HotFreeBooks.com
The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. VIII, No. 355, October 16, 1886
Author: Various
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER

VOL. VIII.—NO. 355.

OCTOBER 16, 1886.

PRICE ONE PENNY.



THE BROOK AND ITS BANKS.

BY THE REV. J. G. WOOD, M.A., Author of "The Handy Natural History."

"Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays, As through the glen it dimpl't; Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays; Whyles in a weil it dimpl't; Whyles glittered to the nightly rays, Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle; Whyles cookit underneath the braes Below the spreading hazel."

Burns: "Halloween."



CHAPTER I.

The many aspects of a brook—The eye sees only that which it is capable of seeing—Individuality of brooks and their banks—The rippling "burnie" of the hills—The gently-flowing brooks of low-lying districts—Individualities even of such brooks—The fresh-water brooks of Oxford and the tidal brooks of the Kentish marshes—The swarming life in which they abound—An afternoon's walk—Ditches versus hedges and walls—A brook in Cannock Chase—Its sudden changes of aspect—The brooks of the Wiltshire Downs and of Derbyshire.

A brook has many points of view.

In the first place, scarcely any two spectators see it in the same light.

To the rustic it is seldom more than a convenient water-tank, or, at most, as affording some sport to boys in fishing. To its picturesque beauties his eyes are blind, and to him the brook is, like Peter Bell's primrose, a brook and nothing more.

Then there are some who only view a brook as affording variety to the pursuit of the fox, and who pride themselves on their knowledge of the spots at which it can be most successfully leaped.

Others, again, who are of a geographical turn of mind, can only see in a brook a necessary portion of the water-shed of the district.

To children it is for a time dear as a playground, possessing the inestimable advantage of enabling them to fall into it and wet their clothes from head to foot.

Then there are some who are keenly alive to its changing beauties, and are gifted with artistic spirit and power of appreciation, even if they should not have been able to cultivate the technical skill which would enable them to transfer to paper or canvas the scene which pleased them. Yet they can only see the surface, and take little, if any, heed of the wealth of animated life with which the brook and its banks are peopled, or of the sounds with which the air is filled.

Happy are those in whom are fortunately combined the appreciation of art and the gift (for it is a gift as much as an eye for art or an ear for music) of observing animal life. To them the brook is all that it is to others, and much besides. To them the tiniest brook is a perpetual joy, and of such a nature I hope are those who read these pages.

Not only does a brook assume different aspects, according to the individuality of the spectator, but every brook has its individuality, and so have its banks.

Often the brook "plays many parts," as in Burns' delightful stanza, which seems to have rippled from the poet's brain as spontaneously as its subject.

Sometimes, however, as near Oxford, it flows silently onwards with scarcely a dimple on its unruffled surface. Over its still waters the gnats rise and fall in their ceaseless dance. The swift-winged dragon-flies, blue, green, and red, swoop upon them like so many falcons on their prey; or, in the earlier year, the mayflies flutter above the stream, leaving their shed skins, like ghostly images of themselves, sticking on every tree trunk near the brook.

On the surface of the brook are seen the shadow-like water-gnats, drifting with apparent aimlessness over the surface, but having in view a definite and deadly purpose, as many a half drowned insect will find to its cost.

Under the shade of the willows that overhang its banks the whirligig beetles will gather, sociably circling round and round in their mazy dance, bumping against each other in their swift course, but glancing off unhurt from the collision, protected from injury by the stout coats of mail which they wear.

They really look like unskilful dancers practising their "figures" for the first time. They, however, are not engaged in mere amusement, but, like the water-gnats, are absorbed in the business of life. The naturalist knows, when he sees these creatures, that they do not form the hundredth part of those which are hidden from human eyes below the surface of the little brook, and that the whole of the stream is as instinct with life, as if it had been haunted by the Nipens, the Undines, and the host of fairy beings with whom the old legends peopled every river and its tributaries.

They are just as wonderful, though clad in material forms, as any water spirit that ever was evolved from the poet's brain, and have the inestimable merit of being always within reach whenever we need them.

I will venture to assert that no fairy tales, not even excepting those of the "Arabian Nights," can surpass in marvel the true life-history of the mayfly, the frog, the newt, and the dragon-fly, as will be narrated in the course of these pages. I may go even farther, and assert that there is no inhabitant of the brook and its banks whose biography and structure are not full of absorbing interest, and will not occupy the longest life, if only an attempt be made to study them thoroughly.

An almost typical example of slow-flowing brooks is to be found in the remarkable channels which intersect the country between Minster and Sandwich, and which, on the ordnance map, look almost like the threads of a spider's web. In that flat district, the fields are not divided by hedges, as in most parts of England, or by stone walls—"dykes," as they are termed in Ireland—such as are employed in Derbyshire and several other stony localities, but by channels, which have a strong individuality of their own.

Even the smallest of these brooks is influenced by the tide, so that at the two periods of slack water there is no perceptible stream.

Yesterday afternoon, having an hour or so to spare at Minster, I examined slightly several of these streams and their banks. The contrast between them and the corresponding brooklets of Oxford, also a low-lying district, was very strongly marked.

In the first place, the willow, which forms so characteristic an ornament of the brooks and rivers of Oxford, is wholly absent. Most of the streamlets are entirely destitute of even a bush by which their course can be marked; so that when, as is often the case, a heavy white fog overhangs the entire district, looking from a distance as if the land had been sunk in an ocean of milk, no one who is not familiarly acquainted with every yard of ground could make his way over the fields without falling into the watery boundaries which surround them.

Some of them, however, are distinguished by hawthorns, which take the place of the willows, and thrive so luxuriantly that they may lay claim to the title of forest trees. Blackberries, too, are exuberant in their growth, and in many spots the hawthorn and blackberry on opposite sides of the brook have intertwined their branches across it and have completely hidden the water from sight. On these blackberries, the fruit of which was in its green state, the drone-flies and hawk-flies simply swarmed, telling the naturalist of their multitudinous successors, who at present are in the preliminary stages of their existence.

Among the blackberries the scarlet fruit of the woody nightshade (a first cousin of the potato) hung in tempting clusters, and I could not help wondering whether they would endanger the health of the young Minsterians.

In some places the common frog-bit had grown with such luxuriance that it had completely hidden the water, the leaves overlapping each other as if the overcrowded plants were trying to shoulder each other out of the way.

In most of these streamlets the conspicuous bur-reed (Sparganium ramosum) grew thickly, its singular fruit being here and there visible among the sword-like leaves. I cannot but think that the mediaeval weapon called the "morning star" (or "morgen-stern") was derived from the globular, spiked fruit-cluster of the bur-reed.

A few of the streams were full of the fine plant which is popularly known by the name of bull-rush, or bulrush (Typha latifolia), but which ought by rights to be called the "cat's-tail" or "reed-mace." Of this plant it is said that a little girl, on seeing it growing, exclaimed that she never knew before that sausages grew on sticks. The teasel (Dipsacus) was abundant, as were also several of the true thistles.

In some places one of these streams becomes too deep for the bur-reed, and its surface is only diversified by the half-floating leaves of one or two aquatic plants.

On approaching one of these places, I find the water to be apparently without inmates. They had only been alarmed by my approach, which, as I had but little time to spare, was not as cautious as it ought to have been. However, I remained perfectly still, and presently a little fish appeared from below. It was soon followed by a second and a third, and before long a whole shoal of fish were floating almost on the surface, looking out for insects which had fallen into the water.

The day being hot, and with scarcely a breath of wind, the fish soon became quite bold. They did not move beyond the small spot in which they had appeared, but they all had their tails in slight movement, and their heads in one direction, thus showing that although the water appeared to be perfectly motionless, there must be a current of some sort, fish always lying with their heads up the stream, so as to allow the water to enter their mouths and pass over their gills.

If then these sluggish streams were unlike those of Oxford, where the ground is low, and nearly level, how utterly distinct must they be from those of hilly and especially of rocky localities!

In the earlier part of the present year I was cursorily examining a brook in Cannock Chase, in Staffordshire. Unfortunately, the day was singularly inauspicious, as the sun was invisible, the atmosphere murky, and a fierce north-east wind was blowing, a wind which affects animals, etc., especially the insect races, even more severely than it does man. Even the birds remain under shelter as long as they can, and not an insect will show itself. Neither, in consequence, will the fish be "on the feed."

On a previous visit, we had been more fortunate, trout, crayfish, etc., testifying to the prolific character of the brook, which in one place is only four or five feet in width, and yet, within fifty yards, it has formed itself into a wide and treacherous marsh, which can only be crossed by jumping from one tussock of grass to another; and yet, again, it suddenly spreads out into a broad and shallow torrent, the water leaping and rippling over the stony bed. Scarcely a bush marks its course, and within a few yards it is quite invisible.

As we shall presently see, the brooks of the chalk downs of Wiltshire, and of the regular mixture of rock and level ground, which are characteristic of Derbyshire, have also their own separate individualities.

We shall, however, find many allusions to them in the course of the work, and we will therefore suppose ourselves to be approaching the bank of any brook that is but little disturbed by man. What will be likely to happen to us will be told in the following chapters.



CHAPTER II.

Life-history of the water-rat—No science can stand alone—What is a water-rat?—The voles of the land and water—Their remarkable teeth—The rodents and their incisor teeth—The tooth and the chisel—The skate "iron"—Chewing the cud—Teeth of the elephant—Feet of the water-vole—A false accusation—Water-voles in gardens—Winter stores—Cats and water-voles—Subterranean pioneering—Mental character of the water-vole—Standing fire—Its mode of eating.

Plop!

A water-rat has taken alarm, and has leaped into the brook.

A common animal enough, but none the less worthy of notice because it is common. Indeed, it is in many respects a very remarkable creature, and we may think ourselves fortunate that we have the opportunity of studying its habits and structure.

There is much more in the animal than meets the eye, and we cannot examine its life-history without at the same time touching upon that of several other creatures. No science stands alone, neither does any animal, however insignificant it may appear to be; and we shall find that before we have done with the water-rat, we shall have had something to say of comparative anatomy, ornithology, ichthyology, entomology and botany, beside treating of the connection which exists between man and the lower animals, and the reciprocal influence of civilisation and animal life.

In the first place, let us define our animal.

What is a water-rat, and where is its place in zoological systems of the present day? Its name in science is Arvicola amphibius. This title tells its own story.

Though popularly called a rat, the animal has no right to the name, although, like the true rat, it is a rodent, and much resembles the rat in size and in the length and colour of its fur. The likeness, however, extends no further.

The rats are long-nosed and sharp-snouted animals, whereas the water-rat has a short, blunt nose. Then, the ears of the rats are large and stand out boldly from the head, while those of the water-rat are small, short, and rounded. Again, the tail of the rat is long and slender, while that of the water-rat is comparatively short. Place the two animals side by side, and you will wonder how anyone could mistake the one for the other.

The teeth, too, are quite different.

Instead of being white, like those of the rat, the incisor teeth are orange-yellow, like those of the beaver. Indeed, the water-rat possesses so many beaver-like characteristics, that it was ranked near the beaver in the systematic lists.

Now, however, the Voles, as these creatures ought rightly to be called, are thought to be of sufficient importance to be placed by themselves, and separated from the true beavers.

The voles constitute quite a large group of rodents, including several animals which are popularly ranked among the mice.

One very remarkable characteristic of the voles is the structure of their molar teeth.

Being rodents, they can have but two incisor teeth in each jaw, these teeth being rootless, and so set in their sockets that they are incessantly worn away in front, and as incessantly grow from the base, take the curved form of their sockets, and act much like shears which have the inestimable property of self-sharpening when blunted, and self-renewal when chipped or actually broken off by coming against any hard substance. Were the teeth to be without this power, the animal would run a great risk of dying from hunger, the injured tooth not being able either to do its own work, or to aid its companion of the opposite jaw. Either tooth alone would be as useless as a single blade of a pair of scissors.

There is another notable characteristic of these incisor teeth. If you will examine the incisors of any rodent, whether it be a rat, a mouse, a rabbit, or a beaver, you will see that the tips are "bevelled" off just like the edge of a chisel. This shape is absolutely necessary to keep the tooth in working order. How is this object to be attained?

In the solution of this problem we may see one of the many links which connect art and nature.

Should our readers know anything of carpentering, let them examine the structure of their chisels. They are not made wholly of hard steel, as in that case they would be liable to snap, just as does the blade of a foil when undue pressure is brought to bear upon it. Moreover, the operation of sharpening would be extremely difficult.

So the blade of the chisel is merely faced with a thin plate of hardened steel, the remainder being of softer material.

Now, it is not at all likely that the unknown inventor of the modern chisel was aware of the analogy between art and nature, and would probably have been very much surprised if anyone had stated that he had borrowed his idea from the incisor teeth of the water-rat.

Yet he might have done so, for these teeth are almost wholly formed of ordinary tooth matter, and are faced with a thin plate of hard enamel, which exactly corresponds with the hardened steel facing of a chisel.

Any of my readers who possess skates will find, on examination, that the greater part of the blade is, in reality, soft iron, the steel, which comes upon the ice, being scarcely a fifth of an inch in length. The hardened steel allows the blade to take the necessary edge, while the soft iron preserves the steel from snapping.

Should the skate have been neglected and allowed to become a little rusty, the line of demarcation between the steel and the iron can be distinctly seen. Similarly, in the beaver and the water-rat, the orange-yellow colour of the enamel facing causes it to be easily distinguished from the rest of the tooth. In most of the rodents the enamel is white, and the line of demarcation is scarcely visible.

Now we have to treat of a question of mechanics.

If two substances of different degrees of hardness be subjected to the same amount of friction, it follows that the softer will be worn away long before the harder. It is owing to this principle that the edges of the rodent teeth preserve their chisel-like form. Being continually employed in nibbling, the softer backing of the teeth is rapidly worn away, while the hard plate of enamel upon the front of the tooth is but slightly worn, the result being the bevelled shape which is so characteristic of these teeth.

As all know, who have kept rabbits or white mice, the animals are always engaged in gnawing anything which will yield to their teeth, and unless the edges of their feeding troughs be protected by metal, will nibble them to pieces in a few days. Indeed, so strong is this instinct, that the health of the animals is greatly improved by putting pieces of wood into their cages, merely for the purpose of allowing them to exercise their chisel-edged teeth. Even when they have nothing to gnaw, the animals will move their jaws incessantly, just as if they were eating, a movement which gave rise to the idea that they chewed the cud.

It is worthy of remark that other animals, which, though not rodents, need to possess chisel-edged incisor teeth, have a similar habit. Such is the hippopotamus, and such is the hyrax, the remarkable rock-haunting animal, which in the authorised translation of the Scriptures is called the "coney," and which in the Revised Version is allowed in the margin to retain its Hebrew name, "shaphan."

The enamel also has an important part to play in the structure of the molar teeth. Each tooth is surrounded with the enamel plate, which is so intricately folded that the tooth looks as if it were made of a series of enamel triangles, each enclosing the tooth matter.

This structure is common to all the members of the group to which the water-rat belongs. It is the more remarkable because we find a somewhat similar structure in the molar teeth of the elephants, which, like the rodents, have the incisor teeth largely developed and widely separated from the molars.

There is nothing in the appearance of the water-rat which gives any indication of its aquatic habits.

For example, we naturally expect to find that the feet of swimming animals are webbed. The water-loving capybara of South America, the largest existing rodent, has its hoof-like toes partially united by webs, so that its aquatic habits might easily be inferred even by those who were unacquainted with the animal. Even the otter, which propels itself through the water mostly by means of its long and powerful tail, has the feet furnished with webs. So has the aquatic Yapock opossum of Australia, while the feet of the duck-bill are even more boldly webbed than those of the bird from which it takes its popular name. The water-shrews (whom we shall presently meet) are furnished with a fringe of stiff hair round the toes which answers the same purpose as the web.

But the structure of the water-rat gives no indication of its habits, so that no one who was unacquainted with the animal would even suspect its swimming and diving powers. Watch it as long as you like, and I do not believe that you will see it eating anything of an animal nature.

I mention this fact because it is often held up to blame as a mischievous animal, especially deserving the wrath of anglers by devouring the eggs and young of fish.

As is often the case in the life-history of animals as well as of men, the blame is laid on the wrong shoulders. If the destruction of fish be a crime, there are many criminals, the worst and most persistent of which are the fish themselves, which not only eat the eggs and young of other fish, but, Saturn-like, have not the least scruple in devouring their own offspring.

Scarcely less destructive in its own insidious way is the common house-rat, which eats everything which according to our ideas is edible, and a good many which we might think incapable of affording sustenance even to a rat. In the summer time it often abandons for a time the house, the farm, the barn, and seeks for a change of diet by the brook. These water-haunting creatures are naturally mistaken for the vegetable-feeding water-vole, and so the latter has to bear the blame of their misdoings.

There are lesser inhabitants of the brook which are injurious both to the eggs and young of fish. Among them are several of the larger water-beetles, some of which are so large and powerful that, when placed in an aquarium with golden carp, they have made havoc among the fish, always attacking them from below. Although they cannot kill and devour the fish at once, they inflict such serious injuries that the creature is sure to die shortly.

I do not mean to assert that the water-vole is never injurious to man. Civilisation disturbs for a time the balance of Nature, and when man ploughs or digs the ground which had previously been untouched by plough or spade, and sows the seeds of herbs and cereals in land which has previously produced nothing but wild plants, he must expect that the animals to whom the soil had been hitherto left will fail to understand that they can no more consider themselves as the owners, and will in consequence do some damage to the crops.

Moreover, even putting their food aside, their habits often render them obnoxious to civilised man. The mole, for example, useful as it really is in a field, does very great harm in a garden or lawn, although it eats none of the produce.

The water-vole, however, is doubly injurious when the field or garden happens to be near the water-side. It is a mighty burrower, driving its tunnels to great distances. Sometimes it manages to burrow into a kitchen-garden, and feeds quite impartially on the different crops. It has even been seen to venture to a considerable distance from water, crossing a large field, making its way into a garden, and carrying off several pods of the French bean.

In the winter time, when other food fails, the water-vole, like the hare and rabbit, will eat turnips, mangold-wurzel, the bark of young trees, and similar food. Its natural food, however, is to be found among the various aquatic plants, as I have often seen, and the harm which it does to the crops is so infinitesimally small when compared with the area of cultivated ground, that it is not worthy of notice.

Still, although the harm which it does to civilised man in the aggregate is but small, even its most friendly advocate cannot deny that there are cases where it has been extremely troublesome to the individual cultivator, especially if he be an amateur.

There are many hard men of business, who are obliged to spend the greater part of the day in their London offices, and who find their best relaxation in amateur gardening; those who grow vegetables, regarding their peas, beans, potatoes, and celery with as much affection as is felt by floriculturists for their roses or tulips.

Nothing is more annoying to such men than to find, when the toils of business are over, and they have settled themselves comfortably into their gardening suits, that some marauder has carried off the very vegetables on which they had prided themselves.

The water-vole has been detected in the act of climbing up a ladder which had been left standing against a plum tree, and attacking the fruit. Bunches of grapes on outdoor vines are sometimes nipped off the branches by the teeth of the water-vole, and the animal has been seen to climb beans and peas, split the pods, and devour the contents.

Although not a hibernating animal, it lays up a store of food in the autumn. Mr. Groom Napier has the following description of the contents of a water-rat's storehouse:—

"Early in the spring of 1855, I dug out the burrow of a water-vole, and was surprised to find at the further extremity a cavity of about a foot in diameter, containing a quantity of fragments of carrots and potatoes, sufficient to fill a peck measure. This was undoubtedly a part of its winter store of provisions. This food had been gathered from a large potato and carrot bed in the vicinity.

"On pointing out my discovery to the owner of the garden, he said that his losses had been very serious that winter owing to the ravages of these animals, and said that he had brought both dogs and cats down to the stream to hunt for them; but they were too wary to be often caught."

I do not think that the owner of the garden knew very much about the characters either of the cat or water-vole.

Every one who is practically acquainted with cats knows that it is next to impossible to point out an object to a cat as we can to a dog. She looks at your finger, but can never direct her gaze to the object at which you are pointing. In fact, I believe that pussy's eyes are not made for detecting objects at a distance.

If we throw a piece of biscuit to a dog, and he does not see where it has fallen, we can direct him by means of voice and finger. But, if a piece of meat should fall only a foot or two from a cat, all the pointing in the world will not enable her to discover it, and it is necessary to pick her up and put her nose close to the meat before she can find it.

So, even, if a water-vole should be seen by the master, the attention of the cat could not be directed to it, her instinct teaching her to take prey in quite a different manner.

The dogs, supposing that they happened to be of the right breed, would have a better chance of securing the robber, providing that they intercepted its retreat to the water. But if the water-vole should succeed in gaining its burrow, or in plunging into the stream, I doubt whether any dog would be able to catch it.

Moreover, the water-vole is so clever in tunnelling, that when it drives its burrows into cultivated ground, it almost invariably conceals the entrance under a heap of stones, a wood pile, or some similar object.

How it is enabled to direct the course of its burrow we cannot even conjecture, except by attributing the faculty to that "most excellent gift" which we call by the convenient name of "instinct."

Man has no such power, but when he wishes to drive a tunnel in any given direction he is obliged to avail himself of levels, compasses, plumb-lines, and all the paraphernalia of the engineer. Yet, with nothing to direct it except instinct, the water-vole can, though working in darkness, drive its burrow in any direction and emerge from the ground exactly at the spot which it has selected.

The mole can do the same, and by means equally mysterious.

I may casually mention that the water-vole is one of the aquatic animals which, when zoological knowledge was not so universal as it is at the present day, were reckoned as fish, and might be eaten on fast days. I believe that in some parts of France this idea still prevails.

With all its wariness, the water-vole is a strangely nervous creature, being for a time almost paralysed by a sudden shock. This trait of character I discovered quite unexpectedly.

Many, many years ago, when I was a young lad, and consequently of a destructive nature, I possessed a pistol, of which I was rather proud. It certainly was an excellent weapon, and I thought myself tolerably certain of hitting a small apple at twelve yards distance.

One day, while walking along the bank of the Cherwell River, I saw a water-vole on the opposite bank. The animal was sitting on a small stump close to the water's edge. Having, of course, the pistol with me, and wanting to dissect a water-vole, I proceeded to aim at the animal. This was not so easy as it looked. A water-vole crouching upon a stump presents no point at which to aim, the brown fur of the animal and the brown surface of the old weather-beaten stump seeming to form a single object without any distinct outline; moreover, it is very difficult to calculate distances over water. However, I fired, and missed.

I naturally expected the animal to plunge into the river and escape. To my astonishment, it remained in the same position. Finding that it did not stir, I reloaded, and again fired and missed. Four times did I fire at that water-vole, and after the last shot the animal slowly crawled off the stump, slid into the river, and made off.

Now in those days revolvers and breech-loaders did not exist, so that the process of loading a pistol with ball was rather a long and complicated one.

First, the powder had to be carefully measured from the flask; then a circular patch of greased linen had to be laid on the muzzle of the weapon, and a ball laid on it and hammered into the barrel with a leaden or wooden mallet; then it had to be driven into its place with a ramrod (often requiring the aid of the mallet), and, lastly, there was a new cap to be fitted. Yet although so much time was occupied between the shots, the animal remained as motionless as a stuffed figure.

When I crossed the river and examined the stump I found all the four bullets close together just below the spot on which the animal had been sitting, and neither of them two inches from its body. Although the balls had missed the water-vole, they must have sharply jarred the stump.

I was afterwards informed that this semi-paralysis from sudden fear is a known characteristic of the animal. It seems to be shared by others of the same genus, as will be seen when we come to treat of the field mice.

In its mode of eating it much resembles the squirrels, sitting on its haunches and holding the food in its forepaws, as if they were hands. I am not aware that it even eats worms or insects, and it may be absolutely acquitted from any imputation of doing harm to any of the fish tribe.

(To be continued.)



"SHE COULDN'T BOIL A POTATO;"

OR,

THE IGNORANT HOUSEKEEPER, AND HOW SHE ACQUIRED KNOWLEDGE.

BY DORA HOPE.

"The late Miss Ella!"

"When are you going to turn over that new leaf you spoke of, my daughter?"

"There's a little coffee left, but the bacon is quite cold."

These were the exclamations that greeted a tall bright girl, as she entered the breakfast room one morning.

"I am very sorry, papa. I really meant to be down in time, but I suppose I must have gone to sleep again after I was called." And being really vexed with herself for having so soon broken her good resolutions, formed for the hundredth time the day before, Ella Hastings accepted the cold bacon meekly, and even turned a deaf ear to the withering sarcasms of her two schoolboy brothers, who were leisurely strapping together their books, and delaying their departure till the last moment.

"There is the postman coming up the garden; run and get the letters, Hughie."

A solemn-looking boy of six years old climbed down from his chair, in obedience to his father's request, and soon came back with a handful of letters, and settled himself patiently by his father's side to wait for the empty envelopes, which formed his share of the morning's correspondence.

An exclamation of surprise from Mr. Hastings caused his wife to look up inquiringly from the letter she had just opened, and he handed her silently a telegram which had been forwarded, with other papers, from his office, where it had evidently been delivered late the previous evening. Kate, the eldest daughter, leaning over her mother's shoulder, read aloud the short notice:—

"Mrs. Wilson dangerously ill; letter follows."

Mrs. Wilson was Mr. Hastings' only remaining sister. His mother had died when he was almost an infant, and this "sister Mary" had slipped into her place as mother, teacher—everything, to her little brothers and sisters; never leaving them, till the father having died also, and her young charges being all old enough to settle in life for themselves, she had rewarded the faithful waiting of her old lover, and they had settled down together in a quiet village a few miles from the noisy town where his business lay. Her happy married life lasted but a short time, however, and for the many years since her husband's death she had preferred to live entirely alone with her two maids and a strange medley of pet animals—finding employment and interest for her declining years in her books and her garden.

From being so long alone she had grown eccentric in her ways, and very odd and decided in her views; but she kept a warm corner in her heart for her favourite brother and his children, who heartily returned their aunt's affection, though they stood a good deal in awe of her keen penetrating gaze and sarcastic criticisms.

She had always prided herself on her good constitution, and despised doctors and dentists as people who pandered to the fads and fancies of a degenerate generation—a generation who, according to her creed, weakened their backs and ruined their health by lounging on sofas and easy chairs, while, for her part, though seventy years of age, she was thankful to say a straight-backed chair was good enough for her. It may be imagined that for this self-reliant, vigorous Aunt Mary to be taken seriously ill, so ill as to have to summon help, was a great shock, and Mr. Hastings decided at once that he must go to see his sister, and that one of his daughters should accompany him; but the telegram was so short, and gave so little information, that nothing further could be arranged till the noonday post arrived, which always brought the letters from Hapsleigh.

The morning seemed endless, but noon came at last, and with it the promised letter, which was eagerly opened and read. It was from Mrs. Mobberly, a near neighbour of Mrs. Wilson's. She described the sudden illness, and all that had been done for the sufferer. "The doctor says that for a day or two he cannot tell what the result may be, though we may hope for the best. He has sent in a thoroughly trustworthy trained nurse, but he agrees with me that it would be a good thing if one of your daughters could come to take charge of the household, for even if all goes as well as possible it will be a long and tedious recovery, and the invalid must be kept perfectly quiet and free from all worry."

"Well, girls," said Mr. Hastings, as he finished reading the letter, "you must decide between yourselves which of you will go. As there seems no immediate danger, we need not leave till to-morrow morning, so you will have a little time for preparation; but however great a sacrifice it is for you to go, and for us to part with you, there is no question about it. Aunt Mary must not be left alone till she is quite herself again, so I will telegraph to Mrs. Mobberly that one of you will go with me by the first train to-morrow."

There was no room for disputing the point when Mr. Hastings spoke in that decided tone; moreover, the girls themselves would have said just the same—that someone must go; but the question was, "who?"

"Kate, it must be you," said Ella, eagerly. "I do not know anything about nursing or housekeeping, or anything of that sort, and you know I always say and do the wrong thing."

Mrs. Hastings looked anxious and perplexed. "I really do not know what to do for the best," she said. "I do not see how I can spare you, Kate; for if I have one of my bad attacks I must have you at hand; and you see, Ella, you would have everything to learn here just as much as at Hapsleigh, and I think you would find teaching the children very hard work."

Kate, the eldest daughter, was her mother's unfailing assistant, and almost entirely relieved her of the care of the three little ones; indeed, during Mrs. Hastings's frequent attacks of asthma, Kate was both ready and able to take entire charge of the household, and she felt that to leave her mother with only Ella's help would be throwing more care upon her than her delicate health could bear. She spoke decidedly, therefore; and, after a little more discussion, it was agreed that Ella should accompany her father, prepared to stay as long as she might be required.

The rest of the day was fully occupied with packing and making arrangements. Ella was rather apt to let her clothing take care of itself, and, in a sudden emergency such as this, had to borrow right and left. Indeed, Mrs. Hastings and Kate were both kept busy all the afternoon looking over and supplying the deficiencies in her outfit.

"That dressing-gown will not do at all, Ella. It is most important to have a thoroughly warm one when you have to sit up at night. Yours is very pretty, but blue cashmere and lace are not suitable for a sick room in cold weather. You will have to borrow Kate's thick flannel gown. You should have my quilted silk one, but in such a great thickness of material one's arms do not feel quite free to help an invalid, or shake up a bed."

"Here it is, Ella," rejoined Kate; "and I have brought you my thick bedroom slippers, too. They are not so elegant as your Turkish ones, but they are much warmer. Be sure you keep them by the side of your bed, so that you can slip them on directly if you are called up suddenly. You know you take cold so easily, and it would be so awkward if you had one of your bad throats at Hapsleigh."

Mrs. Hastings felt very anxious about her daughter, called upon so suddenly to take up such important and unexpected duties, and gave her a great deal of loving counsel.

"You will have to manage to get up earlier, dear child," she said. "You know Aunt Mary's servants are always rather inclined to go their own way, and they may perhaps try to take advantage of her illness to keep irregular hours and slight their work; and you must remember that you will be responsible for good order in the house, and that is impossible unless all the household are regular and punctual in beginning their day's work at the proper time. I will let you have my little clock, and you can set the alarum at whatever time you wish to get up."

"Yes; I really am going to turn over a new leaf about that; but you know, mother, I shall feel more obliged to get up now when I am responsible for things going right. Oh, dear! what a dreadful thought! I am sure I shall never manage. Why, I can't cook, and I can't keep accounts, and I have no idea how many pounds of meat people want for dinner. I shall order a tin of Australian meat, and just have it at every meal till it is finished, and then get another."

"I am afraid the servants will soon give you notice if you do, Ella," said Mrs. Hastings, laughing at her daughter's ideas of housekeeping. "You will soon get accustomed to the size of joints and puddings, if you get into the habit of noticing them, remembering how long they last. But there are two other pieces of advice which I want you to remember and to act upon. If your father decides that it is necessary for you to stay and act as mistress, he will tell the servants so; but you must assert yourself as mistress at once, and take everything into your own hands. You will find it rather difficult at first, but it will save you a great deal of trouble in the end. I have seen endless discomfort caused by young and timid housekeepers not liking to take the reins into their own hands. But, at the same time, be very careful never to interfere or complain, unless you are quite sure that it is necessary, and that you are in the right. If you are in any doubt you can always consult Mrs. Mobberly; and you must make allowances for the fact that the servants have always been allowed to do pretty much what they liked, and will naturally expect to continue doing so; therefore do not complain unless you have unmistakable grounds for it, and never, under any circumstances, speak hastily or angrily. If you are put out, wait till your vexation has cooled down a little; and then, if you are quite sure you are in the right, speak quietly and kindly, but so decidedly that there may be no mistake about your intention of being obeyed."

"Oh, dear!" groaned Ella, who was almost reduced to tears at the prospect of such serious responsibility. "I am sure I shall come home ignominiously in a week. I know just how it will be. Just think of Aunt Mary's scorn when she finds I don't even know how to boil a potato!"

There was no time for lamentations, however, and her mother and Kate both comforted her with the assurance that at any rate no one would blame her if she did her best, and they would expect a few mistakes from a girl only just home from school.

The next morning, at any rate, Ella was punctual, and at eight o'clock they all sat down to breakfast.

"I made tea for you, Ella," said Mrs. Hastings. "I thought it would be better for you before such a long journey. Coffee sometimes disagrees with people who are not very good travellers. And I advise you not to take bacon; it so often makes one thirsty. Here is potted meat; that would be better for you."

Ella felt in very low spirits, and her mother's and Kate's affectionate kindness only brought the despised tears into her eyes. She could hardly touch her breakfast, and was relieved when Kate left the table, and began to look after the small articles of luggage.

"Robin, did you strap up the rugs? Oh, what an untidy bundle!" and the methodical Kate unfastened the straps and rearranged the contents. First the large rug was folded lengthwise till it was just as wide as the length of the bundle should be when finished. Then came Ella's shawl, an awkward one for a neat roll, as it had long fringe; but Kate turned in the fringe all round first, and then folded the shawl itself till it was just a little narrower than the rug; the ulster was carefully folded also to the same size, and both were laid on one end of the rug. Finally, Ella's umbrella and sunshade were laid across the pile of wraps, and all were rolled round carefully, so that none of the articles inside protruded, and the rug, being longer than the others, hid all the ends, and, when strapped round just tightly enough to hold all together comfortably without unnecessary squeezing, it made such a neat-looking roll as compelled even Robin's admiration. Ella's travelling-cap had been inside the bundle before, but Kate took it out and advised her to carry it in her hand-bag, as being easily accessible if she did not wish to undo the strap.

All was ready at last, the rugs, the hand-bag, and the tin trunk, to which at the last moment Kate came running to tie a piece of red braid, by which to distinguish it, making Ella and the boys laugh at what they called her "incurable old-maidishness."

"Never mind," she replied, nodding sagely, "you will thank me when you have to hunt for your box amongst twenty others exactly like it."

Kate had suggested going to the station to see them off, but her father objected.

"We shall get on better alone," he argued. "We settle ourselves comfortably in our corners at once, unroll our rugs, and make everything ready before we start, instead of having to make spasmodic efforts to think of last remarks and messages. Of course, if Ella were going alone I should go to see her off, but as it is I would rather not have anyone with us."

Mrs. Hastings thought this a rather hard-hearted way of looking at the matter; but as Ella quite agreed with her father, feeling convinced she could not be able to keep from crying if the farewells were too long protracted, there was nothing for it but to yield, and as soon as the cab came to the door the parting was hurried through, and, almost before she had time to realise that she was really going, Ella found herself halfway to the station.

The railway journey was a long and troublesome one, involving several changes. Before midday Ella had recovered her spirits and her appetite, and acted on Kate's advice. "Do not wait for father to suggest lunch," she had said; "you may be sure he will not begin to feel hungry till you are quite ravenous." Remembering this, Ella laughed to herself at Mr. Hastings's surprise when she suggested that she was ready for her lunch, and proceeded to unpack her stores.

"This is the first course, I suppose," she said, as she produced two neat white-paper packages, each with the name of the contents written on it. "This one contains potted meat sandwiches, and these are chicken. They look very nice, too. These sprigs of watercress between the sandwiches are a great improvement."

"Yes, I must confess they are very good ones," assented Mr. Hastings, after trying one of each kind. "I think someone must have been giving the cook a lecture on the art of cutting them. Home-made sandwiches have generally too much butter, so that they are too rich to eat, and the paper they are wrapped in is greasy and disagreeable; but these have just the right quantity, and they are made with suitable bread—not, as I have often had them, of spongy bread, full of holes, through which the butter and meat oozes on to one's fingers."

In addition to these there were, for Ella's benefit, a few sandwiches made with damson jam, from which the stones had been extracted. The next course consisted of some small cakes and a few ripe pears. By way of beverage, Mrs. Hastings had supplied Ella with a flask of cold tea, made weak, and with a squeeze of lemon in it, which she had always found the best possible drink for quenching thirst; when travelling herself she always took either this or lime-juice and water. Finally, knowing that Ella had a good appetite, and would probably get very hungry before reaching her journey's end, her mother had told the cook to fill a small jam pot with lemon jelly, and to provide a teaspoon to eat it with. Ella found this most refreshing, and her lunch altogether was very satisfactory; certainly the supply was rather too bountiful, but that fact did not trouble her much, for she soon noticed a poor, hungry-looking boy on one of the stations, who thankfully accepted all that was left.

In spite of the length of the journey, Ella quite enjoyed the day; her father was so kind and took such good care of her. He insisted on her getting out of the carriage and walking up and down the platform whenever the train stopped long enough, that she might not be tired of sitting still; and when it began to get dark he made her put her feet up on the seat and tucked her up with the rug, and made her so comfortable that, to her own great surprise, she went fast asleep, and only awoke as her father was collecting their books and wraps on nearing their destination.

(To be continued.)



MERLE'S CRUSADE.

BY ROSA NOUCHETTE CAREY, Author of "Aunt Diana," "For Lilias," etc.

CHAPTER III.

THE NEW NURSE.

In looking back on those days, I simply wonder at my own audacity. Am I really and truly the same Merle Fenton who rang at the bell at Prince's Gate and informed the astonished footman that I was the person applying for the nurse's situation? I recall that scene now with a laugh, but I frankly own that that moment was not the pleasantest in my life. True, it had its ludicrous side; but how is one to enjoy the humour of an amusing situation alone? and, to tell the truth, the six foot of plush and powder before me was somewhat alarming to my female timidity. I hear now the man's startled "I beg your pardon, ma'am."

"I have come by appointment," I returned, with as much dignity as I could summon under the trying circumstances; "will you inform your mistress, Mrs. Morton, that I have come about the nurse's situation?"

Of course, he was looking at me from head to foot. In spite of the disguising plainness of my dress, I suppose the word gentlewoman was clearly stamped upon me. Heaven forbid that under any circumstances that brand, sole heritage of my dead parents, should ever be effaced. Then he opened the door of a charming little waiting-room, and civilly enough bade me seat myself, and for some minutes I was left alone. I think nearly a quarter of an hour elapsed before he reappeared with the message that his mistress was now disengaged and would see me. I followed the man as closely as I could through the long hall and up the wide staircase; not for worlds would I have owned that a certain shortness of breath, unusual in youth, seemed to impede me. At the top, I found myself in a handsome corridor, communicating with two drawing-rooms of noble dimensions, as they call them in advertisements, and certainly it was a princely apartment that I entered. A lady was writing busily at a small table at the further end of the room. As the man spoke to her, she did not at once raise her head or turn round; she was evidently finishing a note. A minute later she laid aside her pen and came towards me.

"I am sorry that I could not attend to you at once, and yet you were very punctual," she began, in a pleasant, well-modulated voice, and then she stopped and regarded me with unfeigned surprise.

She was a very lovely young woman, with an indescribable matronly air about her that spoke of the mother. She would have been really quite beautiful but for a certain worn look, often seen in women of fashion; and when she spoke there was a sweetness and simplicity of manner that was most winning.

"Pardon me," with a shade of perplexity in her eyes, "but I suppose my servant was right in stating that you had come by appointment in answer to my advertisement?"

"Yes, madam," I returned, readily; for her slight nervousness put me at my ease. "I have your letter here."

"And you are really applying for the nurse's situation—the upper nurse, I mean; for, of course, there is an under nurse kept. I hope" (colouring a little) "that you will not think me rude if I say that I was not prepared for the sort of person I was to see."

I could have groaned as I thought of my note. Was it possible that I had spelt "advertisement" wrongly, and yet I had the paper before me; my handwriting was neat and legible, but evidently Mrs. Morton was drawing some comparison between my letter and appearance, and I did not doubt that the former had not prepossessed her in my favour.

I became confused in my turn.

"I hope to prove to you," I began, in a very small voice, "that I am a fit person to apply for your situation. I am very fond of children; I never lose my patience with them as other people do, or think anything a trouble; I wish to take up this work from love as well as necessity—I mean," correcting myself, for she looked still more astonished, "that though I am obliged to work for my living, I would rather be a nurse than anything else."

"Will you answer a few questions?" and, as though by an afterthought, "will you sit down?" for she had been standing to keep me company out of deference to my superior appearance.

"I will answer any question you like to put to me, madam."

"You have never been in service you tell me in your letter. Have you ever filled any kind of situation?"

I shook my head.

"You are quite young I should say?"

"Two and twenty last Christmas."

"I should hardly have thought you so old. Will you oblige me with your name?"

"Merle Fenton."

A half smile crossed her beautiful mouth. It was evident that she found the name somewhat incongruous, and then she continued a little hastily, "If you have never filled any sort of situation, it will be somewhat difficult to judge of your capacity. Of course you have good references; can you tell me a little about yourself and your circumstances?"

I was fast losing my nervousness by this time. In a few minutes I had given her a concise account of myself and my belongings. Once or twice she interrupted me by a question, such as, for example, when I spoke of Aunt Agatha, she asked the names of the families where she had lived as a governess; and once she looked a little surprised at my answer.

"I knew the Curzons before I was married," she observed, quietly; "they have often talked to me of their old governess, Miss Fenton; her name is Keith now, you say; she was a great favourite with her pupils. Well, is it not a pity that you should not follow your aunt's example? If you are not clever, would not the situation of a nursery governess be more fitting for you? Forgive me; I am only speaking for your good; one feels a little uncomfortable at seeing a gentlewoman desert the ranks to which she belongs."

My face was burning by this time; of course it must all come out—that miserable defect of mine, and everything else; but raising my eyes at that moment I saw such a kind look on Mrs. Morton's face, such quietly expressed sympathy for my very evident confusion, that in a moment my reserve broke down. I do not know what I said, but I believe I must have been very eloquent. I could hear her say to herself, "How very strange—what a misfortune!" when I frankly mentioned my inability to spell, but I did not linger long on this point.

Warmed by her strong interest, I detailed boldly what I called my theory. I told her of my love for little children, my longing to work amongst them, how deeply I felt that this would indeed be a gentlewoman's work, that I did not fear my want of experience. I told her that once I had stayed for some weeks at the house of one of my schoolfellows, and that every night and morning I had gone up to the nursery to help the nurse wash and dress the babies, and that at the end of a week I had learned to do it as well as the woman herself, and that she had told my schoolfellow that she had never seen any young lady so handy and patient with children, and that they were happier with me than with their own sister.

"The second child had the croup one night," I continued; "the mother was away, and nurse was too frightened to be of any use. When the doctor came he praised her very much for her prompt remedies; he said they had probably saved the boy's life, as the attack was a severe one. Nurse cried when he said that, and owned it was not she who had thought of everything, but Miss Fenton. I tell you this," I continued, "that you may understand that I am reliable. I was only nineteen then, and now I am two and twenty."

She looked at me again in a gentle, scrutinising way; I could feel that I was making way in her good opinion. Her curiosity was piqued; her interest strongly excited. She made no attempt to check me as I launched out into further defence of my theory, but she only smiled and said, "Very true, I agree with you there," as I spoke of the advantage of having an educated person to superintend the nursery. Indeed, I found myself retailing all my pet arguments in a perfectly fearless way, until I looked up and saw there were tears in her beautiful brown eyes.

"How well you talk," she said, with a sort of sigh. "You have thought it all out, I can see. I wonder what my husband would say. He is a member of Parliament, you know, and we are very busy people, and society has such claims on us that I cannot be much with my children. I have only two; Joyce is three years old, and my boy is nearly eighteen months. Oh, he is so lovely, and to think I can only see him for a few minutes at a time, that I lose all his pretty ways; it is such a trouble to me. His nurse is leaving to be married, and I am so anxious to find someone who will watch over my darlings and make them happy."

She paused, as the sound of approaching footsteps were audible in the corridor, and rose hastily as an impatient, "Violet, where are you, my dear?" was distinctly audible.

"That is Mr. Morton; will you excuse me a moment?" And the next moment I could hear her say, "I was in the blue drawing-room, Alick. I have sent off the letters, and now I want to speak to you a moment," and her voice died away as they moved farther down the corridor.

I felt a keen anxiety as to the result of that conversation. I was very impulsive by nature, and I had fallen in love with Mrs. Morton. The worn look on the beautiful young face had touched me somehow. One of my queer visionary ideas came over me as I recalled her expression. I thought that if I were an artist, and that my subject was the "Massacre of the Innocents," that the mother's face in the foreground should be Mrs. Morton's. "Rachel Weeping for her Children;" something of the pathetic maternal agony, as for a lost babe, had seemed to cross her face as she spoke of her little ones. I found out afterwards that, though she wore no mourning, Mrs. Morton had lost a beautiful infant about four months ago. It had not been more than six weeks old, but the mother's heart was still bleeding. Many months afterwards she told me that she often dreamed of her little Muriel—she had only been baptised the day before her death—and woke trying to stifle her sobs that she might not disturb her husband. I sat cogitating this imaginary picture of mine, and shuddering over the sanguinary details, until Mrs. Morton returned, and, to my embarrassment, her husband was with her.

I gave him a frightened glance as he crossed the room with rapid footsteps. He was a quiet-looking man, with a dark moustache, some years older than his wife. His being slightly bald added somewhat to his appearance of age. In reality he was not more than five and thirty. I thought him a little cool and critical in manner, but his voice was pleasant. He looked at me keenly as he spoke; it was my opinion at that moment that not an article of my dress escaped his observation. I had selected purposely a pair of mended gloves, and I am convinced the finger ends were at once under his inspection. He was a man who thought no details beneath him, but would bring his masculine intellect even to the point of discovering the fitness of his children's nurse.

"Mrs. Morton tells me that you have applied for the situation of upper nurse," he began, not abruptly, but in the quick tones of a busy man who has scant leisure. "I have heard all you have told her; she seems desirous of testing your abilities, but I must warn you that I distrust theories myself. My dear," turning to his wife, "I must say that this young person looks hardly old enough for the position, and you own she has no real experience. Would not a more elderly person be more suitable, considering that you are so seldom in your nursery? Of course, this is your department, but since you ask my advice——" with a little shrug that seemed to dismiss me and the whole subject.

A wistful, disappointed look came over his wife's face. I was too great a stranger to understand the real position of affairs, only my intuition guided me at that moment. It was not until much later that I found out that Mrs. Morton never disputed her husband's will, even in trifles; that he ordered the plan of her life as well as his own; that her passionate love for her children was restrained in order that her wifely and social duties should be carried out; that she was so perfectly obedient to him, not from fear, but from an excess of womanly devotion, that she seldom even contested an opinion. My fate was very nearly sealed at that moment, but a hasty impulse prompted me to speak. Looking Mr. Morton full in the face, I said, a little piteously, "Do not dismiss me because of my youth, for that is a fault that time will mend. Want of experience is a greater obstacle, but it will only make me more careful to observe every direction and carry out every wish. If you consent to try me, I am sure neither you nor Mrs. Morton will repent it."

He looked at me very keenly again as I spoke; indeed, his eyes seemed to search me through and through, and then his whole manner changed.

I have been told that Nature had been kind to me in one respect by endowing me with a pleasant voice. I believe that I was freer from vanity than most girls of my age, but I was glad in my inmost heart to know that no tone of mine would ever jar upon a human ear, but I was more than glad now when I saw Mr. Morton's grave face relax.

"You speak confidently," he returned. "You seem to have a strange faith in your own theory, and plenty of self-reliance, but I am afraid that, like most young people, you have only regarded it from one point of view. Are you aware of the unpleasantness of such a situation? If you came to us you might have nothing of which to complain from Mrs. Morton or myself, but we could not answer for the rest of my household; the servants would regard you as a sort of hybrid, belonging to no special sphere; they might show you scant respect, and manifest a great deal of jealousy."

"I have faced all that," I returned, with a smile, "but I think the difficulties would be like Bunyan's lions—they were chained, you know. I do not believe these sort of things would hurt me. I should never be away from the children in the nursery; I should be unmolested and at home."

"Alick!" I could hear a whole petition breathed into that softly uttered word. Mr. Morton heard it too, for he turned at once and then looked at his wife.

"Do you really wish to try this young person, Violet, my dear? It is for you to decide; this is your province, as I said before."

"If she will love our children and watch over them in our absence," she whispered, but I caught the words. Then aloud, "Yes, thank you, Alick, I should like to try her. I think she would make Joyce happy. I can go and see Mrs. Keith this afternoon when I am out driving, and perhaps I could arrange for her to come soon."

"Very well," he returned, briefly, but he spoke in the old dry manner, as though he were not quite pleased. "When you are disengaged will you join me in the library? I have some more letters I want copied."

"I will be ready soon," she said, with a sweet grateful glance at him, as though she had received some unexpected bounty at his hands, and as he wished me good morning, and left the room, she continued, eagerly, "Will you come with me now and make acquaintance with the children. I have seen them already this morning, so they will not expect me, and it will be such a surprise. My little girl is always with me while I dress. I have so little time to devote to them; but I snatch every moment."

She sighed as she spoke, and I began to understand, in a dim, groping sort of way, that fate is not so unequal after all, that even this beautiful creature had unsatisfied wants in her life, that it was possible that wealth and position were to her only tiresome barriers dividing her from her little ones. Her sweetest pleasures only came to her by snatches. Most likely she envied humble mothers, and did not pity them because their arms ached with carrying a heavy infant, aching limbs being more bearable than an aching heart.

A flight of broad, handsomely-carpeted stairs brought us to a long shut-in corridor, fitted up prettily with plants and statuettes. A rocking-horse stood in one corner; the nursery door was open. It was a long, cheerful room, with three windows, looking over the public garden, and fitted up with a degree of comfort that bordered on luxury. Some canaries were singing in a green cage, a grey Persian kitten was curled up in the doll's bassinette, a little girl was kneeling on the cushioned window-seat, peeping between the bars at some children who were playing below. As Mrs. Morton said, softly, "Joyce, darling," she turned round with quite a startled air, and then clambered down hastily and ran to her mother.

"Why, it is my mother," in quite an incredulous voice, and then she caught hold of her mother's gown, and peeped at me from between the folds.

She was a pretty, demure-looking child, only somewhat thin and fragile in appearance, not in the least like her mother, but I could trace instantly the strongest resemblance to her father. She had the straight, uncurling hair like his, and her dark eyes were a little sunken under the finely-arched brows. It was rather a bewitching little face, only too thin and sallow for health, and with an intelligent expression, almost amounting to precocity.

"And where is your brother, my darling?" asked her mother, stooping to kiss her, and at this moment a pleasant-looking young woman came from the inner room with a small, curly-haired boy in her arms.

As she set him down on the floor, and he came toddling over the carpet, I forgot Mrs. Morton's presence, and knelt down and held out my arms to him. "Oh, you beauty!" I exclaimed, in a coaxing voice, "will you come to me?" for I quite forgot myself at the sight of the perfect baby features.

Baby pointed a small finger at me, "O' ook, gurgle-da," he said, in the friendliest way; and I sealed our compact with many kisses.

"Dear me, ma'am," observed nurse, eyeing me in a dubious manner, for probably the news of my advent had preceded me to the upper regions, "this is very singular; I never saw Master Baby take such a fancy to anyone before; he always beats them off with his dear little hand."

"Gurgle-da, ook ook," was baby's unexpected response to this, as he burst into a shout of laughter, and he made signs for me to carry him to the canaries.

I do not know what Mrs. Morton said to nurse, but she came up after a minute or two and watched us, smiling.

"He does seem very friendly; more so than my shy pet here," for Joyce was still holding her mother's gown.

"She will be friends with me too," I returned, confidently; "children are so easily won." And then, as Mrs. Morton held out her arms for her boy, I parted with him reluctantly.

There was no need for me to stay any longer then. Mrs. Morton reiterated her intention of calling on Aunt Agatha that afternoon, after which she promised to speak to me again, and feeling that things were in a fair way of being settled according to my wishes, I left the house with a lighter heart than I had entered it.

(To be continued.)



AMONG THE HOLLYHOCKS.

BY CLARA THWAITES.

Sing among the hollyhocks, "Summer, fare thee well!" Ring the drooping blossoms For a passing bell.

Droop the sunflowers, heavy discs Totter to their fall. Up the valley creep the mists For a funeral pall.

Lingering roses woefully In the cold expire. Heap the dead and dying For a funeral pyre.

While the gale is sighing, While the wind makes moan, Sigh among the hollyhocks Of the summer flown.



NOTICES OF NEW MUSIC.



STANLEY LUCAS AND CO.

O, hur vidgas ej ditt broest. Liebe, liebe. Two Lieder. By Maude V. White.—The first, from the Swedish, has also an English set of words; the setting of the second is in German only, being a translation into that language from the Hungarian.—There is a dreamy charm pervading both of these little ballads, which will be best appreciated by truly musical and well-educated singers.

Two Locks of Hair. Song to Longfellow's poetry. By Sabine E. Barwell.—Very simple. The music is dedicated to Charles Santley, our great baritone singer.

Alone with thee. Song by Gilbert R. Betjemann. Compass E to F sharp.—An ambitious song, full of striking modulations and really dramatic effects. The accompaniments are charming.

Ivy Green. A good song for basses or baritones. The words by Charles Dickens, the music by Arthur C. Stericker.—Plenty of go about it, and quite the song for strong, manly voices.

Wandering Wishes. Poetry by Lady Charlotte Elliot (from "Medusa" and other poems). Music by Robert B. Addison.—A very poetical setting of a very fanciful poem.

Our Darling. Ballad by Robert Reece, with music by Berthold Tours.—This justly favourite composer has written the simplest, most touching, and melodious music to a very touching and sad story. It is a compliment to this ballad to recommend it to all who wish for a good cry. It has this advantage over the maudlin griefs of the discontented folk to whom we have called attention in previous notices, that the poor bereaved parents who miss their little darling from the chair in which he used to listen to their fairy stories and tales of distant lands over the sea, are content to regard him as at rest in the heavenly country, and in the angels' care. After all, if you do get the song, your tears will be happy ones.

EDWIN ASHDOWN.

Inez. Zamora. Two Spanish dances for the pianoforte by Michael Watson.—The first is a Habanera, and is redolent of Carmen and Spanish want of energy. It is more characteristic than the second, although that is a very good reproduction of the typical peasant dance of all districts of the Peninsula.

Daphne. Valse brillante. Celadon. Gavotte. Two drawing-room pieces of more than ordinary merit by J. H. Wallis.—Fairly easy to learn, and effective when learnt.

May-Dew. By Sir Sterndale Bennett; transcribed for the pianoforte by Jules Brissac.—We complained a few months back of someone having converted this lovely song into a part-song; we can only say of the present transformation, that when the voice part is at work all goes fairly well, and from a piano point of view represents the original; but the two bars of symphony before the first and second verses of the song are stripped of all their original life, and a very mangled substitute is offered.

LONDON MUSIC PUBLISHING CO.

The Broken Strings of a Mandoline. Words and music by Edith Frances Prideaux.—The story of a little Italian street-player. The compass is for sopranos; the melody is simple and not very original.

Sketches in Dance Rhythms. 1. Waltz; 2. Minuet; 3. Tarantella. By Erskine Allon.—We have before alluded to these sketches, of which Mr. Allon has composed such excellent examples. We prefer No. 1 of the present series, but do not consider these to be equal to former numbers.

WEEKES AND CO.

Abendlied. Im Rosenbusch. Two songs by J. H. le Breton Girdlestone; the words, by Hoffman von Fallersleben, being translated into English by Dr. Baskerville.—Most interesting little songs, and sure to give pleasure by their sweet simplicity.

Andante. Varied for the pianoforte, and composed by Henry A. Toase. A very quiet, harmless production. Only three variations, and those not so much of the andante as of its accompaniment.

J. AND J. HOPKINSON.

Intermezzo and Minuet for Pianoforte. By George A. Lovell.—Two very nicely-written little pieces. The minuet is especially attractive.

Barcarole for Pianoforte. By Carl Hause.—A good drawing-room piece. The middle movement in F minor makes an effective contrast to the first part.

HUTCHINGS AND ROMER.

The Little Sweep. Song. Written and composed by James C. Beazley, R.A.M.—There is no such title as R.A.M. A.R.A.M. and M.R.A.M. we know, but we must protest against this unlawful use of the name of our oldest academy of music. The song is a stirring and dramatic account of how a lost child was recovered by his mother. It is to be declaimed by a contralto.

HUTCHINGS AND CO.

The Christian's Armour. Oratorio. By Joseph L. Roeckel; the text compiled by Mrs. Alexander Roberts from Ephesians vi.; interspersed with hymns from several sources.—A useful work for services of song or chapel festivities. There is a sameness about the work, and it suggests a weary feeling towards the close. The choruses are mostly rather weak chorale. Occasionally an evidently fugal subject is announced, which is never destined to form the subject for a fugue. However, the story is well put together, the music is quite easy, and many choirs, unable to conquer greater difficulties, will feel at home in this so-called "oratorio."

Six Morceaux de Salon. Pour violin, avec accompagnement de piano. Par Guido Papini. Op. 66.—The author of "La Mecanisme du jeune Violiniste" has given us in these little pieces a charming addition to the repertoire of the amateur violinist. Specially tender and expressive is No. 4. The piano shares with the violin both the difficulties and the interests of each of the morceaux.

Victoria Gavotte. For piano. By Tito Mattei.—A capital piano piece. We presume from the title that this is Signor Mattei's contribution to the Jubilee Commemoration.

ROBERT COCKS AND CO.

Gladys. Rustic Dance. Composed for the pianoforte by Howard Talbot.—A bright, telling piece. It would be very useful as an entr'acte in your Christmas charades.

For Old Sake's Sake. Song for contraltos. By Behrend.

W. MORLEY AND CO.

Watching the Embers. Song. Composed by Ciro Pinsuti to Weatherly's words.—With a pretty refrain, but for the most part made up of a series of common phrases. It is to be obtained in B flat, C, and D minors.

Childie. Song. By Behrend. Published in keys to suit all voices.—The song is very similar to all his others. An old lady advising a child to die young.

The Biter Bit. Song. Words and music by Henry Pontet.—A warning to any who would marry for money, and not for love. In learning the above three songs I am sure that singers will be as much distracted as I have been by little squares like lottery coupons announcing that somebody else's song cost L250. If this statement could appear elsewhere—say on separate slips—the songs would be more pleasant to read.

HENRY KLEIN.

The Land of Song. Song for tenors and sopranos by that clever composer, Franz Leideritz. Not so original as "Flowers from Home," the memory of which still delights us.

ORSBORN AND TUCKWOOD.

Sailing Across the Sea. Song. By Vernon Rey.—Prettily told and easy to learn.

Merry Melodies. A series of duets for two violins for schools and classes, arranged by Arthur Graham. We see from the title-page that there are to be arrangements of the works of eminent composers, but the names are not given.

W. J. WILLCOCKS AND CO.

Offertoire and Fugue in B flat. Grand Offertoire, founded upon subjects in Schumann's Quintet, op. 44.—These are two finely-written organ solos by George F. Vincent. Valuable additions to our stock of English organ music.

MARRIOTT AND WILLIAMS.

Twenty Miles to London Town. Song. Written and composed by Gerald M. Lane.—Mr. Lane is more fortunate in his music than in his words. The ballad—for genuine English ballad it is—is of the "Bailiff's Daughter of Islington" type, and is published in F, G, and A.

Captor and Captive. A song of Araby. By Edwin J. Quance.—A good stirring song for baritones.

BOWERMAN AND CO.

Deuxieme Nocturne pour Piano. Par G. J. Rubini.—An unpretending piano piece of the Gustave Lange type.



EXPLANATION OF FRENCH AND OTHER TERMS USED IN MODERN COOKERY.

PART I.

Allemande.—Concentrated white veloute (see veloute) sauce, seasoned with nutmeg and lemon juice, and thickened with yolks of eggs and cream.

Angelica.—A plant, the stalks of which are preserved with sugar; as it retains its green colour it is pretty for ornamenting sweet dishes, cakes, etc.

Appareil.—This word is applicable to a preparation composed of various ingredients, as appareil de gateau (mixture for a cake).

Aspic.—Name given to clear savoury jelly, to distinguish it from sweet jelly. Cold entrees, which are moulded and have the ingredients set in jelly, are also called aspics.

Assiette volante.—A small dish (holding no more than a plate) which is handed round the table without ever being placed on it. Things that must be eaten very hot are often served in this way. Little savouries, foie-gras, or cheese fondus in paper cases are thus handed.

Au bleu.—An expensive way of boiling fish. A broth is made by boiling three onions, two carrots, two turnips, some parsley, pepper, salt, sufficient water, a tumbler of white wine, and a tumbler of vinegar together; the scum is removed as it rises, the fish is simmered in the broth. This broth is called Court bouillon. Fish cooked thus is eaten hot or cold, with suitable sauce.

Baba.—A Polish cake of a very light description.

Bain marie.—A sort of bath-saucepan, which stands on a stove with hot water in it, and has small bright saucepans stood in the water for the contents to cook slowly without reducing or spoiling them. A bain marie has no cover.

Bande.—The strip of paste that is put round tart; sometimes the word is also applied to a strip of paper or bacon.

Barde de lard.—A slice of bacon. To barder a bird is to fasten a slice of bacon over it.

Bechamel sauce.—Equal quantities of veloute sauce and cream boiled together. The sauce was named after a celebrated cook.

Beignets.—Fritters.

Beurre noir.—Butter stirred in a frying-pan over a brisk fire until it is brown, then lemon-juice or vinegar, and pepper and salt are added to it.

Beurre fondus.—Melted, that is to say oiled, butter.

Bigarade sauce.—Melted butter, with the thin rind and the juice of a Seville orange boiled in it.

Blanch.—To parboil or scald. To whiten meat or poultry, or remove the skins of fruit or vegetables by plunging them into boiling water, and then sometimes putting them into cold water afterwards, as almonds are blanched.

Blanquette.—A kind of fricassee.

Boudin.—A very delicate entree prepared with quenelle forcemeat or with fine mince.

Bouquet garni.—A handful of parsley, a sprig of thyme, a small bay leaf, and six green onions, tied securely together with strong thread.

Bouilli.—Boiled meat; but fresh beef, well boiled, is generally understood by this term.

Bouillie.—A sort of hasty pudding. Bouillie-au-lait is flour and milk boiled together.

Bouillon.—Thin broth or soup.

Braise.—To stew meat that has been previously blanched, very slowly with bacon or other fat, until it is tender.

Braisiere.—A saucepan with a lid with a rim to it, on which lighted charcoal can be put.

Brider.—To put thin string or thread through poultry, game, etc., to keep it in shape.

Brioche.—A sort of light cake, rather like Bath bun, but not sweet, having as much salt as sugar in it.

Brandy butter.—Fresh butter, sugar, and brandy beaten together to a cream.

Caramel.—Made by melting a little loaf sugar in a saucepan, and as soon as it is brown, before it burns, adding some water to it. Sometimes used as a colouring for stews. Made into a syrup by adding more sugar after the water, it is a very good pudding sauce.

Casserole.—A stew-pan. The name given to a crust of rice moulded in the shape of a pie, then baked with mince or a puree of game in it.

Cerner.—Is to cut paste half way through with a knife or cutter, so that part can be removed when cooked to make room for something else.

Charlotte.—Consists of very thin slices of bread, steeped in oiled butter, and placed in order in a mould, which is then filled with fruit or preserve.

Chartreuse of vegetables.—Consists of vegetables tastefully arranged in a plain mould, which is then filled with either game, pigeons, larks, tendons, scollops, or anything suitably prepared.

Chartreuse a la Parisienne.—An ornamental dish made principally with quenelle forcemeat, and filled with some kind of ragout, scollops, etc.

Chausse.—A jelly bag.

Compote.—Fruits preserved in syrup. Apple and any other kind of fruit jelly. This term is also used to designate some savoury dishes, prepared with larks, quails, or pigeons, with truffles, mushrooms, or peas.

Consomme.—Strong and clear broth used as a basis for many soups and gravies.

Conti (potage). Lentil soup.

Contise.—Small scollops of truffles; red tongue, or other things that are with a knife inlaid in fillets of any kind to ornament them, are said to be contises.

Court bouillon.—See au bleu.

Croquettes.—A preparation of minced or pounded meat, or of potatoes or rice, with a coating of bread-crumbs. Croquettes means something crisp.

Croquantes.—Fruit with sugar boiled to crispness.

Croustades.—An ornamental pie-case, sometimes made of shaped bread, and filled with mince, etc.

Croutons.—Sippets of bread fried in butter; used to garnish. They are various sizes and shapes; sometimes served with soups.

Cuilleree.—A spoonful. In most French recipes I have found ten spoonfuls equal to a quarter of a pint of fluid.

Cuisson.—The name given to the liquid in which anything has been cooked.

Dariole.—A sort of cake served hot. The name of small round moulds in which various little cakes are baked or puddings steamed.

Daubiere.—An oval stew-pan in which daubes are cooked. Daubes are meat or fowl stewed in sauce.

Degorger.—To soak in water for a longer or shorter time.

Des.—Very small square dice.

Desosser.—To bone; to remove the bones from fish, meat, game, or poultry.

Dorer.—To paint the surface of tarts or cakes with a brush, with egg or sugar, so that they may be glazed when cooked.

Dorure.—The glaze one uses for pastry; sometimes beaten white of egg, sometimes yolk of egg and cold water, sometimes sugar only.

Entrees.—A name for side dishes, such as cutlets, fricassees, fricandeaux, sweetbreads, etc.

Entrees (cold).—Consist of cutlets, fillets of game, poultry, &c.; salads of various kinds, aspics, ham, and many other things.

Entremets.—Second course side dishes. They are of four kinds—namely, cold entrees, dressed vegetables, scalloped shellfish, or dressed eggs, and lastly, sweets of any kind, puddings, jellies, creams, fritters, pastry, etc.

Escalopes.—Collops; small round pieces of meat or fish, beaten with a steak beater before they are cooked, to make them tender.

Espagnole.—Rich, strong stock made with beef, veal and ham, flavoured with vegetables, and thickened with brown roux. This and veloute are the two main sauces from which nearly all others are made. The espagnole for brown, the veloute for white.

Etamine.—See Tammy.

Etuver.—To stew meat with little moisture, and over a very slow fire, or with hot cinders over and under the saucepan.

Faggot.—A bouquet garni.

Fanchonettes and florentines.—Varieties of small pastry, covered with white of egg and sugar.

Faire tomber a glace.—Means to boil down stock or gravy until it is as thick as glaze, and is coloured brown.

Farce.—Is ordinary forcemeat, such as is used for raised pies.

Feuil etage.—Very light puff paste.

Flamber.—To singe fowls and game after they have been plucked.

Flans.—A flan is made by rolling a piece of paste out rather larger than the tin in which it is to be baked, then turning up the edge of the paste to form a sort of wall round. Flans are filled with fruit or preserve, and baked.

Foncer.—To put slices of ham or bacon in the bottom of a saucepan, to line a mould with raw paste, or to put the first layer of anything in a mould—it may be a layer of white paper.

Fontaine.—A heap of flour with a hollow in the middle, into which to pour the water.

Fondu.—Or fondue. A cheese souffle.

Fricandeau.—Fillets of poultry or the best pieces of veal, neatly trimmed, larded, and well glazed, with their liquor reduced to glaze. They are served as entrees.

Fricassee.—A white stew, generally made with chicken and white sauce, to which mushrooms or other things may be added.

Fraiser.—A way of handling certain pastry to make it more compact and easier to work.

Fremir, frissonner.—To keep a liquid just on the boil—what is called simmering.

Galette.—A broad flat cake.

Gateau.—Cake. This word is also used for some kinds of tarts, and for different puddings. A gateau is also made of pig's liver; it is therefore rather difficult to define what a "gateau" is.

Gaufres.—Or wafers. Light spongy biscuits cooked in irons over a stove.

Glacer.—To glaze; to brush hot meat or poultry over with concentrated meat gravy or sauce, so that it shall have a brown and shiny appearance. Glaze can be bought in skins. Glacer, in confectionery, means to ice pastry or fruit with sugar.

Gniocchi.—Small balls of paste made with flour, eggs, and cheese to put into soup.

Gramme.—A French weight. An ounce avoirdupois is nearly equal to thirty grammes.

Gras.—Made with meat and fat.

Gratins (au).—Term applied to certain dishes of fish, game, poultry, vegetables, and macaroni dressed with rich sauces, and generally finished with bread-crumbs or bread-raspings over the top.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse