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- Aunt Judy's Tales - 1/27 -

Transcribed from the 1859 Bell and Daldy edition by David Price, email *** AUNT JUDY'S TALES


Contents: The Little Victims Vegetables out of Place Cook Stories Rabbits' Tails Out of the Way Nothing to do


"Save our blessings, Master, save, From the blight of thankless eye." Lyra Innocentium.

There is not a more charming sight in the domestic world, than that of an elder girl in a large family, amusing what are called the LITTLE ONES.

How could mamma have ventured upon that cosy nap in the arm-chair by the fire, if she had been harassed by wondering what the children were about? Whereas, as it was, she had overheard No. 8 begging the one they all called "Aunt Judy," to come and tell them a story, and she had beheld Aunt Judy's nod of consent; whereupon she had shut her eyes, and composed herself to sleep quite complacently, under the pleasant conviction that all things were sure to be in a state of peace and security, so long as the children were listening to one of those curious stories of Aunt Judy's, in which, with so much drollery and amusement, there was sure to be mixed up some odd scraps of information, or bits of good advice.

So, mamma being asleep on one side of the fire, and papa reading the newspaper on the other, Aunt Judy and No. 8 noiselessly left the room, and repaired to the large red-curtained dining-room, where the former sat down to concoct her story, while the latter ran off to collect the little ones together.

In less than five minutes' time there was a stream of noise along the passage--a bursting open of the door, and a crowding round the fire, by which Aunt Judy sat.

The "little ones" had arrived in full force and high expectation. We will not venture to state their number. An order from Aunt Judy, that they should take their seats quietly, was but imperfectly obeyed; and a certain amount of hustling and grumbling ensued, which betrayed a rather quarrelsome tendency.

At last, however, the large circle was formed, and the bright firelight danced over sunny curls and eager faces. Aunt Judy glanced her eye round the group; but whatever her opinion as an artist might have been of its general beauty, she was by no means satisfied with the result of her inspection.

"No. 6 and No. 7," cried she, "you are not fit to listen to a story at present. You have come with dirty hands."

No. 6 frowned, and No. 7 broke out at once into a howl; he had washed his hands ever so short a time ago, and had done nothing since but play at knuckle-bones on the floor! Surely people needn't wash their hands every ten minutes! It was very hard!

Aunt Judy had rather a logical turn of mind, so she set about expounding to the "little ones" in general, and to Nos. 6 and 7 in particular, that the proper time for washing people's hands was when their hands were dirty; no matter how lately the operation had been performed before. Such, at least, she said, was the custom in England, and everyone ought to be proud of belonging to so clean and respectable a country. She, therefore, insisted that Nos. 6 and 7 should retire up-stairs and perform the necessary ablution, or otherwise they would be turned out, and not allowed to listen to the story.

Nos. 6 and 7 were rather restive. The truth was, it had been one of those unlucky days which now and then will occur in families, in which everything seemed to be perverse and go askew. It was a dark, cold, rainy day in November, and going out had been impossible. The elder boys had worried, and the younger ones had cried. It was Saturday too, and the maids were scouring in all directions, waking every echo in the back-premises by the grating of sand-stone on the flags; and they had been a good deal discomposed by the family effort to play at "Wolf" in the passages. Mamma had been at accounts all the morning, trying to find out some magical corner in which expenses could be reduced between then and the arrival of Christmas bills; and, moreover, it was a half-holiday, and the children had, as they call it, nothing to do.

So Nos. 6 and 7, who had been vexed about several other little matters before, during the course of the day, broke out now on the subject of the washing of their hands.

Aunt Judy was inexorable however--inexorable though cool; and the rest got impatient at the delay which the debate occasioned: so, partly by coaxing, and partly by the threat of being shut out from hearing the story, Nos. 6 and 7 were at last prevailed upon to go up- stairs and wash their grim little paws into that delicate shell-like pink, which is the characteristic of juvenile fingers when clean.

As they went out, however, they murmured, in whimpered tones, that they were sure it was VERY HARD!

After their departure, Aunt Judy requested the rest not to talk, and a complete silence ensued, during which one or two of the youngest evidently concluded that she was composing her story, for they stared at her with all their might, as if to discover how she did it.

Meantime the rain beat violently against the panes, and the red curtains swayed to and fro from the effect of the wind, which, in spite of tolerable woodwork, found its way through the divisions of the windows. There was something very dreary in the sound, and very odd in the varying shades of red which appeared upon the curtains as they swerved backwards and forwards in the firelight.

Several of the children observed it, but no one spoke until the footsteps of Nos. 6 and 7 were heard approaching the door, on which a little girl ventured to whisper, "I'm very glad I'm not out in the wind and rain;" and a boy made answer, "Why, who would be so silly as to think of going out in the wind and rain? Nobody, of course!"

At that moment Nos. 6 and 7 entered, and took their places on two little Derby chairs, having previously showed their pink hands in sombre silence to Aunt Judy, whereupon Aunt Judy turned herself so as to face the whole group, and then began her story as follows:-

"There were once upon a time eight little Victims, who were shut up in a large stone-building, where they were watched night and day by a set of huge grown-up keepers, who made them do whatever they chose."

"Don't make it TOO sad, Aunt Judy," murmured No. 8, half in a tremble already.

"You needn't be frightened, No. 8," was the answer; "my stories always end well."

"I'm so glad," chuckled No. 8 with a grin, as he clapped one little fat hand down upon the other on his lap in complete satisfaction. "Go on, please."

"Was the large stone-building a prison, Aunt Judy?" inquired No. 7.

"That depends upon your ideas of a prison," answered Aunt Judy. "What do you suppose a prison is?"

"Oh, a great big place with walls all round, where people are locked up, and can't go in and out as they choose."

"Very well. Then I think you may be allowed to call the place in which the little Victims were kept a prison, for it certainly was a great big place with walls all round, and they were locked up at night, and not allowed to go in and out as they chose."

"Poor things," murmured No. 8; but he consoled himself by recollecting that the story was to end well.

"Aunt Judy, before you go on, do tell us what VICTIMS are? Are they fairies, or what? I don't know."

This was the request of No. 5, who was rather more thoughtful than the rest, and was apt now and then to delay a story by his inquiring turn of mind.

No. 6 was in a hurry to hear some more, and nudged No. 5 to make him be quiet; but Aunt Judy interposed; said she did not like to tell stories to people who didn't care to know what they meant, and declared that No. 5 was quite right in asking what a victim was.

"A victim," said she, "was the creature which the old heathens used to offer up as a sacrifice, after they had gained a victory in battle. You all remember I dare say," continued she, "what a sacrifice is, and have heard about Abel's sacrifice of the firstlings of his flock."

The children nodded assent, and Aunt Judy went on:-

"No such sacrifices are ever offered up now by us Christians, and so there are no more real VICTIMS now. But we still use the word, and call any creature a victim who is ill-used, or hurt, or destroyed by somebody else.

Aunt Judy's Tales - 1/27

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