WEEK 19 |
O F course Dr. Craven had been sent for the morning after Colin had had his tantrum. He was always sent for at once when such a thing occurred and he always found, when he arrived, a white shaken boy lying on his bed, sulky and still so hysterical that he was ready to break into fresh sobbing at the least word. In fact, Dr. Craven dreaded and detested the difficulties of these visits. On this occasion he was away from Misselthwaite Manor until afternoon.
"How is he?" he asked Mrs. Medlock rather irritably when he arrived. "He will break a blood-vessel in one of those fits some day. The boy is half insane with hysteria and self-indulgence."
"Well, sir," answered Mrs. Medlock, "you'll scarcely believe your eyes when you see him. That plain sour-faced child that's almost as bad as himself has just bewitched him. How she's done it there's no telling. The Lord knows she's nothing to look at and you scarcely ever hear her speak, but she did what none of us dare do. She just flew at him like a little cat last night, and stamped her feet and ordered him to stop screaming, and somehow she startled him so that he actually did stop, and this afternoon—well just come up and see, sir. It's past crediting."
The scene which Dr. Craven beheld when he entered his patient's room was indeed rather astonishing to him. As Mrs. Medlock opened the door he heard laughing and chattering. Colin was on his sofa in his dressing-gown and he was sitting up quite straight looking at a picture in one of the garden books and talking to the plain child who at that moment could scarcely be called plain at all because her face was so glowing with enjoyment.
"Those long spires of blue ones—we'll have a lot of those," Colin was announcing. "They're called Del-phin-iums."
"Dickon says they're larkspurs made big and grand," cried Mistress Mary. "There are clumps there already."
Then they saw Dr. Craven and stopped. Mary became quite still and Colin looked fretful.
"I am sorry to hear you were ill last night, my boy," Dr. Craven said a trifle nervously. He was rather a nervous man.
"I'm better now—much better," Colin answered, rather like a Rajah. "I'm going out in my chair in a day or two if it is fine. I want some fresh air."
Dr. Craven sat down by him and felt his pulse and looked at him curiously.
"It must be a very fine day," he said, "and you must be very careful not to tire yourself."
"Fresh air won't tire me," said the young Rajah.
As there had been occasions when this same young gentleman had shrieked aloud with rage and had insisted that fresh air would give him cold and kill him, it is not to be wondered at that his doctor felt somewhat startled.
"I thought you did not like fresh air," he said.
"I don't when I am by myself," replied the Rajah; "but my cousin is going out with me."
"And the nurse, of course?" suggested Dr. Craven.
"No, I will not have the nurse," so magnificently that Mary could not help remembering how the young native Prince had looked with his diamonds and emeralds and pearls stuck all over him and the great rubies on the small dark hand he had waved to command his servants to approach with salaams and receive his orders.
"My cousin knows how to take care of me. I am always better when she is with me. She made me better last night. A very strong boy I know will push my carriage."
Dr. Craven felt rather alarmed. If this tiresome hysterical boy should chance to get well he himself would lose all chance of inheriting Misselthwaite; but he was not an unscrupulous man, though he was a weak one, and he did not intend to let him run into actual danger.
"He must be a strong boy and a steady boy," he said. "And I must know something about him. Who is he? What is his name?"
"It's Dickon," Mary spoke up suddenly. She felt somehow that everybody who knew the moor must know Dickon. And she was right, too. She saw that in a moment Dr. Craven's serious face relaxed into a relieved smile.
"Oh, Dickon," he said. "If it is Dickon you will be safe enough. He's as strong as a moor pony, is Dickon."
"And he's trusty," said Mary. "He's th' trustiest lad i' Yorkshire." She had been talking Yorkshire to Colin and she forgot herself.
"Did Dickon teach you that?" asked Dr. Craven, laughing outright.
"I'm learning it as if it was French," said Mary rather coldly. "It's like a native dialect in India. Very clever people try to learn them. I like it and so does Colin."
"Well, well," he said. "If it amuses you perhaps it won't do you any harm. Did you take your bromide last night, Colin?"
"No," Colin answered. "I wouldn't take it at first and after Mary made me quiet she talked me to sleep—in a low voice—about the spring creeping into a garden."
"That sounds soothing," said Dr. Craven, more perplexed than ever and
glancing sideways at Mistress Mary sitting on her stool and looking down
silently at the carpet. "You are evidently better, but you must
"I don't want to remember," interrupted the Rajah, appearing again. "When I lie by myself and remember I begin to have pains everywhere and I think of things that make me begin to scream because I hate them so. If there was a doctor anywhere who could make you forget you were ill instead of remembering it I would have him brought here." And he waved a thin hand which ought really to have been covered with royal signet rings made of rubies. "It is because my cousin makes me forget that she makes me better."
Dr. Craven had never made such a short stay after a "tantrum"; usually he was obliged to remain a very long time and do a great many things. This afternoon he did not give any medicine or leave any new orders and he was spared any disagreeable scenes. When he went down-stairs he looked very thoughtful and when he talked to Mrs. Medlock in the library she felt that he was a much puzzled man.
"Well, sir," she ventured, "could you have believed it?"
"It is certainly a new state of affairs," said the doctor. "And there's no denying it is better than the old one."
"I believe Susan Sowerby's right—I do that," said Mrs. Medlock. "I stopped in her cottage on my way to Thwaite yesterday and had a bit of talk with her. And she says to me, 'Well, Sarah Ann, she mayn't be a good child, an' she mayn't be a pretty one, but she's a child, an' children needs children.' We went to school together, Susan Sowerby and me."
"She's the best sick nurse I know," said Dr. Craven. "When I find her in a cottage I know the chances are that I shall save my patient."
Mrs. Medlock smiled. She was fond of Susan Sowerby.
"She's got a way with her, has Susan," she went on quite volubly. "I've been thinking all morning of one thing she said yesterday. She says, 'Once when I was givin' th' children a bit of a preach after they'd been fightin' I ses to 'em all, "When I was at school my jography told as th' world was shaped like a orange an' I found out before I was ten that th' whole orange doesn't belong to nobody. No one owns more than his bit of a quarter an' there's times it seems like there's not enow quarters to go round. But don't you—none o' you—think as you own th' whole orange or you'll find out you're mistaken, an' you won't find it out without hard knocks." What children learns from children,' she says, 'is that there's no sense in grabbin' at th' whole orange—peel an' all. If you do you'll likely not get even th' pips, an' them's too bitter to eat.'"
"She's a shrewd woman," said Dr. Craven, putting on his coat.
"Well, she's got a way of saying things," ended Mrs. Medlock, much
pleased. "Sometimes I've said to her, 'Eh! Susan, if you was a different
woman an' didn't talk such broad Yorkshire I've seen the times when I
should have said you was
That night Colin slept without once awakening and when he opened his eyes in the morning he lay still and smiled without knowing it—smiled because he felt so curiously comfortable. It was actually nice to be awake, and he turned over and stretched his limbs luxuriously. He felt as if tight strings which had held him had loosened themselves and let him go. He did not know that Dr. Craven would have said that his nerves had relaxed and rested themselves. Instead of lying and staring at the wall and wishing he had not awakened, his mind was full of the plans he and Mary had made yesterday, of pictures of the garden and of Dickon and his wild creatures. It was so nice to have things to think about. And he had not been awake more than ten minutes when he heard feet running along the corridor and Mary was at the door. The next minute she was in the room and had run across to his bed, bringing with her a waft of fresh air full of the scent of the morning.
"You've been out! You've been out! There's that nice smell of leaves!" he cried.
She had been running and her hair was loose and blown and she was bright with the air and pink-cheeked, though he could not see it.
"It's so beautiful!" she said, a little breathless with her speed. "You never saw anything so beautiful! It has come! I thought it had come that other morning, but it was only coming. It is here now! It has come, the Spring! Dickon says so!"
"Has it?" cried Colin, and though he really knew nothing about it he felt his heart beat. He actually sat up in bed.
"Open the window!" he added, laughing half with joyful excitement and half at his own fancy. "Perhaps we may hear golden trumpets!"
And though he laughed, Mary was at the window in a moment and in a moment more it was opened wide and freshness and softness and scents and birds' songs were pouring through.
"That's fresh air," she said. "Lie on your back and draw in long breaths of it. That's what Dickon does when he's lying on the moor. He says he feels it in his veins and it makes him strong and he feels as if he could live forever and ever. Breathe it and breathe it."
She was only repeating what Dickon had told her, but she caught Colin's fancy.
Mary was at his bedside again.
"Things are crowding up out of the earth," she ran on in a hurry. "And there are flowers uncurling and buds on everything and the green veil has covered nearly all the gray and the birds are in such a hurry about their nests for fear they may be too late that some of them are even fighting for places in the secret garden. And the rose-bushes look as wick as wick can be, and there are primroses in the lanes and woods, and the seeds we planted are up, and Dickon has brought the fox and the crow and the squirrels and a new-born lamb."
And then she paused for breath. The new-born lamb Dickon had found three days before lying by its dead mother among the gorse bushes on the moor. It was not the first motherless lamb he had found and he knew what to do with it. He had taken it to the cottage wrapped in his jacket and he had let it lie near the fire and had fed it with warm milk. It was a soft thing with a darling silly baby face and legs rather long for its body. Dickon had carried it over the moor in his arms and its feeding bottle was in his pocket with a squirrel, and when Mary had sat under a tree with its limp warmness huddled on her lap she had felt as if she were too full of strange joy to speak. A lamb—a lamb! A living lamb who lay on your lap like a baby!
She was describing it with great joy and Colin was listening and drawing in long breaths of air when the nurse entered. She started a little at the sight of the open window. She had sat stifling in the room many a warm day because her patient was sure that open windows gave people cold.
"Are you sure you are not chilly, Master Colin?" she inquired.
"No," was the answer. "I am breathing long breaths of fresh air. It makes you strong. I am going to get up to the sofa for breakfast and my cousin will have breakfast with me."
The nurse went away, concealing a smile, to give the order for two breakfasts. She found the servants' hall a more amusing place than the invalid's chamber and just now everybody wanted to hear the news from up-stairs. There was a great deal of joking about the unpopular young recluse who, as the cook said, "had found his master, and good for him." The servants' hall had been very tired of the tantrums, and the butler, who was a man with a family, had more than once expressed his opinion that the invalid would be all the better "for a good hiding."
When Colin was on his sofa and the breakfast for two was put upon the table he made an announcement to the nurse in his most Rajah-like manner.
"A boy, and a fox, and a crow, and two squirrels, and a new-born lamb, are coming to see me this morning. I want them brought up-stairs as soon as they come," he said. "You are not to begin playing with the animals in the servants' hall and keep them there. I want them here."
The nurse gave a slight gasp and tried to conceal it with a cough.
"Yes, sir," she answered.
"I'll tell you what you can do," added Colin, waving his hand. "You can tell Martha to bring them here. The boy is Martha's brother. His name is Dickon and he is an animal charmer."
"I hope the animals won't bite, Master Colin," said the nurse.
"I told you he was a charmer," said Colin austerely. "Charmers' animals never bite."
"There are snake-charmers in India," said Mary; "and they can put their snakes' heads in their mouths."
"Goodness!" shuddered the nurse.
They ate their breakfast with the morning air pouring in upon them. Colin's breakfast was a very good one and Mary watched him with serious interest.
"You will begin to get fatter just as I did," she said. "I never wanted my breakfast when I was in India and now I always want it."
"I wanted mine this morning," said Colin. "Perhaps it was the fresh air. When do you think Dickon will come?"
He was not long in coming. In about ten minutes Mary held up her hand.
"Listen!" she said. "Did you hear a caw?"
Colin listened and heard it, the oddest sound in the world to hear inside a house, a hoarse "caw-caw."
"Yes," he answered.
"That's Soot," said Mary. "Listen again! Do you hear a bleat—a tiny one?"
"Oh, yes!" cried Colin, quite flushing.
"That's the new-born lamb," said Mary. "He's coming."
Dickon's moorland boots were thick and clumsy and though he tried to walk quietly they made a clumping sound as he walked through the long corridors. Mary and Colin heard him marching—marching, until he passed through the tapestry door on to the soft carpet of Colin's own passage.
"If you please, sir," announced Martha, opening the door, "if you please, sir, here's Dickon an' his creatures."
Dickon came in smiling his nicest wide smile. The new-born lamb was in his arms and the little red fox trotted by his side. Nut sat on his left shoulder and Soot on his right and Shell's head and paws peeped out of his coat pocket.
Colin slowly sat up and stared and stared—as he had stared when he first saw Mary; but this was a stare of wonder and delight. The truth was that in spite of all he had heard he had not in the least understood what this boy would be like and that his fox and his crow and his squirrels and his lamb were so near to him and his friendliness that they seemed almost to be part of himself. Colin had never talked to a boy in his life and he was so overwhelmed by his own pleasure and curiosity that he did not even think of speaking.
But Dickon did not feel the least shy or awkward. He had not felt embarrassed because the crow had not known his language and had only stared and had not spoken to him the first time they met. Creatures were always like that until they found out about you. He walked over to Colin's sofa and put the new-born lamb quietly on his lap, and immediately the little creature turned to the warm velvet dressing-gown and began to nuzzle and nuzzle into its folds and butt its tight-curled head with soft impatience against his side. Of course no boy could have helped speaking then.
"What is it doing?" cried Colin. "What does it want?"
"It wants its mother," said Dickon, smiling more and more. "I brought it to thee a bit hungry because I knowed tha'd like to see it feed."
He knelt down by the sofa and took a feeding-bottle from his pocket.
"Come on, little 'un," he said, turning the small woolly white head with a gentle brown hand. "This is what tha's after. Tha'll get more out o' this than tha' will out o' silk velvet coats. There now," and he pushed the rubber tip of the bottle into the nuzzling mouth and the lamb began to suck it with ravenous ecstasy.
After that there was no wondering what to say. By the time the lamb fell asleep questions poured forth and Dickon answered them all. He told them how he had found the lamb just as the sun was rising three mornings ago. He had been standing on the moor listening to a skylark and watching him swing higher and higher into the sky until he was only a speck in the heights of blue.
"I'd almost lost him but for his song an' I was wonderin' how a chap could hear it when it seemed as if he'd get out o' th' world in a minute—an' just then I heard somethin' else far off among th' gorse bushes. It was a weak bleatin' an' I knowed it was a new lamb as was hungry an' I knowed it wouldn't be hungry if it hadn't lost its mother somehow, so I set off searchin'. Eh! I did have a look for it. I went in an' out among th' gorse bushes an' round an' round an' I always seemed to take th' wrong turnin'. But at last I seed a bit o' white by a rock on top o' th' moor an' I climbed up an' found th' little 'un half dead wi' cold an' clemmin'."
While he talked, Soot flew solemnly in and out of the open window and cawed remarks about the scenery while Nut and Shell made excursions into the big trees outside and ran up and down trunks and explored branches. Captain curled up near Dickon, who sat on the hearth-rug from preference.
They looked at the pictures in the gardening books and Dickon knew all the flowers by their country names and knew exactly which ones were already growing in the secret garden.
"I couldna' say that there name," he said, pointing to one under which was written "Aquilegia," "but us calls that a columbine, an' that there one it's a snapdragon and they both grow wild in hedges, but these is garden ones an' they're bigger an' grander. There's some big clumps o' columbine in th' garden. They'll look like a bed o' blue an' white butterflies flutterin' when they're out."
"I'm going to see them," cried Colin. "I am going to see them!"
"Aye, that tha' mun," said Mary quite seriously. "An tha' munnot lose no time about it."
O NE day King Solomon was sitting on his throne, and his great men were standing around him.
Suddenly the door was thrown open and the Queen of Sheba came in.
"O King," she said, "in my own country, far, far away, I have heard much about your power and glory, but much more about your wisdom. Men have told me that there is no riddle so cunning that you can not solve it. Is this true?"
"It is as you say, O Queen," answered Solomon.
"Well, I have here a puzzle which I think will test your wisdom. Shall I show it to you?"
"Most certainly, O Queen."
Then she held up in each hand a beautiful wreath of flowers. The wreaths were so nearly alike that none of those who were with the king could point out any difference.
"One of these wreaths," said the queen, "is made of flowers plucked from your garden. The other is made of artificial flowers, shaped and colored by a skillful artist. Now, tell me, O King, which is the true, and which is the false?"
The king, for once, was puzzled. He stroked his chin. He looked at the wreaths from every side. He frowned. He bit his lips.
"Which is the true?" the queen again asked.
Still the king did not answer.
"I have heard that you are the wisest man in the world," she said, "and surely this simple thing ought not to puzzle you."
The king moved uneasily on his golden throne. His officers and great men shook their heads. Some would have smiled, if they had dared.
"Look at the flowers carefully," said the queen, "and let us have your answer."
Then the king remembered something. He remembered that close by his window there was a climbing vine filled with beautiful sweet flowers. He remembered that he had seen many bees flying among these flowers and gathering honey from them.
So he said, "Open the window!"
It was opened. The queen was standing quite near to it with the two wreaths still in her hands. All eyes were turned to see why the king had said, "Open the window."
The next moment two bees flew eagerly in. Then came another and another. All flew to the flowers in the queen's right hand. Not one of the bees so much as looked at those in her left hand.
"O Queen of Sheba, the bees have given you my answer," then said Solomon.
And the queen said, "You are wise, King Solomon. You gather knowledge from the little things which common men pass by unnoticed."
King Solomon lived three thousand years ago. He built a great temple in Jerusalem, and was famous for his wisdom.
How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallow'd mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.
By fairy hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung:
There Honour comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall a while repair
To dwell a weeping hermit there!
WEEK 19 |
G UNHILDA was right. This act of Ethelred's proved to be not only wicked, but foolish, and it brought great sorrow upon England. For as soon as Sweyn, King of Denmark, heard of the cruel murder, he determined to avenge his sister's death. Gathering a great company of soldiers and a most wonderful fleet of ships, he set sail for England.
Over the blue waves came the fierce
No storm stayed the ships. Soft winds blew gently over sunny sparkling waters, as nearer and nearer they came. Never before had the Danes come in such splendour and such force. The frightened people fled as these fierce sea-warriors landed, and where they landed, and on through all the country, wherever they passed, they left behind them a track of death and desolation. The people were killed, the towns were burned, the crops and cattle trampled and destroyed; hunger, misery and tears filled the land. Ethelred, weak and cowardly as ever, deserting his country in the hour of need, fled to France with his wife and children.
Ethelred fled to France because his wife, Emma, was the daughter of the Duke of Normandy. Normandy is part of France. Queen Emma's father received them kindly, and no doubt Ethelred enjoyed himself very much at the Norman court, riding and hunting, and quite forgetting his poor country.
So Sweyn, King of Denmark, was master of England. But though he was proclaimed king, he never wore the crown, for he died suddenly, leaving the throne to his son Canute.
But Englishmen could not forget the great Alfred and his good sons. They longed to have a king of their own people again. So when Sweyn died, they sent messengers to France, begging Ethelred to come back, and promising to be true to him and to fight for him, if only he would rule a little better than he had done.
Ethelred came back, and had he had a little courage, he might soon have won all England again. For his people were ready and willing to die for their country. They only waited for a brave man to lead them. But Ethelred was neither better nor wiser than before. Soon his soldiers lost heart again, and some of them even deserted and went to fight for Canute the Dane. This, too, in spite of all that Edmund Ironside, the brave son of Ethelred, could do.
Edmund was called Ironside because of his strength and courage. He tried to keep the army together, but he could not hide his father's cowardice and weakness from the soldiers. Soon, however, Ethelred died, and the people immediately crowned Edmund king.
But some of the wise men and nobles thought it was of no use to try to fight against the Danes any longer, so they crowned Canute king. Thus there were two kings in England, an English king and a Danish, and the wars between the two nations continued as fiercely as ever.
But now the English had a wise king and brave leader. That was all they asked. They took heart again and joyfully followed him. Five great battles were fought, and in nearly all of them the English were victorious. That seems to show that it was truly Ethelred's fault that the English were ever beaten. He did not love his people, and he did not care what happened to them. He thought only of his own pleasure and comfort.
But Edmund Ironside was different. He thought only of his country, and although he was winning battle after battle, it made him sad and sick at heart to see his people die. The horror of war had filled the land for so many years that he longed for peace.
One day as the two armies lay opposite each other ready for battle, Edmund sat in his tent sad and weary. The summer sun shone on unplowed fields and ruined homes. All around there was sorrow and desolation. As Edmund looked across the land with sad eyes, he thought to himself that he would gladly die, if he could bring peace to his dear country.
He sat some time in thought, then suddenly calling one of his captains, he said to him, "Go to Canute the Dane. Say to him that I, Edmund Ironside, King of England, send him greeting, that, weary of battle and death, I challenge him to fight in single combat with me alone. He who dies shall die and be buried as befits a king. He who lives shall be ruler over all England."
The captain bowed low before the King, and mounting upon his horse, he rode off to the Danish camp with this strange message.
When Canute heard it, he sat silently thinking for some time. Then turning to the messenger, he said, "Go, tell Edmund Ironside that I will meet him and, please God, although I am the lesser man, I shall conquer him and still be King of England."
Both kings then arrayed themselves in splendid armour with shield and sword and spear, and rode out to fight. The two armies stood around watching in hope and fear. At first the kings fought with their spears while riding upon their horses, then leaping to the ground they attacked each other fiercely with their swords.
Both were strong, but Edmund was the taller, and Canute soon began to feel that he was being beaten. So in a loud voice he cried out, "Why should we fight thus? Two kings as we should be brothers, not enemies. Let us stop fighting, and divide the kingdom and be at peace."
Then King Edmund, throwing down his sword, held out his hands to Canute. "Brother." He said, "we will be kings together."
So once more England was divided. Edmund Ironside, the Englishman, ruled over the south part, and Canute the Dane ruled over the north part, and there was peace in the land. But this did not last for long, for very soon Edmund died. Altogether he had only reigned seven months, and much of that time had been spent in fighting, yet he had done more for his people than Ethelred had done in many years.
O F COURSE you have blown a bubble, yourself, and watched the rainbow colors glimmer until the hollow beauty burst. But you never blew an air castle of bubbles and lived in it. Phil did, though, really and truly; and that is why his story is worth telling.
Phil lived in an air castle like one of these.
At first Phil was inside an egg his mother left all winter in Holiday Meadow. Although the thermometer went down to zero and the wind blew from the north, the egg was not injured in the least. It hatched just as well the next May, after being brooded by the winter snow and the spring sunshine, as the eggs of a fussy old biddy do, after being snuggled by a warm feathered breast for three weeks.
That seems a strange beginning; and the rest of Phil's life was no less wonderful. So we need not be surprised to find him, early in June, already dwelling in his air castle.
He was an orphan, living alone in his bubble house. He had brothers and sisters, plenty of them, and all were the same age as himself. But they did not live together. Each one lived alone in a bubble house within a stone's throw of Phil. Not that he ever did throw a stone at any of them! He did not even look at them. As a matter of fact he did not know that he had brothers and sisters. He did no real thinking of any sort.
Not that Phil was brainless, you know; for he had a brain and nerves quite as useful for his needs as yours are for human purposes. He had a heart, too, a queer one shaped like a tube and lying along the middle of his back. When his blood flowed out of his heart it went loose almost anywhere in his body, like a stream in an open channel and not in veins and arteries like yours. His breathing was different, too. When he breathed he did not get his air through two holes in his head; but through a number of openings along the sides of his body. His muscles were rather strong, and the very strange thing about them was that they were fastened to a skeleton on the outside of his body instead of inside.
It was this skeleton of Phil's that gave him his only really troublesome moments; for the inside of his body grew faster than the outside could stretch. So he became squeezed somewhat as a person does whose clothes are too tight. If a person in that plight is sensible, he gets out of that snug suit and uses a bigger one. That is what Phil did with his skeleton when it pinched him too much.
It is not the easiest thing in the world to wriggle out of a skeleton; but all insects that grow up must molt several times in their lives, and so, of course, Phil managed to do it. He pushed with his body and the skeleton tore at the back. Then he pulled his head out of his skull and his six legs out of their boots. After that he crept out of his shell and stretched. When he had rested for a while he felt hungry and hardly stopped eating until his new skeleton had, in its turn, become too tight. Then he molted again.
Except at molting time Phil had nothing to trouble him and he spent the hours sipping his food and blowing his house.
Phil never chewed his food. He sucked it, somewhat as you drink lemonade through a straw. His mouth was a long hollow tube. It was jointed so that he could fold it against the under side of his body when he was not using it.
This little insect did not step outside of his bubble house at mealtime. When he was thirsty, which was nearly every minute, he thrust the sharp tip of his long mouth into the grass stem in the midst of his castle.
When you are walking out of doors, do you sometimes pull a stem of grass and nibble the sweet tender part at the tip? The sap that gives the grass stem a pleasant taste is the kind of juice Phil drank day after day while he was growing.
That juice is a wonderful liquid. It is the sap of life that flows in a grass stem and nourishes the growing plant from the time it is a tiny seedling until it is old enough to blossom and have seeds of its own. That seems enough for one kind of juice to do but it can do even more. When drawn into the beak of a little creature like Phil, the juice can nourish the body of the insect from the time it hatches from an egg until it grows to be about a month old.
The juice in the grass stem which Phil drank would not have made very good bubbles just by itself; but by the time it had been sucked into Phil's mouth and passed out of an opening at his tail it was mixed with something from inside his body and was exactly right for bubbles. Phil did not make bubbles with his mouth. He made them with his tail. He would stick the tip of his tail out to the edge of the bubble house and, after getting some air, would draw it back and mix the air with the juice and make bubbles that way. The bubbles piled up somewhat as they do in the white of an egg when your mother whips it with an egg beater.
The next time you see a mass of white froth on a grass stem, you will know that there is a young insect inside making bubbles. Some people have not stopped to see what made such froth but have tried to guess without doing any real thinking. That is why it happens that there are silly names for the froth. In America some of these names are "cow-spit" and "frog-spit" and "snake-spit"; and in England one name is "cuckoo-spittle."
I am not going to tell you much about the size and shape of the bubble blowers that make the froth that is common in meadows and other places where grass grows tall; because you can easily look and see for yourself some day. It is perhaps enough to say that Phil was little and yellow and soft. Indeed his body was so tender that he needed cool moist bubbles next his skin to save him from the sunshine of hot dry weather.
Phil needed his house of bubbles all the time he was a baby insect; but suddenly one day, when he was about a month old, counting from the time he was hatched, he walked out of his air castle and never went back. From that day forth he did not blow another bubble.
The sun shone upon him but he did not seek shelter. The strong wind hit against him and he only clung the tighter to the swaying grass. If a hunting spider came near him, he jumped lightly to another stem. When a bird reached to grab him, he lifted his own tiny wings and sailed out of reach.
He could do these things because a great change had come to his body and he was now a grown insect. He was nearly one fifth of an inch long. His last wingless molted skin was beside the mass of bubbles that had once been his home; and his pretty air castle was now no more to him than his cast-off skin. He no longer needed to soak in a bubble bath. His skin was now tough enough so that the sun did not harm it. He was at last an active little creature. His hind legs were strong for jumping. His gray wings were whitish near the edges and had blackish lines for trimming.
Phil and Phyllis, many times larger than they really were.
One day when Phil was leaping among the grass stems and flying here and there, he met Phyllis; and they became mates. In time Phil was the father of a large family of eggs which Phyllis left, one in a place, in Holiday Meadow. She did not brood them. They were at the mercy of winter snows and freezing winds. Of course Phyllis must not be blamed for flying away from her eggs. That is the habit of her kind.
A good enough habit it proved to be, for one year from the day when Phil and Phyllis had hatched, their young ones broke their eggshells. Each of the numerous brothers and sisters began a solitary air castle. If you wish to know what went on in each little bubble house, you may read this story over again. Or, better yet, you may go into a meadow some day in June and find out for yourself.
The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies;
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring;
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around
To the bells' cheerful sound;
While our sports shall be seen
On the echoing green.
Old John, with white hair,
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say,
"Such, such were the joys
When we all—girls and boys—
In our youth-time were seen
On the echoing green."
Till the little ones, weary,
No more can be merry:
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end.
Round the laps of their mothers
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest,
And sport no more seen
On the darkening green.
WEEK 19 |
F course Old Mother Nature knows, but just the same it is hard
for me not to believe that
"I hope Old Mother Nature will put him where we can get a good look at him," replied Peter. "Perhaps when you really see him he won't look so much like a Mouse."
When all had arrived Old Mother Nature began the morning lesson at once. "You have learned about all the families in the order of Rodents," said she, "so now we will take up another and much smaller order called Insectivora. I wonder if any of you can guess what that means.""It sounds," said Peter Rabbit, "as if it must have something to do with insects."
"That is a very good guess, Peter," replied Old Mother Nature, smiling at him. "It does have to do with insects. The members of this order live very largely on insects and worms, and the name Insectivora means insect-eating. There are two families in this order, the Shrew family and the Mole family."
"Then Teeny Weeny and Miner the Mole must be related," spoke Peter quickly.
"Right again, Peter," was the prompt reply. "The Shrews and the
Moles are related in the same way that you and
"And isn't Teeny Weeny the Shrew related to the Mice at all?" asked Happy Jack.
"Not at all," said Old Mother Nature. "Many people think he is and often he is called Shrew Mouse. But this is a great mistake. It is the result of ignorance. It seems strange to me that people so often know so little about their near neighbors." She looked at Happy Jack Squirrel as she said this, and Happy Jack looked sheepish. He felt just as he looked. All this time the eyes of every one had been searching this way, that way, every way, for Teeny Weeny, for Old Mother Nature had promised to try to have him there that morning. But Teeny Weeny was not to be seen. Now and then a leaf on the ground close by Old Mother Nature's feet moved, but the Merry Little Breezes were always stirring up fallen leaves, and no one paid any attention to these.
Old Mother Nature understood the disappointment in the faces before her and her eyes began to twinkle. "Yesterday I told you that I would try to have Teeny Weeny here," said she. A leaf moved. Stooping quickly she picked it up. "And here he is," she finished.
Sure enough where a second before the dead brown leaf had been was
a tiny little fellow, so tiny that that leaf had covered him
completely, and it wasn't a very big leaf. It was Teeny Weeny the
Shrew, also called the Common Shrew, the
This command was quite needless, for all were staring with all their might. What they saw was a mite of a fellow less than four inches long from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, and of this total length the tail was almost half. He was slender, had short legs and mouselike feet. His coat was brownish above and grayish beneath, and the fur was very fine and soft.
This is the common or long‑tailed Shrew, one of the smallest animals in all the Great World.
But the oddest thing about Teeny Weeny was his long, pointed head ending in a long nose. No Mouse has a head like it. The edges of the ears could be seen above the fur, but the eyes were so tiny that Peter Rabbit thought he hadn't any and said so.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "Yes, he has eyes, Peter," said she.
"Look closely and you will see them. But they don't amount to
much—little more than to tell daylight from darkness.
All this time Teeny Weeny had been growing more and more uneasy. Old Mother Nature saw and understood. Now she told him that he might go. Hardly were the words out of her mouth when he vanished, darting under some dead leaves. Hidden by them he made his way to an old log and was seen no more.
"Doesn't he eat anything but insects and worms?" asked Striped Chipmunk.
"Yes," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is very fond of flesh, and
if he finds the body of a bird or animal that has been killed he
will tear it to pieces. He is very
"He makes tiny little paths under the fallen leaves and in swampy places—little tunnels through the moss. He is especially fond of old rotted stumps and logs and brush piles, for in such places he can find grubs and insects. At the same time he is well hidden. He is active by day and night, but in the daytime takes pains to keep out of the light. He prefers damp to dry places. In winter he tunnels about under the snow. In summer he uses the tunnels and runways of Meadow Mice and others when he can. He eats seeds and other vegetable food when he cannot find insects or flesh."
"How about his enemies?" asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"He has plenty," replied Old Mother Nature, "but is not so much hunted as the members of the Mouse family. This is because he has a strong, unpleasant scent which makes him a poor meal for those at all particular about their food. Some of the Hawks and Owls appear not to mind this, and these are his worst enemies."
"Has he any near relatives?" asked Jumper the Hare.
"Several," was the prompt response. "Blarina the Short-tailed
Shrew, also called
He is sometimes called the Mole Shrew and the Blarina.
"His food is much the same as that of Teeny Weeny—worms, insects, flesh when he can get it, and seeds. He is fond of beechnuts. He is quite equal to killing a Mouse of his own size or bigger and does not hesitate to do so when he gets the chance. He makes a soft, comfortable nest under a log or in a stump or in the ground and has from four to six babies at a time. Teeny Weeny sometimes has as many as ten. The senses of smell and hearing are very keen and make up for the lack of sight. His eyes, like those of other Shrews, are probably of use only in distinguishing light from darkness. His coat is dark brownish-gray.
"Another of the Shrew family is the Marsh Shrew, also called Water Shrew and Black-and-white Shrew. He is longer than either of the others and, as you have guessed, is a lover of water. He is a good swimmer and gets much of his food in the water—water Beetles and grubs and perhaps Tadpoles and Minnows. Now who among you knows Miner the Mole?"
"I do. That is, I have seen him," replied Peter Rabbit.
"Very well, Peter,
George washington was born in a plain, old-fashioned house in Westmoreland Country, Virginia, on the twenty-second day of February, 1732. He was sent to what was called an "old-field school." The country schoolhouses in Virginia at that time were built in fields too much worn out to grow anything. Little George Washington went to a school taught by a man named Hobby.
In that day the land in Virginia was left to the oldest son, after the custom in England, for Virginia was an English colony. As George's elder brother Lawrence was to have the land and be the great gentleman of the family, he had been sent to England for his education. When he got back, with many a strange story of England to tell, George became very proud of him, and Lawrence was equally pleased with his manly little brother. When Lawrence went away as a captain, in the regiment raised in America for service in the English army against the Spaniards in the West Indies, George began to think much of a soldier's life, and to drill the boys in Hobby's school. There were marches and parades and bloodless battles fought among the tufts of broom straw in the old field, and in these young George was captain.
Washington's First Command
This play-captain soon came to be a tall boy. He could run swiftly, and he was a powerful wrestler. The stories of the long jumps he made are almost beyond belief. It was also said that he could throw farther than anybody else. The people of that day went everywhere on horseback, and George was not afraid to get astride of the wildest horse or an unbroken colt. These things proved that he was a strongly built and fearless boy. But a better thing is told of him. He was so just, that his schoolmates used to bring their quarrels for him to settle.
Washington Breaking a Colt
When Washington was eleven years old his father died, but this mother took pains to bring him up with manly ideas. He was now sent to school to a Mr. Williams, from whom he learned reading, writing, and arithmetic. To these were added a little bookkeeping and surveying.
George took great pains with all he did. His copybooks have been kept, and they show that his handwriting was very neat. He also wrote out over one hundred "rules for behavior in company." You see that he wished to be a gentleman in every way.
His brother Lawrence wished George to learn to be a seaman, and George himself like the notion of going to sea. But his mother was unwilling to part with him. So he stayed at school until he was sixteen years old.
A great deal of the northern part of Virginia at this time belonged to Lord Fairfax, an eccentric nobleman, whose estates included many whole counties. George Washington must have studied his books of surveying very carefully, for he was only a large boy when he was employed to go over beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains and survey some of the wild lands of Lord Fairfax.
So, when he was just sixteen years old, young Washington accepted the offer of Lord Fairfax, and set out for the wilderness. He crossed rough mountains and rode his horse through swollen streams. The settlers' beds were only masses of straw, with, perhaps, a ragged blanket. But George slept most of the time out under the sky by a camp fire, with a little hay, straw, or fodder for a bed. Sometimes men and women and children slept around these fires, "like cats and dogs," as Washington wrote, "and happy is he who gets nearest the fire." Once the straw on which the young surveyor was asleep blazed up, and he might have been consumed if one of the party had not waked him in time. Washington must have been a pretty good surveyor, for he received large pay for his work, earning from seven to twenty-one dollars a day, at a time when things were much cheaper than they are now.
The food of people in the woods was the flesh of wild turkey and other game. Every man was his own cook, toasting his meat on a forked stick, and eating it off a chip instead of a plate. Washington led this rough life for three years. It was a good school for a soldier. Here, too, he made his first acquaintance with the Indians. He saw a party of them dance to the music of a drum made by stretching deerskin very tight over the top of a pot half full of water. They also had a rattle, made by putting shot into a gourd. They took pains to tie a piece of a horse's tail to the gourd, so as to see the horsehair switch to and fro when the gourd was shaken.
Toasting Meat by a Camp Fire
When Washington was but nineteen years old the governor of Virginia made him a major of militia. He took lessons in military drill from an old soldier, and practiced sword exercises under the instruction of a Dutchman named Van Braam [brahm]. The people in Virginia and the other colonies were looking forward to a war with the French, who in that day had colonies in Canada and Louisiana. They claimed the country west of the Alleghany Mountains. The English colonists had spread over most of the country east of the mountains, and they were beginning to cross the Alleghanies. But the French built forts on the west side of the mountains, and stirred up the Indians to prevent the English settlers from coming over into the rich valley of the Ohio River.
Washington and Van Braam
The governor of Virginia resolved to send an officer to warn the French that they were on English ground. Who was so fit to go on this hard and dangerous errand as the brave young Major Washington, who knew both the woods and the ways of the Indians? So Washington set out with a few hardy frontiersmen. When at length, after crossing swollen streams and rough mountains, he got over to the Ohio River, where all was wilderness, he called the Indians together and had a big talk with them, at a place called Logtown. He got a chief called "The Half-king," and some other Indians, to go with him to the French fort.
The French officers had no notion of giving up their fort to the English. They liked this brave and gentlemanly young Major Washington, and entertained him well. But they tried to get the Half-king and his Indians to leave Washington, and did what they could to keep him from getting safe home again. With a great deal of trouble he got his Indians away from the French fort at last, and started back. Part of the way they traveled in canoes, jumping out into the icy water now and then to life the canoes over shallow places.
When Washington came to the place where he was to leave the Indians and recross the mountains, his pack horses were found to be so weak that they were unfit for their work. So Major Washington gave up his saddle horse to carry the baggage. Then he strapped a pack on his back, shouldered his gun, and with a man named Gist set out ahead of the rest of the party.
Washington and Gist had a rascally Indian for guide. When Washington was tired this fellow wished to carry his gun for him, but the young major thought the gun safer in his own hands. At length, as evening came on, the Indian turned suddenly, leveled his gun, and fired on Washington and Gist, in the dark, but without hitting either of them. They seized him before he could reload his gun. Gist wanted to kill him, but Washington thought it better to let him go.
The Indian Attacks Washington
Afraid of being attacked, they now traveled night and day till they got to the Allegheny River. This was full of floating ice, and they tried to cross it on a raft. Washington was pushing the raft with a pole, when the ice caught the pole in such a way as to fling him into the river. He caught hold of the raft and got out again. He and Gist spent the cold night on an island in the river, and got ashore in the morning by walking on the ice.
They now stopped at the house of an Indian trader. Near by was s squaw chief, who was offended that she had not been asked to the council Washington had held with the Indians at Logtown. To make friends, he paid her a visit, and presented her with a blanket such as the Indians wear on their shoulders. Washington bought a horse here, and soon got back to the settlements, where the story of the adventures of the young major was told from one plantation to another, producing much excitement.
Ring ting! I wish I were a Primrose,
A bright yellow Primrose, blowing in the spring!
The stooping bough above me,
The wandering bee to love me,
The fern and moss to creep across,
And the Elm-tree for our king!
Nay,—stay! I wish I were an Elm-tree,
A great lofty Elm-tree, with green leaves gay!
The winds would set them dancing,
The sun and moonshine glance in,
And birds would house among the boughs,
And sweetly sing.
Oh—no! I wish I were a Robin,—
A Robin, or a little Wren, everywhere to go,
Through forest, field, or garden,
And ask no leave or pardon,
Till winter comes with icy thumbs
To ruffle up our wing!
Well,—tell! where should I fly to,
Where go to sleep in the dark wood or dell?
Before the day was over,
Home must come the rover,
For mother's kiss,—sweeter this
Than any other thing.
WEEK 19 |
And now all slept save Beowulf alone. Then out of the creeping mists that covered the moorland forth the Evil Thing strode.
Right onward to the Hall he came, goaded with fearful wrath. The bolts and bars he burst asunder with but a touch, and stood within the Hall.
Out of the dark Grendel's eyes blazed like fire. Loud he laughed, wild-demon laughter, as he gazed around upon the sleeping warriors.
Here truly was a giant feast spread out before him. And ere morning light should come he meant to leave no man of them alive. So loud he laughed.
Beowulf, watchful and angry, yet curbed his wrath. He waited to see how the monster should attack. Nor had he long to wait.
Quickly stretching forth a fang, Grendel seized a sleeping warrior. Ere the unhappy one could wake he was torn asunder. Greedily Grendel drank his blood, crushed his bones, and swallowed his horrid feast.
Again the goblin stretched forth his claws hungry for his feast. But Beowulf raising himself upon his elbow reached out his hand, and caught the monster.
Then had the fell giant fierce wrath and pain. Never before had he made trial of such a hand-grip. In it he writhed and struggled vainly. Hotter and hotter grew his anger, deeper and deeper his fear. He longed to flee, to seek his demon lair and there make merry with his fellows. But though his strength was great he could not win free from that mighty grasp.
Then Beowulf, remembering his boast that he would conquer this ruthless beast, stood upright, gripping the Ogre yet more firmly.
Awful was the fight in the darkness. This way and that the Ogre swayed, but he could not free himself from the clutch of those mighty fingers.
The noise of the contest was as of thunder. The fair Hall echoed and shook with demon cries of rage, until it seemed that the walls must fall.
The wine in the cups was spilled upon the floor. The benches, overlaid with gold, were torn from their places. Fear and wonder fell upon the Dane folk. For far and wide the din was heard, until the king trembled in his castle, the slave in his hut.
The knights of Beowulf awoke, arose, drew their sharp swords, and plunged into the battle. They fought right manfully for their master, their great leader. But though they dealt swift and mighty blows, it was in vain. Grendel's hide was such that not the keenest blade ever wrought of steel could pierce it through. No war-axe could wound him, for by enchantments he had made him safe. Nay, by no such honourable means might death come to the foul Ogre.
Louder and louder grew the din, fiercer and wilder the strife, hotter the wrath of those who strove.
But at length the fight came to an end. The sinews in Grendel's shoulder burst, the bones cracked. Then the Ogre tore himself free, and fled, wounded to death, leaving his arm in Beowulf's mighty grip.
Sobbing forth his death-song, Grendel fled over the misty moorland, until he reached his dwelling in the lake of the Water Dragons, and there plunged in. The dark waves closed over him, and he sank to his home.
Loud were the songs of triumph in Hart Hall, great the rejoicing. For Beowulf had made good his boast. He had cleansed the Hall from the Ogre. Henceforth might the Dane folk sleep peacefully therein. And so the Goths rejoiced. And over the doorway of the Hall, in token of his triumph, Beowulf nailed the hand, and arm, and shoulder of Grendel.
Then when morning came, and the news was spread over all the land, there was much joy among the Dane folk. From far and near many a warrior came riding to the Hall to see the marvel. Over the moor they rode, too, tracking Grendel's gory footsteps, until they came to the lake of the Water Dragons. There they gazed upon the water as it boiled and seethed, coloured dark with the poison blood of the Ogre.
Then back with light hearts they sped, praising the hero. "From north to south," they cried, "between the seas all the world over, there is none so valiant as he, none so worthy of honour."
With loosened rein they galloped in the gay sunshine. And by the way minstrels made songs, and sang of the mighty deeds of the Goth hero, praising him above the heroes of old. In all the land there was song and gladness.
Then from his bower came the aged king, clad in gorgeous robes. Behind him was his treasurer, the keeper of his gold, and a great troop of warriors. With him walked the queen, splendid too, in robes of purple and gold, while many fair ladies followed in her train.
Over the flower-starred meadow they passed, stately and beautiful, until they stood before the Hall.
As Hrothgar mounted the steps, he gazed upon the roof shining with gold in the sun. He gazed too upon the hand and arm of Grendel. Great was his joy and gladness.
Then the king turned to the people gathered there. "For this sight be thanks at once given to the All Wise," he cried. "What sorrow and trouble hath Grendel caused me! When I saw my Hall stained with blood, when I saw my wise men bowed with grief, broken in spirit, I hoped no more. I thought never in this life to be repaid for all the brave men that I have lost.
"Then lo! when my sorrow was dark, there cometh a young warrior, a youth mighty in battle. And he hath done the deed that all our wisdom was not able to perform."
Then turning to Beowulf, the king stretched out his hands and cried, "Now, O Beowulf, greatest of fighters, henceforth will I love thee as a son. No wish of thine but I will grant it to thee, if it be in my power.
"Full oft of yore have I for lesser deeds given great rewards. Treasure and honour have I heaped upon knights less brave than thou, less mighty in war. But thou by thy deeds hast made for thyself a glorious name which shall never be forgotten."
Then Beowulf, proudly humble, answered, "It was joy to do the daring deed. Blithe at heart we fought the Unknown One. But I would that thou thyself hadst seen the Ogre among the treasures of the Hall. I thought to bind him on a bed of death. But in my hand he might not lie. He was too strong for me. His body slipped from my grasp. Nevertheless he left with me his hand and arm and shoulder. It is certain that now he lieth dead and will never more trouble the land."
There was joy among the heroes as Beowulf spoke. But Hunferth hung his head, and bit his lip in silence. He no longer had desire to taunt the hero, or make boast of his own war-craft. Shame held him speechless.
And so through all that day the crowd came and went before the door of Hart Hall. Greatly did all men marvel at the fearful sight, at the war-hand of the Ogre. The nails were like steel, the fingers like daggers, and the whole hide so hard that no sword, however finely welded, might pierce it through.
It was indeed a great marvel.
A Heron was walking sedately along the bank of a stream, his eyes on the clear water, and his long neck and pointed bill ready to snap up a likely morsel for his breakfast. The clear water swarmed with fish; but Master Heron was hard to please that morning.
"No small fry for me," he said. "Such scanty fare is not fit for a Heron."
Now a fine young Perch swam near.
"No indeed," said the Heron.
"I wouldn't even trouble to open my beak for anything like that!"
As the sun rose, the fish left the shallow water near the shore and swam below into the cool depths toward the middle. The Heron saw no more fish, and very glad was he at last to breakfast on a tiny Snail.
Do not be too hard to suit or you may have to be content with the worst or with nothing at all.
The lilies of the field whose bloom is brief:
We are as they;
Like them we fade away,
As doth a leaf.
The sparrows of the air of small account:
Our God doth view
Whether they fall or mount,—
He guards us too.
The lilies that do neither spin nor toil,
Yet are most fair:
What profits all this care
And all this toil?
The birds that have no barn nor harvest-weeks;
God gives them food:
Much more our Father seeks
To do us good.
WEEK 19 |
" 'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful."
B UT the Netherlands was not the only place where persecution for religion was going on. Though Spain and the Netherlands lay paralysed under the heavy hand of the Inquisition, yet France and England were taking part, together with the rest of Europe, in the struggle between Protestants and Roman Catholics. And this very year, when the Protestants seemed to be gaining ground in the Netherlands, France was to be stained with a crime which can never be forgotten, and which historians must always remember, as one of the greatest blots in the annals of mankind. This was the wholesale massacre of the Protestants, or Huguenots as they were called, in France, on a terrible summer night in the year 1572.
Francis, King of France, had left a delicate little brother to succeed him on the throne, and his mother, Catherine de Medici, was to govern the kingdom till the boy Charles was old enough and strong enough to rule it himself. She was a rigid Roman Catholic, and hated the Huguenots with her whole heart. Indeed, like her neighbour Philip over the Pyrenees, she made up her mind to crush them out of the country.
The leaders of the French Huguenots were the young Henry of Navarre and the Prince of Condé, and it was against these two that Catherine de Medici plotted. She planned a marriage between her daughter Margaret and young Henry of Navarre, the former being a Roman Catholic, the latter a Huguenot. It seemed strange to those who looked on, and men grew to suspect the motives of the Queen-Regent.
"We shall marry the two religions," said the young King of France, who was entirely under his mother's control.
Still, amid murmurs of discontent, the wedding preparations went forward, until the day arrived for Henry, now King of Navarre, to come to Paris for his bride. Attended by the Prince of Condé, the old warrior Huguenot Admiral Coligny, and 800 distinguished followers, the King of Navarre rode into the French capital, his handsome face and winning smile attracting all alike. Still there were murmurs of disapproval, and the air was heavy with evil rumours.
The wedding-day came. It was the 18th of August, a glorious summer morning. Cannons roared, bells rang out from every steeple, crowds lined the street as King Henry, dressed in pale yellow satin adorned with silver and pearls, led out his young bride. It was a gorgeous sight. Bishops and archbishops led the way in robes of gold, cardinals in scarlet, knights blazing with orders, officers of State—all added to the splendour of the sight.
The next three days were spent in festivities. All seemed peace and goodwill. The young king, Charles IX., was making friends with the Admiral Coligny; he already loved his new brother-in-law, Henry of Navarre. Catherine grew alarmed lest her plot should, after all, fail, and her own power over the young king should wane. She gave orders for the Admiral Coligny to be killed. Her commands were imperfectly carried out. The Admiral was badly wounded, but not killed. When Charles heard the news he was in an agony of surprise and fear. His mother was in a panic. Huguenots gathered in angry crowds and discussed the deed, Henry of Navarre vowed vengeance on the would-be murderer.
It was after dinner on the 23rd of August that Catherine led her son outside into the private gardens of the Tuileries to unfold her plan. The time, she said, was ripe. Eight thousand Huguenots were in Paris breathing revenge. In one hour the whole hated body of them might be put to death. To this the young king's sanction must be obtained. And first of all Coligny must be killed. Charles burst into one of his fits of passion.
"Woe to any one who touches a hair of his head!" he cried. "He is the only friend I have, save my brother of Navarre."
But Catherine would not give in. She knew she must conquer at last. And she did. Lashed into a frenzy, the young king started to his feet.
"Kill the Admiral, then, if you like!" he screamed; "but kill all the Huguenots with him—all—all—all, so that not one be left to reproach me with this deed."
The word was spoken. There was no time to lose. Hastily through the darkness of the starless summer night preparations went forward.
"Let every true Catholic tie a white band on his arm, put a white cross on his cap, and begin the vengeance of God," went forth the order.
Catherine de Medici planning the Massacre.
The signal was to be given by the great bell of the Palace of Justice at two o'clock in the morning. Soon after midnight Catherine went to her son. He was pacing his room in an agony of passion, swearing the Huguenots should not die.
"It is too late to retreat, even if it were possible," declared Catherine.
Feverishly mother and son awaited the signal. As the harsh sound of the bell rang through the silent summer night the uproar began. The sound of clanging bells, crashing doors, musket-shots was followed by the shrieks of the victims and the yells of the crowd, till the stoutest hearts quailed and the strongest trembled. Shaking in every limb, the poor young king shouted for the massacre to be stopped. It was too late. Already beacon-fires had sent the signal through the land of France.
Old men, young girls, helpless children, were alike smitten down. Through the long dark night the slaughter continued, until Paris was such a scene of terror as human eyes have rarely seen.
In vain did Charles order the massacre to be stopped at the end of one day. It was continued for a whole week, till some 80,000 Huguenots had been slain.
And "the heart of Protestant Europe stood still with horror."
V ERY often, in these stories, you have met with Mercury, and have heard that he was Jupiter's chief messenger. The office he held made him so busy with all the affairs of heaven, earth, and Hades, that there is scarcely a story without Mercury in it; and it is therefore time to know something more about him.
Now you must know that the people who, ages ago, made these stories about the gods and goddesses in whom they believed, thought that the earth (which you know to be a globe) was a large island surrounded by a boundless ocean. The sky—so they imagined—was a solid dome, on which the sun, moon, and stars made their various journeys. Every morning Phœbus drove the chariot of the Sun forth from the stable beyond the ocean in the east, across the blue dome, till it sank beyond the western ocean, and then passed underground back to the eastern stable, so as to be ready to start again. The Moon, that is to say, the chariot of Diana, also had her proper course across the dome, and so had every planet and star. And this dome, or sky, with all its wonders, was supported on the shoulders of Atlas, a gigantic Titan, condemned to this task (some say) for having helped the giants in their war against the gods.
This Atlas was a great king, and his kingdom stretched westward till it touched the ocean which surrounds the earth. And that is why this part of the sea is called the Ocean of Atlas, or Atlantic Ocean. The name of his kingdom was Mauritania, now called Morocco, where he owned a thousand flocks, and orchards with apples of gold. And he had seven beautiful daughters, whose names were Alcyŏne, Asterŏpe, Celæno, Electra, Maia, Mĕrŏpe, and Taygĕta. Six of these married gods; Mĕrŏpe alone married a mortal. After their death they were honored by being set as stars in the sky, where you may often see the seven sisters clustered together in a beautiful constellation called the Pleiades. But it is very difficult to see Mĕrŏpe, because she married a mortal instead of a god, and therefore shines dimly. If you can see more than six of the seven sisters you have good eyes.
Of all the Pleiades Maia is the brightest, for she was chosen by Jupiter. She had a son named Mercury, and a promising child he must have been. For on the very day he was born he stole the oxen of King Admetus of Thessaly, although (as you may remember) Apollo himself was then the king's herdsman. And Mercury not only stole the oxen, but ran away with Apollo's quiver of arrows. Proud of this feat, he stole the zone of Venus, the sword of Mars, and the hammer of Vulcan; and at last he carried off the very scepter of Jupiter. Instead of punishing him, however, Jupiter was so delighted with his cleverness and impudence that he made Mercury his chief messenger and cup-bearer. He also gave him a winged cap, wings for his heels, a short sword, and a scepter called caduceus—a rod round which two living serpents coiled. The winged cap was called pĕtăsus, and whenever he put it on he became invisible; the wings for his heels were called talaria, and made him able to fly faster than lightning to any place he pleased. The caduceus was a magic wand. It first belonged to Apollo, who used to drive the flocks of King Admetus with it. But when Mercury invented the lyre, he gave the lyre to Apollo in exchange for the caduceus. The lyre became Apollo's favorite instrument, and Mercury used the caduceus to drive the flocks of dead souls to Hades, for that was one of his duties. He could also send people to sleep with it, and could bring back the dead to life by touching them with its point. You will always know a picture or statue of Mercury from his caduceus, and from the wings on his cap and heels.
He needed to be quick, active, and clever, for he had a great deal to do—so much that Jupiter relieved him of the office of cup-bearer and gave it to a young Phrygian shepherd, named Ganymede. That is what Mercury had to do. He had to carry all Jupiter's messages, which, of course, obliged him to be almost everywhere at once; he had to see that the laws of the great council of the gods were properly carried out; to keep Jupiter's secrets; to know everything that was going on all over the world; to conduct the souls of the dead to Hades—each one of which things was enough, one would think, to take up his whole time. However, he managed to do it all, and a great deal more, and was not very particular how. For it must be owned that Mercury, though a god, was not above lying and cheating whenever it suited his purpose. He was wonderfully eloquent, and could make anybody believe anything. And he was the patron, that is to say, the friend and protector, of merchants, travelers, orators, and thieves.
Juno also had a chief messenger—a goddess named Iris. The path of Iris from heaven to earth and back again is the rainbow; so whenever you see a rainbow you may know that Iris is bringing a message down from Juno. Indeed "Iris" means "Rainbow."
I ought to tell you that the planet nearest to the sun is called Mercury, and that Mercury is another name for the metal quicksilver.
WEEK 19 |
A GIRL once went to the fair to hire herself for servant. At last a funny-looking old gentleman engaged her, and took her home to his house. When she got there, he told her that he had something to teach her, for that in his house he had his own names for things.
He said to her: "What will you call me?"
"Master or mister, or whatever you please sir," says she.
He said: "You must call me 'master of all masters.' And what would you call this?" pointing to his bed.
"Bed or couch, or whatever you please, sir."
"No, that's my 'barnacle.' And what do you call these?" said he pointing to his pantaloons.
"Breeches or trousers, or whatever you please, sir."
"You must call them 'squibs and crackers.' And what would you call her?" pointing to the cat.
"Cat or kit, or whatever you please, sir."
"You must call her 'white-faced simminy'. And this now," showing the fire, "what would you call this?"
"Fire or flame, or whatever you please, sir."
"You must call it 'hot cockalorum,' and what this?" he went on, pointing to the water.
"Water or wet, or whatever you please, sir."
"No, 'pondalorum' is its name. And what do you call all this?" asked he, as he pointed to the house.
"House or cottage, or whatever you please, sir."
"You must call it 'high topper mountain.' "
That very night the servant woke her master up in a fright and said: "Master of all masters, get out of your barnacle and put on your squibs and crackers.
"For white-faced simminy has got a spark of hot cockalorum on its tail, and unless you get some pondalorum high topper mountain will be all on hot cockalorum" . . . . . . . . . . That's all.
S OME people say that they "hate spiders." Why do they dislike them? "Oh," they say, "they are so very greedy!" Well, a spider must eat a great deal, or he cannot spin his web.
His food makes the glue that makes the web. Spiders work hard. So they must eat much.
"But they bite." They will not bite you if you do not hurt them. If they do, the bite will do you no harm. They bite insects to kill them.
Do you not eat fish, meat, and birds? Who kills this food for you?
"But the spider is not pretty." True, his shape is not pretty, nor are his long hairy legs pretty. Just see his fine black or gold coat! Is not that pretty?
If he is not pretty, he is wise and busy. Webs are very pretty, if spiders are not.
Spiders eat flies and all kinds of small bugs. When a fly is fast in a web, he hums loud from fear. He seems to know that the spider will come and eat him.
The spider will eat dead birds. One kind of spider kills small birds to eat.
When spiders eat they do not chew their food; they suck out the juice.
There is a spider that lives on water. He knows how to build a raft.
He takes grass and bits of stick, and ties them up with his silk. On this raft he sails out to catch flies and bugs that skim over the water. There is a spider that lives in the water. She can dive. Her nest is like a ball. It shines like silver. Her web is so thick that it does not get wet. Her velvet coat keeps her as dry as a fur coat. Her eggs are of the color of gold.
Spiders are very neat. They hate dust and soot. They will not have a dirty web. If you put a bit of dirt or leaf on the web, Mrs. Spider will go and clean it off.
She shakes her web with her foot until all the lines are clean. If the dirt will not shake from the web, the spider will cut the piece out, and mend the web with new lines.
Spiders are great water drinkers. They cannot bear drought. They soon die of thirst.
Robins in the tree top,
Blossoms in the grass,
Green things a-growing
Everywhere you pass.
Sudden little breezes,
Showers of silver dew,
Black bough and bent twig
Budding out anew;
Pine tree and willow tree,
Fringed elm, and larch,—
Don't you think that May-time's
Pleasanter than March?
Apples in the orchard
Mellowing one by one;
Soft cheeks to the sun;
Roses faint with sweetness,
Lilies fair of face,
Drowsy scents and murmurs
Haunting every place;
Lengths of golden sunshine,
Moonlight bright as day—
Don't you think that summer's
Pleasanter than May?
Roger in the corn patch
Whistling negro songs;
Pussy by the hearth side
Romping with the tongs;
Chestnuts in the ashes.
Bursting through the rind;
Red leaf and gold leaf
Rustling down the wind;
Mother "doin' peaches"
All the afternoon,—
Don't you think that autumn's
Pleasanter than June?
Little fairy snow-flakes
Dancing in the flue;
Old Mr. Santa Claus,
What is keeping you?
Twilight and firelight
Shadows come and go;
Merry chime of sleigh bells
Tinkling through the snow;
Mother knitting stockings,
Pussy's got the ball,
Don't you think that winter's
Pleasanter than all?
WEEK 19 |
II Kings v: 1 to 27.
T one time, while Elisha was living in Israel, the general of the Syrian army was named Naaman. He was a great man in his rank and power; and a brave man in battle; for he had won victories for Syria. But one sad terrible trouble came to Naaman. He was a leper. A leper was one with a disease called leprosy, which is still found in those lands. The leper's skin turns a deathly white and is covered with scales. One by one his fingers and toes, his hands and feet, his arms and limbs, decay, until at last the man dies; and for the disease there is no cure. Yet, strange to say, through it all, the leper feels no pain; and often will not for a long time believe that he has leprosy.
There was in Naaman's house at Damascus, in Syria, a little girl, who waited on Naaman's wife. She was a slave-girl stolen from her mother's home in Israel, and carried away as a captive to Syria. Even when there was no open war between Syria and Israel, parties of men were going out on both sides, and destroying villages on the border, robbing the people, and carrying them away, to be killed or sold as slaves. But this little girl, even though she had suffered wrong, had a kind heart, full of sorrow for her master Naaman; and one day she said to her mistress:
"I wish that my lord Naaman might meet the prophet who lives in Samaria; for he could cure his leprosy."
The slave girl and Naaman's wife.
Some one told Naaman what the little girl had said; and Naaman spoke of it to the king of Syria. Now the king of Syria loved Naaman greatly; and when he went to worship in the temple of his god, out of all his nobles he chose Naaman as the one person upon whose arm he leaned. He greatly desired to have Naaman's leprosy cured; and he said, "I will send a letter to the king of Israel, and I will ask him to let his prophet cure you."
So Naaman, with a great train of followers, rode in his chariot from Damascus to Samaria, about a hundred miles. He took with him as a present a large sum in gold and silver, and many beautiful robes and garments. He came to the king of Israel, and gave him the letter from the king of Syria. And this was written in the letter:
"With this letter I have sent to you Naaman, my servant; and I wish you to cure him of his leprosy."
The king of Syria supposed that as this prophet who could cure leprosy was in Samaria, he was under the orders of the king of Israel, and must do whatever his king told him to do; and as he did not know the prophet, but knew the king, he wrote to him. But the king was greatly alarmed when he read the letter.
"Am I God," he said, "to kill men and to make men live! Why should the king of Syria send to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Do you not see that he is trying to find an excuse for making war, in asking me to do what no man can do?"
And the king of Israel tore his garments, as men did when they were in deep trouble. Elisha the prophet heard of the letter, and of the king's alarm, and he sent a message to the king.
"Why are you so frightened? Let this man come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet of the Lord in Israel."
So Naaman came with his chariots, his horses, and his followers, and stood before the door of Elisha's house. Elisha did not come out to meet him, but sent his servant out to him, saying:
"Go and wash in the river Jordan seven times, and your flesh and your skin shall become pure, and you shall be free from the leprosy."
But Naaman was very angry because Elisha had not treated with more respect so great a man as he was. He forgot, or he did not know, that by the laws of Israel no man might touch or even come near a leper; and he said:
"Why, I supposed that of course he would come out and meet me, and would wave his hand over the leper spot, and would call on the name of the Lord his God, and in that manner would cure my leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the two rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters in Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?"
And Naaman turned and went away in a rage of anger. But his servants were wiser than he. They came to him, and one of them said:
"My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? Then why not do it, when he says, 'Wash and be clean'?"
After a little Naaman's anger cooled, and he rode down the mountains to the river Jordan. He washed in its water seven times, as the prophet had bidden him. And the scales of leprosy left his skin; and his flesh became like the flesh of a little child, pure and clean. Then Naaman, a leper no more, came back to Elisha's house with all his company; and he said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Let me make you a present in return for what you have done for me."
But the true prophets of God never gave their message or did their works for pay; and Elisha said to Naaman:
"As surely as the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing."
And Naaman urged him to take the present, but he refused. Then Naaman asked as a favor that he might be allowed to take away from the land of Israel as much soil as could be carried on two mules, with which to build an altar; for he thought that an altar to the God of Israel could be made only of earth from the land of Israel; and he said:
"From this time I will offer no burnt-offering or sacrifice to any other God except the God of Israel. When I go with my master, the king of Syria, to worship in the temple of Rimmon his god; and my master leans on my arm, and I bow down to Rimmon with him, then may the Lord forgive me for this, which will look as if I were worshipping another God."
And Elisha said to him, "Go in peace."
Then Naaman went on his way back to his own land. But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, said to himself:
"My master has let this Syrian go, without taking anything from him; but I will run after him, and ask him for a present."
So Gehazi ran after Naaman; and Naaman saw him following, and stopped his chariot, and stepped down to meet him. And Gehazi said to him:
"My master has sent me to you to say that just now two young sons of the prophets have come to his house; will you give them a talent of silver and two suits of clothing?"
And Naaman said, "Let me give you two talents of silver."
So he put two talents of silver in two bags, a talent in each bag, and gave them to Gehazi, and with them two suits of fine clothing; and he sent them back by two of his servants. But before they came to Elisha's house, Gehazi took the gifts and hid them. Then Gehazi went into the house, and stood before Elisha. And Elisha said to him, "Gehazi, where have you been?"
And Gehazi answered, "I have not been at any place."
And Elisha said to him:
"Did not my heart go with you, and did I not see you, when the man stepped down from his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to receive gifts of money, and garments, or gifts of vineyards and oliveyards, and of sheep and oxen? Because you have done this wickedness, the leprosy of Naaman shall upon you, and shall cling to you, and to your children after you forever!"
And Gehazi walked out from Elisha's presence, a leper, with his skin as white as snow.
The Rat brought the boat alongside the bank, made her fast, helped the still awkward Mole safely ashore, and swung out the luncheon-basket. The Mole begged as a favour to be allowed to unpack it all by himself; and the Rat was very pleased to indulge him, and to sprawl at full length on the grass and rest, while his excited friend shook out the table-cloth and spread it, took out all the mysterious packets one by one and arranged their contents in due order, still gasping, "O my! O my!" at each fresh revelation. When all was ready, the Rat said, "Now, pitch in, old fellow!" and the Mole was indeed very glad to obey, for he had started his spring-cleaning at a very early hour that morning, as people will do, and had not paused for bite or sup; and he had been through a very great deal since that distant time which now seemed so many days ago.
"What are you looking at?" said the Rat presently, when the edge of their hunger was somewhat dulled, and the Mole's eyes were able to wander off the table-cloth a little.
"I am looking," said the Mole, "at a streak of bubbles that I see travelling along the surface of the water. That is a thing that strikes me as funny."
"Bubbles? Oho!" said the Rat, and chirruped cheerily in an inviting sort of way.
A broad glistening muzzle showed itself above the edge of the bank, and the Otter hauled himself out and shook the water from his coat.
"Greedy beggars!" he observed, making for the provender. "Why didn't you invite me, Ratty?"
"This was an impromptu affair," explained the Rat. "By the way—my friend Mr. Mole."
"Proud, I'm sure," said the Otter, and the two animals were friends forthwith.
"Such a rumpus everywhere!" continued the Otter. "All the world seems out on the river to-day. I came up this backwater to try and get a moment's peace, and then stumble upon you fellows!—At least—I beg pardon—I don't exactly mean that, you know."
There was a rustle behind them, proceeding from a hedge wherein last year's leaves still clung thick, and a stripy head, with high shoulders behind it, peered forth on them.
"Come on, old Badger!" shouted the Rat.
The Badger trotted forward a pace or two; then grunted, "H'm! Company," and turned his back and disappeared from view.
"That's just the sort of fellow he is!" observed the disappointed Rat. "Simply hates Society! Now we shan't see any more of him to-day. Well, tell us, who's out on the river?"
"Toad's out, for one," replied the Otter. "In his brand-new wager-boat; new togs, new everything!"
The two animals looked at each other and laughed.
"Once, it was nothing but sailing," said the Rat, "Then he tired of that and took to punting. Nothing would please him but to punt all day and every day, and a nice mess he made of it. Last year it was house-boating, and we all had to go and stay with him in his house-boat, and pretend we liked it. He was going to spend the rest of his life in a house-boat. It's all the same, whatever he takes up; he gets tired of it, and starts on something fresh."
"Such a good fellow, too," remarked the Otter reflectively; "but no stability—especially in a boat!"
From where they sat they could get a glimpse of the main stream across the island that separated them; and just then a wager-boat flashed into view, the rower—a short, stout figure—splashing badly and rolling a good deal, but working his hardest. The Rat stood up and hailed him, but Toad—for it was he—shook his head and settled sternly to his work.
"He'll be out of the boat in a minute if he rolls like that," said the Rat, sitting down again.
"Of course he will," chuckled the Otter. "Did I ever tell you that good story about Toad and the lock-keeper? It happened this way. Toad . . ."
An errant May-fly swerved unsteadily athwart the current in the intoxicated fashion affected by young bloods of May-flies seeing life. A swirl of water and a "cloop!" and the May-fly was visible no more.
Neither was the Otter.
The Mole looked down. The voice was still in his ears, but the turf whereon he had sprawled was clearly vacant. Not an Otter to be seen, as far as the distant horizon.
But again there was a streak of bubbles on the surface of the river.
The Rat hummed a tune, and the Mole recollected that animal-etiquette forbade any sort of comment on the sudden disappearance of one's friends at any moment, for any reason or no reason whatever.
"Well, well," said the Rat, "I suppose we ought to be moving. I wonder which of us had better pack the luncheon-basket?" He did not speak as if he was frightfully eager for the treat.
"O, please let me," said the Mole. So, of course, the Rat let him.
Packing the basket was not quite such pleasant work as unpacking the basket. It never is. But the Mole was bent on enjoying everything, and although just when he had got the basket packed and strapped up tightly he saw a plate staring up at him from the grass, and when the job had been done again the Rat pointed out a fork which anybody ought to have seen, and last of all, behold! the mustard pot, which he had been sitting on without knowing it—still, somehow, the thing got finished at last, without much loss of temper.
The afternoon sun was getting low as the Rat sculled gently homewards in a dreamy mood, murmuring poetry-things over to himself, and not paying much attention to Mole. But the Mole was very full of lunch, and self-satisfaction, and pride, and already quite at home in a boat (so he thought) and was getting a bit restless besides: and presently he said, "Ratty! Please, I want to row, now!"
The Rat shook his head with a smile. "Not yet, my young friend," he said—"wait till you've had a few lessons. It's not so easy as it looks."
The Mole was quiet for a minute or two. But he began to feel more and more jealous of Rat, sculling so strongly and so easily along, and his pride began to whisper that he could do it every bit as well. He jumped up and seized the sculls so suddenly that the Rat, who was gazing out over the water and saying more poetry-things to himself, was taken by surprise and fell backwards off his seat with his legs in the air for the second time, while the triumphant Mole took his place and grabbed the sculls with entire confidence.
"Stop it, you silly ass!" cried the Rat, from the bottom of the boat. "You can't do it! You'll have us over!"
The Mole flung his sculls back with a flourish, and made a great dig at the water. He missed the surface altogether, his legs flew up above his head, and he found himself lying on the top of the prostrate Rat. Greatly alarmed, he made a grab at the side of the boat, and the next moment—Sploosh!
Over went the boat, and he found himself struggling in the river.
O my, how cold the water was, and O, how very wet it felt. How it sang in his ears as he went down, down, down! How bright and welcome the sun looked as he rose to the surface coughing and spluttering! How black was his despair when he felt himself sinking again! Then a firm paw gripped him by the back of his neck. It was the Rat, and he was evidently laughing—the Mole could feel him laughing, right down his arm and through his paw, and so into his—the Mole's—neck.
The Rat got hold of a scull and shoved it under the Mole's arm; then he did the same by the other side of him and, swimming behind, propelled the helpless animal to shore, hauled him out, and set him down on the bank, a squashy, pulpy lump of misery.
When the Rat had rubbed him down a bit, and wrung some of the wet out of him, he said, "Now, then, old fellow! Trot up and down the towing-path as hard as you can, till you're warm and dry again, while I dive for the luncheon-basket."
So the dismal Mole, wet without and ashamed within, trotted about till he was fairly dry, while the Rat plunged into the water again, recovered the boat, righted her and made her fast, fetched his floating property to shore by degrees, and finally dived successfully for the luncheon-basket and struggled to land with it.
When all was ready for a start once more, the Mole, limp and dejected, took his seat in the stern of the boat; and as they set off, he said in a low voice, broken with emotion, "Ratty, my generous friend! I am very sorry indeed for my foolish and ungrateful conduct. My heart quite fails me when I think how I might have lost that beautiful luncheon-basket. Indeed, I have been a complete ass, and I know it. Will you overlook it this once and forgive me, and let things go on as before?"
"That's all right, bless you!" responded the Rat cheerily. "What's a little wet to a Water Rat? I'm more in the water than out of it most days. Don't you think any more about it; and, look here! I really think you had better come and stop with me for a little time. It's very plain and rough, you know—not like Toad's house at all—but you haven't seen that yet; still, I can make you comfortable. And I'll teach you to row and to swim, and you'll soon be as handy on the water as any of us."
The Mole was so touched by his kind manner of speaking that he could find no voice to answer him; and he had to brush away a tear or two with the back of his paw. But the Rat kindly looked in another direction, and presently the Mole's spirits revived again, and he was even able to give some straight back-talk to a couple of moorhens who were sniggering to each other about his bedraggled appearance.
When they got home, the Rat made a bright fire in the parlour, and planted the Mole in an arm-chair in front of it, having fetched down a dressing-gown and slippers for him, and told him river stories till supper-time. Very thrilling stories they were, too, to an earth-dwelling animal like Mole. Stories about weirs, and sudden floods, and leaping pike, and steamers that flung hard bottles—at least bottles were certainly flung, and from steamers, so presumably by them; and about herons, and how particular they were whom they spoke to; and about adventures down drains, and night-fishings with Otter, or excursions far a-field with Badger. Supper was a most cheerful meal; but very shortly afterwards a terribly sleepy Mole had to be escorted upstairs by his considerate host, to the best bedroom, where he soon laid his head on his pillow in great peace and contentment, knowing that his new-found friend the River was lapping the sill of his window.
This day was only the first of many similar ones for the emancipated Mole, each of them longer and full of interest as the ripening summer moved onward. He learnt to swim and to row, and entered into the joy of running water; and with his ear to the reed-stems he caught, at intervals, something of what the wind went whispering so constantly among them.
My mother she's so good to me,
Ef I was good as I could be,
I couldn't be as good—no, sir!—
Can't any boy be good as her!
She loves me when I'm glad er sad;
She loves me when I'm good er bad;
An', what's a funniest thing, she says
She loves me when she punishes.
I don't like her to punish me.—
That don't hurt,—but it hurts to see
Her cryin'.—Nen I cry; an' nen
We both cry an' be good again.
She loves me when she cuts and sews
My little cloak an' Sund'y clothes;
An' when my Pa comes home to tea,
She loves him 'most as much as me.
She laughs an' tells him all I said,
An' grabs me up and pats my head;
And I hug her, and hug my Pa
An' love him purt' nigh as much as Ma.