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Distant Homes; or the Graham Family in New Zealand

Chapter XXVI

page 182

Chapter XXVI.

The School Garden—Lucy learns to Paint—Aps's Savings—Patience.

Seeing the beautiful flowers at the farm, the natives, who try all they can to be like the English, began to make gardens, and beg flowers to fill them. Sandy was very proud of this, and had a perfect nursery, from which he supplied both natives and settlers. The school-house was very nearly complete, and was expected to be ready in a fortnight; that is to say, a fortnight sooner than the church, which was now ready to be roofed in; a proceeding they were very anxious to accomplish before December began, as even then there would be a great deal to do before it was completed.

Sandy arranged the school-garden to his own taste, and was particularly proud of his handy-work, always reminding Miss Lucy to “take her friens to the schul garden.”

Several friends in Christchurch were making enquiry for a schoolmistress, and had even written home, to find out whether any one would be tempted to come so far. At last, a lady from Auckland sent in her testimonials, signed by Bishop Selwyn, and several influential men. Captain Graham at once accepted her proposal, glad to think he had found any one who seemed so well qualified; and a very short time saw the lady—Miss Wright—settled in the page 183 school-house. She was an elderly woman, and had seen many changes and trials in this world; these had softened her temper, and changed a harsh and proud spirit into one such as a Christian ought to have; gentle, forgiving, and long-suffering, charitable, and thinking no evil. As such, therefore, she came. and at once made a favourable impression, winning their good opinion to begin with, and gradually gaining their love and respect.

One talent she possessed, which rendered her a great acquisition to the little community; she drew beautifully, not only landscapes, but likenesses; and seeing Tom's portrait one day, she took it away with her, and in a fortnight brought it back, with a beautiful and strikingly-correct coloured copy.

Then she painted Captain and Mrs. Graham, to send to Tom; then the view of the farm, to send to some one else; and, in fact, everything round, from the boat-house to Sandy's roses.

She also illuminated some texts for the church; and seeing Lucy had a taste for drawing, she took her in hand to teach her; so the next present her papa brought was a paint-box, pencils, and a roll of rough paper, which Aps was the first to make use of, as the day after they arrived, he was found shut up in the spare bedroom, with a large sheet of drawing paper spread on the floor, his face, hands, and paper, smeared with an immense variety of tints, while every cake of colour lent its aid to the general effect.

Lucy was very seldom angry with any one, how much less with little Aps; still it was really a trial to see her pretty clean paint-box in such a mess; and Lucy did get angry. She took hold of Aps, and slapped him soundly page 184 upon the back; then, bursting into tears, went off to her own room.

Mrs. Graham, hearing the noise, ran into the room, and discovered Aps standing, with what could be seen of his face below the streaks of paint, a deep crimson, while his eyes were full of tears; yet he was not crying. At his feet lay the picture he had been engaged on, the paints, paint-box, and soup-plate of water.

“What is it, child?” asked his Mamma. “What mischief are you in now?”

But Aps said nothing.

“Why don't you speak, Aps? Let me hear you do so. What is all this?”

“I was painting, and she whipped me. Yes, she whipped me:” and, as he spoke, two big tears rolled over his cheeks.

“Who whipped you?”

“Lucy did.”

“Why did you spoil her paints? You know little children should never take anything that does not belong to them.”

“But it is mine. Papa said he would bring me one, and he brought this.”

Mrs. Graham hesitated. She knew it was the case, and that Captain Graham had forgotten his promise until he saw the eager delight with which the little boy gazed upon the box and rows of bright colours. Then sitting down, she called Aps to her, and, taking him on her knee, explained how it all was— that his Papa forgot his promise, and had bought a very expensive one for Lucy, as she was old enough to take care of it; and that, from page 185 the way he had wet the colours, many of them would be quite spoilt, Papa's money be thrown away, and Lucy have to give up learning to paint for some time.

Aps was very near crying when his Mamma finished; but, after screwing his mouth round, gulped down the sob, and said, in a low, petulant voice,—

“I am so sorry, Mamma. What can I do? Lucy slapped me.”

“Go and ask her to forgive you, and tell her how it happened.”

“Oh Mamma, I cannot! She was so angry, and she shook me so. Will you go to her?”

“What should I say if I did? I did not offend her.”

“No, Mamma; but you might ask her to forgive me. She'll be sorry for slapping me now, I daresay.” And Aps's heart began to melt. “Perhaps, Mamma, I can buy her a new one.”

“How much money have you?”

Aps did not know, but ran off to bring it; and, while he was gone, his Mamma picked up the unfortunate box and paints, which had suffered more than she expected, and presented a truly-deplorable aspect, the cobalt being well rubbed with yellow ochre, and the lake into the indigo. Certainly poor Lucy had some excuse, if she was angry. Still Mrs. Graham was sorry she had struck her little brother, as a child never forgets such a thing, and it always leaves a painful feeling, however truly it may be forgiven and excused, perhaps even more strongly impressed upon the mind of the one who inflicts the punishment than the one who receives it,—years and years afterwards, when the little brother has grown to be a man, and gone page 186 forth to fight his own way in the wide world, or, perchance, has been taken to join the blessed army above, and is far beyond our kindness or penitence

Mrs. Graham knew all this, and felt sorry for her children, knowing Lucy would be very much grieved when the heat of her passion was over.

When Aps returned, he laid his pennies upon a chair, and put them one by one into his mother's lap, counting up to twelve and twelve. At last, he found he had actually collected nearly a pound, and could scarcely help jumping with joy when told the paint-box cost only eighteen shillings; so he had two shillings more than he wanted.

“I'll go to Lucy now, Mamma; only do come with me.”

“No, no, dear! Run off by yourself; give her a kiss, and tell her how sorry you are, and that you have counted your money to buy her another.”

Aps walked off; he would not run, as he felt, after all, Lucy had punished him, and should not have slapped him; so he walked quietly to her room, and opened the door ever so little. He saw Lucy bathing her face at the washing-stand; she did not hear him; so he stole in, and getting close up to her, whispered,—

“Don't be angry any more, dear Lucy. I am very sorry; but I've got two shillings more than will buy a new one, and I am going to get one directly for you.”

“Oh, never mind, dear! I was angry and vexed. I'll pick up the paints; and I daresay they will be all safe and right, after all. I should have locked the box.”

“Please kiss me, Lucy, and say you won't slap me again.”

page 187

Lucy had been thinking it was wrong to slap a child, ever since she gave way to her temper, so the tears started again; and taking her little brother up in her arms, she kissed him over and over again, telling him she would never slap him again; then she carried him back to the room, and collecting everything, put all in order; Aps all the while helping her diligently, and touching things as gently as if he was afraid of each of them breaking. Mrs. Graham saw, from Lucy's expressive face, that she had overcome her temper, so said nothing about the matter; and so, to all appearance, it was forgotten.

This little episode shewed Lucy that she must keep a guard upon her temper, and never think a little thing was of no consequence; but “watch and pray,” lest, at any time, some little event, like that which had just occurred, should happen, and she should give way before she knew what she was about. I think it did her a great deal of good, upon the whole, as she had been a little apt to think herself so very amiable and good-tempered, that nothing would put her out, and had once or twice given Beatrice quite a little lecture about showing her temper, which Beatrice very seldom did, and having really a very quick temper, she required to watch it continually; other wise she knew she would have said many things she would have regretted the next minute. Being thus always prepared, as it were, Beatrice, never showed temper more than by a heightened colour, and the tears rising involuntarily; and this her mother often saw, and knew what a noble struggle was going on in her child's breast. Lucy had naturally an easy temper. I mean, one that did not feel every passing touch, and, even when bruised or page 188 wounded, was easily appeased, and too indolent in itself to resent an injury, or take up a quarrel. Such tempers pass off as very praiseworthy; but, I think, the most to be admired is one like that of Beatrice Graham; one that is only kept in order by care, and requires a never-sleeping watchfulness. People who have such tempers will understand how many trials they meet with which nobody can ever know anything of, and to such I would say,—

“Go on patiently, and He who sees the thoughts of all hearts will strengthen and reward you.”