WEEK 8 |
M Y father was very hungry so he sat down under a baby banyan tree on the side of the trail and ate four tangerines. He wanted to eat eight or ten, but he had only thirteen left and it might be a long time before he could get more. He packed away all the peels and was about to get up when he heard the familiar voices of the boars.
"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen them with my own eyes, but wait and see for yourself. All the tigers are sitting around chewing gum to beat the band. Old Rhinoceros is so busy brushing his tusk that he doesn't even look around to see who's going by, and they're all so busy they won't even talk to me!"
"Horsefeathers!" said the other boar, now very close to my father. "They'll talk to me! I'm going to get to the bottom of this if it's the last thing I do!"
The voices passed my father and went around a curve, and he hurried on because he knew how much more upset the boars would be when they saw the lion's mane tied up in hair ribbons.
Before long my father came to a crossroads and he stopped to read the signs. Straight ahead an arrow pointed to the Beginning of the River; to the left, the Ocean Rocks; and to the right, to the Dragon Ferry. My father was reading all these signs when he heard pawsteps and ducked behind the signpost.
A beautiful lioness paraded past and turned down toward the clearings. Although she could have seen my father if she had bothered to glance at the post, she was much too occupied looking dignified to see anything but the tip of her own nose. It was the lion's mother, of course, and that, thought my father, must mean that the dragon was on this side of the river. He hurried on but it was farther away than he had judged. He finally came to the river bank in the late afternoon and looked all around, but there was no dragon anywhere in sight. He must have gone back to the other side.
My father sat down under a palm tree and was trying to have a good idea when something big and black and hairy jumped out of the tree and landed with a loud crash at his feet.
"Well?" said a huge voice.
"Well what?" said my father, for which he was very sorry when he looked up and discovered he was talking to an enormous and very fierce gorilla.
"Well, explain yourself," said the gorilla. "I'll give you till ten to tell me your name, business, your age and what's in that pack," and he began counting to ten as fast as he could.
My father didn't even have time to say "Elmer Elevator, explorer" before the gorilla interrupted, "Too slow! I'll twist your arms the way I twist that dragon's wings, and then we'll see if you can't hurry up a bit." He grabbed my father's arms, one in each fist, and was just about to twist them when he suddenly let go and began scratching his chest with both hands.
"Blast those fleas!" he raged. "They won't give you a moment's peace, and the worst of it is that you can't even get a good look at them. Rosie! Rhoda! Rachel! Ruthie! Ruby! Roberta! Come here and get rid of this flea on my chest. It's driving me crazy!"
Six little monkeys tumbled out of the palm tree, dashed to the gorilla, and began combing the hair on his chest.
"Well," said the gorilla, "it's still there!"
"We're looking, we're looking," said the six little monkeys, "but they're awfully hard to see, you know."
"I know," said the gorilla, "but hurry. I've got work to do," and he winked at my father.
"Oh, Gorilla," said my father, "in my knapsack I have six magnifying glasses. They'd be just the thing for hunting fleas." My father unpacked them and gave one to Rosie, one to Rhoda, one to Rachel, one to Ruthie, one to Ruby, and one to Roberta.
"Why, they're miraculous!" said the six little monkeys. "It's easy to see the fleas now, only there are hundreds of them!" And they went on hunting frantically.
A moment later many more monkeys appeared out of a near-by clump of mangroves and began crowding around to get a look at the fleas through the magnifying glasses. They completely surrounded the gorilla, and he could not see my father nor did he remember to twist his arms.
Pussy-Cat Mew jumped over a coal
And in her best petticoat burned a great hole.
Pussy-Cat Mew shall have no more milk
Till she has mended her gown of silk.
WEEK 8 |
F RANKLIN thought that ants know how to tell things to one another. He thought that they talk by some kind of signs. When an ant has found a dead fly too big for him to drag away, he will run off and get some other ant to help him. Franklin thought that ants have some way of telling other ants that there is work to do.
One day he found some ants eating molasses out of a little jar in a closet. He shook them out. Then he tied a string to the jar, and hung it on a nail in the ceiling. But he had not gotten all the ants out of the jar. One little ant liked sweet things so well that he stayed in the jar, and kept on eating like a greedy boy.
Ants Talking (magnified)
At last when this greedy ant had eaten all that he could, he started to go home. Franklin saw him climb over the rim of the jar. Then the ant ran down the outside of the jar. But when he got to the bottom, he did not find any shelf there. He went all around the jar. There was no way to get down to the floor. The ant ran this way and that way, but he could not get down.
An Ant's Feeler (magnified)
At last the greedy ant thought he would see if he could go up. He climbed up the string to the ceiling. Then he went down the wall. He came to his own hole at last, no doubt.
After a while he got hungry again, perhaps. He thought about that jar of sweets at the end of a string. Then perhaps he told the other ants. Maybe he let them know that there was a string by which they could get down to the jar.
In about half an hour after the ant had gone up the string, Franklin saw a swarm of ants going down the string. They marched in a line, one after another. Soon there were two lines of ants on the string. The ants in one line were going down to get at the sweet food. The ants in the other line were marching up the other side of the string to go home. Do you think that the greedy ant told the other ants about the jar? And did he tell them that there was a string by which an ant could get there? And did he tell it by speaking, or by signs that he made with his feelers?
If you watch two ants when they meet, you will see that they touch their feelers together, as if they were saying "Good morning!"
Whenever I walk in a London street,
I'm ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street,
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, "Bears,
Just look how I'm walking in all of the squares!"
And the little bears growl to each other, "He's mine,
As soon as he's silly and steps on a line."
And some of the bigger bears try to pretend
That they came round the corner to look for a friend;
And they try to pretend that nobody cares
Whether you walk on the lines or squares.
But only the sillies believe their talk;
It's ever so portant how you walk.
And it's ever so jolly to call out, "Bears,
Just watch me walking in all the squares!"
WEEK 8 |
NE fine day in spring, a great flock of
They were a fine company to look upon, orderly, strong, and dignified. Their long necks were stretched out straight ahead, their long legs straight behind, and they beat the air with slow, regular strokes of the strong wings. As they came near the pond, they flew lower and lower, until all swept down to the earth and alighted, tall and stately, by the edge of the water.
They had eaten nothing for several days, and were soon hunting for food, some on land, and some in the water, for they had stopped to feed and rest. Those who hunted in the water, did so very quietly. A Crane would stand on one leg, with his head against his breast, so quietly that one might think him asleep: but as soon as anything eatable came near, he would bend his body, stretch out his neck, open his long, slender bill, and swallow it at one gulp. Then he would seem to fall asleep again.
While most of the Cranes were still feeding, some of them were stalking through the woods and looking this way and that, flying up to stand on a tree, and then flying down to stand on the ground. They were those who thought of staying there for the summer.
When the flock arose to fly on again, eight Cranes
stayed behind. They watched their friends fly away,
and stood on the ground with their necks and bills
uplifted and mouths open, while they trumpeted or
That night they slept near together, as they had done when with the large flock, and one Crane kept awake to watch for danger while the others tucked their heads under their wings. They were fine looking, even when they slept, and some people never look well unless they are awake. They were brownish-gray, with no bright markings at all, and their long legs gave them a very genteel look. The tops of their heads were covered with warty red skin, from which grew short black feathers that looked more like hairs.
One morning, when the Cranes awakened, a fine young fellow began to strut up and down before the rest, bowing low, and leaping high into the air, and every now and then whooping as loudly as he could. The Gulls, who had spent the winter by the pond, screamed to each other, "The Crane dance has begun!" Even the Frogs, who are afraid of Cranes, crept quietly near to look on.
It was not long before another young Crane began to skip and hop and circle around, drooping his wings and whooping as he went. Every Crane danced, brothers and sisters, and all, and as they did so, they looked lovingly at each other, and admired the fine steps and enjoyed the whooping. This went on until they were so tired they could hardly stand, and had to stop to eat and rest.
When they were eating, the young fellow who had begun to dance, stalked up to the sister of one of his friends, as she stood in the edge of the pond, gracefully balanced on one leg. She did not turn her head towards him, although, having such a long and slender neck, she could have done so with very little trouble. She stood with her head on her breast and looked at the water. After a while, he trumpeted softly, as though he were just trying his voice. Then she gave a pretty little start, and said, "Oh, are you here? How you did frighten me!"
"I am sorry," he said. "I did not want to frighten you." And he looked at her admiringly.
"It was just for a minute," she answered. "Of course I am not frightened now that I know who it is."
Then they stood and fished for a long time without
saying anything. When she flew away, she said, "That
is a very pleasant
The next morning, when the Cranes danced, he bowed to
her oftener than to any of the rest, and he thought she
noticed it. They danced until they were almost too
tired to move, and indeed he had to rest for a while
before he went to feed. As she stalked off toward the
pond, she passed him, and she said over her shoulder,
"I should think you would be hungry. I am almost
starved." After she had gone, he wondered why she had
said that. If he had been an older Crane, and
understood the ways of the world a little better, he
would have known that she meant,
"Aren't you coming to
"What fine, big mouthfuls you can take!"
That pleased him, of course, because Cranes think that
big mouthfuls are the best kind, so he tipped his head
to one side, and watched his neck as the mouthful slid
down to his stomach. He could see it from the outside,
a big bunch slowly moving downward. He often did this
while he was eating. He thought it very interesting.
She changed, and stood on her other leg. "I saw you dancing this morning," she said. Now it was not at all queer that she should have seen him dancing, for all the eight Cranes had danced together, but he thought it very wonderful.
"Did you notice to whom I bowed?" he asked. He was so excited that his knees shook, and he had to stand on both legs at once to keep from falling. When a Crane is as much excited as that, it is pretty serious.
"To my sister?" she asked carelessly, as she drew one
of her long
"No," said he. "I bowed to her sister." He thought that was a very clever thing to say. But she suddenly raised her head, and said, "There! I have forgotten something," and flew off, as she had done the day before. He wondered what it was. Long afterward he asked her what she had forgotten and she said she couldn't remember—that she never could remember what she had forgotten.
It made him feel very badly to have her leave him so. He wanted a chance to tell her something, yet, whenever he tried to, it seemed to stick in his bill. He began to fear that she didn't like him; and the next time the Cranes danced he didn't bow to her so much, but he strutted and leaped and whooped even more. And she strutted and leaped and whooped almost as loudly as he. When they were all tired out and had stopped dancing, she said to him, "I am so tired! Let us go off into the woods and rest."
You may be very sure he was glad to go, and as he
stalked off with her, he led the way to a charming
She looked where he had pointed, "I?" she said. "Why, it is a lovely place, but I could never have a nest alone."
"Let me help you," he said. "I want to marry and have a home."
"Why," said she, as she preened her feathers, "that is a very good plan. When did you think of it?"
So they were married, and Mrs. Sand-Hill Crane often
told her friends afterward that
Three little owlets
In a hollow tree,
Cuddled up together
Close as could be.
When the moon came out
And the dew lay wet,
Mother flew about
To see what she could get.
She caught a little mouse,
So velvety and soft,
She caught some little sparrows,
And then she flew aloft
To the three little owlets
In a hollow tree,
Cuddled up together
Close as could be.
"Tu-whoo," said the old owl,
"Isn't this good cheer!"
"Tu-whit," said the owlets,
"Thank you, mother dear."
Tu-whit, tu-whit, tu-whit,
WEEK 8 |
A S you will guess from his name, Drakestail was a little drake. But he was not an ordinary drake, such as you may see any fine day waddling on the grass or paddling in a pond. He was clever and he was rich. So rich was he that the King of the country, happening to be hard up, came and borrowed a hundred crowns from little Drakestail.
At first Drakestail felt very important because he had lent money to his sovereign. But when one year went by, and then another, and still the King did not pay him back, he resolved to go on a personal visit to his Majesty, and ask him about it.
So he preened his feathers till he looked very spruce and trim, and set off one morning, singing as he went:
Quack, quack, quack, quack,
When shall I get my money back?
He had not gone far when he met his friend Mr. Fox.
"Good-day, neighbour," said the Fox, "where are you going, pray?"
"I am going to the King, to ask him for the money he owes me."
"May I come with you?"
"Certainly you may. But you will get tired, trotting on all fours. Make yourself very tiny, pop into my beak, go down into my gizzard, and I will carry you."
"That's a good idea!" cried Mr. Fox. And in a twinkling he had vanished down Drakestail's throat.
When the little drake, still quacking his little song, had gone about half-a-mile on his way, he met his friend Lady Ladder, leaning against a wall.
"Good-day, Drakestail," said Lady Ladder, "where are you off to, so spruce and trim?"
"I am going to the King, to ask for the money he owes me."
"Do take me with you!"
"By all means. But wooden legs soon grow weary. Make yourself very tiny, pop into my beak, go down into my gizzard, and I will carry you!"
"That's an excellent idea!" cried Lady Ladder. And a moment later she had joined Mr. Fox in Drakestail's gizzard.
The next friend whom Drakestail met was his dear Lady River.
"Whither away, little friend?" asked Lady River.
"Sweet Lady River, I am going to the King, to ask for the money he owes me."
"Then let me come with you!"
"To be sure I will. But you, who dream and sing as you go, might grow weary. Make yourself very tiny, pop into my beak, go down into my gizzard, and I shall have the honour of carrying you."
"What a delightful idea!" cried Lady River.
And gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, down into his gizzard she went.
The next friend whom Drakestail met was Captain Wasp-hive drilling his regiment of wasps.
"Good morning, gallant Drakestail," said Captain Wasp-hive. "Whither are you bound?"
"To the King's palace, to ask him for the money he owes me."
"Upon my word, I should like very much to come with you!"
"Well, why not? But with all those wasps to drag along you would grow weary. Make yourself very small, pop into my beak, go down into my gizzard, and I will carry you."
"Bravo, that is a splendid idea!" cried Captain Wasp-hive. And down he and all his wasps went into Drakestail's magic gizzard.
Quack, quack, quack, quack
When shall I get my money back?
Still singing his little song, Drakestail reached the capital of the kingdom and waddled boldly up the principal street.
When he reached the outer gate of the palace he seized the heavy iron knocker and knocked, tap, tap.
The porter peeped out of the lancet window. "Who's there?"
"Drakestail is here. I wish to have speech with the King."
"His Majesty is at dinner."
"Tell him that I have come, Mr. Porter. You need not tell him why."
The porter went to the dining-room of the palace, where the King and all his ten councillors were just sitting down to dinner.
"Ha, ha!" laughed the King, "Oh, yes, I know why Drakestail has come! Ha, ha!"
"Is it your Majesty's wish that he should be admitted?" asked the porter.
"By all means, admit him—to his proper place—the poultry-yard!"
So the porter went back to the gate.
"Pray come in, Drakestail, pray come in—this way, please!"
Quite delighted, Drakestail made haste to follow the porter. But what was his astonishment and wrath when he suddenly found himself in the poultry-yard, with turkeys and chickens and geese all round him, and the door locked!
Quack, quack, quack, quack
When shall I get my money back?
Nothing daunted, he began to sing his song again. But the turkeys and the chickens and the geese had not heard such a song before, and they did not like the sound of it. Nor had they seen a drake like Drakestail before; and they did not like the look of him. So, after consulting together for a moment, they resolved to fall upon him and peck him to death.
Just for a moment Drakestail felt frightened.
Then he began to shout,
Fox, Fox, come out, come out,
Or Drakestail will perish, beyond a doubt!
Then out came Mr. Fox, and before you could count, One, Two, Three, all those cross turkeys and chickens and hens were lying dead on the ground!
So Drakestail sang again,
Quack, quack, quack, quack
When shall I get my money back?
When the King heard what had happened, he was in a fearful rage.
"Take this wretched drake," cried he, "and throw him down the well!"
Down, down, down went poor Drakestail, in the dark, muddy, mossy well.
Then, suddenly, he began to whisper,
If you don't help me, Ladder dear,
I shall never get out, I fear!
Then out came Lady Ladder, and leaned her two wooden bands against the side of the deep, steep well, and pit, pat, pit, pat, Drakestail climbed up her back and out into the sunlight again. And then, of course, he began to sing,
Quack, quack, quack, quack,
When shall I get my money back?
When the King, who was still sitting at table with his ten councillors, heard this song, and knew that Drakestail was still alive, he turned red and purple with rage.
"Take this wretched drake," he commanded, "and throw him into the great big kitchen fire!"
But even when his pretty striped wings were scorched by the flames Drakestail did not lose heart. He called softly,
Silver River, come forth I pray,
Or this will be Drakestail's dying day!
Out came the silver River, gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, and put out the great big kitchen fire in a trice, and flowed round the ankles of the royal cooks, and then round their knees, and then up to their chins, and then upstairs to the dining-room where the King was still sitting with his ten councillors. And on the top of the flood swam Drakestail, singing,
Quack, quack, quack, quack,
When shall I get my money back?
Then the King turned blue and green with rage.
"Bring this wretched drake to me," he roared, "and I will cut his throat with my own royal hands!"
Two footmen seized hold of Drakestail, and dragged him before the throne. The King had drawn his sword, and all the ten councillors had drawn theirs. It was a very alarming sight, and Drakestail's voice was faint and unsteady as he said,
Captain Wasp-hive, where are you?
Here's some work for wasps to do!
Then out rushed Captain Wasp-hive, with his whole regiment of black-and-yellow-clad wasps.
"Fix bayonets, my lads, and let 'em have it!" buzzed the Captain, and they all fell upon the King and the ten councillors. Blinded and maddened by the wasps' bayonets, the King and the ten councillors darted hither and thither, trying to escape. At last, one after another, plop, plop, plop, they jumped out of the window. And after that they were never heard of again!
Drakestail was very much astonished when he found himself all alone in the palace. "Quack, quack," said he, "I think I'd better look round me a little, and see if I can find my hundred crowns anywhere."
So he hunted high and low, in all the cupboards and on all the shelves, but though he found many precious and wonderful things, he did not come across his hundred crowns, because the King had spent them all quite a long time ago. Presently he felt tired, and as the throne was the most comfortable-looking seat in sight he climbed up on to it, pit, pat, pit, pat, and there the people found him when they came streaming into the palace to see what had happened. Their leaders began to sing,
Where is our King? We must have a King!
Perhaps Heaven sent us this quaint little thing!
Some of the people murmured, and said they had never heard of a drake being crowned king of a country. But others, who knew what a wise little fellow Drakestail was, declared that the country would be far better off under its new monarch than under its old one. And it was.
So they crowned him on the spot, and then Drakestail, looking round the cheering crowd, said graciously, "Let us have some supper, ladies and gentlemen—for I am so hungry!"
These nuts, that I keep in the back of the nest,
Where all my lead soldiers are lying at rest,
Were gathered in autumn by nursie and me
In a wood with a well by the side of the sea.
This whistle we made (and how clearly it sounds!)
By the side of a field at the end of the grounds.
Of a branch of a plane, with a knife of my own,
It was nursie who made it, and nursie alone!
The stone, with the white and the yellow and grey,
We discovered I cannot tell how far away;
And I carried it back although weary and cold,
For though father denies it, I'm sure it is gold.
But of all my treasures the last is the king,
For there's very few children possess such a thing;
And that is a chisel, both handle and blade,
Which a man who was really a carpenter made.
WEEK 8 |
"Shout, Israel Let the joyful cry
Pour forth the notes of victory,
High let it swell across the sea,
For Jacob's weary tribes are free."
—Ruskin (aged thirteen)
F OR two hundred and fifteen years the Israelites had lived in Egypt. Now they had passed from Africa, into Asia. Not one of them could remember Jacob now, or his long journey down into Egypt. Behind—right across the waters—lay the strange land of their exile, the land of Egypt with its life-giving river, its pyramids, its stone statues, its tyrant kings. Behind, lay the endless stir and life of the busy Egyptians, with their trained armies marching through their walled cities, their vast processions with drums and cymbals, the rumble of their horses and chariots.
Before them lay mile after mile of burning desert land, through the deep silence of which, they must march, day after day, week after week, month after month. Now and then they might rest by some spring of water to refresh themselves and their little ones, their camels and their asses. But onward and ever onward they pressed towards the land of Canaan.
For months they wandered thus, now deeper and deeper into the mountains, struggling over rugged passes, till
they reached the desolate range of the hills of Sinai. From these heights their leader Moses brought to them
the code of laws, by which they were to live, the code of laws by which we live
After a long stay in the desert land of Sinai, the six hundred thousand exiles set forth once more on their weary march north, to Canaan. It must have been a great day, when they first caught sight of the river Jordan, across which lay their new country, even though across that river their leader Moses was not to lead them.
The story of his death is perhaps one of the saddest in history. Encamping his people in the plain below, he went up into a high mountain from which he could see the land he was never to reach. Beneath him lay the black tents of the Israelites, behind him the weary waste of hot sand and the bitter waters; while away across the river Jordan he could see the land of Canaan stretching away to the sea—the good land "flowing with milk and honey," the land for which he had gladly borne toils and dangers, for which he, too, had hungered and thirsted.
It was his last view. From that mountain-top he came down no more. In that strange land he died, and another man was chosen to lead on the people.
Joshua was a simple, straightforward, undaunted soldier—"strong and of a good courage." He turned neither to the right hand nor to the left hand. At the head of the hosts of Israel he went right forward from Jordan to Jericho, from Jericho to Ai, onwards and onwards, till his work was done, and the children of Israel had conquered the Promised Land.
It stretched from the river Euphrates, from the banks of which Abraham had wandered so long ago, right away to the river of Egypt,—the Nile, while its shores were washed by the Great Sea, the value of which, as yet, they knew not.
Moses went up into a high mountain, from which he could see the land he was never to reach.
It was the highway between the two great rivals of the Old World; the only road by which they could approach each other, by which alone, the Chaldeans could get to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Chaldea, lay along the broad flat strip of coast belonging to Canaan.
What a land this was to possess! After the weary march of forty years, through the lonely desert, after the daily struggle for existence, after the hunger, the thirst, the anxiety, and long, delayed hope, the new fatherland must have been very welcome. Very welcome the shade of palm-tree and olives, of vineyards and fruit-trees, welcome the hills and ravines, the gushing spring and green plains. There were cattle, sheep, and goats on the hillsides; there were waving cornfields in the sunny plains; there were flowers blooming in the early summer when they first arrived, and bees swarming round their combs in rock and wood.
No wonder, then, the way-worn travellers should love to dwell on the words that had cheered them through the weariness of the way; to them it was indeed "a land flowing with milk and honey, the glory of all lands."
Lilies are white,
When you are king,
I will be queen.
Roses are red,
If you will have me,
I will have you.
WEEK 8 |
A LL night long the children slept soundly in the hayloft, with the moon peering in at them through the chinks between the logs. In the morning they were awakened by the music of cow-bells, and by the voice of the old herdsman, who stuck his head up through the hole in the floor and called out "Wake up, my young heroes! The sun is already looking over the crest of Rigi, and it's time you were on your way."
Seppi and Leneli sat up and rubbed their eyes, and for a moment could not think where they were or how they came to be there. Then they remembered, and, springing from their rude beds, ran out into the glorious morning and washed their faces and hands in the mountain stream that flowed near the hut. Then there were the goats to be milked, and breakfast to be eaten, and the shadows were already shortening when at last they were ready for their lonely and dangerous journey.
The old herdsman packed some bread and cheese in their lunch-cloth, Leneli slung the bundle on her alpenstock, and Seppi called Bello to herd the goats. But the goats were well pleased with the rich green grass of the alp, and were unwilling to leave the pasture. They frisked and gamboled and stood on their hind legs butting each other playfully, and it was some time before Seppi and Bello could get them fairly started.
The old herdsman had done his milking very early in order to go a little way with the children, and now, leaving the cows in charge of his faithful dog, he led the way down the steep mountain path.
The morning air was so clear and sparkling and the sun shone so bright upon the snow-capped peaks, that the children almost forgot the dangers of the unknown path. It seemed impossible that anything could happen to them in such a wonderful and beautiful world, and they said good-bye quite cheerfully to the good old herdsman when at last he stopped and told them he must go back to his cheese-making. From the place where they stood, they could see the path like a tiny thread, winding through forests, down a long, narrow valley shut in by high cliffs, past waterfalls fed by mountain snows, and losing itself at last where a tiny white steeple marked the little village which was the home of the old herdsman. The old man pointed to it. "Follow the path and remember Peter of Lucerne," he said. "This is your chance! Trust the good God, do not be afraid, and soon your troubles will be over and you will be once more in your mother's arms." He stood on a rock and watched the little procession until a bend in the path hid it from sight, then he went back to his lonely pasture.
For an hour or so, the children trudged quite cheerfully on their way. "This isn't hard at all," said Seppi. "The pass is easier to follow than our own. How silly we were to be scared!"
They were so used to climbing about in perilous places that when a little later the path led them along a shelf-like projection on the side of steep cliffs, overhanging a mountain stream, they were not frightened. But when they began to grow tired, and the trail led them into a dark forest, where the sun came through the thick boughs and shone only in patches of light upon the slippery spruce needles, they grew less courageous.
"I don't like the forest," said Leneli, shivering a little and looking behind her. "It always seems as if things would happen to you in the woods."
"What kind of things?" said Seppi, who was beginning to feel a bit shaky himself.
"Why—you know," answered Leneli, "the kind of things that giants and dragons and dwarfs do! And then there's that story about Pontius Pilate. You know our old Mount Pilatus was named that because they say his body was thrown into one of its lakes, and his spirit haunts the mountain. He only comes out once a year, but oh, Seppi, suppose this should be the time!"
"Huh!" said Seppi scornfully. "Girls' talk! Of course I don't believe such things; besides, he only comes out on Good Friday, anyway!"
"Well," said Leneli, "lots of people do believe them, even grown-up people."
"Pooh," said Seppi, and just to show that he didn't care at all about such idle tales he began to whistle; but Leneli noticed that he too looked behind him now and then.
It grew more and more difficult to find the way, for there were openings between the trees that looked like paths and the true path wound in and out, and came near losing itself entirely among the rocks. The brown needles covered the ground in every direction, so the pass was no different in color from the rest of the forest floor. When they looked behind them or peered fearfully under the spruce boughs for dwarfs or giants, of course they were not watching the trail carefully, and so, when suddenly there was a loud whirring noise above the trees and a great bird flew almost over their heads, they were so startled they just ran without noticing which way they were going. Bello was startled too, and began to bark. This started the goats, and before you could say "Jack Robinson" children, dog, goats, and all were galloping pell-mell through the woods.
After the loud whirring noise the forest was still again, and the children stopped their mad race, but they could not stop the goats. On and on they ran with Bello after them, and there was nothing for the children to do but follow, for had not their father told them that the welfare of the whole family depended upon the goats, and if any should be lost, they alone would be to blame? Stumbling over roots, dodging trees and rocks, they plunged wildly along until finally they saw a light spot ahead and a moment later came out suddenly upon the edge of a precipice, from which they could look straight down into a deep valley below. The goats were there before them huddled together an the brow of the cliff, bleating piteously. Bello sat on his haunches with his tongue hanging out and looked at the scenery! Seppi and Leneli looked at each other in dismay.
"Now you've done it!" said Seppi miserably. "We've lost the path, and it's all your fault! If we had been thinking about Peter of Lucerne instead of about those silly old giants and dwarfs, this would not have happened."
"You were just as scared as I was," said Leneli, "and you needn't try to lay it all on me! You jumped and ran just as soon as I did, when that bird flew over our heads."
Seppi knew that this was true, so he said nobly: "Very well, let's not quarrel about it. What we need to do is to get the goats back to the path."
He took some salt from his pocket, as his big brother had taught him to do, and walked slowly toward them, holding out his hand. Nanni stretched her neck forward and had taken just one lick of the salt when suddenly the loud whirring noise came again, there was a terrific scream overhead, and from the crags above them a great golden eagle swooped down towards the frightened group on the cliff, and, sticking his terrible talons into Nanni's back, tried to lift her bodily into the air! For an instant she swung dizzily over the edge of the cliff as the eagle beat his wings furiously in an effort to rise with his heavy burden. But in that instant Seppi leaped forward and, seizing the goat by the tail, pulled back with all his might. Leneli sprang to the rescue of Seppi, grasping him firmly around the waist, and screaming like a wildcat as she added her strength to his.
Meanwhile Bello barked furiously, and the rest of the goats fled bleating into the woods in a mad stampede. It was all over in less time that it takes to tell it. The goat, wounded and bleeding, dropped to the ground, the great bird soared away into the dizzy spaces beyond the cliff, and the children dashed into the shelter of the woods, dragging Nanni after them. They could not sink down on the ground and recover from their fright as they longed to do, for by this time the goats had scattered among the trees and must be brought together again at once. Bello was distractedly trying to round them up, but as he had no idea of the direction in which to drive them, they were all galloping wildly about, first this way, then that.
It was some time before the children succeeded in getting the flock together again, but at last they were able to drive them farther into the woods, and away from the dangers of the cliffs, and were soon fortunate enough to come upon a little mountain stream which was singing its way through the forest. Here the goats stopped willingly to drink, and for the first time the children were able to give some attention to Nanni. Her back was torn and bloody, but her injuries were not serious and on the whole she seemed little the worse for her experience.
"We must let all the goats rest a little," said Seppi. "There isn't any food for them, but they can have a good drink while we eat our lunch, and then we just must find that path."
I saw a ship a-sailing,
A-sailing on the sea;
And, oh! it was all laden
With pretty things for thee!
There were comfits in the cabin,
And apples in the hold;
The sails were made of silk,
And the masts were made of gold.
The four-and-twenty sailors
That stood between the decks
Were four-and-twenty white mice,
With chains about their necks.
The captain was a duck,
With a packet on his back;
And when the ship began to move,
The captain said, "Quack! quack!"
WEEK 8 |
Genesis xviii: 1, to xix: 30.
NE day Abraham,—for we shall call him now by his new name,—was sitting in the door of his tent, when he saw three men coming toward him. He knew from their looks that they were not common men. They were angels, and one of them seems to have been the Lord God himself, coming in the form of a man.
When Abraham saw these men coming, he went out to meet them, and bowed to them; and he said to the one who was the leader:
"My Lord, do not pass by; but come and rest a little under the tree. Let me send for water to wash your feet; and take some food; and stay with us a little while."
So this strange person, who was God in the form of a man, sat with his two followers in Abraham's tent, under the oak-trees at Hebron. They took some food which Sarah, Abraham's wife, made ready for them, and then the Lord talked with Abraham. He told Abraham again that in a very little time God would send to him and Sarah a little boy, whose name should be Isaac. In the language that Abraham spoke, the name Isaac means "laughing;" because Abraham and Sarah both laughed aloud when they heard it. They were so happy that they could scarcely believe the news.
Then the three persons rose up to go, and two of them went on the road which led toward Sodom, down on the plain of Jordan, below the mountains. But the one whom Abraham called "My Lord" stopped after the others had gone away, and said:
"Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do? For Abraham is to be the father of a great people, and all the world shall receive a blessing through him. And I know that Abraham will teach his children and all those that live with him to obey the will of the Lord, and to do right. I will tell Abraham what I am going to do. I am going down to the city of Sodom and the other cities that are near it, and I am going to see if the city is as bad as it seems to be; for the wickedness of the city is like a cry coming up before the Lord."
And Abraham knew that Sodom was very wicked, and he feared that God was about to destroy it. And Abraham said:
"Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked, the good with the bad, in Sodom? Perhaps there may be fifty good people in the city. Wilt thou not spare the city for the sake of fifty good men who may be in it? Shall not the Judge and Ruler of all the earth do right?"
And the Lord said:
"If I find in Sodom fifty good people, then I will not destroy the city, but will spare it for their sake."
Then Abraham said again:
"Perhaps I ought not to ask anything more, for I am only a common man, talking with the Lord God. But suppose that there should be forty-five good people in Sodom, wilt thou destroy the city because it needs only five good men to make up the fifty?"
And the Lord said, "I will not destroy it, if there are forty-five good men in it." And Abraham said, "Suppose there are forty good people in it,—what then?" And the Lord said, "I will spare the city, if I find in it forty good men." And Abraham said, "O Lord, do not be angry, if I ask that if there are thirty good men in the city, it may be spared." And the Lord said, "I will not do it, if I find thirty good men there." And Abraham said, "Let me venture to ask that thou wilt spare it if twenty are there." The Lord said: "I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty good men, if they are there." Then Abraham said, "O, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak only this once more. Perhaps there may be ten good men found in the city." And the Lord said, "If I find ten good men in Sodom, I will spare the city."
And Abraham had no more to say. The Lord in the form of a man went on his way toward Sodom; and Abraham turned back, and went to his tent.
You remember that Lot, the nephew of Abraham, chose the land of Sodom for his home (Story Five), and lived there, though the people were so wicked. You remember, too, how Lot was carried away captive when Sodom was taken by its enemies, and how he was rescued by Abram. (Story Six.) But after all that had happened, Lot went to live in Sodom again; and he was there when the angels came to Abraham's tent, as we read in the last story.
Two of the angels who had visited Abraham went down to Sodom, and walked through the city, trying to find some good men; for if they could find only ten, the city would be saved. But the only good man whom they could find was Lot. He took the angels, who looked like men, into his house, and treated them kindly, and made a supper for them.
The men of Sodom, when they found that strangers were in Lot's house, came before the house in the street, and tried to take the two men out that they might do them harm, so wicked and cruel were they. But the men of Sodom could do nothing against them, for when they tried to break open the door, and Lot was greatly frightened, the two angels struck all those wicked men blind in a moment, so that they could not see, and felt around in the dark for the door.
Then the angels said to Lot:
"Have you here any others besides yourself, any sons, or sons-in-law, or daughters? Whomever you have, get them out of this city quickly, for we are here to destroy this place, because it is so very wicked."
Then Lot went to the houses where the young men lived who had married some of his daughters, and said to them:
"Hurry, and get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy it."
But his sons-in-law, the husbands of his daughters, would not believe his words; they only laughed at him. What a mistake it was for Lot to live in a wicked city, where his daughters were married to young men living there!
And when the morning was coming, the two angels tried to make poor Lot hasten away. They said:
"Rise up quickly, and take your wife, and your two daughters that are here. If you do not haste, you will be destroyed with the city."
But Lot was slow to leave his house, and his married daughters, and all that he had; and the two angels took hold of him, and of his wife, and his two daughters; and the angels dragged them out of the city. God was good to Lot, to take him out of the city before it was destroyed.
And when they had brought Lot and his wife and his daughters out of the city, one of the angels said to him:
"Escape for your life; do not look behind you; do not stop anywhere in the plain; climb up the mountain, or you may be destroyed!"
And Lot begged the angels not to send him so far away. He said, "O my Lord, I cannot climb the mountain. Have mercy upon me, and let me go to that little city that lies yonder. It is only a little city, and you can spare it. Please to let me be safe there."
And the angel said, "We will spare that city for your sake; and we will wait until you are safe before we destroy these other cities."
So Lot ran to the little city, and there he found safety. In the language of that time, the word "Zoar" means little; so that city was afterward called Zoar. It was the time of sunrise when Lot came to Zoar.
Then, as soon as Lot and his family were safely out of Sodom, the Lord caused a rain of fire to fall upon Sodom and the other cities on the plain. With the fire came great clouds of sulphur smoke, covering all the plain. So the cities were destroyed, and all the people in them; not one man or woman or child was left.
While Lot and his daughters were flying from the city, Lot's wife stopped, and looked back; and she became a pillar of salt, standing there upon the plain. Lot and his two daughters escaped, but they were afraid to stay in the little city of Zoar. They climbed up the mountain, away from the plain, and found a cave, and there they lived. So Lot lost his wife, and all that he had, because he had made his home among the wicked people of Sodom.
And when Abraham, from his tent door on the mountain, looked down toward the plain, the smoke was rising from it, like the smoke of a great furnace.
And that was the end of the cities of the plain, Sodom, and Gomorrah, and the other cities with them. Zoar alone was saved, because Lot, a good man, prayed for it.
Sodom and Gomorrah burned up.
I dug and dug amongst the snow,
And thought the flowers would never grow;
I dug and dug amongst the sand,
And still no green thing came to hand.
Melt, O snow! the warm winds blow
To thaw the flowers and melt the snow;
But all the winds from every land
Will rear no blossom from the sand.