Five Minutes' Stories
by Mrs. Molesworth
ABDALLAH THE UNHAPPY.
FIFINE AND HER
THE LONG LADDER.
THE BAD FAIRY.
THE GOBLIN FACE.
THE LOST BROOCH.
ONLY A BUNCH OF
FIVE MINUTES STORIES
NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, CHARING CROSS, W.C.
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BRIGHTON: 135 NORTH STREET.
NEW YORK: E. & J. B. YOUNG & CO.
RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED,
LONDON AND BUNGAY.
ABDALLAH THE UNHAPPY.
A great many years ago there dwelt in a city of the East, of which
you have never heard the name, a wise and holy man. He was highly
esteemed by his fellow citizens, for he was kind and benevolent, never
refusing good counsel to those in earnest to profit by it, so that by
degrees the fame of his sagacity spread far and wide, and many came
from great distances to consult him.
One day he was sitting in front of his modest dwelling, enjoying the
soft breeze that stirred the trees hard by, reading from time to time
short passages of an ancient volume open upon his knees, when a shadow
fell across its pages, and looking up, he perceived that a stranger
stood before him, who saluted him with the greatest respect and
courtesy. The sage returned the customary greetings, and then inquired
in what he could be of service to the new-comer.
Father, said the stranger, I have journeyed far to ask your
advice. My quest is summed up in few words, What can I do to be happy?
The wise man looked at him searchingly. He was a handsome man in the
prime of life, richly dressed, healthy and vigorous. His appearance
would have been most prepossessing but for a melancholy and
discontented expression of countenancethere was no genial smile about
the mouth, no kindly light in the eyes.
What have you tried? inquired the sage.
Everything, replied the stranger. Yet without foolish prodigality
and excess. I have sought to surround myself with beauty and
refinement, for my wealth is inexhaustible. I have dipped deep into
learning, for my abilities are, I am told, considerable; I have even of
late in a sort of despair tried to find content in enjoyment of less
elevated kinds, such as seems to satisfy many men. But all was
uselesseating and drinking, and such physical gratifications could do
nothing for one who had sought in vain satisfaction in the perfection
of music, of painting and sculpturenay, more, who had found in the
severest of studies but weariness and disappointment.
You have been too changeable and impatient, my son, said the sage.
Try againI do not say return to the lower pleasures of which you
speak, but devote yourself more exclusively to the fine arts. Travel
far and wide and visit whatever is beautiful. One year from now,
return, and tell me the result.
Abdallah bowed and departed. The year passed, and again he stood
before the sage, despondent as formerly.
In vain. I have exhausted myself in travel. I have seen all the
world has to show. I am more miserable than ever.
Turn then again to study. Shut yourself up with your books. Work
your hardest and see if therein you cannot find contentment. If you
succeed I shall not expect to see you again.
But some days before the year had elapsed, there once more stood
Abdallah. He had grown thin and pale, his eyes told of midnight vigils,
but their expression was no happier.
It is useless, he said. I have followed your advice. But I am not
as other men. Nothing brings happiness to me. There is but one
thing to do, but first I would ask your permission. Let me make an end
The sage frowned.
It must be as you say, he replied after some moments' silence.
You are perhaps so constituted that happiness is impossible for you.
If so, resignation is all that remains. But I cannot at once sanction
your desire to quit this life. I must reflect upon it during a year. In
the meantime consider the struggle as given up; think no more of your
unhappy fate, but as you are about to die, use the time that remains,
to some purpose, by spending it for others. You are the one wretched
exceptionso be it. Spend your time, your strength and your wealth in
making some othersordinary human beingshappier, so that at least
some few tears may be dropped on your grave. Return in a year, and I
will then authorize you to put an end to yourself.
And Abdallah again bowed and withdrew, somewhat consoled by the
thought that one year would see the last of his wretched existence,
that even the wisest of men recognised him as cut off from the common
The year passed. But no Abdallah returned. It was not till some
weeks after the appointed time that he appeared hastening eagerly
towards the sage's dwelling. He was no longer thin or pale, his dress
was much less rich than formerly, but seemed nevertheless to show his
handsome figure to all the greater advantage, his bearing was upright,
his step springingthere was a smile on his lips, a beautiful, kindly
light in his dark eyes.
Forgive me, father, for my delay, he cried. I could not believe
the time had passed. This year has seemed to fly.
And you are ready to part with your life? asked the sage.
Tears rushed to Abdallah's eyes.
If the sacrifice could be of use to others, yes, father, I am
ready, he replied. But for myself, no, a thousand times no. I have
found the secret of happiness. In ministering to others, in
forgetfulness of self, I have found my own blessedness. Life is to me
now the most precious of giftsmy wealth, my strength, nay the very
learning, the very cultivation I found so disappointing when unshared,
I now esteem most highly as increasing my capacities for doing good.
Life is beautifulO good father, let me live.
And the wise man lifting his hands in benediction on the head of the
happy Abdallah, bade him go in peace, having entered upon the one only
path of endless and eternal blessedness.
FIFINE AND HER CAT.
Fifine was walking quietly up and down the garden path, her big cat,
Mimi, in her arms. From time to time she talked to Mimi, asking her
questions or telling her the thoughts passing through her mind, and
when Mimi purred, Fifine was quite satisfied that the cat was agreeing
with her. When she did not purr, and gave no signs of attending, Fifine
would give her a little shake, or even a pinch, which naturally made
Mimi squeak, and was supposed to mean she was not this time of
the same opinion as Fifine. This had happened more than usual this
morning, for Fifine was in a rather irritable humour. She was not
feeling pleased with herself, and nothing makes little girls, and big
people, too, more uncomfortable than this.
Suddenly, from a little distance came a well-known voice.
Fifine, my child, it said, you have not come to the little gate
to wish me good morning, and looking up, Fifine saw a tall figure, all
dressed in black, standing some way down the path. It was her kind
friend and neighbour, the old curé or village clergyman, whose
house was at the other side of the high garden wall. In general Fifine
was delighted to see him, but this morning she walked towards him
slowly, making a sort of pretence that Mimi was too heavy for her.
Where is Madeleine? said the clergyman, his voice sounding grave.
Madeleine was Fifine's sister, and two years older. She is not ill?
Why is she not with you?
Sheshe is in the house, she replied. She had glanced up for a
moment in his face, but the serious look in his eyes, generally so kind
and gentle, made her quickly turn hers down again.
You will not tell me why she is not playing with you as usual, I
see, he went on very gravely. Shall I tell you? It is
because her little sister got into a passion with her, really for no
reason at all. Would one believe itthis little sister slapped and
knocked Madeleine, and called her many naughty names? No wonder
Madeleine stays in the house.
Fifine forgot her shame in astonishment. She stared up in the old
gentleman's face, both her eyes and her mouth wide open.
How do you know? she exclaimed. We were in the housein our own
room. No one was there, and I know, sir, Madeleine has not seen you
this morning; besides, and here Fifine looked down again, Madeleine
would not tell.
No, you are right, Madeleine would not tell, and did not tell. A
little bird told me, my poor Fifine, and it was sad news for him to
carry this lovely morning, and shaking his head, the curé
turned and walked slowly away.
A little bird indeed, repeated five years old Fifine to herself
contemptuously. That is what they tell babies. I know better. A little
bird only means 'somebody' told. Besides, there are no nests on that
side of the house. Who could it be? Mimi, tell me, don't be stupid now.
Who do you think it was? and as Mimi made no reply, Fifine shook her,
which drew forth a plaintive squeak and a struggle to get out of her
mistress's arms. This made Fifine still more angry. She flung Mimi
down, the poor catfor a worm will turnglowered up at her, with a
rather ugly look in her green eyes, and slunk off.
I have it, exclaimed Fifine. You nasty, mean, spiteful cat. It
was you who told. I remember you were on the window-sill, and then I
didn't see you any more, till I found you out here in the garden coming
back from your visit next door, no doubt! Ah, you may pretend it wasn't
you. You can't speak, but you can tell things all the same, and
Monsieur le curé is clever enough to understand. Why, he has often
told me he can understand what his old dog Platon says by the way he
wags his tail. You, too, were the only person who saw me hit Madeleine.
Mean cat; but I shall punish you, and off dashed the indignant
Fifine in pursuit of Mimi.
The summer day passed quickly. Sweet-tempered Madeleine soon forgot
the offence she was only too ready to forgive, and in merry play with
some little friends, the troubles of the morning were quickly out of
mind. Tired with fun and excitement, Fifine fell asleep the moment her
head touched the pillow. She had slept several hours when she suddenly
woke. It was quite darkthe very middle of the summer nightat first
not a sound broke the silence. Then faintly, but distinctly, came
through the half-opened window a low piteous wailagain and again.
Fifine sat up to listen. There was no sound from the larger room next
door, where Madeleine slept beside the nurse. No one was awake but
Fifine, and again, and again came that pitiful mew. Yes, it was a mew,
and up jumped Fifine at last.
The curé had sat up late that evening, reading, his window
open to the pleasant night-air. He closed his book at last, and was
turning to put out the lamp, when a little sound made him look round.
There, at the low window, stood a little white-robed, bare-footed
figure, sobbing bitterly.
Oh, sir, oh, sir, come and let Mimi out. I shut her into the
tool-house, because I thought she had told you about my hitting
Madeleine, and I can't get her out, and she will die of hungermy poor
Mimisince yesterday morning she has had nothing to eat, and nobody is
awake but you. I have come all alone in the dark. I forgot all about
her, and the sobs redoubled.
In five minutes the kind curé had managed to open the door
which the gardener had locked, and Mimi was safe in Fifine's arms.
And suppose it was not Mimi who told me? said the good old
man as he carried the little girl home again.
I was naughty, but I didn't mean to leave Mimi all day. You
said it was a little bird, sir, but I know that is only baby-talk.
Yes, my child, and I am sorry I did not tell you who it really was.
It was your dear mamma, my Fifine, who overheard your fit of temper and
asked me to speak to you seriously. Will this be a lesson to you? See
what angry temper leads tohurting your sister, and nearly killing
your poor cat.
Forgive me, I will try to be better; indeed I will, sobbed Fifine.
And ask God to help you, my dear little girl, said the kind
curé, as he bade her good-night.
THE LONG LADDER.
The sun had set, and the deep blue darkness of a summer night was
creeping over the sky. One by one the stars came out, and little Max
stood by the window gazing up at them in admiration. He had never
before seen so many, for it was long past his usual bed-time, and he
had been allowed to sit up late for a great treat, as it was his
birthday. Inside the room his mother was reading by a little table on
which stood a lamp, but the curtains were drawn across the windows, and
Max had crept behind them, so that the bright light inside did not
prevent his seeing the infinitely brighter ones, that up there,
millions and millions of miles away, came sparkling out one after the
other, as if the sky lamp-lighter were slowly going his errands. Max
felt as if he could stand there for ever, watching. But there came the
Max, my boy. You must go to bed now.
Yes, mamma, and the small figure crept out and held up its face
for a good-night kiss. Then mamma, he began, hesitatingly.
Well, Max, and mamma raised her eyes again for a moment from her
book. It was a very interesting book, and mamma had had her little boy
with her all day, and had done her best to make him happy. Perhaps she
was a little tired, and felt that she had earned some rest for herself.
Mamma, is it God that puts them all there? he asked. All the
little stars? and he pointed towards the window.
Yes, dear. You know it is. It is God that does everything good and
pretty and kindup there and down here too.
Him makes the flowers in the garden, observed Max.
Yes, dear, you know He does, answered mamma, her eyes turning back
to her book again. Good-night, Maxie.
Good-night, mamma. But mamma
Well, dear, without looking up this time.
I was just thinking, when Him's done down here, you know,
and wants to go up there again, what a very long ladder Him must
Yes, of course, said mamma, quite lost in her story by now.
I wonder, continued Max, I wonder if Him ever leaves it in the
garden after Him's gone upafter Him has been doing the flowers, you
I daresayyes, very likely. Now do go, Max.
Does you really think so, mamma? and Max's eyes, which had begun
to look as if the dustman had been passing by, grew bright and eager
again. I'll look and see if I can't find it then, some day, he said
to himself, as he climbed up-stairs. For Max felt sure that whatever
mamma said must be true. And wonderful dreams came to the little
four-year-old man that nightdreams compared with which, all that Jack
found at the top of his famous bean-stalk would have seemed nothing.
The next morning brought unlooked-for disappointment to the little
fellow, for it was rainy and stormy. No going out for Maxhe must stay
quietly in the nursery. And he looked so very sad about it that mamma
was a little surprised: he was usually so cheerful and contented.
You had plenty of running about yesterday, Maxie, she said. We
cannot expect it always to be fine. To-morrow will be sunny again very
likely, and at this Max brightened up again.
Him will bring the ladder then, perhaps, he said to himself.
Mamma proved a true prophet, To-morrow was a lovely day. So lovely
that she and Max's father drove away to some distance, leaving word
that they would not be back till the evening.
Good-bye, darling. Be a good boy. Nurse will let you play in the
garden all the afternoon, were their last words to the happy little
face waving good-bye from the window.
But late that evening when they returned, they were met by a crowd
of white-faced frightened servants, with a sad story to tell. Master
Max was not to be found. They had hunted up and downeverywhere. He was playing in the garden beside nurse, and she just left him for
an instant to fetch her work, and when she came back he was goneshe
gave the alarm at once, and ever since they had been searching. But in
vain. Yet where could he be? There was no pond into which he could have
fallenno high bank even, over which he could have rolled.
The garden was the safest there could be, many a score of times had
Max played there alone, though within view of the nursery windows;
nurse could not be blamed. No one, nothing, was to blame. It was a
The father and mother looked at each other with anguish in their
eyes. It was growing late. How could they live through the night with
the thought of their darling out alone in the darkness? And where?
Oh, where can he be?
Suddenly the mother looked upyes, there were the stars coming out
again one after the other, as if nothing were the matter; just as they
had done two evenings before when little Max had been gazing at them
from behind the curtains. What was it he had been saying in his funny
little way? The half-heard words rushed back to her memory.
Williams, she said to the gardener, is there a ladder anywhere
They all stared at her. Yes, he had left onea very high
oneagainst a tree. There were some branches he was lopping off, but
he had never thought for to
She did not wait, but rushed off to where he pointed, and
breathless, speechless, signed for some one to ascend it. Max's father
of course. And then came a joyful cry.
I have him. Up here fast asleep, like a bird in its nest.
Yes, there he was, coiled among the branches, unconscious of his
I found God's ladder, he said, but when I got to the top, Him
wasn't there. So I waited till Him came to light the candles to ask Him
to let me peep into heaven, mamma. But I was going to come down
againMamma dear, why is you crying?
A FOUR-FOOTED GENTLEMAN.
Open the door, quick, Sybil. Don't you see my hands are full? What
a stupid you are! Yes, that'll do. Now you can shut it after me.
And Archie came forward to the table where his aunt was sitting, a
large tray spread over with specimens of seaweed that he had been
drying and arranging, in his hands.
Since when, have 'if you please' and 'thank you,' gone out of
fashion, may I ask, Archie? said his aunt.
The boy grew very red, but he laughed good-humouredly.
I didn't mean to be rude, he said. But Sybil doesn't mind. Do
No, replied the little girl. Archie isn't ever really unkind like
some boys. Still I think it is nice when people thank you and
speak politely to each other. But still, of course, Archie is only a
And can a boy not be a gentleman, do you think, Sybil? What do you
say about it yourself, Archie?
Oh, I know I should, he replied rather shamefacedly, but
you see, Auntie, I forget, or else even if I don't forget, it doesn't
seem worth while.
Be true to your instincts, my boy. Civility and gentleness are
always 'worth while.' Above all, from man to woman, or boy to girl.
And gratitude even for the smallest service is always the sign of a
fine nature. That reminds me
Of what? Do tell us, Auntie; said both children, pricking up their
Of a little adventure of mine the other day. It is nothing of a
story, so don't expect one; for the word adventure had evidently
caught their attention. But it was so pretty and touching, it struck
me very much, and made me think how often we might, with benefit, take
example by our humble brethreneven in manners, children.
Do you mean poor people? said Sybil doubtfully. I know some are
very good and nicesome quite poor children even. But a good
many are very rough and rude, Auntie?
Yes, and there is much more excuse for them, of course, if they are
so, for often they have not been taught better. But I was not thinking
of people or children at all just then, Sybil. The little 'gentleman'
whose manners I admired so much was a She stopped again and smiled,
while Archie and Sybil looked up in perplexity.
A what, Auntie?
A little dog, my dears!Yes, you may well look surprised.
Listen and I will tell you all about it. I was going from my own house
to a friend's a few days ago, walking leisurely, for I was in no hurry,
and had not far to go. It was a quiet time of the day, and not many
people were about. I had made my way across our own square and some
short way down a street opening out of it when my attention was caught
by the sight of a little dog wandering along in an uneasy, rather
aimless manner. He was alone evidently, for there was no one in sight
whom he could be followingan errand boy or two, a postman and I,
were, I think, the only passers-by at the time. And he was far too
aristocratic a little dog to have anything to do with butchers' or
bakers' boys. He was very pretty and well cared for; his soft, flossy
coat had evidently been recently washed and combed, and there was a
general air of healthiness and prosperity about him, though he was
neither over-fat nor pampered-looking. But just now he was clearly in
trouble. He ran a few steps and then looked round him irresolutely; his
bright eyes glanced all about him anxiously. I wondered what was the
matter and stopped short half intending to pat him or speak to him,
when suddenly, seeming to catch sight of me for the first time, he made
the first advances by trotting up to me and sniffing me in an inquiring
manner. He liked what he saw of me; for he gave a little quick friendly
bark, and then, wagging his tail, looked up at me appealingly, ran on a
few steps and then stopped short, looking back to see if I were
following him, and when I did so, again he barked, again he ran on a
few steps, and stood looking back wagging his tail. It was as plain as
any spoken words; he was asking me to do him a service. And thus he led
me down the street, round a corner, and a few steps along another row
of houses, where he stopped in front of a door, looking and wagging his
tail, without going on further. Nobody could have failed to understand
'Here is my home, kind lady. I have got shut out, please to ring
the bell for me.'
I rang of course, and very quickly the door was opened, and in he
rushed, and, satisfied that he was all right, I was turning away,
whenthis is the point of my storyI heard a bustle and fuss just
inside the closing door, my friend's bark, rather vehement this time, a
voice in remonstrance 'what can he want?' then the door opened
and out he sprang again. He looked round eagerly, and as soon as he saw
me stood still on the doorstep, gave a quick cheerful little bark,
wagging his tail with the greatest energy the while, and with still
another 'bow-wow,' turned round and ran in quietly. It was the plainest
'thank you ma'am for being so kind,' that ever was spoken in dog or any
language. Now don't you call that behaving like a gentleman?
Yes indeed, said the children heartily, and Archie, whose trayful
was ready for some other process by this time, turned to Sybil with
Please, Sybil, will you kindly open the door?
She did so, and he disappeared, but in a moment his voice was again
heard begging for re-admittance.
I beg your pardon, he said, I have come back again to say 'thank
you.' If I had a tail to wag I could do so.
But though they got some fun out of it, I don't think Auntie's
anecdote did Master Archie any harm.
THE BAD FAIRY.
There is a bad fairy in this house. I don't care what you
say. There must be. Here have I been hours hunting everywhere
for my silver whistle. I know I had it yesterday evening, and I
haven't been out since, and we can't play at our hunt in the wood
without it. And they're all waiting for us. It's too badit is, and Leonard stamped about the room, flinging everything topsy-turvy
in his vain search.
And my umbrella, and my sleeve stud, said David, his two years
older brother. They have completely disappeared. Upon my word,
Leonard, I think you're right, this house is bewitched.
Master Leonard, please, here's your whistle. Cook found it just now
lying beside the pump in the garden.
There nowdidn't I say so? It must be a bad fairy. Was I
near the pump in the garden last night? How did the whistle get there,
if it wasn't bewitched? said Leonard, as he and David hurried off.
It was true he had not been near the pump, but he had left the
whistle among some flowers on the nursery table, and baby, as his
six-years old sister was called, had thrown it into the basket with the
remains of her nosegays. What more easy than for the heavy whistle to
drop out of the lightly made open wicker work, as the nursemaid was
carrying the withered flowers and leaves to throw away? David's
umbrella, had he known it, was at that moment reposing in the
pew-opener's care among various lost and strayed articles at church;
and the sleeve stud was safely ensconced in a mouse-hole behind the
chest of drawers on which it had been carelessly laid, to be flung off
again in a frantic hunt for some fish hooks, whose disappearance no
doubt Leonard explained in the same way.
It came to be rather a convenient idea. Not only losses, but
breakages, tearings, all such annoyances were laid to the account of
the bad fairy. And it was a very heavy account. Never had there been so
many unlucky accidents as during these last few weeks spent by the boys
and their sister with their mother, in a little country house, lessons
being for the time put aside, nothing thought of but fun and frolic.
Even old nurse, who usually took chargetoo much chargeof the
light-hearted careless boys, was away; there was no one to worry
about putting things by tidily, wearing the proper clothes at the
proper time, and so on. At least so it seemed for a while. But things
grew worse and worse, the bad fairy more and more spiteful, till at
last even their indulgent mother could take it all quietly no longer.
One evening, finding several of her own private possessions
missingscissors and pen-knife in particularshe came late into the
boys room after they were asleep, there to look for them. But she
almost forgot her errand in her horrified amazement at the disorder and
confusion before her. What a difference from the neat room she used to
peep into at night when nurse was at homeeverything everywhere,
nothing where it should be, almost a sort of ingenuity in the
perfection of disorder.
Really, thought the poor lady, I could be tempted to believe in
the spiteful fairy.
She set to work, and with a shaded candle, for the boys were fast
asleep, cleared away some part of the confusion. But it was of course
impossible to do it thoroughly. The next morning, without saying
anything, she returned to the charge, in the children's absence. By
degrees order gained the day, and in the process many of the missing
articles turned up, and were quietly restored to their places. Late
that evening again came the motherly fairy. Things were not as bad as
the night beforethey could scarcely have been so, since the morning's
tidying. But they were bad enough. All the boys had had in use during
the day was pitched about as beforeagain must their mother work for
nearly an hour to get the room quite to her mind. And this went on for
During this time there began to be less talk of the bad fairy, and
more than once both David and Leonard expressed their surprise and
pleasure at several things having, as they called it, come back
again; in other words, having been found in their proper places. And
at last on the discovery of a completely lost treasureI think it
was Leonard's pocket microscopein a place where he knew he had
looked in vain, he burst into his mother's room with sparkling eyes.
Mamma, he exclaimed, do you know this house really is bewitched?
Fancy my having found my microscope just where I looked for it
yesterday. And not only that, ever so many other things have turned up.
And when we wake in the morning the room doesn't look a bit the same as
it does at night. All our things are as neat as can be, and everything
ready, however we pitch them about at night.
Mamma listened and said nothing.
You don't believe me, I suppose, said Leonard.
I quite believe that a tidy fairy would find plenty to do in your
room, if such a being existed, she said.
But all boys are untidy, said Leonard. I don't think
we'rewell,for visions of really terrible chaos rose before his
eyes as he spokewell, not much worse than others. But I know
what I'll do, he added to himself. I'll keep awake to-night and
For a wonder he was able to keep his resolution. He was not quite
asleep, though David had been snoring for some time, when he was roused
by the door softly opening, and a figure with a shaded light, glided
into the room. Leonard, though at first a very little frightened, kept
his presence of mind, and neither called out nor started up, but lay
still as if asleep. But soon, as he watched the figure moving about,
rearranging the untidy heaps of clothes, picking up towels and
handkerchiefs, putting boots and shoes neatly together in pairsall so
quickly and deftly, that it might indeed have been a fairy's work, a
new feeling overcame him.
Mamma, he criedfor mamma he soon saw it wasand his voice woke
David too, it is you thenyou who are the good fairy! It is a shame
for you to have such trouble for us. Oh, mamma, dear, I am
ashamed, and out of bed sprang Leonard and David, and set to work with
a will to help their mother, in what certainly should not have been
left for her to do.
We will never be so untidy again, mamma, never, said both
And it will save yourselves and other people a great deal of
discomfort, of worse than discomfort, indeed, she replied.
But, mamma, untidiness isn't such a very bad faultnot like
telling falsehoods, or bullying, or anything like that?
It is a fault that leads to bad faults, said his mother
gravely, to waste of time and moneytwo of our 'talents'to loss of
temper, and undeserved blame of others, very often. It makes life ugly
and ungraceful, and it puts the burden of our own duty on others. For
some one must be tidy, or what would become of the world? And for
my part I can never think but what untidiness in outside things too
often ends in untidiness of mind and thought.
THE GOBLIN FACE.
When I was a very little girl, I spent a good deal of my life in a
large old-fashioned house in a very out-of-the-way part of Scotland. It
was not really our home, but it almost seemed so, for we used to go
there as soon as the fine mild weather set in, and stay till the
shortening days and the first frosts told of winter's approach. It was
the home of our unclemy mother's only brotherand as he had never
married, and she was many years younger than he, she seemed to him more
like his daughter than his sister, and he was never so happy as when he
had her and all us children to brighten up his rather gloomy old house.
Gloomy it might be in appearance, but in nothing else, for my uncle was
the kindest of men, and he and all his old servants used to receive us
with a welcome that would have made the grimmest of abodes seem
sunshiny and cheerful. I could tell dozensnay, scores of stories of
our child-life in the old castleof our games in the house, and out of
doors, of the cottagers with all of whom we were on most intimate
terms, of all sorts of adventures that befel us, but just now, I mean
only to relate one very short, and perhaps not very interesting, story,
because I think it may be of use to some children who may read it.
I was about five years old when the first cloud came over my happy
life. I had been ill, but though I do not clearly remember the
illnessand it seemed to me to have been rather pleasant than painful,
as I was petted and made much of in every wayI believe it really was
a bad illness, and had very much weakened me. We went to Scotland
sooner than usual that year to strengthen me, but the weather,
unluckily, was cold and rainy. We could not go out much, and had to
amuse ourselves in the house. It was in this way that one of the old
servants one day, meaning to please us, took to telling us
ghost-stories. I was so little that I do not think she thought of me at
all; the stories were told to my elder brother and sister, who only
laughed at them, and rather liked the sort of creepy feeling of
mystery which came over them as they listened. And nobody thought of
poor little Nan, fanciful and nervous, though I did not know it, curled
up in a corner, and drinking in every word.
From that moment my life was spoilt. I did not distinctly remember
the stories: I mixed them up in my mind in a dreadful jumble, and never
thought of their not being true. I grew so nervous that I hardly dared
go up stairs alone, even in broad daylight, and I shut my eyes if I
happened to be alone in a room where there were portraits, rather than
see them staring at me, as I fancied they did. But all this was nothing
to the terrors of the night, of which, even in my old age, I hardly
like to think.
I slept in a little room off my mother's, and till now I had been
very proud of my own nest. But all that was past. I now shivered and
shuddered at the thought of bed-time, and would have done anything to
avoid it. No one understood me, the nurses called me naughty; even
dear mamma thought my temper spoilt. And no wonder, for I told
nobody of my secret trouble! I think it was my fear of being
laughed at, and here I would beg of big brothers and sisters never to
laugh at little ones' terrors however silly. Try to explain them away,
to comfort the poor tiny sufferers, but never laugh at them.
At last, happily for my life and health, the secret came out, and it
was in this way:There was a recess in the wall near my bed; it had
shelves and went up nearly to the ceiling; in fact, it was like a
cupboard with the doors off. And on the top shelf stood a curious vase,
about the size of a rather fat flower-pot, of dark blue and white old
Dutch stoneware. I had never noticed it, for in the daytime very little
light fell on this corner, and I was seldom in the room except at
One evening I was put to bed as usual, feeling rather less
frightened, for there were friends dining at the castle, and the sound
of the piano came up to my room and cheered me.
Leave the door open, please, I like the music, I said, and nurse
did so, and thus with less shivering and heart-throbbing than usual I
fell asleep. When I wokequite suddenlyperhaps the shutting of the
great door, or the guests' carriages driving away had wakened meall
was quite dark and silent. I shut my eyes, and tried to go to sleep
again. But it was no use. I was quite awake, and unconsciously I opened
my eyes. What was that? I have said it was quite dark, but up there,
high up, there was a light that I had not seen till I turned my head.
And there in the lightor did the light come from it?was a round,
staring, white face grinning down at me. I saw its eyes, its mouth, all
its featuresit seemed to me the goblin face by which a wicked man in
one of old Effie's stories had been haunted. I stared at it like a bird
at a serpent, though my heart had stopped from terrorthen gradually I
saw that it was moving, and that roused me. With a fearful shriek I
dashed out of bed, getting by some instinct to the door, and knew
nothing more till an hour or two later I opened my eyes to find myself
in mamma's arms, for she was just coming into her room to go to bed
when I fell into them!
It was all explained to me. There was a tiny window on to the stairs
high up in that corner of the room, through which the light of mamma's
candle had shone on to the old Delft vase, and even made it seem to
move, as she stepped upwards. I was sensible enough for my age to
understand and to believe it, but all the same I was ill for a long,
long time. And the cloud over my childhood never entirely faded till
childhood was left behind. Still good comes with ill. I might never,
during the few years she was left with us, have learnt to know my
darling mother as I didher wonderful tenderness and
understandingnesshad it not been for my vision of the Goblin
The old vase now stands near my bedside, where night and morning I
can see it and recall the memories connected with it, and there, I
hope, it will stand till I die.
THE LOST BROOCH.
What is the matter, Linda? What are you looking for? It does so
fidget me, dear, when I am sitting quietly reading, for you to keep
moving about and pulling all the chairs and tables out of their
places! said Grandmamma, kindly of courseshe always spoke kindly,
but with a little vexation in her tone.
It's my scissors, Grandmammamy little beautiful new best scissors
with the gilt ends, said Linda plaintively, I know I left them
with my work last night, and when I unfolded it they were gone. Some
one must have taken themI don't like that new housemaid,
Grandmamma. I think she is pokey. I found her fiddling so among the
books on the schoolroom table this morning.
Trying to put them neat, I supposenot very easy, judging by the
state they were left in last night, said Grandmamma. Linda, my dear,
you must not let yourself grow suspicious. I am sure the girl is
perfectly honest. I know all about her.
But where can my scissors be, then? said Linda. They're not
alivethey can't walk away by themselves.
Sit down beside me for a few minutes and get cooler about it, said
Grandmamma. Something may come to your mind in a while to throw light
on the disappearance. But never suspect others of anything so dreadful
as even small thefts unless you are forced to do so. I will tell
you a little story which has often served as a warning to me in such a
Oh, yes, do please, Grandmamma, said Linda, the clouds clearing
off her face in a wonderful way.
Years and years ago when I was young, only lately married, began
Grandmamma, a curious thing happened to me. We were living in the
countryit was lovely summer weather, and numbers of our friends used
to drive over to see us and spend the day. My house was pretty, and I
was very proud of it; I had lots of pretty things of all kindsmy
wedding presents in factwith which to adorn both it and myself, and
sometimes your Grandpapa used to laugh at me, and call me a little
peacock. One of my prettiest ornaments was a small diamond
broochshaped like a star. It was really meant to wear in the evening,
but I was so fond of it, that I sometimes wore it in the daytime. One
morning I got a letter to say that an old school-friend of mine was
staying in the neighbourhood, and that she and her husband were coming
over to spend the day with us. I was very pleased to hear it, and so
was your Grandpapa, as he too knew these friends of mine.
I hurried over my breakfast, and ran away to give orders to have
everything very nice for them, and I think the old cook, who knew a
great deal more about luncheons and dinners than I did, was rather
amused at all my charges.
'It shall all be as nice as can be, Miss Lucy,' she said. She was
always forgetting I was married, and calling me 'Miss Lucy''You shall
seeit shall all be just as nice as it used to be at your dear
Mamma's. I'm only sorry that Maria should be away to-day, she has so
much taste in arranging the fruit and flowers for the table.'
'I'll do them myself,' I said, 'and Sophy shall help me. She seems
a nice handy girl, I think.'
'Yes, ma'am,' said cook, 'I dare say she is. But of course it's
difficult to judge of a complete stranger. She's a little bit forward
for my likingso very fond of laughing.'
'But she's so young,' I said, 'and she's never left home before. I
think Maria's rather too strict.'
Maria, I must tell you, was my maid, and Sophy was a young girl
whom I had chosen out of the village school to be under Maria. I called
Sophy to help me, and very proud she was to do so. We made the table
look so pretty, that even the butler condescended to admire it, and
then I began to think of adorning myself.
'You may come and help me to dress,' I said to Sophy graciously
which pleased her even more than dressing the table. I chose a white
dress and blue ribbons, for it was very hot; and when I was all ready,
I really did think I looked very nice, and I saw by Sophy's eyes that
she thought so too.
'Oh, ma'am,' she said, 'you would just be perfect if you'd put on
your little brooch that sparkles so.'
'My little diamond brooch,' I said doubtfully. 'It is rather too
showy for the morning.'
But I took it out of its case and tried it, and it did look so
pretty that I was tempted to wear it, and Sophy looked very pleased.
Our friends came and we had a most pleasant day. They were
delighted with everythinghouse and garden were certainly looking
their best in the lovely summer brightness. We spent most of the
afternoon out-of-doors, where I showed them everything, even down to
the kitchen garden with its tempting strawberry beds and rows of
vegetables of every kind. And when they said good-bye, my old
school-fellow whispered as she kissed me, that she thought I was a most
fortunate girl. For she saw how kind and good your dear Grandpapa was.
After they had left, he proposed that we should go a ride, as it was
getting cooler. I ran up stairs and changed my dress for my riding
habit, calling to Sophy to put everything tidy in my room. We came in
just in time to dress for dinner, and the bell sounded before I was
'My brooch, Sophy,' I said, 'you put away my things.'
Sophy looked about, but no brooch was to be seen.
'It must be there,' I said, 'find it while I am at dinner.'
But when I ran up after dinner, Sophy met me with a very red face
and eyes that looked ready to cry, and told me it was nowhere to be
I cannot tell you how we hunted. When Maria came home the next day
she was dreadfully vexed, and inclined to blame me for having let Sophy
be so much in my room.
'You don't think she has taken my brooch,' I said. But Maria would
not answer decidedly. She only murmured something about not trusting
strangers! Weeks went onI tried not to think about my brooch any
more, but it had made a talk in the house, and Sophy felt it painfully,
and when at last she said she would rather go home, I could not but
feel it might be better. The very day before she was to leave I was
startled by a message from cook asking me to go to see something in the
kitchen. It was afternoonan unusual time for her to want to see me,
but I went at once.
There stood cook, her kind old face beaming with pleasure.
'Just see here, Miss Lucy,' she said. On the dresser lay a
cauliflower she was on the point of preparing for cooking. She pulled
aside the big green leaves at the top, and there, nestling on the
creamy-looking surface underneath, lay my diamond brooch! It had dropt
from the front of my dress, no doubt, that day in the garden, and the
baby cauliflower's leaves had grown over it!
You can fancy my joy, Linda, and still more the joy of poor Sophy.
Instead of leaving, she lived with me more than twenty years. But
what's the matter now, Linda? Are you not listening?
Oh, dear, yes, Grandmamma, and I do so like the story. But I just
saw something shining on the frill of my dress, and see here! And
Linda held out her scissors, which had caught in a flounce.
ONLY A BUNCH OF VIOLETS.
This is not a story that I am going to tell you. It is just a little
thing that happened one day when I was out walking, and which I have
It did not happen in London, but in Paris, where I was then living.
Some of you may have been there, and if so you know better than I can
tell you what a very pretty, bright and charming place it is. That is
to say, the best parts of the town are pretty and bright-looking,
especially in sunny summer weather. But there are poor parts of Paris
too, though you are not likely to have seen them, and alas, there are
many very poor people also!
I was walking that day in the long road, or avenue rather, which is
called the Champs Elysées. It is very wide indeed, and bordered on both
sides by beautiful trees, among which in the summer are to be seen
quantities of well-dressed people walking about or seated, and enjoying
the lively scene around them. Children by the score are there
toorichly dressed and playing at all sorts of games, attended by
their governesses or nurses, and all this, joined to the constantly
passing brilliant carriages, makes eyes unaccustomed to the sparkle and
glare soon get weary. Even I, used to Paris and its ways as I was, felt
tired of the whirl and rush, and I thought to myself I would turn out
of the wide thoroughfare and make my way home by some quieter side
I was standing at the edge of the pavement with this intention,
waiting till there should come a safe moment to cross, when I caught
sight of a little group not far from me, and I could not help watching
what was going on, with interest. A flower-cart was drawn up at the
side of the road. Though it was scarcely yet full summer, there was a
good display of flowers, and many of those passing stopped to buy.
Among these were an old gentleman and a little boy. One could see
without being told that they were grandfather and grandson. The child
said a word or two to the gentleman, who let go his hand and walked on
slowly. The little boy waited patiently for a minute or two, till those
before him round the cart had been served, and then he came forward and
made some inquiry of the flower-woman. I could not hear what he said,
but he was no doubt asking what he could have for his money, for once
or twice a shade of disappointment crossed his bright face, and he
looked doubtfully at something he held in his hand, which I afterwards
saw must have been his few coins. I felt so sorry for him that if I had
not been afraid of giving offence, I would have offered him the little
sum he was evidently short of, but after half starting forward to do
so, I drew back again. The boy, though simply, almost poorly clad, had
too much the air of a gentleman, and so had the old grandfather, whose
stooping figure I still perceived slowly walking on in front. At last
the boy, after peering all over the flower-cart, caught sight of a
little nest of violetssweet-scented violetsin one corner, which had
been almost hidden by the larger and more brilliant plants. His face
lighted up joyfully, as he pointed them out to the flower-woman, and
she, in turn, smiled and nodded pleasantly. Poor thingshe could not
afford to lower her prices, but the working classes in France have
great sympathy with small means and the economy they oblige, and I
could see that she was glad for her little customer not to be
altogether disappointed of his purchase.
She chose carefully the prettiest and freshest of the violet
bunches, wrapped an extra leaf or two round the stalks to keep them
cool, and handing the little bouquet to the boy, smilingly received
from him the coppers till now tightly clasped in his hand.
And with all the brightness back in his face again, the little
fellow bounded forward to rejoin his grandfather, as light-hearted and
light-footed as a young chamois.
I crossed the road and walked on. The little incident had interested
and pleased me. I could not help wondering for whom the flowers were
intendeda sick mother or grandmother perhaps. The child was not
improbably an orphan, seeing that he was in the care of a grandparent.
And I went on picturing to myself the simple thrifty home to which the
pair were by this time wending their way, little thinking that I should
ever see either of them again.
I was by now in one of the handsome side streets, running parallel
with the great avenue. It was quieter here; there were fewer carriages
or foot passengers, so that on the wide road, even a small group was
plainly seen, and happening to glance backwards, I saw a sad little
procession making its way slowly along. Two men, dressed in black, were
carrying a little coffinno heavy burden, it was plainyet heavy was
the sorrow of the two mourners following close behind. It was but the
funeral of a tiny child, a baby, or scarce more than a baby to judge by
the size of the coffin, the only one of the poor father and mother
alone in their grief, who walked behind. They were of the very poor
class of Paris working people, though decently clad, as is almost
always the case in France, but too poor to have got mourning for
themselves, even for the funeral of their child. The woman, it is true,
had a black skirt, but over it she wore, perhaps to conceal its
shabbiness, a clean checked cotton apron, and the poor father had no
attempt at mourning, except a little band of rusty black fastened round
the left sleeve of his blue working blouse. They were both weeping, the
mother openly, her poor eyes swollen and red as if with many hours of
tears, the husband trying to keep calm, as he from time to time wiped
his weather beaten cheeks with his sleeve. Their poverty was shown in
another way; there was not a single flower, much less a wreath or cross
on the little black-draped coffinso sad, so piteously desolate a
funeral it has seldom been my lot to see in Paris. Yet poor as it was,
it met with the outward marks of respect and sympathy which I often
wish we could see in England, for every head was uncovered as it passed
on its sorrowful way. I stood still for an instant to watch it;
suddenly a small figure, rushing across the road, darting nimbly in
front of a quickly advancing carriage, as if afraid of being too late,
caught my eyes. It was my little friend of the violets! There was no
mistaking himand his grandfather's, it seemed to me, almost familiar
figure, waiting and looking after the child from the other side of the
road. What is the boy in such a hurry for? AhI see now, and my own
eyes are not free from tears.
Breathless and eager he runs up to the poor little procession, with
blushing face and gentle hands he lays on the tiny coffin his treasured
violetsbeautiful in themselves, doubly beautiful as the gift of a
sweet and pitiful heartand without waiting for the thanks ready to
burst forth from the over-laden hearts of the two parents, hastens back
again to his old grandfather, whose face I can distinguish lit up with
a smile of tender approval.
God bless him, the poor father murmurs. I am near enough to hear
itGod bless him, the weeping mother repeats.
God bless him, I whisper to myself.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My
brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
A CANARY TRAGEDY.
When I was a little girlthat is about three years agoI am now
thirteenmy own particular pets were a pair of canaries. We had lots
of other pets; it would take me a very long time merely to give you the
list of them even without telling you anything about them, and all
their adventures and funny ways. But a good many of them had in one way
or another come to grief, poor things, and as my brothers grew older
and had less time to take care of them, my mother said we must really
give up having so many.
So one summer, just before the holidays, there was a regular
flittingthe turtle-doves we gave to a little neighbour, a very gentle
boy, who we knew would be kind to them; the old crow was taken to a
house more in the country than ours, where there were plenty of nice,
dark, crowy-looking trees; the rabbits were already all dead, and so
was the tortoise, and as one of the dormice had got loose and gone off
to live with the house-mice, we sent the other to a friend who had
several. There remained only the dog, whom of course we couldn't
give away and my canaries, whom I got leave to keep.
These canaries had a history of their own. One, we had reared
ourselves from an egg, and as it was the only baby canary that had
grown up of all we had had, we did think it very remarkable. Its name
was Frise-tête, which means curly head, because it had a funny
little tuft of yellow feathers right on the top of its head, and he was
the cock canary, though Frise-tête sounds more like a girl's name,
doesn't it? And the little hen canary was called Coo-coo, because
when she first came to us she really did make a sort of cooing noise.
Where she came from we never knewshe flew in at the open window of
the schoolroom one day, having evidently got out of her cage and lost
her way. She was a sweet-tempered little bird, but not at all sharp or
clever. She didn't seem to mind in the least that she had got into a
strange place, but was quite content and happy to take up house, or
cage, with Frise-tête. This little couple made the last of our pet
canaries, and they were always counted mine. I think we had had
Frise-tête two years, and Coo-coo more than a year, when there came the
clearing-out of pets that I told you of. But we never knew Coo-coo's
age exactly, you see.
That summer we were going in different directions. My two big
sisters were to spend it with our grandmother, and one of my brothers
with them. The other brother and I were to go to Germany with Mamma. We
were very proud of being chosen to go with her, and we had never been
to Germany before, at least not to stay any length of time there, and
we were in great spirits about it. There was only one thing that
troubled me, and that was about the canaries. I was so afraid Mamma
would not consent to take them, and yet I could not bear the idea of
leaving them behind. I was sure that the person who was to take care of
the house would forget to feed them, or let the cat get to them or
something, and at last I told Mamma that I really would be too unhappy
if I mightn't take them. Mamma was very kindshe didn't like the idea
of the pretty little couple being starved or killed any more than I
did, still she warned me that I should find them a good deal of trouble
on the way, and that I mustn't grumble at it, which, of course, I
promised I wouldn't.
So when we set off late one hot summer evening, on our long journey,
I carried carefully, a queer-looking package in one hand. It was the
cage, all covered up in a sort of brown holland bag, which contained my
beloved Frise-tête and Coo-coo.
They were a great worry. I often wished I had left them at
home, I can assure you. We had to travel two nights, and most part of
two or three days before we got quite to our journey's end, though we
stopped two or three times on the way, and it was so hot that we felt
very tired and uncomfortable, and it was not easy to keep good-humoured
even without the birds! Very often I had to sit with the cage on my
knee if the railway carriage happened to be rather low, and there was
not room for it up beside the cloaks and rugs. And then I had to have
water in a bottle to keep the poor things supplied, and very often it
spilt all over, and so did the seed, and our fellow passengers looked
very cross at me. And sometimes at the stations, the guards and railway
people wouldn't let me pass without undoing all the cover and
everything to see what the wonderful bundle was. Oh, we were very glad
when we found ourselves at last safe at the place we were to stay at!
It was a very old-fashioned little town, but it was almost like being
in the country. There were such beautiful walks all about, and from the
end of every street one could see the fields and trees, so you see it
wasn't a bit like a town.
We had rooms in a very nice funny old hotel. Mamma said it was quite
like an old-fashioned English inn, such as they used to be in the
coaching days. The ceilings were low, and the staircase very wide, and
the furniture so old-fashioned. We had a nice large
sitting-room, and two bed-rooms out of it, and on the wide window-sill
of our bedroom I established Frise-tête and Coo-coo. They were very
sensible, poor things, they only fluttered and fussed about for a short
time, and then settled down quite contentedly, which, I am sure, was
very good behaviour after being so much covered up.
I could tell you lots of stories about our life in the old German
town, but I must remember that this story is to be all about the
canaries. It was beautiful sunny weather, and they spent nearly their
whole time at the open windowI used only to bring them in at night.
And every morning I cleaned the cage out nicely, and put fresh sand and
water, and seed, and groundsel. The people at the opposite side of the
street got to know me quite well by sight, and would smile and nod to
me. And all was as happy as possible till one sad day which I will tell
Mamma had two or three times said to me, Take care, Sally, when you
put the cage on the window-sill to see that it is quite steady. The
sill is broad and even, inside, but outside the stone slopes downward,
and I had always taken care.
But this morning, just as I had finished cleaning and all, I saw a
piece of sugar on the table, which, it suddenly struck me would be a
nice treat for the canaries. I sprang across the room hastily to get
the sugar, and was just turning back with it, when a smashing, crashing
noise made me start. It wasno I can hardly tell it, even now I
remember the horrible feelingit was the cage falling, fallen
out of the window, down into the street below. I screamed and rushed
into the furthest corner of the room, shutting my eyes and clasping my
hands over my ears. It was very silly I know, but I was really almost
out of my mind.
They are dead, they are killed! I cried screaming again so loud
that Mamma rushed in from the next room to see what was the matter. She
saw it in an instant without my speaking, and indeed I was by this time
choking with sobs.
Stay there, Sally, said she, and down stairs she ran. I just took
my fingers out of my ears for an instant, but I heard a hubbub in the
street below, and I shuddered and put them back again. It was too
In a few minutes Mamma came up, carrying something in her hand, and
looking very sad.
Sally dear, I am very sorry for you, she said, but it might have
been still sadder. Coo-coo seems very little the worseshe has had a
wonderful escape. But poor Frise-tête is dead. I have brought him upI
think he must have been killed at once, and not have suffered.
It was some time before she could persuade me to look at my poor
pet. It was indeed a sad sight. Even the death of a little bird is sad,
I still think. His pretty yellow feathers all rumpled and torn, his
bright eyes glazed and filmy.
Oh, my dear, sweet Frise-tête, I said. To think that I should
have brought you all the way from home for this.
And poor Mamma was so sorry for me that she actually cried too!
We made a little coffin out of some cardboard, and wrapped him in
cotton-wool, and buried him in the old garden of the inn. That was the
end of our canary nursling. I have a good deal more to tell you about
Coo-coo, but for the present I will leave off with this piece of
advice. Never put bird-cages on the window-sill.
COO-COO'S SECOND HUSBAND.
I told you the sad end of poor Frise-tête, but the history of
Coo-Coo is by no means finished yet. She had not escaped without any
injury, though at first we thought she was not hurt. But as soon as she
recovered a little from her dreadful fright we saw to our great sorrow
that one of her wings hung down in a most sad and helpless manner. I
turned away shuddering.
Is it quite broked, Mamma? asked my little brother Charley. He
looked at it with the greatest interest and curiosity. Horrid little
boy, I said to myself! And it does seem sometimes as if boys had very
little feeling, though I don't really think so of poor Charley.
Oh, Mamma, I said, still shutting my eyes, if she is so badly
hurt, it would be better to put her out of her agony at once. Couldn't
you give her chloroform or some stuff like what they kill horses with
in the streets in Paris?
It's not so bad as all that, said Mamma cheerfully. Sally, you
mustn't be silly. Open your eyesthere is nothing dreadful to see.
I had to open my eyes thenMamma was holding Coo-coo tenderly in
her hand. I wondered how she had courage to do it. The poor little
thing seemed to know her, and to nestle down confidingly.
I don't think it hurts her except when she tries to stick it out,
No, I don't think it does, said Mamma, but I'd like some one who
understands little birds, to see her.
If the gracious lady will excuse me saying so, said the landlord's
daughter, who was standing close by full of sympathy, there is a
gentleman near here who makes it his business to bring up little
canaries from eggs. He is very clever. We might go to see him, and ask
him to look at the poor wing.
Certainly, said Mamma, that would be a very good idea. But I
don't quite know how to take Coo-coo. I am afraid it is not good for
her to hold her so long in my hand, and the cage is completely
We have an empty cagea very small one, that used to hang at the
door with our old starling, said the good-natured Anna, and off she
ran for it.
We settled Coo-coo as well as we could with some cotton-wool for her
to rest upon. But once in the cage, so long as she did not attempt to
flutter about, she did not seem very bad, and my spirits rose a little.
Still we must have seemed rather a doleful procession making our way
along the street, for my face and eyes were swollen with crying, and
Charley looked very grave, as we followed Mamma and Anna, Mamma
carrying the starling's cage containing poor Coo-coo, as if it was the
most wonderful treasure that ever was seen. And all the people came out
of the shops and houses to look at us, for already the news had spread
of the terrible misfortune that had happened to the little foreign
lady, and several people whose shops we had sometimes been to nodded
their heads, and said, Poor little Miss, very sympathizingly, as we
passed. I couldn't help feeling rather ashamed, and I wished my eyes
were not quite so red.
[Illustration: The Canary-gentleman.]
It was such a funny place where the gentleman of the canaries, as
Anna called him, lived. We went down a very narrow passage, and, across
a little court-yard and down another passage and up a rickety stair and
at last found ourselves in a room filled with birdsnothing but birds,
and all canaries! There were cages and cages full of themgrown up
ones and old ones, and baby ones just hatched. Some were singing
brilliantly, so that we could scarcely hear ourselves speak, and the
man who had come forward to meet us took us into another room, a little
kitchen, where there were only one or two cages and no noise.
He was a shoemaker as well as a birdfancierhe had on a leather
apron, and he had a half-made boot in his hand when we went in. But
plainly, what he considered his real calling in life was canariesI
think indeed he thought the world was made for canaries, and he only
looked at us with interest because we belonged to Coo-coo, as Charley
It is not broken, he said, after he had carefully examined the
poor wing, stretching it out in a way that made me shiver to see; it
is only sprained. It will get better, but it will perhaps never be
quite well. Seethis is all that can be done, and he took a feather
from a cup with some fine oil in it, standing on a table. You must
paint it with oilsotwo or three times a day. You see? and Mamma
nodded her head, and said, yes, she quite understood.
She will get better, repeated the man, she will not die of her
wing, but she will die of loneliness. You must get her a companion.
I came forward eagerly.
Mamma, I said, would he sell us one? I have two marks. A mark is
the same as a shilling.
Mamma asked him the question. He looked round his many cages
doubtfully. I did not want to sell any just now, he said, and I
really don't think he did. But it would be a shame for her to pine to
death. YesI can let you have one of these young birds for three
marks. Choose which you like, and he pointed to a cage containing
three or four.
I have only two marks, I whispered.
And there is a new cage to get, said Charley. But Mamma was very
I will help you, she said. Yes, sir, we will take one of these.
You are sure they will be friends?
No fear, said the man in his queer, jerky way, and this young
bird will sing like a heavenly angel next spring. Will you take him
now, or shall I bring him this evening?
We have to get a new cage, said Mamma; I should be glad if you
would bring him.
Then we set off again with Coo-coo in the starling's cage, and we
had another procession down the street to the ironmonger's shop, where
we chose a beautiful cage. It was awfully kind of Mamma, wasn't it?
And that evening after poor little Frise-tête was buried in the
garden under a little rose-bush we made the new cage all ready, and
Coo-coo and the new bird, whom we fixed to call Fritz, as he was a
German, took up their quarters in it. They were very good
friendsindeed Charley and I thought it rather horrid of Coo-coo to be
so quickly consoled.
I don't believe she has any heart at all, I said. I don't believe
a bit that she would have pined alone.
But the canary-gentleman, every time he cameand he was really
very good, he came every two or three days to see how the wing was and
would not take any more moneyassured us that if she had not had a
companion she would have died.
And certainly I must say that Fritz deserved her to like him. He was
so good to her. You could scarcely believe a little bird could have had
so much sense. For some days she could only move about stiffly, and it
was difficult for her to pick up seeds. And just fancy, Fritz used to
bring her seeds in his beak and feed her! It was the prettiest sight
Her wing never got quite well, though it left off hurting her. But
she never could stretch it out quite evenly with the other. And about a
year ago, after two years of peaceful life with Fritz, she died quite
suddenly. She was perfectly well the evening before, and early the next
morning she was lying in a little rumpled-up heap in a corner, dead!
Poor Coo-coothey thought she died of old age. I can't help wondering
where birds go to when they diethey are so innocent!
Still they are very heartless. That very morning beside his poor
little dead wife, Fritz was pecking away at his seeds and singing as if
nothing were the matter. So we have not troubled to get a new companion
for him, and when he dies I don't much think I shall care to keep any
more pet birds. He is very alive at present however. He really sings so
very loudly sometimes that we are obliged to cover him up with a dark
cloth to pretend it is night.
I hear him carrolling away now as brilliantly as possible!
[Illustration: HARRY'S REWARD.
By Mrs. Molesworth.]
I hate the sea, I hate bathing, and I don't want to learn to swim.
What's the use of learning to swim? I'm not going to be a sailor. I
don't like ships, and I don't want ever to go in one, and I just wish,
oh, I do wish papa hadn't come here!
Harry! how can you? said his sister Dora. Papa who is so kind,
and when we have all been looking forward so to his coming.
I knowthat's the worst of it, said Harry. I've been looking
forward as much as any one, and now it's all spoilt by his saying I
must learn to swim.
I only wish I could learn! sighed Dora. She was two years
older than Harry, but she had lately had a bad fever. The family had
come to the seaside to give her change of air, but not for some weeks
yet, if at all this summer, was poor Dora to be allowed to bathe. And
she loved the sea, and bathing, and boating, and everything to do with
the sea. She was like her father, who, though not a sailor, had
travelled much and far, both by land and water; whereas Harry took
after, as the country people say, his mother, who had lived in her
youth in a warm climate, and shivered at every breath of cold or even
fresh air. It did not matter so much for a delicate lady to be afraid
of the wind and the sea, but it was a great pity for a healthy boy to
be fanciful or timid; and Harry's mother herself was very anxious that
he should become more manly. She was very disappointed that she could
not get him to bathe when they came to the seaside, but it was no use,
and she and nurse and Dora all agreed that the only thing to do was to
wait till Papa came.
Papa had come now, and Harry had had his first dip. It wasn't so
very bad after all, but just when he was getting up his spirits
again, and thinking ten minutes or so every morning were quickly over,
all his fears and dislike grew worse than ever when his father told him
that in a day or two he should begin to teach him to swim.
Everybody, especially every English man and boy, should know how to
swim, Papa had said. There is never any knowing the use it may be of,
both for one's self and others.
Isn't it very hard to learn? Harry asked, not venturing to say
It takes some patience, his father said. But by the time I have
to goin three weeks or soyou should be able to swim fairly well, if
you have a lesson every day.
And Harry came home to tell Dora his troubles, which he worked
himself up to think were very great ones indeed.
There was no shirking it however. Papa, though very kind, was very
firm, and once he said a thing, it had to be done. So with a rather
white face, and looking very solemn, poor Harry set off every day for
his swimming lesson.
He was a quick and clever boy, and a strong boy, and this his father
knew. He would not have forced Harry to do anything for which he was
unfit, or that could have done him any harm. And after the first
shivers of fear and tremulous clinging to his father's hand were got
over, it went on better and faster than could have been expected. Harry
didn't mind its being difficult once he had left off being afraid, and
a day or two before his father had to leave them, Harry had the
pleasure of hearing him say to his mother, He swims already very
nearly as well as I do myself.
Now I shall tell you why I have called this little story Harry's
Seacliff, the place at which these children were spending the
summer, was not a fashionable watering-place, with terraces and
donkey-carriages and bathing-machines, but a little village, where one
or two cottages were to be had for the season. There were also a few
gentlemen's houses in the neighbourhood, so that in fine weather merry
groups met at the little sheltered bay among the rocks, where the
bathing was pleasantest.
One day, not very long before they were to leave Seacliff, Harry,
having finished his own morning swim, set off to walk home at his ease,
whistling as he went. He had chosen what was called the high path, a
footpath up above the lane, which was the regular road from the village
to the beach, but from which the lane could be seen all the way.
It was a lovely morningbright and peacefuland Harry, as he went,
wished that poor Dora had got leave to bathe.
Next year, he thought, I hope we shall come again, and then what
fun we shall have. Dolly will learn to swim in no time.
Suddenly a sound disturbed his pleasant thoughts. A horse and cart
or carriage of some kind was rushing wildly along, coming nearer and
nearer. Surely the horse, or pony, as Harry now saw it to be, was
running away. The boy who had never been a coward except about sea
things, tumbled down the steep grassy slope in no time, and stood in
the middle of the road eager to see what he could do. The flying
vehicle was near enough now for him to see that it was the
pony-carriage of two girls, a little older than Dora, whose home was
one of the pretty houses a little way from Seacliff. He had often seen
them drive down in it to the shore to bathe.
But what a queer figure was driving now. The pony was not running
away, on the contrary, it seemed as if it could not run fast enough to
please the driver; a girl with hair streaming, dressed only in a blue
flannel bathing gown, streaming too, who stood upright in the carriage,
lashing the poor pony as if she were mad, while from time to time she
screamed, in a shrill and yet choking voice, Help, helpfor God's
What is it? screamed Harry too, as she passed. She would not stop,
but she threw back some words on the wind.
My sisterAlicedrowning. Going to the village to fetch some
And then again came the terrible cry, as if she hardly knew what she
was saying, Help, help!
Oh, thought Harry, if she could have stopped and taken me back,
we'd have been at the shore in a moment. I can swim. I
And he could run too. It was not so very far from the bathing-place.
How he got there Harry never could tell. On he rushed, tearing off his
clothes as he went. Off flew hat, jacket, collar and shirt, till there
was nothing but trousers and tennis-shoes to pitch away, as in his
little clinging woven drawers only, brave Harry flung himself, fearless
and dauntless, into the sea, and struck out for the round dark object,
poor Alice's head, which it had taken but an instant to point out to
I can swim! I can swim! were the magic words with
which he was able at once to push off the friendly hands that would
have drawn him back, whose owners now stood watching him with flushed
faces and tearful eyes, murmuring many a fervent prayer for his
success, or saying aloud with clasped hands, The brave boy, the
splendid little fellow! It is her only chance!
It was her only chance. Long before poor Lilian, for all her
headlong drive, was back with a sailor she had met just outside the
village, Alice would have sunk to rise no more. She had been caught by
the current and carried out far beyond her depth, and when Harry,
panting, labouring, but swimming valiantly still, got near enough to
catch the long plait of hair, and so draw her gently after him to
shore, she had all but lost consciousness. Better so, perhaps, for had
she struggled or clung to him, both would have been lost.
As it was, there were plenty of hands to carry them to land, once
they were within a safe distance; but Harry was the hero, Harry, alone
and unaided, had saved a human life, for of all the score or so of
watchers on the beach, not one knew how to swim.
Was not this worthy to be called his Reward? even if the thanks of
the two pretty sisters and their parents had been less fervent and
Harry and Dora go often to Seacliff now, even without the rest of
the family; for there is a house near there where they are always most
welcome visitors, and where the only fear is that if Harry were not a
very sensible boy, the attentions of Alice and Lilian might
[Illustration: BROTHERS AND
Mamma was very fond of mushrooms. I don't mean to say that she was a
greedy person or fond of eating, but if she had a weakness, it
was for mushrooms. When she was a little girl, she had lived in a
country place where they grew in abundance, and she had often told the
children how delightful it was to go mushroom gathering, how pretty the
creamy-white heads looked, sometimes almost hidden in the grass, like
eggs in a mossy nest, and what shrieks of fun and eagerness used to be
heard when some specially fine one was suddenly caught sight of.
But Mamma's own children, Lancey and DickMamma was not very
rich in children, she had only these two little sturdy boys, Lancey was
nine and Dick was sevenhad never had the good fortune to live in a
mushroom country. All they knew of mushrooms was when they sometimes
happened to catch sight of them in the kitchen, when cook had bought a
little basket of them, paying very dear for it, no doubt, because
Missis was so partial to them. And there was great rejoicing, as you
can fancy, when one autumn Mamma told her little boys that they were
going down into the country to spend September with an old aunt, who
lived not far from where Mamma herself had lived when she was a little
And is there those funny thingsmushmushI forget the
namethere? asked Dick.
Mushrooms? said Mamma. Oh, yes, in September there will be
plenty, no doubt, she replied.
And your birthday's in September, said Lancey. Oh, Mamma, oh,
Dick! he went on, giving a great spring in his delight, just
thinkwe can gather mushrooms for itnice, wild mushrooms,
that taste ever so much better than the ones you buy in the shops,
don't they, Mamma, darling?
Than forced mushrooms, you mean, Lancey, she replied. Yes, forced
mushrooms, that means mushrooms grown in hot-houses, or hot-beds; for
she saw on the boys' lips the question, what are forced mushrooms,
please? never have the same flavour, I am sure. Besides, one hasn't
the fun of hunting for them, and gathering them one's self. I am sure
you will enjoy that part of it.
I am sure we shall. I am sure we shall like Fernimoor much
better than the seaside, said both boyseven though we have liked it
very much, added tender-hearted Dick. He was so afraid of Mamma being
at all hurt, if she fancied he meant that they had not enjoyed
the seaside after all the trouble and expense she and papa had been at
to take them there. For, as he told Lancey afterwards, he was sure he
had seen Papa pay three gold pounds for their railway tickets at
the station the day they came.
I hope you will enjoy it very much, said Mamma kindly, and I am
sure you will, and so shall I. It will be so nice to show my little
boys some of the places I loved when I was as little as they are.
And to teach us how to find musherrooms, said Dick, quite
satisfied he had got the hard word right this time.
Fernimoor turned out to be very nice, quite as nice as the boys'
pleasantest fancies had pictured it. The old-fashioned house was the
funniest and prettiest in the world, so was the garden, and the uncle
and aunt were the kindest and nicest of old uncles and aunts. There was
only one disappointmentand that was the mushrooms!
There had been a good crop of them, said Auntie, a week or two ago,
but since then it had been so drythe whole season had been unusually
drythat there were none at all. Possibly in another ten days or so,
if it rained, there might be another crop, but then one scarcely
dared wish for rain, it would be so bad for the harvest.
So Mamma and her two little squires wandered about the fields in
vain, seeking for the pretty creamy egg-like balls among the grass,
which Mamma had so often described.
It can't be helped, she said. It's better than if it had done
nothing but rain. That would have spoilt our visit, even if we had had
basketfuls of mushrooms.
But Lancey and Dick didn't seem quite sure that they agreed with
her. They had got the idea of mushrooms so in their heads that I don't
think they would have grumbled even if it had rained.
If only there are some before Mamma's birthday, it won't matter so
much, said hopeful little Dick.
Mamma's birthday was the thirteenth of September, and that year it
fell on a Monday. All Friday and Saturday it had rainedreally
pouredand every one was surprised that Lancey and Dick did not
grumble at it. By Sunday morning it cleared, and Lancey who was dressed
first, ran out into the garden for a stroll before breakfast. Here he
met a friend of hisan under-gardener, who had come to do some little
piece of work about the hot-houses, which could not be neglected even
Fine morning, Master Lancey, said the lad. My, how it did pour
Griffith, said Lancey, will the rain have brought up any
mushrooms, do you think?
Bless you, yes. See here, Master Lancey, just you go down the lane
to the left of the lodge till you come to a cottage, then creep through
the gate oppositeit's awkward to open, but you'll easily get
throughand see if you don't find mushrooms. There'll be lots by
to-morrow if we've some sun to-day.
It's to-morrow I want to get themto-morrow morning early, said
Lancey. Thank you, Griffith.
After breakfast, Dick in turn went out for a little fresh airhe
strolled towards the stables, as he was very fond of one of the dogs
there. On his way he came across a groom called Nicholls.
Good morning, Nicholls, said Dick. Should you think, Nicholls,
there'd be any mushrooms by to-morrow morning?
Sure to be, Master Dick. If you're up early, I'll show you the best
field in the place for them. Come out to the stable-yard as soon as
you're dressed, and I'll show you the way.
Thank you, Nicholls, said Dick. Yes, I'll come. Don't tell
anybody else, Nicholls.
No, no, sir, we'll keep it a secret.
Lancey and Dick went to church together and were together as usual
all day. But strange to tell, not one word was said by either boy to
the other about their plans for the next morning. Some mischievous
sprite had put it into their heads, for almost the first time in their
lives, to have a secret, and not a kind secret either, each from the
I'm the eldest, thought Lancey. I think it's only fair I should
get the mushrooms for Mamma's birthday.
Lancey's bigger and stronger than I am, thought Dick. If he went
with me, he'd gather ever so many more, and Mamma wouldn't think it was
me at all that had got them.
Monday morning came. The boys slept in separate rooms at Auntie's.
Each had a tiny dressing-room with a sofa-bed, so it was easy to get up
and dress without brother knowing. Lancey was first, but it took him
some little time to find Griffith, and to ask him again where to go,
which he had partly forgotten. Dick was luckier, for Nicholls was
waiting for him, and took him by what he called a short cut, to the
field he had described, and helped him over the hedge, telling him the
mushrooms grew thickest a bit up the field.
Up the field trotted Dick, but he had not gone far before he stopped
short in surprise. Who was that coming towards him from the other end?
And who can that be? thought the new-comer, as a small, stout
figure caught his eyea round, brown-holland little person, not
unlike a mushroom button on two legs. I do believe, he said aloud, I
do believe it's Dick.
I do believe, said Dick. I do believe it's Lancey.
They stared at each other for a few minutes, not quite sure what to
say or do. Then they thought better of it and burst out laughing.
It's no good doing without each other, said both together.
The mushrooms were plentiful, and the gathering of them proved quite
as nice as Mamma had told them. And it was two very happy little boys
who carried up a splendid plateful with many happy returns to her
door that morning.
But when Mamma had kissed and thanked them, each looked at the
Mamma, said both together, we weren't going to have been quite
good about them, and then they told the whole. But it was all right
at the end, they said, and oh, Mamma, how do you like the mushrooms
cooked? Fried or with sauce? Auntie told us to ask.
I don't mind, said Mamma, they are sure to taste good any way,
now that they are flavoured with Lancey's and Dick's brotherly love.
A REMARKABLE WATCH.
May we bathe this morning, Mamma? said the children, putting their
heads in at the door of the drawing-room.
Mamma glanced at the time-piece.
It is rather late, she said doubtfully. You would have to be very
quick. Which of the big ones are going with you?
None of them, answered Joan, the smallest of the small party.
They've all gone for a walk except Lilly, and she's drawing in the
garden, but I'm sure she'd come if we asked her. Lilly's always so
kindif only you'd say we might.
It is so fine and sunny, and the tide won't suit again for
ever so many days, added two or three imploring voices.
Very well, then if Lilly will go you may bathe, but you must
be quick. I can't have luncheon kept waiting again, said Mamma.
In another moment loud eager cries from the garden reached her
through the open window. Lilly, Lilly, where are you? Mamma says if
you will come and then the voices faded away in the distance.
Poor Lilly, thought Mamma, with a smile. I wonder if it's a shame
of me to let those wild children torment her. I dare say she was
counting on a quiet morning.
But whether Lilly was disappointed or not, no sign of anything but
content and pleasure appeared on her pretty, bright face when the
little group of bathers, all brushed up and tidy again, took their
places round the luncheon-table.
That's right, said Mamma. You really have been very expeditious
this morning. Whom am I to praise?
She knew before it came what the answer would be.
Oh, Lilly. Lilly, of course, said Joan, always ready to be
spokeswoman. Lilly made us promise to do exactly as she told us before
She timed us, said Bill.
Yes, Joan went on, wasn't it a good plan? Lilly put her watch on
a rock and gave us five minutes to undress in, and a quarter of an hour
to stay in the sea, and ten minutes to dress in. Bill and Humphrey were
in the gentlemen's dressing-room, of coursethat's what we call the
other little bayand Lilly had to roar out to them, 'one minute more
only,''two minutes more,' just like a railway man at a station. It
was such fun, and
My dear Joan, you will never eat your dinner if you chatter so,
said her mother, and we can't wait for you. I am going a long drive
this afternoon, and I shall only just have time, and Mamma looked at
her watch. I hope I am a little fast, she added. What time do you
make it, Lilly dear? Your watch is always to be relied on.
Lilly's hand instinctively went to her watch-pocketthen she
suddenly looked up with a rather startled expression.
My watch! she exclaimed. I must have left it up stairs. Mamma
might I run up for a moment and see, if you don't mind?
Mamma nodded. She knew that Lilly's watch was one of the girl's most
prized treasures. It was a handsome, though rather bulky one, which had
been left to her by her godmother, and Lilly cared for it both because
she had loved her godmother, and also for its own sake. It kept
excellent time, and never got out of order as the little fairy-like
watches that are now the fashion are rather apt to do.
Lilly's moment extended to several minutes without her coming back,
and the faces round the table grew rather concerned-looking.
May I Joan was beginning, but just as she spoke Lilly appeared.
She was pale, and almost seemed as if she had difficulty in keeping
back her tears.
Mamma, she said, I can't forgive myself, I am dreadfully afraid
my dear watch is gone. I must have left it on the shore.
Up started Bill and Humphrey.
You'll let us go, Mamma. We don't care about any more dinner. We
know where Lilly left itno one's likely to have been there.
And the people about here are so honest, said Joan.
But, said Mamma, was the stone where you laid it, Lilly, out of
reach of the tide? It was almost low tide when you bathed.
All looked startled at this, but the boys persisted.
All the more reason to go at once, they said, and off they set.
Lilly would fain have gone too, but she gave in to her Mother, and
sat quietly, trying to eat, though I fear her luncheon was flavoured by
some drops of salt water.
And in a few minutes the whole party started down the road to meet
the boys and hear the news.
Alas! as soon as Bill and Humphrey appeared, even in the distance,
all hopes were gone. Both boys shook their heads sadly.
You saw nothing of it? asked their Mother eagerly. Poor Lilly was
Nothingas well as we could make out, the tide must have covered
the stones where the girls dressed, some time ago, they replied.
Then I fear there is nothing to be done, said Mamma. Poor Lilly,
I am so sorry for you.
And to think it was all my own carelessness, sobbed Lilly. My
dear watch and chainthere was the chain too, Mamma.
But Lilly was so seldom careless, and even if she had been so for
once, it was in the service of others, that no one would let her blame
herself, and all the family joined to try to console her.
There is one chance, said Bill to Humphrey, when they were
alone,their Mother and elder sisters having gone out for the
afternoon,the watch is heavy, and the sea is calm. It may be
left there when the tide goes back. Let's seeit will be high tide by
about five, and low again by eleven. Those stones should be uncovered
by ten o'clock, and it is bright moonlight just now. I tell you what,
Humphrey, we'll get Mamma's leave to sit up later to-night, and we'll
go off to the shore and have another try for the watch and chain.
Humphrey's eyes sparkled with sympathy.
We'll say nothing to Lillyit would be cruel to raise her hopes
again on such a chance, he said. We'll only tell Mamma.
The plan was carried out. At ten o'clock that evening, just as poor
Lilly was going to bed, and thinking sadly how strange it seemed to
have no watch to wind up, two small figures might have been seen in the
moonlight, carefully picking their way among the stones over which the
little waves were still softly lapping, for the special group of small
rocks they were in search of was not yet uncovered.
It was more difficult than they had expected to find the exact spot.
The moonlight and the sheen it cast on the water were rather dazzling.
The boys crept along slowly and carefully.
I say, what a beautiful night it is, said Bill. It's a good thing
the watch is a gold one; if it were silver there wouldn't be much
chance of seeing iteverything looks silver, and
But Humphrey interrupted him.
This is the placeI'm sure it islook, the smooth sand just
beyond is where the girls jumped in, and
In his turn he was interrupted.
You're right, cried Bill, andI do believeno, there's a little
wave hiding it againnow, look, Humphreyisn't there something
glittering still more than the wet stones, down thereon that smooth
Yesanother wave or two came gently lapping in, as if to say
good-bye to the treasure they had been playing with, and then the boys
stepped forward over the slippery stones, and Bill stooped down and
quickly stood up again, with a shout of triumph, for the rescued prize
was in his hands.
And it really doesn't seem much the worse, said he and Humphrey to
each other, as they made their way home.
Lilly was not in her first sleepshe was too unhappy to fall asleep
as quietly as usualwhen a tap at the door made her jump up. There
stood her brothers, and behind them Mamma, smiling with pleasure, and
for a minute or two Lilly's delight almost stupefied her. She could
scarcely believe it was her own dear watch that Bill held out, and when
she did believe it, she could not kiss and thank him and Humphrey
The watch had to go to a watch-doctor, of course, and it cost
several shillings to put it right, but that is now many years ago, and
it still keeps time as well as ever.
[Illustration: THE BLACKBERRY ELF
Nora and Hilary were staying in the country with their cousins. It
was a new part of the world to them, for their own home, though not
actually in a town, was not far from one, and therefore far less rich
in wild flowers and mushrooms and blackberries, and all such delightful
things than the real country place where these fortunate cousins
[Illustration: THE ELF]
Had it not been for the newness and the freedom of it all, they
might have found it a little dull, for there was only one child in the
family at all near their agesNora was eight and Hilary sixand this
was a boy of seven called Cecil. Cecil was very much younger than his
brothers and sisters, and seemed even younger than his age, for he was
small and delicate, and very quiet. Hilary, a great big strong fellow,
seemed much older; indeed if you had seen the two together you would
certainly have guessed that Cecil and not his cousin was the, so to
say, town-bred boy. Cecil had never been so happy in his life as since
the two little visitors had come to stay with him. They seemed to find
out all sorts of new things that had never struck him before; pleasures
and interests springing all about and close at hand which he had never
They found everything delightful; as the summer gradually faded into
autumn, and the bright flowers grew scarcer and less tempting to
gather, the wild fruit in its turn began to ripen. Day by day the
children watched the blackberries with the greatest eagerness, as the
small red heads steadily got rounder and deeper in colour, till at last
one day some of the big people said in the children's hearing, a
couple of days' sunshine and the blackberries will be at their prime;
there's a splendid show of them this year.
Nora and Hilary could scarcely keep from jumping with joy, and they
made Cecil nearly as eager as themselves. The sun seemed to enter into
their feelings, for the very next morning he showed a more smiling face
than for some time past, and continued in this amiable humour for
several days, so that the children were able on the third day to set
off, armed with baskets nearly as big as themselves, for a regular good
All went well for some time. They had been told where and how far
they might go, and though it took rather longer than they had
expected, to fill even one of the baskets, they worked on cheerfully,
nowise disheartened, chattering to each other from time to time, when a
strange thing happened.
Nora was just saying that the only thing she was ever afraid
of in the woods was snakes, and Cecil was assuring her that he was
quite certain there were none in our woods, when he was startled by
her giving a little scream.
What's the matter? he called out, half thinking that a snake had
appeared after all.
Hush, Cecil, oh, hush! said Nora in a low and startled voice;
come here, and you, Hilary, come close here, but don't make any
Wondering, and a little frightened, the two boys crept through the
bushes to her side.
What is it, Nora? they both whispered in an awestruck tone.
I don't know, she replied. Cecil, do you know of anything
queer in these woods? Are there any dwarfs oror creatures like in
fairy stories? For I am sure I saw a very, very little black or
dark-brown man with a red jacket and caphe wasn't as high as up to my
waistscrambling among the bushes over there, and picking and eating
Cecil and Hilary stared at her.
You must have fancied it, Nora, said Cecil. I never heard of a
but he was interrupted by a sort of smothered scream.
There, there, whispered Nora, clutching hold of both the boys,
there he is again!
And sure enough there he was, and just exactly as Nora had
described him. A tiny dark-brown creature, like a wee old man, with a
little red jacket, and a small red skull-cap on the top of his head. He
seemed to have come up suddenly from among the bushes; he was holding
the branch of a blackberry tree in one hand, and with the other
greedily plucking and eating the fruit as fast as he could.
Who can he be? said Nora, who had grown very pale.
I wish I'd a gun here, said Hilary, who was rather given to
Nonsense, said Nora, if he's some kind of a man,and he can't be
an animalanimals don't wear jackets and capsit would be very
wrong, and if he's aa wood-spirit, or anything like that, shooting
would be no good.
But Hilary and she had raised their voices in this discussion
without knowing it. Suddenly the small man turned round, placed one
hand behind his big black ear, as if listening, and then, seemingly
catching sight of the children, sprang forward, stretching out his two
long arms before him in a curious way towards the little group.
A group no longerwith a scream, or three screams joined into one,
the children had turned and fled. How they got through the thick
growing bushes without being torn to pieces I am sure I cannot tell.
Fear lends wings, I suppose. However that may be, I know it was in a
wonderfully short time that they found themselves, panting and shaking,
breathless and trembling, but safe, inside the shelter of their own
I never was so frightened in my life, each exclaimed in turn.
If we hadn't all seen it, we might think it was fancy, said
I'm afraid the big ones will say it's fancy as it is, said Cecil,
and they will so laugh at us.
Then we won't tell them, said Nora, at least we'll wait a little
and see. But I daren't go into the woods again; I really daren't.
Not without a gun, said Hilary.
Rubbish, said Nora.
They kept their own counsel all that day, though strongly tempted to
confide in one or other of the big ones. But after dinner that evening,
when they went into dessert, Cecil's father called them to him.
I've got a story which will amuse you, children, he said. I was
riding past Welby's farm this morning, and Welby was quite full of a
present his sailor son has sent him. It is a monkeythe funniest
little fellow possible. He arrived, dressed in a red jacket and cap,
and was soon as friendly as possible with them all, he says. But the
queerest thing is this. Last week Tom Welby took the monkey a walk in
the woods and gave him some blackberries. Mr. Monkey seemed to like
them very much, and the next morning be disappeared, to the Welbys'
consternation. They were sure he was stolen or lost. But late in the
afternoon he came home again in a very good humour. And the next
morning off he went again, to come home just like the day before. They
couldn't make it out, but Tom was determined to find out, so he watched
Mr. Monkey, and where do you think he was? In the woods gathering
blackberrries on his own account, 'like a Christian,' said old Welby,
and enjoying himself thoroughly. And now he goes off every morning
regularly, and comes home when the afternoon gets chilly. It's really
most amusing, isn't it?
The children looked at each other, but for a moment none of them
spoke. Then at last Nora burst out.
Uncle, we saw him this morning. Butwe were very silly
We thought he was a wood-spiritaaI can't remember the name,
I wanted to shoot him, said Hilary.
At this there was a shout of laughter all round the table. The
children hesitated, then they looked at each other again, and burst out
Why didn't you tell us? asked big sister Mabel.
We thought you'd laugh at us, they said.
And after all we have laughed at you, but I don't think
you're any the worse, said Mabel smiling, as she kissed their little
RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BUNGAY.