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the house itself, he never pushed his authority;
but once set your foot on the broad slab of stone
under the entrance-porch, and you entered the
domains of King Stock, or, as we children used
to call him when we came to the days of Æsop’s
Fables, King Stork. Certainly that long-legged
monarch himself could not have been more
absolute, or more superbly indifferent to the
inclinations of his subjects. Stock’s highest word of
praise was “seemly.” I have heard him call the
great snowy sea of apple blossoms in the orchard,
flushed by a red sunset, “a seemly sight.” In
the same way, if Stock pronounced any person,
place, or thing, to be “unseemly,” we all knew
that he meant to convey a very strong expression
of condemnation. I have sometimes thought he
fancied the word to be scriptural, and to carry
with it a weight of solemnity beyond any mere
mundane or usual phrase. However that may
have been, I know that he and Anna had many
and many a battle about that unfortunate porch.
“Why, Miss Anna, ” he would say, with slow
utterance and wooden immovable face, “when
you’ve got the larn”—so he called the lawn
“and the gardens, and the srubbery, and the
horchard, and the medders, for to play in, take
what you likes and spile what you likes, whativer
possesses you to come and litter and mess all
over this here porch, with your pictur-books and
your ties (toys)? And that little scratting beast
of a Vixen, that I’d rayther ’ave ’ad a dozen
barn-door fowl on the gravel-drive this mornin’,
and the marks of her paws all over them stone
benches! ’Tisn’t seemly, I tell ye. Do what you
likes in the house. There’s more old rooms and
passages in the top story nor you’d trot through
on your small petitoes in a week. But in this
porch you shall not be; for ’tis a unseemly thing,
and there an end.”

But there was by no means an end. Anna
would stamp her small scarlet-shod foot (children
wore red morocco shoes in those days), and would
knit her delicate baby eyebrows, and would throw
herself furiously on the bench beside her treasures
at the least hint of an attempt to remove them;
while Vixen would bark and snap, and dart
forward with short spiteful leaps of defiance, and
the two would be so shrill and shrewish that
the fray generally ended in the child and the dog
being left panting, but victorious, in possession
of the field. Once only, old Stockwho never
turned a hair, as the phrase goes, in these
combats, but was outwardly as cool and unruffled
as his small foe was flushed and dishevelled
adopted the extreme measure of lifting up the
refractory one, screaming with rage, in his arms,
and carrying her deliberately to my uncle in the
library for instant punishment; while Vic, small
of body, but great of spirit, hung on by her teeth
to the calf of his leathern gaiter with all four
legs off the ground at once. Ludicrous as
the scene was, our kind guardians were so
frightened by Anna’s violence, and so unwilling
to deny her the gratification of any wish, that
Stock’s appeal resulted in total defeat for him,
and triumph and consolation for his enemy, in the
shape of an orange and a bright silver sixpence.
Dear, dear Uncle Gough! How tender he was,
how pitiful, how patient, with the helpless
motherless children he had taken to be as his

From that day forth, Stock never sought to
interfere with Anna’s choice of a playing-place.
I believe she was the only creature who, within
the memory of men, had successfully fought Stock
on his own territory; and it might have been
expected that he would be implacable against
his pigmy conqueror. But it was not so. I
believe he was afterwards doubly stern in
asserting his authority against all the rest of the
world, and I have an indistinct remembrance of
Uncle Gough’s having been obliged to yield up
certain celery-beds which Stock chose to
disapprove of, as a peace-offering to his outraged
dignity. But I do not think Stock was more harsh
with Anna after her victory than before. Indeed,
I used to fancy that he almost liked her the
better for it. On one occasion, I ventured to
tread some little way in my sister’s footsteps,
emboldened by the success of her rebellion;
but my audacity received so prompt and severe
a check as effectually quenched any rising
aspiration I might have had to do battle with “King
Stork,” presumptuous little minion that I was!
It happened in this wise. We had been racing
and romping through the grounds all the morning
of one bright summer day, and towards noon
were thoroughly heated and weary. Nurse had
carried off Anna, half cross and whole sleepy, for
a nap before our early dinner. I, being two
years older, and not so delicate and easily tired
as my sister, was left to follow my own
devices until it should be time to wash and brush
me for dinner. Under these circumstances, and
while still undecided how to bestow myself
during the next hour, my eye caught the broad
island of shadow cast by the porch on the
dazzling space of yellow gravel that lay glaring in
the sunshine before the house. A graceful
Virginia creeper hung lightly over the entrance, and
the porch looked so deep and mysterious in its
blackness of shade, that I thought of a certain
cave in a wood that I had been told of in some
fairy tale of surpassing interest, and the idea
occurred to me how delightful it would be
to play at being the enchanted maiden who
was kept prisoner by the wicked fairy,
compelled to remain spell-bound and motionless
in the cave until the handsomest prince in
all the world should come and touch her with a
branch of the magic linden-tree, when she was to
arise and marry the prince, and live happy ever
after! There was a great golden-blossomed
laburnum on one side of the porch, and that
would do very well for the linden-tree, and would
be much prettier. So off I ran in hot haste to the
“wilderness”—as our play-room was
significantly christenedand returned flushed and