Mr. Gresham, a Bristol merchant, who had, by honorable industry and economy, accumulated a considerable fortune, retired from business to a new house which he had built upon the Downs, near Clifton. Mr. Gresham, however, did not imagine that a new house alone could make him happy. He did not propose to live in idleness and extravagance; for such a life would have been equally incompatible with his habits and his principles. He was fond of children; and as he had no sons, he determined to adopt one of his relations. He had two nephews, and he invited both of them to his house, that he might have an opportunity of judging of their dispositions, and of the habits which they had acquired.
Hal and Benjamin, Mr. Gresham's nephews, were about ten years old. They had been educated very differently. Hal was the son of the elder branch of the family. His father was a gentleman, who spent rather more than he could afford; and Hal, from the example of the servants in his father's family, with whom he had passed the first years of his childhood, learned to waste more of everything than he used. He had been told, that "gentlemen should be above being careful and saving;" and he had unfortunately imbibed a notion that extravagance was the sign of a generous disposition, and economy of an avaricious one.
Benjamin, on the contrary, had been taught habits of care and foresight. His father had but a very small fortune, and was anxious that his son should early learn that economy insures independence, and sometimes puts in the power of those who are not very rich to be very generous.
The morning after these two boys arrived at their uncle's they were eager to see all the rooms in the house. Mr. Gresham accompanied them, and attended to their remarks and exclamations.
"Oh! what an excellent motto!" exclaimed Ben, when he read the following words, which were written in large characters over the chimney-piece, in his uncle's spacious kitchen,—
"WASTE NOT, WANT NOT."
"Waste not, want not!" repeated his cousin Hal, in rather a contemptuous tone; "I think it looks stingy to servants; and no gentleman's servants, cooks especially, would like to have such a mean motto always staring them in the face." Ben, who was not so conversant as his cousin, in the ways of cooks and gentlemen's servant, made no reply to these observations.
Mr. Gresham was called away whilst his nephews were looking at the other rooms in the house. Some time afterwards he heard their voices in the hall.
"Boys," said he, "what are you doing there!" "Nothing, sir," said Hal; "you were called away from us, and we did not know which way to go." "And have you nothing to do?" said Mr. Gresham. "No, sir, nothing," answered Hal, in a careless tone, like one who was well content with the state of habitual idleness. "No, sir, nothing!" replied Ben, in a voice of lamentation. "Come," said Mr. Gresham, "if you have nothing to do lads, will you unpack these two parcels for me?"
The two parcels were exactly alike, both of them well tied up with good whip-cord. Ben took his parcel to a table, and, after breaking off the sealing-wax, began carefully to examine the knot, and then to untie it. Hal stood still, exactly in the spot where the parcel was put into his hands, and tried first at one corner, and then at another, to pull the string off by force.
"I wish these people wouldn't tie up their parcels so tight, as if they were never to be undone," cried he, as he tugged at the cord; and he pulled the knot closer instead of loosening it.
"Ben! why, how did you get yours undone, man?—what's in your parcel?—I wonder what is in mine. I wish I could get this string off—I must cut it."
"Oh, no," said Ben, who now had undone the last knot of his parcel, and who drew out the length of string with exultation, "don't cut it, Hal. Look what a nice cord this is, and yours is the same: it's a pity to cut it; 'Waste not, want not!' you know."
"Pooh!" said Hal, "what signifies a bit of pack-thread?" "It is whip-cord," said Ben. "Well, whip-cord! what signifies a bit of whip-cord! you can get a bit of whip-cord twice as long as that for two pence; and who cares for two pence! Not I, for one! so here it goes," cried Hal, drawing out his knife; and he cut the cord, precipitately, in sundry places.
"Lads! Have you undone the parcels for me?" said Mr. Gresham, opening the parlor-door as he spoke. "Yes, sir," cried Hal; and he dragged off his half-cut, half-entangled string,—"here's the parcel." "And here's my parcel, uncle; and here's the string," said Ben. "You may keep the string for your pains," said Mr. Gresham. "Thank you, sir," said Ben; "what an excellent whip-cord it is!" "And you, Hal," continued Mr. Gresham, "you may keep your string too, if it will be of any use to you." "It will be of no use to me, thank you sir," said Hal. "No, I am afraid not, if this be it," said his uncle, taking up the jagged, knotted remains of Hal's cord.
A few days after this, Mr. Gresham gave to each of his nephews a new top.
"But how's this?" said Hal; "these tops have no string; what shall we do for strings? "I have a string that will do very well for mine," said Ben; and he pulled out of his pocket the fine, long, smooth string which had tied up the parcel. With this he soon set up his top, which spun admirably well.
"Oh how I wish I had but a string!" said Hal; "what shall I do for a string? I'll tell you what; I can use the string that goes round my hat!" "But then," said Ben, "what will you do for a hat-band?" "I'll manage to do without one," said Hal; and he took the string off his hat for his top. It soon was worn through; and he split his top by driving the peg too tightly into it. His cousin Ben let him set up his the next day; but Hal was not more fortunate or more careful when he meddled with other people's things than when he managed his own. He had scarcely played half an hour before he split it, by driving in the peg too violently.
Ben bore this misfortune with good humor. "Come," said he, "it can't be helped: but give me the string, because that may still be of use for something else.
It happened some time afterwards that a lady, who had been intimately acquainted with Hal's mother at Bath,—that is to say, who had frequently met her at the card-table during the winter,—now arrived at Clifton. She was informed by his mother that Hal was at Mr. Gresham's; and her sons who were friends of his, came to see him, and invited him to spend the next day with them.
Hal joyfully accepted the invitation. He was always glad to go out to dine, because it gave him something to do, something to think of, or at least something to say. Besides this, he had been educated to think it was a fine thing to visit fine people; and Lady Diana Sweepstakes (for that was the name of his mother's acquaintance) was a very fine lady, and her two sons intended to be very great gentlemen. He was in a prodigious harry when these young gentlemen knocked at his uncle's door the next day; but just as he got to the hall door, little Patty called to him from the top of the stairs, and told him that he had dropped his pocket-handkerchief.
"Pick it up, then, and bring it to me, quick, can't you, child?" cried Hal, "for Lady Di's sons are waiting for me."
Little Patty did not know anything about Lady Di's sons; but as she was very good-natured, and saw that her cousin Hal was, for some reason or other, in a desperate hurry, she ran down-stairs as fast as she possibly could, towards the landing-place, where the handkerchief lay; but, alas! Before she reached the handkerchief, she fell, rolling down a whole flight of stairs, and when her fall was at last stopped by the landing-place, she did not cry, but she writhed as if she was in great pain.
"Where are you hurt, my love?" said Mr. Gresham, who came instantly, on hearing the noise of some one falling down-stairs. "Where are you hurt, my dear?"
"Here papa," said the little girl, touching her ankle, which she had decently covered with her gown: "I believe I am hurt here, but not much," added she, trying to rise; "only it hurts me when I move." "I'll carry you; don't move then," said her father; and he took her up in his arms. "My shoe; I've lost one of my shoes," said she.
Ben looked for it upon the stairs, and he found it sticking in a loop of whip-cord, which was entangled round one of the banisters. When this cord was drawn forth, it appeared that it was the very same jagged entangled piece which Hal had pulled off his parcel. He had diverted himself with running up and down stairs, whipping the banisters with it, as he thought he could convert it to no better use; and, with his usual carelessness, he at last left it hanging just where he happened to throw it when the dinner-bell rang. Poor little Patty's ankle was terribly sprained, and Hal reproached himself for his folly, and would have reproached himself longer, perhaps, if Lady Di Sweepstakes' sons had not hurried him away.
In the evening, Patty could not run about as she used to do; but she sat upon the sofa, and she said that she did not feel the pain in her ankle so much, whilst Ben was so good as to play at jack-straws with her.
"That's right, Ben; never be ashamed of being good-natured to those who are younger and weaker than yourself," said his uncle, smiling at seeing him produce his whip-cord, to indulge his little cousin with a game at her favorite cat's-cradle. "I shall not think you one bit less manly, because I see you playing at cat's-cradle with a little child of six years old."
Hal, however, was not precisely of his uncle's opinion; for when he returned in the evening, and saw Ben playing with his little cousin, he could not help smiling contemptuously, and asking if he had been playing at cat's-cradle all night. In a heedless manner he made some inquiries after Patty's sprained ankle, and then he ran on to tell all the news he had heard at Lady Diana Sweepstakes',—news which he thought would make him appear a person of vast importance.
"Do you know, uncle,—do you know, Ben," said he,—"there's to be the most famous doings that ever were heard of upon the Downs, here, the first day of next month, which will be in a fortnight,—thank my stars! I wish the fortnight was over; I shall think of nothing else, I know, till that happy day comes!"
Mr. Gresham inquired why the first of September was to be so much happier than any other day in the year. "Why," replied Hal, "Lady Diana Sweepstakes, you know, is a famous rider and archer, and all that." "Very likely," said Mr. Gresham, soberly; "but what then?"
"Dear uncle!" cried Hal, "but you shall hear. There's to be a race upon the Downs the first of September, and after the race there's to be an archery meeting for the ladies, and Lady Diana Sweepstakes is to be one of them. And after the ladies have done shooting,—now, Ben, comes the best part of it!—we boys are to have our turn, and Lady Di is to give a prize to the best marksman amongst us, of a very handsome bow and arrow! Do you know, I've been practicing already, and I'll show you to-morrow, as soon as it comes home, the famous bow and arrow that Lady Diana has given me; but, perhaps," added he, with a scornful laugh, "you like a cat's-cradle better than a bow and arrow."
Ben made no reply to this taunt at the moment; but the next day, when Hal's new bow and arrow came home, he convinced him that he knew how to use it very well.
"Ben," said his uncle, "you seem to be a good marksman, though you have not boasted of yourself. I'll give you a bow and arrow, and, perhaps if you practice, you may make yourself an archer before the first of September; and, in the mean time, you will not wish the fortnight to be over, for you will have something to do."
"Oh, sir," interrupted Hal, "but if you mean that Ben should put in for the prize, he must have a uniform." "Why must he?" said Mr. Gresham. "Why, sir, because everybody has—I mean everybody that's anybody; and Lady Diana was talking about the uniform all dinner-time, and it's settled all about it, except the buttons; the young Sweepstakes are to get theirs made first for patterns: they are to be white, faced with green; and they'll look very handsome, I'm sure; and I shall write to mamma to-night, as Lady Diana bid me, about mine; and I shall tell her to be sure to answer my letter, without fail, by return of the post; and then if mamma makes no objection, which I know she won't, because she never thinks much about expense, and all that,—then I shall bespeak my uniform, and get it made by the same tailor that makes for Lady Diana and the young Sweepstakes."
"Mercy upon us!" said Mr. Gresham, who was almost stunned by the rapid vociferation with which this long speech about a uniform was pronounced. "I don't pretend to understand these things," added he, with an air of simplicity; "but we will inquire, Ben, into the necessity of the case; and if it is necessary—or if you think it necessary that you shall have a uniform,—why, I'll give you one."
"You, uncle! Will you, indeed?" exclaimed Hal, with amazement painted in his countenance. "Well, that's the last thing in the world I should have expected! You are not at all the sort of person I should have thought would care about a uniform; and now I should have supposed you'd have thought it extravagant to have a coat on purpose only for one day; and I'm sure Lady Diana Sweepstakes thought as I do; for when I told her of that motto over your kitchen-chimney, 'WASTE NOT, WANT NOT,' she laughed, and said that I had better not talk to you about uniforms, and that my mother was the proper person to write to about my uniform: but I'll tell Lady Diana, uncle, how good you are, and how much she was mistaken."
"Take care how you do that," said Mr. Gresham; "for perhaps the lady was not mistaken." "Nay, did not you say, just now, you would give poor Ben a uniform?" "I said I would, if he thought it necessary to have one." "Oh, I'll answer for it, he'll think it necessary," said Hal, laughing, "because it is necessary." "Allow him, at least, to judge for himself," said Mr. Gresham. "My dear uncle, but I assure you," said Hal, earnestly, "there's no judging about the matter, because really, upon my word, Lady Diana said distinctly, that her sons were to have uniforms, white faced with green, and a green and white cockade in their hats." "May be so," said Mr. Gresham, still with the same look of calm simplicity; "put on your hats, boys, and come with me. I know a gentleman whose sons are to be at this archery meeting, and we will inquire into all the particulars from him. Then, after we have seen him (it is not eleven o'clock yet), we shall have time enough to walk on to Bristol, and choose the cloth for Ben's uniform, if it is necessary."
"I cannot tell what to make of all he says," whispered Hal as he reached down his hat; "do you think, Ben, he means to give you this uniform or not?" "I think," said Ben, "that he means to give me one, if it is necessary, or, as he said, if I think it is necessary."
"And that to be sure you will; won't you? Or else you'll be a great fool, I know, after all I've told you. How can any one in the world know so much about the matter as I, who have dined with Lady Diana Sweepstakes but yesterday, and heard all about it from beginning to end? And as for this gentleman that we are going to, I'm sure, if he knows anything about the matter, he'll say exactly the same as I do." "We shall hear," said Ben, with a degree of composure which Hal could by no means comprehend when a uniform was in question.
The gentleman upon whom Mr. Gresham called had three sons, who were all to be at this archery meeting; and they unanimously assured him, in the presence of Hal and Ben, that they had never thought of buying uniforms for this grand occasion, and that, amongst the number of their acquaintance, they knew of but three boys whose friends intended to be at such an unnecessary expense. Hal stood amazed.
"Such are the varieties of opinion upon all the grand affairs of life," said Mr. Gresham, looking at his nephews. "What amongst one set of people you hear asserted to be absolutely necessary, you will hear from another set of people is quite unnecessary. All that can be done, my dear boys, in these difficult cases, is to judge for yourselves, which opinions, an which people, are the most reasonable."
Hal, who had been more accustomed to think of what was fashionable than of what was reasonable, without at all considering the good sense of what his uncle said to him, replied, with childish petulance, "Indeed, sir, I don't know what other people think; but I only know what Lady Diana Sweepstakes said." The name of Lady Diana, Hal thought, must impress all present with respect: he was highly astonished when, as he looked round he saw a smile of contempt upon every one's countenance; and he was yet further bewildered when he heard her spoken of as a very silly, extravagant, ridiculous woman, whose opinion no prudent person would ask upon any subject, and whose example was to be shunned, instead of being imitated. "Aye, my dear Hal," said his uncle, smiling at his look of amazement, "these are some of the things that young people must learn from experience. All the world do not agree in opinion about characters: you will hear the same person admired in one company, and blamed in another; so that we must still come round to the same point, Judge for yourself."
Hal's thoughts were, however, at present, too full of the uniform to allow his judgment to act with perfect impartiality. As soon as their visit was over, and all the time they walked down the hill from Prince's Buildings towards Bristol, he continued to repeat nearly the same arguments which he had formerly used, respecting necessity, the uniform, and Lady Diana Sweepstakes. To all this Mr. Gresham made no reply; and longer had the young gentleman expatiated upon the subject, which had so strongly seized upon his imagination had not his senses been forcibly assailed at this instant by the delicious odors and tempting sight of certain cakes and jellies in a pastry-cook's shop. "O uncle," said he, as his uncle was going to turn the corner to pursue the road to Bristol, "look at those jellies!" pointing to a confectioner's shop. "I must buy some of those good things, for I have got some half-pence in my pocket." "Your having half-pence in your pocket is an excellent reason for eating," said Mr. Gresham, smiling. "But I really am hungry," said Hal; "you know, uncle, it is a good while since breakfast."
His uncle, who was desirous to see his nephews act without restraint, that he might judge their characters, bid them do as they pleased.
"Come, then, Ben, if you've any half-pence in your pocket." "I'm not hungry," said Ben. "I suppose that means that you've no half-pence," said Hal, laughing, with the look of superiority which he had been taught to think the rich might assume towards those who were convicted either of poverty or economy. "Waste not, want not," said Ben to himself. Contrary to his cousin's surmise, he happened to have twopenny-worth of half-pence actually in his pocket.
At the very moment Hal stepped into the pastry-cook's shop, a poor, industrious man, with a wooden leg, who usually sweeps the dirty corner of the walk, which turns at this spot to the Wells, held his hat to Ben, who, after glancing his eye at the petitioner's well-worn broom, instantly produced his two-pence. "I wish I had more half-pence for you, my good man," said he; "but I've only two-pence."
Hal came out of Mr. Millar's, the confectioner's shop, with a hatful of cakes in his hand. Mr. Millar's dog was sitting on the flags before the door; and he looked up, with a wistful, begging eye, at Hal, who was eating a queen-cake. Hal, who was wasteful even in his good-nature, threw a whole queen-cake to the dog, who swallowed it for a single mouthful.
"There goes two-pence in the form of a queen-cake," said Mr. Gresham.
Hal next offered some of his cakes to his uncle and cousin; but they thanked him and refused to eat any, because, they said, they were not hungry; so he ate and ate, as he walked along, till at last he stopped, and said, they were not hungry; so he ate and ate, as he walked along, till at last he stopped, and said, "This bun tastes so bad after the queen-cakes, I can't bear it!" and he was going to fling it from him into the river. "Oh, it is a pity to waste that good bun; we may be glad of it yet," said Ben; "give it to me, rather than throw it away." "Why, I thought you said you were not hungry," said Hal. "True, I am not hungry now; but that is no reason why I should never be hungry again." "Well, there is the cake for you; take it; for it has made me sick; and I don't care what becomes of it."
Ben folded the refuse bit of his cousin's bun in a piece of paper, and put it into his pocket.
"I'm beginning to be exceedingly tired, or sick, or something," said Hal; "and as there is a stand of coaches somewhere hereabouts, had not we better take a coach, instead of walking all the way to Bristol?"
"For a stout archer," said Mr. Gresham, "you are more easily tired than one might have expected. However, with all my heart; let us take a coach, for Ben asked me to show him the cathedral yesterday; and I believe I should find it rather too much for me to walk so far, though I am not sick with eating good things."
"The cathedral!" said Hal, after he had been seated in the coach about a quarter of an hour, and had somewhat recovered from his sickness,—"the cathedral! Why, are we only going to Bristol to see the cathedral? I thought we came out to see about a uniform."
There was a dullness and melancholy kind of stupidity in Hal's countenance as he pronounced these words, like one wakening from a dream, which made both his uncle and cousin burst out a-laughing.
"Why," said Hal, who was now piqued, "I'm sure you did say, uncle, you would go to Mr. Hall's to choose the cloth for the uniform." "Very true, and so I will," said Mr. Gresham; "but we need not make a whole morning's work, need we, of looking at a piece of cloth? Cannot we see a uniform and a cathedral both in one morning?"
They went first to the cathedral. Hal's head was too full of the uniform to take any notice of the painted window, which immediately caught Ben's unembarrassed attention. He looked at the large stained figures on the Gothic window, and he observed their colored shadows on the floor and walls.
Mr. Gresham, who perceived that he was eager on all subjects to gain information, took this opportunity of telling him several things about the lost art of painting on glass, Gothic arches, etc., which Hal thought extremely tiresome.
"Come! Come! We shall be late indeed," said Hal; "surely you've looked long enough, Ben, at this blue and red window." "I'm only thinking about these colored shadows," said Ben. "I can show you, when we go home, Ben," said his uncle, "an entertaining paper upon such shadows." "Hark!" cried Ben, "did you hear that noise?" They all listened; and they heard a bird singing in the cathedral. "It's our old robin, sir," said the lad who had opened the cathedral-door for them.
"Yes," said Mr. Gresham, "there he is, boys, look,—perched upon the organ; he often sits there, and sings, whilst the organ is playing." "And," continued the lad who showed the cathedral, "he has lived here these many, many winters. They say he is fifteen years old; and he is so tame, poor fellow, that if I had a bit of bread he'd come down and feed in my hand." "I've a bit of a bun here," cried Ben, joyfully, producing the remains of the bun which Hal but an hour before would have thrown away. "Pray, let us see the poor robin eat out of your hand."
The lad crumbled the bun, and called to the robin, who fluttered and chirped, and seemed rejoiced at the sight of the bread; but yet he did not come down from his pinnacle on the organ.
"He is afraid of us," said Ben; "he is not used to eat before strangers, I suppose."
"Ah, no, sir," said the young man, with a deep sigh, "that is not the thing. He is used enough to eat afore company. Time was he'd have come down for me before ever so many fine folks, and have ate his crumbs out of my hand at my first call; but, poor fellow; it's not his fault now. He does not know me now, sir, since my accident, because of this great black patch." The young man put his hand to his right eye, which was covered with a huge black patch. Ben asked what accident he meant; and the lad told him that, but a few weeks ago, he had lost the sight of his eye by the, stroke of a stone, which reached him as he was passing under the rocks at Clifton unluckily when the workmen were blasting. "I don't mind so much for myself, sir," said the lad; "but I can't work so well now, as I used to do before my accident for my old mother, who has had a stroke of the palsy; and I've a many little brothers and sisters not well able yet to get their own livelihood, though they be as willing as willing can be."
"Where does your mother live?" said Mr. Gresham. "Hard by, sir, just close to the church here: it was her that always bad the showing of it to strangers, till she lost the use of her poor limbs."
"Shall we, may we, uncle, go that way? This is the house; is not it?" said Ben, when they went out of the cathedral.
They went into the house: it was rather a hovel than a house; but poor as it was, it was as neat as misery could make it. The old woman was sitting up in her wretched bed winding worsted; four meagre, ill-clothed, pale children were all busy, some of them sticking pins in paper for the pin-maker, and others sorting rags for the paper-maker.
"What a horrid place it is!" said Hal, sighing I did not know there were such shocking places in the world. I've often seen terrible-looking, tumble-down places, as we drove through the town in mamma's carriage; but then I did not know who lived in them; and I never saw the inside of any of them. It is very dreadful, indeed, to think that people are forced to live in this way. I wish mamma would send me some more pocket-money, that I might do something for them. I had half-a-crown; but," continued he, feeling in his pockets, "I'm afraid I spent the last shilling of it this morning upon those cakes that made me sick. I wish I had my shilling now, I'd give it to these poor people."
Ben, though he was all this time silent, was as sorry as his talkative cousin for all these poor people. But there was some difference between the sorrow of these two boys.
Hal, after he was again seated in the hackney-coach, and had rattled through the busy streets of Bristol for a few minutes, quite forgot the spectacle of misery which he had seen; and the gay shops in Wine Street and the idea of his green and white uniform wholly occupied his imagination.
"Now for our uniforms!" cried he, as he jumped eagerly out of the coach, when his uncle stopped at the woolen-draper's door.
"Uncle," said Ben, stopping Mr. Gresham before he got out of the carriage, "I don't think a uniform is at all necessary for me. I'm very much obliged to you; but I would rather not have one. I have a very good coat; and I think it would be waste."
"Well, let me get out of the carriage, and we will see about it," said Mr. Gresham; "perhaps the sight of the beautiful green and white cloth, and the epaulet (have you ever considered the epaulets?) may tempt you to change your mind." "Oh no," said Ben, laughing: "I shall not change my mind."
The green cloth, and the white cloth, and the epaulets were produced, to Hal's infinite satisfaction. His uncle took up a pen, and calculated for a few minutes; then, showing the back of the letter, upon which he was writing, to his nephews, "Cast up these sums, boys," said he, "and tell me whether I am right." "Ben, do you do it," said Hal, a little embarrassed; "I am not quick at figures." Ben was, and he went over his uncle's calculations very expeditiously.
"It is right, is it?" said Mr. Gresham. "Yes, sir, quite right." "Then by this calculation, I find I could, for less than half the money your uniforms would cost, purchase for each of you boys a warm great-coat, which you will want, I have a notion, this winter upon the Downs."
"Oh, sir," said Hal, with an alarmed look; "but it is not winter yet; it is not cold weather yet. We shan't want great-coats yet."
"Don't you remember how cold we were, Hal, the day before yesterday, in that sharp wind, when we were flying our kite upon the Downs? And winter will come, though it is not come yet. I am sure, I should like to have a good warm great-coat very much."
Mr. Gresham took six guineas out of his purse; and he placed three of them before Hall and three before Ben. "Young gentlemen," said he, "I believe your uniforms would come to about three guineas apiece. Now I will lay out this money for you just as you please. Hal, what say you?" "Why, sir," said Hal, "a great-coat is a good thing, to be sure; and then, after the great-coat, as you said it would only cost half as much as the uniform, there would be some money to spare, would not there?" "Yes, my dear, about five-and–twenty shillings." "Five-and-twenty shillings? I could buy and do a great many things, to be sure, with five-and twenty shillings; but then, the thing is, I must go without the uniform, if I have the great-coat." "Certainly," said his uncle. "Ah!" said Hal, sighing, as he looked at the epaulet, "uncle, if you would not be displeased if I choose the uniform"—"I shall not be displeased at your choosing whatever you like best," said Mr. Gresham.
"Well, then, thank you, sir," said Hal; "I think I had better have the uniform, because, if I have not the uniform now directly, it will be of no use to me, as the archery meeting is the week after next, you know; and as to the great-coat, perhaps between this time and the very cold weather, which, perhaps, won't be till Christmas, papa will buy a great-coat for me; and I'll ask mamma to give me some pocket-money to give away, and she will, perhaps." To all this conclusive, conditional reasoning, which depended upon perhaps, three times repeated, Mr. Gresham made no reply; but he immediately bought the uniform for Hal, and desired that it should be sent to Lady Diana Sweepstakes' son's tailor, to be made up. The measure of Hal's happiness was now complete.
"And how am I to lay out the three guineas for you, Ben?" said Mr. Gresham; "speak, what do you wish for first?" "A great-coat, uncle, if you please." Mr. Gresham bought the coat; and after it was paid for, five-and-twenty shillings of Ben's three guineas remain. "What next, my boy?" said his uncle. "Arrows, uncle, if you please: three arrows." "My dear, I promised you a bow and arrows." "No, uncle, you only said a bow." "Well, I meant a bow and arrows. I'm glad you are so exact, however. It is better to claim less than more of what is promised. The three arrows you shall have. But, go on; how shall I dispose of these five-and twenty shillings for you?" "In clothes, if you will be so good, uncle, for that poor boy who has the great black patch on his eye."
"I always believed," said Mr. Gresham, shaking hands with Ben, "that economy and generosity were the best friends, instead of being enemies, as some silly, extravagant people would have us think them. Choose the poor blind boy's coat, my dear nephew, and pay for it. There's no occasion for my praising you about the matter. Your best reward is in your own mind, child; and you want no other, or I'm mistaken. Now jump into the coach, boys, and let's be off. We shall be late, I'm afraid," continued, he, as the coach drove on; "but I must let you stop, Ben, with your goods, at the poor boy's door."
When they came to the house, Mr. Gresham opened the coach-door, and Ben jumped out with his parcel under his arm.
"Stay, stay! You must take me with you," said his pleased uncle; "I like to see people made happy, as well as you do." "And so do I too!" said Hal; "let me come with you. I almost wish my uniform was not gone to the tailor's, so I do." And when he saw the look of delight and gratitude with which the poor boy received the clothes which Ben gave him, and when he heard the mother and children thank him, Hal sighed, and said, "Well, I hope mamma will give me some more pocket-money soon."
Upon his return home, however, the sight of the famous bow and arrow, which Lady Sweepstakes had sent him, recalled to his imagination all the joys of his green and white uniform; and he no longer wished that it had not been sent to the tailor's "But I don't understand, cousin Hal," said little Patty, "why you call this bow a famous bow. You say famous very often; and I don't know exactly what it means; a famous uniform—famous doings. I remember you said there are to be famous doings, the first of September, upon the Downs. What does famous mean?" "Oh, why, famous means. Now don't you know what famous means? It means—it is a word that people say—it is the fashion to say it—it means—it means famous." Patty laughed, and said, "This does not explain it to me."
"No," said Hal, "nor can it be explained: if you don't understand it, that's not my fault; everybody but little children, I suppose, understands it; but there's no explaining those sort of words, if you don't take them at once. There's to be famous doings upon the Downs, the first of September; that is, grand, fine. In short, what does it signify talking any longer, Patty, about the matter? Give me my bow, for I must go out upon the Downs and practice."
Ben accompanied him with the bow and the three arrows which his uncle had now given to him; and every day these two boys went out upon the Downs and practiced shooting with indefatigable perseverance. Where equal pains are taken, success is usually found to be pretty nearly equal. Our two archers, by constant practice, became expert marksmen; and before the day of trial they were so exactly matched in point of dexterity, that it was scarcely possible to decide which was superior.
The long-expected first of September at length arrived. "What sort of a day is it?" was the first question that was asked by Hal and Ben the moment that they wakened. The sun shone bright! But there was a sharp and high wind. "Ha!" said Ben, "I shall be glad of my good great-coat today; for I've a notion it will be rather cold upon the Downs, especially when we are standing still, as we must, whilst all the people are shooting." "Oh, never mind! I don't think I shall feel it cold at all," said Hal, as he dressed himself in his new green and white uniform; and he viewed himself with much complacency.
"Good-morning to you, uncle; how do you do?" said he, in a voice of exultation, when he entered the breakfast-room. How do you do? seemed rather to mean: How do you like me in my uniform? And his uncle's cool, "Very well, I thank you, Hal," disappointed him, as it seemed only to say, "Your uniform makes no difference in my opinion of you."
Even little Patty went on eating her breakfast much as usual, and talked of the pleasure of walking with her father to the Downs, and of all the little things which interested her; so that Hal's epaulets were not the principal object in any one's imagination but his own.
"Papa," said Patty, "as we go up the hill where there is so much red mud, I must take care to pick my way nicely; and I must hold up my frock, as you desired me; and perhaps you will be so good, if I am not troublesome, to lift me over the very bad places where there are no stepping-stones. My ankle is entirely well, and I'm glad of that, or else I should not be able to walk so far as the Downs. How good you were to me, Ben, when I was in pain, the day I sprained my ankle! You played at jack-straws, and at cat's-cradle, with me. Oh, that puts me in mind—here are your gloves, which I asked you that night to let me mend. I've been a great while about them; but are not they very neatly mended, papa?—look at the sewing."
"I am not a very good judge of sewing, my dear little girl," said Mr. Gresham, examining the work with a close and scrupulous eye; "but, in my opinion, here is one stitch that is rather too long. The white teeth are not quite even." "Oh, papa, I'll take out that long tooth in a minute," said Patty, laughing: "I did not think that you would have observed it so soon."
"I would not have you trust to my blindness," said her father, stroking her head fondly; "I observe everything. I observe, for instance, that you are a grateful little girl, and that you are glad to be of use to those who have been kind to you; and for this I forgive you the long stitch." "But it's out, it's out, papa, said Patty; "and the next time your gloves want mending, Ben, I'll mend them better."
"They are very nice, I think," said Ben, drawing them on; "and I am much obliged to you. I was just wishing I had a pair of gloves to keep my fingers warm to-day, for I never can shoot well when my hands are benumbed. Look, Hal, you know how ragged these gloves were; you said they were good for nothing but to throw away; now look, there's not a hole in them," said he, spreading his fingers.
"Now, is it not very extraordinary, said Hal to himself, "that they should go on so long talking about an old pair of gloves, without saying scarcely a word about my new uniform? Well, the young Sweepstakes and Lady Diana will talk enough about it; that's one comfort. Is not it time to think of setting out, sir?" said Hal to his uncle. The company, you know, are to meet at the Ostrich at twelve, and the race is to begin at one, and Lady Diana's horses, I know, were ordered to be at the door at ten."
Mr. Stephen, the butler, here interrupted the hurrying young gentleman in his calculations. "There's a poor lad, sir, below, with a great black patch on his right eye, who is come from Bristol, and wants to speak a word with the young gentlemen, if you please. I told him they were just going out with you; but he says he won't detain them more than half a minute."
"Show him up, show him up," said Mr. Gresham.
"But, I suppose," said Hal, with a sigh, "that Stephen mistook when he said the young gentlemen; he only wants to see Ben, I dare say; I'm sure he has no reason to want to see me."
"Here he comes. O Ben, he is dressed in the new coat you gave him," whispered Hal, who was really a good-natured boy, though extravagant. "How much better he looks than he did in the ragged coat! Ah! he looked at you first, Ben—and well he may!"
The boy bowed, without any cringing civility, but with an open, decent freedom in his manner, which expressed that he had been obliged, but that he knew his young benefactor was not thinking of the obligation. He made as little distinction as possible between his bows to the two cousins.
"As I was sent with a message, by the clerk of our parish, to Redland chapel out on the Downs, to-day, sir" said he to Mr. Gresham, "knowing your house lay in my way, my mother, sir, bid me call and make bold to offer the young gentlemen two little worsted balls that she has worked for them," continued the lad, pulling out of his pocket two worsted balls worked in green and orange-colored stripes. "They are but poor things, sir, she bid me say, to look at; but, considering she has but one hand to work with, and that her left hand, you'll not despise 'em, we hopes." He held the balls to Ben and Hal. "They are both alike, gentlemen," said he. "If you'll be pleased to take 'em they're better than they look, for they bound higher than your head. I cut the cork round for the inside myself, which was all I could do."
"They are nice balls, indeed; we are much obliged to you," said the boys as they received them; and they proved them immediately. The balls struck the floor with a delightful sound, and rebounded higher than Mr. Gresham's head. Little Patty clapped her hands joyfully. But now a thundering double rap at the door was heard.
"The Master Sweepstakes, sir," said Stephen, "are come for Master Hal. They say that all the young gentlemen who have archery uniforms are to walk together, in a body, I think they say, sir; and they are to parade along the Well Walk, they desired me to say, sir, with a drum and fife, and so up the hill by Princes's Place, and all to go upon the Downs together, to the place of meeting. I am not sure I'm right, sir; for both the young gentlemen spoke at once, and the wind is very high at the street-door, so that I could not well make out all they said; but I believe this is the sense of it."
"Yes, yes," said Hal, eagerly, "it's all right, I know that is just what was settled the day I dined at Lady Diana's; and Lady Diana and a great party of gentlemen are to ride"—
"Well, that is nothing to the purpose," interrupted Mr. Gresham. "Don't keep these Master Sweepstakes waiting. Decide: do you choose to go with them or with us?" "Sir—uncle—sir, you know, since all the uniforms agreed to go together"—"Off with you, then, Mr. Uniform, if you mean to go," said Mr. Gresham.
Hal ran down-stairs in such a hurry that he forgot his bow and arrows. Ben discovered this when he went to fetch his own; and the lad from Bristol, who had been ordered by Mr. Gresham to eat his breakfast before he proceeded to Redland chapel, heard Ben talking about his cousin's bow and arrows. "I know," said Ben, "he will be sorry not to have his bow with him, because here are the green knots tied to it, to match his cockade; and he said that the boys were all to carry their bows, as part of the show."
"If you'll give me leave, sir," said the poor Bristol lad, "I shall have plenty of time; and I'll run down to the Well Walk after the young gentleman, and take him his bow and arrows."
"Will you? I shall be much obliged to you," said Ben; and away went the boy with the bow that was ornamented with green ribbons.
The public walk leading to the Wells was full of company. The windows of all the houses is St. Vincent's Parade were crowded with well-dressed ladies, who were looking out in expectation of the archery procession. Parties of gentlemen and ladies, and a motley crowd of spectators were seen moving backwards and forwards, under the rocks, on the opposite side of the water. A barge, with colored streamers flying, was waiting to take up a party who were going upon the water. The bargemen rested upon their oars, and gazed with broad faces of curiosity upon the busy scene that appeared upon the public walk.
The archers and archeresses were now drawn up on the flags, under the semicircular piazza just before Mrs. Yearsley's library. A little band of children, who had been mustered by Lady Diana Sweepstakes' spirited exertions, closed the procession. They were now all in readiness. The drummer only waited for her ladyship's signal; and the archer's corps only waited for her ladyship's word of command to march.
"Where are your bow and arrows, my little man?" said her ladyship to Hal, as she reviewed her Lilliputian regiment. "You can't march, man, without your arms!"
Hal had dispatched a messenger for his forgotten bow, but the messenger returned not. He looked from side to side in great distress. "Oh, there's my bow coming, I declare!" cried he:— "look, I see the bow and the ribbons. Look now, between the trees, Charles Sweepstakes, on the Hortwell Walk;—it is coming!" "But you've kept us all waiting a confounded time," said his impatient friend. "It is the good natured poor fellow from Bristol, I protest, that has brought it me; I'm sure I don't deserve it from him," said Hal to himself, when he saw the lad with the black patch on his eye running, quite out of breathe, towards him with his bow and arrows.
"Fall back, my good friend; fall back," said the military lady, as soon as he had delivered the bow to Hal; "I mean, stand out of the way, for your great patch cuts no figure amongst us. Don't follow so close, now, as if you belonged to us, pray."
The poor boy had no ambition to partake of the triumph; he fell back as soon as he understood the meaning of the lady's words. The drum beat, the fife played, the archers marched, the spectators admired. Hal stepped proudly, and felt as if the eyes of the whole universe were upon his epaulettes, or upon the facings of his uniform; whilst all the time he was considered only as part of the show.
The walk appeared much shorter than usual, and he was extremely sorry that Lady Diana, when they were half-way up the hill leading to Prince's Place, mounted her horse, because the road was dirty, and all the gentlemen and ladies who accompanied her followed her example.
"We can leave the children to walk, you know," said she to the gentleman who helped her to mount her horse. "I must call to some of them, though, and leave orders where they are to join.
She beckoned; and Hal, who was foremost, and proud to show his alacrity, ran on to receive her ladyship's orders. Now, as we have before observed, it was a sharp and windy day; and though Lady Diana Sweepstakes was actually speaking to him, and looking at him, he could not prevent his nose from wanting to be blowed: he pulled out his handkerchief, and out rolled the new ball which had been given to him just before he left home, and which, according to his usual careless habits, he had stuffed into his pocket in his hurry. "Oh, my new ball!" cried he, as he ran after it. As he stooped to pick it up, he let go his hat, which he had hitherto held on with anxious care; for the hat, though it had a fine green and white cockade, had no band or string round it. The string, as we may recollect, our wasteful hero had used in spinning his top. The hat was too large for his head without this band; a sudden gust of wind blew it off. Lady Diana's horse started and reared. She was a famous horsewoman, and sat him to the admiration of all beholders; but there was a puddle of red clay and water in this spot, and her ladyship's uniform-habit was a sufferer by the accident. "Careless brat!" said she, "why can't he keep his hat upon his head?" In the mean time the wind blew the hat down the hill, and Hal ran after it, amidst the laughter of his kind friends, the young Sweepstakes, and the rest of the little regiment. The hat was lodged, at length, upon a bank. Hal pursued it; he thought this bank was hard, but, alas! the moment he set his foot upon it the foot sank. He tried to draw it back; his other foot slipped, and he fell prostrate, in his green and white uniform, into the treacherous bed of red mud. His companions, who had halted upon the top of the hill, stood laughing spectators of his misfortune.
It happened that the poor boy with the black patch upon his eye, who had been ordered by Lady Diana to "fall back," and to "keep at a distance," was now coming up the hill; and the moment he saw our fallen hero he hastened to his assistance. He dragged poor Hal, who was a deplorable spectacle, out of the red mud. The obliging mistress of a lodging-house, as soon as she understood that the young gentleman was nephew to Mr. Gresham, to whom she had formerly let her house, received Hal, covered as he was with dirt.
The poor Bristol lad hastened to Mr. Gresham's for clean stockings and shoes for Hal. He was unwilling to give up his uniform; it was rubbed and rubbed and a spot here and there was washed out; and he kept continually repeating,—"When it's dry it will all brush off—when it's dry it will all brush off, won't it?" But soon the fear of being too late at the archery-meeting began to balance the dread of appearing in his stained habiliments; and he now as anxiously repeated, whilst the woman held the wet coat to the fire, "Oh, I shall be too late: indeed, I shall be too late; make haste; it will never dry; hold it nearer—nearer to the fire. I shall lose my turn to shoot; oh, give me the coat; I don't mind how it is, if I can but get it on."
Holding it nearer and nearer to the fire dried it quickly, to be sure; but it shrunk it also, so that it was no easy matter to get the coat on again. However, Hal, who did not see the red splashes, which, in spite of all these operations, were too visible upon his shoulders and upon the skirts of his white coat behind, was pretty well satisfied to observe that there was not one spot upon the facings. "Nobody," said he, "will take notice of my coat behind, I dare say. I think it looks as smart almost as ever!"—and under this persuasion our young archer resumed his bow,—his bow with green ribbons, now no more!—and he pursued his way to the Downs.
All his companions were far out of sight. "I suppose," said he to his friend with the black patch,—"I suppose my uncle and Ben had left home before you went for the shoes and stockings for me?" "Oh yes, sir; the butler said they had been gone to the Downs a matter of a good half-hour or more."
Hal trudged on as fast as he possibly could. When he got upon the Downs, he saw numbers of carriages, and crowds of people, all going towards the place of meeting at the Ostrich. He pressed forward. He was at first so much afraid of being late, that he did not take notice of the mirth his motley appearance excited in all beholders. At length he reached the appointed spot. There was a great crowd of people. In the midst he heard lady Diana's loud voice betting upon some one who was just going to shoot at the mark.
"So then the shooting is begun, is it?" said Hal. "Oh, let me in! pray let me into the circle! I'm one of the archers—I am, indeed; don't you see my green and white uniform?"
"Your red and white uniform, you mean," said the man to whom he addressed himself; and the people, as they opened a passage for him, could not refrain from laughing at the mixture of dirt and finery which it exhibited. In vain, when he got into the midst of the formidable circle, he looked to his friends, the young Sweepstakes for their countenance and support. They were amongst the most unmerciful of the laughers. Lady Diana also seemed more to enjoy than to pity his confusion.
"Why could not you keep your hat upon your head, man?" said she, in her masculine tone. "You have been almost the ruin of my poor uniform-habit; but I've escaped rather better than you have. Don't stand there, in the middle of the circle, or you'll have an arrow in your eyes just now, I've a notion."
Hal looked round in search of better friends. "Oh, where's my uncle?—where's Ben?" said he. He was in such confusion that, amongst the number of faces, he could scarcely distinguish one from another; but he felt somebody at this moment pull his elbow, and, to his great relief, he heard the friendly voice, and saw the good-natured face of his cousin Ben.
"Come back; come behind these people," said Ben; "and put on my great-coat; here it is for you."
Right glad was Hal to cover his disgraced uniform with the rough great-coat which he had formerly despised. He pulled the stained, drooping cockade out of his unfortunate hat; and he was now sufficiently recovered from his vexation to give an intelligible account of his accident to his uncle and Patty, who anxiously inquired what had detained him so long, and what had been the matter. In the midst of the history of his disaster, he was just proving to Patty that his taking the hat-band to spin his top had nothing to do with his misfortune, and he was at the same time endeavoring to refute his uncle's opinion that the waste of the whip-cord that tied the parcel was the original cause of all his evils, when he was summoned to try his skill with his famous bow.
"My hands are benumbed; I can scarcely feel," said he, rubbing them, and blowing upon the ends of his fingers.
"Come, come," cried young Sweepstakes,—"I'm within one inch of the mark; who'll go nearer, I shall like to see. Shoot away, Hal; but first understand our laws; we settled them before you came upon the green. You are to have three shots, with your own bow and your own arrows; and nobody's to borrow or lend under pretence of other bows being better or worse, or under any pretence. Do you hear, Hal?"
This young gentleman had good reasons for being so strict in these laws, as he had observed that none of his companions had such an excellent bow as he had provided for himself. Some of the boys had forgotten to bring more than one arrow with them, and by his cunning regulation that each person should shoot with their own arrows, many had lost one or two of their shots.
"You are a lucky fellow; you have your three arrows," said your Sweepstakes. "Come, we can't wait whilst you rub your fingers, man;—shoot away."
Hal was rather surprised at the asperity with which his friend spoke. He little knew how easily acquaintance, who call themselves friends, can change, when their interest comes in the slightest degree in competition with their friendship. Hurried by his impatient rival, and with his hands so much benumbed that he could scarcely feel how to fix the arrow in the string, he drew the bow. The arrow was within a quarter of an inch of Master Sweepstakes' mark, which was the nearest that had yet been hit. Hal seized his second arrow. "If I have any luck," said he—But just as he pronounced the word luck, and as he bent his bow, the string broke in two, and the bow fell from his hands.
"There, it's all over with you!" cried Master Sweepstakes, with a triumphant laugh.
"Here's my bow for him, and welcome," said Ben. "No, no, sir" said Master Sweepstakes, "that is not fair; that's against the regulation. You may shoot with your own bow, if you choose it, or you may not, just as you think proper; but you must not lend it, sir."
It was now Ben's turn to make his trial. His first arrow was not successful. His second was exactly as near as Hal's first. "You have but one more," said Master Sweepstakes; "now for it!" Ben, before he ventured his last arrow, prudently examined the string of his bow; and, as he pulled it to try its strength, it cracked. Master Sweepstakes clapped his hands with loud exultations and insulting laughter. But his laughter ceased when our provident hero calmly drew from his pocket an excellent piece of whipcord.
"The everlasting whipcord, I declare!" exclaimed Hal, when he saw that it was the very same that had tied up the parcel. "Yes," said Ben, as he fastened it to his bow, "I put it into my pocket to-day on purpose, because I thought I might happen to want it." He drew his bow the third and last time.
"Oh, papa!" cried little Patty, as his arrow hit the mark, "it's the nearest; is it not the nearest?"
Master Sweepstakes, with anxiety, examined the hit. There could be no doubt. Ben was victorious! The bow, the prize-bow, was now delivered to him; and Hal, as he looked at the whipcord, exclaimed,—
"How lucky this whipcord has been to you, Ben!"
"It is lucky, perhaps you mean, that he took care of it," said Mr. Gresham.
"Aye," said Hal, "very true; he might well say, 'Waste not, want not,' It is a good thing to have two strings to one's bow."