Aunt Judy's Tales, by Mrs Alfred Gatty
TO THE “LITTLE ONES” IN MANY HOMES,
THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED.
The Little Victims
Vegetables out of Place
Out of the Way
Nothing to do by
THE LITTLE VICTIMS.
“Save our blessings, Master, save,
From the blight of thankless eye.”
There is not a more charming sight in the domestic world, than that
of an elder girl in a large family, amusing what are called the little
How could mamma have ventured upon that cosy nap in the arm-chair
by the fire, if she had been harassed by wondering what the children
were about? Whereas, as it was, she had overheard No. 8 begging
the one they all called “Aunt Judy,” to come and tell them
a story, and she had beheld Aunt Judy’s nod of consent; whereupon
she had shut her eyes, and composed herself to sleep quite complacently,
under the pleasant conviction that all things were sure to be in a state
of peace and security, so long as the children were listening to one
of those curious stories of Aunt Judy’s, in which, with so much
drollery and amusement, there was sure to be mixed up some odd scraps
of information, or bits of good advice.
So, mamma being asleep on one side of the fire, and papa reading the
newspaper on the other, Aunt Judy and No. 8 noiselessly left the room,
and repaired to the large red-curtained dining-room, where the former
sat down to concoct her story, while the latter ran off to collect the
little ones together.
In less than five minutes’ time there was a stream of noise along
the passage - a bursting open of the door, and a crowding round the
fire, by which Aunt Judy sat.
The “little ones” had arrived in full force and high expectation.
We will not venture to state their number. An order from Aunt
Judy, that they should take their seats quietly, was but imperfectly
obeyed; and a certain amount of hustling and grumbling ensued, which
betrayed a rather quarrelsome tendency.
At last, however, the large circle was formed, and the bright firelight
danced over sunny curls and eager faces. Aunt Judy glanced her
eye round the group; but whatever her opinion as an artist might have
been of its general beauty, she was by no means satisfied with the result
of her inspection.
“No. 6 and No. 7,” cried she, “you are not fit to
listen to a story at present. You have come with dirty hands.”
No. 6 frowned, and No. 7 broke out at once into a howl; he had washed
his hands ever so short a time ago, and had done nothing since but play
at knuckle-bones on the floor! Surely people needn’t wash
their hands every ten minutes! It was very hard!
Aunt Judy had rather a logical turn of mind, so she set about expounding
to the “little ones” in general, and to Nos. 6 and 7 in
particular, that the proper time for washing people’s hands was
when their hands were dirty; no matter how lately the operation had
been performed before. Such, at least, she said, was the custom
in England, and everyone ought to be proud of belonging to so clean
and respectable a country. She, therefore, insisted that Nos.
6 and 7 should retire up-stairs and perform the necessary ablution,
or otherwise they would be turned out, and not allowed to listen to
Nos. 6 and 7 were rather restive. The truth was, it had been one
of those unlucky days which now and then will occur in families, in
which everything seemed to be perverse and go askew. It was a
dark, cold, rainy day in November, and going out had been impossible.
The elder boys had worried, and the younger ones had cried. It
was Saturday too, and the maids were scouring in all directions, waking
every echo in the back-premises by the grating of sand-stone on the
flags; and they had been a good deal discomposed by the family effort
to play at “Wolf” in the passages. Mamma had been
at accounts all the morning, trying to find out some magical corner
in which expenses could be reduced between then and the arrival of Christmas
bills; and, moreover, it was a half-holiday, and the children had, as
they call it, nothing to do.
So Nos. 6 and 7, who had been vexed about several other little matters
before, during the course of the day, broke out now on the subject of
the washing of their hands.
Aunt Judy was inexorable however - inexorable though cool; and the rest
got impatient at the delay which the debate occasioned: so, partly by
coaxing, and partly by the threat of being shut out from hearing the
story, Nos. 6 and 7 were at last prevailed upon to go up-stairs and
wash their grim little paws into that delicate shell-like pink, which
is the characteristic of juvenile fingers when clean.
As they went out, however, they murmured, in whimpered tones, that they
were sure it was very hard!
After their departure, Aunt Judy requested the rest not to talk, and
a complete silence ensued, during which one or two of the youngest evidently
concluded that she was composing her story, for they stared at her with
all their might, as if to discover how she did it.
Meantime the rain beat violently against the panes, and the red curtains
swayed to and fro from the effect of the wind, which, in spite of tolerable
woodwork, found its way through the divisions of the windows.
There was something very dreary in the sound, and very odd in the varying
shades of red which appeared upon the curtains as they swerved backwards
and forwards in the firelight.
Several of the children observed it, but no one spoke until the footsteps
of Nos. 6 and 7 were heard approaching the door, on which a little girl
ventured to whisper, “I’m very glad I’m not out in
the wind and rain;” and a boy made answer, “Why, who would
be so silly as to think of going out in the wind and rain? Nobody,
At that moment Nos. 6 and 7 entered, and took their places on two little
Derby chairs, having previously showed their pink hands in sombre silence
to Aunt Judy, whereupon Aunt Judy turned herself so as to face the whole
group, and then began her story as follows:-
“There were once upon a time eight little Victims, who were shut
up in a large stone-building, where they were watched night and day
by a set of huge grown-up keepers, who made them do whatever they chose.”
“Don’t make it too sad, Aunt Judy,” murmured
No. 8, half in a tremble already.
“You needn’t be frightened, No. 8,” was the answer;
“my stories always end well.”
“I’m so glad,” chuckled No. 8 with a grin, as he clapped
one little fat hand down upon the other on his lap in complete satisfaction.
“Go on, please.”
“Was the large stone-building a prison, Aunt Judy?” inquired
“That depends upon your ideas of a prison,” answered Aunt
Judy. “What do you suppose a prison is?”
“Oh, a great big place with walls all round, where people are
locked up, and can’t go in and out as they choose.”
“Very well. Then I think you may be allowed to call the
place in which the little Victims were kept a prison, for it certainly
was a great big place with walls all round, and they were locked up
at night, and not allowed to go in and out as they chose.”
“Poor things,” murmured No. 8; but he consoled himself by
recollecting that the story was to end well.
“Aunt Judy, before you go on, do tell us what victims are?
Are they fairies, or what? I don’t know.”
This was the request of No. 5, who was rather more thoughtful than the
rest, and was apt now and then to delay a story by his inquiring turn
No. 6 was in a hurry to hear some more, and nudged No. 5 to make him
be quiet; but Aunt Judy interposed; said she did not like to tell stories
to people who didn’t care to know what they meant, and declared
that No. 5 was quite right in asking what a victim was.
“A victim,” said she, “was the creature which the
old heathens used to offer up as a sacrifice, after they had gained
a victory in battle. You all remember I dare say,” continued
she, “what a sacrifice is, and have heard about Abel’s sacrifice
of the firstlings of his flock.”
The children nodded assent, and Aunt Judy went on:-
“No such sacrifices are ever offered up now by us Christians,
and so there are no more real victims now. But we still
use the word, and call any creature a victim who is ill-used, or hurt,
or destroyed by somebody else.
“If you, any of you, were to worry or kill the cat, for instance,
then the cat would be called the victim of your cruelty; and
in the same manner the eight little Victims I am going to tell you about
were the victims of the whims and cruel prejudices of those who had
the charge of them.
“And now, before I proceed any further, I am going to establish
a rule, that whenever I tell you anything very sad about the little
Victims, you shall all of you groan aloud together. So groan here,
if you please, now that you quite understand what a victim is.”
Aunt Judy glanced round the circle, and they all groaned together to
order, led off by Nos. 3 and 4, who did not, it must be owned, look
in a very mournful state while they performed the ceremony.
It was wonderful what good that groan did them all! It seemed
to clear off half the troubles of the day, and at its conclusion a smile
was visible on every face.
Aunt Judy then proceeded:-
“I do not want to make you cry too much, but I will tell you of
the miseries the captive victims underwent in the course of one single
day, and then you will be able to judge for yourselves what a life they
“One of their heaviest miseries happened every evening.
It was the misery of going to bed. Perhaps now you may
think it sounds odd that going to bed should be called a misery.
But you shall hear how it was.
“In the evening, when all the doors were safely locked and bolted,
so that no one could get away, the little Victims were summoned down-stairs,
and brought into a room where some of the keepers were sure to be sitting
in the greatest luxury. There was generally a warm fire on the
hearth, and a beautiful lamp on the table, which shed an agreeable light
around, and made everything look so pretty and gay, the hearts of the
poor innocent Victims always rose at the sight.
“Sometimes there would be a huge visitor or two present, who would
now and then take the Victims on their knees, and say all manner of
entertaining things to them. Or there would be nice games for
them to play at. Or the keepers themselves would kiss them, and
call them kind names, as if they really loved them. How nice all
this sounds, does it not? And it would have been nice, if the
keepers would but have let it last for ever. But that was just
the one thing they never would do, and the consequence was, that, whatever
pleasure they might have had, the wretched Victims always ended by being
dissatisfied and sad.
“And how could it be otherwise? Just when they were at the
height of enjoyment, just when everything was most delightful, a horrible
knock was sure to be heard at the door, the meaning of which they all
knew but too well. It was the knock which summoned them to bed;
and at such a moment you cannot wonder that going to bed was felt to
be a misfortune.
“Had there been a single one among them who was sleepy, or tired,
or ready for bed, there would have been some excuse for the keepers;
but as it was, there was none, for the little Victims never knew what
it was to feel tired or weary on those occasions, and were always carried
forcibly away before that feeling came on.
“Of course, when the knock was heard, they would begin to cry,
and say that it was very hard, and that they didn’t want to
go to bed, and one went so far once as to add that she wouldn’t
go to bed.
“But it was all in vain. The little Victims might as well
have attempted to melt a stone wall as those hard-hearted beings who
had the charge of them.
“And now, my dears,” observed Aunt Judy, stopping in her
account, “this is of all others the exact moment at which you
ought to show your sympathy with the sufferers, and groan.”
The little ones groaned accordingly, but in a very feeble manner.
Aunt Judy shook her head.
“That groan is not half hearty enough for such a misery.
Don’t you think, if you tried hard, you could groan a little louder?”
They did try, and succeeded a little better, but cast furtive glances
at each other immediately after.
“Were the beds very uncomfortable ones, Aunt Judy?” inquired
No. 8, in a subdued voice.
“You shall judge for yourself,” was the answer. “They
were raised off the floor upon legs, so that no wind from under the
door could get at them; and on the flat bottom called the bed-stock,
there was placed a thick strong bag called a mattress, which was stuffed
with some soft material which made it springy and pleasant to touch
or lie down upon. The shape of it was a long square, or what may
be called a rectangular parallelogram. I strongly advise you all
to learn that word, for it is rather an amusing idea as one steps into
bed, to think that one is going to sleep upon a parallelogram.”
Nos. 3 and 4 were here unable to contain themselves, but broke into
a peal of laughter. The little ones stared.
“Well,” resumed Aunt Judy, “for my part, I think it’s
a very nice thing to learn the ins and outs of one’s own life;
to consider how one’s bed is made, and the why and wherefore of
its shape and position. It is a great pity to get so accustomed
to things as not to know their value till we lose them! But to
“On the top of this parallelogramatic mattress was laid a soft
blanket. On the top of that blanket, two white sheets. On
the top of the sheets, two or more warm blankets, and on the top of
the blankets, a spotted cover called a counterpane.
“Now it was between the sheets that each little Victim was laid,
and such were the receptacles to which they were unwillingly consigned,
night after night of their lives!
“But I have not yet told you half the troubles of this dreadful
‘going to bed.’ A good fire with a large tub before
it, and towels hung over the fender, was always the first sight which
met the tearful eyes of the little Victims as they entered the nursery
after being torn from the joys of the room down-stairs. And then,
lo and behold! a new misery began, for, whether owing to the fatigue
of getting up-stairs, or that their feelings had been so much hurt,
they generally discovered at this moment that they were one and all
so excessively tired, they didn’t know what to do; - of all things,
did not choose to be washed - and insisted, each of them, on being put
to bed first! But let them say what they would, and cry afresh
as they pleased, and even snap and snarl at each other like so many
small terriers, those cruel keepers of theirs never would grant their
requests; never would put any of them to bed dirty, and always declared
that it was impossible to put each of them to bed first!
Imagine now the feelings of those who had to wait round the fire while
the others were attended to! Imagine the weariness, the disgust,
before the whole party was finished, and put by for the night!”
Aunt Judy paused, but no one spoke.
“What!” cried she suddenly, “will nobody groan?
Then I must groan myself!” which she did, and a most unearthly
noise she made; so much so, that two or three of the little ones turned
round to look at the swelling red curtains, just to make sure the howl
did not proceed from thence.
After which Aunt Judy continued her tale:-
“So much for night and going to bed, about which there is nothing
more to relate, as the little Victims were uncommonly good sleepers,
and seldom awoke till long after daylight.
“Well now, what do you think? By the time they had had a
good night, they felt so comfortable in their beds, that they were quite
contented to remain there; and then, of course, their tormentors never
rested till they had forced them to get up! Poor little things!
Just think of their being made to go to bed at night, when they most
disliked it, and then made to get up in the morning, when they wanted
to stay in bed! It certainly was, as they always said, ‘very,
very hard.’ This was, of course, a winter misery, when the
air was so frosty and cold that it was very unpleasant to jump out into
it from a warm nest. Terrible scenes took place on these occasions,
I assure you, for sometimes the wretched Victims would sit shivering
on the floor, crying over their socks and shoes instead of putting them
on, (which they had no spirit for,) and then the savage creatures who
managed them would insult them by irritating speeches.
“‘Come, Miss So-and-So,’ one would say, ‘don’t
sit fretting there; there’s a warm fire, and a nice basin of bread-and-milk
waiting for you, if you will only be quick and get ready.’
“Get ready! a nice order indeed! It meant that they must
wash themselves and be dressed before they would be allowed to touch
a morsel of food.
“But it is of no use dwelling on the unfeelingness of those keepers.
One day one of them actually said:-
“‘If you knew what it was to have to get up without a fire
to come to, and without a breakfast to eat, you would leave off grumbling
“Nothing! they called it nothing to have to get
out of a warm bed into the fresh morning air, and dress before breakfast!
“Well, my dears,” pursued Aunt Judy, after waiting here
a few seconds, to see if anybody would groan, “I shall take it
for granted you feel for the getting-up misery as well as the
going-to-bed one, although you have not groaned as I expected.
I will just add, in conclusion, that the summer getting-up misery
was just the reverse of this winter one. Then the poor little
wretches were expected to wait till their nursery was dusted and swept;
so there they had to lie, sometimes for half-an-hour, with the sun shining
in upon them, not allowed to get up and come out into the dirt and dust!
“Of course, on those occasions they had nothing to do but squabble
among themselves and teaze; and I assure you they had every now and
then a very pleasant little revenge on their keepers, for they half
worried them out of their lives by disturbances and complaints, and
at any rate that was some comfort to them, although very often it hindered
the nursery from being done half as soon as it would have been if they
had been quiet.
“I shall not have time to tell of everything,” continued
Aunt Judy, “so I must hurry over the breakfast, although the keepers
contrived to make even that miserable, by doing all they could to prevent
the little Victims from spilling their food on the table and floor,
and also by insisting on the poor little things sitting tolerably upright
on their seats - not lolling with both elbows on the table-cloth
- not making a mess - not, in short, playing any of those innocent
little pranks in which young creatures take delight.
“It was a pitiable spectacle, as you may suppose, to see reasonable
beings constrained against their inclinations to sit quietly while they
ate their hearty morning meal, which really, perhaps, they might have
enjoyed, had they been allowed to amuse themselves in their own fashion
at the same time.
“But I must go on now to that great misery of the day, which I
shall call the lesson misery.
“Now you must know, the little Victims were all born, as young
kids, lambs, kittens, and puppy-dogs are, with a decided liking for
jumping about and playing all day long. Think, therefore, what
their sufferings were when they were placed in chairs round a table,
and obliged to sit and stare at queer looking characters in books until
they had learned to know them what was called by heart.
It was a very odd way of describing it, for I am sure they had often
no heart in the matter, unless it was a hearty dislike.
“‘Tommy Brown in the village never learns any lessons,’
cried one of them once to the creature who was teaching him, ‘why
should I? He is always playing at oyster-dishes in the gutter
when I see him, and enjoying himself. I wish I might enjoy
“Poor Victim! He little thought what a tiresome lecture
this clever remark of his would bring on his devoted head!
“Don’t ask me to repeat it. It amounted merely to
this, that twenty years hence he would he very glad he had learnt something
else besides making oyster-dishes in the streets. As if that signified
to him now! As if it took away the nuisance of having to learn
at the present moment, to be told it would be of use hereafter!
What was the use of its being of use by-and-by?
“So thought the little Victim, young as he was; so, said he, in
a muttering voice:-
“‘I don’t care about twenty years hence; I want to
be happy now!’
“This was unanswerable, as you may suppose; so the puzzled teacher
didn’t attempt to make a reply, but said:-
“‘Go on with your lessons, you foolish little boy!’
“See what it is to be obstinate,” pursued Aunt Judy.
“See how it blinds people’s eyes, and prevents them from
knowing right from wrong! Pray take warning, and never be obstinate
yourselves; and meantime, let us have a good hearty groan for the lesson
The little ones obeyed, and breathed out a groan that seemed to come
from the very depths of their hearts; but somehow or other, as the story
proceeded, the faces looked rather less amused, and rather more anxious,
than at first.
What could the little ones be thinking about to make them grave?
It was evidently quite a relief when Aunt Judy went on:-
“You will be very much surprised, I dare say,” said she,
“to hear of the next misery I am going to tell you about.
It may be called the dinner misery, and the little Victims underwent
it every day.”
“Did they give them nasty things to eat, Aunt Judy?” murmured
No. 8, very anxiously.
“More likely not half enough,” suggested No. 5.
“But you promised not to make the story too sad, remember!”
observed No. 6.
“I did,” replied Aunt Judy, “and the dinner misery
did not consist in nasty food, or there not being enough. They
had plenty to eat, I assure you, and everything was good. But
Aunt Judy stopped short, and glanced at each of the little ones in succession.
“Make haste, Aunt Judy!” cried No. 8. “But what?”
“But,” resumed Aunt Judy, in her most impressive
tone, “they had to wait between the courses.”
Again Aunt Judy paused, and there was a looking hither and thither among
the little ones, and a shuffling about on the small Derby chairs, while
one or two pairs of eyes were suddenly turned to the fire, as if watching
it relieved a certain degree of embarrassment which their owners began
“It is not every little boy or girl,” was Aunt Judy’s
next remark, “who knows what the courses of a dinner are.”
“I don’t,” interposed No. 8, in a distressed
voice, as if he had been deeply injured.
“Oh, you think not? Well, not by name, perhaps,” answered
Aunt Judy. “But I will explain. The courses of a dinner
are the different sorts of food, which follow each other one after the
other, till dinner is what people call ‘over.’ Thus,
supposing a dinner was to begin with pea-soup, as you have sometimes
seen it do, you would expect when it was taken away to see some meat
put upon the table, should you not?”
The little ones nodded assent.
“And after the meat was gone, you would expect pie or pudding,
They nodded assent again, and with a smile.
“And if after the pudding was carried away, you saw some cheese
and celery arrive, it would not startle you very much, would it?”
The little ones did nothing but laugh.
“Very well,” pursued Aunt Judy, “such a dinner as
we have been talking about consists of four courses. The soup
course, the meat course, the pudding course, and the cheese course.
And it was while one course was being carried out, and another fetched
in, that the little Victims had to wait; and that was the dinner
misery I spoke about, and a very grievous affair it was. Sometimes
they had actually to wait several minutes, with nothing to do but to
fidget on their chairs, lean backwards till they toppled over, or forward
till some accident occurred at the table. And then, poor little
things, if they ventured to get out their knuckle-bones for a game,
or took to a little boxing amusement among themselves, or to throwing
the salt in each other’s mugs, or pelting each other with bits
of bread, or anything nice and entertaining, down came those merciless
keepers on their innocent mirth, and the old stupid order went round
for sitting upright and quiet. Nothing that I can say about it
would be half as expressive as what the little Victims used to say themselves.
They said that it was ‘so very hard.’
“Now, then, a good groan for the dinner misery,”
exclaimed Aunt Judy in conclusion.
The order was obeyed, but somewhat reluctantly, and then Aunt Judy proceeded
with her tale.
“On one occasion of the dinner misery,” resumed she,
“there happened to be a stranger lady present, who seemed to be
very much shocked by what the Victims had to undergo, and to pity them
very much; so she said she would set them a nice little puzzle to amuse
them till the second course arrived. But now, what do you think
the puzzle was? It was a question, and this was it. ‘Which
is the harder thing to bear - to have to wait for your dinner, or to
have no dinner to wait for?’
“I do not think the little Victims would have quite known what
the stranger lady meant, if she had not explained herself; for you see
they had never gone without dinner in their lives, so they had
not an idea what sort of a feeling it was to have no dinner to wait
for. But she went on to tell them what it was like as well
as she could. She described to them little Tommy Brown, (whom
they envied so much for having no lessons to do,) eating his potatoe
soaked in the dripping begged at the squire’s back-door, without
anything else to wait - or hope for. She told them that he
was never teazed as to how he sat, or even whether he sat or stood,
and then she asked them if they did not think he was a very happy little
boy? He had no trouble or bother, but just ate his rough morsel
in any way he pleased, and then was off, hungry or not hungry, into
the streets again.
“To tell you the truth,” pursued Aunt Judy, “the Victims
did not know what to say to the lady’s account of little Tommy
Brown’s happiness; but as the roast meat came in just as it concluded,
perhaps that diverted their attention. However, after they had
all been helped, it was suddenly observed that one of them would not
begin to eat. He sat with his head bent over his plate, and his
cheeks growing redder and redder, till at last some one asked what was
amiss, and why he would not go on with his dinner, on which he sobbed
out that he had ‘much rather it was taken to little Tommy Brown!’”
“That was a very good little Victim, wasn’t he?”
asked No. 8.
“But what did the keepers say?” inquired No. 5, rather anxiously.
“Oh,” replied Aunt Judy, “it was soon settled that
Tommy Brown was to have the dinner, which made the little Victim so
happy, he actually jumped for joy. On which the stranger lady
told them she hoped they would henceforth always ask themselves her
curious question whenever they sat down to a good meal again.
‘For,’ said she, ‘my dears, it will teach you to be
thankful; and you may take my word for it, it is always the ungrateful
people who are the most miserable ones.’”
“Oh, Aunt Judy!” here interposed No. 6, somewhat vehemently,
“you need not tell any more! I know you mean us by
the little Victims! But you don’t think we really mean
to be ungrateful about the beds, or the dinners, or anything, do
There was a melancholy earnestness in the tone of the inquiry, which
rather grieved Aunt Judy, for she knew it was not well to magnify childish
faults into too great importance: so she took No. 6 on her knee, and
assured her she never imagined such a thing as their being really ungrateful,
for a moment. If she had, she added, she should not have turned
their little ways into fun, as she had done in the story.
No. 6 was comforted somewhat on hearing this, but still leant her head
on Aunt Judy’s shoulder in a rather pensive state.
“I wonder what makes one so tiresome,” mused the meditative
No. 5, trying to view the matter quite abstractedly, as if he himself
was in no way concerned in it.
“Thoughtlessness only,” replied Aunt Judy, smiling.
“I have often heard mamma say it is not ingratitude in children
when they don’t think about the comforts they enjoy every
day; because the comforts seem to them to come, like air and sunshine,
as a mere matter of course.”
“Really?” exclaimed No. 6, in a quite hopeful tone.
“Does mamma really say that?”
Yes; but then you know,” continued Aunt Judy, “everybody
has to be taught to think by degrees, and then they get to know that
no comforts ever do really come to anybody as a matter of course.
No, not even air and sunshine; but every one of them as blessings permitted
by God, and which, therefore, we have to be thankful for. So you
see we have to learn to be thankful as we have to learn everything
else, and mamma says it is a lesson that never ends, even for grown-up
“And now you understand, No. 6, that you - oh! I beg pardon,
I mean the little Victims - were not really ungrateful, but only
thoughtless; and the wonderful stranger lady did something to cure them
of that, and, in fact, proved a sort of Aunt Judy to them; for she explained
things in such a very entertaining manner, that they actually began
to think the matter over; and then they left off being stupid and unthankful.
“But this reminds me,” added Aunt Judy, “that you
- tiresome No. 6 - have spoilt my story after all! I had not half
got to the end of the miseries. For instance, there was the taking-care
misery, in consequence of which the little Victims were sent out
to play on a fine day, and kept in when it was stormy and wet, all because
those stupid keepers were more anxious to keep them well in health than
to please them at the moment.
“And then there was - above all - ” here Aunt Judy became
very impressive, “the washing misery, which consisted in
their being obliged to make themselves clean and comfortable with soap
and water whenever they happened to be dirty, whether with playing at
knuckle-bones on the floor, or anything else, and which was considered
so hard that - ”
But here a small hand was laid on Aunt Judy’s mouth, and a gentle
voice said, “Stop, Aunt Judy, now!” on which the rest shouted,
“Stop! stop! we won’t hear any more,” in chorus, until
all at once, in the midst of the din, there sounded outside the door
the ominous knocking, which announced the hour of repose to the juvenile
branches of the family.
It was a well-known summons, but on this occasion produced rather an
unusual effect. First, there was a sudden profound silence, and
pause of several seconds; then an interchange of glances among the little
ones; then a breaking out of involuntary smiles upon several young faces;
and at last a universal “Good-night, Aunt Judy!” very quietly
and demurely spoken.
“If the little Victims were only here to see how you behave
over the going-to-bed misery, what a lesson it would be!”
suggested Aunt Judy, with a mischievous smile.
“Ah, yes, yes, we know, we know!” was the only reply, and
it came from No. 8, who took advantage of being the youngest to be more
saucy than the rest.
Aunt Judy now led the little party into the drawing-room to bid their
father and mother good-night too. And certainly when the door
was opened, and they saw how bright and cosy everything looked, in the
light of the fire and the lamps, with mamma at the table, wide awake
and smiling, they underwent a fearful twinge of the going-to-bed
misery. But they checked all expression of their feelings.
Of course, mamma asked what Aunt Judy’s story had been about,
and heard; and heard, too, No. 6’s little trouble lest she should
have been guilty of the sin of real ingratitude; and, of course, mamma
applauded Aunt Judy’s explanation about the want of thought, very
“But, mamma,” said No. 6 to her mother, “Aunt Judy
said something about grown-up people having to learn to be thankful.
Surely you and papa never cry for nonsense, and things you can’t
“Ah, my darling No. 6,” cried mamma earnestly, “grown-up
people may not cry for what they want exactly, but they are just
as apt to wish for what they cannot have, as you little ones are.
For instance, grown-up people would constantly like to have life made
easier and more agreeable to them, than God chooses it to be.
They would like to have a little more wealth, perhaps, or a little more
health, or a little more rest, or that their children should always
be good and clever, and well and happy. And while they are thinking
and fretting about the things they want, they forget to be thankful
for those they have. I am often tempted in this way myself, dear
No. 6; so you see Aunt Judy is right, and the lesson of learning to
be thankful never ends, even for grown-up people.
“One other word before you go. I dare say you little ones
think we grown-up people are quite independent, and can do just as we
like. But it is not so. We have to learn to submit to the
will of the great Keeper of Heaven and earth, without understanding
it, just as Aunt Judy’s little Victims had to submit to their
keepers without knowing why. So thank Aunt Judy for her story,
and let us all do our best to be obedient and contented.”
“When I am old enough, mother,” remarked No. 7, in his peculiarly
mild and deliberate way of speaking, and smiling all the time, “I
think I shall put Aunt Judy into a story. Don’t you think
she would make a capital Ogre’s wife, like the one in ‘Jack
and the Bean-Stalk,’ who told Jack how to behave, and gave him
It was a difficult question to say “No” to, so mamma kissed
No. 7, instead of answering him, and No. 7 smiled himself away, with
his head full of the bright idea.
VEGETABLES OUT OF PLACE.
“But any man that walks the mead,
In bud or blade, or bloom, may find,
According as his humours lead,
A meaning suited to his mind.”
It was a fine May morning. Not one of those with an east wind
and a bright sun, which keep people in a puzzle all as day to whether
it is hot or cold, and cause endless nursery disputes about the keeping
on of comforters and warm coats, whenever a hoop-race, or some such
active exertion, has brought a universal puggyness over the juvenile
frame - but it was a really mild, sweet-scented day, when it is quite
a treat to be out of doors, whether in the gardens, the lanes, or the
fields, and when nothing but a holland jacket is thought necessary by
even the most tiresomely careful of mammas.
It was not a day which anybody would have chosen to be poorly upon;
but people have no choice in such matters, and poor little No. 7, of
our old friends “the little ones,” was in bed ill of the
The wise old Bishop, Jeremy Taylor, told us long ago, how well children
generally bear sickness. “They bear it,” he says,
“by a direct sufferance;” that is to say, they submit to
just what discomfort exists at the moment, without fidgetting about
either a cause or a consequence,” and decidedly without fretting
about what is to come.
For a grown-up person to attain to the same state of unanxious resignation,
is one of the high triumphs of Christian faith. It is that “delivering
one’s self up,” of which the poor speak so forcibly on their
No. 7 proved a charming instance of the truth of Jeremy Taylor’s
remark. He behaved in the most composed manner over his feelings,
and even over his physic.
During the first day or two, when he sat shivering by the fire, reading
“Neill D’Arcy’s Life at Sea,” and was asked
how he felt, he answered with his usual smile; “Oh, all right;
only a little cold now and then.” And afterwards, when he
was in bed in a darkened room, and the same question was put, he replied
almost as quietly, (though without the smile,) “Oh - only a little
Then over the medicine, he contested nothing. He made, indeed,
one or two by no means injudicious suggestions, as to the best method
of having the disagreeable material, whether powdery or oleaginous,
(I will not particularize further!) conveyed down his throat: commonly
said, “Thank you,” even before he had swallowed it; and
then shut his eyes, and kept himself quiet.
Fortunately No. 1, and Schoolboy No. 3, had had the complaint as well
as papa and mamma, so there were plenty to share in the nursing and
house matters. The only question was, what was to be done with
the little ones while Nurse was so busy; and Aunt Judy volunteered her
services in their behalf.
Now it will easily be supposed, after what I have said, that the nursing
was not at all a difficult undertaking; but I am grieved to say that
Aunt Judy’s task was by no means so easy a one.
The little ones were very sorry, it is true, that No. 7 was poorly;
but, unluckily, they forgot it every time they went either up-stairs
or down. They could not bear in their minds the fact, that when
they encouraged the poodle to bark after an India-rubber ball, he was
pretty sure to wake No. 7 out of a nap; and, in short, the day being
so fine, and the little ones so noisy, Aunt Judy packed them all off
into their gardens to tidy them up, she herself taking her station in
a small study, the window of which looked out upon the family play-ground.
Her idea, perhaps, was, that she could in this way combine the prosecution
of her own studies, with enacting policeman over the young gardeners,
and “keeping the peace,” as she called it. But if
so, she was doomed to disappointment.
The operation of “tidying up gardens,” as performed by a
set of “little ones,” scarcely needs description.
It consists of a number of alterations being thought of, and set about,
not one of which is ever known to be finished by those who begin them.
It consists of everybody wanting the rake at the same moment, and of
nobody being willing to use the other tools, which they call stupid
and useless things. It consists of a great many plants being moved
from one place to another, when they are in full flower, and dying in
consequence. (But how, except when they are in flower, can anyone
judge where they will look best?) It consists of a great many
seeds being prevented from coming up at all, by an “alteration”
cutting into the heart of the patch just as they were bursting their
shells for a sprout. It consists of an unlimited and fatal application
of the cold-water cure.
And, finally, it results in such a confusion between foot-walks and
beds - such a mixture of earth and gravel, and thrown-down tools - that
anyone unused to the symptoms of the case, might imagine that the door
of the pigsty in the yard had been left open, and that its inhabitant
had been performing sundry uncouth gambols with his nose in the little
Aunt Judy was quite aware of these facts, and she had accordingly laid
down several rules, and given several instructions to prevent the usual
catastrophe; and all went very smoothly at first in consequence.
The little ones went out all hilarity and delight, and divided the tools
with considerable show of justice, while Aunt Judy nodded to them approvingly
out of her window, and then settled down to an interesting sum in that
most peculiar of all arithmetical rules, “The Rule of False,”
the principle of which is, that out of two errors, made by yourself
from two wrong guesses, you arrive at a discovery of the truth!
When Aunt Judy first caught sight of this rule, a few days before, at
the end of an old summing-book, it struck her fancy at once. The
principle of it was capable of a much more general application than
to the “Rule of False,” and she amused herself by studying
It is, no doubt, a clumsy substitute for algebra; but young folks who
have not learnt algebra, will find it a very entertaining method of
making out all such sums as the following old puzzler, over which Aunt
Judy was now poring:
“There is a certain fish, whose head is 9 inches in length, his
tail as long as his head and half of his back, and his back as long
as both head and tail together. Query, the length of the fish?”
But Aunt Judy was not left long in peace with her fish. While
she was in the thick of “suppositions” and “errors,”
a tap came at the window.
“Stop!” was the answer; and the hand of the speaker went
up, with the slate-pencil in it, enforcing silence while she pursued
“Say, back 42 inches; then tail (half back) 21, and head given,
9, that’s 30, and 30 and 9, 39 back. - Won’t do! Second
error: three inches - What’s the matter, No. 6? You surely
have not begun to quarrel already?”
“Oh, no,” answered No. 6, with her nose flattened against
the window-pane. “But please, Aunt Judy, No. 8 won’t
have the oyster-shell trimming round his garden any longer, he says;
he says it looks so rubbishy. But as my garden joins his down
the middle, if he takes away the oyster-shells all round his, then one
of my sides - the one in the middle, I mean - will be left bare,
don’t you see? and I want to keep the oyster-shells all round
may garden, because mamma says there are still some zoophytes upon them.
So how is it to be?”
What a perplexity! The fish with his nine-inch head, and his tail
as long as his head and half of his back, was a mere nothing to it.
Aunt Judy threw open the window.
“My dear No. 6,” answered she, “yours is the great
boundary-line question about which nations never do agree, but go squabbling
on till some one has to give way first. There is but one plan
for settling it, and that is, for each of you to give up a piece of
your gardens to make a road to run between. Now if you’ll
both give way at once, and consent to this, I will come out to you myself,
and leave my fish till the evening. It’s much too fine to
stay in doors, I feel; and I can give you all something real to do.”
“I’ll give way, I’m sure, Aunt Judy,”
cried No. 6, quite glad to be rid of the dispute; “and so will
you, won’t you, No. 8?” she added, appealing to that young
gentleman, who stood with his pinafore full of dirty oyster-shells,
not quite understanding the meaning of what was said.
“I’ll what?” inquired he.
“Oh, never mind! Only throw the oyster-shells down, and
come with Aunt Judy. It will be much better fun than staying here.”
No. 8 lowered his pinafore at the word of command, and dropped the discarded
oyster-shells, one by one - where do you think? - why - right into the
middle of his little garden! an operation which seemed to be particularly
agreeable to him, if one might judge by his face. He was not sorry
either to be relieved from the weight.
“You see, Aunt Judy,” continued No. 6 to her sister, who
had now joined them, “it doesn’t so much matter about the
oyster-shell trimming; but No. 8’s garden is always in such a
mess, that I must have a wall or something between us!”
“You shall have a wall or a path decidedly,” replied Aunt
Judy: “a road is the next best thing to a river for a boundary-line.
But now, all of you, pick up the tools and come with me, and you shall
do some regular work, and be paid for it at the rate of half-a-farthing
for every half hour. Think what a magnificent offer!”
The little ones thought so in reality, and welcomed the arrangement
with delight, and trudged off behind Aunt Judy, calculating so hard
among themselves what their conjoint half-farthings would come to, for
the half-hours they all intended to work, and furthermore, what amount
or variety of “goodies” they would purchase, that Aunt Judy
half fancied herself back in the depths of the “Rule of False”
She led them at last to a pretty shrubbery-walk, of which they were
all very fond. On one side of it was a quick-set hedge, in which
the honeysuckle was mixed so profusely with the thorn, that they grew
and were clipped together.
It was the choicest spot for a quiet evening stroll in summer that could
possibly be imagined. The sweet scent from the honeysuckle flowers
stole around you with a welcome as you moved along, and set you a dreaming
of some far-off region where the delicious sensations produced by the
odour of flowers may not be as transient as they are here.
There was an alcove in the middle of the walk - not one of the modern
mockeries of rusticity - but a real old-fashioned lath-and-plaster concern,
such as used to be erected in front of a bowling-green. It was
roofed in, was open only on the sunny side, and was supported by a couple
of little Ionic pillars, up which clematis and passion-flower were studiously
There was a table as well as seats within; and the alcove was a very
nice place for either reading or drawing in, as it commanded a pretty
view of the distant country. It was also, and perhaps especially,
suited to the young people in their more poetical and fanciful moods.
The little ones had no sooner reached the entrance of the favourite
walk, than they scampered past Aunt Judy to run a race; but No. 6 stopped
“Aunt Judy, look at these horrible weeds! Ah! I do believe
this is what you have brought us here for!”
It was indeed; for some showers the evening before, had caused them
to flourish in a painfully prominent manner, and the favourite walk
presented a somewhat neglected appearance.
So Aunt Judy marked it off for the little ones to weed, repeated the
exhilarating promise of the half-farthings, and seated herself in the
alcove to puzzle out the length of the fish.
At first it was rather amusing to hear, how even in the midst of their
weeding, the little ones pursued their calculations of the anticipated
half-farthings, and discussed the niceness and prices of the various
descriptions of “goodies.”
But by degrees, less and less was said; and at last, the half-farthings
and “goodies” seemed altogether forgotten, and a new idea
to arise in their place.
The new idea was, that this weeding-task was uncommonly troublesome!
“I’m sure there are many more weeds in my piece than in
anybody else’s!” remarked the tallest of the children, standing
up to rest his rather tired back, and contemplate the walk. “I
don’t think Aunt Judy measured it out fair!”
“Well, but you’re the biggest, and ought to do the most,”
responded No. 6.
“A little the most is all very well,” persisted No.
5; “but I’ve got too much the most rather - and it’s
very tiresome work.”
“What nonsense!” rejoined No. 6. “I don’t
believe the weeds are any thicker in your piece than in mine.
Look at my big heap. And I’m sure I’m quite as tired
as you are.”
No. 6 got up as she spoke, to see how matters were going on; not at
all sorry either, to change her position.
“I’ve got the most,” muttered No. 8
to himself, still kneeling over his work.
But this was, it is to be feared, a very unjustifiable bit of brag.
“If you go on talking so much, you will not get any half-farthings
at all!” shouted No. 4, from the distance.
A pause followed this warning, and the small party ducked down again
to their work.
They no longer liked it, however; and very soon afterwards the jocose
No. 5 observed, in subdued tones to the others:-
“I wonder what the little victims would have said to this
kind of thing?”
“They’d have hated it,” answered No. 6, very decidedly.
The fact was, the little ones were getting really tired, for the fine
May morning had turned into a hot day; and in a few minutes more, a
still further aggravation of feeling took place.
No. 6 got up again, shook the gravel from her frock, blew it off her
hands, pushed back a heap of heavy curls from her face, set her hat
as far back on her head as she could, and exclaimed:-
“I wish there were no such things as weeds in the world!”
Everybody seemed struck with this impressive sentiment, for they all
left off weeding at once, and Aunt Judy came forward to the front of
“Don’t you, Aunt Judy?” added No. 6, feeling sure
her sister had heard.
“Not I, indeed,” answered Aunt Judy, with a comical smile:
“I’m too fond of cream to my tea.”
“Cream to your tea, Aunt Judy? What can that have to do
The little ones were amazed.
“Something,” at any rate, responded Aunt Judy; “and
if you like to come in here, and sit down, I will tell you how.”
Away went hoes and weeding-knives at once, and into the alcove they
rushed; and never had garden-seats felt so thoroughly comfortable before.
“If one begins to wish,” suggested No. 5, stretching his
legs out to their full extent, “one may as well wish oneself a
grand person with a lot of gardeners to clear away the weeds as fast
as they come up, and save one the trouble.”
“Much better wish them away, and save everybody the trouble,”
persisted No. 6.
“No: one wants them sometimes.”
“What an idea! Who ever wants weeds?”
“I? What nonsense!”
But the persevering No. 5 proceeded to explain. No. 6 had asked
him a few days before to bring her some groundsel for her canary, and
he had been quite disappointed at finding none in the garden.
He had actually to “trail” into the lanes to fetch a bit.
This was a puzzling statement; so No. 6 contented herself with grumbling
“Weeds are welcome to grow in the lanes.”
“Weeds are not always weeds in the lanes,” persisted No.
5, with a grin: “they’re sometimes wild-flowers.”
“I don’t care what they are,” pouted No. 6.
“I wish I lived in a place where there were none.”
“And I wish I was a great man, with lots of gardeners to take
them up, instead of me,” maintained No. 5, who was in a mood of
lazy tiresomeness, and kept rocking to and fro on the garden-chair,
with his hands tucked under his thighs. “A weed - a weed,”
continued he; “what is a weed, I wonder? Aunt Judy, what
is a weed?”
Aunt Judy had surely been either dreaming or cogitating during the last
few minutes, for she had taken no notice of what was said, but she roused
up now, and answered:-
“A vegetable out of its place.”
“A vegetable,” repeated No. 5, “why we don’t
eat them, Aunt Judy.”
“You kitchen-garden interpreter, who said we did?” replied
she. “All green herbs are vegetables, let me tell
you, whether we eat them or not.”
“Oh, I see,” mused No. 5, quietly enough, but in another
instant he broke out again.
“I’ll tell you what though, some of them are real vegetables,
I mean kitchen-garden vegetables, to other creatures, and that’s
why they’re wanted. Groundsel’s a vegetable, it’s
the canary’s vegetable. I mean his kitchen-garden vegetable,
and if he had a kitchen-garden of his own, he would grow it as we do
peas. So I was right after all, No. 6!”
That twit at the end spoilt everything, otherwise this was really
a bright idea of No. 5’s.
“Aunt Judy, do begin to talk yourself,” entreated No. 6.
“I wish No. 5 would be quiet, and not teaze.”
“And he wishes the same of you,” replied Aunt Judy, “and
I wish the same of you all. What is to be done? Come, I
will tell you a story, on one positive understanding, namely, that whoever
teazes, or even twits, shall be turned out of the company.”
No. 5 sat up in his chair like a dart in an instant, and vowed that
he would be the best of the good, till Aunt Judy had finished her story.
“After which - ” concluded he, with a wink and another grin.
“After which, I shall expect you to be better still,” was
Aunt Judy’s emphatic rejoinder. And peace being now completely
established, she commenced: “There was once upon a time - what
do you think?” - here she paused and looked round in the children’s
“A giant!” exclaimed No. 8.
“A beautiful princess!” suggested No. 6.
“Something,” said Aunt Judy, “but I am not
going to tell you what at present. You must find out for yourselves.
Meantime I shall call it something, or merely make a grunting
- hm - when I allude to it, as people do to express a blank.”
The little ones shuffled about in delighted impatience at the notion
of the mysterious “something” which they were to find out,
and Aunt Judy proceeded:-
“This - hm - then, lived in a large meadow field, where it was
the delight of all beholders. The owner of the property was constantly
boasting about it to his friends, for he maintained that it was the
richest, and most beautiful, and most valuable - hm - in all the country
round. Surely no other thing in this world ever found itself more
admired or prized than this something did. The commonest
passer-by would notice it, and say all manner of fine things in its
praise, whether in the early spring, the full summer, or the autumn,
for at each of these seasons it put on a fresh charm, and formed a subject
of conversation. ‘Only look at that lovely - hm - ’
was quite a common exclamation at the sight of it. ‘What
a colour it has! How fresh and healthy it looks! How invaluable
it must be! Why, it must be worth at least - ’ and then
the speaker would go calculating away at the number of pounds, shillings,
and pence, the - hm - would fetch, if put into the money-market, which
is, I am sorry to say, a very usual, although very degrading way of
“To conclude, the mild-eyed Alderney cow, who pastured in the
field during the autumn months, would chew the cud of approbation over
the - hm - for hours together, and people said it was no wonder at all
that she gave such delicious milk and cream.”
Here a shout of supposed discovery broke from No. 5. “I’ve
guessed, I know it!”
But a “hush” from Aunt Judy stopped him short.
“No. 5, nobody asked your opinion, keep it to yourself, if you
No. 5 was silenced, but rubbed his hands nevertheless.
“Well,” continued Aunt Judy, “that ‘something’
ought surely to have been the most contented thing in the world.
Its merits were acknowledged; its usefulness was undoubted; its beauty
was the theme of constant admiration; what had it left to wish for?
Really nothing; but by an unlucky accident it became dissatisfied with
its situation in a meadow field, and wished to get into a higher position
in life, which, it took for granted, would be more suited to its many
exalted qualities. The ‘something’
of the field wanted to inhabit a garden. The unlucky accident
that gave rise to this foolish idea, was as follows:-
“A little boy was running across the beautiful meadow one morning,
with a tin-pot full of fishing bait in his hand, when suddenly he stumbled
and fell down.
“The bait in the tin-pot was some lob-worms, which the little
boy had collected out of the garden adjoining the field, and they were
spilt and scattered about by his fall.
“He picked up as many as he could find, however, and ran off again;
but one escaped his notice and was left behind.
“This gentleman was insensible for a few seconds; but as soon
as he came to himself, and discovered that he was in a strange place,
he began to grumble and find fault.
“‘What an uncouth neighbourhood!’ Such were
his exclamations. ‘What rough impracticable roads!
Was ever lob-worm so unlucky before!’ It was impossible
to move an inch without bumping his sides against some piece of uncultivated
“Judge for yourselves, my dears,” continued Aunt Judy, pathetically,
“what must have been the feelings of the ‘something’
which had lived proudly and happily in the meadow field for so long,
on hearing such offensive remarks.
“Its spirit was up in a minute, just as yours would have been,
and it did not hesitate to inform the intruder that travellers who find
fault with a country before they have taken the trouble to inquire into
its merits, are very ignorant and impertinent people.
“This was blow for blow, as you perceive; and the teaze-and-twit
system was now continued with great animation on both sides.
“The lob-worm inquired, with a conceited wriggle, what could be
the merits of a country, where gentlemanly, gliding, thin-skinned creatures
like himself were unable to move about without personal annoyance?
Whereupon the amiable ‘something’ made no
scruple of telling the lob-worm that his betters found no fault
with the place, and instanced its friend and admirer the Alderney cow.
“On which the lob-worm affected forgetfulness, and exclaimed,
‘Cow? cow? do I know the creature? Ah! Yes, I recollect
now; clumsy legs, horny feet, and that sort of thing,’ proceeding
to hint that what was good enough for a cow, might yet not be refined
enough for his own more delicate habits.
“‘It is my misfortune, perhaps,’ concluded he, with
mock humility, ‘to have been accustomed to higher associations;
but really, situated as I am here, I could almost feel disposed to -
why, positively, to wish myself a cow, with clumsy legs and horny feet.
What one may live to come to, to be sure!’
“Well,” Aunt Judy proceeded, “will you believe it,
the lob-worm went on boasting till the poor deluded ‘something’
believed every word he said, and at last ventured to ask in what
favoured spot he had acquired his superior tastes and knowledge.
“And then, of course, the lob-worm had the opportunity of opening
out in a very magnificent bit of brag, and did not fail to do so.
“Travellers can always boast with impunity to stationary folk,
and the lob-worm had no conscience about speaking the truth.
So on he chattered, giving the most splendid account of the garden in
which he lived. Gorgeous flowers, velvet lawns, polished gravel-walks,
along which he was wont to take his early morning stroll, before the
ruder creatures of the neighbourhood, such as dogs, cats, &c. were
up and about, were all his discourse; and he spoke of them as if they
were his own, and told of the nursing and tending of every plant in
the lovely spot, as if the gardeners did it all for his convenience
“Of the little accidents to which he and his race have from time
immemorial been liable from awkward spades, or those very early birds,
by whom he ran a risk of being snapped up every time he emerged out
of the velvet lawns for the morning strolls, he said just nothing at
“All was unmixed delight (according to his account) in the garden,
and having actually boasted himself into good humour with himself, and
therefore with everybody else, he concluded by expressing the condescending
wish, that the ‘something’ in the field should
get itself removed to the garden, to enjoy the life of which he spoke.
“‘Undeniably beautiful as you are here,’ cried he,
‘your beauty will increase a thousand fold, under the gardener’s
fostering care. Appreciated as you are now in your rustic life,
the most prominent place will be assigned to you when you get into more
distinguished society; so that everybody who passes by and sees you,
will exclaim in delight, ‘Behold this exquisite - hm - !’”
“Oh dear, Aunt Judy,” cried No. 6, “was the ‘hum,’
as you will call it, so silly as to believe what he said?”
“How could the poor simple-minded thing be expected to resist
such elegant compliments, my dear No. 6?” answered Aunt Judy.
“But then came the difficulty. The ‘something’
which lived in the field had no more legs than the lob-worm himself,
and, in fact, was incapable of locomotion.”
“Of course it was!” ejaculated No. 5.
“Order!” cried Aunt Judy, and proceeded:-
“So the - hm - hung down its graceful head in despair, but suddenly
a bright and loving thought struck it. It could not change its
place and rise in life itself, but its children might, and that would
be some consolation. It opened its heart on this point to the
lob-worm, and although the lob-worm had no heart to be touched, he had
still a tongue to talk.
“If the - hm - would send its children to the garden at the first
opportunity, he would be delighted, absolutely charmed, to introduce
them in the world. He would put them in the way of everything,
and see that they were properly attended to. There was nothing
he couldn’t or wouldn’t do.
“This last pretentious brag seemed to have exhausted even the
lob-worm’s ingenuity, for, soon after he had uttered it, he shuffled
away out of the meadow in the best fashion that he could, leaving the
‘something’ in the field in a state of wondering
regret. But it recovered its spirits again when the time came
for sending its children to the favoured garden abode.
“‘My dears,’ it said, ‘you will soon have to
begin life for yourselves, and I hope you will do so with credit to
your bringing up. I hope you are now ambitious enough to despise
the dull old plan of dropping contentedly down, just where you happen
to be, or waiting for some chance traveller (who may never come) to
give you a lift elsewhere. That paradise of happiness, of which
the lob-worm told us, is close at hand. Come! it only wants a
little extra exertion on your part, and you will be carried thither
by the wind, as easily as the wandering Dandelion himself. Courage,
my dears! nothing out of the common is ever gained without an effort.
See now! as soon as ever a strong breeze blows the proper way, I shall
shake my heads as hard as ever I can, that you may be off. All
the doors and windows are open now, you know, and you must throw yourselves
out upon the wind. Only remember one thing, when you are settled
down in the beautiful garden, mind you hold up your heads, and do yourselves
justice, my dears.’
“The children gave a ready assent, of course, as proud as possible
at the notion; and when the favourable breeze came, and the maternal
heads were shaken, out they all flew, and trusted themselves to its
guidance, and in a few minutes settled down all over the beautiful garden,
some on the beds, some on the lawn, some on the polished gravel-walks.
And all I can say is, happiest those who were least seen!”
“Grass weeds! grass weeds!” shouted the incorrigible No.
5, jumping up from his seat and performing two or three Dervish-like
“Oh, it’s too bad, isn’t it, Aunt Judy,” cried
No. 6, “to stop your story in the middle?”
Whereupon Aunt Judy answered that he had not stopped the story in the
middle, but at the end, and she was glad he had found out the meaning
of her - hm - !
But No. 6 would not be satisfied, she liked to hear the complete finish
up of everything. “Did the ‘hum’s’
children ever grow up in the garden, and did they ever see the lob-worm
“The - hm’s - children did spring up in the garden,”
answered Aunt Judy, “and did their best to exhibit their beauty
on the polished gravel-walks, where they were particularly delighted
with their own appearance one May morning after a shower of rain, which
had made them more prominent than usual. ‘Remember our mother’s
advice,’ cried they to each other. ‘This is the happy
moment! Let us hold up our heads, and do ourselves justice, my
“Scarcely were the words spoken, when a troop of rude creatures
came scampering into the walk, and a particularly unfeeling monster
in curls, pointed to the beautiful up-standing little - hms - and shouted,
‘Aunt Judy, look at these horrible weeds!’
“I needn’t say any more,” concluded Aunt Judy.
“You know how you’ve used them; you know what you’ve
done to them; you know how you’ve even wished there were no
such things in the world!”
“Oh, Aunt Judy, how capital!” ejaculated No. 6, with a sigh,
the sigh of exhausted amusement.
“‘The hum was a weed too, then, was it?” said
No. 8. He did not quite see his way through the tale.
“It was not a weed in the meadow,” answered Aunt Judy, “where
it was useful, and fed the Alderney cow. It was beautiful Grass
there, and was counted as such, because that was its proper place.
But when it put its nose into garden-walks, where it was not wanted,
and had no business, then everybody called the beautiful Grass a weed.”
“So a weed is a vegetable out of its place, you see,” subjoined
No. 5, who felt the idea to be half his own, “and it won’t
do to wish there were none in the world.”
“And a vegetable out of its place being nothing better than a
weed, Mr. No. 5,” added Aunt Judy, “it won’t do to
be too anxious about what is so often falsely called, bettering your
condition in life. Come, the story is done, and now we’ll
go home, and all the patient listeners and weeders may reckon upon getting
one or more farthings apiece from mamma. And as No. 6’s
wish is not realized, and there are still weeds
in the world, and among them Grass weeds, I shall hope to have
some cream to my tea.”
“Down too, down at your own fireside,
With the evil tongue and the evil ear,
For each is at war with mankind.”
Aunt Judy had gone to the nursery wardrobe to look over some clothes,
and the little ones were having a play to themselves. As she opened
the door, they were just coming to the end of an explosive burst of
laughter, in which all the five appeared to have joined, and which they
had some difficulty in stopping. No. 4, who was a biggish girl,
had giggled till the tears were running over her cheeks; and No. 8,
in sympathy, was leaning back in his tiny chair in a sort of ecstasy
The five little ones had certainly hit upon some very entertaining game.
They were all (boys and girls alike) dressed up as elderly ladies, with
bits of rubbishy finery on their heads and round their shoulders, to
imitate caps and scarfs; the boys’ hair being neatly parted and
brushed down the middle; and they were seated in form round what was
called “the Doll’s Table,” a concern just large enough
to allow of a small crockery tea-service, with cups and saucers and
little plates, being set out upon it.
“What have you got there?” was all Aunt Judy asked, as she
went up to the table to look at them.
“Cowslip-tea,” was No. 4’s answer, laying her hand
on the fat pink tea-pot; and thereupon the laughing explosion went off
nearly as loudly as before, though for no accountable reason that Aunt
Judy could divine.
“It’s so good, Aunt Judy, do taste it!” exclaimed
No. 8, jumping up in a great fuss, and holding up his little cup, full
of a pale-buff fluid, to Aunt Judy.
“You’ll have everything over,” cried No. 4, calling
him to order; and in truth the table was not the steadiest in the world.
So No. 8 sat down again, calling out, in an almost stuttering hurry,
“You may keep it all, Aunt Judy, I don’t want any more.”
But neither did Aunt Judy, after she had given it one taste; so she
put the cup down, thanking No. 8 very much, but pulling such a funny
face, that it set the laugh going once more; in the middle of which
No. 4 dropped an additional lump of sugar into the rejected buff-coloured
mixture, a proceeding which evidently gave No. 8 a new relish for the
Aunt Judy had got beyond the age when cowslip-tea was looked upon as
one of the treats of life; and she had not, on the other hand, lived
long enough to love the taste of it for the memory’s sake of the
enjoyment it once afforded.
Not but what we are obliged to admit that cowslip-tea is one of those
things which, even in the most enthusiastic days of youth, just falls
short of the absolute perfection one expects from it.
Even under those most favourable circumstances of having had the delightful
gathering of the flowers in the sweet sunny fields - the picking of
them in the happy holiday afternoon - the permission to use the best
doll’s tea-service for the feast - the loan of a nice white table-cloth
- and the present of half-a-dozen pewter knives and forks to fancy-cut
the biscuits with - nay, even in spite of the addition of well-filled
doll’s sugar-pots and cream-jugs - cowslip-tea always seems to
want either a leetle more or a leetle less sugar - or a leetle more
or a leetle less cream - or to be a leetle more or a leetle less strong
- to turn it into that complete nectar which, of course, it really is.
On the present occasion, however, the children had clearly got hold
of some other source of enjoyment over the annual cowslip-tea feast,
besides the beverage itself; and Aunt Judy, glad to see them so safely
happy, went off to her business at the wardrobe, while the little ones
resumed their game.
“Very extraordinary, indeed, ma’am!” began one of
the fancy old ladies, in a completely fancy voice, a little affected,
or so. “Most extraordinary, ma’am, I may say!”
(Here there was a renewed giggle from No. 4, which she carefully smothered
in her handkerchief.)
“But still I think I can tell you of something more extraordinary
The speaker having at this point refreshed his ideas by a sip of the
pale-coloured tea, and the other ladies having laughed heartily in anticipation
of the fun that was coming, one of them observed:-
“You don’t say so, ma’am - ” then clicked
astonishment with her tongue against the roof of her mouth several times,
and added impressively, “Pray let us hear!”
“I shall be most happy, ma’am,” resumed the first
speaker, with a graceful inclination forwards. “Well! -
you see - it was a party. I had invited some of my most distinguished
friends - really, ma’am, fashionable friends, I may say,
to dinner; and, ahem! you see - some little anxiety always attends such
affairs - even - in the best regulated families!”
Here the speaker winked considerably at No. 4, and laughed very loudly
himself at his own joke.
“Dear me, you must excuse me, ma’am,” he proceeded.
“So, you see, I felt a little fatigued by my morning’s exertions,
(to tell you the truth, there had been no end of bother about everything!)
and I retired quietly up-stairs to take a short nap before the dressing-bell
rang. But I had not been laid down quite half an hour, when there
was a loud knock at the door. Really, ma’am, I felt quite
alarmed, but was just able to ask, ‘Who’s there?’
Before I had time to get an answer, however, the door was burst open
by the housemaid. Her face was absolute scarlet, and she sobbed
“‘Oh, ma’am, what shall we do?’
“‘Good gracious, Hannah,’ cried I, ‘what can
be the matter? Has the soot come down the chimney? Speak!’
“‘It’s nothing of that sort, ma’am,’ answered
Hannah, ‘it’s the cook!’
“‘The cook!’ I shouted. ‘I wish you would
not be so foolish, Hannah, but speak out at once. What about Cook?’
“‘Please, m’m, the cook’s lost!’ says
Hannah. ‘We can’t find her!’
“‘Your wits are lost, Hannah, I think,’ cried
I, and sent her to tidy the rooms while I slipt downstairs to look for
“Fancy a lost cook, ma’am! Was there ever such a ridiculous
idea? And on the day of a dinner-party too! Did you ever
hear of such a trial to a lady’s feelings before?”
“Never, I am sure,” responded the lady opposite. “Did
you, ma’am?” turning to her neighbour.
But the other three ladies all shook their heads, bit their lips, and
declared that they “Never had, they were sure!”
“I thought not!” ejaculated the narrator. “Well,
ma’am, I went into the kitchens, the larder, the pantries, the
cellars, and all sorts of places, and still no cook! Do you know,
she really was nowhere! Actually, ma’am, the cook was lost!”
Shouts of laughter burst forth here; but the lady (who was No. 5) put
up his hand, and called out in his own natural tones:-
“Stop! I haven’t got to the end yet!”
“Order!” proclaimed No. 4 immediately, in a very commanding
voice, and thumping the table with the head of an old wooden doll to
And then the sham lady proceeded in the same mincing voice as before:-
“Well! - dear me, I’m quite put out. But however,
you see - what was to be done, that was the thing. It wanted only
half an hour to dinner-time, and there was the meat roasting away by
itself, and the potatoe-pan boiling over. You never heard such
a fizzling as it made in your life - in short, everything was in a mess,
and there was no cook.
“Well! I basted the meat for a few minutes, took the potatoe-pan
off the fire, and then ran up-stairs to put on my bonnet. Thought
I, the best thing I can do is to send somebody for the policeman, and
let him find the cook. But while I was tying the strings
of my bonnet, I fancied I heard a mysterious noise coming out of the
bottom drawer of my wardrobe. Fancy that, ma’am, with my
nerves in such a state from the cook being lost!”
No. 5 paused, and looked round for sympathy, which was most freely given
by the other ladies, in the shape of sighs and exclamations.
“The drawer was a very deep drawer, ma’am, so I thought
perhaps the cat had crept in,” continued No. 5. “Well,
I went to it to see, and there it was, partly open, with a cotton gown
in it that didn’t belong to me. Imagine my feelings at that,
ma’am! So I pulled at the handles to get the drawer
quite open, but it wouldn’t come, it was as heavy as lead.
It was really very alarming - one doesn’t like such odd things
happening - but at last I got it open, though I tumbled backwards as
I did so; and what do you think, ma’am - ladies - what do you
think was in it?”
“The cook!” shrieked No. 4, convulsed with laughter; and
the whole party clapped their hands and roared applause.
“The cook, ma’am, actually the cook!” pursued No.
5, “one of the fattest, most poonchy little women you ever
saw. And what do you think was the history of it? I kept
my up-stairs Pickwick in the corner of that bottom drawer. She
had seen it there that very morning, when she was helping to dust the
room, and took the opportunity of a spare half-hour to slip up and rest
herself by reading it in the drawer. Unluckily, however, she had
fallen asleep, and when I got the drawer out, there she lay, and I actually
heard her snore. A shocking thing this education, ma’am,
you see, and teaching people to read. All the cooks in the country
Peals of laughter greeted this wonderfully witty concoction of No. 5’s,
and the lemon-coloured tea and biscuits were partaken of during the
pause which followed.
Aunt Judy meanwhile, who had been quite unable to resist joining in
the laugh herself, was seated on the floor, behind the open door of
the wardrobe, thinking to herself of certain passages in Wordsworth’s
most beautiful ode, in which he has described the play of children,
“As if their whole vocation
Were endless imitation.”
Truly they had got hold here of strange
“Fragments from their dream of human life.”
Where could the children have picked up the original of such
Aunt Judy had no time to make it out, for now the mincing voices began
again, and she sat listening.
“Have you had no curious adventures with your maids, ma’am?”
inquires No. 5 of No. 4.
No. 5 makes an attempt at a bewitching grin as he speaks, fanning himself
with a fan which he has had in his hand all the time he was telling
“Well, ladies,” replied No. 4, only just able to compose
herself to talk, “I don’t think I have been quite
as fortunate as yourselves in having so many extraordinary things to
tell. My servants have been sadly common-place, and done just
as they ought. But still, once, ladies - once, a curious
little incident did occur to me.”
“Oh, ma’am, I entreat you - pray let us hear it!”
burst from all the ladies at once.
No. 4 had to bite her lip to preserve her gravity, and then she turned
to No. 5 -
“The fan, if you please, ma’am!”
The rule was, that the one fan was placed at the disposal of the story-teller
for the time, so No. 5 handed it to No. 4, with a graceful bow; and
No. 4 waffed it to and fro immediately, and began her account:-
“People are so unscrupulous you see, ladies, about giving characters.
It’s really shocking. For my part, I don’t know what
the world will come to at last. We shall all have to be our own
servants, I suppose. People say anything about anything, that’s
the fact! Only fancy, ma’am, three different ladies once
recommended a cook to me as the best soup-maker in the country.
Now that sounded a very high recommendation, for, of course, if a cook
can make soups, she can do anything - sweetmeats and those kind of things
follow of themselves. So, ma am, I took her, and had a dinner-party,
and ordered two soups, entirely that I might show off what a good cook
I had got. Think what a compliment to her, and how much obliged
she ought to have been! Well, ma’am, I ordered the two soups,
as I said, one white, and the other brown; and everything appeared to
be going on in the best possible manner, when, as I was sitting in the
drawing-room entertaining the company, I was told I was wanted.
“When I got out of the room, there was the man I had hired to
wait, and says he:-
“‘If you please, ma’am where are the knives?
I can’t find any at all!’
“‘No knives!’ says I. ‘Dear me, don’t
come to me about the knives. Ask the cook, of course.’
“‘Please, ma’am, I have asked her, and she only laughed.’
“‘Then,’ said I, ‘ask the housemaid. It’s
impossible for me to come out and look for the knives.’
“Well, ladies,” continued No. 4, “would you believe
it? - could anyone believe it? - when I sat down to dinner, and began
to help the soup, no sooner had the silver ladle (my ladle is
silver, ladies) been plunged into the tureen, than a most singular rattling
“‘William,’ cried I, half in a whisper, to the waiter
who was holding the plate, ‘what in the world is this? Surely
Cook has not left the bones in?’
“‘Please, ma’am, I don’t know,’ was all
the man could say.
“Well - there was no remedy now, so I dipped the ladle in again,
and lifted out - oh! ma’am, I know if it was anybody but myself
who told you, you wouldn’t believe it - a ladleful of the lost
knives! There they were, my best beautiful ivory handles, all
in the white soup! And while I was discovering them, the gentleman
at the other end of the table had found all the kitchen-knives, with
black handles, in the brown soup!
“There never was anything so mortifying before. And what
do you think was Cook’s excuse, when I reproached her?
“‘Please, ma’am,’ said she, ‘I read in
the Young Woman’s Vademecum of Instructive Information,
page 150, that there was nothing in the world so strengthening and
wholesome as dissolved bones, and ivory-dust; and so, ma’am, I
always make a point of throwing in a few knives into every soup I have
the charge of, for the sake of the handles - ivory-handles for white
soups, ma’am, and black-handles for the browns!’”
Thunders of applause interrupted Cook’s excuse at this point,
and No. 7 was so overcome that he pushed his chair back, and performed
three distinct somersets on the floor, to the complete disorganization
of his head-dress, which consisted of a turban, from beneath which hung
a cluster of false curls.
Turban and wig being replaced, however, and No. 7 reseated and composed,
No. 4 proceeded:-
“Cook generally takes them out, she informed me, ladies, before
the tureens come to table; ‘but,’ said she, ‘my back
was turned for a minute here, ma’am, and that stupid William carried
them off without asking if they were ready. It’s all William’s
fault, ma’am; and I don’t mean to stay, for I don’t
like a place where the man who waits has no tact!’
“Now, ladies,” continued No. 4, “what do you think
of that by way of a speech from a cook? And I assure you that
a medical man’s wife, to whom I mentioned in the course of the
evening what Cook had said about dissolved bones, told me that her husband
had only laughed, and said Cook was quite right. So she hired
the woman that night herself, and I have been told in confidence since
- you’ll not repeat it, therefore, of course, ladies?”
“Of course not!” came from all sides.
“Well, then, I was told that, before the year was out, the family
hadn’t a knife that would cut anything, they were so cankered
with rust. So much for education and learning to read, as you
justly observed, ma’am, before!”
When the emotions produced by this tale had a little subsided, No. 7
was called upon for his experience of maids.
No. 7, with the turban on his head, and a fine red necklace round his
throat, said he took very little notice of the maids, but that he once
had had a very tiresome little boy in buttons, who was extremely fond
of sugar, and always carried the sugar-shaker in his pocket, and ate
up the sugar that was in it, and when it was empty, filled it up with
“But once,” he added, “ladies, he actually
put some soda in. It was at a party, and we had our first rhubarb
tart for the season, and the company sprinkled it all over with the
soda and began to eat, but they were too polite to say how nasty it
was. But, of course, when I was helped I called out. And
what do you think the boy in buttons said?”
Nobody could guess, so No. 7 had to tell them.
“He said he had put it in on purpose, because he thought it would
correct the acid of the pie. So I said he had best be apprenticed
to a doctor; so he went - I dare say, ma’am, it was the same doctor
who took your cook - but I never heard of him any more, and I’ve
never dared to have a boy in buttons again.”
“A very wise decision, ma’am, I’m sure!” cried
Aunt Judy, who came up to the wonderful tea-table in the midst of the
last mound of applause. “And now may I ask what game this
is that you are playing at?”
“Oh, we’re telling Cook Stories, Aunt Judy,”
cried No. 6, seizing her by the arm; “they’re such capital
fun! I wish you had heard mine; they were laughing at it when
you first came in!”
“It must have been delicious, to judge by the delight it gave,”
replied Aunt Judy, smiling, and kissing No. 6’s oddly bedizened
up-turned face. “But what I want to know is, what put Cook
Stories, as you call them, into your head?”
“Oh! don’t you remember - ” and here followed a long
account from No. 6 of how, about a week before, the little ones had
gone somewhere to spend the day, and how it had turned out a very rainy
day, so that they could not have games out of doors with their young
friends, as had been expected, but were obliged to sit a great part
of the time in the drawing-room, putting Chinese puzzles together into
stupid patterns, and playing at fox-and-goose, while the ladies were
talking “grown-up conversation,” as No. 6 worded it, among
themselves; and, of course, being on their own good behaviour, and very
quiet, they could not help hearing what was said. “And,
oh dear, Aunt Judy,” continued No. 6, now with both her arms holding
Aunt Judy, of whom she was very fond, (except at lesson times!) round
the waist, “it was so odd! No. 7 and I did nothing at last
but listen and watch them; for little Miss, who sat with us,
was shy, and wouldn’t talk, and it was so very funny to see the
ladies nodding and making faces at each other, and whispering, and exclaiming,
how shocking! how abominable! you don’t say so! and all that kind
“Well, but what was shocking, and abominable, and all that kind
of thing?” inquired Aunt Judy.
“Oh, I don’t know - things the nurses, and cooks, and boys
in buttons did. Almost all the ladies had some story to tell -
all the servants had done something or other queer - but especially
the cooks, Aunt Judy, there was no end to the cooks. So one day
after we came back, and we didn’t know what to play at, I said:
‘Do let us play at telling Cook Stories, like the ladies at
-- .’ So we’ve dressed up, and played at Cook Stories,
ever since. Dear Aunt Judy, I wish you would invent a Cook Story
yourself!” was the conclusion of No. 6’s account.
So then the mystery was out. Aunt Judy’s wonderings were
cut short. Out of the real life of civilized intelligent
society had come those
“Fragments from their dream of human life,”
which Aunt Judy had called absurd nonsense. And absurd nonsense,
indeed, it was; but Aunt Judy was seized by the idea that some good
might be got out of it.
So, in answer to No. 6’s wish, she said, with a shy smile:-
“I don’t think I could tell Cook Stories half as well as
yourself. But if, by way of a change, you would like a Lady
Story instead, perhaps I might be able to accomplish that.”
“A Lady Story! Oh, but that would be so dull, wouldn’t
it?” inquired No. 6. “You can’t make anything
funny out of them, surely! Surely they never do half such odd
things as cooks, and boys in buttons!”
“The ladies themselves think not, of course,” was Aunt Judy’s
“Well, but what do you think, Aunt Judy?”
“Oh, I don’t think it matters what I think. The question
is, what do cooks and boys in buttons think?”
“But, Aunt Judy, ladies are never tiresome, and idle, and impertinent,
like cooks and boys in buttons. Oh! if you had but heard the real
Cook Stories those ladies told! I say, let me tell you one
or two - I do think I can remember them, if I try.”
“Then don’t try on any account, dear No. 6,” exclaimed
Aunt Judy. “I like make-believe Cook Stories much better
than real ones.”
“So do I!” cried No. 7, “they’re so much the
“And not a bit less useful,” subjoined Aunt Judy, with a
“Well, I didn’t see much good in the real ones,” pursued
No. 7, in a sort of muse.
“Let us tell you another make-believe one, then,” cried
No. 6, who saw that Aunt Judy was moving off, and wanted to detain her.
“Then it’s my turn!” shouted No. 8, jumping
up, and stretching out his arm and hand like a young orator flushed
to his work. And actually, before the rest of the little ones
could put him down or stop him, No. 8 contrived to tumble out the Cook
Story idea, which had probably been brewing in his head all the time
of Aunt Judy’s talk.
It was very brief, and this was it, delivered in much haste, and with
all the earnestness of a maiden speech.
“I had a button boy too, and he was a - what d’ye
call it - oh, a rascal, that was it; - he was a rascal, and liked
the currants in mince-pies, so he took them all out, and ate them up,
and put in glass beads instead. So when the people began to ear,
their teeth crunched against the beads! Ah! bah! how nasty it
No. 8 accompanied this remark with a corresponding grimace of disgust,
and then observed in conclusion:-
“Perhaps he found it in a book, but I don’t know where,”
after which he lowered his outstretched arm, smiled, and sat down.
The company clapped applause, and No. 4 especially must have been very
fond of laughing, for the glass-bead anecdote set her off again as heartily
as ever, and the rest followed in her wake, and while so doing, never
noticed that Aunt Judy had slipped away.
They soon discovered it, however, when their mirth began to subside;
but before they had time to wonder much, there appeared from behind
the door of the wardrobe a figure, which in their secret souls they
knew to be Aunt Judy herself, although it looked a great deal stouter,
and had a thick-filled cap on its head, a white linen apron over its
gown, and a pair of spectacles on its nose. At sight of it they
showed signs of clapping again, but stopped short when it spoke to them
as a stranger, and willingly received it as such.
Ah! it is one of the sweet features of childhood that it yields itself
up so readily to any little surprise or delusion that is prepared for
its amusement. No nasty pride, no disinclination to be carried
away, no affected indifference, interfere with young children’s
enjoyment of what is offered them. They will even help themselves
into the pleasant visions by an effort of will; and perhaps, now and
then, end by partly believing what they at first received voluntarily
as an agreeable make-believe.
If, therefore, after the cook figure of Aunt Judy had seated itself
by the doll’s table, and the little ones had looked and grinned
at it for some time, hazy sensations began to steal over one or two
minds, that this was somehow really a cook, it was all in the
natural course of things, and nobody resisted the feeling.
Aunt Judy’s altered voice, and odd, assumed manner, contributed,
no doubt, a good deal to the impression.
“Dear, dear! what pretty little darlings you all are!” she
began, looking at them one after another. “As sweet as sugar-plums,
when you have your own way, and are pleased. Eh, dears?
But you don’t think you can take old Cooky in, do you? No,
no, I know what ladies and gentlemen, and ladies’ and gentlemen’s
young ladies and young gentlemen are, pretty well, dears,
I can tell you! Don’t I know all about the shiny hair and
smiling faces of the little pets in the parlour, and how they leave
parlour-manners behind them sometimes, when they run to the kitchen
to Cook, and order her here and there, and want half-a-dozen things
at once, and must and will have what they want, and are for popping
their fingers into every pie!
“Well, well,” she proceeded, “the parlour’s
the parlour, and the kitchen’s the kitchen, and I’m only
a cook. But then I conduct myself as Cook, even when I’m
in the scullery, and I only wish ladies, and ladies’ young
ladies too, would conduct themselves as ladies, even when they come
into the kitchen; that’s what I call being honourable and upright.
Well, dears, I’ll tell you how I came to know all about it.
You see, I lived once in a family where there were no less than eight
of those precious little pets, and a precious time I had of it with
them. But, to be sure, now it’s past and gone - I can make
plenty of excuses for them, poor things! They were so coaxed and
flattered, and made so much of, what could be expected from them but
tiresome, wilful ways, without any sense?
“‘If your mamma would but put you into the scullery,
young miss, to learn to wash plates and scour the pans out, she’d
make a woman of you,’ used I to think to myself when a silly child,
who thought itself very clever to hinder other people’s work,
would come hanging about in the kitchen, doing nothing but teaze and
find fault, for that’s what a girl can always do.
“It was very aggravating, you may be sure, dears, (you see I can
talk to you quite reasonably, because you’re so nicely behaved;)
- it was very aggravating, of course; but I used to make allowances
for them. Says I to myself, ‘Cook, you’ve had the
blessing of being brought up to hard work ever since you were a babby.
You’ve had to earn your daily bread. Nobody knows how that
brings people to their senses till they’ve tried; so don’t
you go and be cocky, because ladies and gentlemen, and ladies’
and gentlemen’s young ladies and young gentlemen,
are not quite so sensible as you are. Who knows but what, if you’d
been born to do nothing, you might have been no wiser than them!
It’s lucky for you you’re only a cook; but don’t you
go and be cocky, that’s all! Make allowances; it’s
the secret of life!’
“So you see, dears, I did make allowances; and after the
eight little pets was safe in bed till next morning, I used to feel
quite composed, and pitiful-like towards them, poor little dears!
But certainly, when morning came, and the oldest young master was home
for the holidays, it was a trying time for me, and I couldn’t
think of the allowances any longer. Either he wouldn’t get
up and come down till everyone else had had their breakfast, and so
he wanted fresh water boiled, and fresh tea made, and another muffin
toasted, and more bacon fried; or else he was up so outrageous early,
that he was scolding because there was no hot water before the fire
was lit - bless you, he hadn’t a bit of sense in his head, poor
boy, not a bit! And how should he? Why, he went to school
as soon as he was out of petticoats, and was set to all that Latin and
Greek stuff that never puts anything useful into folks’ heads,
but so much more chatter and talk; so he came back as silly as he went,
poor thing! Dear me, on a wet day, after lesson-time, those boys
were like so many crazy creatures. ‘Cook, I must make a
pie,’ says one. ‘There’s a pie in the oven already,
Master James,’ says I. ‘I don’t care about the
pie in the oven,’ says he, ‘I want a pie of my own.
Bring me the flour, and the water, and the butter, and all the things
- and, above all, the rolling-pin - and clear the decks, will you, I
say, for my pie. Here goes!’ And here used to go,
my dears, for Master James had no sense, as I told you; and so he’d
shove all my pots and dishes away, one on the top of the other; and
let me be as busy as I would, and dinner ever so near ready, the dresser
must be cleared, and everything must give way to his pie!
His pie, indeed - I wish I had had the management of his pie just then!
I’d have taught him what it was to come shaking the rolling-pin
at the head of a respectable cook, who wanted to get her business done
properly, as in duty bound!
“But he wasn’t the only one. There was little Whipper-snapper,
his younger brother, squeaking out in another corner, ‘I shan’t
make a pie, James, I shall make toffey; it’s far better fun.
You’d better come and help me. Where’s the treacle
pot, Cook? Cook! I say, Cook! where’s the treacle-pot?
And look at this stupid kettle and pan. What’s in the pan,
I wonder? Oh, kidney-beans! Who cares for kidney-beans?
How can I make toffey, when all these things are on the fire?
Stay, I’ll hand them all off!’
“And, sure enough, if I hadn’t rushed from Master James,
who was drinking away at my custard out of the bowl, to seize on Whipper-snapper,
who had got his hand on the vegetable-pan already, he would have pulled
it and the kettle, and the whole concern, off the fire, and perhaps
scalded himself to death.
“Then, of course, there comes a scuffle, and Master Whipper-snapper
begins to roar, and out comes Missus, who, poor thing, had no more sense
in her head than her sons, though she’d never been to school to
lose it over Latin and Greek; and, says she, with all her ribbons streaming,
and her petticoats swelled out like a window-curtain in a draught -
“‘Cook! I desire that you will not touch my children!’
“‘As you please, ma’am,’ says I, ‘if you’ll
be so good as to stop the young gentlemen from touching my pans, and
- ’ I was going to say ‘custard,’ but Master James
shouts out quite quick:-
“‘Why, I only wanted to make a pie, mamma.’
“‘And I only wanted to make some toffey!’ cries Whipper-snapper;
and then mamma answers, like a duchess at court:-
“‘There can’t possibly be any objection, my dears;
and I wish, Cook, you would he a little more good-natured to the children;
- your temper is sadly against you!’
“And out she sails, ribbons and window-curtains and all; and,
says I to myself, as I cooled down, (for the young gentlemen luckily
went away with their dear mama,) - says I to myself, ‘It’s
a very fine thing, no doubt, to go about in ribbons, and petticoats,
and grand clothes; but, if one must needs carry such a poor, silly head
inside them, as Missus does, I’d rather stop as I am, and be a
cook with some sense about me.’
“I don’t say, my dears,” continued the supposed cook,
“that I spoke very politely just then; but who could feel polite,
when their dinner had been put back at least half-an-hour over such
nonsense as that? Missus used to say the ‘dear boys’
came to the kitchen on a wet day, because they’d got nothing
else to do! Nothing else to do! and had learnt Latin and Greek,
and all sorts of schooling besides! So much for education, thought
I. Why, it would spoil the best lads that ever were born into
the world. For, of course, you know if these young gentlemen had
been put to decent trades, they’d have found something else to
do with their fingers besides mischief and waste. And, dear me,
I talk about not having been polite to Missus just then, but now you
tell me, dears, what Missus, with all her education, would have said
if she’d been in my place, when one young gentleman was drinking
her custard, and another young gentleman was pulling her pans on the
floor! Do you think she’d have been a bit more polite than
I was? Wouldn’t she have called me all the stupid creatures
that ever were born, and told the story over and over to all her friends
and acquaintance to make them stare, and say there were surely no such
simpletons in the world as ladies and gentlemen, and ladies’ and
gentlemen’s young ladies and young gentlemen?
“However, I did not go as far as that, because, you see, I had
some sense about me, and could make allowances for all the nonsense
the poor things are brought up to.”
There was no resisting the twinkle in Aunt Judy’s eye when she
came to this point, though it shone through an old pair of Nurse’s
spectacles; and the little ones clapped their hands, and declared it
was every bit as good as a Cook story, only a great deal better!
That twinkle had quite brought Aunt Judy back to them again, in spite
of her cook’s attire, and No. 6 cried out:-
“Oh! don’t stop, Aunt Judy! Do go on, Cooky dear!
do tell some more! Did you always live in that place, please?”
“There now!” exclaimed Aunt Judy, throwing herself back
in the chair, “isn’t that a regular young lady’s question,
out and out? Who but a young lady, with no more sense in her head
than a pin, would have thought of asking such a thing? Why, miss,
is there a joint in the world that can bear basting for ever?
No, no! a time comes when it must be taken down, if any good’s
to be left in it; and so at the end of three years my basting-time was
over, and the time for taking down was come.
“‘Cook,’ says I to myself, ‘you must give in.
If you go on with those cherubs (that was their company name, you know)
much longer, there won’t be a bit of you left!’ And,
sure enough, that very morning, dears, they’d come down upon me
with a fresh grievance, and I couldn’t stand it, I really couldn’t!
The sweeps had been by four o’clock to the kitchen chimney, and
I’d been up and toiling every minute since, and hadn’t had
time to eat my breakfast, when in they burst - the young ladies, not
the sweeps, dears, I mean:- and there they broke out at once - I hadn’t
fed their sea-gulls before breakfast - (a couple of dull-looking grey
birds, with big mouths, that had come in a hamper over night as a present
to the cherubs;) and it seems I ought to have been up before daylight
almost, to look for slugs for them in the garden till they’d got
used to the place!
“Oh, these ladies and gentlemen! they’d need know something
of some sort to make amends, for there are many things they never know
all their life long!
“‘Young ladies,’ says I, ‘I didn’t come
here to get meals ready for sea-gulls, but Christian ladies and gentlemen.
If the sea-gulls want a cook, your mamma must hire them one on purpose.
I’ve plenty to do for her and the family, without looking after
such nonsense as that!’
“‘That’s what you always say,’ whimpers the
youngest Miss; ‘and you know they don’t want any cooking,
but only raw slugs! And you know you might easily look for them,
because you’ve got almost nothing to do, because it’s such
an easy place, mamma always says. But you’re always cross,
mamma says that too, and everybody knows you are, because she tells
“When little Miss had got that out, she thought she’d finished
me up; and so she had, for when I heard that Missus was so ungenteel
as to go talking of what I did, to all her acquaintance, and had nothing
better to talk about, I made up my mind that I’d give notice that
“‘Very well, miss,’ says I, ‘your mamma shall
soon have something fresh to talk about, and I hope she’ll find
it a pleasant change.’
“There was some of them knew what I meant at once, for after they’d
scampered off I heard shouts up and down the stairs from one to the
other, ‘Cook’s going!’ ‘We shall have
a new cook soon!’ ‘What a lark we’ll have with
the toffey and the pies! We’ll make her do just as we choose!’
“‘There, now,’ thought I to myself, ‘there’ll
be somebody else put down to baste before long. Well, I’m
glad my time’s over.’ And thereupon I fell to wishing
I was back again in father and mother’s ricketty old cottage,
that I’d once been so proud to leave, to go and live with gentlefolks.
But, you see, it was no use wishing, for I’d my bread to earn,
and must turn out somewhere, let it be as disagreeable as it would.
Father and mother were dead, and there was no ricketty cottage for me
to go back to, so I wiped my eyes, and told myself to make the best
of what had to be.
“Well, dears,” pursued Cooky, after a short pause, during
which the little ones looked far more inclined to cry than laugh, “Missus
was quite taken aback when she heard I wouldn’t stay any longer.
“‘Cook,’ she said, ‘I’m perfectly astonished
at your want of sense in not recognizing the value of such a situation
as mine! and as to your complaints about the children, anything more
ridiculously unreasonable I never heard! Such superior, well-taught
young people, you are not very likely to meet with again in a hurry!’
“‘Perhaps not, ma’am,’ says I, ‘in French,
and crochet, and the piano, and Latin, and things I don’t understand,
being only a cook. But I know what behaviour is, and that’s
what I’m sure the young ladies and gentlemen have never been taught;
or if they have, they’re so slow at taking it in, that I think
I shall do better with a family where the behaviour-lessons come first!’
“Missus was very angry, and so was I; but at last she said:-
“‘Cook, I shall not argue with you any longer; you know
no better, and I suppose I must make allowances for you.’
“‘I’m much obliged to you, ma’am, I’m
sure,’ was my answer; ‘it’s what I’ve always
done by you ever since I came to the house, and I’ll do it still
with pleasure, and think no more of what’s been said.’
“I spoke from my heart, I can tell you, dears, for I felt very
sorry for Missus, and thought she was but a lady after all, and perhaps
I’d hardly made allowances enough. I’d lost my temper,
too, as I knew after she went away. But, you see, while she was
there, it was so mortifying to be spoken to as if all the sense was
on her side, when I knew it was all on mine, wherever the French and
crochet may have been. Well, but the day before I left, I broke
down with another of them, as it’s fair that you should know.
“I’d felt very lonely that day, busy as I was, and in the
afternoon I took myself into the scullery to give the pans a sort of
good-bye cleaning, and be out of everybody’s way. But there,
in the midst of it, comes the eldest young gentleman flinging into the
kitchen, shouting, ‘Cook! Cook! Where’s Cook?’
as usual. I thought he was after some of his old tricks, and I
had been fretting over those pans, thinking what a sad job it
was to have no home to go to in the world, so I gave him a very short
“‘Master James,’ says I, ‘I’ve done with
nonsense now, I can’t attend to you. You must wait till
the next cook comes.’
“But Master James came straight away to the scullery door, and
says he, ‘Cook, I’m not coming to teaze. I’ve
brought you a needle-book. There, Cook! It’s full
of needles. I put them all in myself. Keep it, please.’
“Dear, dear, I can’t forget it yet,” pursued Cook,
“how Master James stood on the little stone step of the scullery,
with his arm stretched out, and the needle-book that he’d bought
for me in his hand. I don’t know how I thanked him, I’m
sure; but I had to go back to the sink and wash the dirt off my hands
before I could touch the pretty little thing, and then I told him I
would keep it as long as ever I lived.
“He laughed, and says he, ‘Now shake hands, Cooky,’
and so we shook hands; and then off he ran, and I went back to my pans
and fairly cried.
“‘Why, Cook,’ says I to myself, ‘that lad’s
got as good a heart as your own, after all. And as to sense and
behaviour, they haven’t been forced upon him yet, as they have
upon you. Latin’s Latin, and conduct’s conduct, and
one doesn’t teach the other; and it’s too bad to expect
more of people than what they’ve had opportunity for.’
Well, dears, that was the rule I always went by, and I’ve been
in many situations since - with single ladies, and single gentlemen,
and large families, and all; and there was something to put up with
in all of them; and they always told me there was a good deal to put
up with in me, and perhaps there was. However, it doesn’t
matter, so long as Missus and servant go by one rule - to make
allowances, and not expect more from people than what they’ve
had opportunity for; and, above all, never to be cocky when all
the advantage is on their own side. It’s a good rule, dears,
and will stop many a foolish word and idle tale, if you’ll go
Aunt Judy had finished at last, and she took off the old spectacles
and laid them on the doll’s table, and paused.
“It is a good rule,” observed No. 4, “and I
shall go by it, and not tell real Cook Stories when I grow up, I hope.”
“I love old Cooky,” cried No. 6, getting up and hugging
her round the neck; “but is it wrong, Aunt Judy, to tell funny
make-believe Cook Stories, like ours?”
“Not at all, No. 6,” replied Aunt Judy. “My
private belief is, that if you tell funny make-believe Cook Stories
while you’re little, you will be ashamed of telling stupid real
ones when you’re grown up.”
“Death and its two-fold aspect! wintry - one,
Cold, sullen, blank, from hope and joy shut out;
The other, which the ray divine hath touch’d,
Replete with vivid promise, bright as spring.”
“Well then; but you must remember that I have been ill, and cannot
be expected to invent anything very entertaining.”
“Oh, we do remember, indeed, Aunt Judy; we have been so miserable,”
was the answer; and the speaker added, shoving her little chair close
up to her sister’s:-
“I said if you were not to get better, I shouldn’t want
to get better either.”
“Hush, hush, No. 6!” exclaimed Aunt Judy, quite startled
by the expression; “it was not right to say or think that.”
“I couldn’t help it,” persisted No. 6. “We
couldn’t do without you, I’m sure.”
“We can do without anything which God chooses to take away,”
was Aunt Judy’s very serious answer.
“But I didn’t want to do without,” murmured No. 6,
with her eyes fixed on the floor.
“Dear No. 6, I know,” replied Aunt Judy, kindly; “but
that is just what you must try not to feel.”
“I can’t help feeling it,” reiterated No. 6, still
“You have not tried, or thought about it yet,” suggested
her sister; “but do think. Think what poor ignorant infants
we all are in the hands of God, not knowing what is either good or bad
for us; and then you will see how glad and thankful you ought to be,
to be chosen for by somebody wiser than yourself. We must always
be contented with God’s choice about whatever happens.”
No. 6 still looked down, as if she were studying the pattern of the
rug, but she saw nothing of it, for her eyes were swimming over with
the tears that had filled into them, and at last she said:-
“I could, perhaps, about some things, but only not that about
you. Aunt Judy, you know what I mean.”
Aunt Judy leant back in her chair. “Only not that.”
It was, as she knew, the cry of the universal world, although it
broke now from the lips of a child. And it was painful, though
touching, to feel herself the treasure that could not be parted with.
So there was a silence of some minutes, during which the hand of the
little sister lay in that of the elder one.
But the latter soon roused up and spoke.
“I’ll tell you what, No. 6, there’s nothing so foolish
as talking of how we shall feel, and what we shall do, if so-and-so
happens. Perhaps it never may happen, or, if it does, perhaps
we may be helped to bear it quite differently from what we have expected.
So we won’t say anything more about it now.”
“I’m so glad!” exclaimed No. 6, completely reassured
and made comfortable by the cheerful tone of her sister’s remark,
though she had but a very imperfect idea of the meaning of it, as she
forthwith proved by rambling off into a sort of self-defence and self-justification.
“And I’m not really a baby now, you know, Aunt Judy!
And I do know a great many things that are good and bad for us.
I know that you are good for us, even when you scold over sums.”
“That is a grand admission, I must own,” replied Aunt Judy,
smiling; “I shall remind you of it some day.”
“Well, you may,” cried No. 6, earnestly; and added, “you
see I’m not half as silly as you thought.”
Aunt Judy looked at her, wondering how she should get the child to understand
what was passing through her own mind; wondering, too whether it was
right to make the attempt; and she decided that on the whole it was;
so she answered:-
“Ay, we grow wise enough among ourselves as we grow older, and
get to know a few more things. You are certainly a little wiser
than a baby in long petticoats, and I am a little wiser than you, and
mamma wiser than us both. But towards God we remain ignorant infants
all our lives. That was what I meant.”
“But surely, Aunt Judy,” interrupted No. 6, “mamma
and you know - ” There she stopped.
“Nothing about God’s dealings,” pursued Aunt Judy,
“but that they are sure to be good for us, even when we like them
least, and cannot understand them at all. We know so little what
we ought really to like and dislike, dear No. 6, that we often fret
and cry as foolishly as the two children did, who, while they were in
mourning for their mother, broke their hearts over the loss of a set
of rabbits’ tails.”
No. 6 sprang up at the idea. She had never heard of those children
before. Who were they? Had Aunt Judy read of them in a book,
or were they real children? How could they have broken their hearts
about rabbits’ tails? It must be a very curious story, and
No. 6 begged to hear it.
Aunt Judy had, however, a little hesitation about the matter.
There was something sad about the story; and there was no exact teaching
to be got out of it, though certainly if it helped to shake No. 6’s
faith in her own wisdom, a good effect would be produced by listening
to it. Also it was not a bad thing now and then to hear of other
people having to bear trials which have not fallen to our own lot.
It must surely have a tendency to soften the heart, and make us feel
more dependent upon the God who gives and takes away. On the whole,
therefore, she would tell the story, so she made No. 6 sit quietly down
again, and began as follows:-
“There were once upon a time two little motherless girls.”
No. 6’s excitement of expectation was hardly over, so she tightened
her hand over Aunt Judy’s, and ejaculated:-
“Poor little things!”
“You may well say so,” continued Aunt Judy. “It
was just what everybody said who saw them at the time. When they
went about with their widowed father in the country village where ‘they
lived, even the poor women who stood at their cottage door-steads, would
look after them when they had passed, and say with a sigh:-
“‘Poor little things!’
“When they went up to London in the winter to stay with their
grandmamma, and walked about in the Square in their little black frocks
and crape-trimmed bonnets, the ladies who saw them, - even comparative
strangers, - would turn round arid say:-
“‘Poor little things!’
“If visitors came to call at the house, and the children were
sent for into the room, there was sure to be a whispered exclamation
directly among the grown-up people of, ‘Poor little things!’
But oh, No. 6! the children themselves did not think about it at all.
What did they know, - poor little things, - of the real misfortune which
had befallen them! They were sorry, of course, at first, when
they did not see their mamma as usual, and when she did not come back
to them as soon as they expected. But some separation had taken
place during her illness; and sometimes before, she had been poorly
and got well again; and sometimes she had gone out visiting, and they
had had to do without her till she returned; and so, although the days
and weeks of her absence went on to months, still it was only the same
thing they had felt before, continued rather longer; and meantime the
little events of each day rose up to distract their attention.
They got up, and dined, and went to bed as usual. They were sometimes
merry, sometimes naughty, as usual. People made them nice presents,
or sent for them to pleasant treats, as usual - perhaps more than usual;
their father did all he could to supply the place of the lost one, but
never could name her name; and soon they forgot that they had ever had
a mamma at all. Soon? Ay, long before friends and strangers
lead left off saying ‘Poor little things’ at sight of them,
and long before the black frocks and crape-trimmed bonnets were laid
aside, which, indeed, they wore double the usual length of time.”
“And how old were they?” asked No. 6, in a whisper.
“Four and five,” replied Aunt Judy; “old enough to
know what they liked and disliked from hour to hour. Old enough
to miss what had pleased them, till something else pleased them as well.
But not old enough to look forward and know how much a mother is wanted
in life; and, therefore, what a terrible loss the loss of a mother is.”
“It’s a very sad story I’m afraid,” remarked
“Not altogether,” said Aunt Judy, smiling, “as you
shall hear. One day the two little motherless girls went hand
in hand across one of the courts of the great Charity Institution in
London, where their grandmamma lived, into the old archway entrance,
and there they stood still, looking round them, as if waiting for something.
The old archway entrance opened into a square, and underneath its shelter
there was a bench on one side, and on the other the lodge of the porter,
whose business it was to shut up the great gates at night.
The porter had often before looked at the motherless children as they
passed into the shadow of his archway, and said to himself, ‘Poor
little things;’ for just so, during many years of his life, he
had watched their young mother pass through, and had exchanged words
of friendly greeting with her.
“And even now, although it was at least a year and a half since
her death, when he saw the waiting children seat themselves on the bench
opposite his door, the old thought stole over his mind. How sad
that she should have been taken away so early from those little ones!
How sad for them to be left! No one - nothing - in this world,
could supply the loss of her protecting care. - Poor little things!
- and not the less so because they were altogether unconscious of their
misfortune; and here, with the mourning casting a gloom over their fair
young faces, were looking with the utmost eagerness and delight towards
the doorway, - now and then slipping down from their seats to take a
peep into the Square, and see if what they expected was coming, - now
and then giggling to each other about the grave face of the old man
on the other side of the way.
“At last, one, who had been peeping a bit as before, exclaimed,
with a smothered shout, ‘Here he is!’ and then the other
joined her, and the two rushed out together into the Square and stood
on the pavement, stopping the way in front of a lad, who held over his
arm a basket containing hares’ and rabbits’ skins, in which
he carried on a small trade.
“They looked up with their smiling faces into his, and he grinned
at them in return, and then they said, ‘Have you got any for us
to-day?’ on which he set down his basket before them, and told
them they might have one or two if they pleased, and down they knelt
upon the pavement, examining the contents of his basket, and talked
in almost breathless whispers to each other of the respective merits,
the softness, colour, and prettiness, of - what do you think?”
At the first moment No. 6, being engrossed by the story, could not guess
at all; but in another instant she recollected, and exclaimed:-
“Oh, Aunt Judy, do you mean those were the rabbits’ tails
you told about?”
“They were indeed, No. 6,” replied Aunt Judy; “their
grandmamma’s cook had given them one or two sometime before, and
there being but few entertaining games which two children can play at
alone, and these poor little things being a good deal left to themselves,
they invented a play of their own out of the rabbits’ tails.
I think the pleasant feel of the fur, which was so nice to cuddle and
kiss, helped them to this odd liking; but whatever may have been the
cause, certain it is they did get quite fond of them - pretended that
they could feel, and were real living things, and talked of them, and
to them, as if they were a party of children.
“They called them ‘Tods’ and ‘Toddies,’
but they had all sorts of names besides, to distinguish one from the
other. There was, ‘Whity,’ and ‘Browny,’
and ‘Softy,’ and ‘Snuggy,’ and ‘Stripy,’
and many others. They knew almost every hair of each of them,
and I believe could have told which was which, in the dark, merely by
“This sounds ridiculous enough, does it not, dear No. 6?”
said Aunt Judy, interrupting herself.
No. 6 smiled, but she was too much interested to wish to talk; so the
“Now you must know that I have looked rather curiously at hares’
and rabbits’ tails myself since I first heard the story; and there
actually is more variety in them than you would suppose. Some
are nice little fat things - almost round, with the hair close and fine;
others longer and more skinny, and with poor hair, although what there
is may be of a handsome colour. And as to colour, even in rabbits’
tails, which are white underneath, there are all shades from grey to
dark brown one the upper side; and the patterns and markings differ,
as you know they do on the fur of a cat. In short, there really
is a choice even in hares’ and rabbits’ tails, and the more
you look at them, the more delicate distinctions you will see.
“Well, the poor little girls knew all about this, and a great
deal more, I dare say, than I have noticed, for they had played at fancy-life
with them, till the Tods had become far more to them than any toys they
possessed; actually, in fact, things to love; and I dare say if we could
have watched them at night putting their Tods to bed, we should have
seen every one of them kissed.
“It was a capital thing, as you may suppose, for keeping the children
quiet as well as happy in the nursery, at the top of the London house,
in one particular corner of which the basket of Tods was kept.
But when grandmamma’s bell rang, which it did day by day as a
summons, after the parlour breakfast was over, the Tods were put away;
and it was dolls, or reasonable toys of some description, which the
motherless little girls took down with them to the drawing-room; and
I doubt whether either grandmamma or aunt knew of the Tod family in
the basket up-stairs.
“After the affair had gone on for a little time, the children
were accidentally in the kitchen when the rabbit-skin dealer called,
and the cook begged him to give them a tail or two; and thenceforth,
of course, they looked upon him as one of their greatest friends; and
if they wanted fresh Tods, they would lie in wait for him in the archway
entrance, for fear he should go by without coming in to call at their
grandmamma’s house. And on the day I have described, two
new brothers, ‘Furry’ and ‘Buffy,’ were introduced
to the Tod establishment, and the talking and delight that ensued, lasted
for the whole afternoon.
“Nobody knew, I believe; but certainly if anybody had known how
the hearts of those children were getting involved over the dead rabbits’
tails, it would have been only right to have tried to lead their affection
into some better direction. What a waste of good emotions it was,
when they cuddled up their Tods in an evening; invented histories of
what they had said and done during the day, and put them by at last
with caresses something very nearly akin to human love!”
“Oh, dear Aunt Judy,” exclaimed No. 6, “if their poor
mamma had but been there!”
“All would have been right then, would it not, No. 6?”
No. 6 said “Yes” from the very depths of her heart.
“As it seems to us, you should say,” continued Aunt
Judy; “but that is all. It could not have seemed so to the
God who took their mother away.”
“Aunt Judy - ”
“No. 6, I am telling you a very serious truth. Had it indeed
been right for the children that their mother should have lived, she
would not have been taken away. For some reason or other
it was necessary that they should be without the comfort, and help,
and protection, of her presence in this world. We cannot understand
it, but a time may come when we may see it all as clearly as we now
see the folly of those children who so doted upon senseless rabbits’
“Oh, Aunt Judy, but it was still very, very sad.”
“Yes, about that there cannot be a doubt, and I am as much inclined
as anybody else to say, ‘Poor little things’ every time
I mention them. But now let me go on with the story, for it has
a sort of end as well as beginning. The Tod affair came at last
to their grandmamma’s ears.”
“I am so glad,” cried No. 6.
“You will not say so when I tell you how it happened,” was
Aunt Judy’s rejoinder. “The fact was, that one unfortunate
day one of the Tods disappeared. Whether it lead been left out
of the basket when grandmamma’s bell rang, and so got swept away
by the nurse and burnt, I cannot say; but, at any rate, when the children
went to their play one morning, ‘Softy,’ their dear little
‘Softy,’ was gone. He was the fattest-furred and finest-haired
of all the Tod family, and the one about whom they invented the prettiest
stories; he was, in fact, the model, the out-of-the-way-amiable pattern
Tod. They could not believe at first that he really was gone.
They hunted for him in every hole and corner of their nursery and bed-room;
they looked for him all along the passages; they tossed all the other
Tods out of the basket to find him, as if they really were - even in
their eyes - nothing but rabbits’ tails; they asked all the servants
about him, till everybody’s patience was exhausted, and they got
angry; and then at last the children’s hope and temper were both
exhausted too, and they broke out into passionate crying.
“This was vexatious to the nurse, of course; but her method of
consolation was not very judicious.
“‘Why, bless my heart,’ was her beginning, ‘what
nonsense! Didn’t the children know as well as she did, that
hares’ and rabbits’ tails were not alive, and couldn’t
feel? and what could it signify of one of them was thrown away and lost?
They’d a basket-full left besides, and it was plenty of such rubbish
as that! They were all very well to play with up in the nursery,
but they were worth nothing when all was said and done!’
This was completely in vain, of course. The children sat on the
nursery floor and cried on just the same; and by-and-by went away to
the corner of the room where the Tod-basket was kept, and bewailed the
loss of poor ‘Softy’ to his brothers and sisters inside.
“As the time approached, however, for grandmamma’s summoning
bell, the nurse began to wonder what she could do to stop this fretting,
and cool the red eyes; so she tried the coaxing plan, by way of a change.
“‘If she was such nice little girls with beautiful dolls
and toys, she never would fret so about a rabbit’s tail, to be
sure! And, besides, the boy was sure to be round again very soon
with the hare and rabbit skins; and if they would only be good, and
dry their eyes, she would get him to give them as many more as they
pleased. Quite fresh new ones. She dared say they would
be as pretty again as the one that was lost.’
“If nurse had wished to hit upon an injudicious remark, she could
not have succeeded better. What did they care for ‘fresh
new’ Tods instead of their dear ‘Softy?’ And
the mere suggestion that any others could be prettier, turned their
regretful love into a sort of passionate indignation; yet the nurse
had meant well, and was astonished when the conclusion of what was intended
to be a kind harangue, was followed by a louder burst of crying than
“It must be owned that the little girls had by this time got out
of grief into naughtiness; and there was now quite as much petted temper
as sorrow in their tears; and lo! while they were in the midst of this
fretful condition, grandmamma’s summoning bell was heard, and
they were obliged to go down to her.
“You can just imagine their appearance when they entered the drawing-room
with their eyes red and swelled, their cheeks flushed, and anything
but a pleasant expression over their faces. Of course, grandmamma
and aunt immediately made inquiries as to the reason of so much disturbance,
but the children were scarcely able to utter the usual ‘good morning;’
and when called upon to tell their cause of trouble, did nothing but
begin to cry afresh.
“Whereupon their aunt was dispatched up-stairs to find out what
was amiss; and then, for the first time, she heard from the nurse the
history of the Tod family, the children’s devotion to them, and
their present vexatious grief about the loss of a solitary one of what
she called their stupid bits of nonsense.
“Foolish as the whole affair sounds in looking back upon it, it
certainly was one which required rather delicate handling, and I doubt
whether anybody but a mother could have handled it properly. Grandmamma
and aunt had every wish to do for the best, but they hardly took enough
into consideration, either the bereaved condition of those motherless
little ones, or their highly fanciful turn of mind. Yet nobody
was to blame; the children spent all the summer with their father in
the country, and all the winter with their grandmamma in London; and,
therefore, no continued knowledge of their characters was possible,
for they were always birds of passage everywhere. Certainly, however,
it was a great mistake, under such circumstances, for grandmamma and
aunt to have broken rudely into the one stronghold of childish comfort,
which they had raised up for themselves.”
Aunt Judy paused, and No. 6 really looked frightened as to what was
coming next, and asked what Aunt Judy could mean that they did.
“Were they very angry?”
“No, they were not very angry,” Aunt Judy said; “perhaps
if they had been only that, the whole thing would have passed over and
“But they held grave consultation upon the subject, and made it
too serious, in my opinion, and I dare say you will think so too.
Meantime the naughty children were turned out of the room while they
talked, and the mystery of this, sobered their temper considerably;
so that they made no further disturbance, but wandered up and down the
stairs, and about the hall, in silent discomfort.
“At one time they thought they heard the drawing-room door open,
and their aunt go up-stairs towards the nursery department again; but
then for a long while they heard no more; and at last, childlike, began
to amuse themselves by seeing how far along the oil-cloth pattern they
could each step, as they walked the length of the hall, the great object
being to stretch from one particular diamond to another, without touching
any intermediate mark.
“In the midst of the excitement of this, they heard their aunt’s
voice calling to them from the middle of the last flight of stairs.
There was something in her face, composed as it was, which alarmed them
directly, and there they stood quite still, gazing at her.
“‘Grandmamma and I,’ she began, ‘think you have
been very silly indeed in making such a fuss about those rabbits’
tails; and you have been very naughty indeed to-day, very naughty,
in crying so ridiculously, and teazing all the servants, because
of one being lost. You can’t play with them rationally,
nurse is sure, and so we think you will be very much better without
them. Grandmamma has sent me to tell you - You will never see
the Tods, as you call them, any more.’
“Aunt Judy, it was horrible!” cried No. 6; “savage
and horrible!” she repeated, and burst the next instant into a
flood of tears.
“Oh, my old darling No. 6,” cried Aunt Judy, covering the
sobbing child quite round with both her arms, “surely you are
not going into hysterics about the rabbits’ tails too! I
doubt if even their little mammas did that. Come! you must cheer
up, or mamma will leave to be sent for to say that if you are so unreasonable,
you must never listen to Aunt Judy’s stories any more.”
No. 6’s emotion began to subside under the comfortable embrace,
and Aunt Judy’s joke provoked a smile.
“There now, that’s good!” cried Aunt Judy; “and
now, if you won’t be ridiculous, I will finish the story.
I almost think the prettiest part is to come.”
This was consolation indeed; but No. 6 could not resist a remark.
“But, Aunt Judy, wasn’t that aunt - ”
“Hush, hush,” interrupted Aunt Judy, “I apologized
for both aunt and grandmamma before I told you what they did.
They meant to do for the best, and
‘The best can do no more.’
They cured the evil too, though in what you and I think rather a rough
manner. And rough treatment is sometimes very effectual, however
unpleasant. It was but a preparation for the much harder disappointments
of older life.”
“Poor little things!” ejaculated No. 6, once more.
“Just tell me if they cried dreadfully.”
“I don’t think I care to talk much about that, dear No.
6,” answered her sister. “They had cried almost as
much as they could do in one day, and were stupified by the new misfortune,
besides which, they had a feeling all the time of having brought it
on themselves by being dreadfully naughty. It was a sad muddle
altogether, I must confess. The shock upon the poor children’s
minds at the time must have been very great, for the memory of that
bereavement clung to them through grown-up life, as a very unpleasant
recollection, when a thousand more important things had passed away
forgotten from their thoughts. In fact, as I said, the motherless
little girls really broke their hearts over a parcel of rabbits’
tails. But I must go on with the story. After a day or two
of dull desolation, the children wearied even of their grief.
And both grandmamma and aunt became very sorry for them, although the
fatal subject of the Tods was never mentioned; but they bought them
several beautiful toys which no child could help looking at or being
pleased with. Among these presents was a brown fur dog, with a
very nice face and a pair of bright black eyes, and a curly tail hung
over his back in a particularly graceful manner; and this was, as you
may suppose, in the children’s eyes, the gem of all their new
treasures. The feel of him reminded them of the lost Tods; and
in every respect he was, of course, superior. They named him ‘Carlo,’
and in a quiet manner established him as the favourite creature of their
play. And thus, by degrees, and as time went on, their grief for
the loss of the Tods abated somewhat; and at last they began to talk
about them to each other, which was a sure sign that their feelings
“But you will never guess what turn their conversation took.
They did not begin to say how sorry they had been, or were; nor did
they make any angry remarks about their aunt’s cruelty; but one
day as they were sitting playing with Carlo, in what may be called the
Tod corner of the nursery, the eldest child said suddenly to her sister,
in a low voice
“‘What do you think our aunt has really done with
“A question which seemed not at all to surprise the other, for
she answered, in the same mysterious tone:-
“‘I don’t know, but I don’t think she could
“‘And I don’t, either,’ was the rejoinder.
‘Perhaps she has only put them somewhere where we cannot
get at them.’
“The next idea came from the younger child:-
“‘Do you think she’ll ever let us have them back again?’
“But the answer to this was a long shake of the head from the
wiser elder sister. And then they began to play with Carlo again.
“But after that day they used often to exchange a few words together
on the subject, although only to the same effect - their aunt could
not have burnt them, they felt sure. She never said she had
burnt them. She only said, ‘You will never see the Tods
“Perhaps she had only put them by; perhaps she had put them by
in some comfortable place; perhaps they were in their little basket
in some closet, or corner of the house, quite as snug as up in the nursery.
“And here the conversation would break off again. As to
asking any questions of their aunt, that was a thing that never
crossed their minds. It was impossible; the subject was so fatally
serious! . . . But I believe there was an involuntary peeping about
into closets and out-of-the-way places whenever opportunity offered;
yet no result followed, and the Tods were not found.
“One night, two or three months later, and just before the little
things were moved back from London to their country home; and when they
were in bed in their sleeping room, as usual, and the nurse had left
them, and had shut the door between them and the day nursery, where
she sat at work, the elder child called out in a whisper to the younger
“‘Sister, are you asleep?’
“‘I’ll tell you of a place where the Tods may be.’
“‘Do you think so?’
“‘Yes. I think we’ve looked everywhere else.
And I think perhaps it’s very nice down there with bits of sawdust
here and there on the ground. I saw some on the bottle to-day,
and it was quite soft. Aunt would be quite sure we should never
see them there. I dare say it’s very snug indeed all among
the barrels and empty bottles in that cellar we once peeped into.’
“The younger child here began to laugh in delighted amusement,
but the elder one bade her ‘hush,’ or the nurse would hear
them; and then proceeded whispering as before
“‘It’s a great big place, and they could each have
a house, and visit each other, and hide, and make fun.’
“‘And I dare say Softy was put there first,’ interposed
the younger sister.
“‘Ay, and how pleased the others would be to find him there!
“And they did think. Poor little things, they lay
and thought of that meeting when ‘the others’ were put in
the cellar where ‘Softy’ already was, ready to welcome them
to his new home; and they talked of all that might have happened on
such an occasion, and told each other that the Tods were much happier
altogether there, than if the others had remained in the nursery separated
from dear little Softy. In short, they talked till the door opened,
and the nurse, unsuspicious of the state of her young charges, went
to bed herself, and sleep fell on the whole party.
“But a new world had now opened before them out of the very midst
of their sorrow itself. The fancy home of the Tods was almost
a more available source of amusement, than even playing with the real
things had been; and sometimes in the early morning, sometimes for the
precious half-hour at night, before sleep overtook them, the little
wits went to work with fresh details and suppositions, and they related
to each other, in turns, the imaginary events of the day in the cellar
among the barrels. Each morning, when they went down-stairs, Carlo
was put in the Tod corner of the nursery and instructed to slip away,
as soon as he could manage it, to the Tods in the cellar, and hear all
that they had been about.
“And marvellous tales Mr. Carlo used to bring back, if the children’s
accounts to each other were to be trusted. Such running about,
to be sure, took place among those barrels and empty bottles.
Such playing at bo-peep. Such visits of ‘Furry’ and
his family to ‘Buffy’ and his family, when the little
‘Furrys’ and ‘Buffys’ could not be kept in order,
but would go peeping into bungholes, and tumbling nearly through, and
having to be picked out by Carlo, drabbled and chilled, but ready for
a fresh frolic five minutes after!
“Such comical disputes, too, they had, as to how far the grounds
round each Tod’s house extended; such funny adventures of getting
into their neighbour’s corner instead of their own, in the dim
light that prevailed, and being mistaken for a thief; when Carlo had
to come and act as judge among them, and make them kiss and be friends
“Such dinners, too, Carlo brought them, as he passed through the
kitchen on his road to the cellar, and watched his opportunity to carry
off a few un-missed little bits for his friends below. Dear me!
his contrivances on that score were endless, and the odd things he got
hold of sometimes by mistake, in his hurry, were enough to kill the
Tods with laughing - to say nothing of the children who were inventing
“Then the care they took to save the little drops at the bottom
of the bottles, for Carlo, in return for all the trouble he had, was
most praiseworthy; and sometimes, when there was a rather larger quantity
than usual, they would have such a feast! - and drink the healths
of their dear little mistresses in the nursery up-stairs.
“In short, it was as perfect a fancy as their love for the Tods,
and their ideas of enjoyment could make it. Nothing uncomfortable,
nothing sad, was ever heard of in that cellar-home of their lost pets.
No quarrelling, no crying, no naughtiness, no unkindness, were supposed
to trouble it. Nothing was known of, there, but comfort and fun,
and innocent blunders and jokes, which ended in fun and comfort again.
One thing, therefore, you see, was established as certain throughout
the whole of the childish dream:- the departed favourites were all perfectly
happy, as happy as it was possible to be; and they sent loving messages
by Carlo to their old friends to say so, and to beg them not to be sorry
for them, for, excepting that they would like some day to see
those old friends again, they had nothing left to wish for in their
“And here the Tod story ends!” remarked Aunt Judy, in conclusion,
“and I beg you to observe, No. 6, that, like all my stories, it
ends happily. The children had now got hold of an amusement which
was safe from interference, and which lasted - I am really afraid to
say how long; for even after the fervour of their Tod love had abated,
they found an endless source of invention and enjoyment in the cellar-home
romance, and told each other anecdotes about it, from time to time,
for more, I believe, than a year.”
When Aunt Judy paused here, as if expecting some remark, all that No.
6 could say, was:-
“Poor little things!”
“Ay, they were still that,” exclaimed Aunt Judy, “even
in the midst of their new-found comfort. Oh, No. 6, when one thinks
of the strange way in which they first of all created a sorrow for themselves,
and then devised for themselves its consolation, what a pity it seems
that no good was got out of it!”
It was not likely that No. 6 should guess what the good was which Aunt
Judy thought might have been got out of it; and so she said; whereupon
Aunt Judy explained:-
“Did it not offer a quite natural opportunity, - if any kind friend
had but known of it, - of speaking to those children of some of the
sacred hopes of our Christian faith? - of leading them, through kind
talk about their own pretty fancies, to the subject of what really
becomes of the dear friends who are taken away from us by death?
“Had I been their Aunt Judy,” she continued, “I
should have thought it no cruelty, but kindness then, to have spoken
to them about their lost mother, and told them that she was living now
in a place where she was much, much happier, than she had ever been
before, and where one of the very few things she had left to wish for,
was, that one day she might see them again: not in this world, where
people are so often uncomfortable and sad, but in that happy one where
there is no more sorrow, or crying, for God Himself wipes away the tears
from all eyes.
“I should have told them besides,” pursued Aunt Judy, “that
it would not please their dear mother at all for them to fret for her,
and fancy they couldn’t do without her, and be discontented
because God had taken her away, and think it would have been much better
for them if He had not done so - (as if He did not know a thousand times
better than they could do:) - but that it would please her very much
for them to pray to God to make them good, so that they might all meet
together at last in that very happy place.
“In short, No. 6, I would have led them, if possible, to make
a comforting reality to themselves of the next world, as they had already
got a comforting fancy out of the cellar-dream of the Tods. And
that is the good, dear child, which I meant might have been got out
of the Tod adventure.”
Aunt Judy ceased, but there was no chance of seeing the effect of what
she had said on No. 6’s face, for it was laid on her sister’s
lap; probably to hide the tears which would come into her eyes at Aunt
Judy’s allusion to what she had said about her.
At last a rather husky voice spoke:-
“You can’t expect people to like what is so very sad, even
if it is - what you call - right - and all that.”
“No! neither does God expect it!” was Aunt Judy’s
earnest reply. “We are allowed to be sorry when trials come,
for we feel the suffering, and cannot at present understand the blessing
or necessity of it. But we are not allowed to ‘sorrow without
hope;’ and we are not allowed, even when we are most sorry, to
be rebellious, and fancy we could choose better for ourselves than God
chooses for us.”
Aunt Judy’s lesson, as well as story, was ended now, and she began
talking over the entertaining part of the Tod history, and then went
on to other things, till No. 6 was quite herself again, and wanted to
know how much was true about the motherless little girls; and when she
found from Aunt Judy’s answer that the account was by no means
altogether an invention, she went into a fever-fidget to know who the
children were, and what had become of them; and finally settled that
the one thing in the world she most wished for, was to see them.
Nor would she be persuaded that this was a foolish idea, until Aunt
Judy asked her how she would like to be introduced to a couple of very
old women, with huge hooked noses, and beardy, nut-cracker chins,
and be told that those were the motherless little girls who had
broken their hearts over rabbits’ tails! - an inquiry which tickled
No. 6’s fancy immensely, so that she began to laugh, and suggest
a few additions of her own to the comical picture, in the course of
doing which, she fortunately quite lost sight of the “one thing”
which a few minutes before she had “most wished for in the world!”
“OUT OF THE WAY”
“Oh wonderful Son that can so astonish a Mother!”
“What a horrid nuisance you are, No. 8, brushing everything down
as you go by! Why can’t you keep out of the way?”
“Oh, you mustn’t come here, No. 8. Aunt Judy, look!
he’s sitting on my doll’s best cloak. Do tell him
to go away.”
“I can’t have you bothering me, No. 8; don’t you see
how busy I am, packing? Get away somewhere else.”
“You should squeeze yourself into less than nothing, and be nowhere,
The suggestion, (uttered with a jocose grin,) came from a small boy
who had ensconced himself in the corner of a window, where he was sitting
on his heels, painting the Union Jack of a ship in the Illustrated
London News. He had certainly acted on the advice he gave,
as nearly as was possible. Surely no little boy of his age ever
got into so small a compass before, or in a position more effectually
out of everybody’s possible way. The window corner led nowhere,
and there was nothing in it for anybody to want.
“No. 8, I never saw anything so tiresome as you are. Why
will you poke your nose in where you’re not wanted? You’re
always in the way.”
“‘He poked his flat nose into every place;’”
sung, sotto voce, by the small boy in the window corner.
No. 8 did not stop to dispute about it, though, in point of fact, his
nose was not flat, so at least in that respect he did not resemble the
duck in the song.
He had not, however, been successful in gaining the attention of his
friends down-stairs, so he dawdled off to make an experiment in another
“Why, you’re not coming into the nursery now, Master No.
8, surely! I can’t do with you fidgetting about among all
the clothes and packing. There isn’t a minute to spare.
You might keep out of the way till I’ve finished.”
“Now, Master No. 8, you must be off. There’s no time
or room for you in the kitchen this morning. There’s ever
so many things to get ready yet. Run away as fast as you can.”
“What are you doing in the passages, No. 8? Don’t
you see that you are in everybody’s way? You had really
better go to bed again.”
But the speaker hurried forward, and No. 8 betook himself to the staircase,
and sat down exactly in the middle of the middle flight. And there
be amused himself by peeping through the banisters into the hall, where
people were passing backwards and forwards in a great fuss; or listening
to the talking and noise that were going on in the rooms above.
But be was not “out of the way” there, as he soon learnt.
Heavy steps were presently heard along the landing, and heavy steps
began to descend the stairs. Two men were carrying down a heavy
“You’ll have to move, young gentleman, if you please,”
observed one; “you’re right in the way just there!”
No. 8 descended with all possible speed, and arrived on the mat at the
“There now, I told you, you were always in the way,” was
the greeting he received. “How stupid it is! Try under
the table, for pity’s sake.”
Under the table! it was not a bad idea; moreover, it was a new one -
quite a fresh plan. No. 8 grinned and obeyed. The hall table
was no bad asylum, after all, for a little boy who was always in the
way everywhere else; besides, he could see everything that was going
on. No. 8 crept under, and squatted himself on the cocoa-nut matting.
He looked up, and looked round, and felt rather as if he was in a tent,
only with a very substantial covering over his head.
Presently the dog passed by, and was soon coaxed to lie down in the
table retreat by the little boy’s side, and the two amused themselves
very nicely together. The fact was, the family were going from
home, and the least the little ones could do during the troublesome
preparation, was not to be troublesome themselves; but this is sometimes
rather a difficult thing for little ones to accomplish. Nevertheless,
No. 8 had accomplished it at last.
“Capital, No. 8! you and the dog are quite a picture. If
I had time, I would make a sketch of you.”
That was the remark of the first person who went by afterwards, and
No. 8 grinned as he heard it.
“Well done, No. 8! that’s the best contrivance I ever saw!”
Remark the second, followed by a second grin.
“Why, you don’t mean to say that you’re under the
table, Master No. 8? Well you are a good boy! I’m
sure I’ll tell your mamma.”
“You dear old fellow, to put yourself so nicely out of the way!
You’re worth I don’t know what.”
“Master No. 8 under the table, to be sure! Well, and a very
nice place it is, and quite suitable. Ever so much better than
the hot kitchen, when there’s baking and all sorts of things going
on. Here, lovey! here’s a little cake that was spared, that
I was taking to the parlour; but, as you’re there, you shall have
No. 8 grinned with all his heart this time.
“I wish I’d thought of that! Why, I could have painted
my ship there without being squeezed!”
It needs scarcely to be told that this was the observation of the small
boy who had watched an opportunity for emerging from the window corner
without fuss, and was now carrying his little paint-box up-stairs to
be packed away in the children’s bag. As he spoke, he stooped
down to look at No. 8 and the dog, and smiled his approbation, and No.
8 smiled in return.
“No. 8, how snug you do look!”
Once more an answering grin.
“No. 8, you’re the best boy in the world; and if you stay
there till Nurse is ready for you, you shall have a penny all to yourself.”
No. 8’s grin was accompanied by a significant nod this time, to
show that he accepted the bargain.
“My darling No. 8, you may come out now. There! give me
a kiss, and get dressed as fast as you can. The fly will be here
directly. You’re a very good boy indeed.”
“No. 8, you’re the pattern boy of the family, and I shall
come with you in the fly, and tell you a story as we go along for a
No. 8 liked both the praise, and the cake, and the penny, and the kiss,
and the promise of the rewarding story for going under the table; but
the why and wherefore of all these charming facts, was a complete mystery
to him. What did that matter, however? He ran up-stairs,
and got dressed, and was ready before anyone else; and, by a miracle
of good fortune, was on the steps, and not in the middle of the carriage-drive,
when the fly arrived, which was to take one batch of the large family
party to the railway station.
No one was as fond of the fly conveyance as of the open carriage; for,
in the first place, it was usually very full and stuffy; and, in the
second, very little of the country could be seen from the windows.
But, on the present occasion, Aunt Judy having offered her services
to accompany the fly detachment, there was a wonderful alteration of
sentiment, as to who should be included. Aunt Judy, however, had
her own ideas. The three little ones belonged to the fly, as it
were by ancient usage and custom, and more than five it would not hold.
Five it would hold, however, and five accordingly got in, No. 4 having
pleaded her own cause to be “thrown in:” and at last, with
nurses and luggage and No. 5 outside, away they drove, leaving the open
carriage and the rest to follow.
Nothing is perfect in this world. Those who had the airy drive
missed the story, and regretted it; but it was fair that the pleasure
should be divided.
And, after all, although the fly might be a little stuffy and closely
packed, and although it cost some trouble to settle down without getting
crushed, and make footstools of carpet bags, and let down all the windows,
- the commotion was soon over; and it was a wonderful lull of peace
and quietness, after the confusion and worry of packing and running
about, to sit even in a rattling fly. And so for five minutes
and more, all the travellers felt it to be, and a soothing silence ensued;
some leaning back, others looking silently out at the retreating landscape,
or studying with earnestness the wonderful red plush lining of the vehicle
But presently, after the rest had lasted sufficiently long to recruit
all the spirits, No. 7 remarked, not speaking to anybody in particular,
“I thought Aunt Judy was going to tell us a story.”
No. 7 was a great smiler in a quiet way, and he smiled now, as he addressed
his remark to the general contents of the fly.
Aunt Judy laughed, and inquired for whom the observation was meant,
adding her readiness to begin, if they would agree to sit quiet and
comfortable, without shuffling up and down, or disputing about space
and heat; and, these points being agreed to, she began her story as
“There were once upon a time a man and his wife who had an only
son. They were Germans, I believe, for all the funny things that
happen, happen in Germany, as you know by Grimm’s fairy tales.
“Well! this man, Franz, had been a watchmaker and mender in an
old-fashioned country town, and he had made such a comfortable fortune
by the business, that he was able to retire before he grew very old;
and so he bought a very pretty little villa in the outskirts of the
town, had a garden full of flowers with a fountain in the middle, and
enjoyed himself very much.
“His wife enjoyed herself too, but never so much as when the neighbours,
as they passed by, peeped over the palings, and said, ‘What a
pretty place! What lucky people the watchmaker and his wife are!
How they must enjoy themselves!’
“On such occasions, Madame Franz would run to her husband, crying
out, ‘Come here, my dear, as fast as you can! Come, and
listen to the neighbours, saying, how we must enjoy ourselves!’
“Franz was very apt to grunt when his wife summoned him in this
manner, and, at any rate, never would go as she requested; but little
Franz, the son, who was very like his mother, and had got exactly her
turn-up nose and sharp eyes, would scamper forward in a moment to hear
what the neighbours had to say, and at the end would exclaim:-
“‘Isn’t it grand, mother, that everybody should think
“To which his mother would reply:-
“‘It is, Franz, dear! I’m so glad you feel for
your mother!’ and then the two would embrace each other very affectionately
several times, and Madame Franz would go to her household business,
rejoicing to think that, if her husband did not quite sympathize with
her, her son did.
“Young Franz had been somewhat spoilt in his childhood, as only
children generally are. As to his mother, from there being no
brothers and sisters to compare him with, she thought such a boy had
never been seen before; and she told old Franz so, so often, that at
last he began to believe it too. And then they got all sorts of
masters for him, to teach him everything they could think of, and qualify
him, as his mother said, for some rich young lady to fall in love with.
That was her idea of the way in which he was one day to make his fortune.
“At last, a time came when his mother thought the young gentleman
quite finished and complete; fit for anything and anybody, and likely
to create a sensation in the world. So she begged old Franz to
dismiss all his masters, and give him a handsome allowance, that he
might go off on his travels and make his fortune, in the manner before
“Old Mr. Franz shook his head at first, and called it all a parcel
of nonsense. Moreover, he declared that Master Franz was a mere
child yet, and would get into a hundred foolish scrapes in less than
a week; but mamma expressed her opinion so positively, and repeated
it so often, that at last papa began to entertain it too, and gave his
consent to the plan.
“The fact was, though I am sorry to say it, Mr. Franz was henpecked.
That is, his wife was always trying to make him obey her, instead of
obeying him, as she ought to have done; and she had managed him so long,
that she knew she could persuade him, or talk him (which is much the
same thing) into anything, provided she went on long enough.
“So she went on about Franz going off on his travels with a handsome
allowance, till Papa Franz consented, and settled an income upon him,
which, if they had been selfish parents, they would have said they could
not afford; but, as it was, they talked the matter over together, and
told each other that it was very little two old souls like themselves
would want when their gay son was away; and so they would draw in, and
live quite quietly, as they used to do in their early days before they
grew rich, and would let the lad have the money to spend upon his amusements.
“Young Franz either didn’t know, or didn’t choose
to think about this. Clever as he was about many things, he was
not clever enough to take in the full value of the sacrifices his parents
were making for him; so he thanked them lightly for the promised allowance,
rattled the first payment cheerfully into his purse, and smiled on papa
and mamma with almost condescending complacency. When he was equipped
in his best suit, and just ready for starting, his mother took him aside.
“‘Franz, my dear,’ she said, ‘you know how much
money and pains have been spent on your education. You can play,
and dance, and sing, and talk, and make yourself heard wherever you
go. Now mind you do make yourself heard, or who is to find out
your merits? Don’t be shy and downcast when you come among
strangers. All you have to think about, with your advantages,
is to make yourself agreeable. That’s the rule for you!
Make yourself agreeable wherever you go, and the wife and the fortune
will soon be at your feet. And, Franz,’ continued she, laying
hold of the button of his coat, ‘there is something else.
You know, I have often said that the one only thing I could wish different
about you is, that your nose should not turn up quite so much.
But you see, my darling boy, we can’t alter our noses. Nevertheless,
look here! you can incline your head in such a manner as almost to hide
the little defect. See - this way - there - let me put it as I
mean - a little down and on one side. It was the way I used to
carry my head before I married, or I doubt very much whether your father
would have looked my way. Think of this when you’re in company.
It’s a graceful attitude too, and you will find it much admired.’
“Franz embraced his mother, and promised obedience to all her
commands; but he was glad when her lecture ended, for he was not very
fond of her remarks upon his nose. Just then the door of his father’s
room opened, and he called out:-
“‘Franz, my dear, I want to speak to you.’
“Franz entered the room, and ‘Now, my dear boy,’ said
papa, ‘before you go, let me give you one word of parting advice;
but stop, we will shut the door first, if you please. That’s
right. Well, now, look here. I know that no pains or expense
have been spared over your education. You can play, and dance,
and sing, and talk, and make yourself heard wherever you go.’
“‘My dear sir,’ interrupted Franz, ‘I don’t
think you need trouble yourself to go on. My mother has just been
giving me the advice beforehand.’
“‘No, has she though?’ cried old Franz, looking up
in his son’s face; but then he shook his head, and said:-
“‘No, she hasn’t, Franz; no, she hasn’t; so
listen to me. We’ve all made a fuss about you, and praised
whatever you’ve done, and you’ve been a sort of idol and
wonder among us. But, now you’re going among strangers,
you will find yourself Mr. Nobody, and the great thing is, you must
be contented to be Mr. Nobody at first. Keep yourself in the background,
till people have found out your merits for themselves; and never get
into anybody’s way. Keep out of the way, in fact,
that’s the safest rule. It’s the secret of life for
a young man - How impatient you look! but mark my words:- all you have
to attend to, with your advantages, is, to keep out of the way.’
“After this bit of advice, the father bestowed his blessing on
his dear Franz, and unlocked the door, close to which they found Mrs.
Franz, waiting rather impatiently till the conference was over.
“‘What a time you have been, Franz!’ she began; but
there was no time to talk about it, for they all knew that the coach,
or post-wagon, as they call it in Germany, was waiting.
“Mrs. Franz wrung her son’s hand.
“‘Remember what I’ve said, my dearest Franz!’
“‘Trust me!’ was Mr. Franz’s significant reply.
“‘You’ll not forget my rule?’ whispered papa.
“‘Forget, sir? no, that’s not possible,’ answered
Mr. Franz in a great hurry, as he ran off to catch the post-wagon; for
they could see it in the distance beginning to move, though part of
the young gentleman’s luggage was on board.
“Well! he was just in time; but what do you think was the next
thing he did, after keeping the people waiting? A sudden thought
struck him, that it would be as well for the driver and passengers to
know how well educated he had been, so he began to give the driver a
few words of geographical information about the roads they were going.
“‘Jump in directly, sir, if you please,’ was the driver’s
“‘Certainly not, till I’ve made you understand what
I mean,’ says Master Franz, quite facetiously. But, then,
smack went the whip, and the horses gave a jolt forwards, and over the
tip of the learned young gentleman’s foot went the front wheel.
“It was a nasty squeeze, though it might have been worse, but
Franz called out very angrily, something or other about ‘disgraceful
carelessness,’ on which the driver smacked his whip again, and
“‘Gentlemen that won’t keep out of the way, must expect
to have their toes trodden on.’ Everybody laughed at this,
but Franz was obliged to spring inside, without taking any notice of
the joke, as the coach was now really going on; and if he had began
to talk, he would have been left behind.
“And now,” continued Aunt Judy, stopping herself, “while
Franz is jolting along to the capital town of the country, you shall
tell me whose advice you think he followed when he got to the end of
the journey, and began life for himself - his father’s or his
There was a universal cry, mixed with laughter, of “His mother’s!”
“Quite right,” responded Aunt Judy. “His mother’s,
of course. It was far the most agreeable, no doubt. Keeping
out of the way is a rather difficult thing for young folks to manage.”
A glance at No. 8 caused that young gentleman’s face to grin all
over, and Aunt Judy proceeded:-
“After his arrival at the great hotel of the town, he found there
was to be a public dinner there that evening, which anybody might go
to, who chose to pay for it; and this he thought would be a capital
opportunity for him to begin life: so, accordingly, he went up-stairs
to dress himself out in his very best clothes for the occasion.
“And then it was that, as he sat in front of the glass, looking
at his own face, while he was brushing his hair and whiskers, and brightening
them up with bear’s-grease, he began to think of his father and
mother, and what they had said, and what he had best do.
“‘An excellent, well-meaning couple, of course, but as old-fashioned
as the clocks they used to mend,’ was his first thought.
‘As to papa, indeed, the poor old gentleman thinks the world has
stood still since he was a young man, thirty years ago. His stiff
notions were all very well then, perhaps, but in these advanced times
they are perfectly quizzical. Keep out of the way, indeed!
Why, any ignoramus can do that, I should think! Well, well, he
means well, all the same, so one must not be severe. As to mamma
now - poor thing - though she is behindhand herself in many ways,
yet she does know a good thing when she sees it, and that’s
a great point. She can appreciate the probable results of my very
superior education and appearance. To be sure, she’s a little
silly over that nose affair; - but women will always be silly about
“Nevertheless, at this point in his meditations, Master Franz
might have been seen inclining his head down on one side, just as his
mother had recommended, and then giving a look at the mirror, to see
whether the vile turn-up did really disappear in that attitude.
I suspect, however, that he did not feel quite satisfied about it, for
he got rather cross, and finished his dressing in a great hurry, but
not before he had settled that there could be only one opinion as to
whose advice he should be guided by - dear mamma’s.
“‘Should it fail,’ concluded he to himself, as he
gave the last smile at the looking-glass, ‘there will be poor
papa’s old-world notion to fall back upon, after all.’
“Now, you must know that Master Franz had never been at one of
these public dinners before, so there is no denying that when he entered
the large dining-hall, where there was a long table, set out with plates,
and which was filling fast with people, not one of whom he knew, he
felt a little confused. But he repeated his mother’s words
softly to himself, and took courage: ‘Don’t be
shy and downcast when you come among strangers. All you have to
think about, with your advantages, is to make yourself agreeable;’
and, on the strength of this, he passed by the lower end of the
table, where there were several unoccupied places, and walked boldly
forward to the upper end, where groups of people were already seated,
and were talking and laughing together.
“In the midst of one of these groups, there was one unoccupied
seat, and in the one next to it sat a beautiful, well-dressed young
lady. ‘Why, this is the very thing,’ thought Mr. Franz
to himself. ‘Who knows but what this is the young lady who
is to make my fortune?’
“There was a card, it is true, in the plate in front of the vacant
seat, but ‘as to that,’ thought Franz, ‘first come,
first served, I suppose; I shall sit down!’
“And sit down the young gentleman accordingly did in the chair
by the beautiful young lady, and even bowed and smiled to her as he
“But the next instant he was tapped on the shoulder by a waiter.
“‘The place is engaged, sir!’ and the man pointed
to the card in the plate.
“‘Oh, if that’s all,’ was Mr. Franz’s
witty rejoinder, ‘here’s another to match!’ and thereupon
he drew one of his own cards from his pocket, threw it into the plate,
and handed the first one to the astonished waiter, with the remark:-
“‘The place is engaged, my good friend, you see!’
“The young goose actually thought this impudence clever, and glanced
across the table for applause as he spoke. But although Mamma
Watchmaker, if she had heard it, might have thought it a piece of astonishing
wit, the strangers at the public table were quite of a different opinion,
and there was a general cry of ‘Turn him out!’
“‘Turn me out!’ shouted Mr. Franz, jumping up from
his chair, as if he intended to fight them all round; and there is no
knowing what more nonsense he might not have talked, but that a very
sonorous voice behind him called out, - a hand laying hold of him by
the shoulders at the same time -
“‘Young man, I’ll trouble you to get out of my chair,
and’ (a little louder) ‘out of my way, and’ (a little
louder still) ‘to keep out of my way!’
“Franz felt himself like a child in the grasp of the man who spoke;
and one glimpse he caught of a pair of coal-black eyes, two frowning
eye-brows, and a moustachioed mouth, nearly frightened him out of his
wits, and he was half way down the room before he knew what was happening;
for, after the baron let him go, the waiter seized him and hustled him
along, till he came to the bottom of the table; where, however, there
was now no room for him, as all the vacant places had been filled up;
so he was pushed finally to a side-table in a corner, at which sat two
men in foreign dresses, not one word of whose language he could understand.
“These two fellows talked incessantly together too, which was
all the more mortifying, because they gesticulated and laughed as if
at some capital joke. Franz was very quiet at first, for the other
adventure had sobered him, but presently, with his mother’s advice
running in his head, he resolved to make himself agreeable, if possible.
“So, at the next burst of merriment, he affected to have entered
into the joke, threw himself back in his chair and laughed as loudly
as they did. The men stared for a second, then frowned, and then
one of them shouted something to him very loudly, which he did not understand;
so he placed his hand on his heart, put on an expressive smile, and
offered to shake hands. Thought he, that will be irresistible!
But he was mistaken. The other man now called loudly to the waiter,
and a moment after, Franz found himself being conveyed by the said waiter
through the doorway into the hall, with the remark resounding in his
“‘What a foolish young gentleman you must be! Why
can’t you keep out of people’s way?’
“‘My good friend,’ cried Mr. Franz, ‘that’s
not my plan at present. I’m trying to make myself agreeable.’
“‘Oh - pooh! - bother agreeable,’ cried the waiter.
‘What’s the use of making yourself agreeable, if you’re
always in the way? Here! - step back, sir! don’t you see
the tray coming?’
“Franz had not noticed it, and would probably have got a thump
on the head from it, if his friend the waiter had not pulled him back.
The man was a real good-natured, smiling German, and said:-
“‘Come, young gentleman, here’s a candle; - you’ve
a bed-room here, of course. Now, you take my advice, and go to
bed. You will be out of the way there, and perhaps you’ll
get up wiser to-morrow.’
“Franz took the candlestick mechanically, but, said he:-
“‘I understood there was to be dancing here tonight, and
I can dance, and - ’
“‘Oh, pooh! bother dancing,’ interrupted the waiter.
‘What’s the use of dancing, if you’re to be in everybody’s
way, and I know you will; you can’t help it. Here, be advised
for once, and go to bed. I’ll bring you up some coffee before
long. Go quietly up now - mind. Good night.’
“Two minutes afterwards, Mr. Franz found himself walking up-stairs,
as the waiter had ordered him to do, though he muttered something about
‘officious fellow’ as he went along.
“And positively he went to bed, as the officious fellow recommended;
and while he lay there waiting for the coffee, he began wondering what
could be the cause of the failure of his attempts to make himself
agreeable. Surely his mother was right - surely there could be
no doubt that, with his advantages - but he did not go on with the sentence.
“Well, after puzzling for some time, a bright thought struck him.
It was entirely owing to that stupid nose affair, which his mother was
so silly about. Of course that was it! He had done everything
else she recommended, but he could not keep his head down at the same
time, so people saw the snub! Well, he would practise the attitude
now, at any rate, till the coffee came!
“No sooner said than done. Out of bed jumped Mr. Franz,
and went groping about for the table to find matches to light the candle.
But, unluckily, he had forgotten how the furniture stood, so he got
to the door by a mistake, and went stumbling up against it, just as
the waiter with the coffee opened it on the other side.
“There was a plunge, a shout, a shuffling of feet, and then both
were on the floor, as was also the hot coffee, which scalded Franz’s
bare legs terribly.
“The waiter got up first, and luckily it was the ‘officious
fellow’ with the smiling face. And said he:-
“‘What a miserable young man you must be, to be sure!
Why, you’re never out of the way, not even when you’re
gone to bed!’
This last anecdote caused an uproar of delight in the fly, and so much
noise, that Aunt Judy had to call the party to order, and talk about
the horses being frightened, after which she proceeded:-
“I am sorry to say Mr. Franz did not get up next morning as much
wiser as the waiter had expected, for he laid all the blame of his misfortunes
on his nose instead of his impertinence, and never thought of correcting
himself, and being less intrusive.
“On the contrary, after practising holding his head down for ten
minutes before the glass, he went out to the day’s amusements,
as saucy and confident as ever.
“Now there is no time,” continued Aunt Judy, “for
my telling you all Mr. Franz’s funny scrapes and adventures.
When we get to the end of the journey, you must invent some for yourselves,
and sit together, and tell them in turns, while we are busy unpacking.
I will only just say, that wherever he went, the same sort of things
happened to him, because he was always thrusting himself forward, and
always getting pushed back in consequence.
“Out of the public gardens he got fairly turned at last, because
he would talk politics to some strange gentlemen on a bench. They
got up and walked away, but, five minutes afterwards, a very odd-looking
man looked over Franz’s shoulder, and said significantly, ‘I
recommend you to leave these gardens, sir, and walk elsewhere.’
And poor Franz, who had heard of such things as prisons and dungeons
for political offenders, felt a cold shudder run through him, and took
himself off with all possible speed, not daring to look behind him,
for fear he should see that dreadful man at his heels. Indeed,
he never felt safe till he was in his bed-room again, and had got the
waiter to come and talk to him.
“‘Dear me,’ said the waiter, ‘what a very silly
young gentleman you must be, to go talking away without being asked!’
“‘But,’ said Franz, ‘you don’t consider
what a superior education I have had. I can talk and make myself
heard - ’
“‘Oh, pooh! bother talking,’ interrupted the waiter;
‘what’s the use of talking when nobody wants to listen?
Much better go to bed.’
“Franz would not give in yet, but was comforted to find the waiter
did not think he would be thrown into prisons and dungeons; so he dined,
and dressed, and went to the theatre to console himself, where however
he made himself heard so effectually - first applauding, then
hissing, and even speaking his opinions to the people round him - that
a set of young college students combined together to get rid of him,
and, I am sorry to add, they made use of a little kicking as the surest
plan; and so, before half the play was over, Mr. Franz found himself
in the street!
“Now, then, I have told you enough of Mr. Franz’s follies,
except the one last adventure, which made him alter his whole plan of
“He had had two letters of introduction to take with him: one
to an old partner of his father’s, who had settled in the capital
some years before; another to some people of more consequence, very
distant family connections. And, of course, Mr. Franz went there
first, as there seemed a nice chance of making his fortune among such
“And really the great folks would have been civil enough, but
that he soon spoilt everything by what he called ‘making
himself agreeable.’ He was too polite, too affectionate,
too talkative, too instructive, by half! He assured the young
ladies that he approved very highly of their singing; trilled out a
little song of his own, unasked, at his first visit; fondled the pet
lap-dog on his knee; congratulated papa on looking wonderfully well
for his age; asked mamma if she had tried the last new spectacles; and,
in short, gave his opinions, and advice, and information, so freely,
that as soon as he was gone the whole party exclaimed:-
“‘What an impertinent jackanapes!’ a jackanapes being
nothing more nor less than a human monkey.
“This went on for some time, for he called very often, being too
stupid, in spite of his supposed cleverness, to take the hints that
were thrown out, that such repeated visits were not wanted.
“At last, however, the family got desperate and one morning when
he arrived, (having teazed them the day before for a couple of hours,)
he saw nobody in the drawing-room when he was ushered in.
“Never mind, thought he, they’ll be here directly when they
know I’m come! And having brought a new song
in his pocket, which he had been practising to sing to them, he sat
down to the piano, and began performing alone, thinking how charmed
they would be to hear such beautiful sounds in the distance!
“But, in the middle of his song, he heard a discordant shout,
and jumping up, discovered the youngest little Missy hid behind the
curtain, and crying tremendously.
“Mr. Franz became quite theatrical. ‘Lovely little
pet, where are your sisters? Have they left my darling to weep
“‘They shut the door before I could get through,’
sobbed the lovely little pet; ‘and I won’t be your darling
“Mr. Franz laughed heartily, and said how clever she was, took
her on his knee, told her her sisters would be back again directly,
and finished his remark by a kiss.
“Unfortunate Mr. Franz! The young lady immediately gave
him an unmistakable box on the ear with her small fist, and vociferated
“No, they won’t, they won’t, they won’t!
They’ll never come back till you’re gone! They’ve
gone away to get out of your way, because you won’t keep
out of theirs. And you’re a forward puppy, papa says,
and can’t take a hint; and you’re always in everybody’s
way, and I’ll get out of your way, too!’
“Here the little girl began to kick violently; but there was no
occasion. Mr. Franz set her down, and while she ran off to her
sisters, he rushed back to the hotel, and double-locked himself into
“After a time, however, he sent for his friend the waiter, for
he felt that a talk would do him good.
“But the ‘officious fellow’ shook his head terribly.
“‘How many more times am I to tell you what a foolish young
gentleman you are?’ cried he. ‘Will you never get
up wiser any morning of the year?’
“‘I thought,’ murmured Franz, in broken, almost sobbing
accents - ‘I thought - the young ladies - would have been delighted
- with - my song; - you see - I’ve been - so well taught - and
I can sing - ’
“‘Oh! pooh, pooh, pooh!’ interrupted the waiter once
more. ‘Bother singing and everything else, if you’ve
not been asked! Much better go to bed!’
“Poor Franz! It was hard work to give in, and he made a
“‘Don’t you think - after all - that the prejudice
- is owing to - what I told you about:- people do so dislike a snub-nose?’
“‘Oh, pooh! bother a snub-nose,’ exclaimed the waiter;
‘what will your nose signify, if you don’t poke it in everybody’s
“And with this conclusion Mr. Franz was obliged to be content;
and he ordered his dinner up-stairs, and prepared himself for an evening
of tears and repentance.
“But, before the waiter had been gone five minutes, he returned
with a letter in his hand.
“‘Now, here’s somebody asking something at last,’
said he, for a servant had brought it.
“Franz trembled as he took it. It was sure to be either
a scolding or a summons to prison, he thought. But no such thing:
it was an invitation to dinner. Franz threw it on the floor, and
kicked it from him - he would go nowhere - see nobody any more!
“The ‘officious fellow’ picked it up, and read it.
‘Mr. Franz,’ said he, ‘you mustn’t go to bed
this time: you must go to this dinner instead. It’s from
your father’s old partner - he wishes you had called, but as you
haven’t called, he asks you to dine. Now you’re wanted,
Mr. Franz, and must go.’
“‘I shall get into another mess,’ cried Franz, despondingly.
“‘Oh, pooh! you’ve only to keep out of everybody’s
way, and all will be right,’ insisted the waiter, as he left the
“‘Only to keep out of everybody’s way, and all will
be right,’ ejaculated Mr. Franz, as he looked at his crest-fallen
face in the glass. ‘It’s a strange rule for getting
on in life! However,’ continued he, cheering up, ‘one
plan has failed, and it’s only fair to give the other a chance!’
“And all the rest of dressing-time, and afterwards as he walked
along the streets, he kept repeating his father’s words softly
to himself, which was at first a very difficult thing to do, because
he could not help mixing them up with his mother’s. It was
the funniest thing in the world to hear him: ‘All you have
to attend to, with your advantages is to - make yourself - no, no!
not to make myself agreeable - is to - keep out of the way!
- that’s it!’ (with a sigh.)
“When Franz arrived at the house, he rang the bell so gently,
that he had to ring twice before he was heard; and then they concluded
it was some beggar, who was afraid of giving a good pull.
“So, when he was ushered into the drawing-room, the old partner
came forward to meet him, took him by both hands, and, after one look
into his downcast face, said:-
“‘My dear Mr. Franz, you must put on a bolder face, and
ring a louder peal, next time you come to the house of your father’s
“Mr. Franz answered this warm greeting by a sickly smile, and
while he was being introduced to the family, kept bowing on, thinking
of nothing but how he was to keep out of everybody’s way!’
“He was tempted every five minutes, of course, to break out in
his usual style, and could have found it in his heart to chuck the whole
party under the chin, and take all the talk to himself. But he
could be determined enough when he chose; and having determined to give
his father’s rule a fair chance, he restrained himself to the
“So, not even the hearty reception of the old partner and his
wife, nor the smiling faces of either daughters or sons, could lure
him into opening out. ‘Yes’ and ‘No;’
‘Do you think so?’ ‘I dare say;’ ‘Perhaps;’
‘No doubt you’re right;’ and other such unmeaning
little phrases were all he would utter when they talked to him.
“‘How shy he is, poor fellow!’ thought the ladies,
and then they talked to him all the more. One tried to amuse him
with one subject, another with another. How did he like the public
gardens? Were they not very pretty? - He scarcely knew.
No doubt they were, if they thought so. What did he think
of the theatre? - It was very hot when he was there. Had he any
friends in the town? - He couldn’t say friends - he knew one or
two people a little. And the poor youth could hardly restrain
a groan, as he answered each of the questions.
“Then they chatted of books, and music, and dancing, and pressed
him hard to discover what he knew, and could do, and liked best; and
when it oozed out even from his short answers, that he had read certain
books in more than one language, and could sing - just a little; and
dance - just a little; and do several other things - just a little,
too, all sorts of nods and winks passed through the family, and they
“‘Ah, when you know us better, and are not so shy of us
as strangers, we shall find out you are as clever again as you pretend
to be, dear Mr. Franz!’
“‘I’ll tell you what,’ added the old partner,
coming up at this moment, ‘it’s a perfect treat to me, Mr.
Franz, to have a young man like you in my house! You’re
your father over again, and I can’t praise you more. He
was the most modest, unobtrusive man in all our town, and yet knew more
of his business than all of us put together.’
“‘No, no, I can’t allow that,’ cried the motherly
“‘Nonsense!’ replied the old partner. ‘However,
my dear boy - for I really must call you so - it was that very thing
that made your father’s fortune; I mean that he was just as unpretending
as he was clever. Everybody trusts an unpretending man.
And you’ll make your fortune too in the same manner,
trust me, before long. Now, boys!’ added he, turning to
his sons, ‘you hear what I say, and mind you take the hint!
As for the young puppies of the present day, who fancy themselves fit
to sit in the chair of their elders as soon as ever they have learnt
their alphabet, and are for thrusting themselves forward in every company
- Mr. Franz, I’ll own it to you, because you will understand me
- I have no patience with such rude, impertinent Jackanapeses, and always
long to kick them down-stairs.’
“The old partner stood in front of Mr. Franz as he spoke, and
clenched his fist in animation. Mr. Franz sat on thorns.
He first went hot, and then he went cold - he felt himself kicked down-stairs
as he listened - he was ready to cry - he was ready to fight - he was
ready to run away - he was ready to drop on his knees, and confess himself
the very most impertinent of all the impertinent Jackanapes’ race.
But he gulped, and swallowed, and shut his teeth close, and nobody found
him out; only he looked very pale, which the good mother soon noticed,
and said she to her husband:-
“‘My dear love, don’t you see how fagged and weary
it makes Mr. Franz look, to hear you raving on about a parcel of silly
lads with whom he has nothing in common? You will frighten
him out of his wits.’
“‘Mr. Franz will forgive me, I know,’ cried the old
partner, gently. ‘Jacintha, my dear, fetch the wine and
“The kind, careful souls feared he was delicate, and insisted
on his having some refreshment; and then papa ordered the young people
to give their guest some music; and Franz sat by while the sons and
daughters went through a beautiful opera chorus, which was so really
charming, that Mr. Franz did forget himself for a minute, clapped violently,
and got half-way through the word ‘encore’ in a very loud
tone. But he checked himself instantly, coloured, apologized for
his rudeness, and retreated further back from the piano.
“Of course, this new symptom of modesty was met by more kindness,
and followed by a sly hint from the merry Jacintha, that Mr. Franz’s
turn for singing had come now!
“Poor Mr. Franz! with the recollection of the morning’s
adventure on his mind, and his father’s rule ringing in his ears,
he felt singing to be out of the question, so he declined. On
which they entreated, insisted, and would listen to no refusal.
And Jacintha went to him, and looked at him with her sweetest smile,
and said, ‘But you know, Mr. Franz, you said you could sing a
little; and if it’s ever so little, you should sing when you’re
asked!’ and with that Miss Jacintha offered him her
hand, and led him to the piano.
“Franz was annoyed, though he ought to been pleased.
“‘But how am I to keep out of people’s way,’
thought he to himself, ‘if they will pull me forward? It’s
the oddest thing I ever knew. I can’t do right either way.’
“Then a thought struck him:-
“‘I have no music, Miss Jacintha,’ said he, ‘and
I can’t sing without music;’ and he was going back again
to his chair in the corner.
“‘But we have all the new music,’ was her answer,
and she opened a portfolio at once. ‘See, here’s the
last new song!’ and she held one up before the unfortunate youth,
who at the sight of it coloured all over, even to the tips of his ears.
Whereupon Miss Jacintha, who was watching him, laughed, and said she
had felt sure he knew it; and down she sat, and began to play the accompaniment,
and in two minutes afterwards Mr. Franz found himself - in spite of
himself, as it were - exhibiting in the song, the fatal song
of the morning’s adventure.
“It was a song of tender sentiment, and the singer’s almost
tremulous voice added to the effect, and a warm clapping of hands greeted
“But by that time Mr. Franz was so completely exhausted with the
struggles of this first effort on the new plan, that he began to wish
them good-night, saying he would not intrude upon them any longer.
“They would shake hands with him, though he tried to bow himself
off without; and the old partner followed him down-stairs into the hall.
“‘Mr. Franz,’ said he, ‘we have been delighted
to make your acquaintance, but this has been only a quiet family party.
Now we know your sort, you must come again, and meet our friends.
Wife will fix the day, and send you word; and don’t you be afraid,
young man! Mind you come, and put your best foot forward among
“Franz was almost desperate. His conscience began to reproach
him. What! was he going to accept all this kindness, like a rogue
receiving money under false pretences? He was shocked, and began
“‘I assure you, dear sir, I don’t deserve - You are
quite under a mistake - I really am not - the fact is, you think a great
deal better of me than - ”
“‘Nonsense!’ shouted the old partner, clapping him
vigorously on the back. ‘Why, you’re not going to
teach me at my time of life, surely? Not going to turn as conceited
as that, after all, eh? Come, come, Mr. Franz, no nonsense!
And to-morrow,’ he added, ‘I’ll send you letters of
introduction to some of my friends, who will show you the lions, and
make much of you. You will be well received wherever you take
them, first for my sake, and afterwards for your own. There, there!
I won’t hear a word! No thanks - I hate them! Good
“And the old partner fairly pushed Mr. Franz through the door.
“‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ was the waiter’s exclamation
when Franz reached the hotel, and the light of the lamp shone on his
white, worn-out face. ‘Oh dear, oh dear! I fear you’ve
been a silly young gentleman over again! What have you
been doing this time?’
“‘I’ve been trying to keep out of everybody’s
way all the evening,’ growled Mr. Franz, ‘and they would
pull me forward, in spite of myself.’
“‘No - really though?’ cried the waiter, as if it
were scarcely possible.
“‘Really,’ sighed poor Mr. Franz.
“‘Then do me the honour, sir,’ exclaimed the waiter,
with a sudden deference of manner; and taking the tips of Franz’s
fingers in his own, he bent over them with a salute. ‘You’re
a wise young gentleman now, sir, and your fortune’s made.
I’m glad you’ve hit it at last!
“And Mr. Franz had hit it at last, indeed,” continued Aunt
Judy, “as appeared more plainly still by the letters of introduction
which reached him next morning. They were left open, and were
to this effect:-
“‘ . . . The bearer of this is the son of an old
friend. One of the most agreeable young men I ever saw.
As modest as he is well educated, and I can’t say more.
Procure him some amusement, that a little of his shyness may be rubbed
off; and forward his fortunes, my dear friend, as far as you can . .
“Franz handed one of these letters to his friend the waiter, and
the ‘officious fellow’ grinned from ear to ear.
“‘There is only one more thing to fear,’ observed
“‘And what?’ asked Franz.
“‘Why, that now you’re comfortable, my dear young
gentleman, your head should be turned, and you should begin to make
yourself agreeable again, and spoil all.’
“‘Oh, pooh! bother agreeable; I say now, as you did,’
cried Franz, laughing. ‘No, no, my good friend, I’m
not going to make myself agreeable any more. I know better than
that at last!’
“‘Then your fortune’s safe as well as made!’
was the waiter’s last remark, as he was about to withdraw: but
Franz followed him to the door.
“‘I found out a rather curious thing this evening, do you
“‘And that was? - ’ inquired his humble friend.
“‘Why, that I was sitting all the time in that very attitude
my mother recommended - with my head a little down, you know - so that
I really don’t think they noticed my snub.’
“The waiter got as far as, ‘Oh, pooh!’ but Franz was
nervous, and interrupted him.
“‘Yes - yes! I don’t believe there’s anything
in it myself; but it will be a comfort to my mother to think it was
her advice that made my fortune, which she will do when I tell her that!’
“‘Ah! - the ladies will be romantic now and then!’
exclaimed the waiter, with a flourish of his hand, ‘and you must
trim the comfort to a person’s taste.’
“And in due time,” pursued Aunt Judy, “that was exactly
what Mr. Franz did. Strictly adhering to his father’s rule,
and encouraged by its capital success that first night, he got so out
of the habit of being pert, and foolish, and inconsiderate, that he
ended by never having any wish to be so; so that he really became what
the old partner had imagined him to be at first. It was a great
restraint for some time, but his modest manners fitted him at last as
easy as an old shoe, and he was welcome at every house, because he was
never in the way, and always knew when to retire!
“It was a jovial day for Papa and Mamma’s Watchmaker when,
two years afterwards, Mr. Franz returned home, a partner in the old
partner’s prosperous business, and with the smiling Jacintha for
“And then, in telling his mother of that first evening of his
good fortune, he did not forget to mention that he had hung down his
head all the time, as she had advised; and, just as he expected, she
jumped up in the most extravagant delight.
“‘I knew how it would be all along!’ cried she; ‘I
told you so! I knew if you could only hide that terrible snub
all would be well; and I’m sure our pretty Jacintha wouldn’t
have looked your way if you hadn’t! See, now! you have to
thank your mother for it all!’
“Franz was quite happy himself, so he smiled, and let his mother
be happy her way too; but he opened his heart of hearts to poor old-fashioned
papa, and told him - well, in fact, all his follies and mistakes, and
their cure. And if mamma was happy in her bit of comfort, papa
was not less so in his, for there is not a more delightful thing in
the world than for father and son to understand each other as friends;
and old Franz would sometimes walk up and down in his room, listening
to the cheerful young voices up-stairs, and say to himself, that if
Mother Franz - good soul as she was - did not always quite enter into
his feelings, it was his comfort to be blessed with a son who did!”
* * *
What a long story it had been! Aunt Judy was actually tired out
when she got to the end, and could not talk about it, but the little
ones did till they arrived at the station, and had to get out.
And in the evening, when they were all sitting together before they
went to bed, there was no small discussion about the story of Mr. Franz,
and how people were to know what was really good manners - when to come
forward, and when to hold back - and the children were a little startled
at first, when their mother told them that the best rules for good manners
were to be found in the Bible.
But when she reminded them of that text, “When thou art bidden,
go and sit down in the lowest room,” &c. they saw in those
words a very serious reason for not pushing forward into the best place
in company. And when they recollected that every man was to do
to others as he wished others to do to him, it became clear to them
that it was the duty of all people to study their neighbours’
comfort and pleasure as well as their own; and it was no hard matter
to show how this rule applied to all the little ins and outs of every-day
life, whether at home, or in society. And there were plenty of
other texts, ordering deference to elders, and the modesty which arises
out of that humility of spirit which “vaunteth not itself,”
and “is not puffed up.” There was, moreover, the comfortable
promise, that “the meek” should “inherit the earth.”
Of course, it was difficult to the little ones, just at first, to see
how such very serious words could apply to anybody’s manners,
and especially to their own.
But it was a difficulty which mamma, with a little explanation, got
over very easily; and before the little ones went to bed, they quite
understood that in restraining themselves from teazing and being troublesome,
they were not only not being “tiresome,” but were actually
obeying several Gospel rules.
“NOTHING TO DO.”
“Had I a little son, I would christen him NOTHING-TO-DO.”
There is a complaint which is not to be found in the doctor’s
books, but which is, nevertheless, such a common and troublesome one,
that one heartily wishes some physic could be discovered which would
It may be called the nothing-to-do complaint.
Even quite little children are subject to it, but they never have it
badly. Parents and nurses have only to give them something to
do, or tell them of something to do, and the thing is put right.
A puzzle or a picture-book relieves the attack at once.
But after the children have out-grown puzzles, and picture-books, and
nurses, and when even a parent’s advice is received with a little
impatience, then the nothing-to-do complaint, if it seizes them
at all, is a serious disease, and often very difficult to cure; and,
if not cured, alas! then follows the melancholy spectacle of grown-up
men and women, who are a plague to their friends, and a weariness to
themselves; because, living under the notion that there is nothing
for them to do, they want everybody else to do something
to amuse them.
Anyone can laugh at the old story of the gentleman who got into such
a fanciful state of mind - hypochondriacal, it is called - that he thought
he was his own umbrella; and so, on coming in from a walk, would go
and lay it in the easy-chair by the fire, while he himself went
and leant up against the wall in a corner of the hall.
But this gentleman was not a bit more fanciful and absurd than the people,
whether young or old, who look out of windows on rainy days and groan
because there is nothing to do; when, in reality, there is so
much for everybody to do, that most people leave half their share undone.
The oddest part of the complaint is, that it generally comes on worst
in those who from being comfortably off in the world, and from having
had a great deal of education, have such a variety of things to do,
that one would fancy they could never be at a loss for a choice.
But these are the very people who are most afflicted. It is always
the young people who have books, and leisure, and music, and drawing,
and gardens, and pleasure-grounds, and villagers to be kind to, who
lounge to the rain-bespattered windows on a dull morning, and groan
because there is nothing to do.
In justice to girls in general, it should be here mentioned, that
they are on the whole less liable to the complaint than the young lords
of the creation, who are supposed to be their superiors in sense.
Philosophers may excuse this as they please, but the fact remains, that
there are few large families in England, whose sisterhoods have not
at times been teazed half out of their wits, by the growlings of its
young gentlemen, during paroxysms of the nothing-to-do complaint;
growling being one of its most characteristic symptoms.
Perhaps among all the suffering sisterhoods it would have been difficult
to find a young lady less liable to catch such a disorder herself, than
Aunt Judy; and perhaps that was the reason why she used to do such tremendous
battle with No. 3, whenever, after his return from school for the holidays,
he happened to have an attack.
“What are you groaning at through the window, No. 3?” she
inquired on one such occasion; “is it raining?”
A very gruff-sounding “No,” was the answer - No. 3 not condescending
to turn round as he spoke. He proceeded, however, to state that
it had rained when he got up, and he supposed it would rain again as
a matter-of-course, (for his especial annoyance being implied,) and
“It’s so horribly ‘slow’ here, with nothing
No. 6, who was sitting opposite Aunt Judy, doing a French exercise,
here looked up at her sister, and perceiving a smile steal over her
face, took upon herself to think her brother’s remark very ridiculous,
so, said she, with a saucy giggle:-
“I can find you plenty to do, No. 3, in a minute. Come and
write my French exercise for me.
No. 3 turned sharply round at this, with a frown on his face which by
no means added to its beauty, and called out:-
“Now, Miss Pert, I recommend you to hold your tongue. I
don’t want any advice from a conceited little minx like you.”
Miss Pert was extinguished at once, and set to work at the French exercise
again most industriously, and a general silence ensued.
But people in the nothing-to-do complaint are never quiet for long.
Teazing is quite as constant a symptom of it, as growling, so No. 3
soon came lounging from the window to the table, and began:-
“I say, Judy, I wish you would put those tiresome books, and drawings,
and rubbish away, and I think of something to do.”
“But it’s the books, and the drawings, and the rubbish that
give me something to do,” cried Aunt Judy. “You surely
don’t expect me to give them up, and go arm and arm with you round
the house, bemoaning the slowness of our fate which gives us nothing
to do. Or shall we? Come, I don’t care; I will if
you like. But which shall we complain to first, mamma, or the
While she was saying this, Aunt Judy shut up her drawing book, jumped
up from her chair, drew No. 3’s arm under her own, and repeated:-
“Come! which? mamma, or the maids?” while Miss Pert opposite
was labouring with all her might to smother the laugh she dared not
But No. 3 pushed Aunt Judy testily away.
“‘Nonsense, Judy! what has that to do with it? It’s
all very well for you girls - now, Miss Pert, mind your own affairs,
and don’t stare at me! - to amuse yourself with all manner of
“Follies, of course,” cried Aunt Judy, laughing, “don’t
be afraid of speaking out, No. 3. It’s all very well for
us girls to amuse ourselves with all manner of follies, and nonsense,
and rubbish;” here Aunt Judy chucked the drawing-book to the end
of the table, tossed a dictionary after it, and threw another book or
two into the air, catching them as they came down.
“ - while you, superior, sensible young man that you are, born
to be the comfort of your family - ”
“Be quiet!” interrupted No. 3, trying to stop her; but she
ran round the table and proceeded:-
“ - and the enlightener of mankind; can’t - no, no, No.
3, I won’t be stopt! - can’t amuse yourself with anything,
because everything is so ‘horribly slow, there’s nothing
to do,’ so you want to tie yourself to your foolish sister’s
“It’s too bad!” shouted No. 3; and a race round the
table began between them, but Aunt Judy dodged far too cleverly to be
caught, so it ended in their resting at opposite ends; No. 6 and her
French exercises lying between them.
“No. 6, my dear,” cried Aunt Judy, in the lull of exertion,
“I proclaim a holiday from folly and rubbish. Put your books
away, and put your impertinence away too. Hold your tongue, and
don’t be Miss Pest; and vanish as soon as you can.”
Miss Pert performed two or three putting-away evolutions with the velocity
of a sunbeam, and darted off through the door.
“Now, then, we’ll be reasonable,” observed Aunt Judy;
and carrying a chair to the front of the fire she sat down, and motioned
to No. 3 to do the same, taking out from her pocket a little bit of
embroidery work, which she kept ready for chatting hours.
No. 3 was always willing to listen to Aunt Judy.
He desired nothing better than to get her undivided attention, and pour
out his groans in her ear; so he sat down with a very good grace, and
proceeded to insist that there never was anything so “slow”
as “it was.”
Aunt Judy wanted to know what it was; the place or the people,
(including herself,) or what?
No. 3 could explain it no other way than by declaring that everything
was slow; there was nothing to do.
Aunt Judy maintained that there was plenty to do.
Whereupon No. 3 said:-
“But nothing worth doing.”
Whereupon Aunt Judy told No. 3 that he was just like Dr. Faustus.
On which, of course, No. 3 wanted to know what Dr. Faustus was like,
and Aunt Judy answered, that he was just like him, only a great
deal older and very learned.
“Only quite different, then,” suggested No. 3.
“No,” said Aunt Judy, “not quite different,
for he came one day to the same conclusion that you have done, namely,
that there was nothing to do, worth doing in the world.”
“I don’t say the world, I only say here,” observed
No. 3; “there’s plenty to do elsewhere, I dare say.”
“So you think, because you have not tried else where,” answered
Aunt Judy. “But Dr. Faustus, who had tried elsewhere, thought
everywhere alike, and declared there was nothing worth doing anywhere,
although he had studied law, physic, divinity, and philosophy all through,
and knew pretty nearly everything.”
“Then you see he did not get much good out of learning,”
remarked No. 3.
“I do see,” was the reply.
“And what became of him?”
“Ah, that’s the point,” replied Aunt Judy, “and
a very remarkable point too. As soon as he got into the state
of fancying there was nothing to do, worth doing, in God’s world,
the evil spirit came to him, and found him something to do in what I
may, I am sure, call the devil’s world - I mean, wickedness.”
“Oh, that’s a story written upon Watts’s old hymn,”
exclaimed No. 3, contemptuously:-
“‘For Satan finds some mischief still,
For idle hands to do.’
Judy! I call that a regular ‘sell.’”
“ Not a bit of it,” cried Aunt Judy, warmly; “I don’t
suppose the man who wrote the story ever saw Watts’s hymns, or
intended to teach anything half as good. It’s mamma’s
moral. She told me she had screwed it out of the story, though
she doubted whether it was meant to be there.”
“And what’s the rest of the story then?” inquired
No. 3, whose curiosity was aroused.
“Well! when the old Doctor found the world as it was, so ‘slow,’
as you very unmeaningly call it, he took to conjuring and talking
with evil spirits by way of amusement; and then they easily persuaded
him to be wicked, merely because it gave him something fresh and exciting
“Watts’s hymn again! I told you so!” exclaimed
No. 3. “But the story’s all nonsense from beginning
to end. Nobody can conjure, or talk to evil spirits in reality,
so the whole thing is impossible; and where you find the moral, I don’t
No. 3 leant back and yawned as he concluded.
He was rather disappointed that nothing more entertaining had come out
of the story of Dr. Faustus.
But Aunt Judy had by no means done.
“Impossible about conjuring and actually talking to evil
spirits, certainly,” said she; “but spiritual influences,
both bad and good, come to us all, No. 3, without bodily communion;
so for those who are inclined to feel like Dr. Faustus, there is both
a moral and a warning in his fate.”
“I don’t know what about,” cried No. 3. “I
think he was uncommonly stupid, after all he had learnt, to get into
such a mess. Why, you yourself are always trying to make out that
the more people labour and learn, the more sure they are to keep out
of mischief. Now then, how do you account for the story of your
friend Dr. Faustus?”
“Because, like King Solomon, he did not labour and learn in a
right spirit, or to a right end,” replied Aunt Judy. “Lord
Bacon remarks that when, after the Creation, God ‘looked upon
everything He had made, behold it was very good;’ whereas
when man ‘turned him about,’ and took a view of the world
and his own labours in it, he found that ‘all’ was ‘vanity
and vexation of spirit.’ Why did he come to such a different
conclusion, do you think?”
“I suppose because the world had got bad, before King Solomon’s
time,” suggested No. 3.
“Its inhabitants had,” replied Aunt Judy. “They
had become subject to sin and misery; but the world was still God’s
creation, and proofs of the ‘very good’ which He had pronounced
over it were to be found in every direction, and even in fallen man,
if Solomon had had the sense, or rather I should say, good feeling to
look for them. Ah! No. 3, there was plenty to be learnt
and done that would not have ended in ‘vanity and vexation
of spirit’ if Solomon had learnt in order to trace out
the glory of God, instead of establishing his own; and if he had worked
to create, as far as was in his power, a world of happiness for
other people, instead of seeking nothing but his own amusement.
If he had worked in the spirit of God, in short.”
“But who can? - Nobody,” exclaimed No. 3.
“Yes, everybody, who tries, can, to a certain extent,” said
Aunt Judy. “It only wants the right feeling; some of the
good God-like feeling which originated the creation of a beautiful world,
and caused the contemplation of it to produce the sublime complacency
which is described, ‘And God looked upon everything that He had
made, and behold it was very good.’”
“It’s a sermon, Judy,” cried No. 3, half bored, yet
half amused at the notion of her preaching; “I’ll set up
a pulpit for you at once, shall I?”
“No, no, be quiet, No. 3,” exclaimed Aunt Judy, “I
wish you would try and understand what I say!”
“Well, then,” said No. 3, “it appears to me that do
what one might now the world has grown bad, it would be impossible to
pronounce that ‘very good,’ as the result
of one’s work. There would always be something miserable
and unsatisfactory at the end of everything; I mean even if one really
was to look into things closely, and work for other people’s good,
as you say.”
“There might be something miserable and unsatisfactory,
in the result, certainly,” answered Aunt Judy; “but that
it would all be ‘vanity and vexation of spirit’ I
deny. Our blessed Saviour came into the world after it had grown
bad, remember; and He worked solely for the restoration of the ‘very
good,’ which sin had defaced. It was undoubtedly miserable
and unsatisfactory that He should be rejected by the very
creatures He came to help; but when He uttered the words ‘It is
finished,’ the work which He had accomplished, He might well have
looked upon and called very good: very very good; even beyond the creation,
were that possible.”
“There can be no comparison between our Saviour and us,”
murmured No. 3.
“No,” replied his sister; “but only let people work
in the same direction, and they will have more ‘profit’
of their ‘labour,’ than King Solomon ever owned to, who
had, one fears, only learnt, in order to be learned, and worked, to
please himself. No man who employs himself in tracing out God’s
footsteps in the world, or in working in God’s spirit for
the world, will ever find such labours end in ‘vanity and
vexation of spirit!’ Solomon, Dr. Faustus, and the grumblers,
have only themselves to thank for their disappointment.”
“It’s very curious,” observed No. 3, getting up, and
stretching himself over the fire, “I mean about Solomon and Dr.
Faustus. But what can one do? What can you or I do?
It’s absurd to be fancying one can do good to one’s fellow-creatures.”
“Nevertheless, there is one I want you to do good to, at the present
moment,” said Aunt Judy - “if it is not actually raining.
Don’t you remember what despair No. 1 was in this morning, when
father sent her off on the pony in such a hurry.”
“Ah, that pony! That was just what I wanted myself,”
interrupted No. 3.
“Exactly, of course,” replied Aunt Judy. “But
you were not the messenger father wanted, so do not let us go all over
that ground again, pray. The fact was, No. 1 had just heard that
her pet ‘Tawny Rachel’ was very ill, and she wanted to go
and see her, and give her some good advice, and I am to go instead.
Now No. 3, suppose you go instead of me, and save me a wet walk?”
No. 3, of course, began by protesting that it was not possible that
he could do any good to an old woman. Old women were not at all
in his way. He could only say, how do you do? and come away.
Aunt Judy disputed this: she thought he could offer her some creature
comforts, and ask whether she had seen the Doctor, and what he said,
as No. 1 particularly wished to know.
What an idea! No, no; he must decline inquiring what the Doctor
said; it would be absurd; but he could offer her something to eat.
- And just ask if she had had the Doctor. - Well, just that, and come
away. It would not occupy many minutes. But he wished, while
Aunt Judy was about it, she had found him something rather longer
Aunt Judy promised to see what could be devised on his return, and No.
3 departed. And a very happily chosen errand it was; for it happened
in this case, as it so constantly does happen, that what was begun for
other people’s sake, ended in personal gratification. No.
3 went to see “Tawny Rachel,” out of good-natured compliance
with Aunt Judy’s request, but found an interest and amusement
in the visit itself, which he had not in the least expected.
Ten, twenty, thirty, minutes elapsed, and he had not returned; and when
he did so at last, he burst into the house far more like an avalanche
than a young gentleman who could find “nothing to do.”
Coming in the back way, he ran into the kitchen, and told the servants
to get some hot water ready directly, for he was sure something would
be wanted. Then, passing forward, he shouted to know where his
mother was, and, having found her, entreated she would order some comfortable,
gruelly stuff or other, to be made for the sick old woman, particularly
insisting that it should have ale or wine, as well as spice and sugar
He was positive that that was just what she ought to have! She
had said how cold she was, and how glad she should be of something to
warm her inside; and there was nobody to do anything for her at home.
What a shame it was for a poor old creature like that to be left with
only two dirty boys to look after her, and they always at play in the
street! Her daughter and husband were working out, and she sat
moaning over the fire, from pain, without anybody to care!
* * *
Tender-hearted and impulsive, if thoughtless, the spirit of No. 3 had
been moved within him at the spectacle of the gaunt old woman in this
hour of her lonely suffering.
Poor “Tawny Rachel!” The children had called her so,
from the heroine of Mrs. Hannah More’s tale, because of those
dark gipsy eyes of hers, which had formerly given such a fine expression
to her handsome but melancholy face. Melancholy, because care-worn
from the long life’s struggle for daily bread, for a large indulged
family, who scarcely knew, at the day of her death, that she had worn
herself out for their sakes.
Poor “Tawny Rachel!” She was one day asked by a well-meaning
shopkeeper, of whom she had purchased a few goods, where she thought
she was going to?”
“Tawny Rachel” turned her sad eyes upon her interrogator,
and made answer:-
“Going to? why where do you think I’m going to, but to Heaven?
- ‘Deed! where do you think I’m going to, but to Heaven?”
she repeated to herself slowly, as if to recover breath; and then added,
“I should like to know who Heaven is for, if not for such as me,
that have slaved all their lives through, for other folk;” and
so saying, Tawny Rachel turned round again, and went away.
Poor “Tawny Rachel!” The theology was imperfect enough;
but so had been her education and advantages. Yet as surely as
her scrupulous, never-failing honesty, and unmurmuring self-denial,
must have been inspired by something beyond human teaching; so surely
did it prove no difficult task to her spiritual guide, to lead her onwards
to those simple verities of the Christian Faith, which, in her case,
seemed to solve the riddle of a weary, unsatisfactory life, and, confiding
in which, the approach of death really became to her, the advent of
the Prince of Peace.
* * *
“But she had quite cheered up,” remarked No. 3, “at
the notion of something comforting and good,” and so - he had
“come off at once.”
“At once!” - the exclamation came from Aunt Judy, who had
entered the room, and was listening to the account. “Why,
No. 3, you must have been there an hour at least. And nevertheless
I dare say you have forgotten about the Doctor.”
“The Doctor!” cried No. 3, laughing, - “It’s
the Doctor who has kept me all this time. You never heard such
fun in your life, - only he’s an awful old rascal, I must say!”
Mamma and Aunt Judy gazed at No. 3 in bewilderment. The respectable
old village practitioner, who had superintended all the deceases in
the place for nearly half a century - to be called “an awful old
rascal” at last! What could No. 3 be thinking of?
Certainly not of the respectable village practitioner, as he soon explained,
by describing the arrival at Tawny Rachel’s cottage of a travelling
quack with a long white beard.
“My dear No. 3!” exclaimed mamma.
“Mother, dear, I can’t help it!” cried No. 3, and
proceeded to relate that while he was sitting with the old woman, listening
to the account of her aches and pains, some one looked in at the door,
and asked if she wanted anything; but, before she could speak, remarked
how ill she seemed, and said he could give her something to do her good.
“Judy!” added No. 3, breaking suddenly off; “he looked
just like Dr. Faustus, I’m sure!”
“Never mind about that,” cried Aunt Judy. “Tell
us what Tawny Rachel said.”
“Oh, she called out that he must give it, if she was to
have it, for she had nothing to pay for it with. I had a shilling
in my pocket, and was just going to offer it, when I recollected he
would most likely do her more harm than good. But the gentleman
with the white beard walked in immediately, set his pack down on the
table, and said, ‘Then, my good woman, I shall give it
you;’ and out he brought a bottle, tasted it before he gave it
to her, and promised her that it would cure her if she took it all.”
“My dear No. 3!” repeated mamma once more.
“Yes, I know she can’t be cured, mother, and I think she
knows it too; but still she ‘took it very kind,’
as she called it, of him, and asked him if he would like to ‘rest
him’ a bit by the fire, and the gentleman accepted the invitation;
and there we all three sat, for really I quite enjoyed seeing him, and
he began to warm his hands, remarking that the young gentleman - that
was I, you know - looked very well. Oh, Judy, I very nearly said
‘Thank you, Dr. Faustus,’ but I only laughed and nodded,
and really did hold my tongue; and then the two began to talk, and it
was as good as any story you ever invented, Aunt Judy. Tawny Rachel
was very inquisitive, and asked him:-
“‘You’ve come a long way, sir, I suppose?’
“‘Yes, ma’am; I’m a great traveller, and have
been so a many years.’
“‘It’s a wonder you have not settled before now.’
“‘I might have settled, ma’am, a many times.’
“‘Ah, when folks once begin wandering, they can’t
settle down. You were, maybe, brought up to it.’
“‘I was brought up to something a deal better than that,
“‘You was, sir? It’s a pity, I’m sure.’
“‘My father was physician to Queen Elizabeth, ma’am,
a many years.’”
When No. 3 arrived at this point of the dialogue, mamma and Aunt Judy
both exclaimed at once, and the former repeated once more the expostulatory
“My dear No. 3!” which delighted No. 3, who proceeded to
assure them that he had himself interrupted the travelling quack here,
by suggesting that it was Queen Charlotte he meant.
“Old Queen Charlotte, you know, Judy, that No. 1 was telling the
children about the other day.”
But the “gentleman,” as No. 3 called him, had turned very
red at the doubt thus thrown on his accuracy, and put a rather threatening
croak into his voice, as he said:-
“Asking your pardon, young gentleman, I know what I’m saying,
and it was Queen Elizabeth, and not Charlotte nor anybody else!”
No. 3 described that he felt it best, after this, to hold his tongue
and say no more, so Tawny Rachel put in her word, and remarked, it was
a wonder the queen hadn’t made their fortunes; on which the gentleman
turned rather red again, and said that the queen did make their fortune,
but wouldn’t let them keep it, for fear they should be too great
and too rich - that was it! This statement required a little explanation,
but the gentleman was ready with all particulars. The queen used
to pay his father by hundreds of pounds at a time, because that was
due to him, but being jealous of his having so much money, she always
set some one to take it away from him as he left the place! So
that was the reason why these was no fortune put by for him after his
father died, and that was the reason why he couldn’t very well
settle at first, though everybody wished him to stay, and so he
took to travelling; for his father had left him all his secrets, and
he was qualified to practise anywhere, and had cured some thousands
of sick folks up and down!
No. 3 declared that he had not made the old man’s account of himself
a bit more unconnected than it really was, and, on the whole, it sounded
very imposing to poor Tawny Rachel, who watched his departure with a
sort of respectful awe.
No. 3 added, that not liking to disturb her faith either in the man
or the bottle, he had himself helped her to the first dose, and had
then begun to talk about the creature comforts before described, the
very mention of which seemed to cheer the old lady’s heart, and
to interest her at least as much as the biography of the travelling
“So now, mother,” concluded he, “order the gruel,
and we’ll give three cheers for Queen Elizabeth, and Dr. Faustus
- eh, Judy? But I do think the poor old thing ought not to take
that man’s poisonous rubbish; so here’s my shilling, and
welcome, if you’ll give some more, and let us send for a real
The “nothing-to-do” morning had nearly slipped away, between
the conversation with Aunt Judy, and the visit to Tawny Rachel; and
when, soon after, a friend called to take No. 3 off on a fossil hunt,
and he had to snatch a hasty morsel before his departure, he declared
he was like the poor governess in the song, who was sure to
With attention and zeal,
That she’d scarcely have time
To partake of a meal,”
there was so much to do. “But you’re a capital fellow,
Judy,” he added, kissing her, “and you’ll tell me
a story when I come back;” and off he ran, shutting his ears to
Aunt Judy’s declaration that she only told stories to the “little
Nor would she, on his return, and during the cozy evening “nothing-to-do”
hour, consent to devote herself to his especial amusement only.
So, after arguing the point for a time, he very wisely yielded, and
declared at last that he would be a “little one” too, and
listen to a “little one’s” story, if Aunt Judy would
It was rather late when this was settled, and the little ones had stayed
up-stairs to play at a newly-invented game - bazaars - in the nursery;
but when No. 3 strode in with the announcement of the story, there was
a shout of delight, followed by the old noisy rush down-stairs to the
It is not a bad thing to be a “little one” now and then
in spirit. People would do well to try and be so oftener.
Who that has looked upon a picture of himself as a “little one,”
has not wished that he could be restored to the “little one’s”
spirit, the “little one’s” innocence, the “little
one’s” hopeful trust? “Of such is the kingdom
of Heaven!” And though none of us would like to live our
lives over again, lest our errors should be repeated, and so doubled
in guilt, all of us, at the sight of what we once were, would fain,
very fain, if we could, lie down to sleep, and awake a “little
one” again. Never, perhaps, is the sweet mercy of an early
death brought so closely home to our apprehension, as when the grown-up,
care-worn man looks upon the image of himself as a child.
Happily, however - nay, more than happily, mercifully - the
grown-up man, if he do but put on the humility, may gain something
of the peace of a “little one’s” heart!
Aunt Judy had twisted up a roll of muslin for a turban on her head by
the time they came down, “for,” said she, “this is
to be an eastern tale, and I shall not be inspired - that is to say,
I shall not get on a bit - unless there is a costume and manners to
correspond, so you three little ones squat yourselves down Turkish-fashion
on the floor, with your legs tucked under you. There now! that’s
something like, and I begin to feel myself in the East. Nevertheless,
I am rather glad there is no critical Eastern traveller at hand, listening
through the key-hole to my blunders.
However, errors excepted, here is the wonderful story of
‘THE KING OF THE HILLS AND HIS FOUR SONS.’
“A great many years ago, in a country which cannot be traced upon
the maps, but which lies somewhere between the great rivers Indus and
Euphrates, lived Schelim, King of the Hills.
“His riches were unlimited, his palaces magnificent, and his dresses
and jewels of the most costly description. He never condescended
to wear a diamond unless it was inconveniently large for his fingers,
and the fiery opals which adorned his turban (like those in the mineral-room
at the British Museum) shimmered and blazed in such a surprising manner,
that people were obliged to lower their eyes before the light of them.
“Powerful as well as rich, King Schelim could have anything in
the world he wished for, but - such is the perversity of human nature
- he cared very little for anything except smoking his pipe; of which,
to say the truth, he was so fond, that he would have been well contented
to have done nothing else all day long. It seemed to him the nearest
approach to the sublimest of all ideas of human happiness - the having
nothing to do.
“He caused his four sons to be brought up in luxurious ease,
his wish for them being, that they should remain ignorant of pain and
sorrow for as long a period of their lives as was possible. So
he built a palace for them, at the summit of one of his beautiful hills,
where nothing disagreeable or distressing could ever meet their eyes,
and he gave orders to their attendants, that they should never be thwarted
“Every wish of their hearts, therefore, was gratified from their
baby days; but so far from being in consequence the happiest, they were
the most discontented children in his dominions.
“From the first year of their birth, King Schelim had never been
able to smoke his pipe in peace. There were always messages coming
from the royal nursery to the smoking-room, asking for something fresh
for the four young princes, who were, owing to some mysterious cause,
incapable of enjoying any of their luxurious indulgences for more than
a few hours together.
“At first these incessant demands for one thing or another for
the children, surprised and annoyed their papa considerably, but by
degrees he got used to it, and took the arrival of the messengers as
a matter of course.
“The very nurses began it:-
“‘May it please your Majesty, the young princes, your Majesty’s
incomparable sons - may their shadows never be less! - are tired of
their jewelled rattles, and have thrown them on the floor. Doubtless
they would like India-rubber rings with bells better.’
“‘Then get them India-rubber rings with bells,’ was
all King Schelim said, and turned to his pipe again.
“And so it went on perpetually, until one day it came to, -
“‘May it please your Majesty, the young princes, your Majesty’s
incomparable sons - may their shadows never be less! - have thrown their
hobbyhorses into the river, and want to have live ponies instead.’
“At the first moment the king gave his usual answer, ‘Then
get them live ponies instead,’ from a sort of mechanical habit,
but the words were scarcely uttered when he recalled them. This
request awoke even his sleepy soul out of its smoke-dream, and inquiring
into the ages of his sons, and finding that they were of years to learn
as well as to ride, he dismissed their nurses, placed them in the hands
of tutors, and procured for them the best masters of every description.
“‘For,’ said he, ‘what saith the proverb?
“Kings govern the earth, but wise men govern kings.”
My sons shall be wise as well as kingly, and then they can govern themselves.’
“And after settling this so cleverly, King Schelim resumed his
pipe, in the confident hope, that now, at last, he should smoke it in
“‘For,’ said he, ‘when my sons shall become
wise through learning, they will be more moderate in their desires.’
“I do not know whether his Majesty’s incomparable sons relished
this change from nurses to tutors, but on that particular point they
were allowed no choice; so if they bemoaned themselves in their palace
on the hill, their father knew nothing of it.
“And to soften the disagreeableness of the restraint which learning
imposes, King Schelim gave more strict orders than ever, that, provided
the young gentlemen only learnt their lessons well, every whim that
came into their heads should be complied with soon as expressed.
“In spite of all his ingenious arrangements, however, the royal
father did not enjoy the amount of repose he expected. All was
quiet enough during lesson-hours, it is true; but as soon as ever that
period had elapsed, the young princes became as restless as ever.
Nay - the older they grew, the more they wanted, and the less pleased
they became with what was granted.
“From very early days of the tutorship, the old story began:-
“‘May it please your Majesty, the young princes, your Majesty’s
incomparable sons - may their shadows never be less! - are tired of
their ponies, and want horses instead.’
“The king was a little disappointed at this, and actually laid
down his pipe to talk.
“‘Is anything the matter with the ponies?’ he asked.
“‘May it please your Majesty, no; only that your incomparable
sons call them slow.’
“‘Spirited lads!’ thought the king, quite consoled,
and gave the answer as usual:-
“‘Then get them horses instead.’ But when only
a few days afterwards he was informed that his incomparable sons had
wearied of their horses, because they also were ‘slow,’
and wished to ride on elephants instead, his Majesty began to feel disturbed
in mind, and wonder what would come next, and how it was that the teaching
of the tutors did not make his sons more moderate in their desires.
“‘Nevertheless,’ said he, ‘what saith the proverb,
“Thou a man, and lackest patience?” And again,
“Early ripe, early rotten,
Early wise, soon forgotten.”
My sons are but children yet.’
“After which reflection he returned to his pipe as before, and
disturbed himself as little as possible, when messenger after messenger
arrived, to announce the fresh vagaries of the young princes.
“It is impossible to enumerate all the luxuries, amusements, and
delights, they asked for, obtained, and wearied of during several years.
But the longer it went on, the more hardened and indifferent their father
“‘For,’ said he, ‘what saith the proverb?
“The longest lane turns at last.” At last my sons
will have everything man can wish for, and then they will cease from
asking, and I shall smoke my pipe in peace.’
“One day, however, the messenger entered the royal smoking-room
in a greater hurry than ever, and was about to commence his usual elaborate
peroration respecting the incomparable sons, when his Majesty held up
his hand to stop him, and called out:-
“‘What is it now?’
“‘May it please your Majesty, your Majesty’s in -
“‘What is it they want?’ cried the king,
“‘May it please your Majesty, something to do.’
“‘Something to do?’ repeated the perplexed king of
the hills; ‘something to do, when half the riches of my empire
have been expended upon providing them with the means of doing everything
in the world that was delightful to the soul of man?
“‘Surely, oh son of a dog, thou art laughing at my beard,
to come to me with such a message from my sons.’
“‘Nevertheless, may it please your Majesty, I have spoken
but the truth. Your Majesty’s in - ’
“‘Hush with that nonsense,’ interrupted the king.
“‘Your Majesty’s sons, in fact, then, have sickened
and pined for three mortal days, because they have got nothing to
“‘Now, then, my sons are mad!’ exclaimed poor King
Schelim, laying down his pipe, and rising from his recumbent position;
‘and it is time that I bestir myself.’
“And thereupon he summoned his attendants, and sent for the royal
Hakim, that is to say, physician; and the most learned and experienced
Dervish, that is to say, religious teacher of the neighbourhood.
“‘For,’ said he, ‘who knows whether this sickness
is of the body or the soul?’
“And having explained to them how he had brought up his children,
the indulgences with which he had surrounded them, the learning which
he had had instilled into them, and the way in which he had preserved
them from every annoying sight and sound, he concluded:-
“‘What more could I have done for the happiness of my children
than I have done, and how is it that their reason has departed from
them, so that they are at a loss for something to do? Speak one
or other of you and explain.’
“Then the Dervish stepped forward, and opening his mouth, began
to make answer.
“‘And,’ said he, ‘oh King of the Hills, in the
bringing up of thy sons, surely thou hast forgotten the proverb which
saith, “He that would know good manners, let him learn them from
him who hath them not.” For even so may the wise man say
of happiness, “He that would know he is happy, must learn it from
him who is not.” But again, doth not another proverb say,
“Will thy candle burn less brightly for lighting mine?”
Wherefore the happiness which a man has, when he has discovered it,
he is bound to impart to those that have it not. Have I spoken
“Then King and the Hakim declared he had spoken remarkably well;
nevertheless I am by no means sure that King Schelim knew what he meant.
Whereupon the Dervish offered to go at once to the four incomparable
princes, and cure them of their madness in supposing they had nothing
to do, and King Schelim in great delight, and thoroughly glad to be
rid of the trouble, told him that he placed his sons entirely in his
hands; then taking him aside, he addressed to him a parting word in
“‘Thou knowest, oh wise Dervish, that I have had no education
myself, and therefore, as the proverb hath it, “To say I don’t
know, is the comfort of my life,” yet what better is a learned
man than a fool, if he comes but to this conclusion at last? See
thou restore wisdom and something to do to the souls of my sons.’
“Which the Dervish promised to accomplish, accordingly in company
with the Hakim, he betook himself to the palace of the four princes,
his Majesty’s incomparable sons.
“Well, in spite of all they had heard, both the Dervish and Hakim
were surprised at what they really found at the palace of the four princes.
“It was as if everything that human ingenuity could devise for
the gratification, amusement, and occupation both of body and mind had
been here brought together. Horses, elephants, chariots, creatures
of every description, for hunting, riding, driving, and all sorts of
sport were there, countless in numbers, and perfect in kind. Gardens,
pleasure-grounds, woods, flowers, birds, and fountains, to delight the
eye and ear; while within the palace were sources of still deeper enjoyment.
The songs of the poets and the wisdom of the ancients reposed there
upon golden shelves. Musicians held themselves in readiness to
pour exquisite melodies upon the air; games, exercises, in-door sports
in every variety could be commanded in a moment, and attendants waited
in all directions to fulfil their young masters’ will.
“The poor old Dervish and Hakim looked at each other in fresh
amazement at every step they took, and neither of them could find a
proverb to fit so extraordinary a case.
“At last, after a long walk through chambers and anti-chambers
without end, hung round with mirrors and ornaments, they reached the
apartment of the young princes, where they found the four incomparable
creatures lounging on four ottomans, sighing their hearts out, because
they had ‘nothing to do.’
“As the door opened, the eldest prince glanced languidly round,
and inquired if the messenger had returned from their father, and being
answered that the Dervish and Hakim, who now stood before him, were
messengers from their father, he called out to know if the old gentleman
had sent them anything to do!
“‘The king, your father’s spirit is disturbed with
anxiety,’ answered the Dervish, ‘lest some sudden calamity
should have deprived his sons of the use of their limbs or their senses,
or lest their attendants should have failed to provide them with everything
the earth affords delightful to the soul of man.’
“‘The king, our father’s spirit is disturbed with
smoke,’ replied the eldest prince, ‘or he never would have
sent such an old fellow as you with such an answer as that. What’s
the use of the use of one’s limbs, or one’s senses, or all
the earth affords delightful to the soul of man, if we’re sick
of it all? Just go back and tell him we’ve got everything,
and are sick of everything, and can do everything, and don’t care
to do anything, because everything is so ‘slow;’ so we will
trouble him to find us something fresh to do. There! is that clear
enough, old gentleman?’
“‘The king, your father,’ answered the Dervish, ‘has
provided against even that emergency; I am come to tell you of something
fresh to see and to do.’
“No sooner had the Dervish uttered these words, than the four
princes jumped up from the ottoman in the most lively and vigorous manner,
and clamoured to know what it was, expressing their hope that it was
a ‘jolly lark.’
“In answer to which the Dervish, lifting himself up in a commanding
manner, stretched out his arm, and exclaimed, in a solemn voice:-
“‘Young men, you have exhausted happiness. Nothing
new remains in the world for you, but misery and want. Follow
“There was something so unusual about the tone of this address,
and it was uttered in so imposing a manner, that the young princes were,
as it were, taken by storm, and they followed the Dervish and Hakim,
without a word of inquiry or objection.
“And he led them away from the palace on the beautiful hill -
away from all the sights and sounds that were collected together there
to delight the soul of man with both bodily and intellectual enjoyment
- down into the city in the valley, among the close-packed habitations
of common men, congregated there to labour, and just exist, and then
“And presently the Dervish and the Hakim spoke together, and then
the Hakim led the way through a gloomy by-street, till he came to a
habitation into which he entered, and the rest followed without a word.
And there, stretched upon a pallet, wasted and worn with pain, lay a
youth scarcely older than the young princes themselves, the lower part
of whose body was wrapped round with bandages, and who was unable to
“The Hakim proceeded at once to unloosen the fastenings, and to
examine the limbs of the sufferer. They had been crushed by a
frightful accident, while working for his daily bread, in the quarries
of marble near the palace on the hill.
“‘Is there no hope, my father?’ he ejaculated
in agony as the bruised thighs were exposed to the light, revealing
a spectacle from which the princes turned horrified away.
“But the Dervish stood between them and the door, and motioned
“‘Is there no hope?’ repeated the youth. ‘Shall
I never again tread the earth in the freedom of health and strength?
never again climb the mountain-side to taste the sweet breath of heaven?
never again even step across this narrow room, to look forth into the
“Sobs of distress here broke from the speaker; and, covering his
face with his hands, he awaited the Hakim’s reply. But while
the latter bent down to whisper his answer, the Dervish addressed himself
to the trembling princes:-
“‘Learn here, at last,’ said he, ‘the
value of those limbs, the power of using which you look upon with such
thankless indifference. As it is with this youth to-day, so may
it be with you to-morrow, if the decree goes forth from on high.
Bid me not again return to your father to tell him you are weary of
a blessing, the loss of which would overwhelm you with despair.’
“The young princes,” continued Aunt Judy, were, as their
father had said, but children yet; that is to say, although they were
fourteen or fifteen years old, they were childish, in not having reflected
or learnt to reason. But they were not hard-hearted at bottom.
Their tenderness for others had never been called out during their life
of self-indulgence, but the sight of this young man’s condition,
whom they personally knew as one who had at times been permitted to
come up and join in their games, over-powered them with dismay.
“They entreated the Hakim to say if nothing could be done, and
when he told them that a nurse, and better food, and the discourse of
a wise companion, were all essential for the recovery of the patient,
there was not, to say the truth, one among them who was not ready with
promises of assistance, and even offers of personal help.
“And now, bidding adieu to this youthful sufferer, whose distress
seemed to receive a sudden calm from the sympathy the young princes
betrayed, the Hakim led the way to another part of the town, where he
entered a house of rather better description, in a small room of which
they found a pale, middle-aged man, who was engaged in making a coarse
sort of netting for trees. Hearing the noise of the entrance,
he looked up, and asked who it was, but with no change of countenance,
or apparent recognition of anyone there. But as soon as the Hakim
had uttered the words ‘It is I,’ a gleam of delight stole
over the pale face, and the man, rising from his chair, stretched out
his arms to the Hakim, entreating him to approach.
“And then the young princes saw that the pale man was blind.
“‘Is there any change, oh Cassian?’ inquired the Hakim,
“‘None, my father,’ answered the blind man, in a subdued
tone. ‘But shall I murmur at what is appointed? Surely
not in vain was the privilege granted me, of transcribing the manuscripts
which repose on the golden shelves in the palace of the royal princes.
Surely not in vain did I gather, from the treasures of ancient wisdom,
and the divine songs of the poets, sources of consolation for the suffering
children of men.’
“‘And has anyone been of late to read to you?’ asked
“But this inquiry the blind man seemed scarcely able to answer.
Big tears gathered into the sightless eyes, and folding his hands across
his bosom, he murmured out:-
“‘None, oh my father. Not to everyone is it permitted
to trace the characters of light in which the wise have recorded their
wisdom. I alone of my family knew the secret. I alone suffer
now. But shall I not submit to this also with a cheerful spirit?
It is written, and it behoves me to submit.’
“And, with tears streaming over his cheeks, the blind man took
up the netting which he had laid aside, and forced himself to the work.
“‘Seest thou!’ exclaimed the Dervish, turning to the
prince who stood next him, apparently absorbed in contemplating the
scene. ‘Seest thou how precious are the powers thou hast
wearied of in the spring-time of life? How dear are the opportunities
thou hast not cared to delight in? Bid me not again return to
the king, your father, to tell him his sons can find no pleasure in
blessings, the deprivation of which they themselves would feel to be
the shutting out of the sun from the soul.’
“Then the young prince to whom the Dervish addressed himself,
wept bitterly, and begged to be allowed to visit the blind man from
time to time, and read to him out of the manuscripts that reposed on
the golden shelves in the palace on the hill; and which, he now learnt
for the first time, had been transcribed for his use, and that of his
brothers, by the skill of the sufferer before him.
“And when the blind man clasped his hands over his head, and would
have prostrated himself on the ground, in gratitude to him who spoke,
asking who the charitable pitier of the afflicted could be, the prince
embraced him as if he had been his brother, forced him back gently into
his seat, and bidding him await him at that hour on the morrow, followed
the Hakim from the house.
“And now the Dervish and Hakim spoke together once again, and
the place they visited next was of a very different description.
“Enclosed within walls, and limited in extent, because in the
outskirts of a populous town, the garden into which they presently entered,
was - though but as a drop in comparison with the ocean -
no unworthy rival of the gorgeous pleasure-grounds of the palace.
There, too, the roses unfolded themselves in their glory to the sun,
tiny fountains scattered their cooling spray around, and singing-birds,
suspended on overshadowing trees, of this scene of miniature beauty
a venerable was perceived, seated under the shadow of an arbour, in
front of a table on which were scattered manuscripts, papers, parchments,
and dried plants, and in one corner of which were laid a set of tablets
and writing materials.
“Although the door by which they entered had fallen to, with a
noise as they passed through, the old man did not seem to be aware of
it, nor did he notice their presence until they came so near, that their
shadows fell on some of the papers on the table. Then, indeed,
he looked suddenly up, and with a smile and gesture of delight, bade
“It was not difficult to divine that the old man had lost the
sense of hearing, and the Dervish, taking up the tablets from the table,
wrote upon them the following words, which he showed to the young princes,
before presenting them to him for whom they were intended:-
“‘Hast thou not wearied yet, oh brother, of thy narrow garden,
and the ever-recurring succession of flowers, and thy study of the secrets
“Whereat the deaf man smiled again, and wrote upon the tablets:-
“‘Can anyone weary of tracing out the skilful providence
of the Divine Mind? Is it not a world within a world, oh my brother,
and inexhaustible in itself?’
“The youngest prince pressed forward to read the answer, and having
read it, turned to the Dervish, and said, ‘Ask him why the singing-birds
are suspended in the garden, whose voices he cannot hear.’
“‘Write on the tablet, my son,’ said the Dervish;
and when he had written it, the old man answered, in the same manner
“‘I would remember my infirmity, my son, lest my soul should
be tied to the beauties of the visible world, but now when I see the
twittering bills of the feathered songsters, I remember that one sense
has departed, and that the others must follow; and I prepare myself
for death, trusting that those who have rejoiced in the Divine Mind
- however imperfectly - here, may rejoice yet more hereafter, when no
sense or power shall be wanting!’
“After this, the venerable old man led them to a secluded corner
of the garden, where his young son was instructing one portion of a
class of children from the secrets of his father’s manuscripts,
while another set of youngsters were engaged in cultivating flowers,
by regular instruction and rule. Many a bright, cheerful face
looked up at the old man and his visitors as they passed, but no one
seemed to wish to leave his work, or his lesson, or the kind young tutor
who ruled among them.
“‘We have wasted our lives, oh my father!’ exclaimed
the young princes, as they passed from this sight. ‘Tell
us, may we not come back again here, to learn true wisdom from this
man and his son?’
“Having obtained the old man’s willing consent to his, the
Hakim retiring conducted his companions back into the streets; and the
young princes, whose eyes were now opened to the instruction they were
receiving, came up to the Dervish, and said:-
“‘Oh, wise Dervish, we have learnt the lesson you would
teach, and we know now that it is but a folly, and a mockery, and a
lie, when a man says that he has nothing to do. There is enough
to do for all men, if their minds are directed right! Have I not
“‘Thou hast spoken well according to thy knowledge,’
answered the Dervish, ‘but thou hast yet another lesson to learn.’
“The prince was silenced, and the Dervish and Hakim hurried forward
to a still different part of the city, where several trades were carried
on, and where in one place they came upon an open square, about which
a number of gaunt, wild-looking men, were lounging or sitting; unoccupied,
listless, and sad.
“‘This is wrong, my father, is it not?’ inquired one
of the princes; but the Dervish, instead of answering him, addressed
a man who was standing somewhat apart from the others, and inquired
why he was loitering there in idleness, instead of occupying himself
in some honest manner?
“The man laughed a bitter mocking laugh, and turning to his companions,
shouted out, ‘Hear what the wise man asks! When trade has
failed, and no one wants our labour, he asks us why we stand idling
here!’ Then, facing the Dervish, he continued, ‘Do
you not know, can you not see, oh teacher of the blind, that we have
got nothing to do? - Nothing to do!’ he repeated
with a loud cry - ‘Nothing to do! with hearts willing to
work, and hands able to work,’ - (here he stretched out his bared,
muscular arm to the Dervish,) - ‘and wife and children calling
out for food! Give us something to do, thou preacher of
virtue and industry,’ he concluded, throwing himself on the ground
in anguish; ‘or, at any rate, cease to mock us with the solemn
inquiry of a fool.’
“‘Oh, my father, my father,’ cried the young princes,
pressing forward, ‘this is the worst, the very worst of all!
All things can be borne, but this dire reality of having nothing
to do. Let us find them something to do. Let us tear
up our gardens, plough up our lawns, and pleasure-grounds, so that we
do but find work for these men, and save their children and wives from
“‘And themselves from crime,’ added the Dervish solemnly.
Then quitting his companions, he went into the crowd of men, and made
known to them in a few hurried words, that, by the order of their young
princes, there would, before another day had dawned, be something found
to do for them all.
“The cheer of gratitude which followed this announcement, thrilled
through the heart of those who had been enabled to offer the boon, and
so overpowered them, that, after a liberal distribution of coin to the
necessitous labourers, they gladly hurried away.
“‘Now my task is ended,’ cried the Dervish, as they
retraced their steps to the palace on the hill. ‘My sons,
you have seen the sacred sorrow which may attach to the bitter complaint
of having Nothing to do. Henceforth seal your lips over
the words, for, in all other cases but this, they are, as you yourselves
have said, a folly, a mockery, and a lie.’
“It is scarcely necessary to add,” continued Aunt Judy,
“that the young princes returned to the palace in a very different
state of mind from that in which they left it. They had now so
many things to do in prospect, so much to plan and inquire about, that
when the night closed upon them, they wondered how the day had gone,
and grudged the necessary hours of sleep. But on the morrow, just
as they were eagerly recommencing their left-off consultations, the
Dervish appeared among them, and suggested that their first duty still
remained unthought of.
“The incomparable sons were now really surprised, for they had
been flattering themselves they were most laudably employed. But
the Dervish reminded them, that, although their duty to mankind in general
was great, their duty to their father in particular was yet greater,
and that it behoved them to set his mind at rest, by assuring him, that
henceforth they would not prevent him from smoking his pipe in peace,
by restless discontent, and disturbing messages and wants.
“To this the young princes readily agreed, and thoroughly ashamed,
on reflection, of the years of harass with which they, in their thoughtless
ingratitude, had worried poor King Schelim, they repaired to his presence,
and without entering into unnecessary explanations, (which he would
not have understood,) assured him that they were perfectly happy, that
they had got plenty to do, as well as everything to enjoy, that they
were very sorry they had tormented him for so long a period of his life,
but that they begged to be forgiven, and would never do so again!
“King Schelim was uncommonly pleased with what they said, although
he had to lay down his pipe for a few minutes to receive their salutations,
and give his in return; after which they returned to their palace on
the hill, and led thenceforward useful, intelligent, and therefore happy
lives, reforming grievances, consoling sorrows, and taking particular
care that everybody had the opportunity of having something to do.
“And as they never again disturbed their father King Schelim,
with foolish messages, he smoked his pipe in peace to the end of his
“Nice old Schelim!” observed No. 8, when Aunt Judy’s
pause showed that the story was done. A conclusion which made
the other little ones laugh; but now Aunt Judy spoke again.
“You like the story, all of you?”
Could there be a doubt about it? No! “Schelim, King
of the Hills, and his four sons,” was one of Aunt Judy’s
very, very, very, best inventions. But they had the happy knack
of always thinking so of the last they heard.
“And yet there is a flaw in it,” said Aunt Judy.
“Aunt Judy!” exclaimed several voices at once, in a tone
“Yes; I mean in the moral:” pursued she, “there
is no Christianity in the teaching, and therefore it is not perfect,
although it is all very good as far as it goes.”
“But they were eastern people, and I suppose Mahometans or Brahmins,”
suggested No. 4.
“Exactly; and, therefore, I could not give them Christian principles;
and, therefore, although I have made my four princes turn out very well,
and do what was right, for the rest of their lives (as I had a right
to do); yet it is only proper I should explain, that I do not believe
any people can be depended upon for doing right, except when
they live upon Christian principles, and are helped by the grace of
God, to fulfil His will, as revealed to us by His Son Jesus Christ.
“Certainly it is always more reasonable to do right than
wrong, even when the wrong may seem most pleasant at the moment; because,
as all people of sense know, doing right is most for their own happiness,
as well as for everybody else’s, even in this world.
“But although the knowledge of this may influence us when we are
in a sober enough state of mind to think about it calmly, the inducement
is not a sufficiently strong one to be relied upon as a safe-guard,
when storms of passion and strong temptations come upon us. In
such cases it very often goes for nothing, and then it is a perfect
chance which way a person acts.
“Even in the matter of doing good to others, we need the Christian
principle as our motive, or we may be often tempted to give it up, or
even to be as cruel at some moments, as we are kind at others.
It is very pleasant, no doubt, to do good, and be charitable, when the
feeling comes into the heart, but the mere pleasure is apt to cease,
if we find people thankless or stupid, and that our labours seem to
have been in vain. And what a temptation there is, then, to turn
away in disgust, unless we are acting upon Christ’s commands,
and can bear in mind, that even when the pleasure ends, the duty remains.
“And now,” said Aunt Judy in conclusion, “a kiss for
the story-teller all round, if you please. She has had an invitation,
and is going from home to-morrow.”
“Oh, Aunt Judy!” ejaculated the little ones, in not the
most cheerful of tones.
“Well,” cried Aunt Judy, looking at them and laughing, “you
don’t mean to say that you will not find plenty to do, and
plenty to enjoy while I am away? Come, I mean to write
to you all by turns, and I shall inquire in my letters whether you have
remembered, to your edification, the story of Schelim, King of
the Hills, and his four sons.”