L. T. Meade.

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DAVID'S LITTLE LAD ***




Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England




David's Little Lad
By L.T. Meade
Illustrations by H. Petherick
Published by John F. Shaw and Co, 48 Paternoster Row, London EC.
This edition dated 1890.

David's Little Lad, by L.T. Meade.

________________________________________________________________________

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DAVID'S LITTLE LAD, BY L.T. MEADE.

CHAPTER ONE.

THIS IS THE STORY WITHIN THE STORY.

Yes, I, Gwladys, must write it down; the whole country has heard of it,
the newspapers have been full of it, and from the highest to the lowest
in the land, people have spoken of the noble deed done by a few Welsh
miners. But much as the country knows, and glad and proud as the
country is, I don't think she knows quite all - not exactly what mother
and I know; she does not know the heart history of those ten days. This
is the story within the other well-known story, which I want to write
here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On a certain sunny afternoon in September, 1876, I was seated up in the
window of the old nursery. I say _in_ the window, for I had got my body
well up on the deep oak seat, had flattened my nose against the pane,
and was gazing with a pair of dismal eyes down on the sea, and on some
corn-fields and hay-fields, which in panoramic fashion stretched before
my vision.

Yes, I was feeling gloomy, and my first remark, after an interval of
silence, was decidedly in keeping with my face and heart.

"Gwen," I said, "what is it to be buried alive?" Gwen, who was singing
her charge to sleep to a lively Welsh air, neither heeded nor heard me.

"Gwen!" I repeated in a louder key.

"Men are false and oft ungrateful,
Derry derry dando,"

sang Gwen, rocking the baby, as she sang, in the most dexterous manner.

Gwen had a beautiful voice, and I liked the old air, so I stayed my
impatient question to listen.

"Maids are coy and oft deceitful,
Derry derry dando,
Few there are who love sincerely,
Down a derry down.
Say not so, I love thee dearly,
Derry derry down down,
Derry down down derry."

"None but thee torment and teaze me,
Derry derry dando,"

I shouted in my impetuous manner, and leaving my seat, I went noisily to
her side.

"Gwen, I _will_ be heard. I have not another soul to speak to, and you
are so cross and disagreeable. What is it to be buried alive?"

"'Tis just like you, Gwladys," said Gwen, rising indignantly. "Just
after two hours of it, when I was getting the darling precious lamb off
to sleep, you've gone and awoke him. Dear, dear! good gracious! there
never was such a maid!"

Gwen retired with the disturbed and wailing baby into the night nursery,
and I was left alone.

"None but thee torment and teaze me,
Derry derry dando,"

I sang after her.

Then I returned to my seat on the window-sill, curled myself up tighter
than ever, flattened my nose again against the pane, and began to think
out my dismal thoughts.

Yes, my thoughts were undoubtedly dismal, and very melancholy must my
eyes have looked, and absurdly long and drawn down the corners of my
mouth. Had anybody been there to see, they must have pronounced me
sentimental in the extreme; but no one was by, and - there was the rub -
that was the reason I looked so melancholy. Even Gwen, rocking baby to
sleep, could be disturbed at least by my long drawn sighs, but Gwen had
retired into the night nursery, out of reach of my despondency, and
though I could hear her cheerful voice in the distance, she certainly
could no longer hear me. I was utterly alone.

I pressed my face against the window pane, and gazed at the scene before
me. It was a fair scene enough. A broad sweep of sea, the waves
sparkling in the sunshine - some rugged rocks - a little patch of white
sand; all this lay close. In the distance were some hills,
magnificently clothed. To the right, I saw oak, ash, beech, in their
autumn dress; to the left, yellow fields of corn, an orchard or two;
some mowers were cutting down the corn, and laughing merrily; some
children were eating apples in the orchards - over all a gentle breeze
stirred, and the sun shone out of an almost cloudless sky.

Yes, the scene was very fair, but I did not appreciate it. My eyes had
rested on those trees, and those hills, and that sea all my life - I was
tired of the unvarying monotony. Nothing wearied me so much as when
visitors came to stay with mother, visitors who did not know our
country, and who consequently went into raptures over our Welsh scenery.
I am quite sure now that the raptures were genuine, but at the time
they seemed to me very like duty talk. I always listened
contemptuously; I always answered carelessly, "Oh, yes, the place is
well enough;" and I always thought bitterly in my heart of hearts.

It is easy for you, fine sir or madam, to speak and to admire, who need
only stay in this place for a week or fortnight, but what if you had to
live here _always_, from year's end to year's end. If you had to see
the meadows, and orchards, and sea, and the old grey house, and the
trees and sky - in short, all the fair landscape, not only in its summer
glory, but in its winter desolation, would not the country then appear a
little tiresome to you? Might you not then find an occasional visit to
Cardiff, and an occasional ride across the fields, and a far from
occasional stay at home, slightly wearying, and might it not possibly
occur to you that yours was a dull life? For this was my fate. I had
always lived at Tynycymmer. I had always seen the hills clothed with
trees in the distance; I had always watched the ripening fruit in the
orchards, and the ripening corn in the fields. In short, I was a Welsh
girl who had never gone out of Wales in her life. Never had I even seen
Gloucester, never had I set foot on English soil.

Circumstances too many to mention had conspired to thus isolate me. I
had once paid a visit, when a little child, to North Wales, but all the
rest of my sixteen years had been spent with mother, at Tynycymmer, in
the county of Glamorganshire. A rich country, a rambling, romantic old
home, a fair scene, where gentle care had tended me, this I
acknowledged, but I also knew that I was tired, weary, sick of it all.

With my absurdly dismal face gazing outward, I repeated the question to
myself, which nurse Gwen had refused to answer; "What is it to be buried
alive?"

The question had arisen in my mind from a paragraph in a local paper,
which I had seen to-day.

This paragraph was headed "_Buried alive_."

It contained an account of some colliers in a not very distant part of
Glamorganshire, who had been killed in a mining accident, truly buried
in their full health and strength by the sudden giving way of a column
of coal.

I had read the paragraph aloud to mother and David at breakfast.

I had seen David's face flush and then grow pale, had heard mother say,
"That place is not far from Ffynon; I am glad the accident did not
happen in our mine, David."

"Thank God! and it might have been," from David.

Then mother added -

"Things will mend in the old place soon, my son."

"I trust so," from David.

Then expressions of pity and sympathy from both pairs of lips, for the
injured and killed.

In this sympathy I had freely joined, for I was not hard-hearted; then I
had forgotten the circumstance. The widows and children in the dismal
coal country might be weeping and mourning, but I, Gwladys Morgan, in my
fair home, in this fair land, had no room for them in my selfish heart.
In half an hour I had ceased to remember the paragraph in the _Hereford
Times_, all but its heading. But the heading, as I said, haunted me; it
had another meaning besides going down into the bowels of the earth, and
finding its walls close round one, and feeling oneself shut into a
living tomb. It had another meaning besides the palpable and material
horror of slow starvation and of coming madness. Of these things I
could form no conception, but I could conceive of other things, and feel
them through and through my childish and inexperienced heart. I
imagined another meaning to the words, and this meaning I hunted up and
pondered over, with a deeper and deeper melancholy, adding strength to
my gloom.

Having roused up the skeleton, I clothed it with flesh, I filled its
veins with warm young blood, I made its limbs fair and round, I gave to
its face the healthy hue of youth, I coloured its eyes blue, and its
hair a golden brown, and I called it, when I had given it life and
being, Gwladys Morgan.

I took this fair young person of my creation, and buried her in a living
tomb; true, the fresh air of heaven still blew upon her, the sun shone
over her head, and the flowers blossomed at her feet. She could walk
through lovely gardens, she could watch the coming and going of the
fresh tide, on the fresh ocean, she could repose at night in the softest
of beds, in a spacious oak-lined room. She could receive counsel and
love, from the kind and tender lips of mother and brother. All this she
could have, but still she was in a tomb, and the name of the tomb was
Tynycymmer. Her body was free, as far as the walls of her prison
allowed it, to roam, but her mind, with its noble aspirations, her soul,
which had conceived great and possible commissions of wide and
ever-widening usefulness, these were shut up in a tomb; in short, this
feeling, breathing creature, with her talents and her longings, was
buried alive.

Having consigned Gwladys to this fate, I went on to imagine the result.
She would struggle in vain for freedom, she would beat with her wings -
poor imprisoned bird - against her cage, she would pant and long for a
less confined air, for emancipation from her living grave, she would
suffer in uncomplaining silence, and then gradually, her mind would
recoil upon itself, her aspiring soul would cease to struggle, and
starved out with earth's hard fate, would soar to nobler worlds! - (here
my tears began to drop).

But I had not done yet; I imagined still further, and in all its
minutest details, the body's decay of this suffering creature. How thin
and hollow, how pale and worn the once round and rosy cheeks would
become! what a pathetic and far-away look of sad yearning would enter
the blue eyes! how the curling hair would begin to grow! - I did not like
the idea of the hair growing thin, it was not poetical - had not nurse
Gwen a great bald division in her hair, a division clefting her raven
locks asunder, deep and wide as a potato ridge? No, I substituted thin
locks for grey, and so completed the picture.

Over my completed picture I should assuredly have wept, had not, at this
opportune juncture, the blue eyes, which were certainly anything but dim
as yet, descried, bowling smoothly along the road, and making swift
advances to Tynycymmer, a little pony-carriage, driven by a pair of
hands, very well fitted for their present task, that of keeping two
spirited ponies in order. Into the long, winding avenue the carriage
dashed, down the avenue it sped, and the next instant it had drawn up at
the front entrance, and a large, strongly-made man was helping a
delicate, stately woman to alight. The strong man was my brother, the
woman was my mother.

Quick as lightning, I had left my seat in the nursery window, had
wreathed my face with smiles, had filled my heart with laughter, had,
for the time being, banished every trace of the ugly, bad dream in which
I had been indulging, had descended the stairs almost like an arrow from
its bow, had lifted mother bodily up the steps, and placed her amid my
own and David's laughter, in the old oak arm-chair, the family heirloom,
the undoubted gift of some old Arch-Druid ancestor, which stood in the
wide entrance hall.

"Well! mother, what an age you've been away! Did you catch the first
train this morning? Aren't you dreadfully tired? What was it like, was
it glorious? Were there crowds of people? Did the Bishop preach? Is
the music ringing in your ears? Doesn't your head ache? And oh! _did_
you get a new fashion for my blue silk gown?"

These questions I poured out, toppling them one over the other, down on
my knees the while, removing mother's boots, and encasing her dear,
pretty feet in a pair of warm, fur-lined slippers.

"I saw one or two nicely-dressed girls," began mother slowly, whereupon
I suspended my operations with her feet, and looked up with a face of
absorbed interest.

"And, Gwladys," said David, laying his hand on my shoulder, "you are to
come to-morrow, the Messiah is to be sung, and I will take you over."

"Oh! oh! oh!" I exclaimed, beginning to dance about, but then observing
that mother was gazing at me a little sadly, I stopped short, and
exclaimed with a sudden burst of unselfishness -

"The pony-carriage only holds two; I don't want to take mother's place."

"No, my darling, I am tired, I should not care to go again to-morrow,
and I want you to hear the Messiah."

"We must start even earlier than to-day, Gwladys," continued David, as
he led the way to the supper-room. "We nearly missed the train this
morning, and I have unfortunately failed to get reserved seats, but you
don't mind a crowd?"

"I _love_ a crowd," I answered energetically; looking and feeling, as I
spoke, a totally different creature from the sentimental being who had
gazed with dismal eyes from the nursery window, half an hour before.

"What kind of voice had Madame Edith Wynne, mother, and did you hear
Sims Reeves?"

"Sims Reeves did not sing to-day, but he will to-morrow in the Messiah,"
replied mother.

"And I shall be there to-morrow!" I exclaimed again, then a sudden
thought darted through my brain, and I fell into a reverie.

In my great excitement and delight at the prospect of going to Hereford,
to the festival of the Three Choirs, I had forgotten something which now
returned to my memory with painful consciousness. I had nothing to
wear. My blue silk, my beautiful navy blue, mother's last present, was
still unmade, and my white dress was with the laundress. My white
dress, though simple and childish, was new and tolerably fashionable,
and in no other could I think of appearing before the great and gay
world of Hereford, on this my first visit.

"Mother," I said, jumping from my seat, and upsetting a cup of hot tea
over Gyp the terrier, "I must go this very moment to speak to Nancy at
the lodge; she has got my frock, and she must iron it to-night."

Without waiting for a reply, I ran out of the room, and bonnetless and
hatless sped up the avenue. The light autumn breeze tossed my curls
into wild confusion, my gay voice rose, humming a merry Welsh air. Very
far away now were my gloomy thoughts, very like a child I felt, as I
walked on. My mind was fully occupied with my promised treat, my dreams
were all rainbow tinted, my world all tinged with sunshine and glory.
The only cloud that shadowed the gay expanse of my firmament was the
possibility of my white dress not being ironed in time for me to wear.

CHAPTER TWO.

DAVID, I AM TIRED OF TYNYCYMMER.

When I reached the lodge, Nancy, a stout, red-faced Welsh woman, came
out to meet me, accompanied by a troupe of wild-looking children, who
stood round and stared with open eyes and mouths, for Miss Morgan of
Tynycymmer was a great person in their eyes.

"Is my white dress ready? Nancy; I want to wear it to-morrow morning
early."

"Eh! dear, dear, Miss Gwladys," dropping a profound curtsey. "Eh!
goodness me! yes, I'll h'iron it to-night, miss. Get out of that, Tum,"
addressing her sturdy-limbed son, who had placed himself between his
mother and me.

"_I_ know what Tum wants," I said. "Here, Tum, Dai, Maggie, catch!"

I threw some halfpence amongst the children, and turned away.

As I did so, two ladies came out of the lodge; one, a handsome dark-eyed
girl, a casual acquaintance of mine, came eagerly to my side.

"Now, Miss Morgan, I call this provoking; what right have you to go
away, just when I want to know you!"

"What do you mean?" I asked, bluntly.

"You are going away from Tynycymmer?"

"Indeed we are not," I said.

"Well, but my mother heard it from - oh! I forgot," blushing deeply and
looking confused. "I was not to say. Of course it is not the case, or
you would know - just idle gossip; I am sorry I mentioned it, but so glad
you are not going."

"Good-night," I said, holding out my hand.

I had retraced a few steps home, when my little friend ran after me.

"Please, please, Miss Morgan, you won't speak of this; I should get into
trouble, indeed."

"Oh, dear, no!" I answered, lightly; "there is nothing to repeat. Make
your mind easy."

The girl, satisfied, ran away, and I walked on.

But I was not so cool and unconcerned as she supposed her words had
excited me, her words had aroused both discontent and hope. I forgot my
certain pleasure of to-morrow, in the bare possibility of a greater and
a wider pleasure, and as a moth round a candle, my thoughts fluttered
round the magic words, "You are going away."

Could they be true? could the gossip the girl had heard be correct? How
certain she looked! how startled and frightened, when she found herself
mistaken. And, little fool! she had made me promise not to betray her,
just too when I wanted to solve the mystery. Oh, if only she might be
right! if only we might be going to leave this dull life, this stupid
country existence! Could it be the case? gossip was often mistaken, but
seldom utterly without foundation. I asked myself this question
tremblingly and eagerly. Instantly I had a reply. Sober reason started
to the forefront of all my faculties, and said -

"It is impossible; the girl has made a mistake; the gossip is false.
How could you leave Tynycymmer? Is not David master here? does not the
place belong to David, as it did to his father before him? and do not he
and mother love every stone in the old house, every tree in the old
ground? would not the idea, the most distant idea, of going away break
their hearts?"

Yes, it was quite out of the question that mother and David could think
of leaving Tynycymmer. But my little friend had said nothing about
mother and David, she had only whispered the delicious and soul-stirring
words, "_You_ are going away."

Perhaps I was going to school; perhaps some London cousins had asked me
to pay them a visit. Oh! yes, this last thought must be right, and how
pleasant, how lovely, how charming that would be! I should see the
Houses of Parliament, and Westminster, and visit the Parks, and the
Museums, and Madame Tussaud's.

Yes, certainly this was going to happen. Mother had not told me yet,
which was a little strange, but perhaps she had heard it herself very
suddenly, and had met some friends, and had mentioned it to them. Yes,
this must be the mystery, this must be the fire from whence the smoke of
Sybil's gossip came. I felt it tingling from my throat down to my very
toes. I was _not_ going to be buried alive. So cruel a fate was not in
store for me. I should see the world - the world of beauty, of romance,
of love, and all possible things might happen to me. I skipped along
gaily.

David was smoking his pipe, and pacing up and down under some trees
which grew near the house. The short September sun had set, but the
moon had got up, and in the little space of ground where my brother
walked, it was shedding a white light, and bringing into relief his
strongly marked features.

David's special characteristic was strength; he possessed strength of
body, and strength of - mind, I was going to say, but I shall substitute
the word soul. His rugged features, his height, his muscular hands and
arms, all testified to his great physical powers. And the repose on his
face, the calm gentleness and sweetness that shone in his keen, dark
eyes, and played round his firm lips, showed how strong his soul must
be - for David had known great trouble.

I mention his strength of character here, speaking of it first of all in
introducing him into my story, for the simple reason that when I saw him
standing under the trees, I perceived by the expression of his face,
that he was yielding to a most unusual emotion; he looked anxious, even
unhappy. This I took in with a kind of side thought, to be recurred to
by and by, but at present I was too much excited about myself. I walked
with him nearly every evening when he smoked, and now I went to my usual
place, and put my hand through his arm. I longed to ask him if the
surmise, which was agitating my whole being, was correct, but by doing
this I should betray Sybil, and I must not even mention that I had seen
her.

"What bright cheeks, and what a happy face!" said David, looking at me
affectionately, "are you very glad to come to the Messiah with me?
little woman."

"Yes," I answered absently, for to-morrow's treat had sunk into
insignificance. Then out it came with a great irrepressible burst,
"David, I am _longing_ to see London."

David, who knew nothing of my discontent, who imagined me to be, what I
always appeared to him, a child without the shadow of a care, or a
sorrow, without even the ghost of a longing outside my own peaceful
existence, answered in the tone of surprise which men can throw into
their voices when they are not quite comfortable.

"London, my dear Gwladys."

"Yes, why not?"

"Well, we don't live so very far away from London, you may see it some
day."

It was quite evident, by David's indifferent tone, that he knew nothing
of any immediate visit in store for me. I bit my lips hard, and tried
to say nothing. I am sure I should not have spoken but for his next
words.

"And in the meantime you can wait; you are very happy, are you not?"

"No, I am not. I'm not a bit happy, David," and I burst into tears.

"What's this?" said David in astonishment.

"I am not happy," I repeated, now that the ice was broken, letting forth
some of my rebellious thoughts, "I'm so dull here, I do so want to live
a grand life."

"Tell me, dear, tell me all about it?" said David tenderly. To judge
from the tone of his voice he seemed to be taking himself to task in
some strange way. The love in his voice disarmed my anger, and I spoke
more gently.

"You see, David, 'tis just this, you and mother have got Tynycymmer, you
have the house, and the farm, and all the land, and, of course, you have
plenty to do on the land, riding about and seeing to the estate, and
keeping the tenants' houses in order, and 'tis very nice work, for 'tis
all your own property, and of course you love it; and mother, she has
the house to manage, and the schools to visit, but I, David, I have only
dull, stupid lessons. I have nothing interesting to do, and oh!
sometimes I am so dull and so miserable, I feel just as if I was buried
alive, and I do so want to be unburied. I have no companions. I have
no one to speak to, and I do long to go away from here, and to see the
world."

"You would like to leave Tynycymmer!" said David.

"Yes, indeed, indeed I should. I should dearly love to go out into the
world as Owen has done; I think Owen has such a grand life."

Here I paused, and finding that David did not reply, I ventured to look
into his face. The expression of his silent face was peculiar; it
showed, though not a muscle moved, though not a feature stirred, the
presence of some very painful thought. I could not believe that my
words had given birth to this thought, but I did consider it possible
that they might have called it into fuller being; quickly repentant I
began to apologise, or to try to apologise, the sting out of my words.

"You know, David, that you and mother are not like me, you both have
plenty to interest you here. Mother has the schools, and, oh! a
thousand other things, and you have the place and the farm."

"And I have my little lad."

"Of course - I forgot baby."

"Yes, Gwladys," said David, rousing himself and shaking off his
depression, "I have my son, and he won't leave me, thank God. I am
sorry you find your home dull, my dear. I have always wanted you to
love it, there is no place like it on earth to me."

He took my hand very gently, and removed it from his arm, then walked
with great strides into the house. His face and manner filled me with
an undefined sense of gloom and remorse.

I followed him like a guilty thing. I would not even go into the
drawing-room to bid mother good-night, but went at once up to my own


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