Recollections of John Pounds: When Mr. Lemmon went on a School Ramble by Reverend Henry Hawkes
“Mr. Lemmon, did you ever go with him on any of these pleasant rambles?” – “Once, seven or eight years ago; I can’t say exactly what year. It was in the spring of the year; in the merry month of May! as Johnny likes to call it. And a very pleasant day’s ramble it was. I remember it all as clear as if it was yesterday. And many’s the time I’ve thought of it with pleasure since.”
“I should like to hear all about it, if it would not be troubling you too much,”
“Oh, no trouble, Sir. My times my own; for I happen to have nothing to do this morning. And I shall like to live it over again!”
“Yes; one of the great, – the invaluable blessings of happy memories!” – I said. “And in this manner, our good old friend may now be giving some of those children, going with him this fine autumnal day, the same kind of happiness, for them to live over and over again, at happy intervals, through life! – some of them, perhaps, to brighten their old age, and delight others with.”
“Yes,” he said, in a deep earnest tone of feeling: – “so he has been doing for hundreds! – Dear old Johnny! – Sailors out at sea; soldiers, in barracks, and in hospitals; think of John Pounds; and bless him!”
Lizzy brought a little stool, and placed it beside her grandfather’s knee, and sat down, to hear all about the day’s ramble.
“The evening before he intended to ramble with his scholars,” Mr. Lemmon said, “Johnny called upon me, and said, Lemmon, we’re going to have a bit of a walk over the Hill tomorrow, – my little vagabonds and me; – (he always talks of them so; but its all in kindness;) – will you go with us? I said, Yes, I thought I should like it; if it was a fine day! No fear of that, he said; we shall have a fine day tomorrow; you’ll see.
And it was a fine day! one of the most beautiful days, in that bright, rejoicing month of May!” – It was delightful to see Mr. Lemmon warm up so glowingly to the happy remembrance! All was living to him afresh!
“We were to start at seven o’clock. Johnny was up at five; getting things ready. For all those of his scholars that were going, might come and have breakfast with him, at six o’clock. And a good large party he had for breakfast. And the breakfast he got ready for them was a substantial one; and plenty of it.
For Johnny had always the notion, that to enjoy a good days ramble, they should have a good breakfast to start upon. By seven o’clock, all were ready and in high spirits for starting. He had the night before packed up abundance of solid provisions in several bags, to serve for all of us all day. As for anything to drink; he took nothing for that. He trusted to our coming to some fresh water, when we wanted to drink.
And he knew all the country round so well, from his own frequent rambles, that he could easily manage that we should be near enough some good fresh water, whenever it was time for us to stop, and have a good solid meal. The largest bag he retained, for himself to carry; and distributed the other bags among the strongest boys; who slung them over their shoulders exultingly; and soon had the straps buckled, each to his own liking. Now, you big lads, he said, take it turn about, carrying the bags, and relieve one another. And now it’s seven o’clock. Let’s start, lads!
“We did not go out by Warblington Street and Landport Gate that time; but turned down St. Mary’s Street, and came just past this house, where we are now sitting, and went through the sally-port close by, and through Mill Gate, into Portsea; and along St. George’s Square, and crossed Queen Street near Lion Gate, and went out by Unicorn Gate, and so to Stamshaw Lane. Leaving Tipner Lane to our left, we turned into fields on our right, and the children ran off in all directions, shouting and laughing at the height of their voices.
“While we were within range of the towns, Johnny did not like them to be boisterous. There was not much restraint in his way of treating them; for he always wished them to have as much freedom as was consistent with good conduct; but there was a feeling with them all, that while they were in the towns, there was to be no noisiness or roughness in their mirth.
And I don’t recollect, that once during that happy day of free enjoyment, he had to check on any one of them. But when they got clear of the towns, all were free to run off where they liked; so long as they did no mischief.
The fields between Stamshaw Lane and Port’s Bridge were chiefly pasture land; so that the children could run about free, without any fear of doing any mischief. And fresh morning air, the bright sunshine, the birds singing, lambs sporting about, spring-time with it’s lively green, and flowers everywhere, and the feeling that they were free to enjoy themselves; all filled them with joy and gladness.”
And, no doubt, their knowing their dear kind old master was looking on, pleased to see them happy, added largely to their happiness.”
“Ah, yes!” Mr. Lemmon said fervently: “no doubt! no doubt!
After the first outburst of their joy, running wild, making as much noise as they could, they gradually became more quiet in their pleasures. Some rambled about in the fields, picking up primroses and daises; some stood still, listening to the birds singing; some went along the hedges, gathering roses, and honeysuckle, and May, which were plentifully in blossom.
Now and then, they seemed to be looking in at a bird’s nest. Johnny had no wish to hurry them along, He wished them to have a time to look at any thing that caught their interest. They were now in the midst of those delights that he would have them enjoy with all their heart, Still, when there was nothing to cause delay, he kept his way onward toward the Hill.
But when a child came to him, he was ready to stop at any moment, and listen to all it had to say; and was all life and interest in what-ever interested the children. There were no signs of haste or impatience while any child wanted him to stop and explain any thing. Still, through all, I could perceive, his onward purpose was – to the Hill.
“A little lad came running to us, with something bright and green in his hands. ‘Mr. Pounds,’ he said, almost out of breath; ‘what’s this, so bright and green? It grows all along the hedgerow, a long way.’ Johnny received it from the boy very respectfully. If it had been the king, he could not have more respectful.
‘They call it Traveller’s Joy,’ he said. It is not in blossom yet. You found no flowers upon it?’ ‘No,’ said the boy; only leaves.’ ‘No; it’s too early for the flowers. It’s a clematis; but they call it Traveller’s Joy. Its leaves are so bright and green, spreading plentifully over the hedges, a long way together; and it’s flowers, when they come out, are a greenish white, and look bright and gay; and when the flowers go to seed, every seed has a longish feathery tail, curling out from one end, almost as white as the flowers; and they glisten in the sunshine:
so that they brighten the hedgerows all through spring and summer and autumn; – in spring, with their bright green leaves; in summer, with their white flowers, so plentifully spreading; in autumn, with their white feathery seeds, sparkling in the sunshine; all looking so pleasant and cheerful along the road-sides: – I’ve often thought,’ Johnny said, with a brightening countenance, ‘this is why they call it Traveller’s Joy; it cheers the traveller on his way.’
“As we were going through a corn-field, Johnny stooped down, and picked up a little scarlet flower, which he told us was the scarlet pimpernel. ‘This little flower,’ he said, ‘they call the Shepherd’s Weather-glass; for it opens in fine weather, and closes when rain’s coming. Is it closing now?’ Many eyes crowded round to look into it.
‘No, Mr. Pounds; it s wide open. Yes, it tells us we’re not likely to have rain to-day. And we had no rain, all day. Johnny went on to show us, that that little flower, so bright and scarlet, was beautifully varied inside with a little purple, and a yellow spot in the centre.
“Just then, a boy ran up to him with a scarlet poppy in his hand. Johnny took it with marked interest and pleasure; and, leaning on his stick with one hand, he held out the poppy in the other, for them all to look at it, together with the scarlet pimpernel; and said: –
‘These two are the only sorts of scarlet flowers that I have ever found growing wild; the scarlet poppy and the scarlet pimpernel. All of you try and see if you can find any other scarlet flower growing wild. And if you do, show it to me.’ ‘Yes, Mr. Pounds!’ several exclaimed; ‘we’ll try; and we’ll bring it to you.’ ‘That is, if you find it!’ Johnny said, with a smile; that implied, he did not think it very likely.
“When we came to Port’s Bridge, it was between nine and ten o’clock, and Johnny said, ‘Joe, my lad, bring us your bag: let’s see what’s in it.’ The bag was full of sea biscuit, broken into moderately large pieces. ‘Biscuit!’ Johnny called out aloud, for them all to hear. ‘Now here’s a piece for every one that likes to come for it; and those that don’t want any, needn’t come.’ – A burst of laughter! – and all were directly about him like a swarm of bees.
As each received his piece of biscuit, they dispersed, and some jumped up on the walls of the bridge, and sat down upon them, and began eating their biscuit. Others climbed up on the adjoining rails; others lay down on the grass. Johnny and I took a piece, and sat down among the children, to enjoy it; for our several miles’ walk and the fresh air had given us a hearty relish for it.
“When Johnny had finished eating his biscuit, he rose, and stood on the bridge, and, resting with both hands on his strong hazel stick, he said; – looking round on all the children, as they were resting themselves; – ‘What point of the compass do we turn to, when we look down towards Portsmouth?’ ‘South, Mr. Pounds;’ several of the bigger boys answered. ‘What’s to our north?’ ‘The Hill.’ ‘Yes, Portsdown Hill;’ Johnny added, by way of explanation.
‘What’s this piece of water to the east of us?’ Only one voice answered; ‘Langston Harbour.’ ‘Right, Jack,’ he said with cordial approval. ‘And on the other side of Langstone Harbour you see Hayling Island, bordering it all down to the sea. What’s the piece of water to the west of us?’ ‘Portsmouth Harbour.’ ‘Yes;’ he said: ‘sometimes called the Port of Portsmouth. On the further side of it you may see Portchester Castle; at the water’s edge.
In the war-time, Portchester Castle was used as a prison; many French prisoners were imprisoned there. It is now only a ruin. Lower down the Port towards Portsmouth, is a long line of ships lying in ordinary.’ ‘What does that mean, Mr. Pounds?’ a sharp little voice asked. ‘Ships that are laid by, and not in active service, and not preparing for active service, are said to be laid up in ordinary.
This creek,’ he said, ‘that goes under the bridge, east and west, joins our Port with Langston Harbour, and makes an island south of us, What is this island called?’ ‘Portsea Island;’ only one voice answered. ‘Right again, Jack! – Or, the Island of Portsea; it has both names. From this point, we leave the Island of Portsea, and go out on the main land. I should have liked,’ he said, ‘to have taken you down to the mud below, to show you some interesting plants that grow in it; but you see the creek is fast filling with water. – The tide’s coming in, and very strong.
We shall have a high tide today; the wind’s blowing in with it. Low water would be better for us; for some of the plants are covered by the water, every time the tide comes in; and when the tide goes out, it leaves them open to the fresh air again. Perhaps, another time I may show them to you.’ ‘Oh, yes, Mr. Pounds! please do!’ – many eager voices exclaimed ; ‘and let it be soon, Mr. Pounds!’ The old man smiled; and said, lovingly; ‘Well, well; we’ll see .’
“As Johnny leaned on his stick, and stood thus talking, he seemed in no haste to move forward. He kept them a long time, listening, delighted, to his interesting and instructive conversation. I thought he seemed to be lengthening it out for the purpose of giving them a good long rest, before they came to the Hill.
When he thought they had rested long enough, he suddenly said, ‘Who can see that lark, singing up in the sky?’ Those that were lying down, jumped up to look; and all were intent – looking up, trying to see it. ‘There ‘tis!’ exclaimed one. ‘Where? where?’ The others eagerly exclaimed, crowding close up to him. ‘There, – that little black speck;’ – pointing to it. ‘It twinkles like;’ the boy said; ‘You see it, – and you don’t see it; and then you see it again; – the sun’s so bright.’
“ ‘Now, lads, we’ll start again;’ Johnny said gaily; and strode away with his accustomed alacrity. And all children ran off, capering about, full of fun and frolic, making the air ring with their merry voices.
“At Port’s Bridge we left the fields, and came out on the London Road. All along that straight level line of road to Cosham, the high thick hedges, with their grassy banks and ditches, were our chief objects for observation and search. I observed, that Johnny, while he walked fast, with his long strides, kept his eye very much on the hedge-banks.
At one place, stopping suddenly, he seemed to examine something on the side of the bank, about half way up; and gave a call, that they all understood, and came flocking about him; and he said; ‘Look at that little hole in the bank;’ – pointing to a fresh made hole in the earth, about an inch across, or perhaps less.
‘Look! Don’t you see the earth, like dry dust, moving gently out from inside the hole, and running down the bank outside?’ ‘Yes, Mr. Pounds;’ several of the nearest said, almost in a whisper, with subdued wonder. ‘What makes it come out?’ ‘Wait awhile,’ he said ‘and you’ll see.’ Presently, the body of a large bee began to appear; moving backwards from within the hole, and pushing the finely crumbled earth out before it. ‘That big humble-bee’s what pushes it out. It’s going to make it’s nest there; and its first clearing room for it.’
When it had pushed it all out, and the opening was clear of it, the bee went back into the hole again, and disappeared. The hole was just large enough for the bee to move along, but seemed not large enough for it to turn round in. Soon, and one of the boys exclaimed; ‘Oh, look! the dust’s moving out again!’ And another little heap of finely crumbled mould came moving forward as before; and as it ran down from the entrance of the hole, the body of the bee began to appear; moving backwards towards the entrance of the hole, and pushing it out before it.
And when it had pushed it all out, and the entrance of the hole was clear and open, the bee went into the hole again, and disappeared. And so it went on. We did not see the head of the bee once. Johnny said; ‘This sort of bee does not live like bees in a bee-hive, many together; it lives alone; and makes a house for itself. Who teaches it to make that house for itself to live in?’ ‘God, Mr. Pounds:’ – several said; with feeling and reverence. ‘Yes;’ Johnny said.
‘They call it by some fine name.’ – (Johnny meant Instinct;) – ‘but it’s God,’ he said very decidedly, ‘that teaches the bee how to make its house, and have a home ready for its young ones, when they come. Come along; we’ll not hurt it.’ ‘Oh no, Mr. Pounds!’ several of the children exclaimed heartily. ‘And we’ll not hinder it at its work, making its house so cleverly.’ He said this with a reverent smile, and a beautiful touch of pleasantry mingling with it. And all the children seemed to feel it with the like reverence and pleasure.
“While we were on the road from Port’s Bridge to Cosham, The Rocket Coach passed us, on it’s way to London. Frank Faulkner was driving. And when he saw Johnny, in the midst of his scholars, he took off his hat to him, and gave him a friendly greeting.” “Our friend Mr. Faulkner,” I said, “has repeatedly spoken to me, and always with high esteem, of the good old cobbler in St. Mary’s Street; as he designates him.” “Ah, yes!” Mr. Lemmon said, with a good-natured laugh; – “that’s what people always call him: – the old cobbler! – Dear old Johnny!
“The little town of Cosham, you probably know, is very near the foot of Portsdown?” “Yes.” “Soon after the Rocket had passed us, and began to be seen above the houses, going up the Hill, we entered Cosham; and, without a word or a look from their dear old master, all the children were quiet and orderly, moving forward with cheerfulness, but with no noisy voices. When we had nearly passed through this little town, Johnny rapped at the door of one of the farthest houses, and a motherly-looking woman came and opened it. ‘Misses,’ Johnny said, ‘these lads are very thirsty; will you kindly let ‘em drink at your pump?’ ‘Yes, Mr. Pounds;’ she said pleasantly; ‘and welcome.’
And she went and brought her arm-full of mugs and cups and basins; and Johnny strode to the pump, and began pumping. All the children drank eagerly, and brightened up refreshed. Johnny drank last. And then he took back the cups and mugs and basins, and thanked the good woman. And we started afresh.
“The children ran direct for the Hill; frantic with joy; and were soon seen spreading up the open down. Johnny and I walked steadily forward, side by side, in friendly conversation; which I enjoyed exceedingly; and have often called to mind since, with fresh pleasure.
“As we were going up the Hill, I asked him to let me carry the bag a while for him; but it was not without difficulty, that I could persuade him to let me help him. When I felt the weight of the bag, I thought; – Dear old Johnny! – how little do they know how thou hast been toiling for them! – And then the pleasant thought occurred; – it won’t be so heavy to carry home again!
“He now left the lads entirely to themselves. No restraint now. And they ran about in all directions, scattering far and wide, perfectly free; just as their fancy took them. He knew that when the dinner-call was given, they’d all be sure to be there then!
“ ‘What a good kind Heavenly Father we have, Lemmon!’ he said to me in fervent voice, of deep devotion and gratefulness; – ‘to make all these pleasant things for us! – to create all these happy children, to enjoy his goodness! – and make this world of our habitation so pleasant and beautiful for them! It’s all for his children’s good. Almighty God needs none of it for himself. It’s for us – he makes it so good, and so pleasant. How can any of his children – not be grateful, and try to be dutiful, – for so much loving-kindness?’
“As Johnny and I were thus in earnest conversation on all the delights about us; a lad came running up to him with something in his hand; and said eagerly, ‘Please, Mr. Pounds, what’s this?’ Johnny stopped at once; and received it from the boy with care and serious regard; and told him; ‘It’s what they call a fungus. It belongs to the same family as the mushroom. Don’t you like mushrooms?’
‘O yes, Mr. Pounds! We go out and pick them up in the fields; and bring them home to mother; and mother roasts them before the fire for us, and we have them for dinner. They’re so good!’ ‘Well this fungus belongs to the same family as those nice mushrooms, that you eat for dinner. But this is not fit to eat; this would poison you. There are a great many different sorts of fungus; some are good to eat, and some not. So, mind; some would kill you! And he gave it back to him, with such a kind, loving interest!” – And his friend was moved – in telling it.
“The boy went away very thoughtful; and began to show his fungus to others; and seemed to be earnestly telling them about it what Mr. Pounds had just told him.
“Johnny and I started again. And he strode along up hill with his characteristic vigour; and I felt, I must exert myself to keep up with him! And so, – to the top of the Hill.
“ ‘Stop, Lemmon!’ – he said, as soon as we came to the top of the Hill; – ‘Let’s turn round, – and have a look. Isn’t this a glorious scene?’ – He spoke with a warmth of enthusiasm – that warmed my heart to hear it. – ‘What a breadth of water! – right and left! – There’s Portsmouth down there, right before us; and the Harbour, with the shipping; and Spithead; and the Isle of Wight.
To our left, there’s Langston Harbour, all down to the sea; and Hayling Island, and Havant; and so on to Emsworth and Chichester; all well wooded, as far as we can see. And the day’s so clear, we can see Chichester spire in the distance. Now turn right; and there’s our own Port, in it’s glory!
fast filling with water, spreading for miles, length and breadth, up to the very Hill. No other Port, they say, to beat it, in the world! – And there’s Portchester, with it’s old castle, and their fine old trees; and that woodland scenery beyond, stretching towards Botley and Wickham. Now turn north, and look inland. What a glorious sight! – Hill and dale, beautifully varying one another; so richly wooded, all about; and green fields and hedge-rows opening between; with all the bright fresh colourings of spring-time; full of present delight; and full of promise – for a bountiful summer and autumn; and food and comfort for winter!’
“After a short pause: – quite still, and silent, – as he rested with both hands on his stick, – looking enraptured at the scene: – ‘Come, Lemmon!’ – he said, with a sudden change of tone, and look; – so characteristic of his thoroughly excellent spirit: – for, with all his fun and jocularity, – there was no levity; nothing at all – savouring of the irreligious. – No, – dear Johnny! – He is a soul – all – truly religious; – happy, self-devoting, – in his all-pervading piety: – An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile: – as our Divine Master once said.
“But now, he spoke with a touch of fun: – ‘Come, Lemmon!’ he said; ‘let’s go to the Running Walks; and see how the little rascals ‘ill run down ‘em!’
And they did run down them – like mad! – shouting and laughing all the way! – The only wonder seemed to be, that some of them did not break their necks. “You may perhaps have heard, that the Running Walks, as they are called, go steep down into a beautiful little valley, just over the Hill?
“I’ve been over the Hill, and down into that beautiful little valley ; and have looked up the Running Walks, so steep, from down below.”
“Then you know the fine clump of trees in the valley, not far off, surrounded with the nice short grass.”
“I’ve been into that beautiful dump of trees, and enjoyed its embowering shade, with some friends; so peaceful, and secluded; as if shut in among the high massive bushes so abundantly scattered all around.”
“It was there that Johnny had fixed upon for our having our dinner.”
“I think he could not have chosen better.”
“We all thought so.
“He went in under the trees. The birds were singing delightfully; in full voice. I took the great bag of provisions off my shoulder, and gave it to him. And he gave his call for dinner. And the scholars nearest us took it up, and called out to the others, ‘Dinner! Dinner!’ And others sent it forward; ‘Dinner! Dinner!’ – went on sounding farther and farther off; and they were all very quickly with us; and seated themselves round their dear old master; some, on the grass; some, on crags of stone; some, at the roots of trees; all, just as they found most comfortable, or convenient.
And some talked with delight of the buttercups and daisies they had seen; ‘thousands and thousands! We got our hands full!’ they said. Some told of the many sheep feeding all over the down; and lambs playing among them; all so happy! One told, laughingly, of a young foal they saw; ‘with such long legs!
It made us laugh so, when it tried to run a bit!’ Some saw a fox, a long way off. ‘It bounded away, so light and swift!’ one said, with a look and tone of admiration: – ‘soon out of sight.’ Some saw some rabbits, and some young ones; and they ran after one, and tried to catch it; ‘but they were so soon in their holes,’
“Johnny was pleased to listen to his scholars; and went on busily preparing to serve out the feast. When he had spread out on the grass before him what he thought enough of the good things to begin with: – eggs, boiled hard; a great piece of boiled beef, already cut into slices; plenty of bread, and several large pieces of cheese; and potatoes, both boiled and roast: – and all was in readiness: – he raised his hand; and all were still: – and he said with solemn feeling:
‘The Lord be praised for his goodness!’ – Then, – after a pause, – he said, – with a cheerful, loud voice; – ‘Now who shall be helped first?’ – ‘Mr. Lemmon!’ – they all shouted out. I confess, it brought a tremour all over me; and I felt a tear or two running down my face. He then helped the others. And all set to in right good earnest.
“When all had eaten to their satisfaction, Johnny said; ‘Now, we’ll have a good long rest here. Do what you like; set still; lie down; go to sleep; every one, just what you like.’ Some sat down, on the grass, and began showing one another the flowers and other interesting things they’d picked up. Others lay down, and went to sleep. Some walked leisurely away among the bushes. All pleased themselves.
And Johnny began packing up the things, to have them in readiness when the time came to start again. Several of the children came to him, and said: ‘Mr. Pounds, let us help you.’ ‘Yes, lads,’ he said, ‘you shall help me. I like a helpful spirit. That’s the way to be happy through life; and the way to make others happy too.’
“When the things were all packed up, Johnny said to me: ‘I’ve been thinking, Lemmon, as this is spring-time, and all the hedges and fields and copses are full of beauty, we’ll not go along the top of the Hill to-day to Nelson’s monument, as I take them sometimes, for the fine open scenery; but we’ll turn inland, and take them all about the fields and hedge-rows, and into the woods and copses, and along the green lanes; and show them all the interesting things there.’
I agreed with him, I thought this would be best. So this was decided. He then sat down on the root of an old elm, that curved up about as high as the seat of his arm-chair at home, and leaned the side of his head and shoulder against the tree, and went to sleep. – Good old Friend of them all! It was very pleasant to look at him – resting himself, – fast asleep; renewing all his energies, to start again with them, refreshed, to be the delight of them all!”
“And what did you do Mr. Lemmon?”
“I went to sleep, too!” – with a laugh.
“When Johnny and I woke up refreshed, we saw several of the children fast asleep near us. Johnny whispered to me; ‘We’ll not wake ’em. Nature’s the best judge.’ And not till the last sleeper woke up of himself, without being disturbed, – did Johnny allow the shout to go forth – for the fresh start.
All gathered about him. But before we started, Johnny said to them: – ‘Now, we’re going into the fields, and into copses, and along green lanes; and mind, you’re none of you to be doing any mischief. You’re non of you to be breaking down young plantation trees; you’re non of you to be breaking through fences; or you’ll be getting yourselves in prison.
And we’re to have no running over the young corn, and no trampling down the meadow-grass. No; he said: – We’re come out to enjoy ourselves; not to do mischief. We’ll have no mischief at all, mind. Or you’ll not come over the Hill with me again in a hurry. Mind that.’
“As we were coming out from among the trees where we had been dining, the boy whom he called Jack came to him, and said: ‘Mr. Pounds, I’ve been looking about for a pretty white flower that I once found here, and I can’t find any of them. They grow scattered about under the trees, and near them outside.’ ‘What sort of flower was it, Jack?’
A rather large flower, at the top of a very slender stalk; six or eight inches high. And some of the white flowers had some purplish pink outside; very pretty.’ ‘How many flowers grew on the stalk?’ ‘Only that one.’ Where there any leaves on the flower stalk?’ Three, close together, a little way down below the flower, with very short stalks. The leaf stalks were longish, and came up from the root.’ ‘How long ago is it since you saw these white flowers?’ ‘The month before last.’
Johnny stepped aside a little way, and stooped down near a tree, and gathered some dark green leaves; and, showing them to the boy, said, ‘Was this the sort of leaf?’ ‘Yes, Mr. Pounds, that’s it!” he exclaimed, delighted. ‘It’s what they call the Wood Anemone, Jack. It’s rather late for it now. It blossoms earlier in the spring.’
‘But can’t I take a root home, Mr. Pounds, and grow it in a flower-pot, for next spring?’ ‘Yes lad; I’ll dig you a root up. And he began to dig some roots up for him, with his iron-wedged stick. ‘Don’t you trouble, Mr. Pounds; let me do it;’ the lad said; and was going to take the stick out of his hands.
But Johnny said; ‘No, Jack, my lad; I’d better do it; for the stalks grow deepish down, and are very tender under ground, and easily break; and you would very likely break them; for they don’t go straight down to the root, but turn about, here and there.’ And as he went on digging, he said, ‘Always get at least two roots of a plant, if you can, that you want to take home and grow; lest one should die. Here are three for you, Jack.’
“It was beautiful to see, how gratefully the boy received them; and how pleased Johnny was to give them.
“ ‘Now get a fresh dock-leaf,’ he said; ‘or some fresh green grass; and wrap the roots up in it; to keep them cool and moist; or else they’d soon die. And every now and then, when we come to some water, dip the roots in, to moisten them afresh.’
“And so he stopped and dug up the roots of other plants, for others of the children, who wished to take them home, and grow them. And he never did it as a trouble; but always as a delight; however often they came running to him; well pleased to do it, as pleasing them; and cherishing in those children
a beautiful, healthy spirit of life.
“Jack’s a man now; in the Civil Service; steady, and respected; and in a fair way for getting on well in life.”
“And so,” I said, “are many others, I believe, of his former scholars.”
“Yes;” Mr. Lemmon replied; “few that have been long with him, but have turned out well; both men and women, There have been some unhappy exceptions; but very few. Drink – was their ruin.
“We now moved forward from the clump of trees where we had our dinner, and Johnny went deliberately to a majestic oak, and stood looking up at the lower branches. The season was a very early one, and that fine old oak was almost in full leaf. After looking up awhile, as if searching for something, he lifted up his hooked stick, and carefully drew down a leafy branch, and broke off a bit with some leaves on it; and gave his well-known call.
The children came flocking round him, full of expectation; and he showed them, on one leaf, a light orange-coloured spot, inclining to yellow ochre, like a blister on the leaf; and said; – ‘A sort of fly did this. It made a hole in the leaf; and laid an egg in it, and left it. And a little rim rose round the egg, and made a little nest for it. And the rim went on growing higher all round till it covered the egg all over; as you see it now.
This little yellow spot is a young oak-apple; and the fly’s egg is inside it. The young oak-apple goes on growing, till it is as large as a marble; as you’ve seen them.’ ‘Yes! Yes!’ several of the boys eagerly exclaimed. ‘Well;’ Johnny said;‘the egg hatches inside it; and then it’s a maggot, And the maggot changes, and changes, till it comes to be a fly.
And this fly eats its way through the side of the oak-apple, and comes out, and flies away. Apples,’ he said, ‘are the fruit of the apple-trees; but oak apples are not the fruit of oak-trees. Acorns are the fruit of oak-trees. The oak-apple is a disease to the oak-tree; caused by that sort of fly that I’ve just told you of.’
“His scholars listened in silence and wonder; and he left the leafy bit of the branch in the hand of one of them, while the others crowded close up, looking intently at it; – and Johnny moved gently away; leaving them to themselves.
“He had not gone far, before a boy came running to him; – ‘Oh, Mr. Pounds! isn’t that tree a beauty? – covered all over so thick with those beautiful blossoms! – pink, and white, and crimson, all together!’ ‘Yes,’ Johnny said, ‘it is a beauty. That’s a crab-tree.’ ‘How I wish I could get some of those flowers!’ ‘Do you?’ Johnny said, ‘I’ll get you some.’
And he took out his pocket-knife, and with his hooked stick he pulled out a branch, and cut off a beautiful bit, with plenty of flowers, some fully open; and some, only just peeping out of the bed, with some shining green leaves amongst them. How delighted the boy was, as he gave it to him! And Johnny was as much delighted, in seeing his scholars so happy.
“Johnny considers the crab blossom one of the most beautiful of our wild flowers.”
“I think so too;” I said
“ ‘Mr. Pounds!’ exclaimed another lad, coming eagerly to him from another direction, almost out of breath: – ‘Oh, there are such nice white flowers swimming in the water yonder! Come and see!’ And he went with him to the water; and was pleased to see some of the children lying all their length on the grass, with their lips down to the water; drinking. Others stooped down to the water, and dipped their hands in; and drank out of the hollow of their hand. He rejoiced to see their bright faces, as they looked refreshed.
“ ‘Look, Mr. Pounds! – there are the pretty white flowers,’ – taking hold of his hand, and pulling him to the water. ‘They’re white buttercups,’ he said. ‘Shall I get you some?’ ‘O yes, please, Mr. Pounds!’ And he stretched out his hooked stick, with his long arm, and drew some of them near enough for the children to gather them.
“And so we went on; turning in any direction, wherever any thing of interest seemed to invite us. And we were continually finding something new to interest us: – till, – I thought, – I perceived Johnny was quietly working his way homeward. He said nothing about it. He left the children as free as ever, to do whatever they pleased; and he did not take any direct line towards Portsmouth. But I could see, that with all the turnings aside, and his zigzaggings, to please them, he managed to keep the lead steadily homeward.
“After we had left the water some distance, one of the children who had brought the white buttercups with them, came to him with sorrowful face; – ‘Oh, look Mr. Pounds;’ he said in a tone of sad lamentation: – holding the flowers up in his hot hand; – ‘See how my white buttercups are dying.’ ‘It’s because they’re water butter-cups;’ he said. ‘Water-plants won’t look fresh long out of water.
But take some home, and let them float in water, and they’ll soon brighten up again.” ‘Oh, how I should like to take some long roots home,’ the boy said, ‘and grow them in water!’ ‘And so should I! another, and another, said; with brightening desire. ‘Well, come, lads, I’ll go back to the water with you, and get you some roots for you to take home.’ All the children, with joyful voices, ran back for the water; and he got them some roots; and showed them how to do them up, so as to keep them cool and moist; and then again set his face homeward. And the children came away delighted; bringing their treasures with them!
“By the time we were nearly at the bottom of the Hill, all were hungry again. And Johnny called for all the bags, and we sat down upon the grass, and he emptied them all out; and gave us another plentiful meal.
This was to be the last place where we were to have anything to eat before we got home. And I observed Johnny, in packing up what remained of the provisions, without saying any thing, put it all into his own large bag; and gave back the smaller bags to the boys, every one empty; so that they should each have the pleasure of carrying home their bag, without any weariness from its being at all heavy. Some of them seemed to notice this; for they looked at their dear old master in silence; and I thought, with a feeling of grateful sorrow, that he was determined to have all the burden to cany himself.
“We were now between four and five miles from Portsmouth; and Johnny let the children enjoy another good long rest, before starting again. After they had done eating, and had been resting awhile, and all seemed very still and quiet; a little boy, lying on the grass, said; ‘Mr. Pounds, tell us a nice story.’ And without hesitation, Johnny told them a nice story; which entertained them all; and while it amused them, in his simple way of telling it, the spirit of the story was beautiful, and morally elevating.
“Soon after he had finished telling the story, another lad said; ‘Mr. Pounds, please, will you sing us a song?’ And Johnny laughed, and sang them a song. He’s not much at singing. But they were all pleased; and he was pleased in giving them pleasure.
“At this last place, there was no water for us to drink. So Johnny took us down to Cosham, and called at the house where we had stopped to drink at the pump on our way up in the morning. But before he knocked at the door, the door opened; and the same kind motherly-woman came with a smile, and said; ‘I saw you coming, Mr. Pounds! and here are some mugs and basins ready for you.’
Johnny received them with thanks, and distributed them among his scholars, and went and began pumping. And they all drank joyfully. Johnny drank last; and he drank very heartily, and seemed greatly refreshed. And when he had done, he said, very gratefully, ‘Thank God!’
“All started again in fresh spirits. But before long, some of the younger ones began to feel very tired; and Johnny took them up, first one, and then another, and carried them on his back; and was seldom without one on his back many minutes together, till he put the last gently down in his own little shop.
“From Cosham, we came back all the way along the London Road; and entered Portsmouth by Landport Gate, and came along Warblington Street, into St. Mary’s Street, and so into Johnny’s shop.
“At Port’s Bridge, we had another good rest. And then we made our last start for home. The elder boys were still lively and active, and roamed about where they liked; but Johnny told them on the way, to come into his shop when they got back, and there would be something for them to eat. And a good hearty tea was ready to welcome them, as they came in; with plenty of thick bread-and-butter! – Just as he has provided for their return this evening; – when they will come home with their autumn gatherings; and ravenously hungry!”
I looked involuntarily at the big kettle beside the fire; and thought of the other big kettle at the other neighbour’s.
“I’ve not told you,” Mr. Lemmon said, “any thing like all we did and enjoyed that happy day. These are a few samples, to show you the kind of rambles Johnny takes his scholars.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lemmon! I feel very much obliged to you. No wonder his scholars are so attached to him. Would that many more who have the care of children – had his spirit!’
“I wish so too;” Mr. Lemmon said, very feelingly.
“I dare say,” he said to his little grand-daughter, who had been sitting at his knee, listening to the day’s ramble, “you’ll go, Lizzy, and meet them when they come back, and see if Mr. Pounds has remembered to bring you the acorns he promised, with their pretty cups.”
“If grandfather? He’s sure to. He said he would.”
The grandfather smiled; well pleased at her vindication of her dear old master. “I’m sure he will Lizzy, if he can. Our dear old friend always means what he says. And he faithfully fulfils every promise, if it is possible.”