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a sharp frosty day, when the farmer comforts them with telling them that they must pull on till they have no feeling in their fingers, and then pull on again till they feel them full of pins and needles. They get bumps on the ice, and chilblains to plague them o' nights when in bed, and masters rousing them up in the dark just as their chilblains get easy, to fodder and be off to plough. But, dear me! what are these things to a cotton mill! — to a bump on the bare hcad with a billy-roller, or the wheels of a spinning-jenny pulling an arm off!
I have seen laborers dibbling in beans, as the farmers call it; that is, walking backward with a sharp-pointed staff in their hands, and making holes in a ploughed field as they went, while three or four little boys followed each laborer, popping beans into the holes they made. I have seen this on a cold day in November or February, when the east wind was driving over the field most savagely, the little urchins looking red and blue with the cold, blowing their fingers, and slapping them on their sides, trying in vain to warm them : then I pitied them, — but I do not pity them now.
THE LITTLE SCARECROW BOY.
I have seen little boys set to drive birds from a cornfield just sown, in the early spring. Afar off in the solitary fields they watched and wandered to and fro, from early dawn to nightfall, till their task became dreadfully weary. Not a soul had they to exchange a word with ; they had their dinner in a bag, a clapper for driving away the birds; and perhaps you would see them making a poor attempt with turfs, and sticks, and dry grass, to raise a sort of screen against the wind and rain.
Once I saw a little fellow of this sort who stirred my. pity exceedingly. It was on a cold, raw, foggy day in Feb
ruary; the wet hung in myriads * of drops on the hedges, and the dampness of the air clung about one with dispiriting chillness. I was going through Sherwood Forest, and across a farm brought into cultivation in the midst of its dreary waste. As I passed a tall hedge, I heard a faint, shrill cry, as of a child's voice, that, alternatelyt with the sound of a wooden clapper, sung these words:
“We've ploughed our land, we've sown our seed,
We've made all neat and gay;
Away, birds, away!” I looked over the hedge, and saw a little country lad about seven years of age, in his blue smock-frock, with a small bag hanging by his side, and a clapper in his hand. From ridge to ridge of a heavy ploughed field, and up and down its long furrows, he went wading in the deep soil, with a slow pace, singing his song with a melancholy voice, and sounding his clapper.
There was something in the appearance of that little creature in that lonely place, connected with his unvaried occupation and his soft and plaintive voice, that touched my heart; and as I went on I still heard his
fainter and fainter in the deep stillness.
I came back in the evening, seven long hours afterwards. The twilight was closing in; yet as I rode over a sloping hill, that weak, melancholy voice again reached my ear. All that weary day, the lone, weary little creature had been going hither and thither, with his melancholy song and his monotonousț clapper. Never did I feel a livelier pity for any living thing!
* Myriads, 10,000,000, used for “ innumerable.” † Alternately, first one then another. [Repetitions of the same
“successive."] # Monotonous, sing-song unvaried tone.
At the same moment I met a little girl, and I saw by the earnest expression of her countenance that it was his sister. “What little boy is this?” I asked. " It is my brother Johnny, sir,” she replied. “This is the first day that he has ever worked; but my father said it was now high time he did something towards getting his living; so he made him a clapper as he sat by the fire at night; and my mother made him a bag for his dinner. He was very proud of his job, and thought he was going to be a
But a neighbour, who passed this afternoon and asked him how he liked his job, told us he was crying; and that he said the loneliness frightened him, and he wished himself at home again. So I am going for him; and I dare say he is tired enough!” In truth, he was tired enough, and I pitied him, - but I don't pity him now.
Happy creatures are they all! Pity them! Pho! I love them every one.
Hark! I seem even now to hear the bird-boys clappering in the distant fields, or a score or two of country urchins shouting after the harvest-home waggon.
Boys' Country Book.
A NOBLEMAN AND HIS NOBLE SERVANT.
A RUSSIAN nobleman was travelling in the early part of the winter over a bleak plain. His carriage rolled up to an inn, and he demanded a relay* of horses to go on. The innkeeper entreated him not to proceed, for there was danger abroad; the wolves were out. l
He thought the object of the man was to keep him as a guest for the night; and saying it was too early in the season for wolves, ordered the horses to be put to. In spite of the continued warnings of the landlord, the carriage drove away, with the nobleman, his wife, and their only daughter.
On the box of the carriage was a serft, who had been born on the nobleman's estate, and who loved his master as he loved his life. They rolled on over the hardened snow,
and there seemed no signs of danger. The moon began to shed her light, so that the road appeared like polished silver. At length the little girl said to her father, “What is that strange dull sound that I just heard ?” Her father replied, “Nothing but the wind sighing through the trees of the forest we have just passed.” The child shut her eyes and was quieted for the time; but in a few minutes, with a face pale with affright, she turned to her father, and said, “ Surely that was not the wind; I heard it again, did you not hear it too ? Listen !" The nobleman listened, and far, far away in the distance behind him, but distinct enough in the clear, frosty air, he heard a sounu which he knew the meaning of, though they did not.
He put down the glass, and, speaking to the serf, said, “I think they are after us; we must make haste; tell the
* Relay, fresh supply. of Serf, bond-servant, over whom, up to 1859, a Russian proprietor had entire control. [Emancipated by the present Czar.]
post-boy to drive faster, and get your musket and pistols ready ; I will do the same; we may yet escape.”
The man drove faster; but the mournful howling, which the child had first heard, began to come nearer and nearer, anil it was perfectly clear to the nobleman that a pack of wolves had got scent and were in pursuit of them. Meanwhile he tried to calm the anxious fears of his wife and child. At last the baying of the pack was distinctly heard, and he said to his servant, “When they come up with us, single you out the leader and fire; I will single out the next, and, as soon as one falls, the rest will stop to devour him : that will be some delay at least.”
By this time they could see the pack fast approaching with their long measured tread, a large dog-wolf leading. They singled out two, and they fell; the pack immediately turned on their fallen comrades and soon tore them to pieces. The taste of blood only made the others advance with more fury, and they were again soon baying at the carriage. Again the nobleman and his servant fired, and two more fell, which were instantly devoured as before; but the next post-house was still far distant.
The nobleman then cried to the post-boy,“ You must let one of the horses loose from the carriage, in order that, when the wolves come up to him, their destruction of the horse may gain us a little time.” This was done, and the horse was left on the road : in a few minutes they heard the loud agonising shriek of the poor animal as the wolves tore him down. Again they urged on the carriage, but again their enemies were in full pursuit. A second horse was sent adrift, and shared the same fate as his fellow.
At length the servant said to his master, “I have served you
since I was a child, and I love you as I love my own life; it is perfectly clear to me that we cannot all reach the post-house alive; I am quite prepared, and I ask