O. Henry ~ The Brief Debut of Tilda

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If you do not know Bogle’s Chop House and Family Restaurant it is your loss. For if you are one of the fortunate ones who dine expensively you should be interested to know how the other half consumes provisions. And if you belong to the half to whom waiters’ checks are things of moment, you should know Bogle’s, for there you get your money’s worth—in quantity, at least.

Bogle’s is situated in that highway of bourgeoisie, that boulevard of Brown-Jones-and-Robinson, Eighth Avenue. There are two rows of tables in the room, six in each row. On each table is a caster-stand, containing cruets of condiments and seasons. From the pepper cruet you may shake a cloud of something tasteless and melancholy, like volcanic dust. From the salt cruet you may expect nothing. Though a man should extract a sanguinary stream from the pallid turnip, yet will his prowess be balked when he comes to wrest salt from Bogle’s cruets. Also upon each table stands the counterfeit of that benign sauce made “from the recipe of a nobleman in India.”

At the cashier’s desk sits Bogle, cold, sordid, slow, smouldering, and takes your money. Behind a mountain of toothpicks he makes your change, files your check, and ejects at you, like a toad, a word about the weather. Beyond a corroboration of his meteorological statement you would better not venture. You are not Bogle’s friend; you are a fed, transient customer, and you and he may not meet again until the blowing of Gabriel’s dinner horn. So take your change and go—to the devil if you like. There you have Bogle’s sentiments.

The needs of Bogle’s customers were supplied by two waitresses and a Voice. One of the waitresses was named Aileen. She was tall, beautiful, lively, gracious and learned in persiflage. Her other name? There was no more necessity for another name at Bogle’s than there was for finger-bowls.

The name of the other waitress was Tildy. Why do you suggest Matilda? Please listen this time—Tildy—Tildy. Tildy was dumpy, plain-faced, and too anxious to please to please. Repeat the last clause to yourself once or twice, and make the acquaintance of the duplicate infinite.

The Voice at Bogle’s was invisible. It came from the kitchen, and did not shine in the way of originality. It was a heathen Voice, and contented itself with vain repetitions of exclamations emitted by the waitresses concerning food.

Will it tire you to be told again that Aileen was beautiful? Had she donned a few hundred dollars’ worth of clothes and joined the Easter parade, and had you seen her, you would have hastened to say so yourself.

The customers at Bogle’s were her slaves. Six tables full she could wait upon at once. They who were in a hurry restrained their impatience for the joy of merely gazing upon her swiftly moving, graceful figure. They who had finished eating ate more that they might continue in the light of her smiles. Every man there—and they were mostly men—tried to make his impression upon her.

Aileen could successfully exchange repartee against a dozen at once. And every smile that she sent forth lodged, like pellets from a scatter-gun, in as many hearts. And all this while she would be performing astounding feats with orders of pork and beans, pot roasts, ham-and, sausage-and-the-wheats, and any quantity of things on the iron and in the pan and straight up and on the side. With all this feasting and flirting and merry exchange of wit Bogle’s came mighty near being a salon, with Aileen for its Madame Récamier.

If the transients were entranced by the fascinating Aileen, the regulars were her adorers. There was much rivalry among many of the steady customers. Aileen could have had an engagement every evening. At least twice a week some one took her to a theatre or to a dance. One stout gentleman whom she and Tildy had privately christened “The Hog” presented her with a turquoise ring. Another one known as “Freshy,” who rode on the Traction Company’s repair wagon, was going to give her a poodle as soon as his brother got the hauling contract in the Ninth. And the man who always ate spareribs and spinach and said he was a stock broker asked her to go to “Parsifal” with him.

“I don’t know where this place is,” said Aileen while talking it over with Tildy, “but the wedding-ring’s got to be on before I put a stitch into a travelling dress—ain’t that right? Well, I guess!”

But, Tildy!

In steaming, chattering, cabbage-scented Bogle’s there was almost a heart tragedy. Tildy with the blunt nose, the hay-coloured hair, the freckled skin, the bag-o’-meal figure, had never had an admirer. Not a man followed her with his eyes when she went to and fro in the restaurant save now and then when they glared with the beast-hunger for food. None of them bantered her gaily to coquettish interchanges of wit. None of them loudly “jollied” her of mornings as they did Aileen, accusing her, when the eggs were slow in coming, of late hours in the company of envied swains. No one had ever given her a turquoise ring or invited her upon a voyage to mysterious, distant “Parsifal.”

Tildy was a good waitress, and the men tolerated her. They who sat at her tables spoke to her briefly with quotations from the bill of fare; and then raised their voices in honeyed and otherwise-flavoured accents, eloquently addressed to the fair Aileen. They writhed in their chairs to gaze around and over the impending form of Tildy, that Aileen’s pulchritude might season and make ambrosia of their bacon and eggs.

And Tildy was content to be the unwooed drudge if Aileen could receive the flattery and the homage. The blunt nose was loyal to the short Grecian. She was Aileen’s friend; and she was glad to see her rule hearts and wean the attention of men from smoking pot-pie and lemon meringue. But deep below our freckles and hay-coloured hair the unhandsomest of us dream of a prince or a princess, not vicarious, but coming to us alone.

There was a morning when Aileen tripped in to work with a slightly bruised eye; and Tildy’s solicitude was almost enough to heal any optic.

“Fresh guy,” explained Aileen, “last night as I was going home at Twenty-third and Sixth. Sashayed up, so he did, and made a break. I turned him down, cold, and he made a sneak; but followed me down to Eighteenth, and tried his hot air again. Gee! but I slapped him a good one, side of the face. Then he give me that eye. Does it look real awful, Til? I should hate that Mr. Nicholson should see it when he comes in for his tea and toast at ten.”

Tildy listened to the adventure with breathless admiration. No man had ever tried to follow her. She was safe abroad at any hour of the twenty-four. What bliss it must have been to have had a man follow one and black one’s eye for love!

Among the customers at Bogle’s was a young man named Seeders, who worked in a laundry office. Mr. Seeders was thin and had light hair, and appeared to have been recently rough-dried and starched. He was too diffident to aspire to Aileen’s notice; so he usually sat at one of Tildy’s tables, where he devoted himself to silence and boiled weakfish.

One day when Mr. Seeders came in to dinner he had been drinking beer. There were only two or three customers in the restaurant. When Mr. Seeders had finished his weakfish he got up, put his arm around Tildy’s waist, kissed her loudly and impudently, walked out upon the street, snapped his fingers in the direction of the laundry, and hied himself to play pennies in the slot machines at the Amusement Arcade.

For a few moments Tildy stood petrified. Then she was aware of Aileen shaking at her an arch forefinger, and saying:

“Why, Til, you naughty girl! Ain’t you getting to be awful, Miss Slyboots! First thing I know you’ll be stealing some of my fellows. I must keep an eye on you, my lady.”

Another thing dawned upon Tildy’s recovering wits. In a moment she had advanced from a hopeless, lowly admirer to be an Eve-sister of the potent Aileen. She herself was now a man-charmer, a mark for Cupid, a Sabine who must be coy when the Romans were at their banquet boards. Man had found her waist achievable and her lips desirable. The sudden and amatory Seeders had, as it were, performed for her a miraculous piece of one-day laundry work. He had taken the sackcloth of her uncomeliness, had washed, dried, starched and ironed it, and returned it to her sheer embroidered lawn—the robe of Venus herself.

The freckles on Tildy’s cheeks merged into a rosy flush. Now both Circe and Psyche peeped from her brightened eyes. Not even Aileen herself had been publicly embraced and kissed in the restaurant.

Tildy could not keep the delightful secret. When trade was slack she went and stood at Bogle’s desk. Her eyes were shining; she tried not to let her words sound proud and boastful.

“A gentleman insulted me to-day,” she said. “He hugged me around the waist and kissed me.”

“That so?” said Bogle, cracking open his business armour. “After this week you get a dollar a week more.”

At the next regular meal when Tildy set food before customers with whom she had acquaintance she said to each of them modestly, as one whose merit needed no bolstering:

“A gentleman insulted me to-day in the restaurant. He put his arm around my waist and kissed me.”

The diners accepted the revelation in various ways—some incredulously, some with congratulations; others turned upon her the stream of badinage that had hitherto been directed at Aileen alone. And Tildy’s heart swelled in her bosom, for she saw at last the towers of Romance rise above the horizon of the grey plain in which she had for so long travelled.

For two days Mr. Seeders came not again. During that time Tildy established herself firmly as a woman to be wooed. She bought ribbons, and arranged her hair like Aileen’s, and tightened her waist two inches. She had a thrilling but delightful fear that Mr. Seeders would rush in suddenly and shoot her with a pistol. He must have loved her desperately; and impulsive lovers are always blindly jealous.

Even Aileen had not been shot at with a pistol. And then Tildy rather hoped that he would not shoot at her, for she was always loyal to Aileen; and she did not want to overshadow her friend.

At 4 o’clock on the afternoon of the third day Mr. Seeders came in. There were no customers at the tables. At the back end of the restaurant Tildy was refilling the mustard pots and Aileen was quartering pies. Mr. Seeders walked back to where they stood.

Tildy looked up and saw him, gasped, and pressed the mustard spoon against her heart. A red hair-bow was in her hair; she wore Venus’s Eighth Avenue badge, the blue bead necklace with the swinging silver symbolic heart.

Mr. Seeders was flushed and embarrassed. He plunged one hand into his hip pocket and the other into a fresh pumpkin pie.

“Miss Tildy,” said he, “I want to apologise for what I done the other evenin’. Tell you the truth, I was pretty well tanked up or I wouldn’t of done it. I wouldn’t do no lady that a-way when I was sober. So I hope, Miss Tildy, you’ll accept my ‘pology, and believe that I wouldn’t of done it if I’d known what I was doin’ and hadn’t of been drunk.”

With this handsome plea Mr. Seeders backed away, and departed, feeling that reparation had been made.

But behind the convenient screen Tildy had thrown herself flat upon a table among the butter chips and the coffee cups, and was sobbing her heart out—out and back again to the grey plain wherein travel they with blunt noses and hay-coloured hair. From her knot she had torn the red hair-bow and cast it upon the floor. Seeders she despised utterly; she had but taken his kiss as that of a pioneer and prophetic prince who might have set the clocks going and the pages to running in fairyland. But the kiss had been maudlin and unmeant; the court had not stirred at the false alarm; she must forevermore remain the Sleeping Beauty.

Yet not all was lost. Aileen’s arm was around her; and Tildy’s red hand groped among the butter chips till it found the warm clasp of her friend’s.

“Don’t you fret, Til,” said Aileen, who did not understand entirely. “That turnip-faced little clothespin of a Seeders ain’t worth it. He ain’t anything of a gentleman or he wouldn’t ever of apologised.”

DMdJ Neu1

Alexander Pope ~ How to Make an Epic Poem

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It is no small pleasure to me, who am zealous in the interests of learning, to think I may have the honor of leading the town into a very new and uncommon road of criticism. As that kind of literature is at present carried on, it consists only in a knowledge of mechanic rules which contribute to the structure of different sorts of poetry, as the receipts of good housewives do to the making puddings of flour, oranges, plums, or any other ingredients. It would, methinks, make these my instructions more easily intelligible to ordinary readers, if I discoursed of these matters in the style in which ladies learned in economics dictate to their pupils for the improvement of the kitchen and larder.

I shall begin with epic poetry, because the critics agree it is the greatest work human nature is capable of. I know the French have already laid down many mechanical rules for compositions of this sort, but at the same time they cut off almost all undertakers from the possibility of ever performing them; for the first qualification they unanimously require in a poet is a genius. I shall here endeavor (for the benefit of my countrymen) to make it manifest that epic poems may be made “without a genius,” nay, without learning, or much reading. This must necessarily be of great use to all those poets who confess they never read, and of whom the world is convinced they never learn. What Molière observes of making a dinner, that any man can do it with money, and if a profest cook can not without, he has his art for nothing, the same may be said of making a poem—it is easily brought about by him that has a genius, but the skill lies in doing it without one. In pursuance of this end, I shall present the reader with a plain and certain receipt, by which even sonneteers and ladies may be qualified for this grand performance.

I know it will be objected that one of the chief qualifications of an epic poet is to be knowing in all arts and sciences. But this ought not to discourage those that have no learning, as long as indexes and dictionaries may be had, which are the compendium of all knowledge. Besides, since it is an established rule that none of the terms of those arts and sciences are to be made use of, one may venture to affirm our poet can not impertinently offend in this point. The learning which will be more particularly necessary to him is the ancient geography of towns, mountains, and rivers; for this let him take Culverius, value fourpence.

Another quality required is a complete skill in languages. To this I answer that it is notorious persons of no genius have been oftentimes great linguists. To instance in the Greek, of which there are two sorts; the original Greek, and that from which our modern authors translate. I should be unwilling to promise impossibilities; but modestly speaking, this may be learned in about an hour’s time with ease. I have known one who became a sudden professor of Greek immediately upon application of the left-hand page of the Cambridge Homer to his eye. It is in these days with authors as with other men, the well bred are familiarly acquainted with, them at first sight; and as it is sufficient for a good general to have surveyed the ground he is to conquer, so it is enough for a good poet to have seen the author he is to be master of. But to proceed to the purpose of this paper.

For the Fable.—Take out of any old poem, history book, romance or legend (for instance, Geoffrey of Monmouth, or Don Belianis of Greece), those parts of story which afford most scope for long descriptions. Put these pieces together, and throw all the adventures you fancy into one tale. Then take a hero you may choose for the sound of his name, and put him into the midst of these adventures. There let him work for twelve books; at the end of which you may take him out ready prepared to conquer, or to marry; it being necessary that the conclusion of an epic poem be fortunate.

To Make an Episode.—Take any remaining adventure of your former collection, in which you could no way involve your hero; or any unfortunate accident that was too good to be thrown away; and it will be of use applied to any other person, who may be lost and evaporate in the course of the work, without the least damage to the composition.

For the Moral and Allegory.—These you may extract out of the fable afterward, at your leisure. Be sure you strain them sufficiently.

For the Manners.—For those of the hero, take all the best qualities you can find in all the celebrated heroes of antiquity; if they will not be reduced to a consistency, lay them all in a heap upon him. But be sure they are qualities which your patron would be thought to have; and, to prevent any mistake which the world may be subject to, select from the alphabet those capital letters that compose his name, and set them at the head of a dedication before your poem. However, do not absolutely observe the exact quantity of these virtues, it not being determined whether or no it be necessary for the hero of a poem to be an honest man. For the under characters, gather them from Homer and Virgil, and change the names as occasion serves.

For the Machines.—Take of deities, male and female, as many as you can use. Separate them into two equal parts, and keep Jupiter in the middle. Let Juno put him in a ferment, and Venus mollify him. Remember on all occasions to make use of volatile Mercury. If you have need of devils, draw them out of Milton’s Paradise, and extract your spirits from Tasso. The use of these machines is evident; for since no epic poem can possibly subsist without them, the wisest way is to reserve them for your greatest necessities. When you can not extricate your hero by any human means, or yourself by your own wits, seek relief from heaven, and the gods will do your business very readily. This is according to the direct prescription of Horace in his “Art of Poetry,” verse 191:

Never presume to make a god appear,
But for a business worthy of a god.

That is to say, a poet should never call upon the gods for their assistance but when he is in great perplexity.

For a Tempest.—Take Eurus, Zephyr, Auster, and Boreas, and cast them together in one verse. Add to these of rain, lightning, and of thunder (the loudest you can) quantum sufficit. Mix your clouds and billows well together until they foam, and thicken your description here and there with a quicksand. Brew your tempest well in your head, before you set it a-blowing.

For a Battle.—Pick a large quantity of images and descriptions from Homer’s “Iliad,” with a spice or two of Virgil, and if there remain any overplus you may lay them by for a skirmish. Season it well with similes, and it will make an excellent battle.

For Burning a Town.—If such a description be necessary, because it is certain there is one in Virgil, Old Troy is ready burned to your hands. But if you fear that would be thought borrowed, a chapter or two of the Theory of the Conflagration, well circumstanced, and done into verse, will be a good succedaneum.

As for Similes and Metaphors, they may be found all over the creation; the most ignorant may gather them, but the danger is in applying them. For this advise with your bookseller.

For the Language (I mean the diction).—Here it will do well to be an imitator of Milton, for you will find it easier to imitate him in this than anything else. Hebraisms and Grecisms are to be found in him, without the trouble of learning the languages. I knew a painter, who (like our poet) had no genius, make his daubings to be thought originals by setting them in the smoke. You may in the same manner give the venerable air of antiquity to your piece by darkening it up and down with old English. With this you may be easily furnished upon any occasion by the dictionary commonly printed at the end of Chaucer.

I must not conclude without cautioning all writers without genius in one material point, which is, never to be afraid of having too much fire in their works. I should advise rather to take their warmest thoughts, and spread them abroad upon paper; for they are observed to cool before they are read.

 

Mór Jókai ~ The Szekely Mother

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The cannons were silent, the battle was over—the brave had fallen.

The field, which so lately had been the scene of wild and desperate contention, was now silent as the grave; only the thunder of heaven and the moaning of the breeze were to be heard, while the lurid lightning gleamed across the plain, as if the spirits of the dead had begun a new and inexorable strife on high, to guard the gates of heaven, as, an hour before, they had defended the frontiers of their country against their foes.

In the churchyard, before the gates of Kezdi-Vasarhely, the Szekely women anxiously awaited, not the return of the beloved, but the news of the victory.

They sat in groups on the gravestones and green mounds, listening all day to the cannon, and trying to distinguish the distant sounds.

“That is ours—that is Gabor Aron—and that the enemy—and now the thunder of heaven.”

And, when the cannon had ceased, they waited with beating hearts to hear of defeat or victory.

And all—mothers, young girls, brides, wives, breathed the same fervent wish—that if the beloved should return, it might be with glory; but that if the day were lost which was to decide the fate of their country, none might return to tell it!

On the threshold of the chapel, by the crypt-door, sat an old man: he was past eighty—his eyes were dim and lustreless, and his voice faint and trembling: he, too, had come out to the churchyard to wait the issue of the battle, for he could not rest at home; beside him sat a cripple, who had one leg shrunk up, but although the body was weak and sickly, every thought of his heart was in the battle-field, and he frequently exclaimed, in bitterness of spirit, “Why cannot I too be there?”

The cripple knelt beside the old man, and read to him out of the Bible. The passage was in Samuel, about the battles of Israel—the holy war, in which thirty thousand had fallen guarding the ark of God.

“Why cannot I be there?” sighed the unhappy youth, and read:

“‘And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

“‘And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.

“‘And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out.

“‘And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.

“‘Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.'”

The cripple could read no more; he looked at the old man, his heart sickened, and his eyes filled with tears.

“Why do you not continue?” asked the old man.

“It is dark; I cannot see the words.”

“That is false; I feel the last rays of the sun on my face; why do you not read on?”

The cripple wiped the tears from his eyes, and again began to read:—

“‘And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to-day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?

“‘And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.'”

But here he could no longer contain himself, and, sobbing bitterly, he leant his head on the old man’s knee, and hid his face in his hands.

The latter did not insist on his reading any more; but repeated, in a low voice, the well-known verse:

“‘And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died.'”


Beneath an acacia tree, at a little distance from the rest, stood two females.

The eldest might have been six-and-thirty; her features, though stern and severe, were still beautiful, and her dark lustrous eyes glowed with the fire of enthusiasm. She was very pale, and the lightning which glimmered around her gave a still more livid hue to her features.

Judith—for so she was called—was a true type of the Szekely women; one of those unfading forms who retain to an advanced age the keen expression of countenance, the brilliancy of the large dark eye, the thrilling and musical tones, and slender but vigorous form; while the mind, instead of decaying, grows stronger with years.

Round her majestic figure, a slight girl of sixteen twined her arms, clinging to her like the gentle convolvulus to the stately pine.

Aranka was a lovely blue-eyed maiden, with bright golden locks, and a form so fragile, that it seemed to bend like the lily to the breeze.

She was betrothed to the son of that proud matron to whom she clung, and the eyes of the mother and the bride sought the beloved, as they gazed eagerly through the dim apace.

“Do you not see a form approaching there?” asked Judith, pointing towards the plain.

Aranka drew still closer, that she might see the object pointed out; her head rested on Judith’s shoulder, but she could not discern anything, for the starry beam of the blue eye cannot pierce the distance, like the more fiery ray of the black eye.

In a few minutes the form became more distinct, and the timid blush of love flitted over the young girl’s cheek, while a deep flush of anger mantled on the mother’s.

“It is he, my beloved!” murmured Aranka, pressing her small hand on her heart, as if to still the little flutterer.

“He has no arms!” cried Judith with horror, as she turned away her head, and covered her eyes with her hand; for, though still indistinct to others, the gentle girl recognised her lover, and the mother had seen her son’s disgrace.

With slow and uncertain steps the figure approached; his head hung dejectedly on his breast, and he appeared to move with pain.

On seeing the women assembled in the churchyard, he bent his steps thither.

They all now recognised Judith’s son, and surrounded the mother as he approached.

The churchyard moat lay between the mother and her son. Unable to cross it, the young man sank on the ground before it. His clothes were torn and covered with blood, and his hand endeavoured to conceal a wound in his breast.

“Where have you left your arms?” cried his mother in a stern voice, advancing from among the crowd.

He would have replied, that he had left it in his enemy’s heart; but he had not strength to speak, and the words died on his mouth.

“Speak! is the battle lost?”

The youth made a sign of the affirmative.

“And why did you not fall with the rest? Why did you leave the field for the sun to rise on your disgrace? Why have you come hither?”

The youth was silent.

“Wherefore should you desire to outlive your country? And, if you have come to be buried here, better far to have sought a grave where it had been glory to have died—on the battle-field. Away! This churchyard has no place for you—you can have no part among our dead—leave us, and deny that you were born here! Live or die, but forget us.”

The youth looked in his mother’s face with an imploring expression, and then at the women who surrounded her; but he encountered no glance—no trace of sympathy—his eyes sought his bride, his heart’s brightest hopes, the blue-eyed maiden; but she had fallen on her knees at his mother’s feet, hiding her face in Judith’s dress, to conceal her sobs.

The youth still hesitated—still waited to see if any one would bid him stay; and when he saw that none spoke, not even his bride, he raised himself slowly and silently from the earth, still holding his hand across his breast, and, with tottering steps, turned once more to the trackless plain, and wandered into the woods beyond, where he sank never to rise again.

One or two of the Szekely youths returned afterwards from the lost field, but the women refused them admittance.

“Seek another home,” they said, “than the one you could not defend!”

And the few who survived wandered into distant countries, for none dared return who had outlived his country’s ruin.


Bitter were the sounds of weeping and lamentation in the churchyard of Kezdi-Vasarhely—the cry of the Szekely women rose to heaven.

The old man at the crypt-door asked, in a feeble voice, the cause of the weeping.

“Szekely-land is lost!” they cried; “your son and your grandsons have fallen on the field with their leader, and Gabor Aron; and all their cannon is taken!”

The old man raised his hands and sightless eyes to heaven. “My God!” he exclaimed, and, sinking to the earth, he ceased to be blind; for the light of eternity had risen on his spirit.

The old man was dead.

The Szekely women surrounded the body with deep reverence, and bore it in their arms into the town.

The cripple followed slowly on his crutches, repeating bitterly to himself, “Why could not I have been there too? why could not I have fallen among them?”

In all Kezdi-Vasarhely there was not a man to be seen; the brave had fallen, the deserters had been turned away, and the last man they were now placing in his coffin, and he was an old man past eighty, and blind.

Only women and children now remained—widows and orphans—who wept bitterly round the old man’s bier, but not for the dead.

The cripple knelt unheeded at the foot of the coffin; and hid his face in his hands, as he heard them say that the last man was dead; they did not consider him as one!

The house was quite full, as well as the court—for the old man’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren formed a large congregation; and all those to whom he had done good during his life, whom he had assisted with his counsel or supported in their sorrow—how many there were! and yet the greater part was absent, covering the battle-field!—and among all his sons and grandsons, only that one cripple was present, and he was not considered as a man!

They had all their dead to mourn—all their peculiar sorrows, but none more than the high-minded Judith, and the poor cripple,—and yet they alone wept not. A restless fever burned within them, and, instead of tears, sparks of fire seemed to burst from their eyes.

In the midst of the weeping and lamentation, Judith beckoned the cripple aside.

“David!” she exclaimed, taking the youth’s damp, cold hand, “your grandfather lies stretched out before you, and yet you stand beside the coffin without shedding a tear! what are you thinking of? Last night I heard you sighing and tossing on your bed—you never slept—what were you thinking of then, David?”

The cripple hung his head in silence.

“David, if you were a strong, sound man—if you could hold a sword or a lance, instead of those crutches—would you hang your head in silence as you do now?”

The cripple raised his glowing face, and his large, dark eyes met Judith’s with such a gleam of enthusiasm, it seemed as if the ardent spirit had forgotten for a moment the weakness of its mortal dwelling.

“And you will never be happy,” she continued; “no joys await your lot in this life, and yet who knows how long that life may be. Speak! should death appear before you in its most brilliant form—more glorious than on the battle-field—and bid you cast away your crutches and embrace the weapons of destruction, giving you all you loved on earth as a funeral pile to perish around you, that none should remain to whom your thoughts might return from the other world”—

“I do not understand you.”

“You will not, perhaps. The world is still fair to you, even amidst ruins, and blasted by dishonour; unfortunate as you are, life is still dear—even your crutches are not to be exchanged for wings!”

“Oh! speak not thus; how often would I have given the life I abhor for the death I envy!” exclaimed the unhappy youth; and added, in a lower tone, “for the death of glory!”

“And what death would be more glorious than yours? on a battle-field in which the elements themselves should join, where you would stand in the midst, high above all, like the angel of death, proclaiming resistance to the last, in a voice which would be heard above the battle-cry; and, when all had fallen, when there remained none to help, you alone would snatch the victory from the enemy’s hand, and bear it with you—not to the grave, but to heaven!”

“O that I could!” sighed the cripple; “but what is my voice? it would not be heard in battle; and my arm could snatch the victory from none!”

“Listen to me! The victors will arrive to-day or to-morrow; but neither repose nor enjoyment shall await them here—they shall find every door closed, and our weapons shall be the reply to theirs. If the men of Kezdi-Vasarhely have fallen in defence of their country, the women shall not be unworthy of them! We shall lose—for the arm of woman is weak, though her heart is strong—we have neither the weapons nor the force to resist, only the will; and therefore our aim is not victory, but an honourable death. You will go up to the tower, and when you see the enemy approaching at a distance, ring the bell; we will then carry out the dead to be buried, and await the hated foe beside his grave; and woe to them if they try to enter by force, we shall defend every house to the last—despair will teach us to fight; and should fear or hesitation overcome our weak hearts for an instant, the voice of your bell will revive our courage, and inspire us with new strength. And you must not cease one moment till the combat is over; then take the wreaths of tarred pine, which you will find in a niche of the tower ready prepared, and when the enemy have taken possession of the town, throw them down on the roofs of the houses! Thus you will regain the town from the enemy, and, amidst smoke and flames—the funeral-pile of all you love on earth—you will bear victory along with you to heaven!”

The cripple listened with increasing agitation to Judith’s words; and when she had finished, he dashed away his crutches, and, falling at her feet, embraced her knees, and murmured some unintelligible words; but the enthusiasm which glowed in every feature told how the spirit rejoiced to meet the death she had portrayed in such brilliant colours.

“Will you have courage?” asked Judith.

“Oh! I shall rejoice in it! I shall no longer be a cripple—no longer unhappy; I shall die like a hero! and when the flames are bursting around me, I shall sing with the prophet, ‘Cry out, ye gates, cry out, O city, for the terrible day of the Lord is come!'”

And the cripple trembled violently with agitation, and his withered arm was raised to heaven.

Judith gazed at him in silence, as he still knelt, with his hands and eyes upraised, as if inspired.

“Come with me!” she exclaimed, after a few moments’ pause, raising him from the ground.

David took up his crutches and followed her, with such joyful alacrity that his feet scarcely seemed to touch the earth; he appeared already to possess wings instead of crutches.

As they passed the chamber of the dead, he approached his grandfather’s coffin, and, kissing the cold face and hands, murmured, with an expression of unwonted joy, “We shall meet soon!”

The women looked at him with surprise; they had never seen him smile thus before, and thought that grief had estranged his mind. Judith left the room, telling them she would soon return, and herself conducted the cripple to the tower, while he followed with a vigour he had hitherto never displayed;—the spirit seemed actually bearing up the fragile body.

When they reached the top, Judith kissed the cripple’s brow, and pressed his hand in silence.

David locked the door after her, and threw the key out of the window along with his crutches.

“I shall want them no more,” he cried, as Judith passed below the tower. “I wish to be certain that I shall not fail in the hour of temptation.”

He then placed himself at the window, and looked out towards the mountains.


Judith returned to the house of mourning, and found the women still weeping round the bier.

She motioned to them to dry their tears—her majestic form, calm features, and commanding eye, seemed formed to be obeyed. The women were silent, and Judith addressed them in a clear, steady voice:

“Sisters!—widows and orphans of Kezdi-Vasarhely!—Heaven has visited us with great and severe trials; we have outlived all that was good—all that we loved on earth; there is not a house in which some beloved one was not expected who will never now return! However long we may live, no happiness awaits us in this world! we may grow old and gray in our deserted homes, but the best part of our lives lies beneath the sod; and this is not the heaviest stroke which awaits us. Instead of the beloved, those who have shed their heart’s-blood will come—we shall see them take possession of the places which our beloved ones have left; instead of the familiar voices, we shall hear the harsh tones, and meet the unfeeling gaze of strangers—of our bitter enemies! Shall we await that time? Death gives back all that life has taken away—and death can take nothing but life! If I did not know that I am among Szekely women, I would take leave of you, and say, I go alone to die! but I know you all—where I am you will be also; you will act as I do, and be worthy of your dead. Go home to your houses, conceal everything you value; make fires in every stove, and boil water and oil in every vessel. At the first sound of the bell, let every one of you assemble here; we will then carry out the dead to the gate of the town, and dig his grave across the road before it, and with this moat the town shall be closed—none shall pass from within alive! Haste! put your houses in order, and return here at the first sound of the bell!”

The women dispersed—with the calmness of despair they went home, and did as Judith desired, and collected all the weapons they could find, but not another tear was shed.


The bell of the tower had begun to toll; it was the only bell left in Kezdi-Vasarhely; the rest had all been founded into cannon. Clouds of dust were seen to rise far off on the winding mountain-path, above Predialo, and the tolling of the bell announced the approach of the Russian troops. Two companies marched towards the gates of Kezdi-Vasarhely; one from without, the other from within the town. One was formed of hardened soldiers, the other of women and girls. On one side the enlivening sound of military music was heard, and colours floated on the breeze; on the other, the dismal tones of the funeral song arose, and mourning veils fluttered round the bier.

A troop of Circassian horsemen paused before the gates. Their dress, their features, their language—all seemed to recall a strange image of the past, of those ancient times when first the Magyar people sought a home in the unknown world—for even then, persecuted by fate, they wandered forth in millions, driven from their own country; and some found a home among the wild mountains of the Caucasus, others wandered still farther, and the parted brethren never met, or heard of each other more, till, mingled with the surrounding nations, both had changed; and when, a thousand years later, the world’s caprice once more brought them together, and they met as foes, both were struck by some strange sympathy, some sad chord which touched each alike, and their hearts felt oppressed, and their arms sank, they knew not wherefore.

The leader of the troop was a young chief, whose oval face, handsome sunburnt features, and dark eyes, bore great resemblance to the Szekely Magyar, and if he had worn a dolmany, none would have distinguished the one from the other; but his dress was not that of the present Magyar, and yet the crimson-bordered toque, the short linen vest, beneath which flowed the long coloured kaftan, the curved sword—even the manner of girding it on—all recalled some well-known object, like a portrait once seen, the name of which we have forgotten, or the impression caused by some dream, or bygone scene of childhood, and we sigh to be unable to speak to them, or understand their language, to ask if they are happier among their mountains than their brothers on the plain, or if they, too, weep like us; and bid them, when they return, and sit in the evenings at the threshold of their mountain homes—those which they so bravely defended, speak of us to their children, and point to where the setting sun gilds the home of the Magyar, and breathe a prayer for their suffering brethren.

The grave was dug, and the women stood before it chanting their mournful dirges, while the measure was now and then interrupted by sobs, and the solemn bell tolled the knell of death—the death of the town.

The leader of the troop alighted from his horse, his comrades followed his example, and taking their csalmas from their heads, they clasped their hands and stood beside the grave in silent prayer. Who would have thought that these were enemies?

After a pause of a few minutes, the leader made a motion to approach the women on the opposite side of the grave, but Judith calmly advanced, and waved him back. “Approach not,” she exclaimed—”the grave is the boundary between us; there is nothing to seek in the town—none but women and children inhabit it—the widows and orphans of those you have killed; and here, in this grave, lies the last man of Kezdi-Vasarhely, a holy man, whom God permitted to live eighty-nine years, to be the friend and counsellor of the whole town, and has now called to Himself, because the town has no more need of him: his spirit fled at the first news of the lost battle, for he was blind ten years: had he not been blind, the steel and not the news of the battle would have killed him, as it killed the rest. The women of Kezdi-Vasarhely have buried him here, that none may enter the town. They wish to live in solitude, as becomes widows whose husbands have fallen in battle; and therefore, blessed be the grave which shuts us out from the world, and accursed be he who steps over it, both before and after his death!”

The Circassian drew a white handkerchief from his bosom, and placing it on the end of his spear, spoke to the Szekely women in a language unknown to them, although the tone, and even the accent, seemed familiar. He wished to tell them that he had brought peace to their town; that they had nothing to fear from him; that he only desired admittance. The women understood his intention, but motioned a refusal. “In vain you bring peace!” they exclaimed; “as long as there is a living breath here, there must be war between us and you; only death can bring us peace. Seek quarters for your troops elsewhere; the world is large enough—there is no rest for you here; grief reigns alone in this town, where the ghosts of the grave wander through the streets, women bewailing the dead, and driven by despair to madness—depart from here!”

The action of the women, the unknown yet familiar tones, awakened a strange sad echo in the heart of the young Circassian, as he stood supported on his lance, looking on the mourners before him.

Brought up in the stern exercise of military duty, he was accustomed to fulfil the word of command, without regard to circumstances; but now his strength seemed to fail him, and he hesitated to force his way through a party of weak women.

“Take the white handkerchief from your lance,” cried Judith, “and steep it in our heart’s blood—then you may enter our town;” and as he leapt into the saddle, several of the women threw themselves before his horse’s feet, causing the animal to rear and neigh.

But the Circassian remembered that he had a beloved mother at home whose words so much resembled those of that proud matron—and sisters, and a young bride, beautiful as those young girls who had thrown themselves before his horse’s feet—with just such dark glorious eyes, sad features, and light forms; and his heart failed him. He turned quickly aside, that the women might not see the tears which filled his eyes; and then, dashing his spurs into his horse’s side, he once more waved his white handkerchief to the kneeling women, and galloped from the gate. His comrades hastened after him; their lances gleamed through clouds of dust, which soon concealed them from view; but neither the Szekely nor the Circassian women saw that young chieftain more.

He was summoned before a military tribunal for transgression of duty, and suffered the stern fate of the soldier.

Troops of a different nature were sent next against the town, whose horses trampled down the grave, and whose bayonets forced open the closed doors.

It was a weary strife, without the glory of war; one by one each house was taken, defended as they were by women and children; the contest was renewed in every street; the infuriated inhabitants pouring boiling water and oil over the heads of their enemies, while the fearful tolling of the bell, heard above the cries and the clang of arms, excited them to still greater desperation.

The combat continued till night, when the song of triumph was heard in the streets—the town was in the hands of the enemy. Suddenly, as if it had descended from heaven, fire burst from the roofs of the houses, and in an instant, the wind coming to the assistance of the flames, carried the fiery embers from one end of the town to the other. Cries of despair arose amidst the howling of the blast, but dense clouds of smoke concealed all but the flames which darted through them, devouring as they passed; and high above, the roof of the tower blazed like a gigantic torch, while the solemn tolling still continued, the voice of battle, of fire, of tempest, and of death: a fearful crash was heard, and all was still—the bell had fallen.


The two elements remained joint masters of the field. The wind and the flames contended over the ruins of Kezdi-Vasarhely.

DGG fur DMdJ

Edgar Allan Poe ~ The Haunted Palace

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entre-vous

I.

In the greenest of our valleys,
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace–
Radiant palace–reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion–
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair.

II.

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow;
(This–all this–was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

III.

Wanderers in that happy valley
Through two luminous windows saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute’s well-tunéd law,
Round about a throne, where sitting
(Porphyrogene!)
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

IV.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

V.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And, round about his home, the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

VI.

And travellers now within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows, see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a rapid ghastly river,
Through the pale door,
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh–but smile no more.

E. Dawson ~ Brave and True

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brave-and-true

“But I say, Martin, tell us about it! My pater wrote to me that you’d done no end of heroic things, and saved Bullace senior from being killed. His pater told him, so I know it’s all right. But wasn’t it a joke you two should be on the same ship?”

 

Martin looked up at his old schoolfellow. He had suddenly become a person of importance in the well-known old haunts where he had learned and played only as one of the schoolboys.

“It wasn’t much of a joke sometimes,” said he. “I thought at first that I was glad to see a face I knew. But there were lots of times after that when I didn’t think it.”

“Wasn’t old Bullfrog amiable, then?”

“He was never particularly partial to me, you know,” answered Martin. “The first term I was at school—before you came—I remember I caught him out at a cricket match. He was always so sure of making top score! He called me an impudent youngster in those days.”

“He never was too good to you, I remember. I was one of the chaps he let alone.”

“Well, he went on calling me an impudent youngster,” continued Martin, “and all that sort of thing—and he tried to set the other fellows against me. Oh, it isn’t all jam in the Royal Navy! You haven’t left school when you go there, and the gunroom isn’t always just exactly paradise, you know! And if your seniors try to make it hot for you, why—they can!”

“So you and Bullfrog didn’t exactly hit it off?”

“Oh, well, he was sub-lieutenant this last voyage, and you can’t stand up to your senior officer as you can to your schoolfellows, don’t you see?”

There was a minute’s silence, broken by an eager request. “But tell us about the battle. What did it feel like to be there? How was it old Bullfrog let you go at all?”

“He hadn’t the ordering of that, thank goodness,” said Martin fervently. “And I was jolly glad he hadn’t! We had some excitement getting those big guns along, I can tell you! The roads weren’t just laid out for that game.”

“Well, go on,” said another eager voice. “Then one day we came upon the enemy, and there was a stand-up fight, you know. How did it feel? Well, there wasn’t much thinking about it. You just knew that you were ready to blaze at them, and they were popping at you from their entrenchments; and that you jolly well meant to give them the worst of it.”

“Well, about Bullfrog?”

“Oh, that was nothing,” said Martin, reddening. “He must have got excited or something, for he took a step forward, putting himself in full view, and just then I saw what he didn’t see—that there were some of those Boer beggars just under our kopje, and that one of them had raised his rifle to pick off Bullfrog. So I made a flying leap on to his back and knocked him flat, and the bullet that was meant for him just crossed the back of my coat and ripped it up. Didn’t even scratch me!”

The little knot of listeners around Martin waited with bated breath for more.

“But he didn’t escape scot-free after all,” continued Martin. “Ten minutes after that he got shot in the leg. The bone was fractured, and he couldn’t move. I saw him fall and I pulled him to a little hollow under a stone where he’d be safe. And it was just as well, for the cavalry came up over there when the chase began. We gave them the licking they deserved that day. But you know all about that.”

“Wish I’d been you!” said Martin’s old schoolfellow very enviously. “But what about Bullfrog after that?”

“He was taken in the ambulance-cart and put in hospital. I saw him there and he was getting on all right.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said I’d caught him out again and a lot more. But it was all nonsense, you know.”

“I expect he was sorry he’d ever made it hot for you,” said one of the listeners.

“You ought to have a VC or something for it, I consider,” said another.

“Rot!” answered Martin. “If a schoolfellow and a shipmate of yours wanted a push out of danger, wouldn’t you give it him? And you wouldn’t think yourself a hero either!”

“Other people might, though,” answered Martin’s old schoolfellow.

George Manville Fenn ~ Two Rough Stones

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It does not take long to make a kite, if you know how, have the right things for the purpose, and Cook is in a good temper. But then, cooks are not always amiable, and that’s a puzzle; for disagreeable people are generally yellow and stringy, while pleasant folk are pink-and-white and plump, and Mrs Lester’s Cook at “Lombardy” was extremely plump, so much so that Ned Lester used to laugh at her and say she was fat, whereupon Cook retorted by saying good-humouredly: “All right, Master Ned, so I am; but you can’t have too much of a good thing.”

There was doubt about the matter, though. Cook had a most fiery temper when she was busy, and when that morning Ned went with Tizzy—so called because she was christened Lizzie—and found Cook in her private premises—the back kitchen—peeling onions, with a piece of bread stuck at the end of the knife to keep the onion-juice from making her cry, and asked her to make him a small basin of paste, her kitchen majesty uttered a loud snort.

“Which I just shan’t,” she cried; “and if your Mar was at home you wouldn’t dare to ask. I never did see such a tiresome, worriting boy as you are, Master Ned. You’re always wanting something when I’m busy; and what your master’s a-thinking about to give you such long holidays at midsummer I don’t know.”

“They aren’t long,” said Ned, indignant at the idea of holidays being too long for a boy of eleven.

“Don’t you contradict, sir, or I’ll just tell your Mar; and the sooner you’re out of my kitchen the better for you. Be off, both of you!”

It was on Tizzy’s little red lips to say: “Oh, please do make some paste!” but she was not peeling onions, and had no knife with a piece of bread-crumb at the end to keep the tears from coming. So come they did, and sobs with them to stop the words.

“Never mind, Tiz,” cried Ned, lifting her on to a chair. “Here, get on my back and I’ll carry you. Cook’s in a tantrum this morning.”

Tizzy placed her arms round her brother’s neck and clung tightly while he played the restive steed, and raised Cook’s ire to red-hot point by purposely kicking one of the Windsor chairs, making it scroop on the beautifully-white floor of the front kitchen, and making the queen of the domain rush out at him, looking red-eyed and ferocious, for the onion-juice had affected her.

“Now, just you look here, Master Ned.”

But Ned didn’t stop to look; for, after the restive kick at the chair, he had broken into a canter, dashed down the garden and through the gate into the meadow, across which he now galloped straight for the new haystack, for only a week before that meadow had been forbidden ground and full of long, waving, flowery strands.

The grasshoppers darted right and left from the brown patches where the scythes had left their marks; the butterflies fled in their butterfly fashion.

So did a party of newly-fledged sparrowkins, and, still playing the pony, Ned kept on, drawing his sister’s attention to the various objects, as he made for the long row of Lombardy poplars which grew so tall and straight close to the deep river-side, and gave the name “Lombardy” to the charming little home.

But it was all in vain; nothing would pacify the sobbing child, not even the long red-and-yellow monkey barge gliding along the river, steered by a woman in a print hood, and drawn by a drowsy-looking grey horse at the end of a long tow-rope, bearing a whistling boy seated sidewise on his back and a dishcover-like pail hanging from his collar.

“Oh, I say, don’t cry, Tizzy,” protested Ned, at last, as he felt the hot tears trickling inside his white collar.

“I can’t help it, Teddy,” she sobbed. “I did so want to see the kite fly!”

“Never mind, pussy,” said her brother; “I’ll get the butterfly-net.”

“No, no,” she sobbed; “please don’t.”

“The rod and line, then, and you shall fish. I’ll put on the worms.”

“No, no, I don’t want to,” she said, with more tears. “Put me down, please; you do joggle me so. You’ll be going back to school soon, and, now the grass is cut, I did so wa–wa–want to see the kite fly!”

“So did I,” said the boy ruefully. “But don’t cry, Tiz dear. Tell me what to do. It makes me so miserable to see you cry.”

“Does it, Teddy?” she said, looking up wistfully in her brother’s face, and then kissing him. “There, then: I won’t cry any more.”

She had hardly spoken when the sunshine returned to her pretty little face, for, though she did not know it, that sorrowful countenance had quite softened Cook’s heart, and she stood in the kitchen doorway, calling the young people and waving a steaming white basin, which she set down on the window-sill with a bang.

“Here’s your paste, Master Ned,” she shouted; and then, muttering to herself something about being such a “soft,” she disappeared.

Five minutes later the young folk were in the play-room and Ned was covering the framework of his simply-made kite with white paper, Tizzy helping and getting her little fingers pasty the while. Then a loop was made on the centre lath; the wet kite was found to balance well; wings were made, and a long string with a marble tied in the thumb of a glove attached to the end for a tail; the ball of new string taken off the top of the drawers, and the happy couple went off in high glee to fly the kite.

“It’s half-dry already,” said Ned. “Paste soon dries in hot weather.”

“Do let me carry the string, Teddy,” cried Tiz; and the next minute she was stepping along with it proudly, while Ned, with his arm through the loop and the kite on his back, looked something like a Knight Crusader with a white shield.

The grasshoppers and butterflies scattered; the paper dried rapidly in the hot sun, as the kite lay on the grass while the string was fastened, Tizzy having the delightful task of rolling the ball along the grass to unwind enough for the first flight; and then, after Ned had thrown a stray goose-feather to make sure which way the wind blew, this being towards the tall poplars, Tizzy was set to hold up the kite as high as she could.

“Mind and don’t tread on its tail, Tiz,” shouted Ned, as he ran off to where the ball of spring lay on the grass.

“No; it’s stretched right out,” she cried.

“Ready?” shouted Ned.

“Yes.”

“Higher then. Now, off!”

The string tightened as the boy ran off facing the wind, and, as if glad to be released, the kite seemed to pluck itself out of its holder’s hands and darted aloft, the little girl clapping her hands with glee. For it was a good kite, Ned being a clever maker, of two summers’ experience. Away it went, higher and higher, till there was no need for the holder to run, and consequently he began to walk back towards Tizzy, unwinding more and more string till there was but little left, when the string was placed in Tizzy’s hands, and, breathless and flushed with excitement, she held on, watching the soaring framework of paper, with its wings fluttering and its tail invisible all but the round knob at the end, sailing about in the air.

But alas! how short-lived are some of our pleasures! That fine twine was badly made, or one part was damaged, for, just when poor Tizzy’s little arm was being jerked by the kite in its efforts to escape and fly higher, the string parted about half-way, and the kite learned that, like many animated creatures, it could not fly alone, for it went off before the wind, falling and falling most pitifully, with Ned going at full speed after the flying string which trailed over the grass. He caught up to it at last, but too late, for it was just as the kite plunged into the top of one of the highest trees by the river, and there it stuck.

Tizzy came crying up, while Ned jerked and tugged at the string till he knew that if he pulled harder the kite would be torn; but there it stuck, and Tizzy wept.

“Oh,” she cried, “and such a beautiful kite as it was!”

“Don’t you cry,” said Ned, caressing her. “I’ll soon get it again.”

“Oh, but you can’t, Teddy!”

“Can’t I?” he cried, setting his teeth. “I’ll soon show you. Hold this string.”

As his sister caught the string the boy dashed to the tree.

“Oh, Teddy, don’t; you’ll fall—you’ll fall!” cried Tizzy.

“That I won’t,” he said stoutly. “I’ve climbed larger trees than this at school.”

And, taking advantage of the rough places of the bark, the boy swarmed up to where the branches made the climbing less laborious, and then he went on up and up, higher and higher, till the tree began to quiver and bend, and he shouted to his sister, breathlessly watching him, her little heart beating fast the while.

She was not the only watcher, for another barge was coming along the river, and, as it drew nearer, the boy on the horse stopped his steed and the man steering lay back to look up. And higher and higher went Ned, till the tree began to bend with his weight, and he laughingly gave it an impetus to make it swing him when he was about six feet from where the kite hung upside down by its tangled tail, but happily untorn. “Look out, Tiz!” shouted Ned.

“Yes, yes, dear; but do take care.”

“All right,” he cried. “I’m going to cut off his tail, and I shall say when. Then you pull the string and it will come down. Wo-ho!” he cried, as he tugged out his knife, for the tree bent and bent like a fishing-rod, the spiny centre on which he was being now very thin. Then, steadying himself, he climbed the last six feet and hung over backwards, holding up his legs and one hand, as he used his knife and divided the string tail. “Pull, Tiz, pull!” he shouted, “Run!”

Tizzy obeyed and the kite followed her.

“Hoo-ray,” shouted Ned, taking off his cap to give it a wave, when, crick! crack! the tree snapped twenty feet below him, and the next moment poor Ned was describing a curve in the air, for the wood and bark held the lower part like a huge hinge, while Ned clung tightly for some moments before he was flung outwards, to fall with a tremendous splash.

Poor Tizzy heard the sharp snap of the tree and turned, to gaze in horror at her brother’s fall, uttering a wild shriek as she saw him disappear in the sparkling water; and then in her childlike dread she closed her eyes tightly, stopped her ears, and ran blindly across the meadow, shrieking with all her little might and keeping her eyes fast closed, till she found herself caught up and a shower of questions were put.

They were in vain at first, for the poor child was utterly dazed, hardly recognising the friendly arms which had caught her up, till those arms gave her a good shake.

“Master Ned!—why don’t you speak, child?—where’s your brother?”

“Oh,” shrieked Tizzy, “the water—the water! Tumbled in.”

“Oh, my poor darling bairn!” cried Cook, hugging Tizzy to her, as she ran towards, the river. “I knew it—I knew it! I was always sure my own dear boy would be drowned.”

There was no ill-temper now, for Cook was sobbing hysterically as she ran, with the tears streaming down her cheeks, till she saw something taking place on the river which seemed to take all the strength out of her legs, for she dropped upon her knees now with her lips moving fast, but not a sound was heard.

The next minute she was hurrying again to the river-bank, towards which a man was thrusting the stern of the long narrow barge which had been passing with the heavy long boathook, which had been used to draw poor Ned out of the water as soon as he had risen to the surface.

Cook reached the bank with the child in her arms just at the same moment as the man, who leaped off the barge, carrying Ned, whose eyes were closed and head drooping over the man’s shoulder.

“Oh, my poor darling boy!” wailed Cook. “He’s dead—he’s dead!”

“Not he, missus,” cried the bargeman. “I hooked him out too sharp. Here, hold up, young master. Don’t you cry, little missy; he’s on’y swallowed more water than’s good for him. Now then, perk up, my lad.”

Poor Ned’s eyes opened at this, and he stared wildly at the man, then, as if utterly bewildered, at Cook, and lastly at Tizzy, who clung sobbing to him, where he had been laid on the grass, streaming with water.

“Tiz!” he cried faintly.

“Teddy! Teddy!” she wailed. “Oh, don’t die! What would poor Mamma do?”

“Die?” he said confusedly. “Why—what? Here,” he cried, as recollection came back with a rush, “oh, Tizzy, don’t say you’ve lost the kite!”

“Lost the kite!” cried Cook, furiously now. “Oh, you wicked, wicked boy! What will your Mar say?”

“As she was precious glad I was a-comin’ by,” said the man, grinning. “There: don’t scold the youngster, missus. It was all an accident, wasn’t it, squire? But, I say, next time you climb a tree don’t you trust them poplars, for they’re as brittle as sere-wood. There: you’re all right now, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” said Ned. “Did you pull me out?”

“To be sure I did.”

“Then there’s a threepenny-piece for you,” said Ned. “I haven’t got any more.”

“Then you put it back in your pocket, my lad, to buy something for your little sis. I don’t want to be paid for that.”

“You wait till his poor Mar comes home,” cried Cook excitedly, “and I’m sure she’ll give you a bit of gold.”

“Nay,” growled the man. “I’ve got bairns of my own. I don’t want to be paid. Yes, I do,” he said quickly; “will you give me a kiss, little one, for pulling brother out?”

Tizzy’s face lit up with smiles, as she held up her hands to be caught up, and the next moment her little white face was pressed against a brown one, her arms closing round the bargeman’s neck, as she kissed him again and again.

“Thank you, thank you, sir,” she babbled. “It was so good of you, and I love you very, very much.”

“Hah!” sighed the man, as he set her down softly. “Now take brother’s hand and run home with him to get some dry clothes. Morning, missus. He won’t hurt.”

He turned away sharply and went back to his barge, from which he looked at the little party running across the meadow, Cook sobbing and laughing as she held the children’s hands tightly in her own.

“And such a great, big, ugly man, ma’am,” Cook said to her mistress, when she was telling all what had passed.

The tears of thankfulness were standing in Mrs Lester’s eyes, and several of them dropped like pearls, oddly enough, just as she was thinking that the outsides of diamonds are sometimes very rough.