HotFreeBooks.com
Little Folks (November 1884) - A Magazine for the Young
Author: Various
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Do you think your time belongs to your uncle?" Mr. Murray asked suddenly.

"Yes, sir, of course; he pays me," Bertie replied. "Please may I go now?"

"One moment. Tell me what reward you expect for having brought that bag here to-day."

"Reward!" Bertie stammered, looking the very picture of confusion. "I don't know what you mean. The bag was not mine, and I managed to give it back to the person it belonged to: that's all, sir. Why should I be rewarded? But the cabman was so grateful, he said, 'Heaven bless the gentleman! he's done a better turn than he knew to-day;' and he kissed the sovereign, sir; and I'm sure there were tears in his eyes, because he said——" Bertie stopped suddenly; perhaps he had no right to repeat the cabby's words, spoken under the influence of sudden and joyful excitement; but Mr. Murray commanded him to go on. "Because he said, 'My poor wife is dyin', and this 'ere precious sov will let me go right 'ome, and spend the rest of the day with her. Heaven bless the gentleman!' Oh, he did look so happy!" and Bertie's own eyes filled with sympathetic tears, though his lips smiled. "I don't think I shall mind Uncle Gregory's scolding a bit when I think of the poor cabby's happiness," he added.

"Bertie, a truly good and honest action is like a pebble thrown in a pool of water: at first it makes a little splash that is not of much account, but the tiny circle widens and widens, till the whole surface is influenced. Life is a limitless pool. Do you know where the circle you started to-day may end? No; neither do I; no human being knows, but God does. Already it has benefited me a little, that unhappy clerk who lost the bag a great deal, that poor cabby with his dying wife a great deal more. Who knows how many more innocent and perfectly unconscious people may have been influenced by the accident, if, indeed, there is such a thing as accident in this world of ours. Just think for one moment what would have been the result if you had carried that bag to your office, put it in your desk, and never said a word about it till to-morrow morning, when there would perhaps have been an advertisement in The Times, offering fifty pounds reward. You might have got the money and been happy, and five thousand people might have been miserable for life. Such was the importance of those papers. Now, my carriage is at the door, and I'll set you down in the City. Tell your uncle the exact truth, and always act, Bertie Rivers, as you did to-day, honestly and promptly: not because it may benefit yourself, but because it's sure to have a beneficial influence on every one else. Remember the pebble and the pool."

Mr. Murray did not speak another word till they reached the top of Mincing Lane; there the carriage stopped and Bertie got out, but in spite of all the kind things the old gentleman had said, in spite of the consciousness of having done quite right from one point of view, in spite of his real pleasure on the clerk's and the cabby's account, he felt positively nervous about entering the presence of his uncle, and actually loitered outside for fully five minutes before venturing to push back the swing doors, and enter the outer office of Gregory and Co. He fancied all the clerks were looking at him in surprised compassion, though in reality not one of them had noticed him, and if they had, they would only think he had been sent on an errand by his uncle. With a loudly-beating heart he entered his uncle's room fairly trembling in every limb, the ominous silence of every one having completely terrified him.

Mr. Gregory was writing, and only raised his eyes for one moment as Bertie took his seat, but he looked very stern, and without doubt there would be a storm in a few moments, for Bertie was not a stranger to the rigid rules of the office. At the end of ten minutes the busy pen was laid aside, a heap of letters pushed into the basket, and by a motion of his hand Mr. Gregory summoned his nephew to stand before him.

"You are just two hours and a quarter late," he said, glancing at his watch. "Will you kindly explain to me where you have been and what you have been doing?"

"Yes, Uncle Gregory;" and in a very quavering voice Bertie recounted every incident that occurred from the moment he left the office for luncheon till he returned, dwelling least on his interview with Mr. Murray and most on the necessity of overtaking the gentleman who had lost the bag. He then explained what he had heard in the train in the morning, and how important it was that the papers should be signed at once. But Mr. Gregory's face grew graver and sterner as he listened, and instead of praising Bertie, he looked as if he could have cheerfully given him a good thrashing.

"You should have brought that bag to me, sir; you should have remembered that during office hours your time is mine. I am very angry with you, Herbert Rivers, and, what is still worse, very much disappointed. I imagined that you were a steady, straightforward boy, who meant to profit by the exceptional opportunities given you. I fancied you were worthy of the kindness I have bestowed upon you, and I find you a clever, artful, designing creature. Why did you say you preferred to come back to business instead of going with your cousins? why did you come, boy? To cross, thwart, annoy me? In my opinion, you came simply to ingratiate yourself with Mr. Murray, and your conduct to-day has proved it. Why should you find his papers? Why should you take them to him instead of to me—your uncle and guardian, as well as your master? I tell you again that it's my opinion you are a bad, artful designing boy, and I'm very sorry I ever set your foot on the high road to fortune, for I'm sadly afraid you will turn out a disgrace to me some day!"

"Not so bad as that, Gregory, I hope," Mr. Murray said, entering the room; he had been standing in the doorway unnoticed for some minutes, and overheard a good deal of the conversation. "Your nephew is not going to disgrace you, because he did what was clearly his duty in a very clever way. Cheer up, Bertie; your uncle will have a better opinion of you presently."

For answer, Bertie hid his face amongst the circulars on his desk, and burst into a passionate fit of crying, none the less bitter because his uncle sternly commanded him to be quiet, and carry a note to a gentleman in Threadneedle Street, and wait for an answer. Meanwhile Mr. Murray sat down, as if he meant to have a long conversation with Mr. Gregory, who looked as if he most cordially wished his visitor sixty miles away, as he thought him in reality to be, before he had heard Bertie's curious story.

CHAPTER XIV.—BERTIE IN DIFFICULTIES.

When he left the office on his uncle's errand, Bertie Rivers felt very miserable. For a minute he seemed almost stunned by his uncle's words, "A disgrace!" Was it possible that merely doing right ever could bring disgrace to anybody? if so, what was the good of doing right at all? But then, Mr. Murray had commended him, had said right always helped the largest number of people, though one might sometimes suffer; but even in a good cause to be called artful, designing, to be suspected of trying to make friends with Mr. Murray, and leading his uncle to suppose that he did not want to even accept his invitation, was too bitterly hard, and for the first time in his life Bertie felt as if he must throw himself down by the wayside, and sob his sorrow out to some one.

"Oh, if I could only see Aunt Amy!" he said aloud as he toiled up the stairs to the address on the note in his hand. "If I could only tell her all!" and then, as the gentleman was out and he was desired to wait, he sat on a form on the landing, and while seeming to watch the never-ending crowd of passers-by in Threadneedle Street, he was really thinking, "I must see my Aunt Amy. I must, I must, I must!"

The passing cabs attuned themselves to the words, the newspaper-boys, crying "Evening Paper, fourth edition," the flower-sellers, the sellers of mechanical toys, revolving purses, performing mice, and other living and dead monstrosities that haunt the vicinity of the Stock Exchange and Bank, all seemed to "cry" the same thing to Bertie, "I must see Aunt Amy. I must, I must, I must!"

Till four o'clock Bertie sat patiently waiting for an answer to his note, then the commissionaire came and told him that there was no chance of the gentleman he wanted being there that day; so he went back to Mincing Lane, only to find the office shut up, and then, for the first time, he glanced at a clock, and saw that it was a quarter after four. He had no very definite idea of how the time had gone, but the one uppermost idea still in his mind was to get to Aunt Amy, and tell her all his troubles, and ask her if she thought he had been so very much to blame.



At length Bertie started to walk home; he had no ticket, for he had gone to the office with his uncle before his holiday; and he had no money: his last penny had been spent at Brighton, and Mr. Gregory had not remembered to give him his usual weekly allowance; but there was the savings' bank: he could get some of his own money and go to see Aunt Amy at once. But the "book" was at Kensington, he remembered, and he called to mind, too, that the people at the Post Office wanted notice before paying any deposits, so that would not do. In his sore trouble and impatience he wanted to rush off to the station that moment, and even an express train would be far too slow for his wishes. As he walked towards Kensington he kept thinking all the time how he was to get the money. Whom could he ask to help him? But he did not ask any one, and at last, weary with his walk and his troubled thoughts, hot and dusty, he turned into the Park, and threw himself on the grass in the quietest spot he could find. He was close to Kensington Gardens, and a few minutes would bring him home; but Bertie felt as if he must have a rest before the duties of the evening commenced. For the first time in his life his work seemed distasteful to him, and the idea of being shut up alone with his uncle in the library after what had taken place was almost unbearable. If he only could get away to Aunt Amy and tell her all, it would be such a comfort. Once he pulled out his watch, and for a moment thought of selling it, then with a start he remembered that it was his dear father's last present. Above all things, he could not part with that. It really seemed as if there were no resource but to wait till he got his money from the savings' bank, and by that time Aunt Amy would be just about returning to Fitzroy Square.

"I suppose I may as well wait, and be as patient as I can," he mused; "besides, Uncle Gregory may think differently after what Mr. Murray said to him to-day;" and then he turned over lazily on the grass, pulled his hat over his eyes, and in a very few minutes was sound asleep. He was very tired, and fairly worn out with the excitement as well as the fatigue of the long summer's day, and he slept heavily. How long he did not know, when he started to his feet suddenly, to find himself quite damp from a heavy dew, chilled, stiff, sore, and, worst of all, hungry. The park was quite deserted and very dark, still he knew his way tolerably well, and hurried towards the gate, shivering partly with cold, partly with nervousness, at finding himself quite alone in the dark—everything was so gloomy and weird. When he reached the gates he was really frightened to find them locked, and to see by the lamplight that it was just eleven o'clock. What would Uncle Gregory say when he got home? How was he to get home unless some one came and let him out? for though a tolerably skilful climber, Bertie felt that great swing gate was beyond him; he did not like to venture over the sharp spikes at the top, even if he could get so high. For a few minutes he called loudly, but no one took the least notice, and he was becoming more and more frightened when he saw the friendly gleam of a policeman's lantern. It was some time before he could attract his attention, and when he did the man spoke quite gruffly, and threatened him with all sorts of pains and penalties for being in the park after hours.

"I couldn't help it, indeed!" Bertie cried, earnestly. "I was so tired that I fell asleep, and uncle will be dreadfully anxious about me. Oh, do please find some one to let me out!"

"Who's your uncle? and where does he live?" the policeman said, a little less gruffly, for as he turned his bull's-eye on Bertie he saw he was not a common offender, but a handsome young gentleman, who looked in real, not sham, trouble.

"My uncle is Mr. Gregory, and he lives in Gore House, just close by. Oh, do please, get me out! he will be so anxious!"

The policeman hesitated for a moment, and then directed Bertie to a part of the railing tolerably easy to climb, from which he assisted him carefully to get down, and walked with him to Gore House. There was light in the library and dining-room, but there did not seem to be any fuss or confusion, and it just struck Bertie that perhaps he had not been missed at all. His uncle had seemed very preoccupied all day; perhaps he had forgotten all about him since the time he had sent him to Threadneedle Street. As it happened, that was just the case. Mr. Gregory did not come home till late, when he was accompanied by Mr. Murray; and immediately after dinner both gentlemen went into the library, and had remained there ever since. It was as James the footman opened the door, and the policeman and Bertie entered the hall, that Mr. Gregory and Mr. Murray entered it too from the library.

"I wish you would let me order the carriage," Mr. Gregory was saying, when he stopped suddenly and hurried forward. "What's all this? Bertie Rivers and a policeman! What has he been doing?" he asked, in a tone that made the hearers think he was almost glad to see his nephew in difficulties.

"There's not much amiss, sir," the policeman answered respectfully. "This young gentleman says he was tired, and fell asleep in the park. Of course he got locked in, and I helped him out. That's all, sir; unless he has got cold from sleeping on the grass."

"Why were you in the park? why did not you come straight home? Give an account of yourself," Mr. Gregory said sternly.

"I went to Threadneedle Street, sir, and waited for an answer, as you told me, but the gentleman did not come in; then I went back to Mincing Lane, but the office was shut, and I walked home."

"Why did you walk?" Mr. Gregory interrupted.

"I had no money, sir," Bertie replied defiantly; "and I thought I was to return with you, but you were gone."

"Well, why didn't you come straight home? Why did you loiter in the park? I don't believe a word you have said!"

"He was in the park right enough, sir. I seed him there and helped him out; and any one as walked from the City might fall asleep without much blame on an afternoon like the one to-day," the policeman said, feeling a little indignant at Bertie's reception, and perhaps disappointed at the poor prospect of reward for himself.

"Get about your business!" Mr. Gregory said shortly, and the man turned aside with a muttered exclamation, but Bertie seized his hand and thanked him warmly, and Mr. Murray just then contrived to slip a more tangible reward into his other hand. Then the old gentleman turned to Bertie, and patted him kindly on the shoulder. "Why, dear me, boy! you are quite wet," he cried, starting back, "and you are as white as anything. Had you any dinner? of course not; nor any tea? how very tiresome of you! But then you had no money, and you came up from Brighton this morning, and had a tiresome, exciting day. Better you went in the yacht, boy, far better and pleasanter; and your uncle could have done very well without you;" and Mr. Murray frowned and chuckled in the most extraordinary way as he pushed Bertie before him into the dining-room, and rang the bell just as if the whole place belonged to him, while Mr. Gregory immediately followed, looking very dark and stern.

"James, get this boy a cup of hot cocoa and some cold meat directly, and tell some one to prepare a warm bath for him; and you must give him a holiday to-morrow, Mr. Gregory. He should stay in bed all the day if he's to escape a violent cold. Now I must be off. Good night; good night, boy; take great care of yourself, you are very fortunate that you didn't have to sleep in the park all night."

And with another friendly pat on the shoulder, Mr. Murray departed, leaving Bertie drinking his cocoa with evident enjoyment, and Mr. Gregory frowning with annoyance.

In more ways, and more seriously than he knew, Bertie had caused his uncle loss and disappointment that day, and Mr. Gregory was not inclined to forgive him very easily; least of all was he disposed to overlook the sudden interest taken in him by Mr. Murray, and the conversation that afternoon at the office, and in the evening at Gore House, had been chiefly about the two boys whom fortune had thrown on the world so young, and so little able to help themselves. Mr. Murray asked persistently if something better could not be done for them. Mr. Gregory maintained that they were both well and generously treated, but Bertie's white woe-begone face and evident fear of his uncle spoke little for the happiness of his life in Gore House; and as he walked home in the quiet, sultry August night, Mr. Murray sketched out a plan which he thought would please the boys, and make life more pleasant for the sons of his dead friend, but it would take some time and trouble to mature, and then both boys would have to be fully tried and tested before the idea was made known to them. "I have no fear about Bertie: he's a brave, bright, truthful lad; even the vague suspicion of being false cuts him like a knife. No man should say he doesn't believe a boy like that without positive proof. As for his brother—well, I'm afraid he's a difficult youngster to manage, but he's all right at the bottom. I have no doubt he will stand the test too; and the sooner we get poor Bertie out of his difficulties the better it will be for him."

CHAPTER XV.—BAD NEWS FROM BRIGHTON.

When Mr. Murray left the dining-room at Gore House, Mr. Gregory followed him as far as the hall door, then he returned for a moment, and looked at Bertie angrily. It seemed as if he were going to say something of importance, but suddenly checked himself with a hasty stamp of his foot; then he said, more quietly, "Get to bed as soon as possible, and be down in good time in the morning, and see that you don't fall asleep out of doors again," and left the dining-room.

Bertie was not very long after him, and though he felt much better for his supper, he was still so stiff and chilled that the warm bath was a real luxury. His head was scarcely on the pillow before he was sound asleep, but he was troubled and restless, and awoke in the morning feeling dull and unrefreshed, and with the uncomfortable sense of something having happened that he vainly tried to recall. However, he got up and was downstairs before his uncle.

Mr. Gregory spoke to him coldly, without looking up from his pile of letters, and Bertie ate his breakfast in silence: that is, he drank his coffee, but food seemed to hurt his throat strangely, and in spite of the brilliant sunshine, he shivered nervously once or twice. Just as breakfast was finished there came a telegram for Mr. Gregory, which, when he had read it, he handed over to Bertie.

The message was from Aunt Amy, saying that Uncle Clair was ill, and wished to see Bertie, if his Uncle Gregory would permit him to go. The paper fell from his trembling fingers as he looked at the unconcerned features of his uncle, and he gasped, rather than asked, "May I go, sir?"

"Certainly, if you wish it," was the cold reply, "though I fail to see what possible good you can do. You can come into the City with me, and go down by the noon express; telegraph to that effect when you reach the office."

"Thank you, Uncle Gregory; and if you please, will you let me have some money?" Bertie faltered, blushing, and looking very much confused. "I'm afraid it would take me too long to get my own out of the savings' bank."

Mr. Gregory took a sovereign from his pocket. "That will be sufficient for your expenses. Watts shall get your ticket;" and Mr. Gregory rose from the table, and rang for his hat and gloves. The dog-cart was already at the door, and presently Bertie was beside his uncle driving City-wards.

Mr. Gregory looked very stern and angry, and once or twice seemed on the point of asking Bertie some questions, but always checked himself. The fact was, Mr. Gregory felt very curious as to what Mr. Murray had said to Bertie, whether he had made him any fine promises, or, in short, shown the lad himself the keen interest that he took in him, and how resolved he was to do something to alter his condition. Mr. Gregory had very confidently hoped that one of his own sons would have been the old gentleman's favourite, and but for the unfortunate encounter with the Rivers' lads, he felt quite confident that such would have been the case. Then the finding of the papers and the immediate return of them annoyed Mr. Gregory very much. If he could have kept them back for one day it would have been considerably to his interest; and though he liked and fully appreciated a boy who was quick to think and prompt to act, he liked the quickness and promptitude to be for, not against, himself. In fact, though he would not acknowledge it, even to himself, Mr. Gregory's business affairs just then were in a very critical condition: during the summer many of his ventures had failed; many large firms with which he did business had also failed; and though the credit of his house was as yet above suspicion, trade was very dull, and matters generally looked threatening. It was that that caused Mr. Gregory to court an alliance in any shape with the firm of Murray and Co., that enjoyed a reputation second only to the Bank of England. With one of his sons in the office, and treated as the adopted child of the head of the firm, Mr. Gregory felt as if he could face a financial earthquake; therefore he did not care to see Bertie rendering important services, did not care to hear him praised for exceptional business capacity, least of all did he like to hear his old friend Mr. Murray almost reproach himself for the lad's dependent position, and say sadly that in a great measure he was the cause of their father's ruin. Such a statement from an enormously wealthy, Quixotically generous man meant possible reparation; there was really no telling what he might not do for Bertie and Eddie Rivers; so Mr. Gregory determined very prudently, as he thought, to keep the boys as much as possible out of the old gentleman's way. Therefore he allowed Bertie to go to Brighton, with permission to remain as long as his uncle and aunt required him, and telegraphed to his wife to send his second son Dick up to town without delay.

"Harry must go to Oxford and get into Parliament," he said to himself, "and I must sacrifice Dick to his interest and advancement." It was a singular thing Mr. Gregory never thought it the least sacrifice to place Bertie Rivers in his office, even when he was younger and worse educated than his own son. "Bertie is a smart, industrious lad, with better business capacity than Dick," he reflected, as he watched Bertie go through his morning's work, apparently oblivious to everything outside, forgetful of his stiff limbs, sore throat, hard words, and, worst of all, the terrible telegram from Brighton; he simply crushed the thoughts down and did his work steadily, till his uncle told him it was time to go to the station.

"Good-bye. I hope you will find Mr. Clair better," he said, ungraciously enough. "Watts, get a hansom, and be quick."

Bertie needed no second bidding to go, and as he left the office it was with an earnest wish that he might never have to enter it again. He little knew that his uncle's thoughts at the same moment were, "I hope he may never come back; or if he does, I hope Dick will be with Mr. Murray."

That gentleman meantime had driven round to Gore House about eleven o'clock, with the intention of taking Bertie out for a couple of hours, and so studying his manners and temper, but to his astonishment, he learned the boy had driven into town with his uncle, and was going down to Brighton to see his other uncle, who was dangerously ill. James had consulted the telegram he found on the breakfast-table, and from it and the fragments of conversation he picked up, knew pretty accurately what Master Bertie's movements were going to be. "He's going down by the twelve train, sir, but he looks more fit to be in his bed," James continued. "I believe he's caught a violent cold: he was that hoarse to-day, and his face as white as milk; and he had no breakfast."

Mr. Murray listened in silence, only nodding his head gravely every few seconds, then he told his coachman to drive him at once to London Bridge Station; there he would find out the truth as to whether Bertie was ill or going to Brighton, and act accordingly. But the City was very crowded, his carriage frequently got blocked, and he only reached the station in time to jump into a carriage, where he fancied he caught a glimpse of Bertie's head in a corner. He had not even time to get a ticket or give his servants any instructions; but then, Mr. Murray was known to be eccentric, and he always paid most liberally for his whims.

Bertie, who was alone in the carriage, looked first surprised, and then very pleased. He was terribly low-spirited, his head ached, his throat was sore, worst of all, he was cold, and would probably have sobbed the whole way to Brighton had he been alone, and so made himself very ill. But Mr. Murray cheered him up wonderfully, chatted briskly all the way about everything a boy could be expected to take an interest in, and in fact made the time pass so pleasantly that they were at Brighton long before Bertie thought they were half-way. When they reached the house (for Mr. Murray went too), the blinds were all down, and that gave Bertie a sudden chill; and as he knocked at the door he glanced with terrified, appealing eyes at Mr. Murray, who drew a step nearer, and took Bertie by the hand. It was a firm, reassuring clasp, and the boy glanced at him gratefully, and when the door was opened, thus hand in-hand they went upstairs, and were met just at the drawing-room door by Mrs. Clair. One glance at her face was sufficient to tell them something dreadful had happened. Bertie was in her arms in a moment, while Eddie and Agnes—white, wild-eyed, terror-stricken—clung on either side. It was a heartrending picture of sorrow and despair, and Mr. Murray could not witness it unmoved. He just shook hands with Mrs. Clair, whispered a few words that he would telegraph at once to Mr. Gregory, and would call again in a few hours, to ask if he could be of any service.

"Remember, my dear Mrs. Clair, you are not alone here. I will see to everything for you: Rely on me, command me, and remember I was your brother's dearest friend. I will call as soon as I get Gregory's answer. By the way, that boy Bertie is very ill; he has a violent cold, he has eaten nothing to-day, he is very unhappy; if you can, forget' your own sorrow for an hour in comforting him;" and then Mr. Murray hurried away, having left a ray of sunshine in a very shady place, and cheered and comforted Mrs. Clair, who was alone, helpless, bewildered, in her terrible and sudden affliction. Surely Heaven had sent her a friend in her direst distress, and she was truly grateful.

(To be continued.)



THE FOX AND THE FROG.

A Frog had made himself a home in what he considered a very desirable situation. It was beside a river far away from any human habitations, so that he had no occasion to fear the incursions of rude boys, of whom, owing to their stone-throwing propensities, he had a natural horror.

It was also a very pleasant spot, where reeds and bulrushes and water-plants protected him from the glare of the sun, whilst before him the water-lilies spread their broad leaves upon the water. Food was plentiful in the vicinity, and he congratulated himself upon having found a place where he could dwell without being subject to constant alarms.

A fox had on very much the same principle taken up his residence in a wood near. There were plump young pigeons and hares and rabbits to be had, and very often he came in for waterfowl by the river.

"And no fear of traps here," said he, "or of boys and men with guns. It is far too wild a place for them."

So he made himself as comfortable as possible in his den, and enjoyed himself to his heart's content; never finding it necessary, excepting in winter-time, to make an expedition to more populated parts, though at such seasons he was obliged through hunger to journey to the remote villages for poultry, through scarcity of provisions in his own parts.

One fine day, as he was sauntering along, he happened to observe a movement among the rushes, and to hear a strange cry that he had not heard before.

He paused to listen, and still the sound went on, and still the reeds swayed to and fro.

"Doubtless a bird," said he. And he cautiously advanced to where the noise proceeded from.

Now it happened that the frog was splashing about and performing rotatory movements that caused the swaying of the rushes, and that he was making a curious singing noise on which he prided himself as showing his fine voice. Looking up he perceived the great sharp face of the fox peering down upon him. Not that the fox was looking at him, for he had not perceived him, his thoughts being occupied with the fine young waterfowl he hoped to find there.

The frog, however, made up his mind at once that the fox had come after him.

"Such a fine young frog as I am," he exclaimed, "is never safe for a moment," and with a loud croak of terror he plunged into the water and swam away, determined to put a safe distance between himself and his pursuer.

The fox looked over the rushes, and seeing the frog swimming as for life, laughed quietly to himself.

"How people magnify their own importance!" said he; "as if I were troubling myself to come after him! I was hoping to find prey of a very superior description."

J. G.



THE CHILDREN'S OWN GARDEN IN NOVEMBER.

November is a month of very great dulness in Gardening matters, from a practical point of view, and will probably fully justify the epithet of "gloomy" so often applied to it. Familiar floral faces which have been for the past several months brightening us with their cheerful looks have now vanished, and we once more witness Nature in her winter aspect. "A garden," says Douglas Jerrold, "is a beautiful book, writ by the finger of God; every flower and leaf is a letter. You have only to learn them—and he is a poor dunce that cannot, if he will, do that—to learn them, and join them, and go on reading and reading, and you will find yourself carried away from the earth by the beautiful story you are going through."

* * * * *

One of the best occupations which we can recommend to our young readers during winter evenings is the perusal of various elementary books on gardening, and a few of the best seed catalogues which are issued every spring. Those containing plenty of illustrations should be preferred, as a figure, even if badly executed, will convey a far better idea of a plant than the most elaborate of descriptions. We would, however, remark that mere reading, no matter how wide and varied, will by no means constitute any one a good or even indifferent gardener where experience and knowledge are not acquired by practice. It is probably true that a poet must be born such; but the case is just the reverse with a gardener, who must in fact be made one.

* * * * *

The present month is one of the best for making additions to our little folk's gardens in the matter of nearly all sorts of hardy perennials, and dwarf-growing shrubs. We would especially name the Christmas rose; if planted now in a light loamy soil close to an east wall, plenty of flowers will be produced in succession from the latter part of December until February, and in order to secure pure white blooms, the plant, when just commencing to flower, should be covered over with a bell-glass. If grown exposed to winds and rain the flowers will be of a very dirty white. The roots of the winter aconite, or, as it is sometimes called, "The New Year's Gift," should now be planted in, if possible, a rather damp and shady situation; its bright yellow flowers will be most welcome throughout the dull months of December and January. It may be grown successfully under the shelter of trees and shrubs.

* * * * *

Secure nice specimens of the forget-me-not, and plant in any damp, shaded situation. A plentiful supply of flowers from early spring onwards will amply repay any small amount of trouble entailed in their cultivation. As the true forget-me-not (Myosotis palustris) grows in most damp, boggy meadows throughout England it will cost nothing to obtain it—except, perhaps, a pair of wet feet. The winter aconite is likewise a native plant, but is rarely seen in a wild state. Such spring-flowering perennials as the white arabis, herbaceous candytufts, aubretias, primulas, and polyanthuses, should now be placed in situations where it is desired for them to flower. The majority of those just named thrive very well in almost any moderately good garden soil, and under ordinary treatment.

* * * * *

The hardy annuals required for spring flowering which were omitted to be sown during the previous months should now be done so with all speed; the most suitable position will be in a box of light soil, and the young seedlings may be protected from the severity of winter by the box containing them being placed in a cold frame, which should be covered by straw or other litter during very hard frosts. Although the majority of annuals are of a very ephemeral character, few things are more showy or more floriferous. Among many others we may particularise the fragrant white-flowered alyssum, the blue, dark purple, spotted, and white varieties of nemophila, white and pink virginian stock, and the large yellow buttercup-like flowered limnanthes. Batches of the annuals sown in August and September can now be placed in warm spots in the open border, where, in all probability, they will withstand the winter and flower duly in spring.

* * * * *

The planting of flower-roots may be still carried on with vigour. As regards the general work to be done now in the garden, we may mention that in dry weather all walks and pathways should be swept and rolled, which latter operation, like that of digging, ought to be done by a labourer, although dragging a garden-roller has been described as an excellent gymnastic exercise. Grass should be mowed on every favourable opportunity; and where turf has been much worn away, or where it is uneven, the objectionable portions must be removed and replaced by better.



STORIES TOLD IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY.

By EDWIN HODDER ("OLD MERRY").

V.—THE SANCTUARY, CLOISTERS, AND CHAPTER-HOUSE.

The Westminster Hospital and National Schools occupy the site of an important portion of the precincts of Westminster Abbey as it was in the olden times. This was the Sanctuary to which certain classes of wrong-doers could flee for safety and escape the arm of the law. The privilege of sanctuary had its uses in those troublous times; for it enabled the innocent to take refuge where the tyrant dared not molest them; but it also gave shelter to crowds of the lawless and depraved.

The Westminster Sanctuary was one out of about thirty attached to the great English monasteries; in form it was a strong Norman fortress, whose privileges were considered to be guaranteed by King Lucius, King Sebert, and the apostle Peter himself. The Danes cared nothing for sanctuaries, but Edward the Confessor re-organised the institution with the Pope's aid.

There was great excitement and even consternation in London and Westminster when in 1378 the privileges of the Abbey were tragically violated. John of Gaunt had imprisoned in the Tower two knights who had offended him. They escaped and rushed into sanctuary at Westminster, but were soon pursued thither by the Constable of the Tower and a company of armed men. The two knights were in the choir of the Abbey attending high mass, and the deacon was just reading the words "If the good man of the house had known what time the thief would appear"—when the service was interrupted by the clash of arms. One of the knights escaped, the other was chased twice round the choir till he fell dead, pierced with twelve wounds. His servant and one of the monks were killed at the same time. In consequence of this desecration, the Abbey was shut up for four months; the chief assailants were heavily fined and excommunicated.

In the fifteenth century, Edward the Fourth's Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, was twice an inmate of the Sanctuary. On the first occasion Edward V. was born here; on the second in 1483 her second son the little Duke of York was torn away from her to share the captivity and dark fate of his brother Edward V. in the Tower. Among other noted persons who sought shelter here were Owen Tudor (uncle of Henry VII.) and Skelton, the first Poet Laureate. The latter from his safe retreat in the sanctuary sent forth against Cardinal Wolsey invectives so bitter and so forcible that his death would have been certain had he ventured outside the Abbey precincts. The rights of the sanctuary were in full force till the time of Elizabeth, who restricted the inmates to debtors; but under James I. all the English sanctuaries were suppressed.

Near the Sanctuary was the Almonry, with its chapels and charitable endowments, but deriving its chief interest to us as being the scene of the early labours of Caxton. Margaret Richmond, the mother of Henry VII., the gifted woman who founded St. John's and Christ's Colleges, and who saw the signs of the coming changes, specially protected in the Almonry, which she had re-endowed, the great pioneer printer and his presses. Here the infant art grew up and flourished, and still in the word "chapel," which is used to signify a meeting of the compositors of a printing establishment, preserves a memento of its early connection with the chapel of St. Anne in Margaret Richmond's Almonry.

We will pass on, now to the Cloisters, begun by Edward the Confessor, but rebuilt in the fourteenth century. Looking back four or five hundred years we see the monks pacing to and fro, gossiping or transacting the petty details of their daily life, and, as the time came, digging graves for one another in the central grassplat. Here the monks shaved each other's heads—an art in which they were expected to be very skilful, and here the novices carried on their studies. Rough mats took off the chill of the stone benches in some degree, and the floor was littered over with hay and straw in summer, and with rushes in winter. But in cold or stormy weather it must have been a desolate place at the best, for the lower parts of the windows opening on the central court were never closed.

Along the South Cloister lay the magnificent refectory, an upper hall of the time of Edward II., with arcades of the time of the Confessor beneath it. Very strict were the rules of behaviour in this great dining-room. No monk might speak, and guests might only whisper. There were particular rules against leaning on the elbows, sitting with the hand on the chin, or cracking nuts with the teeth. The beautiful and commodious hall of the refectory was occasionally used for various secular gatherings. In 1244, Henry III. held a great Council of State in it. Here Edward I. met a large gathering of clergy and laity, and demanded half their possessions. The Dean of St. Paul's, in his consternation, fell dead at Edward's feet. The King took slight heed of this occurrence, and persisted in his demands, till he obtained all he wanted. Several of the early assemblies of the Commons of England took place in this hall.

The dormitory of the monks was over the East Cloister; there is a gallery still remaining, opening into the south transept of the Abbey, by which they came to their midnight services.

In the Eastern Cloister you see an ancient door, leading to what is now called the chapel of the Pyx. In it is the Box or Pyx, containing specimen standard-pieces of all the gold and silver coins of the realm. Once in five years this strong room is opened, and coins newly issued from the Mint are compared with the standards, to make sure that the coinage is not degenerating. But in ancient days this chamber was the treasury of England. Here the sovereigns kept their money in hard coin, as well as the regalia, and many priceless relics, such as the Holy Cross of Holyrood, the sceptre or rod of Moses, and the dagger that wounded Edward I. at Acre. In 1303, whilst Edward I. was invading Scotland, news was brought him that his treasury had been broken into, and his vast hoards carried away. The abbot and forty-eight monks were sent to the Tower, and after a long trial, two of their number were proved to have been concerned in the robbery. Amongst the iron-work of the door there are fragments of human skin, which in all probability once pertained to these robbers, and ever after remained as terrible warnings to the monks, as they walked along the Cloisters. The king's money was henceforward kept elsewhere, the regalia after a time sent to the Tower, and the relics disappeared at the Reformation.

From the Cloisters we can readily reach the Chapter-House, the octagonal building so conspicuous on the left hand before entering the Abbey at Poets' Corner. It was founded by Edward the Confessor, and rebuilt by Henry III. This beautiful building was at first the meeting-place of the convent, in which all difficulties were adjusted and satisfaction made for faults. The abbot, with his three priors and sub-prior, occupied five richly-decorated stalls at the eastern end. Above them rose a great crucifix to which the monks bowed on entering. Then followed complaints, confessions, judgments, punishments—such monks as were thought to need it were stripped to the waist, and publicly scourged at the central pillar.

When the Commons began to meet apart from the Lords they met a few times in the refectory, as I told you just now, but they soon settled down in this Chapter-House. It would be too long and tedious a story for me to attempt to recount the important acts that were passed in this memorable edifice. The Commons sat here till the last day of Henry VIII's life; their next meeting was in St. Stephen's Chapel in the adjacent Palace.

From 1547 to 1863, the Chapter-House was used as a storehouse for the public records. A special building for these has since been erected in Chancery Lane, and by a grant from Parliament this beautiful and time-honoured building has been redeemed from the miserable condition resulting from centuries of neglect.

A little way from the Chapter-House stands a small square tower known as the Parliament Office. It is thought that this tower was once the convent prison, but however that may be, it was sold by the Abbey to Edward III., and was for many years the royal jewel-house. Its present name arose from the fact of all acts of Parliament being deposited here, till they were moved to the Victoria Tower in 1864. From the jewel-house, in the days of the abbots, there used to be a path leading to a stream that ran down to the Thames. Hereabouts lived the hermit of Westminster, in what was called "The Anchorite's House." From age to age, a succession of hermits dwelt here, how chosen for the post we do not know, but we hear of Richard II. visiting the hermit in 1381, and of Henry V. doing the same at the time of his father's death in 1413. It is said that one of these "holy men" had been buried in a leaden coffin, in a small chapel adjoining his cell. The keeper of the palace, William Ushborne, paid a plumber to dig up this coffin and bring it to his office, after throwing the bones down the cloister well. Tradition says that the plumber fainted and died in Ushborne's house. Ushborne was guilty of other crimes; he managed to steal a piece of the convent land and made it into a garden with a fish-pond in the middle. He was supping with his neighbours one evening on fish from this pond, and had taken two or three mouthfuls of a large pike, when he shouted "Look! look! here is come a fellow who is going to choke me." He died on the spot, killed by the fish he had reared on the scene of his sacrilege. Adjoining the land stolen by Ushborne was the Infirmary, (now College) Garden, where sick brothers took exercise. Of the infirmary, only a few fragments of arches remain—but these undoubtedly date from the time of the Confessor. Here the sick monks dwelt, visited at times by the long procession of the healthy brethren. Here also lived the "playfellows"—the monks over fifty years of age—who were told nothing unpleasant, were freed from the ordinary rules, and were permitted to enjoy the privilege of censuring anything they heard or saw.

The Infirmary Chapel (in which, by the way, the young monks were privately whipped to spare them from the more public floggings in the Chapter-House) was dedicated to St. Catherine. Many bishops were consecrated and many church councils held in this building, of which only a few arcades and pillars forming part of modern buildings now mark the site. A curious scene was enacted here, at a church assembly, in 1124, when the Archbishops of York and Canterbury quarrelled about precedence. Richard of Canterbury took his seat on the right-hand side of the Pope's Legate, whereupon, Roger of York, who claimed that place, went and sat down in Canterbury's lap. He was speedily pulled off by Canterbury's servants, and much knocked about. Severely bruised, and with his cope torn, York rushed into the Abbey, where he found the king, and told his wrongs. The king bound over both the archbishops to keep the peace for five years, and the Pope issued an edict that Canterbury should be Primate of all England, and York Primate of England.

In the next century, St. Catherine's Chapel witnessed a stirring scene, when Henry III., holding in one hand a Gospel, in the other a lighted taper, swore to uphold Magna Charta. The king and all the great dignitaries present threw their candles on the ground, then holding their noses and shutting their eyes, they exclaimed "So go out in smoke and stench the accursed souls of those who break or pervert this charter." No voice was louder than that of the king's in shouting "Amen and Amen!" and yet somehow, in future years, he did not seem to bear in mind his solemn covenant. It was quite as well for England that he did not, for out of the resistance to his perfidious folly sprang the English Parliament.

Having mentioned now the most important of the convent buildings, I shall conclude my stories by telling about the monuments to be seen in the Abbey.



THE MAGIC MUSIC AND ITS MESSAGE.

A FAIRY STORY.

"It was the nightingale singing to the rose," said the girl, bending over the flowers. "I heard it all through the night, when the moon was shining into my room."

"No, it was not."



And the brook danced by—such a tiny little silver streak, winding through the ferns and mosses, that the girl could scarcely see it. But she certainly heard it, for no other voice could be so sweet.

"Did you see the lilies in the moonlight?" continued the voice; "they looked like pearl and ivory."

"Then, does the nightingale like the lilies best?" asked the girl.

"I do not know. But what has the nightingale to do with it?"

The girl looked down at the lilies, and one of them seemed to nod to her, and its perfumed breath rose up, until a delicate cloud, like incense, spread around her.

And suddenly the same sweet strain of music that she had heard in the night sounded from afar off. Yes, it was the same tune: she was sure it was; she knew it quite well; she had been humming it over and over as she stood beside the flowers.

As if moved by a sudden thought, she stretched out her hand, and gathered the lily that had nodded to her. And as she did so the music grew louder and louder, and instead of the tiny brook dancing through the ferns and mosses, she saw a great sea, that shone like glittering gold in the sunlight. And in the distance was a shadowy purple island, all indistinct in the golden haze around it. She could not clearly make out its outlines, but she fancied she could trace the towers and turrets of a stately castle. And as the music grew clearer and clearer the island appeared to move towards her, and the waves of the golden sea came dashing up towards her feet. The waters already covered part of the garden in which she was wandering, and some of the roses were beginning to disappear, and the girl felt afraid lest she should be drowned.

She threw down the lily, and as she did so she heard a sudden cry, and the music died away in a low wail, the purple island and the glittering sea vanished, and the little brook again danced along.

She wondered whatever it could mean.

The girl fancied it was saying—

"Alas! alas!"

Then she fled home, without stopping to pick up the lily.

II.

The girl lay sleeping in her little bedroom; she had left the window open, because the night was warm. The moon was shining in, but it did not wake her; neither did the little wood-elves, who had climbed up the great vine, and had swarmed in at the window. Such numbers of them! Some were sitting on the pillow stroking her hair, and whispering into her ears, "Sleep, sleep, sleep," and others were holding her eyelids fast closed, so that she could not open them to see what was going on.

Some of them were dancing round in rings upon the soft white coverlet, and others playing all sorts of pranks about the room.

The girl neither saw them nor heard them: she was too fast asleep for that.

She did not even dream of them, but was dreaming of something very different from wood-elves, or mountain-elves, or any other sort of fay or fairy.

No; she dreamed that she heard some one singing—



"Up the stairs, if you will go, You'll hear a tapping, tapping At a door, for there you know A little child is rapping, Rapping, tapping, all the time, Tapping, rapping, tapping."

"No, I don't know anything of the kind," said the girl, moving so suddenly in her sleep that a score of wood-elves fell, heels over head, from the bed to the floor.

"If you don't, if you'll go up The staircase, you will find her; She won't look round: she never does, So you can get behind her,"

went on the song.

"And what will be the use of that?" murmured the girl in her dream.

"Why, you will help her, I suppose, To reach up to the knocker. You must not startle her, for that Most certainly would shock her."

"It was the sea and the castle in the sunlight," said the girl, "and now it is something quite as ridiculous: a little child standing at a door knocking. That comes in the moonlight. And the music is going on all the time."

She was speaking quite loudly now, and she suddenly opened her eyes, in spite of the wood-elves, who crept down from the bed and hid themselves in the folds of the curtains, for they did not want the girl to know that they were there.

"It's the music that has waked me," said the girl, getting up in bed and listening; "it's the same song over and over again, only I can't make out the words, excepting, 'Come, come, come,' and then something about the sea. But that is very absurd, for there is no sea near here. The moon knows that as well as I do, for the moon looks down, and sees that there are only fields and woods and orchards, and beautiful gardens full of flowers. I wish I were not dreaming all the time. The music is a dream too; I thought it was the nightingale: and I dare say it is, and that if I looked out of the window I should see about a dozen nightingales sitting in a row, for it would take a dozen quite to make such loud music as I hear in the moonlight."

And the girl shook back her long hair, and jumped out of bed and went to the window; but she could see nothing, for pressed tightly against the window was a great white lily, just like the one she had thrown down, only instead of being of the ordinary size, it was so large that it covered all the panes of glass and also the open part of the window, so that it was quite impossible to look out. The stalk was towards her.

"I'm like an umbrella white, Keeping off the sun or rain; Keeping out the bright moonlight, Keeping in the wood-elves' train,

said the lily. Then it continued—

"Yes, you threw me down in fright, But I've come to you to-night. Take me in your hand, and see What will then my purpose be."

The girl was silent for a moment; everything was so strange: the beautiful music, the talking brook, and now the talking flower.

"I will not have anything to do with any of you," she said, giving the flower a push to send it away from the window.

But no sooner had she touched it than the flower shrank to its natural size, and remained in her hand, which was so tightly closed that she could not open it again.

"Away, away, Each elf and fay!"

murmured the lily; and there was a soft rush as of many tiny wings, and the girl felt herself carried through the air.

This was the work of the wood-elves, who were there to help the lily. But the girl scarcely knew what was happening; she was listening to the music, which was so grand and beautiful that she forgot everything else.



III.

Was the girl the fairy queen? She began to think that she must be, as she sat on some marble steps in the wood. She was dressed in white, and had long silk stockings; and a veil of shining gossamer was fastened on her head with a gold band, and it fell down to her feet, and wrapped her round like a glittering cloud, and she held the lily in her hand. And the music pealed on like a grand triumphal march, and made the girl feel very proud and joyful.

Not very far off there was a carved chair, with some velvet cushions upon it.

"Perhaps for me to be crowned in," said the girl, tossing her head. "I wonder where my crown is?"

And as she said this she heard a burst of laughter, as if a thousand grasshoppers were chirping. And an owl seated not far off said—

"Only queens are crowned, little girl."

"How do you know I am not a queen?" asked the girl, angrily. "Look at my dress and my veil."

But the owl only said—

"Tu-whit, tu-whoo! tu-whit, tu-whoo!" and laughed so loudly that all the wood-elves began to laugh also; so did the birds and the frogs, and even the flowers. And the echoes answered back again.

There was so much noise that a troop of little sailors came running up from the shore to see what was the matter.

"Are you ready?" said they to the girl; "the boat is waiting

With its silken sails, The moon shines clear and bright; There is no fear of stormy gales Upon the sea to-night."

"I don't know what you are talking about," answered the girl. "There is no sea near here, and if there is I am not going upon it."

But the sailors had wheeled the carved chair close to the marble steps, and they went on speaking—

"To-night upon the sea we go, And you with us must sail. Step in; the tide is up, and we Must start off without fail."

And the girl found herself in the chair, which the sailors pushed down to the beach.

On the sea was a fine boat, with silken sails and a crimson flag.

The boat had a gilt figure-head, and its sides were painted blue and gold. A red velvet carpet was spread upon the deck, and the sailors, having hoisted the girl in the chair up the side of the vessel, placed her upon the velvet carpet, and she found herself sailing fast away from the land before she had time to think of how she had got there.

The sailors were all standing at one end of the deck playing upon various musical instruments, and the tune they played seemed to answer back the beautiful music that she had heard for so many days floating in the air. Also the sailors sang—

"Away it sails, the music-ship, Over the moonlit sea, And the trumpet that the captain blows Is the only rudder the vessel knows, As we sail so merrily, The fiddles, and fifes, and drums, and horns All carry the ship along, It shapes its course by the cymbal clash To the land of music and song."



The girl did not quite understand what the sailors meant by their strange song. It did not seem to be altogether sense to her, but she supposed that they knew where they were going. Still she asked—

"Whither are we sailing?"

"Don't you hear the music calling to us from the castle?" said the captain: "the castle on the purple island in the golden sea. We are sailing there; the music has spoken to us many times, but we did not attend to it until now."

"Has it called me?" asked the girl.

And she thought of the beautiful tune that had seemed to say "Come, come." And now, as they sailed beneath the castle walls, the tune issued forth very clear, sweet, and strong from an open window.

"It is the master of the castle: he plays night and day, and is always inviting those who love music to come and dwell with him."

The girl looked up at the stately castle.

"If I had known that I should have come here before."

"No, you would not."

"Why?"

"Because no one would have brought you. You can only come at the right time. Hush!"

IV.

"Hush!" said the captain; "we must not make any noise. Do not speak again.

Go like a mouse Into the house. Up the stairs creep Though they are steep.

There you will find, If you're not blind, A little child who's softly tapping, Tapping, rapping, rapping, tapping, Rapping, tapping at the door. Though the knocker is so high, Yet she still doth try and try; You must knock, and it will fly Open—little girl, good bye."

"Why, that was in the dream; and if you please, captain, tell me where I am, and who is the child, and——"

But the captain had gone, so had the sailors, so had the ship.

The girl went slowly up the steps to the castle door, which being open, she entered in, and found herself in a great hall, from which a staircase wound up and up through a great many storeys.

"I must go," she said; for the music that sounded through the castle seemed to speak to her, and bid her come.

And on and on she went, and on the seventh storey she paused; for at a door she saw a child tapping and rapping, and trying to reach the knocker.

Softly the girl went behind the little one, who never turned round, but clutched in her hand a lily similar to the one the girl herself held. She reached above the child's head, and knocked loudly. And lo! a bugle-blast answered, and the door flew open, and the girl and the child entered in together. They wandered through beautiful rooms, listening ever to the music, and at last they came to one where on a couch lay the master of the castle playing upon a lute.

If the music had sounded sweet in the distance, it sounded far sweeter now, and the two paused on the threshold.

But the master said—

"Welcome to the Castle of Song, for none but true musicians find their way here."

And then the child knelt down beside him, and said to him—

"I tried to come, but I could not knock loudly enough."

And the girl said—

"I do not think I tried to come, though the music was so beautiful. Did you send for me?"

The master of the castle smiled, and answered—

"The music brought you."

Then the girl remembered that the boat sailed by music, and as she looked through the open window and saw it sailing away in the distance, she asked—

"Will it bring others, too?"

And the master of the castle replied—

"In time, in time."

JULIA GODDARD.



MORNINGS AT THE ZOO.

IX.—THE KANGAROOS.



The famous navigator, Captain Cook, was the means of introducing Kangaroos for the first time to the notice of Europeans. In 1770, during his great voyage of discovery, his ship lay off the coast of New South Wales undergoing repair. One day some of the crew were sent ashore to procure food for several sick sailors. The men saw a number of animals with small fore legs, big hind ones, long and stout tails, which bounded away with incredible speed, clearing the ground by a series of extraordinary leaps. You may be sure that on their return to the vessel the amazed seamen did not fail to talk of the curious creatures, and their description induced the captain and Mr. (afterwards Sir Joseph) Banks—the naturalist of the expedition—to start next day for a sight of the strange animals. They, too, were fortunate enough to witness the antics of the kangaroos; and so one of the most important of the natives of Australia became known to the civilised world.

Since Captain Cook's discovery (June 22nd, 1770) these creatures have been imported alive into this and other countries. They thrive in captivity, though the variable climate of England tries them at times. At the London Zoological Gardens they seem to enjoy life in a moderate way, though probably they miss the freedom of the immense plains of Australia. They are not much run after by the visitors, though the "sheds" in the Regent's Park collection are always quite accessible. Why this should be so it is difficult to explain, for the kangaroos have many points of remarkable interest. Their keeper tells me that he does not agree with the opinion that they are unintelligent creatures. Though not so docile and smart as other inmates of the Gardens, he has succeeded in training the great kangaroo to perform several tricks. They all recognise him readily, and do what he tells them. He entered the shed for the purpose of fetching the female kangaroo out of the house, so that I might see the baby kangaroo in its mother's pouch. But it so happened that the father was standing against the door-grating, and he had to be reasoned with before he would retire to allow the gate to be opened. But he ultimately obeyed his keeper's instructions. Then he was bidden to seat himself upright upon his huge tail; and this he did, remaining quite motionless till he was released by word of command. The keeper then affected to bestow upon him a gentle cuff on the head, but each time the hand approached, the head was smartly ducked under, and the blow thus avoided. On his part, he attempted to give the keeper a kick, quite in a playful way, but the latter held himself at arms' length, and so the kangaroo's legs merely brushed the keeper's coat. On going into the house at the back of the shed, the mother kangaroo—addressed familiarly "Now, old lady"—was ordered to come out into the open, and in a few moments the big animal in two or three graceful bounds appeared in front of the shed, her little one popping its head out of the pouch, and looking supremely indifferent about its mother's hops. The kangaroos are not costly animals to support, and, though their food consists of grain and some kinds of green stuff, they are rather partial to the bits of biscuit and bun which visitors offer indiscriminately to every animal in the Zoo—under the notion that this is the staple food of the various inmates, of flesh-eaters and grain-eaters alike.

Sydney Smith hit off the distinguishing features of this creature in his own peculiar style. By a sort of happy exaggeration he described it as "a monstrous animal, as tall as a grenadier, with the head of a rabbit, a tail as big as a bed-post, hopping along at the rate of five hops to the mile, with three or four young kangaroos looking out of the pouch to see what is passing." Though not an aggressive animal, the kangaroo when at bay is one of the most formidable of opponents. This element of danger it is, probably, which lends so much zest to a kangaroo hunt.

Mounted on horses and accompanied by a number of trained dogs, the huntsmen chase their prey for miles ere a capture is effected. Before the kangaroo takes to its heels, it usually raises itself up and makes a hurried survey of the country—to see its enemies and the quarter to which it could with greatest ease escape. After this hasty look round it runs off at a marvellous pace, very soon leaving the dogs far behind. It maintains its great speed unimpaired for at least three or four miles, after which it begins to go more slowly, and an attack at close quarters may soon be looked for. A single dog has no chance at all. With a stroke of its powerful hind leg, the kangaroo attacks, and lays it dead at its feet, or, seizing it with its fore limbs, it hugs the dog, and leaps off with it to the nearest water-hole, where it plunges it underneath, holding it down until the dog is drowned. A man is just as completely at its mercy. The kangaroo is a capital swimmer, and has been known to swim for a mile against a strong head wind, but under favourable conditions as to weather it can cover a much longer distance; consequently when pursued it always makes straight for a river or other water, should it be within reach. Both hind feet are armed with a singularly dangerous weapon. The fourth toe is prolonged in some cases to an enormous size, forming a claw, which is used either for stabbing or striking an antagonist. When a kangaroo has been brought to bay, therefore, great care has to be observed in approaching it. The plan adopted is to set several dogs on it, and while one makes a show of assailing it, and so engages its attention, the rest rush in upon the gallant animal and kill it. The natives employ another mode of warfare. Surrounding gradually a herd of kangaroos, they close in upon them with yells and shouts, and generally succeed in spearing several of them. But the rifle places the animal at a manifest disadvantage, and by the use of this weapon the kangaroos have been entirely driven off the settlements. No doubt it had become necessary to resort to some effectual method of dislodging them, for many of the pastoral districts had been stripped of every blade of grass by their ravages.

The kangaroo, however, serves a useful-enough purpose in its native country. Its flesh is considered by those who have partaken of it to be very good eating; and it is quite within the range of possibility that kangaroo venison may become as popular as Australian mutton. Kangaroo-tail soup is said to be a renowned delicacy, decidedly superior to ox-tail. Some species of the tribe are hardier than others, and stand the English climate well; indeed, we have the authority of Dr. Sclater for the opinion that Bennett's kangaroo, "with very little attention, would rapidly increase in any of the midland or southern counties, where the soil is dry, and the character of the ground affords shelter from the north and east." It goes without saying that these active creatures would not be at all out of place in some of our English parks, and, along with the elegant deer, would lend them an additional attractiveness and charm.

JAMES A. MANSON.



MAB, THE WOLF, AND THE WATERFALL.

"Now, Mab, here's father's tea piping hot; take it and run along. You know the way: go along by the river, and round by Jerry Smith's cottage; then turn to the right, and the sound of father's axe will guide you." So spoke Mrs. Lester while Mab, her little daughter, donned her hat and cloak, with all a child's eagerness at the prospect of a long sunny walk through the woods.

"Mind old Jerry's ghost doesn't catch hold of you," cried her waggish brother Jack, as she crossed the threshold, tea-can in hand.

"There are no ghosts. Mother says they don't live in our days," quoth Mab, disdainfully.

"Wolves do," said Ben, who was just nine, a year older than Mab. "Take care you're not another Red Riding Hood."

"I shan't take care, because Red Riding Hood isn't true, any more than fables are true: so father says; and we know fables are not true," dissented matter-of-fact Mab, out of her eight years' experience.

"Oh, more things are true than you and father know of," observed Jack, with a wink at Ben.

But the little maiden was now out of hearing; once, twice she waved her hand to them as they watched her from the doorway—how and when would they meet again? Then she went trip-tripping along by the brook. The brook ran into the wood; here it joined another stream, wildly turbulent, although narrow, then together rushed on like two prankish schoolboys out for a frolic; not long after joining hands, as it were, they leaped down an embankment, laughing, as one could fancy, listening to the babble the waters made, watching the sparkling of the flying spray. Ah! many a rainbow shimmered about the waterfall; right dangerous was the whirlpool above and below the fall. Deep down in the ravine the waters meandered, calmly tranquil: very like mature thoughtful manhood, after the prankish follies of youth are past.

Well, along by the side of the brook trudged Mab, saying aloud, as if to re-assure herself, "There are no ghosts and no wolves," for only her parents' words could render the imaginative child brave, strong, handsome girl of eight though she was. But ah! ah! what was that?

She was nearing Smith's cottage now, and surely something was stirring among the bushes and undergrowth. Ah! yes, and a formidable something was to be seen; her eyes scarce took it in ere it had quite vanished. She met a little old woman a minute after, carrying a bundle of sticks.

"Please; ma'am, did you see anything like a dog or a wolf as you came along?" she asked, half ashamed of her question.

"La! child, no; and I hope I shan't, for I likes no such creatures;" so saying, the old woman took to her heels and ran, sticks and all.

Poor little Mab wished she had not scared the old soul with her fancies, for of course they were fancies, when oh, horror! the child's heart seemed to leap into her throat; there, almost close to her, was a hideous creature, which her startled imagination conjured up into something terrible to behold, snorting, growling, and bearing down upon her. Poor, impulsive, silly Mab: before she well knew what she was doing she had sprung aside, anywhere to be out of the way of the beast—a wolf she thought it was—and that anywhere was into the brook, the prankish brook, just where it joined hands with its wild companion. The very trees seemed to rustle with consternation as her shriek rang around; ay, she may shriek, but who would hear her? Not her father, chopping at and felling the giant trees some distance away.

Now two lads rush up to the edge of the brook: they are Jack and Ben. Jack drops a something very like a skin, and leaps in after poor, screaming, struggling Mab, borne away, borne on to be hugged and embraced in the arms of both streams, and hurried forward to the waterfalls.

Alas! alas! will Jack save her? He has reached her; she is clinging to him; but those two frolicsome watery playfellows are tossing them hither and thither as in rude sport. Ben takes it all in with his quick boyish eyes, and rushes away, like a very hare for swiftness, to where his father is chopping in the calm afternoon glory, little dreaming of what is happening not a mile away. How sweetly pitiful is the calm wondering sky, watching overhead, as one may fancy, the struggle for dear life going on in those wild gurgling waters. Ah! the two streams in one have them in their embrace; they will not let them go. Mab lies a senseless weight in Jack's arms as they are borne on towards the whirlpool; once there, their fate will be sealed.

Jack's senses are leaving him; if Mab was not clinging to him as with the grasp of death, he would let her go; his strong young arms are waxing weak; and oh! a black terrible monster is upon him. Is it a wolf? The river clamours and laughs—ha-ha! Jack, Mab, and the terrible monster are mingling together; then Jack's senses are quite gone, and he remembers no more.

Meanwhile, Ben sweeps on like the wind, hearkening even in his haste for the welcome "thwack, thwack" of his father's axe. It is a sweetly tranquil scene he bursts upon at last—a knot of toiling men lopping off the limbs of a huge tree but newly laid low—the lad heard the crash of its fall as he ran. The warm afternoon glow was about them, the little birds hopping and peering among the wide-spreading branches of the trees around, half startled, half curious, as if to see all. A terrible shock to John Lester was the tale the panting boy had to tell, and then he too ran like the wind; his companions in full cry behind.

Only the exultant river, all flecked with lights and with afternoon colouring, met the eyes of the eager men when they reached the spot; the struggle was over. Two lives had gone out or had been saved; the father wrung his hands as he rushed madly here and there, and peered over at the plashing waterfall, Ben at his side, and both seeing nothing of the dear ones they sought.

"And it all came of Jack's putting on old Shag's skin and playing wolf to frighten Mab; and she saw him, and jumped in before he had time to speak," wailed Ben, as the river swept on and the waterfall clamoured. John Lester groaned.

"Well, Master Lester; I have 'em safe enough—I and old Jowler. 'Twas a miracle of savin', but 'tis done; they're both in bed and asleep like two tops already." So spoke Jerry Smith, the owner of the cottage in the woods, and of a ghost to boot, if the lads of the neighbourhood could be believed, coming up behind the distracted father, and speaking over his shoulder.

"Then Heaven be praised!" returned he out of the depth of his heart, turning and grasping the old man's hand.

"Ay! I have 'em all safe—ha-ha!" laughed the old man, glancing up at his chamber window, which looked westward, where stood a wooden figure of a miniature North American Indian all in his war paint, and brandishing his knives like a very brave, as the wind caught him and whirled him round.

"And see, Master Lester, I've mounted my savage to amuse them when they wake—my ghost the youngsters about here call it, and keep clear of my house. Ghost, indeed! there are no ghosts."

"No; the world is getting too wise to believe such nonsense in our days, Jerry. But I'd like to take a look at my youngsters," quoth John Lester.

The old man led him in—Ben following on tip-toe—and up to his quaint chamber—ah! yes, it was very quaint and pretty, full of wonderful surprises, what with curious stones arranged here, a stuffed squirrel there, and a dormouse elsewhere. Then in one corner was a fleet of tiny ships—ah! Jerry had been a sailor in his youthful days—which sailed round and round a centre one and stationary by using an apparatus not unlike small bellows. And there in the west window stood the warrior Indian, chopping and cutting at imaginary foes among the sunbeams. But the father's eyes sought his children. Ah! yes, he was thankful to see, there they were, both sweetly sleeping, Mab in the old man's bed, a stray sunbeam flitting over her face, like a smile from somewhere, Jack wrapped in blankets on the floor.

The sweet after-glow was about the house ere they awoke, and then peals of laughter from both children brought old Jerry up his creaking stairs. Nay, Jack was out on the landing, hurrying out of his blankets and into the dry clothes Ben had brought him from home.

When the two children had dressed and descended the stairs, there, in the cosy little kitchen, stood tea ready for them—bread-and-butter and blackberry jam, and such old-fashioned china cups and saucers for the three young ones to drink from. What is more, there was a pair of curiously-worked bead slippers for Mab, and a bow and arrow for each of the boys.

"Ingins' work," the old man told them when they thanked him.

"You are a clever man, Jerry, if you made that dancing old thing—did you?" cried Jack.

"What, made my Ingin? In course I did."

"Phew! why, all the fellows said 'twas a ghost you kept in your window," said admiring Jack, now outside the house, and looking up at the window—"why, I half said so myself."

"Well, lad, ghosts are but whims and fancies, and this individual is good solid wood, you see," replied Jerry, looking up, and chuckling at his own handiwork.

Mab soon stood beside Jack, and Ben came out ready to depart.

"Children," said the old man, as they thanked him and bade him "good-bye," patting Jowler on the head as he stood by his master, "children, keep to the good, right, honest truth from this day, even in fun; the wolves and things ye have conjured up to-day out of nothing have gone nigh to costing ye dearly, lads. And you little maiden, take an old man's warning, and look before you leap, as mayhap I and Jowler may not be anigh next time. And there's a many leaps to be taken in life, and a many waterfalls and things about ye."

"Wow, wow, wow!" said Jowler to this, springing up, and licking his master's hand, and so ends my story of Mab, the wolf, and the waterfall.



"WHERE THERE'S A WILL THERE'S A WAY."

A TRUE STORY.

This is a very old proverb, and a very true one. Sometimes we forget it, though, and say "I can't," before we have really tried at all. Now I should like to tell you the true story of two little Irish sweeps who had the will to learn to read, and found the way, although it was a very difficult one.

Some years ago a few kind people made up their minds to try to get hold of all the chimney-sweeps in Dublin and give them an education.

One day a little fellow came who was asked if he knew his letters.

"Oh, yes," he answered.

"Can you spell?"

"Oh, yes."

"Can you read?"

"Oh, yes."

"What books did you learn from?"

"Please, sir, I never had a book."

"Then who was your schoolmaster?"

"I never went to school at all."

The gentleman stared, for it seemed very strange that a boy should be able to read and spell, and yet never had a master.

"Then however did you learn?" he asked.

The little boy smiled, and linked his arm in that of a sweep somewhat older than himself.

"Please, sir, Jim taught me the letters over the shop doors, as we went to our work, but now I know all the words by heart, and if you'd kindly let us have some books to read and teach us to do sums and writing, we'd be very thankful."

Can't you fancy what good pupils those two boys became, and how they delighted in reading in books instead of making their necks ache by peering up at the shops?

E. M. W.



"HOME, SWEET HOME;"

OR, LOST IN LONDON.

Miles and miles away in the country, where not even a train ever came, lived a family of children, of whom the eldest was a big lad of eighteen, the youngest a little thing of five. They led a peaceful, happy life among the fields and lanes and wild flowers, yet, like many others, they took but little heed of the beauties around, and some of them at least spent a great deal of time in sighing for things they had not got.

Jennie, the eldest girl, had a great deal to do with that. She had a habit of fancying every one more fortunate and happier than herself. She was always wishing for some impossible thing. If by any chance one of her wishes were gratified, she was always disappointed, and began to want something else.

The children had often heard and read about a wonderful place called London. Jennie, who was a very kind sister, was always talking to them about it, and the wonderful stories she told them made them long to see this enchanted city. That, indeed, was one of Jennie's unfulfilled longings. She had read a great deal, and imagined a great deal more, till she set all the children longing too.

Their big brother Donald heard Phyllis and Effie talking together one day, and he burst in upon them with a laugh, and told them that all the houses were palaces and the streets paved with gold, that marble fountains played in them, and that golden carriages drawn by milk-white steeds rolled incessantly along; that trains rushed in every direction, and that if you just stepped inside one it would take you anywhere, like a flash of lightning; that there was a church so high that you could not see the roof, and a needle so big that twenty men could not lift it. Then Donald went away laughing, and the children held their breath with wonder, and agreed that they should never be happy till they had seen this fairyland.

Not very long after their mother came down to breakfast with red eyes, and their father looked grave. They knew something was the matter, and sat waiting in sorrowful dread.

"Children," said their mother, with a shaky voice, "you will have to leave this beautiful, peaceful home. You must say 'good-bye' to all your pets, for soon, very soon, we must leave them all. You must be good children and not fret; but oh! it is very sad. Father is obliged to go and live in London."

How strange! A ray of sunshine seemed to have passed round the table, changing apprehension into eager excitement. Phyllis clapped her hands. "London, mamma? Oh, how lovely!"

Their mother sighed, and said, "Well, darlings, I am glad you take it so well; but I am afraid it will be a long time before you feel as happy as we are in this dear old home."

At last came the morning when they were to start. They were wild with delight, and thought it splendid fun at first. But when the train with a shrill scream flew into a dark tunnel, several hearts beat very wildly, and several little faces would have looked white enough, could they have been seen.

At last several heads began to ache, and a good many legs seemed to want stretching; but the several hearts could not for worlds have owned that they were not enjoying themselves immensely.

And when the enchanted city was reached, it was dark, and they saw nothing but a confused medley of lights and figures, and walls with big letters all over them.

Then they were jolted through some noisy, busy street, and were at length deposited safely in the house where they were to lodge until their new home was ready.

There was so much noise outside while they were at tea, that Phyllis and Effie wondered what could be the matter, until they saw that their father and mother did not seem to be in the least alarmed at it.

When they went to bed, it was a long time before they could go to sleep. But being very tired, they did manage it, though they dreamed very queer things about a great many people, and horses and carts tumbling on the top of each other, with a noise like thunder.

The next morning, when they were having breakfast in a dark little parlour, their father said to their mother, "You and I must go and look about to day;" and to Donald he said, "You may take your two sisters for a walk on the Embankment, and show them the river, and the Temple, and Cleopatra's Needle, but be very careful of crossings, and ask a policeman when you don't know the way. Phyllis and Effie must stay at home, and amuse themselves with their dollies till our return."

At this Phyllis felt greatly injured, but she said nothing, for she knew she must obey.

Their mother went and fetched them some toys and books, and before she went out charged Martha, their little attendant, to do her best to amuse them; but Phyllis was not in a mood to be amused.

"Martha," she said, "it's horrid in here! Let's go in the garden."

"Lor, miss! there isn't such a thing."

Then Phyllis went and looked out of the window, but the air was so thick that she could see nothing but a few chimney-pots, and people moving like shadows in the street below.

Phyllis soon grew tired of the window. She wondered very much what Donald and her sisters were seeing, and how far off London was.

"Martha," she said presently, "we must go for a walk; of course we must. We always do at home."

"Oh, dear dear!" cried Martha, with something like a sniff, "I wouldn't do it for worlds. I'd lose my way for certain, and be run over in this dirty, foggy place."

"Why, you've only got to be careful of the crossings, and ask a policeman the way," Phyllis replied, crossly; "and it is so dull here."

The morning dragged on. At last Martha went downstairs to the kitchen to see about something, but when it was seen about she could not refrain from having a gossip with the landlady's servant, never dreaming that the children could get into mischief; but they did.

Directly she had gone, Phyllis thought she would take just a peep out of doors. The enchanted city, with its streets of gold and untold marvels, could not be far off. She would try to get just one glimpse.

In a moment she had fetched their hats and jackets, popped them on, and was leading her little sister downstairs. It happened that the outer door was open, so they slipped into the street unobserved.

Phyllis ran quickly along, and soon came to a turning. Just at this moment a gleam of sunshine shone out, dispersing the murky haze.

"Ah!" thought Phyllis, "this is the right way. I know we shall see some of the beautiful sights presently."

So she dragged Effie along as quickly as she could. Sometimes people bumped against them, and frightened them very much; but Phyllis soon saw they meant no harm, so she kept on.

Presently they turned into a broad street, where there were, oh! such numbers of people, walking so fast, and the road was full of carriages and horses and waggons, and the noise was just deafening.

Phyllis pulled Effie into a doorway, and thought she would wait till the people had passed, but she waited and waited, and still they kept on coming backwards and forwards, just for all the world like a number of busy ants swarming about an ant-hill. There was no end to them. They hustled and jostled, and ran and pushed, and talked till Phyllis was utterly bewildered, and said to herself she had better go back again.

But where was the turning? It had gone. She could not see it. She peered out of her retreat.

The street, the people, everything was hidden, except just close at hand. They were enveloped in a thick, dark, steamy cloud, which covered all, except the noise. Phyllis ran first this way, then that, trying in vain to find the turning. Effie grew frightened, and began to cry, which attracted the notice of a policeman. Phyllis remembered what her father had said to Donald, so she asked, "Please will you show us the way home?"



"Where do you live?" he asked.

"I don't know the name," Phyllis faltered; "it's in a street full of houses, joined on to each other all in a row, and no garden."

"Well, that isn't much help," he replied, kindly; "where might you be going to?"

"We were trying to find London," Phyllis said.

"Trying to find it; this is London."

"Oh, no!" Phyllis cried, eagerly; "I mean the golden streets, and the fountains, and the palaces, and the trains, and the church you can't see the roof of, and the needle twenty men can't lift, and the golden carriages, and——"

The man burst into such a laugh that Phyllis stopped short, and stared at him angrily.

"My big brothers and sisters have gone to look at it. They are doing it now," Phyllis added.

The policeman paused a moment, and then he said, "Well, look here. That needle ain't so far off; I'll just take you to see it, and you may see your brothers and sisters too. Call out directly if you do."

So he took them each by a hand, and trotted them along through the fog. It was an alarming journey, although the policeman was kind, and Phyllis felt sure there was no other way of getting home.

When he took them across those dreadful streets, Effie in one arm, Phyllis hanging on to his other hand, Phyllis shut her eyes in terror.

But presently they got away from this confusion into a broad paved place, with trees to be seen here and there. That was much nicer. Their kind companion told Phyllis to look out for her friends.

"There's the needle," he said, all of a sudden. Phyllis looked up, and saw a great stone column before them.

"But it's a needle I mean," Phyllis exclaimed, uncomprehendingly, "something you work with. That isn't a needle."

"Well, I don't know whether a giant ever worked with it," the policeman said, with a comical smile; "anyhow, that's what they call the needle. It's come a long way to England, and belonged to a lady called Mrs. Cleopatra. What she did with it isn't exactly known; but I reckon she didn't make her gowns with it."

Phyllis looked at it with a very great feeling of disappointment. She didn't think it looked nice at all.

"Them other things you talked of, too," said the policeman, "there's most everything to be found in London; but not quite that neither. The church comes the nighest——"

Phyllis uttered a cry of joy, and darted away: opposite her stood Donald, Jennie, and Grace.

"Phyllis, you naughty, naughty child! what is the matter? and Effie too! Why, what does it mean?" Jennie cried.

"They were pretty nigh to being lost, miss," the policeman said, gravely. "'Tis a good thing you happened to come this way."

Donald thanked the man very heartily, and took charge of the children. He had not the heart to scold them yet.

Phyllis walked home with a heart full of tumult. Directly she was safely indoors she burst out crying, and said, "I do not like London: it is a horrid, dreadful, ugly place, and no beautiful things at all; and, oh, I do want to go home!"

"Be quiet, little stupid!" Jennie said, shortly, giving her a push and a shake.

"It's horrible," persisted Phyllis. "We can't live here. We must go home."

Jennie threw herself down on a chair by the bedside, and began to cry too. "It isn't half as bad for you, Phyllis, as it is for me," she cried, crossly; "and we can't go back. We must live in one of these pokey, dingy houses for ever and ever. If only I'd known what it was like!"

By-and-by their mother came home, and was amazed to see the change that had come over the children. Still, she was able to console them a little by telling them that London would look very different when the fog was gone, and that they would have by-and-by a nice quiet house, with a little garden; but their old home was out of the question. That was gone for ever. They must learn to be cheerful and content.

What a hard lesson it was at first! but dear me, after a while the children grew quite happy, although they never found the enchanted city.

But they found something better, after a short time, and that was a kind, bright, happy, cheerful home, and that is what can make any spot in the world beautiful, while without it, even an enchanted city would be but drear and lonely. No wonder Phyllis and Jennie felt miserable during those first days in London. Their parents were feeling it much more keenly, though they said nothing.

Dear children, can you see what I mean by this little story? If you have a good, kind home, try to be very happy in it, for the time may come when you would give everything you possessed to be back in it—"Home, Sweet Home."



OUR SUNDAY AFTERNOONS.

A DREAM FOR ALL AGES.

The sun was fast sinking in the west; and the shades of night were spreading a deep gloom overall, as a poor, lone traveller, foot-sore and weary, looked around him for some place of rest. His face wore its saddest expression, for his heart was nearly bursting with grief; and, as he rolled along a big stone for his pillow, and laid his weary head upon it, it was watered with his tears. But only the fair moon and the twinkling stars seemed to see his grief; and, as he thought of his loneliness, he heaved a deep sigh, and wept afresh.

Far behind him, in the lovely and peaceful Beersheba, he had left the home of his youth, the mother whom he loved so dearly, the old sheep that he had so fondly tended, and the little pet lambs that had nestled in his bosom and gambolled by his side. There was his aged father, too, who lay stretched on his death-bed, and whom he might never hope to see again. And still fresh in his memory were all the old familiar scenes to which he might never again return: the soft green pastures, where, morning and evening, he had rested with his sheep, the great rock behind which he had led them to hide them from the noonday heat, and the quiet waters to which he had taken them that they might slake their thirst.

From one loved spot to another his thoughts would wander; and he shivered, as from cold, while he thought of the land all unknown to him to which he was journeying, of the strange faces that he would have to meet, and the strange voices that would fall upon his ear.

But saddest of all came the remembrance of the cause that had led to his banishment, the deep sin that he had committed, the cruel deceit that he had practised upon his father, the great wrong that he had inflicted upon his brother, the grief of the dying Isaac, the wrath of Esau, and the consequent necessary parting with all he held dear.

If he could only undo the past; if he could only be as he was a short time ago, clear of this guilt, how thankful he would be! But there it was, staring him in the face, and he could not blot out the memory of it. He fancied himself again getting a kid from amongst his flock; giving it to his mother to dress, so that his father would not know it from venison; stooping down, while she put on the back of his neck small pieces of the kid's skin, that it might feel, to the blind Isaac, like the hairy skin of his brother Esau; carrying in the smoking-hot dish; telling, one after another, gross falsehoods, in reply to the questions put by his puzzled father; repeating oft his assurances that he was indeed Isaac's very son Esau; and bowing his head to receive the blessing intended for his elder brother. Once more, in imagination, he was hurrying out of his father's apartment; and the loud and bitter cry of his wronged brother was ringing through the tent, never to die away or be forgotten. He saw again his brother white with rage, and heard him take the solemn oath, that, as soon as the mourning for his father was over, he would be avenged. He heard his frightened mother plead with Isaac, that he might be sent away to her brother in Padan Aram. He heard his father's consent, and saw his mother packing up the few things that he needed, and sending him away with her blessing and with floods of tears. He remembered how, when he had turned round to take a last look at his home; she was still standing in the door of the tent, watching, as far as she could see him, the son of her love, and wiping her streaming eyes.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse