VOL. V. FEBRUARY, 1878. No. 4.
[Copyright, 1878, by Scribner & Co.]
BY EMILY S. OAKEY.
Little Roy led his sheep down to pasture, And his cows, by the side of the brook; But his cows never drank any water, And his sheep never needed a crook.
For the pasture was gay as a garden, And it glowed with a flowery red; But the meadows had never a grass-blade, And the brooklet—it slept in its bed;
And it lay without sparkle or murmur, Nor reflected the blue of the skies. But the music was made by the shepherd, And the sparkle was all in his eyes.
Oh, he sang like a bird in the summer! And, if sometimes you fancied a bleat, That, too, was the voice of the shepherd, And not of the lambs at his feet.
And the glossy brown cows were so gentle That they moved at the touch of his hand O'er the wonderful rosy-red meadow, And they stood at his word of command.
So he led all his sheep to the pasture, And his cows, by the side of the brook; Though it rained, yet the rain never patter'd O'er the beautiful way that they took.
And it wasn't in Fairy-land either, But a house in a commonplace town, Where Roy as he looked from the window Saw the silvery drops trickle down.
For his pasture was only a table, With its cover so flowery fair, And his brooklet was just a green ribbon That his sister had lost from her hair.
And his cows they were glossy horse-chestnuts, That had grown on his grandfather's tree; And his sheep they were snowy-white pebbles He had brought from the shore by the sea.
And at length, when the shepherd was weary, And had taken his milk and his bread, And his mother had kissed him and tucked him, And had bid him "good-night" in his bed,
Then there enter'd his big brother Walter, While the shepherd was soundly asleep, And he cut up the cows into baskets, And to jack-stones turned all of the sheep.
THE RAVENS AND THE ANGELS.
(A Story of the Middle Ages.)
BY THE AUTHOR OF "CHRONICLES OF THE SCHOeNBERG-COTTA FAMILY."
The next day, Gottlieb began his training among the other choristers.
It was not easy.
The choir-master showed his appreciation of his raw treasure by straining every nerve to make it as perfect as possible; and therefore he found more fault with Gottlieb than with any one else.
The other boys might, he could not but observe, sing carelessly enough, so that the general harmony was pretty good; but every note of his seemed as if it were a solo which the master's ear never missed, and not the slightest mistake was allowed to pass.
The other choristers understood very well what this meant, and some of them were not a little jealous of the new favorite, as they called him. But to little Gottlieb it seemed hard and strange. He was always straining to do his very best, and yet he never seemed to satisfy. The better he did, the better the master wanted him to do, until he grew almost hopeless.
He would not, for the world, complain to his mother; but on the third evening she observed that he looked very sad and weary, and seemed scarcely to have spirits to play with Lenichen.
She knew it is of little use to ask little children what ails them, because so often their trouble is that they do not know. Some little delicate string within is jarred, and they know nothing of it, and think the whole world is out of tune. So she quietly put Lenichen to bed, and after the boy had said his prayers as usual at her knee, she laid her hand on his head, and caressingly stroked his fair curls, and then she lifted up his face to hers and kissed the little troubled brow and quivering lips.
"Dear little golden mouth!" she said, fondly, "that earns bread, and sleep, for the little sister and for me! I heard the sweet notes to-day, and I thanked God. And I felt as if the dear father was hearing them too, even through the songs in heaven."
The child's heart was opened, the quivering lips broke into a sob, and the face was hidden on her knee.
"It will not be for long, mother!" he said. "The master has found fault with me more than ever to-day. He made me sing passage after passage over and over, until some of the boys were quite angry, and said, afterward, they wished I and my voice were with the old hermit who houses us. Yet he never seemed pleased. He did not even say it was any better."
"But he never gave you up, darling!" she said.
"No; he only told me to come early, alone, to-morrow, and he would give me a lesson by myself, and perhaps I should learn better."
A twinkle of joy danced in her eyes, dimmed with so many tears.
"Silly child!" she said, fondly, "as silly as thy poor mother herself! The master only takes trouble, and chastens and rebukes, because he thinks it is worth while, because thou art trying and learning, and art doing a little better day by day. He knows what thy best can be, and will never be content with anything but thy very best."
"Is it that, mother? Is it indeed that?" said the boy, looking up with a sudden dawning of hope.
And a sweet dawn of promise met him in his mother's eyes as she answered:
"It is even that, my own, for thee and for me!"
With a glad heart, Gottlieb dressed the next morning before Lenichen was awake, and was off to the choir-master for his lesson alone.
The new hope had inspired him, and he sang that morning to the content even of the master, as he knew, not by his praise, but by his summoning Ursula from the kitchen to listen, unable to resist his desire for the sympathy of a larger audience.
Ursula was not exactly musical, nor was she demonstrative, but she showed her satisfaction by appropriating her share of the success.
"I knew what was wanting!" she said, significantly. "The birds and the blessed angels may sing on crumbs or on the waters of Paradise; but goose and pudding are a great help to the alleluias here below."
"The archduchess will be enraptured, and the Cistercians will be furious!" said the choir-master, equally pleased at both prospects.
But this Gottlieb did not hear, for he had availed himself of the first free moment to run home and tell his mother how things had improved.
After that, Gottlieb had no more trouble about the master. The old man's severity became comprehensible and dear to him, and a loving liberty and confidence came into his bearing toward him, which went to the heart of the childless old man, so that dearer than the praise of the archduchess, or even the discomfiture of the Cistercians, became to him the success and welfare of the child.
But then, unknown to himself, the poor boy entered on a new chapter of temptations.
The other boys, observing the choir-master's love for him, grew jealous, and called him sometimes "the master's little angel," and sometimes "the little beggar of the hermitage" or "Dwarf Hans' darling."
He was too brave and manly a little fellow to tell his mother all these little annoyances. He would not for the world have spoiled her joy in her little "Chrysostom," her golden-mouthed laddie. But once they followed him to her door, and she heard them herself. The rude words smote her to the heart, but she only said:
"Thou art not ashamed of the hermit's house, nor of being old Hans' darling?"
"I hope, never!" said the child, with a little hesitation. "God sent him to us, and I love him. But it would be nice if dear Hans sometimes washed his face!"
Magdalis smiled, and hit on a plan for bringing this about. With some difficulty she persuaded the old man to take his dinner every Sunday and holiday with them, and she always set an ewer of water—and a towel, relic of her old burgher life—by him, before the meal.
"We were a kind of Pharisees in our home," she said, "and except we washed our hands, never ate bread."
Hans growled a little, but he took the hint, for her sake and the boy's, and gradually found the practice so pleasant on its own account, that the washing of his hands and face became a daily process.
On his patron saint's day (St. John, February 8), Mother Magdalis went a step further, and presented him with a clean suit of clothes, very humble but neat and sound, of her own making out of old hoards. Not for holidays only, she said, but that he might change his clothes every day, after work, as her Berthold used.
"Dainty, burgher ways," Hans called them, but he submitted, and Gottlieb was greatly comforted, and thought his old friend a long way advanced in his transformation into an angel.
So, between the sweetness of the boy's temper and of his dear mother's love which folded him close, the bitter was turned into sweet within him.
But Ursula, who heard the mocking of the boys with indignation, was not so wise in her consolations.
"Wicked, envious little devils!" said she. "Never thou heed them, my lamb! They would be glad enough, any of them, to be the master's angel, or Dwarf Hans' darling, for that matter, if they could. It is nothing but mean envy and spite, my little prince, my little wonder; never thou heed them!"
And then the enemy crept unperceived into the child's heart.
Was he indeed a little prince and a wonder, on his platform of gifts and goodness? And were all those naughty boys far below him, in another sphere, hating him as the little devils in the mystery-plays seemed to hate and torment the saints?
Had the "raven" been sent to him, after all, as to the prophet of old, not only because he was hungry and pitied by God, but because he was good and a favorite of God?
It seemed clear he was something quite out of the common. He seemed the favorite of every one, except those few envious, wicked boys.
The great ladies of the city entreated for him to come and sing at their feasts; and all their guests stopped in the midst of their eager talk to listen to him, and they gave him sweetmeats and praised him to the skies, and they offered him wine from their silver flagons, and when he refused it, as his mother bade him, they praised him more than ever, and once the host himself, the burgomaster, emptied the silver flagon of the wine he had refused, and told him to take it home to his mother and tell her she had a child whose dutifulness was worth more than all the silver in the city.
But when he told his mother this, instead of looking delighted, as he expected, she looked grave, and almost severe, and said:
"You only did your duty, my boy. It would have been a sin and a shame to do otherwise. And, of course, you would not for the world."
"Certainly I would not, mother," he said.
But he felt a little chilled. Did his mother think it was always so easy for boys to do their duty? and that every one did it?
Other people seemed to think it a very uncommon and noble thing to do one's duty. And what, indeed, could the blessed saints do more?
So the slow poison of praise crept into the boy's heart. And while he thought his life was being filled with light, unknown to him the shadows were deepening,—the one shadow which eclipses the sun, the terrible shadow of self.
For he could not but be conscious how, even in the cathedral, a kind of hush and silence fell around when he began to sing.
And instead of the blessed presence of God filling the holy place, and his singing in it, as of old, like a happy little bird in the sunshine, his own sweet voice seemed to fill the place, rising and falling like a tide up and down the aisles, leaping to the vaulted roof like a fountain of joy, and dropping into the hearts of the multitude like dew from heaven.
And as he went out, in his little white robe, with the choir, he felt the eyes of the people on him, and he heard a murmur of praise, and now and then words such as "That is little Gottlieb, the son of the widow Magdalis. She may well be proud of him. He has the voice and the face of an angel."
And then, in contrast, outside in the street, from the other boys: "See how puffed up the little prince is! He cannot look at any one lower than the bishop or the burgomaster!"
So, between the chorus of praise and the other chorus of mockery, it was no wonder that poor Gottlieb felt like a being far removed from the common herd. And, necessarily, any one of the flock of Christ who feels that, cannot be happy, because if we are far away from the common flock, we cannot be near the Good Shepherd, who always keeps close to the feeblest, and seeks those that go astray.
It was not long before the watchful eye of the mother observed a little change creeping over the boy—a little more impatience with Lenichen, a little more variableness of temper, sometimes dancing exultingly home as if he were scarcely treading the common earth, sometimes returning with a depression which made the simple work and pleasures of the home seem dull and wearisome.
So it went on until the joyful Easter-tide was drawing near. On Palm Sunday there was to be a procession of the children.
As the mother was smoothing out the golden locks which fell like sunbeams on the white vestments, she said: "It is a bright day for thee and me, my son. I shall feel as if we were all in the dear old Jerusalem itself, and my darling had gathered his palms on Olivet itself, and the very eyes of the blessed Lord himself were on thee, and His ears listening to thee crying out thy hosannas, and His dear voice speaking of thee and through thee, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me.'"
But Gottlieb looked grave and rather troubled.
"So few seem thinking just of His listening," he said, doubtfully. "There are the choir-master and the dean and chapter, and the other choristers, and the Cistercians, and the mothers of the other choristers, who wish them to sing best."
She took his hand. "So there were in that old Jerusalem," she said. "The Pharisees, who wanted to stop the children's singing, and even the dear Disciples, who often thought they might be troublesome to the Master. But the little ones sang for Him, and He knew, and was pleased. And that is all we have to think of now."
He kissed her, and went away with a lightened brow.
Many of the neighbors came in that afternoon to congratulate Magdalis on her boy—his face, his voice, his gentle ways.
"And then he sings with such feeling," said one. "One sees it is in his heart."
But in the evening Gottlieb came home very sad and desponding. For some time he said nothing, and then, with a brave effort to restrain his tears, he murmured:
"Oh, mother! I am afraid it will soon be over. I heard one of the priests say he thought they had a new chorister at the Cistercians whose voice is as good as mine. So that the archduchess may not like our choir best, after all."
The mother said nothing for a moment, and then she said:
"Whose praise and love will the boy at the Cistercian convent sing, Gottlieb, if he has such a lovely voice?"
"God's!—the dear Heavenly Father and the Savior!" he said, reverently.
"And you, my own? Will another little voice on earth prevent His hearing you? Do the thousands of thousands always singing to Him above prevent His hearing you? And what would the world do if the only voice worth listening to were thine? It cannot be heard beyond one church, or one street. And the good Lord has ten thousand churches, and cities full of people who want to hear."
"But thou, mother! Thou and Lenichen, and the bread!"
"It was the raven that brought the bread," she said, smiling; "and thou art not even a raven,—only a little child to pick up the bread the raven brought."
He sat silent a few minutes, and then the terrible cloud of self and pride dropped off from his heart like a death-shroud, and he threw himself into her arms.
"Oh, mother, I see it all!" he said. "I am free again. I have only to sing to the blessed Lord of all, quite sure He listens, to Him alone, and to all else as just a little one of the all He loves."
And after the evening meal, and a game with Lenichen, the boy crept out to the cathedral to say his prayers in one of the little chapels, and to thank God.
He knelt in the Lady chapel before the image of the infant Christ on the mother's knees.
And as he knelt there, it came into his heart that all the next Week was Passion week, "the still week," and would be silent; and the tears filled his eyes to remember how little he had enjoyed singing that day.
"How glad the little children of Jerusalem must have been," he thought, "that they sang to Jesus when they could. I suppose they never could again; for the next Friday He was dead. Oh, suppose He never let me sing to Him again!"
And tears and repressed sobs came fast at the thought, and he murmured aloud, thinking no one was near:
"Dear Savior, only let me sing once more here in church to you, and I will think of no one but you; not of the boys who laugh at me, nor the people who praise me, nor the Cistercians, nor the archduchess, nor even the dear choir-master, but only of you, of you, and perhaps of mother and Lenichen. I could not help that, and you would not mind it. You and they love me so much more than any one, and I love you really so much more than all besides. Only believe it, and try me once more."
As he finished, in his earnestness, the child spoke quite loud, and from a dark corner in the shadow of a pillar suddenly arose a very old man in a black monk's robe, with snow-white hair, and drew close to him, and laid his hand on his shoulder and said:
"Fear not, my son. I have a message for thee."
At first, Gottlieb was much frightened, and then, when he heard the kind, tremulous old voice, and saw the lovely, tender smile on the wrinkled, pallid old face, he thought God must really have sent him an angel at last, though certainly not because he was good.
"Look around on these lofty arches, and clustered columns, and the long aisles, and the shrines of saints, and the carved wreaths of flowers and fruits, and the glorious altar! Are these wonderful to thee? Couldst thou have thought of them, or built them?"
"I could as easily have made the stars, or the forests!" said the child.
"Then look at me," the old man said, with a gentle smile on his venerable face, "a poor worn-out old man, whom no one knows. This beautiful house was in my heart before a stone of it was reared. God put it in my heart. I planned it all. I remember this place a heap of poor cottages as small as thine, and now it is a glorious house of God. And I was what they called the master-builder. Yet no man knows me, or says, 'Look at him!' They look at the cathedral, God's house; and that makes me glad in my inmost soul. I prayed that I might be nothing, and all the glory be His; and He has granted my prayer. And I am as little and as free in this house which I built as in His own forests, or under His own stars; for it is His only, as they are His. And I am nothing but His own little child, as thou art. And He has my hand and thine in His, and will not let us go."
The child looked up, nearly certain now that it must be an angel. To have lived longer than the cathedral seemed like living when the morning stars were made, and all the angels shouted for joy.
"Then God will let me sing here next Easter!" he said, looking confidingly in the old man's face.
"Thou shalt sing, and I shall see, and I shall hear thee, but thou wilt not hear or see me!" said the old man, taking both the dimpled hands in one of his. "And the blessed Lord will listen, as to the little children in Jerusalem of old. And we shall be His dear, happy children for evermore."
Gottlieb went home and told his mother. And they both agreed, that if not an angel, the old man was as good as an angel, and was certainly a messenger of God.
To have been the master-builder of the cathedral of which it was Magdalis's glory and pride that her husband had carved a few of the stones!
The master-builder of the cathedral, yet finding his joy and glory in being a little child of God!
The "silent week" that followed was a solemn time to the mother and the boy.
Every day, whatever time could be spared from the practice with the choir, and from helping in the little house and with his mother's wood-carving, or from playing with Lenichen in the fields, Gottlieb spent in the silent cathedral, draped as it was in funereal black for the sacred life given up to God for man.
"How glad," he thought again and again, "the little children of Jerusalem must have been that they sang when they could to the blessed Jesus! They little knew how soon the kind hands that blessed them would be stretched on the cross, and the kind voice that would not let their singing be stopped would be moaning 'I thirst.'"
But he felt that he, Gottlieb, ought to have known; and if ever he was allowed to sing his hosannas in the choir again, it would feel like the face of the blessed Lord himself smiling on him, and His voice saying, "Suffer this little one to come unto me. I have forgiven him."
He hoped also to see the master-builder again; but nevermore did the slight, aged form appear in the sunshine of the stained windows, or in the shadows of the arches he had planned.
And so the still Passion week wore on.
Until once more, the joy-bells pealed out on the blessed Easter morning.
The city was full of festivals. The rich were in their richest holiday raiment, and few of the poor were so poor as not to have some sign of festivity in their humble dress and on their frugal tables.
Mother Magdalis was surprised by finding at her bedside a new dress such as befitted a good burgher's daughter, sent secretly the night before from Ursula by Hans and Gottlieb, with a pair of enchanting new crimson shoes for little Lenichen, which all but over-balanced the little maiden with the new sense of possessing something which must be a wonder and a delight to all beholders.
The archduke and the beautiful Italian archduchess had arrived the night before, and were to go in stately procession to the cathedral. And Gottlieb was to sing in the choir, and afterward, on the Monday, to sing an Easter greeting for the archduchess at the banquet in the great town-hall.
The mother's heart trembled with some anxiety for the child.
But the boy's was only trembling with the great longing to be allowed to sing once more his hosannas to the blessed Savior, among the children.
It was given him.
At first the eager voice trembled for joy, in the verse he had to sing alone, and the choir-master's brows were knitted with anxiety. But it cleared and steadied in a moment, and soared with a fullness and freedom none had ever heard in it before, filling the arches of the cathedral and the hearts of all.
And the beautiful archduchess bent over to see the child, and her soft, dark eyes were fixed on his face, as he sang, until they filled with tears; and, afterward, she asked who the mother of that little angel was.
But the child's eyes were fixed on nothing earthly, and his heart was listening for another voice—the voice all who listen for shall surely hear.
And it said in the heart of the child, that day: "Suffer the little one to come unto me. Go in peace. Thy sins are forgiven."
A happy, sacred evening they spent that Easter in the hermit's cell, the mother and the two children, the boy singing his best for the little nest, as before for the King of kings.
Still, a little anxiety lingered in the mother's heart about the pomp of the next day.
But she need not have feared.
When the archduchess had asked for the mother of the little chorister with the heavenly voice, the choir-master had told her what touched her much about the widowed Magdalis and her two children; and old Ursula and the master between them contrived that Mother Magdalis should be at the banquet, hidden behind the tapestry.
And when Gottlieb came close to the great lady, robed in white, with blue feathery wings, to represent a little angel, and sang her the Easter greeting, she bent down and folded him in her arms, and kissed him.
And then once more she asked for his mother, and, to Gottlieb's surprise and her own, the mother was led forward, and knelt before the archduchess.
Then the beautiful lady beamed on the mother and the child, and, taking a chain and jewel from her neck, she clasped it round the boy's neck, and said, in musical German with a foreign accent:
"Remember, this is not so much a gift as a token and sign that I will not forget thee and thy mother, and that I look to see thee and hear thee again, and to be thy friend."
And as she smiled on him, the whole banqueting-hall—indeed, the whole world—seemed illuminated to the child.
And he said to his mother as they went home:
"Mother, surely God has sent us an angel at last. But, even for the angels, we will never forget His dear ravens. Wont old Hans be glad?"
And the mother was glad; for she knew that God who giveth grace to the lowly had indeed blessed the lad, because all his gifts and honors were transformed, as always in the lowly heart, not into pride, but into love.
But when the boy ran eagerly to find old Hans, to show him the jewel and tell him of the princely promises, Hans was nowhere to be found; not in the hermit's house, where he was to have met them and shared their little festive meal, nor at his own stall, nor in the hut in which he slept.
Gottlieb's heart began to sink.
Never had his dear old friend failed to share in any joy of theirs before.
At length, as he was lingering about the old man's little hut, wondering, a sad, silent company came bearing slowly and tenderly a heavy burden, which at last they laid on Hans' poor straw pallet.
It was poor Hans himself, bruised and crushed and wounded in his struggles to press through the crowd to see his darling, his poor crooked limbs broken and unable to move any more.
But the face was untouched, and when they had laid him on the couch, and the languid eyes opened and rested on the beloved face of the child bending over him bathed in tears, a light came over the poor rugged features, and shone in the dark, hollow eyes, such as nothing on earth can give—a wonderful light of great, unutterable love, as they gazed into the eyes of the child, and then, looking upward, seemed to open on a vision none else could see.
"Jesus! Savior! I can do no more. Take care of him, thou thyself, Jesus, Lord!"
He said no more—no prayer for himself, only for the child.
Then the eyes grew dim, the head sank back, and with one sigh he breathed his soul away to God.
And such an awe came over the boy that he ceased to weep.
He could only follow the happy soul up to God, and say voicelessly in his heart:
"Dear Lord Jesus! I understand at last! The raven was the angel. And Thou hast let me see him for one moment as he is, as he is now with Thee, as he will be evermore!"
A TRIP TO THE TEA COUNTRY.
BY WILLIAM M. TILESTON.
I was leaning over the tea-room table on one of the lovely spring mornings that we sometimes have in China. In front of me the large window, like that in an artist's studio, admitted the north light upon the long array of little porcelain teacups and saucers, and "musters," or square, flat boxes of tea-samples. The last new "chop" had been carefully tasted and the leaf inspected, and I was wondering whether the price asked by the tea-man would show a profit over the latest quotations from London and New York, when my speculations were disturbed by the entrance of my friend Charley, followed by Akong, well known as the most influential tea-broker in the Oopack province. Charley and Akong were fast friends, and I saw by the twinkle in the eyes of each that a premeditated plot of some kind was about being exploded upon my unsuspecting self.
But before going further, let me tell you who we all are, where we are, and what we are doing.
Of course I am aware that it is exceedingly impolite to put oneself first, but in the present instance you must excuse it; for besides being the oldest, I occupy the position of guide, philosopher and friend to Charley, and my story would scarcely be intelligible or complete if I did not begin with myself. Well, to begin: I am one of those unfortunate individuals known in China as "cha-szes," or tea-tasters; doomed for my sins, or the hope of one day getting rich, to pass the time in smelling, tasting and buying teas for the great mercantile house or "hong" of Young Hyson & Co. The place at which you find me is Hankow, on the great Yang Tsze Kiang, or river, some six hundred miles from its mouth. If you have a map of China, and will find on it the Yang Tsze, by tracing with your finger—if your map is at all correct—you will discover the cities of Chin Kiang, Nanking, Nganking, Kiu Kiang, and finally, at the junction of the river Han with the Yang Tsze, Wuchang. Hankow will probably not be on your map, but on the north bank of the Yang Tsze, just at the point of junction with the Han, is this important trading port, thrown open to foreigners in 1861, after the signing of the treaty of Tein-Tsin.
And now for Charley, whom I have kept talking pigeon-English to Akong all this time. Charley was the son of an old friend, chaplain to the British consulate at one of the coast ports; his mother dying, Charley was to have been sent home to relatives in England, but I had prevailed upon his father to let the boy, now between twelve and fourteen years old, make me a visit before his final departure.
And now for the conspiracy:
"Chin-chin (how do you do), Akong?" said I.
"What is it, Charley? Out with it, my boy; some mischief, I know." Akong gave a chuckle and a muttered "hi-yah," and Charley proceeded to explain.
"Well Cha,"—the Chinamen called me Cha-tsze and the boy had abbreviated it to Cha,—"Akong says that he has a boat going up to the tea country to-morrow or next day, and wants me to go with him; may I?"
Charley knew that I could refuse him nothing, but the trip of several hundred miles into a district rarely, if ever, visited by foreigners, involved more of a risk than I cared to assume. Charley seeing that I looked unusually solemn, turned to Akong for support.
"What for you no go too, Cha-tsze? Just now my thinkee no got new chop come inside two week; get back plenty time."
Akong's pigeon-English perhaps requires explanation: You must know, then, that the Chinese with whom all foreigners transact business, instead of learning correct English have a lingo, or patois, of their own, ascribed, but I think erroneously, to the carelessness of their first English visitors, who addressed them in this manner, thinking to make themselves more easily understood. The fact is, that pigeon-English, besides having many Portuguese words mixed up with it,—the Portuguese, you know, were established in China as early as the seventeenth century,—is in many instances a literal translation of Chinese into perverted English. In the present instance, Akong suggested that as there would be no more tea down for a fortnight, it would be well for me, too, to go. The proposition was quite agreeable to me, and Charley scampered off to tell Ahim, the cook, and Aho, my boy, to make the necessary preparations.
The next morning, at an early hour, Akong's great mandarin, or house-boat, was moored at the jetty, and the boys were packing away the provisions and the charcoal for cooking, and long strings of copper "cash" to be used in the purchase of eggs and chickens, and the mats of rice that would form the principal article of "chow-chow" for the crew. Everybody in China has a boy, and Charley had his; a regular young imp of a fellow of about his own age. Aling was his name; Charley used to call him Ting-a-ling, and would jabber horrible Chinese to him by the hour. Aling jumped down the steps, two at a time, with Charley's traveling bag; but Aho, more sedate and dignified, marched after him; Charley and I joined Akong in the front of the boat, and with a chorus of "chin-chins" from the coolies and house-servants left behind, and the explosion of a pack of fire-crackers to propitiate the river dragon, the boat was shoved from the jetty, the sail hoisted, and we were soon slowly stemming the broad current of the Yang Tsze. On our right was Hankow, with its million or more inhabitants, the hum of the great city following us for miles; and the mouth of the Han, its surface so covered with junks that their masts resembled a forest, and only a narrow lane of water was left for the passage of boats. Just beyond the Han was Han Yang, once a fine city, but now in ruins, one of the results of the Tae-ping rebellion. Across the Yang Tsze, here a mile wide, was Wuchang, the residence of the viceroy of the Hupeh province. This place was supposed to be closed to foreigners, but Charley and I had made many a secret visit, and had some rare sport among the curiosity shops, with occasionally an adventure of a less pleasing description, about which I should like to tell you if I had time.
Rapidly we passed the suburbs of these cities, and drawing over to the south bank, as the wind was light, the crew were ordered ashore, and stretching themselves along a tow-rope extending from the mast-head, the boat was soon moving quite rapidly. And that reminds me that I have not yet described our boat. These boats, used by the gentry in transporting themselves about the country, are almost like Noah's ark on a small scale—a boat with a house running almost the entire length of the deck, with little latticed windows on the outside, and the interior divided into rooms for eating and sleeping. The crew all lived aft on the great overhanging stern, where the cooking was done, and where the handle of the great "yuloe," or sculling oar, protruded. In front of the cabin was a little piece of deck-room where Charley and I had our camp-stools, and which gave us an excellent place from which to observe everything going on ahead.
The boat coolies were straining on the tow-rope a hundred yards ahead. Frequently we passed some fisherman sitting in his little mat hut, with his feet on the windlass that raised his great square net; but never did we see them catch a fish, although on our return the same men were working as assiduously as ever. The country presented the same compact system of farming, the hills in many places being terraced to their very summits, and planted with waving crops of wheat and millet, beans, and vegetables of every description. Toward noon we passed the "Ta" and "Lao Kin Shan" (great and little golden mountain), and by the time Aling had announced "tiffin" (luncheon), we were abreast of Kin Kow, a picturesque village in the neighborhood of which I generally found some excellent shooting. After tiffin we again resumed our camp-stools. I lighted a cigar, and Akong smoked his hubble-bubble, a small copy of the nargileh of the Turks. The river was alive with junks, some going in the same direction as ourselves, and others loaded with tea, charcoal, vegetable tallow, oil of various kinds, and gypsum, brought, most of them, from the far western province of Sze Chuen.
There was but little variety in the journey until the following day, when we approached the great bend in the Yang Tsze, and Akong told us that, if so inclined, we could land from the boat, and by walking six or eight miles across the country join the boat again, the bend rendering it necessary for her to go around some thirty or forty miles. This we gladly assented to, and taking my gun, in hopes of meeting with some snipe in the paddy-fields, and with Aling and a coolie for interpreters, we landed.
Charley and I both experienced a rather queer sensation as we watched the boat sail off, and found ourselves with no other white man within a hundred or more miles. The country ahead was one immense rice-field, divided by dykes or banks paved with stones and forming paths for walking. At some distance we saw a large clump of bamboos with tall elms beyond, indicating a village, called, as a coolie at work in a ditch informed us, Fi-Loong. Soon we saw a broad creek with a handsome stone bridge over it, and on the other side an unusually large house of two stories, which turned out to belong to the Te-poy, or local magistrate of the place. The old gentleman himself was sitting outside of the house having his head shaved by the village barber. He politely invited us to wait, and after the shaving was over regaled us with a cup of tea,—rather weak, but refreshing,—and after chin-chin-ing we resumed our journey.
Can you see our party trudging along? Beyond the village were more paddy-fields, from which occasionally a great white paddy-bird arose. I shot one of them, to the great delight of our coolie, who pronounced it No. 1 good chow-chow; but Charley and I were much more pleased at the sight of several English snipe. Reaching an old lotus-pond, a shot scared up these birds almost in myriads, and a good bunch of them promised a very welcome addition to our dinner. Meanwhile we had been following a creek, which we now needed to cross. But before long Aling espied a man in the distance at work with a huge buffalo, and exclaiming, "Hi-yah! belly good walkee now," rushed off in that direction. He soon returned with the buffalo and his owner, and indicated that we could cross on the back of the former. The huge, ungainly beast threw up his head and snorted when he caught sight of the "fanquis," or foreign devils, but a pull at the ring through his nose soon brought him to subjection.
"How much does he want, Aling, to carry us over?"
"He say ten cash can do."
As this sum (one cent) was not an unreasonable ferriage, we nodded; and the buffalo being led into the water near the bank, I mounted first, then came Charley with his arms around me, then Aling, who had climbed up behind. When we were half-way over, Charley laughed so heartily at the ridiculous figure we made that the buffalo gave another snort, and threatened to roll us off, into the muddy water, but we landed safely, and giving the man his ten cash, went on again. The rest of the walk was without adventure, and we finally arrived at the river-bank just as the boat was coming around the point below us.
That evening we left the main river and tracked up a tributary stream until we came to a broad canal, which Akong informed us led direct to our destination.
Turning out of our beds the next morning we found the boat moored to the bank of the canal, opposite a long, rambling, one-storied building, which proved to be the "hong" of the tea-merchant to whom the neighboring plantations belonged. We were really in the tea country at last. On every side of us, as far as the eye could reach, the dark-green tea-plants were growing in their beds of reddish sandy soil. Notwithstanding the cook's urgent appeals to wait until chow-chow was ready, we jumped ashore and into the midst of a crowd of noisy coolies moving in every direction, each with his load slung at the ends of a bamboo across his shoulders, and singing a monotonous "Aho, Aho, Aho!" which appears as necessary to the Chinese carrier as the "Yo heave ho!" to the sailor. Long, narrow junks were lying at the bank, and being rapidly loaded with the familiar tea-chests; crowds of men, women and children were coming from the plantation, each with bags of the freshly picked leaves, or with baskets on their heads in which the more delicate kinds were carefully carried. We stepped into the building, and there witnessed the entire operation of assorting, firing the teas, and even the manufacturing of the chests. We would gladly have remained, but Aho came up and informed us "that breakfast hab got spoilem," so we deferred further investigation until after the meal.
Akong joined us at breakfast, and partook of our curry and rice with great gusto, for tea-brokers as a rule are by no means averse to foreign chow-chow, and handle a knife and fork with almost as much ease as they do the native chop-sticks. Charley plied us both with questions regarding tea in general, and probably the following summary will pretty well represent the result of his queries:
The cultivation of the tea-plant is by no means confined to any one district or spot, but is scattered about through the different provinces, each producing its peculiar description known to the trade by its distinctive name. We were now in the Hupeh or Oopack country, and the tea we saw being gathered and prepared was the heavy-liquored black-leafed description, known in England and to the trade as Congou. This Congou forms the staple of the mixture known in that country under the generic name of "black," and sometimes finds its way to us under the guise of "English breakfast tea." From Foo-chow-foo, on the coast, half-way between Shanghae and Hong Kong, is shipped another description known as red-leaf Congou, the bulk of which goes to England also, although we are gradually absorbing an increasing quantity. Kiu Kiang, on the Yang Tsze, some one hundred and forty miles below Hankow, shares with the latter port in the trade of the Hupeh country, and is, or was until recently, the point of shipment for the fine green teas grown and manufactured in the Moyune district, a very large proportion of which is shipped to this country. First in importance as a point of shipment is Foo-chow-foo, whence are exported, in addition to the red-leafed Congous, or Boheas, the bulk of the Oolongs. Still further down the coast is Amoy, from which point inferior descriptions of both kinds are shipped, together with some scented teas; but the bulk of the latter, known as Scented Capers, Orange Pekoe, etc., are exported from Canton and Macao. These, together with a peculiar description of green, are manufactured at these ports from leaf grown in the neighborhood. Although no tea is grown near Shanghae, much of the Congou grown in the Hupeh province is sent there for sale, and thence shipped to England. The green teas from both the Moyune and Ping-Suey countries are also shipped from Shanghae.
Breakfast over, we jumped ashore again, and, desiring to conduct our sight-seeing systematically, started for the fields. First we walked to the foot of a hill a little distance off, where some men in short cotton trousers and jackets were laying out a new plantation. The ground was accurately marked off, and in one place the little plants, only an inch or two in height, were just showing above the ground. In another, the seeds—little round balls they looked like—were being planted in the rows. Passing another field, where some men were at work with their hoes in true Chinese style, stopping every few moments to smoke their pipes, we came at last to where the plants had attained some size and the actual picking was going on. The plants themselves were from two to six feet high, according to age, and from repeated cuttings down had grown into dense masses of small twigs. Many of them were covered with little white flowers, somewhat similar to the jasmine, and seeds inclosed in a casing not unlike that of the hazel-nut, but thinner and full of oil. Charley thought they looked like little laurel bushes; to me, those that had been well picked were not unlike huckleberry bushes, only the leaves were, of course, a much darker green. The first picking, usually in April, is when the leaves are very young and tender, commanding a much higher price than those subsequently plucked. The second is a month later, when they have attained maturity; and as unpropitious weather would be likely to ruin them, great expedition is used in getting in the crop, the entire population turning out to assist. A third, and even a fourth, follows; but the quality rapidly deteriorates, and but a small proportion of these last pickings is prepared for export.
The plantations were filled with a merry crowd, composed principally of women and children, all engaged in stripping the bushes as rapidly as possible, yet with great care and dexterity, so as not to bruise the leaves. They looked up from their work and screamed to each other in their harsh guttural tones, casting glances of astonishment at the barbarians. Following some of the coolies, who with filled bags were trudging off to the curing-house, we saw the most interesting operation of all. Here, at least thirty young girls were engaged in assorting the leaves, picking out all the dead and yellow ones, and preparing them for the hands of the rollers and firers. Our entrance excited quite a commotion among the damsels, as we were probably the first barbarians they had seen, and we had the reputation of living entirely on fat babies. A word from Akong, who had joined us, reassured them, and in a few minutes Charley was airing his little stock of Chinese, more, I thought, to their amusement than their edification. Leaving this room we went into another where the curing was in progress. On one side extended a long furnace built of bricks, with large iron pans placed at equal distances, and heated by charcoal fires below. Into these pans leaves by the basketful were poured, stirred rapidly for a few minutes, and then removed to large bamboo frames, where they were rolled and kneaded until all the green juice was freed. They were then scattered loosely in large, flat baskets, and placed in the sun to dry. Subsequently, the leaves were again carried to the furnaces and exposed to a gentle heat, until they curled and twisted themselves into the shapes so familiar to you all. Some of the finer kinds often prepared for exportation are rolled over by hand before being fired. The great object appears to be to prevent the leaf from breaking; hence, in the commoner kinds and those intended for home consumption, which do not receive the same care, the leaves are found to be very much broken. In fact, the preparation of this latter sort is very simple: a mere drying in the sun, after which it presents a dry, broken appearance, like autumn leaves.
Green tea, although grown in particular districts, receives its peculiar color by being stirred with a mixture of gypsum and Prussian blue during the firing, but is prepared in a more laborious manner, the leaves being selected and divided to form the different kinds known as Imperial, Gunpowder, Young Hyson, Hyson, Hyson Skin and Twankay. An aggregation of these kinds, proportioned according to their value, forms what is known as a "chop," whereas a chop of black tea comprises all of one grade or quality. Chinamen wonder at the taste of "outside barbarians" in preferring a tea colored green, but would provide them with a leaf of yellow or blue if there was a market for it.
The entire operation pertaining to the business appeared to be carried on in the cluster of little buildings with court-yards between, but almost under the same roof, and afforded occupation to an immense number of persons. And yet the payments could not have been very large; from six to ten cents per day being about the wages they received. In one room men were engaged in making boxes; in another, lining them with thin sheets of lead. Further on, the outsides of the boxes were being pasted over with paper, on which was stamped the name of the tea and the maker's business-title. Finally, they were being filled, soldered up and carried off to the boats, not to be opened again until they reached the shop of some London grocer.
The principal object of our friend Akong's visit was to convoy with his mandarin-boat a fleet of tea-junks to Hankow; so that but one day was given us for our visit. The boats being nearly ready, it was arranged that we should start on our return the following morning. The evening was devoted to a dinner and "sing-song" given for our entertainment by the tea-men. Aho asked if he should take our knives and forks, a proposition which we indignantly rejected. As it was to be a Chinese dinner, we determined to do it in Chinese style, chop-sticks and all. Such a dinner! We were seated at little square tables holding four persons each, the Chinamen all dressed in their official or state costumes. First came little dishes of sweetmeats and then bowls of bird's-nest soup, with the jelly-like substance floating about in it in company with little pieces of chicken. This was very nice, although we did all eat out of the same bowl, using little porcelain spoons. Then came more sweetmeats, followed by dishes of beche de mer, or sea-slugs and fat pork; this we passed, but not until an over-polite Chinaman took up a gristly piece of something with his chop-sticks, and, after biting off a piece, passed the rest to Charley. The chop-sticks we could not manage; the meat would slip out of them, and had it not been for the soups, of which there were several, and the rice, which we could shovel into our mouths, we should have had no dinner. Tea was passed by the servants continually, as were little bowls of "samshu"—a liquor distilled from rice. During the dinner, the sing-song girls played on the native two-stringed fiddles, and sang in falsetto voices a selection of music, which was undoubtedly very fine if judged by the Chinese standard, but which we could not appreciate.
The noise soon became almost intolerable, and we slipped off to the boat and sought our beds.
When we awoke in the morning the whole fleet of tea-boats was under way, and with a fair wind we ran rapidly down the creek and were once more on the broad Yang Tsze. On the third day we reached Hankow safely, and well pleased with our trip to the tea country.
BY OLIVE A. WADSWORTH.
A Diligent Biddy was scratching one day, And pecking at morsels that came in her way, When all of a sudden she widened her eyes, And the feathers stood up on her head with surprise!
A strange-looking treasure Dame Biddy had found, 'Twixt a brick and a clam-shell it lay on the ground; The hen with a peck turned it over and over, But the longer she looked the less could discover.
"Cluck, cluck!" said the hen, "as sure as I stand, This never was grown upon solid dry land; I'll take it along to Dame Duck and her daughter, They're wise about things that come out of the water."
So she carried the thing in her beak to the brook, And called to Dame Duck to come quickly and look, And the dame and her child relinquished their pleasure, And waddled ashore to examine the treasure.
"Alack!" said the duck and "A-quack!" said the daughter, "We've never seen objects like this in the water! Suppose we submit it to old Mrs. Ewe? She's wise about wool, and has seen the world, too!"
So the duck took it carefully up in her bill, And the duckling and hen followed on to the mill, Where the miller's fat sheep was placidly grazing, And there they displayed this treasure amazing.
"Ah, bah!" said the sheep, "what a queer-looking piece! This never was parcel or part of a fleece! Our flock would disown it!—but take it, I pray, To Brindle, the cow, she's wise about hay!"
So the sheep and the duckling, the duck and the hen, With the treasure set forth in procession again, To where the cow stood,—in the shade, as she ought,— A-chewing her cud and a-thinking her thought.
"Bless my horns!" said the cow, "I really must say, I've ne'er seen the like in straw or in hay! Why don't you ask Dobbin, the farmer's gray mare? She's traveled so much, and she's wise about hair."
So the hen and the ducks, the sheep and the cow, Went seeking for Dobbin, just loosed from the plow; They all talked at once, to make things explicit, And finally showed her the cause of their visit.
But Dobbin gave snorts of dislike and dismay; "Why don't you," said she, "pass it on to old Tray? He hunts for his food where the refuse is thrown, And he's wise about cinders, and rubbish, and bone."
So Dobbin and Brindle, and fat Mrs. Ewe, And the duckling and duck, and the Biddy-hen too, All eager for knowledge, went down the wide road To the kennel where Tray had his pleasant abode.
Now Tray was a dog with a gift for detecting, He never would bark without briefly reflecting; He snuffed at the treasure and turned it about, And soon would have uttered his sentence, no doubt,—
But just then our Tommy ran up to the crowd. "Where did you get those, sir?" he cried out aloud. "They're my new Sunday gloves! They fell out of my hat! I took them to school to show them to Matt!
"And, you see, Matt and I had some liquorice candy, Our fingers were sticky, the gloves were just handy; And then, when the teacher said, 'Tom, wash your slate,' My sponge was all lost, and the class couldn't wait.
"And 'cause I was hurrying, what do you think? That bothersome ink-bottle slopped out the ink! You can't expect gloves to look nobby and new When they have to be used for a slate and ink too.
Now, that's reasons enough!" said poor Tommy, "I guess!" And the company bowed a unanimous "Yes," And the horse, cow and sheep, duck, duckling and hen, Complacently turned themselves homeward again.
UNDER THE LILACS.
BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT.
NEW FRIENDS TROT IN.
Next day Ben ran off to his work with Quackenbos's "Elementary History of the United States" in his pocket, and the Squire's cows had ample time to breakfast on wayside grass before they were put into their pasture. Even then the pleasant lesson was not ended, for Ben had an errand to town, and all the way he read busily, tumbling over the hard words, and leaving bits which he did not understand to be explained at night by Bab.
At "The First Settlements" he had to stop, for the school-house was reached and the book must be returned. The maple-tree closet was easily found, and a little surprise hidden under the flat stone; for Ben paid two sticks of red and white candy for the privilege of taking books from the new library.
When recess came great was the rejoicing of the children over their unexpected treat, for Mrs. Moss had few pennies to spare for sweets, and, somehow, this candy tasted particularly nice, bought out of grateful Ben's solitary dime. The little girls shared their goodies with their favorite mates, but said nothing about the new arrangement, fearing it would be spoilt if generally known. They told their mother, however, and she gave them leave to lend their books and encourage Ben to love learning all they could. She also proposed that they should drop patch-work and help her make some blue shirts for Ben. Mrs. Barton had given her the materials, and she thought it would be an excellent lesson in needle-work as well as a useful gift to Ben—who, boy-like, never troubled himself as to what he should wear when his one suit of clothes gave out.
Wednesday afternoon was the sewing time, so the two little B's worked busily at a pair of shirt sleeves, sitting on their bench in the door-way, while the rusty needles creaked in and out, and the childish voices sung school-songs, with frequent stoppages for lively chatter.
For a week, Ben worked away bravely, and never shirked nor complained, although Pat put many a hard or disagreeable job upon him, and chores grew more and more distasteful. His only comfort was the knowledge that Mrs. Moss and the Squire were satisfied with him, his only pleasure the lessons he learned while driving the cows, and recited in the evening when the three children met under the lilacs to "play school."
He had no thought of studying when he began, and hardly knew that he was doing it as he pored over the different books he took from the library. But the little girls tried him with all they possessed, and he was mortified to find how ignorant he was. He never owned it in words, but gladly accepted all the bits of knowledge they offered from their small store; getting Betty to hear him spell "just for fun;" agreeing to draw Bab all the bears and tigers she wanted if she would show him how to do sums on the flags, and often beguiled his lonely labors by trying to chant the multiplication table as they did. When Tuesday night came round the Squire paid him a dollar, said he was "a likely boy," and might stay another week if he chose. Ben thanked him and thought he would, but the next morning, after he had put up the bars, he remained sitting on the top rail to consider his prospects, for he felt uncommonly reluctant to go back to the society of rough Pat. Like most boys he hated work, unless it was of a sort which just suited him; then he could toil like a beaver and never tire. His wandering life had given him no habits of steady industry, and while he was an unusually capable lad of his age, he dearly loved to loaf about and have a good deal of variety and excitement in his life.
Now he saw nothing before him but days of patient and very uninteresting labor. He was heartily sick of weeding; even riding Duke before the cultivator had lost its charms, and a great pile of wood lay in the Squire's yard which he knew he would be set to piling up in the shed. Strawberry-picking would soon follow the asparagus cultivation, then haying, and so on all the long, bright summer, without any fun, unless his father came for him.
On the other hand, he was not obliged to stay a minute longer unless he liked. With a comfortable suit of clothes, a dollar in his pocket, and a row of dinner-baskets hanging in the school-house entry to supply him with provisions if he didn't mind stealing them, what was easier than to run away again? Tramping has its charms in fair weather, and Ben had lived like a gypsy under canvas for years, so he feared nothing, and began to look down the leafy road with a restless, wistful expression, as the temptation grew stronger and stronger every minute.
Sancho seemed to share the longing, for he kept running off a little way and stopping to frisk and bark, then rushed back to sit watching his master with those intelligent eyes of his, which seemed to say, "Come on, Ben, let us scamper down this pleasant road and never stop till we are tired." Swallows darted by, white clouds fled before the balmy west wind, a squirrel ran along the wall, and all things seemed to echo the boy's desire to leave toil behind and roam away as care-free as they. One thing restrained him,—the thought of his seeming ingratitude to good Mrs. Moss, and the disappointment of the little girls at the loss of their two new play-fellows. While he paused to think of this, something happened which kept him from doing what he would have been sure to regret afterward.
Horses had always been his best friends, and one came trotting up to help him now, though he did not know how much he owed it till long after. Just in the act of swinging himself over the bars to take a short cut across the fields, the sound of approaching hoofs, unaccompanied by the roll of wheels, caught his ear, and pausing, he watched eagerly to see who was coming at such a pace.
At the turn of the road, however, the quick trot stopped, and in a moment a lady on a bay mare came pacing slowly into sight,—a young and pretty lady, all in dark blue, with a bunch of dandelions like yellow stars in her button-hole, and a silver-handled whip hanging from the pommel of her saddle, evidently more for ornament than use. The handsome mare limped a little and shook her head as if something plagued her, while her mistress leaned down to see what was the matter, saying, as if she expected an answer of some sort:
"Now, Chevalita, if you have got a stone in your foot, I shall have to get off and take it out. Why don't you look where you step and save me all this trouble?"
"I'll look for you, ma'am; I'd like to!" said an eager voice so unexpectedly that both horse and rider started as a boy came down the bank with a jump.
"I wish you would. You need not be afraid; Lita is as gentle as a lamb," answered the young lady, smiling, as if amused by the boy's earnestness.
"She's a beauty, anyway," muttered Ben, lifting one foot after another till he found the stone, and with some trouble got it out.
"That was nicely done, and I'm much obliged. Can you tell me if that cross-road leads to the Elms?" asked the lady, as she went slowly on with Ben beside her.
"No, ma'am; I'm new in these parts, and I only know where Squire Allen and Mrs. Moss live."
"I want to see both of them, so suppose you show me the way. I was here long ago, and thought I should remember how to find the old house with the elm avenue and the big gate, but I don't."
"I know it; they call that place the Laylocks now, 'cause there's a hedge of 'em all down the path and front wall. It's a real pretty place; Bab and Betty play there, and so do I."
Ben could not restrain a chuckle at the recollection of his first appearance there, and as if his merriment or his words interested her, the lady said, pleasantly: "Tell me all about it. Are Bab and Betty your sisters?"
Quite forgetting his intended tramp, Ben plunged into a copious history of himself and new-made friends, led on by a kind look, an inquiring word, and sympathetic smile, till he had told everything. At the school-house corner he stopped and said, spreading his arms like a sign-post:
"That's the way to the Laylocks, and this is the way to the Squire's."
"As I'm in a hurry to see the old house, I'll go this way first, if you will be kind enough to give my love to Mrs. Allen, and tell the Squire Miss Celia is coming to dine with him. I wont say good-by, because I shall see you again."
With a nod and a smile the young lady cantered away, and Ben hurried up the hill to deliver his message, feeling as if something pleasant was going to happen, so it would be wise to defer running away, for the present at least.
At one o'clock Miss Celia arrived, and Ben had the delight of helping Pat stable pretty Chevalita; then, his own dinner hastily eaten, he fell to work at the detested wood-pile with sudden energy, for, as he worked, he could steal peeps into the dining-room, and see the curly brown head between the two gray ones as the three sat round the table. He could not help hearing a word now and then, as the windows were open, and these bits of conversation filled him with curiosity, for the names "Thorny," "Celia," and "George" were often repeated, and an occasional merry laugh from the young lady sounded like music in that usually quiet place.
When dinner was over, Ben's industrious fit left him, and he leisurely trundled his barrow to and fro till the guest departed. There was no chance for him to help now, since Pat, anxious to get whatever trifle might be offered for his services, was quite devoted in his attentions to the mare and her mistress till she was mounted and off. But Miss Celia did not forget her little guide, and spying a wistful face behind the wood-pile, paused at the gate and beckoned with that winning smile of hers. If ten Pats had stood scowling in the way Ben would have defied them all, and vaulting over the fence he ran up with a shining face, hoping she wanted some last favor of him. Leaning down, Miss Celia slipped a new quarter into his hand, saying:
"Lita wants me to give you this for taking the stone out of her foot."
"Thanky, ma'am; I liked to do it, for I hate to see 'em limp, 'specially such a pretty one as she is," answered Ben, stroking the glossy neck with a loving touch.
"The Squire says you know a good deal about horses, so I suppose you understand the Houyhnhnm language? I'm learning it, and it is very nice," laughed Miss Celia, as Chevalita gave a little whinny and snuggled her nose into Ben's pocket.
"No, miss, I never went to school."
"That is not taught there. I'll bring you a book all about it when I come back. Mr. Gulliver went to the horse-country and heard the dear things speak their own tongue."
"My father has been on the prairies where there's lots of wild ones, but he didn't hear 'em speak. I know what they want without talkin'," answered Ben, suspecting a joke, but not exactly seeing what it was.
"I don't doubt it, but I wont forget the book. Good-by, my lad, we shall soon meet again," and away went Miss Celia as if she was in a hurry to get back.
"If she only had a red habit and a streamin' white feather, she'd look as fine as Melia used to. She is 'most as kind and rides 'most as well. Wonder where she's goin' to. Hope she will come soon," thought Ben, watching till the last flutter of the blue habit vanished round the corner, and then he went back to his work with his head full of the promised book, pausing now and then to chink the two silver halves and the new quarter together in his pocket, wondering what he should buy with this vast sum.
Bab and Betty meantime had had a most exciting day, for when they went home at noon they found the pretty lady there, and she had talked to them like an old friend, given them a ride on the little horse, and kissed them both good-by when they went back to school. In the afternoon the lady was gone, the old house all open, and their mother sweeping, dusting, airing in great spirits. So they had a splendid frolic tumbling on feather beds, beating bits of carpet, opening closets, and racing from garret to cellar like a pair of distracted kittens.
Here Ben found them, and was at once overwhelmed with a burst of news which excited him as much as it did them. Miss Celia owned the house, was coming to live there, and things were to be made ready as soon as possible. All thought the prospect a charming one; Mrs. Moss because life had been dull for her during the year she had taken charge of the old house; the little girls had heard rumors of various pets who were coming, and Ben, learning that a boy and a donkey were among them, resolved that nothing but the arrival of his father should tear him from this now deeply interesting spot.
"I'm in such a hurry to see the peacocks and hear them scream. She said they did, and that we'd laugh when old Jack brayed," cried Bab, hopping about on one foot to work off her impatience.
"Is a faytun a kind of a bird? I heard her say she could keep it in the coach-house," asked Betty, inquiringly.
"It's a little carriage," and Ben rolled in the grass, much tickled at poor Betty's ignorance.
"Of course it is. I looked it out in the dic., and you mustn't call it a payton though it is spelt with a p," added Bab, who liked to lay down the law on all occasions, and did not mention that she had looked vainly among the f's till a school-mate set her right.
"You can't tell me much about carriages. But what I want to know is where Lita will stay?" said Ben.
"Oh, she's to be up at the Squire's, till things are fixed, and you are to bring her down. Squire came and told Ma all about it, and said you were a boy to be trusted, for he had tried you."
Ben made no answer, but secretly thanked his stars that he had not proved himself untrustworthy by running away, and so missing all this fun.
"Wont it be fine to have the house open all the time? We can run over and see the pictures and books whenever we like. I know we can, Miss Celia is so kind," began Betty, who cared for these things more than for screaming peacocks and comical donkeys.
"Not unless you are invited," answered their mother, locking the front door behind her. "You'd better begin to pick up your duds right away, for she wont want them cluttering round her front yard. If you are not too tired, Ben, you might rake round a little while I shut the blinds. I want things to look nice and tidy."
Two little groans went up from two afflicted little girls as they looked about them at the shady bower, the dear porch, and the winding walks where they loved to run "till their hair whistled in the wind," as the fairy-books say.
"Whatever shall we do! Our attic is so hot and the shed so small, and the yard always full of hens or clothes. We shall have to pack all our things away and never play any more," said Bab, tragically.
"May be Ben could build us a little house in the orchard," proposed Betty, who firmly believed that Ben could do anything.
"He wont have any time. Boys don't care for baby-houses," returned Bab, collecting her homeless goods and chattels with a dismal face.
"We sha'n't want these much when all the new things come; see if we do," said cheerful little Betty, who always found out a silver lining to every cloud.
MISS CELIA'S MAN.
Ben was not too tired, and the clearing-up began that very night. None too soon, for, in a day or two, things arrived, to the great delight of the children, who considered moving a most interesting play. First came the phaeton, which Ben spent all his leisure moments in admiring, wondering with secret envy what happy boy would ride in the little seat up behind, and beguiling his tasks by planning how, when he got rich, he would pass his time driving about in just such an equipage, and inviting all the boys he met to have a ride.
Then a load of furniture came creaking in at the lodge gate, and the girls had raptures over a cottage piano, several small chairs, and a little low table, which they pronounced just the thing for them to play at. The live stock appeared next, creating a great stir in the neighborhood, for peacocks were rare birds there; the donkey's bray startled the cattle and convulsed the people with laughter; the rabbits were continually getting out to burrow in the newly made garden; and Chevalita scandalized old Duke by dancing about the stable which he had inhabited for years in stately solitude.
Last, but by no means least, Miss Celia, her young brother and two maids, arrived one evening so late that only Mrs. Moss went over to help them settle. The children were much disappointed, but were appeased by a promise that they should all go to pay their respects in the morning.
They were up so early, and were so impatient to be off, that Mrs. Moss let them go with the warning that they would find only the servants astir. She was mistaken, however, for as the procession approached, a voice from the porch called out: "Good morning, little neighbors!" so unexpectedly, that Bab nearly spilt the new milk she carried, Betty gave such a start that the fresh-laid eggs quite skipped in the dish, and Ben's face broke into a broad grin over the armful of clover which he brought for the bunnies, as he bobbed his head, saying, briskly:
"She's all right, miss; Lita is, and I can bring her over any minute you say."
"I shall want her at four o'clock. Thorny will be too tired to drive, but I must hear from the post-office, rain or shine;" and Miss Celia's pretty color brightened as she spoke, either from some happy thought or because she was bashful, for the honest young faces before her plainly showed their admiration of the white-gowned lady under the honeysuckles.
The appearance of Miranda, the maid, reminded the children of their errand, and having delivered their offerings, they were about to retire in some confusion, when Miss Celia said pleasantly:
"I want to thank you for helping put things in such nice order. I see signs of busy hands and feet both inside the house and all about the grounds, and I am very much obliged."
"I raked the beds," said Ben, proudly eying the neat ovals and circles.
"I swept all the paths," added Bab, with a reproachful glance at several green sprigs fallen from the load of clover on the smooth walk.
"I cleared up the porch," and Betty's clean pinafore rose and fell with a long sigh, as she surveyed the late summer residence of her exiled family.
Miss Celia guessed the meaning of that sigh, and made haste to turn it into a smile by asking, anxiously:
"What has become of the playthings? I don't see them anywhere."
"Ma said you wouldn't want our duds round, so we took them all home," answered Betty, with a wistful face.
"But I do want them round. I like dolls and toys almost as much as ever, and quite miss the little "duds" from porch and path. Suppose you come to tea with me to-night and bring some of them back? I should be very sorry to rob you of your pleasant play-place."
"Oh yes'm, we'd love to come! and we'll bring our best things."
"Ma always lets us have our shiny pitchers and the china poodle when we go visiting or have company at home," said Bab and Betty, both speaking at once.
"Bring what you like and I'll hunt up my toys too. Ben is to come also, and his poodle is especially invited," added Miss Celia as Sancho came and begged before her, feeling that some agreeable project was under discussion.
"Thank you, miss. I told them you'd be willing they should come sometimes. They like this place ever so much, and so do I," said Ben, feeling that few spots combined so many advantages in the way of climbable trees, arched gates, half-a-dozen gables, and other charms suited to the taste of an aspiring youth who had been a flying Cupid at the age of seven.
"So do I," echoed Miss Celia, heartily. "Ten years ago I came here a little girl, and made lilac chains under these very bushes, and picked chick-weed over there for my bird, and rode Thorny in his baby-wagon up and down these paths. Grandpa lived here then and we had fine times; but now they are all gone except us two."
"We haven't got any father either," said Bab, for something in Miss Celia's face made her feel as if a cloud had come over the sun.
"I have a first-rate father, if I only knew where he'd gone to," said Ben, looking down the path as eagerly as if some one waited for him behind the locked gate.
"You are a rich boy, and you are happy little girls to have so good a mother; I've found that out already," and the sun shone again as the young lady nodded to the neat, rosy children before her.
"You may have a piece of her if you want to, 'cause you haven't got any of your own," said Betty, with a pitiful look which made her blue eyes as sweet as two wet violets.
"So I will! and you shall be my little sisters. I never had any, and I'd love to try how it seems," and Miss Celia took both the chubby hands in hers, feeling ready to love every one this first bright morning in the new home which she hoped to make a very happy one.
Bab gave a satisfied nod, and fell to examining the rings upon the white hand that held her own. But Betty put her arms about the new friend's neck, and kissed her so softly that the hungry feeling in Miss Celia's heart felt better directly, for this was the food it wanted, and Thorny had not learned yet to return one half of the affection he received. Holding the child close, she played with the yellow braids while she told them about the little German girls in their funny black-silk caps, short-waisted gowns and wooden shoes, whom she used to see watering long webs of linen bleaching on the grass, watching great flocks of geese, or driving pigs to market, knitting or spinning as they went.
Presently, "Randa," as she called her stout maid, came to tell her that "Master Thorny couldn't wait another minute," and she went in to breakfast with a good appetite, while the children raced home to bounce in upon Mrs. Moss, talking all at once like little lunatics.
"The phaeton at four,—so sweet in a beautiful white gown,—-going to tea, and Sancho and all the baby things invited. Can't we wear our Sunday frocks? A splendid new net for Lita. And she likes dolls. Goody, goody, wont it be fun!"
With much difficulty their mother got a clear account of the approaching festivity out of the eager mouths, and with still more difficulty got breakfast into them, for the children had few pleasures, and this brilliant prospect rather turned their heads.
Bab and Betty thought the day would never end, and cheered the long hours by expatiating on the pleasures in store for them, till their playmates were much afflicted because they were not going also. At noon their mother kept them from running over to the old house lest they should be in the way, so they consoled themselves by going to the syringa bush at the corner and sniffing the savory odors which came from the kitchen, where Katy, the cook, was evidently making nice things for tea.
Ben worked as if for a wager till four, then stood over Pat while he curried Lita till her coat shone like satin, then drove her gently down to the coach-house, where he had the satisfaction of harnessing her "all his own self."
"Shall I go round to the great gate and wait for you there, miss?" he asked, when all was ready, looking up at the porch where the young lady stood watching him as she put on her gloves.
"No, Ben, the great gate is not to be opened till next October. I shall go in and out by the lodge, and leave the avenue to grass and dandelions, meantime," answered Miss Celia, as she stepped in and took the reins, with a sudden smile.
But she did not start even when Ben had shaken out the new duster and laid it neatly over her knees.
"Isn't it all right now?" asked the boy, anxiously.
"Not quite; I need one thing more. Can't you guess what it is?"—and Miss Celia watched his anxious face as his eyes wandered from the tips of Lita's ears to the hind-wheel of the phaeton, trying to discover what had been omitted.
"No, miss, I don't see—" he began, much mortified to think he had forgotten anything.
"Wouldn't a little groom up behind improve the appearance of my turnout?" she said, with a look which left no doubt in his mind that he was to be the happy boy to occupy that proud perch.
He grew red with pleasure, but stammered, as he hesitated, looking down at his bare feet and blue shirt:
"I aint fit, miss, and I haven't got any other clothes."
Miss Celia only smiled again more kindly than before, and answered, in a tone which he understood better than her words:
"A great man said his coat-of-arms was a pair of shirt sleeves, and a sweet poet sung about a barefooted boy, so I need not be too proud to ride with one. Up with you, Ben, my man, and let us be off, or we shall be late for our party."
With one bound the new groom was in his place, sitting very erect, with his legs stiff, arms folded, and nose in the air, as he had seen real grooms sit behind their masters in fine dog-carts or carriages. Mrs. Moss nodded as they drove past the lodge, and Ben touched his torn hat-brim in the most dignified manner, though he could not suppress a broad grin of delight, which deepened into a chuckle when Lita went off at a brisk trot along the smooth road toward town.
It takes so little to make a child happy, it is a pity grown people do not oftener remember it and scatter little bits of pleasure before the small people, as they throw crumbs to the hungry sparrows. Miss Celia knew the boy was pleased, but he had no words in which to express his gratitude for the great contentment she had given him. He could only beam at all he met, smile when the floating ends of the gray veil blew against his face, and long in his heart to give the new friend a boyish hug as he used to do his dear Melia when she was very good to him.
School was just out as they passed, and it was a spectacle, I assure you, to see the boys and girls stare at Ben up aloft in such state; also to see the superb indifference with which that young man regarded the vulgar herd who went afoot. He could not resist an affable nod to Bab and Betty, for they stood under the maple-tree, and the memory of their circulating library made him forget his dignity in his gratitude.
"We will take them next time, but now I want to talk to you," began Miss Celia, as Lita climbed the hill. "My brother has been ill, and I have brought him here to get well. I want to do all sorts of things to amuse him, and I think you can help me in many ways. Would you like to work for me instead of the Squire?"
"I guess I would!" ejaculated Ben, so heartily that no further assurances were needed, and Miss Celia went on, well pleased:
"You see, poor Thorny is weak and fretful, and does not like to exert himself, though he ought to be out a great deal, and kept from thinking of his little troubles. He cannot walk much yet, so I have a wheeled chair to push him in, and the paths are so hard it will be easy to roll him around. That will be one thing you can do. Another is to take care of his pets till he is able to do it himself. Then you can tell him your adventures, and talk to him as only a boy can talk to a boy. That will amuse him when I want to write or go out; but I never leave him long, and hope he will soon be running about as well as the rest of us. How does that sort of work look to you?"
"First-rate! I'll take real good care of the little fellow, and do everything I know to please him, and so will Sanch. He's fond of children," answered Ben, heartily, for the new place looked very inviting to him.
Miss Celia laughed, and rather damped his ardor by her next words:
"I don't know what Thorny would say to hear you call him 'little.' He is fourteen, and appears to get taller and taller every day. He seems like a child to me, because I am nearly ten years older than he is; but you needn't be afraid of his long legs and big eyes,—he is too feeble to do any harm,—only you mustn't mind if he orders you about."
"I'm used to that. I don't mind it if he wont call me a 'spalpeen,' and fire things at me," said Ben, thinking of his late trials with Pat.
"I can promise that, and I am sure Thorny will like you, for I told him your story, and he is anxious to see 'the circus boy,' as he called you. Squire Allen says I may trust you, and I am glad to do so, for it saves me much trouble to find what I want all ready for me. You shall be well fed and clothed, kindly treated and honestly paid, if you like to stay with me."
"I know I shall like it—till father comes, anyway. Squire wrote to Smithers right off, but hasn't got any answer yet. I know they are on the go now, so may be we wont hear for ever so long," answered Ben, feeling less impatient to be off than before this fine proposal was made to him.
"I dare say; meantime we will see how we get on together, and perhaps your father will be willing to leave you for the summer if he is away. Now show me the baker's, the candy-shop, and the post-office," said Miss Celia, as they rattled down the main street of the village.
Ben made himself useful, and when all the other errands were done, received his reward in the shape of a new pair of shoes and a straw hat with a streaming blue ribbon, on the ends of which shone silvery anchors. He was also allowed to drive home, while his new mistress read her letters. One particularly long one, with a queer stamp on the envelope, she read twice, never speaking a word till they got back. Then Ben was sent off with Lita and the Squire's letters, promising to get his chores done in time for tea.
(To be continued.)
CRUMBS FROM OLDER READING.
BY JULIA E. SARGENT.
"Who ever heard of Emerson?" I asked a room of third-reader pupils. Nearly every hand came up, and the bright faces were full of interest. What a delightful surprise! I did not expect to see more than two hands, and here all were as interested as if I had said, "Who ever heard of Hayes or Tilden?" All at once I remembered that, for more than a week, every fence about the school had been covered with circus-bills, bearing the name "Billy Emerson."
Sure enough he was the only Emerson those pupils knew about; for when I said Ralph Waldo Emerson, one by one the hands came down. No one had heard of him. Now I know no more of "Billy Emerson" than the children knew of Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I am not afraid to say that the one I know is better worth knowing.
For in papa's library, or on mamma's center-table, I have no doubt you can find more than one book which he has written. When in his sermon the minister tells what Emerson has said, you may be very sure he does not quote "Billy." Papers and magazines all have something to say concerning this man, whose books grown people read and talk about.
Who is he, then? His name is Ralph Waldo Emerson, and he writes books.
Very good; and what are people who write books called? Then Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson is an author. He lives in a republican country which has Washington for its capital. He was born in the Bay State, in the largest city of New England. He dwells now in a little town where a battle was fought a hundred years ago, and the name of this town means "harmony." You know where that is, do you not? He was born in 1803, and, as this is 1878, every one of you boys and girls who can subtract can tell just his age. One of the books he has written tells about England, another about such famous men as Shakspeare and Napoleon, and others talk about wealth and friendship, prudence and power.
That does not sound as if he meant them for you? Well, one thing he did mean for you, and that is a dear little poem—"The Squirrel and the Mountain." Every one of you will want to read it, and when you have read it you will want to learn it, and when you have learned you will want to speak it. I need not have told you he meant that poem for you; you would know that the minute you saw it. But you could not tell so soon how many things he says for you in those famous essays so often quoted. What do you think I can find for you in this dry-looking book, "Conduct of Life," with "Emerson" printed just under the title?
Did you ever see an old hen with her little walking bundles of feathers in the soft garden soil? How she does scratch and bustle for something to eat! Why, she is eating every bit herself! Perhaps she thinks that taking care of the chickens' mother is very important work for her; but by-and-by she will call the little folks to share what she has found.
You may think of me as of an old hen who has long been scratching in the soft garden soil of Ralph Waldo Emerson's writings. She has found much for herself, with now and then a bit for the chickens.
Here, the very first thing, is something about eggs. "There is always a best way of doing everything, if it be but to boil an egg." I hope my little friends are never cross when Bridget has not boiled the nice breakfast egg in the best way. More than that; I hope they themselves know what is the best way of doing it; just how hot the water must be, how long the egg should boil to make it hard or soft, and, what is well worth knowing, how to get it in and out of the hot water without breaking the shell.