« ForrigeFortsæt »
of rock lets for a pound a month; ten acres of grass for a shilling a year. Roasted at Christmas, shiver o' cold on Midsummer Day. The lakes are grass, and the rivers turn their backs on the sea and run into the heart of the land; and the men would stand on their heads, but I have taken a thought, and I 've found out why they don't."
"Because, if they did. their heads would point the same way a man's head points in England.'^
10. Tom Robinson laughed, and told George he admired the country for these very traits. "Novelty for me against the world. Who 'd come twelve thousand miles to see nothing we could n't see at home? One does not want the same story always. Where are we going, George?"
11. "O, not much farther,—only about twelve miles from the camp."
"To a farmer I know. I am going to show you a lark, Tom," said George, and his eyes beamed benevolence on his comrade.
12. Robinson stopped dead short. "George," said he, "no! don't let us. I would rather stay at home and read my book. You can go into temptation and come out pure; I can't. I am one of those that if I go into a puddle up to my shoe, I must splash up to my waist."
13. "What has that to do with it?"
"You 're proposing to me to go on a lark on the Sabbath day."
14. "Why, Tom, am I the man to tempt you to do evil?'' asked George, hurt.
"Why, no! but, for all that, you proposed a lark."
15. "Ay, but an innocent one,—one more likely to lift your heart on high than to give you ill thoughts."
"Well, this is a riddle!" and Robinson was intensely puzzled.
16. "Carlo!" cried George, suddenly, "come here; I will not have you hunting and tormenting those kangaroo-rats to-day. Let us all be at peace, if you please. Come, to heel."
17. The friends strode briskly on, and a little after eleven o'clock they came upon a small squatter's house and premises. "Here we are," said George, and his eyes glittered with innocent delight.
LXX.—THE LARK IN THE GOLD-FIELDS.
THE house was thatched and whitewashed, and English was written on it and on every foot of ground around it. A furze bush had been planted by the door. Vertical oak palings were the fence, and a five-barred gate in the middle of them. From the little plantation all the magnificent trees and shrubs of Australia had been excluded with amazing resolution and consistency, and oak and ash reigned, safe from overtowering rivals. They passed to the back of the house, and there George's countenance fell a little, for on the oval grass-plot and gravel-walk he found from thirty to forty rough fellows, most of them diggers.
2. "Ah, well," said he, on reflection, "we could not expect to have it all to ourselves, and, indeed, it would be a sin to wish it, you know. Now, Tom, come this way: here it is, here it is,—there." Tom looked up, and in a gigantic cage was a light-brown bird.
3. He was utterly confounded. "What! is it this we came twelve miles to see?"
"Ay! and twice twelve would n't have been much to me."
4. "Well, and now where is the lark you talked of?" "This is it."
"This? This is a bird."
"Well, and is n't a lark a bird?"
"Oh! ah, I see! Ha, ha! ha, ha!"
5. Robinson's merriment was interrupted by a harsh remonstrance from several of the diggers, who were all from the other end of the camp.
"Hush!" cried one; "he is going to sing." And the wliole party had their eyes turned with expectation towards the bird.
6. Like most singers, he kept them waiting a bit. Bu' at last, just at noon, when the mistress of the house had warranted him to sing, the little feathered exile began as i; were to tune his pipes. The savage men gathered round the cage that moment, and amidst a dead stillness the bird uttered some very uncertain chirps; but after a while he seemed to revive his memories, and call his ancient cadences back to him one by one, and string them sotto voce*
7. And then the same sun that had warmed his little heart at home came glowing down on him here, and he gave music back for it- more and more, till at last, amidst the breathless silence and the glistening eyes of the rough diggers hanging on his voice, out burst in that.distant land his English song.
8. It swelled his little throat, and gushed from him with thrilling force and plenty; and every time he checked his song to think of its theme,—the green meadows, the quietstealing streams, the clover he first soared from, and the spring he loved so well,—a loud sigh from many a rough bosom, many a wild and wicked heart, told how tight the listeners had held their breath to hear him. And when he swelled with song again, and poured with all his soul the green meadows, the quiet brooks, the honey-clover, and the English spring, the rugged mouths opened and so stayed, and the shaggy lips trembled, and more than one tear trickled from fierce, unbridled hearts, down bronzed and rugged cheeks.
9. And these shaggy men, full of oaths and strife and cupidity, had once been white-headed boys, and most of
* Sotto voce (sot'to vo'-cha), with subdued voice.
them had strolled about the English fields with little sisters and little brothers, and seen the lark rise and heard him sing this very song. The little playmates lay in the churchyard, and they were full of oaths and drink, and lusts and remorses, but no note was changed in this immortal song.
10. And so, for a moment or two, years of vice rolled away like a dark cloud from the memory, and the past shone out in the song-shine; they came back bright as the immortal notes that lighted them,—those faded pictures and those fleeted days; the cottage, the old mother's tears when he left her without one grain of sorrow; the village church and its simple chimes,—ding-dong-bell, ding-dongbell, ding-dong-bell; the clover-field hard by, in which he lay and gambolled while the lark praised God overhead; the chubby playmates that never grew to be wicked; the sweet, sweet hours of youth, innocence, and home.
11. George stayed till the lark gave up singing altogether, and then he said, "Now I am off. I don't want to hear had language after that; let us take the lark's chirp home to bed with us;" and they made off. And true it was,— the pure strains dwelt upon their spirits, and refreshed and purified these sojourners in a godless place. Meeting these two figures on Sunday afternoon, armed each with a double-barreled gun and a revolver, you would never have guessed what gentle thoughts possessed them wholly. They talked less than they did coming, but they felt so quiet and happy.
12. "The pretty bird," purred George (seeing him by the ear), " I feel after him—there—as if I had just come out o' church."
"So do I, George; and I think his song must be a psalm, if we knew all."
13. "That it is, for Heaven taught it him. We must try and keep all this in our hearts when we get among the broken bottles and foul language and gold," says George. "How sweet it smells,—sweeter than before I"
14. "That is because it is afternoon."
"Yes! or along of the music; that tune was a breath from home that makes everything please me now. This is the first Sunday that has looked and smelled and sounded like Sunday."
15. "George, it is hard to believe the world is wicked: everything seems good and gentle, and at peace with heaven and earth."
LXXL—THE GREAT BELL ROLAND.
IN old St. Bavon's Tower,