|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. CHAPTER V--continued. He had to pass a churchyard on his way, and as he approached this place he heard music in the air. It was night now, and he walked along, satis fled that if he were seen he would not be recognised. The sounds of music grew louder as he approached closer to the churchyard, and when he was quite up to it he was surprised to find that the p r-ons who were playing were play ing in that solemn place. It must be so, of the were no lights in the windows for therequaintold chin ch which overlooked the graves. Sassafras peered into the churchyard to discover the players, but he could not at first distinguish them from the tombstones. All those tombstones were covered with soft snow, and some stood firm and straight, like soldiers on the watch, and some were bent and decrepit, like old, old men, whose times had come. Three or four trees were in the churchyard, and their hare and naked branches were like white fingers beckoning the dead. One tree, which was branchless, and whose top was bowed to earth, looked like a giant ghost in a white shroud. And round about them all, and among the trees and tombstones, floated the strains of the music, lingering tenderly here and there, and gliding softly away like spirits. Sassafras stepped quittly into the churchyard, and the music came to meet him, and conducted him to the spot where the players stood. There were three of them, all girls, and they were standing around a newly made grave. A singular sensation of faintness came upon him as he recog nised the children Iris, Lucerne, and Daisy, and as he remembered that Coltsfoot was their best friend. Could it be his grave that they were standing by? Daisy, the youngest, was the image of Iris, as he saw her last on Christmas-day, and Iris herself, a little woman twelve years of age now, drew her bow across the strings with the same old grave thoughtful air. They did not know a stranger was near them until their melody was finished. Then, seeing a tall shadow close by, they started in alarm, and Iris, with a rapid motion, drew Daisy to her side. ' Do not be frightened,' said Sassafras, disguising his voice ; ' I am a friend. I heard music as I passed, and I came closer to listen. Your name is Iris.' 'Yes, sir.' ' And you are Lucerne.' Lucerne curtsied. ' And this is little Daisy.' Daisy looked up at the tall shadow without fear ; his kind voice had re assured them. Sassafras held out a piece of money to them,' but Iris shrank back, and refused the gift. He understood at once that they were engaged in a labor of love, and put the money into his pocket again. Then he remember that when he last saw them their mother was ill. ' Your mother is well and strong, I hope,' he said. He was speaking to friends of yesterday; it did not seem to him that years had passed. ' Mother is there,' said Iris, pointing to the grave ; ' we are playing to her. She likes to hear us.' Iris said this quite seriously. The tears came into Sassafras's eyes; this tribute of love touched him deeply. 'Was this the last air you intended to play ?' he asked. 'No, sir; mother's favourite tune is to come.' ' Shall I disturb you if I remain ? If I do, say so, and I will go away.' In answer, Iris tapped gentle on her violin with her bow, and the other little ones fell into position immediately. They played for half-an-hour, Sassafras standing quietly by; and then, as they walked side by side out of the church yard, he inquired after his friends. He found that there had been other deaths during his absence. Bluebell's father and mother were both gone, and she, Robin, Coltsfoot, and his old mother all lived together in one cottage. ' We go there often,' said Iris; 'they were very good to poor mother, who was bedridden for years, and they were very good to us. We all love them dearly, don't we, Lucerne-don't we, Daisy?' ' Yes, yes,' they answered with eager affection. 'Coltsfoot used to come,' continued Iris, 'and sit with mother regularly, and Bluebell came often too, and made nice things for us. Lucerne and I know how to read and write; Colts. foot taught us, and he is teaching Daisy now. He will never take any thing from us. Before mother died, she kissed him more than once, and told us he was the best man that ever drew breath. Didn't she say those words, Lucerne ? The best man that ever drew breath. And he is. Then mother asked us to come and play by her grave sometimes, and told us to keep good, and to be kind to one an other.' To these and other outpourings Sassafras listened with a full heart, and when he was about to leave them he asked whether they would let him give them a kiss. They held up their faces readily, and he kissed them tenderly, and wished them Good-night. 'Good-night, Good-night,' they said. But he had not gone a dozen yards, when a thought occurred to him, and he turned back. Hearing his steps, they stopped and said, 'Here is the gentleman again.' 'Some one told me,' he said, 'that Bluebell has a gold chain. Is it true ?' '0, yes,' replied Iris; such a beauti ful one I And she wears it regularly every Sunday. And there's a little gold heart at the end f it. I know, because she has shown me.' 'That's right,' said Sassafras, in a glad tone; ' good-night, children, good night.' But, unseen by them, he followed them to their humble home, taking upon himself the office of protector to these little ones. Even when they were safely housed, he did not depart, but lingered long about the place, thinking of them with tenderness; and an hour afterwards, when the two younger. children were abed and asleep, he peeped through ,a chink in the shutters, impelled to do so by the sound of musical chords which came from within the cottage. There he
saw Iris, partly undressed, tuniing her violin softly, and with a beautifully pensive expression on her face. 'God bless you, little one!' he mur mured, and walked home to his palace with a happy heart.