WEEK 52 |
HE children went out the back door quietly, and were presently
lost to sight, Sarah Maud slipping and stumbling along
absent-mindedly as she recited rapidly under her breath,
Peter rang the door-bell, and presently a servant admitted them, and, whispering something in Sarah's ear, drew her downstairs into the kitchen. The other Ruggleses stood in horror-stricken groups as the door closed behind their commanding officer; but there was no time for reflection, for a voice from above was heard, saying, "Come right up stairs, please!"
"Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do or die."
Accordingly, they walked upstairs, and Elfrida, the nurse, ushered them into a room more splendid than anything they had ever seen. But, oh woe! where was Sarah Maud! and was it Fate that Mrs. Bird should say, at once, "Did you lay your hats in the hall?" Peter felt himself elected by circumstance the head of the family, and, casting one imploring look at tongue-tied Susan, standing next him, said huskily, "It was so very pleasant—that—that"— "That we had n't good hats enough to go 'round," put in little Susan, bravely, to help him out, and then froze with horror that the ill-fated words had slipped off her tongue.
However, Mrs. Bird said, pleasantly, "Of course you would n't wear hats such a short distance—I forgot when I asked. Now, will you come right in to Miss Carol's room? She is so anxious to see you."
Just then Sarah Maud came up the back stairs, so radiant with joy from her secret interview with the cook, that Peter could have pinched her with a clear conscience; and Carol gave them a joyful welcome. "But where is Baby Larry?" she cried, looking over the group with searching eye. "Did n't he come?"
"Larry! Larry!" Good gracious, where was Larry? They were all sure that he had come in with them, for Susan remembered scolding him for tripping over the door-mat. Uncle Jack went into convulsions of laughter. "Are you sure there were nine of you when you left home?" he asked, merrily.
"I think so, sir," said Peoria, timidly; "but, anyhow, there was Larry;" and she showed signs of weeping.
"Oh, well, cheer up!" cried Uncle Jack. "Probably he's not lost—only mislaid. I 'll go and find him before you can say Jack Robinson!"
"I 'll go, too, if you please, sir," said Sarah Maud, "for it was my place to mind him, an' if he 's lost I can't relish my vittles!"
The other Ruggleses stood rooted to the floor. Was this a dinner-party, forsooth; and, if so, why were such things ever spoken of as festive occasions?
Sarah Maud went out through the hall, calling, "Larry! Larry!" and without any interval of suspense a thin voice piped up from below, "Here I be!"
The truth was that Larry, being deserted by his natural guardian, dropped behind the rest, and wriggled into the hat-tree to wait for her, having no notion of walking unprotected into the jaws of a fashionable entertainment. Finding that she did not come, he tried to crawl from his refuge and call somebody, when—dark and dreadful ending to a tragic day, he found that he was too much intertwined with umbrellas and canes to move a single step. He was afraid to yell—when I have said this of Larry Ruggles I have pictured a state of helpless terror that ought to wring tears from every eye—and the sound of Sarah Maud's beloved voice, some seconds later, was like a strain of angel music in his ears. Uncle Jack dried his tears, carried him upstairs, and soon had him in breathless fits of laughter, while Carol so made the other Ruggleses forget themselves that they were presently talking like accomplished diners-out.
Carol's bed had been moved into the farthest corner of the room, and she was lying on the outside, dressed in a wonderful dressing-gown that looked like a fleecy cloud. Her golden hair fell in fluffy curls over her white forehead and neck, her cheeks flushed delicately, her eyes beamed with joy, and the children told their mother, afterwards, that she looked as beautiful as the angels in the picture books.
There was a great bustle behind a huge screen in another part of the room, and at half past five this was taken away, and the Christmas dinner-table stood revealed. What a wonderful sight it was to the poor little Ruggles children, who ate their sometimes scanty meals on the kitchen table! It blazed with tall colored candles, it gleamed with glass and silver, it blushed with flowers, it groaned with good things to eat; so it was not strange that the Ruggleses, forgetting altogether that their mother was a McGrill, shrieked in admiration of the fairy spectacle. But Larry's behavior was the most disgraceful, for he stood not upon the order of his going, but went at once for a high chair that pointed unmistakably to him, climbed up like a squirrel, gave a comprehensive look at the turkey, clapped his hands in ecstasy, rested his fat arms on the table, and cried with joy, "I beat the hull lot o' yer!" Carol laughed until she cried, giving orders, meanwhile: "Uncle Jack, please sit at the head, Sarah Maud at the foot, and that will leave four on each side; mother is going to help Elfrida, so that the children need not look after each other, but just have a good time."
A sprig of holly lay by each plate, and nothing would do but each little Ruggles must leave his seat and have it pinned on by Carol, and as each course was served, one of them pleaded to take something to her. There was hurrying to and fro, I can assure you, for it is quite a difficult matter to serve a Christmas dinner on the third floor of a great city house; but if it had been necessary to carry every dish up a rope ladder the servants would gladly have done so. There were turkey and chicken, with delicious gravy and stuffing, and there were half a dozen vegetables, with cranberry jelly, and celery, and pickles; and as for the way these delicacies were served, the Ruggleses never forgot it as long as they lived.
Peter nudged Kitty, who sat next him, and said, "Look, will yer, ev'ry feller 's got his own partic'lar butter; I s'pose that 's to show you can eat that 'n' no more. No, it ain't either, for that pig of a Peory 's just gettin' another helpin'!"
"Yes," whispered Kitty, "an' the napkins is marked with big red letters! I wonder if that 's so nobody 'll nip 'em; an' oh, Peter, look at the pictures stickin' right on ter the dishes. Did yer ever?"
"The plums is all took out o' my cramb'ry sarse, an' it 's friz to a stiff jell!" whispered Peoria, in wild excitement.
"Hi—yah! I got the wish-bone!" sang Larry, regardless of Sarah Maud's frown; after which she asked to have his seat changed, giving as excuse that he "gen'ally set beside her, an' would feel strange;" the true reason being that she desired to kick him gently, under the table, whenever he passed what might be termed "the McGrill line."
"I declare to goodness," murmured Susan, on the other side, "there 's so much to look at I can't scarcely eat nothin'!"
"Bet yer life I can!" said Peter, who had kept one servant busily employed ever since he sat down; for, luckily, no one was asked by Uncle Jack whether he would have a second helping, but the dishes were quietly passed under their noses, and not a single Ruggles refused anything that was offered him, even unto the seventh time.
Then, when Carol and Uncle Jack perceived that more turkey was a physical impossibility, the meats were taken off and the dessert was brought in, a dessert that would have frightened a strong man after such a dinner as had preceded it. Not so the Ruggleses, for a strong man is nothing to a small boy, and they kindled to the dessert as if the turkey had been a dream and the six vegetables an optical delusion. There were plum-pudding, mince-pie, and ice-cream; and there were nuts, and raisins, and oranges. Kitty chose ice-cream, explaining that she knew it "by sight, though she had n't never tasted none;" but all the rest took the entire variety, without any regard to consequences.
"THE RUGGLESES NEVER FORGOT IT"
"My dear child," whispered Uncle Jack, as he took Carol an orange, "there is no doubt about the necessity of this feast, but I do advise you after this to have them twice a year, or quarterly, perhaps, for the way these children eat is positively dangerous; I assure you I tremble for that terrible Peoria. I'm going to run races with her after dinner."
"Never mind," laughed Carol, "let them have enough for once; it does my heart good to see them, and they shall come oftener next year."
The feast being over, the Ruggleses lay back in their chairs languidly, like little gorged boa-constrictors, and the table was cleared in a trice. Then a door was opened into the next room, and there, in a corner facing Carol's bed, which had been wheeled as close as possible, stood the brilliantly lighted Christmas tree, glittering with gilded walnuts and tiny silver balloons, and wreathed with snowy chains of pop-corn. The presents had been bought mostly with Carol's story-money, and were selected after long consultations with Mrs. Bird. Each girl had a blue knitted hood, and each boy a red crocheted comforter, all made by Mrs. Bird, Carol, and Elfrida. ("Because if you buy everything, it does n't show so much love," said Carol). Then every girl had a pretty plaid dress of a different color, and every boy a warm coat of the right size. Here the useful presents stopped, and they were quite enough; but Carol had pleaded to give them something "for fun." "I know they need the clothes," she had said, when they were talking over the matter just after Thanksgiving, "but they don't care much for them, after all. Now, Papa, won't you please let me go without part of my presents this year, and give me the money they would cost, to buy something to amuse the Ruggleses?"
"You can have both," said Mr. Bird, promptly; "is there any need of my little girl's going without her own Christmas, I should like to know? Spend all the money you like."
"But that is n't the thing," objected Carol, nestling close to her father; "it would n't be mine. What is the use? Have n't I almost everything already, and am I not the happiest girl in the world this year, with Uncle Jack and Donald at home? You know very well it is more blessed to give than to receive; so why won't you let me do it? You never look half as happy when you are getting your presents as when you are giving us ours. Now, father, submit, or I shall have to be very firm and disagreeable with you!"
"Very well, your Highness, I surrender."
"That's a dear! Now, what were you going to give me? Confess!"
"A bronze figure of Santa Claus; and in the 'little round belly that shakes when he laughs like a bowlful of jelly,' is a wonderful clock—oh, you would never give it up if you could see it."
"Nonsense," laughed Carol; "as I never have to get up to breakfast, nor go to bed, nor catch trains, I think my old clock will do very well! Now, mother, what were you going to give me?"
"Oh, I had n't decided. A few more books, and a gold thimble, and a smelling-bottle, and a music-box, perhaps."
"Poor Carol," laughed the child, merrily, "she can afford to give up these lovely things, for there will still be left Uncle Jack, and Donald, and Paul, and Hugh, and Uncle Rob, and Aunt Elsie, and a dozen other people to fill her Christmas stocking!"
So Carol had her way, as she generally did; but it was usually a good way, which was fortunate, under the circumstances; and Sarah Maud had a set of Miss Alcott's books, and Peter a modest silver watch, Cornelius a tool-chest, Clement a dog-house for his lame puppy, Larry a magnificent Noah's ark, and each of the younger girls a beautiful doll.
You can well believe that everybody was very merry and very thankful. All the family, from Mr. Bird down to the cook, said they had never seen so much happiness in the space of three hours; but it had to end, as all things do. The candles flickered and went out, the tree was left alone with its gilded ornaments, and Mrs. Bird sent the children downstairs at half past eight, thinking that Carol looked tired.
"Now, my darling, you have done quite enough for one day," said Mrs. Bird, getting Carol into her nightgown. "I'm afraid you will feel worse to-morrow, and that would be a sad ending to such a charming evening."
"Oh, was n't it a lovely, lovely time," sighed Carol. "From first to last, everything was just right. I shall never forget Larry's face when he looked at the turkey; nor Peter's when he saw his watch; nor that sweet, sweet Kitty's smile when she kissed her dolly; nor the tears in poor, dull Sarah Maud's eyes when she thanked me for her books; nor—"
"But we must n't talk any longer about it to-night," said Mrs. Bird, anxiously; "you are too tired, dear."
"I am not tired, mother. I have felt well all day; not a bit of pain anywhere. Perhaps this has done me good."
"Perhaps; I hope so. There was no noise or confusion; it was just a merry time. Now, may I close the door and leave you alone, dear? Papa and I will steal in softly by and by to see if you are all right; but I think you need to be very quiet."
"Oh, I'm willing to stay by myself; but I am not sleepy yet, and I am going to hear the music, you know."
"Yes, I have opened the window a little, and put the screen in front of it, so that you won't feel the air."
"Can I have the shutters open? and won't you turn my bed, please? This morning I woke ever so early, and one bright beautiful star shone in that eastern window. I never noticed it before, and I thought of the Star in the East, that guided the wise men to the place where baby Jesus was. Good-night, mother. Such a happy, happy day!"
"Good night, my precious Christmas Carol—mother's blessed Christmas child."
"Bend your head a minute,before you go," whispered Carol. "Mother, dear, I do think that we have kept Christ's birthday this time just as He would like it. Don't you?"
"I am sure of it," said Mrs. Bird, softly.
At the mouth of the river, sailing toward us bravely as if having come from some glorious victory, were three ships laden with men, and, as we afterward came to know, an ample store of provisions.
It was Lord De la Warr who had come to take up his governorship, and verily he was arrived in the very point of time, for had he been delayed four and twenty hours, we would have been on the ocean, where was little likelihood of seeing him.
It needs not I should say that our ships were turned back, and before nightfall Master Hunt was sitting in Captain Smith's house, with Nathaniel Peacock and me cooking for him such a dinner as we three had not known these six months past.
I have finished my story of Jamestown, having set myself to tell only of what was done there while we were with Captain John Smith.
And it is well I should bring this story to an end here, for if I make any attempt at telling what came to Nathaniel Peacock and myself after that, then am I like to keep on until he who has begun to read will lay down the story because of weariness.
For the satisfaction of myself, and the better pleasing of Nathaniel Peacock, however, I will add, concerning our two selves, that we remained in the land of Virginia until our time of apprenticeship was ended, and then it was, that Master Hunt did for us as Captain Smith had promised to do.
We found ourselves, in the year 1614, the owners of an hundred acres of land which Nathaniel and I had chosen some distance back from the river, so that we might stand in no danger of the shaking sickness, and built ourselves a house like unto the one we had helped make for Captain Smith.
With the coming of Lord De la Warr all things were changed. The governing of the people was done as my old master, who never saw Virginia again, I grieve to say, would have had it. We became a law-abiding people, save when a few hot-heads stirred up trouble and got the worst of it.
When Nathaniel Peacock and I settled down as planters on our own account, there were eleven villages in the land of Virginia, and, living in them, more than four thousand men, women, and children.
It was no longer a country over which the savages ruled without check, though sad to relate, the brown men of the land shed the blood of white men like water, ere they were driven out from among us.
It is well I set down here at the end, that but for Captain John Smith and Master Hunt, Nathaniel Peacock and I might have remained in London to become worthless vagabonds, whereas we stand to-day free men, planters who are fairly well respected among our fellows; and I hope, as well as believe, that no man within this land of Virginia can say that he was ever wronged or made sorrowful by Nathaniel Peacock or Richard of Jamestown.
WEEK 52 |
HE Ruggleses had finished a last romp in the library with Paul and Hugh, and Uncle Jack had taken them home and stayed a while to chat with Mrs. Ruggles, who opened the door for them, her face all aglow with excitement and delight. When Kitty and Clem showed her the oranges and nuts they had kept for her, she astonished them by saying that at six o'clock Mrs. Bird had sent her in the finest dinner she had ever seen in her life; and not only that, but a piece of dress-goods that must have cost a dollar a yard if it cost a cent.
As Uncle Jack went down the rickety steps he looked back into the window for a last glimpse of the family, as the children gathered about their mother, showing their beautiful presents again and again, and then upward to a window in the great house yonder. "A little child shall lead them," he thought. "Well, if—if anything ever happens to Carol, I will take the Ruggleses under my wing."
"Softly, Uncle Jack," whispered the boys, as he walked into the library a little while later. "We are listening to the music in the church. The choir has sung 'Carol, brothers, carol,' and now we think the organist is beginning to play 'My ain countree' for Carol."
"I hope she hears it," said Mrs. Bird; "but they are very late to-night, and I dare not speak to her lest she should be asleep. It is almost ten o'clock."
The boy soprano, clad in white surplice, stood in the organ loft. The light shone full upon his crown of fair hair, and his pale face, with its serious blue eyes, looked paler than usual. Perhaps it was something in the tender thrill of the voice, or in the sweet words, but there were tears in many eyes, both in the church and in the great house next door.
"I am far frae my hame,
I am weary aften whiles
For the langed for hame-bringin',
An' my Faether's welcome smiles;
An' I 'll ne'er be fu' content,
Until my e'en do see
The gowden gates o' heaven
In my ain countree.
"The earth is decked wi' flow'rs,
Mony tinted, fresh an' gay,
An' the birdies warble blythely,
For my Faether made them sae;
But these sights an' these soun's
Will as naething be to me,
When I hear the angels singin'
In my ain countree.
"Like a bairn to its mither,
A wee birdie to its nest,
I fain would be gangin' noo
Unto my Faether's breast;
For He gathers in His arms
Helpless, worthless lambs like me,
An' carries them Himsel'
To His ain countree."
"MY AIN COUNTREE"
There were tears in many eyes, but not in Carol's. The loving heart had quietly ceased to beat and the "wee birdie" in the great house had flown to its "home nest." Carol had fallen asleep! But as to the song, I think perhaps, I cannot say, she heard it after all!
So sad an ending to a happy day! Perhaps—to those who were left; and yet Carol's mother, even in the freshness of her grief, was glad that her darling had slipped away on the loveliest day of her life, out of its glad content, into everlasting peace.
She was glad that she had gone, as she had come, on wings of song, when all the world was brimming over with joy; glad of every grateful smile, of every joyous burst of laughter, of every loving thought and word and deed the dear last day had brought.
Sadness reigned, it is true, in the little house behind the garden; and one day poor Sarah Maud, with a courage born of despair, threw on her hood and shawl, walked straight to a certain house a mile away, up the marble steps into good Dr. Bartol's office, falling at his feet as she cried, "Oh, sir, it was me an' our children that went to Miss Carol's last dinner-party, an' if we made her worse we can't never be happy again!" Then the kind old gentleman took her rough hand in his and told her to dry her tears, for neither she nor any of her flock had hastened Carol's flight; indeed, he said that had it not been for the strong hopes and wishes that filled her tired heart, she could not have stayed long enough to keep that last merry Christmas with her dear ones.
And so the old years, fraught with memories, die, one after another, and the new years, bright with hopes, are born to take their places; but Carol lives again in every chime of Christmas bells that peal glad tidings, and in every Christmas anthem sung by childish voices.
WEEK 52 |
W HILE it is true that Peter Rabbit likes winter, it is also true that life is anything but easy for him that season. In the first place he has to travel about a great deal to get sufficient food, and that means that he must run more risks. There isn't a minute of day or night that he is outside of the dear Old Briar-patch when he can afford not to watch and listen for danger. You see, at this season of the year, Reddy Fox often finds it difficult to get a good meal. He is hungry most of the time, and he is forever hunting for Peter Rabbit. With snow on the ground and no leaves on the bushes and young trees, it is not easy for Peter to hide. So, as he travels about, the thought of Reddy Fox is always in his mind.
But there are others whom Peter fears even more, and these wear feathers instead of fur coats. One of these is Terror the Goshawk. Peter is not alone in his fear of Terror. There is not one among his feathered friends who will not shiver at the mention of Terror's name. Peter will not soon forget the day he discovered that Terror had come down from the Far North, and was likely to stay for the rest of the winter. Peter went hungry all the rest of that day.
You see it was this way: Peter had gone over to the Green Forest
very early that morning in the hope of getting breakfast in a
certain swamp. He was hopping along, lipperty-
Now Peter has learned that the wise thing to do when one has such a feeling as that is to seek safety first and investigate afterwards. At the instant he felt that strange feeling of fear he was passing a certain big, hollow log. Without really knowing why he did it, because, you know, he didn't stop to do any thinking, he dived into that hollow log, and even as he did so there was the sharp swish of great wings. Terror the Goshawk had missed catching Peter by the fraction of a second.
With his heart thumping as if it were trying to pound its way through his ribs, Peter peeped out of that hollow log. Terror had alighted on a tall stump only a few feet away. To Peter in his fright he seemed the biggest bird he ever had seen. Of course he wasn't. Actually he was very near the same size as Redtail the Hawk, whom Peter knew well. He was handsome. There was no denying the fact that he was handsome.
His back was bluish. His head seemed almost black. Over and behind each eye was a white line. Underneath he was beautifully marked with wavy bars of gray and white. On his tail were four dark bands. Yes, he was handsome. But Peter had no thought for his beauty. He could see nothing but the fierceness of the eyes that were fixed on the entrance to that hollow log. Peter shivered as if with a cold chill. He knew that in Terror was no pity or gentleness.
"I hope," thought Peter, "that Mr. and Mrs. Grouse are nowhere about." You see he knew that there is no one that Terror would rather catch than a member of the Grouse family.
Terror did not sit on that stump long. He knew that Peter was not likely to come out in a hurry. Presently he flew away, and Peter suspected from the direction in which he was headed that Terror was going over to visit Farmer Brown's henyard. Of all the members of the Hawk family there is none more bold than Terror the Goshawk. He would not hesitate to seize a hen from almost beneath Farmer Brown's nose. He is well named, for the mere suspicion that he is anywhere about strikes terror to the heart of all the furred and feathered folks. He is so swift of wing that few can escape him, and he has no pity, but kills for the mere love of killing. In this respect he is like Shadow the Weasel. To kill for food is forgiven by the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows, but to kill needlessly is unpardonable. This is why Terror the Goshawk is universally hated and has not a single friend.
All that day Peter remained hidden in that hollow log. He did not dare put foot outside until the Black Shadows began to creep through the Green Forest. Then he knew that there was nothing more to fear from Terror the Goshawk, for he hunts only by day. Once more Peter's thoughts were chiefly of his stomach, for it was very, very empty.
But it was not intended that Peter should fill his stomach at
once. He had gone but a little way when from just ahead of
him the silence of the early evening was broken by a terrifying
It was the hunting call of Hooty the Great Horned Owl, and it had been intended to frighten some one into jumping and running, or at least into moving ever so little. Peter knew all about that trick of Hooty's. He knew that in all the Green Forest there are no ears so wonderful as those of Hooty the Owl, and that the instant he had uttered that fierce hunting call he had strained those wonderful ears to catch the faintest sound which some startled little sleeper of the night might make. The rustle of a leaf would be enough to bring Hooty to the spot on his great silent wings, and then his fierce yellow eyes, which are made for seeing in the dusk, would find the victim.
So Peter sat still, fearful that the very thumping of his heart might reach those wonderful ears. Again that terrible hunting cry rang out, and again Peter had all he could do to keep from jumping. But he didn't jump, and a few minutes later, as he sat staring at a certain tall, dead stub of a tree, wondering just where Hooty was, the top of that stub seemed to break off, and a great, broad-winged bird flew away soundlessly like a drifting shadow. It was Hooty himself. Sitting perfectly straight on the top of that tall, dead stub he had seemed a part of it. Peter waited some time before he ventured to move. Finally he heard Hooty's hunting call in a distant part of the Green Forest, and knew that it was safe for him to once more think of his empty stomach.
Later in the winter while the snow still lay in the Green Forest, and the ice still bound the Laughing Brook, Peter made a surprising discovery. He was over in a certain lonely part of the Green Forest when he happened to remember that near there was an old nest which had once belonged to Redtail the Hawk. Out of idle curiosity Peter ran over for a look at that old nest. Imagine how surprised he was when just as he came within sight of it, he saw a great bird just settling down on it. Peter's heart jumped right up in his throat. At least that is the way it seemed, for he recognized Mrs. Hooty.
Of course Peter stopped right where he was and took the greatest care not to move or make a sound. Presently Hooty himself appeared and perched in a tree near at hand. Peter has seen Hooty many times before, but always as a great, drifting shadow in the moonlight. Now he could see him clearly. As he sat bolt upright he seemed to be of the same height as Terror the Goshawk, but with a very much bigger body. If Peter had but known it, his appearance of great size was largely due to the fluffy feathers in which Hooty was clothed. Like his small cousin, Spooky the Screech Owl, Hooty seemed to have no neck at all. He looked as if his great head was set directly on his shoulders. From each side of his head two great tufts of feathers stood out like ears or horns. His bill was sharply hooked. He was dressed wholly in reddish-brown with little buff and black markings, and on his throat was a white patch. His legs were feathered, and so were his feet clear to the great claws
But it was on the great, round, fierce, yellow eyes that Peter kept his own eyes. He had always thought of Hooty as being able to see only in the dusk of evening or on moonlight nights, but somehow he had a feeling that even now in broad daylight Hooty could see perfectly well, and he was quite right.
For a long time Peter sat there without moving. He dared not do anything else. After he had recovered from his first fright he began to wonder what Hooty and Mrs. Hooty were doing at that old nest. His curiosity was aroused. He felt that he simply must find out. By and by Hooty flew away very carefully, so as not to attract the attention of Mrs. Hooty. Peter stole back the way he had come. When he was far enough away to feel reasonably safe, he scampered as fast as ever he could. He wanted to get away from that place, and he wanted to find some one of whom he could ask questions.
Presently he met his cousin, Jumper the Hare, and at once in a most excited manner told him all he had seen.
Jumper listened until Peter was through. "If you'll take my advice," said he, "you'll keep away from that part of the Green Forest, Cousin Peter. From what you tell me it is quite clear to me that the Hooties have begun nesting."
"Nesting!" exclaimed Peter. "Nesting! Why, gentle Mistress Spring will not get here for a month yet!"
"I said nesting," retorted Jumper, speaking rather crossly, for you see he did not like to have his word doubted. "Hooty the Great Horned Owl doesn't wait for Mistress Spring. He and Mrs. Hooty believe in getting household cares out of the way early. Along about this time of year they hunt up an old nest of Redtail the Hawk or Blacky the Crow or Chatterer the Red Squirrel, for they do not take the trouble to build a nest themselves. Then Mrs. Hooty lays her eggs while there is still snow and ice. Why their youngsters don't catch their death from cold when they hatch out is more than I can say. But they don't. I'm sorry to hear that the Hooties have a nest here this year. It means a bad time for a lot of little folks in feathers and fur. I certainly shall keep away from that part of the Green Forest, and I advise you to."
Peter said that he certainly should, and then started on for the dear Old Briar-patch to think things over. The discovery that already the nesting season of a new year had begun turned Peter's thoughts towards the coming of sweet Mistress Spring and the return of his many feathered friends who had left for the far-away South so long before. A great longing to hear the voices of Welcome Robin and Winsome Bluebird and Little Friend the Song Sparrow swept over him, and a still greater longing for a bit of friendly gossip with Jenny Wren. In the past year he had learned much about his feathered neighbors, but there were still many things he wanted to know, things which only Jenny Wren could tell him. He was only just beginning to find out that no one knows all there is to know, especially about the birds. And no one ever will.
WEEK 52 |
WEEK 52 |
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WEEK 52 |
NCE upon a time there was a wide river that ran into the ocean, and beside it was a little city. And in that city was a wharf where great ships came from far countries. And a narrow road led down a very steep hill to that wharf, and anybody that wanted to go to the wharf had to go down the steep hill on the narrow road, for there wasn't any other way. And because ships had come there for a great many years and all the sailors and all the captains and all the men who had business with the ships had to go on that narrow road, the flagstones that made the sidewalks were much worn. That was a great many years ago.
The river and the ocean are there yet, as they always have been and always will be; and the city is there, but it is a different kind of a city from what it used to be. And the wharf is slowly falling down, for it is not used now; and the narrow road down the steep hill is all grown up with weeds and grass.
Many times, in the long ago, the brig Industry had sailed from that wharf, on voyages to far countries, and had come back again to the wharf, bringing spices and tea and sets of china and pretty little tables inlaid with ivory and ebony, and camel's hair shawls, and cloth of goat's hair, and logs of teak-wood to make things of, and many another beautiful thing. And, when Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob moved their office to Boston, she had sailed from a wharf in Boston to that far country. Captain Solomon was the captain of the Industry then. And Captain Solomon married and had sons, and when those sons were beginning to get old enough to go to sea, Captain Solomon stopped being a captain and became a farmer. For he didn't want his sons to go to sea, and he thought that, if he had a farm, away from the salt ocean, they wouldn't go. So he bought the farm that it tells about in the Farm Stories. But little Sol ran away to sea, just the same; and he got to be the captain of the Industry.
And Captain Jonathan got to be an old man, and he died peacefully. And still the brig Industry sailed to that far country and sailed back again. And the years passed, and Captain Jacob got to be a very old man, and he died, too; and Lois was an old woman, and little Jacob, her son, had grown to be a man, and little Lois, her daughter, had grown up and married. And still the brig Industry sailed on her voyages and came back again, but she was getting to be old, too.
And, at last, after more years had passed, the Industry was so old that she needed to have a lot done to her to make her safe. And her owners decided that it wasn't worth while to rebuild an old vessel, but they would build a new one instead; for they didn't build the kind of ship that the Industry was any more, but they built a kind that they thought was better and faster. So, when she got in the next time from that far country, they told her captain what they had decided to do. That captain wasn't Captain Sol. He didn't go to sea any more, but he lived in Boston.
So, when she had been unloaded, the captain and some sailors sailed her down to the wide river that the little city was beside. It took them only about a half a day to go there from Boston, and the Industry sailed into the river for the last time, and up to the wharf that was all falling down. And the men tied her to the wharf with great ropes. Many times had she been tied up at that wharf, and she had loaded there and had been unloaded there many times. But she now would never again go sailing out of the river into the great ocean.
Many times had she been tied up at that wharf.
And the captain went to the riggers of ships, and he had hard work to find them; but at last he found some riggers of ships that were left, and he told them to come to the wharf and take the sails and the yards off the Industry, and the masts out of her, because she was going to be broken up. And the riggers came, and they took the sails off the yards and they took the yards down; and they took down the topmasts, and they took off the bowsprit, and they took out the great masts that had felt the strain of the winds blowing on the sails for thousands and thousands of miles. And the Industry was nothing but an old hulk lying at an old wharf that was falling down.
Then some junk men came, and they stripped off the copper sheets that were on her bottom, and they took the iron work out of her, and they carried the copper sheets and the iron to their shop. Then they untied the great ropes which held the hulk to the wharf, and they towed all that was left of the Industry to a shallow place, up the wide river, and there they pulled it high up on the shore. And some more men came and began stripping off the sheathing of thin boards that had been put on outside of her planking, and they sawed this sheathing up until it was small enough to go in a fireplace, and they split it up into small sticks. For the sheathing, that has been next to the copper sheets and has gone in the salt water for so many years, would burn with pretty green and blue flames and little flashes of red. And then they began to take off her thick planking of oak.
Lois's son, that had been little Jacob, was Squire Jacob when he had grown up. And he heard of it, and he came to see the end of the Industry. And, when he saw the remains of the ship lying there on the shore, and saw where the men had taken the planks off, so that her great ribs showed, like a skeleton, the sight filled his heart with sadness. He thought of the voyage that he had made in her, when he was a little boy, and he thought of the many times that she had sailed to that far country and had always brought the sailors and the captains back safe; and he stood there, looking, for a long time. But, at last, he turned away, and he went to the men who had the sheathing all sawed and split into small sticks, and he bought that sheathing, every bit of it. And he told the men that he would like to have the rudder and one or two of the ribs. And the men said that they would be glad to give him the rudder and some of the ribs.
Then he went back to the little city, and he found an old sailor who had sailed in the Industry. That sailor was an old man and he didn't go to sea any more, he was so old; but he lived in a nice kind of a place that was for old sailors to live in, and he liked to whittle things with his knife. He could whittle pretty well, for sailors are great whittlers. And Lois's son, Squire Jacob, told this old sailor about the Industry, and how he had bought all the sheathing that there was, and that he would have the rudder and some of the ribs. And he asked the sailor if he could manage to make a model of the brig Industry out of the rudder, and fit it with sails and everything just as the Industry really had been. And the sailor was sorry when he heard about it, and he said he would like nothing better than to make the model, and it should be exactly like the Industry, down to the smallest block and the least rope. And he said that he would make the model for nothing if he might have the rest of the rudder to make a model for himself, too.
So Squire Jacob was glad, and he told the old sailor that he could have the rest of the rudder and welcome, and that he must come up sometimes and sit in front of his fire when the sheathing was burning; for he had a good deal of it, and it would be a long time before it was all burned up. And the old man thanked him and said that he would be glad to come.
Then Squire Jacob went to some cabinet makers, and he said that he would like to have them make a chair for him out of the ribs of the Industry. It would be an arm-chair and would have a picture of the brig carved in the wood up at the top of the back. And the cabinet makers understood, and they said that they would make him the arm-chair.
And at last the arm-chair was all done, and the model was almost done; but the arm-chair was done first. And, one evening, Squire Jacob was sitting in the arm-chair before the fire, and in his hand he held the little model of the Industry, that an old sailor had carved, with his jackknife, for his Christmas present when he went on that voyage to far countries as a little boy. The hull of that little model was made of ebony and the masts and spars were little ebony sticks; 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. But the ivory sails were yellow with age, and the silk thread was all yellow and rotten.
That little model was only about three inches long, so that it rested easily on Squire Jacob's hand. He sat before the fire, looking at the little model, and his wife sat in another chair beside him. And their daughter, who was named Lois, was sitting in a low chair by her mother. That Lois was pretty nearly grown up. And Squire Jacob remembered, and he told his wife and his daughter Lois the things that it tells about in the Christmas Story.
When he had finished telling the Christmas Story, the door-bell rang; and Lois went to the door, and she came back and said that an old man was out in the hall, but he wouldn't come in. And Squire Jacob went out to the hall, and he came back with the old sailor who had carved the model of the brig Industry out of the real rudder of the ship. He had that model in his arms. And he set the model that he had brought in the middle of the mantel, over the fire, and sat down in the arm-chair. And Squire Jacob didn't say anything, but he handed him the little model, made of ebony and ivory.
The old sailor took the little model, and it made him remember many things; and he remembered about the old man who had carved that model and about that very voyage, for he had been one of the crew of the Industry when she went on that voyage to far countries and carried little Jacob and little Sol. And he told some stories about that sailor and that voyage that Squire Jacob was very glad to hear.
They all sat there for a long time, but they didn't say much. And the old sailor looked from the little model of the Industry, in his hand, to the big one, that was on the mantel before him; and Squire Jacob took some of the sheathing of the real Industry and put it on the fire. And it blazed up with flames that were all green and blue, and red.
"A many miles o' ocean's in that flame," said the old sailor, "a many miles."
"And a good ship," said Squire Jacob.
"That she was," said the old sailor. "A good ship."
And they watched the sheathing burning, and Squire Jacob thought that he saw pictures in the flames. At first he saw a ship all alone on the great ocean, and nothing could be seen from the ship but miles of tossing water; and the flame died out. Then another flame blazed up, and Squire Jacob saw a great river with a city on the bank, and the brig Industry was anchored in the river. And many little boats were rowed from the city to the ship and back again. The little boats were loaded with tea and spices and camel's-hair shawls and many other beautiful things. And he saw Captain Solomon on the ship and that flame died out. And another flame blazed up, and he saw the Industry just coming up the river and tying up at the wharf that the narrow road led down to. And that flame died out quickly, and the piece of sheathing only glowed, for it was all burned to ashes, and the ashes dropped down where the other ashes were.
And that's all of this book.