Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

as

White mentions stone-curlew den the road to the Priory or toiled up heard clamoring nightly from the early the Hanger. And yet, we ask ourspring. Of late, however, they have not selves, not so much what remains of the been heard; but seagulls, which I do not past as what substantial change is here. think he mentions, are sometimes ob- Our country has changed; old instituserved flying high overhead.

tions have passed away; the railway The village of Selborne is remarkable and electric telegraph have transformed for the comparative opulence of the in- society. Yet in Selborne, whatever habitants. There is no squalor—there change there may be, is almost imperare no decayed hovels in the village. ceptible. The cottages are nicely built, generally We are told that White preached a thatched; they are neat and trim, and favorite sermon of his no less than many of them possess pretty gardens. fifty times, and that his text bore on the

The casual visitor to Selborne can duty of love to man. scarcely fail to be struck by the almost Were he with us again he would be exact correspondence between White's gratified to find that the passage of description of it and its present appear- time had left unchanged the natural obance. This is evident in the greatest jects he so dearly loved; that the genas in the smallest particulars. White, 'eral aspect of his beloved village, as for example, mentions an immense hog, affected by the hand of man, was as he the age and history of which he nar- knew it; and that any changes in rates with the utmost precision. In the social and domestic life were such as yard of the “White Hart” Inn is an en- are based on the duty of loving others closure within which dwells a sow of and trying to improve the condition of colossal size, such as would with diffi- mankind. culty be matched elsewhere. This

H. P. PALMER. animal is of a friendly disposition and evinces the utmost curiosity when a carriage enters the inn-yard. The Hanger, with its steep ascent and its innumerable beech-trees, is crowded at eventide with the youth of the village,

From Macmillan's Magazine. whose shouts re-echo far and near, just THE BEST SNAKE STORY IN THE WORLD. as they did in White's time.

The beauty of the best snake story in The Plestor is still the resort of “talk- the world is that there was really no ing age”-still the playground of the vil snake in it, which is more than can be lage. The hop-poles and the hop-kilns, said even of the Garden of Eden. the frequent tillings and dressings of It had been very hot that summer on the hop-ground, are as noticeable as the ranche. Men work in the fields in they were a hundred years ago. The California with the thermometer at saunterer may hear the hour slowly and 110°, while they fall down of heat aporeproachfully measured by the church plexy in the streets of New York and clock, or see it traced on the sun-dial in Chicago at 90°. That is the maxim the garden of the Wakes.

they preach to the stranger in the West, The cuckoo, the swallow, the night and it has truth in it; but it is a misingale, combine still to form, as it were, take to suppose that even in California the Easter festival of Nature; the men work in the fields in comfort in anemone, the spurge-laurel, the lung- such a temperature; and that summer wort, the cuckoo-flower, rise from their the thermometer had gone very near long slumber to a glorious resurrection 115° So we were grateful enough to of beauty and joy.

get away into the hills for a spell, with More than a hundred years have a wagon and a tent and the usual outflown since White was laid to rest in the fit of pots and pans, three of us, white quiet village churchyard; four genera- men, with Louie, the Mexican (whom tions of word-speaking men have trod. called, in the vernacular, the

we

Our pro

us.

Greaser), to mind the horses and make A word explained to the boys what himself generally useful.

had happened. gramme was to fish the rivers, shoot “Strychnine's the best,” said Jock deer, and possibly a grizzly-bear, dis- Peters, who was our authority on the cover a gold mine, and go back to the question of snake-bites, which he had ranche with a prospective fortune. studied in Australia; “but we haven't

We had just pitched our tent. got it; so we must do what we can Down on the plain for weeks before we with this. But it's a poor chance," he had been sleeping out on our verant- added in a whisper, as, to save time, dahs, but the air of the hills had a nip he knocked the neck off a bottle of in it by contrast. It was late in the brandy. “Drink it, Louie,” he said; afternoon, but there was still plenty of "never mind cutting your lip; get it sunshine. I followed Louie round a down,—that's the chief thing." shoulder of the hill, going to fetch The Mexican's teeth chattered as we water at a little stream tumbling from forced in the neck of the bottle; but he somewhere among the snowy peaks drank a great gulp without winking. that capped the zone of firs on the The liquor, or pickle either, to scorch great mountains above

These the throat of a Mexican has yet to be mountains bad, at some time or other, found. sent down a little avalanche of small Jim Kelly, the Irishman, was sadrocks that lay heaped on our left as dling the freshest of our horses, to ride we walked. The scene was the most at best speed into Lindsay, eleven miles peaceful imaginable.

away in the haze of the plains, for the In an instant a succession of small doctor. In a minute he was pounding incidents sent the peace to limbo. away among the hills. "Fix up a light Louie dropped his pannikin with a as high as you can put it if it's dark tinkling clatter, crying “Sancta Maria!" before we get back," he shouted as he in a voice of terror. At the same mo- went. ment I heard the dread rattle of a We pulled the sock off the Mexican's snake, and saw its length gleam under foot. Already it was swelling fast, Louie's feet and vanish among the with a purplish tinge round a tiny blue rocks.

spot, from which the smallest imagin“Sancta Maria!” he tottered back able drop of blood had welled. into my arms, his dark face livid with “Any good cauterizing it?" I sugfear,

gested. “What is it, Louie? Did the snake "Not a mag," Jock said shortly. “Go strike you?”

on with the brandy and keep him mov"In the foot,” he said, “yes.”

ing; that's his only chance." “Let us get back to camp. Quick, The Mexican's face was dreadful to lean on me.”

see; he called, in his terror, on every “What's the good, boss?” he asked. saint in the Church; but he declared he “I'm a dead man.” Nevertheless he suffered no pain. Jock, improving the came with me, leaning on my shoulder, occasion, began relating in a low voice and making a lame walk of it.

to me anecdotes of all the snake-bites Down in the plain we had no rattle- he had known. "One boy I've seen snakes. For miles about the ranche that did recover," he said; "and that there were 10 rocks for them, and was from the bite of a brown snake, though there were plenty of ground- and a brown snake's as bad, they say, squirrel holes, we never saw snakes a rattler,-an Australian brown about them. The thought of such snake, that is; a rattler can't be worse. things did not enter our heads, and But this boy was stupid all his life Louie, weary of his boots, had kicked after; not as quick-witted as the averthem off, with the long spurs, and age, which is not much to say. And come with me in his stocking-feet on at times, just at the time of year at this quest for water.

which he'd been bitten, the wound got

as

а

red again and swelled, and he was stu- "Look at his face," Jock whispered pider than ever. Louie had on a sock; to me as I came back to him. the rattler'd have had to go through It was a shocking sight under the that; he might have spent a bit of his flickering rays, swollen, distorted, livid. poison there; that gives Louie a sort of The man's arm was swollen, too, as I a chance. Does it hurt you now, felt when I took my place to support 'Lonie?"

him. His movements were lethargic No, boss, no, not hurt."

and heavy, so that I wondered that The swelling was spreading; going Jock, unaided, could have kept him up the ankle and right up the leg, and moving so long. the man began to talk slowly and pain- “Give him more brandy,” Jock difully.

rected, “more; that's it,-he's had “I remember," said Jock, "going nearly all the bottle. There's along a ridge of a terrace on a steep chance,” he went on presently; “I really river-bank. The river was full of believe there is. I thought he'd have sharks, and I met a brown snake com- been dend before now, Maybe he ing along the ridge towards me. There don't mean dying after all. A white wasn't room to turn, and I couldn't man'd have been dead half an hour take to the river for the sharks, and I ago." hadn't a gun. But my pal coming be- “I wish the doctor'd come." hind had a gun, and he poked the barrel “Mighty little good wishing." in between my legs and blew the brute The weary tramp went on. Twice I to bits."

had to replenish the beacon-torch, and Is that true, Jock?” I asked.

once more we gave the Mexican a gulp. "My heaven, d’you think I'd lie at of the brandy, which finished the botsuch a time as this?” with a glance at tle. As I was fixing the torch for the Louie's face.

third time I heard a shout down the "Are you getting sleepy, man?” he cañon. I answered with all my might, said; then, as Louie did not answer, he and in a few minutes Jim Kelly and the took him under the arm, and signalling doctor rode into the circle of the flaring me to do the same on the other side, light. we kept him moving between us up “Alive?" the doctor asked. and down and round the tent. Fron “Alive, yes,” said Jock; "alive and time to time we made him drink more that's about all. He can't speak." brandy. He had taken half a bottle, "What have you given him,-brandy? but it seemed to have no effect on him. —that's right. How much?"

"It stimulates the heart's action, you “A bottleful." know,” Jock explained, "just as the “Right, and you've kept him awake? poison goes to stop it; but strychnine's That's it. He won't die now. Wonthe best; acts as a nerve-tonic.

It's a

derful fellows, these Greasers. He'd deal to do with the nerves, this snake- have died before this, if he meant dybite business."

ing. Let's see the wound.” We heard the little ground-owls be- The candle burned as quietly in the gin whistling to each other from the still air as in a room. The Mexican's mouths of the squirrel-holes away foot was swollen, so that it scarcely down in the plain, and the bats and looked like a human member; but in moths began to come out as the sun the midst of the purple swelling was a sank out of sight. They brushed our white circle with the little blue mark, faces as we continued to march the plainly evident, for its centre. The Mexican to and fro. Presently I left Mexican seemed to feel no pain, even tbe work to Jock, and rigged up a pine when the doctor handled the wound torch for a signal-light on the pole and pressed it upward with his finwhich I took from the wagon. The job gers. took some while, but at length I got the "Hold the candle close,” he said. “It's light fairly flaring.

blamed strange," he added, "blamed

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

strange,” pecking at the little blue "Well, I am darned.” mark with his forceps; "the fang's in “All the same," the doctor added the wound yet. I never heard of that quietly, “he'd have died if you hadn't happening before. Shake him a bit; kept him going.” don't let him go drowsy."

“Died! What of?” His swollen limbs wobbled like jelly "Snake-bite,-shake him up there; under the treatment. It was horrid. don't let him go drowsy."

The doctor gave a little dig, and then “Snake bite! Heavens and earth, I a little tug with his forceps. Presently thought you said there was nothing in he held up to the candle, in the clutch his foot beyond the thorn.” of the forceps, a long white spine, and Then the doctor went up to Jock and regarded it curiously. Then he said laid a hand on each of his shoulders, in a hollow voice: “Do you know what and said, very slowly and distinctly: it is? It's not a fang at all; it's a cac- "You mark me, Jock Peters, we're in tus-spike.”

face of a bigger thing to-night than “What!”

snake bite. We're in face of one of A strangely perplexed little group of the biggest and ultimatest facts of humen gazed into each other's faces with man nature, and one of its biggest mysquestioning eyes, under the stars that teries,—the influence of the mind upon twinkled out over the snow-topped the body. I've heard of something like edges of the Sierras.

this before, although I've never seen “Only a thorn!"

it, nor ever thought I should; and that “Look at it," the doctor said. "You in connection with a coolie and a cobra can see the thing for yourselves.” in India. In that case, too, there was

One after the other we examined the no snake bite, although there was spine, feeling its point with a finger snake. The coolie saw the snake; it that we certainly should not have ven- darted from beneath his feet, and at tured near it had it been a poison-fang. the moment (likely from the start he “And there's nothing else in the gave) a thorn pierced his foot,-just as wound?” Jock asked.

it happened to the Greaser. And that “Not a thing else.”

man, too, the same as this man here, “And you mean to tell me that I've swelled up, showed all the symptoms wasted two hours of my time, to say of snake-poisoning, and died. This nothing of a bottle of our best brandy, man we'll save. You, Jock, have pracin walking about a Greaser that has tically saved him, by keeping him movnothing the matter but a thorn in his ing; and counteracting the poison by foot? Well, I am darned.”

the brandy. Look at the man; isn't be “That's about what you've been do- snake-poisoned ?” ing,” the doctor said quietly.

"By all that's blue he looks it,” Jock “Well, I am darned.” Jock turned admitted. with a look of righteous wrath to the “And all the hurt he's got,-the physiwretched Mexican, who was lying in a cal hurt,-is just the pin prick of that comatose heap in my arms; but the first thorn. The rest's all mental,-all the sight of his face checked the words swelling, the surcharging of the vesunspoken.

sels, mental. Now, tell me, how do “Shake him up; keep him waking,” you think that man would be, but for the doctor cried.

his morbid mental state, with all that "But you don't mean to tell me,” brandy that you've given him ?”' Jock began again, when we had suc- Dead, I suppose.” ceeded in arousing some sign of life in “You're right,-dead; as dead as you Louie, “that all that,” pointing at his or I would be, if we set to drink the distended features, “is the cactus- same just now. But he,-he's hardly thorn ?"

drunk; he's sober. And he's better “There's not a mite else in the

now,-heart acting better." He bent wound.”

and listened to its beating as he spoke.

9

"You've seen a strange thing to-night,

| From The Argosy. gentlemen,” he added, rising again,

A GLIMPSE OF MARIA EDGEWORTH. and addressing us collectively; "such a thing as neither you nor I are likely

More than half a century ago, a ever to see again. And I'll tell you party of happy young people were another thing about it, gentlemen; it's travelling by train in England. At a thing that you won't find you get a

one end of their carriage two elderly deal of credence for when you come to ladies were seated. One of these, tell it to the boys. There's a fashion

small in person and with plain features, in this world for men to believe they

would probably have attracted little know the way things happen; and the

or no attention anywhere, so long as thing that happens in a way they don't she remained silent. As soon, however, know they put aside as a thing that

as she began to talk, the charm of her didn't happen. So of this,” the doctor

conversation and the intelligence and adued simply, “I should only speak, as

good humor of her countenance made among gentlemen, with a hand on the every one forget that she was not blest pistol-pocket at the hip.”

with outward beauty. Strangers at After a while the awful distortion of the beginning of the journey, the travLouie's face began to go down: “You

ellers in time began to exchange recan almost see it settling, like a batter marks with each other, and books soon padding," as Jim Kelly said; and the

became the subject on which young and fearful purple tinge died out of it. His old evidently preferred to talk. At heart was beating naturally again, and

last Miss Edgeworth's works were menthe doctor said we might let him go to tioned: they were great favorites with sleep.

the young people, and they spoke In the morning he was difficult to

warmly of the delight that "Simple rouse, as he might be after so heavy a

Susan" and "Lazy Lawrence” had been night, but the doctor said he would do to them in their childish days. Sudright enough if we gave him rest for a

denly two of the party looked at each day or two. And so he did, though other and smiled, and one of them, his nerve was so shaken that we had turning to the little old lady in the to send him back to the plain again, corner, said: where there are no rattlesnakes. It “We always feel guilty when we hear appeared later that Louie bad cher- Miss Edgeworth spoken of, for when ished a morbid dread of snakes for a we were children we did such a dreadlong while, ever since he had had a ful thing; we cannot imagine now how hand in the killing of one six feet long

we could have been so bold. We were down in the Republic of Mexico; very fond of drawing pictures of our though after a couple of years on the pet characters, and of course were alranche he had almost forgotten that ways trying to illustrate "The Parent's there were such things. A man that Assistant,” and only think!

We acis nervous about snakes should never tually made up a packet of what we go barefoot in the bills.

considered our best pictures, with our "It only shows what I told you,” Jock Christian names written under them, Peters commented. “Strychnine is the and posted it to Miss Edgeworth! thing for snake bite, because it is a What must she have thought of such nerve-tonic. If a man could make be- children?” lieve he had not been bitten he need Can we not fancy how the little lady's, never die of snake bite. If ever I'm kindly face lighted up with pleasure, bitten I shall make believe it was a as she replied: “And I can tell you that cactus-spine."

those drawings are still carefully treasThis is a true story, although it's such ured, for I am Maria Edgeworth!" a good one. If any one doubts it, he The scene changes. It is the year can see the thorn.

1844, the seventy-seventh of Miss Edge

« VorigeDoorgaan »