A Dreamer by Dora Sigerson Shorter
By the side of a river near Dublin a little boy of twelve was
crouching. He was punching and rolling a handful of the sticky clay
from the banks into the shape of a man's head. Not far from him an
artist was sketching, and by the boy's side a small girl sat, her eyes
and mouth open in amazed admiration of her comrade's work. The call of
a woman's distant voice startled the three. And the boy sprang to his
feet, so that the clay he was modelling fell from him and rolled to the
artist's side. The man took up the work, and turning it in his hands,
found it bore a rough resemblance to himself.
Why, it is clever, he said. Where did you learn, boy? The child,
forgetting an angry woman was watching him from the distance, flushed
beneath the praise.
I didn't learn, he said.
Oh! an infant prodigy. The man smiled. A village genius and the
makings of a great artist. He put his hand in his pocket and drew
forth a shilling from the few coins there.
Your first payment, I expect. Go on and prosperbrother. The boy
took the coin shyly. His heart went out in a dream after the artist's
words. He was to be great, thenan artist too. The cry of the distant
woman to him tumbled him from his heights. He snatched his forgotten
basket and ran down the road towards the village to do the message he
had not thought of since he came upon the artist on his way. He ran
now, the little girl following more slowly.
The artist again turned the clay in his hands. Alas! he said. Here
is genius condemned to oblivion for want of a rich patron, and you must
fetch and carry because the harsh voice of poverty calls you, leaving
the dear delights and love of this behind.
He laid his brush upon the canvas with an infinite, caressing touch,
making it copy the glorious copper of the deep waters, and with his
movement the clay head rolled upon the ground. He stepped forward,
placing his foot upon it, so it fell to piecesthe boy was forgotten.
But the child ran to the village to make his purchases feeling like a
king. His work had been recognised as art for the first time. He
skipped and jumped as he went, he was so glad; his heart beat loud with
dreams. And everybody knows the song it sung, since everybody's heart
has beaten the same over its first success. But the angry woman who had
borne the boy turned into her house with a sigh.
I sent him an hour ago, she said, to fetch the meat. And he would
have been there still, fiddling in the mud, if I had not looked out and
seen him. He is no good, and he the eldest of them all. She looked
around her flock of chubby, commonplace children, and sighed again that
he was so unlike them.
When the boy had finished his shopping and was returning, he met the
little girl coming to meet him. He clasped her hand in his free one,
and swung it backwards and forwards as he walked. 'You will wait for me
till I grow up, he said; and we will marry. I will buy you dresses of
red silk, trimmed with gold, and you will have emeralds in your hair,
andand you will be grander than Cinderella when I am a great artist.
And I will buy you a blue velvet suit with a lace collar and emerald
rings on all your fingers.
Men don't wear rings, said the boy; but we shall have a gold
coach, like the Lord Mayor's, and six white horses, and a house of
Here he came to the door of his own humble home. Lady, he said,
with a remembrance of a beloved fairy story, bowing and extending his
hand, permit me to help you over this rugged and dangerous path.
The little lady in the blue cotton frock curtsied low, and with a
gracious smile, Thank you, my lord, held out her chubby,
weather-reddened hand. The young lord in corduroys kissed it, and led
her up the path to the door of the house.
I am your true knight, he said, and if in danger or deadly peril,
blow three blasts upon this horn. He held a battered dog-whistle
towards her. When I hear it I will go through fire and water
Here a strong arm took the luckless knight by the collar, and dragged
him not too gently into the house. His castles fell about his ears.
What's keeping you at all, Henry. I'd be quicker going myself than
sending you for anything, idling and streeling about all day. As for
you, Mollie Doherty, she said, turning to the child, who still stood
at the door, you better go home and get something to do; and I am sure
there's plenty there for you to be busy at.
I am going to be an artist, mother, the boy said hesitatinglyhe
felt some doubt of his glory before her angry faceand marry Mollie.
Going to be a fiddlestick! said his mother. Look at your brothers
and sisters all waiting for their dinner while you are messing about in
the mud. Go and get something to do.
The boy, robbed of his dreams, fell to worksuch work as was
unfortunately fated to be his: without time, without constancy, without
method, to-day to run messages, to-morrow to drive crows from the corn,
another day to hang about the office where his father was employed,
hoping to get a job; all the waiting, the idle hours, the uninteresting
toil, calculated to work ruin upon his already dreamy and
That night his mother, folding her sewing with a sigh, spoke to her
husband about her eldest son.
I can't think who that boy takes after, she said, with his
nonsense about being an artist. I would sooner see him an honest
workman in the position that Providence has given him than one of those
fellows, with their indecent models and mud rubbish. I can't bear to
hear him speak of such things. What is good enough for his father is
good enough for him, I hope.
The man did not reply, but got up from his chair by the fire and went
out into the night. There he came upon the boy, sitting on the grass,
his face upturned to the stars. The child sprang to his feet as his
father came towards him. He knew there was no mercy here for his
dreams. His father was harsher upon them than his mother. He felt
without a friend. The man did not reproach him, but took his hand with
a hard grasp.
Come here, he said; I want to speak to you. He drew the boy to
him out into the moonlight. They seated themselves upon a low wall. The
man took from his pocket a worn pocket-book.
There is no use forbidding you to dream or follow your inclination
to art, he said, but I will show you before you are too old to change
what it leads to. Your mother wonders where you get your love of art
from. Look here and here.
He drew from the book some old yellow pappers, and smoothed them upon
his knee caressingly.
I was for a few years an art student, and you see I won my passes in
all subjects I entered for. You are surprised, you never knew and
nobody at home suspects I ever learnt to draw. Well, as a lad I studied
in the evenings after my work. I had a clerkship which brought me in
enough to pay for my art classes. The masters were good to me, and said
I should be a great artist if I stuck to my work and studied hard. I
did till I was twenty-two; then I had to travel for my firm, and when I
was away met a girla pretty, attractive girl. Then it was all
romance, love, dreams; and I married her on my little income. She had
no money. I married her, and hoped after we had our little cottage
furnished to again return to my art. In a year we paid for enough
furniture to make it comfortable, but then there was a baby to be
considered, and I said, 'Well, in a year or so I shall go back to my
dreams; now I must work for my wife and child.' But the years passed,
and children came about me, one, two, three, four, every year fresh
expenses, less hope, till I am no more a man, only a machine for
money-makingkeeping the wolf away.
And the pretty lady, said the child, whose memory had lingered upon
the romantic part of his father's story, where is she?
Your mother. The man smiled unwillingly. A true woman, a good
woman, but without imagination or sympathy. She never knew I loved art,
I dared not tell her. She would have despised me. She would have
thought me selfish if I had turned even for a moment to it. She is not
selfish; she has devoted her life to her home and her children, washed,
sewn, stinted, toiled for us all; until she has grown hard and old.
Alas! my pretty sweetheart, poverty has broken us. As for me, I do not
care to live. Live! I do not liveonly when I sleep and dream. Then I
have conquered, then I am strong. I tell you all, my son, that you may
give up this dreaming; you must renounce your dreams, or they will
become an agony to you. Take your place beside me, become commonplace,
business-like, get on your office stool, marry a woman of your class,
and have no other aim than to fill the mouths of her children, and rear
them up to people the world. That is your lot.
But I am going to marry Mollie, the boy said, whispering; for he
did not understand.
Marry no one, said the man, rising, if you are a dreamer of
dreams; but shut yourself away with them, and they will be sweeter than
fame. The world cannot hurt you if you keep your dreams. But marry, and
poverty will have her foot upon your neck and crush you.
But I am going to be a great artist, the boy said, with the trill
of tears in his voice; and I will have lots of money. He held up to
his father as he spoke the model of a child's head, in clay.
Give it up! the man said passionately. I am jealous of youI envy
youwith your youth and hope and dreamsdreams! He snatched the clay
from the boy's hand, flung it upon the grass, and trampled upon it.
You must not show me these things; you must not touch the clay in my
sight: I cannot bear it. Look here! He lifted the soil and with a few
turns of his hands, infinitely caressing, held up a rough study of the
head and bust of a woman. Do you think I do not know? Put it away! put
it away! He flung the work into the darkness and strode back to his
The child, he said to his wife, is a dreamer of dreams. Hope is
his, youth is his, love is his at least, for a few yearsand he is
The wife looked up and laid her knitting in her lap.
I never understand you in your wild moods, Harry, she said. I am
sure you ought to be happy, if you are not. You have a quiet home and
good children, and I do my best; what more do you want to make you
content? Even if we are poor, money is not everything.
Yes, it is, the man said ; it is everything.
Harry, I am ashamed of you; and before the children. We have always
had enough to eat and to clothe ourselves. You ought to thank God
instead of grumbling; there are so many worse off than we are. Soon the
children will be earning for us. Of course, I don't say it is not a
fall for us both, living since we were married in a position neither of
us wereat least, I was notused to. But we can still be grateful,
even in a small house like this. And I wish you would not sit down to
the table with your hand all clay. What were you doing to get them so
soiled?such a bad example for the children.
Few years after this Henry's father died, and on the shoulders of the
eldest son fell his mantle of hopelessness. For a year he, lagging,
followed his father's steps in the deadly monotony of office work. And
then the mother was told to take him homethat he was a dreamer and
would not work.
The woman sat before him that night and wept more bitter tears than
she had at her husband's death.
I wonder, she sobbed, if children ever realize how much their
mothers sacrifice for their sakes? Can you not think of the long years
I have worked for my children? I was young when you came to me,
Henry,only a girl,but I had to give up pleasure and amusement, and
sew for you, and stint for you, and work so hard. I had to rise early
and sleep late; I had to wash, and scrub, and iron, till my hands grew
red and my hair white. Oh! I loved pleasure as much as you do, and
could have idled my time when I was young; but for your sake I did not.
And for me, now that I have reared you, you will do nothing to assist.
Your poor father was no help in rearing my children; he had no sympathy
with them, and thrust it all on me. He was always engrossed in his
business, as was right; but he might have seen how the burden of
poverty and children had aged and wearied me. My youth has gone
unsatisfied, and I am oldold, and tired of it all.
The boy, full of affection, wound his arms about her.
I shall work for you, mother. Indeed, indeed, I never mean to
neglect my work; and I will strive so hard, and in a few years I shall
have you dressed in silk, and none shall be as beautiful as my mother.
The woman dried her tears and kissed him on the forehead. You are a
dear fool, she said; I cannot help loving you.
When the lad rose in the morning he left his dreams upon his pillow.
By the post there came a letter offering him, for his father's sake, a
small clerkship. He bent the note and threw it so it flew like a bird
into his mother's lap.
Good fortune flies to you, he said; did I not tell you I should
succeed? He looked round the table at the rosy, fat faces of his
brothers and sisters. Ladies and gentlemen, please order your bonnets
and cigars, and money is no object.
As he went out towards the city he stood by the river where he had
played as a child years ago. For there, to his amazement, he saw the
same artist he remembered seeing then, working on the still unfinished
picture. He could not help going up and speaking.
Why, boy, the man said; you here still? I often thought of you,
and wondered what you had done with your life.
Why, nothingnothing yet, the lad answered.
Yet! yet! Is it the spirit of the everlasting hills or Time himself
who speaks to me? What frail possessor of uncertain years can afford to
say, 'Nothing yet'? It is the 'nothing yet' that kills
success. The other day, after all these years, I came upon this
unfinished canvas in my studio; I remembered how poor, how miserable I
had been when I began it, and I said I will finish it now I am
happyfor I have succeeded, boy, in the years you have done 'nothing
yet.' Still, to help you, for I know you have talent, I make this
proposal I shall take you for a year, pay your expenses, and see if you
really are the genius I think you. If you are, I shall educate you as
an artist; if not, why, you will be no worse off here than you have
The boy, stunned and dazzled at the prospect of so much happiness,
could answer nothing. The artist handed him a card and bid him go.
You can think it over, he said. Let me know; there is my address.
No thanksbe off. Remember Rome, Italy, and art. I leave to-morrow.
To Rome! to Rome! The lad went along the river bank and sank upon a
rock; hiding his face in his hands, he let loose his dreams. What a
prospect! What joy! He felt two soft hands upon his shoulders, and,
reaching up, he caught them.
O Mollie! Mollie! Mollie! he sang, drawing her down beside him,
did you see a golden bird flying towards me as you came?
Foolish boy! the girl smiled. What was the bird's name?
Good luck! Good fortune! he answered, laughing loud; and it flew
What is it, dear? The girl bent to him. Tell me the story.
And so he told her. She saddened at the thought of a parting, glad
for his delight, listened and followed him through his world of
dreamsalways a watcher, willing to live in the shine of his
successes. He held her hands and traced out their happy lives together.
And she leant towards him, already dwelling in those splendid years he
told her of.
A child's rough hand upon his shoulder startled both.
Mother wants to know what you are doing, sitting here, came the
shrill voice, full of reproach.
The lad started to his feet. What am I doingoh! I must tell
mother. Sit there, Mollie, till I come back and tell you what she
He took the child's hand, telling him that a fairy god-mother had
come for him to take him away to a beautiful city and make him a king.
But the child listened with a sulky face, and coming near the house,
loosed his brother's hand and ran crying indoors. When Henry followed
he found himself the centre of a depressing group. His brothers' and
sisters' reproachful faces stared silently from their various positions
about the room. His mother was seated, her hands, idle for the moment,
clasped hard together, her eyes shining with the gathering of a
I have had such luck, mother, he began, then stopped; the universal
sulky gloom on all faces repressed him.
The child who had preceded him cried out, He is going away to be a
rich man, and won't work for us any more.
The mother put him aside.
You must be lucky, indeed, she said bitterly, if you can afford to
sit idle by the river and throw away your chance of the office work you
have been offered.
The lad flushed, but told his story. The hope faded from his face as
he saw hers did not brighten in the hearing, but instead disappointment
settled upon it.
And what of us when you, the eldest, go to make your fortune?what
will become of us? I am getting too old, and cannot work much longer.
John won't be old enough to take your place for a couple of years, and
the girls will have to give up school and go out asas servants; and
all because you are training for what you never have talent to be. When
you playing in your
beautiful home, with plenty to eat and drink, think of your old
mother and your little sisters and brothers, who are, perhaps, turned
out from the only roof that can cover them. She bowed her head and
burst into tears. Henry saw the grey of her hair and the roughness of
her hands; every eye from the stern young faces around the room
denounced him. He stood like a thief in the dock. What! rob them of a
hundred a year, take the food from their mouths, and the clothes from
their backs! And that poor mother, how her sobs killed him! He put his
hand upon her shoulder. Don't cry, he said; of course, I never meant
He left the house hastily and strode with quick steps along the river
bank. He passed by Mollie as she sat waiting for him, but did not
speak. He bent his head upon his breast, and she saw how it was, and
wept for him when he had gone.
Yet he would have forgotten me, she said; and then, Oh, how
selfish I am! Poor fellow! how he will suffer!
But Henry did not suffer as keenly as she imagined; his was a nature
to dream, and not to do. He suffered less, after the first
disappointment, by being deprived of the action than if he had been
denied the right to dream of being famous. He felt he had made little
sacrifice when he wrote to the artist saying he could not take his
offer, but accepted his fate with scarcely a murmur.
We are like the leaves upon the river of he would saywe go with
For twelve years Henry plodded on slowly in his office. Not being
clever, he stayed but by his employer's indulgence, and at home he was
seldom recognised as one of themselves by his brothers and sisters. The
noisy, commonplace boys and girls let the dreamer pass amongst them
unnoticed. He kept the roof above them, but they gave him no credit for
that. He might have done so much more. He dwelt in the midst of them,
and never realized how bored he was by the commonplace. Two of the
girls married men with moderate means, and then the mother died. The
second son got a clerkship in a bank. And one day the youngest came to
Henry, and spoke to him in a manner so unusually kind that Henry
guessed he must have done him some injury. And then it came out that he
was to get the position at the office where Henry had been so long.
You see, you are so slow, he said; and now that I am grown they
think it would be all the same if I took your place.
And what is to become of me? Henry asked.
You? Oh, we were thinkingthe rest and myselfthe young fellow
hesitatednow that the girls are married and the boys all doing for
themselves, thatthat you might go and study your art. You always
wanted to, you know; and the house is so small for us boys, now that we
have grown up.
Henry looked about him. The first thought was of loss and
desolationhe was of no use in the world.
I might go to America, he said, thinking.
A grand idea! His brother was charmed. It's quite easy to make a
fortune there. You'd better go at once. You will be richer than us all,
old fellow. He patted him on the shoulder. He was delighted; he never
felt so kindly to his brother before. They would all love him so much
if he would take the gloom of his presence across the water. The girls
were so smart now, and Henry was such a shabby, slouching fellow, never
caring what he wore; they were all ashamed to be seen with him. He
would get on ever so much better in America.
Henry walked out of the house, going like a man who had lost his way.
He did not know where to turn; first he walked instinctively in the
direction of his office, then came back to the river-side and threw
himself upon the bank. He took a lump of wax from his pocket and
commenced moulding it unconsciously. While he worked at it his
depression fell from him. He realized with a shock that he was free,
quite free: no more little hands to keep pulling him back. He had
accepted them as fate then. His brothers and sisters, so unlike
himselfno, he did not love them. Only he would have died for them if
it had been demanded of him. His sense of duty was strong. Here by the
river he was conscious of missing some presence other than his brothers
and sisters. It came to him before he realized who it was he missed.
She was a woman now, sweet and slenderhis sweetheart all through
Mollie, he said, I am going away at last; I am going away to make
my fortune and come back to marry you.
She looked up with a white face. Where are you going, dear? she
asked. She had got used to waiting; it was not much when she could see
him every day and feel his affections surround her.
Willie has taken my place at the office, and nobody wants me at
home. I am going to America, to workwith my hands. Mollie dear, I am
going to be a man, and give up my dreamsat least, till I have earned
enough to keep you and them. You will not mind waiting a little longer,
The woman raised his hands in hers and laid her cheek upon them. She
remembered what he did not realizethat the years were passing so
We could not have married, the man continued, if I had remained
here. It was for the best my brother succeeded. While they wanted me
and the money I could not have been free; and on whatever income I make
now we shall have only our two selves to keep. Do you remember the
artist we met here who offered me such a glorious future? Ah! wish he
were here now.
The two started up at the voice and looked round. A little old man,
shabby, and bent, stood behind them, with a portfolio under his arm.
He looked at the wax head the younger man had been modelling.
Very little better than the head you showed me as a child. What have
you been doing all these years?
Nothing! nothing! nothing! Do the years not move for you, young sir.
Fortunes are made and lost, thrones are gained and lost, empires have
fallen, and all while you do nothing.
The young man hung his head.
Look at me, the artist continued. I painted a picture here that
won me a fortune, I became rich, I became famous. I had my day, I
lived, I lost my fortune, and was forgotten, and I am here again
selling from cottage to cottage the prints of my picture.
I am sorry, the young man answered. You need not be. The artist
laughed. For what is fame? The clatter of tongues, the buzzing of
flies. Bah! give me money to buy a brush and colours, and, sitting with
solitude, I paintI am happy.
The quaint old man passed on with a nod of farewell.
Henry was seated by the table in his little hut in California. Before
him lay a pile of letters, some of them faded, others stained
withperhaps tears, some with the outline of an enclosed flower or
leaf. He moved his hand and let it idly turn them, he read a bit of one
here and there.
It is good to feel you love my letters, he readthat they are a
strength to you. I think of you always and pray for your success. Oh!
may it be soon, so that I see you again. How long the years are!
Henry, things are happening with all the world except us. Your
brothers are all married, and Willie has made a name for himself in the
city. Indeed, we do not see much of one another, your family and
myself; I seldom even speak to your people. Alas! you do not realize
how old and dowdy I am, or perhaps you would be ashamed to love me too.
I almost dread, when I think of my changed face, the hour you return
and we meet after the long years, when you will at last realize I am
But the one his eyes dwelt upon longest was:
Can you not come home to me. My heart hungers for you. The years are
long for separation dearest; they are too long. Let us be poor
together. What does it matter? Nothing matters but the passing of time,
and you away from me. Let us be together. I see death cutting down
people all around me, and I am afraid. Life is passing, passing. All
the years of you that should be mine are passing. Come to me.
How dear these letters had been to him all the yearshe had
forgotten how long. They never missed a post, and he had grown so used
to these silent white messengers flying into his solitude, and breaking
it with sweet conversation hat he felt at times almost loth to put an
end to their coming by going home. He had grown content with his
surroundings; like a thistle seed that had been blown hither and
thither through the air is at last forced into the ground and rooted.
He had drifted about and settled at length in this little hut in
California. Here, undisturbed, he had dreamt his dreams and modelled
and remodelled his wax, always making shapes of some intended
masterpiece, and breaking it up as soon as finished in despair, only to
start as hopefully in a day or so again. So his evenings passed, and
with the long letters from Mollie he felt he had still the sweet
companionship he had never known what it was to have been without. The
daytime of the years he spent in fruit-gathering for any one who would
have his work. Thus he managed to save a little money, and, with luck
unusual to him, saved enough to buy a tiny farm for himself; and on it
was the little log hut he now sat in. He had almost made up his mind to
sell out again and start for home,the last letter of Mollie's filled
him with a vague fear,but another letter had come by the same post
from his sister, asking him to take charge of a ne'er-do-well son.
The boy, she wrote, wants the calm open-air life you can so easily
give him; his heart is the heart of a poet, and cannot bear to be tied
up with the conventuality of town life. His father is too harsh with
him, forgetting he was himself once young. Be kind to my poor boy; he
is not very strong.
When the young man arrived, Henry found him a worthless booridle
and a drunkard. The lout fastened upon him like a parasite, and the
little farm had to support two. Henry relinquished his immediate dreams
of returning home or sending for Mollie, and took upon himself the task
of earning for this young nephew, as he had done for his brothers and
At first he thought it possible to make a man of him, for the boy was
full of insincere sentimental effects, hard to see through; now
lamenting his mother's absence with tears, and
writing her long letters of affection, which he read to his uncle
with evident pride in their composition; now promising his uncle he
would never touch drink again, so fervently that it was impossible to
believe that he meant nothing.
For a year Henry wavered between the impulse to cast this worthless
boor from him and the pity of deserting so weak a creature entirely to
the power of his own passions. But at last the youth cut the bond
himself by tiring of the monotony of the farm life and leaving his
uncle one night, taking what money he could find along with him.
A month after Henry got a letter from his sister denouncing him for
his treatment of her boy.
He has told me how you made his life a misery, reproaching him for
his delicacy. And having the pride some of his family are
without, he could no longer bear it. Without money, hungry, and in
rags, he left you and came back to his mother.
By the same post he received a letter from Mollie. O Henry! the
years will be so very short when we meetso very few; come, come,
come! After that there was a silencea long silence of months. Henry
grew restless; every evening he sat at his table reading over the old
letters, wondering why Mollie never wrote. Had she grown tired of him?
had some one else come between them? His heart burned at the thought.
He strode up and down the room. She was so pretty, so pretty! He looked
at the little picture face he always carried in the locket she had
given him; and then for the first time he wondered if he had himself
changed. He looked over the walls for a glass, but remembered he had
never possessed one, or seen himself for years. He went into another
room, and there found a glass left by his nephew. He went up to it,
then fell back as if he had been struck. What! was this, then,
Henry?the great artist, the fond lovera poor white old manan old
man! He thought of all his dreams for the future. My God! there is no
future, he said. He sat down and laughed his foolish young heart away.
Then flung himself upon his bed and slept like a man who was broken
with much sorrow. He woke with the gloom of a great cloud overhanging
him, and lay long before he arose; he felt too weary to move. And
every morning, he said, when I felt so tired, I thought it laziness
that held me down, and it was ageold manage. In the evening he
went out to cut wood for firing, but he laid his chopper beside the
uncut logs after a few blows. I could fight against the languor of
youth, he said, but against age I cannot fight. I will go back to
Mollie; she will comfort me.
He sold his little holding, and set about returning. The movement let
his dreams loose again, and he forgot he was old; he walked the deck of
the steamer that brought him back, and all the time he dreamt of
Mollie. She would be changed, too, his Molliefaded, perhaps, with
time, like the little picture he carried, but with a sweet white
resemblance to the old love. All the great dreams were over for them
both, but she would be content with little where she had dreamt of
much. They would be just as happy, even if they were poor. Perhaps, who
knows, he thought, with her beside him to spur him on, he might begin
to work in earnest at last.
When he reached the bridge that led into the village where he was
born, he stood upon it, looking across the water. Impossible, he
thought, that he was oldthat any one was changed. Why, what was
different? There the old trees, no older than when he last saw them;
there the houses and their little gardensnot a new one added, not an
old one taken away. A little boy passed, looking up at him; he called
him towards him.
Tell me, he said, trembling, where is Mollie Doherty now?
I don't know any one of that name, answered the child. You must
know! Henry cried in anger. She lived in the little house yonder, by
the elm tree.
Oh! old Mother Mollie, the boy laughed; her we called four-legged
Molly, for she went lubbely, lubbely on crutches, and her face all one
side, like this.
Henry struck the grinning face of the boy sharply with his hand; and
the child, angry and revengeful, sprang back and commenced grinning
afresh. He perceived where the wound lay, and flicked it. He hobbled
slowly around the old man, grinning and shouting a tune to his steps
the same tune he had shouted after Mollie as she limped past. But as he
saw the old man no longer heeded him, he cried,
She is dead, old four-legged Mollie is dead. She died three months
ago, Father Christmas. But the old man on the bridge did not answer;
he stood while the last gleams of youth faded from him, and he was old
indeed, as the sun sets behind a hill, driving the warm purple shadows
away, leaving it cold and bleak. He went at last to his
brother's house, and there a kind young niece met him.
You would like to see poor Mollie's grave, she said, as she brought
him through the fields into the churchyard. That is it. When I have a
lover, she continued, as he sat with his head upon his hands, I will
not wait for him as she did for you, poor thing! Why did you not come
The old man beside the grave thought, but could not remember. After
all, why had he not returned? Now the difficulties which had parted
them did not seem difficulties at all. He bent over the grave, and the
young girl in her pity went wandering away. But Henry was not grieving,
as she imagined; he was wondering why he did not suffer more. After
all, he felt almost glad the agony of parting was over. We could have
had only a few years together, I am so old, he thought. And life or
death can do no more for us; the agony of parting is past, we shall
only meet for ever now. He fell to dreaming of their meeting, and what
she would sayhow they would look at each other and go hand in hand
amongst the strangers in the new world of everlasting time, she
pointing out the wonders he had not seen.
His niece came upon him and reproached his dry eyes. You did not
weep for her, she said.
Tell me about her; how did she look? he answered, holding her hand.
The girl turned her eyes aside.
Her face washer facewhen she died she looked beautiful; all
thethedeformity went, and her face fell back into its young lines.
It was like death triumphing over life, if you can understand.
The old man dropped her hand, and took from his pocket a lump of wax.
It will be my masterpiece, he saiddeath triumphing over life. He
The girl sprang to her feet. You do not care at all for her, she
said. I hate you, Uncle Henry; you did not cry a tear. The old man's
feeble fingers trembled so that he could not form the wax. The work
slipped from them and, falling upon the ground, rolled into a crevice
beneath the stone of Mollie's grave.
I am too old, he saidtoo old.