Transcriber's Note: Phrases printed in italics in the original version are indicated in this electronic version by _ (underscore). A list of amendments are given at the end of the book.
A Magazine for the Young.
NEW AND ENLARGED SERIES.
CASSELL AND COMPANY, LIMITED:
LONDON, PARIS & NEW YORK.
[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]
A LITTLE TOO CLEVER.
By the Author of "Pen's Perplexities," "Margaret's Enemy," "Maid Marjory," &c.
CHAPTER I.—THE MOOR.
Crimson and gold. As far as one could see across the moor it was one broad expanse of purply heather, kindled into a glowing crimson by the blaze of ruddy sunshine, and lighted here and there by bright patches of the thorny golden rod. Dame Nature had evidently painted out of her summer paint-box, and had not spared her best and brightest colours. Crimson-lake, children; you know what a lovely colour it is, and how fast it goes, for you are very fond of using it, and there is only one cake in each of your boxes. But here was crimson-lake enough to have emptied all the paint-boxes in the world, you might suppose, and the brightest of goldy yellows, and the greenest of soft transparent greens, such as no paint-box ever did, nor ever will, possess; and over all the most azure of blues, flecked with floating masses of soft indescribable white, looking to Elsie like the foamy soapsuds at the top of the tub when mother had been having a rare wash, but to Duncan like lumps of something he had once tasted and never forgotten, called cocoa-nut ice.
It seemed a pity when Dame Nature had spent her colours so lavishly that there should be no one to see her bright handiwork. Yet, sad to tell, there lay the broad sheet of crimson and gold day after day unnoticed and unheeded, till, in despair, it at length began to wither and blacken and die.
For this was a lonely moor, where the heather and gorse bloomed so bravely, so lonely that even along the road which skirted it the number of those who passed by in a day could be counted on the fingers of your hand; and as for the moor itself, it seldom had any visitors but the cows from the little farm which nestled away in one corner; and do you suppose such lazy, cupboard-loving creatures cared whether the heather bloomed or not, so long as they found grass enough to eat?
But the glorious moor had a worse indignity than this to endure, for there was a cottage here and there whose inhabitants frequently crossed by the beaten tracks, and never so much as lifted their eyes as they passed along, to notice the gorgeous dress their moor had put on. They were so used to it. Had she not worn it every year since they could remember? and so they sauntered by, thinking about eating or drinking, or how they would serve their neighbours out, sometimes even quarrelling loudly, and never giving so much as a passing thought to all the beauty God had spread around them, and which we who dwell in towns would give so much to see.
The sun was shining down very hotly, but it had not yet begun to wither the heather and gorse, on the day when I want you to notice two little children going across the moor. I told you there were cottages here and there, and in a pretty little green hollow just beyond a fair-sized hillock was one where lived the MacDougalls. These two children were Elsie and Duncan MacDougall. They very often crossed the moor, for the farm was on the other side of it, and the milk and butter had all to be fetched from it, the milk twice a day, whether the sun blazed, or the chilly Scottish drizzle blotted out the hills in a misty haze, or the north wind swept across it, and shook the gaunt fir-trees to and fro in its noisy wrath.
"Ain't you coming on, Elsie?" Duncan cried impatiently, for Elsie had seated herself on a big stone, pushed back her sun-bonnet from her damp freckled forehead, crossed her brown arms defiantly over her holland pinafore, and was swinging her bare feet as if she never meant to move another step to-night.
"No, I ain't coming, Duncan, and that's all about it," Elsie replied, sulkily, only she said it in a broad Scottish accent which you would hardly have understood had you heard it, and certainly could make nothing of if I were to try to write it.
"Then we'll get beaten when we get back," Duncan said, miserably. "Mother's always scolding, and it's your fault, Elsie."
Elsie looked at him contemptuously. "Go on by yourself," she cried; "I ain't afraid. It's only Robbie that they're in such a hurry to get the milk for, and I'm not going to hurry for Robbie. Go on by yourself, do."
But this was more than Duncan dared do, and Elsie knew it, for, in the first place, it would have seemed as if he sided with Robbie against Elsie, which would have been quite untrue; and, in the second, it would have got Elsie into trouble with their mother, and that Duncan would not have done for anything in the world. If Elsie had been a queen, then Duncan would have been one of her most willing subjects, and done her bidding whatever it might cost.
So there stood Duncan, fidgeting to get on, yet bound to the spot where Elsie stayed by a bond stronger than links of iron. It was in vain that he fidgeted from one bare foot to the other, or vented his impatience by flinging his Scottish bonnet high in the air and catching it again. Elsie was immovable, for Elsie was in one of her very contrariest moods to-day, and I can hardly describe to you how very contrary she could be.
At last, very slowly and deliberately, she got off the stone, and began slowly to stretch herself. "Do make haste!" cried Duncan, almost tired out.
"I can't be hurried," Elsie replied, with a grand air, stooping down to pick up the milk-can, which she had deposited at the side of the stone. "It's much too hot and I'm much too tired, and I don't see why I should be expected to fetch the milk at all. You and Robbie ought to do it. You're boys, and I'm a girl. It's a shame, and I mean to tell mother so."
Duncan gazed at her in amazement. He knew Elsie was very daring, but did she really mean to tell their mother that?
"Me and Robbie?" he gasped. "Robbie never goes nowhere with us, Elsie, don't you know?"
"Yes, I know, child," Elsie replied, with a lofty toss of her head. "It's just what I do know. Robbie stops at home while you and me do all the errands and everything else too, and it isn't fair."
"But you wouldn't like Robbie to come with us: you know you wouldn't," Duncan exclaimed, in perplexity.
"With us! No, indeed," Elsie cried, with a little contemptuous laugh. "I don't want any spoilt little namby-pamby cry-babies along with me; but that's no reason why I, a girl, should fetch milk for Robbie to drink while he stays at home. Can't you see that, stupid-head?"
Duncan said "Yes," but he didn't, all the same. He and Elsie went together, and it never had occurred to him that it ought to be different. He didn't care for Robbie: Elsie didn't, and so he didn't. Elsie said he was a spoilt baby, therefore Duncan knew he must be one; and certainly he couldn't scamper over the moor, and climb the trees, and fly here, there, and everywhere, like he and Elsie could.
Elsie had begun to move slowly along, carrying the basin, in which was butter wrapped in wet cloths and a cool cabbage-leaf. Duncan had the milk-can, and would have been almost home by now, had he not been obliged to keep on waiting for Elsie to come up with him, his eager footsteps continually carrying him far on ahead of her sauntering pace.
"I'm just not going over that hill," she said, deliberately, when at length they reached the purple hillock on the other side of which stood the cottage. "Come on, Duncan; I'm going round."
"But it's ever so much longer, and we're so late," grumbled Duncan.
"Who cares?" cried Elsie, stolidly. "I'm a girl and I'm not going to climb up the hill in this heat."
Duncan stared again. He had never heard Elsie complain of the hill before. Usually they scampered up it, and rolled down the steepest side—not, truly, when there was milk to carry, but at other times. And now Elsie was walking along in a languid, mincing fashion, as if she had no more fun in her than Robbie himself, and had never scampered bare-foot over the moor six days out of every week, no matter what the weather might be.
"There's Robbie at the garden gate beckoning us. I expect mother's very angry," cried Duncan, despairingly.
"Who cares? let him beckon," Elsie replied, with the most provoking indifference. "Run on by yourself if you're afraid."
Most unkind taunt of all. Did not Elsie well know that Duncan was bound to her by the chains of a most unswerving, unquestioning loyalty? and that though he was, so to speak, ready to jump out of his skin with impatient anxiety, to forsake Elsie would never enter his simple little head.
When Robbie saw that they did not hurry, he came running towards them, calling out, "Elsie, Duncan, do make haste! Mother's so cross. You are late."
"Are we? And are you in a hurry, Robbie? because if you are you'd better fetch the milk yourself another time. Duncan and I are not your servants," Elsie replied, loftily.
Robbie stared, as well he might. "I only know mother's very cross," he reiterated dubiously, as if not quite knowing what to say; "and I don't think you know how late it is."
"Look here," cried Elsie, standing stock still: "suppose I tip this milk over on to the heather, what'ud you say to that?" and she lifted up the lid, and tilted the can, until the foaming white milk was just ready to pour over the side.
"Oh! Elsie, Elsie, what are you doing?" cried Duncan, in a panic; while Robbie exclaimed, "Wouldn't mother make you go back and fetch some more, Elsie, with the pennies out of your box?"
Perhaps Elsie thought it might be so. Any way, she put the can straight, and moved on again, but as she did so she said to Robbie, "You'd like to tell mother what I said, wouldn't you, duckie? So you can if you like; I don't care what you tell mother."
"No, I don't want to tell," Robbie said, almost angrily, with a pink face and a moist look in the eyes.
As the three children walked along you could hardly help noticing what a difference there was between the two elder and Robbie. Elsie and Duncan were big-limbed, ruddy-cheeked children, with high cheek-bones, fair-skinned, but well freckled and tanned by the sun. Their younger brother was like them, and yet so different. His skin was fair, but of milky whiteness, showing too clearly the blue veins underneath it. The ruddy colour in their faces was in his represented by the palest tinge of pink. His bare arms were soft and white and thin. Their abundant straw-coloured hair had in his case become palest gold, of silky texture, falling in curling locks almost on to his shoulders. He was, in short, a smaller, weaker, more delicate edition of these two elder ones. They looked the very embodiment of health and strength, he fragile, timid, and delicate. No wonder he never scampered across the heath or rolled down the hillsides. The mists were too chilly for him, the sun too hot; and so it came about that Elsie and Duncan went together, and Robbie was left behind, for Elsie was selfish, and hadn't it in her nature to wait about for the little one, and suit her steps or her play to his, and Duncan did whatever she did. Perhaps their mother did not care to trust the little fellow with Elsie, knowing too well that she was thoughtless, and unable in her own robust strength to understand the fatigue and listlessness of her little brother. Elsie told him he would run well enough without shoes and stockings, but their mother had most particularly charged him that he was never to take them off without special permission, for he was too delicate to run the risk of damping his feet. Elsie and Duncan thought it great nonsense, and both pitied and despised Robbie for being such a miserable molly-coddle.
"Now here's mother herself coming after us," cried Duncan, anxiously scanning Elsie's face to see how she would act now.
But Elsie was still unflurried. Duncan almost held his breath, for there were signs of a storm. Mrs. MacDougall's face was red, her mouth ominously screwed up; she waved her hand angrily towards them—an action which Elsie pretended not to see.
"Where have you been all this time, madam?" she burst forth, when they reached her. "I will teach you to hasten your footsteps. Did I not send Robbie to the gate to beckon you to be quick? You suppose you may do as you like, but you are mistaken, you lazy, ill-behaved wench. The new frock I had bought you shall be given to Nannie Cameron, and you shall wear your old one to the kirk. How will that suit your vanity? And you may be off to bed now directly, without any supper. There are twigs enough for a birch rod, my lady, if bed does not bring you to a better frame of mind. Run in now, and don't let me see your face before six o'clock to-morrow morning."
What could Elsie be thinking of? She did not run. Robbie looked at her in piteous distress; Duncan was beside himself. He cast a beseeching glance at Elsie, a momentary one of resentful anger at his mother, an impatient one at Robbie, the unfortunate messenger of their mother's anger.
Then a look of great determination settled over their mother's face. "Do you dare me?" she cried. "Did I ever threaten and not perform? Will you compel me to whip you? Then if you would not have it so, hasten your footsteps at once."
Duncan caught hold of Elsie's hand and tried to pull her, but those sturdy, legs had the very spirit of obstinacy in them. "Be quiet," she said; "I want to be whipped."
"Mother means it," Duncan cried. "She has never done it before, but she will now, Elsie."
Elsie had often dared her mother, but never so flagrantly as this; and Mrs. MacDougall was not a woman to be dared with impunity. Elsie was going a little too far; every one saw that except herself.
"Stay here," Mrs. MacDougall said sternly to the two boys when they entered the cottage kitchen. Then she took Elsie by the shoulder, and marched her up the few stairs. Robbie and Duncan stood stock still, looking blankly at each other.
Presently there came from the room overhead a low sobbing sound, and a minute or two afterwards Mrs. MacDougall appeared, stern and frowning.
It was an unhappy supper they sat down to. Robbie was very wretched, and as for Duncan, each mouthful threatened to choke him. Mrs. MacDougall wore a troubled face. After it was ended Duncan crept away to his sister's room.
"I knew mother would," he said, sympathisingly, "and I know she'll do it again, if you do it. You wouldn't, would you, Elsie? Mother never whipped you before, never in all our lives, Elsie, but you didn't care. What was the matter with you?"
"You little stupid!" Elsie replied patronisingly; "I won't fetch the milk at all, not if mother whips me every day. I don't care. You don't know what I know, and you don't know what I'm going to do, but I know myself; and you little cowardy custard, you don't know what secret I could tell you if I liked."
CHAPTER II.—WHAT ELSIE FOUND.
Duncan crept away to his own little bedchamber with an uneasy feeling of trouble. It was next to Elsie's, separated from it only by a little square bit of landing, and, like hers, was a tiny apartment under the roof, with a ceiling of the bare rafters which supported the tiles. In each was a small wooden bedstead, a deal stand, with basin and jug of coarse white earthenware, and a small deal box, which served both to keep clothes in and as a chair.
Everything was scrupulously clean, even to the dimity vallance that hung across the low window. In autumn and winter the bleak wind whistled through the chimneys and rattled the casements in a way that would have prevented a town-bred child from sleeping, and up in those bare rooms there was cold enough to pinch you black and blue; but Elsie and Duncan had never thought much of that, for they had been accustomed to it from babyhood, and only threw on their thick homespun garments in greater haste.
Just now the weather was unusually hot, and the little lofts had gone to the other extreme, and were more like ovens than anything else. Duncan had scarcely taken off his jacket when he heard Elsie calling. He ran to see what she wanted. "I s'pose you won't go telling any tales about what I said just now," she exclaimed shortly.
"Of course I shan't," Duncan replied, indignantly; "but what was it you said? There wasn't anything to tell tales about except that you said you weren't going to fetch the milk."
Elsie's mind was so full of her own affairs that it was quite a shock to her to find that Duncan had taken so little heed of her words. "It's a good thing I'm not such a silly baby as you are," she said, contemptuously—a way in which she so often spoke to Duncan that he quite believed Elsie to be the cleverest, most daring, and bravest creature in existence.
"This place is like a furnace," she cried, irritably throwing the sheet which covered her down on to the floor. "Why should I be poked up here and Robbie sleep downstairs with mother and grandmother, eh, Duncan?"
"I s'pose it's because he always does," Duncan replied dubiously.
"Stupid-head!" cried Elsie. "And why does he always?"
Duncan thought a minute. "P'raps it's because he's the youngest, and was the baby when you and me was bigger," he answered presently.
Elsie turned over with an angry grunt. "It isn't anything of the sort," she cried; "and you might have known I didn't want you to answer me."
"I thought you asked me," Duncan said, in much perplexity.
"You ought to have said you didn't know, and then you'd have told the truth," Elsie said shortly. "Hush! there's some one coming up. Crawl under the bed, in case they come in."
A slow dragging footstep came up the steep stairs, and presently a voice called softly, "Dooncan?"
Duncan began to crawl out from under the bedstead, answering as he did so, "Yes, grandmother, here I am."
Elsie dangled her foot over the side of the bed, and gave Duncan a pretty sharp kick as he emerged.
"What's that for?" he stopped to ask.
"Only because you're such a ridiculously silly little softie, that nobody could put a grain of sense into your head," Elsie replied, angrily. "Supposing it had been mother. A nice row you'd have got us into. Why couldn't you keep quiet, and she'd have thought we were both in bed and asleep."
"But I knew it was grandmother's voice," said Duncan.
"Dooncan," called the voice again, "I want you."
Duncan opened the door this time. His grandmother did not seem to notice that he was in a forbidden place, but asked, with an anxious quaver in her voice, "Did mother beat Elsie, Duncan?"
"I think so," Duncan replied indignantly.
"Eh, well, Duncan," she said, consolingly, "mother's often threatened and never done it before, and Elsie's a wilful child, with a spirit and temper that must needs be broken. But what was the matter now?"
"It was about fetching the milk," Duncan replied. "Elsie don't like it, and she wouldn't be quick."
"Eh, well; but it's the place of the young to fetch and carry," said the old woman, in a much more cheerful tone than she had used before. "But Duncan, my laddie, have you picked up a wee bit of paper with writing on it, what grandmother has dropped?"
"No, granny, I haven't never picked up a piece," Duncan replied.
"Nor seen it lying about neither, dearie? Come now, think if you picked it up and threw it in the fire. I won't be angry if you tell the truth."
"I never saw it at all," said Duncan again.
"Ah, well! I thought perhaps that it was about that mother was angry with Elsie, but it wasn't, after all; you're sure of that, Duncan?"
"Oh no; it was about the milk," Duncan returned, readily.
"And Elsie's asleep now. Well, well, youth must be chastised sometimes," crooned the old woman, softly. "You needn't talk about the paper I've lost, Duncan. It's safe enough in the fire, no doubt; but if you see a scrap of paper lying anywhere, bring it to grandmother, and she'll give you a penny for sharp eyes."
Then the old dame went cautiously downstairs, feeling the way with her thick stick, and Duncan once more went off to bed.
He woke very early the next morning, wondering whether Elsie would keep her vaunted threat of refusing to fetch the milk, and if so, what would happen: for if Elsie were obstinate, their mother was firm as a rock in doing a duty, and Duncan well knew she would not be overborne by any one. So it was with a vague uneasiness that he put on his clothes and went downstairs. To his surprise and relief, Elsie was already in the kitchen and was busily, though with a sulky-enough expression, rinsing out the can. Elsie's valour, like that of many an older person, was greater in words than action, and there is no doubt that the previous night's punishment had had its effect.
But that Duncan should think so was the last thing that Elsie would wish. Directly they were outside the door, she said in a careless tone, "It's nice and cool this morning across the moor: much better out here than in that little loft."
"And won't you come this afternoon?" asked simple, straightforward Duncan.
"I don't know," Elsie answered sharply. "It depends upon whether I feel inclined. Duncan, what was that granny was asking about a piece of paper?"
"She only asked me if I'd picked a piece up with writing on it, and said she'd give me a penny if I found it."
"I dare say she would," laughed Elsie; "but you won't ever get the penny, Duncan, so don't expect it. She didn't ask if I'd picked it up?"
"No, she didn't; but have you found it, Elsie? because I'll take it to her, and give you the penny," Duncan remarked.
"A penny indeed!" laughed Elsie contemptuously. "I wonder whether you really could keep a secret, Duncan?"
Duncan was rather hurt at the implied doubt. "I never told tales of you, Elsie, never," he said, earnestly.
"Look here," Elsie exclaimed, "I was weeding my bit of garden just under the kitchen window yesterday, and granny was sitting at the window, yet never saw me. She was reading some old letters, peering at them ever so hard through her spectacles, and talking to herself all the time. I expect she'd taken them out of mother's drawer, for she kept on looking round to see if any one was coming, and the best of it was I was watching all the time, and she never knew it. I saw her put one piece of paper down on the window-sill; she was saying very funny things to herself. 'Meg shouldn't have done it; she wouldn't take my advice. Ah! she'll rue it some day, I well believe,' and all on like that. Of course Meg means mother, and I was just wondering what it was she was talking about, when the wind blew quite a puff, and blew the piece of paper right on to my garden. I was just going to peep at it, and see what it was mother shouldn't have done. Then granny gets up, and goes peering all round to see where the paper's gone. She pulled all the cushions out of the chair, and turned up the matting, and looked over her letters ever so many times, and never noticed that it had blown out of the window. Presently I put my head through the window, and cried out, 'What's the matter, granny?' 'It's only I've dropped a little bit of paper, my dear,' she says to me. 'Just come and see if your young eyes can find it.' I went in and looked all round. Of course I didn't find it, and I was almost dying of laughing all the time."
"And have you got it now, Elsie?" Duncan asked, with wide eyes.
"Yes, I have," Elsie replied shortly; "and it's much more interesting than I thought it would be. It's about you and me."
"You and me?" echoed Duncan, who was of a matter-of-fact mind, and was always content with things just as he found them.
"Yes, stupid," said Elsie, crossly; "I always said mother favoured Robbie, and so she does. Why he has new things much oftener than you, and you're older too. Do you and me have boots and stockings for week-a-days? then why should Robbie? Don't you wonder why mother pets him so?"
"No," Duncan answered truthfully. "He's ever so much more babyish than me."
"Well, I say it's a shame," continued Elsie. "Look at this old sun-bonnet. Do you think I ought to wear such a thing as that? Didn't I always say I'd love a long feather like the ladies at the manse? and why shouldn't I have one, and a silk pelisse, and gloves upon my hands, and sweet little shoes for walking in?"
"Why, you'd be just a lady," Duncan said.
Elsie laughed a pleased soft laugh. "A lady, just a bonny lady," she said over to herself; "and wouldn't you love to be a little laird, Duncan?"
"I don't know what it's like, Elsie," Duncan said thoughtfully.
"It isn't like fetching milk and sleeping in a loft," Elsie said sharply. "It isn't like porridge for breakfast and porridge for supper. It would be like——everything that's nice," she said, after a minute or two's pause, for she really did not know anything about it, and was suddenly pulled up in her description by that fact.
CHAPTER III.—THE LETTER.
The boy walked along, silently thinking over what Elsie had been saying, in a muddly, confused sort of way. Robbie, and granny's letter, and Elsie's beating, lairds and ladies, and something secret and mysterious that Elsie knew, were mingled hazily in his mind, in such chaotic fashion that he had nothing to say, not knowing how to put his ideas into the form of a question.
It was not until they were on their road home again that he suddenly asked, "Whose letter is it, Elsie?"
"What do you mean?" Elsie returned, with more than usual quickness. "I say it's mine and yours. Mother'd say 'twas hers, most likely; perhaps granny might say 'twas hers; I say it's ours as much as ever it's theirs, and the person what wrote it is our father; so there, Duncan."
"Mine too!" Duncan echoed, in greater bewilderment than before. "Then, if it's mine too, Elsie—
"I ought to read it, an' see what's in it."
Elsie laughed. "Of course you ought," she replied encouragingly. "That's just what I said to myself when I caught sight of it; and when I'd read it, an' saw that it was all about you and me, an' told a secret too, what granny an' mother have always kept away from us, d'you think I was goin' to give it up? no, not if I know it. An' to think they fancy it's lost—leastways, granny does—an' mother don't know anything about it at all. What fun it is! D'you know, Duncan, I don't so very much like mother."
Duncan looked at her in alarm. Scottish children of all classes are brought up in very strict notions of filial duty and affection, and these were no exceptions to the rule. Duncan looked all round anxiously, as though he feared a bird might carry the dreadful treason to their mother's ears.
Elsie looked as if she were enjoying the sensation she had made. "I've got a good reason," she said, nodding her head knowingly. "You'll see it when you've read the letter. I always thought I wasn't so very fond of her, and now I see why it was. It wouldn't have been right if I had; an' when she beat me, I can't tell you how I felt. I couldn't like any one who beat me!" Elsie continued, grinding her teeth together with rage at the memory, "even if it was my own mother."
"You seemed as if you wanted to make mother do it," said Duncan, who was often much distracted between his allegiance to rebellious Elsie and the strict sense of duty and obedience in which he had always been trained.
"P'raps I did," Elsie replied. "But I don't care; and mother shan't have the chance again. I don't think our father'd let her if he knew it."
"Our father?" faltered Duncan. "Why, our father's dead."
"Is he?" asked Elsie, enigmatically. "Robbie's father is."
"And isn't that ours?" Duncan asked contemptuously.
"That's just it," Elsie replied, with some excitement. "That's just what the letter's about. Now, if you sit down here I'll read it to you."
"We shall be late again," Duncan said, nervously. "Don't let's stop now, Elsie, and make mother cross. Could we do it after school?"
"P'raps I'd better tear it up, or give it back to granny," Elsie said, with a taunting air. "It don't matter to you."
"Oh, don't!" pleaded Duncan, divided again between the sense of duty, his own curiosity, and a fear of offending Elsie. "Do keep it till after school."
"Yes, I will," Elsie replied. "And mind you bring home an atlas with you, for, now I think of it, I must have a map of England and Scotland."
"But we mustn't bring home books," Duncan urged.
"Never mind; you must do it by mistake. We must have a map, I tell you; and if I've had the trouble of getting the letter, you can take the trouble to get the map. Mind you do, now, or else I shan't tell you anything about it. You can take it back in the afternoon. 'Tisn't stealing."
No, nor disobedience, nor deceit, nor telling a lie, eh, Elsie? Evidently Elsie did not stop to think of that any more than she had stopped to consider whether she had any business to read that old letter of her mother's when it fluttered out of the window.
They reached the cottage in good time. Robbie and their grandmother had only just come downstairs. Mrs. MacDougall seemed to be in an unusually pleasant temper this morning. "I'm glad you've hastened, my child," she said to Elsie. "Sit down to the table, and get slicing that cucumber I've just cut. It'll be more refreshing with some bread-and-butter and a cup o' milk than the porridge, and a change too."
Duncan glanced at Elsie with a half shame-faced expression, as much as to say, "Mother is kind, you see, when you're good. She's sorry you had to be beaten last night." But Elsie only replied by a look of defiance, as though to say, "That doesn't make up at all."
"Let's see: what's to-day?" Mrs. MacDougall continued, pleasantly, as she poured out the milk into the children's cups. "Can it be the thirty-first?"
"No, no, Meg; surely not," quavered the old grandmother, who, for reasons of her own, wished to appear ignorant. Was it not to refresh her failing memory about what happened just about this time of year, a long while ago, that she had gone to her daughter's desk, and got out those old faded letters? Mrs. MacDougall would not have minded her reading them, but she would mind having them lost, for she was very methodical; and besides, many of these letters were important ones, written by hands long since folded in death.
"And to-morrow's Robbie's birthday," Mrs. MacDougall continued, laying her rough, strong hand very gently on the child's fair curls. "Very well do I remember this time seven years ago."
"Yes," sighed the old grandmother. "Poor little dears! and Nannie a bonny lass too."
Mrs. MacDougall glanced at her mother with something like a frown. "I never think of Robbie's birthday without thinking about poor Aunt Nannie," she said to the children.
They knew well enough why, for they had heard the tale often enough. Their Aunt Nannie had been their mother's beautiful young sister, and the news of her death had come to them when Robbie was a baby of a week old. They had never even seen her, for Duncan was but a year old, and Elsie not three, when she died, and she had been living in England with her English husband at the time.
"Robbie reminds me so of her," Mrs. MacDougall said softly. "She was fair. He takes after her wonderfully, doesn't he, mother?"
"Very much indeed," the old dame replied.
"Ah well! Robbie must have some fresh cakes to-morrow for his birthday and a plate of plums, and you can have your tea under the big alder an' Elsie shall pour it out."
"Oh, thank you, mother, how nice!" the little boys exclaimed. Elsie's ungracious silence passed unnoticed by all but Duncan.
"P'raps I shan't be here to pour it out," she said, in a careless tone, when they were outside the door. "Mind you don't forget the atlas, Duncan."
Then they started off to school. It was a longish walk across the moor and along a dusty road to the nearest village. Robbie, although seven years old, was exempted from going on account of the distance and his delicacy. Elsie bore in mind that Duncan had gone before he was that age, but Robbie was such a petted baby. He was not nearly so strong as Duncan had been at his age.
Duncan's was a very placid, slow sort of mind. He went through his tasks without any excitement or distraction, although occasionally a vague curiosity as to what Elsie could want the atlas for, and what the letter said about them, did wander through his brain. When school was ended he slipped out unobserved with a small atlas, which he had had difficulty to secure, under his jacket.
Elsie was waiting for him at the edge of the moor. They sat down on some stones, and Elsie pulled the letter from inside the neck of her dress.
"I shan't say anything; I shall read it to you," she began; "and if you can't make anything of it I s'pose I must explain it afterwards. It's from our father to Mrs. MacDougall."
"What, to mother?" Duncan asked.
"H'm, you'll see presently," Elsie said impatiently. "Worst of it is, there's a piece torn off all along, which makes it difficult to read. It begins, 'Dear Mrs. MacDougall.' Oh, I forgot. It's put at the top, 'Kensington, London.' That's the capital of England, you know, and it means that the person what wrote it lived there."
"But father didn't, did he?" began Duncan.
"Hold your tongue till I've read it," Elsie replied. "I can't stop to explain beforehand. This is it:—
"'DEAR MRS. MACDOUGA I have to be teller of very bad new sister, my poor wife die morning. It will not be a shock to you than it wa me. I had no thought it was likely to happen a few hours previous sent her love to you her mother. The two little things ar but I have been what I can do with th I have not seen them'"
(here the page turns over and the missing words are from the commencement of the line)—
"'night and I don't feel to see them yet. The sound ir voices is too much for hat can I, a helpless wer do for them. They be better off among their kinsfolk than left mercy of strangers. I often I made a mistake in nging poor Nannie to this cat crowded city away from ive moors. The children I am told eak and delicate. There be a chance for them'"
(here the fresh page begins)—
"'in their mother's native The woman who has charge trustworthy. She shall brin to you, if you will take they live, bring them up with your own, and as your own. the girl turns out anything her mother, she will be we enough. I shall not interfe the children. All I want to is that they are well care In a year or two I may able to interest myself them. For the pres'"
"'likely I shall wander t, Reply at once Yours truly, R. GROSVENOR.'"
When Elsie had finished reading she sat looking at Duncan. "It doesn't seem very plain," he ventured to say, presently; "and there wasn't anything about you or me in it. You said there was."
"Stupid little thing! isn't there some of it torn off? and when you put the words in it's easy enough to read. I've put them in to myself. First of all, it's about Aunt Nannie dying, isn't it?"
"I s'pose it is," Duncan agreed; "and it's writ by Uncle Richard, isn't it?"
"If you call him Uncle Richard. I say it's our father what wrote it—yours and mine, Duncan."
Duncan stared at her in puzzled silence. "But Aunt Nannie was our Aunt Grosvenor, wasn't she?" he asked.
"If you call her Aunt Grosvenor. I say she was our mother. I'm sure she was," said Elsie.
"Our mother!" Duncan said, under his breath. "What do you mean, Elsie?"
"The letter says something about two little babies," Elsie began.
"Does it?" Duncan asked. "I didn't hear it."
"Well, it says, the 'little things,' and that's the same; and it's all about sending them to Aunt Nannie's native place. Well, this is Aunt Nannie's native place; and who were the two little things, eh?"
"I'm sure I dunno," Duncan said slowly.
"Well, they weren't Robbie, were they? Then, who were they? Why, you an' me, of course. It says 'the girl' somewhere, an' of course that's me. So now, isn't the letter about us? an' that's why granny was so afraid of losing it. Do you see now, little silly? It's plain enough."
"But why did they?" murmured Duncan.
"That's the funny part of it. They ought to have told us. Why didn't she?"
"Why, Robbie's mother, of course. She isn't our mother, an' I'm not going to call her mother; I shall call her 'she.' You can call her what you like. Why does she pretend to be our mother when she isn't? It's different with granny, 'cos she's our granny right enough. Didn't I hear her say 'Meg 'ud rue it?' It's a shame to have made a secret of it."
Duncan had been turning it over in his poor little mind. He formed ideas very slowly, but there was often more sense in them when formed than in the quick conclusions of cleverer children.
"But if Uncle Grosvenor is our father, Elsie, why don't we live with him? He never's been to see us, never. He'd be sure to know Aunt Nannie was our mother, and not—you know—'she.'"
"I believe," said Elsie, in a mysterious voice, "that 'R. Grosvenor' thinks we're dead."
"Oh, Elsie! but we aren't at all," gasped Duncan.
"No, I shouldn't, think so. Doesn't the letter say they are weak and delicate (what a beautiful letter it is, Duncan. I'm sure R. Grosvenor is a grand gentleman), and 'bring them up with your own and as your own for a year or two?' That was till we got strong; and she's kept us always. Of course R. Grosvenor (I'm not going to say uncle), doesn't know that we're quite well now. I'm sure he thinks we're dead. Who does 'your own' mean but Robbie. Oh, how dull you are, Duncan! Can't you see now why she pets that boy so, and makes such a fuss over him? He's her own, and we're not; she loves him and doesn't love us. Did she ever beat Robbie?"
"Robbie isn't naughty," Duncan protested; "at least, only a very little sometimes."
Elsie uttered an impatient exclamation. "Does Robbie have to fetch milk, and go to school, and pick up wood? No; he's treated different. Now you know why I don't like her."
Duncan gave vent to a sigh of perplexity. There rose up in his mind a sort of uncomfortable feeling that everything was going topsy-turvy. Somehow or another he seemed to see Robbie's mother sitting by the side of Elsie's bed when she had the fever last winter, and bustling about to get nice things for her, hushing the others with a strange look in her eyes that made them quiet at once, for they could see she was troubled. Or he seemed to smell the grateful smell of the hot cakes waiting, crisp and tempting, before the big cheerful fire, to greet them on their return from afternoon school on a dreary winter day. She had been kind, though she was so strict, especially to Elsie, and Duncan was feeling something very much like sorrow to think that, after all, she was not their mother.
"What are you going to do, Elsie?" he asked presently.
"I've just been wondering when you were going to ask me that. Of course it can't stop like this. Haven't you heard granny say how rich Uncle Grosvenor was, and what a grand place it was where he lived? Well, then, he's a grand laird, an' if we lived with him you'd be a little laird, and me a lady. Does he think we have to fetch milk and butter, and go after the hens, an' all that? But I'm goin' to let him know all about it."
"Well," Elsie replied, "I've been thinking of that, an' it's just a real difficult matter; for I'd never get time to write all the long explanation, with that she always prying after me. She'd find it out, an' stop the letter, even if I could find the paper; an' I dunno' as I can spell all the long words it 'ud take to explain it. An' more too, I couldn't wait an' wait for the answer. We ought to go an' see Uncle—R. Grosvenor. I've almost made up my mind, Duncan, that I'll go to England an' find him."
"You couldn't do it," Duncan said.
"Couldn't I?" Elsie said scornfully, "It isn't so very far. England's another country, but it joins on. You only step out o' one into the other, for I looked most particular; an' there wasn't even mountains to get over. There's only what folk call the border, an' I'm sure that isn't much. P'raps it's a line, or a road, or a ditch, or something like it. You go straight out of Scotland—as straight as ever you can go. I've looked on the map. Give it me now. If you go from Dunster you've only to keep in a straight line till you get into England, an' any one'll tell you the way to London."
"I'm sure it's a dreadful long way," Duncan said disconsolately. "I should be frightened while you was gone, till you came back."
"Come back," said Elsie. "I shan't never do that, I hope. When I find my father he'll take care o' me. Now then, will you come with me, Duncan?"
"I don't think I'd go, Elsie. We might get lost," Duncan urged. "I wish you could write a letter instead."
"I've made up my mind to go if I do anything at all," Elsie said, in a tone of decision. "You needn't come unless you like."
Duncan looked perplexed again. This was indeed an awkward predicament. The thought of running away to England didn't seem nice, somehow, but if Elsie went and he stayed, how frightened he'd be all the time about her; and when they questioned him, how would he be able to keep her secret, especially if Robbie's mother had that troubled look in her eyes? and how lonely it would be going backwards and forwards across the moor all alone without Elsie.
"I wish you wouldn't go, Elsie," he said to her presently.
"Most likely I shall," Elsie replied. "Mind you tell no tales. We must be quick home now. Come along; I shall have to think of ever so many things before we go, so you'll have plenty o' time to know whether you'll come or stay behind. Oh, I know I shall be a real lady, Duncan, an' have bonny clothes. Of course I shouldn't like fetching milk an' things when I'm a little lady born. Isn't it a shame, Duncan?"
"I dunno; I don't mind," Duncan then said.
"Give me the atlas," Elsie said; "I must get away an' have a goodish look at it when we get in, for you must be quite sure and take it back this afternoon."
But Elsie was not to "get away," for Mrs. MacDougall was waiting at the gate with a basket by her side.
"You've been loiterin' again," she cried briskly. "I've been waitin' this half-hour for you to take these beans down to the shop. Here's a bit o' bread you can eat along the road, an' you'll have just to make haste."
Elsie cast a defiant glance at the basket as she took it slowly up. She knew too well its destination. The neatly tied-up bundles of young well-grown beans lying on the fresh cabbage-leaves would be one of the attractions of the village shop. A day or two ago all the plums that were ripe had gone the same way, to the children's disgust. Mrs. MacDougall was a clever gardener, and had a ready sale for her small stock of produce. To-day Elsie and Duncan would get no dinner beyond the bit of bread. That was the result of their loitering. They had lost the valuable time through their talk over the letter.
But Elsie quite lost sight of the fact that she alone was responsible for losing it, and was very angry about it.
"I have quite decided," she said to Duncan. "This is what I'll do; to England I will go!"
(To be continued.)
LITTLE MISS PROPRIETY.
"Dainty little maiden, Sitting there in state, While the music's calling, And the dancers wait.
"A courtly little beau For your hand is waiting: What is it, my dear, That you are debating?
"Do the pretty slippers Pinch your tiny feet? Tell me quickly, dearie, Why you keep your seat."
Little maiden answers, Anger in her face, "We's not bin intodoost: It's twite a disgwase!"
FIGHTING WITH A SHADOW.
"It is much pleasanter to be by oneself, then there is no one to quarrel with," said Pussy.
And she stretched herself out on the soft, mossy turf, and half closed her eyes, purring gently. She was a young cat, and got into much trouble at home, for she was constantly quarrelling with her brothers and sisters. She said it was their fault, and they said it was hers. And Mrs. Grimalkin, the old cat, said that there were faults on both sides.
"I'm not a bad temper," said Pussy; "and I never quarrel with people unless they quarrel with me." So saying, she opened her eyes wider, and looked round. She liked the warm sunshine, and the scent of the flowers, and the soft velvet turf.
How pleasant it was!
"I should like to live here always," she said. "Then Tib, Frisk, and Kitty would not be able to tease me as they do. It is very annoying to be tormented all the time, and if one says a word in one's own defence, one gets blamed for being quarrelsome. The idea of my quarrelling with any one: it is perfectly absurd."
And Pussy purred and looked round complacently.
Presently she crept down to the water's edge, and peeped over into the smooth glassy stream; and as she did so she saw a cat's face looking up at her. She stretched out her paw to give it a pat, and the other cat did the same. Then she drew away, and raised her back as high as she could. So did the other cat, only it seemed to Pussy as if she were upside down.
"So provoking," said Pussy; "just as I fancied I was all alone here, to find that there is a cat under the water coming up to trouble me. Probably she has a large family down there, and they will come swarming up and be as disagreeable as my own sisters and brothers. And how exceedingly mean of her not to give notice that she was coming. I should have heard the faintest mew, for everything is so quiet here. It is evident that her intentions are hostile, or she would not steal up like a thief. But I will certainly not stand such behaviour."
And again she put out her paw.
So did the other cat.
"Where do you come from?" asked Pussy. But she received no answer.
"Speak!" said she, impatiently waving her tail.
The other cat waved in return, but no answer came. Then Pussy began to get very angry. So did the other cat.
And they grew fiercer and fiercer, making strange faces at each other, until at length Pussy became so much enraged that she prepared to spring upon her enemy, and would the next moment have plunged into the water, had not some one suddenly seized the tip of her tail.
She turned to avenge herself upon the new offender, when lo! who should it be but her own mother, Mrs. Grimalkin, who happened to be out on a foraging expedition, and chanced to pass that way.
"You foolish young creature," said she; "if I had not been here you would have been drowned. Don't you see that it is but your own image in the water: there isn't another cat there; it is only your own shadow. But cats as quarrelsome as you are, when they can find no one else to fight with, will fight even with a shadow."
PRETTY WORK FOR LITTLE FINGERS.
This is very pretty and easy work, just the thing for any little folk who are anxious to help a fancy sale for some good cause, or to make a nice useful present to a friend, but who have not time or skill to undertake anything long and difficult. It is very quickly done, and can be used for toilet-covers and mats (these should be edged with narrow torchon lace), night-dress cases, aprons, comb-bags, and a number of useful articles; it is much admired, and always sells well at a bazaar.
All you have to do is to get some common glass-cloth, tolerably fine, with cross-bars of red or blue, and some red or navy blue knitting-cotton, which you can buy either by the pound or the ball.
Two ounces will do a quantity of work, and cost about the same as a ball. With this, which may be either the same colour as that of the material or the contrasting one, the pattern is worked upon the squares formed by the cross-bars, as in Fig. 1, and in this way a number of pretty devices can be formed. Toilet-covers and large aprons should have a border as in Fig. 2; for mats a single border will suffice. Bags, &c, may be worked in checquers, every alternate square, or in large cross-bars, by carrying on Fig. 2 over the whole surface, but when you choose a large pattern, always count the squares before you cut off your piece, or you may find the pattern break off in the middle.
I have seen a very effective-looking bag, all the squares of which were worked over with dark blue cotton, the bars being blue, and two tiny red stitches worked as in Fig. 3, wherever a simple cross was formed by the cotton intersecting the stripe of the material.
Use a darning or crewel needle, and a very long thread, or you will have to be continually taking fresh. This work is sometimes done with crewel wool, and in rather a different way, see Fig. 4; but it is not so neat and pretty, in my opinion, as that done with cotton, and is more extravagant, since the wool must be used double and every stitch repeated.
I once saw a large apron with bib and pocket bordered with squares worked in this style with bright dark ultramarine crewels, and with ribbon strings of the same colour; it had a handsome effect. I shall only say in conclusion that I have no doubt the clever brains and nimble fingers of some of my young readers will soon be able to improve upon these simple elementary designs, and to produce some new and more elaborate ones which will give them all the more pleasure for being of their own creating.
STORIES TOLD IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
By EDWIN HODDER ("OLD MERRY").
I.—HOW THE ABBEY WAS BUILT.
One day some children came to me, and said, "Oh, do please take us out somewhere on our half-holiday, and show us some of the great sights of London." Remembering how it had once been my privilege to be one of a party invited to go over Westminster Abbey, under the guidance of the late Dean Stanley, and how, from his graphic descriptions, the Abbey had ever since had an additional wealth of interest to me, I proposed to these young people that they should meet me some Saturday afternoon, and I would take them over the Abbey, and tell them all I could remember or read up about its history. They were delighted with the proposal, and so to the Abbey we went.
I should like to take all the readers of LITTLE FOLKS in the same way, but I remember the story of the British Princess, named St. Ursula, who undertook to "personally conduct" eleven thousand young maidens to Rome, and how she came to grief on the return journey, as any one may see who goes to Cologne, where all their bones are preserved in a church; and as I should have a great many more followers than she, I think it will be better if I try in the next six numbers to tell you what I told the young people who went with me on that Saturday afternoon and on other afternoons, and as nearly as I can in the same words.
Now, girls and boys, before we enter the portals of Westminster Abbey, I want you first to come with me and walk round about it, so as to see it well from the outside; and first of all, we will post ourselves near to the great hall built by William Rufus as a portion of his intended palace. It was upon this spot that Edward the Confessor dwelt, and for fifteen years watched the erection of the Abbey. But you must not imagine that the beautiful building that rises so grandly before us as we stand here to-day is the same that the Confessor reared, for of his famous church only one or two columns and low-browed arches are now in existence. Of the edifice we now behold, the central portions were built by Henry III., the nave was added under the Edwards and Henry V., the gorgeous eastern chapel was raised by Henry VII., and bears his name, and the western towers rose when George III. was king.
But I shall have more to say to you presently about these various additions. Let us cross over now to St. Margaret's Churchyard, and as we stroll round the Abbey, I will tell you how it came to be built at all. To get at the very beginning, we shall have to go back to a time long before Edward the Confessor sat watching his workmen—to the days when London was a Roman city, and when the site of modern Westminster was a marshy tract of ground, crossed by various streams and channels. At that time the river Thames and one of these channels enclosed an island about a quarter of a mile long and somewhat less in breadth. It was a marshy wilderness, and had the character of being "a terrible place," and amongst its swamps and thickets the huge red deer, with his immense antlers, and the wild ox found a refuge. When it received a name, it became known as Thorn-Ey, that is, Isle of Thorns; in later days people called it Thorney Island. Tradition says that in the midst of the wilderness there was erected, in the year 154 A.D., a Temple of Apollo. We are next told that King Lucius, who was said to have been the founder of a great many English churches, turned the temple into a Christian sanctuary. Then we hear that in 616 A.D., Sebert, King of Essex, founded an Abbey here, and dedicated it to St. Peter, "in order to balance the compliment he had made to St. Paul on Ludgate Hill." All this is very doubtful, but from the earliest times in history there has been shown a grave of Sebert as that of the founder of the Abbey.
Twelve monks of the Benedictine order were placed here by Dunstan, and suffered a great deal from the Danes, who in these times did much mischief in England. The last of the Saxon kings who kept up the long struggle with these pagans was Edward, who by his exile to escape from their tyranny won the title of Confessor. He was a very strange man, who seemed never thoroughly happy except when he was sitting in church or when he was hunting in the woods. He had milk-white hair and beard, rosy cheeks, "thin white hands, and long transparent fingers." He was sometimes gentle, sometimes furious; sometimes very grave, going about with eyes fixed on the ground, sometimes bursting out into wild fits of laughter.
Edward returned from his exile accompanied by Norman courtiers and Norman priests, and full of Norman ideas. He appears to have been very much delighted with his visits to the great continental cathedrals, so different from the simple structures of the Saxons. During his troubles he had vowed to make a pilgrimage to Rome; but the Pope gave him leave to build an Abbey to St. Peter instead. Edward accordingly resolved to restore the monastery on the Isle of Thorns, on a very different scale from anything that had been before attempted in England.
According to a legend told in after years, there was near Worcester a holy hermit "of great age, living on fruits and roots," who dwelt "far from men in a wilderness on the slope of a wood, in a cave deep down in the grey rock." To this holy man St. Peter appeared one night, and bade him tell the king that he was released from his pilgrimage, and that at Thorney, near the city, he must build a Benedictine Abbey, which should be "the gate of heaven, the ladder of prayer, whence those who serve St. Peter there shall be by him admitted into Paradise." The hermit wrote out his dream on parchment, and sent it to the king, who compared it with the message to the same purpose just received from Rome, and at once set to work on the project.
Another story was told to show that Thorney was specially under the patronage of St. Peter. It was said that on the evening before Mellitus, first Bishop of London, was about to consecrate the monastery built here by King Sebert, a fisherman named Edric was engaged by a venerable stranger to ferry him across to the island. The stranger entered the church, and assisted by a host of angels, who descended with sweet odours and flaming candles, dedicated the church with all the usual ceremonies. Then returning to the awe-struck fisherman, the mysterious stranger declared himself to be St. Peter, Keeper of the Keys of Heaven, and that he had consecrated his own Church of St. Peter, Westminster. When the king and Bishop Mellitus arrived next day, Edric told his story, and pointed out the marks of the twelve crosses on the church, the walls within and without moistened with holy water, the letters of the Greek alphabet written twice over distinctly on the sand, the traces of the oil, and even the droppings of the angelic candles. The bishop could not presume to add any further ceremonial, but retired.
Edward restored the old royal palace close by, and dwelt there fifteen years, superintending the erection of the Abbey. Dean Stanley says he spent upon it one-tenth of the property of the kingdom. His end was approaching when he dedicated the Abbey, on Innocents Day, 1065, and on the last day of the year he died. I shall tell you about his funeral later on.
The edifice stood pretty much as Edward the Confessor left it till the reign of Henry III., who showed his love for the Abbey first by adding to it, and then by demolishing it almost entirely, and raising in its place the building that has been called "the most lovely and lovable thing in Christendom." In this rebuilding St. Peter was almost lost sight of, and the Shrine and Chapel of Edward the Confessor became, as it were, the central idea of the whole. Very lavishly did King Henry spend his money over the restored Abbey: the cost was at least half a million, as we should reckon it. His work includes the apse and choir, the two transepts, one arch of the nave, and the chapter-house; Under the Edwards the nave unfolded itself farther west, and the Abbot's House and Jerusalem Chamber were built. Richard II. was very fond of the Abbey, and rebuilt, at great expense, the famous north portal, often spoken of as "The Beautiful Gate," or "Solomon's Porch." By Henry V. the nave was prolonged nearly to its present length. It was just completed in time for the grand procession to sweep along it when the Te Deum was sung for the victory at Agincourt. The architect by whom the work was carried out was Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London.
The next important addition to the Abbey took place in the reign of Henry VII., when the large eastern chapel which bears that monarch's name was built. The great wars of York and Lancaster were now over, but amongst the chief actors in those tragic events there was one who, by his saintly goodness and sufferings, had left a revered name upon the lips of Englishmen. Images of Henry VI. were seen in great churches throughout the country, and stories of his good works and miracles were everywhere told. Henry VII. promised to build at Westminster a magnificent chapel, in memory of Henry VI. The Pope promised "canonisation" (as the making of a new saint is called), and the king obtained from the Westminster Convent 500 pounds (equal to 5,000 pounds nowadays) for the transference thither of the holy remains. But they were never brought from Windsor. Henry dreaded the immense expense, and completed the chapel as a grand sepulchre for himself and his new dynasty.
There is one feature of the Abbey, as seen from the outside, of which I have not spoken—the western towers. These were built as far as the roof by Abbot Islip, who witnessed the erection of Henry VII.'s Chapel. Two hundred and thirty years afterwards Sir Christopher Wren restored Islip's work, and designed the upper portions. The edifice is not yet complete, as the square central tower requires a lofty spire to complete it.
And so, young people, in the course of centuries, from out "the terrible place" in the wilderness-island has risen the famous Abbey of Westminster, the full title of which is the "Collegiate Church, or Abbey, of St. Peter." We have now got over the dry part of our subject, so we will enter the Abbey, and as we tread its holy shades together I shall have more interesting things to tell you about some of the famous men and women and stormy events that have made it for ever memorable.
"Now, Madge," cried Hal, and bent his bow, "Just watch this famous shot; See that old willow by the brook— I'll hit the middle knot." Swift flew the arrow through the air, Madge watched it eager-eyed; But, oh! for Harry's gallant vaunt, The wayward dart flew wide.
Flew wide, and struck his cousin's dove As, wheeling round and round, It hovered near—the wounded bird Fell fluttering to the ground. And in a moment o'er her pet Dear Madge is bending low. Oh, how she blames the faithless dart, The cruel, cruel bow!
The dove, soft folded in her hands, She presses to her breast; The bird that brought the olive spray Was never more caressed. Her tears upon its plumage fall, They fall like soft warm rain— Sure if the bird were dead such love Would give it life again.
Poor Hal stands by, and tries to speak His sorrow and regret; Madge scarcely hears a word he says For pity of her pet. But time, the gentle healer, cures The wounds of doves and men— The days restore to faithful Madge Her bonnie bird again.
OUR SUNDAY AFTERNOONS.
SOLOMON'S DREAM AT GIBEON.
It had been a great day at Gibeon. A thousand animals had been slaughtered, and laid upon the altar of burnt-offering; and, as the successive sacrifices were consumed, the flames had ascended, and the smoke, in curling clouds, had gone up towards heaven in token of acceptance.
A new king had come to the throne, a grand, and great, and mighty king, Solomon, the most comely of the sons of David. The fierce fightings of David, the man of war, were over. The glittering crown of Israel had been placed upon the head of Solomon the Peaceable; and the people hoped great things, and celebrated his accession with loud and hearty rejoicings. The dominion of Israel extended, as had been promised to Abraham, from the Euphrates to the river of Egypt. David and his mighty men had fought and conquered. And now the people of Israel were entering into rest, and into the enjoyment of that which his sword had won for them.
So Solomon, in his gratitude, offered up his thousand burnt-offerings; and the people, with heart and soul, joined him in praise to God, and their joyous psalms of thanksgiving went up with the ascending smoke.
Gibeon, which was a priestly city, lay in the tribe of Benjamin, about six miles and a half from Jerusalem; and there, in the reign of David, the Tabernacle, which had been at Shiloh, had somehow come to be pitched.
So Gibeon had become an important place; and thither Solomon went to offer up his sacrifice.
The flames that had consumed the last animal had died away, and the cloud of smoke had ceased to go up. The sun that had lighted up the world had sunk below the horizon, amid clouds of gold and purple, seemingly well pleased to have witnessed, on this sin-stained earth, so grand and noble a scene as that of a young and happy, handsome and rich king, recognising God's providence, and offering up so worthy a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to Him who had placed him upon the throne.
The shades of night had fallen upon all, and the joyous king himself had retired to rest. With a clear conscience and a light heart, he had lain down, and, after the fatigues of the eventful day, had fallen into a peaceful sleep.
For all his subjects loved and honoured Solomon, and gloried in having him for their king.
Well might his heart be light and his sleep be sweet. Well might his face be radiant with joy, even as he lay unconscious upon his bed. But soon an expression of still greater joy overspread his countenance. A still brighter light came into his face, and his heart leaped within him; for, in a dream of the night, God drew near this chosen and well-beloved son of David, to heap upon him still greater favours.
Pleased with the love and gratitude and devotion, to which the young king had given expression by his costly sacrifice, God, who loves a thankful heart, and pours into it still more of His goodness, visited the sleeping Solomon in the stillness of the night.
"Ask what I shall give thee," He said; and as the voice fell upon Solomon's ear—
"The heart of the sleeper beat high in his breast, Joy quickened his pulse;"
for that was the voice that he then most loved, and most desired to hear.
And what an exceedingly gracious offer it made! To get whatever he should desire! Had ever grandest king been so favoured? But what should he ask for—this youthful king, to whom life was just opening out as a pleasant paradise, offering him all that seemed worth the coveting? Was there anything yet wanting to him? How many things he might have requested!
His father is said to have died, at the age of seventy years, feeble and broken down. Would he, in so short a time, be tired of living? Would he, so soon, be ready to leave the glory and honour to which he had been called? Should he ask for length of days? Should he request that, till he had reached an age exceeding that of Methuselah, the cold hand of death might not be laid upon him, and the greedy and all-devouring tomb might not claim him as its victim? Should he ask that he might plant his feet upon the neck of all his enemies, not one daring to raise up a finger against him? Or should he desire that the vast riches, that had been heaped up by his father during his long and victorious wars, and that had been left to him, might be still further increased, and that he might be the richest and grandest king on the face of the earth? Or should he ask that he might become so famous, that so long as the world should endure, his name might be a household word, not only amongst his own people, but in distant lands, from east to west, and from north to south, wherever the foot of man might tread?
Oh, no! All these things, which many would have desired, were to him but empty things of earth, trifles that must pass away, vain bubbles that must burst and disappear, leaving behind them no true and lasting benefit. His thoughts did not dwell upon them, but upon higher, and better, and nobler things.
He, the last born of David's sons, had been chosen before all his brethren, to sit upon the glorious throne of his father. Those over whom he had been called to rule were the chosen people of God. They had been taken out of all the nations of the world to be His own peculiar people, and to witness, amidst the idolatrous nations around them, to the living and true God. The heart of God was set upon them. His love was freely poured out upon them, and He had bound them to Himself, closely as a man bound around him his valued girdle. They were the descendants of faithful Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob. They had become great, and mighty, and powerful, spreading themselves out like the cedars of Lebanon, and flourishing like the stately palms. All the surrounding nations looked upon them as the favoured of Heaven, and feared them.
And he was called to rule them—he, so young and so inexperienced! It was his mission to rule them with justice, to train them in the paths of righteousness, and to bring them still nearer to Him who had chosen them.
And how should he accomplish it? How small and insignificant he felt, and how utterly worthless! How he seemed to dwindle into nothing beside the great work that he was called to do! And yet how anxious he was to do it well! How he longed to be like his father David, a true shepherd to his people! How his heart yearned over his subjects; and how greatly he desired to govern them aright, and to be the channel through which the blessings of the great King of Heaven might be poured down upon them!
Yes, that was the one thing he desired—worthily to perform the great work which had been given him to do. And young and inexperienced as he was, he could not do it of himself, and he must ask for the needful wisdom.
A shade of regret for a moment darkened the face of the sleeper as he thought of his own inefficiency. But it soon passed away. There was wisdom for the asking; and his bright red lips moved in humble prayer.
"O Lord," he murmured in deep reverence, "Thou hast showed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead. And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people, which thou hast chosen—a great people that cannot be counted for multitude. I am but a little child. I know not how to go out, or to come in. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, for who can judge this Thy people that is so great?"
How pleasing to God were the deep humility expressed in this prayer, the discernment of the great work that he was called to do; the earnest desire to be fitted to do it nobly and well, and the utter forgetfulness of all earthly glory and fame!
There was no word of reproach, no saying that as the son of David he ought to be well qualified for governing. Only the gracious answer came, that, because all this was in the heart of the young king, because he had made the worthy fulfilment of his mission the grand aim of his life, wisdom and knowledge were granted to him. And because he had desired these rather than long life, or riches, or honour, or the lives of his enemies, there should also be given to him riches, and wealth, and honour, such as no king had ever enjoyed before him or should ever know after him. And if he served God faithfully, as his father David had done, length of days, also, should be added unto him.
The young king awoke, "and, behold it was a dream." But it was not one of those fanciful dreams, that come and go, and mean nothing. It was a dream from God, a great reality, as he was soon to prove.
From that time Solomon became noted for his wisdom and knowledge. On the most difficult points he was able to give a just judgment, that astonished all who heard it. "And the people feared him; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him."
His wisdom excelled that of all the wise men of the east, and the understanding of even the wise men of Egypt sank into the shade when compared with his.
He gave his people three thousand proverbs. He wrote a thousand and five songs; one of them which is called the "Song of Songs," or the "Song of Solomon," and which has a place in the Bible, having a depth of beautiful meaning, which only the very wise can understand. He knew all about the trees, from the kingly cedar that reared its proud head on the famous heights of Lebanon, to the humble hyssop that sprang out of the wall. He could tell the nature of each, describe its flowers and its fruit, and point out of what it was symbolic. The beasts of the earth, the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, and even the creeping things were all to him as an open book. He could tell for what each was created, and what lesson each was intended to convey. He could answer the most difficult questions that any one could put to him; and his fame rapidly spread through all the countries of the then known world.
He became so rich, too, that silver and gold were as common as the stones that he saw lying in the streets, as he rode through Jerusalem in his open chariot, clothed in white, threads of glittering gold mixed with his jet black hair.
He erected the glorious temple, which for grandeur and magnificence stood unrivalled; and time would fail to tell of the splendour of his throne, of his palace, and of the palace which he built for his favourite wife.
In almost all countries, his name has been familiar; and, to this day, the wild Arabs will tell wondrous stories about him, as they gather at night round their blazing fires. His grandeur and wisdom have ever since been proverbial; and even Jesus, when He wished to compare the lilies of the field with something very magnificent, spoke of "Solomon in all his glory."
The great king, however, did not get length of days, because he afterwards grievously fell. But, without darkening this story with the account of his subsequent sins, let us try rather to learn some of the useful lessons that it is intended to teach. Perhaps you have already found them out.
Like Solomon, we have all in life a great work to do, and we all lack wisdom. But we have only, as St. James tells us, to "ask of God," who giveth to all men liberally, without reproaching them for their foolishness. And if we seek the wisdom that comes from above—the wisdom of Jesus Christ, we need have no fear; for, as the great Master Himself tells us, all other things will be added unto us.
BIBLE EXERCISES FOR SUNDAY AFTERNOONS.
1. Which is the only miracle of our Lord that is related by all the four Evangelists?
2. What city, after its destruction, was sown with salt, as a sign of the barrenness and desolation that its enemies wished to see come upon it?
3. How many lepers are we told, were cleansed by our Lord?
4. Whence did Solomon procure the pattern according to which he built the Temple?
5. Where does the psalmist call God the health of the countenance?
6. What is the only occasion on which we read of Jesus sleeping?
7. Where is Mary, the mother of Jesus, last mentioned.
8. Where do we read that, while, in the reign of David, the old Tabernacle remained at Gibeon, a new tent was pitched at Jerusalem for the ark of the Lord?
9. In which place, after the pitching of the new Tabernacle, did the high priest officiate?
10. Where do we find that Solomon, on his accession, recognised the sanctity of both places?
11. Where is there a prophecy of Jonah concerning Israel, not recorded in the Bible, alluded to in the history of the kings?
12. From what words of St. Paul do we gather that other Christians; besides Stephen, were put to death during the persecution at Jerusalem?
ANSWERS TO BIBLE EXERCISES (61-72. See Vol. XIX., p. 346).
61. In Lev. xix. 14, and Deut. xxvii. 18.
62. In St. Matt. xxvi. 30, and St. Mark xiv. 26.
63. In Gen. xviii. 14; Jer. xxxii. 17, 27; Job xlii. 2; St. Matt. xix. 26; St. Mark x. 27, xiv. 36; St. Luke i. 37, xviii. 27.
64. In St. Mark xii. 41-44; St. Luke xxi. 1-4; and 2 Cor. viii. 12.
65. Of the mother of Samson, Judges xiii. 2-24, xiv. 2-9; and Hannah, the mother of Samuel, 1 Sam. i., ii. 1-10, 18-21.
66. In Judges xiv. 12-19; and Ezek. xvii. 1-10.
67. Proverbs xii. 10.
68. In St. Matt. vi. 25-34; and St. Luke xii. 22-30.
69. In St. Matt, xxiii. 5.
70. St. John xvii. 4.
71. In Lev. xix. 13; and Deut. xxiv. 14, 15.
72. In Deut. xxi. 22, 23.
Nessie was lost—her brothers Had sought her high and low: Where in the world was Baby? Nobody seemed to know.
"Mother," at last said Harry, "Now don't you be afraid; We'll make up a grand search party, And find our little maid."
Harry led forth his followers, Down by the willowed pond, Past the old grey turnstile, And into the woods beyond.
They searched by stream and meadow, They searched 'neath hedge and tree; "Where," said the puzzled children, "Where can the truant be?"
At last, at last they found her, In a meadow far away, Under a sheltering haystack, Asleep 'mid the fragrant hay.
They brought her home in triumph, A merry sight to see, With flags and banners flying, And songs of victory.
TOO YOUNG FOR SCHOOL.
By the Author of "Harry Maxwell; or, Schoolboy Honour."
"Here, I say, old fellow! what's the matter? you look as sulky as a brown bear. And where's your cap gone? I say now, do wake up! You'll catch it if old Jacky catches you."
"Let me be. You would look sulky if you had a little chap of a brother sent to school, miles too young to come at all, and had got to look after him and keep him out of scrapes, and show him how to get on with his lessons, and keep the fellows from bullying him."
"Why in the world did he come, Graham?"
"Oh, don't bother, Johnny, old man," and as he spoke, Hubert Graham drew his arm away from the parapet over which he was leaning with book in hand, and turning round a frank, honest-looking face towards the boy who was questioning him, passed his hand over his eyes, and added, "What can have come to Uncle Charlie to make him send Chris off like this, I can't think. Middle of term too!"
"Well, how is it?—explain to me—but—I say, old fellow, where's your cap? you'll be in no end of a row if you lose it, you know."
Up went Hubert Graham's hand to his head, as he answered in a bewildered way, "Cap! Haven't I got—" and then hastily turning, and looking over the parapet, he exclaimed, "Oh! I say, Seton, just look there!" and he burst out into a hearty laugh as he added "One of those barge boys has just fished it up out of the water, and he's holding it up in triumph to me. I must have been dreaming. It's out of bounds," he went on, with a face of dismay.
"I wonder if the fellow will bring it up to me."
"Not he," said Seton.
Dr. Thornley's boys were not allowed to go, without special leave, any nearer the town on the outskirts of which the school was situated than the bridge over which Hubert had been leaning. The approach of a master solved the difficulty. Hubert Graham went up to him. "If you please, sir, I was leaning over the parapet, and my cap fell into the river. A bargee has picked it up. May I run and get it?"
The master looked over, and laughed. "Perhaps he won't give it up. You may go and try."
When Hubert Graham returned to the bridge in triumph so far as the possession of a very wet cap was concerned, but rather low in his mind at having had to pay the exacting bargee a shilling out of his somewhat scanty store of pocket-money, he found John Seton lingering about for him.
"I say," he said, "I want to know about your uncle, and the little one. He's a jolly little man though; I expect he'll make his way."
"But there's a terrible set in the lower school for him to make his way with, and he a mere baby."
"Well! he's seven—and that seems like a baby to us, to be sure," said magnificent fourteen years, speaking in the person of John Seton; "and you're right. They are a set; I wish I was the prefect in his dormitory, but I'm not. Tell me how he came here in such a hurry?"
"Well, you needn't talk about it to the other fellows. Father and mother are in India. Father's regiment was ordered abroad four years ago, and mother went with him. There were three of us, and we were sent to Uncle Charlie to take care of. I was eight years old then, Nellie was five, and Chris three years old. Uncle was jolly and kind, and sent me here when I was ten. Just before the summer holidays were over Uncle Charlie married, and I'm sure our new aunt does not care for us to be there. But I never thought they'd send Chris to school. I wonder what they'll do with Nellie?"
"Can't you write to your father?"
"I will directly, but it's so long before I can hear."
* * * * *
A poor little fellow taken from the nursery. A brave, bright little man enough, but oh! so young, so pitifully young to be sent to a school where there were fifty or sixty boys in what was called the lower school only! Poor little Christopher! If his mother could have seen him! He came—bright—happy—full of life, determined to like it; but before two days were over his little soul was full of misery. The boys of ten and eleven years became his dread and torment. On the second day he saw nothing of Hubert till the evening, and then he said, "Hubert, why couldn't I go to our grandfather?"
"Nobody even thought of such a thing, Chris. I don't expect our grandfather would like us."
"How do you know?" said the child.
"Oh! don't bother," returned his brother. "Only by what I've heard nurse say. She was talking one day to Jane, and she said, 'The children would have gone to General Graham's, only, you know, he was angry with master for marrying, and so master never asked him to have them.' I asked nurse what she meant, and she was vexed that I'd heard it, and said it was nothing I could understand."
"But I am so miserable here."
"Try to like it. Seton says you can go into his study to-night, and do your exercises. The fellows in the school don't leave you alone, do they, Chris?"
"No," said poor little Chris; "they don't." And sitting in Seton's little study that night the child found comfort for the first time.
And for a few days things seemed better. But it was not to last. Those boys in the lower school, who had tormented him before, were worse than ever, now that they thought he was being made a favourite of by one of the senior boys, and the poor little fellow had no peace. He complained bitterly to his brother, but it was no good. Hubert said it would only make the boys ten times worse if he interfered. "And never mind, old fellow," he said; "it's half-holiday to-morrow, and you'll get some jolly games."
"Jolly games," thought poor little Christopher; "I know better. They won't be very jolly to me."
And then Christopher made up his mind, and in his brave little heart determined to tell no one, but to run away, if he only could, to his grandfather. He knew the way to the station from the school, and he knew that trains went direct to a station called Kingsdown, where Uncle Charlie always went when he visited grandfather. "After all, he can't be worse than the boys," he said to himself. "And Hubert can't help me."
But Hubert did care. His smothered indignation and anxiety knew no bounds, and the very night that Chris made up his mind to run away, long after the other boys in his dormitory were asleep, Hubert lay awake thinking how he could help his little brother. He fancied he heard a noise in one of the dormitories. It seemed, he thought, to come from the direction of the one in which Christopher was. He raised himself on his elbow to listen, and muttered to himself, "They shall only wait till to-morrow, and then those two fellows, Howard and Peters, shall have a piece of my mind. They're the ringleaders. It shall be the worse for them if they've been frightening him to-night."
And he lay there listening till all seemed quiet, and then saying to himself, "The poor little chap is at peace now, I expect," he turned round, and dropped off to sleep.
But he had not been listening quite long enough.
Little Christopher waited till all the boys in his room were sound asleep, pinching himself to keep himself awake; then out of bed he crept, felt for his clothes, which were close at hand, huddled them on, put his feet into his felt slippers, as he dared not put on any boots, and got out in the passage. His bed was near the door, which was fortunate, for he thought, if he had had to pass many of the boys' beds, his courage would have failed him. Down the stairs he stole—oh! how they creaked—and unfastening the shutters of one of the school-room windows, got out of it into the garden. But ah! he hadn't calculated on the big dog, whose kennel was hard by, and who was out in a moment.
"Dear, darling Ponto," cried the poor little fellow; "don't bark, my dear." And up he went, and stroked and patted the great mastiff, who, already knowing the little fellow, put his paws on his shoulders, and licked his face with great appreciation. For Christopher was tenderly kind to animals, and he was rewarded for this now in his day of deep distress. Ponto did not bark.
Christopher whispered to him. "Ponto, I'm very unhappy. I'm running away. I wish I could take you with me. I only love you here; excepting Hubert, and he can't help me;" and away he stole.
As he got into the high road the early dawn of morning gave him a little light.
All was consternation in the school later, in the morning. A boy missing! Dr. Thornley summoned the whole school before him. Could any boy give him any information?
Hubert came forward. "He said he should run away yesterday, sir; but I had no notion the poor boy would or could, or I'd never have left him last night."
"Why?—for what reason?" said Dr. Thornley, his face growing sterner and graver.
John Seton came forward. "I'm afraid, sir, there's very bad bullying in the lower school."
"So bad as this, that a boy should run away!" said the doctor; "and you a prefect!"
The colour mounted high in John Seton's fine young face.
"I've not had anything to do with the discipline the three weeks since Graham minor has been here, sir; but some of us meant to speak. It could not go on."
"May I go after him, sir?" said Hubert, his voice quivering with anxiety.
"I have sent to search for him in all directions," said the doctor. "A poor little child like that might meet with many mishaps. I am surprised," and his voice shook, "that none of you bigger boys let me know of any of this base, low, ungentlemanly conduct."
The expression on the countenances of some of the boys of the lower school, as these words fell from the doctor's lips, may be imagined.
Dr. Thornley was the kindest-hearted of men, but there were certain offences that moved him greatly; and when moved to wrath, the boys knew he could be terrible.
"I must find this all out; and if the boys who have been bullying little Graham have not the bravery to come forward, and confess it of their own free will, I must take measures to discover who they were. But I warn them," added the doctor, "that if I find them out before they have come forward and freely confessed their base conduct, their time at this school will be short. To-day is a half-holiday. All the lower school will keep within bounds to-day."
At that instant "Old Jacky," as the boys called him, the school porter, brought the doctor a telegram. His face wore a look of great relief as he read it. And he turned to poor Hubert.
"Your brother is safe." Then to the school he said, "I have just had this telegram, which I will read, 'General Sir Henry Graham, Sefton Court, to Dr. Thornley, Middleborough. Christopher Graham safe with me. Shall make full inquiries.'"
At Sefton Court the same morning all was lazy and quiet. The blinds drawn down the entrance door side of the house to keep out the sun, but doors and windows thrown wide open. An old gentleman sitting in his library, reading his paper. Something made the old gentleman restless. He fidgeted. Something was wrong with his glasses. Then to himself he said, "I wish Henry was here. Shall write by next mail. Why shouldn't his wife come home, and bring the children here? I don't half like it now that Charlie's married. Perhaps she won't like the children. Got a craze on education too. They overdo it. Dear me! I wonder where that fellow Thomas is?"
And up got the old gentleman, and walked to the door. He had no sooner opened it than he gave a great start. "Hullo! What on earth is this?" What was it he saw?
His own old dog, Bevis, whose favourite sleeping-place was the mat at his door, lying there as usual, but not asleep. Wide awake, as if on guard. And marvel of marvels! a dear little fair-haired boy fast, fast asleep, with his head on the dog, who was lying so as to make himself into as comfortable a pillow as possible.
The old gentleman stared hard for a minute, then began to shout for Thomas, which woke the child, and he began to sob.
"There, there!" said the old general. "Who are you? You oughtn't to have come in without leave." By this time poor little Christopher, for it was he, had collected his scattered faculties, and catching hold of one of General Graham's hands, cried, "You're grandfather. Do take care of me. I'm so unhappy at school; I think I'm too little. So I said I'd come off to you. You wouldn't be as bad as the boys!"
"Who? who?" stammered the poor old general.
"I'm little Christopher Graham. Uncle Charlie sent me to school, and I'm too little, I expect. I ran away. I know it was naughty, but forgive me, and don't send me back. I had five shillings in my box, and I ran away in the night, and came here by the train in the morning; and I asked where you lived, and I walked here from the station, and I saw the door wide open, and I thought as it was grandfather's house I might come in; and I was afraid of the dog, but he didn't hurt me, and I knelt down to pat him, and I suppose I was very tired, for I can't remember any more."
But he needed to say no more, for he was in his grandfather's arms. And Thomas was close by, and brought some warm tea very quickly; and a kind-looking old lady came, who said to Christopher she was his great Aunt Susan, and that he must be undressed and have a warm bath, and go to bed to get a sound sleep before they let him tell them anything else.
The very next evening Aunt Susan called Christopher into the library. There was his very own Nellie sitting on grandfather's knee, and Hubert standing by!
Dr. Thornley had given Hubert one day's holiday to go and see Christopher. Later in the evening they were all three assembled in a pleasant cosy room, looking over funny old picture-books, which kind Aunt Susan turned out of her treasures.
"'All's well that ends well,'" said Hubert; "but you mustn't run away from school when you're bigger, old boy. You're only forgiven because you're a baby, you know."
And his grandfather said to him later on—
"My boy, in the battle-field no soldier worthy to bear the name of 'Englishman' ever turned his back on the enemy. What you had to bear was hard; but you turned your back on your enemy when you ran away. And you bear an ancient name, and you come of a noble race. We must do our Duty, come what will."
And Christopher never forgot these words.
THE HOME OF THE BEADS.
Who would believe it?
You may well open your eyes, and shake your little heads incredulously, but nevertheless it is a positive fact, that Venice, the fair Queen of the Adriatic, sends forth every year no less than three thousand tons of glass beads, for the adornment of your sisters big and little in all the four quarters of the globe.
The largest buyers of these pretty dainty toys are the Roman peasant women. America follows closely in their footsteps, Great Britain's turn comes next, then Germany puts in a modest claim, while the worst customers of all are the Scandinavians, to whose deep, earnest, thoughtful nature the glittering baubles appear mere useless trifles. Among the Russian, Turkish, and Hungarian women, only the richest classes indulge in these ornaments; they are scarcely ever seen among the people, which may perhaps be explained by the fact that they would not at all suit the various national costumes.
All those customers, however, who belong in reality to the civilised nations (for, as a rule, the higher the cultivation, the less are these shining ornaments appreciated), only demand the cheaper kinds of glass beads. The best and dearest, the so-called perle di luce, find their way to India and Africa, to the half-civilised and wholly savage races. And here, the long strings of gay glistening beads do not merely serve as finishing-touches to the costume, but form the principal ornament, and cover the neck, arms, hair, and slender ankles of many a Hindoo or Malay maiden, while among the Ethiopians they often represent the sole article of dress. By these people, the glass pearls are indeed looked upon as treasures, and the pretty string of Roman or Venetian beads which you, my little maiden, lay aside so carelessly, is among them the cause of as much heart-burning and anxious hopes and fears as the most costly diamond necklace would be among English people.
Japan, too, is not a bad market for their sale; whereas China again will have none of them, and turns her back rudely on fair Venice and its industry.
But come! Here lies a gondola ready to our hand—the boatman seems intuitively to have read our wishes, and as we glide over the blue rippling waters in which the stately palaces are mirrored clear and lifelike, we seem to see a second Venice reflected beneath us. Gradually we approach the island of Murano, on which is situated the largest of the seven great bead manufactories of Venice, and here Herr Weberbeck, a German, employs no less than 500 men and women. Altogether about 6,000 people earn their livelihood (and a poor one it is), by this wonderfully pretty industry, while the value of the exports amounts yearly to the sum of 300,000 pounds.
The manufacture itself surprises us by the great simplicity which characterises it. The first stage is getting the liquid mass of glass about to be operated upon into a thorough state of toughness and pliability: one should be able to pull it like rosin or sealing-wax. The colouring of the mass is done while it is still in the furnace, by adding various chemicals, the principal of which are arsenic, saltpetre, antimony, and lead.
The next process is drawing out the long glass pipes. This is most interesting. Let us, therefore, watch the man yonder, one of the glass-blowers, as, by means of an iron rod, he carefully lifts a ball of liquid glass, about the size of a small melon, from the open furnace, and with another simple instrument makes an indentation in the outer circle, nearly the size of that one sees at the bottom of a wine-bottle. His colleague, meanwhile, has done exactly the same to another ball of glass, and as they both press their balls together, the two outer circles merge into one, and the air inside the hollow spaces is completely shut off. Now the workmen draw back the iron rods, which are still attached to the hot mass, and a glass thread is seen connecting them to the centre ball. Then, keeping the strictest military time, the glass-blowers march off in opposite directions, to about the distance of a hundred yards, and the glowing glass thread spins itself off from both balls, until it is exhausted, or until the cold air hardens it. The imprisoned air has likewise, however, been spun out, and thus a hollow pipe, instead of a solid rod, has been formed, and so prepared the hole for the future beads.
The glass threads vary in thickness, from that of a pencil to that of a very thin knitting-needle. Those intended for beads of mixed colours are drawn out just in the same way, the only difference being that in that case the glass ball, as soon as it is taken from the furnace, is dipped in various coloured masses of liquid glass, which then form layers, one over the other, like the layers of an onion.
Sometimes, very tiny lumps of coloured glass are stuck on the glass balls, which then form parti-coloured stripes on the glass threads. The separating and sorting of the threads or pipes, which are now broken up into lengths of about three feet, is a widely-spread home-industry in Venice, and if we go down to the lower parts of the Lagoon city, where the people dwell, we shall see numbers of women and children seated before large baskets, out of which glass pipes protrude like the quills of a gigantic porcupine. With fingers spread wide apart, they carefully weigh and feel the contents of the baskets, till they have sorted all the pipes, according to their sizes. The different bundles are then carried back to the factory, where they are placed in a machine, not unlike a chaff-cutter, and cut up into small pieces. It is amusing to watch the coloured shower as it falls. Do not be afraid, but just place your hand beneath, to catch the glittering stream, and it will almost seem as if you had taken hold of a shower of hailstones.
Any pointed or jagged bits having been cut off, the beads are now rolled in fine sand, which has been carefully heated in earthen jars, until just warm enough to soften the outside of the glass, so that a gentle friction would rub off the sharp edges. The sand gets into the holes in the beads, prevents them from closing up during this process, and ere we can believe it possible, they come forth round, perfect, and complete. The larger and smaller ones are now separated and sorted by simply shaking them in different-sized sieves, and any beads that require an extra amount of polish are thrown into small bags filled with marl, and vigorously tossed and shaken.