THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER
VOL. VIII.—NO. 358.
NOVEMBER 6, 1886.
PRICE ONE PENNY.
BY ROSA NOUCHETTE CAREY, Author of "Aunt Diana," "For Lilias," etc.
MRS. GARNETT'S ROCKERS.
I had plenty of time for such introspective thoughts as these during my brief railway journey, and before my luggage and I were safely deposited at 35, Queen's Gate.
Again I rang the bell, and again the footman in plush and powder answered the door, but this time there was no hesitation in his manner.
"Miss Fenton, I believe," he said, quite civilly. "If you step into the waiting-room a moment I will find someone to show you the way to the nursery," and in two or three minutes a tall, respectable young woman came to me, and asked me, very pleasantly, to follow her upstairs.
On the way she mentioned two or three things; her mistress was out in the carriage, and Miss Joyce was with her. The nurse had left the previous night, and Master Reginald had been so fretful that the housekeeper had been obliged to sleep with him, as Hannah had been no manner of use—"girls never were," with a toss of her head, which showed me the rosy-cheeked Hannah was somewhat in disfavour. Mrs. Garnett was with him now, and had had a "great deal of trouble in lulling him off to sleep, the pretty dear."
We had reached the children's corridor by this time, and I heard the full, cosy tones of Mrs. Garnett's voice in "Hush a bye, baby," and the sound of rockers on the floor. The sound made me indignant that my baby should be soothed with that wooden tapping. No wonder so many children suffered from irritability of the brain; for I was as full of theories as a sucking politician.
"Ook, gurgle-da," exclaimed baby, and pointed a fat finger at me over Mrs. Garnett's shoulder. Of course he was not asleep; it would have been an insult to his infantine wisdom to suppose it.
"Oh, Master Baby," exclaimed Hannah, reproachfully. "I did think he had gone off then, Mrs. Garnett; and you have been rocking him for the best part of an hour."
"Ah, he misses his old nurse," returned Mrs. Garnett, placidly. She was a pretty-looking woman, with flaxen hair, just becoming streaked with grey. Perhaps she was a widow, for she wore a black gown, and a cap with soft floating ends, and had a plaintive look in her eyes. "I hope he will take to you, my dear, for he nearly fretted his little heart out last night, bless him; and Mrs. Morton crept up at two o'clock in the morning, when Mr. Morton was asleep, but nothing would do but his old nurse; he pushed her away, and it was 'Nur, nur,' and we could not pacify him. Poor Mrs. Morton cried at last, and then he took to patting her and laughing at her in the drollest way."
"I will just take off my bonnet and try and make friends with him," I returned, and Hannah, who really seemed a good-natured creature, ushered me into the night nursery—a large, cheerful room, with a bright fire, and a comfortable-looking bed, with a brass crib on each side—and pointed out to me the large chest of drawers and hanging wardrobe for my own special use, and then went down on her knees to unstrap my box.
"Thank you, Hannah, I will not wait to unpack now, as I daresay Mrs. Garnett is wanted downstairs," and as soon as she had left the room I opened the box and took out the pretty cap and apron, and proceeded to invest myself in my nurse's livery. I hope Aunt Agatha had not made me vain by that injudicious praise, but I certainly thought they looked very nice, and gave me a sense of importance.
The tall housemaid—Rhoda they called her—stared at me as I re-entered, but Mrs Garnett gave me an approving glance; but it was baby who afforded me most satisfaction, for he screwed up his little rosebud of a mouth in the prettiest fashion and said, "Nur, nur," at the same time holding out his arms for me to take him. I must confess I forgot Aunt Agatha in that moment of triumph.
"He takes to you quite nicely, my dear," observed Mrs. Garnett, in her cosy voice, as the little fellow nestled down contentedly in my arms.
"Yes, you may leave him to me I think now," I returned, quietly, for I felt that I should be glad to be left to myself a little. I was very thankful when my hint was taken, and Mrs. Garnett and Rhoda went downstairs and Hannah disappeared into the next room. My charge was becoming decidedly drowsy, and after a few turns up and down the room, I could sit down in the low chair by the fire and hear the soft, regular breathing against my shoulder, while my eyes travelled round the walls of my new home.
Such a pleasant room it was, large and bright, and sunny, and furnished so tastefully. The canaries were singing blithely; the Persian kitten was rolled up into a furry ball on the rug; a small Skye terrier, who I afterwards discovered went by the name of Snap, was keeping guard over me from a nest of cushions on the big couch opposite. Now and then he growled to himself softly, as though remonstrating against my intrusion, but whenever I spoke to him gently, he sat up and begged, so I imagined his animosity was not very bitter.
"My lines have fallen to me in pleasant places." I wonder why those words came to my mind. I wished Aunt Agatha could see me now, sitting in this lovely room, with this little cherub on my lap; she would not be so despondent about the future. "I do believe it will answer; I mean to make it answer," I said to myself, energetically. Indeed, I was so absorbed in my reverie, that Mrs. Morton's soft footsteps on the thick carpet never roused me until I looked up and saw her standing beside me, smiling, with Joyce beside her.
I coloured with embarrassment, and would have risen, but she put her hand on my shoulder, still smiling, to prevent me. She looked lovelier than ever in her rich furs, and there was a happier look on her face than I had seen before, as she stooped down and kissed her boy.
"He is sleeping so nicely, the darling. Mrs. Garnett tells me he has taken to you wonderfully, and I hope my little girl will follow his example; it is such a relief to me, for he nearly broke our hearts last night with fretting after nurse. He looks a little pale, do you not think so?" And then she stopped and looked in my face, with a puzzled smile. "What am I to call you? I never thought of that; shall it be Miss Fenton? but there are the children, they could not manage such a difficult name."
The difficulty had never occurred to me, and for the moment I hesitated, but only for a moment.
"The children will always call me nurse, and I suppose your household will do the same, Mrs. Morton. I think for yourself, you will find Merle the handiest name; it is short."
"It is very pretty and uncommon," she returned, musingly, "and it has this one advantage, it hardly sounds like a Christian name; if you are sure you do not object, perhaps I will use it, but," speaking a little nervously, "you need not have worn this," pointing to my cap. "You remember I said so to your aunt."
"I think it better to do so," I returned, in a decided voice; in fact, I am afraid my voice was just a little too decided in speaking to my mistress, but I was determined not to give way on this point. "I wish to wear the badge of service, that I may never forget for one moment what I owe to my employers, and—" here the proud colour suffused my face—"no cap can make me forget what is due to myself."
I could see Mrs. Morton was amused, and yet she was touched too. She told me afterwards that she thought me that moment the most original young woman she had ever seen.
"You shall do as you like," she returned; but there was a little fun in her eyes. "It certainly looks very nice, and I should be sorry if you took it off. I only spoke for your aunt's sake and your own; for myself I certainly prefer it."
"So do I," was my independent answer; "and now, if you please, I think I will lay baby in his cot, as he will sleep more soundly there, and then it will be time to get Joyce ready for her dinner," for, in spite of my cap, I had already forgotten to say "Miss Joyce," or to call my mistress "ma'am," though I have reason to know that Mrs. Morton was not at all displeased with the omission.
"It might have been a princess in disguise waiting on my children, Merle," she said to me, many months afterwards. But I knew nothing of the secret amusement with which my mistress watched me as she stood by the nursery fire in her furs, warming herself; I only knew that I loved to see her there, for from the first moment my heart had gone out to her. She was so beautiful and gentle; but it was not only that.
Baby woke just as I was putting him in his cot, and I had some little trouble in lulling him to sleep again. Hannah was dressing Joyce, and as soon as she had finished, I tried to make friends with the child. She was very shy at first, but I called Snap, and made a great fuss over him. I was just beginning to make way, when the gong summoned Mrs. Morton to luncheon, and soon after that the nursery dinner was served. Hannah waited upon us very nicely, and then took her place at the table. She was a thoroughly respectable girl, and her presence was not in the least irksome to me. I always thought it was a grand old feudal custom when all the retainers dined at the baron's table, taking their place below the salt. Surely there can be nothing derogatory to human dignity in that, seeing that we shall one day eat bread together in the kingdom of Heaven.
I wonder if half the governesses fared so luxuriously as I that day; certainly the chicken and bread sauce was delicious. As soon as we had finished, baby woke up, and I fed him, and then Joyce and he and I had a fine game of romps together, in which Snap, and the kitten, and all Joyce's dolls joined.
I had dressed the kitten up in doll's clothes, and the fun was at its height, when the door opened, and Mr. Morton came in. I discovered afterwards that it was his custom to make a brief visit to the nursery once in the four and twenty hours, sometimes with his wife, but oftener alone.
Joyce ran to him at once; she was devoted to her parents, especially to her mother, but the boy refused to leave me, unless his father would take the kitten too.
"I suppose I must humour you, my fine fellow," observed Mr. Morton, pleasantly, as he kissed the little fellow with affection, and then he turned to me.
"I hope you find yourself comfortable, nurse, and that my children are good to you."
"They could not be better, sir, and I am quite comfortable, thank you," I returned, with unusual meekness. I was not a very meek person generally, as Uncle Keith could testify, but there was a subduing influence in Mr. Morton's look and voice. I must own I was rather afraid of him, and I would not have omitted the "sir" for worlds, neither would I have seated myself without his bidding; but he took it all quite naturally.
"As my wife and I are dining out, Joyce will not come down in the drawing-room as usual," he observed, in his business-like manner. "Do you hear, my little girl? Mother and I are engaged this evening, and you must stay upstairs with Reggie."
"Werry tiresome," I heard Joyce say under her breath, and then she looked up pleadingly into her father's face. "Her is coming by-and-by, fardie?"
"Oh, no doubt," stroking the dark hair; "but mother is driving at present. Now, say good-bye to me, Joyce, and you must give me a kiss, too, my boy. Good-evening, nurse." And that was all we saw of Joyce's father that day; only an hour later, when the nursery tea was over, and I was undressing the boy by the bedroom fire, while Joyce stood beside me, removing the garments carefully from a favourite doll, and chattering as fast as a purling brook, I saw Mrs. Morton standing in the doorway, looking at us.
Joyce uttered a scream of delight, and threw herself upon her. "Mine mother! mine mother!" she repeated over and over again.
Mrs. Morton had the old, tired look on her face as she came forward, rather hurriedly. "I cannot stay; there are people downstairs, and when they have gone I must dress for dinner." She gave a sort of harassed sigh as she spoke.
"Could you not rest a little first?" I returned. "You have been out the greater part of the day, and you do not seem fit for the evening's fatigue," for there was quite a drawn look about the lovely mouth.
She shook her head, but, nevertheless, yielded when I gave her up my chair and put the boy in her arms; in his little chemise, and with his dimpled shoulders and bare legs, he was perfectly irresistible to his mother, and I was not surprised to see her cover him with kisses. "My bonnie boy, my precious little son," I could hear her whisper, in a sort of ecstasy, as I picked up the little garments from the floor and folded them. I seemed to know by instinct that it was only this that she needed to rest her; the drawn, weary lines seemed to vanish like magic. What a sweet picture it was! But her pleasure, poor soul, was short lived; the next moment she had recollected herself.
"There are all those people in the drawing-room! What would my husband say at my neglecting them? Good-night, my darling; be good; and good-night, Merle." She smiled at me in quite a friendly fashion, and hurried away without another look.
"I always do say master does make a slave of mistress," grumbled Hannah, as she filled the bath; "she never has a moment to herself that I can see. What is the use of having children if one never sees them." And though I refrained from any comment, I quite endorsed Hannah's opinion. As soon as Hannah had cleared the room, I shaded the light and began quietly arranging my clothes in the wardrobe, and then I sat down in the low chair beside the fire. Through the open door I could see Hannah's bent head as she sat at her sewing. The nursery looked warm and cosy—a very haven of comfort; but I wanted to be alone for a time to think over the occurrences of the day. "To commune with one's own heart and to be still." How good it is to do that sometimes. For a few moments my thoughts lingered lovingly in the little cottage at Putney. Aunt Agatha and Uncle Keith would be talking of me, I knew that. I could almost hear the pitying tones of Aunt Agatha's voice, "Poor child! How lonely she will feel without us to-night!" Did I feel lonely? I hardly think so; on the contrary, I had the warm, satisfied conviction at my heart that I was in my right place, the place for which I was most fitted. How tenderly would I watch over these helpless little creatures committed to my care! how sacred would be my charge! What a privilege to be allowed to love them, to be able to win their affection in return!
I had such a craving in my heart to be loved, and hitherto I had had no one but Aunt Agatha. It seemed to me, somehow, as though I must cry aloud to my human brothers and sisters to let me love them and take interest in their lives; to suffer me to glean beside them, like loving Ruth in those Eastern harvest fields, following the reapers lest haply a handful might fall to my share, for who would wish to go home at eventide empty handed as well as weary?
(To be continued.)
By the Author of "Flowering Thorns."
HOW THEY ARE MADE.
Perhaps the first, easiest, and on the whole, least durable of girls' friendships is formed at school. Not such a school as we go to at twelve, where we have class competitions, good-conduct marks, and fines for talking, but such a school as we go to at sixteen, to "finish," when individual emancipated life is so near that we begin to realise it, and dimly feel that the friends we now make may form part of it.
Everything looks rather couleur de rose; one year, or at the very most two, and we shall be free and at home, where the nicest girl we ever met must come to visit us; then we shall return the visit, and together we shall live in reality those charming times we romance over in low tones after the lights are put out.
Very little will patch up a so-called friendship at school; a room mate, especially if you have only one, who is not utterly uncongenial, is almost sure to become a great friend—the girl who is equal with you in your favourite lesson, the girl who comes from your county or town, or whose "people" know your "people." Every schoolgirl must be able to think of a dozen other reasons why such and such girls selected each other as friends.
(And here I may remark in passing that you will find it extremely interesting to try and find the beginnings, the first causes of the friendships you have either experienced or witnessed. It will enable you to form ideas as to the relative weight of circumstances and character, and it is good to know the reason why things are even little things.)
Well, do these friendships last? In nine cases out of ten they do not, though by means of fitful correspondence they may drag on a feeble existence for years. The bond of union which school supplies being once broken, Lucy and Kate find new interests quite unconnected with each other, which may be difficult to explain on paper, and the opportunities of meeting may be few.
Besides, Kate, who was "quite the nicest girl at school," does not seem so exceptional when brought among Lucy's relations. They think her a little free and easy, or too particular and strait-laced. She is poor, and mamma is afraid of "the boys" falling in love with her; or rich, and may stay "only one week," the seeming significance of which sets the family back up, and she is not asked again.
There are a hundred trifles which part school friends, whose affection has been of short, rapid growth, and which must therefore wither in a new atmosphere, unless its roots have struck deep down into the hearts of both.
So the letters become shorter and fewer, till there comes so long a pause that neither can remember who wrote last, and each, of course, feels that the other is to blame for the silence.
"If Kate really cares about me she will answer my last letter," says Lucy.
"If Lucy wants to drop the correspondence, I'm sure I shan't force her to keep it up," says Kate.
So the letter is never written, and the friends part; and though I am a great admirer of the virtue of constancy, I still hold that there are cases in which it is a mere mockery, the empty husk which we had much better fling away when the kernel is gone.
But girls' friendships are often made by propinquity, neighbourhood, adjacent homes, and constant meetings in the ordinary round of life.
The average girl, especially if living in the country, has not usually a very large circle of acquaintances from which to choose her friends (and notwithstanding what is said about the sufficiency of family affections, I do think a "particular friend" is almost a necessity to girl nature, and need not and ought not to interfere with home ties and interests). Even if her mother's visiting list is long, each household will not include a girl of her own age with whom she could be intimate, and many will live at a distance to make frequent intercourse out of the question.
Yes, your circle will narrow to some five or six, perhaps even three or four, girls, and you will naturally see most of the one living nearest to you.
You meet in your strolls, if you live in the country, you continually "drop in" to tea and tennis at each other's houses. If you live in a town, you drop in just before or just after your round of more formal visits, and you get to know each others' daily lives, daily interests, pleasures, and difficulties very thoroughly, and this interweaving of the day-to-day existence forms many a friendship.
You get accustomed to each other; the trivial incidents of the hour, perhaps its gossip, which have a transient interest for the one, interests the other no less. Your friend knows just what work you are doing, just what book you are reading. You have a great deal of time for talking, and by degrees each knows almost everything about the life of the other, for the lives are short, and at this period neither profound nor intricate.
Now, if you are really fitted to be friends to one another, this intimacy may be a very good beginning; you know each other thoroughly, and the mutual affection, sympathy, and help I spoke of in a former paper are much more possible when there is such perfect acquaintance. At the same time there are features in such a friendship which tell very much against the idea of its long continuance.
To begin with, such frequent meetings must often exhaust the materials for conversation. Girls do not usually "take in" to such large extent that they can be continually "giving out" with interest to their hearers. Do you not sometimes find that you have nothing more to say to your friend since you saw her yesterday? You have had one short, stupid letter from a school companion, you have tried your hand at making orange fritters and failed, and cook says you must try something easier; you have read a little more of the book you discursed yesterday, and done a little more of the painting, and when these subjects are disposed of conversation flags.
You begin to find each other just a little, a very little dull, and it is really a relief to meet a slighter acquaintance to whom you can tell the whole history of the painting, or the last tennis party for the first time.
I do not believe that "familiarity breeds contempt" between people who are worth knowing and loving, but I do think that girls are all the better for having certain chambers in their hearts, into which even the special "intimate" may not enter; and for being by herself at times, instead of continually hunting up a companion, for hours which would otherwise be solitary. Girls don't think enough, and how can they if they are constantly in the company of those who think no more, and so seldom by themselves.
You would become closer friends if you took time apart to progress individually, each in the direction her character or opportunities point out.
There may be something, too, of undue influence of two opposite characters or tastes when both are young and pliable, but of this I do not now speak.
And what is the end of the ordinary friendship of neighbourhood? One of the girls leaves the place and gets elsewhere a new set of the little social interests that bound them together. They are not worth writing about, though they might have taken hours to talk them over, and having less and less in common, her friends drift apart through lack of a strong tie to bind them together, though, perhaps, they never quite drop.
A third and somewhat higher class of friendship is that formed over association in work, or some deep common interest.
This will occur when girls meet to study some subject of real interest to both, not for the mere sake of "doing something" after their school life has closed, but for the earnest use to which they intend to put their requirements.
It may be art in one of its branches, or music, which, indeed, is art, too. One of the most delightful of friendships I ever heard of was cemented over the task of acquiring the "accomplishment of verse."
Or two girls may throw themselves heart and soul into benevolent Christian work, not, as I said before, for the mere sake of "doing something," but because they really long to help their fellow-creatures physically, morally, spiritually, for Christ's sake. Meeting in this way, and fitted by natural character to be friends, they will probably become so, and, unless some quarrel arise, caused by earnest difference of opinion, will, I think, remain so longer than any I have mentioned before.
And now I come to speak of what I must consider the most perfect method on which a friendship can be formed. I mean the elective friendship which depends on no accident of association or neighbourhood, and is, to my mind, the most satisfying of all.
We cannot say what drew us to our friend. We met her for a few days at a country house, or were introduced to her casually at a dinner-party. Nothing in ordinary circumstances would have been more likely than to part and meet no more. But we did not part; something had united us—we felt we must see more of each other.
This attracting something lends a strange charm to friendship, and, whether the two are alike or unlike, it matters little—they are sure to be helpers and sympathisers, because, it seems to me, and I say it with all reverence, this something which we cannot define is a God-given bond of union. The two are meant to be friends—meant to act beneficially upon each other; and, perhaps, because they cannot understand it or reason over it, the tie proves stronger than they or anyone can break.
They may be thrown together in any of the ways I have suggested, but with a difference; then neighbourhood, association, was the primary element in the formation of the friendship; now it is secondary to the elective attraction. Both feel that their souls would have come together in whatever circumstances they had met.
I cannot think these elective friendships ever really cease, though a quarrel, a misunderstanding may break them seemingly for ever. There is a spiritual oneness which refuses to divide.
In conclusion, let me add one word about the bond of union which the love of Christ makes. If that is in any friendship you need not fear its dissolution. If few girls begin their youthful friendships with such a tie, can they not, will they not strengthen their union with it when they see how it can bless and sanctify such union with friendship the most perfect we can know on earth?
(To be continued.)
THE SHEPHERD'S FAIRY.
BY DARLEY DALE, Author of "Fair Katherine," etc.
JACK'S SMOCK FROCK.
Twelve years had elapsed since the shepherd first found the little baby on his door-step when, one afternoon in July, Mrs. Shelley was sitting working hard at some coarse-looking needlework, on a bench just outside the house. By her side stood her two younger sons, Charlie and Willie, both of them golden-haired, red-cheeked, chubby urchins, strikingly like their father. Willie, who was now fifteen, was dressed as a sailor, for he had already been three years in the navy, and was now at home for a week's holiday, while Charlie, whom we last saw crying in his cradle, was on his way to feed the pigs, and had just deposited his pail in front of his mother to stop and look at her work.
"Is it nearly finished, mother?" asked Charlie.
The "it" was a smock made of very coarse linen, over which Mrs. Shelley and another little pair of hands had been toiling hard every afternoon for the last fortnight.
"Yes, if Fairy would only sit still and help me, we might finish it before supper. Just call her, Willie, I can't think what the child is doing; she is in her own room," replied Mrs. Shelley, who is now a comely woman of six or seven and thirty, and has apparently had but few sorrows, as not a wrinkle marks her smooth forehead, nor has a single grey hair yet made its appearance among her bright brown locks.
"Well, whether it is finished or not, Jack will never wear it, I am sure, so I hope I shall have it handed over to me," said Charlie.
"Nonsense, Charlie, pray don't say anything of the kind before Jack. Your father will insist on his wearing it, and as Fairy has made a great deal of it, I hope we shall persuade him to put it on to-morrow," said Mrs. Shelley, rather anxiously, for she was by no means so sure as she professed to be that Jack would condescend to wear a smock.
"I know he won't, mother; but what has Fairy got in her hand? Oh, my goodness me, what is that fine thing, Fairy?" asked Charlie, as, in answer to Willie's repeated shouts, Fairy made her appearance.
She was a tall, slight child, straight as a dart, still rather fragile in appearance, but with a healthy pink in her cheeks that did credit to Sussex air and living. Her hair was long, and floated about in the summer breeze in great waves of gold, the long silky tresses reaching below her waist. In striking contrast to this golden hair and fair pink and white complexion were her great brown eyes, with their long, dark lashes and delicately, though firmly, pencilled eyebrows. The rest of her features were nothing out of the common way, but her fair hair and dark eyes and brilliant complexion would at once have attracted attention, if, young as she was, she had not already been one of those people who can't come into a room without making their presence felt. The name little Jack—no longer little, by the way—had chosen for her years ago suited her exactly. Lightly as a fairy she tripped and flitted about, bright as a sunbeam, as though no such thing as care or sorrow existed in the world. Dainty in all her ways, neat and trim in her dress, with tiny hands and feet, a better name than Fairy could not have been given her. She was dressed in a pink print, simply yet well-made, and altogether the child looked out of keeping with her surroundings, particularly with her foster brother, Charlie, in his corduroys and his swill-pail by his side.
"You dreadful boy, take that horrid pail away before I come a step further," cried Fairy, pinching her little nose with her delicate white taper fingers.
"All right, but do show us that fine thing you have in your hand first," said Charlie.
"No, no, no; go to your pigs first, you'll spoil my lovely present for Jack if you come near me," said Fairy, hiding her hands behind her, and running backwards to avoid any chance of a collision with Charlie and his pail as he prepared to obey her commands.
"What is it, Fairy?" asked Mrs. Shelley, as Charlie moved off, looking up with curiosity from her work.
"It is a shaving-case I have been making for Jack out of that quilt of mine you said I might have, mother," replied Fairy, holding out an elaborate shaving-case, beautifully quilted in blue satin.
"A shaving-case? But, my dear Fairy, Jack does not shave. How could you cut that lovely thing up in this way?" said Mrs. Shelley.
"A shaving-case! What is the use of it if he did shave?" asked Willie, who was of a practical turn of mind.
"The use of it! Why, to keep his shaving-cloths in, of course. Mr. Leslie has one something like this, only not half so pretty," said Fairy, eyeing her handiwork with admiration.
"It is much too good for Jack," said Charlie, who had come back from his pigs.
"Nothing is too good for Jack, is it, mother?" asked Fairy, with an imperceptible nod at Willie.
"It is very unsuitable, Fairy, and I think it is a pity you cut up that quilt for it; but come and help me to finish this smock, you idle child, do."
"That dreadful smock! and I know Jack will never, never, never put it on, though we have pricked our fingers over it for weeks. And John will be angry, and insist, and Jack will be in a passion, and refuse, and instead of having a nice happy birthday, poor old Jack will be miserable. Mother, let's give him the smock to-night, and have the row over before to-morrow. Run and get me my thimble, Charlie, please, and Willie, thread my needle for me, and I'll soon help mother to finish this ugly smock," said Fairy, seating herself with a business-like air as she folded up the shaving-case in some silk paper.
"Well, it is not a bad plan, Fairy; we will give Jack the smock when he comes in this evening," said Mrs. Shelley.
"Yes; and I'll keep my present till to-morrow, and that will put him in a good temper, before we start for our picnic," said Fairy, stitching away with great energy. An hour later, just as the smock was finished and the boys were gone to get tea ready, the shepherd entered at the gate carrying a quantity of wheatears threaded on crow-quills. He looked vexed, and Mrs. Shelley, who could read her husband's face like a book, asked what was the matter.
"Why, again Jack has forgotten to attend to those traps for the wheatears; when I did them myself I caught a hundred in one day; now I leave them to him I get perhaps eighteen to twenty, because he is too lazy to dig out the turf and make the traps properly; here are only ten brace this evening, and they are as plentiful as sparrows just now."
"John, you are a greedy man, and Jack is not lazy; he does not approve of killing birds; he thinks it is cruel, that is why he has not seen to the traps, so you must not scold him about it, will you?" said Fairy, looking up into the shepherd's grave face, as she stroked the white breasts of the wheatears.
"You had better see to the traps yourself, John; there is always a fuss about them every summer since you gave them to Jack to attend to. You know, as Fairy says, he is so fond of birds, and he knows so much about them too, that he can't bear snaring them."
"Knows so much about them! I should think he did. Why Mr. Leslie says if Jack had only the means of getting himself some good books, he would be a first-rate ornithologist, which means a man learned in birds, John," said Fairy.
She had always called the shepherd John since she could speak, and Mrs. Shelley and John were quite content that she should do so, as he was not her father, though Fairy persisted in calling his wife mother, to Mrs. Shelley's secret joy. They were both greatly attached to their foster-daughter; as for the shepherd, he never contradicted her in anything, and though over-strict as his wife thought with his own boys, he never seemed to think Fairy could do wrong, and had never been heard even to rebuke her in the mildest way since he found her; and when Mrs. Shelley remonstrated with him, as she sometimes did, he excused himself by saying she was not his own child, so he did not feel the same responsibility about her.
Luckily for Fairy, Mrs. Shelley did not humour her and look upon her with the same excessive admiration the shepherd and the boys did; they regarded her as a superior being, and thought her way of queening it over them perfectly right and natural. Mrs. Shelley loved the child she had been a mother to tenderly, and was proud of her beauty and cleverness, and yet, while she constantly impressed on her boys that Fairy was a lady by birth and therefore in a very different position to any of them, and, moreover, might any day be claimed by her own parents and taken into her own sphere, she insisted on the same obedience from her as she expected from her own children.
"Jack had far better become a man learned in sheep than in birds, seeing he is to be a shepherd. I can't see the use of all the learning Jack gets hold of; it can't do him any good," said the shepherd.
"Oh! you dear, good old shepherd, I believe you think the world was made for sheep, and shepherds the only useful people in it," exclaimed Fairy.
"I think if Jack learns his business and his Bible and Prayer-book, he will do very well without any other learning. It is quite right and proper that my little Fairy should learn to play the spinnet and to speak French, which nobody here understands, and many other things of which I don't even know the names, but I don't think that kind of knowledge will make Jack a good shepherd or a good Christian, and that is all he is required to be," said John Shelley, stroking Fairy's golden head fondly as he spoke.
"But if he could be a very clever man some day and perhaps learn a profession, you would think that better than being a good shepherd, would you not?" said Fairy, who was in Jack's confidence, and knew that as he watched the sheep on the downs he dreamt dreams of this kind.
"No, Fairy, no; if God had meant Jack to be a gentleman he would not have given him a shepherd for his father. His duty is to labour hard to get his own living in that state of life in which it has pleased God to call him, as the Catechism says."
"But, John, why did God let me be brought up by a shepherd, then?" asked Fairy. "You see He does not always mean people to remain what they are born or I should not be here, should I?"
This was an argument to which John's slow mind could not supply an answer. Conservative to the backbone in all his notions, like most Sussex people, be their politics what they may, the law of progress was no law to him, but rather rebellion to the divine appointments, and that Jack should wish to be anything else but a shepherd like his ancestors was to him as inexplicable and incomprehensible as it was profane and wicked.
Fairy's presence among them had often been an enigma to him. Accustomed to work in a groove himself, his mind never travelling beyond the downs on which his life was spent, he could not fathom the divine purpose in placing her under his care, but yet being quite clear in his own mind it was God's will for her at present, he did his duty towards her without questioning; but the idea of Jack rising out of his own sphere of life into a higher was another matter altogether.
"I don't know," said John, at last, as Fairy repeated her question.
"By the bye, how long have I been here exactly?" asked Fairy.
"Let me see; twelve years last shearing-time," said the shepherd, whose dates were few and simple, sheep-washing, shearing, lambing, and next and last sheepfair being the principal.
"But I want to know the day of the month; and I'll tell you why. You all have birthdays except me, and no one knows when mine was, so I am going to keep mine for the future on the day I was brought here, so I shall be like the sheep; you count their age from their first shearing, not from the day they are born, and I am going to count mine from the day I was found. Now try and remember when it was, will you?"
"Twelve years ago last shearing; it was on a Friday, the day before the shearing ended, somewhere about this time, for we finished shearing last Saturday week," said John.
"It was earlier, John; it was the twenty-sixth of June; I wrote it down in my Bible the night you found her; but come into supper; the smock is finished at last," said Mrs. Shelley, folding up the ugly garment with a sigh.
"Jack's smock? I am glad of that, he must put it on to-morrow; he will look every inch a shepherd then," said John.
"Indeed, he won't wear it to-morrow; we are all going to have a holiday, and going to the seaside for the day; but where is Jack? I wish he would come into tea. I want him to help me with my lessons; I shall be much too tired to do them to-morrow," said Fairy, as they went into the kitchen.
(To be continued.)
"SHE COULDN'T BOIL A POTATO;"
THE IGNORANT HOUSEKEEPER, AND HOW SHE ACQUIRED KNOWLEDGE.
BY DORA HOPE.
The next morning Mr. Hastings had an interview with the doctor, who told him that Mrs. Wilson's recovery depended to a great extent upon her having absolute quiet, and freedom from all anxiety or annoyance. He advised that the nurse, in whom he had perfect confidence, should have the entire responsibility of the sick room, but as it was clear that she could not be always on duty, he hoped it could be arranged for Ella to remain and take the management of the house, and at the same time relieve the nurse occasionally by taking her place in the sick room.
It was absolutely necessary, he said, for Mrs. Wilson's sake, that there should be a mistress in the house, for already the nurse had complained to him that her patient had been very much disturbed by the loud talking and banging of doors; and that she herself had found considerable difficulty in getting her wants attended to, and her meals provided with comfort.
The doctor's opinion settled the matter; Ella must stay, and in order to make everything as easy for her as possible, Mr. Hastings called in the servants, and explained to them that he left his daughter in charge of the house, and that until Mrs. Wilson was well enough to attend to business herself, they were to take all orders from, and refer everything to, Ella.
At first all went smoothly enough; the servants were frightened at Mrs. Wilson's illness, and were ready to help and obey. Contrary to her expectations, too, Ella found her time pass very quickly; instead of days seeming dull, there was only too much to do and think of.
Directly after breakfast each morning, she had an interview with nurse to get her report, and consult as to the invalid cookery for the day. Then Bertha, the cook, had to be talked to, and arrangements made for the day's meals; then there were the fowls and ducks to feed, the one-eyed pony to visit, and talk to while he nibbled his daily apple, and the peace to keep between the seagull and jackdaw, whose habitual friendship could hardly stand the test of breakfast-time. And if she lingered too long with these and the dogs, Sir Paul, the parrot, was screaming loudly, threatening to "tell the missus," while the whole cageful of little birds were twittering and scolding that they had not been attended to first of all.
"The mistress always did them herself," the cook said; and Ella supposed it was her duty to do the same. These various duties occupied most of the morning, and the afternoon was spent in her aunt's room, while the nurse rested, and prepared for the night's watch.
The arranging of meals was Ella's greatest difficulty at first, but she managed it more easily than she expected, for Bertha generally had something to suggest for her own and the kitchen meals, and the nurse always knew what to advise for her patient. Some of the dishes she ordered seemed to Ella anything but appetising; one especially, suet and milk, she thought sounded absolutely nasty, though the nurse assured her it was very light and wonderfully nourishing; and, indeed, when at last Ella was persuaded to taste it, she had to acknowledge that if she had not known what it was she really would not have disliked it. The nurse generally prepared this herself, as she said all depended on the care in making. She put a 1/4lb. of suet in a pint of milk, and simmered it gently, stirring frequently, till the milk was as thick as good cream. She then strained it carefully, and flavoured it with almond or lemon, which so effectually disguised the taste of the suet in it, that it became a favourite dish with Mrs. Wilson.
Coffee jelly was another dish which nurse introduced to vary the too constant beef-tea, and which had the advantage of being very quickly and easily prepared. She made a cup full of strong coffee, strained out the grounds very carefully, and added as much sugar and milk as though for drinking hot, and enough isinglass to stiffen it, and either left it in the cup or poured it into a mould, and when cold it was ready to turn out and serve as a jelly. This was only given occasionally, as it was not considered very strengthening; but nurse found it useful to make a variety.
Ella expected a great quantity of arrowroot would be used; indeed, that was her one idea in regard to invalid diet, but the doctor did not care for it, and never ordered it.
"It is no use," he said, when she once suggested it, "unless you add nourishing things to it; it is nearly all starch, and there is nothing in it that could sustain life by itself. Common wheaten flour is far more valuable, and either that or corn flour should always be used in preference to arrowroot when it is important to get as much nourishment as possible."
The nurse was a kind-hearted woman, as well as an efficient attendant, and was as ready to teach the duties of a sick room as Ella was to learn them.
"It is a cold day, Miss Ella, you must keep the fire up," she said one day before retiring for her afternoon rest. "Do not wait till the fire has gone down, but put more coal on when this seems nearly burnt through. Many nurses will tell you that you should have some coal wrapped in paper, ready to lift on to the fire without making any noise, but I do not like that way myself, the paper makes such a dirty fire. So look here, miss, I take care to have plenty of pieces of coal of a nice size in the scuttle, and then I keep this old pair of gloves by the side of the fire (I will leave them there for you to use), and I slip them on and lift the pieces of coal up with my fingers; I don't make noise enough to wake a baby that way, and can lay each piece just where I want it too."
Ella felt very nervous at first, when she was left alone in charge of the sick room, but gradually she became accustomed to the darksome silent room, and rejoiced in finding herself less awkward and stupid than she had imagined herself to be. At home it was Kate who was always at hand when anyone was ill, Kate who entertained callers, and Kate who always knew the right thing to do or say; while Ella believed herself to be by nature awkward and devoid of tact. She was finding out now, however, that it was only the opportunity to make herself useful, not the ability, that had been lacking, and though her want of experience caused her some difficulties which might have been avoided, she soon found that prayerful patience and careful thought enabled her to undertake duties which astonished herself.
The first disturbance of the general peace was occasioned after she had been only a few days at Hapsleigh, by the nurse's objection to take her meals in the kitchen with the servants. She had never been expected to do so before, she said, and she really must ask to have her meals prepared comfortably. The servants were offended at this slight upon their kitchen and their company, and retorted that "they had had enough of her stuck-up ways," that "they were every bit as good as she was, only they did not give themselves such airs," and so on; all of which greatly dismayed poor Ella, when the disturbance reached her ears. She thought the matter over, and had decided that nurse should have her meals in the dining-room, so that the servants could not complain of extra trouble, as they would only have to lay another place at the table; but Mrs. Mobberly, who came in very opportunely in the midst of her deliberations, dissuaded her from it.
"It is all very well now," she said, "while your aunt is so very ill that you must of necessity be in her room whenever the nurse is away having her meals, but we hope she will soon be so much better that there will be no need for that, and you will sometimes find it awkward then to keep nurse waiting till you have finished. No, you had much better insist at once upon her meals being comfortably prepared for her upstairs."
"But where can she have them? There is not even the tiniest sitting-room upstairs, only the small bedroom which nurse uses for herself, and the large one where I sleep."
"Then I think, if I were you, as yours is such a large, airy room, I would have one of these small tables moved into it, and let nurse have all her meals there. You will find she will prefer it to coming downstairs, as it is near enough to the sick room to hear every sound, and if you make a rule that your bedroom shall be put straight directly you leave it in the morning, and the windows thrown wide open, it will be quite fresh by the time she wants it."
Ella thanked Mrs. Mobberly warmly for her advice, which she promised to follow, and as she walked down the garden with her to the gate, she told her of her mother's parting advice, that when it was necessary to speak to the servants, she should first of all make quite sure she was in the right herself, and then assert her authority decisively, so that there might be no doubt about her intention of being obeyed.
In spite of her brave words, however, Ella felt her courage ebbing away as Mrs. Mobberly disappeared in the distance, and she had to summon up all her resolution and give her orders at once, before it all evaporated.
The servants listened to what she had to say in perfect silence, and after waiting in vain for a reply, she had to leave them, feeling very much discomfited, but no sooner was she safely within the shelter of the breakfast-room than their tongues were loosed, and she heard their loud, rude voices angrily discussing what she had said, and declaring they would not put up with such interference, and adding, to Ella's dismay, in almost the very words she herself had used before leaving home, that "she was a fine one to come ordering them about, for they did not believe she even knew how to boil a potato." Poor Ella felt very much hurt, for she had tried to speak kindly though firmly, and she had flattered herself that they had not discovered her ignorance. That evening's entry in her diary was—
"My first attempt at asserting myself a failure. Decided that managing a house is not my vocation."
In spite of all these difficulties, however, the time passed very quickly, and Ella had the happiness of feeling that she was really useful. As Christmastide approached, a fierce struggle went on in her mind; she had never thought of being away from home on Christmas Day, and it would be very lonely and dull at Hapsleigh, so different from the merry party who always met at home on that day; but her mother had written that she must judge for herself if it would be right to leave, and when she thought of her aunt, who was beginning to look to her for entertainment and company, and of the quarrels certain to arise between the other members of the household, her mind was soon made up, and, although with a very heavy heart, she wrote that she thought she must stay.
The answer came promptly, and was full of praise and warm encouragement, which comforted and helped her.
"If your happiness cannot be with us, my child," her mother wrote, "remember that we celebrate the season when our Lord left His Father and His home to bring happiness to mankind, and you are treading closely in His footsteps just now. Let your Christmas joy this year be in making joy for others, and you will find a depth of happiness you never imagined before."
A short time before Christmas Ella was sitting in her aunt's room, putting the finishing touches to sundry little presents she was making to send home, when her aunt interrupted her: "I shall want you to go into town for me to-morrow, Ella," she said; "you had better write the things down as I tell you them. You will find a pencil and half sheets of paper in that little drawer in the table."
Mrs. Wilson loved to make unexpected presents, and her circle of charities was wider than anyone guessed. She had that spirit of thoughtful generosity which is as rare as it is valuable, and she was never tired of finding out and relieving those who, from poverty or friendlessness, were likely to be overlooked in the general rejoicings at Christmas. This year her illness made her private gifts difficult to manage, and Ella had to be taken into a good many secrets which surprised and touched her.
"Well, first I want you to buy an interesting book, the sort that a boy would like, to cost about six or seven shillings, and have it sent to this address; you can put in my card and say I hope the boy will like it. Are they poor, did you say? No, not very, but this boy is the 'ugly duckling' of the family, and everybody snubs him, they say he is so dull and stupid, and I think a little kindness will help him to assert himself. Then go to the poulterer's, and have a turkey or goose sent to these addresses."
"Oh, Aunt Mary," exclaimed Ella, aghast, "I daren't choose turkeys, I don't know anything about them."
"Stuff and nonsense, my dear!" replied her aunt, who had little pity on ignorance; "it is high time you learnt, then. You had better get a basket of nice hothouse fruit for the Miss Duquenes; they are as proud as princesses and as poor as church mice. I don't believe they get half enough to eat; you must manage to give them some money, somehow."
"Would postal orders do? I could post them in the town, and there is no need to put any name on them."
"Very well; they are nasty new-fangled things, but I suppose you must use them; there were no such things when I was young. And do not forget to go to Miss Alexander's as soon as you can. Dear me! I had no idea Christmas was so near; she ought to have had her order long ago."
"Is that the queer-looking little lady with blue spectacles?"
"Yes; she used to be a governess, but people think no one can teach children unless they have certificates and degrees now-a-days, and her eyesight failed too, so she has to live on a small annuity, but she can see to knit, and she likes to make a few things to sell when she can. You had better ask her to make a nice warm shawl for your mamma, and one of those nice little garments, boot-socks and overalls in one, for the Jenkins' baby; ten to one its mother is sending it out with hardly anything on its poor little legs, and its head and shoulders wrapped up like an Eskimo. You can look round and see if she seems to have anything else made ready, and buy a few little things."
Ella did not much like these vague and general orders; she would much rather have been told exactly how much to pay for each article, but she promised to do her best.
Mrs. Wilson's last commission was to call on an old gentleman, in feeble health, who had lost his money through the failure of a bank, and was now unable to procure any of the comforts which his failing health required; his only son had lately died, and the old man was now alone. The one relic of his past wealth was a store of beautiful old china, which it had been the happiness of his life to collect.
"You must go and call on him, Ella, and say that I want a piece of fine old china for a present, but I cannot go out myself to buy it, and cannot trust you, and I thought he might know of some one who is breaking up a collection. If so, will he kindly choose a piece and send me? Then you see, my dear, if he needs the money he can send me some of his own china."
Ella did not know old Mr. Dudley, and felt rather shy and embarrassed when she went to pay this call, and afraid of betraying her aunt's real intention; but he put her so much at her ease at once, that instead of running away directly she had delivered her message, she spent a long time with him admiring his treasures. His old-fashioned courtesy pleased Ella, and she readily promised to come again and tell him if her aunt was satisfied with his choice of china, for he had undertaken the commission, and Ella felt sure, from his manner, that he had understood Mrs. Wilson's real intention, and intended to avail himself of it.
Ella had to pay several visits to the town before all her shopping was finished; for there were presents to buy for the servants and nurse, and decorations for the kitchen, and the parcel of gifts for her own family to pack and send home; and all these matters took up so much time that Christmas Day dawned before she had time for any regrets.
(To be continued.)
OUR TOUR IN NORTH ITALY.
BY TWO LONDON BACHELORS.
We are only a couple of young bachelors—almost "green"—but we enjoy life greatly and appreciate art when we see it, so on our savings we decided to see a bit of Italy, and the glorious paintings, buildings, and picturesque street-corners for which that country is so justly renowned.
We borrowed books from all our friends, and sought second-hand bookstalls for every conceivable authority, and a month before our day for starting we were so brimful of knowledge, that we decided to acquire no more, but to depend on what we had already achieved.
How tedious the days before the one memorable day which should see us off to Bale, and how alarming a cold in the head, caught by one of us two days before the date! Would it develop into something too serious to travel upon? Surely, never did so simple an ailment command so careful a treatment or portend so formidable, or possibly formidable, a catastrophe! Breakfast in bed was the order of the last two mornings, and two visits from a doctor, who won golden opinions from the two jolly bachelors for prescribing change as the best medicine. He is a wise doctor, that Scotchman, and we will seek his counsel on other occasions—though not just at present, we trust.
We left Victoria Station on an April morning, being "seen off" by three kind friends, one of whom nearly lost his life by foolishly standing on the carriage step while the train steamed to the full extent of the platform. The risk our friend underwent only made us love him the more for his devotion to his chums; and, really, we would prefer to see no possible danger in such a friendly desire to prolong the last glimpse of such interesting worthies as ourselves.
We found the sea at Dover very blue, as usual, and very smooth, so that it was a very short passage to Calais, and we found considerable pleasure in re-reading Ruskin's reference to the fine old church tower. He says:—
"I cannot find words to express the intense pleasure I have always in first finding myself, after some prolonged stay in England, at the foot of the old tower of Calais church. The large neglect, the noble unsightliness of it; the record of its years written so visibly, yet without sign of weakness or decay; its stern wasteness and gloom, eaten away by the Channel winds, and overgrown with the bitter sea grasses; its slates and tiles all shaken and rent, and yet not falling; its desert of brickwork, full of bolts, and holes, and ugly fissures, and yet strong, like a bare brown rock; its carelessness of what any one thinks or feels about it, putting forth no claim, having no beauty, nor desirableness, pride, nor grace; yet neither asking for pity; not, as ruins are, useless and piteous, feebly or fondly garrulous of better days; but, useful still, going through its own daily work—as some old fisherman, beaten grey by storm, yet drawing his daily nets, so it stands, with no complaint about its past youth, in blanched and meagre massiveness and serviceableness, gathering human souls together underneath it; the sound of its bells for prayer still roiling through its rents; and the grey peak of it seen far across the sea, principal of the three that rise above the waste of surfy sand and hillocked shore—the lighthouse for life, and the belfry for labour, and this—for patience and praise.
"I cannot tell the half of the strange pleasures and thoughts that come about me at the sight of that old tower; for, in some sort, it is the epitome of all that makes the continent of Europe interesting, as opposed to new countries; and, above all, it completely expresses that agedness in the midst of active life which binds the old and the new into harmony. We in England have our new streets, our new inn, our green shaven lawn, and our piece of ruin emergent from it—a mere specimen of the middle ages put on a bit of velvet carpet to be shown; and which, but for its size, might as well be on a museum shelf at once, under cover:—but, on the Continent, the links are unbroken between the past and present; and, in such use as they can serve for, the grey-headed wrecks are suffered to stay with men; while, in unbroken line, the generations of spared buildings are seen succeeding, each in its place. And thus, in its largeness, in its permitted evidence of slow decline, in its poverty, in its absence of all pretence, of all show and care for outside aspect, that Calais tower has an infinite of symbolism in it, all the more striking because usually seen in contrast with English scenes expressive of feelings the exact reverse of these."
At Tergnier we alighted for dinner, being allowed twenty minutes for five courses and dessert. But hunger of a violent kind prevented any unreasonable grumbling, and we fortified ourselves for a long night's journey. Of course, when our dinner had digested, we thought of all the horrors of midnight railway journeys, and remembered seeing the poor Curate of St. Pancras after the same journey into Switzerland a year or two ago. His head was plastered and bandaged, and he, poor fellow, looked a sorry pickle after the burglary and attempted murder, but was it not a splendid subject for a sermon when he found himself at Chamounix and able to preach! And did he not profit by the unusual opportunity! In thinking of this we each said our prayers quietly, when we fancied the other was not looking, and towards midnight we wound up our watches, which we understand are seldom remembered by travellers on night journeys.
At this stage of the narrative it seems highly desirable to describe ourselves, and we hasten to prove a total absence of any reluctance:
No. 1 is a slim youth just over twenty, with a delicate complexion and curly hair, but whose digestion is atrocious, frequently causing his normally amiable character to be tinged with viciousness, and
No. 2 is ten years older and the reverse of No. 1 in feature and figure, and also (alas!) in disposition, being crotchety and irritable whenever events turn out uncomfortably, as frequently happens when there are no members of the fair sex near to make the passage through life's waters smooth. He remembers, though would fain forget, some trifling difficulties in the matter of mending, button sewings, &c., which caused him to prove a less desirable companion than might otherwise have been expected.
However, the two arrived safely at Bale, and, after a matutinal bath in a slop basin at the station, and a very hot breakfast in two minutes in the refreshment room, proceeded direct to Lucerne, where they put up at the Swanen.
Old Haefeli always pretends the keenest interest in the latest arrival, so we were not surprised on the following day that our hotel bill was not less than usual. Of course, before leaving that lovely town we did the "lion" and the "lions" of the place, including the picturesque old bridge, with its numerous paintings of horrible subjects connected with the eventful lives of SS. Leodegar and Maurice, the patrons of Lucerne. But, although there seems to be no way of getting at the details of the story, thus primitively depicted, which evidently embraces old priests without heads and warriors worshipping the phenomenon, we admired the colouring and quaint drawings of the pictures.
The Rigi was partly covered with snow, so that it was impossible to get either on foot or by train higher than Kaltbad—and when once an official saw us attempting to walk through a likely field for a better view, warned us sternly against any such foolhardy attempt.
This was amusing, after the information contained in the Hotel Guide Book, which runs thus:—"Some daring ascensionists up the Rigi, only obstinate themselves to disdain the railway, and so walk up the mountain on foot."
Our run down to Weggis was exhausting from the speed with which it was done, but we soon found ourselves safely and comfortably ensconced at the hotel at Brunnen, where we intended to spend the night previous to proceeding by the St. Gothard into Italy.
En passant we might remark on the pleasure of the Lucerne Lake, "out of season." We were the only visitors in the hotel, and were treated with liberality in the matter of fare, and with unbounded courtesy and attention. Our walk through the village at night was grand from its loneliness and mystery. We have since been there in August, but, O! how different! We do not like brass bands and noisy German tourists.
Early next morning we went by steamer over the Lake of Flueelen, and were much struck with the view of this place from the distance—the quaint red steeple, and the little Swiss chalets looking so pretty against the huge mountains, which are here more striking than anywhere on the banks of the lake.
At Flueelen we continued our journey by the St. Gothard Railway, but by an unlucky chance we got into a compartment with an Italian professor of languages—a terrible nuisance—who was delighted at having an opportunity of improving his English pronunciation at our expense.
The older and wiser bachelor, realising that it was impossible to prevent our companion from chattering, determined to turn him to account, and commenced to ask questions in Italian, adding to his small store of knowledge of that language. But the younger bachelor, to whom the magnificent scenery was entirely new, would stand the worry no longer, and got into another compartment.
The scenery of the St. Gothard Pass, at once after leaving Flueelen, is magnificent to a degree. At every turn of the railway is presented a scene of snow mountains, of roaring torrents, and of towering precipices, which are so characteristic of this superb country.
At Geschenen the train stopped for about half-an-hour, so we got out and looked about us, and found, to our delight, the whole of this superb gorge enveloped in snow. The novelty of the sight proved so tempting that we resolved to see more of it, and ascend to Andermatt, some miles from Geschenen, thus sacrificing our railway tickets to Lugano.
We ordered a carriage at the station, and wrapping ourselves up well—for it was very cold—commenced our drive in right good spirits. Before starting we were joined by a tall, handsome Englishman, who, like ourselves, had not been able to resist the temptation of breaking his journey at Geschenen.
Shortly after leaving the station we entered the dreary Schoellenen defile, certainly one of the finest in all Switzerland. The road here is cut in the sides of huge granite rocks. At the base of the gorge rushes the foaming Reuss, tearing madly against the rocks, which try in vain to arrest its course. All the way from Geschenen to Andermatt the ascent is very steep—the road in some places being almost suspended over the Reuss. Of course, our progress was slow, as, in addition to the steepness of the road, we had to pass by (and sometimes through) huge snow drifts from twelve to twenty feet high. When we crossed the famous Devil's bridge it was covered with mist, produced by the spray from the neighbouring cataracts. The old Devil's bridge, a few feet below the new one, has been disused for many years, and is now covered with moss and lichens. After leaving these the road passes through a long tunnel (covered with icicles in the early spring) into the valley of Unseren, which No. 2 said was fertile in summer—but how different when we saw it! The pastures were covered with snow and ice, and so altered was the scene, that the younger bachelor (No. 1) thought he was beholding a huge lake snowed over.
Andermatt looked very pretty with its ancient Romanesque church and funny little white-washed chalets, and how glad we were to get there! famished with hunger, and fearfully cold, notwithstanding all our wrapping up! We drove to a smart-looking hotel, where we were received pleasantly.
After dinner the younger bachelor, who is of rather a foolhardy temperament, and is, or rather was, very green, was seized with a desire to immortalise himself by climbing a mountain unattended, by sleeping out in the snow, or doing something perfectly ridiculous. So, promising his friend he would be back again in a couple of hours (a compact which he never intended to keep, by the way), he marched out of the hotel already thinking himself a kind of hero. Coming back again in about three hours and a half, he related that he had gone past Hospenthal to some place on the old St. Gothard road, where he was suddenly stopped by the path being so covered with snow that farther progress was absolutely impossible. So, humbled and disappointed, he came quickly home to find his friend in a terrible state of mind at his lengthened absence. In the evening we had some music—for both bachelors are musical—the older having a baritone voice, and the younger playing the piano. How cold that night was! and how welcome was the great eider-down pillow, which is generally such a nuisance in continental hotels.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we commenced our return journey to Geschenen; the driver, after leaving the tunnel and the snowdrifts, tearing down the defile at a most dangerous pace. At the station we took fresh tickets to Lugano, travelling third-class to make up for the extravagance of abandoning our former tickets, and then waited for the train which was to take us to Italy. Yes, to Italy, that wonderful country of which we had read so much, about which we had acquired so much information, and had been so longing to see for the last six months! The train, with its huge powerful engine, came slowly into the station, looking very important, as if it knew that it was conveying its passengers to the most famous country the world has ever seen.
The entrance to the great tunnel is within a few yards of Geschenen Station. When we consider that this is the longest tunnel in the world (from Geschenen to Airolo, nearly nine and a half miles), and that the rock which is pierced consists of such hard material as quartz and granitic gneiss, the work may well claim to be one of the great engineering feats of the century. The difficulty of supplying the workmen engaged on the boring of the tunnel with air, necessitated the building of huge air reservoirs (just outside Geschenen Station), which, in addition, were used for setting the boring machines into motion. The air was forced into these reservoirs by water supplied from the Reuss. The operations were commenced at both ends in 1872, under the auspices of M. Louis Favre. This great contractor, to whose industry and genius so much of the final success of the scheme was due, died of apoplexy whilst inspecting the tunnel, after seven years of unremitting labour and anxiety. The difficulties which poor Favre had to contend against were terrible, not the least of which were the crushing of the masonry, the striking of springs, and a riot among the workmen, which took place in 1875.
We were a little disappointed with the length of the tunnel, especially as we had heard that the boring alone had taken nearly eight years to accomplish. But travelling through a tunnel is not a very agreeable sensation, as passengers by the Underground Railway will know, so we were glad when the train emerged from the darkness and slowly wended its way past Airolo, the first Italian village on the south side of the St. Gothard. The scenery changes its character almost immediately on leaving the tunnel; for though it is still, of course, mountainous, with a roaring torrent, the Ticino, almost equal to the Reuss in its impetuousness, yet it is much more luxuriant than the Swiss side. Mulberry trees and vines gradually begin to appear, and the little church towers (called in Italian, Campanili) becoming more frequent as one goes south, greatly add to the picturesqueness of the landscape.
Here it may be as well to remind our girls that the Canton Ticino, though Italian in language, in scenery, in architecture, and, in fact, in all its characteristics, yet politically belongs to Switzerland.
After passing Faido the scenery becomes, if possible, more beautiful, and at Bellinzona, the capital of the Canton, we saw our beau-ideal of Italian landscape. From a distance especially Bellinzona is very striking, with its three castles and fine 16th century Abbey church; though when one approaches it more closely, like so many Italian towns, it is slightly disappointing.
As we approach Lugano, the mountains become less elevated, but the soil far more rich and fertile, and the olive and aloe, so characteristic of Italian landscape, are to be seen.
About an hour before reaching Lugano both of us began to feel unwell and very irritable from the continual travelling; the younger of us especially so, as he was rapidly developing an attack of his horrible complaint—indigestion.
On arriving at Lugano we drove in the Hotel Omnibus to the Hotel du Parc and ordered tea to be brought up into our room, after partaking of which we went to sleep until table d'hote time. The dinner was, of course, the first we had tasted in Italy, and we cannot say that it impressed us favourably with Italian cooking. Everything was oily and rich, and suggested indigestion and biliousness. After dinner we strolled out of the hotel to get our impressions of the town of Lugano. The first thing we noticed was the beautiful Monte S. Salvatore, covered with verdure from base to summit; and then we admired the charming position and great picturesqueness of Lugano. Viewed from near the lake, and looking back on to the town, the number and variety of the Campanili, the flat-roofed houses scattered near the lake, and the hills covered with foliage, presented a most delightful scene. With the lake itself we were disappointed, the mountains struck us as being rather uniform and uninteresting; the shape of the lake also is not so beautiful as that of either Como or Maggiore, as we afterwards ascertained.
The interior of the town, with its arcades and quaint shops, so thoroughly Italian, pleased us very much, and we experienced to the full that delightful sensation of wandering about in a foreign town on a fine evening just after sunset.
The Hotel du Parc, at which we stayed, was formerly a monastery, and contains some rather interesting rooms and corridors. Near to this hotel is a small church thoroughly unnoticeable from the outside; but which contains three frescoes by Luini, one of which, the Passion, is not only the masterpiece of the painter, but one of the finest and best preserved frescoes in existence. And here we may say a few words about fresco painting, which is such a marked feature in the Italian churches and buildings. We do so, because some people, even those who ought to know better, are in the habit of describing any wall-painting as a fresco; whereas so many of the wall-paintings, especially in Italy, are not frescoes at all, but distemper paintings on a dry surface. The real fresco consists of painting upon plaster, while it is wet. The piece of plaster which is to be painted upon must be only sufficient for a single day's work—any that is left over must be cut away, and a fresh piece added for the next day's work. This accounts for the strongly indented lines which are really the joins in the plaster work.
The fresco of the Passion before alluded to covers the chancel arch of the little church, and is divided into two complete sections, representing various scenes from the Passion. This arrangement, by the way, is not at all uncommon in early Italian frescoes, and, although it has been severely criticised, there is no doubt that it often lends great richness to the composition, though occasionally, from the number of subjects depicted, and the absence of sky and foreground, it makes the painting appear confused and over-crowded. The first thing that strikes one in the work, is three crosses in the largest scale of the picture, which stand out apart from the rest. On the lower section are seen the holy women mourning for our Lord, and Roman soldiers on horseback, the former painted with great beauty and pathos—on this row also are St. John and a very vigorous group representing the executioners casting lots for the garments. Above are depicted various stages of the Passion, and the unbelief of Thomas—this last containing a most beautiful and dignified representation of Christ. Above both rows, on either side of the fresco, are two scenes; one being the agony in the garden, and the other the Ascension. Beneath, between the arches supporting the fresco, are SS. Sebastian and Roch, the former as fine as anything in the picture.
As Luini's great work is the most northern fresco of any importance, and is generally the first seen by the visitor to Italy, it serves as a kind of introduction to the art which distinguishes that glorious land.
(To be continued.)
A FAIRY TALE FOR YOUNGER GIRLS.
Just then the little hunting party came in sight, and some half dozen of them, seeing the queen crying, ran forward to learn what had happened.
"What is the matter?" cried Alphonse, running up breathless.
"What's the matter?" repeated the king, petulantly; "I daresay you care very much what's the matter; a pretty fellow you are to run off in that style. Here's Pepitia—the queen, I mean—fallen down and hurt herself."
"Oh, poor thing!" said Amanda to Sophia; "she has hurt her nose, I think."
"No, she hasn't hurt her nose, miss," said the queen, looking up from her velvet train, for she had lost her handkerchief, and was wiping her eyes on its satin lining; "and don't you call me 'thing' again, you saucy puss."
"Lor, you needn't be so cross, Missis Queen," rejoined Amanda, making a mock curtsey.
This retort produced a sharp altercation, in which several others readily joined, and a dozen young voices were to be heard all speaking at once. Their dispute, however, was not a very serious one, nor very difficult to arrange; so when they had all become good friends, and when the queen had left off crying, which she did on finding that her wounds extended no further than a grazed elbow, the king inquired what sport his companions had had.
"Oh, capital; look here!" replied Alphonse, showing a small ivory cage containing about a score of butterflies. "Aren't they beauties?"
The butterflies were unanimously pronounced to be fine ones, and the queen was expressing her admiration of them by a variety of exclamations, when a little boy pushed his way into the crowd, and said, "Oh! please queen, here's your crown; I found it among the bramble bushes."
"Dear me," said Pepitia, "I quite forgot my crown!"
"Why, I've lost mine too!" cried the king, clapping his hand to his head to feel for the crown, which ought to have been there but was not.
"I've got the king's crown! I've got the king's crown!" cried another little fellow, running up from the other side of the dell.
"What a bother the crowns are," said Philip.
"Well, suppose we don't wear them any more to-day," suggested the queen.
"No more we will," replied he; "and we had better take off our trains, for there is no running or doing anything in them, and then you won't go tumbling over yours, Pepitia; we will lay them down here, and we can put them on again when we are going home."
So the trains, crowns, ball, and sceptre were put together in the corner of the dell, and then the king and the queen were ready for a good game of play with the rest of the troop.
"Well, now, what shall we play at next? I'm tired of hunting butterflies," said Alphonse.
A little voice suggested "Hunt the slipper."
"Oh, yes! that's right; let's play at hunt the slipper," cried all the youngest, clapping their hands and jumping up and down.
"I don't care for hunt the slipper," objected Amanda.
"Besides, we have not got a slipper," said the queen, "and I'm sure none of you shall take your shoes off, or you will catch cold."
"I wish we had a slipper," whimpered a little voice.
At that moment there popped down amongst them, as if it had been thrown from some high tree, a high-heeled silver slipper, studded with rubies and emeralds.
"Oh!" screamed all of them, starting back and forming a circle around it, "where did that come from?"
"Isn't it a beauty!" said one.
"How it sparkles!" said another.
"Why don't you pick it up?" said Edmund, nudging the little Teresa, who stood next to him.
"I'm afraid," said she. "It's alive, isn't it?"
"No; it won't hurt you," replied he. "Pick it up."
Half afraid, Teresa crept cautiously forward, and, stooping down, reached out her hand to take up the treasure; but before she could touch it, it bounded up with such a spring as caused her to scream and run hastily back.
Then it jumped over Amanda's head, just tapped her on the shoulder, as much as to say, "Come, catch me," and was lying some dozen yards off on the other side of the group before any of them could have said "Peter Piper."
"I know what it is," cried Alphonse; "it's a fairy slipper. The fairy has sent it for us to play with."
"It's a fairy slipper! It's a fairy slipper!" they all cried. "Let's hunt the fairy slipper!"
Off they started, the king and queen joining in the chase this time, and enjoying it, being without their crowns and trains. Master Edmund was foremost, but he overbalanced himself and lay sprawling on the ground, whilst the slipper jumped up into a tree. Philip and Alphonse, being the biggest boys, began immediately to climb up after it. But no sooner had Alphonse reached the bough where it was perched than it sprang off, rapped him on the nose, and slid down the opposite side of the tree, giving the king's leg a sharp kick as it passed by.
"Where has it gone?" cried the two, rapidly descending the tree.
"I don't know," was the general rejoinder, uttered in chorus.
"There it is!" cried Ernest, "hopping across the meadow."
The whole troop raised a loud shout, and scampered off after it, the biggest first, and the little ones running in the rear as fast as their short legs would carry them, and hallooing with the loudest. The slipper stood still till the foremost was within grasping, length of it, when it gave a spring and got some yards in advance of the party, and then kept on hop, hop, hopping before them; yet, although it did not seem to hop very quickly, and although the young folks ran at the top of their speed, it always managed to keep at a tantalising distance, so that none of them could catch it, leading them a fine dance, up hill and down dale, through hedges and across the stepping-stones of a little brook, where many a wet shoe and sock were the result of its pranks. At last, just as Edmund was about to lay hold of it—as he made sure to do—it bounded to the top of a high, steep bank, and commenced doing the toe and heel shuffle.
Well, it was a droll sight, certainly, to see that fairy slipper, with all its sparkling jewels, dancing such a merry jig. I suppose because it was so droll was the reason why the little folks laughed so loud, and clapped their hands and jumped about as if they were mad.
Some of the bigger boys began to climb the bank in pursuit of the shoe, whilst the little ones fancied they did a vast deal towards capturing it by shouting with all their might; the louder they shouted the quicker the shoe danced, and the quicker the shoe danced the more they clapped their hands and laughed.
Alphonse climbed up a break in the bank, and so got to the top of it, a little to one side of where the shoe was cutting its merry capers. He crept softly along until he got within arm's length of it, then he made a bold grasp and seized it by the heel; but he soon let it go again, for a sharp, tingling pain ran up his arm to his shoulder, making him roar out pretty loudly.
The slipper, as soon as it was released, spun round two or three times, then, planting its heel on the ground and pointing its toe in the air, it gave a spring and was out of sight in a moment.
"Where has it gone to?" was the cry of them all. They looked everywhere for it, but did not find it. They shouted in chorus, "Come back, fairy slipper, come back!" but no slipper came, and they were forced to go home to their pretty houses without having found it, much to the regret of little Teresa, who was near crying with vexation at having lost the sparkling plaything.
They were all tired by when they reached their homes, and some of the younger ones were very cross also, for their little legs were tired from chasing the slipper, and they began crying for their mammas, so that the poor Nomen had work enough to get them all to bed and soothe them to sleep.
Now I cannot tell you whether these little folks would have continued happy and contented on Child Island, and never have wished to leave it for any other place, if they had had their mothers and fathers with them. But not having them, there was something wanting, and by the end of three weeks, or thereabouts, they were all heartily tired of being away from home. Yet how to get back there was a difficulty that not even wise Master Alphonse could solve. They had no boat to take them from the island, and even if they had had one they would not have known how to manage it, nor in which direction to guide it, as they were quite ignorant of the whereabouts of Noviland.
So matters grew from worse to worse on the island, the elder children getting more discontented and the younger ones more fretful, when one day they were altogether on the lawn in front of the palace. The big ones were moodily walking about, plucking the flowers and listlessly pulling them to pieces, or throwing them away as soon as plucked; the little ones, cross as two sticks, as nurses sometimes say, were getting into all sorts of mischief. One had lost her shoe, and was whimpering because she could not find it; a little boy had had his finger stung by a bee, and was roaring lustily in consequence; Teresa had fallen full length, with arms all bare, into a bramble bush, where she lay moaning piteously.
"What are the children making that row for?" cried Philip, as cross as the crossest himself; "for half a pin I'd box all their ears. Now then, what's the matter with you, you little sniveller?" said he, catching hold of a fair-haired little fellow, who was blubbering his loudest, and who seemed bent on rubbing his eyes out by the way in which he was screwing his little fists into them.