Chapter VI

Juliana Horatia Ewing

“Und so ist der blaue Himmel groesser als jedes Gewolk darin, und dauerhafter dazu.”


JACKANAPES’ death was sad news for the Goose Green, a sorrow justly qualified by honorable pride in his gallantry and devotion. Only the Cobbler dissented, but that was his way. He said he saw nothing in it but foolhardiness and vainglory. They might both have been killed, as easy as not, and then where would ye have been? A man’s life was a man’s life, and one life was as good as another. No one would catch him throwing his away. And, for that matter, Mrs. Johnson could spare a child a great deal better than Miss Jessamine.

But the parson preached Jackanapes’ funeral sermon on the text, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it;” and all the village went and wept to hear him.

Nor did Miss Jessamine see her loss from the Cobbler’s point of view. On the contrary, Mrs. Johnson said she never to her dying day should forget how, when she went to condole with her, the old lady came forward, with gentle-womanly self-control, and kissed her, and thanked GOD that her dear nephew’s effort had been blessed with success, and that this sad war had made no gap in her friend’s large and happy home circle.

“But she’s a noble, unselfish woman,” sobbed Mrs. Johnson, “and she taught Jackanapes to be the same, and that’s how it is that my Tony has been spared to me. And it must be sheer goodness in Miss Jessamine, for what can she know of a mother’s feelings? And I’m sure most people seem to think that if you’ve a large family you don’t know one from another any more than they do, and that a lot of children are like a lot of store-apples, if one’s taken it won’t be missed.”

Lollo—the first Lollo, the Gipsy’s Lollo—very aged, draws Miss Jessamine’s bath-chair slowly up and down the Goose Green in the sunshine.

The Ex-postman walks beside him, which Lollo tolerates to the level of his shoulder. If the Postman advances any nearer to his head, Lollo quickens his pace, and were the Postman to persist in the injudicious attempt, there is, as Miss Jessamine says, no knowing what might happen.

In the opinion of the Goose Green, Miss Jessamine has borne her troubles “wonderfully.” Indeed, to-day, some of the less delicate and less intimate of those who see everything from the upper windows, say (well behind her back) that “the old lady seems quite lively with her military beaux again.”

The meaning of this is, that Captain Johnson is leaning over one side of her chair, whilst by the other bends a brother officer who is staying with him, and who has manifested an extraordinary interest in Lollo. He bends lower and lower, and Miss Jessamine calls to the Postman to request Lollo to be kind enough to stop, whilst she is fumbling for something which always hangs by her side, and has got entangled with her spectacles.

It is a two-penny trumpet, bought years ago in the village fair, and over it she and Captain Johnson tell, as best they can, between them, the story of Jackanapes’ ride across the Goose Green; and how he won Lollo—the Gipsy’s Lollo—the racer Lollo—dear Lollo—faithful Lollo—Lollo the never vanquished—Lollo the tender servant of his old mistress. And Lollo’s ears twitch at every mention of his name.

Their hearer does not speak, but he never moves his eyes from the trumpet, and when the tale is told, he lifts Miss Jessamine’s hand and presses his heavy black moustache in silence to her trembling fingers.

The sun, betting gently to his rest, embroiders the sombre foliage of the oak-tree with threads of gold. The Grey Goose is sensible of an atmosphere of repose, and puts up one leg for the night. The grass glows with a more vivid green, and, in answer to a ringing call from Tony, his sisters, fluttering over the daisies in pale-hued muslins, come out of their ever-open door, like pretty pigeons form a dovecote.

And, if the good gossips, eyes do not deceive them, all the Miss Johnsons, and both the officers, go wandering off into the lanes, where bryony wreaths still twine about the brambles.

.     .     .     .     .

A sorrowful story, and ending badly?

Nay, Jackanapes, for the end is not yet.

A life wasted that might have been useful?

Men who have died for men, in all ages, forgive the thought!

There is a heritage of heroic example and noble obligation, not reckoned in the Wealth of Nations, but essential to a nation’s life; the contempt of which, in any people, may, not slowly, mean even its commercial fall. Very sweet are the uses of prosperity, the harvests of peace and progress, the fostering sunshine of health and happiness, and length of days in the land.

But there be things—oh, sons of what has deserved the name of Great Britain, forget it not!—“the good of” which and “the use of” which are beyond all calculation of worldly goods and earthly uses; things such as Love, and Honor, and the Soul of Man, which cannot be bought with a price, and which do not die with death. “And they who would fain live happily EVER after, should not leave these things out of the lessons of their lives.”


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