[April 16, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK
“Alive and kicking,” was his expression.
“You haven’t come from the other world, then?” My voice sank to a whisper.
“Yes, I have,” he answered, heartily. “Just landed, from Panama; been busy surveying the Isthmus.”
“Well, and how are you?” I asked, after a short pause, during which we had stood looking at each other, apparently not knowing what to say next.
“How am I?” he repeated. “I’ll tell you. Hard up, that’s how I am.” He drew me towards him abruptly, and whispered, “You couldn’t lend me five pounds, could you, old fellow? I’ve only got three and threepence in the world, and I am starting to-morrow for Siberia, as a photographer.”
It was quite clear, then, that he had not called and paid the £3 9s. 2d.
Probably Mrs. Kiswick’s explanation was, after all, the most reasonable; and yet I cling to my spectral illusion. Pray who doesn’t cling to his illusions, spectral or otherwise? I con over all Dr. Johnson has said about ghosts with a deep admiration; and I can’t quite satisfy myself. Did I, or did I not, see Charley Rollingstone’s ghost? Was it simply Mrs. Kiswick? Was it a phantom, born of dyspepsia? Was it an exhalation arising from old brown mahogany East India sherry of enormous strength and flavour? I cannot make up my mind upon the matter.
“The fact is, Piper, old man, you haven’t mind enough to make a conviction out of. Drop it, do. You’re getting an awful bore with your spectral illusion.”
I think it due to the reader to present him with this remark. It was made by a friend to whom I had, more than once, perhaps, mentioned my case. He’s a hasty man, I am bound to say; indeed, he writes in the papers, and is one of the most acidulated reviewers I happen to be acquainted with.
A Fruitful Vine.—In the Harleian MSS. (No. 980-7) we find mention made of a certain Scottish weaver who had no less than sixty-two children, and all by one wife. This family included four daughters, who lived to be women, and the rest of the three-score and two were boys, who all lived to be baptised. Out of these, forty-six actually reached man’s estate. The writer, one Thomas Gibbons, adds, that during the time of this fruitfulness on the part of the wife, the husband was absent for some five years in the Low Countries, where he served under Captain Selby; and that after his return home his wife was again delivered of three children at a birth, and “continued in her due time in such births” until she ceased childbearing. The informant of Mr. Gibbons was John Delaval, Esq., of Northumberland, who was high sheriff of that county in 1625, and who, in 1630, rode from Newcastle to a place about thirty miles beyond Edinburgh to see this worthy and fruitful couple. Mr. Delaval, however, did not find any of the children then residing with their parents, though three or four of them were living at Newcastle at the time. It appears that Sir John Bowes, and other wealthy Northumbrian “gentlemen of quality” adopted and brought up the children in batches of ten and twelve a piece, and that the residue were “disposed of” by others among the Scottish and English gentlemen of the Border Country.
Witching April, if the sun
Hold not back his genial rays,
And the sharp east wind be gone,
Bane of all the young Spring days;
Thee, of all the months, I choose
For my darling and delight,
With thy soft aërial hues
Sparkling in the tender light.
On the woods a purple glow,
Chequered here and there with green,
Where the slender larches grow,
Or the hawthorn, quaint and low,
Through the open glade is seen.
Chiefly, April, take my thanks
For thy lovely hedge-row banks;
Where the tufts of primroses
Cluster thickly, pure and pale;
And the violet, shy of praise,
Shrinks behind her leafy veil.
While the little furrowed leaves
Of the strawberry peep out near,
And the white-veined ivy weaves
Creeping garlands everywhere.
Now a thousand fresh young things
Push up through the remnant sere
Of the late departed year,—
Sheath’d, and curl’d, and ting’d with pink,—
So that one might almost think
(Lost in sweet imagining!)
They were little fairy elves,
Peeping forth to sun themselves.
Further on, within the wood,
Where the sun comes stealing through
Trees yet bare of leafy hood,
Let us now our way pursue.
Here the wood-anemones,
Seven-rayed stars of spotless white,
Spread their petals to the light,
Gazing with devoted eyes
On their worshipped God of Day;
But if he should hide his face
More than for a moment's space,
All the little band straightway
Fold their snowy petals up,
And each tiny, bell-like cup,
Tinged with blush of lilac bloom,
Earthward droops in graceful gloom.
Here, too, primroses abound,
Nestling in the russet leaves,
And soft moss, which all around