The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Wee Raimy; or, Nobody Told Me
by E. Seeley,
[Edis Searle published many books, including True Stories for Little People, Hetty's Resolve, Paulina's Ambition presumably using E. Seeley as a pen name.]
[The following short sketch is a child's story, but one that is not intended for child readers. It is addressed to those to whom the sacred charge of children is entrusted, to those who love them, and believe in the heaven that is prepared for them. It is intended to suggest the inquiry, Are we doing all we can for those little ones whose angels do always behold the Face of our Father who is in Heaven?]
It is in an old-fashioned, high-walled country garden, such a garden as the memory loves to dwell on, that I would have you make Wee Raimy's acquaintance. For this garden was Raimy's world, his kingdom, while the warm, bright days lasted; or rather, from the first touch of spring sunshine until the leaves turned yellow and dropped from the boughs. It was a very old house, Raimy's home, and the garden was surrounded with a dark red wall; there was a stone fountain somewhere in the middle, with a water nymph in the basin, but this fountain had never played in Raimy's time, and the stone basin had grown green with moss. Three or four steps led from the house, and on the top of the steps was a sun-dial, and two greyhounds cut in stone, very old and worn they looked. Other boys in years gone by had played in this garden, and they had not been so tender and respectful as Raimy, but had cut and hacked those poor old greyhounds, and chipped their ears and noses, and traced unnatural lines on their poor old faces. It was a very silent garden on that particular morning when I would have you visit it--a hot, still morning near the end of June. The birds had put away their music-books, and hopped about with a scarce a twitter; the bees stole in and out among the flowers with ever-patient toil; no breeze moved the leaves; and little Raimy sat on the steps by the dial with a tired look on his pale little face. Sarah, the housemaid, had put on his hat, and bade him "go out and play," just as she always did when breakfast was over; and Raimy knew quite well that "go out and play" meant "stay out till dinner-time, and don't worry cook and me." They did not want him; cook would be busy telling the gardner and the baker about her rheumatism, and Sarah had the beds to make, and the windows to open, and the neighbours to watch, and many little things to do in which he could not help; therefore, of course, the garden was the best place for him. Plenty of air is so good for children, as Sarah always told his father--his grave, wise father, who said Sarah was a good girl and took such good care of him. And the garden was very nice. Raimy loved it, and had many little pieces of work on hand there, if only it had not been so hot. But he was a little busy man. So, after sitting a while on the stone steps, watching a bee that was busy among the honeysuckle, he got up and went down the long straight path between the rose-bushes to the little corner which was known by the name of Raimy's garden. And here--but this was Raimy's secret--lived certain creatures towards whom his heart went out with special love; a chaffinch with a broken wing, for whose comfort and solace he had constructed a little house in a box, and whom he fed with crumbs and carefully sought for flies and spiders; a number of green caterpillars, who lived in a box with a glass lid, and constantly disappointed Raimy's hopes that they would turn into butterflies of brilliant hue; a toad, who had grown wondrous tame, and allowed himself to be handled by Raimy without hopping off displeased; these, and other dependents, filled Raimy's life with various cares, and when he roused himself to exertion on this particularly hot morning, it was the consciousness that his toad would be longing for his bath in the broken fountain that made him quicken his steps towards his garden.
Then there were his flowers to be cared for. I fear Raimy was too energetic a gardener to be a very successful one; plants that were too slow and dilatory in putting forth their blossoms were frequently subjected to a searching examination, and moved about from place to place, if perchance change of air might benefit them; nevertheless, he had some sturdy plants, which throve and did well--a rose-bush whose buds were the joy of his heart, a row of red daisies which the lame chaffinch could see and admire from his bedroom window, and a pansy whose blossoms furnished its owner with button-hole adornments when he felt in a festive mood.
The hot sun which was beating down on Raimy's head, making him feel too tired to do anything, seemed to suit his plants; the rose-bush was glorious, the red daisies were splendid; and behold, the pansy had ever so many new blossoms.
"I wish," said Raimy to himself, "that somebody would come and see my bush. I think I'll ask Sarah; but, perhaps she'll say, 'Don't bother.' Father never comes into the garden, or perhaps he'd just come this way for a minute, and cook's rheumatics are too bad. Well, it is a pity. When mother comes back, she'll like it, I know. Oh, there's a caterpillar going to spoil that big bud! I'll give you to my bird, you horrid thing!"
"Let me see, let me see."
How Raimy started! I believe he dropped the green grub and the chaffinch never got it, for looking up whence the voice proceeded he saw a bright round face, with a quantity of fair rough hair, just above the high garden wall. There was a pear-tree with a bent crooked bough hanging over the wall, and the owner of the curly head had evidently climbed up this convenient branch. Raimy stared open-mouthed, and when the bright face rippled with a merry laugh, he turned shy, cast down his eyes, and said:
"I didn't know you were there."
"I climbed up the pear-tree," said the little girl. "It's quite easy. Who are you?"
"I'm Raimy, but please get down. My chaffinch tumbled off that wall and broke its wing."
"Did it? Please show it me. Was that what you said you would show your mother when she came back?"
"Oh no, it was my rose-bush; isn't it beautiful?"
"Yes, but where is your mother, and when is she coming back?"
"I don't know," replied Raimy, dropping his head. "It was my fault, you know."
"What was your fault? And please hold up your head, I can't hear very well."
"I said," answered Raimy, his pale face covered with a deep blush, "I said it was my fault that my mother went away. I was naughty, that was why."
"Was it? Well, my mother's gone to London, and she said before she went away that I wore her out, so I suppose I'm pretty bad too. But what did you do?"
"It's so long ago," said Raimy," I can't remember; but Sarah told me if I wanted mother to stay with me I must not make a noise, but I'd got a big new drum, and I quite forgot, and so--and so mother went away, and she's never come back."
"How long ago was that?" The bright face above the wall had grown grave; then the child added, "Aren't you Raimy, Mr. Austen's little boy? I thought you had not got a mother."
"She's gone away," was Raimy's reply. "But I never beat my drum now."
"Where's she gone?"
There was a long pause. Then, on the question being repeated Raimy answered with some hesitation, "I don't know; nobody ever told me; but it's so long ago."
"How long--two months?"
"Oh, ever so long. It was before my birthday, when I had my horse and cart that's broken now, you know; and before the cook began to have rheumatics, and before the pony died, and the dog got lost. I think I've had two birthdays since mother went away, and I'm going to have another next week. Sarah says I'll be six then."
"I'm eight and going on for nine," said the face on the top of the wall.
"Do you want to know who I am?"
"I shouldn't mind. Do you live in the big house that has been empty so long? Cook says the people that have come there are not good for much. What's that mean?"
"I don't know; but my name is Rhoda Court. Do you like my name, Raimy?"
Yes, Raimy thought he did; and the little girl chattered on:
"My mother had gone to London, and left me here with my governess, and she sent me out to play, and I came through the orchard and the rabbit warren, and climbed up this tree. Can you guess what for, Raimy?"
No, Raimy could not guess, and the child went on:
"I came to look for you. I knew that Mr. Austen had a little boy, and I looked everywhere for you in church yesterday, and I couldn't see you, and so I came to look over the wall, and I found you straight off. Wasn't that lucky? But why don't you go to church?"
"Father says that I'm too small--that I should fidget. When I'm six, perhaps I shall go."
"There are lots of children smaller than you in church--poor children, I mean. They come in two-and-two, and I believe they've been to school first. I suppose they're very bad children, and want ever so much teaching to make them good; but they don't look bad."
"I should like to go to church and Sunday-school," said Raimy after a pause in which he had been turning over these remarks in his mind. "Sunday is such an immensely long day. Sarah says it's wrong to go digging in my garden, because I have my best suit on; and I play with the cat, and look at picture-books, but I don't know what the pictures mean."
"I told my mother I should like to go to the Sunday-school," remarked Rhoda, "and she told father, and they laughed; and mother said the Sunday-school was for the little heathens in the village; but I don't know why she called them heathens; heathens are black people and worship images--at least, so I thought; didn't you?"
"I don't know, I never heard. What is worship, Rhoda?"
"Oh, worship means to kneel down and say your prayers. You say your prayers, don't you, Raimy?"
"When I go to bed, if Sarah isn't in a hurry, I say, 'Please God bless father and mother, and make me a good boy, for Christ's sake'; but I don't know what it means--do you?"
"Let me see," said Rhoda thoughtfully; "bless, means give them all sorts of good things; make me good, means don't let me get into any scrapes."
"Oh, does it? Thank you," replied Raimy, his brown eyes growing very large and round; "but what does God mean, and for Christ's sake? I never can make out."
"God is very good and kind, and loves good people, I've heard that in church; but I'm not sure about the rest, about Christ, and Christ's sake; that's very hard."
"Yes, very hard," Raimy agreed; "but does God love children, because most people don't. Father don't, and Sarah don't, and cook don't; they say they're always in the way."
"Well, you see," said Rhoda, "I'm afraid it's true; we are in the way. Mother always says if it wasn't for us children she could go traveling and see the world, and she'd like that; and if it wasn't for me, mademoiselle could lie in bed when she has the headache; she mostly has headaches, Raimy; and if she hadn't my frocks to make, and hats to trim, nurse could go walking with her friends. Yes, I suppose we are in the way, and a horrid nuisance, as nurse says."
"But we can't help it," remarked Raimy, gazing ruefully into the face which was looking down at him from the top of the wall, and which not even the dolefulness of these reflections served to rob of its gleeful expression. "We can't help it; we didn't make our own selves."
"No, that's just what I say," began Rhoda. But at this moment a shrill voice, exclaiming "Miss Rhoda, Miss Rhoda!" was heard among the trees of the orchard, and quick as thought the child slipped down from her perch and disappeared, and Raimy was left alone. He had his toad and his chaffinch and his caterpillars and his beloved rose-bush just as before, but they looked different now. This half-hour of child-talk seemed to have changed everything. The garden now for the first time was terribly silent and lonesome, and as he watched his lame bird, and picked leaves for his caterpillars, new thoughts filled his little head, and a hundred strange ideas came surging up in his mind, which one and all had been suggested by some of Rhoda's thoughtless chatter.
For without much thinking or caring about it, Raymond Austen had become accustomed to the notion that his existence was a matter of no great moment to any one but himself. His father was buried in his books, a silent man by nature, dreaming much of his time away. He saw his little son twice or thrice a day at meals, kissed him gravely morning and evening, but seldom spoke to him; and, as a matter of course, Raimy, shy and reserved also, never spoke to him. The idea that his father loved him, never entered his head. The other inhabitants of his home, Sarah and cook, had also their own concerns, and Raimy formed no part of them. Perhaps he was not an interesting child. I am inclined to think that had he contrived to have the measles three or four times over, break his head once a week, or show a tendency to set the house on fire, he would have been far more interesting to every member of the household. The less he troubled them the less they thought about him, and in a sort of a way he recognised the fact, which he expressed to Rhoda when he asked "Does God love children? Most people don't." "Most people" being his own little world of home.
But, Rhoda gone, he sat down to think; there were some symptoms of illness among the caterpillars which at another time would have awakened his keenest apprehensions. Those caterpillars had such a trick of dying just when he was hoping they would turn into butterflies, but at this moment the caterpillars were forgotten amid the other more engrossing thoughts. Rhoda was sure he had no mother, that meant that she was dead; but Sarah said she was gone away, and he thought, but he was not sure, that his father and cook said so too. If she was dead, why had they not said so? Why had they gone on letting him think that some day she would come back again? His heart swelled, and a choking sensation rose in his throat. "When mother comes back," he had been wont to say to himself, "I shall learn to read; I shall go to church; she will take me for walks, and come and see my rose-bush; and I will ask her if I may play with my drum again." "When mother comes back" had been the limit of his fairest dreams; was he to say it no more for ever now? And then his mind recalled other words of his little friend Rhoda. Children were a trouble to their friends--it must be so, there was no help for it; unluckily this sentiment fell in with his own impressions, and he was not likely to dispute the opinion, though inclined to wonder at the cheerfulness of the merry little person who had uttered it. And then came other remembrances. Rhoda's wish to go to the Sunday-school, an idea which had never before crossed Raimy's mind, but now took possession of him with such force that he almost made up his mind to broach the subject to his father--a thing he had never in his life done before.
And, strange to say, and much to his own surprise, he did it. Had he thought the matter well over, I have little doubt his courage would have failed; but while the notion was fresh in his mind, Sarah called him in to dinner, and, seated near his father, the words passed his lips before he was well aware what he was doing.
"Father, may I be a Sunday-school boy?"
The question came upon him so suddenly that Mr. Austen, who as usual was entirely engrossed with his own meditations--what they were I will not pretend to guess--was so astonished that he merely gasped, "A what, Raimy?" and without listening to the answer, which was given in a somewhat faltering tone, began asking himself whether he had not somewhere heard it said that children should not be allowed to talk when at table with their parents.
"May I, father--may I go to the Sunday-school?"
It was such an anxious little face that was upturned to him, that Mr. Austen, leaving his meditations and questionings for a future time, roused himself to reply:
"Go to the Sunday-school, Raimy? Why, no, that would never do. The children there have whooping-cough and scarlet fever, and besides there are bad boys there whom I should not like you to know."
It was a decided answer. Raimy's eyes fell, he felt there was no more to say, but ere he returned to his more profound reflections, Mr. Austen asked almost shyly as his little son might have done, "But why, Raimy, why do you want to go?"
But that Raimy could not tell. "My prayer," he murmured with eyes cast down, "my prayer is about God and Christ, and I don't understand, and I--I want to learn."
Mr. Austen started back, amazed and shocked. "Raimy," he said slowly and solemnly, "that you, my son, should need to go to the Sunday-school, that you should want teaching the meaning of your prayers--it is impossible, the very idea is monstrous and absurd. In this house, living with me, you have all you need. The Sunday-school is for children who, without the teaching they get there, would be little better than heathens, but for you it would be simply ridiculous and unnecessary. Take away the soup, Sarah."
"Well, I never, Master Raimy," said Sarah, when she was undressing the little boy that evening, "to think of you telling your father, a learned gentleman as ever lived, that you wanted teaching better than he gives you! Who ever heard the like of it! And to want to go to the Sunday-school, and catch fevers, and measles, and small-pox, and cholera, that I may have the nursing of you. A fine thing to be sure!"
"Well, I'm not going, Sarah, so you won't have to nurse me; but you don't speak true. Father doesn't teach me."
"I don't speak true! I wonder what next! And your father don't teach you? Doesn't he read beautiful prayers night and morning, and isn't it the best of teaching to watch himself, as quiet a gentleman as ever lived, no scolding, no fault-finding in the house--just shuts himself in his room, and never meddles or makes, but lets cook and me alone; what's that but teaching, if such notions into your head, I'd like to know?"
Thus adjured, Raimy poured forth his tale, winding up with, "She said--she said that I had no mother, and you know, Sarah, you told me she'd only gone away." Whereupon Sarah replied, "Seems to me this little miss is not such as your father would like you to play with. Did you say her name was Rhoda? I've hard tell in the Bible of a girl of that name who listened behind doors; maybe your Miss Rhoda is the same sort. I wouldn't talk to her, Master Raimy, not if I was you."
"Creeping and climbing up the wall. Did you ever see the likes of that, cook? She must be a sly one, that Miss Rhoda; and with that foreigneering mademoiselle, as they call her, for a teacher, there's no knowing the mischief she may have in her head. If she comes again, I'll speak to the master."
"Nay, but, Sarah, the child has no playmates. I'd let them alone if I were you."
"And have her telling the boy as his mother is dead; not if I know it!"
(To be continued.)
Proofread by LNL, August, 2023
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