My Young Days
MY YOUNG DAYS.
AUTHOR OF "EVENING AMUSEMENT," "LETTERS EVERYWHERE,"
WITH TWENTY ILLUSTRATIONS BY
E. P. DUTTON & CO., 713, BROADWAY.
LONDON: SEELEY, JACKSON, & HALLIDAY.
|II||UNCLE HUGH'S STORY.||10|
|III||THE LITTLE STOWAWAY||21|
|IV||MY HOME, AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE.||33|
|VI||WHAT ABOUT LESSONS?||59|
|VII||HURRAH FOR THE HOLIDAYS!||76|
|VIII||THE COTTAGE ON THE CLIFF.||90|
|IX||SUSETTE AND HER TROUBLES.||108|
|XI||GOOD-BYE TO BEECHAM.||137|
MY YOUNG DAYS.
"I want to go home!"
How many times in my life, I wonder, have these words come rushing upfrom the very bottom of my heart, tumbling everything out of the way,never listening to reason, never stopping for thought? How many timessince that dreary afternoon in the great, big drawing-room atgrandmamma's? And,[Pg 2] oh dear me! what miserable heartache comes beforethat fearful want! Oh, grown-up people, don't you know how soureverything tastes, and how yellow everything looks, and how sickeverything makes one, when one wants to go home?
So it was that one wretched day. How well I remember it all! The large,large drawing-room so full of cushions, couches, easy-chairs, littletables covered with funny knick-knacks, marble-slabs and moreknick-knacks, beautiful fire-screens, large mirrors, soft fur lyingabout on the floor, and many-coloured antimacassars on the[Pg 3] chairs. Byand by, all these wonders had happy memories pinned on to them, ofuproarious games with merry little play-fellows. Now, I was all alone,and very lonely, in it all. True, there was grandmamma nodding in hereasy-chair, in the firelight, on one side, and there was Uncle Hughreading the "Times" by the same light on the other. But what were eitherof them to the little tired stranger on the low stool between them? Oncegrandmamma's eyes had opened just to look at me, and say, "Making prettypictures of the red coals, my dearie?"[Pg 4]
And Uncle Hugh had answered, "Yes, to be sure; dreaming of the King ofSalamanders!"
And they went to sleep again or went on reading, and the little companysmile faded away from my face, and I went back to those very real dreamsof the nursery at home, and baby there, and little brother, and papa andmamma, and the long time ago, hours and hours ago! when I said good-bye,and Bobbie kissed his hand out of window, and the carriage took meoff—a happy little woman, really going in the puff-puff! Oh, how couldI ever have felt so happy[Pg 5] then and be so miserable now? Had I everthought that I was coming away from them all, with nobody at all butJane, the new nursemaid, to take care of me? Had I ever thought howquite alone I should be, never able to find my way in this great, bighouse, sure to get lost in some of the passages? And how could I ever goto sleep without Bobbie close by, and wouldn't Bobbie cry for me athome? And oh, nurse wouldn't be there to tuck me up, and perhapsgrandmamma wouldn't like the candle left! And who would give me mygood-night kiss like,—like,—oh,[Pg 6] oh, like—— But it would come, thatgreat big sob, it wasn't any use to choke it back! And, when it hadcome, of course, it was all over with me, and there was nothing for itbut to cry out just as if I was not in that grand drawing-room—
"I want to go home! I want, oh, I do want mamma!"
What a disturbance that cry of mine did make, to be sure! Grandmamma waswide-awake in a moment, looking very much distressed, and laying herhand on the bell. This troubled me very much; for hadn't Jane told me[Pg 7]when she brushed my hair and made me tidy, that I was to go down and bea good girl, "and do things pretty" in the drawing-room, and would shescold me if I was sent away for crying and making a noise? But UncleHugh came to my rescue, threw away his paper, and cuddled me up in hisgreat strong arms almost like papa. And he showed me his watch, and madeit strike, and then began to show me all kinds of wonders about theroom: little tiny black men under a glass case, small china monkeys,cats and frogs, and funny shells and fishes,[Pg 8] and snakes' skins, andlots of other things. And after that we came back to the easy-chair, andhe sang me sailors' songs, and told me all about "The House that Jackbuilt!"
"Little woman," he said at last, "did you ever hear of 'The Goose thatJack killed?'" and then he sang in his funny way, "This is the goosethat Jack killed; and this is the cat that wanted the goose that Jackkilled; and this is the dog that chased the cat that wanted the goosethat Jack killed; and this is the thief that cheated the dog that chasedthe cat that wanted the [Pg 9]goose that Jack killed; and this is the dreamthat haunted the thief that cheated the dog that chased the cat thatwanted the goose that Jack killed; and this"—
But "Good night, Uncle Hugh, there's Jane come to fetch Miss Sissy toher tea, upstairs in the nursery."[Pg 10]
UNCLE HUGH'S STORY.
Yes, tea alone in the nursery, that strange room that looked as if ithadn't been a nursery for a great many years, and was as queer andawkward as an old woman trying to look young again. No clatter of spoonsto make baby laugh, no chatter of childish voices, only little me, allalone with Jane—little me, so puzzled and strange and bewildered in thenew place! Perhaps[Pg 11] Jane thought me dull, for she talked away fastenough, about that dear old lady, my grandmamma, and about the beautifulplace we were in, and what if Master Bobbie should grow up some day tofind it all his own, and be the lord of it all. I didn't care much if hedid; I only wanted him now, little boy as he was, to put his fat armsround my neck, for I was "little sister" to nobody here; it was meremockery calling me "Miss Sissy" all the time. Perhaps Jane heard thesigh, for she stopped afterwards in the middle of her long story aboutthe little cousins[Pg 12] from over the sea, that were coming here in a day ortwo. She had me on her lap, and she was just taking off my shoes andsocks, but she drew my head to her shoulder, and told me that I had"Janie-panie" with me, who was always going to take care of me all thetime. I was very tired, and my eyes went shut on the pillow after that,before they had time to cry home-sick tears. And next day there were somany new things to see; two little puppies to make friends with, besidethe parrot and pussy.
But I mustn't begin to tell you[Pg 13] all the things that happened that day.You see, I have made quite a long story of my first evening, so you musttry and fancy all about the walk in the park with Jane, and the drivewith Grandmamma to the town, and the toy-shop, and what we bought there.
When we came home it was my tea-time; and after that Jane changed myfrock, and did my hair, and took me down to dessert, in the dining-room.Ah, then the shy fit came on, and I bent my head very gravely to takethe sweet bits off Uncle Hugh's fork, I remember. But when he had[Pg 14]pushed back his chair, given his arm to grandmamma, and his hand to me,and taken us into the drawing-room—then, while he made me nestle downon his knee in the soft easy-chair, all my shyness went away at the lookof his merry eyes.
"Now for the goose that Jack killed," he said; and then and there beganthe funniest story you ever heard. Only I can't tell it in the funnywords and with the merry, twinkling glances he gave me.
It was when Uncle Hugh was a middy, and he had been sailing [Pg 15]in a greatbig ship ever so long, till at last they came to some foreign country, Idon't know where. Well, Uncle Hugh and his friend Jack Miller wentroaming about, very glad to get off the sea. They took possession of alittle empty hut on the beach, and spent some of the time there, andsome of the time roaming about on the hills. Now it chanced, one day,that they saw a flock of wild geese flying over the shore. Jack had agun with him, and he instantly shot one of these geese. Uncle Hugh saysthey had had so much salt meat at sea,[Pg 16] that they smacked their lips tothink of a nice fat goose for dinner. So they carried it off to theirhut, and then they pulled off all the feathers one by one, and made itquite ready to cook. What funny cooks they must have been! But it wasn'tquite time to roast it, so they tied it up by a string to the door andwent away, leaving the captain's dog, Neptune, to watch it.
Now, Nep was a very funny dog—a nervous dog, Uncle Hugh called him—andhe was quite afraid something would happen. By and by, poor pussy cameto have a peep at the goosey-gander, and she [Pg 17]climbed up the steps ontip-toe just to look. Nep watched her, and didn't feel easy in his mind,and when poor pussy just stretched forward her head (because she was alittle short-sighted, I dare say), Nep could bear it no longer. He gavea great loud bark, and flew along the road after the wretched, flyingcat. Silly dog! while he was gone after puss, and just as he had hisfore-paws quite over her back, up comes a sly thief to the hut door,quietly unhooks the bird, and runs off the other way, with its headhanging over his shoulder. "And, so, you see, Sissy," said[Pg 18] Uncle Hughin his funnily grave way, "poor Jack and I came back to find our dinnerall gone!" But they got scent of