WEEK 38 |
E VERYBODY was very kind to the poor little Prince. I think people generally are kind to motherless children, whether princes or peasants. He had a magnificent nursery, and a regular suite of attendants, and was treated with the greatest respect and state. Nobody was allowed to talk to him in silly baby language, or dandle him, or above all to kiss him, though, perhaps, some people did it surreptitiously, for he was such a sweet baby that it was difficult to help it.
It could not be said that the Prince missed his mother; children of his age cannot do that; but somehow after she died everything seemed to go wrong with him. From a beautiful baby he became sickly and pale, seeming to have almost ceased growing, especially in his legs, which had been so fat and strong. But after the day of his christening they withered and shrank; he no longer kicked them out either in passion or play, and when, as he got to be nearly a year old, his nurse tried to make him stand upon them, he only tumbled down.
This happened so many times that at last people began to talk about it. A prince, and not able to stand on his own legs! What a dreadful thing! what a misfortune for the country!
Rather a misfortune to him also, poor little boy! but nobody seemed to think of that. And when, after a while, his health revived, and the old bright look came back to his sweet little face, and his body grew larger and stronger, though still his legs remained the same, people continued to speak of him in whispers, and with grave shakes of the head. Everybody knew, though nobody said it, that something, impossible to guess what, was not quite right with the poor little Prince.
Of course, nobody hinted this to the King his father: it does not do to tell great people anything unpleasant. And besides, his Majesty took very little notice of his son, or of his other affairs, beyond the necessary duties of his kingdom. People had said he would not miss the Queen at all, she having been so long an invalid: but he did. After her death he never was quite the same. He established himself in her empty rooms, the only rooms in the palace whence one could see the Beautiful Mountains, and was often observed looking at them as if he thought she had flown away thither, and that his longing could bring her back again. And by a curious coincidence, which nobody dared inquire into, he desired that the Prince might be called, not by any of the four-and-twenty grand names given him by his godfathers and godmothers, but by the identical name mentioned by the little old woman in grey,—Dolor, after his mother Dolorez.
Once a week, according to established state custom, the Prince, dressed in his very best, was brought to the King his father for half-an-hour, but his Majesty was generally too ill and too melancholy to pay much heed to the child.
Only once, when he and the Crown Prince, who was exceedingly attentive to his royal brother, were sitting together, with Prince Dolor playing in a corner of the room, dragging himself about with his arms rather than his legs, and sometimes trying feebly to crawl from one chair to another, it seemed to strike the father that all was not right with his son.
"How old is his Royal Highness?" said he suddenly to the nurse.
"How old is his Royal Highness?" said he suddenly to the nurse.
"Two years, three months, and five days, please your Majesty."
"It does not please me," said the King with a sigh. "He ought to be far more forward than he is now, ought he not, brother? You, who have so many children, must know. Is there not something wrong about him?"
"Oh, no," said the Crown Prince, exchanging meaning looks with the nurse, who did not understand at all, but stood frightened and trembling with the tears in her eyes. "Nothing to make your Majesty at all uneasy. No doubt his Royal Highness will outgrow it in time."
"A slight delicacy—ahem!—in the spine; something inherited, perhaps, from his dear mother."
"Ah, she was always delicate; but she was the sweetest woman that ever lived. Come here, my little son."
And as the Prince turned round upon his father a small, sweet, grave face—so like his mother's—his Majesty the King smiled and held out his arms. But when the boy came to him, not running like a boy, but wriggling awkwardly along the floor, the royal countenance clouded over.
"I ought to have been told of this. It is terrible—terrible! And for a prince too! Send for all the doctors in my kingdom immediately."
They came, and each gave a different opinion, and ordered a different mode of treatment. The only thing they agreed in was what had been pretty well known before: that the prince must have been hurt when he was an infant—let fall, perhaps, so as to injure his spine and lower limbs. Did nobody remember?
No, nobody. Indignantly, all the nurses denied that any such accident had happened, was possible to have happened, until the faithful country nurse recollected that it really had happened on the day of the christening. For which unluckily good memory all the others scolded her so severely that she had no peace of her life, and soon after, by the influence of the young lady nurse who had carried the baby that fatal day, and who was a sort of connection of the Crown Prince, being his wife's second cousin once removed, the poor woman was pensioned off, and sent to the Beautiful Mountains, from whence she came, with orders to remain there for the rest of her days.
But of all this the King knew nothing, for, indeed, after the first shock of finding out that his son could not walk, and seemed never likely to walk, he interfered very little concerning him. The whole thing was too painful, and his Majesty had never liked painful things. Sometimes he inquired after Prince Dolor, and they told him his Royal Highness was going on as well as could be expected, which really was the case. For after worrying the poor child and perplexing themselves with one remedy after another, the Crown Prince, not wishing to offend any of the differing doctors, had proposed leaving him to nature; and nature, the safest doctor of all, had come to his help, and done her best. He could not walk, it is true; his limbs were mere useless additions to his body; but the body itself was strong and sound. And his face was the same as ever—just his mother's face, one of the sweetest in the world!
Even the King, indifferent as he was, sometimes looked at the little fellow with sad tenderness, noticing how cleverly he learned to crawl, and swing himself about by his arms, so that in his own awkward way he was as active in motion as most children of his age.
"Poor little man! he does his best, and he is not unhappy; not half so unhappy as I, brother," addressing the Crown Prince, who was more constant than ever in his attendance upon the sick monarch. "If anything should befall me, I have appointed you Regent. In case of my death, you will take care of my poor little boy?"
"Certainly, certainly; but do not let us imagine any such misfortune. I assure your Majesty—everybody will assure you—that it is not in the least likely."
He knew, however, and everybody knew, that it was likely, and soon after it actually did happen. The King died, as suddenly and quietly as the Queen had done—indeed, in her very room and bed; and Prince Dolor was left without either father or mother—as sad a thing as could happen, even to a Prince.
He was more than that now, though. He was a king. In Nomansland, as in other countries, the people were struck with grief one day and revived the next. "The king is dead—long live the king!" was the cry that rang through the nation, and almost before his late Majesty had been laid beside the queen in their splendid mausoleum, crowds came thronging from all parts to the royal palace, eager to see the new monarch.
They did see him—the Prince Regent took care they should—sitting on the floor of the council-chamber, sucking his thumb! And when one of the gentlemen-in-waiting lifted him up and carried him—fancy carrying a king!—to the chair of state, and put the crown on his head, he shook it off again, it was so heavy and uncomfortable. Sliding down to the foot of the throne, he began playing with the golden lions that supported it, stroking their paws and putting his tiny fingers into their eyes, and laughing—laughing as if he had at last found something to amuse him.
"There's a fine king for you!" said the first lord-in-waiting, a friend of the Prince Regent's (the Crown Prince that used to be, who, in the deepest mourning, stood silently beside the throne of his young nephew. He was a handsome man, very grand and clever-looking). "What a king! who can never stand to receive his subjects, never walk in processions, who, to the last day of his life, will have to be carried about like a baby. Very unfortunate!"
"Exceedingly unfortunate," repeated the second lord. "It is always bad for a nation when its king is a child; but such a child—a permanent cripple, if not worse."
"Let us hope not worse," said the first lord in a very hopeless tone,
and looking towards the Regent, who stood erect and pretended to hear
nothing. "I have heard that these sort of children with very large
heads and great broad foreheads and staring eyes, are—well, well, let
us hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.
"I swear," said the Crown Prince, coming forward and kissing the hilt of
his sword—"I swear to perform my duties as regent, to take all care of
his Royal Highness—his Majesty, I mean," with a grand bow to the little
child, who laughed innocently back again. "And I will do my humble
best to govern the country. Still, if the country has the slightest
But the Crown Prince being generalissimo, having the whole army at his beck and call, so that he could have begun a civil war in no time; the country had, of course, not the slightest objection.
So the king and queen slept together in peace, and Prince Dolor reigned over the land—that is, his uncle did; and everybody said what a fortunate thing it was for the poor little Prince to have such a clever uncle to take care of him. All things went on as usual; indeed, after the Regent had brought his wife and her seven sons, and established them in the palace, rather better than usual. For they gave such splendid entertainments and made the capital so lively, that trade revived, and the country was said to be more flourishing than it had been for a century.
Whenever the Regent and his sons appeared, they were received with shouts—"Long live the Crown Prince!" "Long live the Royal family!" And, in truth, they were very fine children, the whole seven of them, and made a great show when they rode out together on seven beautiful horses, one height above another, down to the youngest, on his tiny black pony, no bigger than a large dog.
And, in truth, they were very fine children, the whole seven of them.
As for the other child, his Royal Highness Prince Dolor—for somehow people soon ceased to call him his Majesty, which seemed such a ridiculous title for a poor little fellow, a helpless cripple—with only head and trunk, and no legs to speak of—he was seen very seldom by anybody.
They make a great show when they rode out together on seven beautiful horses.
Sometimes, people daring enough to peer over the high wall of the palace garden, noticed there, carried in a footman's arms, or drawn in a chair, or left to play on the grass, often with nobody to mind him, a pretty little boy, with a bright intelligent face, and large melancholy eyes—no, not exactly melancholy, for they were his mother's, and she was by no means sad-minded, but thoughtful and dreamy. They rather perplexed people, those childish eyes; they were so exceedingly innocent and yet so penetrating. If anybody did a wrong thing, told a lie, for instance, they would turn round with such a grave silent surprise—the child never talked much—that every naughty person in the palace was rather afraid of Prince Dolor.
He could not help it, and perhaps he did not even know it, being no better a child than many other children, but there was something about him which made bad people sorry, and grumbling people ashamed of themselves, and ill-natured people gentle and kind. I suppose, because they were touched to see a poor little fellow who did not in the least know what had befallen him, or what lay before him, living his baby life as happy as the day is long. Thus, whether or not he was good himself, the sight of him and his affliction made other people good, and, above all, made everybody love him. So much so, that his uncle the Regent began to feel a little uncomfortable.
Now, I have nothing to say against uncles in general. They are usually very excellent people, and very convenient to little boys and girls.
Even the "cruel uncle" of the "Babes in the Wood" I believe to be quite an exceptional character. And this "cruel uncle" of whom I am telling was, I hope, an exception, too.
He did not mean to be cruel. If anybody had called him so, he would have resented it extremely: he would have said that what he did was done entirely for the good of the country. But he was a man who had always been accustomed to consider himself first and foremost, believing that whatever he wanted was sure to be right, and, therefore, he ought to have it. So he tried to get it, and got it too, as people like him very often do. Whether they enjoy it when they have it, is another question.
Therefore, he went one day to the council-chamber, determined on making a speech and informing the ministers and the country at large that the young King was in failing health, and that it would be advisable to send him for a time to the Beautiful Mountains. Whether he really meant to do this; or whether it occurred to him afterwards that there would be an easier way of attaining his great desire, the crown of Nomansland, is a point which I cannot decide.
But soon after, when he had obtained an order in council to send the King away—which was done in great state, with a guard of honour composed of two whole regiments of soldiers—the nation learnt, without much surprise, that the poor little Prince—nobody ever called him king now—had gone a much longer journey than to the Beautiful Mountains.
He had fallen ill on the road and died within a few hours; at least, so declared the physician in attendance, and the nurse who had been sent to take care of him. They brought his coffin back in great state, and buried it in the mausoleum with his parents.
So Prince Dolor was seen no more. The country went into deep mourning for him, and then forgot him, and his uncle reigned in his stead. That illustrious personage accepted his crown with great decorum, and wore it with great dignity to the last. But whether he enjoyed it or not, there is no evidence to show.
We had a visitor from the village of Powhatan very soon after Captain Smith took command of Jamestown to such an extent that the gentlemen were forced to work and to speak without oaths, through fear of getting too much cold water inside the sleeves of their doublets.
This visitor was the same Indian girl I had seen making bread, and quite by chance our house was the first she looked into, which caused me much pride, for I believed she was attracted to it because it was more cleanly than many of the others.
We were all at home when she came, being about to partake of the noonday meal, which was neither more nor less than a big turkey weighing more than two score pounds, and roasted to a brownness which would cause a hungry person's mouth to water.
Although she who had halted to look in at our door was only a girl, Captain Smith treated her as if she were the greatest lady in the world, himself leading her inside to his own place at the trencher-board, while she, in noways shy, began to help herself to the fattest pieces of meat, thereby besmearing herself with grease until there was enough running down her chin to have made no less than two rushlights, so Nathaniel Peacock declared.
Of course, being a savage, she could not speak in our language, but the master, who had studied diligently since coming to this world of Virginia to learn the speech of the Indians, made shift to get from her some little information, she being the daughter of Powhatan, the king concerning whom I have already set down many things.
At first Captain Smith was of the belief that she had come on some errand; but after much questioning, more by signs than words, it came out, as we understood the matter, that the girl was in Jamestown for no other purpose than to see what we white people were like.
Captain Smith was minded that she should be satisfied, so far as her curiosity was concerned, for when the dinner had come to an end, and I had given this king's daughter some dry, sweet grass on which to wipe her hands and mouth, he conducted her around the village, allowing that she look in upon the tents and houses at her pleasure.
She stayed with us until the sun was within an hour of setting, and then darted off into the forest as does a startled pheasant, stopping for a single minute when she had got among the trees, to wave her hand, as if bidding us good-bye, or in plain mischief.
It is not possible my memory will serve me to tell of all that was done by us in Jamestown after we were come to our senses through the efforts of my master; but the killing of Captain Kendall is one of the many terrible happenings in Virginia, which will never be forgotten so long as I shall live.
After our people were relieved from the famine through the gifts from the Indians and the coming of wild fowl, Captain Smith set about making some plans to provide us with food during the winter, and to that end he set off in the shallop to trade with the savages, taking with him six men. He had a goodly store of beads and trinkets with which to make payment for what he might be able to buy, for these brown men are overly fond of what among English people would be little more than toys.
While he was gone, Master Wingfield and Captain Kendall were much together, for both were in a certain way under disgrace since the plot with which they charged my master had been shown to have been of their own evil imaginings. They at once set about making friends with some of the serving men, and this in itself was so strange that Nathaniel and I kept our eyes and ears open wide to discover the cause.
It was not many days before we came to know that there was a plan on foot, laid by these two men who should have been working for the good of the colony instead of to further their own base ends, to seize upon our pinnace, which lay moored to the shore, and to sail in her to England.
How that would have advantaged them I cannot even so much as guess; but certain it was that they carried on board the pinnace a great store of wild fowl, which had been cooked with much labor, and had filled two casks with water, as if believing such amount would serve to save them from thirst during the long voyage.
These wicked ones had hardly gone on board the vessel when Captain Smith came home in the shallop, which was loaded deep with Indian corn he had bought from the savages, and, seeing the pinnace being got under way, had little trouble in guessing what was afoot.
If ever a man moved swiftly, and with purpose, it was our master when he thus came to understand what Master Wingfield and Captain Kendall would do. He was on shore before those in the pinnace could hoist the sails, and, calling upon all who remained true to the London Company to give him aid, had three of our small cannon, which were already loaded with shot, aimed at the crew of mutineers.
Five men, each with a matchlock in his hand, stood ready to fire upon those who would at the same time desert and steal from us, and Captain Smith gave the order for Captain Kendall and Master Wingfield to come on shore without delay.
For reply Captain Kendall discharged his firearm, hoping to kill my master, and then those on the bank emptied their matchlocks with such effect that Captain Kendall was killed by the first volley, causing Master Wingfield to scuttle on shore in a twinkling lest he suffer a like fate.
The whole bloody business was at an end in less than a quarter-hour; but the effect of it was not so soon wiped away, for from that time each man had suspicion of his neighbor, fearing lest another attempt be made to take from us the pinnace, which we looked upon as an ark of refuge, in case the savages should come against us in such numbers that they could not be resisted.
The leaves were reddening to their fall.
"Coo!" said the gray doves, "coo!"
As they sunned themselves on the garden wall,
And the swallows round them flew,
"Whither away, sweet swallows?
Coo!" said the gray doves, "coo!"
"Far from this land of ice and snow
To a sunny southern clime we go,
Where the sky is warm and bright and gay:
Come with us, away, away!
"Come," they said, "to that sunny clime!"
"Coo!" said the gray doves, "coo!"
"You will die in this land of mist and rime,
Where 't is bleak the winter through.
Come away!" said the swallows.
"Coo!" said the gray doves, "coo!
Oh, God in heaven," they said, "is good;
And little hands will give us food,
And guard us all the winter through.
Coo!" said the gray doves, "coo!"
WEEK 38 |
EN´GHIS KHAN was a great king and
He led his army into China and Persia, and he
One morning when he was home from the wars, he rode out into the woods to have a day's sport. Many of his friends were with him. They rode out gayly, carrying their bows and arrows. Behind them came the servants with the hounds.
It was a merry hunting party. The woods rang with their shouts and laughter. They expected to carry much game home in the evening.
On the king's wrist sat his favorite hawk; for in those days hawks were trained to hunt. At a word from their masters they would fly high up into the air, and look around for prey. If they chanced to see a deer or a rabbit, they would swoop down upon it swift as any arrow.
All day long
Toward evening they started for home. The king had often ridden through the woods, and he knew all the paths. So while the rest of the party took the nearest way, he went by a longer road through a valley between two mountains.
The day had been warm, and the king was very thirsty. His pet hawk had left his wrist and flown away. It would be sure to find its way home.
The king rode slowly along. He had once seen a spring of
clear water near this
At last, to his joy, he saw some water
The king leaped from his horse. He took a little silver cup from his hunting bag. He held it so as to catch the slowly falling drops.
It took a long time to fill the cup; and the king was so thirsty that he could hardly wait. At last it was nearly full. He put the cup to his lips, and was about to drink.
All at once there was a
The king looked up to see who had done this thing. It was his pet hawk.
The hawk flew back and forth a few times, and then alighted among the rocks by the spring.
The king picked up the cup, and again held it to catch
This time he did not wait so long. When the cup was half full, he lifted it toward his mouth. But before it had touched his lips, the hawk swooped down again, and knocked it from his hands.
And now the king began to grow angry. He tried again; and for the third time the hawk kept him from drinking.
The king was now very angry indeed.
"How do you dare to act so?" he cried. "If I had you in my hands, I would wring your neck!"
Then he filled the cup again. But before he tried to drink, he drew his sword.
"Now, Sir Hawk," he said, "this is the last time."
He had hardly spoken, before the hawk swooped down and knocked the cup from his hand. But the king was looking for this. With a quick sweep of the sword he struck the bird as it passed.
The next moment the poor hawk lay bleeding and dying at its master's feet.
"That is what you get for your pains," said
But when he looked for his cup he found that it had fallen between two rocks, where he could not reach it.
"At any rate, I will have a drink from that spring," he said to himself.
With that he began to climb the steep bank to the place
from which the water trickled. It was hard work, and the
higher he climbed, the
At last he reached the place. There indeed was a pool of
water; but what was that lying in the pool, and almost
filling it? It was a huge, dead snake of the most
The king stopped. He forgot his thirst. He thought only of the poor dead bird lying on the ground below him.
"The hawk saved my life!" he cried; "and how did I repay him? He was my best friend, and I have killed him."
"I have learned a sad lesson
In summer, Don and Nan played outdoors most of the time. In September they went to school.
"Outdoors was one of our homes in summer," said Nan. "We lived there almost every day."
"Now school is one of our homes," said Don.
"Yes," said Nan, "when we go outdoors, now, we go for visits. We call on little animals."
"We call on plants, too," said Don. "And each visit is a pleasant game."
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh! I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
WEEK 38 |
J OLLY, round, red Mr. Sun was just going to bed behind the Purple Hills and the Black Shadows had begun to creep all through the Green Forest and out across the Green Meadows. It was the hour of the day Peter Rabbit loves best. He sat on the edge of the Green Forest watching for the first little star to twinkle high up in the sky. Peter felt at peace with all the Great World, for it was the hour of peace, the hour of rest for those who had been busy all through the shining day.
Most of Peter's feathered friends had settled themselves for the coming night, the worries and cares of the day over and forgotten. All the Great World seemed hushed. In the distance Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow was pouring out his evening song, for it was the hour when he dearly loves to sing. Far back in the Green Forest Whip-poor-will was calling as if his very life depended on the number of times he could say, "Whip poor Will," without taking a breath. From overhead came now and then the sharp, rather harsh cry of Boomer the Nighthawk, as he hunted his supper in the air.
For a time it seemed as if these were the only feathered friends still awake, and Peter couldn't help thinking that those who went so early to bed missed the most beautiful hour of the whole day. Then, from a tree just back of him, there poured forth a song so clear, so sweet, so wonderfully suited to that peaceful hour, that Peter held his breath until it was finished. He knew that singer and loved him. It was Melody the Wood Thrush.
When the song ended Peter hopped over to the tree from which it
had come. It was still light enough for him to see the sweet
singer. He sat on a branch near the top, his head thrown back and
his soft, full throat throbbing with the
MELODY THE WOOD THRUSH
His sides are spotted like his breast.
TEACHER THE OVEN BIRD
You can tell him by the way he repeats his own name.
The Black Shadows crept far across the Green Meadows and it became so dusky in the Green Forest that Peter could barely make out the sweet singer above his head. Still Melody sang on and the hush of eventide grew deeper, as if all the Great World were holding its breath to listen. It was not until several little stars had begun to twinkle high up in the sky that Melody stopped singing and sought the safety of his hidden perch for the night. Peter felt sure that somewhere near was a nest and that one thing which had made that song so beautiful was the love Melody had been trying to express to the little mate sitting on the eggs that nest must contain. "I'll just run over here early in the morning," thought Peter.
Now Peter is a great hand to stay out all night, and that is just
what he did that night. Just before it was time for jolly, round,
red Mr. Sun to kick off his rosy blankets and begin his daily
climb up in the blue, blue sky, Peter started for home in the
dear Old Briar-patch. Everywhere in the Green Forest, in the Old
Orchard, on the Green Meadows, his feathered friends were
awakening. He had quite forgotten his intention to visit Melody
and was reminded of it only when again he heard those beautiful
"I just love to hear you sing, Melody," cried Peter rather breathlessly. "I don't know of any other song that makes me feel quite as yours does, so sort of perfectly contented and free of care and worry."
"Thank you," replied Melody. "I'm glad you like to hear me sing for there is nothing I like to do better. It is the one way in which I can express my feelings. I love all the Great World and I just have to tell it so. I do not mean to boast when I say that all the Thrush family have good voices."
"But you have the best of all," cried Peter.
Melody shook his brown head. "I wouldn't say that," said he modestly. "I think the song of my cousin Hermit, is even more beautiful than mine. And then there is my other cousin, Veery. His song is wonderful, I think."
But just then Peter's curiosity was greater than his interest in songs. "Have you built your nest yet?" he asked.
Melody nodded. "It is in a little tree not far from here," said he, "and Mrs. Wood Thrush is sitting on five eggs this blessed minute. Isn't that perfectly lovely?"
It was Peter's turn to nod. "What is your nest built of?" he inquired.
"Rootlets and tiny twigs and weed stalks and leaves and mud," replied Melody.
"Mud!" exclaimed Peter. "Why, that's what Welcome Robin uses in his nest."
"Well, Welcome Robin is my own cousin, so I don't know as there's anything so surprising in that," retorted Melody.
"Oh," said Peter. "I had forgotten that he is a member of the Thrush family."
"Well, he is, even if he is dressed quite differently from the rest of us," replied Melody.
"You mentioned your cousin, Hermit. I don't believe I know him," said Peter.
"Then it's high time you got acquainted with him," replied Melody promptly. "He is rather fond of being by himself and that is why he is called the Hermit Thrush. He is smaller than I and his coat is not such a bright brown. His tail is brighter than his coat. He has a waistcoat spotted very much like mine. Some folks consider him the most beautiful singer of the Thrush family. I'm glad you like my song, but you must hear Hermit sing. I really think there is no song so beautiful in all the Green Forest."
"Does he build a nest like yours?" asked Peter.
"No," replied Melody. "He builds his nest on the ground, and he doesn't use any mud. Now if you'll excuse me, Peter, I must get my breakfast and give Mrs. Wood Thrush a chance to get hers."
So Peter continued on his way to the dear Old Briar-patch and there he spent the day. As evening approached he decided to go back to hear Melody sing again. Just as he drew near the Green Forest he heard from the direction of the Laughing Brook a song that caused him to change his mind and sent him hurrying in that direction. It was a very different song from that of Melody the Wood Thrush, yet, if he had never heard it before, Peter would have known that such a song could come from no throat except that of a member of the Thrush family. As he drew near the Laughing Brook the beautiful notes seemed to ring through the Green Forest like a bell. As Melody's song had filled Peter with a feeling of peace, so this song stirred in him a feeling of the wonderful mystery of life. There was in it the very spirit of the Green Forest.
It didn't take Peter long to find the singer. It was Veery, who has been named Wilson's Thrush; and by some folks is known as the Tawny Thrush.
At the sound of the patter of Peter's feet the song stopped
abruptly and he was greeted with a whistled "Wheeu! wheeu!" Then,
seeing that it was no one of whom he need be afraid, Veery came
out from under some ferns to greet Peter. He was
Melody the Wood Thrush, being about
"I heard you singing and I just had to come over to see you," cried Peter.
"I hope you like my song," said Veery. "I love to sing just at this hour and I love to think that other people like to hear me."
"They do," declared Peter most emphatically. "I can't imagine how anybody could fail to like to hear you. I came 'way over here just to sit a while and listen. Won't you sing some more for me, Veery?"
"I certainly will, Peter," replied Veery. "I wouldn't feel that I was going to bed right if I didn't sing until dark. There is no part of the day I love better than the evening, and the only way I can express my happiness and my love of the Green Forest and the joy of just being back here at home is by singing."
Veery slipped out of sight, and almost at once his
"Good night, Veery," replied Peter and hopped back towards the Green Meadows for a feast of sweet clover.
A certain man who visited foreign lands could talk of little when he returned to his home except the wonderful adventures he had met with and the great deeds he had done abroad.
One of the feats he told about was a leap he had made in a city called Rhodes. That leap was so great, he said, that no other man could leap anywhere near the distance. A great many persons in Rhodes had seen him do it and would prove that what he told was true.
"No need of witnesses," said one of the hearers. "Suppose this city is Rhodes. Now show us how far you can jump."
Deeds count, not boasting words.
WEEK 38 |
AVING caught the wild horse that for some reason was called the King's Horse, and having tamed it, the next thing to do was to have shoes of iron put upon its hoofs. So they brought the horse to the Forge in the Forest. Strokes of iron upon iron sounded within the forge.
Two went within and two stayed outside with the horse. The two who went within the forge saw a man with brawny arms and a curling beard hammering an iron upon the anvil. They had been told that the smith was shaggy and dwarfed, but this man was very upright.
"Smith, smith!" they cried.
The man went on shaping the iron, not looking towards them. "Smith, smith!" they cried again. Still he did not look towards them. They saw that what he was shaping upon the anvil was the hilt of a sword. And as they watched him they knew that this was not the Blacksmith of the Forest, but the King who had come into the forge to make a sword fit for his own hand.
"Who be ye?" he said, as he took what he had shaped and plunged it into a cauldron of ice-cold water.
"Lord," said the two who had come into the forge, "we are four men, brothers, who have brought a horse here to have shoes of iron put upon it. It happens that although we are brothers we have each come from a different part of the world. And we are story-tellers," they said.
The King who had turned blacksmith looked at the horse that was held outside. As he looked at it he put his hand upon an arm on which there was a scar to be seen.
"Has the horse ever had shoes of iron upon its hoofs?" he asked.
"No, lord," the two brothers said, "this has been a wild horse. For a long time we tried to capture it, and at last we have succeeded. We have tamed it, too. We have to hurry away now, and we thought that we could find in the Forge in the Forest a smith who would put shoes of iron upon the horse."
"You have found one who should be specially willing to put shoes of iron upon this horse."
"Not you, lord?" the two brothers said.
The King looked again upon the horse that was held by the two brothers who were outside the forge. He looked at the two who were within the forge, and he said:
"You are story-tellers, you say. What stories can you tell?"
"Lord," the two said, "we four can tell stories for every stroke that a smith strikes shaping two pairs of shoes for a horse."
"If you are better skilled in your craft than that, I will make shoes for the horse you have caught."
"In what way better skilled, lord?" the two said.
"The blacksmith makes shoes out of the four
elements—Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. If you can tell a story
that goes with each of the
"Lord, we can tell two."
"That would be skill indeed. If you can tell two stories that go with each of the elements, I myself will make the shoes for your horse."
But now the two men were doubtful. "Lord," they said, "one of us has no knowledge of what stories the other has. It may be that we spoke hurriedly, and that we cannot tell two stories that go with the Fire, the Water, the Earth, and the Air." Then the two men who were in the forge spoke doubtfully to each other; they went without and they came back with the two others, and the great white horse.
The four brothers brought the great white horse to the Forge in the Forest.
Then the King whose pleasure it was to work in the forge, making for himself swords that fitted his own hand, took out of the ice-cold water the blade he had shaped. It was taken away to have the first edge put upon it. Then the King took iron to shape into a horseshoe. The apprentice-smith blew with the bellows; the fire mounted up.
"The first element," said the King.
He put the iron into the fire.
WITH very great care I steered my canoe out to sea. I kept just within the edge of the current on my right hand. It carried me along at a great rate, but I did not lose control of the canoe.
In about two hours I came up to the wreck. It was a sad sight to look at.
The ship lay partly on her side, and was jammed fast between two great rocks.
She looked like a Spanish ship. She had been badly broken by the waves, and everything on her decks had been swept away.
As I came close to her, a dog looked over her side and barked at me. When I called him he jumped into the sea and swam out to the canoe.
I lifted him on board, and found that he was almost dead with hunger and thirst.
I gave him a barley cake, and he devoured it like a half-starved wolf. I then gave him a little water, but not too much lest he should harm himself. He drank, and then looked up as if asking for more.
After this I went on board. A sad sight met my eyes. For in the cookroom I saw two sailors who had been drowned, with their arms fast around each other.
I suppose that when the ship struck the waves dashed all over her and the men had no way of escape. Those who were not swept overboard were drowned between decks.
Besides the dog there was no other live thing on board.
I found some chests that had belonged to the sailors. With much labor I got two of them into the canoe without stopping to look inside of them.
Besides these chests, I took a fire shovel and tongs, which I needed very much. I found, also, two little brass kettles, a gridiron, and a large copper pot.
The tide was now setting in toward the island again. So, with the few goods I had found and the poor dog, I started for home.
By keeping on the outside of the eddying current I had no trouble in bringing the canoe safe to land. The sun was almost down when I anchored her in a little inlet just off the point of rocks.
I was so tired that I could do nothing more that day. So, after eating my supper, of which I gave the dog a good share, I lay down in the canoe and went to sleep.
I slept very soundly, and did not wake until morning.
In looking over my goods, I made up my mind to store them in my new cave in the woods. For that was much nearer than my home castle.
When I opened the chests I found several things that I was very glad to get.
In one I found two jars of very good sweetmeats. They were so well corked that the salt water had not harmed them. There were two other jars of the same kind; but they were open at the top, and the water had spoiled the sweetmeats.
In the other chest there were some good shirts, which I needed very much. There were also about a dozen and a half of white linen handkerchiefs. I was very glad to find these, for they would be pleasant to wipe my face with on a hot day.
In a secret drawer of the first chest I found three bags of Spanish money. I counted eleven hundred pieces of silver.
At the bottom of one of the bags there were six Spanish gold pieces, each worth about fifteen dollars. These were wrapped up in a piece of paper.
At the bottom of the other bag there were some small bars of gold. I suppose there was at least a pound of these yellow pieces.
After all, I got very little by this voyage. I had no use for the money. It was worth no more to me than the dust under my feet. I would have given it all for a pair of good shoes or some stockings for my feet.
After I had carried everything to my cave I took the canoe back to her old harbor on the farther side of the island. Then I returned to my castle, where I found everything in good order.
And now I began to live easily again. I was as watchful as before, and never went from my castle without looking carefully around.
I seldom went to the other side of the island. When I visited my cave in the woods, or went to see my goats, I took good care to be well armed.
The night will never stay,
The night will still go by,
Though with a million stars
You pin it to the sky;
Though you bind it with the blowing wind
And buckle it with the moon,
The night will slip away
Like sorrow or a tune.
WEEK 38 |
"O'er Oriental waters now they fly
Upon the Indian seas. . .
And now their chosen task is almost done."
A FEW days' cruising along the eastern coast brought Vasco da Gama to the merchant town of Mozambique, only a few degrees to the south of the equator. Here, however, the chief of the district proved unfriendly, and the Portuguese commander sailed on to Melinda, a trading city on the open coast. It was Easter Day when they anchored in front of the town. News of their coming had spread like wildfire along the coast, and the Indian merchant-ships in port were dressed out with flags in their honour. The king proved a friend in need.
"I will give you pilots," he said, "to take you to the city of Calicut, which is in the country where pepper and ginger grow."
It was August before they were ready to sail. The king was very sad at letting them go, and watched till he could see them no longer.
"Lord God have mercy, farewell!" cried the Portuguese sailors as they sailed away into the open sea, leaving the coast of Africa.
For twenty days they sailed to the east, guided by the pilot, and then Vasco da Gama sighted the long faint line of the Indian coast for which he had sailed so far.
"That is India," said the pilot, nodding his head in the direction to which all eyes were strained.
"This is India," echoed the sailors in content, gazing anxiously from the masthead.
It was a tremendous moment for the Portuguese commander when, after three hundred and four days of tossing on the ocean, he arrived at Calicut, on the coast of India. It was more than he could bear, the poet Camoens tells us. Falling down on his knees, he spread his hands abroad to the blue heavens above him, while in the depth of his joy he could find no words. His heroic task was accomplished; he had fulfilled the desire of his king, the dream of Prince Henry of Portugal in days gone by.
People soon flocked, to see the Portuguese ships and sailors, for they soon discovered that Vasco da Gama had gold and silver on board in exchange for the spices of the East. Their king, too, was anxious to hear of the great Christian King of Portugal.
Vasco da Gama, accompanied by twelve of his best-looking sailors, went on shore, taking presents for the Eastern monarch. They took magnificent pieces of scarlet cloth and crimson velvet, a splendid gilt mirror, fifty knives with ivory handles and glittering blades, and other tokens of Portuguese wealth, so that the king swore eternal friendship with his "brother" the King of Portugal, and gave his representatives free leave to buy and sell as they pleased at Calicut. Moreover, he presented da Gama with a beautiful jewelled sword, in a scabbard of velvet and gold, as a solemn pledge of friendship.
Then the Portuguese loaded their ships with the treasures of Calicut, and, enriched with presents from the king, they sailed away for home. With a fair wind and under the guidance of pilots they soon reached Melinda again, sailed past Mozambique, past what we now know as Zanzibar, and rounded the dreaded Cape of Good Hope in fair weather. With shouts of joy they reached Lisbon, exactly two years and eight months after their departure.
The ships had been seen, and the king was waiting to receive Vasco da Gama and eager to hear his news. With his long beard—which had never been cut since he left Lisbon—the successful explorer stepped ashore, and kneeling low before his king he kissed his hand again and again, saying: "Sire, all my hardships have come to an end at this moment."
The news spread far and wide, and great were the rejoicings throughout Portugal, and indeed throughout Europe. "Another road had been discovered to a country which, famed for its riches, had been the envy of Western nations from the earliest times—the dream of every youth of every age from the days of Solomon.
Did we say rejoicings everywhere in Europe? There was one city that did not rejoice at this famous discovery, one city—proud, beautiful, rich—which seemed stunned by the news.
"It is the worst news that ever arrived," they said sadly.
For Venice, amid her waste of waters, was ruined. No longer "did she hold the gorgeous East in fee." Her traffic, her commerce had been taken from her. She had been the first city in Europe
"till the unwelcome tidings came
That in the Tagus had arrived a fleet
From India, from the regions of the sun,
Fragrant with spices—that a way was found,
A channel opened, and the golden stream
Turn'd to enrich another. Then she felt
Her strength departing, and at last she fell,
Fell in an instant, blotted out and razed."
O NCE upon a time Bruin and Reynard were to plant a field in common and to share the crops in a fair way. "If you'll have the root, I'll take the top," said Reynard. Bruin thought that plan would do very well.
The first year they sowed rye. But when they had thrashed out the crop, Reynard got all the grain and Bruin got nothing but roots and rubbish. He did not like that at all, but Reynard said that was how they had agreed to share the crop, and it was fair and right.
"The tops come to me this year," said Reynard, "but next year it will be your turn. Then you will have the tops and I shall have to put up with the roots."
Spring came and it was time to sow again. Sly Reynard asked Bruin what he thought of sowing turnip seed for the second year's crop.
"Yes, yes," said Bruin, "we will have turnips. Turnips are better food than rye."
Reynard agreed with him. Harvest time came. "We will divide the crops as is fair and right," said Reynard. "I get the roots this time and you get the tops." So Reynard got all the turnip roots and Bruin the turnip tops. When Bruin saw what Reynard had done, he was very angry, and he put an end to his partnership with him at once.
From an island of the sea
Sounds a voice that summons me,—
"Turn thy prow, sailor, come
With the wind home!"
Sweet o'er the rainbow foam,
Sweet in the treetops, "Come,
Coral, cliff, and watery sand,
Sea-wave to land!
"Droop not thy lids at night,
Furl not thy sails from flight! . . ."
Cease, cease, above the wave,
Deep as the grave!
O, what voice of the salt sea
Calls me so insistently?
Echoes, echoes, night and day,—
"Come, come away!"
WEEK 38 |
The boys and bears played at this exciting game of hide-and-seek for two or three hours, but Balser had no opportunity for a good shot, and Tom found no chance to use his deadly hatchet.
When the bear showed a disposition to run away rather than to fight, Limpy grew brave, and talked himself into a high state of heroism.
It was an hour past noon and the boys were laboriously climbing a steep ascent in pursuit of the bear and dogs, which they could distinctly see a few yards ahead of them, at the top of a hill. The underbrush had become thinner, although the shadow of the trees was deep and dark, and Balser thought that at last the bear was his. He repeated over and over to himself his father's advice: "When you attack a bear, be slow and deliberate. Do nothing in a hurry. Don't shoot until you're sure of your aim."
He remembered vividly his hasty shot when he wounded the bear on Conn's Creek, and his narrow escape from death at that time had so impressed upon him the soundness of his father's advice, that he repeated it night and morning with his prayers.
When he saw the bear at the top of the hill, so close to him, he raised his gun to his shoulder and held it there for a moment, awaiting a chance for a sure shot. But disappointment, instead of the bear, was his, for while he held his gun ready to fire, the bear suddenly disappeared, as if the earth had opened and swallowed him.
It all happened so quickly that even the dogs looked astonished. Surely, this was a demon bear.
The boys hurried to the spot where they had last seen the animal, and, although they carefully searched for the mouth of a cave, or burrow, through which the bear might have escaped, they saw none, but found the earth everywhere solid and firm. They extended their search for a hundred feet or more about them, but still with the same result. They could find no hole or opening into which the bear could possibly have entered. His mysterious disappearance right before their eyes seemed terribly uncanny.
There was certainly something wrong with the one-eared bear. He had sprung from the ground, just at their feet, where a moment before there had been nothing; and now he had as mysteriously disappeared into the solid earth, and had left no trace behind him.
Balser and Tom stood for a moment in the greatest amazement, and all they had heard about the evil spirit which inhabited the one-eared bear quickly flashed through their minds.
"We'd better let him go, Balser," said Tom, "for we'll never kill him, that's sure. He's been leading us a wild-goose chase all the morning only to get us up here to kill us. I never saw such an awful place for darkness. The bushes and trees don't seem natural. They all have thorns and great knots on them, and their limbs and twigs look like huge bony arms and fingers reaching out after us. I tell you this ain't a natural place, and that bear is an evil spirit, as sure as you live. Lordy! let's get out of here, for I never was so scared in my life."
Balser was also afraid, but Tom's words had made him
wish to appear brave, and he
"Shucks! Limpy; I hope you ain't afraid when you have your hatchet."
"For goodness' sake, don't joke in such a place as this, Balser," said Tom, with chattering teeth. "I'm not afraid of any natural bear when I have my hatchet, but a bewitched bear is too much for me, and I'm not ashamed to own it.
"How do you know he's bewitched?" asked Balser, trying to talk himself out of his own fears.
"Bewitched? Didn't he come right out of the ground just at our very feet, and didn't he sink into the solid earth right here before our eyes? What more do you want, I'd like to know? Just you try to sink into the ground and see if you can. Nobody can, unless he's bewitched."
Balser felt in his heart that Tom told the truth, and, as even the dogs seemed anxious to get away form the dark, mysterious place, they all descended the hill on the side opposite to that by which they had ascended. When they reached the bottom of the hill they unexpectedly found that they were at the river's edge, and after taking a drink they turned their faces toward home. They thought of dinner, but their appetite had been frightened away by the mysterious disappearance of the bear, and they did not care to eat. So they fed the dogs and again started homeward down the river.
After a few minutes' walking they came to a bluff several hundred feet long, and perhaps fifty feet high, which at that time, the water being low, was separated from the river by a narrow strip of rocky, muddy ground.
This strip of ground was overgrown with reeds and
willows, and the bluff was covered with vines and
bushes which clung in green masses to its steep sides
and completely hid the rocks and earth. Tom was in
front, Balser came next, and the dogs, dead tired, were
trailing along some distance behind. Suddenly Tom threw
up his hands and jumped frantically backward,
exclaiming in terrified
"Oh, Lord! the one-eared bear again."
When Tom jumped backward his foot caught in a vine, and he fell violently against Balser, throwing them both to the ground. In falling, Tom dropped his hatchet, which he had snatched from his belt, and Balser dropped his gun, the lock of which struck a stone and caused the charge to explode. Thus the boys were on their backs and weaponless, while the one-eared bear stood almost within arm's length, growling in a voice like distant thunder, and looking so horrid and fierce that he seemed a very demon in a bear's skin.
Tom and Balser were so frightened that for a moment they could not move; but the deep growls which terrified them also brought the dogs, who came quickly to the rescue, barking furiously.
The bear sprang upon the boys just as the dogs came up, and Balser received the full force of a great flat horny paw upon his back, and was almost stunned. The long sharp claws of the bear tore through the buckskin jacket as if it were paper, and cut deep gashes in Balser's flesh. The pain seemed to revive him from the benumbing effect of the stroke, and when the bear's attention was attracted by the dogs, Balser crawled out from beneath the monster and arose to his feet, wounded, bloody, and dizzy.
Tom also felt the force of the bear's great paw, and was lying a few feet from Balser, with his head in a tangle of vines and reeds.
Balser, having escaped from under the bear, the brute turned upon Tom, who was lying prostrate in the bushes.
The dogs were still vigorously fighting the bear, and every second or two a stroke from the powerful paw brought a sharp yelp of pain from either Tige or Prince and left its mark in deep, red gashes upon their bodies. The pain, however, did not deter the faithful animals from their efforts to rescue the boys; and while the bear was making for Tom it was kept busy in defending itself from the dogs.
In an instant the bear reached Tom, who would have been torn in pieces at once, had not Balser quickly unsheathed his long hunting knife and rushed into the fight. He sprang for the bear and landed on his back, clinging to him with one arm about his neck, while with the other he thrust his sharp hunting knife almost to the hilt into the brute's side.
This turned the attack from Tom, and brought it upon Balser, who soon had his hands full again.
The bear rose upon his hind feet, and before Balser could take a step in retreat, caught him in his mighty arms for the purpose of hugging him to death, which is a bear's favourite method of doing battle.
The hunting knife was still sticking in the rough black side of the bear, where Balser had thrust it, and blood flowed from the wound in a great stream.
The dogs were biting at the bear's hind legs, but so intent was the infuriated monster upon killing Balser that he paid no attention to them, but permitted them to work their pleasure upon him, while he was having the satisfaction of squeezing the life out of the boy.
In the meantime Tom recovered and rose to his feet. He at once realized that Balser would be a dead boy if something were not done immediately. Luckily, Tom saw his hatchet, lying a few feet away, and snatching it up he attacked the bear, chopping away at his great back as if it were a tree.
At the third or fourth stroke from Tom's hatchet, the bear loosened his grip upon Balser and fell in a great black heap to the ground, growling and clawing in all directions as if he were frantic with rage and pain. He bit at the rocks and bushes, gnashed his teeth, and dug into the ground with his claws.
Balser, when released from the bear, fell in a half conscious condition, close to the river's edge. Tom ran to him, and, hardly knowing what he did, dashed water in his face to remove the blood-stains and to wash the wounds. The water soon revived Balser, who rose to his feet; and, Tom helping his friend, the boys started to run, or rather to walk away as fast as their wounds and bruise would permit, while the dogs continued to bark and the bear to growl.
As the boys were retreating, Tom, turned his head to see if the bear was following, but as it was still lying on the ground, growling and biting at the rocks and scratching the earth, he thought perhaps that the danger was over, and that the bear was so badly wounded that he could not rise, or he certainly would have been on his feet fighting Tige and Prince, who gave him not one moment's peace. Balser and Tom paused for an instant, and were soon convinced that the bear was helpless.
"I believe he can't get up," said Balser.
"Of course he can't," answered Tom, pompously. "I cut his old backbone in two with my hatchet. When he was hugging you I chopped away at him hard enough to cut down a hickory sapling."
The boys limped back to the scene of conflict, and found that they were right. The bear could not rise to his feet, but lay in a huge struggling black heap on the ground.
Balser then cautiously went over to where his gun lay, picked it up, and ran back to Tom. He tried to load the gun, but his arms were so bruised and torn that he could not; so he handed it to Tom, who loaded it with a large bullet and a heavy charge of powder.
Balser then called off the dogs, and Tom, as proud as the President of the United States, held the gun within a yard of the bear's head and pulled the trigger. The great brute rolled over on his side, his mighty limbs quivered, he uttered a last despairing growl which was piteous—for it was almost a groan—and his fierce, turbulent spirit fled forever. Balser then drew his hunting knife from the bear's body, cut off the remaining ear, and put it in the pocket of his buckskin coat.
The boys were sorely wounded, and Balser said that the bear had squeezed his "insides" out of place. This proved to be true to a certain extent, for when he got home it was found that two of his ribs were broken.
The young hunters were only too glad to start homeward, for they had seen quite enough of the one-eared bear for one day.
After walking in silence a short distance down the
river, Balser said to
"I'll never again say anything bad about your hatchet. It saved my life to-day, and was worth all the guns in the world in such a fight as we have just gone through."
Tom laughed, but was kind-hearted enough not to say, "I told you so."
You may imagine the fright the boys gave their parents when they arrived home wounded, limping, and blood-stained; but soon all was told, and Balser and Tom were the heroes of the settlement.
They had killed the most dangerous animal that had ever lived on Blue River, and had conquered where old and experienced hunters had failed.
The huge carcass of the bear was brought home that evening, and when the skin was removed, his backbone was found to have been cut almost through by Tom's hatchet.
When thy cut the bear open somebody said he had two galls, and that fact, it was claimed, accounted for his fierceness.
Where the bear had sprung from when the boys first saw him in the forest, or how he had managed to disappear into the ground at the top of the hill was never satisfactorily explained. Some settlers insisted that he had not been inhabited by an evil spirit, else the boys could not have killed him, but others clung to the belief with even greater faith and persistency.
Liney went every day to see Balser, who was confined to his bed for a fortnight.
One day, while she was sitting by him, and no one else was in the room, he asked her to hand him his buckskin jacket; the one he had worn on the day of the bear fight. The jacket was almost in shreds from the frightful claws of the bear, and tears came to the girl's eyes as she placed it on the bed.
Balser put his hand into one of the deep pockets, and,
drawing out the bear's ear, handed it to Liney,
"I cut this off for you because I like you."
The girl took the bear's ear, blushed a deep red,
thanked him, and
"And I will keep it, ugly as it is, because I—because—I—like you."
F Unc' Billy Possum hadn't happened to look out of his doorway in the
big hollow tree in the Green Forest, or if Jimmy Skunk hadn't happened
to come along just that very minute, or if
After Jimmy Skunk had mentioned his fine breakfast of fresh eggs,
All the rest of the day
"What all am the matter with yo'?" she snapped. "Ah do wish yo' would keep still a minute!"
Unc' Billy muttered something, but all that Mrs. Possum could hear was "eggs."
"Now don't yo'all get to thinking of such foolishness as eggs," she
commanded. "It isn't safe to be snooping around Farmer Brown's
Unc' Billy nodded that he did. But just the same he couldn't think of
anything else. He knew that old
As soon as jolly, round, red
"Where are yo' going?" demanded Mrs. Possum.
"Just to stretch the kinks out of mah legs," replied Unc' Billy.
Old Mrs. Possum looked after him suspiciously. "Don't yo' go fo' to do any foolishness!" she called.
Unc' Billy didn't answer. He was on his way to Farmer Brown's
The Tree's early leaf buds were bursting their brown;
"Shall I take them away?" said the Frost, sweeping down.
"No, leave them alone
Till the blossoms have grown,"
Prayed the Tree, while he trembled from rootlet to crown.
The Tree bore his blossoms, and all the birds sung:
"Shall I take them away?" said the Wind, as he swung.
"No, leave them alone
Till the blossoms have grown,"
Said the Tree, while his leaflets quivering hung.
The Tree bore his fruit in the midsummer glow:
Said the child, "May I gather thy berries now?
"Yes, all thou canst see:
Take them; all are for thee,"
Said the Tree, while he bent down his laden boughs low.
WEEK 38 |
It is difficult sometimes to learn a great deal about the saints who lived a very long time ago. So few people knew how to read or write in those old days, and the only way they had of remembering and handing on what was interesting was to tell it to their children; then these little ones, when they were grown up, would repeat it again to other little children, and so the stories were not forgotten.
But sometimes one thing would be left out and sometimes another, or different people would add wonderful stories of their own, which would become part of the true story. And so, when at last these histories come to us, we find we have lost a great deal, and perhaps not gained very much.
The two saints, to whose story we are going to listen to-day, are of this long-ago time, and the history of their lives has almost faded from men's memories. But whoever happens to go to Florence, that city of flowers, where the old Medici family has left its mark on every corner, will see the portraits of our two saints wherever they go. For the old painters loved to tell the saint-stories in their own beautiful way, and to-day the little dark-eyed Italian children can read them without books, for they are told more plainly and far more beautifully than in any written story.
Cosmo and Damian were brothers, and were born in Arabia three hundred years after Christ. When they were quite little boys their father died, and they were left alone with their mother. She was a Christian, and taught her boys, as soon as they were old enough to understand, that though they had no earthly father, God was their Father in heaven. She told them that the great King of Heaven and Earth called them His children, and he who could do a mean or cruel act, or stain his honour by an untruthful word, was not worthy to be called a King's son. And because they were noble she taught them that they must do noble deeds, bravely defend and protect the weak, and help those who could not help themselves.
So the boys grew up straight and strong in mind and body. Their bitterest punishment was to feel that they had done anything unworthy of their King, and although they often made mistakes and did wrong thoughtlessly, they never went far astray since God's honour was their own.
Their mother was rich, for their father had had great possessions, but there were so many poor and suffering people around their home that it was almost impossible to help them all. So the boys learned early to deny themselves in many ways, and often gave up their own dinner to the starving poor. In that land there was a great deal of sickness and suffering, and this was a great trouble to Cosmo and Damian. They could not bear to see people in pain, and be unable to help them. They often thought about this, and at last determined to learn all about medicine, and become doctors, so that they might at least soften suffering when they could not cure it.
After years of patient study they learned to be very clever doctors, and their kind hearts and gentle hands soothed and comforted those who were in pain, even when skill could do nothing for them.
They visited rich and poor alike, and would take no money for their services, for they said it was payment enough to know they had been able to make the world's suffering a little less.
And it was not only people they cared for, but God's dumb creatures too. If any animal was in pain, they would treat it as gently and carefully as if it had been a human being. Indeed, they were perhaps even more pitiful towards animals, for they said:
"People who can speak and complain of their ills are greatly to be pitied, but these dumb creatures, made by our King, can only suffer in silence, and surely their suffering will be required at our hands."
It ever seemed strange to these great men that boys who would scorn to ill-treat a younger child, or take mean advantage of a weak one, would still think nothing of staining their honour by ill-treating an animal, infinitely weaker and smaller, and less able to protect itself. It was one of the few things that raised the wrath of these gentle doctor saints.
Now it happened that a poor woman who had been ill for many years heard of the fame of the two young doctors, and sent to implore them to come to help her. She believed that though her illness seemed incurable these good men might heal her.
Cosmo and Damian were touched by her faith, and they went at once, and did for her all that their skill could devise, and, moreover, prayed that God would bless their efforts.
To the wonder of all, the woman began to grow better, and very soon was completely cured. In her great gratitude she offered all that she had in payment to the two doctors, but they told her that they could take nothing. Then she humbly offered them a little bag in which were three eggs, praying them not to go away from her quite empty-handed. But Cosmo turned and walked away and would not so much as even look at what she offered, for it was a very strict rule with the brothers that they should accept no payment or reward of any kind. Then the woman caught at a fold of Damian's cloak as he also turned to go and begged him, for the love of Christ, to take her little gift.
When Damian heard the name of his Master, he paused, and then took the present and courteously thanked the poor woman.
But when Cosmo saw what Damian had done he was very wrathful, and that night he refused to sleep with him, and said that henceforth they would be no longer brothers.
But in the stillness of the night God came to Cosmo and said:
"My son, wherefore art thou so wrathful with thy brother?"
"Because he hath taken reward for our services," said Cosmo, "and Thou knowest, Lord, that we receive no payment but from Thee."
"But was it not in My name that he took the offering?" asked the voice. "Because that poor woman gave it for love of Me, thy brother did well to accept it."
Then Cosmo awoke in great joy and hurried to the bedside of his brother, and there begged his forgiveness for having misjudged him so sorely. And so they were happy together once more, and ate the eggs right merrily.
In those days there were many pilgrims passing through Arabia, and because the journey was hard and most of them were poor, they often fell ill and came under the care of Cosmo and Damian. One night a poor man was brought in, fainting and fever-stricken. He lay on the bed with his thin, grey face pinched and worn with suffering, and the kind doctors feared that he would die.
All night they sat by his bedside doing everything that their skill could plan to ease his pain, and they only smiled when the poor man said in his faint, low voice:
"Why do you take all this trouble for a poor pilgrim, who has nothing wherewith to repay you?"
"We would not take thy payment if thou hadst all the riches in the world," answered the doctors, "for we receive payment only from our King."
Then when the first pale light of dawn began to steal through the little window, and the doctors anxiously watched the still form lying there, they started with surprise. For the face seemed to change in an instant, and instead of the bed of suffering they saw a cloud of glory; out of the midst of which Christ's face, infinitely tender, looked upon them; and His hands touched their heads in blessing as He said:
"All the riches of the world are indeed mine though I seemed but a poor pilgrim. I was sick and ye visited me, and surely shall ye receive payment from your King."
Then Cosmo and Damian knelt in worship and thanked their Lord that they had been counted worthy to minister to His need.
But soon the fame of Cosmo and Damian began to be spread abroad, and the wicked Proconsul of Arabia heard about their good deeds. As soon as he knew they were Christians, and helped the poor and suffering, he was filled with rage, and sent and ordered that the two brothers should be cast alive into the sea.
Immediately Cosmo and Damian were seized and led up to the steep cliffs, and the guards bound them hand and foot. Not a complaint escaped their lips, not a sign of fear, as the soldiers raised them on high and flung them over into the cruel sea, far below. But as the crowd above watched to see them sink, a great fear and amazement seized the soldiers, for from the calm blue sea they beheld the brothers rise slowly and walk towards the shore, led by an angel who guided them with loving care until they were safe on land.
In a greater rage than ever, the Proconsul ordered that a great fire should be made and that the brothers should be cast into the midst of it and burnt to death.
But though the fire roared and blazed before Cosmo and Damian were cast in; as soon as it touched them it died down and nothing could make it burn again. It seemed as if God's good gifts refused to injure His servants.
After that they were bound to two crosses and the soldiers were ordered to stone them. But the stones did no harm to those two patient figures, but instead fell backwards and injured the men who threw them.
Then every one cried out that they were enchanters, and it was ordered that to make sure of their death they should be beheaded.
So the work of the two saint doctors was finished on earth, but for many years afterwards those who were ill would pray to these saints for their protection.
There is a legend which tells how a poor man in Rome had a leg which the doctors feared would cause his death. So he prayed to Saint Cosmo and Saint Damian and asked them to help him in his need. And that night when he was asleep, he saw the doctor saints standing at his bedside in their red robes and caps trimmed with fur. One held a knife and the other a pot of ointment.
"What shall we do to replace this leg when we have cut it off?" asked Saint Cosmo.
"A black man has just died and been buried near here," answered Saint Damian. "He no longer needs his legs, so let us take one of them and put it on instead."
So they cut off the bad leg and fetched the leg of the black man, and with the ointment joined it on to the living man.
And when he awoke he believed he must have dreamt about the visit of the saints, but when he looked at his leg, behold! it was black and perfectly sound and well. Then they sent and searched for the black body, and on it they found a white leg. So the man knew that the doctor saints had heard his prayers, and had come to cure him.
That is one of the wonderful stories which have grown up round the names of Saint Cosmo and Saint Damian.
While we cannot tell if these things really happened, this we do surely know to be true, that these two brothers, who lived in an age when men were cruel and selfish, spent their whole lives in trying to help those who suffered pain, and then went bravely to death in the service of their King. And though we know but little about them, they have left us an example of patient kindliness and helpfulness; and they teach us that as servants of their King we also are bound in honour to protect the weak and help those who suffer, whether they are people like ourselves or God's dumb creatures.
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 sidewalk 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.
The wharf was Captain Jonathan's and Captain Jacob's and they owned the ships that sailed from it; and, after their ships had been sailing from that wharf in the little city for a good many years, they changed their office to Boston. After that their ships sailed from a wharf in Boston.
Once, the brig Industry had sailed from Boston for a far country and she had got down into the warm parts of the ocean. Little Jacob and little Sol had gone on that voyage. Little Sol always got out on deck, in the morning, a little while before little Jacob got out. And, one morning, he had gone on deck and little Jacob was hurrying to finish his breakfast, when little Sol came running back and stuck his head in at the cabin door.
"Oh, Jake," he called, "come out here, quick! There are fishes with wings on 'em, and they are flying all 'round."
Then little Jacob was very much excited, and he wanted to leave the rest of his breakfast and go out. All of a sudden he found that he wasn't hungry. But Captain Solomon was there, and he smiled at little Jacob's eagerness.
"Better finish your breakfast, Jacob," he said. "The flying fish won't go away—not before you get through."
"Thank you, sir," said little Jacob. "I'm all through. I don't feel hungry for any more."
"All right," said Captain Solomon. "But if you and Sol get hungry you can go to the cook. I have an idea that he will have something for you."
Little Jacob was already half way up the cabin steps. "Thank you, sir," he said; but there was some doubt whether he had heard. Captain Solomon smiled again and got up and followed him.
Little Sol was in his favorite place on the bowsprit, and little Jacob was going there as fast as he could. He settled himself in his place and began to look around.
"Where, Sol?" he asked. "Where are the—oh!"
For, just ahead of the ship, a school of fish suddenly leaped out of the water, and went flying about fifteen or twenty feet above the water for a hundred feet or more. And they kept coming. Little Jacob could hear the humming of their long fins, but he couldn't see their fins, they went so fast. Little Sol had thought they were wings; and it was as nearly right to call them wings as to call them fins.
"Oo—o, Sol!" cried little Jacob. "Aren't they pretty? And aren't they small? And don't they fly fast?"
"M—m," said little Sol.
"Look at these over there!" cried little Jacob, again. "See! They are flying faster than the ship is going. They are beating us!"
Little Jacob was pointing to some fish that were flying in the same direction that the Industry was sailing. They went ahead of her and dropped into the water.
"H'mph!" said little Sol. "There isn't much wind, anyway. If there was, I'll bet they wouldn't beat us." There really was a good deal of wind.
"But aren't they pretty colors, Sol?" said little Jacob. "They're all colors of blue and silvery. I can't see them very plainly, they go so fast. I wish I could see them plainer."
Captain Solomon was standing near enough to hear what little Jacob said.
"If you'll come inboard, Jacob," said Captain Solomon, "you can see them. We're catching them."
And little Jacob turned his head, and then he scrambled in. Now and then some of the flying fish flew right across the deck of the Industry. And some of them came down on the deck, and some struck against the masts and ropes; and the sailors were standing all about, looking excited, as if they were playing a game. They had their caps in their hands, and when the fish flew across the deck, they tried to catch them in their caps. And some they caught and some they didn't; but the sailors were having a good time, and they laughed and shouted at their play.
The sailors were having a good time.
And a sailor who had just caught a fish in his cap brought it to little Jacob.
"Now you can see it plainer," said Captain Solomon.
Little Jacob looked and he saw a fish that was less than a foot long, and the color on its back was a deep, ocean blue, and the fins were a darker blue, and it was all silvery underneath. And it had long fins coming out of its shoulders, almost as long as the fish, and they looked very strong and almost like a swallow's wings.
By and by little Jacob looked up at Captain Solomon. "Why do the men want to catch so many of them?" he asked. "Because it's fun?"
"Well, no," said Captain Solomon. "It is great fun. I've done it myself, in my day. But these fish are very good to eat. Any kind of fresh meat is a good thing, when you know there's nothing better than salted meat to fall back on. You'll see how good they are, at dinner."
Little Jacob sighed. "Oh," he said. "Thank you for showing me."
And he was rather sober as he went back to his place on the bowsprit to watch. But when dinner time came, he ate some of the flying fish and thought they were very nice, indeed.
And that's all.
You better not fool with a Bumblebee!—
Ef you don't think they can sting—you'll see!
They're lazy to look at, an' kind o' go
Buzzin' an' bummin' aroun' so slow,
An' ac' so slouchy an' all fagged out,
Danglin' their legs as they drone about
The hollyhawks 'at they can't climb in
'Ithout ist a-tumble-un out ag'in!
Wunst I watched one climb clean 'way
In a jimson-blossom, I did, one day—
An' I ist grabbed it—an' nen let go—
An' "Ooh-ooh! Honey! I told ye so!"
Says The Raggedy Man; an' he ist run
An' pullt out the stinger, an' don't laugh none,
An' says: "They has be'n folks, I guess,
'At thought I wuz predjudust, more er less—
Yit I still muntain 'at a Bumblebee
Wears out his welcome too quick fer me!"