Q s C A
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g~at0ae 8 an'~b t abbits.
i Fro--is ece
oF our downtime
The author of The Cradle oftheB Nie.
with forty four illustrations
40.tWY8OTitE1ANw a co., 3M, fooAD iY,.
[All Rigkts Reserved.]
My Nephews a Nieces
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& ti@a .a:^^
I. HEARTSEASE .
II. IN SOCIETY 7
III. THE LOVERS' WALK 1 . 5
IV. MR. AND MRS. BUNNIE AT HOME 26
V. THE WEDDING 36
VI. THE ATTACK ON THE WARREN 42
VII. AFTER THE HONEYMOON 48
VIII. HEARTSEASE IN FAIRYLAND. 53
IX. FLOSSY'S EXPEDITION 57
X. ENDS THE STORY 64
Hstt8t0CC anb thc Xabbits.
e sease was a little white
Her eyes were blue as the lobelia's
Her pretty lips with rosebuds
More bright than corn when gar-
nered in the sheaf,
a yWas the rich yellow of her golden
Her skin, transparent as her brow
Y was fair,
Her manner gentle, sweet, and
You felt that angels all her thoughts
Her soul so lofty, and her spirit
She was such a pale, fragile, diaphanous little thing, that,
had you seen the glimmer of her silver wings as she fluttered
2 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
through the woods on a summer night, you would have taken
her for a stray moonbeam that had wandered away from her
sisters and got lost, nor ever guessed that you had met
little Heartsease, who wished well to every living being, and
would be sure to send you such soft slumbers, and such golden
dreams, that you would wake up in the morning as happy as
For, though Heartsease was so small, hardly higher than a
lily of the valley when she stood on tip-toe, yet she had a
very big heart ; so big, indeed, that it could take in the whole
wide world and yet have room to spare; and she loved every
one of GOD'S creatures dearly, for the sake of Him who made
Of course she had her preferences, and liked better to
talk to the beautiful Butterflies than to the old grey Spiders
with their hooky claws, and wicked little eyes in the middle of
their backs ; but she knew that if the Spiders were ugly, they
had been made so for some wise purpose, and she was kind to
all about her. And truly, the Spiders repaid her, for they had
seen a great deal of life as they sat quietly spinning their
webs, and Heartsease had to admit that their conversation
was often more instructive than that of the foolish Butterflies,
who were always asking her to tell them the colour of the
flower that suited their complexions best.
Then there was no limit to the number of her friends among
the Hares and the Rabbits, and the Bees and the Robin-
redbreasts, and the Swallows-great travellers these, who
brought her news from abroad-and even the old grey Snails,
whom she visited every week with nice pieces of fresh lettuce-
leaf, for they were her pensioners, and everybody knows that
a respectable Snail enjoys her lettuce-leaf as much as an old
woman does her cup of tea; and the funniest thing was that
whenever Heartsease went to visit the Snails, she always
found them at home !
Heartsease lived in a hole in an oak in Featherbell Park;
such a dainty little chamber! all hung round with the most
beautiful gossamer lace spun by her friends the Spiders. The
chairs and cushions were covered with the softest emerald-
moss velvet, and the floor was of polished oak, which her
busy neighbours the Bees had waxed to such a pitch that you
could see yourself in it as in a mirror.
- A clear bubbling brook ran past the foot of Heartsease's oak,
full of great speckled Trout, who regarded Heartsease as their
protectress, for she had the young Trout up in classes, and
taught them how to know a real fly from a Red-spinner' or a
'Coch-y-bondhu,' and if a fisherman came that way, he would
wonder why the fish, when he threw his fly on the water,
always wagged their tails and made off to the shelter of the
There was an island formed by the root of an old poplar in
4 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
the middle of the brook, on which grew a beautiful forest of
king fern; and here, in the warm summer weather, Heartsease
used to sit in the cool shade of the overhanging fronds and
teach a singing
class of young
"birds, whom she
also instructed in
the difficult art
of weaving their
nests. It would
have gone hard
l with the boldest
Gnome had he at-
tempted to tease
for wherever she
of loving eyes
watched her from
branch and blade, bramble and brook, ready to protect their
Heartsease did not care for the society of the Gnomes,
she thought they were so thoughtless and cruel; and when-
ever she caught one tickling the feelers of her rheumatic old
Snails, or upsetting a fat, plethoric Beetle hurrying on his way
ttg n mq's Onf,
to business, she would talk to him so beautifully, and with such
a glorious light in her soft blue eyes, that he would slink
away to the toadstool where he lived, quite ashamed of him-
self, and become a changed Gnome from that time forth.
Was a little chap,
A Gnome of low degree,
And he lived
Under a toadstool
By the roots of an old oak tree.
He loved to tease
The Snails and Frogs,
Which he called a merry spree,
And the village boys
To the deepest bogs
He would lure with impish glee.
One day he met a Fairy,
Oh, how fair was she !
She spoke of Him who
Succours the weak,
And makes the strong to flee.
Was a little chap,
But his heart was not half bad,
6 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
And he returned
To his old toadstool
A better Gnome and sad.
He thought of all
The wrong he had done,
And prayed that he better might be;
Till out of his little round shoulders
Grew wings most fair to see.
And now with motion airy
He skims o'er the grassy lea,
And thinks of the little Fairy
Who taught him God's love to see.
this particular evening
Heartsease was in a
pleasant flutter of
expectation, for her
Friend M rs. B unnie
was going to give a
great Rabbits' ball, to
bring out her beau-
tiful daughter Flossy, at her country house known as 'The
Burrow,' on Dingle Farm. Everybody was to be invited;
and, as the first rays of the autumn moon were already
glistening on the heather-capped tors of the glen, Heartsease
was taking a last look at her beautiful face in the clear depths
of her brook before starting. The inspection was apparently
satisfactory, for with a bright smile she unfolded her delicate
wings, and away she flew like a gleam of silver light-
8 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
Grass leaves tipping,
Onward little Heartsease sped.
'Neath her footstep
Gently bends its blushing head;
Fat and lazy,
Watch her flight with loving eye;
Lean and crazy,
Dance around her in the sky.
Just as the hour of nine pealed softly from the distant
village spire, she reached the Burrow, and then what a chorus
of greetings met her! Mrs. Bunnie hurried up to kiss her,
and all the company crowded round to welcome their
favourite. It was a very large.gathering. There were Mr.
and Mrs. Coniah, of Corrty Hollow, who belonged to a most
respectable family, and the five Master Coniahs, commonly
called by their intimates, Huz, Buz, Fuz, Jock, and Grip;
they were very lively young gentlemen, who danced all the
dances, and made facetious remarks which threw their
partners into fits of laughter. Only Huz was of a more
serious disposition, and the acute Mrs. Magpie declared in
strict confidence, and not to be repeated, to two dozen of her
most intimate friends, that she believed he was madly in love
with the beautiful Miss Flossy Bunnie, for he never took his
eyes off her the whole evening. He was a fine young fellow,
with tender yet courageous black eyes, and, unlike his
IN SOCIETY. 9
brothers, was attired in a white choker and an evening suit of
the correctest sable, a fashion rarely followed by Rabbits, even
of distinguished position, grey and brown being their favourite
colours, as less likely to attract the attention of the too curious
Of course, Miss Flossy Bunnie was the belle of the ball;
she was robed in snowy white, which added to the depth and
lustre of her beautiful soft dark eyes. Then there were the
Lloyd Bunnies, and the Coniah ap Lloyd ap Cheeses, Welsh
Rabbits; and the Grand Rabbi, a learned gentleman, very grey,
and getting rather bald about the crown, who had just com-
pleted his great work, in nine octavo volumes, on the Rabbit-
warrens of ancient Nineveh: 'which everybody thought so
much of, you know,' though few people, had had the courage
to read it. He was surrounded by an admiring circle of
elderly' young lady Blue Rabbits, who were listening with
rapt attention to his learned dissertation on the antediluvian
toadstools of Great Britain.
He remarked that there were several whose sites had not
yet been accounted for, and that in his next great work he
intended to proclaim to the world that the very spot on which
their kind host and hostess-here he bowed politely to Mr.
and Mrs. Bunnie and wiped his spectacles-had now assembled
them, was the site of one of these primeval temples. For,
as he was pleased to observe, it might have been the site, and,
o1 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
as it was necessary for the sake of science that the seven
which were lost should be placed somewhere, he saw no reason
why one of them should not be placed there; in fact, the more
he thought of it,
the more he felt
this was the
identical spot, an
opinion which he
many erudite ar-
the least strong
of which was that
j his rival, Profes-
sor Babbi, Fellow
of the Royal So-
ciety of Rabbits,
whom he paren-
marked was an ignorant fellow, had emphatically declared that
this was not the site in question, but a comparatively modern
mole-hill, little more than ten thousand years old, and this
was quite enough to convince him that it was the spot, and
the world should know his opinion, etc., etc.
IV SOCIETY. II
Two other important, if not very welcome, guests, were
Mr. Weasel, the celebrated reporter of the United Vermin
Gazelle, and his editor, Mr. Rat.
The former was a red-haired little gentleman, with short
broad ears, and small beady black eyes, which, added to a
bristling moustache and a set of very sharp white teeth, gave
him a somewhat sinister
aspect; he appeared in
a snowy white waistcoat,
and had a noiseless, b
restless way of moving
about which was very
uncomfortable, for he
was always turning up J
at your elbow when you
least expected to see
him, and then he gene-
rally patted you on the back, and laid his finger beside his
nose in a waggish manner, as much as to say I've found you
out!' He declared himself to be the farmers' friend, but those
who had young lambs in their charge were very shy about
receiving his visits, and rumour said they had good reason to
You may be quite sure very little escaped Mr. Weasel's
two beady black eyes.
12 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
Mr. Rat, his literary head, had also a bristling moustache,
but his forehead was even more retreating, and he had besides
four long projecting teeth,
which his moustache could
not cover; he spoke in
short, snapping sentences,
o and was constantly saying
Disagreeable things that
made poor little Hearts-
Sease tremble with fear
by millions, in the subterranean passages of the great cities,
that were only waiting for his signal to rise in their hundreds
of thousands and overwhelm society.
'We are sleeping on a volcano,' he would say, 'and a day
will come when there shall be no distinction of classes, and
we shall all be united in one great confederation of vermin.'
And then was not Mr. Rat going to make changes The
clumsy and antiquated fabric of Church and State would soon
crumble before his legions; already his friends were eating
away at its foundations.
'Ha ha! you thought you were secure in your strength,
but he could tell you that at that moment the very WOOLSACK
IN SOCIETY. 13
WAS TREMBLING before the attack of his confederates. They
had forced their way into the House of Commons, and they
would not be denied the House of Lords People said that
the landlord had no right to the land: it was very true; he up-
held the doctrine : but he went further-if the landlord who
had bought the land with his money, or his talents, or that of
his ancestors, had no right to it, what right had the tenant
who simply lived upon it and fattened ? Yes, a day would
come, and that soon, when the vermin of England would
overthrow all obstacles and enjoy their ancient rights and
possessions. He had friends in both Houses, and he could
tell them, in confidence, that a Bill had already passed for the
confederation of vermin. Would they be surprised to hear
that even their haughty rival Sir Lepus Hare, who boasted
of the Charters which had been conferred on him from the time
of the Conquest, was now no better than he, Mr. Rat, and
might be destroyed in all seasons at pleasure ?' (' Hear, hear,'
from some of the younger Bunnies, who looked with envy on
the aristocratic Hares.) But he had more to tell them. They,
his friends the Rabbits, he was glad to say, were included in
the same measure, and would be no longer dependent on the
caprice of a bloated aristocracy: in future they might be de-
stroyed at will by the farmer and his labourer.'-Sensation
among the elder Rabbits.-' He was sorry if it should cause
them any inconvenience, but it was a step in the right direc-
14 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
tion-the abolition of all distinctions of rank. But though he
was constrained to accept for the present the aid of those
members who, as he had said, were his friends, he had far
different views for the future. Those members must not be
surprised if, when, little by little, the vermin of England had
gnawed away the barriers which now restrained them, they
rose up in their might and devoured their half-hearted repre-
This speech, which fell like a thunderbolt in the midst of
the party, caused a cold thrill of apprehension to go down the
backs of the more responsible Rabbits, and the general festivity
would have been permanently damped had not Mrs. Bunnie,
like a clever hostess, at this moment announced supper.
w o ~A C K
THE LOVERS' WALK.
the elder Rabbits
Were alternately dis-
cussing their neigh-
bours, politics, and
supper, the young
People had not been
Slow to avail them-
selves of the oppor-
tunities for dancing
afforded by the beautiful plot of greensward which formed the
lawn of the Burrow, and the entrancing strains of Messrs.
Lute and Tiny's celebrated Bullfinch band.
These amusements were diversified by the thrilling songs of
Signor Bulbulini, a tenor of such exquisite pathos that rumour
said he used to press a thorn against his breast to render his
notes more touchingly pathetic. Indeed, the comic baritone
16 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
and bass, Messrs. Vanderbull and Vanderfrog, known as
' The Dutch Nightingales,' of the Royal Batrachian Opera,
were so affected by his performance that big round tears
rolled down their fat cheeks, and they declared that 'ze har-
mony, ze crescendo, ze vivace, ze tremolo, ze all, vibrated von
ineffable chord in ze pit of zer bosom, and reminded zem of
ze happy days ven zey vos von leetle Tadpoles, vis ze shining
tails, listening to ze Nightingales !'
These two gentlemen were attired in canary-coloured coats,
buff waistcoats, and speckled nankeen tights, and when, after
recovering their composure, they smiled a humorous smile
from ear to ear, that made Mr. Cheshire Cat, the comic
amateur, feel quite envious, and prepared to sing their
famous buffo duett:
'Oh vare, and oh! vare is mine leetle vee frog,
Oh vare, and oh vare can hee be ?
Vith hees tail cut short, and hees legs cut lofig,
Oh vare, and oh vare is hee ?'
everybody was ready to die with laughter; only Mr. Rat re-
marked, in his nasty manner, that the pleasant rotundity of Mr.
Vanderbull's figure reminded him that he had lately been in
France, where they considered a fat Frog a great delicacy, and
he had no doubt that, if possible, he would figure to even
more advantage as a fricassee than a singer.
The peculiar twinkle in Mr. Rat's eyes as he paid this
doubtful compliment so disconcerted the poor Dutchmen that
THE LOVERS' WALK. 17
they grew nearly as pale as their waistcoats. But Mr.
Cheshire Cat turned the tables by remarking sharply, as he
twirled his moustachios, that he knew of a country, not so far off
as France; where they eat Rats, and thought them uncommonly
bad eating too. I promise you that the editor of the United
Vermin Gazelle found
the laugh turn against
him at this sally, and
thought it expedient to
slink out of the way.
It was a lovely night;
the autumn was late this
year, and, though Sep-
tember had already com-
-.. menced, the air was soft
and balmy as in the middle of summer, while the silver rays of
the moon, 'fair regent of the sky,' fell peacefully on many a field
which had been merry that morning with the blithe song of the
reaper, and where the golden sheaves of corn stood in rich pro-
fusion, awaiting the farmer's cart to gather them into the stack;
the heather and gorse were still in full bloom on the moor ; and
the dark rocky edges of the tors shone in bold relief against the
pale blue of the sky. Far below, a rushing stream found its way
among the mysterious shadows of the glen, now bursting into the
brilliant moonlight, now murmuring softly through the gloom,
18 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
here eddying furiously round the grey lichen-covered boulders,
there breaking into a torrent of glistening spray as it fell over
the weir, and again losing itself in the silent expanse of some
deep pool; singing as it went its endless song, sometimes
softly, sometimes loudly, till it swept into the great ocean which
lay beyond, with its bosom slowly heaving in the quiet moon-
light like the tranquil breathing of a sleeper.
Two figures were moving down a wooded glade, stealing
softly in and out of the chequered light that gleamed through
the heavy foliage of the trees; one was robed in pure white,
the other, her darker and- more stately companion, kept
tenderly close to her side. They were'Huz and Flossy, and
THE LOVERS' WALK. 19
their hearts were full to overflowing with happiness and
enjoyment of the exquisite beauty of the night; long ago
they had left the gay throng of dancers, and, in the friendly
shelter of a cool fernery, Huz had found courage to pour into
the willing ears of his beautiful companion that old old tale of
love that is ever so new, that never loses its pathos or its
interest, though it has been repeated, in almost the same
words, since the world began, and the evening zephyrs were
stealing through the garden of Eden.
The two lovers, as they wandered through clumps of tall,
dark pine-trees, or out into the gleaming meadows beyond,
felt as if none had ever loved before them, or would ever love
again, so fondly as they did. They scarcely dared to speak, so
much higher than words was the happiness that filled their
hearts; but, their love being true and humble, a feeling of
unworthiness would occasionally oppress them, and they
wondered why they two, of all the creatures in the world,
should be the most happy that night, when so many others
were suffering. Thus they wandered further and further,
listening to the murmuring breezes among the sycamores,
which sounded as if they were whispering to each other with
bated breath some wondrous tale, and watching the flowers
and grasses nodding softly in the sleepy heather-scented air.
At last Huz broke the eloquent silence.
'Anddo you really.think your father and mother will let
20 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
me carry off their darling, and have me for a son?' he
.To which she indig-
___.--_ nantly replied:
S 'Why should they not,
S-i w hen they all know and
love you so well ?'
'Then you do love me
a little ?' he asked, taking
u a lover's advantage of
her last sentence; and it
t te pnis n w I was so pleasant to hear
" her pretty, earnest asseve-
n y th d rations, that he required a
"great deal of reassuring
before he professed himself satisfied with her answers; after
which she demanded, turning diffident in her turn :
Is it possible that Mrs. Coniah will accept such a poor,
ugly daughter as a bride for her eldest son ?'
And Flossy had to be punished for this speech, though
what the punishment was I do not know, as they were
screened by the shadow of the trees, and had I been there I
would not have looked; but it could not have been very severe,
for she emerged blushing and smiling and apparently re-
While they were thus communing sweetly with each other,
THE LOVERS' WALK. 21
and drinking deeply of the cup of Rabbit-happiness, a pained
and weird cry rang suddenly through the silent wood, which
caused Flossy's heart to stand still with awe and fear. Huz
was not slow to wind his protecting arm round the form of his
betrothed, but even his brave heart for a moment felt chilled
by the ominous incident. Again the cry was repeated; and,
as hand-in-hand the lovers crept forward, they came upon a
sight that might have touched the hardest heart.
22 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
Fluttering helplessly in the middle of the path lay a poor
young Partridge, both her legs broken by the shot of some
unskilful sportsman; she was striving desperately to reach the
shelter of a clump of fern, but had fallen panting and
exhausted a few yards from it.
In a moment Flossy was beside the sufferer, trying to
soothe her pain with many gentle caresses; while Huz
busied himself preparing a sheltered bed of leaves on which
to place her. The contrast of their own happiness with the
wretchedness of this poor bird touched them deeply; for they
knew that their own race had even more reason than hers to
fear the thunder of the dreaded double-barrel, as it was
whispered that Farmer Nokes begrudged them their share of
the earth's fruits, and what little safety they enjoyed was wholly
owing to the protection of Squire Longacre, who refused to
permit their destruction. The Partridge, however, would not
suffer Floss and Huz to remain with her.
'There is a storm coming,' she said, 'and you will be
soaked through before you get home; besides, I heard the
whistle of Jim Sykes the poacher in the woods not long since,
and even now he may be setting his snares. I was trying to
get a place where he could not see me when you heard me
cry out, but my husband is gone for Dr. Partridge, our
great surgeon, and even now I think I can distinguish the
beat of their returning wings. Go, kind friends, I beseech
you, and be careful of Jim Sykes.'
THE LOVERS' WALK. 23
So, seeing that their presence only distressed her, they
reluctantly bid her adieu, and began their homeward walk.
A great change had now come over the weather. The light
of the moon was obscured by heavy masses of angry clouds;
the breeze no longer whispered among the sycamores, but
blew in fierce blasts down the glen, scattering the leaves
ruthlessly as it went: the soft song of the river was rapidly
changing to an ominous roar, as a flood of dark brown water
poured down with irresistible force from the moors, and Floss
and Huz found many a dangerous rivulet, that had sprung
into sudden birth, streaming across their path. Presently the
storm overtook them, and heavy drops of rain and great
round hailstones plashed through the foliage, drenching them
to the skin; suddenly a cracking among the boughs an-
nounced the approach of some great creature, and, as they
stood still in silent apprehension, a large dark form loomed
before them in the path, looking as if it were about to trample
It was a Royal Hart, with wide-spreading antlers, who,
when he saw the terrified lovers, stopped a moment to bid
them hurry on their way to shelter.
'As for myself,' he said, 'I must brave the fury of the
equinoctial gale, for this evening I discovered the harbourer
tracking my slots as I rested on the moor, and I know that
to-morrow the huntsmen and the hounds will be out early on
"24 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
Soon after they heard him splashing through the stream,
which he hoped would baffle the cunning of his pursuers.
..Many weird and
.. .-.s . trange sounds from
the great grey night-
: owls, bats, and bad-
gers, struck terror
S. into the hearts of the
Struant pair as they
Cautiously crept home,
fancying at every
S, crackle in the boughs
S that Jim Sykes was
on their track, with
his terrible dog Grab the very sound of their footsteps
frightened them, and it was long past midnight when, wet,
weary, and covered with mud, they reached the Burrow.
But not a sign of the gay scene they had left remained; the
place was-deserted, and the deep dints of Jim Sykes's heavy
hob-nailed boots alone were there to show how the party had
Very silently did Floss and Huz make their way to the
Warren, for they had a shrewd misgiving that they deserved
a good scolding, and were not reassured when they found
Mrs. Bunnie sitting up, with her hair in curl-papers. She
vouchsafed only a very cold good-night to Huz, as he handed
THE LOVERS' WALK. 25
in her daughter; so, with a whispered promise to Floss that
he would return in the morning and see her father, he went
to his own home.
Flossy at once sought her chamber, where her mother soon
followed her, and began to chide her for being out so late;
but when she noticed the draggled state of her beautiful
white dress, and the spots of blood which the wounds of the
Partridge had left on it, her anger gave way at once to
anxiety, and she begged her daughter to tell her what had
happened. Then Flossy, bursting into tears, hid her face in
her mother's lap and told the story of her love, and the fond
mother shed tears too, and thought of her own young, happy
days of courtship, and you may be sure had nothing but
sympathy to give her darling child.
MR. AND MRS. BUNNIE AT
rand Mrs. Bunnie were at
w-., a s home in their town resi-
dence at the Warren the
morning after the events
narrated in the last chap-
ter, and were enjoying a
"t9te-d-t te breakfast, for
Flossy had not left her
Mr. Bunnie was a short, broad-nosed, rather stern husband,
who always snorted when he was angry. To hear him talk,
you would fancy he was constantly engaged on the most im-
portant business, and he had a great objection to being dis-
turbed when he was reading the newspaper.
Mrs. Bunnie, his fair consort, was a stout, motherly person,
MR. AND MRS. BUNNIE AT HOME. 27
always bustling and fussing about, either in her own house or
on some good-natured errand to her neighbours.
Indeed, Mr. Rat had once maliciously remarked that she
was all bustle, as he watched her ample form retreating down
the glade; but Mr. Bunnie declared stoutly that Mrs. B.' was
the best wife in the world, and that you could not have too
much of a good thing.
It was a peculiarity of Mr. Bunnie's that he was always
very cross till he had had his breakfast, so his wife prudently
abstained from broaching the subject that was on her mind
till that meal was finished. At last she observed:
'Our Flossy is growing into a big girl now; she created
quite a sensation at the ball last night, and I suppose we shall
soon have some one wanting to steal her from us.'
Nonsense,' said Mr. Bunny, as he took a few short turns
up and down. Why, it seems only yesterday that she was a
baby in arms. I hope, my dear, you have not been putting
any such foolish ideas in her head ?'
'Not I,' said Mrs. Bunnie deprecatingly; 'but you know
she is very handsome,' and here she glanced at the reflection
of her own comely face in a pool of water. 'We can't be sur-
prised if somebody should fall in love with her.'
Yes; I think she takes after her father,' remarked Mr.
Bunnie complacently, as he stroked his broad nose; 'but time
.enough for her to marry. I don't want to lose my little Flo
28 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
just yet,' and sitting down, he took up the United Vermin
Gazette, evidently determined to put an end to the conversa-
'But, my dear,' said Mrs. Bunnie.
'What abominable ratical stuff that fellow Rat does write !'
said her husband impatiently, frowning at the newspaper.
Mrs. Bunnie stole up behind him and laid her hand on his
'My dear,' she said, 'suppose there was some one who
wanted to take care of our dear Flossy for life, and who loved
her very much, and would be kind to her when we are both
'Why, what the- You don't mean to say the girl has
gone and made a fool of herself already!' said Mr. Bunnie,
starting up and glancing uneasily at his wife.
'Well, my dear, you know the dangers that always surround
us. We are here to-day, and gone-gone into the stewpan
to-morrow,' she said tearfully; and we ought to be glad to
see her future provided for.'
'Humph!' said Mr. Bunnie, snorting ominously. 'And
who may this young gentleman be who is so anxious to do
all this for us after we are gone into the stewpan, as you
call it ?'
He is here,' she replied nervously, 'and very anxious to see
you,' and she ran out and beckoned to Huz, who was not far off.
MR. AND MRS. BUNNIE AT HOME. 29
'What, you!' exclaimed Mr. Bunnie, looking at him rather
blankly. My dear, tell Flossy to come here immediately.'
As soon as she had arrived, he turned to Huz and said : My
dear fellow, I esteem and like you very much, I do indeed;
but there is a reason, which I have told to no one, why what
you wish is impossible. I am grieved at it. Flossy, my
darling, don't cry; what I am doing is for your own good, and
you will not judge so hardly of your old father when you have
heard what he has to say. Now, sit down, all of you, and
listen to me :
'Zhe h egrnb of the Waren.
'It was in the year one thousand and sixty-six that our
ancestors first chose this place for their home. At that time
there were no Rabbits in these woods; the oak forests, then as
now, clothed the sides of the glen with their rich foliage, but
the trees were of a more mighty growth, for they had never
been decimated by the woodman's axe, and the wealth of the
lord of the soil consisted chiefly in great herds of Swine, which
ranged freely through the woods, feeding themselves on the
'Where our Warren now exists rose the spacious mansion
of Earl Ethelwolf, and Dingle Farm was the site of a thriving
hamlet tenanted by the Earl's dependents; higher up the
stream stood the grey monastery of St. Withold, in con-
30 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
venient proximity to a deep pool, famous for the size and
quality of its Trout, the worthy monks having always a
keen eye for a good Trout stream, as materially mitigating the
rigour of their fast days, and affording them amusement in
those moments which they spared to secular pursuits. Here,
on a summer evening, the portly form of the good Abbot
might frequently be seen deftly plying his rod and line, and
many a finny giant of the pool fell a victim to his skill and
'Peace and plenty reigned through the land, for the Lady
Elwitha, the Earl's wife, was the idol of all who knew her,
and her gentle influence was ever ready to smooth the frown
from her Lord's forehead when his thralls angered him. In
all her walks she had a constant companion, a beautiful snow-
white Rabbit, a present from the Earl, which was named
Bellitha, from the silver bell which she wore suspended to an
azure silken cord around her neck.
'Time wore on, and the Norman invaders swept through
the land with fire and sword; the Earl went to meet them
with all his young men, and fell, fighting bravely, like a
gallant knight, with his wounds in front, at Battle Bridge.
'The azure cord round Bellitha's neck was changed to sable,
but, though overcome with grief, the Lady Elwitha never
altered in her kindness towards her favourite. There was
sore wailing among the women when they received the tidings
MR. AND MRS. BUNNIE AT ROME. 31
how their husbands, and brothers, and lovers had fallen be-
side their Lord, before the mail-clad legions of the Con-
queror; but, when one terrible day the frightened swineherds
came rushing in to say that the foe was approaching, there
was no lack of courage among the old men and boys who
alone remained in the village. Gathering hastily such arms
as they could collect, they flew to the defence of their beloved
Lady, and, if the fight was short, it was stubborn in the
32 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
extreme. The armour, discipline, and great personal bravery
of the Normans made them victorious; but, when at last
they found themselves masters of the field, hardly a living
soul remained of the once happy population of the village.
The Lady Elwitha had died among the falling rafters of her
house, and the Norman Baron, to blot the terrible scene from
his memory, caused every cottage to be razed to the ground,
and turned the place into a deer-forest.
'Bellitha alone remained uninjured; for, terrified at the
sound of the fighting, she had escaped to the safe shelter of a
hole in the rocks, and night after night she would wander
round the remains of the Lady Elwitha's favourite garden,
mourning the absence of the kind mistress who was never to
'You all know the feud that has existed from time imme-
morial between us and our haughty cousins the Hares, who
look with disdain on our homely and domestic habits, and
that it is rarely we meet them without a fierce quarrel and
'Now it happened that one evening as Bellitha sat
pensively in the wood, she raised her eyes, and behold, there
was a gigantic Hare crouching a short distance from her, his
eyes dilated with anger, as he prepared to spring forward and
'Alone and helpless, she believed that her last moment had
MR. AND MRS. BUNNIE AT HOME. 33
come, and sat trembling with fear, unable to move, when, just
as the hare raised himself to his full height, a voice of
thunder cried: "Stand back, false hare, I am this damsel's
champion, and will meet thee to the death in her defence !"
while a magnificent black rabbit, fully armed, sprang into the
field and placed himself before her. The hare retreated a
few paces, but only the better to brace himself for the
encounter, for the laws of chivalry forbade him to decline the
'For a moment the two gazed at each other with flashing
34 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
eyes and distended nostrils, then, with the speed of lightning,
they rushed together and met in the shock of battle. Bellitha
looked on in an agony of fear and apprehension. Once she
saw her unknown champion on the point of being overcome
by his gigantic antagonist, and a piercing scream escaped from
her; this caused the hare for a second to turn his eyes in her
direction, and gave the rabbit time to recover himself and
gather his energies for a final effort ; the scale turned in his
favour, and a few minutes later the hare rolled bleeding and
disabled at his feet. Bellitha heard her champion's shout of
triumph, and then she fainted.
'When she recovered consciousness, her defender was
kneeling at her side ; the light of victory had faded from his
eyes, and in its place was a softer and more subdued expres-
sion, which thrilled Bellitha with a new and exquisite
'Then, in low, trembling accents, while the breeze was
whispering softly among the leaves, and the sun was shedding
its last mellow rays athwart the branches, the proud victor of
the hour before told her how he in turn had been conquered
by her beauty, and was a suppliant for mercy at her
hands . ..
The marriage was celebrated that night, and the fairy of
the forest, an ancestress of our dear Heartsease, who presided
at the ceremony, uttered this memorable prophecy:
MR. AND MRS. BUNNIE AT HOME. 35
'"Eight hundred years and more shall dwell
Your children in this fairy dell ;
Nor food, nor home your kin shall lack,
Till Black mates White, and White mates Black.'
'Eight hundred years and more have passed, and the
fairy's prediction has been realized, for all that time, notwith-
standing the changes that have swept over the land, our
family has never ceased to thrive and prosper in this its
ancient home. But it has ever been a rule among our elders,
that on the rare occasions when there has been a Black and a
White Rabbit in the Warren, they should never be allowed to
mate. Judge, then, my children, if with this warning ringing
in my ears I can consent to your union, and bring a curse on
our whole race.'
rested her head on
sively, while Mrs.
and wept sympa-
thising tears. Huz stood in a tragic attitude, looking the
picture of black despair; Mr. Bunnie sniffed and snorted, and
tried to look stern, but every now and then had to pass his
paw furtively across his eyes, for the misery he was obliged
to cause the young people touched his kind heart deeply.
'A sound of silver wings,
A music in the air,
THE WEDDING. 37
"A softer murmur in the breeze,
"A whispering among the trees,
Told of a presence fair;
Tender, true, and brave of heart,
Sweetest comfort to impart'-
And Heartsease alighted amidst the sorrow-stricken group.
'I have come,' she said, in her soft winning voice, after
greeting them all kindly, to ask if you have recovered the scare
of last night, when Jim Sykes so rudely broke up our party ?'
Yes, it was a scramble,' said Mr. Bunnie, endeavouring to
look as if his nose was not red and his eyes full of water.
' How we did run! I don't think I ever went so fast in my
life since I beat Towzer," Farmer Nokes's greyhound, in
the two-acre field-but I think I have told you that story
before; let me see, it was in the year---
My dear friends, do not try to talk to me like that,' said
Heartsease, quietly. 'You are seeking to hide something
from me; here is poor Flossy a perfect Niobe of tears, and
Huz looks as if he was going mad, like his cousins the Hares
in March. You know I love you all-will you not tell me
your trouble, and let me try to help you ?'
Wouldn't they ? Of course they would, for were they not
all longing to confide their sorrows to that gentle sympa-
thising heart that was ever.ready to succour the afflicted ?
38 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
It was not long before Heartsease had heard the whole
story; and it was like a gleam of sunlight when they saw the
bright smile that illuminated her face, and hope-that blessed
fountain, which is ever ready to spring bubbling freshly up in
the most barren soil-began to revive, as they watched the
calm serenity of her beautiful eyes.
'My poor friends,' she said gently, after a moment's pause,
'and so you have been very unhappy because my ancestress
uttered that prediction ; but have you not heard that there is
One without whose knowledge a sparrow cannot fall ? Do
you not know that a time will come when even the wolf and
the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw, and
dust shall be the serpent's meat-they shall hurt no more ?
Then why do you fear ?
'My ancestress may have spoken truly in foretelling that
evil times would come upon you when Black mates White,
and White mates Black;" but do you think you can avert
that evil by doing a wrong action ? Believe me, no; it is a
vain delusion, only worthy of the ignorant arrogance of man.
Rather prepare to meet the evil, and, doing what is right, trust
the future to Him whose mercy knoweth no bounds.
'My good Mr. Bunnie, if these two children love each
other truly, it is well that they should be united; and, if I
may ask a favour for the sake of old friendship, it is that the
wedding may take place this day, for I would like to be
!- - ... -----
.; tS ---ir--
EOij 10 'Hmrtanb.
THE WEDDING. 39
present at it; and I must tell you that to-night I am obliged
to leave you for a little while, as I have been summoned to
the Court of Titania, our Fairy Queen, and, when the moon
rises, Snip-Snap is to convey me thither on the wings of his
Here Heartsease blushed a little, though why she should
have done so I cannot tell, as I know her heart was too
guileless to hide a second thought; but, whatever may have
been the cause, she looked wondrously beautiful as the tender
pink mantled shyly in her fair cheeks, and a new light was born
in her eyes, which the Rabbits had never seen there before.
Who could refuse a request from Heartsease ? Certainly
not the Bunnies. Even Mr. Rat was heard to say, that if
her nose were only a trifle longer, and her forehead a leetle
more retreating, she would be irresistible; and he would turn
Conservative on the spot, and never gnaw the parson's
hassock again, if so she willed it.
As for Huz and Flossy, they had no words to express their
gratitude, and when Heartsease went on to tell them how she
had arranged that they should pass their honeymoon in her
beautiful abode under the oak, where they would be quite
safe from interruption, as Nelly, the Squire's only daughter,
never would allow a gun to be fired in the Home Park, joy
reigned in the hearts of all.
Mrs. Bunnie trotted about, making the necessary prepara-
40 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
tions in a more delightful state of bustle than she had ever
been before; Mr. Bunnie strutted here and there, getting
into everybody's way, talking complacently of settlements and
important business, and looking every inch the father of a
marriageable daughter; while Floss and Huz-but it is best
to leave them to their own sweet reflections.
Nor is it for my poor pen to describe how lovely the bride
looked, and how gallantly the bridegroom bore himself, or to
repeat the speeches at the wedding-breakfast, where Professor
Rabbi grew quite poetic, and likened the symmetry of the
bride's beautiful figure to the perfect lines of a toadstool of the
earliest period; and Mr. Coniah ap Lloyd, on returning
thanks for the bridesmaids, was understood to express a wish
that he was a Turkish Rabbit, and could lead them all to the
hymeneal altar himself, when, getting rather confused, he was
promptly coughed down, and everybody ran off to throw rice
after the retreating couple.
Then there was the kissing, and the laughing, and the
crying; and presently some bright genius started the idea
that they should have a dance on the lawn, and away they all
went, flying round and round like mad-
The fun enhancing-
THE WEDDING. 41
right over the head of Mr. Rat, who had retired to his hole
to relieve his feelings by writing a stinging article against
marriages in general, and young ladies in particular; and was
so put out at the noise, that he found it necessary to gnaw his
way through the upper leather of a particularly tough old
boot, which had once belonged to a nobleman, before he
could recover his equanimity.
S' where are you
going so early with
your gun ?'
'Jim and me be
going up tu the War-
ren, sir, tu sheut
down they Rabbits.'
'But what will the Squire say ? I thought he didn't like
your shooting the Rabbits ?'
'That may be, sir; but I hears they Parliament-folk up tu
London ha' given we the right to sheut Hares and Rabbits
like varmin, and I means to have my rights.'
THE ATTACK. 43
'But I suppose you knew the Warren was on your farm
when you took it, and understood that the Squire wished to
reserve the right of shooting ? He hasn't let the Rabbits
increase since then, has he ?'
No, sir; I can't exactly say as he has.'
'Well, don't you think that the beasts of the field should be
allowed some little share in the fruits of the earth as well as
'Maybe, sir, yeu be a scholard with book-larning, and it
bain't for such as I to argufy with yeu; but what I says is,
let they as likes the Rabbits keep 'em; I don't like 'em, and
the sooner I can get rid of 'em off my farm the better I'll be
'Well, Nokes, I can't wish you good sport on such a cruel
And the parson walked away meditating.
'I wonder where Jimn be got tu with them ferrets,' solilo-
quised Nokes, as he sat on the bank; 'I had best go and
A wounded Partridge, which lay concealed in the hedge,
had heard this conversation, and as soon as the farmer with
his gun was safe out of sight, she rose from her lurking-place
and flew swiftly towards the Warren.
'I feel very sad this morning,' said Mrs. Bunnie to her
husband, as she sat gently smoothing her soft hair in the
44 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
shadow of a clump of fern. 'I wish our Heartsease was
back; her words always bring me such comfort, and to-day I
have a presentiment of evil which I cannot shake off.'
That's very foolish of you, my dear,' replied Mr. Bunnie,
stroking his nose; why, only last night, we heard from Flo
how she and Huz were enjoying their honey-spoon,' and her
worthy spouse chuckled heartily at his little joke.
Just then a whirr of wings was heard, and a Partridge
alighted before them.
'I am come,' she said, 'to warn two of your family, called
Floss and Huz, who were once kind to me, that a great
danger hangs over them; Farmer Nokes and Jim Sykes are
going to shoot the Warren this morning.'
Mr. and Mrs. Bunnie exchanged glances.
If you know them,' said the Partridge, earnestly, 'I beg
you to warn them to escape, for I must not tarry here.'
How true were the words of Heartsease!' cried Mrs.
Bunnie, as she watched the retreating bird; 'if we had
opposed the union of our children they would have been here
now, exposed to this danger.'
Hark !' said Mr. Bunnie, as a loud report rang through
the wood, followed by a scream of pain; and they retreated
hastily to the farthest recess of the Warren.
Again the report rang sharp and clear through the morning
air, and was reverberated from tor to tor till it lost itself in
THE ATTACK. 45
the windings of the glen, striking terror into the breasts
Bang, bang, bang, bang, now followed in rapid succession,
and a panting Rabbit, with her fur all torn and blood-stained,
rushed into their hiding-place.
'Four great flaming barrels all emptied at poor me t' she
sobbed, as soon as she had recovered her breath. 'Oh, my
poor heart, how it beats! I never was so frightened in my
Once more the guns were heard, this time followed by the
sharp barking of a terrier.
'That is Jim Sykes's dog Grab,' whispered Mr. Bunnie
nervously; 'keep close, my dear. How glad I am Floss and
Huz are in safety.'
But they were to return to-day,' said his wife; 'suppose
they should be on their way here now!'
Hush what is that ?'
A strange and disagreeable odour began to steal through
the passages of the Warren.
'It is a Ferret,' cried Mr. Bunnie, trembling. 'Oh, my
darling, we are lost! We must make for the open, and then
we shall be shot down ruthlessly.'
'But if we could only warn Floss and Huz,' said the
mother, still thinking of her child, I could die content.'
'Fear not!' replied her husband bravely; 'you run for the
46 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
shelter of the Gorse by the Moor-gate, and I will make for
the Park fence across the open. We may yet be in time;
perhaps our going in different directions will distract their fire
and facilitate our escape.
At this moment the red eyes of the ferret were seen gleam-
ing fiercely at the farther end of the passage, and they knew
that there was not a moment to spare, so, with a last fond
embrace, they parted and dashed into daylight.
Crack-bang went both barrels of a gun, and poor gentle
Mrs. Bunnie rolled gasping in the dust, the life-blood welling
fast from her faithful heart.
Meanwhile Mr. Bunnie, unconscious of his bereavement,
had taken the opposite direction, and was gallantly striving to
reach the Park paling. His way was more exposed than that
which he had advised his wife to take, for he had to cross
some fifty yards of open sward-the same lawn on which they
had danced so merrily the night of the wedding. But Farmer
Nokes's attention had been first attracted to Mrs. Bunnie,
and he did not see him.
Not so, however, with Jim Sykes; he was warily watching
for a rabbit-back, and just as poor Mr. Bunnie was on the
point of reaching the fence, he levelled his deadly weapon
and fired; the shot whistled round him, cutting up the grass
in all directions, but he was still unhurt, when, quick as
light, Jim discharged the second barrel, and a shower of lead
THE ATTACK. 47
lacerated the poor rabbit's side; paternal love, however, was
stronger than pain, and with a desperate effort he dashed
through the fence, and sank mortally wounded on the path
He's hit!' shouted Jim, rushing after him; but Farmer
Nokes, who had turned round, cried out:
Hold hard there, Jim, don't ee go for to cross that fence
-who knows but the keepers may be watching' ?'
And Jim had reluctantly to return.
AFTER THE HONEYMOON.
was the morning after the.
i attack on the Warren, and
Floss and Huz had spent
four days of perfect hap-
piness among the beauti-
ful flowers and ferns that
surrounded the home of
their fairy benefactress;
indeed, the time had
flown so swiftly that they had tarried a day longer than had
at first been intended-for Rabbits' honeymoons, like their
lives, are short--and now they were preparing to return to
the Burrow, which Mr. Bunnie had given them for a country
residence, and were looking forward to surprising the home-
circle at their morning meal, and pleasantly anticipating all
the merry shouts of welcome that would greet their arrival
from the lips of those they loved.
' J dI
AFTER THE HONEYMOON. 49
The sun was rising gloriously in the east; the merry lark
was soaring high in the blue sky overhead, carolling his
blithesome morning hymn; the diamond dewdrops sparkled
brightly on every fern and flower and mazy blade of grass,
and the air was sweet with the bracing fragrance of the early
The two Rabbits hopped gaily along the wooded glades full
of the most delightful anticipations, till they reached the park
fence which separated them from Dingle Farm. In another
five minutes Floss would be in her fond mother's arms, and,
unconsciously hastening their steps, they turned the corner of
the path-and then all their happiness was scattered to the
winds, for right before them, cold and silent in the awful still-
ness of death, lay the well-known form of poor Mr. Bunnie,
with his paws still extended as he had fallen in his last gallant
effort to come to their succour.
How little they recked now of the sunshine and the song of
birds! A great darkness seemed to have come over the
scene, and Floss knelt by her father's side in speechless
Hardly knowing how to comfort his wife in her first great
sorrow, Huz offered to go to the Warren for assistance, and,
promising to be back in a few minutes, ran swiftly down the
The sun climbed higher and higher in the heavens, the
50 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
mists rose curling in white wreaths of vapour from the river,
hour after hour chimed from the distant church, but he did
not return, and still Flossy sat mourning by her father's
At last, frightened by the silence and his long absence, she
crept timidly down the path he had followed, and had not
proceeded more than a hundred yards before she saw her
husband sitting in the hedge looking at her, but with such a
strange expression in his eyes. She called to him, but he
neither moved nor spoke, though she could tell by the move-
ment of his ears that he had heard. Now fairly terrified, she
ran up to where he sat, and soon discovered the cause of his
A fine running noose of copper wire, firmly attached to a
short stake, had been placed so as exactly to fit a hole in the
hedge, through which the Rabbits were in the habit of pass-
ing; it was so fiie, and so artfully concealed by leaves, that
no one in a hurry would notice it-and Rabbits are generally
in a great hurry.
Poor Huz, returning from the deserted Warren with his
heart full of care, had run his head through this noose, and
the more he struggled to push forward, the tighter it closed
round his neck, till at length he could hardly breathe, and was
unable to utter even a cry to warn his wife of his danger.
Floss tried with all her feeble strength to loosen the
AFTER THE HONEYMOON. 51
poacher's cruel snare, but it had got twisted so tight that her
efforts were in vain, though she managed to ease it sufficiently
to allow Huz to breathe freely.
'I will run to the Warren,' she said, 'and get assistance
'Alas!' replied Huz, 'you will find no one there; it has
been attacked quite lately, and even now the smell of the
ferrets linger in its passages, and all our people are either
killed or fled. No, darling; save yourself, and leave me here
till Jim Sykes comes to find me.'
'How cruel you are!' cried Floss, bursting into tears.
'Oh, if our Heartsease were only back, she would advise us !
Ah! now I remember she told us once that Nelly, the Squire's
daughter, would never allow any creature to be killed in the
Park. Yes, I will go myself to seek her, and see if she will
not help us.'
'But think of the danger, darling,' said her husband. 'You
will never be able to reach the house, which is watched by
fierce dogs. No, no; better leave me where I am; I can but
die, and we shall meet again in that happy land which Hearts-
ease told us of.'
'So can I but die,' said the wife; I know I am only a
poor timid little rabbit, but I can be brave for the sake of
those I love-I feel I can!' and, kissing him fondly, she
began to ascend the path that led to the house.
52 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
It was the same path that she had traversed the night that
Huz had first told her of his love, but how different were her
feelings then! Even when they were returning wet and
frightened by the storm, she was far happier than now, when
she felt that, if she had not already been a white Rabbit, she
must have turned grey with the anxiety of the last few
And Huz sat and watched her form retreating in the dis-
tance, knowing that at any moment Jim Sykes might come to
seek his victim.
HEARTSEASE IN FAIRY-
where was Heartsease ?
She was sitting at the
feet of the Fairy Queen
Ston the banks of a glassy
lake, of such a deep,
transparent blue that
the most lustrous
sapphire would have
looked dull beside it.
All around grew
trees, with twisted roots like polished coral, which rose out of
the smooth water in a thousand fantastic shapes, forming long
cool vaulted naves of the most beautiful Gothic tracery, under
which the fairies glided about in their little skiffs made of
54 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
magnolia leaves. Humming-birds, with flaming breasts of
every hue, darted here and there among the branches over-
head, filling the air with soft music; while great blue butter-
flies poised like living turquoises on the delicate petals of
the scented tropical flowers which waved softly to and fro in
the balmy breeze that never knew the chill of winter.
She was in that lovely realm of Fairyland which we are
sometimes permitted to visit in our childish dreams, though
less frequently as we grow older and take a deeper interest
in the stern routine of worldly pursuits.
For one week in each year the little wood-fairy had to
come to the court of her sovereign, and tell her of all she
had been doing to comfort and assist her friends, the animals
in Heatherbell Park; for the Queen liked to know everything
about everybody, and was very fond of a long chat with her
'And do you never feel that you would like some one to
help you in all your duties ?' asked Titania, gently stroking
the silken tresses of the little fairy; 'do you never feel lonely
in your home in the old oak ?'
'I have been very happy among my birds and butterflies,'
said Heartsease, shyly. 'You don't know how good they all
are, and how little trouble they give me. It is quite a plea-
sure to teach them.'
But have you never thought of anyone who could assist
HEARTSEASE IN FAIRYLAND. 55
you with his counsel and strength, when you are in difficulty ?'
persisted the Queen, gently raising the blushing face between
her hands, and trying to look into the tender averted eyes, to
which the unbidden tears were quickly springing. Do you
know, I had an object in sending for you this time; there is
one of my subjects who was once a Gnome but is now an Elf,
in whom I take great interest, and, poor fellow he is very un-
happy; for he has been striving so hard to be good of late,
and he thinks that if you would only consent to assist him, he
might become still more worthy of the good counsel you once
gave him; but you must let him tell you his trouble him--
And, releasing herself from the girl's embrace, she flew
swiftly away, leaving her alone.
Not for long, however; there was the flutter of a pair of
radiant wings above, and in another moment Snip-Snap knelt
beside her with love in his eyes and fear in his heart : he did
not venture to speak, but even as he gazed upon her Hearts-
ease's beautiful head sank lower and lower till her bright curls
rested lightly on his shoulder, and Snip-Snap knew that his
great love had won its reward.
So they too stood,
Their souls together bound
In that great myst'ry
Which is called love.
56 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
Each in the other
New perfection found,
Not that they deemed the more
Of their own worth,
But that new comprehension
Rose to birth
Of their own hearts,
Whereby, both loving,
They more fully knew
How deep true love can be,
How fond, how true.
They were married in that beautiful realm of Fairyland, and
Titania, who took quite a mortal interest in their wedding,
showered fairy gifts upon them, and all the birds burst into'
song, and all the flowers opened their sweetest buds, as the
bridegroom sprang lightly on his swallow steed, and, placing
his beautiful bride before him, flew through the starry sky
towards their home in Heatherbell Park.
a y S poor Flossy was running as
fast as her legs could carry
her to Heatherbell House.
She had got through the
wood in safety, and was
.. crossing the road which led
to the lodge gates, when
'some children, who were
Blackberry hunting, caught
sight of her, and a little
urchin of nine set up a
whoop tally-ho! that sent her heart into her mouth, and nearly
made her turn back again. The old woman who kept the
lodge, however, came out and boxed the child's ears for
making such a noise, which changed his shouts to a dismal
howl, and gave Flossy an opportunity of escaping unseen
58 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
into the shelter of the bracken that grew beside the carriage
It was a very long drive, bordered on either side by stately
elm trees that arched gracefully overhead; and, when Flossy
came to the end of it and saw the house, eleven was already
ringing from the grey, weather-beaten tower of the little
church in the park.
A great difficulty now presented itself. How was she to
get access to Nelly ? The hall-door stood hospitably open,
with this kindly motto carved on the massive lintel:
'Beneath old Heatherbell's wide open gate,
None comes too early or departs too late.'
But a huge English mastiff lay dozing, with his nose between
his paws, on the rug, and Flossy did not know how to get
There was another gate, leading into the stable-yard, which
was at the back of the house, and, as all seemed quiet there,
she crept cautiously towards it, and, crossing the threshold,
peeped into a neat wooden box painted bright green, which
stood beside it.
Hardly had she done so, when there was a dreadful rattle
of iron, and a huge Newfoundland dog sprang out, straining
at his chain, with his mouth wide open, as if about to gobble
her up. Flossy caught a glimpse of two gleaming rows of
teeth, and tumbled over backwards, nearly dead with fright.
FLOSSY'S EXPEDITION. 59
Luckily, the dog's chain prevented him from reaching her, but
a couple of grooms now looked out of the stable-door to see
what was the matter, and, no sooner did they espy her, than
one hurled a pitchfork-handle after her, while the other ran to
loosen the dog.
So Flossy fled for her life, wondering why everybody seemed
to be the enemy of a poor little Rabbit who wished to harm no
She had made for the nearest way out of the yard, and
presently found herself in a beautiful garden, with a lawn of
smooth-shaven grass and beds of bright-coloured flowers
bigger than any she had ever seen before. Sitting on the
lawn, in the shade of an acacia, with her hat lying beside her,
was a young girl reading; she looked so fair and pretty, that
Floss could not help comparing her to Heartsease, and felt
that this must be Nelly, as indeed it was. The gentle expres-
sion of her face gladdened the poor little Rabbit's heart, for it
was kind and good; but the young lady remained so absorbed
in her book, that Flossy did not know how to attract her
attention, and was still hesitating, when the great Newfound-
land came tearing across the lawn towards her. Terror now
banished all shyness, and she fairly leaped into Nelly's
'Oh, what a beautiful rabbit! You pretty dear! Down,
Ponto! Back, sir; go back to your house, you bad dog.
60 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
What do you mean by chasing this sweet darling ? Here,
Kennedy, chain up Ponto at once.
And the abashed monster was led off, crestfallen, by the
If I could only speak in the same quiet tone of authority,
I wonder if I should be obeyed like that ?' sighed Flossy.
'You pretty, sweet Bunny! And was it very much
frightened ? Come, zen, it must tell me all about it.' And
the girl began fondling the Rabbit in her arms.
Until now, it had never occurred to Flossy to think how'
she was to make herself understood; her heart was full of
one great desire, and yet she had no means of expressing it.
We should be very gentle and kind to dumb animals, when
we reflect that few days, perhaps few hours, pass without
many of them being in the position of poor Flossy-longing
to express some sorrow or want, and yet unable to make
themselves understood, unless we try to help them.
It was in vain that Flossy held up her paws and looked
beseechingly at Nelly; the young girl only fondled her the
more, and then, thinking she might be hungry, ran off and
brought her a saucer full of the most beautiful fresh milk and
bread, which Flossy could not touch, for was she not thinking
all the time how Jim Sykes might even then be on his way to
Great tears filled her eyes as she realized her inability to
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FLOSSY'S EXPEDITION. 61
make Nelly understand; but at last she managed to escape
from her arms, and, running a little way across the lawn,
stopped and looked back at her. Nelly followed, while she
ran on again, and the young girl's quick comprehension now
caught her meaning, for, to Flossy's intense delight, she
walked after her without attempting to take her up. But this
joy was short-lived. A cheery voice was heard calling, Nell,
Nelly dear, come here, I want you;' and with a falsetto,
'Yes, father, I'm coming,' Nelly sped back like the wind
towards the house.
Poor Flossy! She felt very wretched when she saw all
her hopes thus vanish in a moment.
Nelly, however, was too kind-hearted to leave her little
friend long in suspense, and soon returned to the lawn accom-
panied by Squire Longacre, whose bluff voice and heavy foot-
steps dreadfully alarmed Flossy. He seemed very much amused
at Nelly's whim of following her, but was too fond of .his
only child to refuse to gratify any wish that she had at heart,
and the two walked briskly after their Rabbit guide towards
the scene of Huz's captivity. No sooner had they reached
the path leading through the wood, than the Squire's quick
eye caught sight of poor Mr. Bunnie lying cold and stiff
among the weeds, and his honest face flushed with anger as
he lifted him up.
'This 'is too bad!' he exclaimed. 'Not only does that
62 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
fellow Nokes take it into his dunder-head that Parliament has
set him free from all past agreements, and shoot my rabbits
without law or license, but here he comes and poaches in my
own park! That, at least, I will not stand. Come along,
Nelly; your little
friend has shown you
What she wanted, and
you may bring her
back to the house as
a pet, if you like. 'I
and must go and see the
Nelly now caught
Flossy up, and began
carrying her towards
the house in her arms.
Would she never be
S, able to make herself
the faithful little wife, in despair, with her eyes straining in
the direction of the spot where Huz lay captive ; then, with
a desperate effort, she loosed herself from Nelly's embrace,
and ran towards the hedge.
You see, she prefers her freedom,' said the Squire; come
FLOSSY'S EXPEDITION. 63
But finding they did not follow, Floss came back and
began pulling at Nelly's skirts with her teeth.
'Oh, papa, she has something more to show us,' said Nelly,
pleadingly. Do come a little farther.'
No, dear; I must go and see about this business.'
'But look how the poor little thing is crying. Only come
a little way, just to please me. Ah, do now !'
The 'Ah, do now!' reminded the Squire of the sweet Irish
wife he had lost, and he could resist no longer, so, with a
muttered 'You little tyrant!-you always manage to get your
own way,' he followed her down the path.
ENDS THE STORY.
S- was a very critical
moment for Huz.
Two long hours had
passed, and still there
wasno sign of Flossy's
return, while a, hun-
dred fearful thoughts
.. as to what might have
"befallen his darling on
her dangerous expe-
dition troubled the poor captive's mind.
Presently a dark shadow was cast across the hedge, and,
looking up, he beheld the burly form of Jim Sykes looming
above him, with a short heavy stick in his uplifted hand, ready
to knock him on the head. Jim caught firm hold of the
rabbit's back and gave the stick a flourish, while the sunny
ENDS THE STORY. 65
woodland landscape seemed to swim round and round before
poor Huz's eyes.
Then there was a sound of voices, and two little fair hands
were stretched protectingly above his head, while the poacher
was hurled backwards by some unseen power into the ditch,
where he sat among the brambles and nettles, gazing blankly
up at the angry face of the Squire, who was sternly addressing
'So it is you, Jim Sykes, who poach my woods, is it ?' he
said, as he shook the ruffian by the collar. I have long
suspected this, but now I have caught you in the act, and, as
I am a magistrate, you shall repent it. Here, Rodger,' to a
labourer who was passing through a neighboring field,
'take this fellow up to the house, and see that he does not
Meanwhile, Nelly had very gently loosened the wire from
Huz's neck, and was softly stroking his silky ears, while Floss
nestled up beside her and dumbly strove to express her
Two months have passed. It is one of those bright sunny
winter mornings, with an elastic freshness in the air, and a
cheery sparkle of hoar-frost on the hedgerows, that we are
often blessed with in dear old England towards the end of
the year. The berries clustering on the holly-trees are grow-
66 HEARTSEASE AND THE RABBITS.
ing redder and redder, to be ready for Christmas, as Mr.
Cheshire Cat punningly remarks; and, with a warm fur cape
over her shoulders, thick boots on her tiny feet, and cheeks
almost as rosy as the berries, Nelly is taking a run round the
garden, while behind her scamper Floss and Huz, delighted
to get out.
The two Bunnies have come to the conclusion that the life
of a wild Rabbit is not a happy one in these hard times, and
have placed themselves under the protection of little Nelly,
who has had a beautiful warm hutch built for them in her own
garden, and never fails to visit it every day. If they ever
regret for a moment their old free life at the Warren, the
thought is banished at once when they think of their present
security and the kindness of their gentle mistress.
As they cross the carriage-drive, a man who is raking the
gravel touches his hat to Nelly. It is their old enemy Jim
Sykes the poacher; but Floss and Huz no longer regard him
with terror, for the good-natured Squire, instead of sending him
to prison, has given him a chance to reform, and made him an
under-gardener. So, in future, Jim will have to spend his
time in growing lettuce-leaves for Nelly to feed her Rabbits
on, instead of setting snares to kill them.
Presently the merry trio reach the foot of Heartease's
oak, and a bright smile lights up Nelly's pretty face, for she
ENDS THE STORY. 67
knows that the fairy will be at home to receive her. They
have become great friends, these two gentle natures, and
hardly a day passes that Nelly does not visit the old oak with
Floss and Huz for companions; while Heartsease, now the
happiest of brides, delights in seeing them and telling them
To-day the little fairy looks rather grave, for Snip-Snap has
just told her that he has remarked a grey-haired old gentle-
man, with keen restless eyes, looking very thoughtfully at
their oak as he walked through the wood; and Mr. Cheshire
Cat, who lives at a neighboring great house, says that there
is a woodman's axe among his luggage, and he thinks his
name is Weg, for he saw it written on his portmanteau. On
hearing which Mr. Weasel was observed to wink twice, and
put his finger to his nose in a very significant manner.
Nelly, however, hastens to assure her fairy hostess that she
believes Mr. Weg means well, and that at any rate she need
not be alarmed, for she knows that her father will never con-
sent to an ancient oak of such goodly growth being levelled
in his park, even though the Czar of all the Russias were to
So Heartsease smiles again, and tells them of the
wonderful dreams she is sending to the flowers, which have
gone to rest during the long winter months, like sleeping
6S HEARTSEASE .AND THE RABBITS.
beauties waiting till the warm kiss of the spring sunshine
shall awaken them, and they are as happy as possible.
I hope, dear reader, you may always'be the same.
Peace and goodwill, friends true-and tried,
Be with you all this Christmastide;
Happy each home, happy each one-
Farewell, kind reader ; my story's done.
BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS AND ELECTROTYPERS, GUILDFORD.
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