The Project Gutenberg EBook of Stories of Many Lands, by Grace Greenwood This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: Stories of Many Lands Author: Grace Greenwood Release Date: October 1, 2008 [EBook #26736] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK STORIES OF MANY LANDS *** Produced by Al Haines
I dedicate this book to you, my dearest dears, with more love than I have ink to write out, and more good wishes and fond hopes than any printer would care to print.
You will see by these stories that the children of different countries are pretty much alike. I doubt not, if you were in France now, you would get along nicely with the little Monsieurs and Mademoiselles, after some coy hanging back and reconnoitring,—that is, if you only knew their "lingo." So with the little Signors and Signorinas of Italy, and the small Dons and Donnas of Spain. You would find the Dutch boys and girls, who look so sober and quaint, like men and women cut short, to be real children after all. If you should visit Turkey, you would find the little Turks and Turkesses full of young human nature,—love, naughtiness, grace, caprice, mischievous tricks, frolic, and all that. Should you even take a trip to China,—the country that's right under us, you know,—you would get acquainted with the Chinese young folks somehow, though you could only converse by signs. The boys would look very funny to you, with their yellow tunics, and queer hats, and long "pigtails,"—and the girls with their hair turned up into a top-knot, their slanting eyes, and their tottering walk,—for the rich young ladies there have no feet to speak of. They compress their feet instead of their waists, because, you see, they are not Christians. So you could n't dance, jump the rope, play croquet, or take a run on the great Chinese wall with them; but you could play with puzzles, have tea-parties, and pick the tea-leaves right from the bushes.
Children all the world over laugh and weep, quarrel and make up, play hard, and eat heartily, love and try their mammas, pet and tease their little brothers and sisters,—are a sweet care and a dear perplexity, and are God's little folk, all of them. I think they have the best share of His love and of this life's happiness wherever they are. But, darlings, I want you to feel that you need not envy any children on earth,—not the richest and proudest, not the daughters of a German Grand Duke, with a kingdom so large that you could scarcely walk across it in a long summer day, nor any East-Indian Princesses, twinkling with diamonds, and rattling with pearls, and riding on elephants, nor Turkish Princesses wearing baggy satin trousers and velvet jackets, and walking on costly carpets, nor Chinese Princesses that don't walk at all, nor Spanish Princesses who go to bull-fights in splendid state-coaches, and wear long trains, and are every now and then presented to the Queen, their mother, and allowed to kiss her hand, nor even English Princesses who live in castles and palaces and see the Queen every day. I really want you to feel that yours is a proud and happy lot, in being true-born American girls, in having honest and loyal parents, in having lived during our grand sad war for Union, in having heard the ringing of the bells of peace, in having loved and mourned the good, great President, Abraham Lincoln.
If in this volume I have chosen to tell you some stories about titled people of foreign lands, it is that you may not be so set up by your privileges as little citizenesses of the great Republic, as not to feel kindly and humanly toward even little Lords and Ladies, who, being the slaves of pomp, etiquette, and fine clothes, know nothing about freedom and equality, and good, jolly times; who have no Star-Spangled Banner, and no Fourth of July, and who have scarcely ever heard of George Washington and General Grant.
Wishing you merry holidays, I kiss my hand to you.
HOW WE ACT; NOT HOW WE LOOK
LITTLE FOOTMARKS IN THE SHOW
BABIE ANNIE TO COUSIN J——
THE DAY AT THE CASTLE
FAITHFUL LITTLE RUTH
CHRISTMAS,—A MOTHER'S EXCUSE
CASTLE AND COTTAGE
THE TRUE LORD
LITTLE CARL'S CHRISTMAS-EVE
GIUSEPPE AND LUCIA
MY PET FROM THE CLOUDS
THE TWO GEORGES
THE LITTLE WIDOW'S MITE
A COUPLE OF CHARADES
BESSIE RAEBURN'S CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE
"O Tommy, what a funny little woman! come and see!" cried Harry Wilde, as he stood at the window of his father's house, in a pleasant English town. Tommy ran to the window and looked out, and laughed louder than his brother. It was indeed a funny sight to see. In the midst of a pelting rain, through mud and running water, there waddled along the queerest, quaintest little roly-poly figure you can imagine. It was a dwarf woman, who, though no taller than a child of seven or eight years, wore an enormous bonnet, and carried an overgrown umbrella. Her clothes were tucked up about her in a queer way, and altogether she was a very laugh-at-able little creature. As she passed, she looked up, and such an odd face as she had! The nose was large and long, as though it had kept on growing after the other features gave out. Indeed, it was so big that the eyes had got into a way of looking at it constantly, which did not improve their beauty. The hair was bushy, and of a lively red, but the mouth was quite sweet and good-humored, and the little crossed eyes had a merry, kindly twinkle in them.
"Well," said Harry, "if I were such an absurd looking body as that, I wouldn't show myself. I 'd hide by day, and only come out by night, like an owl, would n't you, Tommy?"
"Yes," said the little boy, and then asked, "Did God make her, Harry?"
"Why yes, He made what there is of her, and then I suppose He concluded it wasn't worth while to go on with her!"
"Harry! Harry!" cried the mother of the little boys, "you must not talk so; it is wicked. That poor little dwarf may be of much use in the world, and do a great deal of good, if she has a kind heart; and she looks as though she had."
"I should like to know of what use such a poor wee thing can be," said Harry, shrugging his shoulders.
"God knows," said Mrs. Wilde, "and He did not make her in vain."
The next day was Christmas. The rain was over, and it was clear and cold.
"Hurrah!" cried Harry from the window, "here's our wee bit woman again. Her hair is as fiery as ever. I wonder the rain didn't put it out. She might warm her hands in it, if it weren't for carrying that big basket."
Mrs. Wilde looked out. The dwarf was trudging slowly along, bearing a heavy basket. The good lady was seized with a strong desire to know more about the strange little creature; so she hurried to her room, put on a bonnet and cloak, went out and followed after her, quietly. She had to go a long way before her curiosity was satisfied; but at last she saw the dwarf enter a miserable house, in the suburbs of the town. Mrs. Wilde stole up to a window, and ventured to look in. She saw the dwarf surrounded by a crowd of shouting children, to whom she was giving Christmas-cake, toys, and clothes from her basket. She saw her give food and medicine to a poor woman, who lay on a bed in a corner. She heard her say, "Have the coals come?" and the woman answer, "Yes, and the blankets; God bless you!" She saw her take up the baby, feed it, and play with it,—so big a baby, that Mrs. Wilde thought it ought to take turns in tending, with the good little dwarf. Then the lady turned away in tears, and went home. When she had told Harry what she had seen, he blushed deeply, and Tommy said: "God knew better than brother what the funny little woman was good for, did n't He?"
O be my first, my darling child,
Whatever may betide;
Meet falsehood with its best rebuke,
An open, earnest, honest look,
Clear-browed, and fearless-eyed.
Be like my second, thoughtful, wise,
And in life's summer prime,
Gather and hoard a goodly store
Of truth and love, and priceless lore,
To cheer its winter time.
But never let thy frank young heart
Consent to play my whole;
Let will and honor in it meet,
Let Duty ever guide thy feet,
And keep thy steadfast soul.
It was at a rectory, in the South of England, that two young children, a boy and a girl, were looking out of a nursery window, on Christmas morning,—the morning of the first snow. The girl, who was about seven years old, was a beautiful, simple-hearted, amiable child, the daughter of English parents, residing in India. Some months previous to this winter morning she had been sent to England, on account of her delicate health, and confided to the care of her mother's sister, Mrs. Graham, the Rector's wife. Her name was Margaret Pelham; but she was called Meggie and Meg, Peggy and Peg, and various other odd nicknames by her English cousins.
Little Margaret's chief playmate at the Rectory was her cousin Archie, a boy only two years older than herself, but feeling ever so much bigger and wiser; for he was an only son, a clever and rather conceited young gentleman. He was good-natured, and loved his cousin; but he loved better to tease and hoax her. Having lived all her little life in India, Meggie was exceedingly ignorant of customs and things in her new home, and was continually making laughable mistakes, and asking the most absurd questions. This "greenness," as he called it, gave Archie immense delight, and he was never tired of mystifying and hoaxing the sweet-tempered little girl, who never resented his quizzings and practical jokes. Of course it never occurred to the silly boy that he was just as ignorant about India as Meggie was about England.
This morning, the children being left for a time alone in the nursery, he was having a rare time at his favorite amusement. Meggie had never before seen snow, and was full of innocent wonder and admiration. "O Cousin Archie!" she said, "the pretty white clouds we saw yesterday all fell down in the night! Did you hear the noise?"
"Clouds!" cried Archie, with a snort of contemptuous laughter; "why, you poor little Hindoo, that's snow, and it came down so slow and soft that nobody heard it."
"O, is that snow?" said Meggie, laughing good-humoredly at her own ignorance. "How beautiful it is! so soft and white. It looks just like my little dovey's feathers. I think, Archie, the angels' beds must be made out of snow, aren't they?"
"O yes, of course, it would be so warm and comfortable, you know."
"Yes, it looks nice and warm. I think God must send it down to keep things from dying of cold. He puts the grass and flowers to bed so, don't He?" said simple and wise little Meggie.
Archie could not stand this. He shouted and clapped his hands, and even rolled on the carpet in an ecstasy of boyish fun, crying out, "O, how jolly green! how jolly green!"
"What?" said Meggie, "I don't see anything green. All is white, as far as I can see. The trees and bushes look as though they had night-gowns and night-caps on. How pretty the snow is, how clean and soft! I should like to run about in it, wouldn't you, Archie?"
"O yes, it's prime fun," replied the mischievous boy, "but it's no rarity to me. I 'm used to it, you know. But you would delight in it, especially with bare feet. That way it is jolly, better than wading in a brook. Suppose you try it, Peg?"
It required little urging to persuade the simple child to take off her shoes and stockings and run down with her cousin to the great hall door. She threw on her little cloak, for she said to herself, "The wind may blow cold, for all the warm snow on the ground."
The children met no one on their way. Archie, with some difficulty, opened the door, then said, "Now, Peg, run quick, away out into the pretty snow, and see how nice it feels, just like down."
Meggie did as she was bid, and Archie slammed the door after her, and bolted it, laughing uproariously. You may be sure the poor little girl soon found how cruelly she had been hoaxed, and ran back again. She knocked at the door, crying, "O Cousin Archie, do let me in! The snow isn't nice at all; it's so cold it freezes my feet. Do, do let me in."
But Archie only laughed and danced like a young savage for a minute longer, then seemed to be trying to open the door, and called out in some trouble that he could not move the bolt. Little Meggie sat down on the door-step and waited patiently till she was almost frozen. At last, after getting nearly exhausted in tugging at the heavy bolt, Archie succeeded in shoving it back. He found his little cousin so benumbed that he was obliged to carry her in his arms all the way to the nursery. Then he sat her down by the fire, chafed her hands and feet, and put on her stockings and shoes, saying many times, "I am sorry, Meggie, dear; I am so sorry!"
"O, never mind, it was only a joke," said Meggie, and tried to smile, though she suffered a great deal more than Archie knew of.
But Meggie's troubles were only begun. When they went down to breakfast, Mrs. Graham, who had seen from the parlor window the tracks of little bare feet in the snow, questioned the children about them. Meggie owned up at once that she had run out barefoot in the snow, because it looked so soft and nice, but said not a word about Archie's having prompted her to the foolish act; and I really blush to say that Archie himself was not frank and brave enough to acknowledge his fault. The fact is, he was afraid of his father, who was a stern and godly man, and had small mercy for the sins of little folks. Both the Rector and his wife reproved Meggie for her thoughtlessness, and the gentle little girl shed some silent tears; but, after all, I think Archie, who sat trying to gulp down his breakfast with a bold face, suffered the most. All day long he was unusually kind to his cousin, and she soon got over her sadness, and was as merry and loving as ever.
The next morning, when the nursery-maid came to awake Archie, she told him that his cousin had been taken very ill in the night,—so ill that they had had to send for the doctor, who feared that she might never get well. She had taken a violent cold, some way, he said.
Archie hurried on his clothes, and ran down to the nursery. He found his mother sitting by Meggie's little bed, looking very sad and anxious. He stole up to his cousin, and taking her little hand, hot with fever, bent down and kissed it, with a burst of bitter tears, sobbing out, "O Meggie, forgive me, do, do forgive me!"
"Forgive you for what, Archie?" asked Mrs. Graham.
"For being cruel and cowardly, mamma. It was I who sent Meggie out into the snow, bare-foot, and then was afraid to take my share of the blame. I was so miserable all day. I came near owning it when you kissed me good night, but papa looked so solemn, I could n't. I did n't say my prayers; I felt too mean to pray."
"God forgive you, my son!" said Mrs. Graham, somewhat sternly; but little Meggie murmured, in a sweet, faint voice, "O Cousin Archie, why did you tell? Maybe I would have died, and nobody but us would ever have known anything about it."
Meggie did not die, however. She got well after a long illness,—quite well. But this was the last of Archie's hoaxing.
You should have seen me, when papa
Brought me your gift, an hour ago;
I almost hopped out of my shoes,
And raised a mighty bantam crow!
I shook my hair about my eyes,
I flung my chubby arms about,
I hugged it, and an eager score
Of "pretty pretties" sputtered out.
I grasp it, gloat upon it now,—
My fingers glide from link to link;
I like its shine, I like its feel,
I like its golden chink a-chink.
I thank you—_don't_ I thank you, though!
My darling, dashing, handsome cousin!
I 'll pat your whiskers, when we meet,
And give you kisses by the dozen.
I 'll promise not to pull your hair,
When on your shoulder next I mount,
Nor bore my fingers in your ears,
Too often bored on my account.
Those fingers light shall never leave
On velvet waistcoat one faint crease,
Nor give your profile, clear and fine,
Another needless touch of Greece.
I will not bend the killing bow
Of that nice neck-tie, "rich, but neat,"
Nor put a ruffle in your shirt,
Nor break the white plaits with my feet.
The sacred collar shall not bear
The impress of a touch of mine;
Your sparkling diamond studs, like dews,
Shall on the lawn inviolate shine.
I will not fumble for your seals,
Nor listen where your tick-tick lies,—
Nor dare to call in anger down
The heavy lashes of your eyes.
In short, I 'll be a tender sprig,
A greenwood blossom small and sweet,
To hang upon your button-hole,
Or breathe love's fragrance at your feet.
The Reverend Charles Rivers was the Rector of a small country parish in the North of England. He was a good man, a true minister of Christ to his people. He had a lovely wife, and four beautiful children, and there was no happier or sweeter home in all the country round than the modest little Rectory, embowered in ivy and climbing roses.
Four or five miles from the parish church, on a noble eminence, rise the lofty towers of Glenmore Castle, which for centuries has been the great family seat of the Lords of Glenmore. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, laid out in the French style, with hedges of box, full ten feet high. Beyond these a noble wooded park stretches away on all sides, for miles, taking in hill and valley, and a fairy little lake. To the southward it is crossed by a lazy, loitering stream, shadowed by willows, fringed with flags, and in the early summer flecked by snowy water-lilies.
The Lord Glenmore of the time of my story was a handsome young nobleman, married to a pretty London lady, very gay and fond of splendor, but kind-hearted and gentle to every one.
Whenever Lord Glenmore came up from London to his northern estate,—usually in the shooting season of the early autumn,—the happy event was made known to his tenants and friends, by the running up of a flag on the loftiest turret of the Castle.
Mr. Rivers had been his tutor, and his Lordship always hastened to renew his intimacy with his old friend and instructor, for whom he had a warm regard, running into the Rectory in his old, boyish, unceremonious way, and frequently inviting the Rector and his wife to dine at the Castle.
During one of these pleasant dinner-parties, Lord Glenmore, turning to Mrs. Rivers, said: "I know from happy experience that you and your good husband are always ready to lend a helping hand when one is in need. Now Laura and I want a little help. We have had a rather embarrassing arrival at the Castle,—the motherless little son and daughter of my brother, Colonel Montford. They were sent over from India, at our suggestion, but we hardly know what to do with them. They are shy and homesick, and thus far have had little to say to any one but their dusky old Ayah, their Indian nurse. Now, children can get on best with children, and so, my dear madam, I beg that you will lend us yours,—those charming little daughters, staid Margaret and roguish Maud, and that fine lad Robert. As for wee Master Alfred, my baby godson, I make no demand on him for the present. We think that if they could spend a day at the Castle now and then, they would help to break the ice between us and our unsocial little relations!"
Mr. and Mrs. Rivers willingly consented to their friends' request, and the next day was fixed upon for the first visit, both Lord and Lady Glenmore promising to do all in their power to entertain their young guests.
Early on a lovely autumn morning the children at the Rectory were made ready for the important visit. As soon as Lord Glenmore's carriage appeared in sight, they ran into the nursery, their faces bright with joyous anticipations, to bid their mamma good by. She was sitting with the baby on her lap, and they all bent down to kiss "the dear little fellow," ere they went.
"Why, mamma," said Margaret, "how hot Ally's lips are! is n't he well?"
"I am afraid not quite well," Mrs. Rivers replied; "he seems feverish. Now, my dears, I hope you will be very good and gentle all day. You, Margaret, must take good care of your sister, and Maud," she added, as she bent forward to tie in a smoother knot the strings of the little girl's hat, "you must not run quite wild with merriment. Robert, don't put yourself on your dignity with young Montford, on account of his shyness. Remember, almost everything is strange to him here, and he is sad. I am sure he does not mean to be haughty."
"O yes," replied Robert, turning from the canine playfellow he was affectionately patting, "I mean to treat him just the same as though he were a true-born Briton. He isn't to blame for being only an unfortunate Cawnpore boy, born among heathens and boa-constrictors and Juggernauts, and not knowing how to skate, or make snowballs. Good by, mamma, don't trouble yourself about me; I 'll carry myself 'this side up with care.' By by, baby. No, no, old Rover, you can't come; you would n't know how to behave with my lord's Italian greyhound, and my lady's dainty King Charles Spaniel."
Mr. Rivers, after seeing the children off, entered the nursery, to find his wife still troubled by the heat and crimson redness of the baby's cheeks and lips, though the old Scotch nurse, who was holding him, said cheerily: "Eh, dinna fash yoursel'. It's only a little teething fever, the bairnie will soon be weel. Gang about your ain affairs, and trust auld Elspeth."
But the mother dared not leave the little one till he was asleep. He slept very soundly until noon, and when he awoke it was evident that he was seriously ill. Mrs. Rivers again took him on her lap, but to her grief perceived that he did not seem to know her. Soon, his sweet blue eyes were rolled upward, his brow contracted, his lips were set, and his tender limbs grew rigid. Medical aid was called at once, but the little sufferer passed from one spasm into another, till almost ere physician and parents were aware that he was going, poor little Alfred was gone!
After the first wild burst of sorrow was over, Mr. Rivers said to his wife, "Shall I send to the Castle for the children?"
"No, Charles," replied the good mother, "though I yearn for them inexpressibly, I will not so sadly cut short their day of pleasure. The night of sorrow will come speedily enough."
Early in the evening, Lord Glenmore's carriage came dashing through the rustic gateway of the Rectory. Mr. Rivers was at the hall door awaiting the children. Margaret noticed that her papa looked serious, and that he kissed her with more than usual tenderness; but the others were too much occupied with the pleasant stories they had to tell of the day at the Castle, to remark on any change in him. They ran into the silent house, laughing and chatting merrily. They found their mamma in the little family parlor, sitting in the twilight, which prevented them seeing that she was very pale, and that her eyes were swollen with weeping.
They displayed before her presents of choice fruit and flowers from Lady Glenmore, and some curious Indian toys which the little Montfords had given them.
"O mamma," said Robert, "we have had such a glo-ri-ous day! Arthur Montford and I got on famously together. I taught him all the English plays I could think of, and he let me gallop about on his Shetland pony,—a splendid wild one, mamma,—till I lost my hat, and was all out of breath, and got thrown three times. Didn't hurt me, though. Altogether, we had such prime sport, that I wished for that old Bible hero, Aaron, no, Joshua, to command the sun to stand still, so that our day would never end."
"And, mamma," broke in little Maud, "dear Lady Glenmore, and her sister, Lady Fanny, played and sung for us, and showed us pictures and jewels, and Alice Montford has got such a world of dolls, and her nurse is such a dark, dark woman, and talks such a queer language, Latin, I suppose. I did n't pretend to understand it, but I told Alice my papa could."
"Well, Margaret, dear," said Mr. Rivers, "what is your experience?"
"O papa, it was indeed a charming day; but the best part was while the ladies were dressing for dinner, when Lord Glenmore took us girls down to the little lake on the other side of the Castle; and he was so kind in leading us along by the water, helping us over the bad places, and plucking flowers for us. He even sat down with us in the grass, and told us stories, while we made daisy-chains. Then he took us in his boat on the lake, and rowed about, and, O mamma, what do you think! as we were passing a thick clump of flags, he parted them with his oar, and showed us a swan's nest! I thought of Mrs. Browning's poem of little Ellie, and her 'Swan's Nest among the Reeds.' O, I had almost forgot! Lord Glenmore intrusted to me the sweetest gift for baby Alfred: see! this lovely coral necklace. He ordered it expressly from London, for his little god-son, he said. That makes me think! how is baby to-night, mamma?"
The time was come. Mrs. Rivers glanced at her husband; but he turned away his head. He could not tell them. Then, calmly, though her voice trembled a little, the mother began: "Listen, my darlings, I have something important to tell you about baby."
The children gathered closer about her, and were very still.
"While you were away, a great Lord sent for little brother, too."
"What for? to adopt him as his heir?" asked Robert.
"Yes, my son; and Ally has gone to a mansion far grander than the Castle, where the gardens are fairer, and the fields greener than any you have ever seen; and, Robert, the sun never sets over that beautiful land."
"Did he go in a carriage with a coronet on it, and two powdered footmen behind?" asked Maud.
"No, love; but gentle beings, more good and beautiful than those kind ladies of the Castle, bore him away, and will tend him, lovingly."
"I think he will miss nurse Elspeth, and cry for her, and they will have to send him home again," said poor, bewildered little Maud.
"Why, mamma," cried Margaret, "we can't spare baby to the greatest lord on earth!"
"But, my daughter, to the 'Lord of lords' we must spare him. He will 'lead' him as you were led to-day, 'beside the still waters, and cause him to lie down in pleasant pastures,' and our darling will never know pain, nor hunger, nor sorrow."
"O mamma, mamma, I know what you mean now!—baby is dead!"
Then went up the children's united voices, like one sad wail, "Baby is dead!"
"Yes, my children," said their father, in a voice broken by grief, "our precious little Alfred is gone. But, try to say, and try to help us say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'"
The poor children could not say it then, for their bitter crying; but, before they went to bed, they sobbed forth the sacred words, as they knelt by the crib where little Ally lay, still, and very pale, dressed in a snowy muslin frock, with his waxen hands clasped on his breast, and holding a tiny white rose-bud, an emblem of his sinless little life.
In the wet rice-swamps and canebrakes tall
My _first_ the driver wields;
It sounds among the dusky gang
In the snowy cotton-fields;
But fast comes on the day that ends
Its reign of blood and fear,—
Comes with the sound of breaking chains,
And the freedman's joyous cheer.
Be kind to such as are my second,
In spirit and in truth;
Have pity on their helpless age
And on their joyless youth.
Remember them whene'er you feast,
And on your downy bed,
For the sake of Him who "had not where
On earth to lay his head."
Good may my third be in your hearts
Towards all of human kind,
Strong to reclaim the wandering,
And the lost lamb to find;
To help the suffering, and to bear
Thine own adversity;
To speak brave words for truth and right,
And strike for liberty.
My whole is a mournful little bird,
That in the twilight dim
Complains how hardly he's been used,
Till all must pity him.
But not one word of what he did
Reveals the doleful wight,—
His mother's story could we hear,
We might say, "Served him right!"
Little Ruth Mason sat one sweet June morning in the church-porch, by the side of her old grandfather, who stood reverently leaning on his staff, with his hat in his hand. They were both watching from that ivied porch a touching and impressive scene,—the burial service in the old churchyard.
Mr. Mason had been for many years the sexton of the parish, and though now too old to discharge the duties of the office, he felt such a loving interest in the parish church, one of the finest in England, that he could not keep away from it. Every day he visited the scene of his old labors, and kindly gave the new sexton the benefit of his long experience. Sometimes he might be seen kneeling in silent prayer in the noble chancel, the sunlight that streamed through the stained windows falling in tender glory on his venerable head. Sometimes he would linger by the hour in the beautiful churchyard, beside the graves of his wife, his son, and his son's wife, all the dear ones God had given him, except one little granddaughter. This last remaining object of his affection and care was a lovely and loving child, of a peculiarly thoughtful mind, and of a sweet, constant, religious nature. She had been carefully trained by a good grandmother, and was prudent and industrious beyond her years. When not in the little village school, she was almost always with her grandfather, his little companion, pupil, and house-keeper.
This interesting orphan child was most kindly regarded by many of the good village people. She seemed so lonely and helpless in the old sexton's desolate cottage,—but a poor place at best. Yet she was hardly an object of pity. Her father and mother had died in her infancy, and after her first childish grieving for her grandmother was past, she seemed quite happy and content with the care and companionship of her grandfather. It was with difficulty that she had been persuaded now and then to leave him to spend an afternoon at the pleasant Rectory, when the Rector's kind wife sent for her, to amuse a sickly little daughter, who was very fond of her, and in whom Ruth's health, strength, and cheery spirit excited a pathetic wonder and delight.
It was the burial of this child, poor little Lilly Kingsley, which Ruth and her grandfather were beholding from the shadowy church-porch on that lovely June morning. Mr. Mason stood with his head bowed, intently listening to the solemn burial service, and reverently wondering at the providence of God, which had passed by him, so old, feeble, and almost useless, and taken from the good Rector and his wife their one only darling.
Ruth had wept bitterly over the body of her little friend, as she had seen it that morning, in the coffin, almost covered with white flowers, and nearly as white as they; but now she watched the mournful ceremonies with a rapt and eager interest, too profound for tears. Her young spirit was struggling with the mystery of death, and thoughts of immortality. She knew that the wasted little body let down into the dark grave was not all of her poor playmate, and she strove to picture a little angel like Lilly, only blooming, and happy, and free from pain, borne upwards through the still summer night, by tender angels, who looked back very pityingly on the grieving parents, bending over the death-bed of their risen darling.
So lost was the child in these thoughts, that she did not speak nor move till the service was over, and the weeping group that had stood by the grave had passed out of the churchyard.
A few days after this funeral, little Ruth coming home from school, found the Rector in earnest conversation with her grandfather. She courtesied timidly to the clergyman, but he drew her to his knee, looked kindly into her beautiful dark eyes, and said, "How would Ruth like to live always at the Rectory, and fill the place of our little lost daughter?"
Ruth's sweet face flushed with delight, and she answered, "O, sir, I should dearly love such a beautiful home, and you would too, would n't you, grandpapa?"
The Rector looked at Mr. Mason, and the old man, drawing the child to him, said tenderly, "My dear little girl, your old grandfather cannot leave this cottage, in which he was born, and in which he has always lived, until he goes to his long home."
"Then I'll not go," cried Ruth, impulsively flinging her arms about his neck. "I 'll never, never leave you. Who would take care of you if I were gone?"
The Rector smiled; but the old man answered gravely, "I know I shall miss you, dear, very much; but the Lord will care for me, and He it is who has provided this home for my darling. I bless His name for His loving-kindness. You have always been a good, obedient child to me, and I know you will obey me, even when I send you away from me,—for your best good, mind, my darling."
Ruth still wept, and begged to be allowed to stay with him; but her grandfather was firm, and she yielded at last. He led her to the Rectory, kissed and blessed her, and placed her in the arms of Mrs. Kingsley, then hobbled out of the gate, and back to his desolate cottage, as fast as his poor old limbs could carry him.
Ruth was very sad all the afternoon, though everybody was kind to her, and her new mother strove tenderly to comfort her. As evening came on, her heart would go back to the humble old home, and the white-haired, feeble old man, who she knew must be thinking of her, and missing her so sadly. At length, Mrs. Kingsley conducted her to a pleasant little chamber, which was henceforth to be her own. The good lady helped her to undress, put on her a dainty little ruffled nightgown, and knelt with her by her bedside while she said her prayers. After praying in a broken voice for her poor old grandpapa in his loneliness, the child remembered to ask God's blessing on her new parents. After seeing her in her snowy little bed, Mrs. Kingsley removed Ruth's clothes to a closet near by, and brought out a complete suit of garments suited to her new condition. They were very neat and pretty, and Ruth, who loved all beautiful things, smiled on them through her tears, and reaching out her hand, felt of them with simple, childish delight. Then a strange, thoughtful look passing over her face, she said, "Mamma!" Mrs. Kingsley started. It was the first time she had heard that name since her Lilly died, though she had asked Ruth to call her by it when she was first brought to the Rectory. But she answered, with a smile, "What, my daughter?"
"Why, mamma, laying off my faded clothes and putting on those lovely new ones will be like Lilly, leaving the poor, pale body she used to have, for her glorious angel body, won't it?"
"Yes, darling," replied the mother, to whose heart the simple illustration brought a sweet, wonderful realization of the blessed change; and as she stooped and kissed Ruth good night, a tear fell on the little girl's cheek.
The adopted child slept tranquilly till nearly morning, when she awoke suddenly, probably from a dream of the home she had left, but thinking that she heard a voice above her, saying solemnly, "Ruth, little Ruth, why hast thou forsaken My servant, thy grandfather?"
She was not frightened, yet she could not sleep again, but sat up in her little bed, impatiently waiting for the day. In the first gray light of dawn she rose, went to the closet, took out her old clothes, and dressed herself in them, and casting scarcely a look on the new clothes or round the sweet little chamber, she stole softly down stairs. She found a housemaid in the hall, who, not knowing the plans of her master and mistress in regard to the little girl, let her out, and she ran swiftly home. She found the cottage door unfastened, for the poor have little fear of burglars. Entering quietly, and finding her grandpapa still asleep, she lay down by his side, and when he awoke, her dear arms were about his neck, and her loving eyes smiling into his. At first, he forgot she had been away; but after a moment, he remembered, and exclaimed, "You here, little Ruth? Why did you come back, against my wish?"
"Because the Lord sent me back," she answered, gravely.
"Why, child, what do you mean?" he asked.
"Grandpapa, dear, this is how it was: There was a voice, such a sweet and solemn voice, that came and sounded right by me, in the darkness, and it said, 'Ruth, little Ruth, why forsakest thou My servant, thy grandfather?' and I was sure it was the Lord's voice, the very same that spoke to little Samuel, and I could not stay after I heard it. I will never leave you to live and die alone, even if the queen wants to adopt me. Why, grandpapa, if God had meant you to be without me, He would have taken me, instead of little Lilly Kingsley. So don't send me away from you, dear grandpapa; it would be wicked."
The good old man, with tears in his dim eyes, replied, "No, my darling little girl shall not be sent away again; it does seem to be the Lord's will that you should stay with me as long as I stay."
And so she stayed,—the faithful little Ruth. Her good friends at the Rectory were sorry to lose her, but not displeased with her, and were more kind than ever to her and her grandfather. The next Sunday, as she knelt with him among the poor, she was glad in her heart that she was not shut away from him in the Rector's crimson-cushioned pew.
It was on a Sunday a few weeks later, that her grandfather, after their frugal dinner, called her to go with him to the churchyard, saying, "A year ago to-day, Ruth, your dear grandmother died; let us go and spend an hour or two by her grave."
They took the family Bible, and read and talked a long time, sitting on the daisied grass, under the pleasant shade of a willow. At last, the good old man seemed to grow weary, and bowing his white head on the grave, with one arm flung over it, he fell asleep while Ruth was singing a hymn which her grandmother had taught her. Then Ruth stole away, and wandered about the churchyard, reading the inscriptions on the tombstones, till the people began to enter the church for evening service. Then she returned to her grandfather, and touched him on the shoulder, to wake him. But he did not move. She called his name, but he did not seem to hear her. Just then the Rector came up, and seeing Ruth's trouble, bent down to look into the face of the old man. He raised the withered hand that lay on the mound, and held it a moment, looking anxious and sad. When he laid it down, he put his arms about Ruth, and said, tenderly, "My dear child, your grandfather is awake—in Heaven. He will never wake on earth. The Lord has taken him."
With a piteous cry Ruth flung herself by the side of her dead grandfather, and called him by many fond names, weeping bitterly; and strong men wept in pity for her bereavement, and stood with uncovered heads as her grandfather was lifted and borne to his old home.
From that old home he was carried forth to be laid by the side of his dear old wife; but from that lonely cottage little Ruth was led weeping, yet grateful, to her new home by the Rector and his wife, henceforth to be to them a dear and cherished child. Few were the tears she shed in that beautiful home, and tenderly were they wiped away; and if the Lord ever spoke to her again in her peaceful little chamber, through the darkness, it was in "the still, small voice" of blessing, love, and comfort.
It comes again, the blessed day,
Made glorious by the Saviour's birth,
When faintly in a manger dawned
The light of God which fills the earth
On this sweet morn, in years gone by,
Around one happy hearth we came,
And wished each other joy and peace,
Embracing in the dear Lord's name.
Now o'er a weary, wintry waste,
My heart a loving pilgrim wends
Her pious way, this holy time,
To greet you, O belovéd friends!
Fondly I long to take my place
Beside your hearth, its joy to share,—
To sun me in the summer smiles
Of the dear faces gathered there.
But baby eyes upraised to mine,
And baby fingers on my breast,
Steep all my soul in sweet content,—
Charm even such longings into rest.
Yet, dear ones, let my name be breathed
Kindly around the Christmas tree,
And my soul's presence greet, as oft
In Christmas times ye 've greeted me.
No unadorned and humble guest
Comes that fond soul this blessed even
She bears a jewel on her breast
That radiates the light of heaven.
A rose, that breathes of Paradise,
Just budded from the life divine,
A little, tender, smiling babe,
As yet more God's and heaven's than mine.
Born in the Saviour's hallowed month,
A blessed Christ-child may she be,
A little maiden of the Lord,
Room for her by the Christmas tree!
It would seem that little Bertha Blantyre had everything that her heart could wish. She was an only daughter, and a pretty, blooming, petted darling. Her father was a rich lord, and, what was better, a good and kind-hearted man. Her mother was a noble lady, and, what was more, a gentle and loving woman, and even little Bertha had from her cradle the title of "Honorable," which is as much as our great Congressmen can boast. Yet I am sorry to say, this little lady was not always as happy and grateful as she should have been, but was sometimes sadly discontented, believing that other children were far happier than she. All such little girls as had brothers and sisters to play with them, and run about with them in the woods and over the moors, she envied bitterly, even though they were the children of poor peasants,—never thinking it possible that they might be envying her at the same time.
Lord Blantyre resided principally at Blantyre Castle, on a noble estate, among the heathery hills of Scotland. The Castle was very ancient, with towers, and turrets, and a massive gateway, but it had many modern additions which beautified it, and gave it a cheerful, almost home-like look. Through the old moat there slowly ran a bright, clear stream, in which grew hosts of water-lilies, and other aquatic plants. Beyond this were soft, green, close-shaven lawns and shrubberies, and gardens full of fountains and statues and fairy-like bowers; the stables, full of beautiful horses and ponies; the kennels, where a pack of noble stag-hounds was kept; the dairy, the poultry-yard, and the pretty little houses of the gold and silver pheasants. Around all was a great wooded park, filled with fleet spotted deer.
In this park Bertha often walked with her mother, or was whirled along in a small open phaeton, drawn by two lovely white ponies, which Lady Blantyre herself drove.
In the wildest and most remote part of the park lived the gamekeeper, who, with his wife, had been born and bred on the estate, and from childhood had been in the service of the noble family. Lady Blantyre never passed the cottage of Robert MacWillie in her drives without stopping to inquire after the health of his wife, who had once been her maid, and of their fine brood of little ones. During these visits Bertha became acquainted with the young foresters, and as she was of a simple and amiable disposition, and not a bit haughty or conceited, she liked them all heartily. But she especially took to a little girl about her own age, named Lilly, and a boy a year or two older, called Hughie.
One day as Lady Blantyre and Bertha were driving along the shore of a miniature loch or pond, near Robert MacWillie's cottage, they saw Hughie and Lilly playing in a burn, or brook, which emptied into the little loch. Hughie was constructing a dam, with stones and turf and heather-branches cemented with clay, and Lilly was sailing a tiny boat, loaded with pebbles and flowers. Both were barefoot, and plashing fearlessly in the burn. Lady Blantyre checked her ponies, and after watching the children awhile, called them to the side of her phaeton. Hughie took off his Glengary cap, and held it in his hand, and Lilly was about to pull from her head a wild-looking wreath of daisies and purple heather-blooms, when Bertha exclaimed, "Don't take it off! it is so pretty; who made it?"
"Brother Hughie," answered Lilly, blushing.
"How good he must be! Do you like playing and wading in the water and picking wild-flowers?"
"Yes," said Lilly, looking down, and drawing figures in the sand with her rosy little toes. "Hughie is gude. I like playing wi' the burn, and flowers are bonny wee things"; then, looking up timidly, she offered to her friend a bunch of water-lilies, which Hughie had waded far out into the pond up to his short kilt to obtain.
"Thank you," said Bertha. "O how sweet they are, a thousand times sweeter than those that grow in the moat, are n't they, mamma?"
Lady Blantyre smiled, for there was really no difference, the lilies at the Castle having been brought from this very pond.
"How long have you been at your great work there?" she asked of Hughie.
"For maist a week, my Lady; but for the last twa days Domine MacGregor has been down wi' an ill turn, and I hae (have) lost na time at schule (school), so I hae got on weel wi' it. It will soon be done noo."
"And what do you intend to do with it when it is finished?" asked the lady.
"I canna say, but I think we 'll play flood-time wi' it."
"What is that?"
"Your ladyship sees that wee-bit island; weel, we'll put on it some doggies and a cat."
"Not my wee puss, Winkie?" cried Lilly in alarm.
"No, auld black Tammy will do, and a chicken or twa, and we 'll watch the water rise and rise, till the puir creatures huddle togither and greet and cackle and howl, then I 'll loup (leap) intil the burn, and one after anither rescue them a'."
"O, how grand that would be!" exclaimed little Bertha, her eyes flashing with excitement.
"Rather cruel sport," said Lady Blantyre, shaking her head, yet smiling in spite of herself.
"Is it?" said Hughie, his countenance falling, "then I 'll no do it. I 'll but drive a' the duckies and fulish geese down here, and see them gae quacking and skirling over the dam. I hope they'll no object to the sport."
"Probably not," said her ladyship, pleasantly.
"O mamma," said Bertha, looking up wistfully into her face, "how I should love to play so with water and pebbles, and little boats, and ducks and geese, and dams, all day long! How happy they must be!"
"Perhaps little Lilly thinks it would be a very happy thing to be in your place, my daughter," said Lady Blantyre.
"Do you think so?" asked Bertha, wonderingly.
"Ay," answered Lilly, in a low, almost awestruck tone, "I think that to be Miss Bertha, and bide in a braw (fine) Castle, wad be next to being an angel, or a bonnie fairy princess."
All laughed at this, but on the way home Bertha was very thoughtful and sad. Every time she spoke, it was to bewail her hard lot in being allowed to take the air only in walks with her governess, or drives with her mamma, in being obliged to wear fine clothes, to learn music and dancing, "and other tiresome things," and never being free to run wild on the hills and heaths, wade in the ponds, and plash in the burns, like the little MacWillies.
Her mother tried to show her that, as her station was different from theirs, her education and habits should be different, and that she had a great deal to be thankful for, and might be very happy, if she would.
"Well, I think I ought at least to have a little brother to play with me. I think God might have given me that, and kept back some of the other things."
At this little burst of petulance, Lady Blantyre sighed and was silent for some moments. Then she said: "Would my little daughter like to try living at the cottage of the MacWillies for a day or two, just like one of their own?"
"O yes, mamma, and play with Lilly and Hughie?"
"With Hughie and the other children. I must have Lilly with me at the Castle, to make up for the loss of my little Bertha."
"O!" said Bertha, looking a little disappointed; then she added, eagerly, "But, mamma, may I indeed do just like them?—go without a bonnet, take off my shoes and stockings, and wade in the burn, and patter in the nice soft clay?"
"Yes, if Lilly will consent to take your place, and play the little lady at the Castle."
In the afternoon Lady Blantyre sent for Mrs. MacWillie, and between them they arranged that their little daughters should change places on the morrow; and that night both Bertha and Lilly went to bed with their hearts full of happy anticipations, and each pitying the other.
Early in the morning, Lilly was brought to the Castle, and Bertha conveyed to the cottage. Lilly wanted to take with her her pet kitten, but was told that poor little Winkle would be rather too vulgar a visitor for Lady Blantyre's drawing-room. Bertha proposed to take her pretty King Charles spaniel, but was told that the gamekeeper's rough mastiffs and terriers would make nothing of taking him by the neck and shaking the life out of him. So she concluded to leave Frivole behind.
When she reached the cottage, the little MacWillies came around her, full of wonder and shy admiration. They said nothing to her, but they whispered among themselves, and their eyes looked very big and watched her constantly.
"Come here, Sandy and Effie!" she said to a little boy and girl, who stood with their hands behind them, gazing at her as if she really had been a fairy princess. "Do come to me; I am your sister now, don't you know?"
But they only drew back, and as she started toward them, scampered away and hid behind their mother.
"Come, Hughie," said the little lady, "let us go down to the burn. You must make me a wreath like Lilly's, and play with me just as you do with her, won't you?"
Hughie gladly promised, and away they went hand in hand. But the lad could not quite forget that his playmate was the Honorable Miss Bertha Blantyre, so he took the choicest roses from his mother's garden to make a wreath for her, and for the life of him he could not be as free and merry with her as with his sister. However, he was very kind and amusing, and Bertha was in high glee. The first thing she did when they reached the burnside, was to sit down and pull off her shoes and stockings, then she ran up and down the sandy shore of the loch, throwing pebbles and daisies into the water, sailing Lilly's little boat, and laughing and singing like some wild creature. Then she helped Hughie at his dam awhile, patting the soft clay with her dainty little hands.
"O dear!" she exclaimed at last.
"What's the matter, my bonnie leddie?" said Hughie, rather patronizingly.
"My feet smart so! See how big and red they look."
"Sae they do. You hae burned them. The sun is hot this simmer day, and the sand as weel, and ye ken (know) ye are no used to gang without your shoon (shoes); wade a bit, noo, and cool your small saft feet."
Bertha thrust one foot into the water, but drew it out instantly, exclaiming, "Ugh, how cold!"
"Ay, gin (if) ye only dip the tips o' your toes, like a fearsome cat; but gin ye rin bravely intil the water, like a spaniel dog, ye'll no find it cauld," said Hughie, taking her hand and leading her in. But Bertha still thought it cold; she caught her breath, and shrieked at every step, frightened not only at the rising water, but at the tiny fishes within it, and even at the insects skimming along its surface. As Hughie was leading her out, she trod on a stone and cut one of her delicate feet quite severely. Then, when she reached the shore, she found that she could not get on her stockings and shoes, and with her eyes full of tears she said, "Ah me! what shall I do? I can't walk barefoot among the heather, my feet are so sore already."
"O, dinna fash yoursel' (don't trouble yourself) about that, I 'll carry you in my twa arms," said Hughie; and the sturdy little fellow took her and carried her to the cottage.
After having had her foot bound up, and her face bathed in cream, for that was also burned, her pretty wreath having proved a very poor protection from the sun, Bertha was invited to share the midday meal of the children. Being very hungry, she gladly sat up to the table and took her share of milk and oatmeal cakes, or bannocks. She liked the milk, but the bannocks scratched her throat and almost brought the tears to her eyes. She wondered how the others could eat them so ravenously.
After dinner the children did their best to amuse their visitor, by playing games, running, leaping, and tumbling about, all very kindly meant, but rough, noisy, and almost terrifying to Bertha, who was not sorry when the younger ones ran out of the house to play under the trees. Hughie sat by her side on the settle, and told her stories, till she fell asleep. She was very weary, and slept a long while, against some cushions which Hughie placed behind her. When she awoke, she looked around wonderingly, and, missing the dear faces of her mother and nurse, burst into tears.
"What's the matter wi' my bonnie bairn?" asked Mrs. MacWillie, tenderly.
"I—want—to—go—home!" sobbed Bertha.
"And ye shall gae hame; sae dinna greet (weep), my lammie," said the good woman.
In a very few minutes the gamekeeper, who, by the way, had watched the children all the morning, from behind some thick bushes by the loch, to see that no harm befell them, came to the door with the family carriage,—a two-wheeled vehicle, called a "dog-cart," drawn by a shaggy old pony. Bertha was helped into this, and, having taken a kind but rather hasty leave of her rustic friends, was driven, in a little lazy, shuffling trot, towards the Castle. About half-way, who should they meet but Lady Blantyre, driving Lilly MacWillie home in her pony-phaeton! She did not seem to see the dog-cart at all, but dashed by it at a furious rate.
Little Lilly had scarcely had a better day than Bertha. From the first hour of her visit to the Castle she had felt ill at ease, and almost homesick. Everything there was so strange and magnificent, that all the kindness she met with failed to make her feel happy and comfortable. Lady Blantyre devoted herself to her amusement; she showed her the conservatories and the aviaries, and led her through the long picture-gallery. This last was an awful place to Lilly; she was frightened at the array of old-time Blantyres,—fierce soldiers in armor, grim judges in enormous wigs, and grand ladies in vast hoops and stupendous head-dresses.
At lunch, Lady Blantyre had her little guest sit beside her, and pressed her to eat of delicate wild-fowl and luscious fruit. But Lilly was scared out of the little appetite she had, not by his lordship, who sat opposite, but by the solemn footman who stood behind her chair. After lunch, Lady Blantyre played and sung for her, and showed her Bertha's books and toys.
At length she left her alone for a time, while she went to dress. When she returned to the drawing-room she could not see the child anywhere; but presently she heard a stifled sob behind the curtain of a window, looking towards the gamekeeper's cottage. She went to Lilly, and put her arms about her, saying, "What are you grieving about, my dear?"
"Let me gae hame! I maun gae hame!" (I must go home) said Lilly.
"So you shall, darling," replied the lady.
When Lady Blantyre returned from the cottage, she found Bertha in the nursery, sitting on the lap of her kind nurse Margery.
"Well, has my little daughter learned content from this day's experience?" said the lady, smiling.
"Yes, mamma," replied Bertha. "I find that one must belong to the MacWillies, to do as they do, and like it; but somehow, I wish I had been used to their ways from the first, that is, if you and papa had been so too. It seems to me that God meant that all people should live nearly alike, and only have houses just big enough to hold them comfortably, like the nests of the birds; and that all children should run among the hills, and play with the brooks. Did n't he?"
"Perhaps he did, my child."
As for Lilly, she spoke her mind that night, to her pet kitten, as she hugged it in her arms before dropping to sleep. "Are ye na glad that we are na fine ladies, eh, Winkie?"
My first is fair, as when it graced
The bowers of Paradise;
It glows in Cashmere's vale, and climbs
Where snowy Alp-peaks rise:
It glads the peasant-woman's heart,
And the Queen's imperial eyes.
My second is a sacred name,
A name of high renown,
By poets sung, yet common 'tis,
As daisies on the down,
Though ladies grand and royal dames
Have worn it as a crown.
When William's ship rocked in the bay,
Impatient to be gone,
And William took his seaward way
Across our dewy lawn,
To pluck my whole to give her love,
Rose Mary with the dawn.
Margaret Grey was a widow, who, with three young children, lived in a small cottage on the estate of Lord Dundale, in Scotland. When her husband died, Margaret had been compelled to give up the land he had farmed, with the exception of a little garden, and a patch of pasturage on which she supported a cow and a shaggy Highland pony, called Rab.
This last was a very important member of the family, as without him the widow could not have conveyed to market the butter and eggs, on the proceeds of which the frugal little household subsisted. For his part, Rab seemed fully conscious of his own important and responsible position in the widow's family, gave up all frisking and frolicking ways, and conducted himself in a staid and sober manner on his way to and from the market-town, and assumed towards the children in their little rides a sort of protecting, patronizing, paternal character, which was really edifying to behold.
Lord Dundale was a young man, very handsome and stately, but gentle and gracious, and much beloved by his family and tenants. The children on his estate looked up to him with loving reverence, as to a superior being, from whom nothing but good and happiness were to be expected by the deserving. For them his youth, beauty, and elegance had especial poetic charms; their sweet, simple affection, their timid, grateful devotion, were laid at his feet,—so that when moving among them he trod on unseen flowers. They loved to hear and to tell of the grand and beautiful things at that fairy palace, the Castle,—a noble old edifice, with massive towers, a moat, a lofty gateway, and an ancient drawbridge and portcullis, which stood high in the midst of great forest-trees.
Lord Dundale, being in delicate health, was able to spend but a few months of each year in Scotland, the climate being too severe for him; but he loved the place of his birth, and was never so happy as when, like Rob Roy, he could say, "My foot is on my native heath."
To his tenants his yearly visit to his Scottish estate was always a season of festivity: they hailed the signal of his return, the running up of a flag on the highest tower of the Castle, with shouts of hearty rejoicing.
The cottage of the Grey was on a shady lane, through which the young lord often rode in the pleasant autumn mornings or evenings, sometimes with a gay party of ladies and gentlemen, guests at the Castle, sometimes, when the hour was early, quite alone, and sometimes with one beautiful dark-eyed lady, fresh as a rose and proud as a lily, who it was said was one day to be the mistress of Dundale Castle. The Grey children, little Effie and Jamie, noticed that when the young lord rode by himself, or with ever so large a party of riders, he never failed to acknowledge their bows and courtesies with a nod and a pleasant word and smile; but that when he and the dark-eyed lady together ambled slowly past, he did not seem to see their wistful little faces at all. So, in their secret hearts, they took something very like a spite against the beautiful Lady Evelyn, and hoped their young lord would change his mind.
One autumn evening, as Margaret Grey rode homeward from the market-town, she noticed that Rab, the pony, was languid and slow, that he hung his head dejectedly, and made no effort to browse along the hedge-rows as usual. She supposed that he was tired with his day's work, but trusted that he would be well in the morning. Alas! when the morning came, poor, faithful old Rab was found dead, stretched out stiff and cold in his paddock!
Effie and Jamie grieved passionately over their lost friend and playfellow. They sat down beside him on the grass, and, looking at his poor, helpless feet, worn in their service, wept bitterly that they would carry them along the lane and up the hillside no more; they patted half fearfully the shaggy neck; which would arch to their caresses never again; they drew back with a shudder, after touching the cold lips which had so often eaten the sweet clover from their hands, and turned with a sense of strange wonder and awfulness from the death-misted eyes, which had always shone upon them with an almost human affection.
Margaret Grey wept also,—fewer tears than her children, but sadder. She had many sweet and mournful memories connected with poor Rab. Her dear old father gave him to her on her eighteenth birthday. She remembered many a joyful gallop on his back, through the lanes and over the moors. She remembered how sometimes she rode him slowly, with his rein on his neck; for young Angus Grey walked by her side and told her pleasant news,—always pleasant and interesting, though always about the same thing. She remembered how once he checked Rab's rein under the shade of a hawthorn-tree, and asked her to be his wife. She remembered, too, how Rab had borne her to the Kirk, to be married to Angus Grey; and she thought of three other Sundays when he had carried her and her baby to the christening; and of yet one other time, when he had drawn slowly away from her door a hearse, whereon lay the beloved husband and father. She thought, too, with tender anxiety, that now the last help of the widow, her humble fellow-laborer, was taken from her; and the grim wolf of want and hunger seemed to stand in poor dead Rab's place. Even the baby seemed to feel something of her anxiety and distress, and put up its pretty lip to cry; so to comfort it and to calm herself by her usual household labor, she returned to the cottage, leaving Effie and Jamie still sitting beside old Rab. Their grief had somewhat moderated; yet they sobbed as they talked of the virtues of the deceased, and wondered what life would be without him.
"Ah, Jamie," said Effie, "inna you wish the Lord was here now? You ken mither told us how He cured sick folk, and how He once made a mon alive again that had been dead four days. He could make our Rab alive wi' a touch of His finger, gin (if) He would try, Jamie."
Wee Jamie was a simple-hearted child, scarcely four summers old: his little brain was easily bewildered. For him there was but one Lord, the good and generous young nobleman at the Castle. Of his power and goodness Jamie could believe anything, and though he opened his eyes wide at his sister's story, his face grew radiant with joy, as just at that moment he caught sight of Lord Dundale trotting slowly down the lane on his beautiful thoroughbred bay mare. In a moment he was over the fence, in the road, in the very path of the rider, crying out in an agony of entreaty, "Stop, stop, my lord! our Rab is dead; ye maun (must) make him alive again!"
Lord Dundale checked his horse, and looked down on his little petitioner in silent astonishment, while Mrs. Grey ran out of the cottage, with baby in her arms, and, catching hold of Jamie, strove to lift him out of the way. But the little fellow resisted sturdily, crying still, "Let him make Rab alive! He maun make him alive!"
"But, my little fellow," said the Earl, smiling, "if Rab is really dead,—and I am very sorry to hear it,—I cannot make him alive: how could you think of such a thing?"
But Jamie stood his ground, answering, "My mither says you once made a big mon alive after he had been dead four days. Rab is only a sma' pony, and he's been dead but a wee bit while; so it's na a hard job for you. Dinna say you will na do it."
"What can the little lad mean, Mrs. Grey?" asked Lord Dundale, utterly bewildered.
"I dinna ken (do not know), my lord," she replied, "unless, Heaven save us! he takes you for the Lord of lords. I didna think the bairn was so heathenish and so daft (foolish). You maun forgie (must forgive) the poor child."
Lord Dundale dismounted, and, taking the little fellow by the hand, by a few simple questions, soon found that this was indeed Jamie's strange delusion.
"My poor little laddie," he said, "you are wofully mistaken. I cannot bring your dear old pony back to life. You can never play with him, or feed him, or ride him among the heather or along the burnside again. Rab's work is done, and it is time he should rest. But, Jamie, I can give you another pony in his place, one that I hope may serve your good mother as well as Rab, and that you and Effie must love for my sake. And now good by. I hope Jamie will yet know well the Lord most great and good and loving, the only true Lord of life and death."
Taking a kindly leave of Mrs. Grey, the young Earl then rode on, but in the course of the day the groom of the Castle galloped down to the widow's cottage, leading the new pony, a handsome, sturdy little animal, and so gentle and docile that not only Jamie but timid little Effie could ride him with safety; and even the baby, when set on his back, played with his mane and answered his whinny with a triumphant crow.
So Jamie's faith, though mistaken, was rewarded; and his innocent, fervent little prayer was answered, not by a Divine miracle, but by a generous human heart, which also found its reward in proving the truth of the Master's words,—"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
If my studious Lillian,
This charade will careful scan,
With knit brow and red lips pursed,
She will then unconscious show
To all such as care to know
An example of my first.
My second is what divine truths are,
And Alpine heights that gleam afar,
And hills of Scottish heather;
And what are not all human blisses,
The little loves of little misses,
Winds, waves, and April weather.
If from my second some sad dawn
You find your favorite palfrey gone,
Don't lock the door, and don't
Sit down and cry. To chase the thief
Despatch my whole: it's my belief
He 'll catch him, or—he won't.
Philip Alfred Reginald, Lord Alverley, only son and heir of the Earl of Ellenwood, was taking a morning walk in the park of Alverley Castle, in the beautiful county of Wicklow, Ireland. He was a very little lord indeed, only about six years old, and he was accompanied by a very stout nurse, Mrs. Marsham, quite a dignified and important personage. The family had but the day previous arrived from London, after an absence of four years.
Philip was an only child, fondly beloved by his parents, and, as the heir to a great estate, much petted and flattered by all about him. He was a pretty child, always richly and daintily dressed, and had much the air of a little courtier, or the pet page of some gay young queen.
This morning, as Mrs. Marsham led him down one of the broad walks of the park, they encountered a little peasant lad, who looked a good deal impressed, but saluted the small nobleman with a bashful bow, and was about hurrying on, when the lordling asked, condescendingly, "What is your name, little boy?"
"Arty O'Neill, may it please your lordship," was the reply.
"What, a son of Norah O'Neill?" asked Mrs. Marsham.
"Why, then, my lord, he is your foster-brother. Norah O'Neill, the lodge-keeper's wife, was your first nurse, and a very good creature she is, I believe," said Mrs. Marsham, attempting to move on.
But Philip, who had always, in spite of his grandeur, felt a little lonely, was caught by the term "foster-brother," and held back to examine the boy more attentively, and to ask him several childish questions.
In spite of his uncouth dress, Arthur or Arty was a fine-looking little fellow, and though modest, was by no means awkwardly shy; so the small folk got along very well together. The next day Philip insisted on making a visit to the lodge, where he was greeted by his old nurse Norah with an exhibition of true Irish emotion,—tears, laughter, and passionate caresses, that rather annoyed than gratified him. "What a fine little gentleman he has grown, bless God," she exclaimed, wiping her eyes with her apron.
"Yes," replied Mrs. Marsham, "and your Arty is also a fine, sturdy little lad. Was he not a delicate baby?"
"Ah, yes indeed, ma'am; we did n't think to raise him till he was well past three. Then he grew stout and rosy, and sturdy on his legs, the saints be praised!"
A day or two later, the weather not allowing of walking, Philip felt lonely, and sent for Arty to come and play with him. The child went, and returned to the lodge at night quite loaded with playthings, the gifts of the little lord and his mother. After this he was often sent for from the Castle, and gradually became a decided favorite with Lord and Lady Ellenwood, and consequently with all their retainers. As for Philip, he soon grew devotedly fond of his peasant playmate, and declared he could not live a day without him; and, as his will was already law at the Castle, even this whim for a companionship quite unsuited to his rank was indulged.
Norah O'Neill dressed her son in his best for those grand visits; but even his holiday suit was soon pronounced too rude for his new position, and an entire new wardrobe was provided for him. It was a pretty page-like costume, and singularly becoming, so much so that Lady Ellenwood, after regarding him with a pleased smile for some minutes, remarked to Mrs. Marsham, "Really, that child has something superior about him; I certainly should not take him for a peasant boy."
"Indeed, my lady, you surprise me. The child is well enough for an O'Neill, but he lacks the noble look, after all. I can see the common bird through all the 'fine feathers.' Only mark, my lady, the vast difference between him and my little lord."
"Ah, yes, I can see that Philip is the more dainty and delicate, but Arty is, in some respects, the handsomer child of the two; and, in truth, I think he has quite a high-bred look. There is a certain resemblance to my own family, which struck me when I first saw him. He has decidedly a Cavendish nose, and I have heard my old nurse say that my hair was once of that same golden auburn. I have never seen a child of any rank that my heart has been so drawn towards as towards this same little O'Neill. Surely we must do something for him."
This partiality for the lodge-keeper's child did not prove a mere fine lady's passing freak. Like little Philip, she grew more and more fond of little Arty; and when, after a six months' stay in Ireland, the noble family returned to London, little Arthur, really though not formally adopted, went with them. He received his earliest instruction with Philip from a kind governess, with the best of care and the most affectionate counsel. Lady Ellenwood was very gracious and motherly towards him, and the Earl always kind; yet he never forgot his humble Irish parents, whom he was allowed to visit every year.
Thus years went on, and Arty was regarded as a beloved member of that high family,—as the chosen friend, the brother elect, of his young master. They were taught by one tutor, and finally sent to school together, always keeping along hand in hand, in the utmost brotherly good feeling, with a great, tender love between them,—a love neither tainted by haughty condescension on the one side, nor by flattering subserviency on the other. It was a beautiful and marvellous affection.
At length the lads were spending their last vacation at home, in the old Castle in Wicklow. They were nearly sixteen, and as fine looking, gallant lads as the country could boast. Such loving, inseparable companions were they, that they were playfully named "David and Jonathan."
The pleasure of this visit to the Castle was only marred by the illness of Mrs. O'Neill, who was thought to be in a decline. Arthur, though so far removed from his simple life by the patronage of the great, had always been a good and dutiful son, while Philip had ever evinced a remarkable fondness for the warm-hearted foster-mother, whose sad blue eyes dwelt on his merry face with a singular expression of yearning, sorrowful tenderness.
It was the sixteenth birthday of Philip, Lord Alverley, and his happy parents gave a ball in honor of the occasion. All the "best people" of the country were present, and all was brightness, music, and gayety,—joyous hearts keeping time to light, dancing feet. But, in the midst of the festivities, the young lord of the fête and Arthur were summoned from the ball-room by Terence O'Neill, the lodge-keeper, who came to tell them that his poor wife had taken a turn for the worse, and was sinking rapidly, and that she desired to see her two dear lads before she should pass away.
Without a moment's hesitation the friends set out together for the Lodge. Terence O'Neill left them there and hastened away to summon the parish priest. So it happened that the lads found themselves alone by the bedside of Norah O'Neill. They sank on their knees beside her and burst into tears. The dying woman gazed at them with a look of wild, passionate love, which seemed struggling with a strange fear, or remorse.
"O my poor lads!" she said, "I have loved ye both, yet ye have both much to forgive. When the priest comes I will tell you before him all my sin,—all the wrong I have done ye both."
They looked bewildered, but waited silently and patiently for the coming of Terence and the priest. But the anxious minutes went on, and no one came. At last Norah half raised herself in bed and hoarsely whispered, "He does not come, and I am dying! I must confess to you, boys; but if you can't forgive, don't curse your poor broken-hearted mother when you know all. You, Arthur, are not my son, though you were nursed at my breast, and became like the very pulse of my heart. You are the Earl's own son; and you, Philip, are not Lord Alverley; you are my first-born, my only son. I changed you in your cradles. The Countess was very ill for weeks, the Earl never left her to visit her poor, puny baby. It was sickly; I was sure it would die; I was tempted to put my own healthier child in its place. I meant a kindness to my lord and lady, yet I have never known an hour's peace since that day. Nobody knew my secret, not even my husband, for he was away in England, with some harvesters, at the time. He never suspected. I never dared lisp a word of it to the priest. I shut it all close in my heart, where it stung like a serpent and ate like a poison. It is killing me. O my poor, dear, injured lads, can you forgive me before I die?"
There was an agony of supplication in the straining eyes and in the broken sob.
Philip spoke first, very tenderly: "As for myself, mother, I forgive you, though you have wronged me by making me a party to a great wrong; but it was very wicked of you to keep so noble a boy as Arthur so long out of his rights."
"O no," cried Arthur, "I have really suffered no wrong. God so wonderfully overruled the evil for good. I have had all the happiness I could have had as the heir of Ellenwood Castle, and added to it, your love, my more than brother. So, mother dear, I too forgive you, fully and freely, and do not despair of God's forgiveness, now that all is well between us three."
Norah O'Neill lifted her bowed head and stretched out her arms with a cry, half joy, half sorrow, then fell back on her pillow. A mist gathered over her eyes, and she spoke no more, but her hands groped about till they found a hand of each of her boys. These she raised one after the other to her lips, and, meekly kissing them, she died.
The poor lads had never looked upon death before: they were both awe-struck, silent, and motionless for a while. Then Philip bent down and closed his mother's eyes, and pressed his lips on her forehead. But Arthur spoke first. Laying his hand on Philip's shoulder, he said, in a tone of eager imploring, "Dear brother, we two only know of this sad revelation. Let us bury it in our hearts, and let all be as though this had never been. You are far better suited to your present position than I am. You are one of Nature's noblemen. It would make me wretched beyond expression to have to take from you wealth, title, parents, everything. I would rather die. Let us both keep a life-long silence about this sad affair. I beg, I implore you."
"O Arthur!" cried Philip, reproachfully, "I did not look for this from you. Though a peasant born, it seems, I am not base enough to do anything so dishonorable as that. You are the last one I would wrong. I will strip myself of everything that belongs to you. You shall have your birthright."
"I will not take it, Philip."
"You must take it, and you will yet see it is right for you to take it. But we have never quarrelled yet, and we must not begin by the side of our dead mother. Ah! here comes O'Neill, my father. We will not tell him all now."
The lodge-keeper, coming too late with the priest, was so absorbed by his grief that he noticed nothing unusual in the manner of the lads, scarcely knew when they took leave of him and returned home.
On the way, Arthur again urged Philip to conceal the strange secret just revealed to them. Philip said no word in reply, but shook his proud young head very firmly. As soon as they reached the Castle, Philip strode with the step and bearing of a man to the ball-room, at the head of which stood the Earl and Countess in a gay circle of friends. They pleasantly welcomed back the lads, but all were struck by the paleness of the two faces,—by the look of heroic determination in Philip's, and by Arthur's expression of agonized entreaty, as he clung to the arm of his friend.
With strange clearness and calmness of voice, Philip spoke: "My Lord, and my dear Lady, I have something strange and startling to tell you, and I desire to say it before all these guests of ours. I am not your son and heir. There was a fraud perpetrated upon you in my infancy, by the nurse, Norah O'Neill, my unhappy mother. But you suffer no loss now; you rather gain, for here, in our dear Arthur, is your real son, the true Lord Alverley."
After a time of blank amazement and incredulity, followed by scores of eager questions, which Philip calmly answered, the truth of the strange story was admitted, and the Earl and Countess turned to embrace their new-found son. But the painful excitement of the scene had been too much for that grateful, generous heart. With a piteous look at Philip, and a gasping sob, the poor boy fell in a swoon at the feet of his parents.
Well, the strange, perplexing change about was arranged after a while, even to the names of the lads, and Philip became plain Arthur O'Neill, and Arthur found himself Philip Alfred Reginald, Lord Alverley, &c.
It was long before he was fully reconciled to the greatness thrust upon him at the expense of his best friend. He hated his title like a born Democrat. Indeed, it was said that when he was first my-lorded by his brother's valet, he flew into a most unbecoming rage. He took to his new condition more kindly, however, when he found that Philip was not desperate or unhappy, that he was not too proud to accept from him such aid in life as an older brother might give. They went to the University and travelled over the Continent together. Then Arthur O'Neill entered the army, and his regiment was soon after ordered to India.
Seas rolled between the foster-brothers for years, yet their hearts were not divided. "Many waters cannot quench love," neither can the floods of death drown it. The "golden auburn" locks of the last Earl of Ellenwood were scarcely touched with silver when the coffin-lid hid them from sight.
Colonel O'Neill fell in the wilds of Afghanistan. One was "the true lord," one was a hero; both were noblemen.
Entire, I circle Kitty's wrists
Or deck small Percy's breast,
Or Annie's night-robe, or beneath
Mamma's soft cheek am prest.
Behead me, and I wander free,
In wood or meadow fair,
Leap down the rock on mosses soft,
Tall ferns, and maiden-hair;
Or linger in the sedgy deep,
And baby-lilies rock to sleep.
Behead again, and to your door,
If I presume to come,
I warn you, bid the porter say,
"To him I'm not at home.
Heaven save me from the visitations
Of all that sort of poor relations!"
In the wars of the great Napoleon, thousands of French soldiers were raised by conscription,—that is, taken by lot from the working classes.
These conscripts, though they generally made good soldiers, often went with great unwillingness and even sorrow from their humble homes and their loved ones, to endure the hardships of weary campaigns, to risk life and limb in desperate battles, for they scarcely knew what, with people against whom they had no ill-will.
On a cloudy morning in early May, a company of conscripts were marched away from a pleasant little hamlet in the South of France. For some distance on their way they were followed by loving friends, some weeping and some bravely striving to cheer them up.
At last these fell off, and the conscripts pursued their march in melancholy silence. On the brow of a hill, their road passed the gates of an old chateau, the seat of the ancient lords of the manor, the Counts De Lorme. The present Count, an old man, had lately been permitted to return from exile in England, to his half-ruined estate; but, in acknowledgment for this act of clemency, he had felt obliged to offer to the service of the Emperor his only son, who was now a captain in the grand army.
Just outside the gates, on this morning, stood Count De Lorme, evidently awaiting the conscripts. He addressed a few words to the sergeant, who brought his men to a halt, and called forward one Jean Moreau, a tall, sturdy young man, with a frank, honest face, now sadly overcast.
"Well, Jean," said the old nobleman, kindly shaking the conscript's hand, "you must go, it seems, this time. I am sorry we could not buy you off again; but you are built of too tempting soldier-stuff to remain a peaceful village blacksmith."
"Yes, Monsieur le Comte," said the sergeant, "it is n't often we find such stalwart fellows nowadays. The villagers all speak well of him, and seem to begrudge him even to the Emperor."
"Yes," replied the Count; "Jean is a good boy. I know him well; he was the foster-brother of my son. Here, Jean, is a letter to the Captain. You may meet him somewhere. You may possibly serve in the same regiment. If so, I commend him to you. He is not so strong as you are, and he is brave to rashness. Watch over him, I pray you."
"Ah, Monsieur le Comte, believe me, I would gladly give my life for dear Captain Henri."
"I do believe you, Jean. Adieu!"
Jean Moreau, the handsome young blacksmith, left in his native hamlet a widowed mother, a good, sensible woman, formerly nurse at the chateau, but who, since the Revolution, had adopted the calling of a blanchisseuse, or laundress. "Mother Moreau," as everybody called her, had another son than Jean, fortunately too young to be drafted as a conscript. Years before, this good woman had taken home a poor little orphan girl, who had grown up to be as a daughter to her, and more than a sister to Jean. Marie Lenoir, the pretty young blanchisseuse, was in truth his betrothed wife. The little bouquet of May rosebuds and forget-me-nots in his button-hole was her parting gift. As on the hill by the chateau he turned for his last look at the dear little hamlet, nestled in the pleasant valley, he was not ashamed to press those flowers to his lips,—not ashamed of the tears that fell on them. He was too manly to fear being thought unmanly.
Months went by,—months of sad anxiety to Mother Moreau and Marie Lenoir, for they heard very unfrequently from Jean, and knew that he was always in danger. He did not take kindly to a soldier's life, but he tried faithfully to do his duty, so could not be altogether unhappy. After he had once seen the great Emperor, he felt the enthusiasm which that wonderful man always inspired, and longed to do something grand to merit his praise. Then, by a strange and happy chance, he found himself in the same regiment with his beloved foster-brother, Captain De Lorme.
At length there rang over France the news of the great battle of Austerlitz, where the Emperor commanded in person, and defeated his foes with fearful slaughter. After a time of painful suspense, the Count De Lorme had word that his son had been badly wounded, and set out at once for the hospital in which the young officer had been left. But many weeks went by, and no tidings, good or evil, came to the friends of the conscript. Mother Moreau, who was a brave woman, inured to trouble, kept up a hopeful heart; but Marie Lenoir rapidly lost the roses from her cheeks and the spring from her step, while the laughing light of her soft brown eyes gave place to a look of sadness and fear.
But where was Jean? Not dead, as his friends feared. Not buried forever out of their loving sight, in the soldier's crowded and bloody grave. He was lying at the same hospital which had received his foster-brother, very ill from several severe wounds; and when at last he rose from his bed, and staggered out into the court, one sleeve of his military coat hung limp and empty at his side. If Jean Moreau had not given his life for Captain Henri, he had laid down in his service what was almost as dear,—his good right arm. This was the story of it. In a part of the field where the battle raged most fiercely, Captain De Lorme's company, in which Jean was then enrolled, was engaged. At one time they were right under the eye of the Emperor, and fought with renewed ardor and courage.
The enemy was in great force here, and desperate charges were made on both sides. Seeing the standard-bearer of his regiment fall, and the banner in the hands of the enemy, Captain De Lorme dashed forward to recover it. This he did, and was gallantly fighting his way back to the French ranks, when he fell, pierced in the breast by a ball, and bleeding from more than one bayonet-thrust. In an instant there stood over him the tall, powerful form of the young blacksmith. Flinging down his musket, and seizing the sword which the wounded officer had dropped, he kept off all assailants, or cut them down with terrible strokes of that keen and bloody weapon, flashing about him, here, there, on every side, like red lightning. Lifting the fainting young noble, together with the standard, and bearing them on his left arm, Jean actually fought his way out of the enemy's ranks, step by step, defending both his precious charges. He received several wounds, but none that disabled him, till a musket-ball went crashing through the bones of his right arm, and it dropped helpless at his side. When at last he fell, and closed his brave eyes in a long, deep swoon, which he believed the sleep of death, he was at the foot of a little eminence on which Napoleon sat on his war-horse, surveying the terrible scene of carnage,—the surging sea of battle that raged around him. Jean wondered if the smoke of the cannon veiled from his calm eyes the agony of dying men, and if their groans came to his ears between the volleys of musketry, in the pauses of stormy battle music.
As soon as Jean was able to leave his ward, he was permitted to visit his captain, who, however, was still very low from a fever induced by his wounds. For the most time he was unconscious or delirious, and recognized no one. The old Count was with him, but evidently knew not who had saved the life that flickered faintly in the breast of his son, and Jean was not the man to inform him.
About a fortnight later, near the close of a weary day, two discharged and maimed soldiers approached the secluded hamlet of De Lorme. The elder was crippled by a shot in the knee, the younger had lost an arm,—his right arm. He was pale and thin from illness, and on one cheek was a bright red seam, from a deep sabre-cut. So Jean, the handsome young conscript, came home.
He had borne his misfortune very cheerfully at first, but now at every step he grew gloomy and lost courage. To his comrade, Jaques Paval, he frankly confided his trouble.
It was a fear that, maimed and disfigured as he was, his Marie would no longer be willing to accept him for her husband. This fear grew so strong on him, that, when they came in sight of the dear old cottage, he paused in an olive-grove, and sent his friend forward to prepare his betrothed and his mother for the sad change they must see in him.
Jaques found Marie leaning over the gate, looking down the street. She was always looking out for returned soldiers now. She seemed disappointed that Jaques was not Jean, but greeted him kindly, and soon drew from him all he had to tell of her doubting lover. Calling Mother Moreau, and Jean's young brother, she ran before them down the street, and soon cheered the sinking heart under the olive-trees with a glad embrace and a welcome home. Then came the young brother, laughing loud to keep from crying, and affecting not to see that dangling coat-sleeve, or to miss the grasp of the lost right hand. Then the mother, thanking God, as she fell on the breast of her son, putting the hair from his scarred forehead and blessing him. Pretty Marie had shrunk a little from that ugly red mark on his cheek, but the mother kissed that very spot most tenderly, with murmurs of pitying love.
The next day, Jean generously offered to free Marie from her engagement; but she would not be freed, reproaching him with tears for thinking so poorly of her as to suppose she would forsake him when he needed her most.
"But, Marie," he said, "we shall be so poor. My pension will be small, and I can do little with only a left arm."
"But, Jean, I am young and strong, and—"
"God and the saints will help us," interposed Mother Moreau.
Jean and Marie responded by silently crossing themselves; and the marriage was fixed for the first Sunday of the next month.
On the evening before the wedding the Count De Lorme, who had lately returned to the chateau, sent word to Mother Moreau, that, with the permission of the wedding-party, he would be present at the church, to give away the bride.
With that perfect punctuality which is a part of true politeness, he came at the exact time appointed; and, leaning on his arm, there came a slight, pale young officer, Captain Henri, now Colonel De Lorme. With respectful eagerness Jean stepped forward to greet him, and, in his joy and faithful devotion, would have kissed the hand held forth, but that De Lorme, with a sudden impulse of affection, extended his arms, and the brothers in heart embraced. This is a custom in France with men, but only when they are equal in rank. At this moment the young noble caught sight of that mournful empty sleeve. A look of pain crossed his face; he gently lifted the sleeve and pressed it to his lips.
"Jean," he said at last, in a soft, unsteady voice, "I bring you good news! The Emperor himself witnessed your gallant conduct in rescuing me and our colors, and if you had not been disabled, you would have been promoted. As it is, you will receive the pension of a lieutenant. And, Jean, I give you joy, mon frère (my brother), he sends you this, the highest reward of a brave soldier of France, the best wedding present for a hero."
With these words the young Colonel placed on the breast of the poor conscript a shining ornament,—the grand cross of the Legion of Honor!
So the wedding of Jean and Marie was a merry one after all. The good old Count not only gave away the bride, but gave with her a nice little dot, or portion. All the villagers who were rich enough gave them presents, and the poor gave blessings, which doubtless turned into good things in time.
Marie Moreau proved such an energetic, devoted wife, that Jean felt that he had more than got his right arm back again; yet he was no idler, for he found that with practice he could do many things with his left arm, and at length adopted the business of a vine-grower.
As he grew older, his beard grew heavier, so that in a few years little Henri, his son, had to part, with his chubby fingers, the thick, crisp hair, to get at that sabre-scar, when he wanted to hear the story of the hard fight for the young captain and the banner, and of the great Emperor on the hill overlooking everything with his keen, gray, unflinching eyes.
My first is often caught in church,
Is dear to dog and cat,
Oft shuns the couch of kings, to bless
The slave upon his mat;
And like the "willow," in the song,
Is "all around my hat."
My second an exclamation is,
A single, simple sound,
That tells of fear, surprise, or joy,
For friends, or treasures found;
And sometimes holds a world of woe
Within its little round.
My third's a lordly name, a land
For which the Genoese
Went forth upon his god-like quest,
And ploughed through unknown seas,
And gave to Europe old a world
Of golden mysteries.
My whole, a mighty conqueror,
Filled earth with his renown;
His life-bark rode on Fortune's flood;
Till the heavens began to frown,
And it struck upon a rock at last,
In storm and night went down.
A scene very similar to those we so often witnessed during the sad days of our war, occurred one sweet June morning, about sixty years ago, in a quaint little village in Switzerland, on the borders of France. A company of recruits were about departing to join a regiment in a neighboring town, from whence they were to march to Italy, where Napoleon, then First Consul, was conducting one of his great campaigns. Around these recruits, all of them young, gathered their friends and relatives, with tears and embraces and touching words of farewell.
About a young drummer-boy, named Leopold Koerner, gathered a little group on whose grief few could look without tears. First, around the lad's neck clung his pretty blue-eyed sister, Madeline; then his younger brother Heinrich, ever till this day a merry, light-hearted little fellow. Then came their sturdy old grandmother, trying to put a brave face on the matter, and winking vigorously to keep back the tears. Leopold's father had been killed in the great French Revolution,—his widow had died soon after, "of a decline," it was said; but doubtless sorrow helped her on toward the great, sweet rest. The children were left to the sole care of their grandmother. She was poor and old, but she had a stout, faithful heart,—she was devout and determined, and battled with want and poverty like a true soldier of the Lord. She kept the children together, and brought them up "in the way they should go."
It was for the sake of relieving this noble old friend of some of her heavy care, more than from any love of a soldier's life, that Leopold, at the age of fourteen, enlisted as a drummer.
At parting with her darling, the good woman said little, but to charge him to remember his father's honesty and bravery, his mother's goodness, and the love of the true hearts left behind him. "Make all thy noise with thy drum, lad; neither boast nor swear, and remember, the better man the better soldier."
"Keep up good heart, brother," said Heinrich, with a quivering lip, "thou wilt come back to us some day, safe and sound, a grand officer,—the General of all the drummers."
"Adieu, dear Leopold," sobbed Madeline; "O, what can I do without thee? I pray the holy saints and angels to turn the bullets away from thee. Take with thee our mother's prayer-book. The Forget-me-nots pressed in it are from her grave. I shall cry my prayers now; but they will all be for thee. Adieu! adieu!"
Just then came the command, "Forward, march!" Leopold hastily thrust his sister's gift into his bosom, kissed her for the last time, and with a sad wave of the hand to his old friends, moved on in his place, sturdily beating his drum, a tear-drop falling at every stroke.
Leopold first saw real hard fighting in Italy, at the great battle of Marengo. In the early part of the engagement, as his regiment was marching past a little hill, on which were a group of mounted officers, Leopold's boyish eye was caught by the figure of a tall, handsome young general, mounted on a magnificent white horse. He was very singularly and splendidly dressed, in a rich Eastern-looking uniform, of scarlet, azure, and gold. At his side hung a diamond-hilted sword, suspended by a girdle of gold brocade. On his head he wore a three-cornered chapeau, from which rose a long, white ostrich plume, and a superb heron feather. The band that held these was clasped with brilliants of great value.
"Ah, there is the great General Bonaparte!" cried Leopold, to a comrade. "I knew him at a glance."
"Which, my lad?"
"Why, that splendid officer, talking to the pale little man, in a gray surtout and leather breeches."
"Ah, no, my little comrade," replied the other drummer, laughing, "that is Murat, General of Cavalry,—the little man in the gray surtout is General Bonaparte. However, you need not blush for your hero; he is a wonderful fellow at the head of a charge. Wherever his white plume goes, victory follows. You should see Bonaparte watch it, gleaming above the fight, as the French cavalry goes thundering up against Austrian bayonets or batteries. They say the mad general sometimes shouts to the Austrian dragoons, 'Ho! who of you wants Murat's jewels? Let him come and take them!' And they come one after another, to go down under his sword, which falls upon them swift and sure as the lightning. Ah! he is a terrible fellow."
Leopold found a battle to be something yet more awful than he had imagined. The roar of artillery, the rattle of musketry, the clang of swords and bayonets, the stormy gallop of cavalry, the groans and shrieks of wounded and dying men, appalled his very soul. But though his cheeks grew deathly white, and his eyes large and wild, he had not one cowardly impulse to fly from his duty. Again and again, he gave the quick drum-beat for the advance.
In the height of the battle, Murat dashed forward in one of his overpowering cavalry charges. Leopold, in the midst of the horrors of the fight, gazed with wonder and admiration at the plumed and jewelled officer, on his magnificent white horse, with its trappings of gold and azure. It was like a beautiful vision in that awful place, and a wild huzza broke from the boy's lips. Just then a cannon-ball rushed before him, like a small whirlwind, and carried away his drum, in a thousand fragments. He saw the same ball pass harmlessly between the legs of the white horse of Murat, who was then engaged in a hand-to-hand combat with a tall Austrian dragoon. Relieved from duty, the boy stood watching the fiery general, forgetful of danger, scarcely hearing the horrible singing of the bullets through the air. He saw the tall dragoon go down, and another dash forward to fill his place. While General Murat was dealing with him, Leopold saw an Austrian officer spur forward, and wheel sharply a powerful black horse, with the intent to attack the rash French hero from behind. While his followers were engaging those of Murat, he plunged forward, with his gleaming sword lifted high in air. Leopold never know how he did it, but he broke frantically through the ranks of infantry, in among the furious, trampling cavalry, at the last moment, seized the Austrian's black horse by the bit, and throwing his whole weight upon it, brought him to his knees. As he did so, he screamed at the top of his voice, "This way, General Murat!" The consequence was, that the sword that would have struck down his general, fell on his own presumptuous arm, nearly severing it from his shoulder. But on the instant, the white-plumed hero wheeled, with his avenging sword uplifted, and the next thing the drummer-boy saw, as he lay bleeding on the ground, was a great black horse dashing riderless away.
General Murat saw at once the great service Leopold had done him, and all that the daring act had cost the poor lad. He paused there, and stood guard over the boy, till he had seen him carefully removed to the rear. Then with his sword in one hand, a pistol in the other, and the bridle in his teeth, he dashed forward again in a last wild, tremendous charge, which carried the day for the French.
The next morning, Leopold found himself an inmate of the crowded hospital, surrounded with the wounded and the maimed, the fevered and the dying. But he was especially well cared for, at the command of General Murat, to whose interest perhaps it was owing that his arm was saved, as at first the surgeons were for taking it off, and so making an end of a troublesome job. But with skilful treatment, aided by the lad's youth, good habits, and patience, the great wound healed at last.
One day, while Leopold yet lay on his cot, forbidden to stir, and feeling very lonely and homesick, the dreary hospital was illuminated by the entrance of General Murat, accompanied by his beautiful young wife, who was a sister of General Bonaparte. After bowing graciously to the other patients, they came to the little drummer-boy. The General inquired kindly after his wound, and Madame Murat thanked him in the sweetest manner for saving the life of her husband.
"Glory gives you a rough hand-shake at first, eh, my lad? But, never mind; it is a brusque way she has," said the General, smiling.
"I am thankful that she did not shake my hand off altogether, my General," replied Leopold. "I fear as it is, 't will be long ere I can hope to help drum the way to another victory."
"Ah, well, my child, when you get strong enough to handle the drum-sticks, we may find better work for you. We shall see. Adieu!"
"Adieu, my General! Adieu, Madame!"
Well, when Leopold applied for his old position in his regiment, he was informed by his Colonel that he was to be sent to the Polytechnic, a military school in Paris, to be educated for a cavalry officer, under the patronage of General Murat. This was a great up-lift in life for a poor peasant-boy; but he received the news with modest gratitude and joy, unmingled with the faintest trace of pride or conceit.
He obtained leave to visit his home on his way to Paris, and never forgot that humble home or its inmates, as he got on in his profession. He proved to be a good student, and grew up into a fine, soldier-like, honorable man.
General Murat and his wife continued to befriend him, even after they became king and queen of Naples.
In the battles of the Empire, the young lieutenant of cavalry so distinguished himself that he rose to a high rank. So one day, before his brown hair was turned gray, and before his good grandmother's white head had been hidden in the grave, Leopold Koerner entered his native village a General,—though not as his brother Heinrich had prophesied, "the General of all the drummers."
This was not his first visit home after leaving the Polytechnic. Once he had returned to purchase, with his well-saved pay, a small property for his brother, who had chosen the peaceful calling of a miller; and once again, to give away in marriage his sweet sister Madeline, who became the wife of the village Notary.
At this time Leopold offered to return to the bride her mother's prayer-book, which he had always worn, he said, over his heart, on weary marches, and into battle.
"No, my brother," said Madeline, "I will not take it. Wear it still, to remind thee of our mother and of Heaven. Prayer is a soldier's best breastplate."
Entire, at an army's head I stand,
Marches and sieges I command,
The foremost fighter of the time:
Behead me, on the mimic stage
I pass for fine, poetic rage,
Passion and agony sublime.
Behead again, complete the fall,
From a mighty Major-General
To an insect most exceedingly small.
'T is marvellous, yet we have seen
Such magic changes before, I ween.
"Come in!" shouted together the host and hostess of a little German wayside inn, near the banks of the Rhine, and not far below the city of Basle, and the borders of Switzerland. It was Christmas-eve, and a tempestuous night. The wind was raving round the little inn, and tearing away at windows and doors, as though mad to get at the brave little light within, and extinguish it without mercy. The snow was falling fast, drifting and driving, obstructing the highway, blinding the eyes of man and beast.
The "come in" of the host and hostess was in answer to a loud, hurried rap at the door, by which there immediately entered two travellers. One, by his military dress, seemed a soldier, and the other appeared to be his servant. This was the case. General Wallenstein was on his way from Carlsruhe, to his home in Basle. He had been delayed several hours by an accident to his post-carriage and by the storm, and now found himself obliged to stop for the night at this lonely and comfortless little inn.
When the officer threw aside his plumed hat and military cloak of rich fur, and strode up to the fire, with his epaulettes flashing in the light, and his sword knocking against his heels, cling, clang, the gruff host was greatly impressed with his importance, and willingly went out to assist the postilion in the care of the horses. As for the old hostess, she bustled about with wonderful activity to prepare supper for the great man.
"Ho, Carl!" she cried, "thou young Rhine-sprite, thou water-imp, run to the wood for another bundle of fagots! Away, haste thee, or I 'll give thee back to thy elfin kinsfolk, who are ever howling for thee!"
At these strange, sharp words, a wild-looking little boy started up from a dusky corner of the room, where he had been lying with his head pillowed on a great tawny Swiss dog, and darted out of the door. He was coarsely dressed and bare-footed; yet there was something uncommon about him,—something grand, yet familiar in his look, which struck the traveller strangely.
"Is that your child?" he asked.
"No indeed," said the old dame; "I am a poor woman, and have seen trouble in my time, but, blessed be the saints! I 'm not the mother of water-imps."
"Why do you call the boy a water-imp?"
"I call him so, your excellency," said the woman, sinking her shrill voice into an awe-struck tone, "because he came from the water, and belongs to the water. He floated down the Rhine in the great flood, four years ago come spring, a mere baby, that could barely tell his name, perched on the roof of a little chalet, in the night, amid thunder, lightning, and rain! Now, it is plain that no human child could have lived through that. My good man spied him in the morning early, and took him off in his boat. I took him in for pity; but I have always been afraid of him, and every flood-time I think the Rhine is coming for his own again."
The traveller seemed deeply interested, and well he might be; for in the very flood of which the superstitious old dame spoke his only child, an infant boy, had been lost, with his nurse, whose cottage on the river-bank below Basle had been swept away by night.
"Was the child quite alone on the roof of the chalet?" he asked in an agitated tone.
"Yes," said the hostess, "all but an old dog, who seemed to belong to him."
"That dog must have dragged him up on to the roof, and saved him!" exclaimed the general; "is he yet alive?"
"Yes, just alive. He must be very old, for he is almost stone blind and deaf. My good man would have put him out of the way long ago, but for Carl; and as he shares his meals, and makes his bed with him, I suppose it is no loss to keep the brute."
"Show me the dog!" said the officer, with authority.
"Here he lies, your excellency," said the dame. "We call him Elfen-hund" (elf-dog).
General Wallenstein bent over the dog, touched him gently, and shouted in his ear his old name of "Leon." The dog had not forgotten it; he knew that voice, the touch of that hand. With a plaintive, joyful cry, he sprang up to the breast of his old master, nestled about blindly for his hands, and licked them unreproved; then sunk down, as though faint with joy, to his master's feet. The brave soldier was overcome with emotion; tears fell fast from his eyes. "Faithful creature," he exclaimed, "you have saved my child, and given him back to me." And kneeling down, he laid his hand on the head of the poor old dog and blessed him.
Just at this moment the door opened and little Carl appeared, toiling up the steps with his arms full of fagots, his cheerful face smiling brave defiance to winter winds, and night and snow.
"Come hither, Carl," said the soldier. The boy flung down his fagots and drew near.
"Dost thou know who I am?"
"Ah no,—the good Christmas King, perhaps," said the little lad, looking full of innocent wonderment.
"Alas, poor child, how shouldst thou remember me!" exclaimed General Wallenstein, sadly. Then clasping him in his arms, he said, "But I remember thee; thou art my boy, my dear, long-lost boy! Look in my face; embrace me; I am thy father!"
"No, surely," said the child, sorely bewildered, "that cannot be, for they tell me the Rhine is my father."
The soldier smiled through his tears, and soon was able to convince his little son that he had a better father than the old river that had carried him away from his tender parents. He told him of a loving mother who yet sorrowed for him, and of a little blue-eyed sister, who would rejoice when he came. Carl listened, and wondered, and laughed, and when he comprehended it all, slid from his father's arms and ran to embrace old Leon.
The next morning early General Wallenstein, after having generously rewarded the innkeeper and his wife for having given a home, though a poor one, to his little son, departed for Basle. In his arms he carried Carl, carefully wrapped in his warm fur cloak, and if sometimes the little bare feet of the child were thrust out from their covering, it was only to bury themselves in the shaggy coat of old Leon, who lay snugly curled up in the bottom of the carriage.
I will not attempt to tell you of the deep joy of Carl's mother, nor of the wild delight of his little sister, for I think such things are quite beyond any one's telling; but altogether it was to the Wallensteins a Christmas-time to thank God for, and they did thank him.
My first the softest, loveliest grace
Nature to beauty gives;
While love and truth and modesty
Stay in the heart, it lives.
My second is so like my first,
My first its shadow seems;
It sweetens all the sunny day,
All night in fragrance dreams.
My whole, sweet one, I love to trace,
Soft glowing in that tell-tale face,
When Arthur whispers in your ear
Those "nothings" I must never hear:
Ah! then it comes, all warm and clear,
Your answering blush, Rose, my dear.
In a little mountain town not far from the beautiful lake of Como, in the North of Italy, in the early part of the last war between the Austrians and the Italians, a poor peasant-woman lay dying. Beside her bed stood a fine, sturdy-looking lad, some fourteen years of age, listening reverently to the last words of his mother. On the bed, with her face hidden against that dear mother's breast, lay a little girl of six or seven, trying to keep down her sobs, and to take into her half-broken little heart the fond farewells, the tender and solemn advice of the beloved one who was going home to God.
The dying mother grieved to leave her poor children alone in the world, for they were fatherless, and had no near relatives; but she believed that the same Heavenly Father who was calling her from them would care for them and bring them home to her at last. To the tender love of that Father, and to the protection of the holy saints, she commended them, kissed them and blessed them, and went softly to sleep, to awake in Heaven.
After the burial of their mother, Giuseppe and Lucia found themselves nearly penniless. They had no friends except among the poor, so they must help themselves, or suffer extreme poverty. The boy possessed a great deal of musical talent, and played well upon several instruments. He resolved that somehow he would make this talent serve for the support of himself and his little sister. He could have enlisted as a drummer, but he regarded the Austrians, who then held that part of Italy, as the cruel oppressors of his country. He had an especial horror of them, from the fact that his father had been shot several years before, for joining an unsuccessful rising against them in Milan.
At last, Giuseppe Benedetti fixed upon a calling. With the small sum of money which a sale of the cottage furniture brought he purchased a set of puppets, or marionettes,—quaint little figures, that would dance very nimbly if not gracefully to the notes of the pipes, which he played like a master. This is a rather rude, but quite an inspiring musical instrument, belonging mostly to the mountain regions of Italy. Those who play it are called pifferari, or pipers.
When all was ready, Giuseppe and Lucia took an affectionate leave of their kind neighbors, and set bravely out on their travels, to seek their fortune. They tramped from town to town, sometimes getting very weary and discouraged, but often having very pleasant times together, and never suffering from actual want. One day they found themselves within a few hours' walk of Mancini, the little village in which their mother had died, and concluded to revisit it. At noon, they stopped to rest in an olive-grove by the wayside. After eating their simple dinner of brown bread and fresh figs, and drinking from a cool spring near by, Lucia, who never tired of the wonderful performances of the marionettes, asked her brother to play for them, and sat watching the dancing of the miniature men and women with true childish delight.
In the midst of their enjoyment, they were startled by the tramp of horses and men coming up the road. Giuseppe ran forwards, and looked down on a band of some two hundred Italian soldiers, led by a noble-looking man, mounted on a fiery white horse; but wearing, instead of a showy uniform, a red-flannel shirt, gray trousers, and a slouched felt hat. As this officer saw Giuseppe standing on the high bank, with little Lucia behind him, peering timidly between his legs, he reined up horse, and asked in a voice sweet and sad, yet grand and commanding, if there was a spring of water near by. Giuseppe replied by offering to show him the one he had found, and soon conducted him and his men to a little green nook, where the water gushed up sweet and fresh. The lad noticed that the noble-looking leader waited till all his soldiers had quenched their thirst before he drank.
When he was ready to resume the march, he thanked the peasant-boy, and kindly asked his name.
"Ah, Giuseppe! that is my name also," said the officer.
"Yes, General, Giuseppe Garibaldi," said the lad, smiling.
The General started, and asked how he knew him.
"My father served under you at the siege of Rome, and he had a picture of you."
"Ah, your father, I remember him; where is he now?"
"He was shot at Milan, General."
The noble face of Garibaldi grew stern, but softened again as he looked pityingly on the orphans. After giving them a little money—he was himself too poor to give them much—he turned away and began consulting with one of his officers in regard to their march. Giuseppe understood that their plan was to go on to Mancini, where they expected to raise some more men, and to camp for the night near the village. After a few energetic words away he dashed, followed by his brave, devoted band.
When they were gone, Giuseppe and Lucia lay down on the soft turf, and talked of all they had seen and heard, till, overcome by the heat and lulled by the murmur of the brook, they fell asleep. They slept till late in the afternoon, when they were awakened by the tramp of soldiers again coming up the road.
"Here comes more of our brave Italians," exclaimed Lucia.
"No, these are Austrians," said Giuseppe, looking down upon them from the olive-grove. "I know them by their hateful colors, black and yellow. I 'm afraid they are after Garibaldi. If they overtake him they will cut his little band to pieces, for here is a whole regiment of the bloodthirsty tyrants."
Just then an Austrian officer caught sight of the lad, and leaped his horse up the bank, followed by a file of soldiers. "Tell me, my boy," he said, with a terrible scowl, "have you seen anything of Garibaldi and his men?"
Giuseppe stood quite still, but replied not a word. The officer drew his sword and threatened him with instant death, yet still he would not speak. But poor Lucia could not see her brother murdered; she flung herself between him and the officer, crying out, "Yes, we did see him; but please don't hurt him, or any of his brave soldiers."
The Austrian laughed a cruel sort of a laugh, and asked, "Which way did they go?"
Poor Lucia could not say any more for sobbing, but pointed with her hand up the road,—never in her innocence thinking of misleading him. It was enough; in another moment he was leading on his men, with the hope of soon surprising and destroying the Italians.
When they were out of hearing, Giuseppe flung himself on the ground, crying bitterly. "Ah, little Lucia," he said, "how could you betray our General, the hope of Italy? Why did you not let the Austrian kill me?"
"O brother, brother," replied the child, weeping, "how could I let him? I love you better even than Garibaldi; besides, he is such a great fighter, may be he will kill them all."
"No, no," groaned the poor lad, "they are too many for him, if they take him by surprise."
Suddenly he sprang up, his face looking all bright and eager, and said, "Little sister, now you have done our General so much mischief, are you brave enough to try to save him?"
"Why, what can such a little thing as I do?"
"I will tell you. You can stay here with the pipes and marionettes, while I run over the mountain by a little path,—a cross-cut I know,—and warn Garibaldi that the Austrians are after him. I will be back by midnight, I hope, but you must stay here till I come; there will be moonlight, and it will not be cold. Dare you stay alone?"
"Yes," answered Lucia, firmly, though turning quite pale; "the blessed Mother of our Lord will watch over me, and may be our mother will come with her. I think she 's a saint; I am sure she ought to be made one."
With a tender kiss on the lips of his heroic little sister, Giuseppe sprang away and soon disappeared over a ridge of the mountain. After some narrow escapes in pursuing his perilous path along precipices and over torrents, he reached Mancini in time not only to warn Garibaldi, but to allow him to march back through a deep ravine and intercept the Austrians. Taken by surprise, and in the dim evening light mistaking Garibaldi's dashing little band for a large force, they made little resistance, but such as were not killed in the first charge, fled or surrendered. After sending his prisoners to one of his secret mountain strongholds, Garibaldi despatched a trooper with Giuseppe to the olive-grove, whore Lucia had been left alone. They found her safe, quietly sleeping, with her sweet little face upturned in the soft moonlight. The trooper took her up before him, on his strong, black horse, and the three returned to Garibaldi's camp.
Giuseppe and his little sister remained with the brave mountain men for several weeks. The little girl became a great pet with the rough but kindly soldiers, and many a night she sat with them beside the camp-fire, sometimes on Garibaldi's knee, and sung sweet, wild songs, while Giuseppe played on his pipes, and the funny little marionettes danced right merrily.
But at last, General Garibaldi found for the good little girl a home with a kind lady, who promised to bring her up as her own child. That home was in a pretty villa, on the lovely shore of Lake Como. Giuseppe remained with Garibaldi, and became a soldier.
After the Austrians had been driven from Milan, he entered that city in the suite of his beloved general. One day, he went to the spot just outside the walls, where a few years before his poor father was shot. He picked a wild poppy, and put it in his bosom, thinking that it might be it had received its rich red color from the life-blood of that brave father. Then, as he looked over the beautiful city, and saw waving from every public building the banner of the gallant King of Sardinia, instead of the ugly flag of Austria, he thanked God for Victor Emanuel, Garibaldi, and liberty.
My first we wish our dear ones' lives to be,
And all the joys and loves that Hope discloses,
And fairy-tales, and picnics by the sea,
Purses, and golden curls, and times of roses,
And lashes dark, to shade a beauty's glances,
And rides, and sails, and pantomimes, and dances.
My second is the place where thousands meet,
Like ships at sea, who never meet again,—
Fair maids, and soldiers brave, and children sweet,
And ruddy boys, and silver-haired old men;
The surging mob, the monks' procession holy,
Gay bridal trains, and funerals moving slowly.
My whole, he was a Southern leader brave,
Whose flaming sword to Richmond barred the way;
'Mid smoke and shot, he saw his banners wave,
He rode victorious, joying in the fray.
Till fickle Fortune set the hero learning
'Tis a long lane, or street, that knows no turning.
How odd it was! Such a funny little event! I have often told the story to my one little chick, but it has always seemed to me too absurd to put into print; yet you see I have finally made up my mind to tell you all about it.
I was seven years old that summer,—seven, "going on" eight, as we country children used to say. It was the term during which I commenced the study of geography,—dear old Peter Parley's charming little book, which first formally introduced me to the great world we live in, or rather on, and first made me realize that it was round, and all that. It was on an afternoon in the early part of July, I am not sure, though, that it was n't in the latter part of June, that it happened,—the singular event I am going to tell you about. It had been dreadfully hot all day,—so hot that the very hillsides seemed to pant, like the sides of the poor cattle, in the parched pastures. I thought it extremely lucky that my geography lesson that day was in Greenland. I don't believe I could have been equal to a lesson in Mesopotamia. I remember saying to Bob Linn, at recess, that I wished I was a seal, riding on an iceberg; and he said he wished he was a white bear, climbing the North Pole and sliding down backwards. That was so like Bob Linn. He used to climb the lightning-rod of the meeting-house, and ring the bell at very improper hours, till Deacon Jones tarred it,—the rod, not the bell. I wonder where he is now,—Bob, not the Deacon. He was the first schoolmate to whom I told what had happened that July, or June afternoon. As I think I have said, it was a very hot day; but, just before school was dismissed, there came up a refreshing thunder-shower. How we revived, in the cool, moist air, like the poor wilted field-flowers! The shrunken stream in the glen grew, and took heart, and went tumbling down the rocks, in its old, headlong spring-fashion. The cattle stopped panting and whisking off flies, and stood dripping and chewing, while a smile of brightening greenness ran over the faded face of the pasture.
I had a half-mile walk home. One of the girls who lived nearer the school-house invited me to stay all night with her; but I thought that I, who was old enough to study about oceans, avalanches, earthquakes, and volcanoes, ought not to be afraid of such rain, thunder, and lightning as we had in our free, enlightened, and Christian country. So I thanked her "no," which was very well; for, if I had stayed, that wouldn't have happened that did happen,—or, at least, I would n't have seen it. Well, I set out for home, bravely breasting the wind, and really enjoying the rain, in spite of my new sun-bonnet getting every minute more limp and flappy. I remember wondering if it was raining at that very time in China, right under my feet. If so, study on it as I would, I could n't make it seem any other way than that it rained upwards there. I was thinking of such things, and not expecting anything particular to happen, till I got in sight of home, past the old Phillips place, where it did happen. It was here I first noticed over my head the blackest of black clouds, big with barrels of rain. I started into a run, to get out of the way, when—now it is coming, what I was going to relate! No, I must first tell you that there was near me then no house, nor tree, nor even bush, that it could have dropped or jumped off from. Now it really is coming! Well, right down before my eyes, straight out of that cloud, fell—a little frog!! There, it is out! I like to take people by surprise, and not, like some story-tellers, drag my listeners all "round Robin Hood's barn" before I get at a thing.
I stood stock still for a moment, in wonder and astonishment. Then, half afraid, I picked the little creature up out of the sand. He was of a greenish-brown, brightening to gold in the sun. His limbs were extremely delicate, and his eyes were as bright as diamonds. I carried him gently home, and ran with him in the greatest excitement to my mother, exclaiming, "O mamma! do look at this lovely little frog! It is n't human! It came right down to me out of the sky. I do believe it is an angel-frog!"
My mother laughed, but, on being told the story of Froggy's descent from the clouds, said it was a great marvel and mystery where he came from, and how he got there. Glad of a chance to display my learning, I said, "Why, mamma, you know the stars are round balls, like our earth, swinging in the air; and may be he was whirled off one of them, or maybe he jumped off the horn of the moon last night, and has been travelling ever since. Poor little fellow! how tired he must be!"
When my father came in, he gave it as his opinion that the frog had been carried up by a waterspout, from a lake about twenty miles distant, kept up and borne along by currents of air. At all events, he was a hero and an adventurer, and I resolved to keep him as a curiosity. So I put him in a large rain-water trough, at the back of the house, where he lived in apparent content, the monarch of all he surveyed. During dry times, I kept him well supplied with fresh water from the well, and I frequently threw in broad dock-leaves, for him to take shelter under from the heat. He soon grew to know me, and would actually come at my call from the farthest end of the trough. He was very shy of others, and I was not sorry, for I wanted all his affection, and was proud of his discernment. This was thought so singular that I was often sent out with visitors, to show off my pet. I don't believe that the keeper of the hippopotamus can be prouder of his mud-loving monster than I was of my lively little friend.
My brother Will built for him a neat little ship, on which he sailed about, being captain, crew, cabin-boy, and all. One morning, while I was playing with him, he hopped down the hatchway. I shut him into the little cabin, and was careless enough to forget to let him out before going to school. When I came home, I found him lying on the cabin floor, still and lifeless! He had been suffocated in the close, hot air. I am not ashamed to own that I cried heartily over the poor limp little body. I wrapped it tenderly in a plantain-leaf, and laid it beside my last lost kitty.
In the evening, when I told my father of my loss, he by no means made light of it, knowing my pet was no common frog.
"Poor fellow!" he said, "it was as bad for him as the 'Black Hole of Calcutta.'" I did n't know what that meant then; I know now, but haven't time to tell you. Besides it is n't a pleasant story. Then papa added, "Perhaps, after all, it is only a case of suspended animation. Your little frog may have only been in a swoon. If you open his grave in the morning, you may find that he has come to."
That was a pleasant hope to go to bed on, and you may believe I rose bright and early in the morning, to run with my shingle-spade to the cemetery of all my dead pets. With an anxious heart, I removed the earth, and unfolded the plantain-leaf. Sure enough, there was my pet, "alive and kicking!" He hopped out on to a full-blown dandelion, and looked about him as pert and knowing as ever. I caught him up, and ran with him into the house, crying, "Froggy is resurrected!—Froggy is resurrected!"
After this, nothing especial happened to him for some months. He grew in intelligence and lively graces, but not in size, remaining precisely the same pretty, tiny creature as at the first. This fairy-like, unchangeable youthfulness, and his little, piping note, "most musical, most melancholy," made me still half believe that he was a frog of another and a higher race than ours,—star-born, or a native of cloud-land. After the frosty nights of November, I used to remove the thin ice from his tank, so that he could swim freely, and he did not seem to suffer much from the rigors of the season. But, on the first morning in December, I found to my grief that the shallow water in the trough was frozen solid, and—Froggy with it! I could see him tightly imprisoned in the clear ice, about midway from the surface. His limbs were extended, showing that he had bravely kicked against his hard fate to the last. I gave him up, then, and went into the house disconsolate. But my mother was still hopeful. Under her directions I heated the kitchen shovel, and with it thawed out a block of ice some inches square, with Froggy in the centre. This I placed on the hearth before the fire. You see I did not dare to break the ice, for fear of breaking with it the frozen limbs of my pet. I watched the melting of the block with affectionate interest. It was slow work, but it came to an end at last, and Froggy was free. Still, for a time he lay motionless, and I feared he was dead. Then, one limb twitched, then another, and then he was alive all over, and began to hop away from the fire. I rejoiced over him with great joy, put him in a tub of water, with a piece of bark to sail on, and began laying plans for keeping him in-doors all winter. But my mother said it was impossible,—that there was but one way to save the life of my pet, and that was to take him down to the millstream and fling him in. There the water was deep, and the frogs lived under the ice, cosey and comfortable all winter.
"O mamma," I said, "I can't make up my mind to do that. He would miss me so, and I don't believe that the other frogs would treat him well. He is n't of their kind, you know."
"I think it more likely," she answered, "that they will have sense enough to perceive his superiority, and will treat him accordingly,—perhaps make a Prince or President of him. He will come among them as a distinguished stranger,—a travelled adventurer."
This consoled and determined me. I put on my cloak and hood, and set out at once, for fear I should lose courage. I ran all the way, talking to my funny little pet, and saying, I doubt not, many silly things, but which, I am sure, went no further.
When I came to the bank of the stream, I thought perhaps he would hop in of his own accord. I bade him farewell, and held him out over the water. But I suppose it looked big and dreary to him, for he did not stir. I even fancied that he looked at me reproachfully for thinking that he would be so willing to leave me. I was obliged to give him a toss, and the next instant he disappeared forever under the dark, wintry waters, among the reeds and rushes.
So now you know all I know about My Pet from the Clouds.
So Will, my lad, you beg that I'll
Concoct you a charade;
Well, dear, here goes: My first is first
Your favorite little maid;
The hearts of roses too are it,
And vine-blooms under which I sit;
And childhood's dreams, and sinless thoughts,
And tones attuned to love,
"The uses of adversity,"
The cooings of the dove,
And Lilly's eyes, and Kitty's lips,
And Tommy's 'lassed finger-tips.
My second was the royal name
Of England's conquering foe.
Who set his foot on Saxon necks
Eight hundred years ago;
The name too of a poet-king,
Who still rules many a land;
No soldier he, but a knightlier soul
Did ne'er shake spear or brand.
My whole is no exotic rare,
A common flower found everywhere;
In form 't is somewhat like the pink,
But its scent is finer, I declare,
Than musk, or your patchouli.
You 've guessed it now, I really think,
So I'll refrain from wasting ink.
Sweet Will, I am
The summer that I was eight years old I went to school, at our little brown country schoolhouse, alone; my elder sister going to a select school in the village, where she actually studied grammar and wrote compositions! Our school-mistress was Miss Grey, quite a pretty young lady, but folks said not a good teacher. They said she had "no government," and certainly we had a very easy time of it. She was what is called "absent-minded," and often forgot to hear some of our lessons, and we thought it would n't be polite to remind her of them. She had a soft and mournful voice, and a droopy sort of a look, especially about her hair. She dressed a little queer sometimes, and played on the accordion, so it was whispered about that she wrote poetry. I know she read it a good deal, and novels too. She had in her desk a very long romance, called "The Children of the Abbey," which she used to read at noontime and recess. She read it through, and then she appeared to read it backward, for it lasted nearly all summer. It seemed to me that the story went on and on, till it came to the last page of the book, then turned round and went the other way.
I said I went to school alone; yet after a while I had company, which no one else would have thought of much account, but which was quite a comfort to me. One day I made a purchase with my own money. It was only a little pocket-handkerchief, but such a handkerchief! On it was printed, in bright blue, a picture of General George Washington, in full regimentals, with his sword in his hand, flanked by the Ten Commandments, and with a scroll labelled "Constitution" for his base.
At first I looked upon that stern face, with its strong, tight mouth, like a steel-trap just sprung, with a good deal of reverence; but as I grew familiar with him I became fond of him, and part of the time treated him as a doll; indeed, he seemed to me more real than any doll I ever had, and far dearer. I folded him carefully every morning and laid him in my dinner-basket, over my rations, grieving that I was obliged from limited space to fold under his legs, giving them an amputated look. But I laid him out at full length in my desk, and often lifted the cover to take an admiring look at him, during the day. At night, I laid him in one of my dolls' beds, and actually "tucked in" the "Father of his Country," calling him "George, my boy," and telling him to be good, and not to get up in the morning and go to hacking away at cherry-trees, with that sword of his.
He was two in one,—George I. and II. He was little George, or the great General, just as the occasion demanded. On the Fourth of July, I remember, he appeared in all his glory to deliver an oration to "a large and appreciative audience" of dolls and kittens. He spoke in this wise: "Fellow-Citizens, and your wives and daughters, I 'm a warrior, not an orator. I only want to say—to say—to tell you that if it had n't been for me you would n't have had any Fourth of July the year round, nor any parades, nor rockets, nor squibs, nor star-spangled banners, nor pumpkin-pies, nor ginger-pop. We should all have been British, or Irish, and worn red coats, and ate blood-puddings, and drank ale, and hurrahed for King George forevermore. This is the truth, fellow-citizens, for I cannot tell a lie,—you know I cannot tell a lie. But I don't want to brag over you, and if you will still be good Yankee Christians, brave and industrious, I will still be the father of your country, world without end, Amen! Band, please strike up 'Hail Columbia!'"
By the middle of the summer the poor General's face became as badly soiled as ever it was after a long march, over dusty summer roads. Yet I declined to have him washed, fearing that, after all, his colors might not be "true blue."
One Monday morning my mother sent by me a note to Miss Grey, inviting her to accompany me home that day, and spend a week with us. With my head full of thoughts of this invitation, I hurried away to school earlier than usual, and for the first time left General George behind me, lying on his bed in my chamber. I missed him sadly during the day, but came home in triumph at night, bringing Miss Grey with me. I took her at once about the premises, to show her my pets. I exhibited with much pride my tame hawk Toby, but she was afraid of him; though I assured her that he was a hawk of most exemplary character, and civilized to such a degree that he respected the rights of all the mother-hens and ducks, and never asked for spring-chickens, but contented himself with frogs, like a Frenchman. Then I took her to the woodshed, to see my cat, with almost a barrelful of young kittens. What a lovely sight it was! Then I led her to where my speckled hen kept house in a coop, with half a dozen cunning little chicks. The hen-mother was frightened as we came near, and called to her little ones to come in out of danger; but they would n't mind, and she was very angry, and ruffled up her feathers, and scolded furiously at their disobedience. "I think biddies are very unamiable creatures," said Miss Grey. I said nothing, but I thought to myself, "Ah, Miss Grey, if you were a mother, with ever so many children, playing around the door so peacefully, and you shut up in jail, for no crime but scratching up food in gardens for them, and you should love them dreadfully, and should see two giantesses, a big giantess and a middling-sized giantess, come tramping right in among them, and you not able to help them only by ruffling up your feathers and scolding, you 'd be a little unamiable too, perhaps, for I've heard my mother say that hen nature was a good deal like human nature." Then I showed her our gray goose's nest, with an egg in it. But when I expected her to be astonished, she only said, "Why, I thought the egg of the fowl that saved Rome was much larger than this." Now this goose laid the largest eggs of any goose in the neighborhood. "Did you expect it to be as big as the roc's egg in 'Sinbad the Sailor'?" I asked.
As we were passing through the yard, going to the stable, to see my brother's little colt, we encountered the week's washing, hanging on the line, and right before my eyes swung my handkerchief, with the beloved portrait almost washed out! Indeed, scarce a ghost of the great and worthy George remained. I caught it off and burst into tears, crying, "O, it's all faded out,—it's all faded out!"
"Why, you silly child," said Miss Grey, "don't cry so for a little scrap of a handkerchief like that."
"It ain't only a handkerchief," I sobbed, "it's General Washington and my boy George both together. I 've seen you cry, Miss Grey, over the 'Children of the Abbey,' and mother says they never lived; but General Washington did live, and was the Father of his Country; and then there were all the Ten Commandments, too. I declare Nancy is as bad as Moses was, when he smashed the tables of stone."
But Miss Grey only laughed at my sorrow, and went into the house. When I followed her, I whispered to mother, "Have we got the 'Children of the Abbey'? If we have, please give it to Miss Grey to amuse herself with."
Then I went up stairs and laid out my dead George, and had my foolish little cry out. After all, my great General had faded and wilted away into an unsightly little rag of a handkerchief. What a fall was there! We have seen some very like it in these days.
I had no heart to keep him by me any longer, so I gave him to my little brother, who put him to every possible use except that of a handkerchief. That was a hard campaign for the feeble old General. Sometimes he did service as the sail for a boat; sometimes green apples, or rabbit feed, or worms for bait were tied up in him. His feet, with what was left of the Constitution, were torn off and rammed into a small cannon's mouth for wadding; and, finally, he went up on the tail of a kite. In mid-air he became detached, and dropped into a tall thorn-tree. Here he got stuck fast, and so remained till he fluttered himself to pieces bit by bit.
My first the poet Cowper loved,
A creature soft and fleet;
To vote my _second_ to valiant puss,
The long-tailed sages meet.
It calls to prayer; at dead of night
Rouses the city street;
And to the bridal train sends out
A greeting wild and sweet.
My whole would shine all dewy bright
In your golden hair, Bell, to-night.
On a nice little farm, on the shore of one of our beautiful Western lakes, lives a noble young German girl named Bertha Johansen, but oftener called "little woman," for her womanly qualities, and her staid, quaint ways; and for a while, among her family-friends, still oftener called "little widow," for a reason I will give by and by. Early in the war against the Rebellion, Bertha's father and three brothers enlisted in one regiment, and were very soon marched away to the front, taking with them the tender, tearful blessings of the lonely little household left behind. The good wife and mother, Ernestine Johansen, took upon her brave heart and strong hands the entire business of the little farm, having for a while only the assistance of a young adopted son, an orphan nephew, who had lived with the Johansens from his infancy. But after having seen his uncle and cousins go forth so bravely to their grand though dreadful duty, the lad Heinrich grew discontented and unhappy. He had a man's heart in his boyish breast,—a heart full of patriotic ardor and devotion; and at last his good aunt consented that he too should go to the war, in the only capacity in which he could be accepted, as a drummer boy, in a regiment just ready to march to the front.
Bertha had grieved deeply, though quietly, in the brave, uncomplaining, submissive spirit peculiar to her, at bidding adieu to her dear father,—to Gustave, and Fritz, and Carl, her brothers,—but she grieved no less at parting with Heinrich Holberg. The two children had always been to each other the best and dearest of friends. Almost from her babyhood, Heinrich had called Bertha his "little wife," and she had early learned to play the character, in the most demure and charming manner. She had for him a tender and clinging affection; she believed in him with all her heart, and he was not altogether unworthy of such love and confidence,—he was a very good boy, as boys go.
Well, Heinrich marched away with the rest of the admirable German band, proudly and gayly they said,—the pluckiest of drummer-boys. But he had seemed neither proud nor gay, a few hours before, when he had run down to the little lakeside farm, to take leave of his aunt and cousin. He had looked pale and very sad. He had said farewell in a voice choked with sobs, and when he ran down the little garden walk to the road, great tears were dropping fast on the bright buttons of his new uniform. His "little wife" went to her little chamber, knelt down beside her little bed, and said a little prayer for him,—then dashed the bitter dew from her sweet violet eyes, and went about her household duties, like the dear little woman that she was.
Alas, it was the same old sad story! The father was killed at Pittsburg Landing, and the oldest brother wounded and taken captive: he afterwards died in Libby Prison. The second brother returned home, after a year's hard marching and fighting, a pale, wan invalid, with one sleeve of his worn blue coat hanging empty. The third brother is now an officer in the triumphant Union army, and let us thank God for him, for his work is nearly done.
The sorrow of the little German household did not end with the death of the beloved father, and of brave Gustave, and the loss of the good right arm of poor Fritz. Heinrich was also taken prisoner, in a sudden night attack on his regiment in Tennessee, and carried off by one of the robber bands of the barbarous Forrest. His tender age, and gentle, prepossessing ways, won him no pity. He was shut up, with thousands of others, in one of those horrible slaughter-pens of the South, called a "stockade," where he languished for many months, bearing all his hardships with the utmost sweetness and patience, feeling that his suffering was but a drop to the great ocean of human agony and despair around him.
Heinrich had been religiously brought up, and while many brave men about him lost all faith and hope, and believed themselves forgotten by the God who made them, he believed that over their loathsome prison-yard hovered hosts of pitying angels, and that above and around the vast field of fraternal strife brooded an infinite fatherly love, and "the peace of God that passeth all understanding." He had never a doubt but that Heaven was very near to their prison-pen,—that the "many mansions" of the Father would be all open to those martyrs of freedom,—that there rest and sweet refreshment awaited them,—that there pitiless hate and cruel wounds, hunger and fierce heat and bitter cold, would torture them no more forever.
From the time of his capture, nothing more was heard of poor Heinrich in his sad home on the Lake shore, and he was at last given up as dead by all his friends, except little Bertha. She had a "feeling," she said, that he was living still, and would come back one day, if only she could keep up heart for him. He might be so weak and ill, she thought, that he would die if she once should give him up,—but not till then. O little woman, great was thy faith! Bertha knew not that she was already called by neighbors and friends "the little widow." She would have passionately rejected the title. She "could not make him dead."
She had little time for fretting about her absent friend. Her mother's brave spirit had bent under the successive burdens of sorrow, and her bodily strength for a while gave way. Carl, the invalid soldier, had much difficulty in managing the affairs of the farm, and nearly all the cares of the household came upon Bertha. O, nobly she bore herself under them. She so completely took the place of her sick mother, that all went well in that humble and peaceful home, till the bitterest trouble was past, and the good mother rallied and was able to take part of the burden of labor and care, which, however cheerfully borne, was quite too heavy for such young shoulders.
Bertha's wise little head was perplexed. There was to be a great Sanitary fair in the city near by, and she felt a passionate desire to contribute something towards the great and good work. What could she do? She was not rich enough to give money; she could not paint nor embroider; she had not the skill to manufacture elegant trifles; she was not old or pretty or fashionable enough to stand behind one of the tables. What could she do?
At last it occurred to her that she could contribute to the refreshment department a roll of butter of her own churning, from the milk of her own little snow-white cow. So, with her good mother's consent, she saved all the cream off the rich milk of her pet for a week, and dedicated the golden product to the soldiers. She had two churnings, and the result was five pounds of delicious butter. Her pleasant work was done in the open air, before the side-door of the cottage, in sight of the beautiful lake. On the day of her second churning, her thoughts were peculiarly sweet and cheerful. She sung as gayly as the robin, nestling in the vine-leaves over the cottage window. Her soul was as serene as the sky, her heart as tranquil as the lake, sleeping in the still sunshine.
As Bertha worked with all the strength of her vigorous little arms, and with a gay good-will, little jets of cream now and then spirted up around the dasher, sometimes sprinkling her round, rosy face, and once or twice reaching her smiling lips to dissolve in sweetness there; and she said to herself, "How many sweet and beautiful things have gone to make up this golden cream!—the tender bloom of the early summer clover and daisies, and dew and sunshine, and by and by, when it hardens into more golden butter, and goes to the 'Sanitary,' won't more beautiful things still be added to it?—pity, and love, and patriotism, and the blessing of God?" Then her thoughts wandered, and her face clouded, and she murmured, "O our poor sick and wounded soldiers! O the poor prisoners! O my poor, dear Heinrich!"
Just then she heard her mother call her in an eager, trembling voice. She ran into the cottage to see, seated in the neat kitchen, a young soldier, in a faded and tattered uniform,—a pale, emaciated figure, childlike in weakness, but old in suffering.
Bertha knew him rather by heart than by sight, and, falling on his neck, cried, "Dear, dear Heinrich! I have always said the Lord would bring you back, and He has, has n't he?"
"Yes, little wife, all that the Rebels have left of me."
The drummer-boy's story was sad and strange but such stories are painfully common now-a-days. He had escaped from the stockade with a party of friends; they had been chased by bloodhounds and all retaken. Heinrich escaped again, alone; he was befriended, fed, guided by loyal negroes; he made his way, on foot, through the mountains of Tennessee, and, after countless hardships and adventures, reached the glorious Northwest, and his home. He was ill with a disease brought on by starvation and exposure, and though he had no battle-wounds to show, there were, on his neck and arms, the terrible marks of the bloodhound's teeth,—surely honorable scars. On the whole, Bertha Johansen thought her cousin Heinrich a hero, and I think she was right.
But to return to the Sanitary butter,—"the little widow's mite." Bertha made it up into beautiful rolls, which she printed with a stamp representing buttercups and clover-flowers, and it looked deliciously tempting. "There is only five pounds," she said, as she walked towards the Fair Grounds, bearing her offering in a neat basket, covered with a snowy napkin. "Only five pounds; how I wish there were fifty. If our dear Lord were only here on earth, He could easily make them fifty. If He could multiply loaves of bread, I suppose He could rolls of butter. But, O dear, He is n't here!"
Dear Bertha, our Lord is always on earth, in the hearts of good men and women,—is always ready to work through them His miracles of love and mercy.
Bertha presented her humble gift most modestly to one of the lady managers, who received it very graciously. This lady was one of Bertha's neighbors, and knew of her beautiful life of duty, obedience, and cheerful self-sacrifices.
She told the simple story of the child to some friends about her, and showed the five rolls of golden butter. A group of gentlemen soon gathered near. "I will give a dollar a pound for that butter," said one. "I will give two," called out another. Then there was a laugh. Then other bids were made,—three, four, five dollars. It was getting to be a nice little frolic, and those grave business men entered into it like boys. Higher and higher they went, till at last Bertha's butter was knocked down at fifty dollars,—ten dollars a pound.
As the purchaser laid down a roll of "greenbacks" for the golden rolls of butter, a gust of wind caught the bills and blew them over the counter, where the lady secured them. "So riches fly away in your Sanitary Fairs," said the gentleman, smiling. "Yes," replied the lady, "but with healing on their wings."
My first is the sweet diminutive
Of a name we love to hear;
The name of one—while here we live
We find not earth or Heaven can give
A friend more true and dear.
My second should bring pride and joy
To parent-hearts, alway,—
Should bear the fresh soul of the boy
Into the earnest man's employ,
And ne'er from honor stray.
My whole has ever stood for one
Who rears, with toil and care,
Block after block, stone after stone,
On city street, or prairie lone,
A building plain, or fair.
But now the name once honest, stands
For one who has not feared
To seek to level with the sands
The glorious structure, by the hands
Of Washington upreared.
The stealthy fox, the prowling rat,
The serpent, Heaven-accursed,
The cruel tiger, and the cat,
The weasel, and the vampyre bat,
Have all been called my first.
My second is a shadowed place
Of forest bloom and song,
Where mosses creep o'er the rock's stern face,
Vines climb and swing in wildest grace,
And a streamlet laughs along.
My whole upbore the traitor's crest,
And gloried in his crime;
Yet England took him to her breast,
Which once received a like brave guest,—
Our Arnold, of old time.
Bessie Raeburn was a very nice little girl indeed, truthful, trustful, generous, and affectionate. But she was by no means without some spicy little faults of her own. She was impulsive to rashness, and decidedly self-willed. She was given to odd little romantic fancies and secret schemes, which sometimes got her into trouble, when she attempted to carry them out. She was an only child, and much petted and indulged in a happy and luxurious home, having everything which a reasonable little lady in short frocks and long curls could ask for. Yet she was not contented; having a foolish ambition to distinguish herself by doing something quite out of the ordinary line of little girls,—something that would make people stare, and say "wonderful!" "surprising!" "a most extraordinary child!" She liked to say "I dare!" and "I 'm not afraid!" "I don't fear anything there is," she would say, "not even lions, or spiders, or bears, or bumblebees,—but I don't like them near me; they are disagreeable."
She learned to read when very young, and took most eagerly to books of travel and adventure. She passionately longed for adventures of her own, and often planned out exploits of a most perilous and surprising character.
One Christmas-eve, when Bessie was between seven and eight years of age, a wild little scheme came into her head, as she sat curled up on a sofa in the library, listening to her father, while he read to her sweet young mother a very sad account of the poor of New York, especially of the poor children, and of the noble efforts that were being made by a few good men and women to alleviate their wretched condition, to clothe them, teach them, and lift them into a better life.
"Ah, Charles," said Mrs. Raeburn, "what a sad, comfortless Christmas many of those poor little creatures will have,—children as dear to their parents as our little girl is to us. Only to think of it! cold, hungry, ignorant, helpless, and hopeless. It is dreadful."
"Why, mamma," exclaimed Bessie, "won't they have any Christmas gifts?"
"No, darling; I fear many must be without all the good and pleasant things by which we remind one another that our dear Lord's birthday has come round again."
"What, mamma! No toys, no nuts, no candies?"
"None, my child."
"Why, then, how can they wish one another a merry Christmas? I should think they would all have a crying Christmas together. I should think they would feel as though they had no Lord Jesus; as though he only belonged to the rich people. And yet, mamma, he was dreadful poor, and spent the first day of his life in a manger, with cows and things; though, to be sure, he had beautiful presents, those the wise old gentlemen that came from down East brought him, you know."
"Yes, dear, he was very poor, and in remembering him we should not forget the poor around us, and should always be ready to assist, as far as we can, the worthy and honest unfortunates who need our help. But it is your bedtime. You will wish to be up bright and early to-morrow."
Bessie sprang up promptly, and kissed her father good night. At the foot of the stairs she paused, and called him in her pretty imperious way, and he came to her, like the good, obedient papa that he was. Bessie kissed him again, and called him "a dear, handsome old darling," and then, with another last coquettish kiss through the balusters, she bounded laughingly past her mamma, up the stairs, into her little room and behind the door, from which point of vantage she emerged with a terrific "boo!" intended to startle her mamma out of her senses,—but I don't think it did.
Mrs. Raeburn, having heard her daughter repeat her simple prayer, kissed her and returned to the library; and soon after the maid, having seen her nicely in bed, and put everything in order for the morning, left her quite alone. And then the wonderful scheme that had flashed into her brain down stairs was thought over and resolutely arranged, and a famous little plot of mischievous benevolence it was, as you shall see.
Amid all the joyful excitement and merry confusion of Christmas morning, Bessie found time to think over her plan; and she would set her red lips very firmly whenever she felt her courage giving way the least in the world. She would be a heroine for once,—would have a real adventure of her own to relate to a wondering and admiring circle, that very Christmas night.
While mamma and servants were occupied in preparations for a large dinner-party, Bessie found opportunities for packing a little basket with tiny tarts, apples, nuts, and candies; then she put on her pretty winter coat, trimmed with fur, and her new velvet hat, with a long scarlet plume, the pride of her heart, and her warm tippet and soft gloves and high Balmoral boots. Then she took from her drawer a dainty porte-monnaie, well filled with bright new pennies and small silver coin, and containing a little compartment lined with crimson satin, wherein two gold dollars dwelt together in state, like a Mongolian king and queen. Then taking her basket on her arm, and thrusting her hands into her little muff, she stole down stairs on tiptoe, and made her escape from the house, unperceived by any one.
Mr. Raeburn lived in the aristocratic part of the city of New York; and Bessie, thinking that she could not there carry out her plan in a perfectly satisfactory manner, hailed a down-town stage. Driver and passengers looked surprised to see a child taking a trip all alone; but Bessie had such an old, authoritative manner, that they supposed that all was right. After a long, long ride, she alighted somewhere in the neighborhood of the poorest and least respectable part of the city. I may as well tell you now, if you have n't guessed it, Bessie was bound on a mission, a charitable visit to the poor,—the miserably poor, of whom she had heard her father read. She anxiously looked around her for a beggar-child, who should act as her guide to some home of unmerited misfortune, where virtuous poverty pined, and wept, and waited. Alas! there were plenty of sad little mendicants on the streets that day, but Bessie was not easily satisfied. "It must be a little girl," she said to herself, "very, very poor,—pale, and thin, and ragged, and sorrowful, but still pretty, and mild-looking. And she must have a pretty name too, like the little girls that beg in magazine stories, or sell matches, and are stolen by gypsies, and sing ballads for dreadful organ-grinders, and all that." It was a long time before she found one at all to her mind, but finally she was accosted by a little girl, who looked wretched enough, to be sure,—tattered, and sickly, and starved. She was not quite up to the mark as to prettiness, though she had soft, sorrowful eyes and a delicate mouth. Hunger, cold, and ill-treatment are not very favorable to beauty. Then the name she gave was decidedly unromantic,—Molly Magee. But the poor child told a piteous story, which soon brought tears to Bessie's gentle eyes,—how her father was dead of fever, and her mother a suffering invalid; how she was obliged to beg in the streets, from morning till night, to obtain food for that poor dear mother, three darling little brothers, and two sisters, twins and blind! It was a hard case, surely, and Bessie offered at once to go home with her petitioner, to see what she could do towards alleviating the family distress. The little mendicant hesitated at first, and attempted to dissuade her, but at last, as Bessie obstinately insisted on her own plan of benevolence, she yielded, and rather sullenly led the way homeward. Ah, what a way it was! down one dirty street and up another,—through vile courts and alleys reeking with filth, swarming with idle, loud-voiced men, wretched-looking women, slatternly girls, and forlorn children. Bessie's heart grew sick and her courage failed her. If she had known the way back, she would gladly have made an inglorious retreat!
The guide at last conducted her down a flight of slippery steps, leading to the basement of a squalid old tenement-house, in the five stories of which more than as many families were packed, layer on layer, and Bessie found herself in the very bosom of the distressed family of her humble little friend. This home of virtuous poverty was not exactly what she looked for. It was darker, dirtier, more confused and noisy; it smelt worse. There were the "three darling little brothers," to be sure, and they were quite satisfactorily ragged. But Bessie looked in vain for the twin-sisters, whose blindness had so engaged her sympathies. But she said to herself, "Perhaps they, too, have gone out begging, with a pair of twin dogs to lead them." The invalid mother was surely on the mend, for she looked quite stout, and her face was flushed, though that might be from fever. She sat by an old stove, smoking a short black pipe.
"Well, Molly, what have you brought us?" exclaimed this interesting invalid, in a voice by no means agreeable.
"I have n't got anything," was the reply; "but here's a rich little miss, as says she has got something for us; she would come herself, instead of giving it to me."
The woman took her pipe from her lips, and fixing a pair of hard, hungry eyes upon Bessie, as she stood smiling kindly, with her basket on her arm, like a dear little Red Ridinghood, broke out with, "And what put it into the head of such a fine lady to come anear the likes of us the day?"
"I wanted to see how poor people live," replied Bessie, honestly, "and I have brought you something for Christmas," she continued, stepping up a little timidly, and offering her basket.
The woman caught it eagerly, and turned its contents into her lap. "And is this all?" she growled. "A pretty dinner, indade, for a starving family; nuts and candies and the like! No bread, not the laste taste of butter or mate."
"O, I thought you would have such common things," said Bessie; "but I have some money to buy them with."
At this, a tall figure sprang up from a heap of rags in a dark corner, and came forward,—a very dirty, disreputable-looking man. Bessie, who had taken him for a sick man, was surprised to see that he also had a fine color in his cheeks, and even in his nose, but she noticed that he seemed very weak in his legs. "Hello! my little angel," he cried; "give me the money," and rudely caught the porte-monnaie from Bessie's hand.
His right to it was disputed by the woman, and they two quarrelled over pennies, dimes, and dollars, as "the three darling little brothers" quarrelled over apples, nuts, and candies.
"Who is that man?" asked Bessie, beginning to be frightened.
"It's father," replied Molly.
"Why, you told me your father was dead. What makes you tell such stories?" exclaimed Bessie, greatly shocked.
"She makes me," said Molly. "May be you would tell stories, rather than be beaten half to death."
At last the disreputable-looking man, having secured the lion's share of the money, snatched up an old hat and staggered towards the door. He stopped a moment beside Bessie, saying, "I 'm obliged to you, darling. This will get me something good for Christmas."
"Some new clothes?" asked Bessie.
"No, miss; something better nor clothes."
"No; something better nor food."
As he held a big bottle in his hand, Bessie next suggested "Medicine?"
"Why, bless your swate sowl, do I look like a sick man?"
"No, sir; but I thought you walked as though something was the matter with your legs."
Patrick Magee gave a loud, foolish laugh, as he stumbled up the slippery steps, and reeled down the dirty alley. When he was gone, Bessie proposed to take leave of her pensioners, saying, "I must go home now, or I shall miss my dinner, and they will be troubled about me. Will you show me as far as Broadway, Molly?"
"Not so fast, if you plase, miss," said Mrs. Magee. "You have seen how poor people live; now I want you to feel how they are clad, this biting winter weather. Take off your fine clothes, just, and change with Molly there."
"O please, madam, I would rather go home," cried poor Bessie. "Do let me go! Mamma has often said, that, if I could be poor for one hour even, I would know better how to pity the poor; but I really think I have seen enough to-day. I am very sorry for you, indeed. I 'll ask papa to help you, and give you all you want; only let me go home."
"So you shall, my pretty bird, but you must drop your fine feathers first. Off with them! And, Molly, take off all thim lovely holiday clothes of yours. Sure, exchange is no robbery."
Poor Bessie saw it was vain for her to resist, to plead, or to cry. In a very short time she found herself divested of every article of her nice warm apparel, and clad in the dirty, coarse, tattered street clothes of Molly Magee.
To do the beggar-child justice, she seemed shocked at this cruel proceeding, this wicked outrage, and pleaded for Bessie as long as she dared. But Bridget Magee, a bad-tempered woman at the best, had been drinking bad whiskey all the morning, and the brutal rage of drunkenness blazed in her hard black eyes. Molly was evidently in mortal fear of her, and could only give Bessie stolen glances of regret and sorrow. Very pretty she looked in Bessie's beautiful dress, though her face was far sadder than before. In the midst of her trouble, Bessie noticed this, and thought how different was the poor child from all the rest of the household of Magee. When the change was completed, Mistress Bridget whispered for a minute or two to the eldest of the three little boys, and then, turning to her victim, said, with a horrible laugh, "There now, ye poor little simpleton, follow where Larry will lade ye. Be off wid ye! I 'm thinking ye know a little more about poor folk than you did a bit ago, when ye came prancing into a dacent house to show off yer grand airs and yer finery. It's an adventure as will be good for your proud young stomach, miss."
As Bessie, too much frightened and shocked to speak, was hastening out after Larry, Molly sprang forward, caught her hand, kissed it, and sobbed out, "O, forgive me! forgive me! I did n't think they would treat you so, or I wouldn't have let you come!"
The next instant the poor girl was dashed backwards by a sudden blow from her mother's heavy hand, and Bessie saw her no more.
Master Larry Magee, a sharp-eyed and fleet-footed little vagabond, hurried Bessie off in a different direction from that in which she had come, and by many different and devious ways, for his object evidently was to confuse her, so that it would be impossible for her to act as a guide to the den of thieves in which she had been robbed. There was little danger. Poor child, she had not even thought to take note of the name of the miserable little alley to which she had been conducted by the melancholy Molly.
At first, in her joy at having escaped alive from that dreadful Irish ogress, Bessie was hardly sensible of the cold; but at length it pierced through her thin and ragged garments, and struck chills to her very heart. It seemed to clutch at her bare throat, and to snip her ears, under the old cotton handkerchief which covered her head. Her hands, muffless and gloveless, grew stiff, and the rosy tips of her fingers changed to a dismal purple; while her poor little toes, peering through great holes in shoes and stockings, looked as piteous as little baby birds, left unbrooded to the storm, in dilapidated nests.
After a long, bewildering, winding walk, or rather run, the two children reached a wide, respectable-looking street, when they came suddenly upon a policeman, at sight of which officer Master Larry halted, wheeled, and executed a brilliant retreat down a dark alley. But Bessie, who in her innocence believed in a policeman, as a sort of street guardian-angel, went confidently up to this one, the star on his breast shining as the star of hope to her, related to him her wonderful Christmas adventure, and begged him to conduct her home. To her surprise and grief, he refused to believe a word of the story, but, taking her for the little vagrant she seemed, gruffly ordered her to "move on," adding, "You can't gammon me: I 've heard too many such yarns."
My private opinion is, that that policeman was a crusty old bachelor, with not a chick nor child,—not even a little sister to his name.
With her feelings a good deal hurt, and her feet benumbed with cold, poor Bessie tottered on, she knew not whither. Happily, at the very next corner, she encountered another policeman,—a cheery, kindly, family-looking man. To him Bessie sobbed out her piteous story; and he, having a little girl of his own at home, was touched by her distress, and, looking into the clear depths of her innocent blue eyes, believed her. Immediately calling a cab he put her in, and got in himself, and taking off his warm blue overcoat, wrapped her in it, which was the street guardian-angel's way of brooding; and so they went away up town, to a large brown-stone house on Madison Avenue,—Bessie's home,—where they found everybody in great distress. Papa and mamma were almost wild with anxiety, for Bessie had been gone four long hours, and a dozen police officers were already searching for her, and street-criers were tramping up and down, ringing bells, and shouting dismally, "A child l-o-s-t!"
Mr. and Mrs. Raeburn with difficulty recognized their daughter in her ragged disguise. They were shocked by her appearance, fearing she might be made ill by the exposure. They were pained and indignant at hearing all she had suffered, but they both said it would prove a good experience, if it should teach her to be less rash, venturesome, and self-assured. They hoped, they said, it would cure her of forming secret schemes, even of benevolence, and of an unchildlike ambition to act in matters of importance independent of the aid and advice of her parents. It did all this, I believe; and if you care to hear, I will tell you, by and by, what other good thing came out of that Christmas adventure.
That night, Bessie Raeburn added to her usual prayer these words: "O Father in Heaven, I thank thee more than ever for my warm bed, and everything so comfortable. Forgive me for running off, and giving dear papa and mamma so much trouble. Make those wicked people sorry for what they have done, and then forgive them. And please put it into Mrs. Magee's heart to send home my muff, if she keeps all the other things. And bless my good policeman, and pity and help poor Molly Magee. Amen."
Little Bessie Raeburn never got back her darling muff, nor any other article of her stolen wardrobe. Her friend the good policeman, and other officers, searched diligently for the dismal den of thieves to which she had been led; but either they failed to find the exact spot, or the wretched family had removed. When all search was abandoned, Bessie was sadly disappointed, not because they had failed to recover her pretty street dress, as her loss had been at once made up to her by her kind parents, but that they had failed to find Molly Magee. For ever since her adventure, Bessie had cherished a humane and romantic desire to save and befriend that poor little mendicant, whose pity for her, and vain intercession in her behalf, had touched her heart.
"She is so different from the others, mamma," she would say, "I do believe she was changed in her cradle by some wicked nurse, if there are not any such things as malignant fairies. O, I 'm so sorry I can't believe in fairies any more, they were so convenient; we could account for so many things that way; but it is n't sensible and religious to believe in them, so I won't. But, mamma, what was I saying? O, I do believe that some wicked nurse changed her in her cradle,—took her from some beautiful mamma and a great fine house to Mrs. Magee's dreadful homo, and took back a little Magee and put in her place. And may be her name is n't Molly Magee after all, but Lilly Livingston, or Isabella Van Rensselaer, or Gertrude Stuyvesant, and—"
"Stop, stop, my child! You are going on in your old romantic way. You must not let your imagination gallop off with you in that manner. Take care lest it carry you into the basement of a tenement-house again," Mrs. Raeburn would say. Then Bessie would blush and be silent; but she could not help thinking of poor little Molly Magee; and she so constantly looked for her on the street that it was hardly a pleasure to her papa and mamma to walk or drive with her. But the winter went by without her catching sight of the beggar-girl who had obtained so strong a hold on her sympathies.
But one sunny day in the early spring her generous, faithful desire was granted. She had been driving with her papa in the Park, and for a little change and exercise they had left the carriage and were walking beside one of the ponds, watching the swans, when all at once Bessie exclaimed, "O papa, there's Molly Magee!" And surely, right before them stood the beggar-girl! her face paler, thinner, and sadder than before, while she wore a still more wretched garb than the one Bessie had been compelled to take from her. Her head was covered, but scarcely protected, by a large, dilapidated straw bonnet, through the rents of which peeped rebellious curls of her soft brown hair. A faded band of ribbon, half detached from the crown, fluttered like a tattered pennon in the April wind.
On hearing Bessie's exclamation, the child stood as motionless as though turned to stone. The next moment Mr. Raeburn's hand rested firmly on her shoulder. She looked up in mute terror, then turned a pleading glance on Bessie, who answered it by saying kindly, "Don't be afraid; he is my papa, and he won't hurt you. We have been looking for you ever so long. We want to do something for you, don't we, papa?"
"Yes, Molly," said Mr. Raeburn, gently, "we want to help you, if we can. My little girl says you were better than the rest of your family. Do your father and mother still get their living by robbing little girls?"
"O, sir, she is dead!" sobbed out Molly. "They sold all thim things, and bought whiskey with the money, and drank and drank, and one morning I myself found mother dead and cold. Father behaved a little better for a while, but he is as bad as ever now, and keeps me and the boys begging, and when we have bad luck, beats us till we are like to die."
"Poor, poor child!" said Mr. Raeburn, "you must come home with us, and we will see what we can do for you."
Molly looked surprised, but passively allowed herself to be led to the carriage and lifted on to the front seat, to the immense astonishment, not to say horror, of the coachman, a very grand personage, with four capes to his coat.
When they reached home, Mr. Raeburn took Molly at once to his wife's room, and those two good people had a long talk with her. They questioned her kindly but closely about her life, and her story was such a sad one that tears soon fell from Mrs. Raeburn's eyes, while her husband turned to the window to hide his.
A little later Molly found herself again stripped of her rags, and clad (after a warm bath) in some of Bessie's clothes. Molly looked intensely grateful, but was evidently too thoroughly bewildered to say much. When she was taken to Mrs. Raeburn's parlor, she gazed about her curiously,—not in admiration, but with a strange, perplexed look, which struck Mrs. Raeburn. "What are you thinking of, my child?"
"Why, ma'am, it seems to me I remember all these grand things,—carpets and curtains and pictures,—or things just like them."
"Perhaps your mother has taken you to such houses, or you went by yourself, sometime?"
"No, lady, she never took me with her; and the servants of grand houses never let the likes of me come farther than the alley gate or the kitchen door. No, it must be I dreamed it all. Many is the lovely things I see in my dreams, ma'am. I see blue water, with vessels sailing softly by, like the great white swans in the Park, and mountains and trees, and flowers that smell like fine ladies' handkerchiefs on Broadway; and many's the time, when I am tired and footsore, I seem to sleep, as I tramp, and dream of a good, kind gentleman, who takes me up in his arms and carries me. And sometimes at night, when I am cold and hungry, I dream of a sweet lady, who parts my hair, and pats me, and kisses me, and hugs me up warm. I call those my dream father and mother."
As Mrs. Raeburn sat reflecting on the words of the child, Bessie brought a story-book to her young friend. Molly turned over its leaves sadly, saying, "I don't know how to read, miss."
"Nor write?" asked Bessie.
"Nor cipher, nor find places on the map?"
"Dear me! Do you know any hymns?"
"No, miss. What are they, thin?"
"Hymns? Why hymns are a sort of singing prayers."
"O, thin, miss, I do know one. I say it every night; and when I 've had to tell a great many lies I say it over and over hard:—
'Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.'"
"Who taught you that?" asked Mrs. Raeburn.
"I don't know, ma'am. It seems to me my dream-mother taught it to me."
Bessie soon grew very fond of her protégée (a French word, meaning one whom you protect); and her romantic mind rushed at once to the conclusion that she was to have an adopted sister. But her parents had other plans for Molly. They felt that it would be much better for the child, if she could be wholly removed from the city, in which she had lived so unhappy and discreditable a life, and where it was to be feared she would always be subject to the degrading influence or annoying interference of her father.
Following Molly's directions, Mr. Raeburn, accompanied by Mr. Blair, the good policeman, sought out Patrick Magee, and by sternly threatening him with arrest and a long term in prison, for his share in the robbery of little Bessie, made him sign away all claim to the persons or services of his children. For when Mr. Raeburn came to see the three little boys, he was so touched by their worse than heathenish condition that he resolved to try to do something towards saving them, as well as their more interesting sister.
Then he called at the office of the noble Children's Aid Society, and placed the poor little street waifs under the protection of its excellent officers, pledging himself for their clothing, instruction, and support, till proper homes should be found for them.
I am glad to say, that, under kind Christian care, the poor little lads improved rapidly, grew healthy and happy, and showed quite an eager desire to learn. Before a year had passed, comfortable homes were found for them in the West, where I believe they still are.
To return to Molly. The account of her dream-home and parents so impressed Mr. and Mrs. Raeburn, that they put an advertisement in the daily papers, stating that they had taken in a little street wanderer, who had evidently been born in a happier and higher condition, and begging any parents who may have had a little girl stolen from them, eight or nine years before, to call, with the hope of identifying her. But weeks, months went by, and no answer came, and Molly was not claimed, except by a hideous old German organ-grinder, who could n't prove property, so could n't take her away,—but took herself off, scolding in very low Dutch.
That advertisement met many thousands of careless eyes, but not the sad, yearning eyes to which it would have come like the message of angels,—"Glad tidings of great joy." Those eyes were then gazing on strange tropical scenes, on orange-groves and jessamine bowers, and on the purple sea that washes the lovely shores of Florida.
All hope of finding Molly's dream-home being abandoned, her good friends set about finding a real home for her. At last, through the Reverend C—— B——, the Chief Shepherd of the Lord's lost lambs in the great wicked city, they succeeded. A farmer and his wife, good, kindly, intelligent people, living pleasantly and comfortably near a village among the hills of Berkshire, Massachusetts, offered to take her to their home and hearts,—to adopt her as their own, for they were childless.
Bessie was grieved at the prospect of being parted from her friend, whom she really loved, but was comforted by the promise of an annual visit to her, in Berkshire.
Poor little Molly wept much when she left her good friends. They had not only taught her what human kindness and affection were, but had taught her much about her Heavenly Father,—had led her straight to the arms of His infinite love. So her tears were not all of sadness, but of tenderest gratitude, as she went from their door with kindly Farmer Morton.
Our little friend Molly spent five peaceful, happy years in her home among the grand old hills of Berkshire, with Farmer Morton and his kind, good wife. She was treated in every respect as a daughter, well instructed in religious duties and moral obligations, and in all useful housewifely arts. Nor was school education withheld. As soon as she had acquired the first rudiments of knowledge, she was sent to the excellent village academy, where she proved an apt and diligent scholar. In return for all this generous, fostering care, Molly (or Mary Morton as she was usually called) gave to the kind pair who had so generously adopted her, all the affection, respect, and obedience due to parents; added to a gratitude inexpressibly deep and tender. Her life as a beggar-girl, half fed, half clad, and always abused, had been so terribly sad that she could never forget it; and her present life seemed one of heavenly serenity and security in contrast.
She did not see her "dream-father and mother" as often as formerly. She did not need them. But when they did come to her in her slumbers, they looked happy, and smiled over her.
Molly was now in her fifteenth summer,—a tall, graceful girl, with a sweet, delicate face. She was still pale and slender, for she had not quite outgrown the effects of the old sorrow, starvation, and exposure. Her face often wore an expression of pensive sadness, unsuited to her years,—a faint shadow of her unhappy childhood still lingering about her,—but it was always ready to brighten into cheerful smiles at a kind word or look.
Molly had made more than one visit to her friends in New York, and now the Raeburns were spending some weeks in the pretty village which was scarcely a mile from the farm-house of Mr. Morton. They were as kind as ever to Molly, and quite proud of her. They took her with them on all their drives among the hills, or rows upon the lakes. Bessie always spoke of her friend as "My Molly," seeming to think she had in her "certain inalienable rights," chief of which was the right of discovery. Molly never thought of disputing those rights. She looked up to pretty, wayward, impulsive Bessie Raeburn as to a superior being,—an angelic deliverer. In her half-adoring gratitude and love, she could have "kissed the hem of her garment," or the lower flounce of her pretty organdie dress. She would often say, "O, where would I have been now, if it had not been for you, dear Bessie? In a pauper's grave,—or worse, in prison,—or worse still, on the streets, a wicked, lost girl, loving nobody, and only knowing of God and Jesus by hearing their names in dreadful oaths."
"But, Molly dear," replied Bessie,—"I must always call you Molly,—I have done so little, after all. In thanking me, don't forget papa and your father Morton."
"I don't forget them, nor my Father in heaven either; but you, Bessie, were the first to pity me and try to help me, though I had done you wrong."
"Well, as for that, Molly," said Bessie, seriously, "perhaps God had more to do with that wild Christmas expedition of mine than anybody thought at the time. It seemed so rash and foolish. I have always thought that good policeman an angel, an Irish angel, in the rough, though he did not know it. I don't believe that angels and saints ever have a very high opinion of themselves, do you?"
This was the happiest summer of Molly's life,—it was also to prove the most memorable.
One afternoon, as she was returning from the village, down a quiet, shady lane, which led through her father's farm, she was suddenly confronted by the tyrant of her unhappy childhood, Patrick Magee. He was even a more wretched looking creature than of old,—shabbier, dirtier, with every mark of the most degrading vice. As he stepped from behind a hazel-bush, where he had been skulking, into her path, Molly gave an involuntary shriek, and shrank back from him in fear and aversion.
"Whist, darling!" he exclaimed in a wheedling tone. "Be aisy, just; it's not meself that will harm a hair of yer head. And sure this is not the way you should meet yer poor ould unfortunate father. Is this the kind of filial piety you 've larned from your grand friends?"
"I do not believe you are my father," replied Molly, looking directly into his bleared eyes, that quailed under her gaze.
"Now, now, whoever heard the likes o' that?" began Patrick, with a shocked expression. "Denies her own father, that tiled and spint for her! Why, Molly dear, you are the image of me, barring the color of the hair, mine being a trifle foxy, while yourn is a darkish brown; and barring the lines of care and trouble on my brow,—the hard lines I 've had no child's hand to smooth away, the saints pity me!"
Hero Molly's soft heart was touched, and she asked, gently, "Where do you come from now? and what do you want of me?"
"Well, I came last from New York, when, after a power of trouble, I found out your whereabouts. My heart so cried out for my daughter and my darling boys. You see, for the five years past I 've been, so to speak, in retirement on the Hudson."
"Where?" asked Molly, bewildered.
"Why, in a quiet town called Sing Sing; but; faith! it's little singing I did there."
"Do you mean that you have been in the penitentiary?" said Molly, startled.
"Well, not to put too fine a point on it, yes. But you see it's a hard word to pronounce, that same. I got into what gintlemen call 'difficulties,' pretty soon after my Biddy died, and my poor children was torn from my arms. Somehow, I had no heart to keep up a good character. I was what they call desperate; so I went into a gintleman's house one avening, without ringing the bell and sending up my card, as in my better days I should have done, you know. I went in head foremost, through a back window, and when I was coming out with a trifle of silver, the police nabbed me, and it was all up for a while with poor Pat Magee. Now what do I want with you? I want to know about my darling boys, of course. Are they living and respectable?"
"Yes," replied Molly; "they are well and doing well. I hear from them twice a year, and write to them oftener."
"Doing well, are they! but doing nothing for their poor ould father. Ah, this is a hard world."
Molly could not refrain from saying, "They used to think it so, but they don't now. They have good friends, comfortable homes, and are happy and industrious."
"Industrious! and isn't it myself that taught them to be that same? Niver did I spare the rod when they came home empty-handed from a day on the streets."
Molly made no reply, but tried to pass on. Again Patrick stopped her, and said, with a strange, cunning smile, "And so, miss, you don't believe I 'm your rale father."
"No," answered Molly, firmly. "I have always had indistinct recollections of a very different home from that wretched cellar in the Five Points, and of other parents than you and Mrs. Magee. I believe you stole me when I was very young."
"No, indade. I had nothing to do with it," replied Patrick, hastily.
"Then your wife did it?"
"Well, yes. You see, my dear, when I 'm fairly cornered, I scorns to lie. That same was one of the little thaving operations of the late Mrs. Magee, Heaven rest her sowl!" said Patrick, rolling his eyes.
"O, then, for mercy's sake, tell me who and where are my parents!" cried Molly, clasping her hands in an agony of entreaty.
"Softly, softly; bide a bit, my darling. Nothing is sold for nothing. I can niver consint to blacken the memory of my poor departed Biddy without a consideration."
"What do you mean?"
"Pay me fifty dollars, and I 'll make a clane breast of it, and tell you all you want to know."
"But, Mr. Magee," cried Molly, in distress, "I have not so much money. I have only a very few dollars of my own in the world; but I will promise to give it to you, and more too, as soon as I can earn it. Only tell me."
"No, miss, I must be paid down. 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.' If you have n't the money, belike your new governor, Mr. Morton, would pay a trifle like that for the sake of getting rid of you."
"He might advance it for me; though he is not rich, he is so good," rejoined Molly. "I would ask you to come up to the house and see, only he is away from home, and is not expected back till late in the evening. Please, please tell me now, and trust me for your reward. Indeed, indeed, I will pay you some time, and be your friend always."
"Your servant, miss," replied Patrick, with a mocking bow, "but I 'd rather not trust a fine lady as has just scorned an ould friend in reduced circumstances, who, if he is n't her father, sure it's no fault of his. Tell your Mr. Morton that I 'll call to-morrow morning, ready to arrange matters in a business-like, gintlemanly way. But mind, no money, no sacret. I 'll not have my family affairs paraded in the newspapers for nothing, and all Mrs. Magee's little wakenesses exposed, after she's left this wicked world, and the crowner has set on her, and she's been dacently buried at the city's expinse, hard on to six years."
Molly reached home in a state of intense excitement, but, on relating her strange story, was soothed and cheered by Mrs. Morton's tender, motherly sympathy. Mr. Morton came home earlier than he was looked for, and was at once informed of the important revelation which Mr. Magee proposed to make for a "consideration." Doubtful what course to pursue, he hurried into the village to consult with Molly's first friends, the Raeburns. The consequence of this consultation was, that the next morning, when Patrick Magee appeared at the farm-house, he was confronted, not alone by Mr. Morton, but by Mr. Raeburn and the sheriff of the county. Taking these as mere witnesses, however, he was not abashed, but greeted all with a jaunty air, and the old Irish expression, "The top of the morning to ye, gintlemen."
On Mr. Morton referring to the secret he had to reveal, he said, with the utmost assurance, "Well, Mr. Morton, I 've slept on that same matter, and I 've concluded that I can't in conscience consint to blacken the memory of the late Mrs. Magee for less nor a hundred dollars. And sure, your honors, a rale live father and mother, rich and respectable, are chape at that, to say nothing of the reputation of a poor, hard-working woman, that's dead and gone, and can't defind herself."
"These, Mr. Magee, are the best terms you offer, then?" asked the farmer.
"Yes; but if you don't close the bargain immadiately, I may rise a trifle. I 've been too aisy, on account of poor Molly. My feelings are too much for me."
"Then, Mr. Sheriff," said Mr. Morton, "you must do your duty."
So Patrick Magee found himself again in the stern grasp of the law. He was taken to a magistrate's office for examination, but there he obstinately refused to reveal a word of the important secret, saying he would die first. So he was committed to the county jail, there to await his trial on a charge of kidnapping.
For more than a week the prisoner remained sullenly silent, while poor Molly suffered agonies of suspense, and her friends were fearful that for lack of sufficient evidence the villain might yet escape justice, carrying his secret with him.
But at last he yielded,—subdued, not by hard fare, hard words, or solitude, but by the mad thirst of the inebriate. Since leaving the penitentiary he had been drinking very hard, and now, being suddenly deprived of all stimulants, his spirits sunk, his strength and appetite failed, and he was threatened with the terrible disease of the intemperate,—delirium tremens.
Being told by the doctor that he thought Magee must have some brandy, Mr. Raeburn paid a visit to the jail. He found the prisoner sitting on his narrow bed, looking haggard and ill, but as sullen as ever.
"Well, Magee," said Mr. Raeburn, pleasantly, "have you made up your mind to tell all you know of the parentage of that stolen child? You have confessed that you connived at, if you did not assist in the crime, and it may go hard with you at the trial."
Patrick replied, with a furious oath, "Niver a word more will I spake about the matter, if they hang me."
"If I will endeavor to get you discharged; if I will promise to give you some decent clothes, and to furnish you with easy and constant employment, will you tell?"
"If I will give you a glass of good brandy, will you tell?"
Patrick started, and his dull eyes flashed, but with his old cunning he replied, "Show me first the brandy."
Mr. Raeburn took a flask from his pocket and poured out a glass nearly full. With a trembling, outstretched hand, the poor sot cried, "Yes, yes, yer honor, give it to me, and on my word, on my sowl, I'll tell."
The glass was given him, and he drained it with a sort of frantic relish; then almost immediately, and very hurriedly, began his story.
"Molly's father is Squire Phillips, a mighty clever lawyer and a rich man. He lives at Newburgh, on the Hudson, forninst Fishkill; you mind the town?"
"Yes, and I have heard of Mr. Phillips; go on."
"I should have said he has an office in Newburgh, but he lives on a fine place up the river, out of town, a couple of miles or so. You see, when ill-luck sent me over from Ireland, where I lived in ease and plenty, never taking up a spade but for devarsion, after a hard day following the hounds or riding steeple-chases, I lived with Mr. Phillips as gardener. But he and I niver could agree, and so parted; and soon after my Biddy, who was the cook, was discharged for taking a drop too much just. You see she fell down stairs with the tea-tray. So she had a spite against the master on my account, and against the mistress on her own account, and vowed by all the saints she 'd be aven with them. After we settled in New York, many's the trip she took up the river to prowl about the place (women is quare cratures, yer honor) for a chance to balance accounts. But she never got a shy at them till one afternoon, just before dark, she found little Miss Mary, Mistress Phillips's one child, playing alone on the river-bank, out of sight of the house; it's likely she 'd run away from a lazy nurse. My Biddy wasn't one of the kind that dilly-dallies or shilly-shallies: she pounces on the child like a hawk on a chicken, stops its mouth so it could n't as much as peep, and carries it into a wood near by and hides till dark. Then she takes it over to Fishkill, where she has friends, who lend her proper clothes for the child, and give it a drink that hushes its crying like magic just. Then she takes the night-boat for New York, and in the big, crowded city the child was as completely lost as the small chicken I likened her to would be if the hawk should drop it in a wide sea-marsh. There was a great hue and cry about 'the mysterious disappearance of the only child of John Phillips, Esq.,' (just as if no poor, hard-working man ever lost an only child!) but most of the newspapers drowned her, I believe. Biddy kept her mighty close for a time, and sheared off her curls, but niver a hound of a detective smelt at our door.
"I always told Biddy that trouble would come of this same matter sooner or later, and sure had n't we a power of trouble with Molly herself,—what with her pining and crying, (though Biddy soon learned her to cry silent,) and her sickly turn, and her ungrateful disposition? And didn't she forsake us at last,—me a lone widower, and the poor motherless boys?"
"Ah, Magee, what an awful hypocrite you are!" exclaimed Mr. Raeburn; "but go on."
"What more do you want to know, thin?"
"How old was the child when your wife stole it?"
"I should say that the child was a trifle over three years old when Mrs. Magee adopted her," replied Patrick, with imposing dignity.
"Are Mr. and Mrs. Phillips both living?"
"It 's not ten days since I was towld they were, yer honor."
"I start for Newburgh to-morrow morning, with Molly—Miss Phillips," resumed Mr. Raeburn; "but you must remain where you are, in close confinement, at least until we have ascertained if your statement be true. If it be found so, I will do my best to effect your release. Meanwhile, I hope you will improve the time in repenting of your past life, and resolving to begin a better, for you are a great sinner, Patrick."
"Arrah, yer honor, don't be too hard on a poor man! And sure you won't lave me without an' other comforting drop of brandy?"
"You can have more if the doctor prescribes it again. He will know what is best for you. But I hope you will think on what I have said. If you wish to be a better man, you shall not want for help."
"Thank you kindly, Mr. Raeburn, but I doubt it's too late. 'It's mighty hard to tache ould dogs new tricks,' but if you 'll spake a good word for me to the doctor about the brandy, I'll try."
At bedtime Molly kissed her father and mother Morton good night with tender and tearful emotion, but without a word,—her heart was too full. On reaching her pleasant chamber, where her trunk stood ready packed for the journey, she sank on her knees beside her dear little bed, and prayed for the parents she was about to leave, and for those she was about to seek; for her generous friends, the Raeburns, and for poor, sinful Patrick Magee, who needed somebody's prayers so much. When she laid her head on her pillow, she could not sleep, but lay in a tremulous, excited state, half joy, half sorrow. Then Mrs. Morton came in to kiss her once more, and to tuck her in, as she used to do when Molly first came to her a sad and feeble child. As she bent to kiss her she fell on her neck and wept, saying, "My child, my child, how can I give you up?"
"O mother, dear!" replied Molly, embracing her, "you must never give me up. I must still be your child as well as hers."
"Do you want very much to go to her, darling?"
"Yes, though you have been so good, so good, and I love you very dearly, I have always had a sort of blind yearning in my heart for her. It seems to me that the cry of my infancy, 'Mamma!' 'Papa!' which the cruel blows of Mrs. Magee hushed, has always been whispering in my soul, and must be answered. But if I love them, and they love me ever so much, I shall love you and dear father Morton all my life and into God's forever."
"It is well, dear child, and the Lord's will be done. Good night!"
Molly was wakened early in the morning by the carol of an oriole, but she could make nothing of his song but "Good by, good by, good by!" and the clambering roses by her window seemed sending in sweet farewell sighs. Soon after breakfast, Mr. Raeburn drove up in his carriage, and so Molly set out to seek her fortune and her parents.
It was the afternoon of a cool, showery summer day, when Mr. Raeburn and Mary drove through a handsome stone gateway, and up an avenue of maples, to the fine old-fashioned mansion of Mr. Phillips. As they stood on the steps, Mr. Raeburn noticed that Mary had been much agitated by recognizing scenes once familiar to her baby eyes, and he begged her to try to be calm. "Remember," he said, "we have no positive, reliable evidence that you are the lost child of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips. You must not suddenly proclaim yourself. They have probably despaired so long that they will be unable to credit your story, if too abruptly told, and any repulse would be very painful to you. Leave it to me to let the joyful light gradually in upon their minds, and second me when I refer to you."
"I will do so; trust me," replied Mary, in a low voice.
When the servant came to the door, Mr. Raeburn inquired for Mr. Phillips only, thinking it best that the first communication should be made to him alone. They were shown into a pleasant library, opening on to a piazza by French windows, looking towards the river. Mary seated herself on a sofa, in the most shadowed part of the room, and kept her face hidden by a thick veil. She sat in silence, except that to her ear the beatings of her loving, impatient heart were audible. It seemed to her a long hour that they were kept waiting, though it was probably not more than fifteen minutes. Then the door gently opened, and Mr. Phillips entered. Mary half rose, then sank back, faint with happiness, for she had recognized his face,—it was that of her dream-father!
Mr. Phillips was of middle age; the dark-brown curls of his hair were slightly tinged with silver. His face was very thoughtful, if not sad in expression. His form was stately, and his manner courteous and refined,—a gentleman, every inch of him.
He pleasantly greeted by name Mr. Raeburn, who then introduced his companion as "Miss Morton." Mary rose, courtesied, and again sank into her seat. The galloping heart was getting almost too much for her,—she was gasping under her veil.
Mr. Phillips apologized for keeping his visitor so long waiting, and added, "When word was brought me of your arrival, I was assisting in carrying Mrs. Phillips from her sitting-room to her bedchamber. She is ill."
Mary started, and a new terror seized her.
"Not seriously ill, I hope?" said Mr. Raeburn.
"No, we trust not, now; but she has been very ill from a fever, and is still extremely delicate. She has been a good deal of an invalid for the past fifteen years," said Mr. Phillips with a sigh.
After a plan formed that morning, Mr. Raeburn then requested the opinion of Mr. Phillips, as a lawyer, on an important land claim in which he was interested.
As they talked on and on, Mary still sat silent and motionless. She was hardly impatient any longer, for had she not her father's face to watch, and his voice to listen to?
At length there was a pause; then the two gentlemen began to talk about the lovely scenery around them, the river, the estate, the Phillips mansion and family, and finally Mr. Raeburn said, "I think I have heard, Mr. Phillips, a sad story of your having once lost a little child in some mysterious way. Perhaps at this remote day you will not be unwilling to give me the facts of this loss."
"Certainly not, my dear sir," replied Mr. Phillips, "if you care to hear so melancholy a tale. All I myself know can be soon told. Our first child was a daughter,—a lovely, engaging little creature, the very light of our eyes. She was rather delicate, and most carefully tended and watched till she was past three years of age. Then, one summer day, I invited my wife to accompany me to New York, where I had business, and she had—as what woman has not?—shopping to attend to. She hesitated, as little Mary's nurse was young and rather thoughtless, but I over-persuaded her and she went, giving at the last moment many charges to the young girl concerning the child.
"I remember how lovingly little Mary kissed us good by that morning, and how, still unsatisfied, she ran after the carriage, commanding the coachman, in a pretty, imperious way she had, to stop till she could get another kiss. I was a little vexed, fearing we should miss the train, yet she was obeyed, lifted up, kissed, and put down into her nurse's arms, and that was the last we ever saw of her. How thankful I have always been that we stopped for her good-by kiss. Many a time since, in my sleep, I have felt that last kiss on my lips.
"We had intended to stay till the afternoon of the next day, in New York, but at evening Mrs. Phillips grew so strangely anxious about her baby girl, whom she had never before left for a night, that we took a late train for home. Just as we reached our station, I noticed a New York boat put off from the landing. I have since thought it was possible our child was on that boat."
Here Mary could scarcely restrain herself from crying out, "She was! she was!" but she shut her lips and clasped her hands tight, and was still.
"When we reached home," continued Mr. Phillips, "we found all in confusion and consternation, Our darling little one was missing! She had not been seen since five o'clock, at which time she had been left by her nurse fast asleep, and to all human apprehension in perfect safety. On that day she had been allowed to have the range of the house, and taking a freak to have her belated afternoon nap on the drawing-room sofa, was there put to sleep.
"The nurse took the opportunity to have a little gossip with the cook and coachman, in the kitchen, and it was a good deal more than an hour, I believe, though she declared it was not half that time, before she went to look after her charge. The room was empty; the low window was open, and our bird had flown forever!
"It was some time before the servants were really alarmed, as it was thought she was somewhere in the house or garden, hiding, after her roguish way. I think it was actually dark before they made any serious and thorough effort to find her. Indeed, I set on foot the first systematic search. I roused all our neighbors, and employed the police of our town, and afterwards of New York and other cities; but all was in vain, utterly in vain! No real trace of her could be found. We could not even hear of any child answering to her description, as having been taken from the town on that day, in any direction,—except one, who was seen on the New York boat I have mentioned, and who must, I think, have been younger than ours, or it was ill or stupid, as it was said the woman who had charge of it carried it constantly in her arms, where it lay quite still. Even this child we could only trace as far as New York. It seemed to disappear in the great city as a snowflake melts in the sea.
"Our friends all believed that our little Mary had fallen from the river-bank and had been drowned, and the body carried away by the swift current. Some lads, who were out on the water that day in a sail-boat, said that they saw a child on the bank a little below our house, running about quite alone, apparently chasing butterflies. But it was several months before we relaxed our efforts to find her. So many lost children were brought to us in answer to our advertisements,—so many poor little homeless ones, whom nobody owned,—that it looked as though we were about to set up an orphan asylum. In truth, we sometimes felt like it, for dear little Mary's sake. We could not give her up, for we could not believe her dead. Our sorrow was such a live anguish—without comfort, without rest—that we felt that the dear object must be living and suffering. The tender ties that had bound our hearts to her quivered with pain, but we felt that, though sorely wounded, they were not quite severed.
"Then we had strangely vivid dreams of her. Very sad dreams they were; she always appeared to us pale, and sorrowful, and thin, as though pinched with want. Of late years we have dreamed of her more seldom; and, singularly enough, when we have dreamed, she has worn to both of us a changed and happier look. So we feel at last that somewhere, in this or a better world, 'it is well with the child.'
"The health of Mrs. Phillips received a great shock in this loss; in fact, she has never been quite well since. She has been threatened with consumption, and has been obliged to spend most of her winters in the South. I think she still mourns for her first-born; no other child has yet been able to fill her place."
"You have then other children?" said Mr. Raeburn.
"Yes, three; two boys, of eleven and nine, and a little girl, now nearly five years old."
Here Mary felt a happy glow overspread her veiled face, and her heart palpitated with a new joy.
"Believe me, my dear sir," said Mr. Raeburn, after a pause, "I have not drawn from you this painful story from mere curiosity. My friend now present, Miss Morton, is acquainted with a young girl who believes herself to have been stolen in her early childhood, from a happy home and kind parents, by a vulgar and cruel woman, who hid her for years in a wretched den in the worst part of New York. But, my dear Miss Morton, you can tell the story better than I; will you not do so?"
Mary began in a voice low and tremulous, but of penetrating sweetness, thus: "That poor young girl was, while yet a child, not wholly lost and wicked, rescued from a life of sin and beggary by some good kind friends, whom God will bless for ever and ever! When they took pity on her, she had forgotten her true last name; it had been frightened out of her memory, or driven out by blows; but she knew that her first name was Mary, though she was only called Molly, and she had not forgotten her true parents, though she called them her dream father and mother, because they came to her in her sleep, to kiss her and comfort her. She was surrounded by squalor and wretchedness; but she never quite forgot her old beautiful home, for her dim sweet memories of it were all she knew of heaven."
Here Mary rose and threw back her veil, as she continued, "And she hopes, she believes that this is her old home, for she recognizes everything around her. O yes, I know that carved mantel, that ebony writing-case, that screen, that bust, and that picture over the cabinet. It is mamma's portrait!"
Mr. Phillips uttered an exclamation of joyful surprise and started forward, but immediately fearful of some mistake, calmed himself, and merely said, "Will you let me see you without your bonnet?"
Mary hastily uncovered her beautiful head, and stood before him, a soft, timid smile playing about her lips, and a tremulous light of love and joy in her eyes. Mr. Phillips looked from that yearning young face to the one on the canvas,—so wonderfully like they were! "It is enough!" he exclaimed; "I know you for our daughter, our long-lost lamb! O Father in heaven, I thank Thee!"
And the next moment Mary was clasped in her father's arms, her head on his breast, her arms about his neck, laughing and weeping in her passionate emotion, so long restrained.
Mr. Raeburn rose and softly loft the room, passing out on to the piazza, where he stood for many minutes, apparently admiring the fine scenery, though in fact he could see but little for the tears of tender sympathy that would spring to his kindly eyes. Whichever way he looked there was a water-view.
He returned just in time to see the two boys, George and Herbert, introduced to their sister. They received the good news at first in a bewildered, boyish, awkward way. They blushed and stammered, stepped forward and back, then stood stock still, and looked at Mary in silent, wide-eyed wonder and admiration.
"Ah, boys," she said, "I suppose I seem to you like one come back from the dead, or like another Undine, risen from the water; but won't you take my hand? see, it isn't cold!" Then she shook hands with them and kissed them, and they rapturously returned her caress, and all was right.
"Now, my dear boys," said Mr. Phillips, "you have a task of self-restraint before you. It is necessary that this great joy of ours should be kept awhile from your mother. She is not strong enough to bear it. But she must see Mary and get accustomed to her as soon as possible. I have a plan. A new nurse is needed for Lilly; will you accept the position for a few days, my darling?"
"Most joyfully, papa."
"I give you warning, sister, that it will not be a very jolly life for you," put in Master George. "Lilly is awfully spoiled, and will order you about, and put on all the airs of old Queen Bess."
"That will do, George," said his father, with a wave of his hand. "You, Mary, I am sure, will soon win Lilly's heart, though she is quite too young to be intrusted with our secret. Having charge of her, you can have frequent access to your mother, and perhaps gradually reveal yourself to her. We must contrive to have you get your first glimpse of her unseen, otherwise you might betray yourself by your emotion.
"And now, my daughter, if you are sufficiently calm, you will give me a brief account of your life since we were so sadly parted, more than twelve long years ago."
Mary told her piteous story very simply, passing as lightly as possible over her early sorrows and hardships, but again and again bringing tears to the eyes of her father and brothers.
When Mr. Phillips heard the name of Patrick Magee, he exclaimed, "Why, I had that villain under pay for months for pretending to search for you in New York, and all along he had you hid in his vile den! He must be made to suffer for it."
"He will suffer, he does suffer, father. Poor, lost creature! I am willing to leave him to God," said Mary, gently.
Mr. Raeburn returned to his hotel in the town that evening, but called at the Phillips mansion in the morning, to say good by to Mary and her father.
Mary came to him, all radiant with her new happiness. "I have seen my mother twice!" she said. "The first time she was asleep. I stole up softly to her bedside, and held my breath as I bent over her. Her face is no longer rosy and dimpled, like the pictured face, yet far lovelier. In repose it seemed worn and sorrowful, but O, so gentle and sweet! I stood by her a long time, and looked and looked, trying to make up a little for what I had lost. Her dear hand lay on the counterpane. I longed to kiss it, but I dared not. I did kiss a braid of her hair that fell over the pillow, and such a thrill went through me! Her hair is as beautiful and dark as ever, and so are her eyes. I looked straight into them, once this morning. Papa presented me to her, as Lilly's new nurse. She looked so kind and gracious, I thought I should have sunk at her feet, to beg her to bless her child. I could not speak, and papa apologized for me by saying that I was very diffident, but that Lilly seemed to take to me, and he hoped I would do well; and then she smiled on me, and I took that for the blessing.
"I slept in the nursery with Lilly last night, in the very bed, I believe, I used to sleep in; and when I knelt beside it, I could think of no words to say but those of my little childish prayer, 'Now I lay me down to sleep.' Was n't it strange?"
At this moment Lilly came dancing into the parlor, to claim her new friend. The child was a dainty little thing, as restless and radiant as a butterfly,—evidently a little spoiled, yet very charming.
The tears sprang to Mary's eyes, as her good friend rose to take leave. She weighed down his memory with messages for the dear ones to whom he was going; and, as he gave her his hand in parting, she lifted up her sweet, ingenuous face, with a timid, grateful smile, and kissed him, for the first time. She had never before felt that she had a social position equal to his and dear Bessie's.
Mr. Phillips accompanied Mr. Raeburn to the station, and parted from him with much regret and many heartfelt thanks and blessings.
A few days later there came to Mary letters from all her friends in Berkshire,—letters of loving congratulation, most grateful to her heart. One from Mr. Raeburn contained the intelligence that Patrick Magee had been released from prison in a very solemn way. After a terrible attack of delirium, he had fallen into a stupor, and died. So that sinful and blinded soul had gone stumbling down the dark valley, and forth into the unknown world, where neither human pity nor judgment could reach him.
"O, I hope God forgave him at the last, as I forgive him," said Mary, weeping.
"Why, sister Mary," said George Phillips, "you are n't crying for that old reprobate, are you?"
"No, Georgie; only crying because nobody can cry for him. You see, Georgie dear, I have been wicked myself, and know how to pity the erring."
"You wicked, Mary! I suppose you have in your mind the few little lies you told when you were the bound slave of that old Irish ogre and his ogress. It's my opinion the angel that writes down things don't make much account of such sins."
Day by day, Mary won her way to the inmost hearts of all the household. Mrs. Phillips was especially interested in the young stranger, who seemed so superior to her station,—who moved about so softly, and was so careful and watchful. She loved to have her in her apartments, and often sat and gazed at her, so mournfully, so searchingly, that Mary longed inexpressibly to kneel by her side and tell her all.
At last the time came. It was Sunday, and little Lilly's birthday. Mrs. Phillips was so much better that she was brought down stairs, for the first time for many weeks, and seated on the vine-shaded piazza, overlooking the river. She looked very happy, and there was a delicate rose-tint on her cheek. All the family were gathered around her; it was a jubilee of love. Her husband sat at her side; the boys stood near, leaning over the railing, watching the graceful sloops sailing by. Mary sat on a low stool before her, showing some Bible pictures to Lilly, who wore a birthday wreath of blue violets and white rosebuds. Suddenly the child was heard to say, "This is my birthday, you know, Mary, and that's why it's so pleasant. When is your birthday?"
"O, never mind," said Mary, blushing, "look at this picture."
"No, no, not till you tell me when your birthday comes."
"I cannot tell you, dear."
"Why, don't you know? I 'm only five years old, and I know mine."
"Why, how is this, Mary?" asked Mrs. Phillips; "don't you really know your birthday?"
Mary hesitated a moment, then replied, "There were some sad circumstances in my childhood that prevented me from knowing much even about myself. I do not know exactly how old I am, but I think about fifteen."
"About fifteen!" repeated Mrs. Phillips, in a dreamy way, "and your name Mary. John, our Mary would have been just about her age, could we have kept her; and do you know I fancy she would have looked very much like this young girl. I suppose this coincidence of age and name has given me a peculiar interest in her. I felt strangely drawn towards her at first sight. I have an odd idea that she looks like our family, somewhat as I used to look; and, stranger still, like you, John."
At this, all instinctively drew near to the mother. Mr. Phillips took her hand, and said calmly, "My dear Caroline, nobody on earth has a better right to look like our Mary, like you and like me, than this dear young girl."
"O John, John, tell me! Can she he! O blessed God!—"
She could not utter a word more, but she stretched out her trembling arms, and Mary crept into them and lay on her mother's breast, the long hunger of her heart satisfied at last!
"Yes, dear, this is our lost child, given back to us by a gracious God," said Mr. Phillips. But there was no need to tell her that; she knew all now. Kissing her darling, patting her head, and murmuring over her sweet pet names, as though Mary were still the baby girl she had lost, she sat for a few bewildered, rapturous moments, then sank back in a swoon. She lay with such a smile on her lips that those about her were little alarmed. She had only fainted under her burden of happiness. She afterwards said that this swoon was like a trance of heavenly joy. She revived with a sigh, thinking it all a dream,—but we know it was n't.
I don't know that I have anything more to tell you, except that Mrs. Phillips got well very rapidly, and did n't have to go South with the birds that year. Joy and Love are very good physicians, though they practice without a diploma, in defiance of medical professors and all the college of surgeons.
Yes, one other thing. There was a great Christmas gathering at the Phillips mansion that year. The Raeburns and Mortons were there, with a host of Mary's uncles, aunts, and cousins, and actually two pairs of grandparents. Only think how rich she was!
On Christmas-eve there was dancing and charade-acting, there were games and tableaux in the great hall; and last and best of all, there was story-telling around the fragrant wood-fire in the library.
Of all the stories told that night, there was none to compare, everybody said, with the one related by pretty Bessie Raeburn, of a certain Christmas adventure of hers, and of what came of it.
I love my first on a summer eve,
Or a breezy autumn morning;
My soul bounds with it, and my heart
Laughs out, all trouble scorning.
I love it by the wild sea-beach,
When fades the sunset splendor,
And the new moon, like a fairy boat,
Sails through the sky-deeps tender.
My second brings up visions sad
Of life's most fearful duty,—
Of green mounds hiding from our sight
Dear forms of youth and beauty.
My third, if speaking slowly, clouds
The brightest day with sadness;
If quickly, thrills the air, and wakes
The gloomiest morn to gladness.
It calls, and through the churchyard gate
A funeral is creeping;
It calls, and down the old church aisle
A bridal train is sweeping!
My whole grew in a garden old,
Round which my heart still lingers;
Its azure petals formed a cup
Fit for a fairy's fingers.