Charlotte Mary Yonge.

A storehouse of stories : storehouse the first online

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it was for the maids to be obliged to wash their clothes
over again ; washing is very hard labour, and tires people
sadly, and so does threshing too. It is very unkind, there-
fore, to give them such unnecessary trouble, and everything
that is unkind is wicked ; and I would not do it upon any
account, I assure you.' ' Then I assure you,' replied Will,
'you may let it alone; I can do it without your assistance.'
He then began mixing the grain and the chaff together, the
other boy strongly remonstrating against it, to which he paid
no attention ; and whilst he was so employed, two men,
Simon and John, entered the barn.

' \V'hy, how now. Master Billy,' said Simon; ' what are you
about % What business have you to be here ? You are

u 2


always doing some mischief or other. I wish with all my
heart that you were kept chained like a dog and never suf-
fered to be at liberty, for you do more harm in an hour than
a body can set right again in a month ! ' Will then took up
hatsful of the corn and chaff and threw it in the two
men's faces; afterwards, taking up a flail, he gave Simoia>a
blow across his back, saying, at the same time, ' I will show
you the way to thresh and separate the flesh from the bones.'
' O ! will you so, young squire? ' said John ; ' I will show you
the way to make naughty boys good.' He then left the
barn, but presently returned accompanied by a gentleman,
upon the sight of whom Will let fall the flail which he was
till then brandishing over Simon's head, and was going
away, when the gentleman, taking hold of his hand, said,
' You do not stir from this place, Master William, nor have
one mouthful of breakfast, till you have asked the men par-
don for your behaviour, and likewise sifted every grain of
corn from the chaff which you have mixed with it. When
you have done that, you may have some food, but not be-
fore, and afterwards you may spend the rest of the day in
threshing; then you will be a better judge, my boy, of the
fatigue and labour of it, and find how you should like, after
working hard all day, to have it rendered useless by a mis-
chievous boy. Remember, William, what I have now said
to you, for I do insist upon being minded ; and I promise
you, that if you offer to play or do anything else to-day,
you shall be punished very severely.' The gentleman then
■went away. Will muttered something, I could not exactly
hear what, began to sift the corn, and so much had he
mixed together, that he did not go in for his breakfast till
after I had heard the church clock strike one, though it was
before eight when he came into the barn. In about an hour
he returned, and the other boy with him, who addressed him,
saying, ' Ah ! Will, you had better have taken my advice and
not have done so ; I thought what you would get by your nice
fun, as you called it. I never knew any good come of mis-
chief ; it generally brings those who do it into disgrace, or if
tliey should happen to escape unpunished, still it is always
attended with some inconvenience ; it is an ill-natured dis-



position which can take pleasure in giving trouble to any-
one.' 'Do hold your tongue, James,' replied Will; 'I de-
clare I have no patience to hear you preach, you are so
prodigiously wise, and prudent, and sober ; you had better
go in doors and sew with your mamma, for you talk just as
if you were a girl, and not in the least like a boy of spirit.'
' Like a girl ! ' resumed James. ' Are girls, then, the only folk
who have any sense or good-nature % Or what proof does
it show of spirit to be fond of mischief and giving people
trouble? It is like a monkey of spirit indeed; but I can-
not say that I see either spirit or sense in making the clean
clothes fall into the dirt, or mixing the corn and chaff, for
the sake of making the poor servants do them all over again:
if these things are a sign of any spirit, I am sure it is an
evil one and not at all such as I wish to possess, though I
no more want to sit still, or work with a needle, than you
do ; but I hope there are other ways of showing my spirit, as
you call it, than by doing mischief and being ill-natured. I
do not think my papa ever seems to be effeminate or want
sufficient spirit; but he would scorn to give unnecessary
trouble to anybody : and so will Tom Vaulter, though no
boy in the world loves play better than he does ; he plays at
cricket the best of any boy in the school, and I am sure
none can beat him at tennis ; and as for skipping, I never
saw a boy skip so well in all my life ; and I am sure he
would beat you with all your spirit, out and out twenty
times, either at running, or sliding, or swimming, or climb-
ing a tree. And yet he never gives trouble to anybody for
the sake of fun ; he is one of the best tempered boys in the
world, and whether it is like a girl or not, he always does
what he knows to be right and kind ; and if that is being
like girls, why, with all my heart ; I like girls well enough,
and if they behave well I do not see why you should speak
so contemptuously of them. My papa always says that he
loves girls just as well as boys, and none but foolish and
naughty boys despise and tease them.' Just as he said
these words, Simon and John entered the barn, and seeing
Will stand idle, * Come, come, young gentleman,' said John,
* take up your flail and go to work, sir, to work ! to work !


night will be here presently, and you have done nothing yet.'
Presently after the gentleman returned and enforced John's
advice for him to mind his work.

After Master Will had continued his employment some
little time he began to cry, saying his arms ached ready to
drop off, and his hand was so sore he could not bear it.
'Then doubtless,' replied his father, 'you would prodigiously
like, after you have been labouring all day, to have your
work to do over again for the sake of diverting a foolish boy.
But go on, William, I am determined that you shall, for one
day, know what it is to work hard, and thereby be taught to
pity and help, not add to the fatigue of those who do.' The
boy then went on with his business, though not without making
great complaints and shedding many tears. At length, how-
ever, evening came ; and the gentleman, his son, and the
two men all went away, leaving Longtail and myself to en-
joy our abundance. We passed another night in the sweetest
undisturbed repose, and in the day had nothing to alarm
our fears. In short, our situation was every way so perfectly
happy and desirable, that we thought, although our mother
had charged us not to return frequently to the same place,
yet she could not mean that we should not take up our
abode in a spot so secure and comfortable. We therefore
determined to continue where we were, till we should find
some cause for removing. And happy had it been for us if
we had kept to this resolution, and remained contented
when we had everything requisite to make us so. Instead
of which, after we had thus, free from care, passed our
time about seven months, like fools as we were, we began to
grow weary of our retirement and of eating nothing but the
same food ; and agreed that we would again venture forth
and seek for some other lodging, at the same time resolving,
in case we could find no habitation that suited us, to return
to the barn where we had enjoyed so many days of plenty
and repose.

Accordingly, one fine moonlight Monday night, after se-
curing our supper on the corn, we set forth, and travelled
for some distance without any further molestation than our
own natural fears created. At length we came to a brick


house, with about five or six wndows in front, and made our
way into it through a small latticed window which gave air
into the pantry; but on our arrival here we had no oppor-
tunity of so much as observing what it contained, for on our
slipping down a cat instantly tlew at us, and by the greatest
good luck in the world there chanced to be a hole in one of
the boards of the floor close to the spot where we stood, into
which we both were happy enough to pop, before she could
catch us. Here we had time to reflect, and severely blame
ourselves for not being satisfied with our state in the barn.
' When,' said I, addressing myself to my brother, 'when shall
we grow wise, and learn to know that certain evil always
attends every deviation from what is right ? When we dis-
obeyed the advice of our mother, and, tempted by cakes and
other dainties, frequently returned to the same dangerous
place, how severely did we suffer for it ! And now, by our
own discontent, and not being satisfied when so safely,
though more humbly lodged, into what trouble have we not
plunged ourselves! How securely have we lived in the barn
for the last seven months, and how happily might we still
have continued there, had it not been for our restless dis-
positions? Ah! my brother, we have acted foolishly. We
ought to have been contented when we were at peace, and
should have considered that if we had not everything we
could wish for, we had everything that was necessary ; and
the life of a mouse was never designed for perfect happiness.
Such enjoyment was never intended for our lot; it is the por-
tion only of beings whose capacities are far superior to ours.
We ought, then, to have been contented; and had we been
so, we should have been as happy as our state of life would
have admitted of ' What you say is certainly very true,'
replied Longtail, ' and I sincerely wish that we had thought
of these things before. But what must we now do ? we said
we would return to the barn in case of difficulties, but that
is now impossible, as, if we attempt to retreat, the cat that
drove us in here will certainly destroy us; and yet in pro-
ceeding, what difficulties must we encounter, wliat dangers
may we not run ! Oh ! my beloved Nimble,' continued he,
* what a life of hazard is ours! to what innumerable accidents


are we hourly exposed ! and how is every meal that we eat
at the risk of our very existence!'

' It undoubtedly is,' replied I; ' but with all its troubles we
still are very desirous of preserving it : let us not then, my
brother, indulge our hearts with murmuring and finding fault
with that life, which, notwithstanding all its evils, we value
so highly. Rather let us endeavour to learn experience, and,
by conducting ourselves better, escape many of those troubles
which we now suffer.' So saying, I advised him to follow
me: 'for,' added I, 'it is impossible for us to exist in the
spot in which we are at present; we must therefore strive to
work our way into some other house or apartment, where we
can at least find some food.' To this Longtail agreed; the
rest of tlie night, and all the next day, we spent in nibbling
and finding our way into a closet in the house, which richly
repaid us for all our toil, as it contained sugar-plums, rice,
millet, various kinds of sweetmeats, and, what we liked better
than all the rest, a paper of nice macaroons. On these we
feasted most deliciously till our hunger was fully satisfied, and
then creeping into a little hole, just big enough to contain us
both, behind one of the jars of sweetmeats, reposed ourselves
with a nap, after our various and great fatigues which we had
gone through. I never was a remarkably sound sleeper; the
least noise disturbs me, and I was awakened in the morning
by the servant-maid's coming into the room to sweep it, and
get it ready for the reception of her mistress and family, who
soon after entered. As I wanted to know from whom the
voices 1 heard proceeded, I stepped softly from behind the
jar, and just peeped under the door into the room, where I
discovered a gentleman, two ladies, and a little boy and girl.

As I was totally unacquainted with all places of retreat,
and did not know how soon any of them might have occa-
sion to open the closet door, I instantly returned to my
brother, and awaking him told him it was time for us to
be upon our guard, as the family were all up and about.

Whilst we were thus situated, the first words I heard dis-
tinctly were those of the gentleman, saying, ' No, Frank, I
can never have a good opinion of him; the boy who could
once deceive, may, for aught I know, do so again ; he has,


by breaking his word, forfeited the only dependence one
could possibly have in him. A person who has once lost his
honour has no means left of gaining credit to his assertions.
By honour, Frank, I would be understood to speak of vera-
city, of virtue, of scorning to commit a mean action, and not
that brutish sense in which some understand it, as if it con-
sisted in a readiness to fight and resent an injury; for so
far am T from considering such behaviour as any proof of
honour that, on the contrary, I look upon it as a sure sign of
want of proper spirit and true honour. Fools, bullies, and
even cowards, will fight; whereas none but men of sense and
resolution and true magnanimity know how to pardon and
despise an insult.' 'But indeed, sir,' replied the boy, 'at
school, if one did not fight, they would laugh at one so, there
would be no such thing as bearing it.' ' And for that very
reason it is, my dear, that I say, to pass by and pardon an
insult requires more resolution and courage than mere fight-
ing does. When I wish you to avoid quarrelling and fighting
I by no means want you to become a coward, for I as much
abhor a dastardly spirit as any boy in your school can pos-
sibly do; but I would wish you to convince them that you
merited not that appellation by showing, through the whole
of your behaviour, a resolution that despised accidental pain
and avoided revenging an aftront for no other reason than
because you were convinced it showed a much nobler spirit
to pardon than to resent. And you may be assured, my dear,
few are the days that pass without affording us some oppor-
tunity of exerting our patience and showing that, although
we disdain quarrelling, still we are far from being cowards.

' I rcmemljer when I was at school there was one boy who,
from his first coming, declined upon all occasions engaging
in any battle; he even gave up many of his just rights to
avoid quarrelling, which conduct, instead of gaining (as it
justly deserved) the approbation of his companions, drew
upon him the insult and abuse of the whole school, and they
were perpetually teasing him with the opprobrious title of
coward. For some time he bore it with great good humour,
and endeavoured to laugh it off; but finding that had no
eftect, he one day thus addressed us: — "If you suppose that


I like to be called a coward, you are all very much mistaken;
or if you think me one, I assure you that you are not less
so; for no boy in the school should, if put to the trial, show
greater resolution than myself Indeed, I think it no small
proof of patience that I have borne your repeated insults so
long, when I could, by behaving more like a savage beast,
and less like a reasonable creature, have established my cha-
racter at once; but I abhor quarrelling, my soul detests to
treat my fellow-creatures as if they were brutes, from whose
fangs I must defend myself; but if nothing else but fighting
will convince you that I possess not less courage than your-
selves, I will now offer in cold blood to engage with the big-
gest boy in the school. If I conquer him, it will be a sign
that I know how to defend myself; and if he conquers me,
I will by my behaviour give a proof that I am not wanting
in resolution to suffer pain, although I never will so far de-
mean the character of a reasonable creature and a Christian
as to fight upon every trifling disagreement or insult.' No
sooner had he uttered these w^ords, than every boy present
was loud either in his commendation or condemnation. One
quarter of them, convinced of the justness of his arguments,
highly extolled his forbearance ; whilst the other three parts
with still greater noise only called him a bully and a mean-
spirited coward, who dared not fight, and for that reason
made such a fine speech, hoping to intimidate them. ' Well,
then,' said he, ' if such is your opinion, why will none of you
accept my offer ? you surely cannot be afraid, you who are
such brave fellows, of such true courage, and such noble
spirits, cannot be afraid of a coward and a bully ! Why,
therefore, does not one of you step forward, and put my fine
speech to the test 1 Otherwise, after I have thus challenged
you all, I hope none for the future will think they have any
right to call me cow-ard, though I again declare my fixed
resolution against fighting.'

'Just as he said this, a voice calling for help was heard
from a lane adjoining to the play-yard. Immediately we all
flocked to the side nearest where it proceeded, and clamber-
ing upon benches, watering.pots, or whatever came first in
our way, peeped over the wall, where we discovered two



well-grown lads, about seventeen or eighteen, stripping a
little boy of his clothes, and beating him for his outcries in
a most cruel manner; and at a little distance farther down
the lane sat a company of gipsies, to whom the two lads evi-
dently belonged. At the sight of this we were all much dis-
tressed, and wished to relieve the boy, though, discovering
so large a party, we were too much afraid to venture, till
Tomkins (the boy I before spoke about) instantly jumped
from the wall, and only saying, " Has nobody courage to
follow me?" ran toward them as fast as possible, and with
uncommon strength and agility placed himself between them
and the boy, and began defending himself in the best manner
he could, which he did for some time with great dexterit}-,
none of his fighting schoolfellows having courage to go to
his assistance. At length, however, seeing it impossible for
him to stand out any longer against two so much stronger
than himself, the boys agreed to secure themselves by num-
bers, and to sally forth to his assistance all together. This
scheme succeeded, and very shortly rescued Tomkins from
his antagonists. He thanked them for their assistance, saying
at the same time, " I hope you will no longer dovibt my
courage, or my abilities to fight, when it is necessary, or in
a good cause.'' After so signal a proof of his valour, his
greatest enemies could no longer doubt it ; and, without ever
engaging in foolish battles, he passed through school as
much respected as any boy, and his magnanimity was never
again called in question.'

As the gentleman stopped speaking, the little girl called
out, ' Oh, papa, the coach is at the door.' ' Is it, my dear V
returned the father. ' Well then, stop my love,' said one of
the ladies, 'I have got a itw cakes for you: stay, and take
them before you go.' She then unlocked the closet where
we were, and took down the paper of macaroons, among
which we had so comfortably regaled ourselves; when, ob-
serving the hole in the paper through which we entered, 'O
dear!' she exclaimed, 'the mice have actually got into my
cupboard. I will move all the things out this very morning,
and lock the cat up in it ; for I sliall be undone if the mice
once get footing here; they will soon spoil all my stores, and


that will never do.' She then kissed both the children, and,
giving them the cakes, they, the gentleman, and another
lady, all departed; and she instantly began to move the
boxes and jars from the closet, whilst we, terrified almost
out of om- wits, sat trembling behind one of them, not daring
to stir, yet dreading the cat's approach every moment.

We were soon, however, obliged to move our quarters, for
the lady, taking down the very jar which concealed us, we
were forced (without knowing where we were) to jump down
instantly. In vain we sought all round the room for some
avenue whereat we might escape; the apartment was too
well fitted up to admit the smallest crack ; and we must
then certainly have been destroyed, had we not, -ttith un-
common presence of mind, lan up the back of the lady's
gown, by which means she lost sight of us, and gave us an
opportunity to make our escape, as she opened the door to
order the cat to be brought in. We seized the lucky moment,
and, dropping from her gown, fled with the utmost haste out
at the house-door, which happened to be wide open; and I,
without once looking behind me, ran on till I discovered a
little crack in the brick-wall, which I entered, and which,
after many turnings and windings, brought me to this house,
where I have now continued skulking about in its different
apartments for above a month; during which time I have
not heard the least tidings of my beloved brother Longtail.
Whether, therefore, any mischief befel him as he followed
me, or whether he entered the crack with me and then lost
sight of me, I know not; but in vain have I sought him
every day since my arrival within these walls, and so anxious
am I to learn what is become of him, that I am now come
forth, contrary to my nature, to engage your compassion,
to beseech you, in case

At this moment the door of my room opened, and my
servant coming hastily in, the mouse jumped from my table,
and precipitately retreated to the same hole from whence it
first addressed me; and though I have several times peeped
into it, and even laid little bits of cake to entice it back
again, yet have I never been able to see it anywhere since.


Should either that, or any other, ever again favour me so far
with their confidence as to instruct me with their history, 1
will certainly communicate it with all possible speed to my
little readers, who I hope have been wise enough to attend
to the advice given them in the preceding pages, although it
was delivered to them by one as insignificant as a mouse.





It is now some months ago since I took leave of my little
readers, promising, in case I should ever hear any further
tidings of either Nimble or Longtail, I would certainly com-
municate it to them ; and as I think it extremely wrong not
to fulfil any engagement we enter into, I look upon myself
bound to give them all the information I have since gained,
relating to those two little animals; and I doubt not but they
will be glad to hear what happened to them, after Nimble
was frightened from my writing-table by the entrance of my
servant. If I recollect right, I have already told you that I
frecjuently peeped into the hole in the skirting-board, and
laid bits of cake to try to entice my little companion back,
but all to no purpose : and I had quite given over all hopes
of ever again seeing him, when one day, as I was putting my
hand into a large jar which had some Turkey figs in it, I felt
something soft at the bottom, and taking it out, found it to
be a poor little mouse, not quite dead, but so starved and
weak, that upon my placing it upon the table, it had not


strength sufficient to get from me. A little boy happened to
be standing by me, who, upon the sight of the mouse, began
to beg me to give it to the cat, or kill it, ' for I dont like
mice,' said he; 'pray, ma'am, put it away.' ' Not like mice!'
replied I; 'what can be your objection to such a little soft
creature as this % ' and taking advantage of its weakness, I
picked it up, and held it in the palm of one hand, whilst I
stroked it with the fingers of my right. ' Poor little mouse,
said I, ' who can be afraid of such a little object as this %
Do you not feel ashamed of yourself, Joe, to fear such a little
creature as this ? Only look at it, observe how small it is,
and then consider your own size, and surely, my dear, you
will blush to think of being no more of a man than to fear a
mouse! Look at me, Joe,' continued I; 'see, I will kiss it;
I am not at all afraid that it will hurt me.' When, lifting it
up toward my face, I heard it say in the faintest voice pos-
sible, ' Do you not know me % ' I instantly recollected my
little friend Nimble, and rejoiced at so unexpectedly finding
him. ' What, is it you, little Nimble,' exclaimed I, ' that I
again behold? Believe me, I am heartily rejoiced once
more to find you ; but tell me where have you been, what
have you done, whom have you seen, and what have you
learned since you last left me?' ' Oh!' replied he, in a voice
so low I could scarcely hear him, ' I have seen many things;
but I am so faint and weak for want of food and fresh air

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeA storehouse of stories : storehouse the first → online text (page 27 of 43)