i00bost.

Favorite authors in prose and poetry online

. (page 25 of 66)
Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 25 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


we have lived side by side as good neighbors, how much I
enjoy meeting you here at such times as this. For five and
twenty years now we have met here, and had our merry-
makings, our harvest-homes, and Ashen Fagot nights,
through bad times and good times. Well, we Ve had good
times lately in field and fold, and I hope we 're all thankful
for them, and laying by something against hard times, which
will be sure to come back again, sooner or later, remem-
ber that. When they come, I hope we shall all pull togeth-
er as we have done before ; but there 's nothing like being a
little before the world. The only one of all those twenty-
five Ashen Fagots which I have n't seen burnt with you
was the last one. You all know why I was n't with you.
It had pleased God to send me a very fearful trial last year,
and I had n't the heart to come among you as usual. I
know how. pleased you will all be to hear that I have had
good news to-day from the other side of the world, good
news of Master John." Here his voice faltered ; and when
the rough murmurs of sympathy had subsided a little, he
changed the subject abruptly, and went on : " It has always
been a source of great pride to me, and to our good vicar,
whom we all love as an old friendf though he lias only been
with us four years or so," (the vicar, who had just entered,
with Mrs. Kendrick on his arm, followed by his daughter,



THE ASHEN FAGOT. 43

was hailed by a burst of applause, and stood benevolently
wondering through his spectacles what It could be all about,)
a we are very proud to think how little drunkenness we
have in this parish. I 'm sure you '11 all take a pride, and
you particularly, boys," (the boys at the end of the table be-
came specially attentive,) "in keeping up our, good name.
* Merry and wise,' is our Avenly motto. You will be sure
to go right if you will only mind your mothers and wives,
whom I am always delighted to welcome here with you, and
who, mind, ought always to be with you at such times.
Mind, boys, and men too, there's no honest mirth where
wives and daughters can't come. There 's one more word,
which, perhaps, would come better from the vicar than from
me ; but as he '11 have his turn to-morrow in the pulpit, I
may just touch upon his ground now. This ' Ashen Fagot '
night, you know, is the night of peace and good-will of all
the year. So, if any of you have had fallings-out with
your neighbors, or in your families, now 's the time to set
them all right. Don't let the last bond of the fagot burst
before we have made all our hearts clean and whole with
all men this Christmas eve. I see there 's another bond
just going to burst; so I shall only wish you all again a
very merry Christmas."

The bond burst almost before Mr. Kendrick sat down, but
not a soul in the room noticed it. Every eye was turned to
the opposite side of the room. Her father's look as he spoke,
and some of his words, had touched Mabel very deeply. She
could scarcely keep from bursting into tears. The warmth
of the great fagot and the smell of the smoke gave her a
choking feeling, which she found it every moment more diffi-
cult to struggle against So she had glided across to the
opposite door, and, opening it a little, stood by it listening.
Just as Mr. Kendrick finished, she stepped out for a breath
of fresh air, to look at the pure moonlight, and recover her-
self, when she heard her name whispered close by. She



44 THOMAS HUGHES.

turned with a start, and the next moment found herself in
the arms of a man. Altogether, the excitement of the day
and the evening, with this last shock at the end of all, proved
too much for her, and she fairly fainted away.

" Good God, Herbert ! what am I to do ? Here 's Mabel
fainting ! "

" Why the deuce did you frighten her, then ? Come,
bring her in," and, so saying, Herbert pushed the door open.
The astonishment of the company vented itself first in a sort
of gasp ; Mr. Kendrick turned sharply round, following the
universal stare, and beheld one bearded stranger in front,
standing on his kitchen floor, with a big stick in his hand,
and his daughter in the arms of another just behind him.
He sprang to his feet, as did all the other men, but not
before Mrs. Kendrick had rushed across the kitchen, cry-
ing,

" Mabel, dearest, what is it ? What have you done to my
child ? "

" Mother, dear mother ! don't you know me ? "

" Johnny ! O God, is it Johnny ? " and now the mother
was on his neck, sobbing hysterically ; and the whole of the
women thronged round them, and murmurs of " Master
John ! " " 'T is the young squire, zhure enough ! " " Massy,
how a be grawed," and such like, passed round the men.

" Had n't you better stand back, and give the young lady
room to come round ? " said Herbert.

Mr. Kendrick now pressed forward with blanched face
through the crowd. The son could only stretch out his
hand, with, " Dear father, you have forgiven me ? "

John Kendrick the elder seized and grasped it twice, but
could not speak. He was not the man to give way in public,
but his bowels yearned to his son, and he fled away to his
chamber to weep there.

Herbert was looking on, much moved, weighing within
himself whether he could be of any use, when his eye caught



THE ASHEN FAGOT. 45

sight of the vicar, making horrible gulping faces, and wiping
his spectacles. He looked anxiously at him for a moment,
and then, springing across, seized his hand and began shak-
ing it furiously.

" Why, Mr. Ward, Mr. Ward, don't you know me ? "

u Eh, oh ! what ? no ! Who are you ? " replied the vicar,
shaking away, however, with great good-will, and glad to find
an outlet for his feelings.

" Why, Herbert Upton of course. Who should I be ? "

" What, Herbert ! God bless me ! No, it can't be. Yes,
I see. My dear boy, what brings you here ? Where have
you been ? Why have n't you written ? "

" So I have, often, some years back."

" What, written ? I Ve never had the letters."

" And Neliy ? "

" O, here she is, somewhere. Nelly, where are you ? We
often talk of you and old times."

And now there was like to be another catastrophe calling
for salts and cold water, as Herbert and Nelly met again
after six years' parting. He had left her a slip of a girl,
and found her a fine young woman. She had last seen
him a stripling of twenty, and he stood there now a great-
bearded man.

Readers must picture to themselves the rest of the scene,
how the troubled groups divided themselves again ; how
the Ashen Fagot revelry went on in the kitchen, every bond
that had burst during the interruption receiving due posthu-
mous honors ; how the reputation of Avenly for strict sobri-
ety was somewhat shaken that night, though nothing was said
about it by squire or vicar ; how, at the supper in the parlor,
to which no one but Herbert and Dick did any justice, the
story of Herbert's meeting with Johnny half-starved in the
streets of Sydney, and taking him into his employment, of
their defence of their wagon and beasts against bushrangers,
of the lucky accident which enabled Herbert to come home,



46 THOMAS HUGHES.

was told by fits and starts in answer to a thousand ques-
tions.

It was almost midnight before they broke up, and then
Mr. Kendrick asked the vicar to read to them, and took
down his big Bible. And the old vicar, peering through his
spectacles, turned to the 15th chapter of St. Luke, and read
it ; and as the well-known words were heard again, there
was no dry eye in the parlor, except the incorrigible Dick's.

Herbert Upton escorted the vicar and Nelly home ; and
on the next Sunday the banns of Herbert Upton, of New
South Wales, and Eleanor Ward, of Avenly, were duly
published for the first time in the parish church. Herbert
established himself for the winter at the vicarage, with three
good hunters, which stood in Mr. Kendrick's capacious sta-
bles. The worthy villagers of Avenly will long remember
and talk over the Ashen Fagot night when the young
squire came home again.



CONTENTMENT.

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.

" Man wants but little here belmr. w

LITTLE I ask ; my wants are few ;
I only wish a hut of stone,
(A very plain brown stone will do,)
That I may call my own ;
And close at hand is such a one,
In yonder street that fronts the sun.

Plain food is quite enough for me ;

Three courses are as good as ten ;
If Nature can subsist on three,

Thank Heaven for three. Amen I
I always thought cold victual nice ;
My choice would be vanilla-ice.

I care not much for gold or land ;

Give me a mortgage here and there,
Some good bank-stock, some note of hand,

Or trifling railroad share,
I only ask that Fortune send
A little more than I shall spend.

Honors are silly toys, I know,
And titles are but empty names ;



48 OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.

I would, perhaps, be Plenipo,
But only near St. James ;
I 'm very sure I should not care
To fill our Gubernator's chair.

Jewels are bawbles ; 't is a sin

To care for such unfruitful things ;
One good-sized diamond in a pin,

Some, not so large, in rings,
A ruby, and a pearl, or so,
Will do for me ; I laugh at show.

My dames should dress in cheap attire ;

(Good, heavy silks are never dear ;)
I own perhaps I might desire

Some shawls of true Cashmere,
Some marrowy crapes of China silk,
Like wrinkled skins on scalded milk.

I would not have the horse I drive

So fast that folks must stop and stare ;
An easy gait two, forty-five

Suits me ; I do not care ;
Perhaps, for just a single spurt,
Some seconds less would do no hurt.

Of pictures, I should like to own

Titians and Raphaels three or four, -
I love so much their style and tone,

One Turner, and no more,
(A landscape, foreground golden dirt,
The sunshine painted with a squirt.)

Of books but few, some fifty score
For daily use, and bound for wear ;



CONTENTMENT. 49

The rest upon an upper floor ;

Some little luxury there
Of red morocco's gilded gleam,
And vellum rich as country cream.


Busts, cameos, gems, such tilings as these,

Which others often show fci prUt,
/value for their power to please,

And selfish churls deride ;
One Stradivarius, I confess,
Two Meerschaums, I would fain possess.

Wealth's wasteful tricks I will not learn,
*Nor ape the glittering upstart fool ;
Shall not carved tables serve my turn,

But all must be of buhl ?
Give grasping pomp its double share,
I ask but one recumbent chair.

Thus humble let me live and die,

Nor long for Midas' golden touch ;
If Heaven more generous gifts deny,
I shall not miss them much,
Too grateful for the blessing lent
Of simple tastes and mind content !



LITTLE SCHOLARS

BY ANNA THACKERAY.



morning, as I was walking up a street
1 in Pimlico, I came upon a crowd of little persons issu-
ing from a narrow alley. Ever so many little people there
were streaming through a wicket ; running children, shouting
children, loitering children, chattering children, and children
spinning tops by the way, so that the whole street was
awakened by the pleasant childish clatter. As I stand for
an instant to see the procession go by, one little girl pops
me an impromptu courtesy, at which another from a distant
quarter, not behindhand in politeness, pops me another ; and
presently quite an irregular little volley of courtesyings goes
off in every direction. Then I blandly inquire if school is
over ? and if there is anybody left in the house ? A little
brown-eyes nods her head, and says, " There 's a great many
people left in the house." And so there are, sure enough,
as I find when I get in.

Down a narrow yard, with the workshops on one side and
the schools on .the other, in at a little door which leads into
a big room where there are rafters, maps hanging on the
walls, and remarks in immense letters, such as, " COFFEE
is GOOD FOR MY BREAKFAST," and pictures of useful
things, with the well-thumbed .story underneath ; a stove in
the middle of the room ; a paper hangh fe up on the door
with the names of the teachers ; and everywhere wooden



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 51

oenches and tables, made low and small for little legs and
arms.

Well, the school-room is quite empty and silent now, and
the little turmoil has poured eagerly out at the door. It is
twelve o'clock, the sun is shining in the court, and some-
thing better than schooling is going on in the kitchen yon-
der. Who cares now where coffee comes from ? or which
are the chief cities in Europe ? or in what -year Stephen
came to the throne ? For is not twelve o'clock dinner-time
with all sensible people ? and what periods of history, what
future aspirations, what distant events are as important to
us grown-up folks, and children, too as this pleasant
daily recurring one ?

The kiod, motherly schoolmistress who brought me in,
tells me that for a shilling half a dozen little boys and girls
can be treated to a wholesome meal. I wonder if it smells
as good to them as it does to me, when I pull my shilling
out of my pocket. The food costs more than twopence
but there is a fund to which people subscribe, and with ifc.
help the kitchen cooks all through the winter months.

All the children seem very fond of the good Mrs. K .

As we leave the school-room, one little tiling comes up cry-
ing, and clinging to her, " A boy has been and 'it me ! "
But when the mistress says, " Well, never mind, you shall
have your dinner," the child is instantly consoled ; " and
you, and you, and you," she continues ; but this selection is
too heart-rending; and with the help of another lucky
shilling, nobody present is left out. I remember particularly
a lank child, with great black eyes and fuzzy hair, and a
pinched gray face, who stood leaning against a wall ii^the
sun : once, in the Pontine Marshes, years ago, I remember
seeing such another figure. "That poor thing is seven-
teen," says Mrs. K . " She sometimes loiters here all

day long ; she has no mother : and she often comes and tells
me her father is so drunk she dare not go home. I always
give her a dinner when I can. This is the kitchen."



52 ANNA THACKERAY.

The kitchen is a delightful little clean-scrubbed place, with
rice pudding baking in the oven, and a young mistress, and
a big girl, busy bringing in great caldrons full of the mutton-
broth I have been scenting all this time. It is a fresh,
honest, hungry smell, quite different from that unwholesome
compound of fiy and sauce, and hot, pungent spice, and stew
and mess, which comes steaming up, some seven hours later,
into our dining-rooms, from the reeking kitchens below.
Here a poor woman is waiting, with a jug and a round-
eyed baby. The mistress tells me the people in the neigh-
borhood are too glad to buy what is left of the children's

dinner. " Look what good stuff it is," says Mrs. K ,

and she shows me a bowl full of the jelly to which it turns
when cold. As the two girls come stepping through the
sunny doorway, with the smoking jar between them, I
think Mr. Millais might make a pretty picture of the little
scene ; but my attention is suddenly distracted by the round-
eyed baby, who is peering down into the great soup-jug with
such wide, wide-open eyes, and little hands outstretched,
such an eager, happy face, that it almost made one laugh,
and cry too, to see. The baby must be a favorite, for he is
served, and goes off in his mother's arms, keeping vigilant
watch over the jug, while four or five other jugs and women
are waiting still in the next room. Then into rows of little
yellow basins our mistress pours the broth, and we now go
in to see the company in the dining-hall, waiting for its
banquet. Ah me ! but it is a pleasanter sight to see than
any company in all the land. Somehow, as the children
say grace, I feel as if there was indeed a blessing on the
foo<!^ a blessing which brings color into these wan cheeks,
and strength and warmth into these wasted little limbs.
Meanwhile the expectant company is growing rather im-
patient, and is battering the benches with its spoons, and
tapping neighboring heads as well. There goes a little
guest, scrambling from his place across the room and back



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 53

again. So many are here to-day, that they have not all got
seats. I see the wan girl still standing against the wall, and
there is her brother, a sociable little fellow, all dressed
in corduroys, who is making funny faces at me across the
room, at which some other little boys burst out laughing.
But the infants on the dolls'-benches. at the other end, are
the best fun. There they are three, four, five years old
whispering and ohattering, and tumbling over one another.
Sometimes one infant falls suddenly forward, with its nose
upon the table, and stops there quite contentedly; some-
times another disappears entirely under the legs, and is
tugged up by its neighbors. A certain number of the in-
fants have their dinner every day, the mistress tells me.

Mrs. * has said so, and hers is the kind hand which has

provided for all these young ones ; while a same kind heart
has schemed how to shelter, to feed, to clothe, to teach the
greatest number of these hungry and cold and neglected
little children.

As I am replying to the advances of my young friend in
the corduroys, I suddenly hear a cry of " Ooo ! ooo ! ooo !
noo spoons, noo spoons, ooo ! ooo ! ooo ! " and all the
little hands stretch out eagerly as one of the big girls goes
by with a paper of shining metal spoons. By this time the
basins of soup are travelling round, with hunches of home-
made bread. " The infants are to have pudding first," says
the mistress, coming forward ; and in a few minutes more
all the little birds are busy pecking at their bread and pud-
ding, of which they take up very small mouthfuls, in very
big spoons, and let a good deal slobber down over their
pinafores.

One little curly-haired boy, with a very grave face, was
eating pudding very slowly and solemnly; so I said to
him,

" Do you like pudding best ? "

Little Boy. Isss."



54 ANNA THACKERAY.

" And can you read ? "

Little Boy. " Isss."

" And write ? "

Little Boy. " Isss."

" And have you got a sister ? "

Little Boy. " Isss."

u And does she wash your face so nicely ? "

Little Boy, extra solemn. " No, see is wite a little girl
see is on'y four year old."

" And how old are you ? "

Little Boy, with great dignity. " / am fi' year old."

Then he told me Mrs. Willis " wassed" his face, and 'he
brought his sister to school.

" Where is your sister ? " says the mistress, going by.

But four-years was not forthcoming.

" I s'pose see has wait home," says the child, and goes on
with his pudding.

This little pair are orphans out of the workhouse, Mrs.

K told me. But somebody pays Mrs. Willis for their

keep.

There was another funny little thing, very, small, sitting
between two bigger boys, to whom I said,

" Are you a little boy or a little girl ? "

" Little dirl," says this baby, quite confidently.

" No, you ain't," cries the left-hand neighbor, very much
excited.

" Yes, she is," says right-hand neighbor.

And then three or four more join in, each taking a differ-
ent view of the question. All this time corduroys is still
grinning and making faces in his corner. I admire his brass
buttons, upon which three or four more children instantly
crowd round to look at them. One is a poor little deformed
fellow, to whom buttons would be of very little use. He is
in quite worn and ragged clothes : he looks as pale and thin
almost as that poor girl I first noticed He has no mother



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 55

he and his brother live alone with their father, who is out all
day, and the children have to do everything for themselves.
The young ones here who have no mothers seem by far the
worst off. This little deformed boy, poor as he is, finds
something to give away. Presently I see him scrambling
over the backs of the others, and feeding them with small
shreds of meat, which he takes out of his soup with his
grubby little fingers, and which one little boy, called Thomp-
son, is eating with immense relish. Mrs. K here comes

up, and says that those who are hungry are to have some
more. Thompson has some more, and so does another rosy
little fellow ; but the others have hardly finished what was
first given them, and the veiy little ones send off their pud-
ding half e^aten, and ask for soup. The mistresses here are
quite touchingly kind and thoughtful. I did not hear a sharp
tone. All the children seemed at home, and happy, and
gently dealt with. However cruelly want and care and
harshness haunt their own homes, here at least there are
only kind words and comfort for these poor little pilgrims

whose toil has begun so early. Mrs. told me once,

that often in winter time these children come barefooted
through the snow, and so cold and hungry that they have
fallen off their seats half fainting. We may be sure that
such little sufferers thanks to these Good Samaritans !
will be tenderly picked up and cared for. But, I wonder,
must there always be children in the world hungry and de-
serted ? and will there never, out of all the abundance of the
earth, be enough to spare to content those who want so little
to make them happy ?

Mrs. came in while I was still at the school, and

took me over the workshops where the elder boys learn to
carpenter and carve. Scores of drawing-rooms in Belgravia
are bristling with the pretty little tables and ornaments these
young artificers design. A young man with a scrip turaJ '
name superintends the work ; the boys are paid for their



56 ANNA THACKERAY.

labor, and send out red velvet and twisted legs, and wood
ornamented in a hundred devices. There is an industrial
class for girls, too. The best and oldest are taken in, and
taught housework, and kitchen-work, and sewing. Even the
fathers and mothers come in for a share of the good things,
and are invited to tea sometimes, and amused in the evening
with magic-lanterns, and conjurers, and lecturings. I do not
dwell at greater length upon the industrial part of these
schools, because I want to speak of another very similar
institution I went to see another day.

On my way thither I had occasion to go through an old
churchyard, full of graves and sunshine ; a quaint old sub-
urban place, with tree-tops and old brick houses all round
about, and ancient windows looking down upon the quiet
tombstones. Some children were playing among the graves,
and two rosy little girls in big bonnets were sitting demurely
on a stone, and grasping two babies that were placidly bask-
ing in the sun. The little girls look up and grin as I go by.
I would ask them the way, only I know they won't answer,
and so I go on, out at an old iron gate, with a swinging
lamp, up " Church Walk " (so it is written), and along a
trim little terrace, to where a maid-of-all-work is scrubbing

at her steps. When I ask the damsel my way to B

Street, she says she " do-ant know B Street, but there 's

Little Davis Street round the corner " ; and when I say I 'm
afraid Little Davis Street is no good to me, she says, " 'T ain't
Gunter's Row, is it ? " So I go off in despair, and after some
minutes of brisk walking find myself turning up the trim
little terrace again, where the maid-of-all-work is still busy
at her steps. This time, as we have a sort of acquaint-
ance, I tell her that I am looking for a house where girls
are taken in, and educated, and taught to be housemaids.
At which confidence she brightens up, and says, " There 's a
'ouse round the-ar with somethink wrote on the door, jest
where the little boy's a-trundlin' of his 'oop."



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 57

And so, sure enough, following the hoop, I come to an
old-fashioned house in a court-yard, and ring at a wooden
door, on which " Girls' Industrial Schools " is painted up in
white letters.

A little industrious girl, in a lilac pinafore, let me in, with
a courtesy.

" May I come in and see the place ? " say I.

" Please, yes," says she (another courtesy). " Please, what
name? please walk this way."

" This way " leads through the court, where clothes are
hanging on lines, into a little office-room, where my guide
leaves me, with yet another little courtesy. In a minute the
mistress comes out from the inner room. She is a kind,
smiling young woman, with a fresh face and a pleasant man-
ner. She takes me in, and I see a dozen more girls in lilac
pinafores reading round a deal table. They look mostly
about thirteen or fourteen years old. I ask if this is all the
school.

" Xo, not all," the mistress says, counting ; " some are in
the laundry, and some are not at home. When they are
old enough, they go out into the neighborhood to help to



Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 25 of 66)