« السابقةمتابعة »
my anger and discontent by the most perfect silence; and, indeed, thought of little beside the cruel fate which I judged impending, and of the joys and comforts of Burford Cottage, and of all the vale in which it stands, and wbich I was never more to feel !
“ Over brake, and over briar;" over gates, and over stiles; over pasture, and over arable, through fields and woods,-Mr. Gubbins hurried me along; every now and then, however, caressing me, and disturbing me with the accents of a tongue which, that day, I thought a serpent's for its deceit; and which seemed to me rather to hiss, than to strike out any of those silver tones that, before, I had been accustomed to fancy in it! Sometimes, indeed, to the depths of my reverie, came the tinkling of the sheep-bells, and the whistling of the ploughboy; the chattering of the jay, the screaming of the pie, and the rich melody of the blackbird; but what delight could I now take in any of these; I, whom two foul conspirators were soon to choke, and to plunder of the power to give one note to the full concert of the universal grove? Mile after mile was travelled in this, to me, afflicting manner; the beams of the sun, the whiteness of the clouds, the gold and crimson of the autumnal trees, the purple and the yellow of the field-flowers; the verdure of the grass, the lowing of the cattle, the bleating of the sheep, the songs of a thousand birds, seemed to be the deckings and celebration of a jubilee; and through all that scene, and joyousness, and stir, I and Mr. Gubbins wound our way—to a funeral—an execution; and I the sufferer and the slain !
Every now and then, too, Mr. Gubbins, as was so natural in a guilty person, either looked carefully behind him, or seemed to stop, as if afraid to overtake some neighbour, or at least something that was human and humane, and to whom his doings might become apparent. The white bark of a distant birch-tree, shining in the evening sun, how often did he not mistake it for the white apron, or white frock, of an inno. cent village maiden, coming from market or from the fair; and the gray trunks of the ash-trees, did not every one of them appear the coat or the cloak of some village patriarch or matron, before whom, as before their children, he would have sunk into the earth which he was treading, to see himself detected in his feats against a Robin? Once, where a gap in the hedge, upon the crest of a hill, and a space between the bank, and the remains of a stile, gave place to a solitary post, “ Of a surety,” cried he, “there is a man -no, it is a boy—and it is Jem Pry, as I am a schoolmaster, and as my name is Gubbins! What shall I do? If I go back, he will be upon my heels; if I push on, I shall be by his side; if I wait till the sun shall be going down, Mrs. Dykes will have put away her teathings; and the twelve miles which I have to walk (six out, and six to my own home again) will not be finished till late, and Mrs. Gubbins will think that I am robbed and murdered?” After a pause, then, he proceeded, as the only alternative which was left to bim; but first carefully covering, with his handker. chief, me and the net which held me. The post speedily showed itself a post, and he returned the bandkerchief to his pocket; but, in five minutes after, upon abruptly turning a hedge, he found himself really close behind Ralph Wilcox, an old neighbour, and old companion, and whom he could neither escape, nor omit to congratulate upon the yielding of his rheumatism! Hastily replacing, therefore, his handkerchief, he joined Ralph Wilcox, vowed that he was glad to see him, complimented his firm steps, and (what I thought extraordinary) confessed that he was going to Cobbler Dykes's! At the next division of the path, however, he anxiously took leave of Ralph, insisting that the way through the wood in the bottom was the nearest and the dryest, though Ralph declared it a quarter of a mile about, and that he would find it wet and spongy with the showers and fallen leaves : “Good-night, then, good-night,” said Ralph; "an' ye will go your own way; and mind you tell the cobbler and his wife that I axed after them kindly, and that he must get my heavy shoes done, now that winter's a-coming. Ah !" continued he, raising his voice, as Mr. Gubbins strode away from him, toward the wood; “ ah! you are two comical rogues, for your curiosity and your larning; and you are always a-doing something together, to make you more and more knowing! I's sure you don't carry that there handkerchief for nothing; but that you and the cobbler are after some queer thing together!"
Mr. Gubbins mended his pace, and I sunk into the lowest corner of my net, at words which seemed to import discovery to him, and conviction of my fate to me! " Comical rogues," I sighed and murmured! " rogues, there can be no doubt; but where does Ralph Wilcox find bis tragic villains ?” I might have lifted my voice while we were in company with that rustic, but I was not sure but that he would have joined his friend for my destruction; and, besides, I feared that if Mr. Gubbins did but hear me tweet, he might pinch my windpipe, or twist my neck, in the concealment of the handkerchief, and kill me unseen, and on the spot!
The parted bosom clings to wonted home.
“ WELCOME! welcome !" cried Cobbler Dykes, as Mr. Gubbins entered, at length, the village to which he was bound, and drew near to the stall, of which the door was open, and in which, the moment before, the inquisitive and cheerful artificer was at once hammer. ing his newest leather, and singing his oldest song: “Welcome! welcome! Master Gubbins,” he exclaimed; “I see thee'st gotten him, and now we'll lose no time in doing his business! Poor thing ! it's growing latish, you see; and it will be best to do it while there's daylight enough. He will like it the better !” Judge for yourself, reader, of my feelings, at this astounding moment!
“ Ah! John,” cried Mrs. Dykes, from the adjoining and only other chamber in the house, “thee should'st have had the collar ready, man. But, now late or not late, let Mr. Gubbins have a cup of nice tea before thee meddles with Robin. I have just poured the water into the pot, and the cakes are hot at the fire, and the bird will take no harm while you both take a cup of tea; and then you can make an end of him as soon as you like, and the sooner, I am sure, the better! Poor thing! where is he? I shouldn't wonder if he would like to eat a little first, himself?”
Mr. Gubbins, by this time, had reached Mrs. Dykes's tea-table; and, at her invitation, he did not hesitate to remove the handkerchief from off the net, and to lay me, confined as I was within it, upon a second table, nearer to the window. There was room for me to put out my tail, and even my head, through the meshes; and Mrs. Dykes had quickly placed, close to my bosom, and almost in my bill, a heap of breadcrumbs, and even a spoonfull of cold water; adding to her former remarks, that she “ should not wonder, too, if I were dry, as well as hungry!"
Hunger and thirst, what were they to me, and water and crumbs of bread, how could I look at them, when my eyes were occupied with such sights as the cobbler's inner chamber now discovered to my view ?Abating the stall in which he worked, and which, besides its lasts, its knives, its awls, and bristles, and besides even the ballads, and the newest pictures of kings and councillors, held, even itself, a few strings of bird's eggs, the bill of a crane, and the skull of a weazel ;-abating this, the adjoining chamber, as I have said, was the entire house of the cobbler and his wife; and with what variety and fulness was not this chamber furnished, till, within it, there was scarcely room for guest or hosts to move; or, moving, to avoid displacing or dislodging something, of which the legs were lost or broken, the fastenings rotten, or the supports unsteady! Here were a bed, and tables, and arm-chairs, and stools, and chests, and worn-out cushions, and pieces of darned and threadbare carpet; hut it was upon the walls that hung or stuck the objects that fixed all my thoughts, and in which the reader has to learn what it was my eyes beheld! I say nothing of the blackened canvas-pictures and their dim golden frames; nothing of cups and saucers,