SAlardos looked surprised and pained"-p. 28.
ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE THOMAS AND T. R. MACQUOID.
SAMPSON LOW, SON, AND CO.,
47, LUDGATE HILL.
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA
THE INQUISITIVE CHIMNEY-POT
THE GRASSY SEA .
TIE BuIs .
THREE CHRISTMAS DAYS
THE REVENGE OF THE FLOWERS
THE BAT'S NEST .
LIVE AND LET LIVE
THE PLATE-BASET .
THE USELESS LITTLE HANDS
THE GENTEEL CAT .
" WHERE THERE'S A WILL THERE'S A WAY."
HECTOR STICKLEBACK .
THEI COITRSTMAS EVERGREENS
TIIE APPROACII O WINTER .
TOAD AND LIZARDS .
THE COTTAGE IN THE LANE
TUE SPIDER AND THE BUR
THIE REVENGE OP THE FLOWERS
THE SPIDER, THE WASP, AND THE BUTTERFLY
THE USELESS LITTLE HANDS
LAZO, FIGHTING THE SPIDER
TuE CHRISTMAS EVERGREENS
G. If. Thomas.
T. I. AMacquoid.
G. H. Thomas 69
T. R. l1., 1 ..... 71
ENGIIAVED) BY EDMIUND EVAINS.
l ir oa that iiulit Gut to Tea.
T'S very lucky for me,"
:,'' said a bloated, rough-
looking Toad, as he roll-
-ed something carefully
S between his fore-feet, and
then swallowed it down
like a pill, "that I've
cast my old coat on the
6.,- very day of Miss Polly-
>. wog's tea-party. I've
I -. felt sleepy and drowsy
these two days. The
I poor old creatures would
:'' have been quite disap-
pointed, as they natu-
rally look to a Toad of
my experience and pro-
perty for a little advice
The Toad pompously
cleared his throat here, and twinkled his bright eyes round in
search of something juicy; for swallowing one's own skin is dry
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA.
work, let me tell you. He darted out his tongue at a worm
crawling near, but without success.
"Never mind," said he, "it will soon be tea-time; I shall take
an hour's nap, and then set out."
He felt refreshed when he woke, and his new skin looked very
much better than the old one. It didn't seem to make him any
more active, though; he hobbled and waddled along sadly.
"People should not live the other side of a stubble-field,"
sighed he; I declare my legs are quite sore with this prickly
stuff, and my new skin's so tender." However, he was not a
really cross Toad, so be soon left off grumbling, and waddled
as close as he could to the hedge-bank. Some bright-eyed lizards
were stretching themselves in the sunshine, coiling their tails
in graceful fashion over their backs, the under part of the skin
looking red in the sunlight.
"My dear friends," said the Toad, stopping short in his walk,
and puffing a good deal, why don't you take a little gentle
exercise this fine afternoon ?-far better for your health, you
know, than lounging on a bank. Fie! I'm shocked at such
laziness. When I was a youngster, I used to take long con-
stitutional walks several times a day, to promote circulation."
"Waddles, not walks," said one of the lizards, looking over
his shoulder at the intruder, as he clambered over' his two
The Toad did not answer directly; he thought a good deal
of the lizard's rudeness, and swelled with indignation.
People who live in glass-houses shouldn't throw stones," he
muttered, as he proceeded on his journey. I 'm sure they move
queerly enough, although they do run fast sometimes. Who
would have a tail that could help it ?"
Miss Pollywog resided in a pretty lane op the opposite side
of the stubble-field. A deep ditch, full of cresses and forget-
me-nots, and pleasantly shadowed by trees, separated the field
from the lane. Three of the visitors had already arrived, and
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA.
were amusing themselves in swimming up and down, .croaking
with delight, and showing their yellow legs to the best pos-
sible advantage, while they awaited the arrival of the Toad.
A good many remarks were made upon his non-appearance.
"I wonder why Miss Pollywog asked him?" said a frolic-
some youngster, who had excited the admiration of the others by
his rapid evolutions. "Dear me! he's frightful to look at, and
moves like a slug."
Talking of slugs," said his sister, a greedy-looking young lady
Frog, there's such a heap, spread in a great dock-leaf, Ma, and a
great pile of worms besides."
"I know that," said the youngster; "and that's why Miss
Pollywog keeps so still. What a lark! she aren't leave the
worms, or they'd slip away in a twinkling."
"Oh, bother the worms!" said his sister. "I'd rather go
without them than lose such a comfortable bath as we are having.
But what's Miss Pollywog about ?"
Miss Pollywog seemed quite puckered all over; she saw her
respected friend, Mr. Toad, advancing, and yet she dared not
move a step to greet him, for fear the worms should escape.
However, the Toad did not appear affronted, but hobbled up to
her as briskly, as he could. While a good many compliments
were passing between the hostess and her guest, the three Frogs
scrambled out of the water, and hopped up to them. Miss Polly-
wog introduced them as Mrs. Speckles, her son and daughter.
Miss Speckles giggled, as the Toad made three separate bows,
and then she greedily eyed the slugs.
The Toad looked at her and her brother, and finished his
survey with a slight sigh.
"It is some time since we met, madam," he said to their
mamma, who was squeezing close to Miss Pollywog, evidently
with an eye to the worms, for the young folks were already
making havoc among the slugs; "I was not aware you had a
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA.
Nor have I, sir," said Mrs. Speckles, sharply. My boy and
girl are certainly .very large for their age, but they are quite
children, poor dears. Taddy, my darling, make a little room, will
You'll make yourself ill, my boy, if you eat so fast," said the
Toad to Taddy, who had just begun upon the worms.
"Bless your rough coat, sir," said Taddy, I haven't half done
yet! You should see what a tea I eat at home; you would stare,
you would. I nearly burst myself sometimes."
"Goodness me!" sighed the Toad, "how very sad! You
should always leave off hungry, my boy. Remember this for the
Yes, remember," said Miss Pollywog. "Mr. Toad's advice is
always worth remembering."
If she had been left alone, Mrs. Speckles would, most likely,
have boxed Taddy's ears, and called him a glutton; but no
mother likes her office to be usurped, so she observed, She was
thankful to say, her children had always had good appetites, and
had never been stinted."
"But don't you think that a pity ?" said the Toad.
"Indeed, I should think so !" said Miss Pollywog. She took
great pleasure in snapping at Mrs. Speekles when under male
"Ah, but then, my dear Miss Pollywog, you are not a mother,"
said Mrs Speckles.
Miss Pollywog trembled with anger at this retort.
"Bless me! no indeed!" she replied, "I'm not, and I'm
thankful for it. Mothers seem to have such strange feelings.
SFeelings blind people sometimes-don't you think so, Mr. Toad ? "
"Very much so, my dear madam," said the Toad, helping him-
self to a fine juicy worm-he was so thick-skinned himself, that he
imagined all the world was as fortunate-" and that is one reason,
" madam, why strong feeling of any kind is to be deprecated-it
always leads people astray out of the regular beaten path of life."
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA.
"But you do not object to the tender feelings, do you," said
Miss Pollywog, with a sidelong glance.
"Well, no," he replied-but the soft glance was quite thrown
away upon him-" I'm very tender myself, just now; that stubble-
field's uncommonly prickly."
Miss Speckles giggled again. She had not long emerged from
tadpoleism, and was of a romantic nature; and, like all youthful
beauties, she imagined her single seniors, at least those of her own
sex, lost all their sentiment when time robbed them of their
charms-or ought to, at any rate.
She had commenced a flirtation with a young Mr. Pollywog,
and she thought it exceedingly unkind and spiteful on the part of
the spinster, that she had not invited her nephew to tea.
Master Taddy seemed to find the party dull. When he had
eaten as much as he could manage, he yawned, and gaped, and
stretched his legs and arms, which were much too long for his
His mother nudged him; but his sister, who evidently
considered that when young people honour elderly folks with
their much-sought presence, they may behave as they like, smiled
The truth was, she cared for nothing but admiration, and
without it she felt, as she expressed it, "horribly bored."
I say," said young. Mr. Speckles, breaking in upon a dialogue
between Miss Pollywog and the Toad, on the subject of digestion,
"what a jolly-looking chap that great Water-newt is !"
Young Speckles had just completed his education at a first-
rate public school in a neighboring marsh, where education was
carried on on a very broad basis."
"I say, Ally" (Miss Speckles rejoiced in the name of Ally
Croaker), "what a pity you can't have that fine fringe on your
coat-wouldn't you like it, just !"
"No," said the Toad, "your sister is, I'm sure, quite content,
and far too sensible to care about beauty. Beauty, after all, is
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA;
only skin-deep, and young people are the last who should care for
adornment-simplicity suits them best. It is when charms are
on the wane, that a little art is required to elevate them."
"Yes, exactly so," said Miss Pollywog. "You think so, I'm
sure, dear Mrs. Speckles ?"
Well, I don't know; I believe I side with the young people.
All that is gay and bright seems their natural property-at any
rate, they'll think so, whatever you may tell them to the con-
trary," she added, laughing. "But, Taddy, I would have you
beware of the ditch when that great Newt comes this way; you
and Ally would just be a supper for the voracious monster.
"Yes, mother," and "We'll take care, dear," they replied, as
they hopped off together. What a jolly old muff Mr. Toad is !"
young Speckles whispered to his sister.
"Had I not better follow them ?" said the Toad, in a sort of
heavy puffet. "They seem much too heedless to be trusted
"Yes; I wonder you trust them alone," said Miss Pollywog.
"Thank you," said Mrs. Speckles, with dignity, "I can quite
trust them, and I had rather they were left to themselves."
Mr. Toad and Miss Pollywog shook their heads, and looked
"But, my dear madam," said the Toad, with as much excite-
ment as was possible to his cold temperament, "do you allow
young people to think and act for themselves ?"
Surely not!" chimed in Miss Pollywog.
Mrs. Speckles was of an irritable nature, although she generally
managed to keep it under control; but her children were too
precious in her eyes to be made the subject of common talk,
especially with casual acquaintances; so she answered, warmly-
"I must tell you, Mr. Toad, as I told Miss Pollywog just now,
that people cannot understand these things till they have children
of their own. Outsiders are sure to see all the faults, and, of
course, make no allowance."
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA.
"Pray don't excite yourself, dear Mrs. Speckles," said Miss
"No, indeed!" said the Toad. "Excitement is so injurious to
digestion, that it is a wonder to me how any sensible person can
give way to it. Be calm, my dear madam-always be calm!"-
he cleared his throat with emphasis-" I only wanted to show
you that bystanders see things more clearly than those whose
feelings are interested; their judgment is not biassed."
I know that, as well as you can tell me," said Mrs. Speckles,
very shortly; "but I should hope each child's mother must know
best how to manage it. I believe I must soon wish you good
evening, for I promised Mr. Speckles to be home in time to give
him his supper."
"Really, now does your husband eat supper ?" said the Toad.
"I am surprised! Does he know that it is very injurious to
digestion-will shorten his life, in fact ? You should remonstrate,
my dear madam; you should not permit such an unwholesome
practice; it will- "
But Mrs. Sparkles could not bear any more-
My husband does what he likes, Mr. Toad, as I hope you will
when you enter the married state; but it seems to me you're far
too busy looking after your neighbours' affairs to attend to your
own. Good evening, Miss Pollywog; good evening Mr. Toad!"
and Mrs. Speckles hopped after her offspring, feeling very sore
and provoked with herself for having been provoked by such
"Bless my soul!" exclaimed Mr. Toad, puffing out his cheeks
The old story," she said to herself, "' maids' children.' I
could find it in my heart to wish them each a ready-made family
of six. They'd be obliged to mind their own business then, poor
things. Well, they've got nothing to think about, that's clear.
But I won't drink tea again with them in a hurry; it has made
me quite warm, I declare."
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA.
She soon found her children, and, much to Taddy's chagrin
carried them off with her, for the Water-newt was glaring at them
with hungry, disappointed eyes, after having vainly tried to coax
them into the ditch.
'The Toad, soon after, took his leave. He said he had spent a
very pleasant evening, and of course he had. He had fulfilled
the two objects of his visit-eaten a hearty tea, and interfered and
found fault to his heart's content. What greater enjoyment
possible ? It is pleasant to feel yourself wiser than anyone
else, but infinitely pleasanter to show people that you are so!
It was now nearly dusk. He waddled slowly along, ruminating
on the folly of indulgence in parents, and, most especially,
how much obliged all the world ought to be to him, Mr. Toad,
for the great care he took of them, in giving them such good
"What ignorance there is among people, to be sure," he
thought, "and what self-conceit!" He was passing near a piece
of marshy ground, as he thought this, and from out of it arose
the evening chorus of the frogs --" Kur-r-r-k Kur-r-r-k -
Kur-r-r-k!" He stopped to listen-" There's a case in point;
did any one ever hear such a din ? and I'm sure they think it
beautiful! Then they're as proud as peacocks of the way they
can hop! Ah, I'm glad I'm not a frog!" and he again resumed
his slow progress, with his head very much in the air, on the
look-out for more errors in creation; when suddenly he rubbed
against something very prickly.
Halloa!" he exclaimed, "what, another stubble-field, when I
came all round by the road to avoid it ? Ah, gracious patience
me! it's alive, I declare! Well I never!" And the Toad almost
jumped with terror when the prickly ball unrolled and sidled up
Don't you know an old friend when you see him ?" said the
"Friend, indeed!" said the Toad. "It's not the act of a friend
THE TOAD THAT WENT OUT TO TEA.
to make a pincushion of my side. Oh dear! you've taken all my
The Hedgehog laughed. "It will soon come back," said he;
"you're seldom long silent."
"Well," gasped the Toad, "if it were my last word, I must
protest against your wearing these nasty bristles-they endanger
life, and property too. I believe you have quite spoilt my new
skin. You should give some warning of your presence, and not
lie there, rolled up in a ball, like a log or a stone, so that no one
"If you'd been minding your own business, you would have
seen me," said the Hedgehog. "Now, I always mind mine, and
just now I'm on the look-out for a supper. If you were a frog,
I'd gobble you up directly. At any rate, if my skin's bristly, it's
"Well, never mind that," said the Toad-he was so glad to
save it, that he forgave the insult to his skin-" but now, just
tell me if you ever saw anything so foolish as the conduct of that
bat ? There he goes, skimming about, darting into people's eyes
without the least noise or warning-in fact, making himself a
perfect nuisance. The folly of the world is really beyond--"
But here a fearful pain shot through his side, and with a cry
of agony, he fell senseless. A ploughman, returning from his
work, had set his hob-nailed shoe on him in the dusk.
"What is the good of having bright eyes, unless you use
them ?" said the hard-hearted Hedgehog. ow, I always mind
my own business;" and he left his unlucky friend to his fate.
The poor Toad recovered his senses, but not the use of the
wounded side, which dragged along wearily for the rest of his
life, keeping him always in mind of the eventful evening he went
out to tea.
" W HEREVER does the smoke go to, I wonder ?" exclaimed
a young Chimney-pot one gusty September morning; it
puffs out, and out,. as if it would smother us entirely, and then
sweeps round that corner, and is out of sight in an instant.
Grandfather, you are much better able to see than I am; can't
you tell me anything about it ?"
And the speaker, a young Chimney-pot, who stood about third
in a very respectable but many-coloured and multiform stack,
puffed a whole volume of smoke in the face of the tall cowled
relation she addressed.
I certainly stand at the edge, and so I suppose you imagine,
you foolish, giddy-pated creature, that I stare up and down the
street all day, poking my nose into other people's business. If I
were to be staring here and there, as you would have me, I should
be very likely to get into trouble."
Trouble, indeed! I never heard of such a thing happening to
a Chimney-pot. I am quite glad of the idea, for, to confess the
truth, I find this upper life a dull one: nothing but sky to look at
all day long. I often wish myself back in the cheerful little yard
I was brought up in. But what kind of trouble could happen to
you, Gaffer ?"
The elder, thus addressed, did not seem quite pleased with his
neighbour's familiarity, for he shook his cowl about a good deal
before he answered her-
"Young people, especially those who dress in a new-fangled
THE INQUISITIVE CHIMNEY-POT.
manner, are apt to be inquisitive and impertinent; if you had a
little more reflection, you would know, without giving me the
trouble of saying it, that if I were always twisting my head about,
as you would have me do, I should, perhaps, send the smoke down
again instead of letting it escape, and then I should have a trouble-
sor-e monster brushing away inside me, and positively shaking
his brush in triumph through one of my nostrils; he comes often
enough, without any encouragement on my part."
It really is a shameful use to put us to," sighed the young
one, glancing down at her elaborate petticoat, the ornamental
flutings of which were becoming sadly smoke-stained; "but I
would not care for anything, if I could only find out where the
smoke goes to." And she looked drearily round in search of
Good advice is rarely taken, even when we sweeten the edges
of the cup; but if the draught is proffered in its natural bitter-
ness, it is sure to nauseate;
Our pretty Terra-Cotta Chimney-pot, surrounded by respectable
and discreet white, grey, and zinc neighbours, of all shapes and
sizes, but perfectly unornamented, felt herself decidedly ill-used
and unappreciated, and was, consequently, always on the look-out
"If I dared but ask that majestic young King!" said she,
looking up at a tall zinc vis-a-vis, with his top cut in the shape
of a crown. He towers above us all, and can easily see round
the corner; but Grandfather keeps such a sharp look-out that I
am afraid. I will try, though, when he is asleep, as he will be,
after dinner, I expect; for I see that his services are not required
very late. The King, I know, is very wakeful, and so can I
be, if I try. I feel sure he admires me extremely, though he
dare not look this way, because Grandfather is so prejudiced,
and calls him 'a new-fangled nincompoop;' but what can any-
thing so old-fashioned and out of the world as Grandfather know,
THE INQUISITIVE CHIMNEY-POT.
As evening advanced, the smoke curled more and more lazily
from the cowled Chimney-pot, and finally the tiny wreaths
Our young friend's heart-for Chimney-pots have hearts,
although this is one of the "things not generally known," that
has not been familiarly, explained to the public-throbbed
violently, and smoke issued from her in quick spasmodic puffs.
She presently contrived to waft a long sentimental wreath
towards her very brilliant neighbour, whose polished surface
plainly betokened his recent erection.
You seem melancholy this evening, my charming cousin,"
said he, conceitedly-for he was very vain of his appearance, and
silly enough to be enraptured with the attentions of so well-
dressed a Chimney-pot as our young friend Terra-Cotta-" will
you tell me why ?"
I fear it would be quite useless," said she, "for you could not
help to remove it."
Do not be too sure of that," said the King; "people of my
height and figure have great advantages, and see far more of
life than others; I will soon console you, little one."
Terra-Cotta did not half like so familiar an address, but as
he immediately added-
You are such a pretty little creature, it would be quite a
pleasure to do so,"-
She was appeased, and confided to him her vehement desire
to know what became of the smoke-
"For," said she, I must know; my curiosity leaves me no
peace, day or night, and if I do not soon find out, I shall crack
from sheer vexation."
"Dear-dear-dear,' laughed King Zinc, how very amusing!
why, you can satisfy yourself as easily as possible. I, of course,
know, because a Chimney-pot in my position of society knows
everything, public and private; but you had much better find
it out for yourself, and therefore I shall not tell you. The very
THE INQUISITIVE CHIMNEY-POT.
next time there's a high wind, instead of clinging close to the
roof, let the blast sway you as it likes; and when it bends
you forward, look well over the parapet, and you'll see where the
smoke goes to."
Terra-Cotta tenderly puffed out her thanks; she passed a
sleepless night, eagerly watching the gathering clouds, which
she surely foresaw must soon be followed by the wind that was
driving them onward; gradually it rose in sweeping eddies, each
increasing in violence. At length came a prolonged gust-a sort
Terra-Cotta followed the advice of the treacherous King,
abandoned herself to the guidance of the blast, and leant wildly
forward in the direction of the drifting smoke. *
There was a sharp, despairing cry !
The cloud of smoke was whirled rapidly away by the wind,
and there lay on the pavement the pretty, too inquisitive
Chimney-pot-shattered to a thousand fragments.
IN one of those vast oceans miles away is a wonderful submarine
island-or rather continent-for it extends some hundreds of
miles. It is not altogether submerged beneath the waves; the
thick vegetation of which it seems entirely composed rises con-
tinually above the surface of the water, hence called by mariners
The Grassy Sea."
In a sequestered nook of this aquatic territory, shaded from the
meridian heat of the tropical sun by a clustering screen of the
sea-vine, a young and lovely being lay reclining at the feet of her
mate. She looked youthful, almost childish, yet the expression of
her face was not quite that of childish innocence. There was an
occasional furtive glance in the liquid blue eyes, and a discon-
tented pout about the rosy under-lip, that told a want of truth
and singleness of heart. Her gaze, just then, was fixed on her
husband, who was fondly playing with her golden hair. He
had lustrous eyes like Zephita's, of a darker hue, but filled with
noble fire and soul, which seemed now all centred in the beautiful
creature beside him.
"And will you not take me to the Coral Wood, Alardos ?"
I cannot, my own darling, as I told you before. Our king
commands my attendance. I am indeed very sorry, dear one-do
not give me the pain of refusing you again."
Zephita pouted, and raised her head as if repelling her hus-
THE GRASSY SEA.
A month ago, when first we were wed, you would have dived
to the crystal-green rock for my sake; and now- "
"And now my darling is self-willed, for I know she loves me
really too well to wish me to sacrifice honour to her caprice."
Zephita pouted a little while longer, spite of the tender, melan-
choly looks of her husband; then suddenly turning, she threw
her arms round his neck.
I was wilful," said she. "Never mind; I will be very good
for a whole week, to make amends."
Alardos strained her to his heart, with a fondness that showed
how anxious he was for reconciliation, and, soon after, left her.
As soon as he was out of sight, Zephita gathered up her long
. tresses, which she fastened with a spray of bright-green seaweed,
and walked impatiently up and down the arbour. She then
amused herself, for some time, plucking grapes. Weary of this,
and finding a brilliant anemone growing near, she began torment-
ing the unhappy little creature, until it drew in all its slender
arms, and remained so firmly closed that there was no further
amusement to be extracted from it. With a sigh of impatience,
she threw herself on her couch, and remained quiet for a few
minutes; then starting up, she cried-
"I am resolved to see the Coral Grove! Alardos will not return
for some time; and I am sure I can easily find my way. He will
not be angry if I tell him of it afterwards, and if he is, I can soon
kiss love back again into his eyes."
For some distance her path lay along a tolerably smooth road,
shaded by vines laden with sea-grapes, while, at their base,
covering the bank from which they sprung, were bright masses
of pink and rose-coloured weed, which, in this submarine region,
displayed their minute foliage fully expanded.
These bushes soon grew thicker and larger. The smooth path
became encumbered with sharp-edged murexes and strombuses,
that pained Zephita's delicate feet so much that she nearly gave
up her journey, and more than once she trod on the porcupine-
THE GRASSY SEA.
like spikes of the sea-urchin, which drew the blood. Just then,
however, she caught, through the rose-coloured bushes, a vision
of something bright and glittering; and, curiosity overcoming the
pain of her wounded feet, she again hastened onward. When she
reached the object that had attracted her, she started back with
an exclamation of delight.
On a pyramidal rock of chrysolite lay, piled in irregular heaps,
masses of the beautiful Venus's-ear shell, whose polished centres,
reflecting the rays of the setting sun, had caught her gaze.
She sate down to rest here, while hundreds of tropical birds,
seeking their fishy prey, darted in and out of the water around
her. Fishes of all kinds leaped about, equally intent on chasing
their smaller brethren; while, in the distance, soft sounds of.
music added to the wonderful beauty of the scene. The shadows
grew longer, and reminded Zephita that she must not delay.
More and more rugged grew the road. The rose-coloured
trees had given place to pendent green filmy masses, similar in
texture to that which formed the apparent soil of all this region.
At first the water had often not reached higher than her waist,
but for some time past it closed high over her head; she was
evidently nearing the roots of ocean. The light grew dimmer and
dimmer; the path became slimy and 'slippery; strange and un-
known sea-plants grew and floated around her; reptiles of every
shape and form started from beneath her feet; the toad-fish and
sea-devil startled her with their frightful forms; and the great sea-
worm looked evilly at her with his fiery eyes, as he glided away
among the rose-lipped shells that formed high banks on either side.
Tired, and frightened at the increasing darkness, Zephita at
length reached the end of her journey. Suddenly she found her-
self surrounded on all sides by immense trees, whose stems,
branches, and leaves were formed of red coral, except here and
there, where a few white boughs shone all the more brightly in
contrast. The summits of the trees were hid from her gaze-
they seemed towering to the sky; while below, the massive roots,
THE GRASSY SEA.
spreading on every side, cushioned here and there by sea-moss,
formed pleasant resting-places.
The charming colour and form of the coral branches entranced
Zephita: she tried to break off a branch from some of the long,
pendent boughs that reached the ground; but this was no easy
matter, so she contented herself with collecting the twigs that lay
As soon as her eyes became accustomed to the obscurity, she
saw that it was principally caused by the closely-intersecting
branches above, and that if she could, in any way, ascend, she
should once more enjoy the sunshine. She was an excellent
climber, and, having recovered her fatigue, she thought that by
scaling one of the coral trees her object would be effected. She
paused when about half-way up, and, as she did so, her hand
rested on something cold and glutinous. She looked closer, and
perceived, to her astonishment, innumerable small gelatinous
creatures, swarming in and out of every interstice in the
Hastily she recommended climbing, which grew more and
more difficult as she approached the surface of the water; for the
branches here were so closely interwined, that the ascent became
more like that of a rock than of a tree. However, to her great
joy, the coral-worms had disappeared, and the scarlet hue of the
coral was infinitely more vivid.
The sun was still' shining brightly when she emerged from the
water. She was now above the level of the ocean, so that she had
a clear view of the distant horizon. As she turned, she perceived
what, at first sight, seemed an immense rock near her; but, on
examining it more attentively, she saw it was one of the won-
derful creatures Alardos had told her of, and which, he said,
occasionally moved across that region, full of living beings similar
that I could see some of them!" thought Zephita. "I
wonder if they can speak ? "
THE GRASSY SEA.
As she continued gazing at the noble vessel, which appeared to
be stationary, except for the gentle undulation caused by the
waves (where she stood the water was smooth as glass), a small
dark object was lowered from its side, and presently she saw
it moving towards her. Zephita watched its progress with
breathless interest. It came nearer, and presently paused within
a few feet of her; and she then perceived, with delight not
unmingled with fear, a living being seated within it, who guided
its motions. Zephita was fascinated, and unable to move.
"Is she a reality, or an illusion ?" murmured the creature, as
he gazed at Zephita with such intense and fervent admiration,
that she felt her eyes droop, and a warm blush rise on her cheek.
But she soon looked up again, for anything so beautiful she had
never beheld. His eyes were blue as the summer sky, and his
hair waved in golden locks over his shoulders. She was roused
from her gaze by his voice:
"Are you a mermaid, fair creature, sent to turn our brains and
lure our vessel to destruction ? or are you a human being, like
I know not," said Zephita, what a mermaid may be; but I
would not harm you, even if I had the power."
I believe you," said the beautiful stranger; be you mermaid,
nymph, or kelpie, you look more made for love than for hate;"
and he moved his boat nearer as he spoke.
Zephita's heart beat with a new, delicious sensation, at the
music of his voice-a feeling of burning, almost delirious, happi-
ness thrilled through every fibre. She had never experienced
anything of .this kind in listening to Alardos; and, as his image
flitted across her thoughts, a dim consciousness of wrong, for a
moment tempted her at once to descend the coral bank, and com-
mence her homeward journey; but even while the warning
thought trembled into life, the soft, sweet voice of the stranger
silenced its counsels.
"You are fairer," he continued, "than any daughter of Earth,
THE GRASSY SEA.
and your eyes speak loving tenderness: if I could find some
favour in them," added he, entreatingly.
Zephita did not speak, but her large lustrous eyes showed no
sign of displeasure at the warmth of his words and looks.
Do you dwell alone here ? When, from the ship, I described a
moving object on the Coral Bank, I did not deem so fair a crea-
ture inhabited it."
Zephita's eyes beamed still more brightly, as she listened to his
flattering words and glances.
This is a deserted place," said she, only inhabited by coral-
worms;. my home is at some distance."
Then it is only by chance that I have encountered you.
Oh, say," he continued, passionately, "that this shall not be our
last meeting! I shall see you again? Let me find you here
Poor vain little Zephita! her heart throbbed and bounded with
a delicious tumult of fear and delight, so that, for some moments,
she could not speak. Now she longed to be beside the stranger,
and the next instant to fly from him.
The young sailor perceived her agitation. Why should you
fear me? I will not harm you, lovely being. Come, sit beside me."
He tried gently to draw her into the boat; but Zephita shook her
head. "Well, then, sweetest, I must come to you," he cried,
apparently so intoxicated with her wondrous beauty as to forget
all restraint or prudence; and rising, he tried to throw his arms
round her, but Zephita started back.
"No, no, do not come!" she cried in terror. "You would
perish miserably: such is the law of this region. I will be here
again to-morrow-I dare stay no longer now."
She waved both arms towards him with exquisite grace, then
disappeared beneath the water.
THE GRASSY SEA.
As Zephita descended the coral-trees, and commenced her
homeward journey, her heart seemed filled with wonderful, inex-
plicable feelings, more delightful than any she had hitherto
experienced. The increasing darkness at length roused her from
her reverie, and she became fearful of losing the track. Presently
she saw at some distance a faint glimmering light; it gradually
became more distinct, and she perceived Alardos, bearing on a
staff one of those minute creatures--the phosphorescent marvels
of the ocean.
"My darling, I am so rejoiced to have found you!" he cried,
throwing his arm round her.
Zephita turned from him with a mixture of aversion and
shame. She could have endured his reproaches just then far
better than his tenderness. Alardos, attributing her downcast
looks to sorrow for her disobedience, forebore to question her;
he only said, playfully-
"I ought to have known that feminine curiosity must be
gratified at any risk. Only, dearest, if you had waited one hour,
we could have gone together. You might have been frightened,
you little adventurous darling, in that wild solitude. You are
very tired, are you not ?" and as he spoke he put his arm round
Why did Zephita turn her head shudderingly from her husband
as he fondly stooped to embrace her ? Alardos looked surprised
and pained; but, thinking fatigue was probably the cause of
her strange manner, he walked silently beside her till they
reached the arbour glittering with pale green light. Placing
Zephita on the softest couch he could find, he seated himself
beside her, pitying and caressing her at intervals. At last she
Alardos, I am sure you are sleepy and tired; had you not
THE GRASSY SEA.
better retire to rest ? I shall stay here and watch the stars; they
are .wondrously bright to-night, methinks."
You too must need repose, dearest, after so long and fatiguing
a walk," said her husband; but we will look at them together."
Zephita turned from him so impatiently, that Alardos could
no longer attribute her strange silence to fatigue.
"Zephita!" he said, gravely and sadly, "you are grieving
me very much by your unloving, cold looks; if I have in anything
offended you, tell me at once what it is, and let us be friends.
Husbands and wives should not make each other unhappy."
"I am not angry with you," said Zephita. "Dear me, how
easily offended you are! Ah I see you have not really forgiven
me my 'journey to the Coral Grove, although you made such
a magnanimous pretence of it at first," she added, with a
Alardos looked at her in blank astonishment. He had often
longed for an adequate return of love from his wife, but he
had ascribed the coldness with which she often received his most
ardent caresses to timidity and the short time of their wedded
life; wayward he had also seen her; but the cool, deliberate
scorn with which she now spoke, filled him with grief and
You have seen an evil water-sprite, Zephita," (she trembled),
" and he has turned your heart from your husband."
Zephita burst into tears. You are very unkind, Alardos, to
say such wicked things of me."
But as she spoke she reflected, that by persisting in offending
him she might possibly arouse his suspicions that something
really had occurred to her in her visit; so she continued to weep
Alardos, though inwardly more incensed than he had allowed
her to perceive, was not proof against her sorrow. He paced the
arbour a few minutes longer, then approached, and took both her
hands in his.
THE GRASSY SEA.
Zephita !" he said, earnestly, "how I love you, you can never
know; nor do I believe it possible you can dream the agony
one cold word or look of yours gives to my heart. You see I do
not hesitate to show you the extent of your power over me. Be
merciful, then. Do not wound again by unkindness a love that,
I repeat, is as yet beyond your comprehension."
He looked tenderly at her, but did not offer to caress her.
Zephita, for the moment, was touched in spite of herself. She
must indeed have been made of stone, if she had resisted those
deep loving eyes. She bent her head penitently on the hands
that still held hers. Alardos clasped her passionately to him, and
was once more happy:
But next morning Zephita seemed restless, absent, arid almost
unconscious of her husband's presence, save once, when she
let her soft hair fall in rich waving undulations to her feet.
Alardos was musing rather sadly upon her changed mood, his
eyes bent on the ground. She looked at him contemptuously.
How foolish one is sometimes!" she said. I thought, when
I listened to your love-tales, Alardos, that at least you would
always care for the charms you once said I possessed, and you do
not waste a word of admiration on me now. I may adorn myself
with every grace my fancy can devise, but you never remark
a change." And as she spoke, she rolled her tresses rapidly
and angrily together, and fastened them with the little coral
sprays she had gathered the preceding evening.
Alardos smiled. "I suppose I shall best make my peace
by saying, you are always so charming that I can discover no
But she turned away with sudden coldness.
Zephita !" he said, more seriously, I thought we had ended
this; only one new charm do I desire in your eyes-that they
may truly reflect my love for you."
She made no answer, and he continued:-
I think you are a little tired of me, dearest! To-day I am
THE GRASSY SEA.
sent on a long journey, and may possibly not return till nightfall:
come, let us part lovingly."
Zephita felt so relieved at the idea of being left free to visit
the Coral Grove, that she with difficulty concealed the satisfaction
that lighted up her eyes; guilty joy filled her heart, and she was
able with a deceiving smile to bid her husband farewell, if not
warmly, at least more cheerfully than he had expected.
When he was gone she was unhappy. His forbearing, deep
love seemed, to rise in judgment, and she trembled as she felt
how much more warmly she regarded this stranger than her
husband. She would not go: but then the irresistible blue eyes
and sunny face rose before her, and she again longed passionately
for the hour of meeting.
THE evening sky looked dark and threatening as Zephita
left the arbour. How the absence of warm sunlight changed
the face of the valley! it was gloomy and dismal enough to have
frightened away a stouter heart than hers. The foliage of the
bright rose-coloured bushes hung in dingy, matted curtains; the
path was so slippery, that she scarcely saved herself from falling
more than once. Often she felt tempted to turn back, but self-
will and the thought of the stranger urged her on.
She gladly hailed the huge stems of the coral-trees, although
she was so exhausted that she paused for breath before she
ascended the loftiest of them. She found the stranger anxiously
awaiting her, and again she greedily listened to his winning
flatteries and words of love. He questioned her of her strange
life and place of abode, and laughed scornfully when she told
him the tradition that this wonderful submerged region was as
yet untrodden by the foot of man, and that no purely human
being could safely dwell on it, even on those parts uncovered by
THE GRASSY SEA.
Such idle forebodings have chased the smiles from your
pretty lips, redder than the coral around us, fair creature," said
he, playfully stroking her silken ringlets, for he had at last
succeeded in persuading Zephita to seat herself beside him in the
boat, and she feared him no longer now. "I am an excellent
diver, and I fear nothing, and am resolved to see the wonders
of this Coral Grove, for to us it appears a mere shoal or bank
of branches: if you can exist beneath the surface of the water,
I can, too. You do not wish me to leave you, my Coral nymph ?"
said he, as he clasped her yet more closely to him, and pressed
kisses on her pouting lips. "Ah, you are indeed no water-fairy,
your blood flows as warmly as mine."
Leave me ?" said Zephita. Oh, no, no! I could not live
without you now. I feel I did not know what life was till I saw
you!" and she threw her beautiful arms around him.
The stranger, although he caressed and soothed her, and would
willingly, had he dared, have carried off his beautiful prize to
the ship, smiled inwardly at the thought .that, on the morrow,
he should perhaps be leagues distant; but what harm could
there possibly be in deceiving a sea-nymph, and making the best
of what chance had thrown in his way ?
Zephita grew more and more infatuated, and at last yielding
to his caresses and importunities, she consented to guide him to
the Coral Grove, and thence to the chrysolite rock, whose wonders
she had described to him.
Strange that all this time no thought of her wronged and
trusting husband flashed through her vain selfish heart.
They soon gained the foot of the coral tree. Zephita, who had
descended first, started back with a cry of terror when she
perceived her husband approaching. She turned to her com-
He had just reached the ground; but as his foot touched
the soil, it yielded to the unusual pressure-down, down he sank,
rapidly as an arrow cleaves the air. The treacherous filmy mass,
THE GRASSY SEA.
which no mortal foot might safely tread, closed over him for
ever, leaving no trace behind.
Zephita stood paralysed with grief and terror, unconscious
for some moments that Alardos was standing close beside her.
He, too, looked horror-struck, but it did not seem to be at the
event just recorded: his eyes were fixed on his wife.
All their soft expression had vanished-a stern majesty reigned
in his whole demeanour; and when at length the wretched Ze-
phita raised her eyes, she shrank back trembling as from
some avenging spirit.
Long he gazed upon her as she sank lower and lower, and
finally crouched on the ground in a paroxysm of grief and shame.
Still Alardos spoke not; he seemed to try to utter sounds, but
to fail in the attempt.
At length he looked down at Zephita, and pity softened the
freezing horror that had petrified his senses.
"Unhappy one! have I indeed then caused you such grief,
that you are forced to seek consolation from a stranger ?-and oh!
what woe your love has wrought him !"
But Zephita started up-fury gleaming in her wild eyes and
"A stranger!" and she laughed frantically; "to me no
stranger. He is my dearest love-my beautiful-my own mate,
and I am his bride, and he is waiting for me !"
Then, as her eye rested for an instant on the sudden grave
of her lover, she uttered a wild piercing cry, and struck Alardos
fiercely on the breast.
You have murdered him-you dug this pit to ensure his
destruction! Mean, effeminate, and foolish I ever thought you
-now I see you are treacherous and cruel. Dare not to blame
me-my heart was free, it never felt one real throb of love
for you. My only hope is, that you yet care enough for me
to suffer by losing me."
She turned, and fled away like the wind.
34 THE GRASSY SEA.
Alardos for an instant stood spell-bound by her last words;
then he hastened after her, wildly calling on her to stop and
For some moments, which to him seemed hours, he saw
no trace of her. At last, at the extremity of the valley, he caught
a glimpse of her white robe.
He looked around; they were amid fearful precipices, the
path was broken and perilous. Still he dared not slacken his
pace, for he trembled lest again he should lose sight of Zephita.
To his relief, the white robe appeared stationary. At length
he approached near enough to see her standing on the almost
conical summit of a small rock, surrounded on every side but
that on which he advanced by precipices of frightful depth.
She seemed to be only awaiting her husband's near approach,
for the instant she perceived him, she waved her arms exultingly,
and with a wild cry plunged into the fathomless abyss.
IT was a lovely May morning; the birds chirped blithely to each
other; the very leaves of the tall wych-elm trees that cast a
chequered shadow over the little cottage seemed to rub gently
together, as if unable to express the joy that filled their veins.
All nature was astir, and yet with a soft, tranquillising move-
ment-nothing to jar, to ruffle, or disturb How different to the
wakening hum of a great city, or even a small household!
The inhabitants of the cottage, however, seemed children of
nature in this respect. A little girl came quietly out to the faggot-
stack, and selected a few sticks. Soon a thin streak of curling
smoke rose from the chimney and twined about the leaves, and
lost itself among them before it reached the summit of the trees.
Breakfast did not take long to accomplish, for the little girl
presently re-appeared with a pitcher, to fetch water from a neigh-
bouring pump, leading a white-headed boy by the hand. He was
evidently quite unwilling, and hung back, with the fingers of
his disengaged hand crammed into his m6uth.
"Be a good boy, Tommy," said the girl, coaxingly, "and I'll
show ye the rare, large leaves I found yesterday."
She opened the garden-gate for him to pass into a shady lane,
sloping down from the cottage; but a glimpse of yellow flowers
among the dark-green celandine leaves on the hedge-bank caught
his eye; he bounded from her, and was soon down on his knees
in the shallow ditch, gathering a handful of golden blossoms.
"That comes of low parentage," said the Dock-leaves on the
other side of the hedge-they could see and hear all that passed
through a gap, the very gap through which the little girl had
discovered them the day before-" to think of preferring anything
so low-minded as that little yellow foolishness If it would even
hold up its head it might be better."
The Burdock shivered from the tips of its leaves to its roots, and
then stood stiffer than ever; for it prided itself on its antiquity.
This was the second year that it had raised its head in the self-same
place; whereas, its neighbours, a wild Chamomile and a straggling
little Pimpernel, and several rough-looking Thistles, were all new-
comers; last year their places had been occupied by tall Dyers'-
weed, which had now disappeared, all but a few straggling shoots,
peeping through a wilderness of wild Chamomile.
"Yes, it is very pleasant to feel ancient blood in one's veins !"
said the Dock-leaves. Our isolated position here, too, gives one
so much time for thought, and thought enlarges the mind far
more than mere vulgar contact with one's fellows. It gives one
leisure to dwell on the faults of others, too, and devise benevolent
schemes for their improvement. Yes, we really might do some-
thing for the poor little Celandine."
The summer passed on: the Burdock was soon covered with
its insignificant blossoms, and their round, prickly seed-vessels.
The leaves were happier than ever: they had been lecturing and
advising for some time past; but, unfortunately, no one seemed to
Now here was a chance; these round messengers could be sent
anywhere, and not easily silenced. Day after day, they had been
speaking to the Thistles, on the folly of arming their leaves with
sharp spines. It was a pernicious habit, they said, that made
them unpleasant to their neighbours and to everyone else; but
the Thistles, merry-hearted fellows, who were content to be
friendly and sociable with all, provided they were treated as
equals, thought the Dock-leaves "narrow-minded old fidgets,"
and paid no attention to them.
The Pimpernel had escaped notice-it grew so close to the
ground, and the Burdock never stooped; but a rather loud peal
of laughter now drew attention.
"Well, I declare," said the Dock-leaves, "you seem very merry
this morning! At whose expense, I wonder ?" Tough as they
imagined other people to be, they were very touchy themselves.
"And you are positively blossoming still, my small friend?
Never Was anything so silly. Don't you think, now, in your
humble position of life, a little less show and expenditure in your
dress would be advisable ? You would lay by a far richer harvest
of seeds, if you spent less on outside show."
All the Pimpernel blossoms laughed louder than ever.*
Pimpernel, or Autgallis; named from anagelao, to laugh.
We only want to enjoy life our own way," said the first that
recovered herself sufficiently to speak; "and we have been told
that our blossoms are not merely ornamental-often we have been
called the poor man's weather-glass."
"Too, too, too !" said the Dock-leaves. They shook so with
annoyance and vexation, that down rolled a great Bur into the
midst of the Pimpernels; but, as they still laughed, he was
shaken down further, till he reached the pathway round the field
at the foot of the bank.
That's exactly the way people talk and think who have no
common sense or judgment of their own. Everybody knows you
are very unwise; but of course you know better than anyone else
-it's just the way of the world !" the Dock-leaves sighed.
"But, please," said a very small Chamomile-flower, who had
been listening eagerly (it had somehow imbibed -an immense
respect for the Burdock; perhaps it was natural, for people who
lay down the law to others often succeed in impressing an idea
of their depth on shallow minds-the bursting of an inflated
paper-bag has been, before now, mistaken for the report of a
pistol)-" but, please, who is everybody ?"
This was very trying. Two Burs immediately detached them-
selves, and clung round the neck of the Chamomile, remonstrating
on its folly, and on the bad taste and tact evinced in its question.
However, the Dock-leaves always had an answer ready-
"Everybody ? Why, of course, everybody is everybody. What
a very foolish remark, to be sure!"
The Chamomile was puzzled; but it could not bear to be sus-
pected of dulness, as well as bad taste, so it nodded as if perfectly
"But why should we not benefit mankind, as well as our
fellows?" said the Dock-leaves; and they looked about for a
People, however, seldom went along the field-path, unless it
were the owner of the cottage in the lane, and it was, perhaps,
scarcely worth while noticing him; he evidently worked hard for
his daily bread, poor wretch! The Dock-leaves had seen gentle-
men and ladies occasionally-people worth speaking to-people
who did nothing but amuse themselves from morning till night.
"Persons we could speak to," said they, and who would, doubt-
less, benefit by our advice, if they only would pass this way."
Just at this moment the cottager appeared in sight.
It was a sultry August evening, and he had taken off both hat
and working jacket, and was sauntering along, as if anticipating
that most delightful of pleasures, a quiet evening with his family
after a hard day's labour.
Spite of his inferiority, the Dock-leaves felt it their duty to
remonstrate. As he brushed past, at least a dozen Burs fastened
on his legs, all speaking at once.
How can you be so foolish, at your age, and with a wife and
children to provide for, to run such a risk of cold ? Don't say
anything-we know all about it, in fact, we have great medical
knowledge. You should have more sense and self-control, and
bear such a trifle as being too hot patiently."
"Yes, very wrong, indeed!" echoed another of the Burs,
pressing into the calf of his leg.
The cottager walked on, without seeming to heed, except that
he shook his legs, and knocked one against the other impatiently,
as if the Burs annoyed him. But the sight of his two children
at the cottage-gate made hini forget such insignificant troubles.
He stooped down, and lifted Tommy up to his shoulder, throwing
his hat and coat to the little girl, after giving her a hearty kiss.
"There !" said a Bur, "just like the folly and improvidence of
this class of people! They know that their children have a
rough, hard life before them, and yet they treat them as fondly
and tenderly as if they were well provided for and had not to
work for their living-such utter want of common sense! To
think of the life that is before those children, poor little things !
For the little girl was following her father, and, seeing the Bur
on his stocking, plucked it off, and threw it-into a hawthorn-tree.
It was more frightened than hurt, however, for it fell into a
"Oh, indeed!" said the Spider, who had made a rush at the
Bur. I have the most right to complain. Why, you've broken
all my morning's work to pieces, and are not fit to eat either."
"Never mind, don't fret about it," said the Bur. "When I've
settled myself-for these gummy threads of yours rather stifle
one-possibly I can advise you in rebuilding your web, if it is
absolutely necessary to rebuild it. Don't you think, now-- "
"Advise your grandmother!" interrupted the Spider, looking
very bloated and angry. Yes, I believe you'll be advising the sun,.
next, to rise in the west, instead of the east! Why don't you
mind your own business? No, you've got none to mind, and
that's what makes you such a busy-body. Nothing like work,
and hard work too, to keep people straight, and make them mind
their own business instead of their neighbours'. And why were
you pitying those children just now, I should like to know ? I
heard you. Poor, indeed They are far richer than any I ever
saw, and I've been a traveller in my time, let me tell you."
The Spider had been darting' from one side of the web to the
other while she spoke, and the Bur found himself inextricably
meshed; so he answered, rather meekly-
"Why, they have a poor home, and poor parents, and a poor,
hard-working life before them-can anything be worse ?"
"Yes a great deal," said the Spider; "they might have all
these hardships-if they are hardships. which I deny; for among
my travels I have been in houses, and once I heard read, out of a
large book that every one seemed to listen to, that a special bless-
ing rests on the poor-with sickness and sorrow in their home;
or they might have every luxury, and an unloving, hard father
and a dull, fretful mother. They enjoy to the full what is really
the best part of life."
"And what's that ?" said the Bur, in a hoarse voice: he was
nearly choked, and decidedly uncomfortable altogether, but he
was afraid to complain.
"Why, sunshine inside and outside. I'don't understand what
it comes from, but look in people's faces, and you'll see what I
mean. So far as I can make out, those who work the hardest
have the largest share of it-or else those who seem to have the
fewest enjoyments. That crippled lad, who crawls up here some-
times in the spring to see the celandine in blossom, looks quite as
happy as Tommy and his sister. You see, you don't know much
about it, my fine fellow. You look miserable enough now, cer-
tainly; but you're generally too self-satisfied to care about other
people's happiness. I suppose that is your particular style of
happiness, and you take pretty good care that no one else shall
enjoy it, you do, you old, worrying find-fault!" And the Spider,
who certainly knew how to talk herself, and who, I am sorry to
say, was rather spiteful, gave her web such a tug that the Bur
called out for mercy.
There, get along with you," said the Spider, as she disen-
tangled him; the ground's the best place for you; you're only
spoiling my web."
" A HAPPY Christmas to you!" said a large, old-fashioned
Porcelain Jar, one of the real Chinese breed (none of your
smart imitations, albeit of Mr. Minton's best manufacture), with a
delicate cracked ground, on which here and there was a pale-blue
ornament, something between a leaf and a dragon, head, legs,
and tail greatly preponderating over body.
Her greeting was responded to,' in a sepulchral tone, by a
tall, carved mahogany Clockcase, that stood in the other corner
of a spacious staircase landing, in a gloomy, roomy, old-fashioned
house, between the East and West-end of London, not very far
from Temple Bar.
The part of the landing they occupied formed a quiet nook,
not in full view of the staircase. In it was a deeply-recessed
old window-seat, the very place for a nap, or a quiet tete-a-tite.
The staircase itself was a study. Had it not been so gloomy,
one could have made out the curious devices carved on the
massive oak Standards at the top and bottom of each flight
of stairs, between which were short, stumpy ballusters. These
Standards would have served famously as clubs for Messrs.
Gog and Magog, living hard by, had they, by any mischance,
lost their own.
"A Merry Christmas to both of you!" cried the Standard
nearest the Clockcase, on which seemed to be -carved festoons
of fruit, laughing masks, and other quaint ornaments: "a Merry
Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes !"
THREE CHRISTMAS DAYS.
The Standard had such a hearty voice-thoroughly oaken and
English !-there is much analogy in the words.
"It seems a jolly, crisp, bright Christmas morning," he con-
tinued. How the bells are going I wonder they never crack
They do sometimes," said the Clockoase, gloomily.
You seem low-spirited, my dear old friend," observed the
Jar. "What can depress your spirits on such a day as this?
-nothing to weigh you down either, now."
"I have seen so many of these days," said the Clockcase;
" so many full of sorrow as well as joy, that I generally spend
a part of each anniversary in calling them in review before me,
and meditating on the chequered aspect of human life they offer."
Oh, I say, old friend, hang prosing and sentiment on
Christmas Day! One ought to have nothing but jolly feelings
-if it's for no other reason, 'tis very pleasant to be rubbed so
extra clean and bright. Bless your works, my friend!-only I
forgot, they've all been taken out-the sight of those cheery
young faces that come to the party here, as they trip up and
down my steps, is delicious-quite warms the fibres of my old
heart. I hope they'll light us up early to-night," he continued;
"I don't admire being in the dark on Christmas Day."
I was going to propose," said the Jar, in an insinuating
voice, that as I hear the party to-night is larger than usual,
and therefore, of course, the guests will stay later, as most likely
there will be a dance-how kind and pleasant it would be if
our old friend would favour us with some of his reminiscences.
Don't.you think it would be very nice, Mr. Standard ?"
"Well thought of, ma'am. It would be most uncommonly
jolly," replied he; "always provided none of the young people
come out to flirt in that convenient old window close beside our
There is no fear of that," remarked the Jar; "I hear that
the dancing is to take place in the dining-room, so I suppose
THREE CHRISTMAS DAYS.
that the drawing-room will only be tenanted by the 'Wall
Flowers,' as they call them; perhaps it may not be visited
during the evening."
Ah!" sighed the Clockcase, "I daresay that window-seat
could tell as many tales as I can; but, you see, he has never
received any polish, which accounts for his want of small-talk;
however, I consent to your plan. When that modern invention
in the hall below strikes nine-by which time I suppose the
company will all be engaged in their Christmas games-I will
relate to you two of the histories which have passed before me."
The "modern invention" struck nine, and the Clockcase
commenced his tale.
"'I don't love you at all, Frank. You are very rude, and
you tease me.'
I don't want you to love me or care for me, you great
cry-baby-crying at thirteen years old! You ought to be
Phoebe did seem ashamed; she hid her face in both hands,
and cried heartily; while Frank, with that loud, teasing laugh,
which none but a schoolboy is capable of, swung downstairs,
leaving little miserable Phoebe crying and sobbing at my feet.
She got up presently, and dried her eyes. She was not
a pretty child-pale, thin-faced, with large eyes of no decided
colour, but very remarkable for the earnest warmth of their
expression. Her only beauty consisted in the exquisite fairness
and delicacy of her skin, and the masses of glossy, dark-brown
curls that clustered round her head.
It was evening, and these two had come quarrelling out of the
drawing-room, until their dispute had ended as I have told you.
"'On Christmas Day, too,' said Phoebe to herself; 'he has
made it such a miserable one to me.'
She sat and thought a little while longer.
Mamma says people never care much for reproaches unless
THREE CHRISTMAS DAYS.
there is some truth in them. I wonder if anybody else thinks
what Frank said; perhaps everybody does, and they are too kind
to tell me. What Frank says must be true. Am I so very
proud and independent ?'
She walked up and down, musing.
"' Well, he shall never tell me so again. I am not angry
with him now. I wish that some one had told me this before,
only not him. I will try and make it up with him.'
She skipped upstairs, and came down looking brighter and
happier than usual; but I do not think she made her peace
with Frank. Whenever he passed me, in the course of the
evening, he was talking to Louisa, Phoebe's elder sister, and the
two seemed to be having many a joke at the expense of poor
Phoebe, who finally, her heart swelling at seeing all her efforts
at reconciliation frustrated (the poor child made them very
awkwardly, I must confess), went sobbing to bed long before
the party broke up."
"Poor little girl!" said the Jar, "what a miserable ending
to a Christmas-day But are your stories all of so very juvenile
a character?" she asked, with satirical emphasis. "I confess
that, in this age of enlightened literature, my mind soars above
such juvenile matters."
Hum I didn't know," said the Standard, "that you cared
about enlightenment and such things. I should have thought
that you must have been accustomed to a very benighted con-
dition in your early years."
"I was brought to England at so tender an age, that I
remember very little of my early years; but, of course, when
I mentioned enlightenment, I was not thinking of extending its
advantages. Surely, dear Mr. Standard," she said, glancing
complacently at her azure adornments, "we, of the blue blood,
cannot be too civilised."
"For my part," said the Clockcase, "I cannot see anything
lowering in children's stories."
THREE CHRISTMAS DAYS.
Only, my dear friend, you will admit, there is little in them
to excite refined sensibility."
That hers was stirred by the argument, was apparent by
the fragrant perfume that pervaded the landing, proceeding, no
doubt, from the spiced rose-leaves within.
Well," said the Standard, stoutly, I vote for another tale
-be it young or old."
The Clockcase resumed:-
"Last Christmas Day was a sad one to me. For years I
had tenanted an old mansion very similar to this; but sadness
and ruin fell upon it. The head of the house, the father (my
Phoebe's father) of a large, happy family died, leaving his affairs
much embarrassed: all was to be sold off. Instead of the merry
party that used to assemble at Christmas, the family dined quietly
together, and all were not there. Some of the elder sisters
had married. Phoebe was much more subdued than in former
years. She had become very handsome. The large colourless
eyes had warmed into deep brown, and she was not so pale as in
her childish days. But I had noticed that she did not seem happy.
I had not seen Frank for some time past. I sometimes
wondered whether Phoebe still cared for him as she did-
none knew so well as T-on that Christmas night, many years
To my great surprise, I heard his cheerful voice in the hall on
that evening. Kind and thoughtful,' I said to myself, 'he has
come to show the family he has not forgotten them in their
The evening passed, and about ten o'clock I felt very
Wanted winding up," suggested the Standard.
And was just nodding off, when I heard footsteps.
Listen to me for one moment longer,' said Frank's voice,
in very different tones, though. I could not have imagined him
capable of such earnestness. 'I will not dare to speak of my
THREE CHRISTMAS DAYS.
own feelings. I only ask you to consider yourself, and not to
send me away for ever. I will wait any time you chose for your
I have told you,' said Phoebe, 'that my decision is made.
Why urge me any further? It is cruel!-it is cruel!--un-
She spoke so vehemently, and with such evident annoyance,
that I saw I had been wrong, and that she really disliked him.
Frank seemed turned to stone. Never shall I forget his
look. Joy seemed crushed out of him for ever by her words.
"Then, in an instant-before Phcebe could speak again, even
to say Good-bye !'-he was gone-down the stairs-out of the
Phoebe looked as if in a dream.' She walked up to her room,
so slowly, so heavily-passing her hand so wearily over her brow
-I suppose she felt pained to have grieved Frank; but certainly
she did not love him now."
"And did you not ever hear the end of the story ?" said the
Jar, after waiting.impatiently for the Clockcase to continue.
A few days after their miserable parting, everything was
sold off, and I was purchased by a near relative of my late owner,
and placed here. I have often seen Phoebe since; but never
Frank. So I imagine they have not made up their quarrel. It
seems an absurd fancy," added the Clockcase, "but when the
hall-door opened just now-I thought I heard his voice."
I remarked that there was an arrival," said the Standard;
but you were most likely deceived about the voice."
I protest I am quite disappointed," said the- Jar. I don't
call a. tale a'tale that does not finish. Really, my old friend, you
should consider my nerves-they are so extremely delicate and
friable in texture, that this awakened sympathy and anxiety will
materially disturb their repose."
The Standard laughed his hearty laugh.
"Well, I'm rejoiced to be a masculine. I haven't got any
THREE CHRISTMAS DAYS.
nerves, that I know of. Why, you might saw me in two, and
I shouldn't mind the sensation half as much as you would the
noise, I expect, madam."
The Jar shuddered, and murmured something about the brus-
querie of untravelled timber; but the Standard, wisely considering
that she was cracked, and, therefore, not quite accountable, did
There was a prolonged silence on the landing.
Then the Jar, who, though so fractious and easily upset, had no
toughness or obstinacy of disposition, observed, condescendingly-
Have you no recollections to impart to us, Mr. Standard.",
"Me, ma'am?" said the Standard, "ha! ha! ha! that is a
good joke!" and he laughed till all the short, fat ballusters creaked
again. Why, I could not tell a story, if you'd pay me; besides,
I'm-too solid. I never notice anything. In my youth I was
so chopped, and sawn, and carved, and knocked about, that I've
no feeling left. I'm too tough for sentiment, ma'am, and as for
imagination-oh oh! oh! But still, I thinkif that young woman
loved that young man, she took a curious way of showing it."
The Clockcase had appeared lost in thought ever since his
last observation. He now said "Hush !" so suddenly and deci-
sively, that his hearers started.
A door in the hall opened. A young lady ascended the stairs,
and paused before the Clockcase.
What a world of misery in her pale face and large brown eyes !
The door opened again. Almost immediately a gentleman
sprang upstairs, and stood beside her.
His face was as agitated as hers; but he did not look unhappy.
He took both her hands, and drew her to the window-seat.
Phoebe! can it be possible that after all you do not hate me ?"
Phoebe did not answer, but her head bent still lower over the
hands that Frank held.
But he was resolved.
There must be no more doubt between us. Here you must
THREE CHRTSTMAS DAYS.
-you shall tell me-whether the agony you inflicted a year ago
was intentional, or whether I mistook you."
If I tell you, you will hate me."
Frank let go her hands, and stood in front of her-his arms
firmly crossed over his chest.
Phoebe, I can bear this no 'longer Last Christmas night
I asked you to be my own dear wife; my infatuation or vanity
made me believe that you in some measure returned the devoted
love I felt for you. You refused me, with scorn and anger.
Since then, do not ask me how life has passed ? It has been a
dream of misery-purposeless, objectless-all for which I had so
long been toiling suddenly drifted from me. Yesterday a few
lines from your mother made me come here to-night. Just now,
before you left the room so hastily, a look of yours made me
almost believe that you cared for me, and that, in mad hastiness,
I had sentenced myself to a year's agony. Now, I am again
full of doubt. In common humanity, if nothing else, answer
He clasped his hands, beseechingly.
Phoebe rose; she took his hands in both hers, and, bending her
head to them, she murmured,-
Forgive me I love you-I loved you then."
Frank seemed to forget his anxiety for an explanation. He
threw both his arms round her, and kissed her, and thanked
her, and called her his own darling, in such a wild, excited
manner, that the Jar began to feel uncomfortable, and wish his
raptures had come to an end.
Phoebe soon interrupted him-
Stay, dearest;. I am afraid that you will not love me, when
you know all. Do you remember, when I was a child, warning
me about my pride. I nearly conquered it then, but it grew
again; and when, last year, you asked me so lovingly to be your
wife, the Demon whispered that you only pitied us, and offered
me a home from charity. Oh, Frank, dear Frank, can you forgive
THREE CHRISTMAS DAYS.
this ? I have suffered miserably-I am miserable now. Do not
despise me-do love me still, though I have made you so.
Poor darling!" said Frank, as he pressed her fondly to
his heart; "you have suffered the most-and now you have made
me too happy ever to breathe a word of blame."
"Bravo!" said the Standard, when Frank had tenderly led
Phoebe into the drawing-room; I like that sort of thing."
I am sorry I cannot agree with you," said the Jar, with much
severity. I do not approve of any young lady telling a man
she loves him, in that decided manner, before she is married to
him. It is-not to use a strong word-far too impulsive and
unconventional. Do you not think so? she added appealingly
to the Clockcase.
"No!" he replied. "It is the least atonement she can offer
for her foolish pride. And I hope that, throughout her life,
Phoebe may never forget it."
Just so," cried the Standard. A very striking remark,
old friend. Sorry to differ from a lady, ma'am, especially on
Christmas night, and on a lady's conduct"-and no doubt the
hearty old fellow would have bowed, if he could-" but that
young woman's a trump, I think, for what she's just done. And
now, if the company are agreeable, let's go to sleep !"
1h I aC C~11J Mt ttie ilolucv%.
(FROM THE GERMAN OF FREILIGCRATH.)
E EPLY sunk in sweetest slumber,
On her pillows lay a Maid;
O'er her cheek the warm blood mantles,
i, = Through the dark-brown lashes' shade.
7'- On a rush stool, close beside her,
' Stands a Cup of porcelain rare
-- In the Cup are flowers fresh gathered,
Variegated, fragrant, fair.
imp and heavy brood the vapours
Though the sultry, perfumed air;
S F st is closed each door and window,
No cool breezes enter there.
Deep the stillness-not a murmur-
Hark !-a sudden, fluttering sound !
From the flowers and their leaflets
Gentle whispers rustle round.
From the chalices up-starting,
Shadowy perfumed faces see;
Like a silver mist their garments-
Crowns and shields their emblems be.
THE REVENGE OF THE FLOWERS.
From the Rose's crimson centre
Springs a Dame of graceful mien;
'Mid her locks, all loosely flowing,
Pearls like dew are glittering seen.
From the Monkshood's cowled resemblance
Starts a Knight, armed cap-h-pie;
Sword and casque all brightly glittering,
Through the dark-green foliage see:
Silver-grey the heron's feather
Nodding on his haughty crest.
Veiled in gossamer, a Maiden
Trembles from the Lily's breast.
From the Turk's-cap comes a Negro,
Striding on with flaunting march;
Brightly on his gay green turban
Glows the crescent's golden arch.
Glittering from the Crown Imperial,
Boldly steps a sceptred King;
See his sword-girt Huntsmen following,
From the azure Iris spring.
From the pale, perfumed Narcissus,
Lo! a youth, with pensive air,
Nears the bed, and warmest kisses
Presses on the Maiden fair.
Closely round the bed they cluster,
In a wild and mystic ring;
Round and round the sleeper murmuring,
This the magic lay they sing:-
Maiden, Maiden, from the garden,
Thou hast torn us cruelly;
Placed in this enamelled goblet,
We must languish, wither, die.
THE REVENGE OF THE FLOWERS.
" In our mother's fond embraces,
'Happily we dwelt unseen;
Oft the sunbeams warm have kissed us,
Glinting through the leafy screen.
"There the cooling zephyrs fanned us,
As our slender stalks we bowed;
And at night, our blossoms leaving,
Rebelled we, a spirit-crowd.
"Rain and dew so bright refreshed us-
Here our thirst we cannot slake;
But, ere all our bloom has withered,
Maiden, our revenge we take !"
Ceased the song, the Spirits circle
Close the sleeper's head around-
Now again that awful silence,
Followed by a rustling sound.
How they rustle-how they whisper !
Baleful perfume fills the air,
While the Spirits, closely pressing,
Breathe upon the Maiden fair.
Sunbeams through the chamber slanting,
Quick the Spirits pass away;
On the bed's soft pillows resting,
Cold and dead the Maiden lay:
Like a withered blossom, lying
'Mid her perished sisters there,'
(Still her cheek a soft blush tinges,)
Poisoned by the perfumed air.
91p jVt'N ot.
A GAY summer morning spread itself cheerily over the land-
scape-over the green meadows and the dancing river, whose
merry little falls seemed to give it answering smiles-through
the beechen wood, where the exquisite young green leaves
trembled, with the consciousness of their own -loveliness, on their
slender, hair-like stems-up a grey scaur mantled with ivy, till it
reached a clump of majestic pines, whose sombre aspect seemed
to rebuke its exuberance of glee.
Massive trees they were, with spreading, gnarled branches,
deep crimson in hue, of true Highland lineage.
Near them a few of inferior race and growth humbly sought
One pine-tree stood close to this smaller group, somewhat
isolated from her loftier kindred. She looked more sombre than
any, and as the light summer breeze flitted through her branches,
they creaked complainingly.
My dear cousin," said one of the little Firs, "how dis-
contented you are! when everything this bright morning seems
beaming with joy. Even the birds sang their early song of praise
more gaily. Why, the fresh, green dress of our old friend, the
Beech there, is quite pleasant to look at. What a change in it
since yesterday !"
And that is just one of my griefs," murmured the Pine.
"Every year she is indulged with a new and beautiful garment,
changing in autumn to the most glorious colours-gold, crimson,
THE BAT'S NEST.
orange, all blending in rich confusion-while we have to wear
the same homely dress for four or five years; or, if we make any
change, it is scarcely worth mentioning."
But you seem entirely to forget that we may wear it all the
winter, while the poor Beech shivers and trembles as the keen
wind pierces through her heart at his pleasure: besides, what a
fright she looks without any foliage! No, no; give me mo-
derate beauty, always the same, rather than your exquisite charms
for but six months in the year."
But this monotony worries my life out," said the Pine,
fretfully. "It is not life, in fact-it is simple existence. Oh, dear,
dear if I could but find the way to vary it I"
One night the Pine-tree heard a gentle murmur near her. She
looked around; all her companions were sound asleep in the
Who speaks to me ?" said she, in a timid voice; for she was
by no means a strong-minded Pine, spite of her size.
Look at your feet," replied the whisper, and you will see a
friend, who longs to be of service to you."
At the foot of her stem the Pine beheld a slender spray of Ivy.
"I heard you," it continued, "lamenting the uniformity of
your colour and general appearance, and, with some labour,
I detached myself from yonder rock, and have gradually crept
here, to see if I cannot aid you."
You help me !" laughed the Pine, erecting her stately head.
Well!--why, you look like a little weed. I cannot imagine how
you and I can sympathise."
The Ivy writhed slightly.
"Were you not longing for gayer clothing? If you would
Permit me to. ascend your stem, I could soon make a vast change
in your appearance," said he, in an insinuating tone.
But you might interfere with the grace of my form," said
the vain Pine; "and besides, your leaves would be admired,,
perhaps, more than mine."
THE BAT'S NEST.
"You mistake," said the insidious climber; I have no
separate existence-once supported by your branches, with whose
exquisite grace, allow me to observe, I should not at all interfere,
I become an integral part of you, and lose my being in yours."
And what reward do you expect for this ?" said the Pine,
who was rather of a suspicious nature.
The happiness of being constantly with you, of pressing you
fondly in my arms. Are not those sufficient ? If you only knew
how long and hopelessly I have adored you!"
The Pine blushed, till her branches looked redder than ever.
You are very presumptuous," said she. "I must consider
the matter, and will tell you what I think about it to-morrow."
The Pine tree could not go to sleep; her sap rushed up
and down in the most excited, uncomfortable manner. Here was
a lover at last, who had been sighing for her, perhaps, for months.
Her inflammable nature was fairly alight. He was small and
insignificant, certainly; but then he was the first who had ever
professed such ardent devotion. She could keep it to herself
no longer; in fact, admiration is not worth having, unless some
one else is aware of it. So she creaked and creaked until she
waked up her cousin, the sturdy little Fir.
Ya-ah!" gaped he. "What's the matter! Is the wood
on fire ?"
Don't be silly," answered she, sharply; "I waked you up
to have a little chat; you might be grateful for such a mark
of favour; I know some one who would, instead of yawning like
a ripe cone. I want to consult you."
The Fir, being quite a youngster, felt so complimented at the
notion of being consulted by his tall, handsome cousin, of whom
he was a warm, though undeclared admirer, that he forgot his
displeasure at such an unceremonious awakening.
I-protest," he began.
There, now, you are wanted to listen, not to talk," said the
THE BAT'S NEST.
And she related to him what had passed between herself and
You are much handsomer as you are, than encumbered with
a nasty, venomous parasite," he replied, crossly.
Oh, you're jealous, are you ? and afraid, besides, that I shall
grow handsomer than ever?"
The Fir was about to make an angry rejoinder, when a sharp,
shrill cry attracted his attention; and close beside him he saw
a Bat, whose long ears were quivering with malicious delight at
the cousins' dispute. His bright, quick eyes gleamed mischiev-
ously, first at the Pine, and then at the Fir.
I shan't ask you what you are quarrelling about, of that my
long ears have already informed me," cried he, whirling round
and round, and finally, with a sudden swoop, settling on the Fir.
" Why, you foolish little fellow, do you suppose your cousin
asked your advice before she'd taken her own on the subject?
Bless your resinous little heart! all she wanted was to hear
her own opinion in some one else's mouth."
But how could I know what that was," said the Fir, "till
she told me ?"
That's just what I mean," said the Bat, interrupting himself
to snap at an unlucky chafer. "Why didn't you find out what
she thought first ?"
Really, sir," said the Pine, who was as touchy as tinder,
"you interfere, and discuss my affairs very freely. I suppose,
when I asked my cousin's advice, I meant what I said; and
I certainly did not ask yours."
Most charming Pine," said the Bat, "what need for you,
gifted alike with beauty and wit, to seek counsel of any. Follow
the dictates of your own loving nature, and make my friend truly
And off skimmed the Bat, uttering a succession of eerie shrieks
of laughter, and tumbling over and over himself with delight, in
his aerial evolutions.
THE BAT'S NEST.
Friend Ivy, I have done your business for you," chuckled
he; and when you've reached the topmast branches of that
conceited Pine, you owe me a comfortable winter shelter."
The Ivy rapidly ascended the Pine-tree's massive stem, and
at first her delight in his glossy green leaves was unbounded; but
as she felt them gradually taking the place of her own foliage-
which day by day disappeared beneath the clustering masses of
her adorer-she began to feel as discontented as ever, and inti-
mated gently to the Ivy that he was growing rather too fast.
The Ivy tried flattery to quiet her; but finding she had a
more decided will than he expected, he appealed to her common
It seems so unreasonable," said he, "to allow me to take
up my abode with you, to forsake all else for you, and now,
because you tire of mp, to seek a divorce; but I believe the
female heart to be incapable of constant affection."
"-There's a difference between constancy and slavery," said
the Pine, proudly tossing her yet free branches; but as she did
so, she felt how firm was the grasp of her insidious lover, and
added more humbly, "I fear, in the end, that if you go on in-
creasing in size as you have done, I shall be suffocated."
How would you like me to leave you to your former ugliness,"
said the Ivy, judiciously, "the jest and scorn of all your sisters,
who, you well know, have been bursting with envy at your
additional charms ? I daresay one of them would be delighted
to receive me, supposing I could be so base as to desert you. My
dearest love, trust to me, and all will be well."
False shame and undiminished vanity kept the poor half-
stifled Pine silent. Gradually she felt a strange compression in
all her limbs;. her pulse beat more and more languidly; a dull,
heavy sensation at her heart prevented speech. She gasped and
panted.for air; but the selfish Ivy, although he must have been
aware of her sufferings, affected complete unconsciousness. His
object was attained; he had secured a permanent and lofty
THE BAT'S NEST.
support for his luxuriant foliage, and by the time the last vestige
of the Pine vanished from sight, her heart had ceased to beat.
The Ivy remained master of the field; he spread his branches
wider and wider, and covered them with rich yellow blossoms,
whose delicate perfume attracted myriads of insects that would
never have sought the leafless Pine-tree. How he exulted in the
success of his scheme !
But the Ivy was not left long in undisputed possession. Our
old friend the Bat came skimming along one evening, and esta-
blished himself snugly among his friend's clustering leaves.
Ha! ha!" he shrieked joyously; "just as I hoped and said.
What a famous house you've made for me, friend Ivy!"
The latter, who had preferred the Pine to the Scaur, as being
so much cleaner and more airy, was grievously chagrined when
the Bat took to himself a long-eared mate, even more selfish than
himself. The deceased Pine was avenged. Foul night-birds also
made holes for themselves in the lofty eyrie. The Bats multi-
plied rapidly, and gambolled nightly round the tree in mazy
dances, chasing their prey with discordant sounds of exultation
and delight; and Papa Bat being of a convivial turn, the slum-
bers of the unhappy Ivy were thus unceasingly disturbed by the
shrill cries and eldritch laughter of the revellers of the Bat's
gqi^ atbl girt 14ibc.
iT is such a pity to see well-in-
Stentioned people waste valua-
: _0- ble time!" observed a dandified
-'I Wasp, one morning (he having
just employed himself in stinging a
Little boy), to a persevering Worker.
bee, who was gathering materials for
*2. v ^ wax, without pausing for a moment's
'" How do you mean ?" returned the Bee,
testily, for, like many hard-working peo-
S ple, he valued his labours at their highest
rate, and felt exasperated that anyone else
S' should set less store by them.
Why," replied the Wasp, "for me and
for my elegantly-dressed companions, who
Only enjoy ourselves in a gentleman-like
Manner all day, and never soil our fingers,
or injure our complexions with hard work,
the delicate waxen cells in which you rear
Your infant colony might be appropriate;
z71, ibut for your common-place mechanical
race, it must be such a bad preparation for
the future; it seems, besides, cruel to
raise the mind to higher refinement than
it can afterwards enjoy."
Our poor Bee, already over-fatigued and weary, felt too much
annoyed to reply (the waxy state he was in may have had some-
LIVE AND LET LIVE.
thing to do with this); so he went on steadily with his work. The
self-complacent Wasp continued:-
"If people would only consult common sense a little more, and
inclination less, they would be much wiser."
The Bee, who was, in the main, good-tempered, although cross
if interfered with-as really most of us are when we recognize no
lawful authority in the fault-finder-now felt sufficiently calm to
That depends upon what common sense really is; but, gene-
rally, everybody seems to prefer their own, and a good many, like
you, preach it as the only genuine article; and yet I see numbers
of these common-sense preachers as much the creatures of im-
pulse as those of a more excitable temperament. Besides, it is
very amusing to hear you, who know nothing of life-who never
yet earned a meal-laying down the law to my practical expe-
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the Wasp. "Nothing like bee's-
"My notion of common sense," said a lovely Red Admiral
Butterfly, that was hovering gracefully round the flower the Bee
had buried his nose in, "is to enjoy ourselves each in our own
way, and believe that each is as wise as his neighbour. I could
not work, it would kill me; but I do not pity you, my friend Bee,
for having to do it; and though all work and no play certainly
does make Jack a particularly dull boy, still, there are many
Jacks, I dare say, who would find my joyous existence very bur-
And the Butterfly, already tired of talking, sailed off in quest
of gayer companions; now extracting honey from the China-
asters, then soaring almost out of sight, now coming down again
quite unexpectedly, fluttering its black and scarlet wings on a
massive clump of white phlox, in the centre of the garden.
But the Wasp, who could have argued the hind leg off a mule,
noddled his flat, brainless head, and pertinaciously continued:-
LIVE AND LET LIVE.
I cannot see why you don't build your nests as we do."
"We build ours more honestly," said the Bee; "we only prey
upon flowers, while you plunder mankind. I have often seen some
of your comrades undermining a window-sill, to get the fibres for
this famous cardboard nest you seem so proud of; and besides,
even if the young could be reared in it, it would not hold honey,
and that you know."
It is quite as strongly made as your comb," said the Wasp,
"and of far more costly materials. There is a French proverb,
'Le mieux est T'ennemi du bien,' and this applies to you, my friend."
"I deny it altogether," said the Bee, making a great buzzing in
his flower-possibly the French annoyed him. "You only build
for yourselves-we for mankind and for posterity. How could
our young ones live honestly, I should like to know, Mr. Wiseacre,
if we did not provide nourishment for them; and what receptacles
so fit as our delicate waxen cells ? 'Do your best,' is our motto;
and but for the continual polish and refinement you complain of
in the structure of our cells, we should never make them well.
Practice makes perfect."
Ha, ha, ha !" laughed the Wasp to himself he had his own
good reasons for not mortally offending the Bee. "The notion of
that dusky, dirty little fellow living in such an orderly, refined
palace as I believe he does, and of my elegant person having no
more tasteful abode than our rough-sided nest! However, as I
told him, the materials of it are more costly, that is one comfort."
And the Wasp flew on, idling the day away, eating and
drinking of the best that the garden afforded, and criticising
His attention was next drawn to a painstaking Spider, who
was carrying his delicate gossamer network from some clustering
ivy-leaves to an adjacent lilac-tree, about two feet distant.
Most people would have gazed admiringly on the marvellous
fineness of the threads, and their exquisite geometrical arrange-
LIVE AND LET LIVE.
Not so our busy idler. "Friend Spinner," said he, keeping
however, at a discreet distance from the web, don't you know
that, the first time the gardener passes this way, he will decidedly
brush your delicate lace-work to the ground ? Can't you live in a
smaller house, or, at any rate, in one less elaborately ornamented ?
It seems such a pity to spend so much time and labour on that
which is perishable."
"Mind your own business!" said the Spider, venomously,
body, legs, and web quivering with rage. You can't make any-
thing pretty yourself, and that is one reason why you have no
admiration for those who can." And he flung himself, with a
sudden jerk, so near to the Wasp, that he took to' ignominious
"What an ungrateful set they all are!" said the Wasp. I try
to give them a little wholesome advice-for I believe the foolish
creatures think more of beauty, and elegance, and nicety, than
of eating and drinking and smart clothes-the real necessaries of
existence-and all I reap is contempt."
A cold autumn succeeded the genial summer, and then-a
The Wasp, the Bee, and the Spider, all perished. But the Bee
had well and untiringly lent his aid to form the splendid honey-
comb his hive had yielded, and had gathered, besides, an ample
store of bee-bread.
Many a thoughtful mind had pondered over the Spider's exqui-
While of the Wasp no record remained but-the mark of his
THE corner door of the Sideboard was left half open--so that
the Plate-basket, for once, had a good view of the room. .It
rustled and creaked, and felt as curious as it was possible for it to
feel-not very much though, of course, for curiosity is a vulgar
attribute, and nothing so wealthy as a Plate-basket could be
vulgar-that is an understood fact.
It looked all round at the tables and chairs and carpet, and
turned up its nose at all-but most of all at the pictures.
Poor creatures!" he said; "how ashamed they must feel
of their sham gilt frames!" and he turned for relief to look at the
shining bowls of the gold spoons in one of his capacious divisions.
There was a little Sugar-basin close by, who peeped to see
what was outside also.
Bless us !" said the Basket, what a deal of time and thought
seems to be wasted by some people! Look at that foolish Match-
box, with a network of gilding halfway up-all sham, you know,
all sham. The pattern is pretty, I dare say-I can't say I
see it-but who cares for prettiness that's worth nothing ?
'What's it worth ?' is my motto, about everything. Make as
good a show as you like--there's nothing like show now-a-days;
but let it be with costly solid materials; none of your imitative
elegance for me."
The Sugar-basin was elegantly shaped and engraved, with
armorial bearings besides. She fidgeted, as if touched on a
My dear friend, I think, with you, we should all be worth
something; but may we not combine beauty of form and-
ahem! "-she cleared her throat here-"other claims to dis-
tinction, with richness of material ?"
"Oh, I see what you're after!" said the Plate-basket. He
really was not choice in his language; but many wealthy people
have this peculiarity. I suppose you mean, your .antiquity's
worth something-I wouldn't give an osier twig for it Why,
look at me; I'm worth more than anything in the house, and yet
I'm bran new-don't even know who my father and mother were.
Don't talk to me of antiquity, it makes me sick! Why, look at
me; you're not intrinsically worth so much as a plain basin at
the same price would be, my lady!" and he laughed in a very
The Sugar-basin was rather shocked; but she was one of an
old impoverished family, and she thought wealthy people ought
to be indulged in their little eccentricities; so she continued her
survey of the room.
Why, my good friend, there is surely a relative of yours."
Where ?" said the Plate-basket, gruffly. He was not fond
of relations generally-they seldom do one much credit, and are
I mean that pretty basket full of flowers on the table; how
graceful its shape is !"
"It cost about five shillings, I suppose," sneered the Plate-
basket, flowers and all. I wonder people are not ashamed to
have such rubbish about their rooms; and what's the use of
flowers ? My relation, indeed! I wonder he's not ashamed of so
trifling an employment-an employment that gives him no weight
or position whatever-that identifies him with mere pretty use-
lessness. Oh, don't talk to me what can there be to admire in
anything that's not expensive ?"
The Plate-basket rattled his spoons and forks, and seemed to
hug himself in the comfort of being so rich and respectable.
The Flower-basket heard all that passed, only it didn't answer;
it hated rudeness, and thought the Plate-basket would be sure
to get the best of the argument; but it looked lovingly at the
Beautiful creatures!" he thought; "how much rather would
I possess your loveliness, fading as it may be, than the senseless
lumps of metal my cousin values himself on Even as you fade,
some of. you acquire a fresh charm; and what a never-ending
variety among you! Many of you lean lovingly down and caress
me for the support I give. I may be poor, and, not 'worth
anything,' but what life can equal the happiness of mine ?"
A large white Convolvulus, whose pure blossoms were filled
with cool green shadow, pressed its long pendent sprays more
closely round the Basket as he spoke, and the fragrant white-
bosomed Rose blushed with pleasure.
Ah !" sighed the Flower-basket, in the delirium of its happi-
ness, "gold and silver cannot do that, cousin Mammon!"
Dear me! the Flower-basket was very silly; as if the same
thing ever makes three people happy, and as if the Plate-basket
did not take just as much pleasure in counting his spoons and
looking at their glitter, in calculating their cost, and, above all,
in thinking how much consequence they gave him in the eyes
of the world, as he himself did in the service of grace and beauty
and in their love.
But the Sideboard door was soon shut up, and the Plate-
basket was left in the dark-alone, too, for'the silver Sugar-
basin had been taken out, as it was tea-time.
This was really a pity-for I have no doubt, had there been
any one to listen to it, the Plate-basket would have made various
useful and instructive observations relative to the virtue and
wisdom of the wealthy, and the folly and want of common sense
of the poor.
I can't tell how it happened-it was very forgetful of the
housemaid-but though she took the silver Sugar-basin upstairs,
she quite forgot the Plate-basket. He had fallen sound asleep, so
he had not noticed the omission.
Suddenly, he was roused up by a curious grinding sound-
grind-grind-a whispering, and then a cautious tread, as if of
The Sideboard door was forced open, and the bull's-eye of a
dark lantern thrown on him.
"Ah!" he thought, "here are people come, possibly, from
some distance, and at night too, to contemplate my possessions.
What a thing it is to be worth something !"
He was surprised to feel a rough grasp on his handle. A
voice whispered close to him-
Best make off with this, Bill-there's a stir overhead."
And, in an instant, our Plate-basket found himself carried
along at a most uncomfortable speed. How the spoons and forks
did bump and bruise his fat, well-padded sides! He had no
breath to speak, or he would have told the man that people of
wealth and position were not accustomed to such rough treat-
Presently they stopped, and all crouched down behind a hedge.
They set the Plate-basket down on something soft and wet.
Mercy me, what's this !" thought he. "I haven't felt any-
thing like it since I was woven-though I think I was rather used
to it before."
After much whispering and muttering, one man-the same who
had first seized it-took several large spoons from the Basket.
"Aha! he'll be rather surprised when he feels how heavy
they are, I reckon. Why, what on earth's the man about?
putting them in his pocket-in his vile dirty coat-pocket! Here,
I say-murder !-robbers !-treason! How dare he touch any-
thing belonging to me ?"
But the men paid no attention to him; you see, their education
had been neglected. In less than five minutes, they had filled
their pockets with the contents of the Plate-basket.
"What's to be done with this here ?" said one, kicking our
friend as he spoke. It ain't worth a rap to us; but it won't
do to .leave it here-it'll blow. on us, if it's found close to the
Burn it," suggested another.
I don't believe you could stow it snugger than .in that
dung-heap," said Bill. Here, make a hole, and I'11 shove it in,
so as, I'll undertake, it don't tell no tales in a hurry."
The Plate-basket listened breathlessly. "Not worth any-
thing!" What did they mean ? He, the most valuable thing in
Well, it's dark," he said. They can't see me; so I must
make some allowance. But what use can the spoons be without
me ? Put me in a dung-heap, too! Ah, and they're right, there
is. one close by. How disgusting! I shall be sick, to a dead
certainty." He gasped as he heard Bill's proposal. "The last
refuge of the poor and the outcast-it's impossible such a thing
could happen to me."
Here the barking of a dog alarmed the thieves, and they
started off again as fast -as possible, without burying the unhappy
Plate-basket; to whom, however, Bill, muttering .a fierce oath,
gave a parting kick that sent it several yards further-where the
ditch in which they had been crouching was no longer mud, but
nearly full of foul stagnant water.
Oh dear! oh dear!" he screamed, as the water bubbled
into his inside, I can't bear it; I shall take cold in my head.
Oh! I'm sure I'm going to sneeze Oh! was ever anybody more
deserving of pity-pity, how can I talk such nonsense ? pity is
only for the poor. No, no; no one would venture to pity me.
Pouf how nasty this water smells !"
When morning came, the ditch looked drearier than ever;
one could scarcely call the sluggish ooze that filled it water, it
was so slimy and choked with weeds. Presently something stirred
its surface, and a great fat Newt tumbled into our Plate-basket.
Get out, you nasty, unpleasant reptile! what do you mean
by taking such a liberty ? Do you think all this soft padding was
made for your ugly yellow sides ? Get out, I say !"
But the Newt only laughed, and settled itself more snugly
in the Basket.
I don't know what you are," he chuckled; you look like
an over-fed dock-leaf, but you're uncommonly comfortable, let me
tell you; and you may stay here as long as you like."
And the Newt curled himself round, and went fast asleep in
For several days the (now poor indeed) Basket lay in the
ditch. He remained near the surface, entangled in a growth of
70 THE PLATE-BASKET.
But his padded lining gradually became rotten and detached,
and the bruise which the burglar's foot had inflicted soon in-
creased to a great hole in his side.
One morning he was roused from the lethargy of misery into.
which he had sunk, by hearing two small voices in high dispute-
Tell'ee I will get in it, Joe, and have a sail."
Tcll'ee 'ee can't-there be a hole in it big enough to put
your head in."
Well, but do get it out for us, Joe, won't 'ee ?" implored
the younger boy. Maybe, there's some use in it."
'Tain't of no use 'cept for this," said the other boy, when,
with much labour, he had succeeded in dragging the Basket
out of the weeds and muddy slime; and, setting it on the level
ground, he kicked the dirty, dilapidated thing along, until it
became a shapeless mass of rubbish.
Ah!" sighed he, with his last breath, "to be kicked to pieces
by poor ragged boys is indeed a degradation!"
-lr Ifete l'tt l:
LIERE was, once on a time,
a little girl, who had two
pretty little fat, white Hands,
but, sad to say, they were of
no use to her. I do not mean
to say that, if there were
flowers to be plucked, or fruit
to be gathered, or sugar-
plums to be eaten, or sun-
dry bits of mischief to be
achieved, the little Hands
were not useful. Oh, no-
no small fingers could be
quicker at such work; but
if Janet were told to change
her shoes or her pinafore, or
do anything really useful, the
poor ignorant little Hands
never could find out which
way to set to work. Per-
haps they never tried, or, if
they did, the Head never
helped them, but went on
thinking of something else.
She was a very useless
One day, Janet had been
in trouble before dinner. The
poor little Hands had not
performed anything that was
THE USELESS LITTLE HANDS.
expected of them-all had gone wrong. She felt angry with her-
self and everybody else, and as soon as she could she slipped away
from the table, and wandered disconsolately round the garden.
The sun was very hot, so she soon tired of walking about, and
seated herself in a shady nook, close to a beautiful rose-tree.
She had nothing to do, and did not wish to do anything.
She presently grew drowsy and fell asleep. But she was roused
from her nap by a hum of voices close beside her.
"How can I ever thank you, dear Rose," said a little yellow
Musk-flower, for the kind shelter you give me ? The fierce sun's
rays would not have left me one green leaf; but he cannot pene-
trate your thick foliage, although he tries his best."
Dear Musk," said the Rose, "I often wish I could be more
useful; it is such a slight service that I am able to render-only
just to spread my leaves wider when I see your enemy's rays
beaming too fiercely on your delicate head. Do you know, I
sometimes feel envious of some of our cousins, who have the
power of making themselves useful. Look at the Clematis and
giant Convolvulus, at the other end of the walk-what a cool
fragrant bower their sheltering arms have formed for our dear
mistress 1 Really, I felt quite jealous this morning, when, on her
return from that poor old Scotch body's cottage, she seated her-
self for a few moments, and gazed up into the snowy tubes of the
Convolvulus; their cool green shadows must have refreshed her
after her dusty walk; and then she gathered a few of the sweet-
scented Clematis flowers-it made me feel that I, alas! can be
of no service to her, but to ornament the garden!"
And shelter me, dear friend. But how do you know that
our mistress went to see anyone this morning? inquired the
little Musk, whose yellow flowers expanded with eager curiosity.
I went with her," said the Rose. My spirit lives in each
one of my blossoms, and till they wither I am ever present within
them. Our mistress gathered several of my freshest flowers as
she passed through the garden. She opened a small side gate
THE USELESS LITTLE HANDS.
and went down a pretty lane on the opposite side of the way.
We soon came to an old thatched cottage; the state of the little
garden in front, overgrown with rank shepherd's purse and couch-
grass, told that it was at present neglected, although the honey-
suckle, trained round the porch, showed that some cultivation
had been once bestowed on it. We climbed a creaking staircase,
and, after tapping at the door, entered a small airy room. An
old woman lay on a bed; from her face and complexion, you
would not have thought her very ill, but the powerlessness of her
attitude and her wasted hands told otherwise."
Will you speak rather louder, please, dear Rose ?" interrupted
the Musk, who had stretched her poor little blossoms nearly
out of their green cups, in her anxiety not to lose a word of
her friend's story. "Between the buzzing and humming of the
bees and gnats, I can scarcely hear your soft voice."
The Rose bent her head, diffusing delicious perfume by the
movement, and continued:-
How are you, Goody ?' said our mistress, in a bright, kind
voice that seemed to cheer the old woman.
"' Weel, I'm just frail and silly the morn, leddy,' she answered.
"' I thought you might be able to fancy an egg for your dinner;
and see,' she said, holding it up, 'what a fine one I found in the
chicken-house as I came along !'
Ye're always purely kind and guid, my leddy; but it's
na use the day. Joan is *gane forth, and willna win back hame
But how were you going to manage all day ?'
"' I hae just a few parridge in the cogie there-that wad hae
served richt well.'
Oh, but Goody, I brought the egg on purpose for you. I
must see you eat it before I go away.'
She looked about till she found materials for lighting a fire,
and when it had burnt up, she hunted out a little saucepan, and
boiled the egg; and the old woman said it was cooked to perfection.
THE USELESS LITTLE HANDS.
Now, that is what I call being really useful," said the Rose;
"but I have noticed among human beings many who seem only
to possess hands and feet, but have no idea how to use them,
especially in the service of others. Perhaps they forget that
hands are apt to become lazy, if the head does not keep a steady
watch over them."
A Gnat, that had been singing round Janet for some minutes,
just then stung her sharply.
She roused up with a start from the sort of dream she had been
enjoying on the grass-plot, and ran in-doors, wondering very much
at all she had heard, and feeling very uncomfortable and disturbed
in her mind. To think of flowers, even, being more useful than
she was-everything and everybody joining in this cry about
usefulness! What could it mean ?
She continued in a dreamy, wandering mood through the
afternoon, but when it came to undressing time she was really
worse than ever. She could not exert herself, even so much
as to pull off her socks; and, as to her petticoats, Nurse had to
say, three times over-
"Please, Miss Janet, will you step out of your clothes," before
the inattentive little creature would rouse herself up to listen.
That night Janet dreamed a very curious dream. It seemed
as if she had just lain down in'bed.
Nurse said, "Good night," and took away the candle; but
still the room was quite light, and looked all in disorder, and yet
Janet was certain that Nurse had folded her clothes and set every-
thing straight before she went away. There were her petticoats
on the floor just as she had stepped out of them-there was one
sock in one corner and the fellow on a chair, just as she had
pulled them off. There were her little shoes, lying on their faces
anywhere, instead of standing neatly side by side, as Nurse had
.Suddenly she felt a very strange, sharp pain in her wrists-
it seemed as if a knife passed through them. She instinctively.
THE USELESS LITTLE HANDS.
tried to touch them; but what was this ?-the Hands were gone,
and the fingers with them.
Janet sate up in bed; she felt too much puzzled to cry. But
as she looked round, to make sure whether she was awake or
asleep-what do you think she saw ?
Her two pretty little fat white Hands sliding gently -over
the coverlet. Now they reached the side of the bed, and jumped
on the floor.
They did not lie there, though-they began diligently to fold
up all the scattered clothes. How neatly and quickly they did
it, smoothing each article and giving it a finishing pat. Then
they placed the little shoes side by side, turned the socks ready
to put on next morning, and finally seemed to be setting some of
Janet's untidy drawers to rights.
Janet looked on in breathless wonder. She could not believe
her eyes. Could these be the naughty, useless little Hands,
that always went so slowly and unwillingly about any useful
or unselfish occupation ?
Presently they began to talk.
"There," said the Right Hand, "I think we have saved
Nurse a good quarter of an hour to-night. She 'll not have to
sit up so late at needlework, and how pleased Mamma will be
when she sees such tidy drawers !"
"And I have helped you bravely, sister, have I not ?" said
"You have tried, and that is all that can be expected," said
the Right Hand. Good night."
And clasping each other heartily, the pretty little Hands dis-
Next morning, Kurse said she could not tell what had come
to Miss Janet-it was quite unaccountable. She put on her
own socks and shoes, and really tried to be helpful in dressing
76 THE USELESS LITTLE HANDS.
It was very hard work at first; and the Hands did not do
things quite so neatly and cleverly as in the dream, and very
often tired before they had nearly fulfilled their duties. But
Janet soon found that by fixing her mind resolutely and earnestly
on what she was about, instead of letting her thoughts wander
just where they pleased, the Hands became quicker and more
skilful every day, and by her next Birth-day every one called
her useful little Janet."
gt 6totted Gat.
SWISH, my good friend, if it would not greatly inconvenience
you, that you would let me see a little more of the fire, this
bitterly cold evening," quoth a sleek Tabby Cat, as she lay lazily
purring on a Turkey rug in front of a blazing fire.
"Well, Tabby, if you can get any closer, you are welcome,"
said the black Retriever she addressed; "but, seeing that I have
been out all day, while you have been snoozing either here or
inside the fender, I don't think you ought to grumble at me for
taking a warm, by way of beginning the evening."
The Cat was silent; but she glanced sarcastically at Bison's
dirty feet and tail, and licked herself all over by way of contrast.
It would have made anyone's throat dry to witness the assi-
duity with which she washed every hair of her grey fur with
that nimble, indefatigable tongue, purring cheerfully all the time.
The Dog looked vexed; his honest nature rose against covert
"I am sorry to be so dirty, Tabby; but I was obliged to follow
our master, and you see I have not the same means of cleaning
myself that you possess."
"That's very true. Few creatures have," she replied, com-
placently, for she began to think Bison had some discernment,
after all; "at least, I should say-for I abhor vanity-few make
the same use of their facilities." And she purred louder and more
cheerfully than ever.
"I wonder," she continued, lazily, if, when you are out on
these expeditions, you see anything to compensate for getting
such a terribly. dirty coat ? "
THE GENTEEL CAT.
I believe you !" said Bison, jumping up and shaking himself
in quite an excited manner.
Excuse me, Mr. Bison, you really are-what shall I say ?-too
impetuous I know it was entirely unintentional, but you have
really sprinkled three-positively three-drops of dirty water
over my right shoulder! You really have no breeding!" And, of
course, she licked herself all over again.
"Well, well," said Bison, rather impatiently, "I should think
we did see some beautiful sights to-day, more especially towards
evening, when the snow began falling so thickly that I thought
Master Tommy's story of the old woman who plucks her geese
up in the clouds must be true-the flakes looked like white
Do you call that Master Tommy's story ?" said the Cat. I
knew that story long before you ever saw Master Tommy!"
"Well," said Bison, somewhat abashed, anyhow, the snow
was wonderful; flake fell fast upon flake. Master was soon
covered, and so, I dare say, I was too."
"Ah," Mrs. Tabby interrupted, compassionately, "you should
have seen the snow I saw last winter, at Farmer Green's, where
-my mother lives You would not have thought much of this fall
if you had."
When every tree," continued Bison, "was clothed in white,
every branch seemed to stand out, as if carved in frosted silver;
and as to the front-garden, I declare, when we came in, it
reminded me of the great cakes I saw last week, when Master
took me into town-everything was quite white but the green
edging round the large round bed, just like the border of a cake,
and the small plants and shrubs stood up like the silver orna-
ments-so white and still."
"Oh, you admired those cakes, did you ? You should see a
real London bride-cake! We had one sent down to us when
my young Mistress was married. But, however, I daresay you
thought those beautiful that you saw last week. Where igno-
THE GENTEEL CAT.
rance is bliss-I've heard people say-there's no use in knowing
better." And she licked herself carefully again.
The Dog winced a little. Good-natured as he was,.he wished
Tabby would keep her opinions to herself, and not snub him so
It was curious," he said, "to see how dirty the rabbits' white
tails looked beside the snow. Master shot a brace of them.
There they lie in the porch-poor soft little creatures!"
"Do you call a rabbit's skin soft?" said Tabby. "Have you
ever noticed the fur of my last kitten ?"
"Not I," said Bison, testily. "I hate kittens!"
"Yes; people often dislike what they don't understand," said
the Cat; and she sat straight upright, and curled her tail round,
and looked pensively into the fire.
"I beg your pardon," said Bison, ashamed of his rudeness.
"You are fortunate in possessing children."
Yes; you see things always go well with those who are
steady and careful. Nothing ever goes wrong with me. Now,
that unhappy Tortoiseshell in the farm-yard-well, all her last
kittens were drowned. I was not at all surprised; I knew how
it would be. Spite of all the delicate, friendly hints I was con-
stantly giving her, she always allowed her children to play, and
romp, and be as wild as possible. She said she liked the little
dears to use their limbs. I really could not allow my genteel,
well-trained children to associate with them, and our Mistress,
you see, has appreciated the difference. Take my word for it,
friend Bison, those on whom the rising suu shines are those who
will sun themselves in his departing light; those who are born
under a cloud will never emerge from it. Look at my mother
and all my family-how respectable and settled they are, and how
well they have always managed! Look at my children-what
beauty what grace what perfect gentility!"
Here her youngest, with the remarkably soft fur, added itself
to the group, by taking a flying leap from the top of a high-backed
THE GENTEEL CAT.
chair in the chimney-corner, and began, without any show of
reverence, to play about her mother, administering, every now
and then, a sharp bite to the end of her tail.
The Cat seemed undisturbed-everything belonging to the
Tabby family must of necessity do right; but Bison curled him-
self round, so as to turn his back to the mischievous kitten, who
peered curiously at him with her bright round eyes, but was
evidently afraid to venture nearer.
Finding that her gambols were not responded to-for Mrs.
Tabby was far too decorous to play with her just then-she seated
herself upright, in exact imitation of her mother, and began
to lick herself in an approved and well-bred fashion.
Bison, as I have said before, was not ill-tempered-although
he felt sore at being so continually rubbed the wrong way-but
he reflected that probably the constant habit of using her own
fur in such a manner, gave Tabby's tongue a specialty in that
direction; and he continued his narrative.
I wonder what you would have said to the rats near Mullin
Bridge-how they started and scrambled to their holes when
I splashed in among them after Master's bird !"
"And you worried plenty of them, no doubt," said the Cat,
enviously licking her lips.
That would have been more in your way than mine, Tabby;
you are kept to destroy vermin, while I should break rules if
I even touched a rat when out with our Master."
I'm not exactly kept to destroy vermin-you use strange
expressions, sir. I am not a stable cat-oh, dear no! my business
here, I believe, is to look pretty and genteel, and to make myself
as comfortable as I can. Of course I do not permit any mice
here ; but that is simply from a due regard to the feelings of
/ my Master and Mistress, whose meals would otherwise be dis-
turbed by these thieves. But I manage all this at night, so
as to give offence to no one."
'Let us be genteel, or. die,'" muttered the Dog.
THE GENTEEL CAT.
I have my impulses entirely under control," continued the
Cat; "no little weaknesses do I give way to; but I can scarcely
fancy how you could restrain your natural impetuosity."
I don't understand all your long words. I wanted a rat
bad enough, I can tell you; but I recollected my duty, and
Master's dog-whip, in time."
"Poor fellow !" purred the Cat. "How .sadly the inferior
nature preponderates, when it can only be restrained by the
fear of a beating."
Just then a servant appeared, carrying a smoking dish of
fine trout, which he placed on the table, and then withdrew to
announce that dinner was served.
Bison rose and shook himself, ready to welcome his Master;
but Tabby's eyes dilated fearfully-she sniffed the air and licked
her lips; she paced the hearth-rug in visible and anything but
well-bred agitation. Presently Bison ran to the door-she could
withstand the temptation no longer-she sprang on to the table
and began to crunch the head of the largest trout as fast as she
could-never heeding the opening door and the entrance of her
Master and Mistress.
"Drive Tabby away, and give her a beating for her ill-
manners !" exclaimed the Farmer to his servant. "Poor old
Bison, you shall go down and have a good supper; you have
had a harder rhn to-day than usual."
PART THE FIRST.
HAD been wan-
S'' -- during for some
r loe over a common
-t gled with brake and
i..I kberry-bushes, when
e'f ti at once a wall of al-
n h.-t impenetrable ver-
With infinite labour I
i....:ed my way through
ticket of sloe-bushes,
:t,..vned with blossomed
I,-,iueysuckle and long,
t I ling briars, and found
S~, vi;. -elf suddenly on en-
iulted ground the
place I had been
a, g .- ed king.
I had often heard de-
cobuptions of this spot,
but had no previous be-
lief that it so well deserved its name of Fairyland."
The broken, rough ground of the common had given place to
a soft lawn of velvet turf, surrounded by an irregular circle of
wondrously majestic yew-trees, whose girth evidently betokened
a Druidic growth. Their widely-extended branches were so closely
matted with foliage, that the broad glare of the sunshine could
only penetrate here and there.
Long vistas opened on every side, along which the graceful
brake and clinging briars grew in wild masses, still, every now
and then, overshadowed by yew-trees. The daring blackberry
sprays had audaciously climbed to the summit of some of these
hoary old monarchs of the scene; and, as if overjoyed at their
own success, flung their long arms down again to the earth, in
search of new exploits.
The gnarled branches and knotted stems of the yew-trees,
frosted over with the silvery cup-lichen, suggested a variety of
grotesque fancies. Here, one was riven in twain, yet the foliage
looked vivid and rich as that of its more perfect brethren. A few
steps further on, appeared the most majestic tree I had as yet
observed. I felt inclined to rest under his widely-spreading
shade, for the August sun was at its fiercest heat; but in walking
round the immense trunk, to select a comfortable nook, I was
amazed to find that only half of the foliage was really yew; on
the other side a wild service-tree sprung about mid-way from
the trunk, so that the tree was really double-faced, the tender
green of the service contrasting well at the junction with its more
So silent and deserted was the place, that, but for the tinkle
of a sheep-bell, one might have fancied it unknown to mankind.
This set me musing on the mystery of the double-tree. It bore
no trace of lightning scathe, and so perfect was the shape of
the remaining portion, that it was evident the other half must,
some time or other, have been removed-but how ? While I sat
pondering this difficulty, the sun had gradually disappeared,
smiling so warm a farewell, that the whole landscape seemed for
a few moments bathed in a bright crimson glow, which quickly
yielded to the colder, paler beams of the harvest moon. If the
place was beautiful by day, it was something more now. The
silver light struggled in more boldly and freely than the golden
rays had succeeded in doing; and the shadows of the stalwart
trees fell in broad dark columns across its bright track.
While I was admiring the exquisite effect of the moonlight-
on a ring of Fairy seats of all forms and sizes, that seemed to
have sprung up in front of me, I suddenly perceived that I was
no longer alone.
PART THE SECOND.
Myriads of graceful but tiny elves now traversed the broad open
space within the mystic circle of the trees. Gradually they
seemed to approach nearer and nearer the spot- where in the
morning I had remarked the immense shattered trunk which I
now, to my surprise, beheld entire. At its base, seated lovingly
on the same creamy mushroom, were a pair of lovely elves,
wearing diadems of dandelion plumes, to whom all the rest, as
they passed in front of them, paid homage. The Fairy King
presently clapped his hands loudly, and the merry hum of voices
It is our wish," said he, in clear silvery tones, and that of
our dear lady, to reward Chivalry and Skill among you. Several
of you, I know, long for distinction; some few, I fear, thirst for
power. Here I offer you a legitimate ambition; but remember
to exercise your talents usefully. The place of chief huntsman at
our Fairy court awaits him to whom I adjudge the prize."
Almost before the King's voice had ceased, several eager com-
"Stay !" said the King; "we decide not on your claims to
merit till the silver moon shall again be at her full splendour; till
then strive to deserve success. And now," he added, turning to
the Queen, and courteously and lovingly assisting her to descend
from the throne, "let affairs of state give place to mirth and
With a blade of feathery grass, that seemed to serve him for
a. sceptre, he struck a tall foxglove, under which he now stood.
Instantly its numerous bells struck up the merriest music imagin-
able, more like silvery peals of laughter than any mortal dance
music, and yet harmonising perfectly with the twining, graceful
evolutions of the Fairy dancers.
Everywhere shone the tiny lamps of countless glow-worms,
while bright golden-winged beetles whirred about, apparently
sharing the general merriment.
Under the shade of an umbrageous mushroom, a pair of lovers
had stolen away from the revel, and were reading their fortunes in
the mystic blossoms of the St. John's wort; beneath whose broad
leaves a mischievous urchin was seated, busily engaged in drain-
ing a goblet of hoar cup-lichen filled with nectarous dew, which
seemed in great request among the dancers.
Several of the young elves of the hobble-de-hoy class amused
themselves in climbing the ladder-like blackberry sprays I had
remarked in the morning; on which some swung merrily to and
fro, while others strove together which should climb the quickest;
and they shouted with wild delight when one less fortunate than
his fellows pricked himself so smartly as to lose his hold just as
he had reached the summit.
Around the Royal pair a group still lingered. Look at Pau-
kee," said one, "how enviously he eyes Lazor and Yefrid; till
lately he was high in the King's favour, but his vain wish to be
preferred to all, has at last disgusted even our gentle Sovereign."
Lazor and Yefrid are not clever at all, though," said the
blue-eyed Fairy to whom this speech was addressed.
"No, they are not clever; but they are bright, happy, and
loving, and are quite unselfish; and I should like to know how we
should get on without some butterflies among us. If we were all
as clever as Pau-kee, why, I think I'd rather be a squirrel at once."
The object of these remarks was a diminutive, but very
remarkable-looking Fairy; his dark eyes, full of restless fire,
seemed ever seeking something beyond his power to attain. Oc-
casionally he cast an envious glance on two bright beings who
stood close beside the Queen, and whom she addressed as Lazor
Why do you not join the dancers ?" said she; I shall begin
to think you are growing self-satisfied, and deem dancing un-
worthy of you."
Rather, dearest lady," said Yefrid, "believe us unwilling to
leave your Royal presence for any lesser enjoyment."
The Queen smiled graciously, and then turned to the dark-eyed
sprite. Pau-kee," said she, "I know disdains dancing; though
surely one so universally wise must excel even in so mean an
accomplishment;" and she laughed with a spice of true feminine
malice, for she knew that Pau-kee was by no means a graceful
dancer, and therefore did not care to attempt it. He was, more-
over, so wrapped up in himself that he had never paid the Queen
the slightest compliment, and-(like her mortal sisters, who will
pardon conceit in a really clever man, provided he worships them
a little, and who value this reluctant homage far more than the
sedulous admiration of any empty-pated Adonis)-she felt piqued
at his indifference to her charms.
Your pardon, Madam," said Pau-kee, sarcastically; "I was
considering the words of our gracious Sovereign."
And meditating how to achieve so stupendous an under-
taking," laughed the Queen.
By no means difficult, Madam, I should hope, if Lazor and
Yefrid are also competitors," replied Pan-kee.
You need not disdain my faithful squires; if there be aught
of chivalry or generosity in the emprise, I feel confident of their
She -turned from Pau-kee somewhat haughtily, and, followed
by her gay train, mingled with the dancers.
He gazed after her, while a dark frown overspread his features.
" How long," he muttered, "is mind to be subject to such empty
puppets as these ? This must end. I will assert my sovereign
power of intellect, or perish!"
And he disappeared amid the bracken.
The fascination of the revel was at its height. Loving glances
were.interchanged more and more rapidly, and yet more linger-
ingly among the dancers; they clasped each other more closely in
their graceful waltz; when a shrill crowing sound crashed in amid
the sweet flowery music. Instantly a gauze-like mist floated over
the scene, and all was void and still.
PART THE THIRD.
The moon was again at its full, and again was the Elfin Court
assembled within the yew-tree circle.
But there were no sounds of revelry. A breathless silence hung
over all, only broken by the whirr of the bats' wings; and now
three figures were seen emerging from one of the bracken glades.
One obviously slackened his pace, in order to let the others arrive
As they neared the throne, I saw that the two foremost were
Lazor and Yefrid, while Pau-kee lingered behind, with a dark,
triumphant smile on his handsome features; but his beauty was
now that of a fallen spirit-deep lines furrowed his brow, and
when he attempted to smile, his lips curled with the sneer of a
Speak, Lazor and Yefrid," said the King, pointing to a
delicately-carved ivory hunting-horn, formed in exact imitation
of the woodbine blossom. "Tell us by what deeds you claim
"Nay, Sire," said Lazor, "I feel I have no claim. Your
Majesty told me to go out into the world seeking what good I
could do, and I own I found it very difficult not to spend the
whole day in enjoying all that- is lovely and wondrous on the
earth. I fear I can scarcely boast of any gallant or skilful exploit,
or any deed done that I can put forth as a claim for so great a
While Lazor spoke, a slight frown overspread the King's face.
He had hoped his favourite's goodness would have overcome his
butterfly habits. But before he could speak, the mischievous-
looking Elf I had noticed before under the hypericum leaves
sprung nimbly out of one of the foxglove bells, where he had
hidden to hear the decision of the King, and, prostrating himself,
Mercy, gracious Sire, if I speak; but yesterday, I was look-
ing for blackberries, and in so doing I fell into a wasps'-nest, and
the spiteful yellow-bodied monsters would have lamed me for
life, or perhaps killed me, if Lazor, at great peril, had not rushed
upon them, and striking furiously among them with a rush he
bore in his hand, dragged me away before they could recover
Since witnesses are permitted to speak," said the Queen,
"or rather," she continued, smiling graciously on her favourite
attendant, since Lazor is too modest to relate his own good
deeds, I must tell your Majesty that I saw him not long ago
expend much time and skill, as well as bravery, in freeing a white
butterfly from a venomous spider. The toils were so surely
wrapped round her, and were, too, of so glutinous a nature, that
Lazor, in attempting her deliverance, had well-nigh shared her
imprisonment. Three times I saw him turn faint and pale as the
poisonous breath of the spider, whose bloated body I could just
discern through the leaves, reached him; but he persevered, and
as the enraged monster incautiously descended to attack him,
Lazor transfixed him with his lance, while the freed captive
hovered round him in an ecstacy of gratitude."
A soft murmur of applause followed the Queen's story, and the
King warmly praised Lazor for his brave and loving labours.
Somewhat similar actions were related of Yefrid, who seemed
alike modest in proclaiming his own merits; and, after some
deliberation, their claims were declared equal.
Advance, Pau-kee; I see you are the only other claimant,"
said the King, kindly, although the dark, triumphant glance of the
Fay, methought, impressed him painfully. Pau-kee had listened
to all with a contemptuous smile; he now advanced, and bowed
with graceful self-possession.
I have not spent my time in worthless knight-errantry," he
said; "your Majesty gave us permission to try skilfully for the
prize, and I have been employed in heightening and increasing a
store of knowledge and power, which I now propose to put to
the proof; but, as seeing is believing, I prefer doing so in this
presence, to the testimony of-of-witnesses." Evidently, had
he dared, he would have qualified the word; but an angry gleam
in the Queen's eyes restrained him. The King looked grave.
"I hope your power has no noxious origin or qualities," said he.
A deep red flush passed over Pau-kee's face, and a strange
light flashed from his eyes. He had bartered every good and
kindly feeling for the power of gratifying his insatiable craving.
Your Majesty's own intellect is too keen," he said, hypocriti-
cally, to put mere brute-force and good-nature on the same level
with its priceless worth. Have I permission to commence ?"
The King bowed assent.
Three mystic words issued from Pau-kee's lips, and instantly
the half of the majestic tree under which I was lying, and which,
to my surprise, I now remarked to be entirely composed of yew,
The King, and all around, looked horror-struck at this wanton
destruction of the sacred tree; but before he could interfere,
Pau-kee had repeated his incantation, and the noble yew, which
had so long overshadowed the Royal throne, was riven in twain;
With a triumphant mocking laugh, Pau-kee prepared to display a
third proof of his power. But he had overrated its.extent, and
.the forbearance of his sovereign lord.
Almost maddened by the tears that burst from .the lovely
Queen's eyes, at this cruel destruction of her favourite resting-
place, the King struck the foxglove sharply with his sword; a
dull, heavy sound issued from it, and the arms of Patkee re-
mained as if pinioned to his sides.
A band of armed Fairies, the Royal body-guard, on whose .
casques the gray monkshood nodded grimly, quickly surrounded
him, ready to obey the slightest command of their monarch.
Unhappy one!" said the King, thy vanity has wrought thee
fearful woe. In the form of a foul bird I condemn thee to haunt
this charmed spot for ever. May thy cry serve as a warning to
those' who prize Knowledge more than Love !"
The Night-Hawk's shrill, rattling cry startled me suddenly. I
gazed around; but Pau-kee and the whole Fairy company had
The crimson glow of the westering sun was faintly reflected on
the risen moon; and, save some creamy circles at the foot of the
riven tree, no trace remained of the bright denizens of Fairyland.
THERE was a nice fire in the kitchen; it made all the pots and'
pans look as bright as silver; and as to the copper Warming-
pan, that hung by the cupboard on one side of the fire, it almost
looked like a fire itself-there was such a rosy glow on its round
The kitchen was empty, for Cook was upstairs dressing, and
the Housemaid, having just brought down the tea-things, had
gone to set the drawing-room table straight.
"I wish Jane would make haste and wash us," said a Tea-cup;
"I like to be attended to properly."
"But don't you always feel nervous while you are being
washed?" said the Tea-pot. "Why, you have not even a leg to
stand upon, and you are so brittle and fragile."
"Oh," simpered the Tea-cup, "but then we were made to be
taken care of; we were never expected to do anything for our-
selves. We belong to a very old family. I can scarcely tell you
how far we trace back."
"Indeed!" said the Tea-pot. "Well, I am accustomed to a
good deal of care, too, and I believe I have excellent connections
-first-rate, in fact-if it were worth'my while to take them up;
but, to be frank with you, my dear lady, it is not. Birth is not
my line; I am far too valuable to trouble myself about birth!"
The Tea-cup gave a little dissentient cough, which all the
other Tea-cups echoed.
We have a great respect for you, Mr Tea-pot; in fact, we
tficic'stl~~'r a -64ffl, Him 5 a Eq.~t
I WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY."
could not permit your presence among us unless you were of
pure metal. There are so many counterfeits now-a-days, that
anything genuine is of value."
The Tea-pot did not answer. He was not often so long in the
kitchen, as he was always kept in the pantry, and he seemed
much amused by the scene around him.
The kitchen Poker, in particular, attracted his attention. He
was a tall, straight, stalwart fellow, with a large, round, shining,
bald head-he never had any hair that he could remember; he
hardly leaned against the fire-place, but seemed to stand bolt
upright, on the alert for service. In short, he quite realized the
saying, stiff as a poker."
"Don't you get tired of standing so very upright ? said the
Tea-pot, at last, for it was plain the Poker was either very well
bred, or very unused to society; he would not make any ad-
vances, except to return the Tea-pot's stare with interest.
Yes," said the Poker, bluffly, when I think about it."
"I don't understand you," said the Tea-pot. "How can one
help thinking about being tired ?"
"I don't know how you can help it," said the Poker, in his
rough, gruff voice. I'm not a Tea-pot. The reason I can help
it is because, if I'm placed upright, why, of course I must stand
so, and if I were not to think about my business, I should
tumble over; so how can I think about being tired?"
"Ah, now," said the Tea-cup, with an elegant drawling
manner, that may be the case with you-you are made of iron,
you see--but with my extremely refined nature, I can't help
feeling tired, and leaning over on one side, if I'm kept standing
here long before I'm hung up; and then, if I lean a little too
Much, I am sure to fall over, and risk breakage."
"Well, ma'am," said the Poker, "as you say, I am made of
iron, and, of course, have not much feeling, compared with your
sort of folk; but it strikes me, if you tried hard, when you feel
yourself slipping, you might easily recover your balance."
94 "WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY."
"By a great exertion of strength, perhaps," said the Tea-pot;
"but, surely, when one is half-way down, it must be pleasanter
and easier to give way altogether, than to struggle."
Exactly so," said the Tea-cup, languidly; "such an effort
would be most fatiguing to me."
I said nothing about being pleasanter," returned the Poker;
"I only said what was right, and might be done. 'Where there's
a will, there's a way;' and although we may not be all made
alike, still we can each fulfil our duties, one as well as the other."
"I quite agree with you," said the Fender, who had just
stopped a red-hot coal from jumping on the floor.
"You are quite a sage, friend Poker," said the Tea-pot,
gaping. But a tea-leaf for duty, say I! You would make life
a fine tiresome business! Why, I don't pretend that my nerves
are weak, but sometimes I feel frisky, and I don't choose to let
the tea out at my spout, and oftener still I feel lazy, and keep
my lid firm closed when they want to tease me by opening it.
The idea of always thinking about duty! Why, you might as
well expect to see me always in the fine, bright coat I wear on
All I know is," said the Poker, I can't do my duty unless
I think about it;" and he stood up stiffer than ever.
"Nor I," said the Fender.
Of course, of course !" said the Warming-pan, testily, in spite
of his ruddy round face. "No one can! You seem all to be
talking great nonsense to-night. I suppose the reason why I
do my duty so uncommonly well is because I have so much
time for thinking about it. Heigho Time was, people used to
have their beds warmed every night; and now I stay here from
year's end to year's end, without any chance of seeing a little
"Poor dear, how sad!" said the Tea-cup. "Then you've
never been in the drawing-room in your life? What an ex-
"WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY." 95
I've never been in the drawing-room, either," said the Poker,
" and I lead a very jolly life, and I'll venture to say I shall live
longer than you will."
Well, at any rate," said the Covers, who had been longing to
join in the conversation," we mayn't be as valuable as some
people "-and they giggled-" but at least we've been in the
dining-room, and seen a deal of company."
No one made any reply, for really it was very presuming of
the Covers to thrust themselves in in this way; but the Tea-
cups shuddered with disgust. The Tea-pot laughed at the same
instant, and shook the tray.
"Oh, I'm falling!" said the Tea-cup, and, as the effort to save
herself would have been far too fatiguing, she did fall.
Here's a pretty business !" cried Jane, the housemaid, as she
came into the kitchen. "Why, here's a Tea-cup gone and been
and cracked to pieces i It 'nll never be fit to go up-stairs again.
Who can have broken it ? It must have been the cat."
SD OW, my dear ec-
mytor, you really
might take a
Hilittle rest. We
SWhat is thehave built our
There can be
__no chance of
any one spy-
High-te-ti-tigh-te-ti! Do you imagine I would leave the fate of
my offspring to chance? No, indeed, I should think not !" And
the speaker, who was a very small, brilliant-looking Stickleback,
erected his three spines fiercely, and turned red and green with
His quiet, grey helpmate sighed.
"There again I" said Hector, spinning round in the water,
"What is the use of that unpleasant noise, Grizzy? You're
always sighing. You're enough to take all the colour out of my
coat, and all the stiffness out of my spines, with all this groaning
misery. It's enough to make me give you something to be mise-
rable for !"
I'm not miserable, dear Hector, only I'm so afraid you'll get
injured some day, in your valiant defence of our nest. I can't
help thinking-please don't be angry, dear-that if you kept a
little quiet, we should be quite as safe. We are too small and
insignificant to attract attention unless we provoke it."
The Stickleback spun round nearly a dozen times.
"Insignificant, indeed I may be small, although, mind you,
Grizzy, there are many smaller, but I should like to see any three
sticklebacks who are a match for me Curious, impertinent crea-
tures Why, I saw one yesterday, ever so far off, looking at you
as you came out of the nest, in the most insolent manner. Aha !
the very sight of me was enough for him; he turned as brown as
a minnow, down went his spines, and he darted to the other side
of the ocean."
"Do you know, Hector, dear;" said Griselda, who revenged her-
self for sundry bites and pricks by constant gentle doses of those
amiably-spoken truths with which wives generally indemnify
themselves, "my friend, Mrs. Patience, told me that some one
had told her that this water we live in is not an ocean at all,
only a pond."
"You ignorant, foolish creature! And what if it. is called a
pond ? It's because it is now discovered that ponds are vaster
Oh, no On the contrary, my dear, she said that a pond was
as small, compared to an ocean, as you are by the side of any of
those monsters we sometimes see in the deep water."
Mr. Hector Stickleback immediately boxed his wife's ears-a
very good, old-fashioned plan; it brings an impertinent wife to a
proper state of subjection, by making her look foolish.
A weeping Willow-tree, that overhung the snug nest Hector
had constructed among the *sedges for his wife and future
progeny, could not control her displeasure at this little occur-
S"I wonder you are not ashamed," she said-and her boughs
stirred the water with excitement-" to ill-treat your poor, dear
wife in such a manner!"
It's a great pity your poor, dear husband does not discipline
you a little," retorted Hector, looking all colours with rage; "for
it's plain you are married. The old maids-bless their tender
hearts!-always take part with the husbands.. I'm sometimes
puzzled, though," he continued, as his anger evaporated-for
Grizzy had humbly retired to her nest, to finish a fat caddis-worm
she had managed to secure-" I'm puzzled to make out whether
it's from tenderness to the husbands, or to show them what
they've missed, or to wreak their spite upon the wives for having
robbed them of a chance. However, ma'am," he continued,
" don't you meddle again, or you may get the worst of it, for I'm
strong and fierce when I'm roused;" and he spun round and
round till he made the water eddy again.
But the Willow-tree took no further notice of him.
Suddenly he spied an unlucky stickleback about six yards off.
He instantly darted towards him. The other erected his spines;
his skin rivalled Hector's in its scarlet and green and purple
tints. They rushed fiercely at each other three times; but the
fight was soon over-Hector drove his largest spine into the side
of his adversary, who floated lifeless on the water.
Hector spun round in triumph, and then went to Griselda, to
whom he proudly narrated his victory, asserting that the foe was
at least four times as big as himself.
But Griselda sighed worse than ever.
"If you had only right on your side, dear, I should not mind;
but you always begin these fights." She was going to say "pro-
voke," but she thought better of it.
Poor, foolish creature !" said Hector-he was too much elated
to bully'just then-" if I were not your guardian, I should like to
know how many eggs there would be left in the nest. Generally
the very sight of me is enough for these marauders; but this
one was either blind or stupid-he actually came within a few
strokes of the nest. In another moment he would have beheld
"Well," said Griselda, laughing, "what if he had ? He would
not have eaten me, I suppose."
" Eaten you !" exclaimed Hector, turning quite purple; eaten!
-why, it would be much better for you to be eaten than looked
at! My wife looked at by an ordinary stickleback !"
Hector seemed well-nigh stupified by the stupendous possibility.
Jealous tyrant!" murmured the Willow.
"Now, ma'am," said Hector, thoroughly irate at this second
interference, do mind your own business, or I shall have to teach
you how to do it! If you choose to go cramming your long, lan-
guishing ringlets-grey enough just now, to be sure" (he mut-
tered this)-" into everybody's mouth, to gain attention, that's your
husband's business, not mine, and I don't care; although some-
times, if I'm swimming fast, with my mouth open, you nearly choke
me. But I tell you not to meddle between me and Grizzy. If you
provoke me again, I'll bite you, and that's as flat as a flounder!"
The Willow laughed a nasty little irritating laugh; but she
secretly rejoiced that her mate, being stationary, had no power
to inflict the castigation endured by Griselda.
Hector, having reduced his antagonist to silence, darted forth
in search of fresh adventures.
For a long while no wayfarers passed within the limits of his
watch. At length he grew impatient, and sallied further out,
almost to the other side of the pond.
Presently he saw a large stickleback, evidently intent on guard-
ing his own nest. He soon perceived Hector, and, although he
did not attack him, he erected his spines, and put on his many-
This was enough for our pugnacious Stickleback. He flew at
the other, and tried to transfix him with his spine; but the enemy
ran full tilt at his nose, and they both retreated an instant, as if
stunned by the violent concussion.
Hector quickly returned to the charge, and then ensued a
Brighter and brighter glowed their bodies-purple, gold, scar-
let; and green-as they flashed, like tiny prisms, in the water.
For a long time the victory seemed doubtful, but at last Hector
summoned all his strength for a final blow. Down it came; but
the foe evaded it, and struck so fiercely and effectually in return,
that Hector's courage forsook him, and, as it did so, the doom of
his race came upon him. All his colours vanished, his spines fell
limp and powerless; a dull, brown fish, he fled away among the
bushes and reeds that fringed the bank, his enemy not deigning
to pursue him.
What was to become of him ? How could he return to his
nest, which he was for ever incapacitated from defending ?
He hid among the rushes till evening; he wanted to break the
news gently to Griselda. Poor thing she might fret to see him
shorn of his beauties-but what nonsense! What difference
could it make to her ?
When it grew dusk, he returned stealthily to his dwelling, trem-
bling lest the Willow should see, and taunt him with the change
in his looks; but she was so busy flirting with a Water-bur
growing near her, that he escaped notice.
Griselda came out to greet him, when she heard his three
accustomed taps at the entrance of the nest. Just at that mo-
ment the moon rose above the Willow-tree, and shone clear and
fair upon the water.
Griselda started back. Instead of her bristling-crested, bril-
liant mate, she beheld a dull, quiet-looking minnow, without any
spines whatever. She darted back into the nest, and shut the
door in his face.
"Oh, do let me in, Grizzy, dear !"-for, strange to say, although
the doom of cowardice was on him, he could not even bully his
wife-" pray let me in, and I'll never be cross to you any more I"
Let you in, indeed-into my Hector's nest! Get along with