WHEN I was a
little child, I thought what a good thing it would be if I could set
out on a pilgrimage. I had been reading the Pilgrim's Progress, and
had specially pondered over the account of the wicket gate. The
wonderful book which contains the description, and the picture of
it, I had read up in a garret in the house of an old lady, to whom I
was paying a visit; an old lady who never came down after breakfast
till twelve o'clock, who dined at one, drank tea at five, and, after
that, dosed and dreamed in her easy-chair. She lived by the
sea-side, and was of kin to my mother. I had been sent alone to her. She did not like children, as she told my parents, therefore she
could not ask any of my numerous brothers or sisters to visit her at
the same time; but I was a quiet little thing, "shod with velvet,"
and contented to sit still and dream over my book; besides, when I
worked I could thread my own needle, and the last child that she had
invited to stay with her was always teasing her to ring the bell for
Deborah to come in and thread her needle. This had made a deep
impression on the old lady, and she would often say, "If I have rung
the bell once for Deborah to come in and thread that child's needle,
I have rung it fifty times, my dear;" "Indeed!"
my mother would reply; and add, with pretty maternal pride, "my
little girls are all particularly clever with their needle."
"So they are, my dear," our agèd
relation would answer; and she once added, "As for this little
thing, she mended my gloves the other day like a woman, and then
came up to me so prettily, 'Are these stitches small enough, do you
think, Mrs. Wells? there's rather a long one here, but I can pull it
out if you like.' 'Yes, my dear,' said I, 'that will do.'
I couldn't see one of 'em without my spectacles! You may send
her to me, and welcome, Fanny, if you like. I daresay the sea
air will do her good—a poor little aguish thing." So I was
sent, or rather brought over by my father, together with my knitting
and my netting, my little work-box, my story-books, and my Peep
of Day. I felt what a fine thing it was to go out on a
visit, and what a matter of rejoicing it was that my cheeks were not
round and rosy, like the cheeks of my brothers and sisters; besides,
mamma had put a new blue veil on my bonnet, to shade me from the
sun, and had given me a parasol—a thing that I had never possessed
before, for I was only six years old. Therefore, as I said, a
natural elation resulting from conscious ill-health, and some new
property, took entire possession of my little heart; and as I sat in
the gig by papa's side, I drew myself up as much as I could, and
hoped the passers-by, seeing me with my veil and my parasol, would
think I was a grown-up lady.
Mamma had given me five things to remember, and had counted
them over to me on the fingers of my hand, after she had put my new
I was never to forget to say my prayers; I was to write to
her twice a week; I was always to change my shoes when I came in
from a walk; I was to keep my room very tidy; and (greatest charge
of all, as I thought at the time) I was honestly to tell the
housemaid, when I was sent up to bed, that mamma did not wish me to
put out my own candle. I was very anxious to persuade mamma
that I could put it out myself, therefore she was the more urgent in
impressing upon me that she would not allow it; and, in taking leave
of her, and during the drive to the sea, I thought very much (when I
was not thinking of my veil and my parasol) about that candle.
We reached the house. Mrs. Wells did not come out to
meet us, but received us rather cordially, though she reminded my
father that he had promised to be in time for dinner, and that he
was full ten minutes late; he made some trifling excuse, we sat down
to this early meal, and, very shortly after, my father took his
leave. Then, as I well remember, my relative rang the bell,
and sent for Deborah. Deborah, a rough, red-checked young
woman, came in, and her mistress addressed her with, "Now, Deborah,
I hope you haven't forgotten my orders about the garret."
"No, ma'am," said Deborah, "and I've scrubbed it and dusted
it, and laid out the half-crown you gave me for toys; and if miss
makes all the noise she can there, you'll never hear her."
"That's right, Deborah," replied my relative, languidly. "Go
up with Miss Rosamond, and show her the room; there, go away, my
dear, till tea-time."
So I went upstairs demurely, not the less so because Deborah
kept looking at me; and when we got into the garret I found it
perfectly empty, literally empty of furniture, excepting that there
was one ottoman footstool on the floor, which was heaped with paper
"Well, now," said Deborah, addressing herself, "didn't I say,
over and over again, that I would contrive a table for this
child—what a head I have!" and so saying, she flounced out of the
room, bringing back in a few minutes, the smooth lid of a very large
deal box, and two light bedroom chairs. Setting them some
distance apart, she laid the flat lid on their seats, and it made a
capital table, just the right height for me to sit before on the
ottoman. She quickly picked up the parcels, and laying them on
my table, exclaimed, "There, missy, now see if that is not a good
half-crown's worth. Mistress said you were to play up here,
and when I told her there was nothing to play with, she said I might
go to the shop down town, and lay out half-a-crown. See here!"
I opened the parcels, and found in one, to my great joy, a
dozen Dutch dolls, with lanky legs, and high plaited hair, fastened
with the conventional golden comb that Dutch dolls always wear; in
another I found a toy-box of pewter tea-things, and a similar box of
lambs upon a movable stretcher: and in two more was a quantity of
doll's furniture. I was exceedingly content, the more so when
Deborah, going out again, presently appeared with a band-box full of
odds and ends, with which, she said, I might dress my dolls, and two
books with pictures in them. These last, she said, I might
look at as often as I liked, but I must not tear them; they were
hers. So saying, she left me, and if ever I was happy in my
life I was happy then. All by myself, plenty of new toys, a
table on purpose for me, and a little window which, when I stood
upon my ottoman and looked out, showed me the long waste of
salmon-coloured sand, and the bathing-machines left high and dry,
and the green sea tumbling at a distance; and the happy little
shrimpers with their nets, whose absolute duty it was to do what all
children long to do as a pleasure—take off their shoes and
stockings, and splash about in the warm salt water. What
delight to have all these things, and quiet to observe them in, and
leisure to enjoy them! The nursery at home had plenty of toys
in it, but there were two babies there, who must not be awakened by
any games of play while they slept, and when they were awake it
always resounded with such laughing and jumping, such pushing and
running, such crying, quarrelling, and making it up again (unhappily
for this divided world a more easy thing in childhood than
afterwards), that there was no time for enjoying play, and no quiet
for reading even the prettiest story. "Master John, be quiet,
your shouting goes through my head; oh, deary me, Miss Mary, do sit
down and keep quiet; Miss Alice, if you can't leave off that crying,
I really must call your mamma," were the constant complaints heard
in our nursery; but childhood, on the whole, is a happy time, though
a cross nurse does now and then overshadow it with gloom.
Well, there I was. In due time I was called down to
tea, and asked whether I liked my playroom. I said I did, and
that I was very happy. My relation answered as if to be
contented and happy was a merit—"Good child." After that she
gave me some shrimps, and, when tea was over, sent me out for a walk
on the beach. The servant who walked with me was as silent as
her mistress. I came home, went to bed, and got up again the
next day, still feeling very happy; but the quietude of everything
around me was working its due and natural effect in making me
quieter still. To meet it, and to harmonise with it, I did not
talk aloud to my Dutch dolls, nor scold them in imitation of our
nurse's accents; but I whispered to them, and moved about my
playroom noiselessly. "Are you happy, my dear?" asked my
relation again, when I came down to dinner, and I answered again,
"Yes, ma'am." And so several days passed, and the servants, as
well as the mistress, praised me, and called me the best and the
quietest child that ever came into a house—no trouble at all, and as
neat as a nun! But I was beginning to be strangely in want of
change. I wished my sister Bella, or even my noisy brother
Tom, could see my twelve dolls, all dressed in the grandest gowns
possible, and could help me to dry the sea-weeds that I brought in
from the sea-beach. On the fourth day I bethought myself of
the two books, and I well remember taking one of them to the little
open window, laying it down on the sill, and opening it. What
a curious picture! A man with a heavy burden on his back,
standing before a high gate, and over the gate a scroll.
"Knock" was written upon the scroll, "and it shall be opened unto
you." The man seemed to be considering whether he would knock,
and a number of angel faces were looking out from among the clouds
to see whether he would.
I looked at that picture a long time, then began one by one
to examine the numerous woodcuts which adorned the book. There
were lions, and hobgoblins, and giants, and angels, and martyrs, and
there was the river flowing before the golden gates; nothing that
could awe the imagination, and take hold on the spirit of a child
Specially I remember dwelling, with childish reverence, on
the picture of the river, and the pilgrim entering into its depths;
and pondering over the strange and to me unintelligible meaning of
the beautiful words,―
"Now there was a great calm at that time in the river,
therefore Mr. Standfast, when he was about half-way in, he stood
awhile, and talked to his companions that had waited upon him
thither; and he said―
"'This river hath been a terror to
many; yea, the thoughts of it also have often frightened me: now
methinks I stand easy: my foot is fixed upon that upon which the
feet of the priests that bare the ark of the covenant stood, while
Israel went over this Jordan.
"'The waters indeed are to the palate bitter, and to the
stomach cold; yet the thoughts of what I am going to, and the
conduct that awaits me on the other side, both lie as glowing coal
at my heart. . . . I have formerly lived by hearsay and by faith,
but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with Him in
whose company I delight myself.
"'I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of, and wherever I have
seen the print of His shoe in the earth, there have I coveted to set
my foot too.'"
Extraordinary words! their pathos and their sweetness reached
into my heart even at that early day, though their meaning was
shrouded in the veil that gathers round the path of childhood.
I hung over the picture, and hoped the man with the solemn face
would get safely to that golden gate; but I was very much afraid for
him, the river looked so deep. I looked at the angel who
stooped above him in the air with a crown in his hand. No
doubt he would soon put it on. Then I read the last few pages,
beginning with how the pilgrims reached the land of Beulah, "where
the sun shineth night and day." What a wonderful river!
I supposed it must be a long way off, perhaps not in England at all,
and England was a large place; but I thought I should like to find
it some day, and did not know that "some day" I inevitably should.
That night, when Deborah was curling my hair, I said to her,
"Deborah, does Mrs. Wells know you have got that book about the
"Can't say," replied Deborah, "maybe she does, maybe not."
I replied, "Then hadn't you better tell her?"
"Bless the child, why?" said Deborah.
I am not sure that I explained why, or perfectly knew why,
but I had an impression that nobody else had such a book, but only
Deborah; and probably my remarks made her see this, for I distinctly
remember her declaring that Mr. Pipe, the bookseller down town,
had a great many copies of that very book, that she was sure of it,
and that she herself had seen them.
My next question I remember clearly, owing, perhaps, to her
making me repeat it several times. It was, "Have you
ever seen the wicket-gate?"
Deborah stood as if bewildered when I repeated the query.
At last, her face suddenly cleared, and she exclaimed, "Bless the
child, I thought she meant the real thing, that I did!
Yes, my pretty; I've seen it, to be sure, and a very pretty picture
it is—Christian just a-going to knock at the door, and ever so many
angels looking on. Hold your head still, Miss Rosamond—how the
sea air does take your hair out of curl!"
"Then," said I, "you have only seen the picture just the same
as I have."
I do not remember what followed, excepting that, as Deborah
clearly had not seen the wicket-gate, I began to inquire whether
anybody in the neighbourhood had seen it, and whether Mr. Pipe had
seen it, or had ever been to look for it.
Deborah to all and each of my questions replied, that she did
not believe anybody had seen it, or had been to look for it; that if
anybody knew anything about it, she should judge Mr. Pipe did, for
she often saw him reading in his shop as she went by, and everybody
said he was a very religious man. Deborah, in answer to my
urgent questions, was induced to say that she judged the wicket-gate
must be a long way off; and when I inquired whether it was farther
off than Dungeness, that is to say, more than ten miles off, she
said, "Yes, it must be a deal farther, I think." Moreover, she
drew my curtains, and placed me in bed, and, kissing me, added that
I was a little girl, and need not to trouble my head about any
wicket-gate, nor nothing of the sort; that I should find out what it
all meant when I was older, but she could not explain it to me now,
as I was not able to understand it.
Children do not lie awake to think of anything, however
wonderful. At least I never did, nor did I ever know a child
who did, excepting in a book. I fell asleep, and after that
two or three mornings passed, during which I was absorbed in my
book, and full of wonder as to whether I ought not to go on
pilgrimage too. In my exceeding simplicity of mind, I began to
save pieces of bread from my meals, and sugar-plums, and cake that
had been given me, to take with me on the journey; and, as being
found quite trustworthy, I was now allowed every day to go out on
the beach by myself, or to play in the little belt of wood behind my
relative's house. I spent hours in speculating as to whether
the lions were not so far off that one could not hear them roar if
those waves would leave off surging and splashing among the pebbles;
and whether, if I did set out on pilgrimage, Evangelist would be
likely to come and show me the way.
One night, when Deborah was again curling my hair, I looked
at the red glowing clouds piled up in the glorious west, and
reflecting their splendour upon the sea, and I remember certain
things that she and I said together. I have no doubt that she
had no intention of conveying a false impression to my mind, though
she certainly did so; for I recollect asking her distinctly, whether
she thought I might go on a pilgrimage. Whereupon she
answered, "Surely, surely, Miss Rosamond."
I might, then!
She also told me that the narrow road along which Christian
went, and which led to the city of the golden gates, was the road
that we all ought to walk in; and, without at all explaining the
allegory, she proceeded to say that it led to heaven.
I went to bed resolved to go on pilgrimage, and when, the
next morning, I was told to put on my bonnet and tippet, to go out
and play as usual, I took all the pieces of bread that I had saved,
and my favourite Dutch doll with a red frock, that I thought I could
not part with, and went out.
I went through the garden, and into the little belt of wood.
Here I sat down, and began to ponder. Assuredly, the wonderful
story had said that there was but one way to get to heaven, and that
was through the wicket-gate. How should I, oh! how should I
find this wicket-gate. I think that, in my perplexity and fear
lest it was my own fault that I could not find the gate, I began to
cry; certainly I have a sort of recollection that my eyes were
dazzled and dim, and that when they cleared, some small brown
object, which stood at my feet, upon a dwarf foxglove, suddenly
spread open a pair of lovely blue wings. A butterfly!
Oh, the most beautiful little butterfly in the world. All
thoughts of pilgrimage fled away as it fluttered its wings and
floated off to another flower, drawing me after it as surely as many
a pretty thing of no higher worth has drawn older hearts from their
thoughts of pilgrimage. I ran after it, stopped again and saw
it settle, close up, and show me once more those blue wings, mottled
with silver, and shaded off into the softest fawn colour. I
was close to it, and took off my veil, my blue veil which I always
wore, hoping to catch it, but it flew away again; and presently, as
I looked, I saw two butterflies instead of one—my beauty had met
with a companion—and they were fluttering together towards the great
down which lay behind the wood.
To this place I followed, and, running after them over a few
yards of short grass, I came to a deep hollow, full of ferns, and
edged with camomile, bird's-eye, and dwarf thistles. There,
basking in the sun, some hanging to the leaves with folded wings,
some spreading them to the light and warmth, I counted blue
butterflies by tens and by twenties, and in breathless ecstasy stood
considering how I should appropriate some of them, and get them to
live happily in my veil, with some flowers, and my splendid Dutch
doll, in her red damask gown, for their lady and queen.
About an hour was probably passed in catching a sufficient
number for my purpose. It was difficult to do this without
hurting them, and as fast as I captured one with my veil others
escaped; at last I had about a dozen, and collecting some of the
prettiest red and white flowers, and setting my doll among them, I
tied up the veil with its own strings, and not doubting that the
butterflies must be proud and happy in such a splendid prison, I
emerged from the hollow, and set my feet again upon the open down;
but this winding hollow was a long one—I had followed it probably
for half a mile—and when I came up again there was a green hill
between me and the sea, and I did not exactly know where I was; so I
turned in the other direction, and I well remember the sudden
surprise, amazement I may say, with which I saw one of the commonest
sights possible—namely, a narrow path, in which I was standing, and
which, with many windings and meandering, led away over the open
grass, and lost itself in the distance among confused outlines of
the swelling hills. Could this be the narrow way?
I cannot say that I was satisfied by any means to think that
it was, but my mind was filled with childish awe, and I went a
little way along it till, casting my eyes not more than half a mile
before me, I saw—oh wonderful! almost terrible sight! it was so
convincing, and brought the dreamy wonder so near—I saw, toiling on
before me, a man with a burden on his back; a man that now I should
call a pedlar; but then it was, and could only be, a
pilgrim. So then, this was the narrow path; and in the
plenitude of my infantine simplicity I wondered whether the people
down town knew of it; and I went on, still carefully carrying
my pretty blue flutterers, for perhaps a mile, when, to my utter
confusion, the path branched into three—three distinct paths—and,
what was more, the pilgrim whom I was following had descended into a
hollow, and had disappeared.
Which of these three paths, then, should I follow? One
of them seemed to lead back again towards the town; a second, I
thought, was rather too wide and too straight; so I chose the third
for my little feet, especially as I thought it was the one in which
I had last seen the pedlar—I mean the pilgrim—I hope he may have
Not to make my story too long, I wandered about till grass
began to be mingled with ferns, and ferns gave place to ling, then
in full blossom; at last my path fairly ended, and before me rose a
sandy beach, crowned with dwarf oaks, and sprinkled with foxgloves
and furze. I had quite lost my way, and my path had been
swallowed up in verdure. I was in great perplexity; and, after
climbing to the top of the bank, I looked around and found myself at
the brink of a great open place, part down, part heath, intersected
with many paths, but no one more like than another to the path that
led to the wicket-gate. I looked back and saw several better
tracks, but could not be sure which was the one I had come by; so
large, and so smooth, and so uniform was the waste of grass which,
owing to my having attained an elevated spot, was now lying spread
It may have been about noonday, and I had perhaps been out
about three hours; so I was neither tired nor hungry as yet, and
kept wandering about in search of the way. At last I saw an
elderly gentleman coming towards me on a little pony. He
certainly was not a pilgrim; and yet I rejoiced to see him.
Mamma had never told me not to look for the wicket-gate, therefore,
however strange it may appear, I certainly had no consciousness of
doing wrong. I had been crying a little before he appeared,
not knowing what to do, nor where to turn; and when he approached I
was considering what I should say, when he saved me the trouble, and
exclaimed, not without a look of surprise, "Where is your nurse,
"Nurse is at home with mamma," I replied.
"And what are you doing here all by yourself?" he asked.
I replied in all simplicity, "If you please, I am looking for
"The wicket-gate! Humph. Well," shading his eyes
and staring around, "I don't see one. Is it a white gate?"
"I don't know, sir."
"You don't know! You are a very little girl to be
finding your way by yourself in such a place as this. Do you
know which side of the heath it is on?"
"Well, well," rejoined my questioner, with great impatience,
"do you know where it leads to?"
"Oh yes, sir; it leads to heaven." Here at least was
one question that I could answer; but never shall I forget the face
of blank amazement with which he heard me. I was rather
frightened at it, and began to explain, in a great hurry, that I had
read in the Pilgrim's Progress about the wicket-gate, and
that Deborah had said I might go on pilgrimage; and after this
incoherent account I began to cry piteously, and begged the
gentleman, if he could not show me the way to the gate, to tell me
the way home, because my relative would be so angry, so very angry,
if I was late for dinner.
He had descended from his pony, and now asked abruptly, "How
old are you, child?"
"Six years and a half," I replied, sobbing.
"Six years and a half," was his not very proper answer, "and
looking out for heaven already!" But being now really alarmed
as to whether I should ever find either the gate or my home again, I
cried and sobbed heartily, till he sat down on the bank, and taking
me on his knee, began to wipe my eyes with his silk pocket
handkerchief, and assure me that he would soon take me home again,
for that he knew the way quite well; we were not more than two miles
from the beach, and so I need not cry, for we should set off home as
soon as I could leave off sobbing.
Thereupon being at ease in my mind, and perfectly satisfied
in the good company of the elderly gentleman, he and I "fell into
easy discourse" together. He seemed anxious to investigate
this rather strange fancy, and he asked me what I had intended to
eat on my pilgrimage. I showed him the various pieces of stale
bread and bun that I had saved, and he fell into explosions of loud
laughter, which left his face crimson, and his eyes full of tears;
but he must have been a very kind elderly gentleman, for he shortly
after set me on his little pony, and as he led it homewards over the
down, he not only assured me that we should be back in time for
dinner, but he took a great deal of pains to impress on my mind that
I was never to try to go on pilgrimage again while I was staying at
the sea-side, nor afterwards without consulting my mamma. I
promised that I would not; and in a very short space of time, as it
seemed to me, we came down to the beach, and found ourselves at my
relative's gate. Here, as I well remember, my dread of being
late induced me to beg my new friend not to leave me till I had
ascertained that dinner was not ready; so he left his pony at the
gate, and came up to the door. His ring at the bell was soon
answered; he explained to the maid that I had lost my way on the
downs, and he had brought me home. I was comforted with the
assurance that I was just in time for dinner, so I gratefully kissed
my new friend and took leave of him.
Thus ended my first attempt at pilgrimage, leaving nothing
behind it but a veil full of blue butterflies. I know it was a
childish attempt, but I believe it was sincere; it had something of
that faith about it which made the patriarch content long since to
"go forth, not knowing whither he went;" but it was an ignorant
faith, and one that would not give up all; it must needs carry a
doll with it for comfort and admiration by the way, and it could not
help gathering butterflies, things too lovely and too precious, as
it seemed, to be passed by. To the follies of our childhood,
and for its faults and its shortcomings, He will be tender who knows
the heart of a child; but if since childhood, setting forth on
pilgrimage, we have striven to take with us the goods and the
delights of this world; if we have turned back again, lest our
friends should be displeased; if we have wavered because any laughed
at us, let us pray not only that He "would forgive us our
trespasses," but that He would "pardon the iniquity of our holy
The Suspicious Jackdaw.
THERE never was a
more suspicious mortal in this world than old Madam Mortimer, unless
it was Madam Mortimer's jackdaw. To see him peep about, and
turn his head on one side as if to listen, and go and stand on the
edge of her desk with his bright eye fixed on her letters, and then
flutter to her wardrobe, and peer behind her cabinets, as if he
suspected that in cracks and crevices, under tables and behind
screens, there must be other daws hidden, who would interfere with
his particular interests, or listen to the remarks made to him when
he and his mistress were alone, or find the bits of crust that he
had stowed away for his own eating; to see all this, I say, was
quite as good amusement as to see old Madam Mortimer occupying
herself in the same way, indeed, quite in the same way, considering
the different natures of women and jackdaws.
Sometimes Madam Mortimer would steal up softly to her door,
and turn the handle very softly in her hand; then she would open it
just by a little crack and listen till she must have had the
earache; but generally after this exercise, she would return to her
seat, saying aloud, as she took up her knitting, "Well, I declare, I
thought that was the butcher's boy talking to cook; an idle young
fellow, that he is; brings all the gossip of the village here, I'm
certain. However, this once I'm wrong; it's only Gardener
sitting outside the scullery, helping her to shell peas. He
had better be doing that than doing nothing—which is what most of
his time is passed in, I suspect."
Here the jackdaw would give a little croak, to express his
approval of the sentiment; whenever his mistress finished a speech,
he made a point of either croaking or coughing, just like a human
being. The footboy had taught him this accomplishment, and his
mistress could never help laughing when she heard him cough.
No more could little Patience Grey, who was Madam Mortimer's maid.
She was very young, only fourteen, but then Madam Mortimer suspected
that if she had an older maid she should have more trouble in
keeping her in order; so she took Patience from school to wait on
her, and Patience was very happy in the great old silent house, with
its long oaken galleries; and as there really seemed to be nothing
about her for either Madam Mortimer's or the jackdaw's suspicion to
rest upon, she was very seldom scolded, though sometimes when she
came into the parlour looking rather hot and breathing quickly, her
mistress would alarm her by saying, "Patience, you've been skipping
in the yard. You need not deny it, for I know you have."
Here Patience would answer, blushing—"I just skipped for a
few minutes, ma'am, after I had done plaiting your frills."
"Ah, you'll never be a woman," Mrs. Mortimer would answer, "never!
if you live to be a hundred." And it did not enter into the
head of little Patience that her mistress could see everything that
was done in the yard, and how she sometimes ran and played with the
house dog under the walnut-trees, the two old walnut-trees that grew
there; and how she played at ball in the coach-house, when she had
finished all her needlework, while the little dog, and the big dog,
and the big dog's two puppies, sat watching at the open door, ready
to rush in and seize the ball if she let it drop. It never
entered into her giddy head that her mistress could see all this,
for her mistress sat in a large upper parlour, and though one of its
windows overlooked the yard, the blind was always drawn down, and
how could Patience suppose that her mistress could peep through a
tiny hole in it, and that she did this continually, so that not a
postman could politely offer an orange to the housemaid, nor she in
return reward him with a mug of beer, without being seen by the keen
eyes of Madam Mortimer.
Patience on the whole, however, fared none the worse for
being watched—quite the contrary; the more the jackdaw and his
mistress watched her, the fonder they grew. She was such a
guileless little maid, that they liked to have her in the large old
parlour with them, helping Madam Mortimer with her needlework, and
letting the jackdaw peep into her work-box. One day, when
Patience was sent for to attend her mistress, she found her with the
contents of an old cabinet spread open before her; there were corals
with silver bells, there were old silver brooches, and there were
many rings and necklaces, and old-fashioned ornaments that Patience
thought extremely handsome; in particular, there was a carnelian
necklace made of cut carnelian, which she considered to be
particularly beautiful; so did the jackdaw, for when Madam Mortimer
allowed Patience to wash this necklace in some warm water, he stood
on the edge of the basin pecking at it playfully, as if he wanted to
get it from her. Patience would not let him have it, and when
she had carefully dried it she laid it on some clean cotton wool,
and said to the jackdaw, "You are not going to have it, Jack.
It's the most beautiful thing that mistress has got, so I reckon
she'll never let you touch it."
When Madam Mortimer heard this, she smiled covertly at the
ignorance of Patience, and presently said to her, "Child, you may go
down and ask for a piece of leather and some rouge powder, and I
will show you how to clean this set of emeralds."
So Patience ran down to the footboy, and got what she
required, and very happy she was under her mistress's directions in
polishing and cleaning the jewels—quite as happy as she could have
felt if they had been her own; yet, when Madam Mortimer said to her,
"Which do you think the handsomest now, Patience; the green stones,
or the red ones?" she replied, "Oh, the red ones are the handsomest,
ma'am, by a deal."
Just at this moment visitors were announced, and Madam
Mortimer retired to her own room previous to seeing them, takings
Patience with her to attend on her, and see to the set of her lace
shawl, and of a new cap that she donned for the occasion. She
turned the key of the parlour where all her jewellery lay about, and
the jackdaw, as he hopped with her out of the room, coughed
approvingly at the deed, in a manner as expressive as if he had
said, "Who knows whether all the people about us are honest?"
The old lady put the key into her basket, but, strange to
say, she forgot her basket, and left that in her bedroom with
Patience, while she went down to receive her visitors; and all that
evening, suspicious as she generally was, she never once remembered
that anyone could unlock the parlour-door by means of this basket;
on the contrary, she was in very good spirits, and she and her elder
visitor talked nearly all the evening about their servants, and
about what a trouble servants were, while the younger ladies walked
in the garden, gathered a few flowers, and partook of some
Now Madam Mortimer, suspicious though she was, had an
exceedingly kind heart, and she very often allowed the housemaid to
attend on her at night, that Patience might go to bed early, as
befitted her age. The visitors stayed late, but at nine the
drawing-room bell was rung, and orders were sent out that Patience
was to go to bed; so as it was the full of the midsummer moon, she
stole upstairs without a candle, and when alone in her little garret
it was quite light enough for her to examine various little
treasures that she kept in her box. She was busy so doing,
when Jack flew in at the open window, and lighted on her feet as she
knelt, then fluttered on to her shoulder, and peeped down at her
treasures, and began to make a great croaking and chattering.
Patience thought he was more than usually inquisitive that night,
and I am afraid he somewhat interfered with her attention while she
was reading her chapter, for he would not let her pincushion alone,
but would persist in pulling out the pins, and dropping them on to
the floor, listening with his head on one side to the slight noise
they made when they fell. At last he flew out at the window.
And what did he do next?
Why, he did not go to roost, as he would have done if he had
not been for so many years accustomed to civilised society, but he
flew once or twice round the house to see that other birds were
asleep, and not likely to watch his movements, and then he peeped
down the chimneys, where the swallows, now rearing their second
broods, sat fast asleep on the nest; he next alighted on the roof,
and walked cautiously to a certain crevice, where he kept a few
dozens of nails, that he had picked with his beak out of the carpet,
and a good many odds and ends of ribbon, bits of worsted, farthings,
and broken morsels of crockery, that he valued highly; these he
pulled out of the crevice, and then he poked his property with his
beak, chattered to it in a very senseless way, walked over it, and
finally deposited it again in the crevice, flew down to the side of
the house, and entered the parlour where his mistress's jewellery
Here lay the necklace; it looked very pretty; the jackdaw
alighted on the table, pecked it as thinking that it might be good
to eat, then lifted it up and shook it. At last he flew with
it out of the window.
It was still quite light out of doors, and as the necklace
dangled from his beak, he admired it very much. "But what did
he want with it?" you will naturally ask. Nobody knows, but
this is ascertained—that, finding it heavy, he took it, not to the
roof, but to the edge of a deep well in the garden, wherein he had
deposited the cook's brass thimble, and several of her skewers;
having reached this well, and lighted on the stone brink, he peered
down into it, and saw his own image, and the red necklace in his
beak; he also saw four or five little stars reflected there, and as
it was his bedtime, he dozed a little on the edge of the well, while
the evening air waved slightly the long leaves of the ferns that
hung over it, and grew in the joints of the stone many feet down.
At last, it is supposed that some such thought as this
crossed his brain: "These berries are heavy, and not good to eat; I
had better lay them on the water till to-morrow morning."
So he let them drop, and down they fell to the bottom.
He had dropped a good many articles before this into the well; some,
such as nuts, feathers, and bits of stick and straw, floated;
others, like this necklace, had sunk. It was all chance which
happened, but he liked to hear the splash of the red necklace, and
he stood awhile chattering to himself, with great serenity of mind,
on the occasion of its disappearing; then, he went and pecked at the
kitchen window demanding his supper.
This is what the jackdaw did; and now what did the mistress
do, when she walked to the parlour door the next morning, unlocked
it, and found that the red necklace was gone?
She was quite amazed—nobody but Patience could have taken
it—little Patience, her good little maid, who had seemed so
guileless, so conscientious, and so honest. Oh, what a sad
thing it was that there was nobody in the world that she could
trust! Patience must have taken the key, and after using it
for this bad purpose, must have placed it again in the basket.
But Madame Mortimer was so sorry to think of this, that she
decided to let Patience have a little time to reflect upon her great
fault, and confess it. So she said nothing to her all the
morning, and in the afternoon, peeping through her little hole in
the blind, she saw Patience chasing the ducks into the pond, and
laughing heartily to see them plunge. "Hardened child," said
her mistress, "how can she laugh?—I'll give her warning;" and
thereupon she sat down in her easy-chair and began to cry.
Now, she felt, almost for the first time, what a sad thing it is to
suspect a person whom one really loves. She had not supposed
how much she cared for this little village girl till she was obliged
to suspect her. She had not perceived how sad her constant
habit of suspicion was, and how it had now obtained such a dominion
over her, till everything done by a suspected person appeared to her
mind in a distorted light. Now, the childish simplicity of
Patience seemed to her to be hardened guilt. Now, when she saw
her at play, she made up her mind that the little girl knew she was
overlooked, and was playing about in order to make her mistress
think she was at ease, and had nothing weighing on her spirits; and
when she came into the parlour, if she was awkward, her mistress
attributed it to guilty fears; and if she made any mistake about a
message, it was because her thoughts were preoccupied with her
This unhappy state of things went on for several days.
At last, one evening, Madam Mortimer happening to look out at her
hole in the blind, saw Patience slowly walking across the yard, and
cautiously looking down into her apron, which she had gathered up
into her hands. Madam Mortimer felt convinced that the poor
child had got the necklace concealed there. One of the
housemaids came up, but Patience ran away, and would not let her see
what she had got, and seemed so anxious to conceal it, that her
mistress drew up the blind, opened the window, and said, in an awful
voice, "Patience, come here!" The little girl approached—there
was a verandah outside the window, and some wooden steps led up to
it. "Come up to me," said her mistress. The little girl
said, "Yes, ma'am;" and still holding her apron, turned to enter the
door. "No," exclaimed her mistress, "come up these steps; I do
not want to lose sight of you." Patience obeyed. Her
mistress sat down, and the little maid stood opposite to her.
"Patience," said her mistress, "I have lost my red necklace."
The little girl glanced under the table, as if she thought the
necklace might have dropped there.
"Do you know where it is, Patience?" was the next question,
asked with great solemnity. Patience tightened the folds of
her apron, looked earnestly at her mistress, and said, "No, ma'am."
"Poor child," replied Madam Mortimer, shaking her head, and
Patience, not appearing to know what she meant, coloured
exceedingly, and looked as if she was going to cry. But at
last, as her mistress sat in her chair, and did not say another
word, she began to steal away till she was arrested by her
"Come back again, you poor misguided child—come back, and
show me what you have got in your apron." As Madam Mortimer
spoke she started, for the evening was growing dusk, and when
Patience turned, a light, a decided light, gleamed through her white
"Please, ma'am," she said, now holding it open, "it's some
glow-worms that old Gardener gave me—three glow-worms, and some
leaves that I got for them."
"Bless me!" exclaimed Madam Mortimer, when she saw the
shining insects slowly moving about on her little maid's apron, but
she looked so much less angry than before, that Patience, by way of
peace-offering, took up one of her treasures, and placed it, with
some leaves, upon the open page of her mistress's great Bible, which
lay on a little table by her side.
"You may go now, Patience," said her mistress, quite calmly,
and the little girl left the room, while her mistress sat so long
lost in thought that it grew quite dusk. "After all," she
thought, "that poor child must have been the thief; nobody else
could have stolen the necklace; but I will still give her time to
confess and restore it." As she said this she turned towards
the Bible, and the glow-worm on the page was slowly moving along it;
the darkness hid every other word, but she read by the light of her
little maid's gift, as it went on, this verse:
"Too true," said the poor old lady, sighing; "I feel the
coming on of old age very fast, and I could have wished to have
somebody about me, however young, that I could trust. Ah, we
are frail creatures—we come up and die down like the summer grass;
and we are as sinful as we are frail. My poor little Patience,
I will try her a little longer." So saying, the mistress began
to doze, and the jackdaw hopped down from the perch where he had
been watching her, and when he saw that she was fast asleep, and
that the yellow moon light was soft upon her aged features, he
alighted on the page of the Bible which the shining glow-worm was
then illuminating, and pounced upon him and ate him up.
Little Patience carried her glow-worms upstairs, and amused
herself with them a long time; for she had nothing to do but to
enjoy herself when her daily task of needlework was done; and as her
mistress never set her more to accomplish than she could finish
before dusk, she often had a good game at play with a clear
conscience. That night, however, she was not in such good
spirits as usual, because her mistress had been angry with her, and
if it had not been for the glow-worms she would have felt very dull
However, she hung them up in a gauze bag that she had made
for them, and long after she was in bed she lay looking at them, but
thought they grew brighter and brighter. She fell fast asleep
at last, and fast asleep she was when her mistress came into the
room with a candle in her hand, and softly stole up to her bedside.
Patience looked very happy and peaceful in her sleep, and the
suspicious old lady could find nothing lying about to excite her
doubts. The child had left her box open, and Madam Mortimer,
though she did not choose to touch or move anything in it, used her
eyes very sharply and scrutinised its contents with astonishing
deliberation. At length Patience moved, and Madam Mortimer,
shading her candle, stole away again, feeling that she had done
something to be ashamed of.
The next morning she sent for Patience, and said to her,
"Patience, I told you that I had lost my red necklace, I must have
you to help me to search for it, but first tell me whether you know
where it is?"
"I know where I think it is, ma'am," Patience answered quite
"Where?" asked her mistress; but she spoke and looked so
severely that Patience hung her head and faltered, and at last said,
"She didn't know, she only thought it might be;" and when pressed
for an answer, she said, "She thought it might be in the empty side
of the tea-caddy, for Jack often took things and put them into it."
While the little girl spoke she looked so bashful and confused, that
her mistress was confirmed in her bad opinion of her, but she
allowed her to help all the morning in searching for the lost
necklace for, after all," she thought, "I may be mistaken."
However, the necklace was not to be found; and though the
jackdaw chattered and bustled about a great deal, and told over and
over again, in the jackdaw's language, what he had done with it,
nobody took the slightest notice of him; and the longer she
searched, the more unhappy Madam Mortimer became. "It is not
the value of the necklace," she often said to herself; "but it is
the being obliged to suspect this child, that I am so sorry for; for
she was the only person in the wide world that I felt I could trust,
excepting my own children."
But if people trust only one person, and can make up
their minds to be distrustful of everyone else, their suspicions are
almost sure at last to reach the one remaining; and so Madam
Mortimer had now found.
She sent for the little maid's mother, and without finding
fault with the child, said to her that she did not require her
services any longer; and when the mother said, "I hope it is for no
fault that you part with her, ma'am?" she replied evasively,
"Patience has her faults like other people;" and with that answer
the mother was obliged to be satisfied.
When Patience was gone her mistress felt very unhappy.
She had felt a pleasure in her company, because she was such a
child, and so guileless. She had meant to keep her with her,
and teach her so long as she lived, and trust her; but now all this
was over, and she had nobody whom she chose to trust. The
jackdaw, too, appeared to feel dull; there was nobody to play with
him and carry him on her shoulder. He was dull, too, because
he had lost that pretty necklace, for he often thought he should
like to have it again to put among his treasures on the roof;
therefore, he was fond of flying to the edge of the well, and
gabbling there with great volubility; but I need not say that his
chatter and his regret did not make the necklace float.
After a time, however, he found something else to amuse him,
for one of Madam Mortimer's sons and his little boy came to visit
her, and the jackdaw delighted in teasing the little fellow, and
pecking his heels, and stealing his bits of string, and hiding his
pencils; while the boy, on the other hand, was constantly teasing
the bird, stroking his feathers the wrong way, snatching away his
crusts, and otherwise plaguing him.
"I wish Patience was here to play with that child, and keep
him from teasing my Jack," said the old lady, fretfully. "I
get so infirm that children are a trouble to me."
"Who is Patience?" asked her son.
So then Madam Mortimer told him the whole story; the boy and
the jackdaw having previously gone out of the room together—the boy
tantalising him, and the bird gabbling and pecking at his ankles.
When she had finished, her son said, "Mother, I believe this will
end in your suspecting me next! Why did you not ascertain
whether the girl was innocent or guilty before you parted with her?"
"I feel certain she is guilty," answered the mother, "and I
never mean to trust any servant again."
"But if you could be certain she was innocent?" asked the
"Why, then, I would never suspect a servant again, I think,"
she replied. "Certainly I should never suspect her—she seemed
as open as the day—and you do not know, son, what a painful thing it
is to have nobody about me that I can trust."
"Excuse me, mother," replied the son, "you mean nobody that
you do trust; for all your servants have been with you for years,
and deserve to be trusted, as far as we can see."
"Well, well," said the mother, "it makes me unhappy enough, I
assure you, to be obliged to suspect everybody; and if I could have
that child back I should be truly glad; but I cannot harbour a
At this point of the discourse the boy and the jackdaw were
heard in the yard making such a noise, and quarrelling, that the son
went down, at his mother's request, to see what was the matter.
"He is a thief," said the boy; "I saw him fly to the roof with a
long bit of blue ribbon that belongs to cook."
The jackdaw gabbled angrily in reply, and it is highly
probable that he understood part of the accusation, for he ruffled
his feathers, and hopped about in a very excited way; and as the boy
kept pointing at him, jeering him, the bird at last flew at him
angrily, and gave him a very severe peck with a loud croak, that
might have been meant to express, "Take that."
Having it on his hands to make up this quarrel, the little
boy's father could not go on with the discourse he had begun with
his mother at that time; but when he found another opportunity he
said a great deal to her; and if it had not been that the jackdaw's
suspicions being aroused, that troublesome bird would insist on
listening to all he said, with his head on one side and his
twinkling eye fixed on his face,—and if he would have been quiet,
instead of incessantly changing his place, as if he thought he could
hear better on the right arm of the chair than the left, it is
possible that the gentleman's discourse might have had a great
effect on the old lady's mind; as it was, he interrupted his
mistress's attention so much, that it is doubtful whether she
remembered what her son had been talking of. And there was no
sooner a pause in what the jackdaw probably regarded as a
disagreeable subject, than he hopped to a private little cupboard
that he kept under the turned-up edge of the carpet, and bringing
out five or six mouldy bits of bread, laid them in a row on the rug
before his mistress and her son, and walking about before them with
an air of reflection, seemed as if he would have said, "I must
attend to my business, whether people talk or not."
"I never saw such a queer fellow in my life as that bird is!"
exclaimed the son.
"Why, Jack, you miser!" said his mistress; "one would think
you were starved."
The jackdaw gabbled something which was no doubt meant for
impertinence, till hearing footsteps outside the door, he hastily
snatched up some of his mouldy property and flew with it to the top
of the cabinet; then he stood staring at the remainder, fluttering
his wings, and making a great outcry, for he did not dare to fly
down for it, because his little tormentor had just rushed into the
"Papa, papa!" exclaimed the boy.
"Hold your tongue, Jack," cried the grandmother; "one at a
time is enough."
"Come, I will take you on my knee," said his father, "and
then the daw will fly down for his bread."
The daw no sooner saw his little enemy in a place of safety,
than he descended, snatched up his bread, and having secured it all,
came again to give the boy a malicious little peck.
"Now what do you want to say?" asked his father.
"Papa," repeated the boy, "do currants ever grow under
"No," said his father.
"But," replied the boy, "there is something growing in the
well, just under water, that looks like currants; and, papa, will
you get it for me, please, for I should like to have it if it is
good to eat."
"Pooh!" said his grandmother, "the boy is dreaming."
But the boy made such a fuss about the bunch of currants, and
was so positive as to their growing down in the well, that though it
was now autumn, and the leaves were falling, and all the currants
were either eaten up or stowed away in jam-pots long before, his
father and grandmother allowed him to take them to the well; but
first the latter put on her black silk bonnet and her cloak, and
fetched her stick from its place, lamenting all the while that
Patience was not there to do all her little errands for her.
Now the weather all that summer and autumn had been
remarkably dry, and the consequence was, that this old well, which
had long been disused because it contained so little water, had now
less than ever, but that little was clear; though when the old lady
and her son looked over the edge they could not at first see down
into it, because a few drops of rain had fallen, and had wetted the
fern leaves which were still dripping a little and covering its
surface with dimples.
"There are no red currants here, nor plums either, my child,"
said the grandmother; and as she spoke she put down her
golden-headed stick and shook the tuft of ferns that had been
dripping, till she had shaken down all the water they contained.
The surface was now covered with little eddies and dimples.
But when the water grew smooth again: "There they are!" exclaimed
the boy; "there are the currants. Look, grandmother, they lie
just under the shadow of those long leaves."
"I see something," replied his grandmother, shading her eyes;
"but it is six times as long as a bunch of currants, and the berries
are three times as large. I shouldn't wonder, son, if that was
my cornelian necklace."
"I will see if we can ascertain," said her son; there are
several ladders about the premises, and the well is not at all
deep." So off he went, leaving the old lady and her grandson
to look at the necklace; but the jackdaw, having by this time missed
his mistress from her accustomed haunts, and being suspicious lest
she might be inspecting some of his hoards, had set a search on foot
for her, and now flew up screaming and making a great outcry, as if
he thought he was going to be robbed. However, having lighted
on the edge of the well, and observed that the necklace was there
all safe, he felt more at his ease; and if his mistress could have
understood the tongue of a daw, she would have now heard him relate
how he threw it there; as it was, she only heard him gabble, and saw
him now and then peck at the boy's pinafore. When the jackdaw
saw a ladder brought, however, his mind misgauge him that his
mistress meant to get the necklace out again; and his thievish
spirit sank very low. However, being a politic bird, he was
quite silent while the ladder was lowered, and while the gardener's
boy descended to the bottom of the well and groped about with his
hands, for there was not a foot of water. "There is my
necklace, sure enough," exclaimed the old lady as the boy lifted up
the long row of shining beads; "bring it out, James." "Please,
ma'am, here's the great silver skewer that was lost a year ago,"
exclaimed the boy; "and, dear me, here's the nozzle of a
The old lady held up her hands; she had parted with a good
cook in consequence of the loss of this skewer. But the sight
of the necklace dangling from the youth's hand as he prepared to
mount the ladder was too much for the jackdaw—he suddenly flew down,
gave the hand a tremendous peck with his hard bill, and while the
boy cried out and dropped the necklace, the bird made a sudden dart
at it, snatched it before it touched the water, and flew up with it
into a tree. There he rested a few minutes playing with the
wet necklace, and shaking it in the sunlight; but not all his
mistress's entreaties and coaxing could bring him down, and in a few
minutes he flew off again and settled on the roof of the house.
There, in less than ten minutes, he was found by his mistress
and her son, with all his ill-gotten gains spread out before him;
everything was taken from him, and when his mistress saw the
articles whose loss had caused her to suspect almost everyone about
her of theft, she was so vexed that she actually shed tears.
"Mother," said her son, "it appears to me that you have trusted the
only creature about you that was utterly unworthy of trust!"
The old lady was so much disheartened that she could not say
a word; but such is the audacity of a jackdaw's nature, that not
half-an-hour after this, when the footboy brought in the tea things,
Jack walked in after him with a grave expression of countenance, and
hopped on to the tea table as if nothing had happened.
"Patience shall come back again," thought the old lady; "I'll
send for her and her mother, and I'll never suspect her any more.
It is plain enough now that Jack must have thrown my property down
So the mother of Patience was sent for, but, alas, what
disappoint merits people are doomed to! The mother expressed
herself much obliged to Madame Mortimer, but said that her cousin in
London, hearing that she was out of place, had sent for her to serve
in her shop, "And that I look on as a great rise in life for
her," said the mother, with an air of satisfaction: "and I am going
to send a box of clothes to her next week," she continued, "and I
shall tell her, ma'am, that you have not forgotten her."
Madam Mortimer was very much vexed; but the necklace was in
her hand, and a sudden thought struck her that she would give it to
Patience. So she said, with a sigh, "Well, Mrs. Grey, when you
send the box, you may put this in it."
Her mother at first looked pleased, but she presently drew
back, and said, "Thank you, kindly, ma'am, but that necklace is by
far too fine for my Patience, and it might do her harm to have it,
and I never encourage her to wish for fine clothes."
"Good-evening, then," said Madam Mortimer; and as the woman
went away, she walked softly to the hole in the blind, and watched
her talking and laughing with the cook, rather, as it seemed, in a
triumphant way, as if she was exulting in the good fortune of her
child, and the evident discomfiture of her former mistress.
"It is entirely the fault of that thieving jackdaw," said the old
lady, as she returned to her chair; and as she spoke she saw the
suspicious bird, sitting, listening to her with his head on one
side. "It is enough to make anybody suspicious to lose things
as I have lost them," she thought. "However, I shall soon
leave off the habit, as I find it a bad one. I wonder whether
that woman is gone yet; I'll just take a peep, and see what they are
about, gossiping, down there. Ah, there she is! I wish I
hadn't sent Patience away; but, perhaps, if I had been kinder to her
than I was, she would have given me cause to suspect her before
Madam Mortimer then settled herself in her chair and began to
dose. When she awoke, the necklace was gone again; and perhaps
it is a proof that she really was somewhat improved, that though she
said, "I suspect, Jack, you know, where that necklace is," she never
took any steps in the matter, but left her glittering stones in the
bird's greedy keeping; and after taking a little time for
consideration, put a patch upon the hole in the blind, so that she
could never look through it any more. Whether she was cured of
her suspicious turn of mind is more than I can tell, but it is
certain that she henceforth looked on suspicions as undesirable, and
seldom thought of little Patience without a sigh.
The Life of Mr. John Smith.
THIS great and
good man, every event of whose life is well worth preserving, was
born in the parish of Cripplegate Within, at half-past ten on
Friday, the 1st of April, 1780. He was the only child of his
parents, who, perceiving from the first his uncommon sweetness of
disposition, and acuteness of intellect, felt a natural pride in
watching his progress through infancy.
At seven months he cut his first tooth; at fourteen months he
could run alone, and such was his precocity, that, at two years and
a half, he could speak his mother tongue sufficiently well to be
able to ask for what he wanted.
He began to learn his letters as early as three years old,
and soon mastered the whole alphabet, which he would repeat with
beautiful precision upon the offer of an apple or a ginger-bread
His father was a brazier, and had a very good business.
Jack, as he was then called, was allowed the range of the shop, and
possession of all the nails that he could find lying about; thus he
soon learned to distinguish between tin tacks, ten-pennies, and
brass heads, and having a small hammer of his own, used to amuse
himself with knocking them by dozens into a door in the yard, which
was soon so thickly studded with them, that you could not see the
He also had a tin saucepan, which was given him on his
seventh birthday by his indulgent father, and in this he often made
toffee and hard-bake for his own eating, and thus, while still a
mere babe, his mind was turned to philosophical and scientific
pursuits; for by means of his nails and hammer he learned the
difference between wood and metal, and also the degree of force
required to drive the one into the other, whilst with the aid of his
saucepan he taught himself many a lesson in the science of
eating,—for that it is a science, Soyer has lately demonstrated to
the philosophical world.
At seven years old, he being already able to read almost any
English book that was placed before him, his father and mother
consulted together and resolved to send him to a school at Clapham.
There he made such progress as exceeded their most sanguine hopes,
and from this school he wrote his first letter, which has been
preserved, and runs as follows:―
"DEAR FATHER, — I like
school a great deal better than I did at first. My jacket has
got two great holes in it, so I am forced to wear my Sunday one.
We always have roast beef and Yorkshire puddin' for dinner on
Sunday, and the boys are very glad of all the nails and screws and
nuts I brought with me, and if I might have some more when mother
sends my cake and the three pots of jam, and the glue, and the
cobbler's wax, and the cabbage-nets, and thee pack-thread, and the
fishing-hooks, and the knife, and the new fishing-rod that I asked
for when she came to see me, we should all be very glad.
"We have dug a hole in the playground nearly fifteen feet
deep, we mean to dig till we get to water, and on half-holidays we
fish in the water on the common, where there is an island. The
boys want to make a bridge to reach it, but we haven't got anything
to make it of. We have not got any fish yet, only newts out of
that water, but we saw a good large one on Saturday, and Cooper says
he is deturmined he'll have him. Cooper can fish
"Dear father, the thieves have stolen all the apples out of
the garden, which is a great pity. I send my love to my
"I remain, dear father, your dutiful son,
This interesting letter was read by his parents with tears of
joy; indeed, from this time till their son was fifteen years old, he
gave them neither trouble nor anxiety, excepting twice—namely, when
he took the measles, and when he fought with another boy, and came
home with a black eye.
At fifteen he was apprenticed to his father, and during his
apprenticeship his career was as brilliant as could have been
desired. Of course he liked to be well dressed, which his
mother felt to be the natural consequence of his good looks.
He also liked now and then to spend an afternoon in the parks,
looking about him, which his father was glad of; for with such
powers of observation as he was endowed with it, was highly
desirable that he should not be without opportunity for exercising
At the age of eighteen he had done growing, and measured five
feet eight in his shoes; hair brown, with a slight twist in it,
scarcely amounting to a curl; complexion moderately fair, and eyes
between grey and green. When his apprenticeship was over he
paid his addresses to the second daughter of a bookseller in
Cheapside, and married her after a three years' courtship.
During the next eleven years, Mr. Smith was blessed with seven
children—John, his eldest son; Mary, named after her grandmother;
Fanny, Thomas, Elizabeth, James, and Sarah.
A few days after the birth of this last, his father died,
leaving him the braziery business, and four thousand pounds in the
Funds. Mr. Smith was a kind son. His mother lived with
him, and her old age was cheered by the sight of his honours, worth,
and talents. About this timer he took out a patent for a new
kind of poker; and in the same year his fellow-citizens showed their
sense of his deserts by making him an alderman of London.
Happy in the esteem of all, and in the possession of a good
business, he lived very quietly till he reached the age of fifty,
when his mother died, and was respectably buried by her son in the
parish church of Cripplegate.
His eldest son being now able to take charge of the shop and
business, Mr. Smith resolved to travel for a month or two. He
accordingly went to Ramsgate, where he enjoyed much intellectual
pleasure in the prospect of the glorious ocean, and the fine vessels
which continually appeared in the offing.
He was a true patriot, and, as he wandered on the beach, in
his buff slippers and straw hat, with an umbrella over his head to
shield him from the sun, he might often have been heard to sing,
with laudable pride, "Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves!"
After sojourning for three weeks at Ramsgate he went
northward; nor did he stop till he had reached that city so renowned
for its beauty as often to be called the modern Athens—we mean
Edinburgh. Mr. Smith wrote home frequently from thence to his
family, and made many valuable remarks on the dialect and manners of
the inhabitants; but it would appear that he did not altogether
approve of what he saw, for, in a letter to his son, after praising
the goodness of the houses, and the excellence of the gas-fittings,
and, indeed, of everything in the iron and brass departments, he
observed that the poultry was tough and badly fed, and that the
inhabitants had a most unwarrantably high opinion of their city,
"which, I can tell you, is as dull, compared to London," he
continued, "as the British Museum is, compared with the Pantheon in
Oxford Street." He also, in the same letter, made some new and
valuable remarks on the lateness of the season in the North.
In proof of the difference between London and Edinburgh he told his
son that strawberries were then in full perfection in the latter
city, though it was past the middle of August.
Some years after Mr. Smith's return he was elected
churchwarden for the parish of Cripplegate, and performed the duties
of that situation with great satisfaction to the inhabitants,
heading the subscription for the starving Irish with a donation of
£5. In the same year he gave £10 to the Middlesex Hospital.
It was not till he reached his sixty-eighth year that Mr.
Smith returned from the premises and the sphere he had so long
adorned. He then gave up the business to his sons, and retired
with his wife to a pleasant residence on Stamford Hill.
He retained his superior faculties to the last; for, at the
time when there was so much stir about the Nineveh Marbles, he went,
though very infirm, to see them, and, with his usual sound sense,
remarked that they did not answer his expectations: as there was so
much marble in the country, and also Derbyshire spar, he wondered
that Government had not new articles manufactured, instead of
sending abroad for old things which were cracked already.
At the age of seventy Mr. Smith died, universally respected,
and was buried in the cemetery at Kensall Green.
"And is this all?" cries the indignant reader.
All? I am amazed at your asking such a question.
I should have thought you had had enough of it! Yes, it is
all; and to tell you a secret, which, of course, I would not
proclaim to the world, I should not be in the least surprised if
your biography, up to the present date, is not one bit better worth
What have you done, I should like to know? and what are you,
and what have you been, that is better worth recording than the
sayings and doings recorded here? You think yourself superior?
Well, you may be, certainly; and to reflect that you are, is a
comfortable thing for yourself. And notwithstanding that I say
this, I have a true regard for you, and am far from forgetting that
though the events of your life may never be striking, or worth
recording, the tenor of your life may be useful and happy, and the
record may be written on high. In conclusion, however, I
cannot forbear telling you that, whether you are destined to be
great or little, the honour of writing your biography is not desired
by your obedient servant, the biographer of Mr. John Smith.
The Moorish Gold.
A LONG while ago,
says the legend, when the dominion of the Moors was beginning to
decline in Spain, it was rumoured on a certain day, in Toledo, that
the Christians were coming down in great force to besiege the city,
and had vowed that they would desecrate the Mosque, and despoil it
of its gold and jewels—that they would fight their way over the
bridge of the Tagus, and bear away the choicest of its treasures
from the great Alcazar of Toledo.
But a few days before these tidings arrived, a marvellous
stupor had come upon the Moorish masters of the city: some said it
was the heat, but they had never cared for the heat before, since
they came from a hotter region. They walked about it is true,
but it was slowly, and in the great shadows of their houses, and if
any man crossed over the street, he held his hand to his forehead
and sighed. A few were so faint that they lay down to rest on
the steps of the Alcazar; they thought the scent of the pomegranate
flowers oppressed them, though none had complained of this scent
before. Others believed that it was a thin vapour which rose
up in the heat from the glassy bosom of the Tagus, and spread out
like steam above the highest roofs, making the sun look red and
In spite of this, says the legend, they set about defending
themselves; and the danger being imminent, they shipped great store
of costly merchandise, with jewels, and gold, and coined money, on
board their vessels, which lay in the Tagus, and sent them off, to
the number of five, with orders to drop down the river, double the
Cape St. Vincent, and sail up the Guadalquiver, that their precious
lading might be given over into the keeping of the Moorish King of
But alas! says the legend, of those five fair vessels, not
one ever cast anchor before the walls of Seville, for a great wind
took them, scattered and drove them northward as soon as they were
clear of the Tagus, and it is supposed that four of the five
foundered with their crews and their lading, for they never were
heard of more.
It was supposed so, says the legend, but the Moorish masters
of Toledo had little time to fret themselves for their sunken
treasure, since that same week the plague appeared, and while the
Christians were harassing them without, they lay in the still heat
and perished in the streets by hundreds and by thousands within.
One vessel was left, and day after day in the wind and the
storm she drove still farther northward, and that strange lethargy
had crept on board with the sailors, though now there was neither
any heat, nor scent of pomegranate flowers, to plead as a reason for
it. And now the white cliffs of a great island were visible,
and they said to themselves that they should never behold the sunny
country of Spain any more, but be cast ashore at the end of the
earth, in the kingdom of William the Norman.
Still the north wind raged, and the foaming billows
broke—that was a long and fearful gale: some of the sailors died at
the oar, but it was neither hunger nor toil that killed them; and
when at last the wind dropped suddenly, and the vessel drifted on to
a sandy shore, only three men sprang out from her. There were
but three survivors, for the plague had come on board with them and
These three men sprang ashore; they landed one coffer filled
with gold, precious stones, and coined money. It was as much
as their failing strength could do. The islanders fell back
from them, for they had seen the dark faces of the dead Moors as
they lay in the plague-stricken vessel. They did not molest
the sailors, but let them sit alone on the shore bemoaning their
fate till night came on, and their vessel at high tide drifted out
again to sea, while these three desolate men took up the coffer and
went inland, up and up, among the Cumberland hills.
It was as much as they could carry, but no man cared to help.
They wandered about among the mountains, and the last time they were
seen, it was apparent that they had hidden their treasure in some
cavern, or sunk it in the earth, or heaved a stone upon it, for the
coffer was gone. Soon after, the men disappeared also; but
whether they perished among the rocks, or died of the plague, none
could tell; but though many and many a cavern has been searched, and
many a stone displaced, from that day to this, says the legend, no
man has ever set eyes upon the glittering Moorish gold.
So much for legend; now for more authentic narrative.
An old gentleman sat in a boat on one of the loveliest of the
English lakes, and looked up at the mountains with delight.
"Glorious!" he exclaimed; "superb! it beats Switzerland out
Whether he was right is nothing to the purpose, but he said
it. He was stout, had a red face, blue spectacles, and a straw
hat tied to his button-hole with black ribbon.
Now, when he exclaimed, "It beats Switzerland out and out!"
his footman sitting opposite to him, and thinking the observation
called for an answer, replied, with respect, "Certainly, sir; no
Thereupon his master looked at his fat white face, which
expressed no manner of enthusiasm, but rather showed an absorbing
interest in the provision basket which he held on his knee.
"Pray, Richard," said the old gentleman, "do you take any
pleasure in the beauties of Nature?"
Richard pondered, and answered as before, respectfully, "Not
in particular, sir."
"It's for want of knowing more about them," said his master,
good-humouredly; "to-morrow I am going up a mountain to see such a
view as everybody must delight in—you shall go too."
Richard touched his hat.
The next morning the old gentleman, with two others, quite as
enthusiastic, but by no means so fat; and with a guide, and two
hampers containing patties, pigeon-pies, hard-boiled eggs, potted
salmon, new bread and butter, and water-cresses, set off, his
servant accompanying him, to see the beauties of Nature among the
How many times the gentlemen exclaimed, "Glorious, hot day!
fine view! lovely scenery!" it is impossible to say. How many
times the footman wished himself at home, cleaning his plate,
waiting at table, or doing anything in the world but climbing a
mountain, it is also impossible to say. Happily for him, the
path got so steep, and the day got so hot, that all at once the
gentlemen bethought themselves of luncheon, and decided that the
very spot where they then stood was the right one to take it in.
So the guide, not by any means disinclined to rest, led them
a little aside, and turning the angle of a steep rock, suddenly
introduced them to a little quiet nook enclosed with high rocks.
It was about the size, Richard thought, of the back parlour at home,
only it was open to the sky, and its walls were hung with foxgloves,
broom, tufts of heath in blossom, and a few trailing eglantines,
instead of pictures and looking-glasses. How still the place
was, and how blue the sky above!
"Well, Richard," said his master, "what did you think of the
Richard replied as before, respectfully, "That he had been
wondering at it all the way up; everything below looked so small, in
particular the hay-stacks; the round ones, he observed, had reminded
him of queen-cakes, and the square ones of penny sponge-cakes or
quartern loaves, just exactly that shyape, and certainl no bigger."
His master was disappointed to find that Richard's comparison
was queer enough to make both the other gentlemen laugh—not,
however, at the footman, but at his master, for expecting him to
relish the scenery.
They soon rose from their lunch. It was a sin, they
said, to waste the sweet weather in that nook; they should go
higher; but Richard might stay behind, if he liked, and pack the
baskets; if he had not had enough to eat either, his master said he
was to help himself.
"Thank you, sir, I'm sure," said Richard, gratefully.
Accordingly, when they were gone, he did pack the
baskets, regaling himself with many a tit-bit meanwhile. This
pleasing duty fulfilled, he stretched himself under the steep
sandstone walls of his roofless room, basked in the hot sun, looked
up into the glowing sky, whistled, and fanned himself with some
twigs of broom, which were covered thick with flowers like yellow
A thicket of broom bushes grew against the side of the rock,
and as he stretched out his hand to one of them to pull off another
bough, the bush swung back to its place, and a bird flew out so
close to him that she swept his forehead with her wings.
He peeped into the bush. Yes, it was, as he had
thought, a nest—as pretty as moss and feathers could make it; and
with four pink eggs in it, quite warm, and half-transparent; he
parted the thick branches of the broom, and as he held them so, a
sunbeam struck between them, and showed a little hole in the rock
close to the ground; it looked, he thought, much as the arch of a
bridge might look, if the river beneath was so high as to reach
within a few inches of the key-stone. He pushed himself further into
the broom, and with his hands idly swept down the soft sand, and let
it slide down a little rise till it had buried to their heads some
tall bluebells that grew there. Then he noticed that the arch,
as more of it became disclosed, was very regular for a natural
opening, and as the sand slipped away, it revealed the top of what
seemed a worm-eaten wooden door, which fitted it with tolerable
accuracy. Nearly a foot of this door was visible, when
Richard, impatient to know what was behind it, took a stone, and
striking the old wood with some force, drove in a small portion of
it. He withdrew his head that the light might shine into it;
there was a deep cavity, and a narrow sunbeam entering, glittered
and trembled upon something which lay on the sand in a heap within,
and was red and fiery.
His heart beat quick, his eyes became accustomed to the dim
light within, he could see bags lying side by side; one of them had
burst open, its contents were large coins—surely gold coins—the
sunbeam was red upon their rims; yes, they were gold, they were
unknown, they were unclaimed, they were his!
He withdrew his eyes. The broom boughs swung back again
and concealed the opening; he sat down, propped his head upon his
hands, and a whirling wondering sense of possession, together with a
suffocating fear that he should never be able to grasp all his
treasure unshared, strove within him, and threw him into such a
fever of excitement, that for a while he could scarcely move or
breathe. At last he mastered these feelings, forced himself
again into the thicket, and thought he should never be satisfied
with staring in again and again at the glittering, gleaming gold.
Incalculable riches, and all to be his own!
Yes, all: he had heard of such people as Lords of the
Manor, his master was one down in the south, but Richard did not
mean to consider the law, they should all be his own. He would
secure them, buy a fine house, and eat, drink, and dress of the very
best. He exulted, as in that quiet nook alone he capered and
laughed aloud; then he sat down and began to arrange his thoughts.
Let us see, should he open his heart and share them with his
brother? Share them! nonsense; no. What had his brother
done for him? Why, only this—when Richard was out of place
this brother gave him two sovereigns out of his own wages, and
afterwards he spared with difficulty five shillings more. Now
his brother never expected to see it again. Well, Richard
decided to exceed his expectations; he would return it, every
farthing: possibly he might give him another sovereign besides.
Then there were his two sisters. As to the elder, she
certainly had been very good to him; she had many children, and
worked hard, yet when Richard was taken ill she had nursed him, and
sheltered him, and sat up with him at night; she had been a true and
tried friend to him. Well, he would reward her; he would send
her all his clothes; for of course he should in future dress like a
gentleman. He would also send her five pounds. No; what
would be the use of that? Her drunken husband would only
squander it all away; perhaps, instead of that, he would adopt one
of her boys—that would be so good, so generous, it would surely be
full payment. Or perhaps it would be better to pay his
schooling, and let him live at home; if he were brought into a fine
house he might grow presumptuous; yes, it would be better to pay for
his schooling, and now and then to send him some cast-off clothes.
Then there was his other sister. Why, she had never done
anything particular for him, so there was no reason why he should
And his parents! It certainly would be his duty to
allow them something, and he should do it. His father, as he
heard from home, was getting very feeble, and could hardly earn five
shillings a week by the chance work he did for the farmers, for he
was past regular day-labour. His mother had been used to go
out washing, but lately she had often been laid up with the
rheumatism. A regular allowance should it be? Why, look
what a sum horses and carriages cost; perhaps a present each quarter
would be better; tea for his mother, and tobacco for his father.
Yes, that would be better; his mother could make a little go a long
way, and he would send a blanket also. No pledging himself to
allowances; he might find that money would not go so far as he
expected. Why, Squire Thorndyke was always deep in debt, and
he had four thousand a year. Sir Thomas Ludlow was known to be
in difficulties, poor gentleman! He said free trade had made
his means so small. Ah! free trade was a very hard thing; he
should find it hard himself, when he had land, as of course he meant
to have. He would send his parents something sometimes—not
regularly—lest it should be supposed that he bound himself to
continue it, which he might not be able to do. For of course
he should have shares like other people in these railways—he might
lose a great deal of money by them, as his master had done; he might
by such means become quite poor again; and then how cruel it would
seem to the old people to stop their money! He would send them
something or other as soon as he knew himself what he was worth.
Well, he was happy to say he had a generous mind, and did his duty
to everybody that belonged to him.
Thus he sat and reflected till he had decided all this and
more; he then peered through once more at his treasures, and having
feasted his eyes sufficiently, contrived by means of a long stick to
pull up two of the gold pieces. They were as large as silver
crowns. He handled them, and turned them over. The
whole, now he had part in his power, seemed doubly his own, but he
knew that gold was heavy; he could count upwards of twenty of these
bags; each, for aught he knew, might contain hundreds of gold
pieces; and besides that, jewels glittered here and there, which he
shrewdly suspected to be diamonds.
He heard voices at a distance, and hastened to emerge from
his thicket of broom, first carefully putting the coins and a jewel
in his waistcoat pocket. Covetousness grew stronger in his
soul, and his breath came quick, and all his pulses throbbed with
anxiety, lest he should not be able to secure and conceal the whole
of the treasure for himself. The tourists returned, and
Richard, as he followed them down the mountain, was so absorbed,
that he was constantly treading on their heels. Afterwards,
when he waited at table, his master thought the air must have
intoxicated him, for he handed him powdered sugar to eat with his
fish, salad with his gooseberry tart, and set a pat of butter on
table, with the desert. Right glad was Richard when the work
of the day was over, and he could retire to think upon his good
fortune, and examine his spoils. They had been a very
cumbersome possession to him, and had inspired him with an almost
irresistible desire to be always feeling in his pocket to ascertain
if they were safe, and a constant fear lest they should chink
together and be heard.
Now, he thought, what must he do? Should he leave his
master's service at once, buy some boxes, and, going up the mountain
every day by himself, bring down by degrees the contents of that
little cavern till all was secured? No, that would be a
suspicious mode of proceeding; people would think the footman was
mad, or, if he paid for what he wanted with ancient gold coins, they
would suspect, watch, discover, and either betray him or insist upon
sharing the spoils. He never doubted that there was a Lord of
the Manor in those parts, and if so he must be very secret, as of
course these riches belonged of right to him.
No, it would not do to leave his master at once; far better
to go south with him as far as the busy city of B―,
where he was going to stay with a very learnèd
old gentleman, a friend of his, who had a large collection of
curiosities and dusty stones, shells, stuffed animals, and other
such gear. He should have a great deal of leisure there, and B―
would be a likely place to dispose of his coins in, for his
master would be busy with his friend tapping stones in the country
with tiny hammers, magnifying sand, and bottling tadpoles in proof
Not to trouble my reader with accounts of how Richard visited
his treasures again by night, and in coming down was very nearly
discovered; how he went again, and was very nearly falling over a
precipice; how he forgot his duties, was disrespectful, and
recklessly whistled as he followed his master; how he entertained
the project of shortly changing his name, and conned "The Peerage
and Baronetage of England" to find a grand and uncommon one; how
conveniently he thought this plan would hide him from all those who
had a claim upon him; how he had compunctions on this head, and
overcame them with the thought of how much his poor relations would
expect of him if they knew about his riches; how the landlady
declared him to be the "braggingest" young man she had ever met
with; how he carelessly neglected his master's luggage at B――,
by reason whereof it went down the line to London, and thence to
Dover; and how he spent the first two days of the visit in staring
out of the hall window—I pass on to say that never was there an old
gentleman so fond of old wood carving, old stained glass, old china,
old marbles, old mail, old books, old prints, old pictures, and old
coins, as this very old gentleman, this friend of Richard's master.
On the third day Richard slipped out, and going into a back
street soon found a shop that he thought suited to his purpose.
Here, after a little beating about the bush, he produced his coins
and his diamond, and after a little hesitation on the part of the
shopman, received eighteen guineas for the stone and one coin—far
less than they were worth but the man would not give more.
On returning, he was told that his master had been ringing
for him; he ran upstairs in some trepidation, and found the two old
gentlemen examining a large cabinet full of coins. "Richard,"
said his master, "I want you to hold this tray." Richard did
so, and looked down on its contents. "Those," said the host to
his friend, "are early English." He lifted up another light
tray, and Richard held it on the top of the first. "Now then,
old fellow," he exclaimed, "this is something to be proud of indeed;
Spanish coins—date of the Moors—all rare —this one, unique; I gave
forty pounds for it."
"Not a penny too much," said Richard's master; "and these two
coins set apart, are they Spanish too?"
"Moorish, and all but unique; they've been in my family for
Richard looked down, and his heart beat so loud that he
wondered they did not hear it; then he drew a long breath, and gazed
intently, as well he might, for, reposing on cotton wool side by
side, were the very counterparts—the exact facsimiles—of the great
gold pieces he got out of the cavern.
"What's the matter, Richard?" said his master; for Richard's
hands shook, and he stared as if fascinated.
"Nothing's the matter, sir," replied Richard, with a face of
"I'll tell you what," said the friend, when Richard had been
dismissed, "there's something queer about the lad; what does he mean
by turning red and pale, and breathing as hard as if my coins had
knocked the breath out of his body?"
His master also thought it queer when that same evening
Richard gave him warning, and added that he wished to leave that
night, for his brother's wife had written to say that her husband
was dangerously ill, and wished to see him.
His master was vexed; but being an easy man, he paid Richard
his wages, and let him go, with many kind wishes for his brother's
"And now," said Richard, "I'll be a gentleman. I've
left my old clothes, and when I'm missed my family can claim them.
Honest industry is the best thing after all. Let them do for
themselves; they ought to be above troubling me: my name shall be
Mr. Davenport St. Gilbert; I shall keep myself to myself, for I want
nothing of them, and that alone will be a good thing for them, and
more than they ever had reason to expect."
He then went to a number of shops, and soon supplied himself
with everything that he thought necessary to constitute him a
gentleman—a handsome suit of clothes, studs, a new hat, a cane, and
lastly a pair of gloves, which he had been very near forgetting;
then he went to an hotel, ordered supper and a bed, and by seven
o'clock the next morning was on his way to the Cumberland mountains.
The image of that mountain was always present to his imagination,
and the thought of the treasure lying there, with nothing but a
little bird to watch it, filled him with a secret, sordid joy; it
should be all his own—no other living man should touch one penny of
it: poor Richard!
He went to an inn, ordered a good dinner and a bottle of
wine. Alas! he was not used to port wine, and he thought as he
paid for all, he would drink all. He did so, and the next day
a racking headache made him glad to lie in bed till noon. He
stayed at that place another night, and, unhappily for him, repeated
the folly of the previous one. It was not till the fourth day
from his leaving B― that he reached
the end of his journey, and stepping out of a post-chaise found
himself at the foot of the well-remembered Cumberland mountains.
He sauntered to the shore of the lake, and began to hurrah!
with irrepressible exultation. He thought himself alone, but a
dry cough behind him, and a finger laid on his shoulder, undeceived
him. He turned round hastily, and beheld two policemen.
"What's your business, fellows?" he exclaimed, half angry,
"You're our business," was the reply. "There's
been a theft; you must come back with us to B―."
"It's a lie, a base lie; it's a cruel lie," cried Richard,
frantically; "there was no theft in the matter, the coin was my
"Indeed! Well, young man, you needn't criminate
yourself; how do you know we came after you about a coin?—it's no
use stamping, nor crying either, you must come."
The mountains and the lake swam before Richard's eye, as the
two policemen took him between them, and walked him off to the
railway station; he was frightened, but bewildered, and throughout
the long journey he preserved a dogged silence, till at last the
train arrived at B―, and there
stood his master and the old gentleman waiting for him.
"This is the young fellow, sir, isn't it?" inquired the
"Yes," said his master, in a tone of deep regret; "I grieve
to say it is."
The next morning he was examined before a magistrate, but
alas! during the night he had reflected that no one could prove his
having stolen the coins (for on their account he never doubted that
he had been arrested); he had also reflected that to tell the honest
truth about them was most certainly to lose all; moreover, he had
made up his mind that nothing worse than a month's imprisonment was
at all likely to befall him, even if a case could be made out
against him. He therefore resolved to run all risks, and
declare that he had found the coins and the jewel in his father's
potato garden; he had turned them up with a hoe. How the time
passed with Richard until his trial, I do not know, but his kind old
master visited him frequently, and told him it would be his duty to
give evidence against him.
Richard, however, persisted in his tale, though he became
quieter and more fearful as the assizes drew near.
At length the eventful day of trial came on, his turn came;
he felt guilty, though not of the crime imputed to him; and his
anxiety increased as he listened to the evidence brought against
him. The counsel for the prosecution stated the case against
him thus :―
The prisoner, on the 22nd of August, arrived with his master
at the house of the prosecutor; he had often been there before, and
was known to have acquaintances there. On the 24th he was
present while certain valuable coins were displayed by the
prosecutor; he was observed to regard them with particular
attention; that same evening he gave warning to his master, giving
as a reason that his brother's wife had written to him, declaring
that her husband was at death's door. He requested to be paid
his wages at once, alleging that he had but five shillings in his
pocket. He took his leave; and in the evening of the following
day, his brother, whose employer was travelling that way, called in
to see him, in perfect health; and on being told of the letter
supposed to have been received from his wife, replied that his wife
being a Frenchwoman, lady's-maid in the family where he lived, could
neither read nor write English, and that Richard knew that quite
The day after this, the prosecutor happened to observe a
certain scratched appearance about the keyholes of two of his
cabinets; he opened them hastily, and found every tray gone with all
their contents; in short, the whole case gutted. Inquiries
were instantly set on foot, and plate to a considerable amount was
also found to be missing; thereupon the servants being examined,
Richard's name was mentioned by all with suspicion. The cook
deposed that during dinner, the day he left, Richard had inquired
concerning the word "unique." "Unique," said the servants,
"means that no one has got such a coin except master;" to which he
replied, "If that's unique, they are no more unique than I am, and
that I could prove to the present company if I chose." The
servants further deposed, that looking upon this as an idle boast,
they had laughed at him, and dared him to produce one, and at last
he had said that perhaps he might before he took his leave of them.
This evidence being important, the police had been set to
work, and had discovered a facsimile of the coin, of which only two
specimens were supposed to be extant, exposed for sale in a shop
window; they had also discovered that he had entered several shops,
and spent money to an amount greatly exceeding his wages. The
recovered coin being shown to the prosecutor, he challenged it, and
produced a written description, wherein it was set forth that these
ancient Spanish coins were supposed to be fresh from the Mint, and
never to have passed into circulation.
The prisoner, on being arrested, had instantly mentioned
these coins, and declared he came by them honestly. When
examined before a magistrate, he declared that he had dug them up in
his father's potato garden. Search being made, another coin
was found in his waistcoat-pocket. On being told that the
sharp outline of the coins proved that they had not been exposed to
friction or damp, he added that he found them sealed up in an
On being asked how long it was since he had found them, he
replied that it was while he lived in his late master's service.
On being reminded by that gentleman that he had only visited his
parents twice during that period, and that the first time they were
paupers in the Union, and had no potato garden, he replied that it
was the second time; on being further reminded that during his
second visit the ground was covered with a deep fall of snow, he
refused to give any answer.
And now witnesses were called, and then followed the feeble
defence of his own counsel. Richard was bewildered, but he
perceived that the circumstantial evidence was so strong against him
that nothing but the truth could save him, and the truth no man
knew. He was brought in guilty, and sentenced to seven years'
Alas! what a casting down of his dream of riches! What
a bitter disappointment for his covetous soul! He was sent
back to prison, and there, when he had duly reflected on his
position, he determined to purchase freedom by discovering the whole
truth, and thus giving up his monopoly of the Moorish gold.
He sent for his master; he looked miserable, and as he sat on
the bench in his prison-dress, with his face propped on his hands,
he felt plainly that his master pitied him.
The old gentleman heard him to the end and made no comment,
but he remained so long silent when the tale was finished, that
Richard looked up surprised. "Sir!" he exclaimed, "surely you
believe me now?"
"Alas, my poor fellow!" said his master, "you have told so
many falsehoods, that it is no longer in my power to believe on the
testimony of your lips, but only of my own senses; and this last
story, Richard, seem to me the wildest of all. It will not
serve you nor delay your sentence one hour."
"Yes, it will—indeed it will—Oh, sir, sir, try me this once,
and go and look behind those broom bushes."
"Richard, you have a good father and mother, and good
sisters, who are very, very poor,—if you had really found such a
treasure, you would have contrived to send something to them."
"I—I forgot them, sir," faltered Richard.
"No, Richard," said his master, with a sigh, "you are a bad
fellow, I'm afraid; but you're not so bad as that comes to.
You have deceived me so often, that I'm not to be taken in any
Richard protested, but his master would not believe his tale,
and was about to take leave of him, when a bustle was heard outside
the door, and his master's old friend appeared in a state of great
excitement. He opened both hands, and in the palm of each was
seen a coin, the very coins that had been missing. The real
thieves had been detected, and, with very little delay, Richard was
set at liberty.
"And now, sir," said he, "come with me to the mountain, and
see whether I spoke the truth." His master wondered greatly,
but he went. They were within ten miles of the mountain, when
a tremendous storm came on; the floods of rain and peals of thunder
drove them into an inn for shelter, and there they stayed during a
long night of storm and tempest.
It was not till high noon that that terrible storm subsided;
then as soon as it was safe to go abroad, Richard and his master set
off on their mission. They went toiling up the same path that they
had pursued before; the way was very rugged, for stones and earth
had been dislodged by the storm.
"Richard," said his master, "we are nearly at the top of the
mountain, surely we must have passed the place."
They came down again, and the agitated Richard looked from
right to left; all was so changed, so torn and disfigured, that he
could not tell where he was. The tiny streams were tumbling
torrents; the road was blocked with stones and rocks.
"Richard," his master said again, "we are nearly at the foot
of the mountain, surely we have passed the place."
His master went down to the inn. Richard continued to
search: for three weary days he wandered up and down and about.
Whether the force of the storm had driven rocks down, and filled up
that little roofless room, or whether a torrent had defaced the
place and concealed it, he could not tell, but certain it is he
never found it; and from that day to this, no man's eyes have ever
been gladdened with the sight of the Moorish gold.
He came to his master—"Sir," said he, "the gold is not to be
found, but I have had a great deal of time to consider, and I have
come to think that my own greed has brought all this misery on me.
Here's the two coins that I got of the treasure; let them go to my
relations, for I'll have none of them, but try to win back my good
character, for the loss of that has been worse than the loss of this
Printed by Cowan & Co., Limited, Perth.