AFTER LONG YEARS
 The Duchess of Banford and her two children were
driving toward their
villa, when, owing to the roughness of the road, the
front wheel of
their coach was suddenly broken. Considerably
frightened, mother and
children quickly alighted. The approaching darkness,
coupled with the
loneliness of the place, added to the difficulty; for
the prospect of
spending the night in the woods was particularly
Just then a stable-boy chanced along and seeing the
"Oh, that wheel can be easily mended. Not far from here
there lives a
wheelwright, and I am sure he can repair it in a very
short time." The
boy then looked about him, and seeing a long pole,
said: "We can use
this to support the wagon as it drags along. The road
is rugged, and it
will take us about an hour to get there."
"Is there no shorter route?" inquired the Duchess.
"This is the only wagon road; but if you wish, I will
lead you along a
shorter path across the fields which will cut the
distance in half."
 The Duchess thanked him, and asked: "Do you think
that we may take this
pole? It seems to me as though some wood-cutter had
left it here to prop
"Oh, yes," he answered, "it belongs to the wheelwright
to whom I am
taking you. All the wood around here belongs to him,
and he will be glad
to have this pole so handy." So saying, he hurried to
get the pole and
helped the coachman fasten it in place. The horses then
carriage slowly over the rocky road, while the coachman
The family, however, followed the footpath, which led
between tall elms
and blooming shrubbery along the edge of a babbling
The silence was broken now and then by the plaintive
song of a
nightingale. The Duchess and her two children seated
themselves upon the
trunk of a fallen tree and listened to the music till
it ceased. A
gentle wind sighed softly through the leaves of the
trees, and merrily
flowed the near-by brook. As the nightingale repeated
its song, they all
When the song was ended, the Duchess said: "I would
give twenty pounds
if I had such a bird in my garden. I have heard many
in the city, but here in the country, in this wooded
region and deep
stillness, and at this twilight hour, its song seems
 that I might hear it sing in the little bower
near my villa."
"Hm," whispered the stable-boy, who stood near her
oldest son, Alfred,
"those twenty pounds could be easily earned."
Alfred nodded, and motioned to the boy to be still, for
just then the
nightingale began to sing. When the song ceased the
Duchess arose to
continue her way. Alfred, however, lagged behind with
with whom he was soon busily engaged in earnest talk.
"A nightingale in a cage is not what my mother wants;
what she wants is
a nightingale that is at liberty, to sing and nest and
fly as it pleases
in our beautiful garden, and to return to us in the
spring from its
"I understand very well what you mean. I should not
want to catch a bird
and deliver it into captivity." After questioning
Alfred more closely
about the trees near his villa, the boy said: "I feel
sure that I can
get a nightingale and its nest for you. I know just how
to go about it.
You will soon hear its song resound from all parts of
possibly not this week, but surely next."
Alfred stood still for a moment and looked at the
boy—clothed in a
shabby suit, with his hair protruding from his torn
hat. Then he asked,
wonderingly, "What would you do with the money?"
 "Oh," said the boy, and the tears stood in his
eyes, "twenty pounds
would help us out of our troubles. You see, my father
is a day-laborer.
He is not a very strong man, and I was just on my way
to visit him, and
do what I could to help him. My foreman has given me a
few days' leave
of absence. I don't earn much, but it helps my father a
little. I often
feel that it would be a great help to him if I could
earn more. I
certainly should like nothing better than to be a
wheelwright. It must
be grand to be able to take the wood that lies here in
the forest, and
make a beautiful carriage out of it, like the one you
own. I have often
talked with the wheelwright, but he will not take me as
until I have a certain amount of money. Besides, I
should need money to
buy tools. It would cost twenty pounds, and my father
and I haven't as
much as that together.
"Poor boy," thought Alfred, "if what he says is true,
we must help him."
Then he said aloud, "Bring me a written recommendation
school-master; and if the wheelwright really wants to
take you, I will
give you ten pounds as soon as the nightingale sings in
our garden; and I
know that the missing ten pounds will soon be
forthcoming. But you must
say nothing about this to anyone until my mother's wish
is gratified. I
should like to give her an unexpected pleasure."
 Soon they struck the main road again, and the rest
of the distance was
While the wheelwright was repairing the carriage,
Alfred engaged him in
conversation concerning the stable-boy, all of whose
statements the man
corroborated. He also showed a willingness to
apprentice the boy on the
The damage had now been repaired, so the Duchess paid
giving the stable-boy a few coins, and seated herself
in the carriage
with her children.
After whispering a few words to the boy, to tell him
how to reach the
villa, Alfred joined his mother and sister, and with
tooting of horns
they proceeded on their journey in high spirits.
 The little stable-boy, Michael Warden, hurried on to
his sick father. It
was late, and the journey would take him two hours. On
his way he
stopped to buy a few delicacies for his father with the
Duchess had given him. To his surprise, he found on
arrival that his
father was very much improved.
Before daybreak on the following morning, Michael
hurried to the woods
to find the nightingale's nest he knew so well. When he
had last visited
it, he had seen five brownish-green eggs there. But as
he now peered
into it he found, to his great astonishment, that the
young birds had
broken through their shells. With all haste he set out
for the villa,
several miles distant, to study the situation and
decide where he could
best fasten the nest. Arriving there, he found a
suitable place, and
then hurried back to the woods.
In the course of a few days, he succeeded in caging the
Placing the nest beside them in the cage, he carried it
to the garden of
the Duchess. He arrived there toward evening, and was
received by the gardener, who had been fully acquainted
with the idea.
 Adjoining the villa was a large tract of land, well
wooded, which was
beautifully laid out with garden plots, pebbly, shaded
vine-covered bowers and rustic seats. In one corner of
the garden there
stood an odd little thatch-covered arbor, nestling
between high rocks in
the shadow of the tall trees. A brook which fell in
flowed past this little nook, clear as crystal, and
made the stillness
fascinating by its intermittent murmuring. This spot
the Duchess loved
well, and many hours of the day she spent here.
Scarcely a hundred feet distant, there stood a willow
resembling the late home of the caged nightingales. The
boy had chosen
this tree and had prepared a place for the nest on a
forked branch. He
went there late one evening, as the moon was shining
placed the nest securely on this tree; then he gave the
The next morning, the boy returned to the spot and hid
himself in the
thick shrubbery, to see whether the birds would feed
their young, who
were loudly crying for food. In a little while the
parent birds returned
and fed them.
"Now I have triumphed," said Michael; and he
hurried to the villa to
carry to Alfred the welcome news that in a few days the
would be singing their song in his garden.
 "Fine," said Alfred, "and then the money will be yours.
Stay a few days
longer and you can take it with you."
Two days later, the Duchess invited her friends to a
lawn-party. The sun
had risen in all its glory, the sky was unclouded, and
the breezes were
light and refreshing. The garden, with all its natural
a most entrancing spot for the feast, which proved
perfect in every
detail and was enjoyed in full measure.
After the guests had departed, the Duchess said to her
children, "Let us
spend this delightful twilight hour here in quiet. My
soul is satisfied;
for what can compare with this blessed evening hour?
What comparison can
there be between the grandeur of our salon and the
beauty of nature?"
Just then the nightingale broke the stillness with its
The Duchess was surprised, and listened intently until
the song was
"I wonder how this nightingale came to my garden. The
cannot remember ever having heard one in this region."
"Dear mother," said Alfred, "you often wished that a
lend its song and its presence to grace this beautiful
spot. The same
boy who assisted us out of a difficulty recently,
helped me gratify your
wish. You remember,
 dear mother, that you said at
that time: 'I would
give twenty pounds to have a nightingale in my garden.'
That boy has
helped us please you, and we have paid him half this
amount out of our
savings. The boy is worthy of the money, and it may be
the foundation of
his future success."
"You have acted nobly," said the Duchess. "I am
transported with ecstasy
at hearing the nightingale sing for the first time in
my garden, and
also at the love which you have shown for your mother.
It moves me still
more, however, when I think that my children possess a
heart big enough
to part with money intended for their own use, and
voluntarily give it
up to afford help and joy to others. I, too, will
reward the boy
generously. I wonder what use he would make of the
"We could not give the money to a more worthy person,"
said Alfred, who
then related to his mother the boy's aspirations.
"Besides, I have
written to his teacher, and this is what he says about
him: 'A greater
deed of charity you could not perform than to help
Michael Warden carry
out his desire to learn a trade. He is a clever,
ingenious boy, and
would learn quickly. I think he would like best to be a
I would suggest that you apprentice him with the master
in our village.'
So you see, mother, the money would not be spent in
 "Very well, the money shall be his."
On the following morning, Alfred sent for Michael, and
counted out to
him the money, increasing it to fifty pounds. Michael's
almost carried him off his feet, and he thanked Alfred
profusely for the
extra money. He hurried home to his father and laid his
him on the table. The old man stared at it in blank
amazement, and said:
"My boy, I hope you have not stolen this money!"
"No, father, but a little bird in the forest helped
me," and Michael
related the incident.
His father, overjoyed, now made all preparations for
He then conducted him to the master wheelwright, paid
the stipulated sum
and entered him as an apprentice. At the end of three
years, the boy was
as accomplished in his trade as his master.
Before starting out into the world, Michael returned to
the Castle of
Banford to tell of his progress, and once more thank
the Duchess and her
children for their kindness to him. They praised him
heartily for the
strides he had made. The Duchess then gave him another
gift of money for
his journey, and said: "Success be yours. We must never
do good by
halves; the sapling that we plant we should also
water." Then with many
encouraging remarks, the Banfords bade him good-bye.
 Touched by their interest and charity, Michael was
so stupefied that he
could scarcely speak. When he recovered his
self-control, he thanked
them all, and promised faithfully to do his best and
their good advice.
 Alfred Banford had always been kind to the poor and
affectionate to his mother. Suddenly he was seized with
fervor. For some time he had nursed the desire to be a
soldier. At the
age of seventeen, he studied the art of warfare at a
He surprised all the officers with his military genius.
The Duchess, too, loved her fatherland, and at last she
recognized that she must give up her son to fight in
defense of his
"Go, then," said she, "fight for the right and your
country; and may God
Alfred fought valiantly and well, and at last was
forced to proceed with
the great French army against Russia. On the way to
Moscow the ranks
were greatly depleted, owing to the long, wearisome
privations. After untold hardships and bloodshed, the
army at last
reached Moscow, with her many palaces and temples and
spires and the old
palace, the Kremlin. It was a pleasing picture. Alfred,
like every other
soldier, now hoped to recuperate from the hardships of
warfare. But he
found the city uninhabited, the streets deserted, the
palaces and houses
 At midnight, a dreadful fire which had been
smoldering for several days,
broke out in wild fury and laid the greater part of the
city in ashes.
The army was obliged to retreat; and many thousand
exposed to snow and ice, hunger and cold, met a
horrible death. One
single freezing night killed thousands of horses,
Alfred's among them.
He was obliged to walk knee deep in icy water.
They traversed miles and miles of country without
passing one hut; and
when in the distance a human habitation appeared and
gave promise of
warmth and food, they found upon approach that it was
devoid of everything.
The poor, miserable, weakened soldiers were obliged to
spend many a
weary night on the snow-covered ground, with no roof
but the sky. The
need of food became more and more imperative each
moment; yet if they
had had the wealth of kings, they could not have bought
a dry crust of
bread; so they were reduced to the extremity of eating
the flesh of
their fallen horses. They quenched their thirst with
The street upon which the greater part of the army had
marked with deserted cannons and powder wagons; and on
both sides lay
the dead, upon whom the fast falling snow had spread a
Many of the soldiers
 of Alfred's regiment had
fallen, and lay frozen in
the snow; others were scattered here and there.
Alfred and a chum, both in a weakened condition, tried
to go on. They
descried a little village, about half an hour distant;
but before they
reached it, Alfred had become so weak that he fell
exhausted in the
snow, saying: "Thus must I die here!" He extended his
hand to his friend
and with tears in his eyes said: "Should you ever reach
the Castle of
Banford, bear my love to my mother and sisters. Tell
them that Alfred
Banford fought bravely, and fell in the service of his
These words reached the ears of a Russian gentleman,
Vosky by name, who
in a rude sled was going in the direction of the
village. He halted,
offered his assistance to the two half-frozen men,
helped them into the
sleigh and hurried on with them. A few minutes' drive
brought them to a
little inn, half concealed by the drifted snow.
"He halted, offered his assistance to the two half-frozen men, helped them into the sleigh and hurried on with them."
The men were conducted into the house and furnished
with food and
warmth. The host asked them no questions, for he saw
that they were
benumbed and almost unconscious. At last, when they had
raised his glass and said: "To your health, gentlemen.
soldiers should live. I sympathize with you, although I
am a Russian
subject. The sad fate of your fellow soldiers pains me.
I will do all in
 power to help you. I know you are not our
enemy. We have but one
enemy—the man whose iron will has forced all these
thousands of men into our country." Then he arose and
went about the
place, giving orders to his assistant.
The sleigh still stood at the door, and the horses
impatiently shook the
sleigh bells and pawed the snow. As Vosky re-entered
the room, his two
guests had finished their repast.
"Now," said he, "let me conduct you to a room where you
can rest and
sleep, undisturbed and undiscovered." After climbing a
walking through a narrow passage, they came to a secret
opened into a bedroom. Alfred Banford looked about him,
and was startled
when he saw in a mirror the reflection of such a pale,
visage and such tattered clothes.
Pity was plainly written in Vosky's kind face, but all
he said was:
"Stay here and recuperate. To my sorrow, I must leave
you for a little
while in order to transact some urgent business; but I
will instruct my
valet to provide you with every possible comfort.
Everything in this
house stands at your service."
Alfred Banford ventured to ask whether it would be
perfectly safe to
remain, for he feared that Russian soldiers might
capture him and that
he would be sent to Siberia.
"I give you my word," said Vosky. "You will
 be as
safe here as the Czar
is in his Castle. Give me your word of honor to remain
until my return.
I will then devise means to help you reach your
country. But I must be
off now. Take good care of yourselves." And hurriedly
he closed the door
Alfred Banford marveled at the friendliness and
goodness of this strange
man who had come to his rescue so unexpectedly and so
an angel from heaven. "It seems like awakening from a
dream, to find
myself transported from an icy field to a warm, cozy
room," said he. "It
borders on the miraculous—I cannot fathom it." But
sleep was fast
overpowering him. He had lain for so long on straw, on
icy ground, and
even in the snow, that it seemed as if he had never
felt anything softer
or warmer than this bed. He soon fell asleep and rested
peacefully till the dawn.
 On the following morning, at breakfast, Alfred Banford
turned to the
kind-hearted Russian servant, and said: "Do tell me
what sort of man
your master is, and what is his name?"
"He is a very good man," said the servant. "I can think
of no one who is
kindlier. His name is Vosky, the Czar's chief financial
adviser, and he
is particularly concerned with the care of the Russian
army. He has
always shown me great consideration, for I was only a
poor beggar boy.
"One day one of Mr. Vosky's assistants lost a package
valuable papers and a large sum of money. It was
I fortunately found the package and brought it to Mr.
Vosky, who was so
pleased with my honesty that he offered me a home, had
me trained for a
commercial life, and now takes me with him on his
journeys, partly as
secretary and partly as valet.
"His home is in St. Petersburg. This house is only used
as a stopping
place when his business carries him to this region,
which happens quite
frequently. Before leaving yesterday, he gave me strict
orders to look
after your welfare. I trust
 you will be pleased
with my efforts, and
give Mr. Vosky a good report when he returns."
By slow degrees Alfred Banford recovered his strength.
He found books
with which to while away the time. The stillness of
this secluded spot
was a gratifying change from the noisy battlefield.
One night, Mr. Vosky returned. As he entered the house,
his face shone
with enthusiasm and gay spirits. "I come," said he,
turning to Alfred,
"to give you liberty after your long confinement. I
stand at your
service, and wish to do everything in my power to see
restored to your own country. I would suggest that you
go with me to St.
Petersburg; from there you can easily return to your
own home by water.
I should like to introduce you to my wife and children.
Besides, I could
not let you depart without suitable clothing, and I
cannot provide you
with that here."
"My good man," said Alfred, "your extraordinary
kindness to me exceeds
all measure. I cannot understand how I should merit
"But," said Mr. Vosky, almost choked with emotion, "I
extraordinary or bountiful in my acts. It is my duty,
an act of
"I fail to understand you," said Alfred. "I cannot
slightest favor that I have ever proffered you. I never
saw you before,
and what is more, I never heard of you in my life."
"Never?" cried Mr. Vosky. "Then listen to
 what I
have to say. My entire
fortune I owe to you. All my success I lay at your
Alfred looked at him in astonishment and shook his
"Did you never help a poor boy, by giving him fifty
"Just now I don't remember ever having done any poor
boy such a
"Now," said Vosky, "perhaps you may remember a
nightingale that you
wished to have brought to your mother's garden. You
will recall that
poor stable-boy who managed it for you."
"Oh, yes," said Alfred, "I remember the boy very well.
He was a poor,
worthy, ambitious lad, named Michael Warden. The last I
heard of him was
when he went out into the world as a wheelwright, to
make his fortune."
"So, you do remember him. Well, that boy Michael was
none other than
myself. Now I am the owner of a large factory, besides
adviser to the Czar. I had my name legally changed to
Vosky. I was that
stable-boy, that wheelwright."
"You!" cried Alfred, filled with admiration and
astonishment. He sprang
forward and embraced his benefactor. "But why didn't
you tell me all
this at first?"
"That was impossible," said Vosky. "It would have taken
too long to
explain; and my business affairs were so pressing, and
you were so
ex-  hausted, that you could not have listened to a
detailed account. I
deferred it for a more quiet, restful time, when I
could express to you
my thanks. I saw that you did not recognize me, and I,
too, would never
have recognized you had you not said that day as you
sank in the snow,
'Give my love to my mother and sisters and say that
Alfred Banford fell
in the service of his country.' Let us be thankful that
we have been
brought together, and that the opportunity has been
afforded me to show
you that I am not ungrateful. I cannot express to you
the joy it gives
me to see you, and to be able to serve you."
Mr. Vosky then related some of the events of his life.
How he had
visited the principal cities of Europe; and how he had
studied under the
best men, in order to make himself proficient in his
line of work.
Having heard that many Londoners were competing for the
carriages for Russia, he had hastily sent in his
estimate. The work was
accorded to him, and in a few years time he had amassed
a large fortune.
He had also opened a large wagon factory, and as soon
as the war broke
out with France, he had received orders from the Czar
to supply the
Russian army with additional powder wagons. The
government had been as
pleased with his promptness as with his honesty. Later,
he had received
the title of "Imperial Financial Adviser."
Alfred listened earnestly, and said: "God
you with excellent
talents. Even as a child you showed genius. You
certainly made good use
of your gifts. I see from all that you have told me,
that you were
always ready to embrace an opportunity; that you worked
honesty and system, and that you began and ended all
your work with an
honest purpose. God, upon whom you relied, has blessed
"That is true," said Mr. Vosky. "The fortune which I
gives me pleasure; for with it I can help the needy.
Many a poor lad,
like myself, have I (in memory of my own childhood)
taken by the hand
and helped to become a man of standing in the world."
Mr. Vosky became silent, and after a long pause said,
"I sorely regret
that my poor father did not live, to see how valuable
was the good
training which he gave me, and that I was not permitted
to make some
return to him for his love and devotion."
On the following day, Mr. Vosky and his guests started
on their journey
to St. Petersburg. The route lay along a beautiful
section of the
country; and so, with entertaining conversation, they
destination before they had expected.
Mr. Vosky's home was a beautiful place. His family came
warm greetings, and were introduced to Alfred Banford.
chil-  dren could hardly understand how any man who looked so
shabby and worn could
ever have been their father's benefactor. The father,
to them that the trials and tribulations of warfare,
Alfred had passed, accounted for his appearance; and
they were moved to
sympathy for his sufferings.
Mr. Vosky had his tailor furnish Alfred with a complete
to his station.
Alfred remained with the Vosky family until the
following spring, when
they escorted him to the wharf. Mr. Vosky gave him a
large roll of
bills, for which Alfred thanked him, and said: "I will
send you a check
for this amount as soon as I reach home."
"Oh, no," said Mr. Vosky; "rather give the money to
some poor boy. What
we give to the poor always returns to us."
With many adieus and handshakes, Alfred departed; and
the Vosky family
continued waving their handkerchiefs until the vessel
was lost to view.
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