Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Hlaving some room left to finish our chapter, the transition to the peacock is very easy — the favorite of Apollo. His magnificent, sparkling, jewelled dress shows at once his Asiatic origin. On no other animal or bird has nature bestowed her hues more lavishly, when wheel-shaped, he unfolds the thousand dyes and intermingled glories of his tail. One old writer says: “The poor bird is created only for his tail. The ships of King Solomon sought this magnificent bird in distant Ophir.* Alexander sent him to Greece as a gorgeous trophy of the Indies. The Athenians in crowds thronged to gaze at this bird, which they never before had seen, and whose life Alexander the Great protected by severe penalties. The over-refined luxury of Rome brought the peacock on the table, as an ornamental dish, while delicacies made of his brain feasted the palate. In the reign of Galba, peacocks, cranes of Malta, nightingales, and venison, were considered delicacies. Lucullus indulged in the greatest profusion of luxuries ; and when he supped in his Apollo chamber, we read that the expense was fixed at fifty thousand drachmæ, or some four thousand dollars of our money. Vitellius had a large silver platter, called Minerva's buckler, in which he stewed together the livers of silt heads, the melts of lampreys, with the brains of pheasants and peacocks; a royal dish, to be sure, but outdone by more modern times. Neville, brother to the Earl of Warwick, in Edward the Fourth's time, (1470,) entertained the nobility and clergy at his instalment into the archiepiscopal see of York. Among other items on his bill of fare, were three hundred and fifty tuns of ale, one hundred and four of wine, eighty fat oxen, three thousand geese, four thousand pigeons, four thousand ducks, five hundred partridges, two thousand woodcocks, four hundred plovers, one hundred quails, eight seals, four porpoises, six wild bulls, two hundred cranes, one hundred peacocks, et cetera, ceteranum: sixty-two cooks, with five hundred menials, were in the kitchen, with one thousand servitors at the costly table. Let old Rome on the Tiber, with her famous emperors, beat this, if she can. But how uncertain is fortune! This English prodigal died at last in the most abject but unpitied poverty !

This custom for peacocks' brains at noble festivals, was maintained throughout the Middle Ages, but associated with a peculiar symbolic meaning. The knights swore by the peacock; and when Constantinople was taken by the Turks, the whole assembled knighthood at the court of Philip the Good, swore by the peacock to set out upon the Crusade.

The vanity of the peacock has become proverbial. If a word of praise catch his ear, or Miss Peacock should make her appearance, the flowery wheel in a moment unfolds itself, and stretching his beautiful, glittering neck, he utters an unpleasant, cat-like cry. He likes to perch, too, on some neighboring roof, or other lofty spot, to show himself and to be admired. Buffon, his eloquent panegyrist, sees grace and majesty in his movements, but our mediæval poetry calls his step' creeping,' comparing it to the proud gait of the crane. An old German fable says, the birds wanted a king, when their choice fell on the peacock, because of his wonderful beauty, and having already wore a crown upon

* Kings 10: 22.

his head. But Markolf, the jay, perceiving that he loved only pomp and parade, and as their ruler would levy from the poor, to deck himself with pearls, precious stones and costly garments, they reported of their choice, making the eagle their king. The cat-like nature of the peacock shows itself in later years — he becomes ill-humored and quarrelsome — a characteristic, by the by, which is not alone observed in peacocks, but accompanies vanity when growing old. Thus endeth our chapter on cocks and peacocks.

TO THE FALLEN.

BY RALPH RANDOM.

On! mourn for the vanquished,

Oh! mourn for the slain,
Whose blood in deep torrents

Now reddens the plain !
See! the legions of darkness

Are trampling them down,
On the fields that have echoed

Their fathers' renown!
Oh! mourn for the vanquished,

Oh! mourn for the brave,
Who for God and for freedom .

Have gone to the grave !
See! they sink all despairing

On the far-distant plain,
Where now they are bleeding,

And bleeding in vain !
Oh! mourn now, my country,

Thou ohosen of earth!
For the torch of a demon

Is red on thy hearth;
And the wail of bereavement,

The shriek of despair,
From thy heart-broken daughters,

Is filling the air !
One prayer for the dying,

One tear for the dead -
Then strike, O my brothers !

For the heroes that bled :
Arise in your fury,

Arise in your might,
And down with the foemen

Of God and the Right!

[ocr errors]

15

THE SCHOOL-MISTRESS'S STORY.

• Entertaining angels unawares.'

I was born and brought up in this little village of Somertown, from which I have never travelled so far as a hundred miles. When I was a child, we lived on a farm about a mile from the church, but after my father's death, we moved into the little house where I now live. My father was a good man, but he had in some way got into debt, and it worried him until he died of a broken heart.

My mother was at first much cast down, but being naturally of a brave spirit, she soon rallied. She sold the farm, and took a small house at the foot of Stony Hill, and sent my brother Willy to her brother, in Boston, who had promised to find a situation for him.

Our new home was small, but it had a little garden behind it, and two great elms which stood before the door gave it a pleasant look. It was just on the borders of the village, and an easy walk from the meeting-house.

As we found ourselves quite poor after my father's debts were paid, my mother took in sewing, and we managed to get comfortably through the first winter. In the spring, Miss Colby, the school teacher, was married, and went away, and my mother urged me to apply for the school. I was only seventeen, but I was a good scholar, and had always liked study, and she thought I could teach as well as Miss Colby, for Willy had not learned half so much from her, as he did when I taught him at home. So mother went to the minister's and spoke to him about it, and he thought it a good plan, and promised to use his influence for me. In a day or two he came to tell me that there was a meeting of the selectmen that morning, and I must be present. I went with him, frightened enough, but he was very kind, and made me feel at ease after a few minutes. *'Squire Lee asked me a great many questions, the others very few, and then they said that they were satisfied that I was competent. So the next Monday morning, I began life as a school-teacher..

At first it was very hard for me, and I would come home tired out. By degrees, I learned to manage the children, and when the minister and 'Squire Lee came to visit the school, they found it much more orderly than in Miss Colby's time, and praised me for my good discipline. If I had not been able to keep the school-room still, I should have given it up in despair, for above all things I loved quiet. I often sat for hours together at home, without saying a word; for I was not talkative, nor very cheerful. Among the girls of my own age I had no friends; when with them I was moody and unsociable, and for this they avoided me. I know now that all this was wrong, and that I cast away some of the sweetest experiences of life in shutting up my heart to those who might have learned to love me. I did not do it consciously, for none of those around attracted me, and I was too unattractive myself, to induce any

of them to make any great effort to gain my good-will, and of this I was sometimes painfully conscious. I was not so self-sufficient that I did not long sometimes with a feeling of agony for some sympathizing friend, some one who would understand me intuitively, and love me in spite of my plain, sad face.

The hard work in the school-room was good for me, for it kept me from thinking too much about myself; but soon I became accustomed to it, and it lost its arousing power. After the novelty wore off, and I had a regular routine of duties, I began to sink back into myself again, to do my work mechanically, and to speak and smile less than ever. Life seemed to me a very dreary thing.

Now and then, some rebellious boy or mischievous girl would raise an uproar in the school; this would excite me, and for some time I would feel better, but only to sink into my old lethargy again. The children feared, but did not love me. Not that I was severe, but I repulsed them with my indifference. I did not try to win their love, I only tried to teach them as well as I could, not knowing that love is the best teacher.

I had been teaching about two years when Deacon Brownly died. He was a good old man, who kept the village store, and having no family, had laid by quite a sum of money. My mother felt very badly when the old Deacon died, for he had been very kind to her ; often when we were sorely pinched, sending us a present of provisions, 'for his old friend's, my father's, sake. We heard that he had left his store and all his property to his two nephews, to be divided between them as Arthur, the oldest, thought best. If he chose to take the money, Charles must take the store, and carry on the business, for he wished that kept up; but if Arthur chose the store, Charles was to have the money. These two nephews lived in Boston, and we soon heard that Arthur Brownly was to take his uncle's business, and Charles was to have the money. People said that Arthur was very foolish, for he might have established a much more profitable business in Boston with his uncle's legacy; but he had his own reasons, and presently made his appearance in the village. He soon became a great favorite with old and young, and all the girls were delighted with so pleasant an accession to the small number of village beaux, but I neither knew nor cared to know him. Yet there was something so attractive about him, that the impression he made upon me at our first meeting, which was in his own store, has never been removed.

He was rather tall; his pale face would have been handsome if it had not been quite so thin ; his eyes were dark gray, and his wavy brown hair was very abundant. But nothing in his face attracted one so much as his happy expression, his ready smile. It was as if he had a fountain of gladness in his heart, which was ever bubbling up to the light. Such was Arthur Brownly. His face has never left my memory, long as it is since it met my sight.

Some time after this, as I walked listlessly home from school, one pleasant afternoon in the late spring, I was startled to see the doctor's gig before our • door. Fearing my mother was sick, I hurried forward, but she met me as I entered. “A terrible accident,' she said, 'had happened. Mr. Brownly's horse had run away, coming down Stony Hill, and thrown him, and they had brought him in there, and the doctor was with him now. Soon Dr. Payne came out and said he hoped he was doing well, but it was a very bad fracture. He could not be moved on any account; so, if my mother pleased, she must keep him there a little while. My mother was glad to be of any use to Deacon Brownly's nephew, and said she would do all she could to keep him comfortable.

For several days I kept away from the sick-room. My mother was an excellent nurse, and was in her element, with some one to care for and tend, and I felt that I could be of no use. But her anxiety infected me, and each day I walked more briskly home from school, to hear how Mr. Brownly was.

At last, one afternoon, my mother asked me to go in and sit with him, for she thought he felt a little lonely, and she had to go down to the village on an errand. So I went in, carrying some fresh flowers in my hand. His bed had been made on a large, old-fashioned lounge, and he lay there looking paler than ever, propped up by pillows. His smile was so bright as he welcomed me in, that the rather gloomy room seemed lit up with a sudden radiance, or was it only that the window was thrown wide open, and the sunset glowed through the lightly-stirred branches of the elm-trees?

'I hoped you would come in and see me some time,' he said, and smiled again.

'I have brought you some flowers,' I said. “I am very sorry for your accident. Do you suffer much ?'

"Sometimes very much, and it is hard for a man to lie so still, but as you came in, I was reading a verse that makes it easier to bear.' And he read from the BIBLE which lay open before him : ‘Even so, FATHER, for so it seemeth good in Tay sight.'

I was touched at his cheerful patience, and the tears rose in my eyes. He began to admire the flowers. What a beautiful rose!' he said, “and how lovely those violets! You must have found them under the large stone, near the top of the hill. I saw a perfect bed of them there the last time I rode up. The violets will be all gone the next time I go up the hill. I think I never saw them look so lovely as they did that day, so close under the shadow of that beautiful stone, all covered with mosses and creeping vines. And you have some lilies of the valley! How beautiful they are! And now, will you add to the favor by putting them in a glass of water, near me, where I can see and smell them ?'

I had never cared a great deal for flowers, and I was surprised to see how much pleasure these few that one of my scholars had brought me, could afford to him. I noticed how constantly he turned toward them, and with what delight.

He talked to me easily and pleasantly as if he had known me for years, and asked me many questions about my little scholars. He seemed to know them all ; for he spoke of Annie Robbins's beauty, and Jenny Parsons's sweet disposition, and Lizzy Jones's stately demeanor, and Charlie Swan's unselfishness, and the two Dentons' love for each other, and Sammy Green's handsome, saucy face, until I was ashamed to see how much of interest he found in those children who had seemed so uninteresting to me. He told me little anecdotes

« AnteriorContinuar »