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EGLANTINE AND HER "LITTLE
MOTHER.” DON'T think there was any real harm in Harry, but, being a boy, he was a boy, and was really one of the most troublesome people on the face of the earth.
I believe he loved his sister Amy. She was a dear little girl, whom it would have been difficult not to love, but yet he liked teasing her better, I am afraid, than he liked her. She had a doll—a beautiful doll, which was more precious to her than a diamond necklace or a purseful of money could possibly have been ; and
therefore this doll, beautiful as she was, became an object of derision to Master Harry. Amy could not understand any one not loving and admiring Eglantine,
which was the pretty name she had given her doll.
Sometimes Harry called her Sophonisba, sometimes Moses, and sometimes Tom, but he never would call her Eglantine, and this hurt Amy's feelings very much, though, as she told herself, it made no real difference, for she was Eglantine, whatever Harry might call her. It was a fine October day, and Amy and Eglantine were out of doors together in the little plantation by the
garden, and just as happy as ever they could be. Everything is so fair and bright in autumn: it seems as if earth knows that winter is near, and all her beauties may soon be covered up and hidden by snow: as if the very trees made much of the leaves that will so soon fall, leaving the branches cold and comfortless, turning them to the most lovely shades of red and brown before they lose them for ever. Amy carried Eglantine in her arms, and looked round her, delighted at all the pretty things she saw, while the grass and moss she
trod on were as green and soft as in June, and many a bright little flower still blossomed; only dead or withering leaves lay scattered among them, telling of the destruction that
was fast approaching. But Amy liked to hear these crisp leaves rustle and crumple under her feet; and so did Eglantine, for Amy held her down to walk over them, and then kissed her pink cheeks and stroked her faxen
curls, and looked lovingly into her blue eyes, and said, “Is not it nice, Eglantine? Is not it dear and nice ?”
But after a while she remembered that it was Eglantine's hour for sleeping, and there was nothing that this good "little mother” was more particular about than that her child should have her sleep regularly and comfortably every morning; so she hushed her off and sang softly to her, holding her in her arms and patting her while she gently caressed her.
“ Lullaby, baby,
You dear little thing,
And little birds sing.
Than fly-away spring ;
You dear little thing."
You will hardly believe what Harry was about, even though I tell you, and assure you that it is true.
He was rushing and tearing and leaping through this very same plantation ; and as he rushed and tore and leaped, he gathered up sticks and grass and reeds, and little branches of trees, and anything of that kind he could find, and he twisted long stiff grasses round the little bundles collected, tying them up into faggots; and as he did this, Amy's sweet, loving voice reached him, singing softly her
You dear little thing ;" and immediately he began striking some of the faggots together, singing at the very top of his voice as follows:
You sad little witch,
With many a switch,
And laid in a ditch.
With oceans of pitch-
You sad little witch !''
approached her, and clasped her darling more gaping wound. With her small plump hands she closely to her breast.
held fast on to the skirt of the dress; but what hope But Harry was a boy, and, being a boy, he was there that these little hands could wage equal delighted in the dismay he occasioned. A last war with his, that were all bone, muscle, and rush and leap brought him face to face with Amy sinew? and Eglantine, his arms loaded with faggots piled She pulled and he pulled, and he pulled and she up to his chin, which he flung down beside a pulled, when lo! an ominous creak at his end: some rustic gate, and went on making and flinging down stitch had given way that secured the waxen head yet more, while he repeated the words of the song. to the body, made of bran, sewn up in fair linen, and
Ah, Amy! why had not you the wit and presence that creak, that little sound, sent a thrill into of mind to run away as fast as your little legs Amy's heart. She knew her darling's danger, and could carry you when you heard that terrible song the hands that would have gladly hurt themselves in the distance? Why did you stand there appalled, for her sake now equally for her sake relaxed their with white cheeks and staring eyes, till the tor- hold, and left her helpless and powerless in a con. mentor was upon you, and you had no chance of queror's grasp. escape ? for what could those poor little legs of And in the grasp of such a triumphant conqueror, yours do matched against his long ones?
too! Harry waved her over his head in the air, “Now then,” said Harry, “ all's ready. Give us shouting out, “Jolly old witch !” and then he the witch over here."
waved her again, till Amy feared she might fly He had driven a long, high stake into the earth to pieces before her eyes. What a fate for her behind the gate, in the very midst of all the faggots, darling! and yet, if she escaped the present danger at
a yet more terrible one awaited her. There was the ,
stake, and there were the faggots all round it. She approaching fate, or the anguish awakened by it in had no confidence in Harry's mercy when a doll was her“ little mother's” heart.
concerned. The next moment she might see her tied “ If you burn her you shall burn me too,” the up to await that dreadful death. She sank on her child cried in her misery, "for I won't let her knees, and hiding her face in both her hands, cried
bitterly. The sky was just as blue over her head, And she clasped her tightly in her arms, and the branches of the trees waved softly to and fro, then turned to run away.
the birds sang their joyful hymns, the wild wood Of course, she was the next moment gripped by flowers clustered and blossomed round her: all was Harry.
as gay and as peaceful as when, a few minutes ago, “Fair and softly, young lady,” said he ; "fair she stood the happiest of children, tenderly cooing and softly goes far in a day. It will be fine fun. a lullaby to her sleeping Eglantine; and now, robbed It is a pity you should lose it by being burned too. of her darling, and with greater terrors before her, We'll tie the witch up on the top of the stake, and she knelt there, weeping in wild despair. then you and I will lie here on the grass at our Loud shouts burst in her ears—and was there?ease, and watch the flames rising and rising, till yes, there was-a slight, as yet scarce perceptible, they devour her. Ha ! ha! ha!"
smell of burning wood. Her hands dropped from her “We won't ! they shan't! she's not a witch ! face, she opened her eyes, and half blinded as they She is my own dear, dear little dolly, Eglantine ! were by tears, they beheld Eglantine tied aloft You wicked, cruel boy!” cried Amy, trembling to the stake, and Harry on the post of the with anger and grief, and clasping her Eglantine gate, where he had jumped up to perform the more tightly than ever.
cruel deed, having first lighted the faggots that lay Alas! poor Eglantine and poor Amy, what round it, which had begun to smoulder, while pretty chance had they against Harry? And you know, blue smoke rose in light and graceful clouds from “ boys will be boys."
them. Harry, with his strong arms and big hands, seized “Ha! ha! ha!” laughed Harry as he sprang to hold of Eglantine's head, and what could Amy do
the groundagainst all his force when she was whisked from “Hurrah for the witch, who will burn like pitch! her kind protectress, and all she kept of her was And now then, will you burn with her, Mrs. Amy? the edge of her pretty white frock? She might have Shall I tie you up too? Hurrah for the witch! caught her by her legs, to be sure ; but then, Amy Ha! ha! ha!" knew that Eglantine's legs were not her strong She had said that if he burned Eglantine he point. Harry had once before pulled one of them must burn her too, for she would not give her up, nearly off, and rivers of bran had flowed from the but would hold her from him. Vain threat! His
strength had overcome hers; but might not she still singed ; but she did not thank them, for the flames, fulfil it-still suffer with her treasure?
which had only begun to reach the gate, were Full of sorrow and anger, she rushed forward, and darting high around the stake, and Eglantine was placing herself with her back to the gate, she tore in imminent danger. Amy's head was thrown off her sash and the ribbon from her hat, and as back, her eyes fixed on her doll. She wrung her well as she could manage it with her own hands, hands, she almost struggled to escape from her she tied herself to the bars and posts. And even as father's arms. “Oh, Eglantine ! Eglantine !" was she did so the wood burned cheerily with a crack- all she said. “Oh, Eglantine ! Eglantine !” Full ling noise, and set fire to the dry grass and withered of remorse, and for the first time understanding leaves, and the flames rose, mingling with the pretty how intense Amy's affection was for what to him blue smoke.
was only a silly thing made up of wax and bran, Despair and rage were in her heart, and her little Harry dashed into the very heart of the flames, fair face was full of them, while Eglantine hung again jumped on to the top of the gate-post, and, there far above her, her features undisturbed by Ainging his arms up, tore Eglantine from her periany emotions, their expression calm and serene. lous position. Unfortunately for him, he had thrown
“But they will melt! they will melt!" cried Amy, off his jacket, having become heated in his play, and she wept aloud.
and his shirt-sleeve caught fire as he did this, and Meantime Harry, little dreaming the mad action at the same moment he somehow lost his balance that her despair had driven his sister to commit, had where he stood, and came down with a great crash run away in order to add to her fears. He did not on the ground. But he did not mind the pain, the -let us do the mischievous boy justice-he did not fall, or the shock; he did not even know that his intend to really burn the doll; he would tease little sleeve was on fire; he only held out the doll to his Amy for a while. Why do boys delight in teas. little sister, crying, “ Here, Amy, here! she is just ing? And then he would come back, and cut down as jolly as ever !” and then, for the first time in his the calm and placid victim before even her pretty life, he did what few boys have any experience of : blue shoes had been singed, and restore her to the he fainted away, for he had hit his head against a tender arms from which he had snatched her.
stone as he fell. But he had reckoned without his host, never cal- And so you see Harry had brought his own culating on the rashness to which Amy's rage and punishment by his folly. His shirt burned away, grief would drive her.
and his father had some difficulty in extinguishing The father of the children was walking in the the fire, and did not succeed in doing so before garden, and saw the curling smoke rise from the his arm had been rather badly burnt also ;, and plantations. Afraid for his trees, he went there in what with the burn and the blow on his head, a great hurry, and I will ask you to imagine his a whole week of his holidays was spent in bed, and feelings at the sight he beheld. A blazing fire, and during most of the time he was in pain and ill ; his little daughter tied to the gate around which it and last, not least, had to take disagreeable physic was arising
three times every day. Amy would sit by his bedHe was not the only person who observed the side, with Eglantine on her knee, and chatter to smoke.
him and amuse him, and she felt a sweet assurance Naughty Harry, who had run off in an opposite that since he had risked his own life to save that direction, suddenly became aware that matters were of the doll, her darling was safe from any danger assuming a more serious appearance than he had at his hands for ever after. Harry was very much intended
ashamed of himself, especially when his father “There is never smoke without fire,” is a proverb said that to tease a child was unmanly ;" but we all know, and here was so much smoke that the having punished himself so severely, he escaped fire must be in proportion. His conscience smote without any further punishment than some good him. He was not really cruel, he was not absolutely advice and a lecture; and as he confessed his without mercy. If Eglantine were destroyed, and fault and his contrition frankly, his father forgave in that dreadful way, he knew how her "little him, though not as quickly as Amy had done. And mother" would suffer. Back he ran, to behold the little Amy received good advice and a small lecture same sight almost at the same moment as his also, as she was tenderly taught the lesson that father,
children must learn to control their feelings as well Man and boy rushed into the flames, which had as their tempers, and that, though an affectionate not yet injured her, to rescue the darling of the child may love her doll, a good little daughter ought house, the one little girl that God had given them. to have reflected on the grief she would have caused They bore her out before even her dress had been if she had really burned herself with her doll.
ABOUT THE LAUGHING JACKASS. HEN the bushman or settler in a tree, the jackass closely observes the pitching of New South Wales wakes from his the tent, or the lighting of the fire, or the cooking night's rest, among the first sounds of food, as if it thought it very good fun. It is that fall upon his ear are the dis- still further recommended to the indulgence of cordant notes of a species of king- wayfarers in the bush by its unrelenting hostility fisher, popularly known in Australia, towards snakes, with which it wages war to the from the character of its cry, as death ; thus, like the secretary bird, affording an the "laughing jackass,” or, from example of birds destroying snakes instead of—as
its habit of rousing sleepers ere is too commonly the case by "fascination” and daybreak, as the “bushman's clock.” It begins to otherwise-being destroyed by them. They get screech about an hour before sunrise, and soon sets very excited over the killing of the loathsome repother birds a-chattering too; the unearthly shrieksare tile, which, armed with its poison-fangs, is indeed heard again at noon, and once again at sunset the a formidable foe, and makes a bold bid for victory peals ring out to the sky. Its extraordinary notes against its nimble and plucky adversary. In such have been described by one traveller as a “chorus contests the bill of the jackass plays a prominent of wild spirits," while another naturalist feelingly part, for this weapon is so powerful as to crush the likens them to the hideous noises of a "troop of heads of snakes. A couple of these birds, that fiends, shouting, whooping, and laughing.” The had been noticed to disable a carpet-snake, perched nåtives call it Gogobera, which is supposed to themselves upon a gum-tree, and every now and be an attempt to render its singular sounds into then flew down at the enemy and pecked at it in a human speech ; but as the aboriginal Austra- business-like way, keeping up an incessant chatter lian's reputation for cleverness stands by no means the while. high, it may be doubted whether the translation is But it is not only in respect of its free and easy very successful. Perhaps it is only in accordance habits that the jackass offers a marked contrast to with the "fitness of things” that such “ laughter” the British species of kingfisher. The latter loves should proceed from a somewhat clumsy, ugly-look- solitude, and is almost invariably found near water; ing bird. For the "jackass," though a kingfisher- the "bushman's clock," on the other hand, is as and the largest of the family-is not adorned with much at home on dry plains or in thinly-wooded the brilliant plumage of its British cousin. Its forests as on the sea-coast or river-banks, patrocoat is of a rich chestnut brown and dirty white nising all situations alike, though it is nowhere colour (hence the title of Great Brown Kingfisher
Its food consists mainly of reptiles applied to it by some writers on natural history),(with perhaps a decided preference for small the wings being tly marked with light blue. lizards), insects, and crabs. It is supposed to dine It has a large mouth, a long, pointed, formidable occasionally on cold snake; but, as a rule, it is satisbeak, and a sort of crest which it raises when fied with the luxury of killing it. angry or alarmed-three "points" that may help It need hardly be said that the “laughing to explain the ferocity of appearance which has jackass” has a home of its own, despite its constant been ascribed to it by several observers.
attendance at the settler's tent, and it usually Yet we would not excite any prejudice against selects for this purpose a hole in a large gum-treethe “bushman's clock,” for it possesses sterling in which, however, it constructs no nest, merely qualities which far more than compensate for the laying its lovely pearl-white eggs on the rotten wood want of beauty or good looks. In the first place, at the bottom of the hole. One more good point our feathered hero is thoroughly companionable. has yet to be mentioned on behalf of our hero with Its disposition is the reverse of shy, and it examines the queer name, for the parent protects its young objects that are novel to it with an industry with the utmost bravery, pouncing upon any one who and inquisitiveness that Mr. Paul Pry might have dares climb the tree and inflicting serious wounds. envied. Moreover, this habit of "curiosity” is Mr. Gould asserts that the laughing jackass bears by no means offensive, for circumstances (as you confinement “ remarkably well,” and is the most know) alter cases, and when a lonely settler in the amusing bird for an aviary with which he is acAustralian wilds-remote, possibly, from civilisa- quainted. This statement is borne out by the extion-discovers that his doings are watched by this perience of those who have actually kept the strange bird, with an apparently intelligent interest, “ bushman's clock” in their gardens, from which it he inclines to welcome it as a friend. Perched on has not made the smallest effort to escape. The