The Day at the Castle
by Grace Greenwood
The Reverend Charles Rivers was the Rector of a small country parish in
the North of England. He was a good man, a true minister of Christ to
his people. He had a lovely wife, and four beautiful children, and
there was no happier or sweeter home in all the country round than the
modest little Rectory, embowered in ivy and climbing roses.
Four or five miles from the parish church, on a noble eminence, rise
the lofty towers of Glenmore Castle, which for centuries has been the
great family seat of the Lords of Glenmore. It is surrounded by
beautiful gardens, laid out in the French style, with hedges of box,
full ten feet high. Beyond these a noble wooded park stretches away on
all sides, for miles, taking in hill and valley, and a fairy little
lake. To the southward it is crossed by a lazy, loitering stream,
shadowed by willows, fringed with flags, and in the early summer
flecked by snowy water-lilies.
The Lord Glenmore of the time of my story was a handsome young
nobleman, married to a pretty London lady, very gay and fond of
splendor, but kind-hearted and gentle to every one.
Whenever Lord Glenmore came up from London to his northern
estate,—usually in the shooting season of the early autumn,—the happy
event was made known to his tenants and friends, by the running up of a
flag on the loftiest turret of the Castle.
Mr. Rivers had been his tutor, and his Lordship always hastened to
renew his intimacy with his old friend and instructor, for whom he had
a warm regard, running into the Rectory in his old, boyish,
unceremonious way, and frequently inviting the Rector and his wife to
dine at the Castle.
During one of these pleasant dinner-parties, Lord Glenmore, turning to
Mrs. Rivers, said: "I know from happy experience that you and your good
husband are always ready to lend a helping hand when one is in need.
Now Laura and I want a little help. We have had a rather embarrassing
arrival at the Castle,—the motherless little son and daughter of my
brother, Colonel Montford. They were sent over from India, at our
suggestion, but we hardly know what to do with them. They are shy and
homesick, and thus far have had little to say to any one but their
dusky old Ayah, their Indian nurse. Now, children can get on best with
children, and so, my dear madam, I beg that you will lend us
yours,—those charming little daughters, staid Margaret and roguish
Maud, and that fine lad Robert. As for wee Master Alfred, my baby
godson, I make no demand on him for the present. We think that if they
could spend a day at the Castle now and then, they would help to break
the ice between us and our unsocial little relations!"
Mr. and Mrs. Rivers willingly consented to their friends' request, and
the next day was fixed upon for the first visit, both Lord and Lady
Glenmore promising to do all in their power to entertain their young
Early on a lovely autumn morning the children at the Rectory were made
ready for the important visit. As soon as Lord Glenmore's carriage
appeared in sight, they ran into the nursery, their faces bright with
joyous anticipations, to bid their mamma good by. She was sitting with
the baby on her lap, and they all bent down to kiss "the dear little
fellow," ere they went.
"Why, mamma," said Margaret, "how hot Ally's lips are! is n't he well?"
"I am afraid not quite well," Mrs. Rivers replied; "he seems feverish.
Now, my dears, I hope you will be very good and gentle all day. You,
Margaret, must take good care of your sister, and Maud," she added, as
she bent forward to tie in a smoother knot the strings of the little
girl's hat, "you must not run quite wild with merriment. Robert, don't
put yourself on your dignity with young Montford, on account of his
shyness. Remember, almost everything is strange to him here, and he is
sad. I am sure he does not mean to be haughty."
"O yes," replied Robert, turning from the canine playfellow he was
affectionately patting, "I mean to treat him just the same as though he
were a true-born Briton. He isn't to blame for being only an
unfortunate Cawnpore boy, born among heathens and boa-constrictors and
Juggernauts, and not knowing how to skate, or make snowballs. Good by,
mamma, don't trouble yourself about me; I 'll carry myself 'this side
up with care.' By by, baby. No, no, old Rover, you can't come; you
would n't know how to behave with my lord's Italian greyhound, and my
lady's dainty King Charles Spaniel."
Mr. Rivers, after seeing the children off, entered the nursery, to find
his wife still troubled by the heat and crimson redness of the baby's
cheeks and lips, though the old Scotch nurse, who was holding him, said
cheerily: "Eh, dinna fash yoursel'. It's only a little teething fever,
the bairnie will soon be weel. Gang about your ain affairs, and trust
But the mother dared not leave the little one till he was asleep. He
slept very soundly until noon, and when he awoke it was evident that he
was seriously ill. Mrs. Rivers again took him on her lap, but to her
grief perceived that he did not seem to know her. Soon, his sweet blue
eyes were rolled upward, his brow contracted, his lips were set, and
his tender limbs grew rigid. Medical aid was called at once, but the
little sufferer passed from one spasm into another, till almost ere
physician and parents were aware that he was going, poor little Alfred
After the first wild burst of sorrow was over, Mr. Rivers said to his
wife, "Shall I send to the Castle for the children?"
"No, Charles," replied the good mother, "though I yearn for them
inexpressibly, I will not so sadly cut short their day of pleasure.
The night of sorrow will come speedily enough."
Early in the evening, Lord Glenmore's carriage came dashing through the
rustic gateway of the Rectory. Mr. Rivers was at the hall door
awaiting the children. Margaret noticed that her papa looked serious,
and that he kissed her with more than usual tenderness; but the others
were too much occupied with the pleasant stories they had to tell of
the day at the Castle, to remark on any change in him. They ran into
the silent house, laughing and chatting merrily. They found their
mamma in the little family parlor, sitting in the twilight, which
prevented them seeing that she was very pale, and that her eyes were
swollen with weeping.
They displayed before her presents of choice fruit and flowers from
Lady Glenmore, and some curious Indian toys which the little Montfords
had given them.
"O mamma," said Robert, "we have had such a glo-ri-ous day! Arthur
Montford and I got on famously together. I taught him all the English
plays I could think of, and he let me gallop about on his Shetland
pony,—a splendid wild one, mamma,—till I lost my hat, and was all out
of breath, and got thrown three times. Didn't hurt me, though.
Altogether, we had such prime sport, that I wished for that old Bible
hero, Aaron, no, Joshua, to command the sun to stand still, so that our
day would never end."
"And, mamma," broke in little Maud, "dear Lady Glenmore, and her
sister, Lady Fanny, played and sung for us, and showed us pictures and
jewels, and Alice Montford has got such a world of dolls, and her nurse
is such a dark, dark woman, and talks such a queer language, Latin, I
suppose. I did n't pretend to understand it, but I told Alice my papa
"Well, Margaret, dear," said Mr. Rivers, "what is your experience?"
"O papa, it was indeed a charming day; but the best part was while the
ladies were dressing for dinner, when Lord Glenmore took us girls down
to the little lake on the other side of the Castle; and he was so kind
in leading us along by the water, helping us over the bad places, and
plucking flowers for us. He even sat down with us in the grass, and
told us stories, while we made daisy-chains. Then he took us in his
boat on the lake, and rowed about, and, O mamma, what do you think! as
we were passing a thick clump of flags, he parted them with his oar,
and showed us a swan's nest! I thought of Mrs. Browning's poem of
little Ellie, and her 'Swan's Nest among the Reeds.' O, I had almost
forgot! Lord Glenmore intrusted to me the sweetest gift for baby
Alfred: see! this lovely coral necklace. He ordered it expressly from
London, for his little god-son, he said. That makes me think! how is
baby to-night, mamma?"
The time was come. Mrs. Rivers glanced at her husband; but he turned
away his head. He could not tell them. Then, calmly, though her voice
trembled a little, the mother began: "Listen, my darlings, I have
something important to tell you about baby."
The children gathered closer about her, and were very still.
"While you were away, a great Lord sent for little brother, too."
"What for? to adopt him as his heir?" asked Robert.
"Yes, my son; and Ally has gone to a mansion far grander than the
Castle, where the gardens are fairer, and the fields greener than any
you have ever seen; and, Robert, the sun never sets over that beautiful
"Did he go in a carriage with a coronet on it, and two powdered footmen
behind?" asked Maud.
"No, love; but gentle beings, more good and beautiful than those kind
ladies of the Castle, bore him away, and will tend him, lovingly."
"I think he will miss nurse Elspeth, and cry for her, and they will
have to send him home again," said poor, bewildered little Maud.
"Why, mamma," cried Margaret, "we can't spare baby to the greatest lord
"But, my daughter, to the 'Lord of lords' we must spare him. He will
'lead' him as you were led to-day, 'beside the still waters, and cause
him to lie down in pleasant pastures,' and our darling will never know
pain, nor hunger, nor sorrow."
"O mamma, mamma, I know what you mean now!—baby is dead!"
Then went up the children's united voices, like one sad wail, "Baby is
"Yes, my children," said their father, in a voice broken by grief, "our
precious little Alfred is gone. But, try to say, and try to help us
say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name
of the Lord.'"
The poor children could not say it then, for their bitter crying; but,
before they went to bed, they sobbed forth the sacred words, as they
knelt by the crib where little Ally lay, still, and very pale, dressed
in a snowy muslin frock, with his waxen hands clasped on his breast,
and holding a tiny white rose-bud, an emblem of his sinless little life.