« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
forthwith launched himself out of bed, to little feet had toddled and scampered over its examine afresh the shelves and drawers, and floors, till they came to sound with a manly try how easily he could reach the hooks and tread in the old home, and at last, turned manage the lock.
themselves away from it, and went out into 'If I only had my trunk in here, now !” | the wide world.
But, for want of the things that were really Johnnie Osburn knew little of all this, to be placed there, he had hung within it, | beyond that it was a quaint, roomy old place, cap, coat, jacket, and trousers that he took off that, as he said, “ looked as if lots of people on going to bed, in snch order and space as had lived in it, and had always been very they were rarely nsed to; and had put his happy;” and that his father bad been fortushoes and stockings in a drawer, and set his nate enongh to buy it for such moderate sum tool-box—a chief treasure that he had kept as he could afford to pay ; and that now, afin his own especial knowledge thrvugh the ter two or three years' “talk” about going packing and removal-on the floor.
somewhere out of town to live, here they acThis was suggestive.
tually were, and he had got all the indispeu. What if he were to drive in a few extra sable exploring and reconnoitring to do, as pails, lower down, for small things ?
fast as possible. On consideration, however, he wisely came Behind the house, the ground sloped pleato the conclusion that it might uot exactly santly southward a little way, and here was do. Former experience had taught him that the garden. such improvements were not always hailed Beyond it, in the hollow, with promise of with approbation by maturer minds; and he endless delight, a little chattering brook went therefore proceeded, as the next best amuse. by, from the hills to the river; and up from ment he could devise, to take down his gar- its opposite margin rose a green, wooded ments and put himself into them; hanging knoll, which would have been a hill, and have his night-gown in their stead, iu solitary state. had a name of its own, if it had not been for
Ten minutes more, and he was rushing the bigger ones a little way off that took to down the front staircase, to the piazza door, themselves all the glory of the neighbourhood, just to take a look down the lane, where the and so left it simply to be known as the High bobolinks were singing, (it was now late in Pasture. May, and they always arrive punctually But while I have been telling you thus upon the eleventh, don't they ?) and then much of the immediate surroundings of hasten to the stable to see Blackbird at his John's new home, he was himself taking a breakfast.
much more rapid survey of it all, and The house stood back a little from the catching a glimpse of his father in the barnhigh-road, and was shaded on each side with yard, has darted away to join him, and look great elm and ash trees; but in front, across after Blackbird. the road, and into the lane that ran straight It was very pleasant, down there in the down from jnst opposite the gate, was the barn-yard, this bright May morning. prettiest green glimpse in the world.
The barn itself was a curious building, Elms and locusts, of wild and natural nearly as big as a church, and consisting of growth, covered it in with walls and roof; two parts, built at different times, and by and all summer long the birds and butterflies people who seemed to have had very different made it their arcade of fashion. Aristocratic purposes in its construction. birds' nests they were, that cuddled in its The old part was a long, large, open haynooks—built long ago by the oldest fami- barn, the other, and newer, was a small addition lies, and rebuilt, or replaced, in the self-same for stable use, across the northerly end, causing spot, for nobody knows how many years, by the entire building to assume the form of a generation after generation.
T. The whole was neatly boarded and shipAnd the old house, too, that looked down gled, apparently at some recent time, and the lane, bad stood there long enough to be painted, like the house, of an agreeable shade quite in keeping with the rest; and many of tawny or buff brown.
John's father was talking with a man who “Oh, just over in the next honse, down had a carpenter's rule in his hand. They the road. My father's name is Mr. Sellinger. were planning a partition which should en- He's the miuister. My name's Stephen.” close a portion of the large barn, nearest the “And my father's name is Mr. Osburn, stable and bebind the stanchions, for a tool and my name's John," was the reply: and
so they both walked up to the side-porch toAnother man, close by, was currying down gether. Blackbird, who stood in the angle of the John opened the door, and met his mother building, fastened by his halter to a ring in in the passage which led from the kitchen to the side of the barn.
the dining-room. She had a plate of butOverhead was a great twittering and bustle; tered toast in her hand; and the table was for the barn-swallows, whose nests were nicely set in the dining-room, as he saw crowded close all along under the eaves, through the open door. were skinıming incessantly back and forth, “Ah, Johnnie!” she said, “where is papa ? for morning exercise and enjoyment, and to I was just wondering how I should manage pick up their aerial breakfast as they flew. to get you both invited in to breakfast."
John thought there never was a spot or “I'll call him in a minnte. But here's scene or combination of circumstances more some breakfast to be invited in, mother. Mrs. perfectly enchanting; or, at least, if his Sellinger has sent yon over some cream, and thonght did not put itself precisely into these some nice hot biscuits.” words, it would have done so, if his sensa- Stephen came forward, and repeated his tions could possibly have been brought within mother's message. such simple form of translation.
Mrs. Osburn smiled, and a faint, soft colonr, Standing there, quite qnietly, between the as of a snrprised pleasure, came up in her interest of hearing his father's talk with the face. She had lived for many years in the carpenter, on the one hand, and that of watch- city, where people come and go without taking, on the other, the progress of Blackbird's ing a bit of notice of each other ; and this toilet, and with that living wonder and de- warm-hearted conntry neighbourliness was light about him in the air,-for a body something she had qnite forgotten to expect drawn by several opposing forces or attrac- though her early girlhood knew it very well. tions remains at rest, —John presently per- Johnnie, too, could'nt but be reminded of the ceived, coming in at a little gate below the boy and girl who lived in the opposite house bard that opened on a footpath to the house, to theirs in Pinckney Street, and whom he had a boy of abont his own age. A new force watched so long a time, day after day, at the introduced and the body moves. Boy is doors and windows, without knowing their more attractive to boy, than bird or horse, names; and now, here was Stephen Sillinger,
John started off, on a line whose who lived as far off as half the length of instinctive direction brought him into the Pinckney Street, at least, yet with whom he footpath at the precise point to meet the already began to feel well acquainted, and stranger lad, who carried in one hand a nice, whose mother's biscuits they were to eat for wbite, covered basket, and in the other, a breakfast ! little china pitcher.
Mrs. Osburn sent back
a message of When John came up, he spoke,–
thanks; and John accompanied Stephen as 'My mother sent me over with her com- far as the barn, whence he summoned his pliments, and she thought, as you had just father to breakfast; and when they came in moved in, your mother might like a few together, he cried out to his mother, with a warm biscuits, and a little cream, for break- burst of repressed enthusiasm, as he saw the fast. And she says, if there is anything she plate of delicivus-looking rolls upon the can do to help her in any way, she shall be table, very happy.”
“I say, mother! why didn't you thank “ I'll go up to the house with yon, and find her more ? Why, she’s the very jolliest mother,” replied John. Where do yon live P" woman that ever I heard of I”
AN EPISODE OF MY CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS.
BY A SCHOOLBOY.
to see me.
AST half our head-master at Fordbridge other side of the church. It was “nuts" for
school died very suddenly just about a me all that service-time. I regularly took stock fortnight before the day fixed for the com- of the lot, and by the end of the second lesson mencement of the Christmas holidays. It was I had made my choice, and to her I devoted decided that school should cease immediately, my eyes the rest of the morning. She sat in so we were all of us sent home a fortnight the outside corner in the front pew, and was earlier than was anticipated. That event-I am so jolly, you've no idea. I am no hand at awfully sorry, of course, for poor Symons—has, description. Her hair was black as a crow, I expect, exerted an influence on my life which and so were her eyes —and such eyelashes ! I shall always feel. Yes, I really mean it; for Her mouth was awfully pretty—such a poutshe is such a jolly girl! At any rate she writes ing, playful expression, you know; and I jolly letters; and I mean, as soon as ever I know she blushed pretty finely once or twice leave school, to go up to her governor and ask when she caught my eyes looking at her. I for his daughter Emma as my wife. But I'm looked as loving as ever I could at her from afraid I'm putting the cart before the horse; behind my Prayer-book; but, poor girl, she I must retrace my steps, as they say in the didu't dare smile or anything in return, for three-volume novels, and bring you by degrees one of the Truffles was just a few yards from to the climax of my story.
her. I determined then and there I'd get to 'Twas late on Saturday night when I got know her, and I tried to express as much by home, and my pater (we used always to say my pantomimic farewell which I took of her pater and mater at Fordbridge, because it during the last prayer. When we got home I sounded classical) met me at Durlea Road felt I ought to show in some way my feeling Station in our dog-cart, and drove me home of devotion, so resolutely held out against a to The Rookery, which was the name of our second helping of pudding, and only drank one place. Of course I was jolly glad to get home, glass of port at dessert. After dinner I strolled and all the “kids” and my mater were pleased out into the garden to consider what my next
I did enjoy my tea that night, I move would be, and in about an hour I had know, after my frosty drive. But my tale really fixed my plans for the campaign. My father commences with the Sunday.
was one of the great men in our little village, We all went to church in the morning, and and rejoiced in the honour of being churcha good pewful it was of us, and it seemed very warden. As such he had possession of a duplinatural to see all the old folks again, and the cate key of the church door; and that fact parson seemed as if he had been in the pulpit led me to adopt the course I did. How could ever since midsummer, and was still going on I get the key? That was the first difficulty. with the same old sermon. He was a very
At last I thought of an excuse: I will tell learned old boy, you know, but rather long- him I want to go and practise on the church winded and prosy. But I had a great treat organ. Ah! but it was Sunday, and I knew that Sunday morning, the long discourse not- he would not like me on that account to spend withstanding. About a quarter of a mile from the afternoon thus. I knew where my father our house on the Gillsland road, stood a fine kept all his keys: keys of stables and barns old house, which was always called “The Nun- and cellars, all sabelled and hung up on hooks nery.”
Not that it was a nunnery now, for in his sanctum, as we called the room, half the two Misses Truffle kept a boarding-school | office, half smoking-room, which he approthere, and kept the girls almost as strict as priated. Perhaps I could find the church key the nuns used to be kept. As I had always up there. Up I went, having first seen my lived at Durlea, I of course had often seen the pater was snoring at an awful rate in the Misses Truffles' school in my younger days, dining-room, and after going through nearly but then I was quite a green young spoon, and all the keys, there, sure enough, I found the did not think anything about the girls as I do great key of the church door. I pushed it in
Since I had been at school I had never my pocket, and cut down-stairs as hard as I caught a glimpse of the young ladies, for, as could, and off I ran towards the church, about luck would have it, their holidays always were a mile down the road. on when mine were, and there never used to Fortunately, there were no houses near the be any one in their pews at church but the church, except, indeed, the vicar's, and his two Misses Truffle and their antique mother, was well behind it, and quite out of sight of and a poor girl, who was currently reported the door. People, had they been about, would to be a perpetual boarder there, her residence have wondered to see me going alone into the being in the West Indies and her parents un-church, but, luckily, when I reached the church natural, But on this morning the Misses gate, not a person was in sight, so I stole into Truffle and their school were there in all their the porch unobserved. The old key was someglory, no less than six pews of them; and, what rusty, and made a hideous and alarming Furtunately, they sat facing our pew on the row before I succeeded in opening the door,
but at last I was really inside the church, so I Prayer-book. The light in the church was carefully locked the door from the inside, and feeble, as usual, but yet I thought I could see set to my task. The girl I had so admired her change colour as she discovered my note, had a very pretty Church Service, and I had and I know she looked up quickly at me, as noticed particularly, when the school passed our eyes for the moment met. Then the serus on the way home from church, that she vice began. I could not see her read it; I had not got it in her hand. There lay niy suppose she did so during the prayers, but I hope. Rather anxiously I made my way to fancied during the sermon I could see her the pew where she had sat. A cursory glance, looking intently down, as though she were and I could not see the book. I was beginning writing. I forgot to say she gave the signal to despair, when I saw the cushion raised a I asked of her at the second collect, so she had little at the corner. In a moment I had turned at any rate got my note and read it. I am it
up, and the Church Service of my charmer afraid in the diminess my expressive glances was in my hand, and in another I had opened lost their power, and I could see that the dear it and read, in a schoolboy's hand on the first girl could not venture to smile, or even look, leaf,“ Emma Fellows, Christmas Day, 1864." for one of the horrid Misses Truffle was at her So her name was known to me, and her image left hand, and an individual, whom I imagined in my mind assumed a greater reality. I could to be the French governess, in the next pew. now apostrophise her by her name, and in- At last church was over, and I gave her, as I stinctively I began a sonnet, all of which I went down the aisle, a glance which, had it now remember is that “Emma” rhymed with expressed the feelings of my heart, would have “dilemma,” and.“ love” with“ dove." I had been conveying to her a facial representation thus far got the church key and her Church of the most warm and constant affection. Service-now for the next link in the chain. Supper was over, and we were all gone to Sitting down on the very spot which her fair bed by eleven o'clock, but I had business beform had so recently pressed, I took out my fore me, so instead of going to sleep I sat up pocket-book, tore out a leaf, and resting it on till I thought all was quiet, and then got to the ledge where she but a few hours before work. Though my room was not on the had rested her head on her hands, I wrote as ground-floor, to get out of it on to the roof of follows:
the verandah, and then slide down one of the “Can you guess who writes this? Will you, | pillars, was an easy task. I had often done it dearest Emma, grant me a favour? If you before, and, locking the door of my room, I get this all right, blow your nose at the second was soon out of window and standing on the collect to-night. I live but for you. Try and lawn. It was a pitch-dark night, but I knew answer, as you value my peace.
every inch of my ground, and had taken the This document I folded and placed at the precaution of getting a box of matches and a commencement of the Evening Service, where piece of my candle. Perhaps you wonder why it must catch her eyes; then I clasped the i braved the dangers of the darkness when I book, kissed it, and put it where I had found could have done it so much easier the next it. Then, after carefully surveying the sur-morning. But I couldn't wait. I was terribly rounding coast from the keyhole, I turned the anxious to see what Emma had written, and lock, and once more was in the open air. Just for her sake I could have braved anything. I as I reached the church gate, a great friend reached the church door without any advenof my pere's came up. Mr. Goudham was his ture, and, having oiled the key, I opened the
“Ah! Charlie,” he called out, as he door without the frightful noise of the morncaught sight of me, “ you're home again, are ing. Inside the church I could not see my you? Coming down to see us, or are you hand before me, and yet I feared to light my going to spend your afternoon in the church- candle, as it might be seen by a passer-by ; yard?”
and for me to be found in the church at mid“No, Mr. Goodham," I replied, “I've only night would, to say the least, be a curious ocbeen just looking round the old place; I shall currence. I groped stealthily up the aisle, and come down and see you in the week, but now I had not gone many steps when the clock I must make haste home.”
tolled out the hour of midnight. SimultaneLuckily, he did not prolong the conversa- ously I stumbled, and caught with my outtion, and did not say anything more about my stretched arm—what? Something warm and being in the churchyard; if he had passed round. Horror! My hair stood almost on only a minute earlier, he would have caught end. But joy! I soon thought what it was ; me in the very act of unlocking the church it was only the stove pipe, still heated with the door. The fates were evidently propitious ! day's fires. I reached the pew, I groped for
I got home in time for tea, but did not re- the book, I felt eagerly, as a blind man, through store the key, as I meant to visit the church its pages, and was rewarded for all my trouble again that night. I was so excited that I-all my anxiety; that is, if the paper I held hardly ate any tea; and, much to my mater's in my liand was favourable. That I must find surprise, I was ready for church in good time. out-but how? I thought of a plan. Down The school had not arrived when we took our in the east end was a winding staircase leading places, so I had well settled down by the time to the top of the tower. In there I could strike they filed in. Now was the anxious time. The a light, and no one see it. I retraced my steps voluntary ceased, the vicar was at the desk, down the aisle, and felt round the wall for the and Emma was in the act of opening her I doorway. I found it and opened it, and having
gone up two or three steps I sat down and this was the place Emma meant. I had to be struck a match. Then I lighted my candle, very quick in my investigation, for people and stuck it up by my side on the step, having might be passing at any moment. I walked first closed the door of the staircase. Truly I up and down several times, taking cursory was in rather a queer position. Up the belfry glances each time I passed. At last I stopped steps of a church, and the hour past midnight! and put in my hand to deposit my letter in Time was I should have shuddered at the feat the trunk of the old tree, when, much to my I was now performing. I could hear the old joy, I felt a corner projecting from the cleft. clock ticking loudly above me, and that was I pulled it out and found it a daintilythe only sound save my own heavy breathing. folded little note, very short and very sweet. But I spared no time in reading the document “ Come for an answer at six o'clock to-night. I had found. By the glittering candle I read We break up next Saturday. Adieu! E. F.” these words:
I was now certain I was right, so I pushed in “I hardly dare write a word. The Misses my letter and started home, to be restless and Truffle would be mad (I think) if they knew dissatisfied till the evening came.
I passed what I was about. What is the favour? There the rest of the morning in shooting with my is a hole in the wall at the Nunnery, close by father, and after dinner I rode over to our the servants' door. Good-bye. Strict secrecy." market-town, Gillsland, and performed some
I almost upset the candle in my delight as commissions for my mother. I read Emma's note. I kissed her pretty an- Punctually at six o'clock I was at “The gular writing over and over, and I felt quite Nunnery;” but, though I had fed myself with repaid for my midnight labour. Of course, the hope that perhaps she would be there to dear girl as she was, she meant me to put my speak to me, I was disappointed, and had to next epistle through the wall at the school, content myself with a charming note, smelling and thus I need not wait till the next Sunday deliciously of scent, and enclosed in the pretI was in high spirits when I thought how well tiest magenta envelope. It was much longer I had succeeded so far. Emma certainly was than the Sunday one; indeed, too long to put not averse to me, for her note was certainly in here. She said she could not give me her meant to lead me on. I carefully put out my carte then, but would, perhaps, at some future light, once more groped my way to the church time. That’twas very naughty of me to fatter door, and was safely home and in bed by soon her, etc. etc. It made me feel awfully jolly; after one o'clock. The next morning I felt indeed, my surprising spirits and restored aprather anxious to know if my absence had petite quite astonished them at home. been noticed, but the meal passed off very Now there is not the slightest use in my dequietly, and I got the church key back on its tailing all the events of the week. Not a day hook unobserved.
passed but what I deposited ny note in the My first duty was to write a long letter to old tree, and not an evening but what I reEmma. What I put in it I need not relate. ceived an answer. By Friday night we had Suffice it to say,
I assured her of my undying arranged quite a jolly treat. As she said, on devotion, and of a constancy that no trials | Saturday they were to break up. Well she would avail to destroy. Then I begged from told me, by my request, the train she was going her her carte to solace me during the holidays, by. I deterinined I would go with her at and asked her to answer me as soon as she any rate part of the way. Her home was at could. Then I set off to find out the improvised Burnhampton, about 150 miles from Durlea. letter-box she had mentioned. All round Miss Now I had an old aunt,single, be it noted, Truffle's school was a very high wall, which and moreover rich-living at Bathtown, about had in bygone days helped the nuns to keep thirty miles away, and on the same line of their vows of separation from the world. There rail as Burnhampton. Now every holiday I were three heavy oak doors. The first double, went up to see Aunt Jane. Why should I not and wide enough to admit a carriage of any go on that very Saturday. worked the oracle size. Then came the visitors' gate, with a at home, and soon got consent; but I did not brightly-burnished brass plate bearing on its tell them, of course, my chief reason. So far brazen surface “Misses Truffles' Academy for so good. I told Emma of my intention, and Young Ladies." Next, round a bend of the she did not forbid it in her answer. road, was the servants' door; and it was to Saturday morning came, and I was at the this one I bent my steps. All the wall was station in good time for the 9.50 train. Preold and crumbling, covered with ivy; but sently the lumbering old “ Nunnery” carriage here, as dear Emma had said, about a yard rolled up, and down got the senior Miss Truffle, from the door, two or three stones had been Emma, and two other girls who were going by displaced, and nothing but the ivy prevented the same train. The old girl did not let them the insertion of a hand. Looking through stand on the platform long, but bundled them here, I found the hole opened on the very end all into the waiting-room. Of course I had of the sweeping lawn, which just beyond was made no sign when I saw Emma: the time bounded by a thick fence, which shut off the was not yet come. Once in the train she would kitchen-garden. Just inside the opening in be out of Miss Truffle's power, for it was her the wall grew a sycamore tree, almost close to last half, and she was past eighteen. In about the hole. The trunk of this was old and five minutes the train screeched and rattled gnarled, and cleft by a fissure which just ad- into the station. By, I suppose, a previous mitted the insertion of a letter. Doubtless arrangement with the porter, the three indo