DADDY DARWIN'S DOVECOT
AND OTHER STORIES
JULIANA HORATIO EWING.
"If I might buffet for my love, or bound my horse for her
favors, I could lay on like a butcher, and sit like a
Jackanapes, never off!"
KING HENRY V, Act 5, Scene 2.
Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay,
The midnight brought the signal sound of strife,
The morn the marshalling in arms--the day
Battle's magnificently stern array!
The thunder clouds close o'er it, which when rent
The earth is covered thick with other clay,
Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,
Rider and horse:--friend, foe,--in one red burial blent.
Their praise is hymn'd by loftier harps than mine:
Yet one would I select from that proud throng.
----to thee, to thousands, of whom each
And one as all a ghastly gap did make
In his own kind and kindred, whom to teach
Forgetfuluess were mercy for their sake;
The Archangel's trump, not glory's, must awake
Those whom they thirst for.
Two Donkeys and the Geese lived on the Green, and all other residents of
any social standing lived in houses round it. The houses had no names.
Everybody's address was, "The Green," but the Postman and the people of
the place knew where each family lived. As to the rest of the world,
what has one to do with the rest of the world, when he is safe at home
on his own Goose Green? Moreover, if a stranger did come on any lawful
business, he might ask his way at the shop.
Most of the inhabitants were long-lived, early deaths (like that of the
little Miss Jessamine) being exceptional; and most of the old people
were proud of their age, especially the sexton, who would be ninety-nine
come Martinmas, and whose father remembered a man who had carried
arrows, as a boy, for the battle of Flodden Field. The Grey Goose and
the big Miss Jessamine were the only elderly persons who kept their ages
secret. Indeed, Miss Jessamine never mentioned any one's age, or
recalled the exact year in which anything had happened. She said that
she had been taught that it was bad manners to do so "in a mixed
The Grey Goose also avoided dates, but this was partly because her
brain, though intelligent, was not mathematical, and computation was
beyond her. She never got farther than "last Michaelmas," "the
Michaelmas before that," and "the Michaelmas before the Michaelmas
before that." After this her head, which was small, became confused, and
she said, "Ga, ga!" and changed the subject.
But she remembered the little Miss Jessamine, the Miss Jessamine with
the "conspicuous" hair. Her aunt, the big Miss Jessamine, said it was
her only fault. The hair was clean, was abundant, was glossy, but do
what you would with it, it never looked like other people's. And at
church, after Saturday night's wash, it shone like the best brass fender
after a Spring cleaning. In short, it was conspicuous, which does not
become a young woman--especially in church.
Those were worrying times altogether, and the Green was used for strange
purposes. A political meeting was held on it with the village Cobbler in
the chair, and a speaker who came by stage coach from the town, where
they had wrecked the bakers' shops, and discussed the price of bread. He
came a second time, by stage, but the people had heard something about
him in the meanwhile, and they did not keep him on the Green. They took
him to the pond and tried to make him swim, which he could not do, and
the whole affair was very disturbing to all quiet and peaceable fowls.
After which another man came, and preached sermons on the Green, and a
great many people went to hear him; for those were "trying times," and
folk ran hither and thither for comfort. And then what did they do but
drill the ploughboys on the Green, to get them ready to fight the
French, and teach them the goose-step! However, that came to an end at
last, for Bony was sent to St. Helena, and the ploughboys were sent back
to the plough.
Everybody lived in fear of Bony in those days, especially the naughty
children, who were kept in order during the day by threats of, "Bony
shall have you," and who had nightmares about him in the dark. They
thought he was an Ogre in a cocked hat. The Grey Goose thought he was a
fox, and that all the men of England were going out in red coats to hunt
him. It was no use to argue the point, for she had a very small head,
and when one idea got into it there was no room for another.
Besides, the Grey Goose never saw Bony, nor did the children, which
rather spoilt the terror of him, so that the Black Captain became more
effective as a Bogy with hardened offenders. The Grey Goose remembered
his coming to the place perfectly. What he came for she did not
pretend to know. It was all part and parcel of the war and bad times. He
was called the Black Captain, partly because of himself, and partly
because of his wonderful black mare. Strange stories were afloat of how
far and how fast that mare could go, when her master's hand was on her
mane and he whispered in her ear. Indeed, some people thought we might
reckon ourselves very lucky if we were not out of the frying-pan into
the fire, and had not got a certain well-known Gentleman of the Road to
protect us against the French. But that, of course, made him none the
less useful to the Johnson's Nurse, when the little Miss Johnsons were
"You leave off crying this minnit, Miss Jane, or I'll give you right
away to that horrid wicked officer. Jemima! just look out o' the windy,
if you please, and see if the Black Cap'n's a-coming with his horse to
carry away Miss Jane."
And there, sure enough, the Black Captain strode by, with his sword
clattering as if it did not know whose head to cut off first. But he did
not call for Miss Jane that time. He went on to the Green, where he came
so suddenly upon the eldest Master Johnson, sitting in a puddle on
purpose, in his new nankeen skeleton suit, that the young gentleman
thought judgment had overtaken him at last, and abandoned himself to the
howlings of despair. His howls were redoubled when he was clutched from
behind and swung over the Black Captain's shoulder, but in five minutes
his tears were stanched, and he was playing with the officer's
accoutrements. All of which the Grey Goose saw with her own eyes, and
heard afterwards that that bad boy had been whining to go back to the
Black Captain ever since, which showed how hardened he was, and that
nobody but Bonaparte himself could be expected to do him any good.
But those were "trying times." It was bad enough when the pickle of a
large and respectable family cried for the Black Captain; when it came
to the little Miss Jessamine crying for him, one felt that the sooner
the French landed and had done with it the better.
The big Miss Jessamine's objection to him was that he was a soldier, and
this prejudice was shared by all the Green. "A soldier," as the speaker
from the town had observed, "is a bloodthirsty, unsettled sort of a
rascal; that the peaceable, home-loving, bread-winning citizen can never
conscientiously look on as a brother, till he has beaten his sword into
a ploughshare, and his spear into a pruning-hook."
On the other hand there was some truth in what the Postman (an old
soldier) said in reply; that the sword has to cut a way for us out of
many a scrape into which our bread-winners get us when they drive their
ploughshares into fallows that don't belong to them. Indeed, whilst our
most peaceful citizens were prosperous chiefly by means of cotton, of
sugar, and of the rise and fall of the money-market (not to speak of
such salable matters as opium, firearms, and "black ivory"),
disturbances were apt to arise in India, Africa and other outlandish
parts, where the fathers of our domestic race were making fortunes for
their families. And, for that matter, even on the Green, we did not wish
the military to leave us in the lurch, so long as there was any fear
that the French were coming. 
1. "'The political men declare
war, and generally for commercial interests; but when the nation is thus
embroiled with its neighbors the soldier ... draws the sword, at the
command of his country.... One word as to thy comparison of military and
commercial persons. What manner of men be they who have supplied the
Caffres with the firearms and ammunition to maintain their savage and
deplorable wars? Assuredly they are not military.... Cease then, if thou
would'st be counted among the just, to vilify soldiers."--W. Napier,
Lieut. General, November, 1851.
To let the Black Captain have little Miss Jessamine, however, was
another matter. Her Aunt would not hear of it; and then, to crown all,
it appeared that the Captain's father did not think the young lady good
enough for his son. Never was any affair more clearly brought to a
conclusion. But those were "trying times;" and one moon-light night,
when the Grey Goose was sound asleep upon one leg, the Green was rudely
shaken under her by the thud of a horse's feet. "Ga, ga!" said she,
putting down the other leg, and running away.
By the time she returned to her place not a thing was to be seen or
heard. The horse had passed like a shot. But next day, there was
hurrying and skurrying and cackling at a very early hour, all about the
white house with the black beams, where Miss Jessamine lived. And when
the sun was so low, and the shadows so long on the grass that the Grey
Goose felt ready to run away at the sight of her own neck, little Miss
Jane Johnson, and her "particular friend" Clarinda, sat under the big
oak-tree on the Green, and Jane pinched Clarinda's little finger till
she found that she could keep a secret, and then she told her in
confidence that she had heard from Nurse and Jemima that Miss
Jessamine's niece had been a very naughty girl, and that that horrid
wicked officer had come for her on his black horse, and carried her
"Will she never come back?" asked Clarinda.
"Oh, no!" said Jane decidedly. "Bony never brings people back."
"Not never no more?" sobbed Clarinda, for she was weak-minded, and could
not bear to think that Bony never, never let naughty people go home
Next day Jane had heard more.
"He has taken her to a Green?"
"A Goose Green?" asked Clarinda.
"No. A Gretna Green. Don't ask so many questions, child," said Jane;
who, having no more to tell, gave herself airs.
Jane was wrong on one point. Miss Jessamine's niece did come back, and
she and her husband were forgiven. The Grey Goose remembered it well, it
was Michaelmastide, the Michaelmas before the Michaelmas before the
Michaelmas--but ga, ga! What does the date matter? It was autumn,
harvest-time, and everybody was so busy prophesying and praying about
the crops, that the young couple wandered through the lanes, and got
blackberries for Miss Jessamine's celebrated crab and blackberry jam,
and made guys of themselves with bryony-wreaths, and not a soul troubled
his head about them, except the children, and the Postman. The children
dogged the Black Captain's footsteps (his bubble reputation as an Ogre
having burst), clamoring for a ride on the black mare. And the Postman
would go somewhat out of his postal way to catch the Captain's dark eye,
and show that he had not forgotten how to salute an officer.
But they were "trying times." One afternoon the black mare was stepping
gently up and down the grass, with her head at her master's shoulder,
and as many children crowded on to her silky back as if she had been an
elephant in a menagerie; and the next afternoon she carried him away,
sword and sabre-tache clattering war-music at her side, and the
old Postman waiting for them, rigid with salutation, at the four cross
War and bad times! It was a hard winter, and the big Miss Jessamine and
the little Miss Jessamine (but she was Mrs. Black-Captain now), lived
very economically that they might help their poorer neighbors. They
neither entertained nor went into company, but the young lady always
went up the village as far as the George and Dragon, for air and
exercise, when the London Mail  came in.
2. The Mail Coach it was that
distributed over the face of the land, like the opening of apocalyptic
vials, the heart-shaking news of Trafalgar, of Salamanca, of Vittoria,
of Waterloo.... The grandest chapter of our experience, within the whole
Mail Coach service, was on those occasions when we went down from London
with the news of Victory. Five years of life it was worth paying down
for the privilege of an outside place. DE QUINCEY.
One day (it was a day in the following June) it came in earlier than
usual, and the young lady was not there to meet it.
But a crowd soon gathered round the George and Dragon, gaping to
see the Mail Coach dressed with flowers and oak-leaves, and the guard
wearing a laurel wreath over and above his royal livery. The ribbons
that decked the horses were stained and flecked with the warmth and foam
of the pace at which they had come, for they had pressed on with the
news of Victory.
Miss Jessamine was sitting with her niece under the oak-tree on the
Green, when the Postman put a newspaper silently into her hand. Her
niece turned quickly--"Is there news?"
"Don't agitate yourself, my dear," said her aunt. "I will read it aloud,
and then we can enjoy it together; a far more comfortable method, my
love, than when you go up the village, and come home out of breath,
having snatched half the news as you run."
"I am all attention, dear aunt," said the little lady, clasping her
hands tightly on her lap.
Then Miss Jessamine read aloud--she was proud of her reading--and the
old soldier stood at attention behind her, with such a blending of pride
and pity on his face as it was strange to see:--
"June 22, 1815, 1 A.M."
"That's one in the morning," gasped the Postman; "beg your pardon, mum."
But though he apologized, he could not refrain from echoing here and
there a weighty word. "Glorious victory,"--"Two hundred pieces of
artillery,"--"Immense quantity of ammunition,"--and so forth.
"The loss of the British Army upon this occasion has unfortunately been
most severe. It had not been possible to make out a return of the killed
and wounded when Major Percy left headquarters. The names of the
officers killed and wounded, as far as they can be collected, are
"I have the honor----"
"The list, aunt! Read the list!"
"My love--my darling--let us go in and----"
"No. Now! now!"
To one thing the supremely afflicted are entitled in their sorrow--to be
obeyed--and yet it is the last kindness that people commonly will do
them. But Miss Jessamine did. Steadying her voice, as best she might,
she read on, and the old soldier stood bareheaded to hear that first
Roll of the Dead at Waterloo, which began with the Duke of Brunswick,
and ended with Ensign Brown.  Five-and-thirty
British Captains fell asleep that day on the bed of Honor, and the Black
Captain slept among them.
3. "Brunswick's fated chieftain"
fell at Quatre Bras, the day before Waterloo, but this first (very
imperfect) list, as it appeared in the newspapers of the day, did begin
with his name, and end with that of an Ensign Brown.
There are killed and wounded by war, of whom no returns reach Downing
Three days later, the Captain's wife had joined him, and Miss Jessamine
was kneeling by the cradle of their orphan son, a purple-red morsel of
humanity, with conspicuously golden hair.
"Will he live, Doctor?"
"Live? GOD bless my soul, ma'am! Look at him! The young Jackanapes!"
And he wandered away and away
With Nature, the dear old Nurse.
The Grey Goose remembered quite well the year that Jackanapes began to
walk, for it was the year that the speckled hen for the first time in
all her motherly life got out of patience when she was sitting. She had
been rather proud of the eggs--they are unusually large--but she never
felt quite comfortable on them; and whether it was because she used to
get cramp, and got off the nest, or because the season was bad, or what,
she never could tell, but every egg was addled but one, and the one that
did hatch gave her more trouble than any chick she had ever reared.
It was a fine, downy, bright yellow little thing, but it had a monstrous
big nose and feet, and such an ungainly walk as she knew no other
instance of in her well-bred and high-stepping family. And as to
behavior, it was not that it was either quarrelsome or moping, but
simply unlike the rest. When the other chicks hopped and cheeped on the
Green all at their mother's feet, this solitary yellow one went waddling
off on its own responsibility, and do or cluck what the spreckled hen
would, it went to play in the pond.
It was off one day as usual, and the hen was fussing and fuming after
it, when the Postman, going to deliver a letter at Miss Jessamine's
door, was nearly knocked over by the good lady herself, who, bursting
out of the house with her cap just off and her bonnet just not on,
fell into his arms, crying--
"Baby! Baby! Jackanapes! Jackanapes!"
If the Postman loved anything on earth, he loved the Captain's
yellow-haired child, so propping Miss Jessamine against her own
door-post, he followed the direction of her trembling fingers and made
for the Green.
Jackanapes had had the start of the Postman by nearly ten minutes. The
world--the round green world with an oak tree on it--was just becoming
very interesting to him. He had tried, vigorously but ineffectually, to
mount a passing pig the last time he was taken out walking; but then he
was encumbered with a nurse. Now he was his own master, and might, by
courage and energy, become the master of that delightful, downy, dumpy,
yellow thing, that was bobbing along over the green grass in front of
him. Forward! Charge! He aimed well, and grabbed it, but only to feel
the delicious downiness and dumpiness slipping through his fingers as he
fell upon his face. "Quawk!" said the yellow thing, and wobbled off
sideways. It was this oblique movement that enabled Jackanapes to come
up with it, for it was bound for the Pond, and therefore obliged to come
back into line. He failed again from top-heaviness, and his prey escaped
sideways as before, and, as before, lost ground in getting back to the
direct road to the Pond.
And at the Pond the Postman found them both, one yellow thing rocking
safely on the ripples that lie beyond duck-weed, and the other washing
his draggled frock with tears, because he too had tried to sit upon the
Pond, and it wouldn't hold him.
... If studious, copie fair what time hath blurred,
Redeem truth from his jawes; if souldier,
Chase brave employments with a naked sword
Throughout the world. Fool not; for all may have,
If they dare try, a glorious life, or grave.
In brief, acquit thee bravely: play the man.
Look not on pleasures as they come, but go.
Defer not the least vertue: life's poore span
Make not an ell, by trifling in thy woe.
If thou do ill, the joy fades, not the pains.
If well, the pain doth fade, the joy remains.
Young Mrs. Johnson, who was a mother of many, hardly knew which to pity
more; Miss Jessamine for having her little ways and her antimacassars
rumpled by a young Jackanapes; or the boy himself, for being brought up
by an old maid.
Oddly enough, she would probably have pitied neither, had Jackanapes
been a girl. (One is so apt to think that what works smoothest works to
the highest ends, having no patience for the results of friction.) That
Father in GOD, who bade the young men to be pure, and the maidens brave,
greatly disturbed a member of his congregation, who thought that the
great preacher had made a slip of the tongue.
"That the girls should have purity, and the boys courage, is what you
would say, good Father?"
"Nature has done that," was the reply; "I meant what I said."
In good sooth, a young maid is all the better for learning some robuster
virtues than maidenliness and not to move the antimacassars. And the
robuster virtues require some fresh air and freedom. As, on the other
hand, Jackanapes (who had a boy's full share of the little beast and the
young monkey in his natural composition) was none the worse, at his
tender years, for learning some maidenliness--so far as maidenliness
means decency, pity, unselfishness and pretty behavior.
And it is due to him to say that he was an obedient boy, and a boy whose
word could be depended on, long before his grandfather the General came
to live at the Green.
He was obedient; that is he did what his great aunt told him. But--oh
dear! oh dear!--the pranks he played, which it had never entered into
her head to forbid!
It was when he had just been put into skeletons (frocks never suited
him) that he became very friendly with Master Tony Johnson, a younger
brother of the young gentleman who sat in the puddle on purpose. Tony
was not enterprising, and Jackanapes led him by the nose. One summer's
evening they were out late, and Miss Jessamine was becoming anxious,
when Jackanapes presented himself with a ghastly face all besmirched
with tears. He was unusually subdued.
"I'm afraid," he sobbed; "if you please, I'm very much afraid that Tony
Johnson's dying in the churchyard."
Miss Jessamine was just beginning to be distracted, when she smelt
"You naughty, naughty boys! Do you mean to tell me that you've been
"Not pipes," urged Jackanapes; "upon my honor, Aunty, not pipes. Only
segars like Mr. Johnson's! and only made of brown paper with a very,
very little tobacco from the shop inside them."
Whereupon, Miss Jessamine sent a servant to the churchyard, who found
Tony Johnson lying on a tomb-stone, very sick, and having ceased to
entertain any hopes of his own recovery.
If it could be possible that any "unpleasantness" could arise between
two such amiable neighbors as Miss Jessamine and Mrs. Johnson--and if
the still more incredible paradox can be that ladies may differ over a
point on which they are agreed--that point was the admitted fact that
Tony Johnson was "delicate," and the difference lay chiefly in this:
Mrs. Johnson said that Tony was delicate--meaning that he was more
finely strung, more sensitive, a properer subject for pampering and
petting than Jackanapes, and that, consequently, Jackanapes was to blame
for leading Tony into scrapes which resulted in his being chilled,
frightened, or (most frequently) sick. But when Miss Jessamine said that
Tony Johnson was delicate, she meant that he was more puling, less
manly, and less healthily brought up than Jackanapes, who, when they got
into mischief together, was certainly not to blame because his friend
could not get wet, sit a kicking donkey, ride in the giddy-go-round,
bear the noise of a cracker, or smoke brown paper with impunity, as he
Not that there was ever the slightest quarrel between the ladies. It
never even came near it, except the day after Tony had been so very sick
with riding Bucephalus in the giddy-go-round. Mrs. Johnson had explained
to Miss Jessamine that the reason Tony was so easily upset, was the
unusual sensitiveness (as a doctor had explained it to her) of the
nervous centres in her family--"Fiddlestick!" So Mrs. Johnson
understood Miss Jessamine to say, but it appeared that she only said
"Treaclestick!" which is quite another thing, and of which Tony was
undoubtedly fond. It was at the fair that Tony was made ill by riding on
Bucephalus. Once a year the Goose Green became the scene of a carnival.
First of all, carts and caravans were rumbling up all along, day and
night. Jackanapes could hear them as he lay in bed, and could hardly
sleep for speculating what booths and whirligigs he should find fairly
established; when he and his dog Spitfire went out after breakfast. As a
matter of fact, he seldom had to wait long for news of the Fair. The
Postman knew the window out of which Jackanapes' yellow head would come,
and was ready with his report.
"Royal Theayter, Master Jackanapes, in the old place, but be careful o'
them seats, sir; they're rickettier than ever. Two sweets and a
ginger-beer under the oak tree, and the Flying Boats is just a-coming
along the road."
No doubt it was partly because he had already suffered severely in the
Flying Boats, that Tony collapsed so quickly in the giddy-go-round. He
only mounted Bucephalus (who was spotted, and had no tail) because
Jackanapes urged him, and held out the ingenious hope that the
round-and-round feeling would very likely cure the up-and-down
sensation. It did not, however, and Tony tumbled off during the first
Jackanapes was not absolutely free from qualms, but having once mounted
the Black Prince he stuck to him as a horseman should. During the first
round he waved his hat, and observed with some concern that the Black
Prince had lost an ear since last Fair; at the second, he looked a little
pale but sat upright, though somewhat unnecessarily rigid; at the
third round he shut his eyes. During the fourth his hat fell off, and he
clasped his horse's neck. By the fifth he had laid his yellow head
against the Black Prince's mane, and so clung anyhow till the
hobby-horses stopped, when the proprietor assisted him to alight, and he
sat down rather suddenly and said he had enjoyed it very much.
The Grey Goose always ran away at the first approach of the caravans,
and never came back to the Green till there was nothing left of the Fair
but footmarks and oyster-shells. Running away was her pet principle; the
only system, she maintained, by which you can live long and easily, and
lose nothing. If you run away when you see danger, you can come back
when all is safe. Run quickly, return slowly, hold your head high, and
gabble as loud as you can, and you'll preserve the respect of the Goose
Green to a peaceful old age. Why should you struggle and get hurt, if
you can lower your head and swerve, and not lose a feather? Why in the
world should any one spoil the pleasure of life, or risk his skin, if he
can help it?
"'What's the use'
Said the Goose."
Before answering which one might have to consider what world--which
life--whether his skin were a goose-skin; but the Grey Goose's head
would never have held all that.
Grass soon grows over footprints, and the village children took the
oyster-shells to trim their gardens with; but the year after Tony rode
Bucephalus there lingered another relic of Fairtime, in which Jackanapes
was deeply interested. "The Green" proper was originally only part of a
straggling common, which in its turn merged into some wilder waste land
where gipsies sometimes squatted if the authorities would allow them,
especially after the annual Fair. And it was after the Fair that
Jackanapes, out rambling by himself, was knocked over by the Gipsy's son
riding the Gipsy's red-haired pony at break-neck pace across the common.
Jackanapes got up and shook himself, none the worse, except for being
heels over head in love with the red-haired pony. What a rate he went
at! How he spurned the ground with his nimble feet! How his red coat
shone in the sunshine! And what bright eyes peeped out of his dark
forelock as it was blown by the wind!
The Gipsy boy had had a fright, and he was willing enough to reward
Jackanapes for not having been hurt, by consenting to let him have a
"Do you mean to kill the little fine gentleman, and swing us all on the
gibbet, you rascal?" screamed the Gipsy-mother, who came up just as
Jackanapes and the pony set off.
"He would get on," replied her son. "It'll not kill him. He'll fall on
his yellow head, and it's as tough as a cocoanut."
But Jackanapes did not fall. He stuck to the red-haired pony as he had
stuck to the hobbyhorse; but oh, how different the delight of this wild
gallop with flesh and blood! Just as his legs were beginning to feel as
if he did not feel them, the Gipsy boy cried "Lollo!" Round went the
pony so unceremoniously, that, with as little ceremony, Jackanapes clung
to his neck, and he did not properly recover himself before Lollo
stopped with a jerk at the place where they had started.
"Is his name Lollo?" asked Jackanapes, his hand lingering in the wiry
"What does Lollo mean?"
"Is Lollo your pony?"
"No. My father's." And the Gipsy boy led Lollo away.
At the first opportunity Jackanapes stole away again to the common. This
time he saw the Gipsy-father, smoking a dirty pipe.
"Lollo is your pony, isn't he?" said Jackanapes.
"He's a very nice one."
"He's a racer."
"You don't want to sell him, do you?"
"Fifteen pounds," said the Gipsy-father; and Jackanapes sighed and went
home again. That very afternoon he and Tony rode the two donkeys, and
Tony managed to get thrown, and even Jackanapes' donkey kicked. But it
was jolting, clumsy work after the elastic swiftness and the dainty
mischief of the red-haired pony.
A few days later Miss Jessamine spoke very seriously to Jackanapes. She
was a good deal agitated as she told him that his grandfather, the
General, was coming to the Green, and that he must be on his very best
behavior during the visit. If it had been feasible to leave off calling
him Jackanapes and to get used to his baptismal name of Theodore before
the day after to-morrow (when the General was due), it would have been
satisfactory. But Miss Jessamine feared it would be impossible in
practice, and she had scruples about it on principle. It would not seem
quite truthful, although she had always most fully intended that he
should be called Theodore when he had outgrown the ridiculous
appropriateness of his nickname. The fact was that he had not outgrown
it, but he must take care to remember who was meant when his grandfather
Indeed for that matter he must take care all along.
"You are apt to be giddy, Jackanapes," said Miss Jessamine.
"Yes aunt," said Jackanapes, thinking of the hobby-horses.
"You are a good boy, Jackanapes. Thank GOD, I can tell your grandfather
that. An obedient boy, an honorable boy, and a kind-hearted boy. But you
are--in short, you are a Boy, Jackanapes. And I hope,"--added
Miss Jessamine, desperate with the results of experience--"that the
General knows that Boys will be Boys."
What mischief could be foreseen, Jackanapes promised to guard against.
He was to keep his clothes and his hands clean, to look over his
catechism, not to put sticky things in his pockets, to keep that hair of
his smooth--("It's the wind that blows it, Aunty," said
Jackanapes--"I'll send by the coach for some bear's-grease," said Miss
Jessamine, tying a knot in her pocket-handkerchief)--not to burst in at
the parlor door, not to talk at the top of his voice, not to crumple his
Sunday frill, and to sit quite quiet during the sermon, to be sure to
say "sir" to the General, to be careful about rubbing his shoes on the
doormat, and to bring his lesson-books to his aunt at once that she
might iron down the dogs' ears. The General arrived, and for the first
day all went well, except that Jackanapes' hair was as wild as usual,
for the hair-dresser had no bear's-grease left. He began to feel more at
ease with his grandfather, and disposed to talk confidentially with him,
as he did with the Postman. All that the General felt it would take too
long to tell, but the result was the same. He was disposed to talk
confidentially with Jackanapes.
"Mons'ous pretty place this," he said, looking out of the lattice on to
the Green, where the grass was vivid with sunset, and the shadows were
long and peaceful.
"You should see it in Fair-week, sir," said Jackanapes, shaking his
yellow mop, and leaning back in his one of the two Chippendale armchairs
in which they sat.
"A fine time that, eh?" said the General, with a twinkle in his left
eye. (The other was glass.)
Jackanapes shook his hair once more. "I enjoyed this last one the best
of all," he said. "I'd so much money."
"By George, it's not a common complaint in these bad times. How much had
"I'd two shillings. A new shilling Aunty gave me, and elevenpence I had
saved up, and a penny from the Postman--sir!" added Jackanapes
with a jerk, having forgotten it.
"And how did ye spend it--sir?" inquired the General. Jackanapes
spread his ten fingers on the arms of his chair, and shut his eyes that
he might count the more conscientiously.
"Watch-stand for Aunty, threepence. Trumpet for myself, twopence, that's
fivepence. Ginger-nuts for Tony, twopence, and a mug with a Grenadier on
for the Postman, fourpence, that's elevenpence. Shooting-gallery a
penny, that's a shilling. Giddy-go-round, a penny, that's one and a
penny. Treating Tony, one and twopence. Flying Boats (Tony paid for
himself), a penny, one and threepence. Shooting-gallery again, one and
four-pence; Fat Woman a penny, one and fivepence. Giddy-go-round again,
one and sixpence. Shooting-gallery, one and sevenpence. Treating Tony,
and then he wouldn't shoot, so I did, one and eightpence. Living
Skeleton, a penny--no, Tony treated me, the Living Skeleton doesn't
count. Skittles, a penny, one and ninepence Mermaid (but when we got
inside she was dead), a penny, one and tenpence. Theatre, a penny
(Priscilla Partington, or the Green Lane Murder. A beautiful young lady,
sir, with pink cheeks and a real pistol), that's one and elevenpence.
Ginger beer, a penny (I was so thirsty!) two shillings. And then
the Shooting-gallery man gave me a turn for nothing, because, he said, I
was a real gentleman, and spent my money like a man."
"So you do, sir, so you do!" cried the General. "Why, sir, you spend it
like a prince--And now I suppose you've not got a penny in your pocket?"
"Yes I have," said Jackanapes. "Two pennies. They are saving up." And
Jackanapes jingled them with his hand.
"You don't want money except at fair-times, I suppose?" said the
Jackanapes shook his mop.
"If I could have as much as I want, I should know what to buy," said he.
"And how much do you want, if you could get it?"
"Wait a minute, sir, till I think what twopence from fifteen pounds
leaves. Two from nothing you can't, but borrow twelve. Two from twelve,
ten, and carry one. Please remember ten, sir, when I ask you. One from
nothing you can't, borrow twenty. One from twenty, nineteen, and carry
one. One from fifteen, fourteen. Fourteen pounds nineteen and--what did I
tell you to remember?"
"Ten," said the General.
"Fourteen pounds nineteen shillings and ten-pence then, is what I want,"
"Bless my soul, what for?"
"To buy Lollo with. Lollo means red, sir. The Gipsy's red-haired pony,
sir. Oh, he is beautiful! You should see his coat in the sunshine! You
should see his mane! You should see his tail! Such little feet, sir, and
they go like lightning! Such a dear face, too, and eyes like a mouse!
But he's a racer, and the Gipsy wants fifteen pounds for him."
"If he's a racer, you couldn't ride him. Could you?"
"No--o, sir, but I can stick to him. I did the other day."
"You did, did you? Well, I'm fond of riding myself, and if the beast is
as good as you say, he might suit me."
"You're too tall for Lollo, I think," said Jackanapes, measuring his
grandfather with his eye.
"I can double up my legs, I suppose. We'll have a look at him
"Don't you weigh a good deal?" asked Jackanapes.
"Chiefly waistcoats," said the General, slapping the breast of his
military frock-coat. "We'll have the little racer on the Green the first
thing in the morning. Glad you mentioned it, grandson. Glad you
The General was as good as his word. Next morning the Gipsy and Lollo,
Miss Jessamine, Jackanapes and his grandfather and his dog Spitfire,
were all gathered at one end of the Green in a group, which so aroused
the innocent curiosity of Mrs. Johnson, as she saw it from one of her
upper windows, that she and the children took their early promenade
rather earlier than usual. The General talked to the Gipsy, and
Jackanapes fondled Lollo's mane, and did not know whether he should be
more glad or miserable if his grandfather bought him.
"I've bought Lollo, but I believe you were right. He hardly stands high
enough for me. If you can ride him to the other end of the Green, I'll
give him to you."
How Jackanapes tumbled on to Lollo's back he never knew. He had just
gathered up the reins when the Gipsy-father took him by the arm.
"If you want to make Lollo go fast, my little gentleman--"
"I can make him go!" said Jackanapes, and drawing from his pocket
the trumpet he had bought in the fair, he blew a blast both loud and
Away went Lollo, and away went Jackanapes' hat. His golden hair flew out,
an aureole from which his cheeks shone red and distended with
trumpeting. Away went Spitfire, mad with the rapture of the race, and
the wind in his silky ears. Away went the geese, the cocks, the hens,
and the whole family of Johnson. Lucy clung to her mamma, Jane saved
Emily by the gathers of her gown, and Tony saved himself by a
The Grey Goose was just returning when Jackanapes and Lollo rode back,
Spitfire panting behind.
"Good, my little gentleman, good!" said the Gipsy. "You were born to the
saddle You've the flat thigh, the strong knee, the wiry back, and the
light caressing hand, all you want is to learn the whisper Come here!"
"What was that dirty fellow talking about, grandson?" asked the General.
"I can't tell you, sir. It's a secret."
They were sitting in the window again, in the two Chippendale
arm-chairs, the General devouring every line of his grandson's face,
with strange spasms crossing his own.
"You must love your aunt very much, Jackanapes?"
"I do, sir," said Jackanapes warmly.
"And whom do you love next best to your aunt?"
The ties of blood were pressing very strongly on the General himself,
and perhaps he thought of Lollo. But Love is not bought in a day, even
with fourteen pounds nineteen shillings and ten-pence. Jackanapes
answered quite readily, "The Postman."
"Why the Postman?"
"He knew my father," said Jackanapes, "and he tells me about him, and
about his black mare. My father was a soldier, a brave soldier. He died
at Waterloo. When I grow up I want to be a soldier too." "So you shall,
my boy. So you shall."
"Thank you, grandfather. Aunty doesn't want me to be a soldier for fear
of being killed."
"Bless my life! Would she have you get into a feather-bed and stay
there? Why, you might be killed by a thunderbolt, if you were a
"So I might. I shall tell her so. What a funny fellow you are, sir! I
say, do you think my father knew the Gipsy's secret? The Postman says he
used to whisper to his black mare."
"Your father was taught to ride as a child, by one of those horsemen of
the East who swoop and dart and wheel about a plain like swallows in
autumn. Grandson! Love me a little too. I can tell you more about your
father than the Postman can."
"I do love you," said Jackanapes. "Before you came I was frightened. I'd
no notion you were so nice."
"Love me always, boy, whatever I do or leave undone. And--God help
me--whatever you do or leave undone, I'll love you! There shall never be
a cloud between us for a day; no, sir, not for an hour. We're imperfect
enough, all of us, we needn't be so bitter; and life is uncertain enough
at its safest, we needn't waste its opportunities. Look at me! Here sit
I, after a dozen battles and some of the worst climates in the world,
and by yonder lych gate lies your mother, who didn't move five miles, I
suppose, from your aunt's apron-strings,--dead in her teens; my
golden-haired daughter, whom I never saw."
Jackanapes was terribly troubled.
"Don't cry, grandfather," he pleaded, his own blue eyes round with
tears. "I will love you very much, and I will try to be very good. But I
should like to be a soldier."
"You shall, my boy, you shall. You've more claims for a commission than
you know of. Cavalry, I suppose; eh, ye young Jackanapes? Well, well; if
you live to be an honor to your country, this old heart shall grow young
again with pride for you; and if you die in the service of your
country--GOD bless me, it can but break for ye!"
And beating the region which he said was all waistcoats, as if they
stifled him, the old man got up and strode out on to the Green.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his
life for his friends."--JOHN XV. 13.
Twenty and odd years later the Grey Goose was still alive, and in full
possession of her faculties, such as they were. She lived slowly and
carefully, and she lived long. So did Miss Jessamine; but the General
He had lived on the Green for many years, during which he and the
Postman saluted each other with a punctiliousness that it almost drilled
one to witness. He would have completely spoiled Jackanapes if Miss
Jessamine's conscience would have let him; otherwise he somewhat
dragooned his neighbors, and was as positive about parish matters as a
ratepayer about the army. A stormy-tempered, tender-hearted soldier,
irritable with the suffering of wounds of which he never spoke, whom all
the village followed to his grave with, tears.
The General's death was a great shock to Miss Jessamine, and her nephew
stayed with her for some little time after the funeral. Then he was
obliged to join his regiment, which was ordered abroad.
One effect of the conquest which the General had gained over the
affections of the village, was a considerable abatement of the popular
prejudice against "the military." Indeed the village was now somewhat
importantly represented in the army. There was the General himself, and
the Postman, and the Black Captain's tablet in the church, and
Jackanapes, and Tony Johnson, and a Trumpeter.
Tony Johnson had no more natural taste for fighting than for riding, but
he was as devoted as ever to Jackanapes, and that was how it came about
that Mr. Johnson bought him a commission in the same cavalry regiment
that the General's grandson (whose commission had been given him by the
Iron Duke) was in, and that he was quite content to be the butt of the
mess where Jackanapes was the hero; and that when Jackanapes wrote home
to Miss Jessamine, Tony wrote with the same purpose to his mother;
namely, to demand her congratulations that they were on active service
at last, and were ordered to the front. And he added a postscript to the
effect that she could have no idea how popular Jackanapes was, nor how
splendidly he rode the wonderful red charger whom he had named after his
old friend Lollo.
A Boy Trumpeter, grave with the weight of responsibilities and
accoutrements beyond his years, and stained, so that his own mother
would not have known him, with the sweat and dust of battle, did as he
was bid; and then pushing his trumpet pettishly aside, adjusted his
weary legs for the hundredth time to the horse which was a world too big
for him, and muttering, "'Tain't a pretty tune," tried to see something
of this, his first engagement, before it came to an end.
Being literally in the thick of it, he could seen less or known less of
what happened in that particular skirmish if he had been at home in
England. For many good reasons; including dust and smoke, and that what
attention he dared distract from his commanding officer was pretty well
absorbed by keeping his hard-mouthed troop-horse in hand, under pain of
execration by his neighbors in the melde. By-and-by, when the newspapers
came out, if he could get a look at one before it was thumbed to bits,
he would learn that the enemy had appeared from ambush in overwhelming
numbers, and that orders had been given to fall back, which was done
slowly and in good order, the men fighting as they retired.
Born and bred on the Goose Green, the youngest of Mr. Johnson's
gardener's numerous off-spring, the boy had given his family "no peace"
till they let him "go for a soldier" with Master Tony and Master
Jackanapes. They consented at last, with more tears than they shed when
an elder son was sent to jail for poaching, and the boy was perfectly
happy in his life, and full of esprit de corps. It was this which
had been wounded by having to sound retreat for "the young gentlemen's
regiment," the first time he served with it before the enemy, and he was
also harassed by having completely lost sight of Master Tony. There had
been some hard fighting before the backward movement began, and he had
caught sight of him once, but not since. On the other hand, all the
pulses of his village pride had been stirred by one or two visions of
Master Jackanapes whirling about on his wonderful horse. He had been
easy to distinguish, since an eccentric blow had bared his head without
hurting it, for his close golden mop of hair gleamed in the hot sunshine
as brightly as the steel of the sword flashing round it.
Of the missiles that fell pretty thickly, the Boy Trumpeter did not take
much notice. First, one can't attend to everything, and his hands were
full. Secondly, one gets used to anything. Thirdly, experience soon
teaches one, in spite of proverbs, how very few bullets find their
billet. Far more unnerving is the mere suspicion of fear or even of
anxiety in the human mass around you. The Boy was beginning to wonder if
there were any dark reason for the increasing pressure, and whether they
would be allowed to move back more quickly, when the smoke in front
lifted for a moment, and he could see the plain, and the enemy's line
some two hundred yards away.
And across the plain between them, he saw Master Jackanapes galloping
alone at the top of Lollo's speed, their faces to the enemy, his golden
head at Lollo's ear.
But at this moment noise and smoke seemed to burst out on every side,
the officer shouted to him to sound retire, and between trumpeting and
bumping about on his horse, he saw and heard no more of the incidents of
his first battle.
Tony Johnson was always unlucky with horses, from the days of the
giddy-go-round onwards. On this day--of all days in the' year--his own
horse was on the sick list, and he had to ride an inferior,
ill-conditioned beast, and fell off that, at the very moment when it was
a matter of life or death to be able to ride away. The horse fell on
him, but struggled up again, and Tony managed to keep hold of it. It was
in trying to remount that he discovered, by helplessness and anguish,
that one of his legs was crushed and broken, and that no feat of which
he was master would get him into the saddle. Not able even to stand
alone, awkwardly, agonizingly unable to mount his restive horse, his
life was yet so strong within him! And on one side of him rolled the
dust and smoke-cloud of his advancing foe, and on the other, that which
covered his retreating friends.
He turned one piteous gaze after them, with a bitter twinge, not of
reproach, but of loneliness; and then, dragging himself up by the side
of his horse, he turned the other way and drew out his pistol, and
waited for the end. Whether he waited seconds or minutes he never knew,
before some one gripped him by the arm.
"Jackanapes! GOD bless you! It's my left leg. If you could get me on--"
It was like Tony's luck that his pistol went off at his horse's tail,
and made it plunge; but Jackanapes threw him across the saddle.
"Hold on anyhow, and stick your spur in. I'll lead him. Keep your head
down, they're firing high."
And Jackanapes laid his head down--to Lollo's ear.
It was when they were fairly off, that a sudden upspringing of the enemy
in all directions had made it necessary to change the gradual retirement
of our force into as rapid a retreat as possible. And when Jackanapes
became aware of this, and felt the lagging and swerving of Tony's horse,
he began to wish he had thrown his friend across his own saddle, and
left their lives to Lollo.
When Tony became aware of it, several things came into his head. 1. That
the dangers of their ride for life were now more than doubled. 2. That
if Jackanapes and Lollo were not burdened with him they would
undoubtedly escape. 3. That Jackanapes' life was infinitely valuable,
and his--Tony's--was not. 4. That this--if he could seize it--was the
supremest of all the moments in which he had tried to assume the virtues
which Jackanapes had by nature; and that if he could be courageous and
He caught at his own reins and spoke very loud--
"Jackanapes! It won't do. You and Lollo must go on. Tell the fellows I
gave you back to them, with all my heart. Jackanapes, if you love me,
There was a daffodil light over the evening sky in front of them, and it
shone strangely on Jackanapes' hair and face. He turned with an odd look
in his eyes that a vainer man than Tony Johnson might have taken for
brotherly pride. Then he shook his mop and laughed at him.
"Leave you? To save my skin? No, Tony, not to save my soul!"
Mr. VALIANT summoned. His will. His last words.
Then, said he, "I am going to my Father's.... My Sword I
give to him that shall succeed me in my Pilgrimage, and my
Courage and Skill to him that can get it." ... And as he
went down deeper, he said, "Grave, where is thy Victory?"
So he passed over, and all the Trumpets sounded for him on
the other side.
BUNYAN'S Pilgrim's, Progress.
Coming out of a hospital-tent, at headquarters, the surgeon cannonaded
against, and rebounded from, another officer; a sallow man, not young,
with a face worn more by ungentle experiences than by age; with weary
eyes that kept their own counsel, iron gray hair, and a moustache that
was as if a raven had laid its wing across his lips and sealed them.
"Beg pardon, Major. Didn't see you. Oh, compound fracture and bruises,
but it's all right. He'll pull through."
It was probably an involuntary expression, for prayer and praise were
not much in the Major's line, as a jerk of the surgeon's head would have
betrayed to an observer. He was a bright little man, with his feelings
showing all over him, but with gallantry and contempt of death enough
for both sides of his profession; who took a cool head, a white
handkerchief and a case of instruments, where other men went hot-blooded
with weapons, and who was the biggest gossip, male or female, of the
regiment. Not even the Major's taciturnity daunted him.
"Didn't think he'd as much pluck about him as he has. He'll do all right
if he doesn't fret himself into a fever about poor Jackanapes."
"Whom are you talking about?" asked the Major hoarsely.
"Young Johnson. He--"
"What about Jackanapes?"
"Don't you know? Sad business. Rode back for Johnson, and brought him
in; but, monstrous ill-luck, hit as they rode. Left lung--"
"Will he recover?"
"No. Sad business."
"What a frame--what limbs--what health--and what good looks? Finest
"Where is he?"
"In his own tent," said the surgeon sadly.
The Major wheeled and left him.
"Can I do anything else for you?"
"Nothing, thank you. Except--Major! I wish I could get you to appreciate
"This is not an easy moment, Jackanapes."
"Let me tell you, sir--he never will--that if he could have
driven me from him, he would be lying yonder at this moment, and I
should be safe and sound."
The Major laid his hand over his mouth, as if to keep back a wish he
would have been ashamed to utter.
"I've known old Tony from a child. He's a fool on impulse, a good man
and a gentleman in principle. And he acts on principle, which it's not
every--some water, please! Thank you, sir. It's very hot, and yet one's
feet get uncommonly cold. Oh, thank you, thank you. He's no fire-eater,
but he has a trained conscience and a tender heart, and he'll do his
duty when a braver and more selfish man might fail you. But he wants
encouragement; and when I'm gone----"
"He shall have encouragement. You have my word for it. Can I do nothing
"Yes, Major. A favor."
"Thank you, Jackanapes."
"Be Lollo's master, and love him as well as you can. He's used to it."
"Wouldn't you rather Johnson had him?"
The blue eyes twinkled in spite of mortal pain.
"Tony rides on principle, Major. His legs are bolsters, and will
be to the end of the chapter. I couldn't insult dear Lollo, but if you
don't care----Whilst I live----which will be longer than I desire or
deserve----Lollo shall want nothing, but----you. I have too little
tenderness for----my dear boy, you're faint. Can you spare me for a
"My head drifts so--if you wouldn't mind."
"Say a prayer by me. Out loud please, I am getting deaf."
"My dearest Jackanapes--my dear boy----"
"One of the Church Prayers--Parade Service, you know----"
"I see. But the fact is--GOD forgive me, Jackanapes--I'm a very
different sort of fellow to some of you youngsters. Look here, let me
But Jackanapes' hand was in his, and it wouldn't let go.
There was a brief and bitter silence.
"'Pon my soul I can only remember the little one at the end."
"Please," whispered Jackanapes.
Pressed by the conviction that what little he could do it was his duty
to do, the Major--kneeling--bared his head, and spoke loudly, clearly,
and very reverently--
"The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ--"
Jackanapes moved his left hand to his right one, which still held the
"--The love of GOD."
And with that--Jackanapes died.
"Und so ist der blaue Himmel grösser als jedes
Gewolk darin, und dauerhafter dazu."
JEAN PAUL RICHTER.
Jackanapes' death was sad news for the Goose Green, a sorrow justly
qualified by honorable pride in his gallantry and devotion. Only the
Cobbler dissented, but that was his way. He said he saw nothing in it
but foolhardiness and vainglory. They might both have been killed, as
easy as not, and then where would ye have been? A man's life was a man's
life, and one life was as good as another. No one would catch him
throwing his away. And, for that matter, Mrs. Johnson could spare a
child a great deal better than Miss Jessamine.
But the parson preached Jackanapes' funeral sermon on the text,
"Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his
life for My sake shall find it;" and all the village went and wept to
Nor did Miss Jessamine see her loss from the Cobbler's point of view. On
the contrary, Mrs. Johnson said she never to her dying day should forget
how, when she went to condole with her, the old lady came forward, with
gentle-womanly self-control, and kissed her, and thanked GOD that her
dear nephew's effort had been blessed with success, and that this sad
war had made no gap in her friend's large and happy home circle.
"But she's a noble, unselfish woman," sobbed Mrs. Johnson, "and she
taught Jackanapes to be the same, and that's how it is that my Tony has
been spared to me. And it must be sheer goodness in Miss Jessamine, for
what can she know of a mother's feelings? And I'm sure most people seem
to think that if you've a large family you don't know one from another
any more than they do, and that a lot of children are like a lot of
store-apples, if one's taken it won't be missed."
Lollo--the first Lollo, the Gipsy's Lollo--very aged, draws Miss
Jessamine's bath-chair slowly up and down the Goose Green in the
The Ex-postman walks beside him, which Lollo tolerates to the level of
his shoulder. If the Postman advances any nearer to his head, Lollo
quickens his pace, and were the Postman to persist in the injudicious
attempt, there is, as Miss Jessamine says, no knowing what might happen.
In the opinion of the Goose Green, Miss Jessamine has borne her troubles
"wonderfully." Indeed, to-day, some of the less delicate and less
intimate of those who see everything from the upper windows, say (well
behind her back) that "the old lady seems quite lively with her military
The meaning of this is, that Captain Johnson is leaning over one side of
her chair, whilst by the other bends a brother officer who is staying
with him, and who has manifested an extraordinary interest in Lollo. He
bends lower and lower, and Miss Jessamine calls to the Postman to
request Lollo to be kind enough to stop, whilst she is fumbling for
something which always hangs by her side, and has got entangled with her
It is a two-penny trumpet, bought years ago in the village fair, and
over it she and Captain Johnson tell, as best they can, between them,
the story of Jackanapes' ride across the Goose Green; and how he won
Lollo--the Gipsy's Lollo--the racer Lollo--dear Lollo--faithful
Lollo--Lollo the never vanquished--Lollo the tender servant of his old
mistress. And Lollo's ears twitch at every mention of his name.
Their hearer does not speak, but he never moves his eyes from the
trumpet, and when the tale is told, he lifts Miss Jessamine's hand and
presses his heavy black moustache in silence to her trembling fingers.
The sun, betting gently to his rest, embroiders the sombre foliage of
the oak-tree with threads of gold. The Grey Goose is sensible of an
atmosphere of repose, and puts up one leg for the night. The grass glows
with a more vivid green, and, in answer to a ringing call from Tony, his
sisters, fluttering over the daisies in pale-hued muslins, come out of
their ever-open door, like pretty pigeons form a dovecote.
And, if the good gossips, eyes do not deceive them, all the Miss
Johnsons, and both the officers, go wandering off into the lanes, where
bryony wreaths still twine about the brambles.
A sorrowful story, and ending badly?
Nay, Jackanapes, for the end is not yet.
A life wasted that might have been useful?
Men who have died for men, in all ages, forgive the thought!
There is a heritage of heroic example and noble obligation, not reckoned
in the Wealth of Nations, but essential to a nation's life; the contempt
of which, in any people, may, not slowly, mean even its commercial fall.
Very sweet are the uses of prosperity, the harvests of peace and
progress, the fostering sunshine of health and happiness, and length of
days in the land.
But there be things--oh, sons of what has deserved the name of Great
Britain, forget it not!--"the good of" which and "the use of" which are
beyond all calculation of worldly goods and earthly uses; things such as
Love, and Honor, and the Soul of Man, which cannot be bought with a
price, and which do not die with death. "And they who would fain live
happily EVER after, should not leave these things out of the lessons of
DADDY DARWIN'S DOVECOT.
A summer's afternoon. Early in the summer, and late in the afternoon;
with odors and colors deepening, and shadows lengthening, towards
Two gaffers gossiping, seated side by side upon a Yorkshire wall. A wall
of sandstone of many colors, glowing redder and yellower as the sun goes
down; well cushioned with moss and lichen, and deep set in rank grass on
this side, where the path runs, and in blue hyacinths on that side,
where the wood is, and where--on the gray and still naked branches of
young oaks--sit divers crows, not less solemn than the gaffers, and also
One gaffer in work-day clothes, not unpicturesque of form and hue. Gray,
home-knit stockings, and coat and knee-breeches of corduroy, which takes
tints from Time and Weather as harmoniously as wooden palings do; so
that field laborers (like some insects) seem to absorb or mimic the
colors of the vegetation round them and of their native soil. That is,
on work-days. Sunday-best is a different matter, and in this the other
gaffer was clothed. He was dressed like the crows above him, fit
excepted: the reason for which was, that he was only a visitor, a
revisitor to the home of his youth, and wore his Sunday (and funeral)
suit to mark the holiday.
Continuing the path, a stone pack-horse track, leading past a hedge
snow-white with may, and down into a little wood, from the depths of
which one could hear a brook babbling. Then up across the sunny field
beyond, and yet up over another field to where the brow of the hill is
crowned by old farm-buildings standing against the sky.
Down this stone path a young man going whistling home to tea. Then
staying to bend a swarthy face to the white may to smell it, and then
plucking a huge branch on which the blossom lies like a heavy fall of
snow, and throwing that aside for a better, and tearing off another and
yet another, with the prodigal recklessness of a pauper; and so,
whistling, on into the wood with his arms full.
Down the sunny field, as he goes up it, a woman coming to meet him--with
her arms full. Filled by a child with a may-white frock, and hair
shining with the warm colors of the sandstone. A young woman, having a
fair forehead visible a long way off, and buxom cheeks, and steadfast
eyes. When they meet he kisses her, and she pulls his dark hair and
smooths her own, and cuffs him in country fashion. Then they change
burdens, and she takes the may into her apron (stooping to pick up
fallen bits), and the child sits on the man's shoulder, and cuffs and
lugs its father as the mother did, and is chidden by her and kissed by
him. And all the babbling of their chiding and crowing and laughter
comes across the babbling of the brook to the ears of the old gaffers
gossiping on the wall.
Gaffer I. spits out an over-munched stalk of meadow soft-grass, and
"D'ye see yon chap?"
Gaffer II. takes up his hat and wipes it round with a spotted
handkerchief (for your Sunday hat is a heating thing for work-day wear),
and puts it on, and makes reply:
"Aye. But he beats me. And--see there!--he's t'first that's beat me yet.
Why, lad! I've met young chaps to-day I could ha' sworn to for mates of
mine forty years back--if I hadn't ha' been i't' churchyard spelling
over their fathers' tumstuns!"
"Aye. There's a many old standards gone home o' lately."
"What do they call him?"
"T' young chap?"
"They call him--Darwin."
"Dar--win? I should known a Darwin. They're old standards, is Darwins.
What's he to Daddy Darwin of t' Dovecot yonder?"
"He owns t' Dovecot. Did ye see t' lass?"
"Aye. Shoo's his missus, I reckon?"
"What did they call her?"
"Phoebe Shaw they called her. And if she'd been my lass--but
that's nother here nor there, and he's got t' Dovecot."
"Shaw? They're old standards, is Shaws. Phoebe? They called her
mother Phoebe. Phoebe Johnson. She were a dainty lass! My father were
very fond of Phoebe Johnson. He said she allus put him i' mind of our
orchard on drying days; pink and white apple-blossom and clean clothes.
And yon's her daughter? Where d'ye say t'young chap come from? He don't
look like hereabouts."
"He don't come from hereabouts. And yet he do come from hereabouts, as
one may say. Look ye here. He come from t' wukhus. That's the short and
the long of it."
Stupefaction. The crows chattering wildly overhead.
"And he owns Darwin's Dovecot?"
"He owns Darwin's Dovecot."
"And how i' t' name o' all things did that come about'!"
"Why, I'll tell thee. It was i' this fashion."
Not without reason does the wary writer put gossip in the mouths of
gaffers rather than of gammers. Male gossips love scandal as dearly as
female gossips do, and they bring to it the stronger relish and energies
of their sex. But these were country gaffers, whose speech--like
shadows--grows lengthy in the leisurely hours of eventide. The gentle
reader shall have the tale in plain narration.
NOTE--It will be plain to the reader that the birds here described are
Rooks (corvus frugilegus). I have allowed myself to speak of them
by their generic or family name of Crow, this being a common country
practice. The genus corvus, or Crow, includes the Raven,
the Carrion Crow, the Hooded Crow, the Jackdaw, and the Rook.
One Saturday night (some eighteen years earlier than the date of this
gaffer-gossiping) the parson's daughter sat in her own room before the
open drawer of a bandy-legged black oak table, balancing her
bags. The bags were money-bags, and the matter shall be made clear
In this parish, as in others, progress and the multiplication of weapons
with which civilization and the powers of goodness push their conquests
over brutality and the powers of evil, had added to the original duties
of the parish priest, a multifarious and all but impracticable variety
of offices; which, in ordinary and late conditions, would have been
performed by several more or less salaried clerks, bankers, accountants,
secretaries, librarians, club-committees, teachers, lecturers, discount
for ready-money dealers in clothing, boots, blankets, and coal,
domestic-servant agencies, caterers for the public amusement, and
preservers of the public peace.
The country parson (no less than statesmen and princes, than men of
science and of letters) is responsible for a great deal of his work that
is really done by the help-mate--woman. This explains why five out of
the young lady's moneybags bore the following inscriptions in
marking-ink: "Savings' bank," "Clothing club," "Library," "Magazines and
hymn-books," "Three-halfpenny club"--and only three bore reference to
private funds, as--"House-money"--"Allowance "--"Charity."
It was the bag bearing this last and greatest name which the parson's
daughter now seized and emptied into her lap. A ten-shilling piece, some
small silver, and twopence halfpenny jingled together, and roused a
silver-haired, tawny-pawed terrier, who left the hearthrug and came to
smell what was the matter. His mistress's right hand--absently
caressing--quieted his feelings; and with the left she held the
ten-shilling piece between finger and thumb, and gazed thoughtfully at
the other bags as they squatted in a helpless row, with twine-tied
mouths hanging on all sides. It was only after anxious consultation with
an account-book that the half-sovereign was exchanged for silver; thanks
to the clothing-club bag, which looked leaner for the accommodation. In
the three-halfpenny bag (which bulged with pence) some silver was
further solved into copper, and the charity bag was handsomely distended
before the whole lot was consigned once more to the table-drawer.
Any one accustomed to book-keeping must smile at this bag-keeping of
accounts; but the parson's daughter could never "bring her mind" to
keeping the funds apart on paper, and mixing the actual cash. Indeed,
she could never have brought her conscience to it. Unless she had taken
the tenth for "charity" from her dress and pocket-money in coin, and put
it then and there into the charity bag, this self-imposed rule of the
duty of almsgiving would not have been performed to her soul's peace.
The problem which had been exercising her mind that Saturday night was
how to spend what was left of her benevolent fund in a treat for the
children of the neighboring work-house. The fund was low, and this had
decided the matter. The following Wednesday would be her twenty-first
birthday. If the children came to tea with her, the foundation of the
entertainment would, in the natural course of things, be laid in the
Vicarage kitchen. The charity bag would provide the extras of the feast.
Nuts, toys, and the like.
When the parson's daughter locked the drawer of the bandy-legged table,
she did so with the vigor of one who has made up her mind, and set about
the rest of her Saturday night's duties without further delay.
She put out her Sunday clothes, and her Bible and Prayer-book, and
class-book and pencil, on the oak chest at the foot of the bed. She
brushed and combed the silver-haired terrier, who looked abjectly
depressed whilst this was doing, and preposterously proud when it was
done. She washed her own hair, and studied her Sunday-school lesson for
the morrow whilst it was drying. She spread a colored quilt at the foot
of her white one for the terrier to sleep on--a slur which he always
Then she went to bed, and slept as one ought to sleep on Saturday night,
who is bound to be at the Sunday School by 9.15 on the following
morning, with a clear mind on the Rudiments of the Faith, the history of
the Prophet Elisha, and the destinations of each of the parish
A little work-house-boy, with a swarthy face and tidily-cropped black
hair, as short and thick as the fur of a mole, was grubbing, not quite
so cleverly as a mole, in the work-house garden.
He had been set to weed, but the weeding was very irregularly performed,
for his eyes and heart were in the clouds, as he could see them over the
big boundary wall. For there--now dark against the white, now white
against the gray--some Air Tumbler pigeons were turning somersaults on
their homeward way, at such short and regular intervals that they seemed
to be tying knots in their lines of flight.
It was too much! The small gardener shamelessly abandoned his duties,
and, curving his dirty paws on each side of his mouth, threw his whole
soul into shouting words of encouragement to the distant birds.
"That's a good un! On with thee! Over ye go! Oo--ooray!"
It was this last prolonged cheer which drowned the sound of footsteps on
the path behind him, so that if he had been a tumbler pigeon himself he
could not have jumped more nimbly when a man's hand fell upon his
shoulder. Up went his arms to shield his ears from a well-merited
cuffing; but fate was kinder to him than he deserved. It was only an old
man (prematurely aged with drink and consequent poverty), whose faded
eyes seemed to rekindle as he also gazed after the pigeons, and spoke as
one who knows.
"Yon's Daddy Darwin's Tumblers."
This old pauper had only lately come into "the House" (the house that
never was a home!), and the boy clung eagerly to his flannel sleeve, and
plied him thick and fast with questions about the world without the
workhouse-walls, and about the happy owner of those yet happier
creatures who were free not only on the earth, but in the skies.
The poor old pauper was quite as willing to talk as the boy was to
listen. It restored some of that self-respect which we lose under the
consequences of our follies to be able to say that Daddy Darwin and he
had been mates together, and had had pigeon-fancying in common "many a
long year afore" he came into the House.
And so these two made friendship over such matters as will bring man and
boy together to the end of time. And the old pauper waxed eloquent on
the feats of Homing Birds and Tumblers, and on the points of Almonds and
Barbs, Fantails and Pouters; sprinkling his narrative also with high
sounding and heterogeneous titles, such as Dragons and Archangels, Blue
Owls and Black Priests, Jacobines, English Horsemen and Trumpeters. And
through much boasting of the high stakes he had had on this and that
pigeon-match then, and not a few bitter complaints of the harsh
hospitality of the House he "had come to" now, it never seemed to occur
to him to connect the two, or to warn the lad who hung upon his lips
that one cannot eat his cake with the rash appetites of youth, and yet
hope to have it for the support and nourishment of his old age.
The longest story the old man told was of a "bit of a trip" he had made
to Liverpool, to see some Antwerp Carriers flown from thence to Ghent,
and he fixed the date of this by remembering that his twin sons were
born in his absence, and that though their birthday was the very day of
the race, his "missus turned stoopid," as women (he warned the boy) are
apt to do, and refused to have them christened by uncommon names
connected with the fancy. All the same, he bet the lads would have been
nicknamed the Antwerp Carriers, and known as such to the day of their
death, if this had not come so soon and so suddenly, of croup; when (as
it oddly chanced) he was off on another "bit of a holiday" to fly some
pigeons of his own in Lincolnshire.
This tale had not come to an end when a voice of authority called for
"Jack March," who rubbed his mole-like head, and went ruefully off,
muttering that he should "catch it now."
"Sure enough! sure enough!" chuckled the unamiable old pauper.
But again fate was kinder to the lad than his friend. His negligent
weeding passed unnoticed, because he was wanted in a hurry to join the
other children in the school-room. The parson's daughter had come, the
children were about to sing to her, and Jack's voice could not be
He "cleaned himself" with alacrity, and taking his place in the circle
of boys standing with their hands behind their backs, he lifted up a
voice worthy of a cathedral choir, whilst varying the monotony of sacred
song by secretly snatching at the tail of the terrier as it went
snuffing round the legs of the group. And in this feat he proved as much
superior to the rest of the boys (who also tried it) as he excelled them
in the art of singing.
Later on he learned that the young lady had come to invite them all to
have tea with her on her birthday. Later still he found the old pauper
once more, and questioned him closely about the village and the
Vicarage, and as to which of the parishioners kept pigeons, and where.
And when he went to his straw bed that night, and his black head
throbbed with visions and high hopes, these were not entirely of the
honor of drinking tea with a pretty young lady, and how one should
behave himself in such abashing circumstances. He did not even dream
principally of the possibility of getting hold of that silver-haired,
tawny-pawed dog by the tail under freer conditions than those of this
afternoon, though that was a refreshing thought.
What kept him long awake was thinking of this. From the top of an old
walnut-tree at the top of a field at the back of the Vicarage, you could
see a hill, and on the top of the hill some farm buildings. And it was
here (so the old pauper had told him) that those pretty pigeons lived,
who, though free to play about among the clouds, yet condescended to
make an earthly home--in Daddy Darwin's Dovecot.
Two and two, girls and boys, the young lady's guests marched down to the
Vicarage. The school-mistress was anxious that each should carry his and
her tin mug, so as to give as little trouble as possible; but this was
resolutely declined, much to the children's satisfaction, who had their
walk with free hands, and their tea out of teacups and saucers, like
It was a fine day, and all went well. The children enjoyed themselves,
and behaved admirably into the bargain. There was only one suspicion of
misconduct, and the matter was so far from clear that the parson's
daughter hushed it up, and, so to speak, dismissed the case.
The children were playing at some game in which Jack March was supposed
to excel, but when they came to look for him he could nowhere be found.
At last he was discovered, high up among the branches of an old
walnut-tree at the top of the field, and though his hands were unstained
and his pockets empty, the gardener, who had been the first to spy him,
now loudly denounced him as an ungrateful young thief. Jack, with
swollen eyes and cheeks besmirched with angry tears, was vehemently
declaring that he had only climbed the tree to "have a look at Master
Darwin's pigeons," and had not picked so much as a leaf, let alone a
walnut; and the gardener, "shaking the truth out of him" by the collar
of his fustian jacket, was preaching loudly on the sin of adding
falsehood to theft, when the parson's daughter came up, and, in the end,
acquitted poor Jack, and gave him leave to amuse himself as he pleased.
It did not please Jack to play with his comrades just then. Pie felt
sulky and aggrieved. He would have liked to play with the terrier who
had stood by him in his troubles, and barked at the gardener; but that
little friend now trotted after his mistress, who had gone to
Jack wandered about among the shrubberies. By-and-by he heard sounds of
music, and led by these he came to a gate in a wall, dividing the
Vicarage garden from the churchyard. Jack loved music, and the organ and
the voices drew him on till he reached the church porch; but there he
was startled by a voice that was not only not the voice of song, but was
the utterance of a moan so doleful that it seemed the outpouring of all
his lonely, and outcast, and injured feelings in one comprehensive howl.
It was the voice of the silver-haired terrier. He was sitting in the
porch, his nose up, his ears down, his eyes shut, his mouth open,
bewailing in bitterness of spirit the second and greater crook of his
To what purpose were all the caresses and care and indulgence of his
mistress, the daily walks, the weekly washings and combings, the
constant companionship, when she betrayed her abiding sense of his
inferiority, first, by not letting him sleep on the white quilt, and
secondly, by never allowing him to go to church?
Jack shared the terrier's mood. What were tea and plum-cake to him, when
his pauper-breeding was so stamped upon him that the gardener was free
to say--"A nice tale too! What's thou to do wi' doves, and thou a
work'us lad?"--and to take for granted that he would thieve and lie if
he got the chance?
His disabilities were not the dog's, however. The parish church was his
as well as another's, and he crept inside and leaned against one of the
stone pillars, as if it were a big, calm friend.
Far away, under the transept, a group of boys and men held their music
near to their faces in the waning light. Among them towered the burly
choirmaster, baton in hand. The parson's daughter was at the organ. Well
accustomed to produce his voice to good purpose, the choirmaster's words
were clearly to be heard throughout the building, and it was on the
subject of articulation and emphasis, and the like, that he was
speaking; now and then throwing in an extra aspirate in the energy of
that enthusiasm without which teaching is not worth the name.
"That'll not do. We must have it altogether different. You two lads are
singing like bumblebees in a pitcher--border there, boys!--it's no
laughing matter--put down those papers and keep your eyes on me--inflate
the chest--" (his own seemed to fill the field of vision) "and try and
give forth those noble words as if you'd an idea what they meant."
No satire was intended or taken here, but the two boys, who were
practicing their duet in an anthem, laid down the music, and turned
their eyes on their teacher.
"I'll run through the recitative," he added, "and take your time from
the stick. And mind that OH."
The parson's daughter struck a chord, and then the burly choirmaster
spoke with the voice of melody:
"My heart is disquieted within me. My heart--my heart is disquieted
within me. And the fear of death is fallen--is fallen upon me."
The terrier moaned without, and Jack thought no boy's voice could be
worth listening to after that of the choirmaster. But he was wrong. A
few more notes from the organ, and then, as night-stillness in a wood is
broken by the nightingale, so upon the silence of the church a
boy-alto's voice broke forth in obedience to the choirmaster's uplifted
"Then, I said--I said----"
Jack gasped, but even as he strained his eyes to see what such a singer
could look like, with higher, clearer notes the soprano rose above him
--"Then I sa--a--id," and the duet began:
"Oh that I had wings--O that I had wings like a dove!"
Soprano.--"Then would I flee away." Alto.--"Then would I
flee away." Together.--"And be at rest--flee away and be at
The clear young voices soared and chased each other among the arches, as
if on the very pinions for which they prayed. Then--swept from their
seats by an upward sweep of the choirmaster's arms--the chorus rose, as
birds rise, and carried on the strain.
It was not a very fine composition, but this final chorus had the
singular charm of fugue. And as the voices mourned like doves, "Oh that
I had wings!" and pursued each other with the plaintive passage, "Then
would I flee away--then would I flee away----," Jack's ears knew no
weariness of the repetition. It was strangely like watching the rising
and falling of Daddy Darwin's pigeons, as they tossed themselves by
turns upon their homeward flight.
After the fashion of the piece and period, the chorus was repeated, and
the singers rose to supreme effort. The choirmaster's hands flashed
hither and thither, controlling, inspiring, directing. He sang among the
Jack's voice nearly choked him with longing to sing too. Could words of
man go more deeply home to a young heart caged within workhouse walls?
"Oh that I had wings like a dove! Then would I flee away--" the
choirmaster's white hands were fluttering downwards in the dusk, and the
chorus sank with them--"flee away and be at rest!"
Jack March had a busy little brain, and his nature was not of the limp
type that sits down with a grief. That most memorable tea-party had
fired his soul with two distinct ambitions. First, to be a choir-boy;
and, secondly, to dwell in Daddy Darwin's Dovecot. He turned the matter
over in his mind, and patched together the following facts:
The Board of Guardians meant to apprentice him, Jack, to some master, at
the earliest opportunity. Daddy Darwin (so the old pauper told him) was
a strange old man, who had come down in the world, and now lived quite
alone, with not a soul to help him in the house or outside it. He was
"not to say mazelin yet, but getting helpless, and uncommon
A nephew came one fine day and fetched away the old pauper, to his great
delight. It was by their hands that Jack despatched a letter, which the
nephew stamped and posted for him, and which was duly delivered on the
following morning to Mr. Darwin of the Dovecot.
The old man had no correspondents, and he looked long at the letter
before he opened it. It did credit to the teaching of the workhouse
"They call me Jack March. I'm a workhouse lad, but, sir, I'm a
good one, and the Board means to 'prentice me next time. Sir,
if you face the Board and take me out you shall never regret it.
Though I says it as shouldn't I'm a handy lad. I'll clean a floor
with any one, and am willing to work early and late, and at your
time of life you're not what you was, and them birds must take a
deal of seeing to. I can see them from the garden when I'm set
to weed, and I never saw nought like them. Oh, sir, I do beg and
pray you let me mind your pigeons. You'll be none the worse of a
lad about the place, and I shall be happy all the days of my life.
Sir, I'm not unthankful, but please GOD, I should like to have
a home, and to be with them house doves.
"From your humble servent--hoping to be--
"Mr. Darwin, Sir. I love them Tumblers as if they was my own."
Daddy Darwin thought hard and thought long over that letter. He changed
his mind fifty times a day. But Friday was the Board day, and when
Friday came he "faced the Board." And the little workhouse lad went home
to Daddy Darwin's Dovecot.
The bargain was oddly made, but it worked well. Whatever Jack's
parentage may have been (and he was named after the stormy month in
which he had been born), the blood that ran in his veins could not have
been beggar's blood. There was no hopeless, shiftless, invincible
idleness about him. He found work for himself when it was not given him
to do, and he attached himself passionately and proudly to all the
belongings of his new home.
"Yon lad of yours seem handy enough, Daddy;--for a vagrant, as one may
say." Daddy Darwin was smoking over his garden wall, and Mrs. Shaw, from
the neighboring farm, had paused in her walk for a chat. She was a
notable housewife, and there was just a touch of envy in her sense of
the improved appearance of the doorsteps and other visible points of the
Dovecot. Daddy Darwin took his pipe out of his mouth to make way for the
force of his reply:
"Vagrant! Nay, missus, yon's no vagrant. He's fettling up all
along. Jack's the sort if he finds a key he'll look for the lock; if
ye give him a knife-blade he'll fashion a heft. Why, a vagrant's a chap
that, if he'd all your maester owns to-morrow, he'd be on the tramp
again afore t' year were out, and three years wouldn't repair the
mischief he'd leave behind him. A vagrant's a chap that if ye lend him a
thing he loses it; if ye give him a thing he abuses it----"
"That's true enough, and there's plenty servant-girls the same," put in
"Maybe there be, ma'am--maybe there be; vagrants' children, I reckon.
But yon little chap I got from t' House comes of folk that's had stuff
o' their own, and cared for it--choose who they were."
"Well, Daddy," said his neighbor, not without malice, "I'll wish you a
good evening. You've got a good bargain out of the parish, it seems."
But Daddy Darwin only chuckled, and stirred up the ashes in the bowl of
"The same to you, ma'am--the same to you. Aye! he's a good bargain--a
very good bargain is Jack March."
It might be supposed from the foregoing dialogue that Daddy Darwin was a
model householder, and the little workhouse boy the neatest creature
breathing. But the gentle reader who may imagine this is much mistaken.
Daddy Darwin's Dovecot was freehold, and when he inherited it from his
father there was, still attached to it a good bit of the land that had
passed from father to son through more generations than the church
registers were old enough to record. But the few remaining acres were so
heavily mortgaged that they had to be sold. So that a bit of house
property elsewhere, and the old homestead itself, were all that was
left. And Daddy Darwin had never been the sort of man to retrieve his
luck at home, or to seek it abroad.
That he had inherited a somewhat higher and more refined nature than his
neighbors had rather hindered than helped him to prosper. And he had
been unlucky in love. When what energies he had were in their prime, his
father's death left him with such poor prospects that the old farmer to
whose daughter he was betrothed broke off the match and married her
elsewhere. His Alice was not long another man's wife. She died within a
year from her wedding-day, and her husband married again within a year
from her death. Her old lover was no better able to mend his broken
heart than his broken fortunes. He only banished women from the Dovecot,
and shut himself up from the coarse consolation of his neighbors.
In this loneliness, eating a kindly heart out in bitterness of spirit,
with all that he ought to have had--
To plough and sow
And reap and mow--
gone from him, and in the hands of strangers; the pigeons, for which the
Dovecot had always been famous, became the business and the pleasure of
his life. But of late years his stock had dwindled, and he rarely went
to pigeon-matches or competed in shows and races. A more miserable fancy
rivalled his interest in pigeon fancying. His new hobby was hoarding;
and money that, a few years back, he would have freely spent to improve
his breed of Tumblers or back his Homing Birds he now added with
stealthy pleasure to the store behind the secret panel of a fine old oak
bedstead that had belonged to the Darwyn who owned Dovecot when the
sixteenth century was at its latter end. In this bedstead Daddy slept
lightly of late, as old men will, and he had horrid dreams, which old
men need not have. The queer faces carved on the panels (one of which
hid the money hole) used to frighten him when he was a child. They did
not frighten him now by their grotesque ugliness, but when he looked at
them, and knew which was which, he dreaded the dying out of
twilight into dark, and dreamed of aged men living alone, who had been
murdered for their savings. These growing fears had had no small share
in deciding him to try Jack March; and to see the lad growing stronger,
nimbler, and more devoted to his master's interests day by day, was a
nightly comfort to the poor old hoarder in the bed-head.
As to his keen sense of Jack's industry and carefulness, it was part of
the incompleteness of Daddy Darwin's nature, and the ill-luck of his
career, that he had a sensitive perception of order and beauty, and a
shrewd observation of ways of living and qualities of character, and yet
had allowed his early troubles to blight him so completely that he never
put forth an effort to rise above the ruin, of which he was at least as
conscious as his neighbors.
That Jack was not the neatest creature breathing, one look at him, as he
stood with pigeons on his head and arms and shoulders, would have been
enough to prove. As the first and readiest repudiation of his workhouse
antecedents he had let his hair grow till it hung in the wildest
elf-locks, and though the terms of his service with Daddy Darwin would
not, in any case, have provided him with handsome clothes, such as he
had were certainly not the better for any attention he bestowed upon
them. As regarded the Dovecot, however, Daddy Darwin had not done more
than justice to his bargain. A strong and grateful attachment to his
master, and a passionate love for the pigeons he tended, kept Jack
constantly busy in the service of both; the old pigeon-fancier taught
him the benefits of scrupulous cleanliness in the pigeon-cote, and Jack
"stoned" the kitchen-floor and the doorsteps on his own responsibility.
The time did come when he tidied up himself.
Daddy Darwin had made the first breach in his solitary life of his own
free will, but it was fated to widen. The parson's daughter soon heard
that he had got a lad from the workhouse, the very boy who sang so well
and had climbed the walnut-tree to look at Daddy Darwin's pigeons. The
most obvious parish questions at once presented themselves to the young
lady's mind. "Had the boy been christened? Did he go to Church and
Sunday School? Did he say his prayers and know his Catechism? Had he a
Sunday suit? Would he do for the choir?"
Then, supposing (a not uncommon case) that the boy had been
christened, said he said his prayers, knew his Catechism,
and was ready for school, church, and choir, but had not got a
Sunday suit--a fresh series of riddles propounded themselves to her busy
brain. Would her father yield up his everyday coat and take his Sunday
one into weekday wear? Could the charity bag do better than pay the
tailor's widow for adapting this old coat to the new chorister's back,
taking it in at the seams, turning it wrong-side out, and getting new
sleeves out of the old tails? Could she herself spare the boots which
the village cobbler had just re-soled for her--somewhat clumsily--and
would the "allowance" bag bear this strain? Might she hope to coax an
old pair of trowsers out of her cousin, who was spending his Long
Vacation at the Vicarage, and who never reckoned very closely with
his allowance, and kept no charity bag at all? Lastly would "that
old curmudgeon at the Dovecot" let his little farm-boy go to church and
school and choir?
"I must go and persuade him," said the young lady.
What she said, and what (at the time) Daddy Darwin said, Jack never
knew. He was at high sport with the terrier round the big sweet-brier
bush, when he saw his old master slitting the seams of his
weather-beaten coat in the haste with which he plucked crimson clove
carnations as if they had been dandelions, and presented them, not
ungracefully, to the parson's daughter.
Jack knew why she had come, and strained his ears to catch his own name.
But Daddy Darwin was promising pipings of the cloves.
"They are such dear old-fashioned things," said she, burying her nose in
"We're old-fashioned altogether, here, Miss," said Daddy Darwin, looking
wistfully at the tumble-down house behind them.
"You're very pretty here," said she, looking also, and thinking what a
sketch it would make, if she could keep on friendly terms with this old
recluse, and get leave to sit in the garden. Then her conscience smiting
her for selfishness, she turned her big eyes on him and put out her
"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Darwin, very much obliged to you
indeed. And I hope that Jack will do credit to your kindness. And thank
you so much for the cloves," she added, hastily changing a subject which
had cost some argument, and which she did not wish to have reopened.
Daddy Darwin had thoughts of reopening it. He was slowly getting his
ideas together to say that the lad should see how he got along with the
school before trying the choir, when he found the young lady's hand in
his, and had to take care not to hurt it, whilst she rained thanks on
him for the flowers.
"You're freely welcome, Miss," was what he did say after all.
In the evening, however, he was very moody, but Jack was dying of
curiosity, and at last could contain himself no longer.
"What did Miss Jenny want, Daddy?" he asked.
The old man looked very grim.
"First to make a fool of me, and i' t' second place to make a fool of
thee," was his reply. And he added with pettish emphasis, "They're all
alike, gentle and simple. Lad, lad! If ye'd have any peace of your life
never let a woman's foot across your threshold. Steek t' door of your
house--if ye own one--and t' door o' your heart--if ye own one--and then
ye'll never rue. Look at this coat!"
And the old man went grumpily to bed, and dreamed that Miss Jenny had
put her little foot over his threshold, and that he had shown her the
secret panel, and let her take away his savings.
And Jack went to bed, and dreamed that he went to school, and showed
himself to Phoebe Shaw in his Sunday suit.
This dainty little damsel had long been making havoc in Jack's heart.
The attraction must have been one of contrast, for whereas Jack was
black and grubby, and had only week-day clothes--which were ragged at
that--Phoebe was fair, and exquisitely clean, and quite terribly tidy.
Her mother was the neatest woman in the parish. It was she who was wont
to say to her trembling handmaid, "I hope I can black a grate without
blacking myself." But little Phoebe promised so far to out-do her
mother, that it seemed doubtful if she could "black herself" if she
tried. Only the bloom of childhood could have resisted the polishing
effects of yellow soap, as Phoebe's brow and cheeks did resist it. Her
shining hair was--compressed into a plait that would have done credit to
a rope-maker. Her pinafores were speckless, and as to her white Whitsun
frock--Jack could think of nothing the least like Phoebe in that, except
a snowy fantail strutting about the Dovecot roof; and, to say the truth,
the likeness was most remarkable.
It has been shown that Jack March had a mind to be master of his fate,
and he did succeed in making friends with little Phoebe Shaw. This was
before Miss Jenny's visit, but the incident shall be recorded here.
Early on Sunday mornings it was Jack's custom to hide his work-day garb
in an angle of the ivy-covered wall of the Dovecot garden, only letting
his head appear over the top, from whence he watched to see Phoebe pass
on her way to Sunday School, and to bewilder himself with the sight of
her starched frock, and her airs with her Bible and Prayer-book, and
class card, and clean pocket-handkerchief.
Now, amongst the rest of her Sunday paraphernalia, Phoebe always carried
a posy, made up with herbs and some strong smelling flowers.
Countrywomen take mint and southernwood to a long hot service, as fine
ladies take smelling-bottles (for it is a pleasant delusion with some
writers that the weaker sex is a strong sex in the working classes). And
though Phoebe did not suffer from "fainty feels" like her mother, she
and her little playmates took posies to Sunday School, and refreshed
their nerves in the stream of question and answer, and hair oil and
corduroy, with all the airs of their elders.
One day she lost her posy on her way to school, and her loss was Jack's
opportunity. He had been waiting half-an-hour among the ivy, when he saw
her just below him, fuzzling round and round like a kitten chasing
its tail. He sprang to the top of the wall.
"Have ye lost something?" he gasped.
"My posy," said poor Phoebe, lifting her sweet eyes, which were full of
A second spring brought Jack into the dust at her feet, where he
searched most faithfully, and was wandering along the path by which she
had come, when she called him back.
"Never mind," she said. "They'll most likely be dusty by now."
Jack was not used to think the worse of anything for a coating of dust;
but he paused, trying to solve the perpetual problem of his situation,
and find out what the little maid really wanted.
"'Twas only Old Man and marygolds," said she. "They're common enough."
A light illumined Jack's understanding.
"We've Old Man i' plenty. Wait, and I'll get thee a fresh posy." And he
began to reclimb the wall.
But Phoebe drew nearer. She stroked down her frock, and spoke mincingly
but confidentially. "My mother says Daddy Darwin has red bergamot i' his
garden. We've none i' ours. My mother always says there's nothing like
red bergamot to take to church. She says it's a deal more refreshing
than Old Man, and not so common. My mother says she's always meaning to
ask Daddy Darwin to let us have a root to set; but she doesn't often see
him, and when she does she doesn't think on. But she always says there's
nothing like red bergamot, and my Aunt Nancy, she says the same."
"Red is it?" cried Jack. "You wait there, love." And before
Phoebe could say him nay, he was over the wall and back again with his
"Is it any o' this lot?" he inquired, dropping a small haycock of
flowers at her feet.
"Don't ye know one from t'other?" asked Phoebe, with round eyes of
reproach. And spreading her clean kerchief on the grass she laid her
Bible and Prayer-book and class card on it, and set vigorously and
nattily to work, picking one flower and another from the fragrant
confusion, nipping the stalks to even lengths, rejecting withered
leaves, and instructing Jack as she proceeded.
"I suppose ye know a rose? That's a double velvet. 
They dry sweeter than lavender for linen. These dark red
things is pheasants' eyes; but, dear, dear, what a lad! Ye'd dragged it
up by the roots! And eh! what will Master Darwin say when he misses
these pink hollyhocks And only in bud, too! There's red Bergamot:
smell it!" 
velvet, an old summer rose, not common now It is described by
5. Red Bergamot, or Twinflower; Monarda
It had barely touched Jack's willing nose when it was hastily withdrawn.
Phoebe had caught eight of Polly and Susan Smith coming to school, and
crying that she should be late and must run, the little maid picked up
her paraphernalia (not forgetting the red bergamot), and fled down the
lane. And Jack, with equal haste, snatched up the tell-tale heap of
flowers and threw them into a disused pig-sty, where it was unlikely
that Daddy Darwin would go to look for his poor pink hollyhocks.
April was a busy month in the Dovecot. Young birds were chipping the
egg, parent birds were feeding their young or relieving each other on
the nest, and Jack and his master were constantly occupied and excited.
One night Daddy Darwin went to bed; but, though he was tired, he did not
sleep long. He had sold a couple of handsome but quarrelsome pigeons, to
advantage, and had added their price to the hoard in the bed-head. This
had renewed his old fears, for the store was becoming very valuable; and
he wondered if it had really escaped Jack's quick observation, or
whether the boy knew about it, and, perhaps, talked about it. As he lay
and worried himself he fancied he heard sounds without--the sound of
footsteps and of voices. Then his heart beat till he could hear nothing
else; then he could undoubtedly hear nothing at all; then he certainly
heard something which probably was rats. And so he lay in a cold sweat,
and pulled the rug over his face, and made up his mind to give the money
to the parson, for the poor, if he was spared till daylight.
He was spared till daylight, and had recovered himself, and
settled to leave the money where it was, when Jack rushed in from the
pigeon-house with a face of dire dismay. He made one or two futile
efforts to speak, and then unconsciously used the words Shakespeare has
put into the mouth of Macduff, "All my pretty 'uns!" and so burst into
And when the old man made his way to the pigeon-house, followed by poor
Jack, he found that the eggs were cold and the callow young shivering in
deserted nests, and that every bird was gone. And then he remembered the
robbers, and was maddened by the thought that whilst he lay expecting
thieves to break in and steal his money he had let them get safely off
with his whole stock of pigeons.
Daddy Darwin had never taken up arms against his troubles, and this one
The fame and beauty of his house-doves were all that was left of
prosperity about the place, and now there was nothing
left--nothing! Below this dreary thought lay a far more bitter
one, which he dared not confide to Jack. He had heard the robbers; he
might have frightened them away; he might at least have given the lad a
chance to save his pets, and not a care had crossed his mind except for
the safety of his own old bones, and of those miserable savings in the
bed-head, which he was enduring so much to scrape together (oh satire!)
for a distant connection whom he had never seen. He crept back to the
kitchen, and dropped in a heap upon the settle, and muttered to himself.
Then his thoughts wandered. Supposing the pigeons were gone for good,
would he ever make up his mind to take that money out of the money-hole,
and buy a fresh stock? He knew he never would, and shrank into a meaner
heap upon the settle as he said so to himself. He did not like to look
his faithful lad in the face.
Jack looked him in the face, and, finding no help there, acted pretty
promptly behind his back. He roused the parish constable, and fetched
that functionary to the Dovecot before he had had bite or sup to break
his fast. He spread a meal for him and Daddy, and borrowed the Shaws'
light cart whilst they were eating it. The Shaws were good farmer-folk,
they sympathized most fully; and Jack was glad of a few words of pity
from Phoebe. She said she had watched the pretty pets "many a score of
times," which comforted more than one of Jack's heartstrings. Phoebe's
mother paid respect to his sense and promptitude. He had acted exactly
as she would have done.
"Daddy was right enough about yon lad," she admitted. "He's not one to
let the grass grow under his feet."
And she gave him a good breakfast whilst the horse was being "put to."
It pleased her that Jack jumped up and left half a delicious cold
tea-cake behind him when the cart-wheels grated outside. Mrs. Shaw sent
Phoebe to put the cake in his pocket, and "the Measter" helped Jack in
and took the reins. He said he would "see Daddy Darwin through it," and
added the weight of his opinion to that of the constable, that the
pigeons had been taken to "a beastly low place" (as he put it) that had
lately been set up for pigeon-shooting in the outskirts of the
They paused no longer at the Dovecot than was needed to hustle Daddy
Darwin on to the seat beside Master Shaw, and for Jack to fill his
pockets with peas, and take his place beside the constable. He had
certain ideas of his own on the matter, which were not confused by the
jogtrot of the light cart, which did give a final jumble to poor Daddy
No wonder they were jumbled! The terrors of the night past, the shock of
the morning, the completeness of the loss, the piteous sight in the
pigeon-house, remorseful shame, and then--after all these years, during
which he had not gone half a mile from his own hearthstone--to be set up
for all the world to see, on the front seat of a market-cart, back to
back with the parish constable, and jogged off as if miles were nothing,
and crowded streets were nothing, and the Beaulieu Gardens were nothing;
Master Shaw talking away as easily as if they were sitting in two
armchairs, and making no more of "stepping into" a lawyer's office, and
"going on" to the Town Hall, than if he were talking of stepping up to
his own bedchamber or going out into the garden!
That day passed like a dream, and Daddy Darwin remembered what happened
in it as one remembers visions of the night.
He had a vision (a very unpleasing vision) of the proprietor of the
Beaulieu Gardens, a big greasy man, with sinister eyes very close
together, and a hook nose, and a heavy watch chain, and a bullying
voice. He browbeat the constable very soon, and even bullied Master Shaw
into silence. No help was to be had from him in his loud indignation at
being supposed to traffic with thieves.
When he turned the tables by talking of slander, loss of time, and
compensation, Daddy Darwin smelt money, and tremblingly whispered to
Master Shaw to apologize and get out of it. "They're gone for good," he
almost sobbed: "Gone for good, like all t' rest! And I'll not be long
But even as he spoke he heard a sound which made him lift up his head.
It was Jack's call at feeding-time to the pigeons at the Dovecot. And
quick following on this most musical and most familiar sound there came
another. The old man put both his lean hands behind his ears to be sure
that he heard it aright--the sound of wings--the wings of a dove!
The other men heard it and ran in. Whilst they were wrangling, Jack had
slipped past them, and had made his way into a weird enclosure in front
of the pigeon-house. And there they found him, with all the captive
pigeons coming to his call; flying, fluttering, strutting, nestling from
head to foot of him, he scattering peas like hail.
He was the first to speak, and not a choke in his voice. His iron
temperament was at white heat, and, as he afterwards said, he "cared no
more for yon dirty chap wi' the big nose, nor if he were a ratten
 in a hay-loft!"
6. Anglicé Rat.
"These is ours," he said, shortly. "I'll count 'em over, and see if
they're right. There was only one young 'un that could fly. A white
'un." ("It's here," interpolated Master Shaw.) "I'll pack 'em i' yon,"
and Jack turned his thumb to a heap of hampers in a corner. "T' carrier
can leave t' baskets at t' toll-bar next Saturday, and ye may send your
lad for 'em, if ye keep one."
The proprietor of the Beaulieu Gardens was not a man easily abashed, but
most of the pigeons were packed before he had fairly resumed his
previous powers of speech. Then, as Master Shaw said, he talked "on the
other side of his mouth." Most willing was he to help to bring to
justice the scoundrels who had deceived him and robbed Mr. Darwin, but
he feared they would be difficult to trace. His own feeling was that of
wishing for pleasantness among neighbors. The pigeons had been found at
the Gardens. That was enough. He would be glad to settle the business
out of court.
Daddy Darwin heard the chink of the dirty man's money, and would have
compounded the matter then and there. But not so the parish constable,
who saw himself famous; and not so Jack, who turned eyes of smouldering
fire on Master Shaw.
"Maester Shaw! you'll not let them chaps get off? Daddy's mazelin' wi'
trouble, sir, but I reckon you'll see to it."
"If it costs t' worth of the pigeons ten times over, I'll see to it, my
lad," was Master Shaw's reply. And the parish constable rose even to a
vein of satire as he avenged himself of the man who had slighted his
office. "Settle it out of court? Aye! I dare say. And send t' same chaps
to fetch 'em away again t' night after. Nay--bear a hand with this
hamper, Maester Shaw, if you please--if it's all t' same to you, Mr.
Proprietor, I think we shall have to trouble you to step up to t' Town
Hall by-and-by, and see if we can't get shut of them mistaking friends
o' yours for three months any way."
If that day was a trying one to Daddy Darwin the night that followed it
was far worse. The thieves were known to the police, and the case was
down to come on at the Town Hall the following morning; but meanwhile
the constable thought fit to keep the pigeons under his own charge in
the village lock-up. Jack refused to be parted from his birds, and
remained with them, leaving Daddy Darwin alone in the Dovecot. He dared
not go to bed, and it was not a pleasant night that he spent, dozing
with weariness, and starting up with fright, in an arm-chair facing the
Some things that he had been nervous about he got quite used to,
however. He bore himself with sufficient dignity in the publicity of the
Town Hall, where a great sensation was created by the pigeons being let
loose without, and coming to Jack's call. Some of them fed from the
boy's lips, and he was the hero of the hour, to Daddy Darwin's delight.
Then the lawyer and the lawyer's office proved genial and comfortable to
him. He liked civil ways and smooth speech, and understood them far
better than Master Shaw's brevity and uncouthness. The lawyer chatted
kindly and intelligently; he gave Daddy Darwin wine and biscuit, and
talked of the long standing of the Darwin family and its vicissitudes;
he even took down some fat yellow books, and showed the old man how many
curious laws had been made from time to time for the special protection
of pigeons in Dovecots, very ancient statutes making the killing of a
house-dove felony. Then 1 James I. c. 29 awarded three months'
imprisonment "without bail or main price" to any person who should
"shoot at, kill, or destroy with any gun, crossbow, stone-bow, or
longbow, any house-dove or pigeon;" but allowed an alternative fine of
twenty shillings to be paid to the churchwardens of the parish for the
benefit of the poor. Daddy Darwin hoped there was no such alternative in
this case, and it proved that by 2 Geo. III. c. 29, the twenty-shilling
fine was transferred to the owner of birds; at which point another
client called, and the polite lawyer left Daddy to study the laws by
It was when Jack as helping Master Shaw to put the horse into the cart,
after the trial was over, that the farmer said to him, "I don't want to
put you about, my lad, but I'm afraid you won't keep your master long.
T'old gentleman's breaking up, mark my words! Constable and me was going
into the George for a glass, and Master Darwin left us and went
back to the office. I says, 'What are ye going back to t' lawyer for?'
and he says, 'I don't mind telling you, Master Shaw, but it's to make my
will.' And off he goes. Now, there's only two more things between that
and death, Jack March! And one's the parson, and t' other's the doctor."
Little Phoebe Shaw coming out of the day school, and picking her way
home to tea, was startled by folk running past her, and by a sound of
cheering from the far end of the village, which gradually increased in
volume, and was caught up by the bystanders as they ran. When Phoebe
heard that it was "Constable, and Master Shaw, and Daddy Darwin and his
lad, coming home, and the pigeons along wi' 'em," she felt inclined to
run too; but a fit of shyness came over her, and she demurely decided to
wait by the school-gate till they came her way. They did not come. They
stopped. What were they doing? Another bystander explained, "They're
shaking hands wi' Daddy, and I reckon they're making him put up t' birds
here, to see 'em go home to t' Dovecot."
Phoebe ran as if for her life. She loved beast and bird as well as Jack
himself, and the fame of Daddy Darwin's doves was great. To see them put
up by him to fly home after such an adventure was a sight not lightly to
The crowd had moved to a hillock in a neighboring field before she
touched its outskirts. By that time it pretty well numbered the
population of the village, from the oldest inhabitant to the youngest
that could run. Phoebe had her mother's courage and resource. Chirping
out feebly but clearly, "I'm Maester Shaw's little lass, will ye let me
through?" she was passed from hand to hand, till her little fingers
found themselves in Jack's tight clasp, and he fairly lifted her to her
She was just in time. Some of the birds had hung about Jack, nervous, or
expecting peas; but the hesitation was past. Free in the sweet
sunshine--beating down the evening air with silver wings and their
feathers like gold--ignorant of cold eggs and callow young dead in
deserted nests--sped on their way by such a roar as rarely shook the
village in its body corporate--they flew straight home--to Daddy
Daddy Darwin lived a good many years after making his will, and the
Dovecot prospered in his hands.
It would be more just to say that it prospered in the hands of Jack
By hook and by crook he increased the live stock about the place. Folk
were kind to one who had set so excellent an example to other farm lads,
though he lacked the primal virtue of belonging to the neighborhood. He
bartered pigeons for fowls, and some one gave him a sitting of eggs to
"see what he would make of 'em." Master Shaw gave him a little pig, with
kind words and good counsel; and Jack cleaned out the disused pigstys,
which were never disused again. He scrubbed his pigs with soap and water
as if they had been Christians, and the admirable animals regardless of
the pork they were coming to, did him infinite credit, and brought him a
profit into the bargain, which he spent on ducks' eggs, and other
additions to his farmyard family.
The Shaws were very kind to him; and if Mrs. Shaw's secrets must be
told, it was because Phoebe was so unchangeably and increasingly kind to
him, that she sent the pretty maid (who had a knack of knowing her own
mind about things) to service.
Jack March was a handsome, stalwart youth now, of irreproachable
conduct, and with qualities which Mrs. Shaw particularly prized; but he
was but a farm-lad, and no match for her daughter.
Jack only saw his sweetheart once during several years She had not been
well, and was at home for the benefit of "native air." He walked over
the hill with her as they returned from church, and lived on the
remembrance of that walk for two or three years more. Phoebe had given
him her Prayer-book to carry, and he had found a dead flower in it, and
had been jealous. She had asked if he knew what it was, and he had
replied fiercely that he did not, and was not sure that he cared to
"Ye never did know much about flowers," said Phoebe, demurely, "it's red
"I love--red bergamot," he whispered penitently. "And thou owes me a
bit. I gave thee some once." And Phoebe had let him put the withered
bits into his own hymn-book, which was more than he deserved.
Jack was still in the choir, and taught in the Sunday School where he
used to learn. The parson's daughter had had her own way; Daddy Darwin
grumbled at first, but in the end he got a bottle-green Sunday-coat out
of the oak-press that matched the bedstead, and put the house-key into
his pocket, and went to church too. Now, for years past he had not
failed to take his place, week by week, in the pew that was
traditionally appropriated to the use of the Darwins of Dovecot. In such
an hour the sordid cares of the secret panel weighed less heavily on his
soul, and the things that are not seen came nearer--the house not made
with hands, the treasures that rust and moth corrupt not, and which
thieves do not break through to steal.
Daddy Darwin died of old age. As his health failed, Jack nursed him with
the tenderness of a woman; and kind inquiries, and dainties which Jack
could not have cooked, came in from many quarters where it pleased the
old man to find that he was held in respect and remembrance.
One afternoon, coming in from the farmyard, Jack found him sitting by
the kitchen-table as he lad left him, but with a dread look of change
upon his face. At first he feared there had been "a stroke," but Daddy
Darwin's mind was clear and his voice firmer than usual.
"My lad," he said, "fetch me yon tea-pot out of the corner cupboard. T'
one wi' a pole-house  painted on it, and some letters. Take care how ye
shift it. It were t' merry feast-pot  at my christening, and yon's t' letters of my father's and
mother's names. Take off t' lid. There's two bits of paper in the
7. A pole-house is a small dovecot
on the top of a pole.
8. "Merry feast-pot" is a
name given to old pieces of ware, made in local potteries for local
Jack did as he was bid, and laid the papers (one small and yellow with
age, the other bigger, and blue, and neatly written upon) at his
master's right hand.
"Read yon," said the old man, pushing the small one towards him. Jack
took it up wondering. It was the letter he had written from the
workhouse fifteen years before. That was all he could see. The past
surged up too thickly before his eyes, and tossing it impetuously from
him, he dropped on a chair by the table, and snatching Daddy Darwin's
hands he held them to his face with tears.
"GOD bless thee!" he sobbed. "You've been a good maester to me!"
"Daddy," wheezed the old man. "Daddy, not maester." And
drawing his right hand away, he laid it solemnly on the young man's
head. "GOD bless thee, and reward thee. What have I done i' my
feckless life to deserve a son? But if ever a lad earned a father and a
home, thou hast earned 'em, Jack March."
He moved his hand again and laid it trembling on the paper.
"Every word i' this letter ye've made good. Every word, even to t' bit
at the end. 'I love them tumblers as if they were my own,' says you.
Lift thee head, lad, and look at me. They are thy own!... Yon
blue paper's my last will and testament, made many a year back by Mr.
Brown, of Green Street, Solicitor, and a very nice gentleman too; and
witnessed by his clerks, two decent young chaps, and civil enough, but
with too much watchchain for their situation. Jack March, my son, I have
left thee maester of Dovecot and all that I have. And there's a bit of
money in t' bed-head that'll help thee to make a fair start, and to bury
me decently atop of my father and mother. Ye may let Bill Sexton toll an
hour-bell for me, for I'm a old standard, if I never were good for much.
Maybe I might ha' done better if things had happened in a different
fashion; but the Lord knows all. I'd like a hymn at the grave, Jack, if
the Vicar has no objections, and do thou sing if thee can. Don't fret,
my son, thou'fet no cause. Twas that sweet voice o' thine took me back
again to public worship, and it's not t' least of all I owe thee, Jack
March. A poor reason lad, for taking up with a neglected duty--a poor
reason--but the Lord is a GOD of mercy, or there'd be small chance for
most on us. If Miss Jenny and her husband come to t' Vicarage this
summer, say I left her my duty and an old man's blessing; and if she
wants any roots out of t' garden, give 'em her, and give her yon old
chest that stands in the back chamber. It belonged to an uncle of my
mother's--a Derbyshire man. They say her husband's a rich gentleman, and
treats her very well. I reckon she may have what she's a mind, new and
polished, but she's always for old lumber. They're a whimsical lot,
gentle and simple. A talking of women, Jack, I've a word to say,
if I can fetch my breath to say it. Lad! as sure as you're maester of
Dovecot, you'll give it a missus. Now take heed to me. If ye fetch any
woman home here but Phoebe Shaw, I'll walk, and scare ye away
from t' old place. I'm willing for Phoebe, and I charge ye to tell the
lass so hereafter. And tell her it's not because she's fair--too many on
'em are that; and not because she's thrifty and houseproud--her mother's
that, and she's no favorite of mine; but because I've watched her
whenever t' ould cat 's let her be at home, and it's my belief that she
loves ye, knowing nought of this" (he laid his hand upon the
will), "and that she'll stick to ye, choose what her folks may say. Aye,
aye, she's not one of t' sort that quits a falling house--like
Language fails to convey the bitterness which the old man put into these
last two words. It exhausted him, and his mind wandered. When he had to
some extent recovered himself he spoke again, but very feebly.
"Tak' my duty to the Vicar, lad, Daddy Darwin's duty, and say he's at t'
last feather of the shuttle, and would be thankful for the Sacrament."
The Parson had come and gone. Daddy Darwin did not care to lie down, he
breathed with difficulty; so Jack made him easy in a big armchair, and
raked up the fire with cinders, and took a chair on the other side of
the hearth to watch with him. The old man slept comfortably and at last,
much wearied, the young man dozed also.
He awoke because Daddy Darwin moved, but for a moment he thought he must
be dreaming. So erect the old man stood, and with such delight in his
wide-open eyes. They were looking over Jack's head.
All that the lad had never seen upon his face seemed to have come back
to it--youth, hope, resolution, tenderness. His lips were trembling with
the smile of acutest joy.
Suddenly he stretched out his arms, and crying, "Alice!" started forward
and fell--dead--on the breast of his adopted son.
Craw! Craw! Craw! The crows flapped slowly home, and the Gaffers moved
off too. The sun was down, and "damps" are bad for "rheumatics."
"It's a strange tale," said Gaffer II., "but if all's true ye tell me,
there's not too many like him."
"That's right enough," Gaffer I. admitted. "He's been t' same all
through, and ye should ha' seen the burying he gave t' old chap. He was
rare and good to him by all accounts, and never gainsaid him ought,
except i' not lifting his voice as he should ha' done at t' grave. Jacks
sings a bass solo as well as any man i' t' place, but he stood yonder,
for all t' world like one of them crows, black o' visage, and black wi'
funeral clothes, and choked with crying like a child i'stead of a man."
"Well, well, t' old chap were all he had, I reckon," said Gaffer II.
"That's right enough; and for going backwards, as ye may say, and
setting a wild graff on an old standard, yon will's done well for DADDY
THE BLIND MAN AND THE TALKING DOG.
There was once an old man whom Fortune (whose own eyes are bandaged) had
deprived of his sight. She had taken his hearing also, so that he was
deaf. Poor he had always been, and as Time had stolen his youth and
strength from him, they had only left a light burden for Death to carry
when he should come the old man's way.
But Love (who is blind also) had given the Blind Man a Dog, who led him
out in the morning to a seat in the sun under the crab-tree, and held
his hat for wayside alms, and brought him safely home at sunset.
The Dog was wise and faithful--as dogs often are--but the wonder of him
was that he could talk. In which will be seen the difference between
dogs and men, most of whom can talk; whilst it is a matter for
admiration if they are wise and faithful.
One day the Mayor's little son came down the road, and by the hand he
held his playmate Aldegunda.
"Give the poor Blind Man a penny," said she.
"You are always wanting me to give away my money," replied the boy
peevishly. "It is well that my father is the richest man in the town,
and that I have a whole silver crown yet in my pocket."
But he put the penny into the hat which the Dog held out, and the Dog
gave it to his master.
"Heaven bless you," said the Blind Man.
"Amen," said the Dog.
"Aldegunda! Aldegunda!" cried the boy, dancing with delight. "Here is a
dog who can talk. I would give my silver crown for him. Old man, I say,
old man! Will you sell me your dog for a silver crown?"
"My master is deaf as well as blind," said the Dog.
"What a miserable old creature he must be," said the boy
"Men do not smile when they are miserable, do they?" said the Dog; "and
my master smiles sometimes--when the sun warms right through our coats
to our bones; when he feels the hat shake against his knee as the
pennies drop in; and when I lick his hand."
"But for all that, he is a poor wretched old beggar, in want of
everything," persisted the boy. "Now I am the Mayor's only son, and he
is the richest man in the town. Come and live with me, and I will give
the Blind Man my silver crown. I should be perfectly happy if I had a
talking dog of my own."
"It is worth thinking of," said the Dog. "I should certainly like a
master who was perfectly happy. You are sure that there is nothing else
that you wish for?"
"I wish I were a man," replied the boy. "To do exactly as I chose, and
have plenty of money to spend, and holidays all the year round."
"That sounds well," said the Dog. "Perhaps I had better wait till you
grow up. There is nothing else that you want, I suppose?"
"I want a horse," said the boy, "a real black charger. My father ought
to know that I am too old for a hobby-horse. It vexes me to look at it."
"I must wait for the charger, I see," said the Dog. "Nothing vexes you
but the hobby-horse, I hope?"
"Aldegunda vexes me more than anything," answered the boy, with an
aggrieved air; "and it's very hard when I am so fond of her. She always
tumbles down when we run races, her legs are so short. It's her birthday
to-day, but she toddles as badly as she did yesterday, though she's a
"She will have learned to run by the time that you are a man," said the
Dog. "So nice a little lady can give you no other cause of annoyance, I
The boy frowned.
"She is always wanting something. She wants something now, I see. What
do you want, Aldegunda?"
"I wish--" said Aldegunda, timidly,--"I should like--the blind man to
have the silver crown, and for us to keep the penny, if you can get it
back out of the hat."
"That's just the way you go on," said the boy, angrily. "You always
think differently from me. Now remember, Aldegunda, I won't marry you
when you grow big, unless you agree with what I do, like the wife in the
story of 'What the Goodman does is sure to be right.'"
On hearing this Aldegunda sobbed till she burst the strings of her hat,
and the boy had to tie them afresh.
"I won't marry you at all if you cry," said he.
But at that she only cried the more, and they went away bickering into
the green lanes.
As to the old man, he had heard nothing; and when the dog licked his
withered hand he smiled.
Many a time did the boy return with his playmate to try and get the
Talking Dog. But the Dog always asked if he had yet got all that he
wanted, and, being an honorable child, the boy was too truthful to say
that he was content when he was not.
"The day that you want nothing more but me I will be your dog," it said.
"Unless, indeed, my present master should have attained perfect
happiness before you."
"I am not afraid of that," said the boy.
In time the Mayor died, and his widow moved to her native town and took
her son with her.
Years passed, and the Blind Man lived on; for when one gets very old and
keeps very quiet in his little corner of the world, Death seems
sometimes to forget to remove him.
Years passed, and the Mayor's son became a man, and was strong and rich,
and had a fine black charger. Aldegunda grew up also. She was very
beautiful, wonderfully beautiful, and Love (who is blind) gave her to
her old playmate.
The wedding was a fine one, and when it was over the bridegroom mounted
his black charger and took his bride behind him, and rode away into the
"Ah, what delight!" he said. "Now we will ride through the town where we
lived when we were children; and if the Blind Man is still alive, you
shall give him a silver crown; and if the Talking Dog is alive, I shall
claim him, for to-day I am perfectly happy and want nothing."
Aldegunda thought to herself--"We are so happy, and have so much, that I
do not like to take the Blind Man's dog from him;" but she did not dare
to say so. One--if not two--must bear and forbear to be happy even on
one's wedding day.
By-and-bye they rode under the crab-tree, but the seat was empty. "What
has become of the Blind Man?" the Mayor's son asked of a peasant who was
"He died two days ago," said the peasant. "He is buried to-day, and the
priest and chanters are now returning from the grave."
"And the Talking Dog?" asked the young man.
"He is at the grave now," said the peasant; "but he has neither spoken
nor eaten since his master died."
"We have come in the nick of time," said the young man triumphantly, and
he rode to the churchyard.
By the grave was the dog, as the man had said, and up the winding path
came the priest and his young chanters, who sang with shrill, clear
voices--"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."
"Come and live with me, now your old master is gone," said the young
man, stooping over the dog. But he made no reply.
"I think he is dead, sir," said the grave-digger.
"I don't believe it," said the young man fretfully. "He was an Enchanted
Dog, and he promised I should have him when I could say what I am ready
to say now. He should have kept his promise."
But Aldegunda had taken the dog's cold head into her arms, and her tears
fell fast over it.
"You forget," she said; "he only promised to come to you when you were
happy, if his old master were not happier first; and, perhaps--"
"I remember that you always disagree with me," said the young man,
impatiently. "You always did do so. Tears on our wedding-day, too! I
suppose the truth is that no one is happy."
Aldegunda made no answer, for it is not from those one loves that he
will willingly learn that with a selfish and imperious temper happiness
And as they rode away again into the green lanes, the shrill voices of
the chanters followed them--"Blessed are the dead. Blessed are the
"Be sure, my child," said the widow to her little daughter, "that you
always do just as you are told."
"Very well, Mother."
"Or at any rate do what will do just as well," said the small house-dog,
as he lay blinking at the fire.
"You darling!" cried little Joan, and she sat down on the hearth and
hugged him. But he got up and shook himself, and moved three turns
nearer the oven, to be out of the way; for though her arms were soft she
had kept her doll in them, and that was made of wood, which hurts.
"What a dear, kind house-dog you are!" said little Joan, and she meant
what she said, for it does feel nice to have the sharp edges of one's
duty a little softened off for one.
He was no particular kind of a dog, but he was very smooth to stroke,
and had a nice way of blinking with his eyes, which it was soothing to
see. There had been a difficulty about his name. The name of the
house-dog before him was Faithful, and well it became him, as his
tombstone testified. The one before that was called Wolf. He was very
wild, and ended his days on the gallows, for worrying sheep. The little
house-dog never chased anything, to the widow's knowledge. There was no
reason whatever for giving him a bad name, and she thought of several
good ones, such as Faithful, and Trusty, and Keeper, which are fine
old-fashioned titles, but none of these seemed quite perfectly to suit
him. So he was called So-so; and a very nice soft name it is.
The widow was only a poor woman, though she contrived by her industry to
keep a decent home together, and to get now one and now another little
comfort for herself and her child.
One day she was going out on business, and she called her little
daughter and said to her, "I am going out for two hours. You are too
young to protect yourself and the house, and So-so is not as strong as
Faithful was. But when I go, shut the house-door and bolt the big wooden
bar, and be sure that you do not open it for any reason whatever till I
return. If strangers come, So-so may bark, which he can do as well as a
bigger dog. Then they will go away. With this summer's savings I have
bought a quilted petticoat for you and a duffle cloak for myself against
the winter, and if I get the work I am going after to-day, I shall buy
enough wool to knit warm stockings for us both. So be patient till I
return, and then we will have the plumcake that is in the cupboard for
"Thank you, Mother."
"Good-bye, my child. Be sure you do just as I have told you," said the
"Very well, Mother."
Little Joan laid down her doll, and shut the house-door, and fastened
the big bolt. It was very heavy, and the kitchen looked gloomy when she
had done it.
"I wish Mother had taken us all three with her, and had locked the house
and put the key in her big pocket, as she has done before," said little
Joan, as she got into the rocking-chair, to put her doll to sleep.
"Yes, it would have done just as well," So-so replied as he stretched
himself on the hearth.
By-and-bye Joan grew tired of hushabying the doll, who looked none the
sleepier for it, and she took the three-legged stool and sat down in
front of the clock to watch the hands. After a while she drew a deep
"There are sixty seconds in every single minute, So-so," said she.
"So I have heard," said So-so. He was snuffing in the back place, which
was not usually allowed.
"And sixty whole minutes in every hour, So-so."
"You don't say so!" growled So-so. He had not found a bit, and the cake
was on the top shelf. There was not so much as a spilt crumb, though he
snuffed in every corner of the kitchen, till he stood snuffing under the
"The air smells fresh," he said.
"It's a beautiful day, I know," said little Joan. "I wish Mother had
allowed us to sit on the doorstep. We could have taken care of the
"Just as well," said So-so.
Little Joan came to smell the air at the keyhole, and, as So-so had
said, it smelt very fresh. Besides, one could see from the window how
fine the evening was.
"It's not exactly what Mother told us to do," said Joan, "but I do
"It would do just as well," said So-so.
By-and-bye little Joan unfastened the bar, and opened the door, and she
and the doll and So-so went out and sat on the doorstep.
Not a stranger was to be seen. The sun shone delightfully. An evening
sun, and not too hot. All day it had been ripening the corn in the field
close by, and this glowed and waved in the breeze.
"It does just as well, and better," said little Joan, "for if anyone
comes we can see him coming up the field-path."
"Just so," said So-so, blinking in the sunshine.
Suddenly Joan jumped up.
"Oh!" cried she, "there's a bird, a big bird. Dear So-so, can you see
him? I can't, because of the sun. What a queer noise he makes. Crake!
crake! Oh, I can see him now! He is not flying, he is running, and he
has gone into the corn. I do wish I were in the corn, I would catch him,
and put him in a cage."
"I'll catch him," said So-so, and he put up his tail, and started off.
"No, no!" cried Joan. "You are not to go. You mast stay and take care of
the house, and bark if any one comes."
"You could scream, and that would do just as well," replied So-so, with
his tail still up.
"No, it wouldn't," cried little Joan.
"Yes, it would," reiterated So-so.
Whilst they were bickering, an old woman came up to the door; she had a
brown face, and black hair, and a very old red cloak.
"Good evening, my little dear," said she. "Are you all at home this fine
"Only three of us," said Joan; "I, and my doll, and So-so. Mother' has
gone to the town on business, and we are taking care of the house, but
So-so wants to go after the bird we saw run into the corn."
"Was it a pretty bird, my little dear?" asked the old woman.
"It was a very curious one," said Joan, "and I should like to go after
it myself, but we can't leave the house."
"Dear, dear! Is there no neighbor would sit on the doorstep for you and
keep the house till you just slip down to the field after the curious
bird?" said the old woman.
"I'm afraid not," said little Joan. "Old Martha, our neighbor, is now
bedridden. Of course, if she had been able to mind the house instead of
us, it would have done just as well."
"I have some distance to go this evening," said the old woman, "but I do
not object to a few minutes' rest, and sooner than that you should lose
the bird I will sit on the doorstep to oblige you, while you run down to
"But can you bark if any one comes?" asked little Joan. "For if you
can't, So-so must stay with you."
"I can call you and the dog if I see any one coming, and that will do
just as well," said the old woman.
"So it will," replied little Joan, and off she ran to the cornfield,
where, for that matter, So-so had run before her, and was bounding and
barking and springing among the wheat stalks.
They did not catch the bird, though they stayed longer than they had
intended, and though So-so seemed to know more about hunting than was
"I dare say mother has come home," said little Joan, as they went back
up the field-path. "I hope she won't think we ought to have stayed in
"It was taken care of," said So-so, "and that must do just as well."
When they reached the house, the widow had not come home.
But the old woman had gone, and she had taken the quilted petticoat and
the duffle cloak, and the plum-cake from the top shelf away with her;
and no more was ever heard of any of the lot.
"For the future, my child," said the widow, "I hope you will always do
just as you are told, whatever So-so may say."
"I will, Mother," said little Joan (And she did.) But the house-dog sat
and blinked. He dared not speak, he was in disgrace.
I do not feel quite sure about So-so. Wild dogs often amend their ways
far on this side of the gallows, and the faithful sometimes fall; but
when any one begins by being only So-so, he is very apt to be So-so to
the end. So-sos so seldom change.
But this one was very soft and nice, and he got no cake that
tea-time. On the whole, we will hope that he lived to be a good dog ever
THE TRINITY FLOWER.
"Break forth, my lips, in praise, and own
The wiser love severely kind:
Since, richer for its chastening grown,
I see, whereas I once was blind."
The Clear Vision, J. G. Whittler
In days of yore there was once a certain hermit, who dwelt in a cell,
which he had fashioned for himself from a natural cave in the side of a
Now this hermit had a great love for flowers, and was moreover learned
in the virtues of herbs, and in that great mystery of healing which lies
hidden among the green things of God. And so it came to pass that the
country people from all parts came to him for the simples which grew in
the little garden which he had made before his cell. And as his fame
spread, and more people came to him, he added more and more to the plat
which he had reclaimed from the waste land around.
But after many years there came a spring when the colors of the flowers
seemed paler to the hermit than they used to be; and as summer drew on
their shapes became indistinct, and he mistook one plant for another;
and when autumn came, he told them by their various scents, and by their
form, rather than by sight; and when the flowers were gone, and winter
had come, the hermit was quite blind.
Now in the hamlet below there lived a boy who had become known to the
hermit on this manner. On the edge of the hermit's garden there grew two
crab trees, from the fruit of which he made every year a certain
confection which was very grateful to the sick. One year many of these
crab-apples were stolen, and the sick folk of the hamlet had very little
conserve. So the following year, as the fruit was ripening, the hermit
spoke every day to those who came to his cell, saying:--
"I pray you, good people, to make it known that he who robs these crab
trees, robs not me alone, which is dishonest, but the sick, which is
And yet once more the crab-apples were taken.
The following evening, as the hermit sat on the side of the hill, he
overheard two boys disputing about the theft.
"It must either have been a very big man, or a small boy to do it," said
one. "So I say, and I have my reason."
"And what is thy reason, Master Wiseacre?" asked the other.
"The fruit is too high to be plucked except by a very big man," said the
first boy. "And the branches are not strong enough for any but a child
"Canst thou think of no other way to rob an apple-tree but by standing
a-tip-toe, or climbing up to the apples, when they should come down to
thee?" said the second boy. "Truly thy head will never save thy heels;
but here's a riddle for thee:
"Riddle me riddle me re,
Four big brothers are we;
We gather the fruit, but climb never a tree.
"Who are they?"
"Four tall robbers, I suppose," said the other.
"Tush!" cried his comrade. "They are the four winds; and when they
whistle, down falls the ripest. But others can shake besides the winds,
as I will show thee if thou hast any doubts in the matter."
And as he spoke he sprang to catch the other boy, who ran from him; and
they chased each other down the hill, and the hermit heard no more.
But as he turned to go home he said, "The thief was not far away when
thou stoodst near. Nevertheless, I will have patience. It needs not that
I should go to seek thee, for what saith the Scripture? Thy sin
will find thee out." And he made conserve of such apples as were left,
and said nothing.
Now after a certain time a plague broke out in the hamlet; and it was so
sore, and there were so few to nurse the many who were sick, that,
though it was not the wont of the hermit ever to leave his place, yet in
their need he came down and ministered to the people in the village. And
one day, as he passed a certain house, he heard moans from within, and
entering, he saw lying upon a bed a boy who tossed and moaned in fever,
and cried out most miserably that his throat was parched and burning.
And when the hermit looked upon his face, behold it was the boy who had
given the riddle of the four winds upon the side of the hill.
Then the hermit fed him with some of the confection which he had with
him, and it was so grateful to the boy's parched palate, that he thanked
and blessed the hermit aloud, and prayed him to leave a morsel of it
behind, to soothe his torments in the night.
Then said the hermit, "My Son, I would that I had more of this
confection, for the sake of others as well as for thee. But indeed I
have only two trees which bear the fruit whereof this is made; and in
two successive years have the apples been stolen by some thief, thereby
robbing not only me, which is dishonest, but the poor, which is
Then the boy's theft came back to his mind, and he burst into tears, and
cried, "My Father, I took the crab-apples!"
And after awhile he recovered his health; the plague also abated in the
hamlet, and the hermit went back to his cell. But the boy would
thenceforth never leave him, always wishing to show his penitence and
gratitude. And though the hermit sent him away, he ever returned,
"Of what avail is it to drive me from thee, since I am resolved to serve
thee, even as Samuel served Eli, and Timothy ministered unto St. Paul?"
But the hermit said, "My rule is to live alone, and without companions;
And when the boy still came, he drove him from the garden.
Then the boy wandered far and wide, over moor and bog, and gathered rare
plants and herbs, and laid them down near the hermit's cell. And when
the hermit was inside, the boy came into the garden, and gathered the
stones and swept the paths, and tied up such plants as were drooping,
and did all neatly and well, for he was a quick and skilful lad. And
when the hermit said,
"Thou hast done well, and I thank thee; but now begone," he only
"What avails it, when I am resolved to serve thee?"
So at last there came a day when the hermit said, "It may be that it is
ordained; wherefore abide, my Son."
And the boy answered, "Even so, for I am resolved to serve thee."
Thus he remained. And thenceforward the hermit's garden throve as it had
never thriven before. For, though he had skill, the hermit was old and
feeble; but the boy was young and active, and he worked hard, and it was
to him a labor of love. And being a clever boy, he quickly knew the
names and properties of the plants as well as the hermit himself. And
when he was not working, he would go far afield to seek for new herbs.
And he always returned to the village at night.
Now when the hermit's sight began to fail, the boy put him right if he
mistook one plant for another; and when the hermit became quite blind,
he relied completely upon the boy to gather for him the herbs that he
wanted. And when anything new was planted, the boy led the old man to
the spot, that he might know that it was so many paces in such a
direction from the cell, and might feel the shape and texture of the
leaves, and learn its scent. And through the skill and knowledge of the
boy, the hermit was in no wise hindered from preparing his accustomed
remedies, for he knew the names and virtues of the herbs, and where
every plant grew. And when the sun shone, the boy would guide his
master's steps into the garden, and would lead him up to certain
flowers; but to those which had a perfume of their own the old man could
go without help, being guided by the scent. And as he fingered their
leaves and breathed their fragrance, he would say, "Blessed be GOD for
every herb of the field, but thrice blessed for those that smell."
And at the end of the garden was a set bush of rosemary. "For," said the
hermit, "to this we must all come." Because rosemary is the herb they
scatter over the dead. And he knew where almost everything grew, and
what he did not know the boy told him.
Yet for all this, and though he had embraced poverty and solitude with
joy, in the service of GOD and man, yet so bitter was blindness to him,
that he bewailed the loss of his sight, with a grief that never
"For," said he, "if it had pleased our Lord to send me any other
affliction, such as a continual pain or a consuming sickness, I would
have borne it gladly, seeing it would have left me free to see these
herbs, which I use for the benefit of the poor. But now the sick suffer
through my blindness, and to this boy also I am a continual burden."
And when the boy called him at the hours of prayer, saying, "My Father,
it is now time for the Nones office, for the marygold is closing," or
"The Vespers bell will soon sound from the valley, for the bindweed
bells are folded," and the hermit recited the appointed prayers, he
"I beseech Thee take away my blindness, as Thou didst heal Thy servant
the son of Timaeus."
And as the boy and he sorted herbs, he cried,
"Is there no balm in Gilead?"
And the boy answered, "The balm of Gilead grows six full paces from the
gate, my Father."
But the hermit said, "I spoke in a figure, my son I meant not that herb.
But, alas! Is there no remedy to heal the physician? No cure for the
And the boy's heart grew heavier day by day, because of the hermit's
grief. For he loved him.
Now one morning as the boy came up from the village, the hermit met him,
groping painfully with his hands, but with joy in his countenance, and
he said, "Is that thy step, my son? Come in, for I have somewhat to tell
And he said, "A vision has been vouchsafed to me, even a dream.
Moreover, I believe that there shall be a cure for my blindness." Then
the boy was glad, and begged of the hermit to relate his dream, which he
did as follows:--
"I dreamed, and behold I stood in the garden--thou also with me--and
many people were gathered at the gate, to whom, with thy help, I gave
herbs of healing in such fashion as I have been able since this
blindness came upon me. And when they were gone, I smote upon my
forehead, and said, 'Where is the herb that shall heal my affliction?'
And a voice beside me said, 'Here, my son,' And I cried to thee, 'Who
spoke?' And thou saidst, 'It is a man in pilgrim's weeds, and lo, he
hath a strange flower in his hand.' Then said the Pilgrim, 'It is a
Trinity Flower. Moreover, I suppose that when thou hast it, thou wilt
see clearly.' Then I thought that thou didst take the flower from the
Pilgrim and put it in my hand. And lo, my eyes were opened, and I saw
clearly. And I knew the Pilgrim's face, though where I have seen him I
cannot yet recall. But I believed him to be Raphael the Archangel--he
who led Tobias, and gave sight to his father. And even as it came to me
to know him, he vanished; and I saw him no more."
"And what was the Trinity Flower like, my Father?" asked the boy.
"It was about the size of Herb Paris, my son," replied the hermit. "But
instead of being fourfold every way, it numbered the mystic Three. Every
part was threefold. The leaves were three, the petals three, the sepals
three. The flower was snow-white, but on each of the three parts it was
stained with crimson stripes, like white garments dyed in blood."
9. Trillium erythrocarpum. North America.
Then the boy started up, saying, "If there be such a plant on the earth
I will find it for thee."
But the hermit laid his hand on him, and said, "Nay, my son, leave me
not, for I have need of thee. And the flower will come yet, and then I
And all day long the old man murmured to himself, "Then I shall see."
"And didst thou see me, and the garden, in thy dream, my Father?" asked
"Ay, that I did, my son. And I meant to say to thee that it much
pleaseth me that thou art grown so well, and of such a strangely fair
countenance. Also the garden is such as I have never before beheld it,
which must needs be due to thy care. But wherefore didst thou not tell
me of those fair palms that have grown where the thorn hedge was wont to
be? I was but just stretching out my hand for some, when I awoke."
"There are no palms there, my Father," said the boy.
"Now, indeed it is thy youth that makes thee so little observant," said
the hermit. "However, I pardon thee, if it were only for that good
thought which moved thee to plant a yew beyond the rosemary bush; seeing
that the yew is the emblem of eternal life, which lies beyond the
But the boy said, "There is no yew there, my Father."
"Have I not seen it, even in a vision?" cried the hermit. "Thou wilt say
next that all the borders are not set with heart's-ease, which indeed
must be through thy industry; and whence they come I know not, but they
are most rare and beautiful, and my eyes long sore to see them again."
"Alas, my Father!" cried the boy, "the borders are set with rue, and
there are but a few clumps of heart's-ease here and there."
"Could I forget what I saw in an hour?" asked the old man, angrily. "And
did not the holy Raphael himself point to them, saying, 'Blessed are the
eyes that behold this garden, where the borders are set with
heart's-ease, and the hedges crowned with palm!' But thou wouldst know
better than an archangel, forsooth."
Then the boy wept; and when the hermit heard him weeping, he put his arm
round him and said,
"Weep not, my dear son. And I pray thee, pardon me that I spoke harshly
to thee. For indeed I am ill-tempered by reason of my infirmities; and
as for thee, GOD will reward thee for thy goodness to me, as I never
can. Moreover, I believe it is thy modesty, which is as great as thy
goodness, that hath hindered thee from telling me of all that thou hast
done for my garden, even to those fair and sweet everlasting flowers,
the like of which I never saw before, which thou hast set in the east
border, and where even now I hear the bees humming in the sun."
Then the boy looked sadly out into the garden, and answered, "I cannot
lie to thee. There are no everlasting flowers. It is the flowers of the
thyme in which the bees are rioting. And in the hedge bottom there
creepeth the bitter-sweet."
But the hermit heard him not. He had groped his way out into the
sunshine, and wandered up and down the walks, murmuring to himself,
"Then I shall see."
Now when the Summer was past, one autumn morning there came to the
garden gate a man in pilgrim's weeds; and when he saw the boy he
beckoned to him, and giving him a small tuber root, he said,
"Give this to thy master. It is the root of the Trinity Flower."
And he passed on down towards the valley.
Then the boy ran hastily to the hermit; and when he had told him, and
given him the root, he said,
"The face of the pilgrim is known to me also, O my Father! For I
remember when I lay sick of the plague, that ever it seemed to me as if
a shadowy figure passed in and out, and went up and down the streets,
and his face was as the face of this pilgrim. But--I cannot deceive
thee--methought it was the Angel of Death."
Then the hermit mused; and after a little space he answered,
"It was then also that I saw him. I remember now. Nevertheless, let us
plant the root, and abide what GOD shall send."
And thus they did.
And as the Autumn and Winter went by, the hermit became very feeble, but
the boy constantly cheered him, saying, "Patience, my Father. Thou shalt
But the hermit replied, "My son, I repent me that I have not been
patient under affliction. Moreover, I have set thee an ill example, in
that I have murmured at that which GOD--Who knowest best--ordained for
And when the boy ofttimes repeated, "Thou shalt yet see," the hermit
answered, "If GOD will. When GOD will. As GOD will."
And when he said the prayers for the Hours, he no longer added what he
had added beforetime, but evermore repeated, "If THOU wilt. When THOU
wilt. As THOU wilt!"
And so the Winter passed; and when the snow lay on the ground the boy
and the hermit talked of the garden; and the boy no longer contradicted
the old man, though he spoke continually of the heart's-ease, and the
everlasting flowers, and the palm. For he said, "When Spring comes I may
be able to get these plants, and fit the garden to his vision."
And at length the Spring came. And with it rose the Trinity Flower. And
when the leaves unfolded, they were three, as the hermit had said. Then
the boy was wild with joy and with impatience.
And when the sun shone for two days together, he would kneel by the
flower, and say, "I pray thee, Lord, send showers, that it may wax
apace." And when it rained, he said, "I pray Thee, send sunshine, that
it may blossom speedily." For he knew not what to ask. And he danced
about the hermit, and cried, "Soon shalt them see."
But the hermit trembled, and said, "Not as I will, but as THOU wilt!"
And so the bud formed. And at length one evening before he went down to
the hamlet, the boy came to the hermit and said, "The bud is almost
breaking, my Father. To-morrow thou shalt see."
Then the hermit moved his hands till he laid them on the boy's head, and
"The Lord repay thee sevenfold for all thou hast done for me, dear
child. And now I pray thee, my son, give me thy pardon for all in which
I have sinned against thee by word or deed, for indeed my thoughts of
thee have ever been tender." And when the boy wept, the hermit still
pressed him, till he said that he forgave him. And as they unwillingly
parted, the hermit said, "I pray thee, dear son, to remember that,
though late, I conformed myself to the will of GOD."
Saying which, the hermit went into his cell, and the boy returned to the
But so great was his anxiety, that he could not rest; and he returned to
the garden ere it was light, and sat by the flower till the dawn.
And with the first dim light he saw that the Trinity Flower was in
bloom. And as the hermit had said, it was white, and stained with
crimson as with blood.
Then the boy shed tears of joy, and he plucked the flower and ran into
the hermit's cell, where the hermit lay very still upon his couch. And
the boy said, "I will not disturb him. When he wakes he will find the
flower." And he went out and sat down outside the cell and waited. And
being weary as he waited, he fell asleep.
Now before sunrise, whilst it was yet early, he was awakened by the
voice of the hermit crying, "My son, my dear son!" and he jumped up,
saying, "My Father!"
But as he spoke the hermit passed him. And as he passed he turned, and
the boy saw that his eyes were open. And the hermit fixed them long and
tenderly on him.
Then the boy cried, "Ah, tell me, my Father, dost thou see?"
And he answered, "I see now!" and so passed on down the walk.
And as he went through the garden, in the still dawn, the boy trembled,
for the hermit's footsteps gave no sound. And he passed beyond the
rosemary bush, and came not again.
And when the day wore on, and the hermit did not return, the boy went
into his cell.
Without, the sunshine dried the dew from paths on which the hermit's
feet had left no prints, and cherished the spring flowers bursting into
bloom. But within, the hermit's dead body lay stretched upon his pallet,
and the Trinity Flower was in his hand.
THE KYRKEGRIM TURNED PREACHER.
It is said that in Norway every church has its own Niss, or Brownie.
They are of the same race as the Good People, who haunt farm houses, and
do the maids' work for a pot of cream. They are the size of a year-old
child, but their faces are the faces of aged men. Their common dress is
of gray home-spun, with red peaked caps; but on Michaelmas Day they wear
The Church Niss is called Kyrkegrim. His duty is to keep the church
clean, and to scatter the marsh-marigold flowers on the floor before
service. He also keeps order in the congregation, pinches those who fall
asleep, cuffs irreverent boys, and hustles mothers with crying children
out of church as quickly and decorously as possible.
But his business is not with church-brawlers alone.
When the last snow avalanche has slipped from the high-pitched roof, and
the gentian is bluer than the sky, and Baldur's Eyebrow blossoms in the
hot Spring sun, pious folk are wont to come to church some time before
service, and to bring their spades, and rakes, and watering-pots with
them, to tend the graves of the dead. The Kyrkegrim sits on the Lych
Gate and overlooks them.
At those who do not lay by their tools in good time he throws pebbles,
crying to each, "Skynde dig!" (Make haste!), and so drives them
in. And when the bells begin, should any man fail to bow to the church
as the custom is, the Kyrkegrim snatches his hat from behind, and he
sees it no more.
Nothing displeases the Kyrkegrim more than when people fall asleep
during the sermon. This will be seen in the following story.
Once upon a time there was a certain country church, which was served by
a very mild and excellent priest, and haunted by a most active
Not a speck of dust was to be seen from the altar to the porch, and the
behavior of the congregation was beyond reproach.
But there was one fat farmer who slept during the sermon, and do what
the Kyrkegrim would, he could not keep him awake. Again and again did he
pinch him, nudge him, or let in a cold draught of wind upon his neck.
The fat farmer shook himself, pulled up his neck-kerchief, and dozed off
"Doubtless the fault is in my sermons," said the priest, when the
Kyrkegrim complained to him. For he was humble-minded.
But the Kyrkegrim knew that this was not the case, for there was no
better preacher in all the district.
And yet when he overheard the farmer's sharp-tongued little wife speak
of this and that in the discourse, he began to think it might be so. No
doubt the preacher spoke somewhat fast or slow, a little too loud or too
soft. And he was not "stirring" enough, said the farmer's wife; a
failing which no one had ever laid at her door.
"His soul is in my charge," sighed the good priest, "and I cannot even
make him hear what I have got to say. A heavy reckoning will be demanded
"The sermons are in fault, beyond a doubt," the Kyrkegrim said. "The
farmer's wife is quite right. She's a sensible woman, and can use a mop
as well as myself."
"Hoot, hoot!" cried the church owl, pushing his head out of the
ivy-bush. "And shall she be Kyrkegrim when thou art turned preacher, and
the preacher sits on the judgment seat? Not so, little Miss! Dust thou
the pulpit, and leave the parson to preach, and let the Maker of souls
reckon with them."
"If the preacher cannot keep the people awake, it is time that another
took his place," said the Kyrkegrim.
"He is not bound to find ears as well as arguments," retorted the owl,
and he drew back into his ivy-bush.
But the Kyrkegrim settled his red cap firmly on his head, and betook
himself to the priest, whose meekness (as is apt to be the case)
encouraged the opposite qualities in those with whom he had to do.
"The farmer must be roused somehow," said he. "It is a disgrace to us
all, and what, in all the hundreds of years I have been Kyrkegrim, never
befell me before. It will be well if next Sunday you preach a stirring
sermon on some very important subject."
So the preacher preached on Sin--fair of flower, and bitter of
fruit!--and as he preached his own cheeks grew pale for other men's
perils, and the Kyrkegrim trembled as he sat listening in the porch,
though he had no soul to lose.
"Was that stirring enough?" he asked, twitching the sleeve of the
farmer's wife as she flounced out after service.
"Splendid!" said she, "and must have hit some folk pretty hard too."
"It kept your husband awake this time, I should think," said the
"Heighty teighty!" cried the farmer's wife. "I'd have you to know my
good man is as decent a body as any in the parish, if he does take a nap
on Sundays! He is no sinner if he is no saint, thank Heaven, and the
parson knows better than to preach at him."
"Next Sunday," said the Kyrkegrim to the priest, "preach about something
which concerns every one; respectable people as well as others."
So the preacher preached of Death--whom tears cannot move, nor riches
bribe, nor power defy. The uncertain interruption and the only certain
end of all life's labors! And as he preached, the women sitting in their
seats wept for the dead whose graves they had been tending, and down the
aged cheeks of the Kyrkegrim there stole tears of pity for poor men,
whose love and labors are cut short so soon.
But the farmer slept as before.
"Do you not expect to die?" asked the Kyrkegrim.
"Surely," replied the farmer, "we must all die some day, and one does
not need a preacher to tell him that. But it was a funeral sermon, my
wife thinks. There has been bereavement in the miller's family."
"Men are a strange race," thought the Kyrkegrim; but he went to the
priest and said--"The farmer is not afraid of death. You must find some
subject of which men really stand in awe."
So when Sunday came round again, the preacher preached of judgment--that
dread Avenger who dogs the footsteps of trespass, even now! That awful
harvest of whirlwind and corruption which they must reap who sow to the
wind and to the flesh! Lightly regarded, but biding its time, till a
man's forgotten follies find him out at last.
But the farmer slept on. He did not wake when the preacher spoke of
judgment to come, the reckoning that cannot be shunned, the trump of the
Archangel, and the Day of Doom.
"On Michaelmas Day I shall preach myself," said the Kyrkegrim, "and if I
cannot rouse him, I shall give up my charge here."
This troubled the poor priest, for so good a Kyrkegrim was not likely to
be found again.
Nevertheless he consented, for he was very meek, and when Michaelmas Day
came the Kyrkegrim pulled a preacher's gown over his homespun coat, and
laid his round hat on the desk by the iron-clamped Bible, and began his
"I shall give no text," said he, "but when I have said what seems good
to me, it is for those who hear to see if the Scriptures bear me out."
This was an uncommon beginning, and most of the good folk pricked their
ears, the farmer among them, for novelty is agreeable in church as
"I speak," said the Kyrkegrim, "of that which is the last result of sin,
the worst of deaths, and the beginning of judgment--hardness of heart."
The farmer looked a little uncomfortable, and the Kyrkegrim went bravely
"Let us seek examples in Scripture. We will speak of Pharaoh."
But when the Kyrkegrim spoke of Pharaoh the farmer was at ease again.
And by-and-bye a film stole gently before his eyes, and he nodded in his
This made the Kyrkegrim very angry, for he did not wish to give up his
place, and yet a Niss may not break his word.
"Let us look at the punishment of Pharaoh," he cried. But the farmer's
eyes were still closed and the Kyrkegrim became agitated, and turned
hastily over the leaves of the iron-clamped Bible before him.
"We will speak of the plagues," said he. "The plague of blood, the
plague of frogs, the plague of lice, the plague of flies--"
At this moment the farmer snored.
For a brief instant, anger and dismay kept the Kyrkegrim silent. Then
shutting the iron clamps he pushed the Book on one side, and scrambling
on to a stool, stretched his little body well over the desk, and said,
"But these flies were as nothing to the fly that is coming in the
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the farmer sat suddenly
upright, and half rising from his place, cried anxiously, "Eh, what sir?
What does he say, wife? A new fly among the turnips?"
"Ah, soul of clay!" yelled the indignant Kyrkegrim, as he hurled his
round hat at the gaping farmer. "Is it indeed for such as thee that
Eternal Life is kept in store?"
And drawing the preacher's gown over his head, he left it in the pulpit,
and scrambling down the steps hastened out of church.
As he had been successful in rousing the sleepy farmer the Kyrkegrim did
not abandon his duties; but it is said that thenceforward he kept to
them alone, and left heavier responsibilities in higher hands.