Part 4 out of 5
"True, my child, I was forgetting. Each set must have its own cattle
"And its own vegetation," I added. "What could a cow, an inch high,
do with grass that waved far above its head?"
"That is true. We must have a pasture within a pasture, so to speak.
The common grass would serve our inch-high cows as a green forest of
palms, while round the root of each tall stem would stretch a tiny
carpet of microscopic grass. Yes, I think our scheme will work fairly
well. And it would be very interesting, coming into contact with the
races below us. What sweet little things the inch-high bull-dogs would
be! I doubt if even Muriel would run away from one of them!"
"Don't you think we ought to have a crescendo series, as well?" said
Lady Muriel. "Only fancy being a hundred yards high!
One could use an elephant as a paper-weight, and a crocodile as a pair
"And would you have races of different sizes communicate with one
another?" I enquired. "Would they make war on one another, for instance,
or enter into treaties?"
"War we must exclude, I think. When you could crush a whole nation
with one blow of your fist, you couldn't conduct war on equal terms.
But anything, involving a collision of minds only, would be possible in
our ideal world--for of course we must allow mental powers to all,
irrespective of size. "Perhaps the fairest rule would be that,
the smaller the race, the greater should be its intellectual development!"
"Do you mean to say," said Lady Muriel, "that these manikins of an inch
high are to argue with me?"
"Surely, surely!" said the Earl. "An argument doesn't depend for its
logical force on the size of the creature that utters it!"
She tossed her head indignantly. "I would not argue with any man less
than six inches high!" she cried. "I'd make him work!"
"What at?" said Arthur, listening to all this nonsense with an amused
"Embroidery!" she readily replied. "What lovely embroidery they would do!"
"Yet, if they did it wrong," I said, "you couldn't argue the question.
I don't know why: but I agree that it couldn't be done."
"The reason is," said Lady Muriel, "one couldn't sacrifice one's
dignity so far."
"Of course one couldn't!" echoed Arthur. "Any more than one could
argue with a potato. It would be altogether--excuse the ancient
"I doubt it," said I. "Even a pun doesn't quite convince me."
"Well, if that is not the reason," said Lady Muriel, "what reason would
I tried hard to understand the meaning of this question: but the
persistent humming of the bees confused me, and there was a drowsiness
in the air that made every thought stop and go to sleep before it had
got well thought out: so all I could say was "That must depend on the
weight of the potato."
I felt the remark was not so sensible as I should have liked it to be.
But Lady Muriel seemed to take it quite as a matter of course.
"In that case--" she began, but suddenly started, and turned away to
listen. "Don't you hear him?" she said. "He's crying. We must go to
And I said to myself "That's very strange.
I quite thought it was Lady Muriel talking to me. Why, it's Sylvie all
the while!" And I made another great effort to say something that
should have some meaning in it. "Is it about the potato?"
THROUGH THE IVORY DOOR.
"I don't know," said Sylvie. "Hush! I must think. I could go to him,
by myself, well enough. But I want you to come too."
"Let me go with you," I pleaded. "I can walk as fast as you can,
Sylvie laughed merrily. "What nonsense!" she cried.
"Why, you ca'n't walk a bit! You're lying quite flat on your back!
You don't understand these things."
"I can walk as well as you can," I repeated. And I tried my best to
walk a few steps: but the ground slipped away backwards, quite as fast
as I could walk, so that I made no progress at all. Sylvie laughed
"There, I told you so! You've no idea how funny you look, moving your
feet about in the air, as if you were walking! Wait a bit. I'll ask
the Professor what we'd better do." And she knocked at his study-door.
The door opened, and the Professor looked out. "What's that crying I
heard just now?" he asked. "Is it a human animal?"
"It's a boy," Sylvie said.
"I'm afraid you've been teasing him?"
"No, indeed I haven't!" Sylvie said, very earnestly. "I never tease him!"
"Well, I must ask the Other Professor about it." He went back into the
study, and we heard him whispering "small human animal--says she hasn't
been teasing him--the kind that's called Boy--"
"Ask her which Boy," said a new voice. The Professor came out again.
"Which Boy is it that you haven't been teasing?"
Sylvie looked at me with twinkling eyes. "You dear old thing!" she
exclaimed, standing on tiptoe to kiss him, while he gravely stooped to
receive the salute. "How you do puzzle me! Why, there are several
boys I haven't been teasing!"
The Professor returned to his friend: and this time the voice said
"Tell her to bring them here--all of them!"
"I ca'n't, and I won't! "Sylvie exclaimed, the moment he reappeared.
"It's Bruno that's crying: and he's my brother: and, please, we both
want to go: he ca'n't walk, you know: he's--he's dreaming, you know"
(this in a whisper, for fear of hurting my feelings). "Do let's go
through the Ivory Door!"
"I'll ask him," said the Professor, disappearing again. He returned
directly. "He says you may. Follow me, and walk on tip-toe."
The difficulty with me would have been, just then, not to walk on
tip-toe. It seemed very hard to reach down far enough to just touch
the floor, as Sylvie led me through the study.
The Professor went before us to unlock the Ivory Door. I had just time
to glance at the Other Professor, who was sitting reading, with his
back to us, before the Professor showed us out through the door, and
locked it behind us. Bruno was standing with his hands over his face,
[Image...'What's the matter, darling?']
"What's the matter, darling?" said Sylvie, with her arms round his neck.
"Hurted mine self welly much!" sobbed the poor little fellow.
"I'm so sorry, darling! How ever did you manage to hurt yourself so?"
"Course I managed it!" said Bruno, laughing through his tears.
"Doos oo think nobody else but oo ca'n't manage things?"
Matters were looking distinctly brighter, now Bruno had begun to argue.
"Come, let's hear all about it!" I said.
"My foot took it into its head to slip--" Bruno began.
"A foot hasn't got a head!" Sylvie put in, but all in vain.
"I slipted down the bank. And I tripted over a stone. And the stone
hurted my foot! And I trod on a Bee. And the Bee stinged my finger!"
Poor Bruno sobbed again. The complete list of woes was too much for
his feelings. "And it knewed I didn't mean to trod on it!" he added,
as the climax.
"That Bee should be ashamed of itself!" I said severely, and Sylvie
hugged and kissed the wounded hero till all tears were dried.
"My finger's quite unstung now!" said Bruno. "Why doos there be stones?
Mister Sir, doos oo know?"
"They're good for something," I said: "even if we don't know what.
What's the good of dandelions, now?"
"Dindledums?" said Bruno. "Oh, they're ever so pretty! And stones
aren't pretty, one bit. Would oo like some dindledums, Mister Sir?"
"Bruno!" Sylvie murmured reproachfully. "You mustn't say 'Mister' and
'Sir,' both at once! Remember what I told you!"
"You telled me I were to say Mister' when I spoked about him,
and I were to say 'Sir' when I spoked to him!"
"Well, you're not doing both, you know."
"Ah, but I is doing bofe, Miss Praticular!" Bruno exclaimed
triumphantly. "I wishted to speak about the Gemplun--and I wishted to
speak to the Gemplun. So a course I said 'Mister Sir'!"
"That's all right, Bruno," I said.
"Course it's all right!" said Bruno. "Sylvie just knows nuffin at all!"
"There never was an impertinenter boy!" said Sylvie, frowning till her
bright eyes were nearly invisible.
"And there never was an ignoranter girl!" retorted Bruno. "Come along
and pick some dindledums. That's all she's fit for!" he added in a very
loud whisper to me.
"But why do you say 'Dindledums,' Bruno? Dandelions is the right word."
"It's because he jumps about so," Sylvie said, laughing.
"Yes, that's it," Bruno assented. "Sylvie tells me the words,
and then, when I jump about, they get shooken up in my head--
till they're all froth!"
I expressed myself as perfectly satisfied with this explanation.
"But aren't you going to pick me any dindledums, after all?"
"Course we will!" cried Bruno. "Come along, Sylvie!" And the happy
children raced away, bounding over the turf with the fleetness and
grace of young antelopes.
"Then you didn't find your way back to Outland?" I said to the Professor.
"Oh yes, I did!" he replied, "We never got to Queer Street; but I found
another way. I've been backwards and forwards several times since
then. I had to be present at the Election, you know, as the author of
the new Money-act. The Emperor was so kind as to wish that I should
have the credit of it. 'Let come what come may,' (I remember the very
words of the Imperial Speech) 'if it should turn out that the Warden is
alive, you will bear witness that the change in the coinage is the
Professor's doing, not mine!' I never was so glorified in my life,
before!" Tears trickled down his cheeks at the recollection, which
apparently was not wholly a pleasant one.
"Is the Warden supposed to be dead?"
"Well, it's supposed so: but, mind you, I don't believe it!
The evidence is very weak--mere hear-say. A wandering Jester, with a
Dancing-Bear (they found their way into the Palace, one day) has been
telling people he comes from Fairyland, and that the Warden died there.
I wanted the Vice-Warden to question him, but, most unluckily, he and
my Lady were always out walking when the Jester came round. Yes, the
Warden's supposed to be dead!" And more tears trickled down the old
"But what is the new Money-Act?"
The Professor brightened up again. "The Emperor started the thing,"
he said. "He wanted to make everybody in Outland twice as rich as he
was before just to make the new Government popular. Only there wasn't
nearly enough money in the Treasury to do it. So I suggested that he
might do it by doubling the value of every coin and bank-note in
Outland. It's the simplest thing possible. I wonder nobody ever
thought of it before! And you never saw such universal joy.
The shops are full from morning to night. Everybody's buying everything!"
"And how was the glorifying done?"
A sudden gloom overcast the Professor's jolly face. "They did it as I
went home after the Election," he mournfully replied. "It was kindly
meant but I didn't like it! They waved flags all round me till I was
nearly blind: and they rang bells till I was nearly deaf: and they
strewed the road so thick with flowers that I lost my way!" And the
poor old man sighed deeply.
"How far is it to Outland?" I asked, to change the subject.
"About five days' march. But one must go back--occasionally. You see,
as Court-Professor, I have to be always in attendance on Prince Uggug.
The Empress would be very angry if I left him, even for an hour."
"But surely, every time you come here, you are absent ten days, at least?"
"Oh, more than that!" the Professor exclaimed. "A fortnight, sometimes.
But of course I keep a memorandum of the exact time when I started,
so that I can put the Court-time back to the very moment!"
"Excuse me," I said. "I don't understand."
Silently the Professor drew front his pocket a square gold watch,
with six or eight hands, and held it out for my inspection.
"This," he began, "is an Outlandish Watch--"
"So I should have thought."
"--which has the peculiar property that, instead of its going with the
time, the time goes with it. I trust you understand me now?"
"Hardly," I said.
"Permit me to explain. So long as it is let alone, it takes its own
course. Time has no effect upon it."
"I have known such watches," I remarked.
"It goes, of course, at the usual rate. Only the time has to go with it.
Hence, if I move the hands, I change the time. To move them forwards,
in advance of the true time, is impossible: but I can move them as much
as a month backwards---that is the limit. And then you have the events
all over again--with any alterations experience may suggest."
"What a blessing such a watch would be," I thought, "in real life!
To be able to unsay some heedless word--to undo some reckless deed!
Might I see the thing done?"
"With pleasure!" said the good natured Professor. "When I move this
hand back to here," pointing out the place, "History goes back fifteen
Trembling with excitement, I watched him push the hand round as he
"Hurted mine self welly much!"
Shrilly and suddenly the words rang in my ears, and, more startled than
I cared to show, I turned to look for the speaker.
Yes! There was Bruno, standing with the tears running down his cheeks,
just as I had seen him a quarter of an hour ago; and there was Sylvie
with her arms round his neck!
I had not the heart to make the dear little fellow go through his
troubles a second time, so hastily begged the Professor to push the
hands round into their former position. In a moment Sylvie and Bruno
were gone again, and I could just see them in the far distance, picking
"Wonderful, indeed!" I exclaimed.
"It has another property, yet more wonderful," said the Professor.
"You see this little peg? That is called the 'Reversal Peg.' If you
push it in, the events of the next hour happen in the reverse order.
Do not try it now. I will lend you the Watch for a few days, and you
can amuse yourself with experiments."
"Thank you very much!" I said as he gave me the Watch. "I'll take the
greatest care of it--why, here are the children again!"
"We could only but find six dindledums," said Bruno, putting them into
my hands, "'cause Sylvie said it were time to go back. And here's a
big blackberry for ooself! We couldn't only find but two!"
"Thank you: it's very nice," I said. And I suppose you ate the other,
"No, I didn't," Bruno said, carelessly. "Aren't they pretty dindledums,
"Yes, very: but what makes you limp so, my child?"
"Mine foot's come hurted again!" Bruno mournfully replied. And he sat
down on the ground, and began nursing it.
The Professor held his head between his hands--an attitude that I knew
indicated distraction of mind. "Better rest a minute," he said.
"It may be better then--or it may be worse. If only I had some of my
medicines here! I'm Court-Physician, you know," he added, aside to me.
"Shall I go and get you some blackberries, darling?" Sylvie whispered,
with her arms round his neck; and she kissed away a tear that was
trickling down his cheek.
Bruno brightened up in a moment. "That are a good plan!" he exclaimed.
"I thinks my foot would come quite unhurted, if I eated a blackberry--
two or three blackberries--six or seven blackberries--"
Sylvie got up hastily. "I'd better go she said, aside to me, before he
gets into the double figures!
Let me come and help you, I said. I can reach higher up than you can.
Yes, please, said Sylvie, putting her hand into mine: and we walked off
Bruno loves blackberries, she said, as we paced slowly along by a tall
hedge, that looked a promising place for them, and it was so sweet of
him to make me eat the only one!
Oh, it was you that ate it, then? Bruno didn't seem to like to tell me
No; I saw that, said Sylvie. He's always afraid of being praised.
But he made me eat it, really! I would much rather he --oh, what's that?
And she clung to my hand, half-frightened, as we came in sight of a
hare, lying on its side with legs stretched out just in the entrance to
It's a hare, my child. Perhaps it's asleep.
No, it isn't asleep, Sylvie said, timidly going nearer to look at it:
it's eyes are open. Is it--is it--her voice dropped to an awestruck
whisper, is it dead, do you think?"
"Yes, it's quite dead," I said, after stooping to examine it.
"Poor thing! I think it's been hunted to death. I know the harriers
were out yesterday. But they haven't touched it. Perhaps they caught
sight of another, and left it to die of fright and exhaustion."
"Hunted to death?" Sylvie repeated to herself, very slowly and sadly.
"I thought hunting was a thing they played at like a game. Bruno and I
hunt snails: but we never hurt them when we catch them!"
"Sweet angel!" I thought. "How am I to get the idea of Sport into your
innocent mind?" And as we stood, hand-in-hand, looking down at the dead
hare, I tried to put the thing into such words as she could understand.
"You know what fierce wild-beasts lions and tigers are?" Sylvie nodded.
"Well, in some countries men have to kill them, to save their own lives,
"Yes," said Sylvie: "if one tried to kill me, Bruno would kill it if he
"Well, and so the men--the hunters--get to enjoy it, you know:
the running, and the fighting, and the shouting, and the danger."
"Yes," said Sylvie. "Bruno likes danger."
"Well, but, in this country, there aren't any lions and tigers, loose:
so they hunt other creatures, you see." I hoped, but in vain, that this
would satisfy her, and that she would ask no more questions.
"They hunt foxes," Sylvie said, thoughtfully. "And I think they kill
them, too. Foxes are very fierce. I daresay men don't love them.
Are hares fierce?"
"No," I said. "A hare is a sweet, gentle, timid animal--almost as
gentle as a lamb."
"But, if men love hares, why--why--" her voice quivered, and her sweet
eyes were brimming over with tears.
"I'm afraid they don't love them, dear child."
"All children love them," Sylvie said. "All ladies love them."
"I'm afraid even ladies go to hunt them, sometimes."
Sylvie shuddered. '"Oh, no, not ladies!' she earnestly pleaded.
"Not Lady Muriel!"
"No, she never does, I'm sure--but this is too sad a sight for you, dear.
Let's try and find some--"
But Sylvie was not satisfied yet. In a hushed, solemn tone, with bowed
head and clasped hands, she put her final question.
"Does GOD love hares?"
"Yes!" I said. "I'm sure He does! He loves every living thing.
Even sinful men. How much more the animals, that cannot sin!"
"I don't know what 'sin' means," said Sylvie. And I didn't try to
"Come, my child," I said, trying to lead her away. "Wish good-bye to
the poor hare, and come and look for blackberries."
"Good-bye, poor hare!" Sylvie obediently repeated, looking over her
shoulder at it as we turned away. And then, all in a moment, her
self-command gave way. Pulling her hand out of mine, she ran back to
where the dead hare was lying, and flung herself down at its side in
such an agony of grief as I could hardly have believed possible in so
young a child.
"Oh, my darling, my darling!" she moaned, over and over again.
"And God meant your life to be so beautiful!"
Sometimes, but always keeping her face hidden on the ground, she would
reach out one little hand, to stroke the poor dead thing, and then once
more bury her face in her hands, and sob as if her heart would break.
[Image...The dead hare]
I was afraid she would really make herself ill: still I thought
it best to let her weep away the first sharp agony of grief: and, after
a few minutes, the sobbing gradually ceased, and Sylvie rose to her
feet, and looked calmly at me, though tears were still streaming down
I did not dare to speak again, just yet; but simply held out my hand to
her, that we might quit the melancholy spot.
Yes, I'll come now, she said. Very reverently she kneeled down,
and kissed the dead hare; then rose and gave me her hand,
and we moved on in silence.
A child's sorrow is violent but short; and it was almost in her usual
voice that she said after a minute "Oh stop stop! Here are some lovely
We filled our hands with fruit and returned in all haste to where the
Professor and Bruno were seated on a bank awaiting our return.
Just before we came within hearing-distance Sylvie checked me.
"Please don't tell Bruno about the hare!" she said.
Very well, my child. But why not?
Tears again glittered in those sweet eyes and she turned her head away
so that I could scarcely hear her reply. "He's--he's very fond of
gentle creatures you know. And he'd--he'd be so sorry! I don't want
him to be made sorry."
And your agony of sorrow is to count for nothing, then, sweet unselfish
child! I thought to myself. But no more was said till we had reached
our friends; and Bruno was far too much engrossed, in the feast we had
brought him, to take any notice of Sylvie's unusually grave manner.
"I'm afraid it's getting rather late, Professor?" I said.
"Yes, indeed," said the Professor. "I must take you all through the
Ivory Door again. You've stayed your full time."
"Mightn't we stay a little longer!" pleaded Sylvie.
"Just one minute!" added Bruno.
But the Professor was unyielding. "It's a great privilege, coming
through at all," he said. "We must go now." And we followed him
obediently to the Ivory Door, which he threw open, and signed to me to
go through first.
"You're coming too, aren't you?" I said to Sylvie.
"Yes," she said: "but you won't see us after you've gone through."
"But suppose I wait for you outside?" I asked, as I stepped through the
"In that case," said Sylvie, "I think the potato would be quite
justified in asking your weight. I can quite imagine a really superior
kidney-potato declining to argue with any one under fifteen stone!"
With a great effort I recovered the thread of my thoughts.
"We lapse very quickly into nonsense!" I said.
CROSSING THE LINE.
"Let us lapse back again," said Lady Muriel. "Take another cup of tea?
I hope that's sound common sense?"
"And all that strange adventure," I thought, "has occupied the space of
a single comma in Lady Muriel's speech! A single comma, for which
grammarians tell us to 'count one'!" (I felt no doubt that the
Professor had kindly put back the time for me, to the exact point at
which I had gone to sleep.)
When, a few minutes afterwards, we left the house, Arthur's first
remark was certainly a strange one. "We've been there just twenty
minutes," he said, "and I've done nothing but listen to you and Lady
Muriel talking: and yet, somehow, I feel exactly as if I had been
talking with her for an hour at least!"
And so he had been, I felt no doubt: only, as the time had been put
back to the beginning of the tete-a-tete he referred to, the whole of
it had passed into oblivion, if not into nothingness! But I valued my
own reputation for sanity too highly to venture on explaining to him
what had happened.
For some cause, which I could not at the moment divine, Arthur was
unusually grave and silent during our walk home. It could not be
connected with Eric Lindon, I thought, as he had for some days been
away in London: so that, having Lady Muriel almost 'all to himself'--
for I was only too glad to hear those two conversing, to have
any wish to intrude any remarks of my own--he ought, theoretically,
to have been specially radiant and contented with life. "Can he have
heard any bad news?" I said to myself. And, almost as if he had read
my thoughts, he spoke.
"He will be here by the last train," he said, in the tone of one who is
continuing a conversation rather than beginning one.
"Captain Lindon, do you mean?"
"Yes--Captain Lindon," said Arthur: "I said 'he,' because I fancied we
were talking about him. The Earl told me he comes tonight, though
to-morrow is the day when he will know about the Commission that he's
hoping for. I wonder he doesn't stay another day to hear the result,
if he's really so anxious about it as the Earl believes he is."
"He can have a telegram sent after him," I said: "but it's not very
soldier-like, running away from possible bad news!"
"He's a very good fellow," said Arthur: "but I confess it would be good
news for me, if he got his Commission, and his Marching Orders, all at
once! I wish him all happiness--with one exception. Good night!"
(We had reached home by this time.) "I'm not good company to-night--
better be alone."
It was much the same, next day. Arthur declared he wasn't fit for
Society, and I had to set forth alone for an afternoon-stroll.
I took the road to the Station, and, at the point where the road from
the 'Hall' joined it, I paused, seeing my friends in the distance,
seemingly bound for the same goal.
"Will you join us?" the Earl said, after I had exchanged greetings with
him, and Lady Muriel, and Captain Lindon. "This restless young man is
expecting a telegram, and we are going to the Station to meet it."
"There is also a restless young woman in the case," Lady Muriel added.
"That goes without saying, my child," said her father.
"Women are always restless!"
"For generous appreciation of all one's best qualities," his daughter
impressively remarked, "there's nothing to compare with a father,
is there, Eric?"
"Cousins are not 'in it,'" said Eric: and then somehow the conversation
lapsed into two duologues, the younger folk taking the lead, and the
two old men following with less eager steps.
"And when are we to see your little friends again?" said the Earl.
"They are singularly attractive children."
"I shall be delighted to bring them, when I can," I said!
"But I don't know, myself, when I am likely to see them again."
"I'm not going to question you," said the Earl: "but there's no harm in
mentioning that Muriel is simply tormented with curiosity! We know
most of the people about here, and she has been vainly trying to guess
what house they can possibly be staying at."
"Some day I may be able to enlighten her: but just at present--"
"Thanks. She must bear it as best she can. I tell her it's a grand
opportunity for practising patience. But she hardly sees it from that
point of view. Why, there are the children!"
So indeed they were: waiting (for us, apparently) at a stile,
which they could not have climbed over more than a few moments,
as Lady Muriel and her cousin had passed it without seeing them.
On catching sight of us, Bruno ran to meet us, and to exhibit to us,
with much pride, the handle of a clasp-knife--the blade having been
broken off--which he had picked up in the road.
"And what shall you use it for, Bruno?" I said.
"Don't know," Bruno carelessly replied: "must think."
"A child's first view of life," the Earl remarked, with that sweet sad
smile of his, "is that it is a period to be spent in accumulating
portable property. That view gets modified as the years glide away."
And he held out his hand to Sylvie, who had placed herself by me,
looking a little shy of him.
But the gentle old man was not one with whom any child, human or fairy,
could be shy for long; and she had very soon deserted my hand for
his--Bruno alone remaining faithful to his first friend. We overtook
the other couple just as they reached the Station, and both Lady Muriel
and Eric greeted the children as old friends--the latter with the words
"So you got to Babylon by candlelight, after all?"
"Yes, and back again!" cried Bruno.
Lady Muriel looked from one to the other in blank astonishment.
"What, you know them, Eric?" she exclaimed.
"This mystery grows deeper every day!"
"Then we must be somewhere in the Third Act," said Eric. "You don't
expect the mystery to be cleared up till the Fifth Act, do you?"
"But it's such a long drama!" was the plaintive reply. "We must have
got to the Fifth Act by this time!"
"Third Act, I assure you," said the young soldier mercilessly.
"Scene, a railway-platform. Lights down. Enter Prince (in disguise,
of course) and faithful Attendant. This is the Prince--"
(taking Bruno's hand) "and here stands his humble Servant!"
What is your Royal Highness next command.?"
And he made a most courtier-like low bow to his puzzled little friend.
"Oo're not a Servant!" Bruno scornfully exclaimed. "Oo're a Gemplun!"
"Servant, I assure your Royal Highness!" Eric respectfully insisted.
"Allow me to mention to your Royal Highness my various situations--past,
present, and future."
"What did oo begin wiz?" Bruno asked, beginning to enter into the jest.
"Was oo a shoe-black?"
"Lower than that, your Royal Highness! Years ago, I offered myself as
a Slave--as a 'Confidential Slave,' I think it's called?" he asked,
turning to Lady Muriel.
But Lady Muriel heard him not: something had gone wrong with her glove,
which entirely engrossed her attention.
"Did oo get the place?" said Bruno.
"Sad to say, Your Royal Highness, I did not! So I had to take a
situation as--as Waiter, which I have now held for some years haven't
I?" He again glanced at Lady Muriel.
"Sylvie dear, do help me to button this glove!" Lady Muriel whispered,
hastily stooping down, and failing to hear the question.
"And what will oo be next?" said Bruno.
"My next place will, I hope, be that of Groom. And after that--"
"Don't puzzle the child so!" Lady Muriel interrupted.
"What nonsense you talk!"
"--after that," Eric persisted, "I hope to obtain the situation of
Housekeeper, which--Fourth Act!" he proclaimed, with a sudden change of
tone. "Lights turned up. Red lights. Green lights. Distant rumble
heard. Enter a passenger-train!"
And in another minute the train drew up alongside of the platform,
and a stream of passengers began to flow out from the booking office and
"Did you ever make real life into a drama?" said the Earl.
"Now just try. I've often amused myself that way.
Consider this platform as our stage. Good entrances and exits on both
sides, you see. Capital background scene: real engine moving up and down.
All this bustle, and people passing to and fro, must have been most
carefully rehearsed! How naturally they do it! With never a glance at
the audience! And every grouping is quite fresh, you see.
It really was admirable, as soon as I began to enter into it from this
point of view. Even a porter passing, with a barrow piled with
luggage, seemed so realistic that one was tempted to applaud.
He was followed by an angry mother, with hot red face, dragging along
two screaming children, and calling, to some one behind, "John! Come on!"
Enter John, very meek, very silent, and loaded with parcels.
And he was followed, in his turn, by a frightened little nursemaid,
carrying a fat baby, also screaming. All the children screamed.
"Capital byplay!" said the old man aside. "Did you notice the
nursemaid's look of terror? It was simply perfect!"
"You have struck quite a new vein," I said. "To most of us Life and
its pleasures seem like a mine that is nearly worked out."
"Worked out!" exclaimed the Earl. "For any one with true dramatic
instincts, it is only the Overture that is ended! The real treat has
yet to begin. You go to a theatre, and pay your ten shillings for a
stall, and what do you get for your money? Perhaps it's a dialogue
between a couple of farmers--unnatural in their overdone caricature of
farmers' dress---more unnatural in their constrained attitudes and
gestures--most unnatural in their attempts at ease and geniality in
their talk. Go instead and take a seat in a third-class
railway-carriage, and you'll get the same dialogue done to the life!
Front-seats--no orchestra to block the view--and nothing to pay!"
"Which reminds me," said Eric. "There is nothing to pay on receiving a
telegram! Shall we enquire for one?" And he and Lady Muriel strolled
off in the direction of the Telegraph-Office.
"I wonder if Shakespeare had that thought in his mind," I said,
"when he wrote 'All the world's a stage'?"
The old man sighed. "And so it is, "he said, "look at it as you will.
Life is indeed a drama; a drama with but few encores--and no bouquets!"
he added dreamily. "We spend one half of it in regretting the things
we did in the other half!"
"And the secret of enjoying it," he continued, resuming his cheerful
tone, "is intensity!"
"But not in the modern aesthetic sense, I presume? Like the young lady,
in Punch, who begins a conversation with 'Are you intense?'"
"By no means!" replied the Earl.
"What I mean is intensity of thought--a concentrated attention.
We lose half the pleasure we might have in Life, by not really attending.
Take any instance you like: it doesn't matter how trivial the pleasure
may be--the principle is the same. Suppose A and B are reading the same
second-rate circulating-library novel. A never troubles himself to
master the relationships of the characters, on which perhaps all the
interest of the story depends: he 'skips' over all the descriptions of
scenery, and every passage that looks rather dull: he doesn't half attend
to the passages he does read: he goes on reading merely from want of
resolution to find another occupation--for hours after he ought to have
put the book aside: and reaches the 'FINIS' in a state of utter
weariness and depression! B puts his whole soul into the thing--on the
principle that 'whatever is worth doing is worth doing well':
he masters the genealogies: he calls up pictures before his 'mind's eye'
as he reads about the scenery: best of all, he resolutely shuts the
book at the end of some chapter, while his interest is yet at its
keenest, and turns to other subjects; so that, when next he allows
himself an hour at it, it is like a hungry man sitting down to dinner:
and, when the book is finished, he returns to the work of his daily
life like 'a giant refreshed'!"
"But suppose the book were really rubbish--nothing to repay attention?"
"Well, suppose it," said the Earl. "My theory meets that case,
I assure you! A never finds out that it is rubbish, but maunders on to
the end, trying to believe he's enjoying himself. B quietly shuts the
book, when he's read a dozen pages, walks off to the Library, and
changes it for a better! I have yet another theory for adding to the
enjoyment of Life--that is, if I have not exhausted your patience?
I'm afraid you find me a very garrulous old man."
"No indeed!" I exclaimed earnestly. And indeed I felt as if one could
not easily tire of the sweet sadness of that gentle voice.
"It is, that we should learn to take our pleasures quickly, and our
"But why? I should have put it the other way, myself."
"By taking artificial pain--which can be as trivial as you
please--slowly, the result is that, when real pain comes, however
severe, all you need do is to let it go at its ordinary pace, and it's
over in a moment!"
"Very true," I said, "but how about the pleasure?"
"Why, by taking it quick, you can get so much more into life. It takes
you three hours and a half to hear and enjoy an opera. Suppose I can
take it in, and enjoy it, in half-an-hour. Why, I can enjoy seven
operas, while you are listening; to one!"
"Always supposing you have an orchestra capable of playing them,"
I said. "And that orchestra has yet to be found!"
The old man smiled. "I have heard an 'air played," he said, "and by no
means a short one--played right through, variations and all, in three
"When? And how?" I asked eagerly, with a half-notion that I was
"It was done by a little musical-box," he quietly replied.
"After it had been wound up, the regulator, or something, broke,
and it ran down, as I said, in about three seconds.
But it must have played all the notes, you know!"
"Did you enjoy it? I asked, with all the severity of a cross-examining
"No, I didn't!" he candidly confessed. "But then, you know, I hadn't
been trained to that kind of music!"
"I should much like to try your plan," I said, and, as Sylvie and Bruno
happened to run up to us at the moment, I left them to keep the Earl
company, and strolled along the platform, making each person and event
play its part in an extempore drama for my especial benefit.
"What, is the Earl tired of you already?" I said, as the children ran
"No!" Sylvie replied with great emphasis. "He wants the evening-paper.
So Bruno's going to be a little news-boy!"
"Mind you charge a good price for it!" I called after them.
Returning up the platform, I came upon Sylvie alone.
"Well, child," I said, "where's your little news-boy?
Couldn't he get you an evening-paper?"
"He went to get one at the book-stall at the other side," said Sylvie;
"and he's coming across the line with it--oh, Bruno, you ought to cross
by the bridge!" for the distant thud, thud, of the Express was already
Suddenly a look of horror came over her face. "Oh, he's fallen down on
the rails!" she cried, and darted past me at a speed that quite defied
the hasty effort I made to stop her.
But the wheezy old Station-Master happened to be close behind me: he
wasn't good for much, poor old man, but he was good for this; and,
before I could turn round, he had the child clasped in his arms, saved
from the certain death she was rushing to. So intent was I in watching
this scene, that I hardly saw a flying figure in a light grey suit,
who shot across from the back of the platform, and was on the line in
another second. So far as one could take note of time in such a moment
of horror, he had about ten clear seconds, before the Express would be
upon him, in which to cross the rails and to pick up Bruno. Whether he
did so or not it was quite impossible to guess: the next thing one knew
was that the Express had passed, and that, whether for life or death,
all was over. When the cloud of dust had cleared away, and the line
was once more visible, we saw with thankful hearts that the child and
his deliverer were safe.
"All right!" Eric called to us cheerfully, as he recrossed the line.
"He's more frightened than hurt!"
[Image...Crossing the line]
He lifted the little fellow up into Lady Muriel's arms, and mounted
the platform as gaily as if nothing had happened: but he was as
pale as death, and leaned heavily on the arm I hastily offered him,
fearing he was about to faint. "I'll just--sit down a moment--" he
said dreamily: "--where's Sylvie?"
Sylvie ran to him, and flung her arms round his neck, sobbing as if her
heart would break. "Don't do that, my darling!" Eric murmured,
with a strange look in his eyes. "Nothing to cry about now, you know.
But you very nearly got yourself killed for nothing!"
"For Bruno!" the little maiden sobbed.
"And he would have done it for me. Wouldn't you, Bruno?"
"Course I would!" Bruno said, looking round with a bewildered air.
Lady Muriel kissed him in silence as she put him down out of her arms.
Then she beckoned Sylvie to come and take his hand, and signed to the
children to go back to where the Earl was seated. "Tell him," she
whispered with quivering lips, "tell him--all is well!" Then she turned
to the hero of the day. "I thought it was death," she said.
"Thank God, you are safe! Did you see how near it was?"
"I saw there was just time, Eric said lightly.
"A soldier must learn to carry his life in his hand, you know.
I'm all right now. Shall we go to the telegraph-office again?
I daresay it's come by this time."
I went to join the Earl and the children, and we waited--almost in
silence, for no one seemed inclined to talk, and Bruno was half-asleep
on Sylvie's lap--till the others joined us. No telegram had come.
"I'll take a stroll with the children," I said, feeling that we were a
little de trop, "and I'll look in, in the course of the evening."
"We must go back into the wood, now," Sylvie said, as soon as we were
out of hearing.
"We ca'n't stay this size any longer."
"Then you will be quite tiny Fairies again, next time we meet?"
"Yes," said Sylvie: "but we'll be children again some day--if you'll
let us. Bruno's very anxious to see Lady Muriel again."
"She are welly nice," said Bruno.
"I shall be very glad to take you to see her again," I said.
"Hadn't I better give you back the Professor's Watch?
It'll be too large for you to carry when you're Fairies, you know."
Bruno laughed merrily. I was glad to see he had quite recovered from
the terrible scene he had gone through. "Oh no, it won't!" he said.
"When we go small, it'll go small!"
"And then it'll go straight to the Professor," Sylvie added, "and you
won't be able to use it anymore: so you'd better use it all you can, now.
We must go small when the sun sets. Good-bye!"
"Good-bye!" cried Bruno. But their voices sounded very far away, and,
when I looked round, both children had disappeared.
"And it wants only two hours to sunset!" I said as I strolled on.
"I must make the best of my time!"
AN OUTLANDISH WATCH.
As I entered the little town, I came upon two of the fishermen's wives
interchanging that last word "which never was the last":
and it occurred to me, as an experiment with the Magic Watch, to wait
till the little scene was over, and then to 'encore' it.
"Well, good night t'ye! And ye winna forget to send us word when your
"Nay, ah winna forget. An' if she isn't suited, she can but coom back.
Good night t'ye!"
A casual observer might have thought "and there ends the dialogue!"
That casual observer would have been mistaken.
"Ah, she'll like 'em, I war'n' ye! They'll not treat her bad, yer may
depend. They're varry canny fowk. Good night!"
"Ay, they are that! Good night!"
"Good night! And ye'll send us word if she writes?"
"Aye, ah will, yer may depend! Good night t'ye!"
And at last they parted. I waited till they were some twenty yards
apart, and then put the Watch a minute back. The instantaneous change
was startling: the two figures seemed to flash back into their former
"--isn't suited, she can but coom back. Good night t'ye!" one of them
was saying: and so the whole dialogue was repeated, and, when they had
parted for the second time, I let them go their several ways,
and strolled on through the town.
"But the real usefulness of this magic power," I thought,
"would be to undo some harm, some painful event, some accident--"
I had not long to wait for an opportunity of testing this property also
of the Magic Watch, for, even as the thought passed through my mind,
the accident I was imagining occurred. A light cart was standing at
the door of the 'Great Millinery Depot' of Elveston, laden with
card-board packing-cases, which the driver was carrying into the shop,
one by one. One of the cases had fallen into the street,
but it scarcely seemed worth while to step forward and pick it up,
as the man would be back again in a moment. Yet, in that moment,
a young man riding a bicycle came sharp round the corner of the street
and, in trying to avoid running over the box, upset his machine,
and was thrown headlong against the wheel of the spring-cart.
The driver ran out to his assistance, and he and I together raised the
unfortunate cyclist and carried him into the shop. His head was cut and
bleeding; and one knee seemed to be badly injured; and it was speedily
settled that he had better be conveyed at once to the only Surgery in
the place. I helped them in emptying the cart, and placing in it some
pillows for the wounded man to rest on; and it was only when the driver
had mounted to his place, and was starting for the Surgery, that I
bethought me of the strange power I possessed of undoing all this harm.
"Now is my time!" I said to myself, as I moved back the hand of the
Watch, and saw, almost without surprise this time, all things restored
to the places they had occupied at the critical moment when I had first
noticed the fallen packing-case.
Instantly I stepped out into the street, picked up the box,
and replaced it in the cart: in the next moment the bicycle had spun
round the corner, passed the cart without let or hindrance, and soon
vanished in the distance, in a cloud of dust.
"Delightful power of magic!" I thought.
"How much of human suffering I have--not only relieved, but actually
annihilated!" And, in a glow of conscious virtue, I stood watching the
unloading of the cart, still holding the Magic Watch open in my hand,
as I was curious to see what would happen when we again reached the
exact time at which I had put back the hand.
The result was one that, if only I had considered the thing carefully,
I might have foreseen: as the hand of the Watch touched the mark, the
spring-cart--which had driven off, and was by this time half-way down
the street, was back again at the door, and in the act of starting,
while--oh woe for the golden dream of world-wide benevolence that had
dazzled my dreaming fancy!--the wounded youth was once more reclining
on the heap of pillows, his pale face set rigidly in the hard lines
that told of pain resolutely endured.
"Oh mocking Magic Watch!" I said to myself, as I passed out of the
little town, and took the seaward road that led to my lodgings.
"The good I fancied I could do is vanished like a dream: the evil of
this troublesome world is the only abiding reality!"
And now I must record an experience so strange, that I think it only
fair, before beginning to relate it, to release my much-enduring reader
from any obligation he may feel to believe this part of my story.
I would not have believed it, I freely confess, if I had not seen it
with my own eyes: then why should I expect it of my reader, who, quite
possibly, has never seen anything of the sort?
I was passing a pretty little villa, which stood rather back from the
road, in its own grounds, with bright flower-beds in front---creepers
wandering over the walls and hanging in festoons about the bow-windows--
an easy-chair forgotten on the lawn, with a newspaper lying near it--
a small pug-dog "couchant" before it, resolved to guard the treasure
even at the sacrifice of life--and a front-door standing invitingly
half-open. "Here is my chance," I thought, "for testing the reverse
action of the Magic Watch!" I pressed the 'reversal-peg' and walked in.
In another house, the entrance of a stranger might cause surprise--
perhaps anger, even going so far as to expel the said stranger with
violence: but here, I knew, nothing of the sort could happen.
The ordinary course of events first, to think nothing about me;
then, hearing my footsteps to look up and see me; and then to wonder
what business I had there--would be reversed by the action of my Watch.
They would first wonder who I was, then see me, then look down,
and think no more about me. And as to being expelled with violence,
that event would necessarily come first in this case. "So, if I can
once get in," I said to myself, "all risk of expulsion will be over!"
[Image...'The pug-dog sat up']
The pug-dog sat up, as a precautionary measure, as I passed;
but, as I took no notice of the treasure he was guarding, he let me go
by without even one remonstrant bark. "He that takes my life,"
he seemed to be saying, wheezily, to himself, "takes trash: But he that
takes the Daily Telegraph--!" But this awful contingency I did not face.
The party in the drawing-room--I had walked straight in, you understand,
without ringing the bell, or giving any notice of my approach--
consisted of four laughing rosy children, of ages from about fourteen
down to ten, who were, apparently, all coming towards the door
(I found they were really walking backwards), while their mother,
seated by the fire with some needlework on her lap, was saying, just as
I entered the room, "Now, girls, you may get your things on for a walk."
To my utter astonishment--for I was not yet accustomed to the action of
the Watch "all smiles ceased', (as Browning says) on the four pretty
faces, and they all got out pieces of needle-work, and sat down.
No one noticed me in the least, as I quietly took a chair and sat down
to watch them.
When the needle-work had been unfolded, and they were all ready to
begin, their mother said "Come, that's done, at last! You may fold up
your work, girls." But the children took no notice whatever of the
remark; on the contrary, they set to work at once sewing--if that is
the proper word to describe an operation such as I had never before
witnessed. Each of them threaded her needle with a short end of thread
attached to the work, which was instantly pulled by an invisible force
through the stuff, dragging the needle after it: the nimble fingers of
the little sempstress caught it at the other side, but only to lose it
again the next moment. And so the work went on, steadily undoing
itself, and the neatly-stitched little dresses, or whatever they were,
steadily falling to pieces. Now and then one of the children would
pause, as the recovered thread became inconveniently long, wind it on a
bobbin, and start again with another short end.
At last all the work was picked to pieces and put away, and the lady
led the way into the next room, walking backwards, and making the
insane remark "Not yet, dear: we must get the sewing done first."
After which, I was not surprised to see the children skipping backwards
after her, exclaiming "Oh, mother, it is such a lovely day for a walk!"
In the dining-room, the table had only dirty plates and empty dishes on it.
However the party--with the addition of a gentleman, as good-natured,
and as rosy, as the children--seated themselves at it very contentedly.
You have seen people eating cherry-tart, and every now and then
cautiously conveying a cherry-stone from their lips to their plates?
Well, something like that went on all through this ghastly--or shall we
say 'ghostly'?---banquet. An empty fork is raised to the lips: there
it receives a neatly-cut piece of mutton, and swiftly conveys it to the
plate, where it instantly attaches itself to the mutton already there.
Soon one of the plates, furnished with a complete slice of mutton and
two potatoes, was handed up to the presiding gentleman, who quietly
replaced the slice on the joint, and the potatoes in the dish.
Their conversation was, if possible, more bewildering than their mode
of dining. It began by the youngest girl suddenly, and without
provocation, addressing her eldest sister.
"Oh, you wicked story-teller!" she said.
I expected a sharp reply from the sister; but, instead of this, she
turned laughingly to her father, and said, in a very loud stage-whisper,
"To be a bride!"
The father, in order to do his part in a conversation that seemed only
fit for lunatics, replied "Whisper it to me, dear."
But she didn't whisper (these children never did anything they were told):
she said, quite loud, "Of course not! Everybody knows what Dotty wants!"
And little Dolly shrugged her shoulders, and said, with a pretty
pettishness, "Now, Father, you're not to tease!
You know I don't want to be bride's-maid to anybody!"
"And Dolly's to be the fourth," was her father's idiotic reply.
Here Number Three put in her oar. "Oh, it is settled, Mother dear,
really and truly! Mary told us all about it. It's to be next Tuesday
four weeks--and three of her cousins are coming; to be bride's-maids--
"She doesn't forget it, Minnie!" the Mother laughingly replied.
"I do wish they'd get it settled! I don't like long engagements."
And Minnie wound up the conversation--if so chaotic a series of remarks
deserves the name--with "Only think! We passed the Cedars this
morning, just exactly as Mary Davenant was standing at the gate,
wishing good-bye to Mister---I forget his name. Of course we looked
the other way."
By this time I was so hopelessly confused that I gave up listening,
and followed the dinner down into the kitchen.
But to you, O hypercritical reader, resolute to believe no item of this
weird adventure, what need to tell how the mutton was placed on the
spit, and slowly unroasted--how the potatoes were wrapped in their
skins, and handed over to the gardener to be buried--how, when the
mutton had at length attained to rawness, the fire, which had gradually
changed from red-heat to a mere blaze, died down so suddenly that the
cook had only just time to catch its last flicker on the end of a
match--or how the maid, having taken the mutton off the spit, carried
it (backwards, of course) out of the house, to meet the butcher,
who was coming (also backwards) down the road?
The longer I thought over this strange adventure, the more hopelessly
tangled the mystery became: and it was a real relief to meet Arthur in
the road, and get him to go with me up to the Hall, to learn what news
the telegraph had brought. I told him, as we went, what had happened
at the Station, but as to my further adventures I thought it best, for
the present, to say nothing.
The Earl was sitting alone when we entered. "I am glad you are come in
to keep me company," he said. "Muriel is gone to bed--the excitement
of that terrible scene was too much for her--and Eric has gone to the
hotel to pack his things, to start for London by the early train."
"Then the telegram has come?" I said.
"Did you not hear? Oh, I had forgotten: it came in after you left the
Station. Yes, it's all right: Eric has got his commission; and, now
that he has arranged matters with Muriel, he has business in town that
must be seen to at once."
"What arrangement do you mean?" I asked with a sinking heart, as the
thought of Arthur's crushed hopes came to my mind. "Do you mean that
they are engaged?"
"They have been engaged--in a sense--for two years," the old man gently
"that is, he has had my promise to consent to it, so soon as he could
secure a permanent and settled line in life. I could never be happy
with my child married to a man without an object to live for--without
even an object to die for!"
"I hope they will be happy," a strange voice said. The speaker was
evidently in the room, but I had not heard the door open, and I looked
round in some astonishment. The Earl seemed to share my surprise.
"Who spoke?" he exclaimed.
"It was I," said Arthur, looking at us with a worn, haggard face,
and eyes from which the light of life seemed suddenly to have faded.
"And let me wish you joy also, dear friend," he added, looking sadly at
the Earl, and speaking in the same hollow tones that had startled us so
"Thank you," the old man said, simply and heartily.
A silence followed: then I rose, feeling sure that Arthur would wish to
be alone, and bade our gentle host 'Good night': Arthur took his hand,
but said nothing: nor did he speak again, as we went home till we were
in the house and had lit our bed-room candles. Then he said more to
himself than to me "The heart knoweth its own bitterness.
I never understood those words till now."
The next few days passed wearily enough. I felt no inclination to call
by myself at the Hall; still less to propose that Arthur should go with
me: it seemed better to wait till Time--that gentle healer of our
bitterest sorrows should have helped him to recover from the first
shock of the disappointment that had blighted his life.
Business however soon demanded my presence in town; and I had to
announce to Arthur that I must leave him for a while.
"But I hope to run down again in a month I added. I would stay now,
if I could. I don't think it's good for you to be alone.
No, I ca'n't face solitude, here, for long, said Arthur. But don't
think about me. I have made up my mind to accept a post in India, that
has been offered me. Out there, I suppose I shall find something to
live for; I ca'n't see anything at present. 'This life of mine I guard,
as God's high gift, from scathe and wrong, Not greatly care to lose!'"
"Yes," I said: "your name-sake bore as heavy a blow, and lived through it."
"A far heavier one than mine, said Arthur.
"The woman he loved proved false. There is no such cloud as that on my
memory of--of--" He left the name unuttered, and went on hurriedly.
"But you will return, will you not?"
"Yes, I shall come back for a short time."
"Do," said Arthur: "and you shall write and tell me of our friends.
I'll send you my address when I'm settled down."
THE FROGS' BIRTHDAY-TREAT.
And so it came to pass that, just a week after the day when my
Fairy-friends first appeared as Children, I found myself taking a
farewell-stroll through the wood, in the hope of meeting them once
more. I had but to stretch myself on the smooth turf, and the 'eerie'
feeling was on me in a moment.
"Put oor ear welly low down," said Bruno, "and I'll tell oo a secret!
It's the Frogs' Birthday-Treat--and we've lost the Baby!"
"What Baby?" I said, quite bewildered by this complicated piece of news.
"The Queen's Baby, a course!" said Bruno. "Titania's Baby. And we's
welly sorry. Sylvie, she's--oh so sorry!"
"How sorry is she?" I asked, mischievously.
"Three-quarters of a yard," Bruno replied with perfect solemnity.
"And I'm a little sorry too," he added, shutting his eyes so as not
to see that he was smiling.
"And what are you doing about the Baby?"
"Well, the soldiers are all looking for it--up and down everywhere."
"The soldiers?" I exclaimed.
"Yes, a course!" said Bruno. "When there's no fighting to be done,
the soldiers doos any little odd jobs, oo know."
I was amused at the idea of its being a 'little odd job' to find the
Royal Baby. "But how did you come to lose it?" I asked.
"We put it in a flower," Sylvie, who had just joined us, explained with
her eyes full of tears. "Only we ca'n't remember which!"
"She says us put it in a flower," Bruno interrupted, "'cause she doosn't
want I to get punished. But it were really me what put it there.
Sylvie were picking Dindledums."
[Image...The queen's baby]
"You shouldn't say 'us put it in a flower'," Sylvie very gravely remarked.
"Well, hus, then," said Bruno. "I never can remember those horrid H's!"
"Let me help you to look for it," I said. So Sylvie and I made a
'voyage of discovery' among all the flowers; but there was no Baby to
"What's become of Bruno?" I said, when we had completed our tour.
"He's down in the ditch there," said Sylvie, "amusing a young Frog."
I went down on my hands and knees to look for him, for I felt very
curious to know how young Frogs ought to be amused. After a minute's
search, I found him sitting at the edge of the ditch, by the side of
the little Frog, and looking rather disconsolate.
"How are you getting on, Bruno?" I said, nodding to him as he looked up.
"Ca'n't amuse it no more," Bruno answered, very dolefully, "'cause it
won't say what it would like to do next! I've showed it all the
duck-weeds--and a live caddis-worm--- but it won't say nuffin!
What--would oo like?' he shouted into the ear of the Frog:
but the little creature sat quite still, and took no notice of him.
"It's deaf, I think!" Bruno said, turning away with a sigh.
"And it's time to get the Theatre ready."
"Who are the audience to be?"
"Only but Frogs," said Bruno. "But they haven't comed yet.
They wants to be drove up, like sheep."
"Would it save time," I suggested, "if I were to walk round with
Sylvie, to drive up the Frogs, while you get the Theatre ready?"
"That are a good plan!" cried Bruno. "But where are Sylvie?"
"I'm here!" said Sylvie, peeping over the edge of the bank.
"I was just watching two Frogs that were having a race."
"Which won it? "Bruno eagerly inquired.
Sylvie was puzzled. "He does ask such hard questions!"
she confided to me.
"And what's to happen in the Theatre?" I asked.
"First they have their Birthday-Feast," Sylvie said: "then Bruno does
some Bits of Shakespeare; then he tells them a Story."
"I should think the Frogs like the Feast best. Don't they?"
"Well, there's generally very few of them that get any. They will keep
their mouths shut so tight! And it's just as well they do," she added,
"because Bruno likes to cook it himself: and he cooks very queerly."
Now they're all in. Would you just help me to put them with their
heads the right way?"
We soon managed this part of the business, though the Frogs kept up a
most discontented croaking all the time.
"What are they saying?" I asked Sylvie.
"They're saying 'Fork! Fork!' It's very silly of them! You're not
going to have forks!" she announced with some severity. "Those that
want any Feast have just got to open their mouths, and Bruno 'll put
some of it in!"
At this moment Bruno appeared, wearing a little white apron to show
that he was a Cook, and carrying a tureen full of very queer-looking
soup. I watched very carefully as he moved about among the Frogs;
but I could not see that any of them opened their mouths to be fed--
except one very young one, and I'm nearly sure it did it accidentally,
in yawning. However Bruno instantly put a large spoonful of soup into
its mouth, and the poor little thing coughed violently for some time.
So Sylvie and I had to share the soup between us, and to pretend to
enjoy it, for it certainly was very queerly cooked.
I only ventured to take one spoonful of it ("Sylvie's Summer-Soup,"
Bruno said it was), and must candidly confess that it was not at all
nice; and I could not feel surprised that so many of the guests had
kept their mouths shut up tight.
"What's the soup made of, Bruno?" said Sylvie, who had put a spoonful
of it to her lips, and was making a wry face over it.
And Bruno's answer was anything but encouraging. "Bits of things!"
The entertainment was to conclude with "Bits of Shakespeare," as Sylvie
expressed it, which were all to be done by Bruno, Sylvie being fully
engaged in making the Frogs keep their heads towards the stage:
after which Bruno was to appear in his real character, and tell them a
Story of his own invention.
"Will the Story have a Moral to it?" I asked Sylvie, while Bruno was
away behind the hedge, dressing for the first 'Bit.'
"I think so," Sylvie replied doubtfully. "There generally is a Moral,
only he puts it in too soon."
"And will he say all the Bits of Shakespeare?"
"No, he'll only act them," said Sylvie. "He knows hardly any of the
words. When I see what he's dressed like, I've to tell the Frogs
what character it is. They're always in such a hurry to guess!
Don't you hear them all saying 'What? What?'" And so indeed they were:
it had only sounded like croaking, till Sylvie explained it, but I could
now make out the "Wawt? Wawt?" quite distinctly.
"But why do they try to guess it before they see it?"
"I don't know," Sylvie said: "but they always do. Sometimes they begin
guessing weeks and weeks before the day!"
(So now, when you hear the Frogs croaking in a particularly melancholy
way, you may be sure they're trying to guess Bruno's next Shakespeare
'Bit'. Isn't that interesting?)
However, the chorus of guessing was cut short by Bruno, who suddenly
rushed on from behind the scenes, and took a flying leap down among the
Frogs, to re-arrange them.
For the oldest and fattest Frog--who had never been properly arranged
so that he could see the stage, and so had no idea what was going
on--was getting restless, and had upset several of the Frogs, and
turned others round with their heads the wrong way. And it was no good
at all, Bruno said, to do a 'Bit' of Shakespeare when there was nobody
to look at it (you see he didn't count me as anybody). So he set to
work with a stick, stirring them up, very much as you would stir up tea
in a cup, till most of them had at least one great stupid eye gazing at
"Oo must come and sit among them, Sylvie," he said in despair, "I've
put these two side-by-side, with their noses the same way, ever so many
times, but they do squarrel so!"
So Sylvie took her place as 'Mistress of the Ceremonies,' and Bruno
vanished again behind the scenes, to dress for the first 'Bit.'
"Hamlet!" was suddenly proclaimed, in the clear sweet tones I knew so
well. The croaking all ceased in a moment, and I turned to the stage,
in some curiosity to see what Bruno's ideas were as to the behaviour of
Shakespeare's greatest Character.
According to this eminent interpreter of the Drama, Hamlet wore a short
black cloak (which he chiefly used for muffling up his face, as if he
suffered a good deal from toothache), and turned out his toes very much
as he walked. "To be or not to be!" Hamlet remarked in a cheerful
tone, and then turned head-over-heels several times, his cloak dropping
off in the performance.
I felt a little disappointed: Bruno's conception of the part seemed so
wanting in dignity. "Won't he say any more of the speech?" I whispered
"I think not," Sylvie whispered in reply. "He generally turns
head-over-heels when he doesn't know any more words."
Bruno had meanwhile settled the question by disappearing from the
stage; and the Frogs instantly began inquiring the name of the next
"You'll know directly!" cried Sylvie, as she adjusted two or three
young Frogs that had struggled round with their backs to the stage.
"Macbeth!" she added, as Bruno re-appeared.
Macbeth had something twisted round him, that went over one shoulder
and under the other arm, and was meant, I believe, for a Scotch plaid.
He had a thorn in his hand, which he held out at arm's length, as if he
were a little afraid of it. "Is this a dagger?" Macbeth inquired, in a
puzzled sort of tone: and instantly a chorus of "Thorn! Thorn!" arose
from the Frogs (I had quite learned to understand their croaking by
"It's a dagger!" Sylvie proclaimed in a peremptory tone.
"Hold your tongues!" And the croaking ceased at once.
Shakespeare has not told us, so far as I know, that Macbeth had any
such eccentric habit as turning head-over-heels in private life: but
Bruno evidently considered it quite an essential part of the character,
and left the stage in a series of somersaults. However, he was back
again in a few moments, having tucked under his chin the end of a tuft
of wool (probably left on the thorn by a wandering sheep), which made a
magnificent beard, that reached nearly down to his feet.
"Shylock!" Sylvie proclaimed. "No, I beg your pardon!" she hastily
corrected herself, "King Lear! I hadn't noticed the crown."
(Bruno had very cleverly provided one, which fitted him exactly,
by cutting out the centre of a dandelion to make room for his head.)
King Lear folded his arms (to the imminent peril of his beard) and
said, in a mild explanatory tone, "Ay, every inch a king!" and then
paused, as if to consider how this could best be proved. And here,
with all possible deference to Bruno as a Shakespearian critic, I must
express my opinion that the poet did not mean his three great tragic
heroes to be so strangely alike in their personal habits; nor do I
believe that he would have accepted the faculty of turning
head-over-heels as any proof at all of royal descent. Yet it appeared
that King Lear, after deep meditation, could think of no other argument
by which to prove his kingship: and, as this was the last of the 'Bits'
of Shakespeare ("We never do more than three," Sylvie explained in a
whisper), Bruno gave the audience quite a long series of somersaults
before he finally retired, leaving the enraptured Frogs all crying out
"More! More!" which I suppose was their way of encoring a performance.
But Bruno wouldn't appear again, till the proper time came for telling
[Image...The frogs' birthday-treat]
When he appeared at last in his real character, I noticed a remarkable
change in his behaviour.
He tried no more somersaults. It was clearly his opinion that, however
suitable the habit of turning head-over-heels might be to such petty
individuals as Hamlet and King Lear, it would never do for Bruno to
sacrifice his dignity to such an extent. But it was equally clear that
he did not feel entirely at his ease, standing all alone on the stage,
with no costume to disguise him: and though he began, several times,
"There were a Mouse--," he kept glancing up and down, and on all sides,
as if in search of more comfortable quarters from which to tell the
Story. Standing on one side of the stage, and partly overshadowing it,
was a tall foxglove, which seemed, as the evening breeze gently swayed
it hither and thither, to offer exactly the sort of accommodation that
the orator desired. Having once decided on his quarters, it needed
only a second or two for him to run up the stem like a tiny squirrel,
and to seat himself astride on the topmost bend, where the fairy-bells
clustered most closely, and from whence he could look down on his
audience from such a height that all shyness vanished, and he began his
"Once there were a Mouse and a Crocodile and a Man and a Goat and a
Lion." I had never heard the 'dramatis personae' tumbled into a story
with such profusion and in such reckless haste; and it fairly took my
breath away. Even Sylvie gave a little gasp, and allowed three of the
Frogs, who seemed to be getting tired of the entertainment, to hop away
into the ditch, without attempting to stop them.
"And the Mouse found a Shoe, and it thought it were a Mouse-trap.
So it got right in, and it stayed in ever so long."
"Why did it stay in?" said Sylvie. Her function seemed to be much the
same as that of the Chorus in a Greek Play: she had to encourage the
orator, and draw him out, by a series of intelligent questions.
"'Cause it thought it couldn't get out again," Bruno explained.
"It were a clever mouse. It knew it couldn't get out of traps!"
But why did it go in at all?" said Sylvie.
"--and it jamp, and it jamp," Bruno proceeded, ignoring this question,
"and at last it got right out again. And it looked at the mark in the
Shoe. And the Man's name were in it. So it knew it wasn't its own Shoe."
"Had it thought it was?" said Sylvie.
"Why, didn't I tell oo it thought it were a Mouse-trap?" the indignant
orator replied. "Please, Mister Sir, will oo make Sylvie attend?"
Sylvie was silenced, and was all attention: in fact, she and I were
most of the audience now, as the Frogs kept hopping away, and there
were very few of them left.
"So the Mouse gave the Man his Shoe.
And the Man were welly glad, cause he hadn't got but one Shoe, and he
were hopping to get the other."
Here I ventured on a question. "Do you mean 'hopping,' or 'hoping'?"
"Bofe," said Bruno. "And the Man took the Goat out of the Sack."
("We haven't heard of the sack before," I said. "Nor you won't hear of
it again," said Bruno). "And he said to the Goat, 'Oo will walk about
here till I comes back.' And he went and he tumbled into a deep hole.
And the Goat walked round and round. And it walked under the Tree.
And it wug its tail. And it looked up in the Tree. And it sang a sad
little Song. Oo never heard such a sad little Song!"
"Can you sing it, Bruno?" I asked.
"Iss, I can," Bruno readily replied. "And I sa'n't. It would make
"It wouldn't!', Sylvie interrupted in great indignation.
"And I don't believe the Goat sang it at all!"
"It did, though!" said Bruno. "It singed it right froo.
I sawed it singing with its long beard--"
"It couldn't sing with its beard," I said, hoping to puzzle the little
fellow: "a beard isn't a voice."
"Well then, oo couldn't walk with Sylvie!" Bruno cried triumphantly.
"Sylvie isn't a foot!"
I thought I had better follow Sylvie's example, and be silent for a
while. Bruno was too sharp for us.
"And when it had singed all the Song, it ran away--for to get along to
look for the Man, oo know. And the Crocodile got along after it--for to
bite it, oo know. And the Mouse got along after the Crocodile."
"Wasn't the Crocodile running?" Sylvie enquired. She appealed to me.
"Crocodiles do run, don't they?"
I suggested "crawling" as the proper word.
"He wasn't running," said Bruno, "and he wasn't crawling.
He went struggling along like a portmanteau. And he held his chin ever
so high in the air--"
"What did he do that for?" said Sylvie.
"'cause he hadn't got a toofache!" said Bruno. "Ca'n't oo make out
nuffin wizout I 'splain it? Why, if he'd had a toofache, a course he'd
have held his head down--like this--and he'd have put a lot of warm
blankets round it!"
"If he'd had any blankets," Sylvie argued.
"Course he had blankets!" retorted her brother. "Doos oo think
Crocodiles goes walks wizout blankets? And he frowned with his
eyebrows. And the Goat was welly flightened at his eyebrows!"
"I'd never be afraid of eyebrows?" exclaimed Sylvie.
"I should think oo would, though, if they'd got a Crocodile fastened to
them, like these had! And so the Man jamp, and he jamp, and at last he
got right out of the hole."
Sylvie gave another little gasp: this rapid dodging about among the
characters of the Story had taken away her breath.
"And he runned away for to look for the Goat, oo know. And he heard
the Lion grunting---"
"Lions don't grunt," said Sylvie.
"This one did," said Bruno. "And its mouth were like a large cupboard.
And it had plenty of room in its mouth. And the Lion runned after the
Man for to eat him, oo know. And the Mouse runned after the Lion."
"But the Mouse was running after the Crocodile," I said: "he couldn't
run after both!"
Bruno sighed over the density of his audience, but explained very
patiently. "He did runned after bofe: 'cause they went the same way!
And first he caught the Crocodile, and then he didn't catch the Lion.
And when he'd caught the Crocodile, what doos oo think he did--'cause
he'd got pincers in his pocket?"
"I ca'n't guess," said Sylvie.
[Image...'He wrenched out that crocodile's toof!']
"Nobody couldn't guess it!" Bruno cried in high glee.
"Why, he wrenched out that Crocodile's toof!"
"Which tooth?" I ventured to ask.
But Bruno was not to be puzzled. "The toof he were going to bite the
Goat with, a course!"
"He couldn't be sure about that," I argued,
"unless he wrenched out all its teeth."
Bruno laughed merrily, and half sang, as he swung himself backwards and
forwards, "He did--wrenched--out--all its teef!"
"Why did the Crocodile wait to have them wrenched out?" said Sylvie.
"It had to wait," said Bruno.
I ventured on another question. "But what became of the Man who said
'You may wait here till I come back'?"
"He didn't say 'Oo may,'" Bruno explained. "He said, 'Oo will.'
Just like Sylvie says to me 'Oo will do oor lessons till twelve o'clock.'
Oh, I wiss," he added with a little sigh, "I wiss Sylvie would say 'Oo
may do oor lessons'!"
This was a dangerous subject for discussion, Sylvie seemed to think.
She returned to the Story. "But what became of the Man?"
"Well, the Lion springed at him. But it came so slow, it were three
weeks in the air--"
"Did the Man wait for it all that time?" I said.
"Course he didn't!" Bruno replied, gliding head-first down the stem of
the fox-glove, for the Story was evidently close to its end.
"He sold his house, and he packed up his things, while the Lion were
coming. And he went and he lived in another town. So the Lion ate
the wrong man."
This was evidently the Moral: so Sylvie made her final proclamation to
the Frogs. "The Story's finished! And whatever is to be learned from
it," she added, aside to me, "I'm sure I don't know!"
I did not feel quite clear about it myself, so made no suggestion: but
the Frogs seemed quite content, Moral or no Moral, and merely raised a
husky chorus of "Off! Off!" as they hopped away.
"It's just a week," I said, three days later, to Arthur, "since we
heard of Lady Muriel's engagement. I think I ought to call,
at any rate, and offer my congratulations. Won't you come with me?"
A pained expression passed over his face.
"When must you leave us?" he asked.
"By the first train on Monday."
"Well--yes, I will come with you. It would seem strange and unfriendly
if I didn't. But this is only Friday. Give me till Sunday afternoon.
I shall be stronger then."
Shading his eyes with one hand, as if half-ashamed of the tears that
were coursing down his cheeks, he held the other out to me.
It trembled as I clasped it.
I tried to frame some words of sympathy; but they seemed poor and cold,
and I left them unspoken. "Good night!" was all I said.
"Good night, dear friend!" he replied. There was a manly vigour in his
tone that convinced me he was wrestling with, and triumphing over,
the great sorrow that had so nearly wrecked his life--and that, on the
stepping-stone of his dead self, he would surely rise to higher things!
There was no chance, I was glad to think, as we set out on Sunday
afternoon, of meeting Eric at the Hall, as he had returned to town the
day after his engagement was announced. His presence might have
disturbed the calm--the almost unnatural calm--with which Arthur met
the woman who had won his heart, and murmured the few graceful words of
sympathy that the occasion demanded.
Lady Muriel was perfectly radiant with happiness: sadness could not
live in the light of such a smile: and even Arthur brightened under it,
and, when she remarked "You see I'm watering my flowers, though it is
the Sabbath-Day," his voice had almost its old ring of cheerfulness as
he replied "Even on the Sabbath-Day works of mercy are allowed.
But this isn't the Sabbath-Day. The Sabbath-day has ceased to exist."
"I know it's not Saturday," Lady Muriel replied; "but isn't Sunday
often called 'the Christian Sabbath'?"
"It is so called, I think, in recognition of the spirit of the Jewish
institution, that one day in seven should be a day of rest.
But I hold that Christians are freed from the literal observance of
the Fourth Commandment."
"Then where is our authority for Sunday observance?"
"We have, first, the fact that the seventh day was 'sanctified',
when God rested from the work of Creation. That is binding on us as
Theists. Secondly, we have the fact that 'the Lord's Day' is a
Christian institution. That is binding on us as Christians."
"And your practical rules would be--?"
"First, as Theists, to keep it holy in some special way, and to make
it, so far as is reasonably possible, a day of rest. Secondly, as
Christians, to attend public worship."
"And what of amusements?"
"I would say of them, as of all kinds of work, whatever is innocent on
a week-day, is innocent on Sunday, provided it does not interfere with
the duties of the day."
"Then you would allow children to play on Sunday?"
"Certainly I should. Why make the day irksome to their restless natures?"
"I have a letter somewhere," said Lady Muriel, "from an old friend,
describing the way in which Sunday was kept in her younger days.
I will fetch it for you."
"I had a similar description, viva voce, years ago," Arthur said when
she had left us, "from a little girl. It was really touching to hear
the melancholy tone in which she said 'On Sunday I mustn't play with my
doll! On Sunday I mustn't run on the sands! On Sunday I mustn't dig
in the garden!' Poor child! She had indeed abundant cause for hating
"Here is the letter," said Lady Muriel, returning.
"Let me read you a piece of it."
"When, as a child, I first opened my eyes on a Sunday-morning,
a feeling of dismal anticipation, which began at least on the Friday,
culminated. I knew what was before me, and my wish, if not my word,
was 'Would God it were evening!' It was no day of rest, but a day of
texts, of catechisms (Watts'), of tracts about converted swearers,
godly charwomen, and edifying deaths of sinners saved.
"Up with the lark, hymns and portions of Scripture had to be learned by
heart till 8 o'clock, when there were family-prayers, then breakfast,
which I was never able to enjoy, partly from the fast already undergone,
and partly from the outlook I dreaded.
"At 9 came Sunday-School; and it made me indignant to be put into the
class with the village-children, as well as alarmed lest, by some
mistake of mine, I should be put below them.
"The Church-Service was a veritable Wilderness of Zin. I wandered in
it, pitching the tabernacle of my thoughts on the lining of the square
family-pew, the fidgets of my small brothers, and the horror of knowing
that, on the Monday, I should have to write out, from memory, jottings
of the rambling disconnected extempore sermon, which might have had any
text but its own, and to stand or fall by the result.
"This was followed by a, cold dinner at 1 (servants to have no work),
Sunday-School again from 2 to 4, and Evening-Service at 6.
The intervals were perhaps the greatest trial of all, from the efforts I
had to make, to be less than usually sinful, by reading books and
sermons as barren as the Dead Sea. There was but one rosy spot, in the
distance, all that day: and that was 'bed-time,' which never could come
"Such teaching was well meant, no doubt," said Arthur; "but it must
have driven many of its victims into deserting the Church-Services
"I'm afraid I was a deserter this morning," she gravely said. "I had
to write to Eric. Would you--would you mind my telling you something
he said about prayer? It had never struck me in that light before."
"In what light?" said Arthur.
"Why, that all Nature goes by fixed, regular laws--Science has proved
that. So that asking God to do anything (except of course praying for
spiritual blessings) is to expect a miracle: and we've no right to do
that. I've not put it as well as he did: but that was the outcome of
it, and it has confused me. Please tell me what you can say in answer
"I don't propose to discuss Captain Lindon's difficulties," Arthur
gravely replied; "specially as he is not present. But, if it is your
difficulty," (his voice unconsciously took a tenderer tone)
"then I will speak."
"It is my difficulty," she said anxiously.
"Then I will begin by asking 'Why did you except spiritual blessings?'
Is not your mind a part of Nature?"
"Yes, but Free-Will comes in there--I can choose this or that; and God
can influence my choice."
"Then you are not a Fatalist?"
"Oh, no!" she earnestly exclaimed.
"Thank God!" Arthur said to himself, but in so low a whisper that only
I heard it. "You grant then that I can, by an act of free choice,
move this cup," suiting the action to the word, "this way or that way?"
"Yes, I grant it."
"Well, let us see how far the result is produced by fixed laws.
The cup moves because certain mechanical forces are impressed on it by
my hand. My hand moves because certain forces--electric, magnetic,
or whatever 'nerve-force' may prove to be--are impressed on it by my
brain. This nerve-force, stored in the brain, would probably be
traceable, if Science were complete, to chemical forces supplied to the
brain by the blood, and ultimately derived from the food I eat and the
air I breathe."
"But would not that be Fatalism? Where would Free-Will come in?"
"In choice of nerves," replied Arthur. "The nerve-force in the brain
may flow just as naturally down one nerve as down another.
We need something more than a fixed Law of Nature to settle which nerve
shall carry it. That 'something' is Free-Will."
Her eyes sparkled." "I see what you mean!" she exclaimed.
"Human Free-Will is an exception to the system of fixed Law.
Eric said something like that. And then I think he pointed out that
God can only influence Nature by influencing Human Wills.
So that we might reasonably pray 'give us this day our daily bread,'
because many of the causes that produce bread are under Man's control.
But to pray for rain, or fine weather, would be as unreasonable as--"
she checked herself, as if fearful of saying something irreverent.
In a hushed, low tone, that trembled with emotion, and with the
solemnity of one in the presence of death, Arthur slowly replied
"Shalt he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? Shall we
'the swarm that in the noontide beam were born,' feeling in ourselves
the power to direct, this way or that, the forces of Nature--of Nature,
of which we form so trivial a part--shall we, in our boundless arrogance,
in our pitiful conceit, deny that power to the Ancient of Days?
Saying, to our Creator, 'Thus far and no further. Thou madest, but
thou canst not rule!'?"
Lady Muriel had covered her face in her hands, and did not look up.
She only murmured "Thanks, thanks!" again and again.
We rose to go. Arthur said, with evident effort, "One word more.
If you would know the power of Prayer--in anything and everything that
Man can need try it. Ask, and it shall be given you. I--have tried it.
I know that God answers prayer!"
Our walk home was a silent one, till we had nearly reached the
lodgings: then Arthur murmured--and it was almost an echo of my own
thoughts--"What knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy
The subject was not touched on again. We sat on, talking, while hour
after hour, of this our last night together, glided away unnoticed.
He had much to tell me about India, and the new life he was going to,
and the work he hoped to do. And his great generous soul seemed so
filled with noble ambition as to have no space left for any vain regret
or selfish repining.
"Come, it is nearly morning! Arthur said at last, rising and leading
the way upstairs.
"The sun will be rising in a few minutes: and, though I have basely
defrauded you of your last chance of a night's rest here,
I'm sure you'll forgive me: for I really couldn't bring myself to say
'Good night' sooner. And God knows whether you'll ever see me again,
or hear of me!"
"Hear of you I am certain I shall!" I warmly responded, and quoted the
concluding lines of that strange poem 'Waring' :--
"Oh, never star
Was lost here, but it rose afar
Look East, where whole new thousands are!
In Vishnu-land what Avatar?"
"Aye, look Eastward!" Arthur eagerly replied, pausing at the stair-case
window, which commanded a fine view of the sea and the eastward
horizon. "The West is the fitting tomb for all the sorrow and the
sighing, all the errors and the follies of the Past: for all its
withered Hopes and all its buried Loves! From the East comes new
strength, new ambition, new Hope, new Life, new Love! Look Eastward!
Aye, look Eastward!"
His last words were still ringing in my ears as I entered my room, and
undrew the window-curtains, just in time to see the sun burst in glory
from his ocean-prison, and clothe the world in the light of a new day.
"So may it be for him, and me, and all of us!" I mused. "All that is
evil, and dead, and hopeless, fading with the Night that is past!
All that is good, and living, and hopeful, rising with the dawn of Day!
"Fading, with the Night, the chilly mists, and the noxious vapours,
and the heavy shadows, and the wailing gusts, and the owl's melancholy
hootings: rising, with the Day, the darting shafts of light,
and the wholesome morning breeze, and the warmth of a dawning life,
and the mad music of the lark! Look Eastward!
"Fading, with the Night, the clouds of ignorance, and the deadly blight
of sin, and the silent tears of sorrow: and ever rising, higher,
higher, with the Day, the radiant dawn of knowledge, and the sweet
breath of purity, and the throb of a world's ecstasy! Look Eastward!
"Fading, with the Night, the memory of a dead love, and the withered
leaves of a blighted hope, and the sickly repinings and moody regrets
thatnumb the best energies of the soul: and rising, broadening, rolling
upward like a living flood, the manly resolve, and the dauntless will,
and the heavenward gaze of faith--the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen!
"Look Eastward! Aye, look Eastward!"
One little picture in this book, the Magic Locket, at p. 77, was drawn
by 'Miss Alice Havers.' I did not state this on the title-page, since
it seemed only due, to the artist of all these (to my mind) wonderful
pictures, that his name should stand there alone.
The descriptions, at pp. 386, 387, of Sunday as spent by children of
the last generation, are quoted verbatim from a speech made to me by a
child-friend and a letter written to me by a lady-friend.
The Chapters, headed 'Fairy Sylvie' and 'Bruno's Revenge,' are a reprint,
with a few alterations, of a little fairy-tale which I wrote
in the year 1867, at the request of the late Mrs. Gatty,
for 'Aunt Judy's Magazine,' which she was then editing.