Citation
Fairbrass

Material Information

Title:
Fairbrass a child's story
Creator:
Pemberton, T. Edgar ( Thomas Edgar ), 1849-1905
Bunce, Kate E ( Illustrator )
Cornish Brothers ( Publisher )
Cond Bros ( Publisher )
Place of Publication:
Birmingham
Publisher:
Cornish Brothers
Manufacturer:
Cond Bros.
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
[5], 168, [4] p., [4] leaves of plates : ill. ; 20 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Children -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Deaf children -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Children and death -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Children -- Death -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Dogs -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Brothers and sisters -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Courtship -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Inheritance and succession -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Imaginary companions -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Publishers' advertisements -- 1895 ( rbgenr )
Bldn -- 1895
Genre:
Children's literature ( fast )
Publishers' advertisements ( rbgenr )
novel ( marcgt )
Children's literature ( rbgenr )
Spatial Coverage:
England -- Birmingham
Target Audience:
juvenile ( marctarget )

Notes

General Note:
"Some press opinions on the works of T. Edgar Pemberton": [4] p. at end of text.
Statement of Responsibility:
by T. Edgar Pemberton ; with illustrations by Kate E. Bunce.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
This item is presumed to be in the public domain. The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions may require permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections (special@uflib.ufl.edu) with any additional information they can provide.
Resource Identifier:
002235891 ( ALEPH )
ALH6355 ( NOTIS )
148028044 ( OCLC )

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Full Text
areata eee Te






Boa WB RAS S

A CHILD’S STORY
BIRMINGHAM

PRINTED BY COND BROS,

MOOR STREET




2)

s LSS

FAIRBRASS AND THE DeEapD BIRD.

| Year
a a Sy) WA =a
IAN BAIN, Gy = aw,
PAGE Se me
y A Be My i?

LO

b_S

2 Z
|

pA —)
BEM

Ni
yD

ISN oe
Ae
SS — = /
eA
7 ES


GF APReb.R ASS

Ag CilEDaS STORY

BY

IT. EDGAR PEMBERTON

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

KATE E. BUNCE

Birmingbam
CORNISH BROTHERS, 37, NEW STREET

1895

CONTENES

CHAPTER PaGE
I. THe THREE Houses - - - I
Il. Tue Litrrte House - - = a2

III. Business” - - - - Sy 2S
IV. THe KNEELING KNIGHT - - 51
V. Tue Bic House - - se ae
VI. PLEASURE - - - - - 129

VII. Gop’s House - - - - 157
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ILLUSTRATIONS

FAIRBRASS AND THE DeEaD BirD - - - Frontispiece

‘And the poor little songster throbbed
its heart out in the boy’s warm hand’

FAIRBRASS AND THE KNEELING KNIGHT To face page 60

‘I thought I would ask you to stop
and have a chat with me’

FAIRBRASS AND HIS GRANDFATHER - To face page ro2

‘Well,’ he said, ‘if he won’t smile
upon me when he wakes, at least
he will be glad to see my lovely
flowers’

FaIRBRASS AND THE HEDGEHOG - - Zo face page 151

‘I wish you would go away,’ said Fair-
brass, ‘I daresay you mean well,
but to my way of thinking you
are much too meddlesome’
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BINUR RINGS:

CHAPTER I.
Pie SORE HOUSES:

HE first words he heard were:

‘Well, and now that we

have him here, what are we
going to call him ?’

‘Upon my word, I don’t
know,’ said his father, who spoke in a sad
tone. ‘His poor mother and I used up all
our favourite names long ago. There are
such a lot of them! I don’t mean such a


2 FAIRBRASS

lot of our favourite names, but such a lot of
the poor little chap’s brothers and sisters,’
‘The more the merrier!’ said the first
speaker, who appeared to be in excellent
spirits ; ‘and concerning this young fellow,
I have an idea. I am getting on in years,
I am a bachelor. I am well to do. I
want something to care for. I shall want
somebody to leave my money to. Well,
call this pretty mite of a thing after me;
give him my name—Fairbrass—and from
to-day I will take him under my wing.’
‘Oh, Doctor—-dear, good Doctor!’ said
his mother, with tears in her voice as well
as in her eyes—‘ you are always so
‘Hush !’ was the kindly reply. ‘What
did I say—perfect quiet ? Eh ? Come——’
And his father and his Doctor left the
room, and He was alone with his mother.
The Doctor no doubt meant what he
said when he declared that he would take
the boy under his wing; but he was an
emotional Doctor, who often by the bed-
sides of his patients undertook more than


THE THREE HOUSES 3

he could carry out. His great practical
success in this line came a few months later,
when he promised an apparently dying
widow that he would be a second father to
her five little boys. Under that careful and
consolatory treatment the young widow not
only recovered, but, mindful of the Doctor’s
promise, led him captive to the altar, and
in due time made him the father of three
more little boys. After that the Doctor
gave up saying ‘the more the merrier,’ and
long before that he forgot all about our little
boy. But at the moment the parents believed
in the good intentions of the Doctor,
and so it came about that the child was
christened and called Fairbrass.

Little Fairbrass lay by the side of his
mother and wondered. For wondering his
mind was in exactly the right condition, for
being only a few hours old he had no past
to occupy his thoughts, and the future did
not cause him any apprehension. For a
moment he was rather sorry that the Doctor
had gone, because he felt himself under
4 FAIRBRASS

more than one obligation to him, and would
have liked to thank him; but he had every
reason to believe that he would see Dr.
Fairbrass again to-morrow, and so quietly
gave himself up to reflection.

On the whole, the boy was by no means
displeased with the world into which he had
just been born. Glancing round the room,
he saw a bright fire flickering on an old-
fashioned hearth, with comforting-looking
cups, kettles, and such like things, suggest-
ively placed on its out-of-date hobs ; pretty
pictures on brightly papered walls ; and the
cleanest, cosiest-looking nurse moving noise-
lessly about and silently attending to a
hundred duties. He knew as he snuggled
to the warm side of his mother that, in spite
of the used up list of favourite names, she
was young, and soft, and sweet and loving,
and that she and he lay on a downy and
daintily-draped bed, and, since he had no
need to be hungry, what could he wish for
more? Nothing, he thought, and was just
contentedly dozing off when he felt his
THE THREE HOUSES 5

mother’s tears fall softly upon him, and was
conscious that his tall, handsome, grave-eyed,
and still young father stood again by the
bedside.

‘It seems so sad to think,’ said the
mother, as she lovingly pressed her husband’s
caressing hand, ‘that this poor little mite
has been brought into a world where there
is so little room for him.’

‘There is at least room for him in our
hearts,’ said his father.

‘Those poor hearts of ours,’ she sighed,
‘so over-full already !’

Then they fell into a long, sad silence,
and Fairbrass marvelled. What could it all
mean? With such comfortable, nay, even
delightful, surroundings, what had they to
be sad about ?

Poor little innocent man! He had yet
to learn that in the beautiful world to which
he was one of the most recent additions,
there exists a Never-Tiring, Day and Night,
Heart and Brain, Man-Manufactured Tor-
mentor, whose name is ‘Money,’ and that at
6 FAIRBRASS

this moment the Creature had this affec-
tionate husband and wife well within his
cruel clutches.

But though the husband and wife were
silent the house was not. Overhead there
was a continuous patter of little feet that
made Fairbrass realize the fact that his
father was right when he said there were
‘such a lot of them.’ Now Fairbrass liked
the patter, and he knew that his mother—
for he lay so close to her that her very
thoughts seemed to be part and parcel of
himself—liked it to; but the Doctor had
ordered ‘ quiet,’ and in order to ensure it
someone up above, with a loud voice was
checking the clatter of tripping feet by
insisting that silence should be kept.

‘What an invaluable woman nurse is!’
said the father. ‘It may be that her wages
are higher than we ought to afford, but ata
time like this she is such a comfort. She
never fails to carry out a doctor’s instructions.
I told her that the children must be kept
quiet.’
THE THREE HOUSES 7

‘Yes, dear,’ replied the mother rather
doubtfully ; ‘but I think they would be
happier, and I am sure I should be, if you
would go and read them a fairy-tale.’

And ever obedient to her well-loved
wishes, he, kissing her, left the room. The
patter and the loud voice were heard no
more, the worn-out mother slept, and, with
his baby eyes wide open, Fairbrass had
plenty of time for silent conjecture.

Who would tell him why it was that
with all their pleasant surroundings his
father and mother were so sad ?

Then astrange thinghappened. Through
the latticed window that faced the bed in which
he lay came soft voices that in silvery tones
whispered to him. Whose could they be?
Surely not—yes—there was no doubt about
it: the two slim twin-sister poplar trees that
grew close to the house and swayed and
bent and rustled in the autumn breeze, were
talking to him, and he heard and understood
their unknown speech.

Their roots had been in the soil there,
8 FAIRBRASS

they said, for a goodly number of years ;
they had been fanned by many a summer
zephyr, and threatened by many a winter’s
whirlwind—and sometimes the summers and
the winters, the zephyrs and the whirlwinds,
got so hopelessly mixed that they hardly
knew where they were—but they took the
rough with the smooth ; they were willing to
Sway just as it was willed, to the north, south,
east, or west; they were content to unfurl
their leaves to the welcome sun, or to drop
them at the command of King Jack
Frost ; and, living in this spirit, and being
likely to live and die old maids, they knew
all the gossip of the neighbourhood.

‘You are the first human being,’ they
said to Fairbrass, as they introduced them-
selves, by softly brushing against thewindow-
panes, ‘to whom we have ever been able to
talk.’

At the moment Fairbrass marvelled at
this, but afterwards, as will be seen pres-
ently, he knew why it was that he had the
gift of comprehending dumb tongues.
THE THREE HOUSES 9

They were wonderfully polite, these
waving, whispering, gently restless sisters,
and they told Fairbrass that the house in
which he was born was known as the Little
House at the foot of the hill, that in the Big
House on the side of the hill, which, when
they bent backwards, seemed quite near to
them, and which was very big and grand
indeed, his grandfather lived, and that on
the top of the hill was God’s House, with a
beautiful blue ceiling, which could be often
lighted up with a softly shining moon and
countless twinklingstars. Theysaidthatwhen
his father married he had had a terrible quarrel
with the grandfather, and that father and son
had never spoken since. That this, indeed, was
why Fairbrass was born in the Little House
at the foot of the hill instead of the Big
House on the side of it, which the stern old
man had determined to leave to strangers
instead of to his only son and child. They
said that his father was a good but an
obstinate man; that owing to this family
quarrel he was anxious about his worldly
Io FAIRBRASS

affairs; but that since he loved his wife
dearly, and she was absolutely devoted to
him, he had, if he only knew it, far more,
and a far better thing than money could buy.

The whole trouble, it seemed, had been
brought about by the Money Fiend. The
mother was beautiful but penniless ;_ the
father had laughed at this, and, in spite of
warnings and consequences, had married her;
the mother looked upon the father as a hero,
but the grandfather was right when he said
that he knew the power of wealth ; and now
that the children had come, and continued
to come, the father and mother, though
they never told each other so, saw that the
old man might have been very useful to
them all,

‘It was an odd part of the business, too,’
said the Poplars, ‘that the grandfather was
really as unhappy about the whole affair as .
the father, but both were so proud that
neither would make any advance towards
a reconciliation, and, without saying a word
to each other, the Little House at the foot
THE THREE HOUSES II

of the hill, and the Big House on the side of
it, continually referred the matter to God’s
House (with the beautiful blue ceiling on the
top of it); and that so far this House
seemed little inclined to meddle with a family
quarrel that did not concern it, and which
ought without its aid to be patched up.’
Then the Poplars said: ‘That is all
that we need tell you at present, dear ;’ and
then they softly kissed the window panes
with their topmost twigs, and bade the boy
good-night. As a matter of fact, it was all
they could tell him just then, for a strong
wind, growing tired of their chatter, came
roaring round the corner of the house and
blew them in quite another direction. They
felt that the wind was coming, and that
was why they brought their talk to a sudden
close, for, though full of the sap of kindness,
they were terrible gossips, and now that
they had found someone fresh to talk to,
would have gone on whispering for hours.
The wind—who, because of their continually
bending and giving way to him, could not
I2 FAIRBRASS

blow the poor Poplars down, was always
furiously angry with them—gave them a
terribly anxious and wakeful night, for, in
spite of their pliancy, they were strangely
nervous. But Fairbrass croodled to his
mother’s side, and slept the lovely sleep of a
hearty, hopeful, new-born babe.


Var Wardle Nh 1

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CHAPTER II.
THE LITTLE HOUSE.

d (ELL, the Little House at the
foot of the hill was not such
a very little house after all,
and most likely it was only
called that in contrast to the Big House on
the hill side, which was, if truth be told,
rather too big for comfort—that is to say, for
those who are wise enough to study mere
comfort. The Little House contained many
and quite large enough rooms, and it was
the most surprising place for nooks and
corners, cabin-like attics, and out-of-the-
way cupboards in the world. Old fashioned
and out of date it was, no doubt ; but it was


14 FAIRBRASS

warm and cosy in winter, bright and cheery
in spring, cool and restful in summer, and
especially inviting in autumn, when great
logs of wood spluttered and crackled on old
iron fire-dogs, and it was delicious to nestle
in ingle-nooks and lazily watch flickering
flames dancing about in the shining old
Dutch tiles. Daintily and tastefully furnished
it was, too, and full of books, pictures, and
curiosities which Fairbrass’s father had
collected in the days before his marriage,
and of which he was at one time very proud.

The glory of the Little House, however,
"was its garden. Not a very large garden—
not by any means that terrible thing, a ‘laid
out’ garden (the very words ‘laid out’ make
one think of a funeral), but a pretty, an old-
fashioned, a sweet-scented, and, above all,a
purposeful garden. Grass-pathed and well
stocked it was, and flowers and vegetables
pretty equally shared the rich and warm-
coloured soil between them. Sloping down to
a rippling stream that formed its boundary,
and on the other side of which was an
THE LITTLE HOUSE 15

orchard of gnarled but fruitful apple, pear,
plum, and cherry trees (with a solitary re-
presentative from each of the quince, mul-
berry, and medlar families, without which
no orchard is quite complete), the garden was
spared the trouble of winter floods, and had
the full advantage of the summer sun. On the
old, gray stone walls—decorated here and
there with pieces of curious carving—‘ loot ’
from a neighbouring mansion that, in the
stormy days of Cromwell, had been battered
down—currants, red, white and black, plen-
tifully repaid the kindly influences of well-
applied and natural warmth; and in the
carefully kept beds strawberries loved to grow
big and cheerily ripen. The scent of lavender,
rosemary, thyme, and sweetbriar lay gently
on the air—and here, there, and everywhere,
bright flowers blossomed and made glad
the heart and eye. And yet it was a trim
garden. The closely mown turf and the
squarely cut yew-trees bore witness to the
fact that abundant nature was kept within
bounds by the care of man, and altogether
16 FAIRBRASS

the spot was one of contentment, order
and repose.

The birds knew it. It was a common
saying in Bird Land that the garden of the
Little House contained the best fruit and
attracted the juiciest snails and slugs, and the
daintiest insects of any garden in the county ;
and if the birds did make rather free with the
cherries, and so forth, they did their duty by
the little garden enemies, and in the proper
season gladdened the hearts of the house-
dwellers by singing all day long. The star-
lings built their nests and chattered in the
lichen-covered stone-shingled roof: the
thrushes, blackbirds, bullfinches, linnets,
tits, and flycatchers had their homes all over
the place ; the merry wagtails (pied, yellow
and gray) loved the smooth lawns and the
banks of the stream, where the sedge-warblers
nested ; the swallows and house-martins
were of opinion that the stiff mud to be
obtained from the edges of the brook was, for
house-building purposes, the best brand in
the world, and summer after summer they
THE LITTLE HOUSE 17

came back to get it; the darting swifts, as
they swirled over the homestead,squealed out
their approval of the place; the moorhens
loved to breast the rippling waters of the
brook; the nightingales had for many, many
generations been happy and undisturbed
tenants of the orchard; and the grave and
glossy rooks cawed in solemn chorus from
the topmost boughs of the tall elm-trees
that formed its boundary.

And as he began to grow up, Fairbrass
knew the garden too. He loved it better
than any place in the world. In the house
everyone was kind to him—very kind indeed
—far kinder, as it seemed to him, than they
were to each other; but all seemed to regard
him with a sort of mournful pity that he
could not at all understand. When his
mother took him on her knee and pressed
him to her breast, he knew that, though she
tried to smile on him, it was through a mist
of tears, and that some intense grief quick-
ened her heart-throbs ; he saw that even the
somewhat stern eyes of his father moistened

B
18 FAIRBRASS

when they looked upon him; and he never
ceased to marvel at the affectionate solicitude
of his eldest sister, who, at the sacrifice of
her own pleasures, made him her especial
care, who never tired of anticipating his
smallest wish, and who, if she had not had
many other things to do, would have followed
him about like a faithful spaniel. But there
was an odd and a painful thing about his
lifein the house. Kind, gentle, and loving as
all there were to him, no one ever spoke to
him. They talked and chattered to each other
(for they were a large family) quickly and
loudly enough, and Fairbrass could hear and
understand—but to him no word was ever said.

Now, in the garden all was so different.
There everything talked to him, and he
could answer them back (in the house he
never was able to speak), so it is no wonder
that he loved the dear old garden, and spent
as much of his time in it as he could.

His first friends, the graceful twin-sister
Poplar-trees, not only told him, in their
soft, silvery voices, the names of all the
THE LITTLE HOUSE IQ

animals, birds, trees, flowers and insects,
but introduced him to them, and, timid
though most of them were of making the
acquaintance of a human being (in truth
they had some cause to be frightened at the
species), the child’s manners were so sweet
and winning, and he seemed so anxious to
do no harm, that one and all took him to
their heart of hearts, and made him their
close companion and dearly-loved friend.

But happy as he was in the garden,
Fairbrass could not understand why he was
not spoken to in the house. For a long,
long time the poor little fellow felt so
sensitive about it that he did not like to say
a word to his outdoor friends ; but one day,
when he was about eight years old, he felt
that he could bear it no longer, and he
asked the Poplar-trees to tell him the reason.

For a moment they swayed away from
each other, as if in distress and desirous to
avoid the question; but then they quietly
kissed each other, and after a little whis-
pering the taller of the two said:
20 FAIRBRASS

‘Fairbrass, we have long felt that you
would ask this question, and we have often
wondered how we should answer you. We
think now that the time has come when you
should be told the truth. You cannot speak
to your father or mother, brothers or sisters,
or, indeed, to any human being, because
you are what the world calls dumb.’

‘Dumb?’ said Fairbrass. ‘What is
‘‘dumb”? That is a word they are always
using when they speak of me.’

‘Yes,’ said the shorter Poplar; ‘but
they would not dream of saying so, if they
did not think you were deaf, too.’

‘Deaf?’ asked Fairbrass. ‘What is
‘deaf’? They say that, too.’

‘Listen to me, dear,’ said the elder

sister. ‘Sometimes people are born into
the world who cannot speak : that is called
“dumb.” Most of these poor creatures

cannot hear; that is being ‘‘deaf.” In the
house they think that, because you cannot
speak, that is the case with you; but Heaven
has been kinder to you, dear, than that.
THE LITTLE HOUSE 21

You can hear as well as the best of them,
and though your father and mother and
brothers and sisters do not know it, the
trees and flowers and animals, and the birds
and insects do; and as they feel sure you
will never tell their secrets, we all talk to
you, and you are permitted to talk to us.’

‘Yes,’ said Fairbrass; ‘and you are all
more good to me than words can say; but
you cannot tell me all I want to know.
Why are my father and mother always so
sad? They love one another, they love my
brothers and sisters, and they love me; and
yet they always seem anxious and troubled.’

‘We know—we know!’ sighed the
Poplars, ‘for we hear them talk at night.
We do not quite understand all they say;
but there is something called business that
makes your father unhappy, and by talking
to her about it he makes your mother
unhappy, too.’

‘Business?’ said Fairbrass. ‘Oh yes,
I know !—that’s where my father goes
(though I don’t know why) every day.
22 FAIRBRASS

He goes first in the pony carriage, then in
the train, until he gets to the big town;
and in the evenings, when he comes home
again, he looks tired out. What is business?’

But that was a question that the two
maiden Poplars—who had never moved
from one spot since they were born, and
who had no intention of doing so until they @
died—could hardly be expected to answer; _
and so, for the time being, the conversation
came to an end.



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CHARTER TT

BUSINESS.

UT the question was one
that’ Fairbrass did not mean
to let drop, and, having well
thought the matter over, he
came to the conclusion that

his friends the birds, who flew so fast and

so far, and therefore knew so much more
of the world than the flowers and trees that
could never get outside the precincts of the

Little House, would be the most likely to


24 FAIRBRASS

tell him, so, on a bright day in the early
summer, when he was alone in the garden, °
he caught the ear of a swiftly-flying House
Martin, and said to him:

‘What is business ?’

‘This,’ cried the House Martin, as he
deftly plastered the piece of adhesive mud
that he carried in his beak in exactly the
right spot on the little semi-circular nest he
was building under the eaves of the house.
‘This is business—or at all events it is my
business—and I have no time just now to
bother about anybody else’s.’

‘And this is my business,’ said a glossy
Blackbird, who from the lawn had over-
heard the question, and who spoke between
the fierce tugs that with his strong yellow
bill he was making at a fine fat worm who
was reluctantly bidding good-bye to the
brown juicy soil where he lived in peace.

‘And this is mine,’ said a handsome red-
backed Shrike, as he mercilessly impaled a
struggling beetle on a strong thorn in the
orchard hedgerow.
BUSINESS 25

‘And mine will come a little later on
when the cherries are ripe,’ said the Bull-
finch; ‘when you will want them all for
the house, and when I shall get up earlier
than you, and have most of them for myself.
Ha, ha! that’s what I call business.’

‘And what do you think of mine?’ said
the Kestrel, as he suddenly dropped from
his poise in the blue sky and struck poor
boastful Bully with unerring aim. The
Kestrel would have made off with his prey,
but in deep distress Fairbrass rushed in, too
late, however, to do good. The Hawk
darted away with an angry shriek, and the
poor little songster throbbed its heart out in
the boy’s warm hand. As Fairbrass stroked
its soft and beautifully carmine-tinted breast,
and thought of the cherries that the poor
thing (little thief though he might be) would
never enjoy, his eyes filled with tears, and
throwing himself on the ground, he sobbed
out :

‘T hate business! It is all horrid selfish-
ness and eating each other up. The House
- 26 FAIRBRASS

Martin was the best of them, but he
was so busy with his sticky mud that he
wouldn’t say a word to me. I know now
why poor father looks so sad when he
comes home from that wicked thing called
business.’

‘Not so fast, Fairbrass,’ said a tall
Hollyhock, with a great number of rose-red
blooms, of which it was immensely proud,
and with any number of buds ready to
replace the rose-red blooms when they had
gone, and so make a fine second show.
‘Not so fast, my young friend. What is
the use of asking birds the meaning of
business? Their one idea of life is to kill
and fight and steal as much as they can.
That’s their idea of business. They’re mere
rabble, are the birds.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ said Fairbrass,
hotly. ‘What about their singing ?’

‘Very vastly over-rated, I consider,’ said
the Hollyhock ; ‘and yet to be quite just,
which I always try to be, if some of it wakes
‘my buds up too early in the morning, it
BUSINESS 27

becomes so drowsily monotonous as the
hours roll on that it sends my petals to
sleep in excellent time in the evening.’

‘And then look at their nests,’ argued
Fairbrass. ‘Was there anything ever more
lovely than a bird’s nest ?’

‘They’re neat in their way, I'll admit,’
said the Hollyhock, ‘and I know that they
take immense pains over them; but, dear
me! what for? More often than not the
nests get stolen by mischievous boys; and
if that doesn’t happen, they are foolish
enough to hatch ugly young birds in them,
who treat their parents’ carefully-built and
daintily-lined homes as if they were mere
pigsties, and generally end by making them
not fit for a decent bird to live in, and then
they take wing and leave the weak-minded
old folk who brought them into existence,
and fed them as long as they could not feed
themselves, to make shift all alone. Oh! yes,
birds call nest-building and egg-hatching
business. From my point of view, birds
are almost as ridiculous in the fuss they
28 FAIRBRASS

make about life as you human beings.
Now, just you look at me :

‘IT am looking at you,’ interrupted Fair-
brass, ‘and I think you think much too
much of yourself.’



‘I have good reason to be proud,’ said
the Hollyhock pompously. ‘Many, many
years ago a great king—he was, indeed, the
wisest of all kings—paid a great tribute to
our family. ‘‘ Consider,” said King Solo-
mon, kissing his hand to an ancestor of
mine—who was, by the way, not half so
fine or handsome as I am—‘‘ consider the
hollyhocks of the——” ’

‘You're quite wrong,’ put in Fairbrass.
‘King Solomon never said anything of the
sort ; and you’re mixing up hollyhocks and
lilies.’

‘Pooh, pooh!’ said the Hollyhock.
‘I’ve heard that tale before; but that’s a
mere mistranslation. Do you think that
with one of my family in his garden he’d
have had a thought for a pale washed-out
creature like the lily ?’
BUSINESS 29

But as the Hollyhock was not quite sure
of his ground, he showed that underneath
his vanity lay a certain amount of common-
sense, and so he wisely forbore to continue
the discussion. |

‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ cried poor little
Fairbrass, as he lay on the grass in despair ;
‘who will tell me what the business is that
my father goes to every day, and which
makes him and mother so sad when he
comes home in the evening ?’

‘I’ve got an idea for you my boy,’ said
a voice at his feet, and, looking down, he
found that the speaker was a pert-looking,
smartly -variegated, crimson and _ white
Picotee, who, with a close cluster of his
equally gay-looking brothers and sisters,
was lazily sunning himself and sweetly
scenting the warm summer air.

‘What is it?’ asked Fairbrass, for he
was willing to jump at any chance.

‘It is this,’ said the Picotee. ‘You
know how fond your father is of putting
one of us in his buttonhole when he goes
30 FAIRBRASS

to his business in the great town. Well,
we do not complain of that, because, after
all, he lets us live rent free here, waters
us when the weather is dry, and in many
other ways shows that he likes us. Now,
my idea is this. You know how much he
loves to have a flower from your hands.
Very well. To-morrow morning you come
and pick me. He will put me in his
buttonhole; I shall go to town with him.
I will take careful note of everything that
happens; and in the evening, if you will
take care to take me and bring me back
here, [ll tell you and the members of my
family all that I have seen and heard. I
have often thought that I should like a day
in town.’

‘You dear, good Picotee!’ cried Fair-
brass. ‘Why, you are as clever as you
are beautiful; and if only father does not
leave you on his office table, or throw you
out of the railway-carriage window, I am
certain that you will tell me all I want to
know.’
BUSINESS 3

And full of new ideas and new hopes,
and thankful to think that he had so many
friends, Fairbrass returned to the house and
went happily to bed.

In the morning he was up and out
betimes to pluck the brave Picotee.

‘Hush!’ said that finely-streaked, and

by this time dew-bespangled volunteer,
as Fairbrass with outstretched hand knelt
down by his side. ‘Hush! and don’t
pick me until you have heard what I have
to say. The other members of my family
are all, as you can see, fast asleep. I,
being determined to help you, have been
awake all night thinking of you and your
affairs. Now, please to be attentive, or
between us things may go wrong. What
did you say last night about office tables
and railway-carriage windows ?’

‘Only this,’ said Fairbrass. ‘Often and
often when father comes home without his
flower in his button-hole, and they ask him
where it is, he tells them that he has either
left it on the table or thrown it out of the
32 FAIRBRASS

window; and then I am sorry, because |
know that the poor blossom is dead. Now,
then, you kind, pretty Picotee, are you
ready to be picked and to go on your
journey ?’

‘No,’ said the Picotee firmly ; ‘because
I have thought of another and a wiser
plan. I think, after all, that I am rather
too old to undertake the day’s work. You
mustn’t for one moment imagine that I
have any misgivings with regard to the
office table or the railway-carriage window
—indeed, I may tell you in confidence that
I don’t know what fear is—but I can’t help
fancying that, as I have been up all night,
in the course of the day I might be tempted
to drop off to sleep, and so miss things that
would be useful to you.’

‘Then, is this scheme to fall through ?’
asked Fairbrass anxiously.

‘Certainly not,’ said the Picotee; ‘and
now I come to another point. Much as I
should like to go to town myself, I always
like to be unselfish, and to give young folk
BUSINESS 33

a chance ; and over yonder—fast asleep in
the furthest corner of our bed—is a hand-
some young relative of mine who would
give anything to have the jolly day in your
father’s button-hole that I am quite willing
to deny myself. Go and pick him, Fair-
brass, and then, when he wakes up, we will
give him a joyful surprise. When you are
as old as I am, my dear, you will know that
the greatest delight in life is the power that
sometimes comes in our way of giving
pleasure to others.’

So, full of admiration for the unsel-
fishness of the Old Picotee, Fairbrass picked
the Young Picotee, and, when he found
that that dainty little rascal did not seem to
be at all grateful for the treat that was in
store for him, and even declared that he
would rather stay where he was, he became
quite indignant. As for the Old Picotee,
he gave it the young jackanapes roundly,
and told Fairbrass not to listen to him, but
to carry him straight off to his father.

This Fairbrass did, and then the Old

c
34 FAIRBRASS

Picotee, having lain awake all night think-
ing how he might benefit others, felt justi-
fied in taking a morning’s nap. And why
he was disturbed by feverish dreams of
office-tables and railway-carriage windows
it is hard to say.

In the evening Fairbrass was the first to
welcome his father home. Happily, and
looking remarkably fresh, the Young Pico-
tee was still in his button-hole ; in regaining
possession of him Fairbrass had no difficulty,
and by the family bedside in the garden
there was soon an interested conclave.

‘Now,’ said the Old Picotee, ‘speak up,
and speak the truth. Tell us all you have
seen, and be sure that if you try to deceive
us I shall find you out.’

‘Pooh !” said the Young Picotee pertly.
“You couldn’t do anything of the sort!
You have never been to town.’

‘Perhaps not,’ was the testy reply ;
‘but I am older than you, and age has to be
respected. Age, to those who are favoured
BUSINESS 35

enough to have it, ranks far higher than
mere experience.’

‘But have you found out what ‘‘business’”’
is?’ asked Fairbrass eagerly. ‘I am more
anxious to know than ever. My father
when he went away this morning looked
so sad, and when he kissed my mother this
evening he told her that things were going
from bad to worse. What is this horrid
“business” that wears his life out and
brings black clouds into our bright home ?’

‘TI will tell you, Fairbrass,’ said the
Young Picotee, ‘and I will tell you very
briefly—indeed, I must, for I shall never
outlive the excitement of this day, and before
to-morrow’s dewdrops come I shall be dead.’

‘Oh, I am so sorry!’ said Fairbrass.
‘Why, you will die because of me!’

‘Never mind about that, dear,’ was the
gentle reply ; ‘we all must die some day—
life is not to be counted by time—and |
have lived more and seen more in a few

hours than if, like old Stick-in-the-Mud
36 FAIRBRASS

yonder, I had been allowed to wither on my
stalk, as he will, only to make seed.’

‘If you allude to me ’ said the Old
Picotee fiercely. |

‘Be quiet !’ cried Fairbrass. ‘ Be quiet,
or I will pick you.’

The Old Picotee murmured something
about the ingratitude of the world, and held
his peace, and the Young Picotee went on:

‘As I have said, Fairbrass, I feel that
my time is short, and so I will not trouble
you with descriptions of the things that I
saw, or explain to you how I came to know
their names. I must, as briefly as may be,
confine myself to facts. Well then, Fairbrass,
after he had said good-bye to you all, and
turned back and sighed and kissed his hand
to your mother, your father went briskly off
to the station, and there, buying a news-
paper, seemed to become very much inter-
ested in its contents. Very soon the train
rushed in, and your father got into a com-
partment nearly full of jolly-looking gentle-
men, who all seemed to expect him, and who


BUSINESS 37

had kept what they called ‘‘his usual place”
for him. They were all smoking cigars,
and your father—who seemed to be very
popular, because he was able to tell what
they all called the ‘‘last new story ’’—soon
had one alight too, and very much he
seemed to enjoy it. Although they all
shrieked with laughter at the story, I can’t
say that I thought much of it, and, if you
will excuse me, Fairbrass, I won’t repeat it
to you.’

‘Quite right, quite right,’ murmured the
Old Picotee, who wanted to make out that
the Young Picotee could not tell anything
that he did not know, and professing to
have the questionable story off by heart.

‘When the train reached the town
station, Fairbrass,’ the other went on, ‘your
father took me straight to his office.’

‘Oh, yes; I know,’ sighed Fairbrass.
‘The office—the place that he hates so
much !’

‘Does he?’ asked the Young Picotee.
‘Well, it seemed to me to be comfortable
38 FAIRBRASS

enough. There was a soft carpet on the
floor, a pretty paper and some maps and
pictures on the walls, and it was very hand-
somely furnished. The first thing that your
father did was to take me out of his button-
hole and put me in a glass of water which
stood on the chimney-piece, and glad enough
I was of a drink after my journey, I can
tell you. Then he lighted another cigar
and opened some letters and read some more
newspapers ; and after that he rang the bell
and when a smart-looking young clerk came
in he told him that he should be out for
about half an hour, and that the young man
was on no account to leave the office during
his absence. After that he went out.’

‘What, without taking you with him ?’
gasped Fairbrass.

‘Yes ; and at first I thought that my
mission was a failure, and that even if I
ever got back to you, I should have nothing
to tell you; but after a bit I began to see
that my being left there was the luckiest
thing in the world, for I believe that owing
BUSINESS 39

to that I learnt more about your father and
his business than I should have done if I
had been with him all day long. Well,
your father’s clerk made himself very com-
fortable in your father’s chair, and read the
newspapers, and sang scraps of songs, and
did his best to amuse himself until he was
interrupted by the appearance of another
smart young clerk with a letter for your
father. The two, who seemed to be on very
friendly terms with each other, decided that,
as they had so happily met, they must
go and have ‘‘an eleven o’clock,” as they
called it, together, and I felt certain that I
should be left alone, when your father’s
clerk, catching sight of me, said, ‘‘ Hullo!
I'll give the girls a treat. [Il hide
myself behind the governor’s bush ;” and
with these words he put me in his button-
hole, and we all three went out together.
In a few moments we were in a bright
room, where, in front of a long counter,
quite a number of smart young clerks sat on
high stools, talking merrily, but not very
40 FAIRBRASS

politely, and I thought rather foolishly, to
the gaily-dressed and highly-complexioned
young ladies who stood behind it and served
them with different coloured drinks in dif-
ferent shaped glasses. This was, I discovered,
the ceremony known as ‘‘an eleven o’clock.”’
‘As luck would have it, the conversation
fell on your father, everyone wanting to
know how the young gentleman who wore
me got on in what he called his ‘‘new
berth.” He was very talkative, and as
another young clerk who was present, and
who seemed to have been formerly in your
father’s employ, approved of all that he
said, I suppose there is some truth in it.
‘And now, Fairbrass, I shall tell you as
nearly as I can, and in some of the odd
terms that I heard used, the things concern-
ing your father that were conveyed to me:
‘In the first place, everyone seemed to
like him. They called him a ‘‘perfect gentle-
man” and a ‘‘real good sort,” but they all
seemed agreed that the idea of his—without
any business training or experience,
BUSINESS 41

and simply because he had quarrelled
with his father—setting up at his time of
life as a land and insurance agent was the
finest specimen of ‘‘tommy rot” that could
be imagined. There seemed to bea general
conviction among these shrewd young gen-
tlemen that he was ‘‘too big for his boots,”’
being too proud to ask for business, and
often making mistakes with it when it came
in his way. They said that he had made a
mistake in joining a ‘‘swagger” club, where
he was looked upon as a county ‘‘ swell,”
and where he lounged away a good deal too
much time; and there seemed to be a
unanimous belief that if he stayed away
from town altogether he would be the richer
by the amount of his office rent, his clerk’s
“screw,” his railway season-ticket, and his
club expenses. But they all liked him,
Fairbrass, and all were of the opinion that
he really thought he was working hard and
doing a good thing for his wife and family
by trying to ‘‘build up a business” for
them.
42 FAIRBRASS

‘By this time my wearer seemed to
think he ought to be going; and then a
thing occurred that might have proved fatal
to my errand.

‘One of the brilliantly decorated young
ladies, who had waited upon the young clerk,
and joked with him, and who struck me as
being a terribly loud, forward, and alto-
gether vulgar young lady, not at all the
kind I have been used to see here at home,
begged that she might be allowed to take
me out of his coat and keep me. Fora
moment I shuddered, but your father’s clerk
was loyal, and said she must be content
with what he called one ‘‘long, strong sniff”
of me. The girl bent forward, and as she
inhaled my perfume I heard her softly
murmur something about being reminded
of ‘fold times.” And then I knew that I
had taken her back to long ago and, per-
haps, half-forgotten days, when she played
ina country garden with some of my relations
for her fragrant comrades. I saw a tear
glisten in her eye as she went back to her
BUSINESS 43

duties at the jingling and drink-drabbled
counter, and through that tear she flashed
indignantly at the next thoughtless customer
who, as in duty bound, made her some
coarse compliment. It is true that she
quickly recovered herself and paid him back
in his own coin; but I am sure that I still
linger in her mind, and in future I mean to
be very, very careful how I judge only by
appearances.’

‘Get on with your story, you nincompoop,’
said the Old Picotee testily. ‘If you stay
to sentimentalize like this, you will be dead
before you get to the end of it. Please to
remember that you’ve been picked, and that
your hours are numbered.’

‘Well,’ said the explorer, ignoring this
interruption, and addressing himself exclu-
sively to Fairbrass, ‘I was taken back to
the office and restored to my glass of water,
and by-and-by your father came in, put me
in his buttonhole again, and, saying he was
bound for the club, off we went.

‘Just outside his office door your father
44 FAIRBRASS

met a friend—an earnest-eyed and kindly-
looking gentleman, who, grasping him
cordially by the hand, expressed a hope that-
his business was progressing. ‘‘ Don’t ask
me,” said your father sadly. ‘‘ I am hope-
less—hopeless.”’

‘And then he took me into his club.
It would be difficult for me to tell you,
Fairbrass, what a beautiful place your
father’s club is. There is, to begin with,
a splendid entrance hall, and you go from
that upstairs and down into richly decorated
and finely furnished rooms for reading,
writing, lunching, dining, smoking, and
playing cards and billiards in. Your father,
who seemed to have friends everywhere,
took me into all these rooms, and I felt
quite bewildered until he sat down at a table
where a party of merry gentlemen, who were
eating and drinking, welcomed him, and
where he, too, made a meal.’

‘What did he have ?’ asked the Old
Picotee, who was of a very curious turn of
mind.
BUSINESS 45

‘I know,’ said Fairbrass: ‘he had cold
mutton. I know from what he has said
that he always lives exactly the same as we
do, and at home we had cold mutton for
dinner.’

‘No,’ said the Young Picotee, ‘he didn’t
havecold mutton. He had fish, and cutlets,
and several other things, and he drank
wine that sparkled in his glass. Well, after
that he had a cup of coffee and smoked a
cigar with one of his friends, and he smoked
another cigar and had a game of billiards
with another of his friends. Then he looked
at his watch, said he had no idea it was so
late, and going quickly back to his office,
gave his clerk a few hurried instructions,
thrust a lot of papers into a drawer, remark-
ing that they would have to wait till to-
morrow, and then we came home again by
the train.’

‘Well, Fairbrass,’ said the Old Picotee,
with something like a sneer, ‘what do you
think of ‘‘ business ” ?’

‘I hardly know what to make of it,’
46 FAIRBRASS

said Fairbrass ; ‘but I rather wish he had
had cold mutton for dinner. But then,’ he
quickly added, ‘I ought to remember that
he did not have afternoon tea. It was
mother’s day ‘‘at home” to-day, and a lot
of ladies came to see her, and they had
afternoon tea with cakes, and scones, and
fruit, and no end of good things. I saw
them being taken into the drawing-room.’

‘That reminds me to tell you,’ said the
Young Picotee, ‘of a thing I was almost
forgetting. On the railway journey home
your father travelled with the earnest-eyed
gentleman he met in the street just before
he went to the club, and they had a very
serious talk together. Your father said he
was most anxious about the business, which
did not at all come up to his expectations,
and the gentleman strongly advised him to
work hard and persevere in it. He then said
that, as an old and sincere friend, he should
take a liberty and give him a word of
advice. He ought to cut down expenses at
home.
BUSINESS 47

‘ «That is impossible,” said your father.
‘*T spend nothing there on myself, and I have
the best and most economical wife in the
world.”

‘**T know that your wife is good and
conscientious,” said the gentleman; ‘ but
is it not a fact that it is her ambition to mix
in the very best society, and that she is a
little too anxious to entertain people whose
incomes are far larger than yours ?”

‘* Anda very laudable ambition, too,”
said your father.

‘** But one that costs a good deal,” said
the gentleman.

‘“¢ T won't have a word said against my
wife,” said your father hotly.

‘**Of course not,” said the gentleman ;
‘but I think someone ought to tell her that
it is rather hard that, while you slave as
you do at your business, she should spend
so much money at home.”’

‘To this your father made no reply, and
soon after he held your mother in his arms.
It is a beautiful thing, Fairbrass, to see
48 FAIRBRASS

people loving each other as they do, and to
know how unselfish towards each other
their love makes them.’ But here the voice
of the Young Picotee grew faint. ‘I am
going to die, Fairbrass. I knew that the
long day in the hot and dusty town would
kill me. I should have liked to live a little
longer, but if I have been useful to you I
am not sorry. Good-bye, dear, remember
me.’

‘Remember you, you dear, good, brave
Picotee!’ said Fairbrass, with tears in his
eyes. ‘Indeed I will remember you as
long as I live; for, if you will let me, I
will dry you between the pages of my little
book.’

And then the Picotee passed peacefully
and happily away, for it knew that, being
dried in a book, it would be remembered
for many long years to come, and that—
for in all truth they are a vain and some-
what foolish lot—is the chief ambition of
the Picotee family.

‘Dried in the pages of a book! He!’
BUSINESS 49

cried the Old Picotee—‘he! While I
Oh, it is too much! This is the result of
being unselfish! This comes of giving up
one’s chance to others. Never again!’

But the sentence remained unfinished,
for in his rage he shook himself so violently
that his petals fell off, and were blown to
all corners of the garden. And so he died
without the remotest chance of being
thought of any more.

But Fairbrass took the Young Picotee
into the house, and, having kissed it, laid
it tenderly between the pages of his little
book, and, closing the gilt clasp, went into
the room where the family were assembled.

As he entered he noticed that his father
was asleep in an arm chair, and his mother
was saying to his restless and chattering
brothers and sisters:

‘Hush, dears! Father must not be
disturbed. In trying to get money for us
all he has had a long and tiring day ; and I
want to be quiet, too, for I have to write
out the invitations to a little dinner-party



D
50 FAIRBRASS

that we are to give the week after next.
Now, which of you will be good and find
me the envelopes with the gold crest on
them ?’




CHAPTER IV.
THE KNEELING KNIGHT.

yy
“Cll |NE of the greatest of puzzles

|} to Fairbrass was the church
to which he was taken every
; Sunday, a fine old church
' very near to his home, and
within easy hail of the friendly Poplar-
trees. As far as he was concerned, he liked
the church and its services well enough.
There was to him something remarkably
cosy in being packed away once a week


52 FAIRBRASS

with his father and mother and his brothers
and sisters in the old-fashioned, oak-
fenced, red-cushioned pew. He loved to
gaze at the stained-glass windows, and
drowsily to count in zigzag fashion, some-
times this way and sometimes that, their
lozenged panes; the deep swell and flute-
like notes of the organ had a fascinating
effect on his speculative little mind, and the
singing voices of the choir and the worship-
pers filled him with sweet thoughts and
quiet content. It was not the form of the
service, the Bible lessons, nor even the
sermons, that puzzled him. In these.
matters he felt that, speechless as he was,
he was at a disadvantage, and he cheerfully
resigned himself to his lot.

Of course he knew well enough that if
he could only talk, and, if concerning things
that sometimes seemed mysterious to him,
he could ask questions of his father and
mother—or perhaps even better still, in a
special case of this sort, of the clergyman
—everything would be made as plain and
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 53

clear to him as no doubt it must be to
his more fortunately endowed fellow-
worshippers.

These things—since he understood the
fact that they must ever remain dark to
him—troubled him not one jot; but he did
wonder why people who, for an hour or
two on Sunday, became so fervent about
brotherly love, forgiveness of enemies, and
prayers for mercy—who week after week
seemed to make strong resolutions to amend
shortcomings, and for ever after to lead the
lives of saints—should, on Monday morning,
behave precisely as if all this had never
taken place. Monday morning! Why,
directly the Sunday service was over, he
could hear the churchgoers, as they gos-
sipped strolling homewards, complain that
the preacher was too long, that the Psalms
were out of tune, that the anthem was
atrocious, and the appeal to contribute to
the collection was too bad, through coming
so often! And all this from folk who, with
bent knees, bated breath, and covered faces,
54 FAIRBRASS

had only a few moments before apparently
acknowledged themselves to be spiritually
exalted, and vowed that evermore they
would live in charity towards all things and
all men! As a broad question this, and
the fact that the members of the congrega-
tion who knelt together were, outside the
church-doors, exceedingly chary of knowing
each other, puzzled Fairbrass; but his
greatest perplexity lay nearer home.

Quite close to the pew that was set
apart for the use of the inmates of the
Little House at the foot of the Hill, was
a very exclusive, richly carpeted, and
altogether luxurious enclosure devoted,
through many succeeding generations, to
those who owned the Large House on the
side of the Hill. By the way, God’s House
(with the beautiful blue ceiling), on the top
of the Hill, had no pew, and seemed to do
just as well without it.

And this is what bewildered Fairbrass.
For week after week he watched his gray-
haired, grim old grandfather in his seat,
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 55

listening attentively to the service: he was
near to his own father (the stanchest of
Churchmen), apparently eagerly drinking
in the same words: he knew that one House
was rich and lonely, the other poor and
over-peopled; and yet neither Beliefs, nor
Collects, nor Confessions, nor anything else
in the whole of the beautiful Liturgy,
seemed likely to heal the breach that lay
between them. Whenever the Parable of the
Prodigal Son was read, Fairbrass was on
the alert and expectant—not that he regarded
his father in the light of a prodigal, or for
one moment looked forward to a dinner of
roast veal, and whatever goes with it, at the
Large House on the side of the Hill; but
thinking, in a general way, that something
ought to come out of the two listening to
that matchless story of filial disobedience
and parental forgiveness—more especially
as in this case there was no elder brother
and prosaically dutiful son to offer not
unreasonable objections to merrymaking
that seemed likely to lead to ill-considered
56 FAIRBRASS

codicils to an already sensibly-made and
properly-signed will.

No. Within a few feet of each other this
estranged father and son, to the amazement
of little Fairbrass, joined in the singing of
praises and the praying of prayers, and
listened to the lessons of Testaments old
and new, and the words of preachers good
and bad, but always in earnest; but no
thought of reconciliation seemed to enter
into the mind of either the one or the other.

One warm summer Sunday morning
Fairbrass was vexing his mind about these
things when he ought to have been attending
to the sermon. It was a lovely morning,
and there were in truth many things
calculated to distract the attention of the
congregation from the somewhat droning
voice of the worthy preacher. The sun-
shine was streaming through the stained-
glass windows, and casting mellow colours
on pews and pavement. In the roof of the
church starlings chattered, round its ancient
tower the voice of the jackdaw could be
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 57

heard ; the shrilling of the swifts, as they
swirled in the soft air, kept up a fitful
accompaniment to these homely sounds;
and the restless flight of a much perturbed
swallow that had somehow found its way
into the church, and was quite as anxious
to get out of it as the fidgetty school-children
who half filled the galleries, was a thing to
watch with eager interest.

But Fairbrass was unmindful for the
moment of these active feathered friends of
his. He was wondering with all his might
who could tell him why it was that the ser-
vices that his parents joined in so heartily,
and so often, and the sermons that they
listened to so attentively, seemed of such
little real use to them in their everyday lives,
and why, this being the indisputable fact,
they did not give up coming to church and
try some other source of aid and comfort,
when, looking up, his eye encountered that
of a very constant and very silent member
of the congregation, known as the Kneeling
Knight.
58 FAIRBRASS

So constant was the Kneeling Knight
in his devotions that he had knelt in that
church through the winters and summers of
many succeeding generations, and it follows
as a matter of course that he was not of
human flesh and blood, but only the marble
representative of the poor bones that lay
deep beneath the traceried stonework that
supported the canopy beneath which he
bent his sculptured knee.

Fairbrass had always been curiously
interested in this famous statue of the
Kneeling Knight (it was, indeed, a statue
so much spoken of in books that it attracted
visitors from afar, and was therefore held
in a certain amount of local estimation), and
now it occurred to him that if the Knight—
a church-goer whose experiences extended
over hundreds of years—could only speak
to him, he would get all the information
he required. And at this moment a won-
derful thing occurred. The Kneeling
Knight actually winked his stony eye at
Fairbrass. If the congregation had seen
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 59

this miracle in a place where they accepted
miracles as matters of fact, there would
surely have been a panic, but the Knight
knew all about that, and timed his signal
well. Nobody saw it but the captive
swallow and Fairbrass. The poor swallow
was so frightened and bewildered that,
in ‘sheer mistake it blundered through the
open window that had been its forgotten
entrance to the church, and which it had
vainly endeavoured to find, and so made
good its escape; but Fairbrass was delighted.
That knightly wink conveyed to him the
message, ‘I can talk to you, my boy, just
as tue other supposed-to-be-dumb things
can do, and if you want a gossip I am quite
ready to make an appointment with you.’
And so when the service was over,
Fairbrass contrived to slip away from his
family, and as soon as the church was quite
empty, and its heavy doors were closed, he
climbed up the stonework and shared the
Kneeling Knight’s canopy. The Knight,
it appeared, had not knelt for centuries for
60 FAIRBRASS

nothing. His patient perseverance—just
as patient perseverance always is—had been
recompensed ; and deaf, stone-deaf, though
he appeared to be, he had been rewarded
with the wonderful gift of being able to
read the thoughts of all who came to service
in the church in which, by night and day,
year after year, century after century, he
kept watch and ward.

‘Well,’ said the Kneeling Knight to
Fairbrass, ‘what is it? I know that you
want to know something, and as the
swallow, who really must be stopped from
trying to build a nest between my nose and
my chin,told me you could speak to me, and I
could speak to you, I thought I would ask
you to stop and have a chat with me.
Well, what can I do for you?’

‘J want to know,’ said Fairbrass—‘ and
as you have attended so many hundreds
and hundreds of Church services, I don’t
think I could ask a better person—whether
religion is really any good to people.’

‘What do you mean by religion ?’ asked






Tosa




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fea PENNY

SWE ee






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FAIRBRASS AND THE KNEELING KNIGHT.
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 61

the Knight, with an uneasy glance at the
swallow, who, now that the Church was
quiet, flew in again through the window
with a piece of mud in her bill.

‘Why, coming to church, I suppose,’
said Fairbrass.

‘Yes,’ said the Knight, ‘that’s what
most people call religion; but it isn’t.’

And here the swallow neatly placed a
patch of mud underneath the poor Knight’s
nostrils.

‘There!’ said the Knight. ‘That’s
what your friend the swallow comes to
church for. Do please explain to her,
Fairbrass, that, as she doesn’t give any-
thing towards the expenses, she has no
right to throw mud into the face of a
constant member of the congregation, whose
friends paid lots of money for him long ago.’

The swallow only required the kindly
hint given by Fairbrass, and immediately
withdrew.

‘What I want to know,’ continued Fair-
brass, ‘is, why doesn’t coming to church
62 FAIRBRASS

make people really happy? I hear them
say that it comforts them, but, really, they
seem just as discontented when the service
is over as they did before it began.’

‘Tl tell you one of the reasons,’ said
the Kneeling Knight. ‘Most of the people
who come here are, for private reasons of
their own, more or less unhappy; and the
worst of it is, they think everyone except
themselves is happy.. Oh! yes, I can read
their thoughts, and I know that what I say
is right. For example, your rich grand-
father, who sits alone in his great pew, is
unhappy because he cannot get investments
to pay him well for his money ; and instead
of attending to the service and the sermon,
he worries about that, and envies the poor
old labouring man who sits in the free seats,
is never expected to give anything to the
collection, and has no stake in the country.
Your father is unhappy, Fairbrass, because
he lives in dread that he should die before
he has made what the world would call
suitable provision for his children ; and he,
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 63

too, envies the labouring man, whose boys
and girls know, as soon as they are able to
know anything at all, that there is no chance
of their father ever being able to leave them
anything, and so they learn to shift for
themselves.’

‘And is the labouring man unhappy
about anything ?’ asked Fairbrass.

‘Rather!’ said the Kneeling Knight,
‘He’s always thinking how little stands
between him and the workhouse (and,
indeed, there isn’t much); and he envies
your father almost as much as he does your
grandfather—indeed, more, for he’s not so

~ old.’

‘But I should think, as he is so unhappy,
he is glad to be old,’ said Fairbrass. ‘ He
will die all the sooner, poor fellow! and
then his troubles will be at an end.’

‘Oh, nobody who comes here, be the
fancied unhappiness what it may, wants to
die,’ said the Kneeling Knight.

‘Are you sure of that?’ asked Fairbrass.
‘They all say, ‘‘ Thy kingdom come,” and
64 FAIRBRASS

all the clergymen tell them that the next
world will be a far happier place than this.’

‘Yes,’ answered the Kneeling Knight ;
‘but none of them—not even the clergymen
themselves—are in any hurry to live in it.
You ask the doctors. They’ll tell you how
hard they all try, directly they think they
are near it, to keep out of it.’

‘That’s very strange,’ said Fairbrass.

‘It’s very true,’ replied the Kneeling
Knight; ‘and the men who are least
anxious to try the change are the doctors
themselves.’

‘Then I don’t believe people are half as
unhappy in this world as you think they
are,’ said Fairbrass. ‘If they are, why do
they want to stay here?’

‘I’m quite certain,’ said the Knight,
‘that people are not nearly so unhappy as
they suppose themselves to be, but then, if
you really believe a thing—however ridicu-
lous it may be—it seems to be a fact.’

‘You are wrong, though, in saying,’
said Fairbrass—who seemed to think that his
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 65

friend was getting the best of the argument
—‘that well-to-do people do not sometimes
envy the poor. Why, only last night my
mother read aloud,

‘““T would I were a milkmaid,

To sing, love, marry, churn,
Brew, bake, and die,”
and then said, ‘‘ There, that’s exactly what
feelese,

‘Bosh!’ said the Kneeling Knight,
‘Most of the time she was in church this
morning she was wishing she was more
expensively dressed, and that she could
entertain her friends in the same style as
her more wealthy neighbours. Milkmaid
indeed! She wouldn’t keep the place a
week,’

‘And my father,’ said Fairbrass, taking
no notice of this not very polite remark, ‘is
very fond of repeating: ‘‘ Happy men are
full of the present, for its beauty suffices
them; and wise men also, for its duties
engage them.” And I thought of that this
morning, and felt certain he was happy.

E
66 FAIRBRASS

He loves the beautiful service, and knows
that he is doing his duty by coming here.
So the two things come together.’

‘Fudge!’ replied the Kneeling Knight,
scornfully. ‘Beauty and duty indeed!
Fairbrass, I’m afraid you’re a bit of a day-
dreamer. Your father was thinking of
neither the one nor the other, but was
grizzling over the future, and wondering
how on earth he’s going to find the money
to pay for the clothes that your mother is
tired of, and the expenses of the parties that
are forgotten by everybody who came to
them. Beauty and duty! Cash or crash
would be more to the purpose.’

‘But won’t you allow that anybody is
happy in church?’ asked Fairbrass wist-
fully. ‘Not even the young people who
don’t know what troubles and anxieties are?’

‘Why, my dear boy,’ was the answer,
‘don’t you know that, in proportion, their
little vexations are really as great and as
hard to bear as their parents’ genuine cares?
a fact, by the way, that the fathers and
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 67

mothers who come to this church never
seem able to realise. Oh yes, the girls who
call themselves young ladies are unhappy
about their lovers, and their parents’ views
concerning them, to say nothing of the fact
that they know they are not dressed in the
latest fashions of the day. The lads who
consider themselves young gentlemen are in
a state of ferment with regard to their
sweethearts, and the tailors’ bills that,
in order to captivate them, they have run
up without their parents knowing. All
these envy the peasant lads and lasses who
seem so healthily cheerful, but who, in their
turn, long for the others’ finery.’

‘It’s a very unsatisfactory world,’ said
Fairbrass, ‘isn’t it?’

‘In a way it is,’ said the Kneeling
Knight ; ‘and yet, if people didn’t long for
what they havn’t got, nobody would try to
get it, and so nothing would ever be done
by anybody !’

‘Ah!’ said Fairbrass, ‘there you’re
right. Everybody ought to want to be
68 FAIRBRASS

great. Oh, if I could only be a mighty
orator !’

‘Ah!’ the Kneeling Knight replied
compassionately, ‘I knew that was certain to
be your pet wish, for the simple reason that
you can’t speak. All human beings who
are worthy of the name set out with a desire
for what they never can attain.’

‘And I shall never be of any use in the
world,’ sighed Fairbrass.

‘Hush!’ said the Kneeling Knight;
‘don’t say that, but listen to this.’

Unperceived by Fairbrass, some of the
younger choristers had been brought into
the church for hymn practice, and now, to
the soul-stirring accompaniment of the great
organ, the boys’ fresh voices sang :

‘If on our daily course our mind

Be set to hallow all we find,

New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

‘The trivial round, the common task,
Would furnish all we ought to ask,
Room to deny ourselves, a road

To bring us daily nearer God.’
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 69

‘There!’ said the Kneeling Knight ;
‘you go home and do that, and you will ©
have done a bigger thing than most men.
Oh, how much happier the people who
come to this church would be if they could
take comfort out of the blessings that each
day brings with it, and would make use of
the opportunities that each hour affords.
Instead of that, men vex their weary souls
about fame and money, and women worry
their pretty heads about society and the
fashions.’

‘It’s all very well for you to talk,’ said
Fairbrass. ‘It’s a case of sour grapes with
you. You know very well you can’t get
any new clothes, and so you make out that
you don’t want them.’

‘Bless the lad!’ said the Kneeling
Knight. ‘Does he think I want to kneel
here in a frock-coat and a top hat! No,
Fairbrass. If ever you marry, you tell
your wife that a wise man once said:
‘‘Fashion is gentility running away from
vulgarity, and afraid of being overtaken by
7O FAIRBRASS

it. It is a sign the two things are not far
asunder.” If you can get her to act up to
that text, and at the same time to take a
woman’s proper interest in her personal
appearance, you'll have one of the best-
dressed wives in the world.’

‘I suppose you'll allow,’ said Fairbrass,
who was too young yet to take a man’s
proper interest in the personal appearance
of women, ‘that men who have done great
things are happy and contented? Great
authors, for example.’

‘Good gracious, no!’ was the reply.
‘Odd as it may seem to you, they are
amongst the unhappiest of the unhappy.
All the art celebrities, of all nationalities,
come here, you know—poets, historians,
essayists, novelists, playwrights, critics,
musicians, artists, actors—the best of them
all come here to see the church and its
antiquities. A good many’ (this rather
proudly) ‘come here on purpose to see me.
I can read their thoughts, and know. that
they think next to nothing of what they
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 71

have done, and are eaten up with care about
what they want todo, It isso important in
their eyes that what they call their next brain
production should be better than the last.’

‘Poor men,’ sighed Fairbrass. ‘How
sad for them!’

‘Yes,’ assented the Kneeling Knight ;
‘it does seem rather sad, but it’s all the
better for the world. If every great man
was content with having done one great
thing, just look what his fellow-creatures
would have missed. The pity of it is that
writers and artists so seldom know the
amount of good they do.’

‘How do you mean?’ asked Fairbrass.

‘T’ll give you an instance,’ said the
Kneeling Knight. ‘Not very long ago a
young poet visited this church. His first
little volume of verse had just been pub-
lished, and he had a smartly-bound copy of
it in his pocket. ‘The day before he had
been very, very proud of it; but that
morning’s post had brought him a news-
paper—an influential newspaper—in which
72 FAIRBRASS

a critic had thought fit to tear his poor
work to shreds, to lay its faults bare, to
pass over its merits, and generally to hold
it up to ridicule. All the joy went straight
out of that young writer’s life. He fancied
that everyone in the church had a copy of
that wicked newspaper in his pocket, and
knew what he now considered to be his
shame. As a matter of fact no one there
had seen the newspaper; but he was sore,
he wished that his poor little book could be
drowned as deep as Prospero’s—Prospero,
you know, was a magical person in a play
—and as he looked up at me tears of mortifi-
cation came into his eyes.’

‘T hate that critic!’ said Fairbrass.

‘Don’t say that,’ said the Kneeling
Knight. ‘No doubt he did his duty, and
possibly his whip will have the effect of a
spur to the poet, and in course of time, and
when the smart has worn off, will cause him
to attempt better things. That critic was
no doubt a very knowing man, and the first
things in the little volume to catch his keen
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 78

eye were the faults that exist in almost every
printed page and certainly in every man’s
daily life. It was his business to point out
those faults to the public. Now, listen to
this. While this half heart-broken young
poet stood gazing at me, there was by his
side a young and pretty woman dressed in
deep mourning. Poor thing! She was
not a critic, but a sorrowing widow within
a few weeks after she had become a happy
and hopeful wife. Now, it so happened
that a friend had given her the little book of
poems, and some of the verses had touched
and consoled her in a manner beyond
description, and so it came about that while
the poet’s eyes welled over with mortification,
hers swam with gratitude to the unknown
writer who had so helped her. ‘‘If I could
only know and talk to him!” she was
saying to herself, while he was murmuring,
‘‘T have mistaken my vocation; I ama vain
fool; I have fruitlessly squandered my
time.” Yes, Fairbrass; there they were,
side by side, almost touching each other.
74 FAIRBRASS

He had comforted her without knowing it.
I don’t suppose that they would ever meet
again; but it proved to me that work well
meant and honestly done is never thrown
away, though those who do it may be the
last to know it.’

Finding his friend in this yielding frame
of mind, Fairbrass ventured, rather ner-
vously to ask him one last question; it was,
indeed, as last questions often are, the one
nearest his heart.

‘Knight,’ he said, ‘tell me, is there a
life to come? Shall we live again? Is
there a heaven for us when we die?’

‘Hush!’ said the Kneeling Knight.
‘ Listen.’

And again the organ pealed out and the
boys’ voices sang:

‘We think and feel; but will the dead
Awake to thought again?

A voice of comfort answers us,
That God doth nought in vain.

‘He wastes nor flower, nor bud, nor leaf,
Nor wind, nor cloud, nor wave;

Nor will He waste the hope which grief
Hath planted in the grave.’
THE KNEELING KNIGHT 75

‘There,’ said the Kneeling Knight,
when the music and singing had ceased
and died away, ‘that’s all I know about it,
and I don’t think you need seek to know
more. If you haven’t faith enough in your
heart to believe words like those, you may
depend upon it that you haven’t a soul
worth saving. You just add those lines to
the others that we heard only a few moments
ago, live and act in accordance with their
spirit, and though you may not be entirely
happy in this world—nobody, my dear boy,
can quite expect that—you need not worry
yourself about what will happen to you in
the world to come. God will take care of
that!’

‘Well, it is simple enough,’ said Fair-
brass, ‘at least it seems so!’

‘Don’t make any mistake about that,’
said the Kneeling Knight. ‘The trivial
round is beset with thorns; the common
task is the hardest of all tasks. The man
who does that perfectly is a blessing to all
those who come near him. And now,
76 FAIRBRASS

Fairbrass, before you bid good-bye to me,
remember this. If I have said things to
you that seem hard, it is perhaps because I
know rather too much. It is true that I
have a certain amount of contempt for the
people who come to this church professing
to do much, and doing next to nothing.
You see, unluckily I know that; but I
know, too, that they would be still more
thoughtless if they did not come here at all.
Good-bye. God bless you, Fairbrass; and
don’t forget those two hymns.’


Be eS ai
i NG wo IF ) yi

nae



CHAPTER V.

THE BIG HOUSE.

HE months rolled on, and
things did not improve at
the Little House at the
foot of the Hill. To be
sure, its garden was as

bright and beautiful as ever, and its noisy

young folk took never-ceasing delight in its
free and health-giving country surround-
ings. But the faces of the father and mother
lengthened, and as they walked together in


78 FAIRBRASS

the evening their talk was anxious talk.
They were wonderfully fond of each other,
these two—so fond that they were pre-
pared to sacrifice anything for each other.
He felt so tenderly towards her that he
never ventured to confess to her that his
business was really of no good to him, and
that he could not afford the friend-enter-
taining in which, according to his notions,
she delighted. And she was so loyal to
him that she never for one moment dreamt
of telling him that her wish was to ‘do
things’ on a much larger and more expen-
sive scale, and that with the existing state
of their affairs she was altogether discon-
tented. They were, indeed, so sorry for
each other, and so much in love with each
other, that they let things go on precisely
as they were, and under these circumstances
the Money Fiend—though he had not yet
succeeded in bringing about the discord that
he loved—held easy possession of the home-
stead, and was always on its premises.

In those days Fairbrass used often to go
THE BIG HOUSE 79

out walking with his elder sister, and he
could not help noticing how very frequently
on these little expeditions they met a young
man, the son of a neighbouring squire, and
a pretty constant visitor to the Little House.
He was a well-looking, well-spoken young
fellow, as tall and straight and strong as
Fairbrass’s sister was graceful and pretty
and womanly—and that is saying a great
deal. As the brother and sister walked in
the lanes the young man generally met
them, looking remarkably well, on horse-
back ; and then he would dismount and ask
if Fairbrass would not like a ride—which
was, indeed, always a delight to the boy.
So Fairbrass would be lifted into the saddle,
the young man would take the bridle in his
hand, and the four of them would stroll
leisurely along together.

It was quite needless for the horse to
tell Fairbrass, with a good-natured wink,
that the pair were in love, for, of course, he
heard every word that they said to each
other, and the poor, right-minded little man
80 FAIRBRASS

blushed until his ears tingled to think that
they did not know it. But it did not in the
least matter. All the world might have
heard how that stout-hearted young fellow,
whose worldly prospects enabled him to
choose a wife after his own heart, gradually,
timidly, yet withal manfully, unfolded the
story of his love; and her shy, maidenly
responses were—though there was not a
grain of artfulness in them—delightfully
designed both to lure him on and to keep
him back. The story, indeed, took so long
in telling that Fairbrass had become quite
an accomplished horseman by the day on
which the young man took his sister in his
strong, protecting arms, kissed her, and
called her his darling.

As luck would have it, this took place
under the very shadow of the twin sister
Poplar-trees, and so horrified were they
that, although there was a strong breeze
blowing, they kept themselves erect and
silent with their leaves standing right up
on end for very shame.
THE BIG HOUSE 81

‘ Fairbrass,’ said one of them at last—as
the young man did not seem to be in the
slightest hurry, there was plenty of time for
an interval—‘do you see what is going on
here ? a gentleman is actually kissing your
sister in broad day.’

‘Well, doesn’t his doing it openly show
that he zs a gentleman ?’ answered Fairbrass.

And then the poor Poplars bowed their
heads in sorrow. They thought that if this
was gentlemanlike behaviour their training
had been in vain.

On the evening of that day Fairbrass
sat alone with his father and mother.

‘Yes,’ said the father, ‘I am bound to
say that he spoke to me in the most straight-
forward manner. He is evidently really and
deeply in love with our dear girl, and he
seems to be quite certain that she returns
his affection.’

‘Oh, there is no doubt about that,’ said
the mother; ‘the dear child sobbed her
heart out to me this afternoon, and is truly
happy in having won his love. We like

F
82 FAIRBRASS

him, we respect him, we know that he is
well off, we have every reason to be grate-
ful. God bless them both! By the way,
did you touch on the wretched money
question ?’

‘Yes; I told him frankly that my
daughter’s dowry depended not so much on
me as on her grandfather ; that between the
two houses there was an estrangement, but
no doubt that would some day blow over,
and so he might be certain she would not
come to him empty-handed.’

‘How clearly you put things, dear!’
said the mother. ‘ How I wish I had your
business head !’

‘A mere matter of habit,’ said the father
half apologetically. ‘You see, having, by
unkind fate, been driven to business, I
can’t help more or less adopting its sordid
ways.’

‘Poor dear! I know how it goes
against the grain with you,’ said the mother
fondly, kissing him. ‘And did you :

‘Yes,’ said the father stoically, ‘I did.


THE BIG HOUSE 83

You know how I detest this sort of thing ;
but, for the sake of you and the children,
I threw pride to the winds, and told him
that I happened to be in immediate want of
£500.’

‘And what did he say ?’

‘He laughed—said it was lucky he had
his cheque book in his pocket, and im-
mediately drew a cheque for the amount.’

‘That man,’ said the mother, with tears
in her eyes, ‘will make our daughter a good
husband.’

‘I think so, too,’ said the father; ‘and
in the meantime he has my I O U for the
little loan.’

‘You dear, methodical old man!’ said
the mother admiringly. ‘I declare you
bring the office home with you! Ugh!
The room seems close with it. Never mind,
now we can give a garden-party in honour
of the engagement.’

Now, this conversation made Fairbrass
very uncomfortable. While it was going
on, the Money Fiend chuckled in his ear,
84 FAIRBRASS

and though, unlike his friends the Poplar-
trees, he had not been in the least degree
shocked when the gallant young horseman,
having declared his honest love, had taken
his sister in his arms, and in broad daylight
had kissed her, a sense of shame came over
the boy when he knew that his father had so
soon borrowed that £500. He did not like,
too, the hint thrown out that a reconciliation
between the Big House and the Little
House was only a question of time, for he
had over and over again heard his father
declare that he would rather starve than
give way; and that his grandfather had
made a will in which he had left all his
money to charities, and not one penny to
his kith and kin, was known to everyone.
‘Ah!’ thought Fairbrass, ‘if only that
reconciliation could be brought about, how
everything would be put straight! My
father could give up his worrying business,
my mother could spend as much money as
she liked, my sister could have a little
fortune of her own, all the others could
THE BIG HOUSE 85

have jolly times, and the £500 could be—as
it ought to be—paid back at once. If only
that reconciliation could be brought about !’
‘Yes,’ laughed the Money Fiend, ‘ ‘‘ zf
only.” That’s where the trouble comes in—
‘‘7f only.”’ And then he nearly choked
himself with another and deeper chuckle.
To Fairbrass, as Sunday after Sunday
he watched his grandfather at church, the
difficulty did not seem to be one that could
not be got over. The old man had no doubt
a hard face, and a stern, determined look ;
but then he appeared to be gradually getting
so feeble, and he always seemed so lonely,
that the boy thought that if he were only
approached in the right way he would melt
like the snow melted in his own warm little
hand. But then, when he looked at the
firm features of his self-willed though kind-
hearted father, he felt that any such approach
from him was impossible. ‘If I could only
speak,’ thought Fairbrass, ‘I would boldly
take the matter in my own hands, and see if
I could not bring them together ; but, alas!
86 FAIRBRASS

I am dumb and powerless.’ He thought
so much about it all that he became quite
unhappy, and this at a time when the
dwellers in the Little House were more
than ordinarily merry. That £500 had
no doubt been a great help. The young
squire had been most satisfactory at the
garden-party for which he had helped to
pay; he was the most devoted of lovers,
and the most generous of future brothers-
in-law. No wonder that he was popular,
or that the little household warmed itself
and grew glad under the sunshine of his
genial nature.

One day Fairbrass was especially vexing
his poor little brain on the question of the
bitter feud between his father and his grand-
father. He had gone out by himself to pick
wild-flowers, for it was his sister’s birthday,
and he had set his heart on giving her a
posy in which a specimen of each of the
pretty blossoms she loved to pluck and call
by their names should have its place. For
such a purpose he could hardly have found
THE BIG HOUSE 87

a better day. It was early (so early that he
had secretly let himself out of the house
while all the others were sleeping) in the
morning of a lovely June; the larks were
soaring and singing high in the sky before
taking their final plummet-like drop into
the nests that held their listening mates ;
redstarts flashed across the roadways in
which the pied and yellow wagtails conse-
quentially strutted; yellow-hammers piped
their persistent little tunes in the hedgerows,
accompanied by the ‘clat-tat’ of the busy
stonechats ; and the noisy gossip of the jays
in the tree-tops was only half-drowned by
the caw of the flying rooks. But Fairbrass
was this morning bent on flower-picking,
and had no leisure for his friends the birds.
There had been a time when he thought it
cruel to pluck the beautiful living things,
but the flowers had all assured him that the
pain of being picked, with its accompanying
certainty of an early death, was amply
rewarded if it enabled them to fulfil their
mission, which is to give pleasure to human
88 FAIRBRASS

kind. He began this morning in the hedge-
rows where he gathered the green-bronzed
leaves and twisting tendrils of the briony,
pink and white dog-roses, purple saffron-
eyed woody nightshade, the white dead
nettle, and the sweet-scented wild guelder
rose. Soon a gate took him into a field
where he was knee-deep in mowing grass,
and here indeed was a glorious garden.
Most beautiful was the harmonious blending
of feathery seeding grasses, with crimson
and white clover, large ox-eyed daisies,
golden buttercups, purple-blue meadow
cranesbill, amber yellow-rattle with its fully-
packed seed pods, guinea-golden hawkweed,
‘ John-go-to-bed-at-noon,’ lying asleep
all day, sky-blue germander, orange dappled
birdsfoot trefoil, with its brother, the
dainty hop trefoil, brown-pencilled lilac-laid
orchises, the modest white eye - bright,
maroon-coloured hedge-stachys, pale lemon
cinquefoil, blue bugles, and the specked
white plumes of the wild-beak parsley. Of
all these, and many more, Fairbrass gathered
THE BIG HOUSE 89

a goodly bunch, and then, well sprinkled
with golden buttercup and dandelion dust,
sat down to arrange his nosegay. And as
he sat and worked, his mind dwelt on the
Big House on the side of the Hill, and the
lonely old man who lived in it; and he
became full of a strange longing to wander
up there and see him.

So strong became this desire, that by
the time his flowers were all in order, and
their stalks duly trimmed and tied together,
his mind was made up, and carrying them
in his hot little hand, he started on this bold
pilgrimage. It was not long before he
stood under the shadow of the venerable
and stately gray stone house that had been
the home of his forefathers for generations.
It was still so early in the morning that most
of the blinds were down, but one of the
doors was open, and in the distance he could
hear the talk of servants. It was on a lawn
as smooth and soft as velvet that he stood,
half circled by yew-trees cut by man into
the oddest shapes. The diminutive effigy
gO FAIRBRASS

of a church stood side by side with a monster
tea pot, whose next neighbour, a supposed
ship in full sail, was followed by a wonder-
fully shaped horse, and a solemn peacock,
stiff with pride. There really seemed to be
no end to these quaint devices, and between
them and the swiftly-flying martins, who
were busily feeding their downy, white-
throated young folk, peeping from their
little mud houses under gables that seemed
made on purpose to hold and shelter them,
Fairbrass divided his attention until he
became aware that his flowers were softly
whispering to each other, and then, like the
little gentleman he was, he at once told them
that he could hear them, and that they had
better keep their secrets to themselves.

_ ‘Oh, you arewelcome to hear all that we are
saying,’ said ‘John-go-to-bed-at-noon,’ wide
awake enough at this moment. ‘We have
been talking over you and your affairs, and
we all advise you to go into the Big House.’

Exhausted by this effort, John imme-
diately dropped off to sleep again; but all
THE BIG HOUSE gI

the other flowers backed him up by saying
in chorus:

‘Yes, Fairbrass; we don’t quite know
why we say it, but we have a feeling that
you ought to go into the house and take us
with you.’

‘Why, you can’t want water yet,’ said
Fairbrass, whose one notion of calls at
strange houses was the expectation and offer
of refreshment.

“No, no!’ cried the flowers. ‘We don’t
know what we mean, but we know we don’t
mean that. Take us in, dear, and see what
comes of it.’

And so without more ado Fairbrass
crossed the threshold of the Big House
and found himself in the spacious entrance
hall surrounded by the portraits of his
ancestors. Amongst them he did not
linger; not that he had any dislike for or
fear of them, but because the hum of the
servants’ voices now seemed so much nearer
(from the clatter of knives and forks that
92 FAIRBRASS

accompanied them, they were probably at
breakfast), and he feared that if any of them
saw him they would order him out of the
house. So, still clasping his flowers in his
hand, the boy clambered up the wide oak
staircase and wandered along the broad
landings to which it led. Here everything
was as still as a mouse. All the doors were
shut, and his footfall made no sound on
the thick carpets. Fairbrass, indeed, was
getting almost weary of this silent and
apparently purposeless expedition, for he
had not come to the Big House merely to
see the pictures, old china, armour, stuffed
animals and birds, and curiosities that every-
where abounded, when a little whining noise
caught his ear, and hastening to the spot
from whence it came, he found a plaintive-
looking and manifestly old fox-terrier sitting
on a mat and glancing upwards wistfully
at a doorknob.

‘What is the matter, doggie? and what
is your name?’ asked Fairbrass, stroking
his head.
THE BIG HOUSE 93

‘My name is Pax,’ said the dog, ‘and
this is the door of my master’s room. He
likes me to sleep inside it, but somehow
last night I got shut out. Will you open
the door for me?’

‘Certainly,’ said Fairbrass; and the
thing was done. Of course, Fairbrass
looked in, and then he saw his grandfather
asleep in his bed. Directly Pax got into
the room, after an affectionate glance at his
master and a comfortable wag of his stumpy
tail, he jumped into a basket which plainly
was his especial property, and coiled himself
up to sleep. But Fairbrass stood gazing
at the old man, and at the room in which he
lay. As far as its furniture and appointments
were concerned, it was as plain a room as
could well be, and in strange contrast to the
luxury of the other parts of the house.
There was no carpet on its polished oak
floor, the furniture was simple in the
extreme, and only one picture hung upon
the wall. The old man had been a soldier in
his day, and in his solitude desired nothing
94 FAIRBRASS

better than the simplicity of the barrack.
To be sure, just across the landing there
was another bedroom furnished and fitted
with every luxury and knick-knack that the
date of its preparation for the bride of a
wealthy young squire could provide; but
though he would often walk round it, and
sigh, and think of times long since vanished,
and never to come again, he had not once
slept in it since his young wife died, leaving
him with an only boy. How lovely she
looked in the portrait that now faced his
bed! Fairbrass knew at once that the
dark-eyed, sweet-faced creature whose arm
rested on the shoulder of a lad just like
himself was the mother of whom he had
heard his father speak, and whose grave in
the churchyard he so often saw. Sad to
think that those poor old eyes woke every
morning to meet the glance of the wife
whose death he had all too early mourned,
of the son from whom he had been too
many years estranged !
THE BIG HOUSE 95

‘He looks kind, and I am sure he is
sad,’ said Fairbrass, gazing at the pale,
strangely still face of his grandfather as he
lay there in bed. ‘I do wish that somebody
would tell me about him.’

This was meant as a gentle hint for
Pax; but, having satisfied himself that he
was once more near his master, the dog
was already asleep, and dreaming of rats
and rabbits, and of other dogs who wanted
to take them from him.

‘We can tell you a lot,’ said a chorus of
a dozen voices.

Fairbrass glanced at the corner from
whence the clamour came, and saw a stand
containing a number of walking-sticks, and
they were all trying to talk to him at once.

‘One at a time, if you please,’ said
Fairbrass.

‘Then, I ought to speak first, because I
am the eldest,’ said a smart malacca cane,
with an onyx knob mounted in gold. ‘I
was with him when he was quite a young
man. He took me out to India with him,
96 FAIRBRASS

and brought me back to England again.
Oh! [’ve been to a place or two with him,
and seen a thing or two, I can tell you.’

‘Hush, hush !’ said an ebony stick with
an ivory handle. ‘We all know your
stories, and they’re certainly not fit for a
boy to hear. I was with him on his wedding
tour, Fairbrass, and I know how tenderly
he loved his sweet young wife, and the
gracious influence she held over him.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said a dark cherry branch,
‘that’s true enough. I went with him to
her funeral, and it was pitiful to see his
tears.’

‘And soon after that he thrashed your
father with me, Fairbrass,’ said a supple
ash-plant. ‘What do you think of that for
a piece of family history ?’

‘I get most of the work now,’ said a
sturdy oak-staff rather grumblingly. ‘He
leans heavily enough upon me, I can tell
you. Sometimes I feel quite tired out.’

‘La! and he used to make quite a
hobby of carrying me under his arm,’ said
THE BIG HOUSE 97

a silver-mounted, slender little cane, who
set much store on a faded silk tassel that
was attached to it.

They all had some story to tell of their
master, these sticks, and of the many and
widely different places they had been to with
him. But their chatter woke up Pax, and
he angrily bade them to be quiet.

‘And if you’re not,’ he said, ‘the next
time one of you is thrown into the water for
me to fetch out, I'll either give you such
a biting that you'll be disfigured for life, or
Ill lose you, and let you drift down the
river into the sea. So there, now!’

‘I should like to beat you!’ said the
ash-plant.

‘I know you would, you'd all like to do
it,’ said Pax; ‘but you never will as long
as we belong to the same master.’

The sticks knew this was so true that
they were at once discreetly silent.

‘Then, my grandfather was never cruel
to you, Pax ?’ said Fairbrass.

‘Certainly not,’ said Pax. ‘ He’s gota

G
98 FAIRBRASS

hard nature, I know ; but it isn’t in him to
be really cruel to anyone.’

‘Oh, well, I don’t know,’ said Fair-
brass ; ‘he beat my father.’

‘We don’t know the rights and wrongs
of that story,’ answered Pax. ‘ Perhaps
your father wouldn’t fetch his stick out of
the water, or something of that sort. I
can’t say, but I’m certain he’s fond of him
now.’

‘Do you think so?’ said Fairbrass
dubiously.

‘Think so? I’m certain of it,’ said
Pax; ‘and he’s fond of you too, and of
your brothers and sisters.’

‘But I don’t see how that can be. He
doesn’t know us.’

‘Oh yes, he does, in his way. There’s
a certain spot on the hill, not far from here,
where the Little House and its garden can
be plainly seen, though anybody down there
wouldn’t find it so easy to see us on the
hill. Well, evening after evening he and
I have sat together there, and through a
THE BIG HOUSE 99

great pair of field-glasses (Old Malacca
Cane would tell you he once took them to
races) he has watched you children at play.
The glasses were never at his eyes for more
than two minutes at a time, though, for his
pocket-handkerchief so often took their
place.’

‘Oh, how shocking!’ said Fairbrass,
doing much active work with his own little
pocket-handkerchief. ‘ How dreadful it is
that the two houses can’t be reconciled !’

‘It wouldn’t take much to do it,’ said
Pax; ‘but the first advance would have to
come from your side.’

‘Oh, if I could only speak!’ cried Fair-
brass.

‘Don’t trouble about that,’ said Pax.
‘My own belief is that it’s a good thing that
you can’t. Speaking means argument, and
in nine cases out of ten argument leads to
hot words, and, what is far worse, to bitter
feeling.’

‘But what am I to do?’ asked poor
perplexed Fairbrass.
100 FAIRBRASS

‘Well, my idea is this,’ replied Pax:
‘When your grandfather wakes up in the
morning, and his eyes meet mine, and I
wag my tail, his face softens in a moment.
‘“‘Come along, old fellow!” he calls out
to me then, and I jump on to the bed, and
he pats and fondles me—oh, so gently and
so lovingly—and makes no end of a fuss of
me. Now, if his eyes could meet yours
instead of mine, and you would smile at
him in your pretty way (as you haven’t a
tail that you can wag, that’s the next best
thing you can do), I’m certain he’d soften
towards you, and that might be the
beginning of your all being friends again.’

‘And shan’t you be jealous ?’ asked
Fairbrass,

‘Bless you, no!’ said Pax; ‘I’m too old
to be jealous, and, besides, I’ve come to the
conclusion that it’s a mistake for families
to quarrel. I was one of eight, all born
(blind, of course) on the same day, and we
began to snarl and bite at each other before
we could see. Some of us died of the
THE BIG HOUSE Io!

distemper, and then we living ones were
sorry we hadn’t treated them more kindly.
One of my brothers has made quite a name
for himself as a performing dog in a circus,
and my only sister has won several first
prizes at shows. These two wouldn’t know
‘me now, because I’m only a companion to
an old gentleman, and they’d make those
early quarrels of ours an excuse to hold
aloof from me. Ohno, take my word for it,
that (excepting large families, where you
can’t help it) family quarrels are the greatest
and most needless mistakes in the world.’
Well, following Pax’s advice, Fairbrass
—always carrying his friendly flowers—
climbed on to his grandfather’s bed, so that
when the old man woke up their eyes might
meet, and he had hardly done so before
there came a gentle ‘Tap, tap,’ at the door.
To this summons an answer was evidently
expected, for, at respectful intervals, it was
repeated—once, twice, thrice. Then the
door-handle was softly turned, and a man-
servant entered the room. He gazed in
102 FAIRBRASS

amazement when he saw Fairbrass, but
seemed even more startled when he looked
at his sleeping master. Quickly he touched
his master’s hands and forehead, and then,
with a cry of alarm, he hurried from the
room. This somewhat frightened Fairbrass,
and he began to wonder whether his grand-
father would be really as glad to see him as
Pax predicted. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘if he won’t
smile upon me when he wakes, at least he
will be glad to see my lovely flowers.’ And
he had just placed his nosegay on the old
man’s breast, and was kneeling over it to
ask some of the blossoms to take great
pains to look their best and smell their
sweetest, when, accompanied by a kindly-
looking middle-aged woman, the man-
servant again entered the room.

‘Now heaven help us!’ she cried.
‘You're right—you’re right! My poor
dear master! He’s dead—he’s dead !’

On hearing these terrible words, Pax set
up a piteous cry, and poor scared little
Fairbrass, leaving his flowers where he had
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FAIRBRASS AND HIS GRANDFATHER.
THE BIG HOUSE 103

laid them, ran away as quickly as he could,
not pausing until he reached his own home
in the Little House.

* * *

His absence and late arrival caused no
anxiety there, for they were used to what
they called his ‘strange ways’; but you may
be sure that his loving sister was on the
look-out for him, that she was distressed to
see his heated, startled face, that she did all
she could to comfort him, drying his wet
eyes, and crying a little herself to think how
sad it was he could not tell her why he was
in trouble. So good and sensible a sister was
she that, seeing that he did not want it, she
did not pester him to eat the dainty break-
fast she had set on one side for him, and
kissing him lovingly, she let him wander
away into his favourite garden.

In the garden he found his father pacing
up and down one of the grass paths, en-
gaged in earnest talk with a tall-hatted,
frock-coated, grey-haired, portly gentleman.
104. FAIRBRASS

This, he knew, was the family lawyer, who
sometimes dropped in on his way to town.
Unobserved the boy sat down by one of the
clipped yew-trees, looking anxiously at his
father, and wondering how soon he would
hear of the terrible thing that had happened
at the Big House.

Thus placed, he could not help over-
hearing the talk that took place between the
two.

‘I tell you, my dear fellow,’ said the
lawyer, ‘that it’s no use deceiving yourself
any longer. Wholly against my advice,
you have patched things up, and patched
things up, until there isn’t a bit of what
we may call the old garment left, and now
the patching itself is worn threadbare and
tumbling to pieces. You are in a corner,
and you must face your difficulties like a
man.’

‘When a man finds himself in a corner,’
said Fairbrass’s father, ‘if there is anything
of the man in him, he puts his back to the
wall and fights to the end.’
THE BIG HOUSE 105

‘Yes,’ said the lawyer, ‘and until all of
the man that is likely to be useful to his
family is knocked out of him. If the man
can be shown that the wall is such a low
wall that he can jump over it with ease, and
that the drop on the other side is neither a
deep nor a dangerous one, he’s not only a
fool, but a selfish fool into the bargain, if he
doesn’t, for the sake of those dependent on
him, give up a hopeless struggle and make
good his escape with a whole skin.’

‘You advise bankruptcy?’ said the father.
‘No, no, that will never do. I have too
much pride to meet my creditors.’

‘That’s not true,’ said the lawyer, who
was not only an outspoken lawyer at all
times, but had known his companion so
many years that he felt he could say
anything he liked to him (to say nothing
of the fact that he felt certain he would
never get anything out of him for his
advice, legal or otherwise) ; ‘that’s not
true. If you had had proper pride in you,
you would never have had creditors driven,
106 FAIRBRASS

as yours are, to press you for just payment.
You’re not afraid to face them—you are
afraid to face your wife.’

‘I hate to make her unhappy,’ pleaded
the father.

‘And so you keep her in a fool’s para-
dise,’ retorted the lawyer. ‘Bah! But,
as a matter of fact, I don’t advocate
bankruptcy.’

‘No! What then?’

‘Your pocket is empty enough. Put
your pride into it. There is a clear duty
before you. For the sake of your wife and
children you must be reconciled to your
father.’

‘Never ! Even if he made the first
advance——’

‘Which he won't do,’ interrupted the
lawyer.

No, no, no! He would never do that
—he could never do that! Thus thought
poor Fairbrass, shrinking and sobbing by
the yew-tree, and wishing with all his soul
that he could speak what he knew, and
THE BIG HOUSE 107

check the angry words that instinct told
him were rising to his father’s lips. Instinct
and the Money Fiend ; for that he was one
of this little garden-party we may make no
doubt.

‘My idea is that I should be your go-
between,’ continued the lawyer. ‘I have
noticed of late that your father’s manner
has softened. I——’

“Look here!’ said the father, pale with
anger, and speaking in a tone which made
Fairbrass tremble. ‘If the hard old man
were to send for me on his death-bed—which
he won't, for, mark my words, he’ll outlive
us all—I wouldn’t go. If he went down on
his knees before me, and

Here he was interrupted by a noisy,
scared-looking little throng, coming from
the house, and in its midst, her face
flushed and swollen with crying, the kindly-
looking woman Fairbrass had seen in his



grandfather's bedchamber a short time ago.
The sad truth was soon told; and then
Fairbrass saw his father, stung to the very
108 FAIRBRASS

quick, walk hastily away; and he knew
that he was wishing with all his heart—as
so many of us do when it is too late—that
he could have the last ten minutes of his
life over again.

‘Tut, tut, tut!’ said the lawyer, address-
ing the weeping housekeeper ; ‘this is
terribly sudden—this is extremely sad.
And you tell me that no one was with my
poor old friend in his last moments?’

‘No one!’ she replied ; ‘at least, that
Here her eyes fell on poor
frightened Fairbrass ; and making a dash
at him, she caught him up in her motherly
arms, and continued: ‘Why, here is that
same blessed child—God love his dear
heart !—as, looking for all the world like
an angel from heaven, we found on his
grandfather’s bed, laying his flowers on
the poor dead body, as tender as if he had
been a missionary from the foreignest of
foreign parts.’

‘Wuat!’ ejaculated the lawyer—not in
the tone of a man who asks a question,

is


THE BIG HOUSE 10g

but as though he had been hit with a pistol-
bullet.

‘I beg pardon, sir,’ said the housekeeper,
kissing Fairbrass. ‘I daresay I’m a bit
mixed—and no wonder on a morning like
this—but, angel or no angel, missionary or
no missionary, there he was; and in all
of which the valet as has valeted you
many a time, sir, and than which no
honester man lives, will bear me out.’

‘A witness!’ exclaimed the lawyer, who
seemed to be strangely excited ; ‘and where
are those flowers ?’

‘Where this little hand placed them, sir,
and where, begging your leave, they’ll stay
until the grave closes over them, together
with my dear dead master.’

‘Phew!’ whistled the lawyer—yes, at
this sad and serious moment the usually
sedate lawyer actually whistled. ‘Phew!
then there may be a way out of his troubles,
after all!’

And here he looked curiously—first at
Fairbrass, and then at the retreating figure
IIo FAIRBRASS

of the boy’s now thoroughly unhappy
father.

For the next two or three days the con-
duct of that lawyer was indeed remarkably
strange. He was always popping in and
out of the Little House—paying the greatest
attention to Fairbrass, and endeavouring to
persuade the father to go with him to the
Big House; but on this point he had to

give way.
‘My dead father would not have wished
it,’ he said. ‘The quarrel between us was

a bitter and a lasting one. He refused to
recognise my dear wife, and I should bea
hypocrite if I were to go and lament over
his remains. Oh yes, I will go to the
funeral. I think it is my duty to do that;
and, since you wish it, my boys shall go too
—all except Fairbrass.’

‘But I particularly wish Fairbrass to
go,’ said the lawyer; ‘it is important that
he should go, and on that point you must
give way.’

Well, as there was no particular reason
THE BIG HOUSE Ii!

why Fairbrass should not go, and as the
lawyer, who was, after all, likely to be a
useful friend, seemed so strongly to desire
it, the morning of the funeral saw the poor
little man encased in hot and uncomfortable
new black clothes, holding his father’s hand,
and trudging up the hillside to the Big
House. The family at the Little House
were, be it here noted, great sticklers for
etiquette. They did not expect to profit
one penny by the old man’s death, they did
not pretend to make it a cause of sorrow:
but they did mean to show the world that
on such an occasion they knew what was
the right thing to do, and so a very heavy
bill for mourning (even the servants got a
new dress apiece) was added to the already
hopeless pile of unpaid accounts.

As they walked on together through
the fields, where only a few mornings ago
he had picked his flowers, Fairbrass felt
very sorry for his father. It must be so
very sad for him to go once more to his
childhood’s home, and on such an errand.
IIt2 FAIRBRASS

But the father was stern, silent and resentful;
the familiar surroundings of the house in
which he was born, the recollections of his
sweet young mother that they conjured up,
together with all the events of his hopeful
early life, only caused him to reflect angrily
that all these things, all this handsome
property, should have been, and now never
would be, his. Even when they reached
the house itself, and passed through the
entrance-hall, where the polished-oak coffin,
with its bright brass plates and handles,
already lay, he took no heed of it, but
passed on into the dining-room where the
mourners were assembled.

Mourners! There was the lawyer, of
course, reading aloud to two rather gouty
old gentlemen a letter of apology for non-
attendance from the family doctor, who
regretted (no doubt very sincerely) that
their friend had been so suddenly cut off
that he had not had the advantage of his
professional advice. The two gouty old
gentlemen were the two executors named
THE BIG HOUSE II3

in the will, and they certainly. would not
have troubled to come to the funeral but
that they felt certain that they had been
left a handsome sum for their services.
They had put the arrangements in the
hands of the best undertakers to be found,
and it must be owned that these gentlemen
had done their work nobly. There was the
usual untouched cold collation on the table,
and even this was in mourning. The
chickens that, out of consideration for the
shattered nerves of the mourners, had been
carved and jointed before they were placed
on the table, were decorously tied together
with black ribbons, and a noble-looking
ham paid its last tribute of respect to the
deceased by wearing a black paper frill.
No one took any of these things. To be
sure, Fairbrass’s brothers, who were gathered
together in an oddly silent little black-
costumed group in a corner of the room,
looked as if they would like to do so; but
they were over-awed by seeing that the two
shaky-handed executors, who might have

H
liq FAIRBRASS

set a better example, contented themselves
with a hard biscuit, and a little whisky and
water—whisky, as we all know, is a fine
thing for the gout—and that their father
declined the dry sherry strongly recom-
mended and freely patronized by the lawyer.

It was really quite a relief when a
dapper-looking young man, attired in shiny
black cloth, quietly bustled into the room
—a well-trained undertaker’s young man
can really bustle quite quietly—and, without
saying a word, swaddled them and their
hats up in black silk, and covered their
hands with black kid gloves. Poor diminu-
tive Fairbrass puzzled him for one moment,
but pins promptly settled the question, and,
since the boy could make no remonstrance,
he was soon transformed into an expensive
object of sable-suited, ribbed-silk waddling
woe.

Then came the dismal undertaker’s
procession to the church. The grim-looking
black hearse, surmounted with preposterous
plumes ; the three heavy mourning-coaches,
THE BIG HOUSE Ii5

dull and dusty without and musty within ;
the cortege of empty carriages sent for
courtesy’s sake by neighbours who didn’t
care to take the trouble to come themselves;
the professionally pawing black horses, false
maned and false tailed, and let out on
equivalently fabulous terms. It was really
quite a relief to everyone when the slow
drive was over, and the church in which the
Kneeling Knight joined his stony palms in
perpetual prayer was reached.

It was the first funeral at which Fairbrass
had been present, and he was amazed to
find how little it impressed him. For the
life of him he could not realise that the
familiar face and figure of his grandfather
would never more be seen in its wonted
place in the family pew, and that it was the
old man’s body that lay under the lid of the
coffin resting in the aisle. The boy had
expected to be awe-stricken, but it all seemed
to be only some strange, unimpressive dream.
He glanced up at his father’s face and
judged from his stern look and set features
116 FAIRBRASS

that he, too, did not realise what was going
on. It seemed to make things doubly sad
that instead of feeling intensely sorry they
were all profoundly indifferent. At the
grave-side, however, all this was altered.
There, on the tombstone, was the name of
the young wife who had been buried forty
years ago, and there, deep down in the
vault that was now opened to receive her
husband, lay the coffin in which she slept.

Forty years ago! Fairbrass pictured to
himself how his grandfather, then a young
man, must have stood grief-stricken on
this very spot, and had no doubt that he
had often longed for the day to come when
he might share his wife’s resting place.
Then the reality of the scene came home
to him, and the tears gathered in his eyes.
And when at last the coffin was lowered
into the grave to lie peacefully by the one
that had waited for it so long, he felt his
father’s hand tremble in his, and knew that
he, too, was touched.
THE BIG HOUSE 117

And well he might be. He had been
at that funeral of forty years ago, and his
father’s hand had held his hand just as he
now held that of his own boy. Back came
the whole scene to him, and with the picture
regrets — vain regrets— and a_ hopeless
longing to recall the past. Well, the service
was soon over, and when the weeping
housekeeper had caused the now-faded
flowers that Fairbrass had gathered, to be
placed on the coffin, they all walked away.

The lawyer came up to Fairbrass and
his father.

‘Now,’ he said to the latter, ‘I want
you to alter your obstinate mind, and come
back to the house and hear the will read ;
but I suppose I might as well speak to the
churchyard wall.’

‘If you wish it, I will come,’ said the
father in a voice so strangely softened that
the other started ; ‘though, mind you,’ he
hastily added, ‘I know—for you have told
me so over and over again—that I am not
mentioned in it.’
118 FAIRBRASS

‘Nevertheless, you will do right to
come,’ said the lawyer.

‘If you tell me so, I am content to
believe it. Besides, to tell the truth, I have
been strangely moved to-day, and I have an
odd desire to see the old place once again
before it passes into the hands of strangers
and is closed to me for ever.’

‘Very well. Then we had better start
at once. The carriage is waiting for us.’

But upon this point the father showed
his old determination. He would have
nothing more to do with that hideous
mourning coach; he would walk with Fair-
brass. So the two were by professional
hands deftly stripped of their trappings of
woe, and in charge of these the lawyer sank
back on the musty black cushions and drove
off alone.

The father had an odd self-tormenting
desire to take that walk to-day. Hand-in-
hand forty years ago, leaving his young
mother in her grave, he and his father had
walked over the same ground, and as the
THE BIG HOUSE IIQ

well-remembered landmarks came in view,
things since half forgotten rose unbidden
to his mind and made his heart ache.
Regrets, vain regrets! Why, here, at this
very corner, under the shadow—a smaller
shadow then—of this old sycamore tree,
his father had stopped, taken him to his
arms with unwonted affection, and told him
that they two were alone in the world now,
that he had promised his mother that they
should be all in all to each other, and that
they would never part. And as he remem-
bered this he threw himself down on the
grass, the long pent-up tears sprang from
his eyes, and he sobbed aloud. Fairbrass
was the only witness of this display of
weakness, and, since poor Fairbrass was
deaf and dumb, it did not matter. Ah, if
he could only have realised that Fairbrass
not only heard, but understood, and knew
that in the weakness he sought to conceal
lay his actual strength? Not that the father
regretted all the past. The chief cause of
the quarrel—his marriage—had been the
120 FAIRBRASS

great joy of his life, and for it he daily
thanked Heaven; but he could see, now
that it was too late, that the double duty
that had been his—the duty to his wife and
the duty to his father—might, but for his
obstinacy, have been performed. And now
it was all over. The inheritance that might
have been his and his children’s had gone
from him with the fatherly love that he now
felt he had never really striven to retain.
Regrets, vain regrets !

When they reached the Big House all
was quiet, and the father, followed by
Fairbrass, walked up the once familiar
Staircase, and sought the room that in
bygone days had been his mother’s. There
it was, very much as he remembered it in
the days of his childhood—the bed by which
he had often knelt to say his prayers to her,
and on which he, not realising his loss, had
seen her lying dead; the same pictures on
the walls; the little knick-knacks on her
dressing-table with which he had idly played
while she, in her kindly earnest way, talked
THE BIG HOUSE 121

to him, begging him to be a good boy and
always to love his father. Regrets, vain
regrets! From this room he quickly passed
into the one in which his father died, and his
eyes at once fell on the mother’s portrait, and
this, with the bitter tears streaming unheeded
down his face, he fervently, reverently
kissed. On the bed lay Pax, inconsolable
and resentful. At this unexpected intrusion
the poor dog growled angrily, but, recog-
nising Fairbrass, he looked at him with
sorrowful, beseeching eyes, and readily
responded to his gentle caresses. What
they whispered to each other at that moment
is not known, but it was noticeable that
from that moment Pax and Fairbrass were
inseparable.

With a strong effort the father composed
himself, and the three went downstairs into
the room where the dismal little funeral-
party had assembled. The lawyer, who had
the will in his hand, looked very curiously
at Fairbrass, and at once proceeded to read
it. To the boy the legal verbiage was mere
122 FAIRBRASS

jargon, but he could grasp enough to realise
that the two old executors had a legacy of
five hundred pounds apiece; that with this
they were so perfectly satisfied that they
looked at their watches, and seemed to think
there was nothing left for them to do but to
catch their trains; that the doctor was not
forgotten; that the lawyer was suitably
remembered; that there were considerate
bequests to most of the assembled servants,
and that those who were to receive them
displayed far more grief than those whose
names were omitted. Then came a long
and tiresome rigmarole in which it was set
forth that the great bulk of a noble estate
was to be divided amongst certain charities.
No mention of the son’s name was made,
and Fairbrass looked anxiously into his
father’s face to see how he would bear it.
Happily there was no anger there. It was
a calm, sad face—the face of a man who
recognised that he had made his own bed,
and was resignedly content to lie upon it.
He had expected nothing, and would
THE BIG HOUSE 123

probably have been distressed if the will
had revealed that his father had been more
forgiving than he. But the anger had died
out of his heart, and he was only wondering
if by some special effort he could retain his
mother’s portrait, and with it, perhaps,
some little personal memento of his father.
At this point, when everyone thought that
the will-reading was at an end, and that the
best and the worst of the dead man’s
disposition of his worldly belongings had
been made known, the lawyer cleared his
throat, and with his eye on Fairbrass read a
concluding and extraordinary clause. It
had evidently been suggested in a moment
of morbid solitude and intense bitterness,
and its effect was this:

That although the testator had carefully
considered and made his will, he finally
decreed that, in the event of any male
relative of his taking so much thought of
him as to lay flowers on his dead body, his
estate should go absolutely to him, and not
to the charities.
124 FAIRBRASS

‘Now,’ said the lawyer, ‘this, as a
matter of fact, has happened. We are in
a position to prove, beyond all question,
that that young gentleman’—here he
indicated Fairbrass—‘who, Heaven help
him! cannot hear me, and will never be
able to comprehend his good fortune, did
lay flowers on his grandfather’s body, and
thus we shall have no difficulty in proving
him to be his grandfather’s heir.’

What happened at the Big House after
this Fairbrass never precisely remembered.
There was a murmur of startled astonish-
ment; the two old executors having satisfied
themselves that their own legacies still were
secure, took their departure; the friendly
housekeeper rushed at him, clasped him
in her arms, pressed him to her ample
bosom, and called him a ‘blessed darling’;
the men servants, in accordance with their
stations, smirked, grinned, knuckled their
foreheads, and spoke of him as the ‘Young
Squire’; and all the time his father was
holding a hurried, and, on his part, heated
THE BIG HOUSE 125

conversation with the lawyer. In some
dazed sort of fashion all this came to an
end, and in a state of bewilderment Fair-
brass soon found himself hand-in-hand with
his father descending to the Little House
through the leafy woods and broad lands
that he now knew to be his own. Ofcourse
no word was spoken. What was the use of
talking to a boy who was as deaf as he was
dumb? But the child joyfully noted that,
although the father’s face was still sad,
his step was elastic, and when he reached
the old sycamore-tree he paused, took him
in his arms, and kissed him. It was at
this moment that Pax, who already loved
Fairbrass, but somehow mistrusted the
father, stole up to them and looked wistfully
up into the ‘Young Squire’s’ face. That
he was at once fondled goes without saying,
and, seeing this, the father gave the dog
equally gracious welcome.

It was rather unlucky that at this very
instant Fairbrass remembered an occasion
on which, to his intense grief, his father
126 FAIRBRASS

had ordered the death of another dog he
had brought home and longed to call his
own. Did his unexpected fortune make
this difference ? This was what the Money
Fiend, who, since the reading of the will,
had persistently hovered near his ears,
suggested ; but Fairbrass would not listen
to him, and consoled himself with the
thought that Pax would be made welcome.

When they reached the Little House,
and the great news was told, there was
indeed a scene. If there were tears shed,
they were tears of gladness, of laughter
there was plenty, and of rejoicing from the
young folk enough and to spare. Fairbrass
was, indeed, quite thankful when his
thoughtful sister, seeing that he was quite
worn out, took him quietly away, and
having tempted him to eat and drink, put
him to bed. Pax had followed as a matter
of course, and to the boy’s delight the poor
dog, who seemed to be his old master’s only
real mourner, was allowed to nestle by his
side. There the two lay wide awake for a
THE BIG HOUSE 127

long time, silently thinking of the old man,
solitary in life and friendless in death, and
of his first night in the churchyard. At
length, however, Pax dropped off to sleep,
and then the sister Poplars, gently rustling
and bending towards the window, ventured
to whisper their congratulations. At the
moment that was all they had to say, and
Fairbrass was glad of it, for he wanted to
be left to himself that night. So strongly
did he feel this, that when his father and
mother came later into the room, and hand-
in-hand stood by his bedside looking at him,
he pretended to be asleep. He was glad
that he did so, for he loved to feel their
tender kisses on his face, and to hear them
say to each other that his kindly act had
set them free from all their cruel money
troubles.

It was useless for the Money Fiend, who
had crept into the room with them, to
whisper in the boy’s ear that they were
more attentive to him than usual because
he was now the possessor of a large fortune.
128 FAIRBRASS

With all his sorrow for his grandfather,
Fairbrass was too contented and hopeful
that night to pay heed to any such
malignant suggestions.





oy

U2 CoS
[NS any
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Way Lf
LEP fy







CHAPTER VI.

PLEASURE.

aN i ERY soon after this the Little
House at the foot of the Hill
was deserted, and the family
took possession of the Big
House on the side of it.
Concerning the claim of Fairbrass to his
fortune there was no sort of dispute. The two
old executors, having pocketed their legacies,
were only too glad to get rid of their



Saath rm \ Keel

I
130 FAIRBRASS

responsibilities, and the lawyer, who was
heartily delighted at the way in which
things had turned out, hurried the affair on
with an expedition that in his profession
was little short of miraculous. Fairbrass
was taken once or twice to his office, and
amongst other things, marvelled greatly at
his expressing a doubt as to the real
meaning of some of the clauses in the will
which he had himself drawn. ‘ Surely,’ the
boy thought, ‘he must have known what
my grandfather wanted, and what he him-
self meant when he wrote it down?’ But
this did not always seem to be the case, and
on one or two points other opinions, at
considerable cost, had to be taken. Luckily,
respecting the clause that chiefly affected
Fairbrass there was no doubt. He was the
sole heir to the estates, and, in due course,
he was supposed to have taken due pos-
session of them.

Of course, it was understood that his
father should have the entire management
of his affairs and control the expenditure of
PLEASURE 131

his income, and as, if the new little squire
could have spoken, this is exactly what he
would have directed, everyone was content.

‘Now,’ thought Fairbrass, on the first
night of sleeping in the Big House, ‘now
we shall all be free from care and as happy
as the day is long. My mother can spend
as much money as she likes, and my father
will give up his horrible ‘‘ business,” and
lead a life of pleasure.’

Somehow, however, the happiness did
not seem to come as quickly as he had
hoped and expected. Money there was,
enough and to spare, and they sent it flying
about in all directions. The mother was
soon driving about in a perfectly-appointed
carriage; horses and ponies were bought
for the boys and girls to ride; the former
ordered expensive guns, and the latter costly
trinkets ; while as for tailors’ and milliners’
bills, they must have made a notable increase
even in the returns of the stationer who
supplied the paper on which they were
written. Occasionally, after a visit from
132 FAIRBRASS

the friendly lawyer, the father would make
some effort to check these extravagances,
but he was always met with the retort, ‘Oh,
it’s all right; the money belongs to Fair-
brass. Fairbrass is a good little chap, and
if he could speak he’d give us everything
we want in a moment.’

‘You must look upon me as the master
here,’ the father would then rather angrily
say.

To this they never openly replied ; but
they did not regard him as the master. He
knew it, and, as a grievance, this took the
place of the narrow income that had harassed
bygone days.

In spite of her luxurious surroundings,
the mother, too, was a good deal worried,
for she had her visitors’ list to extend and
revise, and it caused her infinite perplexity.

Now that she had come to live at the
Big House all the ‘best’ people of the
neighbourhood hastened to call upon her,
and when these ‘clashed,’ as she called it,
with some of the less distinguished folk,
PLEASURE 133

who used to be made welcome at the Little
House, but who were not on visiting terms
with her new friends, she suffered anguish.

And the worst of it was that their
troubles—if troubles they could be called—
were no longer borne in common. When
he complained to her that the young folk
took the law into their own hands, she said
it was ‘ridiculous to make mountains out
of molehills ;’ and when she spoke to him
of her social anxieties and dilemmas, he said
hotly that, however desirable their acquain-
tance might be, the people who had neglected
them in the days of the Little House might
now, for all he cared, ‘go hang.’ And
so, for the first time in their married lives,
the two went different ways, and, when
they met, uncomfortably bickered.

And what a noisy house it became!
Each one seemed to go his or her own way,
to do what he or she liked best, and at
breakfast, lunch and dinner time to recount
experiences and intentions in a_ very
whirl-wind of uproarious talk. It was,
134 FAIRBRASS

presumably, a life of pleasure ; but under it
Fairbrass and his constant companion Pax
seemed crushed.

The only member of the family who
appeared unaltered by the change in their
fortunes was his beautiful and sweet-natured
eldest sister. As of old, she was never
weary of attending to his little wants, of
anticipating his smallest wishes. To be
sure, she had the daily companionship of
her lover ‘to remind her of quieter times,
and Fairbrass was never so happy as when
walking with them, and with Pax at his
heels, through the grass-grown drives of the
pine-woods, of which, little fellow though
he was, he was lord and master. He was
never weary of listening to their expressions
of love for each other in the present, and of
hope for the future.

But this was not to last. Suddenly the
lover’s visits to the Big House ceased, and
the sister's face became pale and tearful.
To Fairbrass she was as gentle and loving
as ever; but she was manifestly in sore
PLEASURE 135

trouble, and so strangely silent that he
could no longer fathom her thoughts.

One day he lay coiled up, with Pax by
his side, in one of the deep ingle-nooks of
the library fire-place, when his father and
mother, accompanied by the lawyer, entered
the room. They did not notice Fairbrass,
and with intense distress he overheard their
talk. The lover’s name was on his father’s
lips as he entered the room, and so he knew
that it referred to him.

‘And so he’s quite ruined?’ said the
father.

‘Stock, lock and barrel!’ replied the
lawyer. ‘Oh, these wild speculations !
When will people learn that they can’t
double their incomes without the almost
inevitable certainty of losing their principal.
Not, mind you, that our young friend is to
blame. The father was the fool.’

‘But the fact remains,’ said the mother,
‘that the son is penniless.’

‘And that he is engaged, on false pre-
tences, to our daughter,’ said the father.
136 FAIRBRASS

‘We must get Fairbrass to give her a
handsome dowry,’ said the lawyer, with a
laugh. ‘Fairbrass puts everything right.’

The father glanced rather uneasily at
the mother, who said :

‘I don’t think you quite understand how
we feel in this matter. Seeing that our
girl was, girl-like, more or less attracted
towards this young man, while there seemed
some chance of his being able to offer her a
suitable home, we sanctioned the semblance
of an engagement between them. Now
that the idea is no longer possible, we may
tell you frankly that we are by no means
sorry that the whole thing should be broken
off.’

‘Indeed!’ said the lawyer doubtfully.

‘Of course,’ replied the mother decidedly.
‘Since we have been able to give her proper
chances I find that our girl is greatly
admired, and I feel that she ought to make
a far better match than this one under any
circumstances could be.’
PLEASURE 137

‘Dear me, dear me!’ said the lawyer, in
evident distress. ‘I don’t think Fairbrass
would like this.’

The lawyer was right. Fairbrass did
not like it at all, and it is to be feared that
if he could have spoken he would have
broken through all the old-established rules
laid down to guide young folk in their
conduct towards their more experienced and
consequently better-able-to-judge elders.
His inclination was to disclose himself,
express bitter indignation, assert his un-
doubted rights, and give all his fortune to
his sister on the simple condition that she
would immediately marry herlover. Fortu-
nately for the credit of all the old copy-book
maxims, his infirmity kept him tongue-tied.

‘I must ask you,’ said the father, address-
ing the lawyer, in cold and measured tones,
‘not to drag the name of our poor afflicted
boy Fairbrass into this conversation. You
now know our wishes with regard to
this young man, and I have to ask you
to explain them to him. As you are
138 FAIRBRASS

constantly seeing him concerning his unfor-
tunate pecuniary affairs, you will have ample
opportunity, and I would prefer that our
decision should reach him through you.’

‘And your daughter ?’ asked the lawyer.

‘Already knows our wishes, and is
amenable to them,’ said the mother.

And then Fairbrass knew why his sister
was sad-eyed and pale.

After a few moments’ silence the lawyer
said, ‘Don’t you owe him £500 ?’

The father flushed scarlet.

‘When did he tell you that ?’ he asked
angrily.

‘He never told me at all, but a memo-
randum amongst your papers suggested that
the amount had been borrowed from him,
and remained unpaid. He wants £500—
or, for the matter of that, 4£100—badly ;
but, knowing him as I do, I can tell you he
would be the last man in the world to ask
repayment from his sweetheart’s father.’

‘I do owe it,’ said the father angrily,
‘and I had in all truth forgotten it. And
PLEASURE 139

no wonder, with all that I have had to
think of and put up with lately !’

Poor Fairbrass! Where, then, was the
happiness and the life of pleasure that he
had anticipated for those he loved so well ?

‘Now, do you know,’ said the mother,
‘I call that a most fortunate occurrence.
This unexpected nest-egg of £500 will
enable the young man to make a splendid
new start in life in Florida, or Los Angelos,
or some one of those places where, with a
little capital, you can live in luxury for next
to nothing, and make an immense fortune
out of orange groves and fruit farms, and
delightful things of that description. How
pleasant it is to have it within one’s power
to do good !’

‘You don’t know the young man,’ said
the lawyer dryly. ‘That £500, if he gets
it, will go to his father’s creditors.’

‘What do you mean by ‘‘if he gets it?’”’
said the father quite hotly. ‘ Kindly send
him a cheque for the amount at once, and
with it an intimation that his visits to us
140 FAIRBRASS

are altogether things of the past. If he is
foolish enough to throw away my £500,
that’s his look-out. I shall have done my
duty.’

‘Dear me, dear me!’ said the lawyer.
‘TI don’t like this job at all. I would far
rather——’

‘ Now, look here,’ interrupted the father,
‘if you think that while I keep a dog I am
going to do my own barking, you are
mistaken. One way or another, there is an
end of the matter.’

And with this he left the room.

‘Really,’ said the mother to the lawyer,
‘J think, knowing as you do what he has
gone through lately, you might have spared
my poor husband this painful scene.’

Well, the lawyer was far too wise a
lawyer to let a client leave him in a fit of
temper ; in a few days the poor lover finally
knew his fate, and his father’s creditors
were soon benefited to the extent of £500
withdrawn from the fortune left to Fairbrass.

After that the handsome, kindly-natured
PLEASURE IqI

young fellow’s visits of course ceased, but
no one spoke of him, and no one missed
him except Fairbrass, and, of course, his
sister. Though she busied herself about
the house and with her brothers and sisters
as usual, her sad face only too truly told
the tale of an ever-aching heart.

The long summer days had run their
course, and chill October was reigning in
his usual fitful fashion, now allowing a
radiant sun to illumine the beautiful
autumnal-tinted trees, and then causing
the gorgeous leaves of crimson, bronze and
gold to fall by thousands under the pressure
of clinging mists, dripping moisture, and
early frosts, when Fairbrass took it into his
head that he would go and have a peep at
some of his well-loved nooks in the garden
of the Little House. The truth is, though
he had not owned it to himself, he wanted
to get away for a time from the noisy
discord of the Big House. It is very likely
that his active little brain magnified what
seemed to him to be the uncomfortable state
142 FAIRBRASS

of things there. Everyone in the house
had the best of everything, and everyone
loudly complained that everything was not
better than the best. That really summed
up the condition of affairs, but it does not
follow that the critical complainers were
absolutely discontented. Fairbrass, how-
ever, thought they were; he was beginning
to fancy that his curiously-acquired fortune
was a curse rather than a blessing, and he
had a great longing to get away from
everyone and to revive old memories. And
so, with faithful, affectionate Pax at his
heels, he descended the hill. There seemed
to be a mute understanding between him
and the dog that they should not talk much
by the way. The hearts of both were
more or less sorrowful ; conversation could
only mean the opening of sores that would
best heal if left to themselves, and, loving
each other dearly, they were content to
enjoy the sweet solace of silent, trustful
companionship.

The familiar garden was soon reached,
PLEASURE 143

and the first sight of it gave Fairbrass quite
a shock. For nearly three months it had
been sadly neglected, and it was so different
from the trim garden to which he had been
accustomed. But the twin-sister Poplar-
trees waved him a cordial welcome, and he
soon found there was a great deal to admire
in the luxuriant, and even abandoned,
growth of things. Of flowers there remained
very few. Here and there a shaggy
chrysanthemum was to be seen, a dahlia or
so drooped a heavy head, and a trailing
convolvulus, that had taken advantage of
unwonted liberty to work itself picturesquely
—a real gardener would say ‘to run riot ’—
wherever it could find tendril-hold, still
displayed a few delicate white blossoms. It
did not seem like the old garden, but its new
dress, though disorderly, was by no means
without a charm, and it was with a feeling
of sad contentment that Fairbrass took his
favourite seat at the foot of the Poplars.
‘Well, Fairbrass, and how does your
father like his life of pleasure?’ inquired
144 FAIRBRASS

a voice that apparently came from the
ground. ‘Goodness knows, he used to
grumble enough about his business. It
was quite a relief to us all to get rid of
him.’

Fairbrass looked down, and found that
his questioner was a fine fat Earthworm
that was wriggling along in the most
consequential manner, as if the whole place
belonged to him.

‘I’m beginning to think that there’s no
such thing as pleasure,’ said poor Fairbrass.

‘Oh yes, there is,’ said the Earthworm,
‘but it depends more upon others than
upon ourselves. When folks are left alone,
then they begin to enjoy themselves. Take
me, for example. Since you and your
family left this place, I and my family have
had quite a good time of it. No gardeners
to destroy us—no wretched boys to capture
us, and put us to torture on fish-hooks—no
lawn-mowers on the turf’s surface, or sharp
spade-blades underneath it, to avoid. No;
I can tell you honestly that if we, and by
PLEASURE 145

‘‘we’? I mean everybody and everything,
could only be left alone, pleasure would
be :

Unluckily at that moment a beautiful
speckle-breasted Thrush, that for the last
few seconds, with his pretty head on one
side, had been eyeing the plump and
self-satisfied Earthworm, now yielded to
temptation, and by swallowing him at one
gulp put an end to what Fairbrass thought
was going to be a most instructive discourse
on ‘pleasure.’

‘Oho, oho, oho! Now I call that
really funny —if we could only be left
alone! As if anything could be left alone
in this world! Oho, oho, oho !—that was
splendid !’

Fairbrass disliked the strident laugh and
satirical tones of this interrupter, and was
amazed to find that they were uttered by a
Hedgehog who, uncurled and unabashed,
was strutting down the deserted garden path.

Pax pricked up his ears at the sight of
him, and gave an ominous growl.


146 FAIRBRASS

‘No, you don’t,’ said the Hedgehog,
who seemed to be a very slangy sort of
person ; ‘you’re a bit too old for the job.
My prickles are rather too young for your
jaws, my fine fellow. I daresay your
grandfather, when he was young, killed
my grandmother, when she was old; but
I sha’n’t bear you any ill-will on that
account. Let’s recognise the inevitable,
and be friends.’

Pax seemed to realise the situation, and
pretended to go to sleep.

‘You’re a rum lot, you human beings,’
said the Hedgehog, addressing Fairbrass :
‘you're always wanting something that you
haven’t got; and when you do get it, you
don’t care about it, and begin crying out for
something else. You ought to be jolly
well ashamed of yourselves.’

‘Why, what do you know about us?’
asked Fairbrass very hotly.

‘More than you think,’ replied the
Hedgehog. ‘TI once lived in a gentleman’s
PLEASURE 147

family, and made it my business to study
character.’

‘Lived in a gentleman’s family?’ said
Fairbrass doubtfully.

‘Yes,’ said the Hedgehog arrogantly;
‘the fact is I'd had a bit of a row with
the old folks at home, and as things were
not too comfortable there, I answered an
advertisement, and accepted an engagement
as head blackbeetle-killer to a family of title.’

‘You conceited thing, you!’ cried Fair-
brass; ‘what you really mean is that you
were caught, no doubt very much against
your will, and taken to somebody’s house,
half as a curiosity and half as a pet, and
that, having a liking for beetles, and finding
them, you ate them.’

‘You may say and think what you
choose,’ said the Hedgehog. ‘The fact
stands as I put it. I accepted an engage-
ment; and having earned and learned all
I wanted, in due course I sent in my
resignation.’

‘Were you turned out in the fields again
148 FAIRBRASS

because you were a horrid nuisance in the
house; or did you manage to make your
escape down a drain-pipe ?’

It will be seen by this that Fairbrass
had not only become angry, but rude.
Indeed, this boastful, pretentious little
animal irritated him beyond endurance.

But the Hedgehog was so anxious to
talk that he could not afford to take offence.

‘Pll tell you about my young master,’
he said. ‘ He was the eldest son of a very
rich father ; he had done well at his schools
and his college; everybody liked him; he
was good-looking; in fact, his past was
satisfactory, his future brimful of hope ; and
yet he was miserable, because he was a
poet.’

‘Pooh!’ said Fairbrass, ‘I’ve no patience
with you. You don’t know what you’re
talking about. A poet is just the happiest
man on earth.’

‘If he can get people to believe in him,’
said the Hedgehog. ‘My young master

couldn’t. His precious verses were always
PLEASURE 149

being ‘‘returned with thanks,’ and the
disappointment nearly drove him mad.’

‘Poor fellow!’ said Fairbrass sympatheti-
cally. ‘It must have made his father and
mother very sad.’

‘He never let them or anyone else
know it,’ said the Hedgehog. ‘AIl day
long he seemed as happy as happy could
be; it was only when he was alone at
night that he let himself loose and gave
way. I slept in his room, you see, and so
know all about it. And now I’m coming
to my point. He knew that no one would
have anything to do with his poetry, and
that made him wretched. But he knew,
too, that if his verses were accepted and
published, and read and quoted all over the
world, even then he wouldn’t be happy, it
being in the nature of poets to be discon-
tented. He so often spouted some of his
lines dealing with this side of the question
that I learnt them by heart. Perhaps you
would like to hear them ?’

‘If you please,’ said Fairbrass.
I50 FAIRBRASS

‘All right,’ said the Hedgehog, who,
like most conceited creatures, had a strong
fancy for himself as a reciter. ‘Here goes!’
and, posing himself, he rattled off :

“THE GOAL.”

‘Once an earnest, bashful stripling

Loved a maiden from afar,

Loved her vainly, for there seemed

To their union many a bar;

But he sought, and woo’d, and won her,
Now their joy’s complete, they trow.
But though happy with his loved one,
Longing once, he’s longing now.

“Once a poet in his chamber,

Poor, and sick with hope deferred,
Conscious of the power within him,
With hot tears his sonnets blurred.
Yet he toiled on, working bravely
Till the laurel crowned his brow ;

But though courted, rich, and famous,
Longing then, he’s longing now.

‘Thus it is with many of us,

Who confiding, soul to soul,

We shall be content and happy

When we’ve gained some cherished goal.
We shall feel our work has ended,
Having kept a long-made vow—

Still acknowledge, in achievement
Longing then, we’re longing now.’
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FAIRBRASS AND THE HEDGEHOG,
PLEASURE I51

‘Poor stuff, isn’t it?’ said the Hedgehog.
‘It’s only my style that makes it go.’

‘But I think I know what the poor
fellow meant,’ said Fairbrass. ‘I feel sorry
for him.’ .

‘You would have been if you had seen
him that night,’ said the Hedgehog.
‘Walking about his bedroom half dressed,
he went on repeating that imbecile poem—
without, mind you, putting any of the point
into it that my experience as a reciter
enables me to bring out—until I was quite
sick of it. Luckily, I noticed he was
barefooted. I rolled myself up into as tight
a ball as I could, put myself in his way : he
trod on me; and, oh my eyes and bristles,
Fairbrass! if you want a treat you should
hear a poet when he does give way, privately,
to bad language.’

‘I wish you would go away,’ said Fair-
brass. ‘I dare say you mean well, but to
my way of thinking you are much too
meddlesome.’

‘The poet thought so, too,’ said the
152 FAIRBRASS .

Hedgehog; but it was worth anything
to hear him swear. ‘‘ Longing then, we’re
longing now,” and after that—oh my eyes
and bristles! but I mustn’t tell you what
he said, Fairbrass, for it wasn’t fit talk for
boys. Oh yes, you human beings are
certainlya rum lot. You’ve got an awkward
job on hand, Fairbrass. I wonder how
you'll worry through it? My opinion is
that your longings are just like those of
other folks, and they’ll only end with the
long, long rest.’

‘Confound you!’ began Fairbrass.

‘Stop!’ interrupted the Hedgehog. ‘If
you begin like that you’ll get on to all
my poet's bad language, and I shall get
the character of having taught it to you.
I wish you good-day.’

And with this he waddled away.

‘ Fairbrass,’ said the taller of the sister
Poplars, softly breaking the silence that
ensued, ‘we have something to whisper
to you. Your sister and her lover met
here a day or two ago; they sat lovingly
PLEASURE 153

together where you are sitting now, and
we want to tell you what they said to
each other.’

‘Do you think I ought to hear it?’
asked Fairbrass.

‘Yes,’ was the reply; ‘it was all good
and noble, and to their credit. It would
do the whole world good to hear it.’

And then, gently rustling their leaves,
and gracefully bending to the breezes
according to their wont, the Poplars told
their little tale. They told how the lovers
had met there by chance. She had come
to see the garden in which she had spent
so many happy hours; he had come to sigh
over the spot where he had first told her of
his love. ‘When they saw each other,’ said
the Poplars, who seemed quite to have got
over the first shock of seeing a young lady
kissed by a young gentleman, ‘they seemed
instinctively to feel that, their engagement
being at an end, they had no right to speak
to each other; but, yielding to a sudden
impulse, they were quickly in each other’s
154 FAIRBRASS

arms. Of the endearments, tears, and
words of affection that followed, the Poplars
could give little or no account—much of it
being inaudible and unintelligible to any
bystanders—but they indignantly declared
it a shame that two such beautiful and
warm hearted young creatures, who seemed
to be made for each other, and who lately
had been so happy in their mutual love, and
so full of honest hope for their united future,
should be separated by worldly-minded
parents.

‘And, indeed, I was quite glad, Fair-
brass,’ said the younger of the two Poplars,
‘when your sister seemed inclined to defy
your father and mother, and go away with
her sweetheart at once and for all.’

‘She only said that,’ said the other,
‘when he, after telling her how he meant
to work, and work, and work, so as to
retrieve, as far as in him lay, his fallen
fortunes, said that in the meantime she
must try to forget him; and that if he
should fail in a struggle which, indeed,
PLEASURE 155

seemed to be a hopeless one, and she should
meet another man who could offer her all
that he had lost and make her happy, she
was to consider herself entirely free.’

‘Ah, it was piteous to see how she clung
to him then, and yet it was so sweet to
hear her words of constant love,’ said the
younger Poplar.

‘And he, poor fellow! was sorely
tempted and tried,’ said the other; ‘and
indeed, Fairbrass, if it had not been for you,
I don’t know what might have happened.’

‘For me?’ asked Fairbrass wonderingly.

‘Yes, your poor sister at last said: ‘‘I
feel as though I cannot part from you; and
if it were not for Fairbrass, I would go
down on my knees and beg you to take
me with you. But Fairbrass wants me.
It would be so cruel to leave Fairbrass.”
And he replied: ‘‘ Dear little Fairbrass !
let him, my darling, teach us to do our
duty. Mine is to be manly, honourable,
and resolute—yours, to go back to Fairbrass
and your father’s home.”’
156 FAIRBRASS

There was little more to tell. Soon
after that they had kissed for the last time,
and with aching hearts they went their
separate ways.

‘Oh, if I could only bring those two
poor things together,’ cried Fairbrass, ‘how
gladly I would die!’

An hour later, the sister, coming into
the deserted garden—it is easy to guess
why she came—found him lying on the
damp ground underneath the Poplar-trees,
sobbing and shivering, with Pax looking
helplessly at him and licking his cold hands.


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CHARTER VUE

GOD’S HOUSE.

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6 HE chill that he took
a oo 4 . . .
i Ul that night when his sister
a NES SA found him in the garden,
ited omem(ind | and the violent fever that

ensued, have, as I feared



they would, resulted in very serious compli-

cations.’
158 FAIRBRASS

These were the words that Fairbrass
heard when he woke from what seemed to
him to be a fantastic and unusually long
dream. He had indistinct recollections of
people hurrying to and fro—of everyone
being more than usually kind and tender
with him; of his dear sister, especially,
being by day and night his devoted slave ; of
Pax being taken from the room; of his
crying for him; of the affectionate old
dog being brought back and allowed there-
after to remain close by his side; of the
taking of much medicine, and of a thousand
kindred things that turned and twisted in
his poor little tired-out brain until it had
become a miniature Maelstrom ; but when
he was put to bed, and how long he had
remained there, were things beyond his
powers of calculation or memory.

Suddenly, however, the little world about
him had become clear to him again; and
though he felt sadly, sadly weak, he could
hear and understand.
’
GODS HOUSE 159

He knew that it was a Doctor that stood
with his sad-eyed father by the bedside.

‘Tell me the worst,’ said the father ;
‘remember the poor child cannot hear you.’

‘Recovery is beyond hope,’ said the
Doctor ; ‘he is fading away. It is only a
question of hours.’

Fairbrass hated the idea of being the
cause of pain to anyone; and yet he could
not help being glad to see that his father
turned away and wept bitterly.

‘Come,’ said the Doctor, you mustn’t
give way. He, poor child, is dying; but
you and your other children have to live.
We must not forget that, by odd chance,
he is the possessor of a large fortune. If
anything in the legal way has to be done,
the—well, the sooner the better.’

‘No, no,’ said the father hesitatingly ;
‘that is unnecessary. I—-I—in fact, I have
deemed it my duty, at this crisis, to see
how matters stand. Everything goes to
the next of kin ; and, you see, I ;

‘Just so—just so,’ said the Doctor, who


160 FAIRBRASS

prided himself on his tact ; ‘ that is quite as
it should be, and in every way satisfactory.
Then there is nothing to be done but to
wait for the inevitable end. By the way,
as it cannot be very far off, I think you
would do well to warn his mother.’

And then the father left the room, and
the Doctor, who was apt to boast that he
could make up for enforced night-work by
taking a snooze at any available moment
during the day, dropped off into a comfort-
able nap in an arm-chair.

Pax croodled close up to Fairbrass, and
thrust his cold nose into the hot, thin little
hand. If ever a dog shed tears, Pax did it
at that moment.

‘Don’t trouble about me, Pax dear,’
said Fairbrass, stroking the smooth head
of his faithful friend. ‘I’m not sorry to
die. In this world people seem to be as
unhappy when they are rich as when they
are poor, and things are too hard for me to
understand. If I could speak, I should
GOD’S HOUSE 161

ask that at least half my money should be
given to my dearest sister, so that she
might marry her lover and live happily with
him ; but, you know, I can’t speak, and I
must just leave that, like everything else,
to God.’

It seemed a very little coffin to bring
into the church and place in the aisle on
the exact spot where only a short time ago
his old grandfather’s coffin had rested, and
glancing down upon it, the Kneeling
Knight wondered if by this time his little
friend had solved some of the great questions
concerning which he had been so anxious. It
was a very little coffin, but it had brought
together a great number of mourners ; and
it is a remarkable fact that they really, and
without any attempt at concealment, grieved
for the loss of the poor patient dumb child,
who, now that he was dead, was looked
upon as having been everybody’s friend.

L
162 FAIRBRASS

The generally noisy brothers, who had been
so indifferent at the old man’s funeral,
could not, even if they would, hide their fast-
falling tears, and the father seemed quite
stricken down with anguish. And soon the
little coffin was lowered into the great vault,
and placed side by side with the bigger
ones that already occupied it, and close to
the faded bunch of wild flowers that had
brought about such wonderful changes. In
strange contrast to these were the costly and
formal wreaths with which poor Fairbrass
was now covered, but to the heavy-hearted
bystanders the faded wild flowers told once
more the tale of how, on that bright June
morning, the child, happily wandering in
the sunlit fields, had gathered them, and thus
they were the cause of many sympathetic,
regretful, yet consoling tears. Just as the
grave was being once more closed, it was
noticed that the beautiful white flowers were,
by a sudden gust of wind, sprinkled over
with autumnal yellow leaves. They were a
GOD'S HOUSE 163

tribute of love sent by his earliest friends,
the now sorrowful sister Poplars.

It was not very late in the evening of
that short day before a pale moon lit up the
sombre darkness of the old church and the
clustering gravestones, and shone upon the
figure of a young man who was reverently
placing a simple little cross of flowers over
the spot where Fairbrass lay. It was his old
friend, his sister’s lover. Poor fellow !
This was to be his last night in the country
he loved so well, and where his hopes had
at one time run so high. Determined to
seek new fortune in a far-off land, he even
now carried with him the passport that would
cause him on the morrow to travel far from
all his old associations—from everything that
had wound itself round his heart. He had
purposely kept away from the funeral that
morning; but he had tenderly loved Fair-
brass, and could not leave without giving
164 FAIRBRASS

some little proof of his affection. And so,
in the silence of the evening, he had come
quietly into the churchyard, and as he placed
his simple flowers, he said, half aloud to
himself: ‘His sister will come here to-
morrow when Iam gone. She will see my
poor little cross, but will not know that I
kissed it, saying ‘‘ God bless her now and
always !”’

If his eyes had not been blinded with
tears he would have seen that another figure
had approached the grave-side, and that he
was not alone. A gentle, trembling hand
touched him; he looked up, and knew to
his great joy that she was with him once
more.

‘I felt compelled to come here to-night,’
she said, with her eyes upon the grave, ‘ but
little thought that I should meet you. I
heard that you had gone away.’

‘I go to-morrow,’ he said. ‘ You will
come here often, and I know that in thinking
of dear Fairbrass your thoughts will turn to
me, and you will remember that we were
GOD’S HOUSE 165

permitted to say our last good-bye by his
grave-side.’

That was all they said, but hand-in-
hand, as heart-to-heart, they stood there
silently for some time under the pale moon.

They did not know that they were
watched by another silent, grief-laden man
and woman, who, perceiving them, had
stepped into the shadow of one of the old
church buttresses. At last the lovers turned
to go, and were confronted by her father
and mother.

The father was the first to speak.

‘Tf,’ he said in a broken voice to the
lover—‘if you are not too proud to forgive
me, you need not say good-bye. Fairbrass
loved you, you are worthy of his sister ;
for his sake forgive and forget the past,
and stay to make her life happy.’ Then,
turning to his wife; ‘You feel all this with
me ?’

‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘I am more than
thankful that you had the chance to
speak, and that you have spoken. Since
166 FAIRBRASS

Fairbrass died, I have known how wrong
we have been in this. Since my dear
Fairbrass has been in heaven, he has been
allowed to speak to me.’

Truly, Fairbrass did well when he left
his will in God’s hands !

When Pax, who had stealthily followed
the sister to the churchyard, returned with
a very quiet but by no means hopeless party
of four to the Big House, he knew that the
dead boy’s last living wish was in a fair
way of being carried out.

Pax, indeed (for the good sister so
thoughtfully cared for him that he lived to
be a very old dog), recognised by slow
degrees the odd fact that Fairbrass dead
was a far greater power than Fairbrass
living ever had been or was likely to be.
‘Fairbrass wouldn’t have liked this,’ or
‘Fairbrass wouldn’t have wished that,’
became household words amongst his
GOD’S HOUSE 167

brothers and sisters, and the mere mention
of his name stopped many an angry word,
and bridged over countless quarrels the
moment they began. In due season Pax
took up his abode with a newly-married
couple in the Little House, and there, as
may be understood, his sometime little
master’s name was as that of a household
god. Long after Pax lay buried among
the roots of the twin sister Poplars, those
ever-rustling kindly gossips bent down, as
far as their stiffening backs would let
them, to bid cordial welcome to another
little boy who was lucky enough to call the
sister of these pages mother, and her lover
_—for he was one of those who was more
than ever lover as husband—father.

But though this little person was, by
an admiring crowd that included grand-
parents, mother and father, of course,
uncles, aunts, cousins, relatives in all
degrees, and a tremendous conclave of
friends, declared to be the finest specimen
of humanity ever born into this world, he
168 FAIRBRASS

had not the gift of talking to the Poplar-
trees, and though the twin sisters flourished
for many, many long years, they never
ceased to sigh for their dear Fairbrass,

dead and gone.


SOME PKESS OPINIONS

ON THE WORKS OF

ME 1 EDGAR PEMBERION
A MEMOIR OF E. A. SOTHERN.

‘An excellent Memoir of E, A. Sothern, full of good
stories, brightly written, and well illustrated, has been added
to our theatrical bookshelves by one of his oldest friends,
Mr. T. EpGar PEMBERTON, Journalist and Dramatic Author.”
—Daily Telegraph.

*‘Lives of Actors as a rule make dull books. Mr. T.
EpGAR PEMBERTON’S Memoir of Sothern is, however, an
exception. It is not too long, and not too detailed in handling,
while the portion that deals with the great comedian’s extra-
ordinary modes of amusing himself in private life reads like
a series of condensed farces of the most wildly humorous
description.” —TZhe Standard.

‘*Mr. PEMBERTON deals with his subject freshly and
pleasantly.”’—Zhe Globe.

‘Few biographers of modern actors have been more
fortunate than MR. PEMBERTON in securing materials for that
“working up” which is so indispensable in the preparation of
“lives” of great or little men. And, it must be added, that
no author has ever had more entertaining details to recount
than those associated with the career of E. A. Sothern. 3
Reading Mr. PEMBERTON’s interesting pages, we are struck
with the remembrance of how much we have forgotten con-
cerning the dramatic story of a quarter of a century ago.
- . . An exceedingly valuable chapter of dramatic history.”
—The Saturday Review,

“A very sympathetic and entertaining sketch of one of
the most eccentric comedians of the century.”— The Spectator.

CHARLES DICKENS AND THE STAGE.

‘‘A very interesting volume on the associations of Charles
Dickens with the stage. It was a happy thought to conceive
such a compilation. . . . A charming work that will be
welcomed and read wherever the name of Dickens is known.
Mr. PEMBERTON has modestly kept himself behind the scenes,
although sometimes the experiences of a dramatic author peep

out in an autobiographic but humorous form.—Birmingham
Daily Post.
“The book shows diligent research in many directions.”
—The Saturday Review,

‘‘This is a pleasant and readable book by Mr. T, EDGAR
PEMBERTON. This writer belongs to the family of the not
quite forgotten Charles Reece Pemberton, and has more than
once distinguished himself in the literary world. His novels
are of that racy flavour that is sure to go. ‘Born to Blush
Unseen’ is irresistible and should be read by all. ‘ Under
Pressure,’ and ‘A Very Old Question,’ are both exceedingly
good. ‘The present effort proves that the author's pen is not
yet rusty. The same light, pleasant, ready, perspicuous style
is displayed. — Weekly News and Chronicle,

BORN TO BLUSH UNSEEN.

‘©An author who ventures to build up a plot, not upon a
murder, or a mystery, or upon a young lady’s back hair, but
upon the foundations of a joke, is worthy of all welcome. The
author of ‘Born to Blush Unseen’ has done so, and his joke,
moreover, isa very good one. A lively piece of imaginary
folly, which Mr. PEMBERTON has cleverly elevated from the
region of farce into that of comedy.”—Zhe Globe.

“Let us laugh and be thankful. . . At once we warn
off all those who cannot enjoy a piece of harmless fun from the
pages of ‘Born to Blush Unseen’; while we invite those
wiser ones who have the good sense to enjoy an occasional
bath of nonsense to take a dip into them.”—Zhe Queen.

DICKENS’S LONDON; OR, LONDON IN THE
WORKS OF CHARLES DICKENS.

‘*Mr. PEMBERTON has ‘invented’ a very new style of
book, and has carried out his idea with excellent industry
and marked success. . . . All admirers of the works of
Charles Dickens will thank Mr. PEMBERTON for a very
original and very interesting book.” —Birmingham Daily Post.

‘““Mr. PEMBERTON’S idea is an excellent one, and it is
pleasantly and profitably worked out in this single volume. . .
To all lovers of Dickens this book will be specially welcome.
An index of places facilitates reference, and makes the volume
additionally interesting and useful.”—Pudlic Opinion.
THE BIRMINGHAM THEATRES.

“‘ Mr. PEMBERTON has taken a great interest inthe drama,
he has enjoyed the friendship of many celebrated actors and
actresses, and consequently his retrospect is flavoured with
interesting personal reminiscences, and with many entertain-
ing anecdotes of well-known players.” —Midland Counties
Herald.

“ Mr. PemBzRTON’s chapters form both a useful book of
reference and an eminently readable retrospect of the history
of the drama in one of the most important of our provincial
centres.”—TZhe Daily News.

“A very delightful book of theatrical gossip. ee ae:
The information and references to celebrated plays and
players of general renown is most exhaustive and comprehen-
sive.”—Liverpool Daily Post,

THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF
T. W. ROBERTSON.

‘“*Mr. PEMBERTON has done his work with discretion and
common sense. He has not overlaid his biography with need-
less commentary or opinions of his own, but has allowed his
author, for the most part, to speak for himself, in order that
his readers may appreciate not only the work of maturity, but
the early and forgotten writings of the creator of ‘ Caste,’ ’””—
Daily Telegraph.

‘Mr. T. EDGAR PEMBERTON, the author of an exceedingly
entertaining memoir of Sothern, has performed a similar service
for the author of ‘Caste’ with considerable success.”—
Spectator.

“ The narrative is marked by Mr. PEMBERTON’S usual

sympathy and good taste in the treatment of theatrical
subjects.”—Academy.

Siw”

8
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A CHILD’S STORY



BIRMINGHAM

PRINTED BY COND BROS,

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FAIRBRASS AND THE DeEapD BIRD.

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Ag CilEDaS STORY

BY

IT. EDGAR PEMBERTON

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

KATE E. BUNCE

Birmingbam
CORNISH BROTHERS, 37, NEW STREET

1895







CONTENES

CHAPTER PaGE
I. THe THREE Houses - - - I
Il. Tue Litrrte House - - = a2

III. Business” - - - - Sy 2S
IV. THe KNEELING KNIGHT - - 51
V. Tue Bic House - - se ae
VI. PLEASURE - - - - - 129

VII. Gop’s House - - - - 157



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SR RG SRE Nl ltd igs el tale ha enh egink a bg hon gp ss ba



ILLUSTRATIONS

FAIRBRASS AND THE DeEaD BirD - - - Frontispiece

‘And the poor little songster throbbed
its heart out in the boy’s warm hand’

FAIRBRASS AND THE KNEELING KNIGHT To face page 60

‘I thought I would ask you to stop
and have a chat with me’

FAIRBRASS AND HIS GRANDFATHER - To face page ro2

‘Well,’ he said, ‘if he won’t smile
upon me when he wakes, at least
he will be glad to see my lovely
flowers’

FaIRBRASS AND THE HEDGEHOG - - Zo face page 151

‘I wish you would go away,’ said Fair-
brass, ‘I daresay you mean well,
but to my way of thinking you
are much too meddlesome’



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BINUR RINGS:

CHAPTER I.
Pie SORE HOUSES:

HE first words he heard were:

‘Well, and now that we

have him here, what are we
going to call him ?’

‘Upon my word, I don’t
know,’ said his father, who spoke in a sad
tone. ‘His poor mother and I used up all
our favourite names long ago. There are
such a lot of them! I don’t mean such a





2 FAIRBRASS

lot of our favourite names, but such a lot of
the poor little chap’s brothers and sisters,’
‘The more the merrier!’ said the first
speaker, who appeared to be in excellent
spirits ; ‘and concerning this young fellow,
I have an idea. I am getting on in years,
I am a bachelor. I am well to do. I
want something to care for. I shall want
somebody to leave my money to. Well,
call this pretty mite of a thing after me;
give him my name—Fairbrass—and from
to-day I will take him under my wing.’
‘Oh, Doctor—-dear, good Doctor!’ said
his mother, with tears in her voice as well
as in her eyes—‘ you are always so
‘Hush !’ was the kindly reply. ‘What
did I say—perfect quiet ? Eh ? Come——’
And his father and his Doctor left the
room, and He was alone with his mother.
The Doctor no doubt meant what he
said when he declared that he would take
the boy under his wing; but he was an
emotional Doctor, who often by the bed-
sides of his patients undertook more than





THE THREE HOUSES 3

he could carry out. His great practical
success in this line came a few months later,
when he promised an apparently dying
widow that he would be a second father to
her five little boys. Under that careful and
consolatory treatment the young widow not
only recovered, but, mindful of the Doctor’s
promise, led him captive to the altar, and
in due time made him the father of three
more little boys. After that the Doctor
gave up saying ‘the more the merrier,’ and
long before that he forgot all about our little
boy. But at the moment the parents believed
in the good intentions of the Doctor,
and so it came about that the child was
christened and called Fairbrass.

Little Fairbrass lay by the side of his
mother and wondered. For wondering his
mind was in exactly the right condition, for
being only a few hours old he had no past
to occupy his thoughts, and the future did
not cause him any apprehension. For a
moment he was rather sorry that the Doctor
had gone, because he felt himself under



4 FAIRBRASS

more than one obligation to him, and would
have liked to thank him; but he had every
reason to believe that he would see Dr.
Fairbrass again to-morrow, and so quietly
gave himself up to reflection.

On the whole, the boy was by no means
displeased with the world into which he had
just been born. Glancing round the room,
he saw a bright fire flickering on an old-
fashioned hearth, with comforting-looking
cups, kettles, and such like things, suggest-
ively placed on its out-of-date hobs ; pretty
pictures on brightly papered walls ; and the
cleanest, cosiest-looking nurse moving noise-
lessly about and silently attending to a
hundred duties. He knew as he snuggled
to the warm side of his mother that, in spite
of the used up list of favourite names, she
was young, and soft, and sweet and loving,
and that she and he lay on a downy and
daintily-draped bed, and, since he had no
need to be hungry, what could he wish for
more? Nothing, he thought, and was just
contentedly dozing off when he felt his



THE THREE HOUSES 5

mother’s tears fall softly upon him, and was
conscious that his tall, handsome, grave-eyed,
and still young father stood again by the
bedside.

‘It seems so sad to think,’ said the
mother, as she lovingly pressed her husband’s
caressing hand, ‘that this poor little mite
has been brought into a world where there
is so little room for him.’

‘There is at least room for him in our
hearts,’ said his father.

‘Those poor hearts of ours,’ she sighed,
‘so over-full already !’

Then they fell into a long, sad silence,
and Fairbrass marvelled. What could it all
mean? With such comfortable, nay, even
delightful, surroundings, what had they to
be sad about ?

Poor little innocent man! He had yet
to learn that in the beautiful world to which
he was one of the most recent additions,
there exists a Never-Tiring, Day and Night,
Heart and Brain, Man-Manufactured Tor-
mentor, whose name is ‘Money,’ and that at



6 FAIRBRASS

this moment the Creature had this affec-
tionate husband and wife well within his
cruel clutches.

But though the husband and wife were
silent the house was not. Overhead there
was a continuous patter of little feet that
made Fairbrass realize the fact that his
father was right when he said there were
‘such a lot of them.’ Now Fairbrass liked
the patter, and he knew that his mother—
for he lay so close to her that her very
thoughts seemed to be part and parcel of
himself—liked it to; but the Doctor had
ordered ‘ quiet,’ and in order to ensure it
someone up above, with a loud voice was
checking the clatter of tripping feet by
insisting that silence should be kept.

‘What an invaluable woman nurse is!’
said the father. ‘It may be that her wages
are higher than we ought to afford, but ata
time like this she is such a comfort. She
never fails to carry out a doctor’s instructions.
I told her that the children must be kept
quiet.’



THE THREE HOUSES 7

‘Yes, dear,’ replied the mother rather
doubtfully ; ‘but I think they would be
happier, and I am sure I should be, if you
would go and read them a fairy-tale.’

And ever obedient to her well-loved
wishes, he, kissing her, left the room. The
patter and the loud voice were heard no
more, the worn-out mother slept, and, with
his baby eyes wide open, Fairbrass had
plenty of time for silent conjecture.

Who would tell him why it was that
with all their pleasant surroundings his
father and mother were so sad ?

Then astrange thinghappened. Through
the latticed window that faced the bed in which
he lay came soft voices that in silvery tones
whispered to him. Whose could they be?
Surely not—yes—there was no doubt about
it: the two slim twin-sister poplar trees that
grew close to the house and swayed and
bent and rustled in the autumn breeze, were
talking to him, and he heard and understood
their unknown speech.

Their roots had been in the soil there,



8 FAIRBRASS

they said, for a goodly number of years ;
they had been fanned by many a summer
zephyr, and threatened by many a winter’s
whirlwind—and sometimes the summers and
the winters, the zephyrs and the whirlwinds,
got so hopelessly mixed that they hardly
knew where they were—but they took the
rough with the smooth ; they were willing to
Sway just as it was willed, to the north, south,
east, or west; they were content to unfurl
their leaves to the welcome sun, or to drop
them at the command of King Jack
Frost ; and, living in this spirit, and being
likely to live and die old maids, they knew
all the gossip of the neighbourhood.

‘You are the first human being,’ they
said to Fairbrass, as they introduced them-
selves, by softly brushing against thewindow-
panes, ‘to whom we have ever been able to
talk.’

At the moment Fairbrass marvelled at
this, but afterwards, as will be seen pres-
ently, he knew why it was that he had the
gift of comprehending dumb tongues.



THE THREE HOUSES 9

They were wonderfully polite, these
waving, whispering, gently restless sisters,
and they told Fairbrass that the house in
which he was born was known as the Little
House at the foot of the hill, that in the Big
House on the side of the hill, which, when
they bent backwards, seemed quite near to
them, and which was very big and grand
indeed, his grandfather lived, and that on
the top of the hill was God’s House, with a
beautiful blue ceiling, which could be often
lighted up with a softly shining moon and
countless twinklingstars. Theysaidthatwhen
his father married he had had a terrible quarrel
with the grandfather, and that father and son
had never spoken since. That this, indeed, was
why Fairbrass was born in the Little House
at the foot of the hill instead of the Big
House on the side of it, which the stern old
man had determined to leave to strangers
instead of to his only son and child. They
said that his father was a good but an
obstinate man; that owing to this family
quarrel he was anxious about his worldly



Io FAIRBRASS

affairs; but that since he loved his wife
dearly, and she was absolutely devoted to
him, he had, if he only knew it, far more,
and a far better thing than money could buy.

The whole trouble, it seemed, had been
brought about by the Money Fiend. The
mother was beautiful but penniless ;_ the
father had laughed at this, and, in spite of
warnings and consequences, had married her;
the mother looked upon the father as a hero,
but the grandfather was right when he said
that he knew the power of wealth ; and now
that the children had come, and continued
to come, the father and mother, though
they never told each other so, saw that the
old man might have been very useful to
them all,

‘It was an odd part of the business, too,’
said the Poplars, ‘that the grandfather was
really as unhappy about the whole affair as .
the father, but both were so proud that
neither would make any advance towards
a reconciliation, and, without saying a word
to each other, the Little House at the foot



THE THREE HOUSES II

of the hill, and the Big House on the side of
it, continually referred the matter to God’s
House (with the beautiful blue ceiling on the
top of it); and that so far this House
seemed little inclined to meddle with a family
quarrel that did not concern it, and which
ought without its aid to be patched up.’
Then the Poplars said: ‘That is all
that we need tell you at present, dear ;’ and
then they softly kissed the window panes
with their topmost twigs, and bade the boy
good-night. As a matter of fact, it was all
they could tell him just then, for a strong
wind, growing tired of their chatter, came
roaring round the corner of the house and
blew them in quite another direction. They
felt that the wind was coming, and that
was why they brought their talk to a sudden
close, for, though full of the sap of kindness,
they were terrible gossips, and now that
they had found someone fresh to talk to,
would have gone on whispering for hours.
The wind—who, because of their continually
bending and giving way to him, could not



I2 FAIRBRASS

blow the poor Poplars down, was always
furiously angry with them—gave them a
terribly anxious and wakeful night, for, in
spite of their pliancy, they were strangely
nervous. But Fairbrass croodled to his
mother’s side, and slept the lovely sleep of a
hearty, hopeful, new-born babe.





Var Wardle Nh 1

ce
nic

i



CHAPTER II.
THE LITTLE HOUSE.

d (ELL, the Little House at the
foot of the hill was not such
a very little house after all,
and most likely it was only
called that in contrast to the Big House on
the hill side, which was, if truth be told,
rather too big for comfort—that is to say, for
those who are wise enough to study mere
comfort. The Little House contained many
and quite large enough rooms, and it was
the most surprising place for nooks and
corners, cabin-like attics, and out-of-the-
way cupboards in the world. Old fashioned
and out of date it was, no doubt ; but it was





14 FAIRBRASS

warm and cosy in winter, bright and cheery
in spring, cool and restful in summer, and
especially inviting in autumn, when great
logs of wood spluttered and crackled on old
iron fire-dogs, and it was delicious to nestle
in ingle-nooks and lazily watch flickering
flames dancing about in the shining old
Dutch tiles. Daintily and tastefully furnished
it was, too, and full of books, pictures, and
curiosities which Fairbrass’s father had
collected in the days before his marriage,
and of which he was at one time very proud.

The glory of the Little House, however,
"was its garden. Not a very large garden—
not by any means that terrible thing, a ‘laid
out’ garden (the very words ‘laid out’ make
one think of a funeral), but a pretty, an old-
fashioned, a sweet-scented, and, above all,a
purposeful garden. Grass-pathed and well
stocked it was, and flowers and vegetables
pretty equally shared the rich and warm-
coloured soil between them. Sloping down to
a rippling stream that formed its boundary,
and on the other side of which was an



THE LITTLE HOUSE 15

orchard of gnarled but fruitful apple, pear,
plum, and cherry trees (with a solitary re-
presentative from each of the quince, mul-
berry, and medlar families, without which
no orchard is quite complete), the garden was
spared the trouble of winter floods, and had
the full advantage of the summer sun. On the
old, gray stone walls—decorated here and
there with pieces of curious carving—‘ loot ’
from a neighbouring mansion that, in the
stormy days of Cromwell, had been battered
down—currants, red, white and black, plen-
tifully repaid the kindly influences of well-
applied and natural warmth; and in the
carefully kept beds strawberries loved to grow
big and cheerily ripen. The scent of lavender,
rosemary, thyme, and sweetbriar lay gently
on the air—and here, there, and everywhere,
bright flowers blossomed and made glad
the heart and eye. And yet it was a trim
garden. The closely mown turf and the
squarely cut yew-trees bore witness to the
fact that abundant nature was kept within
bounds by the care of man, and altogether



16 FAIRBRASS

the spot was one of contentment, order
and repose.

The birds knew it. It was a common
saying in Bird Land that the garden of the
Little House contained the best fruit and
attracted the juiciest snails and slugs, and the
daintiest insects of any garden in the county ;
and if the birds did make rather free with the
cherries, and so forth, they did their duty by
the little garden enemies, and in the proper
season gladdened the hearts of the house-
dwellers by singing all day long. The star-
lings built their nests and chattered in the
lichen-covered stone-shingled roof: the
thrushes, blackbirds, bullfinches, linnets,
tits, and flycatchers had their homes all over
the place ; the merry wagtails (pied, yellow
and gray) loved the smooth lawns and the
banks of the stream, where the sedge-warblers
nested ; the swallows and house-martins
were of opinion that the stiff mud to be
obtained from the edges of the brook was, for
house-building purposes, the best brand in
the world, and summer after summer they



THE LITTLE HOUSE 17

came back to get it; the darting swifts, as
they swirled over the homestead,squealed out
their approval of the place; the moorhens
loved to breast the rippling waters of the
brook; the nightingales had for many, many
generations been happy and undisturbed
tenants of the orchard; and the grave and
glossy rooks cawed in solemn chorus from
the topmost boughs of the tall elm-trees
that formed its boundary.

And as he began to grow up, Fairbrass
knew the garden too. He loved it better
than any place in the world. In the house
everyone was kind to him—very kind indeed
—far kinder, as it seemed to him, than they
were to each other; but all seemed to regard
him with a sort of mournful pity that he
could not at all understand. When his
mother took him on her knee and pressed
him to her breast, he knew that, though she
tried to smile on him, it was through a mist
of tears, and that some intense grief quick-
ened her heart-throbs ; he saw that even the
somewhat stern eyes of his father moistened

B



18 FAIRBRASS

when they looked upon him; and he never
ceased to marvel at the affectionate solicitude
of his eldest sister, who, at the sacrifice of
her own pleasures, made him her especial
care, who never tired of anticipating his
smallest wish, and who, if she had not had
many other things to do, would have followed
him about like a faithful spaniel. But there
was an odd and a painful thing about his
lifein the house. Kind, gentle, and loving as
all there were to him, no one ever spoke to
him. They talked and chattered to each other
(for they were a large family) quickly and
loudly enough, and Fairbrass could hear and
understand—but to him no word was ever said.

Now, in the garden all was so different.
There everything talked to him, and he
could answer them back (in the house he
never was able to speak), so it is no wonder
that he loved the dear old garden, and spent
as much of his time in it as he could.

His first friends, the graceful twin-sister
Poplar-trees, not only told him, in their
soft, silvery voices, the names of all the



THE LITTLE HOUSE IQ

animals, birds, trees, flowers and insects,
but introduced him to them, and, timid
though most of them were of making the
acquaintance of a human being (in truth
they had some cause to be frightened at the
species), the child’s manners were so sweet
and winning, and he seemed so anxious to
do no harm, that one and all took him to
their heart of hearts, and made him their
close companion and dearly-loved friend.

But happy as he was in the garden,
Fairbrass could not understand why he was
not spoken to in the house. For a long,
long time the poor little fellow felt so
sensitive about it that he did not like to say
a word to his outdoor friends ; but one day,
when he was about eight years old, he felt
that he could bear it no longer, and he
asked the Poplar-trees to tell him the reason.

For a moment they swayed away from
each other, as if in distress and desirous to
avoid the question; but then they quietly
kissed each other, and after a little whis-
pering the taller of the two said:



20 FAIRBRASS

‘Fairbrass, we have long felt that you
would ask this question, and we have often
wondered how we should answer you. We
think now that the time has come when you
should be told the truth. You cannot speak
to your father or mother, brothers or sisters,
or, indeed, to any human being, because
you are what the world calls dumb.’

‘Dumb?’ said Fairbrass. ‘What is
‘‘dumb”? That is a word they are always
using when they speak of me.’

‘Yes,’ said the shorter Poplar; ‘but
they would not dream of saying so, if they
did not think you were deaf, too.’

‘Deaf?’ asked Fairbrass. ‘What is
‘deaf’? They say that, too.’

‘Listen to me, dear,’ said the elder

sister. ‘Sometimes people are born into
the world who cannot speak : that is called
“dumb.” Most of these poor creatures

cannot hear; that is being ‘‘deaf.” In the
house they think that, because you cannot
speak, that is the case with you; but Heaven
has been kinder to you, dear, than that.



THE LITTLE HOUSE 21

You can hear as well as the best of them,
and though your father and mother and
brothers and sisters do not know it, the
trees and flowers and animals, and the birds
and insects do; and as they feel sure you
will never tell their secrets, we all talk to
you, and you are permitted to talk to us.’

‘Yes,’ said Fairbrass; ‘and you are all
more good to me than words can say; but
you cannot tell me all I want to know.
Why are my father and mother always so
sad? They love one another, they love my
brothers and sisters, and they love me; and
yet they always seem anxious and troubled.’

‘We know—we know!’ sighed the
Poplars, ‘for we hear them talk at night.
We do not quite understand all they say;
but there is something called business that
makes your father unhappy, and by talking
to her about it he makes your mother
unhappy, too.’

‘Business?’ said Fairbrass. ‘Oh yes,
I know !—that’s where my father goes
(though I don’t know why) every day.



22 FAIRBRASS

He goes first in the pony carriage, then in
the train, until he gets to the big town;
and in the evenings, when he comes home
again, he looks tired out. What is business?’

But that was a question that the two
maiden Poplars—who had never moved
from one spot since they were born, and
who had no intention of doing so until they @
died—could hardly be expected to answer; _
and so, for the time being, the conversation
came to an end.



HE

Lye ag
a OE BS Pika
oN SD F

ah \ared



2



CHARTER TT

BUSINESS.

UT the question was one
that’ Fairbrass did not mean
to let drop, and, having well
thought the matter over, he
came to the conclusion that

his friends the birds, who flew so fast and

so far, and therefore knew so much more
of the world than the flowers and trees that
could never get outside the precincts of the

Little House, would be the most likely to





24 FAIRBRASS

tell him, so, on a bright day in the early
summer, when he was alone in the garden, °
he caught the ear of a swiftly-flying House
Martin, and said to him:

‘What is business ?’

‘This,’ cried the House Martin, as he
deftly plastered the piece of adhesive mud
that he carried in his beak in exactly the
right spot on the little semi-circular nest he
was building under the eaves of the house.
‘This is business—or at all events it is my
business—and I have no time just now to
bother about anybody else’s.’

‘And this is my business,’ said a glossy
Blackbird, who from the lawn had over-
heard the question, and who spoke between
the fierce tugs that with his strong yellow
bill he was making at a fine fat worm who
was reluctantly bidding good-bye to the
brown juicy soil where he lived in peace.

‘And this is mine,’ said a handsome red-
backed Shrike, as he mercilessly impaled a
struggling beetle on a strong thorn in the
orchard hedgerow.



BUSINESS 25

‘And mine will come a little later on
when the cherries are ripe,’ said the Bull-
finch; ‘when you will want them all for
the house, and when I shall get up earlier
than you, and have most of them for myself.
Ha, ha! that’s what I call business.’

‘And what do you think of mine?’ said
the Kestrel, as he suddenly dropped from
his poise in the blue sky and struck poor
boastful Bully with unerring aim. The
Kestrel would have made off with his prey,
but in deep distress Fairbrass rushed in, too
late, however, to do good. The Hawk
darted away with an angry shriek, and the
poor little songster throbbed its heart out in
the boy’s warm hand. As Fairbrass stroked
its soft and beautifully carmine-tinted breast,
and thought of the cherries that the poor
thing (little thief though he might be) would
never enjoy, his eyes filled with tears, and
throwing himself on the ground, he sobbed
out :

‘T hate business! It is all horrid selfish-
ness and eating each other up. The House



- 26 FAIRBRASS

Martin was the best of them, but he
was so busy with his sticky mud that he
wouldn’t say a word to me. I know now
why poor father looks so sad when he
comes home from that wicked thing called
business.’

‘Not so fast, Fairbrass,’ said a tall
Hollyhock, with a great number of rose-red
blooms, of which it was immensely proud,
and with any number of buds ready to
replace the rose-red blooms when they had
gone, and so make a fine second show.
‘Not so fast, my young friend. What is
the use of asking birds the meaning of
business? Their one idea of life is to kill
and fight and steal as much as they can.
That’s their idea of business. They’re mere
rabble, are the birds.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ said Fairbrass,
hotly. ‘What about their singing ?’

‘Very vastly over-rated, I consider,’ said
the Hollyhock ; ‘and yet to be quite just,
which I always try to be, if some of it wakes
‘my buds up too early in the morning, it



BUSINESS 27

becomes so drowsily monotonous as the
hours roll on that it sends my petals to
sleep in excellent time in the evening.’

‘And then look at their nests,’ argued
Fairbrass. ‘Was there anything ever more
lovely than a bird’s nest ?’

‘They’re neat in their way, I'll admit,’
said the Hollyhock, ‘and I know that they
take immense pains over them; but, dear
me! what for? More often than not the
nests get stolen by mischievous boys; and
if that doesn’t happen, they are foolish
enough to hatch ugly young birds in them,
who treat their parents’ carefully-built and
daintily-lined homes as if they were mere
pigsties, and generally end by making them
not fit for a decent bird to live in, and then
they take wing and leave the weak-minded
old folk who brought them into existence,
and fed them as long as they could not feed
themselves, to make shift all alone. Oh! yes,
birds call nest-building and egg-hatching
business. From my point of view, birds
are almost as ridiculous in the fuss they



28 FAIRBRASS

make about life as you human beings.
Now, just you look at me :

‘IT am looking at you,’ interrupted Fair-
brass, ‘and I think you think much too
much of yourself.’



‘I have good reason to be proud,’ said
the Hollyhock pompously. ‘Many, many
years ago a great king—he was, indeed, the
wisest of all kings—paid a great tribute to
our family. ‘‘ Consider,” said King Solo-
mon, kissing his hand to an ancestor of
mine—who was, by the way, not half so
fine or handsome as I am—‘‘ consider the
hollyhocks of the——” ’

‘You're quite wrong,’ put in Fairbrass.
‘King Solomon never said anything of the
sort ; and you’re mixing up hollyhocks and
lilies.’

‘Pooh, pooh!’ said the Hollyhock.
‘I’ve heard that tale before; but that’s a
mere mistranslation. Do you think that
with one of my family in his garden he’d
have had a thought for a pale washed-out
creature like the lily ?’



BUSINESS 29

But as the Hollyhock was not quite sure
of his ground, he showed that underneath
his vanity lay a certain amount of common-
sense, and so he wisely forbore to continue
the discussion. |

‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ cried poor little
Fairbrass, as he lay on the grass in despair ;
‘who will tell me what the business is that
my father goes to every day, and which
makes him and mother so sad when he
comes home in the evening ?’

‘I’ve got an idea for you my boy,’ said
a voice at his feet, and, looking down, he
found that the speaker was a pert-looking,
smartly -variegated, crimson and _ white
Picotee, who, with a close cluster of his
equally gay-looking brothers and sisters,
was lazily sunning himself and sweetly
scenting the warm summer air.

‘What is it?’ asked Fairbrass, for he
was willing to jump at any chance.

‘It is this,’ said the Picotee. ‘You
know how fond your father is of putting
one of us in his buttonhole when he goes



30 FAIRBRASS

to his business in the great town. Well,
we do not complain of that, because, after
all, he lets us live rent free here, waters
us when the weather is dry, and in many
other ways shows that he likes us. Now,
my idea is this. You know how much he
loves to have a flower from your hands.
Very well. To-morrow morning you come
and pick me. He will put me in his
buttonhole; I shall go to town with him.
I will take careful note of everything that
happens; and in the evening, if you will
take care to take me and bring me back
here, [ll tell you and the members of my
family all that I have seen and heard. I
have often thought that I should like a day
in town.’

‘You dear, good Picotee!’ cried Fair-
brass. ‘Why, you are as clever as you
are beautiful; and if only father does not
leave you on his office table, or throw you
out of the railway-carriage window, I am
certain that you will tell me all I want to
know.’



BUSINESS 3

And full of new ideas and new hopes,
and thankful to think that he had so many
friends, Fairbrass returned to the house and
went happily to bed.

In the morning he was up and out
betimes to pluck the brave Picotee.

‘Hush!’ said that finely-streaked, and

by this time dew-bespangled volunteer,
as Fairbrass with outstretched hand knelt
down by his side. ‘Hush! and don’t
pick me until you have heard what I have
to say. The other members of my family
are all, as you can see, fast asleep. I,
being determined to help you, have been
awake all night thinking of you and your
affairs. Now, please to be attentive, or
between us things may go wrong. What
did you say last night about office tables
and railway-carriage windows ?’

‘Only this,’ said Fairbrass. ‘Often and
often when father comes home without his
flower in his button-hole, and they ask him
where it is, he tells them that he has either
left it on the table or thrown it out of the



32 FAIRBRASS

window; and then I am sorry, because |
know that the poor blossom is dead. Now,
then, you kind, pretty Picotee, are you
ready to be picked and to go on your
journey ?’

‘No,’ said the Picotee firmly ; ‘because
I have thought of another and a wiser
plan. I think, after all, that I am rather
too old to undertake the day’s work. You
mustn’t for one moment imagine that I
have any misgivings with regard to the
office table or the railway-carriage window
—indeed, I may tell you in confidence that
I don’t know what fear is—but I can’t help
fancying that, as I have been up all night,
in the course of the day I might be tempted
to drop off to sleep, and so miss things that
would be useful to you.’

‘Then, is this scheme to fall through ?’
asked Fairbrass anxiously.

‘Certainly not,’ said the Picotee; ‘and
now I come to another point. Much as I
should like to go to town myself, I always
like to be unselfish, and to give young folk



BUSINESS 33

a chance ; and over yonder—fast asleep in
the furthest corner of our bed—is a hand-
some young relative of mine who would
give anything to have the jolly day in your
father’s button-hole that I am quite willing
to deny myself. Go and pick him, Fair-
brass, and then, when he wakes up, we will
give him a joyful surprise. When you are
as old as I am, my dear, you will know that
the greatest delight in life is the power that
sometimes comes in our way of giving
pleasure to others.’

So, full of admiration for the unsel-
fishness of the Old Picotee, Fairbrass picked
the Young Picotee, and, when he found
that that dainty little rascal did not seem to
be at all grateful for the treat that was in
store for him, and even declared that he
would rather stay where he was, he became
quite indignant. As for the Old Picotee,
he gave it the young jackanapes roundly,
and told Fairbrass not to listen to him, but
to carry him straight off to his father.

This Fairbrass did, and then the Old

c



34 FAIRBRASS

Picotee, having lain awake all night think-
ing how he might benefit others, felt justi-
fied in taking a morning’s nap. And why
he was disturbed by feverish dreams of
office-tables and railway-carriage windows
it is hard to say.

In the evening Fairbrass was the first to
welcome his father home. Happily, and
looking remarkably fresh, the Young Pico-
tee was still in his button-hole ; in regaining
possession of him Fairbrass had no difficulty,
and by the family bedside in the garden
there was soon an interested conclave.

‘Now,’ said the Old Picotee, ‘speak up,
and speak the truth. Tell us all you have
seen, and be sure that if you try to deceive
us I shall find you out.’

‘Pooh !” said the Young Picotee pertly.
“You couldn’t do anything of the sort!
You have never been to town.’

‘Perhaps not,’ was the testy reply ;
‘but I am older than you, and age has to be
respected. Age, to those who are favoured



BUSINESS 35

enough to have it, ranks far higher than
mere experience.’

‘But have you found out what ‘‘business’”’
is?’ asked Fairbrass eagerly. ‘I am more
anxious to know than ever. My father
when he went away this morning looked
so sad, and when he kissed my mother this
evening he told her that things were going
from bad to worse. What is this horrid
“business” that wears his life out and
brings black clouds into our bright home ?’

‘TI will tell you, Fairbrass,’ said the
Young Picotee, ‘and I will tell you very
briefly—indeed, I must, for I shall never
outlive the excitement of this day, and before
to-morrow’s dewdrops come I shall be dead.’

‘Oh, I am so sorry!’ said Fairbrass.
‘Why, you will die because of me!’

‘Never mind about that, dear,’ was the
gentle reply ; ‘we all must die some day—
life is not to be counted by time—and |
have lived more and seen more in a few

hours than if, like old Stick-in-the-Mud



36 FAIRBRASS

yonder, I had been allowed to wither on my
stalk, as he will, only to make seed.’

‘If you allude to me ’ said the Old
Picotee fiercely. |

‘Be quiet !’ cried Fairbrass. ‘ Be quiet,
or I will pick you.’

The Old Picotee murmured something
about the ingratitude of the world, and held
his peace, and the Young Picotee went on:

‘As I have said, Fairbrass, I feel that
my time is short, and so I will not trouble
you with descriptions of the things that I
saw, or explain to you how I came to know
their names. I must, as briefly as may be,
confine myself to facts. Well then, Fairbrass,
after he had said good-bye to you all, and
turned back and sighed and kissed his hand
to your mother, your father went briskly off
to the station, and there, buying a news-
paper, seemed to become very much inter-
ested in its contents. Very soon the train
rushed in, and your father got into a com-
partment nearly full of jolly-looking gentle-
men, who all seemed to expect him, and who





BUSINESS 37

had kept what they called ‘‘his usual place”
for him. They were all smoking cigars,
and your father—who seemed to be very
popular, because he was able to tell what
they all called the ‘‘last new story ’’—soon
had one alight too, and very much he
seemed to enjoy it. Although they all
shrieked with laughter at the story, I can’t
say that I thought much of it, and, if you
will excuse me, Fairbrass, I won’t repeat it
to you.’

‘Quite right, quite right,’ murmured the
Old Picotee, who wanted to make out that
the Young Picotee could not tell anything
that he did not know, and professing to
have the questionable story off by heart.

‘When the train reached the town
station, Fairbrass,’ the other went on, ‘your
father took me straight to his office.’

‘Oh, yes; I know,’ sighed Fairbrass.
‘The office—the place that he hates so
much !’

‘Does he?’ asked the Young Picotee.
‘Well, it seemed to me to be comfortable



38 FAIRBRASS

enough. There was a soft carpet on the
floor, a pretty paper and some maps and
pictures on the walls, and it was very hand-
somely furnished. The first thing that your
father did was to take me out of his button-
hole and put me in a glass of water which
stood on the chimney-piece, and glad enough
I was of a drink after my journey, I can
tell you. Then he lighted another cigar
and opened some letters and read some more
newspapers ; and after that he rang the bell
and when a smart-looking young clerk came
in he told him that he should be out for
about half an hour, and that the young man
was on no account to leave the office during
his absence. After that he went out.’

‘What, without taking you with him ?’
gasped Fairbrass.

‘Yes ; and at first I thought that my
mission was a failure, and that even if I
ever got back to you, I should have nothing
to tell you; but after a bit I began to see
that my being left there was the luckiest
thing in the world, for I believe that owing



BUSINESS 39

to that I learnt more about your father and
his business than I should have done if I
had been with him all day long. Well,
your father’s clerk made himself very com-
fortable in your father’s chair, and read the
newspapers, and sang scraps of songs, and
did his best to amuse himself until he was
interrupted by the appearance of another
smart young clerk with a letter for your
father. The two, who seemed to be on very
friendly terms with each other, decided that,
as they had so happily met, they must
go and have ‘‘an eleven o’clock,” as they
called it, together, and I felt certain that I
should be left alone, when your father’s
clerk, catching sight of me, said, ‘‘ Hullo!
I'll give the girls a treat. [Il hide
myself behind the governor’s bush ;” and
with these words he put me in his button-
hole, and we all three went out together.
In a few moments we were in a bright
room, where, in front of a long counter,
quite a number of smart young clerks sat on
high stools, talking merrily, but not very



40 FAIRBRASS

politely, and I thought rather foolishly, to
the gaily-dressed and highly-complexioned
young ladies who stood behind it and served
them with different coloured drinks in dif-
ferent shaped glasses. This was, I discovered,
the ceremony known as ‘‘an eleven o’clock.”’
‘As luck would have it, the conversation
fell on your father, everyone wanting to
know how the young gentleman who wore
me got on in what he called his ‘‘new
berth.” He was very talkative, and as
another young clerk who was present, and
who seemed to have been formerly in your
father’s employ, approved of all that he
said, I suppose there is some truth in it.
‘And now, Fairbrass, I shall tell you as
nearly as I can, and in some of the odd
terms that I heard used, the things concern-
ing your father that were conveyed to me:
‘In the first place, everyone seemed to
like him. They called him a ‘‘perfect gentle-
man” and a ‘‘real good sort,” but they all
seemed agreed that the idea of his—without
any business training or experience,



BUSINESS 41

and simply because he had quarrelled
with his father—setting up at his time of
life as a land and insurance agent was the
finest specimen of ‘‘tommy rot” that could
be imagined. There seemed to bea general
conviction among these shrewd young gen-
tlemen that he was ‘‘too big for his boots,”’
being too proud to ask for business, and
often making mistakes with it when it came
in his way. They said that he had made a
mistake in joining a ‘‘swagger” club, where
he was looked upon as a county ‘‘ swell,”
and where he lounged away a good deal too
much time; and there seemed to be a
unanimous belief that if he stayed away
from town altogether he would be the richer
by the amount of his office rent, his clerk’s
“screw,” his railway season-ticket, and his
club expenses. But they all liked him,
Fairbrass, and all were of the opinion that
he really thought he was working hard and
doing a good thing for his wife and family
by trying to ‘‘build up a business” for
them.



42 FAIRBRASS

‘By this time my wearer seemed to
think he ought to be going; and then a
thing occurred that might have proved fatal
to my errand.

‘One of the brilliantly decorated young
ladies, who had waited upon the young clerk,
and joked with him, and who struck me as
being a terribly loud, forward, and alto-
gether vulgar young lady, not at all the
kind I have been used to see here at home,
begged that she might be allowed to take
me out of his coat and keep me. Fora
moment I shuddered, but your father’s clerk
was loyal, and said she must be content
with what he called one ‘‘long, strong sniff”
of me. The girl bent forward, and as she
inhaled my perfume I heard her softly
murmur something about being reminded
of ‘fold times.” And then I knew that I
had taken her back to long ago and, per-
haps, half-forgotten days, when she played
ina country garden with some of my relations
for her fragrant comrades. I saw a tear
glisten in her eye as she went back to her



BUSINESS 43

duties at the jingling and drink-drabbled
counter, and through that tear she flashed
indignantly at the next thoughtless customer
who, as in duty bound, made her some
coarse compliment. It is true that she
quickly recovered herself and paid him back
in his own coin; but I am sure that I still
linger in her mind, and in future I mean to
be very, very careful how I judge only by
appearances.’

‘Get on with your story, you nincompoop,’
said the Old Picotee testily. ‘If you stay
to sentimentalize like this, you will be dead
before you get to the end of it. Please to
remember that you’ve been picked, and that
your hours are numbered.’

‘Well,’ said the explorer, ignoring this
interruption, and addressing himself exclu-
sively to Fairbrass, ‘I was taken back to
the office and restored to my glass of water,
and by-and-by your father came in, put me
in his buttonhole again, and, saying he was
bound for the club, off we went.

‘Just outside his office door your father



44 FAIRBRASS

met a friend—an earnest-eyed and kindly-
looking gentleman, who, grasping him
cordially by the hand, expressed a hope that-
his business was progressing. ‘‘ Don’t ask
me,” said your father sadly. ‘‘ I am hope-
less—hopeless.”’

‘And then he took me into his club.
It would be difficult for me to tell you,
Fairbrass, what a beautiful place your
father’s club is. There is, to begin with,
a splendid entrance hall, and you go from
that upstairs and down into richly decorated
and finely furnished rooms for reading,
writing, lunching, dining, smoking, and
playing cards and billiards in. Your father,
who seemed to have friends everywhere,
took me into all these rooms, and I felt
quite bewildered until he sat down at a table
where a party of merry gentlemen, who were
eating and drinking, welcomed him, and
where he, too, made a meal.’

‘What did he have ?’ asked the Old
Picotee, who was of a very curious turn of
mind.



BUSINESS 45

‘I know,’ said Fairbrass: ‘he had cold
mutton. I know from what he has said
that he always lives exactly the same as we
do, and at home we had cold mutton for
dinner.’

‘No,’ said the Young Picotee, ‘he didn’t
havecold mutton. He had fish, and cutlets,
and several other things, and he drank
wine that sparkled in his glass. Well, after
that he had a cup of coffee and smoked a
cigar with one of his friends, and he smoked
another cigar and had a game of billiards
with another of his friends. Then he looked
at his watch, said he had no idea it was so
late, and going quickly back to his office,
gave his clerk a few hurried instructions,
thrust a lot of papers into a drawer, remark-
ing that they would have to wait till to-
morrow, and then we came home again by
the train.’

‘Well, Fairbrass,’ said the Old Picotee,
with something like a sneer, ‘what do you
think of ‘‘ business ” ?’

‘I hardly know what to make of it,’



46 FAIRBRASS

said Fairbrass ; ‘but I rather wish he had
had cold mutton for dinner. But then,’ he
quickly added, ‘I ought to remember that
he did not have afternoon tea. It was
mother’s day ‘‘at home” to-day, and a lot
of ladies came to see her, and they had
afternoon tea with cakes, and scones, and
fruit, and no end of good things. I saw
them being taken into the drawing-room.’

‘That reminds me to tell you,’ said the
Young Picotee, ‘of a thing I was almost
forgetting. On the railway journey home
your father travelled with the earnest-eyed
gentleman he met in the street just before
he went to the club, and they had a very
serious talk together. Your father said he
was most anxious about the business, which
did not at all come up to his expectations,
and the gentleman strongly advised him to
work hard and persevere in it. He then said
that, as an old and sincere friend, he should
take a liberty and give him a word of
advice. He ought to cut down expenses at
home.



BUSINESS 47

‘ «That is impossible,” said your father.
‘*T spend nothing there on myself, and I have
the best and most economical wife in the
world.”

‘**T know that your wife is good and
conscientious,” said the gentleman; ‘ but
is it not a fact that it is her ambition to mix
in the very best society, and that she is a
little too anxious to entertain people whose
incomes are far larger than yours ?”

‘* Anda very laudable ambition, too,”
said your father.

‘** But one that costs a good deal,” said
the gentleman.

‘“¢ T won't have a word said against my
wife,” said your father hotly.

‘**Of course not,” said the gentleman ;
‘but I think someone ought to tell her that
it is rather hard that, while you slave as
you do at your business, she should spend
so much money at home.”’

‘To this your father made no reply, and
soon after he held your mother in his arms.
It is a beautiful thing, Fairbrass, to see



48 FAIRBRASS

people loving each other as they do, and to
know how unselfish towards each other
their love makes them.’ But here the voice
of the Young Picotee grew faint. ‘I am
going to die, Fairbrass. I knew that the
long day in the hot and dusty town would
kill me. I should have liked to live a little
longer, but if I have been useful to you I
am not sorry. Good-bye, dear, remember
me.’

‘Remember you, you dear, good, brave
Picotee!’ said Fairbrass, with tears in his
eyes. ‘Indeed I will remember you as
long as I live; for, if you will let me, I
will dry you between the pages of my little
book.’

And then the Picotee passed peacefully
and happily away, for it knew that, being
dried in a book, it would be remembered
for many long years to come, and that—
for in all truth they are a vain and some-
what foolish lot—is the chief ambition of
the Picotee family.

‘Dried in the pages of a book! He!’



BUSINESS 49

cried the Old Picotee—‘he! While I
Oh, it is too much! This is the result of
being unselfish! This comes of giving up
one’s chance to others. Never again!’

But the sentence remained unfinished,
for in his rage he shook himself so violently
that his petals fell off, and were blown to
all corners of the garden. And so he died
without the remotest chance of being
thought of any more.

But Fairbrass took the Young Picotee
into the house, and, having kissed it, laid
it tenderly between the pages of his little
book, and, closing the gilt clasp, went into
the room where the family were assembled.

As he entered he noticed that his father
was asleep in an arm chair, and his mother
was saying to his restless and chattering
brothers and sisters:

‘Hush, dears! Father must not be
disturbed. In trying to get money for us
all he has had a long and tiring day ; and I
want to be quiet, too, for I have to write
out the invitations to a little dinner-party



D



50 FAIRBRASS

that we are to give the week after next.
Now, which of you will be good and find
me the envelopes with the gold crest on
them ?’







CHAPTER IV.
THE KNEELING KNIGHT.

yy
“Cll |NE of the greatest of puzzles

|} to Fairbrass was the church
to which he was taken every
; Sunday, a fine old church
' very near to his home, and
within easy hail of the friendly Poplar-
trees. As far as he was concerned, he liked
the church and its services well enough.
There was to him something remarkably
cosy in being packed away once a week





52 FAIRBRASS

with his father and mother and his brothers
and sisters in the old-fashioned, oak-
fenced, red-cushioned pew. He loved to
gaze at the stained-glass windows, and
drowsily to count in zigzag fashion, some-
times this way and sometimes that, their
lozenged panes; the deep swell and flute-
like notes of the organ had a fascinating
effect on his speculative little mind, and the
singing voices of the choir and the worship-
pers filled him with sweet thoughts and
quiet content. It was not the form of the
service, the Bible lessons, nor even the
sermons, that puzzled him. In these.
matters he felt that, speechless as he was,
he was at a disadvantage, and he cheerfully
resigned himself to his lot.

Of course he knew well enough that if
he could only talk, and, if concerning things
that sometimes seemed mysterious to him,
he could ask questions of his father and
mother—or perhaps even better still, in a
special case of this sort, of the clergyman
—everything would be made as plain and



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 53

clear to him as no doubt it must be to
his more fortunately endowed fellow-
worshippers.

These things—since he understood the
fact that they must ever remain dark to
him—troubled him not one jot; but he did
wonder why people who, for an hour or
two on Sunday, became so fervent about
brotherly love, forgiveness of enemies, and
prayers for mercy—who week after week
seemed to make strong resolutions to amend
shortcomings, and for ever after to lead the
lives of saints—should, on Monday morning,
behave precisely as if all this had never
taken place. Monday morning! Why,
directly the Sunday service was over, he
could hear the churchgoers, as they gos-
sipped strolling homewards, complain that
the preacher was too long, that the Psalms
were out of tune, that the anthem was
atrocious, and the appeal to contribute to
the collection was too bad, through coming
so often! And all this from folk who, with
bent knees, bated breath, and covered faces,



54 FAIRBRASS

had only a few moments before apparently
acknowledged themselves to be spiritually
exalted, and vowed that evermore they
would live in charity towards all things and
all men! As a broad question this, and
the fact that the members of the congrega-
tion who knelt together were, outside the
church-doors, exceedingly chary of knowing
each other, puzzled Fairbrass; but his
greatest perplexity lay nearer home.

Quite close to the pew that was set
apart for the use of the inmates of the
Little House at the foot of the Hill, was
a very exclusive, richly carpeted, and
altogether luxurious enclosure devoted,
through many succeeding generations, to
those who owned the Large House on the
side of the Hill. By the way, God’s House
(with the beautiful blue ceiling), on the top
of the Hill, had no pew, and seemed to do
just as well without it.

And this is what bewildered Fairbrass.
For week after week he watched his gray-
haired, grim old grandfather in his seat,



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 55

listening attentively to the service: he was
near to his own father (the stanchest of
Churchmen), apparently eagerly drinking
in the same words: he knew that one House
was rich and lonely, the other poor and
over-peopled; and yet neither Beliefs, nor
Collects, nor Confessions, nor anything else
in the whole of the beautiful Liturgy,
seemed likely to heal the breach that lay
between them. Whenever the Parable of the
Prodigal Son was read, Fairbrass was on
the alert and expectant—not that he regarded
his father in the light of a prodigal, or for
one moment looked forward to a dinner of
roast veal, and whatever goes with it, at the
Large House on the side of the Hill; but
thinking, in a general way, that something
ought to come out of the two listening to
that matchless story of filial disobedience
and parental forgiveness—more especially
as in this case there was no elder brother
and prosaically dutiful son to offer not
unreasonable objections to merrymaking
that seemed likely to lead to ill-considered



56 FAIRBRASS

codicils to an already sensibly-made and
properly-signed will.

No. Within a few feet of each other this
estranged father and son, to the amazement
of little Fairbrass, joined in the singing of
praises and the praying of prayers, and
listened to the lessons of Testaments old
and new, and the words of preachers good
and bad, but always in earnest; but no
thought of reconciliation seemed to enter
into the mind of either the one or the other.

One warm summer Sunday morning
Fairbrass was vexing his mind about these
things when he ought to have been attending
to the sermon. It was a lovely morning,
and there were in truth many things
calculated to distract the attention of the
congregation from the somewhat droning
voice of the worthy preacher. The sun-
shine was streaming through the stained-
glass windows, and casting mellow colours
on pews and pavement. In the roof of the
church starlings chattered, round its ancient
tower the voice of the jackdaw could be



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 57

heard ; the shrilling of the swifts, as they
swirled in the soft air, kept up a fitful
accompaniment to these homely sounds;
and the restless flight of a much perturbed
swallow that had somehow found its way
into the church, and was quite as anxious
to get out of it as the fidgetty school-children
who half filled the galleries, was a thing to
watch with eager interest.

But Fairbrass was unmindful for the
moment of these active feathered friends of
his. He was wondering with all his might
who could tell him why it was that the ser-
vices that his parents joined in so heartily,
and so often, and the sermons that they
listened to so attentively, seemed of such
little real use to them in their everyday lives,
and why, this being the indisputable fact,
they did not give up coming to church and
try some other source of aid and comfort,
when, looking up, his eye encountered that
of a very constant and very silent member
of the congregation, known as the Kneeling
Knight.



58 FAIRBRASS

So constant was the Kneeling Knight
in his devotions that he had knelt in that
church through the winters and summers of
many succeeding generations, and it follows
as a matter of course that he was not of
human flesh and blood, but only the marble
representative of the poor bones that lay
deep beneath the traceried stonework that
supported the canopy beneath which he
bent his sculptured knee.

Fairbrass had always been curiously
interested in this famous statue of the
Kneeling Knight (it was, indeed, a statue
so much spoken of in books that it attracted
visitors from afar, and was therefore held
in a certain amount of local estimation), and
now it occurred to him that if the Knight—
a church-goer whose experiences extended
over hundreds of years—could only speak
to him, he would get all the information
he required. And at this moment a won-
derful thing occurred. The Kneeling
Knight actually winked his stony eye at
Fairbrass. If the congregation had seen



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 59

this miracle in a place where they accepted
miracles as matters of fact, there would
surely have been a panic, but the Knight
knew all about that, and timed his signal
well. Nobody saw it but the captive
swallow and Fairbrass. The poor swallow
was so frightened and bewildered that,
in ‘sheer mistake it blundered through the
open window that had been its forgotten
entrance to the church, and which it had
vainly endeavoured to find, and so made
good its escape; but Fairbrass was delighted.
That knightly wink conveyed to him the
message, ‘I can talk to you, my boy, just
as tue other supposed-to-be-dumb things
can do, and if you want a gossip I am quite
ready to make an appointment with you.’
And so when the service was over,
Fairbrass contrived to slip away from his
family, and as soon as the church was quite
empty, and its heavy doors were closed, he
climbed up the stonework and shared the
Kneeling Knight’s canopy. The Knight,
it appeared, had not knelt for centuries for



60 FAIRBRASS

nothing. His patient perseverance—just
as patient perseverance always is—had been
recompensed ; and deaf, stone-deaf, though
he appeared to be, he had been rewarded
with the wonderful gift of being able to
read the thoughts of all who came to service
in the church in which, by night and day,
year after year, century after century, he
kept watch and ward.

‘Well,’ said the Kneeling Knight to
Fairbrass, ‘what is it? I know that you
want to know something, and as the
swallow, who really must be stopped from
trying to build a nest between my nose and
my chin,told me you could speak to me, and I
could speak to you, I thought I would ask
you to stop and have a chat with me.
Well, what can I do for you?’

‘J want to know,’ said Fairbrass—‘ and
as you have attended so many hundreds
and hundreds of Church services, I don’t
think I could ask a better person—whether
religion is really any good to people.’

‘What do you mean by religion ?’ asked









Tosa




———>
a oy











fea PENNY

SWE ee






WN
a





FAIRBRASS AND THE KNEELING KNIGHT.



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 61

the Knight, with an uneasy glance at the
swallow, who, now that the Church was
quiet, flew in again through the window
with a piece of mud in her bill.

‘Why, coming to church, I suppose,’
said Fairbrass.

‘Yes,’ said the Knight, ‘that’s what
most people call religion; but it isn’t.’

And here the swallow neatly placed a
patch of mud underneath the poor Knight’s
nostrils.

‘There!’ said the Knight. ‘That’s
what your friend the swallow comes to
church for. Do please explain to her,
Fairbrass, that, as she doesn’t give any-
thing towards the expenses, she has no
right to throw mud into the face of a
constant member of the congregation, whose
friends paid lots of money for him long ago.’

The swallow only required the kindly
hint given by Fairbrass, and immediately
withdrew.

‘What I want to know,’ continued Fair-
brass, ‘is, why doesn’t coming to church



62 FAIRBRASS

make people really happy? I hear them
say that it comforts them, but, really, they
seem just as discontented when the service
is over as they did before it began.’

‘Tl tell you one of the reasons,’ said
the Kneeling Knight. ‘Most of the people
who come here are, for private reasons of
their own, more or less unhappy; and the
worst of it is, they think everyone except
themselves is happy.. Oh! yes, I can read
their thoughts, and I know that what I say
is right. For example, your rich grand-
father, who sits alone in his great pew, is
unhappy because he cannot get investments
to pay him well for his money ; and instead
of attending to the service and the sermon,
he worries about that, and envies the poor
old labouring man who sits in the free seats,
is never expected to give anything to the
collection, and has no stake in the country.
Your father is unhappy, Fairbrass, because
he lives in dread that he should die before
he has made what the world would call
suitable provision for his children ; and he,



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 63

too, envies the labouring man, whose boys
and girls know, as soon as they are able to
know anything at all, that there is no chance
of their father ever being able to leave them
anything, and so they learn to shift for
themselves.’

‘And is the labouring man unhappy
about anything ?’ asked Fairbrass.

‘Rather!’ said the Kneeling Knight,
‘He’s always thinking how little stands
between him and the workhouse (and,
indeed, there isn’t much); and he envies
your father almost as much as he does your
grandfather—indeed, more, for he’s not so

~ old.’

‘But I should think, as he is so unhappy,
he is glad to be old,’ said Fairbrass. ‘ He
will die all the sooner, poor fellow! and
then his troubles will be at an end.’

‘Oh, nobody who comes here, be the
fancied unhappiness what it may, wants to
die,’ said the Kneeling Knight.

‘Are you sure of that?’ asked Fairbrass.
‘They all say, ‘‘ Thy kingdom come,” and



64 FAIRBRASS

all the clergymen tell them that the next
world will be a far happier place than this.’

‘Yes,’ answered the Kneeling Knight ;
‘but none of them—not even the clergymen
themselves—are in any hurry to live in it.
You ask the doctors. They’ll tell you how
hard they all try, directly they think they
are near it, to keep out of it.’

‘That’s very strange,’ said Fairbrass.

‘It’s very true,’ replied the Kneeling
Knight; ‘and the men who are least
anxious to try the change are the doctors
themselves.’

‘Then I don’t believe people are half as
unhappy in this world as you think they
are,’ said Fairbrass. ‘If they are, why do
they want to stay here?’

‘I’m quite certain,’ said the Knight,
‘that people are not nearly so unhappy as
they suppose themselves to be, but then, if
you really believe a thing—however ridicu-
lous it may be—it seems to be a fact.’

‘You are wrong, though, in saying,’
said Fairbrass—who seemed to think that his



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 65

friend was getting the best of the argument
—‘that well-to-do people do not sometimes
envy the poor. Why, only last night my
mother read aloud,

‘““T would I were a milkmaid,

To sing, love, marry, churn,
Brew, bake, and die,”
and then said, ‘‘ There, that’s exactly what
feelese,

‘Bosh!’ said the Kneeling Knight,
‘Most of the time she was in church this
morning she was wishing she was more
expensively dressed, and that she could
entertain her friends in the same style as
her more wealthy neighbours. Milkmaid
indeed! She wouldn’t keep the place a
week,’

‘And my father,’ said Fairbrass, taking
no notice of this not very polite remark, ‘is
very fond of repeating: ‘‘ Happy men are
full of the present, for its beauty suffices
them; and wise men also, for its duties
engage them.” And I thought of that this
morning, and felt certain he was happy.

E



66 FAIRBRASS

He loves the beautiful service, and knows
that he is doing his duty by coming here.
So the two things come together.’

‘Fudge!’ replied the Kneeling Knight,
scornfully. ‘Beauty and duty indeed!
Fairbrass, I’m afraid you’re a bit of a day-
dreamer. Your father was thinking of
neither the one nor the other, but was
grizzling over the future, and wondering
how on earth he’s going to find the money
to pay for the clothes that your mother is
tired of, and the expenses of the parties that
are forgotten by everybody who came to
them. Beauty and duty! Cash or crash
would be more to the purpose.’

‘But won’t you allow that anybody is
happy in church?’ asked Fairbrass wist-
fully. ‘Not even the young people who
don’t know what troubles and anxieties are?’

‘Why, my dear boy,’ was the answer,
‘don’t you know that, in proportion, their
little vexations are really as great and as
hard to bear as their parents’ genuine cares?
a fact, by the way, that the fathers and



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 67

mothers who come to this church never
seem able to realise. Oh yes, the girls who
call themselves young ladies are unhappy
about their lovers, and their parents’ views
concerning them, to say nothing of the fact
that they know they are not dressed in the
latest fashions of the day. The lads who
consider themselves young gentlemen are in
a state of ferment with regard to their
sweethearts, and the tailors’ bills that,
in order to captivate them, they have run
up without their parents knowing. All
these envy the peasant lads and lasses who
seem so healthily cheerful, but who, in their
turn, long for the others’ finery.’

‘It’s a very unsatisfactory world,’ said
Fairbrass, ‘isn’t it?’

‘In a way it is,’ said the Kneeling
Knight ; ‘and yet, if people didn’t long for
what they havn’t got, nobody would try to
get it, and so nothing would ever be done
by anybody !’

‘Ah!’ said Fairbrass, ‘there you’re
right. Everybody ought to want to be



68 FAIRBRASS

great. Oh, if I could only be a mighty
orator !’

‘Ah!’ the Kneeling Knight replied
compassionately, ‘I knew that was certain to
be your pet wish, for the simple reason that
you can’t speak. All human beings who
are worthy of the name set out with a desire
for what they never can attain.’

‘And I shall never be of any use in the
world,’ sighed Fairbrass.

‘Hush!’ said the Kneeling Knight;
‘don’t say that, but listen to this.’

Unperceived by Fairbrass, some of the
younger choristers had been brought into
the church for hymn practice, and now, to
the soul-stirring accompaniment of the great
organ, the boys’ fresh voices sang :

‘If on our daily course our mind

Be set to hallow all we find,

New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

‘The trivial round, the common task,
Would furnish all we ought to ask,
Room to deny ourselves, a road

To bring us daily nearer God.’



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 69

‘There!’ said the Kneeling Knight ;
‘you go home and do that, and you will ©
have done a bigger thing than most men.
Oh, how much happier the people who
come to this church would be if they could
take comfort out of the blessings that each
day brings with it, and would make use of
the opportunities that each hour affords.
Instead of that, men vex their weary souls
about fame and money, and women worry
their pretty heads about society and the
fashions.’

‘It’s all very well for you to talk,’ said
Fairbrass. ‘It’s a case of sour grapes with
you. You know very well you can’t get
any new clothes, and so you make out that
you don’t want them.’

‘Bless the lad!’ said the Kneeling
Knight. ‘Does he think I want to kneel
here in a frock-coat and a top hat! No,
Fairbrass. If ever you marry, you tell
your wife that a wise man once said:
‘‘Fashion is gentility running away from
vulgarity, and afraid of being overtaken by



7O FAIRBRASS

it. It is a sign the two things are not far
asunder.” If you can get her to act up to
that text, and at the same time to take a
woman’s proper interest in her personal
appearance, you'll have one of the best-
dressed wives in the world.’

‘I suppose you'll allow,’ said Fairbrass,
who was too young yet to take a man’s
proper interest in the personal appearance
of women, ‘that men who have done great
things are happy and contented? Great
authors, for example.’

‘Good gracious, no!’ was the reply.
‘Odd as it may seem to you, they are
amongst the unhappiest of the unhappy.
All the art celebrities, of all nationalities,
come here, you know—poets, historians,
essayists, novelists, playwrights, critics,
musicians, artists, actors—the best of them
all come here to see the church and its
antiquities. A good many’ (this rather
proudly) ‘come here on purpose to see me.
I can read their thoughts, and know. that
they think next to nothing of what they



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 71

have done, and are eaten up with care about
what they want todo, It isso important in
their eyes that what they call their next brain
production should be better than the last.’

‘Poor men,’ sighed Fairbrass. ‘How
sad for them!’

‘Yes,’ assented the Kneeling Knight ;
‘it does seem rather sad, but it’s all the
better for the world. If every great man
was content with having done one great
thing, just look what his fellow-creatures
would have missed. The pity of it is that
writers and artists so seldom know the
amount of good they do.’

‘How do you mean?’ asked Fairbrass.

‘T’ll give you an instance,’ said the
Kneeling Knight. ‘Not very long ago a
young poet visited this church. His first
little volume of verse had just been pub-
lished, and he had a smartly-bound copy of
it in his pocket. ‘The day before he had
been very, very proud of it; but that
morning’s post had brought him a news-
paper—an influential newspaper—in which



72 FAIRBRASS

a critic had thought fit to tear his poor
work to shreds, to lay its faults bare, to
pass over its merits, and generally to hold
it up to ridicule. All the joy went straight
out of that young writer’s life. He fancied
that everyone in the church had a copy of
that wicked newspaper in his pocket, and
knew what he now considered to be his
shame. As a matter of fact no one there
had seen the newspaper; but he was sore,
he wished that his poor little book could be
drowned as deep as Prospero’s—Prospero,
you know, was a magical person in a play
—and as he looked up at me tears of mortifi-
cation came into his eyes.’

‘T hate that critic!’ said Fairbrass.

‘Don’t say that,’ said the Kneeling
Knight. ‘No doubt he did his duty, and
possibly his whip will have the effect of a
spur to the poet, and in course of time, and
when the smart has worn off, will cause him
to attempt better things. That critic was
no doubt a very knowing man, and the first
things in the little volume to catch his keen



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 78

eye were the faults that exist in almost every
printed page and certainly in every man’s
daily life. It was his business to point out
those faults to the public. Now, listen to
this. While this half heart-broken young
poet stood gazing at me, there was by his
side a young and pretty woman dressed in
deep mourning. Poor thing! She was
not a critic, but a sorrowing widow within
a few weeks after she had become a happy
and hopeful wife. Now, it so happened
that a friend had given her the little book of
poems, and some of the verses had touched
and consoled her in a manner beyond
description, and so it came about that while
the poet’s eyes welled over with mortification,
hers swam with gratitude to the unknown
writer who had so helped her. ‘‘If I could
only know and talk to him!” she was
saying to herself, while he was murmuring,
‘‘T have mistaken my vocation; I ama vain
fool; I have fruitlessly squandered my
time.” Yes, Fairbrass; there they were,
side by side, almost touching each other.



74 FAIRBRASS

He had comforted her without knowing it.
I don’t suppose that they would ever meet
again; but it proved to me that work well
meant and honestly done is never thrown
away, though those who do it may be the
last to know it.’

Finding his friend in this yielding frame
of mind, Fairbrass ventured, rather ner-
vously to ask him one last question; it was,
indeed, as last questions often are, the one
nearest his heart.

‘Knight,’ he said, ‘tell me, is there a
life to come? Shall we live again? Is
there a heaven for us when we die?’

‘Hush!’ said the Kneeling Knight.
‘ Listen.’

And again the organ pealed out and the
boys’ voices sang:

‘We think and feel; but will the dead
Awake to thought again?

A voice of comfort answers us,
That God doth nought in vain.

‘He wastes nor flower, nor bud, nor leaf,
Nor wind, nor cloud, nor wave;

Nor will He waste the hope which grief
Hath planted in the grave.’



THE KNEELING KNIGHT 75

‘There,’ said the Kneeling Knight,
when the music and singing had ceased
and died away, ‘that’s all I know about it,
and I don’t think you need seek to know
more. If you haven’t faith enough in your
heart to believe words like those, you may
depend upon it that you haven’t a soul
worth saving. You just add those lines to
the others that we heard only a few moments
ago, live and act in accordance with their
spirit, and though you may not be entirely
happy in this world—nobody, my dear boy,
can quite expect that—you need not worry
yourself about what will happen to you in
the world to come. God will take care of
that!’

‘Well, it is simple enough,’ said Fair-
brass, ‘at least it seems so!’

‘Don’t make any mistake about that,’
said the Kneeling Knight. ‘The trivial
round is beset with thorns; the common
task is the hardest of all tasks. The man
who does that perfectly is a blessing to all
those who come near him. And now,



76 FAIRBRASS

Fairbrass, before you bid good-bye to me,
remember this. If I have said things to
you that seem hard, it is perhaps because I
know rather too much. It is true that I
have a certain amount of contempt for the
people who come to this church professing
to do much, and doing next to nothing.
You see, unluckily I know that; but I
know, too, that they would be still more
thoughtless if they did not come here at all.
Good-bye. God bless you, Fairbrass; and
don’t forget those two hymns.’





Be eS ai
i NG wo IF ) yi

nae



CHAPTER V.

THE BIG HOUSE.

HE months rolled on, and
things did not improve at
the Little House at the
foot of the Hill. To be
sure, its garden was as

bright and beautiful as ever, and its noisy

young folk took never-ceasing delight in its
free and health-giving country surround-
ings. But the faces of the father and mother
lengthened, and as they walked together in





78 FAIRBRASS

the evening their talk was anxious talk.
They were wonderfully fond of each other,
these two—so fond that they were pre-
pared to sacrifice anything for each other.
He felt so tenderly towards her that he
never ventured to confess to her that his
business was really of no good to him, and
that he could not afford the friend-enter-
taining in which, according to his notions,
she delighted. And she was so loyal to
him that she never for one moment dreamt
of telling him that her wish was to ‘do
things’ on a much larger and more expen-
sive scale, and that with the existing state
of their affairs she was altogether discon-
tented. They were, indeed, so sorry for
each other, and so much in love with each
other, that they let things go on precisely
as they were, and under these circumstances
the Money Fiend—though he had not yet
succeeded in bringing about the discord that
he loved—held easy possession of the home-
stead, and was always on its premises.

In those days Fairbrass used often to go



THE BIG HOUSE 79

out walking with his elder sister, and he
could not help noticing how very frequently
on these little expeditions they met a young
man, the son of a neighbouring squire, and
a pretty constant visitor to the Little House.
He was a well-looking, well-spoken young
fellow, as tall and straight and strong as
Fairbrass’s sister was graceful and pretty
and womanly—and that is saying a great
deal. As the brother and sister walked in
the lanes the young man generally met
them, looking remarkably well, on horse-
back ; and then he would dismount and ask
if Fairbrass would not like a ride—which
was, indeed, always a delight to the boy.
So Fairbrass would be lifted into the saddle,
the young man would take the bridle in his
hand, and the four of them would stroll
leisurely along together.

It was quite needless for the horse to
tell Fairbrass, with a good-natured wink,
that the pair were in love, for, of course, he
heard every word that they said to each
other, and the poor, right-minded little man



80 FAIRBRASS

blushed until his ears tingled to think that
they did not know it. But it did not in the
least matter. All the world might have
heard how that stout-hearted young fellow,
whose worldly prospects enabled him to
choose a wife after his own heart, gradually,
timidly, yet withal manfully, unfolded the
story of his love; and her shy, maidenly
responses were—though there was not a
grain of artfulness in them—delightfully
designed both to lure him on and to keep
him back. The story, indeed, took so long
in telling that Fairbrass had become quite
an accomplished horseman by the day on
which the young man took his sister in his
strong, protecting arms, kissed her, and
called her his darling.

As luck would have it, this took place
under the very shadow of the twin sister
Poplar-trees, and so horrified were they
that, although there was a strong breeze
blowing, they kept themselves erect and
silent with their leaves standing right up
on end for very shame.



THE BIG HOUSE 81

‘ Fairbrass,’ said one of them at last—as
the young man did not seem to be in the
slightest hurry, there was plenty of time for
an interval—‘do you see what is going on
here ? a gentleman is actually kissing your
sister in broad day.’

‘Well, doesn’t his doing it openly show
that he zs a gentleman ?’ answered Fairbrass.

And then the poor Poplars bowed their
heads in sorrow. They thought that if this
was gentlemanlike behaviour their training
had been in vain.

On the evening of that day Fairbrass
sat alone with his father and mother.

‘Yes,’ said the father, ‘I am bound to
say that he spoke to me in the most straight-
forward manner. He is evidently really and
deeply in love with our dear girl, and he
seems to be quite certain that she returns
his affection.’

‘Oh, there is no doubt about that,’ said
the mother; ‘the dear child sobbed her
heart out to me this afternoon, and is truly
happy in having won his love. We like

F



82 FAIRBRASS

him, we respect him, we know that he is
well off, we have every reason to be grate-
ful. God bless them both! By the way,
did you touch on the wretched money
question ?’

‘Yes; I told him frankly that my
daughter’s dowry depended not so much on
me as on her grandfather ; that between the
two houses there was an estrangement, but
no doubt that would some day blow over,
and so he might be certain she would not
come to him empty-handed.’

‘How clearly you put things, dear!’
said the mother. ‘ How I wish I had your
business head !’

‘A mere matter of habit,’ said the father
half apologetically. ‘You see, having, by
unkind fate, been driven to business, I
can’t help more or less adopting its sordid
ways.’

‘Poor dear! I know how it goes
against the grain with you,’ said the mother
fondly, kissing him. ‘And did you :

‘Yes,’ said the father stoically, ‘I did.





THE BIG HOUSE 83

You know how I detest this sort of thing ;
but, for the sake of you and the children,
I threw pride to the winds, and told him
that I happened to be in immediate want of
£500.’

‘And what did he say ?’

‘He laughed—said it was lucky he had
his cheque book in his pocket, and im-
mediately drew a cheque for the amount.’

‘That man,’ said the mother, with tears
in her eyes, ‘will make our daughter a good
husband.’

‘I think so, too,’ said the father; ‘and
in the meantime he has my I O U for the
little loan.’

‘You dear, methodical old man!’ said
the mother admiringly. ‘I declare you
bring the office home with you! Ugh!
The room seems close with it. Never mind,
now we can give a garden-party in honour
of the engagement.’

Now, this conversation made Fairbrass
very uncomfortable. While it was going
on, the Money Fiend chuckled in his ear,



84 FAIRBRASS

and though, unlike his friends the Poplar-
trees, he had not been in the least degree
shocked when the gallant young horseman,
having declared his honest love, had taken
his sister in his arms, and in broad daylight
had kissed her, a sense of shame came over
the boy when he knew that his father had so
soon borrowed that £500. He did not like,
too, the hint thrown out that a reconciliation
between the Big House and the Little
House was only a question of time, for he
had over and over again heard his father
declare that he would rather starve than
give way; and that his grandfather had
made a will in which he had left all his
money to charities, and not one penny to
his kith and kin, was known to everyone.
‘Ah!’ thought Fairbrass, ‘if only that
reconciliation could be brought about, how
everything would be put straight! My
father could give up his worrying business,
my mother could spend as much money as
she liked, my sister could have a little
fortune of her own, all the others could



THE BIG HOUSE 85

have jolly times, and the £500 could be—as
it ought to be—paid back at once. If only
that reconciliation could be brought about !’
‘Yes,’ laughed the Money Fiend, ‘ ‘‘ zf
only.” That’s where the trouble comes in—
‘‘7f only.”’ And then he nearly choked
himself with another and deeper chuckle.
To Fairbrass, as Sunday after Sunday
he watched his grandfather at church, the
difficulty did not seem to be one that could
not be got over. The old man had no doubt
a hard face, and a stern, determined look ;
but then he appeared to be gradually getting
so feeble, and he always seemed so lonely,
that the boy thought that if he were only
approached in the right way he would melt
like the snow melted in his own warm little
hand. But then, when he looked at the
firm features of his self-willed though kind-
hearted father, he felt that any such approach
from him was impossible. ‘If I could only
speak,’ thought Fairbrass, ‘I would boldly
take the matter in my own hands, and see if
I could not bring them together ; but, alas!



86 FAIRBRASS

I am dumb and powerless.’ He thought
so much about it all that he became quite
unhappy, and this at a time when the
dwellers in the Little House were more
than ordinarily merry. That £500 had
no doubt been a great help. The young
squire had been most satisfactory at the
garden-party for which he had helped to
pay; he was the most devoted of lovers,
and the most generous of future brothers-
in-law. No wonder that he was popular,
or that the little household warmed itself
and grew glad under the sunshine of his
genial nature.

One day Fairbrass was especially vexing
his poor little brain on the question of the
bitter feud between his father and his grand-
father. He had gone out by himself to pick
wild-flowers, for it was his sister’s birthday,
and he had set his heart on giving her a
posy in which a specimen of each of the
pretty blossoms she loved to pluck and call
by their names should have its place. For
such a purpose he could hardly have found



THE BIG HOUSE 87

a better day. It was early (so early that he
had secretly let himself out of the house
while all the others were sleeping) in the
morning of a lovely June; the larks were
soaring and singing high in the sky before
taking their final plummet-like drop into
the nests that held their listening mates ;
redstarts flashed across the roadways in
which the pied and yellow wagtails conse-
quentially strutted; yellow-hammers piped
their persistent little tunes in the hedgerows,
accompanied by the ‘clat-tat’ of the busy
stonechats ; and the noisy gossip of the jays
in the tree-tops was only half-drowned by
the caw of the flying rooks. But Fairbrass
was this morning bent on flower-picking,
and had no leisure for his friends the birds.
There had been a time when he thought it
cruel to pluck the beautiful living things,
but the flowers had all assured him that the
pain of being picked, with its accompanying
certainty of an early death, was amply
rewarded if it enabled them to fulfil their
mission, which is to give pleasure to human



88 FAIRBRASS

kind. He began this morning in the hedge-
rows where he gathered the green-bronzed
leaves and twisting tendrils of the briony,
pink and white dog-roses, purple saffron-
eyed woody nightshade, the white dead
nettle, and the sweet-scented wild guelder
rose. Soon a gate took him into a field
where he was knee-deep in mowing grass,
and here indeed was a glorious garden.
Most beautiful was the harmonious blending
of feathery seeding grasses, with crimson
and white clover, large ox-eyed daisies,
golden buttercups, purple-blue meadow
cranesbill, amber yellow-rattle with its fully-
packed seed pods, guinea-golden hawkweed,
‘ John-go-to-bed-at-noon,’ lying asleep
all day, sky-blue germander, orange dappled
birdsfoot trefoil, with its brother, the
dainty hop trefoil, brown-pencilled lilac-laid
orchises, the modest white eye - bright,
maroon-coloured hedge-stachys, pale lemon
cinquefoil, blue bugles, and the specked
white plumes of the wild-beak parsley. Of
all these, and many more, Fairbrass gathered



Full Text