FORGOTTEN TALES OF LONG AGO.
SELECTED BY E. V. LUCAS
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY F. D. BEDFORD
3 PATERNOSTER BUILDINGS. LONDON 44 VICTORIA STREET
E. C. WELLS, GARDNER, DARTON & CO. LTD. S.W.
C & D Co.
Fourth Impression, July, 1931.
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
WELLS GARDNER, DARTON AND CO., LTD.
In the present volume will be found twenty stories from early writers for children, the period being roughly 1790 to 1830, with three later and more sophisticated efforts added. Having so recently made remarks on the character of these old books—in the preface last year to Old-Fashioned Tales, a companion volume to this—I have very little to say now, except that I hope the selection will be found to be interesting. If it is not, it is less my fault than that of the authors, who preferred teaching to entertaining, moral improvement to drama. The pendulum has now perhaps swung almost too far the other way; but such things come right.
My first story, 'Dicky Random,' is from a little book published in 1805, entitled The Satchel; or, Amusing Tales for Correcting Rising Errors in Early Youth, addressed to all who wish to grow in Grace and Favour. On the title-page is this motto:
'Put on the cap, if it will fit, And wiser grow by wearing it.'
There is no author's name. I do not consider the story of Dicky a very brilliant piece of work, but it has some pleasing incidents, not the least of which is the irreproachable behaviour of the gentlemen at dinner. Dicky's father comes out as hardly less foolish than his son, which is not common in these books. To call a doctor Hardheart seems to me to have been a courageous thing. The sentence, 'The boy's father, though a labouring man, had a generous mind,' would help us to date the story, even without the evidence of the title-page. It is astonishing for how long the poor had to play a degraded part in minor English literature.
In another story in the book, called 'Good Manners their own Reward,' I find this sentence, which contains an idea for a children's manual that certainly ought to be written, under the same title too: 'Master Goodly not long after this had the pleasure of seeing a small book printed and circulated among his juvenile acquaintance, called "The Way to be Invited a Second Time."'
We pass next to a little work of pretty fancy, 'The Months,' which by its ingenuity I hope makes up for want of drama. I have included it on that ground, and also because if the descriptions were read aloud in irregular order to small children, it might be an agreeable means of encouraging thought and observation if the listeners were asked to put a name to each month. 'The Months' comes from a book published in 1814 entitled Tales from the Mountains, the mountains being those dividing England from Wales. A story in the same volume which I nearly included has the promising style 'The Spotted Cow and the Pianoforte,' but its matter is not equal to its title. It is, indeed, a variation upon a very old theme, being the narrative of two girls of equal age who, coming into a little prosperity, at once gratify old desires: one, the exemplary one, wishing a useful cow, and the other, the frivolous one, a piano. The author, in the old remorseless way, contrasts their subsequent careers, nothing but happiness and worth falling to the sensible girl who chose the cow, and nothing but disaster dogging the steps of the foolish desirer of the musical instrument. I do not think this to be good working morality, since proficiency on the piano can also be a step towards a livelihood and independence, and even Madame Schumann, one supposes, had to make a start somehow. The name of the author is not known.
Probably no story in this collection had more popularity in its day than 'Jemima Placid,' of which I use only a portion. And I think it deserved it, for it is very pleasantly and sympathetically written, and a better understanding of home prevails than in so many of these old books. Jemima's brothers seem to me very well drawn, and certain minor touches lend an agreeable air of reality to the book. The author's name is, I believe, not known. His preface, which I quote here, is very sensible. Considering the date, say about 1785, it is curiously sensible and discerning:—
'It has been often said that infancy is the happiest state of human life, as being exempted from those serious cares and that anxiety which must ever in some degree be an attendant on a more advanced age; but the author of the following little performance is of a different opinion, and has ever considered the troubles of children as a severe exercise to their patience when it is recollected that the vexations which they meet with are suited to the weakness of their understanding, and though trifling, perhaps, in themselves, acquire importance from their connection with the puerile inclinations and bounded views of an infant mind, where present gratification is the whole they can comprehend, and therefore suffer in proportion when their wishes are obstructed.
'The main design of this publication is to prove from example that the pain of disappointment will be much increased by ill-temper, and that to yield to the force of necessity will be found wiser than vainly to oppose it. The contrast between the principal character with the peevishness of her cousins' temper is intended as an incitement to that placid disposition which will form the happiness of social life in every stage, and which, therefore, should not be thought beneath anyone's attention or undeserving of their cultivation.'
'Jemima Placid' is one of the many stories in which the names are symbolical. We have another example in 'Dicky Random,' and, I suppose, in 'Captain Murderer' too, while in 'Prince Life,' to which we soon come, which is frankly an allegory, the habit is carried beyond Bunyan, who made his attributes very like men and called them Mr. or Lord to increase the illusion or diminish the cheat. The drawback to this kind of nomenclature is that it weakens the realism of the story. It also perplexes one a little when one thinks of later generations. Jemima's two brothers, for example, would marry one day, and their children would necessarily be called Placid too. But would they be placid? And was Mr. Piner's father a piner? It is even more perplexing when the name carries a calling as well, as in Farmer Wheatear, and Giles Joltem, the carter, and Mr. Coverup, the sexton, in the old story of Dame Partlet's Farm. Suppose Mr. Joltem's son had become a chauffeur, with rubber tyres? Or could he? If not, these names must have immensely have simplified the question 'What to do with our boys?'
It is hardly necessary to say that the books which Jemima took back with her from London (on page 46), and which gave such pleasure, were all published by the same firm that issued her own history. This was a system of advertisement brought to perfection by Newbery of St. Paul's Churchyard. It is so very artless and amusing that one is sorry it has died out.
For the 'Two Trials' I have gone to a little work entitled Juvenile Trials for telling Fibs, robbing Orchards, and Other Offences, 1816, from which, via Evenings at Home, I borrowed a story for Old Fashioned Tales. The book is anonymous. Surely such schoolboys and schoolgirls never were on sea or shore; but that does not matter. In the old books one did not look for reality.
I have included 'Prince Life' for two reasons. Partly because it seems to me not bad of its kind, although far from being as good as 'Uncle David's Nonsensical Story' in the Old-Fashioned Tales, and partly because I thought it interesting to show what kind of stories historical novelists write for their own families—for 'Prince Life' was written in 1855 for his little boy by G. P. R. James, the author of The Smuggler, Richelieu, Darnley, and scores of other romances. Allegories, I must confess, are not much to my taste; but I have so frequently found that what I like others dislike, and what I dislike others like, that I include 'Prince Life' here quite confidently. It has given Mr. Bedford material for a good picture, anyway.
'The Farmyard Journal,' which follows, is not dramatic, but it has plenty of incident, and is included here to foster the gift of observation. I found it in a favourite and very excellent and wise old book, Evenings at Home, by the strong-minded Aikins—a kind of work which it grieves one to think is outgrown not only by the readers of children's books, but by their writers too.
'The Fruits of Disobedience,' which comes next, follows ordinary lines, and is chiefly remarkable for its busy clergy. I included it because the topic of kidnapping is one of which I think every collection of old stories for children should take notice. In every book of this nature at least one child's face must be stained with walnut juice. The story is from the anonymous Tales of the Hermitage, written for the Instruction and Amusement of the Rising Generation, 1778.
'The Rose's Breakfast,' also anonymous, is one of the many imitations of Roscoe's Butterfly's Ball, about which the English reading public so strangely lost its head in 1808. I never considered this a good story, but now that I see it in its new type on the fair page of the present volume, I am amazed to think I ever marked it for inclusion at all. It seems to me poverty-stricken in fancy and very paltry in tone, the idea of making beautiful flowers as mean-spirited as trumpery men and women can be being wholly undesirable. It is too late to take it out, especially as Mr. Bedford has drawn a very charming picture for it, but I hope it will remain only as an object-lesson. Possibly its badness may incite someone to write a better, and that would be my justification. One interesting thing about it is the light it throws on the change of fashion in garden flowers.
'The Three Cakes' is from an English translation of the great Monsieur Berquin's L'Ami des Enfants—the most famous children's book in France. Armand Berquin, who, in addition to his own stories, translated Sandford and Merton into French, was born in 1750 and died in 1791. His L'Ami des Enfants, 1784, was in twelve small volumes, and it covered most of the ground that a moralist for the young could cover in those days. It is more like Priscilla Wakefield's Juvenile Anecdotes, to which we are coming, on a larger scale, than anything I can name; but no imitation, for M. Berquin came first. The idea of 'The Three Cakes' was borrowed from M. Berquin by the Taylors for their Original Poems, and Mary Howitt borrowed it too, also for rhyming purposes. French writers when they have tried seriously to interest children, have been very successful. I know of few better stories than that which in its English translation is called Little Robinson of Paris; but it is a long book in itself, and could not be condensed for our purposes. While on the subject of French stories I may refer to 'The Bunch of Cherries,' on page 242 of this volume, which is also French, and comes from a work called in the English translation Tales to My Daughter. I include it for its quaint naivete, and also for its lesson of gratitude and minute thoughtfulness. But it was a sad oversight (not too explicable in a French romance) not to make Augustus marry the Green Hat.
I included 'Amendment,' from The Little Prisoners; or, Passion and Patience, 1828, because its idea is an attractive one. There is always something engaging, not by any means only to the youthful mind, in the idea of a complete change in the conditions and surroundings of one's life. That is why so many of us want to be gipsies. The book is anonymous.
'Scourhill's Adventure' is from an amusing book called The Academy, which, for all I know, is the first real boy's school-book ever written. Its companion is The Rector, and together they describe, with no little spirit and reasonableness, a school a hundred years ago, with all the escapades and errors of the boys and all the homilies of the schoolmaster. I like the episode of Scourhill as well as any because of the pleasant interior which it contains—Scourhill's home, with the noisy old gentlemen, a little like a scene in Marryat. The books are not worth reprinting, in the way that Lady Anne (to which we draw near) is worth reprinting; but they are worth looking at if they ever chance to fall one's way.
We come next to 'The Journal' from Juvenile Anecdotes founded on Facts; Collected for the Amusement of Children, 1803, by Priscilla Wakefield. A hundred years ago Mrs. Wakefield's books for the nursery (which, if its literature is a guide, was in those days less of a nursery than a conventicle) were in every shop. She poured them forth—little rushing streams of didacticism. The present work, from which, for its quaintness, I have chosen 'The Journal,' is a kind of Ann and Jane Taylor in very obvious prose. Little girls having spent their half-crowns on themselves, at once meet members of the destitute class, and, having nothing to give them, are plunged into remorse; little boys creeping into the larder to steal jam, eat soft soap by mistake and never are greedy again; and so forth. All the conventional images and morals are employed. The whole book is one long and emphatic division of sheep from goats. 'The Journal' is not perhaps exciting, but it reflects the quieter family life of a century ago, and incidentally portrays the thorough governess of that day.
Priscilla Wakefield was a Quaker, the great-granddaughter on her mother's side of Barclay of Ury, who wrote the Apology. She had a famous niece, Elizabeth Fry, and a famous grandson, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the colonist. She was born in 1751 and died in 1832; wrote, as I have said, many instructive books for the young; and was one of the original promoters of savings banks for the people.
'Ellen and George; or, The Game at Cricket' is from an old friend, Tales for Ellen, by Alicia Catherine Mant, from which I took, for Old Fashioned Tales, the very pretty history of 'The Little Blue Bag.' I do not consider 'Ellen and George' as good as the 'Little Blue Bag,' and I should not be surprised if I discovered on a severe analysis of motive that it was included here more for its cricket than its human interest. But it has a certain sweetness and naturalness too. Ellen's very sensible question (as it really was) on page 184, 'Then why don't you send the cat away?' is one of the first examples of independent—almost revolutionary—thought in a child recorded by a writer for children in the early days. To say such a thing to a mother eighty years ago was indeed a feat. For the most part children then were to accept all that was said to them by their elders as fact, and neither meditate nor utter criticism. The principal difference between the children of those days and the children of these is their present liberty of criticism. To-day every child has his own opinion; a hundred years ago none had.
Some of the remarks on page 186 will divert the young readers of to-day, when girls know as much about cricket (and sometimes play as well) as boys do. I must confess to much perplexity as to what part could be played in the manufacture of wickets by George's hammer and nails. Runs were called notches at that time because the scorer cut notches on a stick. Wilson's good nature has, I fear, found its way more than once into the first-class game—at least, I remember that a full toss on the leg side went to Mr. W. G. Grace when he had made ninety-six towards his hundredth hundred; and quite right too. When it comes, however, to throwing down one's bat and flinging the ball at a batsman (as George did), there is no excuse to be offered. I have omitted the end of the story, in which Mr. Danvers condescends to take a hand at the game, in a match against George and Tom Fletcher (who made it up), and beats them by a narrow margin of notches. According to the author he had been in his youth a fine bat, but this statement has been cruelly discredited by the artist who illustrated the book, and who placed the gentleman in an attitude (or 'stance,' as they say now), and gave him a grip on the handle, from which nothing but ridicule and disaster could result. Mr. Bedford is not like this. Mr. Bedford is one of those rare artists who read a story first.
Of 'Waste Not, Want Not' it is unnecessary to speak. It is one of the best of the stories in Miss Edgeworth's Parent's Assistant, most entertaining of books with dull names. I have my doubts as to whether Benjamin was not too much encouraged above Hal, but that has nothing to do with the story.
We come now to comedy and to farce. 'The Fugitive' I found in an odd little book by a Miss Pearson called A Few Weeks at Clairmont Castle, 1828; while 'The Butcher's Tournament' is from Peter Parley. I read this story when I was quite a child, and it always remained in my memory, and for several years of late I have kept up a desultory search for it. I could not, therefore, having chanced upon it in Peter Parley's Annual for 1843, omit it from this volume. The author's name is not given, but I suppose that William Martin wrote it—under the influence of Douglas Jerrold, I should say.
For 'Malleville's Night of Adventure' I have gone again to Jacob Abbott, from whom last year I took 'Embellishment.' The story is a chapter or two of Beechnut, best of the Franconia books. Later the author changed the name Malleville, which certainly is not beautiful, to Madeline; but I have left it here as in the original edition. There seems to be no middle way with Jacob Abbott: you must either think him the flattest of writers for children, or the most interesting. So many of my earliest recollections are bound up with Phonny and Beechnut that I shall always think of Jacob Abbott with enthusiasm. But the heretics in this matter I can understand, although pitying them too.
For looking through the scores and scores—I might, I believe, say hundreds—of books from which to select the twenty stories within these covers, I should consider myself amply rewarded by the discovery of Lady Anne. This story—I might almost say this novel—which is at once the longest and, to my mind, the best thing in the present volume, is anonymous. All that I know of the author is that she—I take it to be a woman's work—wrote also The Blue Silk Hand-bag, but of that book I have been able to catch no glimpse. In order to bring Lady Anne into this collection I have had here and there to condense a few pages, but I have touched nothing essential: the sweet little narrative is only shortened, never altered. Lady Anne was first published in 1823.
With 'Captain Murderer,' which ends the book, we come to another story by a novelist, this time a man of genius, Charles Dickens. The agreeably gruesome trifle occurs in the essay in The Uncommercial Traveller on 'Nurses' Stories,' and it was told to the little Dickens by a dreadful girl named Sarah, who chilled him also with the dark history of Chips, the ship's carpenter, and the rat of the Devil. The story of Chips is better than the story of Captain Murderer, but I do not care for the responsibility of laying it before you. The Captain may be held to be forbidding enough, but he is, all the same, well within the nursery's traditions of acceptable villainy, being only a variant upon Bluebeard and the giant who fed upon bread made with the bone-flour of Englishmen; whereas the story of Chips introduces infernal elements and makes rats too horrible to be thought about. So I feel; but if anyone complains of the grimness of the Captain I shall have, I fear, only a very poor defence.
E. V. L.
Dicky Random; or, Good-Nature is nothing without Good Conduct; Anon. 1
The Months; Anon. 15
Jemima Placid; or, The Advantage of Good-Nature; Anon. 23
Two Trials: I. Sally Delia; Anon. 48 II. Harry Lenox; Anon. 58
Prince Life; by G. P. R. James 72
The Farm-Yard Journal; by the Aikins 90
The Fruits of Disobedience; or, The Kidnapped Child; Anon. 98
The Rose's Breakfast; Anon. 114
The Three Cakes; by Armand Berquin 128
Amendment; Anon. 136
Scourhill's Adventures; Anon. 162
The Journal; by Priscilla Wakefield 172
Ellen and George; or, The Game at Cricket; by A. C. Mant 181
Waste Not, Want Not; or, Two Strings to Your Bow; by Maria Edgeworth 204
The Bunch of Cherries; Anon. 242
The Fugitive; by Miss Pearson 256
The Butcher's Tournament; by Peter Parley 275
Malleville's Night of Adventure; by Jacob Abbott 297
The Life and Adventures of Lady Anne; Anon. 320
Captain Murderer; by Charles Dickens 422
Off it went, knocked him backwards, and shivered a beautiful mirror 7
The lambs frisk about her 17
Ellen went a dozen times in the day to look at her new cap 37
'I was reading, and was interrupted by Henry Lenox and three others talking over a secret' 65
The Prince slays the monster with a hundred horrible heads 87
She kicked up her hind legs and threw down the milk-pail 91
Cut her beautiful hair close to her head 103
The sweet Misses Lilies of the Valley could not be tempted from their retreat 121
'I will play you all the pretty tunes that I know, if you will give me leave' 133
Had not the gardener, who then came up, taken him in his arms, and carried him into the house, in spite of his kicking and screaming 143
Every boy ... joined in the pursuit, and every cottage poured out its matrons and children and dogs 165
George was despatched to desire one of the servants to bring a basket, in which we carried the poor sufferer 177
Hither Ellen accompanied him to see the wickets completed 187
'Oh, what an excellent motto!' exclaimed Ben 207
'The everlasting whipcord, I declare' 239
'The happiness of sharing with others that which we possess enhances the value of its enjoyment' 245
'There he goes!' 263
Knights in armour tumbled over their own steeds, donkeys ran snorting about, ladies shrieked 293
Wherever the feather passed it changed the surface of the water into ice 303
The arrival at the inn 325
The Flight over London Bridge 351
Lady Anne finds her father 407
Forgotten Tales of Long Ago
Good-nature is nothing without Good Conduct
'In festive play this maxim prize— Be always merry—always WISE!'
'Do you know what hour it is when you see a clock?' said Mr. Random to his little son Richard.
'Yes, father,' said Richard; 'for I can count it all round. When both hands are at the top of the clock, then I know it is time to leave school.'
'Then go and see what time it is,' said his father.
Away ran Richard, and brought back word in a moment that it was exactly six o'clock.
In a few minutes after came in a friend with a young lady, the former of whom asked Mr. Random why he was not ready to go with them to the concert that evening, as he had promised. Mr. Random replied that it was but six o'clock, which, however, he was soon convinced was a mistake of Richard's, who, on being asked what he saw when he looked on the clock, replied, 'I saw the two hands together close to the six, and that made me say it was six, for I always call it twelve when they are right opposite.'
'Remember, my dear,' said his father, 'that the long hand never tells the hour, except on the stroke of twelve. You ought to know that the minute hand overtakes its fellow somewhat later every hour, till at noon and midnight they again start exactly even; and when a bigger boy I shall expect you to tell me how much difference is increased every time they come into conjunction. You now see, Dicky, that through such a mistake I must make my friends wait; pray, therefore, mind better another time.'
In a few minutes after his father bid him go into the dining-room, and bring down a bottle of wine, which stood in the hither corner of the cellaret, that he might help the gentleman and lady to a glass.
'Yes, father,' said little Dick, and up he went. On the stairs he met puss, and stopped to play with her, during which he forgot what had been told him. Having gotten a bottle, downstairs he came, and, pouring out a couple of glasses, he returned with it. But, when on the landing-place, he naughtily drew out the cork to have a taste himself. It was not only very vulgar to drink out of the neck of a bottle, but wrong to make free slily with that which he was merely entrusted to serve out. However, it rushed so fast into his mouth, and was so hot, that he was afraid of being strangled. It happened that he had bitten his cheek that morning, and the liquor bathing the sore place made it smart so that he put down the bottle on the floor, when, in stamping about, it rolled downstairs and made a fine clatter. His father ran out on hearing the noise, but was stopped in the way by seeing the young lady almost gasping for breath, and it was some minutes before she could say that he had given her brandy instead of wine.
Mr. Random next proceeded upstairs, where little Dick was picking up the pieces of broken glass, in doing which he cut a deep gash in his hand.
'Where did you take the bottle from?'
'Out of the farther side of the cellaret,' said Dicky.
'I told you to take it from the hither side,' replied Mr. Random. 'But, however, you shall smart for your neglect: what remains of the brandy will serve to bathe your hand, and I hope the pain will make you reflect that the loss is the same to me, whether you spilt it from design or inattention.'
He one day made his mother look very simple at table, for which he deserved to have suffered much more than her good nature required. Young Random was to have a grand rout in the evening with some of his little favourites. A few nice tarts, custards, etc., had been made in the morning for the occasion, and had been most temptingly baked in the forenoon.
It happened that two gentlemen called on Mr. Random about two o'clock, and he insisted upon their staying to dinner; in consequence of which his lady had the pastry removed from the sideboard to the china-closet.
All children must frequently have heard their mothers say, when they wish to have anything saved for another occasion, 'My friends, you see your dinner before you; I hope you will consider yourselves at home and not spare.' This is always thought to be a sufficient excuse for not bringing anything of another sort to table.
When the meat was nearly done with, Mrs. Random made the above remark to her visitors, who declared that nothing more was requisite. She then bid the servant put the cheese on the table.
'What, mother,' said Richard, 'is there nothing else?'
'No, my love,' said his mother; 'I am sure you want nothing more.'
'Why, yes, mother. Where are the tarts and custards you put into the closet?'
'Surely you dream?' said his mother.
'No, I don't, indeed,' replied Dicky. 'You put them away directly the gentlemen said they would stay to dine, and observed what a deal of trouble visitors do give.'
Anyone will easily believe that this made Mrs. Random look very confused. She hardly knew what to reply, but she turned it off in the best manner she could, and said:
'It is you, Richard, who trouble me more than the visits of my friends. I am happy to see them always, but on some days more than others. To-day, you know, we have been preparing for your company, and therefore the reserve I have kept would not have been made but on your account. The pastry was intended for your visitors, and not your father's. However, if you are such a child that you cannot wait till night, they shall be brought to table now; but, remember, I will not order any more to be made, and you shall provide for your playmates out of the money put by to purchase the magic-lantern and the books.'
Richard looked quite down when he heard this sentence, and more so when he saw the pastry placed on the table.
Dear me, how soon had the tarts and custards disappeared, if one of each had been served round to the company! But the gentlemen were too polite even to taste them, and father and mother declined eating any. Richard's sister said she could very well wait till supper; hence they were all saved. But Dicky was afterwards very severely taken to task for speaking out of time, when he was not spoken to.
When evening came, and the little visitors were assembled, Richard, who had seen some of the sports at a country fair, would show his dexterity to amuse his young party. He took up the poker, and, supposing it to be a pole, performed some imitations. But, unable long to preserve it upright from its weight, the sooty end fell on Master Snapper's book, who was reading a little work upon 'Affability.' The blow fairly knocked it out of his hand, and made a great smear on his frilled shirt, at which a loud laugh ensued. Now Master Snapper could not bear to be laughed at, and was so much out of humour all the evening that he would not play.
Little Dick never once, all this time, thought that if it had fallen on his playfellow's toe, it might have lamed him, and he would at least have had to carry him a pick-a-back home; nor did he think who was to have paid the doctor; but, pleased with the mirth he had made, he went upstairs and fetched down one of the pistols which his father kept in a private drawer. Then, pulling in his rocking-horse, he fancied he was one of the Light Horse, and mounted it to show the sword exercise, and how he could shoot a Frenchman or a Turk at full gallop. He had no business with a rocking-horse or a pistol among young ladies, but he never thought if it were proper or not, and much less if the pistol were loaded.
While he was going on a full canter, he gave the words, 'Present! fire!' and off it went, knocked him backwards, and shivered a beautiful mirror into a thousand pieces. Oh, what a sad scene of confusion ensued! Some of the young ladies screamed out with fright. Miss Timid, knocked down by Dicky in falling backwards, lay on the ground bleeding at the nose. Some were employed in picking up the pieces of glass, or pinning their handkerchiefs over the fracture, to prevent its being seen while they stayed; but such a hope was vain.
The noise brought Mr. and Mrs. Random and all the servants upstairs, who too soon found out the havoc that had been made, and demanded how it happened. All the children would willingly have screened Dicky, because they knew he had not done it to frighten, but to amuse them. Master Snapper, however, now thinking it was his turn, in a very ill-natured speech made the worst of the story. But the spiteful way in which he spoke did little Dick no harm, as he seemed more rejoiced at his misfortune than sorry for Mr. Random's loss; hence it had the effect not to increase the latter's anger.
'Playing with balancing poles and pistols,' said Mr. Random in a stern accent to his son, 'is very well in a proper place, but quite inadmissible in a room full of company. Now, sir, what business had you to take this pistol out of my room?'
'Indeed, father,' said Dicky, crying, 'I did not know it was loaded.'
'It is but last week,' continued his father, 'that you were told never to take such a thing without asking, and not even then till someone had tried if it were loaded. So many accidents have happened with firearms which have been supposed not to be loaded, that he who unguardedly shoots another ought to take a similar chance for his own life; for you know the Scripture says: "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." Think, Richard, that if I had been standing before the mirror, what would have been the consequence. You would have shot your father! Your mother would have died of grief, and you and Letitia have been orphans!'
'Ah, then I should have died too!' said Dicky, wiping the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. 'But how came you to load the pistol last night, father?'
'Because,' replied his father, 'I thought I heard something fall in the parlour, and the passage-door being directly after shut to in a still manner. I loaded the pistols, thinking that thieves had broken into the house, and pushed up the sash to shoot the first that came out.'
'Then it was lucky,' said Richard, 'I did not come out again, or you might have killed me; for I got up in the night to let Juno out of the shed, where I had tied her up, and she was making a sad howling. Indeed, before I was aware, she ran into the parlour, and, as it was quite dark, I tumbled over her.'
'And broke the geranium-tree,' added his father.
'Yes, I did indeed,' said Dicky, 'but I did not go to do it. After that I turned Juno into the yard, and this I dare say is all the noise you heard.'
'There is an old saying, my dear little friends,' said Mr. Random, 'which I wish you to attend to, because it has a great deal of truth in it: "The pitcher that goes often safe to the well may come home broken at last." And so, though the thoughtless and giddy may go on for a long while without danger, it will overtake them sooner or later. Here is a strong instance of escape from the consequences which might have attended Richard's thoughtlessness; besides which, his mother could get no more sleep all night, and I, after running the risk of catching cold in searching over the house, have this morning been at the expense of new fastenings to the doors and windows. The next time, however, you rise, Richard, to alarm the family, you shall in future roost with the hens or bed in the stable.'
Dicky now thought that his parent's resentment had subsided, and, upon the latter's calling to him to come, he sprang across the room with the greatest alertness; but how suddenly was his smile cast down when Mr. Random, taking his hand, ordered him to wish his young friends much mirth and a good appetite, while he was going to be punished for his misconduct. At once were all their little hands put out to prevent Mr. Random's resolution of taking him away, but all their petitions were in vain. Richard was forced into an empty cellar, and left with no other companion than a glimmering rush-light. Here he was told he might do as much mischief as he pleased. The iron bars kept him from getting out on one side, and the door was padlocked on the other. In this dilemma he marched round and round, crying, with his little candle, and saw stuck on the walls the following lines:
'Empty caves and commons wild Best befit a thoughtless child, A solid wall, an earthen floor, Prison lights, a padlock'd door, Where's no plaything which he may Turn to harm by random play, For in such sport too oft is found A penny-toy will cost a pound. Be wise and merry;—play, but think; For danger stands on folly's brink.'
After having been kept in confinement nearly half an hour, Mr. Random could no longer resist the pressing solicitations of his son's guests, who declined partaking of the supper till Richard was returned to them.
Having learned the above lines by heart, he repeated them to his young company, and, on his promising to remember their contents, he was permitted to sit down to table.
The rest of the evening was spent in innocent cheerfulness, and for some time after little Random played with more caution.
We must omit many of the less important neglects of young Random, such as letting the toast fall in handling it, shooting his arrow through the window, riding a long stick where it might throw persons down, leaving things in the way at dark, etc., and proceed to relate a good-natured fancy of his which tended, more than any of the preceding events, to show him the folly of taking any step without first looking to what it might lead.
In Mr. Random's garden was a fine tall pear tree, and that year a very fine pear grew on the topmost twig. His mother and sister had several times wished for the luscious fruit, but it seemed to bid defiance to every attack that was not aided by a tall ladder. 'Oh!' thought Dicky, 'if I can get it down and present it to my mother, how pleased she will be!' So, when he was alone, he picked out some large stones and threw at it, but without any success. The next day he renewed his attack in the evening, and to insure a better chance employed several large pieces of brick and tile.
Now all these dangerous weapons went over into a poor man's garden, where his son and some other boys were weeding it. One of them fell upon the little fellow's leg, and cut it in so desperate a manner that he cried out, quite terrified at the blow and sight of the blood. The other boys directly took the alarm, and picking up some stones as large as that which had done the mischief, they mounted on a high bench, and discharged such a well-directed volley at the person of Master Random that he was most violently struck upon the nose, and knocked backwards into a glass cucumber-frame.
Here he lay in a most pitiable condition, calling upon his mother, while the wounded boy on the other side joined in the concert of woe.
'Oh, it served you rightly!' exclaimed the young assailants, who were looking over the wall, and ran away as soon as they saw Mr. Random come into the garden to inquire the cause of the uproar.
His first concern was to carry Dicky indoors, and then, having wiped away the blood and tears, he asked him how it happened.
'I was only trying to get a pear for my mother,' said Richard, 'when these boys threw stones at me, and hit me!'
'That was very cruel,' said his father, 'to meddle with you when you were doing nothing to them, and if I can find them out they shall be punished for it.'
Mr. Random immediately set off to the next house, but was met at his own door by the father of the wounded boy, who was coming with him in his arms to demand satisfaction. This brought the whole truth out, and the artful little fellow was found to have concealed a part of the real case. Instead of saying 'he was only getting a pear,' he should have said that he was throwing large stones at the topmost pear on the tree, and that every stone went over the wall, he could not tell where.
'Ah, Richard,' said his father, 'it is little better than story-telling to conceal a part of the truth. The affair now wears quite a new face. It was you that gave the first assault, and will have to answer for all the bad consequences. It is my duty to see that this unoffending boy is taken care of; but if his leg be so cut or bruised that he cannot get so good a living when he comes to be a man as he might otherwise have done, how would you like to make up the deficiency? You cannot doubt that he has a demand upon you equal to the damage you may have done to him. He is poor, and his father must send him to the hospital, but it would be unjust of me to suffer it. No, on the contrary, I shall prevent this by taking him home and sending you there, where Dr. Hardheart makes his patients smart before he cures them. Come, get ready to go, for delays in wounds of the head are not to be trifled with.'
Mr. Random then ordered the servant to go for a coach, in which Dicky most certainly would have been sent off had not word been brought back that there was not a coach on the stand. During this time Dicky had fallen on his knees, entreating that he might remain at home, and offering promises to be less heedless in future; nay, he was willing to yield up all his toys to the maimed little gardener.
The boy's father, though but a labouring man, had a generous mind; he wanted nothing of this kind, but only wished him to be more cautious in future, as the same stones, thrown at random, might have either blinded his son or fractured his skull, instead of merely hurting his leg. Mr. Random then insisted on Richard's giving him half-a-crown, and asking pardon for the misfortune occasioned by his carelessness.
This heavy sum was directly taken out of the hoard which had been laid by for the purchase of a set of drawing instruments, but he had a yet heavier account to settle with his father for damaging the cucumber-frame. He had broken as much of it as would come to fifteen shillings to mend, and as payment was insisted on, or close confinement until the whole was settled, he was compelled to transfer to his father all his receipts for the ensuing five months before he could again resume his scheme of laying by an adequate sum to purchase the drawing utensils. Independently of which he always carried a strong memorial of his folly on his nose, which was so scarred that he endured many a joke, as it were, to keep alive in his memory the effect of his folly. Indeed, he never looked in the glass without seeing his reproach in his face, and thus at length learned never to play without first thinking if it were at a proper time and in a proper place.
Who is this, clad in russet-brown? His distant step sounds hollow on the frozen ground; no beam of beauty is on his face, but his look is healthy, and his step is firm. As he approaches the peasant bars his door and renews his fire. The sparkling home-brewed goes round and mantles in the foaming jug, the oft-repeated tale is told, the rain patters against the casement, but the night passes away, and the storm is no longer heard.
Bright in his career the sun arises. Millions of gems seem suspended from the leafless branches. The familiar robin and the bolder sparrow seek the abode of man. Swift fly the balls of snow; the ruddy youth binds on his skates and gracefully flies over the frozen pool.
Who is this stranger? He is the first-born of his family, and his name is JANUARY.
* * * * *
A grave and placid maiden now advances. The crocus and the snow-drop adorn her brown garments, a wreath of primroses binds her brows, the robin, perched on the leafless branch, welcomes her approach, and the lovely green of the young wheat is spread over the lately barren fields. The lambs frisk about her, they nibble the grass of the valley, then suddenly start and bound up the shelving mountain. But their infant coats are now wet with rain, and their sports are over. Shivering, they follow the shepherd with their bleating dams. And now, adorned with rustic lays and bleeding hearts, the swain sends to his favourite maid the mysterious valentine. The birds choose their mates; it is the season of connubial joys. Mild then be thy reign, gentle FEBRUARY.
* * * * *
Who is this froward youth, with his loud and boisterous voice? He comes from the east; limping rheumatism and shivering ague are in his train; but his face is now dressed in smiles. The birds begin their lays, the lambs again frolic around. The daisy and the violet grow beneath his feet; he dresses himself with the buds of the spring. Vegetation displays her lovely green, and holds out the promise of future riches. Again the tempest of his passions arise; he tears the chaplet from his brows, and scatters it in the wind. Oh! hasten far away from us, variable and boisterous MARCH.
* * * * *
Clad in a robe of light green, and decorated with lilies of the valley, a lovely maid advances. She breathes on the opening flowers, and their beauty is expanded. The leaves of the grove burst forth, and the hedges exhibit their partial verdure. Nature, invigorated, smiles around her; but she weeps, and her flowerets bend, drooping, to the earth. Mild is her mien, and the tint of modesty is on her cheek. She smiles, whilst the tear still trembles in her eye, like placid resignation bending over the tomb of a departed friend. She is a pensive maiden, and her name is APRIL.
* * * * *
Hark to the sound of rustic mirth, which precede a cheerful youth! His step is light and airy, his robe is of many colours, roses adorn his flowing ringlets, health and pleasure float on the freshening gale, exercise and mirth gambol before him, age forgets his troubles, quits his arm-chair, and welcomes his approach. The maids of the hamlet assemble and dance round the pole, decked with many a flower and many a streaming pendant. The village lovers loiter at the stile, or wander down the retired lane, where the hedges are covered with their white blossoms, and the modest wild rose, emblem of the blushing maid, peeps from the sheltering thorn. Season of love and delight! long may thy reign be protracted, young and beauteous MAY!
* * * * *
Who is the maid now approaching? She arises when the lark first pours his melody in air. Her dress is of a darker green, her head is adorned with full-blown flowers, her face is tanned by labour. The bleating and affrighted sheep are plunged, unwillingly, into the pool, and now by the sturdy hand stripped of their fleecy coats. The bottle quickly passes, the simple tale goes round, the ballad purchased at the fair is sung; the mower whets his scythe, and the grass and the wild-flowers fall before it; the waggon, heavily laden, removes the odoriferous hay; and the neat-mown fields display a brighter green. The cuckoo, with his never-varying note is heard; but let us, when the day is over, placed in some secluded nook, listen to the sweeter nightingale, who, as poets feign, was once a hapless female. Industry now toils through the lengthened day, and the name of this sun-burnt maiden is JUNE.
* * * * *
Who is the youth that now advances in his robe of gauze? He comes when the rosy morn first trembles in the east. Slow and languid is his step; he seeks the damp cavern and the impervious shade. It is the heat of noon, and the kine no longer low. Not a breeze stirs: the foliage of the groves, all—is still, except the insect world, who dimple the stream, or, buzzing round the head of the sleeping youth, rouses the panting dog that lies at his side.
Now the terrified birds dart swiftly through the air; a solemn and portentous stillness reigns; the thunder mutters, the lightnings flash, and the pouring storm approaches; the traveller seeks the sheltering cottage. But when the sun again returns in his glory, the birds plume their dripping feathers; the gardener ties up his fallen roses, and trails anew the gadding woodbine. How sweetly refreshing is the air; we will wander over the breezy hill; we will pluck the summer fruits; and still welcome shalt thou be to us, sultry JULY.
* * * * *
Who is she, who, with the first blush of Aurora, brushes the pearly dew from the grass? Her robe is thin and airy, and on her head is a garland of wheat-ears and poppies. How busy is the scene around her! The shining scythe cuts down the bearded barley and the quivering oat; the reaper bends over the golden wheat, and fills the plenteous sheaf.
All are employed: even old age and childhood bend, with prying eyes, to glean the scattered ears. The master looks on his riches, and swells with satisfaction; the busy housewife loads the hospitable board, and hands the mantling ale around; age tells the tale of past times; and the loud laugh and rustic song burst from the lips of jocund youth. Oh! ever thus return to us, with plenty in thy train, mirth-inspiring AUGUST.
* * * * *
Who is the youth that, at early dawn, brushes the stubble with his feet? His gun is on his arm. His well-taught dogs are with him. The harmony of the groves is destroyed, and the feathered race fall before his cruel hand. The timid hare, starting at the sound of early feet, flies from the furzy brake, and she returns to her shelter no more. Content thyself, youth, with the various fruits which Nature now bestows. The golden apricot, the downy peach, and the blooming plum, peep from beneath their green foliage. Feast on these gifts, but spare the feathered race, sanguinary SEPTEMBER.
* * * * *
Who now comes, with the steady air of a matron? Her robe is of yellow, tinged with brown; and a wreath of berries encircles her head. She fills her barns; and the flail, with monotonous sound, is heard. Labour blesses her as he turns the earth with his plough, and scatters, with a seemingly careless hand, the seeds of future harvests. She shakes the clustering nuts from the trees, and gathers the rosy produce of the orchard, where the apple and the mellow pear yield their refreshing juice.
The poet wanders through the silent grove; the mournful breeze wafts the withered leaves around him; the huntsman winds his horn; exercise bounds over the plain; the sportsman rejoices in the barren fields. Season that I love, ever welcome shalt thou be to me, mild and pensive OCTOBER.
* * * * *
What terrific form is this? Sullen and haggard is his face; his ragged garments float in the blast; a wreath of yew binds his head; thick fogs arise around him; he tears from the groves the last leaves of autumn; disease attends his baneful steps; he drinks at the stagnant pool; he throws himself on the beetling rock; he courts the foaming billows; he listens to the last groans of the shipwrecked mariner; he wanders through the churchyard; he seeks the abode of the raven, and horror is in all his thoughts. Oh, hasten far away from us, gloomy NOVEMBER.
* * * * *
Who is this clad in flannel and warm furs? He wraps his garments close about him; a wreath of holly binds his bald head; he seeks the warm hearth and the blazing fire; he expands his hands: they are thin and shrivelled with age. The snow fast descends; the sweeping blast howls over the dreary heath, and shakes the cottage of the aged man—he is the father of the year, and his name is DECEMBER.
The Advantage of Good Nature
Mr. Placid was a clergyman of distinguished merit, and had been for many years the vicar of Smiledale. The situation of the parsonage was truly beautiful, but the income of the living was not very considerable; so, as the old gentleman had two sons with the young Jemima to provide for, it was necessary to be rather frugal in his expenses. Mrs. Placid was remarkably handsome in her youth, but the beauty of her person was much impaired by a continued state of ill-health, which she supported with such a degree of cheerful fortitude as did honour to human nature. As she had had the advantage of a liberal education, and had been always accustomed to genteel company, her conversation was uncommonly agreeable; and her daughter derived from her instructions those engaging qualities which are the most valuable endowments a parent can bestow. The eldest son, whose name was Charles, was about three years, and William, the youngest, near a year and a half older than his sister. Their dispositions were not in all respects so gentle as hers; yet, on the whole, they formed the most agreeable family.
When Jemima was about six years old, her mother's health rendered it necessary that she should take a journey to Bristol; and it being out of her power to have Jemima with her, she left her with an aunt, whose name was Finer, and who had two daughters a few years older than their cousin. Miss Placid, who had never before been separated from her mother, was severely hurt at the thought of leaving home; but as she was told it was absolutely necessary, she restrained her tears, from fear of increasing the uneasiness which her mother experienced.
At last the day arrived when her uncle (whom I before forgot to mention) and his wife came to dinner at Smiledale, with an intention of conducting Jemima back with them. She was in her father's study at the time they alighted, and could not help weeping at the idea of quitting her friends; and throwing her arms around her brother William's neck, silently sobbed forth that grief she wanted power to restrain. The poor boy, who loved his sister with great tenderness, was nearly as much agitated as herself, and could only, with affectionate kisses, every now and then exclaim:
'Do not cry so, Jemima. Pray, do not! We shall soon meet again, my love. Pray, do not cry!'
When she had relieved her little heart with this indulgence of her sorrow, she wiped her eyes, and walked slowly upstairs to have her frock put on.
'So your aunt is come, miss?' said Peggy, as she put down the basin on the table to wash her hands.
Poor Jemima was silent.
'I am sorry we are going to lose you, my dear,' added she, as she wiped the towel over her forehead.
Peggy's hand held back her head, and at the same time supported her chin, so that her face was confined and exposed to observation. She wanted to hide her tears, but she could not; so at last, hastily covering herself with the maid's apron, and putting her two hands round her waist, she renewed the sorrow which she had so lately suppressed.
Peggy was very fond of her young lady, as indeed was every servant in the house; but there was a good woman, who went in the family by the name of Nurse, for whom Jemima had a still greater attachment. She had attended Mrs. Placid before her marriage, had nursed all her children from their births, and Jemima was the darling of her heart. As she entered the room at this time, she took the weeping girl into her lap, and wept herself at the reflection that it was the first time in her life she had slept without her.
'And so pray, my dear,' said she, 'take care of yourself; and when you go to bed, mind that they pin your night-cap close at the top, otherwise you will get cold; and do not forget to have your linen well aired; for otherwise it is very dangerous, love; and many a person, by such neglect, has caught a cold which has terminated in a fever. Sweet child! I do not like to trust it from me,' added she, hugging her still closer, and smothering her face in a check cotton handkerchief which she wore on her neck.
Jemima promised an observance of her injunctions, and being now dressed, attended a summons from her mother, who was alone in her chamber, the company having left her to walk in the garden, whither she was unable to accompany them.
'I see, my dear girl,' said she, holding out her hand as she sat in an easy-chair by the window—'I see that you are sorry to leave me; and, indeed, Jemima, I am much grieved that such a separation is necessary; but I hope I shall be better when I return, and I am sure you would wish me to be quite well. I hope, therefore, that you will be a good child while you stay with your uncle and aunt, and not give more trouble than you cannot avoid.'
Miss Placid assured her mother of her obedience, and her firm resolution to mind all her admonitions. Mr. Finer returning at this period, interrupted any further discourse, only Mrs. Placid affectionately pressed her hand, and, after giving her a kiss, Jemima sat down on a little stool by her side.
When the hour of her departure was nearly arrived, she retired into the garden to take leave of her brothers, and went round with them to all the different places she had been accustomed to play in. They visited together the poultry-yard, and Jemima fed her bantams before she left them, bidding them all adieu, and looking behind her for the last time as she shut the gate. They then walked round by some walnut-trees, where a seat had been put up for them to sit in the shade.
'I wish you were not going,' said Charles; 'for I put this box and drove in these nails on purpose for you to hang up your doll's clothes, and now they will be of no farther use to us.'
'I wish so too,' replied his sister; 'but I cannot help it.'
'Well, do not cry,' added William; 'but come this way by the brewhouse, and bid my rabbits good-bye, and take this piece of lettuce in your hand to feed the old doe, and here is some parsley for the young ones. We shall have some more before you come back, and I will send you word if I can how many there be.'
'And, Jemima,' said Charles, 'I wish I were going with you to London, for I should like to see it; it is such a large place, a great deal bigger than any villages which we have seen, and they say, the houses stand close together for a great way, and there are no fields or trees, and the houses have no gardens to them. But then there is a great number of shops, and you might perhaps get a collar for Hector. Do pray try, Jemima, and buy him one, and have his name put upon it, and that he belongs to the Rev. Mr. Placid of Smiledale, for then, in case we should lose him, folk would know where to return him.'
'And would it not be better to have a bell,' said William, 'as the sheep have? I like a bell very much; it would make such a nice noise about the house; and then we should always know where he was when we were reading, as my father will not let us look after him. What else do we want her to buy, Charles? Cannot you write a list?'
'That will be the best way,' replied he, taking out his pencil, and, very ungracefully, to be sure, he put the point of it to his mouth two or three times before it would write. And then, having but a small scrap of paper, he despatched his brother, as the shortest way, to fetch a slate, and he would transcribe it afterwards with a pen and ink, for he had, in endeavouring to cut a new point to his pencil, broken it off so frequently that the lead was all wasted, and nothing remained except the wood. William soon returned with the slate under his arm. Charles took it from him, and then went to work to prepare a bill of necessary things, which his sister was to purchase in London. He leaned so hard, and scratched in such a manner as, had any grown people been of the party, would have set their teeth on edge (a sensation, I believe, with which children are unacquainted, for they never seem to notice it at all).
'First then,' said he, 'I am to mention a collar for Hector, with his name and place of abode; and I should like very much to have some Indian glue to mend our playthings, such as father uses, and which we cannot get here, you know.'
William assented, and Jemima was as attentive as if she had to remember all the things he was writing without the assistance of his list. They sat some time in silence to recollect the other necessary commissions when she reminded them that a new pencil would be a useful article, but Charles said his father would supply that want, and there was no need to spend his own money for things he could have without any expense, but if anyhow he could get a gun with a touch-hole he should be quite happy.
'No, you would not,' returned William, 'for then, Charles, you would want gunpowder, which you never could have, and if you had, might never use it.'
'To be sure, that is true. I have long wished for it; but, as you say, I will be contented without it, so do not concern yourself about that, and I need not set it down.'
I shall not trouble you with the rest of the consultation on this important subject, but transcribe the list itself, which, with the account of the preceding conversation, I received from a young lady who frequently spent some months with Mrs. Placid, and to whose kindness I am indebted for many of the various incidents which compose this history.
A LIST OF THINGS JEMIMA IS TO BRING FROM LONDON.
A collar for Hector; Indian glue; some little pictures to make a show; a pair of skates, as we shall like skating better than sliding; a large coach-whip for Charles, because John will not lend us his; and some little books which we can understand, and which mother told Mrs. West may be bought somewhere in London, but Jemima must inquire about it.
Such were the orders which Miss Placid received from her brothers on her first journey to the Metropolis. They then attended her to bid adieu to her canary-bird, which she very tenderly committed to their care, and desired they would feed it every day, and give it water in her absence, and mind to turn the glass the right way, otherwise the poor thing might be starved. While she was taking her leave of little Dick, who hung in the hall by the window, her cat came purring to her and rubbed its head against her frock and pushed against her feet, then lay down on one side, and while Jemima stroked it with her hand, she licked her fingers, and at last jumped up into the window-seat to be still nearer to its mistress, who, taking it into her arms, particularly desired her brothers to give puss some of their milk every morning, and to save some bits of meat at dinner to carry to it. 'For, my pussy,' added she, 'I am quite sorry to leave you.'
Another affair remained, which was to put away all her playthings; but this she had deferred so long that the carriage was ready before she had concluded, so with that, likewise, she was obliged to entrust her brothers. And, looking round her with a heavy heart upon every object she had been accustomed to, she quitted the room with regret, and after receiving the affectionate kisses of the whole family her father lifted her into the carriage, and, the tears running down her cheeks, she looked out of the window as long as the house was in sight and her brothers continued to stand at the gate, till the road to London turning into a contrary direction they could no longer see each other. She then, with a melancholy countenance, watched the fields and lanes she passed by, till at last, quite fatigued, she sat down, and soon after fell asleep.
When they stopped at the inn where they intended to rest that night, she was so much fatigued, having been up very early, that she did not wake till she was nearly undressed, when, finding herself in a house where she had never before been, she looked about, but was too good to fret at such a circumstance, though she wished to be at home again. The next morning they renewed their journey, and in two days arrived at Mr. Piner's house about eight o'clock in the evening.
Jemima, who had not seen her cousins since she was two years old, had entirely forgotten them, and, as they expected to find her as much a baby as at their last interview, they appeared like entire strangers to each other. They welcomed their father and mother, and looked at Miss Placid with silent amazement; both parties, indeed, said the civil things they were desired, such as 'How do you do, cousin?' rather in a low and drawling tone of voice; and Miss Sally, who was eight years old, turned her head on one side and hung on her father's arm, though he tried to shake her off, and desired her to welcome Miss Placid to London, and to say she was glad to see her, to inquire after her father, mother, and brothers, and, in short, to behave politely, and receive her in a becoming manner. To do this, however, Mr. Piner found was impossible, as his daughters were not at any time distinguished by the graces, and were always particularly awkward from their shyness at a first introduction.
Our young traveller became by the next morning very sociable with her cousins, and complied with their customs with that cheerful obligingness which has always so much distinguished her character. She was much surprised at the bustle which she saw in the street, and the number of carriages so agreeably engaged her attention that it was with reluctance she quitted her seat on a red trunk by the window to enjoy the plays in which her cousins were solicitous to engage her. Mrs. Finer had been for some time engaged to dine with a lady of her acquaintance, where she could not conveniently take either of her children, and they both fretted and pined at the disappointment so as to render themselves uncomfortable and lose the pleasure of a holiday, which their mother had allowed them in consequence of their cousin's arrival. Miss Ellen, the eldest, was continually teasing to know the reason why she might not go, though she had repeatedly been told it was inconvenient; and Jemima beheld with astonishment two girls, so much older than herself, presume to argue with their mother about the propriety of her commands, when their duty should have been quiet submission. When her aunt was gone she took all the pains in her power to engage them to be good-humoured, presented them with their toys, and carried to them their dolls; but they sullenly replied to all her endeavours they did not want them, and told her not to plague them so, for they had seen them all a hundred times. At last Sally, taking up a little tin fireplace which belonged to her sister, Miss Ellen snatched it from her, and said she should not have it. Sally caught it back again, and they struggled for it with such passion as to be entirely careless of the mischief they might do each other.
Poor Jemima, who had never disagreed with her brothers nor been witness to such a scene in her life, was terrified to see them engage with a degree of violence which threatened them with essential hurt. She endeavoured to appease their fury, and ventured, after she had stood still for some time between two chairs, to try if, by catching hold of one of their hands, she could be able to part them, but they only gave her some blows, and said she had no business in their quarrel. She then retired to the farther part of the room, and ardently wished herself at home. When spying another fireplace under the table, she took it up with good-natured transport, and running to Miss Finer, told her there was one for her, which she hoped would put an end to the dispute. This, however, proved to be the property of Miss Sally, who declared, in her turn, that her sister should not touch any of her playthings; and finding she was not strong enough to retain it, she threw it with all her force to the other end of the room, and unfortunately hit Miss Placid a blow with one of the sharp corners, just above her temple. This at once put an end to the battle, for the blood immediately trickled down her cheek, and alarmed the two sisters, who, forgetting the subject of the debate, began to be uneasy at the effects of it; only Ellen, who considered herself as more innocent (merely because she had not been the immediate cause of the accident), with a recriminating air, said:
'There, miss, you have done it now! You have killed your cousin, I believe!'
Jemima, though in a great deal of pain, and much frightened, did not cry; as she seldom shed tears, unless from sensibility, or at parting with her friends. She held her handkerchief to the place, and became more alarmed in proportion as she saw it covered with blood, till at last, finding it was beyond their art to stop the effusion, Ellen, with trembling steps, went upstairs to tell the servant of their misfortune. Dinah, which was the maid's name, had been so often accustomed to find her young ladies in mischief, that she did not descend in very good humour, and upon her entrance exclaimed that they were all the naughtiest girls in the world, without inquiring how the accident happened, or making any exception to the innocence of Jemima, who could only again most sincerely wish to be once more at Smiledale with her mother. Dinah, after washing her temple with vinegar, which made it smart very much (though she did not complain), told them they had been so naughty that they should not go to play any more, nor would she hear Miss Placid's justification, but crossly interrupted her by saying:
'Hold your tongue, child! and do not want to get into mischief again; for my mistress will make a fine piece of work, I suppose, about what you have done already.'
Jemima was too much awed by the ill-nature of her looks and the anger of her expressions to vindicate her conduct any further, but quietly sitting down, she comforted herself with the reflection that her displeasure was undeserved, and that to fret at what she could not avoid would not make her more happy, and therefore, with great good humour, took up a bit of paper which contained the rough drawing of a little horse which Charles had given her on the day of her departure, and which she had since carefully preserved.
In justice to Mrs. Dinah I must here observe that she was not naturally ill-natured, but the Misses Piner were so frequently naughty as to give her a great deal of trouble, and tire out her patience; and their mother, by not taking the proper methods to subdue the errors of their dispositions, had made them so refractory that it soured her own temper, and occasioned her to blame her servants for the consequence of those faults which it was her duty to have prevented. So you see, my dear Eliza, from such instances, how mistaken is that indulgence which, by gratifying the humours of children, will make them impatient and vindictive, unhappy in themselves, and a trouble to everyone with whom they are connected. The amiable Jemima was always contented and good-humoured, even when she was not in a state agreeable to her wishes, and, by learning to submit to what she did not like, when it could not be altered, she obtained the love of everybody who knew her, and passed through life with less trouble than people usually experience; for, by making it a rule to comply with her situation, she always enjoyed the comforts it afforded, and suffered as little as possible from its inconvenience In the present case her cousins, by their ill-temper and fretfulness, had quarrelled with each other; and when Dinah would not let them play—as, indeed, they justly deserved to be punished—they did nothing but grumble and cry the whole day, and were so conscious of their bad behaviour as to be afraid of seeing their mother; while Miss Placid, serene in her own innocence, entertained herself for some time with looking at the horse above mentioned, and afterwards with pricking it, till Dinah set her at liberty, which, seeing her good temper, she soon did, and gave her besides some pretty pictures to look at and some fruit to eat, of all which her cousins were deprived. By the next morning Jemima's temple had turned black, and Mrs. Piner inquired how she had hurt herself. She coloured at the question with some confusion, not willing to inform her aunt of anything to Miss Sally's disadvantage, but, as she was too honest to say anything but the truth, she begged Mrs. Finer would not be angry if she informed her, which she, having promised, Jemima told her, adding that her cousin had no intention to hurt her.
Mrs. Piner kissed and commended Jemima very much, and Dinah having likewise given a high account of her goodness, she told her daughters she was much displeased with them, but in consequence of their cousin's intercession would not punish them that time, and desired them for the future to imitate her example.
As soon as breakfast was over they were dismissed to school, while Jemima remained with her aunt, who, after having heard her read, gave her a handkerchief to hem, which she sat down by her to do, and when she had done work very prettily, entered into conversation.
'I should be much obliged to you, madam,' said she, 'as I do not know my way about London, if you would go with me to buy some things for my brothers, which I promised to carry back when I return. I have got some money to pay for them, for Charles gave me a sixpence, and three halfpence, and a farthing; and William gave me threepence; and I have got a silver penny and a twopence of my own, all screwed safely in a little red box.'
Mrs. Piner inquired what the articles were which she wished to purchase, and smiled on perusing the list which Charles had written.
'And pray, my dear,' said she, 'how do you intend to carry the coach-whip, for you will not be able conveniently to pack it up? And as to the skates, I do not think your father would choose your brothers should make use of them till they are much older, as they are very dangerous, and particularly so to little boys. The other things I will endeavour to procure, and you shall take a walk with me to buy the books and choose them yourself, and I will pay for them; so you may save your money in the little box, for you are a very good girl, and therefore deserve to be encouraged.'
Jemima thanked her aunt for her kind intentions, and said if she could get a coach-whip, she thought she could carry it to Smiledale in her hand; and as her brothers were always kind to her, she wished to do everything in her power to oblige them.
The next day was to be a holiday at her cousins' school, on account of their dancing-master's ball, to which the Misses Piner were invited; and Mrs. Piner had promised Jemima she should be of the party. They rose in the morning with the pleasing hopes of enjoying a dance in the evening; and Ellen went a dozen times in the day to look at her new cap, wishing it was time to put it on (for she was a silly, vain girl), and was so foolish as to imagine herself of more consequence, because she was better dressed than other children.
'Oh, Miss Placid,' said she, 'you will look so dowdy to-night in your plain muslin frock, while all the rest of the ladies will wear either gauze frocks or silk coats full trimmed. Have you seen how handsome our dresses will be? Do, pray, look at them,' added she, opening the drawer and extending the silk, and then, glad of an excuse to survey it, she went to a box, and, taking out her cap, held it on her hand, turning it round and round with a degree of pride and pleasure which was very silly.
Jemima good-naturedly admired her cousin's finery without wishing for any addition to her own.
'I am sure,' replied she, 'my mother has provided what is proper for me, and is so kind as to afford me everything necessary; and my frocks are always clean, and will do extremely well for the present occasion, or else my aunt would have bought me another.'
'But should not you like such a cap?' said Miss Ellen, putting it on Jemima's head. 'You look very pretty in it indeed.'
'No; I think it is too large for me,' returned Miss Placid; 'and there is a piece of wire in it which scratches when you press it down. You should alter that, or it will be very uncomfortable.'
In short, the ball was the only subject of conversation during the whole day; and although Miss Piner felt an uncommon headache and sickness, yet she would not complain, for fear her mother should think proper to leave her at home. The pain, however, increased greatly, and she frequently left the parlour to give vent to her complaints and avoid her mother's notice. The heaviness of her eyes and alternate change of countenance from pale to red, at last took Mrs. Piner's attention, and she tenderly inquired after her health; but Ellen affected to treat her indisposition as a trifle, though, as she was by no means patient in general, she would at any other time have made incessant complaints. She attempted to laugh and play, but to no purpose, for her illness became too violent to be suppressed. However, upon her father's hinting at dinner that she seemed to have no appetite, and had better, if not well, go to bed, she forced herself, against her inclination, to eat some meat and pudding, and went up afterwards to conceal her uneasiness, and put on her clothes, thinking that if she was in readiness it would be an additional reason for her going. But, alas! so foolish is vanity, and so insignificant are outward ornaments, that when Miss Ellen was decked out in the gauze frock which had so long engaged her thoughts, she felt such a degree of uneasiness from her sickness as to make her disregard what she had before wished for with such ill-placed ardour.
Having eaten more than was proper for her stomach in such a disordered state, it increased her illness very much; but being determined to go, though her mother advised her to the contrary, and pretending she was somewhat better, she stepped into the coach, the motion of which soon produced a most terrible catastrophe; and before she could speak for assistance, occasioned such a violent sickness as totally spoiled her own and her cousin's clothes, who sat opposite to her; nor did Sally's quite escape the disaster, for as she had spread them over Jemima, with an intent to display their beauties, they shared in part that calamity which had so unfortunately overtaken the others.
Mrs. Piner, though she was grieved at her daughter's indisposition, was likewise extremely angry at the consequence of her obstinacy.
'If you had stayed at home, as I bade you,' said she, somewhat angrily, 'nothing of this would have happened,' and, pulling the check-string, added, 'we must turn about, coachman, for we cannot proceed in this condition.'
Sally, notwithstanding her sister's illness, continually teased her mother to know whether they should go when Ellen was set down and her own dress wiped, without attending to her sister's complaints. When the carriage reached Mr. Piner's, he came himself hastily to the door to know what accident had occasioned their unexpected return, and upon being informed, lifted poor Ellen into the house, while her sister declared she would not walk indoors, as she wanted to go to the ball. Dinah was, however, called down, and with much resistance conveyed the young lady crying and kicking upstairs.
Jemima stood by unnoticed in the general confusion, and Miss Piner was undressed with the utmost expedition, and sincerely rejoiced to be rid of the encumbrance of that finery which in another situation would have excited her envy. Our little heroine, whose sense as well as serenity was uncommon, reflected that gay clothes must, certainly in themselves be of little value, since they could not prevent the approach of disease, or suspend for a moment the attacks of pain; that the pleasure they bestowed, as it was ill-founded, was likewise extremely transient, as Sally's passion on her disappointment was sufficient to prove, since she was now mortified in proportion as she had before been elated. And though her sister's reflections were for the present suspended by the violence of pain, yet her vexation, when she was restored to the ability of contemplating the state of her clothes, would be equally poignant and without remedy.
While Miss Placid, in obedience to her aunt, took off the frock which had suffered so much in its short journey, Sally sat screaming and crying in an easy-chair, into which she had thrown herself, declaring she would go, and pushed Dinah away as often as she attempted to take out a pin. Nor would she be pacified by any endeavours which were used to please and amuse her, till her mother, quite tired with her noise and ill-humour, declared she would send word to her governess the next morning if she did not do what she was desired; upon which threat she submitted to be undressed, but petulantly threw every article of her attire upon the ground, and afterwards sat down in one of the windows in sullen silence, without deigning an answer to any question that was proposed to her. Jemima was as much disappointed as her cousin could be, and had formed very high expectations of the pleasure she should receive at the ball; but she had been always accustomed to submit to unavoidable accidents without repining, and to make herself happy with those amusements in her power when she was deprived of what she might wish for but could not procure.
Some time after this Mr. Steward, a gentleman who lived at Smiledale, came up to town about business, and called upon Mr. Piner with an intention of seeing Miss Jemima, who was much distressed that she happened to be absent, as she wished to hear some news of her father and brothers. However, he returned again the next day, and Miss Placid very gracefully paid her respects to him, and inquired after the friends she had left. He satisfied her as to their health, and presented her with a letter from her brother Charles, which, as soon as she could find an opportunity, she retired to read. The contents were as follow:
To Miss Placid.
'MY DEAR SISTER,
'As William writes so very slowly, and as father does not think he should scribble at all, he has desired me to inform you of everything that has passed since you left us. And first I must acquaint you with a sad accident which will render one of your commissions useless. Poor Hector, the day after you went away, was lost for several hours. We went to every house in the village, and hunted behind every tomb in the churchyard; called Hector! Hector! through all the fields, and then returned and sought him in our own garden again; looked under the bench in the poultry-yard, nay, even in the cellar and coal hole; but no Hector returned. We sat down together on the bottom stair in the hall, and William cried ready to break his heart. Father said he was sorry, but told us our tears would not bring him back, and advised us to bear the loss of him with more fortitude, took William on his lap, and read a story to divert him. We got tolerably cheerful and went down to tea; but as soon as my brother took up his bread and butter, the thoughts of Hector always jumping up to him for a bit, and how he would bark and snap in play at his fingers, quite overcame his firmness, and he could not touch a morsel. Well, to make short of the story, the next morning John came in and told father that Squire Sutton's gamekeeper, not knowing to whom he belonged, had shot him for running after the deer. "Why now," said I, "if he had but stayed away from the park till Jemima had brought him a collar he would not have been killed. Poor Hector! I shall hate Ben Hunt as long as I live for it." "Fie, Charles," said my father. "Hector is dead, sir," said I; and I did not then stay to hear any further. But since that we have talked a great deal about love and forgiveness; and I find I must love Ben Hunt, even though I now see poor Hector's tomb in the garden. For John went to fetch him, and we buried him under the lilac-tree, on the right hand side, just by the large sun-flower. And we cried a great deal, and made a card tomb-stone over his grave; and father gave us an old hatband and we cut it into pieces and we went as mourners. His coffin was carried by Tom Wood, the carpenter's son, whose father was so kind as to make it for us, while James Stavely (the clerk's nephew), my brother, and I, followed as chief mourners, and old nurse and Peggy put on their black hoods which they had when Jane Thompson died, and went with us, and we had the kitchen table-cloth for a pall, with the old black wrapper put over it which used to cover the parrot's cage; but we did not read anything, for that would not have been right, as you know. After all, he was but a dog. Father, however, to please us, wrote the following epitaph, which I very carefully transcribed and affixed over his grave:
'"Here Hector lies, more bless'd by far Than he who drove the victor's car; Who once Patroclus did subdue, And suffer'd for the conquest too. Like him, o'ercome by cruel fate, Stern fortune's unrelenting hate; An equal doom severe he found, And Hunt inflicts the deadly wound. Less cruel than Pelides, he His manes were pursuits to be; And satisfied to see him fall, Ne'er dragg'd him round the Trojan wall."
'I am very sorry for the poor fellow's untimely end, and so, I daresay, you will be. Our rabbit has kindled, and we have one in particular the skin of which is white with black spots, the prettiest I ever saw, and which we have called Jemima, and will give to you when you return. Peggy has sprained her ankle by a fall downstairs. I forgot my wooden horse and left it in the way, and she came down in the dark and stumbled over it. I was very sorry, and my father was much displeased, as it is what he has so often cautioned us against. Jack Dough, the baker's boy, brought me a linnet yesterday, which I have placed in a cage near your canary-bird, who is very well. I do not think I have much more to say, for writing is such tedious work that I am quite tired, though what I have done has been a fortnight in hand. I have a great many things which I want to tell you if we could meet, and I should wish to know how you like London. Good-bye! William desires his love to you, and bids me say that he, as well as myself, will ever be