windows, as
long as you can get out at the door"----

"Yes!" interrupted Laura, laughing, "and sixthly, when uncle David is
joking, we are not to be frightened by anything he says!"

"Seventhly, when next you spill grandmama's bottle of ink, Harry must
drink up every drop."

"Very well! he may swallow a sheet of blotting paper afterwards, to put
away the taste."

"I wish every body who writes a book, was obliged to swallow it," said
Harry. "It is such a waste of time reading, when we might be amusing
ourselves. Frank sat mooning over a book for two hours yesterday when we
wanted him to play. I am sure, some day his head will burst with
knowledge."

"That can never happen to you, Master Harry," answered Major Graham;
"you have a head, and so has a pin, but there is not much furniture in
either of them."



CHAPTER II.

THE GRAND FEAST.

  She gave them some tea without any bread,
  She whipp'd them all soundly, and sent them to bed.

                                         Nursery Rhymes.


Lady Harriet Graham was an extremely thin, delicate, old lady, with a
very pale face, and a sweet gentle voice, which the children delighted
to hear, for it always spoke kindly to them, and sounded like music,
after the loud, rough tones of Mrs. Crabtree. She wore her own grey
hair, which had become almost as white as the widow's cap which covered
her head. The rest of her dress was generally black velvet, and she
usually sat in a comfortable arm-chair by the fire-side, watching her
grandchildren at play, with a large work-bag by her side, and a
prodigious Bible open on the table before her. Lady Harriet often said
that it made her young again to see the joyous gambols of Harry and
Laura; and when unable any longer to bear their noise, she sometimes
kept them quiet, by telling the most delightful stories about what had
happened to herself when she was young.

Once upon a time, however, Lady Harriet suddenly became so very ill,
that Dr. Bell said she must spend a few days in the country, for change
of air, and accordingly she determined on passing a quiet week at
Holiday House with her relations, Lord and Lady Rockville. Meanwhile,
Harry and Laura were to be left under the sole care of Mrs. Crabtree, so
it might have been expected that they would both feel more frightened
for her, now that she was reigning monarch of the house, than ever.
Harry would obey those he loved, if they only held up a little finger;
but all the terrors of Mrs. Crabtree, and her cat-o'-nine-tails, were
generally forgotten soon after she left the room; therefore he thought
little at first about the many threats she held out, if he behaved ill,
but he listened most seriously when his dear sick grandmama told him, in
a faint weak voice, on the day of her departure from home, how very well
he ought to behave in her absence, as no one remained but the maids to
keep him in order, and that she hoped Mrs. Crabtree would write her a
letter full of good news about his excellent conduct.

Harry felt as if he would gladly sit still without stirring, till his
grandmama came back, if that could only please her; and there never was
any one more determined to be a good boy than he, at the moment when
Lady Harriet's carriage came round to the door. Laura, Frank, and Harry
helped to carry all the pillows, boxes, books, and baskets which were
necessary for the journey, of which there seemed to be about fifty; then
they arranged the cushions as comfortably as possible, and watched very
sorrowfully when their grandmama, after kindly embracing them both, was
carefully supported by Major Graham and her maid Harrison, into the
chariot. Uncle David gave each of the children a pretty picture-book
before taking leave, and said, as he was stepping into the carriage,
"Now, children! I have only one piece of serious, important advice to
give you all, so attend to me!--never crack nuts with your teeth!"

When the carriage had driven off, Mrs. Crabtree became so busy scolding
Betty, and storming at Jack the foot-boy, for not cleaning her shoes
well enough, that she left Harry and Laura standing in the passage, not
knowing exactly what they ought to do first, and Frank, seeing them
looking rather melancholy and bewildered at the loss of their grandmama,
stopped a moment as he passed on the way to school, and said in a very
kind, affectionate voice,

"Now, Harry and Laura, listen both of you!--here is a grand opportunity
to show everybody, that we can be trusted to ourselves, without getting
into any scrapes, so that if grandmama is ever ill again, and obliged to
go away, she need not feel so sad and anxious as she did to-day. I mean
to become nine times more attentive to my lessons than usual this
morning, to show how trust-worthy we are, and if you are wise, pray
march straight up to the nursery yourselves. I have arranged a gown and
cap of Mrs. Crabtree's on the large arm-chair, to look as like herself
as possible, that you may be reminded how soon she will come back, and
you must not behave like the mice when the cat is out. Good bye! Say the
alphabet backward, and count your fingers for half-an-hour, but when
Mrs. Crabtree appears again, pray do not jump out of the window for
joy."

Harry and Laura were proceeding directly towards the nursery, as Frank
had recommended, when unluckily they observed in passing the
drawing-room door, that it was wide open; so Harry peeped in, and they
began idly wandering round the tables and cabinets. Not ten minutes
elapsed before they both commenced racing about as if they were mad,
perfectly screaming with joy, and laughing so loudly at their own funny
tricks, that an old gentleman who lived next door, very nearly sent in a
message to ask what the joke was.

Presently Harry and Laura ran up and down stairs till the housemaid was
quite fatigued with running after them. They jumped upon the fine damask
sofas in the drawing-room, stirred the fire till it was in a blaze, and
rushed out on the balcony, upsetting one or two geraniums and a myrtle.
They spilt Lady Harriet's perfumes over their handkerchiefs,--they
looked into all the beautiful books of pictures,--they tumbled many of
the pretty Dresden china figures on the floor,--they wound up the little
French clock till it was broken,--they made the musical work-box play
its tunes, and set the Chinese mandarins nodding, till they very nearly
nodded their heads off. In short, so much mischief has seldom been done
in so short a time, till at last Harry, perfectly worn out with laughing
and running, threw himself into a large arm-chair, and Laura, with her
ringlets tumbling in frightful confusion over her face, and the beads of
her coral necklace rolling on the floor, tossed herself into a sofa
beside him.

"Oh! what fun!" cried Harry, in an ecstacy of delight; "I wish Frank had
been here, and crowds of little boys and girls, to play with us all day!
It would be a good joke, Laura, to write and ask all our little cousins
and companions to drink tea here to-morrow evening! Their mamas could
never guess we had not leave from grandmama to invite everybody, so I
dare say we might gather quite a large party! oh! how enchanting!"

Laura laughed heartily when she heard this proposal of Harry's, and
without hesitating a moment about it, she joyously placed herself before
Lady Harriet's writing-table, and scribbled a multitude of little notes,
in large text, to more than twenty young friends, all of whom had at
other times been asked by Lady Harriet to spend the evening with her.

Laura felt very much puzzled to know what was usually said in a card of
invitation, but after many consultations, she and Harry thought at last,
that it was very nicely expressed, for they wrote these words upon a
large sheet of paper to each of their friends:--

Master Harry Graham and Miss Laura wish you to have the honour of
drinking tea with us to-morrow, at six o'clock.

    (Signed) Harry and Laura.

Laura afterwards singed a hole in her muslin frock, while
lighting one of the Vesta matches to seal these numerous notes; and
Harry dropped some burning sealing-wax on his hand, in the hurry of
assisting her; but he thought that little accident no matter, and ran
away to see if the cards could be sent off immediately.

Now, there lived in the house a very old footman, called Andrew, who
remembered Harry and Laura since they were quite little babies; and he
often looked exceedingly sad and sorry when they suffered punishment
from Mrs. Crabtree. He was ready to do anything in the world when it
pleased the children, and would have carried a message to the moon, if
they had only shown him the way. Many odd jobs and private messages he
had already been employed in by Harry, who now called Andrew up stairs,
entreating him to carry out all those absurd notes as fast as possible,
and to deliver them immediately, as they were of the greatest
consequence. Upon hearing this, old Andrew lost not a moment, but threw
on his hat, and instantly started off, looking like the twopenny
postman, he carried such a prodigious parcel of invitations, while Harry
and Laura stood at the drawing-room window, almost screaming with joy
when they saw him set out, and when they observed that, to oblige them,
he actually ran along the street at a sort of trot, which was as fast as
he could possibly go. Presently, however, he certainly did stop for a
single minute, and Laura saw that it was in order to take a peep into
one of the notes, that he might ascertain what they were all about; but
as he never carried any letters without doing so, she thought that quite
natural, and was only very glad when he had finished, and rapidly
pursued his way again.

Next morning, Mrs. Crabtree and Betty became very much surprised to
observe what a number of smart livery servants knocked at the street
door, and gave in cards, but their astonishment became still greater,
when old Andrew brought up a whole parcel of them to Harry and Laura,
who immediately broke the seals, and read the contents in a corner
together.

"What are you about there, Master Graham?" cried Mrs. Crabtree, angrily,
"how dare any body venture to touch your grandmama's letters?"

"They are not for grandmama!--they are all for us!--every one of them!"
answered Harry, dancing about the room with joy, and waving the notes
over his head. "Look at this direction! For Master and Miss Graham! put
on your spectacles, and read it yourself, Mrs. Crabtree! What delightful
fun! the house will be as full as an egg!"

Mrs. Crabtree seemed completely puzzled what to think of all this, and
looked so much as if she did not know exactly what to be angry at, and
so ready to be in a passion if possible, that Harry burst out a
laughing, while he said, "Only think Mrs. Crabtree! here is every body
coming to tea with us!--all my cousins, besides Peter Grey, Robert
Stewart, Charles Forrester, Adelaide Cunninghame, Diana Wentworth, John
Fordyce, Edmund Ashford, Frank Abercromby, Ned Russel, and Tom ----"

"The boy is distracted!" exclaimed Betty, staring with astonishment.
"What does all this mean, Master Harry?"

"And who gave you leave to invite company into your grandmama's house?"
cried Mrs. Crabtree, snatching up all the notes, and angrily thrusting
them into the fire. "I never heard of such things in all my life before,
Master Harry! but as sure as eggs is eggs, you shall repent of this, for
not one morsel of cake, or anything else shall you have to give any of
the party; no! not so much as a crust of bread, or a thimbleful of tea!"

Harry and Laura had never thought of such a catastrophe as this before;
they always saw a great table covered with every thing that could be
named for tea, whenever their little friends came to visit them, and
whether it rose out of the floor, or was brought by Aladdin's lamp, they
never considered it possible that the table would not be provided as
usual on such occasions, so this terrible speech of Mrs. Crabtree's
frightened them out of their wits. What was to be done! They both knew
by experience that she always did whatever she threatened, or something
a great deal worse, so they began by bursting into tears, and begging
Mrs. Crabtree for this once to excuse them, and to give some cakes and
tea to their little visitors, but they might as well have spoken to one
of the Chinese mandarins, for she only shook her head, with a positive
look, declaring over and over again that nothing should appear upon the
table except what was always brought up for their own supper--two
biscuits and two cups of milk.

"Therefore say no more about it!" added she, sternly. "I am your best
friend, Master Harry, trying to teach you and Miss Laura your duty, so
save your breath to cool your porridge."

Poor Harry and Laura looked perfectly ill with fright and vexation when
they thought of what was to happen next, while Mrs. Crabtree sat down to
her knitting, grumbling to herself, and dropping her stitches every
minute with rage and irritation. Old Andrew felt exceedingly sorry after
he heard what distress and difficulty Harry was in, and when the hour
for the party approached, he very good-naturedly spread out a large
table in the dining-room, where he put down as many cups, saucers,
plates, and spoons as Laura chose to direct; but in spite of all his
trouble, though it looked very grand, there was nothing whatever to eat
or drink, except the two dry biscuits, and the two miserable cups of
milk, which seemed to become smaller every time that Harry looked at
them.

Presently the clock struck six, and Harry listened to the hour very much
as a prisoner would do in the condemned cell in Newgate, feeling that
the dreaded time was at last arrived. Soon afterwards, several handsome
carriages drove up to the door filled with little Masters and Misses,
who hurried joyfully into the house, talking and laughing all the way up
stairs, being evidently quite happy at coming out to tea, while poor
Harry and Laura almost wished the floor would open and swallow them up,
so they shrunk into a distant corner of the room, quite ashamed to show
their faces.

The young ladies were all dressed in their best frocks, with pink
sashes, and pink shoes; while the little boys appeared in their holiday
clothes, with their hair newly brushed, and their faces washed. The
whole party had dined at two o'clock, so they were as hungry as hawks,
looking eagerly round, whenever they entered, to see what was on the
tea-table, and evidently surprised that nothing had yet been put down.
Laura and Harry soon afterwards heard their visitors whispering to each
other about Norwich buns, rice cakes, spunge biscuits, and maccaroons;
while Peter Grey was loud in praise of a party at George Lorraine's the
night before, where an immense plum-cake had been sugared over like a
snow storm, and covered with crowds of beautiful amusing mottoes; not to
mention a quantity of noisy crackers, that exploded like pistols;
besides which, a glass of hot jelly had been handed to each little guest
before he was sent home.

Every time the door opened, all eyes were anxiously turned round,
expecting a grand feast to be brought in; but quite the contrary--it was
only Andrew showing up more hungry visitors; while Harry felt so
unspeakably wretched, that, if some kind fairy could only have turned
him into a Norwich bun at the moment, he would gladly have consented to
be cut in pieces, that his ravenous guests might be satisfied.

Charles Forrester was a particularly good-natured boy, so Harry at last
took courage and beckoned him into a remote corner of the room, where he
confessed, in whispers, the real state of affairs about tea, and how
sadly distressed he and Laura felt, because they had nothing whatever to
give among so many visitors, seeing that Mrs. Crabtree kept her
determination of affording them no provisions.

"What is to be done!" said Charles, very anxiously, as he felt extremely
sorry for his little friends. "If Mama had been at home, she would
gladly have sent whatever you liked for tea, but unluckily she is dining
out! I saw a loaf of bread lying on a table at home this evening, which
she would make you quite welcome to! Shall I run home, as fast as
possible, to fetch it? That would, at any rate, be better than nothing!"

Poor Charles Forrester was very lame, therefore, while he talked of
running he could hardly walk, but Lady Forrester's house stood so near,
that he soon reached home, when, snatching up the loaf, he hurried back
towards the street with his prize, quite delighted to see how large and
substantial it looked. Scarcely had he reached the door, however, before
the housekeeper ran hastily out, saying,

"Stop, Mr. Charles! stop! sure you are not running away with the loaf
for my tea, and the parrot must have her supper too. What do you want
with that there bread?"

"Never mind, Mrs. Comfit!" answered Charles, hastening on faster than
ever, while he grasped the precious loaf more firmly in his hand, and
limped along at a prodigious rate, "Polly is getting too fat, so she
will be the better of fasting for this one day."

Mrs. Comfit, being enormously fat herself, became very angry at this
remark, so she seemed quite desperate to recover the loaf, and hurried
forward to overtake Charles, but the old housekeeper was so heavy and
breathless, while the young gentleman was so lame, that it seemed an
even chance which won the race. Harry stood at his own door, impatiently
hoping to receive the prize, and eagerly stretched out his arms to
encourage his friend, while it was impossible to say which of the
runners might arrive first. Harry had sometimes heard of a race between
two old women tied up in sacks, and he thought they could scarcely move
with more difficulty; but at the very moment when Charles had reached
the door, he stumbled over a stone, and fell on the ground. Mrs. Comfit
then instantly rushed up, and seizing the loaf, she carried it off in
triumph, leaving the two little friends ready to cry with vexation, and
quite at a loss what plan to attempt next.

Mean time, a sad riot had arisen in the dining-room, where the boys
called loudly for their tea; and the young ladies drew their chairs all
round the table, to wait till it was ready. Still nothing appeared; so
every body wondered more and more how long they were to wait for all the
nice cakes and sweetmeats which must, of course, be coming; for the
longer they were delayed, the more was expected.

The last at a feast, and the first at a fray, was generally Peter Grey,
who now lost patience, and seized one of the two biscuits, which he was
in the middle of greedily devouring, when Laura returned with Harry to
the dining-room, and observed what he had done.

"Peter Grey!" said she, holding up her head, and trying to look very
dignified, "you are an exceedingly naughty boy, to help yourself! As a
punishment for being so rude, you shall have nothing more to eat all
this evening."

"If I do not help myself, nobody else seems likely to give me any
supper! I appear to be the only person who is to taste anything
to-night," answered Peter, laughing, while the impudent boy took a cup
of milk, and drank it off, saying, "Here's to your very good health,
Miss Laura, and an excellent appetite to everybody!"

Upon hearing this absurd speech, all the other boys began laughing, and
made signs, as if they were eating their fingers off with hunger. Then
Peter called Lady Harriet's house "Famine Castle," and pretended he
would swallow the knives like an Indian juggler.

"We must learn to live upon air, and here are some spoons to eat it
with," said John Fordyce. "Harry! shall I help you to a mouthful of
moonshine?"

"Peter! would you like a roasted fly?" asked Frank Abercromby, catching
one on the window. "I dare say it is excellent for hungry people,--or a
slice of buttered wall?"

"Or a stewed spider?" asked Peter. "Shall we all be cannibals, and eat
one another?"

"What is the use of all those forks, when there is nothing to stick upon
them?" asked George Maxwell, throwing them about on the floor. "No
buns!--no fruit!--no cakes!--no nothing!"

"What are we to do with those tea-cups, when there is no tea?" cried
Frank Abercromby, pulling the table-cloth till the whole affair fell
prostrate on the floor. After this, these riotous boys tossed the plates
up in the air, and caught them, becoming, at last, so outrageous, that
poor old Andrew called them a "meal mob." Never was there so much broken
china seen in a dining-room before! It all lay scattered on the floor,
in countless fragments, looking as if there had been a bull in a china
shop, when suddenly Mrs. Crabtree herself opened the door and walked in,
with an aspect of rage enough to petrify a milestone. Now old Andrew had
long been trying all in his power to render the boys quiet and
contented. He had made them a speech,--he had chased the ring-leaders
all round the room,--and he had thrown his stick at Peter, who seemed
the most riotous,--but all in vain; they became worse and worse,
laughing into fits, and calling Andrew "the police-officer," and "the
bailiff." It was a very different story, however, when Mrs. Crabtree
appeared, so flaming with fury, she might have blown up a powder-mill.

Nobody could help being afraid of her. Even Peter himself stood
stock-still, and seemed withering away to nothing, when she looked at
him; and when she began to scold in her most furious manner, not a boy
ventured to look off the ground. A large pair of tawse then became
visible in her hand, so every heart sunk with fright, and the riotous
visitors began to get behind each other, and to huddle out of sight as
much as possible, whispering and pushing, and fighting, in a desperate
scuffle to escape.

"What is all this!" cried she, at the full pitch of her voice, "has
bedlam broke loose! who smashed these cups? I'll break his head for him,
let me tell you that! Master Peter! you should be hissed out of the
world for your misconduct; but I shall certainly whip you round the room
like a whipping-top."

At this moment, Peter observed that the dining-room window, which was
only about six feet from the ground, had been left wide open, so
instantly seizing the opportunity, he threw himself out with a single
bound, and ran laughing away. All the other boys immediately followed
his example, and disappeared by the same road; after which, Mrs.
Crabtree leaned far out of the window, and scolded loudly, as long as
they remained in sight, till her face became red, and her voice
perfectly hoarse.

Meantime, the little misses sat soberly down before the empty table, and
talked in whispers to each other, waiting till their maids came to take
them home, after which they all hurried away as fast as possible, hardly
waiting to say "good bye," and intending to ask for some supper at home.

During that night, long after Harry and Laura had been scolded, whipped,
and put to bed, they were each heard in different rooms, sobbing and
crying, as if their very hearts would break, while Mrs. Crabtree
grumbled and scolded to herself, saying she must do her duty, and make
them good children, though she were to flay them alive first.

When Lady Harriet returned home some days afterwards, she heard an
account of Harry and Laura's misconduct from Mrs. Crabtree, and the
whole story was such a terrible case against them, that their poor
grandmama became perfectly astonished and shocked, while even uncle
David was preparing to be very angry; but before the culprits appeared,
Frank most kindly stepped forward, and begged that they might be
pardoned for this once, adding all in his power to excuse Harry and
Laura, by describing how very penitent they had become, and how very
severely they had already been punished.

Frank then mentioned all that Harry had told him about the starving
party, which he related with so much humour and drollery, that Lady
Harriet could not help laughing; so then he saw that a victory had been
gained, and ran to the nursery for the two little prisoners.

Uncle David shook his walking-stick at them, and made a terrible face,
when they entered; but Harry jumped upon his knee with joy at seeing him
again, while Laura forgot all her distress, and rushed up to Lady
Harriet, who folded her in her arms, and kissed her most affectionately.

Not a word was said that day about the tea-party, but next morning,
Major Graham asked Harry, very gravely, "if he had read in the
newspapers the melancholy accounts about several of his little
companions, who were ill and confined to bed from having ate too much at
a certain tea-party on Saturday last. Poor Peter Grey has been given
over, and Charles Forrester, it is feared, may not be able to eat
another loaf of bread for a fortnight!"

"Oh! uncle David! it makes me ill whenever I think of that party!" said
Harry, colouring perfectly scarlet; "that was the most miserable evening
of my life!"

"I must say it was not quite fair in Mrs. Crabtree to starve all the
strange little boys and girls, who came as visitors to my house, without
knowing who had invited them," observed Lady Harriet. "Probably those
unlucky children will never forget, as long as they live, that scanty
supper in our dining-room."

And it turned out exactly as Lady Harriet had predicted; for though they
were all asked to tea, in proper time, the very next Saturday, when
Major Graham showered torrents of sugar-plums on the table, while the
children scrambled to pick them up, and the side-board almost broke down
afterwards under the weight of buns, cakes, cheesecakes, biscuits,
fruit, and preserves, which were heaped upon each other--yet, for years
afterwards, Peter Grey, whenever he ate a particularly enormous dinner,
always observed, that he must make up for having once been starved at
Harry Graham's; and whenever any one of those little boys or girls again
happened to meet Harry or Laura, they were sure to laugh and say, "When
are you going to give us another

                              "GRAND FEAST?"



CHAPTER III.

THE TERRIBLE FIRE.

  Fire rages with fury wherever it comes,
  If only one spark should be dropped;
  Whole houses, or cities, sometimes it consumes,
  Where its violence cannot be stopped.


One night, about eight o'clock, Harry and Laura were playing in the
nursery, building houses with bricks, and trying who could raise the
highest tower without letting it fall, when suddenly they were startled
to hear every bell in the house ringing violently, while the servants
seemed running up and down stairs, as if they were distracted.

"What can be the matter!" cried Laura, turning round and listening,
while Harry quietly took this opportunity to shake the walls of her
castle till it fell.

"The very house is coming down about your ears, Laura!" said Harry,
enjoying his little bit of mischief. "I should like to be Andrew, now,
for five minutes, that I might answer those fifty bells, and see what
has happened. Uncle David must be wanting coals, candles, tea, toast,
and soda water, all at once! What a bustle everybody is in! There! the
bells are ringing again, worse than ever! Something wonderful is going
on! what can it be!"

Presently Betty ran breathlessly into the room, saying that Mrs.
Crabtree ought to come down stairs immediately, as Lady Harriet had been
suddenly taken very ill, and, till the Doctor arrived, nobody knew what
to do, so she must give her advice and assistance.

Harry and Laura felt excessively shocked to hear this alarming news, and
listened with grave attention, while Mrs. Crabtree told them how
amazingly well they ought to behave in her absence, when they were
trusted alone in the nursery, with nobody to keep them in order, or to
see what they were doing, especially now, as their grandmama had been
taken ill, and would require to be kept quiet.

Harry sat in his chair, and might have been painted as the very picture
of a good boy during nearly twenty minutes after Mrs. Crabtree departed;
and Laura placed herself opposite to him, trying to follow so excellent
an example, while they scarcely spoke above a whisper, wondering what
could be the matter with their grandmama, and wishing for once, to see
Mrs. Crabtree again, that they might hear how she was. Any one who had
observed Harry and Laura at that time, would have wondered to see two
such quiet, excellent, respectable children, and wished that all little
boys and girls were made upon the same pattern; but presently they began
to think that probably Lady Harriet was not so very ill, as no more
bells had rung during several minutes, and Harry ventured to look about
for some better amusement than sitting still.

At this moment Laura unluckily perceived on the table near where they
sat, a pair of Mrs. Crabtree's best scissors, which she had been
positively forbid to touch. The long troublesome ringlets were as usual
hanging over her eyes in a most teazing manner, so she thought what a
good opportunity this might be to shorten them a very little, not above
an inch or two; and without considering a moment longer, she slipped
upon tiptoe, with a frightened look, round the table, and picked up the
scissors in her hand, then hastening towards a looking-glass, she began
snipping off the ends of her hair. Laura was much diverted to see it
showering down upon the floor, so she cut and cut on, while the curls
fell thicker and faster, till at last the whole floor was covered with
them, and scarcely a hair left upon her head. Harry went into fits of
laughing when he perceived what a ridiculous figure Laura had made of
herself, and he turned her round and round to see the havoc she had
made, saying,

"You should give all this hair to Mr. Mills the upholsterer, to stuff
grandmama's arm-chair with! At any rate, Laura, if Mrs. Crabtree is ever
so angry, she can hardly pull you by the hair of the head again! What a
sound sleep you will have to-night, with no hard curl-papers to torment
you!"

Harry had been told five hundred times, never to touch the candles, and
threatened with twenty different punishments, if he ever ventured to do
so; but now, he amused himself with trying to snuff one till he snuffed
it out. Then he lighted it again, and tried the experiment once more,
but again the teazing candle went out, as if on purpose to plague him,
so he felt quite provoked. Having lighted it once more, Harry prepared
to carry the candlestick with him towards the inner nursery, though
afraid to make the smallest noise, in case it might be taken from him.
Before he had gone five steps, down dropped the extinguisher, then
followed the snuffers with a great crash, but Laura seemed too busy
cropping her ringlets, to notice what was going on. All the way along
upon the floor, Harry let fall a perfect shower of hot wax, which
spotted the nursery carpet from the table where he had found the candle
into the next room, where he disappeared, and shut the door, that no one
might interfere with what he liked to do.

After he had been absent some time, the door was hastily opened again,
and Laura felt surprised to see Harry come back with his face as red as
a stick of sealing-wax, and his large eyes staring wider than they had
ever stared before, with a look of rueful consternation.

"What is the matter!" exclaimed Laura in a terrified voice. "Has
anything dreadful happened? Why do you look so frightened and so
surprised?"

"Oh dear! oh dear! what shall I do?" cried Harry, who seemed scarcely to
know how he spoke, or where he was. "I don't know what to do, Laura!"

"What can be the matter! do tell me at once, Harry," said Laura, shaking
with apprehension. "Speak as fast as you can!"

"Will you not tell Mrs. Crabtree, nor grandmama, nor anybody else?"
cried Harry, bursting into tears. "I am so very, very sorry, and so
frightened! Laura! do you know, I took a candle into the next room,
merely to play with it."

"Well! go on, Harry! go on! what did you do with the candle?"

"I only put it on the bed for a single minute, to see how the flame
would look there,--well! do you know it blazed away famously, and then
all the bed clothes began burning too! Oh! there is such a terrible fire
in the next room! you never saw anything like it! what shall we do? If
old Andrew were to come up, do you think he could put it out? I have
shut the door that Mrs. Crabtree may not see the flames. Be sure, Laura,
to tell nobody but Andrew."

Laura became terrified at the way she saw poor Harry in, but when she
opened the door to find out the real state of affairs, oh! what a
dreadful sight was there! all the beds were on fire, while bright red
flames were blazing up to the roof of the room, with a fierce roaring
noise, which it was perfectly frightful to hear. She screamed aloud with
terror at this alarming scene, while Harry did all he could to quiet
her, and even put his hand over her mouth, that her cries might not be
heard. Laura now struggled to get loose, and called louder and louder,
till at last every maid in the house came racing up stairs, three steps
at a time, to know what was the matter. Immediately upon seeing the
flames, they all began screaming too, in such a loud discordant way,
that it sounded as if a whole flight of crows had come into the
passages. Never was there such an uproar heard in the house before, for
the walls echoed with a general cry of "Fire! fire! fire!"

Up flew Mrs. Crabtree towards the nursery like a sky-rocket, scolding
furiously, talking louder than all the others put together, and asking
who had set the house on fire, while Harry and Laura scarcely knew
whether to be most frightened for the raging flames, or the raging Mrs.
Crabtree; but, in the meantime, they both shrunk into the smallest
possible size, and hid themselves behind a door.

During all this confusion, Old Andrew luckily remembered, that, in the
morning, there had been a great washing in the laundry, where large tubs
full of water were standing, so he called to the few maids who had any
of their senses remaining, desiring them to assist in carrying up some
buckets, that they might be emptied on the burning beds, to extinguish
the flames if possible. Every body was now in a hurry, and all elbowing
each other out of the way, while it was most extraordinary to see how
old Andrew exerted himself, as if he had been a fireman all his life,
while Mrs. Marmalade, the fat cook, who could hardly carry herself up
stairs in general, actively assisted to bring up the great heavy tubs,
and to pour them out like a cascade upon the burning curtains, till the
nursery-floor looked like a duck pond.

Meantime Harry and Laura added to the confusion as much as they could,
and were busier than anybody, stealing down the back-stairs whenever
Mrs. Crabtree was not in sight, and filling their little jugs with
water, which they brought up, as fast as possible, and dashed upon the
flames, till at last, it is to be feared, they began to feel quite
amused with the bustle, and to be almost sorry when the conflagration
diminished. At one time, Laura very nearly set her own frock on fire, as
she ventured too near, but Harry pulled her back, and then courageously
advanced to discharge a shower from his own little jug, remaining
stationary to watch the effect, till his face was almost scorched.

At last the fire became less and less, till it went totally out, but not
before the nursery furniture had been reduced to perfect ruins, besides
which, Betty had her arm sadly burned in the confusion. Mrs. Marmalade's
cap was completely destroyed, and Mrs. Crabtree's best gown had so large
a hole burned in the skirt, that she never could wear it again!

After all was quiet, and the fire completely extinguished, Major Graham
took Laura down stairs to Lady Harriet's dressing-room, that she might
tell the whole particulars of how this alarming accident happened in the
nursery, for nobody could guess what had caused so sudden and dreadful a
fire, which seemed to have been as unexpected as a flash of lightning.

Lady Harriet had felt so terrified by the noise and confusion, that she
was out of bed, sitting up in an arm-chair, supported by pillows, when
Laura entered, at the sight of whom, with her well-cropped head, she
made an exclamation of perfect amazement.

"Why! who on earth is that! Laura! my dear child! what has become of all
your hair? Were your curls burned off in the fire? or did the fright
make you grow bald? What is the meaning of all this?"

Laura turned perfectly crimson with shame and distress, for she now felt
convinced of her own great misconduct about the scissors and curls, but
she had been taught on all occasions to speak the truth, and would
rather have died than told a lie, or even allowed any person to believe
what was not true, therefore she answered in a low, frightened voice,
while the tears came into her eyes, "My hair has not been burned off,
grandmama! but--but--"

"Well, child! speak out!" said Lady Harriet, impatiently, "did some
hair-dresser come to the house and rob you?"

"Or are you like the ladies of Carthage who gave their long hair for
bows and arrows?" asked Major Graham. "I never saw such a little fright
in my life as you look now; but tell us all about it?"

"I have been quite as naughty as Harry!" answered Laura, bursting into
tears and sobbing with grief; "I was cutting off my hair with Mrs.
Crabtree's scissors all the time that he was setting the nursery on
fire!"

"Did any mortal ever hear of two such little torments!" exclaimed Major
Graham, hardly able to help laughing. "I wonder if anybody else in the
world has such mischievous children!"

"It is certainly very strange, that you and Harry never can contrive to
be three hours out of a scrape!" said Lady Harriet gravely; "now Frank,
on the contrary, never forgets what I bid him do. You might suppose he
carried Mrs. Crabtree in his pocket, to remind him constantly of his
duty; but there are not two such boys in the world as Frank!"

"No," added Major Graham; "Harry set the house on fire, and Frank will
set the Thames on fire!"

When Laura saw uncle David put on one of his funny looks, while he spoke
in this way to Lady Harriet, she almost forgot her former fright, and
became surprised to observe her grandmama busy preparing what she called
a coach-wheel, which had been often given as a treat to Harry and
herself when they were particularly good. This delightful wheel was
manufactured by taking a whole round slice of the loaf, in the centre of
which was placed a large tea-spoonful of jelly, after which long spokes
of marmalade, jam, and honey, were made to diverge most tastefully in
every direction towards the crust, and Laura watched the progress of
this business with great interest and anxiety, wondering if it could be
hoped that her grandmama really meant to forgive all her misconduct
during the day.

"That coach-wheel is, of course, meant for me!" said Major Graham,
pretending to be very hungry, and looking slyly at Laura; "It cannot
possibly be intended for our little hair-dresser here!"

"Yes, it is!" answered Lady Harriet, smiling. "I have some thoughts of
excusing Laura this time, because she always tells me the truth, without
attempting to conceal any foolish thing she does. It will be very long
before she has any hair to cut off again, so I hope she may be older and
wiser by that time, especially considering that every looking-glass she
sees for six months will make her feel ashamed of herself. She certainly
deserves some reward for having prevented the house to-night from being
burned to the ground."

"I am glad you think so, because here is a shilling that has been
burning in my pocket for the last few minutes, as I wished to bestow it
on Laura for having saved all our lives, and if she had behaved still
better, I might perhaps have given her a gold watch!"

Laura was busily employed in eating her coach-wheel, and trying to fancy
what the gold watch would have looked like which she might probably have
got from uncle David, when suddenly the door burst open, and Mrs.
Crabtree hurried into the room, with a look of surprise and alarm, her
face as red as a poppy, and her eye fixed on the hole in her best gown,
while she spoke so loud and angrily, that Laura almost trembled.

"If you please, my lady! where can Master Harry be? I cannot find him in
any corner!--we have been searching all over the house, up stairs and
down stairs, in vain. Not a garret or a closet but has been ransacked,
and nobody can guess what has become of him!"

"Did you look up the chimney, Mrs. Crabtree?" asked Major Graham,
laughing to see how excited she looked.

"Indeed, Sir! it is no joke," answered Mrs. Crabtree, sulkily; "I am
almost afraid Master Harry has been burned in the fire! The last time
Betty saw him, he was throwing a jug of water into the flames, and no
one has ever seen or heard of him since! There is a great many ashes and
cinders lying about the room, and----"

"Do you think, in sober seriousness, Mrs. Crabtree, that Harry would
melt away like a wax doll, without asking any body to extinguish him?"
said Major Graham, smiling. "No! no! little boys are not quite so easily
disposed of. I shall find Harry in less than five minutes, if he is
above ground."

But uncle David was quite mistaken in expecting to discover Harry so
easily, for he searched and searched in vain. He looked into every
possible or impossible place--the library, the kitchen, the garrets, the
laundry, the drawing-room, all without success,--he peeped under the
tables, behind the curtains, over the beds, beneath the pillows, and
into Mrs. Crabtree's bonnet-box,--he even opened the tea-chest, and
looked out at the window, in case Harry had tumbled over, but nowhere
could he be found.

"Not a mouse is stirring!" exclaimed Major Graham, beginning now to look
exceedingly grave and anxious. "This is very strange! The house-door is
locked, therefore, unless Harry made his escape through the key-hole, he
must be here! It is most unaccountable what the little pickle can have
done with himself!"

When Major Graham chose to exert his voice, it was as loud as a trumpet,
and could be heard half a mile off; so he now called out, like thunder,
from the top of the stairs to the bottom, saying, "Hollo, Harry! hollo!
Come here, my boy! Nobody shall hurt you! Harry! where are you!"

Uncle David waited to listen, but all was still,--no answer could be
heard, and there was not a sound in the house, except poor Laura at the
bottom of the stairs, sobbing with grief and terror about Harry having
been lost, and Mrs. Crabtree grumbling angrily to herself, on account of
the large hole in her best gown.

By this time Lady Harriet nearly fainted with fatigue, for she was so
very old, and had been ill all day; so she grew worse and worse, till
everybody said she must go to bed, and try if it would be possible to
fall asleep, assuring her that Harry must soon be found, as nothing
particular could have happened to him, or some person would have seen
it.

"Indeed, my lady! Master Harry is just like a bad shilling that is sure
to come back," said Mrs. Crabtree, helping her to undress, while she
continued to talk the whole time about the fire, showing her own
unfortunate gown, describing the trouble she had taken to save the house
from being burned, and always ending every sentence with a wish that she
could lay her hands on Harry to punish him as he deserved.

"The truth is, I just spoil and indulge the children too much, my lady!"
added Mrs. Crabtree, in a self-satisfied tone of voice. "I really blame
myself often for being over easy and kind."

"You have nothing to accuse yourself of in that respect," answered Lady
Harriet, unable to help smiling.

"Your ladyship is very good to say so. Major Graham is so fond of our
young people, that it is lucky they have some one to keep them in order.
I shall make a duty, my lady, of being more strict than ever. Master
Harry must be made an example of this time!" added Mrs. Crabtree,
angrily glancing at the hole in her gown. "I shall teach him to
remember this day the longest hour he has to live!"

"Harry will not forget it any how," answered Lady Harriet languidly.
"Perhaps, Mrs. Crabtree, we might as well not be severe with the poor
boy on this occasion. As the old proverb says, 'there is no use in
pouring water on a drowned mouse.' Harry has got a sad fright for his
pains, and at all events you must find him first, before he can be
punished. Where can the poor child be hid?"

"I would give sixpence to find out that, my lady!" answered Mrs.
Crabtree, helping Lady Harriet into bed, after which she closed the
shutters, put out the candles, and left the room, angrily muttering,
"Master Harry cares no more for me than the poker cares for the tongs,
but I shall teach him another story soon."

Lady Harriet now feebly closed her eyes, being quite exhausted, and was
beginning to feel the pleasant, confused sensation that people have
before going to sleep, when some noise made her suddenly start quite
awake. She sat up in bed to listen, but could not be sure whether it had
been a great noise at a distance, or a little noise in the room; so
after waiting two or three minutes, she sunk back upon the pillows, and
tried to forget it. Again, however, she distinctly heard something
rustling in the bed curtains, and opened her eyes to see what could be
the matter, but all was dark. Something seemed to be breathing very near
her, however, and the curtains shook worse than before, till Lady
Harriet became really alarmed.

"It must surely be a cat in the room!" thought she, hastily pulling the
bell rope, till it nearly came down. "That tiresome little animal will
make such a noise, I shall not be able to sleep all night!"

The next minute Lady Harriet was startled to hear a loud sob close
beside her; and when everybody rushed up stairs to ask what was the
matter, they brought candles to search the room, and there was Harry!
He lay doubled up in a corner, and crying as if his heart would break,
yet still endeavouring not to be seen; for Harry always thought it a
terrible disgrace to cry, and would have concealed himself anywhere,
rather than be observed weeping. Laura burst into tears also, when she
saw what red eyes and pale cheeks Harry had; but Mrs. Crabtree lost no
time in pulling him out of his place, being quite impatient to begin her
scold, and to produce her tawse, though she received a sad
disappointment on this occasion, as uncle David unexpectedly interfered
to get him off.

"Come now, Mrs. Crabtree," said he good-naturedly; "put up the tawse for
this time; you are rather too fond of the leather. Harry seems really
sorry and frightened, so we must be merciful. That cataract of tears he
is shedding now, would have extinguished the fire if it had come in
time! Harry is like a culprit with the rope about his neck; but he shall
not be executed. Let me be judge and jury in this case; and my sentence
is a very dreadful one. Harry must sleep all to-night in the burned
nursery, having no other covering than the burned blankets, with large
holes in them, that he may never forget

                              "THE TERRIBLE FIRE!"



CHAPTER IV.

THE PRODIGIOUS CAKE.

                            Yet theirs the joy
  That lifts their steps, that sparkles in their eyes;
  That talks or laughs, or runs, or shouts, or plays,
  And speaks in all their looks, and all their ways.

                                        Crabbe.


Next day after the fire, Laura could think of nothing but what she was
to do with the shilling that uncle David had given her; and a thousand
plans came into her head, while many wants entered her thoughts, which
never occurred before; so that, if twenty shillings had been in her hand
instead of one, they would all have gone twenty different ways.

Lady Harriet advised that it should be laid bye till Laura had fully
considered what she would like best; reminding her very truly, that
money is lame in coming, but flies in going away. "Many people can get a
shilling, Laura," said her grandmama; "but the difficulty is to keep it;
for you know the old proverb tells that 'a fool and his money are soon
parted.'"

"Yes, Miss! so give it to me, and I shall take care of your shilling!"
added Mrs. Crabtree, holding out her hand to Laura, who fell that if her
money once disappeared into that capacious pocket, she would never see
it again. "Children have no use for money! that shilling will only burn
a hole in your purse, till it is spent on some foolish thing or other.
You will be losing your thimble soon, or mislaying your gloves; for all
these things seem to fly in every direction, as if they got legs and
wings as soon as they belong to you; so then that shilling may replace
what is lost."

Mrs. Crabtree looked as if she would eat it up; but Laura grasped her
treasure still tighter in her hand, exclaiming,

"No! no! this is mine! Uncle David never thought of my shilling being
taken care of! He meant me to do whatever I liked with it! Uncle David
says he cannot endure saving children, and that he wishes all money were
turned into slates, when little girls keep it longer than a week."

"I like that!" said Harry, eagerly; "it is so pleasant to spend money,
when the shopkeeper bows to me over the counter so politely, and asks
what I please to want."

"Older people than you like spending money, Master Harry, and spend
whether they have it or no; but the greatest pleasure is to keep it. For
instance, Miss Laura, whatever she sees worth a shilling in any shop,
might be hers if she pleases; so then it is quite as good as her own. We
shall look in at the bazaar every morning, to fix upon something that
she would like to have, and then consider of it for two or three days."

Laura thought this plan so very unsatisfactory, that she lost no time in
getting her shilling changed into two sixpences, one of which she
immediately presented to Harry, who positively refused for a long time
to accept of it, insisting that Laura should rather buy some pretty
plaything for herself; but she answered that it was much pleasanter to
divide her fortune with Harry, than to be selfish, and spend it all
alone. "I am sure, Harry," added she, "if this money had been yours, you
would have said the same thing, and given the half of what you got to
me; so now let us say no more about that, but tell me what would be the
best use to make of my sixpence?"

"You might buy that fine red morocco purse we saw in the shop window
yesterday," observed Harry, looking very serious and anxious, on being
consulted. "Do you remember how much we both wished to have it?"

"But what is the use of a purse, with no money to keep in it!" answered
Laura, looking earnestly at Harry for more advice. "Think again of
something else."

"Would you like a new doll?"

"Yes; but I have nothing to dress her with!"

"Suppose you buy that pretty geranium in a red flower-pot at the
gardener's!"

"If it would only live for a week, I might be tempted to try; but
flowers will always die with me. They seem to wither when I so much as
look at them. Do you remember that pretty fuchsia that I almost drowned
the first day grandmama gave it me; and we forgot for a week afterwards
to water it at all. I am not a good flower doctor."

"Then buy a gold watch at once," said Harry, laughing; "or a fine pony,
with a saddle, to ride on."

"Now, Harry, pray be quite in earnest. You know I might as well attempt
to buy the moon as a gold watch; so think of something else."

"It is very difficult to make a good use of money," said Harry,
pretending to look exceedingly wise. "Do you know, Laura, I once found
out that you could have twelve of those large ship biscuits we saw at
the baker's shop for sixpence. Only think! you could feed the whole
town, and make a present to everybody in the house besides! I dare say
Mrs. Crabtree might like one with her tea. All the maids would think
them a treat. You could present one to Frank, another to old Andrew, and
there would still be some left for these poor children at the cottage."

"Oh! that is the very thing!" cried Laura, running out of the room to
send Andrew off with a basket, and looking as happy as possible. Not
long afterwards, Frank, who had returned from school, was standing at
the nursery window, when he suddenly called out in a voice of surprise
and amazement,

"Come here, Harry! look at old Andrew! he is carrying something tied up
in a towel, as large as his own head! what can it be?"

"That is all for me! these are my biscuits!" said Laura, running off to
receive the parcel, and though she heard Frank laughing, while Harry
told all about them, she did not care, but brought her whole collection
triumphantly into the nursery.

"Oh fancy! how perfect!" cried Harry, opening the bundle; "this is very
good fun!"

"Here are provisions for a siege!" added Frank. "You have at least got
enough for your money, Laura!"

"Take one yourself, Frank!" said she, reaching him the largest, and
then, with the rest all tied in her apron, Laura proceeded up and down
stairs, making presents to every person she met, till her whole store
was finished; and she felt quite satisfied and happy because everybody
seemed pleased and returned many thanks, except Mrs. Crabtree, who said
she had no teeth to eat such hard things, which were only fit for
sailors going to America or the West Indies.

"You should have bought me a pound of sugar, Miss Laura, and that might
have been a present worth giving."

"You are too sweet already, Mrs. Crabtree!" said Frank, laughing. "I
shall send you a sugar-cane from the West Indies, to beat Harry and
Laura with, and a whole barrel of sugar for yourself, from my own
estate."

"None of your nonsense, Master Frank! Get out of the nursery this
moment! You with an estate indeed! You will not have a place to put your
foot upon soon except the topmast in a man-of-war, where all the bad
boys in a ship are sent."

"Perhaps, as you are not to be the captain, I may escape, and be dining
with the officers sometimes! I mean to send you home a fine new India
shawl, Mrs. Crabtree, the very moment I arrive at Madras, and some china
tea-cups from Canton."

"Fiddlesticks and nonsense!" said Mrs. Crabtree, who sometimes enjoyed a
little jesting with Frank. "Keep all them rattle-traps till you are a
rich nabob, and come home to look for Mrs. Frank,--a fine wife she will
be! Ladies that get fortunes from India are covered all over with gold
chains, and gold muslins, and scarlet shawls. She will eat nothing but
curry and rice, and never put her foot to the ground except to step into
her carriage."

"I hope you are not a gipsey, to tell fortunes!" cried Harry, laughing;
"Frank would die rather than take such a wife."

"Or, at least, I would rather have a tooth drawn than do it," added
Frank, smiling. "Perhaps I may prefer to marry one of those old wives on
the chimney-tops; but it is too serious to say I would rather die,
because nobody knows how awful it is to die, till the appointed day
comes."

"Very true and proper, Master Frank," replied Mrs. Crabtree; "you speak
like a printed book sometimes, and you deserve a good wife."

"Then I shall return home some day with chests of gold, and let you
choose one for me, as quiet and good-natured as yourself, Mrs.
Crabtree," said Frank, taking up his books and hastening off to school,
running all the way, as he was rather late, and Mr. Lexicon, the master,
had promised a grand prize for the boy who came most punctually to his
lessons, which everybody declared that Frank was sure to gain, as he had
never once been absent at the right moment.

Major Graham often tried to teaze Frank, by calling him "the
Professor,"--asking him questions which it was impossible to answer,
and then pretending to be quite shocked at his ignorance; but no one
ever saw the young scholar put out of temper by those tricks and trials,
for he always laughed more heartily than any one else, at the joke.

"Now show me, Frank," said uncle David, one morning, "how do you advance
three steps backwards?"

"That is quite impossible, unless you turn me into a crab."

"Tell me, then, which is the principal town in Caffraria?"

"Is there any town there? I do not recollect it."

"Then so much the worse!--how are you ever to get through life without
knowing the chief town in Caffraria! I am quite ashamed of your
ignorance. Now let us try a little arithmetic! Open the door of your
understanding and tell me, when wheat is six shillings a bushel, what is
the price of a penny loaf. Take your slate and calculate that."

"Yes, uncle David, if you will find out, when gooseberries are two
shillings the pint, what is the price of a threepenny tart. You remind
me of my old nursery song--

  'The man in the wilderness asked me,
  How many strawberries grew in the sea;
  I answered him, as I thought it good,
  As many red herrings as grew in the wood.'"

Some days after Laura had distributed the biscuits, she became very
sorry for having squandered her shilling, without attending to Lady
Harriet's good advice, about keeping it carefully in her pocket for at
least a week, to see what would happen. A very pleasant way of using
money now fell in her way, but she had been a foolish spendthrift, so
her pockets were empty, when she most wished them to be full. Harry came
that morning after breakfast into the nursery, looking in a great
bustle, and whispering to Laura, "What a pity your sixpence is gone! but
as Mrs. Crabtree says, 'we cannot both eat our cake and have it!'"

"No!" answered Laura, as seriously as if she had never thought of this
before, "but why do you so particularly wish my money back to-day?"

"Because such a very nice, funny thing is to be done this morning. You
and I are asked to join the party, but I am afraid we cannot afford it!
All our little cousins and companions intend going with Mr. Harwood, the
tutor, at twelve o'clock, to climb up to the very top of Arthur's Seat,
where they are to dine and have a dance. There will be about twenty boys
and girls of the party, but every body is to carry a basket filled with
provisions for dinner, either cakes, or fruit, or biscuits, which are to
be eat on the great rock at the top of the hill. Now grandmama says we
ought to have had money enough to supply what is necessary, and then we
might have gone, but no one can be admitted who has not at least
sixpence to buy something."

"Oh! how provoking!" said Laura, sadly, "I wonder when we shall learn
always to follow grandmama's advice, for that is sure to turn out best
in the end. I never take my own way without being sorry for it
afterwards, so I deserve now to be disappointed and remain at home; but,
Harry, your sixpence is still safe, so pray join this delightful party,
and tell me all about it afterwards."

"If it could take us both, I should be very happy, but I will not go
without you, Laura, after you were so good to me, and gave me this in a
present. No, no! I only wish we could do like the poor madman grandmama
mentioned, who planted sixpences in the ground that they might grow into
shillings."

"Pray! what are you two looking so solemn about?" asked Frank, hurrying
into the room, at that moment, on his way to school. "Are you talking of
some mischief that has been done already, or only about some mischief
you are intending to do soon?"

"Neither the one nor the other," answered Laura. "But, oh! Frank, I am
sure you will be sorry for us, when we tell you of our sad
disappointment!"

She then related the whole story of the party to Arthur's Seat,
mentioning that Mr. Harwood had kindly offered to take charge of Harry
and herself, but as her little fortune had been so foolishly squandered,
she could not go, and Harry said it would be impossible to enjoy the fun
without her, though Lady Harriet had given them both leave to be of the
party.

All the time that Laura spoke, Frank stood, with his hands in his
pockets, where he seemed evidently searching for something, and when the
whole history was told, he said to Harry, "Let me see this poor little
sixpence of yours! I am a very clever conjuror, and could perhaps turn
it into a shilling!"

"Nonsense, Frank!" said Laura, laughing; "you might as well turn Harry
into uncle David!"

"Well! we shall see!" answered Frank, taking up the sixpence. "I have
put the money into this box!--rattle it well!--once! twice!
thrice!--there, peep in!--now it is a shilling! I told you so!"

Frank ran joyously out of the room, being much amused with the joke, for
he had put one of his own shillings into the box for Harry and Laura,
who were excessively surprised at first, and felt really ashamed to take
this very kind present from Frank, when he so seldom had money of his
own; but they knew how generous he was, for he often repeated that
excellent maxim, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

After a few minutes, they remembered that nothing could prevent them now
from going with Mr. Harwood to Arthur's Seat, which put Laura into such
a state of ecstacy, that she danced round the room for joy, while Harry
jumped upon the tables and chairs, tumbled head over heels, and called
Betty to come immediately that they might get ready.

When Mrs. Crabtree heard such an uproar, she hastened also into the
room, asking what had happened to cause this riot, and she became very
angry indeed, to hear that Harry and Laura had both got leave to join in
this grand expedition.

"You will be spoiling all your clothes, and getting yourselves into a
heat! I wonder her ladyship allows this! How much better you would be
taking a quiet walk with me in the gardens! I shall really speak to Lady
Harriet about it! The air must be very cold on the top of them great
mountains! I am sure you will both have colds for a month after this
Tom-foolery."

"Oh no, Mrs. Crabtree! I promise not to catch cold!" cried Harry,
eagerly; "and, besides, you can scarcely prevent our going now, for
grandmama has set out on her long airing in the carriage, so there is
nobody for you to ask about keeping us at home, except uncle David!"

Mrs. Crabtree knew from experience, that Major Graham was a hopeless
case, as he always took part with the children, and liked nothing so
much for old and young as "a ploy;" so she grumbled on to herself, while
her eyes looked as sharp as a pair of scissors with rage. "You will come
back, turned into scare-crows, with all your nice clean clothes in
tatters," said she, angrily; "but if there is so much as a speck upon
this best new jacket and trowsers, I shall know the reason why."

"What a comfort it would be, if there were no such things in the world
as 'new clothes,' for I am always so much happier in the old ones," said
Harry. "People at the shops should sell clothes that will never either
dirty or tear!"

"You ought to be dressed in fur, like Robinson Crusoe, or sent out
naked, like the little savages," said Mrs. Crabtree, "or painted black
and blue like them wild old Britons that lived here long ago!"

"I am black and blue sometimes, without being painted," said Harry,
escaping to the door. "Good-bye, Mrs. Crabtree! I hope you will not die
of weariness without us! On our return we shall tell you all our
delightful adventures."

About half an hour afterwards, Harry and Laura were seen hurrying out of
the pastry-cook, Mrs. Weddell's shop, bearing little covered baskets in
their hands, but nobody could guess what was in them. They whispered and
laughed together with very merry faces, looking the very pictures of
happiness, and running along as fast as they could to join the noisy
party of their cousins and companions, almost fearing that Mr. Harwood
might have set off without them. Frank often called him "Mr.
Punctuality," as he was so very particular about his scholars being in
good time on all occasions; and certainly Mr. Harwood carried his watch
more in his hand than in his pocket, being in the habit of constantly
looking to see that nobody arrived too late. Mail-coaches or steamboats
could hardly keep the time better, when an hour had once been named, and
the last words that Harry heard when he was invited were, "Remember!
sharp twelve."

The great clock of St. Andrew's Church was busy striking that hour, and
every little clock in the town was saying the same thing, when Mr.
Harwood himself, with his watch in his hand, opened the door, and walked
out, followed by a dozen of merry-faced boys and girls, all speaking at
once, and vociferating louder than the clocks, as if they thought
everybody had grown deaf.

"I shall reach the top of Arthur's Seat first," said Peter Grey. "All of
you follow me, for I know the shortest way. It is only a hop, step, and
a jump!"

"Rather a long step!" cried Robert Fordyce. "But I could lead you a much
better way, though I shall show it to nobody but myself."

"We must certainly drink water at St. Anthony's Well," observed Laura;
"because whatever any one wishes for when he tastes it, is sure to
happen immediately."

"Then I shall wish that some person may give me a new doll," said Mary
Forrester. "My old one is only fit for being lady's maid to a fine new
doll."

"I am in ninety-nine minds what to wish for," exclaimed Harry; "we must
take care not to be like the foolish old woman in the fairy tale, who
got only a yard of black pudding."

"I shall ask for a piebald pony, with a whip, a saddle, and a bridle!"
cried Peter Grey; "and for a week's holidays,--and a new watch,--and a
spade,--and a box of French plums,--and to be first at the top of
Arthur's Seat,--and--and--"

"Stop, Peter!--stop! you can only have one wish at St. Anthony's Well,"
interrupted Mr. Harwood. "If you ask more, you lose all."

"That is very hard, for I want everything," replied Peter. "What are you
wishing for, Sir?"

"What shall I ask for?" said Mr. Harwood, reflecting to himself. "I have
not a want in the world?"

"O yes, Sir! you must wish for something!" cried the whole party,
eagerly. "Do invent something to ask, Mr. Harwood!"

"Then I wish you may all behave well till we reach the top of Arthur's
Seat, and all come safely down again."

"You may be sure of that already!" said Peter, laughing. "I set such a
very good example to all my companions, that they never behave ill when
I am present,--no! not even by accident! When Dr. Algebra examined our
class to-day, he asked Mr. Lexicon, 'What has become of the best boy in
your school this morning?' and the answer was, 'Of course your mean
Peter Grey! He is gone to the top of Arthur's Seat with that excellent
man, Mr. Harwood!'"

"Indeed!--and pray, Master Peter, what bird whispered this story into
your ear, seeing it has all happened since we left home!--but people who
are praised by nobody else, often take to praising themselves!"

"Who knows better!--and here is Harry Graham, the very ditto of
myself,--so steady he might be fit to drill a whole regiment. We shall
lead the party quite safely up the hill, and down again, without any
ladders."

"And without wings," added Harry, laughing; "but what are we to draw
water out of the well with?--here are neither buckets, nor tumblers, nor
glasses!"

"I could lend you my thimble!" said Laura, searching her pocket. "That
will hold enough of water for one wish, and every person may have the
loan of it in turn."

"This is the very first time your thimble has been of use to anybody!"
said Harry, slyly; "but I dare say it is not worn into holes with too
much sewing, therefore it will make a famous little magical cup for St.
Anthony's Well. You know the fairies who dance here by moonlight, lay
their table-cloth upon a mushroom, and sit round it, to be merry, but I
never heard what they use for a drinking cup."

Harry now proceeded briskly along to the well, singing as he went, a
song which had been taught him by uncle David, beginning,

  I wish I were a brewer's horse,
  Five quarters of a year,
  I'd place my head where was my tail,
  And drink up all the beer.

Before long the whole party seated themselves in a circle on the grass
round St. Anthony's Well, while any stranger who had chanced to pass
might have supposed, from the noise and merriment, that the Saint had
filled his well with champagne and punch for the occasion, as everybody
seemed perfectly tipsy with happiness. Mr. Harwood laughed prodigiously
at some of the jokes, and made a few of his own, which were none of the
best, though they caused the most laughter, for the boys thought it very
surprising that so grave and great a man should make a joke at all.

When Mary Forrester drank her thimbleful of water, and wished for a new
doll, Peter and Harry privately cut out a face upon a red-cheeked apple,
making the eyes, nose, and mouth, after which, they hastily dressed it
up in pocket handkerchiefs, and gave her this present from the fairies,
which looked so very like what she had asked for, that the laugh which
followed was loud and long. Afterwards Peter swallowed his draught,
calling loudly for a piebald pony, when Harry in his white trowsers, and
dark jacket, went upon all-fours, and let Peter mount on his back. It
was very difficult, however, to get Peter off again, for he enjoyed the
fun excessively, and stuck to his seat like Sinbad's old man of the sea,
till at last Harry rolled round on his back, tumbling Peter head over
heels into St. Anthony's Well, upon seeing which, Mr. Harwood rose,
saying, he had certainly lost his own wish, as they had behaved ill, and
met with an accident already. Harry laughingly proposed that Peter
should be carefully hung upon a tree to dry, till they all came down
again; but the mischievous boy ran off so fast, he was almost out of
sight in a moment, saying, "Now for the top of Arthur's Seat, and I
shall grow dry with the fatigue of climbing."

The boys and girls immediately scattered themselves all over the hill,
getting on the best way they could, and trying who could scramble up
fastest, but the grass was quite short, and as slippery as ice,
therefore it became every moment more difficult to stand, and still more
difficult to climb. The whole party began sliding whether they liked it
or not, and staggered and tried to grasp the turf, but there was nothing
to hold, while occasionally a shower of stones and gravel came down from
Peter, who pretended they fell by accident.

"Oh, Harry!" cried Laura, panting for breath, while she looked both
frightened and fatigued, "If this were not a party of pleasure, I think
we are sometimes quite as happy in our own gardens! People must be very
miserable at home, before they come here to be amused! I wish we were
cats, or goats, or any thing that can stand upon a hill without feeling
giddy."

"I think this is very good fun!" answered Harry, gasping and trying not
to tumble for the twentieth time; "you would like perhaps to be back in
the nursery with Mrs. Crabtree."

"No! no! I am not quite so bad as that! But Harry! do you ever really
expect to reach the top? for I never shall; so I mean to sit down
quietly here, and wait till you all return."

"I have a better plan than that, Laura! you shall sit upon the highest
point of Arthur's Seat as well as anybody, before either of us is an
hour older! Let me go first, because I get on famously, and you must
never look behind, but keep tight hold of my jacket, so then every step
I advance will pull you up also."

Laura was delighted with this plan, which succeeded perfectly well, but
they ascended rather slowly, as it was exceedingly fatiguing to Harry,
who looked quite happy all the time to be of use, for he always felt
glad when he could do any thing for anybody, more particularly for
either Laura or Frank. Now, the whole party was at last safely assembled
on the very highest point of Arthur's Seat, so the boys threw their caps
up in the air, and gave three tremendous cheers, which frightened the
very crows over their heads, and sent a flock of sheep scampering down
the mountain side. After that, they planted Mr. Harwood's walking-stick
in the ground, for a staff, while Harry tore off the blue silk
handkerchief which Mrs. Crabtree had tied about his neck, and without
caring whether he caught cold or not, he fastened it on the pole for a
flag, being quite delighted to see how it waved in the wind most
triumphantly, looking very like what sailors put up when they take
possession of a desert island.

"Now, for business!" said Mr. Harwood, sitting down on the rock, and
uncovering a prodigious cake, nearly as large as a cheese, which he had
taken the trouble to carry, with great difficulty, up the hill. "I
suppose nobody is hungry after our long walk! Let us see what all the
baskets contain!"

Not a moment was lost in seating themselves on the grass, while the
stores were displayed, amidst shouts of laughter and applause which
generally followed whatever came forth. Sandwiches, or, as Peter Grey
called them, "savages;" gingerbread, cakes, and fruit, all appeared in
turn. Robert Fordyce brought a dozen of hard-boiled eggs, all dyed
different colours, blue, green, pink, and yellow, but not one was white.
Edmund Ashford produced a collection of very sour-looking apples, and
Charles Forrester showed a number of little gooseberry tarts, but when
it became time for Peter's basket to be opened, it contained nothing
except a knife and fork to cut up whatever his companions would give
him!

"Peter! Peter! you shabby fellow!" said Charles Forrester, reaching him
one of his tarts, "you should be put in the tread-mill as a sturdy
beggar!"

"Or thrown down from the top of this precipice," added Harry, giving him
a cake. "I wonder you can look any of us in the face, Peter!"

"I have heard," said Mr. Harwood, "that a stone is shown in Ireland,
called 'the stone of Blarney,' and whoever kisses it, is never
afterwards ashamed of any thing he does. Our friend Peter has probably
passed that way lately!"

"At any rate, I am not likely to be starved to death amongst you all!"
answered the impudent boy, demolishing every thing he could get; and it
is believed that Peter ate, on this memorable occasion, three times more
than any other person, as each of the party offered him something, and
he never was heard to say, "No!"

"I could swallow Arthur's Seat if it were turned into a plum-pudding,"
said he, pocketing buns, apples, eggs, walnuts, biscuits, and almonds,
till his coat stuck out all round like a balloon. "Has any one any thing
more to spare?"

"Did you ever hear," said Mr. Harwood, "that a pigeon eats its own
weight of food every day? Now, I am sure, you and I know one boy in the
world, Peter, who could do as much."

"What is to be done with that prodigious cake you carried up here, Mr.
Harwood?" answered Peter, casting a devouring eye upon it; "the crust
seems as hard as a rhinoceros' skin, but I dare say it is very good. One
could not be sure though, without tasting it! I hope you are not going
to take the trouble of carrying that heavy load back again?"

"How very polite you are become all on a sudden, Peter!" said Laura,
laughing. "I should be very sorry to attempt carrying that cake to the
bottom of the hill, for we would both roll down, the shortest way,
together."

"I am not over-anxious to try it either," observed Charles Forrester,
shaking his head. "Even Peter, though his mouth is constantly ajar,
would find that cake rather heavy to carry, either as an inside or an
outside passenger."

"I can scarcely lift it at all!" continued Laura, when Mr. Harwood had
again tied it up in the towel; "what can be done?"

"Here is the very best plan!" cried Harry, suddenly seizing the
prodigious cake; and before any body could hinder him, he gave it a
tremendous push off the steepest part of Arthur's Seat, so that it
rolled down like a wheel, over stones and precipices, jumping and
hopping along with wonderful rapidity, amidst the cheers and laughter of
all the children, till at last it reached the bottom of the hill, when a
general clapping of hands ensued.

"Now for a race!" cried Harry, becoming more and more eager. "The first
boy or girl who reaches that cake shall have it all to himself!"

Mr. Harwood tried with all his might to stop the commotion, and called
out that they must go quietly down the bank, for Harry had no right to
give away the cake, or to make them break their legs and arms with
racing down such a hill: but he might as well have spoken to an east
wind, and asked it not to blow. The whole party dispersed, like a hive
of bees that has been upset; and in a moment they were in full career
after the cake.

Some of the boys tried to roll down, hoping to get on more quickly.
Others endeavoured to slide, and several attempted to run, but they all
fell; and many of them might have been tumblers at Sadler's Wells, they
tumbled over and over so cleverly. Peter Grey's hat was blown away, but
he did not stop to catch it. Charlie Hume lost his shoe, Robert Fordyce
sprained his ancle, and every one of the girls tore her frock. It was a
frightful scene; such devastation of bonnets and jackets as had never
been known before; while Mr. Harwood looked like the General of a
defeated army, calling till he became hoarse, and running till he was
out of breath, vainly trying thus to stop the confusion, and to bring
the stragglers back in better order.

Meantime, Harry and Peter were far before the rest, though Edward
Ashford was following hard after them in desperate haste, as if he still
hoped to overtake their steps. Suddenly, however, a loud cry of distress
was heard over-head; and when Harry looked up, he saw so very alarming a
sight, that he could scarcely believe his eyes, and almost screamed out
himself with the fright it gave him, while he seemed to forget in a
moment, the race, Peter Grey, and the prodigious cake.

Laura had been very anxious not to trouble Harry with taking care of her
in coming down the bank again; for she saw that during all this fun
about the cake, he perfectly forgot that she was not accustomed every
day to such a scramble on the hills, and would have required some help.
After looking down every side of the descent, and thinking that each
appeared steeper than another, while they all made her equally giddy,
Laura determined to venture on a part of the hill which seemed rather
less precipitous than the rest; but it completely cheated her, being the
most difficult and dangerous part of Arthur's Seat. The slope became
steeper and steeper at every step; but Laura always tried to hope her
path might grow better, till at last she reached a place where it was
impossible to stop herself. Down she went, down! down! whether she would
or not, screaming and sliding on a long slippery bank, till she reached
the very edge of a dangerous precipice, which appeared higher than the
side of a room. Laura then grappled hold of some stones and grass,
calling loudly for help, while scarcely able to keep from falling into
the deep ravine, which would probably have killed her. Her screams were
echoed all over the hill, when Harry seeing her frightful situation,
clambered up the bank faster than any lamplighter, and immediately flew
to Laura's assistance, who was now really hanging over the chasm, quite
unable to help herself. At last he reached the place where poor Laura
lay, and seized hold of her by the frock; but for some time it seemed an
equal chance whether she dragged him into the hole, or he pulled her
away from it. Luckily, however, by a great effort, Harry succeeded in
delivering Laura, whom he placed upon a secure situation, and then,
having waited patiently till she recovered from the fright, he led her
carefully and kindly down to the bottom of Arthur's Seat.

Now, all the boys had already got there, and a violent dispute was going
on about which of them first reached the cake. Peter Grey had pushed
down Edward Ashford, who caught hold of Robert Fordyce, and they all
three rolled to the bottom together, so that nobody could tell which had
won the race; while Mr. Harwood laboured in vain to convince them that
the cake belonged neither to the one nor the other, being his own
property.

They all laughed at Harry for being distanced, and arriving last; while
Mr. Harwood watched him coming down, and was pleased to observe how
carefully he attended to Laura, though still, being annoyed at the riot
and confusion which Harry had occasioned, he determined to appear
exceedingly angry, and put on a very terrible voice, saying,

"Hollo! young gentleman! what shall I do to you for beginning this
uproar? As the old proverb says, 'one fool makes many.' How dare you
roll my fine cake down the hill in this way, and send everybody rolling
after it? Look me in the face, and say you are ashamed of yourself!"

Harry looked at Mr. Harwood--and Mr. Harwood looked at Harry. They both
tried to seem very grave and serious, but somehow Harry's eyes glittered
very brightly, and two little dimples might be seen in his cheeks. Mr.
Harwood also had his eye-brows gathered into a terrible frown, but still
his eyes were likewise sparkling, and his mouth seemed to be pursed up
in a most comical manner. After staring at each other for several
minutes, both Mr. Harwood and Harry burst into a prodigious fit of
laughing, and nobody could tell which began first or laughed longest.

"Master Graham! you must send a new frock to every little girl of the
party, and a suit of clothes to each of the boys, for having caused
theirs to be all destroyed. I really meant to punish you severely for
beginning such a riot, but something has made me change my mind. In
almost every moment of our lives, we either act amiably of unamiably,
and I observed you treat Miss Laura so kindly and properly all this
morning, that I shall say not another word about

                              "THE PRODIGIOUS CAKE."



CHAPTER V.

THE LAST CLEAN FROCK.

  "For," said she, in spite of what grandmama taught her,
  "I'm really remarkably fond of the water."

         *       *       *       *       *

  She splashed, and she dashed, and she turned herself round,
  And heartily wished herself safe on the ground.


Once upon a time Harry and Laura had got into so many scrapes, that
there seemed really no end to their misconduct. They generally forgot to
learn any lessons--often tore their books--drew pictures on their
slates, instead of calculating sums--and made the pages of their
copy-books into boats; besides which, Mrs. Crabtree caught them one day,
when a party of officers dined at Lady Harriet's, with two of the
captain's sword-belts buckled round their waists, and cocked hats upon
their heads, while they beat the crown of a gentleman's hat with a
walking-stick, to sound like a drum.

Still it seemed impossible to make uncle David feel sufficiently angry
at them, though Mrs. Crabtree did all she could to put him in a passion,
by telling the very worst; but he made fifty excuses a-minute, as if he
had been the naughty person himself, instead of Harry or Laura, and
above all he said that they both seemed so exceedingly penitent when he
explained their delinquencies, and they were both so ready to tell upon
themselves, and to take all the blame of whatever mischief might be
done, that he was determined to shut his eyes and say nothing, unless
they did something purposely wrong.

One night, when Mrs. Crabtree had gone out, Major Graham felt quite
surprised on his return home from a late dinner party, to find Laura and
Harry still out of bed. They were sitting in his library when he
entered, both looking so tired and miserable that he could not imagine
what had happened; but Harry lost no time in confessing that he and
Laura feared they had done some dreadful mischief, so they could not
sleep without asking pardon, and mentioning whose fault it was, that the
maids might not be unjustly blamed.

"Well, you little imps of mischief! what have I to scold you for now?"
asked uncle David, not looking particularly angry. "Is it something that
I shall be obliged to take the trouble of punishing you for? We ought to
live in the Highlands, where there are whole forests of birch ready for
use? Why are your ears like a bell-rope, Harry? because they seem made
to be pulled. Now, go on with your story. What is the matter?"

"We were playing about the room, uncle David, and Laura lost her ball,
so she crept under that big table which has only one large leg. There is
a brass button below, so we were trying if it would come off, when all
on a sudden, the table fell quite to one side, as you see it now,
tumbling down those prodigious books and tin boxes on the floor! I
cannot think how this fine new table could be so easily broken; but
whenever we even look at anything, it seems to break!"

"Yes, Harry! You remind me of Meddlesome Matty in the nursery rhymes,

  "Sometimes she'd lift the teapot lid
  To peep at what was in it,
  Or tilt the kettle, if you did
  But turn your back a minute.
  In vain you told her not to touch,
  Her trick of meddling grew so much."

You have scarcely left my poor table a leg to stand upon! How am I ever
to get it mended?"

"Perhaps the carpenter could do it to-morrow!"

"Or, perhaps uncle David could do it this moment," said Major Graham,
raising the fallen side with a sudden jerk, when Harry and Laura heard a
sound under the table like the locking of a door, after which the whole
affair was rectified.

"Did I ever--!" exclaimed Harry, staring with astonishment, "so we have
suffered all our fright for nothing, and the table was not really
broken! I shall always run to you, uncle David, when we are in a scrape,
for you are sure to get us off."

"Do not reckon too certainly on that, Master Harry; it is easier to get
into one than to get out of it, any day; but I am not so seriously angry
at the sort of scrapes Laura and you get into, because you would not
willingly and deliberately do wrong. If any children commit a mean
action, or get into a passion, or quarrel with each other, or omit
saying their prayers and reading their Bibles, or tell a lie, or take
what does not belong to them, then it might be seen how extremely angry
I could be; but while you continue merely thoughtless and forgetful, I
mean to have patience a little longer before turning into a cross old
uncle with a pair of tawse."

Harry sprung upon uncle David's knee, quite delighted to hear him speak
so very kindly, and Laura was soon installed in her usual place there
also, listening to all that was said, and laughing at his jokes.

"As Mrs. Crabtree says," continued Major Graham, "'we cannot put an old
head on young shoulders;' and it would certainly look very odd if you
could."

So uncle David took out his pencil, and drew a funny picture of a cross
old wrinkled face upon young shoulders, like Laura's, and after they had
all laughed at it together for about five minutes, he sent the children
both to bed, quite merry and cheerful.

A long time elapsed afterwards without anything going wrong; and it was
quite pleasant to see such learning of lessons, such attention to rules,
and such obedience to Mrs. Crabtree, as went on in the nursery during
several weeks. At last, one day, when Lady Harriet and Major Graham were
preparing to set off on a journey, and to pay a short visit at Holiday
House, Laura and Harry observed a great deal of whispering and talking
in a corner of the room, but they could not exactly discover what it was
all about, till Major Graham said very earnestly, "I think we might
surely take Laura with us."

"Yes," answered Lady Harriet, "both the children have been invited, and
are behaving wonderfully well of late, but Lord Rockville has such a
dislike to noise, that I dare not venture to take more than one at a
time. Poor Laura has a very severe cough, so she may be recovered by
change of air. As for Harry, he is quite well, and therefore he can stay
at home."

Now, Harry thought it very hard that he was to be left at home, merely
because he felt quite well, so he immediately wished to be very ill
indeed, that he might have some chance of going to Holiday House; but
then he did not exactly know how to set about it. At all events, Harry
determined to catch a cold like Laura's, without delay. He would not,
for the whole world have pretended to suffer from a cough if he really
had none, because uncle David had often explained that making any one
believe an un-truth was the same as telling a lie; but he thought there
might be no harm in really getting such a terrible cold, that nothing
could possibly cure it except change of air, and a trip to Holiday
House with Laura. Accordingly Harry tried to remember every thing that
Mrs. Crabtree had forbid him to do "for fear of catching cold." He
sprinkled water over his shirt collar in the morning before dressing,
that it might be damp; he ran violently up and down stairs to put
himself in a heat, after which he sat between the open window and door
till he felt perfectly chilled; and when going to bed at night, he
washed his hair in cold water without drying it. Still, all was in vain!
Harry had formerly caught cold a hundred times when he did not want one;
but now, such a thing was not to be had for love or money. Nothing
seemed to give him the very slightest attempt at a cough; and when the
day at last arrived for Lady Harriet to begin her journey, Harry still
felt himself most provokingly well. Not so much as a finger ached, his
cheeks were as blooming as roses, his voice as clear as a bell, and when
uncle David accidentally said to him in the morning, "How do you do?"
Harry was obliged, very much against his will, to answer, "Quite well, I
thank you!"

In the meantime, Laura would have felt too happy if Harry could only
have gone with her; and even as it was, being impatient for the happy
day to arrive, she hurried to bed an hour earlier than usual the night
before, to make the time of setting out appear nearer; and she could
scarcely sleep or eat for thinking of Holiday House, and planning all
that was to be done there.

"It is pleasant to see so joyous a face," said Major Graham. "I almost
envy you, Laura, for being so happy."

"Oh! I quite envy myself! but I shall write a long letter every day to
poor Harry, telling him all the news, and all my adventures."

"Nonsense! Miss Laura! wait till you come home," said Mrs. Crabtree.
"Who do you think is going to pay postage for so many foolish letters?"

"I shall!" answered Harry. "I have got sixpence, and two pence, and a
half penny, so I shall buy every one of Laura's letters from the
postman, and write her an answer immediately afterwards. She will like
to hear, Mrs. Crabtree, how very kind you are going to be, when I am
left by myself here. Perhaps you will play at nine pins with me, and
Laura can lend you her skipping rope."

"You might as well offer uncle David a hobby-horse," said Frank,
laughingly, throwing his satchel over his shoulders. "No, Harry! you
shall belong to me now. Grandmama says you may go every day to my
play-ground, where all the school-boys assemble, and you can have plenty
of fun till Laura comes back. We shall jump over the moon every morning,
for joy."

Harry brightened up amazingly, thinking he had never heard such good
news before, as it was a grand piece of promotion to play with real big
school-boys; so he became quite reconciled to Laura's going away for a
short time without him; and when the hour came for taking leave, instead
of tears being shed on either side, it would have been difficult to say,
as they kissed each other and said a joyous good-bye, which face looked
the most delighted.

All Laura's clothes had been packed the night before, in a large chaise
seat, which was now put into the carriage along with herself, and every
thing seemed ready for departure, when Lady Harriet's maid was suddenly
taken so very ill, as to be quite unfit for travelling; therefore she
was left behind, and a doctor sent for to attend her; while Lady Harriet
said she would trust to the maids at Holiday House, for waiting upon
herself and Laura.

It is seldom that so happy a face is seen in this world, as Laura wore
during the whole journey. It perfectly sparkled and glittered with
delight, while she was so constantly on a broad grin laughing, that
Major Graham said he feared her mouth would grow an inch wider on the
occasion.

"You will tire of sitting so long idle! It is a pity we did not think of
bringing a few lesson-books in the carriage to amuse you, Laura," said
the Major, slyly. "A piece of needle-work might have beguiled the way. I
once knew an industrious lady who made a ball dress for herself in the
carriage during a journey."

"How very stupid of her to miss seeing all the pretty trees, and
cottages, and farm-houses! I do like to watch the little curly-headed,
dirty children, playing on the road, with brown faces, and hair bleached
white in the sun; and the women hanging out their clothes on the hedges
to dry; and the blacksmith shoeing horses, and the ducks swimming in the
gutters, and the pigs thrusting their noses out of the sty, and the old
women knitting stockings, and the workmen sitting on a wall to eat their
dinners! It looks all so pretty, and so pleasant!"

"What a picture of rural felicity! You ought to be a poet or a painter,
Laura!"

"But I believe poets always call this a miserable world: and I think it
the happiest place I have ever been in, uncle David! Such fun during the
holidays! I should go wild altogether, if Mrs. Crabtree were not rather
cross sometimes."

"Or very cross always," thought Major Graham. "But here we are, Laura,
near our journey's end. Allow me to introduce you to Holiday House! Why,
you are staring at it like a dog looking at a piece of cold beef! My
dear girl, if you open your eyes so wide, you will never be able to shut
them again!"

Holiday House was not one of those prodigious places, too grand to be
pleasant, with the garden a mile off in one direction, and the farm a
mile off in another, and the drawing-room a mile off from the
dining-room; but it was a very cheerful modern mansion, with rooms
enough to hold as many people as any one could desire to see at once,
all very comfortably furnished. A lively, dashing river, streamed past
the windows; a small park, sprinkled with sheep, and shaded by fine
trees, surrounded the house; and beyond were beautiful gardens filled
with a superabundance of the gayest and sweetest common flowers. Roses,
carnations, wall flowers, holly-hocks, dahlias, lilies, and violets,
were assembled there in such crowds, that Laura might have plucked
nosegays all day, without making any visible difference; and she was
also made free of the gooseberry bushes and cherry-trees, with leave to
gather, if she pleased, more than she could eat.

Every morning, Laura entered the breakfast-room with cheeks like the
roses she carried, bringing little bouquets for all the ladies, which
she had started out of bed early, in order to gather; and her great
delight was to see them worn and admired all the forenoon, while she was
complimented on the taste with which they had been selected and
arranged. She filled every ornamental jar, basin, and tea-cup in the
drawing-room, with groups of roses, and would have been the terror of
any gardener but the one at Holiday House, who liked to see his flowers
so much admired, and was not keeping up any for a horticultural show.

Laura's chief delight, however, was in the dairy, which seemed the most
beautiful thing she had ever beheld, being built of rough transparent
spar, which looked exactly like crystal, and reminded her of the ice
palace built by the Empress of Russia. The windows were of painted
glass; the walls and shelves were of Dutch tiles, and in the centre rose
a beautiful jet d'eau of clear bright water.

Laura thought it looked like something built for the fairies; but within
she saw a most substantial room, the floor and tables in which were so
completely covered with cheeses, that they looked like some old Mosaic
pavement. Here the good-natured dairy-maid showed Laura how to make
cheese, and afterwards manufactured a very small one about the size of a
soup plate, entirely for the young lady herself, which she promised to
take home after her visit was over; and a little churn was also filled
full of cream, which Laura one morning churned into butter, and
breakfasted upon, after having first practised printing it into a
variety of shapes. It was altered about twenty times from a swan into a
cow, and from a cow into a rose, and from a rose back to a swan again,
before she could be persuaded to leave off her amusement.

Laura continued to become more and more delighted with Holiday House;
and she one day skipped about Lady Harriet's room, saying, "Oh! I am too
happy! I scarcely know what to do with so much happiness. How delightful
it would be to stay here all my life, and never to go to bed, nor say
any more lessons as long as I live!"

"What a useless, stupid girl you would soon become," observed Lady
Harriet. "Do you think, Laura, that lessons were invented for no other
purpose but to torment little children?"

"No, grandmama; not exactly! They are of use also to keep us quiet."

"Come here, little madam, and listen to me. I shall soon be very old,
Laura, and not able to read my Bible, even with spectacles; for, as the
Scriptures told us, in that affecting description of old age, which I
read to you yesterday, 'the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the
grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the
windows be darkened:' what then do you think I can do, because the Bible
now is my best comfort, which I shall need more and more every day, to
tell me all about the eternal world where I am going, and to shew me the
way."

"Grandmama! you promised long ago to let me attend on you when you grow
old and blind! I shall be very careful, and very--very--very kind. I
almost wish you were old and blind now, to let you feel how much I love
you, and how anxious I am to be as good to you as you have always been
to me. We shall read the Bible together every morning, and as often
afterwards as you please."

"Thank you, my dear child! but you must take the trouble of learning to
read well, or we shall be sadly puzzled with the difficult words. A
friend of mine once had nobody that could read to her when she was ill,
but the maid, who bargained that she might leave out every word above
one syllable long, because they were too hard for her; and you could
hardly help laughing at the nonsense it sometimes made; but I hope you
will manage better."

"O certainly, grandmama! I can spell chrononhotonthologos, and all the
other five-cornered words in my 'Reading Made Easy,' already."

"Besides that, my dear Laura! unless you learn to look over my bills, I
may be sadly cheated by servants and shop-keepers. You must positively
study to find out how many cherries make five."

"Ah! grandmama! nobody knows better than I do, that two and two make
four. I shall soon be quite able to keep your accounts."

"Very well! but you have not yet heard half the trouble I mean to give
you. I am remarkably fond of music, and shall probably at last be
obliged to hire every old fiddler as he passes in the street, by giving
him sixpence in order to enjoy some of my favourite tunes."

"No, grandmama! you shall hear them all from me. I can play Malbrook,
and Auld Robin Grey, already; and Frank says if I practise two hours
every day for ten years, I shall become a very tolerable player, fit for
you and uncle David to hear, without being disagreeable."

"Then that will be more than seven thousand hours of musical lessons
which you have yet to endure, Laura! There are many more things of
still greater importance to learn also, if you wish to be any better
than a musical snuff-box. For instance, when visitors come to see me,
they are often from France or Italy; but perhaps you will not mind
sitting in the room as if you were deaf and dumb, gazing at those
foreigners, while they gaze at you, without understanding a syllable
they say, and causing them to feel strange and uncomfortable as long as
they remain in the house."

"No! I would not for the world seem so unkind and uncivil. Pray, let me
learn plenty of languages."

"Very well! but if you study no geography, what ridiculous blunders you
will be falling into! asking the Italians about their native town
Madrid, and the Americans if they were born at Petersburgh. You will be
fancying that travellers go by steam-boats to Moscow, and travel in a
day from Paris, through Stockholm to Naples. How ashamed I should be of
such mistakes!"

"And so should I, grandmama, still more than you; for it would be quite
a disgrace."

"Do you remember, Laura, your uncle David laughing, when he last went to
live at Leamington, about poor Mrs. Marmalade coming up stairs to say,
she did not wish to be troublesome, but should feel greatly obliged if
he would call at Portsmouth occasionally to see her son Thomas. And when
Captain Armylist's regiment was ordered last winter to the village of
Bathgate near this, he told me they were to march in the course of that
morning, all the way to Bagdad."

"Yes, grandmama! and Mrs. Crabtree said some weeks ago, that if her
brother went to Van Dieman's Land, she thought he would of course in
passing, take a look at Jerusalem; and Frank was amused lately to hear
Peter Grey maintain, that Gulliver was as great a man as Columbus,
because he discovered Liliput!"

"Quite like him! for I heard Peter ask one day lately, what side
Bonaparte was on at the battle of Leipsic? We must include a little
history I think, Laura, in our list of studies, or you will fancy that
Lord Nelson fought at the battle of Blenheim, and that Henry VIII. cut
off Queen Mary's head."

"Not quite so bad as that, grandmama! I seem to have known all about
Lord Nelson and Queen Mary, ever since I was a baby in long frocks! You
have shewn me, however, that it would be very foolish not to feel
anxious for lessons, especially when they are to make me a fit companion
for you at last."

"Yes, Laura! and not only for me, but for many whose conversation will
entertain and improve you more than any books. The most delightful
accomplishment that a young person can cultivate, is that of conversing
agreeably; and it is less attended to in education than any other. You
cannot take a harp or piano about with you, but our minds and tongues
are always portable, and accompany us wherever we go. If you wish to be
loved by others, and to do good to your associates, as well as to
entertain them, take every opportunity of conversing with those who are
either amiable or agreeable; not only attending to their opinions, but
also endeavouring to gain the habit of expressing your own thoughts with
ease and fluency; and then rest assured, that if the gift of
conversation be rightly exercised, it is the most desirable of all, as
no teaching can have greater influence in leading people to think and
act aright, than the incidental remarks of an enlightened Christian,
freely and unaffectedly talking to his intimate friends."

"Well, grandmama! the moral of all this is, that I shall become busier
than any body ever was before, when we get home; but in the meantime, I
may take a good dose of idleness now at Holiday House, to prepare me for
settling to very hard labour afterwards," said Laura, hastily tying on
her bonnet. "I wonder if I shall ever be as merry and happy again!"

Most unfortunately, all the time of Laura's visit at Holiday House, she
had been, as usual, extremely heedless, in taking no care whatever of
her clothes; consequently her blue merino frock had been cruelly torn;
her green silk dress became frightfully soiled; four white frocks were
utterly ruined; her Swiss muslin seemed a perfect object, and her pink
gingham was both torn and discoloured. Regularly every evening Lady
Harriet told her to take better care, or she would be a bankrupt in
frocks altogether; but whatever her grandmama said on that subject, the
moment she was out of sight, it went out of mind, till another dress had
shared the same deplorable fate.

At last, one morning, as soon as Laura got up, Lady Harriet gravely led
her towards a large table on which all the ill-used frocks had been laid
out in a row; and a most dismal sight they were! Such a collection of
stains and fractures was probably never seen before! A beggar would
scarcely have thanked her for her blue merino; and the green silk frock
looked like the tattered cover of a worn-out umbrella.

"Laura," said Lady Harriet, "in Switzerland a lady's wardrobe descends
to many generations; but nobody will envy your successor! One might
fancy that a wild beast had torn you to pieces every day! I wonder what
an old clothesman would give for your whole baggage! It is only fit for
being used as rags in a paper manufactory!"

Poor Laura's face became perfectly pink when she saw the destruction
that a very short time had occasioned: and she looked from one tattered
garment to another, in melancholy silence, thinking how lately they had
all been fresh and beautiful; but now not a vestige of their former
splendour remained. At last her grandmama broke the awful silence, by
saying,

"My dear girl! I have warned you very often lately that we are not at
home, where your frocks could be washed and mended as soon as they were
spoiled; but without considering this you have, every day, destroyed
several, so now the maid finds, on examining your drawers, that there is
only one clean frock remaining!"

Laura looked gravely at the last clean frock, and wondered much what her
grandmama would say next.

"I do not wish to make a prisoner of you at home during this very fine
weather, yet in five minutes after leaving the house, you will, of
course, become unfit to be seen, which I should very much regret, as a
number of fine people are coming to dinner, whom you would like to see.
The great General Courteney, and all his Aide-de-Camps, intend to be
here on their way from a review, besides many officers and ladies who
know your papa very well, and wish to see my little grand-daughter; but
I would not on any account allow you to appear before them, looking like
a perfect tatterdemalion, as you too often do. They would suppose you
had been drawn backwards through a hedge! Now my plan is, that you shall
wear this old pink gingham for romping all morning in the garden, and
dress in your last clean frock for dinner; but remember to keep out of
sight till then. Remain within the garden walls, as none of the company
will be walking there, but be sure to avoid the terrace and shrubberies
till you are made tidy, for I shall be both angry and mortified if your
papa's friends see you for the first time looking like rag-fair."

Laura promised to remember her grandmama's injunctions, and to remain
invisible all morning; so off she set to the garden, singing and
skipping with joy, as she ran towards her pleasant hiding-place,
planning twenty ways in which the day might be delightfully spent alone.
Before long she had strung a long necklace of daisies--she had put many
bright leaves in a book to dry--she had made a large ball of cowslips
to toss in the air--she had watered the hyacinths, with a watering-pot,
till they were nearly washed away--she had plucked more roses than could
possibly be carried, and eat as many gooseberries and cherries as it was
convenient to swallow,--but still there were several hours remaining to
be enjoyed, and nothing very particular, that Laura could think of, to
do.

Meantime, the miserable pink frock was torn worse than ever, and seemed
to be made of nothing but holes, for every gooseberry-bush in the garden
had got a share of it. Laura wished pink gingham frocks had never been
invented, and wondered why nothing stronger could be made! Having become
perfectly tired of the garden, she now wished herself anywhere else in
the world, and thought she was no better off, confined in this way
within four walls, than a canary bird in a cage.

"I should like so much to go, if it were only for five minutes, on the
terrace!" said she to herself. "How much pleasanter it is than this.
Grandmama did not care where I went, provided nobody saw me! I may at
least take a peep to see if any one is there!"

Laura now cautiously opened the garden-door, and put her head out,
intending only to look for a moment, but the moment grew longer and
longer, till it stretched into ten minutes.

"What crowds of fine people are walking about on the terrace!" thought
she. "It looks as gay as a fair! Who can that officer be in a red coat,
and cocked hat with white feathers. Probably General Courteney paying
attention to Lady Rockville. There is a lady in a blue cloak and blue
flowers! how very pretty! Everybody is so exceedingly smart! and I see
some little boys too! Grandmama never told me any children were coming!
I wonder how old they are, and if they will play with me in the evening!
It would be very amusing to venture a little nearer, and get a better
glimpse of them all!"

If Laura's wishes pointed one way and her duty pointed the other, it was
a very sad thing how often she forgot to pause and consider which she
ought to follow; and on this occasion, as usual, she took the naughty
side of the question, and prepared to indulge her curiosity, though very
anxious that nothing might happen to displease her grandmama. She
observed at some distance on the terrace, a remarkably large thick
holly-bush, near which the great procession of company would probably
pass before long, therefore, hoping nobody could possibly see her there,
she stole hastily out of the garden, and concealed herself behind it;
but when children do wrong, in hopes of not being found out, they
generally find themselves mistaken, as Laura soon discovered to her
cost. It is very lucky, however, for the culprits, when they are
detected, that they may learn never to behave so foolishly again,
because the greatest misfortune that can happen to a child is, not to be
found out and punished when he does wrong.

A few minutes after Laura had taken her station behind the holly-bush,
crowds of ladies and officers came strolling along, so very near her
hiding-place, that she saw them all distinctly, and felt excessively
amused and delighted at first, to be perched like a bird in a tree
watching this grand party, while nobody saw her, nor guessed that she
was there. Presently, however, Laura became sadly frightened when an
officer in a scarlet coat happened to look towards the holly-bush, and
exclaimed, with some surprise,

"There is surely something very odd about that plant! I see large pink
spots between the leaves!"

"Oh no, Captain Digby, you are quite mistaken," answered one of the
ladies, dressed in a bright yellow bonnet and green pelisse. "I see
nothing particular there! only a common ugly bush of holly! I wonder you
ever thought of noticing it!"

"But, Miss Perceval! there certainly is something very curious behind!
I would bet five to one there is!" replied Captain Digby, stepping up,
close to the holly-bush, and peeping over: "What have we here! a ragged
little girl, I do believe! in a pink frock!"

Poor Laura was now in a terrible scrape; she started up immediately to
run away. Probably she never ran so fast in her life before, but Captain
Digby was a person who enjoyed a joke, so he called out

    "Tally-ho! a race for a thousand pounds!"

Off set the Captain, and away flew Laura. At any other time she would
have thought it capital fun, but now she was frightened out of her wits,
and tore away at the very top of her speed. The whole party of ladies
and gentlemen stood laughing, and applauding, to see how fast they both
cleared the ground, while Laura, seeing the garden gate still wide open,
hoped she might be able to dart in, and close it, but alas! when she
arrived within four steps of the threshold, feeling almost certain of
escape, Captain Digby seized hold of her pink frock behind. It instantly
began tearing, so she had great hopes of leaving the piece in his hand
and getting off; but he was too clever for that, as he grasped hold of
her long sash, which was floating far out behind, and led Laura a
prisoner before the whole company.

When Lady Harriet discovered that this was really Laura advancing, her
head hanging down, her hair streaming about her ears, and her face like
a full moon, she could scarcely credit her own eyes, and held her hands
up with astonishment, while uncle David shrugged his shoulders, till
they almost met over his head, but not a word was said on either side
until they got home, when Lady Harriet at last broke the awful silence
by saying,

"My dear girl! you must, of course, be severely punished for this act of
disobedience, and it is not so much on account of feeling angry at your
misconduct that I mean to correct you, but because I love you, and wish
to make you behave better in future. Parents are appointed by God to
govern their children as he governs us, not carelessly indulging their
faults, but wisely correcting them, for we are told that our Great
Father in heaven chastens those whom he loves, and only afflicts us for
great and wise purposes. I have suffered many sorrows in the world, but
they always made me better in the end, and whatever discipline you meet
with from me, or from that Great Being who loves you still more than I
do, let it teach you to consider your ways, to repent of your
wilfulness, and to pray that you may be enabled to act more properly in
future."

"Yes, grandmama," replied Laura, with tears in her eyes, "I am quite
willing to be punished, for it was very wrong indeed to make you so
vexed and ashamed, by disobeying your orders."

"Then here is a long task which you must study before dinner, as a
penalty for trespassing bounds. It is a beautiful poem on the death of
Sir John Moore, which every school-girl can repeat, but being rather
long, you will scarcely have time to learn it perfectly, before coming
down to dessert, therefore, that you may be quite ready, I shall ring
now for Lady Rockville's maid, and have you washed and dressed
immediately. Remember this is your last clean frock, and be sure not to
spoil it."

When Laura chose to pay attention, she could learn her lessons
wonderfully fast, and her eyes seemed nailed to the book for some time
after Lady Harriet went away, till at last she could repeat the whole
poem perfectly well. It was neither "slowly nor sadly" that Laura "laid
down" her book, after practising it all, in a sort of jig time, till she
could rattle over the poem like a rail-road, and she walked to the
window, still murmuring the verses to herself with prodigious glee, and
giving little thought to their melancholy subject.

A variety of plans suggested themselves to her mind for amusing herself
within doors, as she had been forbidden to venture out, and she lost no
time in executing them. First, she tried on all her grandmama's caps at
a looking-glass, none of which were improved by being crushed and
tumbled in such a way. Then she quarrelled with Lady Rockville's
beautiful cockatoo, till it bit her finger violently, and after that,
she teazed the old cat till it scratched her; but all these diversions
were not sufficiently entertaining, so Laura began to grow rather tired,
till at last she went to gaze out at the portico of Holiday House, being
perfectly determined, on no account whatever, to go one single step
farther.

Here Laura saw many things which entertained her extremely, for she had
scarcely ever seen more of the country than was to be enjoyed with Mrs.
Crabtree in Charlotte Square. The punctual crows were all returning home
at their usual hour for the evening, and looked like a black shower over
her head, while hundreds of them seemed trying to make a concert at
once; the robins hopped close to her feet, evidently accustomed to be
fed; a tame pheasant, as fat as a London alderman, came up the steps to
keep her company; and the peacock, spreading his tail, and strutting
about, looked the very picture of silly pride and vanity.

Laura admired and enjoyed all this extremely, and crumbled down nearly a
loaf of bread, which she scattered on the ground, in order to be popular
among her visitors, who took all they could get from her, and quarrelled
among themselves about it, very much as boys and girls would perhaps
have done in the same circumstances.

It happened at this moment, that a large flock of geese crossed the
park, on their way towards the river, stalking along in a slow majestic
manner, with their heads high in the air. Laura observed them at a
distance, and thought they were the prettiest creatures in the world,
with their pure white feathers and yellow stockings, so she wondered
what kind of birds these were, having never seen a goose before, except
when roasted for dinner, though, indeed, she was a sad goose herself, as
will very soon be told.

"How I should like to examine those large, white, beautiful birds, a
little nearer," thought Laura to herself. "I wonder if they could swim
or fly!--oh! how perfect they would look, floating like water-lilies on
the river, and then I might take a bit of bread to throw in, and they
would all rush after it!"

Laura, as usual, did not wait to reflect what her grandmama might be
likely to think; indeed it is to be feared Laura forgot at the moment
that she had a grandmama at all, for her mind was never large enough to
hold more than one thing at a time, and now it was entirely filled with
the flock of geese. She instantly set off in pursuit of them, and began
chasing the whole party across the park, making all sorts of dreadful
noises, in hopes they might fly; but, on the contrary, they held up
their heads, as if she had been a dancing-master, and marched slowly on,
cackling loudly to each other, and evidently getting extremely angry.

Laura was now quite close to her new acquaintances, and even threw a
pebble to hurry them forward, when suddenly an old gander stopped, and
turned round in a terrible rage. The whole flock of geese then did the
same, after which they flew towards Laura, with their bills wide open,
hissing furiously, and stretching out their long necks in an angry
menacing way, as if they wished to tear her in pieces.

Poor Laura became frightened out of any wits she ever had, and ran off,
with all the geese after her! Anybody must have laughed into fits, could
they have heard what a triumphant cackle the geese set up, and had they
seen how fast she flew away. If Laura had borrowed a pair of wings from
her pursuers, she could scarcely have got more quickly on.

In the hurry of escaping, she always looked back to see if the enemy
followed, and scarcely observed which way she ran herself, till suddenly
her foot stumbled over a large stone, and she fell headlong into the
river!--oh, what a scream Laura gave! it terrified even the old gander
himself, and sent the whole flock of geese marching off, nearly as fast
as they had come; but Laura's cries also reached, at a great distance,
the ears of somebody, who she would have been very sorry to think had
heard them.

Lady Harriet, and all her friends at Holiday House, were taking a
delightful walk under some fine old fir trees, on the banks of the
river, admiring the beautiful scenery, while Miss Perceval was admiring
nothing but her own fine pocket handkerchief, which had cost ten
guineas, being worked with her name, trimmed with lace, and perfumed
with eau de Cologne; and Captain Digby was admiring his own scarlet
uniform, reflected in the bright clear water, and varying his employment
occasionally by throwing pebbles into the stream, to see how far they
would go. Suddenly, however, he stopped, with a look of surprise and
alarm, saying, "What noise can that be!--a loud scream in the water!"

"Oh dear, no! it was only one of those horrid peacocks," answered Miss
Perceval, waving her fine pocket handkerchief. "They are the most
disagreeable, noisy creatures in the world! If mama ever keeps one, I
shall get him a singing-master, or put a muzzle on his mouth!"

"But surely there is something splashing in the river at a great
distance. Do you not see that!--what can it be?"

"Nothing at all, depend upon it! I could bet the value of my pocket
handkerchief, ten guineas, that it is nothing. Officers who live
constantly in barracks are so unaccustomed to the country, that they
seem to expect something wonderful shall happen every minute! That is
probably a salmon or a minnow."

"I am determined, however, to see. If you are quite sure this is a
salmon, will you promise to eat for your dinner whatever we find,
provided I can catch it?"

"Certainly! unless you catch a whale! Oh! I have dropped my pocket
handkerchief,--pray pick it up!"

Captain Digby did so; but without waiting to examine the pattern, he
instantly ran forward, and to his own very great astonishment, saw Laura
up to her knees in the river, trying to scramble out, while her face was
white with terror, and her limbs trembled with cold, like a poodle dog
newly washed.

"Why, here you are again!--the very same little girl that I caught in
the morning," cried he, laughing heartily, while he carefully pulled
Laura towards the bank, though, by doing so, he splashed his beautiful
uniform most distressingly. "We have had a complete game at bo-peep
to-day, my friend! but here comes a lady who has promised to eat you up,
therefore I shall have no more trouble."

Laura would have consented to be eaten up with pleasure, rather than
encounter Lady Harriet's eye, who really did not recognize her for the
first minute, as no one can suppose what a figure she appeared. The last
clean frock had been covered entirely over with mud--her hair was
dripping with water--and her new yellow sash might be any colour in the
world. Laura felt so completely ashamed she could not look up from the
ground, and so sorry she could not speak, while hot tears mingled
themselves with the cold water which trickled down her face.

"What is the matter! Who is this?" cried Lady Harriet, hurrying up to
the place where they stood. "Laura!! Impossible!!!"

"Let me put on a pair of spectacles, for I cannot believe my eyes
without them!" said Major Graham. "Ah! sure enough it is Laura, and
such a looking Laura as I never saw before. You must have had a nice
cold bath!"

"I have heard," continued Lady Harriet, "that naughty people are often
ducked in the water as a punishment, and in that respect I am sure Laura
deserves what she has got, and a great deal more."

"She reminds me," observed Captain Digby, "of the Chinese bird which has
no legs, so it constantly flies about from place to place, never a
moment at rest."

"Follow me, Laura," said Lady Harriet, "that I may hear whether you have
anything to say for yourself on this occasion. It is scarcely possible
that there can be any excuse, but nobody should be condemned unheard."

When Laura had been put into dry clothes, she told her whole history,
and entreated Lady Harriet to hear how very perfectly she had first
learned her task, before venturing to stir out of the room; upon which
her grandmama consented, and amidst tears and sobs, the monody on Sir
John Moore was repeated without a single mistake. Lady Rockville then
came in, to entreat that, as this was the last day of the visit to
Holiday House, Laura might be forgiven and permitted to appear at
dessert, as all the company were anxious to see her, and particularly
Captain Digby, who regretted that he had been the means at first of
getting her into a scrape.

"Indeed, my dear Lady Rockville! I might perhaps have agreed to your
wishes," answered Lady Harriet, "particularly as Laura seems sincerely
sorry, and did not premeditate her disobedience; but she actually has
not a tolerable frock to appear in now!"

"I must lend her one of my velvet dresses to destroy next," said Lady
Rockville, smiling.

"Uncle David's Mackintosh cloak would be the fittest thing for her to
wear," replied Lady Harriet, rising to leave the room. "Laura, you must
learn a double task now! Here it is! and at Lady Rockville's request I
excuse you this once; though I am sorry that, for very sufficient
reasons, we cannot see you at dessert, which otherwise I should have
been most happy to do."

Laura sat down and cried during a quarter of an hour after Lady Harriet
had gone to dinner. She felt sorry for having behaved ill, and sorry to
have vexed her good grandmama; and sorry not to see all the fine party
at dessert; and sorry to think that next day she must leave Holiday
House; and sorry, last of all, to consider what Mrs. Crabtree would say
when all her ruined frocks were brought home. In short, poor Laura felt
perfectly overwhelmed with the greatness and variety of her griefs, and
scarcely believed that any one in the world was ever more miserable than
herself.

Her eyes were fixed on her task, while her thoughts were wandering fifty
miles away from it, when a housemaid, who had frequently attended upon
Laura during her visit, accidentally entered the room, and seemed much
surprised, as well as concerned, to find the young lady in such a way,
for her sobbing could be heard in the next room. It was quite a relief
to see any one; so Laura told over again all the sad adventures of the
day, without attempting to conceal how naughty she had been; and most
attentively was her narrative listened to, till the very end.

"You see, Miss!" observed Nelly, "when people doesn't behave well, they
must expect to be punished."

"So they should!" sobbed Laura; "and I dare say it will make me better!
I would not pass such a miserable day as this again, for the world; but
I deserve to be more punished than I am."

"That's right, Miss!" replied Nelly, pleased to see the good effect of
her admonitions. "Punishment is as sure to do us good when we are
naughty, as physic when we are ill. But now you'll go down to dessert,
and forget it all."

"No! grandmama would have allowed me, and Lady Rockville and every body
was so very kind about inviting me down; but my last clean frock is
quite unfit to be seen, so I have none to put on. Oh, dear! what a
thousand million of pities!"

"Is that all, Miss! Then dry your eyes, and I can wash the frock in ten
minutes. Give it to me, and learn your lesson, so as to be ready when I
come back."

Laura sprung off her seat with joy at this proposal, and ran--or rather
flew--to fetch her miserable object of a frock, which Nelly crumpled
under her arm, and walked away with, in such haste that she was
evidently determined to return very soon; while Laura took her good
advice, and sat down to learn her task, though she could hardly look at
the book during two minutes at a time--she watched so impatiently for
her benefactress from the laundry.

At length the door flew open, and in walked Nelly, whose face looked as
red and hot as a beefsteak; but in her hand she carried a basket, on
which was laid out, in great state, the very cleanest frock that ever
was seen! It perfectly smelled of soap and water, starch and hot irons,
and seemed still almost smoking from the laundry; while Laura looked at
it with such delight and admiration, it might have been supposed she
never saw a clean frock before.

When Lady Harriet was sitting after dinner that day, sipping her wine,
and thinking about no thing very particular, she became surprised to
feel somebody gently twitching her sleeve to attract notice. Turning
instantly round to ascertain what was the matter, and who it could be,
what was her astonishment to see Laura at her elbow, looking rather shy
and frightened.

"How did you get here, child!" exclaimed Lady Harriet, in accents of
amazement, though almost laughing. "Am I never to see the last of you
to-day! Where did you get that frock! It must have dropped from the
clouds! Or did some good fairy give you a new one?"

"That good fairy was Nelly the housemaid," whispered Laura. "She first
tossed my frock into a washing-tub; and then at the great kitchen fire
she toasted it, and----"

"----And buttered it, I hope," added Major Graham. "Come here, Laura! I
can read what is written in your grandmama's face at this moment; and it
says, 'you are a tiresome little puss, that nobody can keep in any order
except uncle David;' therefore sit down beside him, and eat as many
almonds and raisins as he bids you."

"You are a nice, funny uncle David!" whispered Laura, crushing her way
in between his chair and Miss Perceval's, "nobody will need a tongue
now, if you can read so exactly what we are all thinking."

"But here is Miss Perceval, still more wonderful; for she knows by the
bumps on your head, all that is contained inside. Let me see if I could
do so! There is a large bump of reading, and a small one of writing and
arithmetic. Here is a terrible organ of breaking dolls and destroying
frocks. There is a very small bump of liking uncle David, and a
prodigious one of liking almonds and raisins!"

"No! you are quite mistaken! It is the largest bump for loving uncle
David, and the small one for every thing else," interrupted Laura,
eagerly. "I shall draw a map of my head some day, to show you how it is
all divided."

"And leave no room for any thing naughty or foolish! Your head should be
swept out, and put in order every morning, that not a single cobweb may
remain in your brains. What busy brains they must be for the next ten
years! But in the meantime let us hope that you will never again be
reduced to your

                              "LAST CLEAN FROCK."



CHAPTER VI.

THE LONG LADDER.

  There was a young pickle, and what do you think?
  He liv'd upon nothing but victuals and drink;
  Victuals and drink were the chief of his diet,
  And yet this young pickle could never be quiet.


One fine sultry day in the month of August, Harry and Laura stood at the
breakfast-room window, wondering to see the large broken white clouds,
looking like curds and whey, while the sun was in such a blaze of heat,
that every thing seemed almost red hot. The street door had become
blistered by the sun-beams. Jowler the dog lay basking on the pavement;
the green blinds were closed at every opposite house; the few gentlemen
who ventured out, were fanning themselves with their pocket
handkerchiefs; the ladies were strolling lazily along, under the
umbrageous shade of their green parasols; and the poor people who were
accustomed in winter to sell matches for lighting a fire, now carried
about gaudy paper hangings for the empty grates. Lady Harriet found the
butter so melted at breakfast, that she could scarcely lift it on her
knife; and uncle David complained that the sight of hot smoking tea put
him in a fever, and said he wished it could be iced.

"I wonder how iced porridge would taste!" said Harry. "I put mine at the
open window to cool, but that only made it seem hotter. We were talking
of the gentleman you mentioned yesterday, who toasted his muffins at a
volcano; and certainly yours might almost be done at the drawing-room
window this morning."

"Wait till you arrive at the countries I have visited, where, as
somebody remarked, the very salamanders die of heat. At Agra, which is
the hottest part of India, we could scarcely write a letter, because the
ink dries in the pen before you can get it to the paper. I was obliged,
when our regiment was there, to lie down in the middle of the day,
during several hours, actually gasping for breath; and to make up for
that, we all rose at midnight. An officer of ours, who lived long in
India, got up always at three in the morning, after we returned home,
and walked about the streets of Portsmouth, wondering what had become of
everybody."

"I shall try not to grumble about weather any more," said Laura. "We
seem no worse off than other people."

"Or rather we are a great deal better off! At Bermuda, where my regiment
stopped on the way to America, the inhabitants are so tormented with
high winds, that they build 'hurricane houses'--low, flat rooms, where
the families must retire when a storm comes on, as trees, houses,
people, and cattle, are all whirled about with such violence, that not a
life is safe on the island while it lasts."

"That reminds me," said Lady Harriet, "of a droll mistake made yesterday
by the African camel, when he landed at Leith. His keepers were leading
him along the high road to be made a show of in Edinburgh, at a time
when the wind was particularly high; and the poor animal encountering
such clouds of dust, thought this must be a simoon of the desert, and
threw himself flat down, burying his nose in the ground, according to
custom on those occasions. It was with great difficulty that he could at
last be induced to face the danger, and proceed."

"Quite a compliment to our dust," observed Laura. "But really in such a
hot day, the kangaroos and tigers might feel perfectly at home here.
Oh! how I should like to visit the GEOlogical Gardens in London!"

"Then suppose we set off immediately!" said Major Graham, pretending to
rise from his chair. "Your grandmama's donkey-carriage holds two."

"Ah! but you could carry the donkey-carriage more easily than it could
carry you!"

"Shall I try? Well, if we go, who is to pay the turnpikes, for I
remember the time, not a hundred years ago, when Harry and you both
thought that paying the gates was the only expense of travelling. You
asked me then how poor grandmama could afford so many shillings and
sixpences."

"We know all about every thing now though!" said Harry, nodding in a
very sagacious manner. "I can tell exactly how much time it takes going
by the public coach to London, and it sleeps only one night on the
road."

"Sleeps!" cried uncle David. "What! it puts on a night-cap, and goes to
bed?"

"Yes! and it dines and breakfasts too, Mr. uncle David, for I heard Mrs.
Crabtree say so."

"Never name anybody, unless you wish to see her immediately," said Major
Graham, hearing a well-known tap at the door. "As sure as you mention an
absent person, if he is supposed to be fifty miles off at the time, it
is rather odd, but he instantly appears!"

"Then there is somebody that I shall speak about very often."

"Who can this Mr. Somebody be?" asked uncle David, smiling. "A foolish
person that spoils you both I dare say, and gives you large slices of
bread and jelly like this. Hold them carefully! Now, good bye, and joy
be with you."

But it was with rather rueful faces that Harry and Laura left the room,
wishing they might have remained another hour to talk nonsense with
uncle David, and dreading to think what new scrapes and difficulties
they would get into in the nursery, which always seemed to them a place
of torture and imprisonment.

Major Graham used to say that Mrs. Crabtree should always have a
thermometer in her own room when she dressed, to tell her whether the
weather was hot or cold, for she seemed to feel no difference, and
scarcely ever made any change in her own attire, wearing always the same
pink gown and scarlet shawl, which made her look like a large red
flower-pot, while she was no more annoyed with the heat than a
flower-pot would have been. On this very oppressive morning she took as
much pains in suffocating Harry with a silk handkerchief round his neck,
as if it had been Christmas, and though Laura begged hard for leave to
go without one of her half-a-dozen wrappings, she might as well have
asked permission to go without her head, as Mrs. Crabtree seemed
perfectly deaf upon the subject.

"This day is so very cold and so very shivering," said Harry, slyly,
"that I suppose you will make Laura wear at least fifty shawls."

"Not above twenty," answered Mrs. Crabtree, dryly. "Give me no more of
your nonsense, Master Harry! This is no business of yours! I was in the
world long before you were born, and must know best; so hold your
tongue. None but fools and beggars need ever be cold."

At last Mrs. Crabtree had heaped as many clothes upon her two little
victims, as she was pleased to think necessary; so she sallied forth
with them, followed by Betty, and proceeded towards the country, taking
the sunny side of the road, and raising clouds of dust at every step,
till Harry and Laura felt as if they had been made of wax, and were
melting away.

"Mrs. Crabtree!" said Harry, "did you hear uncle David's funny story
yesterday? One hot morning a gentleman was watching an ant's nest, when
he observed, that every little insect, as it came out, plucked a small
leaf, to hold over its head, as a parasol! I wish we could find leaves
large enough for us."

"You must go to the Botanical Gardens, where one leaf of a palm-tree was
shown to grandmama, which measured fourteen feet long," observed Laura.
"How horrid these very warm countries must be, where the heat is all the
year round like this!"

"You may well say that," answered Mrs. Crabtree. "I would not go to them
East Indies--no! not if I were Governess-General,--to be running away
with a tiger at your back, and sleeping with real live serpents twisted
round the bed-post, and scorpions under your pillow! Catch me there! I'm
often quite sorry for Master Frank, to think that his ship is maybe
going that way! I'm told the very rats have such a smell in that
outlandish place, that if they touch the outside of a bottle with their
tails, it tastes of musk ever after; and when people are sitting
comfortably down, expecting to enjoy their dinner, a swarm of great ants
will come, and fall, an inch thick, on all the side-dishes. I've no
desire whatever to see foreign parts!"

"But I wish to see every country in the universe," said Harry; "and I
hope there will be a rail-road all round the world before I am grown up.
Only think, Mrs. Crabtree, what fun lion-hunting must be, and catching
dolphins, and riding on elephants."

The pedestrians had now arrived at the pretty village of Corstorphine,
when they were unexpectedly met by Peter Grey, who joined them without
waiting to ask leave. Here the hills are so beautifully wooded, and the
villas so charming, that Harry, Peter, and Laura stopped a moment, to
consider what house they would like best to live in. Near one side of
the road stood a large cart of hay, on the top of which were several
men, forking it in at the window of a high loft, which could only be
entered by a long ladder that leaned against the wall. It was a busy
joyous scene, and soon attracted the children's whole attention, who
were transfixed with delight, seeing how rapidly the people ran up and
down, with their pitchforks in their hands, and tilted the hay from the
cart into the loft, while they had many jokes and much laughter among
themselves. At last their whole business was finished, and the workmen
drove away for another supply, to the neighbouring fields, where they
had been raking and tossing it all morning, as merry as crickets.

"What happy people!" exclaimed Harry, looking wistfully after the party,
and wishing he might have scrambled into the cart beside them. "I would
be a haymaker for nothing, if anybody would employ me; would not you,
Peter?"

"It is very strange," said Master Grey, "why little ladies and gentlemen
seem always obliged to endure a perfectly useless walk every day, as you
and Laura are doing now. You never saw animals set out to take a stroll
for the good of their healths! How odd it would be to see a couple of
dogs set off for a country walk!"

"Miss Laura!" said Mrs. Crabtree, "Master Harry may rest here for a
minute or two with Master Peter, and let them count their fingers, while
you come with Betty and me to visit a sick old aunt of mine who lives
round the corner; but be sure, boys, you do not presume to wander about,
or I shall punish you most severely. We are coming back in two minutes."

Mrs. Crabtree had scarcely disappeared into a small shabby-looking
cottage, before Peter turned eagerly to Harry, with a face of great joy
and importance, exclaiming, "Only see how very lucky this is! The
haymakers have left their long ladder, standing on purpose for us! The
window of that loft is wide open, and I must climb up immediately to
peep in, because never, in all my life, did I see the inside of a
hay-loft before!"

"Nor I!" added Harry. "Uncle David says, that all round the floor there
are deep holes, called mangers, down which food is thrown for the
horses, so that they can thrust their heads in, to take a bite, whenever
they choose."

"How I should hate to have my dinner hung up always before my nose in
that way! Suppose the kitchen were placed above your nursery, and that
Mrs. Marmalade showered down tarts and puddings, which were to remain
there till you ate them, you would hate the sight of such things at
last. But now, Harry, for the hay-loft."

Peter scrambled so rapidly up the ladder, that he soon reached the top,
and instantly vanished in at the window, calling eagerly for Harry to
follow. "You never saw such a nice, clean, funny place as this, in all
your life!--make haste!--come faster!--never mind crushing your hat or
tearing your jacket,--I'll put it all to rights. Ah! there!--that's the
thing!--walk up, gentlemen! walk up!--the grand show!--sixpence each,
and children half-price!"

All this time, Harry was slowly, and with great difficulty, picking his
steps up the ladder, but a most troublesome business it was! First, his
foot became entangled in a rope,--then his hat got squeezed so out of
shape, it looked perfectly tipsy,--next, one of his shoes nearly came
off,--and afterwards he dropped his gloves; but at last he stumbled up
in safety, and stood beside Peter in the loft, both laughing with
delight at their own enterprize.

The quantity of hay piled up on all sides, astonished them greatly,
while the nice, wide floor between, seemed larger than any drawing-room,
and was certainly made on purpose for a romp. Harry rolled up a large
ball of hay to throw at Peter, while he, in return, aimed at him, so
they ran after each other, round and round the loft, raising such a
riot, that the very "rafters dirled."

The hay now flew about in clouds, while they jumped over it, or crept
under it, throwing handfuls about in every direction, and observing that
this was the best play-room they had ever been in.

"How lucky that we came here!" cried Peter. "I should like to stay an
hour at least!"

"Oh! two hours,--or three,--or all day," added Harry. "But what shall we
do about Mrs. Crabtree? She has not gone to settle for life with that
old sick aunt, so I am afraid we must really be hurrying back, in case
she may find out our expedition, and that, you know, Peter, would be
dreadful!"

"Only fancy, Harry, if she sees you and me clinging to the ladder, about
half way down! what a way she would be in!"

"We had better make haste," said Harry, looking around. "What would
grandmama say!--I wish we had never come up!"

At this moment, Harry was still more brought to his senses, by hearing
Mrs. Crabtree's voice, exclaiming, in loud angry accents, "Where in all
the world can those troublesome boys be gone! I must tether them to a
tree the next time they are left together! Why! sure! they would not
venture up that long ladder in the hay-loft! If they have, they had
better never come down again, for I shall shew who is master here."

"Peter Grey would run up a ladder to the stars, if he could find one,"
replied Betty. "Here are Master Harry's gloves lying at the bottom of
it. They can be gone nowhere else, for I have searched every other
place. We must send the town-crier with his bell after them, if they are
not found up there!"

Mrs. Crabtree now seemed fearfully angry, while Laura began to tremble
with fright for Harry, who was listening overhead, and did not know very
well what to do, but foolishly thought it best to put off the evil hour
of being punished as long as possible; so he and Peter silently crept in
below a great quantity of hay, and hid themselves so cunningly, that
even a thief-catcher could scarcely have discovered their den. In this
dark corner, Harry had time to reflect and to feel more and more alarmed
and sorry for his misconduct, so he said, in a very distressed voice,
"Oh, Peter! what a pity it is ever to be naughty, for we are always
found out, and always so much happier when we are good!"

"I wonder how Mrs. Crabtree will get up the long ladder?" whispered
Peter, laughing. "I would give my little finger, and one of my ears, to
see her and Betty scrambling along!"

Harry had to pinch Peter's arm almost black and blue before he would be
quiet; and by the time he stopped talking, Mrs. Crabtree and Betty were
both standing in the hay-loft, exceedingly out of breath with climbing
so unusually high, while Mrs. Crabtree very nearly fell, having stumbled
over a step at the entrance.

"Why, sure! there's nobody here!" exclaimed she, in a disappointed tone.
"And what a disorderly place this is! I thought a hay-loft was always
kept in such nice order, with the floor all swept! but here is a fine
mess! Those two great lumps of hay in the corner look as if they were
meant for people to sleep upon!"

Harry gave himself up for lost when Mrs. Crabtree noticed the place
where he and Peter had buried themselves alive; but to his great relief,
no suspicion seemed to have been excited, and neither of the two
searchers were anxious to venture beyond the door, after having so
nearly tripped upon the threshold.

"They must have been stolen by a gipsey, or perhaps fallen into a well,"
said Betty, who rather liked the bustle of an accident. "I always
thought Master Peter would break his neck, or something of that kind.
Poor thing! how distressed his papa will be!"

"Hold your tongue," interrupted Mrs. Crabtree, angrily. "I wish people
would either speak sense, or not speak at all! Did you hear a noise
among the hay?"

"Rats, I dare say! or perhaps a dog!" answered Betty, turning hastily
round, and hurrying down the ladder faster than she had come up. "I
certainly thought something moved in yon far corner."

"Where can that little shrimp of a boy be hid?" added Mrs. Crabtree,
following. "He must have obedience knocked like a nail into his head,
with a few good severe blows. I shall beat him to powder when once we
catch him."

"You may depend upon it," persisted Betty, "that some gipsey has got the
boys for the sake of their clothes. It will be a great pity, because
Master Harry had on his best blue jacket and trowsers."

No sooner was the loft cleared of these unwelcome visitors, than Harry
and Peter began to recover from their panic, and jumped out of the hay,
shaking themselves free from it, and skipping about in greater glee than
ever.

While they played about, as they had done before, and tumbled as if they
had been tumblers at Ducrow's, poor Harry got into such spirits, that he
completely forgot about the deep holes called mangers, for containing
the horse's food, till all at once, when Peter was running after him, he
fell, with a loud crash, headlong into one of them! Oh! what a scream he
gave!--it echoed through the stable, terrifying a whole team of horses
that were feeding there, more particularly the one into whose manger he
had fallen. The horse gave a tremendous start when Harry plunged down
close to his nose, and not being able to run away, he put back his ears,
opened his mouth, and kicked and struggled in the most frightful manner,
while Harry, who could not make his escape any more than the horse,
shouted louder and louder for help.

Peter did all he could to assist Harry in this extraordinary
predicament, but finding it impossible to be of any use, he forgot their
terror of Mrs. Crabtree in his fears about Harry, and rushed to the
window, calling back their two pursuers, who were walking away at a
great distance. He screamed and hollooed, and waved his handkerchief,
without ceasing, till at last Mrs. Crabtree heard him, and turned round,
but never was anybody more astonished then she was, on seeing him there,
so she scolded, stormed, and raged, up to the very foot of the ladder.

"Now, you are the besiegers, and I am the garrison!" cried Peter, when
he saw Mrs. Crabtree panting and toiling in her ascent. "We must make a
treaty of peace together, for I could tumble you over in a minute, by
merely pushing this end a very little more to one side!"

"Do not touch it, Master Peter!" cried Mrs. Crabtree, almost afraid he
was in earnest. "There is a good boy,--be quiet!"

"A good boy!!" whispered Peter to himself. "What a fright Mrs. Crabtree
must be in, before she said that!"

The next moment Mrs. Crabtree snatched Harry out of the manger, and
shook him with rage. She then scolded and beat him, till he was
perfectly stupified with fright and misery, after which the whole party
were allowed to proceed towards home, while Harry stumbled along the
road, and hung down his head, wishing, fifty times over, that he and
Peter Grey had never gone up

                              THE LONG LADDER.



CHAPTER VII.

THE MAD BULL.

  There's something in a noble boy,
  A brave, free-hearted, careless one;
  With his uncheck'd, unbidden joy,
  His dread of books and love of fun.
  And in his clear and ready smile,
  Unshaded by a thought of guile
  And unrepress'd by sadness,--
  Which brings me to my childhood back,
  As if I trod its very track,
  And felt its very gladness.

                                        Willis.


One evening, when Harry and Laura came down to dessert, they were
surprised to observe the two little plates usually intended for them,
turned upside down, while uncle David pretended not to notice anything,
though he stole a glance to see what would happen next. On lifting up
these mysterious plates, what did they see lying underneath, but two
letters with large red seals, one directed to "Master Harry Graham," and
the other to "Miss Laura Graham."

"A letter for me!!" cried Harry, in a tone of delighted astonishment,
while he tore open the seal, and his hand shook with impatience, so that
he could hardly unfold the paper. "What can it be about! I like getting
a letter very much! Is it from papa? Did the postman bring it?"

"Yes, he did," said uncle David: "and he left a message that you must
pay a hundred pounds for it to-morrow."

"Very likely, indeed," said Laura; "you should pay that for telling me
such a fine story; but my letter is worth more than a hundred pounds,
for it is inviting me to spend another delightful week at Holiday
House."

"I am asked too! and not Mrs. Crabtree!" cried Harry, looking at his
letter, and almost screaming out for joy, whilst he skipped about the
room, rubbing his hands together, and ended by twirling Laura round and
round, till they both fell prostrate on the floor.

"If that be meant as a specimen of how you intend to behave at Holiday
House, we had better send your apology at once," observed Lady Harriet,
smiling. "Lord Rockville is very particular about never hearing any
noise, and the slamming of a door, or even the creaking of a pair of
unruly shoes, would put him distracted."

"Yes!" added uncle David, "Holiday House is as quiet as Harry's drum
with a hole in it. If a pin drops in any part of the mansion, Lord
Rockville becomes annoyed, and the very wasps scarcely dare to buz at
his window so loud as at any other person's. You will feel quite
fish-out-of-water-ish, trying to be quiet and hum-drum for a whole week,
so let me advise you not to go."

"The meaning of advice always is something that one would rather wish
not to do," observed Laura, gravely. "I never in my life was advised to
enjoy anything pleasant! Taking physic--or learning lessons--or staying
at home, are very often advised, but never playing--or having a
holiday--or amusing ourselves!"

"You know, Laura! that Harry's little Shetland pony, Tom Thumb, in my
field, is of no use at present, but kicks, and capers, and runs about
all day; yet presently he will be led out fastened to a rope, and made
to trot round and round in a circle, day after day, till he has no
longer a will of his own,--that is education. Afterwards he shall have a
bridle put in his mouth, which some little girls would be much the
better of also, when he shall be carefully guided ever afterwards in the
best ways; and you likewise will go much more steadily for all the
reining-in and whipping you have got from Mrs. Crabtree and me, which
may, perhaps, make you keep in the road of duty more easily hereafter."

"Uncle David!" said Harry, laughing, "we have read in the Arabian
Nights, about people being turned into animals, but I never thought you
would turn Laura into a horse! What shall we do with my little Shetland
pony if I go away next week?"

"I have thought of a capital plan for making Tom Thumb useful during the
whole winter! Your grandmama wants a watch-dog in the country, so we
shall build him a kennel--put a chain round his neck, and get some one
to teach him to bark."

"Uncle David should be Professor of Nonsense at the University," said
Lady Harriet, smiling. "But, my dear children, if you are allowed to pay
this visit at Holiday House, I hope you will endeavour to behave
creditably?"

"Yes," added Major Graham, "I understand that Lord Rockville wished to
have some particularly quiet children there, for a short time, so he
fixed upon Harry and Laura! Poor, mistaken Lord Rockville! But, my good
friends, try not to break all his china ornaments the first day--spare a
few jars and tea-cups--leave a pane of glass or two in the windows, and
throw none of your marbles at the mirrors."

"I remember hearing," said Lady Harriet, "that when Miss Pelham was
married last year, her old aunt, Mrs. Bouverie, sent for her and said,
that as she could not afford to give baubles or trinkets, she would give
her a very valuable piece of advice; and what do you think it was,
Laura?"

"I have no idea! Do tell me."

"Then I shall bestow it on you, as the old lady did on her niece--'Be
careful of china, paper and string, for they are all very transitory
possessions in this world!'"

"Very true! and most judicious!" observed Major Graham, laughing. "I
certainly know several persons who must have served an apprenticeship
under that good lady. Many gentlemen now, who despatch all their
epistles from the club, because there the paper costs them nothing, and
a number of ladies, who, for the same good reason, never write letters
till they are visiting in a country house."

Having received so many warnings and injunctions about behaving well,
Harry and Laura became so quiet during the first few days at Holiday
House, that they were like shadows flitting through the rooms, going
almost on tiptoe, scarcely speaking above a whisper, and observing that
valuable rule for children, to let themselves be seen, but not heard.
Lord Rockville was quite charmed with such extreme good conduct, for
they were both in especial awe of him, and thought it a great
condescension if he even looked at them, he was so tall, so grand, and
so grave, wearing a large powdered wig and silver spectacles, which gave
him a particularly venerable appearance, though Harry was one day very
near getting into disgrace upon that subject. His Lordship had a habit
of always carrying two pairs of spectacles in his pocket, and often,
after thrusting one pair high on his forehead, he forgot where they
were, and put the others on his nose, which had such a droll appearance,
that the first time Harry saw it, he felt quite taken by surprise, and
burst into a fit of laughter, upon which Lord Rockville gave him such a
comical look of surprise and perplexity, that Harry's fit of laughing
got worse and worse. The more people know they are wrong, and try to
stop, the more convulsive it becomes, and the more difficult to look
grave again, so at last, after repeated efforts to appear serious and
composed, Harry started up, and in his hurry to escape, very nearly
slammed the door behind him, which would have given the last finish to
his offences.

Both the little visitors found Lady Rockville so extremely indulgent and
kind, that she seemed like another grandmama, therefore they gradually
ventured to talk some of their own nonsense before her, and even to try
some of their old ways, and frolicsome tricks, which she seldom found
any fault with, except when Harry one day eloped with Lord Rockville's
favourite walking-stick, to be used as a fishing-rod among the minnows,
with a long thread at the end for a line, and a crooked pin to represent
the hook, while, on the same day, Laura privately mounted the ass that
gave Lord Rockville's ass's milk, and rode it all round the park, while
he sat at home expecting his usual refreshing tumbler. Still they both
passed muster for being very tolerable children, and his Lordship was
heard once to say, in a voice of great approbation, that Master and Miss
Graham were so punctual at dinner, and so perfectly quiet, he really
often forgot they were in the house. Indeed, Harry's complaisance on the
day after he had laughed so injudiciously about the spectacles, was
quite unheard of, as he felt anxious to make up for his misconduct; and
when Lord Rockville asked if he would like a fire in the play-room, as
the evening was chilly, he answered very politely, "Thank you, my Lord!
We are ready to think it hot or cold, just as you please!"

All this was too good to last! One morning, when Harry and Laura looked
out of the window, it was a most deplorably wet day. The whole sky
looked like a large grey cotton umbrella, and the clouds were so low
that Harry thought he could almost have touched them. In short, as Lord
Rockville remarked, "it rained cats and dogs," so his Lordship knitted
his brows, and thrust his hands into his waistcoat pockets, walking up
and down the room in a perfect fume of vexation, for he was so
accustomed to be obeyed, that it seemed rather a hardship when even the
weather contradicted his wishes. To complete his vexation, as "single
misfortunes never come alone," his valet, when carelessly drying the
Morning Post at a large kitchen fire, had set it in flames, so that all
the wonderful news it contained became reduced to ashes, therefore Lord
Rockville might well have given notice, that, for this day at least, he
had a right to be in extremely bad humour.

Lady Rockville privately recommended Harry and Laura to sit quietly down
and play at cat's cradle, which accordingly they did, and when that
became no longer endurable, some dominos were produced. Thus the morning
wore tediously away till about two o'clock, when suddenly the rain
stopped, the sun burst forth with prodigious splendour, every leaf in
the park glittered, as if it had been sprinkled with diamonds, and a
hundred birds seemed singing a chorus of joy, while bees and butterflies
fluttered at the windows and flew away rejoicing.

Harry was the first to observe this delightful change, and with an
exclamation of delight, he sprang from his seat, pulled Laura from hers,
upset the domino-table, and rushed out of the room, slamming the door
with a report like twenty cannons. Away they both flew to the forest,
Laura swinging her bonnet in her hand, and Harry tossing his cap in the
air, while Lord Rockville watched them angrily from the drawing-room
window, saying, in a tone of extreme displeasure, "That boy has a voice
that might do for the town-crier! He laughs so loud, it is enough to
crack every glass in the room! I wish he were condemned to pass a week
in those American prisons where no one is allowed to speak. In short, he
would be better anywhere than here, for I might as well live with a
hammer and tongs, as with the two children together. They are more
restless than the quicksilver figures from China, and I wish they were
as quiet, but my only comfort is, that at any rate they come home
punctually to dinner at five. Nothing is so intolerable as people
dropping in too late and disordering the table."

Meantime, the woods at Holiday House rung with sounds of mirth and
gaiety, while Harry scrambled up the trees like a squirrel, and swung
upon the branches, gathering walnuts and crab-apples for Laura, after
which they both cut their names upon the bark of Lord Rockville's
favourite beech, so that every person who passed that way must observe
the large distinct letters. They were laughing and chatting over this
exploit, both talking at once, as noisy and happy as possible, and
expecting nothing particular to happen, when, all on a sudden, Laura
turned pale, and grasped hold of Harry's arm, saying, in a low
frightened voice,

"Hush, Harry!--hush!--I hear a very strange noise. It sounds like some
wild beast! What can that be?"

Harry listened as if he had ten pair of ears, and nearly cracked his
eye-balls staring round him, to see what could be the matter. A curious
deep growling sound might be heard at some distance, while there was the
noise of something trampling heavily on the ground, and of branches
breaking off the trees, as if some large creature was forcing his way
through. Harry and Laura now stood like a couple of little statues, not
daring to breathe, they felt so terrified! The noise grew louder and
louder, while it gradually came nearer and nearer, till at length a
large black bull burst into view, with his tail standing high in the
air, while he tore up the ground with his horns, bellowing as loudly as
he could roar, and galloping straight towards the place where they
stood.

Laura's knees tottered under her, and she instantly dropped on the
ground with terror, feeling as if she would die the next minute of
fright, while, as for attempting to escape, it never entered her head to
think that possible. Harry felt quite differently, for he was a bold
boy, not easily scared out of his senses, and instantly saw that
something must be done, or they would both be lost. Many selfish people
would have run away alone, without caring for the safety of any one but
themselves, which was not at all the case with Harry, who thought first
of his poor frightened companion. "Hollo, Laura! are you hiding in a
cart rut?" he exclaimed, pulling her hastily off the ground. "The bull
will soon find you there! Come! come! as fast as possible! we must have
a race for it yet! That terrible beast can scarcely make his way through
the trees and branches, they grow so closely! Perhaps we may get on as
fast as he!"

All this time, Harry was dragging Laura along, and running himself into
the thickest part of the plantation; but it was very difficult to make
any progress, as she had become quite faint and bewildered with fright.

"Oh, Harry!" cried she, trembling all over, "you must get on alone! I am
so weak with terror, it is impossible to run a step farther."

"Do not waste your breath with talking," answered Harry, still pushing
on at full speed. "How can you suppose I would be so shabby as to make
my escape without you! No! no! we must either both be caught, or both
get off!"

Laura felt so grateful to Harry when he said this, that she seemed for a
moment almost to forget the bull, which was still coming furiously on
behind, while she now made a desperate exertion to run faster than she
had been able to do before, clearing the ground almost as rapidly as
Harry could have done, though he still held her firmly by the hand, to
encourage her.

The trampling noise continued, the breaking of branches, and the
frightful bellowing of this dreadful animal, when at last Harry caught
sight of a wooden paling, which he silently pointed out to Laura, being
quite unable now to speak. Having rushed forward to it, with almost
frantic haste, Harry threw himself over the top, after which he helped
Laura to squeeze herself through underneath, when they proceeded rather
more leisurely onwards.

"That fence will puzzle Mr. Bull," said Harry triumphantly, yet gasping
for breath. "We can push through places where his great hoof could
scarcely be thrust! I saw him coming along, with his heels high in the
air, and his head down, like an enormous wheel-barrow."

Scarcely had Harry spoken, before the infuriated animal advanced at full
gallop towards the fence, and after running along the side a little way,
he suddenly tore up the paling with his horns, as if it had been made of
paper, and rushed forward more rapidly than ever.

Harry now began to fear that indeed all was over, for his strength had
become nearly exhausted, when, to his great joy, he espied a large,
rough stone wall, not very far off, which was as welcome a sight as land
to a shipwrecked sailor.

"Run for your life, Laura!" he cried, pointing it out, to encourage her.
"There is safety, if we reach it."

On they both flew, faster than the wind, and Harry having scrambled up
the wall, like a grasshopper, pulled Laura up beside him, and there they
both stood at last, encamped quite beyond the reach of danger, though
the enemy arrived a few minutes afterwards, pawing the air, and foaming
and bellowing with disappointment.

"Laura!" said Harry, after she had a little recovered from her fright,
and was walking slowly homewards, while she cast an alarmed glance
frequently behind, thinking she still heard the bull in pursuit, "you
see, as uncle David says, whatever danger people are in, it is foolish
to be quite in despair, but we should rather think what it is best to
do, and do it directly."

"Yes, Harry! and I shall never forget that you would not forsake me,
but risked your own life, like a brave brother, in my defence. I should
like to do as much for you another time!"

"Thank you, Laura, as much as if you had, but I hope we shall never be
in such a scrape again! If Frank were here, he would put us both in mind
to thank a merciful God for taking so much care of us, and bringing us
safely home!"

"Yes, Harry! It is perhaps a good thing being in danger sometimes, to
remind us that we cannot be safe or happy an hour without God's care, so
in our prayers to-night we must remember what has happened, and return
thanks very particularly."

It was long past five before Harry and Laura reached Holiday House,
where Lord Rockville met them at the drawing-room door, looking taller,
and grander, and graver than ever, while Lady Rockville rose from her
sofa, and came up to them, saying, in a tone of gentle reproach,

"My dear children! you ought to return home before the dinner hour, and
not keep his Lordship waiting!"

The very idea of Lord Rockville waiting dinner was too dreadful ever to
have entered their heads till this minute; but Harry and Laura
immediately explained how exceedingly sorry they were for what had
occurred, and to show that it was their misfortune rather than their
fault, they told the whole frightful story of the mad bull, to which
Lady Rockville listened, as if her very hair were standing upon end, to
hear of such doings. She even turned up her eyes with astonishment to
think what a wonderful escape they had made; but his Lordship frowned
through his spectacles, and leaned his chin upon his stick, looking, as
Harry thought, very like a bear upon a pole.

"Pshaw!--nonsense!" exclaimed Lord Rockville impatiently. "The bull
would have done you no harm! He is a most respectable, quiet,
well-disposed animal, and brought an excellent character from his last
place! I never heard a complaint of him before!"

"It is curious," observed Laura, "that all bulls are reckoned peaceable
and tame, till they have tossed two or three people, and killed them!"

"I thought," added Lord Rockville, looking very grand and contemptuous,
"that Harry was grown more a man than to be so easily put to flight.
When a bull, another time, threatens to toss you, seize hold of his
tail,--or toss him!--or, in short, do anything rather than run away the
first time an animal looks at you. This is a mere cock-and-a-bull story,
to excuse your keeping me waiting almost a quarter of an hour for my
dinner!--you should be made guard of a mail-coach for a month, to teach
you punctuality, Master Graham."

Lord Rockville gravely looked at his watch, while Harry luckily
considered how often his grandmama had recommended him to make no answer
when he was scolded, so he nearly bit off the tip of his tongue to keep
it quiet, while he could not but wish, in his own mind, that my Lord
himself saw how very fierce the bull had looked.

Laura felt more vexed on Harry's account than her own, and the dinner
went on as uncomfortably as possible; for even when a French cook has
dressed it, if ill-humour be the sauce, any dish becomes unpalatable.
Nothing was to be seen reflected on the surface of many fine silver
covers, but very cross, or very melancholy faces; while Lady Rockville
tried to make her own countenance look both cheerful and good-natured.
She told Harry and Laura, to divert them, that old Mrs. Bouverie had
once been pursued by a furious milch cow, along a lane, flanked on both
sides by such very high walls, that escape seemed impossible, so the
good lady, who was fat and breathless, became so desperate, that without
a hope of getting off, she seized the enraged animal by the horns, and
screamed in its face, till the cow herself became frightened. The
creature stared, stepping backwards and backwards, with increasing
alarm, till at last, to the old lady's great relief and surprise, she
fairly turned her tail and ran off.

In the evening, Lord Rockville had not yet recovered his equanimity, and
went out, rather in bad humour, to take his usual walk before supper.
Without once remembering about Harry and the bull, he strolled a great
way into the woods, marking several trees to be cut down, and admiring a
fine forest which he had planted himself long ago, but without
particularly considering what way he turned. It was beginning, at last,
to grow very dark and gloomy, so Lord Rockville had some thoughts of
returning home, when he became suddenly startled by hearing a loud roar
not far off, and a moment afterwards the furious bull dashed out of a
neighbouring thicket, raging and foaming, and tearing the ground with
his horns, exactly as Harry had described in the morning, while poor
Lord Rockville, who seldom moved faster than a very dignified walk,
instantly quickened his pace, in an opposite direction, striding away
faster and faster, till at last,--it must be confessed,--his Lordship
ended by running!!!

In spite of all Lord Rockville's exertions, the bull continued rapidly
to gain upon him, for his Lordship, being rather corpulent and easily
fatigued, stopped every now and then to gasp for breath; till at last,
feeling it impossible to get on faster, though the stables were now
within sight, he seized the branch of a large oak tree, which swept
nearly to the ground, and contrived, with great difficulty, to scramble
out of reach.

The enraged bull gazed up into the tree and bellowed with fury, when he
saw Lord Rockville so judiciously perched overhead, and he remained for
half-an-hour, watching to see if his Lordship would venture down again.
At last the tormenting animal began leisurely eating grass under the
tree, but gradually he moved away, turning his back while he fed, till
Lord Rockville vainly deluded himself with the hope of stealing off
unobserved. Being somewhat rested and refreshed, while the enemy was
looking in another direction, he descended cautiously, as if he had been
going to tread upon needles and pins; but, unaccustomed to such
movements, he jumped so heavily upon the ground, that the bull hearing a
noise, turned round, and set up a loud furious roar, when he saw his
intended victim again within reach.

Now the race began once more with redoubled agility! The odds seemed
greatly in favour of the bull, and Lord Rockville thought he already
felt the animal's horns in his side, when a groom, who saw the party
approaching, instantly seized a pitchfork and flew to the rescue of his
master. Lord Rockville never stopped his career till he reached the
stable, and ran up into a loft, from the window of which he gave the
alarm and called for more assistance, when several ploughmen and
stable-boys assembled, who drove the animal with great difficulty, into
a stall, where he continued so ungovernable, that iron chains were put
round his neck, and some days afterwards, seeing no one could manage
him, Lord Rockville ordered the bull to be shot, and his carcase turned
into beef for the poor of the parish, who all, consequently, rejoiced at
his demise; though the meat turned out so tough, that it required their
best teeth to eat it with.

Meantime, on that memorable evening of so many adventures, Harry, Laura,
and Lady Rockville, wondered often what had become of his Lordship, and,
at last, when supper appeared at the usual hour, his absence became
still more unaccountable!

"What can be the matter?" exclaimed Lady Rockville, anxiously. "This is
very odd! His Lordship is as punctual as the postman in general!
especially for supper; and here is Lord Rockville's favourite dish of
sago and wine, which will become uneatably cold in ten minutes, if he
does not return home to enjoy it!"

Scarcely had she finished speaking, when the door opened and Lord
Rockville walked majestically into the room. There was something so
different from usual in his manner and appearance, however, that Harry
and Laura exchanged looks of astonishment; his neckcloth was loose--his
face excessively red--and his hand shook, while he breathed so hard,
that he might have been heard at the porter's lodge. Lady Rockville
gazed with amazement at all she saw, and then asked what he chose for
supper; but when Lord Rockville tried to speak, the words died on his
lips, so he could only point in silence to the sago and wine.

"What in all the world has happened to you this evening, my Lord?"
exclaimed Lady Rockville, unable to restrain her curiosity a moment
longer. "I never saw you in such a way before! Your eyes are perfectly
blood-shot--your dress strangely disordered--and you seem so hot and so
fatigued! Tell me!--what is the matter?"

"Nothing!" answered Lord Rockville, drawing himself up, while he tried
to look grander and graver than ever, though his Lordship could not help
panting for breath--putting his hands to his sides--and wiping his
forehead with his pocket-handkerchief in an agony of fatigue. Harry
observed all this for some time, as eagerly and intently as a cat
watches a bird on a tree. He saw that something extraordinary had
occurred, and he began to have hopes that it really was the very thing
he wished; because, seeing Lord Rockville now perfectly safe, he would
not have grudged him a pretty considerable fright from his friend the
bull. At last, unable any longer to control his impatience, Harry
started off his chair, gazing so earnestly at Lord Rockville, that his
eyes almost sprung out of their sockets, while he rubbed his hands with
ecstacy, saying,

"I guess you've seen the bull? Oh! I am sure you did! Pray tell us if
you have? Did he run after you,--and did you run away?"

Lord Rockville tried more than he had ever done in his life to look
grave, but it would not do. Gradually his face relaxed into a smile,
till at last he burst into loud peals of laughter, joined most heartily
by Harry, Laura, and Lady Rockville. Nobody recovered any gravity during
the rest of that evening, for whenever they tried to think or talk
quietly about anything else, Harry and Laura were sure to burst forth
again upon the subject, and even after being safely stowed in their beds
for the night, they both laughed themselves to sleep at the idea of Lord
Rockville himself having been obliged, after all, to run away from that
"most respectable, quiet, well-disposed animal,

                              "THE MAD BULL!"



CHAPTER VIII.

THE BROKEN KEY.

  First he moved his right leg,
  Then he moved his left leg,
  Then he said, "I pardon beg,"
          And sat upon his seat.


"Oh! uncle David! uncle David!" cried Laura, when they arrived from
Holiday House, "I would jump out of the carriage window with joy to see
you again; only the persons passing in the street might be surprised!"

"Not at all! They are quite accustomed to see people jumping out of the
windows with joy, whenever I appear."

"We have so much to tell you," exclaimed Harry and Laura, each seizing
hold of a hand, "we hardly know where to begin!"

"Ladies and gentlemen! If you both talk at once, I must get a new pair
of ears! So you have not been particularly miserable at Holiday House?"

"No! no! uncle David! we did not think there had been so much happiness
in the world," answered Laura, eagerly. "The last two days we could do
nothing but play and laugh, and"----

"And grow fat! Why! you both look so well fed, you are just fit for
killing! I shall be obliged to shut you up two or three days, without
anything to eat, as is done to pet lap-dogs, when they are getting
corpulent and gouty."

"Then we shall be like bears living on our paws," replied Harry, "and
uncle David! I would rather do that, than be a glutton like Peter Grey.
He went to a cheap shop lately, where old cheese-cakes were sold at
half-price, and greedily devoured nearly a dozen, thinking that the dead
flies scattered on the top were currants, till Frank shewed him his
mistake!"

"Frank should have let him eat in peace! There is no accounting for
tastes. I once knew a lady who liked to swallow spiders! She used to
crack and eat them with the greatest delight, whenever she could catch
one."

"Oh! what a horrid woman! That is even worse than grandmama's story
about Dr. Manvers having dined on a dish of mice, fried in crumbs of
bread!"

"You know the old proverb, Harry, 'one man's meat is another man's
poison.' The Persians are disgusted at our eating lobsters; and the
Hindoos think us scarcely fit to exist, because we live on beef; while
we are equally amazed at the Chinese for devouring dog pies, and
birds'-nest soup. You turn up your nose at the French for liking frogs;
and they think us ten times worse with our singed sheep's head, oat
cakes, and haggis."

"That reminds me," said Lady Harriet, "that when Charles X. lived in
what he called the 'dear Canongate,' His Majesty was heard to say, that
he tried every sort of Scotch goose, 'the solan goose, the wild goose,
and the tame goose; but the best goose of all, was the hag-goose.'"

"Very polite, indeed, to adopt our national taste so completely,"
observed uncle David, smiling. "When my regiment was quartered in Spain,
an officer of ours, a great epicure, and not quite so complaisant, used
to say that the country was scarcely fit to live in, because there it is
customary to dress almost every dish with sugar. At last, one day, in a
rage, he ordered eggs to be brought up in their shells for dinner,
saying, 'that is the only thing the cook cannot possibly spoil.' We
played him a trick, however, which was very like what you would have
done, Harry, on a similar occasion. I secretly put pounded sugar into
the salt-cellar, and when he tasted his first mouthful, you should have
seen the look of fury with which he sprung off his seat, exclaiming,
'the barbarians eat sugar even with their eggs!'"

"That would be the country for me to travel in," said Harry. "I could
live in a barrel of sugar; and my little pony, Tom Thumb, would be happy
to accompany me there, as he likes anything sweet."

"All animals are of the same opinion. I remember the famous rider,
Ducrow, telling a brother-officer of mine, that the way in which he
gains so much influence over his horses, is merely by bribing them with
sugar. They may be managed in that way like children, and are quite
aware, if it be taken from them as a punishment for being restive."

"Oh! those beautiful horses at Ducrow's! How often I think of them since
we were there!" exclaimed Harry. "They were quite like fairies, with
fine arched necks, and long tails!"

"I never heard before of a fairy with a long tail, Master Harry; but
perhaps in the course of your travels you may have seen such a thing."

"How I should like to ride upon Tom Thumb, in Ducrow's way, with my toe
on the saddle!"

"Fine doings indeed!" exclaimed Mrs. Crabtree, who had entered the room
at this moment. "Have you forgotten already, Master Harry, how many of
the nursery plates you broke one day when I was out, in trying to copy
that there foolish Indian juggler, who tossed his plates in the air, and
twirled them on his thumb! There must be no more such nonsense; for if
once your neck is broke by a fall off Tom Thumb, no doctor that I know
of can mend it again. Remember what a terrible tumble you had off Jessy
last year!"

"You are always speaking about that little overturn, Mrs. Crabtree; and
it was not worth recollecting above a week! Did you never see a man
thrown off his horse before?"

"A man and horse indeed!" said uncle David, laughing, when he looked at
Harry. "You and your charger were hardly large enough then for a
toy-shop; and you must grow a little more, Captain Gulliver, before you
will be fit for a dragoon regiment."

Harry and Laura stayed very quietly at home for several weeks after
their return from Holiday House, attending so busily to lessons, that
uncle David said he felt much afraid they were going to be a pair of
little wonders, who would die of too much learning.

"You will be taken ill of the multiplication table some day, and
confined to bed with a violent fit of geography! Pray take care of
yourselves, and do not devour above three books at once," said Major
Graham one day, entering the room with a note in his hand. "Here is an
invitation that I suppose you are both too busy to accept, so perhaps I
might as well send an apology; eh, Harry?"

Down dropped the lesson-books upon the floor, and up sprung Harry in an
ecstacy of delight. "An invitation! Oh! I like an invitation so very
much! Pray tell us all about it!"

"Perhaps it is an invitation to spend a month with Dr. Lexicon. What
would you say to that? They breakfast upon Latin grammars at school, and
have a dish of real French verbs, smothered in onions, for dinner every
day."

"But in downright earnest, uncle David! where are we going?"

"Must I tell you? Well! that good-natured old lady, Mrs. Darwin, intends
taking a large party of children next week, in her own carriage, to pass
ten days at Ivy Lodge, a charming country house about twenty miles off,
where you are all to enjoy perfect happiness. I wish I could be ground
down into a little boy myself, for the occasion! Poor good woman! what a
life she will lead! There is only one little drawback to your delight,
that I am almost afraid to announce."

"What is that, uncle David?" asked Harry, looking as if nothing in
nature could ever make him grave again. "Are we to bite off our own
noses before we return?"

"Not exactly; but somebody is to be of the party who will do it for you.
Mrs. Darwin has heard that there are certain children who become
occasionally rather unmanageable! I cannot think who they can be, for it
is certainly nobody we ever saw; so she has requested that Mrs. Crabtree
will follow in the mail-coach."

Harry and Laura looked as if a glass of cold water had been thrown in
their faces, after this was mentioned; but they soon forgot every little
vexation, in a burst of joy, when, some days afterwards, Mrs. Darwin
stopped at the door to pick them up, in the most curious-looking
carriage they had ever seen. It was a very large open car, as round as a
bird's nest, and so perfectly crowded with children, that nobody could
have supposed any room left even for a doll; but Mrs. Darwin said that
whatever number of people came in, there was always accommodation for
one more; and this really proved to be the case, for Harry and Laura
soon elbowed their way into seats and set off, waving their
handkerchiefs to Major Graham, who had helped to pack them in, and who
now stood smiling at the door.

As this very large vehicle was drawn by only one horse, it proceeded
very slowly; but Mrs. Darwin amused the children with several very
diverting stories, and gave them a grand luncheon in the carriage; after
which, they threw what was left, wrapped up in an old newspaper, to some
people breaking stones on the road, feeling quite delighted to see the
surprise and joy of the poor labourers when they opened the parcel. In
short, everybody became sorry when this diverting journey was finished,
and they drove up, at last, to the gate of a tall old house, that looked
as if it had been built in the year one. The walls were very thick, and
quite mouldy with age. Indeed, the only wonder was, that Ivy Lodge had
still a roof upon its head, for every thing about it looked so tottering
and decayed. The very servants were all old; and a white-headed butler
opened the door, who looked as frail and gloomy as the house; but before
long, the old walls of Ivy Lodge rung and echoed again with sounds of
mirth and joy. It seemed to have been built on purpose for hide and
seek; there were rooms with invisible doors, and closets cut in the
walls, and great old chests where people might have been buried alive
for a year, without being found out. The gardens, too, were perfectly
enchanting. Such arbours to take strawberries and cream in! and such
summer-houses, where they drank tea out of doors every evening! Here
they saw a prodigious eagle, fastened to the ground by a chain, and
looking the most dull, melancholy creature in the world; while Harry
wished the poor bird might be liberated, and thought how delightful it
would be to stand by and see him soaring away to his native skies.

"Yes! with a large slice of raw meat in his beak!" said Peter Grey, who
was always thinking of eating. "I dare say he lives much better here,
than he would do killing his own mutton up in the clouds there, or
taking his chance of a dead horse on the sea-shore occasionally."

Harry and Peter were particularly amused with Mrs. Darwin's curious
collection of pets. There were black swans with red bills, swimming
gracefully in a pond close to the window, and ready to rush forward on
the shortest notice, for a morsel of bread. The lop-eared rabbits also
surprised them, with their ears hanging down to the ground, and they
were interested to see a pair of carrier-pigeons which could carry
letters as well as the postman. Mrs. Darwin showed them tumbler pigeons
too, that performed a summerset in the air when they flew, and horsemen
and dragoon pigeons, trumpeters and pouters, till Peter Grey at last
begged to see the pigeons that made the pigeon-pies, and the cow that
gave the butter-milk; he was likewise very anxious for leave to bring
his fishing-rod into the drawing-room, to try whether he could catch one
of the beautiful gold-fish that swam about in a large glass globe,
saying he thought it might perhaps be very good to eat at breakfast.
Mrs. Darwin had a pet lamb that she was exceedingly fond of, because it
followed her everywhere, and Harry, who was very fond of the little
creature, said he wished some plan could be invented to hinder its ever
growing into a great fat vulgar sheep; and he thought the white mice
were old animals that had grown grey with years.

There were donkies for the children to ride upon, and Mrs. Darwin had a
boat that held the whole party, to sail in, round the pond, and she hung
up a swing that seemed to fly about as high as the house, which they
swung upon, after which they were allowed to shake the fruit-trees, and
to eat whatever came down about their ears; so it very often rained
apples and pears in the gardens at Ivy Lodge, for Peter seemed never to
tire of that joke; indeed the apple-trees had a sad life of it as long
as he remained.

Peter told Mrs. Darwin that he had "a patent appetite," which was always
ready on every occasion; but the good lady became so fond of stuffing
the children at all hours, that even he felt a little puzzled sometimes
how to dispose of all she heaped upon his plate, while both Harry and
Laura, who were far from greedy, became perfectly wearied of hearing the
gong. The whole party assembled at eight every morning, to partake of
porridge and butter-milk, after which, at ten, they breakfasted with
Mrs. Darwin on tea, muffins, and sweetmeats. They then drove in the
round open car, to bathe in the sea, on their return from which,
luncheon was always ready, and after concluding that, they might pass
the interval till dinner among the fruit-trees. They never could eat
enough to please Mrs. Darwin at dinner; tea followed, on a most
substantial plan; their supper consisted of poached eggs, and the maid
was desired to put a biscuit under every visitor's pillow, in case the
young people should be hungry in the night, for Mrs. Darwin said she had
been starved at school herself, when she was a little girl, and wished
nobody ever to suffer, as she had done, from hunger.

The good lady was so anxious for everything to be exactly as the
children liked it, that sometimes Laura felt quite at a loss what to say
or do. One day, having cracked her egg-shell at breakfast, Mrs. Darwin
peeped anxiously over her shoulder, saying,

"I hope, my dear! your egg is all right?"

"Most excellent indeed!"

"Is it quite fresh?"

"Perfectly! I dare say it was laid only a minute before it was boiled!"

"I have seen the eggs much larger than that."

"Yes! but then I believe they are rather coarse,--at least we think so,
when Mrs. Crabtree gives us a turkey egg at dinner."

"If you prefer them small, perhaps you would like a guinea-fowl's egg?"

"Thank you! but this one is just as I like them."

"It looks rather over-done! If you think so, we could get another in a
minute!"

"No! they are better well boiled!"

"Then probably it is not enough done. Some people like them quite hard,
and I could easily pop it into the slop-basin for another minute."

"I am really obliged to you, but it could not be improved."

"Do you not take any more salt with your egg?"

"No, I thank you!"

"A few more grains would improve it!"

"If you say so, I dare say they will."

"Ah! now I am afraid you have put in too much! pray do get another!"

This long-continued attack upon her egg was too much for Laura's
gravity, who appeared for some minutes to have a violent fit of
coughing, and ending in a burst of laughter, after which she hastily
finished all that remained of it, and thus ended the discussion.

In the midst of all their happiness, while the children thought that
every succeeding day had no fault but being too short, and Harry even
planned with Peter to stop the clock altogether, and see whether time
itself would not stand still, nobody ever thought for a moment of
anything but joy; and yet a very sad and sudden distress awaited Mrs.
Darwin. One forenoon she received a letter that seemed very hastily and
awkwardly folded,--the seal was all to one side, and surrounded with
stray drops of red wax,--the direction appeared sadly blotted, and at
the top was written in large letters, the words, "To be delivered
immediately."

When Mrs. Darwin hurriedly tore open this very strange-looking letter,
she found that it came from her own housekeeper in town, to announce the
dreadful event that her sister, Lady Barnet, had been that day seized
with an apoplectic fit, and was thought to be at the point of death,
therefore it was hoped that Mrs. Darwin would not lose an hour in
returning to town, that she might be present on the melancholy occasion.
The shock of hearing this news was so very great, that poor Mrs. Darwin
could not speak about it, but after trying to compose herself for a few
minutes, she went into the play-room, and told the children that, for
reasons she could not explain, they must get ready to return home in an
hour, when the car would be at the door for their journey.

Nothing could exceed their surprise on hearing Mrs. Darwin make such an
unexpected proposal. At first Peter Grey thought she was speaking in
jest, and said he would prefer if she ordered out a balloon to travel
in, this morning; but when it appeared that Mrs. Darwin was really in
earnest about their pleasant visit being over so soon, Harry's face grew
perfectly red with passion, while he said in a loud angry voice,

"Grandmama allowed me to stay here till Friday!--and I was invited to
stay,--and I will not go anywhere else!"

"Oh fie, Master Harry!" said Mrs. Crabtree. "Do not talk so! You ought
to know better! I shall soon teach you, however, to do as you are bid!"

Saying these words, she stretched out her hand to seize violent hold of
him, but Harry dipped down and escaped. Quickly opening the door, he
ran, half in joke and half in earnest, at full speed up two pairs of
stairs, followed closely by Mrs. Crabtree, who was now in a terrible
rage, especially when she saw what a piece of fun Harry thought this
fatiguing race. A door happened to be standing wide open on the second
landing-place, which, having been observed by Harry, he darted in, and
slammed it in Mrs. Crabtree's face, locking and double-locking it, to
secure his own safety, after which he sat down in this empty apartment
to enjoy his victory in peace. When people once begin to grow
self-willed and rebellious, it is impossible to guess where it will all
end! Harry might have been easily led to do right at first, if any one
had reasoned with him and spoken kindly, but now he really was in a sort
of don't-care-a-button humour, and scarcely minded what he did next.

As long as Mrs. Crabtree continued to scold and rave behind the door,
Harry grew harder and harder; but at length the good old lady, Mrs.
Darwin herself, arrived up stairs, and represented how ungrateful he
was, not doing all in his power to please her, when she had taken so
much pains to make him happy. This brought the little rebel round in a
moment, as he became quite sensible of his own misconduct, and resolved
immediately to submit. Accordingly, Harry tried to open the door, but,
what is very easily done cannot sometimes be undone, which turned out
the case on this occasion, as, with all his exertions, the key would not
turn in the lock! Harry tried it first one way, then another. He twisted
with his whole strength, till his face became perfectly scarlet with the
effort, but in vain! At last he put the poker through the handle of the
key, thinking this a very clever plan, and quite sure to succeed, but
after a desperate struggle, the unfortunate key broke in two, so then
nobody could possibly open the door!

After this provoking accident happened, Harry felt what a very bad boy
he had been, so he burst into tears, and called through the key-hole to
beg Mrs. Darwin's pardon, while Mrs. Crabtree scolded him through the
key-hole in return, till Harry shrunk away as if a cannonading had begun
at his ear.

Meantime, Mrs. Darwin hurried off, racking her brains to think what had
best be done to deliver the prisoner, since no time could be lost, or
she might perhaps not get to town at all that night, and the car was
expected every minute, to come round for the travellers. The gardener
said he thought it might be possible to find a few ladders, which, being
tied one above another, would perhaps reach as high as the window, where
Harry had now appeared, and by which he could easily scramble down; so
the servants made haste to fetch all they could find, and to borrow all
they could see, till a great many were collected. These they joined
together very strongly with ropes, but when it was at last reared
against the wall, to the great disappointment of Mrs. Darwin, the
ladder appeared a yard and a-half too short!

What was to be done?

The obliging gardener mounted to the very top of his ladder, and Harry
leaned so far over the window, he seemed in danger of falling out, but
still they did not reach one another, so not a single person could guess
what plan was to be tried next. At length Harry called out very loudly
to the gardener,

"Hollo! Mr. King of Spades! If I were to let myself drop very gently
down from the window, could you catch me in your arms?"

"Mr. Harry! Mr. Harry! if you dare!" cried Mrs. Crabtree, shaking her
fist at him. "You'll be broken in pieces like a tea-pot, you'll be made
as flat as a pancake! Stay where you are! Do ye hear!"

But Harry seemed suddenly grown deaf, and was now more than half
out--fixing his fingers very firmly on the ledge of the window, and
slowly dropping his legs downwards.

"Oh Harry! you will be killed!" screamed Laura. "Stop! stop! Harry, are
you mad? can nobody stop him?"

But nobody could stop him, for, being so high above everybody's head,
Harry had it all his own way, and was now nearly hanging altogether out
of the window, but he stopped a single minute, and called out, "Do not
be frightened, Laura! I have behaved very ill, and deserve the worst
that can happen. If I do break my head, it will save Mrs. Crabtree the
trouble of breaking it for me, after I come down."

The gardener now balanced himself steadily on the upper step of the
ladder, and spread his arms out, while Harry slowly let himself drop.
Laura tried to look on without screaming out, as that might have
startled him, but the scene became too frightful, so she closed her
eyes, put her hands over her face and turned away, while her heart beat
so violently, that it might almost have been heard. Even Mrs. Crabtree
clasped her hands in an agony of alarm, while Mrs. Darwin put up her
pocket handkerchief, and could not look on another moment. An awful
pause took place, during which, a feather falling on the ground would
have startled them, when suddenly a loud shout from Peter Grey and the
other children, which was gaily echoed from the top of the ladder, made
Laura venture to look up, and there was Harry safe in the gardener's
arms, who soon helped him down to the ground, where he immediately asked
pardon of everybody for the fright he had given them.

There was no time for more than half a scold from Mrs. Crabtree, as Mrs.
Darwin's car had been waiting some time; so Harry said she might be
owing him the rest, on some future occasion.

"Yes! and a hundred lashes besides!" added Peter Grey, laughing. "Pray
touch him up well, Mrs. Crabtree, when you are about it. There is no law
against cruelty to boys!"

This put Mrs. Crabtree into such a rage, that she followed Peter with a
perfect hail-storm of angry words, till at last, for a joke, he put up
Mrs. Darwin's umbrella to screen himself, and immediately afterwards the
car drove slowly off.

When uncle David heard all the adventures at Ivy Lodge, he listened most
attentively to "the confessions of Master Harry Graham," and shook his
head in a most serious manner after they were concluded, saying, "I have
always thought that boys are like cats, with nine lives at least! You
should be hung up in a basket, Harry, as they do with unruly boys in the
South Sea Islands, where such young gentlemen as you are left dangling
in the air for days together without a possibility of escape!"

"I would not care for that compared with being teazed and worried by
Mrs. Crabtree. I really wish, uncle David, that Dr. Bell would order me
never to be scolded any more! It is very bad for me! I generally feel an
odd sort of over-all-ish-ness as soon as she begins; and I am getting
too big now, for any thing but a birch-rod like Frank. How pleasant it
is to be a grown-up man, uncle David, as you are, sitting all day at the
club with your hat on your head, and nothing to do but look out of the
window. That is what I call happiness!"

"But once upon a time, Harry," said Lady Harriet, "when I stopped in the
carriage for your uncle David at the club, he was in the middle of such
a yawn at the window, that he very nearly dislocated his jaw! it was
quite alarming to see him, and he told me in a great secret, that the
longest and most tiresome hours of his life are, when he has nothing
particular to do."

"Now, at this moment, I have nothing particular to do," said Major
Graham, "therefore I shall tell you a wonderful story, children, about
liking to be idle or busy, and you must find out the moral for
yourselves."

"A story! a story!" cried Harry and Laura, in an ecstacy of delight, and
as they each had a knee of uncle David's, which belonged to themselves,
they scrambled into their places, exclaiming, "Now let it be all about
very bad boys, and giants, and fairies!"



CHAPTER IX.

UNCLE DAVID'S NONSENSICAL STORY ABOUT
GIANTS AND FAIRIES.

  "Pie-crust and pastry-crust, that was the wall;
  The windows were made of black-puddings and white,
  And slated with pancakes--you ne'er saw the like!"


In the days of yore, children were not all such clever, good sensible
people as they are now! Lessons were then considered rather a plague,
sugar-plums were still in demand--holidays continued yet in fashion--and
toys were not then made to teach mathematics, nor story-books to give
instruction in chemistry and navigation. These were very strange times,
and there existed at that period, a very idle, greedy, naughty boy, such
as we never hear of in the present day. His papa and mama were----no
matter who,----and he lived, no matter where. His name was Master
No-book, and he seemed to think his eyes were made for nothing but to
stare out of the windows, and his mouth for no other purpose but to eat.
This young gentleman hated lessons like mustard, both of which brought
tears into his eyes, and during school-hours, he sat gazing at his
books, pretending to be busy, while his mind wandered away to wish
impatiently for his dinner, and to consider where he could get the
nicest pies, pastry, ices, and jellies, while he smacked his lips at
the very thoughts of them. I think he must have been first cousin to
Peter Grey, but that is not perfectly certain.

Whenever Master No-book spoke, it was always to ask for something, and
you might continually hear him say, in a whining tone of voice, "Papa!
may I take this piece of cake? Aunt Sarah! will you give me an apple?
Mama! do send me the whole of that plum-pudding!" Indeed, very
frequently when he did not get permission to gormandize, this naughty
glutton helped himself without leave. Even his dreams were like his
waking hours, for he had often a horrible night-mare about lessons,
thinking that he was smothered with Greek Lexicons, or pelted out of the
school with a shower of English Grammars, while one night, he fancied
himself sitting down to devour an enormous plum-cake, and that all on a
sudden it became transformed into a Latin Dictionary!

One afternoon, Master No-book, having played truant all day from school,
was lolling on his mama's best sofa in the drawing-room, with his
leather boots tucked up on the satin cushions, and nothing to do but to
suck a few oranges, and nothing to think of but how much sugar to put
upon them, when suddenly an event took place which filled him with
astonishment.

A sound of soft music stole into the room, becoming louder and louder
the longer he listened, till at length, in a few moments afterwards, a
large hole burst open in the wall of his room, and there stepped into
his presence, two magnificent fairies, just arrived from their castle in
the air, to pay him a visit. They had travelled all the way on purpose
to have some conversation with Master No-book, and immediately
introduced themselves in a very ceremonious manner.

The fairy Do-nothing was gorgeously dressed with a wreath of flaming gas
round her head, a robe of gold tissue, a necklace of rubies, and a
bouquet in her hand, of glittering diamonds. Her cheeks were rouged to
the very eyes,--her teeth were set in gold, and her hair was of a most
brilliant purple; in short, so fine and fashionable looking a fairy
never was seen in a drawing-room before.

The fairy Teach-all, who followed next, was simply dressed in white
muslin, with bunches of natural flowers in her light brown hair, and she
carried in her hand a few neat small books, which Master No-book looked
at with a shudder of aversion.

The two fairies now informed him, that they very often invited large
parties of children, to spend some time at their palaces, but as they
lived in quite an opposite direction, it was necessary for their young
guests to choose which it would be best to visit first; therefore now
they had come to inquire of Master No-book, whom he thought it would be
most agreeable to accompany on the present occasion.

"In my house," said the fairy Teach-all, speaking with a very sweet
smile, and a soft, pleasing voice, "you shall be taught to find pleasure
in every sort of exertion, for I delight in activity and diligence. My
young friends rise at seven every morning, and amuse themselves with
working in a beautiful garden of flowers,--rearing whatever fruit they
wish to eat,--visiting among the poor,--associating pleasantly
together,--studying the arts and sciences,--and learning to know the
world in which they live, and to fulfil the purposes for which they have
been brought into it. In short, all our amusements tend to some useful
object, either for our own improvement or the good of others, and you
will grow wiser, better, and happier every day you remain in the Palace
of Knowledge."

"But in Castle Needless where I live," interrupted the fairy Do-nothing,
rudely pushing her companion aside, with an angry contemptuous look, "we
never think of exerting ourselves for anything. You may put your head in
your pocket, and your hands in your sides as long as you choose to
stay. No one is ever even asked a question, that he may be spared the
trouble of answering. We lead the most fashionable life that can be
imagined, for nobody speaks to anybody! Each of my visitors is quite an
exclusive, and sits with his back to as many of the company as possible,
in the most comfortable arm-chair that can be imagined. There, if you
are only so good as to take the trouble of wishing for anything, it is
yours, without even turning an eye round to look where it comes from.
Dresses are provided of the most magnificent kind, which go on of
themselves, without your having the smallest annoyance with either
buttons or strings,--games which you can play without an effort of
thought,--and dishes dressed by a French cook, smoking hot and hot under
your nose, from morning till night,--while any rain we have, is either
made of cherry brandy, lemonade, or lavender water,--and in winter it
generally snows iced-punch for an hour during the forenoon."

Nobody need be told which fairy Master No-book preferred; and quite
charmed at his own good fortune in receiving so agreeable an invitation,
he eagerly gave his hand to the splendid new acquaintance, who promised
him so much pleasure and ease, and gladly proceeded, in a carriage lined
with velvet, stuffed with downy pillows, and drawn by milk-white swans,
to that magnificent residence Castle Needless, which was lighted by a
thousand windows during the day, and by a million of lamps every night.

Here Master No-book enjoyed a constant holiday and a constant feast,
while a beautiful lady, covered with jewels, was ready to tell him
stories from morning till night, and servants waited to pick up his
playthings if they fell, or to draw out his purse or his
pocket-handkerchief when he wished to use them.

Thus Master No-book lay dozing for hours and days on rich embroidered
cushions, never stirring from his place, but admiring the view of trees
covered with the richest burned almonds, grottoes of sugar-candy, a jet
d'eau of champagne, a wide sea which tasted of sugar instead of salt,
and a bright clear pond, filled with gold-fish, that let themselves be
caught whenever he pleased. Nothing could be more complete, and yet,
very strange to say, Master No-book did not seem particularly happy!
This appears exceedingly unreasonable, when so much trouble was taken to
please him; but the truth is, that every day he became more fretful and
peevish. No sweetmeats were worth the trouble of eating, nothing was
pleasant to play at, and in the end he wished it were possible to sleep
all day, as well as all night.

Not a hundred miles from the fairy Do-nothing's palace, there lived a
most cruel monster called the giant Snap-'em-up, who looked, when he
stood up, like the tall steeple of a great church, raising his head so
high, that he could peep over the loftiest mountains, and was obliged to
climb up a ladder to comb his own hair.

Every morning regularly, this prodigiously great giant walked round the
world before breakfast for an appetite, after which, he made tea in a
large lake, used the sea as a slop-basin, and boiled his kettle on Mount
Vesuvius. He lived in great style, and his dinners were most
magnificent, consisting very often of an elephant roasted whole, ostrich
patties, a tiger smothered in onions, stewed lions, and whale soup; but
for a side-dish his greatest favourite consisted of little boys, as fat
as possible, fried in crumbs of bread, with plenty of pepper and salt.

No children were so well fed, or in such good condition for eating, as
those in the fairy Do-nothing's garden, who was a very particular friend
of the great Snap-'em-up's, and who sometimes laughingly said she would
give him a license, and call her own garden his "preserve," because she
allowed him to help himself, whenever he pleased, to as many of her
visitors as he chose, without taking the trouble even to count them,
and in return for such extreme civility, the giant very frequently
invited her to dinner.

Snap-'em-up's favourite sport was, to see how many brace of little boys
he could bag in a morning; so in passing along the streets, he peeped
into all the drawing-rooms without having occasion to get upon tiptoe,
and picked up every young gentleman who was idly looking out of the
windows, and even a few occasionally who were playing truant from
school, but busy children seemed always somehow quite out of his reach.

One day, when Master No-book felt even more lazy, more idle, and more
miserable than ever, he lay beside a perfect mountain of toys and cakes,
wondering what to wish for next, and hating the very sight of everything
and everybody. At last he gave so loud a yawn of weariness and disgust,
that his jaw very nearly fell out of joint, and then he sighed so
deeply, that the giant Snap-'em-up heard the sound as he passed along
the road after breakfast, and instantly stepped into the garden, with
his glass at his eye, to see what was the matter. Immediately on
observing a large, fat, over-grown boy, as round as a dumpling, lying on
a bed of roses, he gave a cry of delight, followed by a gigantic peal of
laughter, which was heard three miles off, and picking up Master No-book
between his finger and his thumb, with a pinch that very nearly broke
his ribs, he carried him rapidly towards his own castle, while the fairy
Do-nothing laughingly shook her head as he passed, saying, "That little
man does me great credit!--he has only been fed for a week, and is as
fat already as a prize ox! What a dainty morsel he will be! When do you
dine to-day, in case I should have time to look in upon you?"

On reaching home, the giant immediately hung up Master No-book by the
hair of his head, on a prodigious hook in the larder, having first taken
some large lumps of nasty suet, forcing them down his throat to make him
become still fatter, and then stirring the fire, that he might be
almost melted with heat, to make his liver grow larger. On a shelf quite
near, Master No-book perceived the dead bodies of six other boys, whom
he remembered to have seen fattening in the fairy Do-nothing's garden,
while he recollected how some of them had rejoiced at the thoughts of
leading a long, useless, idle life, with no one to please but
themselves.

The enormous cook now seized hold of Master No-book, brandishing her
knife, with an aspect of horrible determination, intending to kill him,
while he took the trouble of screaming and kicking in the most desperate
manner, when the giant turned gravely round and said, that as pigs were
considered a much greater dainty when whipped to death than killed in
any other way, he meant to see whether children might not be improved by
it also; therefore she might leave that great hog of a boy till he had
time to try the experiment, especially as his own appetite would be
improved by the exercise. This was a dreadful prospect for the unhappy
prisoner; but meantime it prolonged his life a few hours, as he was
immediately hung up again in the larder, and left to himself. There, in
torture of mind and body,--like a fish upon a hook,--the wretched boy
began at last to reflect seriously upon his former ways, and to consider
what a happy home he might have had, if he could only have been
satisfied with business and pleasure succeeding each other, like day and
night, while lessons might have come in, as a pleasant sauce to his
play-hours, and his play-hours as a sauce to his lessons.

In the midst of many reflections, which were all very sensible, though
rather too late. Master No-book's attention became attracted by the
sound of many voices laughing, talking, and singing, which caused him to
turn his eyes in a new direction, when, for the first time, he observed
that the fairy Teach-all's garden lay upon a beautiful sloping bank not
far off. There a crowd of merry, noisy, rosy-cheeked boys, were busily
employed, and seemed happier than the day was long; while poor Master
No-book watched them during his own miserable hours, envying the
enjoyment with which they raked the flower-borders, gathered the fruit,
carried baskets of vegetables to the poor, worked with carpenters'
tools, drew pictures, shot with bows and arrows, played at cricket, and
then sat in the sunny arbours learning their tasks, or talking agreeably
together, till at length, a dinner-bell having been rung, the whole
party sat merrily down with hearty appetites, and cheerful good-humour,
to an entertainment of plain roast meat and pudding, where the fairy
Teach-all presided herself, and helped her guests moderately, to as much
as was good for each.

Large tears rolled down the cheeks of Master No-book while watching this
scene; and remembering that if he had known what was best for him, he
might have been as happy as the happiest of these excellent boys,
instead of suffering ennui and weariness, as he had done at the fairy
Do-nothing's, ending in a miserable death; but his attention was soon
after most alarmingly roused by hearing the giant Snap-'em-up again in
conversation with his cook, who said, that if he wished for a good large
dish of scolloped children at dinner, it would be necessary to catch a
few more, as those he had already provided would scarcely be a mouthful.

As the giant kept very fashionable hours, and always waited dinner for
himself till nine o'clock, there was still plenty of time; so, with a
loud grumble about the trouble, he seized a large basket in his hand,
and set off at a rapid pace towards the fairy Teach-all's garden. It was
very seldom that Snap-'em-up ventured to think of foraging in this
direction, as he had never once succeeded in carrying off a single
captive from the enclosure, it was so well fortified and so bravely
defended; but on this occasion, being desperately hungry, he felt as
bold as a lion, and walked, with outstretched hands, straight towards
the fairy Teach-all's dinner-table, taking such prodigious strides, that
he seemed almost as if he would trample on himself.

A cry of consternation arose the instant this tremendous giant appeared;
and as usual on such occasions, when he had made the same attempt
before, a dreadful battle took place. Fifty active little boys bravely
flew upon the enemy, armed with their dinner knives, and looked like a
nest of hornets, stinging him in every direction, till he roared with
pain, and would have run away, but the fairy Teach-all, seeing his
intention, rushed forward with the carving knife, and brandishing it
high over her head, she most courageously stabbed him to the heart!

If a great mountain had fallen in the earth, it would have seemed like
nothing in comparison of the giant Snap-'em-up, who crushed two or three
houses to powder beneath him, and upset several fine monuments that were
to have made people remembered for ever; but all this would have seemed
scarcely worth mentioning, had it not been for a still greater event
which occurred on the occasion, no less than the death of the fairy
Do-nothing, who had been indolently looking on at this great battle,
without taking the trouble to interfere, or even to care who was
victorious, but, being also lazy about running away, when the giant
fell, his sword came with so violent a stroke on her head, that she
instantly expired.

Thus, luckily for the whole world, the fairy Teach-all got possession of
immense property, which she proceeded without delay to make the best use
of in her power.

In the first place, however, she lost no time in liberating Master
No-book from his hook in the larder, and gave him a lecture on activity,
moderation, and good conduct, which he never afterwards forgot; and it
was astonishing to see the change that took place immediately in his
whole thoughts and actions. From this very hour, Master No-book became
the most diligent, active, happy boy in the fairy Teach-all's garden;
and on returning home a month afterwards, he astonished all the masters
at school by his extraordinary reformation. The most difficult lessons
were a pleasure to him,--he scarcely ever stirred without a book in his
hand,--never lay on a sofa again,--would scarcely even sit on a chair
with a back to it, but preferred a three-legged stool,--detested
holidays,--never thought any exertion a trouble,--preferred climbing
over the top of a hill to creeping round the bottom,--always ate the
plainest food in very small quantities,--joined a Temperance
Society!-and never tasted a morsel till he had worked very hard and got
an appetite.

Not long after this, an old uncle, who had formerly been ashamed of
Master No-book's indolence and gluttony, became so pleased at the
wonderful change, that, on his death, he left him a magnificent estate,
desiring that he should take his name; therefore, instead of being any
longer one of the No-book family, he is now called Sir Timothy
Bluestocking,--a pattern to the whole country round, for the good he
does to every one, and especially for his extraordinary activity,
appearing as if he could do twenty things at once. Though generally very
good-natured and agreeable, Sir Timothy is occasionally observed in a
violent passion, laying about him with his walking-stick in the most
terrific manner, and beating little boys within an inch of their lives;
but on inquiry, it invariably appears that he has found them out to be
lazy, idle, or greedy, for all the industrious boys in the parish are
sent to get employment from him, while he assures them that they are far
happier breaking stones on the road, than if they were sitting idly in a
drawing-room with nothing to do. Sir Timothy cares very little for
poetry in general; but the following are his favourite verses, which he
has placed over the chimney-piece at a school that he built for the
poor, and every scholar is obliged, the very day he begins his
education, to learn them:--

  Some people complain they have nothing to do,
  And time passes slowly away;
  They saunter about with no object in view,
  And long for the end of the day.

  In vain are the trifles and toys they desire,
  For nothing they truly enjoy;
  Of trifles, and toys, and amusements they tire,
  For want of some useful employ.

  Although for transgression the ground was accursed,
  Yet gratefully man must allow,
  'Twas really a blessing which doom'd him at first,
  To live by the sweat of his brow.

                                        Nursery Rhymes.

"Thank you, a hundred times over, uncle David!" said Harry, when the
story was finished. "I shall take care not to be found hanging any day
on a hook in the larder! Certainly, Frank, you must have spent a month
with the good fairy; and I hope she will some day invite me to be made a
scholar of too, for Laura and I still belong to the No-book family."

"It is very important. Harry, to choose the best course from the
beginning," observed Lady Harriet. "Good or bad habits grow stronger and
stronger every minute, as if an additional string were tied on daily, to
keep us in the road where we walked the day before; so those who mistake
the path of duty at first, find hourly increasing difficulty in turning
round."

"But grandmama!" said Frank, "you have put up some finger-posts to
direct us right; and whenever I see 'no passage this way,' we shall
wheel about directly."

"As Mrs. Crabtree has not tapped at the door yet, I shall describe the
progress of a wise and a foolish man, to see which Harry and you would
prefer copying," replied Lady Harriet, smiling. "The fool begins, when
he is young, with hating lessons, lying long in bed, and spending all
his money on trash. Any books he will consent to read, are never about
what is true or important; but he wastes all his time and thoughts on
silly stories that never could have happened. Thus he neglects to learn
what was done, and thought, by all the great and good men who really
lived in former times, while even his Bible, if he has one, grows dusty
on the shelf. After so bad a beginning, he grows up with no useful or
interesting knowledge; therefore his whole talk is to describe his own
horses, his own dogs, his own guns, and his own exploits; boasting of
what a high wall his horse can leap over, the number of little birds he
can shoot in a day, and how many bottles of wine he can swallow without
tumbling under the table. Thus, 'glorying in his shame,' he thinks
himself a most wonderful person, not knowing that men are born to do
much better things than merely to find selfish pleasure and amusement
for themselves. Presently he grows old, gouty, and infirm--no longer
able to do such prodigious achievements; therefore now his great delight
is, to sit with his feet upon the fender, at a club all day, telling
what a famous rider, shooter, and drinker, he was long ago; but nobody
cares to hear such old stories; therefore he is called a 'proser,' and
every person avoids him. It is no wonder a man talks about himself, if
he has never read or thought about any one else. But at length his
precious time has all been wasted, and his last hour comes, during which
he can have nothing to look back upon but a life of folly and guilt. He
sees no one around who loves him, or will weep over his grave; and when
he looks forward, it is towards an eternal world which he has never
prepared to enter, and of which he knows nothing."

"What a terrible picture, grandmama!" said Frank, rather gravely. "I
hope there are not many people like that, or it would be very sad to
meet with them. Now pray let us have a pleasanter description of the
sort of persons you would like Harry and me to become."

"The first foundation of all is, as you already know, Frank, to pray
that you may be put in the right course and kept in it, for of ourselves
we are so sinful and weak that we can do no good thing. Then feeling a
full trust in the Divine assistance, you must begin and end every day
with studying your Bible, not merely reading it, but carefully
endeavouring to understand and obey what it contains. Our leisure should
be bestowed on reading of wiser and better people than ourselves, which
will keep us humble while it instructs our understandings, and thus we
shall be fitted to associate with persons whose society is even better
than books. Christians who are enlightened and sanctified in the
knowledge of all good things, will show us an example of carefully using
our time, which is the most valuable of all earthly possessions. If we
waste our money, we may perhaps get more--if we lose our health, it may
be restored--but time squandered on folly, must hereafter be answered
for, and can never be regained. Whatever be your station in life, waste
none of your thoughts upon fancying how much better you might have acted
in some other person's place, but see what duties belong to that station
in which you live, and do what that requires with activity and
diligence. When we are called to give an account of our stewardship, let
us not have to confess at the last that we wasted our one talent,
because we wished to have been trusted with ten; but let us prepare to
render up what was given to us, with joy and thankfulness, perfectly
satisfied that the best place in life is where God appoints, and where
He will guide us to a safe and peaceful end."

"Yes!" added Major Graham. "You have two eyes in your minds as well as
in your bodies. With one of these we see all that is good or agreeable
in our lot--with the other we see all that is unpleasant or
disappointing, and you may generally choose which eye to keep open. Some
of my friends always peevishly look at the troubles and vexations they
endure, but they might turn them into good, by considering that every
circumstance is sent from the same hand, with the same merciful
purpose--to make us better now and happier hereafter."

"Well! my dear children," said Lady Harriet, "it is time now for
retiring to Bedfordshire; so good night."

"If you please, grandmama! not yet," asked Harry, anxiously. "Give us
five minutes longer!"

"And then in the morning you will want to remain five minutes more in
bed. That is the way people learn to keep such dreadfully late hours at
last, Harry! I knew one very rich old gentleman formerly, who always
wished to sit up a little later every night, and to get up a little
later in the morning, till at length, he ended by hiring a set of
servants to rise at nine in the evening, as he did himself, and to
remain in bed all day."

"People should regulate their sleep very conscientiously," added Major
Graham, "so as to waste as little time as possible; and our good king
George III. set us the example, for he remarked, that six hours in the
night were quite enough for a man--seven hours for a woman, and eight
for a fool. Or perhaps, Harry, you might like to live by Sir William
Jones' rule:

  'Six hours to read, to soothing slumber seven,
  Ten to the world allot--and all to Heaven.'"



CHAPTER X.

THE ILLUMINATION.

  A neighbour's house he'd slyly pass,
  And throw a stone to break the glass.


One fine morning in Charlotte Square, Peter Grey persuaded a party of
his companions to spend all the money they had on cakes and sugar-plums,
to make a splendid entertainment under the trees, where they were to sit
like a horde of gypsies, and amuse themselves with telling fortunes to
each other. Harry and Laura had no one with them but Betty, who gladly
joined a group of nursery-maids at a distance, leaving them to their own
devices; upon which they rushed up to Peter and offered their
assistance, subscribing all their pocket-money, and begging him to set
forth and obtain provisions for them as well as for himself. Neither
Harry nor Laura cared for eating the trash that was collected on this
occasion, and would have been quite as well pleased to distribute it
among their companions; but they both enjoyed extremely the bustle of
arranging this elegant déjeuné or "_disjune_," as Peter called it. Harry
gathered leaves off the trees to represent plates, on each of which
Peter arranged some of the fruit or sweetmeats he had purchased, while
they placed benches together as a table, and borrowed Laura's white
India shawl for a table-cloth.

"It looks like that grand public dinner we saw at the Assembly Rooms
one day!" exclaimed Harry, in an ecstacy of admiration. "We must have
speeches and toasts like real gentlemen and officers. Peter! if you will
make a fine oration, full of compliments to me, I shall say something
wonderful about you, and then Laura must beat upon the table with a
stick, to show that she agrees to all that we observe in praise of each
other."

"Or suppose we all take the names of some great personages," added
Peter, "I shall be the Duke of Wellington, and Laura, you must be Joseph
Hume, and Harry, you are Sir Francis Burdett, that we may seem as
different as possible; but here comes the usher of the black rod to
disperse us all! Mrs. Crabtree hurrying into the square, her very gown
flaming with rage! what can be the matter! she must have smelled the
sugar-plums a mile off! one comfort is, if Harry and Laura are taken
away, we shall have the fewer people to divide these cakes among, and I
could devour every one of them, for my own share."

Before Peter finished speaking, Mrs. Crabtree had come close up to the
table, and without waiting to utter a word, or even to scold, she
twitched up Laura's shawl in her hand, and thus scattered the whole
feast in every direction on the ground, after which she trampled the
sugar-plums and cakes into the earth, saying,

"I knew how it would be, as soon as I saw whose company you were in,
Master Harry! Peter Grey is the father of mischief! he ought to be put
into the monkey's cage at the GEOlogical gardens! I would not be your
maid, Master Grey, for a hundred a-year."

"You would need to buy a thrashing machine immediately," said Peter,
laughing; "what a fine time I should have of it! you would scarcely
allow me, I suppose, to blow my porridge! how long would it take you,
Mrs. Crabtree, to make quite a perfectly good boy of me? Perhaps a
month, do you think? or to make me as good as Frank, it might possibly
require six weeks."

"Six weeks!" answered Mrs. Crabtree; "six years, or sixty, would be too
short. You are no more like Mr. Frank than a shilling is to a guinea, or
a wax light to a dip. If the news were told that you had been a good boy
for a single day, the very _statutes_ in the streets would come running
along to see the wonder. No! no! I have observed many surprising things
in my day, but them great pyramuses in Egypt will turn upside down
before you turn like Mr. Frank."

Some days after this adventure of Harry and Laura's, there arrived
newspapers from London containing accounts of a great battle which had
been fought abroad. On that occasion the British troops of course
performed prodigies of valour, and completely conquered the enemy, in
consequence of which, it was ordered by government, that, in every town,
and every village, and every house throughout the whole kingdom, there
should be a grand illumination.

Neither Harry nor Laura had ever heard of such a thing as an
illumination before, and they were full of curiosity to know what it was
like; but their very faces became lighted up with joy, when Major Graham
described that they would see crowds of candles flaming in every window,
tar-barrels blazing on every hill, flambeaux glaring at the doors, and
transparencies, fire-works, and coloured lamps shining in all the
streets.

"How delightful! and walking out in the dark to see it," cried Harry;
"that will be best of all! oh! and a whole holiday! I hardly know
whether I am in my right wits, or my wrong wits, for joy! I wish we
gained a victory every day!"

"What a warrior you would be, Harry! Cæsar was nothing to you," said
Frank. "We might be satisfied with one good battle in a year,
considering how many are killed and wounded."

"Yes, but I hope all the wounded soldiers will recover."

"Or get pensions," added uncle David. "It is a grand sight, Frank, to
see a whole nation rejoicing at once! In general, when you walk out and
meet fifty persons in the street, they are all thinking of fifty
different things, and each intent on some business of his own, but on
this occasion all are of one mind and one heart."

Frank and Harry were allowed to nail a dozen of little candlesticks upon
each window in the house, which delighted them exceedingly, and then,
before every pane of glass, they placed a tall candle, impatiently
longing for the time when these were to be illuminated. Laura was
allowed to carry a match, and assist in lighting them, but in the excess
of her joy, she very nearly made a bonfire of herself, as her frock took
fire, and would soon have been in a blaze, if Frank had not hastily
seized a large rug and rolled it round her.

In every house within sight, servants and children were to be seen
hurrying about with burning matches, while hundreds of lights blazed up
in a moment, looking as if all the houses in town had taken fire.

"Such a waste of candles!" said Mrs. Crabtree, angrily; "can't people be
happy in the dark!"

"No, Mrs. Crabtree!" answered Frank, laughing. "They cannot be happy in
the dark! People's spirits are always in exact proportion to the number
of lights. If you ever feel dull with one candle, light another; and if
that does not do, try a third, or a fourth, till you feel merry and
cheerful. We must not let you be candle-snuffer to-night, or you will be
putting them all out. You would snuff out the sun itself, to save a
shilling."

"The windows might perhaps be broken," added Laura; "for whatever pane
of glass does not exhibit a candle, is to have a stone sent through it.
Harry says the mob are all glaziers, who break them on purpose to mend
the damage next day, which they will be paid handsomely for doing."

There were many happy, joyous faces, to be seen that evening in the
streets, admiring the splendid illumination; but the merriest party of
all, was composed of Frank, Harry, and Laura, under the command of uncle
David, who had lately suffered from a severe fit of the gout; but it
seemed to have left him this night, in honour of the great victory, when
he appeared quite as much a boy as either of his two companions. For
many hours they walked about in the streets, gazing up at the glittering
windows, some of which looked as if a constellation of stars had come
down for a night to adorn them; and others were filled with the most
beautiful pictures of Britannia carrying the world on her shoulders; or
Mars showering down wreaths of laurel on the Duke of Wellington, while
victory was sitting at his feet, and fame blowing a trumpet at his ear.
Harry thought these paintings finer than any he had ever seen before,
and stood for some moments entranced with admiration, on beholding a
representation in red, blue, yellow, and black, of Europe, Asia, Africa,
and America, all doing homage to St. George mounted on a dragon, which
breathed out fire and smoke like a steam-boat. Nothing, however,
occasioned the party such a burst of delightful surprise, as when they
first beheld the line of blazing windows more than a mile long, from the
bottom of the Canongate to the highest pinnacle of the Castle, where
they seemed almost to meet the stars shining above, in their perpetual
glory. "You see," remarked Major Graham, when he pointed them out to his
young companions, "there is a fit emblem of the difference between earth
and heaven. These lights nearer and brighter to us at present; but when
they have blazed and glittered for one little hour, they come to an end;
while those above, which we see so dimly now, will continue to shine
for ages and generations hereafter, till time itself is no more."

Occasionally, during their progress, Harry felt very indignant to
observe a few houses perfectly dark; and whether the family were sick,
or out of town, or whatever the reason might be, he scarcely became
sorry when a frequent crash might be heard, as the mob, determined to
have their own way this night, aimed showers of stones at the offending
windows, till the very frames seemed in danger of being broken. At last
uncle David led his joyous little party into Castle Street, in which not
a light was to be seen, and every blind seemed carefully closed. A crowd
had assembled, with an evident intention to attack these melancholy
houses, when Major Graham suddenly caught hold of Harry's arm, on
observing that he had privately picked up a large stone, which he was in
the very act of throwing with his whole force at one of the defenceless
windows. And now the whole party stood stock still, while uncle David
said in a very angry and serious voice,

"Harry! you heedless, mischievous boy! will you never learn to consider
a moment before you do what is wrong? I am exceedingly displeased with
you for this! What business is it of yours whether that house be lighted
up or not?"

"But, uncle David! surely it is very wrong not to obey the government,
and to be happy like everybody else! Besides, you see the mob will break
those windows at any rate, so it is no matter if I help them."

"Then, for the same reason, if they were setting the house on fire, I
suppose you would assist the conflagration, Harry. Your excuse is a very
bad one; and when you hear what I have to say about this house, let it
be a lesson for the rest of your life, never to judge hastily, nor to
act rashly. The officer to whom it belonged, has been killed in the
great battle abroad; and while we are rejoicing in the victory that his
bravery helped to gain, his widow and children are weeping within those
walls, for the husband and father who lies buried on a foreign shore.
Think what a contrast these shouts of joy must be to their grief."

"Oh, uncle David! how sorry I am!" said Harry. "I deserve to go home
this moment, and not to see a candle again for a week. It was very wrong
of me indeed. I shall walk all the way home, with my eyes shut, if you
will only excuse me."

"No, no, Harry! that is not necessary! If the eyes of your mind are
open, to see that you have acted amiss, then try to behave better in
future. When people are happy themselves, they are too apt to forget
that others may be in distress, and often feel quite surprised and
provoked at those who appear melancholy; but our turn must come like
theirs. Life is made up of sunshine and shadow, both of which are sent
for our good, and neither of them last, in this world, for ever; but we
should borrow part of our joys, and part of our sorrows, from sympathy
with all those we see or know, which will moderate the excess of
whatever is our own portion in life."

At this moment, the mob, which had been gradually increasing, gave a
tremendous shout, and were on the point of throwing a torrent of stones
at the dark, mournful house, which had made so narrow an escape from
Harry's vengeance, when Major Graham, forgetting his gout, hastily
sprung upon a lamp-post, and calling for attention, he made a speech
to the crowd, telling of the brave Captain D---- who had died for his
country, covered with wounds, and that his mourning family was assembled
in that house. Instantly the mob became as silent and motionless as if
they had themselves been turned into stones; after which they gradually
stole away, with downcast eyes, and mournful countenances; while it is
believed that some riotous people, who had been loudest and fiercest at
first, afterwards stood at the top of the little street like sentinels,
for more than an hour, to warn every one who passed, that he should go
silently along, in respect for the memory of a brave and good officer.
Not another shout was heard in the neighbourhood that night; and many a
merry laugh was suddenly checked from reverence for the memory of the
dead, and the sorrow of the living; while some spectators remarked, with
a sigh of melancholy reflection, that men must ever join trembling with
their mirth, because even in the midst of life they are in death.

"If we feel so much sorrow for this one officer and his family, it
shows," said Frank, "what a dreadful thing war is, which costs the lives
of thousands and tens of thousands in every campaign, by sickness and
fatigue, and the other sources of misery that accompany every army."

"Yes, Frank! and yet there has scarcely been a year on earth, while the
world has existed, without fighting in some country or another, for,
since the time when Cain killed Abel, men have been continually
destroying each other. Animals only fight in temporary irritation when
they are hungry, but pride, ambition, and folly of every kind, have
caused men to hate and massacre each other. Even religion itself has
caused the fiercest and most bloody conflicts, though, if that were only
understood and obeyed as it ought to be, the great truths of Scripture
would produce peace on earth, and good-will among all the children of
men."

The whole party had been standing for some minutes opposite to the
post-office, which looked like a rainbow of coloured lamps, and Harry
was beginning, for the twentieth time, to try if he could count how many
there were, when Major Graham felt something twitching hold of his coat
pocket behind, and on wheeling suddenly round, he perceived a little
boy, not much older than Harry, darting rapidly off in another
direction, carrying his own purse and pocket-handkerchief in his hand.
Being still rather lame, and unable to move very fast, Major Graham
could only vociferate at the very top of his voice, "Stop thief! stop
thief!" but not a constable appeared in sight, so the case seemed
desperate, and the money lost for ever, when Frank observed also what
had occurred, and being of an active spirit, he flew after the young
thief, followed closely by Harry. An eager race ensued, up one street,
and down another, with marvellous rapidity, while Frank was so evidently
gaining ground, that the thief at last became terrified, and threw away
the purse, hoping thus to end the chase; but neither of his pursuers
paused a moment to pick it up, they were so intent upon capturing the
little culprit himself. At length Frank sprung forward and caught him by
the collar, when a fierce conflict ensued, during which the young thief
was so ingenious, that he nearly slipped his arms out of his coat, and
would have made his escape, leaving a very tattered garment in their
hands, if Harry had not observed this trick, and held him by the hair,
which, as it was not a wig, he could not so easily throw off.

At this moment, a large coarse ruffianly-looking man hurried up to the
party, evidently intending to rescue the little pick-pocket from their
custody; so Frank called loudly for help, while several police-officers
who had been sent by Major Graham, came racing along the street,
springing their rattles, and vociferating, "Stop thief!"

Now, the boy struggled more violently than ever to disentangle himself,
but Frank and Harry grasped hold of their prisoner, as if they had been
a couple of Bow Street officers, till at length the tall fierce man
thought it time to be off, though not before he had given Harry a blow
on the face, that caused him to reel back, and fall prostrate on the
pavement.

"There's a brave little gentleman!" said one of the constables, helping
him up, while another secured the thief. "You ought to be knighted for
fighting so well! This boy you have taken is a sad fellow! He broke his
poor mother's heart a year since by his wicked ways, and I have long
wished to catch him. A few weeks on the tread-mill now, may save him
from the gallows in future."

"He seems well practised in his business," observed Major Graham. "I
almost deserved; however, to lose my pocket-book for bringing it out in
a night of so much crowding and confusion. Some lucky person will be all
the richer, though I fear it is totally lost to me."

"But here is your pocket-handkerchief, uncle David, if you mean to shed
any tears for your misfortune," whispered Laura; "how very lucky that
you felt it going!"

"Yes, and very surprising too, for the trick was so cleverly executed!
That little rascal might steal the teeth out of one's head, without
being noticed! When I was in India, the thieves there were so expert
that they really could draw the sheets from under a person sleeping in
bed, without disturbing his slumbers."

"With me, any person could do that, because I sleep so very soundly,"
observed Frank. "You might beat a military drum at my ear, as they do in
the boy's sleeping rooms at Sandhurst, and it would not have the
smallest effect. I scarcely think that even a gong would do!"

"How very different from me," replied Laura. "Last night I was awakened
by the scratching of a mouse nibbling in the wainscoat, and soon after
it ran across my face."

"Then pray sleep to-night with your mouth open, and a piece of toasted
cheese in it, to catch the mouse," said Major Graham. "That is the best
trap I know!"

"Uncle David," asked Frank, as they proceeded along the street, "if
there is any hope of that wicked boy being reformed, will you try to
have him taught better? Being so very young, he must have learned from
older people to steal."

"Certainly he must! It is melancholy to know how carefully mere children
are trained to commit the very worst crimes, and how little the mind of
any young boy can be a match for the cunning of old, experienced
villains like those who lead them astray. When once a child falls into
the snare of such practised offenders, escape becomes as impossible as
that of a bird from a limed twig."

"So I believe," replied Frank. "Grandmama told me that the very youngest
children of poor people, when first sent to school in London, are often
waylaid by those old women who sell apples in the street, and who
pretend to be so good-natured that they make them presents of fruit. Of
course these are very acceptable, but after some time, those wicked
wretches propose that the child in return shall bring them a book, or
anything he can pick up at home, which shall be paid for in apples and
pears. Few little boys have sufficient firmness not to comply, whether
they like it or not, and after that the case is almost hopeless,
because, whenever the poor victim hesitates to steal more, those cruel
women threaten to inform the parents of his misconduct, which terrifies
the boy into doing anything rather than be found out."

"Oh, how dreadful!" exclaimed Laura. "It all begins so smoothly! No poor
little boy could suspect any danger, and then he becomes a hardened
thief at once."

"Grandmama says, too, that pick-pockets, in London used to have the
stuffed figure of a man hung from the roof of their rooms, and covered
all over with bells, for the boys to practise upon, and no one was
allowed to attempt stealing on the streets, till he could pick the
pocket of this dangling effigy, without ringing one of the many bells
with which it was ornamented."

"I think," said Harry, "when the young thieves saw that figure hanging
in the air, it might have reminded them how soon they would share the
same fate. Even crows take warning when they see a brother crow hanging
dead in a field."

"It is a curious thing of crows, Harry, that they certainly punish
thieves among themselves," observed Major Graham. "In a large rookery,
some outcasts are frequently to be observed living apart from the rest,
and not allowed to associate with their more respectable brethren. I
remember hearing formerly, that in the great rookery at --------, when
all the other birds were absent, one solitary crow was observed to
linger behind, stealing materials for his nest from those around, but
next morning a prodigious uproar was heard among the trees,--the cawing
became so vociferous, that evidently several great orators were
agitating the crowd, till suddenly the enraged crows flew in a body upon
the nest of their dishonest associate, and tore it in pieces."

"Bravo!" cried Frank. "I do like to hear about all the odd ways of birds
and animals! Grandmama mentioned lately, that, if you catch a crow, and
fasten him down with his back to the ground, he makes such an outcry,
that all his black brothers come wheeling about the place, till one of
them at last alights to help him. Immediately the treacherous prisoner
grapples hold of his obliging friend, and never afterwards lets him
escape; so, by fastening down one after another, we might entrap the
whole rookery."

"I shall try it some day!" exclaimed Harry, eagerly. "What fun to hear
them all croaking and cawing!"

"We shall be croaking ourselves soon with colds, if we do not hurry
home," added uncle David. "There is not a thimbleful of light remaining,
and your grandmama will be impatient to hear all the news. This has
really been a most adventurous night, and I am sure none of us will soon
forget it."

When the whole party entered the drawing-room, in a blaze of spirits,
all speaking at once, to tell Lady Harriet what had occurred, Mrs.
Crabtree, who was waiting to take a couple of little prisoners off to
bed, suddenly gave an exclamation of astonishment and dismay when she
looked at Harry, who now, for the first time since the robber had
knocked him down, approached the light, when he did, to be sure, appear
a most terrible spectacle! His jacket was bespattered with mud, his
shirt-frill torn and bloody, one eye almost swelled out of his head, and
the side of his face quite black and blue.

"What mischief have you been in now, Mr. Harry?" cried Mrs. Crabtree,
angrily; "you will not leave a whole bone in your body, nor a whole
shirt in your drawer!"

"These are honourable scars, Mrs. Crabtree," interrupted Major Graham.
"Harry has been fighting my battles, and gained a great victory! we must
illuminate the nursery!"

Uncle David then told the whole story, with many droll remarks, about
his purse having been stolen, and said that, as Harry never complained
of being hurt, he never supposed that anything of the kind could have
occurred; but he felt very much pleased to observe how well a certain
young gentleman was able to bear pain, as boys must expect hard blows in
the world, when they had to fight their way through life, therefore it
was well for them to give as few as they could, and to bear with
fortitude what fell to their own share. Uncle David slyly added, that
perhaps Harry put up with these things all the better for having so much
practice in the nursery.

Mrs. Crabtree seemed rather proud of Harry's manly spirit, and treated
him with a little more respect than usual, saying, she would fetch him
some hot water to foment his face, if he would go straight up stairs
with Laura. Now, it very seldom happened, that Harry went straight
anywhere, for he generally swung down the bannisters again, or took a
leap over any thing he saw on the way, or got upon some of the tables
and jumped off, but this night he had resolutely intended marching
steadily up to bed, and advanced a considerable way, when a loud shout
in the street attracted his attention. Harry stopped, and it was
repeated again, so seizing Laura by the hand, they flew eagerly into
Lady Harriet's dressing-room, and throwing open a window, they picked up
a couple of cloaks that were lying on a chair, and both stepped out on a
balcony to find out what was going on; and in case any one should see
them in this unusual place, Harry quietly shut the window down,
intending to remain only one single minute. Minutes run very fast away
when people are amused, and nothing could be more diverting than the
sight they now beheld, for at this moment a grand crash exploded of
squibs and rockets from the Castle-hill, which looked so beautiful in
the dark, that it seemed impossible to think of anything else. Some flew
high in the air, and then burst into the appearance of twenty fiery
serpents falling from the sky, others assumed a variety of colours, and
dropped like flying meteors, looking as if the stars were all learning
to dance, while many rushed into the air and disappeared, leaving not a
trace behind. Harry and Laura stood perfectly entranced with admiration
and delight, till the fire-works neither burst, cracked, nor exploded
any more.

A ballad-singer next attracted their notice, singing the tune of "Meet
me by moonlight," and afterwards Laura shewed Harry the constellation of
Orion mentioned in the Bible, which, besides the Great Bear, was the
only one she had the slightest acquaintance with. Neither of them had
ever observed the Northern Lights so brilliant before, and now they felt
almost alarmed to see them shooting like lances of fire across the sky,
and glittering with many bright colours, like a rainbow, while Laura
remembered her grandmama mentioning some days ago, that the poor natives
of Greenland believe these are the spirits of their fathers going forth
to battle.

Meantime, Lady Harriet called Frank, as usual, to his evening prayers
and reading in her dressing-room, where it was well known that they were
on no account to be disturbed. After having read a chapter, and talked
very seriously about all it was intended to teach, they had begun to
discuss the prospect of Frank going abroad very soon to become a
midshipman, and he was wondering much where his first great shipwreck
would take place, and telling Lady Harriet about the loss of the
Cabalvala, where the crew lived for eight days on a barren rock, with
nothing to eat but a cask of raspberry jam, which accidentally floated
within their reach. Before Frank had finished his story, however, he
suddenly paused, and sprung upon his feet with an exclamation of
astonishment, while Lady Harriet, looking hastily round in the same
direction, became terrified to observe a couple of faces looking in at
the window. It was so dark, she could not see what they were like, but a
moment afterwards the sash began slowly and heavily opening, after which
two figures leaped into the room, while Frank flew to ring a peal at the
bell, and Lady Harriet sunk into her own arm-chair, covering her face
with her hands, and nearly fainting with fright.

"Never mind, grandmama! do not be afraid! it is only us!" cried Harry;
"surely you know me?"

"You!!!" exclaimed Lady Harriet, looking up with amazement. "Harry and
Laura!! impossible! how in all the world did you get here? I thought you
were both in bed half an hour ago! Tiresome boy! you will be the death
of me some time or other! I wonder when you will ever pass a day without
deserving the bastinado!"

"Do you not remember the good day last month, grandmama, when I had a
severe toothache, and sat all morning beside the fire? Nobody found
fault with me then, and I got safe to bed, without a single Oh fie! from
noon till night."

"Wonderful, indeed! what a pity I ever allowed that tooth to be drawn,
but you behaved very bravely on the occasion of its being extracted. Now
take yourselves off! I feel perfectly certain you will tell Mrs.
Crabtree the exact truth about where you have been, and if she punishes
you, remember that it is no more than you both deserve. People who
behave ill are their own punishers, and should be glad that some one
will kindly take the trouble to teach them better."



CHAPTER XI.

THE POOR BOY.

  Not all the fine things that fine people possess,
  Should teach them the poor to despise;
  For 'tis in good manners, and not in good dress,
  That the truest gentility lies.


The following Saturday morning, Frank, Harry, and Laura were assembled
before Lady Harriet's breakfast hour, talking over all their adventures
on the night of the illumination; and many a merry laugh was heard while
uncle David cracked his jokes and told his stories, for he seemed as
full of fun and spirits as the youngest boy in a play-ground.

"Well, old fellow!" said he, lifting up Harry, and suddenly seating him
on the high marble chimney-piece. "That is the situation where the poor
little dwarf, Baron Borowloski was always put by his tall wife, when she
wished to keep him out of mischief, and I wonder Mrs. Crabtree never
thought of the same plan for you."

"Luckily there is no fire, or Harry would soon be roasted for the Giant
Snap-'em-up's dinner," said Frank, laughing; "he looks up there like a
China Mandarin. Shake your head, Harry, and you will do quite as well!"

"Uncle David!" cried Harry, eagerly, "pray let me see you stand for one
moment as you do at the club on a cold day, with your feet upon the rug,
your back to the fire, and your coat-tails under your arms! Pray do,
for one minute!"

Uncle David did as he was asked, evidently expecting the result, which
took place, for Harry sprung upon his back with the agility of a monkey,
and they went round and round the room at a full gallop, during the next
five minutes, while Lady Harriet said she never saw two such noisy
people, but it was quite the fashion now, since the king of France
carried his grandchildren, in the same way, every morning, a picture of
which had lately been shown to her.

"Then I hope his majesty gets as good an appetite with his romp as I
have done," replied Major Graham, sitting down. "None of your tea and
toast for me! that is only fit for ladies. Frank, reach me these
beef-steaks, and a cup of chocolate."

Harry and Laura now planted themselves at the window, gazing at crowds
of people who passed, while, by way of a joke, they guessed what
everybody had come out for, and who they all were.

"There is a fat cook with a basket under her arm, going to market," said
Harry. "Did you ever observe when Mrs. Marmalade comes home, she says to
grandmama, 'I have desired a leg of mutton to come here, my lady! and I
told a goose to be over also,' as if the leg of mutton and the goose
walked here, arm-in-arm, of themselves."

"Look at those children, going to see the wild beasts," added Laura,
"and this little girl is on her way to buy a new frock. I am sure she
needs one! that old man is hurrying along because he is too late for the
mail-coach; and this lady with a gown like a yellow daffodil, is going
to take root in the Botanical Gardens!"

"Uncle David! there is the very poorest boy I ever saw!" cried Harry,
turning eagerly round; "he has been standing in the cold here, for ten
minutes, looking the picture of misery! he wears no hat, and has pulled
his long lank hair to make a bow, about twenty times. Do come and look
at him! he is very pale, and his clothes seem to have been made before
he began to grow, for they are so much too small, and he is making us
many signs to open the window. May I do it?"

"No! no! I never give to chance beggars of that kind, especially young
able-bodied fellows like that, because there are so many needy,
deserving people whom I visit, who worked as long as they could, and
whom I know to be sober and honest. Most of the money we scatter to
street beggars goes straight to the gin-shop, and even the very youngest
children will buy or steal, to get the means of becoming intoxicated.
Only last week, Harry, the landlord of an ale-house at Portobello was
seen at the head of a long table, surrounded with ragged beggar boys
about twelve or fourteen years of age, who were all perfectly drunk, and
probably your friend there might be of the party."

"Oh no! uncle David! this boy seems quite sober and exceedingly clean,
though he is so very poor!" replied Laura; "his black trowsers are
patched and repatched, his jacket has faded into fifty colours, and his
shoes are mended in every direction, but still he looks almost
respectable. His face is so thin you might use it for a hatchet. I wish
you would take one little peep, for he seems so anxious to speak to us."

"I daresay that! we all know what the youngster has to tell! Probably a
wife and six small children at home, or, if you like it better, he will
be a shipwrecked sailor at your service. I know the whole affair
already; but if you have sixpence to spare, Laura, come with me after
breakfast, and we shall bestow it on poor blind Mrs. Wilkie, who has
been bed-ridden for the last ten years; or old paralytic Jemmy Dixon the
porter, who worked hard as long as he was able. If you had twenty more
sixpences, I could tell you of twenty more people who deserve them as
much."

"Very true," added Lady Harriet. "Street beggars, who are young and able
to work, like that boy, it is cruelty to encourage. Parents bring up
their children in profligate idleness, hoping to gain more money by
lying and cheating, than by honest industry, and they too often succeed,
especially when the wicked mothers also starve and disfigure these poor
creatures, to excite more compassion. We must relieve real distress,
Harry, and search for it as we would for hidden treasures, because thus
we show our love to God and man; but a large purse with easy strings
will do more harm than good."

"Do you remember, Frank, how long I suspected that old John Davidson was
imposing upon me?" said Major Graham. "He told such a dismal story
always, that I never liked to refuse him some assistance; but yesterday,
when he was here, the thought struck me by chance to say, 'What a fine
supper you had last night, John!' You should have seen the start he
gave, and his look of consternation, when he answered, 'Eh, Sir! how did
ye hear of that! We got the turkey very cheap, and none of us took more
than two glasses of toddy.'"

"That boy is pointing to his pockets, and making more signs for us to
open the window!" exclaimed Laura. "What can it all mean! he seems so
very anxious!"

Major Graham threw down his knife and fork--rose hastily from
breakfast--and flung open the window, calling out in rather a loud,
angry voice, "What do you want, you idle fellow? It is a perfect shame
to see you standing there all morning! Surely you don't mean to say that
an active youngster like you would disgrace yourself by begging?"

"No, Sir! I want nothing!" answered the boy respectfully, but colouring
to the deepest scarlet. "I never asked for money in my life, and I never
will."

"That's right, my good boy!" answered the Major, instantly changing his
tone. "What brings you here then?"

"Please, Sir, your servants shut the door in my face, and every body is
so hasty like, that I don't know what to do. I can't be listened to for
a minute, though I have got something very particular to say, that some
one would be glad to hear."

Major Graham now looked exceedingly vexed with himself, for having
spoken so roughly to the poor boy, who had a thoughtful, mild, but
care-worn countenance, which was extremely interesting, while his manner
seemed better than his dress.

Frank was despatched, as a most willing messenger, to bring the young
stranger up stairs, while uncle David told Harry that he would take this
as a lesson to himself ever afterwards, not to judge hastily from
appearances, because it was impossible for any one to guess what might
be in the mind of another; and he began to hope this boy, who was so
civil and well-spoken, might yet turn out to be a proper, industrious
little fellow.

"Well, my lad! Is there anything I can do for you?" asked Major Graham,
when Frank led him kindly into the room. "What is your name?"

"Evan Mackay, at your service. Please, Sir, did you lose a pocket-book
last Thursday, with your name on the back, and nine gold sovereigns
inside?"

"Yes! that I did, to my cost! Have you heard anything of it?"

The boy silently drew a parcel from his pocket, and without looking up
or speaking, he modestly placed it on the table, then colouring very
deeply, he turned away, and hurried towards the door. In another minute
he would have been off, but Frank sprung forward and took hold of his
arm, saying, in the kindest possible manner, "Stop, Evan! Stop a moment!
That parcel seems to contain all my uncle's money. Where did you get it?
Who sent it here?"

"I brought it, Sir! The direction is on the pocket-book, so there could
be no mistake."

"Did you find it yourself then?"

"Yes! it was lying in the street that night when I ran for a Doctor to
see my mother, who is dying. She told me now to come back directly, Sir,
so I must be going."

"But let us give you something for being so honest," said Frank. "You
are a fine fellow, and you deserve to be well rewarded."

"I only did my duty, Sir. Mother always says we should do right for
conscience' sake, and not for a reward."

"Yes! but you are justly entitled to this," said Major Graham, taking a
sovereign out of the purse. "I shall do more for you yet, but in the
meantime here is what you have honestly earned to-day."

"If I thought so, Sir,"----said the poor boy, looking wistfully at the
glittering coin. "If I was quite sure there could be no harm----, but I
must speak first to mother about it, Sir! She has seen better days once,
and she is sadly afraid of my ever taking charity. Mother mends my
clothes, and teaches me herself, and works very hard in other ways, but
she is quite bed-ridden, and we have scarcely anything but the trifle I
make by working in the fields. It is very difficult to get a job at all
sometimes, and if you could put me in the way of earning that money,
Sir, it would make mother very happy. She is a little particular, and
would not taste a morsel that I could get by asking for it."

"That is being very proud!" said Harry.

"No, Sir! it is not from pride," replied Evan; "but mother says a
merciful God has provided for her many years, and she will not begin to
distrust Him now. Her hands are always busy, and her heart is always
cheerful. She rears many little plants by her bedside, which we sell,
and she teaches a neighbour's children, besides sewing for any one who
will employ her, for mother's maxim always was, that there can be no
such thing as an idle Christian."

"Very true!" said Lady Harriet. "Even the apostles were mending their
nets and labouring hard, whenever they were not teaching. Either the
body or the mind should always be active."

"If you saw mother, that is exactly her way, for she does not eat the
bread of idleness. Were a stranger to offer us a blanket or a dinner in
charity, she would rather go without any than take it. A very kind lady
brought her a gown one day, but mother would only have it if she were
allowed to knit as many stockings as would pay for the stuff. I dare not
take a penny more for my work than is due, for she says, if once I begin
receiving alms, I might get accustomed to it."

"That is the good old Scotch feeling of former days," observed Major
Graham. "It was sometimes carried too far then, but there is not enough
of it now. Your mother should have lived fifty years ago."

"You may say so, indeed, Sir! We never had a drop of broth from the
soup-kitchen all winter, and many a day we shivered without a fire,
though the society offered her sixpence a-week for coals, but she says
'the given morsel is soon done;' and now, many of our neighbours who
wasted what they got, feel worse off than we, who are accustomed to
suffer want, and to live upon our honest labour. Long ago, if mother
went out to tea with any of our neighbours, she always took her own tea
along with us."

"But that is being prouder than anybody else," observed Frank, smiling.
"If my grandmama goes out to a tea-party, she allows her friends to
provide the fare."

"Very likely, Sir! but that is different when people can give as good as
they get. Last week a kind neighbour sent us some nice loaf bread, but
mother made me take it back, with her best thanks, and she preferred our
own oat cake. She is more ready to give than to take, Sir, and divides
her last bannock, sometimes, with anybody who is worse off than
ourselves."

"Poor fellow!" said Frank, compassionately; "how much you must often
have suffered!"

"Suffered!" said the boy, with sudden emotion. "Yes! I have suffered! It
matters nothing to be clothed in rags,--to be cold and hungry now! There
are worse trials than that! My father died last year, crushed to death
in a moment by his own cart-wheels,--my brothers and sisters have all
gone to the grave, scarcely able to afford the medicines that might have
cured them,--and I am left alone with my poor dying mother. It is a
comfort that life is not very long, and we may trust all to God while it
lasts."

"Could you take us to see Mrs. Mackay?" said Major Graham, kindly.
"Laura, get your bonnet."

"Oh, Sir! that young lady could not stay half a minute in the place
where my poor mother lives now. It is not a pretty cottage such as we
read of in tracts, but a dark cold room, up a high stair, in the
narrowest lane you ever saw, with nothing to sit on but an old chest."

"Never mind that, Evan," replied Major Graham. "You and your mother have
a spirit of honour and honesty that might shame many who are lying on
sofas of silk and damask. I respect her, and shall assist you if it be
possible. Show us the way."

Many dirty closes and narrow alleys were threaded by the whole party,
before they reached a dark ruinous staircase, where Evan paused and
looked round, to see whether Major Graham still approached. He then
slowly mounted one flight of ancient crumbling steps after another,
lighted by patched and broken windows, till at last they arrived at a
narrow wooden flight, perfectly dark. After groping to the summit, they
perceived a time-worn door, the latch of which was gently lifted by
Evan, who stole noiselessly into the room, followed by uncle David and
the wondering children.

There, a large cold room, nearly empty, but exceedingly clean, presented
itself to their notice. In one corner stood a massive old chest of
carved oak, surrounded with a perfect glow of geraniums and myrtles in
full blossom; beside which were arranged a large antique Bible, a jug of
cold water, and a pile of coarsely-knitted worsted stockings. Beyond
these, on a bed of clean straw, lay a tall, emaciated old woman,
apparently in the last stage of life, with a face haggard by suffering;
and yet her thin, withered hands were busily occupied with needle-work,
while, in low, faltering tones, she chanted these words,

  "When from the dust of death I rise,
  To claim my mansion in the skies,
  This, this shall be my only plea,
  Jesus has liv'd and died for me."

"Mother!" said Evan, wishing to arouse her attention. "Look, mother!"

"Good day, Mrs. Mackay," added Major Graham, in a voice of great
consideration, while she languidly turned her head towards the door. "I
have come to thank you for restoring my purse this morning."

"You are kindly welcome, Sir! What else could we do!" replied she, in a
feeble, tremulous voice. "The money was yours, and the sooner it went
out of our hands the better."

"It was perfectly safe while it stayed there," added Major Graham, not
affecting to speak in a homely accent, nor putting on any airs of
condescension at all, but sitting down on the old chest as if he had
never sat on any thing but a chest in his life before, and looking at
the clean bare floor with as much respect as if it had been a Turkey
carpet. "Your little boy's pocket seems to be as safe as the Bank of
Scotland."

"That is very true, Sir! My boy is honest; and it is well to keep a good
conscience, as that is all he has in this world to live for. Many have a
heavy conscience to carry with a heavy purse; but these he need not
envy. If we are poor in this world, we are rich in faith; and I trust
the money was not even a temptation to Evan, because he has learned from
the best of all teachers, that it would 'profit him nothing to gain the
whole world, and lose his own soul.'"

"True, Mrs. Mackay! most true! We have come here this morning to request
that you and he will do me the favour to accept of a small recompense."

"We are already rewarded, Sir! This has been an opportunity of
testifying to our own hearts that we desire to do right in the eye of
God. At the same time, it was Providence who kindly directed my son's
steps to the place where that money was lying; and if anything seems
justly due to poor Evan, let him have it. My wants are few, and must
soon be ended. But oh! when I look at that boy, and think of the long
years he may be struggling with poverty and temptation, my heart melts
within me, and my whole spirit is broken. Faith itself seems to fail,
and I could be a beggar for him now! It is not money I would ask, Sir,
because that might soon be spent; but get him some honest employment,
and I will thank you on my very knees."

Evan seemed startled at the sudden energy of his mother's manner, and
tears sprung into his eyes while she spoke with a degree of agitation so
different from what he had ever heard before; but he struggled to
conceal his feelings, and she continued with increasing emotion,

"Bodily suffering, and many a year of care and sorrow, are fast closing
their work on me. The moments are passing away like a weaver's shuttle;
and if I had less anxiety about Evan, how blessed a prospect it would
appear; but that is the bitterness of death to me now. My poor, poor
boy! I would rather hear he was in the way of earning his livelihood,
than that he got a hundred a-year. Tell me, Sir!--and oh! consider you
are speaking to a dying creature--can you possibly give him any
creditable employment, where he might gain a crust of bread, and be
independent?"

"I honour your very proper feeling on the subject, Mrs. Mackay, and
shall help Evan to the best of my ability," replied Major Graham, in a
tone of seriousness and sincerity. "To judge by these fine geraniums, he
must be fond of cultivating plants; and we want an under-gardener in the
country; therefore he shall have that situation without loss of time."

"Oh, mother! mother! speak no more of dying! You will surely get better
now!" said Evan, looking up, while his thin pale face assumed a
momentary glow of pleasure. "Try now to get better! I never could work
as well, if you were not waiting to see me come home! We shall be so
happy now!"

"Yes! I am happy!" said Mrs. Mackay, solemnly looking towards heaven,
with an expression that could not be mistaken. "The last cord is cut
that bound me to the earth; and may you, Sir, find hereafter the
blessings that are promised to those who visit the fatherless and widows
in their affliction."



CHAPTER XII.

THE YOUNG MIDSHIPMAN.

  When hands are link'd that dread to part,
  And heart is met by throbbing heart;
  Oh! bitter, bitter is the smart
  Of them that bid farewell.

                                        Heber.


Next Monday morning, at an early hour, Frank had again found his way
with great difficulty to the house of Widow Mackay, where he spent all
his pocket money on two fine scarlet geraniums. If they had been nettles
or cabbages, he would have felt the same pleasure in buying them; and
his eyes sparkled with animation when he entered uncle David's room,
carrying them in his hand, and saying, "I was so glad to have some
money! I could spare it quite well. There is no greater pleasure in
being rich than to help such poor people as Evan Mackay and his poor
sick mother!"

"Yes, Frank, I often wonder that any enjoyment of wealth can be
considered equal to the exercise of kind feelings, for surely the most
delightful sensation in this world is, to deserve and receive the
grateful affection of those around us," replied Major Graham. "What a
wretched being Robinson Crusoe was on the desert island alone, though he
found chests of gold, and yet many people are as unblessed in the midst
of society, who selfishly hoard fortunes for themselves, unmindful of
the many around who ought to be gratefully receiving their daily
benefits."

"I was laughing to read lately of the West India slaves, who collected
money all their lives in an old stocking," said Frank, "and who watched
with delight as it filled from year to year; but the bank is only a
great stocking, where misers in this country lay up treasures for
themselves which they are never to enjoy, though too often they lay up
no treasures for themselves in a better world."

"I frequently think, Frank, if all men were as liberal, kind, and
forbearing to each other as the Holy Scriptures enjoin, and if we lived
as soberly, temperately, and godly together, what a paradise this world
would become, for many of our worst sufferings are brought on by our own
folly, or the unkindness of others. And certainly, if we wished to fancy
the wretchedness of hell itself, it would only be necessary to imagine
what the earth would become if all fear of God and man were removed, and
every person lived as his own angry, selfish passions would dictate.
Great are the blessings we owe to Christianity, for making the world
even what it is now, and yet greater would those blessings be, if we
obeyed it better."

"That is exactly what grandmama says, and that we must attend to the
Gospel from love and gratitude to God, rather than from fear of
punishment or hope of reward, which is precisely what we saw in poor
widow Mackay and Evan, who seemed scarcely to expect a recompense for
behaving so honestly."

"That was the more remarkable in them, as few Christians now are above
receiving a public recompense for doing their duty to God. Men of the
world have long rewarded each other with public dinners and pieces of
plate, to express the utmost praise and admiration, but of late I never
open a newspaper without reading accounts of one clergyman or another,
who has been 'honoured with a public breakfast!' when he is presented
by an admiring circle with 'a gold watch and appendages!' or a Bible
with a complimentary inscription, or a gown, or a pair of bands, worked
by the ladies of his congregation! and all this, for labouring among his
own people, in his own sphere of duty! What would Archbishop Leighton
and the old divines have said to any one who attempted to rouse their
vanity in this way, with the praise of men?"

"What you say reminds me, uncle David," said Frank, "that we have been
asked to present our Universal-Knowledge-Master with a silver snuff-box,
as a testimonial from the scholars in my class, because he is going soon
to Van Dieman's Land, therefore I hope you will give me half-a-crown to
subscribe, or I shall be quite in disgrace with him."

"Not one shilling shall you receive from me, my good friend, for any
such purpose! a snuff-box, indeed! your master ought to show his
scholars an example of using none! a filthy waste of health, money, and
time. Such testimonials should only be given, as Archbishop Magee says,
to persons who have got into some scrape, which makes their
respectability doubtful. If my grocer is ever publicly presented with a
pair of silver sugar tongs, I shall think he has been accused of
adulterating the sugar, and give over employing him directly."

"Laura," said Frank, "you will be having a silver thimble voted to you
for hemming six pocket-handkerchiefs in six years!"

"I know one clergyman, Dr. Seton, who conscientiously refused a piece of
plate, which was about to be presented in this way," continued Major
Graham; "he accidentally heard that such a subscription was begun among
the rich members of his congregation, and instantly stopped it, saying,
'Let your testimonial consist in a regular attendance at church, and let
my sole reward be enjoyed hereafter, when you appear as my crown of joy
and rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming.'"

Sir Edward Graham's particular friend, Captain Gordon, at last wrote to
say, that the Thunderbolt, 74, having been put in commission for three
years, was about to sail for the African station, therefore he wished
Frank to join without delay; and as a farther mark of his regard, he
promised that he would endeavour to keep his young protege employed
until he had served out his time, because a midshipman once paid off,
was like a stranded whale, not very easily set afloat again.

Lady Harriet sighed when she read the letter, and looked paler all that
day, but she knew that it was right and necessary for Frank to go,
therefore she said nothing to distress him on the occasion, only in her
prayers and explanations of the Bible that evening, there was a deeper
tone of feeling than ever, and a cast of melancholy, which had rarely
been the case before, while he spoke much of that meeting in a better
world, which is the surest hope and consolation of those Christians who
separate on earth, and who know not what a day, and still less what many
years, may bring forth.

Major Graham tried to put a cheerful face on the matter also, though he
evidently felt very sorry indeed about parting with Frank, and took him
out a long walk to discuss his future prospects, saying, "Now you are an
officer and a gentleman, entitled therefore to be treated with new
respect and attention, by all your brother officers, naval or military,
in his Majesty's service."

Frank himself, being a boy of great spirit and enterprize, felt glad
that the time had really come for his being afloat, and examining all
the world over with his own eyes; but he said that his heart seemed as
if it had been put in a swing, it fell so low when he thought of leaving
his dear happy home, and then it rose again higher than ever at the very
idea of being launched on the wide ocean, and going to the countries he
had so often read of, where battles had been fought and victories won.

"Frank!" said Peter Grey, who was going to join the Thunderbolt, in
about a fortnight afterwards, "you have no idea how beautiful I looked
in uniform to-day! I tried mine on, and felt so impatient to use my
dirk, I could have eat my dinner with it, instead of employing a common
knife."

"You never forget to be hungry, Peter," said Frank, laughing. "But now
you are like the old Lord Buchan, who used to say he could cook his
porridge in his helmet, and stir it with his broad-sword."

"I hope," said Major Graham, "you both intend to become very
distinguished officers, and to leave a name at which the world grows
pale."

"Certainly," answered Peter. "All the old heroes we read of shall be
mere nobodies compared to me! I mean to lose a leg or an arm in every
battle,"----

"Till nothing is left of you but your shirt-collar and shoe-strings,"
interrupted Frank, laughing.

"No! No! What remains of me at last shall die a Peer of the realm,"
continued Peter. "We must climb to the top of the tree, Frank! What
title do you think I should take?"

"Lord Cockpit would suit you best for some time, Peter! It will not be
so easy a business to rise as you think. Every one can run a race, but
very few can win," observed Major Graham. "The rarest thing on earth is
to succeed in being both conspicuous and respectable. Any dunce may
easily be either the one or the other, but the chief puzzle with most
men is, how to be both. In your profession there are great
opportunities, but at the same time let me warn you, that the sea is not
a bed of roses."

"No, uncle David! but I hope it will become a field of laurels to us,"
replied Frank, laughing. "Now tell me in real earnest who you think was
the greatest of our naval heroes till now, when Peter is to cut them all
out."

"He must wait a few years. It is a long ladder to run up before reaching
the top. In France, the king's sons are all born Field Marshals, but
nobody in this country is born an Admiral. The great Lord Duncan served
during half-a-century before gaining his most important victory, but
previous to that, he paved the way to success, not by mere animal
courage alone, but by being so truly good and religious a man, that his
extraordinary firmness and benevolence of character gained the
confidence and respect of all those who served with him, and therefore
half his success in battle was owing to his admirable conduct during
peace."

"So I have heard!" replied Frank; "and when there was mutiny in every
other ship, the Admiral's own crew remained faithful to him. How much
better it is to be obeyed from respect and attachment than from fear,
which is a mean feeling that I hope neither to feel myself, nor to
excite in others. I wish to be like Nelson, who asked, 'What is fear? I
never saw it.'"

"Yes, Frank! Nelson was said to be 'brave as a lion, and gentle as a
lamb.' Certainly both he and Lord Duncan were pre-eminently great; but
neither Lord Duncan, nor any other enlightened Christian, would have
said what Lord Nelson did, with his latent breath--'I have not been a
great sinner!' No mortal could lift up his eyes at the day of judgment,
and repeat those words again; for every man that breathes the breath of
life is a great sinner. We are living in God's own world without
remembering him, continually; and amidst thousands of blessings we
disobey him. The chief purpose for which men are created, is to glorify
God, and to prepare for entering his presence in a better world; but
instead of doing so, we live as if there were no other object to live
for, than our own pleasures and amusements on earth. How, then, can we
be otherwise than great sinners? I hope, Frank, that you will endeavour
to be, like Lord Duncan, not merely a good officer, but also a good
Christian; for, besides fighting the battles of your country, you must
gain a great victory over yourself, as all men must either conquer their
own evil dispositions, or perish for ever."

Lady Harriet was particularly earnest in entreating Frank to write
frequently home; observing, that she considered it a religious duty in
all children, to shew their parents this attention, as the Bible says
that "a wise son maketh a glad father," and that "the father of the
righteous shall greatly rejoice;" but on the contrary, too many young
persons leave their parents to mourn in suspense and anxiety, as to the
health and happiness of those whom they love more than they can ever
love any one else.

"Tell us of every thing that interests you, and even all about the
spouting whales, flying fish, and dying dolphins, which you will of
course see," said Laura. "Be sure to write us also, how many albatrosses
you shoot, and whether you are duly introduced to Neptune at the Cape."

"Yes, Laura! but Bishop Heber's Journal, or any other book describing a
voyage to the Cape, mentions exactly the same thing. It will quite bring
me home again when I speak to you all on paper; and I shall be able to
fancy what everybody will say when my letter is read. Mrs. Darwin sent
for me this morning on particular business; and it was to say that she
wished me, in all the strange countries where the Thunderbolt touched,
to employ my spare moments in chasing butterflies, that as many as
possible might be added to her museum."

"Capital! How like Mrs. Darwin!" exclaimed Major Graham, laughing. "You
will of course be running all over Africa, hat in hand, pursuing painted
butterflies, till you get a _coup de soleil_, like my friend Watson, who
was killed by one. Poor fellow! I was with him then, and it was a
frightful scene. He wheeled round several times, in a sort of
convulsion, till he dropped down dead in my arms."

"I shall gild the legs and bills of some ducks before leaving home, and
send them to her as a present from Sierra Leone," said Peter. "The wings
might be died scarlet, which would look quite foreign; and if an
elephant falls in my way, it shall be stuffed and forwarded by express."

"Uncle David! Do you remember what fun we had, when you sent Mrs. Darwin
that stuffed bear in a present! I was desired to announce that a
foreigner of distinction had arrived to stay at her house. What a bustle
she was in on hearing that he brought letters of introduction from you,
and intended to remain some time. Then we told her that he could not
speak a word of English, and brought 'a Pole' with him; besides which he
had once been a great dancer. Oh! how amusing it was, when she at last
ventured into the passage to be introduced, and saw her fine stuffed
bear."

"Whatever people collect," said Peter, "every good-natured person
assists. I mean to begin a collection of crooked sixpences immediately;
therefore, pray never spend another, but give me as many as you can
spare; and the more crooked the better."

"Sing a song a sixpence!" said Frank, laughing. "Laura should begin to
collect diamonds for a necklace, and perhaps it might be all ready
before she comes out. I shall return home on purpose to see you then,
Laura."

"Pray do, Master Frank," said Mrs. Crabtree, with more than usual
kindness; "we shall have great rejoicings on the occasion of seeing you
back--an ox roasted alive, as they do in England, and all them sort of
Tom-fooleries. I'll dance a jig then myself for joy--you certainly are a
wonderful good boy, considering that I had not the managing of you."

Frank's departure was delayed till after the examination of his school,
because Mr. Lexicon had requested that, being the best scholar there, he
might remain to receive a whole library of prize-books, and a whole
pocketful of medals; for, as Peter remarked, "Frank Graham deserved any
reward, because he learned his lessons so perfectly, that he could not
say them wrong even if he wished!"

Harry and Laura were allowed to attend on the great occasion, that they
might witness Frank's success; and never, certainly, had they seen any
thing so grand in their lives before! A hundred and forty boys, all
dressed in white trowsers and yellow gloves, were seated in rows,
opposite to six grave learned-looking gentlemen, in wigs and spectacles,
who seemed as if they would condemn all the scholars to death!

The colour mounted into Harry's cheeks with delight, and the tears
rushed into his eyes, when he saw Frank, whose face was radiant with
good-humour and happiness, take his place as head boy in the school. All
his companions had crowded round Frank as he entered, knowing that this
was his last appearance in the class; while he spoke a merry or a kind
word to each, leaning on the shoulder of one, and grasping the hand of
another with cordial kindness, for he liked everybody, and everybody
liked him. No one envied Frank being dux, because they knew how hard he
worked for that place, and how anxious he had been to help every other
boy in learning as cleverly as himself; for all the boobies would have
become duxes if Frank could have assisted them to rise, while many an
idler had been made busy by his attention and advice. No boy ever
received, in one day, more presents than Frank did on this occasion from
his young friends, who spent all their pocket-money in pen-knives and
pencil-cases, which were to be kept by Frank, in remembrance of them, as
long as he lived; and some of his companions had a tear in their eye on
bidding him farewell, which pleased him more than all their gifts.

Major Graham took his place, with more gravity than usual, among the
judges appointed to distribute the prizes; and now, during more than
two hours, the most puzzling questions that could be invented were put
to every scholar in succession, while Frank seemed always ready with an
answer, and not only spoke for himself, but often good-naturedly
prompted his neighbours, in so low a tone that no one else heard him.
His eyes brightened, and his face grew red with anxiety, while even his
voice shook at first; but before long Frank collected all his wits about
him, and could construe Latin or repeat Greek with perfect ease, till at
length the whole examination concluded, and the great Dr. Clifford, who
had lately come all the way from Oxford, was requested to present the
prizes. Upon this he rose majestically from his arm-chair, and made a
long speech, filled as full as it could hold with Latin and Greek. He
praised Homer and Horace for nearly twenty minutes, and brought in
several lines from Virgil, after which he turned to Frank, saying, in a
tone of great kindness and condescension, though at the same time
exceedingly pompous,

"It seems almost a pity that this young gentleman--already so very
accomplished a scholar--who is, I may say, a perfect _multum in parvo_,
should prematurely pause in his classical career to enter the navy; but
in every situation of life his extraordinary activity of mind, good
temper, courage and ability, must render him an honour to his country
and his profession."

Dr. Clifford now glanced over the list of prizes, and read aloud--"First
prize for Greek--Master Graham!"

Frank walked gracefully forward, coloured and bowed, while a few words
of approbation were said to him, and a splendidly-bound copy of
Euripides was put into his hands by Dr. Clifford, who then hastily read
over the catalogue of prizes to himself, in an audible voice, and in a
tone of great surprise.

"First prize for Latin!--Master Graham! First for algebra,--first for
geography,--first for mathematics,--all Master Graham!!!--and last, not
least, a medal for general good conduct, which the boys are allowed to
bestow upon the scholar they think most deserving,--and here stands the
name of Master Graham again!!"

Dr. Clifford paused, while the boys all stood up for a moment and
clapped their hands with enthusiasm, as a token of rejoicing at the
destination of their own medal.

For the first time Frank was now completely overcome,--he coloured more
deeply than before, and looked gratefully round, first at his
companions, then at his master, and last at Major Graham, who had a tear
standing in his eye when he smiled upon Frank, and held out his hand.

Frank's lip quivered for a moment, as if he would burst into tears, but
with a strong effort he recovered himself, and affectionately grasping
his uncle's hand, hastily resumed his place on the bench, to remain
there while his companions received the smaller prizes awarded to them.

Meanwhile, Harry had been watching Frank with a feeling of joy and
pride, such as he never experienced before, and could scarcely refrain
from saying to every person near him, "That is my brother!" He looked at
Frank long and earnestly, wishing to be like him, and resolving to
follow his good example at school. He gazed again and again, with new
feelings of pleasure and admiration, till gradually his thoughts became
melancholy, while remembering how soon they must be separated; and
suddenly the terrible idea darted into his mind, "Perhaps we never may
meet again!" Harry tried not to think of this; he turned his thoughts to
other subjects; he forced himself to look at anything that was going on,
but still these words returned with mournful apprehension to his heart,
"Perhaps we never may meet again!"

Frank's first action, after the examination had been concluded, was
hastily to gather up all his books, and bring a sight of them to Harry
and Laura; but what was his astonishment when, instead of looking at
the prizes, Harry suddenly threw his arms round his neck, and burst into
tears.

"My dear--dear boy! what has happened!" exclaimed Frank, affectionately
embracing him, and looking much surprised. "Tell me, dear Harry, has any
thing distressed you?"

"I don't know very well, Frank! but you are going away,--and--and--I
wish I had been a better boy! I would do any thing you bid me now!--but
I shall never be so happy again--no! never, without you!"

"But, dear Harry! you will have Laura and grandmama, and uncle David,
all left, and I am coming back some day! Oh! what a happy meeting we
shall have then!" said Frank, while the tears stood in his eyes; and
drawing Harry's arm within his own, they walked slowly away together.

"I am very--very anxious for you and Laura to be happy," continued
Frank, in the kindest manner; "but, dear Harry, will you not take more
care to do as you are bid, and not always to prefer doing what you like!
Mrs. Crabtree would not be half so terrible if you did not provoke her
by some new tricks every day. I almost like her myself; for as the old
proverb says, 'her bark is worse than her bite;' and she often reminds
me of that funny old fable, where the mice were more afraid of the loud,
fierce-looking cock, than of the sleek, smooth-looking cat, for there
are people carrying gentler tongues yet quite as difficult to deal with.
At the same time, seeing how uncomfortable you and Laura both feel with
Mrs. Crabtree, I have written a letter to papa, asking, as my last and
only request on leaving home, that he will make a change of ministry,
and he is always so very kind, that I feel sure he will grant it."

"How good of you, Frank!" said Harry. "I am sure it is our own faults
very often when we are in disgrace, for we are seldom punished till we
deserve it; but I am so sorry you are going away, that I can think of
nothing else."

"So am I, very sorry indeed; but my best comfort, when far from home,
would be, to think that you and Laura are happy, which will be the case
when you become more watchful to please grandmama."

"That is very true, Frank! and I would rather offend twenty Mrs.
Crabtrees than one grandmama; but perhaps uncle David may send me to
school now, when I shall try to be like you, sitting at the top of the
class, and getting prizes for good behaviour."

"Well, Harry! my pleasantest days at school have been those when I was
busiest, and you will find the same thing. How delightful it was, going
over and over my tasks till they were quite perfect, and then rushing
out to the play-ground, where my mind got a rest, while my body was
active; you know it is seldom that both mind and body work at once, and
the best way of resting the one is, to make the other labour. That is
probably the reason, Harry, why games are never half so pleasant as
after hard study."

"Perhaps," replied Harry, doubtfully; "but I always hate any thing that
I am obliged to do."

"Then never be a sailor, as I shall be obliged to do fifty things a-day
that I would rather not; for instance, to get up in the middle of the
night, when very likely dreaming about being at home again; but, as
grandmama says, it is pleasant to have some duties, for life would not
get on well without them."

"Yes--perhaps--I don't know!--we could find plenty to do ourselves,
without anybody telling us. I should like to-morrow, to watch the boys
playing at cricket, and to see the races, and the Diorama, and in the
evening to shoot our bows and arrows."

"My good Sir! what the better would you, or anybody else, be of such a
life as that! Not a thing in this world is made to be useless, Harry;
the very weeds that grow in the ground are for some serviceable purpose,
and you would not wish to be the only creature on earth living entirely
for yourself. It would be better if neither of us had ever been born,
than that the time and opportunities which God gives us for improving
ourselves and doing good to others, should all be wasted. Let me hope,
Harry, when I am away, that you will often consider how dull grandmama
may then feel, and how happy you might make her by being very attentive
and obedient."

"Yes, Frank! but I could never fill your place!--that is quite
impossible! Nobody can do that!"

"Try!--only try, Harry! grandmama is very easily pleased when people do
their best. She would not have felt so well satisfied with me, if that
had not been the case."

"Frank!" said Harry, sorrowfully, "I feel as if ten brothers were going
away instead of one, for you are so good to me! I shall be sure to
mention you in my prayers, because that is all I can do for you now."

"Not all, Harry! though that is a great deal; you must write to me
often, and tell me what makes you happy or unhappy, for I shall be more
interested than ever, now that we are separated. Tell me everything
about my school-fellows, too, and about Laura. There is no corner of the
wide world where I shall not think of you both every day, and feel
anxious about the very least thing that concerns you."

"My dear boys!" said Major Graham, who had joined them some moments
before, "it is fortunate that you have both lived always in the same
home, for that will make you love each other affectionately as long as
you live. In England, children of one family are all scattered to
different schools, without any one to care whether they are attached or
not, therefore their earliest and warmest friendships are formed with
strangers of the same age, whom they perhaps never see again, after
leaving school. In that case, brothers have no happy days of childhood
to talk over in future life, as you both have,--no little scrapes to
remember, that they got into together--no pleasures enjoyed at the same
moment to smile at the recollection of, and no friction of their tempers
in youth, such as makes every thing go on smoothly between brothers when
they grow older; therefore, when at last grown up and thrown together,
they scarcely feel more mutual friendship and intimacy than any other
gentlemen testify towards each other."

"I dare say that is very true," said Frank. "Tom Brownlow tells me when
his three brothers come home from Eton, Harrow, and Durham, they quarrel
so excessively, that sometimes no two of them are on speaking terms."

"Not at all improbable," observed Major Graham. "In every thing we see
how much better God's arrangements are than our own. Families were
intended to be like a little world in themselves--old people to govern
the young ones--young people to make their elders cheerful--grown-up
brothers and sisters to show their juniors a good example--and children
to be playthings and companions to their seniors, but that is all at an
end in the present system."

"Old Andrew says that large families 'squander' themselves all over the
earth now," said Frank, laughing.

"Yes! very young children are thrust into preparatory schools--older
boys go to distant academies--youths to College--and young men are
shipped off abroad, while who among them all can say his heart is in his
own home? Parents in the meantime, finding no occupation or amusement in
educating their children, begin writing books, perhaps theories of
education, or novels; and try to fill up the rest of their useless hours
with plays, operas, concerts, balls, or clubs. If people could only know
what is the best happiness of this life, it certainly depends on being
loved by those we belong to; for nothing can be called peace on earth,
which does not consist in family affection, built upon a strong
foundation of religion and morality."

Sir Edward Graham felt very proud of Frank, as all gentlemen are of
their eldest sons, and wrote a most affectionate letter on the occasion
of his going to sea, promising to meet him at Portsmouth, and lamenting
that he still felt so ill and melancholy he could not return home, but
meant to try whether the baths in Germany would do him any good. In this
letter was enclosed what he called "Frank's first prize-money," the
largest sum the young midshipman had ever seen in his life, and before
it had been a day in his possession, more than the half was spent on
presents to his friends. Not a single person seemed to be forgotten
except himself; for Frank was so completely unselfish, that Peter Grey
once laughingly said, "Frank scarcely remembers there is such a person
as himself in the world, therefore it is astonishing how he contrives to
exist at all."

"If that be his worst fault, you shew him a very opposite example,
Peter," said Major Graham, smiling; "number one is a great favourite
with you."

"Frank is also very obliging!" added Lady Harriet; "he would do anything
for any body."

"Ah, poor fellow! he can't help that," said Peter, in a tone of pity.
"Some people are born with that sort of desperate activity--flying to
assist every one--running up stairs for whatever is wanted--searching
for whatever is lost--and picking up whatever has been dropped. I have
seen several others like Frank, who were troubled with that sort of
turn. He is indulging his own inclination in flying about everywhere for
everybody, as much as I do in sitting still!--it is all nature!--you
know tastes differ, for some people like apples and some like onions."

Frank had a black shade of himself, drawn in uniform and put into a
gilt frame, all for one shilling, which he presented to his grandmama,
who looked sadly at the likeness when he came smiling into her
dressing-room, and calling Harry to assist in knocking a nail into the
wall, that it might be hung above the chimney-piece. "I need nothing to
remind me of you, dear Frank," observed Lady Harriet, "and this is a sad
exchange, the shadow for the substance." Frank gave a handsome new red
morocco spectacle-case to uncle David, and asked leave to carry away the
old one with him as a remembrance. He bought gowns for all the maids,
and books for all the men-servants. He presented Mrs. Crabtree with an
elegant set of tea-cups and saucers, promising to send her a box of tea
the first time he went to China; and for Laura and Harry he produced a
magnificent magic lanthorn, representing all the stars and planets,
which cost him several guineas. It was exhibited the evening before
Frank went away, and caused great entertainment to a large party of his
companions, who assembled at tea to take leave of him, on which occasion
Peter Grey made a funny speech, proposing Frank's health in a bumper of
bohea, when the whole party became very merry, and did not disperse till
ten.

Major Graham intended accompanying Frank to Portsmouth, and they were to
set off by the mail next evening. That day was a sad one to Harry and
Laura, who were allowed a whole holiday; but not a sound of merriment
was heard in the house, except when Frank tried to make them cheerful,
by planning what was to be done after he came back, or when Major Graham
invented droll stories about the adventures Frank would probably meet
with at sea. Even Mrs. Crabtree looked more grave and cross than usual;
and she brought Frank a present of a needle-case made with her own
hands, and filled with thread of every kind, saying, that she heard all
"midshipmites" learned to mend their things, and keep them decent, which
was an excellent custom, and ought to be encouraged; but she hoped he
would remember, that "a stitch in time saves nine."

Lady Harriet stayed most of that day in her dressing-room, and tried to
conceal the traces of many tears when she did appear; but it was only
too evident how sadly her time had been passed alone.

"Grandmama!" said Frank, taking her hand affectionately, and trying to
look cheerful; "we shall meet again; perhaps very soon!"

Lady Harriet silently laid her hand upon the Bible, to show that there
she found the certain assurance of another meeting in a better world;
but she looked at Frank with melancholy affection, and added, very
solemnly and emphatically,

  "'There is no union here of hearts,
  That finds not here an end.'"

"But, grandmama! you are not so very old!" exclaimed Laura, earnestly.
"Lord Rockville was born ten years sooner, and besides, young people
sometimes die before older people."

"Yes, Laura! young people may die, but old people must. It is not
possible that this feeble aged frame of mine can long remain in the
visible world. 'The eye of him that hath seen me shall me no more.' I
have many more friends under the earth now, than on it. The streets of
this city would be crowded, if all those I once knew and still remember,
could be revived; but my turn is fast coming, like theirs, and Frank
knows, as all of you do, where it is my hope and prayer that we may
certainly meet again."

"Grandmama!" said Frank, in a low and broken voice, "it wants but an
hour to the time of my departure; I should like much if the servants
were to come up now for family prayers and if uncle David would read us
the 14th chapter of St. John."

Lady Harriet rung the bell, and before long the whole household had
assembled, as not one would have been absent on the night of Master
Frank's departure from home, which all were deeply grieved at, and even
Mrs. Crabtree dashed a tear from her cheek as she entered the room.

Frank sat with his hand in Lady Harriet's, while Major Graham read the
beautiful and comforting chapter which had been selected, and when the
whole family kneeled in solemn prayer together, many a deep sob, which
could not be conquered, was heard from Frank himself. After all was
over, he approached the servants, and silently shook hands with each,
but could not attempt to speak; after which Lady Harriet led him to her
dressing-room, where they remained some time, till, the carriage having
arrived, Frank hastened into the drawing-room, clasped Harry and Laura
in his arms, and having, in a voice choked with grief, bid them both a
long farewell, he hurried out of their presence.

When the door closed, something seemed to fall heavily on the ground,
but this scarcely attracted any one's attention, till Major Graham
followed Frank, and was shocked to find him lying on the staircase
perfectly insensible. Instead of calling for assistance, however, uncle
David carefully lifted Frank in his own arms, and carried him to the
carriage, where, after a few moments, the fresh air, and the rapid
motion revived his recollection, and he burst into tears.

"Poor grandmama! and Harry and Laura!" cried he, weeping convulsively.
"Oh! when shall I see them all again!"

"My dear boy!" said Major Graham, trying to be cheerful; "do you think
nobody ever left home before? One would suppose you never expected to
come back! Three years seem an age when we look forward, but are nothing
after they have fled. The longer we live, the shorter every year
appears, and it will seem only the day after to-morrow when you are
rushing into the house again, and all of us standing at the door to
welcome you back. Think what a joyous moment that will be! There is a
wide and wonderful world for you to see first, and then a happy home
afterwards to revisit."

"Yes, dear, good, kind uncle David! no one ever had a happier home; and
till the east comes to the west, I shall never cease to think of it with
gratitude to you and grandmama. We shall surely all meet again. I must
live upon that prospect. Hope is the jewel that remains wherever we go,
and the hope to which grandmama has directed me, is truly compared to a
rainbow, which not only brightens the earth, but stretches to heaven."



CHAPTER XIII.

THE AMUSING DRIVE.

  I would not enter on my list of friends
  (Though grac'd with polish'd manners and fine sense,
  Yet wanting sensibility) the man
  Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.

                                        Cowper.


Lady Harriet was confined to bed for several days after Frank's
departure from home, and during all that week Harry and Laura felt so
melancholy, that even Mrs. Crabtree became sorry for them, saying it was
quite distressing to see how quiet and good they had become, for Master
Harry was as mild as milk now, and she almost wished he would be at some
of his old tricks again.

On the following Monday, a message arrived from Lady Rockville, to say
that she was going a long drive in her phaeton, to visit some boys at
Musselburgh school, and would be happy to take Harry and Laura of the
party, if their grandmama had no objection. None being made by anybody,
they flew up stairs to get ready, while Harry did not take above three
steps at a time, and Laura, when she followed, felt quite astonished to
find Mrs. Crabtree looking almost as pleased as herself, and saying she
hoped the expedition would do them both good.

Before five minutes had elapsed, Harry was mounted on the dickey, where
Lady Rockville desired him to sit, instead of the footman, who was now
dismissed, as no room could be made for both; so after that Harry
touched his hat whenever any of the party spoke to him, as if he had
really been the servant.

Laura, meanwhile, was placed between Lady Rockville and Miss Perceval,
where she could hardly keep quiet a minute for joy, though afraid to
turn her head or to stir her little finger, in case of being thought
troublesome.

"I am told that the races take place at Musselburgh to-day," said Lady
Rockville. "It is a cruel amusement, derived from the sufferings of
noble animals; they have as good a right to be happy in the world as
ourselves, Laura; but we shall pass that way, so Harry and you will
probably see the crowds of carriages."

"Oh, how enchanting!--I never saw a race-course in my life!" exclaimed
Laura, springing off her seat with delight. "Harry! Harry! we are going
to the races!"

"Hurra!" exclaimed Harry, clapping his hands; "what a delightful
surprise! Oh! I am so dreadfully happy!"

"After all, my dear Lady Rockville," said Miss Perceval, yawning, "what
have horses got legs for, except to run?"

"Yes, but not at such a pace! It always shocked me--formerly at
Doncaster, where the jockeys were sometimes paid £1000 for winning--to
see how the poor animals were lashed and spurred along the course,
foaming with fatigue, gasping till they nearly expired. Horses, poor
creatures, from the hour of their birth till their death, have a sad
time of it!"

"Grandmama once read me a beautiful description of a wild horse in his
natural state of liberty," said Laura. "Among the South American forests
he was to be seen carrying his head erect, with sparkling eyes, flowing
mane, and splendid tail, trotting about among the noble trees, or
cropping the grass at his feet, looking quite princely, and doing
precisely what he pleased."

"Then look at the contrast," said Lady Rockville, pointing to a long row
of cart-horses with galled sides, shrivelled skins, broken knees, and
emaciated bodies, which were all dragging their weary load along.
"Animals are all meant for the use of man, but not to be abused, like
these poor creatures!"

"As for racing," said Miss Perceval, "a thorough-bred horse enters into
the spirit of it quite as much as his rider. Did you never hear of
Quin's celebrated steed, which became so eager to win, that when his
antagonist passed he seized him violently by the leg, and both jockeys
had to dismount that the furious animal might be torn away. The famous
horse Forester, too, caught hold of his opponent by the jaw, and could
scarcely be disengaged."

"Think of all the cruel training these poor creatures went through
before they came to that," added Lady Rockville; "of the way in which
horses are beaten, spurred, and severely cut with the whip; then, after
their strength fails, like the well-known 'high-mettled racer,' the poor
animal is probably sold at last to perpetual hard labour and ill-usage."

"Uncle David shewed me yesterday," said Laura, "that horrid picture
which you have probably seen, by Cruickshanks, of the Knackers' Yards in
London, where old horses are sent to end their miserable days, after it
is impossible to torture them any longer into working. Oh! it was
dreadful! and yet grandmama said the whole sketch had been taken from
life."

"I know that," answered Lady Rockville. "In these places the wretched
animals are literally put to death by starvation, and may be seen
gnawing each other's manes in the last agonies of hunger."

"My dear Lady Rockville," exclaimed Miss Perceval, affectedly, "how can
you talk of such unpleasant things!--there is an Act of Parliament
against cruelty to animals, so of course no such thing exists now. Many
gentlemen are vastly kind to old horses, turning them out to grass for
years, that they may enjoy a life of elegant leisure and rural
retirement, to which, no doubt, some are well entitled; for instance,
the famous horse Eclipse, which gained his owner £25,000! I wish he had
been mine!"

"But think how many are ruined when one is enriched, and indeed both are
ruined in morals and good feeling; therefore I am glad that our sex have
never yet taken to the turf. It is bad enough, my dear Miss Perceval, to
see that they have taken to the moors; for were I to say all I think of
those amazons who lately killed their six brace of grouse on the 12th of
August, they would probably challenge me to single combat. Lord
Rockville says, 'What with gentlemen doing worsted work, and ladies
shouldering double-barrelled guns, he scarcely thinks this can be the
same world he was born in long ago.'"

The carriage, at this moment, began to proceed along the road with such
extraordinary rapidity, that there seemed no danger of their following
in the dust of any other equipage, and Miss Perceval became exceedingly
alarmed, especially when Lady Rockville mentioned that this was one of
the first times she had been driven by her new coachman, who seemed so
very unsteady on his seat, she had felt apprehensive, for some time,
that he might be drunk.

"A tipsy coachman! Dear Lady Rockville, do let me out! We shall
certainly be killed in this crowd of carriages! I can walk home! Pray
stop him, Miss Laura! I came to look on at a race, but not to run one
myself! This fast driving is like a railroad, only not quite so
straight! I do verily believe we are run off with! Stop,
coachman!--stop!"

In spite of all Miss Perceval's exclamations and vociferations, the
carriage flew on with frightful rapidity, though it reeled from side to
side of the road, as if it had become intoxicated like the driver
himself, who lashed his horses and galloped along, within an inch of
hedges and ditches all the way, till at last, having reached the
race-course, he pulled up so suddenly and violently, that the horses
nearly fell back on their haunches, while he swore at them in the most
furious and shocking manner.

Lady Rockville now stood up, and spoke to the coachman very severely on
his misconduct, in first driving her so dangerously fast, and then being
disrespectful enough to use profane language in her presence, adding,
that if he did not conduct himself more properly, she must complain to
Lord Rockville as soon as the carriage returned home. Upon hearing this,
the man looked exceedingly sulky, and muttered angrily to himself in a
tipsy voice, till at last he suddenly threw away the reins, and, rising
from the box, he began to scramble his way down, nearly falling to the
ground in his haste, and saying, "if your ladyship is not pleased with
my driving, you may drive yourself!"

After this the intoxicated man staggered towards a drinking-booth not
far off, and disappeared, leaving Miss Perceval perfectly planet-struck
with astonishment, and actually dumb during several minutes with wonder,
at all she heard and saw. There sat Harry, alone on the dicky, behind
two spirited blood-horses, foaming at the mouth with the speed at which
they had come, and ready to start off again at the slightest hint, while
noises on every side were to be heard enough to frighten a pair of
hobby-horses. Piemen ringing their bells--blind fiddlers playing out of
tune--boys calling lists of the horses--drums beating at the
starting-post--ballad singers squalling at the full pitch of their
voices--horses galloping--grooms quarrelling--dogs barking--and children
crying.

In the midst of all this uproar, Harry unexpectedly observed Captain
Digby on horseback not far off. Without losing a moment, he stood up,
waving his handkerchief, and calling to beg he would come to the
carriage immediately, as they were in want of assistance; and Lady
Rockville told, as soon as he arrived, though hardly able to help
laughing while she explained it, the extraordinary predicament they had
been placed in. Captain Digby, upon hearing the story, looked ready to
go off like a squib with rage at the offending coachman, and instantly
seizing the driving-whip, he desired his servant to hold the horses'
heads, while he proceeded towards the drinking-booth, flourishing the
long lash in his hand as he went in a most ominous manner. Several
minutes elapsed, during which Harry overheard a prodigious outcry in the
tent, and then the drunken coachman was seen reeling away along the
road, while Captain Digby, still brandishing the whip, returned, and
mounting the dicky himself, he gathered up the reins, and insisted on
driving Lady Rockville's phaeton for her. Before long it was ranged
close beside a chariot so full of ladies, it seemed ready to burst, when
Harry was amused to perceive that Peter Grey and another boy, who were
seated on the rumble behind, had spread a table-cloth on the roof of the
carriage, using it for a dining-table, while they all seemed determined
to astonish their appetites by the quantity of oysters and sandwiches
they ate, and by drinking at the same time large tumblers of porter.
Lady Rockville wished she could have the loan of Harry and Laura's
spirits for an hour or two, when she saw how perfectly bewildered with
delight they were on beholding the thousands of eager persons assembled
on the race-ground,--jockeys riding about in liveries as gay as
tulips--officers in scarlet uniform--red flags fluttering in the
breeze--caravans exhibiting pictures of the wildest-looking beasts in
the world--bands of music--recruiting parties--fire-eaters, who dined on
red-hot pokers--portraits representing pigs fatter than the fattest in
the world--giants a head and three pair of shoulders taller than any
one else, and little dwarfs, scarcely visible with the naked eye--all of
which were shown to children for half price!

Lady Rockville very good naturedly gave Harry half-a-crown, promising
that, before leaving the race-ground, he should either buy some oranges
to lay the dust in his throat after so long a drive, or visit as many
shows as he pleased for his half-crown; and they were anxiously
discussing what five sights would be worth sixpence each, when a loud
hurra was heard, the drums beat, and five horses started off for the
first heat. Harry stood up in an ecstacy of delight, and spoke loudly in
admiration of the jockey on a grey horse, with a pink jacket, who took
the lead, and seemed perfectly to fly, as if he need never touch the
ground; but Harry exclaimed angrily against the next rider, in a yellow
dress and green cap, who pulled back his own bay horse, as if he really
wished to lose. To Laura's astonishment, however, Captain Digby
preferred him, and Miss Perceval declared in favour of a light-blue
jacket and chesnut horse. Harry now thought everybody stupid not to
agree with him, and called out in the height of his eagerness, "I would
bet this half-crown upon the pink jacket!"

"Done!" cried Peter, laughing. "The yellow dress and green cap for my
money!"

"Then I shall soon have five shillings!" exclaimed Harry in great glee;
but scarcely had he spoken, before a loud murmuring sound arose among
the surrounding crowd, upon hearing which he looked anxiously about, and
was astonished to see the green cap and yellow dress already at the
winning-post, while his own favourite grey horse cantered slowly along,
far behind all the others, carrying the jockey in the pink jacket, who
hung his head, and was bent nearly double, with shame and fatigue.

Peter Grey gave a loud laugh of triumph when he glanced at Harry's
disappointed angry countenance, and held out his hand for the
half-crown, saying, "Pay your debt of honour, Master Harry! It is rather
fortunate I won, seeing that not one sixpence had I to have paid you
with! not a penny to jingle on a mile-stone. You had more money than
wit, and I had more wit than money, so we are well met. Did you not see
that the grey horse had fallen lame? Good-bye, youngster! I shall tell
all the giants and wild beasts to expect you another day!"

"Harry!" said Lady Rockville, looking gravely at his enraged
countenance, "it is a foolish fish that is caught with every bait! I am
quite relieved that you lost that money. This is an early lesson against
gambling, and no one can ever be rich or happy who becomes fond of it.
We were wrong to bring you here at all; and I now see you could easily
be led into that dreadful vice, which has caused misery and ruin to
thousands of young men. If you had possessed an estate, it would have
been thrown away quite as foolishly as the poor half-crown, making you
perhaps miserable afterwards for life."

"I thought myself quite sure to win!" exclaimed Harry, still looking
with angry astonishment after Peter, who was making odd grimaces, and
holding up the half-crown in a most teazing manner. "I would rather have
thrown my money into the sea than given it to Peter."

"Think, too, how many pleasanter and better ways there are, in which you
might have spent it!" added Lady Rockville. "Look at that poor blind man
whom you could have relieved, or consider what a nice present you should
have given to Laura! But there seem to be no more brains in your head,
Harry, than in her thimble!"

"Peter is quite a little black-leg already," observed Miss Perceval. "I
never saw such a boy! So fond of attracting notice, that he would put on
a cap and bells if that would make him stared at. Last Saturday he
undertook for a bet to make a ceremonious bow to every lamp-post along
Prince's Street, and I wish you could have seen the wondering crowd that
gradually collected as he went along, performing his task with the most
perfect composure and impudence."

"For cool assurance, I hope there are not many boys equal to him," said
Lady Rockville. "He scattered out of the window lately several red-hot
half-pence, among some beggars, and I am told they perfectly stuck to
the poor creatures' fingers when trying to pick them up; and he was sent
a message, on his pony, one very cold day lately, to Lady De Vere's, who
offered, when he was taking leave, to cut him one of her finest
camellias, to which he replied, 'I would much rather you offered me a
hot potatoe!'"

"Peter feels no sympathy in your disappointment, Harry," added Miss
Perceval; "but we might as well expect wool on a dog, as friendship from
a gambler, who would ruin his own father, and always laughs at those who
lose."

"Go and cut your wisdom teeth, Harry!" said Captain Digby, smiling. "Any
one must have been born blind not to observe that the grey horse was
falling behind; but you have bought half-a-crown's worth of wisdom by
experience, and I hope it will last for life. Never venture to bet even
that your own head is on your shoulders, or it may turn out a mistake."

"Harry is now the monkey that has seen the world, and I think it will be
a whole year of Saturdays before he ever commits such a blunder again,"
continued Lady Rockville. "We must for this once, not complain of what
has occurred to Lady Harriet, because she would be exceedingly
displeased, but certainly you are a most ingenious little gentleman for
getting into scrapes!"

Harry told upon himself, however, on his return home, because he had
always been accustomed to do so, knowing Major Graham and his grandmama
were never very angry at any fault that was confessed and repented of,
therefore he went straight up stairs, and related his whole history to
uncle David, who gave him a very serious exhortation against the foolish
and sinful vice of gambling. To keep him in mind of his silly adventure
that day, Harry was also desired, during the whole evening, to wear his
coat turned inside out, a very frequent punishment administered by Major
Graham for small offences, and which was generally felt to be a terrible
disgrace.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE UNEXPECTED EVENT.

  His shout may ring upon the hill,
  His voice be echoed in the hall,
  His merry laugh like music trill,
  I scarcely notice such things now.

                                        Willis.


Some weeks after Frank had left home, while lady Harriet and Major
Graham were absent at Holiday House, Harry and Laura felt surprised to
observe, that Mrs. Crabtree suddenly became very grave and silent,--her
voice seemed to have lost half its loudness,--her countenance looked
rather pale,--and they both escaped being scolded on several occasions,
when Harry himself could not but think he deserved it. Once or twice he
ventured to do things that at other times he dared not have attempted,
"merely as an experiment," he said, "like that man in the menagerie, who
put his head into the lion's mouth, without feeling quite sure whether
it would be bit off the next moment or not;" but though Mrs. Crabtree
evidently saw all that passed, she turned away with a look of sadness,
and said not a word.

What could be the matter? Harry almost wished she would fly into a good
passion and scold him, it became so extraordinary and unnatural to see
Mrs. Crabtree sitting all day in a corner of the room, sewing in
silence, and scarcely looking up from her work; but still the wonder
grew, for she seemed to become worse and worse every day. Harry dressed
up the cat in an old cap and frock of Laura's,--he terrified old Jowler
by putting him into the shower-bath,--and let off a few crackers at the
nursery window,--but it seemed as if he might have fired a cannon
without being scolded by Mrs. Crabtree, who merely turned her head round
for a minute, and then silently resumed her work. Laura even fancied
that Mrs. Crabtree was once in tears, but that seemed quite impossible,
so she thought no more about it, till one morning, when they had begun
to despair of ever hearing more about the business, and were whispering
together in a corner of the room, observing that she looked duller than
ever, they were surprised to hear Mrs. Crabtree calling them both to
come near her. She looked very pale, and was beginning to say something,
when her voice suddenly became so husky and indistinct, that she seemed
unable to proceed; therefore, motioning with her hand for them to go
away, she began sewing very rapidly, as she had done before, breaking
her threads, and pricking her fingers, at every stitch.

Laura and Harry silently looked at each other with some apprehension,
and the nursery now became so perfectly still, that a feather falling on
the ground would have been heard. This had continued for some time, when
at last Laura upon tiptoe stole quietly up to where Mrs. Crabtree was
sitting, and said to her, in a very kind and anxious voice, "I am afraid
you are not well, Mrs. Crabtree! Grandmama will send for a doctor when
she comes home. Shall I ask her?"

"You are very kind, Miss Laura!--never mind me! Your grandmama knows
what is the matter. It will be all one a hundred years hence," answered
Mrs. Crabtree, in a low husky voice. "This is a thing you will be very
glad to hear!--you must prepare to be told some good news!" added she,
forcing a laugh, but such a laugh as Harry and Laura never heard
before, for it sounded so much more like sorrow than joy. They waited in
great suspense to hear what would follow, but Mrs. Crabtree, after
struggling to speak again with composure, suddenly started off her seat,
and hurried rapidly out of the room. She appeared no more in the nursery
that day, but next morning when they were at breakfast, she entered the
room with her face very much covered up in her bonnet, and evidently
tried to speak in her usual loud bustling voice, though somehow it still
sounded perfectly different from common. "Well, children! Lady Harriet
was so kind as to promise that my secret should be kept till I pleased,
and that no one should mention it to you but myself. I am going away!"

"You!" exclaimed Harry, looking earnestly in Mrs. Crabtree's face. "Are
you going away?"

"Yes, Master Harry,--I leave this house to-day! Now, don't pretend to
look sorry! I know you are not! I can't bear children to tell stories.
Who would ever be sorry for a cross old woman like me?"

"But perhaps I am sorry! Are you in real earnest going away?" asked
Harry again, with renewed astonishment. "Oh no! it is only a joke!"

"Do I look as if this were a joke?" asked Mrs. Crabtree, turning round
her face, which was bathed with tears. "No, no! I am come to bid you
both a long farewell. A fine mess you will get into now! All your things
going to rack and ruin, with nobody fit to look after them!"

"But, Mrs. Crabtree! we do not like you to go away," said Laura, kindly.
"Why are you leaving us all on a sudden? it is very odd! I never was so
surprised in my life!"

"Your papa's orders are come. He wrote me a line some weeks ago, to say
that I have been too severe. Perhaps that is all true. I meant it well,
and we are poor creatures, who can only act for the best. However, it
can't be helped now! There's no use in lamenting over spilt cream.
You'll be the better behaved afterwards. If ever you think of me again,
children, let it be as kindly as possible. Many and many a time I shall
remember you both. I never cared for any young people but yourselves,
and I shall never take charge of any others. Master Frank was the best
boy in the world, and you would both have been as good under my
care,--but it is no matter now!"

"But it does matter a very great deal," cried Harry, eagerly. "You must
stay here, Mrs. Crabtree, as long as you live, and a great deal longer!
I shall write a letter to papa all about it. We were very troublesome,
and it was our own faults if we were punished. Never mind, Mrs.
Crabtree, but take off your bonnet and sit down! I am going to do some
dreadful mischief to-night, so you will be wanted to keep me in order."

Mrs. Crabtree laid her hand upon Harry's head in silence, and there was
something so solemn and serious in her manner, that he saw it would be
useless to remonstrate any more. She then held out her hand to Laura,
endeavouring to smile as she did so, but it was a vain attempt, for her
lip quivered, and she turned away, saying, "Who would ever believe I
should make such a fool of myself! Farewell to you both! and let nobody
speak ill of me after I am gone, if you can help it!"

Without looking round, Mrs. Crabtree hurried out of the nursery and
closed the door, leaving Harry and Laura perfectly bewildered with
astonishment at this sudden event, which seemed more like a dream than a
reality. They both felt exceedingly melancholy, hardly able to believe
that she had formerly been at all cross, while they stood at the window
with tears in their eyes, watching the departure of her well-known blue
chest, on a wheel-barrow, and taking a last look of her red gown and
scarlet shawl as she hastily followed it.

For several weeks to come, whenever the door opened, Harry and Laura
almost expected her to enter, but month after month elapsed, and Mrs.
Crabtree appeared no more, till one day, at their earnest entreaty, Lady
Harriet took them a drive of some miles into the country, to see the
neat little lodging by the sea-side where she lived, and maintained
herself by sewing, and by going out occasionally as a sick-nurse. A more
delightful surprise certainly never could have been given than when
Harry and Laura tapped at the cottage door, which was opened by Mrs.
Crabtree herself, who started back with an exclamation of joyful
amazement, and looked as if she could scarcely believe her eyes on
beholding them, while they laughed at the joke till tears were running
down their cheeks. "Is Mrs. Crabtree at home?" said Harry, trying to
look very grave.

"Grandmama says we may stay here for an hour, while she drives along the
shore," added Laura, stepping into the house with a very merry face.
"And how do you do, Mrs. Crabtree?"

"Very well, Miss Laura, and very happy to see you. What a tall girl you
are become! and Master Harry too! looking quite over his own shoulders!"

After sitting some time, Mrs. Crabtree insisted on their having some
dinner in her cottage; so making Harry and Laura sit down on each side
of a large blazing fire, she cooked some most delicious pancakes for
them in rapid succession, as fast as they could eat, tossing them high
in the air first, and then rolling up each as it was fried, with a large
spoonful of jam in the centre, till Harry and Laura at last said, that
unless Mrs. Crabtree supplied fresh appetites, she need make no more
pancakes, for they thought even Peter Grey himself could scarcely have
finished all she provided.

Harry had now been several months constantly attending school, where he
became a great favourite with the boys, and a great torment to the
masters, while, for his own part, he liked it twenty times better than
he had expected, because the lessons were tolerably easy to a clever
boy, as he really was, and the games at cricket and foot-ball in the
play-ground put him perfectly wild with joy. Every boy at school seemed
to be his particular friend, and many called him "the holiday-maker,"
because, if ever a holiday was wished for, Harry always became leader in
the scheme. The last morning of Peter Grey's appearing at school, he got
the name of "the copper captain," because Mr. Lexicon having fined him
half-a-crown, for not knowing one of his lessons, he brought the whole
sum in half-pence, carrying them in his hat, and gravely counting them
all out, with such a pains-taking, good-boy look, that any one, to see
him, would have supposed he was quite penitent and sorry for his
misconduct; but no sooner had he finished the task and ranged all the
half-pence neatly in rows along Mr. Lexicon's desk, than he was desired,
in a voice of thunder, to leave the room instantly, and never to return,
which accordingly he never did, having started next day on the top of
the coach for Portsmouth, and the last peep Harry got of him, he was
buying a perfect mountain of gingerbread out of an old man's basket, to
eat by the way.

Meantime Laura had lessons from a regular day-governess, who came every
morning at seven, and never disappeared till four in the afternoon, so,
as Mrs. Crabtree remarked, "the puir thing was perfectly deaved wi'
edication," but she made such rapid progress, that uncle David said it
would be difficult to decide whether she was growing fastest in body or
in mind. Laura seemed born to be under the tuition of none but
ill-tempered people, and Madame Pirouette appeared in a constant state
of irritability. During the music-lessons, she sat close to the piano,
with a pair of sharp-pointed scissors in her hand, and whenever Laura
played a wrong note, she stuck their points into the offending finger,
saying sometimes in an angry foreign accent, "put your toe upon 'dis
note! I tell you, put your toe upon 'dis note!"

"My finger, I suppose you mean?" asked Laura, trying not to laugh.

"Ah! fingare and toe! dat is all one! Speak not a word! take hold of
your tongue."

"Laura!" said Major Graham, one day, "I would as soon hear a gong
sounded at my ear for half an hour, as most of the fine pieces you
perform now. Taste and expression are quite out of date, but the chief
object of ambition is, to seem as if you had four hands instead of two,
from the torrent of notes produced at once. If ever you wish to please
my old-fashioned ears, give me melody,--something that touches the heart
and dwells in the memory,--then years afterwards, when we hear it again,
the language seems familiar to our feelings, and we listen with deep
delight to sounds recalling a thousand recollections of former days,
which are brought back by music (real music) with distinctness and
interest which nothing else can equal."

During more than two years, while Harry and Laura were rapidly advancing
in education, they received many interesting letters from Frank,
expressing the most affectionate anxiety to hear of their being well and
happy, while his paper was filled with amusing accounts of the various
wonderful countries he visited; and at the bottom of the paper, he
always very kindly remembered to send them an order on his banker, as he
called uncle David, drawn up in proper form, saying, "Please to pay
Master Harry and Miss Laura Graham the sum of five shillings on my
account. Francis Arthur Graham."

In Frank's gay, merry epistles, he kept all his little annoyances or
vexations to himself, and invariably took up the pen with such a desire
to send cheerfulness into his own beloved home, that his letters might
have been written with a sun-beam, they were so full of warmth and
vivacity. It seemed always a fair wind to Frank, for he looked upon the
best side of every thing, and never teazed his absent friends with
complaints of distresses they could not remedy, except when he
frequently mentioned his sorrow at being separated from them, adding,
that he often wished it were possible to meet them during one day in
every year, to tell all his thoughts, and to hear theirs in return, for
sometimes now, during the night watches, when all other resources
failed, he entertained himself, by imagining the circle of home all
gathered around him, and by inventing what each individual would say
upon any subjects he liked, while all his adventures acquired a double
interest, from considering that the recital would one day amuse his dear
friends when their happy meeting at last took place. Frank was not so
over-anxious about his own comfort, as to feel very much irritated and
discomposed at any privations that fell in his way, and once sitting up
in the middle of a dark night, with the rain pouring in torrents, and
the wind blowing a perfect hurricane, he drew his watch-coat round him,
saying good humouredly to his grumbling companions, "This is by no means
so bad! and whatever change takes place now, will probably be for the
better. Sunshine is as sure to come as Christmas, if you only wait for
it, and in the meantime we are all more comfortably off than St.
Patrick, when he had to swim across a stormy sea, with his head under
his arm."

Frank often amused his messmates with stories which he had heard from
uncle David, and soon became the greatest favourite imaginable with them
all, while he frequently endeavoured to lead their minds to the same
sure foundation of happiness which he always found the best security of
his own. He had long been taught to know that a vessel might as well be
steered without rudder or compass, as any individual be brought into a
haven of peace, unless directed by the Holy Scriptures; and his delight
was frequently to study such passages as these: "When thou passest
through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they
shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt
not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the
Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour."



CHAPTER XV.

AN UNEXPECTED VOYAGE.

  Full little know'st thou, that hast not tried,
  How strange it is in "steam-boat" long to bide,--
  To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares,
  To eat thy heart through comfortless despairs,
  To speed to-day--to be put back to-morrow--
  To feed on hope--to pine with fear and sorrow.

                                        Spenser.


As Harry and Laura grew older, they were gradually treated like friends
and companions by Lady Harriet and Major Graham, who improved their
minds by frequent interesting conversations, in which knowledge and
principle were insensibly instilled into their minds, not by formal
instruction, but merely by mentioning facts, or expressing opinions and
sentiments such as naturally arose out of the subjects under discussion,
and accustoming the young people themselves to feel certain that their
own remarks and thoughts were to be heard with the same interest as
those of any other person. No surprise was expressed, if they appeared
more acute or more amusing than might have been expected,--no angry
contempt betrayed itself if they spoke foolishly, unless it were
something positively wrong; and thus Major Graham and Lady Harriet
succeeded in making that very difficult transition from treating
children as toys, to becoming their confidential friends, and most
trusted, as well as most respected and beloved associates.

Frank had been upwards of five years cruizing on various stations
abroad, and many officers who had seen him, gave such agreeable reports
to Major Graham of his admirable conduct on several occasions, and of
his having turned out so extremely handsome and pleasing, that Lady
Harriet often wished, with tears in her eyes, it were possible she might
live to see him once again, though her own daily increasing infirmities
rendered that hope every hour more improbable. She was told that he
spoke of her very frequently, and said once when he met an aged person
at the Cape, "I would give all I possess on earth, and ten times more,
if I had it, to see my dear grandmother as well, and to meet her once
more." This deeply affected Lady Harriet, who was speaking one day with
unusual earnestness of the comfort it gave, whatever might be the will
of Providence in respect to herself, that Frank seemed so happy, and
liked his profession so well, when the door flew open, and Andrew
hastened into the room, his old face perfectly wrinkled with delight,
while he displayed a letter in his hand, saying in a tone of breathless
agitation, as he delivered it to Major Graham, "The post-mark is
Portsmouth, Sir!"

Lady Harriet nearly rose from her seat with an exclamation of joy, but
unable for the exertion, she sunk back, covering her face with her
hands, and listening in speechless suspense to hear whether Frank had
indeed returned. Harry and Laura eagerly looked over Major Graham's
shoulder, and Andrew lingered anxiously at the door, till this welcome
letter was hurriedly torn open and read. The direction was certainly
Frank's writing, though it seemed very different from usual, but the
contents filled Major Graham with a degree of consternation and alarm,
which he vainly endeavoured to conceal, for it informed him that, during
a desperate engagement with some slave-ships off the coast of Africa,
Frank had been most severely wounded, from which he scarcely recovered
before a violent attack of fever reduced him so extremely, that the
doctors declared his only chance of restoration was to be invalided home
immediately; "therefore," added he, "you must all unite a prayer for my
recovery, with a thanksgiving for my return, and I can scarcely regret
an illness that restores me to home. My heart is already with you all,
but my frail shattered body must rest some days in London, as the voyage
from Sierra Leone has been extremely fatiguing and tedious."

Lady Harriet made not a single remark when this letter was closed, but
tears coursed each other rapidly down her aged cheeks, while she slowly
removed her hands from her face, and gazed at Major Graham, who seated
himself by her side, in evident agitation, and calling back Andrew when
he was leaving the room, he said, in accents of unusual emotion, "Desire
John to inquire immediately whether any steam-boat sails for London
to-day."

"You are right!" said Lady Harriet, feebly. "Oh! that I could accompany
you! But bring him to me if possible. I dare not hope to go. Surely we
shall meet at last. Now indeed I feel my own weakness, when I cannot fly
to see him. But he will be quite able for the journey. Frank had an
excellent constitution,--he--he was--"

Lady Harriet's voice failed, and she burst into a convulsive agony of
tears.

A few hours, and uncle David had embarked for London, where, after a
short passage, he arrived at his usual lodgings in St. James' Place; but
some days elapsed, during which he laboured in vain to discover the
smallest trace of Frank, who had omitted, in his hurried letter from
Portsmouth, to mention where he intended living in town. One evening,
fatigued with his long and unavailing search, Major Graham sat down, at
the British Coffee-house, to take some refreshment before resuming his
inquiries, and was afterwards about to leave the room, when he observed
a very tall interesting young man, exceedingly emaciated, who strolled
languidly into the room, with so feeble a step, that he scarcely seemed
able to support himself. The stranger took off his hat, sunk into a
seat, and passed his fingers through the dark masses of curls that hung
over his pale white forehead, his large eyes closed heavily with
fatigue, his cheek assumed a hectic glow, and his head sunk upon his
hand. In a low subdued voice he gave some directions to the waiter, and
Major Graham, after gazing for a moment with melancholy interest at this
apparently consumptive youth, was about to depart, when a turn of the
young man's countenance caused him to start; he looked again more
earnestly--every fibre of his frame seemed suddenly to thrill with
apprehension, and at last, in a voice of doubt and astonishment, he
exclaimed, "Frank!"

The stranger sprung from his seat, gazed eagerly round the room, rushed
into the arms of Major Graham, and fainted.

Long and anxiously did uncle David watch for the restoration of Frank,
while every means were used to revive him, and when at length he did
regain his consciousness, no time was lost in conveying him to St.
James' Place, where, after being confined to bed, and attended by Sir
Astley Cooper and Sir Henry Halford, during some days, they united in
recommending that he should be carried some miles out of town, to the
neighbourhood of Hammersmith, for change of air, till the effect of
medicine and diet could be fully tried. Frank earnestly entreated that
he might be taken immediately to his own home, but this the doctors
pronounced quite impossible, privately hinting to Major Graham that it
seemed very doubtful indeed whether he could ever be moved there at all,
or whether he might survive above a few months.

"Home is anywhere that my own family live with me," said Frank in a
tone of resignation, when he heard a journey to Scotland pronounced
impossible. "It is not where I am, but who I see, that signifies; and
this meeting with you, uncle David, did me more good than an ocean of
physic. Oh! if I could only converse with grandmama for half-an-hour,
and speak to dear Harry and Laura, it would be too much happiness. I
want to see how much they are both grown, and to hear their merry laugh
again. Perhaps I never may! But if I get worse, they must come here. I
have many things to say! Why should they not set off now?--immediately!
If I recover, we might be such a happy party to Scotland again. For
grandmama, I know it is impossible; but will you write and ask her about
Harry and Laura? The sooner the better, uncle David, because I often
think it probable----"

Frank coloured and hesitated; he looked earnestly at his uncle for some
moments, who saw what was meant, and then added,

"There is one person more, far distant, and little thinking of what is
to come, who must be told. You have always been a father to me, uncle
David, but he also would wish to be here now. Little as we have been
together, I know how much he loves me."

Frank's request became no sooner known than it was complied with by Lady
Harriet, who thought it better not to distress Harry and Laura, by
mentioning the full extent of his danger, but merely said, that he felt
impatient for the meeting, and that they might prepare on the following
day, to embark under charge of old Andrew and her own maid Harrison, for
a voyage to London, where she hoped they would find the dear invalid
already better; Laura was astonished at the agitation with which she
spoke, and felt bewildered and amazed by this sudden announcement. She
and Harry had once or twice in their lives caught cold, and spent a day
in bed, confined to a diet of gruel and syrup, which always proved an
infallible remedy for the very worst attacks, and they had frequently
witnessed the severe sufferings of their grandmama, from which, however,
she always recovered, and which seemed to them the natural effects of
her extreme old age; but to imagine the possibility of Frank's life
being in actual danger, never crossed their thoughts for an instant,
and, therefore, it was with a feeling of unutterable joy that they stood
on the deck of the Royal Pandemonium, knowing that they were now
actually going to meet Frank.

Nothing could be a greater novelty to both the young travellers than the
scene by which they were now surrounded; trumpets were sounding--bells
ringing--children crying--sailors, passengers, carriages, dogs, and
baggage all hurrying on board pell-mell, while a jet of steam came
bellowing forth from the waste-pipe, as if it were struggling to get rid
of the huge column of black smoke vomited forth by the chimney. Below
stairs they were still more astonished to find a large cabin, covered
with gilding, red damask, and mirrors, where crowds of strange-looking
people, more than half sick, and very cross, were scolding and bustling
about, bawling for their carpet bags, and trying to be of as much
consequence as possible, while they ate and drank trash, to keep off
sea-sickness, that might have made any one sick on shore--sipping brandy
and water, or eating peppermint drops, according as the case required.
Among those in the ladies' cabin, Laura and Harry were amused to
discover Miss Perceval, who had hastened into bed already, in case of
being ill, and was talking unceasingly to any one who would listen,
besides ordering and scolding a poor sick maid, scarcely able to stand.
Her head was enveloped in a most singular night-cap, ornamented with old
ribbons and artificial flowers--she wore a bright yellow shawl, and had
taken into the berth beside her, a little Blenheim spaniel--a
parrot--and a cage of canary birds, the noisy inhabitants of which sung
at the full pitch of their voices till the very latest hour of the
night, being kept awake by the lamp which swung from side to side, while
nothing could be compared to their volubility except the perpetual
clamour occasioned by Miss Perceval herself.

"I declare these little narrow beds are no better than coffins! I never
saw such places! and the smell is like singed blankets and cabbages
boiled in melted oil! It is enough to make anybody ill! Mary! go and
fetch me a cup of tea, and, do you hear! tell those people on deck not
to make such a noise--it gives me a headache! Be sure you say that I
shall complain to the Captain. Reach me some bread and milk for the
parrot,--fetch my smelling bottle,--go to the saloon for that book I was
reading,--and search again for the pocket-handkerchief I mislaid. It
cost ten guineas, and must be found. I hope no one has stolen it! Now do
make haste with the tea! What are you dawdling there for? If you do not
stop that noise on deck, Mary, I shall be exceedingly displeased! Some
of those horrid people in the steerage were smoking too, but tell the
Captain that if I come up he must forbid them. It is a trick to make us
all sick and save provisions. I observed a gun-case in the saloon too,
which is a most dangerous thing, for guns always go off when you least
expect. If any one fires, I shall fall into hysterics. I shall, indeed!
What a creaking noise the vessel makes! I hope there is no danger of its
splitting! We ought not to go on sailing after dusk. The Captain must
positively cast anchor during the night, that we may have no more of
this noise or motion, but sleep in peace and quietness till morning."

Soon after the Royal Pandemonium had set sail, or rather set fire, the
wind freshened, and the pitching of the vessel became so rough, that
Harry and Laura, with great difficulty, staggered to seats on the deck,
leaving both Lady Harriet's servants so very sick below, that instead of
being able to attend on them, they gave nine times the trouble that any
other passenger did on board, and were not visible again during the
whole voyage. The two young travellers now sat down together, and
watched, with great curiosity, several groups of strangers on deck:
ladies, half sick, trying to entertain gentlemen in seal-skin travelling
caps and pale cadaverous countenances, smoking cigars; others opening
baskets of provisions, and eating with good sea-faring appetite; while
one party had a carriage on the deck so filled with luxuries of every
kind, that there seemed no end to the multitude of Perigord pies, German
sausages, cold fowls, pastry, and fruit that were produced during the
evening. The owners had a table spread on the deck, and ate voraciously,
before a circle of hungry spectators, which had such an appearance of
selfishness and gluttony, that both his young friends thought
immediately of Peter Grey.

As evening closed in, Harry and Laura began to feel very desolate thus
for the first time in their lives alone, while the wide waste of waters
around made the scene yet more forlorn. They had enjoyed unmingled
delight in talking over and over about their happy meeting with Frank,
and planned a hundred times how joyfully they would rush into the house,
and with what pleasure they would relate all that happened to
themselves, after hearing from his own mouth the extraordinary
adventures which his letters had described. Laura produced from her
reticule several of the last she had received, and laughed again over
the funny jokes and stories they contained, inventing many new questions
to ask him on the subject, and fancying she already heard his voice, and
saw his bright and joyous countenance. But now the night had grown so
dark and chilly, that both Harry and Laura felt themselves gradually
becoming cold, melancholy, and dejected. They made an effort to walk
arm-in-arm up and down the deck, in imitation of the few other
passengers who had been able to remain out of bed, and they tried still
to talk cheerfully, but in spite of every effort, their thoughts became
mournful. After clinging together for some time, and staggering up and
down, without feeling in spirits to speak, they were still shiveringly
cold, yet unwilling to separate for the night, when Harry suddenly stood
still, grasping Laura's arm with a look of startled astonishment, which
caused her hastily to glance round in the direction where he was eagerly
gazing, but nothing became visible except the dim outline of a woman's
figure, rolled up in several enormous shawls, and with her bonnet
slouched far over her face.

"I am certain it was her!" whispered Harry, in a tone of breathless
amazement; "almost certain!"

"Who?" asked Laura, eagerly.

Without answering, Harry sprung forward, and seized the unknown person
by the arm, who instantly looked round.----IT WAS MRS. CRABTREE!

"I am sorry you observed me, Master Harry! I did not intend to trouble
you and Miss Laura during the voyage," said she, turning her face slowly
towards him, when, to his surprise, he saw that the traces of tears were
on her cheek, and her manner appeared so subdued, and altogether so
different from former times, that Laura could scarcely yet credit her
senses. "I shall not be at all in your way, children, but I ---- ---- I
must see Master Frank again. He was always too good for this world, and
he'll not be here long--Andrew told me all about it, and I could not
stay behind. I wish we were all as well prepared, and then the sooner we
die the better."

Harry and Laura listened in speechless consternation to these words. The
very idea of losing Frank had never before crossed their imaginations
for a moment, and they could have wished to believe that what Mrs.
Crabtree said was like the ravings of delirium, yet an irresistible
feeling of awe and alarm rushed into their minds.

"Miss Laura! if you want any help in undressing, call to me at any time.
I was sure that doited body Harrison could be of no service. She never
was fit to take care of herself, and far less of such as you. It put me
wild to think of your coming all this way with nobody fit to look after
you, and then the distress that must follow."

"But surely, Mrs. Crabtree, you do not think Frank so very ill," asked
Laura, making an effort to recover her voice, and speaking in a tone of
deep anxiety; "he had recovered from the fever, but is only rather too
weak for travelling."

"Well, Miss Laura! grief always comes too soon, and I would have held my
tongue had I thought you did not know the worst already. If I might
order as in former days, it would be to send you both down directly, out
of this heavy fog and cold wind."

"But you may order us, Mrs. Crabtree," said Harry, taking her kindly by
the hand; "we are very glad to see you again! and I shall do whatever
you bid me! So you came all this way on purpose for us! How very kind!"

"Master Harry, I would go round the wide world to serve any one of you!
who else have I to care for? But it was chiefly to see Master Frank. Let
us hope the best, and pray to be prepared for any event that may come.
All things are ordained for good, and we can only make the best of what
happens. The world must go round,--it must go round, and we can't
prevent it."

Harry and Laura hung their heads in dismay, for there was something
agitated and solemn in Mrs. Crabtree's manner, which astonished and
shocked them, so they hurried silently to bed; and Laura's pillow was
drenched with tears of anxiety and distress that night, though
gradually, as she thought of Frank's bright colour and sparkling eyes,
his joyous spirits and unbroken health, it seemed impossible that all
were so soon to fade away, that the wind should have already passed
over them, and they were gone, till by degrees her mind became more
calm; her hopes grew into certainties; she told herself twenty times
over, that Mrs. Crabtree must be entirely mistaken, and at last sunk
into a restless agitated slumber.

Next day the sun shone, the sky was clear, and every thing appeared so
full of life and joy, that Harry and Laura would have fancied the whole
scene with Mrs. Crabtree a distressing dream, had they not been awakened
to recollection before six in the morning, by the sound of her voice,
angrily rebuking Miss Perceval and other ladies, who with too good
reason, were grumbling at the hardship of sleeping, or rather vainly
attempting to sleep, in such narrow uncomfortable dog-holes. Laura heard
Mrs. Crabtree conclude an eloquent oration on the subject of
contentment, by saying, "Indeed, ladies! many a brave man, and
noblemen's sons too, have laid their heads on the green grass, fighting
for you, so we should put up with a hard bed patiently for one night."

Miss Perceval turned angrily away, and summoned her maid to receive a
multitude of new directions. "Mary, tell the Captain that when I looked
out last, there was scarcely any smoke coming out of the funnel, so I am
sure he is saving fuel, and not keeping good enough fires to carry us
on! I never knew such shabbiness! Tell the engineer, that I insist on
his throwing on more coals immediately. Bring me some hot water, as fast
as possible! These towels are so coarse, I cannot, on any account, use
them. After being accustomed to such pocket-handkerchiefs as mine, at
ten guineas each, one does become particular. Can you not find a larger
basin? This looks like a soup-plate, and it seems impossible here to get
enough of hot water to wash comfortably."

"She should be put into the boiler of the steam-boat," muttered Mrs.
Crabtree. "I wish them animal-magnifying doctors would put the young
lady to sleep till we arrive in London."

"Now!" continued Miss Perceval, "get me another cup of tea. The last was
too sweet, the one before not strong enough, and the first half cold,
but this is worse than any. Do remember to mention, that yesterday night
the steward sent up a tin tea-pot, a thing I cannot possibly suffer
again. We must have the urn, too, instead of that black tea-kettle; and
desire him to prepare some butter-toast--I am not hungry, so three
rounds will be enough. Let me have some green tea this time; and see
that the cream is better than last night, when I am certain it was
thickened with chalk or snails. The jelly, too, was execrable, for it
tasted like sticking-plaster--I shall starve if better can't be had; and
the table-cloth looked like a pair of old sheets. Tell the steward all
this, and say, he must get my breakfast ready on deck in half an hour;
but meantime, I shall sit here with a book while you brush my hair."

The sick persecuted maid seemed anxious to do all she was bid; so, after
delivering as many of the messages as possible, she tried to stand up
and do Miss Perceval's hair, but the motion of the vessel had greatly
increased, and she turned as pale as death, apparently on the point of
sinking to the ground, when Laura, now quite dressed, quietly slipped
the brush out of her hand, and carefully brushed Miss Perceval's thin
locks, while poor Mary silently dropped upon a seat, being perfectly
faint with sickness.

Miss Perceval read on, without observing the change of abigails, till
Harry, who had watched this whole scene from the cabin-door, made a
hissing noise, such as grooms do when they currycomb a horse, which
caused the young lady to look hastily round, when great was Miss
Perceval's astonishment to discover her new abigail, with a very
pains-taking look, brushing her hair, while poor Mary lay more dead than
alive on the benches. "Well! I declare! was there ever anything so
odd!" she exclaimed in a voice of amazement. "How very strange! What can
be the matter with Mary! There is no end to the plague of servants!"

"Or rather to the plague of mistresses!" thought Laura, while she
glanced from Miss Perceval's round, red bustling face, to the poor
suffering maid, who became worse and worse during the day, for there
came on what sailors call "a capful of wind," which gradually rose to a
"stiff breeze," or, what the passengers considered a hurricane; and,
towards night, it attained the dignity of a real undeniable "storm." A
scene of indescribable tumult then ensued. The Captain attempted to make
his voice heard above the roaring tempest, using a torrent of
unintelligible nautical phrases, and an incessant volley of very
intelligible oaths. The sailors flew about, and every plank in the
vessel seemed creaking and straining, but high above all, the shrill
tones of Miss Perceval were audibly heard, exclaiming,

"Are there enough of 'hands' on board? Is there any danger? Are you sure
the boiler will not burst? I wish steam-boats had never been invented!
People are sure to be blown up to the clouds, or sunk to the bottom of
the ocean, or scalded to death like so many lobsters. I cannot stand
this any longer! Stop the ship, and set me on shore instantly!"

Laura clung closer to Harry, and felt that they were like two mere
pigmies, amid the wide waste of waters, rolling and tossing around them,
while his spirits, on the contrary, rose to the highest pitch of
excitement with all he heard and saw, till at length, wishing to enjoy
more of the "fun," he determined to venture above board. By the time
Harry's nose was on a level with the deck, he gazed around, and saw that
not a person appeared visible except two sailors, both lashed to the
helm, while all was silent now, except the deafening noise made by the
wild waves and the stormy blast, which seemed as if it would blow his
teeth down his throat. Harry thought the two men looked no larger than
mice in such a scene, and stood, clinging to the bannisters, perfectly
entranced with astonishment and admiration at the novelty of all he saw,
and thinking how often Frank must have been in such scenes, when
suddenly a wave washed quite over the deck, and he felt his arm grasped
by Mrs. Crabtree, who desired him to come down immediately, in a tone of
authority which he did not even yet feel bold enough to disobey;
therefore, slowly and reluctantly he descended to the cabin, where the
only living thing that seemed well enough to move, was Miss Perceval's
tongue.

"Steward!" she cried, in sharp angry accents. "Steward! here is water
pouring down the sky-lights like a shower-bath! Look at my band-box
swimming on the floor! Mary! Tiresome creature! don't you see that? My
best bonnet will be destroyed! Send the Captain here! He must positively
stop that noise on deck; it is quite intolerable. My head aches, as if
it would burst like the boiler of a steam-boat! Stupid man! Can't he put
into some port, or cast anchor? How can he keep us all uncomfortable in
this way! Mary! Mary, I say! are you deaf? Steward! send one of the
sailors here to take care of this dog! I declare poor Frisk is going to
be sick! Mary! Mary! This is insufferable! I wish the Captain would come
and help me to scold my maid! I shall certainly give you warning, Mary."

This awful threat had but little effect on one who thought herself on
the brink of being buried beneath the waves, besides being too sick to
care whether she died the next minute or not; and even Miss Perceval's
voice became drowned at last in the tremendous storm which raged
throughout the night, during which the Captain rather increased Laura's
panic, if that were possible, by considerately putting his head into the
cabin now and then to say, "Don't be afraid, ladies! There is no
danger!"

"But I must come up and see what you are about, Captain!" exclaimed Miss
Perceval.

"You had better be still, ma'am," replied Mrs. Crabtree. "It is as well
to be drowned in bed as on deck."

Nothing gives a more awful idea of the helplessness of man, and the
wrath of God, than a tempestuous sea during the gloom of midnight; and
every mind on board became awed into silence and solemnity during this
war of elements, till at length, towards morning, while the hurricane
seemed yet raging with undiminished fury, Laura suddenly gave an
exclamation of rapture, on hearing a sailor at the helm begin to sing
Tom Bowling. "Now I feel sure the danger is over," said she, "otherwise
that man could not have the heart to sing! If I live a century, I shall
always like a sailor's song for the future."

It is seldom that any person's thankfulness after danger bears a fair
proportion to the fear they felt while it lasted; but Harry and Laura
had been taught to remember where their gratitude was due, and felt it
the more deeply next day, when they entered the Yarmouth Roads, and were
shewn the masts of several vessels, appearing partly above the water,
which had on various occasions, been lost in that wilderness of shoals,
where so many melancholy catastrophes have occurred.

After sailing up the Thames, and duly staring at Greenwich hospital, the
hulks, and the Tower of London, they landed at last; and having offered
Mrs. Crabtree a place in the hackney coach, they hurried impatiently
into it, eager for the happy moment of meeting with Frank. Harry, in his
ardour, thought that no carriage had ever driven so slowly before. He
wished there had been a rail-road through the town; and far from wasting
a thought upon the novelties of Holborn or Piccadilly, he and Laura
gained no idea of the metropolis, more distinct than that of the
Irishman who complained he could not see London for the quantity of
houses. One only idea filled their hearts, and brightened their
countenances, while they looked at each other with a smile of delight,
saying, "now, at last, we are going to see Frank!"



CHAPTER XVI.

THE ARRIVAL.

  What is life?----a varied tale,
  Deeply moving, quickly told.

                                        Willis.


"Oh! what a lovely cottage!" exclaimed Laura, in an ecstacy of joy, when
they stopped before a beautiful house, with large airy windows down to
the ground; walls that seemed one brilliant mass of roses; rich flowery
meadows in front, and a bright smooth lawn behind, stretching down to
the broad bosom of the Thames, which reflected on its glassy surface
innumerable boats, filled with gay groups of merry people. "That is such
a place as I have often dreamed of, but never saw before! It seems made
for perfect happiness!"

"Yes! how delightful to live here with Frank and uncle David!" added
Harry. "We shall be sailing on the water all day!"

The cottage gate was now opened, and Major Graham himself appeared under
the porch; but instead of hurrying forward, as he always formerly did,
to welcome them after the very shortest separation, he stood gravely and
silently at the door, without so much as raising his eyes from the
ground; and the paleness of his countenance filled both Harry and Laura
with astonishment. They flew to meet him, making an exclamation of joy;
but after embracing them affectionately, he did not utter a word, and
led the way with hurried and agitated steps into a sitting room.

"Where is Frank?" exclaimed Harry, looking eagerly round. "Why is he not
here? Call him down! Tell him we are come!"

A long pause ensued; and Laura trembled when she looked at her uncle,
who was some moments before he could speak, and sat down taking each of
them by the hand, with such a look of sorrow and commiseration, that
they were filled with alarm.

"My dear Harry and Laura!" said he solemnly, "you have never known grief
till now, but if you love me, listen with composure. I have sad news to
tell, yet it is of the very greatest consequence that you should bear up
with fortitude. Frank is extremely ill; and the joy he felt about your
coming, has agitated him so much, that he is worse than you can possibly
conceive. It probably depends upon your conduct now, whether he survives
this night or not. Frank knows you are here; he is impatient for you to
embrace him; he becomes more and more agitated every moment the meeting
is delayed; yet if you give way to childish grief, or even to childish
joy, upon seeing him again, the Doctors think it may cause his immediate
death. You might hear his breathing in any part of this house. He is in
the lowest extreme of weakness! It will be a dreadful scene for you
both. Tell me, Harry and Laura, can you trust yourselves? Can you, for
Frank's own sake, enter his room this moment, as quietly as if you had
seen him yesterday, and speak to him with composure?"

Laura felt, on hearing these words, as if the very earth had opened
under her feet,--a choking sensation arose in her throat,--her colour
fled,--her limbs shook,--her whole countenance became convulsed with
anguish,--but making a resolute effort, she looked anxiously at Harry,
and then said, in a low, almost inaudible voice,

"Uncle David! we are able,--God will strengthen us. I dare not think a
moment. The sooner it is done the better. Let us go now."

Major Graham slowly led the way without speaking, till they reach the
bed-room door, where he paused for a moment, while Harry and Laura
listened to the gasping sound of Frank struggling for breath.

"Remember you will scarcely know him," whispered he, looking doubtfully
at Laura's pallid countenance; "but a single expression of emotion may
be fatal. Show your love for Frank now, my dear children. Spare him all
agitation,--forget your own feelings for his sake."

When Harry and Laura entered the room, Frank buried his face in his
hands, and leaned them on the table, saying, in convulsive accents, "Go
away, Laura!--oh go away just now! I cannot bear it yet!--leave
me!--leave me!"

If Laura had been turned into marble at the moment, she could not have
seemed more perfectly calm, for her mind was wound up to an almost
supernatural effort, and advancing to the place where he sat, without
attempting to speak, she took Frank by the hand--Harry did the same; and
not a sound was heard for some moments, but the convulsive struggles of
Frank himself, while he gasped for breath, and vainly tried to speak,
till at length he raised his head and fixed his eyes on Laura, who felt
then, for the first time, struck with the dreadful conviction, that this
meeting was but a prelude to their immediate and final separation. The
pale ashy cheek, the hollow eye, the sharp and altered features, all
told a tale of anguish such as she had never before conceived, and a
cold tremor passed through her frame, as she stood amazed and bewildered
with grief, while the past, the present, and the future seemed all one
mighty heap of agony. Still she gazed steadily on Frank, and said
nothing, conscious that the smallest indulgence of emotion would bring
forth a torrent which nothing could control, and determined, unless her
heart ceased to beat, that he should see nothing to increase his
agitation.

At length, in a low, faint, broken voice, Frank was able to speak, and
looking with affectionate sympathy at Laura, he said, "Do not think,
dear sister, that I always suffer as you see me now. This joy has been
too much for me. I shall soon feel easier."

Major Graham observed a livid paleness come over Laura's countenance
when she attempted to answer, and seeing it was impossible to sustain
the trial a moment longer, he made a pretext to hurry her away. Harry
instantly followed, and rushing into a vacant room, he threw himself
down in an agony of grief, and wept convulsively, till the very bed
shook beneath him. Hours passed on, and Major Graham left them to
exhaust their grief in weeping together, but every moment seemed only to
increase their agitation, as the conviction became more fearfully
certain that Frank was indeed lost to them for ever. This then was the
meeting they had so often, and so joyously anticipated! Laura sunk upon
her knees beside Harry, and prayers were mingled with their tears, while
they asked for consolation, and tried to feel resigned. "Alas!" thought
she solemnly, "how truly did grandmama say, 'If the sorrows of this
world are called 'light afflictions,' what must be those from which
Christ died to save us!' It is merciful that we are not forbid to weep,
for, oh! who ever lost such a brother?--the kindest--the best of
brothers!--dear, dear Frank!--can nothing be done! Uncle David!" added
Laura, clinging to Major Graham, when he entered the room, "oh! say
something to us about Frank getting better,--do you think he will? May
we have a hope?--one single hope to live upon, that Frank may possibly
be spared; do not turn away--do not look so very sad--think how young
Frank is,--and the Doctors are so skilful--and--and oh, uncle David! he
is dying! I see it! I must believe it!" continued she, wringing her
hands with grief. "You cannot give us one word of hope, though the whole
world would be nothing without him."

"My dear,--my very dear Laura! remember that consoling text in holy
Scripture, 'Be still, and know that I am God;'--we have no idea what He
can do in saving us from sorrow, or in comforting us when it comes,
therefore let us seek peace from Him, and believe that all shall indeed
be ordered well, even though our own hearts were to be broken with
affliction. Frank has seen old nurse Crabtree, and is now in a
refreshing sleep, therefore I wish you to take the opportunity of
sitting in his room, and accustoming yourselves, if possible, to the
sight of his altered appearance. He is sometimes very cheerful, and
always patient, therefore we must keep up our own spirits, and try to
assist him in bearing his sufferings, rather than increase them, by
showing what we feel ourselves. I was pleased with you both this
morning--that meeting was no common effort, and now we must show our
submission to the Divine will, difficult as that may be, by a deep,
heartfelt resignation to whatever He ordains."

Harry and Laura still felt stupified with grief, but they mechanically
followed Major Graham into Frank's room, and sat down in a distant
corner behind his chair, observing with awe and astonishment his pallid
countenance, his emaciated hands, and his drooping figure, while
scarcely yet able to believe that this was indeed their own beloved
Frank. After they had remained immoveably still for some time, though
shedding many bitter tears, as they gazed on the wreck of one so very
dear, he suddenly started awake, and glanced anxiously round the room,
then with a look of deep disappointment, he said to uncle David, in low,
feeble accents,

"It was only a dream! I have often dreamed the same thing, when far away
at sea,--that would have been too much happiness! I fancied Harry and
Laura were here!"

"It was no dream, dear Frank! we are here," said Laura, trying to speak
in a quiet, subdued voice.

"My dear sister! then all is well! but pray sit always where I can see
you. After wishing so long for our meeting, it appears nearly impossible
that we are together at last."

Frank became exhausted with speaking so much, but pointed to a seat near
himself, where Harry and Laura sat down, after which he gazed at them
long and earnestly, with a look of affectionate pleasure, while his
smile, which had lost all its former cheerfulness, was now full of
tenderness and sensibility. At length his countenance gradually changed,
while large tears gathered in his eyes, and coursed each other silently
down his cheeks. Thoughts of the deepest sadness seemed passing through
his mind during some moments, but checking the heavy sigh that rose in
his breast, he riveted his hands together, and looked towards heaven
with an expression of placid submission, saying these words in a
scarcely audible tone, though evidently addressed to those around,

"Weeping endureth for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." "We know
that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a
building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
"Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him; _but_ weep sore for him
that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native
country."[1]

  [1] Jeremiah xxii. 10.

These words fell upon the ear of Harry and Laura like a knell of death,
for they now saw that Frank himself believed he was dying, and it
appeared as if their last spark of hope expired when they heard this
terrible dispensation announced from his own lips. He seemed anxious now
that they should understand his full meaning, and receive all the
consolation which his mind could afford, for he closed his eyes, and
added in solemn accents,

"I must have died at some time, and why not now? If I leave friends who
are very dear on earth, I go to my chief best friend in heaven. The
whole peace and comfort of my mind rest on thinking of our Saviour's
merits. Let us all be ready to say, 'the will of the Lord be done.'
Think often, Harry and Laura, of those words we so frequently repeated
to grandmama formerly:

  'Take comfort, Christians, when your friends
    In Jesus fall asleep,
  Their better being never ends,
    Why then dejected weep?

  Why inconsolable as those
    To whom no hope is given?
  Death is the messenger of peace,
    And calls 'my' soul to Heaven.'"

Frank's voice failed, his head fell back upon the pillows, and he
remained for a length of time, with his eyes closed in solemn meditation
and prayer, while Laura and Harry, unable so much as to look at each
other, leaned upon the table, and wept in silence.

Laura felt as if she had grown old in a moment,--as if life could give
no more joy--and as if she herself stood already on the verge of the
grave. It appeared like a dream that she had ever been happy, and a
dreadful reality to which she was now awakened. "Behold, God taketh
away! who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?"
"Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils." These were texts
which forced themselves on her mind, with mournful emphasis, while she
felt how helpless is earthly affection when the dispensations of God
are upon us. All her love for Frank could not avert the stroke of
death,--all his attachment to her must now be buried in the grave,--and
the very tenderness they felt for each other, only embittered the
sorrows of this dreadful moment.

From that day, Harry and Laura, according to the advice of uncle David,
testified their affection for Frank, not by tears and useless
lamentations, though these were not always to be controlled in private,
but by the incessant, devoted attention with which they watched his
looks, anticipated his wishes, and thought every exertion a pleasure
which could in the slightest degree contribute to his comfort. Frank, on
his part, spared their feelings, by often concealing what he suffered,
and by speaking of his own death, as if it had been a journey on which
he must prepare with readiness to enter, reminding them, that never to
die, was never to be happy, as all they saw him endure from sickness,
became nothing to what he endured from struggling against sin and
temptation, which were the great evils of existence,--and that from all
these he would be for ever freed by death. "Those who are prepared for
the change," added he, solemnly, "can neither live too long, nor die too
soon; for when God gives us His blessing, He then sends heaven, as it
were, into the soul before the soul ascends to heaven; and I trust to
being gifted with faith and submission for all that may be ordained
during my few remaining hours upon earth."

Yet, with every desire to feel resigned, Frank himself was sometimes
surprised out of his usual fortitude, especially when thinking that he
must never more hope to see Lady Harriet, towards whom he cast many a
longing and affecting thought, saying once, with deep emotion, "If I
could only see grandmama again, I should feel quite well!" One evening,
as he sat near an open window, gazing on the rich tints of twilight, and
breathing with more than usual ease, a wandering musician paused with
her guitar, and sung several airs with great pathos and expression. At
length she played the tune of "Home! sweet home," to which Frank
listened for some moments with intense agitation, till, clasping his
hands and bursting into tears, he exclaimed, in accents of powerful
emotion,

"Home! That happy home! Oh! never--never more,--_my_ home is in the
grave."

Laura wept convulsively while he added in broken accents, "I shall still
be remembered--still lamented--you must not love me too well,
Laura,--not as I love you, or your sorrow would be too great; but long
hence, when Harry and you are happy together, surrounded with friends,
think sometimes of one who must for ever be absent,--who loved you
better than them all,--whose last prayer will be for you both. Oh! who
can tell what my feelings are! I can do nothing now but cause distress
and anguish to those who love me best!"

"Frank, I would not exchange your affection for the wealth of worlds. As
long as I live, it will be my greatest earthly happiness to have had
such a brother; and if we are to suffer a sorrow that I cannot name, and
dare not think of, you are teaching me how to bear it, and leaving us
the only comfort we can have, in knowing that you are happy."

"Many plans and many hopes I had for the future, Laura," added Frank;
"but there is no future to me now in this world. Perhaps I may escape a
multitude of sorrows, but how gladly would I have shared all yours, and
ensured my best happiness by uniting with Harry and you in living to
God. If you both learn more by my death than by my life, then, indeed, I
do rejoice. With respect to myself, it matters but little a few years or
hours sooner, for I may say, in the words of Job, 'though He slay me,
yet will I trust in Him.'"

Frank's sufferings increased every day, and became so very great at
last, that the Doctor proposed giving him strong doses of laudanum, to
bring on a stupor and allay the pain; but when this was mentioned to
him, he said, "I know it is my duty to take whatever you prescribe, and
I certainly shall, but if we can do without opiates, let me entreat you
to refrain from them. Often formerly at sea I used to think it very sad
how few of those I attended in sickness were allowed by the physician to
die in possession of their senses, on account of being made to take
laudanum, which gave them false spirits and temporary ease. Let me
retain my faculties as long as they are mercifully granted to me. I can
bear pain,--at least, God grant me strength to do so,--but I cannot
willingly enter the presence of my Creator in a state little short of
intoxication."

Many days of agony followed this resolution on the part of Frank, but
though the medicine, which would have brought some hours of oblivion,
lay within reach, he persevered in wishing to preserve his
consciousness, whatever suffering it might cost; and though now and then
a prayer for bodily relief was wrung from him in his acute agony, the
most frequent and fervent supplications that he uttered night and day
were, in an accent of intense emotion, "God have mercy upon my soul."

Harry and Laura were surprised to find the fields and walks near London
so very rural and beautiful as they appeared at Hammersmith, and to meet
with much more simplicity and kindness among the common people than they
had anticipated. The poorer neighbours, who became aware of their
affliction, testified a degree of sympathy which frequently astonished
them, and was often afterwards remembered with pleasure, one instance of
which seemed peculiarly touching to Laura. Frank always suffered most
acutely during the night, and seldom closed his eyes in sleep till
morning, therefore she invariably remained with him, to beguile those
weary hours, while any remonstrance on his part against so fatiguing a
duty, became a mere waste of words, as she only grew sadder and paler,
saying, there would be time enough to take care of herself when she
could no longer be of use to him. The earliest thing that gave any
relief to Frank's cough every day, generally was, a tumbler of milk,
warm from the cow, which had been ordered for him, and was brought
almost as soon as the dawn of light. Once, when Frank had been unusually
ill, and sighed in restless agony till morning, Laura watched
impatiently for day, and when the milkman was seen, at six o'clock,
slowly trudging through the fields, and advancing leisurely towards the
house, Laura hurried eagerly down to meet him, exclaiming in accents of
joy, while she held out the tumbler, "Oh! I am so glad you are come at
last!"

"At last, Miss!! I am as early as usual!" replied he, gruffly. "It's not
many poor folks that gets up so soon to their work, and if you had to
labour as hard as me all day, you would maybe think the morning came too
soon."

"I am seldom in bed all night," answered Laura, sadly. "My poor sick
brother cannot rest till this milk is brought, and I wait with him, hour
after hour till daylight, wearying for you to come."

The old dairyman looked with sorrowful surprise at Laura, while she,
thinking no more of what had passed, hurried away; but next morning,
when sitting up again with Frank, she became surprised to observe the
milkman a whole hour earlier than usual, plodding along towards his
cattle at a peculiarly rapid pace. He stayed not more than five minutes,
only milking one cow, though all the others gathered round him, and as
soon as he had filled his little pail, he came straight toward Major
Graham's cottage, and knocked at the door. Laura instantly ran down to
thank him with her whole heart for his kind attention, after which, as
long as Frank continued ill, the old dairyman rose long before his usual
time, to bring this welcome refreshment.

Frank desired Laura to beg that he would not take so much trouble, or
else to insist on his accepting some remuneration, but the old man would
neither discontinue the custom, nor receive any recompense.

"Let me see this kind good dairyman, to thank him myself," said Frank,
one night, when he felt rather easier; and next morning, Laura invited
poor Teddy Collins to walk up stairs, who looked exceedingly astonished,
though very much pleased at the proposal, saying, "May be, Ma'am, the
poor young gentleman would not like to see a stranger like me!"

"No one is a stranger who feels for him as you have done," replied
Laura, leading the way, and Frank's countenance lighted up with a smile
of pleasure when they entered his room. He held out his thin emaciated
hand to Teddy, who looked earnestly and sorrowfully in his face as he
grasped hold of it, saying, "You look very poorly, Sir! I'm afraid,
indeed, you are sadly ill."

"That I am! as ill as any one can be on this side of eternity! My tale
is told, my days are numbered; but I would not go out of this world
without saying how grateful we both feel for your attention. As a cup of
cold water given in Christian kindness shall hereafter be rewarded, I
trust also that your attention to me may not be forgotten."

"You are heartily welcome, Sir! It is a great honour for a poor old man
like me to oblige anybody. I shall not long be able for work now, seeing
that I am upwards of threescore and ten, and my days are already full of
labour and sorrow."

"To both of us, then, the night is far spent, and the day is at hand,"
replied Frank--"How strange it seems, that, old as you are. I am still
older; my feeble frame will be sooner worn out, and my body laid at rest
in the grave! Let me hope that you have already applied your heart to
wisdom, for every child of earth must, sooner or later, find how short
is every thing but eternity. While I appear before you here as a
spectacle of mortality, think how soon and how certainly you must
follow. May you then find, as I do, that even in the last extreme of
sickness and sorrow, there is comfort in looking forward to such
blessings as 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.' Farewell, my kind
friend! In this world we shall meet no more, but there is another and a
better."

The old man, apparently unwilling to withdraw, paused for some moments
after Frank had ceased to speak. He muttered a few inaudible words in
reply, and then slowly and sorrowfully left the room, while Frank's head
sunk languidly on the pillows, and Laura retired to her room, where, as
usual, she wept herself to sleep.

When Harry and Laura first arrived at Hammersmith, Frank felt anxious
that they should walk out every day for the benefit of their health; but
finding that each made frequent excuses for remaining constantly with
him at home, he invented a plan which induced them to take exercise
regularly.

Being early in June, strawberries were yet so exceedingly rare, that
they could scarcely be had for any money; but the Doctor had allowed his
patient to eat fruit. Frank asked his two young attendants to wander
about in quest of gardens where a few strawberries could be got, and to
bring him some. Accordingly, they set out one morning; and after a long,
unsuccessful search, at last observed a small green-house near the road,
with one little basket in the window, scarcely larger than a thimble,
containing two or three delicious King seedlings, perfectly ripe. These
were to be sold for five shillings; but hardly waiting to ascertain the
price, Laura seized this welcome prize with delight, and paid for it on
the spot. Every morning afterwards, her regular walk was to hasten with
Harry towards this pretty little shop, where they talked to the gardener
about poor Frank being so very ill, and told him that this fine fruit
was wanted for their sick brother at home.

One day the invalid seemed so much worse than usual, that neither Harry
nor Laura could bear to leave him a moment; so they requested Mrs.
Crabtree to fetch the strawberries, which she readily agreed to do; but
on drawing out her purse in the shop, and saying that she came to buy
that little basket of fruit at the window, what was her astonishment
when the gardener looked civil and sorry, answering that he would not
sell those strawberries if she offered him a guinea a-piece.

"No!" exclaimed Mrs. Crabtree, getting into a rage; "then what do you
put them up at the window for? There is no use pretending to keep a
shop, if you will not sell what is in it! Give me these strawberries
this minute, and here's your five shillings!"

"It's quite impossible," replied the gardener, holding back the basket.
"You see, ma'am, every day last week a little Master and Miss came to
this here shop, buying my strawberries for a young gentleman who is very
ill; and they look both so sweet and so mournful-like, that I would not
disappoint them for all the world. They seem later to-day than usual,
and are, may be, not coming at all; but if I lose my day's profits, it
can't be helped. They shall not walk here for nothing, if they please to
come!"

When Mrs. Crabtree explained that she belonged to the same family as
Harry and Laura, the gardener looked hard at her to see if she were
attempting to deceive him; but feeling convinced that she spoke the
truth, he begged her to carry off the basket to his young friends,
positively refusing to take the price.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE LAST BIRTH-DAY.

  Mere human power shall fast decay,
  And youthful vigour cease;
  But they who wait upon the Lord,
  In strength shall still increase.


Frank felt no unnatural apathy or indifference about dying, for he
looked upon it with awe, though not with fear; nor did he express any
rapturous excitement on the solemn occasion, knowing that death is an
appointed penalty for transgression, which, though deprived of its
sharpest sting by the triumphs of the cross, yet awfully testifies to
all succeeding generations, that each living man has individually
merited the utmost wrath of God, and that the last moment on earth, of
even the most devoted Christian, must be darkened by the gloom of our
original sin and natural corruption. Yet, "as in Adam all die, so in
Christ are all made alive;" and amidst the throng of consolatory and
affecting meditations that crowded into his mind on the great subject of
our salvation, he kept a little book in which were carefully recorded
such texts and reflections as he considered likely to strengthen his own
faith, and to comfort those he left behind--saying one day to Major
Graham,

"Tell grandmama, that though my days have been few upon the earth, they
were happy! When you think of me, uncle David, after my sufferings are
over, it may well be a pleasing remembrance, that you were always the
best, the kindest of friends. Oh! how kind! but I must not--cannot speak
of that----. This is my birth-day!--my last birth-day! Many a joyous one
we kept together, but those merry days are over, and these sadder ones
too shall cease; yet the time is fast approaching, so welcome to us
both,

  'When death-divided friends at last
  Shall meet to part no more.'"

In the evening, Major Graham observed that Frank made Mrs. Crabtree
bring everything belonging to him, and lay it on the table, when he
employed himself busily in tying up a number of little parcels,
remarking, with a languid smile,

"My possessions are not valuable, but these are for some old friends and
messmates, who will be pleased to receive a trifling memorial of one who
loved them. Send my dirk to Peter Grey, who is much reformed now. Here
are all the letters any of you ever sent me; how very often they have
been read! but now, even that intercourse must end; keep them, for they
were the dearest treasures I possessed. At Madras, formerly, I remember
hearing of a nabob who was bringing his whole fortune home in a chest of
gold, but the ropes for hoisting his treasure on board were so
insufficient, that the whole gave way, and it fell into the ocean, never
to be recovered. That seemed a very sudden termination of his hopes and
plans, but scarcely more unexpected than my own. 'We are a wind that
passeth away and cometh not again.' Many restless nights are ordained
for me now, probably that I may find no resource but prayer and
meditation. Others can afford time to slumber, but I so soon shall sleep
the sleep of death, that it becomes a blessing to have such hours of
solitary thought, for preparing my heart and establishing my faith,
during this moment of need."

"Yes, Frank! but your prayers are not solitary, for ours are joined to
yours," added Laura. "I read in an old author lately, that Christian
friends in this world might be compared to travellers going along the
same road in separate carriages--sometimes they are together--often they
are apart--sometimes they can exchange assistance, as we do now--and
often they jostle against each other, till at last, having reached the
journey's end, they are removed out of these earthly vehicles into a
better state, where they shall look back upon former circumstances, and
know even as they are known."

Laura was often astonished to observe the change which had taken place
in her own character and feelings within the very short period of their
distress. Her extreme terror of a thunder-storm formerly, had occasioned
many a jest to her brothers, when Harry used, occasionally, to roll
heavy weights in the room above her own, to imitate the loudest peals,
while Frank sometimes endeavoured to argue her out of that excessive
apprehension with which she listened to the most distant surmise of a
storm. Now, however, at Hammersmith, long after midnight, the moon, on
one occasion, became completely obscured by dense heavy clouds, and the
air felt so oppressively hot, that Frank, who seemed unusually
breathless, drew closer to the window. Laura supported his head, and was
deeply occupied in talking to him, when suddenly a broad flash of
lightning glared into the room, followed by a crash of thunder, that
seemed to crack the very heavens. Again and again the lightning gleamed
in her face with such vividness, that Laura fancied she could
distinguish the heat of it, and yet she stirred not, nor did a single
exclamation, as in former days, arise on her lips.

"Pray shut the window, Laura," said Frank languidly, raising his eyes;
"and be so kind as to close the shutters!"

"Why, Frank?--you never used to be alarmed by thunder!"

"No! nor am I now, dear Laura. What danger need a dying person fear?
Some few hours sooner or later would be of little consequence--

    Come he slow, or come he fast,
    It is but death that comes at last.

Yet, Laura, do you think I have forgotten old times! Oh, no!--not while
I live. You attend to my feelings, and surely it is my duty to remember
yours."

"Never mind me, Frank!" whispered Laura. "I have got over all that
folly. When real fears and sorrows come, we care no more about those
that were imaginary."

"True, my dear sister; and there is no courage or fortitude like that
derived from faith in a superintending providence. Though all creation
reel, we may sleep in peace, for to Christians 'danger is safe, and
tumult calm.'"

When Frank grew worse, he became often delirious. Yet as in health he
had been habitually cheerful, his mind generally wandered to agreeable
subjects. He fancied himself walking on the bright meadows, and picking
flowers by the river side,--meeting Lady Harriet,--and even speaking to
his father, as if Sir Edward had been present; while Harry and Laura
listened, weeping and trembling, to behold the wreck of such a mind and
heart as his. One evening, he seemed unusually well, and requested that
his arm-chair might be wheeled to the open window, where he gazed with
delight at the hills and meadows,--the clouds and glittering water,--the
cattle standing in the stream,--the boats reflected on its surface,--and
the roses fluttering at every casement.

"Those joyous little birds!--their song makes me cheerful," said he, in
a tone of placid enjoyment. "I have been in countries where the birds
never sing, and the leaves never fade; but they excited no sympathy or
interest. Here we have notes of gladness both in sunshine and storm,
teaching us a lesson of grateful contentment,--while those drooping
roses preach a sermon to me, for as easily might they recover freshness
and bloom as myself. We shall both lie low before long in the dust, yet
a spring shall come hereafter to revive even 'the ashes of the urn.'
Then, uncle David, we meet again,--not as now, amidst sorrow and
suffering, with death and separation before us,--but blessed by the
consciousness that our sins are forgiven,--our trials all ended,--and
that our afflictions which were but for a moment, have worked out for us
a far more exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory."

Some hours afterwards the Doctor entered. After receiving a cordial
welcome from Frank, and feeling his pulse, he instantly examined his
arms and neck, which were covered entirely over with small red spots,
upon observing which, the friendly physician suddenly changed
countenance, and stole an alarmed glance at Major Graham.

"I feel easier and better to-day, Doctor, than at any time since my
illness," said Frank, looking earnestly in his face. "Do you think this
eruption will do me good? Life has much that would be dear to me, while
I have friends like these to live for. Can it be possible that I may yet
recover?"

The Doctor turned away, unable to reply, while Frank intensely watched
his countenance, and then gazed at the pale agitated face of Major
Graham. Gradually the hope which had brightened in his cheek began to
fade,--the lustre of his eye became dim,--his countenance settled into
an expression of mournful resignation,--and covering his face with his
hands, he said, in a voice of deep emotion,

"I see how it is!--God's will be done!"

The silence of death succeeded, while Frank laid his head on the pillow
and closed his eyes. A few natural tears coursed each other slowly down
his cheek; but at length, an hour or two afterwards, being completely
exhausted, he fell into a gentle sleep, from which the Doctor considered
it very doubtful if he would ever awaken, as the red spots indicated
mortification, which must inevitably terminate his life before next day.

Laura retired to the window, making a strenuous effort to restrain her
feelings, that she might be enabled to witness the last awful scene; and
fervently did she pray for such strength to sustain it with fortitude,
as might still render her of some use to her dying brother. Her pale
countenance might almost have been mistaken for that of a corpse, but
for the expression of living agony in her eye; and she was sunk in deep,
solemn thought, when her attention became suddenly roused by observing a
chariot and four drive furiously up to the gate, while the horses were
foaming and panting as they stopped. A tall gentleman, of exceedingly
striking appearance, sprung hurriedly out, walked rapidly towards the
cottage door, and in another minute entered Frank's room, with the
animated look of one who expected to be gladly welcomed, and to occasion
an agreeable surprise.

Harry and Laura shrunk close to their uncle, when the stranger, now in
evident agitation, gazed round the room with an air of painful
astonishment, till Major Graham looked round, and instantly started up
with an exclamation of amazement, "Edward! is it possible! This is
indeed a consolation! you are still in time!"

"In time!!" exclaimed Sir Edward, grasping his brother's hand with
vehement agitation. "Do you mean to say that Frank is yet in danger!"

Major Graham mournfully shook his head, and undrawing the bed curtains,
he silently pointed to the sleeping countenance of Frank, which was as
still as death, and already overspread by a ghastly paleness. Sir Edward
then sunk into a chair, and clenched his hands over his forehead with a
look of unspeakable anguish, saying, in an under-tone, "Worn out, as I
am, in mind and body, I needed not this to destroy me! Say at once,
brother, is there any hope?"

"None, my dear Edward! None! Even now he is insensible, and I fear with
little prospect of ever becoming conscious again."

At this moment Frank opened his eyes, which were dim and glassy, while
it became evident that he had relapsed into a state of temporary
delirium.

"Get more candles! how very dark it is!" he said. "Who are all those
people? Send away everybody but grandmama! I must speak to her alone.
Never tell papa of all this, it would only distress him--say nothing
about me. Why do Harry and Laura never come? They have been absent more
than a week! Who took away uncle David too?"

Laura listened for some time in an agony of grief, till at last, unable
any longer to restrain her feelings, she clasped Frank in her arms and
burst into tears, exclaiming, in accents of piercing distress, "Oh
Frank! dear Frank! have you forgotten poor Laura?"

"Not till I am dead!" whispered he, while a momentary gleam of
recollection lighted up his face. "Laura! we meet again."

Sir Edward now wished to speak, but Frank had relapsed into a state of
feeble unconsciousness, from which nothing could arouse him; once or
twice he repeated the name of Laura in a low melancholy voice, till it
became totally inaudible--his breath became shorter--his lips became
livid--his whole frame seemed convulsed--and some hours afterwards, all
that was mortal of Frank Graham ceased to exist. About four in the
morning his body was at rest, and his spirit returned to God who gave
it.

The candles had burned low in their sockets, and still the mourners
remained, unwilling to move from the awful scene of their bereavement.
Mrs. Crabtree at length, who laid out the body herself, extinguished the
lights, and flung open the window curtains. Then suddenly a bright blaze
of sunshine streamed into the room, and rested on the cold pale face of
the dead. To the stunned and bewildered senses of Harry and Laura, the
brilliant dawn of morning seemed like a mockery of their distress. Many
persons were already passing by--the busy stir of life had begun, and a
boy strolling along the road whistled his merry tune as he went gaily
on.

"We are indeed mere atoms in the world!" thought Laura bitterly, while
these sights and sounds fell heavily on her heart. "If Harry and I had
both been dead also, the sun would have shone as brightly, the birds
sung as joyfully, and those people been all as gay and happy as ever!
Nobody is thinking of Frank--nobody knows our misery--the world is going
on as if nothing had happened, and we are breaking our hearts with
grief!"

Laura's heart became stilled as she gazed on the peaceful and almost
happy expression of those beautiful features, which had now lost all
appearance of suffering. The eyes, from which nothing but kindness and
love had beamed upon her, were now closed for ever; the lips which had
spoken only words of generous affection and pious hope, were silent; and
the heart which had beat with every warm and brotherly feeling, was for
the first time insensible to her sorrows; yet Laura did not give way to
the strong excess of her grief, for it sunk upon her spirit with a
leaden weight of anguish, which tears and lamentations could not
express, and could not even relieve. She rose and kissed, for the last
time, that beloved countenance, which she was never to look upon again
till they met in heaven, and stole away to the silence and solitude of
her own room, where Laura tried in vain to collect her thoughts. All
seemed a dreary blank. She did not sigh--she could not weep; but she sat
in dark and vacant abstraction, with one only consciousness filling her
mind--the bitter remembrance that Frank was dead--that she could be of
no farther use to him--that she could have no future intercourse with
him--that even in her prayers she could no longer have the comfort of
naming him; and when at last she turned to his own Bible which he had
given her, to seek for consolation, her eyes refused their office, and
the pages became blistered with tears.

After Frank's funeral, Sir Edward became too ill to leave his bed; and
Major Graham remained with him in constant conversation; while Harry and
Laura did every thing to testify their affection, and to fill the place
now so sadly vacant.

On the following Sunday, several of the congregation at Hammersmith
observed two young strangers in the rector's pew, dressed in the deepest
mourning, with pale and downcast countenances, who glided early into
church, and sat immoveably still, side by side, while Mr. Palmer gave
out for his text the affecting and appropriate words which Frank himself
had often repeated during his last illness, "In an hour that ye think
not, the Son of man cometh."

Not a tear was shed by either Harry or Laura,--their grief was too great
for utterance; yet they listened with breathless interest to the sermon,
intended not only to console them, but also to instruct other young
persons, from the afflicting event of Frank's death.

Mr. Palmer took this opportunity to describe all the amiable
dispositions of youth, and to show how much of what is pleasing may
appear before religion has yet taken entire possession of the mind; but
he painted in glowing colours the beautiful consistency and harmony of
character which must ensue after that happy change, when the Holy Spirit
renews the heart and influences the life. It almost seemed to Harry and
Laura as if Frank were visibly before their eyes, when Mr. Palmer spoke
in eloquent terms of that humility which no praise could diminish--that
benevolence which attended to the feelings, as well as the wants of
others,--that affection which was ever ready to make any sacrifice for
those he loved,--that docility which obeyed the call of duty on every
occasion,--that meekness in the midst of provocation which could not be
irritated,--that gentle firmness in maintaining the truths of the
gospel, which no opposition could intimidate,--that cheerful submission
to suffering which saw a hand of mercy in the darkest hour,--and that
faith which was ever "forgetting those things which are behind, and
reaching forth unto those things which are before,--pressing toward the
mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

It seemed as if years had passed over the heads of Harry and Laura
during the short period of their absence from home--that home where
Frank had so anxiously desired to go! All was changed within and around
them,--sorrow had filled their hearts, and no longer merry, thoughtless
creatures, believing the world one scene of frolicsome enjoyment and
careless ease; they had now witnessed its realities,--they had felt its
trials,--they had experienced the importance of religion,--they had
learned the frailty of all earthly joy,--and they had received, amidst
tears and sorrows, the last injunction of a dying brother, to "call upon
the Lord while He is near, and to seek Him while he may yet be found."

"Uncle David," said Laura one day, several months after their return
home, "Mrs. Crabtree first endeavoured to lead us aright by
severity,--you and grandmama then tried what kindness could do, but
nothing was effectual till now, when God Himself has laid His hand upon
us. Oh! what a heavy stroke was necessary to bring me to my right mind,
but now, while we weep many bitter tears, Harry and I often pray
together that good may come out of evil, and that 'we who mourn so
deeply, may find our best, our only comfort from above'."

  Unthinking, idle, wild, and young,
  I laugh'd, and talk'd, and danc'd, and sung;
  And proud of health, of frolic vain,
  Dream'd not of sorrow, care, or pain,
  Concluding in those hours of glee,
  That all the world was made for me.

  But when the days of trial came,
  When sorrow shook this trembling frame,
  When folly's gay pursuits were o'er,
  And I could dance or sing no more;
  It then occurr'd how sad 'twould be
  Were this world only made for me.

                                        Princess Amelia.


THE END.



  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  |                                                              |
  | Transcriber's note:                                          |
  |                                                              |
  | Archaic spelling has been retained, along with inconsistent  |
  | hyphenation: cheese-cakes/cheesecakes, good-bye/good bye,    |
  | mile-stone/milestone, over-head/overhead,                    |
  | play-things/playthings, rail-road/railroad,                  |
  | steam-boats/steamboats, tea-pot/teapot.                      |
  |                                                              |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+





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