Nellie's playmates


Material Information

Nellie's playmates a story for children
Physical Description:
157 p. : ill. ; 17 cm.
Myddleton, Hope ( Author, Primary )
Marcus Ward & Co ( Publisher )
Marcus Ward & Co.
Place of Publication:
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Cats -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Children's stories   ( lcsh )
Juvenile literature -- 1877   ( rbgenr )
Bldn -- 1877
Juvenile literature   ( rbgenr )
fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
England -- London
Northern Ireland -- Belfast


Statement of Responsibility:
by Hope Myddleton.
General Note:
Imprint also notes publisher's location in Belfast.
Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 001539608
oclc - 22288708
notis - AHF3076
System ID:

Full Text


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,-, ..- .., r.OBIN REDBREAST, ESQ.
-- ;,: ROCUSES and snow-
i' 'irops had passed away,
S-- and given place to
Sthe pale primrose and
-" "' wild hyacinth; and
now those were over
S. too, and the cold
'- 'ping winds were gone,
h: t.t hirrle Nellie, who had never
Ih:t hl1'r I-4.. all through the long,
i- diLiiy w\ inter, could lie on her
couch by the open window and
-_ watch the rosy blossoms of the apple
tree opening day by day, and the

8 Nellie's Playmales.

tassels of the laburnum, which overhung the
garden-wall, turning to gold as the warm sun
and soft showers tempted out the baby buds.
How well she knew every spot in that old
walled garden I where stocks, and wall-
flowers, and sweet-scented pinks reigned
among the fruit-trees, and hid the cabbages
and lettuces from sight behind their close
ranks; the stately gladiolus and the stiff
phlox alternating with the bushes full of great
nodding roses, heavy with the dew, and
fainting with their own sweet perfume.
Until this summer she and Hal-her
darling brother Hal-had roamed at their
own sweet will about the place, gathered
the wild raspberries in the plantation, and
watched the ripening of the first wood-
strawberry. They knew where the prim-
roses would first peep out while the fields
were still bare and brown, on which banks
the violets first opened their tiny flowers,
where the cowslips nestled in the low-lying
meadows, and when the woods were blue with

Robin Redbreast, Esq. 9

hyacinths, and the wood anemone raised its
strong head on its delicate stem, and its fringe
of green leaves below; and later, where to
find the lilies of the valley, which made the
whole wood odorous. Together they had
sought the lords and ladies in the hanging
undergrowth above the river, found fairy
coaches in the flowers of the monk's-hood,
and monkeys' faces in the wild snapdragon.
They knew where the dragon-flies came out
and flashed over the pond, where the water-
lilies and the forget-me-nots lived-and oh I
better than all, the places in the old wall
where the tomtits had their nest; the hedge-
rows close and thick, with banks full of wild
geranium and wood-sorrel, where the robins
built and the wrens made their summer
home, and where they watched for the little
nestlings coming out for the first time.
They knew where the lark had her nest
among the wild vetches and chickweed in
the old stubble-field, where the nightingale
built low down in the bushes, or the thrush,

10 o Nellie's Playmates.

who chose to make the home for her little
ones in the darkest nook in the shrubbery.
Together they had climbed the chestnut, and
made couches of its broad branches and its
intertwining boughs. They knew the colours

." '- '

: ,, .-.. : .._ A 6' 1 ,

disturb them; when the cuckoo and the night-
ingale would come, and when the swallows
would go away to their winter quarters.
&'.:, '(.,--; aw ay--. o t, -, ._tc ,[V t r. '. :,

Robin Redbreast, Esq. Ii

But now Hal was gone. A little grave in
the churchyard under the great walnut tree
held his coffin; but Nellie knew that only his
body had been laid there, and she used to lie
and watch the sky at evening, when the low-
lying clouds made landscape and sea, and
wonder what his new home was like, and if
she were going there too; for the same fever
which had carried off Hal-strong, healthy
Hal-had left Nellie only a shadow of her-
self, and now, after all these months, she was
only just able to lie on her couch by the open
window; and for many weeks the doctors had
thought she also would have died.
Nellie's mother was dead long ago; she
scarcely could remember her. But she had
a darling old nurse, whom she loved with all
her heart, and a father, whom she looked
upon as the best on all the earth, so gentle
and so kind he was to her.
Nurse wore an old-fashioned cap tied
under her fat chin, and when she went out, a
long cloak and a close-fitting bonnet; but no

I2 Nellie's Playmates.

other face looked half so sweet as hers, with her
fresh, soft cheeks-like peach-bloom, Nellie
thought-and her kindly blue eyes. In the
long winter evenings, and when it was too
cold to have the window open, she would
tell Nellie all the old stories of Cinderella,
and the Forty Thieves, besides the tales of
Hans Christian Andersen, of the Little Snow
Maiden and the Ugly Duckling. But now
that summer was coming Nellie did not need
these book stories : she could look out into
the garden, and the birds and flowers talked
to her, and told her much more wonderful
stories than those. The Honeysuckle, which
had grown so high that it could look over
the wall and see the common, told her how
the gorse was out and the white broom; that
the foxgloves were opening their lower bells,
and that the gipsies had their camp just
below the belt of beech trees. The little
brown-legged gipsy children were playing in
the wood, and the squirrels were watching
them, and dropping their cracked pine cones

-1- '

14 Nellie's Playmates.
on their heads. The old gipsy grandmother
was watching the camp, while the young
men and women were all away selling their
baskets and mats in the town. The Roses,
which climbed up the outside of the house
and peeped in at the window, told her that
the ants had got their home under the gravel
walk by the pear tree this year, and that old
Andrew, the gardener, had been pouring hot
water into their holes, so they were all very
busy removing as fast as they could to a new
home by the chestnut tree, and were carrying
their little ones, and those who were too old,
or too sick to walk, on their backs; and how
the "tap, tap" she heard was Andrew nail-
ing up the vine which clambered over the
tool-house window, while Tommy, his little
boy, was very busy handing him the nails and
the little bits of cloth, and feeling quite like
a grown-up gardener himself. But best of
of all her story-tellers were the birds; for the
flowers did not know very much, being
always fastened to their stalks : but the birds

Robin Redbreast, Esq. 15

flew about everywhere, and could tell her
far more of what went on now that Nellie
could not see for herself.
Nellie thought Robin the kindest bird of all;
for he alone had thought of singing to her in
the winter-time, when the other birds were all
sitting muffled up in their winter feathers,
wishing King Frost would go. Robin loved the
sunshine and the flowers too; but he made
himself happy in the bare branches, and
sang to Nellie in his loud, clear voice all
about the world outside. He told her how
the snow-angels had covered up the flower-
beds to keep them warm till spring came,
how the water in the ruts along the road
was all turned into crackling ice, how the
ducks were swimming round and round the
edge of the pond to keep it from freezing,
and how the village children were tossing
their caps into the air for joy at the thought
of a slide. He told her how King Frost's
people had turned all the damp on the trees
to glittering diamonds, and had dressed up the

j 6 Nellie's Playmales.

poor old cabbage stalks in glistening white
dresses till they looked like ladies dressed for
a ball, and the birch tree hung her head
modestly under her lovely white trappings.
He told her how the snow was lying soft and
white on the little grave under the walnut,
and how old Jones, the bell-ringer, had to
breathe on his hands before he could feel the
rope. All this Robin saw with his bright
little brown eyes, for he used to go and sit
in the windows of the belfry and peep at old
Jones, and then come and tell Nellie. Then
he used to tell her how the sad-looking
Christmas roses were blooming as cheerfully
as they could in the damp borders, and later,
he flew up to tell her that the blue and pink
hipaticas were peeping out now that the
snow had gone and spring had come. Robin
had been very busy lately building his nest
in the bank of the old thorn hedge close by
the pond. He and Jenny always loved that
old bank, and built their nest there year after

Robin Redbreast, Esq. 17

Jenny was busy now sitting on four
little green-brown eggs with wee dots
all over them. Nellie liked to hear him
describe them, though she knew quite well
how they looked. They had lined their nest
with soft grey moss, which they had picked
off the apple trees, and the branches were so
thick all round that no one but Nellie would
have guessed there was a nest there at all.
Sometimes Robin used to take his wife's
place in the nest while she flew off to stretch
her legs and get a drink; for he was such a
good husband that he brought her all her
food, and used to hunt for the youngest and
most juicy worms for her. Sometimes Jenny
used to come and see Nellie on these occa-
sions, but she never stayed long, for she was
a fussy little bird, and was always afraid
that Robin would let the eggs get cold.
"You see his legs are longer than mine," she
would say, looking with satisfaction at her
own tiny ones, "and he fidgets so. I sup-
pose all husbands are alike."

18 Nellie's Playmates.

At night Robin roosted close beside her to
see that nothing harmed her, for the horrid
old rats would soon have eaten the eggs, and
perhaps Jenny too, if they had found her out.
Robin used to tell Nellie sometimes all
about the field mice, who were so small and
light that they could run up the stalks of
the wheat and nibble the ears, while an
acorn was quite a meal for them. (Two of
them had their nest in the bank by the
orchard, where the wood anemones and wild
strawberries grow, and in the evenings they
came out and ate their supper under a
mushroom or behind a big dock leaf for
fear the great owls, that fly about in the
twilight, might see them and carry them off
in their cruel claws.) And also about the
crickets, who make so much noise by
rubbing their hind legs against their hard
wings: Robin thought that a poor way of
talking to each other; but then they were
only crickets, and knew no better. He told
her how the old white owl who lived in the


I ii

- 'I ~

20 Nellie's Playmates.

hollow elm tree, and had been there he
believed ever since the world was made, was
called Mrs. Grundy, and how she watched
what every bird did, and kept saying "Tu
whit, tu whoo" at them till they were
nearly silly, if it was not just what she
thought right, and what used to be done
when she was young.
"I do not believe she was ever young,"
said Robin, "she is a tiresome, stupid old
bird, for all she looks so wise. She tried to
turn me out of the garden because I sang in
the middle of the day to amuse you. She
says no well-bred bird would forget himself
so far as to sing in the middle of the day.
As for her, she sits with her head in a hole
all day, and never comes out until dusk.
She says that is a sign of good breeding. I
can't help wishing sometimes she would
tumble down the hole altogether, for the
Martin, who has looked into it, says it goes
right down to the centre of the earth, where
the gnomes and goblins live."

Robin Redbreast, Esq. 21

Do you really believe there are such
things as gnomes and goblins, Robin ?"
asked Nellie.
"I suppose so; I have always been told
there were, ever since my mother used to
tell us not to look over the edge of the nest
for fear of the goblins catching us, but I have
never seen one, thank heaven."
Robin seemed to be friends with all the
birds; for though he was very good-natured,
he knew how to hold his own with them, and
they never dared to be impertinent to Jenny
or rude to him.
"What is the matter in the rookery?"
asked Nellie of Robin one morning when he
came as usual into the old pear tree to see
"Oh! they are having an indignation
meeting-that is to say the female rooks are,
and now their husbands have come back
from the ploughed field down yonder, and are
making a fine fuss about it."
What is an indignation meeting ?" asked

22 Nellie's Playmates.

Nellie. I wish they would not have one,
it makes such a disagreeable noise."
"Well," said Robin, "I do not know
much about it, but I believe the female
Rooks want to do all the business of talking
and making the laws, and there is no one to
keep the eggs warm. The female Rooks say
they can be better employed than that, and
that it is not fair that the males alone should
make laws, and settle what they are to do.
Thank heaven," added Robin, "my Jenny
has never taken such an idea into her head:
but I have heard that Mrs. Crow over the
way has refused altogether to stay in her
nest, and spends all her time flying about
making speeches to the other hen birds."
"Do the Rooks hold all the parliaments ?"
asked Nellie; "do none of the other birds
ever go to them ?"
"Oh no, we none of us have a vote. You
see the Rooks look so solemn in their black
clothes that they should be something
different from other birds, and they think it

Robin Redbreast, Esq. 23

beneath their dignity to sing-at least they
say so, but I sometimes think they could not
if they tried."
"No," said Nellie, "I know they cannot;
for you know that was how the fox in the
fable got the cheese," and she began saying-

'Maitre Corbeau, sur un arbre perch,
Tenait de son bec un fromage'-

but perhaps you do not understand French,
Robin ?"
"No," he said sadly, "the swallow is the
only bird about here
who understands -
foreign languages;
he speaks seven."
"So does Mr. Pop-- --
penheim, who used
to teach Hal and me. Robin, I wonder how
it is that when people know any language
besides their own they always know seven.
Did you ever meet a swallow, now, who could
only speak six ?"

24 Nellie's Playmates.

"Never," replied Robin. "There is one
very well-informed swallow who builds just
over the spare
:'' bedroom window.
Sometimes in an
Evening he tells
me of the wonder-
-ful things he has
seen, while we
have nothing else
to do."
Where does he go to every autumn ?"
asked Nellie.
Well, sometimes to one place, and some-
times to another, but he has been for several
years to the cork woods at San Roque, in the
south of Spain."
Tell me some of the things he sees, Robin,
if you can remember them."
I will try," said Robin; and he gave a
little chirp to clear his throat. Then he
looked rather nervously at Nellie, and said-
"Would you mind sending Sixto away

Robin Redbreast, Esq. 25

before I begin ? he really makes me feel
rather uncomfortable."
Sixto was Nellie's great yellow cat,

who had six toes on each foot, and who
was very fond of lying at the foot of her
couch, and was just now eyeing Robin in
rather an ominous way certainly; but when
his mistress looked at him, he shut up the
one eye which he possessed, and pretended
to be thinking of nothing but going to

26 Nellie's Playmales.

"Oh, Sixto won't hurt you-will you,
old man?" she said, pulling him by the
Sixto was too fast asleep to reply; but
the next moment he opened his eye just a
very little, and Robin did look so inviting
and so near that he could not resist a little
gnash of his teeth, which his mistress saw,
and so she spoke to him very seriously, and
sent him downstairs; whereupon Robin
remarked that, although Sixto had only one
eye, he was far sharper than any of the other
cats in the neighbourhood. The only thing
is," he said, "Jenny and I have built our
nest on the left-hand side of the branch of
the thorn tree in the hedge, and though he
has often been up the tree, he has never seen
Can't he see it as he comes down again ?"
asked Nellie.
This was a new idea to Robin, and it
made him so very uncomfortable that Nellie
wished she had never said it. In fact, the

Robin Redbreast, Esq. 27

thought upset him so much that he was
quite unable to remember what he was
going to say, and after trying several times
to begin his story, he broke off, promising
that he would tell her the swallow's story the
next day. "I wish he would come and tell
it you himself," he said, for he really is a
most remarkable bird, and has seen a great
many strange things; but he is so shyof human
beings that I am afraid hewill not." So saying,
Robin, who had been on thorns all the time
he was talking, flew away to look after his
wife, and assure himself that Sixto had not
found out the nest.
For some time after this Nellie scarcely
saw Robin at all. He was extremely busy,
very happy, and very excited. In fact, all
the little Robins were beginning to come out
of their shells, and what with helping Jenny
to turn the broken egg-shells out of the
nest, watching that the little ones did not
fall out, and picking up nice tender worms
for Jenny, so that she might feed them

28 Nellie's Playmates.

properly, he was almost worked to death.
Still he flew up to the old pear tree once at
least in each day to tell Nellie how they
were going on-how the eldest one, Bob,
would keep trying to look over the edge of
the nest, though he was only four days old;
how Poppins and Chirrup never got enough
food, and were always opening their little
yellow beaks and screaming at the top of
their voices; and lastly-and this Robin told
with all the proud delight of a father-how
Flappit had tried to get the worm which
Robin was bringing to his mother, instead of
being content with the nice sort of porridge
she provided for them. "He really is a
most forward young bird," he remarked.
All this time Nellie was thinking how
nasty it must be to eat live worms-at last
she said in a timid sort of way, for fear of
hurting Robin's feelings-" Are worms very
nice to eat, Robin ?"
"Oh, delicious I" he replied. "Have you
never tasted them ? Do let me go and bring

Robin Redbreast, Esq. 29

you a nice juicy one; I know exactly where
to find it-in the garden, where Andrew has
just been digging up the lettuces."
"Oh no, thank you," said Nellie, "please
do not. It is very kind of you, you know,"
she added, "but I do not think Dr. Snipe
would let me eat worms."
Ah, well," said Robin, "perhaps not; but
you have no idea how they make my mouth
water sometimes when I am pulling them
out of their holes. They are so obstinate, and
cling so fast, that I have to put my foot down
very strongly against the ground and pull
with all my might. I assure you it is
hungry work, when I have had no break-
fast myself, to carry them all off to
Jenny; but you see she cannot leave the
little ones yet, and she never was very clever
at worming."
One day that Nelly was feeling rather
lonely and sad, now that she saw so little of
Robin, a large cream-coloured Rose which
hung close to her window looked in and

30 Nellie's Playmates.
nodded to her. Nellie nodded in return; for
she was always very polite.
"How do you do?" said the Rose- "a
little dull, I am afraid," for Nellie had let the
book she was reading drop from her hand,
and was lying looking up at the sky.
"A little," she replied. You see Robin
has to look after his family now."
Would you like me to tell you a story ?"
said the Rose ; "my life has been rather an
eventful one, and might interest you."
"Oh I so very much," said Nellie, clapping
her hands with delight.
So the Rose leaned as far as she could
round the edge of the window, and began
her story, to which we must devote a new

'F~>At ~

SCOME of a very old
French family. My
ancestors had been set-
Stied in Dijon long before the
great Revolution, though it is
only since we have been settled in
England we have become such
Court favourites that all the common
gardeners are proud to talk of the
'Gloire de Dijon.' I have heard my
mother tell often of the glories of the old
days when our ancestors lived in the old
chAteau at Dijon, a splendid pile of red
buildings, with a strange high-peaked roof,

32 Nellie's Playmates.
and windows which caught the rays of the
setting sun to the very last, and flashed back
like sheets of flame-how all the garden
was bordered by tall poplar trees, which
were so stiff and proud that they would
never look at the other trees, but held their
heads so high that they thought only the
sun and moon were good enough company for
them, and they would scarcely bow even to
the great wind which used to come sweeping
up the low ground-for the chateau stood
up very high and quite above the poor
cottages of the serfs. Very stately and
grand too were the ladies who lived there in
their splendid embroidered silks and their stiff
stomachers, and the gentlemen, with their
powdered wigs and their courteous ways.
My great-grandmother used to watch them
many a day; and when the Revolution
came and they all had to fly, they none of
them thought of the poor rose but little
Antoinette, the maid, to whom her lover,
Gaston, who was going off to fight for the

The Rose's Story. 33

Republic, gave a bud in the garden just
before he started, and she gave him another
to keep for ever. They were twin rosebuds,
I have heard my mother say, but great-
grandmother did not grudge them, because
the two young things loved each other so
much, and they were so unhappy. Long
after, the moon told my great-grandmother
all about them, and how Gaston had carried
his rosebud always next his heart, and used
to take it out and kiss it at night when his
"comrades were asleep, and pray for himself
and Antoinette: until one sad day, when the
two great armies met; and all day long the
roar of battle and clashing of arms made
hideous riot, and when night came, and the
moon rose still and calm in the quiet
heavens, and looked down sadly on the
battle-field, all strewn with dead and dying
men, slain by their brothers, she saw poor
Gaston stiff and cold, with his dead hand
over the place where Antoinette's rose lay
hid, and she saw his comrades lay him in his

34 Nellie's Playmates.
grave with his rose, and weep as they said
they must get the good Father Ambrose to
write and break the news to little Antoinette
in England. The same night the moon
looked down on the little cottage in England
where Antoinette was waiting on her mistress,
stripped of all her pride and her finery now,
and forced to earn her living by teaching; and
she saw the girl slip out into the garden
after she had taken in the supper, and stand
under the trees and look up into the sky,
and then she took her rosebud out of her
bosom and kissed it just as Gaston had done,
and prayed for him; and the moon told her
as well as she could how Gaston was lying
in the grave in her own dear old land, and
how he had kissed his rose too, and had died,
with his hand touching it, a brave soldier's
death; and poor Antoinette wept so bitterly
that the moon could not bear to see her, and
she drew a cloud across her face. My great-
grandmother was glad then she had spared her
twin rosebuds to comfort these poor lovers."

The Rose's Story. 35

"Do you knowwhat became ofAntoinette ?"
asked Nellie.
"My mother told me she lived to be quite
an old woman, and when her mistress's
children grew up and married, and had
children of their own, she nursed them, and
told them stories of her dear old home at
Dijon, and when she died they found a
withered rosebud and a letter, quite worn out,
sewn up in a little silk bag and worn just
over her heart: so they buried her in England
with Gaston's rose.
"But I must tell you of my own adven-
tures, for very few flowers have had such an
eventful life as mine, or have seen so much
of the world.
"My mother lived in a beautiful garden
in Devonshire, or rather just on the borders
of Dorsetshire, not very far from the sea; for
sometimes on wild days, when the wind was
high, and white horses were out on the bay
at Lyme Regis, the sea-birds used to come
whirling over the garden high up in the air,

36 Nellie's Playmates.
blown all on one side by the great roaring
wind. But in the garden itself it was quite
sheltered, and the myrtle, which is a very
delicate plant, and can only live in a good
climate, used to cover all the wall with its
sweet, white stars, and the camellias used to
flower out in the open air, instead of shut up
in glass houses as they do here. I often
think of my dear old home, and wonder if
my mother and sisters live there still. The
garden belonged to a clergyman; and very
proud he was of us and of all his flowers, but
especially his roses. We had everything
that the most delicate creatures could
require or wish for; and we rewarded him by
making his garden the pride of all the
neighbourhood. Alas! I fear I was a very
foolish little bud in those days. I used to
crane my neck up till it almost broke in
trying to catch a glimpse of the sea; for the
birds used to tell me how beautiful it looked,
all blue, and gleaming with the white-crested
waves, and the little boats sailing out

The Rose's Story. 37

towards the setting sun. I wanted so much
to know how the sun looked as he dipped
down into the sea, though the swallow
always told me he did not really go into the
water, but only went behind the world
to the other side to shine on foreign
"But you know," said Nellie, "that the
sun does not really go away at all; it is the
earth which turns away from it and carries
us with it."
"Yes, I know," said the Rose; "a great
pink Cactus which I met in London told me
that; but in Rosedale we all believed the sun
went away, and I think I like it best so; it
seems ungrateful for us to leave him. Well,
one day, when I was just beginning to grow
into a young lady rose, just half opened, you
know, our master went away on a visit; he
came into the garden the last thing to bid us
good-bye, and we heard him say to old
Andrew, the gardener, 'Mind you look well
after my roses, Andrew; that Gloire de Dijon

38 Nellie's Playmates.
should be splendid in a few days' time.'
'Ay, ay,' said the old man, as soon as his
master had gone, 'I'll make a pretty little
sum out of them before you see them again.
I should get a nice price for them in Lun-
non market.'
"I pricked my ears-London, did he
mean ? How I wished he would send me
there I I had always wanted to see the
world, and I felt quite tired of this little
garden, full of nothing but roses. So when
the gardener came with a great pair of scis-
sors and a basket, I began to rear my head
"and try to look my very best to attract his
attention. One after another he nipped off the
buds, and my heart sank, for I thought he
was not going to choose me, but at last my
turn came. 'Here is a prime beauty,' he
said, and I felt the cold steel of his scissors
on my stalk. It sent a shudder all up my
back, but I had only just time to say good-
bye to my mother before I was laid in the
basket with all my brothers and sisters.

The Rose's Story. 39

"When he had taken as many as he wanted,
he carried us all off into the potting-house,
and then began to pack us up in a large
basket in layers of wet moss, which was
delightfully soft and cool, and he covered the
top in with wet cabbage leaves to keep the
heat off, and carried the basket to the road
to meet the carrier's cart.
Oh I what glorious fun we had driving
all the way to Axminster We could peep
out of the sides of the basket, and see the
sea just as the birds had described it to me-
all blue and gleaming, with dancing waves;
but we soon lost sight of that, and saw
nothing but fields, and hedgerows, and
woods, with wild flowers, and ferns, living
quite happily by the road-side. How much
bigger the world was than we thought! At
last we came to Axminster, and after waiting
for a long time on a hot, dusty place, which
we heard them call a platform, a horrid
great screaming monster came up, and
stopped close beside us."

40 Nellie's Playmates.
"That was the train," said Nellie.
"Yes," said the Rose, "it was indeed.
We were soon hustled into its inside by a
great wide mouth, with a lot of other baskets
which were standing by full of strawberries
and cherries, and some with vegetables. It
was quite dark, and soon a horrible rumbling
sound began, which frightened us all out of
our wits; we huddled together, and began
to wish we had never left home at all. It
seemed ages before it came to an end, and
we were all lifted out again and packed on a
cart which was waiting for us. 'This is
London,' said a Strawberry Basket which
was in the habit of travelling backwards and
forwards every week, and gave itself great
airs on that account. 'I always begin to
feel myself again when I get back to my
native place. How any one can bury them-
selves in the country I cannot imagine.'
"I had been too much frightened in the
train to think of anything; but now I began to
peep through the holes in the basket, and saw

The Rose's Story. 41
rows and rows of houses all holding on to
each other quite tightly, as if they were
afraid of tumbling down if they went alone,
and carts full of cauliflowers piled up, it
almost seemed, to the tops of the houses.
Presently we came to a great place, which
the Strawberry Basket said was called Covent
Garden Market, where there were quantities
of fruit, and vegetables, and flowers, and
everything one could think of.
"Certainly we did see a great deal of the
world that day, and met a very strange collec-
tion of people. The Strawberry Basket, which
was sitting on a stand close by me, said it
was quite like a fashionable 'At home' in
society, there was such a mixture of nation-
alities. There were Bananas, which had
come all the way from Bahia in South
America, and they talked to each other about
the humming-birds and the little marmoset
monkeys, no bigger than a rat, which used to
hop about them. They told us of the great
trumpet-lilies, and the gorgeous red flowers

42 Nellie's Playmates.
of the creepers which used to hang about
their branches, and how the little naked
black children used to tumble about in the
shade made by their mother, the Banana
tree. There were fresh dates, which had
come from the groves of date palms at Elche
in Spain, where it scarcely ever rains, and
the country is all burned up and bare, ex-
cept for the palms, which send their roots so
far down that they reach the water under-
ground, and rear their tall heads to the blue
cloudless sky as proud as kings and queens.
'Ah that was a sun,' said the poor Dates,
who shivered in the cool morning air; 'you
English creatures do not know what sunshine
is.' 'No indeed!' said a pink Cactus that
was standing by in a pot,' I shall never be
reconciled to this wretched climate.' 'Well,
you need not talk, I am sure,' said an Orange
that came from Seville, 'you have had a
pretty rise in the world by coming here, for
you are kept under warm glass, and watered,
and made as much of as if you were one of the

The Rose's Story. 43

Royal Family, and in Spain you were only
grown in a field with hundreds of others to feed
little red spiders.' The Cactus was quiet
after this, but it looked very sulky. While I
was wondering what on earth pink Cactus
could be wanted to feed red spiders for, the
Orange said in a whisper to an English
melon which was lying close by: 'I hate in-
gratitude: instead of being grateful for his
rise in life, that stupid Cactus would rather
be grown to feed cochineal insects-which,
indeed, is all he is good for. In Spain no
one would dream of putting him in a pot and
keeping him in a conservatory, any more
than your master would keep a cabbage in
one. Now I might have something to com-
plain of, for I came from the Garden of the
Alcazar at Seville, the old Moorish Palace
there, where my mother lives, just above the
marble baths that were made for Maria
Padilla. Ah me I what a place that is, with
its great marble halls, with fountains always
playing, and cool, dark rooms off them,

44 Nellie's Playmates.
where the hot sun never even peeps. Juanita,
the little daughter of the caretaker, plays
about the gardens now, and dabbles her little
brown legs in the fountain. Many a time
has she jumped up and tried to catch me, but
I hung just above her reach. My mother
loved her because she knew her mother so
well, Dolores, who used to come and sit
under her shade of an evening with her
lover long ago, before I or Juanita was born.
It was there Pepito first told her how much
he loved her, and when they were married
my mother decked her hair with her sweetest
"' Ay, many a story I could tell, only that
a well-educated tree never tells tales out of
school, of the meetings and partings under
my wide-spreading branches,' said a crum-
pled piece of Bark that was lying with a lot
of companions underneath the stall; 'I could
talk of the blue sky, day after day without a
single cloud to fleck its beauty, of the great
burning stars at night, which one can

The Rose 's Story. 45

scarcely believe are the same as the small,
twinkling things one sees here, and of the
yellow sunshine which used to tempt out my
young leaves
after the short
winter had -
snow and frost
in those old
days; or I could
not have borne
to give up my
bark every year
for the good of
humanity and 4
grow a fresh
"'Who is he?' -
asked an early :'-. "
English Peach,
trying to peep
over the edge ':
of its basket, CORK TrEE.

46 Nelli'e's Playmates.
where it was daintily laid in cotton-
"'Mr. Cork,' answered the Orange. 'His
. familyandmine
are old friends,
we come from
i the same sunny
south; and a
splendid race
they are, with
their wide-
I;J' spreading
Branches and
*.- i their straight,
"' Yes,' said
P the Bark, 'but
you must not
i, imagine that
this crumpled-
looking coat is
CUK-..IEE PARTLY BAKEDI, all our family

The Rose's Story. 47

wears; we are only the very outside cover-
ing; inside, again, is the soft, spongy
wood that men make their life-belts of,
and cut into corks for their wine bottles.
Every year we give them up all we have
ready for them, and feel all the better for the
change. In fact I have heard my father say
that he always used to cast his old coat, even
before men thought of making use of it. We
outside pieces only came to England for
change of air, and to make ourselves useful
in ornamenting ladies ferneries.'


"A "LL this time," continued
the Rose, "we were
lying in the moss in the
open basket, and there were
hundreds of people crowding
about and jostling each other, and
making a horrid noise as they bar-
gained for what they wanted.
"I was wondering what would
happen to me next. I began to fancy
some great destiny was in store for me, and
I pictured to myself that perhaps one of the
Queen's daughters might come and buy me-
or better still, some one might send me to

"Poor Little Amy!" 49

the one he loved best, and she would tend me
for his sake-like Gaston's rose. By-and-by
a thin, worn-looking man came to the stall,
and began looking us over. He seemed very
poor, although he was evidently a gentle-
"'Some more roses for the little lady,
sir?' asked the stall-keeper.
"'Yes, I want one or two fresh ones,' the
gentleman replied, and he took up my twin-
sister, Lina, who was next to me. I hoped
he would not take me, for he did not look
like a lover, and he did not look at all like
one of the Royal Family. He did not choose
me, however, but made up a bouquet of four
or five buds and some heliotrope.
"'And how is the little lady to-day, sir ?'
asked the stall-keeper, as he put some damp
moss round the stems, and gave the gentle-
man his change.
"' Going fast,' he replied, taking the roses,
and smelling at them, to prevent any one
seeing the tears which came to his eyes.

50 Nellie 's Playmates.
"' Who is it ?' asked the wife when he had
"'His little daughter, who is dying; and
though I think he scarcely has enough to eat
himself, he buys her fresh flowers every
"'Poor man!' said the comely woman,
with tears in her eyes, and she gave a sudden
hug to the baby in her arms, who poked a
fat finger in its mother's tears, and then
looked at it.
"' That is exactly what a little marmoset
monkey would have done said an old
Banana who was hanging up over the stall,
and who had not spoken before. 'No one
ever buys me, because I am black outside,
just as if it were not a sign that I am
deliciously sweet within, and so I hang up
here, month after month, and watch these
human creatures just as I used to watch the
monkeys at Bahia, and I really cannot see
much difference between them, for all they
are so proud of themselves!'

"Poor Little Amy!" 51

""They both have the good sense not to
eat an old black banana when they can get
a young fresh one,' said the Cactus under its
breath. It was a prickly-tempered plant,
and had not recovered the snubbing the
Orange had given it.
"After a little time all the flowers and
fruit began to go away-some with one,
and some with another. The melon was
bought by a fat old butler with a very
shiny head and three folds of fat at the back
of his neck.
"' The Prime Minister is coming to dine
with us to-day,' he remarked to the stall-
keeper, 'and we are to have a very grand
dinner. I want some of the best fruit you
have got;' so he carried off peaches and
nectarines, and all sorts of things.
"I was beginning to get very tired of
waiting here; no one came to buy me for the
princesses, and all the flowers that were left
were getting sulky and cross. Just then a
horrid, dirty woman, with her hair in a

52 Nellie's Playmates.
tangle, and her face and hands looking as if
they had never been washed, stopped oppo-
site the stall, and-horror of horrors !-began
to bargain for the basket of roses in which I
lay. Surely, I thought, the stall-keeper
would never sell us to such a dreadful-
looking creature. What could she want
with us ? I was mistaken, however. After
haggling over the price for some time, she
finally bought the whole lot, and began to
move us-carefully enough, I must say-
into a curious-looking basket of her own with
all the moss still about us. In fact she
sprinkled it all over with water before she
began to pack us. Then lifting the basket
on to her head, she started off and walked
down the streets.
Here was a pretty business, indeed!
The descendant of an old French family-the
Glory of Dijon, and the pet of all the garden
at Lyme Regis, sold to a filthy old tramp and
carried off on her head. I almost fainted at
the thought. How I shuddered when her

"Poor Little Amy/" 53

hard, dirty fingers touched me Presently I
heard a strange, squeaky little voice from a
corner of the basket. It came from a coil of
very thin black wire which was lying there.
"'You need not be so unhappy ; you are
going to be made up into "Button Holes,"
and you will go out this evening and stand
at the corner of Oxford street till you are
"' What on earth are "Button Holes"?' I
"'You will see,' said the wire, 'presently.
You will be in that moss all day; we never
go out till evening, when the men are all
coming home from business.'
"Presently our basket was carried down a
perfectly dark staircase into a nearly dark
room. The woman opened the window, and
put the basket on the ledge outside, where
there was a flower-pot standing with a very
melancholy-looking plant in it. And then
she sat down to rest on the top of a basket;
for she had no chair. On a bundle of filthy

54 Nellie's Playmates.
rags in the corner lay a dying child-a little
girl with lank, tangled hair, and great staring
eyes. She was very ugly, I thought, and
dirty, and her legs and arms, which were
tossing about, were like thin grey sticks-not
like the limbs of the children I used to see in
Devonshire. Presently the woman went up
to her, and asked her how she was. The
child moaned, and turned away her head.
"'A drink,' she said, and her mother
fetched her some water, but first she poured
something into it, which the wire said was
gin. The child drank some, and then lay
down again, and went on restlessly tossing
her grey limbs about. By-and-by the woman
went out to the Isaac Newton,' she said, and
we were left alone with the child. Then for
the first time the dismantled plant spoke.
Nearly all its leaves seemed to have been cut
off. He told us it was to make 'Button Holes,'
but he did not explain what it meant.
"'Now that beast has gone off to drink
again,' he said, 'and has left little Amy all

"Poor Little Amy!' 55

alone! She is going away to-day, the Moon
told me so last night. One of the angels is
coming for her, and she will be happy-poor
little thing !-at last.'
"' Does she know it ?' I asked.
"'No, she does not know anything about
angels or heaven, or anything but gin and
dirt. I have been here a long time now, and
you may imagine how miserable I was, for
I came from Switzerland, where I used to
live close beside a waterfall, which came
down from the mountains, where the Snow
King reigned all the year round. In the
winter time he used to come down in our
valley and order all the trees to be hung with
sparkling gems that glittered and hone in
the sunlight, and the little wooden bridge
which artists used to stop to sketch, and on
which lovers used to linger in the soft sum-
mer evenings, was all white and glistening
in its dress of frozen snow. To be sure, I
ought to have been in bed all that time, safe
under the warm earth, but the Snow King

r y x~ i i- ,


"Poor Little Amy/" 57

and his people were so wonderful and
beautiful that I used to peep out from under
the big rock where we lived with our mother,
and many a story have the water-children
told me on the moonlight nights, when no
one was about, of the snow palaces up above.
They used to come tumbling over the fall,
and leap on to the branches of the trees, and
shake the foam out of their long locks, and
chase each other from spray to spray of
the flowers. Ah I those were happy days; I
shall never see their like again. But I am
glad to have been here after all, for poor
little Amy there loved me, and I would have
told her beautiful stories of Switzerland and
of the water-fairies, but she was so stupid
she could not understand. For many months
after I first knew her we used to be in
a miserable little back room in a court,
narrower and dirtier even than this. Amy
was locked up all day, while her mother
went out to work or to drink. She used to
leave a bit of bread and dirty dripping for

58 Nellie's Playmates.
the child, and tell her not to speak or make
a noise for fear of anyone knowing she was
there, and then lock her in. She had never
been outside the room, poor child, since she
came to it. She sat there with a half-starved
cat all day long talking to it, and if anyone
came to the door they used to hide in the
corner under the table, and keep quite still
till they went away. Once when Amy and
Sarah-that was what she called the cat-
were at the window with me, the children in
the little back yard below called out to her,
and asked her who she was, but she only ran
under the table and hid. By-and-by she got
less frightened, and used to climb up to the
window and talk to the children down below,
and when they asked her to come down and
play she told them that she was locked in,
and no one was to know she was there.
When her mother found out that Amy
talked to the children below, she tied her to
the table leg with a great, cruel rope, so that
she could not reach the window; and the

"Poor Little Amy! 59

poor child used to sit all day long and talk
in a whisper to Sarah. Sarah was a very
kind cat, for she could have jumped out of
the window if she had liked, and the cats
who lived near often used to ask her to come
out, but she never did; she used to sit with
Amy, and purr stories to her, and though the
stories were all about the same things-mice,
and their wicked ways, Amy used to like
them. At last the neighbours told that
there was a child shut up in this back room
that no one ever saw or heard, and some
people came and made her mother put
clothes on her-for she had been quite naked
before-and send her to school. Then we
moved here, which is not quite so bad, and
Amy used to play with the other children
sometimes, but she was always frightened of
going out of the room'
"' How long has she been ill?' I asked.
"' Oh, she has never really been ill at all.
She has just been fading away day by day; for
about a week she has never got up. The

60 Nellie's Playmates.

doctor has been to see her twice, but he can
do nothing for her.'
"The child had been lying quite quiet for
a long time, and Sarah, who had been sitting
staring at her with her great, round eyes for a
long time, began rubbing herself and butting
her head against her. Just then we heard
steps on the grating over our heads, and in
another minute two gentlemen entered the
kitchen muttering something about the filthy
dark stairs. One-who, the Spirea told us,
was the doctor-went up to the child and
took her hand.
"'Dead!' he said-' I thought it would be
so; dead of dirt and neglect 1 Her poor
little sickly existence could scarcely be called
life, but such as it is it has gone out-slowly
killed by want of air and light. Good God I
that such things should be 1'
"'No one with her ?' remarked the other
one; "has she no mother '
"' If you can call such a creature a mother,'
the doctor replied. 'She is no doubt drink-

"Poor Little Amy!" 61

ing in the public-house. Imagine, Felton,
that this poor child for eight months was
locked up day and night in one filthy room half
the size of this-had never been outside the
door-never spoken to any one but that poor
mangy cat, who will be her only mourner.
This is what our civilisation has done for
"They went upstairs, and we heard them
calling to some one in the room overhead.
Presently Amy's mother came running down
with two or three other women, and began
crying and lamenting loudly over the dead
child. Then they washed the poor little
thin body that had never been washed in
life, and laid her on a box covered with a
clean sheet, which one of the neighbours
brought. When all was done, poor old Sarah
jumped up on the box, and sat beside her
little mistress, blinking her eyes as if she
were trying to think.
All this time I was thinking of what the
old black Banana had said, and wondered if

62 Nellie's Playmates.

the little monkeys were as badly cared for
as Amy.
"Towards evening the woman lifted the
basket in which we all lay, very sad and
miserable, and began to make her 'Button
Holes,' remarking to her neighbours-' I
must go out and sell my flowers to get
money to bury the child and to have some-
thing to drink, for sorrow is dry work.'
"She then cut off all the leaves of the
Spirea which had grown at all, and cut short
pieces off the wire. These she pushed right
through the leaves of the roses, two or three
in different directions, and fastened them
underneath the stalk.
"' Now I shall keep you quite firm,' said
the Wire. 'You will not drop to pieces, as
you would otherwise. All fashionable flowers
wear stays now, when they leave their
mother plant.'
"There were some geraniums also; these
had drops of gum put in the centre of the
flower, and we were all set up quite stiff on

"Poor Litlle Amy!" 63

little bits of twig fastened with wire, and
stuck into the lid of the basket, which was
first covered with moss, and then put
slantingly into the basket, so that some of
us were much higher than others, and the
Wire said that was how people sat at the
theatre, so that every one should see well.
"Then we were carried out-having said
good-bye as well as we could to the Spirea
and Sarah-on the top of the woman's head,
to the corner of the street, where she kept
calling out to every one who passed by,
'Do buy a flower for your button-hole,
good gentleman I have a little child lying
dead at home.'
"I do not know much more of what
happened, for I was soon bought by a
gentleman, who put me in his coat and took
me home with him. He then packed up
some clothes in a bag, and we started off in
a hansom cab to the same railway station to
which I had come in the morning. I felt
very proud of being placed in his button-

64 Nellie's Playmates.

hole, and my friend the Wire supported me
so nicely that I did not feel at all tired or
faint, more especially as I had a little glass
full of water to drink from behind the lappel
of my master's coat.
"After travelling very comfortably-not
shut up in a basket with a lot of low
company, but in a first-class carriage-we
arrived at the station near here, for my
master was coming here to spend Sunday."
Oh, go on," said Nellie, more than ever
interested in the Rose's story.
"I remember very well our coming into
this very garden, and how I felt quite at
home again, it reminded me so much of my
own home at Lyme Regis. Then you and
Hal came running to meet us, and Mr.
Falconer-for that was what I found he was
called-took you up in his arms, and rode
you all round the garden on his shoulder,
and if it had not been for the wire my head
would certainly have been kicked off by your
sturdy legs. I could not help comparing

"Poor Little Amy!" 65

them with the poor little emaciated limbs of
the dead child lying in the wretched court
in London, and Hal's blooming rosy cheeks
with her wan little face. How you both ran,
and leaped, and shouted for joy, and threw
the sweet, fragrant hay which was lying in
the paddock all over Mr. Falconer! After
dinner, when you had gone to bed, your
father and Mr. Falconer walked about the
garden, and it was then that your father
noticed me, and said what a beautiful rose I
"'I bought it from a woman in Oxford
street,' said Mr. Falconer.
"'It is a Gloire de Dijon, but not a com-
mon one, by any means. It has been grown
by some one who understands roses. I
wonder if one could get a bud from it.'
"'It is quite at your service,' said Mr.
Falconer, 'if you can,' and he handed me to
your father, who immediately bent back the
largest of my green leaves, saying, 'Yes,
here is a capital one.' Then with a knife he

66 Nellie's Playmates.

cut out the tiny little bud which was nest-
ling at the root of the leaf, and said, 'I will
bud it on the stock by the library window,
for the graft has died off.'"
"I know," said Nellie, "for I saw him do
it the next morning. He cut a little slit
with his knife in the bark of the wild rose
stock and slipped your little bud in, then he
wrapped it all carefully round with bass
matting, did he not ?"
Yes," said the Rose, "and there I
remained, almost stifled with the heat and
closeness, for an age, it seemed to me; but
the Wild Rose was so kind to me-just like
a mother, in fact-until I began to feel
stronger and better, and even to put out
little new shoots. Then your father took
off my wrappings, and I began to grow as
fast as I could. Now, you see, I can reach
all the way up to your window, and send
my flowers in to say good morning to
I wonder what became of the Spirea and

"Poor Little Amy!" 67

of Sarah," said Nellie; "did you ever
hear ?"
"Not much," replied the Rose. "I did
ask the Moon, but it was so long before I
saw her, being shut up in the bass-matting
wrappings, that she did not seem to know
which plant I meant. She said she saw so
many sad little children in the London
courts that she did not remember Amy,
or what had become of the Spirea. Sarah
died a little time after we left, the Moon
thought, and she said it was a very good
thing for her, as the boys are so cruel in the
courts they would only have ill-treated her
when she had no one to protect her."
That evening, when Nellie's papa came to
sit with her as usual, she asked him quite
suddenly if he thought many little children
died of dirt and want of air in London.
"I am afraid so, darling," he replied.
"Papa, if I grow up I should like to see
if something could be done to help those
poor little children.

68 Nellie's Playmates.
"Many noble men and women are trying
now, my pet, but not half enough."
He thought she had got the idea out of
one of her story-books-he did not know
that the Rose which was filling the room
with its sweet perfume had told her the
story of poor little Amy and her kind cat.
But the Rose nodded her head at her, and
said, "That is right. Now I shall feel I
have done some good by telling you my sad

: Wt ?
(N _

S-";-..- -OR some time after this Nellie
: -,r.. saw very little of Robin, for
She had been very busy; the
.A-- --little ones were now fledged,
klv ~ and he and Jenny were
r greatly taken up with teach-
ing them to fly. Besides, he
S' lh d been very much upset; for
,.'' Iii:. morning when he was absent
SJ,:.iny had taken them out on to
S thLj sunny side of the bank where
their nest was, and while she was
happily watching them stretching their tiny
wings in the sun and trying to make

70 Nellie's Playmates.
snatches at the insects which buzzed past
them, she suddenly saw the head of a horrid
snake, which had been coiled up in the
sun by a stone, so that she had not
noticed it. In vain she ruffled out her
feathers to make herself look as large as
possible, and made a screeching noise at the
snake, it only came nearer and put out its
ugly tongue at her. Robin heard Jenny's
note of distress, and came as quickly as
wings could carry him to the rescue,
while the little birds tried to scramble up
the bank again to their nest. Just then old
Andrew, the gardener, came down the walk
with his wheelbarrow full of grass, for he
had been mowing the lawn. He wondered
what all the fuss was about, and put down
his barrow to look. He soon espied the
snake, and, taking up a thick stick which
was fortunately lying by, he hit the snake
on the head and killed it. But both Robin
and Jenny were so much upset by this
adventure that they could not think of


:- .I
Z tF -v I

r- '
n; -" i:

4eocl rc



TT' ci-

..?. aiLiZC .
:i k__OsE*c'`:r3aBL;rpl I

72 Nellie's Playmates.
leaving the little ones alone again till they
were quite able to fly.
He did not forget his little playmate,
however, and one morning, when he came
to see Nellie, he brought with him a
swallow, who was so sprucely and care-
fully dressed in his black coat and white
waistcoat that Nellie almost wondered why
he did not carry a flower on his breast.
He made a very graceful bow when Robin
introduced him, and after talking a little
about the weather-for the Swallow was
such an accomplished bird, and had seen so
much of the world, that he talked of the
weather quite like anybody else-he said
he should be very glad to tell some of his
adventures, if Nellie wished.
"Would you like me to speak English or
some foreign language ?" he said, "for I
have no doubt you understand them all."
"Oh, English, if you please," said Nellie,
and the Swallow began.

Mr. Phlyphast. 73

"I was born in England," said the
Swallow, "though my mother, who had
spent half her life in travelling, called me
Phlyphast, after an Egyptian friend of hers-
it means 'rapid flight,' I believe-and as my
father and mother took great pains with my
flying, I think I may be said to deserve the
name a good deal better than some folks.
At all events, I have always been among the
swallows who go furthest for their autumn
trip, and have had a good many curious
"For several winters in succession I have
gone to Spain, pausing to spend a few weeks
on my way in Stilt-country for the sake of
the fly-hunting, which is very good there in
the autumn."
Where is Stilt-country ?" asked Nellie, a
little ashamed of her ignorance, but trying
in vain to think of any such place in her
geography book.

74 Nellie's Playmates.
"Oh, it is in France, between Bordeaux
and Bayonne. I daresay you call it Les
Landes, but we call it Stilt-country, because
it is so marshy that the people have to put
on stilts, just as you put on boots, when they
want to go out for a walk."
"Oh, what fun I" exclaimed Nellie. "How
Hal and I would have liked it! Are the
people all very happy there ?"
"Well, I don't know," said the Swallow.
"I have seen the old women sometimes
looking anything but happy as they were
driving their flocks of geese along; for the
geese could swim in the water in the drains
and the old women could not, but had to
hobble along through the water with their
clothes tucked up to prevent their getting
wet. However, after a time Stilt-country
became monotonous, and I pressed on into
Spain, passing over the Pyrenees, where there
were such splendid groves of chestnut trees,
and sheep with long, white, silky hair like
spun glass, to the great, bare, dusty plains of

The Swallow's Story. 75
Leon and Castile. I never lingered there,
for the fierce sun burned everything up, and
one could get no shade, except sometimes
behind a big stone; for there are no trees,
and no insects that a swallow who knows
anything about sport cares to catch.
"When one gets to Madrid, however, it is
much better, and one meets some very
interesting society. There are the Storks-
one of the most ancient families in Spain,
with blood so blue that it has given a sort of
lavender tinge to their wing feathers-who
have lived for generations back on the top of
the tower of the Church of San Andrbs, just
in the very highest point of all Madrid,
where the old, massive stone houses of the
aristocracy still stand overlooking the Madrid
of to-day, with its stucco-faced houses and
painted plaster fronts; overlooking, too, the
steep decline to where the Manzanares winds
round one side of the city-or rather where
its bed lies, for it is only in the winter and
early spring that there is any water in it to

76 Nellie's Playmates.
speak of, and all the rest of the year it is
more like a sandy highway than a river.
But in the winter time, after the rains, does
not it come tumbling down in fine style ?--
galloping in such mad haste under the arches
of the old bridge that the stone figures of the
Kings and Queens, who are getting quite
crumbly now from age, nod to each other
when no one is looking, and say,' Ah! that
is something like a river and it reminds
them of the days when they used to go
hunting in the Casa de Campo over there,
with its miles and miles of ilex trees, and its
sombre old firs, who have such gnarled trunks
from standing sentinel for so many years on
the highest point of the Park. Then when
the winter has passed-which is so cold that
the storks have to stand on one leg at a
time and keep the other tucked up under
their feathers, and the sentries outside the
Palace are sometimes frozen to death in the
night-when the Sun comes out again, warm
and glorious, he calls out all his regiment of

The Swallow's Story. 77

flowers, and drills them under the trees.
First comes the wild mignonette-acres of it
together-and a little later the ground is all
blue with forget-me-nots, and later still,
pink with 'Venus's looking-glass,' while the
Hoopoes fly about and talk about all manner
of things, raising their pretty arched crests
till they look like so many knights in helmets,
and the gorgeous Jays flash about in flocks,
chattering and laughing till they make the
wood ring, and the Storks begin to make
great, wheeling flights high up above the
river, and come back to the tower to make
their nests; and the children down below
stand staring at them till their necks ache
with bending their heads so far back.
Among the children I used to notice as
always watching the storks, was a little girl
named Anita, whose mother used to spend
all her days down by the river-side washing,
washing, washing for ever, with a number of
other women. When there was very little
water they used to dam it up with boards,

7 8 Nelie 's Playmates.

Sf b o e o wih w in
water Anita's mother used to take her

with her every morning from the little hovel
,., .ji-v, i i ''

and kneel all day long scrubbing the clothes
on flat boards, one end of which was in the
water. Anita's mother used to take her
with her every morning from the little hovel

The Swallow's Story. 79

where they lived to the river-side, and set
her to play with the other children under the
big plane trees, with their funny, patched-
looking stems. There were always about a
dozen of children, for all the women used to
bring one or two; and when school was over
the bigger brothers and sisters used to come
and join them. Anita did not very much
care for this part of the day, because the big
boys always wanted to play at Bull Fights,
and, that rather frightened her. One used to
pretend to be a bull, and fasten two long,
curled shavings, stuck on sticks to keep them
stiff, on his head; then some of the other boys
used to pretend to be horses, and each horse
carried another boy on his back. They used
to shout and scream at the bull until it made
Anita quite frightened, and the bull used
to run first at one and then at another, and
try to knock them down. One day, however
Juan Arcos, the biggest of the boys, appeared
with a bull's head made of wicker-work on
his shoulders, with such a dreadfully wicked

80 Nellie's Playmates.

looking pair of crumpled horns, that Anita
was fairly frightened out of her small wits.
She was only seven years old, and cried so
bitterly that Pepito, the son of the woman
who had the washing board next to her
mother, left his companions and tried to con-
sole her.
"' Oh, let us go away,' she said, 'I am sure
he will stick me !'
"So Pepito took her little hand, and they
wandered away from the other children, down
the bank, right into the sandy bed of the
river; for though it was winter there was
very little water in it as yet, so little that
they could easily jump across, which they
very soon did, and went wandering along
till they saw the large gateway into the Casa
de Campo, which was standing open. At
first they thought they would just peep in;
but it looked so tempting under the trees,
with the broad sunshine gleaming in the
paths, that they went a little nearer and
peeped in further, and seeing no one there,

The Swallow's Story. 81

Pepito said, Let us go in, Anita,' and she
said, 'Oh yes, let us.' So they held each other
very tightly by the hand, and ran through
the gate as fast as ever they could, never
stopping to look behind them until they had
got quite out of sight of the gate and the man
who took care of it, if he should chance
to look out of his house. Then they began
to draw their breath and to look about them.
Although it was winter, as the trees were
most of them ilex, which is evergreen, you
know, the place looked quite green and sum-
mery under the bright sun, and there were
the Jays chattering away as hard as they
could go all about nothing, and flashing in
the sunshine just as if they were covered
with jewels, and the Hoopoes marching
about with their helmets on, till the children
clapped their hands for glee, and said, 'This
is much better fun than playing at Bull
Fights even with wicker horns.' So they
wandered on till they came to a large piece
of water, and there they set to work to sail

82 Nellie's Playmates.

little boats which they made of pieces of bark,
with sticks stuck in them to look like the
funnel of a steamer, for these children had
never seen a real boat in their lives, but only
the toy steamer which belonged to the
Queen's son, and which was big enough to
hold two or three children. Many a time
they had watched this beautiful little steamer
on the waters of the Retiro, and wished they
were princes and princesses too. But they
had just as much fun with their little bits of
bark, and spent a long time sailing them
about from point to point, and running round
the edge of the pond to meet them and start
them off again. All this time I was skim-
ming about just over the surface of the water,
sometimes giving their little boats a whiff
with my wings as I passed to help them
"By-and-by they got tired of this, and
wandered on, hunting among the dead leaves
for nuts, which they found every now and
then. They came at last to a very quiet

The Swallow's Story. 83

part of the park, where no one ever seemed
to come, and sat down to rest. Presently
out came a rabbit and sat up on its hind legs
and looked at the children in a very as-
tonished way. But as they remained quite
quiet he went away and told his friends, and
presently lots of rabbits came out of their

holes all round, and frisked about just as if
no one was by, and sat and ate their evening
meal, for by this time it was getting late,
and the sun was already quite low. The
two children were very tired now, and very

84 Nellie's Playmates.
hungry too, and they began to wonder how
they should get back. I kept wheeling
about over their heads and flying a little way
in front of them to show them the way, but
they did not seem to understand me, and
little Anita began to cry. Pepito tried to
comfort her and persuade her to come on,
thinking they must soon come to the gate,
so they took hands again, and ran on, up and
down hill as fast as they could, but all this
time they were going farther from Madrid;
and now the sun had set, and in a very few
minutes it would be quite dark; for in that
country there is scarcely any twilight as
there is here. Just then Pepito saw a little
hut on the top of a high mound in front of
them. Perhaps some one would be there, so
they ran up, and reached the hut, but it
was quite empty. It was just big enough
for them to creep in, and they found it was
nearly half full of dried grass. It was a
watchman's hut, only as there was nothing
to watch no one had been in it for a long

The Swallow 's Story. 85

time. However, the two children were very
glad to creep in, for it was so dark they
could scarcely see, and they covered them-
selves up with the dried grass to keep warm.
Poor little Anita cried terribly, for she was
hungry as well as tired, and was frightened
at being in that great park all alone, except
for Pepito, who was quite as much frightened
as herself, though, of course, being a boy he
pretended he thought it very great fun. At
last he thought of turning out his pockets, and
there he had the good luck to find some monkey
nuts, besides the cob nuts which they had

picked up in the park, and a good-sized piece of
bread, which his mother had given him in the

86 Nellie's Playmates.
morning. Feeling in his other pocket, what
should he find but a little paper box of wax
matches, which he had no business with, but
which he had found lying at home and had
put into his pocket to make him feel like a
man. Here was fun I and even Anita dried
her eyes, and began to sob more slowly as
Pepito gathered together a whole heap of
dried grass and sticks, and piled them up
outside the hut, and set fire to them. What
a splendid blaze they made, to be sure I Old
Canuto, the guard, saw it from his cottage
door a mile and a-half away, and thought it
was the work of some evil spirits, so he
crossed himself very hastily and went inside;
for he was determined not to go and see
what it was till daylight. The sentry up in
the Palace yard saw it too, and reported it to
his sergeant, who reported it to the officer on
guard, who decided that it was a Carlist sig-
nal, and called the troops up in the barracks,
and told them to keep under arms all ready
to march out on the enemy. In a very

The Swallow's Story. 87
short time there was a great crowd of people
watching the mysterious bonfire from the
high terrace on which the Palace stands.
Certainly it was the Carlists who were
coming, and as the bugles were heard first in
one quarter and then in another, the people
began to be afraid there was going to be some
shooting in the streets, and so first one began
to' run and then another, and each one
thought every one else had ,some good
reason for running, so he took to his heels,
and in a little time there was a regular
stampede. All the omnibuses, and carriages,
and cabs which were out in the streets began
to drive off as hard as they could go, for
their drivers were afraid of their being taken
to help to make barricades. So while Pepito
and Juanita were warming themselves by
their bonfire, and roasting their monkey nuts
in the embers, all Madrid was going wild
with terror. The men were running so fast
that the wind blew out their long cloaks as
they went, and made them look like so many

88 Nellie's Playmates.

crazy bats. How the King and Queen Storks
laughed as they stood on one leg on the top
of San Andrbs-but then it is so easy to
laugh at other people's mistakes when one
happens to know all about it one's self!
"Meanwhile the children were having fine
fun, and having satisfied their hunger, and
being quite warm, they once more crept into
the hut and lay down on the dry grass,
covering themselves up with some of it, and
were very soon fast asleep. Before they did
this, however, they
k had clasped their
little hands and said
theirevening prayer,
and Anita had whis-
pered, 'Let us ask
God not to let His
"animalitos molest
But this unwonted fire had raised the
curiosity of all the inhabitants of the Park.
First of all a little owl, no bigger than an

The Swallow's Story. 89

English thrush, but with two very knowing-
looking little horns, or pointed ears, and a
pair of baggy trousers, looked in at the
children, and gave a sort of grunt of astonish-
ment; then a large bat flew in, and contem-
plated them attentively, while an old mole,


who could see very little further than the
end of his own nose, and therefore thought
himself much wiser than all the rest of the
world, crawled in in a lumbering sort of way,
and after examining the children as well as
he could by creeping all round them, held up
his two front paws in an attitude expressive
of surprise, just as you see the people on the
side scenes of a theatre.
"'Have you seen our new watchman?'
asked the Owl, as he met the Bat in the

90 Nellie's Playmates.

course of a fly round-a sort of constitutional
exercise which he never omitted before begin-
ning his evening meal.
"'I do not see how they can be watch-
men,' replied the Bat, 'seeing there is nothing
to watch.'
"'Oh, the stars,' said the Owl; 'I often
see the old man in the big tower in the
Retiro watching the stars through a great
long tube all night long. I think they have
to see that they do not run into one
"" Oh, indeed,' said the Bat. 'Well, if the
stars are inclined to go astray to-night, I do
not think the new watchman will be of much
"' There !' said the Owl, 'there's a star run
quite away,' and he pointed with his two
horns towards a meteor which was just
streaming across the sky.
"The Bat felt as if this conversation was
getting rather beyond him, so he changed the
subject by saying-

The Swallow's Story. 91

"'There is something wrong in Madrid to-
night. I was going across to visit my great-
grandmother in the Retiro just now, and I
heard bugles sounding all over the town, and
soldiers marching about everywhere.'
"'Oh yes,' said the Owl, 'I daresay they
are going to shoot each other-you know
they do every now and then for a change.'
"Meanwhile I thought I would go back
and see what the children's mothers were
about. I found them wringing their hands
and bewailing them, and doing everything
but look for them in the right place.
Anita's mother, having looked all day along
the river bank and poked a stick into all
the pools, which were not deep enough to
have covered the tops of the child's boots,
had betaken herself to her prayers, and was
kneeling before a little black image of the
Virgin, in front of which a lamp was burning.
When she heard the tramp, tramp of the
soldiers she got up and ran like everybody
else, for no one knew how soon they might

92 Nellie's Playmales.

begin to fire. At last when morning came,
as nothing had been heard of the Carlists
during the night, and the bonfire had not
been answered by any others, it was thought
best to send a company of soldiers to recon-
So off they marched, tramp, tramp,
jingle, jingle, right over the bridge, where
the stone Kings and Queens had a good
laugh at them when their backs were turned.
They knew all about it, and which way the
children had gone, and the Bat had told
them where the children were sleeping.
How the Jays did chatter, to be sure, when
they saw all the soldiers come marching
along under the trees! and the Hoopoes
watched them with great interest, and then
came down and marched about too with
their crests up. The Owl of course had
gone to bed long ago, and had stuffed her
head into the darkest part of the old hollow
tree where she lived; but the rabbits, who
had met together partly to eat their break-

The Swallow's Story. 93

fast, and partly to discuss the new-comers to
the hut, all scampered away in double quick
time, showing the white linings of their tails
with fright.
"At last the officer called to his men to
halt. They had come to the mound on the
top of which the fire had been, and a little
thin, blue smoke was still rising from the
embers. It was necessary to search the hut,
and find out who had dared to disturb the
rest of Madrid by this audacious bonfire.
So up the soldiers marched, scaling the steep
sides just as if there was a fort at the top,
and then the officer stooped down and looked
inside, and saw-two sleepy-looking children
sitting up in the midst of a lot of dried grass
and rubbing their eyes in astonishment.
"When Anita saw the soldiers she was sure
she was going to be shot immediately, so she
began to cry as loud as she could, and clung
to Pepito in terror.
"It did not take very long to explain
matters, however, and then the officer, who

94 Nellie's Playmates.
was very kind-hearted, and who had a little
girl of his own at home, took Anita up on
his saddle in front of him, and let her ride
all the way back to Madrid, while Pepito
marched along with the soldiers with a cane
over his shoulder.
"As he passed the Hoopoes he only just
looked at them out of the corners of his eyes,
for he was afraid it was not soldier-like to
turn his head, but he was quite sure they must
be admiring him, because they were birds of
military tastes."


i' '' YOR two or three days after
1"' the Swallow had told his
story, it did nothing but rain,
rain, rain, till the windows
,, looked quite melancholy, with
"the tears streaming down
"their panes. The Gloire de
D'- ijon looked round the corner
iJp .' now and then and nodded; but
e--. rthe buds, who liked it at first and
held up their heads quite cheerfully, began to
think they had had enough of it, and hung
them again in a most desponding manner.
Robin came up once or twice; but he really
looked so dilapidated in his wet feathers that

96 Nellie's Playmates.
Nellie scarcely knew him. The hens in the
fowl-yard stood on one leg each, and said
"Cla-ak in a very miserable way; while
the water ran in a stream off the long tail-
feathers of the cock, and he did not feel in
spirits even to shake it off. Only the ducks
really enjoyed themselves, and they could not
in the least understand what there was to
grumble at. They opened their wings, and
spread out their feathers with their legs, so
as to let the rain get well inside, and quacked
so cheerfully that Sixto, who hated getting
his coat spoiled and his feet wet, gnashed his
teeth at them, as he stood in the shelter of
the doorway and shook his paws, one after
the other.
At last, however, the sky began to clear,
and the clouds to break up into groups, like
children coming out of school. By-and-by
the sun came out, and then what a glorious
revel there was 1 The rain-drops danced and
glimmered on the flowers, who looked out,
laughing, from their wet leaves as if they

The Story the Breeze told. 97

were water-nymphs, and had all been having
a swim. The birds sang themselves almost
hoarse with delight, and ruffled out their
feathers to dry them. The cock got on the
top of a wall, and began to crow as loudly as
he could, while the hens chuckled and clacked
and cleaned themselves, as if there was some-
thing to live for. Even Sixto ventured out
along the gravel walk, though he would not
trust himself on the grass yet for fear of
wetting his twenty-four toes.
Nurse had insisted on keeping the win-
dow shut all the time it was raining for
fear of the damp air; but now Nellie per-
suaded her to open it, and the fresh, delicious
scent of damp earth came in with the per-
fume of the roses; and even the Stocks and
Wallflowers down in the garden sent up
greetings to the kindly sun, so that Nellie,
as she lay on her little couch, could almost
fancy she was walking amongst them all once
more. But amid all this joy and revelry
she seemed almost forgotten by her friends

98 Nellie's Playmales.

the birds. It was such a capital time for
finding worms that Robin was too busy to
do more than fly up, quite out of breath from
pulling a big one out of the grass plot for
Jenny, to see how Nellie was, and to tell her
what he was doing. She could see him, fussy
and important, hopping about with his little
ones after him, pouncing on the poor worms
the moment they appeared, and tugging away
at them with all his force, placing his foot
firmly against the ground to give him more
power, while Bob and Poppit and Flappit
watched him with bright eyes and open
beaks, and gathered round him eagerly
clamouring for morsels. Nellie could not
help thinking it rather cruel of Robin; for
the poor worms wanted to enjoy the sun-
shine as much as he did; but when she
remembered the beef and mutton and chicken
she had for dinner every day, she supposed it
must be all right, and that the only differ-
ence was that Robin had no butcher to kill
his meat for him. It is like papa going out