WEEK 28 |
J OHNNY CHUCK couldn't keep away from the Smiling Pool. No, Sir, Johnny Chuck couldn't keep away from the Smiling Pool. Ever since he and Peter Rabbit had gone over there looking for the sweet singers, who every night and part of the day told all who would listen how glad they were that Mistress Spring had come to the Green Meadows and the Green Forest, Johnny Chuck had had something on his mind. And this is why he couldn't keep away from the Smiling Pool.
You see it was this way: Johnny and
Peter had thought that of course
the sweet singers were birds. They hadn't dreamed of anything else. So
of course they went looking for birds. When they reached the Smiling
Pool, the voices came right out of the water. Johnny knew that some
birds, like many of the cousins of
Jerry Muskrat was always watching for Johnny, whenever he came to the Smiling Pool, and his eyes would twinkle as he would gravely say:
"Hello, Johnny Chuck! Have you seen the birds sing under water yet?"
Johnny would smile good-naturedly and reply: "Not yet, Jerry Muskrat. Won't you point them out to me?"
Then Jerry would reply:
"Two eyes you have, bright as can be;
Perhaps some day you'll learn to see."
Then Johnny Chuck would sit as still as ever he knew how, and watch and watch the Smiling Pool, but not a bird did he see in the water, though the singers were still there. One day a sudden thought popped into his head. Perhaps those singers were not birds at all! Why hadn't he thought of that before? Perhaps it was because he was looking so hard for birds that he hadn't seen anything else. Johnny began to look, not for anything in particular, but to see everything that he could.
Almost right away he saw some tiny little dark spots on the water. They didn't look like much of anything. They were so small that he hadn't noticed them before. One of them was quite close to him, and as Johnny Chuck looked at it, it began to look like a tiny nose, and then—why, just then, Johnny was very sure that one of those singing voices came right from that very spot!
He was so surprised that he hopped to his feet and excitedly beckoned to Jerry Muskrat. The instant he did that, the voices near him stopped singing, and the little spots on the water disappeared, leaving just the tiniest of little rings, just such tiny little rings as drops of rain falling on the Smiling Pool would make. And when that tiny spot nearest to him that looked like a tiny nose disappeared, Johnny Chuck caught just a glimpse of a little form under the water.
"Why—why-e-e! The singers are Grandfather Frog's children!" cried Johnny Chuck.
"No, they're not, but they are own cousins to them; they are the grandchildren of old Mr. Tree Toad! and they are called Hylas!" said Jerry Muskrat, laughing and rubbing his hands in great glee. "I told you that if you used your eyes, you'd learn to see."
"My, but they've got voices bigger than they are!" said Johnny Chuck, as he started home across the Green Meadows. "I'm glad I know who the singers of the Smiling Pool are, and I mustn't forget their name—Hylas. What a funny name!"
But Farmer Brown's boy, listening to their song that evening, didn't call them Hylas. He said: "Hear the peepers! Spring is surely here."
Come when you're called,
Do what you're bid,
Shut the door after you,
And never be chid.
WEEK 28 |
O NE day when all the birds were singing, and there was not a cloud in the sky, Father said:
"Let's have a picnic?"
"Oh, yes, let's!" said Bobby.
So Mother packed a basket with sandwiches and fruit and they were soon on their way.
Bobby carried the basket for a while, and Father carried it for a while. Then Father put a stick through the handle of the basket so he and Bobby could both carry it. This was a fine plan and they were stepping along briskly when suddenly Father stopped and said:
"I hear running water."
Bobby and Mother stopped to listen.
Yes they heard it, too. Gurgle, gurgle.
"There is a brook somewhere near us," said Father, "and the place that a brook comes from is the best place in the world to have a picnic."
When they came to the turn of the road there sure enough was a little stream that crossed the Big Road and ran away down the hill.
Father stopped beside the brook and played that he was talking to it.
"Where did you come from, little brook?" he asked.
"From a bubbling spring in a woodland nook," he answered himself.
"How shall we find it, tell me, pray?"
"Follow my stream. I'll show you the way," he answered himself again.
So Bobby and his father and mother followed the little stream back through mosses and ferns, under trees and over stones till they came to a grey rock on the side of a hill.
From under the grey rock bubbled a spring of water. Drip, drop it fell among the stones, and gurgle, gurgle it ran away in the shining stream that they had followed from the Big Road.
The grass grew like a carpet all about the spring and the trees overhead were like great green umbrellas.
It was the best place in the world for a picnic they all agreed, and Mother made haste to spread the table-cloth that she had brought in the basket, and to take out the luncheon.
Sandwiches and fruit and cool
"I like to eat my lunch
This is what Bobby heard early one morning
before he was up. Rap-a-
He thought some one was knocking at the door.
"Come in," he called, but nobody came, and when he opened the door nobody was there.
But the rap-tap-tapping was louder and clearer than before.
"Perhaps a carpenter is building a house by the Big Road," thought Bobby. How nice that would be!
He fairly jumped into his clothes and ran out to see if he were right. He did not even wait to say anything to Mother and Father. "I'll tell them about it when I come back," he said to himself.
He could hear the noise very clearly out-
Sometimes the rapping would stop, but if Bobby turned
to go into the house it was sure to begin again.
"Perhaps my father will know," he thought as he ran in to wash his face and hands and, sure enough, the very first words Father said when he saw him were:
"Well, Bobby, do you hear our new neighbors at work? We must go to see them after breakfast."
He would not tell anything else about the new neighbors, and Bobby was in such a hurry to find out who they were that he could scarcely eat his bread and milk.
Rap-a-tap-a-tap! Father and Bobby heard the hammering from the time they went out of the door till they crossed the Big Road.
"They must be in the field beyond the hedge," said
Bobby. But no! Father stopped under a tall
"Here they are right above your head," he said. And
what do you think the new neighbors were? Woodpeckers
with red heads, and
Woodpeckers with red heads, and black‑and‑white wings.
"Good-morning, Mr. and Mrs. Woodpecker," said Father. "This is Bobby. We are glad you are going to live by the Big Road."
WEEK 28 |
O NCE upon a time there were three little kittens, and their names were Mittens, Tom Kitten, and Moppet.
They had dear little fur coats of their own; and they tumbled about the doorstep and played in the dust.
B UT one day their mother—Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit—expected friends to tea; so she fetched the kittens indoors, to wash and dress them, before the fine company arrived.
F IRST she scrubbed their faces (this one is Moppet).
T HEN she brushed their fur (this one is Mittens).
T HEN she combed their tails and whiskers (this is Tom Kitten).
Tom was very naughty, and he scratched.
M RS. TABITHA dressed Moppet and Mittens in clean pinafores and tuckers; and then she took all sorts of elegant uncomfortable clothes out of a chest of drawers, in order to dress up her son Thomas.
T OM KITTEN was very fat, and he had grown; several buttons burst off. His mother sewed them on again.
W HEN the three kittens were ready, Mrs. Tabitha unwisely turned them out into the garden, to be out of the way while she made hot buttered toast.
"Now keep your frocks clean, children! You
must walk on your hind legs. Keep away from
M OPPET and Mittens walked down the garden path unsteadily. Presently they trod upon their pinafores and fell on their noses.
When they stood up there were several green smears!
"L ET us climb up the rockery, and sit on the garden wall," said Moppet.
They turned their pinafores back to front, and went up with a skip and a jump; Moppet's white tucker fell down into the road.
T OM KITTEN was quite unable to jump when walking upon his hind legs in trousers. He came up the rockery by degrees, breaking the ferns, and shedding buttons right and left.
H E was all in pieces when he reached the top of the wall.
Moppet and Mittens tried to pull him together; his hat fell off, and the rest of his buttons burst.
HILE they were in difficulties, there was a
pit pat paddle pat! and the three
T HEY stopped and stood in a row, and stared up at the kittens. They had very small eyes and looked surprised.
HEN the two
M ITTENS laughed so that she fell off the wall. Moppet and Tom descended after her; the pinafores and all the rest of Tom's clothes came off on the way down.
"Come! Mr. Drake
M R. DRAKE PUDDLE-DUCK advanced in a slow sideways manner, and picked up the various articles.
B UT he put them on himself! They fitted him even worse than Tom Kitten.
"It's a very fine morning!" said Mr. Drake
ND he and Jemima and Rebeccah
T HEN Tabitha Twitchit came down the garden and found her kittens on the wall with no clothes on.
S HE pulled them off the wall, smacked them, and took them back to the house.
"My friends will arrive in a minute, and you are not fit to be seen; I am affronted," said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit.
S HE sent them upstairs; and I am sorry to say she told her friends that they were in bed with the measles; which was not true.
Q UITE the contrary; they were not in bed: not in the least.
Somehow there were very extraordinary noises
A ND I think that some day I shall have to make another, larger, book, to tell you more about Tom Kitten!
A S for the Puddle-Ducks—they went into a pond.
The clothes all came off directly, because there were no buttons.
A ND Mr. Drake Puddle-Duck, and Jemima and Rebeccah, have been looking for them ever since.
I love sixpence, a jolly, jolly sixpence,
I love sixpence as my life;
I spent a penny of it, I spent a penny of it,
I took a penny home to my wife.
Oh, my little fourpence, a jolly, jolly fourpence,
I love fourpence as my life;
I spent twopence of it, I spent twopence of it,
And I took twopence home to my wife.
WEEK 28 |
A FEW days after the Measuring Worm came to the meadow he met the Grasshoppers. Everybody had heard of the Caterpillars' wish to be fashionable, and some of the young Grasshoppers, who did not know that it was all a joke, said they would like to teach the Measuring Worm a few things. So when they met him the young Grasshoppers began to make fun of him, and asked him what he did if he wanted to run, and whether he didn't wish his head grew on the middle of his back so that he could see better when walking.
The Measuring Worm was good-natured, and only said that he
found his head useful where it was. Soon one
The Measuring Worm said: "Certainly, I will race with you
The Measuring Worm nibbled only a little here and there, but he talked a great deal about the sweetness of the grass, and how they would not get any more for a long time because the hot weather would spoil it. And the Grasshoppers said to each other: "He is right, and we must eat all we can while we have it." So they ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, until sunset, and in the morning they awakened and began eating again. When the time for the race came, they were all heavy and stupid from so much eating,—which was exactly what the Measuring Worm wanted.
The Tree Frog, the fat, old Cricket, and a Caterpillar were chosen to be the judges, and the race was to be a long one,—from the edge of the woods to the fence. When the meadow people were all gathered around to see the race, the Cricket gave a shrill chirp, which meant "Go!" and off they started. That is to say, the Measuring Worm started. The Grasshopper felt so sure he could beat that he wanted to give the Measuring Worm a little head start, because then, you see, he could say he had won without half trying.
The Measuring Worm started off at a good, steady rate, and when he had gone a few feet the Grasshopper gave a couple of great leaps, which landed him far ahead of the Worm. Then he stopped to nibble a blade of grass and visit with some Katydids who were looking on. By and by he took a few more leaps and passed the Measuring Worm again. This time he began to show off by jumping up straight into the air, and when he came down he would call out to those who stood near to see how strong he was and how easy it would be for him to win the race. And everybody said, "How strong he is, to be sure!" "What wonderful legs he has!" and "He could beat the Measuring Worm with his eyes shut!" which made the Grasshopper so exceedingly vain that he stopped more and more often to show his strength and daring.
That was the way it went, until they were only a short distance from the end of the race course. The Grasshopper was more and more pleased to think how easily he was winning, and stopped for a last time to nibble grass and make fun of the Worm. He gave a great leap into the air, and when he came down there was the Worm on the fence! All the Meadow people croaked, and shrilled, and chirped to see the way in which the race ended, and the Grasshopper was very much vexed. "You shouldn't call him the winner," he said; "I can travel ten times as fast as he, if I try."
"Yes," answered the judges, "we all know that, yet the winning of the race is not decided by what you might do, but by what you did do." And the meadow people all cried: "Long live the Measuring Worm! Long live the Measuring Worm!"
WEEK 28 |
W HEN Harriet woke on Monday morning she did not see any gay little sunbeam dancing across her crib. Instead, her room was darkened by tiny streams of water which the gray rain clouds were pouring down upon her window panes.
Harriet hopped out of bed at once and ran to the front window, saying to herself, "I wonder if Dicky has on his new raincoat and rubber boots this morning."
Dicky was a little neighbor who lived across the
street. He had had his fifth birthday on the very day
that Harriet was four years old. His present had been a
This morning no Dicky was in sight. The wet, shiny street was almost empty except for the baker's cart across the way. The baker's driver was just coming out of the basement where he had been leaving warm rolls for Dicky's breakfast, and when the driver jumped into his seat the poor wet horse started up as if he were in a hurry to get home to his dry stable.
Then Harriet hurried back to dress and eat her breakfast in time to be at the window when the children would all be passing on their way to school. It was fun to watch the umbrellas bobbing along with all sorts of feet walking under them. Harriet always imagined that she was looking down upon lots of queer little wonderland creatures, who had feet and legs, but no bodies, and whose heads were umbrellas.
After a while all the children were in school, and all the grown people were in their trains and trolleys or in their offices beginning the day's work, and the street was again deserted.
Harriet pressed her face against the window pane hoping
to see something interesting. But it wasn't an
interesting street. It was not at all like the
country, where one sees great shady
trees, and fields of daisies and
buttercups; where birdies sing their lovely
The street down which Harriet was gazing seemed all made of stone and brick. There was a row of trees along each sidewalk, but the trees were not as high as the houses; and there were oh! such tiny squares of grass within the iron fences. And from one corner of the street up to the next corner it looked as if there were two long, long, high brick walls, trimmed with stone, and in each of these brick walls there were many, many windows, and near the ground were many doors with short flights of steps leading down to the sidewalks.
Behind those brick walls lived ever so many families. Some lived on the first floor, some on the second floor, some on the third, and some way up on the fourth floor. Harriet and her Father and Mother lived on the second floor. They called their home an "apartment" or "flat."
Just as Harriet was turning away from the window she heard a shrill whistle out in the kitchen. She knew what that meant. James, the janitor down in the basement, was whistling for the rubbish to be sent down on the dumb waiter. Out in the country people burn their own rubbish or feed some of the table leavings to the pigs or chickens. But in the city the janitor collects the waste from each apartment, then great carts come along the streets and carry the stuff away.
The dumb waiter is like a big box with two shelves for holding things, and it travels up to the top of the house or down to the basement when the janitor pulls a rope.
As Harriet's Mother was putting a bundle of old newspapers upon the dumb waiter, the doorbell rang and another sort of whistle was heard down in the hall at the street door.
"Oh, there's the postman," said Harriet. "May I go down to get the letters, Mother?"
"You can't reach the mail box, dear," said Mother. "I'll be ready in a minute."
Again the bell rang and the postman whistled again, so
"Run to the door, honey. Evidently the postman has something that will not go into the box."
So Harriet opened the door of the apartment and the
"Package for Miss Harriet Robertson. Any young lady of that name up there?"
And Harriet went down the stairs as fast as her short
legs would carry her, for this was the nice funny
postman who seemed a little like
Down in the vestibule Miss Douglas had just taken the
letters out of her mail box and was locking the box
with its little key. When she saw Harriet she
"Good morning, dear. Don't you think a rainy day like
this is a good day for an afternoon
"Oh, yes!" said Harriet quickly, her eyes shining with delight at the thought.
"Very well. Please tell your Mother that Auntie Douglas
Harriet laughed. Her Father always called the little apartment in which Auntie Douglas lived "the plantation" because Auntie Douglas and Miss Sally and Linda, their maid, had lived on a cotton plantation way down South years ago.
Now Harriet climbed upstairs hugging her parcel and
eager to tell Mother of
It was very exciting to cut the strings and open the package. Harriet could not imagine what Grandma or the aunties were sending this time. When all the papers were taken off, there was a new sweater, a bright red one, with a pocket on each side, which Grandma's dear fingers had knitted for Harriet.
"Just the thing for Maine," said Mother, as Harriet put on the warm, gay little coat. "Your old sweater has grown quite too small. We will give it to James's little girl."
The new sweater suggested Harriet's favorite play,
which was "Going to Maine." So the
Harriet's plays were so real to her that, after she had
imagined herself all the way to Maine, and then found
that she was still in the city
"Oh, Mother, I'm so lonesome. I wish I had a little brother to play with me on rainy days."
"I wish you had, my darling," said Mother sadly; "on rainy days and sunny days and all the days, always."
Mother was thinking about the baby boy who had gone to Heaven before Harriet came to Father and Mother. Harriet often looked at the baby's laughing picture on Mother's bureau and found it hard to think that this baby was her older brother, older than Dicky across the street.
She lay in Mother's arms and rocked for a while, until
"I must telephone to
So Harriet slipped down from her Mother's lap and went
to the bookcase. There were books everywhere in her
house, but Harriet kept most of her favorites on the
lowest shelf in the
First there was the "Dutchie Doings" picture book that told all about Jan and Mina of Holland and their little city cousin. Next there was "The Four and Twenty Toilers," that showed how the cobbler and the shipbuilder and the farmer and the miller and twenty other workers did their work. Then there was the German picture book called "Hausmütterchen," whose name, Harriet knew, meant "The Little House Mother."
Harriet took the books to the long cushioned seat in the bay window. Then she brought Florella May. Then the little girl mother and her dolly daughter lay flat on their "tummies," kicking their heels in the air, with the Dutch picture book spread open before them on the broad window seat.
What fun it was to make-believe be the little city cousin visiting Jan and Mina on the farm! How Harriet enjoyed seeing the pigs and the chickens and the cows! How scared she was by the old turkey gobbler, and by the donkey that tried to kick Jan off his back! And how surprised she was when Jan fell off the pier and had to be fished out of the water. She felt as if she had been to little Holland and had seen the windmills and the canals and the dogs drawing the milk carts and the people's clattering wooden shoes. Some day, Father said, they would all go to see the real Holland.
And Harriet wanted to go to England too, where "The Four and Twenty Toilers" lived. She liked the nice gardener who gave the little boy a ride on the pony that drew the big lawn mower; the bird man with his shop full of all sorts of queer birds; the verger of the old stone church who let the children climb the narrow, crooked stairs to the top of the tower to see him wind the great clock.
It always took a long time to look at "The Four and Twenty Toilers," because Harriet had to imagine herself so many different people before she finished it.
There wasn't much time left for "Hausmütterchen" because Mother said lunch would be ready in a very few minutes and Harriet must get washed and tidied up before coming to the table. Harriet was sorry because she and her Mother often played they were the German mother and daughter when Harriet learned to cook and wash and iron and sweep just as the little girl did in the pictures.
After lunch Harriet had a nap. When she woke up she and Mother got ready to go downstairs to see Auntie Douglas and Miss Sally.
How glad the ladies were to see their little neighbor! Auntie Douglas was an invalid and seldom got out of doors. She was a very happy invalid, though, and all the children loved her. She could tell the "Uncle Remus" stories almost as well as old Uncle Remus himself. Miss Sally, too, knew just what little girls liked, and so did Linda, the cook!
As soon as Harriet had pretended to take off her
rubbers and raincoat,—you
know she really had not been out of doors at all in
coming down to Auntie Douglas's apartment,—Miss Sally
"What would you like to do first, dearie?"
"I'd like to look at the treasure drawer," answered Harriet promptly.
"Very well, you may," said Miss Sally. "You are such a careful little girl nothing is ever disturbed by your fingers."
The treasure drawer was in a beautiful old mahogany
secretary. It was filled with little boxes, and each
little box contained something interesting to look at.
There was a wee, tiny book carved out of a bone by a
sailor who gave it to Miss Sally when she was a little
girl. There was the nest of a
There is not time to tell you all the good things about
that visit in Auntie Douglas's apartment. Harriet
enjoyed visiting the kitchen, too, and helping Linda
get the tea and cakes ready. And though it was such a
afternoon it had seemed a very short and sunny one when
Harriet and her Mother thanked their hostesses and said
After dinner Father said, "Don't you think it's cold and damp enough for a fire, Mumsey dear?"
And Mother said, "Of course it is! Anything for an excuse to have an open fire!"
So Father laid the paper and the kindlings and Harriet lighted the fire on the hearth, and when the blaze was bright they put on more wood. Then they all sat before the little fire and talked about how nice it would be when they got to Maine and had a great roaring fire in their bungalow fireplace, which was ever and ever so much bigger than the tiny fireplace in their little apartment.
And before long the fire, or something, made Harriet very sleepy. So she undressed and climbed into her little white crib and in three winks she was far, far away in Dreamland.
So that is the end of the Fourth Story about Harriet and what she did on Monday.
Bye, baby bunting,
Mother's gone a-milking,
Sister's gone a-silking,
And brother's gone to buy a skin
To wrap the baby bunting in.
WEEK 28 |
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 when he was playing.
They were building a house in a field near that little boy's house; and, one morning, he had heard the sounds of hammers and of mallets all the time he was at breakfast.
So he hurried to get through, and he slipped down from his chair and took off his napkin and he wiped his mouth and he turned to his mother.
She was sitting still, smiling because he was in such a hurry.
"You seem to be in a good deal of a hurry," she said.
"Yes," he said, nodding, "I am. I think I had better go over to the new house."
"To see whether the men are doing their work right?" she asked.
"You see, I have to help the mortar man," he explained.
"Good-bye, dear," she said. Then she kissed him. "Be very careful."
"Yes, I will."
Then he went out, and he got his cart, and he put his shovel and his hoe in it, and he called his cat; but no cat came. And he called her again, but she didn't come then.
So he took up the handle of his cart, and he walked over to the new house, dragging his cart behind him, with his shovel and his hoe rattling in the bottom of it.
The mortar man was still there, hoeing mortar for the bricklayers to use, for the chimneys weren't done yet.
"Hello," said the mortar man.
"Hello," the little boy said. "I came as soon as I could."
"Where's your kitty?" the mortar man asked. "You couldn't find her, could you? Well, look around behind you."
The little boy looked around behind him.
He was standing with his back to the house, so that, when he looked behind him, he saw the new house and the carpenters who were working at great beams which were on wooden horses that stood on the ground.
And he saw his cat, too. She was walking toward him, with her bushy tail sticking straight up in the air.
But the little boy was too much interested in what the carpenters were doing to pay much attention to his cat.
"What are those men doing?" he asked of the mortar man.
"The carpenters? They are cutting mortises in those girts. That is, little holes in those big beams. The ends of other beams will be made small enough to go in those holes, and they will hold the floor up."
"Mor—tar!" shouted one of the men who were building the chimney.
The mortar man hurried off with his hod of mortar, and the little boy wandered over to where the carpenters were.
His cat went, too, but he left his cart by the pile of sand.
There were two carpenters there, and they both looked up and smiled.
They had great thick chisels and heavy wooden mallets in their hands, and there was a big bit, or "borer," as the little boy called it, lying on the ground between them. And I don't know why "borer" isn't a better name for it.
There were some round holes in the beams which had been made by the borer, and the men were making those round holes square with the chisels.
One of the men had just finished a hole when the little boy came, and he went ahead to the next round hole, and he put the edge of the chisel carefully against the wood, and he struck it with the mallet.
Plack! Plack! Plack! shrieked the mallet on the chisel.
Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! the wood grunted, and it seemed to shiver when the mallet struck.
Cutting a Hole
Then there was a splintering noise and a part of the wood broke away.
Plack! Plack! Plack! screamed the mallet again.
The wood grunted again, but it was of no use, and another piece broke away.
And then the man hit the chisel again and another piece broke off, and the chisel came through on the other side of the beam.
And the carpenter drove the chisel through at the other side of the hole, in the same way; and what had been a round hole was a square one.
Then he laid the mallet down and took the chisel in both hands, and he leaned over the square hole and made the sides all smooth with the chisel.
Then he made a sort of sloping hole, a kind of a little square trench, and it went from the side of the beam into the square hole.
Then he put his tools down and looked at the little boy again and smiled.
"There!" he said. "That's done." The little boy smiled back at him.
"Is it?" he said. "What goes in that hole? I could put my hand in it."
"It's not for little boys' hands," answered the carpenter. "The end of a short beam goes in there. I'll show you. We have to make places for the chimneys to come through and so people can go upstairs without knocking their heads. Did you ever think of that?"
The little boy shook his head, and he came nearer. "Show me."
So the carpenter went to a little pile of short beams; and he took one and brought it back.
And he turned the big beam on edge, and fitted the end of the little beam into the hole.
The end of the little beam had already been made small, so that it would go in.
"There," he said. "Now here, where I stand, will be the stairs for people to go up, and there will be that other big beam on the other side. We have to leave this big hole in the floor so that a man can go on the stairs without hitting his head, you know. Everywhere else will be a floor, except where the chimneys come through. Do you understand?"
The little boy nodded. He thought that he understood, although it was not very easy to understand.
And while he was trying to understand better, there came a voice behind him.
"Hello! I wondered where you were."
And he looked around and there was his friend the foreman, and the cat had gone to meet him and was coming back beside him, and she was looking up into the foreman's face, and her bushy tail was sticking straight up into the air.
"Hello," said the little boy; and he leaned back against the horse that the beam rested on.
"Your kitty," said the foreman, "came up here all by herself, and she followed me about."
The little boy laughed.
"She's a funny kitty," he said.
The foreman stooped down.
"I think you'd better tell me your name," he said. "I like to know the names of my friends."
"My name is David," the little boy answered.
"And mine is Jonathan," said the foreman quickly. "Think of that! Now, Davie, come with me and let's see how the other men are getting on."
So David put his little hand into the foreman's big one, and they started; and David saw some men putting up a great, tall beam on one of the corners.
Two men were holding it, and another man reached up as high as he could and nailed a board to it, and the other end of the board was fastened down low, so that the tall beam shouldn't fall over when the men let go.
"What are those men doing?" David asked. "That sticks up like my kitty's tail, doesn't it?"
"So it does," the foreman said. "There'll be more of them presently, sticking up all along every side."
"Will there? How many of those sticks will there be?"
"Oh, I don't know; more than fifty, I should think."
"A cat with fifty tails." And the little boy laughed. "Did you ever see a kitty with fifty tails?"
"All sticking straight up in the air!" said the foreman. "That would be funny. She'd look like a porcupine."
"What is a porcupine?" David asked. "Did I ever see one?"
"I guess not," the foreman answered. "Anyway, I never did. It's a little animal all covered with sharp things. It's just as if your kitty's fur was about three or four times as long as it is, and every hair was stiff and sharp. There's a great rattling as they walk, I'm told. The Indians used to sew the quills—the sharp things—on their soft leather slippers, because they looked pretty."
"Tell me some more about them," said David.
"I don't know any more. See, Davie, the men are putting up another stick."
So David watched the men put up that stick, and he forgot about the porcupine, which was what the foreman wanted.
And then he watched them put up another, and then another.
"They look as if they were the bones of the house," he said.
"So they do, Davie," the foreman said, "and so they
are. And the whole frame, before it's boarded in—before
any boards are nailed on—looks like the
skeleton of a house, and so it is. They'll have pretty
near the whole frame up by the time you eat your supper;
"Am I? What are my ribs?"
"These bones." And the foreman stooped and ran his finger quickly down David's ribs, and David shrieked with laughter.
"Tickles," said David. "Show me my ribs again."
"It isn't good for little boys to be tickled too
much," said the foreman. "Now we'll go
over to the
So they turned around and went to the
Then he had to go away and the mortar man had gone away, and nobody was there but David and his cat.
And David thought that he would help the mortar man, so he filled his cart with sand and dragged it over to the mortar box and shoveled it in.
Then he took up the handle of his cart, and he called his cat, and he walked along to his house, dragging his cart.
And his shovel rattled in the bottom of it, and his cat ran on before him.
But he had forgotten his hoe. It was in the pile of sand.
And that's all of this story.
WEEK 28 |
A LL this time, while the Boy Jesus was living His quiet life in the little village of Nazareth, learning to prepare Himself for His Father's work, another boy, only a few months older, was also being trained to help in that work.
This boy was John, the son of the old priest Zacharias, of whom the angel had said that he should be the messenger sent before the King to prepare His way before Him.
It was not an easy life that John led. He had no fine clothes or soft bed or dainty food. Elisabeth, his mother, must have found it hard, too, not to give her only son all the pleasures and treats which boys so much enjoy. But she never thought of pleasing herself. She knew that the boy must be trained to endure hardness, to make him a fit messenger of the King, and she taught him from the very beginning the two great lessons of obedience and self-denial.
As soon as he was old enough he left the comfortable, happy home at Hebron, and far away out in the wilderness he lived his hard life alone, without friends or companions. Robbers there were in those wild, lonely places, but there was nothing they could rob him of. Wild beasts prowled about at nights, but he was brave and fearless, and under the light of the stars he slept as peacefully as if he had been at home. His dress was a rough garment, made of camel's hair, with a leather girdle round his waist, and his food was what the poorest beggars ate—locusts and the honey which the wild bees stored away in the rocks.
But in the loneliness of that hard life the King's messenger learned many things. God seemed very near in the quiet wilderness. God's voice sounded clearly when no other voice was in his ear. Night and day he thought only of the work that lay before him, until his whole heart was filled with the great desire to make the road ready for the King's feet. He knew how full of sin were the hearts of the people to whom the King was coming. He knew how much must be done before that road could be made a royal highway.
It was on the banks of the river Jordan that he began his work. There he stood and preached to the people, a wild, strange figure in his camel's hair coat, and leathern girdle. His face was weather-beaten and sun burnt, his hair was untrimmed, and he wore rough sandals upon his bare feet. His appearance certainly would not draw any one to listen to him. But as soon as he began to speak the people were held spellbound, and crowds gathered round him. The news of this wonderful preacher who spoke such burning words spread from town to town and from village to village, and the people flocked out to the wilderness to hear him.
It seemed a strange message that this wild-looking messenger preached. The King was coming, he told them, the King for whom they had waited so long; but they were not fit to welcome Him.
He did not only say your hearts are evil and you are wicked; he told them exactly what the sins were that were making their hearts so black and unworthy of the King's approach.
There were greedy people who had all they wanted, and never shared what they had with other people. These, he said, must give of their good things to the poor, who had nothing. He told the rough soldiers that they must not be cruel, nor must they take away things by force from defenceless people. Rich and poor alike, he told them plainly what were the many bad things they were doing, and how they must put an end to them before the King came.
There he stood, a lonely man in the midst of a great crowd, one voice on the side of God sounding in the ears of men who were more accustomed to the voice of the Evil One. But he was never afraid. He never thought of himself at all, only of the coming King, and with all his greatness and power he was as humble as a little child.
The people who listened to him began at last to think he was a very great prophet—perhaps even the King Himself; and one day they came and asked him plainly if this was so, if he was indeed the Christ.
"No," answered St. John at once. "I am nothing. I am but the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord." He was but the servant going before; the King was near at hand, whose shoes he was not even worthy to stoop down and unloose.
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness."
Now, as St. John preached to the people and told them how bad they were, some of them were very sad at heart, and wanted to live better lives; and then St. John baptized them in the river, to show that they were really sorry. Just as unclean things can be washed in water and made clean again, so it was a sign to show that they wanted their black hearts to be made white.
But one day, as St. John was baptizing, he looked up, and saw the King there, standing among the crowd.
No one knew that this was the King. He had no royal robes, no crown on His head. His hands were roughened with work, and He wore the dress of an ordinary poor peasant. Even St. John himself did not know Him, though something told him that he was in the presence of One mightier and holier than himself. So, when the King drew near and asked to be baptized among the rest, he was not willing to baptize Him at first. "I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?" he said. He would rather have knelt humbly at His feet. But Jesus wished to set a good example to others; and as the King had made known His will the servant could but obey.
Then it was that St. John, who had not recognized his Lord before, knew indeed that the King was there, for the gates of Heaven were opened wide, and God's Holy Spirit like a dove came down and rested upon Him, while God's voice sounded through the blue, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
The Baptism of Jesus
Others besides St. John heard that voice, and, hearing it, left their teacher to follow the great Master. There was never a thought of self in the humble heart of God's messenger, and he was glad that people should leave him to follow the King. "He must increase, but I must decrease," he said. "He must grow greater and greater, while I grow less."
It was quite true. In a few months the messenger's voice was no longer heard on the banks of the Jordan. St. John no longer breathed the free air of the desert. Shut up in a dark dungeon, he waited the pleasure of King Herod Antipas, whose soldiers had seized him and dragged him to the Black Castle which overlooked the sad waters of the Dead Sea.
St. John feared no man. He had not hesitated to tell even a king that he was doing wrong, and so King Herod had determined to silence his accusing voice.
For one long year St. John lived in that dismal dungeon, and when at last the door was opened, it was a door through which he passed into the presence of God.
Suddenly one night, when a gay birthday feast was going on in the palace, a soldier entered the dungeon, carrying in his hands a sword and a golden dish. With one blow the prisoner's head was cut off, and borne away to the banqueting hall.
It was an easy matter to kill the body, but no one could kill the soul of the King's messenger. They could only set it free like a bird from a snare. The servant's work was ended. The voice that had cried aloud to prepare the way of the Lord was silent now, but his words could never die.
Beheaded in a dark dungeon, lonely and friendless, the words spoken by the angel Gabriel before his birth, "He shall be great in the sight of the Lord," had indeed come true.
And the King, the Lord whom St. John served, said of His faithful servant these golden words: "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist."
Tom, Tom, the piper's son,
Stole a pig, and away he run,
The pig was eat,
And Tom was beat,
And Tom ran crying down the street.