Aunt Judy’s Tales by Mrs Alfred Gatty

Transcribed from the 1859 Bell and Daldy edition by David Price, email *** AUNT JUDY’S TALES TO THE “LITTLE ONES” IN MANY HOMES, THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED. M. G. Contents: The Little Victims Vegetables out of Place Cook Stories Rabbits’ Tails Out of the Way Nothing to do THE LITTLE VICTIMS. “Save our blessings,
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Transcribed from the 1859 Bell and Daldy edition by David Price, email

M. G.

The Little Victims
Vegetables out of Place
Cook Stories
Rabbits’ Tails
Out of the Way
Nothing to do


“Save our blessings, Master, save,
From the blight of thankless eye.”
Lyra Innocentium.

There is not a more charming sight in the domestic world, than that of an elder girl in a large family, amusing what are called the LITTLE ONES.

How could mamma have ventured upon that cosy nap in the arm-chair by the fire, if she had been harassed by wondering what the children were about? Whereas, as it was, she had overheard No. 8 begging the one they all called “Aunt Judy,” to come and tell them a story, and she had beheld Aunt Judy’s nod of consent; whereupon she had shut her eyes, and composed herself to sleep quite complacently, under the pleasant conviction that all things were sure to be in a state of peace and security, so long as the children were listening to one of those curious stories of Aunt Judy’s, in which, with so much drollery and amusement, there was sure to be mixed up some odd scraps of information, or bits of good advice.

So, mamma being asleep on one side of the fire, and papa reading the newspaper on the other, Aunt Judy and No. 8 noiselessly left the room, and repaired to the large red-curtained dining-room, where the former sat down to concoct her story, while the latter ran off to collect the little ones together.

In less than five minutes’ time there was a stream of noise along the passage–a bursting open of the door, and a crowding round the fire, by which Aunt Judy sat.

The “little ones” had arrived in full force and high expectation. We will not venture to state their number. An order from Aunt Judy, that they should take their seats quietly, was but imperfectly obeyed; and a certain amount of hustling and grumbling ensued, which betrayed a rather quarrelsome tendency.

At last, however, the large circle was formed, and the bright firelight danced over sunny curls and eager faces. Aunt Judy glanced her eye round the group; but whatever her opinion as an artist might have been of its general beauty, she was by no means satisfied with the result of her inspection.

“No. 6 and No. 7,” cried she, “you are not fit to listen to a story at present. You have come with dirty hands.”

No. 6 frowned, and No. 7 broke out at once into a howl; he had washed his hands ever so short a time ago, and had done nothing since but play at knuckle-bones on the floor! Surely people needn’t wash their hands every ten minutes! It was very hard!

Aunt Judy had rather a logical turn of mind, so she set about expounding to the “little ones” in general, and to Nos. 6 and 7 in particular, that the proper time for washing people’s hands was when their hands were dirty; no matter how lately the operation had been performed before. Such, at least, she said, was the custom in England, and everyone ought to be proud of belonging to so clean and respectable a country. She, therefore, insisted that Nos. 6 and 7 should retire up-stairs and perform the necessary ablution, or otherwise they would be turned out, and not allowed to listen to the story.

Nos. 6 and 7 were rather restive. The truth was, it had been one of those unlucky days which now and then will occur in families, in which everything seemed to be perverse and go askew. It was a dark, cold, rainy day in November, and going out had been impossible. The elder boys had worried, and the younger ones had cried. It was Saturday too, and the maids were scouring in all directions, waking every echo in the back-premises by the grating of sand-stone on the flags; and they had been a good deal discomposed by the family effort to play at “Wolf” in the passages. Mamma had been at accounts all the morning, trying to find out some magical corner in which expenses could be reduced between then and the arrival of Christmas bills; and, moreover, it was a half-holiday, and the children had, as they call it, nothing to do.

So Nos. 6 and 7, who had been vexed about several other little matters before, during the course of the day, broke out now on the subject of the washing of their hands.

Aunt Judy was inexorable however–inexorable though cool; and the rest got impatient at the delay which the debate occasioned: so, partly by coaxing, and partly by the threat of being shut out from hearing the story, Nos. 6 and 7 were at last prevailed upon to go up- stairs and wash their grim little paws into that delicate shell-like pink, which is the characteristic of juvenile fingers when clean.

As they went out, however, they murmured, in whimpered tones, that they were sure it was VERY HARD!

After their departure, Aunt Judy requested the rest not to talk, and a complete silence ensued, during which one or two of the youngest evidently concluded that she was composing her story, for they stared at her with all their might, as if to discover how she did it.

Meantime the rain beat violently against the panes, and the red curtains swayed to and fro from the effect of the wind, which, in spite of tolerable woodwork, found its way through the divisions of the windows. There was something very dreary in the sound, and very odd in the varying shades of red which appeared upon the curtains as they swerved backwards and forwards in the firelight.

Several of the children observed it, but no one spoke until the footsteps of Nos. 6 and 7 were heard approaching the door, on which a little girl ventured to whisper, “I’m very glad I’m not out in the wind and rain;” and a boy made answer, “Why, who would be so silly as to think of going out in the wind and rain? Nobody, of course!”

At that moment Nos. 6 and 7 entered, and took their places on two little Derby chairs, having previously showed their pink hands in sombre silence to Aunt Judy, whereupon Aunt Judy turned herself so as to face the whole group, and then began her story as follows:-

“There were once upon a time eight little Victims, who were shut up in a large stone-building, where they were watched night and day by a set of huge grown-up keepers, who made them do whatever they chose.”

“Don’t make it TOO sad, Aunt Judy,” murmured No. 8, half in a tremble already.

“You needn’t be frightened, No. 8,” was the answer; “my stories always end well.”

“I’m so glad,” chuckled No. 8 with a grin, as he clapped one little fat hand down upon the other on his lap in complete satisfaction. “Go on, please.”

“Was the large stone-building a prison, Aunt Judy?” inquired No. 7.

“That depends upon your ideas of a prison,” answered Aunt Judy. “What do you suppose a prison is?”

“Oh, a great big place with walls all round, where people are locked up, and can’t go in and out as they choose.”

“Very well. Then I think you may be allowed to call the place in which the little Victims were kept a prison, for it certainly was a great big place with walls all round, and they were locked up at night, and not allowed to go in and out as they chose.”

“Poor things,” murmured No. 8; but he consoled himself by recollecting that the story was to end well.

“Aunt Judy, before you go on, do tell us what VICTIMS are? Are they fairies, or what? I don’t know.”

This was the request of No. 5, who was rather more thoughtful than the rest, and was apt now and then to delay a story by his inquiring turn of mind.

No. 6 was in a hurry to hear some more, and nudged No. 5 to make him be quiet; but Aunt Judy interposed; said she did not like to tell stories to people who didn’t care to know what they meant, and declared that No. 5 was quite right in asking what a victim was.

“A victim,” said she, “was the creature which the old heathens used to offer up as a sacrifice, after they had gained a victory in battle. You all remember I dare say,” continued she, “what a sacrifice is, and have heard about Abel’s sacrifice of the firstlings of his flock.”

The children nodded assent, and Aunt Judy went on:-

“No such sacrifices are ever offered up now by us Christians, and so there are no more real VICTIMS now. But we still use the word, and call any creature a victim who is ill-used, or hurt, or destroyed by somebody else.

“If you, any of you, were to worry or kill the cat, for instance, then the cat would be called THE VICTIM OF YOUR CRUELTY; and in the same manner the eight little Victims I am going to tell you about were the victims of the whims and cruel prejudices of those who had the charge of them.

“And now, before I proceed any further, I am going to establish a rule, that whenever I tell you anything very sad about the little Victims, you shall all of you groan aloud together. So groan here, if you please, now that you quite understand what a victim is.”

Aunt Judy glanced round the circle, and they all groaned together to order, led off by Nos. 3 and 4, who did not, it must be owned, look in a very mournful state while they performed the ceremony.

It was wonderful what good that groan did them all! It seemed to clear off half the troubles of the day, and at its conclusion a smile was visible on every face.

Aunt Judy then proceeded:-

“I do not want to make you cry too much, but I will tell you of the miseries the captive victims underwent in the course of one single day, and then you will be able to judge for yourselves what a life they led together.

“One of their heaviest miseries happened every evening. It was the misery of GOING TO BED. Perhaps now you may think it sounds odd that going to bed should be called a misery. But you shall hear how it was.

“In the evening, when all the doors were safely locked and bolted, so that no one could get away, the little Victims were summoned down- stairs, and brought into a room where some of the keepers were sure to be sitting in the greatest luxury. There was generally a warm fire on the hearth, and a beautiful lamp on the table, which shed an agreeable light around, and made everything look so pretty and gay, the hearts of the poor innocent Victims always rose at the sight.

“Sometimes there would be a huge visitor or two present, who would now and then take the Victims on their knees, and say all manner of entertaining things to them. Or there would be nice games for them to play at. Or the keepers themselves would kiss them, and call them kind names, as if they really loved them. How nice all this sounds, does it not? And it would have been nice, if the keepers would but have let it last for ever. But that was just the one thing they never would do, and the consequence was, that, whatever pleasure they might have had, the wretched Victims always ended by being dissatisfied and sad.

“And how could it be otherwise? Just when they were at the height of enjoyment, just when everything was most delightful, a horrible knock was sure to be heard at the door, the meaning of which they all knew but too well. It was the knock which summoned them to bed; and at such a moment you cannot wonder that going to bed was felt to be a misfortune.

“Had there been a single one among them who was sleepy, or tired, or ready for bed, there would have been some excuse for the keepers; but as it was, there was none, for the little Victims never knew what it was to feel tired or weary on those occasions, and were always carried forcibly away before that feeling came on.

“Of course, when the knock was heard, they would begin to cry, and say that it was very hard, and that they didn’t WANT to go to bed, and one went so far once as to add that she WOULDN’T go to bed.

“But it was all in vain. The little Victims might as well have attempted to melt a stone wall as those hard-hearted beings who had the charge of them.

“And now, my dears,” observed Aunt Judy, stopping in her account, “this is of all others the exact moment at which you ought to show your sympathy with the sufferers, and groan.”

The little ones groaned accordingly, but in a very feeble manner.

Aunt Judy shook her head.

“That groan is not half hearty enough for such a misery. Don’t you think, if you tried hard, you could groan a little louder?”

They did try, and succeeded a little better, but cast furtive glances at each other immediately after.

“Were the beds very uncomfortable ones, Aunt Judy?” inquired No. 8, in a subdued voice.

“You shall judge for yourself,” was the answer. “They were raised off the floor upon legs, so that no wind from under the door could get at them; and on the flat bottom called the bed-stock, there was placed a thick strong bag called a mattress, which was stuffed with some soft material which made it springy and pleasant to touch or lie down upon. The shape of it was a long square, or what may be called a rectangular parallelogram. I strongly advise you all to learn that word, for it is rather an amusing idea as one steps into bed, to think that one is going to sleep upon a parallelogram.”

Nos. 3 and 4 were here unable to contain themselves, but broke into a peal of laughter. The little ones stared.

“Well,” resumed Aunt Judy, “for my part, I think it’s a very nice thing to learn the ins and outs of one’s own life; to consider how one’s bed is made, and the why and wherefore of its shape and position. It is a great pity to get so accustomed to things as not to know their value till we lose them! But to proceed.

“On the top of this parallelogramatic mattress was laid a soft blanket. On the top of that blanket, two white sheets. On the top of the sheets, two or more warm blankets, and on the top of the blankets, a spotted cover called a counterpane.

“Now it was between the sheets that each little Victim was laid, and such were the receptacles to which they were unwillingly consigned, night after night of their lives!

“But I have not yet told you half the troubles of this dreadful ‘going to bed.’ A good fire with a large tub before it, and towels hung over the fender, was always the first sight which met the tearful eyes of the little Victims as they entered the nursery after being torn from the joys of the room down-stairs. And then, lo and behold! a new misery began, for, whether owing to the fatigue of getting up-stairs, or that their feelings had been so much hurt, they generally discovered at this moment that they were one and all so excessively tired, they didn’t know what to do;–of all things, did not choose to be washed–and insisted, each of them, on being put to bed first! But let them say what they would, and cry afresh as they pleased, and even snap and snarl at each other like so many small terriers, those cruel keepers of theirs never would grant their requests; never would put any of them to bed dirty, and always declared that it was impossible to put each of them to bed first!

Imagine now the feelings of those who had to wait round the fire while the others were attended to! Imagine the weariness, the disgust, before the whole party was finished, and put by for the night!”

Aunt Judy paused, but no one spoke.

“What!” cried she suddenly, “will nobody groan? Then I must groan myself!” which she did, and a most unearthly noise she made; so much so, that two or three of the little ones turned round to look at the swelling red curtains, just to make sure the howl did not proceed from thence.

After which Aunt Judy continued her tale:-

“So much for night and going to bed, about which there is nothing more to relate, as the little Victims were uncommonly good sleepers, and seldom awoke till long after daylight.

“Well now, what do you think? By the time they had had a good night, they felt so comfortable in their beds, that they were quite contented to remain there; and then, of course, their tormentors never rested till they had forced them to get up! Poor little things! Just think of their being made to go to bed at night, when they most disliked it, and then made to get up in the morning, when they wanted to stay in bed! It certainly was, as they always said, ‘very, very hard.’ This was, of course, a winter misery, when the air was so frosty and cold that it was very unpleasant to jump out into it from a warm nest. Terrible scenes took place on these occasions, I assure you, for sometimes the wretched Victims would sit shivering on the floor, crying over their socks and shoes instead of putting them on, (which they had no spirit for,) and then the savage creatures who managed them would insult them by irritating speeches.

“‘Come, Miss So-and-So,’ one would say, ‘don’t sit fretting there; there’s a warm fire, and a nice basin of bread-and-milk waiting for you, if you will only be quick and get ready.’

“Get ready! a nice order indeed! It meant that they must wash themselves and be dressed before they would be allowed to touch a morsel of food.

“But it is of no use dwelling on the unfeelingness of those keepers. One day one of them actually said:-

“‘If you knew what it was to have to get up without a fire to come to, and without a breakfast to eat, you would leave off grumbling at nothing.’

“NOTHING! they called it NOTHING to have to get out of a warm bed into the fresh morning air, and dress before breakfast!

“Well, my dears,” pursued Aunt Judy, after waiting here a few seconds, to see if anybody would groan, “I shall take it for granted you feel for the GETTING-UP misery as well as the GOING-TO-BED one, although you have not groaned as I expected. I will just add, in conclusion, that the summer GETTING-UP misery was just the reverse of this winter one. Then the poor little wretches were expected to wait till their nursery was dusted and swept; so there they had to lie, sometimes for half-an-hour, with the sun shining in upon them, not allowed to get up and come out into the dirt and dust!

“Of course, on those occasions they had nothing to do but squabble among themselves and teaze; and I assure you they had every now and then a very pleasant little revenge on their keepers, for they half worried them out of their lives by disturbances and complaints, and at any rate that was some comfort to them, although very often it hindered the nursery from being done half as soon as it would have been if they had been quiet.

“I shall not have time to tell of everything,” continued Aunt Judy, “so I must hurry over the breakfast, although the keepers contrived to make even that miserable, by doing all they could to prevent the little Victims from spilling their food on the table and floor, and also by insisting on the poor little things sitting tolerably upright on their seats–NOT lolling with both elbows on the table-cloth–NOT making a mess–not, in short, playing any of those innocent little pranks in which young creatures take delight.

“It was a pitiable spectacle, as you may suppose, to see reasonable beings constrained against their inclinations to sit quietly while they ate their hearty morning meal, which really, perhaps, they might have enjoyed, had they been allowed to amuse themselves in their own fashion at the same time.

“But I must go on now to that great misery of the day, which I shall call the LESSON misery.

“Now you must know, the little Victims were all born, as young kids, lambs, kittens, and puppy-dogs are, with a decided liking for jumping about and playing all day long. Think, therefore, what their sufferings were when they were placed in chairs round a table, and obliged to sit and stare at queer looking characters in books until they had learned to know them what was called BY HEART. It was a very odd way of describing it, for I am sure they had often no heart in the matter, unless it was a hearty dislike.

“‘Tommy Brown in the village never learns any lessons,’ cried one of them once to the creature who was teaching him, ‘why should I? He is always playing at oyster-dishes in the gutter when I see him, and enjoying himself. I wish _I_ might enjoy myself!’

“Poor Victim! He little thought what a tiresome lecture this clever remark of his would bring on his devoted head!

“Don’t ask me to repeat it. It amounted merely to this, that twenty years hence he would he very glad he had learnt something else besides making oyster-dishes in the streets. As if that signified to him now! As if it took away the nuisance of having to learn at the present moment, to be told it would be of use hereafter! What was the use of its being of use by-and-by?

“So thought the little Victim, young as he was; so, said he, in a muttering voice:-

“‘I don’t care about twenty years hence; I want to be happy now!’

“This was unanswerable, as you may suppose; so the puzzled teacher didn’t attempt to make a reply, but said:-

“‘Go on with your lessons, you foolish little boy!’

“See what it is to be obstinate,” pursued Aunt Judy. “See how it blinds people’s eyes, and prevents them from knowing right from wrong! Pray take warning, and never be obstinate yourselves; and meantime, let us have a good hearty groan for the LESSON misery.”

The little ones obeyed, and breathed out a groan that seemed to come from the very depths of their hearts; but somehow or other, as the story proceeded, the faces looked rather less amused, and rather more anxious, than at first.

What could the little ones be thinking about to make them grave?

It was evidently quite a relief when Aunt Judy went on:-

“You will be very much surprised, I dare say,” said she, “to hear of the next misery I am going to tell you about. It may be called the DINNER misery, and the little Victims underwent it every day.”

“Did they give them nasty things to eat, Aunt Judy?” murmured No. 8, very anxiously.

“More likely not half enough,” suggested No. 5.

“But you promised not to make the story TOO sad, remember!” observed No. 6.

“I did,” replied Aunt Judy, “and the DINNER misery did not consist in nasty food, or there not being enough. They had plenty to eat, I assure you, and everything was good. But–“

Aunt Judy stopped short, and glanced at each of the little ones in succession.

“Make haste, Aunt Judy!” cried No. 8. “But what?”

“BUT,” resumed Aunt Judy, in her most impressive tone, “they had to wait between the courses.”

Again Aunt Judy paused, and there was a looking hither and thither among the little ones, and a shuffling about on the small Derby chairs, while one or two pairs of eyes were suddenly turned to the fire, as if watching it relieved a certain degree of embarrassment which their owners began to experience.

“It is not every little boy or girl,” was Aunt Judy’s next remark, “who knows what the courses of a dinner are.”

“_I_ don’t,” interposed No. 8, in a distressed voice, as if he had been deeply injured.

“Oh, you think not? Well, not by name, perhaps,” answered Aunt Judy. “But I will explain. The courses of a dinner are the different sorts of food, which follow each other one after the other, till dinner is what people call ‘over.’ Thus, supposing a dinner was to begin with pea-soup, as you have sometimes seen it do, you would expect when it was taken away to see some meat put upon the table, should you not?”

The little ones nodded assent.

“And after the meat was gone, you would expect pie or pudding, eh?”

They nodded assent again, and with a smile.

“And if after the pudding was carried away, you saw some cheese and celery arrive, it would not startle you very much, would it?”

The little ones did nothing but laugh.

“Very well,” pursued Aunt Judy, “such a dinner as we have been talking about consists of four courses. The soup course, the meat course, the pudding course, and the cheese course. And it was while one course was being carried out, and another fetched in, that the little Victims had to wait; and that was the DINNER misery I spoke about, and a very grievous affair it was. Sometimes they had actually to wait several minutes, with nothing to do but to fidget on their chairs, lean backwards till they toppled over, or forward till some accident occurred at the table. And then, poor little things, if they ventured to get out their knuckle-bones for a game, or took to a little boxing amusement among themselves, or to throwing the salt in each other’s mugs, or pelting each other with bits of bread, or anything nice and entertaining, down came those merciless keepers on their innocent mirth, and the old stupid order went round for sitting upright and quiet. Nothing that I can say about it would be half as expressive as what the little Victims used to say themselves. They said that it was ‘SO VERY HARD.’

“Now, then, a good groan for the DINNER misery,” exclaimed Aunt Judy in conclusion.

The order was obeyed, but somewhat reluctantly, and then Aunt Judy proceeded with her tale.

“On one occasion of the DINNER misery,” resumed she, “there happened to be a stranger lady present, who seemed to be very much shocked by what the Victims had to undergo, and to pity them very much; so she said she would set them a nice little puzzle to amuse them till the second course arrived. But now, what do you think the puzzle was? It was a question, and this was it. ‘Which is the harder thing to bear–to have to wait for your dinner, or to have no dinner to wait for?’

“I do not think the little Victims would have quite known what the stranger lady meant, if she had not explained herself; for you see THEY had never gone without dinner in their lives, so they had not an idea what sort of a feeling it was to have NO DINNER TO WAIT FOR. But she went on to tell them what it was like as well as she could. She described to them little Tommy Brown, (whom they envied so much for having no lessons to do,) eating his potatoe soaked in the dripping begged at the squire’s back-door, without anything else to wait–or hope for. She told them that HE was never teazed as to how he sat, or even whether he sat or stood, and then she asked them if they did not think he was a very happy little boy? He had no trouble or bother, but just ate his rough morsel in any way he pleased, and then was off, hungry or not hungry, into the streets again.

“To tell you the truth,” pursued Aunt Judy, “the Victims did not know what to say to the lady’s account of little Tommy Brown’s happiness; but as the roast meat came in just as it concluded, perhaps that diverted their attention. However, after they had all been helped, it was suddenly observed that one of them would not begin to eat. He sat with his head bent over his plate, and his cheeks growing redder and redder, till at last some one asked what was amiss, and why he would not go on with his dinner, on which he sobbed out that he had ‘much rather it was taken to little Tommy Brown!'”

“That was a very GOOD little Victim, wasn’t he?” asked No. 8.

“But what did the keepers say?” inquired No. 5, rather anxiously.

“Oh,” replied Aunt Judy, “it was soon settled that Tommy Brown was to have the dinner, which made the little Victim so happy, he actually jumped for joy. On which the stranger lady told them she hoped they would henceforth always ask themselves her curious question whenever they sat down to a good meal again. ‘For,’ said she, ‘my dears, it will teach you to be thankful; and you may take my word for it, it is always the ungrateful people who are the most miserable ones.'”

“Oh, Aunt Judy!” here interposed No. 6, somewhat vehemently, “you need not tell any more! I know you mean US by the little Victims! But you don’t think we really MEAN to be ungrateful about the beds, or the dinners, or anything, do you?”

There was a melancholy earnestness in the tone of the inquiry, which rather grieved Aunt Judy, for she knew it was not well to magnify childish faults into too great importance: so she took No. 6 on her knee, and assured her she never imagined such a thing as their being really ungrateful, for a moment. If she had, she added, she should not have turned their little ways into fun, as she had done in the story.

No. 6 was comforted somewhat on hearing this, but still leant her head on Aunt Judy’s shoulder in a rather pensive state.

“I wonder what makes one so tiresome,” mused the meditative No. 5, trying to view the matter quite abstractedly, as if he himself was in no way concerned in it.

“Thoughtlessness only,” replied Aunt Judy, smiling. “I have often heard mamma say it is not ingratitude in CHILDREN when they don’t think about the comforts they enjoy every day; because the comforts seem to them to come, like air and sunshine, as a mere matter of course.”

“Really?” exclaimed No. 6, in a quite hopeful tone. “Does mamma really say that?”

Yes; but then you know,” continued Aunt Judy, “everybody has to be taught to think by degrees, and then they get to know that no comforts ever do really come to anybody as a matter of course. No, not even air and sunshine; but every one of them as blessings permitted by God, and which, therefore, we have to be thankful for. So you see we have to LEARN to be thankful as we have to learn everything else, and mamma says it is a lesson that never ends, even for grown-up people.

“And now you understand, No. 6, that you–oh! I beg pardon, I mean THE LITTLE VICTIMS–were not really ungrateful, but only thoughtless; and the wonderful stranger lady did something to cure them of that, and, in fact, proved a sort of Aunt Judy to them; for she explained things in such a very entertaining manner, that they actually began to think the matter over; and then they left off being stupid and unthankful.

“But this reminds me,” added Aunt Judy, “that you–tiresome No. 6– have spoilt my story after all! I had not half got to the end of the miseries. For instance, there was the TAKING-CARE misery, in consequence of which the little Victims were sent out to play on a fine day, and kept in when it was stormy and wet, all because those stupid keepers were more anxious to keep them well in health than to please them at the moment.

“And then there was–above all–” here Aunt Judy became very impressive, “the WASHING misery, which consisted in their being obliged to make themselves clean and comfortable with soap and water whenever they happened to be dirty, whether with playing at knuckle- bones on the floor, or anything else, and which was considered SO HARD that–“

But here a small hand was laid on Aunt Judy’s mouth, and a gentle voice said, “Stop, Aunt Judy, now!” on which the rest shouted, “Stop! stop! we won’t hear any more,” in chorus, until all at once, in the midst of the din, there sounded outside the door the ominous knocking, which announced the hour of repose to the juvenile branches of the family.

It was a well-known summons, but on this occasion produced rather an unusual effect. First, there was a sudden profound silence, and pause of several seconds; then an interchange of glances among the little ones; then a breaking out of involuntary smiles upon several young faces; and at last a universal “Good-night, Aunt Judy!” very quietly and demurely spoken.

“If the little Victims were only here to see how YOU behave over the GOING-TO-BED misery, what a lesson it would be!” suggested Aunt Judy, with a mischievous smile.

“Ah, yes, yes, we know, we know!” was the only reply, and it came from No. 8, who took advantage of being the youngest to be more saucy than the rest.

Aunt Judy now led the little party into the drawing-room to bid their father and mother good-night too. And certainly when the door was opened, and they saw how bright and cosy everything looked, in the light of the fire and the lamps, with mamma at the table, wide awake and smiling, they underwent a fearful twinge of the GOING-TO-BED misery. But they checked all expression of their feelings. Of course, mamma asked what Aunt Judy’s story had been about, and heard; and heard, too, No. 6’s little trouble lest she should have been guilty of the sin of real ingratitude; and, of course, mamma applauded Aunt Judy’s explanation about the want of thought, very much indeed.

“But, mamma,” said No. 6 to her mother, “Aunt Judy said something about grown-up people having to learn to be thankful. Surely you and papa never cry for nonsense, and things you can’t have?”

“Ah, my darling No. 6,” cried mamma earnestly, “grown-up people may not CRY for what they want exactly, but they are just as apt to wish for what they cannot have, as you little ones are. For instance, grown-up people would constantly like to have life made easier and more agreeable to them, than God chooses it to be. They would like to have a little more wealth, perhaps, or a little more health, or a little more rest, or that their children should always be good and clever, and well and happy. And while they are thinking and fretting about the things they want, they forget to be thankful for those they have. I am often tempted in this way myself, dear No. 6; so you see Aunt Judy is right, and the lesson of learning to be thankful never ends, even for grown-up people.

“One other word before you go. I dare say you little ones think we grown-up people are quite independent, and can do just as we like. But it is not so. We have to learn to submit to the will of the great Keeper of Heaven and earth, without understanding it, just as Aunt Judy’s little Victims had to submit to their keepers without knowing why. So thank Aunt Judy for her story, and let us all do our best to be obedient and contented.”

“When I am old enough, mother,” remarked No. 7, in his peculiarly mild and deliberate way of speaking, and smiling all the time, “I think I shall put Aunt Judy into a story. Don’t you think she would make a capital Ogre’s wife, like the one in ‘Jack and the Bean- Stalk,’ who told Jack how to behave, and gave him good advice?”

It was a difficult question to say “No” to, so mamma kissed No. 7, instead of answering him, and No. 7 smiled himself away, with his head full of the bright idea.


“But any man that walks the mead,
In bud or blade, or bloom, may find, According as his humours lead,
A meaning suited to his mind.”

It was a fine May morning. Not one of those with an east wind and a bright sun, which keep people in a puzzle all as day to whether it is hot or cold, and cause endless nursery disputes about the keeping on of comforters and warm coats, whenever a hoop-race, or some such active exertion, has brought a universal puggyness over the juvenile frame–but it was a really mild, sweet-scented day, when it is quite a treat to be out of doors, whether in the gardens, the lanes, or the fields, and when nothing but a holland jacket is thought necessary by even the most tiresomely careful of mammas.

It was not a day which anybody would have chosen to be poorly upon; but people have no choice in such matters, and poor little No. 7, of our old friends “the little ones,” was in bed ill of the measles.

The wise old Bishop, Jeremy Taylor, told us long ago, how well children generally bear sickness. “They bear it,” he says, “by a direct sufferance;” that is to say, they submit to just what discomfort exists at the moment, without fidgetting about either a cause or a consequence,” and decidedly without fretting about what is to come.

For a grown-up person to attain to the same state of unanxious resignation, is one of the high triumphs of Christian faith. It is that “delivering one’s self up,” of which the poor speak so forcibly on their sick-beds.

No. 7 proved a charming instance of the truth of Jeremy Taylor’s remark. He behaved in the most composed manner over his feelings, and even over his physic.

During the first day or two, when he sat shivering by the fire, reading “Neill D’Arcy’s Life at Sea,” and was asked how he felt, he answered with his usual smile; “Oh, all right; only a little cold now and then.” And afterwards, when he was in bed in a darkened room, and the same question was put, he replied almost as quietly, (though without the smile,) “Oh–only a little too hot.”

Then over the medicine, he contested nothing. He made, indeed, one or two by no means injudicious suggestions, as to the best method of having the disagreeable material, whether powdery or oleaginous, (I will not particularize further!) conveyed down his throat: commonly said, “Thank you,” even before he had swallowed it; and then shut his eyes, and kept himself quiet.

Fortunately No. 1, and Schoolboy No. 3, had had the complaint as well as papa and mamma, so there were plenty to share in the nursing and house matters. The only question was, what was to be done with the little ones while Nurse was so busy; and Aunt Judy volunteered her services in their behalf.

Now it will easily be supposed, after what I have said, that the nursing was not at all a difficult undertaking; but I am grieved to say that Aunt Judy’s task was by no means so easy a one.

The little ones were very sorry, it is true, that No. 7 was poorly; but, unluckily, they forgot it every time they went either up-stairs or down. They could not bear in their minds the fact, that when they encouraged the poodle to bark after an India-rubber ball, he was pretty sure to wake No. 7 out of a nap; and, in short, the day being so fine, and the little ones so noisy, Aunt Judy packed them all off into their gardens to tidy them up, she herself taking her station in a small study, the window of which looked out upon the family play- ground.

Her idea, perhaps, was, that she could in this way combine the prosecution of her own studies, with enacting policeman over the young gardeners, and “keeping the peace,” as she called it. But if so, she was doomed to disappointment.

The operation of “tidying up gardens,” as performed by a set of “little ones,” scarcely needs description.

It consists of a number of alterations being thought of, and set about, not one of which is ever known to be finished by those who begin them. It consists of everybody wanting the rake at the same moment, and of nobody being willing to use the other tools, which they call stupid and useless things. It consists of a great many plants being moved from one place to another, when they are in full flower, and dying in consequence. (But how, except when they are in flower, can anyone judge where they will look best?) It consists of a great many seeds being prevented from coming up at all, by an “alteration” cutting into the heart of the patch just as they were bursting their shells for a sprout. It consists of an unlimited and fatal application of the cold-water cure.

And, finally, it results in such a confusion between foot-walks and beds–such a mixture of earth and gravel, and thrown-down tools–that anyone unused to the symptoms of the case, might imagine that the door of the pigsty in the yard had been left open, and that its inhabitant had been performing sundry uncouth gambols with his nose in the little ones’ gardens.

Aunt Judy was quite aware of these facts, and she had accordingly laid down several rules, and given several instructions to prevent the usual catastrophe; and all went very smoothly at first in consequence. The little ones went out all hilarity and delight, and divided the tools with considerable show of justice, while Aunt Judy nodded to them approvingly out of her window, and then settled down to an interesting sum in that most peculiar of all arithmetical rules, “The Rule of False,” the principle of which is, that out of two errors, made by yourself from two wrong guesses, you arrive at a discovery of the truth!

When Aunt Judy first caught sight of this rule, a few days before, at the end of an old summing-book, it struck her fancy at once. The principle of it was capable of a much more general application than to the “Rule of False,” and she amused herself by studying it up.

It is, no doubt, a clumsy substitute for algebra; but young folks who have not learnt algebra, will find it a very entertaining method of making out all such sums as the following old puzzler, over which Aunt Judy was now poring:

“There is a certain fish, whose head is 9 inches in length, his tail as long as his head and half of his back, and his back as long as both head and tail together. Query, the length of the fish?”

But Aunt Judy was not left long in peace with her fish. While she was in the thick of “suppositions” and “errors,” a tap came at the window.

“Aunt Judy!”

“Stop!” was the answer; and the hand of the speaker went up, with the slate-pencil in it, enforcing silence while she pursued her calculations.

“Say, back 42 inches; then tail (half back) 21, and head given, 9, that’s 30, and 30 and 9, 39 back.–Won’t do! Second error: three inches–What’s the matter, No. 6? You surely have not begun to quarrel already?”

“Oh, no,” answered No. 6, with her nose flattened against the window- pane. “But please, Aunt Judy, No. 8 won’t have the oyster-shell trimming round his garden any longer, he says; he says it looks so rubbishy. But as my garden joins his down the middle, if he takes away the oyster-shells all round his, then one of MY sides–the one in the middle, I mean–will be left bare, don’t you see? and I want to keep the oyster-shells all round may garden, because mamma says there are still some zoophytes upon them. So how is it to be?”

What a perplexity! The fish with his nine-inch head, and his tail as long as his head and half of his back, was a mere nothing to it.

Aunt Judy threw open the window.

“My dear No. 6,” answered she, “yours is the great boundary-line question about which nations never do agree, but go squabbling on till some one has to give way first. There is but one plan for settling it, and that is, for each of you to give up a piece of your gardens to make a road to run between. Now if you’ll both give way at once, and consent to this, I will come out to you myself, and leave my fish till the evening. It’s much too fine to stay in doors, I feel; and I can give you all something real to do.”

“I’LL give way, I’m sure, Aunt Judy,” cried No. 6, quite glad to be rid of the dispute; “and so will you, won’t you, No. 8?” she added, appealing to that young gentleman, who stood with his pinafore full of dirty oyster-shells, not quite understanding the meaning of what was said.

“I’ll WHAT?” inquired he.

“Oh, never mind! Only throw the oyster-shells down, and come with Aunt Judy. It will be much better fun than staying here.”

No. 8 lowered his pinafore at the word of command, and dropped the discarded oyster-shells, one by one–where do you think?–why–right into the middle of his little garden! an operation which seemed to be particularly agreeable to him, if one might judge by his face. He was not sorry either to be relieved from the weight.

“You see, Aunt Judy,” continued No. 6 to her sister, who had now joined them, “it doesn’t so much matter about the oyster-shell trimming; but No. 8’s garden is always in such a mess, that I must have a wall or something between us!”

“You shall have a wall or a path decidedly,” replied Aunt Judy: “a road is the next best thing to a river for a boundary-line. But now, all of you, pick up the tools and come with me, and you shall do some regular work, and be paid for it at the rate of half-a-farthing for every half hour. Think what a magnificent offer!”

The little ones thought so in reality, and welcomed the arrangement with delight, and trudged off behind Aunt Judy, calculating so hard among themselves what their conjoint half-farthings would come to, for the half-hours they all intended to work, and furthermore, what amount or variety of “goodies” they would purchase, that Aunt Judy half fancied herself back in the depths of the “Rule of False” again!

She led them at last to a pretty shrubbery-walk, of which they were all very fond. On one side of it was a quick-set hedge, in which the honeysuckle was mixed so profusely with the thorn, that they grew and were clipped together.

It was the choicest spot for a quiet evening stroll in summer that could possibly be imagined. The sweet scent from the honeysuckle flowers stole around you with a welcome as you moved along, and set you a dreaming of some far-off region where the delicious sensations produced by the odour of flowers may not be as transient as they are here.

There was an alcove in the middle of the walk–not one of the modern mockeries of rusticity–but a real old-fashioned lath-and-plaster concern, such as used to be erected in front of a bowling-green. It was roofed in, was open only on the sunny side, and was supported by a couple of little Ionic pillars, up which clematis and passion- flower were studiously trained.

There was a table as well as seats within; and the alcove was a very nice place for either reading or drawing in, as it commanded a pretty view of the distant country. It was also, and perhaps especially, suited to the young people in their more poetical and fanciful moods.

The little ones had no sooner reached the entrance of the favourite walk, than they scampered past Aunt Judy to run a race; but No. 6 stopped suddenly short.

“Aunt Judy, look at these horrible weeds! Ah! I do believe this is what you have brought us here for!”

It was indeed; for some showers the evening before, had caused them to flourish in a painfully prominent manner, and the favourite walk presented a somewhat neglected appearance.

So Aunt Judy marked it off for the little ones to weed, repeated the exhilarating promise of the half-farthings, and seated herself in the alcove to puzzle out the length of the fish.

At first it was rather amusing to hear, how even in the midst of their weeding, the little ones pursued their calculations of the anticipated half-farthings, and discussed the niceness and prices of the various descriptions of “goodies.”

But by degrees, less and less was said; and at last, the half- farthings and “goodies” seemed altogether forgotten, and a new idea to arise in their place.

The new idea was, that this weeding-task was uncommonly troublesome!

“I’m sure there are many more weeds in my piece than in anybody else’s!” remarked the tallest of the children, standing up to rest his rather tired back, and contemplate the walk. “I don’t think Aunt Judy measured it out fair!”

“Well, but you’re the biggest, and ought to do the most,” responded No. 6.

“A LITTLE the most is all very well,” persisted No. 5; “but I’ve got TOO MUCH the most rather–and it’s very tiresome work.”

“What nonsense!” rejoined No. 6. “I don’t believe the weeds are any thicker in your piece than in mine. Look at my big heap. And I’m sure I’m quite as tired as you are.”

No. 6 got up as she spoke, to see how matters were going on; not at all sorry either, to change her position.

“I’VE got the most,” muttered No. 8 to himself, still kneeling over his work.

But this was, it is to be feared, a very unjustifiable bit of brag.

“If you go on talking so much, you will not get any half-farthings at all!” shouted No. 4, from the distance.

A pause followed this warning, and the small party ducked down again to their work.

They no longer liked it, however; and very soon afterwards the jocose No. 5 observed, in subdued tones to the others:-

“I wonder what THE LITTLE VICTIMS would have said to this kind of thing?”

“They’d have hated it,” answered No. 6, very decidedly.

The fact was, the little ones were getting really tired, for the fine May morning had turned into a hot day; and in a few minutes more, a still further aggravation of feeling took place.

No. 6 got up again, shook the gravel from her frock, blew it off her hands, pushed back a heap of heavy curls from her face, set her hat as far back on her head as she could, and exclaimed:-

“I wish there were no such things as weeds in the world!”

Everybody seemed struck with this impressive sentiment, for they all left off weeding at once, and Aunt Judy came forward to the front of the alcove.

“Don’t you, Aunt Judy?” added No. 6, feeling sure her sister had heard.

“Not I, indeed,” answered Aunt Judy, with a comical smile: “I’m too fond of cream to my tea.”

“Cream to your tea, Aunt Judy? What can that have to do with it?”

The little ones were amazed.

“Something,” at any rate, responded Aunt Judy; “and if you like to come in here, and sit down, I will tell you how.”

Away went hoes and weeding-knives at once, and into the alcove they rushed; and never had garden-seats felt so thoroughly comfortable before.

“If one begins to wish,” suggested No. 5, stretching his legs out to their full extent, “one may as well wish oneself a grand person with a lot of gardeners to clear away the weeds as fast as they come up, and save one the trouble.”

“Much better wish them away, and save everybody the trouble,” persisted No. 6.

“No: one wants them sometimes.”

“What an idea! Who ever wants weeds?”

“You yourself.”

“I? What nonsense!”

But the persevering No. 5 proceeded to explain. No. 6 had asked him a few days before to bring her some groundsel for her canary, and he had been quite disappointed at finding none in the garden. He had actually to “trail” into the lanes to fetch a bit.

This was a puzzling statement; so No. 6 contented herself with grumbling out:-

“Weeds are welcome to grow in the lanes.”

“Weeds are not always weeds in the lanes,” persisted No. 5, with a grin: “they’re sometimes wild-flowers.”

“I don’t care what they are,” pouted No. 6. “I wish I lived in a place where there were none.”

“And I wish I was a great man, with lots of gardeners to take them up, instead of me,” maintained No. 5, who was in a mood of lazy tiresomeness, and kept rocking to and fro on the garden-chair, with his hands tucked under his thighs. “A weed–a weed,” continued he; “what is a weed, I wonder? Aunt Judy, what is a weed?”

Aunt Judy had surely been either dreaming or cogitating during the last few minutes, for she had taken no notice of what was said, but she roused up now, and answered:-

“A vegetable out of its place.”

“A VEGETABLE,” repeated No. 5, “why we don’t eat them, Aunt Judy.”

“You kitchen-garden interpreter, who said we did?” replied she. “All green herbs are VEGETABLES, let me tell you, whether we eat them or not.”

“Oh, I see,” mused No. 5, quietly enough, but in another instant he broke out again.

“I’ll tell you what though, some of them are real vegetables, I mean kitchen-garden vegetables, to other creatures, and that’s why they’re wanted. Groundsel’s a vegetable, it’s the canary’s vegetable. I mean his kitchen-garden vegetable, and if he had a kitchen-garden of his own, he would grow it as we do peas. So I was right after all, No. 6!”

That TWIT at the end spoilt everything, otherwise this was really a bright idea of No. 5’s.

“Aunt Judy, do begin to talk yourself,” entreated No. 6. “I wish No. 5 would be quiet, and not teaze.”

“And he wishes the same of you,” replied Aunt Judy, “and I wish the same of you all. What is to be done? Come, I will tell you a story, on one positive understanding, namely, that whoever teazes, or even TWITS, shall be turned out of the company.”

No. 5 sat up in his chair like a dart in an instant, and vowed that he would be the best of the good, till Aunt Judy had finished her story.

“After which–” concluded he, with a wink and another grin.

“After which, I shall expect you to be better still,” was Aunt Judy’s emphatic rejoinder. And peace being now completely established, she commenced: “There was once upon a time–what do you think?”–here she paused and looked round in the children’s faces.

“A giant!” exclaimed No. 8.

“A beautiful princess!” suggested No. 6.

“SOMETHING,” said Aunt Judy, “but I am not going to tell you what at present. You must find out for yourselves. Meantime I shall call it SOMETHING, or merely make a grunting–hm–when I allude to it, as people do to express a blank.”

The little ones shuffled about in delighted impatience at the notion of the mysterious “something” which they were to find out, and Aunt Judy proceeded:-

“This–hm–then, lived in a large meadow field, where it was the delight of all beholders. The owner of the property was constantly boasting about it to his friends, for he maintained that it was the richest, and most beautiful, and most valuable–hm–in all the country round. Surely no other thing in this world ever found itself more admired or prized than this SOMETHING did. The commonest passer-by would notice it, and say all manner of fine things in its praise, whether in the early spring, the full summer, or the autumn, for at each of these seasons it put on a fresh charm, and formed a subject of conversation. ‘Only look at that lovely–hm–‘ was quite a common exclamation at the sight of it. ‘What a colour it has! How fresh and healthy it looks! How invaluable it must be! Why, it must be worth at least–‘ and then the speaker would go calculating away at the number of pounds, shillings, and pence, the–hm–would fetch, if put into the money-market, which is, I am sorry to say, a very usual, although very degrading way of estimating worth.

“To conclude, the mild-eyed Alderney cow, who pastured in the field during the autumn months, would chew the cud of approbation over the- -hm–for hours together, and people said it was no wonder at all that she gave such delicious milk and cream.”

Here a shout of supposed discovery broke from No. 5. “I’ve guessed, I know it!”

But a “hush” from Aunt Judy stopped him short.

“No. 5, nobody asked your opinion, keep it to yourself, if you please.”

No. 5 was silenced, but rubbed his hands nevertheless.

“Well,” continued Aunt Judy, “that ‘SOMETHING’ ought surely to have been the most contented thing in the world. Its merits were acknowledged; its usefulness was undoubted; its beauty was the theme of constant admiration; what had it left to wish for? Really nothing; but by an unlucky accident it became dissatisfied with its situation in a meadow field, and wished to get into a higher position in life, which, it took for granted, would be more suited to its many exalted qualities. The ‘SOMETHING’ of the field wanted to inhabit a garden. The unlucky accident that gave rise to this foolish idea, was as follows:-

“A little boy was running across the beautiful meadow one morning, with a tin-pot full of fishing bait in his hand, when suddenly he stumbled and fell down.

“The bait in the tin-pot was some lob-worms, which the little boy had collected out of the garden adjoining the field, and they were spilt and scattered about by his fall.

“He picked up as many as he could find, however, and ran off again; but one escaped his notice and was left behind.

“This gentleman was insensible for a few seconds; but as soon as he came to himself, and discovered that he was in a strange place, he began to grumble and find fault.

“‘What an uncouth neighbourhood!’ Such were his exclamations. ‘What rough impracticable roads! Was ever lob-worm so unlucky before!’ It was impossible to move an inch without bumping his sides against some piece of uncultivated ground.

“Judge for yourselves, my dears,” continued Aunt Judy, pathetically, “what must have been the feelings of the ‘SOMETHING’ which had lived proudly and happily in the meadow field for so long, on hearing such offensive remarks.

“Its spirit was up in a minute, just as yours would have been, and it did not hesitate to inform the intruder that travellers who find fault with a country before they have taken the trouble to inquire into its merits, are very ignorant and impertinent people.

“This was blow for blow, as you perceive; and the TEAZE-AND-TWIT system was now continued with great animation on both sides.

“The lob-worm inquired, with a conceited wriggle, what could be the merits of a country, where gentlemanly, gliding, thin-skinned creatures like himself were unable to move about without personal annoyance? Whereupon the amiable ‘SOMETHING’ made no scruple of telling the lob-worm that his BETTERS found no fault with the place, and instanced its friend and admirer the Alderney cow.

“On which the lob-worm affected forgetfulness, and exclaimed, ‘Cow? cow? do I know the creature? Ah! Yes, I recollect now; clumsy legs, horny feet, and that sort of thing,’ proceeding to hint that what was good enough for a cow, might yet not be refined enough for his own more delicate habits.

“‘It is my misfortune, perhaps,’ concluded he, with mock humility, ‘to have been accustomed to higher associations; but really, situated as I am here, I could almost feel disposed to–why, positively, to wish myself a cow, with clumsy legs and horny feet. What one may live to come to, to be sure!’

“Well,” Aunt Judy proceeded, “will you believe it, the lob-worm went on boasting till the poor deluded ‘SOMETHING’ believed every word he said, and at last ventured to ask in what favoured spot he had acquired his superior tastes and knowledge.

“And then, of course, the lob-worm had the opportunity of opening out in a very magnificent bit of brag, and did not fail to do so.

“Travellers can always boast with impunity to stationary folk, and the lob-worm had no conscience about speaking the truth.

So on he chattered, giving the most splendid account of the garden in which he lived. Gorgeous flowers, velvet lawns, polished gravel- walks, along which he was wont to take his early morning stroll, before the ruder creatures of the neighbourhood, such as dogs, cats, &c. were up and about, were all his discourse; and he spoke of them as if they were his own, and told of the nursing and tending of every plant in the lovely spot, as if the gardeners did it all for his convenience and pleasure.

“Of the little accidents to which he and his race have from time immemorial been liable from awkward spades, or those very early birds, by whom he ran a risk of being snapped up every time he emerged out of the velvet lawns for the morning strolls, he said just nothing at all.

“All was unmixed delight (according to his account) in the garden, and having actually boasted himself into good humour with himself, and therefore with everybody else, he concluded by expressing the condescending wish, that the ‘SOMETHING’ in the field should get itself removed to the garden, to enjoy the life of which he spoke.

“‘Undeniably beautiful as you are here,’ cried he, ‘your beauty will increase a thousand fold, under the gardener’s fostering care. Appreciated as you are now in your rustic life, the most prominent place will be assigned to you when you get into more distinguished society; so that everybody who passes by and sees you, will exclaim in delight, ‘Behold this exquisite–hm–!'”

“Oh dear, Aunt Judy,” cried No. 6, “was the ‘hum,’ as you will call it, so silly as to believe what he said?”

“How could the poor simple-minded thing be expected to resist such elegant compliments, my dear No. 6?” answered Aunt Judy. “But then came the difficulty. The ‘SOMETHING’ which lived in the field had no more legs than the lob-worm himself, and, in fact, was incapable of locomotion.”

“Of course it was!” ejaculated No. 5.

“Order!” cried Aunt Judy, and proceeded:-

“So the–hm–hung down its graceful head in despair, but suddenly a bright and loving thought struck it. It could not change its place and rise in life itself, but its children might, and that would be some consolation. It opened its heart on this point to the lob-worm, and although the lob-worm had no heart to be touched, he had still a tongue to talk.

“If the–hm–would send its children to the garden at the first opportunity, he would be delighted, absolutely charmed, to introduce them in the world. He would put them in the way of everything, and see that they were properly attended to. There was nothing he couldn’t or wouldn’t do.

“This last pretentious brag seemed to have exhausted even the lob- worm’s ingenuity, for, soon after he had uttered it, he shuffled away out of the meadow in the best fashion that he could, leaving the ‘SOMETHING’ in the field in a state of wondering regret. But it recovered its spirits again when the time came for sending its children to the favoured garden abode.

“‘My dears,’ it said, ‘you will soon have to begin life for yourselves, and I hope you will do so with credit to your bringing up. I hope you are now ambitious enough to despise the dull old plan of dropping contentedly down, just where you happen to be, or waiting for some chance traveller (who may never come) to give you a lift elsewhere. That paradise of happiness, of which the lob-worm told us, is close at hand. Come! it only wants a little extra exertion on your part, and you will be carried thither by the wind, as easily as the wandering Dandelion himself. Courage, my dears! nothing out of the common is ever gained without an effort. See now! as soon as ever a strong breeze blows the proper way, I shall shake my heads as hard as ever I can, that you may be off. All the doors and windows are open now, you know, and you must throw yourselves out upon the wind. Only remember one thing, when you are settled down in the beautiful garden, mind you hold up your heads, and do yourselves justice, my dears.’

“The children gave a ready assent, of course, as proud as possible at the notion; and when the favourable breeze came, and the maternal heads were shaken, out they all flew, and trusted themselves to its guidance, and in a few minutes settled down all over the beautiful garden, some on the beds, some on the lawn, some on the polished gravel-walks. And all I can say is, happiest those who were least seen!”

“Grass weeds! grass weeds!” shouted the incorrigible No. 5, jumping up from his seat and performing two or three Dervish-like turns.

“Oh, it’s too bad, isn’t it, Aunt Judy,” cried No. 6, “to stop your story in the middle?”

Whereupon Aunt Judy answered that he had not stopped the story in the middle, but at the end, and she was glad he had found out the meaning of her–HM–!

But No. 6 would not be satisfied, she liked to hear the complete finish up of everything. “Did the ‘HUM’S’ children ever grow up in the garden, and did they ever see the lob-worm again?”

“The–hm’s–children did SPRING up in the garden,” answered Aunt Judy, “and did their best to exhibit their beauty on the polished gravel-walks, where they were particularly delighted with their own appearance one May morning after a shower of rain, which had made them more prominent than usual. ‘Remember our mother’s advice,’ cried they to each other. ‘This is the happy moment! Let us hold up our heads, and do ourselves justice, my dears.’

“Scarcely were the words spoken, when a troop of rude creatures came scampering into the walk, and a particularly unfeeling monster in curls, pointed to the beautiful up-standing little–hms–and shouted, ‘Aunt Judy, look at these HORRIBLE WEEDS!’

“I needn’t say any more,” concluded Aunt Judy. “You know how you’ve used them; you know what you’ve done to them; you know how you’ve even wished there were NO SUCH THINGS IN THE WORLD!”

“Oh, Aunt Judy, how capital!” ejaculated No. 6, with a sigh, the sigh of exhausted amusement.

“‘The HUM was a weed too, then, was it?” said No. 8. He did not quite see his way through the tale.

“It was not a weed in the meadow,” answered Aunt Judy, “where it was useful, and fed the Alderney cow. It was beautiful Grass there, and was counted as such, because that was its proper place. But when it put its nose into garden-walks, where it was not wanted, and had no business, then everybody called the beautiful Grass a weed.”

“So a weed is a vegetable out of its place, you see,” subjoined No. 5, who felt the idea to be half his own, “and it won’t do to wish there were none in the world.”

“And a vegetable out of its place being nothing better than a weed, Mr. No. 5,” added Aunt Judy, “it won’t do to be too anxious about what is so often falsely called, bettering your condition in life. Come, the story is done, and now we’ll go home, and all the patient listeners and weeders may reckon upon getting one or more farthings apiece from mamma. And as No. 6’s wish is not realized, and there are still weeds {1} in the world, and among them Grass weeds, _I_ shall hope to have some cream to my tea.”


“Down too, down at your own fireside, With the evil tongue and the evil ear,
For each is at war with mankind.”

Aunt Judy had gone to the nursery wardrobe to look over some clothes, and the little ones were having a play to themselves. As she opened the door, they were just coming to the end of an explosive burst of laughter, in which all the five appeared to have joined, and which they had some difficulty in stopping. No. 4, who was a biggish girl, had giggled till the tears were running over her cheeks; and No. 8, in sympathy, was leaning back in his tiny chair in a sort of ecstasy of amusement.

The five little ones had certainly hit upon some very entertaining game.

They were all (boys and girls alike) dressed up as elderly ladies, with bits of rubbishy finery on their heads and round their shoulders, to imitate caps and scarfs; the boys’ hair being neatly parted and brushed down the middle; and they were seated in form round what was called “the Doll’s Table,” a concern just large enough to allow of a small crockery tea-service, with cups and saucers and little plates, being set out upon it.

“What have you got there?” was all Aunt Judy asked, as she went up to the table to look at them.

“Cowslip-tea,” was No. 4’s answer, laying her hand on the fat pink tea-pot; and thereupon the laughing explosion went off nearly as loudly as before, though for no accountable reason that Aunt Judy could divine.

“It’s SO good, Aunt Judy, do taste it!” exclaimed No. 8, jumping up in a great fuss, and holding up his little cup, full of a pale-buff fluid, to Aunt Judy.

“You’ll have everything over,” cried No. 4, calling him to order; and in truth the table was not the steadiest in the world.

So No. 8 sat down again, calling out, in an almost stuttering hurry, “You may keep it all, Aunt Judy, I don’t want any more.”

But neither did Aunt Judy, after she had given it one taste; so she put the cup down, thanking No. 8 very much, but pulling such a funny face, that it set the laugh going once more; in the middle of which No. 4 dropped an additional lump of sugar into the rejected buff- coloured mixture, a proceeding which evidently gave No. 8 a new relish for the beverage.

Aunt Judy had got beyond the age when cowslip-tea was looked upon as one of the treats of life; and she had not, on the other hand, lived long enough to love the taste of it for the memory’s sake of the enjoyment it once afforded.

Not but what we are obliged to admit that cowslip-tea is one of those things which, even in the most enthusiastic days of youth, just falls short of the absolute perfection one expects from it.

Even under those most favourable circumstances of having had the delightful gathering of the flowers in the sweet sunny fields–the picking of them in the happy holiday afternoon–the permission to use the best doll’s tea-service for the feast–the loan of a nice white table-cloth–and the present of half-a-dozen pewter knives and forks to fancy-cut the biscuits with–nay, even in spite of the addition of well-filled doll’s sugar-pots and cream-jugs–cowslip-tea always seems to want either a leetle more or a leetle less sugar–or a leetle more or a leetle less cream–or to be a leetle more or a leetle less strong–to turn it into that complete nectar which, of course, it really IS.

On the present occasion, however, the children had clearly got hold of some other source of enjoyment over the annual cowslip-tea feast, besides the beverage itself; and Aunt Judy, glad to see them so safely happy, went off to her business at the wardrobe, while the little ones resumed their game.

“Very extraordinary, indeed, ma’am!” began one of the fancy old ladies, in a completely fancy voice, a little affected, or so. “MOST extraordinary, ma’am, I may say!”

(Here there was a renewed giggle from No. 4, which she carefully smothered in her handkerchief.)

“But still I think I can tell you of something more extraordinary still!”

The speaker having at this point refreshed his ideas by a sip of the pale-coloured tea, and the other ladies having laughed heartily in anticipation of the fun that was coming, one of them observed:-

“You don’t SAY so, ma’am–” then clicked astonishment with her tongue against the roof of her mouth several times, and added impressively, “PRAY let us hear!”

“I shall be most happy, ma’am,” resumed the first speaker, with a graceful inclination forwards. “Well!–you see–it was a party. I had invited some of my most distinguished friends–really, ma’am, FASHIONABLE friends, I may say, to dinner; and, ahem! you see–some little anxiety always attends such affairs–even–in the best regulated families!”

Here the speaker winked considerably at No. 4, and laughed very loudly himself at his own joke.

“Dear me, you must excuse me, ma’am,” he proceeded. “So, you see, I felt a little fatigued by my morning’s exertions, (to tell you the truth, there had been no end of bother about everything!) and I retired quietly up-stairs to take a short nap before the dressing- bell rang. But I had not been laid down quite half an hour, when there was a loud knock at the door. Really, ma’am, I felt quite alarmed, but was just able to ask, ‘Who’s there?’ Before I had time to get an answer, however, the door was burst open by the housemaid. Her face was absolute scarlet, and she sobbed out:-

“‘Oh, ma’am, what shall we do?’

“‘Good gracious, Hannah,’ cried I, ‘what can be the matter? Has the soot come down the chimney? Speak!’

“‘It’s nothing of that sort, ma’am,’ answered Hannah, ‘it’s the cook!’

“‘The cook!’ I shouted. ‘I wish you would not be so foolish, Hannah, but speak out at once. What about Cook?’

“‘Please, m’m, the cook’s lost!’ says Hannah. ‘We can’t find her!’

“‘Your wits are lost, Hannah, _I_ think,’ cried I, and sent her to tidy the rooms while I slipt downstairs to look for the cook.

“Fancy a lost cook, ma’am! Was there ever such a ridiculous idea? And on the day of a dinner-party too! Did you ever hear of such a trial to a lady’s feelings before?”

“Never, I am sure,” responded the lady opposite. “Did YOU, ma’am?” turning to her neighbour.

But the other three ladies all shook their heads, bit their lips, and declared that they “Never had, they were sure!”

“I thought not!” ejaculated the narrator. “Well, ma’am, I went into the kitchens, the larder, the pantries, the cellars, and all sorts of places, and still no cook! Do you know, she really was nowhere! Actually, ma’am, the cook was lost!”

Shouts of laughter burst forth here; but the lady (who was No. 5) put up his hand, and called out in his own natural tones:-

“Stop! I haven’t got to the end yet!”

“Order!” proclaimed No. 4 immediately, in a very commanding voice, and thumping the table with the head of an old wooden doll to enforce obedience.

And then the sham lady proceeded in the same mincing voice as before:-

“Well!–dear me, I’m quite put out. But however, you see–what was to be done, that was the thing. It wanted only half an hour to dinner-time, and there was the meat roasting away by itself, and the potatoe-pan boiling over. You never heard such a fizzling as it made in your life–in short, everything was in a mess, and there was no cook.

“Well! I basted the meat for a few minutes, took the potatoe-pan off the fire, and then ran up-stairs to put on my bonnet. Thought I, the best thing I can do is to send somebody for the policeman, and let HIM find the cook. But while I was tying the strings of my bonnet, I fancied I heard a mysterious noise coming out of the bottom drawer of my wardrobe. Fancy that, ma’am, with my nerves in such a state from the cook being lost!”

No. 5 paused, and looked round for sympathy, which was most freely given by the other ladies, in the shape of sighs and exclamations.

“The drawer was a very deep drawer, ma’am, so I thought perhaps the cat had crept in,” continued No. 5. “Well, I went to it to see, and there it was, partly open, with a cotton gown in it that didn’t belong to me. Imagine my feelings at THAT, ma’am! So I pulled at the handles to get the drawer quite open, but it wouldn’t come, it was as heavy as lead. It was really very alarming–one doesn’t like such odd things happening–but at last I got it open, though I tumbled backwards as I did so; and what do you think, ma’am–ladies– what DO you think was in it?”

“The cook!” shrieked No. 4, convulsed with laughter; and the whole party clapped their hands and roared applause.

“The cook, ma’am, actually the cook!” pursued No. 5, “one of the fattest, most POONCHY little women you ever saw. And what do you think was the history of it? I kept my up-stairs Pickwick in the corner of that bottom drawer. She had seen it there that very morning, when she was helping to dust the room, and took the opportunity of a spare half-hour to slip up and rest herself by reading it in the drawer. Unluckily, however, she had fallen asleep, and when I got the drawer out, there she lay, and I actually heard her snore. A shocking thing this education, ma’am, you see, and teaching people to read. All the cooks in the country are spoilt!”

Peals of laughter greeted this wonderfully witty concoction of No. 5’s, and the lemon-coloured tea and biscuits were partaken of during the pause which followed.

Aunt Judy meanwhile, who had been quite unable to resist joining in the laugh herself, was seated on the floor, behind the open door of the wardrobe, thinking to herself of certain passages in Wordsworth’s most beautiful ode, in which he has described the play of children,

“As if their whole vocation
Were endless imitation.”

Truly they had got hold here of strange

“Fragments from their dream of human life.”

Where COULD the children have picked up the original of such absurd nonsense?

Aunt Judy had no time to make it out, for now the mincing voices began again, and she sat listening.

“Have YOU had no curious adventures with your maids, ma’am?” inquires No. 5 of No. 4.

No. 5 makes an attempt at a bewitching grin as he speaks, fanning himself with a fan which he has had in his hand all the time he was telling his story.

“Well, ladies,” replied No. 4, only just able to compose herself to talk, “I don’t think I HAVE been quite as fortunate as yourselves in having so many extraordinary things to tell. My servants have been sadly common-place, and done just as they ought. But still, ONCE, ladies–once, a curious little incident did occur to me.”

“Oh, ma’am, I entreat you–pray let us hear it!” burst from all the ladies at once.

No. 4 had to bite her lip to preserve her gravity, and then she turned to No. 5 –

“The fan, if you please, ma’am!”

The rule was, that the one fan was placed at the disposal of the story-teller for the time, so No. 5 handed it to No. 4, with a graceful bow; and No. 4 waffed it to and fro immediately, and began her account:-

“People are so unscrupulous you see, ladies, about giving characters. It’s really shocking. For my part, I don’t know what the world will come to at last. We shall all have to be our own servants, I suppose. People say anything about anything, that’s the fact! Only fancy, ma’am, three different ladies once recommended a cook to me as the best soup-maker in the country. Now that sounded a very high recommendation, for, of course, if a cook can make soups, she can do anything–sweetmeats and those kind of things follow of themselves. So, ma am, I took her, and had a dinner-party, and ordered two soups, entirely that I might show off what a good cook I had got. Think what a compliment to her, and how much obliged she ought to have been! Well, ma’am, I ordered the two soups, as I said, one white, and the other brown; and everything appeared to be going on in the best possible manner, when, as I was sitting in the drawing-room entertaining the company, I was told I was wanted.

“When I got out of the room, there was the man I had hired to wait, and says he:-

“‘If you please, ma’am where are the knives? I can’t find any at all!’

“‘No knives!’ says I. ‘Dear me, don’t come to me about the knives. Ask the cook, of course.’

“‘Please, ma’am, I have asked her, and she only laughed.’

“‘Then,’ said I, ‘ask the housemaid. It’s impossible for me to come out and look for the knives.’

“Well, ladies,” continued No. 4, “would you believe it?–could anyone believe it?–when I sat down to dinner, and began to help the soup, no sooner had the silver ladle (MY ladle is silver, ladies) been plunged into the tureen, than a most singular rattling was heard.

“‘William,’ cried I, half in a whisper, to the waiter who was holding the plate, ‘what in the world is this? Surely Cook has not left the bones in?’

“‘Please, ma’am, I don’t know,’ was all the man could say.

“Well–there was no remedy now, so I dipped the ladle in again, and lifted out–oh! ma’am, I know if it was anybody but myself who told you, you wouldn’t believe it–a ladleful of the lost knives! There they were, my best beautiful ivory handles, all in the white soup! And while I was discovering them, the gentleman at the other end of the table had found all the kitchen-knives, with black handles, in the brown soup!

“There never was anything so mortifying before. And what do you think was Cook’s excuse, when I reproached her?

“‘Please, ma’am,’ said she, ‘I read in the Young Woman’s Vademecum of Instructive Information, page 150, that there was nothing in the world so strengthening and wholesome as dissolved bones, and ivory- dust; and so, ma’am, I always make a point of throwing in a few knives into every soup I have the charge of, for the sake of the handles–ivory-handles for white soups, ma’am, and black-handles for the browns!'”

Thunders of applause interrupted Cook’s excuse at this point, and No. 7 was so overcome that he pushed his chair back, and performed three distinct somersets on the floor, to the complete disorganization of his head-dress, which consisted of a turban, from beneath which hung a cluster of false curls.

Turban and wig being replaced, however, and No. 7 reseated and composed, No. 4 proceeded:-

“Cook generally takes them out, she informed me, ladies, before the tureens come to table; ‘but,’ said she, ‘my back was turned for a minute here, ma’am, and that stupid William carried them off without asking if they were ready. It’s all William’s fault, ma’am; and I don’t mean to stay, for I don’t like a place where the man who waits has no tact!’

“Now, ladies,” continued No. 4, “what do you think of that by way of a speech from a cook? And I assure you that a medical man’s wife, to whom I mentioned in the course of the evening what Cook had said about dissolved bones, told me that her husband had only laughed, and said Cook was quite right. So she hired the woman that night herself, and I have been told in confidence since–you’ll not repeat it, therefore, of course, ladies?”

“Of course not!” came from all sides.

“Well, then, I was told that, before the year was out, the family hadn’t a knife that would cut anything, they were so cankered with rust. So much for education and learning to read, as you justly observed, ma’am, before!”

When the emotions produced by this tale had a little subsided, No. 7 was called upon for his experience of maids.

No. 7, with the turban on his head, and a fine red necklace round his throat, said he took very little notice of the maids, but that he once had had a very tiresome little boy in buttons, who was extremely fond of sugar, and always carried the sugar-shaker in his pocket, and ate up the sugar that was in it, and when it was empty, filled it up with magnesia.

“But ONCE,” he added, “ladies, he actually put some soda in. It was at a party, and we had our first rhubarb tart for the season, and the company sprinkled it all over with the soda and began to eat, but they were too polite to say how nasty it was. But, of course, when I was helped I called out. And what do you think the boy in buttons said?”

Nobody could guess, so No. 7 had to tell them.

“He said he had put it in on purpose, because he thought it would correct the acid of the pie. So I said he had best be apprenticed to a doctor; so he went–I dare say, ma’am, it was the same doctor who took your cook–but I never heard of him any more, and I’ve never dared to have a boy in buttons again.”

“A very wise decision, ma’am, I’m sure!” cried Aunt Judy, who came up to the wonderful tea-table in the midst of the last mound of applause. “And now may I ask what game this is that you are playing at?”

“Oh, we’re telling Cook Stories, Aunt Judy,” cried No. 6, seizing her by the arm; “they’re such capital fun! I wish you had heard mine; they were laughing at it when you first came in!”

“It must have been delicious, to judge by the delight it gave,” replied Aunt Judy, smiling, and kissing No. 6’s oddly bedizened up- turned face. “But what I want to know is, what put Cook Stories, as you call them, into your head?”

“Oh! don’t you remember–” and here followed a long account from No. 6 of how, about a week before, the little ones had gone somewhere to spend the day, and how it had turned out a very rainy day, so that they could not have games out of doors with their young friends, as had been expected, but were obliged to sit a great part of the time in the drawing-room, putting Chinese puzzles together into stupid patterns, and playing at fox-and-goose, while the ladies were talking “grown-up conversation,” as No. 6 worded it, among themselves; and, of course, being on their own good behaviour, and very quiet, they could not help hearing what was said. “And, oh dear, Aunt Judy,” continued No. 6, now with both her arms holding Aunt Judy, of whom she was very fond, (except at lesson times!) round the waist, “it was so odd! No. 7 and I did nothing at last but listen and watch them; for little Miss, who sat with us, was shy, and wouldn’t talk, and it was so very funny to see the ladies nodding and making faces at each other, and whispering, and exclaiming, how shocking! how abominable! you don’t say so! and all that kind of thing!”

“Well, but what was shocking, and abominable, and all that kind of thing?” inquired Aunt Judy.

“Oh, I don’t know–things the nurses, and cooks, and boys in buttons did. Almost all the ladies had some story to tell–all the servants had done something or other queer–but especially the cooks, Aunt Judy, there was no end to the cooks. So one day after we came back, and we didn’t know what to play at, I said: ‘Do let us play at telling Cook Stories, like the ladies at — .’ So we’ve dressed up, and played at Cook Stories, ever since. Dear Aunt Judy, I wish you would invent a Cook Story yourself!” was the conclusion of No. 6’s account.

So then the mystery was out. Aunt Judy’s wonderings were cut short. Out of the real life of civilized intelligent society had come those

“Fragments from their dream of human life,”

which Aunt Judy had called absurd nonsense. And absurd nonsense, indeed, it was; but Aunt Judy was seized by the idea that some good might be got out of it.

So, in answer to No. 6’s wish, she said, with a shy smile:-

“I don’t think I could tell Cook Stories half as well as yourself. But if, by way of a change, you would like a Lady Story instead, perhaps I might be able to accomplish that.”

“A LADY Story! Oh, but that would be so dull, wouldn’t it?” inquired No. 6. “You can’t make anything funny out of them, surely! Surely they never do half such odd things as cooks, and boys in buttons!”

“The ladies themselves think not, of course,” was Aunt Judy’s reply.

“Well, but what do you think, Aunt Judy?”

“Oh, I don’t think it matters what I think. The question is, what do cooks and boys in buttons think?”

“But, Aunt Judy, ladies are never tiresome, and idle, and impertinent, like cooks and boys in buttons. Oh! if you had but heard the REAL Cook Stories those ladies told! I say, let me tell you one or two–I do think I can remember them, if I try.”

“Then don’t try on any account, dear No. 6,” exclaimed Aunt Judy. “I like make-believe Cook Stories much better than real ones.”

“So do I!” cried No. 7, “they’re so much the more entertaining.”

“And not a bit less useful,” subjoined Aunt Judy, with a sly smile.

“Well, I didn’t see much good in the real ones,” pursued No. 7, in a sort of muse.

“Let us tell you another make-believe one, then,” cried No. 6, who saw that Aunt Judy was moving off, and wanted to detain her.

“Then it’s MY turn!” shouted No. 8, jumping up, and stretching out his arm and hand like a young orator flushed to his work. And actually, before the rest of the little ones could put him down or stop him, No. 8 contrived to tumble out the Cook Story idea, which had probably been brewing in his head all the time of Aunt Judy’s talk.

It was very brief, and this was it, delivered in much haste, and with all the earnestness of a maiden speech.

“_I_ had a button boy too, and he was a–what d’ye call it–oh, a RASCAL, that was it;–he was a rascal, and liked the currants in mince-pies, so he took them all out, and ate them up, and put in glass beads instead. So when the people began to ear, their teeth crunched against the beads! Ah! bah! how nasty it was!”

No. 8 accompanied this remark with a corresponding grimace of disgust, and then observed in conclusion:-

“Perhaps he found it in a book, but I don’t know where,” after which he lowered his outstretched arm, smiled, and sat down.

The company clapped applause, and No. 4 especially must have been very fond of laughing, for the glass-bead anecdote set her off again as heartily as ever, and the rest followed in her wake, and while so doing, never noticed that Aunt Judy had slipped away.

They soon discovered it, however, when their mirth began to subside; but before they had time to wonder much, there appeared from behind the door of the wardrobe a figure, which in their secret souls they knew to be Aunt Judy herself, although it looked a great deal stouter, and had a thick-filled cap on its head, a white linen apron over its gown, and a pair of spectacles on its nose. At sight of it they showed signs of clapping again, but stopped short when it spoke to them as a stranger, and willingly received it as such.

Ah! it is one of the sweet features of childhood that it yields itself up so readily to any little surprise or delusion that is prepared for its amusement. No nasty pride, no disinclination to be carried away, no affected indifference, interfere with young children’s enjoyment of what is offered them. They will even help themselves into the pleasant visions by an effort of will; and perhaps, now and then, end by partly believing what they at first received voluntarily as an agreeable make-believe.

If, therefore, after the cook figure of Aunt Judy had seated itself by the doll’s table, and the little ones had looked and grinned at it for some time, hazy sensations began to steal over one or two minds, that this WAS somehow really a cook, it was all in the natural course of things, and nobody resisted the feeling.

Aunt Judy’s altered voice, and odd, assumed manner, contributed, no doubt, a good deal to the impression.

“Dear, dear! what pretty little darlings you all are!” she began, looking at them one after another. “As sweet as sugar-plums, when you have your own way, and are pleased. Eh, dears? But you don’t think you can take old Cooky in, do you? No, no, I know what ladies and gentlemen, and ladies’ and gentlemen’s YOUNG ladies and YOUNG gentlemen are, pretty well, dears, I can tell you! Don’t I know all about the shiny hair and smiling faces of the little pets in the parlour, and how they leave parlour-manners behind them sometimes, when they run to the kitchen to Cook, and order her here and there, and want half-a-dozen things at once, and must and will have what they want, and are for popping their fingers into every pie!

“Well, well,” she proceeded, “the parlour’s the parlour, and the kitchen’s the kitchen, and I’m only a cook. But then I conduct myself AS Cook, even when I’m in the scullery, and I only wish ladies, and ladies’ YOUNG ladies too, would conduct themselves as ladies, even when they come into the kitchen; that’s what I call being honourable and upright. Well, dears, I’ll tell you how I came to know all about it. You see, I lived once in a family where there were no less than eight of those precious little pets, and a precious time I had of it with them. But, to be sure, now it’s past and gone- -I can make plenty of excuses for them, poor things! They were so coaxed and flattered, and made so much of, what could be expected from them but tiresome, wilful ways, without any sense?

“‘If your mamma would but put YOU into the scullery, young miss, to learn to wash plates and scour the pans out, she’d make a woman of you,’ used I to think to myself when a silly child, who thought itself very clever to hinder other people’s work, would come hanging about in the kitchen, doing nothing but teaze and find fault, for that’s what a girl can always do.

“It was very aggravating, you may be sure, dears, (you see I can talk to you quite reasonably, because you’re so nicely behaved;)–it was very aggravating, of course; but I used to make allowances for them. Says I to myself, ‘Cook, you’ve had the blessing of being brought up to hard work ever since you were a babby. You’ve had to earn your daily bread. Nobody knows how that brings people to their senses till they’ve tried; so don’t you go and be cocky, because ladies and gentlemen, and ladies’ and gentlemen’s YOUNG ladies and YOUNG gentlemen, are not quite so sensible as you are. Who knows but what, if you’d been born to do nothing, you might have been no wiser than them! It’s lucky for you you’re only a cook; but don’t you go and be cocky, that’s all! Make allowances; it’s the secret of life!’

“So you see, dears, I DID make allowances; and after the eight little pets was safe in bed till next morning, I used to feel quite composed, and pitiful-like towards them, poor little dears! But certainly, when morning came, and the oldest young master was home for the holidays, it was a trying time for me, and I couldn’t think of the allowances any longer. Either he wouldn’t get up and come down till everyone else had had their breakfast, and so he wanted fresh water boiled, and fresh tea made, and another muffin toasted, and more bacon fried; or else he was up so outrageous early, that he was scolding because there was no hot water before the fire was lit– bless you, he hadn’t a bit of sense in his head, poor boy, not a bit! And how should he? Why, he went to school as soon as he was out of petticoats, and was set to all that Latin and Greek stuff that never puts anything useful into folks’ heads, but so much more chatter and talk; so he came back as silly as he went, poor thing! Dear me, on a wet day, after lesson-time, those boys were like so many crazy creatures. ‘Cook, I must make a pie,’ says one. ‘There’s a pie in the oven already, Master James,’ says I. ‘I don’t care about the pie in the oven,’ says he, ‘I want a pie of my own. Bring me the flour, and the water, and the butter, and all the things–and, above all, the rolling-pin–and clear the decks, will you, I say, for my pie. Here goes!’ And here used to go, my dears, for Master James had no sense, as I told you; and so he’d shove all my pots and dishes away, one on the top of the other; and let me be as busy as I would, and dinner ever so near ready, the dresser must be cleared, and everything must give way to HIS pie! His pie, indeed–I wish I had had the management of his pie just then! I’d have taught him what it was to come shaking the rolling-pin at the head of a respectable cook, who wanted to get her business done properly, as in duty bound!

“But he wasn’t the only one. There was little Whipper-snapper, his younger brother, squeaking out in another corner, ‘I shan’t make a pie, James, I shall make toffey; it’s far better fun. You’d better come and help me. Where’s the treacle pot, Cook? Cook! I say, Cook! where’s the treacle-pot? And look at this stupid kettle and pan. What’s in the pan, I wonder? Oh, kidney-beans! Who cares for kidney-beans? How can I make toffey, when all these things are on the fire? Stay, I’ll hand them all off!’

“And, sure enough, if I hadn’t rushed from Master James, who was drinking away at my custard out of the bowl, to seize on Whipper- snapper, who had got his hand on the vegetable-pan already, he would have pulled it and the kettle, and the whole concern, off the fire, and perhaps scalded himself to death.

“Then, of course, there comes a scuffle, and Master Whipper-snapper begins to roar, and out comes Missus, who, poor thing, had no more sense in her head than her sons, though she’d never been to school to lose it over Latin and Greek; and, says she, with all her ribbons streaming, and her petticoats swelled out like a window-curtain in a draught–says she:-

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