"Part II." by Horatia Katharine Frances Gatty (1846- )
THE meadows gleam with hoarfrost white,
The day breaks on the hill,
The widgeon takes its early flight
Beside the frozen rill.
From village steeples far away
The sound of bells is borne,
As one by one each crimson ray
Brings in the Christmas morn.
Peace to all! the church bells say,
For Christ was born on Christmas day,
Peace to all.
Here some will those again embrace
They hold on earth most dear,
There some will mourn an absent face
They lost within the year.
Yet peace to all who smile or weep
Is rung from earth to sky;
But most to those to-day who keep
The feast with Christ on high.
Peace to all! the church bells say,
For Christ was born on Christmas day.
Peace to all.
R. A. GATTY, 1873
URING 1871 my sister published the first of her Verses for Children, "The Little Master to his Big Dog" *; she did not put her name to it in AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, but afterwards included it in one of her shilling Verse Books. Two Series of these books, consisting of six volumes each, have now been published, and a third Series is in the press, which will be called "Poems of Child Life and Country Life"; though Julie had some difficulty in making up her mind to use the term "poem," [Page 27] because she did not think her irregular verses were worthy to bear the title.
She saw Mr. André's original sketches for five of the last six volumes, and liked the illustrations to "The Poet and the Brook," "Convalescence," and "The Mill Stream" best.
To the volume of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE for 1872 she gave her first "soldier" story, "The Peace Egg," and in this she began to sing those praises of military life and courtesies which she afterwards more fully showed forth in "Jackanapes," "The Story of a Short Life," and the opening chapters of "Six to Sixteen." The chief incident of the story, however, consisted in the Captain's children unconsciously bringing peace and goodwill into the family by performing the old Christmas play or Mystery of "The Peace Egg." This play we had been accustomed to see acted in Yorkshire, and to act ourselves when we were young. I recollect how proud we were on one occasion, when our disguises were so complete, that a neighbouring farmer's wife, at whose door we went to act, drove us as ignominiously away, as the Housekeeper did the children in the story. "Darkie," who "slipped in last like a black shadow," and "Pax," who jumped on to Mamma's lap, "where, sitting facing the company, he opened his black mouth and yawned, with ludicrous inappropriateness," are life-like portraits of two favourite dogs.
The tale was a very popular one, and many children wrote to ask where they could buy copies of the Play in order to act it themselves. These inquiries led Julie to compile a fresh arrangement of it, for she knew that in its original form it was rather too roughly worded to be fit for nursery use; so in AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE (January, 1884) * she published an adaptation of "The Peace Egg, a Christmas Mumming Play," together with some interesting information about the various versions of it which exist in different parts of England.
She contributed "Six to Sixteen" as a serial to the MAGAZINE in 1872, and it was illustrated by Mrs. Allingham. When it was published as a book, † the dedication to Miss Eleanor Lloyd told that many of the theories on the up-bringing of girls, which the story contained, were the result of the somewhat desultory, if intellectual, home education which we had received from our Mother. This education Miss Lloyd had, to a [Page 28] great extent, shared during the happy visits she paid us; when she entered into our interests with the zest of a sister, and in more than one point outstripped us in following the pursuits for which Mother gave us a taste. Julie never really either went to school or had a governess, though for a brief period she was under the kind care of some ladies at Brighton, but they were relations, and she went to them more for the benefit of sea breezes than lessons. She certainly chiefly educated herself by the "thorough" way in which she pursued the various tastes she had inherited, and into which she was guided by our Mother. Then she never thought she had learned enough, but throughout her whole life was constantly improving and adding to her knowledge. She owed to Mother's teaching the first principles of drawing, and I have often seen her refer for rules on perspective to "My Childhood in Art," * a story in which these rules were fully laid down; but Mother had no eye for colour, and not much for figure drawing. Her own best works were etchings on copper of trees and landscapes, whereas Julie's artistic talent lay more in colours and human forms. The only real lessons in sketching she ever had were a few from Mr. Paul Naftel, years after she was married.
One of her favourite methods for practicing drawing was to devote herself to thoroughly studying the sketches of some one master, in order to try and unravel the special principles on which he had worked, and then to copy his drawings. She pursued this plan with some of Chinnery's curious and effective water-colour sketches, which were lent to her by friends, and she found it a very useful one. She made copies from De Wint, Turner, and others, in the same way, and certainly the labour she threw into her work enabled her to produce almost facsimiles of the originals. She was greatly interested one day by hearing a lady, who ranks as the best living English writer of her sex, say that when she was young she had practiced the art of writing, in just the same way that Julie pursued that of drawing, namely, by devoting herself to reading the works of one writer at a time, until her brain was so saturated with his style that she could vvrite exactly like him, and then passing on to an equally careful study of some other author. [Page 29]
The life-like details of the "cholera season," in the second chapter of "Six to Sixteen," were drawn from facts that Major Ewing told his wife of a similar season which he had passed through in China, and during which he had lost several friends; but the touching episode of Margery's birthday present, and Mr. Abercrombie's efforts to console her, were purely imaginary.
Several of the "Old-fashioned Fairy Tales" which Julie wrote during this (1872) and previous years in AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE were on Scotch topics, and she owed the striking accuracy of her local colouring and dialect, as well as her keen intuition of Scotch character, to visits that she paid to Major Ewing's relatives in the North, and also to reading such typical books as "Mansie Wauch, the Tailor of Dalkeith," a story which she greatly admired. She liked to study national types of character, and when she wrote "We and the World," * one of its chief features was meant to be the contrast drawn between the English, Scotch, and Irish heroes; thanks to her wide sympathy she was as keenly able to appreciate the rugged virtues of the dour Scotch race, as the more quick and graceful beauties of the Irish mind.
The Autumn Military Manoeuvers in 1872 were held near Salisbury Plain, and Major Ewing was so much fascinated by the quaint old town of Amesbury, where he was quartered, that he took my sister afterwards to visit the place. [Page 30] The result of this was that her "Miller's Thumb" came out as a serial in AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE during 1873. All the scenery is drawn from the neighbourhood of Amesbury, and the Wiltshire dialect she acquired by the aid of a friend, who procured copies for her of "Wiltshire Tales" and "A Glossary of Wiltshire Words and Phrases," both by J. Y. Akerman, F. S. A. She gleaned her practical knowledge of life in a windmill, and a "Miller's Thumb," from an old man who used to visit her hut in the South Camp, Aldershot, having fallen from being a Miller with a genuine Thumb to the less exalted position of hawking muffins in winter and "Sally Lunns" in summer! Mrs. Allingham illustrated the story; two of her best designs were Jan and his Nurse Boy sitting on the plain watching the crows fly, and Jan's first effort at drawing on his slate. It was published as a book in 1876, and dedicated to our eldest sister, and the title was then altered to "Jan of the Windmill, a Story of the Plains." *
Three poems of Julie's came out in the volume of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE for 1873, "The Willow Man," † "Ran away to Sea," ‡ and "A Friend in the Garden"; her name was not given to the last, but it is a pleasant little rhyme about a toad. She also wrote during this year "Among the Merrows," a fantastic account of a visit she paid to the Aquarium at the Crystal Palace.
In October, 1873, our Mother died, and my sister contributed a short memoir of her § to the November number of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE. To the December number she gave "Madam Liberality." ¶
For two years after Mother's death Julie shared the work of editing the Magazine with me, and then she gave it up, as we were not living together, and so found the plan rather inconvenient; also the task of reading MSS. and writing business letters wasted time which she could spend better on her own stories. [Page 31]
At the end of the year 1873 she brought out a book, "Lob Lie-by-the-Fire, and other Tales," * consisting of five stories, three of which–"Timothy's Shoes," "Benjy in Beastland," and "The Peace Egg,"–had already been published in AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, whilst "Old Father Christmas" had appeared in Little Folks; but the first tale of "Lob" was specially written for the volume.
The character of McAlister in this story is a Scotchman of the Scotch, and, chiefly in consequence of this fact, the book was dedicated to James Boyn McCombie, an uncle of Major Ewing, who always showed a most kind and helpful interest in my sister's literary work.
He died a few weeks before she did, much to her sorrow, but the Dedication will remain when the story comes out (as it shortly will do), in a separate form, illustrated by Mr. Caldecott. The incident which makes the tale specially appropriate to be dedicated to so true and unobtrusive a philanthropist as Mr. McCombie was, is the Highlander's burning anxiety to rescue John Broom from his vagrant career.
"Lob" contains some of Julie's brightest flashes of humour, and ends happily, but in it, as in many of her tales, "the dusky strand of death" appears, inwoven with, and thereby heightening, the joys of love and life. It is a curious fact that, though her power of describing death-bed scenes was so vivid, I believe she never saw any one die; and I will venture to say that her description of McAlister's last hours surpasses in truth and power the end of Leonard's "Short Life"; the extinction of the line of "Old Standards" in Daddy Darwin; the unseen call that led Jan's Schoolmaster away; and will even bear comparison with Jackanapes' departure through the Grave to that "other side" where "the Trumpets sounded for him."
In order to appreciate the end, it is almost necessary, perhaps, to have followed John Broom, the ne'er-do-weel lad, and McAlister, the finest man in his regiment, through the scenes which drew them together, and to read how the soldier, who might and ought to have been a "sairgent," tried to turn the boy back from pursuing the downward path along which he himself had taken too many steps; and then learn how the vagrant's grateful love and agility enabled him to awaken the sleeping sentinel at his post, and save "the old man's honour." [Page 30]
John Broom remained by his friend, whose painful fits of coughing, and of gasping for breath, were varied by intervals of seeming stupor. When a candle had been brought in and placed near the bed, the Highlander roused himself and asked:
"Is there a Bible on yon table? Could ye read a bit to me, laddie?"
There is little need to dwell upon the bitterness of heart with which John Broom confessed:
"I can't read big words, McAlister!"
"Did ye never go to school?" said the Scotchman.
"I didn't learn," said the poor boy; "I played."
"Aye, aye. Weel ye'll learn when ye gang hame," said the Highlander, in gentle tones.
"I'll never get home," said John Broom, passionately. "I'll never forgive myself. I'll never get over it, that I couldn't read to ye when ye wanted me, McAlister."
"Gently, gently," said the Scotchman. "Dinna daunt yoursel' ower much wi' the past, laddie. And for me–I'm not that presoomtious to think I can square up a misspent life as a man might compound wi's creditors. 'Gin He forgi'es me, He'll forgi'e; but it's not a prayer up or a chapter down that'll stan' between me and the Almighty. So dinna fret yoursel', but let me think while I may."
And so, far into the night, the Highlander lay silent, and John Broom watched by him.
It was just midnight when he partly raised himself, and cried:
"Whisht, laddie! do ye hear the pipes?"
The dying ears must have been quick, for John Broom heard nothing; but in a few minutes he heard the bagpipes from the officer's mess, where they were keeping Hogmenay. They were playing the old year out with "Auld Lang Syne," and the Highlander beat the time out with his hand, and his eyes gleamed out of his rugged face in the dim light, as cairngorms glitter in dark tartan.
There was a pause after the first verse, and he grew restless, and turning doubtfully to where John Broom sat, as if his sight were failing, he said: "Ye'll mind your promise, ye'll gang hame?" And after a while he repeated the last word "Hame!"
But as he spoke there spread over his face a smile so tender and so full of happiness, that John Broom held his breath as he watched him.
As the light of sunrise creeps over the face of some rugged rock, it crept from chin to brow, and the pale blue eyes shone tranquil, like water that reflects heaven.
And when it had passed it left them still open, but gems that had lost their ray.
Death-beds are not the only things which Julie had the power of picturing out of her inner consciousness apart from actual experience. She was much amused by the pertinacity with which unknown correspondents occasionally inquired after her "little ones," unable to give her the credit of describing and understanding children unless she possessed some of her own. There is a graceful touch at the end of "Lob," which seems to me one of the most delicate evidences of her universal sympathy with all sorts and conditions of men,–and women ! It is similar in [Page 33] character to the passage I alluded to in "Timothy's Shoes," where they clatter away for the last time, into silence.
Even after the sobering influences of middle age had touched him, and a wife and children bound him with the quiet ties of home, he had (at long intervals) his "restless times" when his good "missis" would bring out a little store laid by in one of the children's socks, and would bid him "Be off, and get a breath of the sea air," but on condition that the sock went with him as his purse. John Broom always looked ashamed to go, but he came back the better, and his wife was quite easy in his absence with that confidence in her knowledge of "the master," which is so mysterious to the unmarried.
* * * * * *
"The sock'll bring him home," said Mrs. Broom, and home he came, and never could say what he had been doing.
In 1874 Julie wrote "A Great Emergency" * as a serial for the MAGAZINE and took great pains to corroborate the accuracy of her descriptions of barge life for it. I remember our inspecting a barge on the canal at Aldershot, with a friend who understood all its details, and we arranged to go on an expedition in it to gain further experience, but were somehow prevented. The allusions to Dartmouth arose from our visit there, of which I have already spoken, and which took place whilst she was writing the tale; and her knowledge of the intricacies of the Great Eastern Railway between Fenchurch Street Station and North Woolwich came from the experience she gained when we went on expeditions to Victoria Docks, where one of our brothers was doing parochial work under Canon Boyd.
During 1874 five of her "Verses for Children" came out in the MAGAZINE, two of which, "Our Garden," † and "Three Little Nest-Birds," ‡ were written to fit old German woodcuts. These two, and "The Doll's Wash," § and "The Blue Bells on the Lea," ¶ have since been republished by the S. P. C. K. "The Doll's Lullaby" has not yet reappeared. She wrote an article on "May-Day, Old Style and New Style," in 1874, and also contributed fifty-two brief "Tales of the Khoja," which she adapted from the Turkish by the aid of a literal translation of them [Page 34] given in Barker's "Reading-Book of the Turkish Language," and by the help of Major Ewing, who possessed some knowledge of the Turkish language and customs, and assisted her in polishing the stories. They are thoroughly Eastern in character, and full of dry wit.
I must here digress to speak of some other work that my sister did during the time she lived in Aldershot. Both she and Major Ewing took great interest in the amateur concerts and private musical performances that took place in the camp, and the V. C. in "The Story of a Short Life," with a fine tenor voice, and a "fastidious choice in the words of the songs he sang," is a shadow of these past days. The want that many composers felt of good words for setting to music, led Julie to try to write some, and eventually, in 1874, a book of "Songs for Music, by Four Friends," * was published; the contents were written by my sister and two of her brothers, and the Rev. G. J. Chester. This book became a standing joke amongst them, because one of the reviewers said it contained "songs by four writers, one of whom was a poet," and he did not specify the one by name. Whatever his opinion may have been, there are two "poems" of my sister's in the volume which deserve to be noticed here; they are very different in type, one of them was written to suit a sweet singer with a tenor voice, and the other a powerful and effective baritone. The former was gracefully set to music by my brother Alfred Scott Gatty, and spoiled by his publisher, who insisted on "adapting" it to his own ideas of the public taste. The latter was set too well by Mr. J. F. Duggan to have any chance of becoming "popular," if the publisher's gauge of taste was a true one.
HOW MANY YEARS AGO ?
How many years ago, love,
Since you came courting me ?
Through oak-tree wood and o'er the lea,
With rosy cheeks and waistcoat gay,
And mostly not a word to say,–
How many years ago, love,
How many years ago ?
How many years ago, love,
Since you to Father spoke ?
Between your lips a sprig of oak:
You were not one with much to say,
But Mother spoke for you that day,–
How many years ago, love,
How many years ago ?
So many years ago, love,
That soon our time must come
To leave our girl without a home;–
She's like her Mother, love, you've said;
At her age I had long been wed,–
How many years ago, love,
How many years ago ?
For love of long ago, love,
If John has ought to say,
When he comes up to us to-day
(A likely lad, though short of tongue),
Remember, husband, we were young,–
How many years ago, love,
How many years ago ?
THE ELLEREE. *
A SONG OF SECOND SIGHT.
Elleree! O Elleree!
Seeing what none else may see,
Dost thou see the man in grey ?
Dost thou hear the night hounds bay?
Elleree! O Elleree!
Seventh son of seventh son,
All thy thread of life is spun,
Thy little race is nearly run,
And death awaits for thee!
Elleree! O Elleree!
Coronach shall wail for thee;
Get thee shrived and get thee blest,
Get thee ready for thy rest,
Elleree! O Elleree!
That thou owest quickly give,
What thou ownest thou must leave,
And those thou lovest best shall grieve,
But all in vain for thee!
"Bodach Glas!" * the chieftain said,
"All my debts but one are paid,
All I love have long been dead,
All my hopes on Heaven are stay'd,
Death to me can bring no dole";
Thus the Elleree replied;–
But with the ebbing of the tide
As sinks the setting sun he died;–
May Christ receive his soul!
During 1875 Julie was again aided by her husband in the work that she did for AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE. "Cousin Peregrine's three Wonder Stories"–1, "The Chinese Jugglers and the Englishman's Hand"; 2, "The Waves of the Great South Sea"; and 3, "Jack of Pera"–were a combination of his facts and her wording. She added only one more to her Old-fashioned Fairy Tales, "Good Luck is Better than Gold," † but it is one of her most finished bits of art, and she placed it first, when the tales came out in a volume. The Preface to this book is well worth the study of those who are interested in the composition of Fairy literature. Julie began by explaining that though the title of the book might lead people to think it consisted of "old fairy tales told afresh," yet they were all new, "except for the use of common 'properties' of Fairy Drama, . . . and were written in conformity to certain theories respecting stories of this kind."
First, that there are ideas and types, occurring in the myths of all countries, which are common properties, to use which does not lay the teller of fairy tales open to the charge of plagiarism. Such as the idea of the weak outwitting the strong; the failure of man to choose wisely when he may have his wish; or the desire of sprites to exchange their careless and unfettered existence for the pains and penalties of humanity, if they may thereby share in the hopes of the human soul.
Secondly, that in these household stories (the models for which were originally oral tradition), the thing to be most avoided is a discursive or descriptive style of writing. Brevity and epigram must ever be the soul of their wit, and they should be written as tales that are told. [Page 37]
After this Julie touched on some of the reasons for which grown-up readers occasionally object to tales of the imagination as food for young minds, and very ably proved that "fairy tales have positive uses in education, which no cramming of facts and no merely domestic fiction can serve"; but her defense is too long to be quoted here.
She also wrote (in 1875) an article on "Little Woods" and a domestic story called "A very Ill-tempered Family." *
This is most powerfully written, and has been ardently admired by many people who found help from the lessons it taught; for my own part, I prefer the tales in which Julie left her lessons to be inferred, rather than those where she laid them down in anything approaching to a didactic fashion. I think, too, that the very vividness of the children she drew made me feel about them what is said of the little girl in the nursery rhyme, that "when she was nice she was very, very nice, but when she was nasty she was horrid." Julie's "horrid" children give me real pain to read about, and I know I shrink for this reason from "A Sweet Little Dear," † in spite of the caustic fun of the verses, and also from Selina in "A Bad Habit" ‡; but this, of course, is a matter of personal taste only.
The incident of Isobel's reciting the Te Deum is a touching one, because the habit of repeating it by heart, especially in bed at night, was one which Julie herself had practiced from the days of childhood, when, I believe, it was used to drive away the terrors of darkness. The last day on which she expressed any expectation of recovering from her final illness was one on which she said, "I think I must be getting better, for I've repeated the Te Deum all through, and since I've been ill I've only been able to say a few sentences at once." This was certainly the last time that she recited the great Hymn of Praise before she joined the throng of those who sing it day and night before the throne of God. The German print of the Crucifixion, on which Isobel saw the light of the setting sun fall, is one which has hung over my sister's drawing-room fireplace in every home of wood or stone which she has had for many years past. [Page 38]
The Child Verse, "A Hero to his Hobby-horse," * came out in the MAGAZINE volume for 1875, and, like many of the other verses, it was written to fit a picture.
One of the happiest inspirations from pictures, however appeared in the following volume (1876), the story of "Toots and Boots," † but though the picture of the ideal Toots was cast like a shadow before him, the actual Toots, name and all complete, had a real existence, and his word-portrait was taken from life. He belonged to the mess of the Royal Engineers in the South Camp, Aldershot, and was as dignified as if he held the office of President. I shall never forget one occasion on which he was invited to luncheon at Mrs. Ewing's hut, that I might have the pleasure of making his acquaintance; he had to be unwillingly carried across the Lines in the arms of an obliging subaltern, but directly he arrived, without waiting for the first course even, he struggled out of the officer's embrace and galloped back to his own mess-table, tail erect and thick with rage at the indignity he had undergone.
"Father Hedgehog and his Friends," ‡ in this same volume (1876), was also written to some excellent German woodcuts; and it, too, is a wonderfully brilliant sketch of animal life; perhaps the human beings in the tale are scarcely done justice to. We feel as if Sybil and Basil, and the Gipsy Mother and Christian had scarcely room to breathe in the few pages that they are crowded into; there is certainly too much "subject" here for the size of the canvas!–but Father Hedgehog takes up little space, and every syllable about him is as keenly pointed as the spines on his back. The method by which he silenced awkward questions from any of his family is truly delightful:
"Will the donkey be cooked when he is fat ?" asked my mother.
"I smell valerian," said my father, on which she put out her nose, and he ran at it with his prickles. He always did this when he was annoyed with any of his family; and though we knew what was coming, we are all so fond of valerian, we could never resist the temptation to sniff, just on the chance of there being some about.
Then, the following season, we find the Hedgehog Son grown into a [Page 39] parent, and, with the "little hoard of maxims" he had inherited, checking the too-inquiring minds of his offspring:
"What is a louis d'or ?" cried three of my children; and "what is brandy ?" asked the other four.
"I smell valerian," said I; on which they poked out their seven noses, and I ran at them with my spines, for a father who is not an Encyclopædia on all fours must adopt some method of checking the inquisitiveness of the young.
One more quotation must be made from the end of the story, where Father Hedgehog gives a list of the fates that befell his children:
Number one came to a sad end. What on the face of the wood made him think of pheasants' eggs I cannot conceive. I'm sure I never said anything about them ! It was whilst he was scrambling along the edge of the covert, that he met the Fox, and very properly rolled himself into a ball. The Fox's nose was as long as his own, and he rolled my poor son over and over with it, till he rolled him into the stream. The young urchins swim like fishes, but just as he was scrambling to shore, the Fox caught him by the waistcoat and killed him. I do hate slyness!
It seems scarcely conceivable that any one can sympathise sufficiently with a hedgehog as to place himself in the latter's position, and share its paternal anxieties,– but I think Julie was able to do so, or, at any rate, her translations of the hedgepig's whines were so ben trovati, they may well stand until some better interpreter of the languages of the brute creation rises up amongst us. As another instance of her breadth of sympathy with beasts, let us turn to "A Week Spent in a Glass Pond" * (which also came out in AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE for 1876), and quote her summary of the Great Water-beetle's views on life:
After living as I can, in all three–water, dry land, and air,–I certainly prefer to be under water. Any one whose appetite is as keen, and whose hind-legs are as powerful as mine, will understand the delights of hunting, and being hunted, in a pond; where the light comes down in fitful rays and reflections through the water, and gleams among the hanging roots of the frog-bit, and the fading leaves of the water-starwort, through the maze of which, in and out, hither and thither, you pursue and are pursued, in cool and skilful chase, by a mixed company of your neighbours, who dart, and shoot, and dive, and come and go, and any one of whom, at any moment, may either eat you or be eaten by you. And if you want peace and quiet, where can one bury oneself so safely and completely as in the mud? A state of existence, without mud at the bottom, must be a life without repose! [Page 40]
I must here venture to remark that the chief and lasting value of whatever both my Sister and my Mother wrote about animals, or any other objects in Nature, lies in the fact that they invariably took the utmost pains to verify whatever statements they made relating to those objects. Spiritual Laws can only be drawn from the Natural World when they are based on Truth.
Julie spared no trouble in trying to ascertain whether hedgehogs do or do not eat pheasants' eggs; she consulted The Field, and books on sport, and her sporting friends, and when she found it was a disputed point, she determined to give the Hedgepig the benefit of the doubt. Then the taste for valerian, and the fox's method of capture, were drawn from facts, and the gruesome details as to who ate who in the Glass Pond were equally well founded!
This (1876) volume of the MAGAZINE is rich in contributions from Julie, the reason being that she was stronger in health whilst she lived at Aldershot than during any other period of her life. The sweet dry air of "the Highwayman's Heath"–bared though it was of heather!–suited her so well, she could sleep with her hut windows open, and go out into her garden at any hour of the evening without fear of harm. She liked to stroll out and listen to "Retreat" being sounded at sundown, especially when it was the turn of some regiment with pipes to perform the duty; they sounded so shrill and weird, coming from the distant hill through the growing darkness.
Our latest Pet–a refugee Pup, whom we have saved from the common hangman.
We held a curious function one hot July evening during Retreat, when, the fates being propitious, it was the turn of the 42nd Highlanders to play. My sister had taken compassion on a stray collie puppy a few weeks before, and adopted him; he was very soft-coated and fascinating in his ways, despite his gawky legs, and promised to grow into [Page 41] a credit to his race. But it seemed he was too finely bred to survive the ravages of distemper, for, though he was tenderly nursed, he died. A wreath of flowers was hung round his neck, and, as he lay on his bier, Julie made a sketch of him, with the inscription, "The little Collie, Eheu ! Taken in, June 14. In spite of care, died July 1. Speravimus meliora." Major Ewing, wearing a broad Scotch bonnet, dug a grave in the garden, and, as we had no "dinner bell" to muffle, we waited till the pipers broke forth at sundown with an appropriate air, and then lowered the little Scotch dog into his resting-place.
During her residence at Aldershot Julie wrote three of her longest books–"A Flat-Iron for a Farthing," "Six to Sixteen," and "Jan of the Windmill,"–besides all the shorter tales and verses that she contributed to the MAGAZINE between 1870 and 1877. The two short tales which seem to me her very best came out in 1876, namely "Our Field" * (about which I have already spoken) and "The Blind Man and the Talking Dog." Both the stories were written to fit some old German woodcuts, but they are perfectly different in style; "Our Field" is told in the language and from the fresh heart of a child; whilst "The Blind Man" is such a picture of life from cradle to grave–aye, and stretching forward into the world beyond,–as could only have come forth from the experiences of Age. But though this be so, the lesson shown of how the Boy's story foreshadows the Man's history, is one which cannot be learned too early.
Julie never pictured a dearer dog than the Peronet whom she originated from the fat stumpy-tailed puppy who is seen playing with the children in the woodcut to "Our Field."
People sometimes asked us what kind of a dog he was, but we never knew, except that he was the nicest possible kind. . . . Peronet was as fond of the Field as we were. What he liked were the little birds. At least, I don't know that he liked them, but they were what he chiefly attended to. I think he knew that it was our field, and thought he was the watch-dog of it; and whenever a bird settled down anywhere, he barked at it, and then it flew away, and he ran barking after it till he lost it; by that time another had settled down, and then Peronet flew at him, all up and down the hedge. He never caught a bird, and never would let one sit down, if he could see it.
Then what a vista is opened by the light that is "left out" in the concluding words:–
I know that Our Field does not exactly belong to us. I wonder whom it does belong [Page 42] to ? Richard says he believes it belongs to the gentleman who lives at the big red house among the trees. But he must be wrong; for we see that gentleman at church every Sunday, but we never saw him in Our Field.
And I don't believe anybody could have such a field of their very own, and never come to see it, from one end of summer to the other.
It is almost impossible to quote portions of the "Blind Man" without marring the whole. The story is so condensed–only four pages in length; it is one of the most striking examples of my sister's favourite rule in composition (to which further allusion shall be made hereafter)–"never use two words where one will do." But from these four brief pages we learn as much as if four volumes had been filled with descriptions of the characters of the Mayor's son and Aldegunda,–from her birthday, on which the boy grumbled because "she toddles as badly as she did yesterday, though she's a year older," and "Aldegunda sobbed till she burst the strings of her hat, and the boy had to tie them afresh,"–to the day of their wedding, when the Bridegroom thinks he can take possession of the Blind Man's Talking Dog, because the latter had promised to leave his master and live with the hero, if ever he could claim to be perfectly happy–happier than him whom he regarded as "a poor wretched old beggar in want of everything."
As they rode together in search of the Dog:
Aldegunda thought to herself–"We are so happy, and have so much, that I do not like to take the Blind Man's dog from him"; but she did not dare to say so. One–if not two–must bear and forbear to be happy, even on one's wedding-day.
And, when they reached their journey's end, Lazarus was no longer "the wretched one . . . miserable, poor, and blind," but was numbered amongst the blessed Dead, and the Dog was by his grave:
"Come and live with me, now your old master is gone," said the young man, stooping over the dog. But he made no reply.
"I think he is dead, sir," said the gravedigger.
"I don't believe it," said the young man, fretfully. "He was an Enchanted Dog, and he promised I should have him when I could say what I am ready to say now. He should have kept his promise."
But Aldegunda had taken the dog's cold head into her arms, and her tears fell fast over it.
"You forget," she said; "he only promised to come to you when you were happy, if his old master was not happier still; and perhaps–"
"I remember that you always disagree with me," said the young man, impatiently. "You always did so. Tears on our wedding-day, too! I suppose the truth is, that no one is happy." [Page 43]
Aldegunda made no answer, for it is not from those one loves that he will willingly learn that with a selfish and imperious temper happiness never dwells.
"The Blind Man" was inserted in the MAGAZINE as an "Old-fashioned Fairy Tale," and Julie wrote another this year (1876) under the same heading, which was called "I Won't." *
She also wrote a delightfully funny Legend, "The Kyrkegrim turned Preacher," about a Norwegian Brownie, or Niss, whose duty was "to keep the church clean, and to scatter the marsh marigolds on the floor before service," but like other church-sweepers his soul was troubled by seeing the congregation neglect to listen to the preacher, and fall asleep during his sermons. Then the Kyrkegrim, feeling sure that he could make more impression on their hardened hearts than the priest did, ascended from the floor to the pulpit, and tried to set the world to rights; but eventually he was glad to return to his broom, and leave "heavier responsibilities in higher hands."
She contributed "Hints for Private Theatricals. In Letters from Burnt Cork to Rouge Pot," which were probably suggested by the private theatricals in which she was helping at Aldershot; and she wrote four of her best Verses for Children: "Big Smith," † "House-building and Repairs," ‡ "An Only Child's Tea-Party," § and "Papa Poodle." ¶
"The Adventures of an Elf" is a poem to some clever silhouette pictures of Fedor Flinzer's, which she freely adapted from the German. "The Snarling Princess" is a fairy tale also adapted from the German; but neither of these contributions was so well worth the trouble of translation as a fine dialogue from the French of Jean Macé called "War and the Dead", which Julie gave to the number of AUNT JUDY for October, 1866. "The Princes of Vegetation" (April, 1876) is an article on Palm-trees, to which family Linnæus had given this noble title.
The last contribution, in 1876, which remains to be mentioned is "Dandelion Clocks," a short tale; but it will need rather a long introduction, as it opens out into a fresh trait of my sister's character, namely, her love for flowers. [Page 44]
It need scarcely be said that she wrote as accurately about them as about everything else; and, in addition to this, she enveloped them in such an atmosphere of sentiment as served to give life and individuality to their inanimate forms. The habit of weaving stories round them began in girlhood, when she was devoted to reading Mr. J. G. Wood's graceful translation of Alphonse Karr's "Voyage autour de mon Jardin." The book was given to her in 1856, by her father, and it exercised a strong influence upon her mind. What else made the ungraceful Buddlæa lovely in her eyes? I confess that when she pointed out the shrub to me for the first time, in Mr. Ellacombe's garden, it looked so like the "Plum-pudding tree" in the "Willow pattern" and fell so far short of my expectation of the plant over which the two florists had squabbled, that I almost wished that I had not seen it! Still I did not share their discomfiture so fully as to think "it no longer good for anything but firewood!"
Karr's fifty-eighth "Letter" nearly sufficed to enclose a declaration of love in every bunch of "yellow roses" which Julie tied together; and to plant an "Incognito" for discovery in every bed of tulips she looked at; whilst her favourite Letter XL., on the result produced by inhaling the odour of bean flowers, embodies the spirit of the ideal existence which she passed, as she walked through the fields of our work-a-day world:
The beans were in full blossom. But a truce to this cold-hearted pleasantry. No, it is not a folly to be under the empire of the most beautiful–the most noble feelings; it is no folly to feel oneself great, strong, invincible; it is not a folly to have a good, honest, and generous heart; it is no folly to be filled with good faith; it is not a folly to devote oneself for the good of others; it is not a folly to live thus out of real life.
No, no; that cold wisdom which pronounces so severe a judgment upon all it cannot do; that wisdom which owes its birth to the death of so many great, noble, and sweet things; that wisdom which only comes with infirmities, and which decorates them with such fine names–which calls decay of the powers of the stomach and loss of appetite sobriety; the cooling of the heart and the stagnation of the blood a return to reason; envious impotence a disdain for futile things;–this wisdom would be the greatest, the most melancholy of follies, if it were not the commencement of the death of the heart and the senses.
I do not, of course, mean to claim for Alphonse Karr a solitary capability of drawing beautiful lessons from Nature, but have instanced his power of finding a quaint mixture of philosophy and deep romance in his garden, because it is more in accordance with the current of my sister's mind, than the gathering of such exquisite, but totally different [Page 45] teaching, as Kingsley drew during the course of his limited "Winter's Walk," or his strolls by "The Chalk Stream."
"Dandelion Clocks" resembles one of Karr's "Letters" in containing the germs of a three-volumed romance, but they are the germs only–and the "proportions" of the picture are consequently well preserved. Indeed, the tale always reminds me of a series of peaceful scenes by Cuyp, with low horizons, sleek cattle, and a glow in the sky betokening the approach of sunset. First we have "Peter Paul and his two sisters playing in the pastures" at blowing dandelion clocks:
Rich, green, Dutch pastures, unbroken by hedge or wall, which stretched–like an emerald ocean–to the horizon and met the sky. The cows stood ankle-deep in it and chewed the cud, the clouds sailed slowly over it to the sea, and on a dry hillock sat Mother, in her broad sun-hat, with one eye to the cows, and one to the linen she was bleaching, thinking of her farm.
The actual outlines of this scene may be traced in the German woodcut to which the tale was written, but the colouring is Julie's! The only disturbing element in this quiet picture is Peter Paul's restless, inquiring heart. What wonder that when his bulb-growing uncle fails to solve the riddle of life, Peter Paul should go out into the wider world and try to find a solution for himself ? But the answers to our life problems full often are to be found within, for those who will look, and so Peter Paul comes back after some years to find that:
The elder sister was married and had two children. She had grown up very pretty,–a fair woman, with liquid misleading eyes. They looked as if they were gazing into the far future, but they did not see an inch beyond the farm. Anna was a very plain copy of her in body; in mind she was the elder sister's echo. They were very fond of each other, and the prettiest thing about them was their faithful love for their mother, whose memory was kept as green as pastures after rain.
Peter Paul's temperament, however, was not one that could adapt itself to a stagnant existence; so when his three weeks on shore are ended, we see him on his way from the Home Farm to join his ship:
Leena walked far over the pastures with Peter Paul. She was very fond of him, and she had a woman's perception that they would miss him more than he could miss them.
"I am very sorry you could not settle down with us," she said, and her eyes brimmed over.
Peter Paul kissed the tears tenderly from her cheeks.
"Perhaps I shall when I am older, and have shaken off a few more of my whims into the sea. I'll come back yet, Leena, and live very near to you, and grow tulips, and be as good an old bachelor-uncle to your boy as Uncle Jacob is to me."
* * * * * *
When they got to the hillock where Mother used to sit Peter Paul took her once more into his arms.
"Good-by, good sister" he said, "I have been back in my childhood again, and GOD knows that is both pleasant and good for one."
"And it is funny that you should say so," said Leena, smiling through her tears; "for when we were children you were never happy except in thinking of when you should be a man."
And with this salutary home-thrust (which thoroughly common-place minds have such a provoking faculty for giving) Leena went back to her children and cattle.
Happy for the artistic temperament that can profit by such rebuffs!
* Reprinted in "Papa Poodle and other Pets." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S.P.C.K.
* Bemrose & Sons.
† Bell & Sons. 1876.
* Included in "The Human Face Divine, and other Tales." By Margaret Gatty. Bell & Sons.
* "We and the World." Bell & Sons.
* Bell & Sons.
† Reprinted in "Tongues in Trees." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S.P.C.K.
‡ Reprinted in "Songs for Music, by Four Friends." King & Co. 1874.
§ Included in "Parables from Nature." By Mrs. Alfred Gatty. Complete edition. Bell & Sons.
¶ Reprinted in "A Great Emergency, and other Tales." By J. H. Ewing. Bell & Sons.
* "Lob Lie-by-the-Fire, and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
* "A Great Emergency, and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
† "Verse Books for Children." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.
* H. King & Co.
* "Elleree" is the name of one who has the gift of second-sight.
* "Bodach Glas," the Man in Grey, appears to a Highland family with the gift of second-sight, presaging death.
† Reprinted in "Old-fashioned Fairy Tales." S. P. C. K.
* Reprinted in "A Great Emergency, and other Tales." (Bell & Sons.)
† AUNT JUDY'S CHRISTMAS VOLUME, 1877. (Bell & Sons.) "A Sweet Little Dear." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.
‡ AUNT JUDY'S CHRISTMAS VOLUME, 1877. (Bell & Sons.)
* Reprinted in "Little Boys and Wooden Horses." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.
† Reprinted in "Brothers of Pity, and other Tales of Beasts and Men." By J. H. Ewing. S. P. C. K.
* "A Week Spent in a Glass Pond." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. (Darton, Gardner, & Co., Paternoster-buildings.)
* Reprinted in "A Great Emergency, and other Tales." (Bell & Sons.)
* Reprinted in "Old-fashioned Fairy Tales." By J. H. Ewing. S. P. C. K.
† Reprinted in "Little Boys and Wooden Horses." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.
‡ Reprinted in "Doll's Housekeeping." Ibid.
§ "An Only Child's Tea Party." Ibid.
¶ "Papa Poodle and other Pets." Ibid.