O NCE upon a time there was a little boy and he was almost five years old. And there weren't any other children near for him to play with, so he used to play happily all by himself.
He had his cat and his cart and his shovel and his hoe, and he always wore his overalls.
One morning he was sitting right down in the gravel of his front walk, the walk that led to the front door of the house that he lived in, and he had been digging in the gravel. The hole that he was digging was square.
And he had picked the dirt all over with a big nail, and pried it loose, and then he had pretended that his shovel was a big iron scoop that could scoop the dirt out just the way the big scoop did when it was dragged by the horses.
For he had been watching the men dig a cellar in the field next to his house.
And his cat was there, rolling in the gravel and playing with the air.
Pretty soon his mother looked out of a window, and then she came running out.
"My dear little boy," she said, "what are you digging?"
The little boy got up, and the cat scampered away a few feet, with her bushy tail straight up in the air.
"I'm digging a cellar for a house," said the little boy.
"Oh," said his mother. "Well, don't you think you'd
better build the house over near the
"The masons?" the little boy asked.
"The men to build the cellar wall. You may go and watch them if you like."
The little boy nodded again. Then he put his shovel into his cart, and took hold of the handle of the cart. Then he looked back.
"Good-bye," he said.
"Good-bye, my dear little son," his mother said.
And she watched him trudging away, dragging his cart, with his shovel and his hoe rattling in the bottom of it.
And his cat ran on ahead, with her bushy tail sticking straight up in the air.
The little boy saw a man hoeing slowly at something in a big shallow wooden box.
And the something that he was hoeing at was all white and it slopped here and there; and the hoe was all white, and the outside of the box was all covered with slops of the same white stuff, and the man's shoes were white, too, and the bottoms of his overalls.
And there was a pile of new sand that looked all moist and just right to play in.
There was another man standing at the edge of the cellar and looking down into it.
The cellar itself was so deep now that the little boy could just see the tops of the hats of the men who were working in it.
The man who had been looking down into the cellar heard the shovel and the hoe rattling in the cart and looked up.
"Hello!" he called.
"Hello," said the little boy. "What are you doing?"
"I'm just looking to see if the men do their work right. Come over here and I'll show you."
So the little boy left his cart beside the pile of sand and walked over to where the man was.
And the man met him and took hold of his hand; and they walked together to the edge of the cellar and looked down into it, and the man stooped down and kneeled on one knee, with his arm half around the little boy so that he wouldn't fall in.
In the cellar the little boy saw a great many big stones that lay all about the middle, where they had been dumped; and there were six men working around the edge of the cellar building the wall.
In part of the cellar the wall had been begun and was about two feet high; but in another part there was nothing but the smooth dirt at the bottom, and the smooth sides of the cellar that went straight up.
And two of the men were digging a trench in the smooth bottom of the cellar where the wall would be.
When they had the shallow trench dug for a few feet, one of the men put down his shovel and went to the pile of stones.
And he found some stones that were the size he wanted, each of them just about as big as he could carry in one hand. And he took two of these and went to the trench and put them in.
Then he went to the pile and got two more, and he put them in the trench, too. And so he did until the bottom of the trench was all covered.
Then he got smaller stones and threw them in on top of the bigger ones; and, on top of those, still smaller stones that were flattish.
The flat stones filled the trench up nearly to the top, and he didn't put in any more, but took up his shovel again and helped the other man dig.
Then two of the other men came, and they looked at the trench to see if it was all right.
Then they went to the pile of big stones and they picked out one of the biggest, and they took their big iron crowbars and put the points of the bars under the stone, to move it.
The little boy wondered.
"What are they going to do?" he asked. "Are they going to move it? Can they move it?"
The man nodded.
"Easy enough," he said. "You watch."
And the men pried with their crowbars, and the big stone started from its place and rolled down from the pile. And the men got it over to the trench, sometimes prying it with their crowbars and sometimes rolling it with their hands, and they set it in its place on top of the small flat stones.
Then one of the men shut one of his eyes and squinted along the wall that was done to see if the stone was just in the right place; and the other man moved the stone with his crowbar just a little until it was in exactly the right place.
Then they went to the pile again and got another big stone in the same way, and they got it over to the trench and set it in its place beside the first.
Then the men went to the pile again, and they picked out a stone that was nearly as big as the bottom stones, and they hammered it with great hammers and split off some thin, flat pieces.
That was to make it fit better in the place where it was to go. The ground all about the wall was covered with thin, flat pieces that had been hammered off other stones.
And they got a great thick board, and they put one end of the board on top of the bottom stones which they had just put in the trench, and they put the other end of the board on the ground in front of the stone which they had been hammering, and they rolled the stone slowly up the board until it came to the end.
And they rolled it off the end upon the bottom stones, and got it into its place with their crowbars.
And where it did not fit well enough, they put in thin, flat pieces that they picked up from the ground.
The man who knelt on one knee at the edge of the cellar told the little boy about it as the men worked.
And, when the men had put in the little flat pieces of stone, one of them looked up and smiled at the little boy and said that they called the thin, flat pieces "chocks."
"Not woodchucks," he said, "but just chocks."
The little boy smiled and nodded. He had never seen a
woodchuck, but there was a picture of one in his
"I guess," he said, "that they are stone-chucks."
All the men who heard him laughed. And they went to work again, and the little boy turned to the man who was holding him.
"I've got to go now," he said, "and play in that pile of sand."
"All right," said the man. "You play there just as long as you want to."
So the little boy went over to the man who was hoeing the white stuff. It wasn't so white as it had been and it was thicker, just about like nice mud.
And his cat came up from somewhere. The little boy didn't know where she had been, but he didn't pay any attention to her. He just stood and watched the man.
"What are you making?" he asked at last.
"I'm making mortar," the man said. "They put it in the cracks of the wall, to hold it together."
"Oh," said the little boy. "Well, would you like to have me help you?"
"You might bring me a load of sand," said the man, "if you want to. I shall have to put in more sand."
So the little boy went to his cart, and he threw out his hoe. He wasn't careful where he threw it, and the handle of the hoe hit the cat.
And the cat ran home as fast as she could go. But the little boy didn't know it, he was so busy.
And he backed the cart up to the
Then he took hold of the handle and pulled. It was heavier than he thought it would be, but he pulled it over to the box of mortar. It was only a few steps.
Then the man told him to shovel it in, a little at a time.
And the little boy shoveled it in slowly, and he felt very proud, for he was helping to make real mortar.
And he kept on shoveling until the man said that was enough.
The man hoed the mortar for a few minutes, and then he
took up a
It was made of two boards that were put together like a V with the point down and another board was nailed across one end, but the other end was left open.
It was a kind of a trough and a stick like a
And the man filled this hod with mortar, and he turned around and put the hod across one shoulder with the bottom of the trough resting on his shoulder.
And he took hold of the stick, and he walked off, down a ladder into the cellar.
And he dumped the mortar out of the hod on to a board near the men who were building the wall. Then he came up again.
The little boy watched him until he had come up out of the cellar. And he asked the man whether he would want any more sand, but the man said that he wouldn't for some time.
So the little boy went and played in the
"I've got to go now," he said to the mortar man.
"Good-bye," said the man. "Come again."
"Yes," said the little boy, "I will."
And he put his shovel and his hoe into his cart, and he took hold of the handle of the cart, and he walked off, with his shovel and his hoe rattling behind him.
And, his cat ran on ahead, with her bushy tail sticking straight up in the air.
And that's all of this story.