The Children's Portion
Author: Various
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As the hunting party swept by, Griselda looked up, and noted again, as had happened several mornings before, that the penetrating eyes of the handsome duke were fixed on her.

"I fear he is angry that we sit so near his path," mused Griselda. "How his eyes look into one's soul. His gaze really makes me tremble. I will not sit here on his return, lest it be displeasing to him."

Before the hunt was fairly out of sight, a gossiping neighbor came to the hut of Janiculo, to tell the good news. Now, indeed, the duke was really going to wed. He had promised to bring a wife with him when he came back from the hunt. People said he had ridden into the next province, to ask the hand of the duke's beautiful daughter in marriage. And it might be depended on he would bring the bride home on the milk-white palfrey, which one of his squires had led by a silver bridle.

It was almost sunset when the trampling of hoofs told Griselda that the hunting party were coming back; and remembering what the talkative neighbor had said, she thought she would like to take a peep at the young bride when they passed on their way to the palace. She had just been to the well for some water, and she stood in the doorway, with her bare, round arm poising the earthen pitcher on her head, and the rosy toes of her little bare feet peeping from beneath her brown gown, to watch the hunt go by.

Nearer and nearer came the train; louder and louder sounded the clatter, and full in sight came the duke, with the white palfrey, led by its silver bridle, close beside him. But the saddle was empty, and no bride was among the huntsmen.

"Can it be possible the lady would refuse him,—so handsome and noble as he looks?" thought Griselda.

How astonished she was when the duke, riding up to the hut, asked for her father. She was pale with fright, lest their humble presence had in some way offended the prince; and, all in a tremble, ran in to call old Janiculo. He came out, as much puzzled and frightened as his daughter. "Look up, Janiculo," said the duke, graciously. "You have heard, perhaps, that to-day is my wedding-day. With your good will, I propose to take to wife your daughter Griselda. Will you give her to me in marriage?"

If a thunder-bolt had struck the earth at old Janiculo's feet, he could not have been more stunned. He gazed at the earth, the sky, and into his lord's face, who had to repeat his question three times, before the old man could speak.

"I crave your lordship's pardon," he stammered at length. "It is not for me to give anything to your lordship. All that is in your kingdom belongs to yourself. And my daughter is only a part of your kingdom."

And when he had said this, he did not know whether he was dreaming or awake.

Griselda had modestly stayed in-doors; but now they called her out, and told her she was to be the duke's bride. All amazed, she suffered them to mount her on the snow-white steed, and lead her beside the duke, to the royal palace. All along the road the people had gathered, and shouts rent the air; and at the palace gates the horses' feet sank to the fetlocks in roses, which had been strewn in their pathway. Everywhere the people's joy burst bounds, that now their prince had taken a bride. As for Griselda, she rode along, still clad in her russet gown, her large eyes looking downward, while slow tears, unseen by the crowd, ran over her cheeks, caused half by fear and half by wonder at what had happened. Not once did she look into her lord's face, till the moment when they reached the palace steps; and leaping lightly from his horse, Duke Walter took her from the palfrey in his own royal arms. Then he said, "How say'st thou, Griselda? Wilt be my true wife, subject to my will, as a dutiful wife should be?"

And looking in his face, she said solemnly, as if it were her marriage vow, "I will be my lord's faithful servant, obedient in all things."

Then they brought rich robes to put on Griselda, and the priest pronounced the wedding ceremony, and the bridal feast was eaten, and patient Griselda became a great duchess.

For a time all went on happily in the country of Saluzzo, where Duke Walter held reign. The people loved the meek duchess no less that she was lowly born; and when two beautiful twin babes were born to the duke, a boy and girl, the joy was unbounded all over the kingdom. Walter, too, was very joyful; or, he would have been very happy, if a demon of distrust had not been growing up in his heart ever since he had married the beautiful Griselda. He saw how gentle she was, and how obedient to him in all things, and he was all the time uncertain whether this yielding spirit was caused by love of him, or by gratitude at the high place to which he had lifted her, and the grandeur with which he had surrounded her. He remembered the vow she had taken when she looked into his eyes and said, "I will be my lord's faithful servant, obedient in all things," and thinking of it, day by day, there arose in his heart a desire to put her love and faith to the test.

The resolution to which he came was so cruel, that we can scarcely believe he could have loved Griselda, and had the heart to attempt to carry out his design. He took into his counsel only an old servant named Furio, and to him he gave the execution of his plan.

One day Griselda sat in her chamber, caressing and playing with her two babes. She had never intrusted their care and rearing to any but herself, and her chief delight had been to tend them, to note their pretty ways, to rock them asleep, and to watch their rosy slumbers. At this moment, tired out with play, her noble boy, the younger Walter, lay in his cradle at her foot; and the sweet girl, with her father's dark eyes, lay on the mother's bosom, while she sang softly this cradle song, to lull them to sleep:

"Golden slumbers kiss your eyes, Smiles awake when you do rise; Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry, And I will sing a lullaby; Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

"Care is heavy, therefore sleep you, You are care, and care must keep you; Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry, And I will sing a lullaby; Rock them, rock them, lullaby."

While the young duchess sang the last notes of her song, Furio appeared on the threshold. Some remorse for what he was to do, made the water for an instant dim his eyes, as he watched the group. But he had sworn to do his lord's bidding, and he only hesitated for a moment, looking up, Griselda saw him, and greeted him with a smile.

"Enter, good Furio," she said. "See, they are both asleep. When he sleeps, my boy is most like his father; but awake, my girl's dark eyes recall him most. Have you any message from my lord, Furio?"

"My lady," answered the old man, hesitatingly, "I have a message. It is somewhat hard to deliver, but the duke must have his own will. My lord fears you are too much with the babes; that you are not quite a fitting nurse for them. Not that he fears your low birth will taint the manners of his children, but he fears the people might fancy it was so, and he must consult the wishes of his people."

"If my lord thinks so," answered Griselda, "he may find nurses for his babes. It seems as if no love could be so dear as mine. But perchance he is right. My ways are uncouth beside those of royal blood. I will give my babes a better teacher. Only I may see them often, and love them still as dear, can I not, Furio?"

"That is not my lord's wish, madam," said Furio, not daring to look full at the duchess, and keeping his eyes fixed on the ground. "The duke fears that even now the people murmur that an heir of base origin shall grow up to rule over them. And he is forced to study the will of his people. So he has sent me to take away the babes, and dispose of them according to his royal orders."

When he had said this, Griselda looked at him as one who did not understand the language which he spake. All the blood forsook her cheek, her strength gave way, and falling at the feet of the old servant, still holding her baby clasped to her breast, she looked up in his face imploringly, like the deer who lies under the knife of the hunter.

But when Furio began to take up the babes, the boy from his nest among his cradle pillows, the girl from her soft refuge in the mother's bosom,—then the sorrow of Griselda would have melted the tough flint to tears. She prayed with moving words, she shed such floods of tears, she gave such piteous cries of agony, that Furio, tearing the children away with one strong effort, ran from the room with the screaming infants, his own face drenched with weeping. When the duke heard of all this, though it did not move him from his obstinacy of purpose, he yet grieved in secret, and wondered if Griselda's love could outlast this trial.

The twin babes, torn so rudely from their mother, were sent to a noble sister of the duke, who dwelt in Pavia; but no word was told to Griselda of their fate; and she, poor mother, submissive to her husband's will, because she believed it supreme, like God's, dared not ask after them, lest she should hear that they were slain.

When the duke saw how Griselda had no reproaches, nothing but grief, to oppose to his will, even his jealousy was forced to confess that her faith had stood the test. Whenever he looked on her, her gentle patience moved his heart to pity, and many times he half repented his cruelty.

Month after month, and year after year went by, and again and again did this demon of suspicion stir the duke to some trial of his wife's obedience and patience. He drove out the aged Janiculo from the comfortable lodgment in the palace in which Griselda had bestowed him, and forced him to return to the hut where he had lived before his daughter's greatness. And though Griselda's paling face and sad eye told her sorrow, she uttered no word of complaint or anger against the duke.

"Is he not my liege lord?" she said to her own heart, when it sometimes rose in bitter complainings, "and did I not swear to obey his will in all things?"

At last the day came when they had been wedded twelve years. Long ago had Griselda won the hearts of the people by her gentle manners, her sweet, sad face, her patient ways. If Walter's heart had not been made of senseless stone, he would now have been content. But in his scheming brain he had conceived one final test, one trial more, from which, if Griselda's patience came out unmoved, it would place her as the pearl of women, high above compare.

On this wedding morn, then, he came into her bower, and in cold speech, thus spoke to her,—"Griselda, thou must have guessed that for many years I have bewailed the caprice which led me to take thee, low-born, and rude in manners, as my wife. At last my people's discontent, and my own heart, have told me that I must take a bride who can share fitly my state, and bring me a noble heir. Even now from Pavia, my sister's court, my young bride, surpassing beautiful, is on her way hither. Canst though be content to go back to thy father, and leave me free to marry her?"

"My dear lord," answered Griselda, meekly, "in all things I have kept my vow. I should have been most happy if love for me had brought thy heart to forget my low station. But in all things I am content. Only one last favor I ask of thee. Thy new wife will be young, high-bred, impatient of restraint, tender to rude sorrow. Do not put on her faith such trials as I have borne, lest her heart bend not under them, but break at once."

When she had done speaking, she turned to her closet, where all these years she had kept the simple russet gown which she had worn on the day Duke Walter wooed her, and laying aside her velvet robes, her laces, and jewels, she put it on, went before the duke again, ready to depart from the palace forever. But he had one request to make of her. It was that she would stay to superintend the bride's coming, to see that the feast was prepared, the wedding chamber ready, and the guests made welcome, because none so well as she knew the management of the affairs in the palace.

Then Griselda went among the servants and saw that the feast was made, and all things were in order, concealing her aching heart under a face which tried to smile. When at evening she heard the fickle people shouting in the streets, and saw the roses strewn as they had been on her wedding-day, then the tears began to fall, and her soul sank within her. But at that moment the duke called, "Griselda, where is Griselda?"

On this, she came forth into the great feast chamber from whence he called. At the head of the room stood the duke, still handsome and youthful; and on each side of him a noble youth and maiden, both fresh, blooming and beautiful.

A sudden faintness overcame Griselda at the sight. She grew dizzy, and would have fallen, if Duke Walter had not quickly caught her in his arms.

"Look up, Griselda, dear wife," he cried, "for thou art my dear wife, and all I shall ever claim. I have tried enough thy faith and patience. Know, truly, that I love thee most dear; and these are thy children returned to thee, whom for so many years I have cruelly kept hid from thee."

When Griselda heard these words, as one who hears in a dream, she fell into a deep swoon, from which for a time neither the voice of her husband, nor the tears and kisses of her children, could rouse her. But when she was brought back to life, to find herself in the arms of her lord, and meet the loving looks of her children, she was speedily her calm and gentle self again.

Then they led her to her chamber, and put on her richest robes, and a crown of jewels on her head; and, radiant with happiness, all the beauty of her girlhood seemed to come back to her face. Nay, a greater beauty than that of girlhood; for, softened by heavenly patience, her face was sweet as an angel's. From that time forth the duke strove, by every look and deed, and tender word, to make amends for her hard trials. And to all ages will her story be known, and in all poetry will she be enshrined as the sweet image of wifely patience, the incomparable Griselda.



"Hold him tight, Sid!"

"I'm a-holding, Dave!"

The two-year colt, Rix, lay on the ground. Sid was holding tightly to the lasso, while Dave was trying to put the points of a pair of small nippers into Rix's right eye. Rix had objected very much, but Dave was determined; he knew something was wrong with that eye.

"There!" said Dave at last, holding up the nippers. "See? Fox-tail, just's I thought. Got it in his eye."

Dave jumped up, holding the piece of fox-tail grass yet in the nippers. Sid relaxed the lasso, and Rix rose slowly to his feet. The colt shut his eyes, and shook his head, as if wondering whether the agonizing fox-tail was really out at last.

"Poor fellow!" said Sid.

"I knowed that was it," asserted Dave. "I see something was the matter with his eye when he come in this noon."

Rix, released, trotted away.

"Guess he'll stay out of fox-tail after this," said Sid.

"I dunno," said Dave. "Critters walk right into trouble with their eyes wide open. I'm going to make bread now."

Sid followed into the shanty, and watched Dave stir together sour milk and soda for bread. The ranch was away in the hills, much too far from any town for visits from the baker's wagon. The treeless hills were the ranging-place of cattle and horses. Far away in the valley Sid could see the river-bed. It was dry now, but Dave said that if one dug down anywhere in the sand, one could find a current of water a few feet below the surface. Dave always knew things. Sid liked to hear him talk. All this country was new to Sid.

"Does your bread always rise?" he asked.

"If it don't I give it to the chickens," said Dave, putting in some more soda. "Tried yeast-cakes, but I couldn't make them work."

"Is fox-tail grass much bother to folks?" questioned Sid, seeing Rix from the door.

"Awful!" said Dave. "Gets in the hogs' eyes, and the sheep's too. Sheep-men try to burn the fox-tail off the pasture land, and the fire runs into the farmers' grain, lots of times. That's what makes farmers hate sheep-men so. Folks down 'n the valley round up the hogs every June to pick fox-tail out of their eyes. If they didn't, half the hogs'd go blind."

"Round up?" questioned Sid.

"Drive 'em together," explained Dave. "You'll see a round-up of my cattle 'fore long. Got to go out and hunt the hills for 'em, and drive 'em away down to the railroad. The other men are going to do it on their ranches too. Takes about a day for us little cattle-men to round up, and then about two days more to drive them down to the railroad. Big cattle-men it takes longer."

"You like it?" asked Sid.

Dave laughed.

"Well 'nough," he said. "We stop, you know, and have a good time on the road every little while."

"What do you do?" questioned Sid.

"Oh! drink—some," answered Dave.

"You don't though—do you?" asked Sid.

"Oh! well—some," said Dave slowly, as he poked the fire. "Have to drink with other men, you know. They wouldn't think I was friendly if I didn't."

Sid looked troubled. Dave never used to drink when he worked for Sid's father two or three years before, on the fruit ranch up country.

Dave's bread was done. There were yellow streaks in it, but Sid ate it.

"The principal thing's to get something to eat when your [Transcriber's note: you're?] ranching," apologized Dave.

About a week after this the round-up began.

"You take Rix," said Dave. "I'll take another horse, and we'll hunt the cattle up."

In and out of the gullies they rode, here and there through the hills. Late in the afternoon all the cattle that were to be shipped were together. The moon rose full and bright, making the hills almost as light as day. Sid and Dave stood by the shanty, looking back at the corral, where the cattle were.

"We'll start early to-morrow morning, Sid," said Dave. "Guess we'll meet some of the other ranchers on the road, most likely. You tired? Musn't let one day's riding use you up. We'll be two days going down, and one coming back. We can ride nights some, maybe. It'll be pleasant."

Next night they were part way down the hills, far enough so that they were leaving the bare portions behind, and entering the live-oak districts. Sid stood in the moonlight by an oak, and watched some of the men. They sat around a little fire, and played cards and drank. Out in the moonlight were other men, taking charge of the droves of cattle. Sid could see horns and heads, and once in a while a man would come to the fire and drink and joke with the others. Dave came after a time. He saw Sid with Rix by the tree. Sid had tied the horse there.

"Come over to the fire, and get warm," said Dave.

Sid went. One of the men held out a bottle to Dave. He took it, and drank.

"Give some to the youngster," said the man good-naturedly. "He's tired driving cattle, I reckon."

Dave looked at Sid, but Sid shook his head.

"Too fine to drink with us cowboys?" asked the man by the fire.

"Let him alone," said Dave. "He ain't going to drink if he don't want to."

Sid went back to his tree. He put an old gray quilt around him, and lay down. Then he remembered. He rose again, and knelt in the dark by the tree trunk. He asked God to keep the cattle from injuring anybody, and to keep the men and Dave from becoming very drunk. Sid was afraid.

He lay down again. Once in a while he looked over toward the fire. Dave came to it sometimes, and always one or the other of the men offered him a bottle. Sometimes Dave acted as though he were going to refuse; but the other men always joked, and then Dave drank.

"Why doesn't he stay away from the fire if he doesn't want to drink?" thought Sid. "Maybe he's cold. I wonder if mother—"

He went to sleep.

Next day they drove the cattle again a long, long way. At last they came to a town. There was the railroad, and there were the stock cars. When the cattle were on board, Dave and Sid jumped on their horses.

"Want to stay in town over night?" asked Dave. "Like a little change from the hills?"

"Let's go and get something to eat," said one of the other men, who rode up. "I want somethin' different from ranch cookin'. Ain't a first-class cook myself."

Sid was glad to eat bread that did not have yellow streaks in it. He was glad to have some meat, too. But, after eating, the other man said to Dave:

"Come take a drink."

They were on the sidewalk, untying their horses. Sid pulled Dave by the sleeve.

"Don't," whispered Sid.

Dave stopped and smiled.

"Come on!" said the other man.

"I don't get down to town only once in a while," said Dave. "Never drink other times, Sid."

He went with the man. Sid waited; it seemed to him that he had to wait a long time.

"Round-ups are bad things for Dave," thought he. "Mother'd be sorry."

There was a great noise from the saloon on the corner. Pretty soon Dave came out. He looked very white as he came to the place where the boy waited. Dave leaned against Rix, and groaned.

"What's the matter?" asked Sid in alarm.

"It's my arm," said Dave, growing whiter. "There was a fight—in that place—somehow. They knocked against me. I fell. One man fell on top of me and my arm was sort of doubled up under me. It hurts—awful. I don't know whether it's sprained—or broken—or—"

They had to stay in town a week before they could go back to the ranch. When they went back Dave had his arm in a sling.

"It's a good thing the twenty-three tons of hay are in," said Sid. "You couldn't do much with that arm."

Dave did not say anything.

Next Sunday night Sid sat in the door of the shanty on the ranch. He was singing to himself a little. "Safely through another week," he hummed. His mother always sang that Sundays at home. Sid was a bit homesick Sundays in the hills.

Dave came and sat down by Sid, and looked out at the sunset and the dry river away down in the valley. Rix came trotting up near the shanty.

"He's a smart colt—ain't he?" said Sid. "He hasn't been bothered with fox-tail since that day you'n and I took that piece out of his eye. He's kept his eyes away from the stuff, whether he's meant to or not. Do you suppose he has as much sense as that?"

"Critters ain't the only things that walk into trouble with their eyes open," said Dave. "I ain't goin' to let Rix be smarter than I be. I'm goin' to keep out of trouble, too, Sid. I ain't goin' to drink no more, ever."

"Not round-up times?" asked Sid.

"Not round-up times, nor other times, if God will help me," said Dave, soberly.

"He will," said Sid. "Oh, I'm so glad!"


It was on a morning of May, 1613, that a lady, still young, might be seen, followed by her two children, going toward the cemetery of a village near Haerlem. The pale cheeks of this lady, her eyes red with weeping, her very melancholy face, bespoke one of those deep sorrows over which Time might fling its flowers, but it would be all in vain. Her children, the elder of whom was barely four years old, accompanied her, with the carelessness natural to their age. Indeed, they were astonished to see their noble mansion still in mourning, and their mother and themselves in mourning also, though a melancholy voice had said to them one day, when they were shown a bier covered with funereal pall, "Children, you have no more a father."

A month after this they were playing as gaily as ever. Can it be that the griefs of our early years are so terrible that heaven will not permit them to dwell in remembrance? It may be so; but at all events those children forgot for whom they had been put into mourning.

As that lady arrived at the little cemetery gate, the passers-by asked aloud (for curiosity respects neither modesty nor grief) who might be that lady who passed on so sadly, and who it seemed had good cause for her sadness.

And an old beggar-woman said, "That lady passing by is the widow of John Durer, who died this three months gone, and who was in his time Minister to his Majesty the Emperor."


John Durer belonged to the family of a poor shepherd. He worked hard as a scholar, but even when he was at play he showed a violent disposition to domineer over the rest. He seemed to be devoured with ambition: at all events he carried off every prize at school. By the time he was fifteen he was the admiration, he was the pride, of all his masters. But John was not loved by his schoolmates; he displayed a vanity which repelled them, which sometimes provoked them. He made few friendships, spoke freely with few, and looked haughtily down on such of his little companions as were less happily gifted than he was. His words were short, his look was cold, and the pride in which he shut himself up on purpose, made him unapproachable. He lived by himself.

One evening this young Durer, feeling, even more than usually, the necessity of solitude and meditation, went out into the country, dreaming, no doubt, of the grandeur to which his pride aspired, and which he was hopeless of ever reaching; for his face was sad, and he walked with a slow step, as does some discouraged traveler on a road without end, toward something in the distance that perpetually escapes him. At last he stopped in a hollow, called the Valley of Bushes, on account of the gigantic white-thorn trees that grew there. He sat down in their shadow: a small bird was fluttering about, and singing blithely overhead; but he did not hear her.

When the storm is loud, all natural sounds are silenced. Thus it was with Durer; the throbbing of ambition in every vein with him absorbed all the sweeter melodies which should charm the heart and fancy of youth.

He was dreaming of fame and fortune. How to rise was his sole thought; and it was not probable, except by some very rare circumstance and chance, that his dream should be realized; for in those days of the world, at least, it was thought that a shepherd's son should have a shepherd's tastes. The young man did not see a single path open in which he could plant his foot—one was barred by wealth, another by position, another by birth. All that he could dream of was some blest chance that should break down for him one of these barriers. He was sullen, afflicted, ashamed, indignant, and alarmed,—above all, when he thought of one thing—that thing was his poverty.

For this had the shepherd of the village near Haerlem labored twenty years; for this had he spent the savings of those twenty years, in giving an education to this young nobleman.

John was buried deep in these reveries—too deep for his age—when some one came up smiling to him. This was a little, fat, chubby-faced man, as round as a barrel, with a low brown hat on his head. He had on a large brown cloak, a handsome yellow doublet, black breeches in the old fashion, and square-toed glossy shoes, with large roses of purple ribbon. The glance of this man, whose hair was already becoming gray, was keen and penetrating. Though his lips were thick, there was an open, honest expression about his mouth; while his clear eyes and sharply-cut eyebrows seemed to belong to a man of strict uprightness.

"I do not like to see youth melancholy," said the little man, coming close to John Durer, and examining him—"it is a sign of the disease too common among young people—which is a desire to be something and somebody before they are well born into the world. I would bet my fortune against this boy's dreams that he is already an old scholar. Plague take those parents who fill their children's heads with learning ere they have made men of them! who neglect all care to form a character, and think only how to bring forward the understanding!—Vanity kills right feeling!"

Mumbling thus to himself, the little man went up to John, and began to question him. The dreamer started as if a thunderbolt had fallen close to his elbow.

"Young man, how far is it from the earth to the sun?"

"Thirty-three millions of leagues," replied John, without the least hesitation.

"As if I did not know that he would know," said the little man to himself, with a smile.

"And how long would it take a humming-bird who could fly a league in a minute to get there!"

"Twenty-eight years, sir," was Durer's answer.

"When one calculates so well, and so rapidly, no wonder one is melancholy," said the little man to himself. Then going on—"Who was the greatest man of antiquity?" asked he.


"Who was the wisest?"


"Who was the proudest?"


"Which of these do you like the best?"


"What do you think of the neighbor who obliges his neighbor?"

"I think that the first has the advantage of the second."

The little gentleman considered a moment, and began again—

"What is your father's trade, young man?"

This simple question made Durer blush. He did not say a word in answer. The little man, who was very clear-sighted, said—"This young fellow is ashamed to own that he belongs to a poor shepherd in the village hard by. Bad heart—strong head—detestable nature! This boy will never make anything but a diplomatist." Then, after a moment's reflection, he said to himself—"But it's of no consequence."

The end was, that young Durer went back to the cottage wild with joy. He took leave of his father and his mother, who shed torrents of tears at his leaving them. John was turning his back on the shepherd's cabin for ever: he was to go to Vienna, to finish his studies there. For the little man had put into his hand three purses full of gold, and had said, "I am Counsellor Werter, favorite of his Majesty the Emperor. Your assiduity in study has become known to me. Work on—for aught you know, you may be on the high road."

Three years afterward, Durer entered the office of the Emperor's secretary. Later, he became, himself, private secretary. Later still, he received a barony and a handsome estate.—So much for the prophecies, so much for the secret influence of the Counsellor Werter!

Durer was on the highway paved with gold;—but he forgot his father, and he forgot his mother, too.

One day, when Counsellor Werter was going to court, he met Durer on the staircase of the palace. He said to him,—

"Baron Durer, I sent yesterday, in your name, twelve thousand crowns to a certain old shepherd in a village not far from Haerlem."

The Counsellor said this in rather a scornful voice; and he saw that Baron Durer turned as red as the boy had done in the Valley of the Bushes, on the evening when he was asked what his father's trade was. The two men looked steadily at each other: the Baron with that hatred which is never to be appeased—the Counsellor with bitter indignation.

On the evening of that very day, the Emperor received his faithful old friend, the incorruptible Counsellor, coldly. On the morrow, Werter was not summoned to the palace—nor the day after. Disgrace had fallen on him. He had nourished a serpent in his bosom. He left court, and retired far away, to a small estate which he, too, chanced to possess in the neighborhood of Haerlem.


As to John Durer, he rose to higher and higher dignities. The Emperor, after having made him minister, married him to a noble heiress. About that self-same time, the old shepherd and his wife died. Their village neighbors accompanied them in silence to the humble churchyard. A little man, whose hair was now white as snow, followed the dead with his head uncovered. When the priest had cast on their coffins that handful of dust which sounds so drearily, the old man murmured—

"There are bad sons, who, when they become fortunate, forget the aged parents who cherished them when they were children. May they be requited! for of such is not the kingdom of heaven."—Then he knelt down by the side of the grave and prayed.

This old man was Counsellor Werter. Wearied of the world, he had retired into obscurity, after having divided the larger part of his splendid fortune among the poor. He was gay, nimble—in the enjoyment of robust health; and many a time would he thank heaven that no children had been born to him, when he thought of the hard-heartedness of John Durer.

Not long after this, on the spot where the shepherd's cabin had stood was seen a magnificent chateau. It had been built so quickly, that it seemed like an enchanted palace. Toward the middle of summer, a fine young lord, a fair noble lady of the castle, and two lovely children, entered the village near to Haerlem in pride and triumph, escorted by the peasants, who had assembled in their honor. That fine young lord was John Durer, first Minister to his Majesty the Emperor of Germany.

It had chanced that heavy losses had befallen Counsellor Werter, which brought him within an inch of ruin. Had it not been for a sister left him who took care of him, the poor old gentleman would have been, indeed, in a miserable plight. A single word spoken by John Durer would have restored his ancient benefactor to court, and replaced him in the Emperor's favor. But vanity is without a heart; and wounded pride never forgives him who has wounded it.


One day the fine young lord took a fancy to go and visit all the spots in which, once on a time, he had dreamed away so many anxious hours. But he would go alone, not choosing that any should witness his meeting with those old friends, the haunts which might reveal to a companion the poverty of his early life. He set forth without attendants, mounted on a magnificent courser. He rode here, he rode there, not feeling even surprised to see everything so much as it was when he had quitted the country. The day began to go down—it was evening—when at last he came to the Valley of Bushes. There was a small bird singing there, just as it sang on that evening long ago. The sight of the white-thorn trees awakened painful recollections in his mind,—no doubt, perhaps, even a pang of remorse; and he spurred his courser in order to get clear of the place. But the animal trembled, snorted, and refused to move a step. He spurred his courser: the animal began to neigh violently.

"Is it some serpent that he sees?" said the fine young lord.

It was a little old man, who stepped out from among the bushes. He was dressed in a black mantle. Out he came, right into the middle of the road, closed his arms on his breast, and said in a dull voice, "Baron Durer, can you tell me what is the distance from a shepherd's hovel to a king's palace?"

"That which there is betwixt the earth and the sun," was the reply of the haughty upstart.

At this, the old man threw his cloak open, and showed himself to the Minister, as he had shown himself twenty years before, on that very spot, to the scholar John Durer. The Counsellor was little changed in appearance, except in his hair, which had been black, and was now white as the snow of winter.

John Durer's visage was mostly pale; but when he recognized that old man, it became as red as blood. It was the third time that he had blushed face to face with his former patron. Then the old man cried in a louder voice,—

"Does the scholar of the village remember one Counsellor Werter?"

"The Minister remembers nothing of the scholar," was the cold and arrogant answer.

"What, then, does he remember?" said the old man, pressing a little nearer.

"NOTHING!" cried the fine young lord, and he buried his spurs in the sides of his courser. They went off at a fierce gallop.


But the fine young lord had only answered the truth. Whether it was from that sudden struggle of pride, and his hard-hearted resolution not to remember the Counsellor who had befriended him formerly or whether the labor of many years had caused it, from that evening, from that moment, the memory of the Emperor's great Minister began to decay. The ambitious designs of the shepherd boy of twenty years ago came back to him; but of all that had befallen him since, John Durer remembered nothing. The hour of requital was begun!


Thanks to his good courser, Baron Durer, the Minister, got home in safety to his chateau. The first person that he met was the baroness. He turned abruptly away from her.

"Whither are you hurrying so fast, my dear baron?" said she, seeing her husband running away from her, which was not his custom, for he was fond of his wife.

"Baron!" was his reply; "to what baron were you calling? I am no baron, madame—though one day, perhaps, I may be. Let us hope I may."

The tone in which he spoke these words terrified the baroness. Her husband immediately afterward left the chateau, and began running as fast as his legs could carry him, neither stopping nor slackening his pace. His head was bent down, like the head of a miser who is seeking about everywhere for the treasure which some one has stolen from him. From that day forward his face assumed a gloomy expression, his color became sallow, his eye haggard; and he began bitterly to complain that heaven had thought fit to send him on earth in a shepherd's form and a shepherd's dress.

Some days later, a messenger from the Emperor's court arrived at the chateau: "May it please my lord Minister," he began—

"I am no Minister," replied Durer, impatiently; "but have patience, sir, have patience; I may be Minister one day." Then he began to walk up and down hastily in the gallery of the chateau, perpetually saying, "I might have been a Minister by this time, sir, if your great ones did not leave men of strong intellect, and ability, and purpose, in the jaws of a misery which eats away the very brain as rust eats away the steel. Why—why, I ask, debar these men from high offices—these men who have nothing—merely out of a prejudice, which is as fatal to the individual as it is deadly to the state?" Then turning sharply on the Emperor's emissary, "Go, and tell your master, sir," said he, "that yesterday I was—I was—I was"—pressing his hand, as he spoke, above his forehead, as though he was trying to find a coronet which had belonged to it. Then rushing away distractedly—"Minister!" cried he, "I am—I was—No, no—I was not—but I soon will be!—Leave me, sir! leave me! leave me!"

Another day, his wretched family, who watched him with terror, overheard him talking to his gardener: "What a magnificent piece of work you are laying out, my good boy," said Durer; "a garden admirably designed, if there ever was such a thing." Then casting a disturbed glance toward the chateau, "'Tis a grand place, this," said he; "rich and elegant, and capitally situated—to whom does it belong, Joseph?"

"My lord baron knows right well that park, gardens, and chateau, belong to his noble self," said the gardener, leaning on his spade, and raising his cap.

Durer began to laugh to himself—but it was a piteous laugh—"Belong to me, my good boy!" said he; "not yet—not yet—and yet it seems to me as if I had owned—as if I had owned"—and he passed his hand over his forehead, as if he could call back some recollection which had drifted away out of his reach—murmuring, after a pause, "Is it to be this shepherd's hovel—for ever?—for ever?—for ever?" He fell on a turf seat, sobbing bitterly; then raising his head, he saw his two fair little children, who were at play in one of the alleys of the park.

"What lovely children!" sighed he; "ah!—he must, at least, be happy, whoever he be, that is father to such a pair of angels!"

The children came and flung themselves, laughing, into the Minister's arms, and hung about him with all manner of tender caresses. In return, he could but press their tiny hands in his, or let his lean, feverish fingers play with their golden curls. They kept calling him "Father."

"What are they saying!" murmured the Baron; "the blessing of being called father I shall never know! What is life—without a home, without a family round me! But these gifts only belong to fortune, and come with it." Then looking from one lovely little creature to another, with his dim and bloodshot eyes, he said, "And yet these children—these children—" He could not finish his sentence, but again passed his hand over his forehead; and the children became silent and awe-stricken, for they saw that he was weeping to himself.

Not long after this, he ceased to know his wife, whom he called for without ceasing; then he would bury himself deep in reading, without recollecting a word of what he had read when he had ended. All that was left to him was the memory of his young desires; the power of retaining anything had passed away utterly. His ardor began to change into frenzy; he was devoured with fever, and haunted with dream after dream that tempted him to pursue them, and mocked him at the very moment when he thought that he had reached them. The struggle wore him out, life and limb. He was seen day by day to wither, and grow weaker. The end was not far. On the last day of his illness, a strange fancy seized him: he would get up—rushed out of the chateau, and began to run wildly across the country, as if he were chasing something before him that no one, save himself could see. "Sire!" cried he, hoarsely, "deliver me from the obscurity of this shepherd's life! Sire! do listen to me! I am John Durer! I have studied everything! I have learned everything! I have fathomed everything! Raise me from my lowly condition, sire! Who knows? one day you may have no one among your servants more devoted, more enlightened, than your poor John Durer!"

The thing that he pursued, fled—fled. Durer ran after it more wildly as he grew weaker, trying to raise his voice higher and higher, and stretching out his arms more and more eagerly. They were now at the Valley of Bushes. "Sire!" cried he once again.

"John Durer, scholar, of the village near Haerlem," replied a voice from the shadows of the wood, "his Majesty the Emperor does not love people who have lost their memory."

The whole past—the long, long, years of his ambitious and glorious and ungrateful life—seemed in one instant to come back, as in a flash of lightning, before the weary, distracted man; and with this, too, the consciousness of his present state. He uttered one terrible cry, and fell down dead.


Three months later, when his orphans were led by their mother a second time to visit the humble cemetery of the village near Haerlem, they found a little old man writing rapidly, with a piece of charcoal, a few strange words on the stone under which the body of their father, the Minister, had been laid. When they came close to the spot, the old man ceased, and pointed out to them, with an awful look, that which he had written. After the inscription, "John Durer, formerly Minister to his Majesty the Emperor of Germany," the old man had written—

"Heaven requites ingratitude."



For more than a hundred miles, I had traveled, having the entire seat to myself.

Aside from the selfishness of the average traveler, who, while unwilling to pay for more sitting, is more than willing to monopolize the whole seat, I was glad of plenty of elbow room to enable me to answer some pressing letters.

But as the car began to fill up, I knew the bag at my side must soon give way to another kind of neighbor, and presently down the aisle he came. From a perpendicular standpoint he was small, but horizontally, he was immense, and I viewed his approach with some alarm.

There was a merry twinkle in his eye, and his face beamed with good nature as he said, "Ah, I see you have room for a wedge at your side; allow me to put it in place." With considerable effort and a good deal of tight squeezing, he at last settled down in the seat, remarking, with a merry laugh, "Here I am at last;" and there I was too, and there I was likely to remain, if that wedge did not fly out, or the side of the car give way.

"Have you room enough?" I slyly inquired.

"Plenty of room, thank you," he replied; "I trust you are nice and snug."

"Never more snug in my life."

"That's right; the loose way in which most people travel is a continual menace to life and limb. I believe in keeping things snug, spiritually, physically, socially, financially and politically snug. And if things are spiritually snug, all the others must be so, as a matter of course. I learned that fact years ago in England."

"Are you an Englishman," I inquired.

"No, sir; I'm a Presbyterian" he laughingly replied; "my father was born in England, my mother was born in Ohio, and I was born the first time in New Jersey. Then on a visit to England I was 'born again.' My father was a Methodist; my mother was a Quaker, so of course I had to be a Presbyterian."

His unctuous laughter made the seat tremble. "Not a blue one, mind you. Blue? Not a bit of it. Why, bless you, when I became a Christian, all the blue went out of my heart and went into my sky.

"My father was physically large—I take after him. My mother—" he stopped abruptly and lifted his hat reverently; the tears filled his eyes and coursed down his cheeks, and presently, with choking voice he continued:

"My mother, God bless her memory, was the best woman and the grandest Christian I ever knew. She lives in heaven, and she lives in my heart. I would that I were as much like mother spiritually as I resemble father physically."

The tender pathos of his voice, as he said this, made me feel that his sainted mother, were she present, would have no reason to feel ashamed of her son.

As he was about to replace his hat on his head, I noticed in large letters pasted on the lining, these words, "Hinder nobody—help everybody."

"Excuse me, sir;" I said, as I pointed to the words, "what is the meaning of that?"

Quickly the tears on his cheeks, were illuminated by a smile as he said—"That's my watchword; I carry it in my hat, have it hung up on my wall at home, and since I went into my present business, I've tried to make it the daily practice of my life."

"May I inquire what your business is?"

"Certainly, sir, my business is serving the Lord, and there is no business like it in the universe. It pays good dividends, brings me no worry, insures me a good standing in the best society; feeds me on the fat of the land, fills my heart with peace and makes me an heir to a kingdom, a robe and a crown. Bankruptcy and bad debts never stare me in the face, and every draft I draw is honored at the bank. Thus, I 'hinder nobody,' and am able to 'help every body.'"

"Where do you reside?" I asked.

"On Pisgah's top"—and his face fairly shone as he repeated it—"on Pisgah's top. At first I lived down in the valley among Ezekiel's dry bones, and used to help the multitudes sing—

"'Could we but climb where Moses stood, And view the landscape o'er: Not Jordan's stream nor death's cold flood, Should fright us from the shore.'

"But I moved on and up to my present residence, and now I sing—

"'From Pisgah's top, the promised land, I now exult to see: My hope is full, oh, glorious hope, Of immortality.'

"But I beg your pardon, sir; am I crowding you?"

"Crowding me? not a bit of it. I trust I shall always have room for company like you."

"Thank you, sir, thank you. I'm only a wedge"—with a merry laugh—"but I try to fill every opening the Lord shows me. Excuse me but how far are you going?"

"I get off at Albany," I replied. He looked at me as if taking my measure, and, after a moment he said:

"I hope you are not a member of the legislature."

"No, sir," I said, "I'm a Methodist."

"Give me your hand. I am so glad to know you are going in the opposite direction. A man may go to heaven by way of the legislature, but I would as soon think of going where I could get cholera in order to secure good health, as expect to serve God by becoming a member of the legislature. Ah, here is Albany! Good day, sir; don't forget the wedge. And if you will, I wish you would remember the watchword—'Hinder nobody—Help everybody.'"




On a certain high festival, which was set apart by Saxon monarchs for receiving the petitions of the poor, and the appeals of such of their subjects as had any cause of complaint, the great King Athelstane sat enthroned in royal state, to listen to the applications of all who came to prefer their suits to him.

In one corner of the hall stood a noble-looking Saxon lady dressed in deep mourning, and holding a little boy by the hand. The lady was evidently a widow, and of high rank, for she wore a widow's hood and barb—the barb, a piece of white lawn, that covered the lower part of the face, being worn only by widows of high degree. The little boy, too, was also arrayed in black attire; his youthful countenance bore an expression of the utmost grief, and his large blue eyes were full of tears. This sorrowful pair did not press forward like the other petitioners, but kept at a modest distance from the throne, evidently waiting for the king to give them some encouraging signal before they ventured to approach him.

The royal Athelstane's attention was at length attracted by the anxious glances which both mother and son bent upon him; and as he perceived that they were in distress, he waved his hand for them to draw near.

"Who are ye?" said the king, when the mournful widow and her son, in obedience to his encouraging sign, advanced, and bowed the knee before him.

"Will my royal lord be graciously pleased to answer me one question before I reply to that which he has asked of me?" said the Saxon lady.

"Speak on," replied King Athelstane.

"Is it just that the innocent should suffer for the guilty, O King?" said she.

"Assuredly not," replied the king.

"Then, wherefore," said the Saxon lady, "hast thou deprived my son, Wilfrid, of his inheritance, for the fault of his father? Cendric has already paid the forfeit of his life for having unhappily leagued himself with a traitor who plotted against thy royal life; but this boy, his guiltless orphan, did never offend thee! Why, then, should he be doomed to poverty and contempt?"

"It was the crime of the traitor Cendric, not my will, that deprived his son of his inheritance," said the king.

"I acknowledge it with grief, my royal lord," said Ermengarde, for that was the name of the Saxon widow; "but it rests with thy good pleasure to restore to his innocent child the forfeit lands of the unhappy Cendric."

"Is this boy the son of the traitor Cendric?" asked the king, placing his hand on the head of the weeping Wilfrid.

"He is, my gracious lord," replied Ermengarde. "He has been carefully brought up in the fear of God, and I, his widowed mother, will be surety to thee, that the boy shall serve thee truly and faithfully all the days of his life if thou wilt but restore him to his inheritance."

"Widow of Cendric, listen to me," said the king. "Thy husband plotted with traitors to deprive me of my crown and my life; and the laws of his country, which he had broken, doomed him to death, and confiscated his lands and castles to my use. I might retain them in my own hands, if it were my pleasure so to do; but I will only hold them in trust for thy son, whom I will make my ward, and place in the college at Oxford. If he there conducts himself to my satisfaction, I will, when he comes of age, restore to him the forfeited lands of his father, Cendric."

Ermengarde and Wilfrid threw themselves at the feet of the gracious Athelstane, and returned their tearful thanks for his goodness.

"Wilfrid," said the king, "your fortunes are now in your own hands; and it depends on your own conduct whether you become a mighty thane or a landless outcast. Remember, it is always in the power of a virtuous son to blot out the reproach which the crimes of a wicked parent may have cast upon his name."

The words of King Athelstane were as balm to the broken spirit of the boy, and they were never forgotten by him in all the trials, many of them grievous ones, which awaited him in after-life.

King Athelstane, and his brother, Prince Edwin, were sons of King Edward, surnamed the Elder, the son and successor of Alfred the Great. After a glorious reign, Edward died in the year of our Lord 925, and at his death a great dispute arose among the nobles as to which of his sons should succeed him in the royal dignity.

Athelstane had early distinguished himself by his valor in battle, his wisdom in council, and by so many princely actions, that he was the darling of the people. His grandfather, the great Alfred, had, therefore, on his death-bed adjudged Athelstane to be the most suitable of all Edward's sons to reign over England. There were, however, some of the Saxon lords who objected to Athelstane being made king, because he was born before King Edward's royal marriage with the reigning queen; Athelstane's mother, Egwina, having been only a poor shepherd's daughter. They wished, therefore, that Prince Edwin, the eldest son of King Edward's queen, should be declared king; but as Edwin was very young, the people decided on crowning Athelstane, he being of a proper age to govern.

This election was very displeasing to some of the proud Saxon lords; and Cendric, the father of Wilfrid, had been among those who conspired with a wicked traitor of the name of Alfred, to take away the life of Athelstane. The conspiracy was discovered, and all who were engaged in it were punished with death.

The college in which Wilfrid was placed at Oxford, had been founded by Alfred the Great, for the education of the youthful nobles and gentles of the land. It had been deemed the most proper place for the education of the king's younger brother, Prince Edwin, and some other royal wards, for the most part sons of Anglo-Saxon and Danish nobles, whose persons and estates had been committed to the guardianship of the king during their minority. King Athelstane, who, like his grandfather, Alfred the Great, was very desirous of promoting learning, had provided suitable masters for their instruction in every branch of knowledge, leaving, therefore, men of distinguished learning and of great wisdom to conduct the education, and form the minds and morals of this youthful community; and being himself engaged in the cares of government, and in repelling the attacks of the Danes, the king limited his further attention to occasional inquiries after the health and improvement of his brother and the rest of the royal wards.

He had, indeed, taken the pains to draw up the rules which he deemed proper to be observed in this juvenile society. One of the most important of these, namely, that a system of perfect equality should be observed toward all the individuals of whom it was composed, was, however, soon violated in favor of Prince Edwin, who, because he was the Atheling, as the heir apparent to the throne was called in those days, was honored with peculiar marks of distinction. Every person in the college, from the masters to the humblest servitor, appeared desirous of winning the favor of the future sovereign, and of this Edwin too soon became aware.

Prince Edwin was the leader of the sports, and no amusement was adopted unless his approbation had previously been asked and obtained. All disputed matters were referred to his decision, and no appeal from his judgment was permitted.

It would have afforded subject of serious reflection, perhaps of jealous alarm, to the king had he been aware of the injudicious courses which were pursued by those around Prince Edwin; but Athelstane was engaged in bloody wars with the Danes and the insurgent Welsh princes, which kept him far remote from Oxford. His brother, meanwhile, continued to receive the most pernicious flattery from every creature around him, except Wilfrid, the son of Cendric, who, by order of King Athelstane, had been appointed his page of honor.

When Wilfrid was first admitted into the college he was treated with great scorn by the royal wards. Among them were many who, in the pride of circumstance and the vanity of youth, were so unkind as to cherish disdainful feelings against the unfortunate Wilfrid, and to murmur at his introduction into their society.

Prince Edwin was, however, of a more generous disposition, and by extending his favor and protection to the forlorn youth, rendered his residence in the college less irksome than it otherwise would have been. But the very affection with which Wilfrid was regarded by his young lord had the effect of increasing the hostile feeling of the others against him; and in the absence of the Atheling, he had to endure a thousand bitter taunts and cruel insults respecting his father's crime and the ignominious death he had suffered.

Wilfrid was too noble-minded to complain to his young lord of this treatment, although he felt it deeply. It required all his firmness and forbearance to endure it patiently; but he remembered the words of King Athelstane—"that his future fortunes depended upon his own conduct;" and he resolved, under all circumstances, to persevere in the path of duty; and, if possible, by his own virtues to blot out the remembrance of his father's fault. He was also duly impressed with a grateful sense of the king's goodness in extending to him the advantages of a liberal and courtly education; of which he wisely determined to make the most he could. By unremitting exertions, he soon made so rapid a progress in his studies that he outstripped all his fellow-students; and, though the youngest boy in the college, he obtained the highest place of all, except the seat of honor, which his partial preceptors allowed Prince Edwin to retain.

Prince Edwin loved Wilfrid, and took real pleasure in witnessing his repeated triumphs over those who regarded him with such unkindly feelings. But Prince Edwin himself was proud and capricious—his naturally frank and noble disposition having been spoiled by the adulation of those about him; and Wilfrid was, perhaps, more than any other person, exposed to suffer from his occasional fits of passion. Yet Wilfrid was the only person who ventured to represent to him the folly and impropriety of conduct so unbecoming in any one, but peculiarly unwise in a prince, who, on account of his elevated rank, and the respect with which he was treated, is required to practice universal courtesy, and to avoid, if possible, giving offence to any one.

Prince Edwin, though often piqued at the plain dealing of his page, knew how to value his sincerity and attachment. However he might at times give way to petulance toward him, he treated him, on the whole, with greater consideration, and paid more attention to his opinions than to those of any other person. The regard of Prince Edwin for his page was, however, soon observed with jealous displeasure by one of the royal wards, named Brithric, who was older by two or three years than any of the other young companions of the prince.


Brithric was a youth of a specious and deceitful character: it was his practice to dissemble his real sentiments, and to recommend himself by flattering speeches to the favor of his superiors. By constantly addressing Prince Edwin in the language of adulation, he succeeded in rendering his company very agreeable to him; for the prince's besetting sin was vanity, and the artful Brithric was only too well skilled in perceiving and taking advantage of the weak points of others.

Wilfrid beheld this growing intimacy with pain; nor did he attempt to conceal his uneasiness whenever the prince spoke to him on the subject of his evident dislike of the society of Brithric. "I do not respect Brithric, my lord," replied Wilfrid; "and where esteem is wanting, there can be no true grounds for forming friendships."

"And what are your reasons, Wilfrid, for denying your esteem to Brithric?" said the prince. "He is obliging, and often says very agreeable things to you."

"It costs more to win my esteem than a few unmeaning compliments, which Brithric is accustomed to pay to every one with whom he is desirous of carrying his point," said Wilfrid.

"And what should Brithric, who is the heir of the richest thane in my brother's court, want to gain of a poor, landless orphan who owes his sustenance and education to the compassion of King Athelstane?" retorted the prince, angrily.

The pale cheek of Wilfrid flushed with unwonted crimson at this unexpected taunt from the lips of his young lord. It was with difficulty that he restrained the tears which filled his eyes from overflowing, but turning meekly away, he said—

"It is the first time the Atheling has condescended to upbraid his page with the bounty of his royal brother, the generous Athelstane, whom may heaven long preserve and bless."

"It is good policy, methinks, for the son of a traitor to speak loudly of his loyalty to the mighty Athelstane," said Brithric, who, having entered unperceived, was listening to this conversation.

"Nay, Brithric," said the prince, "Wilfrid could not help his father's fault; though the remembrance of his crime and punishment ought to restrain him from offering his opinion too boldly, when speaking of the friends of his lord."

"Let every one be judged by his own deeds," replied Wilfrid. "My unfortunate parent offended against the laws of his country, and has suffered the penalty decreed to those who do so by the loss of life and forfeiture of lands. As a further punishment, I, his only child, who was born the heir of a fair patrimony, am reared in a state of servitude and sorrow, and am doomed not only to mourn my early bereavement of a father's care and my hard reverse of fortune, but to endure the taunts of those who are unkind enough to reproach me with the sore calamities which, without any fault of mine, have fallen upon my youthful head."

The voice of Wilfrid failed him as he concluded, and he burst into a flood of tears.

The heart of Prince Edwin smote him for the pain he had inflicted upon his faithful page; but he was too proud to acknowledge his fault. He could not, however, bear to look upon his tears; so he left him to indulge them in solitude, and, taking the ready arm of Brithric, strolled into the archery ground to amuse himself by shooting at a mark.

His hand was unsteady and his aim uncertain that day, yet Brithric's voice was louder than ever in praising the skill of the Atheling. The rest of the royal wards took their cue from the bold flatterer, and addressed to the prince the most extravagant compliments every time his arrow came near the mark, which they all purposely abstained from hitting.

At that moment the pale, sorrowful Wilfrid crossed the ground; but, wishing to escape the attention of the joyous group, he kept at a distance. The prince, however, observed him, and willing to obliterate the remembrance of his late unkindness, called to him in a lively voice: "Come hither, Wilfrid," said he, "and tell me if you think you could send an arrow nearer to yonder mark than I have done."

"Certainly," replied Wilfrid, "or I should prove myself but a bad archer."

The group of youthful flatterers, who surrounded the heir of the throne, smiled contemptuously at the unguarded sincerity of the page in speaking the truth thus openly and plainly to his lord.

"Wilfrid, if we may believe his own testimony, is not only wiser and better than any of the servants of the Atheling," said Brithric scornfully, "but excels even the royal Atheling himself, in all the exercises of princely skill."

"He has yet to prove his boast," replied the prince, coloring with suppressed anger; "but give him his bow, Brithric," continued he, "that we may all have the advantage of taking a lesson from so peerless an archer."

"It is far from my wish presumptuously to compete with my lord," replied Wilfrid, calmly rejecting the bow.

"He has boasted that which he cannot perform," said Brithric, with an insulting laugh.

"You are welcome to that opinion, Brithric, if it so please you," said Wilfrid, turning about to quit the ground.

"Nay," cried the prince, "you go not till you have made good your boast, young sir, by sending an arrow nearer to the mark than mine."

"Ay, royal Atheling," shouted the company, "compel the vaunter to show us a sample of his skill."

"Rather, let my lord, the Atheling, try his own skill once more," said Wilfrid; "he can hit the mark himself, if he will."

Prince Edwin bent his bow, and this time the arrow entered the centre of the target. The ground rang with the plaudits of the spectators.

"Let us see now if Wilfrid, the son of Cendric, the traitor, can equal the Atheling's shot," shouted Brithric.

"Shoot, Wilfrid, shoot!" cried more than twenty voices among the royal wards.

"I have no wish to bend the bow to-day," said Wilfrid.

"Because you know that you must expose yourself to contempt by failing to make your vaunt good," said Brithric; "but you shall not escape thus lightly."

"Nothing but the express command of the prince, my master, will induce me to bend my bow to-day," said Wilfrid.

"Wilfrid, son of Cendric, I, Edwin Atheling, command thee to shoot at yonder mark," said the prince.

Wilfrid bowed his head in obedience to the mandate. He fitted the arrow to the string, and stepping a pace backward, took his aim and bent the bow. The arrow flew unerringly, and cleft in twain that of Prince Edwin which already remained fixed in the centre of the mark.

This feat of skillful archery on the part of the page called forth no shout, nor even a word of applause, from the partial group of flatterers, who had so loudly commended the Atheling's less successful shots. Their silence, however, was best pleasing to the modest Wilfrid, who, without so much as casting a single triumphant glance upon those who had insulted and reviled him, dropped his bow upon the earth, and, bowing to his royal master, retired from the scene without uttering a syllable.

From that day there was a visible change in the manners of the Atheling toward his page, for his vanity had been piqued by this trifling circumstance, of which the artful Brithric took advantage to irritate his mind against Wilfrid. He now addressed him only in the language of imperious command, and not unfrequently treated him with personal indignity.

Wilfrid felt these things very acutely, and the more so because the former kindness of his youthful lord had won his earliest affections. But he now bore all his capricious changes of temper with meekness. It was only in his unrestrained confidence with his widowed mother that he ever uttered a complaint of the young Atheling, and then he spoke of him in sorrow, not in anger; for he rightly attributed much of Prince Edwin's unamiable conduct to the pernicious influence which the artful Brithric had, through flattery, obtained over his mind.

"Patience, my son," would the widowed Ermengarde say in those moments when Wilfrid sought relief by venting his anguish in tears on the bosom of his tender mother, "patience, my son; true greatness is shown most especially in enduring with magnanimity the crosses and trials which are of every-day occurence. Let sorrow, sickness, or any other adversity touch Prince Edwin, and he will learn the difference between a true friend and a false flatterer. In due time, your worth will be proved, and your victory will be a glorious one: for it will be the triumph of virtue!"


The day which Ermengarde had predicted was close at hand. An infectious fever broke out in the college, which, in several instances, proved fatal to those who were attacked by it, and spread such terror throughout the college that when Prince Edwin fell sick he was forsaken by almost every living creature. His faithful page, Wilfrid, however, watched him day and night, and supplied him with drink and nourishment, which were brought to him by the widow Ermengarde.

For six days the young Atheling was insensible of everything but his own sufferings, and gave no indications of consciousness. On the night of the seventh, as Wilfrid was supporting upon his bosom the head of his afflicted master, and holding a cup of cooling drink to his parched lips, he murmured, "Is it you, my faithful Brithric?"

"No," replied the page, "Brithric is not present, neither hath he entered this chamber, my lord, since the term of your sore sickness commenced."

"Surely, then, he must himself be sick, perhaps dead," said the prince.

"No," replied Wilfrid, with a smile; "he is only fearful of exposing himself to the contagion of the fever."

"Who, then, hath nursed and attended upon me so kindly during these many days of suffering while I have lain here unconscious of everything around me?"

"Your servant Wilfrid," replied the page.

"And where then are my chamberlains and attendants, by whom I ought to be surrounded?" asked the prince, raising his languid head from the bosom of Wilfrid, and looking round the spacious but deserted room of state, in which he lay.

"They are all overcome by the terrors of the contagion," said Wilfrid.

"And why did you not flee from it also, Wilfrid?" asked the prince.

"Because, my lord," said Wilfrid, "I knew that you must perish if I abandoned you."

"Ah! Wilfrid," said the prince, bursting into tears, "I deserve not this goodness from you, for of late I have treated you very unkindly; I know and feel that I have: can you forgive me?"

"Think no more of it, my lord, I pray you," replied Wilfrid, pressing the burning hand of the prince to his lips. "I freely forgive all that has passed, and only wish you to remember it, whenever you feel disposed to yield to the impulses of a defective temper, which, for your own sake, rather than mine, I earnestly hope you will correct."

Prince Edwin bowed his face on the bosom of his faithful page, and wept long and passionately, promising, at the same time, amendment of his faults if ever it should please his Heavenly Father to raise him up from the bed of sickness on which he then lay.

How careful should young people be to perform the resolutions of correcting their evil habits which they make at moments when sickness or adversity brings them to a recollection of their evil propensities. Yet, alas! how often is it that such promises are forgotten, as soon as they find themselves in a condition to repeat their faults.

Thus it was with Prince Edwin. Instead of seeking the assistance of a higher power than his own weak will to strengthen and support him in the right path, he contented himself with saying, "I am determined to begin a fresh course; to correct my hasty, imperious temper; to pursue my studies steadily and perseveringly; and to shun the society of those who, by flattery and false speaking, seek to increase my foolish vanity, and impede my improvement!"

Now it was easy to say all this, but very difficult to put these good resolutions into practice. Prince Edwin, neglecting to implore the Divine aid to strengthen him in their performance, soon yielded to temptation, and in a little time, listened to the pernicious flatteries of Brithric with as much pleasure as he had done before the period of his sickness.

It was to no purpose that the faithful Wilfrid remonstrated with him, and pointed out the fatal consequences that result from listening to the false commendations of those who pay no regard to truth. Prince Edwin loved to hear himself praised, even for those very qualities in which he was most deficient. He grew weary of Wilfrid's admonitions, and frequently reproved him when he ventured to reason with him, or attempted to offer the counsel of a true friend.

Brithric was, as I said before, much older than the prince or any of the royal wards. He was artful and ambitious, and had formed in his heart a wicked project for his own advancement, which was too likely to plunge the country into the horrors of a civil war. This project was no less than that of attempting to induce Prince Edwin to set himself up for king, and to claim the throne as the eldest legitimate son of the late King Edward.

In all this, Brithric was very ungrateful to King Athelstane, who had been very kind to him, and had recently appointed him to the honorable office of his cup-bearer. That employment, however, was not sufficient to content Brithric, who perceived that King Athelstane was too wise a prince to listen to artful flattery or to allow any person of his court to obtain an undue influence over his mind.

"Ah!" said Brithric to himself, "if Edwin were king, I should be his chief favorite. Wealth and honors would be at my disposal; and as he believes everything I say to him I should be able to govern him, and persuade him to do whatever I wished."

Brithric had soon an opportunity of introducing this treasonable project to Prince Edwin; for King Athelstane sent him with a letter to the head of the college; and as soon as he had delivered it he paid a visit to Prince Edwin, whom he found in his own chamber, engaged with Wilfrid in brightening his arrows.

"So, Brithric," said the prince, "do you bring me an invitation to the court of the king, my brother?"

Brithric shook his head, and replied, "No, my prince; King Athelstane has no wish to see you there. Take my word for it, he will never give you an invitation to his court."

"Why not?" asked Prince Edwin, reddening with sudden anger.

"King Athelstane knows that you have a better title to the throne than himself," replied Brithric. "He knows, also, that were his valiant Thames and Ealdormen to see you, they would be very likely to make you king; for you are possessed of far more princely qualities than the base-born Athelstane."

The eyes of Prince Edwin brightened at the words of Brithric, and he grasped the arrow which he had in his hand with the air of one who holds a sceptre. "Fie, Brithric," said Wilfrid, "how can you be so treacherous to your royal master as to speak of him with such disrespect, and to put such dangerous and criminal ideas into the mind of Prince Edwin?"

"Peace, meddling brat," cried Edwin, angrily; "who asked counsel of thee in this matter?"

"There are some things which it would be a crime to hear in silence," replied Wilfrid; "and I implore you, my dear, dear lord, by all the love that once united you and your faithful page in the bonds of friendship, not to listen to the fatal suggestions of the false Brithric."

"False Brithric!" echoed the wily tempter; "I will prove myself the true friend of the Atheling, if he will only give consent to the deed by which I will make him this very day the lord of England."

"Impossible," cried the prince; "you have no power to raise me to the throne of my father Edward, albeit it is my lawful inheritance."

"The usurper Athelstane knows that full well," observed Brithric. "Therefore it is that you are kept here, like a bird in a cage, leading a life of monkish seclusion in an obscure college, instead of learning to wield the battleaxe, to hurl the spear, and rein the war-horse, like a royal Saxon prince."

"The wily tyrant shall find that Edwin the Atheling is not to be so treated," exclaimed the prince, yielding to a burst of passion.

"You have no remedy, my lord," said Brithric; "for the people love the usurper, and know nothing of his imprisoned brother, Edwin, the rightful king of England."

"And shall I always be immured, like a captived thrush?" asked Edwin, indignantly.

"Yes, while Athelstane lives, you must expect no other fate," said Brithric. "But what if Athelstane should die?" continued he, fixing his eyes on the face of the prince.

"Oh! hear him not, my lord," cried Wilfrid, flinging himself at the Atheling's feet; "he would tempt you to a crime as deadly as that of Cain."

"Peace, son of Cendric, the traitor!" exclaimed Prince Edwin, leveling at the same time a blow at his faithful page, which felled him to the earth, where he lay covered with blood, and apparently without sense or motion.

"And now speak on, my loving Brithric," continued the Atheling, without paying the slightest regard to the condition of poor Wilfrid, who was, however, perfectly aware of all that was passing, though, to all appearance, insensible.

"My lord," said Brithric, drawing nearer to the Atheling, "I will now speak plainly. I am the cup-bearer of King Athelstane, and the next time I present the red wine to him at the banquet it shall be drugged with such a draught as shall make Prince Edwin lord of England within an hour after the usurper has swallowed it."

"Traitor, begone!" exclaimed the prince, filled with horror at this dreadful proposal. "I would not stain my soul with the crime of murder, if by such means I could obtain the empire of the world."

Brithric used many wicked arguments to induce Prince Edwin to consent to the murder of his royal brother; but Edwin commanded him to leave his presence, and never to presume to enter it again. The vile wretch, however, alarmed lest the prince should inform the king of the crime he had meditated against him, went to his royal master and accused the Atheling of having endeavored to persuade him to mix poison in the wine cup of his sovereign.

Athelstane, justly indignant at the crime laid to the charge of his royal brother, came with a party of guards to the college. Here, before his preceptors and all the royal wards, his companions, he charged Edwin with having meditated the crime of treason and fratricide.

You may imagine the consternation of the prince on hearing this dreadful accusation. It was to no purpose that he protested his innocence, and called on all his faithful associates to witness for him that he had never uttered an injurious thought against the king. Those who had been most ready to flatter him were silent on this occasion, for they perceived that King Athelstane was persuaded of his brother's guilt; and some of them said, "They remembered that Prince Edwin had often said that he had a better title to the throne than King Athelstane."

Prince Edwin could not deny that he had used these words; but it seemed to him very hard that they should be repeated to the king in the hour of his sore distress. Looking around, with a countenance expressive of mingled sorrow and indignation, he said,—

"Unhappy that I am! they that were my most familiar friends are they that speak against me! Is there no one that can bear me witness that I am guiltless of the crime of plotting to take away my brother's life?"

"I will, though I die for it!" cried a voice, feeble from bodily suffering, but firm in the courageous utterance of truth. It was that of Wilfrid, the page, who, with his countenance still pale and disfigured from the effects of the blow received from Prince Edwin, stood boldly forward to bear witness of the scene which had taken place in his presence between Brithric and the prince.

"Oh, Wilfrid, generous Wilfrid," cried Edwin, bursting into tears, "how nobly do you fulfill the precepts of your heavenly Master by returning good for evil!"

Now Athelstane had been so deeply prejudiced against his unfortunate brother by the wicked Brithric, that he would not listen to Wilfrid's honest evidence. When, therefore, he heard that he was the son of the traitor Cendric, who had been so deeply implicated in Alfred's plot, he was so unjust as to believe all that Brithric said against him. Accordingly, he took Wilfrid, as well as the young Atheling, and carried them prisoners to London. He there put them on board a ship that was lying in the river Thames, and when night came, set sail with them and went out to sea.


Prince Edwin was not greatly alarmed, for he thought the king, his brother, was only going to banish him to some foreign country, where he fondly thought that Wilfrid and himself might live together very happily. But when they were out of sight of land, and the moon had risen over a wild waste of stormy billows, the king had both the prisoners brought upon deck, and he then ordered the captain to put them into a small boat and set them adrift at the mercy of the winds and waves.

It was to no purpose that the wretched Edwin threw himself at his brother's feet, and entreated for mercy. Athelstane only replied, "You tried to persuade my faithful cup-bearer to take my life—your own life, therefore, is forfeited; but, as you are the son of my royal father, I will not shed your blood upon the scaffold. I commit you and your guilty companion, the son of the traitor Cendric, to the mercy of God, who can and will preserve the innocent if it be his good pleasure so to do."

"And to His mercy, not thine, O king! do I, in full confidence of innocence, commend both myself and my unfortunate master," said Wilfrid, as the seamen hurried him, with the weeping Atheling, over the side of the vessel into the little boat that lay tossing and rocking among the tempestuous billows.

When the unhappy youths found themselves alone, without sails or rudder, on the pathless ocean, they sank into each other's arms and wept long and passionately.

At length Wilfrid lifted up his voice and heart in fervent prayer to that Almighty and merciful God, who had delivered Daniel from the lions' den, and preserved his faithful servants, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, unharmed in the fiery furnace. Prince Edwin, on the contrary, gave himself up to despair, and when he saw the king's ship spreading her canvas to the gale, and fast receding from his sight, he uttered a cry that was heard above the uproar of the winds and waves. Starting up in the boat, and extending his arms toward the disappearing vessel, he unwittingly lost his balance, and was in a moment ingulfed in the stormy billows.

We may imagine the anguish and terror of Wilfrid on witnessing the sad fate of his young lord, which he had no power to prevent. Thoughts of his widowed mother's grief for himself, too, came over his mind and filled his eyes with tears, for her, as well as for his ill-fated lord. For himself, however, he felt no fears, even in this dreadful hour, when left companionless on the tempestuous ocean, for his trust was firm and steadfast in the mercies of his Heavenly Father.

That night the winds roared, and the waves raged mightily. Many a gallant bark foundered in the storm, and many a skillful seaman found a watery grave before the morning dawned in the cloudy horizon. But the frail vessel into which the unfortunate Atheling and his page had been thrust, weathered the gale and, with her lonely tenant, Wilfrid, was driven ashore at a place called Whitesande, on the coast of Picardy, in France.

When Wilfrid landed, he was drenched through and through. He was hungry, too, and sorrowful and weary. He knew not where he was, but he failed not to return thanks to that gracious God who had preserved him from the perils of the raging seas to which he had been so awfully exposed, and whose merciful providence, he doubted not, would guide and sustain him in the strange land whither he had been conducted.

Thus meekly, thus nobly, did the young page support himself under this fresh trial. But when the remembrance of the unfortunate Atheling, his royal master, came over him, his heart melted within him; he bowed his face on his knees as he sat all lonely on the sea beach, and he wept aloud, exclaiming—

"Oh, Edwin! royal Edwin! hadst thou patiently trusted in the mercy of God thou slightest, notwithstanding thy late adversity, have lived to wear the crown of thy father Edward." Overpowered by his emotions, he again sank upon the ground.

"Is it of Edwin of England that thou speakest, young Saxon?" asked a soft voice in the sweet familiar language of his own native land.

He raised his head and found that he was surrounded by a party of ladies, one of whom questioned him with an air of eager interest respecting the expressions he had used touching the unfortunate Prince Edwin.

Now this lady was no other than Ogina, Queen of France, the sister of Prince Edwin. Being on a visit at the house of a great lord on the coast of Picardy, she had come down to the beach that morning, with her ladies of honor, to bathe: a custom among ladies, even of the highest rank, in those days. Hearing that a Saxon bark had been driven on shore by the storm, and seeing the disconsolate figure of Wilfrid on the beach, she had drawn near, and, unperceived by the suffering youth, had overheard his melancholy soliloquy.

While Wilfrid related the sad story of his master's untimely fate, the royal lady wept aloud. After he had concluded his melancholy tale, she took him to the castle of which she was herself an inmate, and commended him to the care of her noble host, who quickly attended to all his wants, and furnished him with dry garments.

When Wilfrid had taken due rest and refreshment, the queen requested that he should be brought into her presence. He was, accordingly, ushered into a stately apartment, where Ogina was seated under a crimson canopy, fringed with gold. She bade him draw near, and extended her hand toward him. Being well acquainted with courtly customs, the youth respectfully bowed his knee and humbly kissed the hand of the royal lady, who proceeded to say,—

"Thou hast been found true when the only reward thou didst expect for thy faithfulness was a cruel death. But surely thou hast been conducted by a kind Providence into the presence of one who has both the will and the power to requite thee for thy fidelity to the unfortunate Atheling; for I am his sister, the Queen of France."

"And I have then the honor to stand before the royal Ogina, daughter of my late lord, King Edward, and Queen of King Charles of France?" said Wilfrid, again bowing himself.

"The same," replied the queen, taking a ring of great value from her finger and placing it on that of the page.

"Take this ring," continued she, "in token of my favor; and if thou wilt serve me in one thing, I will make thee the greatest lord in my husband's court."

"Royal lady," said Wilfrid, "I have a widowed mother in my own land whom I cannot forsake; neither would I desert my native country to become a peer of France. But tell me wherein I can be of service to thee, and if it be in my power it shall be done."

"Darest thou," said the queen, "return to England and presenting thyself before my brother Athelstane, thy king, declare to him the innocence and the sad fate of Edwin, the Atheling, his father's son?"

"Lady, I not only dare, but I desire so to do," replied Wilfrid; "for I fear my God, and I have no other fear."

Then the Queen of France loaded Wilfrid with rich presents, and sent him over to England in a gallant ship to bear the mournful tidings of poor Prince Edwin's death to England's king. She thought that when Athelstane should hear the sad tale told in the pathetic language of the faithful page, his heart would be touched with remorse for what he had done.

Now King Athelstane was already conscience-stricken for his conduct toward his brother Edwin. His ship, during the same night that he had compelled him to enter the boat with Wilfrid, was terribly tossed by the tempest, and he felt that the vengeance of God was upon him for his hardness of heart. The crew of the royal vessel had toiled and labored all night, and it was with great difficulty that the ship was at length got into port. Every individual on board, as well as the king himself, felt convinced that the storm was a visitation upon them for what they had done.

King Athelstane had become very melancholy and offered large rewards to any one who would bring him news of his unfortunate brother; and he looked with horror upon Brithric as the cause of his having dealt so hardly with Edwin. One day, when Brithric was waiting at table with the king's cup, it happened that his foot slipped, and he would have fallen if he had not dexterously saved himself with the other foot: observing some of the courtiers smile, he cried out jestingly, "See you, my lords, how one brother helps the other."

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