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BY CHARLES SWAIN.
HOME's not merely four square walls,
Though with pictures hung and gilded; Home is where affection calls
Filled with shrines the heart hath builded. Home-go watch the faithful dove
Sailing 'neath the heaven above us; Home is where there's one to love,
Home is where there's one to love us.
Home is not mere roof and room,
It needs something to endear it; Home is where the heart can bloom; Where there's some kind lip to cheer it What is home with none to meet?
None to welcome-none to greet us? Home is sweet-and only sweetWhere there's one we love to meet us.
IN A FALSE POSITION.
HAD not been seated many minutes when I heard the rustling of ladies' dresses, and immediately the door opened, and in sailed the majestic form of Mrs. Stuggles.
I rose and bowed, and my aunt introduced me to the widow and her daughter. Mrs. Stuggles was fair and fat, and she looked the picture of good-nature. The daughter was tall and thin, I was going to say gawky, but I will not say anything so unkind of her, for she, like her mother, was very good-natured.
The lively widow attacked me at once in a small shrill-treble voice, which seemed positively absurd, issuing from such a mass of humanity.
"Dear me-dear me, and so you're Mr. Charles, are you? Naughty fellow, come to run away with our pet. Ha!-bless me-not at all like any of the family; more like poor dear Mr. Ransome-your nose is just like his; now don't blush, he's a good man, and you need not mind being like him. Well, I'm glad to see you, and so is my daughter."
The young lady referred to, who had hitherto been painfully silent, now made a noise in her throat which I presumed indicated her assent; and, looking down at one of her pretty little feet, which was thrust from under her dress, simpered, and re-adjusted herself on her chair.
Mrs. Stuggles rattled on with a volubility that was incredible; while I endeavored to make myself as agreeable as I could, but speculation and conjecture were running riot in my brain, so that I fear my part of the conversation was rather rambling and incoherent; nevertheless I suppose I must have said something funny, for Miss Stuggles commenced to titter, then broke into a laugh, and finally ended in a series of coughing and choking, and got so red in the face that I feared she would go into a fit.
Mrs. Stuggles came to the rescue, and, after snudry pats on the back, the young lady recovered. If the daughter was so bashful as to be almost silent, or could not laugh without choking, the mother made amends, by talking and laughing enough for the whole party.
"Oh! you wicked fellow," she said; "you must not say such funny things to Madge; she's not VOL. X., No. 3-14
used to it, and you scare her," and then in an apologetic tone she continued, "and if she does not talk so fast as some girls, she's none the worse for it--poor dear Stuggles used to say, he hoped she would not grow up a chatter-box, as he thought one in a family was enough; poor dear, there was no need for him to have said that, for a quieter man I never knew;" and then, turning up her eyes like a duck in thunder, she said, "perhaps you've heard of my late husband, sir?"
I replied that I had never been so fortunate.
"Ah! Mr. Charles, he was a good man," she said, with a sigh he always said his name would be handed down to posterity."
"In what manner, madam?" I asked.
"In a pillbox," whispered Frank.
"Have you never heard of my husband's pill?" asked the widow, apparently overwhelmed with astonishment at my ignorance; "Stuggles's Saponaceous Family Pill! It's a wonderful pill! and its cleansing and purifying properties are undoubted."
I suggested that having been studying hard at the University, might account for my not having heard of so renowned a medicine. I was in a great state of excitement at seeing her dive her hand into her pocket. I was in mortal fear that she intended to pull out a box and ask me to test their efficacy, when I was relieved by the announcement of dinner.
I offered my arm to the amiable widow, and took her in tow; but I soon repented of my temerity. She was unfortunately troubled with sciatica, and consequently rather weak on her legs, and as she walked she leaned on me as though I was an iron column; and it required I cannot tell how many horse power to drag her along.
Notwithstanding, I could not dislike her, she was such a lump of good-nature. She puffed and laughed, and talked and wheezed, all the way down-stairs, insisting on calling me Charles; wanted to know when she was to be introduced to Mrs. Charles; vowed she was as hungry as a bunter; told me I was a wicked rogue; and finally hoped I was not going to be a thief, and steal away her darling Helen; for if I did she should hate me!
I replied politely that I ought her far too amiable to hate anything. Whereupon she gave me such a nudge in the side, that I thought all my ribs were broken. It was somewhat equivalent to playing with an elephant, only they don't laugh as she did, and don't tell you to keep your soft solder for the girls.
When she reached her chair she sat down with such a hu-ugh! that I thought her lungs and the chair would have
COUSIN CHARLES AND THE FAT WIDOW.
given way under it. Frank, who was near me, whispered that | room. Frank tried to draw me into conversation, but it was he was sure she'd carry away something some day, and told useless, so I took a turn in the garden to dissipate my ill-humor. her face to face that she ought to be fed on pickled periwinkles, When I returned to the drawing-room, I had somewhat reand that he thought she would get fat on them. covered my spirits, but as I did not feel equal to general conversation, I retired to a sofa, complaining of headache. I had not been there many minutes, when Julia came and seated herself by my side, saying, Cousin, you are not in spirits tonight; what's the matter?"
The widow, however, did not resent this sally, but said he was a sad young dog, and that if she caught him near her, she'd serve him as they served the periwinkles, at the same time showing him a large pin.
Whether it was Frank's periwinkles or the mother's pin that stuck in her throat, I cannot say, but at this juncture Miss Stuggles went off into a fit of suppressed laughter, and was discovered in her chair almost black in the face, and it was not until she had gone through a series of choking and coughing, and Julia had patted her back most energetically, that she could be in any way restored.
"What is the matter with you, Madge?" said Mrs. Stuggles. "I can't help it, ma!" replied the timid Madge, and went into fresh paroxysms of choking.
Nothing," I answered; "I've only had one of Mrs. Stuggles's pills."
"I'm sure Mrs. Stuggles did not mean any harm," said she, soothingly; "she's a kind-hearted old creature, and has but two failings; one is her love for news, or, in other words, scandal, and the other is her incessant rattle. Poor old lady, she does so like to hear herself talk!" "Then you
think the pills go for nothing?"
"That was her husband's fad. He was a very clever and highly respected physician, but he took it into his head that he "It's quite ridiculous!" said the fat widow. Julia, dear, had made a great discovery in this soap pill, and he got so give her a good knock on the back." laughed at that he died of vexation; but it won't do to tell "Shall I do it?" cried Frank, who seemed taken with the the poor old dear so, for she thinks there never was such a man idea; "I can hit harder than Julia." Whereupon Miss Stug-in the world, and that the pill will cure everything."
gles suddenly subsided, but in excuse for a slight return of the malady, she said, modestly and faintly, "I never heard of pickled periwinkles before."
Dinner passed off pleasantly enough; the viands were good, exquisitely served, and cooked to perfection. A delicious dessert, and a few glasses of good old wine, set all our tongues a-going. It will not, however, be necessary to particularize the small-talk of the table, nor how Julia and I got very confidential; or how Helen and Fielding. got very close together, and I fancied (I might be mistaken) that he squeezed her hand under the table.
Frank, who had been in deep conversation with Fielding, now broached the subject of "The Meet," and, to my astonishIment and discomfort, Mrs. Rowcroft readily consented; and thus was I, who had never leaped a ditch in my life, engaged to go hunting with two crack riders; hairbrained fellows, who thought nothing of hedge; and ditches, and five-barred gates.
Fielding, who had by this time got quite at home, gave us some very animated descriptions of hunting and racing; and discussed other congenial topics. Mrs. Stuggles was entertaining my aunt with a series of lectures on household economy, the management of servants, and the proper treatment of babies.
Helen and Julia exhibited their skill, both vocal and instru
I do not wish to be understood that I watched these two lovers, for such I was now convinced they were, but I do know that when they thought I was, as I ought to have been, en-mental; and then Miss Stuggles, after a hundred excuses, grossed with a plate of stewed eels, they exchanged glances of the utmost significance; and Fielding heaved a sigh that nearly blew out the candles. In the meantime Frank suddenly and stealthily dived under the table, and, imitating his famous terrier pup, seized and worried Miss Stuggles's dress till she nearly fainted with alarm, and when she knew that it was only Frank, she went into another fit of laughter, ending in the usual blocking up of the windpipe and patting on the back.
Under the agreeable influence of Julia's bright eyes and Mrs. Rowcroft's sparkling old port, I talked away in a style of brilliancy I had never before exhibited, and I was amply rewarded by the good-humored smile of my hostess. Mrs. Stuggles laughed til her fat cheeks shook like a dish of jelly; while the ringing melody of Julia's laugh, applauding my gay sallies, and the smiles and blushes of the rest of the ladies, showed that they were at least highly relished by them.
skipped across the room, seated herself at the piano, and began a most poetic description of her woes and miseries; and concluded each verse with a pathetic invitation to some imaginary person to "Come and be her love," but as the inducement, I suppose, was not considered equivalent to the risk, this individual did not respond to her call, and therefore she ended the last verse in great despair, aud with such a terrible crash of music as seemed to leave the poor piano breathless and exhausted.
The evening passed delightfully. I was rather vexed, though, to have the adventure of the morning recounted to Mrs. Stuggles. Helen told the story in her own simple way, and did me more than justice; but Julia, who sat by my side, wanted to color it still more highly, and insisted that I was as brave as a hero; which I with great modesty disclaimed.
Mrs. Stuggles, who never did anything by halves, went into ecstasies of admiration; and Miss Stuggles, in the most simple manner possible, asked if we did not find it rather w-e-t?
All was going on merrily, when suddenly I heard my uncle's name mentioned. Of course I was all attention. I could listen to his praises with the greatest complacency; but when my own How swiftly flew the hours, yet often, as I sat by Julia's side, name was mentioned, and I was called a sad dog and a scape- my heart was agonised by the thought that in a few days I grace, and all sorts of things laid to my charge that I posi- should be separated from her, perhaps for ever. I felt that tively knew nothing of, I really nearly lost my temper. though she possessed a degree of feminine softness which might It is a most annoying thing to have to sit by and hear your- lead a superficial observer to think she was wanting in firmness; self vilified, without being able to defend your character. But and although she was naturally vivacious, and therefore someI kept down my rising choler till Mrs. Stuggles said she had times appeared rather coquettish, she had not a particle of heard that I ran away with an innkeeper's daughter, and that coquetry about her; and was by no means wanting in stability I was a great rake. I could not sit silent under such an impu- of character. I felt, too, that I should have no chance of gaintation, and therefore I said, "Pardon me, madam, but who is ing her affections unless I proved myself worthy of her; and your authority for this delicious bit of scandal? The gentle- how was I to do that when my very introduction was a fraud? man is a friend of mine, and I cannot hear his name and character thus dealt without speaking."
"I'm sure," said Mrs. Stuggles, "I did not intend any offence. I only give you the report as I heard. it. I know nothing more than that he has the reputation of doing the most outrageous things with the best grace possible."
"Then, madam, would it not have been wiser to have been more guarded in your expressions?" I said, with some degree of indignation. "And as for the story of the elopement, I can say with safety that there is no foundation for such a report." This little fracas put me thoroughly out of sorts, and I was greatly relieved by the departure of the ladies for the drawing
Helen made several efforts to speak to me privately, and at last came and sat by me; and when an opportunity offered she said to me, "Cousin, I want to say something to you privately, will you take a walk in the shrubbery to-morrow morning before breakfast? What I have to say is most important!" 'Certainly! my dear cousin," I answered, "with much pleasure."
I Do not know anything more delightful than to have your slumbers dissipated by the bright rays of the morning sun, and the harmonious sounds which are the usual concomitants of a
rural residence. By degrees you awake from that pleasing halfconscious state which can only proceed from sound and refresh ing slumber, and become aware that you have passed from dreamland into actual life.
When I was fairly awake the sun was streaming into my bedroom, the birds were chirping in the now almost leafless vine which grew around the window; a lusty cock was sounding his clarion as though he thought I, had slept long enough; while the cackling of hens, giving note of their fecundity and early rising, the lowing of cows, the barking of dogs, and many other rural sounds, told me that nature was up and stirring, and that if I intended to keep my appointment with Helen I must follow her example.
Frank came dashing through, exclaiming, “Hallo!
I was vexed and annoyed at this interruption, but, putting on the best face I could, I laughed at his sally, and Helen ran in to prepare herself for breakfast. When she appeared no traces of her agitation were visible.
Breakfast being over, our horses were brought round, and we started for the meet. Our hunters had been sent on early, and therefore we did not spare our hacks. Fielding met us on the road, and his manly hearty welcome dispelled, in some measure, the strange suspicions Helen's conduct this morning had
A ride of twenty minutes brought us to Stickney Point, where the hounds were to throw off. Frank's horse was a fine, spirited animal, and Fielding was mounted on a beautiful chestnutwhile Thunderer, the one I was to ride, was a large wiry beast, with an eye that to my mind betokened mischief; but, as I had not any reputation as a rider, I was afraid to say anything. After some delay the fox broke cover, and the view halloo being given, away we went. As soon as my steed heard the thetically; and I, instead of being timid, felt exhilarated and of the pack, he pricked up his ears and neighed sympa
I entered the shrubbery with a beating heart, for, notwith-given rise to. standing that I had expected this meeting, I did not feel quite at my ease. I had never been placed in such a position before, and the situation, though novel, was to me far from a pleasant one; had it been Julia, the case would have been different. I could not make up my mind what course I ought to pursue, and therefore it was with a feeling almost of dread that I saw her approach. I thought, however, that it was my duty to welcome her, and swallowing my fears I hastened to meet her. When she saw me she slackened her pace, and on my taking her hand and saluting it, she turned very pale and was considerably affected. At last she mustered courage to say, "You are no doubt much surprised, cousin, at my asking you to meet me in private; and doubtless you think it unmaidenly; but when you know all, I trust you will rather pity than blame me. At the same time I hope the confidence I am about to place in you, and the explanations I am about to give you, will be received with candor and used with forbearance."
She paused, and I hastened to tell her that any communication she made to me should never be divulged without her permission.
"Thank you, cousin! thank you! yet your kindness makes it more difficult for me to say what I wish; and God knows that it is needless," and the tears flowed as it were involuntarily from her eyes.
Do not weep,' I said, kindly: "you do not know how keenly your grief affects me. Tell me why you are thus moved! what can I do to aid you?"
"On your kindness, on your generosity, depends my future happiness; you will hate me for my duplicity. Oh, if you only knew all!" and she seemed unable to proceed.
I was somewhat puzzled. I began to think that there must be something more than I expected. I could not see, else, what could cause all this emotion. That Helen was a girl of deep feeling I could see; but I could not understand that the mere rejection of me ought to cause so much anguish. Could she be married to this man? I began to think I was getting further
into the mire.
She made several attempts to speak, but they only resulted in fresh bursts of tears. I therefore took her hand and said. “I see you are unable to make the disclosure you wish. I will endeavor to assist you. You would tell me that you do not love me; that you loved another before you saw me; that you wish to break our engagement, and hope I will offer no opposition;
is it not so ?"
"What if I release you from that engagement ?" "Generous man!"
"Stop, I did not say I would; you must give me your confidence, and I will do all that I can to assist you."
She hid her face in her hands, and for some moments seemed incapable of utterance; at last she lifted up her head and said, "Cousin, before you came my affections were engaged; had I seen you sooner it might have been otherwise; and now that I have seen you, and you have been so kind to us all, makes my task the harder. I have been very unhappy for some time, but the time has now arrived when the explanation can no longer be postponed."
"There is relief to be found in all our misfortunes, if we place our trust in God; He never sends a poison without its antidote. Believe me, I desire your happiness as much as I do any one's, and it would give me great joy if I could in any way contribute to your comfort."
keeping well together. At first the ground was level, and ReyAway we went in splendid order, Frank, I, and Fielding end of this we were somewhat in advance of the rest, and I saw nard led off in capital style. By the time we had reached the before me my first leap. I shuddered; but, closing my eyes, and digging my knees tightly into my horse's ribs, I abandoned myself to my fate. I could scarcely believe I was over, till I heard Frank exclaim emphatically, "Splendid!"'
On we went, through fields and across moorlands. Thun
derer being an old and well-bred horse, knew his work; and feel that the excitement was telling on my nerves, s ill we went now that his blood was up, he stuck at nothing. I began to onward-through some heavy ploughed land, over a five-barred gate, across a brook, up the breast of a hill, and through a village, taking everything gallantly.
I was considerably in advance of the rest, and began to feel alarmed, for I found I had lost all control of my horse; who, instead of getting tired, seemed to gain strength at every bound. On we went, he madly, I stupidly. I tried to turn him from some of the most dangerous leaps, but it was no use-he would go straight ahead, and in some instances actually courted danger for danger's sake.
I continued to lead the field-onward we went, madly onward, over hedges and ditches, through brier and brake, and I yet with a whole skin, and no broken bones. The pace was terrific, but Thunderer did not seem distressed. We now emerged on to a large tract of heath, and I thought my danger was over; when lo! the fox turned sharp off, and dashed into a wide chasm or gully, disappearing for a moment, and then dashing up the opposite bank. width of the gully, and broke into a cold sweat, thinking it impossible for a horse to leap it. Thunderef, however, went straight at it; he sprang into the air; but, instead of being plunged into this abyss, I was safely landed on the opposite side-I was in at the death.
I was horror-struck at the
I cannot well describe my feelings as I dismounted. I was terribly shaken-my whole nervous system was prostrated, and my strength gone; but I had now a reputation to maintain, and therefore made a vigorous effort, beat down the dogs, and held up the fox in triumph.
The whole party now came flying over like so many fiery meteors, and I was greeted with great respect, and looked on as a crack rider. Such is life! How often do we see persons obtain a reputation by a fluke!
As we were returning home, after taking some refreshment, which had not only restored my energy, but had considerably elevated our spirits, and rendered me somewhat forgetful of my dignity, and ripe for a lark, Frank proposed a hoax.
I never could resist anything in the shape of fun, no matter of what character; and a practical joke I never could withstand.
At this moment I heard a rustling among the bushes, and Our road lay through two villages, not a great distance apart.
Dashing our spurs into our horses, we rode through the first village, exclaiming, frantically: "Fire!-fire!-fire!"
Meanwhile Mrs. Stubbington was running frantically about the house, asking everybody "What was the matter?" and everybody was asking everybody else "What was to be done?"
Open burst the cottage doors, and out came the villagers in while the men at the engine kept all on continually pumping. great consternation.
"Where?-where?" they cried.
"There!-there!" we replied, pointing to the next village. Men halloed-women screamed-children cried-dogs barked, and the whole place was in an uproar.
As soon as we had got a short distance from the first village, we pulled up to breathe our horses; but, on reaching the outskirts of the second village, we again put our horses to their speed, and flew through it.
66 Fire!" cried Frank.
"Fire!" roared the villagers.
Stubble-Rodington," answered Frank.
"There!-there!" I exclaimed, pointing to the first village, and, like the wind, we were gone. By this time it was almost dusk, and, leaping a ditch, we doubled back to see the fun.
The whole population of the first village, Rodington, was hastening with the parish engine, to extinguish the fire at Hingham; while at the same time the inhabitants of Hingham with their engine were coming, en masse, to put out the conflagration at Rodington.
AKING a short cut, we soon ascertained that the great conflagration consisted of a large bonfire. Farmer Stubbington had been burning stubble, and a number of mischievous boys had dragged a quantity of binds from a neighboring hopground, and heaping them all together, created what distance had magnified into a tremendous fire. The boys, frightened at the blaze, threw on a lot of wwet stubble and speargrass, and thereby created a dense smoke, which enveloped the farm and out-houses and drove right down the road. Perspiring with exertion, wild with excitement, and nearly blinded by the smoke, the villagers rushed to the rescue. Without stopping to ascertain where the fire was, they dragged the engine down to the duckpond, and began to work away with great ardor. It so happened that no one thought of the hose, and therefore the water of the duck pond was being distributed in a manner highly destructive of Mrs. Stubbington's flower-garden, and not at all calculated to extinguish the fire if there had been one.
The poor farmer was quietly smoking his pipe when the tumult began, and he came out to see what all the hubbub was about. He was completely paralysed by the. turbulent energy of the people; and seeing a glare and smoke, he began to think his premises were on fire.
The water from the duck pond, unused to be disturbed from its muddy bed at such a time of night, resented this interference with its natural rest, by ploughing madly through the flowerbeds, and finally ended by intruding itself unasked under the door, and flooding the lower part of the hous. Now there were two things that Mrs. Stubbington prided herself on, and these were the cleanness of her house and the neatness of her flower garden; and therefore seeing her household gods set swimming, and the door mats afloat on the fierce rolling tide, seeking safety in the cellars, while the casks of old beer were sinking with indignation at the idea of being watered in that manner, she, rising above her fears, and despite the noise and confusion, boldly faced the moist intruder and opened the door to remonstrate with the men for disturbing her peace of mind and wetting her passage; when, as luck would have it, the hose, which had hitherto been grovelling among the grass, was suddenly elevated; and no sooner had she opened her mouth than the stream of green fluid, thus accidentally directed, plumped into her face, and forcing its way down her throat, nearly choked her. The consequence was that she swallowed a quantity of a fluid she was not over-partial to, and which was not of a very inviting quality or flavor. Mrs. Stubbington was naturally very indignant at such treatment, and vowed vengeance against some one; but as she did not know who that some one was, she could not be expected to keep her vow. ΤΟ calm her perturbed spirits, and to qualify in some measure the green aqueous beverage she had thus unwillingly imbibed, she took a small portion of real Hollands, just, as she said, to prevent that nasty duck water from disagreeing with her stomach, and to prevent her from taking cold after her involuntary bath. By this time, however, the excitement had subsided, and it was discovered that the fire was nothing but a bonfire, and the whole affair a hoax. Everybody thought everybody else had been great fools to be thus deceived, and chuckled at the joke; and the farmer, seeing that notwithstanding the havoc they had made, the intention of the people was good, broached a barrel of good October; and they, after drinking his health, and giving three hearty cheers, departed to their homes; and thus ended a day memorable in the annals of the two villages.
In the meantime Frank and I arrived home; and he during the evening descanted in no measured terms on the brilliant run we had, and did full justice to my character as a disciple of the mighty Nimrod. I received these compliments with a modesty quite becoming so renowned a hunter, and was all the while thanking God that I had got through this great peril without any broken bones.
I was now informed that it was my aunt's intention to give a ball in honor of my arrival, and I was invited by Julia to write out the list of invitations. Caught after all! by Jove, thought I. It will never do to let them see my penmanship, so I began to excuse myself, saying I had something the matter with my fingers.
"Let me see," said Julia, kindly, as she took my hand. "What nonsense! there's nothing the matter-come now, write away, there's a good cousin."
"I really cannot! see, my fingers are quite stiff. I shall only make unintelligible hieroglyphics."
"Oh, come, cousin, you must not get lazy; your hieroglyphics will do well enough for the list-so come, commence-put down Mr. and Mrs. Barnes and two daughters. Have you written that?" and she leant over me and looked at the paper. "What in the name of wonder is that you're writing, Charles?" "Mr. and Mrs. Barnes and two daughters," I replied. "Yes, but what is it? I don't understand it." "It's Greek."
"Greek! but I can't read Greek, you stupid fellow!" "Well, then, you must learn to do so-tit for tat, you know, cousin. If you oblige me to write out lists, I shall compel you to read Greek."
"That's right, Charles," said my aunt, laughing; "it's the only way to deal with Julia."
"Never mind, Mr. Charles! I'm your debtor for this; but rest assured I shall not remain so long."