OUR HERO

More than eighteen months had slid away since the day when Denham Ivor
had been summarily despatched with other détenus to Valenciennes. Once
or twice a letter from him had reached the Barons, but it was now
long since the arrival of the last. Whether Denham remained yet at
Valenciennes was a matter of supposition, not of certainty. For aught
that his friends knew to the contrary, he might have been passed on to
the grim fortress, Bitche, to Sédan, or elsewhere.

Roy continued to live at Verdun with his parents, for the long-desired
passport to England had never been granted. Though not compelled to
give his parole, or to sign his name twice daily at the _maison de
ville_, as were all détenus who did not care to pay a monthly tax for
freedom from this bugbear, he was practically as much one of Napoleon’s
prisoners as any man in the place.

One day in the spring of 1807 he stood upon the ramparts, gazing
eagerly towards the nearest town gate. Roy at sixteen was much the same
that Roy at twelve or fourteen had been, only decidedly taller and
broader. He looked almost as boyish as ever, with the same curly fair
hair and honest grey eyes. Not so good-looking, perhaps, as in more
childish days, but attractive enough.

To some extent habit does and must mean use. Four years out of a
boy’s life are a goodly slice of time, and Roy had now been four
years a captive, banished from England, and separated from his
twin-sister. He might and often did chafe and fume, and it had been a
sore disappointment not to find himself on his sixteenth birthday an
officer in the English Army. Still, he had good health and unquenchable
spirits, and however impatient he might be by fits and starts, no one
could have described him as unhappy. He had the gift of making the best
of things; and a certain breezy spirit of philosophy stood him in good
stead. Hard as it had been to find himself cut off from Molly for an
indefinite period, harder still to lose Denham, he managed on the whole
to enjoy life, finding entertainment in everything and everybody.

“I say. Hallo! There’s something going on,” he exclaimed.

Roy gazed with widely-opened eyes, trying to make out the cause of that
gathering throng.

Colonel Baron had gone into a neighbouring street on business, telling
Roy that he would meet him presently on the ramparts. Roy supposed
that he would be expected to remain where he was till his father should
return. But as he watched, the pull became too strong. Something
certainly was happening. What if Colonel Baron had forgotten all about
him, and had gone in that direction to discover what was being done?

Roy could endure himself no longer. He descended to the ground, set off
full tilt, and speedily reached the outskirts of the crowd, running
plump against the Rev. Charles Kinsland, who received the onslaught
with a “Hallo, Roy!”

“I beg your pardon, sir. What’s up?”

“A party of détenus back from Valenciennes, I believe,” the young
clergyman answered. “There was a report this morning that we might
expect them; and it seems to be true. Any friends of yours, I wonder?
There they come through the gate.”

Both pressed on, but Roy made the quicker advance, edging himself among
the crowd with great dexterity. The thought of Ivor had come up like
a flash of lightning. Not that he expected to see Denham himself–the
chance was too remote, the delight would be too supreme–but that some
news of him might now be obtained. Somebody who had arrived would
certainly have seen him, have talked with him. Roy might keep up his
spirits and enjoy life, despite partings and deprivations; but no one
who could have known how the boy’s heart leaped at the very idea of a
word about Ivor, would ever have accused him of lack of feeling.

He forced his way to a good position near the gate, and scanned face
after face of the returned wanderers. Many were familiar; but it was
one, not many, that Roy wanted; and though he had assured himself that
he did not expect, yet keen disappointment laid hold upon him when Ivor
failed to appear.

Greetings between friends parted for eighteen months passed warmly,
and the buzz of voices was considerable. Suddenly his glance fell upon
a man standing somewhat apart, leaning against a wall. A little child
lay asleep in his arms, and Roy’s first impression was of somebody who
was awfully tired with the march. He actually gazed full at the face
without recognition, so much was it altered; the features sharpened
into a delicate carving in very pale bronze, like a profile on some
rare old coin, and the dark eyes set in hollows. “Poor fellow; he does
look done!” thought Roy, and he went nearer.

“I say–hadn’t you better give me that little thing to hold?”

“Why–Roy!”

The voice too had a worn-out intonation, but the smile was not to be
mistaken.

“Den–you don’t mean to say—-”

Their hands met in a prolonged grip.

“You’ve come back! I _am_ glad!”

“Yes. How are you all?”

“Den–I say–what’s wrong with you?”

A man came limping up, in appearance a respectable artisan. He took the
child from Ivor’s arms.

“No words can thank you, sir, for your goodness to us,” he said, not
noticing Roy. “God will reward you. _I_ never can.”

“I shall be at Colonel Baron’s. Come and see me some day–tell me how
you’re getting on.”

“I will, sir. Thank you kindly.”

Ivor remained in the same position, and a hand touched Roy. He turned,
to find himself facing the young artist, Hugh Curtis.

“You back too! That’s good. And your wife?”

“Wife and baby coming. Didn’t you know I had a little one? Well, I
have. Jolly little thing too. They’re in a cart with others–thanks
to Captain Ivor”–in a lower tone. “Never mind about us; get him
home”–with a glance towards Denham. “I’ve got to find rooms for
ourselves, after I’ve been to the citadel. Must report myself there
first, I’m told. And then I shall have to meet my wife.”

Roy moved two or three paces away with him.

“I say, tell me–what’s been the matter with him? He looks as if—-”

“Not well for some time, and sharp attack of illness a few weeks ago.
He has walked the whole way here from Valenciennes. Got a horse for
himself, and at the last gave it up to young Carey–a poor consumptive
young fellow. Said Carey needed it most. Just like him, you know. And
then carrying that child for hours yesterday and to-day!”

“What for?”

“Child’s father hurt his foot, and could barely get along. And the
little thing cried with everybody except Ivor. You know his way with
children. But he’s about used up now. Get him home, and make him rest.”

Curtis went on, and Roy touched Denham’s arm.

“I’ll get a fiacre to drive you up the hill. Stay where you are till I
come back. There’s one near.”

He rushed away, and happily was successful in his search.

Ivor had taken his seat, when Major Woodgate walked briskly up.

“Roy–got Ivor? That’s right,” he said in his quick fashion. “Don’t
bring him to the citadel. I’ll go and answer for him, and fee the
gendarmes, if needful. Just met Curtis, and heard what’s been going on.
Done the hundred and fifty miles on foot, I’m told, and ill to begin
with. A piece of Quixotism! I shall come and give you a bit of my
mind, Ivor, another day. You don’t look up to understanding it now.”

Denham laughed slightly, but made no effort to defend himself, and they
drove off, Roy watching his restored friend with a rapt gaze.

“Den, what was it for? Why didn’t you ride?”

“I did intend. Somebody else was in more need.”

“Couldn’t you have had a second horse?”

“No. The order took everyone by surprise. Most of us were short of
cash.”

Roy thought of what Curtis had said. “And I suppose you gave what you
had to everybody else, and kept none for yourself.”

“I shared with others–of course–”

“But you ought to have kept enough for riding. You’d no business–Den,
you’re awfully used-up.”

“When did you hear from me last?”

“Oh, ages and ages ago. I began to think–Are you glad to come back?”

“To my friend, Roy? Yes,” with an affectionate glance.

“Isn’t it a beastly shame that I can’t be in the Army yet?”

“Ah, that sounds like the Roy of old!”

“But it is. A beastly shame. What made you carry that little girl?”

“Her father fell lame, and she didn’t take to other people, I could
not stand the wailing. He’s a good honest fellow–badly off through no
fault of his own.”

“Shame!” muttered Roy again. “What is the reason for your all being
sent back now, I wonder?”

“I don’t know.”

Ivor seemed incapable of starting remarks himself; and Roy, realising
his condition, sank into silence, unable still to take his eyes from
that worn face. They reached the house, and he sprang down. “Shall I go
and tell them?”

“No–no need. I’ll come. Can you pay the driver? I’m cleared out
completely.”

In the salon upstairs were Colonel and Mrs. Baron, and with them was
Lucille, as was often now her custom. She had gradually become almost
a member of the Baron family, and one and all they were extremely fond
of her. When Roy flung the door open, and marched triumphantly in,
his arm through Ivor’s, one startled “Ah-h!” broke from her, before
the other two had grasped what was happening; and then her face,
usually almost without colour, became crimson. Her eyes shone, the lips
remaining apart.

“Denham!” the Colonel and his wife exclaimed.

Colonel Baron’s grasp of Ivor’s hand and his fixed gaze were like those
of Roy. Mrs. Baron’s delight was even more plainly expressed. She had
long been as an elder sister to Denham, and when he bent to kiss her
hand, with the grave deference which he always showed towards her, she
did what she had never done before–gave him a sisterly kiss on the
cheek.

“This is joy! O this is joy,” she said. “Nothing else could be so great
a happiness–except going home. Welcome, welcome!” Then she held his
hand, with eyes full of tears searching his face. “But, my dear Denham,
you have been ill–surely you have been ill. How thin!–how altered!
What have you been doing to yourself?”

“He has walked the whole way here from Valenciennes,” cried Roy, before
Denham could speak. “He was to have ridden, and he gave up the horse to
somebody else.”

“Was that necessary?” the Colonel asked.

“I thought it so, sir.”

“Papa, he had no money left. That was why. He gave it all away. He
couldn’t even pay the driver, coming up here.”

“But you could have borrowed from somebody–you would know that I
should repay!”

“If I could have been sure, sir, that you would still be here–but
there was no certainty. And so many now are in difficulties, that it
is no easy matter to borrow–except by going to those whom I will have
nothing to do with.”

“How did you manage about food? My dear, make him sit down. How did you
manage?”

The question was disregarded. “Any letters?” Ivor asked.

“One from Mrs. Fairbank a few weeks since. That is all. Good accounts
of Polly and Molly. Have you not heard from them?”

“Not since leaving Verdun.”

“They may not have heard of your going to Valenciennes. Did you see a
statement in the _Moniteur_ not long since, as to correspondence with
England? To the effect that more than a hundred thousand letters had
been taken possession of by the French Government, and bills to the
value of millions of pounds sterling.”

“No wonder we détenus are not flush of cash! No, I did not see it. That
may have been when I was ill.”

“You have been ill, then?”

“Yes. Nothing to signify. How did Mrs. Fairbank’s letter reach you?
Post?”

“Through M. de Marchand–under cover to him. We have advised her
repeatedly to try again that mode, since it seems the most hopeful. But
doubtless our letters don’t reach them.”

Lucille, after exchanging a warm English handshake with Denham, had
held back, waiting her opportunity to slip away. She glided now towards
the door, unseen by Ivor, who was gazing thoughtfully on the ground.
Roy ran to open it, and she said softly as she went out, “Do not be
merciless to your friend. Give him some small repose. He is what you
call–dead-beat.”

Roy nodded. “You always did seem to see exactly how Den was, didn’t
you?”

Lucille made her escape promptly, with heightening colour, and Ivor
asked, “Where is the letter?”

“Roy has it, put away,” Mrs. Baron said. “It is partly to Roy and
partly to my husband. But you need food and sleep before anything else.”

“Nay, if you knew how we have travelled and slept at night, you
would allow the more pressing need to be for a bath and a change of
clothing,” Ivor said, rather drily. “Well, since you can assure me that
’tis all good news, I will wait half-an-hour.”

“And then I’ll read it to you, if you like,” observed Roy. “It isn’t
very interesting, Den. More than half is from my grandmother to my
father; and you know how she writes always of the things which nobody
wishes to near. And the rest is from Molly to me. But as for Polly, my
grandmother does not say much–does she?” with a look at his mother.
“Save that Polly is well.”

“Which point settled, I will beg, if I may, for a supply of water,”
Ivor replied.

(_To be continued._)

HOUSEHOLD HINTS.

MANY people think night air injurious and carefully close their windows
even in hot weather, whereas, in towns, the night air is the purest
and best, free from smoke and other impurities. And the sleep is more
restful where there is some fresh air coming into the room of the
sleeper.

A LITTLE powdered borax on a damp flannel cleans dirt off white marble
and china basins.

WHEN the edges of palm leaves in pots get torn and unsightly, they can
be cut and trimmed with a pair of scissors.

WHEN tortoiseshell combs get to look dull, polish them with a little
olive oil with the hand. If very bad, soak them in oil for a few hours.

IN case of fire in a house, if the staircase be alight and retreat that
way be impossible, the inhabitants should shut all the doors behind
them and wait in a front room till help comes. A window that is over a
doorway is preferable as there is then foothold for the firemen. If it
is possible to escape otherwise, crawl on hands and knees on the floor
rather than walk upright, for smoke rises and the nearer the floor
the clearer the air. In any case doors and windows should be shut to
prevent a draught.

IF you do not want the smell of dinner all over the house, see that
the slide over the kitchen range is open for the smell to go up the
chimney. You will also save your coal bill largely if you keep this
slide open except only when it is wanted closed for a short time to
make a fire fiercer.

THE seeds of the first blossoms on a plant or flowering shrub grow into
the best plants.

BREAD AND CAKES.

HOUSEHOLD BREAD.

_Ingredients._–Three pounds and a half of flour (household), about one
pint and a quarter of warm water, one dessertspoonful and a half of
salt, one ounce of dry yeast, one ounce of moist sugar.

_Method._–Put the flour and salt in an earthenware pan, and mix well
together; put the pan to warm; work the yeast to a cream with the
sugar, and add to it a gill and a half of the warm water. Make a well
in the flour and mix in the yeast and water, so that there is a soft
batter in the middle of the flour; sprinkle flour over this, lay a
cloth over the pan and put it in a warm place for fifteen minutes to
set the sponge; then stir in the rest of the water; flour the board and
knead the dough for about twenty minutes until very elastic; replace
it in the pan with a deep cross scored on the top to help it to rise,
cover up and put in a warm place to rise one hour and a half. Make into
loaves and bake; the oven should be very hot at first and moderate
for the rest of the time. A quartern loaf will take nearly two hours
to cook. If the water used is hot instead of warm, the yeast will be
killed and will not act.

[Illustration]

GINGERBREAD.

_Ingredients._–One pound of flour, six ounces of golden syrup, four
ounces of brown sugar, four ounces of dripping, one ounce of ground
ginger, two teaspoonfuls of carbonate of soda, one teaspoonful of mixed
spice, two-thirds of a gill of milk.

_Method._–Put the flour, sugar, ginger and spice in a basin and mix
well together; put the treacle, milk, soda and dripping in a saucepan
and melt over the fire; pour the contents of the saucepan into the
contents of the basin, mix well, beat for five minutes, pour in a
greased tin and bake in a moderate oven.

[Illustration]

SCONES.

_Ingredients._–One pound of flour, two ounces of dripping, three
ounces of sugar, half an ounce of cream of tartar, one teaspoonful of
carbonate of soda, milk to mix, a few sultanas (floured and picked).

_Method._–Mix the tartar and the soda well with the flour in a basin,
rub in the dripping, add the sugar and sultanas, mix with milk rather
more soft than for pastry, roll into two thick rounds, cut each into
six equal pieces, lay on a floured tin, brush over the top with milk
and bake in a good oven twenty minutes. Plain scones can be made by
leaving out the sultanas and the sugar. These scones are best made with
milk that is slightly sour.

[Illustration]

PLUM CAKE.

_Ingredients._–One pound of flour, six ounces of dripping, six
ounces of brown sugar, six ounces of sultanas (floured and picked),
four ounces of currants (washed and dried), one teaspoonful of baking
powder, two eggs, one gill and a half of milk.

_Method._–Put the dripping in a basin and work it to a cream with a
wooden spoon; mix the flour with the baking powder and stir it into the
dripping; stir in the currants, sultanas and sugar, and last of all the
eggs beaten up with the milk. Put in a well-greased cake tin, and stand
the tin on a thickly-sanded baking sheet. Bake in a hot oven for an
hour and then in a cooler oven for another half an hour.

[Illustration]

SEED CAKE.

_Method._–Make like plum cake, using an ounce of caraway seeds for the
sultanas and currants, and a little less milk.

[Illustration]

UNFERMENTED BREAD.

_Ingredients._–One pound of flour, one tablespoonful of baking powder,
milk and water to mix, one teaspoonful of salt.

_Method._–Mix together to a soft dough; make into six rolls, brush
with milk and bake in a sharp oven fifteen minutes.

[Illustration]

POTATO CAKE.

_Ingredients._–Three-quarters of a pound of mashed potatoes, half a
pound of flour, two ounces of butter, one teaspoonful of salt, one
small teaspoonful of baking-powder, one egg, half a gill of lukewarm
milk.

_Method._–Melt the butter, and mix it with the mashed potatoes, mix in
the flour and baking powder, add egg well beaten and the lukewarm milk.
Flour the board, roll into a thick round, lay on a floured and greased
tin, and bake in a good oven about three-quarters of an hour.

[Illustration]

ROCK CAKES.

_Ingredients._–Half a pound of flour, two ounces of currants (washed
and dried), two ounces of sultanas, two ounces of dripping, two ounces
of brown sugar, one ounce of candied peel, one teaspoonful of ground
ginger, one teaspoonful of baking powder, one egg, a little milk.

_Method._–Mix the flour and baking powder in a basin, rub in the
dripping, add the currants and the sultanas, sugar, peel and ginger,
mix very stiffly with egg and milk; pile in little rough heaps on a
greased tin with two forks and bake in a good oven ten minutes.

[Illustration]

CITRON BUNS.

_Ingredients._–Half a pound of flour, two ounces of margarine, two
ounces of brown sugar, one teaspoonful of baking powder, one egg, a
little milk, three ounces of citron.

_Method._–Mix the flour with the baking powder, rub in the margarine
with the tips of the fingers, add the sugar; cut eight good-sized
pieces of the citron peel and chop the rest small; mix the chopped
citron with the other ingredients, and then add the egg beaten with a
little milk. Mix rather wet; divide into eight, lay on a greased tin,
lay a piece of citron on each cake and bake for fifteen minutes in a
good oven.

[Illustration]

SHORTBREAD.

_Ingredients._–One pound of flour, three-quarters of a pound of
butter, half a pound of castor sugar.

_Method._–Rub six ounces of the butter into the flour and sugar, melt
the rest and mix it in; work a little with the hands to form a dough;
roll into two thick rounds and pinch them round the edge with the
fingers to ornament them. Prick over the top with a fork or a biscuit
pricker; put two or three large pieces of candied peel on each and bake
about half an hour in a moderate oven.

[Illustration]

RICE CAKES.

_Ingredients._–Three ounces of ground rice, two ounces of flour, three
ounces of butter, three ounces of castor sugar, two eggs, vanilla.

_Method._–Beat the butter to a cream with a wooden spoon, add the
sugar and cream to that; stir in the ground rice with the flour by
degrees; add the eggs well beaten and the flavouring; fill greased
patty pans and bake in a moderate oven fifteen minutes.

[Illustration]

ALMOND CAKES.

_Ingredients._–Eight ounces of flour, four ounces of butter, five
ounces of castor sugar, four eggs, three ounces of almonds, half a
pound of icing sugar, a little almond flavouring, a little water.

_Method._–Beat the butter to a cream with a wooden spoon, stir in the
sugar, beat in the eggs one by one, putting a little flour with each to
prevent its curdling, stir in the rest of the flour after the eggs are
beaten in, lastly the almonds blanched and chopped. Brush some little
cake moulds with clarified butter and dust them with mixed castor sugar
and flour; fill these three-parts full with the cake mixture and bake
in a good oven a pale brown, turn out on to a sieve, and when cold ice
as follows.

_Icing._–Sift half a pound of icing sugar and mix it very smoothly
with a little cold water and enough almond essence to flavour it until
it is just thick enough to coat the cakes, pour over and let it set.
Put a crystallised cherry on each, and arrange strips of blanched
almonds to ornament.

[Illustration]

CHOCOLATE CAKE.

_Ingredients._–Half a pound of flour, quarter of a pound of grated
chocolate, three ounces of butter, six ounces of castor sugar, four
eggs, one small teaspoonful of baking powder, vanilla flavouring, a
little browning.

_For the Icing._–Half a pound of icing sugar, three ounces of
chocolate, a little water and browning.

_Method._–Beat the butter to a cream, add the castor sugar and the
grated chocolate; beat the eggs in one at a time, putting a little
flour with each; add the flour, the vanilla flavouring and a little
browning. Have ready a cake tin brushed out with clarified butter and
lined with buttered paper; put in the mixture, which should three parts
fill it, and bake in a good oven about one hour and a half.

_For the Icing._–Melt three ounces of chocolate; mix the icing sugar
with about four tablespoonfuls of warm water and stir in the melted
chocolate; work well with a wooden spoon and pour over the cake when it
is cold.

[Illustration]

ROSCOMMON LOAF.

_Ingredients._–One pound of wholemeal flour, quarter of a pound of
household flour, one ounce and a half of butter or dripping, half a
teaspoonful of carbonate of soda, one teaspoonful of salt, sour milk to
mix.

_Method._–Mix the flour, salt and soda well in a basin, rub in the
dripping, mix to a rather soft dough with the sour milk; make into a
flat loaf, score across with a knife, and bake in a good oven one hour
and a half.




Do you think we are going to advocate that all of us should retire
to dreamland to pass a drowsy existence there with the creations of
our fancy? Who thinks that is mistaken. It is not possible to put
everything in the title, otherwise we might have made this one run,
“Wanted: a little more imagination for those who, at the right times,
have not enough, and a little less for those who, on all possible
occasions, have too much.” But it is the “too little” which is of most
importance for the purposes of ordinary life, and that is why the title
stands above as it does. Our first business is to be practical and to
speak of imagination as an aid in the work and conduct and duty of
every day.

Of all powers possessed by our minds this is perhaps the most
wonderful–the power of making pictures inside our heads, seeing there
what eyes know nothing of and what outside ourselves has really no
existence. It gives an importance–a glory even–to the most obscure
and solitary lives. Possessed of a vivid and healthy imagination, a
girl may live very much alone and yet be full of company, entertaining
a ghostly good society that in some respects is even an improvement on
that frequented by her less isolated friends.

Everything is the better for being shone on by its magic light–even
love. Imagination, someone says, is to love what gas is to the
balloon–that which raises it from the earth! It is, as we all know,
the test of genius; but it is found, too, in ordinary people as a
useful servant. Indeed, take imagination altogether out of our inner
life and we would be very poor creatures.

However, as we have said, we have sometimes not enough. This happens,
for example, when we fail to look at things in a spirit of kindliness,
and give utterance to criticism on other folk, hard, harsh, and
unreasonable.

Matter-of-fact minds usually fail to realise that all are not alike
and that allowance–and a wide allowance too–should be made for
differences both in thought and action. For this reason we find them
often wanting in sympathy and sometimes even cruel.

This the imaginative seldom are. “Put yourself in her place” is their
golden rule–the best rule that was ever devised for enabling us to go
through the world adding daily to the happiness of it.

Only have a little more imagination and you will be tolerant and kindly
and ready to make excuses not only for those you love, which is easy,
but for those you dislike, which, as everyone knows, is a much harder
matter. The “little more” will make Kate shut her mouth again the next
time it flies open to let out a rude, abrupt, or unreasonable word. It
will make Eliza pay that little account she has been owing for the last
six months without a thought in all that time of the dressmaker needing
the money. It will make Maggie give up grumbling that Beatrice writes
to her so seldom, as if Beatrice has the leisure,–she the eldest of a
great bunch of sisters and her mother an invalid. It will make Eva cut
her visit short next time she calls on Alice, so leaving hard-worked
Alice to get through her school tasks for the morrow without sitting up
to all hours of the night. In fact, what will it not do in the way of
giving smoothness to the wheels of life?

Imagination is a first-rate faculty by which to obtain a look at
ourselves, and when we get a little more of it, it is like turning up
the gas to get a clearer view. We see ourselves then as others see us,
and a pretty exhibition it sometimes is. If a girl is vain, frivolous,
whimsical, selfish, vulgar, mean, she in this way gets to know it.
There is thus always hope for the imaginative–they can realise what
they are, and, without self-knowledge, what chance of reformation is
there for anybody?

Our friend Josephine, for example, came to us the other day, keen
on being an authoress; but Josephine, it is clear, has next to no
imagination. With only a few grains of it, she would have seen that
becoming an authoress is for her impossible, because what she wants is
publishers’ and editors’ cheques and what she does not want is trouble.

A well-trained imagination–not one inclined to run riot; no, certainly
not that sort of a one–is of great assistance in enabling us rightly
to sum up people and things. Our critical faculties are worth little
and only lead us into mischief and mistakes without it. Possessed of
only a “little more,” not a few of us would often be saved from being
misled by appearances and enabled to steer clear of the troubles that
come from drawing wrong inferences. The world is a difficult enough
world to live in, for things are but seldom what they seem, and some
art, like this one we are talking about, is needed by which we can
illuminate life and get at the real essence of all that interests us.

Another use of imagination is in the reading of books, and on this
subject no one has written better than the late Professor Blackie,
who held very decided opinions about the importance of having the
imaginative faculty properly trained.

“As there are many persons,” he says, “who seem to walk through life
with their eyes open seeing nothing, so there are others who read
through books, and perhaps even cram themselves with facts, without
carrying away any living pictures of significant story which might
arouse the fancy in an hour of leisure or gird them with endurance in a
moment of difficulty.

“Ask yourself, therefore, always when you read a chapter of any notable
book, not what you saw printed on a grey page, but what you see
pictured in the glowing gallery of your imagination. Have your fancy
always vivid and full of body and colour. Count yourself not to know a
fact when you know that it took place, but then only when you see it as
it did take place.”

These words form as valuable a note on the art of reading as we are
likely to meet with for many a day.

To train the imagination adequately, the Professor points out, it
is not enough that pictures be made to float pleasantly before the
fancy–that is merely the amusement of the lazy. We should call upon
our imagination to take a firm grasp of the shadows as they arise,
and not be content till we see them with our minds almost as clear,
distinct, and life-like as we might have done with our eyes.

For the culture of the imagination, works of fiction are no doubt of
great service, but the most useful exercise of this faculty is when it
buckles itself to realities.

“There is no need,” says the Professor, “of going to romances for
pictures of human character and fortune calculated to please the fancy
and to elevate the imagination. The life of Alexander the Great, of
Martin Luther, of Gustavus Adolphus, or any of those notable characters
on the great stage of the world who incarnate the history which they
create, is for this purpose of more educational value than the best
novel that ever was written or even the best poetry. Not all minds
delight in poetry; but all minds are impressed and elevated by an
imposing and a striking fact. To exercise the imagination on the
lives of great and good men brings with it a double gain; for by this
exercise we learn at a single stroke, and in the most effective way,
both what was done, and what ought to be done.”

What is true of the value of imagination to the student of books is
equally true of its importance to all who devote attention to music
and art. Without imagination, the pursuit of either is little better
than a waste of time, and the more of it we bring to their culture,
the more successful we shall be. Let girls, then, and their parents
and teachers, look to it and do what they can to encourage this most
spiritual of all our faculties, the very life of artistic effort, and a
magician to whom everything is possible.

A great and good use of imagination is to reproduce to us our past
lives. It is something more than memory. Memory says I was at such
a place on a certain day, but imagination brings up the place–the
Highland loch, it may be, in the glory of an autumn morning, the purple
heather on the hills, the steamer at the pier, the hotel overlooking
the steamer, the young man in the coffee-room smiling to the landlord’s
daughter, the taste of the fresh salmon, the very smell of the burned
oat-cake.

“All that is past,” says Bacon, “is as a dream,” and by imagination we
can dream it all over again. And the recollection is sometimes better
than the reality, just as in moonlight our village looks more lovely
than in sunshine. Sentiment whispers then in our ear, and a halo is
thrown over the unsightly and disagreeable.

An additional charm too is that many a problem which may have puzzled
us when things actually happened, is solved before we begin to look
back. The relationship of people, lovers and lasses, friends and foes,
sharpers and simpletons, has been made plain; the foolish have got
their deserts and the wise have got theirs; the envious have grown
lean and the good-natured and kindly have become fat; the wasters have
fallen to poverty and the industrious have risen to fortune.

Such changes as these give value and interest to our recollections when
we wake the ghosts of the past and make them parade before us. We are
able in a way which was impossible before to be actors, spectators, and
enlightened critics–all three rolled in one.

Girls who have now but little short lives, with comparatively few
incidents to recall, can hardly realise what a gratification this
wandering over the enchanted ground of imagination imparts to mature
years. If they did they would often be saying to themselves, How will
this look in recollection? And such a thought would keep them from
many a frivolity and many an error. But, short lives or long lives,
let us go over our past often if for no other reason than that we may
understand ourselves, not to speak of our gaining such knowledge as
will enable us to steer a safe course through the perils of the future.

Speaking of the future reminds us that that is a great territory of the
imaginative. By imagination girls are witches to foretell what is to
happen the day after to-morrow.

Now we spend our time ill if we build castles in the air and trust to
them as if they were substantial edifices. But, for all that, to let
the imagination dwell on what is yet to come has its uses and may be a
valuable help to conduct.

Castles in the air and dreams, too hopelessly extravagant ever to be
realised have brightened many dull and monotonous lives, and for that
reason alone, within bounds, are to be encouraged. Besides this there
is an important gain resulting from our projecting the imagination into
the future–we are thereby prepared for many events which now find us
quite unprepared.

The grasshoppers were wanting in imagination who danced and sang all
summer-time. They should have pictured to themselves the snow on the
ground, the pools frozen over, and the wind whistling through the bare
branches.

A well-to-do man once said to us, “I have all my life had a vision of
a workhouse door open to receive me if I did not plod on, rising early
and working hard. It is that which has made me saving and prosperous.”

A similar vision might work a change on some people we know. Bring your
own self forward, Louisa, in the glittering hall of that imagination of
yours, picturing yourself as old and disinclined for work, and see if
ever after you will not be industrious, wise, and prudent.

“For age and want save while you may,
No morning sun lasts a whole day.”

A little more imagination may often be recommended to the good
looking, not forgetting all who think themselves so. Perhaps we
should rather say a little more of the right sort, for they indulge
in flights of fancy enough when it is a matter of picturing those
brought into captivity by their charms. They should leave considering
their conquests and captives and make an effort to realise what they
themselves will be, say, at fifty or sixty, if they live so long. The
beauty and attractiveness of youth will then be over, and unless they
have something else to recommend them, their place will be on one of
the back seats of human life.

This should set them furnishing the inside of their heads as richly
as Nature has done the outside. Beauty vanishes, but mental culture
endures and is found attractive, and even charming, to the very end of
the chapter. There are few sadder sights than that of a beauty in ruins
with an untrained intellect and none more refreshing than that of a
bright old wrinkled face, with a mind behind it stored with information
and animated by shrewdness and good nature.

There is danger in all things, for all–yes, even the best–may be
misused. Imagination is a friendly help to elevate, direct, and
brighten our lives as we have seen, but that does not happen with
the foolish. Instead of occupying this wondrous faculty with what is
profitable and beautiful, they devote it to what is degrading and mean,
and thus become a great deal worse with imagination than they would be
without it.

And, even where its subjects are not positively objectionable,
imagination sometimes wastes its energy on whimsicalities and runs riot
in the broad fields of extravagance and nonsense. Of such a nature was
the fertile fancy of an old friend of ours who, to the end of her days,
showed great reverence for dogs and cats because she believed them
animated by the souls of her ancestors.

A very silly use of imagination is to picture to ourselves suspicions,
dangers and misfortunes. Some of us have a great deal of ability in
this line, and endure torments daily over evils that never arrive.

“Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you” is a safe rule, and
only a stupid girl will set her imagination working so as to make
herself miserable. Caroline, we fear, is of the stupid class–no
doubt, Caroline, it is on this occasion only–or she would at once get
rid of the dreadful thought she imparted to us last Tuesday that the
letters sent to her by her sweetheart were detained at the post office
and read. As if the postmistress, even in her country place, had not
something better to do!

Another danger of the imagination is that we are apt to take refuge in
it against the duties of real life. In real life there is friction,
and there is nothing of that in dreamland. We can make that pleasant
country to suit ourselves, without irritation, without contradiction,
without mishaps, everything coming just right. Our business, however,
in the world is not to dream but to act, for which reason this great
gift of imagination must be kept in its proper place. It is a good
servant, but, by foolish indulgence, may become a very bad master.

But, after making all allowances for dangers–those we have named and
others that might be stated–the fact remains that to the greater
number of us a little more imagination would not come amiss. It would
make our lives richer, and happier, more useful, more kindly, more
sensible. It is only a “little more” that is wanted. That any of us
are entirely destitute of it is improbable. To be “dry sticks” is not
common for girls.

[Illustration]

AN EMBROIDERED BABY’S CARRIAGE COVERLID OF HOUSE FLANNEL.

I was recently asked by a lady friend to design her a simple piece of
embroidery for her child’s pram. The chief thing was, that the design
was not to be elaborate, as there was very little time to work it.

The illustration here given is the design I made, but it has a very
different appearance in black and white to what it had when worked in
two tones of blue worsted on house flannel. Still, those readers who do
embroidery will know what allowances to make.

I sketched the design right away in charcoal, and anyone at all
accustomed to using a pencil will have no difficulty in doing this.
Divide your material in half, and then draw a line in the middle
horizontally, and others above and below this. These lines will guide
you in getting both sides fairly alike, for, so long as the principal
lines are symmetrical, it is enough. I found you can easily sketch in
vine charcoal (that is the fine kind) on flannel and it easily dusts
off afterwards.

The whole of the forms were produced in outline, and to show the
sort of stitch, I have given a leaf full size. The ground is soon
covered in this way, and it hasn’t a cheap look either. The fault
many embroiderers make in carrying out a design is that they miss the
“swing” of the lines, get broken-backed curves and clumsy-looking
details. To obviate this you ought to keep looking at your work as a
whole. Dwelling too long on any part of the design is likely to upset
the balance of the whole.

[Illustration]

It is obvious that in the design given the stems are the first features
to be worked, as the leaves and flowers merely grow from them and are
of secondary importance. It will add to the grace of the design to
get the lower part of the stems gradually thicker, say two strands
wide towards the base, just as in nature we find a plant gradually
thickening as it nears the root.

It will be noticed that a separate border is designed for the piece at
the top which turns over. The coverlid should have a worked edging, and
to get this even a few niches should be spaced out and drawn on a piece
of tracing paper and then pricked over with a coarse needle.

All you have to do is to rub a little crushed charcoal, tied up in a
piece of coarse linen or muslin, on the reverse side, when the powdered
charcoal will pass through the holes leaving an impression which can be
worked over at once.

Where a border is distinctly geometrical, it should be done evenly, and
the eye is not quite correct enough if left to itself, and much of the
workmanlike look of the whole would be marred if this edging were badly
done. The right initial or name can be added or left out if desired. In
the latter case put in a flower and a leaf or two.

Those readers who have never worked on house flannel will find it a
pleasant material, and for portières and short curtains very excellent
both in effect and for wear.

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