WEEK 10 |
T HE sun shone down for nearly a week on the secret garden. The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place. The few books she had read and liked had been fairy-story books, and she had read of secret gardens in some of the stories. Sometimes people went to sleep in them for a hundred years, which she had thought must be rather stupid. She had no intention of going to sleep, and, in fact, she was becoming wider awake every day which passed at Misselthwaite. She was beginning to like to be out of doors; she no longer hated the wind, but enjoyed it. She could run faster, and longer, and she could skip up to a hundred. The bulbs in the secret garden must have been much astonished. Such nice clear places were made round them that they had all the breathing space they wanted, and really, if Mistress Mary had known it, they began to cheer up under the dark earth and work tremendously. The sun could get at them and warm them, and when the rain came down it could reach them at once, so they began to feel very much alive.
Mary was an odd, determined little person, and now she had something interesting to be determined about, she was very much absorbed, indeed. She worked and dug and pulled up weeds steadily, only becoming more pleased with her work every hour instead of tiring of it. It seemed to her like a fascinating sort of play. She found many more of the sprouting pale green points than she had ever hoped to find. They seemed to be starting up everywhere and each day she was sure she found tiny new ones, some so tiny that they barely peeped above the earth. There were so many that she remembered what Martha had said about the "snowdrops by the thousands," and about bulbs spreading and making new ones. These had been left to themselves for ten years and perhaps they had spread, like the snowdrops, into thousands. She wondered how long it would be before they showed that they were flowers. Sometimes she stopped digging to look at the garden and try to imagine what it would be like when it was covered with thousands of lovely things in bloom.
During that week of sunshine, she became more intimate with Ben Weatherstaff. She surprised him several times by seeming to start up beside him as if she sprang out of the earth. The truth was that she was afraid that he would pick up his tools and go away if he saw her coming, so she always walked toward him as silently as possible. But, in fact, he did not object to her as strongly as he had at first. Perhaps he was secretly rather flattered by her evident desire for his elderly company. Then, also, she was more civil than she had been. He did not know that when she first saw him she spoke to him as she would have spoken to a native, and had not known that a cross, sturdy old Yorkshire man was not accustomed to salaam to his masters, and be merely commanded by them to do things.
"Tha'rt like th' robin," he said to her one morning when he lifted his head and saw her standing by him. "I never knows when I shall see thee or which side tha'll come from."
"He's friends with me now," said Mary.
"That's like him," snapped Ben Weatherstaff. "Makin' up to th' women folk just for vanity an' flightiness. There's nothin' he wouldn't do for th' sake o' showin' off an' flirtin' his tail-feathers. He's as full o' pride as an egg's full o' meat."
He very seldom talked much and sometimes did not even answer Mary's questions except by a grunt, but this morning he said more than usual. He stood up and rested one hobnailed boot on the top of his spade while he looked her over.
"How long has tha' been here?" he jerked out.
"I think it's about a month," she answered.
"Tha's beginnin' to do Misselthwaite credit," he said. "Tha's a bit fatter than tha' was an' tha's not quite so yeller. Tha' looked like a young plucked crow when tha' first came into this garden. Thinks I to myself I never set eyes on an uglier, sourer faced young 'un."
Mary was not vain and as she had never thought much of her looks she was not greatly disturbed.
"I know I'm fatter," she said. "My stockings are getting tighter. They used to make wrinkles. There's the robin, Ben Weatherstaff."
There, indeed, was the robin, and she thought he looked nicer than ever. His red waistcoat was as glossy as satin and he flirted his wings and tail and tilted his head and hopped about with all sorts of lively graces. He seemed determined to make Ben Weatherstaff admire him. But Ben was sarcastic.
"Aye, there tha' art!" he said. "Tha' can put up with me for a bit sometimes when tha's got no one better. Tha's been reddinin' up thy waistcoat an' polishin' thy feathers this two weeks. I know what tha's up to. Tha's courtin' some bold young madam somewhere, tellin' thy lies to her about bein' th' finest cock robin on Missel Moor an' ready to fight all th' rest of 'em."
"Oh! look at him!" exclaimed Mary.
The robin was evidently in a fascinating, bold mood. He hopped closer and closer and looked at Ben Weatherstaff more and more engagingly. He flew on to the nearest currant bush and tilted his head and sang a little song right at him.
"Tha' thinks tha'll get over me by doin' that," said Ben, wrinkling his face up in such a way that Mary felt sure he was trying not to look pleased. "Tha' thinks no one can stand out against thee—that's what tha' thinks."
The robin spread his wings—Mary could scarcely believe her eyes. He flew right up to the handle of Ben Weatherstaff's spade and alighted on the top of it. Then the old man's face wrinkled itself slowly into a new expression. He stood still as if he were afraid to breathe—as if he would not have stirred for the world, lest his robin should start away. He spoke quite in a whisper.
"Well, I'm danged!" he said as softly as if he were saying something quite different. "Tha' does know how to get at a chap—tha' does! Tha's fair unearthly, tha's so knowin'."
And he stood without stirring—almost without drawing his breath—until the robin gave another flirt to his wings and flew away. Then he stood looking at the handle of the spade as if there might be Magic in it, and then he began to dig again and said nothing for several minutes.
But because he kept breaking into a slow grin now and then, Mary was not afraid to talk to him.
"Have you a garden of your own?" she asked.
"No. I'm bachelder an' lodge with Martin at th' gate."
"If you had one," said Mary, "what would you plant?"
"Cabbages an' 'taters an' onions."
"But if you wanted to make a flower garden," persisted Mary, "what would you plant?"
"Bulbs an' sweet-smellin' things—but mostly roses."
Mary's face lighted up.
"Do you like roses?" she said.
Ben Weatherstaff rooted up a weed and threw it aside before he answered.
"Well, yes, I do. I was learned that by a young lady I was gardener to. She had a lot in a place she was fond of, an' she loved 'em like they was children—or robins. I've seen her bend over an' kiss 'em." He dragged out another weed and scowled at it. "That were as much as ten year' ago."
"Where is she now?" asked Mary, much interested.
"Heaven," he answered, and drove his spade deep into the soil,
"What happened to the roses?" Mary asked again, more interested than ever.
"They was left to themselves."
Mary was becoming quite excited.
"Did they quite die? Do roses quite die when they are left to themselves?" she ventured.
"Well, I'd got to like 'em—an' I liked her—an' she liked 'em," Ben Weatherstaff admitted reluctantly. "Once or twice a year I'd go an' work at 'em a bit—prune 'em an' dig about th' roots. They run wild, but they was in rich soil, so some of 'em lived."
"When they have no leaves and look gray and brown and dry, how can you tell whether they are dead or alive?" inquired Mary.
"Wait till th' spring gets at 'em—wait till th' sun shines on th' rain an' th' rain falls on th' sunshine an' then tha'll find out."
"How—how?" cried Mary, forgetting to be careful.
"Look along th' twigs an' branches an' if tha' sees a bit of a brown lump swelling here an' there, watch it after th' warm rain an' see what happens." He stopped suddenly and looked curiously at her eager face. "Why does tha' care so much about roses an' such, all of a sudden?" he demanded.
Mistress Mary felt her face grow red. She was almost afraid to answer.
"I—I want to play that—that I have a garden of my own," she stammered. "I—there is nothing for me to do. I have nothing—and no one."
"Well," said Ben Weatherstaff slowly, as he watched her, "that's true. Tha' hasn't."
He said it in such an odd way that Mary wondered if he was actually a little sorry for her. She had never felt sorry for herself; she had only felt tired and cross, because she disliked people and things so much. But now the world seemed to be changing and getting nicer. If no one found out about the secret garden, she should enjoy herself always.
She stayed with him for ten or fifteen minutes longer and asked him as many questions as she dared. He answered every one of them in his queer grunting way and he did not seem really cross and did not pick up his spade and leave her. He said something about roses just as she was going away and it reminded her of the ones he had said he had been fond of.
"Do you go and see those other roses now?" she asked.
"Not been this year. My rheumatics has made me too stiff in th' joints."
He said it in his grumbling voice, and then quite suddenly he seemed to get angry with her, though she did not see why he should.
"Now look here!" he said sharply. "Don't tha' ask so many questions. Tha'rt th' worst wench for askin' questions I've ever come across. Get thee gone an' play thee. I've done talkin' for to-day."
And he said it so crossly that she knew there was not the least use in staying another minute. She went skipping slowly down the outside walk, thinking him over and saying to herself that, queer as it was, here was another person whom she liked in spite of his crossness. She liked old Ben Weatherstaff. Yes, she did like him. She always wanted to try to make him talk to her. Also she began to believe that he knew everything in the world about flowers.
There was a laurel-hedged walk which curved round the secret garden and ended at a gate which opened into a wood, in the park. She thought she would skip round this walk and look into the wood and see if there were any rabbits hopping about. She enjoyed the skipping very much and when she reached the little gate she opened it and went through because she heard a low, peculiar whistling sound and wanted to find out what it was.
It was a very strange thing indeed. She quite caught her breath as she stopped to look at it. A boy was sitting under a tree, with his back against it, playing on a rough wooden pipe. He was a funny looking boy about twelve. He looked very clean and his nose turned up and his cheeks were as red as poppies and never had Mistress Mary seen such round and such blue eyes in any boy's face. And on the trunk of the tree he leaned against, a brown squirrel was clinging and watching him, and from behind a bush nearby a cock pheasant was delicately stretching his neck to peep out, and quite near him were two rabbits sitting up and sniffing with tremulous noses—and actually it appeared as if they were all drawing near to watch him and listen to the strange low little call his pipe seemed to make.
When he saw Mary he held up his hand and spoke to her in a voice almost as low as and rather like his piping.
"Don't tha' move," he said. "It'd flight 'em."
Mary remained motionless. He stopped playing his pipe and began to rise from the ground. He moved so slowly that it scarcely seemed as though he were moving at all, but at last he stood on his feet and then the squirrel scampered back up into the branches of his tree, the pheasant withdrew his head and the rabbits dropped on all fours and began to hop away, though not at all as if they were frightened.
"I'm Dickon," the boy said. "I know tha'rt Miss Mary."
Then Mary realized that somehow she had known at first that he was Dickon. Who else could have been charming rabbits and pheasants as the natives charm snakes in India? He had a wide, red, curving mouth and his smile spread all over his face.
"I got up slow," he explained, "because if tha' makes a quick move it startles 'em. A body 'as to move gentle an' speak low when wild things is about."
He did not speak to her as if they had never seen each other before but as if he knew her quite well. Mary knew nothing about boys and she spoke to him a little stiffly because she felt rather shy.
"Did you get Martha's letter?" she asked.
He nodded his curly, rust-colored head.
"That's why I come."
He stooped to pick up something which had been lying on the ground beside him when he piped.
"I've got th' garden tools. There's a little spade an' rake an' a fork an' hoe. Eh! they are good 'uns. There's a trowel, too. An' th' woman in th' shop threw in a packet o' white poppy an' one o' blue larkspur when I bought th' other seeds."
"Will you show the seeds to me?" Mary said.
She wished she could talk as he did. His speech was so quick and easy. It sounded as if he liked her and was not the least afraid she would not like him, though he was only a common moor boy, in patched clothes and with a funny face and a rough, rusty-red head. As she came closer to him she noticed that there was a clean fresh scent of heather and grass and leaves about him, almost as if he were made of them. She liked it very much and when she looked into his funny face with the red cheeks and round blue eyes she forgot that she had felt shy.
"Let us sit down on this log and look at them," she said.
They sat down and he took a clumsy little brown paper package out of his coat pocket. He untied the string and inside there were ever so many neater and smaller packages with a picture of a flower on each one.
"There's a lot o' mignonette an' poppies," he said. "Mignonette's th' sweetest smellin' thing as grows, an' it'll grow wherever you cast it, same as poppies will. Them as'll come up an' bloom if you just whistle to 'em, them's th' nicest of all."
He stopped and turned his head quickly, his poppy-cheeked face lighting up.
"Where's that robin as is callin' us?" he said.
The chirp came from a thick holly bush, bright with scarlet berries, and Mary thought she knew whose it was.
"Is it really calling us?" she asked.
"Aye," said Dickon, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, "he's callin' some one he's friends with. That's same as sayin' 'Here I am. Look at me. I wants a bit of a chat.' There he is in the bush. Whose is he?"
"He's Ben Weatherstaff's, but I think he knows me a little," answered Mary.
"Aye, he knows thee," said Dickon in his low voice again. "An' he likes thee. He's took thee on. He'll tell me all about thee in a minute."
He moved quite close to the bush with the slow movement Mary had noticed before, and then he made a sound almost like the robin's own twitter. The robin listened a few seconds, intently, and then answered quite as if he were replying to a question.
"Aye, he's a friend o' yours," chuckled Dickon.
"Do you think he is?" cried Mary eagerly. She did so want to know. "Do you think he really likes me?"
"He wouldn't come near thee if he didn't," answered Dickon. "Birds is rare choosers an' a robin can flout a body worse than a man. See, he's making up to thee now. 'Cannot tha' see a chap?' he's sayin'."
And it really seemed as if it must be true. He so sidled and twittered and tilted as he hopped on his bush.
"Do you understand everything birds say?" said Mary.
Dickon's grin spread until he seemed all wide, red, curving mouth, and he rubbed his rough head.
"I think I do, and they think I do," he said. "I've lived on th' moor with 'em so long. I've watched 'em break shell an' come out an' fledge an' learn to fly an' begin to sing, till I think I'm one of 'em. Sometimes I think p'raps I'm a bird, or a fox, or a rabbit, or a squirrel, or even a beetle, an' I don't know it."
He laughed and came back to the log and began to talk about the flower seeds again. He told her what they looked like when they were flowers; he told her how to plant them, and watch them, and feed and water them.
"See here," he said suddenly, turning round to look at her. "I'll plant them for thee myself. Where is tha' garden?"
Mary's thin hands clutched each other as they lay on her lap. She did not know what to say, so for a whole minute she said nothing. She had never thought of this. She felt miserable. And she felt as if she went red and then pale.
"Tha's got a bit o' garden, hasn't tha'?" Dickon said.
It was true that she had turned red and then pale. Dickon saw her do it, and as she still said nothing, he began to be puzzled.
"Wouldn't they give thee a bit?" he asked. "Hasn't tha' got any yet?"
She held her hands even tighter and turned her eyes toward him.
"I don't know anything about boys," she said slowly. "Could you keep a secret, if I told you one? It's a great secret. I don't know what I should do if any one found it out. I believe I should die!" She said the last sentence quite fiercely.
Dickon looked more puzzled than ever and even rubbed his hand over his rough head again, but he answered quite good-humoredly.
"I'm keepin' secrets all th' time," he said. "If I couldn't keep secrets from th' other lads, secrets about foxes' cubs, an' birds' nests, an' wild things' holes, there'd be naught safe on th' moor. Aye, I can keep secrets."
Mistress Mary did not mean to put out her hand and clutch his sleeve but she did it.
"I've stolen a garden," she said very fast. "It isn't mine. It isn't anybody's. Nobody wants it, nobody cares for it, nobody ever goes into it. Perhaps everything is dead in it already; I don't know."
She began to feel hot and as contrary as she had ever felt in her life.
"I don't care, I don't care! Nobody has any right to take it from me when I care about it and they don't. They're letting it die, all shut in by itself," she ended passionately, and she threw her arms over her face and burst out crying—poor little Mistress Mary.
Dickon's curious blue eyes grew rounder and rounder.
"Eh-h-h!" he said, drawing his exclamation out slowly, and the way he did it meant both wonder and sympathy.
"I've nothing to do," said Mary. "Nothing belongs to me. I found it myself and I got into it myself. I was only just like the robin, and they wouldn't take it from the robin."
"Where is it?" asked Dickon in a dropped voice.
Mistress Mary got up from the log at once. She knew she felt contrary again, and obstinate, and she did not care at all. She was imperious and Indian, and at the same time hot and sorrowful.
"Come with me and I'll show you," she said.
She led him round the laurel path and to the walk where the ivy grew so thickly. Dickon followed her with a queer, almost pitying, look on his face. He felt as if he were being led to look at some strange bird's nest and must move softly. When she stepped to the wall and lifted the hanging ivy he started. There was a door and Mary pushed it slowly open and they passed in together, and then Mary stood and waved her hand round defiantly.
"It's this," she said. "It's a secret garden, and I'm the only one in the world who wants it to be alive."
Dickon looked round and round about it, and round and round again.
"Eh!" he almost whispered, "it is a queer, pretty place! It's like as if a body was in a dream."
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
T HE midnight ride of Paul Revere happened a long time ago when this country was ruled by the king of England.
There were thousands of English soldiers in Boston. The king had sent them there to make the people obey his unjust laws. These soldiers guarded the streets of the town; they would not let any one go out or come in without their leave.
The people did not like this. They said, "We have a right to be free men, but the king treats us as slaves. He makes us pay taxes and gives us nothing in return. He sends soldiers among us to take away our liberty."
The whole country was stirred up. Brave men left their homes and hurried toward Boston.
They said, "We do not wish to fight against the king, but we are free men, and he must not send soldiers to oppress us. If the people of Boston must fight for their liberty, we will help them."
These men were not afraid of the king's soldiers. Some of them camped in Charlestown, a village near Boston. From the hills of Charlestown they could watch and see what the king's soldiers were doing.
They wished to be ready to defend themselves, if the soldiers should try to do them harm. For this reason they had bought some powder and stored it at Concord, nearly twenty miles away.
When the king's soldiers heard about this powder, they made up their minds to go out and get it for themselves.
Among the watchers at Charlestown was a brave young man named Paul Revere. He was ready to serve his country in any way that he could.
One day a friend of his who lived in Boston came to see him. He came very quietly and secretly, to escape the soldiers.
"I have something to tell you," he said. "Some of the king's soldiers are going to Concord to get the powder that is there. They are getting ready to start this very night."
"Indeed!" said Paul Revere. "They shall get no powder, if I can help it. I will stir up all the farmers between here and Concord, and those fellows will have a hot time of it. But you must help me."
"I will do all that I can," said his friend.
"Well, then," said Paul Revere, "you must go back to Boston and watch. Watch, and as soon as the soldiers are ready to start, hang a lantern in the tower of the old North Church. If they are to cross the river, hang two. I will be here, ready. As soon as I see the light, I will mount my horse and ride out to give the alarm."
And so it was done.
When night came, Paul Revere was at the riverside with his horse. He looked over toward Boston. He knew where the old North Church stood, but he could not see much in the darkness.
Hour after hour he stood and watched. The town seemed very still; but now and then he could hear the beating of a drum or the shouting of some soldier.
The moon rose, and by its light he could see the dim form of the church tower, far away. He heard the clock strike ten. He waited and watched.
The clock struck eleven. He was beginning to feel tired. Perhaps the soldiers had given up their plan.
He walked up and down the river bank, leading his horse behind him; but he kept his eyes turned always toward the dim, dark spot which he knew was the old North Church.
All at once a light flashed out from the tower. "Ah! there it is!" he cried. The soldiers had started.
He spoke to his horse. He put his foot in the stirrup. He was ready to mount.
Then another light flashed clear and bright by the side of the first one. The soldiers would cross the river.
Paul Revere sprang into the saddle. Like a bird let loose, his horse leaped forward. Away they went.
Away they went through the village street and out upon the country road.
"Up! up!" shouted Paul Revere. "The soldiers are coming! Up! up! and defend yourselves!"
The cry awoke the farmers; they sprang from their beds and looked out. They could not see the speeding horse, but they heard the clatter of its hoofs far down the road, and they understood the cry, "Up! up! and defend yourselves!"
"It is the alarm! The redcoats are coming," they said to each other. Then they took their guns, their axes, anything they could find, and hurried out.
So, through the night, Paul Revere rode toward Concord. At every farmhouse and every village he repeated his call.
The alarm quickly spread. Guns were fired. Bells were rung. The people for miles around were roused as though a fire were raging.
The king's soldiers were surprised to find everybody awake along the road. They were angry because their plans had been discovered.
When they reached Concord, they burned the courthouse there.
At Lexington, not far from Concord, there was a sharp fight in which several men were killed. This, in history, is called the Battle of Lexington. It was the beginning of the war called the Revolutionary War.
But the king's soldiers did not find the gunpowder. They were glad enough to march back without it. All along the road the farmers were waiting for them. It seemed as if every man in the country was after them. And they did not feel themselves safe until they were once more in Boston.
I am coming, I am coming!
Hark! the little bee is humming;
See, the lark is soaring high
In the blue and sunny sky;
And the gnats are on the wing,
Wheeling round in airy ring.
See, the yellow catkins cover
All the slender willows over!
And on the banks of mossy green
Starlike primroses are seen;
And, their clustering leaves below,
White and purple violets blow.
Hark! the new-born lambs are bleating,
And the cawing rooks are meeting
In the elms,—a noisy crowd;
All the birds are singing loud.
And the first white butterfly
In the sunshine dances by.
Look around you, look around!
Flowers in all the fields abound,
Every running stream is bright,
All the orchard trees are white,
And each small and waving shoot
Promises sweet flowers and fruit.
Turn thine eyes to earth and heaven:
God for thee the spring has given,
Taught the birds their melodies,
Clothed the earth, and cleared the skies,
For thy pleasure or thy food:
Pour thy soul in gratitude.
WEEK 10 |
T HE Britons were very glad to see the last of these heathen Saxons, and Vortimer began to restore order, and rebuild the towns and churches, which Hengist and Horsa and their men had destroyed.
Vortimer was a very good king and his people loved him and obeyed him. But there was one person in the land who hated him. That person was his stepmother, Rowena. She hated him because he had driven her father, Hengist, and all her countrymen away.
Rowena tried in many ways to kill Vortimer, but she could not succeed. His people loved him so much that they guarded him well. At last, however, she found a wicked man who, because she promised him a great sum of money, agreed to poison Vortimer. So one day the people were told the sad news that their good king was dead. After this we do not hear very much more of Rowena, nor do we know if she was ever punished for her wickedness.
As soon as Vortigern heard that his son was dead, he came from the castle in Wales where he had been hiding, and made himself king again.
Then Rowena sent messengers to her father, and he gathered all his ships and men together, and came sailing over the sea to Britain once more.
When the Britons heard that Hengist was coming, they were very angry, and prepared to fight. Vortigern was frightened too. He sent a message to Hengist telling him that he must go away again. "The Britons are ready for battle," he said, "and you and your men will all be killed if you try to land."
But Hengist was as cunning as ever. He sent back a message to Vortigern saying that he did not know that Vortimer was dead. "I came to fight for you, to help you to regain your throne," he said. "But now that you are King again there is no need to fight. Let us be friends. Let us all, Britons and Saxons, meet together at a great feast. Let us forget our quarrels and make peace. Then I will go home again with my soldiers."
Vortigern told the British nobles that Hengist wanted to make friends. The Britons really did not wish to fight any more, so they readily agreed to meet Hengist in a friendly way on the Plain of Salisbury, and feast together.
A day was fixed. It was in May. The grass was green and the sky blue, and the birds sang on this bright spring day. From all sides came the British nobles in their gayest holiday clothes, wearing no armour and carrying no weapons.
The Saxons, too, came gaudily clad and seemingly unarmed.
There was laughter, and talk and friendly greeting, and the feast began. Suddenly, over the noise of the feasting, the voice of Hengist sounded loud, "Draw your daggers."
Then every Saxon drew his dagger, which he had hidden in his stocking, and stabbed the Briton next to him. The Britons fought and struggled bravely, but they had no chance. They had only their bare hands with which to defend themselves, for they had not dreamed of such treachery.
Only two of all the Britons were saved. One was Vortigern, the king, because Hengist had ordered his soldiers not to kill him; the other was Edol, Earl of Gloucester. He found a wooden stake lying on the ground, and defended himself so bravely with it that, it is said, he killed seventy of the Saxons, and then escaped with his life.
After this wicked and cowardly slaughter of unarmed men, Hengist took possession of Britain. His wild, heathen soldiers swarmed all over the land, killing people, burning towns and making terrible havoc everywhere. The Britons fled in terror to the mountains and forests. Vortigern himself fled into a lonely part of Wales. There he built a strong castle in which to hide, for he was very much afraid. He was afraid of Hengist and the Saxons, and he was afraid of the Britons. He was also afraid of Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon, the two brothers of King Constans. For by this time they were no longer little boys, but had grown up into brave men.
Vortigern had need to be afraid of Aurelius and Uther, for, hearing how Hengist had taken possession of Britain, they thought it was now time to fight for their country. So they gathered ships and soldiers together, and came sailing over from France to Britain.
When the Britons heard that Aurelius Ambrosius and his brother had landed, they took heart again. They came out from the places in which they had been hiding from the Saxons. Joyfully they offered themselves to fight under the banner of the brothers.
As soon as Aurelius and Uther had collected their army, they marched straight to Wales to besiege Vortigern in his castle. They had not forgotten that he had murdered their brother, Constans, and they meant to punish him.
But the castle was very, very strong. Try how they might, the Britons could not take it. Vortigern sat behind the thick walls, and laughed at all their efforts.
At last the Britons fell upon a plan. They cut down trees and gathered dry sticks and leaves from the forests round about. These they piled high round the castle. Day by day Vortigern watched the pile of wood rising, and wondered what was going to happen.
When the Britons had gathered enough wood, they set fire to
it in several places at once. So one morning Vortigern awoke
to hear the crackle, crackle of
The roar of the fire drowned all else. The flames leaped higher. With a crash the roof of the strong castle fell in. Vortigern, the betrayer of his people, was dead.
I T WAS early summer and Father Stickleback darted about in his gayest suit. His cheeks and throat were gleaming red and his eyes shone like bluish-green gems. Most of his body was shiny green above and silvery underneath.
Unlike many fishes, Father Stickleback had no scales, but he did wear a row of bony plates along each side. These plates seemed like strips of enamel, and you may call them his coat of mail, if you like. Along the middle of his back was a row of stickles, or daggerlike spines. His jaws were short, though strong, and his teeth were sharp.
Father Stickleback built a nest. He brought bits of seaweed and fastened them to the lower stems of sea plants with tough elastic fibers, or threads.
The material for these fibers was made in a special gland in his body. While inside the gland the material was a liquid, but as soon as the fish spun it into the water it hardened to a fiber that he could use in building his nest.
Father Stickleback's building material may remind you of the silk that caterpillars and spiders make in glands in their bodies. Silk, too, is a liquid while inside the glands, and it hardens to a fiber as it is spun and touches air.
The little builder shaped his nest like a tiny muff. He made the inside smooth by swimming along the wall and pressing against it with his body. There were two round doorways just the right size for sticklebacks to use.
After finishing this very good nest, inside and out, Father Stickleback rushed off to invite a Mother Stickleback to lay her eggs in it. He swam beside her to show her the way. As soon as she had placed her eggs on the floor and had gone out through one doorway, Father Stickleback went in at the other and put some milt over them. Fish eggs, as you may know, need milt to make them grow just as plant seeds need pollen.
The nest was not yet nearly full of eggs. What could be done with all that extra room? It was not wasted. Father Stickleback hurried away and invited other Mother Sticklebacks to put their eggs there, too. So they came with him, one at a time, until the little nursery was filled with eggs almost to the doorways.
Father Stickleback waited near the home he had built, guarding it from snails and other intruders. When the eggs were about ready to hatch, he went into the nest and moved clumps of them, lifting them with his mouth and letting the water flow freely among them.
Father Stickleback guards his nest.
The eggs did not all hatch the same day. Some of Father Stickleback's sons and daughters were two or three days old before the youngest of the fry, or baby fish, were hatched. After moving about inside the nest for a number of hours, the older babies went to the doorway. The watery world looked pleasant as far as they could see, and after a little wait one of them slipped outside for a swim. He did not go far. Father Stickleback hastened after the tiny runaway, picked him up in his mouth, and took him back inside his home before he let him go. Soon another venturesome baby started out and had to be brought back in the same way. One after another those youngsters kept their father busy, but all the while he was careful and gentle. In all his hurry he did not bite one of them.
Within a few days, however, the last of the eggs were hatched and the whole family of little Sticklebacks, forty or fifty in number, were eager to leave their crowded nursery. So out they swam and this time their father did not take them back. He went with his brood, guiding the little fry from place to place. He protected them by swimming with them and keeping hungry creatures away.
This little father is only about three inches long and you might think to glance at him that it would be all he could do to take care of himself. He is not, however, so helpless as you may suppose from his size. He is not at all timid. He is brave enough to bite pieces from the fins of really large fish. Indeed, he can fight quite fiercely if necessary.
While the Sticklebacks are moving swiftly about the bay they often pass Hippo Campus, a little fish who looks so much like a horse that he is called "Sea Horse" for one of his names. He has no scales on his body, but he is protected by bony plates that cover him from the top of his head to the tip of his tail.
Yes, there he goes now swimming with his body held erect—head up and tail down. When he comes to rest he is likely to grasp the stem of some sea plant with his finless, coiled tail and hang head down. In this position does the queer little fish make you think of a monkey swinging from a branch by his grasping tail?
Hippo Campus does not become dizzy as he rests in this way. He does not suffer from a rush of blood to the head. He is perfectly comfortable. He looks about him and sees Mother Sea Horse hanging head down with her tail twisted around the stem of a neighboring plant.
Since it is time for Mother Sea Horse to lay her eggs, she drops them into the water. They sink to the sand beneath her and she does not need to pay any attention to them at all. Father Hippo Campus untwists his tail from the plant stem and goes down after the eggs. He picks them up and puts them into a little egg pouch on the under side of his tail. Then he closes the opening with a special sort of glue he has. The father fish hangs himself up again by his tail in a place where the sun shines on him and warms the eggs in the pouch. When it is time, the young hatch from the eggs and find themselves wriggling inside the dark, closed pouch. There they stay until they grow so strong that they can wriggle hard enough to punch an opening in the side of the egg pouch. Then out go the fry—a whole herd of tiny sea horses.
Father Sea Horse guarding young sea horses.
Ocean sticklebacks and sea horses do not travel far at nesting time. They do not leave sea water to spawn (lay their eggs). Their young, like those of many other fish, thrive in salt water. There are fish, however, that migrate, or travel, to fresh water before they spawn. The young, or fry, of such fish, start their lives in lakes or streams and seek the ocean when they need a change.
These migrants are not regular neighbors of the sea horses and sticklebacks. They are visitors from farther off the coast that enter Holiday Cove during their journeys. For a few weeks each spring they use the cove for a gathering place through which they pass on their way to Holiday Stream and Holiday River.
There are the smelts, for instance. They are most numerous during the flood tide of the May moon. These fish migrate in crowds, called schools, as far as the high tide reaches, and glue their eggs to stones where the fresh water of Holiday Stream will flow over them when the tide goes out. The father and mother smelts return to the sea with the ebbing tide. Their spawning trip is a short one.
The alewives, too, come hurrying into the cove every spring. They are members of the Herring Family, as you might guess from the shape of them. They go to the foot of the falls that pour out of Holiday Stream into the cove. In their eagerness to reach the fresh water they push together so tightly that not even little Father Stickleback could find room to slip between them. The dark fins on their backs show above the water like tiny sails. There they wait until the tide comes in and lifts them higher and higher, and then at last they can climb over the top of the falls and make their way up stream.
It is exciting to see the alewives scrambling over the top rocks of the little falls in the stream, but it is even more thrilling to watch the salmon in Holiday River. These spring migrants leave the ocean by way of the cove and swim to the rapids at the base of the falls in the river. There these leapers jump out of the water and over the rocks from place to place until they reach the river above the falls. Then they travel until they come to a quiet lake.
After all their rush to get into fresh water in the spring, it is not until late fall that the mother salmon lay their eggs and the fathers cover them with milt. There in the sand near the edge of the lake the eggs remain in cold storage all winter. When the ice above them melts and the water around them is warmed by the sun in the spring, the eggs hatch. The salmon fry live for a while in the lake and then, when they are old enough, they travel slowly down the river to the cove, and so on to the waters of the coast.
Atlantic salmon on their spring journey.
Of course Father Stickleback and Father Hippo Campus do not know that all the young smelts and alewives and salmon that come down stream and visit the cove for a while are the sons and daughters of the parent fish that hurry into the cove in the springtime. These little stay-at-homes know nothing at all of the habits of migrants that leave the sea and seek fresh water for the spawning season.
As I wanderd the forest
The green leaves among
I heard a wild flower
Singing a Song—
I slept in the earth
In the silent night
I murmurd my fears
And I felt delight
In the morning I went
As rosy as morn
To seek for new Joy
But I met with scorn.
WEEK 10 |
A LL the way to school the next morning Peter Rabbit wondered who they would learn about that day. He was so busy wondering that he was heedless. Peter is apt to be heedless at times. The result was that as he hopped out of a bramble-tangle just within the edge of the Green Forest, he all but landed in something worse than the worst brambles that ever grew. It was only by a wild side jump that he saved himself. Peter had almost landed among the thousand little spears of Prickly Porky the Porcupine.
An independent fellow
with a thousand little spears in his coat.
"Gracious!" exclaimed Peter.
"Why don't you look where you are going," grunted Prickly Porky. Plainly he was rather peevish. "It wouldn't be my fault if you had a few of my little spears sticking in you this very minute, and it would serve you right." He waddled along a few steps, then began talking again. "I don't see why Old Mother Nature sent for me this morning," he grumbled. "I hate a long walk."
Peter pricked up his long ears. "I know!" he cried. "You're going to school, Prickly Porky. You're a Rodent, and we are going to learn all about you this morning."
"I'm not a Rodent; I'm a Porcupine," grunted Prickly Porky indignantly.
"You're a Rodent just the same. You've got big gnawing teeth, and any one with that kind of teeth is a Rodent," retorted Peter. Then at a sudden thought a funny look passed over his face. "Why, that means that you and I are related in a way," he added.
"Don't believe it," grunted Prickly Porky, still shuffling along. "Don't believe it. Don't want to be related to anybody as heedless as you. What is this school, anyway? Don't want to go to school. Know all I want to know. Know how to get all I want to eat and how to make everybody get out of my way and leave me alone, and that's enough to know." He rattled the thousand little spears hidden in his coat, and Peter shivered at the sound. It was a most unpleasant sound.
"Well, some folks do like to be stupid," snapped Peter and hurried
All the others were there when Peter arrived. Prickly Porky wasn't even in sight. Old Mother Nature wasted no time. She has too much to do to ever waste time. She called the school to order at once.
"Yesterday," she began, "I told you about two little haymakers of the high mountains of the Far West. Who were they, Peter Rabbit?"
"Little Chief Hare, called the Pika or Cony, and Stubtail the Mountain Beaver or Sewellel," replied Peter with great promptness.
"Right," said Old Mother Nature. "Now I am going to tell you of one of my little plowmen who also lives in the Far West but prefers the great plains to the high mountains, though he is sometimes found in the latter. He is Grubby the Gopher, a member of the same order the rest of you belong to, but of a family quite his own. He is properly called the Pocket Gopher, and way down in the Southeast, where he is also found, he is called a Salamander, though what for I haven't the least idea."
"Does he have pockets in his cheeks like mine?" asked Striped Chipmunk eagerly.
"He has pockets in his cheeks, and that is why he is called Pocket Gopher," replied Old Mother Nature; "but they are not at all like yours, Striped Chipmunk. Yours are on the inside of your cheeks, but his are on the outside."
"How funny!" exclaimed Striped Chipmunk.
"Your pockets are small compared with those of Grubby," continued Old Mother Nature. "One of his covers almost the whole side of his head back to his short neck, and it is lined with fur, and remember he has two of them. Grubby uses these for carrying food and never for carrying out earth when he is digging a tunnel, as some folks think he does. He stuffs them full with his front feet and empties them by pressing them from the back with his feet. The Gopher family is quite large and the members range in size from the size of Danny Meadow Mouse to that of Robber the Rat, only these bigger members are stouter and heavier than Robber. Some are reddish-brown and some are gray. But whatever his size and wherever he is found, Grubby's habits are the same."
The true Gopher and a great pest to farmers.
All this time Peter Rabbit had been fidgeting about. It was quite clear that Peter had something on his mind. Now as Old Mother Nature paused, Peter found the chance he had been waiting for. "If you please, why did you call him a plowman?" he asked eagerly.
"I'm coming to that all in due time," replied Old Mother Nature, smiling at Peter's eagerness. "Grubby Gopher spends most of his life underground, very much like Miner the Mole, whom you all know. He can dig tunnels just about as fast. His legs are short, and his front legs and feet are very stout and strong. They are armed with very long, strong claws and it is with these and the help of his big cutting teeth that Grubby digs. He throws the earth under him and then kicks it behind him with his hind feet. When he has quite a pile behind him he turns around, and with his front feet and head pushes it along to a little side tunnel and then up to the surface of the ground. As soon as he has it all out he plugs up the opening and goes back to digging. The loose earth he has pushed out makes little mounds, and he makes one of these mounds every few feet.
"Grubby is a great worker. He is very industrious. Since he is underground, it doesn't make much difference to him whether it be night or day. In summer, during the hottest part of the day, he rests. His eyes are small and weak because he has little use for them, coming out on the surface very seldom and then usually in the dusk. He has a funny little tail without any hair on it; this is very sensitive and serves him as a sort of guide when he runs backward along his tunnel, which he can do quite fast. A funny thing about those long claws on his front feet is that he folds them under when he is walking or running. Do any of you know why Farmer Brown plows his garden?"
As she asked this, Old Mother Nature looked from one to another, and each in turn shook his head. "It is to mix the dead vegetable matter thoroughly with the earth so that the roots of the plants may get it easily," explained Old Mother Nature. "By making those tunnels in every direction and bringing up the earth below to the surface, Grubby Gopher does the same thing. That is why I call him my little plowman. He loosens up the hard, packed earth and mixes the vegetable matter with it and so makes it easy for seeds to sprout and plants to grow."
"Then he must be one of the farmer's best friends," spoke up Happy Jack Squirrel.
Old Mother Nature shook her head. "He has been in the past," said she. "He has done a wonderful work in helping make the land fit for farming. But where land is being farmed he is a dreadful pest, I am sorry to say. You see he eats the crops the farmer tries to raise, and the new mounds he is all the time throwing up bury a lot of the young plants, and in the meadows make it very hard to use a mowing machine for cutting hay. Then Grubby gets into young orchards and cuts off all the tender roots of young trees. This kills them. You see he is fond of tender roots, seeds, stems of grass and grain, and is never happier than when he can find a field of potatoes.
"Being such a worker, he has to have a great deal to eat. Then, too, he stores away a great deal for winter, for he doesn't sleep in winter as Johnny Chuck does. He even tunnels about under the snow. Sometimes he fills these little snow tunnels with the earth he brings up from below, and when the snow melts it leaves queer little earth ridges to show where the tunnels were.
"Grubby is very neat in his habits and keeps his home and himself very clean. During the day he leaves one of his mounds open for a little while to let in fresh air. But it is only for a little while. Then he closes it again. He doesn't dare leave it open very long, for fear Shadow the Weasel or a certain big Snake called the Gopher Snake will find it and come in after him. Digger the Badger is the only one of his enemies who can dig fast enough to dig him out, but at night, when he likes to come out for a little air or to cut grain and grass, he must always watch for Hooty the Owl. Old Man Coyote and members of the Hawk family are always looking for him by day, so you see he has plenty of enemies, like the rest of you.
"He got the name Gopher because that comes from a word meaning honeycomb, and Grubby's tunnels go in every direction until the ground is like honeycomb. He isn't a bit social and has rather a mean disposition. He is always ready to fight. On the plains he has done a great deal to make the soil fine and rich, as I have already told you, but on hillsides he does a great deal of harm. The water runs down his tunnels and washes away the soil. Because of this and the damage he does to crops, man is his greatest enemy. But man has furnished him with new and splendid foods easy to get, and so Grubby's family increases faster than it used to, in spite of traps and poison. Hello! See who's here! It is about time."
There was a shuffling and rattling and grunting, and Prickly Porky climbed up on an old stump, looking very peevish and much out of sorts. He had come to school much against his will.
The Indians, having got one taste of the firearms of the white men, were afraid to attack Plymouth. But they thought that they might get rid of the white men by witchcraft. So they held what they called a "powwow" in a big swamp, to persuade the spirits to kill or drive away the newcomers. Sometimes the Pilgrims would see some Indians on a hill-top near Plymouth. But the savages always ran away as soon as they were discovered. Perhaps they came to see whether the Plymouth people had all been killed by the spirits.
Dancing Medicine Man
But in the spring a chief from a place farther east came to visit the Indians near Plymouth. He had met English fishermen and learned a little English. He was not afraid to visit the white men. Walking boldly into the little town, he said, "Welcome, Englishmen." The Pilgrims were surprised to hear two English words from the mouth of an Indian.
Indian Bow and Arrow
They treated this Indian well, and he came again bringing an Indian named Squanto [squon'-to] who could speak more English. Squanto, who had lived at Plymouth, was one of the Indians carried away to Spain by Captain Hunt. From Spain he had been taken to England, and then brought back to America. When he got home to Plymouth he found that all the people of his village had died of the pestilence.
Squanto now came again to the old home of his people at Plymouth and lived with the Pilgrims. He showed the English a way to catch eels by treading them out of the mud with his feet. He knew the woods and waters well, and he showed them how to hunt and fish. He taught them how to plant Indian corn as the Indians did, putting a fish or two in every hill for manure, and then watching the fields for a while to keep the wolves from digging up the buried fish. Without the seed corn and the help of Squanto the whole colony would have starved.
Squanto Catching Eels
Squanto liked to make himself important among the Indians by boasting of the power of his friends the white men. He talked about the dreadful gunpowder kept in the cellar at Plymouth. He also told them that the horrid pestilence was kept in the same cellar with the powder.
Massasoit [mas'-sa-soit], the chief of Squanto's tribe, came to see the Pilgrims, bringing some other Indians with him. They were taken into the largest house in Plymouth and seated on a green mat and some cushions. The Governor of the colony was then brought in while the trumpets were blowing and the drums beating. This parade pleased the Indians, but they were much afraid of the Plymouth people. Afterwards the Pilgrims sent Massasoit a red cotton coat and a copper chain, and by degrees a firm friendship was made between him and the white men.
Captain Standish was a little man, and one of his enemies once nicknamed him "Captain Shrimp." But the Indians soon learned to be afraid of him. When a chief near by threatened to trouble the Pilgrims and kill Squanto, Standish marched to the spot and surrounded his wigwam. Having fired on the Indians and frightened them, he took three whom he had wounded back to Plymouth with him. The white people cured their wounds and sent them home again.
The Nar-ra-gan'-sett Indians were enemies of Massasoit. None of their people had died of the pestilence, and they were therefore stronger than Massasoit's tribe. The Narragansetts sent a bundle of arrows to Plymouth tied up in a snake's skin. Squanto told the English that this meant to say that they would come and make war on Plymouth. The Pilgrims filled the snake's skin with bullets, and sent it back. This was to say, "Shoot your arrows at us and we will kill you with our bullets." The Narragansetts were so afraid of the bullets that they sent them back to Plymouth, and there was no war.
When the Pilgrims had been settled at Plymouth more than a year, a ship brought them news of the dreadful massacre that had taken place in Virginia. The Pilgrims were afraid something of the kind might happen to them. So Captain Standish trained the Plymouth men, and they kept guard every night. They put cannon on the roof of their meetinghouse and carried their guns to church.
A company of people from England made a settlement at Weymouth [way'-muth], not very far from Plymouth. They were rude and familiar, and the Indians soon despised them. Some Indian warriors made a plan to kill them all. They intended to kill the Plymouth people at the same time. But Massasoit told the Pilgrims about it, and said they must go and kill the leaders before they had a chance to kill the white men.
Captain Standish set out for the colony at Weymouth. He took but few men, so that the Indians might not guess what he came for. But they saw that the little captain was very "angry in his heart," as they said. Seeing how few his men were, they tried to frighten him.
One of these Indians named Wittamut sharpened the knife which he wore hanging about his neck. While sharpening it he said to Captain Standish: "This is a good knife. On the handle is the picture of a woman's face. But I have another knife at home with which I have killed both Frenchmen and Englishmen. That knife has a man's face on it. After a while these two will get married."
A large Indian named Pecksuot said: "You are a captain, but you are a little man. I am not a chief, but I am strong and brave."
It was now a question whether Standish would attack the Indians or wait for them to begin. One day when Wittamut, Pecksuot, and two other Indians were in the room with Standish and some of his men, the captain made a signal, and himself snatched the knife that hung on Pecksuot's neck and stabbed him to death after a terrible struggle. His men killed the other Indians in the same way. The rest of their tribe fled to the woods for fear, and after that the English were called "stabbers" in the Indian language.
The Pilgrims were often very near to starvation during the first years after they settled at Plymouth. At one time they lived on clams and lobsters and such fish as they could catch. Standish made many voyages along the coast, trading with the Indians for furs, which were sent to England and exchanged for whatever the settlers might need.
A Plymouth Settler catching his Dinner
A few years after the Pilgrims settled Plymouth people began to settle near them, and in 1630 there came over a large number of people, who founded Boston and other Massachusetts towns. Captain Standish lived to be more than seventy years old and to see many thousands of people in New England. He owned a place at Duxbury, just across the bay from Plymouth. He died there in 1656. The hill which he owned is still called "Captain's Hill."
WEEK 10 |
The little ship had sailed on now close beneath the castle, so close indeed that as the King looked up to the window he could catch glimpses of beautiful maidens passing to and fro.
Sir Siegfried also looked and laughed aloud for glee. It would be but a little while until Brunhild was won and he was free to return to his winsome lady Kriemhild.
By this time the maidens in the castle had caught sight of the ship, and many bright eyes were peering down upon King Gunther and his three brave comrades.
"Look well at the fair maidens, sire," said Siegfried to the King. "Among them all show me her whom thou wouldst choose most gladly as your bride."
"Seest thou the fairest of the band," cried the King, "she who is clad in a white garment? It is she and no other whom I would wed."
Right merrily then laughed Siegfried. "The maiden," said he gaily, "is in truth none other than Queen Brunhild herself."
The King and his warriors now moored their vessel and leaped ashore, Siegfried leading with him the King's charger. For each knight had brought his steed with him from the fair land of Burgundy.
More bright than ever beamed the bright eyes of the ladies at the castle window. So fair, so gallant a knight never had they seen, thought the damsels as they gazed upon Sir Siegfried. And all the while King Gunther dreamed their glances were bent on no other than himself.
Siegfried held the noble steed until King Gunther had mounted, and this he did that Queen Brunhild might not know that he was the Prince of the Netherlands, owing service to no man. Then going back to the ship the hero brought his own horse to land, mounted, and rode with the King toward the castle gate.
King and Prince were clad alike. Their steeds as well as their garments were white as snow, their saddles were bedecked with jewels, and on the harness hung bells, all of bright red gold. Their shields shone as the sun, their spears they wore before them, their swords hung by their side.
Behind them followed Hagen and Dankwart, their armour black as the plumage of the wild raven, their shields strong and mighty.
As they approached the castle the gates were flung wide open, and the liegemen of the great Queen came out to greet the strangers with words of welcome. They bid their hirelings also take the shields and chargers from their guests.
But when a squire demanded that the strangers should also yield their swords, grim Hagen smiled his grimmest, and cried, "Nay, our swords will we e'en keep lest we have need of them." Nor was he too well pleased when Siegfried told him that the custom in Isenland was that no guest should enter the castle carrying a weapon. It was but sullenly that he let his sword be taken away along with his mighty shield.
After the strangers had been refreshed with wine, her liegemen sent to the Queen to tell her that strange guests had arrived.
"Who are the strangers who come thus unheralded to my land?" haughtily demanded Brunhild.
But no one could tell her who the warriors were, though some murmured that the tallest and fairest might be the great hero Siegfried.
It may be that the Queen thought that if the knight were indeed Siegfried she would revenge herself on him now for the mischievous pranks he had played the last time he was in her kingdom. In any case she said, "If the hero is here he shall enter into contest with me, and he shall pay for his boldness with his life, for I shall be the victor."
Then with five hundred warriors, each with his sword in hand, Brunhild came down to the knights from Burgundy.
"Be welcome, Siegfried," she cried, "yet wherefore hast thou come again to Isenland?"
"I thank thee for thy greeting, lady," said the Prince, "but thou hast welcomed me before my lord. He, King Gunther, ruler over the fair realms of Burgundy, hath come hither to wed with thee."
Brunhild was displeased that the mighty hero should not himself seek to win her as a bride, yet since for all his prowess he seemed but a vassal of the King, she answered, "If thy master can vanquish me in the contests to which I bid him, then I will be his wife, but if I conquer thy master, his life, and the lives of his followers will be forfeited."
"What dost thou demand of my master?" asked Hagen.
"He must hurl the spear with me, throw the stone from the ring, and leap to where it has fallen," said the Queen.
Now while Brunhild was speaking, Siegfried whispered to the King to fear nothing, but to accept the Queen's challenge. "I will be near though no one will see me, to aid thee in the struggle," he whispered.
Gunther had such trust in the Prince that he at once cried boldly, "Queen Brunhild, I do not fear even to risk my life that I may win thee for my bride."
Then the bold maiden called for her armour, but when Gunther saw her shield, "three spans thick with gold and iron, which four chamberlains could hardly bear," his courage began to fail.
While the Queen donned her silken fighting doublet, which could turn aside the sharpest spear, Siegfried slipped away unnoticed to the ship, and swiftly flung around him his Cloak of Darkness. Then unseen by all, he hastened back to King Gunther's side.
A great javelin was then given to the Queen, and she began to fight with her suitor, and so hard were her thrusts that but for Siegfried the King would have lost his life.
"Give me thy shield," whispered the invisible hero in the King's ear, "and tell no one that I am here." Then as the maiden hurled her spear with all her force against the shield which she thought was held by the King, the shock well-nigh drove both Gunther and his unseen friend to their knees.
The maiden hurled her spear
But in a moment Siegfried's hand had dealt the Queen such a blow with the handle of his spear (he would not use the sharp point against a woman) that the maiden cried aloud, "King Gunther, thou hast won this fray." For as she could not see Siegfried because of his Cloak of Darkness, she could not but believe that it was the King who had vanquished her.
In her wrath the Queen now sped to the ring, where lay a stone so heavy that it could scarce be lifted by twelve strong men.
But Brunhild lifted it with ease, and threw it twelve arms' length beyond the spot on which she stood. Then, leaping after it, she alighted even farther than she had thrown the stone.
Gunther now stood in the ring, and lifted the stone which had again been placed within it. He lifted it with an effort, but at once Siegfried's unseen hand grasped it and threw it with such strength that it dropped even beyond the spot to which it had been flung by the Queen. Lifting King Gunther with him Siegfried next jumped far beyond the spot on which the Queen had alighted. And all the warriors marvelled to see their Queen thus vanquished by the strange King. For you must remember that not one of them could see that it was Siegfried who had done these deeds of prowess.
Now in the contest, still unseen, Siegfried had taken from the Queen her ring and her favourite girdle.
With angry gestures Brunhild called to her liegemen to come and lay their weapons down at King Gunther's feet to do him homage. Henceforth they must be his thralls and own him as their lord.
As soon as the contests were over, Siegfried had slipped back to the ship and hidden his Cloak of Darkness. Then boldly he came back to the great hall, and pretending to know nothing of the games begged to be told who had been the victor, if indeed they had already taken place.
When he had heard that Queen Brunhild had been vanquished, the hero laughed, and cried gaily, "Then, noble maiden, thou must go with us to Rhineland to wed King Gunther."
"A strange way for a vassal to speak," thought the angry Queen, and she answered with a proud glance at the knight. "Nay, that will I not do until I have summoned my kinsmen and my good lieges. For I will myself say farewell to them ere ever I will go to Rhineland."
Thus heralds were sent throughout Brunhild's realms, and soon from morn to eve her kinsmen and her liegemen rode into the castle, until it seemed as though a mighty army were assembling.
"Does the maiden mean to wage war against us," said Hagen grimly. "I like not the number of her warriors."
Then said Siegfried, "I will leave thee for a little while and go across the sea, and soon will I return with a thousand brave warriors, so that no evil may befall us."
So the Prince went down alone to the little ship and set sail across the sea.
A Jackdaw chanced to fly over the garden of the King's palace. There he saw with much wonder and envy a flock of royal Peacocks in all the glory of their splendid plumage.
Now the black Jackdaw was not a very handsome bird, nor very refined in manner. Yet he imagined that all he needed to make himself fit for the society of the Peacocks was a dress like theirs. So he picked up some castoff feathers of the Peacocks and stuck them among his own black plumes.
Dressed in his borrowed finery he strutted loftily among the birds of his own kind. Then he flew down into the garden among the Peacocks. But they soon saw who he was. Angry at the cheat, they flew at him, plucking away the borrowed feathers and also some of his own.
The poor Jackdaw returned sadly to his former companions. There another unpleasant surprise awaited him. They had not forgotten his superior airs toward them, and, to punish him, they drove him away with a rain of pecks and jeers.
Borrowed feathers do not make fine birds.
WEEK 10 |
"Brave men are brave from the very first."
I T will be interesting to trace the history of these resolute people, who reclaimed their land from the angry North Sea and built busy cities which should play a large part in the history of the world.
The earliest chapter in the history of the Netherlands was written by their conqueror, Julius Cæsar. Why he cast covetous eyes towards these swampy lowlands is hard to see, but he must needs conquer them, and he thought he should have an easy task. At least one tribe wrung from him admiration by its rare courage. When others were begging for mercy, these people swore to die rather than to surrender. At the head of ten Roman legions Cæsar advanced to the banks of one of the many rivers of this low country. But hardly had the Roman horsemen crossed the stream, when down rushed a party of Netherlanders from the summit of a wooded hill and overthrew horses and riders in the stream. For a moment it seemed as if this wild lowland tribe was going to conquer the disciplined forces of Rome. Snatching a shield, the world's conqueror plunged into the hottest of the fight and soon turned the tide. The battle was lost, but, true to their vow, the wild Netherlanders refused to surrender. They fought on till the ground was heaped with their dead—fought till they had perished almost to a man. Cæsar could respect such courage, and when he left the country, to be governed by Romans, he took back soldiers from the Netherlanders to form his imperial guard in Rome.
When in the fifth century the Romans sailed away from the shores of Britain to defend their own land, they turned their backs on the Netherlands.
Then came the "Wandering of the Nations," when barbarians from the north and west tramped over the country. This was followed by the dark ages, when the Netherlands with the rest of Europe was plunged in sleep.
next arose and added the Netherlands to his great kingdom of the Franks. "Karel de Groote," as he was called,
was very fond of this new part of his great possessions. He built himself a beautiful palace at Nimwegen, high
up on a table-land raised above the surrounding country. For beauty of scenery he could hardly have chosen a
more lovely spot. Below lay some of the many rivers, making their way slowly through the low country to the
sea, while the rich meadows and fields beyond were the scenes of legend and poetry of a later age. At Nimwegen
With the death of Karel de Groote came the Norsemen. Up the many creeks and into the rivers of the Netherlands these fierce Vikings pushed their single-masted galleys. For three centuries they were a terror to every sea-coast country.
"From the fury of the Northmen, good Lord, deliver us," sobbed the men of the Netherlands with the rest of Europe.
For further protection the Netherlands were divided up into provinces, each put under a count or lord. Among others was one, Count Dirk, who was set over the little province of Holland. It was a small piece of country along the sea-coast, but it was destined to be the cradle of an empire. And this is the first mention of Holland in history—the low land, the hollow land as it was called. The Count of Holland lived at Haarlem till he built himself a castle to the south, standing some three miles from the sea. To make it safe it was surrounded by a hedge, known as the Count's Hedge—Graven Hage—now The Hague, the Capital of the Netherlands. Then the Counts of Holland also built the new town of Dordrecht. "Every ship that comes up the river shall pay a toll for the new town," said Dirk. But this made the men of other provinces very angry, and the men of Friesland fought over it.
But a time was at hand when they should find something better to fight over than the toll of Dordrecht. The new teaching under the name of Christianity was making its way to the Netherlands, and the Counts of Holland were not slow to join the rest of Europe in their rush to the Holy Land, to free the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of the Mohammedans.
One day the men from Holland sailed down the river Maas in twelve ships, gay with banners and streamers, and out into the North Sea, on their way to the Holy Land. They would have to sail down the English Channel, between the coasts of England and France, through the Bay of Biscay and the Straits of Gibraltar, to the eastern ports of the blue Mediterranean, before ever they could reach their destination. But it is probable that the Crusades did more for Holland than Holland did for the Crusades, for by her contact with the East she learnt that of which she had not even dreamt before.
Y OU remember that Apollo and Diana were born in the island of Delos. The part of Delos where they were born was a mountain called Cynthus; and for that reason Apollo was often called Cynthius, and Diana, Cynthia. Bear this in mind, in order to follow this story.
While Apollo was on earth, Ămyclas, the King of Sparta, engaged him to be the teacher of his son. This boy, named Hyacinthus, was so handsome and so amiable that Apollo became exceedingly fond of him; indeed, he could not bear to be away from his pupil's company.
But the west wind, whose name is Zĕphyrus, was also very fond of the boy, whose chief friend he had been before Apollo came. He was afraid that the son of Amyclas liked Apollo best; and this thought filled him with jealousy. One day, as he was blowing about the king's garden, he saw Apollo and the boy playing at quoits together. "Quoits" are heavy rings made of iron: each player takes one, and throws it with all his strength at a peg fixed in the ground, and the one who throws his quoit nearest to the peg wins the game. Zephyrus was so angry and jealous to see the two friends amusing themselves while he was blowing about all alone, that he determined to be revenged upon both of them.
First of all the boy threw his quoit, and came very near to the peg indeed—so near that even Apollo, who could do everything better than anybody, thought he should find it very hard to beat him. The peg was a great way off, so Apollo took up the heaviest quoit, aimed perfectly straight, and sent it flying like a thunderbolt through the air. But Zephyrus, who was waiting, gave a great blast, and blew Apollo's quoit as it was flying, so that it struck the boy, who fell to the ground.
It was a cruel thing altogether. Apollo thought that he himself had struck his friend by aiming badly: the boy thought the same, for neither could tell it was Zephyrus,—nobody has ever seen the wind.
So perished Hyacinthus: nor could Apollo do anything to show his love and grief for his friend except change him into a flower, which is called Hyacinth to this day. It is said that, if you look, you will find "Hya" written in Greek letters upon every petal of the flower. Some people, however, say that it is not "Hya" at all, but "Aiai," which means "alas." I don't know which is true; but if you will some day look at the petal of a hyacinth through a microscope (the stronger the better, I should say), you will find out for yourself and be able to tell me.
Apollo seems to have been rather fond of turning his friends into trees and flowers. There was another friend of his named Cypărissus, who once, by accident, killed one of Apollo's favorite stags, and was so sorry for what he had done, and pined away so miserably, that the god, to put him out of his misery, changed him into a cypress-tree. "Cypress" comes from Cypărissus, as you will easily see. And we still plant the cypress in churchyards, because it is the tree of tears and mourning that cannot be cured.
WEEK 10 |
L ONG ago in Norroway there lived a lady who had three daughters. Now they were all pretty, and one night they fell a-talking of whom they meant to marry.
And the eldest said, "I will have no one lower than an Earl."
And the second said, "I will have none lower than a Lord."
But the third, the prettiest and the merriest, tossed her head and said with a twinkle in her eye, "Why so proud? As for me I would be content with the Black Bull of Norroway."
At that the other sisters bade her be silent and not talk lightly of such a monster. For, see you, is it not written:
"To wilder measure now they turn
The black black Bull of Norroway,
Sudden the tapers cease to burn
The minstrels cease to play."
So, no doubt, the Black Bull of Norroway was held to be a horrid monster.
But the youngest daughter would have her laugh, so she said three times that she would be content with the Black Bull of Norroway.
Well! It so happened that the very next morning a coach-and-six came swinging along the road, and in it sat an Earl who had come to ask the hand of the eldest daughter in marriage. So there were great rejoicings over the wedding, and the bride and bridegroom drove away in the coach-and-six.
Then the next thing that happened was that a coach-and-four with a Lord in it came swinging along the road; and he wanted to marry the second daughter. So they were wed, and there were great rejoicings, and the bride and bridegroom drove away in the coach-and-four.
Now after this there was only the youngest, the prettiest and the merriest of the sisters left, and she became the apple of her mother's eye. So you may imagine how the mother felt when one morning a terrible bellowing was heard at the door, and there was a great big Black Bull waiting for his bride.
She wept and she wailed, and at first the girl ran away and hid herself in the cellar for fear, but there the Bull stood waiting, and at last the girl came up and said:
"I promised I would be content with the Black Bull of Norroway, and I must keep my word. Farewell, mother, you will not see me again."
Then she mounted on the Black Bull's back, and it walked away with her quite quietly. And ever it chose the smoothest paths and the easiest roads, so that at last the girl grew less afraid. But she became very hungry and was nigh to faint when the Black Bull said to her, in quite a soft voice that wasn't a bellow at all:
"Eat out of my left ear,
Drink out of my right,
And set by what you leave
To serve the morrow's night."
So she did as she was bid, and lo and behold, the left ear was full of delicious things to eat, and the right was full of the most delicious drinks, and there was plenty left over for several days.
Thus they journeyed on and they journeyed on through many dreadful forests and many lonely wastes, and the Black Bull never paused for bite or sup, but ever the girl he carried ate out of his left ear, and drank out of his right, and set by what she left to serve the morrow's night. And she slept soft and warm on his broad back.
Now at last they reached a noble castle where a large company of lords and ladies were assembled, and greatly the company wondered at the sight of these strange companions. And they invited the girl to supper, but the Black Bull they turned into the field, and left to spend the night after his kind.
But when the next morning came there he was ready for his burden again. Now, though the girl was loth to leave her pleasant companions, she remembered her promise, and mounted on his back, so they journeyed on and journeyed on, and journeyed on through many tangled woods and over many high mountains. And ever the Black Bull chose the smoothest paths for her and set aside the briars and brambles, while she ate out of his left ear and drank out of his right.
So at last they came to a magnificent mansion where Dukes and Duchesses and Earls and Countesses were enjoying themselves. Now the company, though much surprised at the strange companions, asked the girl in to supper; and the Black Bull they would have turned into the park for the night, but that the girl, remembering how well he had cared for her, asked them to put him into the stable and give him a good feed.
So this was done, and the next morning he was waiting before the hall-door for his burden; and she, though somewhat loth at leaving the fine company, mounted him cheerfully enough, and they rode away, and they rode away, and they rode away, through thick briar brakes and up fearsome cliffs. But ever the Black Bull trod the brambles underfoot and chose the easiest paths, while she ate out of his left ear, and drank out of his right, and wanted for nothing, though he had neither bite nor sup. So it came to pass that he grew tired and was limping with one foot when just as the sun was setting they came to a beautiful palace where Princes and Princesses were disporting themselves with ball on the green grass. Now, though the company greatly wondered at the strange companions, they asked the girl to join them, and ordered the grooms to lead away the Black Bull to a field.
But she, remembering all he had done for her said, "Not so! He will stay with me!" Then seeing a large thorn in the foot with which he had been limping, she stooped down and pulled it out.
And lo and behold! In an instant, to every one's surprise, there appeared, not a frightful monstrous bull, but one of the most beautiful Princes ever beheld, who fell at his deliverer's feet, thanking her for having broken his cruel enchantment.
A wicked witch woman who wanted to marry him had, he said, spelled him until a beautiful maiden of her own free will should do him a favor.
"But," he said, "the danger is not all over. You have broken the enchantment by night; that by day has yet to be overcome."
So the next morning the Prince had to resume the form of a bull, and they set out together; and they rode, and they rode, and they rode, till they came to a dark and ugsome glen. And here he bade her dismount, and sit on a great rock.
"Here you must stay," he said, "while I go yonder and fight the Old One. And mind! Move neither hand nor foot whilst I am away, else I shall never find you again. If everything around you turns blue, I shall have beaten the Old One; but if everything turns red he will have conquered me."
And with that, and a tremendous roaring bellow, he set off to find his foe.
Well! she sate as still as a mouse, moving neither hand nor foot, nor even her eyes, and waited, and waited, and waited. Then at last everything turned blue. But she was so overcome with joy to think that her lover was victorious that she forgot to keep still, and lifting one of her feet, crossed it over the other!
So she waited, and waited, and waited. Long she sate and aye she wearied; and all the time he was seeking for her, but he never found her.
At last she rose and went she knew not whither, determined to seek for her lover through the whole wide world. So she journeyed on, and she journeyed on, and she journeyed on, until one day in a dark wood she came to a little hut where lived an old, old woman who gave her food and shelter, and bid her God-speed on her errand, giving her three nuts, a walnut, a filbert, and a hazel nut, with these words:
"When your heart is like to break,
And once again is like to break,
Crack a nut and in its shell
That will be that suits you well."
After this she felt heartened up, and wandered on till her road was blocked by a great hill of glass; and though she tried all she could to climb it, she could not; for aye she slipped back, and slipped back, and slipped back; for it was like ice.
Then she sought a passage elsewhere, and round and about the foot of the hill she went sobbing and wailing, but ne'er a foothold could she find. At last she came to a smithy; and the smith promised if she would serve him faithfully for seven years and seven days, that he would make her iron shoon wherewith to climb the hill of glass. So for seven long years and seven short days she toiled, and span, and swept, and washed in the smith's house. And for wage he gave her a pair of iron shoon, and with them she clomb the glassy hill and went on her way.
Now she had not gone far before a company of fine lords and ladies rode past her talking of all the grand doings that were to be done at the young Duke of Norroway's wedding. Then she passed a number of people carrying all sorts of good things which they told her were for the Duke's wedding. And at last she came to a palace castle where the courtyards were full of cooks and bakers, some running this way, some running that, and all so busy that they did not know what to do first.
Then she heard the horns of hunters and cries of "Room! Room for the Duke of Norroway and his bride!"
And who should ride past but the beautiful Prince she had but half unspelled, and by his side was the witch woman who was determined to marry him that very day.
Well! At the sight she felt that her heart was indeed like to break, and over again was like to break, so that the time had come for her to crack one of the nuts. So she broke the walnut, as it was the biggest, and out of it came a wonderful, wee woman carding wool as fast as ever she could card.
Now when the witch woman saw this wonderful thing she offered the girl her choice of anything in the castle for it.
"If you will put off your wedding with the Duke for a day, and let me watch in his room tonight," said the girl, "you shall have it."
Now, like all witch-women, the bride wanted everything her own way, and she was so sure she had her groom safe, that she consented; but before the Duke went to rest she gave him, with her own hands, a posset so made that any one who drank it would sleep till morning.
Thus though the girl was allowed alone into the Duke's chamber, and though she spent the livelong night sighing and singing:
"Far have I sought for thee,
Long have I wrought for thee,
Near am I brought to thee,
Dear Duke o' Norroway,
Wilt thou say naught to
the Duke never wakened, but slept on. So when day came the girl had to leave him without his ever knowing she had been there.
Then once again her heart was like to break, and over and over again like to break, and she cracked the filbert nut because it was the next biggest. And out of it came a wonderful, wee, wee woman spinning away as fast as ever she could spin. Now when the witch bride saw this wonderful thing she once again put off her wedding so that she might possess it. And once again the girl spent the livelong night in the Duke's chamber sighing and singing:
"Far have I sought for thee,
Long have I wrought for thee,
Near am I brought to thee,
Dear Duke o' Norroway,
Wilt thou say naught to me—"
But the Duke, who had drunk the sleeping draught from the hands of his witch bride, never stirred, and when dawn came the girl had to leave him without his ever knowing she had been there.
Then, indeed, the girl's heart was like to break, and over and over and over again, like to break, so she cracked the last nut—the hazel nut—and out of it came the most wonderful wee, wee, wee-est woman reeling away at yarn as fast as she could reel.
And this marvel so delighted the witch bride that once again she consented to put off her wedding for a day, and allow the girl to watch in the Duke's chamber the night through, in order to possess it.
Now it so happened that when the Duke was dressing that morning he heard his pages talking amongst themselves of the strange sighing and singing they had heard in the night; and he said to his faithful old valet, "What do the pages mean?"
And the old valet, who hated the witch bride, said:
"If the master will take no sleeping draught tonight, mayhap he may also hear what for two nights has kept me awake."
At this the Duke marvelled greatly, and when the witch-bride brought him his evening posset, he made excuse it was not sweet enough, and while she went away to get honey to sweeten it withal, he poured away the posset and made believe he had swallowed it.
So that night when dark had come, and the girl stole in to his chamber with a heavy heart, thinking it would be the very last time she would ever see him, the Duke was really broad awake. And when she sat down by his bedside and began to sing.
"Far have I sought for
he knew her voice at once, and clasped her in his arms.
Then he told her how he had been in the power of the witch woman and had forgotten everything, but that now he remembered all and that the spell was broken for ever and aye.
So the wedding feast served for their marriage, since the witch bride, seeing her power was gone, quickly fled the country and was never heard of again.
A FTER the old queen goes out in a rage, what do the rest of the bees do? They all keep still, but they look toward the cells where the new queens sing. Then one new queen breaks off the lid of her cell and comes out.
She lifts her head, spreads her wings, dries her legs. Her legs are like gold. Her dress is velvet and gold. She is fine!
The bees fan her and feed her. But just then a cell near by opens, and out comes one more new queen!
This will not do. Two queens do not live in one hive. When the two queens see each other, they rush together and begin to fight.
If they stop the fight to rest, the work bees make them keep on. At last one of them stings the other near the wing, and kills her.
Then this strong queen runs to the other cells, where the baby queens lie. She tears off the wax lids and stings each new queen bee. Then it dies.
Now the strong queen is the one true queen of the hive. Her rage is at an end. The bees come to her and touch her.
They are proud of their fine, new queen, and love her. They carry out all the dead bees from the hive, and in great joy build new cells.
The queen bee leaves the hive but twice. A few weeks after she is made queen, the work bees let her go out once into the sun and air. But her wings are very small. She cannot fly far.
She has no bag for dust. She does not need to get honey. All she has to do is to come home and lay eggs.
She does not go out again until the next year. Then she leads off a swarm of old bees, and leaves the hive to the next new queen bee.
When the winds of March are wakening
The crocuses and crickets,
Did you ever find a fairy near
Some budding little thickets,
A-straightening her golden wings and
Combing out her hair?
And when she sees you creeping up
To get a closer peek,
She tumbles through the daffodils,
And creeps into the tulips till
You can't find where she's hid?
Have you ever, ever come across
A little toadstool elf
A-reading by a firefly lamp
And laughing to himself,
Or a saucy fairy queen upon
Her favorite dragonfly?
It's fun to see a fairy flutter
Off a catskin boat,
And wrap her fairy baby in
A pussywillow coat;
Oh, don't you love the fairies
And their fairy babies too?
WEEK 10 |
I Kings xxi: 1, to 29.
ING AHAB'S home was at Samaria, the capital of the kingdom. But he had also a palace at Jezreel, which overlooked the great plain of Esdraelon. And beside Ahab's palace at Jezreel was a vineyard, belonging to a man named Naboth. Ahab wished to own this vineyard, and he said to Naboth, "Let me have your vineyard, which is near my house. I would like to make of it a garden for vegetables. I will give you a better vineyard in place of it, or I will pay you the worth of it in money."
But Naboth answered the king, "This vineyard has belonged to my father's family for many generations, and I am not willing to give it up or to leave it."
Ahab and Naboth
Ahab was very angry when he heard this. He came into his house, and refused to eat; but lay down on his bed, and turned his face to the wall. His wife Jezebel came to him, and said, "Why are you so sad? What is troubling you?"
And Ahab answered her, "I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard, or to let me give him another vineyard for it, and he would not."
Then Jezebel said to him, "Do you indeed rule over the kingdom of Israel? Rise up, and eat your dinner, and enjoy yourself. I will give you the vineyard of Naboth." Then Queen Jezebel sat down, and wrote a letter in Ahab's name, and sealed it with the king's seal. And in the letter she wrote, "Let the word be given out that a meeting of the men of Jezreel is to be held, and set Naboth up before all the people. Have ready two men, no matter how worthless and wicked they may be, who will swear that they heard Naboth speak words of cursing against God and against the king. Then take Naboth out, and stone him with stones until he is dead."
Such was the fear of Queen Jezebel among all the people, that they did as she gave command. They held a meeting, and set Naboth up in presence of the people; then they brought in two men, who told lies, declaring that they had heard Naboth speak words of cursing against God and against the king; and then they dragged Naboth out of the city, and stoned him, and killed him. Afterward they sent word to Queen Jezebel that Naboth was dead, and Jezebel said to Ahab, "Now you can go and take as your own the vineyard of Naboth in Jezreel; for Naboth is no longer living; he is dead."
Then Ahab rose in his chariot from Samaria to Jezreel, and with him were two of his captains, one named Jehu, and another named Bidkar. Just as they were riding in the vineyard that had been Naboth's, suddenly Elijah, the prophet, with his mantle of skin, stood before them.
Ahab was startled as he saw Elijah, and he called out, "Have you found me, O my enemy?"
"I have found you," answered Elijah, "because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord. In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick up your own blood. I will bring evil upon you, and will sweep you away; and I will cut off every man-child from Ahab; and I will make your family like the family of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. And because your wife, Jezebel, has stirred you up to sin, she shall die, and the wild dogs of the city shall eat the body of Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel."
When Ahab heard these words of Elijah he saw how wickedly he had acted, and he felt sorrow for his sin. He put on sackcloth, and fasted, and sought for mercy. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, "Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me, and shows sorrow for his sin? Because of this, I will not bring the evil in his lifetime, but after he is dead, I will bring it upon his children."
N OBODY seemed to know where they came from, but there they were in the Forest: Kanga and Baby Roo. When Pooh asked Christopher Robin, "How did they come here?" Christopher Robin said, "In the Usual Way, if you know what I mean, Pooh," and Pooh, who didn't, said "Oh!" Then he nodded his head twice and said, "In the Usual Way. Ah!" Then he went to call upon his friend Piglet to see what he thought about it. And at Piglet's house he found Rabbit. So they all talked about it together.
"What I don't like about it is this," said Rabbit. "Here are we—you, Pooh, and you, Piglet, and Me —and suddenly—"
"And Eeyore," said Pooh.
"And Eeyore—and then suddenly
"And Owl," said Pooh.
"And Owl—and then all of a sudden
"Oh, and Eeyore," said Pooh. "I was forgetting him."
"Here—we—are," said Rabbit very slowly and carefully, "all—of—us, and then, suddenly, we wake up one morning and, what do we find? We find a Strange Animal among us. An animal of whom we have never even heard before! An animal who carries her family about with her in her pocket! Suppose I carried my family about with me in my pocket, how many pockets should I want?"
"Sixteen," said Piglet.
"Seventeen, isn't it?" said Rabbit. "And one more for a handkerchief—that's eighteen. Eighteen pockets in one suit! I haven't time."
There was a long and thoughtful silence . . . and then Pooh, who had been frowning very hard for some minutes, said: "I make it fifteen."
"What?" said Rabbit.
"What about them?"
Pooh rubbed his nose and said that he thought Rabbit had been talking about his family.
"Did I?" said Rabbit carelessly.
"Yes, you said—"
"Never mind, Pooh," said Piglet impatiently. "The question is, What are we to do about Kanga?"
"Oh, I see," said Pooh.
"The best way," said Rabbit, "would be this. The best way would be to steal Baby Roo and hide him, and then when Kanga says, 'Where's Baby Roo?' we say, 'Aha!' "
"Aha!" said Pooh, practising. "Aha! Aha! . . . Of course," he went on, "we could say 'Aha!' even if we hadn't stolen Baby Roo."
"Pooh," said Rabbit kindly, "you haven't any brain."
"I know," said Pooh humbly:
"We say 'Aha!' so that Kanga knows that we know where Baby Roo is. 'Aha!' means 'We'll tell you where Baby Roo is, if you promise to go away from the Forest and never come back.' Now don't talk while I think."
Pooh went into a corner and tried saying 'Aha in that sort of voice. Sometimes it seemed to him that it did mean what Rabbit said, and sometimes it seemed to him that it didn't. "I suppose it's just practice," he thought. "I wonder if Kanga will have to practise too so as to understand it."
"There's just one thing," said Piglet, fidgeting a bit. "I was talking to Christopher Robin, and he said that a Kanga was Generally Regarded as One of the Fiercer Animals. I am not frightened of Fierce Animals in the ordinary way, but it is well known that, if One of the Fiercer Animals is Deprived of Its Young, it becomes as fierce as Two of the Fiercer Animals. In which case 'Aha!' is perhaps a foolish thing to say."
"Piglet," said Rabbit, taking out a pencil, and licking the end of it, "you haven't any pluck."
"It is hard to be brave," said Piglet, sniffing slightly, "when you're only a Very Small Animal."
Rabbit, who had begun to write very busily, looked up and said:
"It is because you are a very small animal that you will be Useful in the adventure before us."
Piglet was so excited at the idea of being Useful that he forgot to be frightened any more, and when Rabbit went on to say that Kangas were only Fierce during the winter months, being at other times of an Affectionate Disposition, he could hardly sit still, he was so eager to begin being useful at once.
"What about me?" said Pooh sadly. "I suppose I shan't be useful?"
"Never mind, Pooh," said Piglet comfortingly. "Another time perhaps."
"Without Pooh," said Rabbit solemnly as he sharpened his pencil, "the adventure would be impossible."
"Oh!" said Piglet, and tried not to look disappointed. But Pooh went into a corner of the room and said proudly to himself, "Impossible without Me! That sort of Bear."
"Now listen all of you," said Rabbit when he had finished writing, and Pooh and Piglet sat listening very eagerly with their mouths open. This was what Rabbit read out:
1. General Remarks. Kanga runs faster than any of Us, even Me.
2. More General Remarks. Kanga never takes her eye off Baby Roo, except when he's safely buttoned up in her pocket.
3. Therefore. If we are to capture Baby Roo, we must get a Long Start, because Kanga runs faster than any of Us, even Me. (See 1.)
4. A Thought. If Roo had jumped out of Kanga's pocket and Piglet had jumped in, Kanga wouldn't know the difference, because Piglet is a Very Small Animal.
5. Like Roo.
6. But Kanga would have to be looking the other way first, so as not to see Piglet jumping in.
7. See 2.
8. Another Thought. But if Pooh was talking to her very excitedly, she might look the other way for a moment.
9. And then I could run away with Roo.
11. And Kanga wouldn't discover the difference until Afterwards.
Well, Rabbit read this out proudly, and for a little while after he had read it nobody said anything. And then Piglet, who had been opening and shutting his mouth without making any noise, managed to say very huskily:
"How do you mean?"
"When Kanga does Discover the Difference?" "Then we all say 'Aha!' "
"All three of us?"
"Why, what's the trouble, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, "as long as we all three say it. As long as we all three say it," said Piglet, "I don't mind," he said, "but I shouldn't care to say 'Aha!' by myself. It wouldn't sound nearly so well. By the way," he said, "you are quite sure about what you said about the winter months?"
"The winter months?"
"Yes, only being Fierce in the Winter Months."
"Oh, yes, yes, that's all right. Well, Pooh?
You see what you have to do?"
"No," said Pooh Bear. "Not yet," he said. "What do I do?"
"Well, you just have to talk very hard to Kanga so as she doesn't notice anything."
"Oh! What about?"
"Anything you like."
"You mean like telling her a little bit of poetry or something?"
"That's it," said Rabbit. "Splendid. Now come along."
So they all went out to look for Kanga.
A sparrow hopped about the street,
And he was not a bit afraid;
He flew between a horse's feet,
And ate his supper undismayed;
I think myself the horse knew well
The bird came for the grains that fell.
For his eye was looking down,
And he danced the corn about
In his nose-bag, till the brown
Grains of corn were tumbled out;
And I fancy that he said,
"Eat it up, young Speckle-Head!"
The driver then came back again,
He climbed into the heavy dray;
And he tightened up the rein,
Cracked his whip and drove away.
But when the horse's ribs were hit,
The sparrow did not care a bit.