Obrázky na stránke

• Do your legs hurt you, Dan ?' asked Joshua tenderly.

Dan formed a 'No' with his lips, but uttered no sound.

Joshua thought it best not to tease his friend with any more questions. He saw that Dan was suffering from a grief which he would presently unbosom. He took his accordion on his knee, and began to play very softly. As he played, a canary in a mourning-cloak came out of the toyhouse; another canary in a mourning-cloak followed; then a bullfinch, and another bullfinch; then the tomtit and the linnets; and then the blackbirds; all in little black cloaks, which Ellen Taylor's nimble fingers had made for them that day out of a piece of the lining of an old frock. At the sight of the first canary, with its black cloak on, Joshua was filled with astonishment; but when bird after bird followed, and ranged themselves solemnly in a line before him, and when he missed the presence of one familiar friend, he solved the riddle of their strange appearance: the birds were in mourning for the death of Golden Cloud.

They seemed to know it, too; they seemed to know that they had lost a friend, and that they were about to pay the last tribute of respect to their once guide and master. The bullfinches, their crimson breasts hidden by their cloaks, looked with their black masks of faces like negro birds in mourning; the amiable linnets, unobtrusive and shy as they generally were, were still more quiet and sad than usual; even the daring blackbirds were subdued—with the exception of one who, in the midst of a silent interval, struck up Polly, put the kettle on,' in its shrill whistle, but, observing the eyes of the tomtit fixed upon it with an air of reproach, stopped in sudden remorse with the ‘kettle' sticking in its throat.

Dan had made a white shroud for Golden Cloud; and it was both quaint and mournful to see it as it lay in its coffin-Dan's money-boxsurrounded by the mourners in their black cloaks. They stood quite still, with their cunning little heads all inclined one way, as if they were waiting for news concerning their dead leader from the world beyond the present.

Joshua, with a glance of sorrow at the coffin,


*Your money-box, Dan!'

'I wish I could have buried it in a flower-pot, Jo,' replied Dan, suppressing a sob.

Why didn't you ?'
• Mother said father would be angry- -

Here the blackbird-perceiving that the tomtit was no longer observing it, and inwardly fretting that it should have been pulled up short in the midst of its favourite song; also feeling awkward, doubtless, with a kettle in its throat-piped out, with amazing rapidity and shrillness, Polly put the kettle on; we'll all have tea.'

The blue feathers in the tomtit's tail quivered with indignation, and its white-tipped wings fluttered reprovingly. Moral force was evidently quite thrown away upon such a blackbird as that; so the tomtit bestowed upon the recreant a sharp dig with its iron beak, and the blackbird bore the punishment with meekness; merely giving vent, in response, to a wonderful imitation of the crowing of an extremely weak cock, who led a discontented life in a neighbouring back-yard. After which it relapsed into silence.

Dan, who had stopped his speech to observe this passage between the birds, repeated,

• Mother said father would be angry; he knows how many flower-pots we have. So I used my money-box.

*But you would rather have a flower-pot, Dan ?'



'I should have liked a flower-pot above all things; it seems more natural for a bird. Something might grow out of it; something that Golden Cloud would like to know is above it, if it was only a blade of grass.'

Joshua ran out of Dan's room, and returned in a very few minutes with a flower-pot with mignonette growing in it. He was almost breathless with excitement.

. It is mine, Dan,' he said, “and it is yours. I bought it with my own money; and it shall be Golden Cloud's coffin.'

• Kiss me, Jo,' said Dan.

Joshua kissed him, and then carefully lifted the flower-roots from the pot, and placed Golden Cloud in the soft mould beneath. A few tears fell from Dan's eyes into the flower-pot coffin, as he looked for the last time upon the form of his pet canary. Then Joshua replaced the flowerroots, and arranged the earth, and Golden Cloud was ready for burial.

Play something, Jo,' said Dan.

Joshua took his accordion in his hands, and played a slow solemn march; and the birds, directed by Dan, hopped gravely round the flowerpot, the tomtit keeping its eye sternly fixed upon

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

the rebellious blackbird, expressing in the look an unmistakable determination to put an instant stop to the slightest exhibition of indecency.

'I don't know where to bury it,' said Dan when the ceremony was completed. “Ellen has been trying to pick out a flagstone in the yard, but she made her fingers bleed, and then couldn't move it. And if it was buried there, the stone would have to be trodden down, and the flowers in the coffin couldn't grow.'

There's that little bit of garden in our yard,' said Joshua. 'I can bury it there, if you don't mind. I can put the flower-pot in so that the mignonette will grow out of it quite nicely. It isn't very far, Dan, continued Joshua, divining Dan's wish that Golden Cloud should be buried near him; 'only five yards off, and it is the best place we know of.'

Dan assenting, Joshua took the flower-pot, and buried it in what he called his garden ; which was an estate of such magnificent proportions that he could have covered it with his jacket. He was proud of it notwithstanding, and considered it a grand property. A boundary of oyster-shells defined the limits of the estate, and served as a warning to trespassing feet. In the centre


« PredošláPokračovať »