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bless the child ! come, come, it'll be all right now, and I'll sing “In a Cottage near a Wood ”- there's a dear.'
So in the soothing strains of that ancient hymn to Contentment, nurse found what she hoped was an effectual antidote to the ambitious desires which had led to her darling's tumble. He, however, never could comprehend how anyone
could ever be contented in that cottage, though it was near a wood; but the lullaby quickly hushed him into temporary forgetfulness and peace.
When Mrs. Dayrell came home from her afternoon ride, and heard of her only son's unconscious imitation of Rasselas, she was alternately so transported with delight at his soaring aspirations, and troubled with fears as to the dangers in which his imagination might involve him, that the nurse, not yet quite accustomed to the excitable temperament of her young mistress, had a vague idea confirmed that ‘she would lose her wits some day, through taking of so much exercise.'
Charlie Dayrell, it may be remarked, was extremely fortunate at that early period of his life in all his surroundings. His nurse was a young woman of more refined disposition than is commonly met with, and was fond both of laughter and song. While his mother-ah, what a mother she was !-much younger than her husband, being his second wife, light-hearted and loving, with a figure like one of the Graces, and a sweet, sunny face, framed in beautiful auburn hair- Mrs. Edward Dayrell was a charming specimen of the female line of English county families as they existed eighty or ninety years ago. It is just possible she was sometimes fonder of the company of her child than of that of her rather stately and silent husband; and though there was plenty of love between them, she may have found more domestic happiness in playing with her boy, and as he grew older in teaching him to ride, row, and read, to revel in fairy tales and classic myths, or in dreaming about his future career, than in reading the Times to her husband, and listening to his speculations concerning the doings of Napoleon Bonaparte, or the rival claims of Pitt and Fox. True, it seemed a pity that Charlie could not be both three and ten years old at the same time, since, although forward for his age, he was still unable to accompany her to the forest-parties, (or picnics, the garden-parties, balls, and amateur theatricals, which she was so frequently promoting, nor to ride by her side in dashing gallops over the open heaths of the New Forest, and occasionally after the hounds. In these latter expeditions she could rarely persuade her husband to accompany her, though he graciously consented to her vagaries; hence until Charlie was old enough to accompany her, she was attended, or rather pursued, longo intervallo, by a faithful, grey-headed old coachman, who, though he could make only a show of attending her, did his duty pretty well by cutting off corners, and listening for the little silver horn which his mistress carried suspended round her neck. These gallops, and parties, next to a game of hide-and-seek with her boy, were the delight of Mrs. Dayrell's bright and blooming existence.
Next however in her affections, to love of child and husband, certainly stood the glory of Hampshire, that magnificent New Forest (on the borders of which Holmleigh Hall was situated), which she loved with an almost extravagant affection, and which was to her an ever-flowing spring of romantic delight. Of her own flowery life she imparted largely to others; and to all, in fact, who would receive it, much of her own sweet sunny atmosphere of peace and joy. When her parents named her Irene, they must have had remarkable foresight. But in the unselfish and cheerful disposition, which was one of her strongest characteristics, and which came to her, as divines would say, both by nature and by grace, her parents had obtained the best security for their daughter's possession of those great blessings.
Yet there was at times a shade of sadness on that sunny face, the cause of which none but her husband guessed, and which perplexed even her nearest and dearest friends. Whether caused, however, by mental or nervous pain, the clouds soon passed. If the mother was fond of her blueeyed, frolicsome, curly-haired darling, he was passionately devoted to his 'pitty mamma.' To sit on her knee among the flowers, listen to her charming singing, or to go dancing with her over the springy turf of their beautiful grounds, to the tune of Charlie is my darling,' or in winter evenings to sit on his little stool beside her in a corner of the great hearth, where huge logs sent up their crackiing noise and flame, while he listened to the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Sinbad the Sailor, or the twelve labours of Hercules, the rescue of Andromeda, or Mrs. Hack's delightful Winter Evenings' -to tumble and slide on ice and snow, or harness ‘Tiger,' the great Newfoundland dog, to his little waggon, and play at * Esquimaux '-all this surely was a fair bright dawn of life for a boy with brain and heart to appreciate it.
But the sterner side of life in the shape of lessons, which at first he couldn't endure, was steadily presented to him, and, though with wry face, on the whole loyally accepted.
If there's anything you particularly dislike doing, Charlie,' said his mother to him once, do it-to strengthen your will.'
And Charlie hugged the disagreeable injunction to his heart as bravely as he heard that a Spartan boy had hugged the young fox which tore him. So life flowed on for him in light and shadow, but with the fairer and happier element largely preponderating ; while Mrs. Dayrell was often the brightest element of all.
It must not be supposed, however, that all her experiences
with regard to her merry and restless child “as he older grew' were equally rose-coloured. Plaintive, even anxious inquiries might sometimes be heard from her lips, when the boy could not be found at meal times, or even occasionally when he ought to have been in bed. "Where is that strange child gone to now?' and then the usual answer was, • I'm sure I can't think, ma'am. We've hunted everywhere for him, high and low, haven't we, Susan?'
One frosty winter evening, when Charlie was about seven, the nurse came to Mrs. Dayrell in much anxiety, saying :
If you please, ma'am, I do believe Master Charlie's gone up the lake again, skating.'
“What! at this time of night ?'
'Yes, ma'am. We've been looking all about for him, and we can't see his skates anywhere, and it's bright moonlight, and there are holes for the fish, and Thomas has just thought he could see something moving on the lake a long
The young woman's voice trembled with affectionate apprehension.
"Well, hasn't Thomas gone to look for him ?'
"That's what I said, ma'am. But Thomas don't like going unless you'll send coachman with him. He says the ice is dangerous in some parts.'
"Nonsense ! continued Mrs. Dayrell, growing excited. 'He needn't go on the ice at all. He can make Master Charlie hear from the bank.'
'Yes, ma'am ; but — "But what--?
Why, ma'am, there was a man drowned there once, they say, and folks are afraid of the bogies at night.'
Whereupon Mrs. Dayrell could not help smiling, in spite of her anxiety, and despatched both coachman and footman; the butler confidentially remarking to the cook, it
was lucky 'missus' hadn't asked him to go too, for then he should certainly have had to give warning.
Nurse's prophetic vision proved correct; and the little adventurer was ere long conducted into the hall, highly indignant at being brought back before he had discovered the North-west Passage, and just when he was hunting a bear. Of course he was well scolded, kissed, and hustled off to bed.
The result of his adventures was not always so harmless. Many a time he came home with sundry bruises, for he could not be satisfied with keeping to the usual routine enjoyments, fitting for his age. But one of the first lessons his mother taught him was never to flinch from pain, and always to 'bear it bravely like a man.' Which, accordingly, he did ; and thereby not only suffered from it less, but got rid altogether of the greatest pain of all, viz., fear. “Pain, said his mother to him once, when he was first going to school, and he never forgot it, 'seems to be God's chief instrument for unfolding our higher life. It's a sign, no doubt, of something being wrong, that should be put right. But, for that-still more for its effects in making us bravewelcome it, Charlie, when it does come, as a blessing, not a
For, of all things, my boy mustn't be a coward.' One day she took him to a blacksmith's forge and let him see a bar of iron heated red-hot, hammered, heated again, and then plunged into cold water.
"Very uncomfortable process, doubtless, for the iron, Charlie,' said she. 'But that lasts only a short time. The hardened, tempered steel remains useful and victorious for years.'
And the boy profited by her parable. He little knew how much pain, bodily and mental, his mother had suffered, and occasionally through life did suffer. But she never had the pain of hearing him whine over his own mishaps.