J. W. MASON & SON
20, NORMAN ROAD
ST Lr..N.mi ** 1
~~cl e-~v, l~~?
W. V. Her Book
Copyright l896 in the
United States of America
by Stone & Kimball
- K -- --
Her way of "playing at botany [t. 69
"The Invisible Play-
mate," "A Lost Epic
and other Poems"
OWith Two Illustrations by C. E. Brock
London: Isbister & Co. Ltd.
15 & 16 Tavistock Street Covent Garden
W. V. Her Birthday Tage o1
Her Book 41
The Inquisition 43
The First Miracle 45
By the Fireside I 47
By the Fireside II 48
The Raider 49
The Orchard of Stars 52
The Sweet Pea TPage 53
Brook-side Logic 54
New Version of an Old Game 57
The Golden Swing-Boat 58
Another Newton's Apple 59
Naturula Naturans 60
Wings and Hands 61
Flowers Invisible 6z
Making Pansies 63
Sij'avais un arpent" 65
Her Friend Littlejohn 67
Her Bedtime 93
East of Eden 107
Goodwin Sands 15
The Wanderer I 127
The Wanderer II Iz8
The Scarecrow 130
The Haunted Bridge Page 13Z
The Stone IJge 134
Sea Pictures I 136
Sea Pictures II 138
Green Pastures 142
The Little Dipper 144
In the Hills '45
Nature's Magic 146
April Voices 147
Green Sky 151
Sub Umbra Crucis
The Shepherd Beautiful 155
The Moss 159
A Carol 160
When Snow Lies Deep 162
Trees of Righteousness" 164
The Comrades 166
"Crying Abba, Father" 169
This Grace Vouchsafe 174
W E are still on the rosy side of the
apple ; but this is the last Satur-
day in September, and we cannot expect
many more golden days between this
and the cry of the cuckoo. But what a
summer we have had, thanks to one of
W. V.'s ingenious suggestions! She
came to us in April, when the world
is still a trifle bare and the wind some-
what too bleak for any one to get
comfortably lost in the Forest or cast up
on a coral reef; so we have made her
birthday a movable feast, and whenever
a fine free Saturday comes round we
devote it to thankfulness that she has
been born, and to the joy of our both
being alive together.
W. V. sleeps in an eastern room, and
accordingly the sun rises on that side of
the house. Under the eaves and just
above her window the martins have a
nest plastered against the wall, and their
chattering awakens her in the first fresh-
ness of the new morning. She watches
the black shadows of the birds fluttering
on the sunny blind, as, first one and then
another, they race up to the nest, and
vibrate in the air a moment before dart-
ing into it. When her interest has
begun to flag, she steals in to me in her
Her Birthday 13
nightdress, and tugs gently at my beard
till I waken and sit up. Unhappily her
mother wakens too. "What, more
birthdays !" she exclaims in a tone of
stern disapproval; whereat W. V. and I
laugh, for evasion of domestic law is the
sweet marjoram of our salad. But it is
possible to coax even a Draconian parent
into assent, and oh !
Flower of the may,
If mamsie will not say her nay,
W. wont care what any one may say!
We first make a tour of the garden,
and it is delightful to observe W. V.
prying about with happy, eager eyes, to
detect whether nature has been making
any new thing during the dim, starry
hours when people are too sound asleep
to notice; delightful to hear her little
screams of ecstacy when she has dis-
covered something she has not seen
before. It is singular how keenly she
notes every fresh object, and in what
quaint and pretty turns of phrase she
expresses her glee and wonderment.
"Oh, father, haven't the bushes got
their hands quite full of flowers?"
"Aren't the buds the trees' little
girls ? "
This morning the sun was blissfully
warm, and the air seemed alive with the
sparkle of the dew, which lay thick on
every blade and leaf. As we went
round the gravel walks we perceived
how completely all the earlier flowers
had vanished; even the lovely sweet
peas were almost over. We have still,
however, the single dahlias, and mari-
golds, and nasturtiums, on whose level
leaves the dew stood shining like glo-
bules of quicksilver; and the tall
Michaelmas daisies make quite a white-
topped thicket along the paling, while
Her Birthday 15
the rowan-berries are burning in big
red bunches over the western hedge.
In the corner near the limes we came
upon a marvellous spectacle-a huge
old spider hanging out in his web in
the sun, like a grim old fisherman float-
ing in the midst of his nets at sea. A
hand's breadth off, young bees and new-
born flies were busy with the low peren-
nial sunflowers; he watching them
motionlessly, with his gruesome shadow
silhouetted on a leaf hard by. In his
immediate neighbourhood the fine
threads of his web were invisible, but
a little distance away one could distin-
guish their concentric curves, grey on
green. Every now and then we heard
the snapping of a stalk overhead, and
a leaf pattered down from the limes.
Every now and then, too, slight surges
of breeze ran shivering through the
branches. Nothing distracted the in-
tense vigilance of the crafty fisherman.
Scores of glimmering insects grazed the
deadly snare, but none touched it. It
must have been tantalising, but the
creature's sullen patience was invincible.
W. V. at last dropped a piece of leaf-
stalk on his web, out of curiosity. In
a twinkling he was at the spot, and the
fragment was dislodged with a single
This is one of the things in which
she delights-the quiet observation of
the ways of creatures. Nothing would
please her better, could she but dwarf
herself into an "aglet-baby," than to
climb into those filmy meshes and have
a chat in the sunshine with the wily
ogre. She has no mistrust, she feels no
repulsion from anything that has life.
There is a warm place in her heart for
the cool, dry toad, and she loves the
horned snail, if not for his own sake, at
Her Birthday 17
least for his "darling little house" and
the silver track he leaves on the gravel.
Of course she wanted a story about a
spider. I might have anticipated as
much. Well, there was King Robert
the Bruce, who was saved by a spider
from his enemies when they were seek-
ing his life.
"And if they had found him, would
they have sworded off his head ? Really,
father? Like Oliver Crumball did
Her grammar was defective, but her
surmises were beyond dispute; they
would. Then there was the story of
Sir Samuel Brown, who took his idea
of a suspension bridge from a web which
hung-but W. V. wanted something
much more engrossing.
"Wasn't there never no awful big
spider that made webs in the Forest?"
"And caught lions and bears?"
She nodded approvingly. Oh, yes,
there was-once upon a time.
"And was there a little girl there ?"
There must have been for the story
to be worth telling; but the breakfast
bell broke in on the opening chapter of
that little girl's incredible adventures.
After breakfast we followed the old
birthday custom, and "plunged" into
the depths of the Forest. Some per-
sons, I have heard, call our Forest the
"East Woods," and report that though
they are pleasant enough in summer,
they are rather meagre and limited in
area. Now, it is obvious that it would
be impossible to "plunge" into any-
thing less than a forest. Certainly,
when W. V. is with me I am conscious
of the Forest-the haunted, enchanted,
aboriginal Forest; and I see with some-
thing of her illumined vision, the vision
Her Birthday 19
of W. V., who can double for herself the
comfort of a fire on a chilly day by
running into the next room and return-
ing with the tidings, "It's very cold in
the woods "
If you are courageous enough to leave
the paths and hazard yourself among
the underwood and the litter of bygone
autumns, twenty paces will take you to
the small Gothic doors of the Oak-men ;
twenty more to the cavern of the Great
Bruin and the pollard tree on the top of
which the foxes live ; while yet another
twenty, and you are at the burrows of
the kindliest of all insects, the leaf-
cutter bees. Once-in parenthesis-
when a little maid was weeping because
she had lost her way at dusk in the
Forest mazes, it was a leaf-cutter bee
that tunnelled a straight line through
the trees, so that the nearest road lamp,
miles away, twinkled right into the
Forest, and she was able to guide herself
home. Indeed, it will only take ten
minutes, if you do not dawdle, to get to
the dreadful webs of the Iron Spider,
and when you do reach that spot, the
wisest thing you can do is to follow the
example of the tiny flame-elf when a
match is blown out-clap on your cap
of darkness and scuttle back to fairy-
What magical memories have we two
of the green huddle and the dreamy
lawns of that ancient and illimitable
Forest We know the bosky dingles
where we shall find pappa-trees, on
whose lower branches a little girl may dis-
cover something to eat when she is good
enough to deserve it. We know where
certain green-clad foresters keep store of
fruits which are supposed, by those who
know no better, to grow only in orchards
by tropical seas. Of course every one is
Her Birthday 21
aware that in the heart of the Forest
there is a granite fountain; but only we
two have learned the secret that its water
is the Water of Heart's-ease, and that if
we continue to drink it we shall never
grow really old. We have still a great
deal of the Forest to explore; we have
never reached the glade where the dog-
daisies have to be chained because they
grow so exceedingly wild ; nor have we
found the blue thicket-it is blue because
it is so distant-from which some of the
stars come up into the dusk when it
grows late; but when W. V. has got
her galloping-horse-bicycle we shall start
with the first sunshine some morning,
and give the whole day to the quest.
We lowly folk dine before most
people think of lunching, and so dinner
was ready when we arrived home. Now,.
as decorum at table is one of the cardinal
virtues W. V. dines by proxy. It is her
charming young friend Gladys who gives
us the pleasure of her company. It is
strange how many things this bewilder-
ing daughter of mine can do as Gladys,
which she cannot possibly accomplish as
W. V. W. V. ig unruly, a chatterbox,
careless, or at least forgetful, of the ele-
gances of the social board; whereas
Gladys is a model of manners, an angel
in a bib. W. V. cannot eat crusts, and
rebels against porridge at breakfast ;
Gladys idolises crusts, and as for porridge
-"I am surprised your little girl does not
like porridge. It is so good for her."
After dinner, as I lay smoking in the
garden lounge to-day, I fell a-thinking
of W. V. and Gladys, and the numerous
other little maids in whom this tricksy
sprite has been masquerading since she
came into the world five years ago. She
Her Birthday 23
began the small comedy before she had
well learned to balance herself on her
feet. As she sat in the middle of the
carpet we would play at looking for the
baby-where has the baby gone? have
you seen the baby ?-and, oddly enough,
she would take a parh and pretend to
wonder, or perhaps actually did wonder,
what had become of herself, till at last
we would discover her on the floor-to
her own astonishment and irrepressible
Then, as she grew older, it was amus-
ing to observe how she would drive
away the naughty self, turn it literally
out of doors, and return as the "Smiling
Winifred." I presume she grew weary,
as human nature is apt to grow, of a
face which is wreathed in amaranthine
smiles ; so the Smiling Winifred van-
ished, and we were visited by various
sweet children with lovely names, of
whom Gladys is the latest and the most
indefatigable. I cannot help laughing
when I recall my three-year-old rebel
listening for a few moments to a scold-
ing, and when she considered that the
ends of justice had been served, exclaim-
ing, "I put my eyes down "-which
meant that so far as she was concerned
the episode was now definitively closed.
My day-dream was broken by W. V.
flying up to me with fern fronds
fastened to her shoulders for wings.
She fluttered round me, then flopped
into my lap, and put her arms about
my neck. "If I was a real swan,
father, I would cuddle your head with
"Ah, well, you are a real duck,
Diddles, and that will do quite as well."
She was thinking of that tender Irish
legend of the Children of Lir, changed
Her Birthday 25
into swans by their step-mother and
doomed to suffer heat and cold, tempest
and hunger, homelessness and sorrow, for
nine hundred years, till the sound of
the first Christian bell changed them
again-to frail, aged mortals. It was
always the sister, she knows, who solaced
and strengthened the brothers beside the
terrible sea of Moyle, sheltering them
under her wings and warming them
against her bosom. In such a case as
this an only child is at a disadvantage.
Even M'rao, her furry playmate, might
have served as a bewitched brother, but
after many months of somnolent for-
bearance M'rao ventured into the great
world beyond our limes, and returned
Flower of the quince,
Puss once kissed Babs, and ever since
She thinks he must be an enchanted prince.
In a moment she was off again, an
angel, flying about the garden and in
and out of the house in the perform-
ance of helpful offices for some one,
or, perchance, a fairy, for her heaven is
a vague and strangely-peopled region.
Long ago she told me that the moon
was "put up" by a black man-a say-
ing which puzzled me until I came to
understand that this negro divinity could
only have been the "divine Dark" of
the old Greek poet. Of course she says
her brief, simple prayers; but how can
one convey to a child's mind any but
the most provisional and elemental con-
ceptions of the Invisible ? Once I was
telling her the story of a wicked king,
who put his trust in a fort of stone on
a mountain peak, and scoffed at a
prophet God had sent to warn him.
"He wasn't very wise," said W. V.,
" for God and Jesus and the angels and
Her Birthday 27
the fairies are cleverer'n we are; they
have wings." The cleverness" of God
has deeply impressed her. He can make
rain and see through walls. She noticed
some stone crosses in a sculptor's yard
some time ago, and remarked: "Jesus
was put on one of those ;" then, after
some reflection : "Who was it put Jesus
on the cross? Was it the church people,
father?" Well, when one comes to
think of it, it was precisely the church
people-" not these church people, dear,
but the church people of hundreds of
years ago, when Jesus was alive." She
had seen the world's tragedy in the
stained glass windows and had drawn
her own conclusion-the people who
crucified would be the most likely to
make a picture of the crucifixion;
Christ's friends would want to forget
it and never to speak of it.
In the main she does not much
concern herself with theology or the
unseen. She lives in the senses. Once,
indeed, she began to communicate some
interesting reminiscences of what had
happened "before she came here," to
this planet; but something interrupted
her, and she has not attempted any
further revelation. There is nothing
more puzzling in the world to her, I
fancy, than an echo. She has forgotten
that her own face in the mirror was
quite as bewildering. A high wind at
night is not a pleasant fellow to have
shaking your window and muttering
down your chimney; but an intrepid
father with a yard of brown oak is
more than a match for him. Thunder
and lightning she regards as "great
friends; they always come together."
She is more perceptive of their com-
panionship than of their air of menace
towards mankind. Darkness, unless it
Her Birthday 29
be on the staircase, does not trouble
her: when we have said good-night
out goes the gas. But there seems to
be some quality or influence in the
darkness which makes her affectionate
and considerate. Once and again when
she has slept with me and wakened in
the dead of night she has been most
apologetic and self-abasing. She is so
sorry to disturb me, she knows she is a
bother, but would I give her a biscuit or
a drink of water?
She has all along been a curious com-
bination of tenderness and savagery. In
a sudden fit of motherhood she will
bring me her dolly to kiss, and ten
minutes later I shall see it lying un-
dressed and abandoned in a corner of
the room. She is a Spartan parent, and
slight is the chance of her children being
spoiled either by sparing the rod or
lack of stern monition. It is not so
long ago that we heard a curious sound
of distress in the dining-room, and on
her mother hurrying downstairs to see
what was amiss, there was W. V. chas-
tising her recalcitrant babe-and doing
the weeping herself. This appeared to
be a good opportunity for pointing a
moral. It was clear now that she knew
what it was to be naughty and dis-
obedient, and if she punished these faults
so severely in her own children she must
expect me to deal with her manifold
and grievous offences in the same way.
She looked very much sobered and
concerned, but a few moments later she
brought me a stout oak walking-stick:
"Would that do, father?" She shows
deep commiseration for the poor and
old; grey hairs and penury are sad bed-
fellows; but for the poor who are not
old I fear she feels little sympathy.
Perhaps we, or the conditions of life,
Her Birthday 31
are to blame for this limitation of feel-
ing, for when we spoke to her of certain
poor little girls with no mothers, she
rejoined: "Why don't you take them,
then ?" Our compassion which stopped
short of so simple a remedy must have
seemed suspiciously like a pretence.
To me one of the chief wonders of
childhood has been the manner in which
this young person has picked up words,
has learned to apply them, has coined
them for herself, and has managed to equip
herself with a stock of quotations. When
she was yet little more than two and a half
she applied of her own accord the name
Dapple-grey to her first wooden horse.
Then Dapple-grey was pressed into
guardianship of her sleeping dolls, with
this stimulative quotation : Brave dog,
watching by the baby's bed." There was,
some vacillation, I recollect, as to whether
it was a laburnum or a St. Bernard that
saved travellers in the snow, but that
was exceptional. The word "twins"
she adapted prettily enough. Trying
once in an emotional moment to put
her love for me into terms of gold
currency, she added: "And I love
mother just the same; you two are
twins, you know." A little while after
the University boat-race she drew my
attention to a doll in a shop-window:
"Isn't it beautiful? And look at its
Oxford eyes!" To "fussle one," to
disturb one by making a fuss, seems at
once fresh and useful; "sorefully" is
an acutely expressive adverb; when you
have to pick your steps in wet weather
the road may be conveniently described
as "picky;" don't put wild roses on
the cloth at dinner lest the maid should
"crumb" them away ; and when one
has a cold in the head how can one
describe the condition of one's nose
Her Birthday 33
except as "hoarse" ? "Lost in sad
thought," "Now I have something to
my heart's content," "Few tears are
my portion," are among the story-book
phrases which she has assimilated for
week-day use. When she was being
read to out of Kingsley's "Heroes,"
she asked her mother to substitute "the
Ladies" for "the Gorgons." She did
not like the sound of the word; "it
makes me," drawing her breath with a
sort of shiver through her teeth, "it
makes me pull myself together." Once
when she broke into a sudden laugh,
for sheer glee of living I suppose,
she explained: "I am just like a little
squirrel biting myself." Her use of the
word live" is essential poetry; the
spark "lives" inside the flint, the catkins
" live" in the Forest; and she pointed
out to me the "lines" down a horse's
legs where the blood "lives." A sign-
board on a piece of waste land caused
her some perplexity. It was not "The
public are requested" this time, but
"Forbidden to shoot rubbish here."
Either big game or small deer she
could have understood; but-" Who
wants to shoot rubbish, father ?"
Have I sailed out of the trades into
the doldrums in telling of this common-
place little body ?-for, after all, she is
merely the average, healthy, merry,
teasing, delightful mite who tries to
take the whole of life at once into her
two diminutive hands. Ah, well, I
want some record of these good, gay
days of our early companionship; some-
thing that may still survive when this
right hand is dust; a testimony that
there lived at least one man who was
joyously content with the small mercies
which came to him in the beaten way
Her Birthday 35
of nature. For neither of us, little
woman, can these childish, hilarious
days last much longer now. Five arch,
happy faces look out at me from the
sections of an oblong frame; all W. V.s,
but no two the same W. V. The sixth
must go into another frame. You must
say good-bye to the enchanted Forest,
little lass, and travel into strange lands;
and the laws of infancy are harder
than the laws of old Wales. For these
ordained that when a person remained
in a far country under such conditions
that he could not freely revisit his own,
his title to the ancestral soil was not
extinguished till the ninth man; the
ninth man could utter his "cry over
the abyss," and save his portion. But
when you have gone into the world
beyond, and can no more revisit the
Forest freely, no ear will ever listen to
your cry over the abyss."
When she had at last tired herself
with angelic visits and thrown aside her
fern wings, she returned to me and
wanted to know if I would play at
shop. No, I would not play at shop;
I would be neither purchaser nor pro-
prietor, the lady she called "Cash nor
the stately gentleman she called "Sign."
Would I be a king, then, and refuse my
daughter to her (she would be a prince)
unless she built a castle in a single
night; "better'n't" she bring her box
of bricks and the dominoes ? No, like
Casar, I put by the crown. She took
my refusals cheerfully. On the whole, she
is tractable in these matters. "Fathers,"
she once told me, "know better than
little girls, don't they?" "Oh, dear,
no how could they? Fathers have to
go into the city; they don't go to
school like little girls." Doubtless there
was something in that, but she persisted,
Her Birthday 37
"Well, even if little girls do go to
school, fathers are wiser and know
best." From which one father at least
may derive encouragement. Well, would
I blow soap-bubbles?
I think it was the flying thistledown
in June which first gave us the cue of
the soap-bubbles. What *a delightful
game it is; and there is a knack, too,
in blowing these spheres of fairy glass
and setting them off on their airy flight.
Till you have blown bubbles you have
no conception how full of waywardness
and freakish currents the air is.
Oh, you who are sad at heart,
or weary of thought, or irritable with
physical pain, coax, beg, borrow, or steal
a four- or five-year-old, and betake you
to blowing bubbles in the sunshine of
your recluse garden. Let the breeze be
just a little brisk to set your bubbles
drifting. Fill some of them with to-
bacco smoke, and with the wind's help
bombard the old fisherman in his web.
As the opaline globes break and the
smoke escapes in a white puff along
the grass or among the leaves, you
shall think of historic battlefields, and
muse whether the greater game was not
quite as childish as this, and "sorefully"
less innocent. The smoke-charges are
only a diversion; it is the crystal balls
which delight most. The colours of
all the gems in the world run molten
through their fragile films. And what
visions they contain for crystal-gazers!
Among the gold and green, the rose
and blue, you see the dwarfed reflection
of your own trees and your own home
floating up into the sunshine. These
are your possessions, your surroundings
-so lovely, so fairylike in the bubble;
in reality so prosaic and so inadequate
when one considers the rent and rates.
Her Birthday 39
To W. V. the bubbles are like the
wine of the poet-" full of strange con-
tinents and new discoveries."
Flower of the sloe,
When chance annuls the worlds we blow,
Where does the soul of beauty in them go ?
"Tell me a story of a little girl who
lived in a bubble," she asked when she
had tired of creating fresh microcosms.
I lifted her on to my knee, and as she
settled herself comfortably she drew my
right arm across her breast and began to
"Well, once upon a time- "
I WOKE at dead of night;
The room was still as death;
All in the dark I saw a sight
Which made me catch my breath.
Although she slumbered near,
The silence hung so deep
I leaned above her crib to hear
If it were death or sleep.
44 W. V.
As low-all quick-I leant,
Two large eyes thrust me back;
Dark eyes-too wise-which gazed intent;
Blue eyes transformed to black.
Heavens how those steadfast eyes
Their eerie vigil kept !
Was this some angel in disguise
Who searched us while we slept;
Who winnow'd every sin,
Who tracked each slip and fall,
One of God's spies-not Babbykin,
Not Babbykin at all ?
Day came with golden air;
She caught the beams and smiled;
No masked inquisitor was there,
Only a babbling child !
The First Miracle
THE huge weeds bent to let her pass,
And sometimes she crept under;
She plunged through gulfs of flowery grass;
She filled both hands with plunder.
The buttercups grew tall as she,
Taller the big dog-daisies;
And so she lost herself, you see,
Deep in the jungle mazes.
46 W. V.
A wasp twang'd by; a horned snail
Leered from a great-leafed docken;
She shut her eyes, she raised a wail
"Mamma Two arms, flashed out of space
Miraculously, caught her;
Fond mouth was pressed to tearful face-
"What is it, little daughter?"
By the Fireside i
RED-BOSOMED Robin, in the hard white weather
She marks thee light upon the ice to rest;
She sees the wintry glass glow with thy breast
And let thee warm thy feet at thine own feather.
By the Fireside ii
IN the April sun at baby-house she plays.
Her rooms are traced with stones and bits of
For warmth she lays a hearth with little
And one bright crocus makes a merry blaze !
H ER happy, wondering eyes had ne'er
Till now ranged summer meadows o'er:
She would keep stopping everywhere
To fill with flowers her pinafore.
But when she saw how, green and wide,
Field followed field, and each was gay
With endless flowers, she laughed-then sighed,
"No use and threw her spoils away.
IN the orchard blithely waking,
Through the blossom, loud and clear,
Pipes the goldfinch, "Day is breaking;
Waken, Babsie; May is here !
Bloom is laughing; lambs are leaping;
Every new green leaflet sings;
Five chipp'd eggs will soon be cheeping;
God be praised for song and wings "
Warm and ruddy as an ember,
Lilting sweet from bush to stone,
On the moor in chill November
Flits the stone-chat all alone :
"Snow will soon drift up the heather;
Days are short, nights cold and long;
Meanwhile in this glinting weather
God be thanked for wings and song!"
Round from Maytime to November
Babsie lilts upon the wing,
Far too happy to remember
Thanks or praise for anything;
Save at bedtime, laughing sinner,
When she gaily lisps along,
For the wings and song within her-
"Thank you, God, for wings and song!"
The Orchard of Stars
AMID the orchard grass she'd stood
and watch'd with childish glee
The big bright burning apples shower'd
like star-falls from the tree ;
So when the autumn meteors fell
she cried, with outspread gown,
Oh my, papa, look Isn't God
just shaking apples down ? "
The Sweet Pea
OH, what has been born in the night
To bask in this blithe summer morn?
She peers, in a dream of delight,
For something new-made or new-born.
Not spider-webs under the tree,
Not swifts in their cradle of mud,
But-" Look, father, Sweet Mrs. Pea
Has two little babies in bud "
As the brook caught the blossoms she cast,
Such a wonder gazed out from her face !
Why, the water was all running past,
Yet the brook never budged from its place.
Oh, the magic of what was so clear !
I explained. And enlightened her? Nay-
" Why but, father, I couldn't stay here
If I always was running away! "
O UR plot is small, but sunny limes
Shut out all cares and troubles;
And there my little girl at times
And I sit blowing bubbles.
The screaming swifts race to and fro,
Bees cross the ivied paling,
Draughts lift and set the globes we blow
In freakish currents sailing.
They glide, they dart, they soar, they break.
Oh, joyous little daughter,
What lovely coloured worlds we make,
What crystal flowers of water !
One, green and rosy, slowly drops;
One soars and shines a minute,
And carries to the lime-tree tops
Our home, reflected in it.
The gable, with cream rose in bloom,
She sees from roof to basement;
"Oh, father, there's your little room "
She cries in glad amazement.
To her enchanted with the gleam,
The glamour and the glory,
The bubble home's a home of dream,
And I must tell its story;
Tell what we did, and how we played,
Withdrawn from care and trouble-
A father and his merry maid,
Whose house was in a bubble !
New Version of an Old Game
THE storm had left the rain-butt brimming;
A dahlia leaned across the brink;
Its mirrored self, beneath it swimming,
Lit the dark water, gold and pink.
Oh, rain, far fallen from heights of azure-
Pure rain, from heavens so cold and lone-
Dost thou not feel, and thrill with pleasure
To feel a flower's heart in thine own?
Enjoy thy beauty, and bestow it,
Fair dahlia, fenced from harm, mishap !
"See, Babs, this flower-and this below it."
She looked, and screamed in rapture-"Snap!"
The Golden Swing-boat
caROss the low dim fields we caught
Faint music from a distant band-
So sweet i' the dusk one might have thought
It floated up from elfin-land.
Then, o'er the tree-tops' hazy blue
We saw the new moon, low i' the air:
Look, Dad," she cried, a shuggy-shue !
Why this must be a fairies' fair "
Another Newton's Apple
W E tried to show with lamp and ball
How simply day and night were "made;"
How earth revolved, and how through all
One half was sunshine, one was shade.
One side, tho' turned and turned again,
Was always bright. She mused and frowned,
Then flashed-" It's just an apple, then,
'at's always rosy half way round "
Oh, boundless tree of ranging blue,
Star-fruited through thy heavenly leaves,
Be, if thou canst be, good unto
This apple-loving babe of Eve's.
BESIDE the water and the crumbs
She laid her little birds of clay,
For-" When some other sparrow comes
Perhaps they'll fly away."
Ah, golden dream, to clothe with wings
A heart of springing joy ; to know
Two lives i' the happy sum of things
To her their bliss will owe !
Day dawned; they had not taken flight,
Tho' playmates called from bush and tree.
She sighed : "I hardly thought they might.
Well,-God's more clever'n me "
Wings and Hands
GOD's angels, dear, have six great wings
Of silver and of gold ;
Two round their heads, two round their hearts,
Two round their feet they fold.
The angel of a man I know
Has just two hands-so small !
But they're more strong than six gold wings
To keep him from a fall.
S HE'D watched the rose-trees, how they grew
With green hands full of flowers;
Such flowers made their hands sweet, she knew,
But tenderness made ours.
So now, o'er fevered brow and eyes
Two small cold palms she closes.
"Thanks, darling Oh, mamma," she cries,
"Are my hands full of roses ?"
"-THREE faces in a hood."
I Folk called the pansy so
Three hundred years ago.
Of course she understood !
Then, perching on my knee,
She drew her mother's head
To her own and mine, and said-
"That's mother, you, and me !"
And so it comes about
We three, for gladness' sake,
Sometimes a pansy make
Before the gas goes out.
LAST June-how slight a thing to tell !-
One straggling leaf beneath the limes
Against the sunset rose and fell,
Making a rhythm with coloured rhymes.
No other leaf in all the air
Seemed waking ; and my little maid
Watched with me, from the garden-chair,
Its rhythmic play of light and shade.
Now glassy gold, now greenish grey,
It dropped, it lifted. That was all.
Strange I should still feel glad to-day
To have seen that one leaf lift and fall.
"Si j'avais un arpent"
O H, had I but a plot of earth, on plain or vale
With running water babbling through, in torrent,
spring, or rill,
I'd plant a tree, an olive or an oak or willow-
And build a roof of thatch, or tile, or reed, for
mine and me.
Upon my tree a nest of moss, or down, or wool,
A songster-finch or thrush or blackbird with its
bill of gold ;
Beneath my roof a child, with brown or blond or
Should find in hammock, cradle or crib a nest,
and slumber there.
I ask for but a little plot; to measure my domain,
I'd say to Babs, my bairn of bliss, "Go, alder-
"And stand against the rising sun ; your shadow
on the grass
Shall trace the limits of my world ; beyond I
shall not pass.
"The happiness one can't attain is dream and
These rhymes are Soulary's ; the thoughts are
Babs's thoughts and mine.
Her Friend Littlejohn
Her Friend Littlejohn
THE first time Littlejohn saw W. V.
-a year or so ago-she was sitting
on the edge of a big red flower-pot, into
which she had managed to pack herself.
A brilliant Japanese sunshade was tilted
over her shoulder, and close by stood a
large green watering-can. This was her
way of "playing at botany," but as the
old gardener could not be prevailed
upon to water her, there was not as
much fun in the game as there ought to
W. V. was accordingly consoling her-
self with telling "Mr. Sandy "-the re-
calcitrant gardener-the authentic and
incredible story of the little girl who
was "just 'scruciatingly good."
Later, on an idyllic afternoon among
the heather, Littlejohn heard all about
that excellent and too precipitate child,
who was so eager to oblige or obey that
she rushed off before she could be told
what to do; and as this was the only
story W. V. knew which had obviously
a moral, W. V. made it a great point to
explain that "little girls ought not to
be too good; if-they-only-did-what
-they-were-told they would be good
W. V.'s mother had been taken seri-
Her Friend Littlejohn 71
ously ill a few weeks before, and as a
house of sickness is not the best place
for a small child, nor a small child the
most soothing presence in a patient's
room, W. V. had undertaken a marvel-
lous and what seemed an interminable
journey into the West Highlands. Her
host and hostess were delighted with her
and her odd sayings and quaint, fanciful
ways; and she, in the plenitude of her
good-nature, extended a cheerful patron-
age to the grown-up people. Littlejohn
had no children of his own, and it was
a novel delight, full of charming sur-
prises, to have a sturdy, imperious,
sunny-hearted little body of four and a
half as his constant companion. The
child was pretty enough, but it was the
alert, excitable little soul of her which
peered and laughed out of her blue eyes
that took him captive.
Like most healthy children, W. V.
72 W. V.
did not understand what sorrow, sick-
ness, or death meant. Indeed it is told
of her that she once exclaimed gleefully,
"Oh, see, here's a funeral! Which is
the bride ?" The absence of her mother
did not weigh upon her. Once she
awoke at night and cried for her; and
on one or two occasions, in a sentimen-
tal mood, she sighed "I should like to
see my father! Don't you think we
could run over' ?" The immediate
present, its fun and nonsense and grave
responsibilities, absorbed all her energies
and attention; and what a divine dis-
pensation it is that we who never
forget can be forgotten so easily.
I fancy, from what I have heard, that
she must have regarded Littlejohn's
ignorance of the ways of children as one
of her responsibilities. It was really
very deplorable to find a great-statured,
ruddy-bearded fellow of two and thirty
Her Friend Littlejohn 73
so absolutely wanting in tact, so in-
capable of "pretending," so destitute of
the capacity of rhyming or of telling a
story. The way she took him in hand
was kindly yet resolute. It began with
her banging her head against something
and howling. "Don't cry, dear," Little-
john had entreated, with the crude
pathos of an amateur; "come, don't
When W. V. had heard enough of
this she looked at him disapprovingly,
and said, "You shouldn't say that.
You should just laugh and say, 'Come,
let me kiss that crystal tear away !' "
"Say it!" she added after a pause.
This was Littlejohn's first lesson in the
airy art of consolation.
Littlejohn as a lyric poet was a melan-
"Now, you say, Come, let us go,' "
W. V. would command.
"I don't know it, dear."
"I'll say half for you-
"Come, let us go where the people sell-"
But Littlejohn hadn't the slightest
notion of what they sold.
"Bananas," W. V. prompted; "say
"And what ?"
"Oranges ?" Littlejohn hazarded.
"Pears !" cried W. V. reproachfully;
"say it! "
"And- with pauses to give her
host chances of retrieving his honour;
C' pine-ap--pel !-
Bananas and pears and pine-appMl,'
of course. I don't think you can pub-
lish a poem."
"I don't think I can, dear," Little-
john confessed after a roar of laughter.
Her Friend Littlejohn 75
"Pappa and I published that poem.
Pine-appel made me laugh at first. And
after that you say-
'Away to the market and let us buy
A sparrow to make asparagus pie.'
So in time Littlejohn found his
memory becoming rapidly stocked with
all sorts of nonsensical rhymes and ridi-
Inability to rhyme, like inability to
reason, is a gift of nature, and one can
overlook it, but Littlejohn's sheer im-
becility in face of the demand for a
story was a sore trial to W. V. After
an impatient lesson or two, the way in
which he picked up a substitute for
imagination was really exceedingly
creditable. Having spent a day in the
"Forest "-W. V. could pack some of
her forests in a nutshell, and feel her-
self a woodlander of infinite verdure-
Littlejohn learned which trees were
"pappa-trees "; how to knock and ask
if any one was in; how to make the
dog inside bark if there was no one;
how to get an answer in the affirmative
if he asked whether they could give his
little girl a biscuit, or a pear, or a plum;
how to discover the fork in the branches
where the gift would be found, and how
to present it to W. V. with an air of in-
exhaustible surprise and delight. Every
Forest is full of "pappa-trees," as every
verderer knows; the crux of the situa-
tion presents itself when the tenant of
the tree is cross, or the barking dog
intimates that he has gone "to the
Now, about a mile from Cloan Den,
Littlejohn's house, there was a bit of the
real "old ancient" Caledonian Forest.
There was not much timber, it is true,
Her Friend Littlejohn 77
but still enough; and occasionally one
came across a shattered shell of oak,
which might have been a pillar of
cloudy foliage in the days when woad
was the fashionable dress material. I
have reason to believe that W. V. in-
vested all that wild region with a rosy
atmosphere of romance for Littlejohn.
Every blade of grass and fringe of larch
was alive with wood-magic. She trotted
about with him holding his hand, or
swinging on before him with her broad
boyish shoulders thrown well back and
an air of unconscious proprietorship of
man and nature.
It was curious to note how her
father's stories had taken hold of her,
and Littlejohn, with some surprise at
himself and at the nature of things at
large, began to fancy he saw motive and
purpose in some of these fantastic nar-
ratives. The legend of the girl that
was "just 'scruciatingly good," had
evidently been intended to correct a
possible tendency towards priggishness.
The boy whose abnormal badness ex-
pressed itself in "I don't care" could
not have been so irredeemably wicked,
or he would never have succeeded in
locking the bear and tiger up in the tree
and leaving them there to dine off each
other. And all the stories about little
girls who got lost-there were several of
these-were evidently lessons against
fright and incentives to courage and
W. V. quite believed that if a little
girl got bewildered in the underwood
the grass would whisper "This way, this
way!" or some little furry creature
would look up at her with its sharp
beady eyes and tell her to follow. Even
though one were hungry and thirsty as
well as lost, there was nothing to be
Her Friend Littlejohn 79
afraid of, if there were only oaks in the
Forest. For when once on a time a
little girl-whose name, strangely
enough, was W. V.-got lost and began
to cry, did not the door of an oak-tree
open and a little, little, wee man all
dressed in green, with green boots and a
green feather in his cap, come out and
ask her to step inside," and have some
fruit and milk? And didn't he say,
"When you get lost, don't keep going
this way and going that way and going
the other way, but keep straight on and
you are sure to come out at the other side ?
Only poor wild things in cages at the
Zoo keep going round and round."
And that is truly and really," W. V.
would add, "because I saw them doing
it at the Zoo."
Even at the risk of being tedious, I
must finish the story, for it was one that
greatly delighted Littlejohn and haunted
him in a pleasant fashion. Well, when
this little girl who was lost had eaten the
fruit and drunk the milk, she asked the
wee green oak-man to go with her a
little way as it was growing dusk. And
he said he would. Then he whistled,
and close to, and then farther away, and
still farther and farther, other little oak-
men whistled in answer, till all the
Forest was full of the sound of whist-
ling. And the oak-man shouted, "Will
you help this little girl out?" and you
could hear "Yes, yes, yes, yes," far
away right and left, to the very end of
the Forest. And the oak-man walked a
few yards with her, and pointed; and
she saw another oak and another oak-
man; and so she went on from one to
another right through the Forest; and
she said, "Thank you, Mr. Oak-man,"
to each of them, and bent down and
gave each of them a kiss, and they all
" Thank you, Mr. Oakman "
Her Friend Littlejohn 81
laughed because they were pleased, and
when she got out she could still hear
them laughing quietly together.
Another story that pleased Littlejohn
hugely, and he liked W. V. to tell it as
he lay in a hollow among the heather
with his bonnet pulled down to the tip
of his nose, was about the lost little girl
who walked among the high grass-it
was quite up to her eyes-till she was
"tired to death." So she lay down, and
just as she was beginning to doze off
she heard a very soft voice humming
her to sleep, and she felt warm soft
arms snuggling her close to a warm
breast. And as she was wondering who
it could be that was so kind to her, the
soft voice whispered, It is only mother,
dearie; sleep-a-sleep, dearie; only mother
cuddling her little girl." And when
she woke there was no one there,
and she had been lying in quite a
little grassy nest in the hollow of the
Littlejohn himself could hardly credit
the change which this voluble, piquant,
imperious young person had made not
only in the ways of the house, but in his
very being and in the material landscape
itself. One of the oddest and most in-
congruous things he ever did in his life
was to measure W. V. against a tree and
inscribe her initials (her father always
called her by her initials and she liked
that form of her name best), and his
own, and the date, above the score which
marked her height.
The late summer and the early
autumn passed delightfully in this
fashion. There was some talk at inter-
vals of W. V. being packed, labelled,
and despatched "with care" to her own
woods and oak-men in the most pleasant
suburb of the great metropolis, but it
Her Friend Littlejohn 83
never came to anything. Her father
was persuaded to spare her just a little
longer. The patter of the little feet,
the chatter of the voluble, cheery voice,
had grown well-nigh indispensable to
Littlejohn and his wife, for though I
have confined myself to Littlejohn's
side of the story, I would not have it
supposed that W. V.'s charm did not
radiate into other lives.
So the cold rain and the drifted leaf,
the first frost and the first snow came;
and in their train come Christmas and
the Christmas-tree and the joyful vision
of Santa Claus.
Now to make a long story short, a
polite note had arrived at Cloan Den
asking for the pleasure of Miss W. V.'s
company at Bargeddie Mains-about a
mile and a half beyond the old ancient "
Caledonian Forest-where a Christmas-
tree was to be despoiled of its fairy
fruitage. The Bargeddie boys -would
drive over for Miss W. V. in the after-
noon, and "Uncle Big-John" would
perhaps come for the young lady in
the evening, unless indeed he would
change his mind and allow her to stay
Uncle Big-John, of course, did not
change his mind ; and about nine o'clock
he reached the Mains. It was a sharp
moonlight night, and the wide snowy
strath sweeping away up to the vast
snow-muffled Bens looked like a silvery
expanse of fairyland. So far as I can
gather it must have been well on the
early side of ten when Littlejohn and
W. V. (rejoicing in the spoils of the
Christmas-tree) bade the Bargeddie
people good-night and started home-
ward-the child warmly muffled, and
chattering and laughing hilariously as she
trotted along with her hand in his.
Her,Friend Littlejohn 85
It has often since been a subject of
wonder that Littlejohn did not notice
the change of the, weather, or that,
having noticed it, he did not return for
shelter to the Mains. But we are all
too easily wise after the event, and it is
to be remembered that the distance from
home was little over three miles, and
that Littlejohn was a perfect giant of a
They could have hardly been more
than half a mile from Bargeddie when
the snow-storm began. The sparse big
flakes thickened, the wind rose bitterly
cold, and then, in a fierce smother of
darkness, the moonlight was blotted out.
For what follows the story depends
principally on the recollections of W. V.,
and in a great measure on one's know-
ledge of Littlejohn's nature.
The biting cold and the violence of the
wind soon exhausted the small traveller.
Littlejohn took her in his arms, and
wrapped her in his plaid. For some
time they kept to the highroad, but the
bitter weather suggested the advisability
of taking a crow-line across the Forest.
You're a jolly heavy lumpumpibus,
Infanta," Littlejohn said with a laugh;
"I think we had better try a short cut
for once through the old oaks."
When they got into some slight cover
among the younger trees, Littlejohn
paused to recover his breath. It was
still blowing and snowing heavily.
"Now, W. V., I think it would be as
well if you knocked up some of your
little green oak-men, for the Lord be
good to me if I know where we are."
You must knock," said W. V., "but
I don't think you will get any bananas."
W. V. says that Littlejohn did knock
and that the bark of the dog showed
that the oak-man was not at home !
Her Friend Littlejohn 87
"I rather thought he would not be,
W.V.," said Littlejohn; "they never
are at home except only to the little
people. We big ones have to take care
"The oak-man said, 'Keep straight
on, and you're sure to come out at the
other side,'" W. V. reminded him.
"The oak-man spoke words of wis-
dom, Infanta," said Littlejohn. "Come
along, W. V." And he lifted the child
again in his arms. "Are you cold, my
"No, only my face; but I am so
"And so heavy, W. V. I didn't think
a little girl could be so heavy. Come
along, and let us try keeping straight
on. The other side must be some
How long he trudged on with the
child in his arms and the bewilder-
ing snow beating and clotting on them
both will never be known. W. V.,
with a spread of his plaid over her
face, fell into a fitful slumber, from
which she was awakened by a fall and a
You poor helpless bairn," he groaned,
"have I hurt you ?"
W. V. was not hurt; the snow-wreath
had been too deep for that.
"Well, you see, W. V., we came a
lamentable cropper that time," said
Littlejohn. "I think we must rest a
little, for I'm fagged out. You see,
W. V., there is no grass to whisper,
' This way, this way ;' and there are no
furry things to say, 'Follow me ;' and
the oak-men are all asleep ; and-and,
God forgive me, I don't know what
to do !"
Are you crying, Uncle Big-John ?"
asked W. V.; for "his voice sounded
Her Friend Littlejohn 89
just like as if he was crying," she ex-
"Crying! no, my dear; there's no
need to kiss the crystal tear away But,
you see, I'm tired, and it's jolly cold
and dark; and, as Mother Earth is good
to little children- He paused to
see how he should be best able to make
her understand. "You remember how
that little girl that was lost went to
sleep in a hollow of the grass and heard
the Mother talking to her? Well,
you must just lie snug like that, you
"But I'm not lost."
"Of course, you're not lost. Only
you must lie snug and sleep till it stops
snowing, and I'll sit beside you."
Littlejohn took off his plaid and his
thick tweed jacket. He wrapped the
child in the latter, and half covered her
with snow. With the plaid, propped
up with his stick, he made a sort of
tent to shelter her from the driving
flakes. He then lay down beside her
till she fell asleep.
"It's only mother, dearie; mother
cuddling her little girl; sleep-a-sleep."
Then he must have arisen shuddering
in his shirt-sleeves, and have lashed his
arms again and again about his body for
In the hollow in which they were
found, the snow-wreath, with the excep-
tion of a narrow passage a few feet in
width where they had blundered in, was
impassably deep on all sides. All round
and round the hollow the snow was very
Worn out with fatigue and exposure,
the strong man had at last lain down
beside the child. His hand was under
In that desperate circular race against
Her Friend Littlejohn 91
cold and death he must have been struck
by his own resemblance to the wild
creatures padding round and round in
their cages in the Zoo, and what irony
he must have felt in the counsel of the
wee green oak-man. Well, he had
followed the advice, had he not?
And, when he awoke, would he not
find that he had come out at the other
Hours afterwards, when at last Little-
john slowly drifted back to conscious-
ness, he lay staring for a moment or two
with a dazed bewildered brain. Then
into his eyes there flashed a look of
horror, and he struggled to pull himself
together. "My God, my God, where
is the Infant ?" he groaned.
W. V. was hurried into the room,
obliviously radiant. With a huge sigh
Littlejohn sank back smiling, and held
92 W. V.
out his hand to her. Whereupon W. V.,
moving it gently aside, went up close to
him and spoke, half in inquiry half in
remonstrance, "You're not going to be
died, are you? "
IN these winter evenings, thanks to
the Great Northern, and to Hes-
perus who brings all things home, I
reach my doorstep about half an hour
before W. V.'s bed-time. A sturdy,
rosy, flaxen-haired little body opens to
my well-known knock, takes a kiss on
the tip of her nose, seizes my umbrella,
and makes a great show of assisting me
with my heavy overcoat. She leads me
into the dining-room, gets my slippers,
runs my bootlaces into Gordian knots
in her impetuous zeal, and announces
that she has "set" the tea. At table
she slips furtively on to my knee, and
we are both happy till a severe voice,
"Now, father!" reminds us of the
reign of law in general, and of that law
in particular which enacts that it is
shocking in little girls to want every-
thing they see, and most reprehensible
in elderly people (I elderly!) to en-
We are glad to escape to the armchair,
where, after I have lit my pipe and
W. V. has blown the elf of flame back to
fairyland, we conspire-not overtly in-
deed, but each in his deep mind-how
we shall baffle domestic tyranny and
evade, if but for a few brief minutes of