« ForrigeFortsæt »
stories ready, or they were made up on the spur of the moment, he certainly was at no loss for incidents, both extravagant and strange. He had, however, a slow stammering way of relating them, which tired everybody but himself; and as his stories had no moral, and no design in them beyond the amusement of the moment, when they failed in that, they failed altogether.
A story-teller may generally judge of his own skill by the effect he produces on his audience. Had James looked round, even before one hour had elapsed, he would have seen that Ellen was asleep, that Fanny was playing with her dog, and that his brother and sister were whispering and laughing, without hearing what he said. This evening's amusement was therefore considered a failure; and James, endeavoring to bear his disappointment with a tolerable grace, proposed the next day, that his sister should be the one to choose.
Now, his sister, though a modest girl, had one prevailing taste, which she was too apt to suppose that others were influenced by as well as herself; she therefore proposed, without hesitation, that the evening should be spent in looking at pictures.
Little Ellen clapped her hand at this proposal, and Fanny too was pleased; James was glad to join in anything that might eover his defeat; and Robert exclaimed, "Well done, Emma, you have made the best choice of all."
Lady Caroline Grey was of the same opinion, more especially as she wanted to be at liberty that evening to write letters, and she thought if the young people were well and quietly amused, she
could write in the same room with them; for she had not so far forgotten the china vase as to trust her excellent collection of engravings entirely to She therefore took her seat at another table, only looking sometimes toward the little party, to see that they did no injury to the pictures at which they were looking.
To turn over a large portfolio of pictures without interruption or restraint, had always been regarded by the little girl who now took the lead in this amusement, as the greatest happiness she could enjoy; but there were now so many heads pushed together over the same piece, so many arms leaned upon the table at one time, and so many opinions given upon the same thing, that her annoyance was at least equal to her pleasure, and she sometimes thought even more. Ellen, for instance, would touch everything she pointed at; Fanny would lay her hand flat upon the faces, and make the company guess whether they were old or young; James would hold each picture a certain length of time before he suffered it to be passed on; while Robert called her heroes "fine fellows," and cared for nothing but dogs and horses. At last, when the evening was not more than half over, her annoyance had so far overcome her pleasure, that she called to her aunt, and told her she thought it would be better to put the portfolio away.
Why so, my dear?" said Lady Caroline, surprised at such a request from her niece.
"Because nobody either knows or cares anything about the pictures, except me," was the reply. "Then why do you not explain them to the others ?" asked her aunt.
The fact was, the little girl was fond of pictures only because they pleased her eye. She understood little more about their meaning than the rest, but she had put herself into a bad humor, because they did not see and value them as she did: and so this evening's amusement also was a failure, for even pictures quickly tire, when we know no moral, no meaning connected with them.
There still remained two of the juvenile party who had not made their choice, Robert and Ellen. It was of course the part of the former to speak first, and he fearlessly declared that he knew of a thousand ways of spending a winter's evening pleasantly.
"Then tell us one," said James, who had not found it quite so easy as he had anticipated. "Tell us one, and we will try that first."
'Why first," said Robert, "if it was daylight and summer-time—
Daylight and summer-time!" exclaimed all at we should easily know what to do then." 66 If I was at home then"-said Robert.
No, no, that will not do," said his sister, "you told us you knew a thousand ways of spending a winter's evening pleasantly, and now you fly off to summer, and home, and nobody knows what."
"And so I do," repeated the fearless boy again; yet still he went on enumerating all his favorite amusements; all which, however, were as foreign to the comfort of a winter's fireside, as the cold snows which lay upon the ground, to the sunshine and the flowers of summer. Robert was therefore judged incompetent to choose, and little Ellen was called upon to make her election for the following day.
"I am quite afraid to choose," said the little child, looking round her with more timidity than any of the others had evinced. "I am quite afraid to choose, for we neither liked Fanny's play, nor James's stories, nor Emma's pictures long; and as I am the youngest, and know the least, how is it likely I should please you all ?"
"But you can say something, my love," said Lady Caroline, "though you are a little child.” "Then I will make a choice, dear mamma," replied the child, "and it shall be this-that you shall amuse us through the whole evening."
The juvenile party were all too well pleased with the suggestion to allow it to pass by as the act of one who was too young to have a voice in the assembly; it was therefore unanimously agreed that Lady Caroline should be looked to as the responsible person for the amusement of the following evening.
"Let us see," said the lady, taking a slight review of the evenings that were passed, "let us see in what way we have failed, in order to profit by experience, and avoid the same in future. Fanny's play was all very well for a short time, and I propose that before the lamps are lighted we should try the experiment of a hearty romp again, more especially as the day has been so cold and wet, that few of us have had sufficient exercise to make us feel either well or comfortable."
Fanny's idea of happiness was therefore put to the test again, but with this precaution, that it should not be continued too long; and even before the tea was brought in, Lady Caroline had seated herself before the cheerful fire, and, taking little
Ellen on her lap, had beguiled the company into that order and quiet which were necessary before sitting down to tea, by telling them of some poor families she had visited the day before in the village, and describing to them, in her own lively and touching manner, many instances of natural shrewdness, as well as others of integrity, gratitude, and affection, which she had met with among the
The party sat down to tea that day with more real cheerfulness and satisfaction than they had yet felt. There was now no anxious calculation about how the rest of the evening should be spent; about whether their schemes would fail, the interest of their auditors flag, or the whole affair turn out a blank. All had enjoyed a reasonable degree of healthy bodily exercise, than which nothing can be more conducive to cheerfulness; and all had been just so far interested as to have their best feelings awakened, than which nothing can be more calculated to diffuse through any circle of society the genial elements of cordiality and good humor.
"And now," said Lady Caroline, when the social tea was over, "let us try again the experiment of looking over my engravings. But instead of all looking at once, and some looking across the table with the picture to their eyes reversed, let us look as if we really wished to enjoy the beauties and understand the merits of each.
"We will take them then in order, if you please. Every picture shall be passed round, and each of the party shall have an opportunity of seeing it the right way up, of seeing it for a sufficient length of time, and of seeing it also without the interruption of little hands being laid upon it-than which,