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q3 LlrroaV )
A CHILD'S STORY
PRINTED BY COND BROS.
FAIRBRASS AND THE DEAD BIRD.
A CHILD'S STORY
T. EDGAR PEMBERTON
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
KATE E. BUNCE
CORNISH BROTHERS, 37, NEW STREET
I. THE THREE HOUSES -
II. THE LITTLE HOUSE -
III. BUSINESS -
IV. THE KNEELING KNIGHT
V. THE BIG HOUSE -
VI. PLEASURE -
VII. GOD'S HOUSE -
FAIRBRASS AND THE DEAD BIRD -
'And the poor little songster throbbed
its heart out in the boy's warm hand'
FAIRBRASS AND THE KNEELING KNIGHT
'I thought I would ask you to stop
and have a chat with me'
FAIRBRASS AND HIS GRANDFATHER -
'Well,' he said, 'if he won't smile
upon me when he wakes, at least
he will be glad to see my lovely
FAIRBRASS AND THE HEDGEHOG -
'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'
To face page 60
To face page 1o2
To face page 15r
THE THREE 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
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
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
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
mother's tears fall softly upon him, and was
conscious that his tall, handsome, grave-eyed,
and still young father stood again by the
'It seems so sad to think,' said the
mother, as she lovinglypressed 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
this moment the Creature had this affec-
tionate husband and wife well within his
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 at a
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
THE THREE HOUSES
'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 a strange 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,
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
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
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. They said thatwhen
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
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
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
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
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.
THE LITTLE HOUSE.
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
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
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 neighboring 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
carefullykept 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
the spot was one of contentment, order
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
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
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
life in 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
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 :
'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
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
Business?' said Fairbrass. 'Oh yes,
I know !-that's where my father goes
(though I don't know why) every day.
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.
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
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
'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
I hate business It is all horrid selfish-
ness and eating each other up. The House
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
'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
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
make about life as you human beings.
Now, just you look at me--
'I 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
'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?'
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
'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
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, I'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
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
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
window; and then I am sorry, because I
know that the poor blossom is dead. Now,
then, you kind, pretty Picotee, are you
ready to be picked and to go on your
'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
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
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
enough to have it, ranks far higher than
'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 ?'
'I 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 I
have lived more and seen more in a few
hours than if, like old Stick-in-the-Mud
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
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
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
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
Does he ?' asked the Young Picotee.
'Well, it seemed to me to be comfortable
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 ? '
'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
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. I'll 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
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,
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 be a 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
'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. For a
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 "old times." And then I knew that I
had taken her back to long ago and, per-
haps, half-forgotten days, when she played
in a 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
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
'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
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-
'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
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
'No,' said the Young Picotee, 'he didn't
have cold 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
'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,'
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
"That is impossible," said your father.
"I spend nothing there on myself, and I have
the best and most economical wife in the
"I 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 ? "
"And a very laudable ambition, too,"
said your father.
But one that costs a good deal," said
I 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
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
'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
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!'
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
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
THE KNEELING KNIGHT.
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
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
clear to him as no doubt it must be to
his more fortunately endowed fellow-
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,
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
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
codicils to an already sensibly-made and
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
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
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
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 tie 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
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 ?'
'I 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
FAIRBRASS AND THE KNEELING KNIGHT.
THE KNEELING KNIGHT
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,'
'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
'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
'What I want to know,' continued Fair-
brass, 'is, why doesn't coming to church
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.'
'I'll 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
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
'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
'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
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
'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
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,
'" I would I were a milkmaid,
To sing, love, marry, churn,
Brew, bake, and die,"
and then said, "There, that's exactly what
'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
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.
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
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 haven't got, nobody would try to
get it, and so nothing would ever be done
'Ah said Fairbrass, 'there you're
right. Everybody ought to want to be
great. Oh, if I could only be a mighty
'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
'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
'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
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
have done, and are eaten up with care about
what they want to do. It is so 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.
'I'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
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.'
'I 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
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,
"I have mistaken my vocation; I am a vain
fool; I have fruitlessly squandered my
time." Yes, Fairbrass; there they were,
side by side, almost touching each other.
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.
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
'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
'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,
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.'
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
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
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 neighboring 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
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
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 is 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
'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
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
'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
'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
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
'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
'I think so, too,' said the father; 'and
in the meantime he has my I 0 U for the
'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,
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
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, if
only." That's where the trouble comes in-
"if 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 !
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
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
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
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