very doleful on the subject, when a letter from India arrived which cheered her considerably; for it contained the unexpected news that her mother was returning to England, and had, in fact, already started on her homeward journey.

Mabel was in a wild state of delight.

"To think of having mamma here in a little while, instead of having to wait two whole years without her! I can scarcely believe it!" she exclaimed, as she executed sundry capers in the schoolroom. "Oh, Percy! isn't it delightful?

"It's very jolly for you, but I shall be away at school when she arrives; and it will be dreadfully tantalising to have to wait till the Christmas holidays before I see her."

"Oh, I expect she'll come and see you at school. She is sure to manage a meeting somehow or other. She couldn't be content to wait till Christmas without a glimpse of you. What a happy Christmas we shall have! I'm so happy I don't know what to do! I must run down to the lodge and tell Mrs. Hope and Janet; they will be so pleased, for Mrs. Hope is so fond of mamma. She was her nurse, you know, when she was a child. How I wish she was coming to-morrow; these few weeks will seem quite a long time to wait now."

"Yes, I wish she could have come before I went back to school," said Percy, with a wistful look on his face. "But still it will be delightful to feel she is nearer, and not all that long way off. If father were coming, we should be all together again."

"I dare say he will come as soon as ever he can, and I hope they won't go back to India any more. I shall never be dull now when I have mamma. I know Uncle Gwynne will be glad to have her back, for she was always his favourite sister," said Mabel. "Oh! how delightful it is to think of!"

A few weeks later brought a very joyful meeting between the long-absent mother and her little daughter. Mabel's delight and happiness were almost more than she could contain. She felt as if she had never half known before how sweet and dear her mother was; though she had always held the firm conviction that there was no one in the world equal to her. And now she clung to her newly-recovered treasure with a depth of devotion and a loyalty of affection that were very touching to Mrs. Wyndham. She, on her side, rejoiced with thankful joy to find the germs of much that was true, and strong, and noble in her little Mabel; and a great delight it was to her to have her child again beside her, and to set herself to seek, by the help of a higher wisdom than her own, to influence and mould aright the young life given her to train, and which seemed so full of promise.

Percy was not forgotten. The mother's heart yearned for a sight of her boy; and as he could not come to her, she went to him, taking Mabel with her, and spent a week in lodgings near his school. A very happy week it was to all three of them; and when they parted it was with the hope of soon meeting again, as Christmas was very near.




E'D been reading the tale of the "Babes in the Wood," and no wonder it made us all cry, when we heard how the birds were so loving and good to the poor little babes left to die! Then, when lessons were over, we all of us ran to the spot where the dry leaves were lying; and we said, "We will act it all here, if we can 'twill be very much better than crying." "See! we'll make Frisk and Carlo the Babes in the Wood, and, we'll bury them here!" we said. And behold, for a time the doggies were good, and lay still in their leafy bed; and we sprinkled the leaves in a wonderful pile, till they both were quite lost to sight. Then we mourned, and we said, "We must leave you awhile; dear Babes in the Wood, good night!"

Then there came such a stir in the midst of the heap, and old Carlo's bright eyes peered out;


and soon both the doggies sprang up with a leap, and tossed the dry leaves about, and said very plainly, or would if they could, "We'll come out if you've finished your play; for, whatever you think, we're no Babes in the Wood: we've no wish to be buried to-day!"



[ocr errors]


HOUGH crocodiles and alligators are very commonly supposed to be one and the same animal, this impression is quite erroneous. The former reptile belongs to the Old World, the latter to the Scientific observers can readily distinguish between the two creatures, but to the popular eye their points of resemblance are very much more obvious than their differences. Besides, in general shape, appearance, and habit, they are alike in their hideous ugliness.


In the days-now many years ago—when animals were the object of superstitious or idolatrous worship, the crocodile came in for a due share of the ancient Egyptians' respect. It was a symbol of one of their deities which they regarded as the cause of every evil, while another deity took the form of a man with a crocodile's head. Considering their numbers and the great destruction of human and other life which they committed, one can readily understand why the Egyptians viewed them with detestation and dread. At this day some of the "holy" wells in India swarm with these creatures, which are religiously watched and fed by Fakirs specially set apart for that purpose. In certain parts of Egypt the crocodile was an article of diet, and in others it was supplied when young with roast meat, cakes, and other dainties. The young ones were often made pets of; the priests adorned their ears with gold rings, and their fore-feet with bracelets, and then exhibited them to the people, who looked upon the strangely-bedizened creatures with feelings of veneration. A different fate was allotted to large specimens of the full-grown animal; for they were sometimes sent to Rome, where they took part-very much against their will--in the barbarous displays in the amphitheatre, falling victims to the gladiators, who were frequently matched against these wretched denizens of the Nile.

Woe betide the unfortunate animal who comes to slake its thirst if one of these wary creatures be near! The crocodile rests in the water completely submerged, excepting its nostrils, the tip of its head, and its back; and as it lies there quite motionless, a heedless deer (occasionally even a tiger) is easily drawn below by one snap of the long and powerful jaws. For by a special arrangement it is enabled to drag its struggling prey underneath without risk of suffocation. It can close its nostrils at will, and shut out the water from its throat for a time. Its eyes are also protected by a membrane, whose motion is facilitated by a gland,


the secretion from which has given rise to that aspect of weeping which is universally recognised under the phrase "crocodile's tears." Its scaly back is usually covered with slime and other matter, which, as in the case of the rough-coated rhinoceros, attracts the attention of birds, that may not uncommonly be seen leisurely procuring a meal from such unlovely quarters.

When the crocodile attacks man, which seldom does on land (for it is a coward withal), and then only under the provocation of extreme hunger, it is said that his sole hope of escape is to thrust his fingers into its eyes, when it will at once release its grasp. It has been stated that it is not able to turn itself round rapidly, and that thus men have rescued themselves when pursued by running away in a sort of circular fashion; but whether this is so or not may be open to doubt.

Tropical America is the chief haunt of the alligator. The well-known naturalist, Mr. Bates, met with them often during his sojourn in the Amazons. The natives were so accustomed to them that even when bathing they showed little fear of them, though one or two of the monsters generally frequented the bathing-places in the hope of catching a rash swimmer or some unfortunate animal. As soon, however, as the reptile's tail caused a movement in the water, the bathers all scampered ashore amid peals of laughter. On one day Mr. Bates took out a basketful of pieces of meat, and drew several alligators towards him by feeding them, just as little boys or girls tempt the ducks and geese of a pond with bits of biscuit. The alligators caught the bones thrown to them after the manner of dogs, pressing nearer with increased eagerness after each mouthful.

The alligators of the rivers and lakes of Florida are occasionally hunted for the sake of their skins, portions of which, in addition to the peculiar teeth, possess a certain commercial value. On the St. John's River a novel method of hunting is practised, which recalls the once-popular custom of spearing salmon by torchlight-a custom of which Sir Walter Scott gave a vivid description in his "Guy Manner. ing." The hunters are furnished with a dark lantern with powerful reflectors. Bewildered by the strong glare, the animals make hardly any effort to escape, and are speedily captured or slain. From this quarter, too, a considerable number of stuffed specí. mens are prepared and despatched annually to the various museums in different countries, while consignments of alligators' eggs, properly "blown," are also supplied to keepers of curiosity shops.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

T was Sunday, an intensely cold, winterly day, though fair and sunshiny for London -that is, the smoky, sooty vapour, so often making our great mother city gloomy, had cleared away, and a yellow shimmer of glory lay on the river and on London Bridge. To and fro, to and fro, went the passers by, each one with his joy, or his sorrow, his darkness, his weariness, and his sin, while the calm blue sky, so pale and yet so steadfast, shed down a sweet, holy influence, and whispered of the love and the tender compassion of Him whom the clouds veil from sight.

And did no heart respond, as it were, and rise up to grow strong and brave, to be, do, and suffer, mounting and climbing till it revelled in the higher life of purity and peace? Yes; one puny little lad, known to his fellows by the suggestive name of Swell Jack, felt his spirit stirred within him as he paused and lingered on the bridge, looking away over the hazy, shining river, gliding on and on, very like the stream of human life. He was a mean-looking mite of a lad of ten, or thereabout; mean, almost to rags, in his attire, homely of face, stunted in form, but his eyes were beautiful— strikingly beautiful, as his passing thoughts took shape and form within him. Now these sweet, changeful lights grew misty with tears, as he mused and pondered, a mere waif, a stray atom of the city, a tumult of ardent emotion sweeping over him, till he crept into one of the recesses of the bridge, there to commune with himself.

He was just returning from the Ragged school, whither a kind gentleman, a month or two before, had allured him, from other gutter lads, who would not be thus allured. "One shall be taken and the other left" is true in so many ways in this world of ours; so Swell Jack was gathered into the warmth of the Gospel's light; and more, his kind friend procured him employment as an errand-boy, thus blending heaven's light and earth's service into

[blocks in formation]

boy! a mighty uplifting came to him as he mused; many thoughts stirred within him, a sunny future lay before him. Little by little he would mount up and gain his standing among the respectable and the God-fearing-not in rags! no, not in rags! and unconsciously he drew from his pocket the one half-crown he had saved towards some new clothes, which were to be the foundation-the talisman-of all the good he would rise and win. "Well, Swell Jack, a penny for your thoughts." Like an evil genius a tall lad with a depravedlooking face stood by his side.

"I was thinkin' that there is a better life than this un, in dirt and rags, and the like, and that I'm going to find un out and live un-a kind o' a Bible life," returned the lad, in his semi-darkness, his eyes still dreamily beautiful with his desire.

"Ah! ye were always a little headish chap afore ye took to these swellish ways. But it won't do for our company; ye'll be took down a peg."

Swellish ways! the very name he somehow had lately acquired bore testimony to the jeers, taunts, and sneers which were his daily portion among his companions. His cheeks flushed now at the half-sneer, half-threat; but he answered quietly"Well, ye can't take me down below the good way I intend to hold on to."

It was like throwing down the gauntlet of defiance, after the manner of the warriors of olden time, to answer thus-thus to Long Dick, the terror of the small fry of the court where they both resided.

Poor, little, unwary Swell Jack, twirling your precious half-crown thus loosely in your hands, you who knew so well Long Dick's propensity for grasping and keeping, and, indeed, for all dark, dishonest ways, surely your wits were in the cloud! It is gone from your hands, the other has it! a chuckling laugh, and he is darting off.

"Stop thief!" cries poor bewildered Swell Jack, now conscious of his loss, and of what a silly goose he has been. A policeman appears and gives chase, nay, not much of a chase is it! Long Dick, with all his dodges, is dodged himself, and his victim sees him led away-a sullen-faced, defiant wretch, with I know not what of evil in the glances he darts at him in passing.

Swell Jack turned away, and leaning his head against the parapet of the bridge, felt sick and faint with a bewildering doubt, which well-nigh overpowered him.

[blocks in formation]

These words he had read that very afternoon at school; they rang in his ears, now, flowing on and flowing on. Ought he to have borne this loss of the money, so precious to him, without resistance; without calling in the strong arm of the law, which would hold him, whom he had given up, a prisoner for months? Three months, he heard a passer-by say he would get. Ought he to have been less hard on poor Long Dick-ought he? So he asked himself with an aching heart, till the river grew dark and solemn under the mist-obscured sky, and no answer came to soothe or relieve him.

He crept into the police court on the morrow, and gave his evidence against Dick; heard the lad's sentence-three months' imprisonment. The words floated down to him like a reproachful echo, and Long Dick's sullen, depraved face, as they led him away, haunted him after by night and by day. The half-crown was again in his pocket; he added mite after mite to it as winter with its frost and its misery swept over the city, and Long Dick's days of imprisonment dwindled away toward their end. Somehow, a yearning pity was ever in Swell Jack's heart for him; he longed to do him good-he, who had caused his imprisonment.

A cold, frosty, starlight evening, and, as Jack entered the court, who should confront him but Long Dick. Jack had a companion now, a little, dirty, brown dog, shaggy and ill-favoured; he had a pretty tail, however, which he twirled and twisted about in all sorts of funny ways. His master had rescued him from the streets, and named him Grub, because of the quantity of dry bread he had eaten, when first he took him under his protection. The small brute was dear to him; his soul clave to him by reason of his loneliness, without father, mother, sister, or brother as he was. He was with him to-night, trudging home as he trudged; halftrotting, half-gamboling behind him.

"Well, you swell, you high-climber!" This was Long Dick's greeting to him, half-leaning against a shadowy wall the while.

"Dick, I'm sorry I was so hard on ye," replied Jack with feeling, his heart throbbing wildly, he scarce knew why.

"Ye'll be sorrier afore long-so look to it." The threat came hissing from his lip with dread intensity.

"I don't think I could be more sorry for ye than I am," said the boy, tremblingly. Grub lay crouched at his master's feet; Dick kicked him as a sort of reply.

"Don't hurt him; he's mine." Perhaps, unknowingly, the pride of possession prompted the words.

"Love me, love my dog-ha, ha! that ain't bad." The words and unmusical laugh made Jack's heart

quiver, but he walked on with Grub in a sort of thrilling silence, thinking that this first bitterness of his neighbour would soon pass; and yet his palpitating heart told him differently: that evil for him lay nursed in the lad's revengeful breast—an evil which would neither slumber nor sleep.

Three nights and days, and then one evening, Grub, who always played faithfully about during the day near the house of business where his master was running footman, was missing. A cold, pitiless rain was falling; the streets were a maze of slush and grimy mud, and the wind was bitingly cold, howling and sweeping through lanes, courts, and round corners, as if it gloried in driving the rain through the garments, to the very skin of those exposed to its fury. A desolate wilderness were the familiar thoroughfares to the lad, as he plodded through them, because of a presentiment, a fear that Long Dick was detaining his poor little companion-who had said, "Love me, love my dog" so scornfully. A forlorn hope, however, was keeping him from despair, that perchance the mite might be at home, sheltering himself, with brute instinct, from wind and rain. And yet, he had never known him do the like before--to shrink from breasting and braving aught, so that he might be near his dear little master, who loved him But no Grub awaited him at his poor lodgings, no little whine of welcome greeted him; his own corner by his bed was as lonely and as desolate as the rain-drenched streets, because Grub was not there, and he feared he had fallen into bad, ruthless hands. He went out in his unrest about the court, he even ventured to go to Long Dick's home; he could be brave for his small four-footed friend's sake. But the door of the crazy old room was slammed in his face by Dick's vixenish sister. "Dick wasn't in," she said, "and they didn't harbour such things as dogs at their place," when he humbly made his inquiry. So the boy crept disconsolately to bed, and dreamed that he saw Grub struggling in the river by London Bridge-a wee, dark spot, which disappeared as he gazed-and the echo of Long Dick's laugh awoke him.


Five days dragged themselves away, and then, one evening, when he returned from business, as the aspiring lad prided himself in saying, at the entrance to the court stood Grub, a poor, lean, shadowy mite indeed, which toiled up to him, and licked his muddy boots in his fond weakness. He must have been shut up, and well-nigh starved. A shower of hot tears fell on the brute's back, as his faithful master bent over and stroked him in his yearning joy and pity; a very whirlwind of tears and suppressed sobs swept over him, born of his

« 上一页继续 »