The Cuckoo Clock by Mrs. Molesworth
I. THE OLD
IV. THE COUNTRY
OF THE NODDING
VI. RUBBED THE
IX. UP AND DOWN
X. THE OTHER
SIDE OF THE MOON
I. THE OLD HOUSE
Somewhat back from the village street
Stands the old-fashioned country seat.
Once upon a time in an old town, in an old street, there stood a
very old house. Such a house as you could hardly find nowadays, however
you searched, for it belonged to a gone-by timea time now quite
It stood in a street, but yet it was not like a town house, for
though the front opened right on to the pavement, the back windows
looked out upon a beautiful, quaintly terraced garden, with old trees
growing so thick and close together that in summer it was like living
on the edge of a forest to be near them; and even in winter the web of
their interlaced branches hid all clear view behind.
There was a colony of rooks in this old garden. Year after year they
held their parliaments and cawed and chattered and fussed; year after
year they built their nests and hatched their eggs; year after year, I
suppose, the old ones gradually died off and the young ones took
their place, though, but for knowing this must be so, no one
would have suspected it, for to all appearance the rooks were always
the sameever and always the same.
Time indeed seemed to stand still in and all about the old house, as
if it and the people who inhabited it had got so old that they
could not get any older, and had outlived the possibility of change.
But one day at last there did come a change. Late in the dusk of an
autumn afternoon a carriage drove up to the door of the old house, came
rattling over the stones with a sudden noisy clatter that sounded quite
impertinent, startling the rooks just as they were composing themselves
to rest, and setting them all wondering what could be the matter.
A little girl was the matter! A little girl in a grey merino frock,
and grey beaver bonnet, grey tippet and grey glovesall grey together,
even to her eyes, all except her round rosy face and bright brown hair.
Her name even was rather grey, for it was Griselda.
A gentleman lifted her out of the carriage and disappeared with her
into the house, and later that same evening the gentleman came out of
the house and got into the carriage which had come back for him again,
and drove away. That was all that the rooks saw of the change that had
come to the old house. Shall we go inside to see more?
Up the shallow, wide, old-fashioned staircase, past the wainscoted
walls, dark and shining like a mirror, down a long narrow passage with
many doors, which but for their gleaming brass handles one would not
have known were there, the oldest of the three old servants led little
Griselda, so tired and sleepy that her supper had been left almost
untasted, to the room prepared for her. It was a queer room, for
everything in the house was queer; but in the dancing light of the fire
burning brightly in the tiled grate, it looked cheerful enough.
I am glad there's a fire, said the child. Will it keep alight
till the morning, do you think?
The old servant shook her head.
'Twould not be safe to leave it so that it would burn till
morning, she said. When you are in bed and asleep, little missie, you
won't want the fire. Bed's the warmest place.
It isn't for that I want it, said Griselda; it's for the light I
like it. This house all looks so dark to me, and yet there seem to be
lights hidden in the walls too, they shine so.
The old servant smiled.
It will all seem strange to you, no doubt, she said; but you'll
get to like it, missie. 'Tis a good old house, and those that
know best love it well.
Whom do you mean? said Griselda. Do you mean my great-aunts?
Ah, yes, and others beside, replied the old woman. The rooks love
it well, and others beside. Did you ever hear tell of the 'good
people,' missie, over the sea where you come from?
Fairies, do you mean? cried Griselda, her eyes sparkling. Of
course I've heard of them, but I never saw any. Did you ever?
I couldn't say, answered the old woman. My mind is not young like
yours, missie, and there are times when strange memories come back to
me as of sights and sounds in a dream. I am too old to see and hear as
I once could. We are all old here, missie. 'Twas time something young
came to the old house again.
How strange and queer everything seems! thought Griselda, as she
got into bed. I don't feel as if I belonged to it a bit. And they are
all so old; perhaps they won't like having a child among them?
The very same thought that had occurred to the rooks! They could not
decide as to the fors and againsts at all, so they settled to put it to
the vote the next morning, and in the meantime they and Griselda all
went to sleep.
I never heard if they slept well that night; after such
unusual excitement it was hardly to be expected they would. But
Griselda, being a little girl and not a rook, was so tired that two
minutes after she had tucked herself up in bed she was quite sound
asleep, and did not wake for several hours.
I wonder what it will all look like in the morning, was her last
waking thought. If it was summer now, or spring, I shouldn't
mindthere would always be something nice to do then.
As sometimes happens, when she woke again, very early in the
morning, long before it was light, her thoughts went straight on with
the same subject.
If it was summer now, or spring, she repeated to herself, just as
if she had not been asleep at alllike the man who fell into a trance
for a hundred years just as he was saying it is bitt and when he
woke up again finished the sentence as if nothing had happenederly
cold. If only it was spring, thought Griselda.
Just as she had got so far in her thoughts, she gave a great start.
What was it she heard? Could her wish have come true? Was this
fairyland indeed that she had got to, where one only needs to wish, for it to be? She rubbed her eyes, but it was too dark to see;
that was not very fairyland like, but her ears she felt certain had
not deceived her: she was quite, quite sure that she had heard the
She listened with all her might, but she did not hear it again.
Could it, after all, have been fancy? She grew sleepy at last, and was
just dropping off whenyes, there it was again, as clear and distinct
as possibleCuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo! three, four, five times,
then perfect silence as before.
What a funny cuckoo, said Griselda to herself. I could almost
fancy it was in the house. I wonder if my great-aunts have a tame
cuckoo in a cage? I don't think I ever heard of such a thing,
but this is such a queer house; everything seems different in
itperhaps they have a tame cuckoo. I'll ask them in the morning. It's
very nice to hear, whatever it is.
[Illustration: HAVE YOU GOT A CUCKOO IN A CAGE?]
And, with a pleasant feeling of companionship, a sense that she was
not the only living creature awake in this dark world, Griselda lay
listening, contentedly enough, for the sweet, fresh notes of the
cuckoo's friendly greeting. But before it sounded again through the
silent house she was once more fast asleep. And this time she slept
till daylight had found its way into all but the very darkest
nooks and crannies of the ancient dwelling.
She dressed herself carefully, for she had been warned that her
aunts loved neatness and precision; she fastened each button of her
grey frock, and tied down her hair as smooth as such a brown tangle
could be tied down; and, absorbed with these weighty cares, she
forgot all about the cuckoo for the time. It was not till she was
sitting at breakfast with her aunts that she remembered it, or rather
was reminded of it, by some little remark that was made about the
friendly robins on the terrace walk outside.
Oh, aunt, she exclaimed, stopping short half-way the journey to
her mouth of a spoonful of bread and milk, have you got a cuckoo in a
A cuckoo in a cage, repeated her elder aunt, Miss Grizzel; what
is the child talking about?
In a cage! echoed Miss Tabitha, a cuckoo in a cage!
There is a cuckoo somewhere in the house, said Griselda; I heard
it in the night. It couldn't have been out-of-doors, could it? It would
be too cold.
The aunts looked at each other with a little smile. So like her
grandmother, they whispered. Then said Miss Grizzel
We have a cuckoo, my dear, though it isn't in a cage, and it isn't
exactly the sort of cuckoo you are thinking of. It lives in a clock.
In a clock, repeated Miss Tabitha, as if to confirm her sister's
In a clock! exclaimed Griselda, opening her grey eyes very wide.
It sounded something like the three bears, all speaking one after
the other, only Griselda's voice was not like Tiny's; it was the
loudest of the three.
In a clock! she exclaimed; but it can't be alive, then?
Why not? said Miss Grizzel.
I don't know, replied Griselda, looking puzzled.
I knew a little girl once, pursued Miss Grizzel, who was quite of
opinion the cuckoo was alive, and nothing would have persuaded
her it was not. Finish your breakfast, my dear, and then if you like
you shall come with me and see the cuckoo for yourself.
Thank you, Aunt Grizzel, said Griselda, going on with her bread
Yes, said Miss Tabitha, you shall see the cuckoo for yourself.
Thank you, Aunt Tabitha, said Griselda. It was rather a bother to
have always to say thank you, or no, thank you, twice, but Griselda
thought it was polite to do so, as Aunt Tabitha always repeated
everything that Aunt Grizzel said. It wouldn't have mattered so much if
Aunt Tabitha had said it at once after Miss Grizzel, but as she
generally made a little pause between, it was sometimes rather awkward.
But of course it was better to say thank you or no, thank you twice
over than to hurt Aunt Tabitha's feelings.
After breakfast Aunt Grizzel was as good as her word. She took
Griselda through several of the rooms in the house, pointing out all
the curiosities, and telling all the histories of the rooms and their
contents; and Griselda liked to listen, only in every room they came
to, she wondered when they would get to the room where lived the
Aunt Tabitha did not come with them, for she was rather rheumatic.
On the whole, Griselda was not sorry. It would have taken such a
very long time, you see, to have had all the histories twice over,
and possibly, if Griselda had got tired, she might have forgotten about
the thank you's or no, thank you's twice over.
The old house looked quite as queer and quaint by daylight as it had
seemed the evening before; almost more so indeed, for the view from the
windows added to the sweet, odd old-fashionedness of everything.
We have beautiful roses in summer, observed Miss Grizzel, catching
sight of the direction in which the child's eyes were wandering.
I wish it was summer. I do love summer, said Griselda. But there
is a very rosy scent in the rooms even now, Aunt Grizzel, though it is
winter, or nearly winter.
Miss Grizzel looked pleased.
My pot-pourri, she explained.
They were just then standing in what she called the great saloon,
a handsome old room, furnished with gold-and-white chairs, that must
once have been brilliant, and faded yellow damask hangings. A feeling
of awe had crept over Griselda as they entered this ancient
drawing-room. What grand parties there must have been in it long ago!
But as for dancing in it nowdancing, or laughing, or
chatteringsuch a thing was quite impossible to imagine!
Miss Grizzel crossed the room to where stood in one corner a
marvellous Chinese cabinet, all black and gold and carving. It was made
in the shape of a temple, or a palaceGriselda was not sure which. Any
way, it was very delicious and wonderful. At the door stood, one on
each side, two solemn mandarins; or, to speak more correctly, perhaps I
should say, a mandarin and his wife, for the right-hand figure was
evidently intended to be a lady.
Miss Grizzel gently touched their heads. Forthwith, to Griselda's
astonishment, they began solemnly to nod.
Oh, how do you make them do that, Aunt Grizzel? she exclaimed.
Never you mind, my dear; it wouldn't do for you to try to
make them nod. They wouldn't like it, replied Miss Grizzel
mysteriously. Respect to your elders, my dear, always remember that.
The mandarins are many years older than youolder than I
myself, in fact.
Griselda wondered, if this were so, how it was that Miss Grizzel
took such liberties with them herself, but she said nothing.
Here is my last summer's pot-pourri, continued Miss Grizzel,
touching a great china jar on a little stand, close beside the cabinet.
You may smell it, my dear.
Nothing loth, Griselda buried her round little nose in the fragrant
It's lovely, she said. May I smell it whenever I like, Aunt
We shall see, replied her aunt. It isn't every little
girl, you know, that we could trust to come into the great saloon
No, said Griselda meekly.
Miss Grizzel led the way to a door opposite to that by which they
had entered. She opened it and passed through, Griselda following, into
a small ante-room.
It is on the stroke of ten, said Miss Grizzel, consulting her
watch; now, my dear, you shall make acquaintance with our cuckoo.
The cuckoo that lived in a clock! Griselda gazed round her
eagerly. Where was the clock? She could see nothing in the least like
one, only up on the wall in one corner was what looked like a miniature
house, of dark brown carved wood. It was not so very like a
house, but it certainly had a roofa roof with deep projecting eaves;
and, looking closer, yes, it was a clock, after all, only the
figures, which had once been gilt, had grown dim with age, like
everything else, and the hands at a little distance were hardly to be
distinguished from the face.
Miss Grizzel stood perfectly still, looking up at the clock;
Griselda beside her, in breathless expectation. Presently there came a
sort of distant rumbling. Something was going to happen.
Suddenly two little doors above the clock face, which Griselda had not
known were there, sprang open with a burst and out flew a cuckoo,
flapped his wings, and uttered his pretty cry, Cuckoo! cuckoo!
cuckoo! Miss Grizzel counted aloud, Seven, eight, nine, ten. Yes,
he never makes a mistake, she added triumphantly. All these long
years I have never known him wrong. There are no such clocks made
nowadays, I can assure you, my dear.
But is it a clock? Isn't he alive? exclaimed Griselda. He
looked at me and nodded his head, before he flapped his wings and went
in to his house againhe did indeed, aunt, she said earnestly; just
like saying, 'How do you do?' to me.
Again Miss Grizzel smiled, the same odd yet pleased smile that
Griselda had seen on her face at breakfast. Just what Sybilla used to
say, she murmured. Well, my dear, she added aloud, it is quite
right he should say, 'How do you do?' to you. It is the first
time he has seen you, though many a year ago he knew your dear
grandmother, and your father, too, when he was a little boy. You will
find him a good friend, and one that can teach you many lessons.
What, Aunt Grizzel? inquired Griselda, looking puzzled.
Punctuality, for one thing, and faithful discharge of duty,
replied Miss Grizzel.
May I come to see the cuckooto watch for him coming out,
sometimes? asked Griselda, who felt as if she could spend all day
looking up at the clock, watching for her little friend's appearance.
You will see him several times a day, said her aunt, for it is in
this little room I intend you to prepare your tasks. It is nice and
quiet, and nothing to disturb you, and close to the room where your
Aunt Tabitha and I usually sit.
So saying, Miss Grizzel opened a second door in the little
ante-room, and, to Griselda's surprise, at the foot of a short flight
of stairs through another door, half open, she caught sight of her Aunt
Tabitha, knitting quietly by the fire, in the room in which they had
What a very funny house it is, Aunt Grizzel, she said, as
she followed her aunt down the steps. Every room has so many doors,
and you come back to where you were just when you think you are ever so
far off. I shall never be able to find my way about.
Oh yes, you will, my dear, very soon, said her aunt encouragingly.
She is very kind, thought Griselda; but I wish she wouldn't call
my lessons tasks. It makes them sound so dreadfully hard. But, any way,
I'm glad I'm to do them in the room where that dear cuckoo lives.
II. IM_PATIENT GRISELDA
... fairies but seldom appear;
If we do wrong we must expect
That it will cost us dear!
It was all very well for a few days. Griselda found plenty to amuse
herself with while the novelty lasted, enough to prevent her missing
very badly the home she had left over the sea, and the troop of
noisy merry brothers who teased and petted her. Of course she missed
them, but not dreadfully. She was neither homesick nor dull.
It was not quite such smooth sailing when lessons began. She did not
dislike lessons; in fact, she had always thought she was rather fond of
them. But the having to do them alone was not lively, and her teachers
were very strict. The worst of all was the writing and arithmetic
master, a funny little old man who wore knee-breeches and took snuff,
and called her aunt Madame, bowing formally whenever he addressed
her. He screwed Griselda up into such an unnatural attitude to write
her copies, that she really felt as if she would never come straight
and loose again; and the arithmetic part of his instructions was even
worse. Oh! what sums in addition he gave her! Griselda had never been
partial to sums, and her rather easy-going governess at home had not,
to tell the truth, been partial to them either. And Mr.I can't
remember the little old gentleman's name. Suppose we call him Mr.
KneebreechesMr. Kneebreeches, when he found this out, conscientiously
put her back to the very beginning.
It was dreadful, really. He came twice a week, and the days he
didn't come were as bad as those he did, for he left her a whole row, I was going to say, but you couldn't call Mr. Kneebreeches' addition
sums rows, they were far too fat and wide across to be so spoken
of!whole slatefuls of these terrible mountains of figures to climb
wearily to the top of. And not to climb once up merely. The
terrible thing was Mr. Kneebreeches' favourite method of what he called
proving. I can't explain itit is far beyond my poor powersbut it
had something to do with cutting off the top line, after you had added
it all up and had actually done the sum, you understandcutting off
the top line and adding the long rows up again without it, and then
joining it on again somewhere else.
I wouldn't mind so much, said poor Griselda, one day, if it was
any good. But you see, Aunt Grizzel, it isn't. For I'm just as likely
to do the proving wrong as the sum itselfmore likely, for I'm
always so tired when I get to the provingand so all that's proved is
that something's wrong, and I'm sure that isn't any good, except
to make me cross.
Hush! said her aunt gravely. That is not the way for a little
girl to speak. Improve these golden hours of youth, Griselda; they will
I hope not, muttered Griselda, if it means doing sums.
Miss Grizzel fortunately was a little deaf; she did not hear this
remark. Just then the cuckoo clock struck eleven.
Good little cuckoo, said Miss Grizzel. What an example he sets
you. His life is spent in the faithful discharge of duty; and so
saying she left the room.
The cuckoo was still telling the houreleven took a good while. It
seemed to Griselda that the bird repeated her aunt's last words.
Faithful, discharge, ofyour, duty, he said, faithful.
You horrid little creature! exclaimed Griselda in a passion; what
business have you to mock me?
She seized a book, the first that came to hand, and flung it at the
bird who was just beginning his eleventh cuckoo. He disappeared with a
snap, disappeared without flapping his wings, or, as Griselda always
fancied he did, giving her a friendly nod, and in an instant all was
Griselda felt a little frightened. What had she done? She looked up
at the clock. It seemed just the same as usual, the cuckoo's doors
closely shut, no sign of any disturbance. Could it have been her fancy
only that he had sprung back more hastily than he would have done but
for her throwing the book at him? She began to hope so, and tried to go
on with her lessons. But it was no use. Though she really gave her best
attention to the long addition sums, and found that by so doing she
managed them much better than before, she could not feel happy or at
ease. Every few minutes she glanced up at the clock, as if expecting
the cuckoo to come out, though she knew quite well there was no chance
of his doing so till twelve o'clock, as it was only the hours, not the
half hours and quarters, that he told.
I wish it was twelve o'clock, she said to herself anxiously more
If only the clock had not been so very high up on the wall, she
would have been tempted to climb up and open the little doors, and peep
in to satisfy herself as to the cuckoo's condition. But there was no
possibility of this. The clock was far, very far above her reach, and
there was no high piece of furniture standing near, upon which she
could have climbed to get to it. There was nothing to be done but to
wait for twelve o'clock.
And, after all, she did not wait for twelve o'clock, for just about
half-past eleven, Miss Grizzel's voice was heard calling to her to put
on her hat and cloak quickly, and come out to walk up and down the
terrace with her.
It is fine just now, said Miss Grizzel, but there is a prospect
of rain before long. You must leave your lessons for the present, and
finish them in the afternoon.
I have finished them, said Griselda, meekly.
All? inquired her aunt.
Yes, all, replied Griselda.
Ah, well, then, this afternoon, if the rain holds off, we shall
drive to Merrybrow Hall, and inquire for the health of your dear
godmother, Lady Lavander, said Miss Grizzel.
Poor Griselda! There were few things she disliked more than a drive
with her aunts. They went in the old yellow chariot, with all the
windows up, and of course Griselda had to sit with her back to the
horses, which made her very uncomfortable when she had no air, and had
to sit still for so long.
Merrybrow Hall was a large house, quite as old and much grander, but
not nearly so wonderful as the home of Griselda's aunts. It was six
miles off, and it took a very long time indeed to drive there in the
rumbling old chariot, for the old horses were fat and wheezy, and the
old coachman fat and wheezy too. Lady Lavander was, of course, old
toovery old indeed, and rather grumpy and very deaf. Miss Grizzel and
Miss Tabitha had the greatest respect for her; she always called them
My dear, as if they were quite girls, and they listened to all she
said as if her words were of gold. For some mysterious reason she had
been invited to be Griselda's godmother; but, as she had never shown
her any proof of affection beyond giving her a prayer-book, and hoping,
whenever she saw her, that she was a good little miss, Griselda did
not feel any particular cause for gratitude to her.
The drive seemed longer and duller than ever this afternoon, but
Griselda bore it meekly; and when Lady Lavander, as usual, expressed
her hopes about her, the little girl looked down modestly, feeling her
cheeks grow scarlet. I am not a good little girl at all, she felt
inclined to call out. I'm very bad and cruel. I believe I've killed
the dear little cuckoo.
What would the three old ladies have thought if she had
called it out? As it was, Lady Lavander patted her approvingly, said
she loved to see young people modest and humble-minded, and gave her a
slice of very highly-spiced, rather musty gingerbread, which Griselda
All the way home Griselda felt in a fever of impatience to rush up
to the ante-room and see if the cuckoo was all right again. It was late
and dark when the chariot at last stopped at the door of the old house.
Miss Grizzel got out slowly, and still more slowly Miss Tabitha
followed her. Griselda was obliged to restrain herself and move
It is past your supper-time, my dear, said Miss Grizzel. Go up at
once to your room, and Dorcas shall bring some supper to you. Late
hours are bad for young people.
Griselda obediently wished her aunts good-night, and went quietly
upstairs. But once out of sight, at the first landing, she changed her
pace. She turned to the left instead of to the right, which led to her
own room, and flew rather than ran along the dimly-lighted passage, at
the end of which a door led into the great saloon. She opened the door.
All was quite dark. It was impossible to fly or run across the great
saloon! Even in daylight this would have been a difficult matter.
Griselda felt her way as best she could, past the Chinese
cabinet and the pot-pourri jar till she got to the ante-room door. It
was open, and now, knowing her way better, she hurried in. But what was
the use? All was silent, save the tick-tick of the cuckoo clock in the
corner. Oh, if only the cuckoo would come out and call the hour
as usual, what a weight would be lifted off Griselda's heart!
She had no idea what o'clock it was. It might be close to the hour,
or it might be just past it. She stood listening for a few minutes,
then hearing Miss Grizzel's voice in the distance, she felt that she
dared not stay any longer, and turned to feel her way out of the room
again. Just as she got to the door it seemed to her that something
softly brushed her cheek, and a very, very faint cuckoo sounded, as
it were, in the air close to her.
Startled, but not frightened, Griselda stood perfectly still.
Cuckoo, she said, softly. But there was no answer.
Again the tones of Miss Grizzel's voice coming upstairs reached her
I must go, said Griselda; and finding her way across the
saloon without, by great good luck, tumbling against any of the many
breakable treasures with which it was filled, she flew down the long
passage again, reaching her own room just before Dorcas appeared with
Griselda slept badly that night. She was constantly dreaming of the
cuckoo, fancying she heard his voice, and then waking with a start to
find it was only fancy. She looked pale and heavy-eyed when she
came down to breakfast the next morning; and her Aunt Tabitha, who was
alone in the room when she entered, began immediately asking her what
was the matter.
I am sure you are going to be ill, child, she said, nervously.
Sister Grizzel must give you some medicine. I wonder what would be the
best. Tansy tea is an excellent thing when one has taken cold, or
But the rest of Miss Tabitha's sentence was never heard, for at this
moment Miss Grizzel came hurriedly into the roomher cap awry, her
shawl disarranged, her face very pale. I hardly think any one had ever
seen her so discomposed before.
Sister Tabitha! she exclaimed, what can be going to happen? The
cuckoo clock has stopped.
The cuckoo clock has stopped! repeated Miss Tabitha, holding up
her hands; im_possible!
But it has, or rather I should saydear me, I am so upset I cannot
explain myselfthe cuckoo has stopped. The clock is going on,
but the cuckoo has not told the hours, and Dorcas is of opinion that he
left off doing so yesterday. What can be going to happen? What shall we
What can we do? said Miss Tabitha. Should we send for the
Miss Grizzel shook her head.
'Twould be worse than useless. Were we to search the world over, we
could find no one to put it right. Fifty years and more, Tabitha, fifty
years and more, it has never missed an hour! We are getting old,
Tabitha, our day is nearly over; perhaps 'tis to remind us of this.
Miss Tabitha did not reply. She was weeping silently. The old ladies
seemed to have forgotten the presence of their niece, but Griselda
could not bear to see their distress. She finished her breakfast as
quickly as she could, and left the room.
On her way upstairs she met Dorcas.
Have you heard what has happened, little missie? said the old
Yes, replied Griselda.
My ladies are in great trouble, continued Dorcas, who seemed
inclined to be more communicative than usual, and no wonder. For fifty
years that clock has never gone wrong.
Can't it be put right? asked the child.
Dorcas shook her head.
No good would come of interfering, she said. What must be, must
be. The luck of the house hangs on that clock. Its maker spent a good
part of his life over it, and his last words were that it would bring
good luck to the house that owned it, but that trouble would follow its
silence. It's my belief, she added solemnly, that it's a fairy
clock, neither more nor less, for good luck it has brought there's no
denying. There are no cows like ours, missietheir milk is a proverb
hereabouts; there are no hens like ours for laying all the year round;
there are no roses like ours. And there's always a friendly feeling in
this house, and always has been. 'Tis not a house for wrangling and
jangling, and sharp words. The 'good people' can't stand that. Nothing
drives them away like ill-temper or anger.
Griselda's conscience gave her a sharp prick. Could it be her
doing that trouble was coming upon the old house? What a punishment for
a moment's fit of ill-temper.
I wish you wouldn't talk that way, Dorcas, she said; it makes me
What a feeling heart the child has! said the old servant as she
went on her way downstairs. It's trueshe is very like Miss Sybilla.
That day was a very weary and sad one for Griselda. She was
oppressed by a feeling she did not understand. She knew she had done
wrong, but she had sorely repented it, and I do think the cuckoo might
have come back again, she said to herself, if he is a fairy;
and if he isn't, it can't be true what Dorcas says.
Her aunts made no allusion to the subject in her presence, and
almost seemed to have forgotten that she had known of their distress.
They were more grave and silent than usual, but otherwise things went
on in their ordinary way. Griselda spent the morning at her tasks, in
the ante-room, but was thankful to get away from the tick-tick of the
clock in the corner and out into the garden.
But there, alas! it was just as bad. The rooks seemed to know that
something was the matter; they set to work making such a chatter
immediately Griselda appeared that she felt inclined to run back into
the house again.
I am sure they are talking about me, she said to herself. Perhaps
they are fairies too. I am beginning to think I don't like fairies.
She was glad when bed-time came. It was a sort of reproach to her to
see her aunts so pale and troubled; and though she tried to persuade
herself that she thought them very silly, she could not throw off the
She was so tired when she went to bedtired in the disagreeable way
that comes from a listless, uneasy daythat she fell asleep at once
and slept heavily. When she woke, which she did suddenly, and with a
start, it was still perfectly dark, like the first morning that she had
wakened in the old house. It seemed to her that she had not wakened of
herselfsomething had roused her. Yes! there it was again, a very,
very soft distant cuckoo. Was it distant? She could not
tell. Almost she could have fancied it was close to her.
If it's that cuckoo come back again, I'll catch him! exclaimed
She darted out of bed, felt her way to the door, which was closed,
and opening it let in a rush of moonlight from the unshuttered passage
window. In another moment her little bare feet were pattering along the
passage at full speed, in the direction of the great saloon.
For Griselda's childhood among the troop of noisy brothers had
taught her one lessonshe was afraid of nothing. Or rather perhaps I
should say she had never learnt that there was anything to be afraid
of! And is there?
III. OBEYING ORDERS
Little girl, thou must thy part fulfil,
If we're to take kindly to ours:
Then pull up the weeds with a will,
And fairies will cherish the flowers.
There was moonlight, though not so much, in the saloon and the
ante-room, too; for though the windows, like those in Griselda's
bed-room, had the shutters closed, there was a round part at the top,
high up, which the shutters did not reach to, and in crept, through
these clear uncovered panes, quite as many moonbeams, you may be sure,
as could find their way.
Griselda, eager though she was, could not help standing still a
moment to admire the effect.
It looks prettier with the light coming in at those holes at the
top than even if the shutters were open, she said to herself. How
goldy-silvery the cabinet looks; and, yes, I do declare, the mandarins
are nodding! I wonder if it is out of politeness to me, or does Aunt
Grizzel come in last thing at night and touch them to make them keep
nodding till morning? I suppose they're a sort of policemen to
the palace; and I dare say there are all sorts of beautiful things
inside. How I should like to see all through it!
But at this moment the faint tick-tick of the cuckoo clock in the
next room, reaching her ear, reminded her of the object of this
midnight expedition of hers. She hurried into the ante-room.
It looked darker than the great saloon, for it had but one window.
But through the uncovered space at the top of this window there
penetrated some brilliant moonbeams, one of which lighted up brightly
the face of the clock with its queer over-hanging eaves.
Griselda approached it and stood below, looking up.
Cuckoo, she said softlyvery softly.
But there was no reply.
Cuckoo, she repeated rather more loudly. Why won't you speak to
me? I know you are there, and you're not asleep, for I heard your voice
in my own room. Why won't you come out, cuckoo?
Tick-tick, said the clock, but there was no other reply.
Griselda felt ready to cry.
Cuckoo, she said reproachfully, I didn't think you were so
hard-hearted. I have been so unhappy about you, and I was so
pleased to hear your voice again, for I thought I had killed you, or
hurt you very badly; and I didn't mean to hurt you, cuckoo. I
was sorry the moment I had done it, dreadfully sorry. Dear
cuckoo, won't you forgive me?
[Illustration: SHE COULD NOT HELP VERY SOFTLY CLAPPING HER HANDS]
There was a little sound at lasta faint coming sound, and
by the moonlight Griselda saw the doors open, and out flew the cuckoo.
He stood still for a moment, looked round him as it were, then gently
flapped his wings, and uttered his usual noteCuckoo.
Griselda stood in breathless expectation, but in her delight she
could not help very softly clapping her hands.
The cuckoo cleared his throat. You never heard such a funny little
noise as he made; and then, in a very clear, distinct, but yet
cuckoo-y voice, he spoke.
Griselda, he said, are you truly sorry?
I told you I was, she replied. But I didn't feel so very
naughty, cuckoo. I didn't, really. I was only vexed for one minute, and
when I threw the book I seemed to be a very little in fun, too. And it
made me so unhappy when you went away, and my poor aunts have been
dreadfully unhappy too. If you hadn't come back I should have told them
tomorrow what I had done. I would have told them before, but I was
afraid it would have made them more unhappy. I thought I had hurt you
So you did, said the cuckoo.
But you look quite well, said Griselda.
It was my feelings, replied the cuckoo; and I couldn't
help going away. I have to obey orders like other people.
Griselda stared. How do you mean? she asked.
Never mind. You can't understand at present, said the cuckoo. You
can understand about obeying your orders, and you see, when you
don't, things go wrong.
Yes, said Griselda humbly, they certainly do. But, cuckoo, she
continued, I never used to get into tempers at homehardly
never, at least; and I liked my lessons then, and I never was scolded
What's wrong here, then? said the cuckoo. It isn't often that
things go wrong in this house.
That's what Dorcas says, said Griselda. It must be with my being
a childmy aunts and the house and everything have got out of
About time they did, remarked the cuckoo drily.
And so, continued Griselda, it is really very dull. I have lots
of lessons, but it isn't so much that I mind. It is that I've no one to
There's something in that, said the cuckoo. He flapped his wings
and was silent for a minute or two. I'll consider about it, he
observed at last.
Thank you, said Griselda, not exactly knowing what else to say.
And in the meantime, continued the cuckoo, you'd better obey
present orders and go back to bed.
Shall I say good-night to you, then? asked Griselda somewhat
You're quite welcome to do so, replied the cuckoo. Why shouldn't
You see I wasn't sure if you would like it, returned Griselda,
for of course you're not like a person, andandI've been told all
sorts of queer things about what fairies like and don't like.
Who said I was a fairy? inquired the cuckoo.
Dorcas did, and, of course, my own common sense did too,
replied Griselda. You must be a fairyyou couldn't be anything else.
I might be a fairyfied cuckoo, suggested the bird.
Griselda looked puzzled.
I don't understand, she said, and I don't think it could make
much difference. But whatever you are, I wish you would tell me one
What? said the cuckoo.
I want to know, now that you've forgiven me for throwing the book
at you, have you come back for good?
Certainly not for evil, replied the cuckoo.
Griselda gave a little wriggle. Cuckoo, you're laughing at me, she
said. I mean, have you come back to stay and cuckoo as usual and make
my aunts happy again?
You'll see in the morning, said the cuckoo. Now go off to bed.
Good night, said Griselda, and thank you, and please don't forget
to let me know when you've considered.
Cuckoo, cuckoo, was her little friend's reply. Griselda thought it
was meant for good night, but the fact of the matter was that at that
exact second of time it was two o'clock in the morning.
She made her way back to bed. She had been standing some time
talking to the cuckoo, but, though it was now well on in November, she
did not feel the least cold, nor sleepy! She felt as happy and
light-hearted as possible, and she wished it was morning, that she
might get up. Yet the moment she laid her little brown curly head on
the pillow, she fell asleep; and it seemed to her that just as she
dropped off a soft feathery wing brushed her cheek gently and a tiny
Cuckoo sounded in her ear.
When she woke it was bright morning, really bright morning, for the
wintry sun was already sending some clear yellow rays out into the pale
It must be late, thought Griselda, when she had opened the
shutters and seen how light it was. I must have slept a long time. I
feel so beautifully unsleepy now. I must dress quicklyhow nice it
will be to see my aunts look happy again! I don't even care if they
scold me for being late.
But, after all, it was not so much later than usual; it was only a
much brighter morning than they had had for some time. Griselda did
dress herself very quickly, however. As she went downstairs two or
three of the clocks in the house, for there were several, were striking
eight. These clocks must have been a little before the right time, for
it was not till they had again relapsed into silence that there rang
out from the ante-room the clear sweet tones, eight times repeated, of
Miss Grizzel and Miss Tabitha were already at the breakfast-table,
but they received their little niece most graciously. Nothing was said
about the clock, however, till about half-way through the meal, when
Griselda, full of eagerness to know if her aunts were aware of the
cuckoo's return, could restrain herself no longer.
Aunt Grizzel, she said, isn't the cuckoo all right again?
Yes, my dear. I am delighted to say it is, replied Miss Grizzel.
Did you get it put right, Aunt Grizzel? inquired Griselda, slyly.
Little girls should not ask so many questions, replied Miss
Grizzel, mysteriously. It is all right again, and that is
enough. During fifty years that cuckoo has never, till yesterday,
missed an hour. If you, in your sphere, my dear, do as well during
fifty years, you won't have done badly.
No, indeed, you won't have done badly, repeated Miss Tabitha.
But though the two old ladies thus tried to improve the occasion by
a little lecturing, Griselda could see that at the bottom of their
hearts they were both so happy that, even if she had been very naughty
indeed, they could hardly have made up their minds to scold her.
She was not at all inclined to be naughty this day. She had
something to think about and look forward to, which made her quite a
different little girl, and made her take heart in doing her lessons as
well as she possibly could.
I wonder when the cuckoo will have considered enough about my
having no one to play with? she said to herself, as she was walking up
and down the terrace at the back of the house.
Caw, caw! screamed a rook just over her head, as if in answer to
Griselda looked up at him.
Your voice isn't half so pretty as the cuckoo's, Mr. Rook, she
said. All the same, I dare say I should make friends with you, if I
understood what you meant. How funny it would be to know all the
languages of the birds and the beasts, like the prince in the fairy
tale! I wonder if I should wish for that, if a fairy gave me a wish?
No, I don't think I would. I'd far rather have the fairy carpet
that would take you anywhere you liked in a minute. I'd go to China to
see if all the people there look like Aunt Grizzel's mandarins; and I'd
first of all, of course, go to fairyland.
You must come in now, little missie, said Dorcas's voice. Miss
Grizzel says you have had play enough, and there's a nice fire in the
ante-room for you to do your lessons by.
Play! repeated Griselda indignantly, as she turned to follow the
old servant. Do you call walking up and down the terrace 'play,'
Dorcas? I mustn't loiter even to pick a flower, if there were any, for
fear of catching cold, and I mustn't run for fear of overheating
myself. I declare, Dorcas, if I don't have some play soon, or something
to amuse me, I think I'll run away.
Nay, nay, missie, don't talk like that. You'd never do anything so
naughty, and you so like Miss Sybilla, who was so good.
Dorcas, I'm tired of being told I'm like Miss Sybilla, said
Griselda, impatiently. She was my grandmother; no one would like to be
told they were like their grandmother. It makes me feel as if my face
must be all screwy up and wrinkly, and as if I should have spectacles
on and a wig.
That is not like what Miss Sybilla was when I first saw
her, said Dorcas. She was younger than you, missie, and as pretty as
Was she? exclaimed Griselda, stopping short.
Yes, indeed she was. She might have been a fairy, so sweet she was
and gentleand yet so merry. Every creature loved her; even the
animals about seemed to know her, as if she was one of themselves. She
brought good luck to the house, and it was a sad day when she left it.
I thought you said it was the cuckoo that brought good luck? said
Well, so it was. The cuckoo and Miss Sybilla came here the same
day. It was left to her by her mother's father, with whom she had lived
since she was a baby, and when he died she came here to her sisters.
She wasn't own sister to my ladies, you see, missie. Her mother
had come from Germany, and it was in some strange place there, where
her grandfather lived, that the cuckoo clock was made. They make
wonderful clocks there, I've been told, but none more wonderful than
our cuckoo, I'm sure.
No, I'm sure not, said Griselda, softly. Why didn't Miss
Sybilla take it with her when she was married and went away?
She knew her sisters were so fond of it. It was like a memory of
her left behind for them. It was like a part of her. And do you know,
missie, the night she diedshe died soon after your father was born, a
year after she was marriedfor a whole hour, from twelve to one, that
cuckoo went on cuckooing in a soft, sad way, like some living creature
in trouble. Of course, we did not know anything was wrong with her, and
folks said something had caught some of the springs of the works; but
I didn't think so, and never shall. And
But here Dorcas's reminiscences were abruptly brought to a close by
Miss Grizzel's appearance at the other end of the terrace.
Griselda, what are you loitering so for? Dorcas, you should have
hastened, not delayed Miss Griselda.
So Griselda was hurried off to her lessons, and Dorcas to her
kitchen. But Griselda did not much mind. She had plenty to think of and
wonder about, and she liked to do her lessons in the ante-room, with
the tick-tick of the clock in her ears, and the feeling that perhaps
the cuckoo was watching her through some invisible peep-hole in his
And if he sees, thought Griselda, if he sees how hard I am trying
to do my lessons well, it will perhaps make him be quick about
So she did try very hard. And she didn't speak to the cuckoo when he
came out to say it was four o'clock. She was busy, and he was busy. She
felt it was better to wait till he gave her some sign of being ready to
talk to her again.
For fairies, you know, children, however charming, are sometimes
rather queer to have to do with. They don't like to be interfered
with, or treated except with very great respect, and they have their
own ideas about what is proper and what isn't, I can assure you.
I suppose it was with working so hard at her lessonsmost people
say it was with having been up the night before, running about the
house in the moonlight; but as she had never felt so fresh in her
life as when she got up that morning, it could hardly have been
thatthat Griselda felt so tired and sleepy that evening, she could
hardly keep her eyes open. She begged to go to bed quite half an hour
earlier than usual, which made Miss Tabitha afraid again that she was
going to be ill. But as there is nothing better for children than to go
to bed early, even if they are going to be ill, Miss Grizzel
told her to say good-night, and to ask Dorcas to give her a
wine-glassful of elderberry wine, nice and hot, after she was in bed.
Griselda had no objection to the elderberry wine, though she felt
she was having it on false pretences. She certainly did not need it to
send her to sleep, for almost before her head touched the pillow she
was as sound as a top. She had slept a good long while, when again she
wakened suddenlyjust as she had done the night before, and again with
the feeling that something had wakened her. And the queer thing was
that the moment she was awake she felt so very awakeshe had no
inclination to stretch and yawn and hope it wasn't quite time to get
up, and think how nice and warm bed was, and how cold it was outside!
She sat straight up, and peered out into the darkness, feeling quite
ready for an adventure.
Is it you, cuckoo? she said softly.
There was no answer, but listening intently, the child fancied she
heard a faint rustling or fluttering in the corner of the room by the
door. She got up and, feeling her way, opened it, and the instant she
had done so she heard, a few steps only in front of her it seemed, the
familiar notes, very, very soft and whispered, Cuckoo, cuckoo.
It went on and on, down the passage, Griselda trotting after. There
was no moon to-night, heavy clouds had quite hidden it, and outside the
rain was falling heavily. Griselda could hear it on the window-panes,
through the closed shutters and all. But dark as it was, she made her
way along without any difficulty, down the passage, across the great
saloon, in through the ante-room door, guided only by the little voice
now and then to be heard in front of her. She came to a standstill
right before the clock, and stood there for a minute or two patiently
She had not very long to wait. There came the usual murmuring sound,
then the doors above the clock face openedshe heard them open, it was
far too dark to seeand in his ordinary voice, clear and distinct (it
was just two o'clock, so the cuckoo was killing two birds with one
stone, telling the hour and greeting Griselda at once), the bird sang
out, Cuckoo, cuckoo.
Good evening, cuckoo, said Griselda, when he had finished.
Good morning, you mean, said the cuckoo.
Good morning, then, cuckoo, said Griselda. Have you considered
about me, cuckoo?
The cuckoo cleared his throat.
Have you learnt to obey orders yet, Griselda? he inquired.
I'm trying, replied Griselda. But you see, cuckoo, I've not had
very long to learn init was only last night you told me, you know.
The cuckoo sighed.
You've a great deal to learn, Griselda.
I dare say I have, she said. But I can tell you one thing,
cuckoowhatever lessons I have, I couldn't ever have any worse
than those addition sums of Mr. Kneebreeches'. I have made up my mind
about that, for to-day, do you know, cuckoo
Yesterday, corrected the cuckoo. Always be exact in your
Well, yesterday, then, said Griselda, rather tartly; though when
you know quite well what I mean, I don't see that you need be so
very particular. Well, as I was saying, I tried and tried,
but still they were fearful. They were, indeed.
You've a great deal to learn, Griselda, repeated the cuckoo.
I wish you wouldn't say that so often, said Griselda. I thought
you were going to play with me.
There's something in that, said the cuckoo, there's something in
that. I should like to talk about it. But we could talk more
comfortably if you would come up here and sit beside me.
Griselda thought her friend must be going out of his mind.
Sit beside you up there! she exclaimed. Cuckoo, how could
I? I'm far, far too big.
Big! returned the cuckoo. What do you mean by big? It's all a
matter of fancy. Don't you know that if the world and everything in it,
counting yourself of course, was all made little enough to go into a
walnut, you'd never find out the difference.
Wouldn't I? said Griselda, feeling rather muddled; but,
not counting myself, cuckoo, I would then, wouldn't I?
Nonsense, said the cuckoo hastily; you've a great deal to learn,
and one thing is, not to argue. Nobody should argue; it's a
shocking bad habit, and ruins the digestion. Come up here and sit
beside me comfortably. Catch hold of the chain; you'll find you can
manage if you try.
But it'll stop the clock, said Griselda. Aunt Grizzel said I was
never to touch the weights or the chains.
Stuff, said the cuckoo; it won't stop the clock. Catch hold of
the chains and swing yourself up. There nowI told you you could
IV. THE COUNTRY OF THE NODDING
We're all nodding, nid-nid-nodding.
How she managed it she never knew; but, somehow or other, it was
managed. She seemed to slide up the chain just as easily as in a
general way she would have slidden down, only without any disagreeable
anticipation of a bump at the end of the journey. And when she got to
the top how wonderfully different it looked from anything she could
have expected! The doors stood open, and Griselda found them quite big
enough, or herself quite small enoughwhich it was she couldn't tell,
and as it was all a matter of fancy she decided not to trouble to
inquireto pass through quite comfortably.
[Illustration: ARE YOU COMFORTABLE? INQUIRED THE CUCKOO]
And inside there was the most charming little snuggery imaginable.
It was something like a saloon railway carriageit seemed to be all
lined and carpeted and everything, with rich mossy red velvet; there
was a little round table in the middle and two arm-chairs, on one of
which sat the cuckooquite like other people, thought Griselda to
herselfwhile the other, as he pointed out to Griselda by a little
nod, was evidently intended for her.
Thank you, said she, sitting down on the chair as she spoke.
Are you comfortable? inquired the cuckoo.
Quite, replied Griselda, looking about her with great
satisfaction. Are all cuckoo clocks like this when you get up inside
them? she inquired. I can't think how there's room for this dear
little place between the clock and the wall. Is it a hole cut out of
the wall on purpose, cuckoo?
Hush! said the cuckoo, we've got other things to talk about.
First, shall I lend you one of my mantles? You may feel cold.
I don't just now, replied Griselda; but perhaps I might.
She looked at her little bare feet as she spoke, and wondered why
they weren't cold, for it was very chilblainy weather.
The cuckoo stood up, and with one of his claws reached from a corner
where it was hanging a cloak which Griselda had not before noticed. For
it was hanging wrong side out, and the lining was red velvet, very like
what the sides of the little room were covered with, so it was no
wonder she had not noticed it.
Had it been hanging the right side out she must have done so;
this side was so very wonderful!
It was all feathersfeathers of every shade and colour, but
beautifully worked in, somehow, so as to lie quite smoothly and evenly,
one colour melting away into another like those in a prism, so that you
could hardly tell where one began and another ended.
What a lovely cloak! said Griselda, wrapping it round her
and feeling even more comfortable than before, as she watched the rays
of the little lamp in the roofI think I was forgetting to tell you
that the cuckoo's boudoir was lighted by a dear little lamp set into
the red velvet roof like a pearl in a ringplaying softly on the
brilliant colours of the feather mantle.
It's better than lovely, said the cuckoo, as you shall see. Now,
Griselda, he continued, in the tone of one coming to businessnow,
Griselda, let us talk.
We have been talking, said Griselda, ever so long. I am very
comfortable. When you say 'let us talk' like that, it makes me forget
all I wanted to say. Just let me sit still and say whatever comes into
That won't do, said the cuckoo; we must have a plan of action.
A what? said Griselda.
You see you have a great deal to learn, said the cuckoo
triumphantly. You don't understand what I say.
But I didn't come up here to learn, said Griselda; I can do that
down there; and she nodded her head in the direction of the ante-room
table. I want to play.
Just so, said the cuckoo; that's what I want to talk about. What
do you call 'play'blindman's-buff and that sort of thing?
No, said Griselda, considering. I'm getting rather too big for
that kind of play. Besides, cuckoo, you and I alone couldn't have much
fun at blindman's-buff; there'd be only me to catch you or you to catch
Oh, we could easily get more, said the cuckoo. The mandarins
would be pleased to join.
The mandarins! repeated Griselda. Why, cuckoo, they're not alive!
How could they play?
The cuckoo looked at her gravely for a minute, then shook his head.
You have a great deal to learn, he said solemnly. Don't
you know that everything's alive?
No, said Griselda, I don't; and I don't know what you mean, and I
don't think I want to know what you mean. I want to talk about
Well, said the cuckoo, talk.
What I call playing, pursued Griselda, isI have thought about
it now, you seeis being amused. If you will amuse me, cuckoo, I will
count that you are playing with me.
How shall I amuse you? inquired he.
Oh, that's for you to find out! exclaimed Griselda. You might
tell me fairy stories, you know: if you're a fairy you should know
lots; oroh yes, of course that would be far nicerif you are a fairy
you might take me with you to fairyland.
Again the cuckoo shook his head.
That, said he, I cannot do.
Why not? said Griselda. Lots of children have been there.
I doubt it, said the cuckoo. Some may have been, but not
lots. And some may have thought they had been there who hadn't really
been there at all. And as to those who have been there, you may be sure
of one thingthey were not taken, they found their own way. No
one ever was taken to fairylandto the real fairyland. They may
have been taken to the neighbouring countries, but not to fairyland
And how is one ever to find one's own way there? asked Griselda.
That I cannot tell you either, replied the cuckoo. There are many
roads there; you may find yours some day. And if ever you do find it,
be sure you keep what you see of it well swept and clean, and then you
may see further after a while. Ah, yes, there are many roads and many
doors into fairyland!
Doors! cried Griselda. Are there any doors into fairyland in this
Several, said the cuckoo; but don't waste your time looking for
them at present. It would be no use.
Then how will you amuse me? inquired Griselda, in a rather
Don't you care to go anywhere except to fairyland? said the
Oh yes, there are lots of places I wouldn't mind seeing. Not
geography sort of placesit would be just like lessons to go to India
and Africa and all those placesbut queer places, like the
mines where the goblins make diamonds and precious stones, and the
caves down under the sea where the mermaids live. Andoh, I've just
thoughtnow I'm so nice and little, I would like to go all over
the mandarins' palace in the great saloon.
That can be easily managed, said the cuckoo; butexcuse me for
an instant, he exclaimed suddenly. He gave a spring forward and
disappeared. Then Griselda heard his voice outside the doors, Cuckoo,
cuckoo, cuckoo. It was three o'clock.
The doors opened again to let him through, and he re-settled himself
on his chair. As I was saying, he went on, nothing could be easier.
But that palace, as you call it, has an entrance on the other side, as
well as the one you know.
Another door, do you mean? said Griselda. How funny! Does it go
through the wall? And where does it lead to?
It leads, replied the cuckoo, it leads to the country of the
What fun! exclaimed Griselda, clapping her hands. Cuckoo,
do let us go there. How can we get down? You can fly, but must I slide
down the chain again?
Oh dear, no, said the cuckoo, by no means. You have only to
stretch out your feather mantle, flap it as if it was wingssohe
flapped his own wings encouraginglywish, and there you'll be.
Where? said Griselda bewilderedly.
Wherever you wish to be, of course, said the cuckoo. Are you
ready? Here goes.
Waitwait a moment, cried Griselda. Where am I to wish to be?
Bless the child! exclaimed the cuckoo. Where do you wish
to be? You said you wanted to visit the country of the Nodding
Yes; but am I to wish first to be in the palace in the great
Certainly, replied the cuckoo. That is the entrance to Mandarin
Land, and you said you would like to see through it. Soyou're surely
A thought has just struck me, said Griselda. How will you know
what o'clock it is, so as to come back in time to tell the next hour?
My aunts will get into such a fright if you go wrong again! Are you
sure we shall have time to go to the mandarins' country to-night?
Time! repeated the cuckoo; what is time? Ah, Griselda, you have a
very great deal to learn! What do you mean by time?
I don't know, replied Griselda, feeling rather snubbed. Being
slow or quickI suppose that's what I mean.
And what is slow, and what is quick? said the cuckoo. All
a matter of fancy! If everything that's been done since the world was
made till now, was done over again in five minutes, you'd never know
Oh, cuckoo, I wish you wouldn't! cried poor Griselda; you're
worse than sums, you do so puzzle me. It's like what you said about
nothing being big or little, only it's worse. Where would all the days
and hours be if there was nothing but minutes? Oh, cuckoo, you said
you'd amuse me, and you do nothing but puzzle me.
It was your own fault. You wouldn't get ready, said the cuckoo,
Now, here goes! Flap and wish.
Griselda flapped and wished. She felt a sort of rustle in the air,
that was allthen she found herself standing with the cuckoo in front
of the Chinese cabinet, the door of which stood open, while the
mandarins on each side, nodding politely, seemed to invite them to
enter. Griselda hesitated.
Go on, said the cuckoo, patronizingly; ladies first.
Griselda went on. To her surprise, inside the cabinet it was quite
light, though where the light came from that illuminated all the queer
corners and recesses and streamed out to the front, where stood the
mandarins, she could not discover.
The palace was not quite as interesting as she had expected. There
were lots of little rooms in it opening on to balconies commanding, no
doubt, a splendid view of the great saloon; there were ever so many
little stair-cases leading to more little rooms and balconies; but it
all seemed empty and deserted.
I don't care for it, said Griselda, stopping short at last; it's
all the same, and there's nothing to see. I thought my aunts kept ever
so many beautiful things in here, and there's nothing.
Come along, then, said the cuckoo. I didn't expect you'd care for
the palace, as you called it, much. Let us go out the other way.
He hopped down a sort of little staircase near which they were
standing, and Griselda followed him willingly enough. At the foot they
found themselves in a vestibule, much handsomer than the entrance at
the other side, and the cuckoo, crossing it, lifted one of his claws
and touched a spring in the wall. Instantly a pair of large doors flew
open in the middle, revealing to Griselda the prettiest and most
curious sight she had ever seen.
[Illustration: HE FLAPPED HIS WINGS, AND A PALANQUIN APPEARED AT THE
FOOT OF THE STEPS]
A flight of wide, shallow steps led down from this doorway into a
long, long avenue bordered by stiffly growing trees, from the branches
of which hung innumerable lamps of every colour, making a perfect
network of brilliance as far as the eye could reach.
Oh, how lovely! cried Griselda, clapping her hands. It'll be like
walking along a rainbow. Cuckoo, come quick.
Stop, said the cuckoo; we've a good way to go. There's no need to
He flapped his wings, and instantly a palanquin appeared at the foot
of the steps. It was made of carved ivory, and borne by four
Chinese-looking figures with pigtails and bright-coloured jackets. A
feeling came over Griselda that she was dreaming, or else that she had
seen this palanquin before. She hesitated. Suddenly she gave a little
jump of satisfaction.
I know, she exclaimed. It's exactly like the one that stands
under a glass shade on Lady Lavander's drawing-room mantelpiece. I
wonder if it is the very one? Fancy me being able to get into
She looked at the four bearers. Instantly they all nodded.
What do they mean? asked Griselda, turning to the cuckoo.
Get in, he replied.
Yes, I'm just going to get in, she said; but what do they
mean when they nod at me like that?
They mean, of course, what I tell you'Get in,' said the cuckoo.
Why don't they say so, then? persisted Griselda, getting in,
however, as she spoke.
Griselda, you have a very great began the cuckoo, but
Griselda interrupted him.
Cuckoo, she exclaimed, if you say that again, I'll jump out of
the palanquin and run away home to bed. Of course I've a great deal to
learnthat's why I like to ask questions about everything I see. Now,
tell me where we are going.
In the first place, said the cuckoo, are you comfortable?
Very, said Griselda, settling herself down among the cushions.
It was a change from the cuckoo's boudoir. There were no chairs or
seats, only a number of very, very soft cushions covered with
green silk. There were green silk curtains all round, too, which you
could draw or not as you pleased, just by touching a spring. Griselda
stroked the silk gently. It was not fruzzley silk, if you know what
that means; it did not make you feel as if your nails wanted cutting,
or as if all the rough places on your skin were being rubbed up the
wrong way; its softness was like that of a rose or pansy petal.
What nice silk! said Griselda. I'd like a dress of it. I never
noticed that the palanquin was lined so nicely, she continued, for I
suppose it is the one from Lady Lavander's mantelpiece? There
couldn't be two so exactly like each other.
The cuckoo gave a sort of whistle.
What a goose you are, my dear! he exclaimed. Excuse me, he
continued, seeing that Griselda looked rather offended; I didn't mean
to hurt your feelings, but you won't let me say the other thing, you
know. The palanquin from Lady Lavander's! I should think not. You might
as well mistake one of those horrible paper roses that Dorcas sticks in
her vases for one of your aunt's Gloires de Dijon! The palanquin from
Lady Lavander'sa clumsy human imitation not worth looking at!
I didn't know, said Griselda humbly. Do they make such beautiful
things in Mandarin Land?
Of course, said the cuckoo.
Griselda sat silent for a minute or two, but very soon she recovered
Will you please tell me where we are going? she asked again.
You'll see directly, said the cuckoo; not that I mind telling
you. There's to be a grand reception at one of the palaces to-night. I
thought you'd like to assist at it. It'll give you some idea of what a
palace is like. By-the-by, can you dance?
A little, replied Griselda.
Ah, well, I dare say you will manage. I've ordered a court dress
for you. It will be all ready when we get there.
Thank you, said Griselda.
In a minute or two the palanquin stopped. The cuckoo got out, and
Griselda followed him.
She found that they were at the entrance to a very much
grander palace than the one in her aunt's saloon. The steps leading up
to the door were very wide and shallow, and covered with a gold
embroidered carpet, which looked as if it would be prickly to
her bare feet, but which, on the contrary, when she trod upon it, felt
softer than the softest moss. She could see very little besides the
carpet, for at each side of the steps stood rows and rows of mandarins,
all something like, but a great deal grander than, the pair outside her
aunt's cabinet; and as the cuckoo hopped and Griselda walked up the
staircase, they all, in turn, row by row, began solemnly to nod. It
gave them the look of a field of very high grass, through which, any
one passing, leaves for the moment a trail, till all the heads bob up
again into their places.
What do they mean? whispered Griselda.
It's a royal salute, said the cuckoo.
A salute! said Griselda. I thought that meant kissing or guns.
Hush! said the cuckoo, for by this time they had arrived at the
top of the staircase; you must be dressed now.
Two mandariny-looking young ladies, with porcelain faces and
three-cornered head-dresses, stepped forward and led Griselda into a
small ante-room, where lay waiting for her the most magnificent dress
you ever saw. But how do you think they dressed her? It was all
by nodding. They nodded to the blue and silver embroidered jacket, and
in a moment it had fitted itself on to her. They nodded to the splendid
scarlet satin skirt, made very short in front and very long behind, and
before Griselda knew where she was, it was adjusted quite correctly.
They nodded to the head-dress, and the sashes, and the necklaces and
bracelets, and forthwith they all arranged themselves. Last of all,
they nodded to the dearest, sweetest little pair of high-heeled shoes
imaginableall silver, and blue, and gold, and scarlet, and everything
mixed up together, only they were rather a stumpy shape about
the toes and Griselda's bare feet were encased in them, and, to her
surprise, quite comfortably so.
They don't hurt me a bit, she said aloud; yet they didn't look
the least the shape of my foot.
But her attendants only nodded; and turning round, she saw the
cuckoo waiting for her. He did not speak either, rather to her
annoyance, but gravely led the way through one grand room after another
to the grandest of all, where the entertainment was evidently just
about to begin. And everywhere there were mandarins, rows and rows, who
all set to work nodding as fast as Griselda appeared. She began to be
rather tired of royal salutes, and was glad when, at last, in profound
silence, the procession, consisting of the cuckoo and herself, and
about half a dozen mandarins, came to a halt before a kind of daïs,
or raised seat, at the end of the hall.
Upon this daïs stood a chaira throne of some kind, Griselda
supposed it to beand upon this was seated the grandest and gravest
personage she had yet seen.
Is he the king of the mandarins? she whispered. But the cuckoo did
not reply; and before she had time to repeat the question, the very
grand and grave person got down from his seat, and coming towards her
offered her his hand, at the same time noddingfirst once, then two or
three times together, then once again. Griselda seemed to know what he
meant. He was asking her to dance.
Thank you, she said. I can't dance very well, but perhaps
you won't mind.
The king, if that was his title, took not the slightest notice of
her reply, but nodded againonce, then two or three times together,
then once alone, just as before. Griselda did not know what to do, when
suddenly she felt something poking her head. It was the cuckoohe had
lifted his claw, and was tapping her head to make her nod. So she
noddedonce, twice together, then oncethat appeared to be enough.
The king nodded once again; an invisible band suddenly struck up the
loveliest music, and off they set to the places of honour reserved for
them in the centre of the room, where all the mandarins were
What a dance that was! It began like a minuet and ended something
like the haymakers. Griselda had not the least idea what the figures or
steps were, but it did not matter. If she did not know, her shoes or
something about her did; for she got on famously. The music was
lovelyso the mandarins can't be deaf, though they are dumb, thought
Griselda, which is one good thing about them. The king seemed to
enjoy it as much as she did, though he never smiled or laughed; any one
could have seen he liked it by the way he whirled and twirled himself
about. And between the figures, when they stopped to rest for a little,
Griselda got on very well too. There was no conversation, or rather, if
there was, it was all nodding.
So Griselda nodded too, and though she did not know what her nods
meant, the king seemed to understand and be quite pleased; and when
they had nodded enough, the music struck up again, and off they set,
harder than before.
And every now and then tiny little mandariny boys appeared with
trays filled with the most delicious fruits and sweetmeats. Griselda
was not a greedy child, but for once in her life she really did
feel rather so. I cannot possibly describe these delicious things; just
think of whatever in all your life was the most lovely thing you ever
eat, and you may be sure they tasted like that. Only the cuckoo would
not eat any, which rather distressed Griselda. He walked about among
the dancers, apparently quite at home; and the mandarins did not seem
at all surprised to see him, though he did look rather odd, being
nearly, if not quite, as big as any of them. Griselda hoped he was
enjoying himself, considering that she had to thank him for all the fun
she was having, but she felt a little conscience-stricken when she
saw that he wouldn't eat anything.
Cuckoo, she whispered; she dared not talk out loudit would have
seemed so remarkable, you see. Cuckoo, she said, very, very softly,
I wish you would eat something. You'll be so tired and hungry.
No, thank you, said the cuckoo; and you can't think how pleased
Griselda was at having succeeded in making him speak. It isn't my way.
I hope you are enjoying yourself?
Oh, very much, said Griselda. I
Hush! said the cuckoo; and looking up, Griselda saw a number of
mandarins, in a sort of procession, coming their way.
When they got up to the cuckoo they set to work nodding, two or
three at a time, more energetically than usual. When they stopped, the
cuckoo nodded in return, and then hopped off towards the middle of the
They're very fond of good music, you see, he whispered as he
passed Griselda; and they don't often get it.
And she is always beautiful
And always is eighteen!
When he got to the middle of the room the cuckoo cleared his throat,
flapped his wings, and began to sing. Griselda was quite astonished.
She had had no idea that her friend was so accomplished. It wasn't
cuckooing at all; it was real singing, like that of the nightingale
or the thrush, or like something prettier than either. It made Griselda
think of woods in summer, and of tinkling brooks flowing through them,
with the pretty brown pebbles sparkling up through the water; and then
it made her think of something sadshe didn't know what; perhaps it
was of the babes in the wood and the robins covering them up with
leavesand then again, in a moment, it sounded as if all the merry
elves and sprites that ever were heard of had escaped from fairyland,
and were rolling over and over with peals of rollicking laughter. And
at last, all of a sudden, the song came to an end.
Cuckoo! cuckoo! cuckoo! rang out three times, clear and shrill.
The cuckoo flapped his wings, made a bow to the mandarins, and retired
to his old corner.
There was no buzz of talk, as is usual after a performance has come
to a close, but there was a great buzz of nodding, and Griselda,
wishing to give the cuckoo as much praise as she could, nodded as hard
as any of them. The cuckoo really looked quite shy at receiving so much
applause. But in a minute or two the music struck up and the dancing
began againone, two, three: it seemed a sort of mazurka this time,
which suited the mandarins very well, as it gave them a chance of
nodding to mark the time.
Griselda had once learnt the mazurka, so she got on even better than
beforeonly she would have liked it more if her shoes had had sharper
toes; they looked so stumpy when she tried to point them. All the same,
it was very good fun, and she was not too well pleased when she
suddenly felt the little sharp tap of the cuckoo on her head, and heard
Griselda, it's time to go.
Oh dear, why? she asked. I'm not a bit tired. Why need we go
Obeying orders, said the cuckoo; and after that, Griselda dared
not say another word. It was very nearly as bad as being told she had a
great deal to learn.
Must I say good-bye to the king and all the people? she inquired;
but before the cuckoo had time to answer, she gave a little squeal.
Oh, cuckoo, she cried, you've trod on my foot.
I beg your pardon, said the cuckoo.
I must take off my shoe; it does so hurt, she went on.
Take it off, then, said the cuckoo.
Griselda stooped to take off her shoe. Are we going home in the
pal? she began to say; but she never finished the sentence, for
just as she had got her shoe off she felt the cuckoo throw something
round her. It was the feather mantle.
And Griselda knew nothing more till she opened her eyes the next
morning, and saw the first early rays of sunshine peeping in through
the chinks of the closed shutters of her little bed-room.
She rubbed her eyes, and sat up in bed. Could it have been a dream?
What could have made me fall asleep so all of a sudden? she
thought. I wasn't the least sleepy at the mandarins' ball. What fun it
was! I believe that cuckoo made me fall asleep on purpose to make me
fancy it was a dream. Was it a dream?
She began to feel confused and doubtful, when suddenly she felt
something hurting her arm, like a little lump in the bed. She felt with
her hand to see if she could smooth it away, and drew outone of the
shoes belonging to her court dress! The very one she had held in her
hand at the moment the cuckoo spirited her home again to bed.
Ah, Mr. Cuckoo! she exclaimed, you meant to play me a trick, but
you haven't succeeded, you see.
She jumped out of bed and unfastened one of the window-shutters,
then jumped in again to admire the little shoe in comfort. It was even
prettier than she had thought it at the ball. She held it up and looked
at it. It was about the size of the first joint of her little finger.
To think that I should have been dancing with you on last night! she
said to the shoe. And yet the cuckoo says being big or little is all a
matter of fancy. I wonder what he'll think of to amuse me next?
She was still holding up the shoe and admiring it when Dorcas came
with the hot water.
Look, Dorcas, she said.
Bless me, it's one of the shoes off the Chinese dolls in the
saloon, exclaimed the old servant. How ever did you get that, missie?
Your aunts wouldn't be pleased.
It just isn't one of the Chinese dolls' shoes, and if you don't
believe me, you can go and look for yourself, said Griselda. It's my
very own shoe, and it was given me to my own self.
Dorcas looked at her curiously, but said no more, only as she was
going out of the room Griselda heard her saying something about so
very like Miss Sybilla.
I wonder what 'Miss Sybilla' was like? thought Griselda. I
have a good mind to ask the cuckoo. He seems to have known her very
It was not for some days that Griselda had a chance of asking the
cuckoo anything. She saw and heard nothing of himnothing, that is to
say, but his regular appearance to tell the hours as usual.
I suppose, thought Griselda, he thinks the mandarins' ball was
fun enough to last me a good while. It really was very good-natured of
him to take me to it, so I mustn't grumble.
A few days after this poor Griselda caught cold. It was not a very
bad cold, I must confess, but her aunts made rather a fuss about it.
They wanted her to stay in bed, but to this Griselda so much objected
that they did not insist upon it.
It would be so dull, she said piteously. Please let me stay in
the ante-room, for all my things are there; and, then, there's the
Aunt Grizzel smiled at this, and Griselda got her way. But even in
the ante-room it was rather dull. Miss Grizzel and Miss Tabitha were
obliged to go out, to drive all the way to Merrybrow Hall, as Lady
Lavander sent a messenger to say that she had an attack of influenza,
and wished to see her friends at once.
Miss Tabitha began to cryshe was so tender-hearted.
Troubles never come singly, said Miss Grizzel, by way of
No, indeed, they never come singly, said Miss Tabitha, shaking her
head and wiping her eyes.
So off they set; and Griselda, in her arm-chair by the ante-room
fire, with some queer little old-fashioned books of her aunts', which
she had already read more than a dozen times, beside her by way of
amusement, felt that there was one comfort in her troublesshe had
escaped the long weary drive to her godmother's.
But it was very dull. It got duller and duller. Griselda curled
herself up in her chair, and wished she could go to sleep, though
feeling quite sure she couldn't, for she had stayed in bed much later
than usual this morning, and had been obliged to spend the time in
sleeping, for want of anything better to do.
She looked up at the clock.
I don't know even what to wish for, she said to herself. I don't
feel the least inclined to play at anything, and I shouldn't care to go
to the mandarins again. Oh, cuckoo, cuckoo, I am so dull; couldn't you
think of anything to amuse me?
It was not near any o'clock. But after waiting a minute or two, it
seemed to Griselda that she heard the soft sound of coming that
always preceded the cuckoo's appearance. She was right. In another
moment she heard his usual greeting, Cuckoo, cuckoo!
Oh, cuckoo! she exclaimed, I am so glad you have come at last. I
am so dull, and it has nothing to do with lessons this time. It's
that I've got such a bad cold, and my head's aching, and I'm so tired
of reading, all by myself.
What would you like to do? said the cuckoo. You don't want to go
to see the mandarins again?
Oh no; I couldn't dance.
Or the mermaids down under the sea?
Oh, dear, no, said Griselda, with a little shiver, it would be
far too cold. I would just like to stay where I am, if some one would
tell me stories. I'm not even sure that I could listen to stories. What
could you do to amuse me, cuckoo?
Would you like to see some pictures? said the cuckoo. I could
show you pictures without your taking any trouble.
Oh yes, that would be beautiful, cried Griselda. What pictures
will you show me? Oh, I know. I would like to see the place where you
were bornwhere that very, very clever man made you and the clock, I
Your great-great-grandfather, said the cuckoo. Very well. Now,
Griselda, shut your eyes. First of all, I am going to sing.
Griselda shut her eyes, and the cuckoo began his song. It was
something like what he had sung at the mandarins' palace, only even
more beautiful. It was so soft and dreamy, Griselda felt as if she
could have sat there for ever, listening to it.
The first notes were low and murmuring. Again they made Griselda
think of little rippling brooks in summer, and now and then there came
a sort of hum as of insects buzzing in the warm sunshine near. This
humming gradually increased, till at last Griselda was conscious of
nothing moreeverything seemed to be humming, herself too, till
at last she fell asleep.
When she opened her eyes, the ante-room and everything in it, except
the arm-chair on which she was still curled up, had disappearedmelted
away into a misty cloud all round her, which in turn gradually faded,
till before her she saw a scene quite new and strange. It was the first
of the cuckoo's pictures.
An old, quaint room, with a high, carved mantelpiece, and a bright
fire sparkling in the grate. It was not a pretty roomit had more the
look of a workshop of some kind; but it was curious and interesting.
All round, the walls were hung with clocks and strange mechanical toys.
There was a fiddler slowly fiddling, a gentleman and lady gravely
dancing a minuet, a little man drawing up water in a bucket out of a
glass vase in which gold fish were swimming aboutall sorts of queer
figures; and the clocks were even queerer. There was one intended to
represent the sun, moon, and planets, with one face for the sun and
another for the moon, and gold and silver stars slowly circling round
them; there was another clock with a tiny trumpeter perched on a ledge
above the face, who blew a horn for the hours. I cannot tell you half
the strange and wonderful things there were.
Griselda was so interested in looking at all these queer machines,
that she did not for some time observe the occupant of the room. And no
wonder; he was sitting in front of a little table, so perfectly still,
much more still than the un-living figures around him. He was
examining, with a magnifying glass, some small object he held in his
hand, so closely and intently that Griselda, forgetting she was only
looking at a picture, almost held her breath for fear she should
disturb him. He was a very old man, his coat was worn and threadbare in
several places, looking as if he spent a great part of his life in one
position. Yet he did not look poor, and his face, when at last
he lifted it, was mild and intelligent and very earnest.
While Griselda was watching him closely there came a soft tap at the
door, and a little girl danced into the room. The dearest little girl
you ever saw, and so funnily dressed! Her thick brown hair,
rather lighter than Griselda's, was tied in two long plaits down her
back. She had a short red skirt with silver braid round the bottom, and
a white chemisette with beautiful lace at the throat and wrists, and
over that again a black velvet bodice, also trimmed with silver. And
she had a great many trinkets, necklaces, and bracelets, and ear-rings,
and a sort of little silver coronet; no, it was not like a coronet, it
was a band with a square piece of silver fastened so as to stand up at
each side of her head something like a horse's blinkers, only they were
not placed over her eyes.
She made quite a jingle as she came into the room, and the old man
looked up with a smile of pleasure.
Well, my darling, and are you all ready for your fête? he
said; and though the language in which he spoke was quite strange to
Griselda, she understood his meaning perfectly well.
Yes, dear grandfather; and isn't my dress lovely? said the child.
I should be so happy if only you were coming too, and would get
yourself a beautiful velvet coat like Mynheer van Huyten.
The old man shook his head.
I have no time for such things, my darling, he replied; and
besides, I am too old. I must workwork hard to make money for my pet
when I am gone, that she may not be dependent on the bounty of those
But I won't care for money when you are gone, grandfather, said
the child, her eyes filling with tears. I would rather just go on
living in this little house, and I am sure the neighbours would give me
something to eat, and then I could hear all your clocks ticking, and
think of you. I don't want you to sell all your wonderful things for
money for me, grandfather. They would remind me of you, and money
Not all, Sybilla, not all, said the old man. The best of all, the
chef-d'oeuvre of my life, shall not be sold. It shall be yours, and
you will have in your possession a clock that crowned heads might seek
in vain to purchase.
His dim old eyes brightened, and for a moment he sat erect and
Do you mean the cuckoo clock? said Sybilla, in a low voice.
Yes, my darling, the cuckoo clock, the crowning work of my lifea
clock that shall last long after I, and perhaps thou, my pretty child,
are crumbling into dust; a clock that shall last to tell my
great-grandchildren to many generations that the old Dutch mechanic was
not altogether to be despised.
Sybilla sprang into his arms.
You are not to talk like that, little grandfather, she said. I
shall teach my children and my grandchildren to be so proud of youoh,
so proud!as proud as I am of you, little grandfather.
Gently, my darling, said the old man, as he placed carefully on
the table the delicate piece of mechanism he held in his hand, and
tenderly embraced the child. Kiss me once again, my pet, and then thou
must go; thy little friends will be waiting.
* * * * *
As he said these words the mist slowly gathered again before
Griselda's eyesthe first of the cuckoo's pictures faded from her
* * * * *
When she looked again the scene was changed, but this time it was
not a strange one, though Griselda had gazed at it for some moments
before she recognized it. It was the great saloon, but it looked very
different from what she had ever seen it. Forty years or so make a
difference in rooms as well as in people!
The faded yellow damask hangings were rich and brilliant. There were
bouquets of lovely flowers arranged about the tables; wax lights were
sending out their brightness in every direction, and the room was
filled with ladies and gentlemen in gay attire.
Among them, after a time, Griselda remarked two ladies, no longer
very young, but still handsome and stately, and something whispered to
her that they were her two aunts, Miss Grizzel and Miss Tabitha.
Poor aunts! she said softly to herself; how old they have grown
But she did not long look at them; her attention was attracted by a
much younger ladya mere girl she seemed, but oh, so sweet and pretty!
She was dancing with a gentleman whose eyes looked as if they saw no
one else, and she herself seemed brimming over with youth and
happiness. Her very steps had joy in them.
Well, Griselda, whispered a voice, which she knew was the
cuckoo's; so you don't like to be told you are like your grandmother,
Griselda turned round sharply to look for the speaker, but he was
not to be seen. And when she turned again, the picture of the great
saloon had faded away.
* * * * *
One more picture.
Griselda looked again. She saw before her a country road in full
summer time; the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees
covered with their bright green leaveseverything appeared happy and
joyful. But at last in the distance she saw, slowly approaching, a
group of a few people, all walking together, carrying in their centre
something long and narrow, which, though the black cloth covering it
was almost hidden by the white flowers with which it was thickly
strewn, Griselda knew to be a coffin.
It was a funeral procession, and in the place of chief mourner, with
pale, set face, walked the same young man whom Griselda had last seen
dancing with the girl Sybilla in the great saloon.
The sad group passed slowly out of sight; but as it disappeared
there fell upon the ear the sounds of sweet music, lovelier far than
she had heard beforelovelier than the magic cuckoo's most lovely
songsand somehow, in the music, it seemed to the child's fancy there
were mingled the soft strains of a woman's voice.
It is Sybilla singing, thought Griselda dreamily, and with that
she fell asleep again.
* * * * *
When she woke she was in the arm-chair by the ante-room fire,
everything around her looking just as usual, the cuckoo clock ticking
away calmly and regularly. Had it been a dream only? Griselda could not
make up her mind.
But I don't see that it matters if it was, she said to herself.
If it was a dream, the cuckoo sent it to me all the same, and I thank
you very much indeed, cuckoo, she went on, looking up at the clock.
The last picture was rather sad, but still it was very nice to see it,
and I thank you very much, and I'll never say again that I don't like
to be told I'm like my dear pretty grandmother.
The cuckoo took no notice of what she said, but Griselda did not
mind. She was getting used to his ways.
I expect he hears me quite well, she thought; and even if he
doesn't, it's only civil to try to thank him.
She sat still contentedly enough, thinking over what she had seen,
and trying to make more pictures for herself in the fire. Then there
came faintly to her ears the sound of carriage wheels, opening and
shutting of doors, a little bustle of arrival.
My aunts must have come back, thought Griselda; and so it was. In
a few minutes Miss Grizzel, closely followed by Miss Tabitha, appeared
at the ante-room door.
Well, my love, said Miss Grizzel anxiously, and how are you? Has
the time seemed very long while we were away?
Oh no, thank you, Aunt Grizzel, replied Griselda, not at all.
I've been quite happy, and my cold's ever so much better, and my
headache's quite gone.
Come, that is good news, said Miss Grizzel. Not that I'm exactly
surprised, she continued, turning to Miss Tabitha, for there
really is nothing like tansy tea for a feverish cold.
Nothing, agreed Miss Tabitha; there really is nothing like it.
Aunt Grizzel, said Griselda, after a few moments' silence, was my
grandmother quite young when she died?
Yes, my love, very young, replied Miss Grizzel with a change in
And was her husband very sorry? pursued Griselda.
Heart-broken, said Miss Grizzel. He did not live long after, and
then you know, my dear, your father was sent to us to take care of. And
now he has sent youthe third generation of young creatures
confided to our care.
Yes, said Griselda. My grandmother died in the summer, when all
the flowers were out; and she was buried in a pretty country place,
Yes, said Miss Grizzel, looking rather bewildered.
And when she was a little girl she lived with her grandfather, the
old Dutch mechanic, continued Griselda, unconsciously using the very
words she had heard in her vision. He was a nice old man; and how
clever of him to have made the cuckoo clock, and such lots of other
pretty, wonderful things. I don't wonder little Sybilla loved him; he
was so good to her. But, oh, Aunt Grizzel, how pretty she was
when she was a young lady! That time that she danced with my
grandfather in the great saloon. And how very nice you and Aunt Tabitha
looked then, too.
Miss Grizzel held her very breath in astonishment; and no doubt if
Miss Tabitha had known she was doing so, she would have held hers too.
But Griselda lay still, gazing at the fire, quite unconscious of her
Your papa told you all these old stories, I suppose, my dear, said
Miss Grizzel at last.
Oh no, said Griselda dreamily. Papa never told me anything like
that. Dorcas told me a very little, I think; at least, she made me want
to know, and I asked the cuckoo, and then, you see, he showed me it
all. It was so pretty.
Miss Grizzel glanced at her sister.
Tabitha, my dear, she said in a low voice, do you hear?
And Miss Tabitha, who really was not very deaf when she set herself
to hear, nodded in awe-struck silence.
Tabitha, continued Miss Grizzel in the same tone, it is
wonderful! Ah, yes, how true it is, Tabitha, that 'there are more
things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy' (for
Miss Grizzel was a well-read old lady, you see); and from the very
first, Tabitha, we always had a feeling that the child was strangely
Strangely like Sybilla, echoed Miss Tabitha.
May she grow up as good, if not quite as beautifulthat we
could scarcely expect; and may she be longer spared to those that love
her, added Miss Grizzel, bending over Griselda, while two or three
tears slowly trickled down her aged cheeks. See, Tabitha, the dear
child is fast asleep. How sweet she looks! I trust by to-morrow morning
she will be quite herself again; her cold is so much better.
VI. RUBBED THE WRONG WAY
For now and then there comes a day
When everything goes wrong.
Griselda's cold was much better by to-morrow morning. In
fact, I might almost say it was quite well.
But Griselda herself did not feel quite well, and saying this
reminds me that it is hardly sense to speak of a cold being
better or wellfor a cold's being well means that it is not there at
all, out of existence, in short, and if a thing is out of existence how
can we say anything about it? Children, I feel quite in a hobbleI
cannot get my mind straight about itplease think it over and give me
your opinion. In the meantime, I will go on about Griselda.
She felt just a little illa sort of feeling that sometimes is
rather nice, sometimes very extremely much the reverse! She felt in
the humour for being petted, and having beef-tea, and jelly, and sponge
cake with her tea, and for a day or two this was all very well. She
was petted, and she had lots of beef-tea, and jelly, and grapes,
and sponge cakes, and everything nice, for her aunts, as you must have
seen by this time, were really very, very kind to her in every way in
which they understood how to be so.
But after a few days of the continued petting, and the beef-tea and
the jelly and all the rest of it, it occurred to Miss Grizzel, who had
a good large bump of common sense, that it might be possible to
overdo this sort of thing.
Tabitha, she said to her sister, when they were sitting together
in the evening after Griselda had gone to bed, Tabitha, my dear, I
think the child is quite well again now. It seems to me it would be
well to send a note to good Mr. Kneebreeches, to say that she will be
able to resume her studies the day after to-morrow.
The day after to-morrow, repeated Miss Tabitha. The day after
to-morrowto say that she will be able to resume her studies the day
after to-morrowoh yes, certainly. It would be very well to send a
note to good Mr. Kneebreeches, my dear Grizzel.
I thought you would agree with me, said Miss Grizzel, with a sigh
of relief (as if poor Miss Tabitha during all the last half-century had
ever ventured to do anything else), getting up to fetch her writing
materials as she spoke. It is such a satisfaction to consult together
about what we do. I was only a little afraid of being hard upon the
child, but as you agree with me, I have no longer any misgiving.
Any misgiving, oh dear, no! said Miss Tabitha. You have no reason
for any misgiving, I am sure, my dear Grizzel.
So the note was written and despatched, and the next morning when,
about twelve o'clock, Griselda made her appearance in the little
drawing-room where her aunts usually sat, looking, it must be
confessed, very plump and rosy for an invalid, Miss Grizzel broached
I have written to request Mr. Kneebreeches to resume his
instructions to-morrow, she said quietly. I think you are quite well
again now, so Dorcas must wake you at your usual hour.
Griselda had been settling herself comfortably on a corner of the
sofa. She had got a nice book to read, which her father, hearing of her
illness, had sent her by post, and she was looking forward to the
tempting plateful of jelly which Dorcas had brought her for luncheon
every day since she had been ill. Altogether, she was feeling very
lazy-easy and contented. Her aunt's announcement felt like a sudden
downpour of cold water, or rush of east wind. She sat straight up in
her sofa, and exclaimed in a tone of great annoyance
Oh, Aunt Grizzel!
Well, my dear? said Miss Grizzel, placidly.
I wish you wouldn't make me begin lessons again just yet. I
know they'll make my head ache again, and Mr. Kneebreeches will be
so cross. I know he will, and he is so horrid when he is cross.
Hush! said Miss Grizzel, holding up her hand in a way that
reminded Griselda of the cuckoo's favourite obeying orders. Just
then, too, in the distance the ante-room clock struck twelve. Cuckoo!
cuckoo! cuckoo! on it went. Griselda could have stamped with
irritation, but somehow, in spite of herself, she felt compelled
to say nothing. She muttered some not very pretty words, coiled herself
round on the sofa, opened her book, and began to read.
But it was not as interesting as she had expected. She had not read
many pages before she began to yawn, and she was delighted to be
interrupted by Dorcas and the jelly.
But the jelly was not as nice as she had expected, either. She
tasted it, and thought it was too sweet; and when she tasted it again,
it seemed too strong of cinnamon; and the third taste seemed too strong
of everything. She laid down her spoon, and looked about her
What is the matter, my dear? said Miss Grizzel. Is the jelly not
to your liking?
I don't know, said Griselda shortly. She ate a few spoonfuls, and
then took up her book again. Miss Grizzel said nothing more, but to
herself she thought that Mr. Kneebreeches had not been recalled any too
All day long it was much the same. Nothing seemed to come right to
Griselda. It was a dull, cold day, what is called a black frost; not
a bright, clear, pretty, cold day, but the sort of frost that
really makes the world seem deadmakes it almost impossible to believe
that there will ever be warmth and sound and growing-ness again.
Late in the afternoon Griselda crept up to the ante-room, and sat
down by the window. Outside it was nearly dark, and inside it was not
much more cheerfulfor the fire was nearly out, and no lamps were
lighted; only the cuckoo clock went on tick-ticking briskly as usual.
I hate winter, said Griselda, pressing her cold little face
against the colder window-pane, I hate winter, and I hate lessons. I
would give up being a person in a minute if I might be
aawhat would I best like to be? Oh yes, I knowa butterfly.
Butterflies never see winter, and they certainly never have any
lessons or any kind of work to do. I hate must-ing to do
Cuckoo, rang out suddenly above her head. It was only four o'clock
striking, and as soon as he had told it the cuckoo was back behind his
doors again in an instant, just as usual. There was nothing for
Griselda to feel offended at, but somehow she got quite angry.
I don't care what you think, cuckoo! she exclaimed defiantly. I
know you came out on purpose just now, but I don't care. I do
hate winter, and I do hate lessons, and I do think it
would be nicer to be a butterfly than a little girl.
In her secret heart I fancy she was half in hopes that the cuckoo
would come out again, and talk things over with her. Even if he were to
scold her, she felt that it would be better than sitting there alone
with nobody to speak to, which was very dull work indeed. At the bottom
of her conscience there lurked the knowledge that what she should
be doing was to be looking over her last lessons with Mr. Kneebreeches,
and refreshing her memory for the next day; but, alas! knowing one's
duty is by no means the same thing as doing it, and Griselda sat on by
the window doing nothing but grumble and work herself up into a belief
that she was one of the most-to-be-pitied little girls in all the
world. So that by the time Dorcas came to call her to tea, I doubt if
she had a single pleasant thought or feeling left in her heart.
Things grew no better after tea, and before long Griselda asked if
she might go to bed. She was so tired, she said; and she certainly
looked so, for ill-humour and idleness are excellent tirers, and will
soon take the roses out of a child's cheeks, and the brightness out of
her eyes. She held up her face to be kissed by her aunts in a meekly
reproachful way, which made the old ladies feel quite uncomfortable.
I am by no means sure that I have done right in recalling Mr.
Kneebreeches so soon, Sister Tabitha, remarked Miss Grizzel, uneasily,
when Griselda had left the room. But Miss Tabitha was busy counting her
stitches, and did not give full attention to Miss Grizzel's
observation, so she just repeated placidly, Oh yes, Sister Grizzel,
you may be sure you have done right in recalling Mr. Kneebreeches.
I am glad you think so, said Miss Grizzel, with again a little
sigh of relief. I was only distressed to see the child looking so
white and tired.
Upstairs Griselda was hurry-scurrying into bed. There was a lovely
fire in her roomfancy that! Was she not a poor neglected little
creature? But even this did not please her. She was too cross to be
pleased with anything; too cross to wash her face and hands, or let
Dorcas brush her hair out nicely as usual; too cross, alas, to say her
prayers! She just huddled into bed, huddling up her mind in an untidy
hurry and confusion, just as she left her clothes in an untidy heap on
the floor. She would not look into herself, was the truth of it; she
shrank from doing so because she knew things had been going on
in that silly little heart of hers in a most unsatisfactory way all
day, and she wanted to go to sleep and forget all about it.
She did go to sleep, very quickly too. No doubt she really was
tired; tired with crossness and doing nothing, and she slept very
soundly. When she woke up she felt so refreshed and rested that she
fancied it must be morning. It was dark, of course, but that was to be
expected in mid-winter, especially as the shutters were closed.
I wonder, thought Griselda, I wonder if it really is
morning. I should like to get up earlyI went so early to bed. I think
I'll just jump out of bed and open a chink of the shutters. I'll see at
once if it's nearly morning, by the look of the sky.
She was up in a minute, feeling her way across the room to the
window, and without much difficulty she found the hook of the shutters,
unfastened it, and threw one side open. Ah no, there was no sign of
morning to be seen. There was moonlight, but nothing else, and not so
very much of that, for the clouds were hurrying across the orbèd
maiden's face at such a rate, one after the other, that the light was
more like a number of pale flashes than the steady, cold shining of
most frosty moonlight nights. There was going to be a change of
weather, and the cloud armies were collecting together from all
quarters; that was the real explanation of the hurrying and skurrying
Griselda saw overhead, but this, of course, she did not understand. She
only saw that it looked wild and stormy, and she shivered a little,
partly with cold, partly with a half-frightened feeling that she could
not have explained.
I had better go back to bed, she said to herself; but I am not a
She was just drawing-to the shutter again, when something caught her
eye, and she stopped short in surprise. A little bird was outside on
the window-silla tiny bird crouching in close to the cold glass.
Griselda's kind heart was touched in an instant. Cold as she was, she
pushed back the shutter again, and drawing a chair forward to the
window, managed to unfasten itit was not a very heavy oneand to
open it wide enough to slip her hand gently along to the bird. It did
not start or move.
Can it be dead? thought Griselda anxiously.
But no, it was not dead. It let her put her hand round it and draw
it in, and to her delight she felt that it was soft and warm, and it
even gave a gentle peck on her thumb.
Poor little bird, how cold you must be, she said kindly. But, to
her amazement, no sooner was the bird safely inside the room, than it
managed cleverly to escape from her hand. It fluttered quietly up on to
her shoulder, and sang out in a soft but cheery tone, Cuckoo,
cuckoocold, did you say, Griselda? Not so very, thank you.
Griselda stept back from the window.
It's you, is it? she said rather surlily, her tone seeming
to infer that she had taken a great deal of trouble for nothing.
Of course it is, and why shouldn't it be? You're not generally so
sorry to see me. What's the matter?
Nothing's the matter, replied Griselda, feeling a little ashamed
of her want of civility; only, you see, if I had known it was you
You wouldn't have clambered up and hurt your poor fingers in
opening the window if you had known it was meis that it, eh? said
Somehow, when the cuckoo said eh? like that, Griselda was obliged
to tell just what she was thinking.
No, I wouldn't have needed to open the window, she said.
You can get in or out whenever you like; you're not like a real
bird. Of course, you were just tricking me, sitting out there and
pretending to be a starved robin.
There was a little indignation in her voice, and she gave her head a
toss, which nearly upset the cuckoo.
Dear me, dear me! exclaimed the cuckoo. You have a great deal to
complain of, Griselda. Your time and strength must be very valuable for
you to regret so much having wasted a little of them on me.
Griselda felt her face grow red. What did he mean? Did he know how
yesterday had been spent? She said nothing, but she drooped her head,
and one or two tears came slowly creeping up to her eyes.
Child! said the cuckoo, suddenly changing his tone, you are very
foolish. Is a kind thought or action ever wasted? Can your eyes
see what such good seeds grow into? They have wings,
Griseldakindnesses have wings and roots, remember thatwings that
never droop, and roots that never die. What do you think I came and sat
outside your window for?
Cuckoo, said Griselda humbly, I am very sorry.
Very well, said the cuckoo, we'll leave it for the present. I
have something else to see about. Are you cold, Griselda?
Very, she replied. I would very much like to go back to
bed, cuckoo, if you please; and there's plenty of room for you too, if
you'd like to come in and get warm.
There are other ways of getting warm besides going to bed, said
the cuckoo. A nice brisk walk, for instance. I was going to ask you to
come out into the garden with me.
Griselda almost screamed.
Out into the garden! Oh, cuckoo! she exclaimed, how can
you think of such a thing? Such a freezing cold night. Oh no, indeed,
cuckoo, I couldn't possibly.
Very well, Griselda, said the cuckoo; if you haven't yet learnt
to trust me, there's no more to be said. Good-night.
He flapped his wings, cried out Cuckoo once only, flew across the
room, and almost before Griselda understood what he was doing, had
She hurried after him, stumbling against the furniture in her haste,
and by the uncertain light. The door was not open, but the cuckoo had
got through itby the keyhole, I dare say, thought Griselda; he can
'scrooge' himself up any wayfor a faint Cuckoo was to be heard on
its other side. In a moment Griselda had opened it, and was speeding
down the long passage in the dark, guided only by the voice from time
to time heard before her, Cuckoo, cuckoo.
She forgot all about the cold, or rather, she did not feel it,
though the floor was of uncarpeted old oak, whose hard, polished
surface would have usually felt like ice to a child's soft, bare feet.
It was a very long passage, and to-night, somehow, it seemed longer
than ever. In fact, Griselda could have fancied she had been running
along it for half a mile or more, when at last she was brought to a
standstill by finding she could go no further. Where was she? She could
not imagine! It must be a part of the house she had never explored in
the daytime, she decided. In front of her was a little stair running
downwards, and ending in a doorway. All this Griselda could see by a
bright light that streamed in by the keyhole and through the chinks
round the doora light so brilliant that the little girl blinked her
eyes, and for a moment felt quite dazzled and confused.
It came so suddenly, she said to herself; some one must have
lighted a lamp in there all at once. But it can't be a lamp, it's too
bright for a lamp. It's more like the sun; but how ever could the sun
be shining in a room in the middle of the night? What shall I do? Shall
I open the door and peep in?
Cuckoo, cuckoo, came the answer, soft but clear, from the other
Can it be a trick of the cuckoo's to get me out into the garden?
thought Griselda; and for the first time since she had run out of her
room a shiver of cold made her teeth chatter and her skin feel creepy.
Cuckoo, cuckoo, sounded again, nearer this time, it seemed to
He's waiting for me. I will trust him, she said resolutely.
He has always been good and kind, and it's horrid of me to think he's
going to trick me.
She ran down the little stair, she seized the handle of the door. It
turned easily; the door openedopened, and closed again noiselessly
behind her, and what do you think she saw?
Shut your eyes for a minute, Griselda, said the cuckoo's voice
beside her; the light will dazzle you at first. Shut them, and I will
brush them with a little daisy dew, to strengthen them.
Griselda did as she was told. She felt the tip of the cuckoo's
softest feather pass gently two or three times over her eyelids, and a
delicious scent seemed immediately to float before her.
I didn't know daisies had any scent, she remarked.
Perhaps you didn't. You forget, Griselda, that you have a
Oh, please don't, cuckoo. Please, please don't, dear
cuckoo, she exclaimed, dancing about with her hands clasped in
entreaty, but her eyes still firmly closed. Don't say that, and I'll
promise to believe whatever you tell me. And how soon may I open my
eyes, please, cuckoo?
Turn round slowly, three times. That will give the dew time to take
effect, said the cuckoo. Here goesonetwothree. There, now.
Griselda opened her eyes.
I'd be a butterfly.
Griselda opened her eyes.
What did she see?
The loveliest, loveliest garden that ever or never a little girl's
eyes saw. As for describing it, I cannot. I must leave a good deal to
your fancy. It was just a delicious garden.
There was a charming mixture of all that is needed to make a garden
perfectgrass, velvety lawn rather; water, for a little brook ran
tinkling in and out, playing bopeep among the bushes; trees, of course,
and flowers, of course, flowers of every shade and shape. But all these
beautiful things Griselda did not at first give as much attention to as
they deserved; her eyes were so occupied with a quite unusual sight
that met them.
This was butterflies! Not that butterflies are so very uncommon; but
butterflies, as Griselda saw them, I am quite sure, children, none of
you ever saw, or are likely to see. There were such enormous numbers of
them, and the variety of their colours and sizes was so great. They
were fluttering about everywhere; the garden seemed actually alive with
Griselda stood for a moment in silent delight, feasting her eyes on
the lovely things before her, enjoying the delicious sunshine which
kissed her poor little bare feet, and seemed to wrap her all up in its
warm embrace. Then she turned to her little friend.
Cuckoo, she said, I thank you so much. This is
fairyland, at last!
The cuckoo smiled, I was going to say, but that would be a figure of
speech only, would it not? He shook his head gently.
No, Griselda, he said kindly; this is only butterfly-land.
Butterfly-land! repeated Griselda, with a little
disappointment in her tone.
Well, said the cuckoo, it's where you were wishing to be
yesterday, isn't it?
Griselda did not particularly like these allusions to yesterday.
She thought it would be as well to change the subject.
It's a beautiful place, whatever it is, she said, and I'm sure,
cuckoo, I'm very much obliged to you for bringing me here. Now
may I run about and look at everything? How delicious it is to feel the
warm sunshine again! I didn't know how cold I was. Look, cuckoo, my
toes and fingers are quite blue; they're only just beginning to come
right again. I suppose the sun always shines here. How nice it must be
to be a butterfly; don't you think so, cuckoo? Nothing to do but fly
She stopped at last, quite out of breath.
Griselda, said the cuckoo, if you want me to answer your
questions, you must ask them one at a time. You may run about and look
at everything if you like, but you had better not be in such a hurry.
You will make a great many mistakes if you areyou have made some
How? said Griselda.
Have the butterflies nothing to do but fly about? Watch
They do seem to be doing something, she said, at last, but I
can't think what. They seem to be nibbling at the flowers, and then
flying away something like bees gathering honey. Butterflies
don't gather honey, cuckoo?
No, said the cuckoo. They are filling their paint-boxes.
What do you mean? said Griselda.
Come and see, said the cuckoo.
He flew quietly along in front of her, leading the way through the
prettiest paths in all the pretty garden. The paths were arranged in
different colours, as it were; that is to say, the flowers growing
along their sides were not all mixty-maxty, but one shade after
another in regular orderfrom the palest blush pink to the very
deepest damask crimson; then, again, from the soft greenish blue of the
small grass forget-me-not to the rich warm tinge of the brilliant
cornflower. Every tint was there; shades, to which, though not
exactly strange to her, Griselda could yet have given no name, for the
daisy dew, you see, had sharpened her eyes to observe delicate
variations of colour, as she had never done before.
How beautifully the flowers are planned, she said to the cuckoo.
Is it just to look pretty, or why?
It saves time, replied the cuckoo. The fetch-and-carry
butterflies know exactly where to go to for the tint the
Who are the fetch-and-carry butterflies, and who are the
world-flower-painters? asked Griselda.
Wait a bit and you'll see, and use your eyes, answered the cuckoo.
It'll do your tongue no harm to have a rest now and then.
Griselda thought it as well to take his advice, though not
particularly relishing the manner in which it was given. She did use
her eyes, and as she and the cuckoo made their way along the flower
alleys, she saw that the butterflies were never idle. They came
regularly, in little parties of twos and threes, and nibbled away, as
she called it, at flowers of the same colour but different shades, till
they had got what they wanted. Then off flew butterfly No. 1 with
perhaps the palest tint of maize, or yellow, or lavender, whichever he
was in quest of, followed by No. 2 with the next deeper shade of the
same, and No. 3 bringing up the rear.
Griselda gave a little sigh.
What's the matter? said the cuckoo.
They work very hard, she replied, in a melancholy tone.
It's a busy time of year, observed the cuckoo, drily.
After a while they came to what seemed to be a sort of centre to the
garden. It was a huge glass house, with numberless doors, in and out of
which butterflies were incessantly flyingreminding Griselda again of
bees and a beehive. But she made no remark till the cuckoo spoke again.
Come in, he said.
Griselda had to stoop a good deal, but she did manage to get in
without knocking her head or doing any damage. Inside was just a mass
of butterflies. A confused mass it seemed at first, but after a while
she saw that it was the very reverse of confused. The butterflies were
all settled in rows on long, narrow, white tables, and before each was
a tiny object about the size of a flattened-out pin's head, which he
was most carefully painting with one of his tentacles, which, from time
to time, he moistened by rubbing it on the head of a butterfly waiting
patiently behind him. Behind this butterfly again stood another, who
after a while took his place, while the first attendant flew away.
To fill his paint-box again, remarked the cuckoo, who seemed to
read Griselda's thoughts.
But what are they painting, cuckoo? she inquired eagerly.
All the flowers in the world, replied the cuckoo. Autumn, winter,
and spring, they're hard at work. It's only just for the three months
of summer that the butterflies have any holiday, and then a few stray
ones now and then wander up to the world, and people talk about 'idle
butterflies'! And even then it isn't true that they are idle. They go
up to take a look at the flowers, to see how their work has turned out,
and many a damaged petal they repair, or touch up a faded tint, though
no one ever knows it.
I know it now, said Griselda. I will never talk about idle
butterflies againnever. But, cuckoo, do they paint all the flowers
here, too? What a fearful lot they must have to do!
No, said the cuckoo; the flowers down here are fairy flowers.
They never fade or die, they are always just as you see them. But the
colours of your flowers are all taken from them, as you have seen. Of
course they don't look the same up there, he went on, with a slight
contemptuous shrug of his cuckoo shoulders; the coarse air and the
ugly things about must take the bloom off. The wild flowers do the
best, to my thinking; people don't meddle with them in their stupid,
But how do they get the flowers sent up to the world, cuckoo?
They're packed up, of course, and taken up at night when all of you
are asleep, said the cuckoo. They're painted on elastic stuff, you
see, which fits itself as the plant grows. Why, if your eyes were as
they are usually, Griselda, you couldn't even see the petals the
butterflies are painting now.
And the packing up, said Griselda; do the butterflies do that
No, said the cuckoo, the fairies look after that.
How wonderful! exclaimed Griselda. But before the cuckoo had time
to say more a sudden tumult filled the air. It was butterfly
Are you hungry, Griselda? said the cuckoo.
Not so very, replied Griselda.
It's just as well perhaps that you're not, he remarked, for I
don't know that you'd be much the better for dinner here.
Why not? inquired Griselda curiously. What do they have for
dinner? Honey? I like that very well, spread on the top of
bread-and-butter, of courseI don't think I should care to eat it
You won't get any honey, the cuckoo was beginning; but he was
interrupted. Two handsome butterflies flew into the great glass hall,
and making straight for the cuckoo, alighted on his shoulders. They
fluttered about him for a minute or two, evidently rather excited about
something, then flew away again, as suddenly as they had appeared.
Those were royal messengers, said the cuckoo, turning to Griselda.
They have come with a message from the king and queen to invite us to
a banquet which is to be held in honour of your visit.
What fun! cried Griselda. Do let's go at once, cuckoo. But, oh
dear me, she went on, with a melancholy change of tone, I was
forgetting, cuckoo. I can't go to the banquet. I have nothing on but my
night-gown. I never thought of it before, for I'm not a bit cold.
Never mind, said the cuckoo, I'll soon have that put to rights.
He flew off, and was back almost immediately, followed by a whole
flock of butterflies. They were of a smaller kind than Griselda had
hitherto seen, and they were of two colours only; half were blue, half
yellow. They flew up to Griselda, who felt for a moment as if she were
really going to be suffocated by them, but only for a moment. There
seemed a great buzz and flutter about her, and then the butterflies set
to work to dress her. And how do you think they dressed her?
With themselves! They arranged themselves all over her in the
cleverest way. One set of blue ones clustered round the hem of her
little night-gown, making a thick ruche, as it were; and then
there came two or three thinner rows of yellow, and then blue again.
Round her waist they made the loveliest belt of mingled blue and
yellow, and all over the upper part of her night-gown, in and out among
the pretty white frills which Dorcas herself goffered, so nicely,
they made themselves into fantastic trimmings of every shape and kind;
bows, rosettesI cannot tell you what they did not imitate.
Perhaps the prettiest ornament of all was the coronet or wreath they
made of themselves for her head, dotting over her curly brown hair too
with butterfly spangles, which quivered like dew-drops as she moved
about. No one would have known Griselda; she looked like a fairy
queen, or princess, at least, for even her little white feet had what
looked like butterfly shoes upon them, though these, you will
understand, were only a sort of make-believe, as, of course, the shoes
Now, said the cuckoo, when at last all was quiet again, and every
blue and every yellow butterfly seemed settled in his place, now,
Griselda, come and look at yourself.
[Illustration: SHE PEERED IN WITH GREAT SATISFACTION]
He led the way to a marble basin, into which fell the waters of one
of the tinkling brooks that were to be found everywhere about the
garden, and bade Griselda look into the water mirror. It danced about
rather; but still she was quite able to see herself. She peered in with
great satisfaction, turning herself round so as to see first over one
shoulder, then over the other.
It is lovely, she said at last. But, cuckoo, I'm just
thinkinghow shall I possibly be able to sit down without crushing
ever so many?
Bless you, you needn't trouble about that, said the cuckoo; the
butterflies are quite able to take care of themselves. You don't
suppose you are the first little girl they have ever made a dress for?
Griselda said no more, but followed the cuckoo, walking rather
gingerly, notwithstanding his assurances that the butterflies could
take care of themselves. At last the cuckoo stopped, in front of a sort
of banked-up terrace, in the centre of which grew a strange-looking
plant with large, smooth, spreading-out leaves, and on the two topmost
leaves, their splendid wings glittering in the sunshine, sat two
magnificent butterflies. They were many times larger than any Griselda
had yet seen; in fact, the cuckoo himself looked rather small beside
them, and they were so beautiful that Griselda felt quite
over-awed. You could not have said what colour they were, for at the
faintest movement they seemed to change into new colours, each more
exquisite than the last. Perhaps I could best give you an idea of them
by saying that they were like living rainbows.
Are those the king and queen? asked Griselda in a whisper.
Yes, said the cuckoo. Do you admire them?
I should rather think I did, said Griselda. But, cuckoo, do they
never do anything but lie there in the sunshine?
Oh, you silly girl, exclaimed the cuckoo, always jumping at
conclusions. No, indeed, that is not how they manage things in
butterfly-land. The king and queen have worked harder than any other
butterflies. They are chosen every now and then, out of all the others,
as being the most industrious and the cleverest of all the
world-flower-painters, and then they are allowed to rest, and are fed
on the finest essences, so that they grow as splendid as you see. But
even now they are not idle; they superintend all the work that is done,
and choose all the new colours.
Dear me! said Griselda, under her breath, how clever they must
Just then the butterfly king and queen stretched out their
magnificent wings, and rose upwards, soaring proudly into the air.
Are they going away? said Griselda in a disappointed tone.
Oh no, said the cuckoo; they are welcoming you. Hold out your
Griselda held out her hands, and stood gazing up into the sky. In a
minute or two the royal butterflies appeared again, slowly,
majestically circling downwards, till at length they alighted on
Griselda's little hands, the king on the right, the queen on the left,
almost covering her fingers with their great dazzling wings.
You do look nice now, said the cuckoo, hopping back a few
steps and looking up at Griselda approvingly; but it's time for the
feast to begin, as it won't do for us to be late.
The king and queen appeared to understand. They floated away from
Griselda's hands and settled themselves, this time, at one end of a
beautiful little grass plot or lawn, just below the terrace where grew
the large-leaved plant. This was evidently their dining-room, for no
sooner were they in their places than butterflies of every kind and
colour came pouring in, in masses, from all directions. Butterflies
small and butterflies large; butterflies light and butterflies dark;
butterflies blue, pink, crimson, green, gold-colourevery
colour, and far, far more colours than you could possibly imagine.
They all settled down, round the sides of the grassy dining-table,
and in another minute a number of small white butterflies appeared,
carrying among them flower petals carefully rolled up, each containing
a drop of liquid. One of these was presented to the king, and then one
to the queen, who each sniffed at their petal for an instant, and then
passed it on to the butterfly next them, whereupon fresh petals were
handed to them, which they again passed on.
What are they doing, cuckoo? said Griselda; that's not eating.
It's their kind of eating, he replied. They don't require any
other kind of food than a sniff of perfume; and as there are perfumes
extracted from every flower in butterfly-land, and there are far more
flowers than you could count between now and Christmas, you must allow
there is plenty of variety of dishes.
Um-m, said Griselda; I suppose there is. But all the same,
cuckoo, it's a very good thing I'm not hungry, isn't it? May I pour the
scent on my pocket-handkerchief when it comes round to me? I have my
handkerchief here, you see. Isn't it nice that I brought it? It was
under my pillow, and I wrapped it round my hand to open the shutter,
for the hook scratched it once.
You may pour one drop on your handkerchief, said the cuckoo, but
not more. I shouldn't like the butterflies to think you greedy.
But Griselda grew very tired of the scent feast long before all the
petals had been passed round. The perfumes were very nice, certainly,
but there were such quantities of themdouble quantities in honour of
the guest, of course! Griselda screwed up her handkerchief into a tight
little ball, so that the one drop of scent should not escape from it,
and then she kept sniffing at it impatiently, till at last the cuckoo
asked her what was the matter.
I am so tired of the feast, she said. Do let us do something
It is getting rather late, said the cuckoo. But see, Griselda,
they are going to have an air-dance now.
What's that? said Griselda.
Look, and you'll see, he replied.
Flocks and flocks of butterflies were rising a short way into the
air, and there arranging themselves in bands according to their
Come up to the bank, said the cuckoo to Griselda; you'll see them
Griselda climbed up the bank, and as from there she could look down
on the butterfly show, she saw it beautifully. The long strings of
butterflies twisted in and out of each other in the most wonderful way,
like ribbons of every hue plaiting themselves and then in an instant
unplaiting themselves again. Then the king and queen placed themselves
in the centre, and round and round in moving circles twisted and
untwisted the brilliant bands of butterflies.
It's like a kaleidoscope, said Griselda; and now it's like those
twisty-twirly dissolving views that papa took me to see once. It's
just like them. Oh, how pretty! Cuckoo, are they doing it all on
purpose to please me?
A good deal, said the cuckoo. Stand up and clap your hands loud
three times, to show them you're pleased.
Griselda obeyed. Clap number oneall the butterflies rose up into
the air in a cloud; clap number twothey all fluttered and twirled and
buzzed about, as if in the greatest excitement; clap number threethey
all turned in Griselda's direction with a rush.
They're going to kiss you, Griselda, cried the cuckoo.
Griselda felt her breath going. Up above her was the vast feathery
cloud of butterflies, fluttering, rushing down upon her.
Cuckoo, cuckoo, she screamed, they'll suffocate me. Oh, cuckoo!
Shut your eyes, and clap your hands loud, very loud, called out
And just as Griselda clapped her hands, holding her precious
handkerchief between her teeth, she heard him give his usual cry,
Clapwhere were they all?
Griselda opened her eyesgarden, butterflies, cuckoo, all had
disappeared. She was in bed, and Dorcas was knocking at the door with
the hot water.
Miss Grizzel said I was to wake you at your usual time this
morning, missie, she said. I hope you don't feel too tired to get
Tired! I should think not, replied Griselda. I was awake this
morning ages before you, I can tell you, my dear Dorcas. Come here for
a minute, Dorcas, please, she went on. There now, sniff my
handkerchief. What do you think of that?
It's beautiful, said Dorcas. It's out of the big blue chinay
bottle on your auntie's table, isn't it, missie?
Stuff and nonsense, replied Griselda; it's scent of my own,
Dorcas. Aunt Grizzel never had any like it in her life. There now!
Please give me my slippers, I want to get up and look over my lessons
for Mr. Kneebreeches before he comes. Dear me, she added to herself,
as she was putting on her slippers, how pretty my feet did look with
the blue butterfly shoes! It was very good of the cuckoo to take me
there, but I don't think I shall ever wish to be a butterfly again, now
I know how hard they work! But I'd like to do my lessons well to-day. I
fancy it'll please the dear old cuckoo.
VIII. MASTER PHIL
Who comes from the world of flowers?
Daisy and crocus, and sea-blue bell,
And violet shrinking in dewy cell
Sly cells that know the secrets of night,
When earth is bathed in fairy light
Scarlet, and blue, and golden flowers.
And so Mr. Kneebreeches had no reason to complain of his pupil that
And Miss Grizzel congratulated herself more heartily than ever on
her wise management of children.
And Miss Tabitha repeated that Sister Grizzel might indeed
And Griselda became gradually more and more convinced that the only
way as yet discovered of getting through hard tasks is to set to work
and do them; also, that grumbling, as things are at present arranged in
this world, does not always, nor I may say often, do
good; furthermore, that an ill-tempered child is not, on the whole,
likely to be as much loved as a good-tempered one; lastly, that if you
wait long enough, winter will go and spring will come.
For this was the case this year, after all! Spring had only been
sleepy and lazy, and in such a case what could poor old winter do but
fill the vacant post till she came? Why he should be so scolded and
reviled for faithfully doing his best, as he often is, I really don't
know. Not that all the ill words he gets have much effect on himhe
comes again just as usual, whatever we say of or to him. I suppose his
feelings have long ago been frozen up, or surely before this he would
have taken offencewell for us that he has not done so!
But when the spring did come at last this year, it would be
impossible for me to tell you how Griselda enjoyed it. It was like new
life to her as well as to the plants, and flowers, and birds, and
insects. Hitherto, you see, she had been able to see very little of the
outside of her aunt's house; and charming as the inside was, the
outside, I must say, was still charminger. There seemed no end to the
little up-and-down paths and alleys, leading to rustic seats and quaint
arbours; no limits to the little pine-wood, down into which led the
dearest little zig-zaggy path you ever saw, all bordered with
snow-drops and primroses and violets, and later on with periwinkles,
and wood anemones, and those bright, starry, white flowers, whose name
no two people agree about.
This wood-path was the place, I think, which Griselda loved the
best. The bowling-green was certainly very delightful, and so was the
terrace where the famous roses grew; but lovely as the roses were (I am
speaking just now, of course, of later on in the summer, when they were
all in bloom), Griselda could not enjoy them as much as the
wild-flowers, for she was forbidden to gather or touch them, except
with her funny round nose!
You may scent them, my dear, said Miss Grizzel, who was of
opinion that smell was not a pretty word; but I cannot allow anything
And Griselda did scent them, I assure you. She burrowed her whole
rosy face in the big ones; but gently, for she did not want to spoil
them, both for her aunt's sake, and because, too, she had a greater
regard for flowers now that she knew the secret of how they were
painted, and what a great deal of trouble the butterflies take about
But after a while one grows tired of scenting roses; and even the
trying to walk straight across the bowling-green with her eyes shut,
from the arbour at one side to the arbour exactly like it at the other,
grew stupid, though no doubt it would have been capital fun with a
companion to applaud or criticize.
So the wood-path became Griselda's favourite haunt. As the summer
grew on, she began to long more than ever for a companionnot so much
for play, as for some one to play with. She had lessons, of course,
just as many as in the winter; but with the long days, there seemed to
come a quite unaccountable increase of play-time, and Griselda
sometimes found it hang heavy on her hands. She had not seen or heard
anything of the cuckoo either, save, of course, in his official
capacity of time-teller, for a very long time.
I suppose, she thought, he thinks I don't need amusing, now that
the fine days are come and I can play in the garden; and certainly, if
I had any one to play with, the garden would be perfectly
But, failing companions, she did the best she could for herself, and
this was why she loved the path down into the wood so much. There was a
sort of mystery about it; it might have been the path leading to the
cottage of Red-Ridinghood's grandmother, or a path leading to fairyland
itself. There were all kinds of queer, nice, funny noises to be heard
therein one part of it especially, where Griselda made herself a seat
of some moss-grown stones, and where she came so often that she got to
know all the little flowers growing close round about, and even the
particular birds whose nests were hard by.
She used to sit there and fancyfancy that she heard the
wood-elves chattering under their breath, or the little underground
gnomes and kobolds hammering at their fairy forges. And the tinkling of
the brook in the distance sounded like the enchanted bells round the
necks of the fairy kine, who are sent out to pasture sometimes on the
upper world hillsides. For Griselda's head was crammed full, perfectly
full, of fairy lore; and the mandarins' country, and butterfly-land,
were quite as real to her as the every-day world about her.
But all this time she was not forgotten by the cuckoo, as you will
One day she was sitting in her favourite nest, feeling,
notwithstanding the sunshine, and the flowers, and the soft sweet air,
and the pleasant sounds all about, rather dull and lonely. For though
it was only May, it was really quite a hot day, and Griselda had been
all the morning at her lessons, and had tried very hard, and done them
very well, and now she felt as if she deserved some reward. Suddenly in
the distance, she heard a well-known sound, Cuckoo, cuckoo.
Can that be the cuckoo? she said to herself; and in a moment she
felt sure that it must be. For, for some reason that I do not know
enough about the habits of real flesh and blood cuckoos to explain,
that bird was not known in the neighbourhood where Griselda's aunts
lived. Some twenty miles or so further south it was heard regularly,
but all this spring Griselda had never caught the sound of its familiar
note, and she now remembered hearing it never came to these parts.
So, it must be my cuckoo, she said to herself. He must be coming
out to speak to me. How funny! I have never seen him by daylight.
She listened. Yes, again there it was, Cuckoo, cuckoo, as plain as
possible, and nearer than before.
Cuckoo, cried Griselda, do come and talk to me. It's such a long
time since I have seen you, and I have nobody to play with.
But there was no answer. Griselda held her breath to listen, but
there was nothing to be heard.
Unkind cuckoo! she exclaimed. He is tricking me, I do believe;
and to-day too, just when I was so dull and lonely.
The tears came into her eyes, and she was beginning to think herself
very badly used, when suddenly a rustling in the bushes beside her made
her turn round, more than half expecting to see the cuckoo himself. But
it was not he. The rustling went on for a minute or two without
anything making its appearance, for the bushes were pretty thick just
there, and any one scrambling up from the pine-wood below would have
had rather hard work to get through, and indeed for a very big person
such a feat would have been altogether impossible.
It was not a very big person, however, who was causing all the
rustling, and crunching of branches, and general commotion, which now
absorbed Griselda's attention. She sat watching for another minute in
perfect stillness, afraid of startling by the slightest movement the
squirrel or rabbit or creature of some kind which she expected to see.
At lastwas that a squirrel or rabbitthat rosy, round face, with
shaggy, fair hair falling over the eager blue eyes, and a general look
of breathlessness and over-heatedness and determination?
A squirrel or a rabbit! No, indeed, but a very sturdy, very merry,
very ragged little boy.
Where are that cuckoo? Does you know? were the first words
he uttered, as soon as he had fairly shaken himself, though not by any
means all his clothes, free of the bushes (for ever so many pieces of
jacket and knickerbockers, not to speak of one boot and half his hat,
had been left behind on the way), and found breath to say something.
Griselda stared at him for a moment without speaking, she was so
astonished. It was months since she had spoken to a child, almost since
she had seen one, and about children younger than herself she knew very
little at any time, being the baby of the family at home, you see, and
having only big brothers older than herself for play-fellows.
Who are you? she said at last. What's your name, and what do you
My name's Master Phil, and I want that cuckoo, answered the little
boy. He camed up this way. I'm sure he did, for he called me all the
He's not here, said Griselda, shaking her head; and this is my
aunts' garden. No one is allowed to come here but friends of theirs.
You had better go home; and you have torn your clothes so.
This aren't a garden, replied the little fellow undauntedly,
looking round him; this are a wood. There are blue-bells and primroses
here, and that shows it aren't a gardennot anybody's garden, I mean,
with walls round, for nobody to come in.
But it is, said Griselda, getting rather vexed. If it
isn't a garden it's grounds, private grounds, and nobody should
come without leave. This path leads down to the wood, and there's a
door in the wall at the bottom to get into the lane. You may go down
that way, little boy. No one comes scrambling up the way you did.
But I want to find the cuckoo, said the little boy. I do so want
to find the cuckoo.
His voice sounded almost as if he were going to cry, and his pretty,
hot, flushed face puckered up. Griselda's heart smote her; she looked
at him more carefully. He was such a very little boy, after all; she
did not like to be cross to him.
How old are you? she asked.
Five and a bit. I had a birthday after the summer, and if I'm good,
nurse says perhaps I'll have one after next summer too. Do you ever
have birthdays? he went on, peering up at Griselda. Nurse says she
used to when she was young, but she never has any now.
Have you a nurse? asked Griselda, rather surprised; for, to
tell the truth, from Master Phil's appearance, she had not felt at
all sure what sort of little boy he was, or rather what sort of
people he belonged to.
Of course I have a nurse, and a mother too, said the little boy,
opening wide his eyes in surprise at the question. Haven't you?
Perhaps you're too big, though. People leave off having nurses and
mothers when they're big, don't they? Just like birthdays. But I
won't. I won't never leave off having a mother, any way. I don't care
so much about nurse and birthdays, not kite so much. Did you
care when you had to leave off, when you got too big?
I hadn't to leave off because I got big, said Griselda sadly. I
left off when I was much littler than you, she went on, unconsciously
speaking as Phil would best understand her. My mother died.
I'm werry sorry, said Phil; and the way in which he said it quite
overcame Griselda's unfriendliness. But perhaps you've a nice nurse.
My nurse is rather nice; but she will 'cold me to-day, won't
she? he added, laughing, pointing to the terrible rents in his
garments. These are my very oldestest things; that's a good thing,
isn't it? Nurse says I don't look like Master Phil in these, but when I
have on my blue welpet, then I look like Master Phil. I shall have my
blue welpet when mother comes.
Is your mother away? said Griselda.
Oh yes, she's been away a long time; so nurse came here to take
care of me at the farm-house, you know. Mother was ill, but she's
better now, and some day she'll come too.
Do you like being at the farm-house? Have you anybody to play
with? said Griselda.
Phil shook his curly head. I never have anybody to play with, he
said. I'd like to play with you if you're not too big. And do you
think you could help me to find the cuckoo? he added insinuatingly.
What do you know about the cuckoo? said Griselda.
[Illustration: BUT I MAY SEE YOU AGAIN, SAID PHIL]
He called me, said Phil, he called me lots of times; and to-day
nurse was busy, so I thought I'd come. And do you know, he added
mysteriously, I do believe the cuckoo's a fairy, and when I find him
I'm going to ask him to show me the way to fairyland.
He says we must all find the way ourselves, said Griselda, quite
forgetting to whom she was speaking.
Does he? cried Phil, in great excitement. Do you know him,
then? and have you asked him? Oh, do tell me.
Griselda recollected herself. You couldn't understand, she said.
Some day perhaps I'll tell youI mean if ever I see you again.
But I may see you again, said Phil, settling himself down
comfortably beside Griselda on her mossy stone. You'll let me come,
won't you? I like to talk about fairies, and nurse doesn't understand.
And if the cuckoo knows you, perhaps that's why he called me to come to
play with you.
How did he call you? asked Griselda.
First, said Phil gravely, it was in the night. I was asleep, and
I had been wishing I had somebody to play with, and then I d'eamed of
the cuckoosuch a nice d'eam. And when I woke up I heard him calling
me, and I wasn't d'eaming then. And then when I was in the field he
called me, but I couldn't find him, and nurse said 'Nonsense.'
And to-day he called me again, so I camed up through the bushes. And
mayn't I come again? Perhaps if we both tried together we could find
the way to fairyland. Do you think we could?
I don't know, said Griselda, dreamily. There's a great deal to
learn first, the cuckoo says.
Have you learnt a great deal? (he called it a gate deal") asked
Phil, looking up at Griselda with increased respect. I don't
know scarcely nothing. Mother was ill such a long time before she went
away, but I know she wanted me to learn to read books. But nurse is too
old to teach me.
Shall I teach you? said Griselda. I can bring some of my old
books and teach you here after I have done my own lessons.
And then mother would be surprised when she comes back,
said Master Phil, clapping his hands. Oh, do. And when I've
learnt to read a great deal, do you think the cuckoo would show us the
way to fairyland?
I don't think it was that sort of learning he meant, said
Griselda. But I dare say that would help. I think, she went
on, lowering her voice a little, and looking down gravely into Phil's
earnest eyes, I think he means mostly learning to be very
goodvery, very good, you know.
Gooder than you? said Phil.
Oh dear, yes; lots and lots gooder than me, replied Griselda.
I think you're very good, observed Phil, in a parenthesis.
Then he went on with his cross-questioning.
Gooder than mother?
I don't know your mother, so how can I tell how good she is? said
I can tell you, said Phil, importantly. She is just as
good asas good asas good as good. That's what she is.
You mean she couldn't be better, said Griselda, smiling.
Yes, that'll do, if you like. Would that be good enough for us to
be, do you think?
We must ask the cuckoo, said Griselda. But I'm sure it would be a
good thing for you to learn to read. You must ask your nurse to let you
come here every afternoon that it's fine, and I'll ask my aunt.
I needn't ask nurse, said Phil composedly; she'll never know
where I am, and I needn't tell her. She doesn't care what I do, except
tearing my clothes; and when she scolds me, I don't care.
That isn't good, Phil, said Griselda gravely. You'll never
be as good as good if you speak like that.
What should I say, then? Tell me, said the little boy
You should ask nurse to let you come to play with me, and tell her
I'm much bigger than you, and I won't let you tear your clothes. And
you should tell her you're very sorry you've torn them to-day.
Very well, said Phil, I'll say that. But, oh see! he exclaimed,
darting off, there's a field mouse! If only I could catch him!
Of course he couldn't catch him, nor could Griselda either; very
ready, though, she was to do her best. But it was great fun all the
same, and the children laughed heartily and enjoyed themselves
tremendously. And when they were tired they sat down again and gathered
flowers for nosegays, and Griselda was surprised to find how clever
Phil was about it. He was much quicker than she at spying out the
prettiest blossoms, however hidden behind tree, or stone, or shrub. And
he told her of all the best places for flowers near by, and where grew
the largest primroses and the sweetest violets, in a way that
You're such a little boy, she said; how do you know so much about
I've had no one else to play with, he said innocently. And then,
you know, the fairies are so fond of them.
When Griselda thought it was time to go home, she led little Phil
down the wood-path, and through the door in the wall opening on to the
Now you can find your way home without scrambling through any more
bushes, can't you, Master Phil? she said.
Yes, thank you, and I'll come again to that place to-morrow
afternoon, shall I? asked Phil. I'll know whenafter I've had my
dinner and raced three times round the big field, then it'll be time.
That's how it was to-day.
I should think it would do if you walked three timesor
twice if you likeround the field. It isn't a good thing to race just
when you've had your dinner, observed Griselda sagely. And you
mustn't try to come if it isn't fine, for my aunts won't let me go out
if it rains even the tiniest bit. And of course you must ask your
Very well, said little Phil as he trotted off. I'll try to
remember all those things. I'm so glad you'll play with me again; and
if you see the cuckoo, please thank him.
IX. UP AND DOWN THE CHIMNEY
Helper. Well, but if it was all dream, it would be the
if it was all real, would it not?
Keeper. Yes, I see. I mean, Sir, I do not see.
Not having just had her dinner, and feeling very much
inclined for her tea, Griselda ran home at a great rate.
She felt, too, in such good spirits; it had been so delightful to
have a companion in her play.
What a good thing it was I didn't make Phil run away before I found
out what a nice little boy he was, she said to herself. I must look
out my old reading books to-night. I shall so like teaching him, poor
little boy, and the cuckoo will be pleased at my doing something
useful, I'm sure.
Tea was quite ready, in fact waiting for her, when she came in. This
was a meal she always had by herself, brought up on a tray to Dorcas's
little sitting-room, where Dorcas waited upon her. And sometimes when
Griselda was in a particularly good humour she would beg Dorcas to sit
down and have a cup of tea with hera liberty the old servant was far
too dignified and respectful to have thought of taking, unless
specially requested to do so.
This evening, as you know, Griselda was in a very particularly good
humour, and besides this, so very full of her adventures, that she
would have been glad of an even less sympathising listener than Dorcas
was likely to be.
Sit down, Dorcas, and have some more tea, do, she said coaxingly.
It looks ever so much more comfortable, and I'm sure you could eat a
little more if you tried, whether you've had your tea in the kitchen or
not. I'm fearfully hungry, I can tell you. You'll have to cut a
whole lot more bread and butter and not 'ladies' slices' either.
How your tongue does go, to be sure, Miss Griselda, said Dorcas,
smiling, as she seated herself on the chair Griselda had drawn in for
And why shouldn't it? said Griselda saucily. It doesn't do it any
harm. But oh, Dorcas, I've had such fun this afternoonreally, you
couldn't guess what I've been doing.
Very likely not, missie, said Dorcas.
But you might try to guess. Oh no, I don't think you needguessing
takes such a time, and I want to tell you. Just fancy, Dorcas, I've
been playing with a little boy in the wood.
Playing with a little boy, Miss Griselda! exclaimed Dorcas,
Yes, and he's coming again to-morrow, and the day after, and every
day, I dare say, said Griselda. He is such a nice little boy.
But, missie, began Dorcas.
Well? What's the matter? You needn't look like thatas if I had
done something naughty, said Griselda sharply.
But you'll tell your aunt, missie?
Of course, said Griselda, looking up fearlessly into Dorcas's face
with her bright grey eyes. Of course; why shouldn't I? I must ask her
to give the little boy leave to come into our grounds; and I
told the little boy to be sure to tell his nurse, who takes care of
him, about his playing with me.
His nurse, repeated Dorcas, in a tone of some relief. Then he
must be quite a little boy, perhaps Miss Grizzel would not object so
much in that case.
Why should she object at all? She might know I wouldn't want to
play with a naughty rude boy, said Griselda.
She thinks all boys rude and naughty, I'm afraid, missie, said
Dorcas. All, that is to say, excepting your dear papa. But then, of
course, she had the bringing up of him in her own way from the
Well, I'll ask her, any way, said Griselda, and if she says I'm
not to play with him, I shall thinkI know what I shall think
of Aunt Grizzel, whether I say it or not.
And the old look of rebellion and discontent settled down again on
her rosy face.
Be careful, missie, now do, there's a dear good girl, said Dorcas
anxiously, an hour later, when Griselda, dressed as usual in her little
white muslin frock, was ready to join her aunts at dessert.
But Griselda would not condescend to make any reply.
Aunt Grizzel, she said suddenly, when she had eaten an orange and
three biscuits and drunk half a glass of home-made elder-berry wine,
Aunt Grizzel, when I was out in the garden to-daydown the wood-path,
I meanI met a little boy, and he played with me, and I want to know
if he may come every day to play with me.
Griselda knew she was not making her request in a very amiable or
becoming manner; she knew, indeed, that she was making it in such a way
as was almost certain to lead to its being refused; and yet, though she
was really so very, very anxious to get leave to play with little Phil,
she took a sort of spiteful pleasure in injuring her own cause.
How foolish ill-temper makes us! Griselda had allowed herself
to get so angry at the thought of being thwarted that had her
aunt looked up quietly and said at once, Oh yes, you may have the
little boy to play with you whenever you like, she would really, in a
strange distorted sort of way, have been disappointed.
But, of course, Miss Grizzel made no such reply. Nothing less than a
miracle could have made her answer Griselda otherwise than as she did.
Like Dorcas, for an instant, she was utterly flabbergasted, if you
know what that means. For she was really quite an old lady, you know,
and sensible as she was, things upset her much more easily than when
she was younger.
Naughty Griselda saw her uneasiness, and enjoyed it.
Playing with a boy! exclaimed Miss Grizzel. A boy in my grounds,
and you, my niece, to have played with him!
Yes, said Griselda coolly, and I want to play with him again.
Griselda, said her aunt, I am too astonished to say more at
present. Go to bed.
Why should I go to bed? It is not my bedtime, cried Griselda,
blazing up. What have I done to be sent to bed as if I were in
Go to bed, repeated Miss Grizzel. I will speak to you to-morrow.
You are very unfair and unjust, said Griselda, starting up from
her chair. That's all the good of being honest and telling everything.
I might have played with the little boy every day for a month and you
would never have known, if I hadn't told you.
She banged across the room as she spoke, and out at the door,
slamming it behind her rudely. Then upstairs like a whirlwind; but when
she got to her own room, she sat down on the floor and burst into
tears, and when Dorcas came up, nearly half an hour later, she was
still in the same place, crouched up in a little heap, sobbing
Oh, missie, missie, said Dorcas, it's just what I was afraid of!
As Griselda rushed out of the room Miss Grizzel leant back in her
chair and sighed deeply.
Already, she said faintly. She was never so violent before. Can
one afternoon's companionship with rudeness have already contaminated
her? Already, Tabithacan it be so?
Already, said Miss Tabitha, softly shaking her head, which somehow
made her look wonderfully like an old cat, for she felt cold of an
evening and usually wore a very fine woolly shawl of a delicate grey
shade, and the borders of her cap and the ruffles round her throat and
wrists were all of fluffy, downy whitealready, she said.
Yet, said Miss Grizzel, recovering herself a little, it is true
what the child said. She might have deceived us. Have I been hard upon
her, Sister Tabitha?
Hard upon her! Sister Grizzel, said Miss Tabitha with more energy
than usual; no, certainly not. For once, Sister Grizzel, I disagree
with you. Hard upon her! Certainly not.
But Miss Grizzel did not feel happy.
When she went up to her own room at night she was surprised to find
Dorcas waiting for her, instead of the younger maid.
I thought you would not mind having me, instead of Martha,
to-night, ma'am, she said, for I did so want to speak to you about
Miss Griselda. The poor, dear young lady has gone to bed so very
But do you know what she has done, Dorcas? said Miss Grizzel.
Admitted a boy, a rude, common, impertinent boy, into my
precincts, and played with himwith a boy, Dorcas.
Yes, ma'am, said Dorcas. I know all about it, ma'am. Miss
Griselda has told me all. But if you would allow me to give an opinion,
it isn't quite so bad. He's quite a little boy, ma'ambetween five and
sixonly just about the age Miss Griselda's dear papa was when he
first came to us, and, by all I can hear, quite a little gentleman.
A little gentleman, repeated Miss Grizzel, and not six years old!
That is less objectionable than I expected. What is his name, as you
know so much, Dorcas?
Master Phil, replied Dorcas. That is what he told Miss Griselda,
and she never thought to ask him more. But I'll tell you how we could
get to hear more about him, I think, ma'am. From what Miss Griselda
says, I believe he is staying at Mr. Crouch's farm, and that, you know,
ma'am, belongs to my Lady Lavander, though it is a good way from
Merrybrow Hall. My lady is pretty sure to know about the child, for she
knows all that goes on among her tenants, and I remember hearing that a
little gentleman and his nurse had come to Mr. Crouch's to lodge for
Miss Grizzel listened attentively.
Thank you, Dorcas, she said, when the old servant had left off
speaking. You have behaved with your usual discretion. I shall drive
over to Merrybrow to-morrow, and make inquiry. And you may tell Miss
Griselda in the morning what I purpose doing; but tell her also that,
as a punishment for her rudeness and ill-temper, she must have
breakfast in her own room to-morrow, and not see me till I send for
her. Had she restrained her temper and explained the matter, all this
distress might have been saved.
Dorcas did not wait till to-morrow morning; she could not bear to
think of Griselda's unhappiness. From her mistress's room she went
straight to the little girl's, going in very softly, so as not to
disturb her should she be sleeping.
Are you awake, missie? she said gently.
Griselda started up.
Yes, she exclaimed. Is it you, cuckoo? I'm quite awake.
Bless the child, said Dorcas to herself, how her head does run on
Miss Sybilla's cuckoo. It's really wonderful. There's more in such
things than some people think.
But aloud she only replied
It's Dorcas, missie. No fairy, only old Dorcas come to comfort you
a bit. Listen, missie. Your auntie is going over to Merrybrow Hall
to-morrow to inquire about this little Master Phil from my Lady
Lavander, for we think it's at one of her ladyship's farms that he and
his nurse are staying, and if she hears that he's a nice-mannered
little gentleman, and comes of good parentswhy, missie, there's no
saying but that you'll get leave to play with him as much as you like.
But not to-morrow, Dorcas, said Griselda. Aunt Grizzel never goes
to Merrybrow till the afternoon. She won't be back in time for me to
play with Phil to-morrow.
No, but next day, perhaps, said Dorcas.
Oh, but that won't do, said Griselda, beginning to cry again.
Poor little Phil will be coming up to the wood-path to-morrow,
and if he doesn't find me, he'll be so unhappyperhaps he'll
never come again if I don't meet him to-morrow.
Dorcas saw that the little girl was worn out and excited, and not
yet inclined to take a reasonable view of things.
Go to sleep, missie, she said kindly, and don't think anything
more about it till to-morrow. It'll be all right, you'll see.
Her patience touched Griselda.
You are very kind, Dorcas, she said. I don't mean to be cross to
you; but I can't bear to think of poor little Phil. Perhaps he'll
sit down on my mossy stone and cry. Poor little Phil!
But notwithstanding her distress, when Dorcas had left her she did
feel her heart a little lighter, and somehow or other before long she
When she awoke it seemed to be suddenly, and she had the feeling
that something had disturbed her. She lay for a minute or two perfectly
stilllistening. Yes; there it wasthe soft, faint rustle in the air
that she knew so well. It seemed as if something was moving away from
Cuckoo, she said gently, is that you?
A moment's pause, then came the answerthe pretty greeting she
Cuckoo, cuckoo, soft and musical. Then the cuckoo spoke.
Well, Griselda he said, and how are you? It's a good while since
we have had any fun together.
That's not my fault, said Griselda sharply. She was not yet
feeling quite as amiable as might have been desired, you see. That's
certainly not my fault, she repeated.
I never said it was, replied the cuckoo. Why will you jump at
conclusions so? It's a very bad habit, for very often you jump over
them, you see, and go too far. One should always walk up to
conclusions, very slowly and evenly, right foot first, then left, one
with anotherthat's the way to get where you want to go, and feel sure
of your ground. Do you see?
I don't know whether I do or not, and I'm not going to speak to you
if you go on at me like that. You might see I don't want to be lectured
when I am so unhappy.
What are you unhappy about?
About Phil, of course. I won't tell you, for I believe you know,
said Griselda. Wasn't it you that sent him to play with me? I was so
pleased, and I thought it was very kind of you; but it's all spoilt
But I heard Dorcas saying that your aunt is going over to consult
my Lady Lavander about it, said the cuckoo. It'll be all right; you
needn't be in such low spirits about nothing.
Were you in the room then? said Griselda. How funny you
are, cuckoo. But it isn't all right. Don't you see, poor little Phil
will be coming up the wood-path to-morrow afternoon to meet me, and I
won't be there! I can't bear to think of it.
Is that all? said the cuckoo. It really is extraordinary how some
people make troubles out of nothing! We can easily tell Phil not to
come till the day after. Come along.
Come along, repeated Griselda; what do you mean?
Oh, I forgot, said the cuckoo. You don't understand. Put out your
hand. There, do you feel me?
Yes, said Griselda, stroking gently the soft feathers which seemed
to be close under her hand. Yes, I feel you.
Well, then, said the cuckoo, put your arms round my neck, and
hold me firm. I'll lift you up.
How can you talk such nonsense, cuckoo? said Griselda.
Why, one of my little fingers would clasp your neck. How can I put my
arms round it?
Try, said the cuckoo.
Somehow Griselda had to try.
She held out her arms in the cuckoo's direction, as if she expected
his neck to be about the size of a Shetland pony's, or a large
Newfoundland dog's; and, to her astonishment, so it was! A nice,
comfortable, feathery neck it feltso soft that she could not help
laying her head down upon it, and nestling in the downy cushion.
That's right, said the cuckoo.
Then he seemed to give a little spring, and Griselda felt herself
altogether lifted on to his back. She lay there as comfortably as
possibleit felt so firm as well as soft. Up he flew a little
waythen stopped short.
Are you all right? he inquired. You're not afraid of falling
Oh no, said Griselda; not a bit.
You needn't be, said the cuckoo, for you couldn't if you tried.
I'm going on, then.
Where to? said Griselda.
Up the chimney first, said the cuckoo.
But there'll never be room, said Griselda. I might perhaps
crawl up like a sweep, hands and knees, you know, like going up a
ladder. But stretched out like thisit's just as if I were lying on a
sofaI couldn't go up the chimney.
Couldn't you? said the cuckoo. We'll see. I intend to go,
any way, and to take you with me. Shut your eyesone, two, threehere
goeswe'll be up the chimney before you know.
It was quite true. Griselda shut her eyes tight. She felt nothing
but a pleasant sort of rush. Then she heard the cuckoo's voice,
Well, wasn't that well done? Open your eyes and look about you.
Griselda did so. Where were they?
They were floating about above the top of the house, which Griselda
saw down below them, looking dark and vast. She felt confused and
Cuckoo, she said, I don't understand. Is it I that have grown
little, or you that have grown big?
Whichever you please, said the cuckoo. You have forgotten. I told
you long ago it is all a matter of fancy.
Yes, if everything grew little together, persisted
Griselda; but it isn't everything. It's just you or me, or both of us.
No, it can't be both of us. And I don't think it can be me, for if any
of me had grown little all would, and my eyes haven't grown little, for
everything looks as big as usual, only you a great deal bigger.
My eyes can't have grown bigger without the rest of me, surely, for the
moon looks just the same. And I must have grown little, or else we
couldn't have got up the chimney. Oh, cuckoo, you have put all my
thinking into such a muddle!
Never mind, said the cuckoo. It'll show you how little
consequence big and little are of. Make yourself comfortable all the
same. Are you all right? Shut your eyes if you like. I'm going pretty
Where to? said Griselda.
To Phil, of course, said the cuckoo. What a bad memory you have!
Are you comfortable?
Very, thank you, replied Griselda, giving the cuckoo's neck
an affectionate hug as she spoke.
That'll do, thank you. Don't throttle me, if it's quite the same to
you, said the cuckoo. Here goesone, two, three, and off he flew
Griselda shut her eyes and lay still. It was deliciousthe gliding,
yet darting motion, like nothing she had ever felt before. It did not
make her the least giddy, either; but a slightly sleepy feeling came
over her. She felt no inclination to open her eyes; and, indeed, at the
rate they were going, she could have distinguished very little had she
Suddenly the feeling in the air about her changed. For an instant it
felt more rushy than before, and there was a queer, dull sound
in her ears. Then she felt that the cuckoo had stopped.
Where are we? she asked.
We've just come down a chimney again, said the cuckoo.
Open your eyes and clamber down off my back, but don't speak loud, or
you'll waken him, and that wouldn't do. There you arethe moonlight's
coming in nicely at the windowyou can see your way.
Griselda found herself in a little bed-room, quite a tiny one, and
by the look of the simple furniture and the latticed window, she saw
that she was not in a grand house. But everything looked very neat and
nice, and on a little bed in one corner lay a lovely sleeping child. It
was Phil! He looked so pretty asleephis shaggy curls all tumbling
about, his rosy mouth half open as if smiling, one little hand tossed
over his head, the other tight clasping a little basket which he had
insisted on taking to bed with him, meaning as soon as he was dressed
the next morning to run out and fill it with flowers for the little
girl he had made friends with.
Griselda stepped up to the side of the bed on tiptoe. The cuckoo had
disappeared, but Griselda heard his voice. It seemed to come from a
little way up the chimney.
Don't wake him, said the cuckoo, but whisper what you want to say
into his ear, as soon as I have called him. He'll understand; he's
accustomed to my ways.
Then came the old note, soft and musical as ever
Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo. Listen, Phil, said the cuckoo, and without
opening his eyes a change passed over the little boy's face. Griselda
could see that he was listening to hear her message.
He thinks he's dreaming, I suppose, she said to herself with a
smile. Then she whispered softly
Phil, dear, don't come to play with me to-morrow, for I can't come.
But come the day after. I'll be at the wood-path then.
Welly well, murmured Phil. Then he put out his two arms towards
Griselda, all without opening his eyes, and she, bending down, kissed
Phil's so sleepy, he whispered, like a baby almost. Then he turned
over and went to sleep more soundly than before.
That'll do, said the cuckoo. Come along, Griselda.
Griselda obediently made her way to the place whence the cuckoo's
voice seemed to come.
Shut your eyes and put your arms round my neck again, said the
She did not hesitate this time. It all happened just as before.
There came the same sort of rushy sound; then the cuckoo stopped, and
Griselda opened her eyes.
They were up in the air againa good way up, too, for some grand
old elms that stood beside the farmhouse were gently waving their
topmost branches a yard or two from where the cuckoo was poising
himself and Griselda.
Where shall we go to now? he said. Or would you rather go home?
Are you tired?
Tired! exclaimed Griselda. I should rather think not. How could I
be tired, cuckoo?
Very well, don't excite yourself about nothing, whatever you do,
said the cuckoo. Say where you'd like to go.
How can I? said Griselda. You know far more nice places than I
You don't care to go back to the mandarins, or the butterflies, I
suppose? asked the cuckoo.
No, thank you, said Griselda; I'd like something new. And I'm not
sure that I care for seeing any more countries of that kind, unless you
could take me to the real fairyland.
I can't do that, you know, said the cuckoo.
Just then a faint soughing sound among the branches suggested
another idea to Griselda.
Cuckoo, she exclaimed, take me to the sea. It's such a
time since I saw the sea. I can fancy I hear it; do take me to see it.
X. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOON
That after supper time has come,
And silver dews the meadow steep,
And all is silent in the home,
And even nurses are asleep,
That be it late, or be it soon,
Upon this lovely night in June
They both will step into the moon.
Very well, said the cuckoo. You would like to look about you a
little on the way, perhaps, Griselda, as we shall not be going down
chimneys, or anything of that kind just at present.
Yes, said Griselda. I think I should. I'm rather tired of
shutting my eyes, and I'm getting quite accustomed to flying about with
Turn on your side, then, said the cuckoo, and you won't have to
twist your neck to see over my shoulder. Are you comfortable now? And,
by-the-by, as you may be cold, just feel under my left wing. You'll
find the feather mantle there, that you had on once before. Wrap it
round you. I tucked it in at the last moment, thinking you might want
Oh, you dear, kind cuckoo! cried Griselda. Yes, I've found it.
I'll tuck it all round me like a rugthat's it. I am so warm
Here goes, then, said the cuckoo, and off they set. Had ever a
little girl such a flight before? Floating, darting, gliding,
sailingno words can describe it. Griselda lay still in delight,
gazing all about her.
How lovely the stars are, cuckoo! she said. Is it true they're
all great, big suns? I'd rather they weren't. I like to think of
them as nice, funny little things.
They're not all suns, said the cuckoo. Not all those you're
looking at now.
I like the twinkling ones best, said Griselda. They look so
good-natured. Are they all twirling about always, cuckoo? Mr.
Kneebreeches has just begun to teach me astronomy, and he says
they are; but I'm not at all sure that he knows much about it.
He's quite right all the same, replied the cuckoo.
Oh dear me! How tired they must be, then! said Griselda. Do they
never rest just for a minute?
Obeying orders, replied the cuckoo.
Griselda gave a little wriggle.
What's the use of it? she said. It would be just as nice if they
stood still now and then.
Would it? said the cuckoo. I know somebody who would soon find
fault if they did. What would you say to no summer; no day, or no
night, whichever it happened not to be, you see; nothing growing, and
nothing to eat before long? That's what it would be if they stood
still, you see, because
Thank you, cuckoo, interrupted Griselda. It's very nice to hear
youI mean, very dreadful to think of, but I don't want you to
explain. I'll ask Mr. Kneebreeches when I'm at my lessons. You might
tell me one thing, however. What's at the other side of the moon?
There's a variety of opinions, said the cuckoo.
What are they? Tell me the funniest.
Some say all the unfinished work of the world is kept there, said
That's not funny, said Griselda. What a messy place it
must be! Why, even my unfinished work makes quite a heap. I
don't like that opinion at all, cuckoo. Tell me another.
I have heard, said the cuckoo, that among the places there
you would find the country of the little black dogs. You know what sort
of creatures those are?
Yes, I suppose so, said Griselda, rather reluctantly.
There are a good many of them in this world, as of course you
know, continued the cuckoo. But up there, they are much worse than
here. When a child has made a great pet of one down here, I've heard
tell the fairies take him up there when his parents and nurses think
he's sleeping quietly in his bed, and make him work hard all night,
with his own particular little black dog on his back. And it's so
dreadfully heavyfor every time he takes it on his back down here it
grows a pound heavier up therethat by morning the child is quite worn
out. I dare say you've noticed how haggered and miserable some
ill-tempered children get to looknow you'll know the reason.
Thank you, cuckoo, said Griselda again; but I can't say I like
this opinion about the other side of the moon any better than the
first. If you please, I would rather not talk about it any more.
Oh, but it's not so bad an idea after all, said the cuckoo. Lots
of children, they say, get quite cured in the country of the little
black dogs. It's this wayfor every time a child refuses to take the
dog on his back down here it grows a pound lighter up there, so at last
any sensible child learns how much better it is to have nothing to say
to it at all, and gets out of the way of it, you see. Of course, there
are children whom nothing would cure, I suppose. What becomes of
them I really can't say. Very likely they get crushed into pancakes by
the weight of the dogs at last, and then nothing more is ever heard of
Horrid! said Griselda, with a shudder. Don't let's talk about it
any more, cuckoo; tell me your own opinion about what there
really is on the other side of the moon.
The cuckoo was silent for a moment. Then suddenly he stopped short
in the middle of his flight.
Would you like to see for yourself, Griselda? he said. There
would be about time to do it, he added to himself, and it would
fulfil her other wish, too.
See the moon for myself, do you mean? cried Griselda, clasping her
hands. I should rather think I would. Will you really take me there,
To the other side, said the cuckoo. I couldn't take you to this
Why not? Not that I'd care to go to this side as much as to the
other; for, of course, we can see this side from here. But I'd
like to know why you couldn't take me there.
For reasons, said the cuckoo drily. I'll give you one if
you like. If I took you to this side of the moon you wouldn't be
yourself when you got there.
Who would I be, then?
Griselda, said the cuckoo, I told you once that there are a great
many things you don't know. Now, I'll tell you something more. There
are a great many things you're not intended to know.
Very well, said Griselda. But do tell me when you're going on
again, and where you are going to take me to. There's no harm my asking
No, said the cuckoo. I'm going on immediately, and I'm going to
take you where you wanted to go to, only you must shut your eyes again,
and lie perfectly still without talking, for I must put on steama
good deal of steamand I can't talk to you. Are you all right?
All right, said Griselda.
She had hardly said the words when she seemed to fall asleep. The
rushing sound in the air all round her increased so greatly that she
was conscious of nothing else. For a moment or two she tried to
remember where she was, and where she was going, but it was useless.
She forgot everything, and knew nothing more of what was passing
tilltill she heard the cuckoo again.
Cuckoo, cuckoo; wake up, Griselda, he said.
Griselda sat up.
Where was she?
Not certainly where she had been when she went to sleep. Not on the
cuckoo's back, for there he was standing beside her, as tiny as usual.
Either he had grown little again, or she had grown bigwhich, she
supposed, it did not much matter. Only it was very queer!
Where am I, cuckoo? she said.
Where you wished to be, he replied. Look about you and see.
Griselda looked about her. What did she see? Something that I can
only give you a faint idea of, children; something so strange and
unlike what she had ever seen before, that only in a dream could you
see it as Griselda saw it. And yet why it seemed to her so
strange and unnatural I cannot well explain; if I could, my words would
be as good as pictures, which I know they are not.
After all, it was only the sea she saw; but such a great, strange,
silent sea, for there were no waves. Griselda was seated on the shore,
close beside the water's edge, but it did not come lapping up to her
feet in the pretty, coaxing way that our sea does when it is in
a good humour. There were here and there faint ripples on the surface,
caused by the slight breezes which now and then came softly round
Griselda's face, but that was all. King Canute might have sat from
then till now by this still, lifeless ocean without the chance of
reading his silly attendants a lessonif, indeed, there ever were such
silly people, which I very much doubt.
Griselda gazed with all her eyes. Then she suddenly gave a little
What's the matter? said the cuckoo. You have the mantle
onyou're not cold?
No, said Griselda, I'm not cold; but somehow, cuckoo, I feel a
little frightened. The sea is so strange, and so dreadfully big; and
the light is so queer, too. What is the light, cuckoo? It isn't
moonlight, is it?
Not exactly, said the cuckoo. You can't both have your cake and
eat it, Griselda. Look up at the sky. There's no moon there, is there?
No, said Griselda; but what lots of stars, cuckoo. The light
comes from them, I suppose? And where's the sun, cuckoo? Will it be
rising soon? It isn't always like this up here, is it?
Bless you, no, said the cuckoo. There's sun enough, and rather
too much, sometimes. How would you like a day a fortnight long, and
nights to match? If it had been daytime here just now, I couldn't have
brought you. It's just about the very middle of the night now, and in
about a week of your days the sun will begin to rise, because,
Oh, dear cuckoo, please don't explain! cried Griselda.
I'll promise to ask Mr. Kneebreeches, I will indeed. In fact, he was
telling me something just like it to-day or yesterdaywhich should I
say?at my astronomy lesson. And that makes it so strange that you
should have brought me up here to-night to see for myself, doesn't it,
An odd coincidence, said the cuckoo.
What would Mr. Kneebreeches think if I told him where I had
been? continued Griselda. Only, you see, cuckoo, I never tell anybody
about what I see when I am with you.
No, replied the cuckoo; better not. ('Not that you could if you
tried,' he added to himself.) You're not frightened now, Griselda, are
No, I don't think I am, she replied. But, cuckoo, isn't this sea
Pretty well, said the cuckoo. Just half, or nearly half, the size
of the moon; and, no doubt, Mr. Kneebreeches has told you that the
moon's diameter and circumference are respec
Oh don't, cuckoo! interrupted Griselda, beseechingly. I
want to enjoy myself, and not to have lessons. Tell me something funny,
cuckoo. Are there any mermaids in the moon-sea?
Not exactly, said the cuckoo.
What a stupid way to answer, said Griselda. There's no sense in
that; there either must be or must not be. There couldn't be half
I don't know about that, replied the cuckoo. They might have been
here once and have left their tails behind them, like Bopeep's sheep,
you know; and some day they might be coming to find them again, you
know. That would do for 'not exactly,' wouldn't it?
Cuckoo, you're laughing at me, said Griselda. Tell me, are there
any mermaids, or fairies, or water-sprites, or any of those sort of
I must still say 'not exactly,' said the cuckoo. There are beings
here, or rather there have been, and there may be again; but you,
Griselda, can know no more than this.
His tone was rather solemn, and again Griselda felt a little
It's a dreadfully long way from home, any way, she said. I feel
as if, when I go back, I shall perhaps find I have been away fifty
years or so, like the little boy in the fairy story. Cuckoo, I think I
would like to go home. Mayn't I get on your back again?
Presently, said the cuckoo. Don't be uneasy, Griselda. Perhaps
I'll take you home by a short cut.
Was ever any child here before? asked Griselda, after a little
Yes, said the cuckoo.
And did they get safe home again?
Quite, said the cuckoo. It's so silly of you, Griselda, to have
all these ideas still about far and near, and big and little, and long
and short, after all I've taught you and all you've seen.
I'm very sorry, said Griselda humbly; but you see, cuckoo, I
can't help it. I suppose I'm made so.
Perhaps, said the cuckoo, meditatively.
He was silent for a minute. Then he spoke again. Look over there,
Griselda, he said. There's the short cut.
Griselda looked. Far, far over the sea, in the silent distance, she
saw a tiny speck of light. It was very tiny; but yet the strange thing
was that, far away as it appeared, and minute as it was, it seemed to
throw off a thread of light to Griselda's very feetright across the
great sheet of faintly gleaming water. And as Griselda looked, the
thread seemed to widen and grow, becoming at the same time brighter and
clearer, till at last it lay before her like a path of glowing light.
Am I to walk along there? she said softly to the cuckoo.
No, he replied; wait.
Griselda waited, looking still, and presently in the middle of the
shining streak she saw something slowly movingsomething from which
the light came, for the nearer it got to her the shorter grew the
glowing path, and behind the moving object the sea looked no brighter
than before it had appeared.
At lastat last, it came quite nearnear enough for Griselda to
distinguish clearly what it was.
It was a little boatthe prettiest, the loveliest little boat that
ever was seen; and it was rowed by a little figure that at first sight
Griselda felt certain was a fairy. For it was a child with bright hair
and silvery wings, which with every movement sparkled and shone like a
Griselda sprang up and clapped her hands with delight. At the sound,
the child in the boat turned and looked at her. For one instant she
could not remember where she had seen him before; then she exclaimed,
It is Phil! Oh, cuckoo, it is Phil. Have you turned into a fairy,
[Illustration: IT WAS ROWED BY A LITTLE FIGURE]
But, alas, as she spoke the light faded away, the boy's figure
disappeared, the sea and the shore and the sky were all as they had
been before, lighted only by the faint, strange gleaming of the stars.
Only the boat remained. Griselda saw it close to her, in the shallow
water, a few feet from where she stood.
Cuckoo, she exclaimed in a tone of reproach and disappointment,
where is Phil gone? Why did you send him away?
I didn't send him away, said the cuckoo. You don't understand.
Never mind, but get into the boat. It'll be all right, you'll see.
But are we to go away and leave Phil here, all alone at the other
side of the moon? said Griselda, feeling ready to cry.
Oh, you silly girl! said the cuckoo. Phil's all right, and in
some ways he has a great deal more sense than you, I can tell you. Get
into the boat and make yourself comfortable; lie down at the bottom and
cover yourself up with the mantle. You needn't be afraid of wetting
your feet a little, moon water never gives cold. There, now.
Griselda did as she was told. She was beginning to feel rather
tired, and it certainly was very comfortable at the bottom of the boat,
with the nice warm feather-mantle well tucked round her.
Who will row? she said sleepily. You can't, cuckoo, with
your tiny little claws, you could never hold the oars, I'm
Hush! said the cuckoo; and whether he rowed or not Griselda never
Off they glided somehow, but it seemed to Griselda that somebody
rowed, for she heard the soft dip, dip of the oars as they went along,
so regularly that she couldn't help beginning to count in timeone,
two, three, fouron, onshe thought she had got nearly to a hundred,
XI. CUCKOO, CUCKOO, GOOD-BYE!
Children, try to be good!
That is the end of all teaching;
And very easy in preaching.
And if you find it hard,
Your efforts you need but double;
Nothing deserves reward
Unless it has given us trouble.
When she forgot everything, and fell fast, fast asleep, to wake, of
course, in her own little bed as usual!
One of your tricks again, Mr. Cuckoo, she said to herself with a
smile. However, I don't mind. It was a short cut home, and it
was very comfortable in the boat, and I certainly saw a great deal last
night, and I'm very much obliged to youparticularly for making it all
right with Phil about not coming to play with me to-day. Ah! that
reminds me, I'm in disgrace. I wonder if Aunt Grizzel will really make
me stay in my room all day. How tired I shall be, and what will Mr.
Kneebreeches think! But it serves me right. I was very cross and
There came a tap at the door. It was Dorcas with the hot water.
Good morning, missie, she said gently, not feeling, to tell the
truth, very sure as to what sort of a humour missie was likely to be
found in this morning. I hope you've slept well.
Exceedingly well, thank you, Dorcas. I've had a delightful night,
replied Griselda amiably, smiling to herself at the thought of what
Dorcas would say if she knew where she had been, and what she had been
doing since last she saw her.
That's good news, said Dorcas in a tone of relief; and I've good
news for you, too, missie. At least, I hope you'll think it so. Your
aunt has ordered the carriage for quite early this morningso you see
she really wants to please you, missie, about playing with little
Master Phil; and if to-morrow's a fine day, we'll be sure to find some
way of letting him know to come.
Thank you, Dorcas. I hope it will be all right, and that Lady
Lavander won't say anything against it. I dare say she won't. I feel
ever so much happier this morning, Dorcas; and I'm very sorry I was so
rude to Aunt Grizzel, for of course I know I should obey her.
That's right, missie, said Dorcas approvingly.
It seems to me, Dorcas, said Griselda dreamily, when, a few
minutes later, she was standing by the window while the old servant
brushed out her thick, wavy hair, it seems to me, Dorcas, that it's
all 'obeying orders' together. There's the sun now, just getting
up, and the moon just going to bedthey are always obeying,
aren't they? I wonder why it should be so hard for peoplefor
children, at least.
To be sure, missie, you do put it a way of your own, replied
Dorcas, somewhat mystified; but I see how you mean, I think, and it's
quite true. And it is a hard lesson to learn.
I want to learn it well, Dorcas, said Griselda, resolutely.
So will you please tell Aunt Grizzel that I'm very sorry about last
night, and I'll do just as she likes about staying in my room or
anything. But, if she would let me, I'd far rather go down and
do my lessons as usual for Mr. Kneebreeches. I won't ask to go out in
the garden; but I would like to please Aunt Grizzel by doing my lessons
Dorcas was both delighted and astonished. Never had she known her
little missie so altogether submissive and reasonable.
I only hope the child's not going to be ill, she said to herself.
But she proved a skilful ambassadress, notwithstanding her misgivings;
and Griselda's imprisonment confined her only to the bounds of the
house and terrace walk, instead of within the four walls of her own
little room, as she had feared.
Lessons were very well done that day, and Mr. Kneebreeches'
report was all that could be wished.
I am particularly gratified, he remarked to Miss Grizzel, by the
intelligence and interest Miss Griselda displays with regard to the
study of astronomy, which I have recently begun to give her some
elementary instruction in. And, indeed, I have no fault to find with
the way in which any of the young lady's tasks are performed.
I am extremely glad to hear it, replied Miss Grizzel graciously,
and the kiss with which she answered Griselda's request for forgiveness
was a very hearty one.
And it was all right about Phil.
Lady Lavander knew all about him; his father and mother were friends
of hers, for whom she had a great regard, and for some time she had
been intending to ask the little boy to spend the day at Merrybrow
Hall, to be introduced to her god-daughter Griselda. So, of course, as Lady Lavander knew all about him, there could be no objection to
his playing in Miss Grizzel's garden!
And to-morrow turned out a fine day. So altogether you can imagine
that Griselda felt very happy and light-hearted as she ran down the
wood-path to meet her little friend, whose rosy face soon appeared
among the bushes.
What did you do yesterday, Phil? asked Griselda. Were you sorry
not to come to play with me?
No, said Phil mysteriously, I didn't mind. I was looking for the
way to fairyland to show you, and I do believe I've found it. Oh, it
is such a pretty way.
I'm afraid the way to fairyland isn't so easily found, she said.
But I'd like to hear about where you went. Was it far?
A good way, said Phil. Won't you come with me? It's in the wood.
I can show you quite well, and we can be back by tea-time.
Very well, said Griselda; and off they set.
Whether it was the way to fairyland or not, it was not to be
wondered at that little Phil thought so. He led Griselda right across
the wood to a part where she had never been before. It was pretty rough
work part of the way. The children had to fight with brambles and
bushes, and here and there to creep through on hands and knees, and
Griselda had to remind Phil several times of her promise to his nurse
that his clothes should not be the worse for his playing with her, to
prevent his scrambling through anyhow and leaving bits of his
knickerbockers behind him.
But when at last they reached Phil's favourite spot all their
troubles were forgotten. Oh, how pretty it was! It was a sort of tiny
glade in the very middle of the wooda little green nest enclosed all
round by trees, and right through it the merry brook came rippling
along as if rejoicing at getting out into the sunlight again for a
while. And all the choicest and sweetest of the early summer flowers
seemed to be collected here in greater variety and profusion than in
any other part of the wood.
Isn't it nice? said Phil, as he nestled down beside
Griselda on the soft, mossy grass. It must have been a fairies' garden
some time, I'm sure, and I shouldn't wonder if one of the doors into
fairyland is hidden somewhere here, if only we could find it.
If only! said Griselda. I don't think we shall find it, Phil;
but, any way, this is a lovely place you've found, and I'd like to come
here very often.
Then at Phil's suggestion they set to work to make themselves a
house in the centre of this fairies' garden, as he called it. They
managed it very much to their own satisfaction, by dragging some logs
of wood and big stones from among the brushwood hard by, and filling
the holes up with bracken and furze.
And if the fairies do come here, said Phil, they'll be
very pleased to find a house all ready, won't they?
Then they had to gather flowers to ornament the house inside, and
dry leaves and twigs all ready for a fire in one corner. Altogether it
was quite a business, I can assure you, and when it was finished they
were very hot and very tired and rather dirty. Suddenly a
thought struck Griselda.
Phil, she said, it must be getting late.
Past tea-time? he said coolly.
I dare say it is. Look how low down the sun has got. Come, Phil, we
must be quick. Where is the place we came out of the wood at?
Here, said Phil, diving at a little opening among the bushes.
Griselda followed him. He had been a good guide hitherto, and she
certainly could not have found her way alone. They scrambled on for
some way, then the bushes suddenly seemed to grow less thick, and in a
minute they came out upon a little path.
Phil, said Griselda, this isn't the way we came.
Isn't it? said Phil, looking about him. Then we must have comed
the wrong way.
I'm afraid so, said Griselda, and it seems to be so late already.
I'm so sorry, for Aunt Grizzel will be vexed, and I did so want to
please her. Will your nurse be vexed, Phil?
I don't care if she are, replied Phil valiantly.
You shouldn't say that, Phil. You know we shouldn't have
stayed so long playing.
Nebber mind, said Phil. If it was mother I would mind. Mother's
so good, you don't know. And she never 'colds me, except when I am
naughtyso I do mind.
She wouldn't like you to be out so late, I'm sure, said Griselda
in distress, and it's most my fault, for I'm the biggest. Now, which
way shall we go?
They had followed the little path till it came to a point where two
roads, rough cart-ruts only, met; or, rather, where the path ran across
the road. Right, or left, or straight on, which should it be? Griselda
stood still in perplexity. Already it was growing dusk; already the
moon's soft light was beginning faintly to glimmer through the
branches. Griselda looked up to the sky.
To think, she said to herselfto think that I should not know my
way in a little bit of a wood like thisI that was up at the other
side of the moon last night.
The remembrance put another thought into her mind.
Cuckoo, cuckoo, she said softly, couldn't you help us?
Then she stood still and listened, holding Phil's cold little hands
in her own.
She was not disappointed. Presently, in the distance, came the
well-known cry, cuckoo, cuckoo, so soft and far away, but yet so
Phil clapped his hands.
He's calling us, he cried joyfully. He's going to show us the
way. That's how he calls me always. Good cuckoo, we're coming; and,
pulling Griselda along, he darted down the road to the rightthe
direction from whence came the cry.
They had some way to go, for they had wandered far in a wrong
direction, but the cuckoo never failed them. Whenever they were at a
losswhenever the path turned or divided, they heard his clear, sweet
call; and, without the least misgiving, they followed it, till at last
it brought them out upon the high-road, a stone's throw from Farmer
I know the way now, good cuckoo, exclaimed Phil. I can go home
alone now, if your aunt will be vexed with you.
No, said Griselda, I must take you quite all the way home, Phil
dear. I promised to take care of you, and if nurse scolds any one it
must be me, not you.
There was a little bustle about the door of the farm-house as the
children wearily came up to it. Two or three men were standing together
receiving directions from Mr. Crouch himself, and Phil's nurse was
talking eagerly. Suddenly she caught sight of the truants.
Here he is, Mr. Crouch! she exclaimed. No need now to send to
look for him. Oh, Master Phil, how could you stay out so late? And
to-night of all nights, just when yourI forgot, I mustn't say. Come
in to the parlour at onceand this little girl, who is she?
She isn't a little girl, she's a young lady, said Master Phil,
putting on his lordly air, and she's to come into the parlour and have
some supper with me, and then some one must take her home to her
auntie's housethat's what I say.
More to please Phil than from any wish for supper, for she was
really in a fidget to get home, Griselda let the little boy lead her
into the parlour. But she was for a moment perfectly startled by the
cry that broke from him when he opened the door and looked into the
room. A lady was standing there, gazing out of the window, though in
the quickly growing darkness she could hardly have distinguished the
little figure she was watching for so anxiously.
The noise of the door opening made her look round.
Phil, she cried, my own little Phil; where have you been to? You
didn't know I was waiting here for you, did you?
Mother, mother! shouted Phil, darting into his mother's arms.
But Griselda drew back into the shadow of the doorway, and tears
filled her eyes as for a minute or two she listened to the cooings and
caressings of the mother and son.
Only for a minute, however. Then Phil called to her.
Mother, mother, he cried again, you must kiss Griselda, too!
She's the little girl that is so kind, and plays with me; and she has
no mother, he added in a lower tone.
The lady put her arm round Griselda, and kissed her, too. She did
not seem surprised.
I think I know about Griselda, she said very kindly, looking into
her face with her gentle eyes, blue and clear like Phil's.
And then Griselda found courage to say how uneasy she was about the
anxiety her aunts would be feeling, and a messenger was sent off at
once to tell of her being safe at the farm.
But Griselda herself the kind lady would not let go till she had had
some nice supper with Phil, and was both warmed and rested.
And what were you about, children, to lose your way? she asked
I took Griselda to see a place that I thought was the way to
fairyland, and then we stayed to build a house for the fairies, in case
they come, and then we came out at the wrong side, and it got dark,
And was it the way to fairyland? asked his mother, smiling.
Griselda shook her head as she replied
Phil doesn't understand yet, she said gently. He isn't old
enough. The way to the true fairyland is hard to find, and we must each
find it for ourselves, mustn't we?
She looked up in the lady's face as she spoke, and saw that she
Yes, dear child, she answered softly, and perhaps a very little
sadly. But Phil and you may help each other, and I perhaps may help
Griselda slid her hand into the lady's. You're not going to take
Phil away, are you? she whispered.
No, I have come to stay here, she answered; and Phil's father is
coming too, soon. We are going to live at the White Housethe house on
the other side of the wood, on the way to Merrybrow. Are you glad,
* * * * *
Griselda had a curious dream that nightmerely a dream, nothing
else. She dreamt that the cuckoo came once more; this time, he told
her, to say good-bye.
For you will not need me now, he said. I leave you in good hands,
Griselda. You have friends now who will understand youfriends who
will help you both to work and to play. Better friends than the
mandarins, or the butterflies, or even than your faithful old cuckoo.
And when Griselda tried to speak to him, to thank him for his
goodness, to beg him still sometimes to come to see her, he gently
fluttered away. Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, he warbled; but somehow the
last cuckoo sounded like good-bye.
In the morning, when Griselda awoke, her pillow was wet with tears.
Thus many stories end. She was happy, very happy in the thought of her
kind new friends; but there were tears for the one she felt she had
said farewell to, even though he was only a cuckoo in a clock.
THE CASTLE IN THE LOUGH
THE CASTLE IN THE LOUGH
A LEGEND OF DONEGAL
Father, little Dermot would say, tell me something more about the
castle in the lough.
Dermot M'Swyne was a little lad, with blue soft eyes and bright fair
hair. He was the only son of Brian, the chief of the M'Swynes, and
people used sometimes to say scornfully that he was a poor puny son to
come of such a father, for he was not big and burly, as a M'Swyne ought
to be, but slim and fair, and like a girl. However, Brian M'Swyne loved
his fair-haired boy, and would have given up most other pleasures in
the world for the pleasure of having the little fellow by his side and
listening to his prattling voice. He was like his mother, those said
who remembered the blue-eyed stranger whom Brian M'Swyne had brought
home ten years before as his wife to Doe Castle, in Donegal, and who
had pined there for a few years and then died; and perhaps it was for
her sake that the child was so dear to the rough old chief. He was
never tired of having the little lad beside him, and many a time he
would carry him about and cradle him in his arms, and pass his big
fingers through the boy's golden curls, and let the little hands play
with his beard.
Sitting together in the firelight on winter nights, while the peat
fire was burning on the floor, and the wind, sweeping across Lough
Eske, went wailing round the castle walls and sighing in the leafless
trees, the boy would often get his father to tell him stories of the
country-side. There were many strange legends treasured up in the
memories of all old inhabitants of the place, wild stories of
enchantments, or of fairies or banshees; and little Dermot would never
tire of listening to these tales. Sometimes, when he had heard some
only half-finished story, he would go dreaming on and on to himself
about it, till he had woven an ending, or a dozen endings, to it in his
But of all the tales to which he used to listen there was one that
perhaps, more than any other, he liked to hearthe story of the
enchanted castle swallowed up by Lough Belshade. There, down beneath
the waters of the dark lough, into which he had looked so often, was
the castle standing still, its gates and towers and walls all perfect,
just as it had stood upon the earth, the very fires still alight that
had been burning on its hearths, andmore wonderful than allthe
people who had been sunk in it, though fixed and motionless in their
enchanted sleep, alive too. It was a wonder of wonders; the child was
never tired of thinking of it, and dreaming of the time in which the
enchantment should be broken, and of the person who should break it;
for, strangest of all, the story said that they must sleep until a
M'Swyne should come and wake them. But what M'Swyne would do it? And
how was it to be done? Father, little Dermot would say, tell me
something more about the enchanted castle in the lough.
The legend was thus: On the shores of the desolate lough there had
once stood a great castle, where lived a beautiful maiden called
Eileen. Her father was the chieftain of a clan, and she was his only
child. Many young lovers sought her, but she cared for none of them. At
last there came to the castle a noble-looking knight. He had traveled
from a far country, he said, and he began soon to tell wonderful
stories to Eileen of the beauty and the richness of that land of his;
how the skies there were always blue, and the sun always shone, and
lords and ladies lived, not in rough stone-hewn castles like these, but
in palaces all bright with marbles and precious stones; and how their
lives were all a long delight, with music and dancing and all pleasant
Eileen listened while he told these tales to her, till she began to
long to see his country; and her heart yearned for something brighter
and better than the sombre life she led by the shores of the dark
lough; and so when, after a time, the knight one day told her that he
loved her, she gave him her promise to go to his home with him and
She was very contented for a little while after she had promised to
be the knight's wife, and spent nearly all her time in talking to her
lover and in picturing to herself the new and beautiful things that she
was going to see. She was very happy, on the whole; though now and
then, to tell the truth, as time went on, she began to be a little
puzzled and surprised by certain things that the knight did, and
certain odd habits that he had; for, in fact, he had some very odd
habits, indeed, and, charming and handsome as he was, conducted himself
occasionally in really quite a singular way.
For instance, it was a curious fact that he never could bear the
sight of a dog; and if ever one came near him (and as there were a good
many dogs about the castle, it was quite impossible to keep them from
coming near him now and then) he would set his teeth, and rise slowly
from his seat, and begin to make a low hissing noise, craning his neck
forward, and swelling and rounding his back in such an extraordinary
way that the first time Eileen saw him doing it she thought he was
going to have a fit, and was quite alarmed.
Oh, dear, II'm afraid you're ill! she exclaimed, getting upon
her feet and feeling very uneasy.
No, no, it's onlyit's onlythe dog, gasped the knight, gripping
his seat with both hands, as if it needed the greatest effort to keep
himself still. Hisssss! I've such a terrible dislike to dogs.
It'sit's in my family, said the poor young man; and he could not
recover his composure at all till the little animal that had disturbed
him was carried away.
Then he had such a strange fashion of amusing himself in his own
room where he slept. It was a spacious room, hung all round with arras;
and often, after the household had gone to bed, those who slept nearest
to the knight were awakened out of their sleep by the noise he made in
running up and down, and here and there; scudding about over the floor,
and evenas far as could be guessed by the soundsclambering up the
walls, just as though, instead of being a gracious high-bred young
gentleman, he had been the veriest tomboy.
I fear, Sir Knight, you do not always rest easily in your
apartment, Eileen's old father said to him one morning after he had
been making even more disturbance of this sort than usual. We have
rough ways here in the North, and perhaps the arrangement of your
sleeping quarters is not exactly to your liking?
But the knight, when he began to say this, interrupted him hastily,
and declared that he had never slept more comfortably in any room in
his life, or more peacefully, he said; he was seldom conscious of even
so much as awakening once. Of course, when he said this, Eileen and her
father could only open their eyes, and come to the conclusion that the
poor young knight was a somnambulist, and afflicted with the habit of
running and leaping in his sleep.
Again, too, out-of-doors, it was very odd how it affected him to
hear the birds sing. Whenever they began their songs, all sorts of
nervous twitchings would come over him, and he would lick his lips and
make convulsive movements with his hands; and his attention would
become so distracted that he would quite lose the thread of his
discourse if he were talking, or the thread of Eileen's, if she were
talking to him. It is because I enjoy hearing them so much, he said
once; and of course when he said so Eileen could only believe him; yet
she could not help wishing he would show his pleasure in some other way
than this curious one of setting his teeth and rolling his eyes, and
looking much more as if he wanted to eat the birds than to listen to
Still, in spite of these and a good many other peculiarities, the
young knight was very charming, and Eileen was very fond of him. They
used to spend the happiest days together, wandering about the wild and
beautiful country, often sitting for hours on the rocky shores of the
dark lough, looking into the deep still water at their feet. It was a
wild, romantic, lonely place, shut out from the sunlight by great
granite cliffs that threw their dark weird shadows over it.
Do you know there is a prophecy that our castle shall stand one day
here in the middle of the lough? Eileen said, laughing, once. I don't
know how it is to be done, but we are to be planted somehow in the
middle of the water. That is what the people say. I shouldn't like to
live here then. How gloomy it would be to have those great shadows
always over us! and the girl shivered a little, and stole her hand
into her lover's, and they began to talk about the far different place
where she should live; his beautiful palace, far away in the sunny
country beyond the sea. She was never weary of hearing about the new
place and new life that she was going to, and all the beauty and
happiness that were going to be hers.
So time went on, until at last the day before the marriage-day came.
Eileen had been showing her lover all her ornaments; she had a great
number of very precious ones, and, to please him and amuse herself, she
had been putting them all on, loading herself with armlets, and
bracelets, and heavy chains of gold, such as the old Irish princesses
used to wear, till she looked as gorgeous as a princess herself.
It was a sunny summer day, and she sat thinking to herself, My
married life will begin so soon nowthe new, beautiful, strange
lifeand I will wear these ornaments in the midst of it; but where
everything else is so lovely, will he think me then as lovely as he
Presently she glanced up, with a little shyness and a little vanity,
just to see if he was looking at and thinking of her; but as she lifted
up her head, instead of finding that his eyes were resting on her, she
Well, she found that the knight was certainly not thinking of her
one bit. He was sitting staring fixedly at one corner of the apartment,
with his lips working in the oddest fashion; twitching this way and
that, and parting and showing his teeth, while he was clawing with his
hands the chair on which he sat.
Dear me! said Eileen rather sharply and pettishly, what is the
matter with you?
Eileen spoke pretty crossly; for as she had on various previous
occasions seen the knight conduct himself in this sort of way, her
feeling was less of alarm at the sight of him than simply of annoyance
that at this moment, when she herself had been thinking of him so
tenderly, he could be giving his attention to any other thing. What is
the matter with you? she said; and she raised herself in her chair and
turned round her head to see if she could perceive anything worth
looking at in that corner into which the knight was staring almost as
if the eyes would leap out of his head.
Why, there's nothing there but a mouse! she said contemptuously,
when she had looked and listened for a moment, and heard only a little
faint scratching behind the tapestry.
No, no, I believe not; oh, no, nothing but a mouse, replied the
knight hurriedly; but still he did not take his eyes from the spot, and
he moved from side to side in his chair, and twitched his head from
right to left, and looked altogether as if he hardly knew what he was
And I am sure a mouse is a most harmless thing, said Eileen.
Harmless? Oh! delicious! replied the knight, with so much unction
that Eileen, in her turn, opened her eyes and stared. Delicious! quite
delicious! murmured the knight again.
But after a moment or two more, all at once he seemed to recollect
himself, and made a great effort, and withdrew his eyes from the corner
where the mouse was still making a little feeble scratching.
I mean aa most interesting animal, he said. I have always felt
with regard to mice
But just at this instant the mouse poked out his little head from
beneath the tapestry, and the knight leaped to his feet as if he was
Hissss! skierrr! hisssss! he cried; andcould
Eileen believe her eyes?for one instant she saw the knight flash past
her, and then there was nothing living in the room besides her but a
great black cat clinging by his claws half-way up the arras, and a
little brown mouse between his teeth.
Of course the only thing that Eileen could do was to faint, and so
she fainted, and it was six hours before she came to herself again. In
the mean time nobody in the world knew what had happened; and when she
opened her eyes and began to cry out about a terrible black cat, they
all thought she had gone out of her mind.
My dear child, I assure you there is no such thing in the house as
a black cat, her father said uneasily to her, trying to soothe her in
the best way he could.
Oh, yes, he turned into a black cat, cried Eileen.
Who turned into a black cat? asked her father.
The knight did, sobbed Eileen.
And then the poor old father went out of the room, thinking that his
daughter was going mad.
She is quite beside herself; she says that you are not a man, but a
cat, he said sorrowfully to the young knight, whom he met standing
outside his daughter's room. What in the world could have put such
thoughts into her head? Not a thing will she talk about but black
Let me see her; I will bring her to her right mind, said the
I doubt it very much, replied the chief; but as he did not know
what else to do, he let him go into the room, and the knight went in
softly and closed the door, and went up to the couch on which Eileen
lay. She lay with her eyes closed, and with all her gold chains still
upon her neck and arms; and the knight, because he trod softly, had
come quite up to her side before she knew that he was there. But the
moment she opened her eyes and saw him, she gave such a scream that it
quite made him leap; and if he had not bolted the door every creature
in the castle would have rushed into the room at the sound of it.
Fortunately for him, however, he had bolted the door; and as it was a
very stout door, made of strong oak, Eileen might have screamed for an
hour before anybody could have burst it open. As soon, therefore, as
the knight had recovered from the start she gave him, he quietly took a
chair and sat down by her side.
Eileen, he said, beginning to speak at oncefor probably he felt
that the matter he had come to mention was rather a painful and a
delicate one, and the more quickly he could get over what he had to say
the betterEileen, you have unhappily to-day seen me
underahem!under an unaccustomed shape
He had only got so far as this, when Eileen gave another shriek and
covered her face with her hands.
I say, repeated the knight, in a tone of some annoyance, and
raising his voice, for Eileen was making such a noise that it was
really necessary to speak pretty loudlyI say you have unfortunately
seen me to-day under a shape that you were not prepared for; but I have
come, my love, to assure you that thetransformationwas purely
accidentala mere blunder of a momentan occurrence that shall never
be repeated in your sight. Look up to me again, Eileen, and do not let
this eve of our marriage-day
But what the knight had got to say about the eve of their
marriage-day Eileen never heard, for as soon as he had reached these
words she gave another shriek so loud that he jumped upon his seat.
Do you think that I will ever marry a black cat? cried Eileen,
fixing her eyes with a look of horror on his face.
Eileen, take care! exclaimed the knight sternly. Take care how
you anger me, or it will be the worse for you.
The worse for me! Do you think I am afraid of you? said Eileen
with her eyes all flashing, for she had a high enough spirit, and was
not going to allow herself to be forced to marry a black cat, let the
knight say what he would. She rose from her couch and would have sprung
to the ground, if all at once the knight had not bent forward and taken
her by her hand.
Eileen, said the knight, holding her fast and looking into her
face, Eileen, will you be my wife?
I would sooner die! cried Eileen.
Eileen, cried the knight passionately, I love you! Do not break
your promise to me. Forget what you have seen. I am a powerful
magician. I will make you happy. I will give you all you want. Be my
Never! cried Eileen.
Then you have sealed your fate! exclaimed the knight fiercely; and
suddenly he rose and extended his arms, and said some strange words
that Eileen did not understand; and all at once it appeared to her as
if some thick white pall were spreading over her, and her eyelids began
to close, and involuntarily she sank back.
Once more, but as if in a dream, she heard the knight's voice.
If you do not become my wife, he said, you shall never be the
wife of any living man. The black cat can hold his own. Sleep here till
another lover comes to woo you.
A mocking laugh rang through the roomand then Eileen heard no
more. It seemed to her that her life was passing away. A strange
feeling came to her, as if she were sinking through the air; there was
a sound in her ears of rushing water; and then all recollection and all
Some travelers passing that evening by the lough gazed at the spot
on which the castle had stood, and rubbed their eyes in wild surprise,
for there was no castle there, but only a bare tract of desolate, waste
ground. The prophecy had been fulfilled; the castle had been lifted up
from its foundation and sunk in the waters of the lough.
This was the story that Dermot used to listen to as he sat in his
father's hall on winter nightsa wild old story, very strange, and
sweet too, as well as strange. For they were living still, the legend
always saidthe chief and his household, and beautiful Eileen; not
dead at all, but only sleeping an enchanted sleep, till some one of the
M'Swynes should come and kill the black cat who guarded them, and set
them free. Under those dark, deep waters, asleep for three hundred
years, lay Eileen, with all her massive ornaments on her neck and arms,
and red-gold Irish hair. How often did the boy think of her, and
picture to himself the motionless face, with its closed, waiting eyes,
and yearn to see it. Asleep there for three hundred years! His heart
used to burn at the imagination. In all these centuries had no M'Swyne
been found bold enough to find the black cat and kill him? Could it be
so hard a thing to kill a black cat? the little fellow thought.
I'd kill him myself if only I had the chance, he said one day; and
when he said that his father laughed.
Ay, my lad, you might kill him if you had the chancebut how would
you get the chance? he asked him. Do you think the magician would be
fool enough to leave his watch over the lough and put himself in your
way? Kill him? Yes, we could any of us kill him if we could catch him;
but three hundred years have passed away and nobody has ever caught him
Well, I may do it some day, when I am grown a man, Dermot said.
So he went on dreaming over the old legend, and weaving out of his
own brain an ending to it. What if it should be, indeed, his lot to
awake Eileen from her enchanted sleep? He used to wander often by the
shores of the dark little lough and gaze into the shadowy waters. Many
a time, too, he would sail across them, leaning down over his boat's
side, to try in vain to catch some glimpse of the buried castle's walls
or towers. Once or twiceit might have been mere fancyit seemed to
him as if he saw some dark thing below the surface, and he would cry
aloud, The cat! I see the black cat! But they only laughed at him
when he returned home and said this. It was only a big fish at the
bottom of the water, my boy, his father would reply.
When he was a boy he talked of this story often and was never weary
of asking questions concerning it; but presently, as he grew older, he
grew more reserved and shy, and when he spoke about Eileen the color
used to come into his cheek. Why, boy, are you falling in love with
her? his father said to him one day. Are there not unbewitched
maidens enough to please you on the face of the earth, but you must
take a fancy to a bewitched one lying asleep at the bottom of the
lough? and he laughed aloud at him. After that day Dermot never spoke
of Eileen in his father's hearing. But although he ceased to speak of
her, yet only the more did he think and dream about her; and the older
he grew, the less did he seem to care for any of those unbewitched
maidens of whom his father had talked; and the only maiden of whom he
thought with love and longing was this one who lay asleep in the
enchanted castle in the lough.
So the years passed on, and in time Dermot's father died, and the
young man became chieftain of his clan. He was straight and tall, with
blue, clear eyes, and a frank, fair face. Some of the M'Swynes, who
were a rough, burly race, looked scornfully on him and said that he was
fitter to make love to ladies than to head men on a battle-field; but
they wronged him when they said that, for no braver soldier than Dermot
had ever led their clan. He was both brave and gentle too, and
courteous, and tender, and kind; and as for being only fit to make love
to ladieswhy, making love to ladies was almost the only thing he
Are you not going to bring home a wife to the old house, my son?
said his foster-mother, an old woman who had lived with him all her
life. Before I die I'd love to dandle a child of yours upon my knee.
But Dermot only shook his head. My wife, I fear, will be hard to
win. I may have to wait for her all my days. And then, after a little
while, when the old woman still went on talking to him, How can I
marry when my love has been asleep these three hundred years?
This was the first time that he had spoken about Eileen for many a
day, and the old nurse had thought, like everybody else, that he had
forgotten that old legend and all the foolish fancies of his youth.
She was sitting at her spinning-wheel, but she dropped the thread
and folded her hands sadly on her knees.
My son, why think on her that's as good as dead? Even if you could
win her, would you take a bewitched maiden to be your wife?
It was a summer's day, and Dermot stood looking far away through the
sunshine toward where, though he could not see it, the enchanted castle
lay. He had stood in that same place a thousand times, looking toward
it, dreaming over the old tale.
For several minutes he made no answer to what the old woman had
said; then all at once he turned round to her.
Nurse, he said passionately, I have adored her for twenty years.
Ever since I first stood at your knees, and you told me of her, she has
been the one love of my heart. Unless I can marry her, I will never
marry any woman in this world. He came to the old woman's side, and
though he was a full-grown man, he put his arms about her neck. Nurse,
you have a keen woman's wit; cannot you help me with it? he said. I
have wandered round the lough by day and night and challenged the
magician to come and try his power against me, but he does not hear me,
or he will not come. How can I reach him through those dark, cruel
waters and force him to come out of them and fight with me?
Foolish lad! the old woman said. She was a wise old woman, but she
believed as much as everybody else did in the legend of the castle in
the lough. What has he to gain that he need come up and fight with
you? Do you think the black cat's such a fool as to heed your ranting
and your challenging?
But what else can I do?
The old woman took her thread into her hands again, and sat spinning
for two or three minutes without answering a word. She was a sensible
old woman, and it seemed to her a sad pity that a fine young man like
her foster-son should waste his life in pining for the love of a maiden
who had lain asleep and enchanted for three hundred years. Yet the
nurse loved him so dearly that she could not bear to cross him in
anything, or to refuse to do anything that he asked. So she sat
spinning and thinking for a little while, and then said:
It was a mouse that made him show himself in his own shape first,
and it's few mice he can be catching, I guess, down in the bottom of
the lough. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll give you half a dozen mice
in a bag tomorrow, and you can let them loose when you get to the water
side, and see if that will bring him up.
Well, Dermot did not think very much of this plan; but still, as he
had asked the old woman to help him, he felt that he could not avoid
taking her advice, and so the next morning his nurse gave him a bag
with half a dozen mice in it, and he carried it with him to the lough.
But, alas! as soon as ever he had opened the bag, all the six mice
rushed away like lightning and were out of sight in a moment.
That chance is soon ended, Dermot said mournfully to himself; so
he took back the empty bag to his nurse, and told her what had
You goose, why didn't you let them out one by one? inquired she.
Sure they would run when you opened the bag. You should have made play
To be sure, so I should; but I never thought of that. I'll do
better next time.
So next day the woman brought him the bag again, filled this time
with fat rats, and he took it to the lough, and laid it down at the
water side, and opened the mouth of it just wide enough for one of the
rats to put out his nose; and then he sat and watched, and watched,
letting the rats run away one by one; but though he sat watching for
the whole day, not a sign did he ever see of the black cat. At last he
came disconsolately home again with the empty bag on his shoulder.
Never mind, my son, we'll try something else to-morrow, said nurse
cheerfully. So next morning she brought him a fishing-rod, and a large
piece of toasted cheese. Take this to the lough and bait your hook
with it, she said, and see if the black cat won't come up and take a
bite. All cats like cheese.
Dermot went immediately to the lough, baited his hook, and threw the
line out into the water. After a few minutes his heart gave a great
jump, for he felt a sudden pull at the line. He drew it in softly and
cautiously; but when he got it to the water's edge there was nothing on
his hook but a large flat fishand the toasted cheese had all broken
away and was gone.
What a foolish old woman, to give me toasted cheese to put into
water! he said to himself; then he heaved a sigh, threw the fish into
his bag, and once more went sadly away.
I dare say the villain of a cat has breakfasted nicely off the
toasted cheese without the trouble of coming for it, he said bitterly,
when he got home.
Never mind; we'll maybe have better luck to-morrow, replied the
nurse. I dreamed a dream, and in the dream I thought of something else
So early next morning she brought a fat black pig.
What in the world am I to do with this? said Dermot sharply.
Ah, now, be easy, my dear, said the old woman coaxingly. Just
take it down to the lough and roast it there, and sure when the cat
smells the fine smell of it he'll come up for a taste.
Now Dermot was getting rather tired of doing all these odd things;
and though he had readily gone to the lough with the mice and the rats
and the toasted cheese, yet he did not at all relish the notion of
carrying a live pig across the country with him for two or three miles.
However, he was very good-natured, and so, although he did not himself
think that any good would come of it, after a little while he let his
nurse persuade him to take the pig. The old woman tied a string about
its leg, and he took it to the lough, and as soon as he got there he
collected some sticks and peat together and, building up a good big
pile, set light to it. Then he killed the pig with his hunting-knife
and hung it up before the fire to roast. Presently a most savory smell
began to fill the air.
Dermot withdrew a little way, sat down behind a jutting piece of
rock, and watched, his eyes never leaving the smooth surface of the
lough; but minute after minute passed and not the slightest movement
stirred it. From time to time he made up his fire afresh, and turned
his pig from side to side. The whole air around grew full of the smell
of roasting meat, so savory that, being hungry, it made Dermot's own
mouth water; but stillthere lay the lough, quiet and smooth, and
undisturbed as glass, with only the dark shadows of the silent rocks
lying across it.
At last the pig was cooked and ready, and Dermot rose and drew it
from the fire.
I may as well make my own dinner off it, he thought sorrowfully to
himself, for nobody else will come to have a share of it. So he took
his knife and cut himself a juicy slice, and sat down again, concealing
himself behind the rock, with his bow and arrow by his side, and had
just lifted the first morsel to his lips, when
Down fell the untasted meat upon the ground, and his heart leaped to
his lips, for surely something at last was stirring the waters! The
oily surface had broken into circles; there was a movement, a little
splash, a sudden vision of something black. A moment or two he sat
breathlessly gazing; and thenwas he asleep, or was he waking, and
really saw it?he saw above the water a black cat's head. Black head,
black paws put out to swim, black back, black tail.
Dermot took his bow up in his hand, and tried to fit an arrow to it;
but his hand shook, and for a few moments he could not draw. Slowly the
creature swam to the water's edge, and, reaching it, planted its feet
upon the earth, and looked warily, with green, watchful eye, all round;
then, shaking itselfand the water seemed to glide off its black fur
as off a duck's backit licked its lips, and, giving one great sweep
into the air, it bounded forward to where the roasted pig was smoking
on the ground. For a moment Dermot saw it, with its tail high in the
air and its tongue stretched out to lick the crackling; and then, sharp
and sure, whiz! went an arrow from his bow; and the next moment,
stretched flat upon the ground, after one great dismal howl, lay the
man-cat, or cat-man, with an arrow in his heart.
Dermot sprang to his feet, and, rushing to the creature's side,
caught him by the throat; but he was dead already; only the great,
wide-opened, green, fierce eyes seemed to shoot out an almost human
look of hatred and despair, before they closed forever. The young
chieftain took up the beast, looked at it, and with all his might flung
it from him into the lough; then turning round, he stretched his arms
Eileen! Eileen! he cried aloud; and as though that word had broken
the spell, all at onceoh, wonderful sight!the enchanted castle
began to rise. Higher it rose and higher; one little turret first; then
pinnacles and tower and roof; then strong stone walls; until, complete,
it stood upon the surface of the lough like a strange floating ship.
And then slowly and gently it drifted to the shore and, rising at the
water's edge, glided a little through the air, and sank at last upon
the earth, fixing itself firmly down once more where it had stood of
old, as if its foundations never had been stirred through the whole of
those three hundred years.
With his heart beating fast, Dermot stood gazing as if he could
never cease to gaze. It was a lovely summer day, and all the landscape
round him was bathed in sunlight. The radiance shone all over the gray
castle walls and made each leaf on every tree a golden glory. It shone
on bright flowers blooming in the castle garden; it shone on human
figures that began to live and move. Breathless and motionless, Dermot
watched them. He was not close to them, but near enough to see them in
their strange quaint dresses, passing to and fro, like figures that had
started from some painted picture of a by-gone age. The place grew full
of them. They poured out from the castle gates; they gathered into
groups; they spread themselves abroad; they streamed out from the
castle right and left. Did they know that they had been asleep?
Apparently not, for each man went on with his natural occupation, as if
he had but paused over it a minute to take breath. A hum of voices
filled the air; Dermot heard strange accents, almost like those of an
unknown tongue, mingled with the sound of laughter. Three hundred years
had passed away, and yet they did not seem to know it; busily they went
about their sports or laborsas calmly and unconsciously as if they
never had been interrupted for an hour.
And, in the midst of all, where was Eileen? The young chieftain
stood looking at the strange scene before him, with his heart beating
high and fast. He had killed the cat, he had broken the enchantment, he
had awakened the castle from its sleep, but what was to come next? Did
the prophecy, which said that a M'Swyne should do this, say also that,
for doing it, he should be given a reward?
Nay, it said nothing more. The rest was all a blank. But was there,
then, to be no reward for him? Dermot stood suddenly erect and crushed
down a certain faintness that had been rising in his heart. The
prophecy, indeed, said nothing, but he would carve out the rest of his
destiny for himself.
And so he carved it out. He went straight through the unknown people
to the castle garden and foundwas it what he sought? He found a lady
gathering flowersa lady in a rich dress, with golden armlets,
bracelets, and head-ornamentssuch as are now only discovered in
tombs. But she was not dead; she was alive and young. For she turned
round, and, after his life's patient waiting, Dermot saw Eileen's face.
And thenwhat more? Well, need I tell the rest? What ending could
the story have but one? Of course he made her love him, and they
married, and lived, and died. That was the whole. They were probably
happyI do not know. You may see the little lough still in that wild
country of Donegal, and the deep dark waters that hid the enchanted
castle beneath them for so many years. As for the castle itselfthat,
I think, has crumbled away; and the whole story is only a story
legendone of the pretty, foolish legends of the old times.