WEEK 41 |
I F any reader, big or little, should wonder whether there is a meaning in this story deeper than that of an ordinary fairy tale, I will own that there is. But I have hidden it so carefully that the smaller people, and many larger folk, will never find it out, and meantime the book may be read straight on, like "Cinderella," or "Blue-Beard," or "Hop-o'-my-Thumb," for what interest it has, or what amusement it may bring.
Having said this, I return to Prince Dolor, that little lame boy whom many may think so exceedingly to be pitied. But if you had seen him as he sat patiently untying his wonderful cloak, which was done up in a very tight and perplexing parcel, using skillfully his deft little hands, and knitting his brows with firm determination, while his eyes glistened with pleasure, and energy, and eager anticipation—if you had beheld him thus, you might have changed your opinion.
When we see people suffering or unfortunate, we feel very sorry for them; but when we see them bravely bearing their sufferings and making the best of their misfortunes, it is quite a different feeling. We respect, we admire them. One can respect and admire even a little child.
When Prince Dolor had patiently untied all the knots, a remarkable thing happened. The cloak began to undo itself. Slowly unfolding, it laid itself down on the carpet, as flat as if it had been ironed; the split joined with a little sharp crick-crack, and the rim turned up all round till it was breast-high; for meantime the cloak had grown and grown, and become quite large enough for one person to sit in it as comfortable as if in a boat.
The Prince watched it rather anxiously; it was such an extraordinary, not to say a frightening thing. However, he was no coward, but a thorough boy, who, if he had been like other boys, would doubtless have grown up daring and adventurous—a soldier, a sailor, or the like. As it was, he could only show his courage morally, not physically, by being afraid of nothing, and by doing boldly all that it was in his narrow powers to do. And I am not sure but that in this way he showed more real valor than if he had had six pairs of proper legs.
He said to himself: "What a goose I am! As if my dear godmother would ever have given me anything to hurt me. Here goes!"
So, with one of his active leaps, he sprang right into the middle of the cloak, where he squatted down, wrapping his arms tight round his knees, for they shook a little and his heart beat fast. But there he sat, steady and silent, waiting for what might happen next.
Nothing did happen, and he began to think nothing would, and to feel rather disappointed, when he recollected the words he had been told to repeat—"Abracadabra, dum dum dum!"
He repeated them, laughing all the while, they seemed such nonsense. And
Now I don't expect anybody to believe what I am going to relate, though a good many wise people have believed a good many sillier things. And as seeing's believing, and I never saw it, I cannot be expected implicitly to believe it myself, except in a sort of a way; and yet there is truth in it—for some people.
The cloak rose, slowly and steadily, at first only a few inches, then gradually higher and higher, till it nearly touched the skylight. Prince Dolor's head actually bumped against the glass, or would have done so, had he not crouched down, crying, "Oh, please don't hurt me!" in a most melancholy voice.
Then he suddenly remembered his godmother's express command—"Open the skylight!"
Regaining his courage at once, without a moment's delay, he lifted up his head and began searching for the bolt—the cloak meanwhile remaining perfectly still, balanced in the air. But the minute the window was opened, out it sailed—right out into the clear, fresh air, with nothing between it and the cloudless blue.
Prince Dolor had never felt any such delicious sensation before! I can understand it. Cannot you? Did you never think, in watching the rooks going home singly or in pairs, oaring their way across the calm evening sky, till they vanish like black dots in the misty grey, how pleasant it must feel to be up there, quite out of the noise and din of the world, able to hear and see everything down below, yet troubled by nothing and teased by no one—all alone, but perfectly content.
Something like this was the happiness of the little lame Prince when he got out of Hopeless Tower, and found himself for the first time in the pure open air, with the sky above him and the earth below.
True, there was nothing but earth and sky; no houses, no trees, no rivers, mountains, seas—not a beast on the ground, or a bird in the air. But to him even the level plain looked beautiful; and then there was the glorious arch of the sky, with a little young moon sitting in the west like a baby queen. And the evening breeze was so sweet and fresh, it kissed him like his godmother's kisses; and by-and-by a few stars came out, first two or three, and then quantities—quantities! so that, when he began to count them, he was utterly bewildered.
By-and-by a few stars came out, first two or three, and then quantities!
By this time, however, the cool breeze had become cold, the mist gathered, and as he had, as he said, no outdoor clothes, poor Prince Dolor was not very comfortable. The dews fell damp on his curls—he began to shiver.
"Perhaps I had better go home," thought he.
But how? For in his excitement the other words which his godmother had told him to use had slipped his memory. They were only a little different from the first, but in that slight difference all the importance lay. As he repeated his "Abracadabra," trying ever so many other syllables after it, the cloak only went faster and faster, skimming on through the dusky, empty air.
The poor little Prince began to feel frightened. What if his wonderful travelling-cloak should keep on thus travelling, perhaps to the world's end, carrying with it a poor, tired, hungry boy, who, after all, was beginning to think there was something very pleasant in supper and bed?
"Dear godmother," he cried pitifully, "do help me! Tell me just this once and I'll never forget again."
Instantly the words came rushing into his head—"Abracadabra, tum tum ti!" Was that it? Ah! yes—for the cloak began to turn slowly. He repeated the charm again, more distinctly and firmly, when it gave a gentle dip, like a nod of satisfaction, and immediately started back, as fast as ever, in the direction of the tower.
He reached the skylight, which he found exactly as he had left it, and slipped in, cloak and all, as easily as he had got out. He had scarcely reached the floor, and was still sitting in the middle of his travelling-cloak—like a frog on a water-lily leaf, as his godmother had expressed it—when he heard his nurse's voice outside.
"Bless us! what has become of your Royal Highness all this time? To sit stupidly here at the window till it is quite dark, and leave the skylight open too. Prince! what can you be thinking of? You are the silliest boy I ever knew."
"Am I?" said he absently, and never heeding her crossness; for his only anxiety was lest she might find out anything.
She would have been a very clever person to have done so. The instant Prince Dolor got off it, the cloak folded itself up into the tiniest possible parcel, tied all its own knots, and rolled itself of its own accord into the farthest and darkest corner of the room. If the nurse had seen it, which she didn't, she would have taken it for a mere bundle of rubbish not worth noticing.
Shutting the skylight with an angry bang, she brought in the supper and lit the candles with her usual unhappy expression of countenance. But Prince Dolor hardly saw it; he only saw, hid in the corner where nobody else would see it, his wonderful travelling-cloak. And though his supper was not particularly nice, he ate it heartily, scarcely hearing a word of his nurse's grumbling, which to-night seemed to have taken the place of her sullen silence.
She brought in the supper and lit the candles with her usual unhappy expression . . . he only saw his wonderful travelling-cloak.
"Poor woman!" he thought, when he paused a minute to listen and look at her, with those quiet, happy eyes, so like his mother's. "Poor woman! she hasn't got a travelling-cloak!"
And when he was left alone at last, and crept into his little bed, where he lay awake a good while, watching what he called his "sky-garden," all planted with stars, like flowers, his chief thought was—"I must be up very early to-morrow morning, and get my lessons done, and then I'll go travelling all over the world on my beautiful cloak."
So next day he opened his eyes with the sun, and went with a good heart to his lessons. They had hitherto been the chief amusement of his dull life; now, I am afraid, he found them also a little dull. But he tried to be good—I don't say Prince Dolor always was good, but he generally tried to be—and when his mind went wandering after the dark dusty corner where lay his precious treasure, he resolutely called it back again.
"For," he said, "how ashamed my godmother would be of me if I grew up a stupid boy!"
But the instant lessons were done, and he was alone in the empty room, he crept across the floor, undid the shabby little bundle, his fingers trembling with eagerness, climbed on the chair, and thence to the table, so as to unbar the skylight—he forgot nothing now—said his magic charm, and was away out of the window, as children say, "in a few minutes less than no time."
Nobody missed him. He was accustomed to sit so quietly always, that his nurse, though only in the next room, perceived no difference. And besides, she might have gone in and out a dozen times, and it would have been just the same; she never could have found out his absence.
For what do you think the clever godmother did? She took a quantity of moonshine, or some equally convenient material, and made an image, which she set on the window-sill reading, or by the table drawing, where it looked so like Prince Dolor that any common observer would never have guessed the deception; and even the boy would have been puzzled to know which was the image and which was himself.
And all this while the happy little fellow was away, floating in the air on his magic cloak, and seeing all sorts of wonderful things—or they seemed wonderful to him, who had hitherto seen nothing at all.
First, there were the flowers that grew on the plain, which, whenever the cloak came near enough, he strained his eyes to look at; they were very tiny, but very beautiful—white saxifrage, and yellow lotus, and ground-thistles, purple and bright, with many others the names of which I do not know. No more did Prince Dolor, though he tried to find them out by recalling any pictures he had seen of them. But he was too far off; and though it was pleasant enough to admire them as brilliant patches of colour, still he would have liked to examine them all. He was, as a little girl I know once said of a playfellow, "a very examining boy."
"I wonder," he thought, "whether I could see better through a pair of glasses like those my nurse reads with, and takes such care of. How I would take care of them, too! if I only had a pair!"
Immediately he felt something queer and hard fixing itself to the bridge of his nose. It was a pair of the prettiest gold spectacles ever seen; and looking downwards, he found that, though ever so high above the ground, he could see every minute blade of grass, every tiny bud and flower—nay, even the insects that walked over them.
"Thank you, thank you!" he cried, in a gush of gratitude—to anybody or everybody, but especially to his dear godmother, whom he felt sure had given him this new present. He amused himself with it for ever so long, with his chin pressed on the rim of the cloak, gazing down upon the grass, every square foot of which was a mine of wonders.
Then, just to rest his eyes, he turned them up to the sky—the blue, bright, empty sky, which he had looked at so often and seen nothing.
Now surely there was something. A long, black, wavy line, moving on in the distance, not by chance, as the clouds move apparently, but deliberately, as if it were alive. He might have seen it before—he almost thought he had; but then he could not tell what it was. Looking at it through his spectacles, he discovered that it really was alive; being a long string of birds, flying one after the other, their wings moving steadily and their heads pointed in one direction, as steadily as if each were a little ship, guided invisibly by an unerring helm.
"They must be the passage-birds flying seawards!" cried the boy, who had read a little about them, and had a great talent for putting two and two together and finding out all he could. "Oh, how I should like to see them quite close, and to know where they come from and whither they are going! How I wish I knew everything in all the world!"
A silly speech for even an "examining" little boy to make; because, as we grow older, the more we know the more we find out there is to know. And Prince Dolor blushed when he had said it, and hoped nobody had heard him.
Apparently somebody had, however; for the cloak gave a sudden bound forward, and presently he found himself high in the air, in the very middle of that band of aerial travellers, who had no magic cloak to travel on—nothing except their wings. Yet there they were, making their fearless way through the sky.
Prince Dolor looked at them as one after the other they glided past him; and they looked at him—those pretty swallows, with their changing necks and bright eyes—as if wondering to meet in mid-air such an extraordinary sort of bird.
They looked at him . . . as if wondering to meet in mid-air such an extraordinary sort of bird.
"Oh, I wish I were going with you, you lovely creatures! I'm getting so tired of this dull plain, and the dreary and lonely tower. I do so want to see the world! Pretty swallows, dear swallows! tell me what it looks like—the beautiful, wonderful world!"
But the swallows flew past him—steadily, slowly pursuing their course as if inside each little head had been a mariner's compass, to guide them safe over land and sea, direct to the place where they desired to go.
The boy looked after them with envy. For a long time he followed with his eyes the faint, wavy black line as it floated away, sometimes changing its curves a little, but never deviating from its settled course, till it vanished entirely out of sight.
Then he settled himself down in the centre of the cloak, feeling quite sad and lonely.
"I think I'll go home," said he, and repeated his "Abracadabra, tum tum ti!" with a rather heavy heart. The more he had, the more he wanted; and it is not always one can have everything one wants—at least, at the exact minute one craves for it; not even though one is a prince, and has a powerful and beneficent godmother.
He did not like to vex her by calling for her, and telling her how unhappy he was, in spite of all her goodness; so he just kept his trouble to himself, went back to his lonely tower, and spent three days in silent melancholy, without even attempting another journey on his travelling-cloak.
It was at the beginning of the new year, two days after my master was set free by the savages, that Captain Newport came back to us, this time in the ship John and Francis, and with him were fifty men who had been sent to join our colony.
Fortunately for us there were but few gentlemen among them, therefore did the work of building the village go on much more rapidly, because there were laborers in plenty.
A larger building, which was called the fort, and would indeed have been a safe place for refuge had the savages made an attack, was but just completed at the beginning of the third month, meaning March.
There Captain Smith had stored the supply of provisions and seed brought in the John and Francis, and we were already saying to ourselves that by the close of the summer we should reap a bountiful harvest.
All these plans and hopes went for naught, however, for on a certain night—and no man can say how it happened, save him who was the careless one—fire fastened upon the inside of the fort, having so much headway when it was discovered, that our people could do little toward checking it.
The flames burst out through the roof, which was thatched with dried grass, as were all the houses in the town, and leaped from one building to another until it seemed as if the entire village would be destroyed.
It is true that even the palisade, which was near to forty feet distant from the fort, was seized upon by the flames, and a goodly portion of that which had cost us so much labor was entirely destroyed.
Out of all our houses only four remained standing when the flames had died away. The seed which we had counted on for reaping a harvest, the store of provisions, and a large amount of clothing and other necessaries, were thus consumed.
Good Master Hunt lost all his books, in fact, everything he owned save the clothes upon his back, and yet never once did I, who was with him very much, for he came to live at our house while the village was being rebuilt, hear him utter one word of complaint, or of sorrow.
It was while all the people, gentlemen as well as laborers, were doing their, best to repair the loss, and to put Jamestown into such shape that we might be able to withstand an attack from the savages, if so be they made one, that even a worse misfortune than the fire came upon us.
Some of those whom Captain Newport had lately brought to Virginia, while roaming along the shores of the river in order to learn what this new land was like, came upon a spot where the waters had washed the earth away for a distance of five or six feet, leaving exposed to view a vast amount of sand, so yellow and so heavy that straightway the foolish ones believed they were come upon that gold which our people had been seeking almost from the very day we first landed.
From this moment there was no talk of anything save the wealth which would come to us and the London Company.
Even Captain Newport was persuaded that this sand was gold, and straightway nearly every person in the village was hard at work digging and carrying it in baskets on board the John and Francis as carefully as if each grain counted for a guinea.
Of all the people of Jamestown, Captain Smith and Master Hunt were the only ones who refused to believe the golden dream. They held themselves aloof from this mad race to gather up the yellow sand, and strove earnestly to persuade the others that it would be a simple matter to prove by fire whether this supposed treasure were metal.
In the center of the village, where all might see him, Master Hunt set a pannikin, in which was a pint or more of the sand, over a roaring fire which he kept burning not less than two hours.
When he was done, the sand remained the same as before, which, so he and my master claimed, was good proof that our people of Jamestown were, in truth, making fools of themselves, as they had many a time before since we came into this land of Virginia.
When we should have been striving to build up the town once more, we spent all our time loading the ship with this worthless cargo, and indeed I felt the better in my mind when finally Captain Newport set sail, the John and Francis loaded deeply with sand, because of believing that we were come to an end of hearing about treasure which lay at hand ready for whosoever would carry it away.
In this, however, I was disappointed. Although there was no longer any reason for our people to labor at what was called the gold mine, since there was no ship at hand in which to put the sand, they still talked, hour by hour, of the day when all the men in Virginia would go back to England richer than kings.
Because of such thoughts was it well nigh impossible to force them to labor once more. Yet Captain Smith and Master Hunt did all they could, even going so far as to threaten bodily harm if the people did not rebuild the storehouse, plant such seed as had been saved from the flames, and replace those portions of the palisade which had been burned.
It was while our people were thus working half-heartedly, that Captain Nelson arrived in the ship Phoenix, having been so long delayed on the voyage, because of tempests and contrary winds, that his passengers and crew had eaten nearly all the stores which the London Company sent over for our benefit, and bringing seventy more mouths to be fed.
Save that she brought to us skilled workmen, the coming of the Phoenix did not advantage us greatly, while there were added to our number, seventy men, and of oat-meal, pickled beef and pork, as much as would serve for, perhaps, three or four weeks.
Through her, however, as Master Hunt said in my hearing, came some little good, for on seeing the yellow sand, Captain Nelson declared without a question that it was worthless, and, being accustomed to working in metal, speedily proved to our people who were yet suffering with the gold fever, that there was nothing whatsoever of value in it.
In her wimple of wind and her slippers of sleep,
The Twilight comes like a little goose-girl,
Herding her owls with many "Tu-whoos,"
Her little brown owls in the woodland deep,
Where dimly she walks in her whispering shoes,
And gown of shimmering pearl.
WEEK 41 |
HERE was once a rich old man who was called the
In the same land there was a poor man whose name was
The servant at the door said, "Come in and talk with our master. He will not send you away hungry."
Schacabac went in, and passed through many beautiful rooms, looking for the Barmecide. At last he came to a grand hall where there were soft carpets on the floor, and fine pictures on the walls, and pleasant couches to lie down upon.
At the upper end of the room he saw a noble man with a long white beard. It was the Barmecide; and poor Schacabac bowed low before him, as was the custom in that country.
The Barmecide spoke very kindly, and asked what was wanted.
Schacabac told him about all his troubles, and said that it was now two days since he had tasted bread.
"Is it possible?" said the Barmecide. "You must be almost dead with hunger; and here I have plenty and to spare!"
Then he turned and called, "Ho, boy! Bring in the water to wash our hands, and then order the cook to hurry the supper."
Schacabac had not expected to be treated so kindly. He began to thank the rich man.
"Say not a word," said the Barmecide, "but let us get ready for the feast."
Then the rich man began to rub his hands as though some one was pouring water on them. "Come and wash with me," he said.
Schacabac saw no boy, nor basin, nor water. But he thought that he ought to do as he was bidden; and so, like the Barmecide, he made a pretense of washing.
"Come now," said the Barmecide, "let us have supper."
He sat down, as if to a table, and
Schacabac thought that he
"Boy," said the old man, "bring on the roast goose.—Now, my good friend, try this choice piece from the breast. And here are sweet sauce, honey, raisins, green peas, and dry figs. Help yourself, and remember that other good things are coming."
Schacabac was almost dead with hunger, but he was too polite not to do as he was bidden.
"Come," said the Barmecide, "have another piece of the
roast lamb. Did you ever eat anything so
"Never in my life," said Schacabac. "Your table is full of good things."
"Then eat heartily," said the Barmecide. "You cannot please me better."
After this came the
"Now is there anything else that you would like?" asked the host.
"Ah, no!" said poor Schacabac. "I have indeed had great plenty."
"Let us drink, then," said the Barmecide. "Boy, bring on the wine!"
"Excuse me, my lord," said Schacabac, "I will drink no
wine, for it is
The Barmecide seized him by the hand. "I have long wished to find a man like you," he said. "But come, now we will sup in earnest."
He clapped his hands. Servants came, and he ordered supper.
Soon they sat down to a table loaded with the very dishes
of which they had
Poor Schacabac had never had so good a meal in all his
life. When they had
"I have found you to be a man of good
And so Schacabac lived with the Barmecide many years, and never again knew what it was to be hungry.
A yellow spider lived among the flowers on a goldenrod plant.
Don went to visit her one day.
He did not find her at first and he thought she was not at home.
The spider was about the same color as the goldenrod. She hid among the yellow flowers and did not move. She was hard to see while she was so quiet.
At last Don saw the yellow spider. Then he laughed and said, "How do you do, Mrs. Spider? I came to see you and I thought you were not at home."
After a time a fly came to visit the goldenrod. It was a pretty fly with yellow stripes on its body. The fly was hungry and came to eat some pollen and drink some nectar.
The fly did not see the spider but the spider saw the fly.
When the fly came near enough, the spider jumped and caught it.
Don jumped, too, when the spider did. He was surprised to see a quiet spider move so quickly.
The goldenrod plants had no flowers in the spring time. So this spider lived among other kinds of flowers then.
For a while the spider lived among white flowers. She was not a yellow spider then. She was white.
The spider could change her color so she would be the same color as her home. She could be white among white flowers and yellow among yellow flowers.
This spider was shaped somewhat like a crab and her name was Crab Spider. She had four long legs and four short legs. She could walk sidewise and backward more quickly than forward.
Don told Nan about his visit.
He said, "I saw a spider that looked like a little yellow crab."
It was an old, old, old, old lady,
And a boy that was half-past three;
And the way that they played together
Was beautiful to see.
She couldn't go running and jumping,
And the boy, no more could he;
For he was a thin little fellow,
With a thin little twisted knee.
They sat in the yellow sunlight,
Out under the maple tree;
And the game that was played I'll tell you,
Just as it was told to me.
It was Hide-and-Go-Seek they were playing,
Though you'd never have known it to be—
With an old, old, old, old lady,
And a boy with a twisted knee.
The boy would bend his face down
On his little sound right knee,
And he guessed where she was hiding,
In guesses One, Two, Three!
"You are in the china closet!"
He would cry, and laugh with glee—
It wasn't the china closet;
But he still had Two and Three.
"You are up in papa's big bedroom,
In the chest with the queer old key!"
And she said: "You are warm and warmer;
But you're not quite right," said she.
"It can't be the little cupboard
Where Mamma's things used to be—
So it must be the clothespress, Gran'ma!"
And he found her with his Three.
Then she covered her face with her fingers,
That were wrinkled and white and wee,
And she guessed where the boy was hiding,
With a One and a Two and a Three.
And they never had stirred from their places,
Right under the maple tree—
This old, old, old, old lady,
And the boy with the lame little knee—
This dear, dear, dear old lady,
And the boy who was half-past three.
WEEK 41 |
A LONG lane leads from Farmer Brown's barnyard down to his cornfield on the Green Meadows. It happened that very early one morning Peter Rabbit took it into his funny little head to run down that long lane to see what he might see. Now at a certain place beside that long lane was a gravelly bank into which Farmer Brown had dug for gravel to put on the roadway up near his house. As Peter was scampering past this place where Farmer Brown had dug he caught sight of some one very busy in that gravel pit. Peter stopped short, then sat up to stare.
It was Mourner the Dove whom Peter saw, an old friend of whom
Peter is very fond. His body was a little bigger than that of
Welcome Robin, but his long slender neck, and longer tail and
wings made him appear considerably larger. In shape he reminded
Peter at once of the Pigeons up at Farmer Brown's. His back was
grayish-brown, varying to
MOURNER THE DOVE
You may surprise him taking a dust bath in the road.
But it was not his appearance which made Peter stare; it was what he was doing. He was walking about and every now and then picking up something quite as if he were getting his breakfast in that gravel pit, and Peter couldn't imagine anything good to eat down there. He knew that there were not even worms there. Besides, Mourner is not fond of worms; he lives almost altogether on seeds and grains of many kinds. So Peter was puzzled. But as you know he isn't the kind to puzzle long over anything when he can use his tongue.
"Hello, Mourner!" he cried. "What under the sun are you doing in there? Are you getting your breakfast?"
"Hardly, Peter, hardly," cooed Mourner in the softest of voices. "I've had my breakfast and now I'm picking up a little gravel for my digestion." He picked up a tiny pebble and swallowed it.
"Well, of all things!" cried Peter. "You must be crazy. The idea of thinking that gravel is going to help your digestion. I should say the chances are that it will work just the other way."
Mourner laughed. It was the softest of little cooing laughs, very pleasant to hear. "I see that as usual you are judging others by yourself," said he. "You ought to know by this time that you can do nothing more foolish. I haven't the least doubt that a breakfast of gravel would give you the worst kind of a stomach-ache. But you are you and I am I, and there is all the difference in the world. You know I eat grain and hard seeds. Not having any teeth I have to swallow them whole. One part of my stomach is called a gizzard and its duty is to grind and crush my food so that it may be digested. Tiny pebbles and gravel help grind the food and so aid digestion. I think I've got enough now for this morning, and it is time for a dust bath. There is a dusty spot over in the lane where I take a dust bath every day."
"If you don't mind," said Peter, "I'll go with you."
Mourner said he didn't mind, so Peter followed him over to the dusty place in the long lane. There Mourner was joined by Mrs. Dove, who was dressed very much like him save that she did not have so beautiful a neck. While they thoroughly dusted themselves they chatted with Peter.
"I see you on the ground so much that I've often wondered if you build your nest on the ground," said Peter.
"No," replied Mourner. "Mrs. Dove builds in a tree, but usually
not very far above the ground. Now if you'll excuse us we must
get back home.
The Doves shook the loose dust from their feathers and flew away. Peter watched to see where they went, but lost sight of them behind some trees, so decided to run up to the Old Orchard. There he found Jenny and Mr. Wren as busy as ever feeding that growing family of theirs. Jenny wouldn't stop an instant to gossip. Peter was so brimful of what he had found out about Mr. and Mrs. Dove that he just had to tell some one. He heard Kitty the Catbird meowing among the bushes along the old stone wall, so hurried over to look for him. As soon as he found him Peter began to tell what he had learned about Mourner the Dove.
"That's no news, Peter," interrupted Kitty. "I know all about Mourner and his wife. They are very nice people, though I must say Mrs. Dove is one of the poorest housekeepers I know of. I take it you never have seen her nest."
Peter shook his head. "No," said he, "I haven't. What is it like?"
Kitty the Catbird laughed. "It's about the poorest apology for a
nest I know of," said he. "It is made of little sticks and mighty
few of them. How they hold together is more than I can understand.
I guess it is a good thing that
"That's true," replied Peter, "but I like to hear him just the same. Hello! Who's that?"
From one of the trees in the Old Orchard sounded a long, clear,
"That's Cuckoo," said Kitty. "Do you mean to say you don't know Cuckoo?"
"Of course I know him," retorted Peter. "I had forgotten the sound of his voice, that's all." Tell me, Kitty, is it true that Mrs. Cuckoo is no better than Sally Sly the Cowbird and goes about laying her eggs in the nests of other birds? I've heard that said of her."
"There isn't a word of truth in it," declared Kitty emphatically. "She builds a nest, such as it is, which isn't much, and she looks after her own children. The Cuckoos have been given a bad name because of some good-for-nothing cousins of theirs who live across the ocean where Bully the English Sparrow belongs, and who, if all reports are true, really are no better than Sally Sly the Cowbird. It's funny how a bad name sticks. The Cuckoos have been accused of stealing the eggs of us other birds, but I've never known them to do it and I've lived neighbor to them for a long time, I guess they get their bad name because of their habit of slipping about silently and keeping out of sight as much as possible, as if they were guilty of doing something wrong and trying to keep from being seen. As a matter of fact, they are mighty useful birds. Farmer Brown ought to be tickled to death that Mr. and Mrs. Cuckoo have come back to the Old Orchard this year."
"Why?" demanded Peter.
"Do you see that cobwebby nest with all those hairy caterpillars on it and around it up in that tree?" asked Kitty.
Peter replied that he did and that he had seen a great many nests just like it, and had noticed how the caterpillars ate all the leaves near them.
"I'll venture to say that you won't see very many leaves eaten around that nest," replied Kitty. "Those are called tent-caterpillars, and they do an awful lot of damage. I can't bear them myself because they are so hairy, and very few birds will touch them. But Cuckoo likes them. There he comes now; just watch him."
A long, slim Dove-like looking bird alighted close to the caterpillar's nest. Above he was brownish-gray with just a little greenish tinge. Beneath he was white. His wings were reddish-brown. His tail was a little longer than that of Mourner the Dove. The outer feathers were black tipped with white, while the middle feathers were the color of his back. The upper half of his bill was black, but the under half was yellow, and from this he is called the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. He has a cousin very much like himself in appearance, save that his bill is all black and he is listed the Black-billed Cuckoo.
Cuckoo made no sound but began to pick off the
and swallow them. When he had eaten all those in sight he made
holes in the silken web of the nest and picked out the
caterpillars that were inside. Finally, having eaten his fill, he
flew off as silently as he had come and disappeared among the
bushes farther along the old stone wall. A moment later they
heard his voice, "Kow-kow-kow-kow-kow-kow-
"I suppose some folks would think that it is going to rain," remarked Kitty the Catbird. "They have the silly notion that Cuckoo only calls just before rain, and so they call him the Rain Crow. But that isn't so at all. Well, Peter, I guess I've gossiped enough for one morning. I must go see how Mrs. Catbird is getting along."
Kitty disappeared and Peter, having no one to talk to, decided that the best thing he could do would be to go home to the dear Old Briar-patch.
A Wild Boar was sharpening his tusks busily against the stump of a tree, when a Fox happened by. Now the Fox was always looking for a chance to make fun of his neighbors. So he made a great show of looking anxiously about, as if in fear of some hidden enemy. But the Boar kept right on with his work.
"Why are you doing that?" asked the Fox at last with a grin. "There isn't any danger that I can see."
"True enough," replied the Boar, "but when danger does come there will not be time for such work as this. My weapons will have to be ready for use then, or I shall suffer for it."
Preparedness for war is the best guarantee of peace.
WEEK 41 |
As soon as his brother had said, "Wet its hoofs in the sea," the one who was to tell the story about Water thought that his turn had come; but it was not yet. The King took out of the fire the red iron. He hammered it on the anvil; he shaped it upon the horn of the anvil. Then one of the brothers lifted up the horse's foot, and the King came over and put the iron against the hoof, searing it and measuring the shoe. He went back to the anvil, and he hammered off bits of iron. Again he put it into the fire. Then the brothers, standing by the horse, said to one another: "Soon the horseshoe will be in the cauldron of water, and the one who is ready with the story will then begin." And one of the brothers said, "In the stories that have been told of the Fire, horses have appeared. Whoever tells the stories of the Water should bring horses into them, too. This will make it appear that we are story-tellers indeed." And the brothers said that they would have horses in the stories of the Earth and Air also.
The King fitted again the iron to the horse's hoof. Then he plunged it into the cauldron. The story-teller was ready; he came forward, and he told:
HEY said of Dahut that her mother was a Woman of the Sea, and that the King, Dahut's father, had taken her from where he had found her seated on the rocks by the sea. They said, too, that the King had shut up this Woman of the Sea in the tower he had builded, and that he had had no pity upon her although she was often heard crying in the tower—crying, the people said, for her home in the sea. The people told all this to explain why Dahut, the daughter of King Gradlon, was different from all other maidens, and why it was that she seemed to hate Ys, her father's city. Dahut's mother had died before Dahut could know her—died in the tower to the top of which she would climb to look out upon the sea.
Where the sea is now there was once a wide plain, and on it the city of Ys was builded—Ys that is now beneath the sea. The sea's level was above the plain on which the city stood, and the sea was held off from the city by a long wall. Always the people of Ys could hear the sea as it beat against the wall. But they were not made fearful by the beating of the waves of the sea: their fathers had fought off the sea, and the wall that was built by them would hold it off always. Sometimes, when it could flood only part of their plain, they would open the great gate that was in the wall and let the sea flow in to lay its weeds and its salt upon their meadows.
The people of the city could look out upon the sea: there was the high tower that had been built by the King beside his palace, and when one mounted upon it one could see whether the sea was high or low, and count the ships that were upon it. The one who went oftenest up into the tower was Dahut, the King's daughter.
As for King Gradlon, he did not know what his daughter did or how she lived. His beard was long; he read in deep books, and he slept long and deep in the night. And Dahut, his daughter, had golden eyes—golden eyes with no eyebrows above them, and a neck that was white and soft and throbbing, and red lips and little feet. She went softly through the ways of the palace, and she went softly up the stairs of the tower. Her father and the people of the city said, "Dahut is this, and Dahut is that," but none knew what Dahut was except those who saw her feasting on the rare fruits and the strange wines she had brought to her, or who saw her dancing at night.
They were young men whom she danced with. Some of them, after she had danced with them, she would take to the top of the tower, and she would make them promise that they would do some dangerous thing for her. Under the spell of her golden eyes they would make their promise, and afterwards they would go through the city looking like men who had lost their hope. Then they would leave the city, these young men whom Dahut had danced with, and be seen no more in Ys. It was from what they muttered as they went about the city that the people got the thought that Dahut hated Ys, her father's city. After a while they said no more, "Dahut is this, and Dahut is that." Now they said, "None know Dahut except those who have danced with her in the night. Would that the King would look upon Dahut and judge her and restrain her." But her father, his beard spread out upon his knees, read in his deep book while she feasted, or, with the silver key of the sea-gate around his neck, slept upon his purple bed while she danced in the palace, or climbed the stairway up into the tower.
There came a young man into Ys from a foreign land. Dahut pretended not to look upon him as he spoke to her father. She made a sign with her hand to him, and she brought him to her feast. Galor was this young man's name. They danced together. They feasted, and then boldly they entered the chamber where the King slept upon his purple bed, the silver key of the sea-gate hanging from around his neck. "Take the key," the young man said to Dahut. She took the silver key that was around her father's neck. "Open now the sea-gate that is in the long wall."
She took the silver key that was around the King's neck.
To the young men whom she had danced with before Dahut had said, "Open the sea-gate," and they had promised to do so, and then had become fearful and despairing on account of what they had promised to do. But this young man bade her take the key herself and open the gate. "Now let me make him forget what he has asked me to do," she said to herself. They danced, and the servants in the palace who saw them dance cried out, "Dahut is accursed, accursed," and they crowded around where the King slept upon his purple bed, and they wakened him up. Down the stairway came the King, his great beard shaking up and down his chest. Dahut and Galor ran out and away from the palace. The young man lifted her up and carried her through the long meadows and down to the wall that was built against the sea.
"Open, you, the gate," he said, and she put the silver key that had always been hanging from her father's neck into the lock of the high gate. "I wanted another to do this," she said, "I wanted to make a man do a deed that would leave him fearful, and I wanted the sea that my mother cried to go back to, to come in upon the city." She unlocked the gate. They heard the crying of the sea-birds beyond the wall. The sea began to push at the opened gate. Soon the waves pushed the gate wide. A sea-bird flying through the open gate lighted on the grass of the plain of Ys in the first light of the morning. "Beware if ever you go from me now," said Dahut to Galor. "Beware if ever you come to me again," said Galor to Dahut. He flung her against the wall, and he went away.
She went within the palace; she heard the bells of Ys peal in alarm. Her father came to her, carrying under his arm the great book he had been reading. He took her without, and he mounted upon the horse that was the swiftest in his stables. Dahut mounted behind him. The people cried to their King to gallop swiftly until he came to a place that the sea might not come to, and take possession of that place for the building of a new city. They cried to him while they stayed behind, mounting high upon the rocks.
So Gradlon with Dahut behind him galloped on and on, the sea flowing upon them as they rode. The sea dashed upon the heels of the horse; it flowed before them as they rode, and the horse splashed and plunged in the waves of the sea. And then a voice came to Gradlon telling him that he would have to throw behind him the thing that he held dearest, so that the sea taking it might flow no further. Then Gradlon threw behind him the great book that he carried. Still the sea flowed on, and the horse splashed deeper and plunged deeper in the waves. The voice came again, telling Gradlon that he would have to throw behind him the thing that he held dearest. Then he threw from the horse his daughter, Princess Dahut. The waves flowed over her, and then the waves ceased to flow; the sea drew away from that place. And there Gradlon halted and took possession of that place for the new city that his people would build.
They came to him, leaving the high rocks, and soon they began to build the new city. But the sea flows over where the city of Ys was, and now and again the people of the new city hear the bells ring, in lost Ys that is beneath the waves.
THE savage spoke to me. I could not understand his words, but they were very pleasant to hear. For it had now been more than twenty-five years since I had heard the sound of a man's voice.
He pointed to the two savages who had been pursuing him. They were lying on the ground where they had fallen. Both were quite dead.
He could not understand how I had killed the second savage when he was so far away from me. He made signs that I should let him see whether his enemy was really dead or only pretending to be so.
I told him, as well as I could, that he might go to him. He ran to the fallen savage and looked at him. He turned him first on one side and then on the other. He seemed very much puzzled.
Then he picked up the savage's bow and arrows and brought them to me.
I turned to go back to my castle and beckoned him to follow me.
He stood quite still for a moment and then pointed again to the bodies on the ground. By signs he asked me if he might bury them, lest the other savages should come up and find them there. I answered by signs and gave him leave.
The work was quickly done. With a sharp stick and his big hands he soon dug two big holes in the sand. He laid the bodies in them and covered them up. Then he smoothed the sand and patted it down so that no one could see that it had been touched.
Having thus put the two savages out of sight he turned to me again. I motioned him to follow me. But on second thought I did not go back to the castle. I led him far into the woods, to my new cave of which I have told you.
Once inside of that cave, I felt safe.
I gave the poor fellow some bread and a bunch of raisins to eat. I gave him also a drink of water from a jug, and he was so thirsty from running that he came near drinking it all.
Then I showed him a place where I had put some rice straw with a blanket over it. It was quite a good bed, and I myself had sometimes slept upon it.
He seemed to know that I meant for him to lie down there and rest. Soon he was fast asleep.
He was a handsome fellow. He was tall but not too large.
His hair was long and black. His forehead was high and broad. His eyes were very bright.
His face was round and plump. His nose was well shaped. His lips were thin. His teeth were white as ivory.
His skin was not black like that of an African. It was not yellow like that of some Indians. But it was a kind of olive color, very pleasant to look at.
After he had been asleep about an hour he awoke and came out of the cave where I was milking my goats. He made signs to show that he was glad to see me.
Then he laid his head flat down on the ground and set my foot upon it, as he had done before. This was his way of saying that he would do anything I wished.
I understood him and told him by signs that I was well pleased with him.
I spoke some simple words to him and tried to teach him what they meant. He was quick to learn and soon began to try to talk to me.
I named him FRIDAY because it was on that day of the week that I had saved his life.
He soon learned to call me "Master," and to say "yes" and "no" in the right way.
In the evening I gave him an earthen pot with some milk in it, and showed him how to sop his bread in the milk. I also gave him a barley cake, which he ate as though it was very good.
All that night we stayed in the cave. But early the next morning I led him back to my castle.
My first care was to learn whether the savages had left the island. I climbed to the top of the rock and looked around with my spyglass.
I saw the place where the savages had been. I saw where they had built their fire. But they were not there. I could see no sign of them or of their canoes. It was plain that they had left the place.
I gave my man Friday one of my guns to carry. In his right hand he held my sword, and on his back were his bow and arrows.
I carried two guns myself. And thus armed we went boldly down to the beach.
The sand was red with blood, and bones and bits of flesh were scattered all around. These I caused Friday to gather up and bury.
We stayed on the beach for some time, but could find nothing more.
Friday gave me to understand that there had been three other prisoners in the boats with him. I had no doubt that the savages had killed and eaten them all.
The next day I made a tent for Friday to stay in. It was just inside of my castle wall and in front of the door into my own sleeping room.
As he had no clothes I set to work to make him a suit. I gave him some linen trousers which had belonged to one of our sailors, and which I had not worn because they were too small.
Then I made him a little jacket of goatskin, and from the skin of a rabbit I fashioned a very good cap that fitted his head quite well.
You should have seen him when he was clothed. He was very proud, but oh, so awkward!
He went around with a broad smile on his face. He tried to do everything that was pleasing to me.
And indeed I was much delighted with him. For no man ever had a more faithful servant.
He quickly arms him for the field,
A little cockle-shell his shield,
Which he could very bravely wield,
Yet could it not be pierced:
His spear a bent both stiff and strong,
And well-near of two inches long:
The pile was of a horsefly's tongue,
Whose sharpness naught reversed.
And puts him on a coat of mail,
Which was of a fish's scale,
That when his foe should him assail,
No point should be prevailing:
His rapier was a hornet's sting;
It was a very dangerous thing;
For if he chanced to hurt the king,
It would be long in healing.
His helmet was a beetle's head,
Most horrible and full of dread,
That able was to strike one dead,
Yet did it well become him.
And for a plume a horse's hair,
Which, being tossed by the air,
Had force to strike his foe with fear,
And turn his weapon from him.
Himself he on an earwig set,
Yet scarce he on his back could get,
So oft and high he did curvet,
E'er he himself could settle:
He made him turn, and stop, and bound,
To gallop, and to trot the round,
He scarce could stand on any ground,
He was so full of mettle.
WEEK 41 |
"Eighteen long years of waste,
seven in your Spain Lost. . ."
O NE day, in the year 1484, a tall, strongly built man of commanding presence stood before the King of Portugal at the Court of Lisbon. All men of adventurous spirit were drawn to Portugal in these days, for though Prince Henry was long since dead, the enthusiasm he had aroused lived on in his heirs.
Portuguese sailors had already passed the equator,—had even reached the Congo, on the west coast of Africa; but the Cape was yet shrouded in mystery when Christopher Columbus stood before the king. Little did that king realise the strength of the man who now stood before him. He could not read those keen blue-grey eyes, kindling with eager interest, as the Italian unfolded his great, his wonderful plan.
"Sail to the West and the East will be found."
Such words seemed at first the words of a madman. Columbus explained his idea to the king. He told him of the long years he had worked at his scheme, how sure he felt that there was a shorter way to the East—to the land of the Great Khan of Marco Polo fame—than by Africa. The world was surely round. If Asia could be reached by sailing east, surely it could be reached by going west. If the king would grant him ships and money, he was ready to go and see.
The king listened with interest, and referred the plan to some of his learned men. They called Columbus a dreamer, and scoffed at his dreams. Finally they persuaded the king to an ungenerous act. They got from Columbus the plans of his proposed voyage, and while they kept him in suspense awaiting the king's decision, they despatched some ships off privately to investigate the matter.
Away sailed the ships to the Cape Verde Islands. But the weather grew stormy, the pilots trembled at the sight of an unlimited waste of wild tumbling waves, and, losing heart, they returned to tell the king of their failure.
When Columbus heard of this injustice he straightway left Portugal. He would have nothing more to do with a country which could serve him thus. He took his little son, Diego, by the hand, and went to Spain.
One day, says an old story, a stranger walked up to the gate of an ancient monastery, which stood on a solitary height overlooking the southern sea-coast of Spain. The stranger, who was leading a small child, stopped to ask for bread and water, for the boy was hungry.
It was Christopher Columbus and little Diego. They were taken in and fed, and the friar of the monastery was much struck with the grand ideas put forth by this stranger within his gates. He strongly advised him to go to the Spanish Court, where he would find a king and queen—Ferdinand and Isabella—who would certainly listen to his plans. So leaving little Diego behind, he set forth to try and get an audience with the King and Queen of Spain.
Columbus and Diego.
Now the Moors, against whom the Cid had fought four centuries before, were still reigning in the southern part of Spain called Granada. All the country was taken up with a great war that was going on between the Christian monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, and the Moorish king of Granada, and Columbus could get no one to listen to his great scheme.
Weeks and months, even years, went by, and the Spanish monarchs could spare no time to give audience to the future discoverer of America. It was not till the end of the year 1491 that he was summoned to the king and queen at their camp outside the town of Granada, which they were besieging. So poor was he by this time that the queen sent him money to get clothes suitable to appear at Court.
Here was the great chance for which he had so longed. But though poor, Columbus was proud. He believed in his plan, and he demanded great things. He must be made admiral and viceroy of all the new seas and countries that he should discover, and have one-tenth part of all the gains. His demands were laughed at, and he was dismissed by the Spanish Court.
Mounting his mule, Columbus rode sadly away. Once more he had failed.
But his friends could not bear to see him treated thus. They approached Queen Isabella. In glowing colours they put before her the great possibilities of the scheme, until she exclaimed with fervour: "I will undertake the enterprise for my own crown of Castile, and will pledge my jewels to raise the necessary funds."
A messenger rode hard after Columbus, brought him back to the queen, and all was settled for the great voyage.
Spain, after all, was to have the glory and honour of sending Columbus to discover the New World.
O NCE upon a time there was a king who was so fond of hearing stories told that he would listen to them all day long. He cared for no other kind of amusement and he was always angry when the story came to an end. "Your stories are too short," he said to the many story-tellers who tried to amuse him. Indeed no one had ever been found who was able to tell him a story that lasted long enough.
All the people of his court had tried again and again to please him. Some had told stories that lasted three months, some had told stories that lasted six months, and a few courtiers had been able to carry on their stories for one whole year. Still the king complained, for sooner or later the story was sure to come to an end.
At last he sent out the following proclamation to all the people of his kingdom:
to the man who will tell me a story which shall last forever, i will give the princess, my daughter, in marriage; also, i will make the successful one my heir and he shall be king after me. but mark, let no man pretend that he can do so, and fail; for, if the story comes to an end, the story-teller shall be thrown into prison. the king.
The king's daughter was a very beautiful princess, and there were many suitors in the kingdom who came to the court in hope of winning such a prize. But it was all of no use. Each tried as hard as he could to spin the story out, but sooner or later it came to an end and the unfortunate one met the fate the king had threatened.
This grieved the princess very much, and each time she begged the king to lighten the punishment of the poor story-teller who had risked so much for her sake.
At last one man sent word to the king that he had a story which would last forever and ever, and that he was ready to come to the court at once. On hearing this the princess sent for the man and warned him of his danger. She begged him not to be so rash as to try the king's patience, for no one had ever pleased his majesty, and she feared he would meet the fate of all those who had tried and failed. But he said he was not afraid, and he asked to be taken at once before the king.
"So you are the man who is to tell me a story that will have no end?" said the king.
"If it please your majesty," answered the man.
"If you can do this, you shall be king after me, and you shall marry the princess, my daughter. But if you fail, you shall be cast into prison."
"I understand, O king. I have a story about locusts which I shall be pleased to tell you."
"Very well. Begin the story."
The story-teller began his tale.
"O king, there was once a ruler who was a great
tyrant. He wished to be the richest in the land, so he
seized all the corn and grain in his kingdom and had it
stored away. Year after year he did this until all his
granaries were filled full. But one year there came a
swarm of locusts and they discovered where all the
grain had been stored. After a long search, they found
near the top of the granary a very small hole that was
just large enough for one locust at a time to pass
through. So one locust went in and carried off one
grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried
off one grain of corn; then another locust went in and
carried off one grain of corn; then another locust
went in and carried off one grain of
Thus the story-teller went on day after day, week after week, from morning till night. After hearing about the locusts for nearly a year the king became rather tired of them, patient though he was, and one day he interrupted the story-teller with:
"Yes, yes, we've had enough of those locusts. Let us take for granted that they got all the grain they wanted. Now go on with the story. What happened afterwards?"
"If it please your majesty, I cannot tell you what happened afterwards until I have told you all that took place in the beginning. I go on with the story. Then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried off one grain of corn."
Another month passed by. At the end of this time the king asked impatiently, "Come, sir, how long will it take those locusts to carry away all the corn?"
"O king, I cannot tell. They have cleared away but a
small space round the inside of the hole, and there are
still thousands and thousands of locusts on the
outside. Have patience, O king, there are enough grains
for each locust to have one, and in time they, no
doubt, will all pass in and each in turn carry away one
grain of corn. Permit me, O king, to go on with my
Then another locust went in and carried off one grain
of corn; then another locust went in and carried off
one grain of
"Stop, stop," called out the king at last. "I cannot stand those locusts any longer. Take my kingdom, be king after me, marry my daughter, take everything, only never let me hear about those ridiculous locusts again."
So the story-teller married the princess and succeeded to the throne upon the death of the king.
Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon:
This way, and that, she peers and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam
By silver reeds in a silver stream.
WEEK 41 |
One day Tom Fox was told by his mother to kindle the fire, which had been allowed to grow so dim that only a smouldering bed of embers was left upon the hearth. Hanging from the crane was a large kettle, almost full of water. Now, in addition to his reputation for freckles, Tom was also believed to be the awkwardest boy in the Blue River settlement. Upon the day above referred to, he did all in his power to live up to his reputation, by upsetting the kettle of water upon the fire, thereby extinguishing the last spark of that necessary element in the Fox household.
Of course there was not a lucifer match on all Blue River, from its source to its mouth; and as Mr. Fox had taken the tinder-box with him on a hunting expedition, and would not return till night, Limpy received a sound thrashing, and was sent to the house loft, there to ponder for the rest of the day over his misdeeds.
Mrs. Fox then sent Liney over to Mrs. Brent's to borrow fire. Limpy would have been glad to go, had his mother seen fit to send him, but the task would have been a reward rather than a punishment. Liney was delighted to have an opportunity to visit the Brent cabin, so away she went, very willingly indeed. Before the day was finished she was doubly glad she had gone, and the help she was able to give to a friend in need made her devoutly thankful to the kind fate which, operating through Mrs. Fox, had sent her on her errand. The terrible adventure, which befell her, and the frightful—but I am telling my story before I come to it.
When Balser was a boy, each season brought its separate work and recreation on the farm, as it does now. But especially was this true in the time of the early settlers.
The winter was the hunting season. The occupation of hunting, which was looked upon as sport and recreation combined, was also a business with the men who cleared the land and felled the forests of Indiana; for a wagon-load of good pelts, taken during the winter season when the fur is at its best, was no inconsiderable matter, and brought at market more money than the same wagon filled with wheat would have been worth. So the settler of Balser's time worked quite as hard in the winter with his rifle, as he did with his hoe and plough in the fields during the months of summer.
Spring, of course, was the time for breaking up and ploughing. Summer was the wheat harvest. Then, also, the various kinds of wild berries were gathered, and dried or preserved. In the summer casks of rich blackberry wine were made, to warm the cold hunter upon his return from the chase during the cold days to come, or to regale company upon long winter evenings before the blazing fire. Blackberries could be had by the bushel for the mere gathering, and the wine could be made so cheaply that almost every house was well stocked with the delicious beverage.
Then came the corn gathering, and bringing in the fodder. The latter was brought in by wagon-loads, and was stacked against the sides of the barn and of the cow shed. It answered a double purpose: it made the barn and sheds warm and cozy homes for the stock during the cold bleak winter, and furnished food for the cattle and the horses, so that by spring they had eaten part of their houses. The wheat straw was stacked in the barnyard; and into this the sheep and calves burrowed little caves, wherein they would lie so snug and warm that it made no difference how much the wind blew, or the snow and rain fell, or how hard it froze outside; for the bad weather made their cozy shelter seem all the more comfortable by contrast.
The fall also had its duties, part task, and part play. The woods abounded in hickory nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts, and a supply of all these had to be gathered, for they furnished no small part of the winter food. Preparation was always made for this work by the boys of Mr. Brent's family long before a hickory nut had thought of falling. Shortly after the wolf hunt which I described to you in the last chapter, Balser and Jim began to make ready for the nut campaign. Their first task was to build a small wagon, for the purpose of carrying home the nuts. They found a tree twelve of fourteen inches in diameter, which they felled. They then sawed off four round sections of the tree, each about one inch thick, to serve as wheels. From the outer edge of these wheels they removed the bark, and bound them with tires made from the iron hoops of a barrel. They then cut round holes in the centre in which to insert the axles of the wagon. With their hatchets they split clapboards, which they made smooth, and of the clapboards they made the bottom, sides, and ends. The boys worked pretty hard for ten or twelve days and completed as perfect a two-horse wagon, in miniature, as any one ever beheld. There were the tongue, the axletree, the sideboard, the headboard, and the tail-gate and floor, all fitted so tightly together that you would have declared a wagon maker had made them. The wheels, bound with barrel-hoop tires, were marvels of their kind. The wagon bed would hold as much as could be contained in two large flour sacks, and when filled with nuts would prove quite a load to draw, consequently the boys must have a team of some sort. The team which they eventually rigged up was probably the most absurd and curious combination that ever drew a load.
The boys selected strong pieces of deer-hide, and made four sets of harness. For what purpose, do you suppose? You never could guess. Two for the dogs, Tige and Prince, and two for the bear cubs, Tom and Jerry, who they proposed should do something to earn their bread and milk, for they were growing to be great awkward, big-footed, long-legged fellows, and were very strong.
So the four sets of harness were finished, and one day the odd team was hitched up for trial. The little wagon was loaded with rocks, and the boys tried to start the team. The dogs seemed willing enough to obey, but the cubs, which were hitched in front, went every way but the right one, and showed a disposition to rebel against the indignity of work.
The bears were then taken from the lead, the dogs were put in their places, and the bears were put next to the wagon. The team was started again, but the cubs lay down flat upon the ground and refused to move. After trying in vain to induce the cubs to do their duty, Balser spoke to Jim, who was standing at the dogs' heads, and Jim started forward, leading the dogs, and Jim and the dogs dragged after them the cubs and the wagon. At almost every step the heavily loaded wagon would roll upon the hind feet of the cubs, and Balser threw thorns upon the ground, which pricked the bears as they were dragged along, until the black sluggards came to the conclusion that it was easier to work than to be dragged over thorns; so they arose to their feet, and followed the dogs, without, however, drawing an ounce of the load.
The boys kept patiently at this sort of training for three weeks; and at the end of that time, between bribes in the way of milk and honey, and beatings with a thick stick, the cubs little by little submitted to their task, and eventually proved to be real little oxen at drawing a load. The dogs, of course, had been broken in easily.
By the time the cubs were ready for work, the hickory nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts were ready to be gathered; and the boys only waited for a heavy black frost to loosen the nuts from their shells, and a strong wind to shake them from the branches.
During the summer of which I told you in the preceding chapters, Mr. Brent had raised the roof of his house, so as to make a room in the loft for the boys. This room was floored with rough boards, between which large cracks were left, so that heat from the room below might arise and warm the boys' room. The upper room was reached by the most primitive of stairways. It was nothing more than a small log, or thick pole, with notches cut on each side for footholds, or steps. In going up this stairway the boys climbed hand over hand, and foot over foot, as a bear climbs a tree; and to come down without falling was a task of no small proportions to one inexperienced in the art.
One morning Jim awakened, and looked out from under the warm bearskin which served for a blanket, comforter, and sheet. He listened for a moment to the wind, which was blowing a gale, and then awakened Balser.
"Balser! Balser! said Jim. "Wake up! There's frost enough to freeze a brass monkey, and the wind is blowing hard enough to blow down the trees, to say nothing of the nuts. Let's get up and have an early start." Balser was willing, and soon the boys had climbed out from under the warm bearskin, and were downstairs preparing to kindle the fires.
The fire-kindling was no hard task; for the backlog which had put in the fireplace the evening before was a great roll of red coals, and all that the boys had to do to kindle the fire was to "poke" the backlog, and it fell in chunks of half-charred, burning hickory, that hissed and popped and flamed, and made the room warm before you could say "Jack Robinson." Then the boys threw on a large armful of cut wood, and soon the blaze was crackling cosily, and the kettle singing merrily on the flames.
The morning was cold, and the boys sat upon the great hearth, with their palms to the fire, getting "good and warm for the day," while the gray, frosty dawn was slowly frightening the shadows of night away from the forest, to which they seemed to cling.
Then came the mother, who made the breakfast of sweet fried venison buckwheat cakes floating in maple syrup and butter, hoe cake, and eggs. Instead of coffee they drank warm milk, sweetened with maple sugar, and I can tell you it was a breakfast to wax fat on.
The sun was hardly above the horizon, when breakfast was finished, and the dogs and cubs were fed. Then they were harnessed to the wagon, and boys, bears, dogs, and wagon, all started on their way to the woods. Hickory trees did not grow plentifully in the bottom-lands, so the boys made for the hills, perhaps a mile away.
Shortly after they had reached the hills, Jim cried
"Oh, here's a great big shellbark! I'll bet the ground's covered with nuts."
Sure enough, the ground was covered with them, and the boys filled their wagon in a very short time. Then they started home. The trip home was marred by an upset owing to the perversity of the cubs; but the boys righted the wagon, loaded it with nuts again, and after considerable trouble deposited them safely at home, and went back for another load.
The dog-bear team worked team worked admirably, barring a general tendency to run over logs and stones, and two great loads of hickory nuts were safely brought to the house before dinner.
"Mah home is
It's a long way home!
Ah wish Ah's there, but here
It's a long way home!
If Ah had only been content
Instead of out on mischief bent,
Ah'd have no reason
It's a long way home!"
NC' BILLY POSSUM lay curled up under the hay in the highest nest in
the darkest corner in Farmer Brown's
Unc' Billy's eyes twinkled as he watched Farmer Brown's boy, for Unc'
Billy knew that those traps were being set for him, and now that he
knew just where each one was, of course he wasn't a bit afraid. It
"There," said Farmer Brown's boy, as he set the last trap, "I'd like
anything get into this
Unc' Billy almost chuckled aloud. Yes, Sir, he almost chuckled aloud.
It was such a funny idea that Farmer Brown's boy should have taken all
the trouble to set those traps to catch
Unc' Billy laughed under his breath as Farmer Brown's boy closed the
door of the
The joke wasn't on Farmer Brown's boy, after all; it was on
"It's a long way home," said
In the embers shining bright
A garden grows for thy delight,
With roses yellow, red, and white.
But, O my child, beware, beware!
Touch not the roses growing there,
For every rose a thorn doth bear!
WEEK 41 |
OT long after David's sin, the sorrows of which the prophet had foretold him, began to fall upon David. He had many wives, and his wives had many sons; but most of his sons had grown up wild and wicked, because David had not watched over them, and had not taught them in their youth to love God and do God's will. He had been too busy as a king to do his duty as a father.
The oldest of David's sons was Absalom, whose mother was the daughter of Talmai, the king of a little country called Geshur, on the north of Israel. Absalom was said to be the most beautiful young man in all the land. He had long locks of hair, of which he was very proud, because all the people admired them. Absalom became very angry with Amnon, another of David's sons, because Amnon had done wrong to Absalom's sister, named Tamar.
But Absalom hid his anger against Amnon, and one day invited Amnon with all the king's sons to a feast at his house in the country. They all went to the feast; and while they were all at the table Absalom's servants, by his orders, rushed in and killed Amnon. The other princes, the king's sons, were alarmed, fearing that they also would be slain; and they ran away in haste. But no harm was done to the other princes, and they came back in safety to David.
David was greatly displeased with Absalom, though he loved him more than any other of his sons; and Absalom went away from his father's court to that of his grandfather, his mother's father, the king of Geshur. There Absalom stayed for three years; and all the time David longed to see him, for he felt that he had now lost both sons, Absalom as well as Amnon. And after three years David allowed Absalom to come back to Jerusalem; but for a time would not meet him, because he had caused his brother's death. At last David's love was so strong that he could no longer refuse to see his son. He sent for Absalom, and kissed him, and took him back to his old place among the king's sons in the palace.
David sends for Absalom and kisses him
But Absalom's heart was wicked, and ungrateful, and cruel. He formed a plan to take the throne and the kingdom away from his father, David, and to make himself King in David's place. He began by living in great state, as if he were already a king, with a royal chariot, and horses, and fifty men to run before him. Then too, he would rise early in the morning, and stand at the gate of the king's palace, and meet those who came to the king for any cause. He would speak to each man, and find what was the purpose of his coming; and he would say:
"Your cause is good and right, but the king will not hear you; and he will not allow any other man to hear you in his place. O that I were made a judge! then I would see that right was done, and that every man received his due!" And when any man bowed down before Absalom as the king's son, he would reach out his hand, and lift him up, and kiss him as his friend. Thus Absalom won the hearts of all whom he met, from every part of the land, until very many wished that he was king instead of David, his father. For David no longer led the army in war, nor did he sit as judge, nor did he go among the people; but lived apart in his palace, scarcely knowing what was being done in the land.
After four years Absalom thought that he was strong enough to seize the kingdom. He said to David, "Let me go to the city of Hebron, and there worship the Lord, and keep a promise which I made to the Lord while I was in the land of Geshur."
David was pleased at this, for he thought that Absalom really meant to serve the Lord. So Absalom went to Hebron, and with him went a great company of his friends. A few of these knew of Absalom's plans, but most of them knew nothing. At Hebron, Absalom was joined by a very wise man, named Ahithophel, who was one of David's chief advisers, and in one whom David trusted fully.
Suddenly the word was sent through all the land by swift runners, "Absalom has been made king at Hebron!" Those who were in the secret helped to lead others, and soon it seemed as though all the people were on Absalom's side and ready to receive him as king in place of David.
The news came to David in the palace, that Absalom had made himself king, that many of the rulers were with him, and that the people in their hearts really desired Absalom. David did not know whom he could trust, and he prepared to escape before it would be too late. He took with him a few of his servants who chose to remain by his side, and his wives, and especially his wife Bath-sheba, and her son, the little Solomon.
As they were going out of the gates they were joined by Ittai, who was the commander of his guard, and who had with him six hundred trained men of war. Ittai was not an Israelite, but was a stranger in the land, and David was surprised that he should offer to go with him. He said to Ittai, "Why do you, a stranger, go with us? I know not to what places we may go or what trouble we may meet. It would be better for you and your men to go back to your own land; and may mercy and truth go with you!"
And Ittai answered the king, "As the Lord God lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in what place the king shall be, whether in death or in life, there will we, his servants, be with him."
So Ittai and his brave six hundred soldiers went with David out of the city, over the brook Kedron, toward the wilderness. And soon after came Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, and the Levites, carrying the holy ark of the Lord. And David said, "Take back the ark of God into the city. If I shall find favor in the sight of the Lord, he will bring me again to see it; but if the Lord says, 'I have no pleasure in David,' then let the Lord do with me as seems good to him."
The brook Kedron
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 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, in the long ago, the brig Industry had sailed from Boston for far countries, and she had been gone about three months. She was going to Java, first, to get coffee and sugar and other things that they have in Java; and then she was going to Manila and then back to India and home again. It was almost Christmas time. Little Jacob and little Sol were on board the Industry on that voyage, and it seemed very strange to them that it should be hot at Christmas time. But they were just about at the equator, or a little bit south of it, and it is always hot there; and besides, it is summer at Christmas time south of the equator. So little Jacob and Sol had on their lightest and coolest clothes, and they had straw hats on; but they didn't run about and play much, it was so hot.
The two little boys were lying stretched out in the shadow of a great sail, and they had their hands behind their heads, and they looked up at the tall masts and the yards and the great white sails and once in a while they saw a little hilly cloud, and they didn't say anything for a long time. Finally little Jacob spoke to little Sol.
"What are you thinking about, Sol?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing, much," answered little Sol. "I was thinking it would be fun to be sitting up on the very tip top of the mainmast and letting my feet hang down and swinging back and forth with the mast. Maybe I could see Java."
Little Jacob shivered to think of sitting on top of the mast. "My, Sol!" he said. "You'd fall. There's nothing to hold on to."
"Oh, I'm not going to try it, Jake," said little Sol. "Father'd give it to me, if I did. You know the time I fell overboard?"
Little Jacob nodded. "Well, then," said little Sol. "I guess a boy'd be foolish to try that twice."
Little Jacob nodded again. "Did he thrash you, Sol?" he asked.
Little Sol smiled. "Didn't he, though?" he said. "Ever get a thrashing, Jake?"
Little Jacob hesitated. "Well," he said, slowly, "sometimes—with a slipper."
"Huh!" said little Sol, with much scorn. "That's nothing. My father don't use any slipper."
Little Jacob thought it was time to change the subject. "What makes you think that you could see Java from up there?"
"I don't s'pose I could, really," answered little Sol. "But father said that we ought to sight it within two days."
"To-morrow is Christmas," remarked little Jacob, thoughtfully. "I'd rather like to be at home, on Christmas."
"Well, you can't," said little Sol. "You're thousands of miles from home. I wonder what they'll have for dinner."
"We generally have lots of things for Christmas dinner," said little Jacob, in a stifled little voice, "goose and apple sauce, and potatoes and squash and——"
"I don't mean at home, Jake," said little Sol, gently. "I mean here. We always have good things at home, too. But we haven't any goose or anything else except salt junk and plum duff. I s'pose it'll be that."
But little Jacob didn't say anything because he couldn't speak. He tilted his hat over his eyes and thought how nice it was at home at Christmas time, and how sorry Lois, his mother, would be that he wasn't there, and how sorry his little sister Lois would be. He didn't know about his father, Captain Jacob, but he thought that perhaps he would be sorry, too; and he knew that his grandfather, Captain Jonathan, would be sorry. He was very fond of his grandfather because Captain Jonathan was always nice and kind and gentle and he seemed to understand little boys. And, at last, little Jacob jammed his hat on straight and got up and ran down into the cabin to write his mother a letter. Captain Solomon would leave the letter in Java for some ship to take home. When he had written the letter he felt better.
When the two little boys came out on deck the next morning, they went forward among the sailors; and they wished each man a Merry Christmas and they gave each one some little thing that they had found. The things were some things that Captain Solomon had brought to give away, although he did not expect, when he brought them, to give them to the sailors. And the men seemed very much pleased, and they wished little Jacob and little Sol a Merry Christmas, too, and some of the men had presents for the boys. These presents were usually something that the men had whittled out of ivory or bone or ebony. And little Jacob and little Sol hadn't expected that the men would give them any presents, and they were delighted; and, by the time they had got through giving the men presents their jacket pockets bulged out with all the things the men had given them.
But one thing little Jacob didn't put in his pocket, for fear that he would break it. That was a little model of the brig Industry, about three inches long. The hull of the model was cut out of ebony, and the masts and spars were little ebony sticks stuck in, and the sails were of ivory, scraped thin, and the ropes were silk thread. And the sails were bulging, as if the wind was filling them and making them stand out from the yards. Altogether, it was a most beautiful model, and little Jacob was so surprised and pleased that, for some time, he couldn't say anything to the sailor who had given it to him.
"Is this for me? "he said, at last. "For me?"
That sailor was an old man. The little crinkles came around his eyes as he smiled down at little Jacob.
"Yes, little lad," he said. "For you—if you want it. And with a Merry Christmas!"
"Yes, little lad," he said. "For you—if you want it."
"Oh," cried little Jacob, "if I want it! I think it is the—most—beautiful—thing I ever saw. I can't thank you enough."
You should have seen the old sailor's face when little Jacob said that. The crinkles were so deep that you could hardly have seen his eyes.
"To see your face now is thanks enough for me," he said.
"But— but," said little Jacob, "Sol hasn't got anything half so pretty as this."
"Never you mind about Sol," said the old man, in a whisper that Sol could hear perfectly well. "He'll be havin' a ship of his own, one o' these days soon. What does he care about models?"
And he looked at Sol and winked. And Sol straightened his shoulders and stopped looking disappointed. "That's what I will," said Sol.
And the boys stayed with the old sailor for a long time, and the sailor pointed to something that was blue and dim on the water, far away.
"See that land?" he said. "That's Christmas Island on Christmas mornin'."
Christmas Island: first view, bearing N by E
Christmas Island: second view, bearing SW
And the boys asked if they would go near the island, and he said that they would go pretty near. And little Jacob said that he would get some paper and draw the island when they came near it, and he would put it in the log book. And so he did, and he made it look like the pictures here. When little Jacob had it all written in the log-book about the presents and about his little model of the Industry and about Christmas Island, it was time for dinner.
When the little boys went in to dinner, they were both very much surprised; for there, on the table, was a real goose, beautifully browned over and smoking hot, and there was apple sauce to eat with it. And there was squash and potato and cabbage and ham and almost as many different things as little Jacob would have had if he had been at home. And behind the goose stood Captain Solomon sharpening the carving knife, and he was smiling.
Little Jacob didn't ask how he managed to have fresh goose, but he evidently wanted to; so Captain Solomon told him that the cook had kept it alive in the long boat all that long time, so as to be sure to have goose for their Christmas dinner. The long boat was kept high up above the men's heads, on a sort of framework, so that little Jacob had never seen the goose; but the cook had had a great deal of trouble to keep the boys from hearing it, and he had had to make it a secret with the sailors and sometimes he had the sailors take it down into the forecastle while little Jacob and little Sol were playing about. The forecastle is the place where the sailors sleep, and the little boys never went there. But little Sol rather suspected that there was something that the cook was hiding from them, although he had never found out what it was.
And, when they were through eating their goose, they had squash pie and apple pie, two kinds, and potato pie; but they weren't quite like the pies they would have had at home because the cook didn't have any butter to make the crust with, and his lard wasn't very good because they had been in the hot oceans for so long. And they had some very nice steamed pudding with raisins in it, and there were lots of raisins.
When they were through eating their pudding and all the kinds of pies, little Jacob was filled up about to his chin, and there was just room enough left for an apple and some nuts and raisins. And they had the apples and the nuts and raisins; all the kinds of nuts that they had at home and another kind of nut that little Jacob had never seen before. He didn't know whether to call it a nut or a raisin. It had a thin shell and it was nearly as big as an English walnut, but inside the shell was a raisin; and the raisin had a single stone inside it, a little bigger than a cherry stone. Little Jacob and little Sol thought that these raisinuts tasted very good indeed, and they didn't care whether they were raisins or nuts. Little Sol invented the name, raisinuts.
At last they were through dinner, and the little boys got up, very slowly, for they were filled as full as they could hold. And they walked slowly to the cabin steps and up the steps and out on deck. It was rather squally and, just as little Jacob went out of the cabin door, a great gust of wind came and took his straw hat and carried it sailing away over the ocean. You can't stop a ship to get a straw hat, and little Jacob watched it go sailing away on the gust of wind and settle into the ocean; but he was sorry, for it was the only straw hat he had, and it was too hot to wear his white beaver hat. But he thought that he wouldn't wear any hat until they got to Java and then he would get another straw.
When little Jacob had watched his hat out of sight, he went into the cabin again to write some more on his letter to his mother.
And that's all.
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermons to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawsack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin, and the fodder's in the shock!
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too!
I don't know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angles wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me—
I'd want to 'commodate 'em—all the whole-indurin' flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!