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nourishment which is offered them is generally no better than husks.
They cannot live upon it, and so die and go home to their Father. And
without good spiritual food to keep the spiritual senses healthy and
true, they cannot see the thing's about them as they really are. They
cannot find interest in them, because they cannot find their _own_
place amoungst them. There was one thing though that confirmed me in
this idea about Miss Cathcart. I looked over her music on purpose, and
I did not find one song that rose above the level of the drawing-room,
or one piece of music that had any deep feeling or any thought in
it. Of course I judged by the composers."

"You astonish me by the truth and rapidity of your judgements. But how
did you, who like myself are a bachelor, come to know so much about
the minds of women?"

"I believe in part by reading Milton, and learning from him a certain
high notion about myself and my own duty. None but a pure man can
understand women - I mean the true womanhood that is in them. But more
than to Milton am I indebted to that brother of mine you heard preach
to-day. If ever God made a good man, he is one. He will tell you
himself that he knows what evil is. He drank of the cup, found it full
of thirst and bitterness; cast it from him, and turning to the
fountain of life, kneeled and drank, and rose up a gracious giant. I
say the last - not he. But this brother kept me out of the mire in
which he soiled his own garments, though, thank God! they are clean
enough now. Forgive my enthusiasm, Mr. Smith, about my brother. He is
worthy of it."

I felt the wind cold to my weak eyes, and did not answer for some
time, lest he should draw unfair conclusions.

"You should get him to tell you his story. It is well worth hearing;
and as I see we shall be friends all, I would rather you heard it from
his own mouth."

"I sincerely hope I may call that man my friend, some day."

"You may do so already. He was greatly taken with you on the journey

"A mutual attraction then, I am happy to think. Good-bye, I am glad
you like my plan."

"I think it excellent. Anything hearty will do her good. Isn't there
any young man to fall in love with her?"

"I don't know of any at present."

"Only the _best_ thing will make her well; but all true things tend to

"But how is it that you have such notions - so different from those of
the mass of your professional brethren?"

"Oh!" said he, laughing, "if you really want an answer, be it known to
all men that I am a student of Van Helmont."

He turned away, laughing; and I, knowing nothing of Van Helmont, could
not tell whether he was in jest or in earnest.

At dinner some remark was made about the sermon, I think by our host.

"You don't call that the gospel!" said Mrs. Cathcart, with a smile.

"Why, what do you call it, Jane?"

"I don't know that I am bound to put a name upon it. I should,
however, call it pantheism."

"Might I ask you, madam, what you understand by _pantheism_?"

"Oh! neology, and all that sort of thing."

"And neology is - ?"

"Really, Mr. Smith, a dinner-table is not the most suitable place in
the world for theological discussion."

"I quite agree with you, madam," I responded, astonished at my own
boldness. - I was not quite so much afraid of her after this, although
I had an instinctive sense that she did not at all like me. But Percy
was delighted to see his mother discomfited, and laughed into his
plate. She regarded him with lurid eyes for a moment, and then took
refuge in her plate in turn. The colonel was too polite to make any
remark at the time, but when he and I were alone, he said:

"Smith, I didn't expect it of you. Bravo, my boy!"

And I, John Smith, felt myself a hero.

Chapter V.

The light princess.

Five o'clock, anxiously expected by me, came, and with it the
announcement of dinner. I think those of us who were in the secret
would have hurried over it, but with Beeves hanging upon our wheels,
we could not. However, at length we were all in the drawing-room, the
ladies of the house evidently surprised that we had come up stairs so
soon. Besides the curate, with his wife and brother, our party
comprised our old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfield, whose previous
engagement had been advanced by a few days.

When we were all seated, I began, as if it were quite a private
suggestion of my own:

"Adela, if you and our friends have no objection, I will read you a
story I have just scribbled off."

"I shall be delighted, uncle."

This was a stronger expression of content than I had yet heard her
use, and I felt flattered accordingly.

"This is Christmas-time, you know, and that is just the time for
story-telling," I added.

"I trust it is a story suitable to the season," said Mrs. Cathcart,

"Yes, very," I said; "for it is a child's story - a fairy tale, namely;
though I confess I think it fitter for grown than for young children.
I hope it is funny, though. I think it is."

"So you approve of fairy-tales for children, Mr. Smith?"

"Not for children alone, madam; for everybody that can relish them."

"But not at a sacred time like this?"

And again she smiled an insinuating smile.

"If I thought God did not approve of fairy-tales, I would never read,
not to say write one, Sunday or Saturday. Would you, madam?"

"I never do."

"I feared not. But I must begin, notwithstanding."

The story, as I now give it, is not exactly as I read it then,
because, of course, I was more anxious that it should be correct when
I prepared it for the press, than when I merely read it before a few

"Once upon a time," I began; but I was unexpectedly interrupted by the
clergyman, who said, addressing our host:

"Will you allow me, Colonel Cathcart, to be Master of the Ceremonies
for the evening?"

"Certainly, Mr. Armstrong."

"Then I will alter the arrangement of the party. Here, Henry - don't
get up, Miss Cathcart - we'll just lift Miss Cathcart's couch to this
corner by the fire. - Lie still, please. Now, Mr. Smith, you sit here
in the middle. Now, Mrs. Cathcart, here is an easy chair for you. With
my commanding officer I will not interfere. But having such a jolly
fire it was a pity not to get the good of it. Mr. Bloomfield, here is
room for you and Mrs. Bloomfield."

"Excellently arranged," said our host. "I will sit by you, Mr.
Armstrong. Percy, won't you come and join the circle?"

"No, thank you, uncle," answered Percy from a couch, "I am more
comfortable here."

"Now, Lizzie," said the curate to his wife, "you sit on this stool by
me. - Too near the fire? No? - Very well. - Harry, put the bottle of
water near Mr. Smith. A fellow-feeling for another fellow - you see,
Mr. Smith. Now we're all right, I think; that is, if Mrs. Cathcart is

"Thanks. Quite."

"Then we may begin. Now, Mr. Smith. - One word more: anybody may speak
that likes. Now, then."

So I did begin -



"Author: JOHN SMITH, Gentleman.

"Motto: - '_Your Servant, Goody Gravity_.'


"I must be very stupid, I fear, Mr. Smith; but to tell the truth, _I_
can't make head or tail of it," said Mrs. Cathcart.

"Give me leave, madam," said I; "that is my office. Allow me, and I
hope to make both head and tail of it for you. But let me give you
first a mere general, and indeed a more applicable motto for my
story. It is this - from no worse authority than John Milton:

'Great bards beside
In sage and solemn times have sung
Of turneys and of trophies hung;
Of forests and enchantments drear,
Where more is meant than meets the ear.'

"Milton here refers to Spencer in particular, most likely. But what
distinguishes the true bard in such work is, that _more is meant than
meets the ear_; and although I am no bard, I should scorn to write
anything that only spoke to the _ear_, which signifies the surface

General silence followed, and I went on.



"Once upon a time, so long ago, that I have quite forgotten the date,
there lived a king and queen who had no children.

"And the king said to himself: 'All the queens of my acquaintance have
children, some three, some seven, an some as many as twelve; and my
queen has not one. I feel ill-used.' So he made up his mind to be
cross with his wife about it. But she bore it all like a good patient
queen as she was. Then the king grew very cross indeed. But the queen
pretended to take it all as a joke, and a very good one, too.

"'Why don't you have any daughters, at least?' said he, 'I don't say
sons; that might be too much to expect.'

"'I am sure, dear king, I am very sorry,' said the queen.

"'So you ought to be,' retorted the king; 'you are not going to make a
virtue of _that_, surely.'

"But he was not an ill-tempered king; and, in any matter of less
moment, he would have let the queen have her own way, with all his
heart. This, however, was an affair of state.

"The queen smiled.

"'You must have patience with a lady, you know, dear king,' said she.

"She was, indeed, a very nice queen, and heartily sorry that she could
not oblige the king immediately.

"The king tried to have patience, but he succeeded very badly. It was
more than he deserved, therefore, when, at last, the queen gave him a
daughter - as lovely a little princess as ever cried."

* * * * *


"The day drew near when the infant must be christened. The king wrote
all the invitations with his own hand. Of course somebody was

"Now, it does not generally matter if somebody is forgotten, but you
must mind who. Unfortunately, the king forgot without intending it;
and the chance fell upon the Princess Makemnoit, which was awkward.
For the Princess was the king's own sister; and he ought not to have
forgotten her. But she had made herself so disagreeable to the old
king, their father, that he had forgot her in making his will; and so
it was no wonder that her brother forgot her in writing his
invitations. But poor relations don't do anything to keep you in mind
of them. Why don't they? The king could not see into the garret she
lived in, could he? She was a sour, spiteful creature. The wrinkles of
contempt crossed the wrinkles of peevishness, and made her face as
full of wrinkles as a pat of butter. If ever a king could be justified
in forgetting anybody, this king was justified in forgetting his
sister, even at a christening. And then she was so disgracefully poor!
She looked very odd, too. Her forehead was as large as all the rest of
her face, and projected over it like a precipice. When she was angry,
her little eyes flashed blue. When she hated anybody, they shone
yellow and green. What they looked like when she loved anybody, I do
not know; for I never heard of her loving anybody but herself, and I
do not think she could have managed that, if she had not somehow got
used to herself. But what made it highly imprudent in the king to
forget her, was - that she was awfully clever. In fact, she was a
witch; and when she bewitched anybody, he very soon had enough of it;
for she beat all the wicked fairies in wickedness, and all the clever
ones in cleverness. She despised all the modes we read of in history,
in which offended fairies and witches have taken their revenges; and
therefore, after waiting and waiting in vain for an invitation, she
made up her mind at last to go without one, and make the whole family
miserable, like a princess and a philosopher.

"She put on her best gown, went to the palace, was kindly received by
the happy monarch, who forgot that he had forgotten her, and took her
place in the procession to the royal chapel. When they were all
gathered about the font, she contrived to get next to it, and throw
something into the water. She maintained then a very respectful
demeanour till the water was applied to the child's face. But at that
moment she turned round in her place three times, and muttered the
following words, loud enough for those beside her to hear:

'Light of spirit, by my charms,
Light of body, every part,
Never weary human arms -
Only crush thy parents' heart!'

"They all thought she had lost her wits, and was repeating some
foolish nursery rhyme; but a shudder went through the whole of them.
The baby, on the contrary, began to laugh and crow; while the nurse
gave a start and a smothered cry, for she thought she was struck with
paralysis: she could not feel the baby in her arms. But she clasped it
tight, and said nothing.

"The mischief was done."

Here I came to a pause, for I found the reading somewhat nervous work,
and had to make application to the water-bottle.

"Bravo! Mr. Smith," cried the clergyman. "A good beginning, I am sure;
for I cannot see what you are driving at."

"I think I do," said Henry. "Don't you, Lizzie?"

"No, I don't," answered Mrs. Armstrong.

"One thing," said Mrs. Cathcart with a smile, not a very sweet one,
but still a smile, "one thing, I must object to. That is, introducing
church ceremonies into a fairy-tale."

"Why, Mrs. Cathcart," answered the clergyman, taking up the cudgels
for me, "do you suppose the church to be such a cross-grained old
lady, that she will not allow her children to take a few gentle
liberties with their mother? She's able to stand that surely. They
won't love her the less for that."

"Besides," I ventured to say, "if both church and fairy-tale belong to
humanity, they may occasionally cross circles, without injury to
either. They must have something in common. There is the _Fairy
Queen_, and the _Pilgrim's Progress_, you know, Mrs. Cathcart. I can
fancy the pope even telling his nephews a fairy-tale."

"Ah, the pope! I daresay."

"And not the archbishop?"

"I don't think your reasoning quite correct, Mr. Smith," said the
clergyman; "and I think moreover there is a real objection to that
scene. It is, that no such charm could have had any effect where holy
water was employed as the medium. In fact I doubt if the wickedness
could have been wrought in a chapel at all."

"I submit," I said. "You are right. I hold up the four paws of my
mind, and crave indulgence."

"In the name of the church, having vindicated her power over evil
incantations, I permit you to proceed," said Mr. Armstrong, his black
eyes twinkling with fun.

Mrs. Cathcart smiled, and shook her head.

* * * * *


"Her atrocious aunt had deprived the child of all her gravity. If you
ask me how this was effected, I answer: In the easiest way in the
world. She had only to destroy gravitation. And the princess was a
philosopher, and knew all the _ins_ and _outs_ of the laws of
gravitation as well as the _ins_ and _outs_ of her boot-lace. And
being a witch as well, she could abrogate those laws in a moment; or
at least so clog their wheels and rust their bearings, that they would
not work at all. But we have more to do with what followed, than with
how it was done.

"The first awkwardness that resulted from this unhappy privation was,
that the moment the nurse began to float the baby up and down, she
flew from her arms towards the ceiling. Happily, the resistance of the
air brought her ascending career to a close within a foot of it. There
she remained, horizontal as when she left her nurse's arms, kicking
and laughing amazingly. The nurse in terror flew to the bell, and
begged the footman who answered it, to bring up the house-steps
directly. Trembling in every limb, she climbed upon the steps, and had
to stand upon the very top, and reach up, before she could catch the
floating tail of the baby's long clothes.

"When the strange fact came to be known, there was a terrible
commotion in the palace. The occasion of its discovery by the king was
naturally a repetition of the nurse's experience. Astonished that he
felt no weight when the child was laid in his arms, he began to wave
her up and - not down; for she slowly ascended to the ceiling as
before, and there remained floating in perfect comfort and
satisfaction, as was testified by her peals of tiny laughter. The king
stood staring up in speechless amazement, and trembled so that his
beard shook like grass in the wind. At last, turning to the queen, who
was just as horror-struck as himself, he said, gasping, staring, and

"'She _can't_ be ours, queen!'

"Now the queen was much cleverer than the king, and had begun already
to suspect that 'this effect defective came by cause.'

"'I am sure she is ours,' answered she. 'But we ought to have taken
better care of her at the christening. People who were never invited
ought not to have been present.'

"'Oh, ho!' said the king, tapping his forehead with his forefinger, 'I
have it all. I've found her out. Don't you see it, queen? Princess
Makemnoit has bewitched her.'

"'That's just what I say,' answered the queen.

"'I beg your pardon, my love; I did not hear you. John! bring the
steps I get on my throne with.'

"For he was a little king with a great throne, like many other kings.

"The throne-steps were brought, and set upon the dining-table, and
John got upon the top of them. But he could not reach the little
princess, who lay like a baby-laughter-cloud in the air, exploding

"'Take the tongs, John,' said his majesty; and getting up on the
table, he handed them to him.

"John could reach the baby now, and the little princess was handed
down by the tongs.

* * * * *


"One fine summer day, a month after these her first adventures, during
which time she had been very carefully watched, the princess was lying
on the bed in the queen's own chamber, fast asleep. One of the windows
was open, for it was noon, and the day so sultry that the little girl
was wrapped in nothing less etherial than slumber itself. The queen
came into the room, and not observing that the baby was on the bed,
opened another window. A frolicsome fairy wind which had been watching
for a chance of mischief, rushed in at the one window, and taking its
way over the bed where the child was lying, caught her up, and rolling
and floating her along like a piece of flue, or a dandelion-seed,
carried her with it through the opposite window, and away. The queen
went down stairs, quite ignorant of the loss she had herself
occasioned. When the nurse returned, she supposed that her majesty
had carried her off, and, dreading a scolding, delayed making inquiry
about her. But hearing nothing, she grew uneasy, and went at length to
the queen's boudoir, where she found her majesty.

"'Please your majesty, shall I take the baby?' said she.

"'Where is she?' asked the queen.

"'Please forgive me. I know it was wrong.'

"'What do you mean?' said the queen, looking grave.

"'Oh! don't frighten me, your majesty!' exclaimed the nurse, clapping
her hands.

"The queen saw that something was amiss, and fell down in a faint. The
nurse rushed about the palace, screaming, 'My baby! my baby!'

"Every one ran to the queen's room. But the queen could give no
orders. They soon found out, however, that the princess was missing,
and in a moment the palace was like a bee-hive in a garden. But in a
minute more the queen was brought to herself by a great shout and a
clapping of hands. They had found the princess fast asleep under a
rose-bush, to which the elvish little wind-puff had carried her,
finishing its mischief by shaking a shower of red rose-leaves all over
the little white sleeper. Startled by the noise the servants made, she
woke; and furious with glee, scattered the rose-leaves in all
directions, like a shower of spray in the sunset.

"She was watched more carefully after this, no doubt; yet it would be
endless to relate all the odd incidents resulting from this
peculiarity of the young princess. But there never was a baby in a
house, not to say a palace, that kept a household in such constant
good humour, at least below stairs. If it was not easy for her nurses
to hold her, certainly she did not make their arms ache. And she was
so nice to play at ball with! There was positively no danger of
letting her fall. You might throw her down, or knock her down, or push
her down, but you couldn't _let_ her down. It is true, you might let
her fly into the fire or the coal-hole, or through the window; but
none of these accidents had happened as yet. If you heard peals of
laughter resounding from some unknown region, you might be sure enough
of the cause. Going down into the kitchen, or _the room_, you would
find Jane and Thomas, and Robert and Susan, all and sum, playing at
ball with the little princess. She was the ball herself, and did not
enjoy it the less for that. Away she went, flying from one to another,
screeching with laughter. And the servants loved the ball itself
better even than the game. But they had to take care how they threw
her, for if she received an upward direction, she would never come
down without being fetched.

* * * * *


"But above stairs it was different. One day, for instance, after
breakfast, the king went into his counting-house, and counted out his
money. The operation gave him no pleasure.

"'To think,' said he to himself, 'that every one of these gold
sovereigns weighs a quarter of an ounce, and my real, live,
flesh-and-blood princess weighs nothing at all!'

"And he hated his gold sovereigns, as they lay with a broad smile of
self-satisfaction all over their yellow faces.

"The queen was in the parlour, eating bread and honey. But at the
second mouthful, she burst out crying, and could not swallow it. The
king heard her sobbing. Glad of anybody, but especially of his queen,
to quarrel with, he clashed his gold sovereigns into his money-box,
clapped his crown on his head, and rushed into the parlour.

"'What is all this about?' exclaimed he. 'What are you crying for,

"'I can't eat it,' said the queen, looking ruefully at the honey-pot.

"'No wonder!' retorted the king. 'You've just eaten your
breakfast - two turkey eggs, and three anchovies.'

"'Oh! that's not it!' sobbed her majesty. 'It's my child, my child!'

"'Well, what's the matter with your child? She's neither up the
chimney nor down the draw-well. Just hear her laughing.' Yet the king
could not help a sigh, which he tried to turn into a cough, saying,

"'It is a good thing to be light-hearted, I am sure, whether she be
ours or not.'

"'It is a bad thing to be light-headed,' answered the queen, looking
with prophetic soul, far into the future.

"''Tis a good thing to be light-handed,' said the king.

"''Tis a bad thing to be light-fingered,' answered the queen.

"''Tis a good thing to be light-footed,' said the king.

"''Tis a bad thing,' began the queen; but the king interrupted her.

"'In fact,' said he, with the tone of one who concludes an argument in
which he has had only imaginary opponents, and in which, therefore, he
has come off triumphant - 'in fact, it is a good thing altogether to be

"'But it is a bad thing altogether to be light-minded,' retorted the
queen, who was beginning to lose her temper.

"This last answer quite discomfited his majesty, who turned on his
heel, and betook himself to his counting-house again. But he was not
halfway towards it, when the voice of his queen overtook him:

"'And it's a bad thing to be light-haired,' screamed she, determined
to have more last words, now that her spirit was roused.

"The queen's hair was black as night; and the king's had been, and his
daughter's was, golden as morning. But it was not this reflection on
his hair that troubled him; it was the double use of the word _light_.
For the king hated all witticisms, and punning especially. And
besides he could not tell whether the queen meant light-_haired_ or
light-_heired_; for why might she not aspirate her vowels when she was
ex-asperated herself?"

"Now, really," interrupted the clergyman, "I must protest. Mr. Smith,
you bury us under an avalanche of puns, and, I must say, not very good
ones. Now, the story, though humorous, is not of the kind to admit of
such fanciful embellishment. It reminds one rather of a burlesque at a
theatre - the lowest thing, from a literary point of view, to be

"I submit," was all I could answer; for I feared that he was right.

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldAdela Cathcart, Volume 1 → online text (page 5 of 12)