Text of Plan #938
  WEEK 11  

  Monday  


The Adventures of Reddy Fox  by Thornton Burgess

Granny Fox Calls Jimmy Skunk Names

G RANNY FOX couldn't believe her own eyes. No, Sir, she couldn't believe her own eyes, and she rubbed them two or three times to make sure that she was seeing right. That chicken certainly had disappeared, and left no trace of where it had gone.

It was very queer. Old Granny Fox sat down to think who would dare steal anything from her. Then she walked in a big circle with her nose to the ground, sniffing and sniffing. What was she doing that for? Why, to see if she could find the tracks of any one who might have stolen her chicken.

"Aha!" exclaimed old Granny Fox, starting to run along the top of the hill, her nose to the ground. "Aha! I'll catch him this time!"

In a few minutes she began to run more slowly, and every two or three steps she would look ahead. Suddenly her eyes snapped, and she began to creep almost flat on her stomach, just as she had crept for Peter Rabbit. But it wasn't Peter Rabbit this time. It was—whom do you think? Jimmy Skunk! Yes, Sir, it was Jimmy Skunk. He was slowly ambling along, for Jimmy Skunk never hurries. Every big stick or stone that he could move, he would pull over or look under, for Jimmy Skunk was hunting for beetles.

Old Granny Fox watched him. "He must have a tremendous appetite to be hunting for beetles after eating my chicken!" muttered she. Then she jumped out in front of Jimmy Skunk, her eyes snapping, her teeth showing, and the hair on her back standing on end so as to make her look very fierce. But all the time old Granny Fox took the greatest care not to get too near to Jimmy Skunk.

"Where's my chicken?" snarled old Granny Fox, and she looked very, very fierce.

Jimmy Skunk looked up as if very much surprised. "Hello, Granny Fox!" he exclaimed. "Have you lost a chicken?"

"You've stolen it! You're a thief, Jimmy Skunk!" snapped Granny Fox.

"Words can never make black white;

Before you speak be sure you're right,"

said Jimmy Skunk. "I'm not a thief."

"You are!" cried Granny working herself into a great rage.

"I'm not!"

"You are!"

All the time Jimmy Skunk was chuckling to himself, and the more he chuckled the angrier grew old Granny Fox. And all the time Jimmy Skunk kept moving toward old Granny Fox and Granny Fox kept backing away, for, like all the other little meadow and forest people, she has very great respect for Jimmy Skunk's little bag of scent.

Now, backing off that way, she couldn't see where she was going, and the first thing she knew she had backed into a bramble bush. It tore her skirts and scratched her legs. "Ooch!" cried old Granny Fox.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Jimmy Skunk. "That's what you get for calling me names."

 



The Real Mother Goose  by Blanche Fisher Wright

About the Bush


[Illustration]

About the bush, Willie,

About the beehive,

About the bush, Willie,

I'll meet thee alive.

 


  WEEK 11  

  Tuesday  


The Eskimo Twins  by Lucy Fitch Perkins

What Happened When Menie and Koko Went Hunting by Themselves


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Mother Goose  by Frederick Richardson

I'll Tell You a Story


[Illustration]

 


  WEEK 11  

  Wednesday  


Fairy Tales Too Good To Miss—In the Meadow  by Lisa M. Ripperton

The Story of Ibbity

O NCE upon a time there was a little brown boy named Ibbity. He lived in a warm country where there are jungles and tigers and sandy deserts. Now Ibbity was always wondering about things, and one day he said to his mother:—

"I wonder, oh, I do wonder what is the strongest thing in the world."

But his mother could not tell him, so Ibbity started off by himself to find out.

He went a long, long way, and at last he came to a tree. Up the tree climbed Ibbity and looked abroad over the jungle and the desert for something very big and strong. But just then the top of the tree broke. Bump, down fell little Ibbity to the ground.

"Oh, Tree, you are the strongest thing, are you not?" cried Ibbity, sitting up and rubbing his head. "You are able to throw Ibbity to the ground."

"No, I am not as strong as the wind," sighed the tree, "it was the wind that broke my branch."

Then Ibbity ran far away to the place where the wind was blowing the sand in the desert, and he said:—

"Oh, Wind, the tree threw Ibbity, but you broke the tree. Are you not the strongest one?"

"No, I am not the strongest one," said the wind, "the hill is able to stop my blowing."

So Ibbity ran on and on, until he came to a high hill, and to the hill he said:—

"Oh, Hill, the tree threw Ibbity, and the wind broke the tree, but you are able to stop the wind. Are you not the strongest one?"

"Not I," said the hill. "At my feet lives a small mouse. She is cutting a tunnel straight through me."

So Ibbity went down the hill, and looked around in the bushes until he found a small brown mouse. To the mouse he said:—

"O Mouse, the tree threw Ibbity, the wind broke the tree, and the hill can stop the wind, but you have dug a tunnel through the hill. Are you not the strongest one?"

"No," said the mouse. "Cannot the tiger catch me?"

So Ibbity traveled to the jungle, where the tiger lives, and he said:—

"Oh, Tiger, the tree threw Ibbity, the wind broke the tree, the hill is able to stop the wind, and the mouse has dug a tunnel through the hill, but you can catch the mouse. Are you not the strongest one?"

But the tiger was caught fast in a net, and he said to Ibbity:—

"No, this rope is stronger than I."

And Ibbity said to the rope:—

"Oh, Rope, the tree threw Ibbity, the wind broke the tree, the hill can stop the wind, the mouse has dug a tunnel under the hill, the tiger is able to catch the mouse, but you have caught the tiger. Are you not the strongest one?"

"No," said the rope, "for the fire burns me."

So Ibbity ran and ran until he came to a fire, and to the fire he said:—

"Oh, Fire, the tree threw Ibbity, the wind broke the tree, the hill stops the wind, the mouse tunnels the hill, the tiger catches the mouse, the rope catches the tiger, but you are able to burn the rope. Are you not the strongest one?"

"No," said the fire, "my heat is less than that of the great sun."

Then Ibbity looked up at the sky, and he called loudly to the sun:—

"Oh, great Sun, the tree threw Ibbity, the wind broke the tree, the hill stops the wind, the mouse tunnels the hill, the tiger catches the mouse, the rope catches the tiger, the fire burns the rope, but your heat is greater than that of the fire. Are you not the strongest one?"

Then the sun winked its large yellow eye at Ibbity, and never a word did it say, for it was too far off to hear Ibbity's little voice.

So Ibbity clapped his hands and cried, "I have found the strongest one. It is the sun."

And little Ibbity went home again to tell his mother.

 



The Real Mother Goose  by Blanche Fisher Wright

See-Saw

See-saw, Margery Daw,

Sold her bed and lay upon straw.

 


  WEEK 11  

  Thursday  


Among the Forest People  by Clara Dillingham Pierson

The Biggest Little Rabbit Learns To See

[Illustration]

S EVEN little Rabbits lay on their nest at the end of the burrow, and wriggled and squirmed and pushed their soft noses against each other all day long. Life was very easy for them, and they were contented. The first thing that they remembered was lying on their bed of fur, hay, and dried leaves, and feeling a great, warm, soft Something close beside them. After a while they learned that this Something was their Mamma Rabbit. It was she who had gotten the nest ready for them and lined it with fur that she tore from her own breast. She didn't care so much about looking beautiful as she did about making her babies comfortable.

It was their Mamma Rabbit, too, who fed them with warm milk from her own body until they should be old enough to go out of the burrow. Then they would nibble bark and tender young shoots from the roots of the trees, and all the fresh, green, growing things that Rabbits like. She used to tell them about this food, and they wondered and wondered how it would taste. They began to feel very big and strong now. The soft fur was growing on their naked little bodies and covering even the soles of their feet. It was growing inside their cheeks, too, and that made them feel important, for Papa Rabbit said that he did not know any other animals that had fur inside their cheeks. He said it was something to be very proud of, so they were very proud, although why one should want fur inside of one's cheeks it would be hard to say.

What tangles they did get into! Each little Rabbit had four legs, two short ones in front, and two long ones behind to help him take long jumps from one place to another. So, you see, there were twenty-eight legs there, pushing, catching in the hay, kicking, and sometimes just waving in the air when their tiny owners chanced to roll over on their backs and couldn't get right side up again. Then Mamma Rabbit would come and poke them this way and that, never hurting any of them, but getting the nest in order.

"It is a great deal of work to pick up after children," she would say with a tired little sigh, "but it will not be long before they have homes of their own and are doing the same thing."

Mamma Rabbit was quite right when she said that, for all of their people set up housekeeping when very young, and then the cares of life begin.

One fine morning when the children were alone in their burrow, the biggest little Rabbit had a queer feeling in his face, below and in front of his long ears, and above his eager little nose. It almost scared him at first, for he had never before felt anything at all like it. Then he guessed what it meant. There were two bunchy places on his face, that Mamma Rabbit had told him were eyes. "When you are older," she had said to him, "these eyes will open, and then you will see." For the Rabbit children are always blind when they are babies.

When his mother told him that, the biggest little Rabbit had said, "What do you mean when you say I shall 'see'? Is it anything like eating?"

And Mamma Rabbit said, "No, you cannot taste things until you touch them, but you can see them when they are far away."

"Then it is like smelling," said the biggest little Rabbit.

"No, it is not like smelling, either, for there are many things, like stones, which one cannot smell and yet can see."

"Then it surely is like hearing," said the biggest little Rabbit.

"Oh dear!" exclaimed his mother, who was tired of having questions asked which could not be answered. "It is not a bit like hearing. You could never hear a black cloud coming across the sky, but you could see it if you were outside your burrow. Nobody can make you understand what seeing is until your eyes are open, and then you will find out for yourself without asking."

This made the biggest little Rabbit lie still for a while, and then he said: "What is a black cloud, and why does it come across the sky? And what is the sky, and why does it let the cloud come? And what is—" But he did not get any answer, for his mother ran out of the burrow and he followed part of the way.

And now his eyes were surely opening and he should see! His tiny heart thumped hard with excitement, and he rubbed his face with his forepaws to make his eyes open faster. Ah! There it was; something round and bright at the other end of the burrow, and some queer, slender things were waving across it. He wondered if it were good to eat, but he dared not crawl toward it to see. He did not know that the round, bright thing was just a bit of sky which he saw through the end of the burrow, and that the slender, waving ones were the branches of a dead tree tossing in the wind. Then he looked at his brothers and sisters as they lay behind him. He would not have known what they were if he had not felt of them at the same time.

"I can see!" he cried. "I can see everything that there is to see! I'm ahead of you! Don't you wish that you could see, too?"

That was not a very kind thing to say, but in a minute more his brothers and sisters had reason to be glad that they couldn't see. Even while he was speaking and looking toward the light, he saw a brown head with two round eyes look in at him, and then a great creature that he thought must surely be a dog ran in toward him. How frightened he was then! He pushed his nose in among his blind brothers and sisters and tried to hide himself among them. He thought something dreadful was about to happen.

"I wish Mamma Rabbit would come," he squeaked, shutting his eyes as closely as he could. "I wish Mamma Rabbit would come."

"Why, here I am," she answered. "What are you afraid of?"

The biggest little Rabbit opened his eyes, and there was the creature who had frightened him so, and it was his own mother! You can imagine how glad she was to see that one of her children had his eyes open.

"I will call in some of my Rabbit friends," she said, "and let you see them, if you will promise not to be afraid."

The next day four of the other little Rabbits had their eyes open, and the day after that they all could see each other and the shining piece of sky at the end of the burrow. It was not so very long afterward that the Rabbit family went out to dine in the forest, and this was the first time that the children had seen their father. Often when their mother left them alone in the burrow she had pulled grass and leaves over the opening to hide it from him, for Rabbit fathers do not love their children until they are old enough to go out into the great world, and it would never do for them to know where their babies are kept. Then their father taught them how to gnaw tough bark to wear their teeth down, for Rabbits' teeth grow all the time, and if they were to eat only soft food, their teeth would get too long. He taught them, too, how to move their ears in the right way for keen hearing, and told them that when chased they must run for the burrow or the nearest thicket. "Then crouch down on some leaves that are the color of your fur," he said, "and you may not be seen at all."

"Why should we run?" said the biggest little Rabbit.

"Because you might be caught if you didn't."

"What might catch us?" asked the biggest little Rabbit.

"Oh, a Hawk, perhaps, or a Weasel."

"What does a Hawk look like?"

"Like a great bird floating in the sky," said Papa Rabbit. "Now, don't ask me a single question more."

"Does a Hawk look like that bird above us?" asked the biggest little Rabbit.

His father gave one look upward. "Yes!" he said. "Run!"

And just as the Hawk swooped down toward the ground, he saw nine white-tipped tails disappear into a burrow near by.

 



A Book of Nursery Rhymes  by Francis D. Bedford

New Year's Day

[Illustration]
[Illustration]
 


  WEEK 11  

  Friday  


Mother Stories  by Maud Lindsay

The Little Gray Pony

THERE was once a man who owned a little gray pony.

Every morning when the dewdrops were still hanging on the pink clover in the meadows, and the birds were singing their morning song, the man would jump on his pony and ride away, clippety, clippety, clap!

The pony's four small hoofs played the jolliest tune on the smooth pike road, the pony's head was always high in the air, and the pony's two little ears were always pricked up; for he was a merry gray pony, and loved to go clippety, clippety, clap!

The man rode to town and to country, to church and to market, up hill and down hill; and one day he heard something fall with a clang on a stone in the road. Looking back, he saw a horseshoe lying there. And when he saw it, he cried out:—

"What shall I do? What shall I do?

If my little gray pony has lost a shoe?"

Then down he jumped, in a great hurry, and looked at one of the pony's forefeet; but nothing was wrong. He lifted the other forefoot, but the shoe was still there. He examined one of the hindfeet, and began to think that he was mistaken; but when he looked at the last foot, he cried again:—

"What shall I do? What shall I do?

My little gray pony has lost a shoe!"

Then he made haste to go to the blacksmith; and when he saw the smith, he called out to him:—

"Blacksmith! Blacksmith! I've come to you;

My little gray pony has lost a shoe!"

But the blacksmith answered and said:—

"How can I shoe your pony's feet,

Without some coal the iron to heat?"

The man was downcast when he heard this; but he left his little gray pony in the blacksmith's care, while he hurried here and there to buy the coal.

First of all he went to the store; and when he got there, he said:—

"Storekeeper! Storekeeper! I've come to you;

My little gray pony has lost a shoe!

And I want some coal the iron to heat,

That the blacksmith may shoe my pony's feet."

But the storekeeper answered and said:—

"Now, I have apples and candy to sell,

And more nice things than I can tell;

But I've no coal the iron to heat,

That the blacksmith may shoe your pony's feet."

Then the man went away sighing, and saying:—

"What shall I do? What shall I do?

My little gray pony has lost a shoe!"

By and by he met a farmer coming to town with a wagon full of good things; and he said:—

"Farmer! Farmer! I've come to you;

My little gray pony has lost a shoe!

And I want some coal the iron to heat,

That the blacksmith may shoe my pony's feet."

Then the farmer answered the man and said:—

"I've bushels of corn and hay and wheat,

Something for you and your pony to eat;

But I've no coal the iron to heat,

That the blacksmith may shoe your pony's feet."

So the farmer drove away and left the man standing in the road, sighing and saying:—

"What shall I do? What shall I do?

My little gray pony has lost a shoe!"

In the farmer's wagon, full of good things, he saw corn, which made him think of the mill; so he hastened there, and called to the dusty miller:—

"Miller! Miller! I've come to you;

My little gray pony has lost a shoe,

And I want some coal the iron to heat,

That the blacksmith may shoe my pony's feet."

The miller came to the door in surprise; and when he heard what was needed, he said:—

"I have wheels that go round and round,

And stones to turn till the grain is ground;

But I've no coal the iron to heat,

That the blacksmith may shoe your pony's feet."

Then the man turned away sorrowfully and sat down on a rock near the roadside, sighing and saying:—

"What shall I do? What shall I do?

My little gray pony has lost a shoe!"

After a while a very old woman came down the road, driving a flock of geese to market; and when she came near the man, she stopped to ask him his trouble. He told her all about it; and when she had heard it all, she laughed till her geese joined in with a cackle; and she said:—

"If you would know where the coal is found,

You must go to the miner, who works in the ground."


[Illustration]

When she came near the man she stopped to ask him his trouble.

Then the man sprang to his feet, and, thanking the old woman, he ran to the miner. Now the miner had been working many a long day down in the mine, under the ground, where it was so dark that he had to wear a lamp on the front of his cap to light him at his work! He had plenty of black coal ready and gave great lumps of it to the man, who took them in haste to the blacksmith.

The blacksmith lighted his great red fire, and hammered out four fine new shoes, with a cling! and a clang! and fastened them on with a rap! and a tap! Then away rode the man on his little gray pony,—clippety, clippety, clap!

 



The Real Mother Goose  by Blanche Fisher Wright

Robin-a-Bobbin

Robin-a-Bobbin

Bent his bow,

Shot at a pigeon,

And killed a crow.

 


  WEEK 11  

  Saturday  


The Sandman: More Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Meeeting-House Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

That farm-house was a long way from the village, where the houses were a great deal closer together, and in the village were the school-house and the new meeting-house, where little John and little Charles and Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Solomon and Uncle John all went on Sunday. And not very far from the new meeting-house was the old meeting-house. They didn't use the old meeting-house any more, and the people had let the little boys use it. So all the little boys that lived near used to go to the old meeting-house sometimes, and play in it. And they played that they printed a newspaper and that the pews were people's houses, and they had to leave a newspaper at each house. So some of the boys pretended that they were the boys that carried the papers, and they stopped at each pew and left a pretend paper. And they all thought that kind of play was great fun.

After a while, the people found that they wanted to put something else where the old meeting-house was. The old meeting-house was nearly a hundred years old, and it wasn't good enough to use, so they said they would pull it down. And when all the little boys heard about it, they were sorry that they couldn't play there any more, but they thought it would be great fun to see a building pulled down.

So, one morning, Uncle Solomon and Uncle John and little Charles and little John and little Sam all started out after breakfast. Uncle John and little Charles and little John walked down the little track and out the wide gate into the road, and they didn't wait for the others, because the others were all going in the wagon, and Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis were going with them. And Uncle John and the two little boys walked along the road for a long way until at last they began to come near the village. And they met a lot of other men and boys who were going to the same place, and they all walked along together.

When they got to the old meeting-house, there were many men working away, with axes and crowbars and hammers, tearing off the boards from the sides. And Uncle John and the other men who had just come took their axes and helped. And there were so many men working that they got the boards off very quickly; but they wouldn't let all the boys come near, for fear that they would get hurt. There were a great many boys, all that lived anywhere near, and they had to stand far off and watch. And more people kept coming, some walking and some in wagons, and when the boards were almost all off, the wagon from the farm-house came, with Uncle Solomon and Aunt Phyllis and Aunt Deborah and little Sam.

At last all the boards were off the sides, and there were all the beams and logs standing up straight and bare, with the roof on top. Then the men got long ropes to fasten to the top of the beams, so that the men could take hold of those ropes and pull and make the whole thing come tumbling down. And Uncle Solomon told them how to do that part, because he had been a sailor and knew all about ropes. So they went up the ladders and tied the ropes to the tops of the beams, and then the men came down from the ladders and dragged the other ends of the ropes as far away as they would reach. The ropes were long, so that none of the people that pulled on them should be too near when the meeting-house fell down. And there were a good many ropes.

When they had taken down all the ladders and the men were taking hold of the ropes, to pull, little John couldn't stand it any longer, and he called out to Uncle John and asked him if he and Charles couldn't pull, too. And the other men heard, and they all cried out, "Yes, let the boys take hold."

So all the little boys were glad, and they were so excited that they yelled as loud as they could, and that was pretty loud. Then they ran and stood by some of the ropes, as many as twenty boys by one rope. So the boys took hold of some of the ropes and the men took hold of the others. And they waited until everybody was ready, so that they could all pull at once.

When everybody was ready, Uncle Solomon cried out, "Are you ready?" And they cried, "All ready." And then he called out, very loud, "Heave away!" That meant to pull. So they all pulled at once, for just a little bit, and then they stopped. And Uncle Solomon was watching the meeting-house, and he called, "Heave!" again. When he called "Heave!" all the men and boys pulled as hard as they could, and then they stopped. And Uncle Solomon kept calling out at the right time. And the little boys were very much excited, and so were the men, and they all watched the meeting-house.

Pretty soon they could see that it was swinging back and forth. Every time it swung Uncle Solomon called out, and they all pulled. And the meeting-house swung farther and farther, and they could hear the wood cracking, and at last it swung so far that it didn't swing back again, and there was a great roaring and cracking noise, and down came the meeting-house, and it struck the ground with a great enormous SMASH.


[Illustration]

When the great SMASH came, all the men and all the boys yelled as loud as they could. And a great enormous cloud of dust went up into the air and there was so much dust that it made it dark and everybody was covered with dust. Then the wind blew the dust away, and all the people looked and saw the beams and logs in a great heap on the ground, and there were a great many bats flying about, trying to find a place to hide in. These bats used to sleep all day, up in the garret of the meeting-house, right under the roof, and in the night they came out and flew about. So, when they found the meeting-house was falling down, they flew out in a great hurry. And pretty soon they had all flown away to other places.


[Illustration]

Saw the beams and logs in a great heap on the ground.

After the dust had all blown away, the people began to talk to each other about the way the meeting-house had fallen down, and then some of them started to go home again. They couldn't stay there and watch, because they had to do the work at home and get dinner ready. Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis had to go home, but Uncle John was going to stay for a while, to help the other men clear up the great heap of logs and beams. And little Charles and little John wanted to stay and watch the men, so Uncle John said they might stay for a while. Then Uncle Solomon and Aunt Phyllis and Aunt Deborah and little Sam all started back in the wagon, and little Charles and little John stayed, with a lot of other boys, and they watched the men working.

After a while, Uncle John had to stop working and start home again, to get his dinner and to do the work on the farm. So the two little boys went with him, and they walked along the road for a long way until they came to the farm-house. Then they turned in at the wide gate and walked up the little track to the kitchen door and went in. And it took them a long time to wash off all the dust that got on them from the meeting-house, but they didn't care, because they thought they would never have a chance to see anything like that again as long as they lived.

And that's all.

 



Ring o' Roses  by L. Leslie Brooke

The Lion and the Unicorn

[Illustration]

The Lion and the Unicorn

Were fighting for the crown;

The Lion beat the unicorn

All round about the town.

[Illustration]

Some gave them white bread,

And some gave them brown;

Some gave them plum-cake,

And sent them out of town.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]
 


  WEEK 11  

  Sunday  


The Nursery Book of Bible Stories  by Amy Steedman

Gideon, the Soldier

T HE people of Israel were in sore distress. Their smiling land, that land "flowing with milk and honey," was laid waste, they were robbed of their harvests, and they went in terror of their lives. The fierce Midianite robbers had come swarming from the east like a cloud of locusts, and just as locusts devour the green, good land, so these Midianites had overrun the country and devoured everything which their greedy eyes desired and their powerful hands could grasp.

The people who lived in the quiet valleys and plains had fled to the hills for safety, leaving their cornfields and vineyards, and seeking shelter in caves and rocky dens. They dared not try to fight the robbers, for the Midianites far outnumbered them. It was a reign of red terror, as if hungry wolves had come to menace the peaceful land.

There was one man, however, who had not fled before the enemy and who kept on steadily at his work, reaping his corn and gathering in his grapes. This was Gideon, a young landowner who looked after his father's land. He was the youngest of a family of brothers, all of them so tall and straight and strong and good to look at that they might have been the sons of a king.

But of all these brothers Gideon alone was now left. The others had all been killed by the fierce robbers who had invaded the land, and it was his part now to defend the home and carry on the work. He never dreamed of running away and leaving his fair cornfields and terraced vineyards to fall into the greedy, grasping hands of the wolfish enemy. The Midianite robbers would not find him an easy prey when they came. Still he worked cautiously, and when the harvest was gathered in he hid it in a secret cave which he had prepared.

It was a bitter thing to live always in fear of the enemy, and Gideon almost felt as if God had forsaken His people. He knew what wonderful things God had done in the past years, when the people of Israel had escaped from Egyptian slavery: how He had made a passage for them through the Red Sea, and broken down the walls of Jericho before them, and led them into the flowery land of peace and plenty. But why, then, did He work no wonders now, and free them from this dreadful tyranny?

He was thinking these thoughts one day as he toiled near the grove of trees which grew just above his vineyard, when he looked up and saw some one there, sitting under an oak tree. It was a friend and not a foe, for the greeting fell gently on his ear, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour."

Was it a message from God? Perhaps this was an angel messenger, but Gideon answered bitterly, for he did not think that God was with him.

"If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?" he asked. "Where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."

Quickly then the angel's answer came. It was he, Gideon, who was to show the people that God could still work miracles and that He had not forsaken His people. It was he who should lead them to victory and drive forth the robbers out of the land.

It was a splendid call to arms, and Gideon answered it at once as a soldier obeys the call of his king.


[Illustration]

The Call of Gideon

But before fighting the foe there was evil at home to be battled with. The people had been worshipping a false god, and Gideon's first act was to sweep away all that belonged to that false worship. The indignant people talked of punishment, but even while they spoke news came that more of the robber nations were on their way to harry the land, and this was Gideon's opportunity. Splendid in his youth and strength, king-like in his daring, he stood out before the people and blew a great blast upon his trumpet, calling upon the people to gather themselves together for the defence of their land and to follow him, their captain.

It was a bold thing to think of withstanding that great army which was coming thundering upon its relentless way. Gideon himself knew that it was a forlorn hope unless God was surely on their side. He must make quite certain of that before setting out, so he humbly prayed that God would give him a sign. He would put a fleece of wool out on the ground at night, and if in the morning the fleece was wet with dew while the ground around was dry, then he would know that God had indeed chosen him to lead His people to victory.

The fleece was laid out, and when Gideon came in the morning he found it all soaked with dew, while not a drop had fallen upon the dry hard ground around. Still he wanted to be even more sure, and so again he prayed to God, and asked that this time the fleece might be dry and the dew fall only upon the ground. If this happened he would ask for no other sign, but would believe with all his heart.

Again God listened patiently to His soldier servant, and again He granted his prayer. This time, when in the early morning Gideon went out to find his fleece, it was lying there quite dry, while everything around was heavy with dew.

So now with every doubt at rest Gideon set to work to prepare for battle. The people had answered his trumpet call and had gathered together in thousands; but many of them had come in fear and trembling, and Gideon wanted no cowards or half-hearted men in his army. God was able to save by many or by few, and He meant to show that it was by His arm that the victory would be won. So He bade Gideon tell all the faint-hearted and frightened men to return to their hiding-places, and all the unfit ones to go home, and at last the army melted away until only three hundred picked men were left to fight the great armies of the Midianites and the Amalekites.

The little army took up its position secretly upon a hill which overlooked the plain where the enemy was encamped; and when night came down and wrapped hill and plain in darkness, God's message came to Gideon and bade him go down secretly, taking his servant with him, to find out what was happening in the camp below.

The vast plain was covered with tents; thousands and thousands of camels, on which the robbers had come riding so proudly, were resting there now like a great gray sea stretched out towards the horizon. It seemed as hopeless to think of turning back this great swarm of people as of stopping the incoming tide. But there was no doubt or fear in Gideon's heart.

Very silently in the darkness of the night he stole down the hill and crept closer and closer to the enemy camp. Like two gray shadows he and his faithful servant drew nearer and nearer, until at last they could hear the voices of two men who were talking in one of the dark tents set at the outer edge of the great camp.

The men had both been asleep, and one had been dreaming, but the dreamer had awakened his companion to listen to the frightening dream which had disturbed him. Gideon could distinctly hear his terror-stricken voice telling how he had seen a cake of barley bread come rolling down the hill into the camp, where nothing could stop it, until it even reached the royal tent and laid it flat. The man who listened to the dream was terrified too, and declared that it meant the overthrow of their people by the sword of Gideon, that man of Israel who dwelt on the hillside and had defied them.

Gideon had heard enough; and so, as silently as they had come, the two shadows flitted back and climbed up the hill to their camp. There was no time to be lost. Before the enemy could regain confidence the blow must be struck. Gideon had everything planned for the attack, and now he explained to his men exactly what they were to do.

Each man was to carry in one hand his trumpet, and in the other an empty earthen pitcher with a lighted torch inside. They were to carry these pitchers so that no gleam of light should show, and were to creep quietly down to the edge of the enemies' camp below. Then, when they were all come close to the camp Gideon would blow his trumpet, and at that signal all those three hundred men were to blow their trumpets too and break the pitchers which they held in their hands, so that the light of the torches should suddenly blaze out. There was only one more order to give, and that was to tell them the battle cry which was to carry them on to victory—

"The sword of the Lord and of Gideon."

Swiftly, then, those three hundred picked men crept down the hill. No mountain mist rolling into the valley could have moved more silently, and not a gleam from the hidden torches lit up the darkness.

There was silence in the great camp below. Sentries had just been changed, and the rest of the army was peacefully sleeping—when suddenly one long clear trumpet call shattered the stillness like the thrust of a spear piercing a solid wall of blackness. Instantly a wild blare of answering trumpets broke in from every side, and the darkness was lit up by hundreds of flaring torches, while a mighty shout rose up to heaven: "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon."


[Illustration]

"They blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands."

No wonder the enemy in their surprise and terror thought that a great army was upon them. It seemed as if the very night itself was full of fire and crashing sound. They rushed from their tents, they fled this way and that, not knowing friend from foe, but madly hacking their way with their swords in blind terror.

It was a great victory for the Israelites. Both the robber kings were taken and slain, and the people who survived that terrible stampede were driven back into their own land.

Who now in all the land was as great a hero as the brave young captain, the victorious Gideon? The people in their gratitude and devotion were ready to pay him any honour, even to making him their king.

"Rule thou over us," they shouted, "both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian."

But Gideon would have none of this. It was to God that the glory was due, and God was their King.

"I will not rule over you," he declared, "neither shall my son rule over you."

And then, like the trumpet call in the great battle, his voice rang out: "The Lord, He shall rule over you."

 



The Real Mother Goose  by Blanche Fisher Wright

John Smith

Is John Smith within?

Yes, that he is.

Can he set a shoe?

Ay, marry, two.

Here a nail, there a nail,

Tick, tack, too.