MOLLY AND THE WHITE HORSE.
Meantime lord Herbert came and went. There was fighting here and
fighting there, castles taken, defended, re-taken, here a little
success and there a worse loss, now on this side and now on that;
but still, to say the best, the king's affairs made little progress;
and for Mary Somerset, her body and soul made progress in opposite
There was a strange pleasant mixture of sweet fretfulness and
trusting appeal in her. Children suffer less because they feel that
all is right when father or mother is with them; grown people from
whom this faith has vanished ere it has led them to its original
fact, may well be miserable in their sicknesses.
She lay moaning one night in her crib, when suddenly she opened her
eyes and saw her mother's hand pressed to her forehead. She was
imitative, like most children, and had some very old-fashioned ways
'Have you got a headache, madam?' she asked.
'Yes, my Molly,' answered her mother.
'Then you will go to mother Mary. She will take you on her knee,
madam. Mothers is for headaches. Oh me! my headache, madam!'
The poor mother turned away. It was more than she could bear alone.
Dorothy entered the room, and she rose and left it, that she might
go to mother Mary as the child had said.
Dorothy's cares were divided between the duties of naiad and
nursemaid, for the child clung to her as to no one else except her
mother. The thing that pleased her best was to see the two
whale-like spouts rise suddenly from the nostrils of the great white
horse, curve away from each other aloft in the air, and fall back
into the basin on each side of him. 'See horse spout,' she would say
moanfully; and that instant, if Dorothy was not present, a messenger
would be despatched to her. On a bright day this would happen
repeatedly. For the sake of renewing her delight, the instant she
turned from it, satisfied for the moment, the fountain ceased to
play, and the horse remained spoutless, awaiting the revival of the
darling's desire; for she was not content to see him spouting: she
must see him spout. Then again she would be carried forth to the
verge of the marble basin, and gazing up at the rearing animal would
say, in a tone daintily wavering betwixt entreaty and command,
'Spout, horse, spout,' and Dorothy, looking down from the far-off
summit of the tower, and distinguishing by the attitude of the child
the moment when she uttered her desire, would instantly, with one
turn of her hand, send the captive water shooting down its dark
channel to reascend in sunny freedom.
If little Mary Somerset was counted a strange child, the wisdom with
which she was wise is no more unnatural because few possess it, than
the death of such is premature because they are yet children. They
are small fruits whose ripening has outstripped their growth. Of
such there are some who, by the hot-house assiduities of their
friends, heating them with sulphurous stoves, and watering them with
subacid solutions, ripen into insufferable prigs. For them and for
their families it is well that Death the gardener should speedily
remove them into the open air. But there are others who, ripening
from natural, that is divine causes and influences, are the
daintiest little men and women, gentle in the utmost peevishness of
their lassitude, generous to share the gifts they most prize, and
divinely childlike in their repentances. Their falling from the
stalk is but the passing from the arms of their mothers into those
of--God knows whom--which is more than enough.
The chief part of little Molly's religious lessons, I do not mean
training, consisted in a prayer or two in rhyme, and a few verses of
the kind then in use among catholics. Here is a prayer which her
nurse taught her, as old, I take it, as Chaucer's time at least:--
Hail be thou, Mary, that high sittest in throne!
I beseech thee, sweet lady, grant me my boon--
Jesus to love and dread, and my life to amend soon,
And bring me to that bliss that never shall be done.
And here are some verses quite as old, which her mother taught her.
I give them believing that in understanding and coming nearer to our
fathers and mothers who are dead, we understand and come nearer to
our brothers and sisters who are alive. I change nothing but the
spelling, and a few of the forms of the words.
Jesu, Lord, that madest me,
And with thy blessed blood hast bought,
Forgive that I have grieved thee
With word, with will, and eke with thought.
Jesu, for thy wounds' smart,
On feet and on thine hands two,
Make me meek and low of heart,
And thee to love as I should do.
Jesu, grant me mine asking,
Perfect patience in my disease,
And never may I do that thing
That should thee in any wise displease.
Jesu, most comfort for to see
Of thy saints every one,
Comfort them that careful be,
And help them that be woe-begone.
Jesu, keep them that be good,
And amend them that have grieved thee,
And send them fruits of early food,
As each man needeth in his degree.
Jesu, that art, without lies,
Almighty God in trinity,
Cease these wars, and send us peace
With lasting love and charity.
Jesu, that art the ghostly stone
Of all holy church in middle-earth,
Bring thy folds and flocks in one,
And rule them rightly with one herd.
Jesu, for thy blissful blood,
Bring, if thou wilt, those souls to bliss
From whom I have had any good,
And spare that they have done amiss.
This old-fashioned hymn lady Margaret had learned from her
grandmother, who was an Englishwoman of the pale. She also had
learned it from her grandmother.
One day, by some accident, Dorothy had not reached her post of naiad
before Molly arrived in presence of her idol, the white horse, her
usual application to which was thence for the moment in vain. Having
waited about three seconds in perfect patience, she turned her head
slowly round, and gazed in her nurse's countenance with large
questioning eyes, but said nothing. Then she turned again to the
horse. Presently a smile broke over her face, and she cried in the
tone of one who had made a great discovery,
'Horse has ears of stone: he cannot hear, Molly.'
Instantly thereupon she turned her face up to the sky, and said,
'Dear holy Mary, tell horse to spout.'
That moment up into the sun shot the two jets. Molly clapped her
little hands with delight and cried,
'Thanks, dear holy Mary! I knowed thou would do it for Molly.
The nurse told the story to her mistress, and she to Dorothy. It set
both of them feeling, and Dorothy thinking besides.
'It cannot be,' she thought, 'but that a child's prayer will reach
its goal, even should she turn her face to the west or the north
instead of up to the heavens! A prayer somewhat differs from a bolt
or a bullet.'
'How you protestants CAN live without a woman to pray to!' said lady
'Her son Jesus never refused to hear a woman, and I see not
wherefore I should go to his mother, madam,' said Dorothy, bravely.
'Thou and I will not quarrel, Dorothy,' returned lady Margaret
sweetly; 'for sure am I that would please neither the one nor the
other of them.'
Dorothy kissed her hand, and the subject dropped.
After that, Molly never asked the horse to spout, or if she happened
to do so, would correct herself instantly, and turn her request to
the mother Mary. Nor did the horse ever fail to spout,
notwithstanding an evil thought which arose in the protestant part
of Dorothy's mind--the temptation, namely, to try the effect upon
Molly of a second failure. All the rest of her being on the instant
turned so violently protestant against the suggestion, that no
parley with it was possible, and the conscience of her intellect
cowered before the conscience of her heart.
It was from this fancy of the child's for the spouting of the horse
that it came to be known in the castle that mistress Dorothy was
ruler of Raglan waters. In lord Herbert's absence not a person in
the place but she and Caspar understood their management, and except
lady Margaret, the marquis, and lord Charles, no one besides even
knew of the existence of such a contrivance as the water-shoot or
Every night Dorothy and Caspar together set the springs of it, and
every morning Caspar detached the lever connecting the stone with