The Sandman: His House Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Dinner‑Time and Jonah Story

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 hoe, and he always wore his overalls when he was playing.

They were building a house in the field next to that little boy's house, and he used to go there almost every day to watch the men and to help.

One day it was late when he went, because his mother had taken him with her down to the Square to do an errand, and when he came back he had to change his clothes and put on his overalls. His mother wouldn't let him wear his overalls down to the Square.

And when he had his overalls on, he hurried and got his cart and his shovel and his hoe, and he called his cat, and she came running, with her bushy tail sticking straight up in the air.

And he hurried to the new house, dragging his cart; and his shovel and his hoe rattled in the bottom of it.

The mortar man saw him.

"Hello," he said.

"Hello," said the little boy. "Did you wonder where I was?"

"I did that," said the mortar man.

"Well, I had to go on an errand with my mother," the little boy said, "but I hurried and came as soon as I could, and here I am. Do you want some sand?"

But the mortar man didn't want any more sand then. He filled his hod with mortar, and he stooped down and took the hod of mortar on his shoulder, and he went trotting to the ladder, and he went down the ladder.


The Mortar Man

Then the little boy couldn't see him, because the cellar walls were done and the carpenters had come, and they had put on the great square beams that lie on top of the cellar walls, and they had put in the beams that go across from one side to the other and hold up the floors.

But there were some men in the cellar, for the little boy could hear them laughing and talking.

And the mortar man had told him that they were the bricklayers who were building the chimneys and two of the masons who were smearing mortar over all the cracks of the wall, so that the water wouldn't leak through from the ground into the cellar.

The little boy wished that he could see those men, but he was afraid that it wouldn't be being careful to go down that ladder, and he didn't think he could do it, anyway, for the steps were too far apart.

So he looked about and he saw the man who had held the handles of the scoop, and who had held him that other day, while he looked down into the cellar and saw the masons building the wall. He was called the foreman.

The foreman was glad to see the little boy, and beckoned to him.

And the little boy went, and the foreman took hold of his hand, and they went together right up on the floor beams; but the foreman carried him when they got up there, because there weren't any boards on the beams yet, and the little boy might have fallen through between the beams.

And when they got to the right place, they both stooped over and looked down between the beams, through a great big square hole. A chimney would come up through the hole, and the bricklayers were building it.

The little boy was surprised to see how enormous a chimney had to be at the bottom.

There were four men laying bricks as fast as ever they could, but it was all the little boy could do to watch one of the men.

First, he took up a brick from the pile, with his left hand, and he generally tossed the brick up a little way in the air, and it turned over before he caught it again, so that he saw all sides of it; and, with the flat trowel which he held in his right hand, he scooped up some mortar.

And he slapped the trowelful of mortar down on the bricks where he wanted to put that other brick, and he gave a little wipe with the trowel around the edges, and he pressed the brick that he was holding in his left hand down into place, and he tapped the brick with the handle of the trowel, and the mortar squeezed out all around, and, with his trowel, he scooped off the mortar that had squeezed out, and he slapped that down in a new place.

Then he began again, and reached down for another brick.

The little boy was so busy watching the bricklayer that he forgot all about the masons who were putting mortar on the wall.

But, pretty soon, all the men said something to all the other men, and they stopped laying bricks, and they began to take off their overalls.

"What are they going to do now?" the little boy asked.

"They are going to eat their dinner," said the foreman. "Come on."

So the foreman and the little boy got down on the ground again, and the foreman set the little boy down, and he took his hand, and they went back, near the pile of sand, where there were some nice boards to sit on.

And the men all came trooping out of the cellar, and each man went and got his dinner from the place where he had put it when he came there in the morning.

Some of the men had their dinner in pails and some had theirs in baskets and one man had his in a newspaper, so that he wouldn't have anything to carry home at night.

And the men came where the nice boards were, and they sat around anywhere, and they opened their pails and their baskets and the newspaper bundle, and they began to eat their dinners.

The little boy had sat down, too, but he didn't feel very comfortable.

He thought that, perhaps, he ought to have brought his dinner, but he didn't know about it, so how could he have brought it?

And he got up and started home, but the foreman called after him and asked him why he was going.

And the little boy said that he was going to bring his dinner, too, and eat it with them.

And the foreman said that they would give him some of their dinner, and that there were all sorts of nice things that their wives had cooked.

And the little boy said that he would ask his mother, and he would hurry as fast as he could.

In a few minutes, the little boy came back to the place where the men were sitting.

He walked very carefully, because he was carrying a cup of milk; and his cat walked beside him and looked up at the cup of milk all the time, and, every few steps, she stood on her hind legs and tried to reach the milk.

But she couldn't, and the little boy didn't pay any attention to her.

When he got to the men, the foreman asked him what his mother said.

And the little boy told him that his mother said he could have some of their things if they didn't give him any cake or any pie, and that any of the men could have their tea or coffee warmed for them if they would take it to his house.

The men who had tea or coffee were glad to hear that, and they went to the little boy's house and took their tea and their coffee.

Some had it in bottles and some had it in the covers of their dinner-pails, with the cup to drink out of fitting over the top.

The foreman didn't go, and the little boy sat down close to him and began to drink his milk but his cat bothered him by trying to get it.

So the little boy gave her a push with his foot.

"Get away, kitty," he said. "You can't have any."

Then the foreman laughed, and he broke off a piece of white bread and gave it to the little boy. And the little boy took a great enormous bite.

"Is it good?" the foreman asked.

The little boy nodded. "M—m—m!" he said. He couldn't really say anything because he had his mouth full of bread.

"My wife made it," said the foreman. "I think she's a very fine cook."

The little boy put his mouthful of bread in his cheek so that he could speak.

"Yes," he said, "I think so too."

The foreman laughed again, and then the men began to come back.

They all wanted to give the little boy something and some of them gave him other little pieces of white bread, and some of them gave him little corners of their sandwiches, and some gave him little pieces of dark-colored bread.

And he ate his pieces of bread and drank his milk, and the foreman gave him two of some little thin molasses cookies that were all crackly and crumbly; for little crackly cookies like those aren't much like cake.

When all the men had finished their dinner and had drunk their tea and their coffee, they went and put their pails and their baskets away and then came back and sat down again, and some of them got out their pipes and filled them.

The little boy was very happy, and he sat on the board with his hands in his lap, and he smiled.

"Now," said the foreman, "there's time for a story before you go to work again. Do any of you know a story?"

He looked all about and, last of all, he looked at the little boy. "Do you know any story?"

"Well," the little boy said, "I know about Jonah."

"Will you tell us about Jonah?" the foreman asked. "I should like to hear that story."

"Yes," said the little boy, "I will tell it. Well, once upon a time there was a man named Jonah. And he had to go to Nineveh to tell the people how bad they were. But he didn't want to go; so he didn't. He ran away in a ship.

"And when he got into the ship, he lay down and went to sleep. And the ship started, and pretty soon the wind began to blow terribly hard, and there were 'normous great waves, and the ship got all tippy. And the sailors were afraid, and they threw out the things that were in the ship.

"So the captain went to the place where Jonah was. 'Wake up, Jonah!' he said. 'Why don't you get up and pray?'

"Then the sailors talked together, and said that it must be Jonah's fault. 'Who is this Jonah, anyway?' they said. 'Where did he come from, and what is he doing here? Let's ask him.'

"So they did. And Jonah told them, and said, 'I guess you'll have to throw me out of the ship.' So they threw Jonah over into the water, and there wasn't any more storm.

"And Jonah, he went down and down and down in the water, and I guess he thought he was going to be drowned. Then a great, big whale came along and saw Jonah, and he opened his mouth wide and went at Jonah and swallowed him. But he didn't bite him or chew him or anything.

"But Jonah was terribly scared, 'cause he couldn't hardly guess where he was. The insides of the whale were all wet, and it was all pitchy dark in there.

"There wasn't anything for Jonah to do but to think, and after he had thought for a long, long time, the whale up-swallowed him and spitted him out on to the beach. And I s'pose Jonah went and washed his clothes, because they were all whaley.

"And then he went to Nineveh and told them to be more better, and they did be."

And that's all of Jonah.