The Magic of Kindness.
A Tale for the Young.
MRS. GEORGE CUPPLES,
Author of "The Story of Our Doll," "The Little Captain," Etc. Etc.
London: T. Nelson and Sons, Paternoster Row. Edinburgh; and New York. 1881.
Caroline Ashcroft stood by the trellised arbour on the lawn, along with Daisy, her pet lamb, watching for the approach of the carriage which had been sent to the railway-station to meet her papa and her only brother, Herbert. This was the first time that Caroline had been separated from her brother, who had been sent to school at a distance some months before this; and as she had no sister or companion of her own age, she had felt very lonely during his absence. In honour of his return nurse had dressed Caroline in her new white muslin; and Daisy, after being carefully washed till her soft fleece was as white as snow, had been decorated with a beautiful wreath of flowers. She was so anxious to pull it off, that Caroline was obliged to hold her head very firm, in case she should eat it up before Herbert arrived.
"Now, Daisy," said Caroline to the lamb, "just have a few minutes more patience. I'm certain I hear the sound of wheels. There!" she cried, clapping her hands, as the carriage turned in at the avenue gate. Daisy, feeling herself at liberty, ran away across the lawn, tossing her head and tearing the wreath to pieces; but Caroline was so eager to catch the first glimpse of Herbert, who she felt sure would be looking out of the window for her, that she did not notice how soon her morning's labour had been destroyed.
Caroline was a sweet-dispositioned child, affectionate and very warm-hearted; at least nurse thought so, as she dressed her that morning, and listened to her plans for Herbert's amusement during his holidays. She had banished from her mind all recollection of his wayward temper, and the delight he always seemed to take in tormenting her and teasing her in every way in his power, and only thought how nice it would be to have him at home once more.
"Ah, Miss Caroline," nurse had said, "I'm thinking you will be even more pleased to see him set off for school again, unless he is much improved."
"But Herbert is a big boy now, nurse," Caroline had replied; "only think what nice letters he writes from school, telling how he longs to be beside us again, and always speaks so kindly of me. I know he will be good."
Nurse made no further remark, except to say "she hoped it would turn out so;" for she did not want to cast a shadow over Caroline's happiness. Certainly, when Herbert jumped out of the carriage, he seemed as glad to see his sister as she was to see him; and though the wreath on Daisy's neck was gone, he admired the white fleece very much, and said that they would go together some day to gather wild flowers to make another. Then he had so many amusing stories to relate about his adventures at school, that Caroline thought there could not be a better brother found anywhere. Her mamma had often said that Herbert had a good heart if he would just control his temper, and had often told Caroline to be very gentle with him, for nothing but gentleness would soften him.
It was late in the afternoon when Herbert returned, so that bed-time arrived long before the stories were exhausted; and the brother and sister parted for the night with the understanding that they should set out early after breakfast for a long walk, and to pay some visits to old friends and neighbours. The next morning, when Caroline awoke, the first thing she did was to jump out of bed and run to the window to see what sort of a day it was; when, much to her vexation, she found the rain was descending in torrents. She was far more sorry for Herbert's disappointment than for her own; for she remembered how he disliked a wet day, and how difficult it always was for him to spend it comfortably. Still Herbert might not be so foolish now, she thought, and she would try all she could to amuse him.
"Well, I must say this is too bad," said Herbert, as he entered the breakfast-room the next morning.
"What is too bad?" inquired his mamma, as she poured out the coffee.
"Why, the rain, to be sure, mamma," replied Herbert. "Hasn't it stopped our plans for the day?"
"They were of such consequence, I suppose," said Mrs. Ashcroft, laughing. "Here have I been hearing from every quarter that rain is greatly needed to help on the crops; and now when it has come, and all the farmers' hearts will be filled with rejoicing, my boy is filled with dismay!"
"Oh, but, mamma, you must own it is very provoking to have a wet day the very first one on my return," said Herbert.
"Well, perhaps it is vexatious, when we think of you as an individual, and banish from our minds the thousands it will benefit."
"Now, you are laughing at me, mamma," said Herbert sulkily.
"Nay, my son," said Mrs. Ashcroft, "I am sorry for you. But let me see if nothing can be done to make a wet day pleasant in-doors. I'm sure Carry will do her best to help."
"Might we make soap-bubbles, mamma?" said Caroline; "you said I might try to do it some day with the pipe uncle gave me."
"Well, I daresay you may, dear, if you put on an apron, and don't wet yourself."
After breakfast Caroline was not long in getting the soap and water ready, which she carried off to the school-room; and though Herbert at first called it a babyish game, and stood apart by the window watching the rain, he could not help joining his sister in the end.
"Oh, if you had only seen what lovely ones uncle made," said Caroline, "and how beautifully he tossed them up, making them float up to the very roof without bursting sometimes!"
"That is not a very difficult process, I should say," replied Herbert. "Give me the pipe, and I will show you I can do it as well as uncle."
Caroline at once gave up the pipe, and good-naturedly held the dish while Herbert blew the soap-bubbles; and even he became fascinated with the sport, and sat blowing away so long that lunch-hour arrived and poor Caroline hadn't had a chance to make another, though she wanted to do it ever so much.
As the day advanced, and the novelty of being at home wore off, Herbert began to return to his old habit of teasing his inoffensive sister. They were sitting beside their mamma, who was sewing, while she listened with as much delight almost as Caroline did to Herbert's stories of his life at school. Caroline was on the floor dressing her doll, while Herbert sat on a low stool at his mother's feet; but unable to behave himself longer, he rolled over on to the floor, and, with his head in Caroline's lap, snatched the doll out of her hands.
"Oh, do give me my doll," said Caroline, as gently as she could; "see, her poor arm is broken, and the sawdust is coming out."
"What a baby you are, Carry!" said Herbert, paying no attention to her request. "No girl of your age plays with dolls nowadays. Stop; let me show you how the jugglers do. They toss up a ball on their feet so," and Herbert flung the doll up in the air and caught it upon his feet, then sent it spinning to the roof again, while he laughed at Caroline's look of distress.
Their mamma now interposed, and bade Herbert give the doll back at once, telling him at the same time that he ought to be ashamed of himself for tormenting his sister in such a way, and warned him that though it was his holidays she would punish him most severely if he annoyed her again. Herbert went off to his own room and got into bed, where he lay till dinner-time. It was doubtful, however, whether he or Caroline really suffered most.
"O mamma, it was my fault," she said, while the tears stood in her eyes; "I know Herbert was just in fun; I daresay he would not have done it any harm if I had trusted it to him. He has often said it was the sight of my frightened face that made him wish to go on; for it looks so funny to see me so frightened, he says, about such a trifle."
"That may be all very true, dear," said her mamma, "but I do not like to see Herbert giving way to such a disposition. It has grieved both papa and me many a time to see our boy growing up with that constant wish to tease and torment any helpless creature he meets, more especially his own sister. We sent him to school to see if it would do him good; but I fear, if it has checked him it has not cured him. I should like to see my boy grow up manly and courageous; for it is only a cowardly disposition that tries to tease a little girl or torment a dumb animal."
Still Caroline could not help being sorry for Herbert, and when she saw him looking, as she fancied, very dull during dinner, she slipped away after him, thinking that he must be very unhappy, though all the time he was just indulging himself in a fit of the sulks. At first he was inclined to treat Caroline's advances to friendship in a surly manner, but a glance at her earnest, gentle eyes made him feel ashamed of himself; and being at the same time tired of his solitude, he at length consented to play a game at bagatelle. He even went so far as to say, "Well, after all Carry, you are a good little thing; I do annoy you terribly, which is not fair, because you are so forgiving. Well, to make up for it, I'll be very kind to you to-morrow."
When Herbert came to bid his mamma good-night in her room, he had quite forgotten that she had been angry with him during the day. He was very much surprised, therefore, when, instead of kissing him, she pushed him back from her knee, saying, "I fear I have no good-night kiss for you, my boy, at present."
"Why, mamma, what have I done?" said Herbert, the tears starting to his eyes, for he knew that if his mamma refused to kiss him she must indeed be angry.
"You surely have not forgotten how displeased I was with you this forenoon for teasing your sister!" said Mrs. Ashcroft in a tone of severity.
"But, mamma, Carry has forgotten it now; and I told her I was sorry," said Herbert eagerly. "I'm sure all I did to her couldn't hurt her so very much."
"Perhaps not, my son," said Mrs. Ashcroft; "but you remember the reason why we sent you away to school was to see if this bad habit of teasing could be cured. If I had thought you were to begin the very first day you were at home, I should have allowed you to stay at school during the holidays also."
"But there wasn't one boy stayed behind at school this half," said Herbert; "you surely wouldn't have left me all alone, mamma!"
"Indeed I would, Herbert," replied his mamma firmly; "and what is more, if you persevere in this bad habit, I shall speak to papa as to whether it would not be advisable to send you back to school even yet."
Herbert could not help seeing that his mamma really meant what she said, and this threat frightened him so much that he wept bitterly. "Mamma," he said, "if you will only forgive me this once, I will try very hard not to tease Carry all the time I am at home."
"Well, my boy," said Mrs. Ashcroft kindly, "we will give you one more trial, and I hope you will not only try very hard, but ask God to help you to be a good boy."
Herbert, before he went to his own room, opened his sister's door very carefully to see if she were in bed. Carry did not hear him, she was so intent looking out of the window at the rain. "I like to see the rain," she was saying to herself; "but I do hope it will pour itself out during the night, for Herbert's sake; it is very hard for him, poor fellow."
Herbert pulled to the door very gently, and retired to his own room, with the feeling stronger than ever that his sister was really "a good little thing."
The next morning was as bright as a morning could well be, with everything out-of-doors looking fresh after the rain, so that when breakfast was over, Herbert and Caroline, with the large dog Neptune, lost not a moment in setting out for a long ramble into the country. At first Herbert seemed to remember his words of the previous evening, and was very kind to Caroline, helping her carefully over the stepping-stones at the river, instead of frightening her as he used to do. Then he always held open the gates of the different fields they passed through, shutting them after her, instead of making her do it. He even stopped throwing stones at a wounded bird in a field when he saw it distressed her, though he laughed at her for being such a simpleton as to care for a half-dead bird. This recalled to his mind a circumstance that had happened at school, when he and some of his schoolfellows had gone for a walk into the country one half-holiday; and he began to relate how they had caught a pigeon sitting on its nest up a tree, and how, regardless of its fluttering and piteous cries, they had carried it off, and its nest also. Then he told with much laughter how they had unearthed a mole, and how they had tied it to a stick and made it a target to fling stones at, till it had died by inches; no doubt, as Caroline supposed, having suffered great torture. Losing all command of herself, she cried out, "O Herbert, how could you, could you be so cruel! It is quite true what mamma says, you are nothing but a coward, to hunt a dumb creature, a poor blind animal, so."
At these words Herbert flew into a passion, and told Caroline she might find her way home the best way she could, for that he would not walk any more with her; and away he ran, with Neptune at his heels. When he was a few yards off, he turned and cried out, "I hope you won't meet with Farmer Brown's bull, that's all; and that you won't find the stepping-stones difficult, now that your coward isn't there to help you."
Caroline thought that he was only doing this to frighten her, and expecting he would return in a short time, she sat down by the brink of the river, wondering how boys could be so cruel to God's creatures. Boys were taught by their parents to be kind to animals, just as their sisters were; yet, as they grew up, they forgot all about it,—at least, very many of them did; and they seemed to try who would do the most cruel thing. She sat trying to think of a plan to make her brother Herbert kind and gentle; and again it came into her mind how by her own hastiness she had made him angry just when he was doing everything to please her. "It was so very dreadful of him to hurt the poor blind mole," she said aloud; "I could not help speaking out; only I need not have called him a coward. I might have shown him how bad his conduct was in a gentler way; but, as nurse and mamma say, I am always so hasty."
Caroline having sat a long time, began to think that Herbert really did not mean to come for her; and fearing her mamma would be alarmed if she did not return with Herbert in time for dinner, she turned back along the path they had come, walking as fast as she could. After passing through two fields, and managing to open and shut the gates with some difficulty, she was alarmed by hearing a loud roar, which she guessed must come from Farmer Brown's bull. She nearly fell down with terror, for the bull had a very bad character for goring people, and had only the week before hurt a little boy very seriously. Collecting all her courage, she crept round by the side of the hedge. Fortunately the bull had his head turned in the opposite direction, so that she managed to pass him and get out of the field without being seen by him. At the stepping-stones she stopped, afraid to venture over; but a man came up, who kindly offered to take her across.
Going round by a field-path that led to her home past Farmer Brown's farm, she saw a little girl sitting under a tree, whom she at once guessed must be little Martha, the farmer's only child. She was gazing up at a flight of pigeons that went fluttering over the houses before they lighted down upon the roof of the barn. Caroline had often seen Martha at church, and once or twice nurse had taken her to the farm, when she had gone to see Mrs. Brown; so she stopped to ask the little girl what she was looking at so earnestly.
"I'm looking at the pigeons, miss," said little Martha, rising to drop a courtesy to the young lady from the Hall.
"They seem to be all pure white," said Caroline, sitting down on the roots of the tree, and bidding Martha take her seat again. "They are very pretty."
"Yes, miss, they are pretty," said Martha, looking with pride at her favourites; "but they are not all white; there be two of them blue, and I'm so sorry for it."
"Why, what makes you sorry for the blue ones?" said Caroline, smiling. "Don't you like blue ones?"
"Oh yes, I like them very much," said Martha, "but father doesn't; and he's going to shoot them to-night."
"Oh, how cruel of him," said Caroline; "you must ask him not to do it, Martha. They cannot help being blue, you know."
Martha looked a little distressed at the idea of her kind father being considered cruel by the young lady, but she didn't know very well how to answer her. "Father doesn't mean to be cruel, miss," said Martha; "but he likes all the pigeons to be white; and if a blue one comes he shoots it. I will ask father not to shoot them, and perhaps he won't."
"Oh yes, please do ask him," replied Caroline; "and tell him if he only could catch them, and send them down to me, I would give him my new shilling papa gave me on my birth-day. Tell him to be sure and not to shoot them."
Martha went off at once to look for her father, but as he had gone away to a distant part of the farm, Caroline had to be content to await his return, and leaving the matter in Martha's hands for the present, proceeded on her way homewards.
When she arrived at home, she was very glad to find that her mamma had not returned from town; so that, unless Caroline told her, she could not know of Herbert's bad behaviour; and Caroline was determined to keep it secret.
If Mrs. Ashcroft saw that the children were not such good friends as they had been that morning, she took no notice of it, and during dinner spoke more to their papa than to them. But towards the end she turned to Caroline and said, "Who do you think is coming to pay you a visit of a few days? Well, I shall tell you, as I see you cannot guess. Your two cousins, Lizzie and Charles."
Caroline was very much pleased to hear this, for she loved her cousins very much; but her brother did not, for Charles was a well-behaved boy, one or two years younger than Herbert, and would never join in any of his tricks against the girls. When they arrived next morning, they went off at once to see Caroline's pet hen and chickens; and though Herbert went with them, he stood aside with his hoop dangling on his arm, and with a look of contempt on his face at his cousin Charlie's delight at the sight of the chickens. Living in a town as Charles and Lizzie did, everything belonging to the country was new and delightful; and it was not till all the poultry-sheds, and rabbit-hutches, and the very stables and cow-houses had been visited, that Charles would consent to join Herbert in a game on the lawn.
"I never saw any one like you, Charles," said Herbert, with a sneer; "one would think you never had seen a hen or a cow before. If you were at our school they would call you 'lady;' for you clap your hands just as a girl does over these things. I like horses and dogs, but who cares for a hen and chicks?"
"Well, now," said Charles, "can there be a prettier sight than a hen with her chickens peeping out under her wings?"
Herbert made no reply, and the boys now set about having a game at cricket, the girls good-naturedly agreeing to join in it, though they ran some risk of being hurt; for Herbert often tried to strike the ball in their direction, that he might enjoy the fun of seeing them run out of its way lest it should hurt them. However, nothing of the kind happened; but both Lizzie and Caroline were very glad when their brothers proposed to put away the bat and wickets, and have a game at hide-and-seek down at the great stack-yard. All that day and the next Herbert made himself very agreeable, and a very happy time the four children had. On the third day they paid a visit to old Mary Watkins, who lived in a little cottage on the borders of Mr. Ashcroft's property, and was a great favourite both with the children and their parents. Old Mary had not been very well, and Caroline and Lizzie were to take her some strong soup and some jelly, and they were all to be allowed to stay and drink tea with her, if she was able to have them. This was always considered a great treat, and no one enjoyed it more than Herbert; for old Mary had such lots of stories to tell, especially about her two sons, who were both sailors, but who had not been heard of for some years. When they reached Mary's cottage, they found the old woman quite pleased to see them; and as she was not able to set her best cups out on the tray with the large ship in full sail painted on it, the girls were allowed to do it for her. The boys were very active also in getting water from the spring to fill the kettle, which they lifted up on to the large hook that hung so strangely down the chimney over the fire.
Mrs. Ashcroft had taken care to send a good supply of provisions in another basket, in case Mary should not be prepared for such a large party; and they made a most hearty tea after their long walk. When the cups had been washed and put away, and the tray admired once more before it was placed up against the wall, there was still time to hear a good many of Mary's best stories before the hour fixed for their return home.
The next day the children were obliged to keep within doors, as it was very wet; and, as usual, Herbert came in to breakfast looking as gloomy as the weather, while his cousin Charles evidently intended to make the best of matters, and was quite cheerful.
"Come, girls," he cried, when they had gone up to the empty schoolroom, "let us have a game at playing at school. Don't you remember how we enjoyed it last time?"
Herbert flung himself down on the floor in a pet at the idea of being asked to play such a childish game; but though he tried hard to enjoy his favourite book, and not to listen to their mirth, when Lizzie purposely made such absurd mistakes, he was compelled at last to join in the laughter, and then in the game itself. Afterwards they played a game at bagatelle, but it took all their patience to stand Herbert's whims and tricks. He did not interfere with Lizzie, for she was on his side, but when Caroline and Charles were going to play, he would stagger up against them and cause them to play badly; or, if he saw that the ball was likely to go into a large number, he would slyly lift up the board and make it roll away.
"You said the other day that they would call me 'lady' at your school," said Charles, "but I know what they would call you at ours."
"What's that, pray?" replied Herbert, coming up close to his cousin with a scowl on his face and his hand clenched behind his back.
Charles was not in the least afraid of Herbert's threatening appearance, but answered stoutly,—"They would call you 'cheat;' and of the two names I'd prefer 'lady.'"
Herbert was neither restrained by the fact that his cousin was a guest in the house nor by the difference in their age, a double reason for treating him with forbearance.
Before Caroline had time to prevent him, Herbert had struck Charles a severe blow on the head, which knocked him down; and as he lay for some minutes almost senseless, the girls thought he was going to die, and screamed out for help.
Fortunately, nurse was passing the schoolroom door at the time, and hearing the noise, came in. Charles's face and head having been bathed, he soon recovered; and as Herbert seemed to have got a terrible fright, and to be truly sorry for his conduct, Charles was quite willing to forgive him, and to shake hands in token of friendship. During the remainder of their visit Herbert was very attentive to his cousins; and if any game was proposed by them, whether he thought it babyish or not, he never raised the least objection, but joined quite heartily in it.
Yet he had not given up his bad habits altogether; for he still went on with his teasing ways to his sister Caroline, both before his cousins' face and behind their back, till she began to think that, after all, as nurse had said, she would be glad when his holidays came to an end.
A few mornings after this, the children set out to fish in the river, and while walking round by the common they came upon a donkey standing all alone, without a bridle or even a rope on it. It was close to a large juicy thistle, but it did not seem to be eating it, and every minute or two it shook and trembled.
Lizzie was the first to notice it, and going closer, exclaimed, "I am afraid the poor beast must be ill."
"Tuts, what nonsense!" said Herbert; "donkeys are never ill. Don't you know they live for ever, Cousin Lizzie?"
"Well, I don't know about that," said Charles, going close up to the donkey and looking into its face; "all I can say is, if this poor beast isn't ill it looks very like it."
"It's nothing but a stubborn fit," said Herbert; and before any one could stop him he gave the donkey a lash with a switch he held in his hand, calling out at the same time, "Gee up, Teddy! come, get out of your sulks, sir!"
The donkey's flesh seemed to shiver, and he breathed harder, but his heavy eye never brightened.
"I tell you what it is, Herbert, I'll not see that poor animal ill-used in that manner," said Charles; "he's not sulky, he's ill!"
Herbert felt inclined to quarrel with Charles for his reproof, but Charles had spied a little boy sitting on a gate herding a cow, and he ran over to him to make inquiries who the donkey belonged to.
"Well, sir, the poor beast belongs to some travelling gipsies who are living t'other side of the common, and they left it here this morning because it couldn't go no further, and there it has stood before that 'ere thistle ever since."
Caroline now came up, and hearing that the donkey was ill beyond a doubt, she proposed they should go home and ask their mamma to send the stable lad with a hot drink to the poor animal. "I know when our pony was ill one day he got a hot drink and some medicine, and he very soon was all right again."
"I'm not going back, for one," said Herbert; "the idea of making such a fuss about a donkey; it's quite ridiculous!"
"Nobody is forcing you, my dear cousin," replied Charles cheerily; "you may go on to the river by yourself; but I for one couldn't enjoy myself, unless I had done something to help this poor animal in its distress."
"Well, I don't see why we all should stay because you choose to doctor an old donkey," said Herbert peevishly. "Come along, Lizzie and Carry; if you don't come at once we'll lose the best part of the day, and get no fish."
The girls, however, were quite as anxious about the welfare of the poor donkey, and declared their intention to stay with Charlie. They even did more, for they volunteered to go back to the house to get what was necessary for the animal, while Charlie and the herd-boy watched by him, ready to render any assistance if he should turn worse.
Caroline was fortunate in finding Stephens the gardener, who was considered very skilful in doctoring sick animals; at anyrate, he had set the leg of one of her chickens when it was broken, and managed to bring Neptune through a severe illness, therefore it was to be supposed he could cure the donkey also.
"Well, miss, I'll come and see him," said Stephens; "but if he is as bad as you say, I fear it's little I can do." To their great delight, however, when Stephens had examined him, he gave it as his decided opinion that the animal was suffering from a severe cold and over-work. "If we had him put into a warm house for a night, and gave him something warm to eat, I think he would soon be all right," said Stephens. "I might manage to make him up a bed in the root-house, if your mamma would have no objections."
Caroline and Lizzie ran back to the house again, and after telling the story, Mrs. Ashcroft gave permission that all attention should be paid to the sick animal; and while Charles and the herd-boy went over to the gipsy encampment to tell where their donkey had disappeared to, Caroline and Lizzie helped Stephens to make the donkey comfortable. Even in the short time they were beside him the poor animal seemed to be much relieved; and though at first he could scarcely open his mouth to eat the warm, soft mash Stephens had prepared for him, before they left he was beginning to nibble at a tuft of hay that had been placed for his use.
"Oh, I do wish Herbert had stayed to help us," said Caroline; "I really cannot understand why he doesn't take an interest in dumb animals. I wonder why he is so different from Charles. Your brother is seldom cross with you, not even when you are cross with him."
"No," said Lizzie; "he is really a good kind boy; but I know somebody, not very far off, who is just as good and gentle as my brother Charles,—and that is yourself, you patient little puss."
"Oh, don't say that, Lizzie dear," said Caroline, with flushed cheeks. "I'm often hasty and ill-tempered, and make Herbert worse than he might be if I left him alone."
"Well," replied Lizzie, "all I can say is, if Herbert were my brother, I should be twice as hasty and five times as ill-tempered, for he is about the most provoking boy I know."
Charles returned in due time from the gipsy encampment, quite delighted with all he had seen of the people, and reported they had given up their donkey for lost; and, of course, they had been much gratified to hear it was likely to be restored to health and strength.
"I made them promise to leave the poor animal with us for a week," said Charlie; "and they say that they are quite willing, and mean to go on to the market-town, and return again for him."
"Oh, I was hoping they would remain in the wood for some time," said Lizzie. "I should like to see a gipsy encampment so much."
"And so should I," said Carry. "Nurse is always so frightened for the gipsies, she won't allow us ever to go near them. But, perhaps, when we take the donkey back they will be civil, and not steal our clothes from us."
"Does nurse say they will do that?" said Charlie. "Oh, what a shame! I wouldn't believe it. They were so polite to me; and one old woman insisted upon telling me my fortune, and when I offered her a sixpence she wouldn't have it."
"And I suppose she told you some rubbish," said Herbert; "sent you riding off in a coach-and-four with your pockets full of money and your barrels full of beer?"
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Charlie, "she wasn't half so kind. She said I would grow up to be more than six feet high; that I would be a soldier or a sailor, which I don't intend to be; and that, after a great many difficulties, I would succeed in the world, and mumbled something about a clear opening and a straight uprising."
"That's because you didn't give her any money," said Herbert, laughing.
"Well, when they come back we'll have her to tell us ours," said Lizzie, "and see if the coach-and-four is to fall to our lot."
"But I don't think mamma would like us to have our fortunes told. I know she was very much displeased with one of the servants allowing the gipsy woman to tell her hers. If we want to see the encampment, we had better not have anything to do with the fortune-teller. Mamma says it is not only silly but wicked to inquire into futurity."
In about a week the gipsies returned; and the donkey being much better, he was taken over and restored to his rightful owners. He was so much improved with his rest and good treatment that they hardly knew him, and the whole of the gipsy children belonging to the encampment gathered round to see their old friend and companion. When the children from the Hall left, after inspecting the queer tents and everything else, they turned to look once more at the donkey and wave a good-bye to the gipsy man; and, as Carry said, poor Punch—that was the name of the donkey—was looking wistfully after them, and if the man hadn't held him firm, he seemed almost inclined to run after them. "Poor beast," as Charlie said, "after all his hard years of labour it was no wonder if he wanted a rest now."
The morning after Lizzie and Charles left, Caroline was unable to get out of bed with a sick headache, but was able to be down to dinner, where she found Herbert with rather a grave face, which did not escape the notice of his mamma; but as he always said, in answer to her question, there was nothing the matter, she thought he was only in one of his bad humours. She then told Caroline that she had seen little blind Susan, who was asking when she was to get another flower.
"I was just waiting for my china-rose to come out," said Caroline; "there is one bud on it, and you know I said Susan was to have the first rose, mamma."
If Caroline had looked at Herbert she would have been surprised to see his face become suddenly red; for the truth was, the rose-bud that Caroline had watched so carefully was hanging from the stem broken; and more than that, a great many flowers in her garden had been destroyed. It had happened in this way. Finding that his mamma had gone out, Herbert went into the garden with Neptune following closely at his heels. He had been forbidden to take the dog into the garden, but, trusting to Neptune's obedient disposition, he thought he could keep him on the walks. He did not expect to find a cat lying asleep under one of the garden-seats, else he would have acted differently; for Neptune had a terrible hatred to cats, and nothing could cure him of it. Therefore, when his eye fell upon the cat, he bounded off after it, and, regardless of the flowers, chased it right through Caroline's little border.
Herbert was very sorry, more so when he remembered how his sister had not told of his bad treatment during their walk by the river; but he was so afraid of his papa's displeasure, when it became known that he had taken the dog into the garden, that he made up his mind he would deny all knowledge of it. He was startled to hear his mamma telling Caroline it would be better to pull the rosebud now, as it would come out just as well in water, and last longer than if it were full-blown; so that if she liked to get it now, she might go with nurse, who was going to take some medicine to Susan's sick mother.
Caroline, who was always glad to pay a visit to blind Susan, went away at once into the garden, where she found Stephens the gardener leaning on his spade and rake, and gazing down in dismay at the broken and crushed flowers.
"O Stephens, who has done this?" said Caroline, almost ready to cry. "My beautiful rosebud broken, my poor flowers destroyed!"
Then Stephens told how he had seen Master Herbert walking about the garden with Neptune, and that, as he was at a distance, the flowers had been destroyed before he got up to the place. "But Master Herbert shall suffer for this," said Stephens; "I mean to tell his papa about it this very night."
Caroline knew well how severely Herbert would be punished, and her heart softened towards her brother. "Has Neptune done any harm to the other flowers?" she asked Stephens.
"No, miss," said Stephens; "for, do you see, the cat ran up that tree there, and got over the wall, and the dog kept dancing about among the flowers, trying to get his heavy body up after it."
"Well, Stephens," said Caroline, "since only my flowers have suffered, will you please not tell papa this time? I can get up early in the morning and tie them up a little, if you could help to rake it smooth for me."
"That is very kind of you, miss," replied Stephens, admiringly; "but what about the rose you have been watching so carefully all this week?"
"Isn't it strange?" said Caroline; "I came to pull it at mamma's request, and see, it is only broken with quite a long stem to it."
To Herbert's great surprise, Caroline returned with a bright smiling face, and said nothing about the state she had found her garden in.
The next morning Caroline got up much earlier than her usual time for rising, but not so early as she intended, for there was a good deal of hard work before her garden could be made neat again. Dressing herself quickly, she ran out, not even taking time to put on her bonnet, so eager was she to begin; when to her surprise, there was Herbert busy at work with a trowel smoothing the ground and propping up the earth round the crushed flowers. She stood for some time scarcely believing it possible, half thinking she must be dreaming; for Herbert was so fond of his bed, once he was in it, that it was always a very difficult matter to get him out of it. Now here he was, at six o'clock in the morning, hard at work, as if his very life depended upon it. She ventured at last to step close up to him, and tapped him on the shoulder, not very sure whether he would feel angry or pleased to be caught at his novel employment. She did not notice that her mamma was standing by the garden gate; for Mrs. Ashcroft, having a bad headache, had got up early also, and had come out, in the hope that the morning air would take it away.
"It is very good of you, dear Herbert," said Caroline, while their mamma paused to look at her children. "I was just coming to arrange them, when I find you, like that kind fairy-man in my new book, setting everything in order."
The idea passed through Herbert's mind for a moment that perhaps Caroline did not know how her flowers had been broken, and so he need not tell her he had had anything to do with it. He had felt very miserable ever since it happened, thinking that his papa would be certain to find it out and punish him, and at the same time he was ashamed when he thought of his unkind treatment of his sister. It was only for a moment he hesitated, however; then turning frankly round, he said, "I am very sorry, Carry, your garden has been destroyed. It was all my fault, but I did not mean it. I took—"
"Yes, I know," said Caroline, interrupting him; "but don't say any more about it, we can easily get it put right again; indeed, you have done a great deal already. How early you must have been up!"
"Yes," said Herbert, with a smile; "I was down here when the clock struck four. I was up even before the sun. But I must say, Carry, it is good of you to pass it over. I won't forget it in a hurry, I can tell you."
Caroline asked him not to say another word about it, and, as she turned to go to the tool-house, she saw her mamma looking at them very seriously.
Herbert, with downcast face, was compelled to tell how disobedient he had been in breaking through his papa's express order not to take Neptune into the garden. His mamma was very angry with him, but after giving him a severe scolding, she said she would not punish him this time, as he had tried to repair the damage done by getting up so early, and also because Carry had made the request after being the chief sufferer.
As it was still early, their mamma bade them run for their hats, and she would take them a walk till breakfast was ready. Before they set out, she gave each of them a drink of milk and some biscuits, as they were not accustomed to be out so early. It was a lovely morning, and the children enjoyed the walk very much. As they were returning home, they passed by a part of the park where their papa allowed a number of sheep to graze; and as they were looking over the paling, one of the sheep came close up to them and began to bleat.
"I am sure, mamma," cried Caroline, "that must be my pet lamb's mother; can she be wanting me to bring Daisy back again to her, do you think?"
"Well, I scarcely think it is likely, dear," replied her mamma; "but how do you know it is Daisy's mother?"
"Because she has a queer sort of tuft of wool on her forehead," said Caroline, while both her mamma and Herbert laughed at her for supposing that no other sheep but Daisy's mother had a tuft. "It really is," she said decidedly, though joining in the laugh. "Oh," she continued, "what a pity a pet lamb grows up into a sheep. Only think of my poor Daisy's white face getting dirty and torn like that great stupid-looking sheep over there!"
"Yes, I used to think so too," said her mamma, "when I had a pet lamb."
As they came round by the wood on their way home, Caroline said she would like so much to get some of the beautiful wild-flowers for her garden. Herbert did not say anything at the time, but he determined to get up early the next morning also, and give her a pleasant surprise by getting a basketful for her. One might have expected that before the next morning came he would have quite forgotten all about it; but no; when the servant called him at six o'clock, as he had requested her to do the night before, he jumped out of bed at once. He knew of a deep dingle at some distance from the house, where many kinds of wild-flowers were to be found; so he made up his mind to go there instead of to the wood. The dingle was down in a woody hollow, such as the "Babes in the Wood" might have been lost in; and there were so many plants and ferns, that Herbert was often at a loss what to choose. However, his basket was full at last, and he hurried home, hoping to have them all planted before Caroline came down-stairs. When he was planting them it came into his mind how much improved Caroline's garden would be if there were a small arbour at the side of it; and he determined to ask his mamma's permission to get the wood, and make it during his holidays. When he went into the dining-room, after carefully washing his face and hands and changing his muddy boots, he found his mamma standing with an open letter in her hand, reading it aloud to his papa.
It was from his grandmamma, who lived some miles from them, and who had written to ask if Caroline might be allowed to spend a few days with her, to help to entertain their two cousins, Harry and Maud, who had just arrived from Australia. Herbert had got into disgrace during the last visit he paid his grandmamma; but still he felt vexed at being left out of the invitation, as he was curious to see these new cousins. His regret was softened, however, when he thought there would now be a good opportunity for making the arbour, so as to repay Carry for the injury done to her garden. This thought made him very glad. It was decided that Caroline should go that same day, and as she had a great deal to do in helping nurse to pack her little trunk, and give directions about her numerous pets, she did not once go near her garden.
Herbert could not help saying before she left, "I am so sorry I am not a kinder brother to you, Carry; I do mean, however, to be better to you in the future."
"Oh, don't say that, Herbert," replied Carry; "I know it's just in fun, and I am so stupid to look vexed. I love you dearly, for you are my own kind good brother," and she clasped her arms round him in a fond embrace.
"That's all very well," said Herbert, returning the affectionate pressure; "but I am sure I am not like Cousin Charlie. He is a kind brother really, and always seems to be able to do and say the right thing at the proper time; and as for being cross with Lizzie, he would sooner think of flying."
"Well, we shall say nothing more about it, dear," said Caroline kindly. "All I have to say is, I'd rather have you for my brother, though Charlie is as good a boy as ever lived, I do think. Let us forget everything disagreeable to-day, as I am to leave home so soon. Oh dear! I was forgetting; I promised Daisy, my lamb, I would have a romp with her before dinner, and the bell will ring very soon!"
They at once ran off, and getting the lamb from its snug house, proceeded to the wood, their favourite resort.
"I wonder whether she will know you when you return," said Herbert, as he stood watching his sister tying a bright piece of ribbon round her lamb's neck.
"O Herbert, please don't say that!—what a dreadful idea!" replied Caroline. "I really don't think she will ever be so ungrateful!—indeed, I am sure she will know me if I stayed away ever so long. Now, Daisy, am I not right?" she continued, kneeling down before her pet; "you will love me always, even after you are a great fat sheep, and I have grown up into quite a big girl."
Daisy seemed to be quite impressed with the solemnity of the occasion, and put out her black tongue to lick her mistress's hand, as much as to say, I will never forget you—never.
"Now, Herbert, you see I have tied the little bell round her neck, and if Miss Daisy goes where she ought not to go, you will hear her and can put her out; but I hope she will be a very good lamb, and trouble nobody."
"I'll look after her, never you fear," said Herbert cheerily; and hearing the dinner-bell, they returned to the house.
When she was safely off, Herbert told his mamma of the plan he had in his mind; and as she was very much pleased to see that her boy was trying to "turn over a new leaf," she gave her consent at once, and said that Stephens might take the pony-cart and help him to get the poles and wood he required from the saw-mill. Early and late Herbert was at work, and so diligent was he that his mamma had often to stop him, in case he should hurt himself.
"I am afraid," he would say, "Carry will be home before it is done. I do so wish to surprise her. I can't help thinking, as I work here by myself, mamma, what a kind-hearted, good little thing Carry is; and I hate myself when I think how I have vexed and teased her all her life."
His mamma spoke very seriously to him, pointing out how much happier he must feel by trying to please his sister than by vexing her; and saying that poor Carry's sweet, gentle disposition might have been spoiled altogether, if he had not been sent away from her to school. "Ah," said Mrs. Ashcroft, "you ought to have seen how she missed you, and how she wandered about for days after you left, with such an unhappy little face! You ought indeed to love her, Herbert, and be proud to do her a service, because she is a good sister to you."
Herbert manfully said he meant to be a good brother for the future, and never to tease her any more, for he saw he had been nothing but a coward all along.
The day before Caroline returned, the arbour was quite finished—a perfect model of its kind. There was a walk up to it, and a little flight of steps; and Stephens had transplanted a beautiful clematis, and, as the weather was very favourable, it had grown quite large, and gave Herbert a great deal of work training it. There was a seat inside all round, and a little table in the centre for Caroline to put her work-basket on; and on the table was painted, in bright red letters, "A token of love to my gentle sister."
And now it was Herbert's turn to watch for the arrival of the carriage; and when it drew up at the front steps, he found not only Carry's face looking out for him, but there were his new cousins, Maud and Harry also; and, though he could not see him, he heard the well-known voice of his cousin Charles, and the merry laughter of Lizzie also. There never was a happier meeting of girls and boys, and while Charles as usual ran off to pay a visit to the various animals, taking Harry with him, Herbert carried the three girls away to see the new arbour. Though Herbert had not done it for praise, he got plenty of it, for every one pronounced it a perfect beauty; and Maud, who did not of course know Herbert, said he must be the kindest of brothers, to take so much trouble; and though Lizzie might have told her it was quite a new thing for Herbert to be kind, she kept her knowledge to herself, only saying it was a perfect beauty. Stephens, of course, was praised for his share in the labour; and the two boys were as delighted with it as the girls were, and only wished they could make one also when they went home.
When Caroline got Herbert by himself for a few minutes she thanked him very much for his gift, for she alone knew what had prompted him to make it; and ever after the warm affection Herbert showed for his sister was remarked upon by all who knew them.
While Caroline had been staying with her grandmamma, the gardener had caught a young starling, which he had tamed, and seeing that the young lady was very fond of birds and beasts, he asked her if she would accept of the starling to take home with her. Caroline, as may be supposed, was delighted with the offer, and thanking the gardener for his kindness, ran off to ask her grandmamma if she might be allowed to take it. Of course it was a mere form, for she might have known her kind grandmamma would never say No to any request of the kind. Only Caroline was a polite little girl, and always asked her parents' permission first. She did not, when they considered it necessary to refuse any request she made, keep saying, "Ah! you might, mamma," or, "But why, papa?" as I have heard many children do. No; she was certain the refusal came for some wise object, and she tried to bear the disappointment bravely.
"Oh, certainly, dear," said her grandmamma on this occasion; "you may have the bird, if you can manage to find time to take care of it; but I think you have too many pets already."
"What a funny idea, grandma," said Caroline. "I couldn't have too many pets. But I will tell you what I mean to do with it. I am going to take great care of it till Herbert's birth-day, and then I am going to give it to him."
"But you will have to look after it all the same," said her grandmamma, laughing; "for Herbert will go to school immediately after his birth-day."
"I shall like to do it, though, very much, grandma. I take care of his rabbits, and Neptune, you know," said Caroline; "and he said I had managed them beautifully."
Carry got the bird, it was taken home, and every day she hung the cage out of her bed-room window, and gave him a bit of nice sugar, and the starling became very tame. At night it was always taken into the housekeeper's room, and hung upon the wall there; and the good Mrs. Trigg was very kind to it, though a starling was by no means the cleanest bird that one could have. "You don't think Tom will touch it?" said Caroline, the first night the bird was there. Tom was Mrs. Trigg's favourite tabby cat; and really, to look at him lying on the rug, winking and blinking before the fire, paying more attention to the kettle hissing and boiling away than to any bird, Caroline could not help feeling a little ashamed of the question.
"Oh, Tom has got over all that kind of wild pranks, Miss Carry," said Mrs. Trigg. "He is wondering why I am delaying to infuse my tea, for Tom likes his drop tea as well as his mistress."
"Then I must not detain you longer," said Caroline, knowing that Mrs. Trigg did not like to be put past her tea-hour. "Mamma says that, if convenient, we are to drink tea with you some night soon, and my cousins are quite anxious to be invited also."
"I would be a little nervous, miss, at entertaining such a large party," said Mrs. Trigg, but looking quite pleased nevertheless.
"Oh, you must ask us all," said Caroline, laughing; "when shall I come to write the invitations for you? To-morrow night?"
"Well, miss, if you think you could be happy in my room, we will say to-morrow night."
The invitations were duly sent out, Mrs. Trigg requesting the pleasure of their company on the next week; and each of the children received a separate note of invitation—and each, of course, had to reply, accepting the invitation, in the same manner. But on the very morning of the tea-party, when Caroline rose from her bed a little earlier than usual—as she had promised to help Mrs. Trigg to prepare for the great event—and when she had dressed and gone down to the housekeeper's room, what was her horror to see Tom, the tabby cat, on the top of the table, ready to spring upon the cage where the unfortunate bird was. She gave a terrible scream, which had the effect of scaring away the wicked cat; but the poor bird had evidently been so frightened at the glaring green eyes that tried to fascinate it and lure it to its ruin as a serpent does its prey, that it fell down to the bottom of its cage in a fit.
"Oh, my poor bird," cried Caroline; "it's dead. Oh, do come quick and help me."
Mrs. Trigg was not far distant, and hearing the cries of distress, hastened to her room, crying, "What's the matter, Miss Carry? Oh, have you hurt yourself?"
"No, no," said Caroline; "it's my bird. Tom has killed the poor thing. Oh, what am I to do?"
The bird fluttered at this moment, and Mrs. Trigg took it out of the cage, and holding it before the fire, declared it was still alive, and might recover. Everything was done for it that could be thought of to restore the poor bird, but all to no effect, for during luncheon it died. Caroline was terribly grieved, and declared that the tea-party must be put off, for it was impossible she could join in any game after such a sad event. But then, when Mrs. Trigg mentioned that she had made a great many cakes, and that they would be quite spoiled even if allowed to stay till the next night, and also that she was going to be very busy preserving her fruit for the winter, Caroline thought she must try to go to the party. "I needn't play, you know, Mrs. Trigg," she had said. "I can just sit and look on; for, of course, the others didn't know what a dear good bird my starling was."
After tea, Caroline curled herself up into Mrs. Trigg's chair, and sat watching the others while they played. Pincher, Maud's dog, who had come with them, was very troublesome, and would hunt after the slipper as eagerly as the boys did, poking his nose into their faces, and sometimes even licking their ears with his tongue; and as they had their hands tucked under them, they could not stop him. Then, when Herbert flung the slipper over to the other side, and Harry made a grasp at it to get it out of sight before Charlie could get round, Pincher made a rush after it too, barking and yelping in his determination to catch this extraordinary rat or rabbit.
"I tell you what it is," said Herbert, "we must have Pincher put out of the room."
"Oh, don't put him out," pleaded Maud; "let us tie him up with his ribbons. Perhaps, Carry dear, you wouldn't mind holding him?"
Caroline was very happy to be of use, and held Pincher very securely. The poor dog often looked up in her face as if to say, Are you being punished too? and then, while still looking at her, made little springs and barked, as if to encourage her to rise in rebellion and escape from her persecutors. He was really so droll that Caroline could not help laughing very heartily at him, and Herbert and her cousins were so glad when they heard it, that they left off their game at once, and came over beside her.
"I say, Carry, do come and play," said Charlie; "we can't feel happy without you."
"It is very sad about the bird," said Harry. "I know when my green parrakeets died on the voyage home from Australia, I was so sorry that I actually went to bed. But I'll tell you what we shall do: Herbert and Charlie and I will catch another starling, and then you can tame him, and keep him out of Tom's reach for the future. Mrs. Trigg says there are lots to be had in the steeple of the old church."
It was not till next morning that Harry discovered why Caroline wanted to have the starling; and no sooner did he understand that she wanted it for a present for her brother, than he said in his prompt way, "Will nothing else do? I tell you what, I saw a splendid thing that I am sure he will like quite as well. If aunt would only let us go to the town we could get it without him knowing."
Caroline gladly promised to ask her mamma's consent, but when she inquired what this wonderful thing was, Harry only laughed and said, "No; I'll keep it secret till to-morrow. It is enough to ask a girl to keep one thing secret at a time. Remember, if aunt consents, we must set out to-morrow before anybody is up."
Mrs. Ashcroft having given her consent, Harry and Caroline set out the next morning, followed by Neptune, who insisted upon accompanying them. "You had better take my arm, Caroline," said Harry; "and let me carry your basket, too. We have rather a long walk."
At the town, Harry went straight to a shop where they sold all sorts of animals both alive and stuffed, and when they had gone inside, Harry pointed to a beautiful stuffed squirrel, and said, "That's the thing that will please Herbert."
Though the squirrel was only stuffed, it looked so like a real live one, that Caroline too was quite delighted with it, and said she would be so glad to have it, only she hadn't so much money of her own. "Oh, never mind about money," said Harry, "To tell you the truth, I meant to have bought it for you the other day when I was here with Charlie. Now, if you like to give it to Herbert on his birth-day, why, there's nobody will find fault."
Accordingly the squirrel was bought, and carried home without any of the other children having seen it, and with Harry's assistance it was safely hidden away till Herbert's birth-day; and Caroline ceased to mourn for the bird, though she was often sorry for its sad end.
Herbert's birth-day happened during the time their cousins were with them, and, as was the custom, they had a picnic to a ruined castle a few miles distant. The day was beautiful all throughout, and a happier company of children could not have been found than those that set out that morning along with Mr. and Mrs. Ashcroft in the waggonette. The table-cloth was laid on the bright green turf before the castle, under the shade of a large sycamore, and when the ruins had been inspected they all sat down and enjoyed a hearty meal. Then, while the girls gathered wild-flowers, the boys went off with Mr. Ashcroft on what Charles called "an exploring expedition;" and on their return they climbed up the wild cherry-trees that grew in abundance in the neighbourhood, and shook down the ripe fruit upon the girls' heads, who managed to fill their baskets amidst much fun.
After this, and while Mrs. Ashcroft rested, the children joined hands and danced round in a ring, as may be seen by turning over to the first picture in this book, which is called "the frontispiece." There had been much laughter before the ring could be formed so that each girl should be separated from her brother, and stand between two cousins; but once this was arranged, off they danced, round and round, till their feet could not dance any longer. They then flung themselves down where Mrs. Ashcroft was sitting, and had a quiet but happy hour's rest before going home. The day had passed so pleasantly as to be long remembered by them all; and Herbert experienced during these holidays, for the first time in his life, that the truest pleasure consists, not in gratifying one's own wishes, but in trying to make others happy.