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Title: J. Cole
Author: Gellibrand, Emma
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "J. Cole" ***

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J. COLE

By Emma Gellibrand



 [Illustration: “‘WHO ARE YOU, MY CHILD?’ I SAID’--Page 3
(_Frontispiece_)]



J. COLE.

“HONNERD MADAM,

“Wich i hav seed in the paper a page Boy wanted, and begs to say J. Cole
is over thertene, and I can clene plate, wich my brutther is under a
butler and lernd me, and I can wate, and no how to clene winders and
boots. J. Cole opes you will let me cum. I arsks 8 and all found. if you
do my washin I will take sevven. J. Cole will serve you well and opes to
giv sattisfaxshun. i can cum tomorrer.     J. COLE.

“P.S.--He is not verry torl but growin. My brutther is a verry good
hite. i am sharp and can rede and rite and can hadd figgers if you
like.”

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER I.


I had advertised for a page-boy, and having puzzled through some dozens
of answers, more or less illegible and impossible to understand, had
come to the last one of the packet, of which the above is an exact copy.

The epistle was enclosed in a clumsy envelope, evidently home-made,
with the aid of scissors and gum, and was written on a half-sheet of
letter-paper, in a large hand, with many blots and smears, on pencilled
lines.

There was something quaint and straightforward in the letter, in spite
of the utter ignorance of grammar and spelling; and while I smiled at
the evident pride in the “brutther” who was a “verry good hite,” and
the offer to take less wages if “I would do his washin,” I found myself
wondering what sort of waif upon the sea of life was this not very tall
person, over thirteen, who “would serve me well.”

I had many letters to answer and several appointments to make, and
had scarcely made up my mind whether or not to trouble to write to my
accomplished correspondent, who was “sharp, and could rede and rite, and
hadd figgers,” when, a shadow falling on the ground by me as I sat by
the open window, I looked up, and saw, standing opposite my chair, a
boy,--the very smallest boy, with the very largest blue eyes I ever saw.
The clothes on his little limbs were evidently meant for somebody almost
double his size, but they were clean and tidy.

In one hand he held a bundle, tied in a red handkerchief, and in the
other a bunch of wild-flowers that bore signs of having travelled far in
the heat of the sun, their blossoms hanging down, dusty and fading, and
their petals dropping one by one on the ground.

“Who are you, my child?” I said, “and what do you want?”

At my question the boy placed his flowers on my table, and, pulling off
his cap, made a queer movement with his feet, as though he were trying
to step backwards with both at once, and said, in a voice so deep that
it quite startled me, so strangely did it seem to belong to the size of
the clothes, and not the wearer,--

“Please’m, it’s J. Cole; and I’ve come to live with yer. I’ve brought
all my clothes, and every think.”

For the moment I felt a little bewildered, so impossible did it seem
that the small specimen of humanity before me was actually intending to
enter anybody’s service; he looked so childish and wistful, and yet with
a certain honesty of purpose shining out of those big, wide-open eyes,
that interested me in him, and made me want to know more of him.

“You are very small to go into service,” I said, “and I am afraid you
could not do the work I should require; besides, you should have waited
to hear from me, and then have come to see me, if I wanted you to do
so.”

“Yes, I know I’m not very big,” said the boy, nervously fidgeting with
his bundle; “leastways not in hite; but my arms is that long, they’ll
reach ever so ‘igh above my ‘ed, and as for bein’ strong, you should
jest see me lift my father’s big market basket when it’s loaded with
‘taters, or wotever is for market, and I hope you’ll not be angry
because I come to-day; but Dick--that’s my brutther Dick--he says, ‘You
foller my advice, Joe,’ he says, ‘and go arter this ‘ere place, and
don’t let no grass grow under your feet. I knows what it is goin’ arter
places; there’s such lots a fitin’ after ‘em, that if you lets so much
as a hour go afore yer looks ‘em up, there’s them as slips in fust gets
it; and wen yer goes to the door they opens it and sez, “It ain’t no
use, boy, we’re sooted;” and then where are yer, I’d like to know? ‘So,’
sez he, ‘Joe, you look sharp and go, and maybe you’ll get it.’ So I
come, mum, and please, that’s all.”

“But about your character, my boy,” I said. “You must have somebody to
speak for you, and say you are honest, and what you are able to do. I
always want a good character with my servants; the last page-boy I had
brought three years’ good character from his former situation.”

“Lor!” said Joe, with a serious look, “did he stay three years in a
place afore he came to you? Wotever did he leave them people for, where
he were so comfortable? If I stay with you three years, you won’t catch
me a leavin’ yer, and goin’ somewheres else. Wot a muff that chap was!”

I explained that it did not always depend on whether a servant wanted to
stay or not, but whether it suited the employers to keep him.

“‘Praps he did somethin’, and they giv’ ‘im the sack,” murmured Joe; “he
was a flat!”

“But about this character of yours,” I said; “if I decide to give you a
trial, although I am almost sure you are too small, and won’t do, where
am I to go for your character? Will the people where your brother lives
speak for you?”

“Oh, yes!” cried the little fellow, his cheeks flushing; “I know Dick’ll
ask ‘em to give me a caricter. Miss Edith, I often cleaned ‘er boots.
Once she come ‘ome in the mud, and was a-goin’ out agin directly; and
they was lace-ups, and a orful bother to do up even; and she come into
the stable-yard with ‘er dog, and sez: ‘Dick, will you chain Tiger up,
and this little boy may clean my boots if he likes, on my feet?’ So I
cleaned ‘em, and she giv’ me sixpence; and after that, when the boots
come down in the mornin’, I got Dick always to let me clean them little
boots, and I kep ‘em clean in the insides, like the lady’s maid she told
me not to put my ‘ands inside ‘em if they was black. Miss Edith, she’ll
giv me a caricter, if Dick asks ‘er.”

Just then the visitors’ bell rang; and I sent my would-be page into the
kitchen to wait until I could speak to him again, and told him to ask
the cook to give him something to eat.

“Here are your flowers,” I said; “take them with you.”

He looked at me, and then, as if ashamed of having offered them,
gathered them up in his hands, and with the corner of the red
handkerchief wiped some few leaves and dust-marks off my table, then
saying in a low voice, “I didn’t know you ‘ad beauties of yer own, like
them in the glass pots, but I’ll giv’ ‘em to the cook.” So saying, he
went away into the kitchen, and my visitors came in, and by and by some
more friends arrived.

The weather was very warm, and we sat chattering and enjoying the
shade of the trees by the open French window. Presently, somebody being
thirsty, I suggested lemonade and ice, and I offered strawberries,
and (if possible) cream; though my mind misgave me as to the latter
delicacy, for we had several times been obliged to do without some of
our luxuries if they entailed “_fetching_,” as we had no boy to run
errands quickly on an emergency and be useful. However, I rang the
bell; and when the housemaid, whose temper, since she had been what is
curiously termed in servants’-hall language “single-handed,” was most
trying, entered, I said, “Make some lemonade, Mary, and ask cook to
gather some strawberries quickly, and bring them, with some cream.”

Mary looked at me as who should say, “Well, I’m sure! and who’s to do it
all? You’ll have to wait a bit.” And I know we should have to wait, and
therefore resigned myself to do so patiently, keeping up the ball of
gossip, and wondering if a little music later on would perhaps while
away the time.

Much to my amazement, in less than a quarter of an hour Mary entered
with the tray, all being prepared; and directly I looked at the
strawberry-bowl I detected a novel feature in the table decoration. A
practised hand had evidently been at work; but whose? Mary was far too
matter-of-fact a person. Food, plates, knives and forks, glasses, and a
cruet-stand were all she ever thought necessary; and even for a centre
vase of flowers I had to ask, and often to insist, during the time she
was single-handed.

But here was my strawberry-bowl, a pretty one, even when unadorned,
with its pure white porcelain stem, intwined with a wreath of blue
convolvulus, and then a spray of white, the petals just peeping over
the edge of the bowl, and resting near the luscious red fruit; the
cream-jug, also white, had twining flowers of blue, and round the
lemonade-jug, of glass, was a wreath of yellow blossoms.

“How exquisite!” exclaimed we all. “What fairy could have bestowed such
a treat to our eyes and delight to our sense of the beautiful?”

I supposed some friend of the cook’s or Mary’s had been taking lessons
in the art of decoration, and had given us a specimen.

Soon after, my friends having gone, I thought of J. Cole waiting to be
dismissed, and sent for him.

Cook came in, and with a preliminary “Ahem!” which I knew of old meant,
“I have an idea of my own, and I mean to get it carried out,” said,
“Oh, if you please ‘m, if I might be so bold, did you think serious of
engagin’ the boy that’s waitin’ in the kitchen?”

“Why do you ask, Cook?” I said.

“Well, ma’am,” she replied, trying to hide a laugh, “of course it’s not
for me to presume; but, if I might say a word for him, I think he’s the
very handiest and the sharpest one we’ve ever had in this house, and
we’ve had a many, as you know. Why, if you’d only have seen him when
Mary come in in her tantrums at ‘aving to get the tray single-handed,
and begun a-grumblin’ and a-bangin’ things about, as is her way, being
of a quick temper, though, as I tells her, too slow a-movin’ of herself.
As I were a-sayin’, you should have seen that boy. If he didn’t up and
leave his bread and butter and mug of milk, as he was a-enjoyin’ of as
‘arty as you like, and, ‘Look ‘ere,’ says he, ‘giv’ me the jug. I’ll
make some fine drink with lemons. I see Dick do it often up at his
place. Giv’ me the squeezer. Wait till I washes my ‘ands. I won’t be
a minnit.’ Then in he rushes into the scullery, washes his hands, runs
back again in a jiffy. ‘Got any snow sugar? I mean all done fine like
snow.’ I gave it him; and, sure enough, his little hands moved that
quick, he had made the lemonade before Mary would have squeezed a lemon.
‘Where do yer buy the cream?’ he says next. ‘I’ll run and get it while
you picks the strawberries.’ Perhaps it wasn’t right, me a trustin’ him,
being a stranger, but he was that quick I couldn’t say no. Up he takes
the jug, and was off; and when I come in from the garden with the
strawberries, if he hadn’t been and put all them flowers on the things.
He begs my pardon for interfering like, and says, ‘I ‘ope you’ll excuse
me a-doin’ of it, but the woman at the milk-shop said I might ‘ave ‘em;
and I see the butler where Dick lives wind the flowers about like that,
and ‘ave ‘elped ‘im often; and, please, I paid for the cream, because
I’d got two bob of my own, Dick giv’ me on my birthday. Oh, I do ‘ope,
Mrs. Cook,’ he says, ‘that the lady’ll take me; I ‘ll serve ‘er well, I
will, indeed;’ and then he begins to cry and tremble, poor little chap,
for he’d been running about a lot, and never eaten or drank what I
gave him, because he wanted to help, and it was hot in the kitchen, I
suppose, and he felt faint like, but there he is, crying; and just now,
when the bell rung, which was two great big boys after the place, he
says, ‘Oh, please say “We’re sooted,” and ask the lady if I may stay.’
So, I’ve taken the liberty, ma’am,” said Cook, “for somehow I like that
little chap, and there’s a deal in him, I do believe.”

So saying, Cook retired; and, in a moment, J. Cole was standing in her
place, the blue eyes brimming over with tears, and an eager anxiety as
to what his fate would be making his poor little hands clutch at his
coat-sleeves, and his feet shuffle about so nervously, that I had not
the courage to grieve him by a refusal.

“Well, Joseph,” I said, “I have decided to give you a month’s trial. I
shall write to the gentleman who employs your brother; and if he speaks
well of you, you may stay.”

“And may I stay now, please?” he said. “May I stay before you gets any
answer to your letter to say I’m all right? I think you’d better let me;
there ain’t no boy; and Mrs. Cook and Mary’ll ‘ave a lot to do. I can
stay in the stable, if you don’t like to let me be in the house, afore
you writes the letter.”

“No, Joe,” I replied: “you may not be a good, honest boy, but I think
you are; and you shall stay here. Now go back to Mrs. Wilson, and finish
your milk, and eat something more if you can, then have a good rest and
a wash; they will show you where you are to sleep, and at dinner, this
evening, I shall see if you can wait at table.”

“Thank you very kindly,” said the boy, his whole face beaming with
delight, “and I’ll be sure and do everythink I can for you.” Then he
went quickly out of the room; for I could see he was quite overcome, now
that the uncertainty was over.

Alone once more, I reasoned with myself, and felt I was doing an unwise
thing. Just at that time my husband was away on business for some
months; and I had no one to advise me, and no one to say me nay either.
My conscience told me my husband would say, “We cannot tell who this boy
is, where he has lived, or who are his associates; he may be connected
with a gang of thieves for what we know to the contrary. Wait, and have
proper references before trusting him in the house.”

And he would be right to say so to me, but not every one listens to
conscience when it points the opposite way to inclination. Well, J. Cole
remained; and when I entered the dining-room, to my solitary dinner, he
was there, with a face shining from soap and water, his curls evidently
soaped too, to make them go tidily on his forehead. The former page
having left his livery jacket and trousers, Mary had let Joe dress in
them, at his earnest request.

She told me afterwards that he had sewn up the clothes in the neatest
manner wherever they could be made smaller; and the effect of the
jacket, which he had stuffed out in the chest with hay, as we discovered
by the perfume, was very droll. He had a great love of bright colors,
and the trousers being large, showed bright red socks; the jacket
sleeves being much too short for the long arms, of which he was so
proud, allowed the wristbands of a vivid blue flannel shirt to be seen.

I was alone, so could put up with this droll figure at my elbow; but
the seriousness of his face was such a contrast to the comicality of the
rest of him, that I found myself beginning to smile every now and then,
but directly I saw the serious eyes on me, I felt obliged to become
grave at once.

The waiting at table I could not exactly pronounce a success; for,
although Joe’s quick eyes detected in an instant if I wanted anything,
his anxiety to be “first in the field,” and give Mary no chance of
instructing him in his duties, made him collide against her more than
once in his hasty rushes to the sideboard and back to my elbow with the
dishes, which he generally handed to me long before he reached me, his
long arms enabling him to reach me with his hands while he was yet some
distance from me, and often on the wrong side. I also noticed when I
wanted water he lifted the water-bottle on high, and poured as though
it was something requiring a “head.” Mary nearly caused a catastrophe
at that moment by frowning at him, and saying, sotto voce, “Whatever are
you doing? Is that the way to pour out water? It ain’t hale, stoopid!”

Joe’s face became scarlet; and to hide his confusion he seized a
dish-cover, and hastily went out of the room with it, returning in a
moment pale and serious as became one who at heart was every inch a
family butler with immense responsibilities.

Joe was quiet and sharp, quick and intelligent; but I could see he was
quite new to waiting at table. To remove a dish was, I could see, his
greatest dread; and it amused me to see the cleverness with which he
managed that Mary should do that part of the duty.

When only my plate and a dish remained to be cleared away, he would
slowly get nearer as I got towards the last morsel, and before Mary had
time, would take my plate, and go quite slowly to the sideboard with it,
leisurely remove the knife and fork, watching meanwhile in the mirror
if Mary was about to take the dish away; if not he would take something
outside, or bring a decanter, and ask if I wanted wine.

I was, however, pleased to find him no more awkward, as I feared he
would have been, and when, having swept the grate and placed my solitary
wineglass and dessert-plate on the table, he retired, softly closing the
door after him, I felt I should make something of J. Cole, and hoped his
character would be good.



CHAPTER II.


The next morning a tastefully arranged vase of flowers in the centre of
the breakfast-table, and one magnificent rose and bud by my plate, were
silent but eloquent appeals to my interest on behalf of my would-be
page; and when Joe himself appeared, fresh from an hour’s self-imposed
work in my garden, I saw he had become quite one of the family; for
Bogie, my little terrier, usually very snappish to strangers, and who
considered all boys as his natural enemies, was leaping about his
feet, evidently asking for more games, and our old magpie was perched
familiarly on his shoulder.

“Good-morning, Joe,” I said. “You are an early riser, I can see, by the
work you have already done in the garden.”

“Why, yes,” replied Joe, blushing, and touching an imaginary cap; “I’m
used to bein’ up. There was ever so much to do of a mornin’ at ‘ome; and
I ‘ad to ‘elp father afore I could go to be with Dick, and I was with
Dick a’most every mornin’ by seven, and a good mile and a arf to walk to
‘is place. Shall I bring in the breakfust, mum? Mary’s told me what to
do.”

Having given permission, Joe set to work to get through his duties, this
time without any help, and I actually trembled when I saw him enter with
a tray containing all things necessary for my morning meal, he looked so
over-weighted; but he was quite equal to it as far as landing the tray
safely on the sideboard. But, alas! then came the ordeal; not one thing
did poor Joe know where to place, and stood with the coffeepot in his
hand, undecided whether it went before me, or at the end of the table,
or whether he was to pour out my coffee for me.

I saw he was getting very nervous, so took it from him, and in order to
put him at his ease, I remarked,--

“I think, perhaps, I had better show you, Joe, just for once, how I like
my breakfast served, for every one has little ways of their own, you
know; and you will try to do it my way when you know how I like it,
won’t you?”

Thereupon I arranged the dishes, etc., for him, and his big eyes
followed my every movement. The blinds wanted pulling down a little
presently, and then I began to realize one of the drawbacks in having
such a very small boy as page. Joe saw the sun’s rays were nearly
blinding me, and wanted to shut them out; but on attempting to reach the
tassel attached to the cord, it was hopelessly beyond his reach. In vain
were the long arms stretched to their utmost, till the sleeves of the
ex-page’s jacket retreated almost to Joe’s elbows, but no use.

I watched, curious to see what he would do.

“Please ‘m, might I fetch an ‘all chair?” said Joe; “I’m afraid I’m
not big enuf to reach the tossle, but I won’t pull ‘em up so ‘igh
to-morrow.”

I gave permission, and carefully the chair was steered among my tables
and china pots. Then Joe mounted, and by means of rising on the tips of
his toes he was able to accomplish the task of lowering the blinds.

I noticed at that time that Joe wore bright red socks, and I little
thought what a shock those bright-colored hose were to give me later on
under different circumstances.

That evening I had satisfactory letters regarding Joe’s character, and
by degrees he became used to his new home, and we to him. His quaint
sayings and wonderful love of the truth, added to extreme cleanliness,
made him welcome in the somewhat exclusive circle in which my
housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson, reigned supreme.

Many a hearty burst of laughter came to me from the open kitchen-window
across the garden in the leisure hour, when, the servants’ tea being
over, they sat at work, while Joe amused them with his stories and
reminiscences of the sayings and doings of his wonderful brother Dick.

This same Dick was evidently the one being Joe worshipped on earth, and
to keep his promises to Dick was a sacred duty.

“You don’t know our Dick, Mrs. Wilson,” said Joe, to the old
housekeeper; “if you did, you’d understand why I no more dare go agen
wot Dick told me, than I dare put my ‘and in that ‘ere fire. When I were
quite a little chap, I took some big yaller plums once, out of one of
the punnits father was a-packin’ for market, and I eat ‘em. I don’t know
to this hour wot made me take them plums; but I remember they were such
prime big uns, big as eggs they was, and like lumps of gold, with a sort
of blue shade over ‘em. Father were very partikler about not ‘avin’ the
fruit ‘andled and takin’ the bloom off, and told me to cover ‘em well
with leaves. It was a broilin’ ‘ot day, and I was tired, ‘avin’ been
stoopin’ over the baskits since four in the morning, and as I put the
leaves over the plums I touched ‘em; they felt so lovely and cool, and
looked so juicy-like, I felt I must eat one, and I did; there was just
six on ‘em, and when I’d bin and eat one, there seemed such a empty
place left in the punnit, that I knew father’d be sure to see it, so I
eat ‘em all, and then threw the punnit to one side. Just then, father
comes up and says, “Count them punnits, Dick! there ought to be forty
on ‘em. Twenty picked large for Mr. Moses, and twenty usuals for
Marts!”--two of our best customers they was. Well, Dick, he counts ‘em,
and soon misses one. ‘Thirty-eight, thirty-nine,’ he sez, and no more;
‘but ‘ere’s a empty punnit,’ he sez. I was standing near, feelin’ awful,
and wished I’d said I’d eat the plums afore Dick begun to count ‘em, but
I didn’t, and after that I couldn’t. ‘Joe!’ sez Dick, ‘I wants yer! ‘Ow
come this empty punnit ‘ere, along of the others? there’s plums bin
in it, I can see, ‘cos it’s not new. Speak up, youngster!’ I looked
at Dick’s face, Mrs. Wilson, and his eyes seemed to go right into my
throat, and draw the truth out of me. ‘Speak up,’ he sez, a-gettin’
cross; ‘if you’ve prigged ‘em, say so, and you’ll get a good hidin’
from me, for a-doin’ of it; but if you tells me a lie, you’ll get such a
hidin’ for that as ‘ll make you remember it all your life; so speak up,
say you did it, and take your hidin’ like a brick, and if you didn’t
prig ‘em, say who did, ‘cos you must ‘av’ seen ‘em go.’

“I couldn’t do nothin’, Mrs. Wilson, but keep my ‘ed down, and blubber
out, ‘Please, Dick, I eat ‘em.’

“‘Oh, you did, yer young greedy, did yer,’ he sez; ‘I’m glad yer didn’t
tell me a lie. I’ve got to giv’ yer a hidin’, Joe; but giv’ us yer ‘and,
old chap, first, and mind wot I sez to yer: “_Own up to it, wotever you
do_,” and take your punishment; it’s ‘ard to bear, but when the smart
on it’s over yer forgets it; but if yer tells a lie to save yerself, yer
feels the smart of _that_ always; yer feels ashamed of yerself whenever
yer thinks of it.’ And then Dick give me a thrashin’, he did, but I
never ‘ollered or made a row, tho’ he hit pretty ‘ard. And, Mrs. Wilson,
I never could look in Dick’s face if I told a lie, and I never shall
tell one, I ‘ope, as long as ever I live. You should just see Dick, Mrs.
Wilson, he is a one-er, he is.”

“Lor’ bless the boy,” said Mary, the housemaid; “why, if he isn’t
a-cryin’ now. Whatever’s the matter? One minnit you’re makin’ us larf
fit to kill ourselves, and then you’re nearly makin’ us cry with your
Dick, and your great eyes runnin’ over like that. Now get away, and take
the dogs their supper, and see if you can’t get a bit of color in your
cheeks before you come back.”

So off Joe went, and soon the frantic barking in the stable-yard showed
he had begun feeding his four-footed pets.

Time went on; it was a very quiet household just then--my husband away
in America, and my friends most of them enjoying their summer abroad,
or at some seaside place--all scattered here and there until autumn was
over, and then we were to move to town, and spend the winter season at
our house there. I hoped my dear sister and her girls would then
join us, and, best of all, my dear husband be home to make our circle
complete.

Day by day Joe progressed in favor with everybody; his size was always a
trouble, but his extreme good nature made everybody willing to help
him over his difficulties. He invented all sorts of curious tools for
reaching up to high places; and the marvels he would perform with a long
stick and a sort of claw at the end of it were quite astonishing.

I noticed whenever I spoke of going to town Joe did not seem to look
forward to the change with any pleasure, although he had never been to
London, he told me; but Dick had been once with his father, and had
seen lots of strange things; among others a sad one, that made a great
impression on Dick, and he had told the tale to Joe, so as to have
almost as great an effect on him.

It appeared that one night Dick and his father were crossing Waterloo
Bridge, and had seen a young girl running quickly along, crying
bitterly. Dick tried to keep up with her, and asked her what was the
matter. She told him to let her alone, that she meant to drown herself,
for she had nothing to live for, and was sick of her life. Dick
persuaded her to tell him her grief, and heard from her that her mother
and father had both been drowned in a steamer, and she was left with a
little brother to take care of; he had been a great trouble to her, and
had been led away by bad companions until he became thoroughly wicked.
She had been a milliner, and had a room of her own, and paid extra for a
little place where her brother could sleep. She fed and clothed him out
of her earnings, although he was idle, and cruel enough to scold and
abuse her when she tried to reason with him, and refused to let him
bring his bad companions to her home. At last he stole nearly all
she had, and pawned it; and among other things, some bonnets and caps
belonging to the people who employed her, given as patterns for her
to copy. These she had to pay for, and lost her situation besides. By
degrees all her clothes, her home, and all she had, went for food; and
then this wicked boy left her, and the next thing she knew was that he
had been taken up with a gang of burglars concerned in a jewel robbery.
That day she had seen him in prison, and he was to be transported for
seven years; so the poor creature, mad with grief, was about to end her
life. Dick and his father would not leave her until she was quiet, and
promised them she would go and get a bed and supper with the money they
gave her, and they promised to see her again the next day at a place
she named. The next morning they went to the address, and found a crowd
round the house. Somebody said a young woman had thrown herself out of
a window, and had been taken up dead. It was too true; and the girl was
the wretched, heart-broken sister they had helped over night. Her grief
had been too much for her, and, poor thing, she awoke to the light of
another day, and could not face it alone and destitute; so, despairing,
she had ended her life. They went to the hospital, and were allowed to
see all that remained of the poor creature; and Dick’s description of it
all, and his opinion that the brother “might have been just such another
little chap at first as Joe,” and “What would that brother feel,” said
Dick, “when he knew what he had done? for he done it,” said Dick; “he
done that girl to death, the same as if he’d shov’d her out of that
winder hisself.”

“And,” said Joe, “I wonder if them chaps is goin’ about London now wot
led her brother wrong? I don’t like London; and I wish we could stop
‘ere.”

I assured Joe that in London there was no danger of meeting such people
if he kept to himself, and made no friends of strangers.

Joe was also much afraid of having to wait at table when there were
guests. In spite of all I could do, he was hopelessly nervous and
confused when he had to wait on more than two or three people; and as I
expected to entertain a good deal when we were in town, I could not help
fearing Joe would be unequal to the duties.

I could not bear the idea of parting with the little fellow, for,
added to his good disposition, Joe, in his dark brown livery, with gilt
buttons, his neat little ties, and clean hands; his carefully brushed
curls, by this time trained into better order, and shining like
burnished gold in the sun; his tiny feet, with the favorite red socks,
which he could and did darn very neatly himself when they began to wear
out (and when he bought new ones they were always bright red),--Joe, let
me tell you, was quite an ornament in our establishment, and the envy
of several boys living in families round about, who tried in vain to
get acquainted with him, but he would not be friends, although he always
refused their advances with civil words.

Sometimes a boy would linger when bringing a note or message for me, and
try to draw Joe into conversation. In a few minutes I would hear Joe’s
deep voice say, “I think you had better go on now. I’ve got my work to
do, and I reckon you’ve got yours a-waiting for yer at your place.” Then
the side-door would shut, and Joe was bustling about his work.



CHAPTER III.


In the beginning of October we arrived in London. There had been much
packing up, and much extra work for everybody, and Joe was in his
element.

What those long arms, and that willing heart, and those quick little
hands got through, nobody but those he helped and worked for could tell.
Whatever was wanted Joe knew where to find it. Joe’s knife was ready to
cut a stubborn knot; Joe’s shoulders ready to be loaded with as heavy
a weight as any man could carry. More than once I met him coming
down-stairs with large boxes he himself could almost have been packed
in, and he declared he did not find them too heavy.

“You see, Missis,” he said, “I’m that strong now since I’ve been here,
with all the good food I gets, and bein’ so happy like, that I feel
almost up to carryin’ anythink. I do believe I could lift that there
pianner, if somebody would just give it a hoist, and let me get hold of
it easy.”

Yes, Joe was strong and well, and I am sure, happy, and I had never had
a single misgiving about him since he stood with his fading flowers and
shabby clothes at my window that summer day.

At last we were settled in town, and the winter season beginning. Our
house was situated in the West End of London, a little beyond Bayswater.
One of a row of detached houses, facing another row exactly similar in
every way, except that the backs of those we lived in had small gardens,
with each its own stable wall at the end, with coachman’s rooms above,
the front of the stable facing the mews, and having the entrance from
there; the mews ran all along the backs of these houses. On the opposite
side the houses facing ours had their gardens and back windows facing
the high-road, and no stables. There was a private road belonging to
this, Holling Park as it was called, and a watchman to keep intruders
out, and to stop organ-grinders, beggars, and such invaders of the peace
from disturbing us.

Somehow I was never as comfortable as in my snug cottage in the country.
Rich, fashionable people lived about us, and all day long kept up the
round of “society life.”

In the morning the large handsome houses would seem asleep, nothing
moving inside or out, except a tradesman’s cart, calling for orders,
or workmen putting up or taking down awnings, at some house where there
would be, or had been, a ball or entertainment of some kind. About
eleven a carriage or two would be driven round from the mews, and stop
before a house to take some one for a morning drive; but very seldom
was anybody on foot seen about. In the afternoon it was
different,--carriages rolled along incessantly, and streams of afternoon
callers were going and coming from the houses when the mistress was
“at home;” and at my door, too, soon began the usual din of bell and
knocker. Joe was quite equal to the occasion, and enjoyed Friday, the
day I received. Dressed in his very best, and with a collar that kept
his chin in what seemed to me a fearful state of torture, but added to
his height by at least half an inch, Joe stood behind the hall-door,
ready to open it directly the knocker was released. He ushered in the
guests as though “to the manner born,” giving out the names correctly,
and with all the ease of an experienced groom of the chambers.

The conservatory leading out of the drawing-room was Joe’s especial
pride; it was his great pleasure to syringe the hanging baskets, a
 were spent in little surprises for me in the form of pots of musk,
maiden-hair, or anything he could buy; his wages were all sent home, and
he only kept for his own whatever he had given to him, and sometimes a
guest would “tip” him more generously than I liked, for his bright eyes
and ready hands were always at everybody’s service.

After my husband’s return home, who from the first became Joe’s especial
care, as to boots, brushing of clothes, etc., it became necessary to
give two or three dinner-parties, and I must confess I felt nervous as
to how Joe would acquit himself.

In our dining-room was a very large bear-skin rug, and the floor being
polished oak, it was dangerous to step on this rug, for it would slip
away from the feet on the smooth surface, and even the dogs avoided it,
so many falls had they met with upon it.

The first day of my husband’s arrival we had my sister and a friend to
dine, and had been talking about Joe in the few moments before dinner.

My husband had been laughing at the size of my page, and scolding me a
little, or rather pretending to do so, for taking a written character.

“Little woman,” he said, “don’t be surprised if one night a few country
burglars make us a visit, and renew their acquaintance with Mr. J.
Cole.”

“You don’t know Joe,” I replied, “or you would never say that.”

“Do you know him so well, little wife?” said my dear sensible husband;
“remember he has only been in our service six months. In the country he
had very little of value in his hands, but here, it seems to me, he
has too much. All the plate, and indeed everything of value, is in his
pantry, and he is a very young boy to trust. One of the women servants
should take charge of the plate-chest, I think. Where does this paragon
sleep?”

“Down-stairs,” I said, “next to the kitchen, at the back of the
house; and you should see how carefully every night he looks to the
plate-basket, counts everything, and then asks Mrs. Wilson to see it is
right, locks it up, and gives her the key to take care of. No one can
either open or carry away an iron safe easily, and there is nothing else
worth taking; besides, I know Joe is honest, I feel it.”

“Well, I hope so, dear,” was my husband’s reply, but I could see he was
not quite comfortable about it.

At dinner that day Joe had an accident; he was dreadfully nervous, as
usual, and when waiting, he forgot to attend to my guests first, but
always came to me. The parlor-maid, a new one, and not a great favorite
with Joe, made matters worse by correcting him in an audible voice; and
once, when somebody wanted oyster-sauce, she told Joe to hand it. The
poor boy, wishing to obey quickly, forgot to give the bear-skin a wide
berth, slipped on it, and in a moment had fallen full length, having in
his fall deposited the contents of the sauce-tureen partly into a blue
leather armchair, and the rest onto my sister’s back.

The boy’s consternation was dreadful. I could see he was completely
overcome with fright and sorrow for what he had done. He got up, and all
his trembling lips could say was, “Oh, please, I’m so sorry; it was the
bear as tripped me up. I am so very sorry.”

Even my husband could scarcely keep from smiling, the sorrow was so
genuine, the sense of shame so true.

“There, never mind, Joe,” he said kindly; “you must be more careful. Now
run and get a sponge, and do the best you can with it.”

After that Joe had the greatest terror of that treacherous skin, and I
heard him telling the parlor-maid about it.

“You mind,” he said, “or that bear’ll ketch ‘old of yer. I shan’t forget
how he ketched ‘old of my leg that day and knocked me over; so you’d
better take care, and not go nigher than you can ‘elp. He’s always
a-lookin’ out to ketch yer, but he won’t ‘ave me no more, I can tell
him.”

This fall of Joe’s made him still more nervous of waiting at table, and
at last, when he had made some very serious mistakes, I had to speak to
him and tell him I was afraid, if he did not soon learn to wait better,
I must send him away, for his master was annoyed at the mistakes he
made, such as pouring port instead of sherry, giving cold plates when
hot ones were required, handing dishes on the wrong side, etc.

My little lecture was listened to quietly and humbly, and Joe had turned
to go away, when, to my surprise and distress, he suddenly burst into a
perfect passion of tears and sobs.

“I will try and learn myself,” he said, as well as his sobs would let
him, “indeed, I will. I know I’m stoopid. I sez to myself every
time company comes, ‘I’ll mind wot I’m about, and remember dishes
left-’anded, pour-in’s out right, sherry wine’s yeller, and port wine
afterwards with the nuts, grapes, and things; and the cruits when
there’s fish, and begin with the strangerest lady next to master’s side,
and ‘elp missus last.’ I knows it all, but when they’re all sittin’
down, and everybody wantin’ somethin’, I don’t know if Jane’s a-goin’
to giv’ it ‘em, or I am; and I gets stoopid, and my ‘ands shakes, and
somehow I can’t do nothin’; but please don’t send me away. I do like you
and the master. I’ll ask Jane to learn me better. You see if I don’t.
Oh, please’m, say you’ll try me!”

What could I say but “yes,” and for a day or two Joe did better, but
we were a small party, and the waiting was easy; but shortly we were to
have a large dinner-party, and as the time drew near, Joe became quite
pale and anxious.

About this time, too, I had been awakened at night by curious
sounds down-stairs, as of somebody moving about, and once I heard an
unmistakable fall of some heavy article.

My husband assured me it was nothing alarming, and he went down-stairs,
but could neither hear or see anything unusual. All was quiet.

Another night I felt sure I heard sounds down-stairs; and in spite of
my husband’s advice to remain still, I called Mrs. Wilson, and entreated
her to come down to the kitchen-floor with me. It was so very easy, I
knew, for anybody to enter the house from the back, and there being
a deep area all round, they could work away with their tools at the
ground-floor back windows unseen. Any one could get on the top of
the stable from the mews, drop into the garden, and be safe; for the
watchman and policeman were on duty in the front of the house only, the
back was quite unprotected. True, there were iron bars to Joe’s window
and the kitchen, but iron bars could be sawed through, and I lived in
dread of burglars.

This night Mrs. Wilson and I went softly down, and as we neared the
kitchen stairs, I heard a voice say in a whisper, “Make haste!”

“There, Mrs. Wilson, did you hear that?” I said. “Was that imagination?”

“No, ma’am,” she replied; “there’s somebody talking, and I believe it’s
in Joe’s room. Let us go up and fetch the master.”

So we returned up-stairs, and soon my husband stood with us at the door
of Joe’s room.

“Open the door, Joe!” cried my husband. “Who have you got there?”

“Nobody, please, sir,” said a trembling voice.

“Open the door at once!” said the master, and in a moment it was opened.
Joe stood there very pale, but with no sort of fear in his face.
There was nobody in the room, and as Joe had certainly been in bed, we
concluded he must have talked in his sleep, and, perhaps, walked about
also, for what we knew.

The day before the dinner-party, Cook came and told me she felt sure
there was something wrong with Joe. He was so changed from what he used
to be; there was no getting him to wake in the morning, and he seemed so
heavy with sleep, as if he had no rest at night. Also Cook had proofs
of his having been in her kitchen after he was supposed to have gone to
bed; chairs were moved, and several things not where she had left them.
She had asked Joe, and he replied he did go into the kitchen, but would
not say what for.

I did not like to talk to Joe that day, so decided to wait till after
the dinner, and I would then insist on the mystery being cleared up.
I knew Joe would tell the truth; my trust was unshaken, although
circumstances seemed against him.

That night Mrs. Wilson came to my door, and said she was sure Joe was at
his nightwork again, for she could see from her bedroom window a light
reflected on the stable wall, which must be in his room.

“How can we find out,” I said, “what he is doing?”

“That is easily done,” said my husband. “We can go out at the
garden-door, and down the steps leading from the garden into the area;
they are opposite his window. We can look through the Venetian blinds,
if they are down, and see for ourselves. He won’t be able to see us.”

Accordingly, having first wrapped up in our furs, we went down, and were
soon at Joe’s window, standing in the area that surrounded the house.
The laths of the blind were some of them open, and between them we saw
distinctly all over the room.

At first we could not understand the strange sight that met our gaze.

In the middle of Joe’s room was a table, spread with a cloth, and on
it saucers from flower-pots, placed at intervals down each side; before
each saucer a chair was placed, and in the centre of the table a high
basket, from which a Stilton cheese had been unpacked that morning,-this
was evidently to represent a tall _épergne_. On Joe’s wash-stand were
several bottles, a jug, and by each flower-pot saucer two vessels of
some kind--by one, two jam-pots of different sizes; by another, a broken
specimen glass and a teacup--and so on; and from chair to chair moved
Joe, softly but quickly, on tiptoe, now with bottles which contained
water. We could see his lips move, and concluded he was saying something
to imaginary persons, for he would put a jampot on his tray, and pour
into it from the bottle, and then replace it. Sometimes he would go
quickly to his bed, which we saw represented the dinner-wagon, or
sideboard, and bring imaginary dishes from there and hand them. Then he
would go quickly from chair to chair, always correcting himself if he
went to the wrong side, and talking all the time softly to himself. So
here was the solution of the mystery; here melted into air the visions
of Joe in league with midnight burglars.

The poor boy, evidently alarmed at the prospect of the dinner-party, and
feeling that he must try to improve in waiting at table before that time
somehow, had stolen all those hours nightly from his rest, to practise
with whatever substitutes were at hand for the usual table requisites.

Here every night, when those who had worked far less during the day were
soundly sleeping, had that anxious, striving little heart shaken off
fatigue, and the big blue eyes refused to yield to sleep, in order to
fight with the nervousness that alone prevented his willing hands acting
with their natural cleverness. I felt a choking in my throat, when I saw
the thin, pale little face, that should have been on the pillow hours
before, lighted up with triumph as the supposed guests departed; the
dumb show of folding the dinner napkins belonging to myself and the
master, and putting them in their respective rings, told us the ordeal
was over. What a weird scene it was,--the dim light, the silent house,
the spread table, and the empty chairs! One could imagine ghostly
revellers, visible only to that one fragile attendant, who ministered
so willingly to their numerous wants. The sort of nervous thrill that
heralds hysterical attacks was rapidly overcoming me, and I whispered
to my husband, “Let us go now;” but he lingered yet a few seconds, and
silently drew my attention again to the window.

Joe was on his knees by his bedside, his face hidden in his hands. What
silent prayer was ascending to the Throne of Grace, who shall say? I
only know that it were well if many a kneeling worshipper in “purple
and fine linen” could feel as sure of being heard as Joe did when,
his victory won, he knelt, in his humble servant’s garb, and said his
prayers that night in spite of the aching head and weary limbs that
needed so badly the few hours’ rest that remained before six o’clock,
the time Joe always got up.

Silently we stole away, and in my mind from that moment my faith in Joe
never wavered. Not once, in spite of sad events that came to pass later
on, when even I, his staunchest friend, had to recall to memory that
kneeling little form in the silence of the night, alone with his God, in
order to stifle the cruel doubts of his truth that were forced upon us
all by circumstances I must soon relate.

The famous dinner passed off well. Joe was splendid; his midnight
practice had brought its reward, and he moved about so swiftly, and
anticipated everybody’s wants so well, that some of my friends asked me
where I got such a treasure of a page; he must have had a good butler or
footman to teach him, they said; he is evidently used to waiting on many
guests. I was proud of Joe.

The next day he came to me with more than a sovereign in silver, and
told me the gentlemen had been so very kind to him, “and a’most every
one had given him somethin’, tho’ he never arst, or waited about, as
some fellers did, as if they wouldn’t lose sight of a gent till he paid
‘em. But,” said Joe, “they would giv’ it me; and one gent, he follered
me right up the passage, he did, and sez, ‘Ere, you small boy,’ he sez,
and he give me a whole ‘arf-crown. Whatever for, I don’t know.”

But I knew that must have been Dr. Loring, a celebrated physician,
and my husband’s dearest friend. We had told him about Joe’s midnight
self-teaching, and he had been much interested in the story.

You little thought, Joe, the hand that patted your curly head so kindly
that night would one day hold your small wrist, and count its feeble
life-pulse beating slowly and yet more slowly, while we, who loved you,
should watch the clever, handsome face, trying in vain to read there the
blessed word “Hope.”



CHAPTER IV.


And now I must confess to those--for surely there will be a few--who
have felt a little interest, so far, in the fortunes of J. Cole, that
a period in my story has arrived when I would fain lay down my pen, and
not awaken the sleeping past, to recall the sad trouble that befell him.

I am almost an old woman now, and all this happened many years ago, when
my hair was golden instead of silver. I was younger in those days, and
now am peacefully and hopefully waiting God’s good time for my summons.
Troubles have been my lot, many and hard to bear. Loss of husband,
children, dear, good friends, many by death, and some troubles harder
even than those, the loss of trust, and bitter awakening to the
ingratitude and worthlessness of those in whom I have trusted,--all
these I have endured. Yet time and trouble have not sufficiently
hardened my heart that I can write of what follows without pain.
Christmas was over, and my dear husband again away for some months. As
soon as I could really say, “Spring is here,” we were to leave London
for our country home; and Joe was constantly talking to Mrs. Wilson
about his various pets, left behind in the gardener’s care. There was an
old jackdaw, an especial favorite of his, a miserable owl, too, who
had met with an accident, resulting in the loss of an eye; a more
evil-looking object than “Cyclops,” as my husband christened him, I
never saw. Sometimes on a dark night this one eye would gleam luridly
from out the shadowy recesses of the garden, and an unearthly cry of
“Hoo-oo-t,” fall on the ear, enough to give one the “creeps for a hour,”
 as Mary, the housemaid, said. But Joe loved Cyclops, or rather “Cloppy,”
 as he called him; and the bird hopped after Joe about the garden, as if
he quite returned the feeling.

All our own dogs, and two or three maimed ones, and a cat or two, more
or less hideous, and indebted to Joe’s mercy in rescuing them from
traps, snares, etc.,--all these creatures were Joe’s delight. Each
week the gardener’s boy wrote a few words to Joe of their health and
wonderful doings, and each week Joe faithfully sent a shilling, to be
laid out in food for them. Then there was Joe’s especial garden, also
a sort of hospital, or convalescent home rather, where many blighted,
unhealthy-looking plants and shrubs, discarded by the gardener, and cast
aside to be burnt on the weed-heap, had been rescued by Joe, patiently
nursed and petted as it were into life again by constant care and
watching, and, after being kept in pots a while, till they showed, by
sending forth some tiny shoot or bud, that the sap of life was once more
circulating freely, were then planted in the sheltered corner he called
“his own.”

What treasures awaited him in this small square of earth. What bunches
of violets he would gather for the Missis; and his longing to get back
to his various pets, and his garden, was the topic of conversation on
many a long evening between Joe and Mrs. Wilson.

Little Bogie, the fox-terrier, was the only dog we had with us in town,
and Bogie hated London. After the quiet country life, the incessant
roll of carriages, tramping of horses, and callings of coachmen, shrill
cab-whistles, and all the noises of a fashionable neighborhood at night
during a London season, were most objectionable to Bogie; he could not
rest, and often Joe got out of bed in the night, and took him in his
arms, to prevent his waking all of us, with his shrill barking at the
unwonted sounds.

As I have said before, I am very nervous, and the prospect of spending
several more weeks in the big London house, without my husband, was far
from pleasant; so I invited my widowed sister and her girls to stay with
me some time longer, and made up my mind to banish my fears, and
think of nothing but that the dark nights would be getting shorter and
shorter, and meanwhile our house was well protected, as far as good
strong bolts and chains could do so.

One night I felt more nervous than usual. I had expected a letter from
America for some days past, and none had arrived. On this evening I
knew the mail was due, and I waited anxiously for the last ring of the
postman at ten o’clock; but I was doomed to listen in vain. There was
the sharp, loud ring next door, but not at ours; and I went to my room
earlier than the others, really to give way to a few tears that I could
not control.

I sat by my bedroom fire, thinking, and, I am afraid, conjuring up all
sorts of terrible reasons for my dear husband’s silence, until I
must have fallen asleep, for I awoke chilly and cramped from the
uncomfortable posture I had slept in. The fire was out, and the house
silent as the grave; not even a carriage passing to take up some late
guest. I looked at the clock, half-past three, and then from my window.
It was that “darkest hour before dawn,” and I hurried into bed, and
endeavored to sleep; but no, I was hopelessly wide awake. No amount of
counting, or mental exercise on the subject of “sheep going through a
hedge,” had any effect, and I found myself lying awake, listening. Yes,
I knew that I was _listening for something that I should hear before
long, but I did not know what._

“Hark! what was that?”--a sudden thud, as if something had fallen
somewhere in the house; then silence, except for the loud beating of my
heart, that threatened to suffocate me. “Nonsense,” I said to myself, “I
am foolishly nervous to-night. It is nothing here, or Bogie would bark;”
 so I tried again to sleep. Hush! Surely that was a footstep going up or
down the stairs! I could not endure the agony of being alone any longer,
but would go to my sister’s room, just across the landing, and get her
to come and stay the rest of the night with me. I put on my slippers and
dressing-gown, and opening my door, came face to face with my sister,
who was coming to me.

“Let me come in,” she said, “and don’t let us alarm the girls; but I
feel certain something is going on down-stairs. Bogie barked furiously
an hour ago, and then was suddenly silent.”

“That must have been when I was asleep,” I replied; “but no doubt Joe
heard him, and has taken him in.”

“That may be,” said my sister, “but I have kept on hearing queer noises
at the back of the house; they seemed in Joe’s room at first. Come and
listen yourself on the stairs.”

It is strange, but true, that many persons, horribly nervous at the
thought of danger, find all their presence of mind in full force when
actually called upon to face it. So it is with me, and so it was on that
night. I stood on the landing, and listened, and in a few moments heard
muffled sounds down-stairs, like persons moving about stealthily.

“There is certainly somebody down there, Nelly,” I said to my sister,
“and they are down in the basement. If we could creep down quietly
and get into the drawing-room, we might open the window and call the
watchman or policeman; both are on duty until seven.”

“But think,” said my sister, “of the fright of the girls if they hear
us, and find they are left alone. The servants, too, will scream, and
rush about, as they always do. Let us go down and make sure there are
thieves, and then see what is best to be done. The door at the top of
the kitchen stairs is locked, so they must be down there; and perhaps if
we could get the watchman to come in quietly, we might catch them in
a trap, by letting him through the drawing-room, and into the
conservatory. He could get into the garden from there, and as they must
have got in that way from the mews, over the stable wall, and through
the garden, they would try to escape the same way, and the watchman
would be waiting for them, and cut off their retreat.”

I agreed, and we stole down-stairs into the drawing-room, where we
locked ourselves in, then very gently and carefully drew up one of
the side blinds of the bay window. The morning had begun to break, and
everything in the wide road was distinctly visible. In the distance I
could see the policeman on duty, but on the opposite side, and going
away from our house instead of towards it. He would turn the corner at
the top of the road, and go past the houses parallel with the backs of
our row, and then appear at the opposite end of the park, and come along
our side; there was no intermediate turning--nothing but an unbroken row
of about forty detached houses facing each other.

What could we do? I dared not wait until the policeman came back; quite
twenty minutes must pass before then, and day being so near at hand,
the light was increasing every moment, and the burglars would surely
not leave without visiting the drawing-room and dining-room, and would
perhaps murder us to save themselves from detection.

If I could only attract the policeman’s attention, but how?

My sister was close to the door listening, and every instant we dreaded
hearing them coming up the kitchen stairs. I could not understand Bogie
not barking, and Joe not waking, for where I was I could distinctly hear
the men moving about in the pantry and kitchen.

“I wonder,” I said to my sister, “if I could put something across from
this balcony to the stonework by the front steps? It seems such a little
distance, and if I could step across, I could open the front gate in an
instant, and run after the policeman. I shall try.”

“You will fall and kill yourself,” my sister said; “the space is much
wider than you think.”

But I was determined to try; for if I let that policeman go out of
sight, what horrors might happen in the twenty minutes before he would
come back.

The idea of one of the girls waking and calling out, or Joe waking and
being shot or stabbed, gave me a feeling of desperation, as though I
alone could and must save them.

Luckily the house was splendidly built, every window-sash sliding
noiselessly and easily in its groove. I opened the one nearest to the
hall door steps, and saw that the stone ledge abutted to within about
two feet of the low balcony of the window; but I was too nervous to
trust myself to spring across even that distance. At that moment my
sister whispered:--

“I hear somebody coming up the kitchen stairs!”

Desperately I cast my eyes round the room for something to bridge
the open space, that would bear my weight, if only for a moment. The
fender-stool caught my eye; that might do, it was strong, and more than
long enough. In an instant we had it across, and I was out of the window
and down the front steps.


As I turned the handle of the heavy iron gate, I looked down at the
front kitchen window. A man stood in the kitchen, and he looked up and
saw me--such a horrible-looking ruffian, too. Fear lent wings to my
feet, and I flew up the road. The watchman was just entering the park
from the opposite end; he saw me, and sounded his whistle; the policeman
turned and ran towards me. I was too exhausted to speak, and he caught
me, just as, having gasped “Thieves at 50!” (the number of our house), I
fell forward in a dead swoon.

When I recovered, I was lying on my own bed, my sister, the scared
servants, and the policeman, all around me. From them I heard that
directly the man in the kitchen caught sight of me, he warned his
companion, who was busy forcing the lock of the door at the head of the
kitchen stairs, and my sister heard them both rushing across the garden,
where they had a ladder against the stable-wall. They must have pulled
this up after them, and tossed it into the next garden, where it
was found, to delay pursuit. The park-keeper had, after sounding his
whistle, rushed to our house, got in at the window, and ran to the door
at the top of the kitchen stairs, but it was quite impossible to open
it; the burglars had cleverly left something in the lock when disturbed,
and the key would not turn. He then went through the drawing-room into
the conservatory, where a glass door opened on the garden; but by the
time the heavy sliding glass panel was unfastened, and the inner door
unbolted, the men had disappeared. They took with them much less than
they hoped to have done, for there were parcels and packets of spoons,
forks, and a case of very handsome gold salt-cellars, a marriage gift,
always kept in a baize-lined chest in the pantry, the key of which I
retained, and which chest was supposed until now to be proof against
burglars; the lock had been burnt all round with some instrument, most
likely a poker heated in the gas, and then forced inwards from the burnt
woodwork.

“How was it,” I asked, “Joe did not wake during all this, or Bogie
bark?”

As I asked the question, I noticed that my sister turned away; and Mrs.
Wilson, after vainly endeavoring to look unconcerned, threw her apron
suddenly over her head, and burst out crying.

“What is the matter?” I said, sitting up; “what are you all hiding from
me? Send Joe to me; I will learn the truth from him.”

At this the policeman came forward, and then I heard that Joe was
missing, his room was in great disorder, and one of his shoes, evidently
dropped in his hurry, had been found in the garden, near some spoons
thrown down by the thieves; his clothes were gone, so he evidently had
dressed himself after pretending to go to bed as usual; his blankets and
sheets were taken away, used no doubt, the policeman said, to wrap up
the stolen things.

“Is it possible,” I asked, “that you suspect Joe is in league with these
burglars?”

“Well, mum,” said the man, “it looks queer, and very like it. He slept
down-stairs close to the very door where they got in; he never gives
no alarm, he must have been expecting something, or else why was he
dressed? And how did his shoe come in the garden? And what’s more to the
point, if so be as he’s innercent, where is he? These young rascals is
that artful, you’d be surprised to know the dodges they’re up to.”

“But,” I interrupted, “it is impossible, it is cruel to suspect him.
He is gone, true enough, but I’m sure he will come back. Perhaps he ran
after the men to try and catch them, and dropped his shoe then.”

“That’s not likely, mum,” said he, with a pitying smile at my ignorance
of circumstantial evidence; “he’d have called out to stop ‘em, and it
‘aint likely they’d have let him get up their ladder, afore chucking of
it into the next garden, if so be as he was a-chasing of ‘em to get
‘em took. No, mar’m; I’m very sorry, particular as you seem so kindly
disposed; but, in my humble opinion, he’s a artful young dodger, and
this ‘ere job has been planned ever so long, and he’s connived at it,
and has hooked it along with his pals. I knows ‘em, but we’ll soon nab
him; and if so be as you’ll be so kind as to let me take down in writin’
all you knows about ‘J. Cole,’ which is his name, I’m informed, where
you took him from, his character, and previous career, it will help
considerable in laying hands on him; and when he’s found we’ll soon find
his pals.”

Of course, I told all I knew about Joe. I felt positive he would come
back, perhaps in a few minutes, to explain everything. Besides, there
was Bogie, too. Why should he take Bogie? The policeman suggested that
“perhaps the dawg foller’d him, and he had taken it along with him, to
prevent being traced by its means.”

At length, all this questioning being over, the household settled down
into a sort of strange calm. It seemed to us days since we had said
“Good-night,” and sought our rooms on that night, and yet it was only
twenty-four hours ago; in that short time how much had taken place! On
going over all the plate, etc., we missed many more things; and Mrs.
Wilson, whose faith in Joe’s honesty never wavered, began to think the
poor boy might have been frightened at having slept through the robbery;
and as he was so proud of having the plate used every day in his charge,
when he discovered it had been stolen, he might have feared we should
blame him so much for it, that he had run away home to his people in his
fright, meaning to ask his father, or his adored Dick, to return to me
and plead for him. I thought, too, this was possible, for I knew how
terribly he would reproach himself for letting anything in his care be
stolen. I therefore made up my mind to telegraph to his father at once;
but, not to alarm him, I said:--

“Is Joe with you? Have reason to think he has gone home. Answer back.”

The answer came some hours after, for in those small villages
communication was difficult. The reply ran thus:--

“We have not seen Joe; if he comes to-night will write at once. Hoping
there is nothing wrong.”

So that surmise was a mistake, for Joe had money, and would go by train
if he went home, and be there in two hours.

All the household sat up nearly all that night, or rested uncomfortably
on sofas and armchairs; we felt too unsettled to go to bed, though worn
out with suspense, and the previous excitement and fright. Officials and
detectives came and went during the evening, and looked about for traces
of the robbers, and before night a description of the stolen things, and
a most minute one of Joe, were posted outside the police-stations, and
all round London for miles. A reward of twenty pounds was offered for
Joe, and my heart ached to know there was a hue and cry after him like a
common thief.

What would the old parents think? and how would Dick feel?--Dick whose
good counsels and careful training had made Joe what I _knew_ he was, in
spite of every suspicion.

The next day I still felt sure he would come, and I went down into the
room where he used to sleep, and saw Mrs. Wilson had put all in order,
and fresh blankets sheets were on the little bed, all ready for him. So
many things put me in mind of the loving, gentle disposition. A little
flower-vase I valued very much had been broken by Bogie romping with one
of my nieces, and knocking it down. It was broken in more than twenty
pieces; and after I had patiently tried to mend it myself, and my
nieces, with still greater patience, had had their turn at it, we had
given it up as a bad job, and thought it had long ago gone onto the
dust-heap.

There were some shelves on the wall of Joe’s room where his treasures
were kept; and on one of these shelves, covered with an old white
handkerchief, was a little tray containing the vase, a bottle of cement,
and a camel’s-hair brush. The mending was finished, all but two or three
of the smallest pieces, and beautifully done; it must have taken time,
and an amount of patience that put my efforts and those of the girls to
shame; but Joe’s was a labor of love, and did not weary him. He would
probably have put it in its usual place one morning, when mended, and
said nothing about it until I found it out, and then confessed, in his
own queer way, “Please, I knew you was sorry it was broke, and so I
mended it;” then he would have hurried away, flushed with pleasure at my
few words of thanks and praise.

On the mantelpiece were more of Joe’s treasures, four or five cheap
photographs, the subjects quite characteristic of Joe. One of them was a
religious subject, “The Shepherd with a little lamb on his shoulders.”
 A silent prayer went up from my heart that somewhere that same Good
Shepherd was finding lost Joe, and bringing him safely back to us.

There were some pebbles he had picked up during a memorable trip to
Margate with Dick, a year before I saw him; which pebbles he firmly
believed were real “aggits,” and had promised to have them polished
soon, and made into brooch and earrings for Mrs. Wilson.

There was a very old-fashioned photograph of myself that I had torn
in half, and thrown into the waste-paper basket. I saw this had been
carefully joined together and enclosed in a cheap frame--the only one
that could boast of being so preserved. I suppose Joe could only afford
one frame, and his sense of the fitness of things made him choose the
Missis’s picture to be first honored.

How sad I felt looking round the room! People may smile at my feeling so
sad and concerned about a servant, a common, lowborn page-boy. Ay, smile
on, if you will, but tell me, my friend, can you say, if you were in
Joe’s position at that time, with circumstantial evidence so strong
against you, poor and lowly as he was, are there four or five, or even
two or three of your friends who would believe in you, stand up for you,
and trust in you, in spite of all, as we did for Joe?

I had gone up to my sitting-room, after telling Mary to light the fire
in poor Joe’s room, and let it look warm and cosey; for I had some sort
of presentiment that I should see the poor boy again very soon--how, I
knew not, but I have all my life been subject to spiritual influences,
and have seldom been mistaken in them.

We were all thinking of going early to rest, for since the robbery none
of us had had any real sleep. Suddenly the front door-bell rang timidly,
as if the visitor were not quite sure of its being right to pull the
handle.

“Perhaps that’s Joe,” said my sister.

But I knew Joe would not ring that bell.

We heard Mary open the door, and a man’s voice ask if Mr. Aylmer lived
there.

“Yes,” said Mary, “but he is abroad; but you can see Mrs. Aylmer.” Then
came a low murmuring of voices, and Mary came in, saying:--

“Oh, ma’am, it’s Dick, Joe’s brother; and he says may he see you?”

“Send him in here at once,” I replied.

And in a moment Dick stood before me--Dick, Joe’s beau-ideal of all that
was good, noble, and to be admired. I must say the mind-picture I had
formed of Dick was totally unlike the reality. I had expected to see a
sunburnt, big fellow, with broad shoulders and expressive features.

The real Dick was a thin, delicate-looking young man, with a pale face,
and black straight hair. He stood with his hat in his hand, looking down
as if afraid to speak.

“Oh, pray come in,” I cried, going forward to meet him. “I know who
you are. Oh, have you brought me any news of poor Joe? We are all his
friends here, his true friends, and you must let us be yours too in this
trouble. Have you seen him?”

At my words the bowed head was lifted up, and then I saw Dick’s face as
it was. If ever truth, honor, and generosity looked out from the windows
of a soul, they looked out of those large blue eyes of Dick’s--eyes so
exactly like Joe’s in expression, that the black lashes instead of the
fair ones seemed wrong somehow.

“God bless you, lady, for them words,” said Dick; and before I could
prevent it, he had knelt at my feet, caught my hand and pressed it to
his lips, while wild sobs broke from him.

“Forgive me,” he said, rising to his feet, and leaning with one hand on
the back of a chair, his whole frame shaking with emotion. “Forgive me
for givin’ way like this; but I’ve seen them papers about our Joe, and I
know what’s being thought of him, and I’ve come here ashamed to see you,
thinkin’ you believed as the rest do, that Joe robbed you after all your
goodness to him. Why, lady, I tell you, rather than I’d believe that of
my little lad, as I thrashed till my heart almost broke to hear him sob,
for the only lie as he ever told in all his life; if I could believe it,
I’d take father’s old gun and end my life, for I’d be a beast, not fit
to live any longer. And I thought you doubted him too; but now I hear
you say you’re his friend, and believes in him, and don’t think he
robbed you, I know now there’s good folks in the world, and there’s
mercy and justice, and it ain’t all wrong, as I’d come a’most to think
as it was, when I first know’d about this ‘ere.”

“Sit down, Dick,” I said, “and recover yourself, and let us see what can
be done. I will tell you all that has happened, and then perhaps you can
throw some light on Joe’s conduct--you who know him so well.”

Dick sat down, and shading his eyes with his hand that his tears might
not betray his weakness any more, he listened quietly while I went over
all the events of that dreadful night.

When I had finished, Dick sat for some moments quite silent, then with
a weary gesture, passing his hand across his forehead, he remarked
sadly:--

“I can’t make nothing of it; it’s a thing beyond my understanding. I’m
that dazed like, I can’t see nothin’ straight. However, what I’ve got to
do is to find Joe, and that I mean to do; if he’s alive I’ll find him,
and then let him speak for hisself. I don’t believe he’s done nothing
wrong, but if he has done ever so little or ever so much, he’ll ‘_own up
to it whatever it is_,’ that’s what Joe’ll do. I told him to lay by them
words and hold to ‘em, and I’ll lay my life he’ll do as I told him.
I’ve got a bed down Marylebone way, at my aunt’s what’s married to a
policeman; I’m to stay there, and I’ll have a talk with ‘em about this
and get some advice. I know Joe’s innercent, and why don’t he come and
say so? But I’ll find him.”

I inquired about the old people, and how they bore their trial.

“Father’s a’most beside hisself,” said Dick; “and only that he’s got to
keep mother in the dark about this, he’d have come with me; but mother,
she’s a-bed with rheumatics, and doctor told father her heart was
weak-like, and she mustn’t be told, or it would p’raps kill her. She
thinks a deal of Joe, does mother, being the youngest, and always such a
sort of lovin’ little chap he were.” And here Dick’s voice broke again,
and I made him go down to Mrs. Wilson, and have some refreshment before
leaving, and he promised to see me again the first thing in the morning,
when he had talked to his friend, the policeman.

Scarcely had Dick gone, when a loud, and this time firm ring, announced
another visitor, and in a cab, too, I could hear. Evidently there was no
going to rest early that night, as ten o’clock was then striking.

Soon, to my surprise, I heard a well-known voice, and Mary announced Dr.
Loring, my husband’s old friend, of whom I have already spoken.

“Well, my dear,” he cried, in his pleasant, cheerful voice, that in
itself seemed to lift some of the heaviness from my heart, “are you not
astonished to see me at such an hour?”

“Astonished, certainly,” I replied; “but very, very glad. You are always
welcome; and more than ever now, when we are in trouble and sorrow. Do
sit down, and stay with me awhile.”

“Yes, I will, for an hour, gladly,” he said. “But there’s something
outside that had better be brought in first. You know I’ve only just
arrived from Devonshire, and there are two barrels of Devonshire apples
on that cab, one for you, and one for the wife, that is why you see me
here; for I thought it would not be ten minutes out of my road to pass
by here, and leave them with you, and so save the trouble of sending
them by carrier to-morrow.”

I rang for Mary, and the doctor suggested the apples being put somewhere
where the smell of them could not penetrate up-stairs; for, as he truly
remarked, “Though a fine ripe pippin is delicious to eat at breakfast or
luncheon, the smell of them shut up in a house is horrible.”

“I dare say Mrs. Wilson will find a place in the basement,” I said; “for
we don’t use half the room there is down there.”

Having ordered the barrel to be stowed away, I soon settled my visitor
comfortably in an armchair by the fire, with a cup of his favorite cocoa
by his side.

“And now, my dear,” said he, “tell me about this burglary that has taken
place, and which has made you look as if you wanted me to take care of
you a while, and bring back some color to your pale cheeks. And what
about this boy? Is it the same queer little fellow who chose midnight to
play his pranks in once before? I’m not often deceived in a face, and I
thought his was an honest one. I”--

“So it was,” I interrupted; “don’t say a word until I’ve told you all,
and you will”--

I had scarcely begun speaking, when a succession of the most fearful
screams arose from down-stairs, each rising louder and louder, in the
extreme of terror. My sister, who had gone to her room, rushed down to
me; the girls, in their dressing-gowns, just as they were preparing
for bed, followed, calling out, “Auntie! O Auntie! what is it? Who is
screaming? What can be the matter?” Hardly were they in the room when
Mary rushed in, ghastly, her eyes staring, and in a voice hoarse with
terror, gasped out, “Come! come! he’s found! he’s murdered! I saw him.
He’s lying in the cellar, with his throat cut. Oh, it’s horrible!” Then
she began to scream again.

The doctor tried to hold me back, but I broke from him, and ran
down-stairs, where I could find no one; all was dark in the kitchens,
but there was a light in the area, and I was soon there, followed by Dr.
Loring.

By the open cellar-door stood Mrs. Wilson, and the cabman with her.
Directly she saw me, she called out, “Oh, dear mistress, don’t you come
here; it’s not a sight for you. Take her away, Dr. Loring, she musn’t
see it.”

“What is it?” I cried; “Mary says it’s”--I could not say the words, but
seizing the candle from Mrs. Wilson’s hand, I went into the cellar.

The good doctor was close to me, with more light, by the aid of which
we beheld, in the far corner, facing us, what seemed to be a bundle of
blankets, from which protruded a head, a horrible red stream surrounding
it, and flowing, as it were, from the open mouth. One second brought me
close. It was Joe--Joe, with his poor limbs bound with cruel ropes, and
in his mouth for a gag they had forced one of those bright red socks
he would always wear. Thank God, it was only that red sock, and not the
horrible red stream I had feared. He was dead, of course; but not such a
fearful death as that.

The doctor soon pulled the horrid gag from his mouth, and the
good-natured cabman, who evidently felt for us, helped to cut the ropes,
and lift up the poor cold little form.

As they lifted him, something that was in the blankets fell heavily to
the ground. It was poor Bogie’s dead body, stabbed in many places, each
wound enough to have let out the poor dumb creature’s life.

By this time help had arrived, and once more the police took possession
of us, as it were.

Of course, _now_ everything was explained. The burglars had evidently
entered Joe’s room, and Bogie, being in his arms, had barked, and
wakened him. A few blows had soon silenced poor Bogie, and a gag and
cords had done the same for Joe.

When the man saw me from the kitchen window he must have known that help
would soon come, and to prevent Joe giving information too soon they had
hastily seized him, bed-clothes and all, and put him into that cellar,
to starve if he were not discovered.

Perhaps they did not really mean to kill the poor child, and if we had
been in the habit of using that cellar we might have found him in a
few hours or less; but, unfortunately, it was a place we never used,
it reached far under the street, and was too large for our use. Our
coal-cellar was a much smaller one, inside the scullery; the door of
poor Joe’s prison closed with a common latch.

Had there been any doubt in the detective’s mind as to Joe’s guilt, he
might have taken more trouble, and searched for him, even there; but
from the first everybody but ourselves had been sure Joe had escaped
with the burglars, so the cellar remained unsearched.

Mrs. Wilson, wishing to spare me the smell of the apples, thought that
cellar, being outside the house, a very suitable place for them, and on
opening the door had caught sight of something in the distant corner,
and sent Mary to see what it was. Then arose those fearful shrieks we
had heard, and Mary had rushed out of the cellar half mad with fright.

In less time than it has taken me to relate this, Joe was laid on the
rug before the drawing-room fire, and I summoned courage to look on the
changed face.

“Could that be Joe--so white, so drawn, so still?”

Dr. Loring was kneeling by the little form, chafing and straightening
the poor stiffened arms, so bent with their cruel pinioning behind the
shoulders.

“Doctor,” I said, “why do you do any more? Nothing can bring back the
poor fellow, murdered while doing his duty.” Then I, too, knelt down,
and took the poor cold hands in mine,

“Oh, my poor child!” I cried, “my little brave heart; who dared say you
were false? Let those who doubted you look at you now, with dry eyes, if
they can.”

“My dear,” said Dr. Loring suddenly, “have you always hot water in your
bathroom?”

“Yes, doctor,” I said; “yes. Why do you ask? Do you mean--is it
possible--there is life?” And I took Joe’s little head in my arms, and
forgot he was only a servant, only a poor, common little page-boy.
I only know I pressed him to my breast, and called him by all the
endearing names I used to call my own children in after years, when God
gave me some, and kissed his white forehead in my joy at the blessed ray
of hope.

No want of willing arms to carry Joe up-stairs. Mrs. Wilson had the bath
filled before the doctor was in the room with his light burden.

“A few drops of brandy, to moisten the lips, first of all,” said the
good doctor, “then the bath and gentle friction; there is certainly life
in him.”

Now my good sister’s clever nursing proved invaluable. All that night we
fought every inch of ground, as it were, with our grim enemy; the dear,
good doctor never relaxed in his efforts to bring back life to the
cramped limbs. The burglars had unknowingly helped to keep alight Joe’s
feeble spark of life by wrapping the blankets round him; they had meant,
no doubt, to stifle any sound he might make; but by keeping him from
actual contact with the stone floor, and protecting him from the cold,
they had given him his little chance of life.

Oh, how I blessed that kind thought of Dr. Loring’s to bring me a barrel
of apples! Had there been no occasion to open the cellar-door, Joe
would have died before another morning had dawned, died! starved! What
a horrible death! And to know that within a few steps were food, warmth,
and kind hearts--hearts even then saddened by his absence, and grieving
for him. What hours of agony he must have passed in the cold and
darkness, hearing the footsteps of passers-by above his living tomb, and
feeling the pangs of hunger and thirst. What weeks those three days
must have seemed to him in their fearful darkness, until insensibility
mercifully came to his aid, and hushed his senses to oblivion.

Morning was far advanced when, at last, Joe’s eyelids began to flutter,
and his eyes opened a very little, to close again immediately; even the
subdued light we had let into the room being too much for him to bear
after so long a darkness; but in that brief glance he had recognized me,
and seeing his lips move, I bent my head close to them.

Only a faint murmuring came, but I distinguished the words:

“Missis, I couldn’t ‘elp it! Forgive me. Say ‘Our Father.’”

I knelt down, and as well as I could for the tears that almost choked
me, repeated that most simple, yet all-satisfying petition to the Throne
of Grace.

Meanwhile the doctor held Joe’s wrist, and my sister, at a sign from
him, put a few drops of nourishment between the pale lips.

“My dear,” at length said the doctor, “did you say the boy’s brother was
in London?”

“Yes,” I replied, “but I have no address, as I expect him here this
morning.”

“That is well; he may be in time.”

“In time?” I repeated; “in time for what? Is he dying? Can nothing be
done?”

The good doctor looked again with moistened eyes on the little white
face, and said sadly--

“I fear not, but the sight of this brother he seems to have such a
strong love for may rouse him for a while. As it is, he is sinking fast.
I can do no more, he is beyond human skill; but love and God’s help may
yet save him. Poor little fellow, he has done his duty nobly, and even
to die doing _that_ is an enviable fate; but we want such boys as this
to live, and show others the way.”

There was a slight sound at the room door, and on turning round I saw
Dick--Dick with wild, dumb entreaty in his eyes.

I pointed to the bed, and with a whispered “Hush!” beckoned him to
enter.

The shock of seeing his loved little lad so changed was too much for
even his man’s courage, for, with a cry he in vain strove to smother, he
sunk on his knees with his face hidden in his hands.

But only for a moment he let his grief overcome him; then, rising, he
took Joe’s little form in his arms, and in a voice to which love gave
the softest and gentlest tones said:--

“Joe, lad! Joe, little chap! here’s Dick. Look at poor old Dick. Don’t
you know him? Don’t go away without sayin’ good-by to Dick wot loves
you.”

Slowly a little fluttering smile parted the lips, and the blue eyes
unclosed once more. “Dick!” he gasped; “I wanted to tell you, Dick,
but--I--can’t. I--ain’t--forgot. ‘Own--up--to--it--wotever’--I minded
it all. Kiss me--Dick. God--bless--missis. Dick--take
me--home--to--mother!”

And with a gentle sigh, in the arms of the brother he loved, Joe fell
into a deep sleep, a sleep from which we all feared he would no more
awake on earth, and we watched him, fearing almost to move.

Dick held him in his arms all that morning, and presently towards noon
the doctor took the little wrist, and found the pulse still feebly
beating; a smile lit up his good, kind face, and he whispered to me,
“There is hope.”

“Thank God!” I whispered back, and ran away into my own room to sob out
grateful prayers of thanksgiving to Heaven for having spared the life so
nearly lost to us.

When I went back, Joe had just begun to awaken, and was looking up into
his beloved Dick’s face, murmuring: “Why, it’s Dick. Are you a-crying
about _me_, Dick? Don’t cry--I’m all right--I’m only so tired.”

And having drank some wine the doctor had ordered should be given him,
he nestled close to Dick’s breast, and again fell into a sweet sleep,
a better, life-giving sleep this time, for the faint color came to his
pale little lips, and presently Dick laid him down on the pillows, and
rested his own weary arms. He would not move from Joe’s side for fear,
he might wake and miss him, but for many hours our little fellow slept
peacefully, and so gradually came back to life.

We never quite knew the particulars of the robbery, for, when Joe was
well enough to talk, we avoided speaking of it. Dr. Loring said, “The
boy only partly remembers it, like a dream, and it is better he should
forget it altogether; he will do so when he gets stronger. Send him home
to his mother for a while; and if he returns to you, let it be to the
country house where there is nothing to remind him of all this.”

Joe did get strong, and came back to us, but no longer as a page-boy;
he was under-gardener, and his time was spent among his favorite flowers
and pet animals, until one day Dick wrote to say his father had bought
more land to be laid out in gardens, and if Joe could be spared he
and Dick could work together, and in time set up for themselves in the
business.

So Joe left us, but not to forget us, or be forgotten. On each
anniversary of my birthday I find a bunch of magnificent roses on my
breakfast table--“With J. and R. Cole’s respectful duty,” and I know
the sender is a fine, strong young market-gardener; but sometimes I look
back a few years, and instead of the lovely roses, and the big, healthy
giver, I seem to see a faded dusty bunch of wild-flowers, held towards
me by the little hot hand of a tired child with large blue eyes, and I
hear a timid voice say, “Please’m, it’s J. Cole; and I’ve come to stay
with yer!”

THE END.





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