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David's Little Lad

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  David's Little LadBy L.T. MeadeIllustrations by H. PetherickPublished by John F. Shaw and Co, 48 Paternoster Row, London EC.This edition dated 1890.

  David's Little Lad, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________DAVID'S LITTLE LAD, BY L.T. MEADE.



  Yes, I, Gwladys, must write it down; the whole country has heard of it,the newspapers have been full of it, and from the highest to the lowestin the land, people have spoken of the noble deed done by a few Welshminers. But much as the country knows, and glad and proud as thecountry is, I don't think she knows quite all--not exactly what motherand I know; she does not know the heart history of those ten days. Thisis the story within the other well-known story, which I want to writehere.


  On a certain sunny afternoon in September, 1876, I was seated up in thewindow of the old nursery. I say _in_ the window, for I had got my bodywell up on the deep oak seat, had flattened my nose against the pane,and was gazing with a pair of dismal eyes down on the sea, and on somecorn-fields and hay-fields, which in panoramic fashion stretched beforemy vision.

  Yes, I was feeling gloomy, and my first remark, after an interval ofsilence, was decidedly in keeping with my face and heart.

  "Gwen," I said, "what is it to be buried alive?" Gwen, who was singingher charge to sleep to a lively Welsh air, neither heeded nor heard me.

  "Gwen!" I repeated in a louder key.

  "Men are false and oft ungrateful, Derry derry dando,"

  sang Gwen, rocking the baby, as she sang, in the most dexterous manner.

  Gwen had a beautiful voice, and I liked the old air, so I stayed myimpatient question to listen.

  "Maids are coy and oft deceitful, Derry derry dando, Few there are who love sincerely, Down a derry down. Say not so, I love thee dearly, Derry derry down down, Derry down down derry."

  "None but thee torment and teaze me, Derry derry dando,"

  I shouted in my impetuous manner, and leaving my seat, I went noisily toher side.

  "Gwen, I _will_ be heard. I have not another soul to speak to, and youare so cross and disagreeable. What is it to be buried alive?"

  "'Tis just like you, Gwladys," said Gwen, rising indignantly. "Justafter two hours of it, when I was getting the darling precious lamb offto sleep, you've gone and awoke him. Dear, dear! good gracious! therenever was such a maid!"

  Gwen retired with the disturbed and wailing baby into the night nursery,and I was left alone.

  "None but thee torment and teaze me, Derry derry dando,"

  I sang after her.

  Then I returned to my seat on the window-sill, curled myself up tighterthan ever, flattened my nose again against the pane, and began to thinkout my dismal thoughts.

  Yes, my thoughts were undoubtedly dismal, and very melancholy must myeyes have looked, and absurdly long and drawn down the corners of mymouth. Had anybody been there to see, they must have pronounced mesentimental in the extreme; but no one was by, and--there was the rub--that was the reason I looked so melancholy. Even Gwen, rocking baby tosleep, could be disturbed at least by my long drawn sighs, but Gwen hadretired into the night nursery, out of reach of my despondency, andthough I could hear her cheerful voice in the distance, she certainlycould no longer hear me. I was utterly alone.

  I pressed my face against the window pane, and gazed at the scene beforeme. It was a fair scene enough. A broad sweep of sea, the wavessparkling in the sunshine--some rugged rocks--a little patch of whitesand; all this lay close. In the distance were some hills,magnificently clothed. To the right, I saw oak, ash, beech, in theirautumn dress; to the left, yellow fields of corn, an orchard or two;some mowers were cutting down the corn, and laughing merrily; somechildren were eating apples in the orchards--over all a gentle breezestirred, and the sun shone out of an almost cloudless sky.

  Yes, the scene was very fair, but I did not appreciate it. My eyes hadrested on those trees, and those hills, and that sea all my life--I wastired of the unvarying monotony. Nothing wearied me so much as whenvisitors came to stay with mother, visitors who did not know ourcountry, and who consequently went into raptures over our Welsh scenery.I am quite sure now that the raptures were genuine, but at the timethey seemed to me very like duty talk. I always listenedcontemptuously; I always answered carelessly, "Oh, yes, the place iswell enough;" and I always thought bitterly in my heart of hearts.

  It is easy for you, fine sir or madam, to speak and to admire, who needonly stay in this place for a week or fortnight, but what if you had tolive here _always_, from year's end to year's end. If you had to seethe meadows, and orchards, and sea, and the old grey house, and thetrees and sky--in short, all the fair landscape, not only in its summerglory, but in its winter desolation, would not the country then appear alittle tiresome to you? Might you not then find an occasional visit toCardiff, and an occasional ride across the fields, and a far fromoccasional stay at home, slightly wearying, and might it not possiblyoccur to you that yours was a dull life? For this was my fate. I hadalways lived at Tynycymmer. I had always seen the hills clothed withtrees in the distance; I had always watched the ripening fruit in theorchards, and the ripening corn in the fields. In short, I was a Welshgirl who had never gone out of Wales in her life. Never had I even seenGloucester, never had I set foot on English soil.

  Circumstances too many to mention had conspired to thus isolate me. Ihad once paid a visit, when a little child, to North Wales, but all therest of my sixteen years had been spent with mother, at Tynycymmer, inthe county of Glamorganshire. A rich country, a rambling, romantic oldhome, a fair scene, where gentle care had tended me, this Iacknowledged, but I also knew that I was tired, weary, sick of it all.

  With my absurdly dismal face gazing outward, I repeated the question tomyself, which nurse Gwen had refused to answer; "What is it to be buriedalive?"

  The question had arisen in my mind from a paragraph in a local paper,which I had seen to-day.

  This paragraph was headed "_Buried alive_."

  It contained an account of some colliers in a not very distant part ofGlamorganshire, who had been killed in a mining accident, truly buriedin their full health and strength by the sudden giving way of a columnof coal.

  I had read the paragraph aloud to mother and David at breakfast.

  I had seen David's face flush and then grow pale, had heard mother say,"That place is not far from Ffynon; I am glad the accident did nothappen in our mine, David."

  "Thank God! and it might have been," from David.

  Then mother added--

  "Things will mend in the old place soon, my son."

  "I trust so," from David.

  Then expressions of pity and sympathy from both pairs of lips, for theinjured and killed.

  In this sympathy I had freely joined, for I was not hard-hearted; then Ihad forgotten the circumstance. The widows and children in the dismalcoal country might be weeping and mourning, but I, Gwladys Morgan, in myfair home, in this fair land, had no room for them in my selfish heart.In half an hour I had ceased to remember the paragraph in the _HerefordTimes_, all but its heading. But the heading, as I said, haunted me; ithad another meaning besides going down into the bowels of the earth, andfinding its walls close round one, and feeling oneself shut into aliving tomb. It had another meaning besides the palpable and materialhorror of slow starvation and of coming madness. Of these things Icould form no conception, but I could conceive of other t
hings, and feelthem through and through my childish and inexperienced heart. Iimagined another meaning to the words, and this meaning I hunted up andpondered over, with a deeper and deeper melancholy, adding strength tomy gloom.

  Having roused up the skeleton, I clothed it with flesh, I filled itsveins with warm young blood, I made its limbs fair and round, I gave toits face the healthy hue of youth, I coloured its eyes blue, and itshair a golden brown, and I called it, when I had given it life andbeing, Gwladys Morgan.

  I took this fair young person of my creation, and buried her in a livingtomb; true, the fresh air of heaven still blew upon her, the sun shoneover her head, and the flowers blossomed at her feet. She could walkthrough lovely gardens, she could watch the coming and going of thefresh tide, on the fresh ocean, she could repose at night in the softestof beds, in a spacious oak-lined room. She could receive counsel andlove, from the kind and tender lips of mother and brother. All this shecould have, but still