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there is a pole for the boys to climb, and races for the girls, with prizes for both, and the volunteers are marching and firing, and the bands playing. Let us go and see the fun.”
And the two dames walked briskly on to join the crowds who had again assembled in front of the palace.
The eyes of many were now fixed on an active boy who had succeeded in reaching a greater height than any of his predecessors on the pole.
“Well done, Harry Leigh! One spring more! There, he's all but caught it!” was shouted as Harry, clinging tight with one arm round the pole, stretched out his other hand to reach a gailypainted top, which, tied to a cord, and raised and lowered by a pulley, was continually made to elude his grasp.
"One spring more and you will catch it," said the lively, highborn boy who held the lower end of the cord.
Harry sprang again, the top touched his nose, then jumped above his head; again he sprang, and this time his hand held tight the toy he had climbed so high to gain.
"Well done, my boy; you deserve the top, indeed! You will make a fine sailor some of these days," said the kind curate, who entered now with as much interest into the sports of his young parishioners as at other times he watched the training of their minds. “Who goes up next?” he asked, as several boys came round the foot of the pole. “Here are plenty more balls and tops for all who are willing to fetch them, and bring them down as Harry Leigh did.”
The prizes for the girls were obtained by feats less athletic, but scarcely less active; and many a hearty laugh was heard, and many a young face beamed with pleasure, as dolls, books, thimbles, and other gifts were liberally distributed amongst them. Little Mary Leigh was made perfectly happy by becoming the possessor of a real sharp-pointed pair of scissors, finer even, she was sure, than Bessie's, while Rose would not have changed her doll for anything else she saw that day. And now another and a still greater attraction drew many to the very steps of the portico beneath which the ducal party were assembled; for there, attended by his two dogs, an itinerant conjuror had established himself, and was already astounding the beholders with the feats of a wretched-looking but most intelligent black poodle, called “ Topsy.”
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, is there any question you would like to ask Topsy? She is ready to answer it," said the man, throwing down in a circle some thirty cards with various words and numbers upon them. “Topsy, tell the ladies if you are ready. That's a good dog,” he added, as Topsy, crouching timidly, laid at his feet a card with “Yes” upon it, which she had selected from the circle. “Now, Topsy, tell us how many days a man works in the week, and how many days he rests. Good dog, again!” he said,
for Topsy had fetched first a card with “ Six” upon it, and had next selected one on which “ Sunday ” was written. Many more questions were put, and were equally well answered, before Topsy was permitted to enjoy the biscuits brought for her by the fair children of the duke, who enjoyed the cleverness of the poor dog as much as they did for whom the amusement had been provided. To them the dog's powers were evidently most astounding; they pressed closer and closer towards the little performer; one young face peeped over another to gain a nearer view. Little Mary Leigh, who stood in the front row, amused many by the absorbed gaze she fixed upon the dog. With her large blue eyes wide open, her lips apart, and the valued scissors held tight, but sticking chevaux-de-frise fashion in front of her, she stood during the whole performance so interested, but so still, that it required but little imagination to believe her spell-bound, and fit to take her place among the courtiers of the “ Sleeping Beauty," thrown, as she seemed to be, by a magic touch into this attitude of motionless attention.
“I say, Mary, won't we try to teach our Bogie like that?” said quiet Willie, startling his little sister from her trance as the performance ended, and Topsy was allowed to run away for a time.
In all parts of the grounds were groups of happy people, some stopping to admire the rich hues of the ribbon borders in the quaint Dutch gardens, others looking with delight at the graceful festoons of bud and blossom in the rosary; while many wandered along the sides of the lake, where the water reflected the grassy slopes and noble trees above it, and was, in places, so clear that the fish were seen gliding swiftly beneath its surface.
Amongst those who strolled here were old Mrs. Leigh and Bessie, joined by Harry, who having won a race, climbed the pole, and performed many other feats of activity, seemed inclined now to attach himself to his favourite sister for the rest of the afternoon. A lazy young jack floating slowly along, about a couple of yards from the bank, and apparently not more than a foot below the water, attracted Harry's attention.
“I do believe I could catch him by his tail!” he cried. And before Bessie had time to hold him back, he, forgetful alike of danger and of the best clothes in which he was dressed, had darted into the lake. The fish, of course, swam quickly away, and Master Harry, somewhat crestfallen, endeavoured to return to land. This, however, he found not so easy as he expected; the soft bottom of the lake yielding to his weight sank him lower and lower into the mud, and resisted all the efforts he made to extricate his feet. “Keep off, Bessie; don't be a fool. I can get out without your help,” he cried, as Bessie, frightened, seemed on the point of running into the water towards him. “Hold off, here's better help than yours coming," he added, as Philip Maxwell, who had
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been wandering about by himself all day, and had yet managed at no time to be very far from Bessie, drew near, and holding out to Harry the strong hooked stick he carried, soon dragged the young urchin out of the lake. Harry shook himself like a water-spaniel, and laughing at Bessie's frightened blushing face, he said, “Why, one would think I was made of salt or sugar, and was going to melt, to look at you, Bessie. I shan't hurt, though I know I have been a fool for my pains. I hope father won't be angry about my new trousers. I think they will dry all right. Thank you for giving me your stick, Mr. Maxwell; it was a great help, sir."
"Had you not better sit down, ma'am," said Philip to old Mrs. Leigh, who, deprived of Bessie's arm, stood quietly looking at her grandchildren; "here is a nice dry bank, and this tree will do for you to lean against. Take hold of my arm, and I will settle you almost as well as Bessie could.”
“Thank you kindly, sir; I am sure you are very good; I shall not be sorry to sit down after my walk. Why, Bessie, child, you seem all of a tremble; come and sit by me for a while, and let Harry go home. I think you had best do that, boy, or you will spoil all your clothes, besides catching cold by keeping on your damp things; you deserve to be punished for jumping into the water, and a walk home after your wetting will do you more good than riding in the waggon. i'll tell father and mother why I sent you away."
Harry, thinking his best plan would be to obey his grandmother, and beginning, too, to feel rather uncomfortable in his wet boots and trousers, walked off with a somewhat rueful countenance, and Bessie sat down at her grandmother's side, while Philip, who felt as if he could not leave her now, stood at a little distance from them, and, as he looked at Bessie, thought she had never seemed so pretty or so charming to him as she did then. The evening sun cast its rich rays upon the young girl through the wide-spreading branches of the beech-tree beneath which she sat, and gave a radiance both to her sweet youthful face and to the withered but far from unattractive one of her aged parent, whose arm was thrown lovingly round the neck of her grandchild, and who, old woman though she was, could not repress an arch smile when she saw the pretty, shamefaced look of Bessie, as Philip, unable to resist her attractions, drew gradually nearer and nearer towards the conscious maiden. At last he is close to her, he has taken in his her little unresisting hand, and he whispers, “If you will but forgive me, Bessie, you will make me so very happy; only say you will forgive me, dear Bessie."
What Bessie said in reply was in so low a tone that it is doubtful if even Philip heard it, but that he felt quite satisfied with her answer was very evident by the bright smile with which he listened to it. And when, about an hour later, the children and
the other visitors were drawing towards the park gates to resume their places in the waggons and other equipages after their happy treat-day, among the many merry groups there was scarcely one that looked more full of quiet joy than that of Philip Maxwell, with old Mrs. Leigh leaning on one arm and little Bessie on the other.
“ Mother," he said, when, having placed the old lady carefully by the side of Bessie in the donkey-cart, and given Bessie's hand a loving squeeze, he returned to fetch his mother from the park“ mother, if I have asked Bessie Leigh to be my wife, I hope you will be pleased."
“Humph!” said Mrs. Maxwell; “ Bessie Leigh! Well, Phil! I think your father's son might have looked higher than the daughter of an under-gardener. Not that I have a word to say against Bessie herself, boy'--for Philip began to give signs of impatient anger—"I have nothing to say against Bessie; she is a good girl, and a pretty one, and knows how to rear poultry as well or better than I do myself. She is kind to her old grandmother, too, and manages the younger children well, so I won't go against you, my son, if you have set your heart on marrying Bessie, for I believe you are more likely to be happy with her clever and industrious as she is—than you would with a richer girl, who might, perhaps, be proud and idle too. I won't say nay, and your father is a sensible man, and generally thinks as I do, so get the banns put up as soon as you please, Phil, and my blessing shall be ready for you and your little wife whenever you bring her home.”
“Grannie, dear,” said Bessie, as she drove joyfully along the Woodstock road—“ grannie, Mr. Maxwell says you are to come and live with us, that father must spare you to me, and that we are to make you as happy and as comfortable as a queen. Oh! Philip is so kind, grannie, and I am so very, very happy!”
“May you long keep so, dear child, and may God, who has given you a heart to care for the happiness of others, and strength to deny yourself what is most pleasing to your fancy if your conscience tells you it is not right-may He pour His richest blessings on you and on the husband who has chosen you, not only because you have a fair and winsome face, but because he knows you are good and prudent. May God bless you both, my darling Bessie, and may Mr. Maxwell find in you the truth of those blessed words of wise King Solomon, that the price of a virtuous woman is above rubies, and that the heart of her husband may safely trust in her, for she will do him good and not evil all the days of her
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AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE.*
Book the fourth.
HOW DERRICK CARVER FULFILLED HIS PROMISE. THREE days afterwards, Derrick Carver, upon whom the Cardinal's goodness had operated like a sovereign cordial, giving him new life and energy, announced that he was strong enough to avail himself of the permission he had received, and, accordingly, the door of his cell was unlocked by Mallet, who accompanied him to the palace gates, and there let him go, never expecting, as he frankly avowed, to behold him again.
“It may be well to follow him and see what he is about," observed Rodomont, who was standing by.
“Nay, his Eminence has strictly forbidden that,” said Mallet. "The man is to be left to his own devices. If he come back, I shall esteem him a greater fool than heretic."
“Tut, he will return,” said Rodomont. “ His Eminence understands him better than you do."
"Well, we shall see," rejoined the other.
On that very day, it chanced that Bishop Bonner came to Lambeth Palace, and, proceeding straightway to the Lollards' Tower, inquired for the prisoner. On learning that he had been allowed to go forth, he flew into a violent passion, and declared he would bave the keeper punished for his gross breach of duty. Mallet excused himself, and referred the infuriated bishop to the Cardinal, but Bonner could not obtain an audience till his rage had had time to subside. Pole listened to his complaints, and then replied, calmly,
"It is true, I have let the man go on his promise to return in the evening."
* All rights reserved.