|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. CarrPTE X.-continued. They make their way through tangled brushwood, Sassafras leading. Now and then he turns, and assists Bluebell. With her hand in his he helps her to overcome obstacles. 'Eternity must be filled with such days as this,' he says. Bluebell sighs a happy assent. Now and then Sassafras runs to help Dame Endive. 'Thank you, my dear,' she says ; 'it is fit that the young should help the old.' Coltsfoot hears this. 'You are right, mother,' he says ; 'and the rich, the poor; the wise, the ignorant' 'Too much wisdom is a dangerous thing,' observes Sassafras. He is in the humour to say any daring thing. Now they are standing on a slight elevation. A few hundred yards away, where the land slopes towards a wood, rich with the richest treasures of the seasons, lies echo-land. Thither ward they walk briskly, and in another moment the inspired hollow speaks and laughs and sings, Hush !' calls out Sassafras, with assumed solemnity" 'Hush I' responds the hollow solemnly. They gather about Sassafras. Coltsfoot regards him and Bluebell attentively ; Bluebell has eyes for no one but him ; Dame Endive, leaning on her crutch-stick, peers up st him from beneath her spectacles; Robin waves his arms, and is about to utter some wild words, when Sassafra-, with his fingers on his lips, says almost in a whisper, 'Speak low, or the old fellow will hear you.' 'What old fellow ?' asks Robin, with a laugh. 'The old fellow who is hiding behind that clump of trees beyond. Did you not hear him call out to us to Hush i You look incredulous. Because you did not see him, you think there is no old fellow there. But I declare he is there--an old gray-haired man, with serious eyes and a long beard. He bade us Hush ! because we were too merry. He has been there ever so many hundreds of years. The wood is haunted, and the old graybeard is but one of a great army of spirits who retreat into the hollows at the first sound of human footsteps. his voice is harsh and strong, but he has children whose softer voices mock the sighing wind as it glides past them.' 'A pretty fancy,' says Coltsfoot, regarding Sassafras with tender in terest, and yet with a strange ad mixture of seriousness. A solemn look is in Bluebell's eyes as Sassafras describes the echo-king, and Sassafras, seeing this, breaks into a laugh, which is so contagious that, like magic, the hollow is filled with merry sound. 'Hark !' he cries, holding up again a warning finger. 'Those are the young spirits who are laughing. There are merry ones, and old ones, if we could only see them.' 'What are they like ?' asks Bluebell, bending towards him, her face flushed with excitement. 'What are they like ?' 'Some of them are almost as pretty as Bluebell here. They have sparkling eyes, and in the golden hair which floats down to their feet sun-sparkles chase each other. In the summer they sing with the bird=. It is they who drink the dew from the leaves.' 'And in the winter?' 'They bind their hair with garlands of holly and laurel, and enchant into beautiful devices the hoar-frost on the branches of the trees. They peep into the icicles, and melt them with the fire of their eyes. If they hear any one laugh, they laugh and are happy. Then the old fellow with the long beard shivers and grunts and stamps his feet and blows upon his fingers. I like best to hear the young spirits. One night we will come here and watch them when they do not think we are looking.' Then Sassafras turns to Bluebell, and asks in a tender tone if she will sing a song, and Bluebell in a sweet voice sings, and the hollow echoes her song, but not so sweetly : 'All things are fair; Nature rejoices; Valley and hill Thrill with sweet voices All things are fair. Sweet is the air Now and for ever; Heart whispers low, Change will come never All things are fair. Look where I will Sunlight's bright glances Fill me with joy. How my heart dances ! All things are fair.' 'That is my son's song,' says Dame Endive to Sassafras, with a proud look at Coltsfoot ; 'he wrote it for Bluebell.' 'Your son is a poet.' 'He is anything he likes,' responds the fond mother; 'he knows a mighty deal. He's a man; there isn't a cleverer in No-land. Where he got all his learning from, gracious only knows, for I'm no scholar. But knowledge comes to him as seeks, I suppose. Ah, the nights he sat up when he was a boy !' 'You must not credit all that my mother says about me,' says Coltsfoot, joining them. 'Mothers are over-fond. I guess she is speaking of m'.' "Tisn't me, my son,' says Dame Endive; "tis him. He says you're a poet, and he says right. He's a lad of sense.' Coltsfoot shakes his head. 'Because of my simple lines ? Nay, if there is a poet among us, it is our dear friend here, who has jost woven such pretty fancies out of the echoes. There is nothing fanciful in my verses. They fit Bluebell All things are fair to her. I wrote them when I was in a happy, hopeful mood.' He utters these last words in a saddened tone, which, as the breeze awakes the lyre, stirs the mother's heart, and causes her to look with sudden apprehension into the face of her son; from his face her eyes wander to the face of Sassafras, and a frowning light shiues in them. Coltsfoot, sell engrossed in painful thought, does not observe these signs. Come, mother,'
he says, 'you and I will stroll quietly to some shady nook, and sit there; I want to talk to you where there are no echoes.' 'Ay. my son,' she replies, tenderly and pitiously ; 'a - mother's love 'll not fail you.' Mother and son walk away ; Robin is wandering by himself in the woods ; Sassafras and Bluebell are leftalone. 'This sweetest of days,' murmurs Sassafras, in a tone which trembles from excess of feeling, 'has filled my life with tender memories.' They walk slowly, as in a dream, and Bluebell presently seats herself upon the mossed outspreading trunk of a grand old tree; Sassafras lies on the ground at her feet. A spiritual beauty dwells in Bluebell's face; her soul is in perfect harmony with the beauty of the day. Her hands are resting on her lap; Sassafras, timidly and with beating heart, lays his hand upon hers, and softly imprisons it. She trembles and looks down, but she does not shrink from him. Her pure soul trusts in him utterly. Thus they sit in silence for fully half an hour, which seems but a few moments, the time flies so swiftly. But when a falling leaf, or the fluttering of a bird's wings, disturi s the fine current of her waking dream, Bluebell sees the eyes of Sassafias gazing so earnestly and tenderly into hers, that a new-born joy awakes in her heart, and her gentle breast is stirred by an emotion so exquisitively sweet as to border almost upon pain. 'If it were so, Bluebell,' whispers Sassafras, 'if it were so! Now and for ever, Leart whispers low, change will come never ! If change would never come ! If we could remain thus for ever! How fair, how beautiful is the world !' Bluebell looks upwards. 'There is a fairer world even than this,' she says softly. 'I could kneel at your feet, and pray.' He does kneel at her feet, and clasps her hands, which the yields willingly to him. 'If during the moments that are now passing we ourselves should pa-s away, then death would surely be beautifuL' 'Why speak of death ?' says Blue bell. 'Why wish for it? The world is very good. God saw that it was so.' They fall into silence again for a brief space; but the lengthening -hadows of the trees warn Sassafras that they mu-t soon depart. lie raises himself closer to Bluebell, and invites her to stroll to a peep of sun light in the di-tance. They walk hand in hand towards a small glade ; the trees, which form a semi-circle, throw quaint shadows on the ground. 'One can fancy the echo-spirits dancing here,' says Sassafras. 'On a moonlight night the shadows of -the trees moving in the wind would present a strange and weird-like appearance. Bluebell, I have not wished you happy returns of the day. I do so now, dear. May they all be as happy as this has been !' She thanks him sweetly, and says that it is not to be expected. Life has its duties and cares; she knows this, not from her own experience, for everybody is very good to her, but from what Coltsfoot has told her. 'Yes,' he says, 'life has its cares and duties. But if love sweetens them-' What words are spoken immediately after these, neither of them ever remembers, except that he tells her he loves her, and that she, in perfect innocence and trustfulness, gives herself up to him ; then, with his arms around her dear form, he kisses her lips for the first time, and they walk slowly homewards to the cottage, with a heaven of happiness in their hearts. The changing color of the clouds, the cooing of the birds, the worshipful swaying and murmuring of the branches, the fluttering of the leaves, and the other beautiful evidences of a benificeent Creator which proclaim themselves wherever the lovers look or tread, seem to smile upon them, to be made for them. So they wander back to the old country lane, Sassafras leading Bluebell over tangled brush wood, and beneath bending branches which cling to the young girl's hair as though they are loth to lose her Later in the evening, Bluebell and Sassafras stood side by side within the shadow of the cottage porch. It was time for them to part, and still they tarried, saying good-night again and again. The moon came out, and shone upon an orange-tree in the little garden; eyes of pale golden light gleamed among the branches. 'You must go, you must go,' Blue bell whispered, and still she clung to him. At length she turned from him with lingering steps. 'Good-night,' she said. 'Good-night, darling ! God protect you ! You are mine now,mine !' 'Yes, I am yours,' she sighed, happily. He bent his head, and they kissed. Then Bluebell glided swiftly from his embrace, and went into the house, and Sassafras, stepping into the light, saw Dame Endive watching him. She was standing a few paces away, and there was trouble in her eyes. Sassafras was uncertain how to act, but she decided for him. 'Come into the kitchen,' said the old woman, 'and speak low, so that she shall on hear nu.' He followed her into the sanded kitcken, and the old woman laid her crutch aside, and sat down, with face averttd from him. When she turned he saw tears running down her old, cheeks. 'This is the first time, dame,' he said ; 'I did nct know until to-day that she loved mi.' Dame Endive swayed to and fro in deep distress, and a feeble wail escaped from her. 'O, my son ! my Eon !' she moaned. (To be continued). At a legal invres:i'tion of a liquor seizure, the Judge asked an unwailing witness, 'What wasin the barrel that you had 'The repFly was, Well, ycur honor, it was marked --whiskey" cn one end of the brel, and "Pat Dikffj" ocn tl' o!her end. so that I can't say wLetler it as whiskey cr Pat Duffy was in the Ltrrl, being, as 1 am, on my oath'