Little Joe Gander
"There's no good in him," said his stepmother, "not a mossul!" With
these words she thrust little Joe forward by applying her knee to the
small of his back, and thereby jerking him into the middle of the school
before the master. "There's no making nothing out of him, whack him as
Little Joe Lambole was a child of ten, dressed in second-hand, nay,
third-hand garments that did not fit. His coat had been a soldier's
scarlet uniform, that had gone when discarded to a dealer, who had dealt
it to a carter, and when the carter had worn it out it was reduced and
adapted to the wear of the child. The nether garments had, in like
manner, served a full-grown man till worn out; then they had been cut
down at the knees. Though shortened in leg, they maintained their former
copiousness of seat, and served as an inexhaustible receptacle for dust.
Often as little Joe was "licked" there issued from the dense mass of
drapery clouds of dust. It was like beating a puff-ball.
"Only a seven-month child," said Mrs. Lambole contemptuously, "born
without his nails on fingers and toes; they growed later. His wits have
never come right, and a deal, a deal of larruping it will take to make
'em grow. Use the rod; we won't grumble at you for doing so."
Little Joe Lambole when he came into the world had not been expected to
live. He was a poor, small, miserable baby, that could not roar, but
whimpered. He had been privately baptised directly he was born, because,
at the first, Mrs. Lambole said, "The child is mine, though it be such
a creetur, and I wouldn't like it, according, to be buried like a dog."
He was called Joseph. The scriptural Joseph had been sold as a bondman
into Egypt; this little Joseph seemed to have been brought into the
world to be a slave. In all propriety he ought to have died as a baby,
and that happy consummation was almost desired, but he disappointed
expectations and lived. His mother died soon after, and his father
married again, and his father and stepmother loved him, doubtless; but
love is manifested in many ways, and the Lamboles showed theirs in a
rough way, by slaps and blows and kicks. The father was ashamed of him
because he was a weakling, and the stepmother because he was ugly, and
was not her own child. He was a meagre little fellow, with a long neck
and a white face and sunken cheeks, a pigeon breast, and a big stomach.
He walked with his head forward and his great pale blue eyes staring
before him into the far distance, as if he were always looking out of
the world. His walk was a waddle, and he tumbled over every obstacle,
because he never looked where he was going, always looked to something
beyond the horizon.
Because of his walk and his long neck, and staring eyes and big stomach,
the village children called him "Gander Joe" or "Joe Gander"; and his
parents were not sorry, for they were ashamed that such a creature
should be known as a Lambole.
The Lamboles were a sturdy, hearty people, with cheeks like quarrender
apples, and bones set firm and knit with iron sinews. They were a
hard-working, practical people who fattened pigs and kept poultry at
home. Lambole was a roadmaker. In breaking stones one day a bit of one
had struck his eye and blinded it. After that he wore a black patch upon
it. He saw well enough out of the other; he never missed seeing his own
interests. Lambole could have made a few pence with his son had his son
been worth anything. He could have sent him to scrape the road, and
bring the manure off it in a shovel to his garden. But Joe never took
heartily to scraping the dung up. In a word, the boy was good for
He had hair like tow, and a little straw hat on his head with the top
torn, so that the hair forced its way out, and as he walked the top
bobbed about like the lid of a boiling saucepan.
When the whortleberries were ripe in June, Mrs. Lambole sent Joe out
with other children to collect the berries in a tin can; she sold them
for fourpence a quart, and any child could earn eightpence a day in
whortleberry time; one that was active might earn a shilling.
But Joe would not remain with the other children. They teased him,
imitated ganders and geese, and poked out their necks and uttered sounds
in imitation of the voices of these birds. Moreover, they stole the
berries he had picked, and put them into their own cans.
When Joe Gander left them and found himself alone in the woods, then he
lay down among the brown heather and green fern, and looked up through
the oak leaves at the sky, and listened to the singing of the birds. Oh,
wondrous music of the woods! the hum of the summer air among the leaves,
the drone of the bees about the flowers, the twittering and fluting and
piping of the finches and blackbirds and thrushes, and the cool soft
cooing of the wood pigeons, like the lowing of aerial oxen; then the
tapping of the green woodpecker and a glimpse of its crimson head, like
a carbuncle running up the tree trunk, and the powdering down of old
husks of fir cones or of the tender rind of the topmost shoot of a
Scottish pine; for aloft a red squirrel was barking a beautiful tree out
of wantonness and frolic. A rabbit would come forth from the bracken and
sit up in the sun, and clean its face with the fore paws and stroke its
long ears; then, seeing the soiled red coat, would skip up--little Joe
lying very still--and screw its nose and turn its eyes from side to
side, and skip nearer again, till it was quite close to Joe Gander; and
then the boy laughed, and the rabbit was gone with a flash of white
Happy days! days of listening to mysterious music, of looking into
mysteries of sun and foliage, of spiritual intercourse with the great
mother-soul of nature.
In the evenings, when Gander Joe came without his can, or with his can
empty, he would say to his stepmother: "Oh, steppy! it was so nice;
everything was singing."
"I'll make you sing in the chorus too!" cried Mrs. Lambole, and laid a
stick across his shoulders. Experience had taught her the futility of
dusting at a lower level.
Then Gander Joe cried and writhed, and promised to be more diligent in
picking whortleberries in future. But when he went again into the wood
it was again the same. The spell of the wood spirits was on him; he
forgot about the berries at fourpence a quart, and lay on his back and
listened. And the whole wood whispered and sang to him and consoled him
for his beating, and the wind played lullabies among the fir spines and
whistled in the grass, and the aspen clashed its myriad tiny cymbals
together, producing an orchestra of sound that filled the soul of the
dreaming boy with love and delight and unutterable yearning.
It fared no better in autumn, when the blackberry season set in. Joe
went with his can to an old quarry where the brambles sent their runners
over the masses of rubble thrown out from the pits, and warmed and
ripened their fruit on the hot stones. It was a marvel to see how the
blackberries grew in this deserted quarry; how large the fruit swelled,
how thick they were--like mulberries. On the road side of the quarry was
a belt of pines, and the sun drew out of their bark scents of
unsurpassed sweetness. About the blackberries hovered spotted white and
yellow and black moths, beautiful as butterflies. Butterflies did not
fail either. The red admiral was there, resting on the bark of the
trees, asleep in the sun with wings expanded, or drifting about the
clumps of yellow ragwort, doubtful whether to perch or not.
Here, hidden behind the trees, among the leaves of overgrown rubble, was
a one-story cottage of wood and clay, covered with thatch, in which
lived Roger Gale, the postman.
Roger Gale had ten miles to walk every morning, delivering letters, and
the same number of miles every evening, for which twenty miles he
received the liberal pay of six shillings a week. He had to be at the
post office at half-past six in the morning to receive the letters, and
at seven in the evening to deliver them. His work took him about six
hours. The middle of the day he had to himself. Roger Gale was an old
soldier, and enjoyed a pension. He occupied himself, when at home, as a
shoemaker; but the walks took so much out of him, being an old man, that
he had not the strength and energy to do much cobbling when at home.
Therefore he idled a good deal, and he amused his idle hours with a
violin. Now, when Joe Gander came to the quarry before the return of the
postman from his rounds, he picked blackberries; but no sooner had Roger
Gale unlocked his door, taken down his fiddle, and drawn the bow across
the strings, than Joe set down the can and listened. And when old Roger
began to play an air from the Daughter of the Regiment, then Joe crept
towards his cottage in little stages of wonderment and hunger to hear
more and hear better, much in the same way as now and again in the wood
the inquisitive rabbits had approached his red jacket. Presently Joe was
seated on the doorstep, with his ear against the wooden door, and the
blackberries and the can, and stepmother's orders and father's stick,
and his hard bed and his meagre meals, even the whole world had passed
away as a scroll that is rolled up and laid aside, and he lived only in
the world of music.
Though his great eyes were wide he saw nothing through them; though the
rain began to fall, and the north-east wind to blow, he felt nothing: he
had but one faculty that was awake, and that was hearing.
One day Roger came to his door and opened it suddenly, so that the
child, leaning against it, fell across his threshold.
"Whom have we here? What is this? What do you want?" asked the postman.
Then Gander Joe stood up, craning his long neck and staring out of his
goggle eyes, with his rough flaxen hair standing up in a ruffle above
his head and his great stomach protruded, and said nothing. So Roger
burst out laughing. But he did not kick him off the step; he gave him a
bit of bread and a drop of cider, and presently drew from the boy the
confession that he had been listening to the fiddle. This was flattering
to the postman, and it was the initiation of a friendship between them.
But when Joe came home with an empty can and said: "Oh, steppy, Master
Roger Gale did fiddle so beautiful!" the woman said: "Fiddle! I'll
fiddle your back pretty smartly, you idle vagabond"; and she was a
truthful woman who never fell short of her word.
To break him of his bad habits--that is, of his dreaminess and
uselessness--Mrs. Lambole took Joe to school.
At school he had a bad time of it. He could not learn the letters. He
was mentally incapable of doing a subtraction sum. He sat on a bench
staring at the teacher, and was unable to answer an ordinary question
what the lesson was about. The school-children tormented him, the
monitor scolded, and the master beat. Then little Joe Gander took to
absenting himself from school. He was sent off every morning by his
stepmother, but instead of going to the school he went to the cottage in
the quarry, and listened to the fiddle of Roger Gale.
Little Joe got hold of an old box, and with a knife he cut holes in it;
and he fashioned a bridge, and then a handle, and he strung horsehair
over the latter, and made a bow, and drew very faint sounds from this
improvised violin, that made the postman laugh, but which gave great
pleasure to Joe. The sound that issued from his instrument was like the
humming of flies, but he got distinct notes out of his strings, though
the notes were faint.
After he had played truant for some time his father heard what he had
done, and he beat the boy till he was like a battered apple that had
been flung from the tree by a storm upon a road.
For a while Joe did not venture to the quarry except on Saturdays and
Sundays. He was forbidden by his father to go to church, because the
organ and the singing there drove him half crazed. When a beautiful,
touching melody was played his eyes became clouded and the tears ran
down his cheeks; and when the organ played the "Hallelujah Chorus," or
some grand and stirring march, his eyes flashed, and his little body
quivered, and he made such faces that the congregation were disturbed
and the parson remonstrated with his mother. The child was clearly
imbecile, and unfit to attend divine worship.
Mr. Lambole got an idea into his head, he would bring up Joe to be a
butcher, and he informed Joe that he was going to place him with a
gentleman of that profession in town. Joe cried. He turned sick at the
sight of blood, and the smell of raw meat was abhorrent to him. But
Joe's likings were of no account with his father, and he took him to the
town and placed him with a butcher there. He was invested in a blue
smock, and was informed that his duties would consist in taking meat
about to the customers. Joe was left. It was the first time he had been
from home, and he cried himself to sleep the first night, and he cried
all the next day when sent around with meat on his shoulder.
Now on his journey through the streets he had to pass the window of a
toy-shop. In the window were dolls and horses and little carts. For
these Joe did not care, but there were also some little violins, some
high priced, and some very low, and over these Joe lingered with loving,
covetous eyes. There was one little fiddle to which his heart went out,
that cost only three shillings and sixpence. Each day, as he passed the
shop, he was drawn to it, and stood looking in, and longed daily more
ardently than on the previous day for this three-and-sixpenny violin.
One day he was so lost in admiration and on the schemes he framed as to
how he might eventually become possessed of the instrument, that he was
unconscious of some boys stealing the meat out of the sort of trough on
his shoulder in which he carried it about.
This was the climax of his misdeeds--he had been reprimanded for his
blunders, delivering the wrong meat at the customers' doors; for his
dilatory ways in going on his errands. The butcher could endure him no
more, and sent him home to his father, who thrashed him, as his welcome.
But he carried home with him the haunting recollections of that
beautiful little red fiddle, with its fine black keys. The bow, he
remembered, was strung with white horsehair. Joe had now a fixed
ambition--something to live for. He would be perfectly happy if he could
have that three-shillings-and-sixpenny fiddle. But how were three
shillings and sixpence to be earned?
He confided his difficulty to postman Roger Gale, and Roger Gale said he
would consider the matter.
A couple of days after the postman said to Joe--
"Gander, they want a lad to sweep the leaves in the drive at the great
house. The squire's coachman told me, and I mentioned you. You'll have
to do it on Saturday, and be paid sixpence."
Joe's face brightened. He went home and told his stepmother.
"For once you are going to be useful," said Mrs. Lambole. "Very well,
you shall sweep the drive; then fivepence will come to us, and you shall
have a penny every week to spend in sweetstuff at the post office."
Joe tried to reckon how long it would be before he could purchase the
fiddle, but the calculation was beyond his powers; so he asked the
postman, who assured him it would take him forty weeks--that is, about
Little Joe was not cast down. What was time with such an end in view?
Jacob served fourteen years for Rachel, and this was only forty weeks
for a fiddle!
Joe was diligent every Saturday sweeping the drive. He was ordered
whenever a carriage entered to dive behind the rhododendrons and laurels
and disappear. He was of a too ragged and idiotic appearance to show in
a gentleman's grounds.
Once or twice he encountered the squire and stood quaking, with his
fingers spread out, his mouth and eyes open, and the broom at his feet.
The squire spoke kindly to him, but Joe Gander was too frightened to
"Poor fellow," said the squire to the gardener. "I suppose it is a
charity to employ him, but I must say I should have preferred someone
else with his wits about him. I will see to having him sent to an asylum
for idiots in which I have some interest. There's no knowing," said the
squire, "no knowing but that with wholesome food, cleanliness, and
kindness his feeble mind may be got to understand that two and two make
four, which I learn he has not yet mastered."
Every Saturday evening Joe Gander brought his sixpence home to his
stepmother. The woman was not so regular in allowing him his penny out.
"Your edication costs such a lot of money," she said.
"Steppy, need I go to school any more?" He never could frame his mouth
to call her mother.
"Of course you must. You haven't passed your standard."
"But I don't think that I ever shall."
"Then," said Mrs. Lambole, "what masses of good food you do eat. You're
perfectly insatiable. You cost us more than it would to keep a cow."
"Oh, steppy, I won't eat so much if I may have my penny!"
"Very well. Eating such a lot does no one good. If you will be content
with one slice of bread for breakfast instead of two, and the same for
supper, you shall have your penny. If you are so very hungry you can
always get a swede or a mangold out of Farmer Eggins's field. Swedes and
mangolds are cooling to the blood and sit light on the stomick," said
So the compact was made; but it nearly killed Joe. His cheeks and chest
fell in deeper and deeper, and his stomach protruded more than ever. His
legs seemed hardly able to support him, and his great pale blue
wandering eyes appeared ready to start out of his head like the horns of
a snail. As for his voice, it was thin and toneless, like the notes on
his improvised fiddle, on which he played incessantly.
"The child will always be a discredit to us," said Lambole. "He don't
look like a human child. He don't think and feel like a Christian. The
shovelfuls of dung he might have brought to cover our garden if he had
only given his heart to it!"
"I've heard of changelings," said Mrs. Lambole; "and with this creetur
on our hands I mainly believe the tale. They do say that the pixies
steal away the babies of Christian folk, and put their own bantlings in
their stead. The only way to find out is to heat a poker red-hot and ram
it down the throat of the child; and when you do that the door opens,
and in comes the pixy mother and runs off with her own child, and leaves
your proper babe behind. That's what we ought to ha' done wi' Joe."
"I doubt, wife, the law wouldn't have upheld us," said Lambole,
thrusting hot coals back on to the hearth with his foot.
"I don't suppose it would," said Mrs. Lambole. "And yet we call this a
land of liberty! Law ain't made for the poor, but for the rich."
"It is wickedness," argued the father. "It is just the same with
colts--all wickedness. You must drive it out with the stick."
And now a great temptation fell on little Gander Joe. The squire and his
family were at home, and the daughter of the house, Miss Amory, was
musical. Her mother played on the piano and the young lady on the
violin. The fashion for ladies to play on this instrument had come in,
and Miss Amory had taken lessons from the best masters in town. She
played vastly better than poor Roger Gale, and she played to an
Sometimes whilst Joe was sweeping he heard the music; then he stole
nearer and nearer to the house, hiding behind rhododendron bushes, and
listening with eyes and mouth and nostrils and ears. The music exercised
on him an irresistible attraction. He forgot his obligation to work; he
forgot the strict orders he had received not to approach the
garden-front of the house. The music acted on him like a spell.
Occasionally he was roused from his dream by the gardener, who boxed his
ears, knocked him over, and bade him get back to his sweeping. Once a
servant came out from Miss Amory to tell the ragged little boy not to
stand in front of the drawing-room window staring in. On another
occasion he was found by Miss Amory crouched behind a rose bush outside
her boudoir, listening whilst she practised.
No one supposed that the music drew him. They thought him a fool, and
that he had the inquisitiveness of the half-witted to peer in at windows
and see the pretty sights within.
He was reprimanded, and threatened with dismissal. The gardener
complained to the lad's father and advised a good hiding, such as Joe
should not forget.
"These sort of chaps," said the gardener, "have no senses like rational
beings, except only the feeling, and you must teach them as you feed the
Polar bears--with the end of a stick."
One day Miss Amory, seeing how thin and hollow-eyed the child was, and
hearing him cough, brought him out a cup of hot coffee and some bread.
He took it without a word, only pulling off his torn straw hat and
throwing it at his feet, exposing the full shock of tow-like hair; then
he stared at her out of his great eyes, speechless.
"Joe," she said, "poor little man, how old are you?"
"Dun'now," he answered.
"Can you read and write?"
"Nor do sums?"
"What can you do?"
"Have you got a fiddle?"
"I should like to see it, and hear you play."
Next day was Sunday. Little Joe forgot about the day, and forgot that
Miss Amory would probably be in church in the morning. She had asked to
see his fiddle, so in the morning he took it and went down with it to
the park. The church was within the grounds, and he had to pass it. As
he went by he heard the roll of the organ and the strains of the choir.
He stopped to hearken, then went up the steps of the churchyard,
listening. A desire came on him to catch the air on his improvised
violin, and he put it to his shoulder and drew his bow across the
slender cords. The sound was very faint, so faint as to be drowned by
the greater volume of the organ and the choir. Nevertheless he could
hear the feeble tones close to his ear, and his heart danced at the
pleasure of playing to an accompaniment, like Miss Amory. The choir, the
congregation, were singing the Advent hymn to Luther's tune--
"Great God, what do I see and hear?
The end of things created."
Little Joe, playing his inaudible instrument, came creeping up the
avenue, treading on the fallen yellow lime leaves, passing between the
tombstones, drawn on by the solemn, beautiful music. Presently he stood
in the porch, then he went on; he was unconscious of everything but the
music and the joy of playing with it; he walked on softly into the
church without even removing his ragged straw cap, though the squire and
the squire's wife, and the rector and the reverend the Mrs. Rector, and
the parish churchwarden and the rector's churchwarden, and the overseer
and the waywarden, and all the farmers and their wives were present. He
had forgotten about his broken cap in the delight that made the tears
fill his eyes and trickle over his pale cheeks.
Then when with a shock the parson and the churchwardens saw the ragged
urchin coming up the nave fiddling, with his hat on, regardless of the
sacredness of the place, and above all of the sacredness of the presence
of the squire, J.P. and D.L., the rector coughed very loud and looked
hard at his churchwarden, Farmer Eggins, who turned red as the sun in a
November fog, and rose. At the same instant the people's churchwarden
rose, and both advanced upon Joe Gander from opposite sides of the
At the moment that they touched him the organ and the singing ceased;
and it was to Joe a sudden wakening from a golden dream to a black and
raw reality. He looked up with dazed face first at one man, then at the
other: both their faces blazed with equal indignation; both were
equally speechless with wrath. They conducted him, each holding an arm,
out of the porch and down the avenue. Joe heard indistinctly behind him
the droning of the rector's voice continuing the prayers. He looked back
over his shoulder and saw the faces of the school-children straining
after him through the open door from their places near it. On reaching
the steps--there was a flight of five leading to the road--the people's
churchwarden uttered a loud and disgusted "Ugh!" then with his heavy
hand slapped the head of the child towards the parson's churchwarden,
who with his still heavier hand boxed it back again; then the people's
churchwarden gave him a blow which sent him staggering forward, and this
was supplemented by a kick from the parson's churchwarden, which sent
Joe Gander spinning down the five steps at once and cast him prostrate
into the road, where he fell and crushed his extemporised violin.
Then the churchwardens turned, blew their noses, and re-entered the
church, where they sat out the rest of the service, grateful in their
hearts that they had been enabled that day to show that their office was
The churchwardens were unaware that in banging and kicking the little
boy out of the churchyard and into the road they had flung him so that
he fell with his head upon the curbstone of the footpath, which stone
was of slate, and sharp. They did not find this out through the prayers,
nor through the sermon. But when the whole congregation left the church
they were startled to find little Joe Gander insensible, with his head
cut, and a pool of blood on the footway. The squire was shocked, as were
his wife and daughter, and the churchwardens were in consternation.
Fortunately the squire's stables were near the church, and there was a
running fountain there, so that water was procured, and the child
Mrs. Amory had in the meantime hastened home and returned with a roll of
diachylon plaster and a pair of small scissors. Strips of the adhesive
plaster were applied to the wound, and the boy was soon sufficiently
recovered to stand on his feet, when the churchwardens very
considerately undertook to march him home. On reaching his cottage the
churchwardens described what had taken place, painting the insult
offered to the worshippers in the most hideous colours, and representing
the accident of the cut as due to the violent resistance offered by the
culprit to their ejectment of him. Then each pressed a half-crown into
the hand of Mr. Lambole and departed to his dinner.
"Now then, young shaver," exclaimed the father, "at your pranks again!
How often have I told you not to go intruding into a place of worship?
Church ain't for such as you. If you had'nt been punished a bit already,
wouldn't I larrup you neither? Oh, no!"
Little Joe's head was bad for some days. His cheeks were flushed and his
eyes bright, and he talked strangely--he who was usually so silent. What
troubled him was the loss of his fiddle; he did not know what had become
of it, whether it had been stolen or confiscated. He asked after it, and
when at last it was produced, smashed to chips, with the strings torn
and hanging loose about it like the cordage of a broken vessel, he cried
bitterly. Miss Amory came to the cottage to see him, and finding father
and stepmother out, went in and pressed five shillings into his hand.
Then he laughed with delight, and clapped his hands, and hid the money
away in his pocket, but he said nothing, and Miss Amory went away
convinced that the child was half a fool. But little Joe had sense in
his head, though his head was different from those of others; he knew
that now he had the money wherewith to buy the beautiful fiddle he had
seen in the shop window many months before, and to get which he had
worked and denied himself food.
When Miss Amory was gone, and his stepmother had not returned, he opened
the door of the cottage and stole out. He was afraid of being seen, so
he crept along in the hedge, and when he thought anyone was coming he
got through a gate or lay down in a ditch, till he was some way on his
road to the town. Then he ran till he was tired. He had a bandage round
his head, and, as his head was hot, he took the rag off, dipped it in
water, and tied it round his head again. Never in his life had his mind
been clearer than it was now, for now he had a distinct purpose, and an
object easily attainable, before him. He held the money in his hand, and
looked at it, and kissed it; then pressed it to his beating heart, then
ran on. He lost breath. He could run no more. He sat down in the hedge
and gasped. The perspiration was streaming off his face. Then he thought
he heard steps coming fast along the road he had run, and as he feared
pursuit, he got up and ran on.
He went through the village four miles from home just as the children
were leaving school, and when they saw him some of the elder cried out
that here was "Gander Joe! quack! quack! Joe the Gander! quack! quack!
quack!" and the little ones joined in the banter. The boy ran on, though
hot and exhausted, and with his head swimming, to escape their
He got some way beyond the village when he came to a turnpike. There he
felt dizzy, and he timidly asked if he might have a piece of bread. He
would pay for it if they would change a shilling. The woman at the 'pike
pitied the pale, hollow-eyed child, and questioned him; but her
questions bewildered him, and he feared she would send him home, so that
he either answered nothing, or in a way which made her think him
distraught. She gave him some bread and water, and watched him going on
towards the town till he was out of sight. The day was already
declining; it would be dark by the time he reached the town. But he did
not think of that. He did not consider where he would sleep, whether he
would have strength to return ten miles to his home. He thought only of
the beautiful red violin with the yellow bridge hung in the shop window,
and offered for three shillings and sixpence. Three-and-sixpence! Why,
he had five shillings. He had money to spend on other things beside the
fiddle. He had been sadly disappointed about his savings from the weekly
sixpence. He had asked for them; he had earned them, not by his work
only, but by his abstention from two pieces of bread per diem. When he
asked for the money, his stepmother answered that she had put it away in
the savings bank. If he had it he would waste it on sweetstuff; if it
were hoarded up it would help him on in life when left to shift for
himself; and if he died, why it would go towards his burying.
So the child had been disappointed in his calculations, and had worked
and starved for nothing. Then came Miss Amory with her present, and he
had run away with that, lest his mother should take it from him to put
in the savings bank for setting him up in life or for his burying. What
cared he for either? All his ambition was to have a fiddle, and a fiddle
was to be had for three-and-sixpence.
Joe Gander was tired. He was fain to sit down at intervals on the heaps
of stones by the roadside to rest. His shoes were very poor, with soles
worn through, so that the stones hurt his feet. At this time of the year
the highways were fresh metalled, and as he stumbled over the newly
broken stones they cut his soles and his ankles turned. He was footsore
and weary in body, but his heart never failed him. Before him shone the
red violin with the yellow bridge, and the beautiful bow strung with
shining white hair. When he had that all his weariness would pass as a
dream; he would hunger no more, cry no more, feel no more sickness or
faintness. He would draw the bow over the strings and play with his
fingers on the catgut, and the waves of music would thrill and flow,
and away on those melodious waves his soul would float far from
trouble, far from want, far from tears, into a shining, sunny world of
So he picked himself up when he fell, and staggered to his feet from the
stones on which he rested, and pressed on.
The sun was setting as he entered the town. He went straight to the shop
he so well remembered, and to his inexpressible delight saw still in the
window the coveted violin, price three shillings and sixpence.
Then he timidly entered the shop, and with trembling hand held out the
"What do you want?"
"It," said the boy. It. To him the shop held but one article. The dolls,
the wooden horses, the tin steam-engines, the bats, the kites, were
unconsidered. He had seen and remembered only one thing--the red violin.
"It," said the boy, and pointed.
When little Joe had got the violin he pressed it to his shoulder, and
his heart bounded as though it would have burst the pigeon breast. His
dull eyes lightened, and into his white sunken cheeks shot a hectic
flame. He went forth with his head erect and with firm foot, holding his
fiddle to the shoulder and the bow in hand.
He turned his face homeward. Now he would return to father and
stepmother, to his little bed at the head of the stairs, to his scanty
meals, to the school, to the sweeping of the park drive, and to his
stepmother's scoldings and his father's beatings. He had his fiddle, and
he cared for nothing else.
He waited till he was out of the town before he tried it. Then, when he
was on a lonely part of the road, he seated himself in the hedge, under
a holly tree covered with scarlet berries, and tried his instrument.
Alas! it had hung many years in the shop window, and the catgut was old
and the glue had lost its tenacity. One string started; then when he
tried to screw up a second, it sprang as well, and then the bridge
collapsed and fell. Moreover, the hairs on the bow came out. They were
Then little Joe's spirits gave way. He laid the bow and the violin on
his knees and began to cry.
As he cried he heard the sound of approaching wheels and the clatter of
a horse's hoofs.
He heard, but he was immersed in sorrow and did not heed and raise his
head to see who was coming. Had he done so he would have seen nothing,
as his eyes were swimming with tears. Looking out of them he saw only as
one sees who opens his eyes when diving.
"Halloa, young shaver! Dang you! What do you mean giving me such a
cursed hunt after you as this--you as ain't worth the trouble, eh?"
The voice was that of his father, who drew up before him. Mr. Lambole
had made inquiries when it was discovered that Joe was lost, first at
the school, where it was most unlikely he would be found, then at the
public-house, at the gardener's and the gamekeeper's; then he had looked
down the well and then up the chimney. After that he went to the cottage
in the quarry. Roger Gale knew nothing of him. Presently someone coming
from the nearest village mentioned that he had been seen there;
whereupon Lambole borrowed Farmer Eggins's trap and went after him,
peering right and left of the road with his one eye.
Sure enough he had been through the village. He had passed the turnpike.
The woman there described him accurately as "a sort of a tottle" (fool).
Mr. Lambole was not a pleasant-looking man; he was as solidly built as a
navvy. The backs of his hands were hairy, and his fist was so hard, and
his blows so weighty, that for sport he was wont to knock down and kill
at a blow the oxen sent to Butcher Robbins for slaughter, and that he
did with his fist alone, hitting the animal on the head between the
horns, a little forward of the horns. That was a great feat of
strength, and Lambole was proud of it. He had a long back and short
legs. The back was not pliable or bending; it was hard, braced with
sinews tough as hawsers, and supported a pair of shoulders that could
sustain the weight of an ox.
His face was of a coppery colour, caused by exposure to the air and
drinking. His hair was light: that was almost the only feature his son
had derived from him. It was very light, too light for his dark red
face. It grew about his neck and under his chin as a Newgate collar;
there was a great deal of it, and his face, encircled by the pale hair,
looked like an angry moon surrounded by a fog bow.
Mr. Lambole had a queer temper. He bottled up his anger, but when it
blew the cork out it spurted over and splashed all his home; it flew in
the faces and soused everyone who came near him.
Mr. Lambole took his son roughly by the arm and lifted him into the tax
cart. The boy offered no resistance. His spirit was broken, his hopes
extinguished. For months he had yearned for the red fiddle, price
three-and-six, and now that, after great pains and privations, he had
acquired it, the fiddle would not sound.
"Ain't you ashamed of yourself, giving your dear dada such trouble, eh,
Mr. Lambole turned the horse's head homeward. He had his black patch
towards the little Gander, seated in the bottom of the cart, hugging his
wrecked violin. When Mr. Lambole spoke he turned his face round to bring
the active eye to bear on the shrinking, crouching little figure below.
The Viper made no answer, but looked up. Mr. Lambole turned his face
away, and the seeing eye watched the horse's ears, and the black patch
was towards a frightened, piteous, pleading little face, looking up,
with the light of the evening sky irradiating it, showing how wan it
was, how hollow were the cheeks, how sunken the eyes, how sharp the
little pinched nose. The boy put up his arm, that held the bow, and
wiped his eyes with his sleeve. In so doing he poked his father in the
ribs with the end of the bow.
"Now, then!" exclaimed Mr. Lambole with an oath, "what darn'd insolence
be you up to now, Gorilla?"
If he had not held the whip in one hand and the reins in the other he
would have taken the bow from the child and flung it into the road. He
contented himself with rapping Joe's head with the end of the whip.
"What's that you've got there, eh?" he asked.
The child replied timidly: "Please, father, a fiddle."
"Where did you get 'un--steal it, eh?"
Joe answered, trembling: "No, dada, I bought it."
"Bought it! Where did you get the money?"
"Miss Amory gave it me."
The Gander answered: "Her gave me five shilling."
"Five shillings! And what did that blessed" (he did not say "blessed,"
but something quite the reverse) "fiddle cost you?"
"So you've only one-and-six left?"
"I've none, dada."
"Because I spent one shilling on a pipe for you, and sixpence on a
thimble for stepmother as a present," answered the child, with a flicker
of hope in his dim eyes that this would propitiate his father.
"Dash me," roared the roadmaker, "if you ain't worse nor Mr.
Chamberlain, as would rob us of the cheap loaf! What in the name of
Thunder and Bones do you mean squandering the precious money over
fooleries like that for? I've got my pipe, black as your back shall be
before to-morrow, and mother has an old thimble as full o' holes as I'll
make your skin before the night is much older. Wait till we get home,
and I'll make pretty music out of that there fiddle! just you see if I
Joe shivered in his seat, and his head fell.
Mr. Lambole had a playful wit. He beguiled his journey home by indulging
in it, and his humour flashed above the head of the child like summer
lightning. "You're hardly expecting the abundance of the supper that's
awaiting you," he said, with his black patch glowering down at the
irresponsive heap in the corner of the cart. "No stinting of the
dressing, I can tell you. You like your meat well basted, don't you? The
basting shall not incur your disapproval as insufficient. Underdone? Oh,
dear, no! Nothing underdone for me. Pickles? I can promise you that
there is something in pickle for you, hot--very hot and stinging. Plenty
of capers--mutton and capers. Mashed potatoes? Was the request for that
on the tip of your tongue? Sorry I can give you only half what you
want--the mash, not the potatoes. There is nothing comparable in my mind
to young pig with crackling. The hide is well striped, cut in lines from
the neck to the tail. I think we'll have crackling on our pig before
He now threw his seeing eye into the depths of the cart, to note the
effect his fun had on the child, but he was disappointed. It had evoked
no hilarity. Joe had fallen asleep, exhausted by his walk, worn out with
disappointments, with his head on his fiddle, that lay on his knees. The
jogging of the cart, the attitude, affected his wound; the plaster had
given way, and the blood was running over the little red fiddle and
dripping into its hollow body through the S-hole on each side.
It was too dark for Mr. Lambole to notice this. He set his lips. His
self-esteem was hurt at the child not relishing his waggery.
Mrs. Lambole observed it when, shortly after, the cart drew up at the
cottage and she lifted the sleeping child out.
"I must take the cart back to Farmer Eggins," said her husband; "duty
fust, and pleasure after."
When his father was gone Mrs. Lambole said, "Now then, Joe, you've been
a very wicked, bad boy, and God will never forgive you for the
naughtiness you have committed and the trouble to which you have put
your poor father and me." She would have spoken more sharply but that
his head needed her care and the sight of the blood disarmed her.
Moreover, she knew that her husband would not pass over what had
occurred with a reprimand. "Get off your clothes and go to bed, Joe," she
said when she had readjusted the plaster. "You may take a piece of dry
bread with you, and I'll see if I can't persuade your father to put off
whipping of you for a day or two."
Joe began to cry.
"There," she said, "don't cry. When wicked children do wicked things
they must suffer for them. It is the law of nature. And," she went on,
"you ought to be that ashamed of yourself that you'd be glad for the
earth to open under you and swallow you up like Korah, Dathan, and
Abiram. Running away from so good and happy a home and such tender
parents! But I reckon you be lost to natural affection as you be to
"May I take my fiddle with me?" asked the boy.
"Oh, take your fiddle if you like," answered his mother. "Much good may
it do you. Here, it is all smeared wi' blood. Let me wipe it first, or
you'll mess the bedclothes with it. There," she said as she gave him the
broken instrument. "Say your prayers and go to sleep; though I reckon
your prayers will never reach to heaven, coming out of such a wicked
So the little Gander went to his bed. The cottage had but one bedroom
and a landing above the steep and narrow flight of steps that led to it
from the kitchen. On this landing was a small truckle bed, on which Joe
slept. He took off his clothes and stood in his little short shirt of
very coarse white linen. He knelt down and said his prayers, with both
his hands spread over his fiddle. Then he got into bed, and until his
stepmother fetched away the benzoline lamp he examined the instrument.
He saw that the bridge might be set up again with a little glue, and
that fresh catgut strings might be supplied. He would take his fiddle
next day to Roger Gale and ask him to help to mend it for him. He was
sure Roger would take an interest in it. Roger had been mysterious of
late, hinting that the time was coming when Joey would have a first-rate
instrument and learn to play like a Paganini. Yes; the case of the red
fiddle was not desperate.
Just then he heard the door below open, and his father's step.
"Where is the toad?" said Mr. Lambole.
Joe held his breath, and his blood ran cold. He could hear every word,
every sound in the room below.
"He's gone to bed," answered Mrs. Lambole. "Leave the poor little
creetur alone to-night, Samuel; his head has been bad, and he don't look
well. He's overdone."
"Susan," said the roadmaker, "I've been simmering all the way to town,
and bubbling and boiling all the way back, and busting is what I be now,
and bust I will."
Little Joe sat up in bed, hugging the violin, and his tow-like hair
stood up on his head. His great stupid eyes stared wide with fear; in
the dark the iris in each had grown big, and deep, and solemn.
"Give me my stick," said Mr. Lambole. "I've promised him a taste of it,
and a taste won't suffice to-night; he must have a gorge of it."
"I've put it away," said Mrs. Lambole. "Samuel, right is right, and I'm
not one to stand between the child and what he deserves, but he ain't in
condition for it to-night. He wants feeding up to it."
Without wasting another word on her the roadmaker went upstairs.
The shuddering, cowering little fellow saw first the red face,
surrounded by a halo of pale hair, rise above the floor, then the strong
square shoulders, then the clenched hands, and then his father stood
before him, revealed down to his thick boots. The child crept back in
the bed against the wall, and would have disappeared through it had the
wall been soft-hearted, as in fairy tales, and opened to receive him. He
clasped his little violin tight to his heart, and then the blood that
had fallen into it trickled out and ran down his shirt, staining
it--upon the bedclothes, staining them. But the father did not see this.
He was effervescing with fury. His pulses went at a gallop, and his
great fists clutched spasmodically.
"You Judas Iscariot, come here!" he shouted.
But the child only pressed closer against the wall.
"What! disobedient and daring? Do you hear? Come to me!"
The trembling child pointed to a pretty little pipe on the bedclothes.
He had drawn it from his pocket and taken the paper off it, and laid it
there, and stuck the silver-headed thimble in the bowl for his
stepmother when she came upstairs to take the lamp.
"Come here, vagabond!"
He could not; he had not the courage nor the strength.
He still pointed pleadingly to the little presents he had bought with
"You won't, you dogged, insulting being?" roared the roadmaker, and
rushed at him, knocking over the pipe, which fell and broke on the
floor, and trampling flat the thimble. "You won't yet? Always full of
sulks and defiance! Oh, you ungrateful one, you!" Then he had him by the
collar of his night-shirt and dragged him from his bed, and with his
violence tore the button off, and with his other hand he wrenched the
violin away and beat the child over the back with it as he dragged him
from the bed.
"Oh, my mammy! my mammy!" cried Joe.
He was not crying out for his stepmother. It was the agonised cry of his
frightened heart for the one only being who had ever loved him, and whom
God had removed from him.
Suddenly Samuel Lambole started back.
Before him, and between him and the child, stood a pale, ghostly form,
and he knew his first wife.
He stood speechless and quaking. Then, gradually recovering himself, he
stumbled down the stairs, and seated himself, looking pasty and scared,
by the fire below.
"What is the matter with you, Samuel?" asked his wife.
"I've seen her," he gasped. "Don't ask no more questions."
Now when he was gone, little Joe, filled with terror--not at the
apparition, which he had not seen, for his eyes were too dazed to behold
it, but with apprehension of the chastisement that awaited him,
scrambled out of the window and dropped on the pigsty roof, and from
thence jumped to the ground.
Then he ran--ran as fast as his legs could carry him, still hugging his
instrument--to the churchyard; and on reaching that he threw himself on
his mother's grave and sobbed: "Oh, mammy, mammy! father wants to beat
me and take away my beautiful violin--but oh, mammy! my violin won't
And when he had spoken, from out the grave rose the form of his lost
mother, and looked kindly on him.
Joe saw her, and he had no fear.
"Mammy!" said he, "mammy, my violin cost three shillings and sixpence,
and I can't make it play no-ways."
AND SIXPENCE, AND I CAN'T MAKE IT PLAY NOWAYS."]
Then the spirit of his mother passed a hand over the the strings, and
smiled. Joe looked into her eyes, and they were as stars. And he put the
violin under his chin, and drew the bow across the strings--and lo! they
sounded wondrously. His soul thrilled, his heart bounded, his dull
eye brightened. He was as though caught up in a chariot of fire and
carried to heavenly places. His bow worked rapidly, such strains poured
from the little instrument as he had never heard before. It was to him
as though heaven opened, and he heard the angels performing there, and
he with his fiddle was taking a part in the mighty symphony. He felt not
the cold, the night was not dark to him. His head no longer ached. It
was as though after long seeking through life he had gained an
undreamed-of prize, reached some glorious consummation.
* * * * *
There was a musical party that same evening at the Hall. Miss Amory
played beautifully, with extraordinary feeling and execution, both with
and without accompaniment on the piano. Several ladies and gentlemen
sang and played; there were duets and trios.
During the performances the guests talked to each other in low tones
about various topics.
Said one lady to Mrs. Amory: "How strange it is that among the English
lower classes there is no love of music."
"There is none at all," answered Mrs. Amory; "our rector's wife has
given herself great trouble to get up parochial entertainments, but we
find that nothing takes with the people but comic songs, and these,
instead of elevating, vulgarise them."
"They have no music in them. The only people with music in their souls
are the Germans and the Italians."
"Yes," said Mrs. Amory with a sigh; "it is sad, but true: there is
neither poetry, nor picturesqueness, nor music among the English
"You have never heard of one, self-taught, with a real love of music in
"Never: such do not exist among us."
* * * * *
The parish churchwarden was walking along the road on his way to his
farmhouse, and the road passed under the churchyard wall.
As he walked along the way--with a not too steady step, for he was
returning from the public-house--he was surprised and frightened to hear
music proceed from among the graves.
It was too dark for him to see any figure then, only the tombstones
loomed on him in ghostly shapes. He began to quake, and finally turned
and ran, nor did he slacken his pace till he reached the tavern, where
he burst in shouting: "There's ghosts abroad. I've heard 'em in the
churchyard making music."
The revellers rose from their cups.
"Shall we go and hear?" they asked.
"I'll go for one," said a man; "if others will go with me."
"Ay," said a third, "and if the ghosts be playing a jolly good tune,
we'll chip in."
So the whole half-tipsy party reeled along the road, talking very loud,
to encourage themselves and the others, till they approached the church,
the spire of which stood up dark against the night sky.
"There's no lights in the windows," said one.
"No," observed the churchwarden, "I didn't notice any myself; it was
from the graves the music came, as if all the dead was squeakin' like
"Hush!" All kept silence--not a sound could be heard.
"I'm sure I heard music afore," said the churchwarden. "I'll bet a
gallon of ale I did."
"There ain't no music now, though," remarked one of the men.
"Nor more there ain't," said others.
"Well, I don't care--I say I heard it," asseverated the churchwarden.
"Let's go up closer."
All of the party drew nearer to the wall of the graveyard. One man,
incapable of maintaining his legs unaided, sustained himself on the arm
"Well, I do believe, Churchwarden Eggins, as how you have been leading
us a wild goose chase!" said a fellow.
Then the clouds broke, and a bright, dazzling pure ray shot down on a
grave in the churchyard, and revealed a little figure lying on it.
"I do believe," said one man, "as how, if he ain't led us a goose chase,
he's brought us after a Gander--surely that is little Joe."
Thus encouraged, and their fears dispelled, the whole half-tipsy party
stumbled up the graveyard steps, staggered among the tombs, some
tripping on the mounds and falling prostrate. All laughed, talked, joked
with one another.
The only one silent there was little Joe Gander--and he was gone to join
in the great symphony above.
Next: A Dead Finger