Fanny, having placed the crumbs, was delighted to find how well her plan succeeded, for as soon as Pecksy had picked up one crumb, seeing another before him, he hopped forward and picked that up, and so on, till he had gone round the whole circle.
Fanny had made him go through his performance once or twice, for she had wisely put down very small crumbs indeed, so that his appetite was not satisfied. Having placed Pecksy at the further end of the table where she had left him a few crumbs to occupy his attention, she had just resumed her seat, when, unperceived by her, Norman stole into the room. A large book lay on a chair near him. On a sudden an evil thought entered his mind. Pecksy was in his power, and he had an opportunity of venting the ill-feeling he had long entertained against Fanny and her little pet.
Taking up the book, he stole round behind a high-backed chair, which was placed against the table. Fanny was so engaged with her bird that she did not see him. Rising up suddenly with the book in his hands, the cruel boy let it fall directly down on the little bird. Perhaps he was scarcely aware of the fatal consequences of his act, perhaps he thought that the falling book would only frighten the bird, which would fly away and save itself. We cannot bear to suppose that, ill-tempered as he was, he could have meditated the destruction of his gentle sister's little favourite. People often do not consider the sad results of their evil temper and bad conduct.
The book fell directly on poor little Pecksy. Fanny gave a cry of grief and terror.
"Oh, what have you done, Norman!" she exclaimed, as she saw his face just above the chair, with an expression, oh how different to what she could have supposed that of her little brother could wear.
He did not utter a word, but gazed intently at the book. She lifted it up. There lay her dear little Pecksy motionless. She took the bird up in her hands, examining it anxiously, while the tears fell fast from her eyes.
Norman, conscience-stricken for the first time in his life, could not bear to look at her any longer, and rushed out of the room.
"Oh, what have I done! what have I done!" he exclaimed; "it cannot be dead! the book was not so very big—that could not have killed it all in a moment."
He was afraid of meeting anybody, and he hurried out into the grounds. At first he ran very fast, supposing that some one would come after him, then finding that he was not pursued, he went at a slower pace. On reaching the woods he turned off the path and plunged into them to hide himself. First he crouched down beneath some thick bushes, thinking that no one would discover him there, but he felt too uncomfortable to stay long quiet—he must keep moving on. Slowly he made his way through the woods. He thought he heard footsteps. He tried to push deeper into the woods. On and on he went—he tore his clothes, and scratched his face and hands, he did not know where he was going, he did not care— provided he could keep out of the way of everybody. Never before had he been so miserable, his feelings at last became intolerable.
"Perhaps after all the bird is not dead," he thought.
The idea brought him some relief. "I must go back and try and find out," he said to himself. "If I hear Fanny crying, and making a noise, I will run off again. I could not face mamma and granny and the rest of them if they were to know that I had killed Fanny's bird."
To his surprise, as he went on through the woods, he suddenly saw the house directly before him. He ran towards it. He met the gardener, who, however, took no notice of him. "He at all events knows nothing about what has happened," he thought. At a little distance off was Mrs Maclean with scissors in hand, trimming; her roses, but she only looked up for a moment, wondering why Norman should be running about without his hat.
"It's all right, the bird cannot have been killed after all," he thought.
He entered the house, and went into the library. There sat Fanny in the arm-chair, hiding her weeping eyes with one hand, while in the other, which rested on the table, lay poor little Pecksy. Norman, stealing up close to her, gazed at the bird. It lay on its back with its delicate little legs in the air, its feathers were ruffled, and a drop of blood was on its beak.
"It does not move, but perhaps it is sleeping," thought Norman; "yet I never saw a bird sleep in that way. I am afraid it must be dead; and if it is, what will Fanny do to me? She will box my ears harder than she ever did, and then she will tell the laird, and he will whip me, to a certainty."
Norman moved a little nearer. Fanny heard him, and, lifting up her head from her hand, she looked at him for a moment, and said in a low voice—
"O Norman, poor Pecksy is dead," and then again burst into tears.
SORROW IS NOT REPENTANCE.
Norman had intended to run away and hide himself should he find that he really had killed the little bird. He was sure that Fanny and everybody else would be ready to beat him, but her gentle, though reproachful, tone greatly calmed his fears.
"If she is not angry, I suppose that others will not be," he thought, as he stood by her side, with his eyes still fixed on the dead bird. "I wish I had not done it; if I had frightened her by merely letting the book drop near the bird, it would have been enough. Oh dear! oh dear! I wish I could bring it to life again! Can it really be dead?"
As these expressions were uttered in a very low voice, they did not reach Fanny's ears. For some minutes she did not move. He could not longer endure to watch her silent grief.
"Fanny," he said, in a gentle voice, very unusual for him, "is little Pecksy really dead? Do look and see; perhaps you can make it come to life again. I wish you could; I am so sorry I hit it so hard."
Fanny lifted her head from her hands, and turned her eyes towards the little bird. She got up from her chair, and examined it carefully.
"Give it something to eat, perhaps that will make it move about," suggested Norman.
Fanny shook her head. She tried to open its beak, but could not succeed.
"O Norman, it already feels quite cold. It cannot open its beak, and its legs are stiff. It will never hop about any more, or pick up crumbs, or come flying to me, or sing in the morning to wake me up; poor, dear, little Pecksy is really dead."
All this time she did not utter a word of anger or reproach. Instead of rushing at Norman and boxing his ears, as he had expected, she stood still, contemplating with grief her dead bird. Again the tears trickled from her eyes. For the first time in his life Norman felt ashamed of himself.
"I am very sorry," he murmured; "I did not intend to kill the bird."
"I was sure you did not," she said. "I do not think any human being could be so cruel."
"No, I did not—I did not," said Norman. "But do you think that anybody else can make it live again?"
"Oh, no, no; I am sure no one can," answered Fanny.
"Then, what are you going to do? Tell them all that I killed it?" asked Norman.
"I would rather you did that yourself," said Fanny. "I cannot; it would break my heart to talk about it, and I should be so very, very sorry to say how it happened."
"Then you really mean to say that you do not wish to tell granny or mamma, or to get Mr Maclean to whip me?" he asked, in a tone of surprise.
"Yes, indeed, Norman, I would much rather not have to tell granny or mamma, and I have not for a moment thought of asking Mr Maclean to punish you."
"Still, they must all know it," said Norman, "and what will they do when you tell them?"
"They would, of course, be very angry if they could think you did it on purpose," said Fanny. "That is the reason why I wish you to tell them yourself. Mamma, and granny, and Mrs Maclean are in the drawing-room now, and they will be wondering why I am so long away. Could you not go in at once and tell them what has happened, and ask granny to come to me. I cannot go in by myself with poor little Pecksy in my hand. It would make them all so sad."
Norman felt very unwilling to do as his sister advised, still he could not help seeing that it was the best plan, though a very disagreeable one. In consequence of the way Fanny had spoken to him, he had no longer any fears about himself.
"If she is not angry with me, they cannot be." He stood, however, irresolute for some time, thinking whether he would or would not go—if he did go, what he should say. Fanny again urged him to go at once.
"If you do not, I must, as I cannot stay longer away from the drawing-room," she said.
Norman at last made up his mind to go. He approached the drawing-room door, but stood outside before he could venture to turn the handle.
"I wish I had not killed that bird," he again said to himself. "It did me no harm, and Fanny does not treat me as I thought she would, and as I should have treated her if she had killed a bird of mine which I was fond of. I should have flown at her, and kicked her, and scolded at her day after day, and do not think I should ever have forgiven her; but she does not even say a word to me, and tries to think that I did not wish to hurt the bird. I knew well enough that big book would kill the little creature, and I tried to make it fall just on the top of it. I know I did; and all because I was angry with Fanny, and that little Robby, and his grandfather who gave her the bird. I only wish that they all would be very angry. It would be better than treating me as Fanny has done."
At last Norman put his hand on the door handle. He turned it, and entering, walked forward till he stood before the three ladies, who were seated at their work.
"Well, Norman, what brings you here? We thought you were out fishing with the laird," said his granny, looking up from under her spectacles.
"I have been and thrown a book on Fanny's bird, and it's dead. She asked me to come and tell you," said Norman in a gruff voice; "and, granny, she wants you to go to her. I wish I had not done it, that's all I have got to say."
Having uttered these words he stood stock still, as if he was ready to receive any scoldings the ladies might think fit to administer.
"You have killed Fanny's bird!" exclaimed Mrs Leslie and his mamma. "What, could make you do that?"
"I don't know, I wish I hadn't; but I am not going to say any more," answered Norman.
"I will go to poor Fanny and try to comfort her, if the bird is really dead," said Mrs Leslie rising.
"Norman, come here," said his mamma, as soon as his granny had left the room. "If you have really killed Fanny's bird on purpose, you have done a cruel thing. We are expecting your papa here this afternoon. When he hears of it, he will, I am sure, be very angry, and will punish you as he did the other day, before we left home."
"I do not mind if he does," said Norman. "When I threw the book, I did not care whether I killed the bird or not."
"I am afraid that Norman is a very naughty boy," observed Mrs Maclean, who did not understand the feeling which prompted him to say this. "You know the advice I have often given you, my dear Mary, and I hope when Captain Vallery comes, he will see the necessity of punishing him when he behaves ill, more severely than he appears hitherto to have done."
Norman looked up at Mrs Maclean with a frown on his brow. He was beginning again to harden his heart, which had been softened by Fanny's grief and the gentle way she had spoken to him.
"I don't thank you for saying that, old lady," he thought. "If papa whips me, I shall remember who advised him to do so," and he determined to say no more. In vain his mamma and Mrs Maclean asked him why he had killed the bird, the latter continuing to scold him severely for some minutes.
At last Mrs Leslie came back leading Fanny, whose countenance still showed traces of her grief. As she entered the room she heard Mrs Maclean's last remarks.
"Oh, do not scold Norman," she said coming up to her, "do not be angry, dear mamma! I am sure he is very sorry for what he has done, and I want to forgive him; indeed I do, I do not wish that he should be punished in any way."
Norman had not for a moment supposed that his sister would attempt to defend him, and, touched by her forgiving spirit, he ran up to her and took her hand.
"Thank you, Fanny," he said, "I do not mind how much scolding I get, for I deserve it, and I wish you would scold me too, but yet I can bear from others much more than I can from you."
Fanny only replied by kissing him. She then took his hand.
"Come with me, Norman," she said, "granny has been telling me what we had better do, and if you will help me we will do it at once. Granny has promised that she will not scold you," she whispered in his ear.
Norman cast a half-timid grateful glance at his granny, he did not venture to look at Mrs Maclean and mamma, and willingly accompanied Fanny out of the room. "What is it you want to do, Fanny?" he asked as she led him back into the study.
"I want you to help me to bury poor Pecksy," she answered. "Granny says, that as long as we see him, we shall be thinking about him, but that if he is buried, we shall by degrees forget all about this sad event, and we will therefore bury him as soon as we can. I propose that we should get the little cart, and and that we should put some boughs on it, and place Pecksy on the top of them, and draw him to a quiet part of the grounds, and that you should dig a grave. We will then put a tomb-stone, and I will write an epitaph to put on it. I have been thinking what I should write, and I have made up my mind to put simply, 'Here lies Pecksy, the feathered friend of Fanny Vallery.' If I was to write when he died, or how he was killed, or anything of that sort, it might remind me of what I want to forget. Don't you think that will be very nice."
"Oh yes," answered Norman, "I like your idea. I will dig the grave. I will go and ask the gardener to lend me a spade or a pickaxe, or a hoe or some tool to dig with, and we will set out at once."
The children having formed the plan, at once carried it out. Norman ran off to the gardener and told him what he wanted.
"A spade or a pickaxe is rather too much for you to handle, my laddie," he answered, "but you shall have a hoe, which will be big enough to dig a little birdie's grave."
Norman having obtained the tool hurried back with it to the yard, where he found Fanny, who had got the cart ready. The gardener understanding what they wanted cut a number of boughs, which placed across the cart formed in their opinion a very appropriate hearse.
Fanny then went back and brought out poor little Pecksy, followed by Norman, who acted as chief mourner. The bird being placed in due form on its bier, they set forth, Fanny drawing the hearse, and Norman carrying the hoe over his shoulder. He looked and indeed felt very sad, while the tears dropped from Fanny's eyes. Still, perhaps, she was not very unhappy, she could scarcely have been so, with the consciousness that she had acted in a forgiving loving spirit, sorry as she was, however, to have lost her little bird.
They soon reached the spot which Fanny had selected for the grave. It was by her granny's advice somewhat out of the way.
"See, Norman," she observed, "it is better here than in a part of the garden we have often to pass, because we need not come here except perhaps by-and-by when we shall have ceased to think so much about poor little Pecksy."
The trees grew thickly around the spot, but there was an open space of two or three feet. Here the ground being soft, Norman soon dug a grave. It was not very deep, nor long, nor wide, but quite large enough for the purpose.
Having deposited the little bird in it, after Fanny had given one last glance at her pet, Norman covered it up. They then surrounded the grave with the boughs which had served for a bier, and having finished all they could then think of doing, they returned to the house.
On their way they met the gardener, who had, at the request of their granny, prepared a smooth piece of hard wood. Fanny, thanking him, took it into the house, and as she was very neat-handed with her pen, she soon managed to write out the epitaph she proposed.
With this they returned to the tiny grave, and set it up at one end.
"We have one thing more to do though," she said, "come and help me to pick some wild-flowers—the smallest we can find."
Having collected a number, she neatly formed a pretty little wreath.
"The French, and other people I have read of, have the custom of placing wreaths of flowers on the tombs of their friends, and so that is why I thought of putting one on Pecksy's grave," she observed. "I might have picked some from the garden, but I think wild-flowers are more suited to the little bird."
She stood gazing at the spot, after she had deposited the wreath for a minute or two.
"There, we can do no more," she said, with a sigh, as she took Norman's hand. "We will go home now, and, O Norman, if you will try to be a good boy, and love me and everybody else, I shall not mind so much having lost dear little Pecksy."
Norman walked on by the side of his sister towards the house without speaking. Her heart was too full to say anything more. She found it, indeed, very difficult to forgive her brother from the bottom of her heart, and to love him notwithstanding all he had done.
Norman little thought as he walked by her side how kindly she felt to him. He fancied that she was only thinking about her little dead bird, and mourning for its loss. He was ashamed to look up into her face, as he would have done, had his conscience not accused him—for although he tried to persuade himself that he had not intended actually to kill the bird, yet he well knew that he had harboured the thought day after day, and often as he murmured to himself, "I did not want to kill it," a voice said to him, "Norman, you know that you did want to kill it."
How different was the expression in the countenance of the two children. Although both were handsome, that of Norman showed his irritable discontented disposition. By the time they reached the house Fanny had dried her tears, and hers exhibited the sweet gentle temper which animated her.
As they got near the house they saw Mrs Leslie, who had come out into the garden. Fanny ran forward to meet her, and taking her hand said—
"Dear granny it is all over, Norman is very sorry, so when papa comes this evening, I hope that he may not hear about my poor birdie, and that we shall both look smiling and happy."
"I hope so, my dear, and I am very sure that neither your mamma nor Mrs Maclean will tell him of what has occurred."
"Oh, I shall be so much obliged to them," answered Fanny, "it is what I have been dreading more than anything else, for I never saw Norman look so grieved for anything he has done."
"That is a great step in the right direction, but he has still much to learn, and many faults to correct, and those faults he will not correct unless his heart is changed," answered Mrs Leslie.
"O dear granny, that is what I have been praying it may be," said Fanny, "and you have often told me that God hears prayers even of weak little girls like me."
"Yes, indeed, He does, and I trust that your prayers and mine, and your mamma's, will be answered in His good time. God accomplishes His ends as He judges best; and we must not despair, even if we do not see Norman behave as well as we could wish all at once."
The subject of this conversation had been standing at some distance, with his head cast down, unwilling to approach his grandmamma, for he was afraid that he might receive another scolding, and was beginning to harden his heart to resist it.
"Come here, my dear Norman," said Mrs Leslie. "You know how I love you, for you are my only little grandson, and how anxious I am that you should be good and happy, and prosper in this world. This makes me very glad to hear what Fanny has been telling me, my dear child. We will all pray, that you will be enabled to keep to your good resolutions, but you must also pray for yourself. Then remember, my dear child, that God's eye is upon you, that nothing you can think, or say, or do, is unknown to Him, that He is aware of every thought which enters your mind, that He sees even the most trifling thing you do, and hears every word you utter. He wishes you to be happy, and if you try to obey Him, He will enable you to be so. He is more loving than your papa or mamma, or your sister, or I can be."
Norman listened attentively to all his grandmamma said. He might not clearly have understood every word, but he certainly did her meaning; and as she spoke so kindly and gently to him instead of scolding him, as he thought she would, he thought he would try to do as she wished him.
The children were in their garden dresses; Norman's was much torn from his scramble through the woods. Fanny had on one which her mamma had brought from France, like that of a peasant girl, which was well suited for wandering about the hills and moors.
After they had walked some time with their grandmamma, she desired them to go in and dress, that they might be ready to receive their papa. They were hurrying up to their rooms, when, as they passed the library door, which was open, Fanny caught sight of her little pet's cage still on the floor where she had left it.
"Oh, it must not remain there! what shall we do with it?" she said, as she went in followed by Norman.
The sight of the empty cage was more than she could bear. She took it up, and, looking at it for a moment, burst into tears. For some time she stood with her arm resting on the table, supporting her head in her hand.
"I did not think I should feel so much for poor, dear, little Pecksy," she said, trying to restrain her tears.
Norman stood by crying also. He could now sympathise with his sweet sister; but a short time before he would have been inclined to laugh at her tears, and "I did it; I did it," he said to himself. "Oh, how cruel I was; I wish Mr Maclean had come at once, and heard all about it and beat me, I am sure I deserve it; and the little bird, instead of singing merrily in the cage, now lies in the black earth all by itself. Oh, what a cruel, naughty boy I have been!" Such thoughts passed through the mind of Norman though he did not speak them aloud. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands, and looked up sorrowfully at his sister.
At last Fanny recovered herself.
"I will carry the cage to granny," she said; "she will take care of it till we can return it to old Alec, for I could never bear to see another little bird in it."
Fanny felt this at the moment, but, probably, she would in time have thought differently.
She took the cage to her grandmamma's room.
Norman stood outside while she went in.
Mrs Leslie promised to do what she wished, and she then went and assisted Norman to dress. He made no resistance now, but let her wash his face and hands as thoroughly as she thought necessary; and he went and got his things and put them on himself, giving her as little trouble as possible.
Fanny was rapid in all her movements, and never dawdled over her toilet, so that she was quickly ready.
Norman on going into the hall met the laird, who had just come back from a long day's fishing excursion, with a basketful of fine trout.
"Well, my laddie, I wish you had gone with me, for you would have seen some good sport," he observed. "I was sorry that you did not keep to your promise."
"I will behave properly another time," answered Norman; "I know I was obstinate and naughty for not doing as you wished."
"Well, laddie, I am glad to hear you say that, and I hope we shall have many a day's fishing together," was the answer.
"Thank you, Mr Maclean," said Norman. "I want to try and do as I am told. If you had taken me with you I should not have killed Fanny's poor little bird."
"What do you mean?" asked the laird.
Then Norman told him all that had occurred, adding—
"And I wish you would beat me, Mr Maclean, for I am sure I deserve it."
"Boys only are whipped who are obstinate, and are not sorry for what they have done, and just to teach them right from wrong when they do not know it," answered the laird. "I am glad to see that you are sorry, and that you do know that you did wrong; so, laddie, I cannot oblige you, you see, unless Fanny asks me."
"Oh, she will not ask you, for she has forgiven me, and is so kind, and wants to forget all about it," said Norman bursting into tears.
"That is just like her, the sweet little creature," said the laird to himself, adding aloud, "If your sister has forgiven you, and you are sorry for what you have done, I have no reason to be angry or to whip you, so, my laddie, we will not talk of that any more. At the same time, I do not advise you to try and forget the matter, but just always think how kind your sister is, and try to please her, and be as kind to her as possible."
While the laird retired to dress, Norman went into the drawing-room. No one was there. He did not know how to amuse himself. He wished that he could read; but he had not yet made sufficient progress to enable him to find any pleasure in a book. He hunted about for some of Fanny's picture-books, but she had taken them upstairs, with the exception of one which he did not care much about. For want of a better, however, he took it to the table, and, clambering into a high-backed chair which stood at it, tried to make out the meaning of the lines at the bottom of the page with the aid of the pictures.
He had been more agitated during the day than usual, and he felt very weary. Gradually his head dropped down on his arms, which were resting on the table, and he fell fast asleep. Still he thought that he was broad awake. To his surprise he saw before him the bird-cage, which he was sure Fanny had taken up to granny's room, for he had seen her go in with it; but there it stood on the table directly before him. Presently he heard a chirping sound, just as the linnet used to sing, and looking up, there, growing out of nothing, was the branch of a tree, and several little birds exactly like Pecksy perched upon it, while many more were flying through the sky towards him, and evidently coming down to join the others. Instead of singing merrily, however, like little Pecksy, their voices had a croaking angry sound. By degrees the voices changed from the notes of birds into those of human beings.
"Naughty, naughty boy!" said a voice which seemed to come from behind, "why did you kill Pecksy?"
Norman looked round. There, at the back of his chair he saw perched a bird which nodded its head up and down, and glared at him with its bright little eyes. He was too much frightened to reply; indeed, he had nothing to say for himself.
"You will not answer, then I must answer for you," said the voice, which evidently came from the bird, and though it spoke like a human being, yet it had the sound of a bird's notes, only much louder and shriller than any bird he had ever heard.
"You know that you were angry with little Robby, and jealous of your sweet sister, and that when old Alec gave her our little brother you resolved to kill it on the first opportunity. You thought of doing that cruel deed not only then, but day after day, and you watched for an opportunity. The opportunity came, and when you let the heavy book fall down on the poor little innocent creature, you knew perfectly well that it must kill him, if it did not press him as flat as a pancake. We will not forget what you have done, Master Norman Vallery. When you come into the garden we will not sing to you sweetly, but we will croak at you like so many crows, and call you 'Naughty, naughty boy!' When you run away we will follow you, for we can fly faster than you can run, and we will perch on the branches round you, and croak out, 'Naughty, naughty boy!' When you run on still farther to get away from us, we will fly on either side of you, and will croak out, 'Naughty, naughty boy!'"
"Oh, do not, do not, please do not!" murmured Norman, though he spoke so low that he did not think the bird could hear him. "I will try not to be jealous of Fanny, or to be angry with her or anybody else."
"We do not trust you," said the bird on the back of his chair.
"We won't trust you," echoed the others, perched on the branch. "We shall do as we have said; you will find that we can keep our promise, though you are ready enough to break yours. Who killed cock robin, who killed cock robin, who killed cock robin?" sang the birds in chorus. "That little boy there, with his head on the table!" answered the bird at the back of his chair. "But he did not do it with a bow and arrow, he did it with a big heavy book, and it was not cock robin he killed, but our dear little brother Pecksy, the naughty, naughty boy!"
"Oh, I am so sorry!" groaned Norman. "You are right, I own that you are right, but do not scold me any more."
"We shall see how you behave yourself. If you are a good boy we may relent, but if not, when you go into the woods, instead of singing sweetly as we do to your sister, and trying our best to give her pleasure, we will keep our promise, and croak in your ears, 'Naughty, naughty boy!'"
Norman tried to cry out, to ask the birds not to be so angry with him. Just then he heard another voice saying—
"My dear Norman, you are sleeping very uncomfortably with your head on the table, let me put you on the sofa. Your papa will soon be here, and after a little rest you will look fresh and ready to receive him."
Norman lifted up his head and saw his mamma leaning over him.
The cage was gone, and the branch with all the birds on it had disappeared. He looked round, expecting to see the angry little bird at the back of his chair, but that had gone also, and he found, greatly to his relief, that he had been dreaming.
He told his mamma what he had seen.
"It was all your fancy, Norman," she answered, "you were over-excited and tired. I will sit by you and take care that the birds do not come back again."
His mamma placed him on the sofa and sat down by his side.
Norman was very soon again fast asleep, but the birds did not return, he only heard Fanny's sweet voice telling him how much she loved him, and wished to forgive him all the harm he had done. He awoke much refreshed and happier than he had been for a long time.
"Here is papa! here is Captain Vallery!" he heard several voices exclaim.
Directly afterwards Captain Vallery entered the drawing-room with his mamma and Fanny who had run out to meet him. Norman jumped up from the sofa.
"Why, my dear boy, you look rosy and well and fat, as if the Highland air agreed with you," said his papa, stooping down and kissing him. "Why mamma, how grown he is. You will soon be a big boy, and able to play at cricket and football, and fish and shoot."
"I can answer for it that he will soon be able to fish if he follows my directions," observed the laird. "He already has some notion of throwing a fly, and I hope in the course of a year or two that he will turn out a good fisher."
"I hope he will turn out a good boy," observed Mrs Leslie, "for that is of more consequence, and I trust that he will become some day all we can desire."
"No fear of that, granny, I hope," observed Captain Vallery; "Norman is my son, and I intend that my son shall become a first-rate fellow."
Norman felt proud of hearing his father speak of him in that way. At the same time he was afraid that somehow or other he might hear of his misdeeds, and be inclined to change his opinion. If his grandmamma and Fanny did not say what he had done, his mamma might, or Mrs Maclean, or the laird, or perhaps some of the servants, for he had never taken any pains to ingratiate himself with them.
This prevented him from feeling as happy as he otherwise might have been.
The laird insisted that the children should come down to dessert.
In consequence of their papa's arrival, dinner was much later than usual.
Fanny would only accept a little fruit and a small cake, but Norman, who was hungry, and liked good things, eagerly gobbled up as many cakes and as much fruit as the laird, near whom he sat, offered him. When he had finished, without asking anybody's leave, he put out his hand and helped himself to a peach which was in a plate temptingly near. Having finished it, he looked towards the dish of cakes which was at a little distance.
"I should like some of those, now," he said, pointing at them.
"Ye are a braw laddie, ye tak' your meat," observed the laird. "Pray, Mrs Vallery, hand me the cakes."
His mamma made signs to Norman that he should not have asked for them, but he did not attend to her, and when the laird handed him the dish he helped himself to several, and began to eat them up quickly, fearing that they might be taken from him.
"My dear, you will make that child ill," observed Mrs Maclean, addressing her husband from the other end of the table.
Norman looked round very indignantly at her, and helped himself again.
Mrs Maclean had from the first perceived that Norman was allowed to have too much of his own way. He had discovered this, and was inclined to consider her as his personal enemy. Not content with what he had already obtained, as soon as he had emptied his plate, he helped himself to another cake or two from the plate which the laird had left near him. Mrs Maclean shook her head, and looked at Mrs Leslie.
"Norman, you really must not eat so much," said his grandmamma.
"I am not eating much," he answered in an angry tone, forgetting his good resolutions. "You all have had dinner, and it's very hard that I should be told I must not eat when I am hungry."
The laird, who was amused at the remark, laughed heartily. "You follow the example of the renowned Captain Dalgetty, and lay in a store when you have the opportunity."
"Captain Dalgetty was an old soldier of fortune, and never knew when he might next find a meal, and Norman is a little boy, and is very sure to have a sufficient breakfast to-morrow morning," observed Mrs Leslie, "so pray Mr Maclean, do not let him have any more dessert."
"Mr Maclean is very kind, and you are all very ill-natured," exclaimed Norman angrily.
"Then it is time we should leave the table and carry you along with us, young gentleman," exclaimed Mrs Maclean, rising.
Norman was now thoroughly out of temper, and in contempt of his granny, who sat opposite to him, he seized another cake, which he crammed into his mouth. His grandmamma again shook her head at him, and then rising, came round to take him from his chair.
"Wish Mr Maclean good-night, and go and kiss your papa," she said, "for it is time for you to go to bed, I am sure."
Norman did not wish to leave the table as long as he could get anything on it, and obstinately kept his seat.
Fanny felt very much vexed at seeing him behave in this way, and hurried up to assist her granny, not supposing for a moment that he would still refuse to go.
He held on to the table, and she had some difficulty in dragging him away. Forgetting all her loving-kindness in the morning, as she attempted to pull him away, he struck out at her with his little fists, and hit her a severe blow on the face. She endeavoured not to cry out, or to show any one what he had done, for indeed she felt more pain on his account than on her own. The laird, who had gone to open the door, did not see what had occurred.
"Let me go that I may wish papa good-night," said Norman, tearing himself away from Fanny, and running towards Captain Vallery.
"Good-night, my boy," said his papa, who also had not observed his ill-behaviour. "When I unpack my portmanteau I hope to find some things for you and Fanny. You shall see them to-morrow morning."
"Cannot you let me have them to-night? I hope you have got something I like," said Norman, without any thought of thanking his papa for his kindness.
"I am afraid you must wait till to-morrow," answered Captain Vallery, not rebuking him. "I have not had time to unpack my portmanteau, so you must have patience."
"I want the things now," said Norman; "everybody is trying to vex me."
"Go to bed, you are tired," said Captain Vallery soothingly. "Here, Fanny come and take the poor child off, I see that he has been sitting up too long."
Norman, indeed, looked flushed and ill, and Fanny hoped that after a night's rest, he would recollect his promise to try and behave well. Though he still resisted, she managed to lead him from the room.
"Leave me alone, Fanny," he exclaimed, as soon as they reached the drawing-room. "I don't want to go to bed, I had some sleep this afternoon, I have as much right to sit up as anybody else has," and again he struck out at her.
"My dear Norman, have you already forgotten the promises you made to be a good boy?" she said gently. "Oh, do try and restrain your temper."
"I did not say I would be good, if people were ill-natured to me, and granny and Mrs Maclean wanted to stop me from having dessert, and I should have liked some more, and the laird would have given it me, if it had not been for them," he answered petulantly. "I never liked old women, and I do not like them now."
"Hush, hush, Norman," cried Fanny horrified, and fearing that they might overhear him. "Do go to bed quietly, and I will come and help you if mamma will let me."
Mrs Vallery who had come from the farther end of the room, observing that Norman looked flushed and angry, although she had not heard what he had said, thought it advisable without further delay to carry him off to bed. He resisted, however, and said he was not sleepy and would not go.
Mrs Maclean now came to his mamma's assistance. She had no notion of a little boy behaving as Norman was doing. "Hoity, toity, young gentleman, I cannot have you treat your mamma in this way in my house, so come along this instant, and do not let me hear another word from you."
Norman looked very angry at Mrs Maclean, but he obeyed her, for he had sense enough left to know that he had better do as she bid him, for fear she should tell his papa how he had treated Fanny's bird.
Alas! all his good resolutions had been scattered to the winds. He now, however, went quietly enough with his mamma. When he got to his room, he gave her as much trouble as he could, and declared that he was too sleepy to say his prayers, though just before he had been asserting that he was not at all sleepy, and did not wish to go to bed. She, in vain, begged him to do so, and had at last, as she often had before done, to kneel down by his bedside and pray for him. He turned his face away from her, when she bade him good-night, and only mumbled a reply. There are, I am afraid, many more little boys like Norman, who do not regret how much pain they give those who love them best.
Poor Fanny was especially grieved. She had flattered herself that happy days were coming, when Norman would be gentle and obliging, and all she could wish, and now he appeared to be as naughty as ever.
I do not know whether the little birds again visited him in his dreams, and croaked and scolded him, and told him that he was a very, very naughty boy, but I am very certain that his dreams could not have been pleasant.
Fanny had another cause for regret, when she looked up at the spot where the cage with her little favourite in it used to hang, and no cage was there. Had Norman continued to show that he was sorry, and was really going to behave better, she would not she thought have felt her loss so much. As soon as she was up in the morning, she went in as usual to help her brother, who though he declared that he could dress himself, never managed to do so properly. He appeared to be in a better temper than on the previous evening.
"Good morning, Fanny," he said, jumping up. "I won't keep you long, for I want to get downstairs as soon as possible to see the things papa has brought us. I wonder what they are."
"I am sure they are what we shall like," said Fanny, "though I did not know that he had brought anything."
"He has brought me something at all events," said Norman, "for he told me so, and I hope that he will bring them, when he comes downstairs, or perhaps he would give them to me if I went to his room."
"Pray, don't do that," said Fanny. "It will appear as if you were more eager to learn what he has brought than to see him, and he may not have time before breakfast to unpack his large portmanteau."
Norman felt vexed that his sister should give him this advice, and somewhat unwillingly accompanied her downstairs.
Mrs Maclean, who was in the breakfast-room, received Fanny in her usually affectionate way.
"Good-morrow to you, young gentleman; I hope you have slept yourself into a pleasanter humour than you went to bed with," she said, as she held out her hand, and made him a formal curtsey.
Norman did not like her salutation, but the awe he felt for her, prevented him from making a rude answer which rose to his lips.
"I hope Norman will be a good boy to-day, Mrs Maclean," said Fanny, wishing to apologise for him. "He was tired last night, and did not know exactly what he was about."
"But little boys should know what they are about," observed the lady. "However, we will hope for the best, and I shall be glad to see him eat his porridge with an appetite."
"Are you prepared, Fanny, for an excursion to-day? We have been asked to join some friends in a picnic at Glen Corpach, and as there are several young people among the families who have promised to come, you will have companions of your own age."
"I shall be delighted. What a lovely day for it too," exclaimed Fanny, "and I am sure Norman will like it very much."
Norman wondered what a picnic could mean.
"Is there to be fun of any sort? What are we to do?" he asked.
"My idea of a picnic," answered Fanny, "is, that people collect at a beautiful spot, and bring pies and chickens and all sorts of things to eat, and spread them out on a table-cloth on the grass; and sit round it on the ground, and talk merrily, and laugh; and that some facetious old gentleman makes a funny speech; and songs are sung; and that here in Scotland there is a bag-piper; and that people get up and dance, and the young ladies have their sketch-books, and when tired of dancing make sketches and ramble about among the rocks. That then a gipsy-fire is lighted, and tea is made, and that after that, perhaps there is more dancing. At last the time comes for people to start, and they all drive home again. I went with granny to a picnic like that last year, and she enjoyed it very much, and I am sure I did."
"You have given a very good description of what, I daresay, our proposed picnic will be like," said Mrs Maclean; "and I hope you will enjoy it as much as you did yours last year. I have no doubt there will be a piper, and, perhaps, two or three, and that they will do their best to make the hills resound with their music."
"I think it will be very stupid if we do nothing else than that," said Norman. "It might be better if we could shoot or fish, or if there is a boat in which the other boys and I can row about."
"I daresay our friends will try to find amusement for you little boys as well as for the older persons of the party, though, if you wish it, we might possibly make arrangements to leave you behind," observed Mrs Maclean.
"No, no, I should not like that," answered Norman, shaking his head. "I will go to see what is done."
Mrs Maclean smiled at the young gentleman's answer.
The rest of the party soon entered the breakfast-room. Captain Vallery came last. Fanny jumped up to throw her arms round his neck and kiss him; but Norman did not leave his seat; he had been looking out for the presents of which his papa had spoken. He was much disappointed when he saw him deposit two small parcels on the sideboard.
"We will look at them after prayers," he observed.
Mr Maclean kept to the good custom of having all the servants in to morning prayers, and reading to them from God's Word. Norman attended very little to what was said, as he was wondering all the time what could be in the parcels.
"I wish they had been bigger," he thought, "for I am afraid papa has, after all, brought some stupid little things which I shall not care about, and perhaps Fanny's will be better than mine."
The patience of Norman was still further to be tried, for his papa, who was hungry, forgot all about the presents, and took his seat with the rest of the party at the breakfast table.
"Come, my boy, eat your porridge, or it will begetting cold," said Mr Maclean, lifting Norman into the air, and placing him down in the chair as if he had been a little baby.
Norman felt indignant, as he liked to be treated as a big boy. He was, however, in spite of his curiosity, glad to swallow his porridge, and to eat some bacon, with a slice or two of bread and preserves, which Mr Maclean placed in succession upon his plate.
At last he could no longer restrain his anxiety to know what his papa had brought. Fanny also thought she should like to know, but had refrained from saying anything.
"What have you brought for us there?" he asked at length, pointing towards them.
"You may bring them and we will see," answered his papa.
Norman jumped up, and, seizing the parcels, began tearing them open.
"Stop, stop!" cried his grandmamma, who observed him. "You do not know which is for you; and your papa told you to bring them."
Norman paid but little attention to what Mrs Leslie said, and had almost torn one of them open before his papa took them.
"We must look at the one for Fanny first, as she is a young lady," observed Captain Vallery, feeling the parcels, and undoing one, he presented Fanny with a box which had a glass top, and inside of it was a white swan with three gaily-coloured fish.
"If we had a basin of water we should be able to make the swan and fish swim about," said Captain Vallery; "I never saw anything of the sort before, and was sure Fanny would like it."
Now Fanny had not only seen but possessed a magnetic toy similar to the one her papa had brought her. She had, however, given it away to a young friend who had expressed a wish to possess it; and Fanny had assured her that she found no great amusement in it herself.
Mrs Leslie, too, knew this, and was pleased to see the affectionate way in which Fanny thanked her papa. Fanny, though she did not care for the gift herself, was grateful to him for having brought it to her, and she thought that it would, at all events, amuse Norman, who had never seen anything of the sort. She therefore gladly jumped down to ring the bell that the servant might bring a dish of water for the swan and fish to swim in, and to be attracted by the magnet, which she found carefully wrapped up at the bottom of the box. She looked forward with pleasure to the surprise her brother would exhibit at seeing the fish and swan come at her call.
Norman, who was in the meantime fumbling away at the other parcel, eyed her toy with a feeling very like that which had entered his heart when she had her beautiful doll given to her. His parcel felt soft, he feared that it was of very little value, and he wondered what it could possibly be. At last the paper was torn off.
"Why, it's only the skin of an old football without any wind in it!" he exclaimed in a disappointed tone.
"It is a new football, and we can soon put wind in it," observed his papa, laughing at what he thought his son's wit; and taking it from Norman, he put the part with the hole to his mouth and began to blow and blow till gradually the ball swelled out to its full size. Norman looked on wonderingly all the time. Then Captain Vallery fastened a piece of string round the neck of the bladder into which he had been blowing, and tightly laced up the leathern covering.
"There my boy," he exclaimed, "you have a brand new football which you may kick from John o' Groat's house to the Land's End without its being much the worse for its journey, only you must not treat it as you did the last."
Norman ran after the ball, which his papa rolled to the other end of the room. The pleasure he might have felt at obtaining it was taken away by his hearing Captain Vallery tell the laird how he had cut open his other ball to look for the wind in it, at which the laird laughed heartily, declaring that he was a true philosopher and would some day become the Principal of the University of Aberdeen or Saint Andrews.
The servant coming in with the dish, Norman left his ball to see the swan and fish come at Fanny's call to be fed. She managed very cleverly, by holding a piece of bread over the magnet. Norman looked on, wondering what could make the creatures come when Fanny called them, and half believing that they must be alive. Then he thought how much he should like to have them if they would come to him as readily as they did to Fanny.
"Let me try them, Fanny," he said eagerly; "I am sure if I call them they will swim across the dish to me. Mamma give me a piece of bread."
Norman held it to the side of the dish. Neither the swan nor the fish moved; then he threw some crumbs towards them, but they had no greater effect. He began to grow angry.
"I do not see why they should come more to you than to me," he said grumpily.
Fanny then let him see that she held something in her hand.
"What is that?" he asked.
"That is my magic wand?" she answered laughing. "Perhaps if you take it you will find that the creatures come towards you."
Norman snatched it from her. The swan was at this time near him. What was his astonishment on presenting the rod, to see the swan swim away from him instead of coming near, and when he tried the fish they did the same.
"You see they are not so tame to you as they are to me?" said Fanny laughing.
Norman had presented the reverse end of the magnet, which, of course, sent them away from him. Again he tried to attract the fish and swan.
"Let me try again!" said Fanny, "if I look angrily at them they will go away from me as they did from you." She also presented the reverse end of the magnet, trying to frown, though she had some difficulty in bringing her smiling countenance to do so. "Now I will look kindly at them, and call them, and you will see that they will come to me;" and she presented the right end of the magnet, when all the creatures came up to the side of the dish near which she stood.
She now gave it back to Norman, and though he did not look as amiable as she did, he burst into a laugh when he saw the creatures coming towards him.
"I wish papa had brought me something like that," he said. "There is some fun in it."
"You shall play with it as much as you like, Norman," said Fanny. "As it is papa's present I cannot give it you, but you can amuse yourself with it as much as if it was yours."
This promise for the moment put Norman into better humour, though he still wished that he had the toy all to himself, while he left his football neglected on the ground.
The rest of the party went to get ready for their excursion, but he could not leave Fanny's toy. When she came back dressed, she found him at the side-table, where the servant had placed the dish.
"I will give you my football for this, for I want it all to myself."
"I am sorry to hear you say that," answered Fanny; "I told you that I could not give away papa's present, and the football is not suited to a little girl like me."
"You are an ill-natured thing," exclaimed Norman, petulantly. "You will never do what I want."
Fanny smiled, though she felt inclined to be vexed at this false accusation.
"We must at all events put the things up now," she said, "for mamma has sent me to tell you to come and get ready."
"I will not get ready, I do not want to go to the picnic," said Norman.
"But you must come," said Fanny taking hold of his arm, "mamma wishes it."
Norman resisted, and, intending to seize the table, caught the dish instead, and pulled it to the ground, splashing himself over and breaking the dish.
"Oh what have you done?" cried Fanny.
"It was all your fault," said Norman. "If you had let me alone it would not have happened."
Fanny did feel very angry with him. What she might have done, it is difficult to say, had not Mrs Maclean entered the room.
"I can understand how it happened, and whose fault it was," she observed. "Do not mind the broken dish, dear Fanny, I will send for the servant to take it away, and do you, young gentleman, go and get ready to accompany your mamma."
Norman, who on seeing Mrs Maclean enter, fully expected to be punished, thought her kinder than he had supposed, and felt more inclined to like her than before. He accompanied Fanny without saying a word, and made no opposition when getting ready for the excursion.
There were two small open carriages prepared for the expedition. The laird drove Mrs Maclean and Mrs Leslie in one, and Captain Vallery took charge of his wife and children in the other.
After driving some way along the road, leaving the loch behind them they mounted a hill, and to Fanny's surprise, she found that they were close to Alec Morrison's cottage. The laird called him out.
"We are going to Glen Corpach, and as I am not sure whether we shall find any one to row the boat there, I wish you would come with us."
Alec said he could not leave Robby.
"Bring him, then," said the laird. "You get up by the side of me, and Robby can go in the other carriage with the children."
They stopped a few minutes while his grandfather helped Robby to put on his best clothes. His toilet was quickly finished, and Alec lifted him into the carriage with the children.
Fanny was very glad to see him, but Norman looked at him askance, as if he was an intruder, and was afraid besides that he would ask after the little bird. Fanny also was afraid that he might do so, and she was very unwilling to have to tell him that it was dead. She therefore talked to him about as many things as she could think of. She asked him how Lory was, and if he had ever been in a carriage before? Robby answered that Lory was very well, and that he had once been in a carrier's cart, but that it did not move as fast as they were going, and seemed highly delighted with the drive. The question both the children dreaded came at last.
"Don't be teasing us by your questions, you stupid little fellow," said Norman hastily, "I wonder you are not ashamed of your impudence."
Poor little Robby looked much abashed at this rebuke.
"I only asked after the young lady's bird," he said.
"Hold your tongue, you little monkey," cried Norman, giving him a kick, "that's just what I don't choose you should talk about."
"Norman you should not treat Robby so," said Fanny becoming indignant. "I am sorry to say, Robby, that the little birdie is dead. We did not behave as kindly to it as you would have done."
"Oh dear! oh dear! how did it die?" asked Robby.
"Hold your tongue, I say," cried Norman giving him another kick, which made Robby cry.
This attracted the attention of Mrs Vallery who was seated in front with her husband.
"What is the matter, children?" she asked, looking round.
"Nothing at all, mamma, only the stupid child chooses to cry," answered Norman. "Keep quiet you tiresome little brat."
"Oh, mamma, will you take Norman in front with you? He has hurt Robby," said Fanny.
"I won't go," answered Norman, "I like to stay where I am. You may take the brat with you if you like, mamma."
"There is scarcely room for any one," said Mrs Vallery. "And I must beg you children to be quiet. Fanny, you can keep them from quarrelling, I should hope."
Poor Fanny would willingly have done so, for Norman was doing his best to spoil the pleasure of her drive. She took Robby to sit beside her, where Norman could not reach him without kicking her. He having vented his anger, now remained quiet, only occasionally giving an angry look at the poor little orphan.
Soon having crossed the level heath, they entered a narrow glen between the mountains, which rose up on either side of them, here and there covered with wood; in other places the cliffs were almost perpendicular, while a stream rushed foaming and sparkling over its rocky sides close to the road. As they advanced, the scenery became more wild and picturesque. Fanny admired it much, for she had never been in so romantic a country. Now they went up the steep side of a hill, from the top of which could be seen range beyond range of mountains, with deep valleys, patches of forest, wild rocks, and a narrow sheet of water which shone in the bright sunlight, while here and there could be distinguished a thin silvery line descending from a mountain height, and winding along at the bottom of a valley.
"We are not far from Glen Corpach," shouted the laird, "and I see some of our friends are making their way towards it."
He pointed to some patches which Fanny thought looked like ants, with a black beetle in front of them, winding down the mountain.
Descending by a steep road, which compelled the laird and Captain Vallery to put on their drags to prevent the carriages going down faster than would have been pleasant, they found themselves by the side of a narrow loch enclosed by mountains. They soon after, rounding a lofty cliff, arrived at the entrance of the glen which they had come to visit.
On the shore of the loch was a small cottage where they found the cart with the servants and provisions. They descended from the carriages, and were joined by several of the laird's friends, who had arrived before them. Fanny was pleased to find, as had been promised, some companions of her own age, and several boys rather older than her brother.
"I can get on very well with them," thought Norman, as he eyed them. "They will be more fit companions than that stupid little Robby."
The party proceeded up the glen by the margin of a narrow deep stream. So close were the two sides of the glen that the branches of the trees which grew on them appeared almost to join overhead, and formed a thick shade.
After proceeding some way, the glen again opened out, and they found that they had reached the end of another loch, which extended as far as the eye could reach, while their ears were saluted by the rushing and roaring sound of a cataract which came from the heights above them, and fell dashing and splashing over the rocks, now concealed by the thick foliage now appearing full in view.
Stopping to admire the romantic scene—the calm loch, the murmuring stream, the roaring waterfall, the wild rocks with trees growing amidst them, and the lofty hills rising in many varied shapes on every side, still higher peaks towering to the sky, the party began to ascend a path which led to the spot where the picnic was to be held. It was a green knoll on the mountain side, close to which an off-shoot of the great waterfall bubbled and sparkled by, while the trees which grew on one side afforded a sufficient shade from the sun's rays. The number of rocks which had fallen from the mountains above supplied seats of every shape, to suit the taste of those who chose to occupy them.
From the knoll a still better view than below, of the waterfall and the surrounding scenery, was obtained, and everybody agreed that it was the most perfect place for a picnic imaginable. Fanny and her young friends were delighted, and while the servants brought up the hampers, and some of the party were spreading the cloth, they employed themselves in conveying jugs of water from the bright stream which flowed by.
As many of the party had come from a considerable distance, it was settled that dinner should be the first thing attended to, though some of the young ladies directly after their arrival had got out their sketch-books, and would have preferred finishing their sketches first. Fanny, who had observed the rapid way in which they conveyed the scenery to their paper, wished that she could sketch also. Her granny promised that she should have lessons as soon as she returned home.
"Oh, how much I shall like it, and I think I shall remember this scene so well that I shall be able to put it down on paper as soon as I have learned to draw," she exclaimed.
One of the young ladies lent her a book. To her surprise, by following the guidance of her instructress, she found that she could already make a sketch which would remind her of the scene.
The picnic dinner was exactly as Fanny had expected it to be. There was the facetious old gentleman—a neighbouring laird noted for his jokes,— and he did not fail to keep the company in fits of laughter, and there were young ladies and young gentlemen and middle-aged gentlemen, who told stories and sang songs.
The laird of Glen Tulloch had in the meantime despatched Alec Morrison to bring down a boat which was kept further up the loch, that those of the party who wished it might enjoy a row.
Norman and his young friends after eating as many of the good things as they wanted, not caring for the jokes or the conversation, strolled away to enjoy a scramble among the rocks. They were not observed, or they would have been warned of the danger they were running.
Little Robby had been waiting patiently to obtain his share of the feast with the servants. When he saw them go, he followed, for he had been told by his grandfather to take care and not get among the slippery rocks. Young as he was, it occurred to him that if it would be dangerous for him, it would be equally so for the young gentlemen.
"What are you coming after us for, you little brat?" exclaimed Norman, as turning round he caught sight of Robby. "Go back and stay with the servants."
"Please, grandfather said any one going climbing among those rocks, would run the chance of slipping and being carried into the loch," answered Robby, not feeling angry at the rude way Norman had spoken to him.
"What is it to me what your grandfather says?" answered Norman, who wished to show his independence before his older companions. "Don't you be coming after us, we don't want your company."
"We had better take care where we go, though," observed one of the boys, who was wiser than the rest.
"It would be an ugly thing to tumble into that boiling stream, and be carried off to the loch."
"Oh, nonsense," exclaimed Norman, "I am not afraid, I am going to shoot tigers when I go back to India. I shall have to go into wild places to get at them. I have a fancy for climbing up those rocks to see how high I can get. Who will follow?"
"Oh, do not go, do not go, young gentleman," cried Robby, who saw the danger they were running. "You may slip and break your legs, or be drowned if you fall into the water."
The boys disregarded his warnings, and Norman eager to show his bravery began to climb the rocks. They made one ascent, and perhaps influenced by Robby's warning, took sufficient care to escape an accident, and all descended again in safety very nearly to the edge of the loch.
"He did not do any great thing after all," observed one of the boys. "I thought, Vallery, you were going up to the top."
"So I will, if you will follow me," answered Norman.
"You will be frightened, before you are half way up," cried another.
"You dare not do it," said a third.
"Big as you all are, I will dare anything you can do," exclaimed Norman proudly, and he began to reascend the rocks.
"Oh, pray do not," cried Robby, who notwithstanding the order he had received to be off, still kept near. "You will be tumbling down, I know you will."
The other boys followed Norman, most of them keeping in a safer direction away from the waterfall.
Robby was running off to call some of the servants, who might he thought stop the young gentlemen better than he could, when at that instant he saw his grandfather pulling down the loch and close to the mouth of the stream formed by the waterfall. Just as he was beckoning to him to make haste that he might land and stop the boys, he heard a cry, and saw Norman slipping down the side of a smooth rock wet with the spray of the waterfall. In vain he shouted to him to hold on to any thing he could grasp. Norman shrieked out with terror, but the sound of the cascade prevented any one but his boyish companions from hearing his words. Horror-struck, they could do nothing to help him. Robby ran up along the stream, but was stopped by the roughness of the ground.
Norman though clinging to a few tufts of grass or small shrubs was unable to regain a footing. He slipped down lower and lower, till he fell with a plunge into the stream. The water was sufficiently deep to prevent him from being hurt by the fall, but the current was strong, and though his head was above the surface, he was unable to resist it, and carried off his legs was borne down the stream.
Robby had a handkerchief tied in a sailor's knot round his neck, and as Norman passed close to the bank, he threw the end to him. Norman grasped it, and held on tightly while Robby kept a firm hold of the other end. But Robby was small, and the stream bore Norman onward. As long as he could, Robby scrambled along the bank, thus keeping Norman above water.
The other boys hurried down the rocks to assist him, but just before the foremost got up to where he was, Robby lost his balance, and falling into the water he and Norman were carried down the stream together.
Old Alec had seen the boys and heard their cries, and guessing that something was wrong, happily at that moment shoved his boat up the mouth of the stream as far as she could go. To throw his grapnel to the shore and to spring overboard was the work of an instant, directly he saw the two young boys floating down towards him. He had them safe in his arms before either of them had lost consciousness, and placing them in the boat he rowed as fast, as he could to the landing-place below the spot where the picnic party were still seated. They, alarmed by the cries of the other boys, one of whom shouted out in his terror that little Vallery was being drowned, started to their feet.
Alec's loud voice which reached them, as he hailed in sailor fashion, "They are here all safe," somewhat reassured them.
Captain Vallery and Mrs Maclean, were the first to get to the boat. They were followed by Fanny and her mamma.
Norman was quickly lifted out of the boat by his papa, who was not till then satisfied that he was really alive. He was at once carried up to the knoll, where a fire had just been lighted. The laird came up directly afterwards with little Robby in his arms, having gleaned from Alec and the other boys exactly what had happened.
"I find, Vallery, that your son owes his life to this little fellow, for had it not been for his judgment and courage, he would have been carried into the loch, before Alec Morrison could have come up to save him," he exclaimed. Captain and Mrs Vallery expressed their gratitude, and as may be supposed, everybody praised little Robby's bravery.
Meantime the boys' wet clothes were stripped off, and they were wrapped up in warm shawls supplied by the ladies. Fanny knelt by her brother's side, almost overcome with her agitation; indeed he was evidently suffering as much from alarm, perhaps, as from the sudden plunge into the cold water.
As none of the Glen Tulloch party could longer enjoy the picnic, a servant was sent on to get their carriages ready, while Captain Vallery carrying Norman, and old Alec his little grandson, they proceeded down the glen that they might get home as soon as possible. The other boys, as may be supposed, wisely amused themselves on safe ground, and it is to be hoped they were properly thankful that they had been preserved from an accident by which their young friend had so nearly lost his life.
Mrs Vallery took her seat in the hinder part of the carriage, and kept Norman in her arms, anxiously watching his face, now flushed, now pale, while the two elder ladies insisted on taking care of little Robby. He, however, appeared to be not all the worse for his wetting. He could not help now and then expressing his thankfulness that the young gentleman had caught hold of his handkerchief in time to avoid being carried into the loch before his grandfather had reached him. He said nothing about himself, nor did he seem to think that he was deserving of any praise.
The laird and Captain Vallery drove towards home as fast as they could, but their anxiety to arrive at the end of their journey made the road appear much longer than it had on coming.
Mrs Maclean wished to carry Robby on with her. To this, however, Alec would not agree.
"No, Mrs Maclean," he answered, "he will do very well with me. I could not rest without him under my roof, and a sailor's son will be none the worse for a ducking." Robby was then lifted out of the carriage, and by his own request placed on the ground.
"Please, Mrs Maclean, may I come over to-morrow to ask how the young gentleman is?" he said looking up. "I will ask God, when I say my prayers to-night, that he may be made well."
"If your grandfather can spare you, we shall be glad to see you," said Mrs Maclean.
"I must thank you for the interest you feel in my little grandson," said Mrs Leslie.
Robby seemed much pleased. As long as the carriages were in sight he stood watching them, and then ran after his grandfather into the cottage.
As soon as the party reached Glen Tulloch, Norman was carried up to bed. It was evident that he was very ill, he had been heated by scrambling about the rocks, and the cold water had given him a sudden chill. Before the next morning he was in a high fever. A doctor was sent for, but some hours elapsed before he arrived. He looked very grave and said that the little boy required the greatest care and watching.
Mrs Leslie and her mamma insisted that Fanny should go to bed, and as she was always obedient, she did as they wished, but she could not go to sleep. All night long she thought of her little brother, and of the danger he was in, and oh! how earnestly she prayed that he might recover.
Either his granny or mamma sat by his bedside throughout the night. He tumbled and tossed, his limbs and his head aching again and again, he saw little birds flitting backwards and forwards in the room.
"Ah! ah! naughty boy, I am Pecksy's brother, you killed him; you know you did!" said one nodding its head, as it perched on the back of a chair, at the end of his bed. Then it flew away, and another came and said, "I am Pecksy's sister, naughty boy, you killed him, you know you did!" and it too nodded its head.
A third and a fourth and a fifth came and chirped in plaintive tones, "Oh, why did you kill our dear little friend? you say you did not kill him; you know you did, you naughty boy!" and so they went on flying backwards and forwards, now concealed in the dark part of the room, and now appearing in the light of the lamp.
In vain Norman tried to raise his voice—he could not even whisper—all he could do was to watch them with his aching eyes as they flitted to and fro. Oh! how he longed to get rid of them. Would they never go away? No; back they came, and twittered in the same mournful strain. "You killed our brother, you killed our friend; you know you did, naughty, naughty boy!"
At length he could bear it no longer, and with a scream he exclaimed, "Oh, put them out of the room—catch them! catch them! take them away! I will be a good boy, indeed I will. I will never do such a thing again."
Though he did not speak very distinctly, his mamma understood his words.
"Take what away, dear? There is nothing in the room—there is nothing to hurt you."
"The birds! the birds! Oh yes, oh yes, the birds, the birds, I see them again," cried Norman, with his eyes wide open, staring into the air.
In vain Mrs Vallery tried to soothe him. He still cried out, "Take the birds away!" He did not even know her.
"Naughty woman, do as I tell you! Don't let the birds come and tease me," he cried out.
Strange as it may seem, he did not once speak of his fall from the rock into the water, or of the danger he had run on that occasion.
Thus the night passed on.
As soon as it was morning, Fanny hurried to her little brother's room. Her grief and pain were very great when she heard him crying out, "Take the birds away, oh, don't let them tease me!"
She sat down on a stool by his bedside.
Her papa soon came, and he and her mamma hung over Norman, anxiously watching him, but though he opened his eyes wide, he did not recognise them.
"Go away, go away, I do not want you," he murmured.
Even when his mamma took his hand and affectionately bent down over him, he gazed at her as if she was a stranger.
Fanny could scarcely restrain her grief to see him thus.
The doctor came back as early as he could, after visiting a patient some miles off. Fanny anxiously waited to hear his report.
"The little fellow may do well, but the fever is not yet at its height, and we shall be able to judge better to-morrow," he said.
"Oh, how dreadful it will be to have to wait all that time," thought Fanny.
She was sent out of the room several times by her mamma, as she could do nothing, and as often stole back again, only feeling at rest when seated by her young brother's bedside.
At last Norman appeared to drop off to sleep, and her granny, who had taken her mamma's place, whispered that she must go out and enjoy some fresh air.
Just as she descended the steps, she saw old Alec and little Robby coming towards the house. Robby darted forward to meet her.
"O Mistress Fanny, how is the young gentleman?" he asked in an eager tone.
"My brother is very, very ill," answered Fanny, unable to restrain her tears.
Robby looked very sad, but his countenance brightened up in a little time as he said—
"Don't cry, young lady, grandfather and I have been praying that God will take care of Master Norman, and make him well—I am sure He will— so don't cry, don't cry."
Fanny dried her tears, for she had the same hope in her heart, remembering that she, too, had been praying, and she knew that God hears children's prayers as well as those of grown people.
She thanked Robby and old Alec very much for coming to inquire for her brother, and asked them to come into the house as she was sure her papa and the laird and Mrs Maclean would like to see them. Her mamma was lying down to rest, and her granny was with Norman she knew, or they would like to see them too. Old Alec, however, declined, saying that he only came to ask after the young master, and that he must be back to attend to his cattle and sheep.
He was going away, when the laird caught sight of him, and insisted on his coming in with Robby. Mrs Maclean loaded Robby with all sorts of things, and Captain Vallery wished to show his gratitude in some substantial way to old Alec and his little grandson, for saving Norman's life.
Alec persisted that neither he nor the child wished for any reward for doing what was simply their duty.
"That is no reason why I should not show my gratitude, and I will consult with the laird how I can best do so," answered the captain.
For many days Norman remained very ill, and every day old Alec and the little boy came to inquire for him.
"Robby will not rest till he has heard how the young master is going on," said his grandfather, "and though I tell him he cannot help him to get well, still he says he must come to ask how he is doing."
Fanny spent every moment that she was allowed to do so in her brother's room.
At length the doctor said that the complaint had taken a favourable turn, and that Norman would soon get well. He looked, however, very pale and thin, and very unlike the strong ruddy boy he had before appeared. Fanny was now allowed to be frequently with him. Their poor mamma, from her constant watching by his bedside, was herself made ill, and even granny required rest and fresh air.
What an active attentive little nurse did Fanny make, and how pleasantly and gently she talked to Norman, telling him all sorts of things which she could think of, to interest him. She daily brought him his meals; he said that he would rather take them from her than from any one else, as the tea and broth and pudding always tasted nicer when she gave them to him.
She had not liked to talk of Robby and Alec for fear of reminding him of Pecksy. One day when she brought him a cup of broth, and he was sitting propped up with pillows, he threw his arms round her neck.
"You dear, kind sister," he said, "how good you are to me, and I have never been good to you; I don't think anybody else would be as kind to me if I had treated them as I have you."
"Oh, but you know I love you, Norman, and though you have been angry sometimes, that should not make me cease to love you. But here, take the broth, and then I will tell you that not only I, but others care for you, and have prayed that you might be made well, whom you have treated rudely and ill."
Norman took the broth and then he asked—
"Who are they who care for me besides mamma and perhaps granny?"
"Of course, granny cares for you very much indeed," said Fanny, who did not like her brother to say that. "And so do others;" and then she told him how day after day old Alec and Robby had come to the house to inquire for him, how grieved Robby had been when he heard that he was ill, and how thankful when he was told that he was recovering.
"That little boy!" exclaimed Norman; "why, I always abused him and scolded him, and now I remember I kicked him in the carriage, and called him names when he ran after me. It was he who threw the end of his handkerchief to me, when I fell into the water. Oh yes! and I pulled him in too, when he was trying to help me, and he might have been drowned. He can only hate me, I should think."
"Far from hating you, he has forgotten entirely how ill you treated him, and has been as anxious as any one about you," said Fanny.
"Oh, I have been a very naughty boy, I will try to be so no more. I know I said that before, but now I will really try to do what I am told, and be kind and gentle to everybody, as granny said I ought to be, and I will pray to God to help me to be so. I before thought that I was going to be good, but I did not pray, I wanted to be good all by myself, and I know that I was very soon as bad as ever."
How thankful Fanny felt when she heard Norman say this; again and again she kissed him, and with joy afterwards told her granny and her mamma what he had said.
From this time Norman rapidly got better, and was soon able to be dressed and go downstairs. Fanny was delighted to draw him about the grounds in the little cart, and in two or three days the doctor thought that he might take a drive in the pony carriage.
"Oh then, let me go and see Robby," he exclaimed. "I want so much to thank him for saving me from being drowned, and for coming to ask about me."
RIGHT AT LAST.
The first fine day after Norman was allowed to go out, the laird kindly undertook to drive him and Fanny and their mamma and granny over to old Alec's cottage. Robby was much delighted to see the young gentleman. Norman, instead of treating him in the haughty way he had before, allowed himself to be led about by the little fellow, who wanted to show him his pet lamb and birds, and a little arbour, with a seat in it, which his grandfather had made for him.
"Robby," said Norman, taking his hand, "I know I was very naughty, and that I treated you very ill, but if you will forgive me and let me be your friend, I shall be very thankful. I do indeed feel ashamed of myself."
Fanny, who overheard this was more than ever satisfied that her brother's heart was really changed.
Robby thanked Norman, and again told him how glad he was that he had got well, and that he would like to be his friend, and help him, and fight for him if needs be, more than anything else.
The children spent a very happy morning, and the drive did Norman much good.
Captain and Mrs Vallery were most anxious to show their gratitude to old Alec and his grandson. Mrs Vallery among other things they proposed doing, sent to the nearest town for some clothes suitable for little Robby. Mrs Maclean drove over with them, that she might tell her guests how their present was received. Robby opened the parcel himself and could scarcely believe that its contents were for him. He had never before, indeed, been so comfortably dressed. He was unable to find words to express his pleasure, but he did his best to say how grateful he felt for the unexpected gifts. Mrs Maclean undertook to see that he was in future well supplied with warm clothing. The laird likewise engaged a big lad to assist Alec in looking after his cattle and sheep, that Robby might be sent to school; and Captain Vallery purchased several animals, which he presented to the old man, observing that as now he had a servant he would be able to tend a larger number than formerly. Mrs Leslie also made him and his grandson several useful presents. Still Norman acknowledged that for his part, he owed them more than he could ever repay.
At length the time came when Mrs Leslie and her daughter and son-in-law, with their children had to return South. The last visit to old Alec and his grandson was paid. They bade farewell to the kind laird and Mrs Maclean.
The carriage drove to the door, and the journey was begun. Among the luggage was a mysterious package—what it contained Fanny was not allowed to know, and if she was curious about it, she so far restrained her curiosity as not to ask questions. Norman, however, seemed to be acquainted with its contents, and lifting up the thick covering placed over it, he was seen to pour in water and seeds from a little parcel of which his papa had charge.
The railway was soon reached, and while at the station, Norman kept strict watch over the mysterious package.
The party spent only one day in Edinburgh when the package was carried at once into Captain Vallery's room.
During the journey from Edinburgh to London, it was placed under charge of the guard, who promised faithfully that no harm should befall it.
How happy Fanny felt, when at length they reached their dear old home with granny quite well, in spite of the fatigue she had undergone, and Norman not only recovered, but evidently so very different to what he had been before. One of his first acts was to run up to Susan to tell her that he hoped she would find him a good boy. Trusty, who came out barking with delight, sprang up to lick the hand of everybody else, but carefully avoided Norman. Norman, however, called to him in a gentle voice, and when he came up patted his head and stroked his back, and Trusty wagged his tail as much as to say, "I am glad you are not afraid of me, and I hope we shall be good friends in future." Such they became, and many a romp had Trusty with the young gentleman.
Fanny on going to her room, found Nancy in her doll's house ready to welcome her, and turning round what should she see but Miss Lucy, looking bright and fresh, with a low frock such as she wore when she first arrived. There were no marks on her neck, no disfiguring blotches on her face. If she was not the original Miss Lucy, she was so exactly like her that she must be, Fanny thought, her twin sister.
"Oh how very kind," exclaimed Fanny, "I need have no fear now of leaving Miss Lucy by herself either in the drawing-room or elsewhere."
After talking to her for some time, and introducing her to Nancy she ran downstairs, eager to thank her papa and mamma and granny, or whoever had obtained a new Miss Lucy for her.
No one was in the drawing-room, but a minute afterwards Norman came in, carrying in his hand a gaily-painted bird-cage, with a beautiful little bird inside. The bird-cage was exactly the size of the mysterious package.
"There, dear Fanny," he said, "we have brought it all the way from Glen Tulloch. I bought it with some money which papa gave me to do what I liked with. But I was afraid it might die on the journey, so I did not like to offer it you till arrived safely here. Will you take it, dear Fanny, and call it Pecksy? I hope it will be a happier little Pecksy than the last."
For a moment Norman hung down his head, and then he looked up with a beaming smile as Fanny kissed him, and thanked him again and again for his gift.
Norman then begged Fanny to come up to her room, and he there pointed out a hook which had been placed in the wall on which she might hang her bird-cage and reach it without difficulty, though too far off the ground for Trusty to frighten it, or for Kitty, the cat, even by exerting her utmost agility to reach it.
Fanny thought herself the happiest little girl in existence.
She showed Norman the new Miss Lucy, whose appearance astonished him even more than it had Fanny.
Norman spent some happy weeks at home, and Mrs Norton expressed herself much pleased at the progress he made. The time then came for him to go to school, and after he had been there for some time, the master wrote word that he was among the most attentive and obedient of his pupils, and that he had not a word of complaint to make of him. All his friends felt very happy on receiving this information, and Fanny looked forward with delight for his return home for the holidays.
He maintained his character, and though it cannot be said he has no faults, he undoubtedly does his best to overcome them, and I shall be very glad if all the young readers of this tale, will endeavour to do the same—trusting to the same help which he sought and obtained.