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From the ebook Sylvie and Bruno
The sequel to Alice in Wonderland
By Lewis Carrol

He Thought He Saw A Buffalo

I said something, in the act of waking, I felt sure: the hoarse stifled cry was still ringing in my ears, even if the startled look of my fellow-traveler had not been evidence enough: but what could I possibly say by way of apology?

“I hope I didn’t frighten you?” I stammered out at last. “I have no idea what I said. I was dreaming.”

“You said ‘Uggug indeed!’” the young lady replied, with quivering lips that would curve themselves into a smile, in spite of all her efforts to look grave. “At least—you didn’t say it—you shouted it!”

“I’m very sorry,” was all I could say, feeling very penitent and helpless. “She has Sylvie’s eyes!” I thought to myself, half-doubting whether, even now, I were fairly awake. “And that sweet look of innocent wonder is all Sylvie’s, too. But Sylvie hasn’t got that calm resolute mouth—nor that far-away look of dreamy sadness, like one that has had some deep sorrow, very long ago——” And the thick-coming fancies almost prevented my hearing the lady’s next words.

“If you had had a ‘Shilling Dreadful’ in your hand,” she proceeded, “something about Ghosts—or Dynamite—or Midnight Murder—one could understand it: those things aren’t worth the shilling, unless they give one a Nightmare. But really—with only a medical treatise, you know——” and she glanced, with a pretty shrug of contempt, at the book over which I had fallen asleep.

Her friendliness, and utter unreserve, took me aback for a moment; yet there was no touch of forwardness, or boldness, about the child—for child, almost, she seemed to be: I guessed her at scarcely over twenty—all was the innocent frankness of some angelic visitant, new to the ways of earth and the conventionalisms—or, if you will, the barbarisms—of Society. “Even so,” I mused, “will Sylvie look and speak, in another ten years.”

“You don’t care for Ghosts, then,” I ventured to suggest, “unless they are really terrifying?”

“Quite so,” the lady assented. “The regular Railway-Ghosts—I mean the Ghosts of ordinary Railway-literature—are very poor affairs. I feel inclined to say, with Alexander Selkirk, ‘Their tameness is shocking to me’! And they never do any Midnight Murders. They couldn’t ‘welter in gore,’ to save their lives!”

“‘Weltering in gore’ is a very expressive phrase, certainly. Can it be done in any fluid, I wonder?”

“I think not,” the lady readily replied—quite as if she had thought it out, long ago. “It has to be something thick. For instance, you might welter in bread-sauce. That, being white, would be more suitable for a Ghost, supposing it wished to welter!”

“You have a real good terrifying Ghost in that book?” I hinted.

“How could you guess?” she exclaimed with the most engaging frankness, and placed the volume in my hands. I opened it eagerly, with a not unpleasant thrill (like what a good ghost-story gives one) at the ‘uncanny’ coincidence of my having so unexpectedly divined the subject of her studies.

It was a book of Domestic Cookery, open at the article ‘Bread Sauce.’

I returned the book, looking, I suppose, a little blank, as the lady laughed merrily at my discomfiture. “It’s far more exciting than some of the modern ghosts, I assure you! Now there was a Ghost last month—I don’t mean a real Ghost in—in Supernature—but in a Magazine. It was a perfectly flavourless Ghost. It wouldn’t have frightened a mouse! It wasn’t a Ghost that one would even offer a chair to!”

“Three score years and ten, baldness, and spectacles, have their advantages after all!” I said to myself. “Instead of a bashful youth and maiden, gasping out monosyllables at awful intervals, here we have an old man and a child, quite at their ease, talking as if they had known each other for years! Then you think,” I continued aloud, “that we ought sometimes to ask a Ghost to sit down? But have we any authority for it? In Shakespeare, for instance—there are plenty of ghosts there—does Shakespeare ever give the stage-direction ‘hands chair to Ghost’?”

The lady looked puzzled and thoughtful for a moment: then she almost clapped her hands. “Yes, yes, he does!” she cried. “He makes Hamlet say ‘Rest, rest, perturbed Spirit!’”

“And that, I suppose, means an easy-chair?”

“An American rocking-chair, I think——”

“Fayfield Junction, my Lady, change for Elveston!” the guard announced, flinging open the door of the carriage: and we soon found ourselves, with all our portable property around us, on the platform.

The accommodation, provided for passengers waiting at this Junction, was distinctly inadequate—a single wooden bench, apparently intended for three sitters only: and even this was already partially occupied by a very old man, in a smock frock, who sat, with rounded shoulders and drooping head, and with hands clasped on the top of his stick so as to make a sort of pillow for that wrinkled face with its look of patient weariness.

“Come, you be off!” the Station-master roughly accosted the poor old man. “You be off, and make way for your betters! This way, my Lady!” he added in a perfectly different tone. “If your Ladyship will take a seat, the train will be up in a few minutes.” The cringing servility of his manner was due, no doubt, to the address legible on the pile of luggage, which announced their owner to be “Lady Muriel Orme, passenger to Elveston, viâ Fayfield Junction.”

As I watched the old man slowly rise to his feet, and hobble a few paces down the platform, the lines came to my lips:—

“From sackcloth couch the Monk arose,
With toil his stiffen’d limbs he rear’d;
A hundred years had flung their snows
On his thin locks and floating beard.”

But the lady scarcely noticed the little incident. After one glance at the ‘banished man,’ who stood tremulously leaning on his stick, she turned to me. “This is not an American rocking-chair, by any means! Yet may I say,” slightly changing her place, so as to make room for me beside her, “may I say, in Hamlet’s words, ‘Rest, rest——’” she broke off with a silvery laugh.

i062 COME, YOU BE OFF
‘COME, YOU BE OFF!’

“‘—perturbed Spirit!’” I finished the sentence for her. “Yes, that describes a railway-traveler exactly! And here is an instance of it,” I added, as the tiny local train drew up alongside the platform, and the porters bustled about, opening carriage-doors—one of them helping the poor old man to hoist himself into a third-class carriage, while another of them obsequiously conducted the lady and myself into a first-class.

She paused, before following him, to watch the progress of the other passenger. “Poor old man!” she said. “How weak and ill he looks! It was a shame to let him be turned away like that. I’m very sorry——” At this moment it dawned on me that these words were not addressed to me, but that she was unconsciously thinking aloud. I moved away a few steps, and waited to follow her into the carriage, where I resumed the conversation.

“Shakespeare must have traveled by rail, if only in a dream: ‘perturbed Spirit’ is such a happy phrase.”

“‘Perturbed’ referring, no doubt,” she rejoined, “to the sensational booklets peculiar to the Rail. If Steam has done nothing else, it has at least added a whole new Species to English Literature!”

“No doubt of it,” I echoed. “The true origin of all our medical books—and all our cookery-books——”

“No, no!” she broke in merrily. “I didn’t mean our Literature! We are quite abnormal. But the booklets—the little thrilling romances, where the Murder comes at page fifteen, and the Wedding at page forty—surely they are due to Steam?”

“And when we travel by Electricity—if I may venture to develop your theory—we shall have leaflets instead of booklets, and the Murder and the Wedding will come on the same page.”

“A development worthy of Darwin!” the lady exclaimed enthusiastically. “Only you reverse his theory. Instead of developing a mouse into an elephant, you would develop an elephant into a mouse!” But here we plunged into a tunnel, and I leaned back and closed my eyes for a moment, trying to recall a few of the incidents of my recent dream.

“I thought I saw——” I murmured sleepily: and then the phrase insisted on conjugating itself, and ran into “you thought you saw—he thought he saw——” and then it suddenly went off into a song:—

“He thought he saw an Elephant,
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
‘At length I realise,’ he said,
‘The bitterness of Life!’”

And what a wild being it was who sang these wild words! A Gardener he seemed to be—yet surely a mad one, by the way he brandished his rake—madder, by the way he broke, ever and anon, into a frantic jig—maddest of all, by the shriek in which he brought out the last words of the stanza!

It was so far a description of himself that he had the feet of an Elephant: but the rest of him was skin and bone: and the wisps of loose straw, that bristled all about him, suggested that he had been originally stuffed with it, and that nearly all the stuffing had come out.

Sylvie and Bruno waited patiently till the end of the first verse. Then Sylvie advanced alone (Bruno having suddenly turned shy) and timidly introduced herself with the words “Please, I’m Sylvie!”

“And who’s that other thing?” said the Gardener.

“What thing?” said Sylvie, looking round. “Oh, that’s Bruno. He’s my brother.”

“Was he your brother yesterday?” the Gardener anxiously enquired.

“Course I were!” cried Bruno, who had gradually crept nearer, and didn’t at all like being talked about without having his share in the conversation.

i066 THE GARDENER
THE GARDENER

“Ah, well!” the Gardener said with a kind of groan. “Things change so, here. Whenever I look again, it’s sure to be something different! Yet I does my duty! I gets up wriggle-early at five——”

“If I was oo,” said Bruno, “I wouldn’t wriggle so early. It’s as bad as being a worm!” he added, in an undertone to Sylvie.

“But you shouldn’t be lazy in the morning, Bruno,” said Sylvie. “Remember, it’s the early bird that picks up the worm!”

“It may, if it likes!” Bruno said with a slight yawn. “I don’t like eating worms, one bit. I always stop in bed till the early bird has picked them up!”

“I wonder you’ve the face to tell me such fibs!” cried the Gardener.

To which Bruno wisely replied “Oo don’t want a face to tell fibs wiz—only a mouf.”

Sylvie discreetly changed the subject. “And did you plant all these flowers?” she said. “What a lovely garden you’ve made! Do you know, I’d like to live here always!”

“In the winter-nights——” the Gardener was beginning.

“But I’d nearly forgotten what we came about!” Sylvie interrupted. “Would you please let us through into the road? There’s a poor old beggar just gone out—and he’s very hungry—and Bruno wants to give him his cake, you know!”

“It’s as much as my place is worth!” the Gardener muttered, taking a key from his pocket, and beginning to unlock a door in the garden-wall.

“How much are it wurf?” Bruno innocently enquired.

But the Gardener only grinned. “That’s a secret!” he said. “Mind you come back quick!” he called after the children, as they passed out into the road. I had just time to follow them, before he shut the door again.

We hurried down the road, and very soon caught sight of the old Beggar, about a quarter of a mile ahead of us, and the children at once set off running to overtake him. Lightly and swiftly they skimmed over the ground, and I could not in the least understand how it was I kept up with them so easily. But the unsolved problem did not worry me so much as at another time it might have done, there were so many other things to attend to.

The old Beggar must have been very deaf, as he paid no attention whatever to Bruno’s eager shouting, but trudged wearily on, never pausing until the child got in front of him and held up the slice of cake. The poor little fellow was quite out of breath, and could only utter the one word “Cake!”—not with the gloomy decision with which Her Excellency had so lately pronounced it, but with a sweet childish timidity, looking up into the old man’s face with eyes that loved ‘all things both great and small.’

The old man snatched it from him, and devoured it greedily, as some hungry wild beast might have done, but never a word of thanks did he give his little benefactor—only growled “More, more!” and glared at the half-frightened children.

“There is no more!” Sylvie said with tears in her eyes. “I’d eaten mine. It was a shame to let you be turned away like that. I’m very sorry——”

I lost the rest of the sentence, for my mind had recurred, with a great shock of surprise, to Lady Muriel Orme, who had so lately uttered these very words of Sylvie’s—yes, and in Sylvie’s own voice, and with Sylvie’s gentle pleading eyes!

“Follow me!” were the next words I heard, as the old man waved his hand, with a dignified grace that ill suited his ragged dress, over a bush, that stood by the road side, which began instantly to sink into the earth. At another time I might have doubted the evidence of my eyes, or at least have felt some astonishment: but, in this strange scene, my whole being seemed absorbed in strong curiosity as to what would happen next.

When the bush had sunk quite out of our sight, marble steps were seen, leading downwards into darkness. The old man led the way, and we eagerly followed.

The staircase was so dark, at first, that I could only just see the forms of the children, as, hand-in-hand, they groped their way down after their guide: but it got lighter every moment, with a strange silvery brightness, that seemed to exist in the air, as there were no lamps visible; and, when at last we reached a level floor, the room, in which we found ourselves, was almost as light as day.

It was eight-sided, having in each angle a slender pillar, round which silken draperies were twined. The wall between the pillars was entirely covered, to the height of six or seven feet, with creepers, from which hung quantities of ripe fruit and of brilliant flowers, that almost hid the leaves.

In another place, perchance, I might have wondered to see fruit and flowers growing together: here, my chief wonder was that neither fruit nor flowers were such as I had ever seen before. Higher up, each wall contained a circular window of coloured glass; and over all was an arched roof, that seemed to be spangled all over with jewels.

i072 A BEGGARS PALACE
A BEGGAR’S PALACE

With hardly less wonder, I turned this way and that, trying to make out how in the world we had come in: for there was no door: and all the walls were thickly covered with the lovely creepers.

“We are safe here, my darlings!” said the old man, laying a hand on Sylvie’s shoulder, and bending down to kiss her. Sylvie drew back hastily, with an offended air: but in another moment, with a glad cry of “Why, it’s Father!”, she had run into his arms.

“Father! Father!” Bruno repeated: and, while the happy children were being hugged and kissed, I could but rub my eyes and say “Where, then, are the rags gone to?”; for the old man was now dressed in royal robes that glittered with jewels and gold embroidery, and wore a circlet of gold around his head.

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A Free Story from the ebook Sylvie and Bruno
The sequel to Alice in Wonderland
By Lewis Carrol – with just as much silliness and fantasy as Alice in Wonderland

ISBN: 9788834181546

URL/Download Link: https://bit.ly/2XCSsZo

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Mokete was a chief’s daughter, but she was also beautiful beyond all the daughters of her father’s house, and Morongoe the brave and Tau the lion both desired to possess her, but Tau found not favour in the eyes of her parents, neither desired she to be his wife, whereas Morongoe was rich and the son of a great chief, and upon him was Mokete bestowed in marriage.

But Tau swore by all the evil spirits that their happiness should not long continue, and he called to his aid the old witch doctor, whose power was greater than the tongue of man could tell; and one day Morongoe walked down to the water and was seen no more. Mokete wept and mourned for her brave young husband, to whom she had been wedded but ten short moons, but Tau rejoiced greatly.

When two more moons had waned, a son was born to Mokete, to whom she gave the name of Tsietse (sadness). The child grew and throve, and the years passed by, but brought no news of Morongoe.

One day, when Tsietse was nearly seven years old, he cried unto his mother, saying, “Mother, how is it that I have never seen my father? My companions see and know their fathers, and love them, but I alone know not the face of my father, I alone have not a father’s protecting love.”

“My son,” replied his mother, “a father you have never known, for the evil spirits carried him from amongst us before ever you were born.” She then related to him all that had happened.

From that day Tsietse played no more with the other boys, but wandered about from one pool of water to another, asking the frogs to tell him of his father.

Now the custom of the Basuto, when any one falls into the water and is not found, is to drive cattle into the place where the person is supposed to have fallen, as they will bring him out. Many cattle had been driven into the different pools of water near Morongoe’s village, but as they had failed to bring his father, Tsietse knew it was not much use looking near home. Accordingly, one day he went to a large pond a long distance off, and there he asked the frogs to help him in his search. One old frog hopped close to the child, and said, “You will find your father, my son, when you have walked to the edge of the world and taken a leap into the waters beneath; but he is no longer as you are, nor does he know of your existence.”

This, at last, was the information Tsietse had longed for, now he could begin his search in real earnest. For many days he walked on, and ever on. At length, one day, just as the sun was setting, he saw before him a large sea of water of many beautiful colours. Stepping into it, he began to ask the same question; but at every word he uttered, the sea rose up, until at length it covered his head, and he began falling, falling through the deep sea.

Suddenly he found himself upon dry ground, and upon looking round he saw flocks and herds, flowers and fruit, on every side. At first he was too much astonished to speak, but after a little while he went up to one of the herd boys and asked him if he had ever seen his (Tsietse’s) father. The herd boy told him many strangers visited that place, and he had better see the chief, who would be able to answer his question.

When Tsietse had told his story to the chief, the old man knew at once that the great snake which dwelt in their midst must be the child’s father; so, bidding the boy remain and rest, he went off to consult with the snake as to how they should tell Tsietse the truth without frightening him; but as they talked, Tsietse ran up to them, and, seeing the snake, at once embraced it, for he knew it was his father.

Then there was great joy in the heart of Morongoe, for he knew that by his son’s aid he should be able to overcome his enemy, and return at length to his wife and home. So he told Tsietse how Tau had persuaded the old witch doctor to turn him into a snake, and banish him to this world below the earth. Soon afterwards Tsietse returned to his home, but he was no longer a child, but a noble youth, with a brave, straight look that made the wicked afraid. Very gently he told his mother all that had happened to him, and how eager his father was to return to his home. Mokete consulted an old doctor who lived in the mountain alone, and who told her she must get Tsietse to bring his father to the village in the brightness of the day-time, but that he must be so surrounded by his followers from the land beyond that none of his own people would be able to see him.

Quickly the news spread through the village that Morongoe had been found by his son and was returning to his people.

At length Tsietse was seen approaching with a great crowd of followers, while behind them came all the cattle which had been driven into the pools to seek Morongoe. As they approached Mokete’s house the door opened and the old doctor stood upon the threshold.

Making a sign to command silence, he said:”My children, many years ago your chief received a grievous wrong at the hand of his enemy, and was turned into a snake, but by the love and faithfulness of his son he is restored to you this day, and the wiles of his enemy are made of no account. Cover, then, your eyes, my children, lest the Evil Eye afflict you.”

He then bade the snake, which was in the centre of the crowd, enter the hut, upon which he shut the door, and set fire to the hut. The people, when they saw the flames, cried out in horror, but the old doctor bade them be still, for that no harm would come to their chief, but rather a great good. When everything was completely burnt, the doctor took from the middle of the ruins a large burnt ball; this he threw into the pool near by, and lo! from the water up rose Morongoe, clad in a kaross, the beauty of which was beyond all words, and carrying in his hand a stick of shining black, like none seen on this earth before, in beauty, or colour, or shape. Thus was the spell broken through the devotion of a true son, and peace and happiness restored, not only to Mokete’s heart, but to the whole village.

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This book raises funds for the SENTABALE charity in the African mountain Kingdom of Lesotho – supporting children orphaned by AIDS.

For more info, a table of contents and to buy – click on this link http://abelapublishing.com/folklore-and-tales-from-lesotho_p26444658.htm

Folklore and Tales from Lesotho - cover art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISBN 978-1-909302-56-3