site logo

Little Joe Gander

Scary Books: A Book Of Ghosts

"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

you will."

Little Joe Lambole was a child of ten, dressed in second-hand, nay,

third-hand garments that did not fit. His coat
ad 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

ten months.

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

Mrs. Lambole.

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

no sinecure.

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."

"How much?"

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."

"Why not?"

"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

unnatural heart."

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

his eighteenpence.

"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."


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

this country?"

"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

of another.

"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.