As Destiny Intended

as destiny intended short story, book cover

As destiny intended, a translucent glimmer embodied the night and the stars became shrouded in uncertainty; if her fate were to become her nemesis, she would accept it rather than force the hand of luck. The doom and gloom of solitude, her circumstance never intentional; her purposive desire merely fell on delusional imps. She could not change the way she felt about any of them. Why should she even consider anything less than what destiny intended?

Anna stood for a moment in a kind of trance; six whole years, her bedroom had been her sanctuary, a shrine almost. She thought of her father, unshaven and smiling with a coffee in his hand, with a worried mischievous hint of wonder. She thought of how he struggled to build the small loft conversion above the two-bed semi on Ravenswood Lane. ‘Tis all for yuh,’ he would say, drawing the sweat from his brow with his forearm, ‘A wee palace, all of yuh own.

She knew there was something wrong with the look in his eyes. ‘If — only,’ she sighed, sitting down at the end of her bed. The argument with her mother made her question her faith in destiny. Maybe it was time for her to move out. It might be what fate intended anyway, she supposed.

After all, Isabella, her younger sister, had found fortune; kismet had shone fondly on her. Her younger sister was unaware of the constant comparison she had to endure. Her mother’s determination to make sure she too would be tied, bound and, chastised in marriage.

Paul Rose! For heavens sakes.’ She cried.

A proper little mummies boy; she moaned to herself, afraid of his own shadow. How could she even think it would be okay. Paul, bloody Rose, she repeated as the argument slowly stole her mind once again.  Admittedly she was not the prettiest of things, of which she did not need reminding. ‘O’ Isabella. Of course, Isabella was far more glamorous. She knew what she wanted in life.

Anna felt the emptiness, loneliness and missed her father’s warm, loving smile. She thought of him taking each day as it came, enjoying each blessed day even if it were raining. It momentarily gave her relief in a smile.

The minute her mother remarried, she broke her promise; things had changed; everything had changed since her father’s death. There was a sense of urgency, frustration almost, which made them feel as if they were in the way, until — Isabella, tired of the constant arguing, eloped with a man twice her age. ‘O’ how she remembered that day, ‘Sickly Imp,’ a nickname she had bestowed upon her stepfather, finally got told to shut it and keep his nose out of something that did not concern him.

It must have been the last time her mother comforted her in a heart-wrenching display of despair. First, mother had pulled her tight to her bosom; then they cried for hours, mourning the loss of her father, together. Then they giggled in fits of remembrance before finally making a pact, never to allow anyone or anything to come between them ever again. There was a desperate raw need in her mother that very night, one she would never forget. It made her feel wanted, needed.

as destiny intended mystery romance, cover for short story

As Destiny Intended

As for precious little Isabella, Richard Latimore, the man she eloped with, was already married. After a six-month spending spree across the country, Isabella had exhausted his finances to the point he wept in shame and admitted everything. Isabella had laughed in his face and called him every vile word she could think of before, opening the hotel door to Nick, who immediately took her in his arms and kissed her in a way to enrage Richard further. Nick Robinson was a young man she met on the night she ran away, whilst waiting for Richard at Tanner’s Palace, a cafe situated on the outskirts of town. He knew Richard very well and told her everything about the little weasel.

Isabella had no intention of returning home; she was determined to make the bastard suffer. Unlike herself, Isabella was not just beautiful; she was bright and strong-willed. And boy did he suffer the consequences of her deliberate allure of necessity, bags, jewellery and even the latest iPhone. All of this whilst taunting him into thinking that she would give herself to him freely once they were married, and at the same time tempting him into thinking she was on the absolute brink of giving herself completely, out of wedlock.

Hope! My dear Anna, is like a rope, you just need to know when to tug it.‘ Isabella had laughed.

Anna pondered on what she had meant by it. Then, in a deep diminishing sigh, she resigned herself to the fact her sister would always reap the riches of karma, no matter what she did. She was one in a million, and she was looking forward to finally seeing her again.

Now, three years after running away, Isabella was finally getting married, too, Nick. Mother could not be more excited and to have been asked to assist with the wedding preparations. It was as though Isabella could do no wrong, despite her running away and nearly causing her mother to have a heart attack, not to mention the sleepless nights that followed, month after month, without a single word.

Her mother truly believed Isabella was a victim of Mr Richard Latimore. He had subsequently hit the tabloids after committing several acts of fraud and indecent exposure. His lawyer had pleaded it was due to a mental breakdown caused by financial difficulties he had endured for several years. But, as destiny intended, Anna surmised, what else could it have been? It was not a coincidence.

‘O’ well, she sighed; theres no point in going over the past and stood up. The crux of which she was adamant was that she would most definitely not be entertaining Paul Rose.

Tis yours.

“Oh, where art thou tentative heart of whom I seek?”

A quick note by the Author:

As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. However, there is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.

Thank you for your interest, Andrew.

a worried look of concern

As Destiny Intended

 Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021

Imagery

The featured image for As Destiny Intended is a collage by justanemotion.com

The photo of a boy was by Puplicdomainpictures.

Illustrations, including fancy page break, was by Annaliseart.

The Stolen Dream

the stolen dream short story

To dream, a dream, on this perfect night for things to be wishfully, just right. A mystical awe of desire of which I might aspire. Alas! Out of reach until I sleep, I’ll keep wandering down this street, with hope in my heart for fortune to strike, you never know, it just might—an unconscious request, not in jest, intuition, ambition, a sense— my quest.

“Oh, how divine maybe one day, mine, you’ll see just give it time.” Justanemotion

Introducing one of my favourite short stories, The Stolen Dream by Richard Le Gallienne. An English author and poet, which was first published in 1912. With the addition of some illustrations, and only a few changes, we hope you enjoy this short and pleasant tale.

the stolen dream short story

 

The Stolen Dream

The sun was setting and slanting long lanes of golden light through the trees, as an old man, borne down by a heavy pack, came wearily through the wood, and at last, as if worn out with the day’s travel, unshouldered his burden and threw himself down to rest at the foot of a great oak-tree. He was very old, older far he seemed than the tree under whose gnarled boughs he was resting, though that looked as if it had been growing since the beginning of the world.

 

His back was bent as with the weight of years, though really it had become so from the weight of the pack that he carried; his cheeks were furrowed like the bark of a tree, and far down upon his breast fell a beard as white as snow. But his deep-set eyes were still bright and keen, though sly and cruel, and his long nose was like the beak of a hawk. His hands were like roots strong and knotted, and his fingers ended in talon-like nails. In repose, even they seemed to be clutching something, something they loved to touch, and would never let go. His clothes were in rags and his shoes scarce held to his feet.

He seemed as abjectly poor as he was abjectly old.

Presently, when he had rested a while, he turned to his pack, and, furtively glancing with his keen eyes up and down the wood to make sure that he was alone, he drew from it a sack of leather which was evidently of great weight. Its mouth was fastened by sliding thongs, which he loosened with tremulous, eager hands.

First he took from the bag a square of some purple silk, stuff, which he spread out on the turf beside him, and then, his eyes gleaming with a wild light, he carefully poured out the contents of the bag onto the purple square, a torrent of gold and silver coins and precious stones flashing like rainbows—a king’s treasure. The setting sun flashed on the glittering heap, turning it into a dazzle of many-coloured fire. The treasure seemed to light up the wood far and near, and the gaudy summer flowers that a moment before had seemed so bright and splendid fell into shadow before its radiance.

The old man bathed his claw-like hands in the treasure with a ghoulish ecstasy and let the gold and silver pour through his fingers over and over again, streams of jewelled light gleaming and flashing in the level rays of the sun. As he did so, he murmured inarticulately to himself, gloating and gurgling with a lonely, hideous joy.

Suddenly a look of fear came over his face; he seemed to hear voices coming up the wood, and, huddling his treasure swiftly back again into the leathern bag, and the bag into the folds of his pack, he rose and sought some bushes nearby to hide himself from the sight of whosoever it was that approached. But, as he shouldered his pack, he half staggered, for the pack was of great weight, and he heaved a deep sigh.

“It grows heavier and heavier,” he muttered. “I cannot carry it much longer. I shall never be able to carry it with me to the grave.”

As he disappeared among the bushes, a young man and a young woman, with arms twined around each other, came slowly up the glade and presently sat down at the foot of the tree where the old man had been resting a moment or two before.

“Why, what is this?” presently exclaimed the young girl, picking up something bright out of the grass. It was a gold coin, which, in his haste, the old man had let slip through his fingers.

“Gold!” they both exclaimed together.

“It will buy you a new silk gown,” said the lover. “Whoever heard of such luck!” And then he sighed.

“Ah! Dear heart,” he said, “if only we had more like that! Then we could fulfil our dream.”

As the sun poured its last rays over them there at the foot of the oak, it was to be seen that they were penniless. Their clothes were old and weather-stained, and they had no shoes to their feet, but the white feet of the girl shone like ivory flowers in the grass, and her hair was a sheaf of ruddy gold. Nor was there a jewel in all the old man’s treasure as blue as her eyes. In his manly fashion, the young man was no less brave and fair to look upon.

In a little while, they turned to a poor wallet at the young man’s side. “Let us eat our supper,” they said.

There was little more than a crust or two, a few morsels of cheese, and a mouthful or two, of sour wine. Still, they were accustomed to being hungry, and the thought of the gold coin cheered their hearts. So they grew content, and after a while, they nestled close into each other’s arms and fell asleep, while slowly and softly through the woods came the light of the moon.

Now all this time the old, man had lain hidden, crouched down among the bushes, afraid almost to draw his breath, but from where he was, he could hear and see all and had overheard all that had been said. At length, after the lovers had been silent for a long time, he took courage to peer out from his hiding-place, and he saw that they were asleep. He would wait a little longer, though, till their sleep was sounder, and then he might be able perhaps to creep away unheard. So he waited on, and the moon grew brighter and brighter and flooded the woods with its strange silver. And the lovers fell deeper and deeper asleep.

“It will be safe now,” said the old man, half rising and looking out from his bushes. But this time as he looked out, he saw something, something extraordinary and beautiful.

Hovering over the sleeping lovers was a floating, flickering shape that seemed made of moonbeams, with two great shining stars for its eyes. It was the dream that came nightly to watch over the sleep of the lovers; and, as the miser gazed at it in wonder, a strange change came over his soul, and he saw that all the treasure he had hoarded so long—gathered by the cruel practices of years, and with which his back had grown bent carrying it about the world, was as dross compared with this beautiful dream of two poor lovers, to whom but one of all his gold pieces had seemed like a fortune.

“What, after all, is it to me but a weary burden my shoulders grow too old to carry,” he murmured, “and for the sake of which my life is in danger wherever I go, and to guard which I must hide away from the eyes of men?”

And the longer he gazed on the fair shining vision, the more the longing grew within him to possess it for himself.

“They shall have my treasure in exchange,” he said to himself, approaching nearer to the sleepers, treading softly lest he should awaken them. But they slept on, lost in the profound slumber of innocent youth. As he drew near, the dream shrank from him, with fear in its starry eyes; but it seemed the more beautiful to the old, man the closer he came to it and saw of what divine radiance it was made of; and, with his desire, his confidence grew greater. So, softly placing his leather bag in the flowers by the side of the sleepers, he thrust out his talon-like fingers and snatched the dream by the hand, and hurried away, dragging it after him down the wood, fearfully turning now and again to see that he was not being pursued.

But the sleepers still slept on, and by morning the miser was far away, with the captive dream by his side.

As the earliest birds chimed through the wood and the dawn glittered on the dewy flowers, the lovers awoke and kissed each other and laughed in the light of the new day.

“But what is this?” cried the girl, and her hands fell from the pretty task of coiling up the sunrise of her hair.

With a cry, they both fell upon the leather bag, lying there so mysteriously among the wood-lilies in the grass. With eager little fingers, they pulled apart the leather thongs and went half-mad with wonder and joy as they poured out the glittering treasure in the morning sun.

“What can it all mean?” they cried. “The fairies must have been here in the night.”

The treasure seemed real enough. The jewels were not merely dewdrops turned to diamonds and rubies and amethysts by the sun’s magic beams. And, nor was the gold mere gold of faerie, but coins bearing the image of the king of the land. Here were real jewels, real gold and silver. Like children, they dabbled their hands in the shining heap, tossing them up and pouring them from one hand to the other, flashing and shimmering in the morning light.

Then a fear came upon them.

“But folk will say that we have stolen them,” said the youth; “they will take them from us and cast us into prison.”

“No, I believe some God has heard our prayer,” said the girl, “and sent them down from heaven in the night. He who sent them will see that we come to no harm.”

And again, they fell to pouring them through their fingers and babbling in their delight.

“Do you remember what we said last night when we found the gold piece?” said the girl. “If only we had more of them! Surely our good angel heard us and sent them in answer.”

“It is true,” said the young man. “They were sent to fulfil our dream.”

“Our poor starved and tattered dream!” said the girl. “How splendidly we can clothe and feed it now! What a fine house we can build for it to live in! It shall eat from gold and silver plate, and it shall wear robes of wonderful silks and lawns like rainbows, and glitter with jewels, blue and yellow and ruby, jewels like fire fountains and the depths of the sea.”

As they spoke, a sudden disquietude fell over them, and they looked at each other with a new fear.

“But where is our dream?” said the girl, looking anxiously around. And they realized that their dream was nowhere to be seen.

“I seemed to miss it once in the night,” answered the young man in alarm, “but I was too sleepy to heed. Where can it be?”

“It cannot be far away,” said the girl. “Perhaps it has wandered off among the flowers.”

They were now thoroughly alarmed.

“Where can it have gone?” they both cried. And they rose and ran to and fro through the wood, calling out aloud on their dream. But no voice came back in reply, nor, though they sought high and low in covert and brake, could they find a sign of it anywhere. Their dream; was lost. Seek as they might; it was nowhere to be found.

And then they sat down by the treasure weeping, forgetting it all in this new sorrow.

“What shall we do?” they cried; “we have lost our dream.”

For a while, they sat on, inconsolable. Then a thought came to the girl.

“Someone must have stolen it from us. It would never have left us of its own accord,” said she.

And, as she spoke, her eyes fell on the forgotten treasure.

“What use are these to us now, without our dream?” she said.

“Who knows,” said the young man, “perhaps someone has stolen our dream to sell it into bondage. We must go and seek it, and maybe we can repurchase it with this gold and jewels.”

“Let us start at once,” said the girl, drying her tears at this ray of hope; and so, replacing the treasure in the bag, the young man slung it at the end of his staff, and together they set off down the wood, seeking their lost dream. Meanwhile, the old man had journeyed hastily and far, the dream following in his footsteps, sorrowing; and at length, he came to a fair meadow, and by the edge of a stream, he sat down to rest himself and called the dream to his side.

The dream shone nothing like so brightly as in the moonlit woodland, and its eyes were heavy as with weeping.

“Sing to me,” said the old man, “to cheer my tired heart.”

“I know no songs,” said the dream, sadly.

“You lie,” said the old man, “I saw the songs last night in the depths of your eyes.”

“I cannot sing them to you,” said the dream. “I can only sing them to the simple hearts I made them for, the hearts you stole me from.”

“Stole you?” said the old man, “did I not leave my treasure in exchange?”

“Your treasure will be nothing to them without me,” said the dream.

“You talk folly,” said the old man. “With my treasure, they can buy other dreams just as fair as you are. Do you think that you are the only dream in the world? There is no dream that money cannot buy.”

“But I am their own dream. They will be happy with no other,” said the dream.

“You shall sing to me, all the same,” said the old man angrily. But the dream shrank from him and covered its face.

“If I sang to you, you would not understand. Your heart is old and hard and cruel, and my songs are all of youth and love and joy.”

“Those are the songs I would hear,” said the old man.

“But I cannot sing them to you, and if I sang them, you could not hear.”

“Sing,” again cried the old man, harshly, “sing, I bid you.”

“I can never sing again,” said the dream. “I can only die.”

And for none of the old man’s threats would, the dream sing to him, but sat apart, mourning the loved ones it had lost.

So several days passed by, and every day the dream was growing less bright, a creature of tears and sighs, more and more fading away, like a withering flower. At length, it was nothing but a grey shadow, a weary shape of mist that seemed ready to dissolve and vanish at any breath of wind. No one could have known it for that radiant vision that had hovered shimmering with such a divine light over the sleep of the lovers.

At length, the old man lost patience and began to curse himself for a fool in that he had parted with so great a treasure for this worthless, whimpering thing. And he raved like a madman as he saw infancy all the gold and silver and rainbow-tinted jewels he had so foolishly thrown away.

“Take me back to them,” said the dream, “and they will give you back your treasure.”

“A likely thing,” raged the old man, “to give back a treasure like that for such a sorry phantom.”

“You will see,” said the dream.

As there was nothing else to be done, the old man took up his staff.

“Come along then,” said he, and started in the direction of the wood, and though it was some days’ journey, a glow flushed all through the grey shape of the dream at the news, and its eyes began to shine again.

And so they took their way.

Meanwhile, the two lovers had gone from village to village, and city to city, vainly asking for news of their dream. And to everyone they asked, they showed their treasure and said:

“This is all yours if you can but give us back our dream.”

Nowhere could they learn any tidings but gleaned only mockery and derision.

“You must be mad,” said some, “to seek a dream when you have all that wealth in your pack. Of what use is a dream to anyone? And what more dream do you want than gold and precious stones?”

“Ah! our dream,” said the lovers, “is worth all the gold and jewels in the world.”

Sometimes others would come, bringing their own dreams.

“Take this,” they would say, “and give us your treasure.”

But the lovers would shake their heads sadly.

“No, your dreams are not so beautiful as ours. No other dream can take its place. We can only be happy with our own dream.”

And, indeed, the dreams that were brought, to them seemed poor, pitiful, make-believe things, often ignoble, misbegotten, sordid, and cruel. To the lovers, they seemed not dreams at all but shapes of greed and selfish desire. So the days passed, bringing them neither tidings nor hope, and there came at length an evening when they turned their steps again to the woodland and sat down once more under the great oak-tree in the sunset.

“Perhaps our dream has been waiting for us here all the time,” they said.

The wood was empty and echoing, and they sat and ate their supper as before, but silently and in sorrow, and as the sunset, they fell asleep as before in each other’s arms, but with tears glittering on their eyelids.

And again, the moon came flooding the spaces of the wood, and nothing was heard but their breathing and the song of a distant nightingale.

Presently while they slept, there was a sound of stealthy footsteps coming up the wood.

It was the old man, with the dream shining by his side, and now and again running ahead of him in the eagerness of its hope. Suddenly it stopped, glowing and shimmering like the dancing of the northern lights, and placed a starry finger on its lips for silence.

“See,” it whispered, and there were the lovers, lying lost in sleep.

The old man’s wolfish eyes saw but one thing. There lay the leather bag of his treasure just as he had left it. Without a word, he snatched it up and hastened off with it down the wood, gurgling uncouthly to himself.

“Oh, my beauties!” he cried, as he sat himself down, afar off and poured out the gold and the silver and the gleaming stones into the moonlight. “Oh, my love, my life, and my delight! What other dream could I have but you!”

Meanwhile, the lovers stirred in their sleep and murmured to each other.

“I seemed to hear singing,” each said.

And, half opening their eyes, they saw their dream shining and singing above them in the moonbeams, lovelier than ever before, a shape of heavenly silver, with two stars for its eyes.

“Our dream has come back!” they cried to each other. “Dear dream, we had to lose you to know how beautiful you are!”

And with a happy sigh, they turned to sleep again, while the dream kept watch over them until dawn.

illustration of a little girl to say finish

Next short story

 

 

 

Original short story by Richard Le Gallienne 

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021

The Unscrupulous Proposal

The Unscrupulous Proposal, short romantic mystery story, cover

The unscrupulous proposal of Richard Myers received the disdain it so rightly deserved. The father would have none of it and insisted he would not interfere in his daughter’s private affairs. It was a relief to Catherine, who did not consider it necessary to discuss such an imperious letter. Although her mother, Mrs Ashington, questioned her relationship with an acquaintance of Lord and Lady Haxley, who had been identified as an imposter. On the grounds, the letter amounted to nothing more than blackmail, hoping it would persuade them to accept his proposal, Catherine was not prepared to discuss the matter any further.

Mr Ashington agreed and insisted that the implications of such a letter implied he should in some way be indebted to Richard Myers. When Mrs Ashington inferred they were looking at it all the wrong way and that Richard was merely trying to protect Catherine, her father became infuriated.

Nonsense!” Mr Ashington shouted, “If, he had any decency at all, he would have first discussed it with Catherine—personally.”

The matter then escalated until Mr Ashington bought his fist down, heavy on the drawing-room table, asking why Richard had not had the decency to discuss it with him first. Catherine found it all so upsetting and quickly ran to her room.

The following night they had agreed to attend a formal gathering to celebrate Richard Myers promotion. Mr Ashington decided he would take the opportunity to express his displeasure at receiving such an unscrupulous proposal.

 

The announcement of Lord and Lady Haxleys arrival was like the sound of a great wave breaking on the shore before receding in a gentle hum of disbelief.

Robert, the butler, looked horrified and continued a little perplexed, “Accompanied—by—”

With horror, Richard Myers frantically began to search for Catherine. He was in no doubt who had accompanied them. His father would attend to the Haxleys, but he would have to move fast to prevent Catherine from seeing the scoundrel.

Thomas Benton then tapped the base of his glass on the table several times.

Hear—hear!” Thomas shouted. “Hear—hear!”

His sudden authoritative burst stole the announcement of Paul Watkins, who had accompanied the Haxleys.

Good heavens!” He exclaimed, “You look as horrified as I was when I first heard of Richards promotion.”

Awkwardly Richard smiled, twisting his large frame through the small congregation.

Thomas continued to welcome the guests and congratulate Richard Myers on becoming a partner in the family’s long-established law firm.

After only a few minutes, Richard saw Catherine standing dutifully beside Mr and Mrs Ashington.

He hesitated for a moment to tidy himself up.

Richard!”

Instinctively he turned to find George Thurston, reaching for his hand.

“Congratulations, my boy.” Vigorously he shook Richards hand, who felt his entire—attire dishevel once more. “I’m sure you’ll make us all very proud, my boy.”

Thank—you,” Richard replied in a restrained grimace of discomfort, “I’ll—try, to do my best.”

 

The Unscrupulous Proposal

 

His view of Catherine diminished behind Albert, who too wished to congratulate him. After a few more pleasantries, he managed to excuse himself on a matter of urgency, only to find she had gone. His heart sank in fear of her finding the wretched fellow.

The Unscrupulous Proposal, short romantic mystery story, cover

Paul Watkins relationship with the Haxleys had allowed him the privilege to attend such occasions. Although he always remained unapproachable and seemed to prefer his own company. He had caused more than a few people to speculate that he was not of this world. On one such occasion, he did suffer and, it was Catherine who took pity on him. She led his pale, sunken image out into the cold dead of night.

It was nothing but mere superstition as far as Richard was concerned. The idea that this fellow was some unearthly creature who had somehow stolen her soul was ridiculous. Catherine had merely felt sorry for him and, it was in her nature to nurture something back to health.

“Are—you alright, Richard?”Aunt Geraldine inquired startled by his sudden need to support himself with the arm of her chair.

It was with an exhaustive slump of his shoulders and a harsh glare that he finally saw Catherine again. He looked down with an open mouth and shook his head in disbelief. Geraldine Myers lifted herself slightly in anticipation he was taking a turn for the worst, but he quickly tapped her on the shoulder and insisted he was fine.

He watched them standing there together; she seemed to laugh at almost every gesture he made. He cursed her child-like mannerism, although he did, however, concede it was a quality he found most endearing. After all, she was not yet aware of his feelings.

Richard!” His Aunt called after him as he followed them out into the night.

They strolled over the large terrace and down onto the lawn. Richard carefully avoided the full ray of light emitted by the lanterns. She then hesitated a moment; she looked up as if in awe of the soft moonlight. It was a clear perfect sky. The stars seemed to enhance its magnificence, flickering harmoniously with the romantic sound of orchestral music his father had requested. If not for Paul Watkins, he would be enjoying such a night.

What!—What!” he growled, “Are you doing now? Facing, each other like that.”

Paul was offering her his wine glass; she took it. Paul immediately moved around her, removing his dark brown cardigan. Richard watched very closely as he then proceeded to place it over her shoulders carefully.

Catherine looked so beautiful in the soft moonlight. An exchange of pleasant offerings appeared to follow. Oh, how he despised the fellow. Then Paul started to make his way back up towards the house. He felt a little unnerved at the idea of having to enter into any pleasantries with him.

Myers then turned in a squint to try and make out who it was meandering along the far side of the lawn. Harry—yes, it was, his old friend from university, he assured himself. Immediately he put up his hand and began waving, “Harry, old chap—over here.”

Harry continued slowly, with his hands clasped behind his back, and his pipe was hanging from one side of his mouth. Myers started to feel a little nervous when he realised Paul was almost upon him. Quickly he shouted again, but this time rushed down the steps, then with a sly glance over his shoulder at Paul, he rushed over to his friend.

Harry! Old chap, been looking everywhere for you.”  

Harry appeared somewhat perplexed by Richard’s, complete relief at seeing him.

“Oh, Harry, thank—God!”

“I say, is everything alright old chap?”

“Yes, actually—no, well—” Simultaneously, Richard lifted his finger then immediately bent over slightly to catch his breath. “I wasn’t sure whether—” he continued, “—or not, you’d turned up.”

“By Jove! You look in a frightful state, old chap?”

“I’m alright—just a little out of breath, that’s all.”

“I mean, anyone would think you were running for your life or something.”

Richard straightened himself up, chuckled weakly, then put out his hand, “good ter see you, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

Harry replied reflectively, “Well, yes. I suppose it has rather,” then, he popped his pipe back into the side of his mouth, only to withdraw it again and point it at Richard, “Now see here! Never mind all that. What the dickens! Is all this nonsense about?”

Myers glanced about them quickly, then drew close to Harry, “I think Catherine’s life is in danger. You remember Catherine, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course—go on,” he replied in a whisper spontaneously returning his pipe to the corner of his mouth.

 

 

A quick note by the Author:

As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. There is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.

Thank you for your interest, Andrew.

a worried look of concern

 

The Unscrupulous Proposal

 Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021

Imagery

The featured image for The Unscrupulous Proposal of a downhearted woman was by Artsybee.

Photo of a boy and the butler Robert was by Puplicdomainpictures.

Illustrations, including fancy page break, was by Annaliseart.

 

 

The Embers Of A Lifetime

The embers of a lifetime lay burning at my feet, memories of those I had learned to love fading slowly before me. They had given me so much strength a reason to fight. Yet, there was nobody to come home to, to hold my flesh and bone, to make me feel alive again. Only the calm waters of the brook could awaken my nightmare, for part of me still felt unsure of whether or not; I still lay on the battlefield, staring up into the abyss.

A lifetime of toil, nor riches nor fame, a mere peasant boy, “Alex, was thy name.”

It all began on Dreary Lane, home of servant girls governed by a Mrs Geraldine Fanshaw. The place was born from need; farm-labourers in haste had built four timber-framed dwellings from the remains of an old barn. These hardworking farmhands later moved to Church Street into more suitable accommodation. Then came the construction of Harmony Way, and a gang of heavily built Irish labourers moved into these crudely built shacks.

Once Harmony Ways construction was complete, the new owners of these prestigious properties required domestic servants. Dreary Lane then became home to the Fanshaw girls. These were girls considered unsuitable for living in the servant quarters, many of whom were under sixteen.

At the very end, where an evergreen mass had weaved its way up through the boards and onto the old pantile roof, I was born to a young servant girl called Connie. In the very beginning, my life was in the balance. Mrs Fanshaw stood downstairs clutching a pillow, waiting.

It would not be the first time she had to protect the Fanshaw girls’ reputation.

 

 

The Embers Of A Lifetime  

Without hope, friendships slowly emerged from times long since past.

The Embers Of Lifetime expressing loss, memories and a burning emotion of the past

It was Nancy who assisted with my birth and, who kindly gave me thy name. Her orders were made very clear; as soon as I was born, she was to take me straight down to Fanshaw.  Her instructions were not to allow Connie to hold me, not even for one second; It would be better that way.

Nancy, who was now seventeen, had endured the agony of having her child taken from birth, and she was determined to try and save me. So it came as a huge surprise when a silent, little angel was born alongside me, fast asleep.

My mother lay sobbing, aware of what was to happen to me, staring at the broken window pane. Nancy put her hand softly on her shoulder, but she ignored her. It was a matter of life and death; Fanshaw was waiting. Nancy, quickly placed me in a pouch she had sewn earlier under her dress and left my little sister lying on the bed.

It’s dead! Miss — It’s bloody dead!” She screamed glancing over at Connie, then rushed down the stairs.

Fanshaw had rushed to the foot of the stairs, still clutching the pillow and looked up in horror as Nancy came bounding down towards her. Immediately Fanshaw reached out and caught her by the shoulders.  Nancy had forced tears to her eyes and began to act hysterical, repeating over and over again, ‘The bloody thing’s dead, Miss.’ It was then that Fanshaw slapped her, demanding that she calm down.

Nancy belched in her face as if she were going to be sick, then covered her mouth and pulled free to make her escape outside. She hesitated at the small green picket fence to make sure Fanshaw would not follow her; again, she began belching, pretending to be sick. Fanshaw stared at her briefly, then turned and went up the stairs. Nancy then rushed down to the brook, her heart pounding, unsure whether I was alive or dead. Once she had reached the small stream, she immediately tried to rub life into me.

It was the sweetest sound she had ever heard, and her tears became as natural as my will to live.

‘Oh, yer little beauty, you.’ She whispered holding me tight to her chest.

 

A quick note by the Author:

As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work; there is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.

Thank you for your interest, Andrew.

a worried look of concern

 

The Embers Of A Lifetime

 Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021

Imagery

The Embers Of A Lifetime is a collage made from two unique original images by Alexas and Olichel.

Photo of a boy by Puplicdomainpictures.

Illustrations by Annaliseart.

 

 

 

A Feeling Of Uncertainty

A feeling of Uncertainty
She turned in a smile, 'I'd better be getting back to the library, you know how mother likes to get there, early.'

'Yes —' he replied sadly. . . . .

A feeling of uncertainty made her question her decision. Was it just her mother being overprotective. She knew deep down she wanted their blessing, no matter what. It had been nearly seven years; she began to ponder since she had started working at the library. Every Saturday, her mother would always make sure she was there to walk her home, even during the winter months when the night came early, to ensure she got home safely.

In the summer months, she enjoyed the freedom of walking home alone. However, the last few months had been fraught with her mother unexpectedly turning up after work. Occasionally when she was not outside waiting, she would appear rushing out of a shop in the high street, always with a pleasant smile of relief, followed by a mumbling of coincidence which lacked conviction.

She knew full well, it was never a coincidence and that due to her coming home later than usual, her mother had become suspicious. Mathew, who was a few years younger than her, would have to walk a few steps behind, and only when they were confident she was not going to appear would they join as one. At first, Mathew thought it was exciting, but she knew he had grown frustrated by not having the chance to say goodbye to her correctly. She was beginning to doubt her mother’s irrational behaviour.

 

A Feeling Of Uncertainty

They had become more daring in their desperate desire for one another, and in the evening, she would sneak out into the garden to meet him. Mary had become increasingly concerned about her mother’s inconstant behaviour and realised the risk they were taking.

His marriage proposal had somehow made her feel complete and more comfortable within herself. She was not afraid of her feelings anymore and wanted her parents to share in her enjoyment. Mathew was kind, understanding and very patient. However, it made her think carefully about whether or not she was doing the right thing, or if there was a selfish, very selfish side to her mother, she had not realised.

A feeling of Uncertainty, part two of the short romantic story; An Inconstant Heart

– A feeling of uncertainty –

 

‘Wait up!’ Mathew called after her.

‘Oh, sorry,’ she laughed, ‘I nearly forgot about you.’

‘What! So quickly? Well, that’s just nice, that is.’ He laughed sarcastically back.

‘You know, mother says boys are free to do as they like, but girls can’t because in the end they have children an end up living a life of servitude.’

Jee’s! — Sounds like I’ve got my work cut out then?’

Instantly, Mary put her arm around him, ‘You — most certainly have,’ she chuckled, ‘What time?’

‘It’s up to you — say around five?’

‘Make it about six-thirty, just to give us time to get in the door.’

The day was glorious; everywhere they looked, there were bright colours of contentment. Couples strolled arm in arm as children ran about them. It was something she always envied, the joy of having a little family and someone to share her every step.

‘What shall I do? — ring the doorbell and introduce myself? Mathew asked, a little less confident.

‘She’s doesn’t bite, you know.’ Mary insisted, ‘I shall come out and meet you at the gate. We’ll go in together.’

‘I’m not afraid, you know. I’m just a little uncertain of what to say.’  He paused reflectively, ‘I mean, it’s not like they know me or anything.

She drew him a little closer, ‘I know you’re not scared,’ she replied in a quiet, suppressed laugh. ‘It will be fine; we’ll have to tell them we knew each other at school.’

 ‘Come on hurry up! Otherwise, she’ll get there first.’

 

If only she could be sure that once her mother had met him, everything would be fine. Although it began to cross her mind that maybe it would be better to introduce him before announcing they wanted to get married. In time she would gradually come around to the idea and realise he was not like other men, and hopefully grow fond of him.

‘Let’s make it seven o’clock instead, shall we?’ She said in the spur of the moment.

They had walked over the lush green verge and were about to get onto the shingle path when a middle-aged couple pushing a little girl in a wheelchair came down the path towards them. He held her a moment, waited until they had passed, then whispered, ‘You, don’t think we’re rushing this a bit, do you?’

‘What makes you say that?’

‘Well, it’s just you seem a little — on edge.’

It was not long before they reached the gravel track leading up to the railway crossing, where she knew Mathew would take a keen look over at the boatyard, which runs up to the railway line, on one side. His dreams of owning a yacht one day always fascinated her, considering he could not even swim. She quietly waited until they had reached the turnstile at the railway crossing, allowing him the opportunity to fantasise about becoming a sailor, before she replied.

‘You might be right; maybe I should try and talk to mother first, soften her up a bit.’

 

A quick note by the Author:

A writers, greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. There is always a feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.

Thank you for your interest, Andrew.

a worried look of concern

 

An Inconstant Heart

 # A Feeling Of Uncertainty

Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021

Imagery

The first image is by Lian.

Illustrations by Annaliseart.

Photo of a boy by Puplicdomainpictures.

 

 

An Inconstant Heart

Book Cover for An Inconstant Heart, romantic short story

An inconstant heart is thrown into an array of breath-taking joy and excitement, only to be quenched by a mother’s overprotective nature. A formidable twist of events slowly unfolds when she shares the news with her parents. Unsettled by her mother’s reaction, she soon realised all was not as it seemed—a short romantic story by A I Moffat, full of emotion.

 

 When a whelm of emotion causes palpitations of one’s heart. 

Together they stood under a willow tree in a glorious array of pale green; the heat of summer had caused them to seek shelter and, most of all, privacy. Mathew looked curiously at her smile, then up at her enchanting, almost bewildering gaze, he was thinking adoringly.

In a shallow subdued voice, Mary smiled at him, ‘It’s not fair that we should have to meet like this, in secret.’

With an attentive flicker, the boy replied, ‘I know.’ Then he pulled a small box from the pocket of his jeans and added, ‘That’s why I’ve bought you this.’

‘Oh, my God! — It isn’t? — Is it?

 

Book cover for An Inconstant Heart, a romantic short story by A I MoffatHe watched her sudden, almost hysterical glow of excitement, ‘If you’ll have me?’

‘Oh — Mathew,’ she responded in a fading breath, her eyes fell then rose in a sudden heartbeat, ‘you know I will.’ Her inconstant heart seemed to fluctuate with joy and trepidation. The thrill of it taking her by surprise until she looked into his adoring, child-like eyes, ‘B—b, but,’ she stuttered, ‘what about mother?’ As his gaze slowly fell in a shallow gape, she tenderly whispered, ‘You know she would never allow it.’

Instantly the boy knelt on one knee in the subtle shades before her. His dark fringe lay exposed to a streak of direct sunlight, which made the depths of his eyes sparkle mischievously. ‘I’ve been thinking — we could elope — run away together.’

Mary was a little taken aback, then the boy offered up the ring, ‘A diamond!’ she gasped, ‘I never expected a diamond.’

An Inconstant Heart

Carefully her hands reached down and cupped his open hand; then, slowly, she eased herself down on one knee. Her eyes seem to purr in awe at his delicate desire, his wanting, ‘I can’t, Mathew, it’s not fair on you.’

The silent pause of emotion bound them in the same wanting desire, magnified by the glow of the weeping willow. Until the boy announced in defeat, ‘Then, I’ll ask your mother and father if you can marry me.’

As if accepting his staunch response, her eyes lightly closed before she drew herself up, drawing him gently with her, ‘You know, she won’t hear of my getting married.’

‘I know.’ Mathew whispered, ‘I just hope she will listen and realise how much I care about you.’

‘When — when will you ask them?’

‘Why not tonight.’ He said with a look of surprise.

Mary gently folded his fingers over the small blue box, ‘Until, tonight — then.’

He seemed transfixed by her delicate commands to his proposal. It felt as though she had, in some way, decided their fate. Never before had he felt this presence of belonging; it made him feel as though they were somehow already married.

She turned in a smile, ‘I’d better be getting back to the library, you know how mother likes to get there, early.’

‘Yes —’ he replied sadly.

 

page divider for An Inconstant Heart by A I Moffat

 

 

An Inconstant Heart

Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021

Imagery

The first image and featured image is by Stocksnap.

Illustrations by Annaliseart.

 

The Twilight Guests

Old Man, The Twilight Guests short story book cover

Old man and The Twilight Guests is a wonderful short story of an old, man revisited by familiar fond memories of old friends who have long since past. A wonderful short story by the American author and poet Josephine Dodge Daskam wrote a series of short stories based on her own experiences. With the addition of some illustrations, and only a few—slight—changes to enhance a more modern reading experience, we hope you enjoy this short story.

The Twilight Guests

When they left him, in the warm, late afternoon, lying listless on his couch in the porch, they thought he would stay alone there till they came again. His little granddaughter, indeed, felt so sad at deserting him that she ran back and kissed him twice. “To leave Grandpapa alone!” she said. But he was not alone; there came to him strange guests and sweet. And this was the manner of their coming.

Old Man, The Twilight Guests short story book cover

As he watched the shadow creeping up the steps, he thought how often he had marked the time by it in the far-away days. He remembered how he had tried to keep in the broad sunbeam that lay along the walk, when he used to run home to supper tired and hungry, shouting to his mother that his school was over and out and that he had come—”So hungry, mother dear!” And as he thought of her, slow tears crept from under his old eyelids, and he raised his hand feebly to wipe them away. When he saw clearly again, he started slightly, for up the path, walking in the sunbeam came a boy. He smiled sweetly, cheerily at the old, man, and sat down confidingly, close to the couch. “It is so warm in the sun!” he said.

The old man turned uneasily and looked at him. “Are you Arthur’s son?” he asked doubtfully. “My eyes are so dim—I cannot always tell you apart, at first. Are you Arthur’s son?”

“No,” said the child.

“Are you—” but then the boy looked full in his face, and the old man could not take his eyes from that searching smile. And as he looked, there grew around his heart the sweet faint breath of lilac trees, though it was early autumn and not at all the spring. And deep in the child’s eyes was so strange a soul—yet so familiar! As he looked yet deeper, the lilac scent grew stronger, and he dared not turn away his eyes, lest he should lose it. So he listened to the child, who spoke brightly yet gravely, with his head resting against the old man’s knee.

“See!” he said, “the lilacs are all out! I took a bunch to school, and the teacher wore them in her dress. Oh, but I grow tired of the school in the mornings, when the birds sing under the window! The brook is all full with the floodwater, do you know?”

“Yes,” said the old man dreamily, “yes, I know.”

“There are pickerel there—I saw one, anyway!” said the boy. “The old one—he lives under the stone all alone. If I could get him, I’d be proud enough! But I never can—I can only catch him on a Friday night when the moon is full, and then I’m not allowed out! The man that weeds the garden told me that. Do you remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” said the old man.

“But if I don’t fish, I don’t care so much,” said the boy happily. “Because I get so wet and dirty, and Rachel doesn’t like me then. I can’t look on her book. She is so dear! She never spots the ink on her apron, like the other girls. And she never eats fish, either. She thinks it hurts them too much to kill them. I don’t think so—do you? But girls are different.”

“Where are you going to-night?” said the old man, quietly, yet his voice trembled.

“I’m going to sing to Rachel’s grandfather. He’s blind, you know.”

“Yes,” said the old man, “and old. His hair is white. He walks with a cane. But he loves the singing.”

“Then to-morrow I must go to church,” said the boy. “The minister talks and prays and I get so sleepy. But mother keeps a peppermint for me, just before the second hymn. Then I have it for the long prayer. And I can sing the hymns. Rachel never looks at me; she sits so still in church. And she won’t play on Sunday. I can have my whip and two of the largest marbles. Do you think that is wrong?”

“No,” said the old man, “I don’t think that is wrong.”

“And we have gingerbread on the porch in the afternoon,” said the boy, “and Rachel comes. Mother says children must not be vexed at the Lord’s Day.”

“Yes,” said the old man, “mother is so good to us—so good—” and when he saw clearly again, the child was gone. Only the shadow lay upon the porch’s upper step, and the sunbeam was shrunken to a narrow path of light.

He stretched out his trembling hands and called sorrowfully to the boy. “Come back! O come back! I had forgotten so much! And the lilacs—” but he was alone. And his hair was almost white. He covered his face with his hands and shivered, for the shadow was creeping up the porch.

And then over his chilled heart, there came the breath of roses—summer roses. The air struck warm and soft upon his cheeks. And when he dropped his hands there stood in the sun-ray a straight, tall youth. His eyes were shining with strength; his smile was happiness itself. In his firm brown hands he held roses—summer roses. The old man forgot to be afraid and raised himself on the cushions.

“Give them to me—give them!” he cried. The young man laughed low and laid the red flowers softly up against the withered cheeks. Then he sat down and took the cold, dry hands in his.

“What do they make you remember?” he said.

The old man sighed for pure joy. “Ah, how sweet—how heavenly sweet! Did they come from the garden behind her father’s house?”

“Yes,” said the youth, “from the old bush near the wall. It was moonlight, and we picked them together. I reached the highest ones, because Rachel is not tall. She wore—”

“She wore the white gown with the big shade hat,” said the old man eagerly. “And I made a wreath for her shoulders. I called her—what did I call her? The queen—the queen.”

“The queen of roses,” said the youth.

“Ah, yes, the queen of roses!” said the old man. “Her mouth was like the pink, young buds. We went up and down the long paths, and I wanted her to take my arm.”

“But she would not,” laughed the young man. “She said that old folks might lean, but she could run as well as any man!”

“So she ran through the garden, and I after!” cried the old man, crushing the roses till they filled the porch with sweetness. “She hid behind the old elm and let me call and call. And I had to find her in the moon shadows. You know she grew afraid and cried out when I caught her? And yet she knew I would. But women are so. Her mother knew I was with her, so she let us stay till it was late. Rachel’s mother was kind to me, you know?”

“Yes,” said the young man. “But she knew that Rachel—”

“Ah!” said the old man quickly, “it seems they all knew! All but Rachel and me! Now that is so strange. We should have known it first. But Rachel laughed so when I tried to tell her, she said—what was it she said?”

“That you were too young to know how you would think of it later,” said the youth.

“And I said, ‘I’m old enough to know I love you, Rachel, now and forever!” said the old man softly, clasping his hands together so that the roses dropped to the ground. “And then she did not laugh at all, but only held her head down so I could not see her eyes, and would not speak.”

“It was so still,” said the youth. “There was no breeze, and everything in the garden listened, listened, for what she would say.”

But nothing in the garden could hear,” said the old man eagerly because she only whispered!”

“Was it then that her mother called?” asked the youth.

“Yes,” said the old man, and he smiled. But we did not come, for Rachel was afraid to go. She thought her mother would not like to have her leave the old home. And she feared to tell her that she wanted to go. So we sat like silly children in the dark. You see, I was afraid, too. Her father and mother were old and old people cannot know how we feel when love first comes to us—and yet they loved, once!”

“Yes, they loved once,” said the youth, “but they forget. They think of lands and money and the most prudent course—they cannot feed their heart’s blood rushing through their veins, surging in their ears, ‘She loves me!’ They cannot feel that one hour with her is dearer than years with the others of the world!”

“And then we went in!” said the old man softly. “Then we went in! And her mother stood waiting for us. Rachel would not look up, and I had to lead her by the hand. She feared that we could not make it plain, that her mother would scold us—”

The youth laughed aloud. “But did she?” he said.

And the old man laughed too.

“No. She came to me and kissed me and then she held Rachel and cried. But not that she was sorry. Older people feel strange when the younger ones start away, you see.”

The young man picked up the roses and laid them again by the side of the couch. “Sleep,” he said softly, “and dream of her!” And the old man’s eyelids drooped and the hands that held the roses relaxed in quiet sleep.

When he awoke, the sun had almost set. The path of rays had faded, and the creeping shadow had covered the highest step and lay along the porch. He felt feebly for the roses, but they were gone. And the sweet, warm scent of them was only in his dim memory. But there sat in the shadow a man.

Threads of grey were in his hair and lines around his firm mouth. But in his eyes shone yet a sweet strength, and he held his head high as he spoke.

“Do you know where I have been?” he said.

The old man shook his head.

“Think!” said the other.

Then while he looked into the stranger’s eyes, there stole across his heart, the wind that blows through the orchard when the fruit is ripe. He drew in great breaths of it, in doubt, and at last he said in a whisper so low that he hardly heard himself, “You have been to his grave—his little grave!”

“Yes,” said the man, “I have. His mother goes there alone—not even I go with her. She goes alone.”

“No,” said the old man solemnly, “no. God goes with her. I thought that she would have died—why did she live?”

“Because,” said the other, “because you would have been alone. And you could not have kept yourself a man, if she had gone, too.”

“Ah, yes!” said the old man softly, “that is it. She is an angel! When he was born, I was almost afraid. I said, “My son! I have a son! If I should die to-night, he would live, and I should live in him!” And when she brought him herself into the orchard—I see her now—I see her now!”

He could not lift his head from the pillow, he was so tired and weak, but he begged the other to come nearer with his eyes. The man came close to the couch and looked down tenderly at the old man. “She wore the white trailing gown,” he said.

“Yes,” whispered the old man, “and the great wide hat. And she held him up under the brim and said that if it should rain, she and he could keep dry together, but I must stay in the rain!”

“Do you remember,” said the other, “how when he could just say words, you played with him under the apple tree?”

“Can I ever forget?” said the old man. “But now the angels teach him a better language, so that he had but one to learn!”

“Do you remember how she left him with her mother and went away with you?” said the other.

The old man smiled a little. “Ah, yes! Well enough!” he said. “We thought we would be young again, and leave him to his grandmother and his sisters. He had enough care! It was not lacking of that—”

“And when you had gone only a few miles she grew anxious—”

“Yes, yes!” said the old man. “She said, ‘Suppose he is sick? Suppose he falls into the brook? He walks about so brave and strong—and he is our only son!’ So we came back.”

“You were good to her,” said the other. “You did always just as she wished.”

“I loved her,” said the old man simply.

The stranger’s eyes grew moist, and his voice shook as he said, “When he grew sick—”

“Ah, when he grew sick!” cried the old man bitterly. “Almost I lost my trust in the Giver of my child, and dared not give him back! How I begged! How I prayed!—you know!”

“Yes,” whispered the stranger, “I know.”

“Then she left me for the first time,” said the old man slowly. “For the first time. She went alone and prayed. Oh, Rachel, my dear, dear wife, I could not go with you to God! I think even we go best alone! I said ‘It cannot be! He cannot let it come! I have done all my life as best I knew how, and is this my reward?’ And I heard her crying, and I wished I had never lived.”

“But not for long?” said the other.

The old man smiled through his tears.

“No, no, not for long!” he said. “When Rachel saw that I was weak, she grew strong. It is strange, but women are the strongest then. And she showed me the folly and wickedness of throwing away my faith because the Most Faithful had taken away my child. And she brought me my little daughters and set them on my knees and put her arms around my neck. So I grew comforted. And there have come other sons—Arthur and John. But he—ah, Rachel! Little we thought when we laid him on the grass under the tree and measured him with goldenrod, that he would so soon lie there for all our lives!”

“And he lies there now,” said the stranger.

“Yes,” said the old man softly, “he lies there now. Under the apple tree where he lay and laughed that day, he lies there now, for Rachel wanted it so. ‘I carried him out there the first time,’ she said, ‘and he always loved it there. I used to walk there before he came, and plan for him, how he should grow so great and famous and good; and now I want him to be there, while he is asleep. And I think that all the fields are God’s—the orchard as well as the graveyard.’ So we laid him there, and she goes there often, and I.”

“You miss her?” said the stranger.

“Miss her?” said the old man, staring at the visitor, “miss her? Why she is here! She is my wife!—” but he was alone, on the couch, with the faint breath of ripening apples dying on the air.

And as he turned wearily, the shadow crept softly and covered the porch and the couch where he lay. The sun dropped behind the hills, and the air struck cold on his uncovered shoulders. He was too tired to cry, too old and weak to question or find fault, but he dimly felt that to be left alone was hard. His memory grew suddenly untrustworthy; had they come or not? It was all so plain to him now. He was not with Rachel; he was neither in the church nor the garden nor the orchard. He was an old man, strangely weak and confused, left alone.

“Ah, Rachel,” he murmured, “only come again, while I go! Come to take me—not that it will be a long to wait before I see you, dear! We have been so happy, you and I! But it was so cold—”

And then while he shivered helplessly and half afraid, there came the scent of spring lilac-bushes, and by his bed stood the bright-eyed child.

“Come! Come and sit by me!” cried the old man. But the boy only smiled. “Take my hands—they are so cold!” he begged. Still, the boy smiled. And as the old man looked, the child’s eyes filled him with half hope, half fear. “Are you—are you—” he tried to speak, but no sound came from his lips.

“If I come and touch you,” said the boy, “it will be the end. Shall I come?” The old man’s face lighted softly.

“Yes,” he said in his heart, for he could not speak aloud, “yes, come now!” The boy laughed and stepped to the couch and lay down beside him, putting his cheek close to the white hair.

Into the heart of the old man rushed a quick, new life. “Ah, Rachel, Rachel,” he said strong and clear, “sit on the step and eat your cake with me? Here is the flag-root I promised you—it’s quite clean. I took off all the mud! And here is the red marble”—but the child kissed him, and he went to sleep, holding to his heart his happy youth.

And when they found him in the evening, they were not too grieved, for on his face was a great content.

Next short story

 

Original short story by Josephine Dodge Daskam

Retold by A Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

 

The Life Of Mr John Smith

The Life Of Mr John Smith short story book cover

The Life Of Mr John Smith, an ordinary man who lived a normal life. A short story of a man called John Smith has the ability to inspire a moment of reflection. It is an enjoyable, pleasant tale.

There is nothing better than to learn from someone else’s experience or wisdom, a short— but pleasant story, soon unfolds. An excellent tale for all ages, for how often do we forget our past experiences—a good reminder— to be sure.

The original short narrative is from a collection of short stories by Jean Ingelow, an English author and poet. It was first published in 1865. We have added some illustrations, and made only a few – slight – changes. We hope you enjoy this short and pleasant tale.

The Life Of Mr John Smith

This great and good man, of whose life is well worth preserving, was born in the parish of Cripplegate. At half-past ten on Friday, the 1st of April, 1780. He was the only child of his parents, who, perceiving from the first his uncommon sweetness of disposition, and acuteness of intellect, felt a natural pride in watching his progress through infancy.

At seven months he cut his first tooth; at fourteen months he could run alone, and such was his precocity, that, at two years and a half, he could speak his mother tongue sufficiently well to be able to ask for what he wanted.

He began to learn his letters as early as three years old, and soon mastered the whole alphabet, which he would repeat with beautiful precision upon the offer of an apple or a ginger-bread nut.

His father was a brazier, and had a very good business. Jack, as he was then called, was allowed the range of the shop, and possession of all the nails that he could find lying about; thus he soon learned to distinguish between tin tacks, ten-pennies, and brass heads, and having a small hammer of his own, used to amuse himself with knocking them by dozens into a door in the yard, which was soon so thickly studded with them, that you could not see the wood between.

The Life Of Mr John Smith short story book cover

He also had a tin saucepan, which was given him on his seventh birthday by his indulgent father. In this he often made toffee and hard-bake for his own eating, and thus, while still a mere babe, his mind was turned to philosophical and scientific pursuits; for by means of his nails and hammer he learned the difference between wood and metal, and also the degree of force required to drive the one into the other, whilst with the aid of his saucepan he taught himself many a lesson in the science of eating, for that it is a science, Soyer has lately demonstrated to the philosophical world.

At seven years old, he— being already able to read almost any English book that was placed before him, his father and mother consulted together and resolved to send him to a school at Clapham. There he made such progress as exceeded their most sanguine hopes, and from this school, he wrote his first letter, which has been preserved, and runs as follows:

‘Dear Father,—I like school a great deal better than I did at first. My jacket has got two great holes in it, so I am forced to wear my Sunday one. We always have roast beef and Yorkshire puddin’ for dinner on Sunday. The boys are very glad of all the nails and screws and nuts I brought with me. If I might have some more when mother sends my cake and the three pots of jam. The glue, and the cobbler’s wax, and the cabbage-nets, and the packthread, and the fishing-hooks, and the knife, and the new fishing-rod that I asked for when she came to see me, we should all be very glad.

‘We have dug a hole in the playground nearly fifteen feet deep. We mean to dig till we get to the water. On half-holidays, we fish in the water on the common, where there is an island. The boys want to make a bridge to reach it, but we haven’t got anything to make it of. We have not got any fish yet, only newts out of that water, but we saw a good large one on Saturday. Cooper says he is determined he’ll have him. Cooper can fish beautifully.

‘ Dear father, the thieves have stolen all the apples out of the garden, which is a great pity. I send my love to my mother.

⁠’ I remain, dear father, your dutiful son,

⁠’John Smith.’

His parents read this interesting letter with tears of joy. Indeed, from this time till their son was fifteen years old, he gave them neither trouble nor anxiety, excepting twice—namely, when he took the measles, and when he fought with another boy, and came home with a black eye.

At fifteen, he was apprenticed to his father. And during his apprenticeship, his career was as brilliant as could have been desired. Of course, he liked to be well dressed, which his mother felt to be the natural consequence of his good looks. He also liked now and then to spend an afternoon in the parks, looking about him, which his father was glad of with such powers of observation as he was endowed with. It was highly desirable that he should not be without opportunity for exercising them.

At the age of eighteen he had done growing, and measured five feet eight in his shoes; hair brown, with a slight twist in it, scarcely amounting to a curl; complexion moderately fair, and eyes between grey and green. When his apprenticeship was over, he paid his addresses to the second daughter of a bookseller in Cheapside, and married her after a three years’ courtship. During the next eleven years, Mr Smith was blessed with seven children—John, his eldest son; Mary, named after her grandmother; Fanny, Thomas, Elizabeth, James, and Sarah.

A few days after the birth of this last, his father died, leaving him the braziery business, and four thousand pounds in the funds. Mr Smith was a kind son. His mother lived with him, and her old age was cheered by the sight of his honours, worth, and talents. About this time he took out a patent for a new kind of poker, and in the same year, his fellow-citizens showed their sense of his deserts by making him an alderman of London.

Happy in the esteem of all, and possession of a good business, he lived very quietly till he reached the age of fifty, when his mother died, and was respectably buried by her son in the parish church of Cripplegate.

His eldest son now able to take charge of the shop and business, Mr Smith resolved to travel for a month or two. Accordingly, he went to Ramsgate, where he enjoyed much intellectual pleasure in the prospect of the glorious ocean, and the fine vessels which continually appeared in the offing.

He was a true patriot, and, as he wandered on the beach, in his buff slippers and straw hat, with an umbrella over his head to shield him from the sun. He might often have been heard to sing, with laudable pride, ‘Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves!’

After sojourning for three weeks at Ramsgate, he went northward; nor did he stop till he had reached that city so renowned for its beauty as often to be called the modern Athens—we mean Edinburgh. Mr Smith wrote home frequently from thence to his family, and made many valuable remarks on the dialect and manners of the inhabitants. Still, it would appear that he did not altogether approve of what he saw, for in a letter to his son, after praising the goodness of the houses. The excellence of the gas-fittings, and, indeed, of everything in the iron and brass departments, he observed that the poultry was tough and badly fed, and that the inhabitants had a most unwarrantably high opinion of their city, ‘which I can tell you, is as dull compared to London,’ he continued, ‘as the British Museum is compared with the Pantheon in Oxford Street.’

He also, in the same letter, made some new and valuable remarks on the lateness of the season in the North. In proof of the difference between London and Edinburgh, he told his son that strawberries were then in full perfection in the latter city, though it was past the middle of August.

Some years after Mr Smith’s return he was elected churchwarden for the parish of Cripplegate. He performed the duties of that situation with great satisfaction to the inhabitants, heading the subscription to the starving Irish with a donation of £5. In the same year he gave £10 to the Middlesex Hospital.

‘It was not till he reached his sixty-eighth year. That Mr Smith retired from the premises and the sphere he had so long adorned. He then gave up the business to his sons. Then retired with his wife to a pleasant residence on Stamford Hill.

He retained his superior faculties to the last; for, at the time when there was so much stir about the Nineveh Marbles, he went, though very infirm, to see them, and, with his usual sound sense, remarked that they did not answer his expectations: as there was so much marble in the country, and also Derbyshire spar, he wondered that Government had not new articles manufactured, instead of sending abroad for old things which were cracked already.

At the age of seventy, Mr Smith died, universally respected, and was buried in the cemetery at Kensal Green.

‘And is this all?’ cries the indignant reader.

All? I am amazed at your asking such a question! I should have thought you had had enough of it! Yes, it is all. And to tell you a secret, which, of course, I would not proclaim to the world. I should not be in the least surprised if your biography, up to the present date. Is not one bit better worth writing?

What have you done? I should like to know? What are you, and what have you been, that is better worth recording than the sayings and doings recorded here? Do you think yourself superior? Well, you may be, certainly; and to reflect that you are, is a comfortable thing for yourself. And notwithstanding that, I say this. I have a true regard for you, and am far from forgetting that though the events of your life may never be striking, or worth recording. The tenor of your life may be useful and happy, and the record may be written on high. In conclusion, however, I cannot forbear telling you that whether you are destined to be great or little. The honour of writing your biography is not desired by your obedient servant, the biographer of the life of Mr John Smith.

illustration of a little girl to say finish

Next short story

Original short story by Jean Ingelow

Retold by A Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

First photograph by Pezibear

 

Hannah

Hannah short story book cover by A I Moffat

Hannah is a short story by the exciting new author A I Moffat, who conjures up the worry and heartache of being a mother.  Hannah Jones has a chance to rekindle the close relationship she once shared with her daughter by Charlotte’s arrival, her daughters closest friend.  A short story of intrigue which captures the imagination.

Hannah

By A I Moffat

Hannah Jones was kneeling in front of the fire when she heard the girls open the front door, her head tilted slightly to one side. A warm faint smile grew as she listened to them. She thought of how time had flown and, felt a sense of pride in having watched over them for so many years. They had reached an age to be more than capable of making their own decisions in life. However, she was finding it difficult to prevent herself from interfering in her daughter’s life.

Their once-close relationship had taken a turn for the worst, and she was now afraid of losing the ability to talk as friends rather than a mother to her child. This fear made her realise she had made a mistake in allowing her own feelings and possibly her own desire to influence her actions. She now strongly regretted ever interfering and feared she might never be able to restore the intimate relationship she once shared with her only child.

Hannah short story book cover by A I Moffat

Charlotte was the first to transform the gloom into life, she went straight to her and instantly fell to her knees beside her, ‘Hello, mother oh — I’ve missed you.’ Instantly she threw her arm around her and kissed her cheek. ‘Gosh, it’s so cold out there tonight.’ She shivered into her.

‘Yes, well you can’t expect anything else at this time of year.’ Hannah Jones chuckled, whilst with a firm hand, she rubbed Charlotte’s arm. ‘How was your journey?’

‘Tiresome mother, you know I’m sure men only have one thing on their minds.’

‘Oh, Charlotte, you will wear such glamorous clothes, what else can you expect.’ She smiled and pulled her close to her. ‘You’re a sight for saw eyes anyway, that’s for sure.’

Emily leaned over and kissed her mother’s other cheek, ‘Sorry we’re a bit, late mum, we stopped at Potters for a coffee on the way up.’

‘I guessed you had, and how is Lara and Mrs Ramsey?’

‘Lara’s off with a stinking cold again, and Mrs Ramsey is still complaining about being quiet, but she said to send you her regards.’

It was strange, but a relief, that in the presence of Charlotte her daughter was behaving more like her usual self, unlike the previous two weeks where she seemed to distance herself from her, sneaking in and out like a church mouse. She saw it as an opportunity to rekindle that close intimate relationship with her daughter.

Emily had positioned herself on the edge of the fireside chair; she sat leaning against the arm toward the fire staring directly into the flames, when her mother asked, ‘How are you feeling today, Emily?’

It was not something her mother would normally ask, unless she had complained of feeling unwell in the first instance. Emily remained silent, unsure of where it might be leading.

‘Only, Trevor phoned today, he wanted to know how you were, and whether or not you would be going back to work on Monday.’ For a few seconds before she continued, she waited, ‘I told him you were feeling much better and was intending to start back again, on Monday.’

‘Thanks.’

‘It’s not my business to interfere. What you do with your life now is up to you. I don’t even want to know why you haven’t been at work, for the past two weeks or even where you have been. I want you to know that— I am always here for you, Emily and, always will be.’ With compunction, Hannah Jones turned to Charlotte and smiled, ‘Well, I think its best that I go and see to your tea, before it spoils.’

Charlotte, managed to bring a small weak smile to her face, her attention was quick to return to Emily, as Hannah stood up.

After Emily’s mother had left the room, it was Charlotte who broke the silence between them in a quiet, discreet raised voice, ‘Holly Shit! Emily! What was that all about?’

‘Nothing, we just ain’t been getting on lately.’

‘I can see that, but what about this business at work. I didn’t even know you hadn’t been going into work.’

‘Oh, Charlotte, I’m sorry. I better go sort things out with her.’

Her mother was standing at the sink; she went over and stood at her side, a moment of silent unity passed before she said, ‘Mum . . . I’m really sorry.’

In that split second, Hannah Jones closed her eyes with relief and thanked God at the same time, but she maintained her composure, prevented herself from showing her weak and unconditional love that she had of late found so unbearable to live with.

‘Mum— please. I don’t understand what’s happened to me; I can’t do this on my own. Please— Mu—mum.’

‘Well, that’s what I’m here for—’ She was unable to suppress her innermost feeling, her wanting, any longer and took her daughter in her arms, tight to her chest.

Charlotte had replenished the fire and was sitting patiently in the fireside chair, when she heard a sudden tapping sound coming from the front door; she was a little hesitant and not completely sure, whether or not somebody was actually at the door, and rather than disturb Emily or her mother she went to check.

Nobody was there; when she was closing the door, she noticed a box on the doorstep. She took a look around to see if anybody was in the street, then lifted it and took it inside; it was an open box wrapped in rustic oak leaves and inside was a single red rose laid on a bed of pale blue forget-me-nots.

Hannah had heard the front door close and rushed out of the kitchen, she was a little startled to find Charlotte looking at her in amazement, ‘What is it, Charlotte?’

‘It’s just so beautiful mother.’ Her gaze instantly fell back to the box; she was now cradled in her arms. ‘They just left it on your doorstep.’

‘Oh, My God, it isn’t?’ On impulse she covered her face in her hands, with her eyes still fixed on Charlotte, she slowly allowed her line of sight to become clearer, ‘You have got to be joking Charlotte, it can’t be.’

Charlotte lifted her head, her expression puzzled, ‘It isn’t— what?’

With apprehension Mrs Jones forced herself to look inside the box, ‘It’s just a rose?

‘Yes, but isn’t it beautiful?’

Mrs Jones sighed with relief, ‘For goodness sakes, you frightened the life out of me for a minute— Yes, it’s lovely.’

Emily had rushed out to see what all the commotion was, ‘What is it, mum?’ She leaned over the side of her mother, ‘Oh— My God!’

Hannah then watched her closely as she offered to take the box from Charlotte; it was done with such delicacy that her mother could hardly believe her eyes, especially after the way she had fought so hard against any such notion, of her and Steve getting back together again. She was not going to be complacent this time and, bit her lip. She merely indicated to Charlotte to follow her into the kitchen.

Emily had taken the rose over to the fire, once again she sat on the edge of the fireside chair, but this time she gazed down into the box and felt its warmth growing inside her, it felt as if he were with her, as it had all day.

‘Oh, Charlotte I just can’t believe it, you know I was beginning to think that boy didn’t have a romantic bone in his body.’ She paused a second and turned the dial-up on the cooker. ‘And to think I had just about lost my patience with Stephen Maguire, who’d have believed it.’

‘It’s very romantic, that’s one thing for sure, but—’

‘You know all the trouble that boy caused in this family over the past month; I tell you Charlotte, I had really reached the end with him. I’ve done your favourite, steak and kidney pie. It shouldn’t be much longer. You wouldn’t mind just peeling the potatoes, there already in the sink. Oh Charlotte, I can’t tell you how pleased I am your finally— here.’

Hannah was unable to suppress the emotion that had been boiling up inside her for so long. She had missed Charlotte immensely, she had always considered her as being part of her family as if she were her own, this mixture of emotion and in the presence of someone, she was able to trust and cared so much about, had allowed her to feel a sense easement, allowing her to let go finally.

Charlotte instantly put her arm around her, ‘Oh mother, please, everything will be alright; you just wait and see.’

‘I’m not sure Charlotte, I can’t take much more, at times I can’t talk sense to her, it’s like she’s in a different world that— I can’t seem to reach. Oh, Charlotte, I only want, what’s best for her.’

‘I know, you do mother, she’ll be fine.’

‘It’s her father you know, him and me arguing all the time, that’s what’s made her like this. I know it. She doesn’t let things out like she use to, she bottles them all up inside. Hardly ever talks to me these days.’ She shook her head lightly in despair. ‘It’s the drink you know; it brings out the worst in a man; he never use to drink; he was always such a kind and caring man.’

‘I know mother. Come on let’s get those spuds scrubbed, and pick their blooming eyes out.’

Hannah smiled, ‘Your one in a million Charlotte, yes lets.’

‘Mmm, I can smell that steak and kidney pie.’ And I’m absolutely starving.’

‘It won’t be much longer, did you not have something on your way down?’

Charlotte shook her head, ‘Well, I’m trying to lose a few pounds.’

‘You’re always trying to lose them; I doubt you ever had them in the first place, just look at you. You know Brian will be absolutely furious if they get back together. He reckons he’s never liked the boy. And after he cancelled the engagement, well —. He’ll not have his name mentioned in the house. He reckons that’s why he took up drinking in the first place, because he couldn’t stand the sight of the boy, sitting there with his daughter like he owned the place. He did use a few stronger words mind.’

‘Oh, mother you mustn’t go worrying about it, he’s probably just looking for any excuse, to get down to the stupid pub. That’s what they like.’

‘Listen to you all grown up, Miss Charlotte Harrison.’ She flicked some water over her arm, and they both laughed. ‘Yes, your right, no use worrying we just got to get on with the hand we’re given.’

‘Well, I think we’ve just about blinded the lot of them Charlotte.’

‘Yes, I think your right. Ooh, you a get a certain sense of satisfaction from sticking it in and twisting it around.’ She smiled wickedly. ‘Come on; let’s show these little blighters what a ring fire really feels like.’

‘She-devils, that’s what we are,’ Charlotte cackled. ‘Doesn’t it feel just great?’

‘Yes.’ She cackled back, ‘Thank you, Charlotte. ‘You’d better go and see if Emily’s alright, and then get unpacked. I’ve put some fresh towels over the rail on the top of the landing.’

Charlotte cackled a thank you.

Charlotte knelt in front of Emily; her hand gently covered hers, she looked up into her gaze and smiled softly. ‘He must love you so much, and it must have taken him ages.’

A few seconds of silence passed between them, then Emily replied, ‘I know. And that’s what makes it, so difficult.’

‘Oh, shit! Em, Steve didn’t send you the rose, did he?

‘No, you see Charlotte some things are far too big, to fit inside their own little box.’

‘Oh, Emi, you’ve fallen in love with him, haven’t you?

‘I think so.’

Charlotte was suddenly lost in thought. She kept repeating to herself over and over again; mother doesn’t know. She looked up at Emily, her eyes waiting, but she could not find an immediate answer. No matter which way she turned things, nothing seemed to fit, and always the same answer sprang to mind. She needed more time, time to think, yes she thought, time must be the answer. ‘Well!’ She exclaimed, scratching her head. ‘Let’s get that thing in some water, before it dies.’

Emily’s eyes opened wide, ‘Yes, and I know just the vase to use.’ She smiled, bringing her shoulders up in a twitch of elation.

Instantly they both stood up, went into the kitchen. Emily turned to Charlotte and asked, ‘Will you take care of it? While I get the vase.’

Charlotte went to grab it, but after seeing the look in Emily’s eyes, it was with empathy; she allowed her to lower the rose gently into her hands.

‘Mum, where’s that vase that looks like a fruit dish?’

‘A fruit dish! Emily for goodness sakes, there’s a vase under the sink.’

‘No, I can’t find it; I need a tall dainty one.’

‘Right at the back there should be a small— flared vase, use that and you’d better hurry, because I’ll be ready to serve up in a minute.’

‘I’ve got it! Thanks, mum.’

Hannah Jones looked over at Charlotte and smiled, it was a mere glimpse, but somehow she felt life was finally returning to the house. In these few days, she was determined, to rekindle her bond with Emily. She would not let the rose or her desire to make Steve a permanent family member come between her and her daughter ever again. She had acted recklessly, had said things that she didn’t mean, purely out of disappointment for her own wanting and desire. If anyone could break the bitter stance her daughter had now adopted towards her, it was Charlotte, and this opportunity that had excited her before seemed to have been restored.

‘You two had better go and freshen up, ready for your tea before it gets spoilt.’

The conversation at the dinner table was mostly local gossip; it seemed no one wanted to approach the subject of Stephen Maguire, least of all Mrs Jones. If his name were to be mentioned, she had already made up her mind, and it would not be of her doing.

Charlotte had enjoyed hearing all about her old school friends, and the local individuals she had known throughout her childhood. She had also avoided his name, and it had seemed the meal would be bought to a conclusion, without even touching the subject.

Emily was fully aware they had acted with prudence, and was grateful for the respite, yet unfortunately made the mistake of comparing Steve with the exploits of a David Bates who had recently cheated on his wife, of sixteen years a Miss Susan Fraser.

At first, there was an unbearable silence. It seemed impenetrable but for the grace of Charlotte who was quick to reveal the character of her new boyfriend, and where he had taken her on their very first date, an ice skating rink.

 

Next short story

 

 

Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

I Have A Right

I Have A Right, narrative, short story of enlightenment

I have a right, of course, we all have a right yet we seem to misinterpret them sometimes. A short story within in its own rights offers some enlightenment. Having a right is something earned, a responsibility in conducting yourself in a manner that constitutes having that right.

There is nothing better than to learn from someone else’s experience or wisdom, a short— but pleasant story, soon unfolds. An excellent tale for all ages, for how often do we forget our past experiences, a good reminder— to be sure.

The original short narrative is from a collection of short stories by Jean Ingelow, an English author and poet and was first published in 1865. With the addition of some illustrations, and only a few – slight – changes to enhance a more modern reading experience, we hope you enjoy this short and pleasant tale.

I Have A Right

We, as a nation, are remarkably fond of talking about our rights. The expression, ‘I have a right,’ is constantly in our mouths. This is one reason, among some others, why it is fortunate for us that we speak English, since this favourite phrase in more than one continental tongue has no precise equivalent.

Whether the nation’s phrase grew out of the nation’s character, or whether the happy possession of such a phrase has helped to mould that character, it is scarcely now worthwhile to inquire. Certain it is that those generations which make proverbs, make thereby laws which govern their children’s children. And thus, perhaps, it comes to pass that this neat, independent, Anglo-Saxon phrase helps to get and keep for us the very rights it tells of. For, as under some governments, it is true that the dearest and most inalienable rights of the race go by the name of privilege, indulgence, or immunity, a concession, and not an inheritance. 

I Have A Right, narrative, short story of enlightenment

A gift, and not a birthright; while ancient rights, in our sense of this word, merge into mere privileges held at the ruler’s will, and having been once called privileges, may be exchanged by him for other privileges which may amount to no more than the sight of a glittering show; so in our case it is true that privileges have a constant tendency to merge into rights. Let any man grant his neighbours the privilege of walking through his fields, his park, or his grounds, and then see how soon it will be said that they have a right to traverse them. In fact, very soon they will have a right by the law of the land; for, to prove the, right, they need only show that they have enjoyed the privilege ‘time out of mind.’ And then, again, Right is very unfair to his cousin Privilege, for, by the laws of England, sixty years constitute ‘time out of mind.’

By taking the trouble to investigate, any person may find many parallel cases, and so we keep the path of liberty. First, we got that path as a sort of privilege which was winked at. Then we made out that we had a right to it! Next, we proved that it wanted widening, and then we paved it handsomely, made a king’s highway of it, and took pains to have it constantly in repair.

Now, it being an acknowledged thing, my dear friends, that we have rights, and that we like to have these facts well known to all whom it may concern how—glad you will be if I can point out to you certain rights which some of you have scarcely considered at all.

I have met with numbers of worshipful old gentlemen, industrious young workmen, and women of all degrees, who knew well how to use our favourite phrase in its common vulgar sense. Still, I knew a worshipful old baker, in an old country town, who used it oftener than any of them. To hear him hold forth about his rights, did one’s heart good, and made one proud of one’s country. Everybody else’s rights appeared flat and tame compared with his, and the best of it was, that no one was ever heard to dispute them.

Dear old man, he is dead now, but some of his rights survive him. I was on my way home to the neighbourhood of that little country town wherein, for so many years, he might have been seen on a summer evening, standing in his shop door, and exercising the rights he loved, when it so happened that I heard some of my countrymen also discoursing about their rights. The more they talked, the more petty and insignificant seemed their rights compared with those of Mr Bryce, the baker.

We took our tickets at the London terminus of the Great Northern Railway, and entered an empty carriage; in a corner seat, however, a gentleman’s greatcoat was lying; presently a lady got in, and now the two vacant seats were, it so happened, as far as possible, asunder.

The next arrivals were another lady with a little girl about four years old. Without any hesitation, she took up the coat, and placing it in another corner seat, set her child in the division near herself.

Had she a right to do this? You inquire. Certainly not; and she was soon reminded of that fact, for just at the last minute a calm and rather supercilious looking young man entered, glanced coldly at her, and said, ‘I must trouble you, madam, for that seat; I laid my coat on it some time ago, and also turned the cushion; I really must request you to leave it, as I have a right to it.’

He laid as strong an emphasis on the must, as if to turn her out was a stringent duty. Perhaps she thought so, for as she glanced, in rising, at the child, she said, with a smile at the youth, who was quite young enough to be her son, ‘Certainly you have an undoubted right to this seat;’ and then added, ‘but I suppose no one would have disputed your right to give it up to me, if you had chosen.’

Her easy self-possession, and perhaps her remark, made him look a little awkward; but as the lady rose, my brother changed places with the child, and thus they still sat together; and while the youth settled himself in the place, he had a right to, our train set off with one of those thrice horrible, wavering, and querulous screeches of which the Great Northern has a monopoly.

While we went through the first tunnel, rending the air all the time with terrific shrieks, the little girl held tightly by her mother’s hand, and two large tears rolled down her rosy face. ‘We shall soon be at Hornsey,’ said her mother, and accordingly in a few minutes we stopped. While the lady and child disappeared from our view, the owner of the seat ejaculated, ‘Cool!’ and then looking around the carriage, he continued, as appealing to those who were sure to agree with him—’When a man has a right to a thing, why, he has a right, but to have a right to waive a right, is a dodge that a man wouldn’t expect to be told off.’

This most lucid speech he closed with a general smile, and we set off again with another shriek, longer and shriller than the former one.

After an hour’s travelling we were deserted by all our fellow-passengers, and seemed to be waiting a very long time at a little country station. At length, two old gentlemen entered, and, as the railway man opened the door for them. I said to him, ‘Can you tell me why we are detained here so long?’

‘Yes, ma’am,’ he replied; ‘there’s an excursion train due directly, and we’re shunted off the line to let it pass.’

‘Horrid bore!’ said one old gentleman.

‘Disgraceful shame!’ said the other; ‘but don’t let that make you uneasy, young lady,’ he added, politely addressing me; ‘” shunted” means nothing dangerous.’

I was about to ask what it did mean, when with a whiz, and a great noise of cheering, the excursion train shot past us, displaying a long, long succession of second and third-class carriages, every window garnished with pale faces of men and women, besides numbers of delicate-looking children.

‘Disgraceful shame!’ repeated the stoutest of the old gentlemen; ‘here’s our train twenty minutes late; twenty minutes, sir, by the clock.’

‘I should think,’ said my brother, ‘that this is not a grievance of very frequent occurrence—mail trains are not often obliged to give way to the convenience of the excursionists; but we were behind time when we got up to this station, and as we must stop a quarter of an hour, shortly, we should very much have detained that train if it had been on the same line, and behind us.’

‘Well, I can’t make it out,’ was the reply: ‘and what does their being detained matter to me; I paid for my ticket, and I’ve a right to be taken on.’

‘Certainly,’ said the other; ‘no man has a right to interfere with my business for the sake of his pleasure —such new-fangled notions!—What’s the good of a day’s pleasure to the working classes?’

‘They have it so seldom,’ my brother suggested, ‘that they have plenty of time to consider that question. Between one day’s pleasure and the next.’

‘Horrid bore, these excursion trains!’ repeated the first speaker; ‘filling the country with holiday folk; what do they want with holidays—much better stop at home, and work, and earn a little more. What’s the good of sending out a swarm of pale-faced, knock-kneed London artisans, and gaping children, that don’t know a kite from a jackdaw? If you must give ’em a treat, let it be a good dinner. Country air, indeed! I don’t find London unhealthy, and I spend three or four months in it every year.’

‘To be sure,’ echoed his companion, ‘these London clergy and ministers ought to know better than to spread such sentimental nonsense among the people—duty comes before pleasure, doesn’t it? Why, a man had the assurance to write to me—a perfect stranger—to know whether I’d open my park for a shoal of his cockney parishioners to dine and drink tea in! He knew it was closed, forsooth, but he hoped for once, and in the cause of philanthropy, I’d open it. I should like to know where my young coveys would be when every inch in my wood had been overrun, and all the bracken trod down in the cause of philanthropy? No, I wrote him a piece of my mind—I said, “Rev. Sir, I do not fence and guard my grounds that paupers may make a playground of them; and, though your request makes me question you’re good taste a little, I trust to your good sense not to render your people liable to be taken up as trespassers. I have a right to prosecute all trespassers in my grounds, and, therefore, I advise you to keep your people clear of them.”‘

‘And very proper, too,’ replied the other; ‘there are plenty of people that will receive them; there’s your neighbour, Sir Edward, who’s happy and proud to entertain as many as they like to pour into his domain.’

Upon this, they both laughed, as it appeared, in pity of the said Sir Edward. ‘Well, well, every man has a right to his own opinion.’ (N. B., is that a fact?) ‘Sir Edward wanted me, the other day, to subscribe to some new baths and wash-houses. “My good fellow,” I said, “when all the paupers in London can earn their own living, it will be time enough to talk of washing their faces; but for goodness’ sake let ’em earn dinners before you offer ’em Windsor soap, and hats before you find ’em pomatum.”‘

‘And may I know what Sir Edward said in reply?’ I inquired, addressing the old gentleman.

He seemed to consider. ‘Well,’ he said, after a puzzled pause, ‘it was something of this sort—something about the decencies of life being striven for with better heart, if a few of its amenities were within reach.’

This reminded me of a poor woman who lived in a particularly dirty cottage, near my father’s house, in the country. I one day tapped at her door, and she opened it in a gown all spotted with white-wash. ‘What! cleaning, Mrs Matts?’ I exclaimed in surprise. ‘Why, yes, Miss,’ she replied, ‘for my husband’s brother has just been up from London, where he works, to see us, and brought us a beautiful picture of the Queen, all in a gilt frame, Miss; and when he’d hung it up, it made the walls look so shocking dirty, that I couldn’t bear the sight of ’em, so I’m cleaning, you see.’

But enough has been said about the rights of other people; let us now turn to Mr Bryce, the baker.

Bryce was working for a baker in the village near which my grandfather lived. His master died suddenly, leaving a widow and nine children. Bryce was an enterprising young man and had been thinking of setting up for himself. My grandfather, however, heard that after his master’s death, he gave up this wish, and continued to work at his former wages, trying to keep the business together for the widow. Happening to meet him, he asked him if this report were true?

‘Why, yes, sir,’ said Bryce; ‘you see nobody else would manage everything for her without a share of the profits; and nine children—what a tug they are! so as I have nobody belonging to me—nobody that has any claim on me—’

‘But I thought you wanted to set up for yourself?’

‘And so I did, sir; if — I’d a wife and family, I’d make a push to get on for their sakes,—but I’ve none. So, as I can live on what I get, and hurt nobody by it, “I have a right” to help her, poor soul, as I’ve a mind to.’

Soon after this the widow took to dress-making, and did so well that she wanted no help from Bryce, who now set up for himself, and borrowed a sum of money from my grandfather, to begin with. At first, he was so poor, and the weekly profits were so small, that he requested my grandfather to receive the trifle of interest monthly, and for the first two months he said it ‘completely cleared him out’ to pay it. My grandfather was, therefore, rather surprised one Saturday evening, as he sauntered down the village street, to see four decrepit old people hobbling down the steps of his shop, each carrying a good-sized loaf, and loudly praising the generosity of Mr Bryce. The sun was just setting, and cast a ruddy glow on the young baker’s face as he stood leaning against the post of his door, but he started with some confusion when he saw my grandfather, and hastily asked him to enter his shop. ‘I reckon you are surprised, sir,’ he said, ‘to see me giving away bread before I’ve paid my debt: but just look round, sir. Those four loaves were all I had left, except what I can eat myself, and they were stale; so think what they’d have been by Monday morning.’

‘I don’t wish to interfere with your charities,’ said my grandfather.

‘But, sir,’ said Bryce. ‘I want you to see that I’m as eager to pay off that money as I can be; but people won’t buy stale bread—they won’t, indeed; and so I thought I had a right to give away those four loaves, being they were left upon my hands.’

‘I think so, too,’ said my grandfather. Who was then quite a young man, ‘and I shall think so next Saturday and the Saturday after.’

‘Thank you, sir, I’m sure,’ said the baker.

Over time the debt was paid, though almost every Saturday those old people hobbled from the door. And now Mr Bryce’s rights were found to increase with his business and enlarge with his family.

First, he had only a right to give away the stale loaves, ‘being he was in debt.’ Then he had a right to give away all that was left, ‘being he was out of debt.’ While he was single, he had a right to bake dinners for nothing, ‘being he had no family to save for.’ When he was married, he had a right to consider the poor, ‘being, as he was, so prosperous as to have enough for his own, and something over.’ When he had ten children, business still increasing, he found out that he had a right to adopt his wife’s little niece, ‘for, bless you, sir,’ he observed, ‘I’ve such a lot of my own, that a pudding that serves for ten shares serves for eleven just as well. And, as for schooling, I wouldn’t think of it, if my boys and girls were not as good scholars as I’d wish to see; for I spare nothing for their learning—but being they are, and money still in the till, why, I’ve got a right to let this little one share. In fact, when a man has earned a jolly hot dinner for his family every day, and seen ’em say their grace over it, he has a right to give what they leave on’t to the needy, especially if his wife’s agreeable.’

And so Mr Bryce, the baker, went on prospering, and finding out new rights to keep pace with his prosperity. In due time his many sons and daughters grew up; the latter married, and the former were placed out in life. Finally, after a long and happy life, Mr Bryce, the baker, died, and in his will, after leaving £500 apiece to all his sons and daughters, he concluded his bequests with this characteristic sentence:—

‘And, my dear children, by the blessing of God, having put you out well in life, and left you all handsome, I feel (especially as I have the hearty consent of you all) that I have a right to leave the rest of my property, namely £700, for the use of those that want it. First, the village of D—— being very much in want of good water, I leave £400, the estimated cost, for digging a well, and making a pump over it, the same to be free to all. The interest of the remainder I leave to be spent in blankets every winter, and given away to the destitute widows and orphans in the parish.’

So the well was dug, and the pump was made; and as long as the village lasts, opposite his own shop door, the sparkling water will gush out; the village mothers will gossip as they fill their buckets there; the village fathers will cool their sunburnt foreheads there, and the village children will put their ears to it and listen to its purling down below; a witness to the rights, and a proof of how Bryce, the baker used his rights.

illustration of a little girl to say finish

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Original short story by Jean Ingelow

Retold by A Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

First photograph by Geralt