WEEK 14 |
Pinocchio, because he would not heed the good counsels
EALLY," said the puppet to himself as he resumed his journey, "how
unfortunate we poor boys are. Everybody scolds us, everybody admonishes us,
everybody gives us good advice. To let them talk, they would all take it into
their heads to be our fathers and our masters—all: even the
But Pinocchio had not time to finish his reasoning, for at that moment he thought that he heard a slight rustle of leaves behind him.
He turned to look, and saw in the gloom two
"Here they are in reality!" he said to himself, and not knowing where to hide his gold pieces he put them in his mouth precisely under his tongue.
Then he tried to escape. But he had not gone a step when he felt himself seized by the arm, and heard two horrid sepulchral voices saying to him:
"Your money or your life!"
Pinocchio, not being able to answer in words, owing to the money that was in his mouth, made a thousand low bows and a thousand pantomimes. He tried thus to make the two muffled figures, whose eyes were only visible through the holes in their sacks, understand that he was a poor puppet, and that he had not as much as a false farthing in his pocket.
"Come now! Less nonsense and out with the money!" cried the two brigands threateningly.
And the puppet made a gesture with his hands to signify: "I have got none."
The puppet made a gesture with his hands to signify: "I have got none."
"Deliver up your money or you are dead," said the tallest of the brigands.
"Dead!" repeated the other.
"And after we have killed you, we will also kill your father."
"Also your father!"
"No, no, no, not my poor papa!" cried Pinocchio in a despairing tone and as he said it, the sovereigns clinked in his mouth.
"Ah! you rascal! Then you have hidden your money under your tongue! Spit it out at once!"
But Pinocchio was obdurate.
"Ah! you pretend to be deaf, do you? Wait a moment, leave it to us to find a means to make you spit it out."
And one of them seized the puppet by the end of his nose, and the other took him by the chin, and began to pull them brutally, the one up and the other down, to constrain him to open his mouth. But it was all to no purpose. Pinocchio's mouth seemed to be nailed and riveted together.
Then the shorter assassin drew out an ugly knife and tried to force it between his lips like a lever or chisel. But Pinocchio, as quick as lightning, caught his hand with his teeth, and with one bite bit it clean off and spat it out.
Imagine his astonishment when instead of a hand he perceived that he had spat a cat's paw on to the ground.
Encouraged by this first victory he used his nails to such purpose that he succeeded in liberating himself from his assailants, and jumping the hedge by the roadside he began to fly across country. The assassins ran after him like two dogs chasing a hare: and the one who had lost a paw ran on one leg, and no one ever knew how he managed it.
After a race of some miles Pinocchio could do no more. Giving himself up for lost he climbed the stem of a very high pinetree and seated himself in the topmost branches. The assassins attempted to climb after him, but when they had reached halfway up the stem they slid down again, and arrived on the ground with the skin grazed from their hands and knees.
But they were not to be beaten by so little: collecting a quantity of dry wood they piled it beneath the pine and set fire to it. In less time than it takes to tell the pine began to burn and to flame like a candle blown by the wind. Pinocchio, seeing that the flames were mounting higher every instant, and not wishing to end his life like a roasted pigeon, made a stupendous leap from the top of the tree and started afresh across the fields and vineyards. The assassins followed him, and kept behind him without once giving in.
The day began to break and they were still pursuing him. Suddenly Pinocchio
found his way barred by a wide deep ditch full of dirty water the colour of
coffee. What was he to do? "One! two! three!"
cried the puppet, and making a
rush he sprang to the other side. The assassins also jumped, but not having
measured the distance
"A fine bath to you, gentleman assassins."
And he felt convinced that they were drowned, when, turning to look, he perceived that on the contrary they were both running after him, still enveloped in their sacks, with the water dripping from them as if they had been two hollow baskets.
Then Ingolf turned to Helga. She threw herself into his arms and wept. But after a while she told him this story:
"When springtime came, Leif thought that he would sow wheat. He had but one ox. The others had died during the winter. So he set the thralls to help pull the plow. I saw their sour looks and was afraid, but Leif only laughed:
" 'What else can thralls expect?' he said. 'Never fear them, good wife.'
"Now one day soon after that the thralls came running to the house calling out:
" 'The ox is dead! The ox is dead!'
"Leif asked them about it. They said that a bear had come out of the woods and killed it, and that they had scared the beast away. They pointed out where it had gone. Then Leif called his men and said:
" 'A hunt! I had not hoped for such great sport here. Ah, we will have a feast off that bear!'
"So they took their spears and went out into the woods. As soon as they were gone, the thralls came running into the house and took down all the swords and shields from the wall and ran out. In some way they met my lord and his men in the woods and killed them. Then they came back and took everything in the house and dragged us to the boat and sailed here."
"O my brother!" said Ingolf, "where is that song about 'those two foster-brothers, Ingolf and Leif, who made a new country in a wonderful land, and whose sons and grandsons are mighty men in Iceland'? But come home with me, Helga."
So they took the women and Leif's things and Leif's boat and sailed home. The next day after they came to Ingolf's house, Helga said:
"We have made your family larger, brother Ingolf. Will you not take Leif's two houses and live in them? He does not need them now. He would like you to have them."
"It would be pleasant to live there," Ingolf said. "I thank you."
So the next day they loaded everything aboard the two ships and sailed for Leif's house. There they stayed for a year. Ingolf still sent his thralls out to look for the pillars. He was careful always to have hay, so his cattle prospered. That spring he planted wheat, but it did not grow well.
"This is sickly stuff," Ingolf said. "It takes too much time and work. It is better to save the land for hay. Perhaps we can sometime go back to Norway for flour."
At last one day the thralls came home and said:
"We have found the pillars."
Ingolf jumped to his feet. He cried out:
"You have kept me waiting three years, Thor. But as soon as my house and temple are built, I will sacrifice to you three horses as a thank-offering."
"It is a long way off, master," the thralls said, "and we have found much better places in our walks about the island."
"Thor knows best," Ingolf answered. "I will settle where he leads me."
So that summer they loaded everything into the ships again and sailed west along the coast until they came to the place where the pillars were. The land there was low and green. On both sides were low hills. A little lake glistened back from shore. In the valley were hot springs, with steam rising from them.
"It looks like smoke," the men said. "It is very strange to see hot water and smoke come out of the ground."
In front of this green land was a good harbor with islands in it. Far over the sea toward the north shone a great ice mountain.
"I like the place," Ingolf said. "I will make this land mine."
So he built fires at the mouth of the river near there, and stood by them and called out loudly:
"I have put my fire at the mouth of these rivers. All the land that they drain is mine, and no man shall claim it but me. I will call this place Reykjavik."
Then Ingolf built his feast hall. He himself carved the beams and the door-posts. Gaily painted dragons leaned out from the doors and stood up from the gables. Men and animals fought on the door-posts. For the doors he made at the forge great iron hinges. Their ends curved and spread all over the door. Near his feast hall he built a storehouse and a kitchen and a smithy and a stable and a bower for the women.
"We do not need a sleeping-house for guests," he said. "Who would be our guests?"
He roofed all his buildings with turf. It made them look like green mounds with gay carved and painted walls under them. He built also a temple, and on that was beautiful carving. In this he set up those statues that had been in his old temple. He put up, too, those pillars of his high seat that had been drifting about so long. Under them he laid the soil of Norway that he had brought in the little bronze chest.
"I have kept my vow, O Thor!" he cried.
Then he sacrificed three horses that he had promised to Thor. After that was over, he said:
"Here is a good field for sport. Let us have some of the old games that we used to play at home. Who will wrestle with me?"
So they wrestled there and ran races and swam in the water. The women sat and looked on.
"Oh, this is good to see!" Helga cried. "We are as gay as we used to be in old Norway."
But it was not many weeks before Ingolf said:
"I wish that I might sometime see sails in that harbor. I wish that I might think, 'Around this point of land is another farm, and across the bay is another. I can go there when I am very lonely.' I wish that I might sometime be invited to a feast. I wish that I might sometimes hear the good, clanging music of weapons at play. It is a good land, but we have lived alone for four years. I am hungry for new faces and for tidings of Norway."
One night as he and his men sat about the long fire in the feast hall, a servant threw a great piece of wood upon the fire. It was streaked with faded paint and it showed bits of carving.
"See," said Ingolf, pointing to it, "see what is left of a good ship's prow! What lands have you seen, O dragon's head? What battles have you fought? What was your master's name? Where did the storm meet you? Perhaps he was coming to Iceland, comrades. Would it not have been pleasant to see his sail and to shake his hand and to welcome him to Iceland? But instead he is in Ran's caves, and only his broken prow has drifted here."
Now it was not many months after that when one of the men came running into the feast hall, shouting:
"A sail! A sail in the harbor!"
All those men gave a shout with no word in it, as though their hearts had leaped into their throats. They jumped up and ran to the shore and stood there with hungry eyes. When the men landed, those Icelanders clapped them on the shoulders, and tears ran down their faces. For a long time they could say nothing but "Welcome! Welcome!"
"Those Icelanders clapped them on the shoulders."
But after a while Ingolf led them to the feast hall and had a feast spread at once. While the thralls were at work, the men stood together and talked. Such a noise had never been in that hall before.
"We have already built our fires and claimed our land up the shore a way," the leader said. "Men in Norway talk much of Ingolf and Leif, and wonder what has happened to them."
Then Ingolf told them of all that had come to pass in Iceland, and then he asked of Norway.
"Ah! things are going from bad to worse," the newcomers said. "Harald grows mightier every day. A man dare not swing a sword now except for the king. We came here to get away from him. Many men are talking of Iceland. Soon the sea-road between here and Norway will be swarming with dragons."
And so it was. Ships also came from Ireland and from the Shetlands and the Orkneys.
"Harald has come west-over-seas," the men of these ships said, "and has laid his heavy hand upon the islands and put his earls over them. They are no place now for free men."
So by the time Ingolf was an old man, Iceland was no longer an empty land. Every valley was spotted with bright feast halls and temples. Horses and cattle pastured on the hillsides. Smoke curled up from kitchens and smithies. Gay ships sailed the waters, taking Iceland cloth and wool and Iceland fish and oil and the soft feathers of Iceland birds to Norway to sell, and bringing back wood and flour and grain.
When Ingolf died, his men drew up on the shore the boat in which he had come to Iceland. They painted it freshly and put new gold on it, so that it stood there a glittering dragon with head raised high, looking over the water. Old Sighvat lifted a huge stone and carried it to the ship's side. With all his strength he threw it into the bottom. The timbers cracked.
"If this ship moves from here," he said, "then I do not know how to moor a ship. It is Ingolf's grave."
Then men laid Ingolf upon his shield and carried him and placed him on the high deck in the stern near the pilot's seat where he had sat to steer to Iceland. They hung his sword over his shoulder. They laid his spear by his side. In his hand they put his mead-horn. Into the ship they set a great treasure-chest filled with beautiful clothes and bracelets and head-bands. Beside the treasure-chest they piled up many swords and spears and shields. They put gold-trimmed saddles and bridles upon three horses. Then they killed the horses and dragged them into the ship. They killed hunting-dogs and put them by the horses; for they said:
"All these things Ingolf will need in Valhalla. When he walks through the door of that feast hall, Odin must know that a rich and brave man comes. When he fights with those heroes during the day, he must have weapons worthy of him. He must have dogs for the hunt. When he feasts with those heroes at night he must wear rich clothes, so that those feasters shall know that he was a wealthy man and generous, and that his friends loved him."
Ingolf's son tied on his hell-shoes for the long journey.
"If these shoes come untied," he said, "I do not know how to fasten hell-shoes."
Then he went out of the ship and stood on the ground with his family. All the men of Iceland were there.
"This is a glorious sight," they said. "Surely no ship ever carried a richer load. Inside and out the boat blazes with gold and bronze, and, high over his riches, lies the great Ingolf, ready to take the tiller and guide to Valhalla, where all the heroes will rise up and shout him welcome."
Then the thralls heaped a mound of earth over the ship. This hill stood up against the sky and seemed to say: "Here lies a great man." Sighvat put a stone on the top, with runes on it telling whose grave it was. All this time a skald stood by and played on his harp and sang a song about that time when Ingolf came to Iceland. He called him the father of Iceland. People of that country still read an old story that the men of that long ago time wrote about Ingolf, and they love him because he was a brave man and "the first of men to come to Iceland."
Girls and boys, come out to play,
The moon is shining as bright as day:
Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
And join your playfellows in the street.
Come with a whoop and come with a call,
Come with a good will or not at all.
Up the ladder and down the wall,
A halfpenny roll will serve us all.
You find milk and I 'll find flour,
And we'll have a pudding in half an hour.
WEEK 14 |
ERE is another story of the
Not quite a hundred years after the time of Sir Philip
Sidney there was a war between the Swedes
and the Danes. One day a great battle was fought, and the
Swedes were beaten, and driven from the field. A soldier of
the Danes who had been slightly wounded was sitting on the
ground. He was about to take a drink from a flask. All at
once he heard some one
"O sir! give me a drink, for I am dying."
It was a wounded Swede who spoke. He was lying on the ground only a little way off. The Dane went to him at once. He knelt down by the side of his fallen foe, and pressed the flask to his lips.
"Drink," said he, "for thy need is greater than mine."
Hardly had he spoken these words, when the Swede raised
himself on his elbow. He pulled a pistol from his pocket, and
shot at the man who
"Ah, you rascal!" he cried. "I was going to befriend you, and you repay me, by trying to kill me. Now I will punish you. I would have given you all the water, but now you shall have only half." And with that he drank the half of it, and then gave the rest to the Swede.
When the King of the Danes heard about this, he sent for the soldier and had him tell the story just as it was.
"Why did you spare the life of the Swede after he had tried to kill you?" asked the king.
"Because, sir," said the soldier, "I could never kill a wounded enemy."
"Then you deserve to be a
Mother Leopard Frog laid dozens and hundreds and thousands of eggs.
Her eggs were all in one mass. The mass swelled in the water and then it looked like clear gelatin.
The eggs looked like little dark spots in the clear mass.
Mother Frog had a cold body and could not warm her eggs. The sun warmed them and the baby tadpoles hatched.
The tadpoles did not look like grown frogs. They had small mouths and large long flat tails.
At first the tadpoles had no legs. When they were old enough they had hind legs and after a while their front legs grew, too.
Don and Nan came to visit the tadpoles. They talked with Mr. Gray about them.
"Now, their mouths are large and their tails are small," said Nan.
Mr. Gray said, "Some time in the summer they will be changed to frogs. Then they will hunt in the grass.
"Some kinds of frogs stay in the water all summer. Leopard Frogs hunt for grasshoppers to eat.
"But every spring they live in the water for a while."
"And sing in a chorus!" said Don.
"If I were a sunbeam,
I know what I'd do:
I would seek white lilies
Rainy woodlands through;
I would steal among them,
Softest light I'd shed,
Until every lily
Raised its drooping head.
"If I were a sunbeam,
I know where I'd go:
Into lowliest hovels
Dark with want and woe;
Till sad hearts looked upward,
I would shine and shine;
Then they'd think of heaven,
Their sweet home and mine."
Art thou not a sunbeam,
Child whose life is glad
With an inner radiance
Sunshine never had?
Oh, as God has blessed thee,
Scatter rays divine!
For there is no sunbeam
But must die, or shine.
WEEK 14 |
A FEW days after Chebec and his wife started building their nest in the Old Orchard Peter dropped around as usual for a very early call. He found Chebec very busy hunting for materials for that nest, because, as he explained to Peter, Mrs. Chebec is very particular indeed about what her nest is made of. But he had time to tell Peter a bit of news.
"My fighting cousin and my handsomest cousin arrived together yesterday, and now our family is very well represented in the Old Orchard," said Chebec proudly.
Slowly Peter reached over his back with his long left hind foot and thoughtfully scratched his long right ear. He didn't like to admit that he couldn't recall those two cousins of Chebec's. "Did you say your fighting cousin?" he asked in a hesitating way.
"That's what I said," replied Chebec. "He is Scrapper the Kingbird, as of course you know. The rest of us always feel safe when he is about."
"Of course I know him," declared Peter, his face clearing. "Where is he now?"
At that very instant a great racket broke out on the other side of the Old Orchard and in no time at all the feathered folks were hurrying from every direction, screaming at the top of their voices. Of course, Peter couldn't be left out of anything like that, and he scampered for the scene of trouble as fast as his legs could take him. When he got there he saw Redtail the Hawk flying up and down and this way and that way, as if trying to get away from something or somebody.
For a minute Peter couldn't think what was the trouble with Redtail, and then he saw. A white-throated, white-breasted bird, having a black cap and back, and a broad white band across the end of his tail, was darting at Redtail as if he meant to pull out every feather in the latter's coat.
He was just a little smaller than Welcome Robin, and in comparison with him Redtail was a perfect giant. But this seemed to make no difference to Scrapper, for that is who it was. He wasn't afraid, and he intended that everybody should know it, especially Redtail. It is because of his fearlessness that he is called Kingbird. All the time he was screaming at the top of his lungs, calling Redtail a robber and every other bad name he could think of. All the other birds joined him in calling Redtail bad names. But none, not even Bully the English Sparrow, was brave enough to join him in attacking big Redtail.
When he had succeeded in driving Redtail far enough from the Old Orchard to suit him, Scrapper flew back and perched on a dead branch of one of the trees, where he received the congratulations of all his feathered neighbors. He took them quite modestly, assuring them that he had done nothing, nothing at all, but that he didn't intend to have any of the Hawk family around the Old Orchard while he lived there. Peter couldn't help but admire Scrapper for his courage.
SCRAPPER THE KINGBIRD
Look in the Old Orchard for a bird with white breast, dark head and back, and with a white tip to his tail.
REDEYE THE VIREO
The only Vireo with red eyes.
As Peter looked up at Scrapper he saw that, like all the rest of
the flycatchers, there was just the tiniest of hooks on the end
of his bill. Scrapper's slightly raised cap seemed all black, but
if Peter could have gotten close enough, he would have found that
hidden in it was a patch of
"Do you live on bees altogether?" asked Peter.
"Bless your heart, Peter, no," replied Scrapper with a chuckle. "There wouldn't be any honey if I did. I like bees. I like them first rate. But they form only a very small part of my food. Those that I do catch are mostly drones, and you know the drones are useless. They do no work at all. It is only by accident that I now and then catch a worker. I eat all kinds of insects that fly and some that don't. I'm one of Farmer Brown's best friends, if he did but know it. You can talk all you please about the wonderful eyesight of the members of the Hawk family, but if any one of them has better eyesight than I have, I'd like to know who it is. There's a fly 'way over there beyond that old apple-tree; watch me catch it."
Peter knew better than to waste any effort trying to see that fly. He knew that he couldn't have seen it had it been only one fourth that distance away. But if he couldn't see the fly he could hear the sharp click of Scrapper's bill, and he knew by the way Scrapper kept opening and shutting his mouth after his return that he had caught that fly and it had tasted good.
"Are you going to build in the Old Orchard this year?" asked Peter.
"Of course I am," declared Scrapper.
Just then he spied Blacky the Crow and dashed out to meet him. Blacky saw him coming and was wise enough to suddenly appear to have no interest whatever in the Old Orchard, turning away towards the Green Meadows instead.
Peter didn't wait for Scrapper to return. It was getting high
time for him to scamper home to the dear Old Briar-patch and so
he started along, lipperty-
"Look up over your head," cried the voice, rather a harsh voice. Peter looked, then all in a flash it came to him who it was Chebec had meant by the handsomest member of his family. It was Cresty the Great Crested Flycatcher. He was a wee bit bigger than Scrapper the Kingbird, yet not quite so big as Welcome Robin, and more slender. His throat and breast were gray, shading into bright yellow underneath. His back and head were of a grayish-brown with a tint of olive-green. A pointed cap was all that was needed to make him quite distinguished looking. He certainly was the handsomest as well as the largest of the Flycatcher family.
"You seem to be in a hurry, so don't let me detain you, Peter," said Cresty, before Peter could find his tongue. "I just want to ask one little favor of you."
"What is it?" asked Peter, who is always glad to do any one a favor.
"If in your roaming about you run across an old cast-off suit of Mr. Black Snake, or of any other member of the Snake family, I wish you would remember me and let me know. Will you, Peter?" said Cresty.
"A—a—a—what?" stammered Peter.
"A cast-off suit of clothes from any member of the Snake family,"
replied Cresty somewhat impatiently. "Now don't forget, Peter.
I've got to go house hunting, but you'll find me there or
hereabouts, if it happens that you find one of those
Before Peter could say another word Cresty had flown away. Peter
hesitated, looking first towards the dear Old Briar-patch and
then towards Jenny Wren's house. He just couldn't understand
"Jenny!" called Peter. "Jenny Wren! Jenny Wren!" No one answered him. He could hear Mr. Wren singing in another tree, but he couldn't see him. "Jenny! Jenny Wren! Jenny Wren!" called Peter again. This time Jenny popped her head out, and her little eyes fairly snapped. "Didn't I tell you the other day, Peter Rabbit, that I'm not to be disturbed? Didn't I tell you that I've got seven eggs in here, and that I can't spend any time gossiping? Didn't I, Peter Rabbit? Didn't I? Didn't I?"
"You certainly did, Jenny. You certainly did, and I'm sorry to disturb you," replied Peter meekly. "I wouldn't have thought of doing such a thing, but I just didn't know who else to go to."
"Go to for what?" snapped Jenny Wren. "What is it you've come to me for?"
"Snake skins," replied Peter.
"Snake skins! Snake skins!" shrieked Jenny Wren. "What are you talking about, Peter Rabbit? I never have anything to do with Snake skins and don't want to. Ugh! It makes me shiver just to think of it."
"You don't understand," cried Peter hurriedly. "What I want to know is, why should Cresty the Flycatcher ask me to please let him know if I found any cast-off suits of the Snake family? He flew away before I could ask him why he wants them, and so I came to you, because I know you know everything, especially everything concerning your neighbors."
Jenny Wren looked as if she didn't know whether to feel flattered or provoked. But Peter looked so innocent that she concluded he was trying to say something nice.
A wolf had been feasting too greedily, and a bone had stuck crosswise in his throat. He could get it neither up nor down, and of course he could not eat a thing. Naturally that was an awful state of affairs for a greedy Wolf.
So away he hurried to the Crane. He was sure that she, with her long neck and bill, would easily be able to reach the bone and pull it out.
"I will reward you very handsomely," said the Wolf, "if you pull that bone out for me."
The Crane, as you can imagine, was very uneasy about putting her head in a Wolf's throat. But she was grasping in nature, so she did what the Wolf asked her to do.
When the Wolf felt that the bone was gone, he started to walk away.
"But what about my reward!" called the Crane anxiously. "What!" snarled the Wolf, whirling around. "Haven't you got it? Isn't it enough that I let you take your head out of my mouth without snapping it off?"
Expect no reward for serving the wicked.
WEEK 14 |
O one knew how many twisted stairways and crooked passage-ways led from the underground kitchens up into the main hallway of the King's Castle. But when you were in the hallway you saw before you the great sweeping scarlet stair-case that went up to the grandest chambers. Every night seven servitors, dressed in velvets, stood on that staircase, ten steps above each other, each holding a silver candle-stick of seven branches in his hands to light the way to the grand chambers.
And in the grandest of the grand chambers, in the Solar Gallery, no less, a Ball was being held that was the grandest ever given in the Royal Realm; it was being given by the King to the Maidens who had come to the Castle and from amongst whom the King's son was to choose a wife. He was not required to make his choice at this Ball; there were to be three, and at the finish of the third Ball, he was to make his choice.
There were a thousand candles lighted in the gallery, but if there had not been on lighted the gallery would have been bright because of the hanging lustres and the standing silvers that were there. There were citrons and pomegranates heaped on the table; there were seventeen fiddlers wearing cocked hats in the little gallery; and all the maidens who came to the ball were required to wear grass-green slippers so that their feet might look well on the cloth-of-gold carpet.
Dame Dale gave her last commands to the under-servants, and then she ordered a page to go to her two daughters, Berry-bright and Butter-cup, and request them to come to her in her own chamber. The damsels came with the page behind them carrying the boxes in which were the dresses they were to wear at the Ball. Dame Dale dressed them from shoe-tie to necklace. The wreaths they brought she would not have them wear; she sent out to the King's garden for roses of the white and red, and she made fresh wreaths for them. She gave each a new, perfumed pocket-handkerchief and a fan made out of swan's feathers.
"I do not know," she said, "which of you is the best favored, but the King's son would make a good choice if he should choose either of you."
Berry-bright looked at Buttercup, and she thought that it would be a pity indeed if the King's son was misled into choosing her, and Buttercup looked at her sister and thought that somebody ought to mention to the King's son that she had a cast in her eye which she managed to conceal very unfairly.
"Pray, Mother," said Buttercup, "why do you let people from the underground kitchens come out into the main hallway? I met the Ratcatcher with his cage of brown rats, and I thought I should expire with disgust."
"The Ratcatcher will have to stay below with the other servants, including our own house-mate, Girl-go-with-the-Goats," said Dame Dale.
"Is she in the King's Castle?" asked Berry-bright. "I should have done something to keep her at a distance. You know she might claim kin with us."
"She is the cinder-wench below the stairs, and we have said enough about her," said Dame Dale.
She rubbed the cheeks of each of her daughters with a hare's foot to bring out the color; she put nose-gays bound with bright ribbons in their hands, and she took them along passages and brought them out in the main hall, just in front of the great, sweeping, scarlet stair-case.
Then up the great scarlet stair-case Buttercup and Berry-bright went, each holding her nose-gay high in her hand. The seven servitors, dressed in velvets, holding the silver candle-sticks of seven branches, lighted the way for them. And nine captive nightingales, in darkened cages, were singing in the alcove along the stairs.
Buttercup and Berry-bright entered the Solar Gallery, and they curtsied to the right to the King's son and to the left to the Peers who were there. All the young Peers of the Realm were at the Ball, but it was expected that no one less than a Duke would ask any of the maidens to dance with him.
A score of servants came in and scattered rose-leaves over the floor. Then the seventeen fiddlers tuned up their instruments, and played the Laughter Tune, and if there were any there who were not gay before, they were made gay then. The King's son took off his diadem and the Peers of the Realm took off their velvet cloaks, and the maidens in their robes of gauze and spangle, of silk and satin, walked round in procession. The King's son and the Peers of the Realm held their hands high for the procession to pass under; the King's son took the hand of the last maiden, and the dance began.
Whoever had known him before would hardly have known him now, so changed was the King's son. He forgot all the importance that conversation with people in authority had given him. He laughed as he danced, and he danced as he laughed. He thought that each of his partners was the only matchless maiden in the world. He would not have to make his choice now, he knew; however, at the close of the Ball he would have to ask the maiden whom he thought was the fairest to distribute the citrons and pomegranates amongst the company.
The King's son danced with dark-haired maidens, and fair-haired maidens, and brown-haired maidens. At last he came to dance with Berry-bright. He admired the beauty of her white hands, and he thought that she would be the one he would choose to distribute the citrons and pomegranates amongst the company. But then he danced with Buttercup, and he thought that she was the one he would ask to do it. For Buttercup had lovely curls just touching her shoulders, and her conversation was very pleasing.
And after he had danced with Buttercup there was a lull in the music. The Chamberlain approached him and began to tell him of the points of beauty that each maiden showed as she displayed herself in the dance. But just then he noticed that all the young Peers of the Realm were standing with their bands shading their eyes to look at someone who had come into the gallery.
A maiden she was, and she wore a dress of bronze, a gleaming dress with a glittering veil and gleaming shoes. She was slender, and her white arms and her dark hair were lovely to behold. On her forehead was a star; in her cheek was a dimple, and on her mouth was a smile of eagerness and joy.
She curtsied to the right to the King's son and she curtsied to the left to the Peers of the Realm. The Dukes whispered to the lesser Peers. The King's son stood bewildered. The Chamberlain dropped the notes he had made, for here was a maiden who had points of Beauty exceeding all that the other maidens had put together.
Then the King's son collected himself and went to her. "Where have you come from, bright damsel?" he said.
"I came from Ditch-land which is by Old Shoe Garden," she said.
"And will you dance with me?" said the King's son.
"When you rede aright where I've come from," said she.
The King's son drew back from her, not knowing what to say, and the most admired of the young Dukes came and took her hand and led her into the dance.
When it was over the King's son went to her again. But now there was a lull in the music, and the fiddlers did not tune up for another dance. "Dancing is over," said the King's son, "but I beg of you to come to the table and distribute the citrons and pomegranates amongst the company."
Then the new-come maiden walked up to the table, and those who were little looked over the others' shoulders to see her pass. She took a citron and a pomegranate in each hand, and very graciously she offered them to one of the maidens. She took another citron and another pomegranate and she brought them over to another maiden. She took a great many citrons and pomegranates and was bringing them to this one and that one in the company, when suddenly there came a heavy sound into the gallery. It was the Clock in the Tower striking twelve. The new-come maiden let the citrons and the pomegranates fall, and they rolled upon the floor. She ran to the wide doorway. Before any one knew that she was out of the gallery she was speeding down the scarlet stairway, past the seven servitors holding their branched candle-sticks, and down into the main hall. They saw her in the hallway. But when the King's son with the Peers of the Realms, the seventeen fiddlers, and the score of servants who had strewn the rose-leaves came into the hallway, the maiden with the gleaming dress, the glittering veil, and the gleaming shoes, was nowhere to be seen.
I LAY down on my bed, with my money and other precious things close at hand.
All night long the wind blew and the rain poured.
Early in the morning I arose and looked out toward the sea.
The waves were rolling very high.
The ship was gone. The sea had swallowed it up.
As I could make no more visits to the ship, I now began to think of other things.
I was still afraid lest there were savage beasts on the island.
Savage men, too, might come that way.
If any of these should find me, how could I protect myself from them?
I must have a stronger house to live in. I must build me a little fort or castle.
The place I was in was flat and wet. My tent was on open ground and could be plainly seen from a distance. There was no fresh water near it.
I must find a better place than this for my castle.
A little way from the shore there was a rocky hill. I went to look at it.
Halfway up the hill there was a large level place, with a great rock rising behind it like the side of a house.
I climbed up to the level place. There was but one way to go, and that was by a steep and winding path.
I found the place much larger than I thought. It was more than a hundred yards long and almost half as broad.
It was, indeed, a green field, or plain, with steep cliff rising up behind it. You must think of it as a great shelf half way up the side of the hill.
"Here," I said to myself, "is the place for my castle."
It was no easy thing to carry all my goods up the steep path to this level plain. I worked hard for many days; but, then, there was nothing else to do, and I must needs keep busy.
At one place on the side of the great rock there was a break, or opening, like the door to a cave. But there was no cave there.
Just in front of this break I began to build my castle. First, I drew a half circle upon the ground, with the opening at the center. The space which it inclosed was about thirty feet across.
In this half circle I set up two rows of strong stakes, driving them deep into the ground.
The rows were not more than six inches apart. The stakes were about two inches apart and as high as my head.
Then between and around these stakes I laid the great ropes that I had brought from the ship. Among these I twined the slender branches of trees and long grapevines that I found in the woods.
When all was finished I had a wall nearly six feet high. It was so strong that nothing could break through it.
I made no door in the wall. The only way in which to get into the yard behind it was by going over the top. This was done by climbing a short ladder which I could lift up after me, and then let down again.
How safe I felt now, as I stood inside of my castle wall!
Over this wall I next carried all my riches, food, my tools, my boxes of clothing. Then, right against the great rock, I made me a large tent to shelter me from the rain.
Into this tent I brought everything that would be spoiled by getting wet. In the middle of it I swung the hammock that I had brought from the ship. For you must remember that I was a sailor, and I could sleep better in a hammock than on a bed.
The hollow place in the rock was just as I hoped. It was, indeed, a large cleft or crack, filled only with earth and small stones.
With such tools as I had I began to dig the earth and stones away. I carried them out through my tent and piled them up along the inside of my wall.
In a few days I had made quite a cave which would serve very well as a cellar to my castle.
I called the cave my kitchen; but when I began my cooking I found it best to do most of that work outside.
In bad weather, however, the kitchen was an excellent place to live in.
Among the thistles on the hill,
In tears, sat little Sorrow;
"I see a black cloud in the west,
'T will bring a storm to-morrow.
And when it storms, where shall I be?
And what will keep the rain from me?
Woe's me!" said little Sorrow.
"But now the air is soft and sweet,
The sun is bright," said Pleasure;
"Here is my pipe,—if you will dance,
I'll wake my merriest measure;
Or, if you choose, we'll sit beneath
The red rose tree, and twine a wreath;
Come, come with me!" said Pleasure.
"O, I want neither dance nor flowers,—
They 're not for me," said Sorrow,
"When that black cloud is in the west,
And it will storm to-morrow!
And if it storm what shall I do?
I have no heart to play with you,—
Go! go!" said little Sorrow.
But lo! when came the morrow's morn,
The clouds were all blown over;
The lark sprang singing from his nest
Among the dewy clover;
And Pleasure called, "Come out and dance!
To-day you mourn no evil chance;
The clouds have all blown over!"
"And if they have, alas! alas!
Poor comfort that!" said Sorrow;
"For if to-day we miss the storm,
'T will surely come to-morrow,—
And be the fiercer for delay!
I am too sore at heart to play;
Woe's me!" said little Sorrow.
WEEK 14 |
"And when Rome falls—the World."
T HE golden days of the great world-empire were now over. With the death of Marcus Aurelius her happiness and prosperity seemed to be gone for ever. She had reached the height of her glory. She had stretched her strong arms over land and sea—over Europe, Asia, and Africa; she had carried civilisation into the farthest limits of the known world, and now her power was ending. Other nations were to rise and play their part in the world's history.
Ten centuries had passed away since those days when Romulus with his small band of shepherds had fortified himself near the banks of the Tiber. During the first four ages the Romans, in the school of poverty, had learnt and practised that virtue which is the strength of nations. Patriotic, industrious, and courageous, they enlarged their boundaries, and for three hundred years they had lived in prosperity.
But for the last three hundred years they had been slowly but surely declining. Wealth had poured into their capital; Africans, Gauls, Britons, and Spaniards had lived in their midst; their old simplicity had gone, their spirit was broken, their old vigour had fled. The stern old Roman nature was softened by luxury, enfeebled by wealth, and the outlying peoples of the north were not slow to mark the growing weakness of the empire.
Marcus Aurelius had left a son who was in every way unworthy of his high-minded father. Under him the decline which had already begun went on apace. The empire was put up to auction. One ruler after another rose and fell. Under the African ruler Severus hope flickered up again. He was alive to the dangers of his country, and saw the need for closer union of the various provinces. He spent his time away from Rome, connecting the vast empire by a network of paved roads, which cut through hills and bridged over valleys and rivers. But Severus died at York on his way south from Scotland, and with his unworthy successors hope died away again.
For the next hundred years, emperor after emperor lived and died. But none was great enough or good enough to save the Empire, now tottering more rapidly to its fall; for the people are the backbone of their country, and the Roman people had lost their old spirit.
Under Diocletian, a soldier risen from the ranks, who was hailed as emperor by the people, the great Empire was divided into two parts. One man was to rule the East and another the West, while each ruler was to select his successor. For twenty years he ruled, and then he made up his mind to give up the responsibilities of empire and retire to private life.
On the 1st of May, in the year 305, a vast number of troops assembled on a great plain beyond the Danube. On a knoll in the midst a throne was erected, on which the emperor sat in the sight of all. Before the gazing crowds he took off his purple robe, his jeweled crown, his imperial ornaments, and put them on his successor. Then descending into the plain he mounted his chariot, drove once more through the streets and away to his seaside palace.
Once, later on, when things were going ill, Diocletian was urged to come out of his retreat and take upon him the purple again, but his answer was ever the same: "Come and look at the cabbages I have planted."
While the Emperor Diocletian was still reigning, a young boy about sixteen, son of the man whom he had elected to succeed him, was growing up to "command the admiration of all who beheld him." Already he had shown himself able and clever. "No one," says the enthusiastic historian, "was comparable to him for grace and beauty of person, or height of stature and greatness of strength."
This was the future Constantine the Great, who was to take a great step in the history of the world by making a
new capital for the Roman Empire, known to us
While Diocletian was growing cabbages in his country home, Constantine and his colleague ascended the thrones of the East and West. But it was not for long. After a civil war, Constantine became sole emperor.
He will ever be remembered in history for the mighty change he accomplished in the world's religion by becoming a Christian. There is an old story which tells how he decided on this change, from his pagan worship of the Roman gods to his worship of the God preached by Paul in Rome more than two hundred years before.
He was going to battle on the banks of the Tiber, says the story. Suddenly there appeared before the whole army a bright cross of light in the noonday sky, with the words plainly traced round it: "In this sign shalt thou conquer."
That night, when he lay down to sleep, the Christ appeared to Constantine in a vision, with the same sign which he had already seen. He commanded him to make a standard with that sign of the cross upon it, and he should have victory over his enemies.
The following day the soldiers went into battle with the sacred sign on their shields; they fought under the standard of the cross and won the battle. And Constantine entered Rome—a Christian.
T HERE was once a beautiful enchantress named Circe. Her palace stood in a grove on the island of Eaea. Here she lived alone and spent her time in studying magic. She learned all sorts of sorcery and tricks, and became so clever that she could turn men into whatever beasts she liked.
When strangers landed on her island, she changed them into lions and wolves and pigs. Her garden was full of enchanted animals, which wandered back and forth, remembering that they were really men. They longed to speak, but could only grunt or growl. Her pig sties were crowded. But in all her palace there was no friend or servant, or any living person to keep her company.
One day a ship dropped anchor in the bay, and a band of sailors came wading ashore for water. Their leader was the great Ulysses.
The Great Ulysses
He was on his voyage home to Ithaca, and had been through many dangers and hardships. His men were very hungry, and their clothes were ragged and travel stained.
Ulysses climbed a hill so that he might look around him and judge if the island were a safe place for them to land. He saw no people or houses of any sort, but only a thin spiral of smoke rising from a distant grove. He hoped that this was the fire of a friendly hearth, and went back to his men and sent half of them, under a leader named Eurylochus, to explore the island. Ulysses and the rest of the crew remained to watch the boat.
Eurylochus led his men through the woods toward the smoke, and at last they saw a beautiful palace, half hidden by trees. The columns gleamed like white marble, and a fountain sprayed into the air. The men were sure they would be received with kindness in so fair a palace.
But as they came still nearer, they were terrified to see wild animals roaming through the gardens. There were lions and tigers and wolves walking sleepily back and forth among the trees. Eurylochus and his comrades drew back and hid themselves where they could watch. They noticed that the animals were drowsy and quiet. Soon the men gathered courage to steal toward the palace.
The beasts did not leap at them, or roar, but made low gentle sounds, and crowded around Eurylochus. They lay on the ground at his feet, and tried to lick his hands. He thought he saw a pleading look in their eyes. Indeed, he had never before seen such eyes in any animals. They were like the eyes of men in trouble.
He patted their heads and walked on toward the entrance of the palace, where he heard music and the sound of singing.
He called aloud, and a lovely woman, veiled in many garments, came floating toward him. Her thin scarfs fluttered in the soft wind, and her voice, as she invited the strangers to enter, was low and sweet.
They crowded into the palace, delighted at her welcome, but Eurylochus looked into her eyes and saw that they were small and cruel. He felt he would rather stay outside with the animals than follow her inside the huge door.
As the doors clanged together behind his comrades, the beasts uttered such mournful sounds that Eurylochus hid himself beside one of the windows. There he could see what happened in the palace and help his friends if they fell into danger.
He saw them seated at a great banqueting table, with warm food and fruit before them and all manner of sweet things. While they ate, the air was filled with perfume and soft music. Eurylochus was very hungry himself, and the sight of the food almost made him wish that he had entered with his companions.
When the men had finished, they stretched themselves on the stone benches to rest, or sat sleepily in their chairs. Then their hostess took a little ivory wand in her hand and touched them very lightly, one by one. At once long ears began to spring from their heads, and their bodies were covered with bristles. Hoofs took the place of their hands and feet, and they fell to the floor on all fours.
Circe took an ivory wand in her hand and touched the men one by one.
Before Eurylochus knew what was happening, his comrades had vanished, and in their stead a dozen grunting pigs waddled around the banquet hall.
Then he knew that their lovely hostess was Circe, the enchantress. He understood why the lions and tigers had looked at him so sadly, and had made such mournful sounds when the doors had closed behind his friends.
As he watched, he saw Circe lead her pigs out of the palace and shut them in a dirty sty. She threw them a bagful of acorns, and laughed at them as they crowded to the fence, looking up at her pleadingly.
Eurylochus ran back to the ship and told the others what had happened. Ulysses at once started out to rescue his men, depending only upon his sword. As he hurried through the woods, the god Mercury appeared to him.
"However brave you may be," said the god, "your sword will not overcome the magic of Circe. But if you carry this sprig of green in your hand, it will keep you safe from her sorcery."
He put a branch of a plant called moly into the hand of Ulysses, and vanished. Still holding the green sprig, Ulysses entered the palace garden. The beasts crowded close around him and followed him to the door.
Circe herself came to meet him, much pleased to have another victim as handsome and strong as Ulysses.
She seated him at the banquet table, and smiled as she watched him eat, thinking what a fine large boar he would make. But when she touched him with her wand, the power of the little plant turned her magic aside.
Ulysses did not fall to the floor, nor waddle away grunting. Instead he drew his sword and rushed at her, commanding her to release his friends.
Circe was so frightened that she knelt before him and begged him to spare her. She promised to free all her prisoners, even the lions and wolves in the garden. She agreed to help Ulysses on his journey, and to provide food and water for him to carry away in his ship.
Circe knelt before Ulysses and begged him to spare her.
She ran to the pig sties and as she touched each one of the boars, it changed again into its own form.
The beasts in the garden became men, and spoke to one another once more in words instead of in growls. They thought only of returning to their own homes and friends, and began to make plans for their journey.
Circe kept her promise and helped Ulysses on his voyage. She provided him with all manner of good things, and warned him of dangers which he might meet on the sea.
Seeing that the clothes of Ulysses and his friends were travel-stained and worn, she gave them beautiful robes from her own chests. She made a new sail for their boat, and was so busy that for the time she forgot her evil arts of magic.
At last everything was ready for Ulysses' departure. The ship with its white sail lay floating near the shore. The men put on their fresh robes. Then they carried on board jugs of water and wine, sacks of meal, smoked meat, and all the things that they might need on the voyage.
The men seized the oars in their hands. The sail filled with wind, and Ulysses sped away from the island of Circe, favored by her help, toward Ithaca, his home.
What lovely things
Thy hand hath made:
The smooth-plumed bird
In its emerald shade,
The seed of the grass,
The speck of the stone
Which the wayfaring ant
Stirs—and hastes on!
Though I should sit
By some tarn in thy hills,
Using its ink
As the spirit wills
To write of Earth's wonders,
Its live, willed things,
Flit would the ages
On soundless wings
Ere unto Z
My pen drew nigh
And the honey-fly:
And still would remain
My wit to try—
My worn reeds broken,
The dark tarn dry,
All words forgotten—
Thou, Lord, and I.
WEEK 14 |
When Uncle Henry came in from the barn, with old Shep at his heels, and Cousin Ann came down from upstairs, where her sewing-machine had been humming like a big bee, they were both duly impressed when told that Betsy had set the table and made the apple sauce. They pronounced it very good apple sauce indeed, and each sent his saucer back to the little girl for a second helping. She herself ate three saucerfuls. Her own private opinion was that it was the very best apple sauce ever made.
After supper was over and the dishes washed and wiped, Betsy helping with the putting-away, the four gathered around the big lamp on the table with the red cover. Cousin Ann was making some buttonholes in the shirtwaist she had constructed that afternoon, Aunt Abigail was darning socks, and Uncle Henry was mending a piece of harness. Shep lay on the couch and snored until he got so noisy they couldn't stand it, and Cousin Ann poked him in the ribs and he woke up snorting and gurgling and looking around sheepishly. Every time this happened it made Betsy laugh. She held Eleanor, who didn't snore at all, but made the prettiest little tea-kettle-singing purr deep in her throat, and opened and sheathed her needle-like claws in Betsy's dress.
"Well, how'd you get on at school?" asked Uncle Henry.
"I've got your desk," said Elizabeth Ann, looking at him curiously, at his gray hair and wrinkled, weather-beaten face, and trying to think what he must have looked like when he was a little boy like Ralph.
"So?" said Uncle Henry. "Well, let me tell you that's a mighty good desk! Did you notice the deep groove in the top of it?"
Betsy nodded. She had wondered what that was used for.
"Well, that was the lead-pencil desk in the old days. When they couldn't run down to the store to buy things, because there wasn't any store to run to, how do you suppose they got their lead-pencils?"
Elizabeth Ann shook her head, incapable even of a guess. She had never thought before but that lead-pencils grew in glass show-cases in stores.
"Well, sir," said Uncle Henry, "I'll tell you. They took a piece off the lump of lead they made their bullets of, melted it over the fire in the hearth down at the schoolhouse till it would run like water, and poured it in that groove. When it cooled off, there was a long streak of solid lead, about as big as one of our lead-pencils nowadays. They'd break that up in shorter lengths, and there you'd have your lead-pencils, made while you wait. Oh, I tell you in the old days folks knew how to take care of themselves more than now."
"Why, weren't there any stores?" asked Elizabeth Ann. She could not imagine living without buying things at stores.
"Where'd they get the things to put in a store in those days?" asked Uncle Henry, argumentatively. "Every single thing had to be lugged clear from Albany or from Connecticut on horseback."
"Why didn't they use wagons?" asked Elizabeth Ann.
"You can't run a wagon unless you've got a road to run it on, can you?" asked Uncle Henry. "It was a long, long time before they had any roads. It's an awful chore to make roads in a new country all woods and hills and swamps and rocks. You were lucky if there was a good path from your house to the next settlement."
"Now, Henry," said Aunt Abigail, "do stop going on about old times long enough to let Betsy answer the question you asked her. You haven't given her a chance to say how she got on at school."
"Well, I'm awfully mixed up!" said Betsy, complainingly. "I don't know what I am! I'm second-grade arithmetic and third-grade spelling and seventh-grade reading and I don't know what in writing or composition. We didn't have those."
Nobody seemed to think this very remarkable, or even very interesting. Uncle Henry, indeed, noted it only to say, "Seventh-grade reading!" He turned to Aunt Abigail. "Oh, Mother, don't you suppose she could read aloud to us evenings?"
Aunt Abigail and Cousin Ann both laid down their sewing to laugh! "Yes, yes, Father, and play checkers with you too, like as not!" They explained to Betsy: "Your Uncle Henry is just daft on being read aloud to when he's got something to do in the evening, and when he hasn't he's as fidgety as a broody hen if he can't play checkers. Ann hates checkers and I haven't got the time, often."
"Oh, I love to play checkers!" said Betsy.
"Oh, Father!" said Cousin Ann, in the tone she used for Shep. "How about that piece of breeching! You know that's not safe. Why don't you finish that up first?"
Uncle Henry sat down again, looking as Shep did when Cousin Ann told him to get up on the couch, and took up his needle and awl.
N EVER in all his life was Reddy Fox more uncomfortable in his mind. He knew that by this time everybody in the Green Forest, on the Green Meadows, around the Smiling Pool, and along the Laughing Brook, knew how he had put his tail between his legs and run with all his might at the first glimpse of the strange creature which had rolled down the hill of Prickly Porky. And he was right; everybody did know it, and everybody was laughing about it. Unc' Billy Possum, Jimmy Skunk, Prickly Porky, and Peter Rabbit had seen him run, and you may be sure they told everybody they met about it, and news like that travels very fast.
It wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't boasted beforehand that if he met the strange creature he would wait for it and find out what it was. As it was, he had run just as Peter Rabbit had run when he saw it, and he had been just as much frightened as Peter had. Now, as he sneaked along trying to find something to eat, for he was hungry, he did his very best to keep out of sight. Usually he is very proud of his handsome red coat, but now he wished that he could get rid of it. It is very hard to keep out of sight when you have bright colored clothes. Presently Sammy Jay's sharp eyes spied him as he tried to crawl up on the young family of Mrs. Grouse. At once Sammy flew over there screaming at the top of his lungs:
"Reddy Fox is very brave when there's no danger near;
But where there is, alas, alack! he runs away in fear."
Reddy looked up at Sammy and snarled. It was of no use at all now to try to surprise and catch any of the family of Mrs. Grouse, so he turned around and hurried away, trying to escape from Sammy's sharp eyes. He had gone only a little way when a sharp voice called: "Coward! Coward! Coward!" It was Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
No sooner had he got out of Chatterer's sight than he heard another voice. It was saying over and over:
"Dee, dee, dee! Oh, me, me!
Some folks can talk so very brave
And then such cowards be."
It was Tommy Tit the Chickadee. Reddy couldn't think of a thing to say in reply, and so he hurried on, trying to find a place where he would be left in peace. But nowhere that he could go was he free from those taunting voices. Not even when he had crawled into his house was he free from them, for buzzing around his doorway was Bumble Bee and Bumble was humming:
"Bumble, grumble, rumble, hum!
Reddy surely can run some."
Late that afternoon old Granny Fox called him out, and it was clear to see that Granny was very much put out about something. "What is this I hear everywhere I go about you being a coward?" she demanded sharply, as soon as he put his head out of the doorway.
Reddy hung his head, and in a very shamefaced way he told her about the terrible fright he had had and all about the strange creature without legs, head, or tail that had rolled down the hill where Prickly Porky lives.
"Serves you right for boasting!" snapped Granny. "How many times have I told you that no good comes of boasting? Probably somebody has played a trick on you. I've lived a good many years, and I never before heard of such a creature. If there were one, I'd have seen it before now. You go back into the house and stay there. You are a disgrace to the Fox family. I am going to have a look about and find out what is going on. If this is some trick, they'll find that old Granny Fox isn't so easily fooled."
The alder by the river
Shakes out her powdery curls;
The willow buds in silver
For little boys and girls.
The little birds fly over,
And oh, how sweet they sing!
To tell the happy children
That once again 't is spring.
The gay green grass comes creeping
So soft beneath their feet
The frogs begin to ripple
A music clear and sweet.
And buttercups are coming,
And scarlet columbine,
And in the sunny meadows
The dandelions shine.
And just as many daisies
As their soft hands can hold,
The little ones may gather,
All fair in white and gold.
Here blows the warm red clover,
There peeps the violet blue;
O happy little children!
God made them all for you.
WEEK 14 |
In the morning Gideon by God's command called his ten thousand men out, and made them march down the hill, just as though they were going to attack the enemy. And when they were beside the water he noticed how they drank; and set them apart in two companies, according to their way of drinking. As they came to the water, most of the men threw aside their shields and spears, and knelt down and scooped up a draught of the water with both hands together like a cup. These men Gideon commanded to stand in one company.
There were a few men who did not stop to take a large draught of water. Holding spear and shield in the right hand, to be ready for the enemy if one should suddenly appear, they merely caught up a handful of the water in passing and marched on, lapping up the water from one hand.
God said to Gideon, "Set by themselves these men who lapped up each a handful of water. These are the men whom I have chosen to set Israel free."
Gideon counted these men, and found that there were only three hundred of them; while all the rest bowed down on their faces to drink. The difference between them was that these three hundred were earnest men, of one purpose; not turning aside from their aim even to drink, as the others did. Then, too, they were watchful men, always ready to meet their enemies. Suppose that the Midianites had rushed out on that army while nearly all of them were on their faces drinking, their arms thrown to one side,—how helpless they would have been! But no enemy could have surprised the three hundred, who held their spears and shields ready, even while they were taking a drink.
Some have thought that this test showed also who were worshippers of idols, and who worshipped God; for men fell on their faces when they prayed to the idols, but men stood up while they worshipped the Lord. Perhaps this act showed that most of the army were used to worship kneeling down before idols, and that only a few used to stand up before the Lord in their worship; but of this we are not certain. It did show that here were three hundred brave, watchful men, obedient to orders, and ready for the battle.
Then Gideon, at God's command, sent back to the camp on Mount Gilboa all the rest of his army, nearly ten thousand men; keeping with himself only his little band of three hundred. But before the battle God gave to Gideon one more sign, that he might be the more encouraged.
God said to Gideon, "Go down with your servant into the camp of the Midianites, and hear what they say. It will cheer your heart for the fight."
Then Gideon crept down the mountain with his servant, and walked around the edge of the Midianite camp, just as though he were one of their own men. He saw two men talking, and stood near to listen. One man said to the other:
"I had a strange dream in the night. I dreamed that I saw a loaf of barley bread come rolling down the mountain; and it struck the tent, and threw it down in a heap on the ground. What do you suppose that dream means?"
"That loaf of bread," said the other, "means Gideon, a man of Israel, who will come down and destroy this army; for the Lord God has given us all into his hand."
Gideon was glad when he heard this, for it showed that the Midianites, for all their number, were in fear of him and of his army, even more than his men had feared the Midianites. He gave thanks to God, and hastened back to his camp, and made ready to lead his men against the Midianites.
Gideon's plan did not need a large army; but it needed a few careful, bold men, who should do exactly as their leader commanded them. He gave to each man a lamp, a pitcher, and a trumpet, and told the men just what was to be done with them. The lamp was lighted, but was placed inside the pitcher, so that it could not be seen. He divided his men into three companies; and very quietly led them down the mountain, in the middle of the night; and arranged them all in order around the camp of the Midianites.
Then at one moment a great shout rang out in the darkness, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon," and after it came a crash of breaking pitchers, and then a flash of light in every direction. The three hundred men had given the shout, and broken their pitchers, so that on every side lights were shining. Then men blew their trumpets with a mighty noise; and the Midianites were roused from sleep, to see enemies all round them, lights beaming and swords flashing in the darkness, while everywhere the sharp sound of the trumpets was heard.
They were filled with sudden terror and thought only of escape, not of fighting. But wherever they turned, their enemies seemed to be standing with swords drawn. They trampled each other down to death, flying from the Israelites. Their own land was in the east, across the river Jordan, and they fled in that direction, down one of the valleys between the mountains.
Gideon had thought that the Midianites would turn toward their own land, if they should be beaten in the battle; and he had already planned to cut off their flight. The ten thousand men in the camp he had placed on the sides of the valley leading to the Jordan. There they slew very many of the Midianites as they fled down the steep pass toward the river. And Gideon had also sent to the men of the tribe of Ephraim, who had thus far taken no part in the war, to hold the only place at the river where men could wade through the water. Those of the Midianites who had escaped from Gideon's men on either side of the valley were now met by the Ephraimites at the river, and many more of them were slain. Among the slain were two of the princes of the Midianites, named Oreb and Zeeb.
A part of the Midianite army was able to get across the river, and to continue its flight toward the desert; but Gideon and his brave three hundred men followed closely after them; fought another battle with them, destroyed them utterly, and took their two kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, whom he killed. After this great victory the Israelites were freed forever from the Midianites. They never again ventured to leave their home in the desert to make war on the tribes of Israel.
The tribe of Ephraim, in the middle of the land, was one of the most powerful of the twelve tribes. Its leaders were quite displeased with Gideon, because their part in the victory had been so small. They said to Gideon, in an angry manner, "Why did you not send word to us, when you were calling for men to fight the Midianites?"
But Gideon knew how to make a kind answer. He said to them, "What have I done as compared with you? Did you not kill thousands of the Midianites at the crossing of the Jordan? Did you not take their two princes, Oreb and Zeeb? What could my men have done without the help of your men?" By gentle words and words of praise Gideon made the men of Ephraim friendly.
And after this, as long as Gideon lived, he ruled as judge in Israel. The people wished him to make himself a king. "Rule over us as king," they said, "and let your son be king after you, and his son king after him." But Gideon said, "No; you have a king already; for the Lord God is the King of Israel. No one but God shall be king over these tribes."
Of all the fifteen men who ruled as judges in Israel, Gideon, the fifth judge, was the greatest, in courage, in wisdom, and in faith in God.
If all the people of Israel had been like him, there would have been no worship of idols, and no weakness before the enemies, Israel would have been strong and faithful before God. But as soon as Gideon died, and even before his death, his people began once more to turn away from the Lord and to seek the idol-gods that could give them no help.
NCE upon a time there was a wide river that ran into the ocean and beside it was a little city. And in that city was a wharf where great ships came from far countries. And a narrow road led down a very steep hill to that wharf, and anybody that wanted to go to the wharf had to go down the steep hill on the narrow road, for there wasn't any other way. And because ships had come there for a great many years, and all the sailors and all the captains and all the men who had business with the ships had to go on that narrow road, the flagstones that made the sidewalks were much worn. That was a great many years ago.
The river and the ocean are there yet, as they always have been and always will be; and the city is there, but it is a different kind of a city from What it used to be. And the wharf is slowly falling down, for it is not used now; and the narrow road down the steep hill is all grown up with weeds and grass.
In the long ago, the brig Industry used to sail from that wharf to the far country where she went, and she used to sail back again to that wharf and unload all the pretty things she had brought back. Captain Solomon was the captain of the Industry then. He had not been married when he was made captain, but he had not been the captain many years before he married; and in time he had three sons. And Captain Solomon's sons grew, and, one day, the oldest was twelve years old and the middle son was about nine and a half, but the littlest son of all was only two and three-quarters. And that littlest son was the one who stayed on the farm, afterwards, and was Uncle John, the father of little John.
And by the time Captain Solomon's oldest son was twelve years old the Industry had stopped going to the little city, and she sailed from a wharf in Boston, and all the other ships that belonged to Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob sailed from that wharf in Boston, too. And Captain Solomon wondered what he should do with his oldest son, and he thought about it for a long time. And, at last, he decided that the boy should go one voyage with him, in the Industry, to see how he liked going to sea. But Captain Solomon was not sure that he would let his son go to sea, even if he liked it; for it was a hard life, even at the best, and if a man went to sea for a living, he had but little time at home, especially if he sailed on long voyages to far countries. Captain Solomon could only be at home with his family about a month or six weeks in each year, and he was beginning to get tired of that life, and to long for a farm where he could stay all the time.
So he went into the office of Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob, one morning, and there he found Captain Jacob. And Captain Jacob looked up from what he was doing.
"Good morning, Captain," said Captain Solomon.
"Good morning," answered Captain Jacob.
Then Captain Solomon didn't know exactly how to begin to say what he had to say. So he hemmed and hawed for some time, but he didn't say anything.
"Well, Captain, what's the trouble?" asked Captain Jacob.
"Well, Captain, there isn't anything the trouble, exactly," answered Captain Solomon. "But you know I've got a son."
And Captain Jacob smiled. "Three, haven't you?" said Captain Jacob. "Or is it four, now?"
"No," said Captain Solomon, "only three. But my oldest boy is twelve years old."
"Bless me!" said Captain Jacob. "How time does fly! It doesn't seem more than a year or two since we made you captain. Twelve years old, is he ? Well, come to think of it, my own boy must be nearly thirteen."
"I hope he's well," said Captain Solomon, "and the little girl, too, and their mother. I remember well the first voyage of the Industry, when I was mate, and you were in command, and when Mistress Lois went along."
"Yes," said Captain Jacob. "We've none of us forgotten that. And they're all well. But what did you want to do with your boy? Why don't you take him with you, next voyage? He'll see something of the world, and the Industry is a good ship yet."
"She is that," said Captain Solomon; "none better. And I had the thought to ask you about that very thing."
"We'll make him cabin boy," said Captain Jacob. "And I have an idea—though I don't know how Lois will like it."
And Captain Solomon thanked him, and he went away. Then Captain Jonathan came in and Captain Jacob told him about Captain Solomon's son, and Captain Jonathan thought it was a good thing to make him the cabin boy. Then Captain Jacob told Captain Jonathan about the idea that he had, which was that perhaps he might like to send his own boy with Captain Solomon, too. And Captain Jonathan didn't say anything for a long time, but thought and thought.
"Well, Jacob," he said at last, "you may be right. He'd have Sol to keep him company. But it's different, sending off my own grandson, and Lois's boy. Why, I may never see him again."
But Captain Jacob laughed at him, and said that Captain Jonathan would live a great many years yet; and that the Industry was a good ship and Captain Solomon a good captain. Sol was Captain Solomon's son that was to be the cabin boy. And Captain Jonathan agreed to the plan, and Captain Jacob got ready to go to see Lois. For Lois was down in that little city, at the house that was Captain Jacob's, and little Jacob was there, too.
They didn't have any railroad trains then, nor any railroads; and Captain Jacob took his valise, which would hold a great many clothes, but he didn't put many clothes in it, so that it hung down rather limp. And he went to the stagecoach office, and there he found a coach almost ready to start. And he went into the office and signed his name in a big book, and then he went out again, and climbed up on top of the coach and sat behind the driver. For it was a beautiful sunny day early in the fall, and the inside of the coach would be hot and stuffy. And then the man away up behind blew a long note on his horn, and the driver gathered up the reins and got his whip in his hand. And the driver gave a signal, and the men who had been holding the horses let go their heads, and away they went.
The coach was a fast coach, and it had four horses hitched to it. It went rather slowly at first, with the four horses all trotting gently. But as soon as they had got out of the streets into the roads of the country, the driver made the horses go faster, so that one horse had to gallop, to keep up. And so they went for about ten miles, three of the horses trotting and one galloping; but sometimes they went more slowly, up a little hill, and sometimes they went faster, down hill on the other side, so that all the horses were galloping except one. And, all of that time, Captain Jacob could see the ocean far off, and it was very pleasant; only, sometimes when they went slowly, the wind would blow the cloud of dust, that was raised by the horses' feet and by the wheels, down upon the passengers. Captain Jacob didn't like dust.
The driver made the horses go faster.
They passed through some little towns, on the way, and stopped once, to take on a passenger; and when they had gone about ten miles, they came into a larger town, and stopped in the yard of an inn. Then some men came running out, and the men began to take out the horses. The horses that had dragged them the ten miles were all tired out, and one of them—the one that had been galloping nearly all of the way—was all warm and he looked as if he had been covered with soapsuds where the reins had rubbed on his neck and wherever the harness had touched him. And the men had the horses out in a jiffy, and other men brought four fresh horses. And the men hitched these fresh horses to the coach as fast as they could, and buckled the reins. Then the man sitting high up behind blew a note on his horn, to let the people know they were ready to start. Some of the passengers had got down and gone into the inn; and these passengers came running out, and got up into their places, and, as soon as they were up, the driver gave the signal to let go the horses' heads. And they whirled out of that inn yard at a gallop.
So they went for another ten miles or so; sometimes faster, sometimes more slowly; and they changed horses again. And when they had changed horses three times, Captain Jacob began to see the ocean nearer, and there was the wide river and the little city. And the coach drew up at a tavern, and Captain Jacob got down. It had taken them about three hours to come from Boston, but he was all stiff and lame for a little while, with sitting still so long, and he was covered with dust. And he went into the tavern to have the dust brushed off, and then he walked home.
Lois was very much surprised to see Captain Jacob, for she didn't know that he was coming; and little Jacob would have been surprised, too, only he was out playing with some other boys and he didn't know that his father had come. But little Lois was never surprised at anything that her father did, and she was glad to see him, and he took her up in his arms and kissed her. She was six and a quarter years old. And Captain Jacob and Lois and little Jacob and little Lois didn't live at that house any more; but Lois came there three or four times every year. And in the summer she brought the children and stayed nearly a month at a time; but in the winter she stayed only a few days, and sometimes she brought little Jacob, but she never brought little Lois in the winter, because the ride in the stage was too long and too cold. So Lois wondered what could have brought Captain Jacob down there so suddenly.
"And," said Lois, "of course you will say the stage brought you. But what is the reason that you came? Has anything gone wrong?"
And Captain Jacob laughed. He couldn't catch Lois with his jokes. "Nothing is wrong," he said. "But why shouldn't I come? Aren't you glad to see me?"
Captain Jacob joked more than he had been used to, and Lois knew that. "Of course I am," she answered. "But you don't generally come without letting me know beforehand. I thought it must be something important."
And Captain Jacob didn't laugh any more. "Well, Lois, it is important," he said. And then he told her about Captain Solomon and his boy, Sol, and that he had had the idea that it was a good chance to send little Jacob, too. So he had come right down to tell her about it and to hear what reasons she would give against the idea.
And Lois didn't say anything for a long while, but just sat still and looked out of the window. And at last she gave a little trembling sigh, and said that she wasn't going to give any reasons at all against his going, for she knew that she didn't have any good reasons to give and it might be the best thing for little Jacob. But Captain Jacob couldn't expect that she would like to send him away for such a long time and on such a long voyage, for he wouldn't have his mother with him, nor any woman, to take care of him if he was sick. But she was willing to leave it to little Jacob himself, to go or not, as he wished.
And Captain Jacob thought about it for a while, and then he said that he was willing to leave it to little Jacob, too. And if he thought that he didn't want to go, he needn't. And, just then, little Jacob came running in. And he was surprised to see his father, but he greeted his father politely, and went up to him and shook hands with him. For little boys were taught to be respectful to their fathers, in those days, and to be more polite than little boys are apt to be nowadays. But perhaps they didn't love their fathers so much, and it is really more important that boys should love their fathers than that they should be respectful to them; although good manners are to be desired, too. It isn't likely that mothers were very different, then, from what they are now.
"Jacob," said Captain Jacob, "how would you like to go to India and back in the Industry? Sol is going."
And little Jacob's eyes lighted up with excitement. "Oh, sir!" he cried, just like that. And he clasped his hands together. "Oh, sir!"
Captain Jacob smiled. "So you'd like it, would you?"
"Oh, yes, sir. That is—" And he unclasped his hands and began to look a little troubled. "Is mother going, and Lois ? Or are—are you going, sir?"
"No," said Captain Jacob, rather gruffly. He stopped smiling, but when he stopped smiling Lois began to smile.
"Come here, Jacob," she said. And he went to his mother, and she put her arm around him, and he leaned against her.
"Well?" asked Captain Jacob, then.
"If you please, sir," said little Jacob, "I should like to think it over a little. Do I have to decide?"
"If you please, sir," said little Jacob, "I should like to think it over."
"Yes," said Captain Jacob. "Your mother and I have agreed to leave it to you. Think it over. I shall not have to go back to Boston for some days, and it will do if you let me know your decision before I go. The Industry will sail in about two weeks. It is a chance, Jacob, a chance."
So little Jacob thought and thought for some days about going to India. And Lois wouldn't try to persuade him not to go, for she didn't think that would be fair; and Captain Jacob didn't say anything at all about it. And little Jacob thought so much about it that it nearly made him sick. He didn't want to leave his mother and little Lois for all that long time, but it never entered his head that he might be sick, for children don't usually think of that, and he had always been a well boy. But the voyage in the Industry would be pleasant, for little Jacob liked to be on the ocean, although he had never been on the ocean more than a part of a day; and he liked the ships, and he often went down to the wharf with his father, just to be near them. And he knew Sol, and they often played together; and Sol was going to India.
And the day came when Captain Jacob was going back to Boston, and he hadn't said anything more to little Jacob about going to India. And Captain Jacob packed his bag and said good-bye to Lois and to little Jacob and to little Lois, and he was just going out of the door on his way to the stage-coach. But he stopped, with his hand on the door-knob.
"Well, Jacob," he said, "India or not?" "Yes, if you please, sir," answered little Jacob. "I think I ought to."
"That's what I think," said Captain Jacob. "Better get your things together. Good-bye."
And Captain Jacob went away. And Lois felt very sorry that little Jacob had decided to go, but she thought it really was the best thing for him, and she thought that the year would seem short after it was over. So she tried not to let little Jacob see that she felt sorry. And, for the next week, she was very busy in getting together the things she thought he would need. And Lois had been to India in the Industry and she knew what sort of things little Jacob would need.
And it came time for them to go back to Boston in the stage-coach, and they went, Lois and little Lois and little Jacob. And little Jacob was very much excited with the idea of going away in a great ship, so that he didn't get tired. And they got to their house in Boston, that was on Portland Street. But Portland Street was a very different kind of a street, then, from what it is now, and it had nice houses on it.
And, the next morning, they were all on board the Industry. Captain Jacob was there, and Lois and little Lois and little Jacob; and Captain Solomon and little Sol and all the sailors. And Captain Jonathan was there, too, and he seemed much disturbed, and he said good-bye to little Jacob a good many times, and told him to keep his eyes open so that he could tell him, when he got back, whether things had changed much in India, and whether the elephants that piled the teak logs in the yard up the river were the same elephants that used to be there. And he said that there used to be an elephant that had only one tusk and that had some pieces gone out of his ears, and that elephant was a kind elephant and would let little boys ride him. And he turned to Captain Solomon and said that he hoped he would find time to take the boys to see the elephants.
Captain Solomon laughed, and he said that he guessed there would be no trouble about that. Then he saw that everybody was waiting for everybody else, and he turned to Captain Jacob.
"We're all ready to start, sir," he said, "as soon as you're ready to have us."
And so they all said good-bye to little Jacob again, and they all went down the sloping way on to the wharf, Captain Jonathan and little Lois and Captain Jacob; but Lois stopped, to give little Jacob another kiss, and then she went down, too. And little Jacob and little Sol stood leaning on the rail, and little Jacob was trying not to cry.
Then the sailors untied the great ropes that held the ship, and they hoisted the sails and the Industry sailed away. And Lois and Captain Jacob and little Lois and Captain Jonathan watched her sail out into the harbor and past the islands, until they couldn't see her any more. And all the time that Lois could see little Jacob standing by the rail, he didn't cry a single tear.
And that's all.
I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass—
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!
I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all—
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!
O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!