Short stories of feelings can create a romantic moment filled with a sense of wonder. An intimate journey of nostalgia, empathy, and, most of all, an emotion that allows you to reflect on life’s sensitivity. It is a romance with words, tentatively creating short stories of feelings, an imaginary plot of a world where true love often runs deep.
“Oh, where art thou tentative heart of whom I seek?”
“May you quench thy emotion, an allow me, to sleep.”
New Short Stories Of Feelings
The Embers Of A Lifetime by A I Moffat published in 2021
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. There was nobody to come home too, 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. Read more
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.
“Oh, how divine maybe one day, you’ll see just give it time.” Justanemotion
Exclusive Short Stories of Feelings & Affection
Short stories of feelings of the heart
An Inconstant Heart by A I Moffat, published in 2021
‘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, ‘but,’ she hesitated, ‘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.’ Read more
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
A short story is essentially a short prose of creative writing intended to captivate the reader into one single theme. To cut a long story short, they are an invented story to capture the readers’ attention—immediately. These brief fictional pieces of creative literature can transform the reader’s mood.
Short Stories are regarded in the publishing world as fictional narratives. An author will often thrust the main character into trouble immediately, to capture the readers’ interest. A sense of curiosity will gradually lead them through a variety of unforeseen circumstances until finally, the story begins to unfold. The best short stories can have you in suspense right to the very end—before—revealing the—outcome.
A Short Story
Emelia had not quite finished reading a short story, when her parents called for her to come at once, ‘What is it?’ She asked, throwing the book on top of an organised row of novels.
‘It’s Paul—’ her mother cried up to her, ‘he’s had a nasty accident.’
‘An—accident?’ Emelia repeated anxiously running down the stairs.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin, was not at all amused by the scruffy paperback being thrown upon her, and instantly complained, ‘How dare you disturb me from trying to sleep.’
‘O, I’m so, so sorry,’ replied the Short story.
‘You don’t belong up here with us novels, you know?’ The Awakening retorted.
‘Well, you’re merely a short fictional piece of nonsense—aren’t you?’ She said shuffling uncomfortably from the weight of him.
Then the Silence of the lambs by Thomas Harris, quietly growled and threatened to eat the short story, if he did not quieten down.
Short story was not feeling very well and wriggled uncomfortably, ‘It’s not my fault.’
‘Honestly! could you just keep still—do you not realise how long I’ve been trying to fall asleep?’ Snapped the Awakening.
‘Insomnia,’ growled the Silence of the lambs. ‘Cursed she is, by the hand that created her.’
‘Well, at least I’m not a cannibalistic hardback!’
‘Look, I’m sorry—but I’m sure I won’t be here much longer,’ interrupted Short story.
‘Not, if I can get hold of your flimsy, sp–sp–sp–sp . . . little papers, you won’t,’ hissed the Silence of the lambs.
Suddenly the door flew open, and Emelia rushed in, grabbed the short story and rushed back out again, leaving the door wide open.
Later that evening, when Emelia was sitting in front of the fire, reading the short story, to her brother Paul, who was nursing a broken leg she noticed holes in the corner of the pages.
Paul was amazed such a book existed and exclaimed, ‘You must throw it straight into the fire, it’s full of bookworm.’
Emelia, shuddered with dread and instantly threw the book into the fire.
The Awakening slowly over time fell into a profound deep sleep, and not one sound was ever heard again from the Silence of the lambs—ever.
Little Rie And The Rosebuds, a small blessing of joy, is plucked from harm on a cold and blustery evening. Soon she begins to flourish with a warm flush of contentment and love. Although a wild rosebud in need of nurturing must be handled with care, for there are many thorny spikes. Which can catch you unaware—a twist of a tale born from an act of kindness. There is nothing better than to learn from someone else’s experience or wisdom, a short— but pleasant storey soon unfolds. An excellent tale for all ages, for how often do we forget our past experiences.
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 changes, we hope you enjoy this short and pleasant tale.
Little Rie And The Rosebuds
Before you come to the open heath, the last house is a grey, cheerless looking place in winter. Though in summer it looks pleasant and gay, for it is nearly covered with china roses.
There are a good many trees in the front garden and some thick laurustinus shrubs. On one side of the porch is the kitchen casement; on the other side, the parlour windows. All through the summer, rose leaves drift in whenever these are open and, even as late as November, rosebuds tap against the glass whenever the blustering gale comes round from the heath as if appealing to the inmates to take them in and shelter them from the wind and the rain.
The inmates are a mistress and a maid. The former is a widow, but her late husband saved money in his trade and has left her a comfortable annuity. The latter is not very fair nor very wise, but, as her mistress says, her honesty makes up for want of wit, and she has a kind heart, though it is a foolish one.
One dreary November afternoon, when the sky was piled up with cold, white clouds, and the gusty wind shook every pool in the gravel walk into ripples, the mistress came into the kitchen. She sat at a table, stoning raisins for a cake, while the maid kneaded the dough for the said cake in a pan on the window seat.
Suddenly a shadow darkened the window, and the mistress and maid raising their eyes, saw a dark, determined-looking woman standing outside offering matches for sale; she held a tiny child about five years of age by the hand. The little creature peered with childish interest into the kitchen, and she also pushed forward her bundle of matches; but they were perfectly wet, and so was the dimpled hand that held them, for rain was streaming from every portion of her tattered garments.
‘No; go away; we don’t want any matches,’ said the mistress, but the woman still stood before the window with a forbidding, not to say menacing, aspect.
‘The woman’s boots and clothes are very good,’ said Sally, the maid, ‘but it’s pitiful to see the poor child’s bare feet and rags; she looks hungry, too.’
‘Well, Sally, you may give her something to eat, then,’ said the mistress.
Sally rose with alacrity, and rubbing the flour from her arms, ran hastily to a little pantry, from which she presently returned with a piece of cold pudding. She opened the casement and held it out to the child, who took it with evident delight and began to eat it at once. Then the dripping pair moved away, and the mistress and maid thought no more of them, but went on with their occupation, while the short day began to close in the sooner, for the driving clouds and pouring rain, and the windows in the little stone house began to glow with the cheerful light of the fires.
In the pauses of the wind and rain, Sally once thought she heard a light footfall, but she did not see anyone in the garden. However, if anyone did come in then and wander round the laurustinus bushes and sit down in the little porch, that person must have seen all that went on that rainy night in the cheerful little parlour and kitchen.
They must have seen the white-washed walls of the kitchen glowing with a more and more ruddy reflection from the flames, and the little door open in the face of the cuckoo clock, and the cuckoo stall briskly out and sing, and dart in again; and must have seen Sally bustling about, cutting bread and butter, setting out tea-things, and putting on her clean apron; then the person by simply turning could have seen the mistress, in her afternoon gown and cap, sitting in her pretty parlour, the walls all covered with roses, and the carpet gay with bright flowers.
It grew quite dark. Sally sat, making a round of toast at the fire. Just as she turned the toast upon the fork, a little child stole as silently as a shadow from the porch, pressed her cheek against the glass, wondered whether there was any more of that nice cold pudding in the cupboard, and looked at the lazy cat as she came and rubbed herself against Sally’s gown. But presently the wind came round again and dashed the rosebuds so hard against the casement, that she was frightened. It seemed as if they rapped on purpose to let people know she was there, and she crept back to the porch and once more cowered down in its most sheltered corner.
She was very wet, but she did not mind that so much as might have been expected; she did not mind being out in the dark either, for she was well accustomed to it; but she was very tired, they had walked so far that day; and every minute she looked out into the garden and listened, and wondered why her mammy did not come, for she was alone.
After they had left that house in the afternoon, they had walked far out on to the great heath and had sat down, and then her mammy had said to her, ‘Now, child, you may go back, do you hear?’ and she had risen and said, ‘Yes, mammy, where am I to go back to?’ ‘It don’t much signify,’ her mammy had answered; ‘you may go back to that little house where they gave us the pudding, and I shall be sure to come soon; I’m a-coming directly.’ ‘And shall you be sure to find me, mammy?’ she had asked, and then her mammy was angry and said, ‘Set off directly when I bid you; I shall find you fast enough when I want you.’
So she had set off as fast as she could, but it was a long way, and a long while before she reached the porch, and then she was so tired she thought she should have cried if there had not been a little bench to sit down on.
She called this woman her mammy, but she had a birth mother a long way off, of whom this one had hired her, because when they went out begging, her little appealing face made people charitable. What wonder, since the birth mother could so give her up, that the pretended one should desert her if she no longer needed her!
But she did not know her desolate condition. She only thought what a long, long time her mammy was in, coming, and she crept out of the porch again to see the mistress sitting at work, now and then stooping to pat a dog that lay basking on the rug at her feet. What a soft rug it was!
The beggar child wished she was a pet dog, that she might lie there in the light and warmth, but once more, the wind swung a branch or rosebud against the glass, and she withdrew to her comfortless shelter, longing for the time when her mammy was to fetch her.
And then two more dreary hours passed over her head; sometimes she cried a little, and sometimes she dozed and woke up chilled and trembling; sometimes she took courage, and wandered about among the laurustinus bushes, so fearful was she lest her mammy should miss her; then she went back again and cried, and was so tired she did not know what she should do if she had to wait much longer. At last, her little head sunk quietly down upon her knees, and the wind, and the rain, and the darkness were forgotten.
She was sound asleep, but after a long time, she dreamed that someone shook her and spoke to her, but she could not open her eyes, and then that little dog began to bark at her, and she was so frightened that she cried bitterly in her sleep. Someone (not her mammy) was lifting her and carrying her away, and giving her something so hot and so nice to drink that she was amazed and could open her eyes and sit up; there was the cuckoo clock, and the little dog; he really was barking at her, but the warm fire was shining on her, and Sally the maid was pulling off her wet clothes, and telling her not to be frightened, and she should have some supper.
Poor little outcast! They dried her trembling limbs and wrapped her in a blanket, but she was so faint and sleepy that she could hardly hold up her head, even while they gave her some supper, but presently fell asleep on Sally’s knee over the comfortable fire.
‘Well, Sally,’ said the mistress, ‘I can only say that this is the strangest thing I ever heard talk on.’
‘And so it is, ma’am. Please, what am I to do now with the little dear?’ said Sally, simpering.
‘I suppose we must keep her for the night; make up a little bed on three chairs, and I must go upstairs and look out some clothes for her out of the bundle I made up to give away at Christmas.’
So the mistress went upstairs, and then Sally made the little bed and prepared a warm bath to refresh the aching limbs of the poor little wanderer; and then she combed her pretty hair, and carried her, already asleep, to the little bed on three chairs.
The next morning, when the mistress came down into the kitchen, she saw her baby-guest sitting on a low wooden stool, nursing the cat. Her dark hair was neatly brushed, and her face was as clean as Sally’s care could make it. She watched with an inquisitive interest the various preparations for a comfortable breakfast. Her features expressed a kind of innocent shrewdness, but she was evidently in great awe both of mistress and maid, though, when unobserved, she was never tired of admiring her new checked pinafore and smoothing out her spotted print frock with her hands. ‘Shall I give her some bread and milk, ma’am?’ asked Sally.
‘Certainly,’ said the mistress, ‘and after breakfast, I shall consider what is to be done with her.’
So the little thing had a good breakfast: and all the morning the mistress sat considering; but at dinnertime, it appeared that she had not considered to much purpose, for when Sally came into the parlour to lay the cloth, and asked, ‘Am I to give the little dear some dinner, ma’am?’ she answered again, ‘Certainly, Sally, and I must consider what is to be done; I’ve not been able to make up my mind. How has she behaved?’
‘Been as good as gold,’ answered Sally, with a somewhat silly smile; ‘she saw me dusting about, and I gave her a duster, and she dusted too, and then stood on the stool and see me making the pie, and never touched a thing. O, she’s a toward little thing.’
After dinner, it began to rain, and then the wind got up, and the rosebuds rattled and knocked again at the casement. A little before tea-time, the mistress felt so lonely that she came into the kitchen for company, and there she saw Sally sitting before the fire, making toast, and the child on a chair beside her, with a small piece of bread on a fork.
‘She’s toasting herself a bit of bread for her tea,’ said Sally, ‘leastways, if you mean to give her her tea, ma’am.’
‘Certainly,’ said the mistress once more. ‘Dear me, how cheerful it looks!—doesn’t it, Sally? A child seems always to make a place cheerful. Yes, I shall give her her tea if she is good.’
If to be quiet is to be good, never was a better child; and certainly never was a happier one.
‘Have you considered anything yet, ma’am?’ Sally asked.
‘Why, no, I can’t, Sally, just yet; it’s so wet, she must sleep here tonight,’ replied the mistress. ‘I’ll think of it tomorrow.’
But tomorrow, the mistress still said, ‘I’ll think of it tomorrow,’ and so it came to pass that at the end of a month, the child was still there. She had grown plump and rosy, though still extremely shy and quiet, which was in her favour; for mistress and maid finding so little trouble, and such a constant source of amusement and occupation, had gradually dropped all consideration as to what they were to do with her, and thought of nothing less than letting her go away at all.
She called herself little Rie and said she come from a big place, but that was all that questioning could draw from her, excepting the repeated declaration that she did not want to go back to her mammy.
How happy she was in the pretty kitchen, with Sally, nursing the cat, listening to the tapping rosebuds, sitting on the little stool to eat her simple fare, going to the shop with Sally, and creeping softly into the parlour to peep at the dog, or carry a message or a plate of biscuits to the mistress!
She was very happy, indeed, at first, but soon there began to mingle a great deal of fear with her reverence for the mistress. She had been brought up with no habits of order, with no schooling, and now she was to be taught and trained; and every day, when she was sent into the parlour, with a nicely washed face and smooth hair, to say her lesson, and hem a duster, she became shyer and shyer.
‘The poor child’s been used to such a roving life,’ said Sally, ‘that she don’t take as kindly as might be to her books. She doesn’t learn as easily as other children.’
‘And that’s the very reason why I’m so particular,’ replied the mistress. ‘I wonder, Sally, to hear you talk as if you wished her to be excused.’
‘I don’t know as I do wish that,’ said Sally humbly, for she had a great idea of her mistress’s good sense, ‘but, ma’am, she’s such a little one, and you see, we often want to excuse ourselves.’
The mistress was a severe person, and though she heartily loved little Rie and did not mind what trouble she took with her, she could not bear that the child should see any fondness in her manner, lest, as she said, ‘she should take advantage.’ What she had told her once she expected her to remember; and, above all, she could not bear deception; for she was very upright herself, and expected others to be so too.
But poor little Rie had been used to hard usage, and it was some time before she could be taught that she must speak the truth and confess her faults, whatever might be the consequences. Deceit, once taught to a young child by fear, is not easily eradicated, and Sally thought nothing but kindness could do it; but then Sally had such a foolish way with her, and was all for kindness and making excuses for people, not sufficiently considering what was just, and not being willing to condemn anybody without such a deal of consideration, that the mistress felt she could not take her opinion at all.
‘Please, ma’am, she will speak out if she’s not afraid,’ Sally would say when little Rie had cried herself to sleep after being punished for some childish deceit.
‘Not afraid!’ the mistress would repeat. ‘How you talk, Sally! I punish her for making her afraid of doing anything else but speak out.’
‘But, ma’am, consider her bringing up,’ said Sally, ‘and don’t look for too much at first.’
‘Too much!’ repeated the mistress; ‘don’t I give her everything, and haven’t I a right to look for obedience and truth in return?’
‘Surely,’ said Sally, ‘and I hope you’ll have them, ma’am.’
‘I hope so,’ replied the mistress; but the very next day, little Rie got into trouble again, for she was told to hold out her pinafore while the mistress counted apples into it for a pudding; the pinafore was not half full when the mistress was called away, and then little Rie, left alone, looking at all the bright, rosy apples, lying in rows on the low shelf, found the temptation too great for her, and bit one of them, which she hastily returned to its place. When the mistress came back and found the little culprit, with cheeks suffused with crimson and head hanging down, she easily discovered what had happened; and then, despite her promises that she would be good, she was summarily punished and put to bed.
‘She is but a child,’ said Sally.
‘She’s a naughty child,’ said the mistress, ‘and it is just she should be punished.’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ Sally ventured to say, ‘only somehow, if you’re angry when you do it, won’t she think you don’t love her?’
‘Dear me, Sally, how foolish you are! I don’t want her to think I love her when she’s naughty, but only when she’s good.’
‘O, don’t you, ma’am?’ replied Sally doubtfully. ‘Well, ma’am, no doubt, but you know best.’
‘I must be just,’ continued the mistress; ‘she shall be indulged when she’s good, but I shall never overlook it when she’s naughty.’
The mistress was as good as her word; and as little Rie was often naughty in her childish way, it followed that she was often punished; till once seeing her dear Sally crying, after the mistress had been more than usually angry, she climbed up her knee, and made many protestations that she would never be naughty any more and make Sally cry.
Poor little Rie, she had her troubles; but she loved Sally dearly; and perhaps, child as she was, she had sometimes, when the rain was pouring down, and the wind howling outside, a dim perception that she had been saved from a dreary, toilsome, and evil life. It was strangely better to sit with Sally in the cheerful kitchen, and hear the rosebuds tapping, than to wander down and down those ever-lengthening roads, cold, hungry, and neglected.
But discipline, though it may be harsh, does not fail to produce a certain good result. Little Rie understood very soon that she was never to be punished unless she was naughty; that was, at least, something learned, as it had been by no means the experience of her infantine life. It was a great thing to know that she was never to be punished excepting when she had done wrong, and this, once learned, she did wrong much seldomer and, as they hoped, had also learned to speak the truth.
And now she had been very good for a long time; and, by consequence, she was very happy, and the time passed rapidly, till all the snow had melted away and the garden was full of crocuses and snow-drops; it seemed only a few days, and they were over, and she could watch the rosebuds coming out; and then it seemed a very little time longer before Sally was constantly telling her to pick the rose-leaves up and throw them out, when they drifted in at the window.
At last, one day, one sorrowful day, the mistress came into the kitchen to make a raisin pudding, while she sent Sally and little Rie to the shop, and during their absence, she twisted up some few raisins in a paper and laid them on the dresser, intending to give them to the child when she came in.
But Sally came in very late; and when she laid a rabbit, and a plate of butter, and papers of sugar, rice, and tea on the table, and then proceeded to count out eggs and produce apples and other good things, the mistress forgot the raisins, and pushed back her flour, and all her apparatus, to make room for the groceries. Sally was not a good accountant, and she had scarcely made out the price of each article and produced the change when some friends came to see the mistress, and she washed her hands and went into the parlour.
When they were gone, she remembered her intended present and came back into the kitchen. She moved every parcel and every dish, searched the dresser, and looked on the floor. The paper of raisins was not to be found—it was gone.
‘Come here, little Rie,’ she said gravely; ‘did you see a paper of raisins on the table when you came home?’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ said the child, whose two small hands were tightly clasped behind her.
‘And do you know what has become of them?’
‘No, I don’t, I sure I don’t,’ replied the child, and her delicate neck and face became suffused with crimson.
‘O, my dear!’ exclaimed Sally, ‘if she’ll speak the truth, I know missis won’t be so angry with her. O, she will speak the truth, I know.’
‘I did, I did,’ cried the child, with an outbreak of passionate tears.
Sally, upon this, searched the floor and tables, and nothing could be more clear than that the raisins were not there. Alas! They could not doubt that she had eaten them. She had been left alone in the kitchen for a few minutes. Sally herself admitted that they could not have gone without hands.
‘Now, if you will speak the truth,’ said the mistress, gravely, ‘and confess that you took those raisins’—
‘I didn’t,’ repeated the child, now too much in a passion for caring what she said; ‘I don’t want the nasty raisins, and I won’t have them.’
‘O, this will never do,’ said the mistress; ‘Sally, I really must correct her!’ ‘Will she tell it all?’ said Sally, once more stooping over the child, for she had flung herself on the floor and was sobbing and screaming. But no, little Rie would only struggle and fight her away, till, at another bidding, she went with a sorrowful heart to fetch the rod. When she came back, she found the child in such a passion that she ventured no remonstrance, though she still hurriedly looked about with the vague hope that she might have spoken the truth after all.
Poor little Rie! she was very naughty. Sally was the more grieved because lately, she had always spoken the truth. Still, now, when an hour after her punishment, the mistress came in again and offered to forgive her on condition of her speaking the truth, she sullenly walked into the corner and sobbed and would not say a word.
‘Then, Sally, you must go these errands by yourself,’ said the mistress. ‘I meant to have let her go with you, but now she must stay here, by herself.’ Little Rie looked up as she went away and saw that she was very stern and angry. O, how little either of them thought that they should never look one another in the face again!
Sally went away. It was a lovely afternoon, and the kitchen door leading into the back garden was open. Little Rie at first was very disconsolate, but soon the light spirits of childhood began to assert themselves, and she began to play, though very quietly, and with an occasional sob.
Till at last, O, woeful mischance, she knocked down a cheese plate! It fell clattering upon the floor and broke into fifty pieces; one moment, she stood aghast! Then her terrified fancy feigned a step upon the stairs; she darted through the open door and rushed down the garden. Where she should go to escape the anger of the mistress, she scarcely knew; but she came to the garden wicket, it led into a lane; she opened it, shut it behind her, and with it shut the door upon home and hope. Shut upon all that had kept her from beggary and wretchedness. From a vagrant life, from contact with everything evil and vicious, and ignorance of everything good.
She ran away, and no one knew what became of her. There was a man who said, some time afterwards, that he had met her that night about sundown, wandering over the moor. He had not asked her many questions because he thought some of her friends might be near at hand. Over time, many rumours got about respecting her, but nothing was ever known. Little Rie ‘was not;’ she had vanished from her place like a dream.
O, weary nights, when Sally was alone by the fire, and thought of her pretty companion, and cried. Then she started up and opened the door, to find for the fiftieth time. That it was only the tapping rosebud that she had heard against the casement! O, weary nights, when the mistress lamented over her and forgave all her childish faults. She wondered to find how much she had loved her and could not rest in the wind for thinking of her shelterless head. Thinking of the rain when on the night when she first took her in, and could not rest in her bed. Dreaming of a desolate child wandering up and down, with no one to take her by the hand or lead her towards heaven!
And yet, the mistress did not reproach herself. She had done well to take the child; few would have done as much, and she had done well to punish her; it was just and right that she should suffer for her faults.
But weeks after, when poor Sally’s simple heart was getting used to miss the child, the mistress came into the kitchen and took down a little covered jar full of caraway seeds, from a shelf over the dresser; she looked in, and a mist seemed to rise and shut out the sunshine without and within, for there lay the paper of raisins; in an instant she knew it again, and knew that in her hurry and confusion, she herself must have thrown it in. Yes, that little jar had been standing beside her. Then into it, she must have pushed or dropped the raisins, and afterwards, with her own hand, she must have set the jar upon the shelf above to be out of her way.
Miserable, aching pain! How hard it was to have it so often in her heart, and by slow degrees to grow into the knowledge, that even a just punishment may become unjust. Unless it is administered in the spirit of love! But hers had not been a just punishment. Alas! she had not possessed herself of any certain knowledge of the fault; she, herself, had outraged that sense of truth and justice which she had been in so much—pain to implant; and now there was no means of making restitution.
But let us not judge her, for in this world of uncertain knowledge and concealed motives, how few of us there are not equally at fault! It is not the effect of one particular act of injustice that should impress us with so much regret as the habit of too great a suddenness or harshness in judging. How difficult it is for us to estimate the many ways in which we may be mistaken! When shall we learn to keep the knowledge always present with us, that often kindness is our best uprightness, and our truest justice is mercy?
By A Mere Accident – was first published in 1904 by the author E Nesbit, an English author and poet best known for her children’s books such as; The Railway Children, The Story Of The Treasure Seekers, and The Woodbegoods. A consequential utterance caused by a mere accident could change his life forever. Although a questionable chance encounter leads to a dramatic change of events, this short story has a definite twist. 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 but delightful tale.
By A Mere Accident
Her fresh, fair face glowed like a pink rose between the dark lustre of her sables and the frame of soft hair which repeated, with the softness of an echo, the sables’ colouring of mingled brown and black. The white, wintry sunshine struck through the railway carriage window and made jewels of her blue, Irish eyes. Railway rug and Gladstone, muff, and handbag were grouped about her. On the blue cushion at her side lay a sheaf of papers and reviews freshly reaped from the bookstall. On her green cloth lap lay a great bunch of violets.
“They will be companions,” said the man who stood at the carriage door. “Don’t let them talk too much, or they will bore you.”
“Could violets possibly bore one?”
“These might if they did their duty and spoke of me.”
She laughed, but she did not look at him.
“Your boxes are all right, and your bicycle’s in the van at the back, and here is your ticket. You are sure you prefer solitude? Your aunt will regret having allowed me to see you off, and your mother will tell me that I ought to have secured for you the travelling companionship of at least one tabby.”
“I prefer the violets.”
Here the guard locked the carriage door, the man stood leaning his arms on the window, and passengers passing along the crowded platform scowled at the possessive set of his shoulders.
A jar, a whistle, a flag waved, and the train began to shudder and to move. The man kissed the smoothly gloved hand that lay on the window and drew back. As he did so, another man came up the platform running with great strides, caught at the handle of the door, shook it, and as it resisted, leapt on the step of the carriage, amid the shouts of porters, and was borne out of the station clinging to the carriage door.
“The door’s locked,” she said from within.
The man on the step thrust a bag through the window on to the seat and felt in his pocket. Then he moved a couple of feet past the carriage door, unlocked it with a railway key, stepped into the carriage, and closed the door after him.
“That was a near thing!” he said. And now, for the first time, the fellow-travellers looked in each other’s face.
His mouth grew stern. The pink faded from her face, and a greenish pallor crept up to the blue eyes.
“You!” she said.
He looked at her critically — raised his hat without speaking, and busied himself with the straps of his bag. From this, he took a book and in it read sedulously, never raising his eyes.
She watched him by stolen glances, always met by the defence of his drooping lids. The lids were broad and white, and she knew well what manner of eyes they covered. Eyes mocking, disdainful, yet capable of a rare tenderness — besides which the consistent kindness, the open worship of other eyes seemed hardly worth the having. A handsome man for the rest — big and broad-shouldered, and with the masterful air beloved of dogs and servants and women.
Grown bolder, she watched him now no more by fleet, snatched instants, but steadily, as the train rattled and swung in its gathering speed. She looked at the firm hands that held the book. A year ago, those hands had held hers; she trembled at the memory of their touch. She looked at his lips — firm, smooth, pale lips, set in a thin line. A year ago those lips . . .
It was at this moment that he raised his eyes and looked at her. A hot blush covered her face and ears, and neck. He looked at her for one brief instant — a faint amusement in his half-closed eyes — and resumed his reading.
“Oh, don’t read!” she said desperately. “The train doesn’t stop for hours. Surely you won’t keep three hours’ silence with an old acquaintance just because . . .”
He laid down the book at once.
“I beg your pardon,” he said courteously. “You were so well provided with travelling companions that I feared to force the conversation of another on you.”
His glance rested on her papers for an instant and — for a longer instant — on the violets.
She laid the flowers on the cushion beside her.
“I am going to be married on Monday,” she said abruptly.
“Christmas Day,” he said, smiling. “A thousand congratulations. A curious day, though, to have chosen.”
“He chose it,” she said, “and I could not . . . ”
“He chose it? He makes the most of his privileges. And so you are to be Mrs. . . . ?”
“I am to be Lady Leamington,” she said.
“You are going to marry him?” The scorn in his voice stung her like a whip.
She raised her head proudly.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate,” she said and took up the Nineteenth Century.
And now it was he who watched her, with a gaze so fixed that she felt it in every nerve. Suddenly he shrugged his shoulders and moved to the seat opposite hers. She drew back her skirt as if from contamination. Then he spoke.
“Of all the virtues, I have always supposed reticence to be the most admirable, as it is the rarest. I have striven to practice it. Therefore, when you broke off our engagement, I did not seek to justify myself. Pride may have been for something in my silence also — I scorn to deny it. I own that my pride suffered when I found that you could throw me away at the first word from a stranger.”
She made a movement to speak, but he went on: “It was foolish, I admit; but, you see, I thought you loved me. It would be best if you made allowance for the other delusions that followed on that. The point is that I was not going to defend myself since you — who ought to have defended me — if you had loved me, I mean, of course — set yourself as my accuser. But that’s all over, thank God! I can now feel a sincere, if slight, interest in your welfare — as an old friend, and I think I ought to tell you the unpleasant truth about Lord Leamington, your fortunate bridegroom.”
“I wish you wouldn’t talk like a book,” she said. “If you want to abuse my future husband, do it in plain English.”
“I will,” he said. “He told you that he found a girl in my rooms at midnight and that her arms were around my neck. You asked me if this were true. I admitted it. You asked for no explanation, and I gave none.”
“No explanation,” she began angrily, “could have . . . ”
“No — I know, but now it is different. I can’t let an old friend marry that man in ignorance of the facts. He had arranged to call for me at twelve; I had an article to finish, and we were going on to the Somersets’ ball. At about a quarter to twelve, I opened the door to a knock. It was not Leamington, but this girl. I knew her very slightly. She had lost her last train to Putney, Peckham, or somewhere — would I help her? It was like a scene in a play, don’t you know. I was Discretion absolute — left the door open — gave her wine and biscuits and proposed to charter a homeward cab for her. Then came Leamington’s step on the stair, and at that, as at a signal, she flung her arms around my neck. I should feel like a hairdresser’s apprentice telling you this, but I know now why it was done. It was Leamington’s last cast for you, and he threw the double six, confound him!”
She looked at him with shining eyes.
“Is this true?” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“You never asked me.”
“It is only your word against his . . . ”
“After a few years of married life, you will be better able to judge of their relative values,” he said, leaning back in his corner.
She lifted the violets to her face — the cool freshness of them was like a child’s kiss.
“Charles,” she said softly and threw the violets out at the open window.
He smiled. “So he did give you the violets? And you believe my word, and not his.”
“Charles,” she said again and reached out a timid hand towards him.
His face grew stiff and set.
“You understand my motives?” he said coldly. “I could not see any old friend married to a liar and a blackguard without a word of warning.”
“I was only — I wanted to shake hands with my old friend — to show that he forgives me.” She hardly knew what she was saying.
He touched her hand for a moment and let it drop.
“There is nothing to forgive,” he said. “I had almost forgotten the circumstance till your face reminded me of it.”
“You are cruel,” she said, “and not even polite. Why haven’t you punished him?”
“I punched his head,” he said coolly. “One does not go further on such slight quarrels.”
“You are positively insulting,” she said.
“I think I meant to be. I beg your pardon. You should be flattered. Correctly analyzed, my rudeness should show you that my vanity still suffers at the touch of a careless hand.”
She looked appealingly at him and presently spoke . . .
“Charles, couldn’t you forgive me? Don’t you love me at all now?”
He smiled kindly at her. “My dear lady, all is forgiven — and forgotten!”
She turned her head to the window so that he should not see her eyes. With a shriek and a rumble, the train passed into a tunnel. The roar of it rang in her ears, and the tears ran down her face on to the sables. Two shrieks from the engine — the train quivered and shook with the sudden stress of the brakes. Then came another shriek, a crash — and — the biggest accident of the year, as the Northern express ran full into the slow local rear lights.
The first-class carriage where pride and love had fought lay battered and overturned on the up-fine. The deafening noise of steam, the clamour of voices, the wailing of children, the cries of women rang out in the arch of the tunnel. But in the first-class carriage, there was silence and darkness, for, with the shock, all the lights had gone out.
Presently in the darkness, a match spurted. He raised himself on one elbow and tried to drag his other arm from under the wood that imprisoned it. The arm was tightly wedged, and he felt that it was broken. He lit another match, his teeth set in agony, and looked around for her. She was lying quite near him, yet not within reach, all twisted up, a heap of dark cloth and furs. Her eyes were closed, and there was blood on the ghastly white of her face.
“My darling! My darling!” he cried, and with that, he tore at his imprisoned arm to free it — that he might get to her — fought and tore till from sheer pain he went out of life.
When the sufferers were drawn out of the wreck one by one, he and she were among the last to be released. He regained his consciousness in the anguish of that release.
They bound up his arm and her head, and, clinging to each other, they tottered out of the tunnel by the light of the torches and climbed into the relief train. It was crowded with pale, bandaged faces and limbs swathed in white.
“I shall get out at the first station,” he said, and his voice was coldly polite. “By the way, I didn’t quite understand. Does your wedding take place on Christmas morning?”
She leaned a little against his uninjured shoulder, and so closely was the carriage packed that he could not draw away.
“If you wish it,” she said.
“I beg your pardon?” he questioned courteously.
“Oh, hush!” she whispered. “You cannot go on pretending any more now. When you thought I was dead, you called me your darling. Do you remember?”
“You are mistaken,” he said, but she answered with eyes that laughed at him from under the white bandage.
“Don’t scowl at me. I am not a bit afraid of you. Nothing matters now. I know that you love me. You will see — I shall have everything my own way. Dear, put the naughty, black dog up the chimney; I have no pride now — I am going to be your darling . . . ”
Under the sables, her hand, in its torn, grimy glove, slipped into his. He clasped it and: “You have exorcised the devil,” he said softly, and her fingers clung to his.
“Say it, again — now you know that I am not dead.”
So he whispered in her ear in that crowded carriage the most banal of love’s banalities: “My darling!” and then, for a time, they spoke no more.
It was at the first stopping-place that he said: “I had better come home with you and explain to your people the immutable nature of our intentions.”
“Yes,” she said.
“And you must telegraph to Lord Leamington. Writing won’t do — a wire the moment the offices are open.”
“And — my darling — Christmas Day is a very – good day to be married on . . . ”
The Kiss – was first published in 1907 by the author E Nesbit, an English author and poet who is best known for her children’s books such as; The Railway Children, The Story Of The Treasure SeekersThe Woodbegoods. This short story is ablaze with colour and intrigue – leaving you completely spellbound – deep in the heart of an English country garden. Although, The Kiss is not one of the authors’ better-known works, it can capture the pure essence of love in its purest of forms. 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 but delightful tale.
Their first meeting was in the long gallery among the Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities at the British Museum. Enthusiast though he was, he was tired, as human souls are tired, with the cold reserve of carved stone – the imperturbable mystery of these old kings and gods who had kept for thousands of years amid the shifting sands of the desert, their immemorial secrets. His eyes ached with the scrutiny of minute and delicate detail. Then suddenly, his eyes rested on her, fair and laughing and full of the joy of life, and his soul rejoiced because there was still a youth in the world and secrets that no kings and gods had the power to keep from the sons of men who walk the earth today.
She came along the gallery between two other girls, but he did not see these as living creatures – only as dark figures against the light of her presence. It was not till they three were close to him that he became aware of her and looked up. Their eyes met and stayed together in a look that lasted a very long time – almost half a minute. She came up quite close to him, always with those others that did not count, and then abruptly, the three turned to the right, and the swing doors of the refreshment room vibrated behind them.
Then he tried to analyse that look of hers – not bold or provocative, yet with no timidity, no bashfulness, no self-consciousness. It was the look of one who trusts the world and thinks well of it. Many girls nowadays have that frank, fearless look. The qualities that made them look worth analysing were two: its length and a quality of recognition.
Did she know him?
Had he ever met her before? No, he could not have forgotten her. He lingered in the gallery till she and her companions came back through the swing doors. This time she had no eyes for him. He strolled the way they went, noted all down the Roman gallery the grace of her free gait, saw her disappear into the reading-room, and went home.
His home was in Kent, and he was going to say good-bye to it for a while – for next week he started for the East, to watch, under cloudless skies, paid and uninterested workers scraping at the earth to bring to light such cold witnesses to old faith and loyalty and love as lined the gallery where he had met her.
The last days were full. His father, who stayed at home and wrote the books for which Neville gathered the materials, had many last words to say. Also, his type-writing girl had gone off ill, and there was a delay in getting another. So Neville spent a good many hours in the work secretaries are paid for. His aunt, who adored him, wanted his opinion on the new Dutch garden that was now a bit of meadow beyond the orchard and was to be a blaze of formal beauty when he came home again.
“You’ll think about that mass of yellow tulips and forget-me-nots when you are boiling your brains in Egypt,” she said.
“I’m not imaginative enough,” he told her. “I shall see the old garden as I always do, and the rose arches all red and pink and yellow, and my nice aunt snipping off the dead flowers with a pair of rusty scissors.”
“Aren’t there any flowers out there?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, cactus flowers, but they’re not pleasant to pick. It’s difficult to believe that spring really will come again, isn’t it? when one sees the bare brown trees and the heaps of dead leaves.”
“But all the flowers are there under the leaves,” said the aunt, “and spring really will come again.”
The aunt was right. Spring did come again. And with its coming came Neville Underwood from the dry East. He sent his luggage up from the station in the dog-cart that came to meet him, and he walked up through the woods in the splendour of one of those afternoons when May takes the rôle of July and plays the part perfectly.
The beeches were thick with bright light leaves. The elms were fully dressed; only the oaks stood almost bare. The undergrowth of hazel and sweet chestnut was dense and fresh. Through its moving green, the sun made a golden haze and the shadows of the leaves danced on a pathway that was all green grass and glad little thriving wild weeds.
“Dear God, but it’s good to see green woods again,” he said.
And it was here, among the woods, that he met her the second time. In the middle of that wood is a carrefour, an open space of bright fine grass, and from it, four broad green rides run, straight as arrows, dip and dwindle and grow invisible with distance. The ground is green, the undergrowth is green, and the new fronds of bracken and the trees overhead. And in all this green, a note of deep blue is likely to take the eye of the gazer.
It took him through a tangle of woodbine and wild rose trails. He went about and skirting the thicket came to a little clearing. A tree had been cut down, and its branches lopped. And here was the blue; it was a girl’s dress, and the girl herself lay on the ground, her head on a cushion of green leaves, one hand clenched on her breast and the other by her side; her body thrown there, with all the abandonment of a tired kitten that sleeps in the sun at flat full length. So still she lay he could hardly believe that she slept. He stood and gazed at her. It was still there, in the warm wood; not a hair of her loosely bound locks stirred. Was she asleep? Could she have fainted?
A keener question pierced him suddenly. There were crimes – even in England. One read about them in the newspapers. He came nearer – stooped beside her. His hand hesitated. Could one – dared one, lay one’s hand under the heart of a strange lady, no matter what mad fear suddenly caught one? And he did not know her. All he remembered of her was her eyes, and these were shut. Perhaps he would never have known her if she had kept them closed. But, as he, kneeling, stooped more nearly to listen for her breathing, her eyes opened, and he knew her. Her eyes opened, she smiled sleepily.
It was impossible. There he stood in the wood, and there she lay, eyes closed, motionless as ever. Could one have these momentary dreams? Were woods sometimes enchanted, as old tales would have one to believe? For it had certainly seemed to him that she had opened her eyes, smiled and then – that she had put up an arm, soft and firm through the sun-warmed linen of its sleeve, had caught him round the neck, drawn his face down to hers till he had kissed her on the lips. Incredible, impossible. And further, it had seemed to him that his kiss had only been given as a response, an unavoidable response.
So he stood, looking at her, and now he saw that whether he had dreamed this or not, she was not dead, nor fainting, but equably asleep. At any rate, the deep, soft breathing that stirred the blue linen over her bosom, the eyelids deep-drooped, and with never a flicker of awakening, the limp abandon of the hands told of nothing but sleep – deep sleep. Only now, the pallor of her face was flushed with rose-colour.
He stepped back through the quiet green and walked home through the part of the wood which was not enchanted. The warm touch of her mouth was on his all the way. But it vanished when the aunt’s soft faded cheek lay against his lips, and the brilliant patchwork of the Dutch garden shut out the green woods of magic happenings. The happy dance of the leaves in the greenwood paled before the father, full of glad questionings and comments, his trembling hands stirring deep drifts of rustling leaves – notes for the new book, on all sorts of odd scraps of paper – it was good to be at home where one was so loved, so desired. And he told himself that he must have fallen asleep in the wood. Most certainly, the girl from the Museum could never have fallen asleep there.
Tea was served under the copper-beech.
“Are you expecting anyone?” Neville asked, for the cups were four.
“Only Phil—your father’s secretary, I mean,” said the aunt. “Ah, here she comes. . . ”
And of course, it was the girl from the Museum who came across the lawn in her blue dress, with a hat that hung from her arm by knotted strings.
Neville heard the aunt speak kindly to the girl, heard his name and another name, and found himself bowing to the girl whose lips – But he heard nothing distinctly because of the horrible new certainty that sprang at him. It was true. It was no vision. This girl whose eyes had haunted him among the Egyptian tombs more than once and more than twice – this demure girl who was his father’s secretary, this girl had really of her own free will drawn down the head of a perfect stranger with that arm now reached out for her teacup, had drawn it down till the stranger’s lips lay on hers. “It was beautiful in the woods,” she was saying.
She was sitting there – talking to his aunt and his father quietly, as if nothing had happened. She, who had kissed a stranger in a wood. Had she never thought to meet him again. Just the passing kiss, the moment of pale stolen fire, and now she had met him, what would she do? Nothing, she would brazen the whole thing out. Horrible. But she had not been able to help blushing. It was that deep a slow-fading blush that had enlightened him had shown him that it was no vision that she also remembered. A burning crimson blush, over face and ears and neck; and the aunt had said:
“I hope you haven’t hurried, dear, in this heat.”
And she had said: “I didn’t want to be late for tea.”
He handed bread and butter to her. She was not blushing now.
“Oh, bother,” said Neville to himself, “now all the peace and pleasure is gone. It won’t be like home with a wicked little cat like that about the place.”
She was pretty, he decided, much prettier than he had thought her at the Museum. Pretty and in an open-eyed, candid-looking way that did not rhyme with that girl’s disgraceful conduct in the wood.
She went away, presently, with the father to garner into sheaves those loose leaves of notes. Then Neville heard how she was the daughter of Grantham, the great Egyptologist, dead these three years, how she was very clever at her work, outstanding company, and altogether a dear child.
“But you mustn’t fall in love with her, Neville,” the aunt said, “and thank Heaven you’re not given to that sort of thing.”
“Thank Heaven I’m not! But why mustn’t I?”
“Because she’s got a sweetheart already.”
“She would have,” he told himself, “a sweetheart – half-a-dozen most likely.”
“How I know is that Mr Maulevere asked her to share his heart and vicarage – yes – before she’d been here a month. I thought it would be a perfect thing for her, for he’s really not bad, is he? And she is quite without means. However, she’s so well connected. But no. Then I got it out of her that there’s someone else.”
“I congratulate her,” said Neville lazily. “The jasmine’s late this year, isn’t it? “
“The jasmine flowers in July,” said the aunt severely, “and I congratulate him. For if ever there was a dear, good, kind, unselfish girl —“
“Then I congratulate you,” he said, “and no doubt it’s lucky for me that I’m not given to that sort of thing.'”
It was “that sort of thing” – an unworldly romance – that had in his teens caused Neville’s relations to send him, for change of scene, to Southern climes. In other words, he had gone with one of Cook’s tourist tickets to Egypt, and there, his father’s hobby, hitherto a sealed and dull-seeming book to him, had suddenly grown to be the most important thing in the world.
He had come back to England, cured of his passion for poor vulgar Annabel, with the red hair, flaxen at the roots, and the black eyelashes and brows that were white when the dye was off them. He came back cured, despising love and wearing round his neck a charm that a gipsy woman from the desert had given him when he had saved her life from the keen blade of one who had been her lover.
“Wear it always,” she had said; “it will keep you from unworthy loves.” And it, or something else – had kept him. “It has a further power,” the woman had added, “but that you will learn when the time comes.”
He was not a superstitious man, but he wore the amulet. It did not keep him from the remembrance of an arm around his neck, lips on his – the shameless effrontery of a worthless girl.
“I hope,” said the aunt anxiously when the father had gone to his study and Philomela to her bed, “I do hope you’re not going to dislike that girl. You hardly spoke to her all the evening.”
“Didn’t I?” he said. “I’ll do better tomorrow.”
So next morning when he saw her gown, it was mauve to-day – among the little orange trees, in tubs that had just been moved out of the greenhouse, on to the end of the terrace, he went across the grey crooked flag-stones to her.
“Good morning,” he said, and he could hardly have said less.
“What a beautiful old place it is,” she said pleasantly. “I wonder whether you know how lucky you are to have been born here.”
“It’s old certainly,” he said, “and extremely shabby.”
“That’s part of the charm,” she said; “wealthy people never have anything beautiful because they always pay someone to make it for them. But look at the new garden. Miss Underwood and I made that . . . oh, of course, Sam did the dull digging, but he’s as proud of it as we are. We put in all the bulbs, made plans and everything.”
She was talking without a trace of embarrassment.
“That’s true,” said he.
“And having the drawing-room re-papered. That was an event. It took us a week to choose the paper. Now Really Rich People who can have their rooms papered whenever they like! And the orange trees, you don’t know how we’ve nursed them all winter. If Miss Underwood could buy new ones when these died, why they’d be nothing.”
He liked her voice, the turn of her head and her eyes – he had always liked her eyes.
“I do not like you at all,” he said inwardly -“oh, not at all. You shall not make me like you.”
But he stayed talking with her in the little wood of orange-trees till the aunt had laid away the jingling housekeeping keys and joined them on the terrace. Then she went to her work in the library. He strolled in presently to talk over the book with his father.
“You won’t mind Miss Grantham staying with us?” said the father. “She can take down everything you say in shorthand – and as she’ll have the whole transcribing of the book to do . . .“
“Of course – of course,” said Neville. In that morning, he found out that Miss Grantham was not only pretty but clever. That she knew more about his special subject than any woman he had ever met.
“Curious,” he said to himself as he strolled into lunch. “Curious how I dislike that girl.”
Dislike her, he might, but it was impossible not to talk to her, as it is not to answer an amiable and intelligent child. She was not childish or even childlike, but she seemed so unconscious of any reason why she should not talk to him. And there were so many things to talk about. The book, the garden, the old house: the growing glory of spring putting on the vestments of summer, the brasses in the old church, the new green of the aspens in the churchyard.
It was one day when the haze of great heat turned the woods blue and the far hills violet that they stood by the broken balustrade of the terrace and looked out over the fields of flowering grass dimpled by the wind.
Her eyes were fixed on the wood: the wood.
“I wonder,” he said suddenly and quite without meaning to say it, “why you blushed so when my aunt introduced me to you.”
She blushed again now and turned her face away to gaze down the uneven line of the grey parapet.
“Why was it?” he urged.
“I did hope you hadn’t noticed,” she said.
“Noticed? My dear Miss Grantham, it was like a regiment of soldiers in the sunlight. No one could have helped noticing it. Was it surprise at seeing someone else there having tea?”
He gave her that loop-hole because suddenly he found that he was sorry for her. After all, she had done him no harm. Save for that one shocking incident in the wood she had been to him; a girl should be to a man in whose father’s house she is a well-paid servant and an honoured guest. She had been courteous, dignified, useful, amusing . . .
“No,” she said, avoiding the loop-hole, “it wasn’t surprising, because of course, I knew you were coming. But I didn’t know it would be you.”
He wished then very earnestly that he had not begun to ask questions.
“Oh, never mind,” he said quickly, “it doesn’t matter.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“It was an impertinent question.”
“No, no,” she said eagerly. “I’ve often wanted to tell you. I knew you’d noticed me blushing in that insane way. It was because I met you once at the British Museum – of course, you don’t remember it.”
“But of course I do,” he interrupted.
“I hoped you wouldn’t,” she said, “because I stared at you. Honestly, I didn’t know I’d done it till afterwards, and I stared at you for quite a long time – and then. When I saw you at tea on the lawn here – I remembered, and I hoped you wouldn’t.”
“But why did you stare at me, as you call it – in the Museum, I mean?”
“I don’t know,” she said very earnestly. “I can’t think. It was as if I’d seen you before and been looking for you. Then suddenly, there you were. I believe I expected you to shake hands. It was as if we were old friends. It does sound most ludicrous. Do you think one ever has moments when one is quite mad?”
“I do,” he said earnestly. “I do indeed; I’ve had moments when I’ve fancied the most extraordinary things. But they’ve not been true,” he added stoutly, “any more than it was true that we’d met before that day at the Museum.”
“Are you sure we never met before – at a dance or anywhere? Oh, yes, I used to go to heaps of dances before father – when father was here. Are you sure that we never met before?”
“Quite,” he said. “I should never have forgotten it if we had.” His tone was one she had never heard.
And now he was quite certain that the hollow in the wood and the sleeping blue figure and the round arm and all the rest of it had been only a vision, queer and unaccountable, but still a vision. The certitude made a new heaven and a new earth for him. How could he ever have thought that she, she who was all that a man’s ideal lady should be, could ever have put an arm around the neck of a stranger and – but why go over the silly tale again?
However, the silly tale sang itself to him day and night like a song of the joy of all the world. He had felt her lips, though it had been but in a vision, and all his visions now, sleeping and waking, were of a time when he should touch those lips again.
He and she and the father worked hard at the book, often late into the night, but there were golden mornings and silver evenings when the garden was grey in starlight, and the white moon fell into the river and lay there looking up at her reflection in the deep calm sky.
The aunt and the father looked on and saw that more and more, in all the hours that the book did not claim, the two were together. And they were glad.
“If only he can make her forget the other one,” said the aunt, “he’ll never find such another – kind, gentle, sweet. . . ”
“And clever!” said the father, “and patient. And pretty, too.”
“That doesn’t matter so much,” said the aunt, “but she’s so modest and sweet and – she has a perfect genius for gardening.”
“And for our sort of work,” the father said. “I don’t suppose there’s another girl alive with eyes like hers who knows shorthand, and the Egyptian and Assyrian script, and how to be always handy and never in the way.”
“I must make her forget the other man, confound him,” said Neville, and wondered savagely whether the other man had ever had wild, extraordinary visions in woodland places.
Then came the wet day, the last of three, when the river was grey and lashed with rain, and the garden lay drenched and the roses, bowed, mud-splashed, drooped and dripped. Philomela covered her head with the aunt’s waterproof and ran through the rain and the wild west wind to the stone summer house at the end of the terrace. There was an unglazed window that looked eastward; from it, one could look out, sheltered and safe, at the green seething wetness of meadow and wood.
Here he found her. He came behind her as she sat on the stone seat, and she did not turn her head.
“Philomela,” he said; his voice was low.
“Yes,” she said.
Standing at her shoulder, he put his hand under her chin and turned her face up till he could see it.
“Philomela,” he said again, “Is there anyone else?”
“No,” said she.
Then he touched her lips and knew, at the touch, that it was not for the first time. That – is the wood – it had not been a vision. It had been real – real as this, real as his despair.
Yet he would be sure.
“Philomela,” he said her name for the third time, “have you ever fallen asleep in a wood?”
“Yes,” said she, and once more, the crimson flush covered neck and brow and ears.
“In that wood?” It lay below them drenched in misty desolation.
“The day I came home?”
“God forgive you,” he said, turned, and left her.
He went for a long walk in the rain.
That night at dinner, the aunt and the father were surprised to learn that Neville was going to town by the early train in the morning; it was uncertain when he would return. He ate little and spoke of business too long neglected and thought he should go by the 6.15 before any of them were up.
He stayed up late that night, packing everything in a raging fury of energy. O — how he had loved her – he did love her – and she was – that. There was no room in his brain for fatigue. There was only room for this furious anger against the woman who had made him love her – and she, herself unworthy of the love of any man.
It must have been two in the morning when the fire of resentment began to burn lower, and he suddenly found he was hungry. There would be less chance of sleep than ever if he were hungry. He was not young enough to spite his stomach to be revenged on his heart. Then down he went into the dining-room where the sideboard was, with the sherry and the biscuits and the cake. He lit the candles in the silver candlesticks on the mantelpiece. Something moved close to him.
“Who’s there?” he said. The candles turned clear, and Philomela rose from the big chair that was his father’s. She wore the grey dress she had worn at dinner, and her face seemed grey, too.
“What on earth are you doing here?” he asked roughly.
“I’m waiting to see you off,” she said. “You know I’ve got to speak to you. It can’t end like this. People don’t do such things.”
“Leave women as you left me – after – Oh, how I hate you! How dare you kiss me?”
“I might ask the same question,” he sneered.
“You might . . ?”
“Yes,” he said brutally. “And I will ask it. How dare you kiss me? Down there in the wood. How dared you put your arm around a stranger’s neck and draw his head down till he kissed you?”
“I – you think I did that?”
“I know it.”
“But how – when?”
“You know well enough – the day I came home.”
“But,” she said slowly, and her eyes did not flinch from his as the two stood in the darkened room with the candles’ steady light on their confronted faces, “if you know this, you’ve always known it. Then why – all this time . . ?”
“I couldn’t believe it. I thought afterwards; it must have been a vision, a dream, a hallucination of the senses. How could I believe that you – you seemed so different – you – a stranger – shameless.”
“Then if you couldn’t believe it then, why believe it now?” Her voice was cold and toneless.
“Because I kissed you again – fool that I was. When I felt your lips, I knew it was not the first time – I knew, and you confirmed it; you owned that you’d been asleep in the wood that day, and you blushed – good God, girl, did you expect me to go on with it after that?”
She picked up one of the candlesticks, looked at it attentively, set it down very carefully in its place. Then she turned to him.
“Listen to me,” she said. “First of all, I’ll never see you, speak to you again as long as I live. If you could think that I – oh – how could anyone think it!”
The anger in her voice was fuel to the anger in his heart.
“But – great God in heaven, you can’t mean to try to brazen it out! I didn’t think – you did it.”
“I’m going to tell you the truth,” she said, facing him. “I don’t care whether you believe me or not. I was asleep in the wood that day, and I dreamed that you were there – and, and that it all happened as you say. And then I woke, and you were standing there. And I pretended to be asleep.”
“But why – why did you pretend that?“
“How could I look you in the face after dreaming that?“
“And you never thought that perhaps it wasn’t a dream?”
“How should I? Why! – Oh, you shall have the whole truth. That day I saw you at the Museum, I knew you, though I’d never seen you and never dreamed of you. And ever since that, I’ve dreamed of you almost always. That – is the wood was only a dream-like another.”
“Always of me? Never of anyone else?”
“No,” she retorted scornfully, “never of anyone else – goodbye.”
She turned to go, but he caught her arm roughly.
“Let me go – you hurt,” she said, but he said, “No, not yet. You shall tell me everything. Did you kiss me in your other dreams?”
“Yes,” she said defiantly, throwing back her head, “but in my other dreams, I loved you – and you loved me. No – no – I will never forgive you, never. Let me go. It’s no good. I hate you. I wish I’d never seen you. No, no, no.”
He had not spoken, but his eyes had implored.
“No,” she cried, “no, I will never forgive you, never. Oh, how could you, how could you – ”
“Don’t cry – ah, don’t,” he whispered with his arms around her.
“Here,” she said presently, lifting her head from his shoulder and feeling among the laces of her bodice, “my father told me to wear this always and to give it to the man I loved when I was certain he loved me. He said it would keep me from unworthy loves.”
He took it from her hand. It was an amulet. “Oh, but – ” he said and showed her the one he wore – its counterpart.
“Yes,” she said, “I knew you had that. Your aunt told me. So then I knew that nothing could part us.”
“But you said you’d never speak to me again—you’d never forgive me.”
“Ah,” she said, “yes – I said that,”
The pink flush of sunrise was over the drenched garden as they opened the French window and stepped out onto the terrace. She stopped and faced him.
“Now I’m quite, quite sure,” she said. “I want to tell you one thing. Then there won’t be even a shadow between us.”
“There is none now,” he said.
“That day – in the wood – sometimes I have wondered, whether it was a dream. And yet, I thought it couldn’t be true. But I did wonder if it could— really be only another dream like the others.”
“Come, let’s go and walk in the rose garden,” she said, pulling at his hand.
“But why,” he persisted, “shouldn’t it have been a dream, like the others?”
“I – you – the kisses in the dreams were quite different,” she said.
A Touch Of Love is a short story by A I Moffat, who conjures up the innocence of a young boy who struggles to understand why reality should come in the way of his affections. Emily soon becomes increasingly concerned that she has made a dreadful mistake yet finds herself drawn to his innocence time and time again. Just a touch of love has awoken a child who lived in an imaginary world of his own, afraid of allowing his real depth to be exposed. An illustrated short story of intrigue which captures the imagination. We hope you enjoy a touch of love.
‘I’m not sure -’ she hesitated.
The boy lay at her side with his back to her, plucking the long blades of grass in front of him, then flicking them to one side. Not one thing, he pondered had he said or done all day had pleased her, now he just wanted to be free of her constant; what-ifs and his apparent inability to understand.
‘Joe!’ She insisted.
Childish, he thought, must be her favourite word. ‘Yes! I heard you,’ he sighed, flicking the next blade of grass straight up into the air, ‘sure about what?’
‘Well, you know— ’ she glanced over him, ‘about us!’
Us! – He repeated to himself whilst shaking his head, ‘you mean – me!’ he mumbled.
As if she had not made that perfectly obvious, the boy frowned. Now it just seemed like the only thing that mattered to her was what everyone else thought; how could Charlotte know what to do for the best? His eyes slowly fell into her imaginary embrace, the absolute warmth of her he so desperately yearned.
Again the girl persisted, ‘Joe!’
His eyes half opened, then fell heavily before bursting into a vacant stare as he pondered what she expected him to say. In frustration, he grabbed a large tuft of grass and pulled it straight from the sodden earth.
Emily sat quietly, staring in patience at her thoughts closely entwined within her clasp; with each unfolding finger came another uncertain notion.
Suddenly the boy rose to his feet, clutching the sodden clump in his hand until he was standing directly over her.
‘What are you doing?’ She asked in a disapproving tone.
The boy just smiled menacingly down at her.
Emily’s eyes tightened, ‘I’m— being serious.’
‘Nothing!’ The boy snapped, allowing himself to collapse at her feet.
Emily leaned forward and reached out to him; at first, he resisted, then his head turned slightly into her palm, and he kissed it gently. ‘I’m sorry— Joe, but I’m just so— tired and frightened.’
‘Me too,’ he murmured, leaning into her, ‘of losing you.’ Instantly he allowed his head to slip from her palm onto her lap.
‘Oh – Joe, you’re not losing me . . . ’
He felt her pity drop into an ever-increasing void, where once her words gave so much meaning. Again his eyes tightened to deafen the pain of reality and become submerged in the warmth of her embrace.
Again and again, he heard her distant torment of reason until finally, it shattered his delusion of any hope. Now only a sorceress maintained some degree of resistance as he lay craving her affection.
‘. . . And what about your poor mum?’ Emily insisted, ‘She will be devastated to find out – you had kept it a secret – from her,’
The beautiful sky blue eyes of the sorceress had suddenly faded into that of his mother, who now wielded a sword: Just – Do It! he screamed from within.
At times it was true. He felt it was wrong and was afraid of what she might do if ever she found out; he didn’t care about his dad, sister, or even brother, especially not Steve. Anyway, it was all over, and there was nothing he could do. He was going to die right there in her lap. Finally! He thought he would be free from the torment of his forbidden desire.
‘Steve might accuse you of abduction or trying to steal his child.’
Abduction! He found himself repeating over and over again.
‘Joe! Did you hear what I said?’
It was hopeless; she just wouldn’t let him be, all day he thought and not once had she allowed him to search the comfort of her. She was throwing him to the wolves, and he didn’t need to be twenty-one to understand that. His eyes lifted slowly, burdened by reality and her constant infliction. ‘Yes!’ He exclaimed, lifting his head, ‘You’re worried about my family,’ he smiled briefly in defeat.
‘Oh . . . Joe,’ her eyes flickered. ‘But – what if Steve was to find out?’
What was it that had changed from one day to the next? He thought as he stared straight into her eyes. He shrugged, ‘Doesn’t matter, and besides, he finished with you – remember.’
Her eyes slightly fell from him, ‘But are you sure – this is what you want, Joe?’
The boy leaned slightly in towards her, ‘Abduction, for goodness sakes,’ he tittered, pushing down hard against the tree stump until he was back on his feet. He looked down at her with a vague smile; it was no use for her to expect him to make it any easier; he just couldn’t; it would be like cutting his own throat.
Emily looked up as he turned and pushed his hands deep into the pockets of his trench coat. She smiled lightly as he stubbornly kicked out at the long blades of grass in front of him until he reached the edge of the brook. It was just the boys wanting Emily was sure of it, which made him so stubborn, so blind. She loved him with all of her heart, but there could never be a future for them, especially not now. Her smile faded with a nagging necessity to at least try and make him understand.
‘What a complete mess I’ve made of things,’ she called over to him.
‘I know – but – I,’ he stammered, ‘Well I thought you said . . . ’
‘I do, Joe, but – I’m frightened,’ she paused in thought. ‘So frightened, and it’s just so complicated. I do love you more than I ever loved him, but he’s the father and
‘And – ’ Joe cut in, ‘I’m just a silly mistake that should never have happened.’ He turned to face her, ‘But it did, and I – ’ his head fell, ‘love – you.’
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.