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THE GENTLE HERITAGE.
BY FRANCES E. CROMPTON.
ABOUT THE BEGINNING OF IT.
It was when we were all quite nursery children, a long time ago; I am sure, two years since, at the very least; and it began, as nurse said afterwards, because we would not play at proper games, like proper children.
Partly, that is our own faults, because Patricia always wants to take the lead, and always will, and of course it leads to squabbles ; and I daresay I am often very aggravating; and Bobby is such a slow arguing boy; and Annis is as tiresome as tiresome can be with crying over everything ; and Paul is sometimes so very odd and obstinate. But I think it is also nurse's fault, because being the strictest person in the world, she will not let you do everything you might want to do. We consider nurse a very cross person. It is all very well to say that it is we who are naughty, but we are not always naughty, and she is always cross. Her aprons are as stiff as the nursery tea-tray, besides being the same plain shape, and she will wear the tightest and sternest caps that ever were seen.
I remember Bobby being put in the pound for saying in a very serious manner that he did not want to wish anything wicked, especially on Sunday, but he did wish that something would soon happen to nurse's best cap. He said it looked so hard; her caps were all strictish, but her Sunday cap was savage.
It may not be very agreeable to the feelings to tell about one's punishments, but it may have to be told all the same. Our large punishment is to be sent to bed, and our small is to be put in the pound, which is really behind the screen. It is a very degrading thing to be put there ; it is much worse than a corner,
It is very
because a corner is lighter, and you can sometimes look over your shoulder. But our nursery is an old one, and there is a good deal of furniture in it, and all the corners are filled up, so nurse uses the screen, which we think much worse. big and high, and when its four flaps pen you round, it feels as if your wickedness had separated you from the rest of the world. It is too heavy to be knocked over as a relief to the mind, and inside it is dark and very uninteresting, for it is covered with brown leather, with panels made of nails with brass heads like acorn cups.
It is an old screen ; father used to be put behind it when he was a little boy, and it is he who calls it being pounded. We can show you a patch on the second flap, where, in a dreadful moment of rage, he once kicked a hole in it. So he was whipped ; which, nurse says, in a dark kind of way, is a warning to us; but when I look at dear father, who is more than six feet high, and seems more than eight or nine in his top-boots and hat, I only believe it in the way I believe that Don't-care fell into the pond, and that the child who played with fire was burnt to death, and all those things, which are also warnings to us, but yet do not seem to make us very uneasy in our minds.
We have heard ladies tell mother that nurse is a treasure, but she does not comb their hair, nor put them to bed. But still we know that she is really very good, and Bobby says that he has observed her for a long time, and he believes that when she worries us, it is not for nastiness, but because she is a truly religious person. But she is cross, and even dear mother cannot say she is not
But the thing we think the worst of all about nurse is that there could not possibly be any person in the world with less imagination than she has. She never would see what pleasure we could find in sitting in a ring under the table, and imagining things, which she called telling untruths. She could not see what pleasure there was in sitting on the floor at all, because no one who has not made a practice of doing it, can know how nice
Why you cannot sit on chairs, instead of floors, like pagans in a pagan land, is more than I can tell,' she used to say.
'It's all very well,' Bobby whispered once ; ‘but nurse has a rocking-chair. She doesn't know how shiny old horse-hair slides you off at the front.'
Nurse did not hear what he said, but she caught a muttering, and she looked very hard at us.
* You never see me sitting on the floor, no, nor ever wanting to,' she said, biting her thread off, and keeping one eye fixed on us.
Your legs is long,' said Paul, gravely, holding his toes, as he always does when he sits on the floor. Werry long. Yards long.'
We could never make nurse understand that we liked imagining things better than playing at real games, because she never did imagine things herself. She could not even invent a tale, which was one reason why we had to invent them for ourselves, because Mriar only knew one, and that was 'Orange and Lemon.' We consider 'Orange and Lemon' all very well for once, but after it has been told a good many times, you feel that you are getting rather tired of it. Bobby always used to begin to fidget at
O uncle, uncle, have you brought my golden ball ?
Or have you bought me free?
Upon this gallows-tree?'
—and then, .( aunt, aunt'-because we knew that Mriar took a gloomy pleasure in going on to the most distant relations possible. And now we think sometimes that Mriar did not tell it properly, because it did not seem as sensible as mother's tales. Bobby used to argue it out, till Mriar would lose her temper, and say she would not tell it any more, not that it mattered, for we knew it as well as she did ; and besides, she really liked best to tell us about herself.
She always quite enjoyed telling us about her places, and about her great friend, whom she called Miss Ann Ellen Chantler. She used to tell us really the most astonishing things about Miss Ann Ellen Chantler, and the most surprising adventures that she had had in her different places. Bobby was very particular about Mriar's stories, and used to sit with his elbows on the table, and his chin on his hands, arguing them out with her very slowly and precisely. We think now that they were stories, chiefly because Mriar did not tell them before nurse.
Mriar was our nursery-maid at that time ; of course her real name was Maria, and mother used to tell us not to say Mriar, but we always did, because it was the way nurse said it. She was not half as cross as nurse, and she was more good-natured too, and would give us things if we asked long enough, such as two lumps of sugar to rub in the nursery coal-cupboard, and make
sparks, or elastic out of the sides of her boots when we wanted to make a chip fiddle, or other things of that sort. And she was kinder than nurse; too, when she took us out; nurse would never let us walk where we liked, because of the dirt, or the wind, or something foolish ; while we could often persuade Mriar to take us to the places we liked best, even to the sandholes in the croft that goes down to father's farm. We are fond of the sandholes, because sand is so nice and clean to play in that even rolling in it does not dirty you—though nurse has actually been so mean as to desire mother to forbid digging holes and burying each other, for, she says, get the sand out of our clothes, she cannot. Of course the worst part of the sandholes is the going home at tea-time, because the sand does rather drop out of your clothes on the nursery floor, and as Bobby says, it leads to rows; but nurse need not hate our playing in the sandholes as much as she does. But it is of no use; we have observed it frequently; the things we like most are the things nurse hates.
Mriar was not very fond of the sandholes either. She always wanted to go to Abchurch, for she said she liked life ; but sometimes we could persuade her to take us to the sandholes, and then we enjoyed ourselves, while she sat on the bank with the work she called her crosher. We really cannot see ourselves how much more life anyone can want than there is in fields. There are birds everywhere, and butterflies on the banks, and frogs and sticklebacks in the brook, and rabbits in the sandholes, and once we saw a hedgehog, and there are molehills, so there must be moles : and we should like to know how much more life you need than that ? But although Mriar was more good-natured than nurse, somehow we did feel that we could not be certain of her. She never had nurse's way of making one be obedient immediately, which perhaps she could not have helped, but she could have helped coaxing us by telling things that we found out afterwards to be stories. And also she was not the same both before nurse and behind her back, which made Bobby say that at times he rather despised her.
And I am quite sure that it was Mriar who first told us about Bogy. It would not be honourable to lay all the blame on her, for I know we went on with it, but she did first teach us, I think only to frighten us into being good, but sometimes I did so wish that she had not done it, because no one who is not frightened in the dark can possibly know how hard it is for some one who is.
But it was our own faults, too, for we did not tell mother or nurse, but went on with it, generally sitting in a ring under the nursery table, whispering, and imagining things.
We were very fond of sitting under the table, because it felt so private, with the leaves down, and the cloth hanging round like a tent. Patricia, and Annis, and I leaned against the legs that were farthest from nurse, and Paul had the other, when he came ; but that was not when we talked about Bogy, because he was too little.
Bobby always sat under nurse's sewing-drawer ; it was rather a deep drawer, and he often bumped himself when he was having a good argument; but it did not matter, because he is very hardheaded. At least, father says so, and if it does not mean that bumps do not hurt him as much as they hurt other people, I do not know what it does mean.
I do not know why we liked imagining about Bogy, for we were dreadfully afraid of him. I suppose there was a kind of excitement about it that was interesting ; but now it does seem very foolish that we should have taken so much trouble to make ourselves miserable. But to imagine about Bogy was quite our favourite game then. We could never quite decide where he lived. I hoped at first that it was not really necessary for him to live with us at all, but Patricia resigned herself from the first.
• There is such a person as Bogy in the house,' she said, 'for Mriar says there is. So he must live somewhere, and the thing is, where is it?'
Bobby thought he would prefer him to live in the cellars, because he said he felt that the cellar-door corked him down pretty well, but we could not trust to his staying there, because no one can be expected to live altogether in cellars. And so the Bogy in our house had a very unpleasant habit of lurking in corners all about the place, and after dark it grew very disagreeable, very disagreeable indeed.
ABOUT THE MAN-UNDER-THE-BED.
But the worst time of all was at night, for then Bogy lived in the same room with us, and was called the Man-under-the-bed. We did not mind under-the-bed at all in the daytime ; it was at night that it began to be unpleasant. Mriar said that her friend Miss