WEEK 16 |
T HEY found a great deal to do that morning and Mary was late in returning to the house and was also in such a hurry to get back to her work that she quite forgot Colin until the last moment.
"Tell Colin that I can't come and see him yet," she said to Martha. "I'm very busy in the garden."
Martha looked rather frightened.
"Eh! Miss Mary," she said, "it may put him all out of humor when I tell him that."
But Mary was not as afraid of him as other people were and she was not a self-sacrificing person.
"I can't stay," she answered. "Dickon's waiting for me;" and she ran away.
The afternoon was even lovelier and busier than the morning had been. Already nearly all the weeds were cleared out of the garden and most of the roses and trees had been pruned or dug about. Dickon had brought a spade of his own and he had taught Mary to use all her tools, so that by this time it was plain that though the lovely wild place was not likely to become a "gardener's garden" it would be a wilderness of growing things before the springtime was over.
"There'll be apple blossoms an' cherry blossoms overhead," Dickon said, working away with all his might. "An' there'll be peach an' plum trees in bloom against th' walls, an' th' grass'll be a carpet o' flowers."
The little fox and the rook were as happy and busy as they were, and the robin and his mate flew backward and forward like tiny streaks of lightning. Sometimes the rook flapped his black wings and soared away over the tree-tops in the park. Each time he came back and perched near Dickon and cawed several times as if he were relating his adventures, and Dickon talked to him just as he had talked to the robin. Once when Dickon was so busy that he did not answer him at first, Soot flew on to his shoulders and gently tweaked his ear with his large beak. When Mary wanted to rest a little Dickon sat down with her under a tree and once he took his pipe out of his pocket and played the soft strange little notes and two squirrels appeared on the wall and looked and listened.
"Tha's a good bit stronger than tha' was," Dickon said, looking at her as she was digging. "Tha's beginning to look different, for sure."
Mary was glowing with exercise and good spirits.
"I'm getting fatter and fatter every day," she said quite exultantly. "Mrs. Medlock will have to get me some bigger dresses. Martha says my hair is growing thicker. It isn't so flat and stringy."
The sun was beginning to set and sending deep gold-colored rays slanting under the trees when they parted.
"It'll be fine to-morrow," said Dickon. "I'll be at work by sunrise."
"So will I," said Mary.
She ran back to the house as quickly as her feet would carry her. She wanted to tell Colin about Dickon's fox cub and the rook and about what the springtime had been doing. She felt sure he would like to hear. So it was not very pleasant when she opened the door of her room, to see Martha standing waiting for her with a doleful face.
"What is the matter?" she asked. "What did Colin say when you told him I couldn't come?"
"Eh!" said Martha, "I wish tha'd gone. He was nigh goin' into one o' his tantrums. There's been a nice to do all afternoon to keep him quiet. He would watch the clock all th' time."
Mary's lips pinched themselves together. She was no more used to considering other people than Colin was and she saw no reason why an ill-tempered boy should interfere with the thing she liked best. She knew nothing about the pitifulness of people who had been ill and nervous and who did not know that they could control their tempers and need not make other people ill and nervous, too. When she had had a headache in India she had done her best to see that everybody else also had a headache or something quite as bad. And she felt she was quite right; but of course now she felt that Colin was quite wrong.
He was not on his sofa when she went into his room. He was lying flat on his back in bed and he did not turn his head toward her as she came in. This was a bad beginning and Mary marched up to him with her stiff manner.
"Why didn't you get up?" she said.
"I did get up this morning when I thought you were coming," he answered, without looking at her. "I made them put me back in bed this afternoon. My back ached and my head ached and I was tired. Why didn't you come?"
"I was working in the garden with Dickon," said Mary.
Colin frowned and condescended to look at her.
"I won't let that boy come here if you go and stay with him instead of coming to talk to me," he said.
Mary flew into a fine passion. She could fly into a passion without making a noise. She just grew sour and obstinate and did not care what happened.
"If you send Dickon away, I'll never come into this room again!" she retorted.
"You'll have to if I want you," said Colin.
"I won't!" said Mary.
"I'll make you," said Colin, "They shall drag you in."
"Shall they, Mr. Rajah!" said Mary fiercely. "They may drag me in but they can't make me talk when they get me here. I'll sit and clench my teeth and never tell you one thing. I won't even look at you. I'll stare at the floor!"
They were a nice agreeable pair as they glared at each other. If they had been two little street boys they would have sprung at each other and had a rough-and-tumble fight. As it was, they did the next thing to it.
"You are a selfish thing!" cried Colin.
"What are you?" said Mary. "Selfish people always say that. Any one is selfish who doesn't do what they want. You're more selfish than I am. You're the most selfish boy I ever saw."
"I'm not!" snapped Colin. "I'm not as selfish as your fine Dickon is! He keeps you playing in the dirt when he knows I am all by myself. He's selfish, if you like!"
Mary's eyes flashed fire.
"He's nicer than any other boy that ever lived!" she said. "He's—he's like an angel!" It might sound rather silly to say that but she did not care.
"A nice angel!" Colin sneered ferociously. "He's a common cottage boy off the moor!"
"He's better than a common Rajah!" retorted Mary. "He's a thousand times better!"
Because she was the stronger of the two she was beginning to get the better of him. The truth was that he had never had a fight with any one like himself in his life and, upon the whole, it was rather good for him, though neither he nor Mary knew anything about that. He turned his head on his pillow and shut his eyes and a big tear was squeezed out and ran down his cheek. He was beginning to feel pathetic and sorry for himself—not for any one else.
"I'm not as selfish as you, because I'm always ill, and I'm sure there is a lump coming on my back," he said. "And I am going to die besides."
"You're not!" contradicted Mary unsympathetically.
He opened his eyes quite wide with indignation. He had never heard such a thing said before. He was at once furious and slightly pleased, if a person could be both at the same time.
"I'm not?" he cried. "I am! You know I am! Everybody says so."
"I don't believe it!" said Mary sourly. "You just say that to make people sorry. I believe you're proud of it. I don't believe it! If you were a nice boy it might be true—but you're too nasty!"
In spite of his invalid back Colin sat up in bed in quite a healthy rage.
"Get out of the room!" he shouted and he caught hold of his pillow and threw it at her. He was not strong enough to throw it far and it only fell at her feet, but Mary's face looked as pinched as a nutcracker.
"I'm going," she said. "And I won't come back!"
She walked to the door and when she reached it she turned round and spoke again.
"I was going to tell you all sorts of nice things," she said. "Dickon brought his fox and his rook and I was going to tell you all about them. Now I won't tell you a single thing!"
She marched out of the door and closed it behind her, and there to her great astonishment she found the trained nurse standing as if she had been listening and, more amazing still—she was laughing. She was a big handsome young woman who ought not to have been a trained nurse at all, as she could not bear invalids and she was always making excuses to leave Colin to Martha or any one else who would take her place. Mary had never liked her, and she simply stood and gazed up at her as she stood giggling into her handkerchief.
"What are you laughing at?" she asked her.
"At you two young ones," said the nurse. "It's the best thing that could happen to the sickly pampered thing to have some one to stand up to him that's as spoiled as himself;" and she laughed into her handkerchief again. "If he'd had a young vixen of a sister to fight with it would have been the saving of him."
"Is he going to die?"
"I don't know and I don't care," said the nurse. "Hysterics and temper are half what ails him."
"What are hysterics?" asked Mary.
"You'll find out if you work him into a tantrum after this—but at any rate you've given him something to have hysterics about, and I'm glad of it."
Mary went back to her room not feeling at all as she had felt when she had come in from the garden. She was cross and disappointed but not at all sorry for Colin. She had looked forward to telling him a great many things and she had meant to try to make up her mind whether it would be safe to trust him with the great secret. She had been beginning to think it would be, but now she had changed her mind entirely. She would never tell him and he could stay in his room and never get any fresh air and die if he liked! It would serve him right! She felt so sour and unrelenting that for a few minutes she almost forgot about Dickon and the green veil creeping over the world and the soft wind blowing down from the moor.
Martha was waiting for her and the trouble in her face had been temporarily replaced by interest and curiosity. There was a wooden box on the table and its cover had been removed and revealed that it was full of neat packages.
"Mr. Craven sent it to you," said Martha. "It looks as if it had picture-books in it."
Mary remembered what he had asked her the day she had gone to his room. "Do you want anything—dolls—toys—books?" She opened the package wondering if he had sent a doll, and also wondering what she should do with it if he had. But he had not sent one. There were several beautiful books such as Colin had, and two of them were about gardens and were full of pictures. There were two or three games and there was a beautiful little writing-case with a gold monogram on it and a gold pen and inkstand.
Everything was so nice that her pleasure began to crowd her anger out of her mind. She had not expected him to remember her at all and her hard little heart grew quite warm.
"I can write better than I can print," she said, "and the first thing I shall write with that pen will be a letter to tell him I am much obliged."
If she had been friends with Colin she would have run to show him her presents at once, and they would have looked at the pictures and read some of the gardening books and perhaps tried playing the games, and he would have enjoyed himself so much he would never once have thought he was going to die or have put his hand on his spine to see if there was a lump coming. He had a way of doing that which she could not bear. It gave her an uncomfortable frightened feeling because he always looked so frightened himself. He said that if he felt even quite a little lump some day he should know his hunch had begun to grow. Something he had heard Mrs. Medlock whispering to the nurse had given him the idea and he had thought over it in secret until it was quite firmly fixed in his mind. Mrs. Medlock had said his father's back had begun to show its crookedness in that way when he was a child. He had never told any one but Mary that most of his "tantrums" as they called them grew out of his hysterical hidden fear. Mary had been sorry for him when he had told her.
"He always began to think about it when he was cross or tired," she said to herself. "And he has been cross to-day. Perhaps—perhaps he has been thinking about it all afternoon."
She stood still, looking down at the carpet and thinking.
"I said I would never go back
"I SHOULD should like to be a sailor," said George Washington. "Then I could go to many strange lands and see many wonderful things. And, by and by, I might become the captain of a ship."
He was only fourteen years old.
His older brothers were quite willing that he should go to sea. They said that a bright boy like George would not long be a common sailor. He would soon become a captain and then perhaps a great admiral.
And so the matter was at last settled. George's brothers knew the master of a trading ship who was getting ready to sail to England. He agreed to take the boy with him and teach him how to be a good sailor.
George's mother was very sad. His uncle had written her a letter saying: "Do not let him go to sea. If he begins as a common sailor, he will never be anything else."
But George had made up his mind to go. He was headstrong and determined. He would not listen to any one who tried to persuade him to stay at home.
At last the day came for the ship to sail. It was waiting in the river. A boat was at the landing, ready to take him on board. The little chest that held his clothing had been carried down to the bank. George was in high glee at the thought of going.
"Good-by, mother," he said.
He stood on the doorstep and looked back into the house. He saw the kind faces of those whom he loved. He began to feel very sad.
"Good-by, my dear boy!"
George saw the tears in his mother's eyes. He saw them rolling down her cheeks. He knew that she did not wish him to go. He could not bear to see her grief.
He stood still for a moment, thinking. Then he turned quickly and said, "Mother, I have changed my mind. I will stay at home and do as you wish."
Then he called to the black boy, who was waiting at the door, and said, "Tom, run down to the shore and tell them not to put the chest in the boat. Send word to the captain not to wait for me, for I have changed my mind. I am not going to sea."
Who has not heard of George Washington? It has been said of him that he was the "first in war, the first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." He was our most famous president. He has been called the Father of his Country.
When dusk is drowned in drowsy dreams,
And slow the hues of sunset die;
When firefly and moth go by,
And in still streams the new moon seems
Another moon and sky:
Then from the hills there comes a cry,
The owlet's cry:
A shivering voice that sobs and screams,
With terror screams:—
"Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?
Who rides through the dusk and dew,
With a pair of horns,
As thin as thorns,
And face a bubble-blue?—
Who, who, who!
Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?"
When night has dulled the lily's white,
And opened the moonflower's eyes;
When pale mists rise and veil the skies,
And round the height in whispering flight
The night-wind sounds and sighs:
Then in the wood again it cries,
The owlet cries:
A shivering voice that calls in fright,
In maundering fright:—
"Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?
Who walks with a shuffling shoe
'Mid the gusty trees,
With a face none sees,
And a form as ghostly, too?—
Who, who, who!
Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?"
When midnight leans a listening ear
And tinkles on her insect lutes;
When 'mid the roots the cricket flutes,
And marsh and mere, now far, now near,
A jack o'lantern foots:
Then o'er the pool again it hoots:
The owlet hoots:
A voice that shivers as with fear,
That cries with fear:—
"Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?
Who creeps with his glow-worm crew
Above the mire
With a corpse-like fire,
As only dead men do?—
Who, who, who!
Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?"
WEEK 16 |
W HEN Ethelwulf, Alfred's father, died, each of his sons became king in turn. During these reigns the Danes became more and more troublesome. Nearly all the time was spent in fighting, so that the country came to be in a very sad state indeed.
When Ethelred (who was the last of Ethelwulf's sons except Alfred) came to the throne, Alfred had grown to be a man, and although he was still very young, he helped his brother a great deal. And when Ethelred died, the people chose Alfred to be their king. For although Ethelred had two sons, they were little boys, and no one thought of making either of them king. The people knew that a strong and wise man was needed to rule in England, and Alfred was both strong and wise.
No king has ever had to fight more bravely for his kingdom than Alfred had. When he came to the throne, the Danes were growing more and more bold. They did not now only come in their ships to plunder and rob, and then sail away again. They came now to live in the land, killing the people, and then taking their houses for themselves.
So all the first years of Alfred's reign were spent in fighting these fierce enemies. But Alfred did not only fight bravely, he thought too.
The Danes were brave and daring sailors, just as the English had been before they came to live in England. But somehow after the English settled down, they seem to have forgotten about how to build ships and how to sail upon the sea.
But Alfred was wise and saw how much better it would be to stop the Danes before they landed at all. So he built ships and went in them to fight the Danes on the sea.
In the year 875 A.D., King Alfred and his ships met the Danes and their ships and fought a great battle and won a great victory. That was the first of many, many sea-victories which the English have won, and ever since the days of Alfred, England has had a navy and Britannia has ruled the waves.
Ye mariners of England
That guard our native seas,
Whose flag has braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze;
Your glorious standard launch again
To match another foe
And sweep through the deep,
While the stormy winds do blow;
While the battle rages loud and long,
And the stormy winds do blow.
Britannia needs no bulwarks,
No towers along the steep;
Her march is on the mountain waves,
Her home is on the deep.
With thunders from her native oak
She quells the floods below,
As they roar on the shore,
When the stormy winds do blow;
When the battle rages loud and long,
And the stormy winds do blow.
But even although Alfred gained this battle at sea, the Danes were not beaten altogether. Again and again Alfred had to fight, but at last he forced the Danes to make peace. They swore by a most solemn and dreadful oath that they would go away and never make war against the English again. This vow was taken with great ceremony. Sheep and cattle were killed and offered in sacrifice to the heathen gods, for the Danes, you remember were heathen. A beautiful ring of gold, called the holy bracelet, was dipped in the blood of the animals. The bracelet was then placed upon an altar and, laying their hands upon it, the Danish chiefs swore to fight no more against the English.
This was not the first time that the Danes had promised to go away and fight no more, but they had always broken their promises. Now Alfred thought they would be sure to keep their word, because of the very solemn vow they had taken.
But the Danes did not mean to keep this promise any more than the others. Very soon they came back again as bold as before, or bolder. Once more fierce battles raged, till at last, weary of fighting, and forsaken by nearly all his followers, Alfred was forced to hide for a time in the marshes of Somerset.
This was the saddest part of Alfred's life. He was a king, yet he had neither crown nor royal robes, neither palace nor servants. He was so poor that he went to live in the cottage of a cowherd called Denewulf. His clothes were so old and worn that the cowherd's wife thought that he was a friend of her husband, and so she treated him as if he had been a common man and not a great king.
One day Denewulf's wife was very busy. She had been baking cakes, and had still many things to do. Alfred meanwhile was sitting by the fire. He had been mending his bow and arrows, but they had dropped from his hand, for, thinking deeply about his kingdom and his people, and of how he could free them from the Danes, he had forgotten all else.
It seemed to Denewulf's wife that Alfred was a lazy sort of fellow. She did not know the great matters he had to think of, and she wondered how any one could sit for hours by the fire doing nothing, while she and her husband had to work so hard.
Now, she said to herself, this lazy fellow can at least look after my cakes, while I go to do something else.
"Here, good man," she said to him, "just mind my cakes for
me. And don't let them burn. When they are nice and brown on
one side, turn them over on to the other side,
"All right, good wife, I will look after your cakes for you," replied Alfred.
But when the good woman had gone, Alfred sank once more deep in thought. As he watched the cakes, he looked into the fire. Soon, in the red glow of the burning ashes, he saw wonderful things. The cakes and the cowherd's cottage vanished. Once again he was leading his army, his banner with its golden dragons fluttered in the breeze, his spear was in his hand, his crown upon his head. He heard the shout of his soldiers as they charged the Danes. The ranks of the enemy broke, they fled—to their ships they fled. Fast behind them came the English. They set fire to the Danish ships. He smelt the smoke as it rolled upward, heard the crackle of the flames, the shrieks of the dying, the shouts of victory. England was saved.
Then suddenly he was awakened out of his dream by a blow to his shoulder, and an angry voice in his ear,
Canst thee not mind the cakes, man?
And doesn't thee see them burn?
I's bound thee'll eat them fast enough
As soon as 'tis thy turn.
Alas! the cakes, and not the Danish ships, were burning. Alfred was a great king, but he had proved a poor cook; and the good wife was very angry.
She scolded him well, little thinking that she was scolding her King. She was still rating when Denewulf came in.
"Hush thee, woman, hush thee," he said, ashamed and frightened.
"Hush, shall I?" she cried angrily. "The lazy loon, the idle good-for-naught, to sit by the fire, and see the cakes burn, and never stir a finger."
"Hush thee, woman," said Denewulf again in despair. "It is the King."
"The King!" cried the good wife, astonished, and a little frightened too. "Well, king or no king," she added grumblingly after a minute, "he ought to have minded the cakes."
Alfred was not angry, as Denewulf feared he would be, and afterwards, when he came to his kingdom again, Alfred made the cowherd a bishop, for he had found out while hiding in his cottage that Denewulf was a good and wise man. So his wife became a great lady, and perhaps never baked any more cakes. Certainly she never again had a king to watch them for her.
I N her early life Daucus was a seed. At that time she had a stiff coat with rows of barbed prickles on it. She wore this strange spiny baby coat for more than half a year.
At first she lived with seven or eight hundred sister seeds in a hollow cup-shaped cluster that looked somewhat like a bird's nest. This seed-cluster grew at the tip of a wild carrot stem. There were many of these plants, each with several such stems, in a weedy field not far from Holiday Farm.
Blossoms and "Birds' Nests"
During the frosty fall weather the stems and the "birds' nests" at their tips became dry and brown. Later, when the winter storms came, the snow often piled in little fluffy white mounds on top of the nests. Sometimes the snow would be blown off by the wind while it was light. At other times it would melt a bit during the sunny part of the day and then freeze at night in icy crusts. Then when morning came the seed-clusters looked as if they were in sparkling glass cases.
Little Daucus never knew whether the winter days were sunny or stormy. She and the hundreds of sister seeds slept in the brown nest on the tip of the slender stem. They stayed there until nearly March. Then one day a blustering wind snapped the brittle stem and broke off the nest of seeds.
Away the round cluster rolled over the crusty snow like a feather ball before the wind! And all about were other similar clusters scurrying in the same direction.
Dick and Anne were coming home from school that afternoon while the field looked as if the winds there were playing a game with the little round balls.
"See," said Anne, "the birds' nests have broken off the wild carrot plants and they are rolling along like tumble-weeds."
"They are blowing toward Holiday Meadow. Let's race with them!" said Dick.
Just as Dick spoke, the seed-cluster with Daucus in it blew by and the cousins began to run. Daucus reached Holiday Meadow first. But the slope near the river was sheltered a bit from the wind; and the children overtook Daucus there.
"I'll beat you to the bottom of the slope," Anne said to the seed-ball with a laugh. But just then she slipped on an icy spot and sat down on top of Daucus's ball.
When Anne stood up she saw that the frail cluster was crushed and mixed with broken snow crust. So the cousins chose another ball with which to race.
Daucus was not harmed by the accident. Her hard coat protected her. But a lump of icy snow had rolled on top of her and held her still. The wind could not blow her any farther. She had reached the end of her journey.
In due time spring days came. Melted snow soaked the ground of Holiday Meadow and fresh rain fell. Daucus's coat was wet. Her little seed-body was moistened by water and warmed by sunshine; and it began to grow. She pushed sprouting roots down into the ground. She reached tiny leaves up into the air. She no longer needed her baby clothes.
The meadow slope was well drained and the ground did not stay too wet for the best health of wild carrot plants. So, before her first summer was over, Daucus had a tough pale yellow tap-root shaped somewhat like a scrawny little carrot; and she had a crown of beautiful feathery leaves. She did not have any tall stems and flowers; for, unlike many kinds of plants, wild carrots wait until their second summer before they blossom.
Although Daucus had no flowers that summer, she did have a butterfly for a guest. Of course the butterfly did not visit the green leaves for nectar. She came on a different sort of errand. One day at noon when the sun was bright she stopped for about a quarter of a minute on one of Daucus's soft feathery leaves. During that brief call she glued one egg to the under side of the leaf.
She was a rather large butterfly. When she spread her wings they measured more than three inches from the tip of the right fore wing to the tip of the left one. She was a beautiful creature whose black velvety wings were bordered by two rows of yellow spots. On the hind wings there were spots of pale blue on the black space between the yellow rows. Each hind wing was tipped with a slender black tail.
After Black Swallowtail, for that was her name, left Daucus she flew to a caraway leaf and glued one egg to the under side of that.
The carrot and the caraway both belong to the Parsley Family; and it is a wonderful fact that Black Swallowtail butterflies never lay an egg on any plant that does not belong to that family. They may leave their eggs, one in a place, on parsnip or dill or celery or parsley or other plants of this family; but they never waste their eggs by putting them on other kinds of leaves.
Of course you would like to know how a Black Swallowtail chooses plants of one family from all the other plants of fields and gardens. So should I. But no one can tell us exactly for no one has the senses of a butterfly. People think that when she is ready to lay her eggs, carrots and related plants have for her such an attractive scent that she cannot help stopping at such leaves.
All the plants belonging to the Parsley Family have certain likenesses in the shapes of their flowers. Perhaps to a Black Swallowtail they have the same sort of odor. Even to a human nose certain of these plants have somewhat similar smells.
If you wish to find out what plants belong to the Parsley Family you might follow a Black Swallowtail. That would be one way to study botany.
It is fortunate for the caterpillar youngsters of Black Swallowtail butterflies that their mothers never mislay their eggs, for leaves of plants belonging to the Parsley Family are the only sorts of food that agree with them.
When a tiny caterpillar crept out of the eggshell that had been left on Daucus's leaf he made himself quite at home; and as soon as he felt hungry, he helped himself to carrot-leaf salad.
He did not waste any of his food but ate every bit that he cut off with his little tooth-like jaws. So he grew rather fast.
At first he was black with some white marks and rows of little fleshy spines; but by the time he was in his last caterpillar stage he was much more handsome. His skin was then smooth and gayly colored. He was green with cross-bands of black and on each black band was a row of orange spots. He had two soft orange-colored horns but these were usually drawn in under the skin just behind his head and did not show.
A handsome caterpillar who likes celery and other plants of the Parsley Family.
One day a young bird, not yet much used to hunting for itself, saw this bright-colored caterpillar and poked him with its beak. When the bird touched him he thrust out his horns quickly and the air all about him was filled with a strange strong odor. The young bird did not like that smell and went away in a hurry. Left to himself, the caterpillar drew in his horns and crept along the leaf.
The roofs are shining from the rain,
The sparrows twitter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.
Yet the back yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree—
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.
WEEK 16 |
W HITEFOOT the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse had become so interested that they decided they couldn't afford to miss the next lesson. Neither did either of them feel like making the long journey to his home and back again. So Whitefoot found a hole in a stump near by and decided to camp out there for a few days. Danny decided to do the same thing in a comfortable place under a pile of brush not far away. So the next morning both were on hand when school opened.
"I told you yesterday that I would tell you about some of Danny's cousins," began Old Mother Nature just as Chatterer the Red Squirrel, who was late, came hurrying up quite out of breath. "Way up in the Far North are two of Danny's cousins more closely related to him than to any other members of the Mouse family. Yet, strange to say, they are not called Mice at all, but Lemmings. However, they belong to the Mouse family.
"Bandy the Banded Lemming is the most interesting, because he is the one member of the entire family who changes the color of his coat. In summer he wears beautiful shades of reddish brown and gray, but in winter his coat is wholly white. He is also called the Hudson Bay Lemming.
"Danny Meadow Mouse thinks his tail is short, but he wouldn't if he should see Bandy's tail. That is so short it hardly shows beyond his long fur. He is about Danny's size, but a little stouter and stockier, and his long fur makes him appear even thicker-bodied than he really is. He has very short legs, and his ears are so small that they are quite hidden in the fur around them, so that he appears to have no ears at all.
"In that same far northern country is a close relative called the Brown Lemming. He is very much like Bandy save that he is all brown and does not change his coat in winter. Both have the same general habits, and these are much like the habits of Danny Meadow Mouse. They make short burrows in the ground leading to snug, warm nests of grass and moss. In winter they make little tunnels in every direction under the snow, with now and then an opening to the surface.
A northern cousin of Danny Meadow Mouse.
"There are many more Brown Lemmings than Banded Lemmings, and their little paths run everywhere through the grass and moss. In that country there is a great deal of moss. It covers the ground just as grass does here. But the most interesting thing about these Lemmings is the way they migrate. To migrate is to move from one part of the country to another. You know most of the birds migrate to the Sunny South every autumn and back every spring.
"Once in a while it happens that food becomes very scarce where the Lemmings are. Then very many of them get together, just as migrating birds form great flocks, and start on a long journey in search of a place where there is plenty of food. They form a great army and push ahead, regardless of everything. They swim wide rivers and even lakes which may lie in their way. Of course, they eat everything eatable in their path."
"My!" exclaimed Danny Meadow Mouse, "I'm glad I don't live in a country where I might have to make such long journeys. I don't envy those cousins up there in the Far North a bit. I'm perfectly satisfied to live right on the Green Meadows."
"Which shows your good common sense," said Old Mother Nature. "By the way, Danny, I suppose you are acquainted with Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse, who also is rather fond of the Green Meadows. I ought to have sent word to him to be here this morning."
Hardly were the words out of Old Mother Nature's mouth when something landed in the leaves almost at her feet and right in the middle of school. Instantly Danny Meadow Mouse scurried under a pile of dead leaves. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse darted into a knothole in the log on which he had been sitting. Jumper the Hare dodged behind a little hemlock tree. Peter Rabbit bolted for a hollow log. Striped Chipmunk vanished in a hole under an old stump. Johnny Chuck backed up against the trunk of a tree and made ready to fight. Only Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Prickly Porky the Porcupine, who were sitting in trees, kept their places. You see they felt quite safe.
As soon as all those who had run had reached places of safety, they peeped out to see what had frightened them so. Just imagine how very, very foolish they felt when they saw Old Mother Nature smiling down at a little fellow just about the size of little Whitefoot, but with a much longer tail. It was Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse.
Look for this pretty little fellow in old weedy fields.
"Well, well, well," exclaimed Old Mother Nature. "I was just speaking of you and wishing I had you here. How did you happen to come? And what do you mean by scaring my pupils half out of their wits?" Her eyes twinkled. Nimbleheels saw this and knew that she was only pretending to be severe.
Before he could reply Johnny Chuck began to chuckle. The chuckle became a laugh, and presently Johnny was laughing so hard he had to hold his sides. Now, as you know, laughter is catching. In a minute or so everybody was laughing, and no one but Johnny Chuck knew what the joke was. At last Peter Rabbit stopped laughing long enough to ask Johnny what he was laughing at.
"At the idea of that little pinch of nothing giving us all such a fright," replied Johnny Chuck. Then all laughed some more.
When they were through laughing Nimbleheels answered Old Mother Nature's questions. He explained that he had heard about that school, as by this time almost every one in the Green Forest and on the Green Meadows had. By chance he learned that Danny Meadow Mouse was attending. He thought that if it was a good thing for Danny it would be a good thing for him, so he had come.
"Just as I was almost here I heard a twig snap behind me, or thought I did, and I jumped so as to get here and be safe. I didn't suppose anyone would be frightened by little me," he explained. "It was some jump!" exclaimed Jumper the Hare admiringly. "He went right over my head, and I was sitting up at that!"
"It isn't much of a jump to go over your head," replied Nimbleheels.
"You ought to see me when I really try to jump. I wasn't half
trying when I landed here. I'm sorry I frightened all of you so.
It gives me a queer feeling just to think that I should be able
to frighten anybody. If you please, Mother Nature, am I in time
"Not for all of it, but you are just in time for the part I wanted you here for," replied Old Mother Nature. "Hop up on that log side of your Cousin Whitefoot, where all can see you."
Nimbleheels hopped up beside Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, and as the two little cousins sat side by side they were not unlike in general appearance, though of the two Whitefoot was the prettier. The coat of Nimbleheels was a dull yellowish, darker on the back than on the sides. Like Whitefoot he was white underneath. His ears were much smaller than those of Whitefoot. But the greatest differences between the two were in their hind legs and tails.
The hind legs and feet of Nimbleheels were long, on the same plan as those of Peter Rabbit. From just a glance at them any one would know that he was a born jumper and a good one. Whitefoot possessed a long tail, but the tail of Nimbleheels was much longer, slim and tapering.
"There," said Old Mother Nature, "is the greatest jumper for his size among all the animals in this great country. When I say this, I mean the greatest ground jumper. Timmy the Flying Squirrel jumps farther, but Timmy has to climb to a high place and then coasts down on the air. I told you what wonderful jumps Jack Rabbit can make, but if he could jump as high and far for his size as Nimbleheels can jump for his size, the longest jump Jack has ever made would seem nothing more than a hop. By the way, both Nimbleheels and Whitefoot have small pockets in their cheeks. Tell us where you live, Nimbleheels."
"I live among the weeds along the edge of the Green Meadows," replied Nimbleheels, "though sometimes I go way out on the Green Meadows. But I like best to be among the weeds because they are tall and keep me well hidden, and also because they furnish me plenty to eat. You see, I live largely on seeds, though I am also fond of berries and small nuts, especially beechnuts. Some of my family prefer the Green Forest, especially if there is a Laughing Brook or pond in it. Personally I prefer, as I said before, the edge of the Green Meadows."
"Do you make your home under the ground?" asked Striped Chipmunk.
"For winter, yes," replied Nimbleheels. "In summer I sometimes put my nest just a few inches under ground, but often I hide it under a piece of bark or in a thick clump of grass, just as Danny Meadow Mouse often does his. In the fall I dig a deep burrow, deep enough to be beyond the reach of Jack Frost, and in a nice little bedroom down there I sleep the winter away. I have little storerooms down there too, in which I put seeds, berries and nuts. Then when I do wake up I have plenty to eat."
"I might add," said Old Mother Nature, "that when he goes to sleep for the winter he curls up in a little ball with his long tail wrapped around him, and in his bed of soft grass he sleeps very sound indeed. Like Johnny Chuck he gets very fat before going to sleep. Now, Nimbleheels, show us how you can jump."
Nimbleheels hopped down from the log on which he had been sitting and at once shot into the air in such a high, long, beautiful jump that everybody exclaimed. This way and that way he went in great leaps. It was truly wonderful.
"That long tail is what balances him," explained Old Mother Nature.
"If he should lose it he would simply turn over and over and never
know where or how he was going to land. His jumping is done only
in times of danger. When he is not alarmed he runs about on the
ground like the rest of the Mouse family. This is all for
Benjamin Franklin, the fifteenth in a family of seventeen children, was born in Boston in 1706. Benjamin learned to read when he was very young, but he was sent to school for only two years. When he was ten years old he had to help his father. Franklin's father made his living by boiling soap and making tallow candles. Little Benjamin had to cut wicks for the candles, fill the molds with the melted tallow, tend the shop, and run on errands. He did not like the soap and candle trade. Playing about the water, he had learned to swim, and to manage a boat, when he was very young. Like many other boys, he got the notion that it would be a fine thing to go to sea and be a sailor. But his father did not think so.
Franklin Begins his Education
Franklin and his playmates used to fish for minnows in a mill pond which had a salt marsh for a shore, so that the boys had to stand in the mud. He was a leader among the boys, and already very ingenious. So he proposed that the boys should build a little wharf in this marsh to stand on. Near the marsh there was a pile of stones, put there to be used in building a new house. In the evening, when the workmen were gone, Franklin and the other boys tugged and toiled until they had managed to carry all these stones away and build them into a wharf, or pier, reaching out into the water.
In the morning the workmen were very much surprised to find that their pile of stones had walked away during the night. They soon found out where the stones were, and complained to the parents of the boys. Franklin and some of the other boys were punished for their mischief. Benjamin tried to make his father see that it was a very useful work to build such a pier, but the father soon showed him that "nothing was useful that was not honest."
When Franklin had worked for two years with the father at the trade of making tallow candles, the father began to be afraid that Ben would run away and go to sea, as another of his sons had done before. So Franklin's father took him to walk with him sometimes, showing him men working at their trades, such as bricklaying, turning, and joining, hoping that the boy would take a fancy to one of these occupations. Meantime, Benjamin became very fond of reading. He read his father's books, which were very dull for children, and he sold some little things of his own to buy more. As the boy was so fond of books, Benjamin's father could think of nothing better than to make him a printer. So Benjamin was apprenticed to his older brother, James Franklin, who already had a printing office. Benjamin liked this trade, and learned very fast. As he was often sent to bookstores, he got a chance to borrow books. He sometimes sat up all night to read one of these, taking great care to keep the books clean and to return them soon.
Benjamin took a fancy to write poetry about this time. His brother printed this "wretched stuff," as Franklin afterwards called it, and sent the boy around the town to peddle it. Ben was very proud of his poetry until his father made fun of it, and told him that "verse-makers were generally beggars."
Franklin had a notion as a boy that it was wrong to eat meat, so he told his brother that if he would give him half of what his board cost, he would board himself. After this, Benjamin made his dinner on biscuit or a tart from the baker's. In this way he saved some of his board money to buy books, and used the time while the other printers were at dinner to study.
James Franklin, Benjamin's brother, printed a little newspaper. Franklin was printer's boy and paper carrier, for after he had worked at printing the papers, he carried them around to the houses of the subscribers. But he also wanted to write for the paper. He did not dare propose to bold a thing to his brother, so he wrote some articles and put them under the printing-office door at night. They were printed, and even Benjamin's brother did not suspect that they were written by the boy.
The two brothers did not get on well together. The younger brother was rather saucy, and the older brother, who was high-tempered, sometimes gave him a whipping.
James Franklin once printed something in his newspaper which offended the government of the colony. He was arrested and put into prison for a month; for the press was not free in that day. Benjamin published the paper while his brother was in prison, and put in the sharpest things he dared to say about the government. After James got out of prison he was forbidden to print a newspaper any longer. So he made up his mind to print it in the name of his brother Benjamin. In order to do this he was obliged to release Benjamin Franklin from his apprenticeship, though it was agreed that Ben was to remain at work for his brother, as though still an apprentice, till he was twenty-one years old. But Benjamin soon got into another quarrel with his brother James, and, now that he was no longer bound, he left him. This was not fair on his part, and he was afterwards sorry for it.
O, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
And after April, when May follows,
And the white-throat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
WEEK 16 |
Long, long ago, there lived in Daneland a king called Hrothgar. The old men of his country loved him and bowed the knee to him gladly, and the young men obeyed him and joyfully did battle for him. For he was a king mighty in war, and valiant. Never foe could stand against him, but he overcame them all, and took from them much spoil.
So this king wrought peace in his land and his riches grew great. In his palace there were heaped gold in rings and in chains, armour finely welded, rich jewels which glowed as soft sunlight.
Then King Hrothgar looked upon this great treasure and brooded thereon. At last he said, "I will build me a great hall. It shall be vast and wide, adorned within and without with gold and ivory, with gems and carved work. The fame of it shall spread over all the earth, and men shall sing of it for all time. And when it is builded, therein shall I call all my warriors, young and old and divide to them the treasure that I have. It shall be a hall of joy and feasting."
Then King Hrothgar called his workmen and gave them commandment to build the hall. So they set to work, and day by day it rose quickly, becoming each day more and more fair, until at length it was finished.
It stood upon a height, vast and stately, and as it was adorned with the horns of deer, King Hrothgar named it Hart Hall.
Then, true to his word and well pleased with the work of his servants, King Hrothgar made a great feast. To it his warriors young and old were called, and he divided his treasure, giving to each rings of gold.
And so in the Hall there was laughter and song and great merriment. Every evening when the shadows fell, and the land grew dark without, the knights and warriors gathered in the Hall to feast. And when the feast was over, and the wine-cup passed around the board, and the great fire roared upon the hearth, and the dancing flames gleamed and flickered, making strange shadows among the gold and carved work of the walls, the minstrel took his harp and sang.
Then from the many-windowed Hall the light glowed cheerfully. Far over the dreary fen and moorland the gleam was shed, and the sound of song and harp awoke the deep silence of the night.
Within the Hall was light and gladness, but without there was wrath and hate. For far on the moor there lived a wicked giant named Grendel. Hating all joy and brightness, he haunted the fastness and the fen, prowling at night to see what evil he might do.
And now when night by night he heard the minstrel's song, and saw the lighted windows gleam through the darkness, it was pain and grief to him.
Very terrible was this ogre Grendel to look upon. Thick black hair hung about his face, and his teeth were long and sharp, like the tusks of an animal. His huge body and great hairy arms had the strength of ten men. He wore no armour, for his skin was tougher than any coat of mail that man or giant might weld. His nails were like steel and sharper than daggers, and by his side there hung a great pouch in which he carried off those whom he was ready to devour.
Terrible was this ogre Grendel to look upon
Now day by day this fearsome giant was tortured more and more, for to him it was a torture to hear the sounds of laughter and of merriment. Day by day the music of harp and song of minstrel made him more and more mad with jealous hate.
At length he could bear it no longer. Therefore one night he set out, and creeping through the darkness came to Hart Hall, where, after the feast and song were done, the warriors slept.
Peacefully they slept with arms and armour thrown aside, having no fear of any foe. And so with ease the fierce and savage giant seized them with his greedy claws. Speedily he slew thirty of the bravest warriors. Then howling with wicked joy he carried them off to his dark dwelling, there to devour them.
Oh, when morning came, great was the moaning in Daneland. When the sun arose and shone upon the desolated Hall, and the war-craft of Grendel was made plain, there was weeping. A cry of woe and wailing crept out over the moorland, and the woesome sound made glad the heart of the Wicked One.
But Hrothgar, the mighty, sat upon his throne downcast and sorrowful. He who was strong in war wept now for the woe of his thanes.
With eyes dimmed and dark, in grief and rage he looked across the wild wide moorland, where the track of the monster was marked with blood, and he longed for a champion.
But who could fight against an Ogre? Before the thought the bravest quailed. Such a fight would be too loathly, too horrible. It was not to be endured.
When night fell the sorrowing warriors laid themselves down to rest with sighs and tears, in the bright hall that once had rung with songs and laughter. But the greedy monster was not yet satisfied, his work was not yet done. Stealthily through the darkening moorland again the Ogre crept until he reached the Hart Hall.
Again he stretched forth his hand, again he seized the bravest of the warriors, slew and carried them off to his drear dwelling.
Then was there wailing and fierce sorrow among the mighty men. Yet was there none so brave that he would face and fight the demon foe. But each man swore that he would not again sleep beneath the roof of Hart Hall. So when evening fell, they departed every man to the dwellings around the palace, and the fair Hall was left desolate.
Thus Grendel, single handed, warred against the Dane folk until the great Hall, the wonder of men, was forsaken and empty.
For twelve long years it stood thus, no man daring, except in the light of day, to enter it. For after the shadows of evening fell, Grendel was master there. And in that stately Hall, when night was darkest, he held his horrid feasts. Only near to the throne, the carved Gift-seat or throne of the Dane folk, where Hrothgar the king used to sit, and from whence he dispensed gifts to his people, there only he dared not go. Something sacred and pure was there, before which the wicked Ogre trembled.
Thus for twelve long years Grendel warred against Hrothgar and the Dane folk. He prowled through the misty moorland, lay in wait in dark places, slaying young and old. Many were the grisly deeds he did, many the foul crimes. And the mighty warriors, strong of heart against a mortal foe, were powerless against him.
Downcast and sorrowful of heart Hrothgar sat among his counsellors. None among them knew how to give him advice or comfort. None knew how to deliver his land from the Evil One.
Then the minstrels made mournful songs, and far and wide they sang of how Grendel ever warred with Hrothgar. They sang of how year by year there was battle and wrath between the noble King and the Ogre of evil fame.
A Rabbit left his home one day for a dinner of clover. But he forgot to latch the door of his house and while he was gone a Weasel walked in and calmly made himself at home. When the Rabbit returned, there was the Weasel's nose sticking out of the Rabbit's own doorway, sniffing the fine air.
The Rabbit was quite angry—for
A wise old Cat heard the dispute and offered to settle it.
"Come close to me," said the Cat, "I am very deaf. Put your mouths close to my ears while you tell me the facts."
The unsuspecting pair did as they were told and in an instant the Cat had them both under her claws. No one could deny that the dispute had been definitely settled.
The strong are apt to settle questions to their own advantage.
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shades for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
And she dances about the sun—
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.
WEEK 16 |
"Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the Eternal Silence."
P HILIP was now left to gather up the reins of his mighty empire, keeping ever in view the desire of his father to crush the Protestants out of the land. Nowhere had they increased more rapidly than in the Netherlands. The first Dutch Bible had been printed some thirty years before this time, at Amsterdam, but the study of it had been forbidden by the emperor under pain of death.
"And if you will not obey me, you shall be burned," he added.
Two monks were burned at once for disobeying the royal command—the first Protestant martyrs of the Netherlands, the leaders of a great host who were afterwards burnt at the stake for conscience' sake. Still the numbers of Luther's followers increased. A further step was taken.
Men called Inquisitors were sent by the emperor to question the people about their belief, with instructions to burn alive all those who took part with Luther against the Pope. But, as in the days of the early Christians in Rome, the martyrdom of the Protestants only tended to strengthen their faith. Hundreds and thousands had been burnt in the Netherlands under the Emperor Charles. It was not likely that Philip would be more tolerant. To begin with, he had no sympathy with the Netherlands. Born and educated in Spain, he was Spanish to the backbone, and his great idea was to make Spain the capital of his empire, so that he might rule from there. So four years after his accession, he made his sister Margaret Regent of the Netherlands, and sailed away from Flushing for sunny Spain, never to return.
"I shall not rest so long as there is one man left believing in the teaching of Martin Luther," he said as he left his sister to carry out his instructions. And the Inquisition went forward more rigidly than ever before.
But no sooner had Philip turned his back than the men of the Netherlands began to show their discontent. Spanish soldiers had been left behind to enforce the Inquisition; day by day men were dragged from their homes, tortured, and killed for reading the Bible in Dutch, or for listening to Protestant teaching. In their misery many of them went to England, where they were kindly treated, and where there never was any Inquisition.
Meanwhile Margaret saw the growing frenzy of the people, and grew alarmed. She was a rigid Roman Catholic herself, but she saw that her brother was pushing things too far in the Netherlands. She wrote despairing letters to him, describing the gloomy state of the country and her fears of a rebellion. She sent the Count Egmont in person to try and alarm him as to the serious state of affairs.
But nothing was done. At last the nobles of the land determined to intercede. Some 200 of them made their way to the abode of Margaret in Brussels with a petition. An immense crowd watched them with shouts and cheers, for were they not the deliverers of the land from the tyranny of the Spanish Inquisition? They passed through the great hall where ten years before Charles had abdicated his throne, and entered the council-chamber. The document was read to Margaret. It told her what she already knew but it affected her deeply, and at the end she remained quite silent with tears raining down her cheeks.
"Is it possible that your highness is afraid of these Beggars?" cried one standing by her. "Take my advice and you will drive them faster down the steps of the palace than they came up."
Begun in a jest, the name of Beggars became the watchword of these men, the famous cry of liberty, which was to ring over land and sea, amid burning cities, on blood-stained decks, through the smoke and din of many a battlefield. They dressed themselves in the beggar's garb of coarse grey, they wore the beggar's wallet and common felt caps, while each wore a newly made badge with the words, "Faithful to the King, even to the beggar's sack." They shaved off their beards to resemble beggars yet more nearly. Hundreds of Netherlanders now became Beggars, until they became as "numerous as the sands on the sea-shore."
"Long live the Beggars!" cried the people, until Margaret grew more and more alarmed at their gathering numbers and their defiant air. And still her brother Philip was blind to the coming danger.
"You have done wrong," he wrote to her. "We will not be less cruel to the Protestants. I will not give up the Inquisition."
Y OU may remember reading, at the end of the story of "The Gods and the Giants," that the quarrels of Jupiter and Juno never ceased to disturb the peace of the sky where the gods dwell. Juno's temper was terrible, and so was her jealousy, and her pride was beyond all bounds. On the other hand, her character was without reproach, while Jupiter was the worst husband in the whole of heaven. To such a pitch did their quarrels at last reach, that Juno went away to earth, vowing never to see Jupiter again.
I suppose, however, that Jupiter loved Juno in the depth of his heart, or else he was afraid of the scandal that would follow upon a separation between the King and Queen of Heaven. At any rate he consulted his friends as to how the quarrel could be made up, and was advised by one of them, King Cithæron of Platæa, to have it announced that he was about to make some other goddess his queen. On hearing the news, back flew Juno in a rage to the sky to stop the marriage, and finding that there was no marriage to stop, consented to remain, and to forgive her husband once more.
But to quarrel once always makes it easier and easier to quarrel again, and harder and harder to keep love or friendship alive. And before long came another quarrel—the worst of all. Juno scolded furiously, and Jupiter at last said:—
"Enough. You shall destroy the peace of heaven no longer. Out you shall go."
"All the better," said Juno. "I will go back to earth as I did before. And I am not going to be tricked by your false stories a second time."
"No," said Jupiter; "the happiness of the earth is as dear to me as the happiness of the sky. You shall neither go to earth nor stay in heaven."
Taking a long golden chain, he fastened it round her, under her shoulders. Then he sent for one of the Cyclopes' anvils, and fastened it to her feet. Securing the other end of the chain to the keystone of the rainbow, he let her down, so that Juno hung suspended in mid-air, neither upon the earth nor in the sky, while the anvil at her feet prevented her from swinging and from climbing up again by the chain.
It was a terrible position for Juno. Her anger was still at full heat, and such a degradation, in full sight of gods and men, was a heavy wound to her pride, not to speak of the bodily pain which she had helplessly to bear. But she scorned to beg for pardon. So there she hung, plotting revenge, until night came—till Apollo was asleep under the sea, and Diana was away hunting, and Jupiter, making the most of his long-lost quiet, was dozing upon his throne. Then Juno, who certainly could not sleep with an anvil dragging at her legs and a chain at her shoulders, heard a whisper from above, "Hush! Don't start—don't scream; keep quite still, and I'll soon draw your majesty up again."
Not that Juno had thought of starting or screaming—she was much too dignified. Besides, the whisper, though rather rough and hoarse, was very pleasant to hear just then. For she recognized the voice of Vulcan, her own son, and she knew that he was going to help her.
So she kept quite quiet as she was bidden, and presently she felt herself, anvil and all, being drawn very slowly upwards, just as you may have seen a heavy sack drawn up by a machine to a warehouse window. It must have been rather painful being dragged up while the anvil dragged her down; but she found herself on firm sky at last, and sighed with relief when Vulcan, whipping out his knife, cut the cord at her feet, and let the anvil go thundering down upon the earth below.
You can fancy what a clatter it made. People started out of their sleep—not that that mattered. But it did matter that Jupiter started out of his. He sprang from his throne, and saw at once what had happened. The next moment, with a tremendous kick, he sent Vulcan flying after the anvil.
Vulcan fell and fell, spinning through space, till he lost his senses, and then—
The anvil had fallen upon the island of Lemnos, and the islanders, rushing out of their houses to see what the crash and clatter could be about, were amazed to see what looked like a confused bundle of legs and arms tumbling and whirling through the air. As it came nearer, it seemed to be a human figure. So the people made a sort of network of their arms, to catch it and prevent its being dashed to pieces.
And lucky it was for Vulcan that they did. For when he came to himself he found himself with nothing worse the matter than one leg badly broken.
God though he was, he always remained lame, and he was naturally somewhat deformed. But neither lameness nor deformity prevented his having amazing strength; and he was as clever as he was strong. The people of Lemnos treated him kindly, and he in return taught them to work in metals. They built him a palace, and he set up forges and furnaces, and made all sorts of useful and curious things. He used to work at the forges himself, blowing the fires and wielding the hammer. Among the curious things he made were two mechanical statues, which seemed alive, walked about with him, and even helped him in his work. And at last there came into his head a plan for getting called back into heaven. So he shut himself up in his smithy with his two mechanical workmen, and let nobody know what he was doing there. Those mechanical workmen were among the most useful things he made, for he could trust them to help him in his most secret work without understanding it or being able to tell how it was done.
One day the gods up in heaven were excited by the arrival of a splendid golden throne—a present from the earth for Jupiter. How it came there nobody knew. But there it was, and all agreed that nothing so magnificent in its way had ever been seen before, even in the skies. Jupiter was about to try how it felt to sit upon, when Juno, jealous even of that, went quickly before him and seated herself.
"Ah! that is a comfortable throne!" she exclaimed. "There is nothing like gold to sit upon, after all."
Jupiter was annoyed with Juno's behavior, as indeed he was with most things she did. As, however, he did not like to make another scene before all the gods and goddesses, he waited patiently for her to get up again. But she did not move.
At last—"I think that is my throne," he hinted, in a tone which seemed gentle, but which Juno understood exceedingly well. Still she did not move.
"Thrones are not meant to go to sleep upon," he said in a yet more meaning way.
And still she did not move.
"Get up!" he thundered at last, his patience gone.
"I can't!" was all she could say, as she made a vain effort to rise. "The throne is holding me with its arms!"
And so it proved. Juno was held so tightly by the throne that she could scarcely struggle. It was very strange. And presently it became stranger still. Neither the authority of Jupiter, nor all the strength and skill of all Olympus together, could loosen the clutch of the magic throne.
"Ah!" said Mercury—who, you may remember, was Jupiter's chief messenger, and the quickest and cleverest of all the gods—"if only Vulcan were here! He understands these things."
"And why is he not here?" asked Jupiter, sternly.
But nobody dared answer, though everybody knew. However, Mercury took the hint, vanished for an instant or two, and, while the gods were vainly tugging at the arms of the throne, reappeared, followed by a limping figure all black and hot from the forge—in short by Vulcan.
"What is the matter?" asked Vulcan, as innocently as if he had nothing to do with it at all. "Ah! I see. A clever invention; but—By the way, I can't afford another broken leg: so if I help my mother this time—"
Seeing from the face of Jupiter that he had nothing to fear, he pressed the tip of his grimy finger upon a secret spring—the arms instantly opened, and Juno was free. What they did with the throne I cannot tell you; but you may be certain that nobody ever sat on it again.
After that, Vulcan remained among the gods as the god of Fire, and was the chief blacksmith of nature. He opened vast forges in the middle of the earth, where he made weapons and armor for gods and heroes, and thunderbolts for Jupiter. The Cyclopes, the giants with one eye in the middle of their foreheads, were his workmen. The chimneys of his furnaces are called volcanoes, of which the chief is Mount Ætna in the island of Sicily; and one can tell when some great work is going on by the smoke and flame that bursts out of these. Volcano, you will no doubt notice, is very nearly the same word as Vulcan.
And so things went on quietly till one day a very wonderful thing happened. Nobody has ever been able to account for it or understand it; so I must just tell you the story as it stands. One lovely spring morning, when there was scarcely the softest breeze to stir the sea, shining like a mirror in the sun, a light amber-colored froth that floated upon the ripples was seen, by watchers upon the shore of the island of Cyprus, to gather into a delicate rosy cloud that presently began to tremble as if it were trying to be alive. It still rested lightly upon the water—so lightly that the breeze, soft and gentle as it was, might have blown it away; but its delicate trembling carried it upwards till at last it seemed to breathe, then to take shape, and at last blossomed into the most beautiful woman—if woman it was—that had ever been seen in the world, or even in heaven. With wonderful grace she glided to the shore; and poets have told how the zephyrs, or soft west winds, guided her as she came, and the four seasons received her on the shore. The people of Cyprus could only wonder and worship; and this was the birth of the great goddess Venus, the Queen of Love, whom the Greeks called Aphrodīte, which means born of the Foam of the Sea.
And this wonderful goddess of Love and Beauty Jupiter chose to give in marriage to Vulcan, the deformed and limping god of Fire.
WEEK 16 |
"T HIS," said old Peter, "is a story against wanting more than enough."
Long ago, near the shore of the blue sea, an old man lived with his old woman in a little old hut made of earth and moss and logs. They never had a rouble to spend. A rouble! they never had a kopeck. They just lived there in the little hut, and the old man caught fish out of the sea in his old net, and the old woman cooked the fish; and so they lived, poorly enough in summer and worse in winter. Sometimes they had a few fish to sell, but not often. In the summer evenings they sat outside their hut on a broken old bench, and the old man mended the holes in his ragged old net. There were holes in it a hare could jump through with his ears standing, let alone one of those little fishes that live in the sea. The old woman sat on the bench beside him, and patched his trousers and complained.
Well, one day the old man went fishing, as he always did. All day long he fished, and caught nothing. And then in the evening, when he was thinking he might as well give up and go home, he threw his net for the last time, and when he came to pull it in he began to think he had caught an island instead of a haul of fish, and a strong and lively island at that—the net was so heavy and pulled so hard against his feeble old arms.
"This time," says he, "I have caught a hundred fish at least."
Not a bit of it. The net came in as heavy as if it were full of
fighting fish, but
"Empty?" said Maroosia.
"Well, not quite empty," said old Peter, and went on with his tale.
Not quite empty, for when the last of the net came ashore there was something glittering in it—a golden fish, not very big and not very little, caught in the meshes. And it was this single golden fish which had made the net so heavy.
The old fisherman took the golden fish in his hands.
"At least it will be enough for supper," said he.
But the golden fish lay still in his hands, and looked at him with wise eyes, and spoke—yes, my dears, it spoke, just as if it were you or I.
"Old man," says the fish, "do not kill me. I beg you throw me back into the blue waters. Some day I may be able to be of use to you."
"What?" says the old fisherman; "and do you talk with a human voice?"
"I do," says the fish. "And my fish's heart feels pain like yours. It would be as bitter to me to die as it would be to yourself."
"And is that so?" says the old fisherman. "Well, you shall not die this time." And he threw the golden fish back into the sea.
You would have thought the golden fish would have splashed with his tail, and turned head downwards, and swum away into the blue depths of the sea. Not a bit of it. It stayed there with its tail slowly flapping in the water so as to keep its head up, and it looked at the fisherman with its wise eyes, and it spoke again.
"You have given me my life," says the golden fish. "Now ask anything you wish from me, and you shall have it."
The old fisherman stood there on the shore, combing his beard with his old fingers, and thinking. Think as he would, he could not call to mind a single thing he wanted.
"No, fish," he said at last; "I think I have everything I need."
"Well, if ever you do want anything, come and ask for it," says the fish, and turns over, flashing gold, and goes down into the blue sea.
The old fisherman went back to his hut, where his wife was waiting for him.
"What!" she screamed out; "you haven't caught so much as one little fish for our supper?"
"I caught one fish, mother," says the old man: "a golden fish it was, and it spoke to me; and I let it go, and it told me to ask for anything I wanted."
"And what did you ask for? Show me."
"I couldn't think of anything to ask for; so I did not ask for anything at all."
"Fool," says his wife, "and dolt, and us with no food to put in our mouths. Go back at once, and ask for some bread."
Well, the poor old fisherman got down his net, and tramped back to the
seashore. And he stood on the shore of the wide blue sea, and he
"Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me."
"Head in air and tail in sea, Fish, fish, listen to me."
And in a moment there was the golden fish with his head out of the water, flapping his tail below him in the water, and looking at the fisherman with his wise eyes.
"What is it?" said the fish.
"Be so kind," says the fisherman; "be so kind. We have no bread in the house."
"Go home," says the fish, and turned over and went down into the sea.
"God be good to me," says the old fisherman; "but what shall I say to my wife, going home like this without the bread?" And he went home very wretchedly, and slower than he came.
As soon as he came within sight of his hut he saw his wife, and she was waving her arms and shouting.
"Stir your old bones," she screamed out. "It's as fine a loaf as ever I've seen."
And he hurried along, and found his old wife cutting up a huge loaf of white bread, mind you, not black—a huge loaf of white bread, nearly as big as Maroosia.
"You did not do so badly after all," said his old wife as they sat there with the samovar on the table between them, dipping their bread in the hot tea.
But that night, as they lay sleeping on the stove, the old woman poked the old man in the ribs with her bony elbow. He groaned and woke up.
"I've been thinking," says his wife, "your fish might have given us a trough to keep the bread in while he was about it. There is a lot left over, and without a trough it will go bad, and not be fit for anything. And our old trough is broken; besides, it's too small. First thing in the morning off you go, and ask your fish to give us a new trough to put the bread in."
Early in the morning she woke the old man again, and he had to get up
and go down to the seashore. He was very much afraid, because he
thought the fish would not take it kindly. But at dawn, just as the
red sun was rising out of the sea, he stood on the shore, and called
out in his windy old
"Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me."
And there in the morning sunlight was the golden fish, looking at him with its wise eyes.
"I beg your pardon," says the old man, "but could you, just to oblige my wife, give us some sort of trough to put the bread in?"
"Go home," says the fish; and down it goes into the blue sea.
The old man went home, and there, outside the hut, was the old woman, looking at the handsomest bread trough that ever was seen on earth. Painted it was, with little flowers, in three colours, and there were strips of gilding about its handles.
"Look at this," grumbled the old woman. "This is far too fine a trough for a tumbledown hut like ours. Why, there is scarcely a place in the roof where the rain does not come through. If we were to keep this trough in such a hut, it would be spoiled in a month. You must go back to your fish and ask it for a new hut."
"I hardly like to do that," says the old man.
"Get along with you," says his wife. "If the fish can make a trough like this, a hut will be no trouble to him. And, after all, you must not forget he owes his life to you."
"I suppose that is true," says the old man; but he went back to the
shore with a heavy heart. He stood on the edge of the sea and called
"Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me."
Instantly there was a ripple in the water, and the golden fish was looking at him with its wise eyes.
"Well?" says the fish.
"My old woman is so pleased with the trough that she wants a new hut
to keep it in, because ours, if you could only see it, is really
falling to pieces, and the rain comes in
"Go home," says the fish.
The old fisherman went home, but he could not find his old hut at all. At first he thought he had lost his way. But then he saw his wife. And she was walking about, first one way and then the other, looking at the finest hut that God ever gave a poor moujik to keep him from the rain and the cold, and the too great heat of the sun. It was built of sound logs, neatly finished at the ends and carved. And the overhanging of the roof was cut in patterns, so neat, so pretty, you could never think how they had been done. The old woman looked at it from all sides. And the old man stood, wondering. Then they went in together. And everything within the hut was new and clean. There were a fine big stove, and strong wooden benches, and a good table, and a fire lit in the stove, and logs ready to put in, and a samovar already on the boil—a fine new samovar of glittering brass.
You would have thought the old woman would have been satisfied with that. Not a bit of it.
"You don't know how to lift your eyes from the ground," says she. "You don't know what to ask. I am tired of being a peasant woman and a moujik's wife. I was made for something better. I want to be a lady, and have good people to do the work, and see folk bow and curtsy to me when I meet them walking abroad. Go back at once to the fish, you old fool, and ask him for that, instead of bothering him for little trifles like bread troughs and moujiks' huts. Off with you."
The old fisherman went back to the shore with a sad heart; but he was
afraid of his wife, and he dared not disobey her. He stood on the
shore, and called out in his windy old
"Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me."
Instantly there was the golden fish looking at him with its wise eyes.
"Well?" says the fish.
"My old woman won't give me a moment's peace," says the old man; "and since she has the new hut—which is a fine one, I must say; as good a hut as ever I saw—she won't be content at all. She is tired of being a peasant's wife, and wants to be a lady with a house and servants, and to see the good folk curtsy to her when she meets them walking abroad."
"Go home," says the fish.
The old man went home, thinking about the hut, and how pleasant it would be to live in it, even if his wife were a lady.
But when he got home the hut had gone, and in its place there was a fine brick house, three stories high. There were servants running this way and that in the courtyard. There was a cook in the kitchen, and there was his old woman, in a dress of rich brocade, sitting idle in a tall carved chair, and giving orders right and left.
"Good health to you, wife," says the old man.
"Ah, you, clown that you are, how dare you call me your wife! Can't you see that I'm a lady? Here! Off with this fellow to the stables, and see that he gets a beating he won't forget in a hurry."
Instantly the servants seized the old man by the collar and lugged him along to the stables. There the grooms treated him to such a whipping that he could hardly stand on his feet. After that the old woman made him doorkeeper. She ordered that a besom should be given him to clean up the courtyard, and said that he was to have his meals in the kitchen. A wretched life the old man lived. All day long he was sweeping up the courtyard, and if there was a speck of dirt to be seen in it anywhere, he paid for it at once in the stable under the whips of the grooms.
Time went on, and the old woman grew tired of being only a lady. And at last there came a day when she sent into the yard to tell the old man to come before her. The poor old man combed his hair and cleaned his boots, and came into the house, and bowed low before the old woman.
"Be off with you, you old good-for-nothing!" says she. "Go and find your golden fish, and tell him from me that I am tired of being a lady. I want to be Tzaritza, with generals and courtiers and men of state to do whatever I tell them."
The old man went along to the seashore, glad enough to be out of the
courtyard and out of reach of the stablemen with their whips. He came
to the shore, and cried out in his windy old
"Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me."
And there was the golden fish looking at him with its wise eyes.
"What's the matter now, old man?" says the fish.
"My old woman is going on worse than ever," says the old fisherman. "My back is sore with the whips of her grooms. And now she says it isn't enough for her to be a lady; she wants to be a Tzaritza."
"Never you worry about it," says the fish. "Go home and praise God;" and with that the fish turned over and went down into the sea.
The old man went home slowly, for he did not know what his wife would do to him if the golden fish did not make her into a Tzaritza.
But as soon as he came near he heard the noise of trumpets and the beating of drums, and there where the fine stone house had been was now a great palace with a golden roof. Behind it was a big garden of flowers, that are fair to look at but have no fruit, and before it was a meadow of fine green grass. And on the meadow was an army of soldiers drawn up in squares and all dressed alike. And suddenly the fisherman saw his old woman in the gold and silver dress of a Tzaritza come stalking out on the balcony with her generals and boyars to hold a review of her troops. And the drums beat and the trumpets sounded, and the soldiers cried "Hurrah!" And the poor old fisherman found a dark corner in one of the barns, and lay down in the straw.
Time went on, and at last the old woman was tired of being Tzaritza.
She thought she was
made for something better. And one day she said to
"Find me that ragged old beggar who is always hanging about in the courtyard. Find him, and bring him here."
The chamberlain told his officers, and the officers told the servants, and the servants looked for the old man, and found him at last asleep on the straw in the corner of one of the barns. They took some of the dirt off him, and brought him before the Tzaritza, sitting proudly on her golden throne.
"Listen, old fool!" says she. "Be off to your golden fish, and tell it I am tired of being Tzaritza. Anybody can be Tzaritza. I want to be the ruler of the seas, so that all the waters shall obey me, and all the fishes shall be my servants."
"I don't like to ask that," said the old man, trembling.
"What's that?" she screamed at him. "Do you dare to answer the Tzaritza? If you do not set off this minute, I'll have your head cut off and your body thrown to the dogs."
Unwillingly the old man hobbled off. He came to the shore, and cried
out with a windy, quavering old
"Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me."
The old man thought of his wife, and what would happen to him if she
were still Tzaritza when he came home. Again he called
"Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me."
Nothing happened, nothing at all.
A third time, with the tears running down his face, he called out in
his windy, creaky, quavering old
"Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me."
Suddenly there was a loud noise, louder and louder over the sea. The sun hid itself. The sea broke into waves, and the waves piled themselves one upon another. The sky and the sea turned black, and there was a great roaring wind that lifted the white crests of the waves and tossed them abroad over the waters. The golden fish came up out of the storm and spoke out of the sea.
"What is it now?" says he, in a voice more terrible than the voice of the storm itself.
"O fish," says the old man, trembling like a reed shaken by the storm, "my old woman is worse than before. She is tired of being Tzaritza. She wants to be the ruler of the seas, so that all the waters shall obey her and all the fishes be her servants."
The golden fish said nothing, nothing at all. He turned over and went down into the deep seas. And the wind from the sea was so strong that the old man could hardly stand against it. For a long time he waited, afraid to go home; but at last the storm calmed, and it grew towards evening, and he hobbled back, thinking to creep in and hide amongst the straw.
As he came near, he listened for the trumpets and the drums. He heard nothing except the wind from the sea rustling the little leaves of birch trees. He looked for the palace. It was gone, and where it had been was a little tumbledown hut of earth and logs. It seemed to the old fisherman that he knew the little hut, and he looked at it with joy. And he went to the door of the hut, and there was sitting his old woman in a ragged dress, cleaning out a saucepan, and singing in a creaky old voice. And this time she was glad to see him, and they sat down together on the bench and drank tea without sugar, because they had not any money.
They began to live again as they used to live, and the old man grew happier every day. He fished and fished, and many were the fish that he caught, and of many kinds; but never again did he catch another golden fish that could talk like a human being. I doubt whether he would have said anything to his wife about it, even if he had caught one every day.
"What a horrid old woman!" said Maroosia.
"I wonder the old fisherman forgave her," said Ivan.
"I think he might have beaten her a little," said Maroosia. "She deserved it."
"Well," said old Peter, "supposing we could have everything we wanted for the asking, I wonder how it would be. Perhaps God knew what He was doing when He made those golden fishes rare."
"Are there really any of them?" asked Vanya.
"Well, there was once one, anyhow," said old Peter; and then he rolled his nets neatly together, hung them on the fence, and went into the hut to make the dinner. And Vanya and Maroosia went in with him to help him as much as they could; though Vanya was wondering all the time whether he could make a net, and throw it in the little river where old Peter fished, and perhaps pull out a golden fish that would speak to him with the voice of a human being.
F LIES, wasps, bees, and ants are insects. Insects have six legs, and their bodies have three parts. An insect is at first a tiny egg. From the egg comes a grub, and the grub turns to a full-grown wasp, or fly, or bee, or other insect.
When it first gets its legs and wings, and comes out of its cell or case, it is as large as it ever will be. Insects do not grow after they get wings. The small fly does not grow to be a big fly, nor the small bee to be a big bee. The first size they have when they come out is the size that they keep.
The spider is a creature of another kind. It lays eggs, and out of the eggs come little spiders. They grow to be big ones. The spider changes its size, it grows. It moults its skin, as the crab moults its shell.
The body of the insect is hard, and is made in rings. It cannot pull off its coat to get bigger, as a crab can.
The spider's body is soft. Its skin is tough; it changes its skin often when it is very young.
The spider has eight legs instead of six, and most spiders have eight eyes. The spider's body is in two parts. Its poison is not in a sting in the tail. It is in the base of the two jaws. The spiders are somewhat like crabs; somewhat like some insects, as the daddy-long-legs. The real daddy-long-legs is a fly with long legs. A spider that has just such legs is also called a daddy-long-legs.
The front part of the spider's body is not so large as its hind part. The front part has all the eight legs and the head.
The spider has no wings; he has two small front legs, or hands, with five joints. He uses them to feel with, and to take his food.
You will see on the head of the spider two short fangs. They are its jaws. They have the poison in them. They are used to bite.
The claws on the eight feet of a spider are very much like a lion's claws. The claws have a brush of hairs on them.
The spider can walk up a wall. The brush on his feet will not let him drop off. He uses his legs to jump and to walk, and to guide his thread when he spins.
Spiders spin webs. The hind part of the spider is large and round. It has six small, round tubes. Each of these tubes is made of many very small tubes. What are they for? They are to spin this web. What is the web?
In the tube is a kind of glue. When it is drawn out into the air, it gets hard. It is then a fine silk, and as it comes out it is woven into a net which we call a web. All spiders spin webs.
Spiders are of all colors. Their dress is like velvet. It is black, brown, red, and gold. It is in stripes and spots. The spider is like a king in his rich dress.
The eight eyes of the spider cannot move. They are set so that they can see every way at once.
While the spider is growing, he pulls off his dress as Mr. Crab does. The crab's bones are his coat. The spider has no bones, but his skin is hard and tough, and before the baby spiders are two months old, they shed their coats three or four times.
We say they moult when they do this. They spin a bit of line to take firm hold of. Then the skin on the front part of the body first cracks open; then after this the skin on the hind part falls off; and by hard kicks they get their legs free.
The new skin is fine and soft but soon grows firm and tough.
The spider is somewhat like a crab and somewhat like an insect. Look at this table.
You now see that a spider is nearer to the crab family than to the insects. They are all ring-made creatures; their legs and bodies are made of rings of various sizes, joined together.
Listen my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,—
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,—
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
WEEK 16 |
II Kings ii: 19, to iii: 27.
FTER Elijah had been taken up to heaven, Elisha stayed for a time at Jericho; for, unlike Elijah, Elisha did not live in the wilderness, away from the people. He lived in the cities, and helped many by the power which the Lord gave to him.
The people of Jericho said to Elisha, "This city stands in a pleasant place; but the water of its spring is very bitter, and causes disease and death; and the land around it is barren, giving no fruit."
Elisha said to them, "Bring me a small new bottle, and fill it with salt."
They brought it to him, and he poured the salt into the fountain that gave water to the city, and said:
"Thus saith the Lord, 'I have healed these waters; from
them there shall no more be death or unfruitfulness to
And the waters became pure and sweet from that time onward. Many believe that the fountain which still flows at the foot of the mountain near the ruins where once stood Jericho is the one which was healed by the prophet; and it is called "The Fountain of Elisha."
At this time Jehoram, the son of Ahab, was king of Israel. He reigned twelve years, not so wickedly as his father Ahab had ruled, but still doing evil in the sight of the Lord. From the days of King David the land of Moab, on the east of the Dead Sea, had been under the control of Israel. The land was governed by its own king, but he paid every year a large sum to Israel. The king of Moab in the times of Ahab and Jehoram was named Mesha. He had great flocks of sheep, and he paid to the king of Israel every year the wool of a hundred thousand sheep and of as many rams.
When King Ahab was dead, the king of Moab rose against Israel, and tried to set his land free. Then King Jehoram sent for King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and these two kings gathered their armies, and made war on Mesha, the king of Moab. They led their armies southward through Judah, and then through Edom, on the south of the Dead Sea, and from Edom into the land of Moab; and with them was the king of Edom, who was under the king of Judah.
While they were on their march they found no water, either for the army or for the horses. And the king of Israel said, "Alas! The Lord has brought together these three kings, only to let them fall into the hands of the king of Moab!"
But the good King Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, so that we may ask of him to show us the Lord's will?"
And one man said, "Elisha, the son of Shaphat, is here; the man who poured water on the hands of Elijah, and was his servant."
And Jehoshaphat said, "The word of the Lord is with him; let us see him."
And the three kings went to find Elisha; but Elisha said to the king of Israel, "Why do you come to me? Go to the idol-prophets of your father Ahab and your mother Jezebel, and ask them!"
And the king of Israel said to Elisha, "You must help us; for the Lord has brought these three kings together, to let them fall into the hands of the king of Moab."
Then said Elisha, "As surely as the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, if Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, were not here, I would not look on you nor speak to you. But now bring me one who can play on the harp, a minstrel."
And while the minstrel made music on his harp, the power of the Lord came upon Elisha, and he said, "Thus saith the Lord, 'Make this valley full of ditches. For the Lord tells me that you shall not see any rain, nor hear any wind, yet the valley shall be filled with water; and you shall drink, and your cattle and your horses also shall drink. And the Lord shall give the Moabites into your hand; and you shall take their cities, and cut down their trees, and stop their wells, and shall conquer their land."
And it came to pass as Elisha had said. They dug ditches in the valley, and the next morning they found them full of water, enough for all the host. And when the men of Moab saw the water in the light of the sun, it was red like blood. They said, one to another, "That is blood; the three kings have quarreled, and their armies have killed each other; now, men of Moab, hasten to take the camp of the three kings, and all the treasure that is in it!"
So the men of Moab came rushing unguarded and without their arms. But the army of Israel and of Judah, and of Edom, met them, and slew them, and won over them a great victory. From that place they went on laying waste the land of Moab, until the cities were taken, and the whole land was made desolate. And Mesha, the king of Moab, was in such distress, that, hoping to please the god of his land, who was called Chemosh, he took his oldest son, who was to have reigned in his place, and killed him, and offered him up as a burnt-offering. But all was in vain, for the Moabites were still held under the power of the Israelites. The story of this war between Israel and Moab is written not only in the second Book of Kings in the Bible, but also on a stone pillar, which was set up by the king of Moab afterward. This pillar was found in the land of Moab not many years ago, and the writing upon it was read, showing that the history of this war as given in the Bible is true.
O NE day when the sun had come back over the Forest, bringing with it the scent of May, and all the streams of the Forest were tinkling happily to find themselves their own pretty shape again, and the little pools lay dreaming of the life they had seen and the big things they had done, and in the warmth and quiet of the Forest the cuckoo was trying over his voice carefully and listening to see if he liked it, and wood-pigeons were complaining gently to themselves in their lazy comfortable way that it was the other fellow's fault, but it didn't matter very much; on such a day as this Christopher Robin whistled in a special way he had, and Owl came flying out of the Hundred Acre Wood to see what was wanted.
"Owl," said Christopher Robin, "I am going to give a party."
"You are, are you?" said Owl.
"And it's to be a special sort of party, because it's because of what Pooh did when he did what he did to save Piglet from the flood."
"Oh, that's what it's for, is it?" said Owl.
"Yes, so will you tell Pooh as quickly as you can, and all the others, because it will be to-morrow."
"Oh, it will, will it?" said Owl, still being as helpful as possible.
"So will you go and tell them, Owl?"
Owl tried to think of something very wise to say, but couldn't, so he flew off to tell the others. And the first person he told was Pooh.
"Pooh," he said, "Christopher Robin is giving a party."
"Oh!" said Pooh. And then seeing that Owl expected him to say something else, he said "Will there be those little cake things with pink sugar icing?"
Owl felt that it was rather beneath him to talk about little cake things with pink sugar icing, so he told Pooh exactly what Christopher Robin had said, and flew off to Eeyore.
"A party for Me?" thought Pooh to himself. "How grand!" And he began to wonder if all the other animals would know that it was a special Pooh Party, and if Christopher Robin had told them about The Floating Bear and the Brain of Pooh and all the wonderful ships he had invented and sailed on, and he began to think how awful it would be if everybody had forgotten about it, and nobody quite knew what the party was for; and the more he thought like this, the more the party got muddled in his mind, like a dream when nothing goes right.
And the dream began to sing itself over in his head until it became a sort of song. It was an
ANXIOUS POOH SONG.
3 Cheers for Pooh!
(Why what did he do?)
I thought you knew;
He saved his friend from a wetting!
3 Cheers for Bear!
He couldn't swim,
But he rescued him!
(He rescued who?)
Oh, listen, do!
I am talking of Pooh—
(I'm sorry I keep forgetting).
Well, Pooh was a Bear of Enormous Brain
(Just say it again!)
Of enormous brain—
(Of enormous what?)
Well, he ate a lot,
And I don't know if he could swim or not,
But he managed to float
On a sort of boat
(On a sort of what?)
Well, a sort of pot—
So now let's give him three hearty cheers
(So now let's give him three hearty whiches?)
And hope he'll be with us for years and years,
And grow in health and wisdom and riches!
3 Cheers for Pooh!
3 Cheers for Bear!
3 Cheers for the wonderful Winnie-the-Pooh!
(Just tell me, somebody——WHAT DID HE DO?)
While this was going on inside him, Owl was talking to Eeyore.
"Eeyore," said Owl, "Christopher Robin is giving a party."
"Very interesting," said Eeyore. "I suppose they will be sending me down the odd bits which got trodden on. Kind and Thoughtful. Not at all, don't mention it."
"There is an Invitation for you."
"What's that like?"
"Yes, I heard you. Who dropped it?"
"This isn't anything to eat, it's asking you to the party. To-morrow."
Eeyore shook his head slowly.
"You mean Piglet. The little fellow with the excited ears. That's Piglet. I'll tell him."
"No, no!" said Owl, getting quite fussy. "It's you!"
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure. Christopher Robin said 'All of them! Tell all of them.' "
"All of them, except Eeyore?"
"All of them," said Owl sulkily.
"Ah!" said Eeyore. "A mistake, no doubt, but still, I shall come. Only don't blame me if it rains."
But it didn't rain. Christopher Robin had made a long table out of some long pieces of wood, and they all sat round it. Christopher Robin sat at one end, and Pooh sat at the other, and between them on one side were Owl and Eeyore and Piglet, and between them on the other side were Rabbit, and Roo and Kanga. And all Rabbit's friends and relations spread themselves about on the grass, and waited hopefully in case anybody spoke to them, or dropped anything, or asked them the time.
It was the first party to which Roo had ever been, and he was very excited. As soon as ever they had sat down he began to talk.
"Hallo, Pooh!" he squeaked.
"Hallo, Roo!" said Pooh.
Roo jumped up and down in his seat for a little while and then began again.
"Hallo, Piglet!" he squeaked.
Piglet waved a paw at him, being too busy to say anything.
"Hallo, Eeyore!" said Roo.
Eeyore nodded gloomily at him. "It will rain soon, you see if it doesn't," he said.
Roo looked to see if it didn't, and it didn't, so he said "Hallo, Owl!"—and Owl said "Hallo, my little fellow," in a kindly way, and went on telling Christopher Robin about an accident which had nearly happened to a friend of his whom Christopher Robin didn't know, and Kanga said to Roo, "Drink up your milk first, dear, and talk afterwards." So Roo, who was drinking his milk, tried to say that he could do both at once . . . and had to be patted on the back and dried for quite a long time afterwards.
When they had all nearly eaten enough, Christopher Robin banged on the table with his spoon, and everybody stopped talking and was very silent, except Roo who was just finishing a loud attack of hiccups and trying to look as if it was one of Rabbit's relations.
"This party," said Christopher Robin, "is a party because of what someone did, and we all know who it was, and it's his party, because of what he did, and I've got a present for him and here it is." Then he felt about a little and whispered, "Where is it?"
While he was looking, Eeyore coughed in an impressive way and began to speak.
"Friends," he said, "including oddments, it is a great pleasure, or perhaps I had better say it has been a pleasure so far, to see you at my party. What I did was nothing. Any of you—except Rabbit and Owl and Kanga—would have done the same. Oh, and Pooh. My remarks do not, of course, apply to Piglet and Roo, because they are too small. Any of you would have done the same. But it just happened to be Me. It was not, I need hardly say, with an idea of getting what Christopher Robin is looking for now"—and he put his front leg to his mouth and said in a loud whisper, "Try under the table"—"that I did what I did—but because I feel that we should all do what we can to help. I feel that we should all—"
"H—hup!" said Roo accidentally.
"Roo, dear!" said Kanga reproachfully.
"Was it me?" asked Roo, a little surprised.
"What's Eeyore talking about?" Piglet whispered to Pooh.
"I don't know," said Pooh rather dolefully.
"I thought this was your party."
"I thought it was once. But I suppose it isn't."
"I'd sooner it was yours than Eeyore's," said Piglet.
"So would I," said Pooh.
"H—hup!" said Roo again.
"AS—I—WAS—SAYING," said Eeyore
and sternly, "as I was saying when I was interrupted
by various Loud Sounds, I feel
"Here it is!" cried Christopher Robin excitedly. "Pass it down to silly old Pooh. It's for Pooh."
"For Pooh?" said Eeyore.
"Of course it is. The best bear in all the world."
"I might have known," said Eeyore. "After all, one can't complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said 'Bother!' The Social Round. Always something going on."
Nobody was listening, for they were all saying "Open it, Pooh," "What is it, Pooh?" "I know what it is," "No, you don't" and other helpful remarks of this sort. And of course Pooh was opening it as quickly as ever he could, but without cutting the string, because you never know when a bit of string might be Useful. At last it was undone.
When Pooh saw what it was, he nearly fell down, he was so pleased. It was a Special Pencil Case. There were pencils in it marked "B" for Bear, and pencils marked "HB" for Helping Bear, and pencils marked "BB" for Brave Bear. There was a knife for sharpening the pencils, and india-rubber for rubbing out anything which you had spelt wrong, and a ruler for ruling lines for the words to walk on, and inches marked on the ruler in case you wanted to know how many inches anything was, and Blue Pencils and Red Pencils and Green Pencils for saying special things in blue and red and green. And all these lovely things were in little pockets of their own in a Special Case which shut with a click when you clicked it. And they were all for Pooh.
"Oh!" said Pooh.
"Oh, Pooh!" said everybody else except Eeyore.
"Thank-you," growled Pooh.
But Eeyore was saying to himself, "This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it."
Later on, when they had all said "Good-bye" and "Thank-you" to Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet walked home thoughtfully together in the golden evening, and for a long time they were silent.
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting to-day?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.
"And what did happen?" asked Christopher Robin.
"I don't know."
"Could you think and tell me and Pooh some time?"
"If you wanted it very much."
"Pooh does," said Christopher Robin.
He gave a deep sigh, picked his bear up by the leg and walked off to the door, trailing Winnie-the-Pooh behind him. At the door he turned and said "Coming to see me have my bath?"
"I might," I said.
"Was Pooh's pencil case any better than mine?"
"It was just the same," I said.
He nodded and went out . . . and in a moment I heard Winnie-the-Pooh—bump, bump, bump—going up the stairs behind him.
"I can" is a worker;
He tills his broad fields,
And digs from the earth
All the wealth that it yields.
The hum of his spindles
Begins with the light,
And the fires of his forges
Are blazing all night.