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CHAPTER II.

HE happy valley! Well, really, for a moment

you might think the first site chosen for our bower deserved the name given to it by the children. The hill's sides are clothed with hazel woods, sloping between cultivated fields; and the ravine is so serpentine, that you can

never see far in any direction. The bleak world, with its east wind, seems quite shut out. Then the ground along which the path guides you, is inlaid with bright gems from the wild flowers, which you must know as a botanical fact are here of singular beauty; and, moreover, if you have a squirrel's taste, at each stile, if you venture to stand on it, you run a good chance of being regaled with filbert Here in the corners sheltered from the cold, primroses, they tell us, are found as early as in the first or second week of January ; so soon does nature send us some cheerful harbinger, to hold out the promise of sunny days and genial showers, even in the wintry season, and these plants throwing out bunches of genuine spring leaves, enfolding some half-expanded primrose buds. At present, and as we know the place, all is only in sweet summer-time fragrance and profusion; so between the boughs you may suppose the bower placed, for this day ready to receive us; but, as I already observed, it will be migratory, and not found twice in the same place; for, like your birds, we mean to shift our bush.

To begin, then, by placing ourselves in presence partly of . the ideal, or one might say of types, for even what is real partakes often in the mind more or less of that universal character, and therefore we offend not against truth by the proposal, which is very necessary, in order to prevent us from appearing to introduce matters that ought to be concealed ; let us approach this group of children, seated beneath the spreading oak, or at the mossy couch near the fountain, breaking from the turf; and let us quietly observe what is to be observed by any one that looks on. The title of Children's Bower" is

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We are

not to imply that it is only children who will observe and speak all through the book; we must suppose that there are visitors, as grave and wise as ever you can wish, or even think yourself to be, who, from the suggestive things before them, can draw their own conclusions. Perhaps this plan, reader, is not what you would have recommended. Nothing more probable. But we can't help it; so it mu be for all that. As the old man in the fable said to his son, let us jog on as we choose :

“Proceed, my boy, nor heed their farther call;

Vain his attempts, who strives to please them all.” But let us observe, first, who are to be with us here, and how many of them are there. You know, on an occasion of this kind, one must suppose some real characters, and not be content with mere abstractions. I will not say, therefore, with Prospero, that “these our actors are all spirits,” that at a breath can melt into air ; but, on the other hand, for many obvious reasons, they must not be questioned too closely. seven, they will reply to our first demand, which may be excused; yes, without taking the answer from Wordsworth, or choosing the mystic number to denote that we have in view the whole universe of such bowers-seven, which in their case implied, as Plato would say, their being one, though in a different sense from his *, and though three ukupopoí are already plumed with angels' wings. But, hush! at least of the last two departures, not a word now. We have not been to the funeral, and we anticipate no such solemnity. There is then the first taken, whom we must allow to be absent as far as our senses can perceive, for us almost a name alone, though not the less a blissful creature, eternally existing, and perhaps even here a loving and a close observer. There is next, whom, alas ! we are at liberty to praise for the reason known to you already, the visible angel of the house, whose names—John, Gerald, conjoined with Mary,—it is still a delight to utter; the boy of eight years,

“the sweetest companion that ever man bred his hopes out of,” so loving and so joyous that none need dread the depth of his dark meditative eye,

* Parmenides.

“ Submissive to the mighty verse

And the dear voice of harmony,

By none more deeply felt than he!” Then, what Children's Bower is without some one that we may suppose to be his love and his delights ; the little sister next to him in age, May perhaps, as he himself will call her, whom nature seems to have appointed for his inseparable companion ? How vivid, yet how delicate her glee! How arch, how frolicsome! no living man need fear the worst of fortune's malice were she at his side, wanting only a wand to be a fairy-.

“She in benign affections pure,

In self-forgetfulness secure,
Sheds round the transient harm, or vague mischance,

A light unknown to tutored elegance." Then we may paint to ourselves from fancy a fourth, no less apt to be found in such a circle, soine gentle taller one, a creature flowing with what might be appropriately termed the oil of gladness, “oleam lætitiæ," a sensitive creature, whose little girlish fears it is delightful to behold; a child of nature, with a heart inspired with the love of all beautiful, all glorious, all quiet or impassioned things :

“ Features to old ideal grace allied,

Amid their smiles and dimples dignified ;
Fit countenance for the soul of primal truth,

The bland composure of eternal youth.” For fifth, we may suppose that kind of boy which every one has met somewhere; my Lord Lack-beard, grave and courageous, περί μεν θείειν ταχύς, and since we may give him one name as well as another, the Podas okeus Tenelmus, yet for all his fleetness, the Mentor of the flock, serious and firm, very steady, though as a skip-ditch his leaps make his youngest brother proud of him. I want a sixth, whom to paint from imagination only will not, perhaps, be quite so void of difficulty, although the mould is never broken. We must try to imagine dignity and grace combined in a tall girl, with a mind well stored, like those we read about in mediæval histories, as skilled in many tongues, and able to discourse with scholars in their own Latin; possessing a deep heart of nature's moods of grandeur and solemnity, and light and shade; words which I picked up from a verse which I happily did not cast away, though little suspecting that I should live to have need of them, when we were to see her one day like sorrow's monument,

“With each anxious hope subdued

By maiden's gentle fortitude,
Each grief, through meekness, settling into rest.”

In fine, for seventh, we may for a sad reason cease drawing on our fancy, and merely describe what was, and what, alas ! may now be spoken of without a veil; for here is the hero of the group so loved, that his character can verify the etymology of the word *pws, as Plato derives it, saying that it is only slightly drawn aside from the word “love," ēpws. Here is the tall, gay, gallant brother, τούπερ χαριεστάτη ήβη, the pride of all these young hearts, though himself the humblest of the humble; the lover of horses and boats, and nets and guns, the gentleman, as common persons that know him say, “every inch of him.” The gay songster, and the skilled on the sweet silver cornet. The inspirer of joy wherever he enters. What, perhaps some one will exclaim, the tall brother! Are we to admit him into the bower? Why not, pray? There, amongst the rest, he was planted from an infant; yes, dear lad, believe it; for they shall yet belie thy happy years, that say thou art a man. Why, good stranger, he was a child but yesterday; and he shall not pass here for what he desires to be thought, in spite of all his artifice of dress to ape the grown-up man, and a thousand other raw tricks familiar to his age. Even the chance comer, who now sees him for the first time, is struck with what he terms the childlike innocence of his face and manners. he belongs to the bower, notwithstanding his stable and his horses, his dog-cart, of which he had two months' fruition, and his pipe, for you see them all that way now. I grant that to spy him from afar, sauntering along with a band of swells, or, as Virgil would more elegantly say, “magna juvenum stipante caterva," a stranger might, for a moment, set him down as being only another of them, "Αλλος-νέων υπερηνορεόντων, and quite an improper candidate for a place here with the children; but, for all that, those who are well acquainted with him know

Of course,

the contrary; for, though all heartiness, he is not stubborn; he can exalt and prize a virtue better than his life; and though not learned, he still ever loves

“That holy mother of all issues good,

Whose white hand, for a sceptre, holds a file,
To polish roughest customs; and in him
She has her right.”

Truly the children will claim him as their bower-mate, and they have right to do so; for there is a secret link that binds him to his little brother's heart and to his sister's heart, the same as to his mother's heart; there is at the bottom the same notions of what is decorous and what is not; and when these loved ones are absent, in presence of his companions he will give utterance to things, that in consequence of his hatred of professions like those of Goneril and Regan his own home will not hear from him. Ay, at a cricket-match, in a ride home from hunting in the dark, in a boat at sea, or wading without shoes and stockings up to his middle in a river, or, stranger still, at a mess dinner, though with face not yet valanced, an admired guest, the tender sprig of the bower will out; for never leaves him the secret desire of imitating, like a child, what he thinks right in the domestic and hereditary way of thinking, in his family traditions and first impressions, though he won't be introducing it unless there be a strong occasion for his doing

Pull aside the boughs, then, and let in, by all means, the boy that was, the brother that is, the child that shall be; and, besides, the truth is, they cannot long do well without him; though now that he is in, you may as well close back the branches silently, lest, like door-keepers, jostled and forced by a throng of people, we should see rush in more than we are willing or prepared to meet. Yes, if you will keep the secret, a right of entry here does not altogether depend upon being a child in years. Mature age may present no impediment, since semper

bonus homo tiro est;" and, at all events, every true Christian might claim a place with the young people, as well as the littlest and freshest amongst them; which secret is blabbed by that old author, Oultreman, saying, though for this once I would try to stop his voice by putting not one finger,

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