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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A CHILD.1-CONCLUSION,
CHAPTER XXVI,-THE SHADOWS.
ALL this hilarity does not imply the total absence of sadness in those bright days. I had lived and suffered too long in solitude not to have reserved a private corner for unuttered griefs, into which no regard of sister or stranger could ever penetrate. It is extraordinary the art with which a circle of children can make one chosen by mutual consent feel in all things, at every moment of the day, an intruder. The two elder than I were sworn friends, the three younger likewise; both groups united as allies. I stood between them, an outsider. I shared their games, it is true, as I shared their meals; but when they had any secrets to impart, I was left out in the cold. I daresay now, on looking back, that had my sullen pride permitted a frank and genial effort, I might easily enough have broken down this barrier. But I was morbidly sensitive, and these young barbarians were very rough and hard. Not ill-natured, but most untender.
I wonder if any other child has been so ruthlessly stabbed by home glances as I.
tale of the Ugly Duckling is, I believe, as common as all the essential legends of human grief and human joy. My dislike of large families is born of the conviction that every large family
holds a victim. Amid so many, there is always one isolated creature who weeps in frozen secrecy, while the others shout with laughter. The unshared gaiety of the group is a fresh provocation of repulsion on both sides, and not all the goodwill of maturity can serve to bridge that first sharp division of infancy. The heart that has been broken with pain in childhood is never sound again, whatever the sequel the years may offer. To escape the blighting influence of cynicism and harshness is as much as one may hope for; but the muffled apprehension of ache, the rooted mistrust bred by early injustice, can never be effaced.
I cannot now remember the cause of all those dreadful hours, of all those bitter, bitter tears, nor do I desire to recall them. But I still see myself many and many a day creeping under the bed that none might see me cry, and there sobbing as if the veins of my throat should burst. Always, I have no doubt, for some foolish or inadequate cause: a hostile look in response to some spontaneous offer of affection, a disagreeable word when a tender one trembled on my lips, some fresh proof of my isolation, a rough gesture that thrust me out of the home circle as an intruder, and a scornful laugh in front of me as the merry band
1 Copyright, 1898, by Dodd, Mead & Co. in the United States of America.
wandered off among the rocks and left me forlorn in the garden. A robuster and less sensitive nature would have laughed down all these small troubles, and have scampered into their midst imperious and importunate. A healthier child, with sensibilities less on the edge of the skin, not cursed with what the French call an ombrageux temper, would have broken through this unconscious hostility, and have captured her place on the domestic hearth-would probably not have been aware of an unfriendly atmosphere.
But this same morbid sensitiveness, mark of my unblessed race, has been the unsleeping element of martyrdom in my whole existence. "Meet the world with a smile," said a wise and genial friend of mine, "and it will give you back a smile." But how can one smile with every nerve torn in the dumb anguish of anticipated pain and slight? How can one smile burdened by the edged sensibilities and nervousness of sex and race, inwardly distraught and forced to face the world, unsupported by fortune, family, or friends, with a brave front? It is already much not to cry. But I shed all my tears in childhood, and left my sadness behind me. When the bigger troubles and tragedies came, as they speedily did, I found sustainment and wisdom in arming myself with courage and gaiety, and so I faced the road. I had then, as ever since, plenty of pleasure to temper unhappiness, plenty of bright rays to guide me through the obscurities of sentiment and suffering. An unfailing beam of
humour then and now shed its smile athwart the dim bleak forest of emotions through which destiny bade me cut my way.
One dark moment of peculiar bitterness now makes me smile. I record it as proof of the tiny mole-hills of childhood that constitute mountains. It shows the kind of booby I was, and have ever been, but none the less instructs upon the nature of infant miseries.
We were walking along the road one afternoon with Miss Kitty. A public vehicle tore down the hill led by four horses, three white and one brown. We were four: I the eldest, and my three pretty step-sisters. Birdie shouted
"Oh, look at the three lovely white horses! That's us three. Angela is the brown horse."
I regarded this choice as a manifest injustice. There was no reason on earth that I should be a brown horse any more than one of my step-sisters. I was angry and sore at what I deemed a slight, and cried—
"I won't be the brown horse. I'll be one of the white horses, or else I'll go away and leave you."
"No, you won't, and you may go if you like. We don't want you. We're three nice white horses."
Here was an instance when I might have laughed down the exclusiveness of these proud babies.
But no. I must turn back, and walk home alone, sulky and miserable, nursing my usual feeling of being alone in a cold universe.
An hour of terrible fright for all of us was the morning
Birdie fell into Colamore Harbour. We were coming down from Killiney Hill, a lovely spot more prosperous lands might envy us. Birdie walked inside, in a pretty short frock of pale green alpaca, and a new hat with red poppies among the ribbon. In those days Birdie and I ran it closely as infant beauties. Her hair was a shade more flaxen than mine, and the roses of her cheeks a shade paler. She was fatter, too, and less vapoury; but I carried the palm as an ethereal doll, with a classic profile. Alas! the promise of that period was never fulfilled. Both profile and pride of beauty vanished on the threshold of girlhood, to make way for the appearance of a dairymaid in their distinguished stead.
on the gravel path in a woeful state-her wet green skirt clinging to her little legs, the discoloured poppies of her hat flat upon the wet ribbon.
"Change that child's clothes," said my mother, indifferently, as if she were all her life accustomed to the sight of a terrified child rescued from the deep, and went on talking to the gardener.
It would be a bold and inhuman assertion to make, and certainly one I am far from maintaining, that harsh treatment is the proper training of children. But my mother's method has undoubtedly answered better than that of many a tender or self-sacrificing mother. It built us in an admirable fashion for adversity, -taught us to rely upon ourselves, taught us, above all, that necessary lesson-how to suffer and not whine. It is only when I observe how feebly and shabbily a spoiled woman can face trouble and pain, that I feel one may with reason cherish some pride of the power of enduring both with a smile. And when, stupefied and shamed, I contemplate the petty trickeries to which worldliness and untruthfulness can reduce a woman, the infamous devices a slender purse can drag educated ladies into, thus am I partially consoled for the sufferings of childhood. It is much, when one fronts battle, to have been reared in an atmosphere of abMy mother was standing in solute rectitude, of truthful and the front garden talking to honourable instinct. It is a the gardener, when the party blessing indeed when love inmarched in upon her. She cludes all this. But bleak as frowned as Birdie was deposited the start was, I would not have
The wall of Colamore Har bour was protected by an iron chain that swung low from the big stones that divided the festoons. Birdie's foot slipped, and the child in a twinkling tumbled over, and plunged, with a hollow crash, into the heavy grey sea. Happily there were bathing-women and fishermen within hail, and as quickly as she had taken an unexpected bath, Birdie was once more in our midst, dripping like a Newfoundland, white and shaking with terror. One of the big boys took her up in his arms and tenderly carried her home. We all followed, awed and hysterical.
had it otherwise at the cost of to a Scottish mother. Kings these great and virile virtues. are all very well in their way, And since it would appear that especially if they happen to be the Irish habit of boasting is reigning; but when one learns an incorrigible weakness, and as authentic fact that an Irish that even in these democratic journalist has offered an article days my people still persist in to an unknown editor, accomdescending from kings who panied with a letter stating have slept in peace over seven that the blood of seven kings hundred years, and may with- runs in his veins, one feels that out any extravagant scorn of such a race is all the more fact be presumed to have passed rational for a little foreign for ever into the state of legend, blood to modify the imperishI am glad to acknowledge the able and universal blight of priceless debt of common-sense royalty.
CHAPTER XXVII.- -A DISMAL END OF HOLIDAYS.
For the joy of our small kingdom a delightful Fenian dropped into our midst. It was breathed among us in fatal undertones that he had actually shot a man. He was a figure of romance, if ever there was one. He went about with long boots, and an opera-glass slung over his shoulder. He had lovely dark-blue eyes, which Pauline described as Byronic, and lisped most captivatingly. He was a kind of adopted relative, and, as a special correspondent, has passed into history. He became our elder brother, and in the years to come solaced himself in camp by regarding Agnes as a lost early love. We lay about him on the grass as he told us the tales of the Wonderful Nights. Better still, he invented adventures of his own almost as alarming and enthralling. He told us that he had been to Persia, which was not true-but no matter. We believed in the Persian princess who had swung her
self, at the risk of life, from
And then he would offer us a taste of adventure for ourselves: in the absence of our parents he would crowd us into the waggonette, and drive my stepfather's pet horses at a diabolical rate up by the exquisite coast road of Sorrento, into Bray and through the Wicklow mountains, each curve and hollow and hilly bank menacing to lay us in pieces upon the landscape, and we shouting and hurrahing, in a fond notion that we were offering to the uni
verse the spectacle of the instability of the United Kingdom. Edmond's formidable method of conspiring against the Government at that time consisted in delighting and amusing a troop of little girls!
Foolish, reckless creature, alcohol absorbed and tarnished his brilliant gifts, and his bones lie scattered at far-off Khartoum. He made of a life that might have been a heroic poem a mere trivial legend, and, with his lust for adventure and peril, he met the death he wished for, brief and glorious.
His fear of my mother filled us with a rapturous sense of comradeship, though this fear was quite foolish, for my mother never concealed her preference for his sex, and to men was always as amiable as she was the reverse to us. He beamed and joked with her, but was careful to scan her visage, on the look-out for the first symptoms of storm. The bolt fell rudely upon his shoulders the day he lamed the horses, and did some damage to the waggonette. I never knew what she said to him; but it must have been exceedingly bitter and unbearable, for his cheeks were as white as paper, and his eyes as black as sloes. He was penniless for the moment, and down on his luck, which makes a man more nervously sensitive to slight than in his happier hours.
My stepfather was sorry for him; but, remembering the horses, was relieved to send him off to Spain with a new outfit and the inevitable operaglasses.
"I shall never forget the old Dalkey garden," he said to Agnes, on the morning of his departure, quite as sentimentally as if he were talking to a grown-up young person. The rascal was always playing a part for his own imagination, and even a slip of a girl of fourteen was better than nobody to regret after a three weeks' stay in a romantically situated house. It was stronger than him. He could not exist without a fancied love-affair on hand.
In the Carlist War, where he claimed to have saved the colours of Spain, rejected the hand of an Infanta, and lent his last five-pound note to Don. Carlos, which that illustrious person forgot to return,-'tis a way, he would say musingly, with princes,—as he started for battle, he pathetically adjured his comrades to cut off a lock of his blue-black hair and send it to Agnes, with the assurance that his last thought was given to her. to her. In the pauses of battle he actually entertained himself by composing an imaginary correspondence with an ardent and amorous Agnes, which he read aloud to his dearest friend, with tears in his voice.
But that, as Mr Kipling in his earlier manner would say, is quite another story, and has nothing to do with the tale of little Angela.
I had no time to lament this fresh eclipse of romance, for Miss Kitty was busy preparing my things for Lysterby, and two days after Edmond's sentimental farewell and departure, I myself most dolefully had