Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

large balustrades, somewhat rickety and room on the first floor, even I, stupid out of the perpendicular, winding up lad, cast my eyes, eagerly around to see one side of it to the floor above, and whether anything remained of the splena long mullioned window halfway up. dour of the grand old court, of which Our first difficulty arose from Frank, I had heard from Joe. my youngest brother but one, de- Nothing. Not a bit of furniture. Three clining to enter the house, on the broad windows, which looked westward. grounds that Shadrach was hiding in Abroad extent of shaky floor, an imthe cellar. This difficulty being over mense fire-place, and over it a yellow come, we children, leaving father and dingy old sampler, under a broken glass, mother to inspect the ground floor, hanging all on one side on a rusty nail. pushed upstairs in a body to examine Joe pounced upon this at once, and the delectable regions above, where you devoured it. “Oh, Jim ! Jim !” he could look out of window, over Shep- said to me, “just look at this. I wonherd's nursery ground, and see the real der who she was ?" trees waving in the west.

“There's her name to it, old man," On reaching the first floor, my young. I answered. “I expect that name's est brother, Fred, so to speak, inaugu- hern, ain't it? For,” I said hesitatingly, rated, or opened for public traffic, the seeing that Joe was excited about it, staircase, by falling down it from the top and feeling that I ought to be so myself, to bottom, and being picked up black in though not knowing why—“for, old the face, with all the skin off his elbows man, if they'd forged her name, maybe and knees. Our next hitch was with they'd have done it in another coloured Frank, who refused to go any further worsted.” because Abednego was in the cupboard. This bringing forth no response, I Emma had to sit down on the landing, felt that I was not up to the occasion ; and explain to him that the three holy I proceeded to say that worsteds were children were not, as Frank had erro- uncommon hard to match, which ask neously gathered from their names, our Emma, when Joe interrupted me. ghosts who caught hold of your legs “I don't mean that, Jim. I mean, through the banisters as you went up- what was her history. Did she write it stairs, or burst suddenly upon you out herself, or who wrote it for her ? What of closets ; but respectable men, who a strange voice from the grave it is. had been dead, lawk-a-mercy, ever so Age eighteen; date 1686 ; her name long. Joe and I left her, combating, Alice Hillyar. And then underneath, somewhat unsuccessfully, a theory that in black, one of her beautiful sisters has Meshech was at that present speaking worked, "She dyed 30 December, that up the chimney, and would immediately yeare. She is dead, Jim, many a weary appear, in a cloud of soot, and frighten year agone, and she did this when she us all to death ; and went on to examine was eighteen years old. If one could the house.

only know her history, eh? She was And really we went on with some- a lady. Ladies made these common thing like awe upon us. There was no samplers in those times. See, here is doubt that we were treading on the Emma. Emma, dear, see what I have very same boards which had been trod- found. Take and read it out to Jim.” den, often enough, by the statesmen and Emma, standing in the middle of the dandies of Queen Elizabeth's Court, and deserted room, with the morning sunmost certainly by the mighty woman light on her face, and with the rosy herself. Joe, devourer of books, had, children clustering round her, read it with Mr. Faulkner's assistance, made out to us. She, so young, so beautiful, out the history of the house; and he so tender and devoted, stood there, and had communicated his enthusiasm even read out to us the words of a girl, perto me, the poor simple blacksmith's boy. haps as good and as devoted as she was, So when we, too, went into the great who had died a hundred and fifty years

· before. Even I, dull boy as I was, felt there was something strange and out-ofthe-way in hearing the living girl reading aloud the words of the girl who had died so long ago. I thought of it then; I thought of it years after, when Joe and I sat watching a dim blue promontory for two white sails which should have come plunging round before the full south wind.

It was but poor doggrel that Emma read out to us. First came the letters of the alphabet; then the numbers; then a house and some fir-trees ; then“Weep not, sweet friends, my early

doom.
Lay not fresh flowers upon my tomb;
But elder sour and briony,
And yew bough broken from the tree.
My sisters kind and beautiful!
My brothers brave and dutiful !
My mother deare, beat not thy breast,
Thy hunchbacked daughter is at rest.
See, friends, I am not loath to go;
My Lord will take me, that I know.”

,, Poor as it was, it pleased Joe ; and as I had a profound belief in Joe's good taste, I was pleased also. I thought it somewhat in the tombstone line myself, and fell into the mistake of supposing that one was to admire it on critical, rather than on sentimental grounds. Joe hung it up over his bed, and used to sit up in the night and tell me stories about the young lady, whom he made a clothes-peg on which he hung every fancy of his brain.

He took his yellow sampler to kind old Mr. Faulkner, who told him that our new house, Church Place, had been the family place of the Hillyars at the close of the seventeenth century. And then the old man put on his hat, took his stick, called his big dog, and, taking Joe by the hand, led him to that part of the old church burial-ground which lies next the river; and there he showed him her grave. She lay in that fresh breezy corner which overlooks the flashing busy river, all alone. “ Alice Hillyar; born 1668, died 1686.” Her beautiful sisters lay elsewhere, and the brave brothers also ; though, by a beautiful

fiction, they were all represented on the family tomb in the chancel, kneeling ore behind the other. It grew to be a favourite place with Joe, this grave of the hunchbacked girl, which overlooked the tide ; and Emma would sit with him there sometimes. And then came one and joined them, and talked soft and low to Emma, whose foot would often dally with the letters of his own surname on the worn old stone.

The big room quite came up to our expectations. We examined all the other rooms on the same floor; then we examined the floor above; and, lastly, Joe said :

“Jim, are you afraid to go up into the ghost's room?"

“N-n0,” I said; “I don't mind in the day time."

“When Rube comes,” said Joe, “we sha'n't be let to it; so now or never.”

We went up very silently. The door was ajar, and we peeped in. It was nearly bare and empty, with only a little nameless lumber lying in one corner. It was high for an attic, in consequence of the high pitch of the roof, and not dark, though there was but one window to it; this window being a very large dormer, taking up nearly half the narrow end of the room. The ceiling was, of course, lean-to, but at a slighter angle to the floor than is usual.

But what struck us immediately was, that this room, long as it was, did not take up the whole of the attic story. And, looking towards the darker end of the room, we thought we could make out a door. We were afraid to go near it, for it would not have been very pleasant to have it opened suddenly, and for a little old lady, in grey shot silk and black mittens, to come popping out on you. We, however, treated the door with great suspicion, and I kept watch on it while Joe looked out of window.

When it came to my turn to look out of window, Joe kept watch. I looked right down on the top of the trees in the Rectory garden ; beyond the Rectory I could see the new tavern, the Cadogan Arms, and away to the

north-east St. Luke's Church. It was wind, and accounted for our late panic. a pleasant thing to look, as it were, I was just beginning to laugh at this, down the chimneys of the Black when I gave a cry of terror, for my Lion, and over them into the Rectory right foot had gone clean through the garden. The long walk of pollard boards. limes, the giant acacias, and the little My father pulled me out laughing; glimpse of the lawn between the but I'had hurt my knee, and had to boughs, was quite a new sight to me. sit down. My father knelt down to I was enjoying the view, when Joe look at it ; when he had done so, he said :

looked at the hole I had made. “Can you see the Cadogan Arms ?” “An ugly hole in the boards, old “ Yes."

man; we must tell Rube about it, or “ I wonder what the Earl of Essex he'll break his leg, maybe. What a would have thought if— ”

depth there is between the floor and At this moment there was a rustling the ceiling below !” he said, feeling with of silk in the dark end of the room, his hammer; “I never did, surely." and we both, as the Yankees say, "up After which he carried me downstick" and bolted. Even in my terror stairs, for I had hurt my knee someI am glad to remember that I let Joe what severely, and did not get to work go first, though he could get along · for a week or more. with his crutch pretty nearly as fast as When father made his appearance I could. We got downstairs as quick among the family, carrying me in his as possible, and burst in on the family, arms, there was a wild cry from the with the somewhat premature intelli- assembled children. My mother regence, that we had turned out the quested Emma to put the door-key ghost, and that she was, at that present down her back ; and then, seeing that I moment, coming downstairs in grey was really hurt, said that she felt rather shot silk and black mittens.

better, and that Emma needn't. There was an immediate rush of the Some one took me from my father, younger ones towards my mother and and said, in a pleasant cheery voice : Emma, about whom they clustered like “Hallo! here's our Jim been abees. Meanwhile my father stepped trotting on the loose stones without his across to the shop for a trifle of a strik- knee-caps. Hold up, old chap, and ing hammer, weight eighteen pounds, don't cry ; I'll run round to the infantand, telling me to follow him, went school for a pitch-plaster, and call at the upstairs. I obeyed, in the first place, doctor's shop as I go for the fire-engine. because his word was law to me, and, That's about our little game, unless you in the second, because in his company think it necessary for me to order a I should not have cared one halfpenny marvel tomb at the greengrocer's. Not for a whole regiment of old ladies in a-going to die this bout? I thought as grey silk. We went upstairs rapidly, much.” and I followed him into the dark part I laughed. We always laughed at of the room.

Reuben—a sort of small master in the We were right in supposing we had art of cockney chaff; which chaff conseen a door. There it was, hasped—or sisted in putting together a long string as my father said, hapsed-up and of incongruities in a smart jerky tone covered with cobwebs. After two or of voice. This, combined with conthree blows from the hammer it came summate impudence; a code of honour open, and we went in.

which, though somewhat peculiar, is The room we entered was nearly as rarely violated ; a reckless, though perlarge as the other, but dark, save for a sistent, courage ; and, generally speakhole in the roof. In one corner was ing, a fine physique, are those better an old tressel bed, and at its head a qualities of the Londoner (“cockney," tattered curtain which rustled in the as those call him who don't care for two black eyes, et cetera), which make fault, in the present day, is his distrust him, in rough company, more re- of pretensions to religion and chivalrous spected and “ let alone " than any other feeling. He can be chivalrous and reclass of man with whom I am ac- ligious at times; but you must hold quainted. The worst point in his cha- your tongue about it. racter, the point which spoils him, is Reuben was an average specimen of a his distrust for high motives. His town-bred lad; he had all their virtues horizon is too narrow. You cannot get and vices in petto. He was a gentle, him on any terms to allow the existence good-humoured little fellow, very clever, of high motives in others. And, where very brave, very kind-hearted, very he himself does noble and generous handsome in a way, with a flat-sided things (as he does often enough, to my head and regular features. The fault, knowledge), he hates being taxed with as regarded his physical beauty, was them, and invariably tries to palliate that he was always “making faces”— them by imputing low motives to himself. “shaving," as my father used to call it. If one wanted to be fanciful, one would He never could keep his mouth still. say that the descendant of the old Lon- He was always biting his upper lip or don 'prentice had inherited his grand- his under lip, or chewing a straw, or sires' distrust for the clergy and the spitting in an unnecessary manner. If aristocracy, who were to the city folk, . he could have set that mouth into a not so intimate with them as the country good round No, on one or two occasions, folk, the representatives of lofty profes- and kept it so, it would have been sion and imperfect practice. However better for all of us.. this may be, your Londoner's chief

To be continued.

LETTERS FROM A COMPETITION WALLAH.

LETTER VI:-A TIGER-PARTY IN NEPAUL.

gularly insipid flavour. Sometimes the writer aspires to poetry ; in which case he invariably talks about his Pegasus, and is mildly mythological, calling all ladies “Dianas,” and speaking of the sun as “Phoebus.” After describing the breakfast at the house of “the Amphitryon," the meet on the lawn, and the scene at coverside, he proceeds somewhat in this strain :

March 28, 1863. MY DEAR SIMkins, For some time

he past,“ my mind has been divided within my shaggy breast,” as to whether I should send you an account of our tiger-party in Nepaul. I'was deterred by doubts of my ability to hit off that peculiar vein of dullness which seems the single qualification requisite for a sporting author. Why a pursuit of such absorbing interest should lose all its charms in the recital it is hard to say. Perhaps men are misled by the delights of a hard run or a successful stalk, and imagine that a bare unadorned narrative will best convey the idea of those delights to their readers. But this can hardly be the cause ; for accounts of sport, for the most part, are characterised by carefully elaborated jocosity of a sin

Across the fields proud Reynard goes,
Amidst a hundred Tallyhos.
Our master kept the Cockneys back,
Who pressed and jostled in the track.
Right manfully his tongue he plies,
And to perdition dooms their eyes.
Three couple now are on the scent!'
Hark, forrard !' and away we went.
Hark, forrard! Forrard !' is the cry;
And like a flock of birds we fly,
In breeches, scarlet-coat, and tops,
Along the Dyke to Heywood Copse.

As down towards Barton Wold we sail, out of tenderness for their ancestors who The Cockneys soon began to tail,

come after them, followed, only to lay And all of them were missing, rot 'em, Ere yet we got to Brambly Bottoni.

the wily duck's egg. But, behold, The pace now told on every nag,

amidst loud cheering from the “ Vics,'' Which proved the fox was not a 'bag.' the invincible Buffle assumes the willow. Poor Captain Fisher broke his girth,

“ Et fugit ad salicem, sed se capit ante And, like Antæus, came to earth,

videri.” Though with his fall, I greatly fear 0,

Alas! poor Buffle! What Ceased his resemblance to that hero.

might not have been the feats of that Briggs came a cropper; and the earl

conquering arm hadst not thou spooned Experienced an unlucky purl,

up a ball, which seemed to say, in an inBut towards the front he showed again,

viting manner, “Take a 'poon, point.” Before we entered Ditton Lane.”

Point made a point of catching it, and Who reads these productions? I had thou, O Buffle, retiredst swearing :the pleasure of living among fox-hunters and so forth, till even Bell cries, “Hold! in England, having indeed myself de- Enough!” scribed parabolas over more than one H ave you ever observed that a man hedge, but their taste in literature was always speaks of the event which cut as good as that of any other class of short his innings as a remarkable occureducated men. Again, there is no want rence, out of the ordinary course of the of cultivation among cricketers. My game? “Are you out, old fellow ?” friends who had been in the eleven at “Yes, I was beastly unlucky. WhizzleHarrow and Eton knew good writing white bowled me with a shooter:” or, from bad. They laughed at Tupper and “I hit at a slow pitched-up ball which with Thackeray, and carried off their took my wicket :” or, “I was caught full share of honours in the university at long-leg by a fluke,” who, by-theexaminations. It could not be for their bye, generally happens to be standing edification that such stuff as the follow- long-leg on such occasions : or, “ The ing is put on paper:

ball came off my pad, and just rolled “ United Victor Emmanuels v. the in:” or, “I was run out :” or, worse “Second Eleven of Horley School with than all, “ that fool Jobson ran me out." “ Tomkins.”

No one ever was known to run himself “ Yon light is not daylight. I know out. It is either “ That fool Jobson," it-I.” So said Juliet (in a play com or the bald statement, “I was run out.” posed by one Will Shakspeare, who I once asked a friend of colossal fame might have shaken a bat in uncommon as a batsman what was the regular way pretty style had he lived now-a-days), of getting out to which every other conand so said the “ Vics," when roused stituted an exception. The question from “ Nature's sweet restorer" to catch apparently opened to him an entirely the early train to Mudford, which was new line of thought. to catch the early coach to Haverton, It is bad enough that the athletic which was to catch the early drag to pursuits which are the special glory of Horley, which they were all to catch it England should be made the vehicle for from the school captain for not coming such melancholy buffoonery ; but the early enough as it was, or “as they more practical writers on sporting matwere," if you like it better so, my ters have very crude notions of what is gentle and painfully grammatical reader. , readable. There are no authors who as The “ Vics” won the toss, and sent to a class so consistently ignore the prethe wicket Jones and “the Novice.” cept of Horace which forbids to com“ In I go,” Jones says, with his wonted mence the history of the return of humour: but “Out you go, Jones," was Diomede with the decease of Meleager, the stern answer of the irresistible and to trace the Trojan War from the Tonikins, as he levelled the off stump of double egg. Just as the chroniclers of that distinguished architect. Two more the Middle Ages always began with gentlemen, whose names we suppress Adam, every one who publishes a treatise

No. 49,- VOL. IX.

« AnteriorContinuar »