« AnteriorContinuar »
“It is nice to be quiet sometimes," observed Mamma, trying to find a safe place for her tea-cup, "only why not be quiet with light. I really cannot see at all."
“We should see much better were we to rest our eyes oftener,” said Alice, sententiously.
“Close them, then,” said Dick, at full length on a settee.'
"Dick's right," observed sister Nellie, quickly, in order to save him from consequences. “We go to bed too late as a rule."
“For my part, I love this time of the day at this season. Indeed, I am not sure if I do not prefer it far above all other times and seasons throughout the year.” Alice thought over her own proposition, and then continued: “The fire is such a companion, and such a superior being, too.”
“Miss Alice is verging on the doctrines of the Parsees," said a voice, whose owner was now part and parcel of the sofa.
“Better than the Parsons,"exclaimed Dick.
“Dick!” said Mrs. McCracken, reprovingly.
“Beg pardon, Nellie, only fun," Dick apologized; "but Parsee is like Parson.”
“Not in sense,” said his brother Austin, gravely. “The Parsees are disciples of Zoroaster, and worship fire."
" It is very natural, since they begin with the sun, of which fire is the offspring, and the living image. I worship the fire-in winter. I agree with Miss Alice. The fire does seem to have a sympathising heart; a warm, glowing heart; a living heart, with a placid pulsation.”
“We can hear it beat, can we not?” inquired Alice, approving the simile.
“Yes !-Listen! Calmly: now excitedly, as though it had great things to say. Now there is a change in its constitution. No, it recovers, is brilliant for a second, so that all around catch the ray at different angles, but are helpless to return it, only showing up our own dull-headedness against the fire's
“There certainly is nothing so cheery, or cosy, in a bedroom," said Mamma.
“Or so roaring, noisy, and eager in a kitchen," added Mrs. McCracken, who had been thinking it out.
“ Look at it in a blacksmith's," cried Dick.
“In a study,” said Austin.
“In a drawing-room," I suggested, vaguely, but with some remembrance, tou, of one cold, steel, and highly-polished fender at my father's, I would rather have quoted Mrs. Davis's nursery fire, or that of the Verneys' at dinner-time. I felt that we were playing a sort of game of How do you like it, When do you like, and Where do you like it, of which I had not as yet filled up the blanks in my formula.
“No,” said Alice, planting her elbows on her knees, and stretching both hands out towards the fire, as though imploring its inspiration for her on its own behalf. “See it in a sick-room. How quiet, soft, and purring! How comforting to the invalid is the mere sight of it, telling, as it does, at once of human sympathy, of unreinitting care! As long as there is a fire, there must be hope. Fire is necessary to life ; it can be of no use to the dead.”
"Alice !” said her mother, shivering. There was a pause. We seemed to have drawn ghosts about us, as the shadows grew upon the walls, higher and higher, like spectral creepers.
Mrs. McCracken was for coals, or a log, at once. Alice prayed her to stay her hand.
“Don't bring the servant in,” said Alice; “ all the ghosts will run away if Bale comes in with the candle. Don't !”
"We prefer,” said Cavander, identifying himself with Alice, “we prefer darkness rather than light.”
“But not for the same reason, I hope,” returned Mrs. McCracken, who did not feel quite sure whether Andrew would have countenanced this sort of conversation. The Rev. Andrew had once preached strongly about “idle words," and she had not forgotten that sermon. In fact, she had occasionally turned the
weapons of that homily against the hopeless is the search back again over worthy Andrew himself, when he had the trackless waters to find what breeze been stupidly irritating, as husbands first caused our shifting sails to swell in will be sometimes. However, he wasn't its direction. there to explain himself; and had he “I think,” said Alice, speaking caubeen, his explanations, out of the pulpit, tiously, “ one is bound, or almost bound, did not carry conviction to her mind on to believe in the existence of disemall subjects. Besides, Mr. Cavander was, bodied spirits.” everyone said--and she could testify to “But the popular notion of a ghost," it, too-a very superior man, who (every- replied Cavander, “is an embodied one said this also) wrote in some philo- spirit. If I hear a human voice uttering sophical magazines, and even in the words, I know that certain organs must Times, and was shrewd, too, in business. be in exercise. I know that I am near Who was she, Mrs. McCracken, out of nothing dead, but something living and her parish, to sling at this champion ? human. I am bound to believe this by No; if it pleased Alice to essay his con- common sense : there is no other comversion, why it was a fine employment pulsion." for Alice, and she might hear some This was not at all what Alice wanted, plain truths from a man who was not and both Mrs. Comberwood and Mrs. only clever, but commonly sensible. McCracken were secretly delighted at So she reseated herself, and joined in this very reasonable answer as to ghosts. letting Alice have her way.
Alice felt that she was called upon “Certainly not,” said Cavander, to assert her belief in the supernatural, answering the last speaker, “although and on the strongest and plainest we do wish to propitiate the shades." grounds.
“I wish there were fairies,” observed “There is the Witch of Endor menAustin, quietly, preferring these to tioned in the Bible.” ghosts. “I mean Pucks, Titanias, and Here, at least, it occurred to her that Oberons. I have a book of stories, with she should have the Rev. Andrew pictures of goblin faces in the fire, and McCracken's better half and her mamma elves twisting about in the smoke. If with her. She was doomed to disapthey are in the sick-room, they must be pointment. very good spirits, unless they take to “I trust," said Mrs. Comberwood, making the kettle boil over, or pulling “that you don't rank the Scriptures off the lid."
with ghost stories, Alice." “Mediæval writers," said Mr. Cavan- She had a mind to say something der's voice, for he had by this vanished severe on new-fangled notions, but, for altogether, “spoke of a spirit behind her, she had gone far enough. all forms of life. The spirit of fire “No, Manima, of course not," replied was to them as real as to a Parsee ; per- Alice, somewhat pettishly. haps more real in proportion as their “Miss Alice meant that she was willcredulity was stronger."
ing to accept as fact an improbability, it “Their faith,” Alice suggested, with it came to her on such undeniable some show of nervousness in her voice. authority as that of the Bible.”
“A synonym in this case," replied From which it will be seen that Mr. Cavander, quietly.
Cavander could adapt his conversation "No," she answered quickly, “faith to his company. Alice felt grateful to cannot be credulity. I am not credulous him for the rescue. It is dangerous to because I believe."
the well-being of a weak state that it “ Credulous is derived from credo," should be obliged to accept the volunsaid Austin, to whom a new line of tary services of a powerful ally, who thought had occurred.
may, at no distant date, imperiously When in aster-years we have arrived dictate, where once it deferentially adat a sure and calm haven, how almost vised.
"I should think it is nearly time to Cavander took not the slightest notice dress," said Mrs. McCracken, rising. of me.
The dignified Bale entered with “In the first piece,” said Austin, candles, and finding us all thus sprawl “that's all. The person whom Papa ing about as if we had fallen on to the brings from London is to prompt and sofas and chairs through the ceiling, do everything in that way while we're expressed facially no astonishment, but getting it up." guarding himself carefully, and in the “Then,” said Mr. Cavander, “I shall best-bred style possible, against treading constitute myself a claqueur, and shall on any other people who might be strewn rehearse when I am to laugh, cry, about at haphazard on the carpet, he applaud, and throw a bouquet. Come, placed his lights, while his attendant Miss Alice ! I may be of use to you, drew the curtains with a sharp, decided may I not?” click, as though there were spectators She turned round, smiling on him ; outside who hadn't paid their money and their eyes met. In a second hers for the show; and having, officially and were lowered before his, as the vandistantly, answered some questions as to quished ship salutes the victor on the "time," and “his master," withdrew. bigh seas. It was a lesson in silent
"Are the thingummies to come to-· eloquence; but it was the master in the night?” cried Dick, suddenly, jumping art instructing his pupil. up into an erect position, and shaking The bustle and the bells all over himself into bis clothes.
again. To-night we sat down a large “Thingummies?” repeated his mother, party to dinner, for Mr. Comberwood's who preferred to hear spades called two carriages had arrived with the corps spades, if there were reasons for $0 dramatique, consisting of the guests doing.
above mentioned. “Yes : you know what I mean," Then came the Rector of Whiteboys, which, by the way, is peculiar to boy the Rev. Mr. Tabberer, and his daughter, hood, which generalizes and trusts to who was to take a part in the first piece. chance“I mean the fellows who are The whole talk was of the stage ; and going to play. Mr. Longlegs- ” the gentlemen-amateurs spoke like
"Mr. Langlands, Dick," said his Olympian demi-gods on a visit to men, mother, fearful of her son calling her telling good and racy anecdotes of a life guest this to his face. “Why, he will higher than ours, and freely and honestly think that we have been speaking of expressing themselves refreshed, and him as Longlegs behind his back." revived, by the incense of praise offered
“Their rooms are ready," said Mrs. at their shrines, by the devotees to whom McCracken, “ Mr. and Mrs. Jakeman, the Olympians knew they could be unMr. Langlands, and Mr. Dothie." commonly useful. What is the use of
“And we shall have a rehearsal this being on friendly terms with a demi-god evening," said Alice.
if he can't get you into Olympus ? A “May I be prompter, or call-boy, or fico for your outsiders—these lovers of something?” pleaded Mr. Cavander; " if the drama for its own sake (which soon you have nothing to employ my talents, came to mean for their own sakes; but what shall I do?”
once in their early days it was not so, “Talk to Mrs. Jakeman,” said Alice; but then they were not demi-gods) "she's very nice." And she swooped accepted sacrifices of houses turned down before the fire.
topsy-turvy at their word, and libations "Thank you. She will be watching of champagne at the hands of those her husband's rehearsal the whole time, who yearned for even the acquaintance and expatiating on its beauties. No; of a cloud in Olympus. These demido let me be prompter.”
gods of the sock and buskin, invited “Austin's going to prompt on the right and left, introduced left and right, evening itself," I remarked.
ordained where civility should end, and where begin, and graciously put Christo- he would then spend the greater part pheros Sly at my lord's supper table, ask- of the day rehearsing. ing my lord in turn to the theatricals Having finished my task, I was crosschez Christopheros, which honest Chris- ing the hall, when I stumbled upon a topheros, once a cobbler in a stall, now gentleman in a grey countrified suit, rea millionaire in a mansion, was only too moving a comforter from his throat, and pleased to give.
by his side a young lady most elegantly Mr. Comberwood was in no need of dressed. Her back was towards me, these demi-gods; but if your theatricals but at that instant she turned, and the were to be the thing, and as good (at sunlight fell full upon her. Had she least) as your neighbours', then it come suddenly through the wall on was as necessary to success to reckon that golden ray, I could not have been on Messrs. Jakeman, Dothie, and Lang- much more astonished. lands in the night's programme, as to “Julie ! Mr. Verney!" I exclaimed, secure the name of Serjeant Blyster on and pulled up suddenly with my hand the brief for the defendant in an action out-thegroup looking uncommonly as if for libel. Percival Floyd, late of old we were playing at some eccentric game Carter's, and now a big hulking fellow, of Partridge and Pointers, in which they reading for the army at a private tutor's were the birds and I was the dog, markin the neighbourhood, had been invited ing them down. to fill some minor character. His legs were still his difficulty, but were gradually assuming a military character, a
CHAPTER XVI. result, probably, of the direction of his studies.
A CHANGE COMES O'ER THE SPIRIT OP I remember liking them all very MY DREAMMA COLD FAREWELL, much. They were very kind to me, and Mr. Langlands condescended to call me In some old Irish tale, the peasant who "an infant Roscius." They were vastly has been spirited away into a sorpolite to Miss Alice and attentive to ceress's castle, suddenly takes up a pipe Miss Tabberer, and appeared to appre that he finds lying near him, and comciate Cavander highly, having been, it mences to play a lilt. At the first seemed, all of them, well acquainted note, Devildom had vanished, and he with him in London. They confirmed his was at his own peat fireside, clasping mysterious literary reputation, and put his dear Norah round the waist. One such questions to him as were intended note of home had done it. to show the bystanders how much they Frampton's Court had been a home to theniselves knew, and to draw some me. Julie represented its good fairy, Mr. corroborative information out of Cav. Verney the-the-well, I don't know ander. Directly after breakfast “the what he represented except himself, young uns," under Miss Alice's direc- unless at Frampton's Court he might be tion, were to rehearse for an hour, considered as a sort of Don Wiggeroso which we did, with as much regularity Pom poso, the comic Chamberlain, who and precision as if we had been at gives up his grandeur to dance with lessons.
the King. As a man has indelibly At the end of that time the stage was impressed upon him the stamp of his to be occupied by the “professional public school, or university, like a hall person" from town, to whom Uncle Van mark, so I had the impression of Framphad been introduced by Pipkison at the ton's Court on me strongly, and no “ Burlington Baa-Lambs," and who, desire to be rid of it. It was, to me, having already arrived and taken up to belong to a secret lodge, a confrahis quarters at the “Old Whiteboys ternity. I fancy I could pick out a Inn," was to have the stage to himself Frampton's Court man now, could I see to arrange for our elders, with whom one. If a queen has died with “Calais
written on her heart, can I not live with "No," he replied in an off-band way. "Frampton's Court" engraved on mine? "I was asked to superintend the reWhether I can, or not, or whether the hearsals of the drawing-room comedy, material fact be true (which in any case in which I have myself taken a part, I doubt), is not to the purpose here, and know all Madame Vestris's business seeing that Frampton's has been in my in it, from flirting her coquettish little heart for years, worn by time, but not fan, down to the pointing of her delicate, erased. In an instant Ringhurst White pinky-tipped, satin slipper. Your relaboys had vanished, and I was once more tive, Mr. Van Clym- I am correct in in my old home.
his nomenclature, I believe-for though Mr. Verney himself was the first to I think I may safely trust myself not break the spell. While Julie stood to err in any word of purely Saxon by his side, smiling so prettily, he character,-and it is astonishing how welcomed me to Ringhurst White- the best educated people mispronounce boys. Having, in imagination, pre- their own mother tongue, -yet I am viously taken possession of this baronial not so certain when I cannot, so to residence, it might, from his manner, speak, feel my feet-I mean, for examhave been the property of his ancestors ple, on the soil of Holland, to which for generations.
country your worthy uncle-uncle is he "My dear Master Cecil Colvin," he not ? " said, waving his hand gracefully, as if “ Yes." pointing out the beauties of the place “Your worthy uncle no doubt belonge. to me, swaying his body gently mean- Ahem ! I was about to say"-recalling while,-“ My dear Master Cecil Colvin, his own attention to his original theme how lovely is this scene! This is indeed on noticing a desire on Julie's part and rural and yet baronial, from cottage to mine to start a conversation—"I was court! and without, what more lovely about to inform you that I had the spectacle to a mind capable of appreci- pleasure of making Mr. Van Clym's ating the physical beauties which a acquaintance at one of those convivial Watteau might people, and a Claude meetings to which your youth yet rendepict,”—here he took breath, recovered ders you a stranger-where the voice of his theme, and continued—“Yes, sir, jocund melody delights the ear-where what can be more thrillingly entrancing the pathetic song gives you hysterica than the ancient face of ever-bounteous passio all down the back, like a flash of Dame Nature, smiling upon us through lightning on a finger-post—where the her tears, and with the pearl-powder of feast of reason is enlivened by the play last night's masque not yet brushed of wit and fancy, with Mr. Pipkison, from her dumpling -I should say our mutual friend, in the chair, who dimpling-cheek ?" .
introduced me to your Dutch uncle-I He meant that the snow was still on mean no offence- and instructed me to the ground in places. But his lapsus the effect, that, if I would not mind linguæ had recalled to my mind Pomona running down-inetaphysically, for I the Goddess of Apples, in Frampton's came by train—to Ringhurst WhiteCourt.
boys, I should confer an obligation, in“In patches, yes," he returned, for I crease the circle of friends, and add had asked him if this were his meaning another five years to my life, by sharing “Powder and patches. Dame Nature with the feathered warblers the pure in powder and patches, with the trim- breezes toying with the thatches of our ming of the flow'ret crocus on her English homesteads. Apart from this, mantilla, and a faint sniff of the last they have made it sufficiently worth rose of the previous summer wafted to my while to enable me to bring Julie us from the somnolescent Flora.". with me, after a consultation with her
“ Have you come to stay here ?” I mother, who is of opinion that this brief asked.
change will vastly benefit our child.