UPS AND DOWNS OF LIFE.
IT is very
wonderful to see the resignation of the poor, and the quiet
submission of so many of them to their lot.
I have often been amazed at the contentment of those who,
according to the graphic saying, "live from hand to mouth," still
more at the composure of some who, when out of work, from illness or
some other cause, will moralize on their own condition, and point
with compassion to others still worse off than themselves. How
often have I heard one or the other of my parents say, "This is a
hard winter; I am afraid you are very much straitened, with your
"Well," the answer would be, "certainly it is hard; but then,
sir, you see, all the gifts come in the winter."
"What wages does your husband earn?"
"Why, he has earned but four shillings and sixpence the last
four weeks, by reason Mr. ――
can only keep the men on three days in the week."
"Can you get on with four shillings and sixpence a week?"
"No, sir; we're forced to run up a score at the baker's.
But, dear me, sir, what can poor folks expect, such a hard frost
Their submission to inevitable poverty is wonderful; but when
we see them extend the same indifference to proposals for improving
their condition, if those proposals involve change, or personal
exertion in some new form to the one they are accustomed to, long
journeys, or the necessity for consideration and thought, it is
impossible not to feel that poverty, bringing with it, as it so
often does, ignorance and dullness of intellect, is the greatest and
most stubborn bar to its own removal.
We know that "the poor shall never cease out of the land;"
but, really, it does sometimes appear as if they themselves were
bent upon keeping this prophecy constantly fulfilled. "I have
not a cake," said the poor widow to Elijah, "but an handful of meal
in a barrel, and a bottle of oil in a cruse; and, behold, I am
gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my
son, that we may eat it, and die."
Here we have the very spirit and heart of hopeless poverty
presented to us. The more absolute the need, the more passive
the sufferer; and often, the wider the distress is spread abroad,
the less is heard of repining, for this simple reason, that the
sufferers dwell among many others no better off than themselves, and
they come at last to regard their lot as the common one, and the
natural heritage of humanity. But I must not moralize; my
simple narrative shall be its own moral.
You must know, then, that beyond my father's garden is a wild
shrubbery, thickly planted with lauristinus shrubs, sycamore planes,
maple trees, and larches. In my childhood, a winding path led
through it, till it sloped down rather abruptly to the brink of a
stream about three feet wide. This stream, which was not very
deep, formed the boundary between the shrubbery and the field; and
not far from it, in the thickest part of the shrubbery, and, as
gardener called it, "blinded and smothered in them trees," stood a
substantial root-house, with plastered walls, a real door that would
lock, and two small glass windows. It was the joy of my
childhood to decorate the place with shells, bits of coloured glass,
peacock's feathers, gay pebbles, and anything else that I thought
would make it a gorgeous and desirable summer palace. There,
also, I had two wooden stools, a table, some nests which gardener
had given me, my tools, and a good deal of other property of
inestimable value in my eyes, but scarcely worth mentioning, if
things are only worth what they will fetch.
When I was twelve years old, my two cousins came to spend the
autumn with us. For the first fortnight we had holidays, and
we spent nearly all day playing in and about this root-house.
It was the end of September, the most delightful weather possible;
the sun shone from morning till night; but the leaves were turning
and falling very early, for I well remember the thick layer of plane
and sycamore leaves we used to tread under foot, and the quantities
of fir-cones and horse-chestnuts we collected during that happy
Our old gardener, who was quite a character in his way, was
generally very good-natured to us, but when he was displeased he had
a trick of muttering to himself, which we well understood. If
we had been running over his newly raked borders, meddling with his
hand-glasses, or bearing off his tools for our own purposes, we were
sure to be assailed with his muttering, together with a
half-articulated warning that he should tell our pa of us.
As we had kept very much out of his way, and just at that
time had clear consciences with respect to this much-injured
individual, we were rather surprised whenever we passed to be
greeted with his grumbling, as well as with various portentous
shakes of the head.
At last, one particularly fine day, when we wanted to make a
feast in the root-house, and petitioned him to give us each a
Burgundy pear and a few filberts, we were surprised to be met with a
stern refusal, and a remark that we ought not to have done such
things, for we knew better.
"Done what things!" we exclaimed, strong in conscious
"If it had been a matter of a few young onions, or
half-a-dozen pears and apples, I'd have scorned to say a word,"
proceeded gardener, with some vehemence; "but I can't stand this,
no, that I can't;" and so saying, he began to dig again with all his
might, while we stood staring at him in mute surprise.
Presently he stopped, and broke out afresh in a burst of
"Do I grudge the fruits and vedgeables to the
children? bless 'em! No: don't I take a pride and a pleasure
in saving up the best for 'em? But three big cowcumbers,
and a heap of turnip parings as big as my hat! Why, it's
frightful! It's enough to kill 'em. I must tell their
pa, I really must."
"Why, gardener! gardener! you don't think we eat the raw
turnips the dirty raw turnips!" we all exclaimed in a breath.
"If you don't eat 'em, what do you pare 'em for?" said
gardener, surprised at this complete denial.
"Pare them? pare turnips?"
"Bless the children! why, yes pare 'em, to be sure; who
else would pare 'em in the shrubbery, and fling the peel and skins
behind the root-house?"
Upon this hint, off we all ran to the root-house, and
gardener ran after us. There, as he had said, in a heap at the
back of it, lay as many turnip and carrot parings as would have
filled his hat, besides quantities of cucumber skins, and onion
peels and leaves.
"Now, if you children did not go for to do this," said
gardener, "I call it a most extrornary fact."
We all declared our innocence, whereupon he muttered to
himself for some time, declared he would tell his master; gave us
the fruit we had asked for, and walked off to his digging in the
That very evening, about half-past eight o'clock, I suddenly
remembered that we had left out on the steps of the root-house two
books of immense value, one of them my own property, the other
belonging to my cousin Anne. We were up in the nursery when I
made this discovery, and both my cousins were loud in their
lamentations; for, be it known to you, readers, that these were no
ordinary books. One of them was "Robinson Crusoe," bound in
red morocco, and adorned with pictures and gilding; the other was
bound in green, it was called, "Christian Missions to Heathen
Lands." My father had caused it to be interleaved for me with
blank pages; upon which pages I had pasted quantities of prints and
wood-cuts, and spent many a happy afternoon in painting them, with
colours from my own paint-box.
How many a striped tiger how many a missionary, with
extremely red cheeks, and a yellow straw hat was now exposed to
the nightly dew! How many a literally Red Indian (for I
painted this tribe with pure lake) might now be spoiled! How
many a grim idol, doubly grim now my paint-brush had touched it,
how many an Eastern chief, and carved canoe, might now, in the
damp, be curling up its fair proportions!
It was grievous to think of the risk; yet, when I petitioned
Myra, our young nurse, to go into the shrubbery, and feel her way in
the dark to the root-house, I knew there was but little chance of
"What! go out at this time of night, miss?" she said; "and me
so often laid up with the tooth-ache! I wonder you can think
of such a thing!"
"Then, Mary, will you go?" I asked of the housemaid, who was
sitting with Myra.
"Me go out to that lonesome place!" she exclaimed,
with a shiver; "why, it's pitch dark!"
"But you could easily find your way, if you would feel the
trees with your hands; and the night is quite warm."
"I wouldn't go, miss," she answered, "even if Myra, would go
"No," said Myra; "a nasty, lone place, where the winds moan
in the trees just like Christians."
I felt very much discomfited; and at length the two maids
being deep in discourse, and my cousins engaged in putting their
dolls to bed I slipped out of the room, and went down stairs,
hoping to find some one who would do my errand; but no one appeared,
and I accordingly entered a passage, came to the row of pegs where
our garden shawls hung, and, before I well knew what I was about,
had taken down my own, thrown it over my head, and slipped the
wooden bolt of the garden door. I looked out; it was an
extremely dark night, but the air was quite warm, and not a leaf
seemed to be stirring. I shut the door behind me, and stepped
on the gravel walk; it was so dark that I could only just see grass
from gravel, but I managed to keep in the path till I ran up against
the trees which bordered the shrubbery.
I put out my hand and felt the leaves they were lauristinus
leaves; I brushed along a little further, and the next leaves I
touched came off in my hand; they were fleshy plane leaves. At
last, a Scotch fir-tree pricked me, and I turned down beside it, for
I knew it grew at the side of the path.
How intensely dark that night was! Well as I knew the
place, I continually pushed myself against the trees, and twice lost
At last, the scent of a rosemary bush, close to me, told that
I was near the root- house. I battled with some larch-trees,
and pushing forward, suddenly lifted up my head. Fancy my
amazement! There stood the root-house, not ten paces from me
a soft, murmuring noise proceeded from it, and light was streaming
from the door and windows. Astonishment, and fear made my
heart beat quick. I looked again; something moved inside, but
I could not tell what, though I could discern a wavering, looming
shadow on the wall, and hear slight movements inside. I forgot
my books, and was about to seek safety in flight, when my undefined
fears were suddenly dissipated by the sound of human voices.
Curiosity triumphed. I pushed myself back into my leafy
screen, and, taking a wide sweep among the trees, softly approached
the front, and then saw one of the most curious sights it has ever
been my lot to look upon. The door was thrown back, and broad
light streamed up among the green leaves, and down upon the yellow
ones. The shadows still wavered on the wall, and, sitting on
the door-step, with our books on their knees, I saw the figures
which cast them.
They were two young girls, about three years older than
myself; a candle stood on the stool behind them, and they turned
over the leaves, and gazed with stupid, listless wonder at my
pictures; their dress was to the last degree wretched and
insufficient; they wore no bonnets, but their forlorn locks dropped
out from under torn red handkerchiefs. Presently a voice spoke
from within, in obedience to which, as it seemed, the elder girl
flung "Robinson Crusoe" into her sister's lap, and displayed her
apron full of carrots and onions, which she proceeded to pare and
scrape with a broken knife.
I edged myself cautiously in front of the door, and saw the
woman whose voice I had heard. She sat with her elbows on the
little table, and her cheeks resting upon them. Unlike the
girls, though wretchedly clad, she was clean; she had on a red print
gown, very thin and scanty, a grey cloak, and a white cap.
Half a loaf of bread stood before her on the table, and she had a
small bundle on her back, which she presently untied, and, taking
out a wooden spoon, two or three knives, and a tattered red shawl,
proceeded to spread this last upon the floor.
I then first observed that quantities of dry leaves had been
swept into one corner of the root-house; it was upon these that the
shawl was spread, and it was evident that the unbidden guests
intended to spend the night there.
I remained rooted by a kind of fascination to the spot, while
these things were going on, till the woman suddenly struck her hand
on the table with a violent thump, and, stamping her foot, cried
"Once more, I say, be the carrots ready?"
The elder girl, upon this, flung away my Heathen Lands," and
answered pertly, "I tell you they can't be done any quicker; what
would you have?"
Upon this the woman snatched up a stick, and darted towards
her. Down went carrots, turnips, and onions, and off fled the
girls into the darkness. They dashed in among the trees they
would touch me in another second; and I sprang aside, and ran even
faster than they did. If I had been long in making my way
there, I was quick in returning. Terror gave me wings, and I
never stopped to look back till I was safe in the open garden, which
I thought both airy and lightsome, after the dense darkness and
closeness the shrubbery. Then I paused for a second, and,
hearing no sound but the tinkling voice of the stream, made straight
for the house, over wet grass and soft borders, and never stopped to
reflect that I had done wrong in going out at night without leave,
till I had tried the garden door and found it locked.
There was a light in my grandfather's little study, and,
while I lingered near it, hesitating what to do, I looked up, and
through the window on the staircase I observed the figure of Myra.
She was flying down stairs with a candle in her hand, and a face of
the utmost consternation; I saw her turn and open the door of the
study, and had no doubt she must have missed me, and as a last hope
was seeking me there.
She burst into the little room, but before she had time to
unfold her errand I reached it on the outside, saw my grandfather
sitting at his desk, and my father standing on the rug, trimming his
lamp. They both started forward at sight of her white face;
but at the same instant I tapped at the glass. She saw me, and
ran to let me in. My grandfather took off his spectacles, and
stared when I entered with my shoes saturated with dew, and yellow
leaves sticking to my hair and frock.
Myra's vehemence and my plight astonished him, and he slowly
shook his head with comical gravity, as if he would have said,
"Here's a fuss about nothing." But my father knew very well
that I must have been out without leave and for some time, too, or
Myra would not have been so much frightened; but, observing how wet
I was, he summarily ordered me to be put to bed, and said he should
hear more about this next morning. At the moment I was too
much abashed to say anything, but had no sooner laid my head on my
pillow than I remembered that my father ought to know of these
people who were pilfering and lodging about his premises. I
soon heard my grandfather's step in the passage, and called to him
till he entered; and then I told him what I had done, and, having
made a clear conscience, forthwith fell asleep, and slept soundly
It appears that my father and grandfather, upon receiving my
information, sallied forth, and made their way very quietly to the
root-house, where they had ample opportunity to verify all that I
The girls had kindled a small fire, which they could do with
impunity so far from the house, and on such a dark night; a tin pot
hung over the fire; they cut the crusts of bread into it, and then
shred in slices of turnip, onion, cucumber, and carrot; they then
scooped their raw turnips quite hollow, and with them ladled out and
devoured the unsavoury mess. Their appearance of poverty and
wretchedness was so touching, that my father had not the heart to
dislodge these housedress trespassers, but saw them put out the
fire, rake dead leaves over the ashes, and then retire into the
root-house, lock the door, and put out the candle.
"They shall sleep in peace this one night longer," he said to
my grandfather, as they retired; for, from some of their random talk
which he had overheard, it was evident that they had frequented the
place at night for nearly a month.
The next morning, while it was still dark, he walked down to
the place, and again saw the light inside. The poor vagrants
did not dare to kindle another fire, and were eating raw carrots by
way of breakfast. Presently the door was opened, and my father
walked in and confronted the woman. She stood as if petrified,
but neither spoke nor attempted to get away.
"Do you know me?" he inquired, steadily.
"Yes," said the woman, as boldly as himself; "and I reckon
them told me a lie, that said you was a good-hearted gentleman."
"Why do you reckon so?" inquired my father. "If you
think I feel no pity for your misery and want, though you have
broken the laws of God and man, you are mistaken."
"It was the misery and want that made me do it," said the
woman, in a choking voice. "I haven't a friend in the world,
not one, nor a roof to cover me, nor a place big enough anywhere
for my foot to stand on."
As she spoke, she tried to make her tattered cloak fill the
"I have seen your two daughters," said my father. "It
is useless, your trying to conceal them; and I heard you say, last
night, that you had slept here for a month past."
"It's no good denying it," repeated the woman, wringing her
hands; "it was the misery and want that made me do it. But,
oh, good gentleman, if you would but consider to forgive me this
"What if I would? would you and your daughters try to earn
an honest livelihood?"
"I'm always trying," sobbed the woman; "and I'm nearly
starved. I can't get enough to eat, either with honest or
The heart-broken voice in which she said this quite shocked
"But you can work," he proceeded; "and the girls can work."
"Work!" repeated the woman; "there ain't no work to get, or
folks won't give it to such as we."
"How do you live, then?"
"We tramp the country, and sell cottons and bootlaces.
For three weeks afore we came here, we slept under hay-stacks."
"If I were willing to give you a chance of doing better, if
I could trust you this once, and help you to some work and a
"Oh, sir! Oh, good gentleman! I do assure you,
we'd bless you forever! Anything, sir, for honest victuals and
This conversation, and a good deal more which I have
forgotten, my father repeated that morning at breakfast; and then
followed a long discussion about these poor creatures, their
misery, the theft they had committed, and what was to be done for
them or with them. At length the matter ended by some work
being found in the fields; and having made many promises of
amendment, they went to it, my father consenting to overlook the
past and give them a chance of retrieving their characters.
He continued for two or three weeks to find work for this
poor woman and the girls. At last, one Saturday afternoon, to
their great sorrow, they finished the only task that remained, and
came up to the house to receive their money and a few clothes which
my mother had found for them.
I shall never forget their desolate appearance. The
girls, both much taller than myself, had neither shoes nor
stockings. One of them had an old shawl tied over her tattered
garments, by way of a gown; the other wore a boy's fustian jacket,
and looked really the most comfortable of the two.
A large walnut-tree grew outside the kitchen door, and on the
bench beneath it they were told to sit down. The girls looked
about them with a reckless air, as they obeyed; but the mother, with
her hands upon her knees, preserved a look of heart-broken
Presently cook came out with a large slice of bread and bacon
for each, and a mug of beer; and then they rose and drank her
health, while Myra, carrying the baby in her arms, drew near, and
privately slipped some half-pence into the woman's hands.
A moment after, my grandfather came out, and Myra, with my
cousins and I, continued to linger within ear-shot. He told
cook to bring him out a kitchen chair, sat down opposite the woman,
and asked her what she intended to do.
I do not remember her exact answer; but the conversation went
on, till gradually she was led to unfold her history, which was in
substance that she and her husband had lived in Manchester; that
they had been very comfortable, till a strike took place among his
fellow-workmen, in which he was compelled to join; that then, having
his time on his own hands, he was tempted into public houses, where
he soon spent the two or three pounds he had laid by against a rainy
day; and, by the time this fatal strike was over, and the men
returned to their work, he had become a confirmed drunkard.
She had struggled hard, she said, with her young family, but they
sank lower and lower. At last, for some felony, her husband
was sentenced to transportation; and she, alas, following in his
footsteps, took first to petty pilfering, and then to shoplifting,
till she was detected, committed to jail, and on coming out found
her young family in the streets, begging and gathering potato
parings and turnip tops from the heaps of refuse, to boil and eat.
She told this with little appearance of shame, and described how
they sunk into the lowest depths of poverty. No one would
employ her, as her character for honesty was completely gone.
At last, in a sickly season, her two younger children died, and she
took to roaming the country and begging at farm-houses with the
"But it wasn't my fault," she added, with a weary sigh.
"It'll never be set down to my account, but to them that made me do
it; and, if everybody has their due, as we know they will have,
they'll be punished, that they will, and I shall be
"We know that all wickedness which is not repented of will be
punished," said my grandfather, gravely. "But can you tell me
what it is for which you suppose you shall be rewarded?"
"Well, no; not rightly," she answered, with a reckless air.
"But it would be hard if those that suffer here were to suffer in
the next world too. I reckon that I shall be rewarded for
"By whom do you reckon that you shall be rewarded?"
The words, "by God," were all but uttered, when the woman
paused, and seemed to consider.
"Christ will be rewarded for having suffered," said my
grandfather. "We read in the Bible that 'He shall see of the
travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.' His buffering is
for the endless good of all our race; but what has your suffering
been good for? Not for any one besides yourself, surely."
"No," answered the woman.
"Perhaps it has not been good for yourself even. Are
you a more thankful woman, or, on the whole, a better woman, than
you were in the days when your husband was at work, and you had your
young children about you?"
"You don't talk like other religious folks," she replied.
"I've heard, till I am tired of hearing it, both at church and from
the visiting ladies, that troubles are sent by God, and we ought to
"Some troubles, no doubt, are sent by God, and are meant to
make us better," replied my grandfather; "but other troubles are
stirred up by the devil, and they always tend to make us worse.
Don't you think that, if a man in a drunken brawl were to strike and
kill another man, that he would be a hypocrite, if, when he got into
prison for it, he were to say that his trouble was ordained by God,
and he must bear it as well as he could?"
"Well," she answered, "I shouldn't much like to hear him say
"You can read?"
"Of course I can. I've been at Sunday-school, and at
My grandfather took a small Testament from his pocket.
"Then, will you read these verses to me," he said, opening it
and handing it to her.
The woman seemed pleased. She turned over the leaves
"I could read once with the best of them, and I've got
prizes, too, in school for it; but I'm lost to almost everything
now;" and she proceeded to read, with a slight north-country accent,
from the first chapter of the general Epistle of James; "'Blessed is
the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall
receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that
love him. Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of
God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any
man; but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own
lust, and enticed.'"
"Well," said my grandfather, "I understand by that verse that
a blessing is promised to those who stand against temptation, not
to those who fall and yield to it."
She answered quietly, "I see that plain enough."
"But there are other blessings promised to those that have
fallen, if they will only accept them," he continued; "and as you
acknowledge that you did fall when you were tempted; I would not, if
I were you, ever talk about a reward. I would rather
ask forgiveness, and say, 'Receive me graciously, and love me
freely;' and, depend on it, you would be received and blessed."
"I should like to see my girls respectable again," she
answered, glancing away from the religious part of the question.
"I think a vast deal more of them than of myself."
"I suppose the poor things can neither sew, nor wash, nor
mend, nor read?" said my grandfather, compassionately.
"Yes, that they can," answered the mother, sharply; "they
used to go to the Industrial School, when they were little.
It's very hard that for that one misfortune of mine, I should
be so thrown out of work very, it is."
"That one theft and committal, you mean? Ah! you may
well call it a misfortune; this ought to teach you, my poor friend,
that 'the wages of sin are hard' but," continued my grandfather,
with his usual hearty good will, "it is my business, and my wish, to
help you if I can not to reproach you."
"I wish to do better, I'm sure," said the woman; "I've got
nothing but misery by it; but I was so poor so cruel poor and
the children crying round me for bread, and all"
"And that," replied my grandfather, "must be very hard for a
mother to bear."
The woman seemed softened, and proceeded "But it's no use
talking there's hundreds and hundreds every nigh starving; and if
I was ever so honest, it's not that that would get me work."
"No," replied my grandfather, "you speak the truth there.
I know many an honester woman than you that seldom gets a good meal;
the country's too full of people craving for work to admit of that;
they all tread upon one another's heels. Pray, did you ever
hear of emigration?"
During the first part of this speech, the woman's face had
expressed extreme surprise at the decided manner in which he had
admitted the hopelessness of her condition, and the absence of the
usual conclusion to all conversation between the rich and the poor
"But, my friend, this lot is appointed for you; it is your
duty to be resigned," or, "You must endeavour not to dwell on the
hardships of your condition, but try to cultivate a contented
spirit; I assure you, the rich, whom you think so happy, are not
without their trials." She looked, as if half-expecting such a
speech to follow; I dare say she had heard it, or something like it,
many hundreds of times; I am sure I have, from very kind and
charitable lips. But she expected in vain, and, as I said
before, she looked surprised, till his sudden question followed; and
I shall never forget the weary expression of utter distaste which
instantly overspread her features.
"Emigration," she repeated; "Oh, yes, I've heard enough of
it, one time or another. The gentlefolks wants us to go over
to the furrin parts, and then we shall be out of their way,
and we may starve as soon as we like. But," she continued, her
eyes sparkling with anger, "I know better than to heed their talk;
for, if they ever was worth going to, they must be thick of people
by this time, for there's hundreds gone to e'm from Manchester and
Liverpool, let alone London."
This strange speech showed that she had at least thought on
"Myra," said my grandfather, "give the baby to Miss T., and
go and fetch the globe out of my study."
Myra ran with alacrity, and presently returned with the
globe, which my grandfather took upon his knee, and drawing his
chair close in front of the three beggars, observed to the woman, "I
suppose, when you said 'the gentlefolks wanted you to starve,' you
did not mean to include me and mine."
"No," said the woman, bluntly; "your people have been very
good to us."
"Then I suppose you will believe what I say. Look here;
you know that this world this earth that we live on" (tapping his
foot on the ground), "you know, of course, that it is round?"
"I've heard talk on it," said the woman, who, with her two
daughters, was looking at the globe with apparent curiosity.
"Well, now here's a little model of it," continued my
grandfather; "I mean that it's made the same shape, but of smaller
"I know," said the woman, nodding; "just as a gooseberry is
like a pumpkin."
"To be sure. Well, upon this little globe are
marked all the countries on the great globe, and as many of
the towns as we could find room for."
He turned it round slowly, and explained that the blue was
sea. At last, one of the girls whispered to her mother to
inquire which country was England.
"This is England," said my grandfather; and instantly a shade
of distrust passed over all their faces.
"If that be England," said the woman, "why ain't it at the
top, and in the middle?"
"Why should it be, my good woman?"
"Why not at top?" persisted the woman. "Why, sir, it
stands to reason; can't we see that we're at top? we don't live at
"Well," said my grandfather, parrying this thrust, "you see I
can make any part of this globe come up to the top when I please,
and also come into the middle. Now, will you look at England,
and see that it is quite full of the names of towns and cities it is
covered with them; and towns, as you know, are places full of
"Well, sir?" observed the woman, looking at him with
"Now, then, I'll turn another country up to the top,"
proceeded my grandfather. "There, now, what's the differences
between this country and England?"
"It's more than ten times as large," replied one of the
girls, "and there are no names on it, except just round the edges."
"Very good; that's Australia."
"Out-stralia;" exclaimed all three of them at once; "we had
no notion Out-stralia was so big as that!"
"So you see the people from Manchester and Liverpool are
never likely to fill a country so large as this," observed my
"Deary me!" exclaimed the woman, lifting up both her hands in
continued surprise at its dimensions.
"Well, now, do you believe that there's plenty of room over
"And don't you think where there is a great deal of land and
very few labourers, that the farmers are likely to give good wages?
Don't you think, if I had a ten-acre field of wheat to be cut, and
there was but one man in the place that could reap, I would give him
"And don't you think, in a country where there is a vast many
more men than women, and where every man can maintain a wife, and is
thankful to get somebody to wash, and mend, and bake for him,
don't you think, in such a country as that, your daughters would be
very likely to get good husbands?"
"Very like they might, sir."
"Well, you can't be worse off than you are. Suppose you
"I couldn't go such a long way," interrupted the woman,
hastily; "miles and miles, and never stopping for weeks and months."
"My good woman, have you not, as it is, been wandering about
the country for weeks and months, with no shelter worth the name,
and not half enough to eat?"
"I don't know anybody over there," she proceeded; "I don't
know a soul; I haven't a single friend."
"Nor here, either," exclaimed my grandfather, warming with
"And that's true enough, sir; but the poor seldom has
friends; and them that was born to poverty must e'en bear it as well
as they can."
"My good woman, don't deceive yourself; there is a great deal
of misery in the world; but the sort of misery you have been
suffering under, you need not bear unless you choose. There's
not a woman over there that cannot get work if she'll do it; nor a
man that can't maintain a wife if he can find one. It is not
patience it is not resignation that keeps you quiet under this
poverty; it is that you cannot make up your mind to bestir yourself.
If you were in work, and comfortable, it would be another thing
(though even then I, for my part, would not eat bread and potatoes
here, when I might have bread and beefsteak there); but you know
very well, and I know, that, go where you will, you cannot be worse
off than you are."
"No," said the woman, in the mild, listless tone of a
practised beggar; "but it's the will of God; some is rich, and
others is poor."
"My good woman, God gave reason and strength to mankind; and
if they will not use their reason, their strength for work is of no
use to them. Why will you waste your good strength in the
search for work here, where there is so little, instead of letting
your reason guide you to a place where strength is so precious?
God has made the world large enough for all his creatures; but if
they will crowd and congregate in one part, and eat to the last leaf
and grain, while they leave the fruit and the corn to rot elsewhere
for want of a hand to gather it, then they have no right to talk
about patience and resignation, and say it is the will of their
Maker that they should starve."
"What you say is very fine, sir, I'm sure," said the woman,
"But you don't mean to act upon it not even if I would take
all the trouble off your hands, and leave you nothing to do but to
step on shipboard!"
No, it was very evident that she did not ; and my
grandfather was too thoroughly accustomed to this termination of all
his lectures on emigration, to be either displeased or disappointed.
He sent the globe in again; and when my father had paid these
poor creatures, and my mother had given them some old clothes and a
Testament, they thanked us gratefully, took up their tin saucepan
their only possession and with many promises of amendment went
The winter following these little events was extremely mild
so much so, that all the spring flowers were in bloom by the middle
of February; but at that time the weather suddenly changed; we had a
hard frost, and a remarkably heavy fall of snow. All over the
hollow in which our house stood it was more than five feet deep, and
on the side against which the wind blew, the windows were blocked up
as high as the top row of panes.
When this frost had lasted three weeks there was a sudden
thaw and a heavy fall of rain, which riddled the snow full of round
holes. In a few days the warm sun was again shining upon the
crocuses and snowdrops; the wet bunches of lauristinus flower began
to raise themselves and dry their shining leaves, and the aconites
and hepaticas were as gay as ever.
Enormous lumps of wet snow still glittered in every sheltered
place; but the lanes were clear enough for me to walk in, and an
indescribable treat my first walk was, after a more than three
Forth we sallied, full of joy; even the baby crowed with
delight as Myra carried her. We went up the road, which led to
the highest and barest part of the common, and there it was quite
dry, and I could run about to my heart's content.
There Myra walked up and down till we had had enough
exercise, and were thinking of turning homewards when we saw at a
distance a beggar-girl, slipshod and miserably ill clad. She
was running quickly towards us; and as she drew near we observed
that her feet and legs were enveloped in old pieces of printed
cotton, and her shoes tied on with packthread. They were
saturated with water.
She was wrapped in a tattered grey cloak, and had a red
handkerchief tied over her head, by which we instantly recognized
her as the elder of the two girls who had slept in the root-house.
She ran up to Myra. "Here," she said; "old Mrs. Grattan
you know her she gave me a penny to bring you this letter."
Myra seized the letter, and began to read it as we walked
quietly towards home. The girl followed, and began to talk.
She told me her mother was dead; that she had been out all night in
the beginning of the snow storm, and was taken very bad with her
breathing. "Every time she breathed," said the girl, "it cut
her like a knife; they took her into the Union, but the doctor could
do her no good, and the third day she died."
I asked her how she and her sister had lived since, and a
sort of shiver passed over her; the wet was running out of her
shoes; she shook back her hair, and said fretfully, "It's not so bad
of nights; we sleep the more sound the more cold and hungry we be,
but it's very bad of days; but," she continued, "I said I would
never rest till I'd seen the old gentleman again, and I won't."
"You don't mean my grandfather?"
"I mean him that showed us the globe."
Myra was walking quickly on before us, towards home.
When she had finished reading she turned and faced us for a moment,
to ask some questions about her letter. I observed that her
face was deeply flushed, but she did not speak again, excepting to
beg that we would quicken our pace, as the air was getting cold for
The beggar girl limped after us, and observing that something
unusual was the matter with Myra, I supposed it was the sight of
this poor creature's misery; nevertheless, when we got into the
nursery, and my mother who was there had taken the baby in her arms,
I was astonished to see our usually cheerful nurse, without saying a
word, sit down in the rocking-chair, and begin to cry as if her
heart would break.
"What is the meaning of this, my dear?" said my mother to me.
"Oh, mamma, it's about that poor beggar-girl," I answered;
"she has no place but a barn to sleep in, and she has had only some
turnips to eat to-day, which she picked out of a sheep-trough; and
oh, mamma, she's nearly starved!"
"Well, don't cry, my dear child don't cry so; something
shall be done directly."
"No, ma'am, no;" said Myra, struggling with her sobs, "I'm
very sorry for the poor soul; but, ma'am, I've got a letter."
"What letter? Is there bad news, Myra?"
Poor Myra took the letter from under her shawl, and gave it
to my mother. After her passion of tears, she was quite calm,
and began to mend the fire and undress the baby, with a kind of
"I am very sorry for this news," said my mother gravely.
"Poor Joe! but as he is invalided, Myra, he will of course come
home, if his life is spared, and the voyage may do great things for
"But he has been wounded, ma'am," said Myra, sobbing.
"Yes, I see, this letter appears to have been written by one
of his comrades, and is addressed to his father; did old Grattan
give it you?"
"No, mamma;" I answered, "but the beggar-girl brought it to
her on the common."
"And," proceeded my mother, "the postscript is by Joe
himself. Did you look at the date?"
"No, ma'am," sobbed Myra; "I had enough to do to read the
thing itself; to think we should have been promised so long,
and I should never see him again. He says he's so much changed
that he's sure I shouldn't know him, and he wishes me to know it;
but he'll never come home again, poor fellow! Oh, war's a
wicked, cruel thing!"
"Ah! this brings one of its evils home to you; but now, try
to listen to me. You did not observe the date of this, but I
wonder the beginning did not strike you; he says, "I have no paper
here but the end of this letter, so I have sent it on to you, and it
will tell you all. It is dated to-day this very
morning: you know his hand-writing; therefore he must be already
come home." My mother said this slowly and quietly, while
Myra's eyes dilated with hope and wonder.
"Now, you may take the baby," she continued, and I will
question this poor girl; if Joe be really come home, she has
probably seen him."
My kind mother went down stairs, and shortly returned with a
smile in her eyes. "Well, Myra," she said, "you have suffered
a great deal of needless anxiety; Joe is at his father's cottage,
and old Mrs. Grattan told the girl he was tolerably well, but a good
deal altered by a scar on his forehead. He was anxious you
should know this, but I suppose that such a thing as that would not
part such old friends?" My mother paused, while Myra's eyes
overflowed with happy tears "So," she continued, "I sent word to
old Grattan's cottage, that Joe might come and see you to-night; and
you shall drink tea with him in the kitchen."
Myra, who was now about five-and-twenty years of age, had
lived in my father's house longer than I could remember, and was a
most faithful servant. My kind mother wished her to have the
evening to herself; she therefore came and sat in the nursery,
sending me down into the study to my father and grandfather.
It might have been, perhaps, eight o'clock, when there was a
knock at the door, and Myra came in curtseying and blushing with,
"If you please, sir, would you be kind enough to lend me the globe
for a minute?"
"The globe!" exclaimed my father, when she was gone, "what
can she possibly want that for? perhaps that Joe may show her the
places where he has been, poor fellow."
My grandfather said not a word, but continued to assist and
instruct me about the concoction of some gum seals that I was very
anxious to make.
At last, after more than half-an-hour, Myra knocked again,
and entered, with the globe under her arm. A heavier foot than
her's had come up the little passage, and my grandfather on hearing
it, called out, "Joe, if you're there, come in, man, and speak to
some old friends."
Upon this, in walked a stalwart young man, very upright, but
very sallow, and with a terrible sabre cut across his forehead and
"Well, Joe," said my father, after the first greetings, "you
have seen a good deal of the world since you left this place."
"Ay, sir," replied Joe; "and now I wish I hadn't done it.
I wish I'd stopped at home; or, at any rate, I wish I hadn't gone
off like that; for, bless you, sir, seeing the world ain't by half
so pleasant as folks think. But what a pleasure it is, sir,"
continued Joe, looking round, "to come back and find I'm the only
one changed. Why, the old gentleman looks heartier than ever!"
My grandfather acknowledged the compliment with a smile.
"And what do you mean to do for a living?" he inquired.
"Shall you take to your old occupation again, Joe?"
"Well, I don't deny that I have been very downhearted about
that, ever since I got my discharge," said he. "What's a
day-labourer's wages to maintain a family on, in particular, when
a man is not altogether so strong for work as he used to be?"
"I don't wonder you should have considered the matter with
anxiety," replied my father.
"And," proceeded Joe, looking hard at Myra, "a man may have
saved a trifle, but what's that? Why, one winter out of work
would see the last of it; and so, when I came here, I was uncommon
down-hearted. But she" pointing again at Myra, who stood
holding the globe in her arm, and, arrayed in a lilac print gown,
and her best cap, trimmed with pink ribbon, looked the very picture
of contentment she says she won't hear talk of
resignation, nor no such like thing. And so," he
continued, laying his large fingers on the globe, "we've been
looking at this, and I'm sure, if she's willing, I'm willing.
I've nothing to leave behind except my poor old father and mother,
and I can't help them at all by stopping here. All the way
home I have been fretting myself to a skeleton, thinking what a
cruel thing it would be to take her out of a comfortable house that
she's as much used to as if it was her own, and yet I can't keep her
in one; which seems very hard, when she's waited for me so long.
However, as soon as I began to talk, says she, 'Don't say anything
With this enigmatical speech, Joe took the globe and set it
on the floor; then turning, first to us and then to her, he
continued, warming with his subject, "Only give me the chance, and
I'm not the one to hold back. If there's work to be done
anywhere, I'm the man to do it. Why, I often heard say, when I
was over at Calcutta, that a man may earn from five-and-twenty to
thirty shillings a week, by light porterage alone, at Sydney; and
she says she's read that washing is paid for there at half-a-crown a
dozen. Why then, says I, when she says she's willing, let's be
after the washing and the portering, let's put our best foot
foremost, and throw the resignation overboard; for it stands to
reason, as she says, if I'm forced to stay here and starve, why I
can't do better than be resigned; but if there's plenty of meat and
drink out there, if a man will but work for them, then resignation
ain't the word for me. I'm the man that would rather see his
family thankful over a good dinner, than trying to be patient over a
With this specimen of rough eloquence, Joe made his exit,
Myra following; and my grandfather gave way to a series of chuckles,
expressive of his delight that his persuasions, and the knowledge he
had imparted, should at length, after years of fruitless effort,
have induced some of his countrymen to emigrate. It was
astonishing how quickly Joe had learned his lesson, with Myra for a
But my grandfather's triumph that night was nothing to what
was reserved for him the next morning, when, being told that the
beggar-girl wished to speak to him, he went out, and accosting her
with, "Well, my good girl, what do you want with me?" she replied,
composedly, "If you please, sir, I want to go to Out-stralia."
My grandfather drew a long breath, and the consequences of
what he had done began to occur to him.
"And so I suppose you want me to help you to get there," he
very naturally inquired.
"Please, sir," replied the girl, simply.
"And what do you expect when you get there?"
"Plenty of work," she answered, with sparkling eyes, "and
plenty of victuals."
"Ah, that will do, good girl. Why are you alone? "
"Mother died at the Union, and sister has a hurt in her foot.
She's lame, and won't go away, she says; but I want to go.
I've begged my way back here."
"Perhaps, if you get there, you may still have hardships to
bear. There's no begging there, you know; everybody must work.
First, you'll have a long voyage; and when once you are at sea,
there's no turning back again. And then, as soon as you land
you must begin to bestir yourself; you must brew, and you must wash,
and you must bake."
But to all these representations she only answered,
"Please, sir, I want to go to Out-stralia."
"Then step in doors," said my grandfather. "You know
what you are about, and you shall go."
And now succeeded a period of considerable excitement in our
family. A great many letters were written to London, and a
vast deal of trouble was undertaken by my grandfather; but this part
of the business interested me very little. I was too much
occupied in observing Myra, and hearing her plans, as well as in
watching how the beggar-girl acquired various useful arts. She
was taken into the house and told to make herself useful, and she
did. First one servant taught her something, then another was
eager to impart what she knew; and so, in the course of a very few
weeks, the beggar-girl could make bread, heat an oven, and bake.
She could dress meat and vegetables, salt pork and fish very
cleverly, milk a cow, make butter, and also plait straw, which, I am
proud to say, I taught her myself.
My grandfather thought no species of knowledge could come
amiss to her, and took the trouble himself to teach her how to cook
potatoes in the open air, without either wood, coals, or grate.
He made her act this over several times. First, she took some
potatoes and made a shallow hole in the ground for them, then
pulverized a little earth over them with her hands; she had next to
collect a quantity of dried leaves, and some sticks, heap these over
them, strike a light herself with a tinder-box and set fire to them,
fan and feed the flame, and finally sweep away the ashes, produce
her baked potatoes. Very nice ashes, and produce they were;
and the experiment generally ended by our eating them, and heartily
wishing that we were going to emigrate, that we might try these
delightful experiments too.
As for Joe, he came over very often to my grandfather, to
learn the proper time of year for planting different kinds of grain
and vegetables. He used frequently to practise digging,
trenching, pruning, and other common operations in the garden; and
my grandfather would stop him now and then, to impart anything that
occurred to him, Joe always listening with great attention, and
replying, "Very good, sir."
"Joe," my grandfather would say, producing an apple, "what do
you call these little, brownish husks at the top of this? They
look like the remains of small, withered leaves."
"Yes, sir; we used, when I was a boy, to call 'em the crown
of the apple."
"Ah,well, Joe, I won't trouble you with a harder name than
that for them. Can you think of any other fruit that has a
"Surely, sir; pears and quinces, gooseberries, currants, and
I think there must be a good many more."
"Why, yes; there are haws and hips, and medlars. Well,
Joe, whenever you see a crown like that at the top of a fruit, you
need not be afraid to bite a piece out of it. It may not be
good for food, but it certainly won't poison you."
"Very good, sir."
"Did you ever notice how a poppy grows, Joe? The red
flower-leaves are set on underneath the pod, where the seeds are,
and it stands up in the middle."
"So it does, sir."
"But that's just contrary to the way an apple grows.
There the flower is at the top, and the crown is the remains of it;
the fruit swells out underneath. You'll keep that in mind,
"Very good, sir."
But not to make my story too long, in the early part of
April, Joe and Myra were married, and one week after, everything
being put in trim for them by my grandfather, they set out with the
beggar-girl to go on board the vessel which was to take them to
Several months indeed, I think nearly a year passed
before we heard anything of them, and then old Mrs. Grattan brought
a letter to my mother, from Joe, setting forth the comforts of the
country, in such terms as could not fail to move the old woman's
heart. Tea, he informed her, much better than she could get in
England, was only one shilling and eight-pence per pound; he earned
five-and-twenty shillings a week by light porterage, and by making
himself generally useful wherever he was wanted. As for Myra,
her washing and ironing nearly kept the house; so, he was thankful
to say, he could lay by a pound or so now and then, and he meant
soon to have a good large garden; at present he had but a quarter of
an acre. "But I can tell you, mother," he continued, we've got
one of the beautifullest beds of onions you ever set your eyes on,
all nearly as large as Portugal onions; and meat being so uncommon
cheap, I in general get some for supper as well as dinner, and we
have plenty of fried onions with it; so what with that and the tea,
I say we live like kings and queens; and Maria Bell (the beggar
girl), she grows quite a fine young woman, and helps Myra with her
work; and many a talk we have about the bush, for I say, if I can
lay up enough money to buy some land, I'll go out into the bush, and
Maria says she'll go with us and help us; for cook at Mr. T.'s
taught her to milk a cow, and she is sure she can churn with the
best of them."
Soon after this came a letter from Myra to me, informing me
of the birth of a son and heir; as fine a child, she said, as ever
was seen. "And Joe says," her letter went on, "that he hopes,
with the blessing of God, he can feed as many children as God sends,
if there's a dozen of them; and, my dear, what a pleasure that is
for, I can tell you, I thought when he was born, if this dear child
had come into the world me and his father being in England he
would have taken the bread out of his mother's mouth, for I could
not have gone out to work while he was little; but now, if we have
ever so many, they are sure to be welcome. My dear, this is a
very curious country! There are birds here, whose nests are
just like great manure heaps full of eggs. I saw one; it was
as large as a good sized cart all dead leaves, and sand, and soil
very hot; it was like a cucumber frame, and the eggs something
like turkeys' eggs, and quite as good.
"Maria Bell sends her duty; she lives with me, for she says
she's determined she shall not marry at present, though she has
plenty of opportunities, as you may judge; for she is a very tall,
fine young woman, and there are a great many men here very much in
want of wives. But, my dear miss, if you could see her airs,
and how she goes to church of a Sunday, with a silk parasol over her
head, you would laugh. I don't deny that she's a good girl,
and has a right to good clothes, for she never earns less than from
eighteen shillings to a pound a week, and she is very helpful to me;
but Joe often has a laugh at her, when he sees her toss up her head,
and talk of the respectable young fellows here, as if they was not
by no means good enough for her! And to think how she used to
eat the raw turnips! But we don't talk about that here, for it
would be a disadvantage to her."
After this characteristic letter, we heard nothing more of
the settlers for more than two years; and people in our
neighbourhood, who had been much interested in them, began to shake
their heads, and say, they wondered how my grandfather could take
such responsibility on his shoulders as this, of inducing and urging
people to expatriate themselves; "for it is evident," they said,
"that these poor people got on comfortably enough as long as they
kept to the common kind of work that they had been accustomed to at
home, but at the end of two years they are no longer content.
They want to try some other mode of life; and no more is heard of
them got into some unhealthy spot, poor things! and, perhaps,
perished of fever, or travelled too far into the bush, lost their
track, and died of thirst!"
We have become so accustomed to talk and think familiarly of
Australia, and even of New Zealand, that we sometimes forget how
remote they seemed to many of us sixteen years ago. Sixteen
years ago Otago was a new settlement, Melbourne was in its infancy,
and Queensland was not yet named. Moreover, the subject of
emigration was very distasteful to most of the poor. They
looked upon it only as a way the gentry had of getting rid of them,
and insuring that they should never increase the parish rates.
Accordingly, sixteen years ago, my grandfather was made very
uneasy by the silence of the emigrants, and he shrank from
conversing on the subject, though I sometimes heard him mutter to
himself, while he paced the shrubbery, "Why couldn't they let well
alone. My lad, you should have let well alone!" However,
at the end of nearly three years, came a letter to my mother, which
set all our fears at rest, and filled my grandfather's heart with
joy and gratitude. The letter was dated Otago, New Zealand:
have been so unsettled for some time, that I could not write;
indeed, I had not heart for it when Joe was away, but as you are so
good as to like to know how we get on, I will take the liberty now
to tell you all about it.
"I hope your dear children are well, and I am now the mother
of three myself all boys. Soon after my last was born, I
could see that Joe was not so full of talk, nor so cheerful as he
used to be, and at last I said: 'Joe, if either you don't get on so
well, or has anything on your mind, surely you won't keep it from
me.' And said he, 'I don't deny that there is something, my
dear, that troubles me. You know we have saved near two
hundred pounds; besides, our goods and house would fetch a good
sum.' And he said, 'There is so much talk about Otago, that,
before the survey is over, I should wish, if by any possibility I
could, to go over there. But,' he says, 'to take you, Myra,
and the dear children, to a place where perhaps at first you could
not have a house over your head, and where (for all people say to
the contrary) I might find unhealthy marshes, or bad water, or
something that, when we get there, would make us rue the not having
stopped where we are, is a thing that weighs on my mind, so that I
can't sleep at nights.'
"Well, ma'am, I knew what he meant, and I said, 'Joe, I won't
stand in the light of my own children, though I can't say but that
it cuts me to the heart to think of your making a voyage by
yourself, and me never knowing whether you're comfortably done by,
nor whether you keep out of the way of fevers, and such like.'
"'I'll never go without your free consent,' says he; so think
of it, my dear, and consider if you were a lady, very like your
husband would go travelling about by himself, making excursions just
for his own pleasure, and not at all for your benefit.'
"So, when he was gone away to his work, I turned it over in
my mind, and, to be sure, I shed a great many tears, and at night I
could not speak to him, good or bad; but next day I considered to
give my consent, and when he came in to his dinner he says, 'My
dear, I see you can't think of it, so we'll say no more about it.'
But I had quite made up my mind to let him go, for I had heard a
great deal about Otago, and what a fine, healthy place it was, and a
church ready built, and a good school, and a doctor, and the land
not by any means so unreasonably dear as it is in many parts.
"So, I told him I was quite willing to be left. I was
stout and well, and not at all afraid to let him take what money we
had saved, and lay it out to the best advantage, for I thought I
could easy maintain myself and my little ones.
"He said he had made all manner of inquiries, and he believed
he could certainly return to me in ten months from the time of
starting, and that would give him time to look about him, buy a bit
of land, and get up a real good house; for to let me and the
children go out of one house till another was roofed in for us, he
said he never could consent to. And so, ma'am, he started, and
very dull we both felt, and I cried so that I didn't know at first
how to go about my work, but I soon plucked up spirit; for though
Joe had left me some money in hand, I was determined, if I possibly
could, not to touch it, for if we did mean to go, I knew every penny
would be useful. Whenever I felt more dull than common, I
always worked the harder, and Maria Bell did all she could to keep
up my spirits. At last the ten months came to an end, and Joe
was not come home. Then I did fret, indeed; and for all
people told me how impossible it was he could come unless when a
ship touched, I was miserable. It was the most wretched time
that could be, but I worked to keep my thoughts quiet, and three
months went over my head before I heard anything of him. Dear
ma'am, religion seems only to be a duty when one is well off and all
goes rightly; but Oh! what a comfort it is when trouble comes.
When my dear children were asleep and my work was done, on those
anxious evenings how I used to sit and go over my past life, both
our past lives, and cry to God for him and for myself. We had
been so prosperous, so happy, poverty seemed a thing impossible.
We were raised almost into a different sphere to what we had been
born to; and now all seemed to hang on a thread, and I felt how I
had forgotten God in my prosperity, and used all the good things He
sent just as if they had been secured to me forever. I used to
get up early to have a little time to pray for my dear husband, and
then again I would sit up late to commend him to God. I felt
as Job did, and used to say, it may be that my dear husband has
sinned; and then it would come into my mind that perhaps he was in
clanger, and I could find no peace or rest but in laying his case
before God. How I did wish then that I had spoken more
earnestly to him on religion, for I had been better taught in that
matter than he had; and it seemed like a reproach to me then, that
he had never been unwilling to give way to me when I had wished him
to go regularly to church with me, or to read the Bible in our
little family. Oh! I used to think, why was I so shy of
speaking when he was so inclined to listen? and why was I so afraid
of his being vexed if I proposed anything that I thought was right?
Now I might never have another chance. That weighed on my
mind; but I found my refuge in prayer, and God heard me. I got
over the time, though a weariful long time it seemed. At last
he came home in a whale-ship, and, my dear ma'am, the very deck was
filled with whale-blubber, so high that, if he hadn't managed to
climb a little way up the ropes, I should not have seen him from the
boat that I went out in to meet him. I assure you, though she
lay half a mile from shore, we could smell that ship in Sydney quite
plainly. But you may think, though you might have almost wrung
the oil out of his clothes, I didn't care for that, so glad I was to
have him. In three weeks we sailed for our new place, and I
have a right good house over my head, though it is a rough one.
My dear husband is not yet quite so strong as he used to be, for he
took fever while he was away from me, and got badly nursed.
However, I have heard it said that trouble is like a tangled skein:
you can knit it all up and make a good job of it, if you can but
find the right end; and so we have both found it. We both know
now that we cannot do without God even in this world; and during the
tedious voyage, and sometimes after we got ashore and he was too ill
to work, we had plenty of leisure to call to mind what our thoughts
had been while we were apart, and to pray and hope that prosperity
would not turn away our hearts again."
She then went on to describe the land and the stock, adding:
"But I was going to mention Maria
Bell, who decided to come with us a very fine young woman she is,
as I said the last time I wrote. It's only a wonder she kept
single so long. But she's married now; in short, one of the
settlers, that I may say is almost a gentleman, made up his mind to
marry the first time he saw her, for she went with us to church,
where she behaved in a very modest and proper manner. So this
gentleman came to Joe and asked a great many questions about her,
and proposed for her. He is rather an elderly man, but he has
a capital house, a store, and two vessels of his own. And he
married her and took her home. Such a plenty of everything she
has, and he treats her so very kind, he can't make enough fuss with
"She has now been married three months, and the other day she
came in to have a chat, and we began to talk about the old country,
as we often do, and old times, and she says, 'I do wish I could send
something over from here to Mrs. T., for she and her family were
very good to me;' and I agreed to let you know that a box is coming,
ma'am, with some curiosities in it, from Maria, and she desired to
be remembered to you."
There was a great deal more of this letter, and almost all
the neighbourhood read it, to satisfy their minds that these
settlers were well and happy. In a few months the promised box
arrived. It contained some most beautiful specimens of New
Zealand birds, or rather their skins, several small cases of
insects, and some ores; and, moreover, it contained a note for me,
in a manly hand, expressing a hope that the little girl whom the
writer's wife remembered with so much affection, would accept a
small token of her gratitude, and oblige him by spending the
enclosed sum in the purchase of a gold watch and chain! The
note contained twenty-five sovereigns.
My grandfather was highly delighted. My father remarked
that this letter was a curious illustration of the ups and downs, or
rather the downs and ups, of life.
A watch and chain were very soon chosen for me, and I always
wear them. Whenever my grandfather sees me quietly enduring
some annoyance or inconvenience, which he thinks a little
perseverance, energy, or activity would remove, he is fond of
shaking this little chain and muttering in a musing tone, "Why,
then, say I, let's put the best foot foremost, and don't let's have
no talk about Resignation."