Part 2 out of 2
_his_ allowance, and kept no charity bag at all? Lastly would "that
old curmudgeon at the Dovecot" let his little farm-boy go to church and
school and choir?
"I must go and persuade him," said the young lady.
What she said, and what (at the time) Daddy Darwin said, Jack never
knew. He was at high sport with the terrier round the big sweet-brier
bush, when he saw his old master slitting the seams of his
weather-beaten coat in the haste with which he plucked crimson clove
carnations as if they had been dandelions, and presented them, not
ungracefully, to the parson's daughter.
Jack knew why she had come, and strained his ears to catch his own name.
But Daddy Darwin was promising pipings of the cloves.
"They are such dear old-fashioned things," said she, burying her nose in
"We're old-fashioned altogether, here, Miss," said Daddy Darwin, looking
wistfully at the tumble-down house behind them.
"You're very pretty here," said she, looking also, and thinking what a
sketch it would make, if she could keep on friendly terms with this old
recluse, and get leave to sit in the garden. Then her conscience smiting
her for selfishness, she turned her big eyes on him and put out her
"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Darwin, very much obliged to you
indeed. And I hope that Jack will do credit to your kindness. And thank
you so much for the cloves," she added, hastily changing a subject which
had cost some argument, and which she did not wish to have reopened.
Daddy Darwin had thoughts of reopening it. He was slowly getting his
ideas together to say that the lad should see how he got along with the
school before trying the choir, when he found the young lady's hand in
his, and had to take care not to hurt it, whilst she rained thanks on
him for the flowers.
"You're freely welcome, Miss," was what he did say after all.
In the evening, however, he was very moody, but Jack was dying of
curiosity, and at last could contain himself no longer.
"What did Miss Jenny want, Daddy?" he asked.
The old man looked very grim.
"First to make a fool of me, and i' t' second place to make a fool of
thee," was his reply. And he added with pettish emphasis, "They're all
alike, gentle and simple. Lad, lad! If ye'd have any peace of your life
never let a woman's foot across your threshold. Steek t' door of your
house--if ye own one--and t' door o' your heart--if ye own one--and then
ye'll never rue. Look at this coat!"
And the old man went grumpily to bed, and dreamed that Miss Jenny had
put her little foot over his threshold, and that he had shown her the
secret panel, and let her take away his savings.
And Jack went to bed, and dreamed that he went to school, and showed
himself to Phoebe Shaw in his Sunday suit.
This dainty little damsel had long been making havoc in Jack's heart.
The attraction must have been one of contrast, for whereas Jack was
black and grubby, and had only week-day clothes--which were ragged at
that--Phoebe was fair, and exquisitely clean, and quite terribly tidy.
Her mother was the neatest woman in the parish. It was she who was wont
to say to her trembling handmaid, "I hope I can black a grate without
blacking myself." But little Phoebe promised so far to out-do her
mother, that it seemed doubtful if she could "black herself" if she
tried. Only the bloom of childhood could have resisted the polishing
effects of yellow soap, as Phoebe's brow and cheeks did resist it. Her
shining hair was--compressed into a plait that would have done credit to
a rope-maker. Her pinafores were speckless, and as to her white Whitsun
frock--Jack could think of nothing the least like Phoebe in that, except
a snowy fantail strutting about the Dovecot roof; and, to say the truth,
the likeness was most remarkable.
It has been shown that Jack March had a mind to be master of his fate,
and he did succeed in making friends with little Phoebe Shaw. This was
before Miss Jenny's visit, but the incident shall be recorded here.
Early on Sunday mornings it was Jack's custom to hide his work-day garb
in an angle of the ivy-covered wall of the Dovecot garden, only letting
his head appear over the top, from whence he watched to see Phoebe pass
on her way to Sunday School, and to bewilder himself with the sight of
her starched frock, and her airs with her Bible and Prayer-book, and
class card, and clean pocket-handkerchief.
Now, amongst the rest of her Sunday paraphernalia, Phoebe always carried
a posy, made up with herbs and some strong smelling flowers.
Countrywomen take mint and southernwood to a long hot service, as fine
ladies take smelling-bottles (for it is a pleasant delusion with some
writers that the weaker sex is a strong sex in the working classes). And
though Phoebe did not suffer from "fainty feels" like her mother, she
and her little playmates took posies to Sunday School, and refreshed
their nerves in the stream of question and answer, and hair oil and
corduroy, with all the airs of their elders.
One day she lost her posy on her way to school, and her loss was Jack's
opportunity. He had been waiting half-an-hour among the ivy, when he saw
her just below him, fuzzling round and round like a kitten chasing
its tail. He sprang to the top of the wall.
"Have ye lost something?" he gasped.
"My posy," said poor Phoebe, lifting her sweet eyes, which were full of
A second spring brought Jack into the dust at her feet, where he
searched most faithfully, and was wandering along the path by which she
had come, when she called him back.
"Never mind," she said. "They'll most likely be dusty by now."
Jack was not used to think the worse of anything for a coating of dust;
but he paused, trying to solve the perpetual problem of his situation,
and find out what the little maid really wanted.
"'Twas only Old Man and marygolds," said she. "They're common enough."
A light illumined Jack's understanding.
"We've Old Man i' plenty. Wait, and I'll get thee a fresh posy." And he
began to reclimb the wall.
But Phoebe drew nearer. She stroked down her frock, and spoke mincingly
but confidentially. "My mother says Daddy Darwin has red bergamot i' his
garden. We've none i' ours. My mother always says there's nothing like
red bergamot to take to church. She says it's a deal more refreshing
than Old Man, and not so common. My mother says she's always meaning to
ask Daddy Darwin to let us have a root to set; but she doesn't often see
him, and when she does she doesn't think on. But she always says there's
nothing like red bergamot, and my Aunt Nancy, she says the same."
"_Red_ is it?" cried Jack. "You wait there, love." And before
Phoebe could say him nay, he .was over the wall and back again with his
"Is it any o' this lot?" he inquired, dropping a small haycock of
flowers at her feet.
"Don't ye know one from t'other?" asked Phoebe, with round eyes of
reproach. And spreading her clean kerchief on the grass she laid her
Bible and Prayer-book and class card on it, and set vigorously and
nattily to work, picking one flower and another from the fragrant
confusion, nipping the stalks to even lengths, rejecting withered
leaves, and instructing Jack as she proceeded.
"I suppose ye know a rose? That's a double velvet. [Footnote: Double
velvet, an old summer rose, not common now It is described by
Parkinson.] They dry sweeter than lavender for linen. These dark red
things is pheasants' eyes; but, dear, dear, what a lad! Ye'd dragged it
up by the roots! And eh! what will Master Darwin say when he misses
these pink hollyhocks And only in bud, too! _There's_ red Bergamot:
smell it!" [Footnote: Red Bergamot, or Twinflower; _Monarda
It had barely touched Jack's willing nose when it was hastily withdrawn.
Phoebe had caught eight of Polly and Susan Smith coming to school, and
crying that she should be late and must run, the little maid picked up
her paraphernalia (not forgetting the red bergamot), and fled down the
lane. And Jack, with equal haste, snatched up the tell-tale heap of
flowers and threw them into a disused pig-sty, where it was unlikely
that Daddy Darwin would go to look for his poor pink hollyhocks.
April was a busy month in the Dovecot. Young birds were chipping the
egg, parent birds were feeding their young or relieving each other on
the nest, and Jack and his master were constantly occupied and excited.
One night Daddy Darwin went to bed; but, though he was tired, he did not
sleep long. He had sold a couple of handsome but quarrelsome pigeons, to
advantage, and had added their price to the hoard in the bed-head. This
had renewed his old fears, for the store was becoming very valuable; and
he wondered if it had really escaped Jack's quick observation, or
whether the boy knew about it, and, perhaps, talked about it. As he lay
and worried himself he fancied he heard sounds without--the sound of
footsteps and of voices. Then his heart beat till he could hear nothing
else; then he could undoubtedly hear nothing at all; then he certainly
heard something which probably was rats. And so he lay in a cold sweat,
and pulled the rug over his face, and made up his mind to give the money
to the parson, for the poor, if he was spared till daylight.
He _was_ spared till daylight, and had recovered himself, and
settled to leave the money where it was, when Jack rushed in from the
pigeon-house with a face of dire dismay. He made one or two futile
efforts to speak, and then unconsciously used the words Shakespeare has
put into the mouth of Macduff, "All my pretty 'uns!" and so burst into
And when the old man made his way to the pigeon-house, followed by poor
Jack, he found that the eggs were cold and the callow young shivering in
deserted nests, and that every bird was gone. And then he remembered the
robbers, and was maddened by the thought that whilst he lay expecting
thieves to break in and steal his money he had let them get safely off
with his whole stock of pigeons.
Daddy Darwin had never taken up arms against his troubles, and this one
The fame and beauty of his house-doves were all that was left of
prosperity about the place, and now there was nothing left--
_nothing_! Below this dreary thought lay a far more bitter one,
which he dared not confide to Jack. He had heard the robbers; he
might have frightened them away; he might at least have given the lad a
chance to save his pets, and not a care had crossed his mind except for
the safety of his own old bones, and of those miserable savings in the
bed-head, which he was enduring so much to scrape together (oh satire!)
for a distant connection whom he had never seen. He crept back to the
kitchen, and dropped in a heap upon the settle, and muttered to himself.
Then his thoughts wandered. Supposing the pigeons were gone for good,
would he ever make up his mind to take that money out of the money-hole,
and buy a fresh stock? He knew he never would, and shrank into a meaner
heap upon the settle as he said so to himself. He did not like to look
his faithful lad in the face.
Jack looked him in the face, and, finding no help there, acted pretty
promptly behind his back. He roused the parish constable, and fetched
that functionary to the Dovecot before he had had bite or sup to break
his fast. He spread a meal for him and Daddy, and borrowed the Shaws'
light cart whilst they were eating it. The Shaws were good farmer-folk,
they sympathized most fully; and Jack was glad of a few words of pity
from Phoebe. She said she had watched the pretty pets "many a score of
times," which comforted more than one of Jack's heartstrings. Phoebe's
mother paid respect to his sense and promptitude. He had acted exactly
as she would have done.
"Daddy was right enough about yon lad," she admitted. "He's not one to
let the grass grow under his feet."
And she gave him a good breakfast whilst the horse was being "put to."
It pleased her that Jack jumped up and left half a delicious cold
tea-cake behind him when the cart-wheels grated outside. Mrs. Shaw sent
Phoebe to put the cake in his pocket, and "the Measter" helped Jack in
and took the reins. He said he would "see Daddy Darwin through it," and
added the weight of his opinion to that of the constable, that the
pigeons had been taken to "a beastly low place" (as he put it) that had
lately been set up for pigeon-shooting in the outskirts of the
They paused no longer at the Dovecot than was needed to hustle Daddy
Darwin on to the seat beside Master Shaw, and for Jack to fill his
pockets with peas, and take his place beside the constable. He had
certain ideas of his own on the matter, which were not confused by the
jogtrot of the light cart, which did give a final jumble to poor Daddy
No wonder they were jumbled! The terrors of the night past, the shock of
the morning, the completeness of the loss, the piteous sight in the
pigeon-house, remorseful shame, and then--after all these years, during
which he had not gone half a mile from his own hearthstone--to be set up
for all the world to see, on the front seat of a market-cart, back to
back with the parish constable, and jogged off as if miles were nothing,
and crowded streets were nothing, and the Beaulieu Gardens were nothing;
Master Shaw talking away as easily as if they were sitting in two
armchairs, and making no more of "stepping into" a lawyer's office, and
"going on" to the Town Hall, than if he were talking of stepping up to
his own bedchamber or going out into the garden!
That day passed like a dream, and Daddy Darwin remembered what happened
in it as one remembers visions of the night.
He had a vision (a very unpleasing vision) of the proprietor of the
Beaulieu Gardens, a big greasy man, with sinister eyes very close
together, and a hook nose, and a heavy watch chain, and a bullying
voice. He browbeat the constable very soon, and even bullied Master Shaw
into silence. No help was to be had from him in his loud indignation at
being supposed to traffic with thieves.
When he turned the tables by talking of slander, loss of time, and
compensation, Daddy Darwin smelt money, and tremblingly whispered to
Master Shaw to apologize and get out of it. "They're gone for good," he
almost sobbed: "Gone for good, like all t' rest! And I'll not be long
But even as he spoke he heard a sound which made him lift up his head.
It was Jack's call at feeding-time to the pigeons at the Dovecot. And
quick following on this most musical and most familiar sound there came
another. The old man put both his lean hands behind his ears to be sure
that he heard it aright--the sound of wings--the wings of a dove!
The other men heard it and ran in. Whilst they were wrangling, Jack had
slipped past them, and had made his way into a weird enclosure in front
of the pigeon-house. And there they found him, with all the captive
pigeons coming to his call; flying, fluttering, strutting, nestling from
head to foot of him, he scattering peas like hail.
He was the first to speak, and not a choke in his voice. His iron
temperament was at white heat, and, as he afterwards said, he "cared no
more for yon dirty chap wi' the big nose, nor if he were a _ratten_
[Footnote: _Anglice_ Rat.] in a hay-loft!"
"These is ours," he said, shortly. "I'll count 'em over, and see if
they're right. There was only one young 'un that could fly. A white
'un." ("It's here," interpolated Master Shaw.) "I'll pack 'em i' yon,"
and Jack turned his thumb to a heap of hampers in a corner. "T' carrier
can leave t' baskets at t' toll-bar next Saturday, and ye may send your
lad for 'em, if ye keep one."
The proprietor of the Beaulieu Gardens was not a man easily abashed, but
most of the pigeons were packed before he had fairly resumed his
previous powers of speech. Then, as Master Shaw said, he talked "on the
other side of his mouth." Most willing was he to help to bring to
justice the scoundrels who had deceived him and robbed Mr. Darwin, but
he feared they would be difficult to trace. His own feeling was that of
wishing for pleasantness among neighbors. The pigeons had been found at
the Gardens. That was enough. He would be glad to settle the business
out of court.
Daddy Darwin heard the chink of the dirty man's money, and would have
compounded the matter then and there. But not so the parish constable,
who saw himself famous; and not so Jack, who turned eyes of smouldering
fire on Master Shaw.
"Maester Shaw! you'll not let them chaps get off? Daddy's mazelin' wi'
trouble, sir, but I reckon you'll see to it."
"If it costs t' worth of the pigeons ten times over, I'll see to it, my
lad," was Master Shaw's reply. And the parish constable rose even to a
vein of satire as he avenged himself of the man who had slighted his
office. "Settle it out of court? Aye! I dare say. And send t' same chaps
to fetch 'em away again t' night after. Nay--bear a hand with this
hamper, Maester Shaw, if you please--if it's all t' same to you, Mr.
Proprietor, I think we shall have to trouble you to step up to t' Town
Hall by-and-by, and see if we can't get shut of them mistaking friends
o' yours for three months any way."
If that day was a trying one to Daddy Darwin the night that followed it
was far worse. The thieves were known to the police, and the case was
down to come on at the Town Hall the following morning; but meanwhile
the constable thought fit to keep the pigeons under his own charge in
the village lock-up. Jack refused to be parted from his birds, and
remained with them, leaving Daddy Darwin alone in the Dovecot. He dared
not go to bed, and it was not a pleasant night that he spent, dozing
with weariness, and starting up with fright, in an arm-chair facing the
Some things that he had been nervous about he got quite used to,
however. He bore himself with sufficient dignity in the publicity of the
Town Hall, where a great sensation was created by the pigeons being let
loose without, and coming to Jack's call. Some of them fed from the
boy's lips, and he was the hero of the hour, to Daddy Darwin's delight.
Then the lawyer and the lawyer's office proved genial and comfortable to
him. He liked civil ways and smooth speech, and understood them far
better than Master Shaw's brevity and uncouthness. The lawyer chatted
kindly and intelligently; he gave Daddy Darwin wine and biscuit, and
talked of the long standing of the Darwin family and its vicissitudes;
he even took down some fat yellow books, and showed the old man how many
curious laws had been made from time to time for the special protection
of pigeons in Dovecots, very ancient statutes making the killing of a
house-dove felony. Then 1 James I. c. 29 awarded three months'
imprisonment "without bail or main price" to any person who should
"shoot at, kill, or destroy with any gun, crossbow, stone-bow, or
longbow, any house-dove or pigeon;" but allowed an alternative fine of
twenty shillings to be paid to the churchwardens of the parish for the
benefit of the poor. Daddy Darwin hoped there was no such alternative in
this case, and it proved that by 2 Geo. III. c. 29, the twenty-shilling
fine was transferred to the owner of birds; at which point another
client called, and the polite lawyer left Daddy to study the laws by
It was when Jack as helping Master Shaw to put the horse into the cart,
after the trial was over, that the farmer said to him, "I don't want to
put you about, my lad, but I'm afraid you won't keep your master long.
T'old gentleman's breaking up, mark my words! Constable and me was going
into the _George_ for a glass, and Master Darwin left us and went
back to the office. I says, 'What are ye going back to t' lawyer for?'
and he says, 'I don't mind telling you, Master Shaw, but it's to make my
will.' And off he goes. Now, there's only two more things between that
and death, Jack March! And one's the parson, and t' other's the doctor."
Little Phoebe Shaw coming out of the day school, and picking her way
home to tea, was startled by folk running past her, and by a sound of
cheering from the far end of the village, which gradually increased in
volume, and was caught up by the bystanders as they ran. When Phoebe
heard that it was "Constable, and Master Shaw, and Daddy Darwin and his
lad, coming home, and the pigeons along wi' 'em," she felt inclined to
run too; but a fit of shyness came over her, and she demurely decided to
wait by the school-gate till they came her way. They did not come. They
stopped. What were they doing? Another bystander explained, "They're
shaking hands wi' Daddy, and I reckon they're making him put up t' birds
here, to see 'em go home to t' Dovecot."
Phoebe ran as if for her life. She loved beast and bird as well as Jack
himself, and the fame of Daddy Darwin's doves was great. To see them put
up by him to fly home after such an adventure was a sight not lightly to
The crowd had moved to a hillock in a neighboring field before she
touched its outskirts. By that time it pretty well numbered the
population of the village, from the oldest inhabitant to the youngest
that could run. Phoebe had her mother's courage and resource. Chirping
out feebly but clearly, "I'm Maester Shaw's little lass, will ye let me
through?" she was passed from hand to hand, till her little fingers
found themselves in Jack's tight clasp, and he fairly lifted her to her
She was just in time. Some of the birds had hung about Jack, nervous, or
expecting peas; but the hesitation was past. Free in the sweet
sunshine--beating down the evening air with silver wings and their
feathers like gold--ignorant of cold eggs and callow young dead in
deserted nests--sped on their way by such a roar as rarely shook the
village in its body corporate--they flew straight home--to Daddy
Daddy Darwin lived a good many years after making his will, and the
Dovecot prospered in his hands.
It would be more just to say that it prospered in the hands of Jack
By hook and by crook he increased the live stock about the place. Folk
were kind to one who had set so excellent an example to other farm lads,
though he lacked the primal virtue of belonging to the neighborhood. He
bartered pigeons for fowls, and some one gave him a sitting of eggs to
"see what he would make of 'em." Master Shaw gave him a little pig, with
kind words and good counsel; and Jack cleaned out the disused pigstys,
which were never disused again. He scrubbed his pigs with soap and water
as if they had been Christians, and the admirable animals regardless of
the pork they were coming to, did him infinite credit, and brought him a
profit into the bargain, which he spent on ducks' eggs, and other
additions to his farmyard family.
The Shaws were very kind to him; and if Mrs. Shaw's secrets must be
told, it was because Phoebe was so unchangeably and increasingly kind to
him, that she sent the pretty maid (who had a knack of knowing her own
mind about things) to service.
Jack March was a handsome, stalwart youth now, of irreproachable
conduct, and with qualities which Mrs. Shaw particularly prized; but he
was but a farm-lad, and no match for her daughter.
Jack only saw his sweetheart once during several years She had not been
well, and was at home for the benefit of "native air." He walked over
the hill with her as they returned from church, and lived on the
remembrance of that walk for two or three years more. Phoebe had given
him her Prayer-book to carry, and he had found a dead flower in it, and
had been jealous. She had asked if he knew what it was, and he had
replied fiercely that he did not, and was not sure that he cared to
"Ye never did know much about flowers," said Phoebe, demurely, "it's red
"I love--red bergamot," he whispered penitently. "And thou owes me a
bit. I gave thee some once." And Phoebe had let him put the withered
bits into his own hymn-book, which was more than he deserved.
Jack was still in the choir, and taught in the Sunday School where he
used to learn. The parson's daughter had had her own way; Daddy Darwin
grumbled at first, but in the end he got a bottle-green Sunday-coat out
of the oak-press that matched the bedstead, and put the house-key into
his pocket, and went to church too. Now, for years past he had not
failed to take his place, week by week, in the pew that was
traditionally appropriated to the use of the Darwins of Dovecot. In such
an hour the sordid cares of the secret panel weighed less heavily on his
soul, and the things that are not seen came nearer--the house not made
with hands, the treasures that rust and moth corrupt not, and which
thieves do not break through to steal.
Daddy Darwin died of old age. As his health failed, Jack nursed him with
the tenderness of a woman; and kind inquiries, and dainties which Jack
could not have cooked, came in from many quarters where it pleased the
old man to find that he was held in respect and remembrance.
One afternoon, coming in from the farmyard, Jack found him sitting by
the kitchen-table as he lad left him, but with a dread look of change
upon his face. At first he feared there had been "a stroke," but Daddy
Darwin's mind was clear and his voice firmer than usual.
"My lad," he said, "fetch me yon tea-pot out of the corner cupboard. T'
one wi' a pole-house [Footnote: A _pole-house_ is a small dovecot
on the top of a pole.] painted on it, and some letters. Take care how ye
shift it. It were t' merry feast-pot [Footnote: "Merry feast-pot" is a
name given to old pieces of ware, made in local potteries for local
festivals.] at my christening, and yon's t' letters of my father's and
mother's names. Take off t' lid. There's two bits of paper in the
Jack did as he was bid, and laid the papers (one small and yellow with
age, the other bigger, and blue, and neatly written upon) at his
master's right hand.
"Read yon," said the old man, pushing the small one towards him. Jack
took it up wondering. It was the letter he had written from the
workhouse fifteen years before. That was all he could see. The past
surged up too thickly before his eyes, and tossing it impetuously from
him, he dropped on a chair by the table, and snatching Daddy Darwin's
hands he held them to his face with tears.
"GOD bless thee!" he sobbed. "You've been a good maester to me!"
"_Daddy_," wheezed the old man. "_Daddy_, not maester." And
drawing his right hand away, he laid it solemnly on the young man's
head. "GOD bless _thee_, and reward thee. What have I done i' my
feckless life to deserve a son? But if ever a lad earned a father and a
home, thou hast earned 'em, Jack March."
He moved his hand again and laid it trembling on the paper.
"Every word i' this letter ye've made good. Every word, even to t' bit
at the end. 'I love them tumblers as if they were my own,' says you.
Lift thee head, lad, and look at me. _They are thy own!_... Yon
blue paper's my last will and testament, made many a year back by Mr.
Brown, of Green Street, Solicitor, and a very nice gentleman too; and
witnessed by his clerks, two decent young chaps, and civil enough, but
with too much watchchain for their situation. Jack March, my son, I have
left thee maester of Dovecot and all that I have. And there's a bit of
money in t' bed-head that'll help thee to make a fair start, and to bury
me decently atop of my father and mother. Ye may let Bill Sexton toll an
hour-bell for me, for I'm a old standard, if I never were good for much.
Maybe I might ha' done better if things had happened in a different
fashion; but the Lord knows all. I'd like a hymn at the grave, Jack, if
the Vicar has no objections, and do thou sing if thee can. Don't fret,
my son, thou'fet no cause. Twas that sweet voice o' thine took me back
again to public worship, and it's not t' least of all I owe thee, Jack
March. A poor reason lad, for taking up with a neglected duty--a poor
reason--but the Lord is a GOD of mercy, or there'd be small chance for
most on us. If Miss Jenny and her husband come to t' Vicarage this
summer, say I left her my duty and an old man's blessing; and if she
wants any roots out of t' garden, give 'em her, and give her yon old
chest that stands in the back chamber. It belonged to an uncle of my
mother's--a Derbyshire man. They say her husband's a rich gentleman, and
treats her very well. I reckon she may have what she's a mind, new and
polished, but she's always for old lumber. They're a whimsical lot,
gentle and simple. A talking of _women_, Jack, I've a word to say,
if I can fetch my breath to say it. Lad! as sure as you're maester of
Dovecot, you'll give it a missus. Now take heed to me. If ye fetch any
woman home here but Phoebe Shaw, I'll _walk_, and scare ye away
from t' old place. I'm willing for Phoebe, and I charge ye to tell the
lass so hereafter. And tell her it's not because she's fair--too many on
'em are that; and not because she's thrifty and houseproud--her mother's
that, and she's no favorite of mine; but because I've watched her
whenever t' ould cat 's let her be at home, and it's my belief that she
loves ye, knowing nought of _this_" (he laid his hand upon the
will), "and that she'll stick to ye, choose what her folks may say. Aye,
aye, she's not one of t' sort that quits a falling house--_like
Language fails to convey the bitterness which the old man put into these
last two words. It exhausted him, and his mind wandered. When he had to
some extent recovered himself he spoke again, but very feebly.
"Tak' my duty to the Vicar, lad, Daddy Darwin's duty, and say he's at t'
last feather of the shuttle, and would be thankful for the Sacrament."
The Parson had come and gone. Daddy Darwin did not care to lie down, he
breathed with difficulty; so Jack made him easy in a big armchair, and
raked up the fire with cinders, and took a chair on the other side of
the hearth to watch with him. The old man slept comfortably and at last,
much wearied, the young man dozed also.
He awoke because Daddy Darwin moved, but for a moment he thought he must
be dreaming. So erect the old man stood, and with such delight in his
wide-open eyes. They were looking over Jack's head.
All that the lad had never seen upon his face seemed to have come back
to it--youth, hope, resolution, tenderness. His lips were trembling with
the smile of acutest joy.
Suddenly he stretched out his arms, and crying, "Alice!" started forward
and fell--dead--on the breast of his adopted son.
* * * * *
Craw! Craw! Craw! The crows flapped slowly home, and the Gaffers moved
off too. The sun was down, and "damps" are bad for "rheumatics."
"It's a strange tale," said Gaffer II., "but if all's true ye tell me,
there's not too many like him."
"That's right enough," Gaffer I. admitted. "He's been t' same all
through, and ye should ha' seen the burying he gave t' old chap. He was
rare and good to him by all accounts, and never gainsaid him ought,
except i' not lifting his voice as he should ha' done at t' grave. Jacks
sings a bass solo as well as any man i' t' place, but he stood yonder,
for all t' world like one of them crows, black o' visage, and black wi'
funeral clothes, and choked with crying like a child i'stead of a man."
"Well, well, t' old chap were all he had, I reckon," said Gaffer II.
"_That's_ right enough; and for going backwards, as ye may say, and
setting a wild graff on an old standard, yon will's done well for DADDY
THE BLIND MAN AND THE TALKING DOG.
There was once an old man whom Fortune (whose own eyes are bandaged) had
deprived of his sight. She had taken his hearing also, so that he was
deaf. Poor he had always been, and as Time had stolen his youth and
strength from him, they had only left a light burden for Death to carry
when he should come the old man's way.
But Love (who is blind also) had given the Blind Man a Dog, who led him
out in the morning to a seat in the sun under the crab-tree, and held
his hat for wayside alms, and brought him safely home at sunset.
The Dog was wise and faithful--as dogs often are--but the wonder of him
was that he could talk. In which will be seen the difference between
dogs and men, most of whom can talk; whilst it is a matter for
admiration if they are wise and faithful.
One day the Mayor's little son came down the road, and by the hand he
held his playmate Aldegunda.
"Give the poor Blind Man a penny," said she.
"You are always wanting me to give away my money," replied the boy
peevishly. "It is well that my father is the richest man in the town,
and that I have a whole silver crown yet in my pocket."
But he put the penny into the hat which the Dog held out, and the Dog
gave it to his master.
"Heaven bless you," said the Blind Man.
"Amen," said the Dog.
"Aldegunda! Aldegunda!" cried the boy, dancing with delight. "Here is a
dog who can talk. I would give my silver crown for him. Old man, I say,
old man! Will you sell me your dog for a silver crown?"
"My master is deaf as well as blind," said the Dog.
"What a miserable old creature he must be," said the boy
"Men do not smile when they are miserable, do they?" said the Dog; "and
my master smiles sometimes--when the sun warms right through our coats
to our bones; when he feels the hat shake against his knee as the
pennies drop in; and when I lick his hand."
"But for all that, he is a poor wretched old beggar, in want of
everything," persisted the boy. "Now I am the Mayor's only son, and he
is the richest man in the town. Come and live with me, and I will give
the Blind Man my silver crown. I should be perfectly happy if I had a
talking dog of my own."
"It is worth thinking of," said the Dog. "I should certainly like a
master who was perfectly happy. You are sure that there is nothing else
that you wish for?"
"I wish I were a man," replied the boy. "To do exactly as I chose, and
have plenty of money to spend, and holidays all the year round."
"That sounds well," said the Dog. "Perhaps I had better wait till you
grow up. There is nothing else that you want, I suppose?"
"I want a horse," said the boy, "a real black charger. My father ought
to know that I am too old for a hobby-horse. It vexes me to look at it."
"I must wait for the charger, I see," said the Dog. "Nothing vexes you
but the hobby-horse, I hope?"
"Aldegunda vexes me more than anything," answered the boy, with an
aggrieved air; "and it's very hard when I am so fond of her. She always
tumbles down when we run races, her legs are so short. It's her birthday
to-day, but she toddles as badly as she did yesterday, though she's a
"She will have learned to run by the time that you are a man," said the
Dog. "So nice a little lady can give you no other cause of annoyance, I
The boy frowned.
"She is always wanting something. She wants something now, I see. What
do you want, Aldegunda?"
"I wish--" said Aldegunda, timidly,--"I should like--the blind man to
have the silver crown, and for us to keep the penny, if you can get it
back out of the hat."
"That's just the way you go on," said the boy, angrily. "You always
think differently from me. Now remember, Aldegunda, I won't marry you
when you grow big, unless you agree with what I do, like the wife in the
story of 'What the Goodman does is sure to be right.'"
On hearing this Aldegunda sobbed till she burst the strings of her hat,
and the boy had to tie them afresh.
"I won't marry you at all if you cry," said he.
But at that she only cried the more, and they went away bickering into
the green lanes.
As to the old man, he had heard nothing; and when the dog licked his
withered hand he smiled.
Many a time did the boy return with his playmate to try and get the
Talking Dog. But the Dog always asked if he had yet got all that he
wanted, and, being an honorable child, the boy was too truthful to say
that he was content when he was not.
"The day that you want nothing more but me I will be your dog," it said.
"Unless, indeed, my present master should have attained perfect
happiness before you."
"I am not afraid of that," said the boy.
In time the Mayor died, and his widow moved to her native town and took
her son with her.
Years passed, and the Blind Man lived on; for when one gets very old and
keeps very quiet in his little corner of the world, Death seems
sometimes to forget to remove him.
Years passed, and the Mayor's son became a man, and was strong and rich,
and had a fine black charger. Aldegunda grew up also. She was very
beautiful, wonderfully beautiful, and Love (who is blind) gave her to
her old playmate.
The wedding was a fine one, and when it was over the bridegroom mounted
his black charger and took his bride behind him, and rode away into the
"Ah, what delight!" he said. "Now we will ride through the town where we
lived when we were children; and if the Blind Man is still alive, you
shall give him a silver crown; and if the Talking Dog is alive, I shall
claim him, for to-day I am perfectly happy and want nothing."
Aldegunda thought to herself--"We are so happy, and have so much, that I
do not like to take the Blind Man's dog from him;" but she did not dare
to say so. One--if not two--must bear and forbear to be happy even on
one's wedding day.
By-and-bye they rode under the crab-tree, but the seat was empty. "What
has become of the Blind Man?" the Mayor's son asked of a peasant who was
"He died two days ago," said the peasant. "He is buried to-day, and the
priest and chanters are now returning from the grave."
"And the Talking Dog?" asked the young man.
"He is at the grave now," said the peasant; "but he has neither spoken
nor eaten since his master died."
"We have come in the nick of time," said the young man triumphantly, and
he rode to the churchyard.
By the grave was the dog, as the man had said, and up the winding path
came the priest and his young chanters, who sang with shrill, clear
voices--"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."
"Come and live with me, now your old master is gone," said the young
man, stooping over the dog. But he made no reply.
"I think he is dead, sir," said the grave-digger.
"I don't believe it," said the young man fretfully. "He was an Enchanted
Dog, and he promised I should have him when I could say what I am ready
to say now. He should have kept his promise."
But Aldegunda had taken the dog's cold head into her arms, and her tears
fell fast over it.
"You forget," she said; "he only promised to come to you when you were
happy, if his old master were not happier first; and, perhaps--"
"I remember that you always disagree with me," said the young man,
impatiently. "You always did do so. Tears on our wedding-day, too! I
suppose the truth is that no one is happy."
Aldegunda made no answer, for it is not from those one loves that he
will willingly learn that with a selfish and imperious temper happiness
And as they rode away again into the green lanes, the shrill voices of
the chanters followed them--"Blessed are the dead. Blessed are the
"Be sure, my child," said the widow to her little daughter, "that you
always do just as you are told."
"Very well, Mother."
"Or at any rate do what will do just as well," said the small house-dog,
as he lay blinking at the fire.
"You darling!" cried little Joan, and she sat down on the hearth and
hugged him. But he got up and shook himself, and moved three turns
nearer the oven, to be out of the way; for though her arms were soft she
had kept her doll in them, and that was made of wood, which hurts.
"What a dear, kind house-dog you are!" said little Joan, and she meant
what she said, for it does feel nice to have the sharp edges of one's
duty a little softened off for one.
He was no particular kind of a dog, but he was very smooth to stroke,
and had a nice way of blinking with his eyes, which it was soothing to
see. There had been a difficulty about his name. The name of the
house-dog before him was Faithful, and well it became him, as his
tombstone testified. The one before that was called Wolf. He was very
wild, and ended his days on the gallows, for worrying sheep. The little
house-dog never chased anything, to the widow's knowledge. There was no
reason whatever for giving him a bad name, and she thought of several
good ones, such as Faithful, and Trusty, and Keeper, which are fine
old-fashioned titles, but none of these seemed quite perfectly to suit
him. So he was called So-so; and a very nice soft name it is.
The widow was only a poor woman, though she contrived by her industry to
keep a decent home together, and to get now one and now another little
comfort for herself and her child.
One day she was going out on business, and she called her little
daughter and said to her, "I am going out for two hours. You are too
young to protect yourself and the house, and So-so is not as strong as
Faithful was. But when I go, shut the house-door and bolt the big wooden
bar, and be sure that you do not open it for any reason whatever till I
return. If strangers come, So-so may bark, which he can do as well as a
bigger dog. Then they will go away. With this summer's savings I have
bought a quilted petticoat for you and a duffle cloak for myself against
the winter, and if I get the work I am going after to-day, I shall buy
enough wool to knit warm stockings for us both. So be patient till I
return, and then we will have the plumcake that is in the cupboard for
"Thank you, Mother."
"Good-bye, my child. Be sure you do just as I have told you," said the
"Very well, Mother."
Little Joan laid down her doll, and shut the house-door, and fastened
the big bolt. It was very heavy, and the kitchen looked gloomy when she
had done it.
"I wish Mother had taken us all three with her, and had locked the house
and put the key in her big pocket, as she has done before," said little
Joan, as she got into the rocking-chair, to put her doll to sleep.
"Yes, it would have done just as well," So-so replied as he stretched
himself on the hearth.
By-and-bye Joan grew tired of hushabying the doll, who looked none the
sleepier for it, and she took the three-legged stool and sat down in
front of the clock to watch the hands. After a while she drew a deep
"There are sixty seconds in every single minute, So-so," said she.
"So I have heard," said So-so. He was snuffing in the back place, which
was not usually allowed.
"And sixty whole minutes in every hour, So-so."
"You don't say so!" growled So-so. He had not found a bit, and the cake
was on the top shelf. There was not so much as a spilt crumb, though he
snuffed in every corner of the kitchen, till he stood snuffing under the
"The air smells fresh," he said.
"It's a beautiful day, I know," said little Joan. "I wish Mother had
allowed us to sit on the doorstep. We could have taken care of the
"Just as well," said So-so.
Little Joan came to smell the air at the keyhole, and, as So-so had
said, it smelt very fresh. Besides, one could see from the window how
fine the evening was.
"It's not exactly what Mother told us to do," said Joan, "but I do
"It would do just as well," said So-so.
By-and-bye little Joan unfastened the bar, and opened the door, and she
and the doll and So-so went out and sat on the doorstep.
Not a stranger was to be seen. The sun shone delightfully. An evening
sun, and not too hot. All day it had been ripening the corn in the field
close by, and this glowed and waved in the breeze.
"It does just as well, and better," said little Joan, "for if anyone
comes we can see him coming up the field-path."
"Just so," said So-so, blinking in the sunshine.
Suddenly Joan jumped up.
"Oh!" cried she, "there's a bird, a big bird. Dear So-so, can you see
him? I can't, because of the sun. What a queer noise he makes. Crake!
crake! Oh, I can see him now! He is not flying, he is running, and he
has gone into the corn. I do wish I were in the corn, I would catch him,
and put him in a cage."
"I'll catch him," said So-so, and he put up his tail, and started off.
"No, no!" cried Joan. "You are not to go. You mast stay and take care of
the house, and bark if any one comes."
"You could scream, and that would do just as well," replied So-so, with
his tail still up.
"No, it wouldn't," cried little Joan.
"Yes, it would," reiterated So-so.
Whilst they were bickering, an old woman came up to the door; she had a
brown face, and black hair, and a very old red cloak.
"Good evening, my little dear," said she. "Are you all at home this fine
"Only three of us," said Joan; "I, and my doll, and So-so. Mother' has
gone to the town on business, and we are taking care of the house, but
So-so wants to go after the bird we saw run into the corn."
"Was it a pretty bird, my little dear?" asked the old woman.
"It was a very curious one," said Joan, "and I should like to go after
it myself, but we can't leave the house."
"Dear, dear! Is there no neighbor would sit on the doorstep for you and
keep the house till you just slip down to the field after the curious
bird?" said the old woman.
"I'm afraid not," said little Joan. "Old Martha, our neighbor, is now
bedridden. Of course, if she had been able to mind the house instead of
us, it would have done just as well."
"I have some distance to go this evening," said the old woman, "but I do
not object to a few minutes' rest, and sooner than that you should lose
the bird I will sit on the doorstep to oblige you, while you run down to
"But can you bark if any one comes?" asked little Joan. "For if you
can't, So-so must stay with you."
"I can call you and the dog if I see any one coming, and that will do
just as well," said the old woman."
"So it will," replied little Joan, and off she ran to the cornfield,
where, for that matter, So-so had run before her, and was bounding and
barking and springing among the wheat stalks.
They did not catch the bird, though they stayed longer than they had
intended, and though So-so seemed to know more about hunting than was
"I dare say mother has come home," said little Joan, as they went back
up the field-path. "I hope she won't think we ought to have stayed in
"It was taken care of," said So-so, "and that must do just as well."
When they reached the house, the widow had not come home.
But the old woman had gone, and she had taken the quilted petticoat and
the duffle cloak, and the plum-cake from the top shelf away with her;
and no more was ever heard of any of the lot.
"For the future, my child," said the widow, "I hope you will always do
just as you are told, whatever So-so may say."
"I will, Mother," said little Joan (And she did.) But the house-dog sat
and blinked. He dared not speak, he was in disgrace.
I do not feel quite sure about So-so. Wild dogs often amend their ways
far on this side of the gallows, and the faithful sometimes fall; but
when any one begins by being only So-so, he is very apt to be So-so to
the end. So-sos so seldom change.
But this one was _very_ soft and nice, and he got no cake that
tea-time. On the whole, we will hope that he lived to be a good dog ever
THE TRINITY FLOWER.
"Break forth, my lips, in praise, and own
The wiser love severely kind:
Since, richer for its chastening grown,
I see, whereas I once was blind."
_The Clear Vision, J. G. Whittler_
In days of yore there was once a certain hermit, who dwelt in a cell,
which he had fashioned for himself from a natural cave in the side of a
Now this hermit had a great love for flowers, and was moreover learned
in the virtues of herbs, and in that great mystery of healing which lies
hidden among the green things of God. And so it came to pass that the
country people from all parts came to him for the simples which grew in
the little garden which he had made before his cell. And as his fame
spread, and more people came to him, he added more and more to the plat
which he had reclaimed from the waste land around.
But after many years there came a spring when the colors of the flowers
seemed paler to the hermit than they used to be; and as summer drew on
their shapes became indistinct, and he mistook one plant for another;
and when autumn came, he told them by their various scents, and by their
form, rather than by sight; and when the flowers were gone, and winter
had come, the hermit was quite blind.
Now in the hamlet below there lived a boy who had become known to the
hermit on this manner. On the edge of the hermit's garden there grew two
crab trees, from the fruit of which he made every year a certain
confection which was very grateful to the sick. One year many of these
crab-apples were stolen, and the sick folk of the hamlet had very little
conserve. So the following year, as the fruit was ripening, the hermit
spoke every day to those who came to his cell, saying:--
"I pray you, good people, to make it known that he who robs these crab
trees, robs not me alone, which is dishonest, but the sick, which is
And yet once more the crab-apples were taken.
The following evening, as the hermit sat on the side of the hill, he
overheard two boys disputing about the theft.
"It must either have been a very big man, or a small boy to do it," said
one. "So I say, and I have my reason."
"And what is thy reason, Master Wiseacre?" asked the other.
"The fruit is too high to be plucked except by a very big man," said the
first boy. "And the branches are not strong enough for any but a child
"Canst thou think of no other way to rob an apple-tree but by standing
a-tip-toe, or climbing up to the apples, when they should come down to
thee?" said the second boy. "Truly thy head will never save thy heels;
but here's a riddle for thee:
"Riddle me riddle me re,
Four big brothers are we;
We gather the fruit, but climb never a tree.
"Who are they?"
"Four tall robbers, I suppose," said the other.
"Tush!" cried his comrade. "They are the four winds; and when they
whistle, down falls the ripest. But others can shake besides the winds,
as I will show thee if thou hast any doubts in the matter."
And as he spoke he sprang to catch the other boy, who ran from him; and
they chased each other down the hill, and the hermit heard no more.
But as he turned to go home he said, "The thief was not far away when
thou stoodst near. Nevertheless, I will have patience. It needs not that
I should go to seek thee, for what saith the Scripture? _Thy sin_
will find thee out." And he made conserve of such apples as were left,
and said nothing.
Now after a certain time a plague broke out in the hamlet; and it was so
sore, and there were so few to nurse the many who were sick, that,
though it was not the wont of the hermit ever to leave his place, yet in
their need he came down and ministered to the people in the village. And
one day, as he passed a certain house, he heard moans from within, and
entering, he saw lying upon a bed a boy who tossed and moaned in fever,
and cried out most miserably that his throat was parched and burning.
And when the hermit looked upon his face, behold it was the boy who had
given the riddle of the four winds upon the side of the hill.
Then the hermit fed him with some of the confection which he had with
him, and it was so grateful to the boy's parched palate, that he thanked
and blessed the hermit aloud, and prayed him to leave a morsel of it
behind, to soothe his torments in the night.
Then said the hermit, "My Son, I would that I had more of this
confection, for the sake of others as well as for thee. But indeed I
have only two trees which bear the fruit whereof this is made; and in
two successive years have the apples been stolen by some thief, thereby
robbing not only me, which is dishonest, but the poor, which is
Then the boy's theft came back to his mind, and he burst into tears, and
cried, "My Father, I took the crab-apples!"
And after awhile he recovered his health; the plague also abated in the
hamlet, and the hermit went back to his cell. But the boy would
thenceforth never leave him, always wishing to show his penitence and
gratitude. And though the hermit sent him away, he ever returned,
"Of what avail is it to drive me from thee, since I am resolved to serve
thee, even as Samuel served Eli, and Timothy ministered unto St. Paul?"
But the hermit said, "My rule is to live alone, and without companions;
And when the boy still came, he drove him from the garden.
Then the boy wandered far and wide, over moor and bog, and gathered rare
plants and herbs, and laid them down near the hermit's cell. And when
the hermit was inside, the boy came into the garden, and gathered the
stones and swept the paths, and tied up such plants as were drooping,
and did all neatly and well, for he was a quick and skilful lad. And
when the hermit said,
"Thou hast done well, and I thank thee; but now begone," he only
"What avails it, when I am resolved to serve thee?"
So at last there came a day when the hermit said, "It may be that it is
ordained; wherefore abide, my Son."
And the boy answered, "Even so, for I am resolved to serve thee."
Thus he remained. And thenceforward the hermit's garden throve as it had
never thriven before. For, though he had skill, the hermit was old and
feeble; but the boy was young and active, and he worked hard, and it was
to him a labor of love. And being a clever boy, he quickly knew the
names and properties of the plants as well as the hermit himself. And
when he was not working, he would go far afield to seek for new herbs.
And he always returned to the village at night.
Now when the hermit's sight began to fail, the boy put him right if he
mistook one plant for another; and when the hermit became quite blind,
he relied completely upon the boy to gather for him the herbs that he
wanted. And when anything new was planted, the boy led the old man to
the spot, that he might know that it was so many paces in such a
direction from the cell, and might feel the shape and texture of the
leaves, and learn its scent. And through the skill and knowledge of the
boy, the hermit was in no wise hindered from preparing his accustomed
remedies, for he knew the names and virtues of the herbs, and where
every plant grew. And when the sun shone, the boy would guide his
master's steps into the garden, and would lead him up to certain
flowers; but to those which had a perfume of their own the old man could
go without help, being guided by the scent. And as he fingered their
leaves and breathed their fragrance, he would say, "Blessed be GOD for
every herb of the field, but thrice blessed for those that smell."
And at the end of the garden was a set bush of rosemary. "For," said the
hermit, "to this we must all come." Because rosemary is the herb they
scatter over the dead. And he knew where almost everything grew, and
what he did not know the boy told him.
Yet for all this, and though he had embraced poverty and solitude with
joy, in the service of GOD and man, yet so bitter was blindness to him,
that he bewailed the loss of his sight, with a grief that never
"For," said he, "if it had pleased our Lord to send me any other
affliction, such as a continual pain or a consuming sickness, I would
have borne it gladly, seeing it would have left me free to see these
herbs, which I use for the benefit of the poor. But now the sick suffer
through my blindness, and to this boy also I am a continual burden."
And when the boy called him at the hours of prayer, saying, "My Father,
it is now time for the Nones office, for the marygold is closing," or
"The Vespers bell will soon sound from the valley, for the bindweed
bells are folded," and the hermit recited the appointed prayers, he
"I beseech Thee take away my blindness, as Thou didst heal Thy servant
the son of Timaeus."
And as the boy and he sorted herbs, he cried,
"Is there no balm in Gilead?"
And the boy answered, "The balm of Gilead grows six full paces from the
gate, my Father."
But the hermit said, "I spoke in a figure, my son I meant not that herb.
But, alas! Is there no remedy to heal the physician? No cure for the
And the boy's heart grew heavier day by day, because of the hermit's
grief. For he loved him.
Now one morning as the boy came up from the village, the hermit met him,
groping painfully with his hands, but with joy in his countenance, and
he said, "Is that thy step, my son? Come in, for I have somewhat to tell
And he said, "A vision has been vouchsafed to me, even a dream.
Moreover, I believe that there shall be a cure for my blindness." Then
the boy was glad, and begged of the hermit to relate his dream, which he
did as follows:--
"I dreamed, and behold I stood in the garden--thou also with me--and
many people were gathered at the gate, to whom, with thy help, I gave
herbs of healing in such fashion as I have been able since this
blindness came upon me. And when they were gone, I smote upon my
forehead, and said, 'Where is the herb that shall heal my affliction?'
And a voice beside me said, 'Here, my son,' And I cried to thee, 'Who
spoke?' And thou saidst, 'It is a man in pilgrim's weeds, and lo, he
hath a strange flower in his hand.' Then said the Pilgrim, 'It is a
Trinity Flower. Moreover, I suppose that when thou hast it, thou wilt
see clearly.' Then I thought that thou didst take the flower from the
Pilgrim and put it in my hand. And lo, my eyes were opened, and I saw
clearly. And I knew the Pilgrim's face, though where I have seen him I
cannot yet recall. But I believed him to be Raphael the Archangel--he
who led Tobias, and gave sight to his father. And even as it came to me
to know him, he vanished; and I saw him no more."
"And what was the Trinity Flower like, my Father?" asked the boy.
"It was about the size of Herb Paris, my son," replied the hermit. "But
instead of being fourfold every way, it numbered the mystic Three. Every
part was threefold. The leaves were three, the petals three, the sepals
three. The flower was snow-white, but on each of the three parts it was
stained with crimson stripes, like white garments dyed in blood."
[Footnote: _Trillium erythrocarpum._ North America.]
Then the boy started up, saying, "If there be such a plant on the earth
I will find it for thee."
But the hermit laid his hand on him, and said, "Nay, my son, leave me
not, for I have need of thee. And the flower will come yet, and then I
And all day long the old man murmured to himself, "Then I shall see."
"And didst thou see me, and the garden, in thy dream, my Father?" asked
"Ay, that I did, my son. And I meant to say to thee that it much
pleaseth me that thou art grown so well, and of such a strangely fair
countenance. Also the garden is such as I have never before beheld it,
which must needs be due to thy care. But wherefore didst thou not tell
me of those fair palms that have grown where the thorn hedge was wont to
be? I was but just stretching out my hand for some, when I awoke."
"There are no palms there, my Father," said the boy.
"Now, indeed it is thy youth that makes thee so little observant," said
the hermit. "However, I pardon thee, if it were only for that good
thought which moved thee to plant a yew beyond the rosemary bush; seeing
that the yew is the emblem of eternal life, which lies beyond the
But the boy said, "There is no yew there, my Father."
"Have I not seen it, even in a vision?" cried the hermit. "Thou wilt say
next that all the borders are not set with heart's-ease, which indeed
must be through thy industry; and whence they come I know not, but they
are most rare and beautiful, and my eyes long sore to see them again."
"Alas, my Father!" cried the boy, "the borders are set with rue, and
there are but a few clumps of heart's-ease here and there."
"Could I forget what I saw in an hour?" asked the old man, angrily. "And
did not the holy Raphael himself point to them, saying, 'Blessed are the
eyes that behold this garden, where the borders are set with
heart's-ease, and the hedges crowned with palm!' But thou wouldst know
better than an archangel, forsooth."
Then the boy wept; and when the hermit heard him weeping, he put his arm
round him and said,
"Weep not, my dear son. And I pray thee, pardon me that I spoke harshly
to thee. For indeed I am ill-tempered by reason of my infirmities; and
as for thee, GOD will reward thee for thy goodness to me, as I never
can. Moreover, I believe it is thy modesty, which is as great as thy
goodness, that hath hindered thee from telling me of all that thou hast
done for my garden, even to those fair and sweet everlasting flowers,
the like of which I never saw before, which thou hast set in the east
border, and where even now I hear the bees humming in the sun."
Then the boy looked sadly out into the garden, and answered, "I cannot
lie to thee. There are no everlasting flowers. It is the flowers of the
thyme in which the bees are rioting. And in the hedge bottom there
creepeth the bitter-sweet."
But the hermit heard him not. He had groped his way out into the
sunshine, and wandered up and down the walks, murmuring to himself,
"Then I shall see."
Now when the Summer was past, one autumn morning there came to the
garden gate a man in pilgrim's weeds; and when he saw the boy he
beckoned to him, and giving him a small tuber root, he said,
"Give this to thy master. It is the root of the Trinity Flower."
And he passed on down towards the valley.
Then the boy ran hastily to the hermit; and when he had told him, and
given him the root, he said,
"The face of the pilgrim is known to me also, O my Father! For I
remember when I lay sick of the plague, that ever it seemed to me as if
a shadowy figure passed in and out, and went up and down the streets,
and his face was as the face of this pilgrim. But--I cannot deceive
thee--methought it was the Angel of Death."
Then the hermit mused; and after a little space he answered,
"It was then also that I saw him. I remember now. Nevertheless, let us
plant the root, and abide what GOD shall send."
And thus they did.
And as the Autumn and Winter went by, the hermit became very feeble, but
the boy constantly cheered him, saying, "Patience, my Father. Thou shalt
But the hermit replied, "My son, I repent me that I have not been
patient under affliction. Moreover, I have set thee an ill example, in
that I have murmured at that which GOD--Who knowest best--ordained for
And when the boy ofttimes repeated, "Thou shalt yet see," the hermit
answered, "If GOD will. When GOD will. As GOD will."
And when he said the prayers for the Hours, he no longer added what he
had added beforetime, but evermore repeated, "If THOU wilt. When THOU
wilt. As THOU wilt!"
And so the Winter passed; and when the snow lay on the ground the boy
and the hermit talked of the garden; and the boy no longer contradicted
the old man, though he spoke continually of the heart's-ease, and the
everlasting flowers, and the palm. For he said, "When Spring comes I may
be able to get these plants, and fit the garden to his vision."
And at length the Spring came. And with it rose the Trinity Flower. And
when the leaves unfolded, they were three, as the hermit had said. Then
the boy was wild with joy and with impatience.
And when the sun shone for two days together, he would kneel by the
flower, and say, "I pray thee, Lord, send showers, that it may wax
apace." And when it rained, he said, "I pray Thee, send sunshine, that
it may blossom speedily." For he knew not what to ask. And he danced
about the hermit, and cried, "Soon shalt them see."
But the hermit trembled, and said, "Not as I will, but as THOU wilt!"
And so the bud formed. And at length one evening before he went down to
the hamlet, the boy came to the hermit and said, "The bud is almost
breaking, my Father. To-morrow thou shalt see"
Then the hermit moved his hands till he laid them on the boy's head, and
"The Lord repay thee sevenfold for all thou hast done for me, dear
child. And now I pray thee, my son, give me thy pardon for all in which
I have sinned against thee by word or deed, for indeed my thoughts of
thee have ever been tender." And when the boy wept, the hermit still
pressed him, till he said that he forgave him. And as they unwillingly
parted, the hermit said, "I pray thee, dear son, to remember that,
though late, I conformed myself to the will of GOD."
Saying which, the hermit went into his cell, and the boy returned to the
But so great was his anxiety, that he could not rest; and he returned to
the garden ere it was light, and sat by the flower till the dawn.
And with the first dim light he saw that the Trinity Flower was in
bloom. And as the hermit had said, it was white, and stained with
crimson as with blood.
Then the boy shed tears of joy, and he plucked the flower and ran into
the hermit's cell, where the hermit lay very still upon his couch. And
the boy said, "I will not disturb him. When he wakes he will find the
flower." And he went out and sat down outside the cell and waited. And
being weary as he waited, he fell asleep.
Now before sunrise, whilst it was yet early, he was awakened by the
voice of the hermit crying, "My son, my dear son!" and he jumped up,
saying, "My Father!"
But as he spoke the hermit passed him. And as he passed he turned, and
the boy saw that his eyes were open. And the hermit fixed them long and
tenderly on him.
Then the boy cried, "Ah, tell me, my Father, dost thou see?"
And he answered, _"I see now!"_ and so passed on down the walk.
And as he went through the garden, in the still dawn, the boy trembled,
for the hermit's footsteps gave no sound. And he passed beyond the
rosemary bush, and came not again.
And when the day wore on, and the hermit did not return, the boy went
into his cell.
Without, the sunshine dried the dew from paths on which the hermit's
feet had left no prints, and cherished the spring flowers bursting into
bloom. But within, the hermit's dead body lay stretched upon his pallet,
and the Trinity Flower was in his hand.
THE KYRKEGRIM TURNED PREACHER.
It is said that in Norway every church has its own Niss, or Brownie.
They are of the same race as the Good People, who haunt farm houses, and
do the maids' work for a pot of cream. They are the size of a year-old
child, but their faces are the faces of aged men. Their common dress is
of gray home-spun, with red peaked caps; but on Michaelmas Day they wear
The Church Niss is called Kyrkegrim. His duty is to keep the church
clean, and to scatter the marsh-marigold flowers on the floor before
service. He also keeps order in the congregation, pinches those who fall
asleep, cuffs irreverent boys, and hustles mothers with crying children
out of church as quickly and decorously as possible.
But his business is not with church-brawlers alone.
When the last snow avalanche has slipped from the high-pitched roof, and
the gentian is bluer than the sky, and Baldur's Eyebrow blossoms in the
hot Spring sun, pious folk are wont to come to church some time before
service, and to bring their spades, and rakes, and watering-pots with
them, to tend the graves of the dead. The Kyrkegrim sits on the Lych
Gate and overlooks them.
At those who do not lay by their tools in good time he throws pebbles,
crying to each, _"Skynde dig!"_ (Make haste!), and so drives them
in. And when the bells begin, should any man fail to bow to the church
as the custom is, the Kyrkegrim snatches his hat from behind, and he
sees it no more.
Nothing displeases the Kyrkegrim more than when people fall asleep
during the sermon. This will be seen in the following story.
Once upon a time there was a certain country church, which was served by
a very mild and excellent priest, and haunted by a most active
Not a speck of dust was to be seen from the altar to the porch, and the
behavior of the congregation was beyond reproach.
But there was one fat farmer who slept during the sermon, and do what
the Kyrkegrim would, he could not keep him awake. Again and again did he
pinch him, nudge him, or let in a cold draught of wind upon his neck.
The fat farmer shook himself, pulled up his neck-kerchief, and dozed off
"Doubtless the fault is in my sermons," said the priest, when the
Kyrkegrim complained to him. For he was humble-minded.
But the Kyrkegrim knew that this was not the case, for there was no
better preacher in all the district.
And yet when he overheard the farmer's sharp-tongued little wife speak
of this and that in the discourse, he began to think it might be so. No
doubt the preacher spoke somewhat fast or slow, a little too loud or too
soft. And he was not "stirring" enough, said the farmer's wife; a
failing which no one had ever laid at her door.
"His soul is in my charge," sighed the good priest, "and I cannot even
make him hear what I have got to say. A heavy reckoning will be demanded
"The sermons are in fault, beyond a doubt," the Kyrkegrim said. "The
farmer's wife is quite right. She's a sensible woman, and can use a mop
as well as myself."
"Hoot, hoot!" cried the church owl, pushing his head out of the
ivy-bush. "And shall she be Kyrkegrim when thou art turned preacher, and
the preacher sits on the judgment seat? Not so, little Miss! Dust thou
the pulpit, and leave the parson to preach, and let the Maker of souls
reckon with them."
"If the preacher cannot keep the people awake, it is time that another
took his place," said the Kyrkegrim.
"He is not bound to find ears as well as arguments," retorted the owl,
and he drew back into his ivy-bush.
But the Kyrkegrim settled his red cap firmly on his head, and betook
himself to the priest, whose meekness (as is apt to be the case)
encouraged the opposite qualities in those with whom he had to do.
"The farmer must be roused somehow," said he. "It is a disgrace to us
all, and what, in all the hundreds of years I have been Kyrkegrim, never
befell me before. It will be well if next Sunday you preach a stirring
sermon on some very important subject."
So the preacher preached on Sin--fair of flower, and bitter of
fruit!--and as he preached his own cheeks grew pale for other men's
perils, and the Kyrkegrim trembled as he sat listening in the porch,
though he had no soul to lose.
"Was that stirring enough?" he asked, twitching the sleeve of the
farmer's wife as she flounced out after service.
"Splendid!" said she, "and must have hit some folk pretty hard too."
"It kept your husband awake this time, I should think," said the
"Heighty teighty!" cried the farmer's wife. "I'd have you to know my
good man is as decent a body as any in the parish, if he does take a nap
on Sundays! He is no sinner if he is no saint, thank Heaven, and the
parson knows better than to preach at him."
"Next Sunday," said the Kyrkegrim to the priest, "preach about something
which concerns every one; respectable people as well as others."
So the preacher preached of Death--whom tears cannot move, nor riches
bribe, nor power defy. The uncertain interruption and the only certain
end of all life's labors! And as he preached, the women sitting in their
seats wept for the dead whose graves they had been tending, and down the
aged cheeks of the Kyrkegrim there stole tears of pity for poor men,
whose love and labors are cut short so soon.
But the farmer slept as before.
"Do you not expect to die?" asked the Kyrkegrim.
"Surely," replied the farmer, "we must all die some day, and one does
not need a preacher to tell him that. But it was a funeral sermon, my
wife thinks. There has been bereavement in the miller's family."
"Men are a strange race," thought the Kyrkegrim; but he went to the
priest and said--"The farmer is not afraid of death. You must find some
subject of which men really stand in awe."
So when Sunday came round again, the preacher preached of judgment--that
dread Avenger who dogs the footsteps of trespass, even now! That awful
harvest of whirlwind and corruption which they must reap who sow to the
wind and to the flesh! Lightly regarded, but biding its time, till a
man's forgotten follies find him out at last.
But the farmer slept on. He did not wake when the preacher spoke of
judgment to come, the reckoning that cannot be shunned, the trump of the
Archangel, and the Day of Doom.
"On Michaelmas Day I shall preach myself," said the Kyrkegrim, "and if I
cannot rouse him, I shall give up my charge here."
This troubled the poor priest, for so good a Kyrkegrim was not likely to
be found again.
Nevertheless he consented, for he was very meek, and when Michaelmas Day
came the Kyrkegrim pulled a preacher's gown over his homespun coat, and
laid his round hat on the desk by the iron-clamped Bible, and began his
"I shall give no text," said he, "but when I have said what seems good
to me, it is for those who hear to see if the Scriptures bear me out."
This was an uncommon beginning, and most of the good folk pricked their
ears, the farmer among them, for novelty is agreeable in church as
"I speak." said the Kyrkegrim, "of that which is the last result of sin,
the worst of deaths, and the beginning of judgment--hardness of heart."
The farmer looked a little uncomfortable, and the Kyrkegrim went bravely
"Let us seek examples in Scripture. We will speak of Pharaoh."
But when the Kyrkegrim spoke of Pharaoh the farmer was at ease again.
And by-and-bye a film stole gently before his eyes, and he nodded in his
This made the Kyrkegrim very angry, for he did not wish to give up his
place, and yet a Niss may not break his word.
"Let us look at the punishment of Pharaoh," he cried. But the farmer's
eyes were still closed and the Kyrkegrim became agitated, and turned
hastily over the leaves of the iron-clamped Bible before him.
"We will speak of the plagues," said he. "The plague of blood, the
plague of frogs, the plague of lice, the plague of flies--"
At this moment the farmer snored.
For a brief instant, anger and dismay kept the Kyrkegrim silent. Then
shutting the iron clamps he pushed the Book on one side, and scrambling
on to a stool, stretched his little body well over the desk, and said,
"But these flies were as nothing to the fly that is coming in the
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the farmer sat suddenly
upright, and half rising from his place, cried anxiously, "Eh, what sir?
What does he say, wife? A new fly among the turnips?"
"Ah, soul of clay!" yelled the indignant Kyrkegrim, as he hurled his
round hat at the gaping farmer. "Is it indeed for such as thee that
Eternal Life is kept in store?"
And drawing the preacher's gown over his head, he left it in the pulpit,
and scrambling down the steps hastened out of church.
* * * * *
As he had been successful in rousing the sleepy farmer the Kyrkegrim did
not abandon his duties; but it is said that thenceforward he kept to
them alone, and left heavier responsibilities in higher hands.