|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
THE KING OF NO-LAND. BY B. L. FARJEON; CHAPrTE IV-COntinued. The wrens, in their warm nests in the chimneys, must have been: astonished at the noise which awoke them, and as they raised their heads lazily from their beds ,of brown moss must have looked at each other with an air of "'What's all this about?' The Christmas party returned to the house in a merry cluster, filling the air with their laughter. Some of the older wrens, who were well acquainted with them, doubtless thought to themselves, 'Ah, that's Ragged Robin's Hoe ho! ho! harsh, and wild, and unruly; and that's his father's creak, like a door with rusty hinges; and that's his mother's cackle, He! he! he! and that is Bluebell's tender voice-her laugh is like music-let us listen a little longer to it; and that's Coltsfoot's Ha ! ha ! ha !-why, he laughs like a boy to-night; and that's Sassafras's voice, low and soft. What makes it so end and pensive ? He is generally merry. Ah, if they knew what we know, they wouldn't make so free with him !' For these discreet old wrens had friends and relations living in the warm chimneys of the King's palace, and were in the habit of visit ing them very often-being but flighty creatures, as you may guess; and there they had seen 1Myrtle in his proper form of Prince Sassafras, and conse quently knew of the deception he was practising upon Robin, and Coltsfoot, and Bluebell, and the rest. They chattered about it among themselves. 'What does he do it for ?' they asked of one another, without being able to furnish a sufficient explanation. 'It is perfectly inexplicable,' said one old wren, who had been born in the royal chimneys-indeed, in the very chimney of the bedroom where Sassafras slept and whose courtly airs were a sight to behold; she never came to dinner with her feathers ruffled ! 'It is perfectly inexplicable! I can't make it out. A Prince, who is in the enjoyment of every luxury, and who has his drawers filled with silks and laces and furs, to associate on terms of familiarity with such common persons as Ragged Robin and his family ! With Ragged Robin, who hasn't a second pair of breeches to- ' 'Hush ; hush !' inter rupted a staid old wren who looked after the proprieties. 'To his common legs,' continued the court wren, in a stately way; 'and with a person like that Coltsfoot, who teaches a b c to a lot of dirty ragged brats, and gives medicine and trash to a parcel of old women i Our Prince to associate with uch-like! 1 don't know what we're c ming to !' But an equally outspoken old wren, who had been born in the cottage chimney and who had lived a happy life there, resented this with spirit. 'Antd pray, madam,' she cried to the court wren. 'who are you that you should think the Prince demeans himself by coming to us for a few hours now and then ? And who are you that you should try to take away the character of honest Robin and our good Coltsfoot ? Let me tell you that the Prince is never so happy as when he is with us; I have heard him say so as we were taking away our dinner which he spread on the sill for us.' The court wren cocked her head disdainfully, and looked straight before her into vacancy, as though there were no such bird in existence as the cottage wren. But the cottage wren was not to be put down in this way. 'You !' she continued, 'with your stuck-up ways and your grand airs ! who are you, I should like to know ! Because you happen to be hatched in a royal chimney, you think yourself of more consequence than your betters!' In short, they had a desperate quarrel, which was not confined to themselves. All the other birds joined in, and such a chattering and whistling were heard in the royal chimneys, that it was a mercy something dreadful did not occur to the walls. The upshot of it was that a breach occurred in their friend ship, and for eight whole days the cottage wrens and the court wrens were not on speaking terms. It must be confessed that when the quarrel was patched'up, it was the cottage wren, who had to eat humble pie; they could not resist the only opportunity they had of hearing the delicious bits of fashionable scandal which the court wrens always had on the tips of their tongues. Well, these cottage wrens heard Ragged Robin and the rest making merry on this Christmas night, and made their remarks on what was going on. But they did not see everything. The best room in the cottage was lighted up by means of wooden hoops, which were suspended flat from the ceiling, and around the rims of which were stuck Christmas candles of all colours. There were holly and mistle toe on the walls, and on the mantlepiece, and over the door, and in the passages, and hanging everywhere from the ceiling, so that there were plenty of opportunities. How many kisses were given it would be impossible to say, for nobody stood on ceremony, and least of all Bluebell, who was fond of being hissed. No the night passed merrily until it was time fd' Sassafras to leave, and 'good-bye' had not been said. Coltsfoot saw that Sassafras could not say the word before strangers. 'Let us walk together down the lane,' he said. 'Come, Bluebell, take Myrtle's hand; come along, Bobin; we four will be enough.' He whispered to Sassafras that he .oild tell the mother and father. They walked down the lane, and aitt the foot of it Sassafras bade good-bye-to Ragged Robin first,. who, when he understood that he was about to lose His friend, fairly blobbered, aid ran off to hide his grief. 'Going away !' exclaimed. Bluebell. 'Where to?'. It was a difficult matter to make the little maid understand .why it was imperative that Sassafras should go away to foreign countries; she thought one country was enough to live in, she said. But the word had to be spoken; despite her ignoiance of necessary things;. - 'I will nevei forget, you, -Bluebell,' said Sassafras, 'and I want: you to think a little of me when I am away, and to love me a little:,
'I'll love you always-4always,' said the little maid, her tears flowing freely, for these young tender hearts are easily touched, and suffer more than we are aware, 'and I'll think of you day and night.' 'Here is a little present for you that I want you to wear, so that you can'S forget me if you try to.' He produced a very thin and slender gold chain, of trifling value, at the end of which a small gold heart was attached. He placed the chain roond her neck, and kissed her; the picture of her pretty child's face raised to his, with the tears swimming in her eyes, and her soft red lips asking for another kiss, recurred to him many and many a time during the years of his travels, and he loved to linger on the memory. The stars were glittering above and around them, and in his memory he never saw Bluebell's face with the daylight shining on it, but always in a framework of stars on such a soft, clear, tender night as this was. 'And now, dear lad,' said Coltsfoot, with a strong firm grasp of the Prince's hand, 'good-bye, and God bless you P 'Good-bye,' sobbed Sassafras; 'I never shall forget what you have shown me this day.' He turned to go, and lingered still, and a few more words were spoken. Then Coltsfoot, with a pain at his heart, left him swiftly and abruptly, and an important chapter in the Prince's life came to an end.