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   Chapter 19 SKIRRYWINKS

A Peep Behind the Scenes By Mrs. O. F. Walton Characters: 15853

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Rosalie was almost in despair, almost ready to give up and sit down by the roadside, when she heard a sound behind her. It was the rumbling sound of wheels, and in another minute Rosalie saw coming up to her two large caravans, so [Illustration: A REST BY THE WAYSIDE.]

[Blank Page] like the caravan in which she used to travel with her mother, that the child felt as if she were dreaming as she looked at them.

The caravans were painted a brilliant yellow, just as her father's caravans used to be; and there were muslin curtains and pink bows in the little windows, just like those through which she had so often peeped.

When the caravans came up to Rosalie, she saw a woman standing at the door of the first one, and talking to the man who was driving.

The woman caught sight of the child as soon as they overtook her.

'Halloa!' she called out; 'where are you off to?'

'Please,' said Rosalie, 'I'm going to Pendleton, if only I can get there.'

'Give her a lift, John Thomas,' said the woman; 'give the child a lift.

It's an awful day to be struggling along against wind and storm.'

'All right,' said John Thomas, pulling up; 'I've no objections, if the lass likes to get in.'

Rosalie was very grateful indeed for this offer, and climbed at once into the caravan.

The woman opened the door for her, and took off her wet shawl as she went in.

'Why, you've got a kitten there!' she said as she did so. 'Wherever are you taking it to? it's half drowned with the rain.'

'Yes, poor little kit!' said Rosalie; 'I must try to dry it, it is so cold!'

'Well, I'll make a place for both of you near the fire,' said the woman, 'if only my children will get out of the way.'

Rosalie looked in vain for any children in the caravan; but the woman pointed to a large black dog, a pigeon, and a kitten, which were sitting together on the floor.

'Come, Skirrywinks,' said the woman, addressing herself to the kitten; 'come to me.'

As soon as she said 'Skirrywinks,' the kitten, which had appeared to be asleep before, lifted up its head and jumped on her knee. The great black dog was ordered to the other end of the caravan, and the pigeon perched upon the dog's head.

Then the woman gave Rosalie a seat near the little stove, and the child warmed her hands and dried and comforted her poor little kitten. No words can tell how thankful she was for this help on her way. She felt sure that John Thomas must be a man with a pitcher of water, sent to help her on her journey.

For some time the woman leant out of the caravan, continuing her conversation with her husband, and Rosalie was able to look about her. The inside of the caravan was very like that in which she had been born, and had lived so many years. There was a little cooking-stove, just like that which her mother had used; and in the corner was a large cupboard, filled with cups and saucers and plates, just like the one which Rosalie herself had arranged so often. But what struck her more than anything else was that on the side of the caravan was nailed up her picture, the picture of the Good Shepherd and the sheep.

It was exactly the same picture, and the same text was underneath it-

'Rejoice with Me; for I have found My sheep which was lost.' 'There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.'

Rosalie could not help feeling in her bag to be sure that her own picture was safe, so precisely did the picture on the wall resemble it.

The picture seemed to have hung there for some time, for it was very smoky and discoloured, but still it looked very beautiful, Rosalie thought; and her eyes filled with tears as she gazed at it. Oh, how it brought her mother's dream to her mind, and carried her thoughts away from the caravan to the home above, where even now, perhaps, her mother was being called by the Good Shepherd to rejoice with Him over some sheep which was lost, but which the Good Shepherd had found again.

When the woman put her head into the caravan she began to talk to Rosalie, to ask her where she had come from, and where she was going, and what she was going to do. She seemed a friendly woman, though she spoke in a rough voice. All the time she was talking, Skirrywinks was sitting on her shoulder and the pigeon on her head. Rosalie's kitten seemed afraid of the large black dog, and crept into the child's arms.

When they had chatted together for some time, Rosalie ventured to mention the picture, saying that it seemed so strange to see it here, for that she had one exactly like it.

'Oh, have you?' said the woman. 'That's Jinx's picture. An old man gave it to him just a year ago, it will be; it was at Pendleton fair.'

'Why, that's where I got mine!' said Rosalie. 'It must be the same old man.'

'I should say it was,' said the woman; 'he came to the caravans on a Sunday afternoon.'

'Oh yes; it's the same old man,' said Rosalie. 'I have my picture here, in my bag. I wouldn't ever part with it.'

'Wouldn't you?' said the woman. 'Well, I don't believe Jinx would. He nailed it up that very Sunday, and there it's been ever since.'

'Who's Jinx?' asked Rosalie.

'He's our boy; at least he lives with us. Me and John Thomas haven't got any children of our own, so we keeps a few. There's Jinx, he's chief of them; and then there's Skirrywinks, and Tozer, and Spanco, and then there's Jeremiah-you haven't seen Jeremiah; he's in bed-you'll see him when Jinx comes.'

'Where is Jinx?' asked Rosalie, almost expecting he would turn out to be some kind of animal which was hidden away in a corner of the caravan.

'Oh, he's in the next van, with Lord Fatimore,' said the woman; 'he'll be here soon, when it's time for these young people to be fed and trained. He's very clever, is Jinx; you never saw any one so clever in all your life. I'll be bound he can make 'em do anything. We might just as well shut up, if we hadn't Jinx; it's a deal more popular than Lord Fatimore is-folks say they never saw such a sight as when Jeremiah and Skirrywinks dance the polka together; and it's all Jinx that has taught them.'

In about half an hour the caravans were stopped, and the wonderful Jinx arrived. He was very short, not taller than Rosalie; he was so humpbacked, that he seemed to have no neck at all; and he had a very old and wizened and careworn face. It was hard to tell whether he was a man or a boy, he was so small in stature, and yet so sunken and shrivelled in appearance.

'Jinx,' said the woman as he entered, 'here's a young lady come to your performance.'

'Most happy, miss,' said Jinx, with a bow.

The moment that he came into the caravan, Skirrywinks and the dog sat on their hind legs, and the pigeon alighted on his head. As soon as he spoke, Rosalie heard a noise in a basket behind her as of something struggling to get out.

'I hear you, Jeremiah,' said Jinx; 'you shall come, you shall.'

He took the basket, and put his hand inside.

'Now, Jeremiah,' he said-'now, Jeremiah, if I can find you, Jeremiah, come out, and show the company how you put on your new coat.'

Out of the basket he brought a hare, which was wonderfully tame, and allowed itself to be arrayed in a scarlet jacket.

And then Jinx made all the animals go through their several performances, after which each received his proper share of the mid-day meal. But Skirrywinks seemed to be Jinx's favourite; long after the others were dismissed she sat on his shoulders, watching his every movement.

'Well, what do you think of them?' he said, turning to Rosalie when he had finished.

'They're very clever,' said the child-'very clever indeed!'

'That kit of yours couldn't do as much,' said Jinx, looking scornfully at the kitten which lay in Rosalie's lap.

'No,' said the child; 'but she's a very dear little kit, though she doesn't jump through rings nor dance polkas.'

'Well, tastes differ

,' said Jinx; 'I prefer Skirrywinks.'

'You've got a picture like mine,' said Rosalie, after a time, when she saw that Jinx seemed inclined to talk.

'Yes,' he said; 'have you one like it? I got it at Pendleton fair.'

'And so did I,' said Rosalie; the same old man gave one to me.

'Has He found you, Mr. Jinx?' said Rosalie, in a lower voice.

'Who found me? what do you mean?' said Jinx, with a laugh.

'Why, haven't you read the story about the picture?' said the child. 'It says where it is underneath.'

'No, not I,' said Jinx, laughing again; 'thinks I, when the old man gave it to me, it's a pretty picture, and I'll stick it on the wall; but I've never troubled my head any more about it.'

'Oh, my mother and I-we read it nearly every day,' said Rosalie; 'it's such a beautiful story!'

'Is it?' said Jinx. 'I should like to hear it; tell it to me; it will pass the time as we go along.'

'I can read it, if you like,' said Rosalie. 'I have it here in a book.'

'All right! read on,' said Jinx graciously.

Rosalie took her Testament from her bag; but before she began to read, Jinx called out to the woman, who was leaning out of the caravan talking to her husband.

'Old mother,' he called out, 'come and hear the little 'un read; she's going to give us the history of that there picture of mine. You know nothing about it, I'll be bound.'

But Jinx was wrong, for when Rosalie had finished reading, the woman said,'That will be the Bible you read out of. I've read that often when I was a girl. I went to a good Sunday school then.'

'And don't you ever read it now?' said Rosalie.

'Oh, I'm not so bad as you think,' said the woman, not answering her question; 'I think of all those things at times. I'm a decent woman in my way. I know the Bible well enough, and there's a many a deal worse than I am!'

'If you would like,' said Rosalie timidly, 'I'll find it for you in your Bible, and then you can read it again, as you used to do when you were a girl.'

The woman hesitated when Rosalie said this.

'Well, to tell you the truth, I haven't got my Bible here,' she said. 'My husband sent all the things we wasn't wanting at the time to his relations in Scotland; and somehow the Bible got packed up in the hamper. It will be a year since now. I was very vexed about it at the time.'

'Has the Good Shepherd found you, ma'am?' asked the child.

'Oh, I don't know, child; I don't want much finding. I'm not so bad as all that; I'm a very decent woman, I am. John Thomas will tell you that.'

'Then, I suppose,' said Rosalie, looking very puzzled, 'you must be one of the ninety-and-nine.'

'What do you mean, child?' asked she.

'I mean, one of the ninety-and-nine sheep which don't need any repentance, because they were never lost; and the Good Shepherd never found them, nor carried them home, nor said of them, "Rejoice with Me; for I have found My sheep which was lost."'

'Well,'said Jinx, looking at Rosalie with a half-amused face, if the old mother's one of the ninety-and-nine, what am I?'

'I don't know,' said Rosalie gravely; 'you must know better than I do, Mr

Jinx.'

'Well, how is one to know?' he answered. 'If I'm not one of the ninety-and-nine, what am I, then?'

'Do you really want to know?' said the child gravely; 'because if not, we won't talk about it, please.'

'Yes,' said Jinx, in quite a different tone; 'I really do want to know about it.'

'My mother said one day,' said Rosalie, 'that she thought there were only three kinds of sheep in the parable. There are the ninety-and-nine sheep who were never lost, and who need no repentance, because they've never done anything wrong or said anything wrong, but have always been quite good, and holy, and pure. That's one kind; my mother said she thought the ninety-and-nine must be the angels; she didn't think there were any in this world.'

'Hear that, old mother?' said Jinx; 'you must be an angel, you see. Well, little 'un, go on.'

'And then there are the lost sheep,' said Rosalie, 'full of sin, and far away from the fold; they don't love the Good Shepherd, and sometimes they don't even know that they are lost. They are very far from the right way-very far from being perfectly good and holy.'

'Well,' said Jinx, 'and what's the third kind of sheep?'

'Oh, that's the sheep which was lost, but is found again!'

'And what are they like?' asked the lad.

'They love the Good Shepherd; they listen to His voice, and follow Him, and never, never want to wander from the fold.'

'Is that all the kinds?' asked Jinx.

'Yes,' said Rosalie, 'that's all.'

'Well,' said Jinx thoughtfully, 'I've made up my mind which I am.'

'Which, Mr. Jinx?' asked the child.

'Well,' he said, 'you see I can't be one of the ninety-and-nine, because I've done lots of bad things in my life. I've got into tempers, and I've sworn, and I've done heaps of bad things: so that's out of the question. And I can't be a found sheep, because I don't love the Good Shepherd-I never think about Him at all; so I suppose I'm a lost sheep. That's a very bad thing to be, isn't it?'

'Yes, very bad; if you are always a lost sheep,' said the child; 'but if you are one of the lost sheep, then Jesus came to seek you and to save you.'

'Didn't He come to seek and save the old mother?' asked Jinx.

'Not if she's one of the ninety-and-nine,' said Rosalie. 'It says, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost;" so if she isn't lost, it doesn't mean her.'

The woman looked very uncomfortable when Rosalie said this; she did not like to think that Jesus had not come to save her.

'Well, and suppose a fellow knows he's one of the lost sheep,' said Jinx, 'what has he got to do?'

'He must cry out to the Good Shepherd, and tell Him he's lost, and ask the

Good Shepherd to find him.'

'Well, but first of all, I suppose,' said Jinx, 'he must make himself a bit ready to go to the Good Shepherd-leave off a few of his bad ways, and make himself decent a bit?'

'Oh no!' said Rosalie; 'he'd never get back to the fold that way. First of all, he must tell the Shepherd he's lost; and then the Shepherd, who has been seeking him a long, long time, will find him at once, and carry him on His shoulders home; and then the Good Shepherd will help him to do all the rest.'

'Well, I'll think about what you've said,' Jinx replied. 'Thank you, little 'un.'

John Thomas here pulled up, saying it was two o'clock, and time they had dinner. So the caravans were drawn up by the roadside, and the woman took the dinner from the oven, and Jinx was sent to the next caravan with Lord Fatimore's dinner, and Rosalie, offering to help, was sent after him with the same gentleman's pipe and tobacco.

She found Lord Fatimore sitting in state in his own caravan. He was an immensely fat man, or rather an enormously overgrown boy, very swollen, and imbecile in appearance. He was lounging in an easy chair, looking the picture of indolence. He brightened up a little as he saw his dinner arriving-it was the great event of his day.

When Rosalie returned to the caravan, the woman was alone, stroking Skirrywinks, who was lying on her knee, but looking as if her thoughts were far away.

'Child,' she said to Rosalie, 'I'm not one of the ninety and-nine; I do need repentance; I'm one of the lost sheep.'

'I'm so glad,' said Rosalie; 'because then the Good Shepherd is seeking you: won't you ask Him to find you?'

But before she could answer John Thomas and Jinx came in for their dinner, and they all insisted on Rosalie joining them.

After dinner John Thomas sat in the caravan and smoked, and Jinx drove, and

Rosalie sat still thinking. But she was so tired and worn out, that after a

little time the picture on the wall, John Thomas, the woman, Skirrywinks,

Tozer, and Spanco faded from her sight, and she fell fast asleep.

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