WEEK 23 |
D R. CRAVEN had been waiting some time at the house when they returned to it. He had indeed begun to wonder if it might not be wise to send some one out to explore the garden paths. When Colin was brought back to his room the poor man looked him over seriously.
"You should not have stayed so long," he said. "You must not overexert yourself."
"I am not tired at all," said Colin. "It has made me well. To-morrow I am going out in the morning as well as in the afternoon."
"I am not sure that I can allow it," answered Dr. Craven. "I am afraid it would not be wise."
"It would not be wise to try to stop me," said Colin quite seriously. "I am going."
Even Mary had found out that one of Colin's chief peculiarities was that he did not know in the least what a rude little brute he was with his way of ordering people about. He had lived on a sort of desert island all his life and as he had been the king of it he had made his own manners and had had no one to compare himself with. Mary had indeed been rather like him herself and since she had been at Misselthwaite had gradually discovered that her own manners had not been of the kind which is usual or popular. Having made this discovery she naturally thought it of enough interest to communicate to Colin. So she sat and looked at him curiously for a few minutes after Dr. Craven had gone. She wanted to make him ask her why she was doing it and of course she did.
"What are you looking at me for?" he said.
"I'm thinking that I am rather sorry for Dr. Craven."
"So am I," said Colin calmly, but not without an air of some satisfaction. "He won't get Misselthwaite at all now I'm not going to die."
"I'm sorry for him because of that, of course," said Mary, "but I was thinking just then that it must have been very horrid to have had to be polite for ten years to a boy who was always rude. I would never have done it."
"Am I rude?" Colin inquired undisturbedly.
"If you had been his own boy and he had been a slapping sort of man," said Mary, "he would have slapped you."
"But he daren't," said Colin.
"No, he daren't," answered Mistress Mary, thinking the thing out quite without prejudice. "Nobody ever dared to do anything you didn't like—because you were going to die and things like that. You were such a poor thing."
"But," announced Colin stubbornly, "I am not going to be a poor thing. I won't let people think I'm one. I stood on my feet this afternoon."
"It is always having your own way that has made you so queer," Mary went on, thinking aloud.
Colin turned his head, frowning.
"Am I queer?" he demanded.
"Yes," answered Mary, "very. But you needn't be cross," she added impartially, "because so am I queer—and so is Ben Weatherstaff. But I am not as queer as I was before I began to like people and before I found the garden."
"I don't want to be queer," said Colin. "I am not going to be," and he frowned again with determination.
He was a very proud boy. He lay thinking for a while and then Mary saw his beautiful smile begin and gradually change his whole face.
"I shall stop being queer," he said, "if I go every day to the garden. There is Magic in there—good Magic, you know, Mary. I am sure there is."
"So am I," said Mary.
"Even if it isn't real Magic," Colin said, "we can pretend it is. Something is there—something!"
"It's Magic," said Mary, "but not black. It's as white as snow."
They always called it Magic and indeed it seemed like it in the months that followed—the wonderful months—the radiant months—the amazing ones. Oh! the things which happened in that garden! If you have never had a garden, you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass there. At first it seemed that green things would never cease pushing their way through the earth, in the grass, in the beds, even in the crevices of the walls. Then the green things began to show buds and the buds began to unfurl and show color, every shade of blue, every shade of purple, every tint and hue of crimson. In its happy days flowers had been tucked away into every inch and hole and corner. Ben Weatherstaff had seen it done and had himself scraped out mortar from between the bricks of the wall and made pockets of earth for lovely clinging things to grow on. Iris and white lilies rose out of the grass in sheaves, and the green alcoves filled themselves with amazing armies of the blue and white flower lances of tall delphiniums or columbines or campanulas.
"She was main fond o' them—she was," Ben Weatherstaff said. "She liked them things as was allus pointin' up to th' blue sky, she used to tell. Not as she was one o' them as looked down on th' earth—not her. She just loved it but she said as th' blue sky allus looked so joyful."
The seeds Dickon and Mary had planted grew as if fairies had tended them. Satiny poppies of all tints danced in the breeze by the score, gaily defying flowers which had lived in the garden for years and which it might be confessed seemed rather to wonder how such new people had got there. And the roses—the roses! Rising out of the grass, tangled round the sun-dial, wreathing the tree trunks and hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long garlands falling in cascades—they came alive day by day, hour by hour. Fair fresh leaves, and buds—and buds—tiny at first but swelling and working Magic until they burst and uncurled into cups of scent delicately spilling themselves over their brims and filling the garden air.
Colin saw it all, watching each change as it took place. Every morning he was brought out and every hour of each day when it didn't rain he spent in the garden. Even gray days pleased him. He would lie on the grass "watching things growing," he said. If you watched long enough, he declared, you could see buds unsheath themselves. Also you could make the acquaintance of strange busy insect things running about on various unknown but evidently serious errands, sometimes carrying tiny scraps of straw or feather or food, or climbing blades of grass as if they were trees from whose tops one could look out to explore the country. A mole throwing up its mound at the end of its burrow and making its way out at last with the long-nailed paws which looked so like elfish hands, had absorbed him one whole morning. Ants' ways, beetles' ways, bees' ways, frogs' ways, birds' ways, plants' ways, gave him a new world to explore and when Dickon revealed them all and added foxes' ways, otters' ways, ferrets' ways, squirrels' ways, and trout's and water-rats' and badgers' ways, there was no end to the things to talk about and think over.
And this was not the half of the Magic. The fact that he had really once stood on his feet had set Colin thinking tremendously and when Mary told him of the spell she had worked he was excited and approved of it greatly. He talked of it constantly.
"Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world," he said wisely one day, "but people don't know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment."
The next morning when they went to the secret garden he sent at once for Ben Weatherstaff. Ben came as quickly as he could and found the Rajah standing on his feet under a tree and looking very grand but also very beautifully smiling.
"Good morning, Ben Weatherstaff," he said. "I want you and Dickon and Miss Mary to stand in a row and listen to me because I am going to tell you something very important."
"Aye, aye, sir!" answered Ben Weatherstaff, touching his forehead. (One of the long concealed charms of Ben Weatherstaff was that in his boyhood he had once run away to sea and had made voyages. So he could reply like a sailor.)
"I am going to try a scientific experiment," explained the Rajah. "When I grow up I am going to make great scientific discoveries and I am going to begin now with this experiment."
"Aye, aye, sir!" said Ben Weatherstaff promptly, though this was the first time he had heard of great scientific discoveries.
It was the first time Mary had heard of them, either, but even at this stage she had begun to realize that, queer as he was, Colin had read about a great many singular things and was somehow a very convincing sort of boy. When he held up his head and fixed his strange eyes on you it seemed as if you believed him almost in spite of yourself though he was only ten years old—going on eleven. At this moment he was especially convincing because he suddenly felt the fascination of actually making a sort of speech like a grown-up person.
"The great scientific discoveries I am going to make," he went on, "will be about Magic. Magic is a great thing and scarcely any one knows anything about it except a few people in old books—and Mary a little, because she was born in India where there are fakirs. I believe Dickon knows some Magic, but perhaps he doesn't know he knows it. He charms animals and people. I would never have let him come to see me if he had not been an animal charmer—which is a boy charmer, too, because a boy is an animal. I am sure there is Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us—like electricity and horses and steam."
This sounded so imposing that Ben Weatherstaff became quite excited and really could not keep still.
"Aye, aye, sir," he said and he began to stand up quite straight.
"When Mary found this garden it looked quite dead," the orator proceeded. "Then something began pushing things up out of the soil and making things out of nothing. One day things weren't there and another they were. I had never watched things before and it made me feel very curious. Scientific people are always curious and I am going to be scientific. I keep saying to myself, 'What is it? What is it?' It's something. It can't be nothing! I don't know its name so I call it Magic. I have never seen the sun rise but Mary and Dickon have and from what they tell me I am sure that is Magic too. Something pushes it up and draws it. Sometimes since I've been in the garden I've looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something were pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden—in all the places. The Magic in this garden has made me stand up and know I am going to live to be a man. I am going to make the scientific experiment of trying to get some and put it in myself and make it push and draw me and make me strong. I don't know how to do it but I think that if you keep thinking about it and calling it perhaps it will come. Perhaps that is the first baby way to get it. When I was going to try to stand that first time Mary kept saying to herself as fast as she could, 'You can do it! You can do it!' and I did. I had to try myself at the same time, of course, but her Magic helped me—and so did Dickon's. Every morning and evening and as often in the daytime as I can remember I am going to say, 'Magic is in me! Magic is making me well! I am going to be as strong as Dickon, as strong as Dickon!' And you must all do it, too. That is my experiment. Will you help, Ben Weatherstaff?"
"Aye, aye, sir!" said Ben Weatherstaff. "Aye, aye!"
"If you keep doing it every day as regularly as soldiers go through drill we shall see what will happen and find out if the experiment succeeds. You learn things by saying them over and over and thinking about them until they stay in your mind forever and I think it will be the same with Magic. If you keep calling it to come to you and help you it will get to be part of you and it will stay and do things."
"I once heard an officer in India tell my mother that there were fakirs who said words over and over thousands of times," said Mary.
"I've heard Jem Fettleworth's wife say th' same thing over thousands o' times—callin' Jem a drunken brute," said Ben Weatherstaff dryly. "Summat allus come o' that, sure enough. He gave her a good hidin' an' went to th' Blue Lion an' got as drunk as a lord."
Colin drew his brows together and thought a few minutes. Then he cheered up.
"Well," he said, "you see something did come of it. She used the wrong Magic until she made him beat her. If she'd used the right Magic and had said something nice perhaps he wouldn't have got as drunk as a lord and perhaps—perhaps he might have bought her a new bonnet."
Ben Weatherstaff chuckled and there was shrewd admiration in his little old eyes.
"Tha'rt a clever lad as well as a straight-legged one, Mester Colin," he said. "Next time I see Bess Fettleworth I'll give her a bit of a hint o' what Magic will do for her. She'd be rare an' pleased if th' sinetifik 'speriment worked—an' so 'ud Jem."
Dickon had stood listening to the lecture, his round eyes shining with curious delight. Nut and Shell were on his shoulders and he held a long-eared white rabbit in his arm and stroked and stroked it softly while it laid its ears along its back and enjoyed itself.
"Do you think the experiment will work?" Colin asked him, wondering what he was thinking. He so often wondered what Dickon was thinking when he saw him looking at him or at one of his "creatures" with his happy wide smile.
He smiled now and his smile was wider than usual.
"Aye," he answered, "that I do. It'll work same as th' seeds do when th' sun shines on 'em. It'll work for sure. Shall us begin it now?"
Colin was delighted and so was Mary. Fired by recollections of fakirs and devotees in illustrations Colin suggested that they should all sit cross-legged under the tree which made a canopy.
"It will be like sitting in a sort of temple," said Colin. "I'm rather tired and I want to sit down."
"Eh!" said Dickon, "tha' musn't begin by sayin' tha'rt tired. Tha' might spoil th' Magic."
Colin turned and looked at him—into his innocent round eyes.
"That's true," he said slowly. "I must only think of the Magic."
It all seemed most majestic and mysterious when they sat down in their circle. Ben Weatherstaff felt as if he had somehow been led into appearing at a prayer-meeting. Ordinarily he was very fixed in being what he called "agen' prayer-meetin's" but this being the Rajah's affair he did not resent it and was indeed inclined to be gratified at being called upon to assist. Mistress Mary felt solemnly enraptured. Dickon held his rabbit in his arm, and perhaps he made some charmer's signal no one heard, for when he sat down, cross-legged like the rest, the crow, the fox, the squirrels and the lamb slowly drew near and made part of the circle, settling each into a place of rest as if of their own desire.
"The 'creatures' have come," said Colin gravely. "They want to help us."
Colin really looked quite beautiful, Mary thought. He held his head high as if he felt like a sort of priest and his strange eyes had a wonderful look in them. The light shone on him through the tree canopy.
"Now we will begin," he said. "Shall we sway backward and forward, Mary, as if we were dervishes?"
"I canna' do no swayin' back'ard and for'ard," said Ben Weatherstaff. "I've got th' rheumatics."
"The Magic will take them away," said Colin in a High Priest tone, "but we won't sway until it has done it. We will only chant."
"I canna' do no chantin'," said Ben Weatherstaff a trifle testily. "They turned me out o' th' church choir th' only time I ever tried it."
No one smiled. They were all too much in earnest. Colin's face was not even crossed by a shadow. He was thinking only of the Magic.
"Then I will chant," he said. And he began, looking like a strange boy spirit. "The sun is shining—the sun is shining. That is the Magic. The flowers are growing—the roots are stirring. That is the Magic. Being alive is the Magic—being strong is the Magic. The Magic is in me—the Magic is in me. It is in me—it is in me. It's in every one of us. It's in Ben Weatherstaff's back. Magic! Magic! Come and help!"
He said it a great many times—not a thousand times but quite a goodly number. Mary listened entranced. She felt as if it were at once queer and beautiful and she wanted him to go on and on. Ben Weatherstaff began to feel soothed into a sort of dream which was quite agreeable. The humming of the bees in the blossoms mingled with the chanting voice and drowsily melted into a doze. Dickon sat cross-legged with his rabbit asleep on his arm and a hand resting on the lamb's back. Soot had pushed away a squirrel and huddled close to him on his shoulder, the gray film dropped over his eyes. At last Colin stopped.
"Now I am going to walk round the garden," he announced.
Ben Weatherstaff's head had just dropped forward and he lifted it with a jerk.
"You have been asleep," said Colin.
"Nowt o' th' sort," mumbled Ben. "Th' sermon was good enow—but I'm bound to get out afore th' collection."
He was not quite awake yet.
"You're not in church," said Colin.
"Not me," said Ben, straightening himself. "Who said I were? I heard every bit of it. You said th' Magic was in my back. Th' doctor calls it rheumatics."
The Rajah waved his hand.
"That was the wrong Magic," he said. "You will get better. You have my permission to go to your work. But come back to-morrow."
"I'd like to see thee walk round the garden," grunted Ben.
It was not an unfriendly grunt, but it was a grunt. In fact, being a stubborn old party and not having entire faith in Magic he had made up his mind that if he were sent away he would climb his ladder and look over the wall so that he might be ready to hobble back if there were any stumbling.
The Rajah did not object to his staying and so the procession was formed. It really did look like a procession. Colin was at its head with Dickon on one side and Mary on the other. Ben Weatherstaff walked behind, and the "creatures" trailed after them, the lamb and the fox cub keeping close to Dickon, the white rabbit hopping along or stopping to nibble and Soot following with the solemnity of a person who felt himself in charge.
It was a procession which moved slowly but with dignity. Every few yards it stopped to rest. Colin leaned on Dickon's arm and privately Ben Weatherstaff kept a sharp lookout, but now and then Colin took his hand from its support and walked a few steps alone. His head was held up all the time and he looked very grand.
"The Magic is in me!" he kept saying. "The Magic is making me strong! I can feel it! I can feel it!"
It seemed very certain that something was upholding and uplifting him. He sat on the seats in the alcoves, and once or twice he sat down on the grass and several times he paused in the path and leaned on Dickon, but he would not give up until he had gone all round the garden. When he returned to the canopy tree his cheeks were flushed and he looked triumphant.
"I did it! The Magic worked!" he cried. "That is my first scientific discovery."
"What will Dr. Craven say?" broke out Mary.
"He won't say anything," Colin answered, "because he will not be told.
This is to be the biggest secret of all. No one is to know anything
about it until I have grown so strong that I can walk and run like any
other boy. I shall come here every day in my chair and I shall be taken
back in it. I won't have people whispering and asking questions and I
won't let my father hear about it until the experiment has quite
succeeded. Then sometime when he comes back to Misselthwaite I shall
just walk into his study and say 'Here I am; I am like any other boy. I
am quite well and I shall live to be a man. It has been done by a
"He will think he is in a dream," cried Mary. "He won't believe his eyes."
Colin flushed triumphantly. He had made himself believe that he was going to get well, which was really more than half the battle, if he had been aware of it. And the thought which stimulated him more than any other was this imagining what his father would look like when he saw that he had a son who was as straight and strong as other fathers' sons. One of his darkest miseries in the unhealthy morbid past days had been his hatred of being a sickly weak-backed boy whose father was afraid to look at him.
"He'll be obliged to believe them," he said. "One of the things I am going to do, after the Magic works and before I begin to make scientific discoveries, is to be an athlete."
"We shall have thee takin' to boxin' in a week or so," said Ben Weatherstaff. "Tha'lt end wi' winnin' th' Belt an' bein' champion prize-fighter of all England."
Colin fixed his eyes on him sternly.
"Weatherstaff," he said, "that is disrespectful. You must not take liberties because you are in the secret. However much the Magic works I shall not be a prize-fighter. I shall be a Scientific Discoverer."
"Ax pardon—ax pardon, sir," answered Ben, touching his forehead in salute. "I ought to have seed it wasn't a jokin' matter," but his eyes twinkled and secretly he was immensely pleased. He really did not mind being snubbed since the snubbing meant that the lad was gaining strength and spirit.
"B OYS, what did I tell you?"
The schoolmaster spoke angrily. He was in trouble because his scholars would not study. Whenever his back was turned, they were sure to begin whispering to one another.
"Girls, stop your whispering, I say."
But still they would whisper, and he could not prevent it. The afternoon was half gone, and the trouble was growing. Then the master thought of a plan.
"Children," he said, "we are going to play a new game. The next one that whispers must come out and stand in the middle of the floor. He must stand there until he sees some one else whisper. Then he will tell me, and the one whom he names must come and take his place. He, in turn, will watch and report the first one that he sees whisper. And so we will keep the game going till it is time for school to be dismissed. The boy or girl who is standing at that time will be punished for all of you."
"What will the punishment be, Mr. Johnson?" asked a bold, bad boy.
"A good thrashing," answered the master. He was tired, he was vexed, he hardly knew what he said.
The children thought the new game was very funny. First, Tommy Jones whispered to Billy Brown and was at once called out to stand on the floor. Within less than two minutes, Billy saw Mary Green whispering, and she had to take his place. Mary looked around and saw Samuel Miller asking his neighbor for a pencil, and Samuel was called. And so the fun went on until the clock showed that it lacked only ten minutes till school would be dismissed.
Then all became very good and very careful, for no one wished to be standing at the time of dismissal. They knew that the master would be as good as his word.
The clock ticked loudly, and Tommy Jones, who was standing up for the fourth time, began to feel very uneasy. He stood on one leg and then on the other, and watched very closely; but nobody whispered. Could it be possible that he would receive that thrashing?
Suddenly, to his great joy he saw little Lucy Martin lean
over her desk and whisper to the girl in front of her. Now Lucy was
the pet of the school. Everybody loved her, and this was the first
time she had whispered that day. But Tommy didn't care for that. He
wished to escape the punishment, and so he called out,
Little Lucy had not meant to whisper. There was something which she wished very much to know before going home, and so, without thinking, she had leaned over and whispered just three little words. With tears in her eyes she went out and stood in the whisperer's place.
She was very much ashamed and hurt, for it was the first time that she had ever been in disgrace at school. The other girls felt sorry that she should suffer for so small a fault. The boys looked at her and wondered if the master would really be as good as his word.
The clock kept on ticking. It lacked only one minute till the bell would strike the time for dismissal. What a shame that dear, gentle Lucy should be punished for all those unruly boys and girls!
Then, suddenly, an awkward half-grown boy who sat right in front of the master's desk turned squarely around and whispered to Tommy Jones, three desks away.
Everybody saw him. Little Lucy Martin saw him through her tears, but said nothing. Everybody was astonished, for that boy was the best scholar in the school, and he had never been known to break a rule.
It lacked only half a minute now. The awkward boy turned again and whispered so loudly that even the master could not help hearing: "Tommy, you deserve a thrashing!"
"Elihu Burritt, take your place on the floor," said the master sternly.
The awkward boy stepped out quickly, and little Lucy Martin returned to her seat sobbing. At the same moment the bell struck and school was dismissed.
After all the others had gone home, the master took down his long birch rod and said: "Elihu, I suppose I must be as good as my word. But tell me why you so deliberately broke the rule against whispering."
"I did it to save little Lucy," said the awkward boy, standing up very straight and brave. "I could not bear to see her punished."
"Elihu, you may go home," said the master.
All this happened many years ago in New Britain, Connecticut. Elihu Burritt was a poor boy who was determined to learn. He worked many years as a blacksmith and studied books whenever he had a spare moment. He learned many languages and became known all over the world as "The Learned Blacksmith."
The poetry of earth is never dead;
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun,
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one, in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.
WEEK 23 |
M EANWHILE Harold was ruling England quietly and well. The people loved him, and were glad they had chosen such a brave and generous man to rule over them. Harold was kind to every one, but he was specially kind to Edgar Ætheling. He knew that it would have been a very bad thing for England had the people chosen an ignorant little boy as king. Yet he felt sorry for Edgar, and tried to make him grow into a brave and honest English boy.
Harold kept the good laws which had been made before the time of Edward, and altered the unjust ones. He was always thinking of the happiness of his people and the good of his country. Often and often he looked anxiously across the blue sea to the shores of France, watching for the white sails of Duke William's ships.
Months passed, and still they did not appear. But Harold knew that one day they would come although William sent no more messages. Harold's friends crossed the sea to find out what the great duke was doing. They brought back news of the mighty army which was gathering on the shores of the river Dive. So Harold watched and waited, and he too gathered together men and horses, swords and armour.
Often King Harold sighed to see that there were no strong castles and fortresses to guard the shores of his dear land. For Edward, instead of building ships and castles to keep the country safe from enemies, had spent his people's money in building great churches, and in buying the bones of holy men who had lived and died long, long ago. These bones, he foolishly thought, would keep wicked men away from his shores.
One day while Harold watched and waited for the coming of William, a messenger all breathless arrived from the north. He was covered with dust and worn and tired with long travelling. He burst into the room, where the King sat, and threw himself on his knees. "My lord and King," he cried, "Tostig, thy brother, and Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, have landed in the north with a mighty army of heathen folk. They have defeated Earl Morcar. They have taken York. They slay and burn without mercy. Through fear, many of thy subjects have joined the banner of Tostig. Now they are making ready to march south to take London, and Harold Hardrada of Norway will be master of all England."
Then the messenger was silent, fainting for weariness and lack of food.
This news made Harold very sorry. Tostig was his brother, and he did not wish to fight against his own brother, but for the sake of England he knew he must. For Harold loved England better than all the world. It is said that, after he was dead, people found the word "England" printed on his breast just over his heart, but whether that is true or not, this is true, that Harold held England in his heart and in his thoughts, and always tried to do what was best for his country.
So now Harold gathered all his own soldiers or huscarles as they were called, and set out for Yorkshire to meet the enemy.
At this time England had not a great army, as it has now, ready at all times for battle. The king only kept a few soldiers always near him. They were called his "huscarles" or his "body guard," as their duty was to guard his house when he was at home and his person wherever he went.
The rest of the soldiers were the servants of the great nobles and rich merchants. Whenever the king had need of them, he used to call them together, and when the fighting was over they went back again to their own homes, and to their own masters.
Harold had called these men together to be ready for William, but as months passed and the dreadful duke did not come, they grew tired of waiting and went home. For by this time it was autumn, the fields were yellow with the ripe grain, and the orchards were laden with fruit, so the men who had come to fight went home again to gather the fruit and cut the corn before the winter set in.
But hardly had they gone, when the messenger came with the terrible news from Yorkshire.
Harold did not stop to gather his army together again, but set out as quickly as he could with the few soldiers he had.
As he rode northward, he looked back with many a sigh. He looked across the blue waters which separated him from Duke William, straining his eyes anxiously, but there was no sign of a sail. "Please God," he murmured, "I may yet return in time to meet the Norman wolf."
In those days, the roads were very bad. Some of them were only tracks worn by the feet of horses. There was no means, either, of going from place to place, except by walking or riding. But there was one great road, which the Romans had made long, long before. This stretched all the way from York to London. Harold was so clever that in a few days he brought his little army along this road from the very south to the middle of England. By 24th September he had arrived at York. On the 25th a great battle was fought at a place near there, called Stamford Bridge. In memory of that great fight it was afterwards called Battle Bridge.
Before the fighting began, the two armies stood facing each other.
Up and down the lines of the Norwegian army rode a very tall man on a lovely black horse. He was dressed in splendid steel armour, and a beautiful blue cloak hung from his shoulders. As he rode, his horse stumbled and fell, and the tall man was thrown to the ground. He sprang up again with a laugh. "Oh!" he said, "a fall means good luck to a traveller."
But Harold, who had been watching, turned to some one beside him. "Who is that tall man with the blue cloak and beautiful helmet?" he asked.
"That is Harold Hardrada, King of Norway," was the reply.
"He has had a fall," said Harold of England. "That means bad luck to him."
One side, you see, thought it was good luck, and the other thought it was bad, although really, of course, it made no difference one way or another. But, in those days, people were very superstitious, that is, they found a meaning in things that had no meaning at all.
Harold of England looked sadly along the lines of the army opposite. He was looking for the banner of his brother Tostig. When he saw it he rode, almost alone, right up to the Norwegian army. His men looked on in surprise and fear as he rode so near the enemy, attended only by a few knights. When he was quite close to them, he stopped his horse, and called out, "Is Earl Tostig, son of Godwin, in this army?"
Tostig himself answered, "Yes, what want you with him?" and he rode out to meet the king.
Although Tostig's face was hidden by his helmet, King Harold knew his brother's voice. So his tone was kind and gentle, as he answered: "Your brother, King Harold, sends you greeting. He does not wish to fight against you. If you will send away these soldiers, he will forgive you all the wrong you have done, and he will give you the earldom of Northumbria once more."
"And if I accept his offer," said Tostig, "what will he give to my friend Harold Hardrada?"
King Harold's voice grew stern as he answered, "He shall have seven feet of English ground for a grave, or a little more perhaps, as he is so much taller than other men."
"Then," said the earl, "go and tell King Harold to get ready for battle, for it shall never be said that Tostig brought his friend to England to betray him."
Then the brothers parted, sad and angry, each riding back to his own side.
"Who was that fine man with whom you have been speaking?" asked Harold Hardrada, as Tostig came back.
"That was King Harold of England," replied the earl.
"Why did you not tell me?" said the king. "He was so near! So near death, for had I known who he was, he would never have gone back to his own people."
But although Tostig was a wild, wicked man, he was not altogether bad. He looked sadly at King Harold Hardrada and said, "He came to offer me peace and forgiveness. He is my brother, though my enemy. Had I betrayed him to you, I should have been not only his foe, but his murderer."
Then it seemed as if Harold Hardrada was ashamed.
Soon the battle began. Harold Hardrada rode in front singing a loud battle song.
No helmets glance,
But blue swords play
In our array.
No mail coats glance
But hearts are here
That ne'er knew fear.
He sang that because these Northmen, as they were called, often fought in their shirts and wore no armour or protection of any kind. So they got the name of "Berserkers," and in Scotland to this day the word "sark" is used to mean shirt.
The fight was fierce and long. Sometimes it seemed as if the English would win, sometimes the Northmen. In the very thickest of the fight rode the two kings, each cheering on his men.
When battle storm was ringing,
Where arrow cloud was singing,
Harold stood there,
Of armour bare,
His deadly sword still swinging.
The foemen felt its bite;
His horsemen rush to fight,
Danger to share
With Harold there,
Where steel on steel was ringing.
But at last both Earl Tostig and King Harold Hardrada were killed, and their soldiers fled in all directions.
King Harold of England was very kind to those who were not killed. He did not take them prisoners, but allowed them to go away with their ships to their own country, having first made them promise never to fight against England again.
A DECEMBER storm was blowing across Holiday Meadow. Snow drifted with the wind, the flakes fluttering over the field like flocks of tiny birds.
Dick and Anne, who were trudging toward a farm house, paused to watch the falling snow. They pushed their backs against the wind to keep from losing foothold. Their coats flapped at their sides like tugging sails.
Suddenly some of the distant flakes of snow seemed to grow larger and to move on white wings before the driving wind. The cousins blinked in surprise and looked again and saw, indeed, a flock of birds drifting with the snow. They were flying low, only a few feet from the ground.
A moment before there had been no sounds except those of the storm as it swirled against the meadow weeds. Now thin twittery notes mingled with the rough voice of the wind, making quaint winter music.
The snow buntings perched on a row of trees near the house.
The two looked at each other and smiled. "The snowflakes have come," said Anne. "It is early in the season for them, too; for we do not always see them in December, do we?"
"No," said Dick, "the snow must be so deep farther north that they could not wait any longer for their visit to us. They have probably been staying near the coast for some time before they came here."
In another minute the birds were out of sight and hearing. They had made the storm seem live and beautiful. "The darlings!" said one of the children. "They did not fight the wind. They flew with it as if they were a part of the storm."
Every year Dick and Anne watched for the snowflakes, or snow buntings as they are also called, that come from their arctic home to a more temperate climate for the winter and sometimes for the early spring.
It probably is not the cold that sends them southward for they are hardy birds and thrive in zero weather, or colder, if they can find food enough for their hearty appetites. But when the seedy tops of the arctic plants have become buried in snow, these birds seek fields where the snow is not so deep. Their southward winter flight depends more on the depth of the snow than on the coldness of the weather; and it takes place much earlier some years than others.
For weeks the flock of snow buntings that had flown past Dick and Anne in the storm visited the fields where for miles in all directions there was plenty of food. During that December even short plants stood above the snow that thinly covered the ground. Early in January the snow became deep enough to hide the clover heads and the grasses.
The tall sedges were bowed with snow.
Later in the month the cold white fluff was piled high against the stems of wild carrot, or Queen Anne's lace, the cup-shaped heads of which still held their seeds above the drifts. Then one night about the first of February there came a fall of snow that buried the tallest of the Queen Anne's lace plants. Even the mullein stalks held only the highest of their seed-pods in sight.
The snow covered all the plants except the tall ones.
Early the next morning when the cousins saw what had happened, Dick said, "The snowflakes will be hungry to‑day. We'd better get their picnic ground ready for them."
So the children put on their snowshoes and trampled back and forth and around and around in the yard south of the house until they had packed the snow rather hard and firm. Then they brought hay from the barn and scattered it over the packed snow and tramped that down, too, so that it would not blow away in the wind. The hay on the snow made a dark place that looked at a distance like bare ground.
When hungry birds see such places they come to hunt for seeds. There were some grass seeds among the dry hay but not enough for a real bird picnic. So the cousins brought out some clover seeds and poured them in several heaps near the hay.
The snow buntings had spent the stormy night several miles away in some rather sheltered spot. That morning, when they were ready for breakfast, they flew high overhead and looked down for signs of food. As far as they could see, the fields were white. So they flew on and on. The farther they flew the hungrier they became.
Then suddenly a small flock of the buntings saw a dark place in a dooryard not far from Holiday Meadow. It looked like bare ground. Perhaps there would be seeds there! They flew lower and lower and alighted near the edge of the meadow. They waited and watched the tempting dark place on the ground. It was close to a house and they felt timid. But most of all they felt hungry and there was nothing for them to eat on the white bare field.
The bravest of them flew a little way toward the spot, going low—only a few feet above the snow. Then he stopped flying and ran a while. He could not run very fast for his feet sank into the soft new snow and he had to wade. While he was wading the rest of the flock flew and caught up with him one by one. So wading and flying they approached the dooryard.
At last the bravest of the flock again flew ahead and this time alighted on some trampled hay beside a little heap of clover seeds. He began to eat. He was happy. He twittered as he ate. His comrades heard him twittering and came quickly to the feast. Soon they were all there—all eating seeds and all twittering.
The birds twittered while they ate.
The boy and girl watched them from inside the window. They stood quietly so that no motion should frighten the birds.
"The snowflakes have found their picnic," whispered Dick. "There are only twelve of them," said Anne wistfully, "I wish more would come."
Anne had her wish. The next day thirty buntings came to their picnic grounds and before a week had passed the flock numbered more than sixty.
After every storm, the children hurried out to tramp down more hay and heap seeds on the snow. Sometimes it snowed steadily all day and then they scattered fresh hay and put out new seeds about once an hour so that there would always be something for the birds to find.
The snow covered so many of the seeds and the large flock of birds ate so many more that it was not long before the clover seeds were gone. Neighbors gave the cousins leftover garden seeds but these would not last many days either. So Dick ordered a large sack of cracked grain from the store—a sort that is ground fine for very young chickens. This they mixed with their seeds and the buntings twittered as cheerfully while they were eating their new kind of food as if it had dropped from the seedy tops of meadow weeds.
Every now and then other snow buntings found their way to the picnic ground and by the first day of March there were more than one hundred in the flock.
The snow buntings found their picnic ground.
Among all these buntings there were no two that looked exactly alike. They were all pure white on the under parts of their wings and bodies. They all had rusty brown feathers and black ones on their sides and backs. But some had more white feathers and some had more brown ones and some had more black ones. The feather coat of each bird was thus a little different from all the others. Most of the birds had brown collars but these were of different shapes, some meeting in front and the edges of some not quite coming together, some being broad and some being narrow.
No two snow buntings were just alike.
The heads of most of the buntings were bright brown on top. Only two birds in the flock had no brown feathers at all on their heads and necks. The children called these two birds the "white-headed snowflakes."
The white-headed snowflakes did not often feed at the same pile of seeds. When they did so they stood at opposite sides. If another bunting came very near, one of the white-headed birds would spread his feet wide apart and make a sudden jumping motion toward the newcomer and scare it away.
The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat'ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.
WEEK 23 |
"W ELL, Peter," said Old Mother Nature, "did you visit Digger the Badger yesterday?"
"Yes'm," replied Peter, "I visited him, but I didn't find out much. He's a regular old grouch. He isn't the least bit neighborly. It took me a long time to find him. He has more holes than anybody I ever knew, and I couldn't tell which one is his home. When I did find him, he gave me a terrible scare. I didn't see him until I was right on top of him, and if I hadn't jumped, and jumped quickly, I guess I wouldn't be here this morning. He was lying flat down in the grass and he was so very flat that I just didn't see him. When I told him that I wanted to know all about him and his ways, he replied that it was none of my business how he lived or what he did, and that was all I could get out of him.
"I sat around awhile and watched him, but he didn't do much except take a sun bath. He certainly is a queer-looking fellow to be a member of the Weasel family. There's nothing about him that looks like a Weasel, that I could see. Of course, he isn't as broad as he is long, but he looks almost that when he is lying flat down and that long hair of his is spread out on both sides. He really has a handsome coat when you come to look at it. It is silvery gray and silky looking. It seems to be parted right down the middle of his back. His tail is rather short, but stout and hairy. His head and face are really handsome. His cheeks, chin and a broad stripe from his nose right straight back over his head are white. On each cheek is a bar of black. The back part of each ear is black, and so are his feet. He has rather a sharp nose. Somehow when he is walking he makes me think of a little, flattened-out Bear with very short legs. And such claws as he has on his front feet! I don't know any one with such big strong claws for his size. I guess that must be because he is such a digger."
Though he doesn't look it, he is a member of the Weasel family.
"That's a very good guess, Peter," said Old Mother Nature. "Has any one here ever seen him dig?"
"I did once," replied Peter. "I happened to be over near where he lives when Farmer Brown's boy came along and surprised Digger some distance from one of his holes. Digger didn't try to get to one of those holes; he simply began to dig. My gracious, how the sand did fly! He was out of sight in the ground before Farmer Brown's boy could get to him. Johnny Chuck is pretty good at digging, but he simply isn't in the same class with Digger the Badger. No one is that I know of, unless it is Miner the Mole. I guess this is all I know about him, excepting that he is a great fighter. Once I saw him whip a dog almost twice his size. I never heard such hissing and snarling and growling. He wouldn't tell me anything about how he lives."
"Very good, Peter, very good," replied Old Mother Nature, "That's as much as I expected you would be able to find out. Digger is a queer fellow. His home is on the great plains and in the flat, open country of the Middle West and Far West, where Gophers and Ground Squirrels and Prairie Dogs live. They furnish him with the greater part of his food. All of them are good diggers, but they don't stand any chance when he sets out to dig them out.
"Digger spends most of his time under ground during daylight, seldom coming out except for a sun bath. But as soon as jolly, round, red Mr. Sun goes to bed for the night, Digger appears and travels about in search of a dinner. His legs are so short and he is so stout and heavy that he is slow and rather clumsy, but he makes up for that by his ability to dig. He doesn't expect to catch any one on the surface, unless he happens to surprise a Meadow Mouse within jumping distance. He goes hunting for the holes of Ground Squirrels and other burrowers, and when he finds one promptly digs. He eats Grasshoppers, Beetles and small Snakes, as well as such small animals as he catches. It was well for you, Peter, that you jumped when you did, for I suspect that Digger would have enjoyed a Rabbit dinner.
"Very little is known of Digger's family life, but he is a good husband. In winter he sleeps as Johnny Chuck does, coming out soon after the snow disappears in the spring. Of all my little people, none has greater courage. When he is cornered he will fight as long as there is a breath of life in him. His skin is very tough and he is further protected by his long hair. His teeth are sharp and strong and he can always give a good account of himself in a fight. He is afraid of no one of his own size.
"Man hunts him for his fur, but man is very stupid in many things and
this is an example. You see, Digger is worth a great deal more alive
than dead, because of the great number of destructive Rodents he
kills. The only thing that can be brought against him is the number
holes he digs. Mr. and
"While Digger the Badger is a lover of the open country and doesn't like the Green Forest at all he has a cousin who is found only in the Green Forest and usually very deep in the Green Forest at that. This is Glutton the Wolverine, the largest and ugliest member of the family. None of you have seen him, because he lives almost wholly in the great forests of the North. He hasn't a single friend that I know of, but that doesn't trouble him in the least.
"Glutton has several names. He is called 'Carcajou' in the Far North, and out in the Far West is often called 'Skunkbear.' The latter name probably is given him because in shape and color he looks a good deal as though he might be half Skunk and half Bear. He is about three feet long with a tail six inches long, and is thickset and heavy. His legs are short and very stout. His hair, including that on the tail, is long and shaggy. It is blackish-brown, becoming grayish on the upper part of his head and cheeks. His feet are black. When he walks he puts his feet flat on the ground as a Bear does.
He is the largest member of the Weasel family.
"Being so short of leg and heavy of body, he is slow in his movements.
But what he lacks in this respect he makes up in strength and cunning.
"Mrs. Glutton has two or three babies in the spring. They live
in a cave, but if a cave cannot be found, they use a hole in the
"I think this will do for
Such a look of dismay as swept over the faces of all those little
people, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porky!
"If—if—if you please, I don't think I'll come
"I—I—I think I shall be too busy at home and will have to miss that lesson," said Striped Chipmunk.
Old Mother Nature smiled. "Don't worry, little folks," said she. "You ought to know that if I had Shadow here I wouldn't let him hurt one of you. But I am afraid if he were here you would pay no attention to me, so I promise you that Shadow will not be anywhere near."
Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence. His father was a Virginia planter, and also a surveyor. The father was a man of strong frame, able to stand between two great hogsheads of tobacco lying on their sides and set both on end at once. He lived a hardy life, surveying in the woods.
Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743. His father died when he was fourteen, and left him the owner of a large plantation. Like most Virginia boys, he was fond of hunting, riding, and swimming. But he did not waste his life in sport. When he went to college at Williamsburg he became a famous student. Sometimes he studied fifteen hours a day, which would have been too much if he had not been strong. No man in all America, perhaps, was his superior in knowledge.
While he was a student, the colonies were thrown into violent excitement by the passage of the Stamp Act in England. This was a law for taxing the Americans, made without their consent. While this excitement was raging, young Jefferson went into the Virginia Legislature one day and heard the famous speech of Patrick Henry against the Stamp Act.
In the midst of his speech Patrick Henry cried out, "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell, and George III‚" At this point everybody thought Henry was going to threaten the death of George III, who was King of England and of the colonies. This would have been treason. So, without waiting for Henry to finish, some of those who heard him broke into an uproar, crying out, "Treason! treason!" But when they paused, Patrick Henry finished by saying, "George III may profit by their example. If that be treason, make the most of it." This scene made a deep impression on young Jefferson.
Jefferson's wealth was in creased by his marriage. He build him a house which he called Monticello [mon-te-chel´-lo], meaning, "little mountain," from its situation on a high hill. Jefferson was very fond of trying new things. He introduced foreign plants and trees, and he bought in new articles of furniture and new ways of building houses.
While yet a young man he was sent to the Virginia Legislature, and then to Congress. He strongly favored the War of the Revolution. John Adams and others tried to persuade Congress to declare the colonies independent of England. At last a committee was appointed to write the Declaration. Jefferson was not a great speaker, but he was a brilliant writer. He wrote the Declaration of Independence, and it was signed by the members of Congress on the Fourth of July, 1776.
In the Declaration Jefferson had declared that "all men are created equal." He now set about abolishing some of the laws which kept men from being equal in this country. In his own State of Virginia much of the land was tied up so that it could only descend to the oldest son. This was called the law of entail. Jefferson got this law abolished, so that a father's land would be more equally divided among his children.
There were also laws in most of the States which established some religious denomination as the religion of the State, and supported it by taxed. Jefferson got Virginia to pass a law separation the State from the Church, and making all men equal in regard to their religion.
Jefferson was governor of Virginia during part of the Revolutionary War, and he had to make great exertions to defend the State from the British. The British troops at length marched on Monticello, and Jefferson had to flee from his house.
Two of Jefferson's negro slaves, whose names were Martin and Caesar, made haste to hide their master's silver plate. They had raised a plank in the floor, and Caesar was crouched under the floor hiding the silverware as Martin handed it down to him. Just as the last piece went down, Martin saw the redcoats approaching. He dropped the plank, leaving Caesar a prisoner. In this uncomfortable place the faithful fellow lay still for three days and nights without food.
"The Redcoats are Coming!"
Jefferson was very loving and tender to his family. It was a great sorrow to him that four out of his six children died very young. His wife also died at the close of the Revolutionary War.
Jefferson was sent to take Franklin's place as American Minister to France. He was there five years, and then returned to America. He had always been kind to the negroes on his plantation. When he got back they were so rejoiced that they took him out of his carriage and carried him into the house, some of them crying and others laughing with delight because "massa come home again."
While Jefferson was gone, the Constitution of the United States had been adopted and General Washington had been elected President. He appointed Jefferson Secretary of State. Jefferson resigned this office after some years, and went back to Monticello.
In 1796 he was elected Vice President, and in 1800 he was chosen President of the United States. As President he introduced a more simple way of living and transacting business. He was much opposed to pomp and ceremony. It is said that when he was inaugurated he rode to the Capitol on horseback and hitched his horse to the fence. Another account has it that he walked there in company with a few gentlemen. At any rate, he would have no display, but lived like a simple citizen.
When Jefferson became President the United States extended only to the Mississippi River. President Jefferson bought from France a great region west of the Mississippi, larger than all the United States had been before that time. This is known as the "Louisiana purchase," because all the country bought from France was then called Louisiana. It has been cut up into many States since its purchase.
Jefferson was elected President a second time in 1804. In 1809 he retired to Monticello, where he lived the remainder of his life.
He was once riding with his grandson when a negro bowed to them. Jefferson returned the bow, but the boy did not. Jefferson turned to his grandson and said, "Do you allow a poor negro to be more of a gentleman than you are?"
Jefferson and the Negro
While he was President, Jefferson was once riding on horseback with some friends. An old man stood by a stream waiting to get across without wetting his feet. After most of the others had passed over, he asked Jefferson to take him on behind and carry him across, which he did. When he had got down, a gentleman, coming up behind, asked him, "Why did you ask him, and not some other gentleman in the party?"
"I did not like to ask them," said the old man; "but the old gentleman there looked like he would do it, and so I asked him." He was very much surprised to learn that it was the President who had carried him over.
After Jefferson retired from the presidency so many people desired to see him that his plantation house was overrun with company, until he was made poor by entertaining those who came. It is related that one woman even poked a pane of glass out with her parasol, in order to see the man who wrote the great Declaration.
John Adams, the second President, and Jefferson, the third, lived to be very old. They died on the same day. Curiously, that day was the 4th of July, 1826. If you subtract 1776 from 1826, you will find that they died exactly fifty years after the day on which the great Declaration was signed. And they were the two men who had the largest share in the making of the Declaration of Independence.
Now rings the woodland loud and long,
The distance takes a lovelier hue,
And drowned in yonder living blue,
The lark becomes a sightless song.
WEEK 23 |
And now when many years had come and gone and the realm had long time been at peace, sorrow came upon the people of the Goths. And thus it was that the evil came.
It fell upon a time that a slave by his misdeeds roused his master's wrath, and when his lord would have punished him he fled in terror. And as he fled trembling to hide himself, he came by chance into a great cave.
There the slave hid, thankful for refuge. But soon he had cause to tremble in worse fear than before, for in the darkness of the cave he saw that a fearful dragon lay asleep. Then as the slave gazed in terror at the awful beast, he saw that it lay guarding a mighty treasure.
Never had he seen such a mass of wealth. Swords and armour inlaid with gold, cups and vessels of gold and silver set with precious stones, rings and bracelets lay piled around in glittering heaps.
For hundreds of years this treasure had lain there in secret. A great prince had buried it in sorrow for his dead warriors. In his land there had been much fighting until he alone of all his people was left. Then in bitter grief he gathered all his treasure and hid it in this cave.
"Take, O earth," he cried, "what the heroes might not keep. Lo! good men and true once before earned it from thee. Now a warlike death hath taken away every man of my people. There is none now to bear the sword or receive the cup. There is no more joy in the battlefield or in the hall of peace. So here shall the gold-adorned helmet moulder, here the coat of mail rust and the wine-cup lie empty."
Thus the sad prince mourned. Beside his treasure he sat weeping both day and night until death took him also, and of all his people there was none left.
So the treasure lay hidden and secret for many a day.
Then upon a time it happened that a great Dragon, fiery-eyed and fearful, as it flew by night and prowled seeking mischief, came upon the buried hoard.
As men well know, a dragon ever loveth gold. So to guard his new-found wealth lest any should come to rob him of it, he laid him down there and the cave became his dwelling. Thus for three hundred years he lay gloating over his treasure, no man disturbing him.
But now at length it chanced that the fleeing slave lighted upon the hoard. His eyes were dazzled by the shining heap. Upon it lay a cup of gold, wondrously chased and adorned.
"If I can but gain that cup," said the slave to himself, "I will return with it to my master, and for the sake of the gold he will surely forgive me."
So while the Dragon slept, trembling and fearful the slave crept nearer and nearer to the glittering mass. When he came quite near he reached forth his hand and seized the cup. Then with it he fled back to his master.
The slave crept nearer and nearer to the glittering mass
It befell then as the slave had foreseen. For the sake of the wondrous cup his misdeeds were forgiven him.
But when the Dragon awoke his fury was great. Well knew he that mortal man had trod his cave and stolen of his hoard.
Round and round about he sniffed and searched until he discovered the footprints of his foe. Eagerly then all over the ground he sought to find the man who, while he slept, had done him this ill. Hot and fierce of mood he went backwards and forwards round about his treasure-heaps. All within the cave he searched in vain. Then coming forth he searched without. All round the hill in which his cave was he prowled, but no man could he find, nor in all the wilds around was there any man.
Again the old Dragon returned, again he searched among his treasure-heaps for the precious cup. Nowhere was it to be found. It was too surely gone.
But the Dragon, as well as loving gold, loved war. So now in angry mood he lay couched in his lair. Scarce could he wait until darkness fell, such was his wrath. With fire he was resolved to repay the loss of his dear drinking-cup.
At last, to the joy of the great winged beast, the sun sank. Then forth from his cave he came, flaming fire.
Spreading his mighty wings, he flew through the air until he came to the houses of men. Then spitting forth flame, he set fire to many a happy homestead. Wherever the lightning of his tongue struck, there fire flamed forth, until where the fair homes of men had been there was nought but blackened ruins. Here and there, this way and that, through all the land he sped, and wherever he passed fire flamed aloft.
The warfare of the Dragon was seen from far. The malice of the Worm was known from north to south, from east to west. All men knew how the fearful foe hated and ruined the Goth folk.
Then having worked mischief and desolation all night through, the Fire-Dragon turned back; to his secret cave he slunk again ere break of day. Behind him he left the land wasted and desolate.
The Dragon had no fear of the revenge of man. In his fiery warfare he trusted to find shelter in his hill, and in his secret cave. But in that trust he was misled.
Speedily to King Beowulf were the tidings of the Dragon and his spoiling carried. For alas! even his own fair palace was wrapped in flame. Before his eyes he saw the fiery tongues lick up his treasures. Even the Gift-seat of the Goths melted in fire.
Then was the good king sorrowful. His heart boiled within him with angry thoughts. The Fire-Dragon had utterly destroyed the pleasant homes of his people. For this the war-prince greatly desired to punish him.
Therefore did Beowulf command that a great shield should be made for him, all of iron. He knew well that a shield of wood could not help him in this need. Wood against fire! Nay, that were useless. His shield must be all of iron.
Too proud, too, was Beowulf, the hero of old time, to seek the winged beast with a troop of soldiers. Not thus would he overcome him. He feared not for himself, nor did he dread the Dragon's war-craft. For with his valour and his skill Beowulf had succeeded many a time. He had been victorious in many a tumult of battle since that day when a young man and a warrior prosperous in victory, he had cleansed Hart Hall by grappling with Grendel and his kin.
And now when the great iron shield was ready, he chose eleven of his best thanes and set out to seek the Dragon. Very wrathful was the old king, very desirous that death should take his fiery foe. He hoped, too, to win the great treasure of gold which the fell beast guarded. For already Beowulf had learned whence the feud arose, whence came the anger which had been so hurtful to his people. And the precious cup, the cause of all the quarrel, had been brought to him.
With the band of warriors went the slave who had stolen the cup. He it was who must be their guide to the cave, for he alone of all men living knew the way thither. Loth he was to be their guide. But captive and bound he was forced to lead the way over the plain to the Dragon's hill.
Unwillingly he went with lagging footsteps until at length he came to the cave hard by the sea-shore. There by the sounding waves lay the savage guardian of the treasure. Ready for war and fierce was he. It was no easy battle that was there prepared for any man, brave though he might be.
And now on the rocky point above the sea King Beowulf sat himself down. Here he would bid farewell to all his thanes ere he began the combat. For what man might tell which from that fight should come forth victorious?
Beowulf's mind was sad. He was now old. His hair was white, his face was wrinkled and grey. But still his arm was strong as that of a young man. Yet something within him warned him that death was not far off.
So upon the rocky point he sat and bade farewell to his dear comrades.
"In my youth," said the aged king, "many battles have I dared, and yet must I, the guardian of my people, though I be full of years, seek still another feud. And again will I win glory if the wicked spoiler of my land will but come forth from his lair."
Much he spoke. With loving words he bade farewell to each one of his men, greeting his dear comrades for the last time.
"I would not bear a sword or weapon against the winged beast," he said at length, "if I knew how else I might grapple with the wretch, as of old I did with Grendel. But I ween this war-fire is hot, fierce, and poisonous. Therefore I have clad me in a coat of mail, and bear this shield all of iron. I will not flee a single step from the guardian of the treasure. But to us upon this rampart it shall be as fate will.
"Now let me make no more vaunting speech. Ready to fight am I. Let me forth against the winged beast. Await ye here on the mount, clad in your coats of mail, your arms ready. Abide ye here until ye see which of us twain in safety cometh forth from the clash of battle.
"It is no enterprise for you, or for any common man. It is mine alone. Alone I needs must go against the wretch and prove myself a warrior. I must with courage win the gold, or else deadly, baleful war shall fiercely snatch me, your lord, from life."
Then Beowulf arose. He was all clad in shining armour, his gold-decked helmet was upon his head, and taking his shield in hand he strode under the stony cliffs towards the cavern's mouth. In the strength of his single arm he trusted against the fiery Dragon.
No enterprise this for a coward.
One day as an Ass was walking in the pasture, he found some Grasshoppers chirping merrily in a grassy corner of the field.
He listened with a great deal of admiration to the song of the Grasshoppers. It was such a joyful song that his pleasure-loving heart was filled with a wish to sing as they did.
"What is it?" he asked very respectfully, "that has given you such beautiful voices? Is there any special food you eat, or is it some divine nectar that makes you sing so wonderfully?"
"Yes," said the Grasshoppers, who were very fond of a joke; "it is the dew we drink! Try some and see."
So thereafter the Ass would eat nothing and drink nothing but dew.
Naturally, the poor foolish Ass soon died.
The laws of nature are unchangeable.
WEEK 23 |
"Brave the captain was; the seamen
Made a gallant crew,
Gallant sons of English freedom,
Sailors bold and true."
N OW, of all the great sailors who helped Queen Elizabeth to build up England's sea power, the greatest was Francis Drake. Of all the heroes whose exploits have set our world's history aglow with romance, there is not one more thrilling than the life-story of this man. His every deed from the cradle to the grave is a story. The first sight of him is as a small blue-eyed, curly-haired boy in the midst of a party of desperate Protestants in Devonshire flying for their lives from an outburst of Roman Catholic fury. Coming of a large Protestant family, the boy grew up full of hatred for the Church of Rome.
At the time of the abdication of Charles V. he was fifteen, and already apprenticed to the master of a small ship plying between England and the Netherlands. There he would hear of Philip's tyranny, of Alva's massacres, of the Netherlands revolt.
His rough school on the high seas was not without its reward. He became a remarkably clever sailor, and when the skipper of his ship died he left it to young Francis Drake.
"But the narrow seas were a prison for so large a spirit born for greater undertakings," and the very year that the Counts Egmont and Horn were beheaded in Brussels, 1567, Drake was commanding a small ship, the Judith, in an expedition commanded by his kinsman, John Hawkins.
Now, John Hawkins was a Devonshire man too, and related to the Drakes. His father had been a sailor in the time of Henry V., and his son John, who was to do so much for the navy of England, was about thirty at the time when Elizabeth became queen. With young Drake in command of the Judith, and some other ships, Hawkins set sail from Plymouth in October 1567.
The little fleet was a good deal knocked about in the rough gales then blowing in the Bay of Biscay, but they reached the Canary Isles in safety, and sailed thence to some of the Spanish settlements along the coast of America. Here, having collected a vast store of gold, silver, and jewels, they turned homewards. But a gale blew them into the Gulf of Mexico, where they knew full well no welcome would await them from the Spaniards there. However, they made a treaty and stopped to repair their injured ships. But treachery was in the air, and without note or warning the Spaniards suddenly attacked them furiously. Bravely enough they tried to defend their ships and their cargo, but at last they had to escape as best they might, Hawkins in one battered ship and Drake in another.
On the 23rd of January 1569 a weather-beaten man was riding post-haste from Plymouth to London with tidings of a desperate fray with the Spaniards. It was Francis Drake, and soon all England was ringing with the news, which had the great result that trade between Spain and England was stopped. It was the beginning of the end.
True, Hawkins and Drake became the heroes of the hour; but over England herself a fierce war-cloud lowered, the horizon was dark with the danger of coming storm. The Netherlands were in open revolt against Spain, but so far England had taken no part publicly.
The very year that the Beggars of the Sea were sailing to Brille, Drake was stealing secretly away from Plymouth port with a little fleet and crew of seventy-three men, all under the age of thirty, on a desperate venture against Spain on the farther side of the Atlantic. He had found out that Philip's treasure from the mines of Peru was landed at Panama, and carried across the narrow neck of land on the backs of many mules, to be reshipped for Spain on the other side.
"I have brought you to the treasure-house of the world," cried Drake, when he had sailed safely across the broad Atlantic. "Blame yourselves if you go away empty."
They were but a handful of men against the Spaniards, who attacked them. As Drake led his little party of adventurers forward he was badly wounded, and fainted from loss of blood. This prevented the Spanish treasure from being carried off by the English. The sun rose next morning on their glorious failure, and the famous attempt on the "treasure-house of the world" was at an end.
But Drake was still undaunted. Disasters befell him. His brother died in his arms, thirty of his little band died of sickness, others were too ill to stand. It is impossible to follow all his adventures, but the story of how he first saw the Pacific Ocean must be told. With eighteen men and native guides he started off to climb the forest-clad spurs of the dividing ridge of mountains dividing the two seas. The expedition was not unlike that of Balboa some sixty years before. Arrived at the top, he climbed a tree, and for the first time an Englishman gazed on the vast Southern Sea, named by Magellan the Pacific Ocean. Returning to his men, he fell on his knees, like a crusader of old, and besought "Almighty God of His goodness to give him life and leave to sail once in an English ship on that sea."
It was a great moment in the history of England. Jealously had Spain guarded this Southern Sea which now lay under the eyes of an Englishman.
U PON the heights of Mount Helicon, by the spring of water called Hippocrene, and upon the peak of Parnassus, whence flows forth the fountain of Castalia, dwelt the Muses—the nine gracious goddesses whose gifts to men are music, poetry, painting, eloquence, and all the pleasures of the mind. The Muse who had the sweetest voice was named Calliope; and she had a son named Orpheus, who grew up to be the most wonderful musician that ever was known. When he sang and played, it was as if his mother's voice were singing to Apollo's lyre, so that he charmed gods as well as men.
But though he thus charmed all, he cared for nothing in the whole world but his art, until he met with a girl named Eurydĭce, with whom he fell passionately in love, and who loved him with her whole heart in return. They married, and for a long time were perfectly happy. But one unlucky day Eurydice, while running through some long grass, was stung by a poisonous snake in the foot; and she died.
To Orpheus it was like losing his own soul; and it was indeed bitterly cruel to have lost Eurydice in the midst of their happiness together. Nothing could comfort him. He could only wander out among the hills and streams with his lyre, lamenting Eurydice, and imploring her to come back to him, in such heart-broken passionate music that the very rivers and mountains and winds seemed to find a voice, and to join with him in his ceaseless prayer of "Eurydice! come back to me, even from the grave." And so for days and nights he wandered, singing the same song to his lyre, with all his heart and soul, till it seemed impossible that Death itself should be deaf to such a prayer.
At last a very strange thing befell. So desperately sweet did his music grow that the earth could bear it no longer, but opened; so that he saw before him the black waters of the Styx, and Charon's boat filled with its freight of souls. His wonderful music, made more wonderful still by love and sorrow, had opened to him the very gate of Hades, where Eurydice had gone. Hope rose in his heart. Still playing, he stepped into the boat and crossed the Styx, none hindering him, or even asking him for his fee. Minos, Æacus, and Rhadamanthus, the three stern judges of the dead, let him pass unquestioned—even they forgot their duty in the music of his voice and lyre. As he played and sang there floated round him, drawn by his music, thousands of souls like flocks of birds. The sound of his lyre reached into Tartarus itself. Cerberus crouched harmless; the Furies felt a thrill of pity; for one whole instant Tantalus forgot his thirst, the wheel of Ixion ceased whirling, and the stone of Sisyphus stopped rolling down-hill.
Thus Orpheus played his way into the very presence of Pluto and Proserpine. Pluto pitied him; but it was Proserpine who, no doubt remembering her own mother's sorrows and wanderings, thought of a way to help him.
"You may have back your wife," said she; "but on one condition. You have conquered Death; but that is not enough. You must conquer even Love, for her sake. Go back to earth, playing and singing as you came, and Eurydice shall follow behind you. But if, until you pass the gate of Hades, you turn your head to look at her; if you give even a single glance behind you to see if she is there, then you shall never see her again."
You may think that Eurydice might have been given to him back without any conditions. But Hades was ruled by strict laws, which not even the king and queen could break; and nobody could be allowed to conquer death without showing that he could conquer temptation. Orpheus was overjoyed. Singing a hymn of thanks, he went back the way he came; and presently he could hear a faint sound behind him, as if the whisper of a footfall were keeping pace with him. Was it indeed Eurydice? He longed to look round and see; but he remembered Proserpine's condition, and he did not let his eyes wander from the chink of daylight which presently began to gleam before him. As he came nearer and nearer to the upper world of light, and life, and day, the footfall behind him grew more and more distinct, until he knew it to be Eurydice's: it was as if a silent phantom were gradually putting on its body again as it followed him. If he could but once look round—not to look was almost more than he could bear. But he might listen; and now he heard her breathe, deeply and gladly, as the breath of life came back to her. His music was indeed bringing her back from the grave!
At last he saw, full in sight, the sunlit hills of the upper world. Forgetting that the gate of Hades had not yet been passed, he, in his impatience, turned round to clasp Eurydice to his heart—only to see her change back again into a pale, cold ghost, which, with a wail of love and sorrow, faded away forever.
So Orpheus came back again from Hades heart-broken and alone. Once more, doubly hopeless, and hating himself for his own weakness, he wandered among the mountains and forests with his lyre. But while he was broken-hearted, his music became more wonderful than ever; for had he not seen with his eyes all the marvels of the under-world? Lions and tigers followed him as he sang, and became as gentle as lambs. The strongest oaks bent down to listen—nay, even the very mountains bowed their heads, and the swiftest rivers stood still to hear. He sang of Love and Death and Sorrow, and of all the mysteries of the world above, and of the world below, so that men looked upon him as a prophet, and came to him to learn wisdom.
But his own heart remained broken and dead within him. He had no more love left to give to any human being. The noblest and fairest women in the land sought to win his love, but he was deaf and blind to them all. So their love turned to hate; and at last a number of them, enraged by his coldness, fell upon him and slew him, and threw his head into the river Hebrus. And, as his head floated away, the dead lips were heard to murmur:—
WEEK 23 |
T HERE were two men of Gotham, and one of them was going to market to Nottingham to buy sheep, and the other came from the market, and they both met together upon Nottingham bridge.
"Where are you going?" said the one who came from Nottingham.
"Marry," said he that was going to Nottingham, "I am going to buy sheep."
"Buy sheep?" said the other, "and which way will you bring them home?"
"Marry," said the other, "I will bring them over this bridge."
"By Robin Hood," said he that came from Nottingham, "but thou shalt not."
"By Maid Marion," said he that was going thither, "but I will."
"You will not," said the one.
Then they beat their staves against the ground, one against the other, as if there had been a hundred sheep between them.
"Hold in," said one; "beware lest my sheep leap over the bridge."
"I care not," said the other; "they shall not come this way."
"But they shall," said the other.
Then the other said, "If that thou make much to do, I will put my fingers in thy mouth."
"Will you?" said the other.
Now as they were at their contention, another man of Gotham came from the market with a sack of meal upon a horse, and seeing and hearing his neighbors at strife about sheep, though there were none between them, said:
"Ah, fools! Will you ever learn wisdom? Help me, and lay my sack upon my shoulders."
They did so, and he went to the side of the bridge, unloosened the mouth of the sack, and shook all his meal out into the river.
"Now, neighbors," he said, "how much meal is there in my sack?"
"Marry," said they, "there is none at all."
"Now, by my faith," said he, "even as much wit as is in your two heads to stir up strife about a thing you have not."
Which was the wisest of these three persons, judge yourself.
Once upon a time the men of Gotham would have kept the Cuckoo so that she might sing all the year, and in the midst of their town they made a hedge round in compass and they got a Cuckoo, and put her into it, and said, "Sing there all through the year, or thou shalt have neither meat nor water." The Cuckoo, as soon as she perceived herself within the hedge, flew away. "A vengeance on her!" said they. "We did not make our hedge high enough."
There was a man of Gotham who went to the market at Nottingham to sell cheese, and as he was going down the hill to Nottingham bridge, one of his cheeses fell out of his wallet and rolled down the hill. "Ah, gaffer," said the fellow, "can you run to market alone? I will send one after another after you." Then he laid down his wallet and took out the cheeses, and rolled them down the hill. Some went into one bush, and some went into another.
"I charge you all to meet me near the marketplace," cried he; and when the fellow came to the market to meet his cheeses, he stayed there till the market was nearly done. Then he went about to inquire of his friends and neighbors, and other men, if they did see his cheeses come to the market.
"Who should bring them?" said one of the market men.
"Marry, themselves," said the fellow; "they know the way well enough."
He said, "A vengeance on them all. I did fear, to see them run so fast, that they would run beyond the market. I am now fully persuaded that they must be now almost at York." Whereupon he forthwith hired a horse to ride to York, to seek his cheeses where they were not; but to this day no man can tell him of his cheeses.
When Good Friday came, the men of Gotham cast their heads together what to do with their white herrings, their red herrings, their sprats, and other salt fish. One consulted with the other, and agreed that such fish should be cast into their pond (which was in the middle of the town), that they might breed against the next year, and every man that had salt fish left cast them into the pool.
"I have many white herrings," said one.
"I have many sprats," said another.
"I have many red herrings," said the other.
"I have much salt fish. Let all go into the pond or pool, and we shall fare like lords next year."
At the beginning of next year following the men drew near the pond to have their fish, and there was nothing but a great eel. "Ah," said they all, "a mischief on this eel, for he has eaten up all our fish."
"What shall we do to him?" said one to the other.
"Kill him," said one.
"Chop him into pieces," said another.
"Not so," said another; "let us drown him."
"Be it so," said all. And they went to another pond, and cast the eel into the pond. "Lie there and shift for yourself, for no help thou shalt have from us"; and they left the eel to drown.
Once on a time the men of Gotham had forgotten to pay their landlord. One said to the other, "Tomorrow is our payday, and how shall we send money to our landlord?"
The one said, "This day I have caught a hare, and he shall carry it, for he is light of foot."
"Be it so," said all; "he shall have a letter and a purse to put our money in, and we shall direct him the right way." So when the letters were written and the money put in a purse, they tied it round the hare's neck, saying, "First you go to Lancaster, then thou must go to Loughborough, and Newarke is our landlord, and commend us to him, and there is his dues."
The hare, as soon as he was out of their hands, ran on along the country way. Some cried, "Thou must go to Lancaster first."
"Let the hare alone," said another; "he can tell a nearer way than the best of us all. Let him go."
Another said, "It is a subtle hare, let her alone; she will not keep the highway for fear of dogs."
On a certain time there were twelve men of Gotham who went fishing, and some went into the water and some on dry ground; and, as they were coming back, one of them said, "We have ventured much this day wading; I pray God that none of us that did come from home be drowned."
"Marry," said one, "let us see about that. Twelve of us came out." And every man did count eleven, and the twelfth man did never count himself.
"Alas!" said one to another, "one of us is drowned." They went back to the brook where they had been fishing, and looked up and down for him that was drowned, and made great lamentation. A courtier came riding by, and he did ask what they were seeking, and why they were so sorrowful. "Oh," said they, "this day we came to fish in this brook, and there were twelve of us, and one is drowned."
"Why," said the courtier, "count me how many of you there be," and one counted eleven and did not count himself, "Well," said the courtier, "what will you give me if I find the twelfth man?"
"Sir," said they, "all the money we have."
"Give me the money," said the courtier, and he began with the first, and gave him a whack over the shoulders that he groaned, and said, "There is one," and he served all of them that they groaned; but when he came to the last he gave him a good blow, saying, "Here is the twelfth man."
"God bless you on your heart," said all the company; "you have found our neighbor."
T HE conch, or winkle, does not like to live in sand, or on hard rock. He likes deep water, where he can have some sand and some rock. When the wind blows, and the sea is very rough, he digs his stout foot into the sand near a stone, and holds fast. Then he will not drift on shore.
If he is cast on the shore, he will die. Mr. Conch and his family cannot live out of water. The little ones would be killed by dry wind. Mrs. Conch also likes some soft sand for a bed for her babes in their queer cradles.
What does Mr. Conch eat? He eats other shell-fish. He likes to eat oysters. How does he get them?
He goes off to the oyster beds.
He likes the nice young oysters. He picks one up with his foot. You see he uses his foot for a hand as well as for a door. He can spread his foot out very wide. It is very, very strong.
When he has the oyster in his grip, he draws his foot close, as you would shut your hand tight. That breaks up the shell of the oyster. Then Mr. Conch sucks up the oyster at his ease.
The men who own oyster beds do not like him, for he eats many oysters.
Mr. Conch lives a great many years. No one can hurt him in his hard house, and he has all he wants to eat.
His shell is the shape of a large pear. It has a little point at the top, and a long end like a stem. The stem end has a groove in it. His shell has a turn or twist in it, three or four times round. It is sand-color, or pale yellow, outside.
Some shells have dark stripes. Inside, the shell is very smooth, and shines, and is a fine, bright red, or pink, or yellow. It is a very pretty shell.
How does the conch grow? The conch grows from an egg. Most fish lay eggs. So do the shell-fish or mollusks. The eggs of the conch are in a string. They are left lying on the sand to grow.
Cast Away on an Island
What is the conch good for? In some places people like them to eat. Fish and crabs eat the conchs' eggs and the young conchs. The shells are made into buttons and breast-pins.
The Indians used to make money from the pink part of these shells. They also used the purple part of the round clam shell for money.
Merrily swinging on brier and weed,
Near to the nest of his little dame,
Over the mountain-side or mead,
Robert of Lincoln is telling his name:
Spink, spank, spink;
Snug and safe is that nest of ours,
Hidden among the summer flowers,
Chee, chee, chee!"
Robert of Lincoln is gayly drest,
Wearing a bright black wedding coat;
White are his shoulders and white his crest.
Hear him call in his merry note:
Spink, spank, spink;
Look, what a nice new coat is mine,
Sure there was never a bird so fine.
Chee, chee, chee!"
Robert of Lincoln's Quaker wife,
Pretty and quiet, with plain brown wings,
Passing at home a patient life,
Broods in the grass while her husband sings:
Spink, spank, spink;
Brood, kind creature; you need not fear
Thieves and robbers while I am here.
Chee, chee, chee!"
Modest and shy as a nun is she;
One weak chirp is her only note,
Braggart and prince of braggart is he,
Pouring boasts from his little throat:
Spink, spank, spink;
Never was I afraid of man;
Catch me, cowardly knaves, if you can!
Chee, chee, chee!"
Six white eggs on a bed of hay,
Flecked with purple, a pretty sight!
There, as the mother sits all day,
Robert is singing with all his might:
Spink, spank, spink;
Nice good wife that never goes out,
Keeping house while I frolic about.
Chee, chee, chee!"
Soon as the little ones chip the shell,
Six wide mouths are open for food;
Robert of Lincoln bestirs him well,
Gathering seeds for the hungry brood.
Spink, spank, spink;
Nobody knows but my mate and I
Where our nest and our nestlings lie.
Chee, chee, chee!"
Summer wanes; the children are grown;
Fun and frolic no more he knows;
Robert of Lincoln's a humdrum crone;
Off he flies, and we sing as he goes:
Spink, spank, spink;
When you can pipe that merry old strain,
Robert of Lincoln, come back again.
Chee, chee, chee!"
WEEK 23 |
Jehu said to the captains, "Do not let any one go out of the camp to bear word to Jehoram. I will go myself."
Then Jehu made ready his chariot, and rode swiftly toward Jezreel, his company riding after him. The watchman on the tower at Jezreel saw him coming, and he called out to King Jehoram, "I see a company coming toward the city."
Jehu driving his chariot to meet king Jehoram
Jehoram thought that they were bearing news of the war with the Syrians. He sent out a man on horseback to meet the company. The man came, and said, "Is all well?"
Jehu answered him, "What difference is it to you? Come after me."
Then the man turned, and joined Jehu's company; and so did another man whom Jehoram sent when the first man did not return. And the watchman called out to Jehoram again, "Two men have gone out to meet the company that is drawing near, but they have not come back; and the man at the head drives like Jehu, the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously."
Then Jehoram became anxious; he sent for his chariot, and went out to meet Jehu; and with him went Ahaziah, the king of Judah, each in his own chariot. It came to pass that they met Jehu in the very place which had been the vineyard of Naboth; the same place where Ahab had met Elijah, when that same Jehu was standing behind Ahab in his chariot. (See Story 80.) As Jehoram drew near to Jehu, he called to him, "Is all well, Jehu?"
"Can anything be well," answered Jehu, "as long as your mother Jezebel lives, with all her wickedness?"
When Jehoram heard this he saw that Jehu was his enemy.
He cried out to King Ahaziah, and turned his chariot,
and fled. But he was too late, for Jehu drew his bow
with all his strength and sent an arrow to his heart.
Jehoram fell down dead in his chariot. Then Jehu said
to Bidkar, whom he had made his chief captain, "Take
away the body of Jehoram, and throw it into the field
where the body of Naboth was thrown. Do you remember
how, when you and I were riding in the chariot behind
Ahab, his father, the Lord said, 'I have seen the blood
of Naboth on this spot, and the punishment of Ahab and
his sons shall be in this
When Ahaziah, the king of Judah, saw Jehoram fall, he, too, turned and fled. But Jehu pursued him, and ordered his followers to kill him. So Ahaziah, the son of Jehoshaphat, and grandson of Ahab (for his mother, Athalish, was a daughter of Jezebel), he also died at the hand of Jehu. His servants took the body of Ahaziah to Jerusalem, and buried it there.
When Jehu rode into the city of Jezreel Queen Jezebel knew that her end had come; but she met it boldly, like a queen. She put on her royal robes, and a crown upon her head, and sat by the window, waiting for Jehu to come. As he drew near, she called out to him, "Good day to you, Jehu, you who are like Zimri, the murderer of your master!"
You have read of Zimri, who slew King Elah, and was himself burned in his palace seven days after. (See Story 76). Jehu looked up to the window, and called out, "Who is on my side? Who?"
Jezebel calls from the window to Jehu
And some men looked out to him, and he said, "Throw her out of the window."
They threw her down, and her blood was spattered on the wall and on the horses. King Jehu came into the palace, and sat down as master, and ate and drank. Then he said, "Take up the body of that wicked woman, Jezebel, and bury her, for, though wicked, she was the daughter of a king."
But when they looked on the pavement there was nothing left of her except her skull, and the bones of her feet and her hands, for the wild dogs of the city had eaten her body; and thus the wicked life of Jezebel came to an end, and the word of the Lord by the prophet Elijah came to pass. And Jehu slew all the sons of Ahab, and their children with them, so that not one of Ahab's family was left alive. When Jehu saw that he was safe and strong on the throne, he sent out a message to all the worshippers of Baal, the idol which Jezebel and the house of Ahab had brought into Israel. This message was, "Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu will serve him much. Now, let all the priests of Baal meet in the temple of Baal in Samaria."
They came by hundreds, hoping that Jehu would be their friend as Ahab and his family had been. But when they were all in the temple, he brought an army of his soldiers, and placed them on guard around it; and when no one could escape, he gave the order, "Go into the temple and kill all the priests of Baal; let not one get away alive."
And this was done in a cruel manner. He killed all the prophets and priests of Baal, and tore down the temple of Baal in Samaria.
But though Jehu broke up the worship of Baal, he did not worship the Lord God of Israel as he should. He continued to serve the golden calves which Jeroboam had set up long before at Bethel and at Dan. (See Story 75). And the Lord sent a prophet to Jehu, who said to him, "Because you have done my will in destroying the house of Ahab, and in destroying those that worshipped Baal, your children to the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel."
On account of the many sins of the people of Israel the Lord began in the days of Jehu to take away the land of the Ten Tribes. Hazael, the new king of Syria, made war on Jehu, and conquered all the land on the east of the Jordan, from the brook Amon to the land of Bashan in the north; so all that was left of Israel was the country on the west of Jordan, from Bethel northward to Dan.
Meantime the Rat, warm and comfortable, dozed by his fireside. His paper of half-finished verses slipped from his knee, his head fell back, his mouth opened, and he wandered by the verdant banks of dream-rivers. Then a coal slipped, the fire crackled and sent up a spurt of flame, and he woke with a start. Remembering what he had been engaged upon, he reached down to the floor for his verses, pored over them for a minute, and then looked round for the Mole to ask him if he knew a good rhyme for something or other.
But the Mole was not there.
He listened for a time. The house seemed very quiet.
Then he called "Moly!" several times, and, receiving no answer, got up and went out into the hall.
The Mole's cap was missing from its accustomed peg. His goloshes, which always lay by the umbrella-stand, were also gone.
The Rat left the house, and carefully examined the muddy surface of the ground outside, hoping to find the Mole's tracks. There they were, sure enough. The goloshes were new, just bought for the winter, and the pimples on their soles were fresh and sharp. He could see the imprints of them in the mud, running along straight and purposeful, leading direct to the Wild Wood.
The Rat looked very grave, and stood in deep thought for a minute or two. Then he re-entered the house, strapped a belt round his waist, shoved a brace of pistols into it, took up a stout cudgel that stood in a corner of the hall, and set off for the Wild Wood at a smart pace.
It was already getting towards dusk when he reached the first fringe of trees and plunged without hesitation into the wood, looking anxiously on either side for any sign of his friend. Here and there wicked little faces popped out of holes, but vanished immediately at sight of the valorous animal, his pistols, and the great ugly cudgel in his grasp; and the whistling and pattering, which he had heard quite plainly on his first entry, died away and ceased, and all was very still. He made his way manfully through the length of the wood, to its furthest edge; then, forsaking all paths, he set himself to traverse it, laboriously working over the whole ground, and all the time calling out cheerfully, "Moly, Moly, Moly! Where are you? It's me—it's old Rat!"
He had patiently hunted through the wood for an hour or more, when at last to his joy he heard a little answering cry. Guiding himself by the sound, he made his way through the gathering darkness to the foot of an old beech tree, with a hole in it, and from out of the hole came a feeble voice, saying "Ratty! Is that really you?"
The Rat crept into the hollow, and there he found the Mole, exhausted and still trembling. "O Rat!" he cried, "I've been so frightened, you can't think!"
"O, I quite understand," said the Rat soothingly. "You shouldn't really have gone and done it, Mole. I did my best to keep you from it. We river-bankers, we hardly ever come here by ourselves. If we have to come, we come in couples, at least; then we're generally all right. Besides, there are a hundred things one has to know, which we understand all about and you don't, as yet. I mean passwords, and signs, and sayings which have power and effect, and plants you carry in your pocket, and verses you repeat, and dodges and tricks you practise; all simple enough when you know them, but they've got to be known if you're small, or you'll find yourself in trouble. Of course if you were Badger or Otter, it would be quite another matter."
"Surely the brave Mr. Toad wouldn't mind coming here by himself, would he?" inquired the Mole.
"Old Toad?" said the Rat, laughing heartily. "He wouldn't show his face here alone, not for a whole hatful of golden guineas, Toad wouldn't."
The Mole was greatly cheered by the sound of the Rat's careless laughter, as well as by the sight of his stick and his gleaming pistols, and he stopped shivering and began to feel bolder and more himself again.
"Now then," said the Rat presently, "we really must pull ourselves together and make a start for home while there's still a little light left. It will never do to spend the night here, you understand. Too cold, for one thing."
"Dear Ratty," said the poor Mole, "I'm dreadfully sorry, but I'm simply dead beat and that's a solid fact. You must let me rest here a while longer, and get my strength back, if I'm to get home at all."
"O, all right," said the good-natured Rat, "rest away. It's pretty nearly pitch dark now, anyhow; and there ought to be a bit of a moon later."
So the Mole got well into the dry leaves and stretched himself out, and presently dropped off into sleep, though of a broken and troubled sort; while the Rat covered himself up, too, as best he might, for warmth, and lay patiently waiting, with a pistol in his paw.
When at last the Mole woke up, much refreshed and in his usual spirits, the Rat said, "Now then! I'll just take a look outside and see if everything's quiet, and then we really must be off."
He went to the entrance of their retreat and put his head out. Then the Mole heard him saying quietly to himself, "Hullo! hullo! here—is—a—go!"
"What's up, Ratty?" asked the Mole.
"Snow is up," replied the Rat briefly; "or rather, down. It's snowing hard."
The Mole came and crouched beside him, and, looking out, saw the wood that had been so dreadful to him in quite a changed aspect. Holes, hollows, pools, pitfalls, and other black menaces to the wayfarer were vanishing fast, and a gleaming carpet of faery was springing up everywhere, that looked too delicate to be trodden upon by rough feet. A fine powder filled the air and caressed the cheek with a tingle in its touch, and the black boles of the trees showed up in a light that seemed to come from below.
"Well, well, it can't be helped," said the Rat, after pondering. "We must make a start, and take our chance, I suppose. The worst of it is, I don't exactly know where we are. And now this snow makes everything look so very different."
It did indeed. The Mole would not have known that it was the same wood. However, they set out bravely, and took the line that seemed most promising, holding on to each other and pretending with invincible cheerfulness that they recognized an old friend in every fresh tree that grimly and silently greeted them, or saw openings, gaps, or paths with a familiar turn in them, in the monotony of white space and black tree-trunks that refused to vary.
An hour or two later—they had lost all count of time—they pulled up, dispirited, weary, and hopelessly at sea, and sat down on a fallen tree-trunk to recover their breath and consider what was to be done. They were aching with fatigue and bruised with tumbles; they had fallen into several holes and got wet through; the snow was getting so deep that they could hardly drag their little legs through it, and the trees were thicker and more like each other than ever. There seemed to be no end to this wood, and no beginning, and no difference in it, and, worst of all, no way out.
"We can't sit here very long," said the Rat. "We shall have to make another push for it, and do something or other. The cold is too awful for anything, and the snow will soon be too deep for us to wade through." He peered about him and considered. "Look here," he went on, "this is what occurs to me. There's a sort of dell down here in front of us, where the ground seems all hilly and humpy and hummocky. We'll make our way down into that, and try and find some sort of shelter, a cave or hole with a dry floor to it, out of the snow and the wind, and there we'll have a good rest before we try again, for we're both of us pretty dead beat. Besides, the snow may leave off, or something may turn up."
So once more they got on their feet, and struggled down into the dell, where they hunted about for a cave or some corner that was dry and a protection from the keen wind and the whirling snow. They were investigating one of the hummocky bits the Rat had spoken of, when suddenly the Mole tripped up and fell forward on his face with a squeal.
"O my leg!" he cried. "O my poor shin!" and he sat up on the snow and nursed his leg in both his front paws.
"Poor old Mole!" said the Rat kindly. "You don't seem to be having much luck to-day, do you? Let's have a look at the leg. Yes," he went on, going down on his knees to look, "you've cut your shin, sure enough. Wait till I get at my handkerchief, and I'll tie it up for you."
"I must have tripped over a hidden branch or a stump," said the Mole miserably. "O, my! O, my!"
"It's a very clean cut," said the Rat, examining it again attentively. "That was never done by a branch or a stump. Looks as if it was made by a sharp edge of something in metal. Funny!" He pondered awhile, and examined the humps and slopes that surrounded them.
"Well, never mind what done it," said the Mole, forgetting his grammar in his pain. "It hurts just the same, whatever done it."
But the Rat, after carefully tying up the leg with his handkerchief, had left him and was busy scraping in the snow. He scratched and shovelled and explored, all four legs working busily, while the Mole waited impatiently, remarking at intervals, "O, come on, Rat!"
Suddenly the Rat cried "Hooray!" and then "Hooray-oo-ray-oo-ray-oo-ray!" and fell to executing a feeble jig in the snow.
"What have you found, Ratty?" asked the Mole, still nursing his leg.
"Come and see!" said the delighted Rat, as he jigged on.
The Mole hobbled up to the spot and had a good look.
"Well," he said at last, slowly, "I see it right enough. Seen the same sort of thing before, lots of times. Familiar object, I call it. A door-scraper! Well, what of it? Why dance jigs around a door-scraper?"
"But don't you see what it means, you—you dull-witted animal?" cried the Rat impatiently.
"Of course I see what it means," replied the Mole. "It simply means that some very careless and forgetful person has left his door-scraper lying about in the middle of the Wild Wood, just where it's sure to trip everybody up. Very thoughtless of him, I call it. When I get home I shall go and complain about it to—to somebody or other, see if I don't!"
"O, dear! O, dear!" cried the Rat, in despair at his obtuseness. "Here, stop arguing and come and scrape!" And he set to work again and made the snow fly in all directions around him.
After some further toil his efforts were rewarded, and a very shabby door-mat lay exposed to view.
"There, what did I tell you?" exclaimed the Rat in great triumph.
"Absolutely nothing whatever," replied the Mole, with perfect truthfulness. "Well now," he went on, "you seem to have found another piece of domestic litter, done for and thrown away, and I suppose you're perfectly happy. Better go ahead and dance your jig round that if you've got to, and get it over, and then perhaps we can go on and not waste any more time over rubbish-heaps. Can we eat a doormat? or sleep under a door-mat? Or sit on a door-mat and sledge home over the snow on it, you exasperating rodent?"
"Do—you—mean—to—say," cried the excited Rat, "that this door-mat doesn't tell you anything?"
"Really, Rat," said the Mole, quite pettishly, "I think we'd had enough of this folly. Who ever heard of a door-mat telling anyone anything? They simply don't do it. They are not that sort at all. Door-mats know their place."
"Now look here, you—you thick-headed beast," replied the Rat, really angry, "this must stop. Not another word, but scrape—scrape and scratch and dig and hunt round, especially on the sides of the hummocks, if you want to sleep dry and warm to-night, for it's our last chance!"
The Rat attacked a snow-bank beside them with ardour, probing with his cudgel everywhere and then digging with fury; and the Mole scraped busily too, more to oblige the Rat than for any other reason, for his opinion was that his friend was getting light-headed.
Some ten minutes' hard work, and the point of the Rat's cudgel struck something that sounded hollow. He worked till he could get a paw through and feel; then called the Mole to come and help him. Hard at it went the two animals, till at last the result of their labours stood full in view of the astonished and hitherto incredulous Mole.
In the side of what had seemed to be a snow-bank stood a solid-looking little door, painted a dark green. An iron bell-pull hung by the side, and below it, on a small brass plate, neatly engraved in square capital letters, they could read by the aid of moonlight
The Mole fell backwards on the snow from sheer surprise and delight. "Rat!" he
cried in penitence, "you're a wonder! A real wonder, that's what you are. I see
it all now! You argued it out, step by step, in that wise head of yours, from
the very moment that I fell and cut my shin, and you looked at the cut, and at
once your majestic mind said to itself, "Door-scraper!" And then you turned to
and found the very door-scraper that done it! Did you stop there? No. Some
people would have been quite satisfied; but not you. Your intellect
working. 'Let me only just find a door-mat,' says you to yourself, 'and my
theory is proved!' And of course you found your door-mat. You're so clever, I
believe you could find anything you liked. 'Now,' says you, 'that door exists,
as plain as if I saw it. There's nothing else remains to be done but to find
it!' Well, I've read about that sort of thing in books, but I've never come
across it before in real life. You ought to go where you'll be properly
appreciated. You're simply wasted here, among us fellows. If I only had your
"But as you haven't," interrupted the Rat, rather unkindly, "I suppose you're going to sit on the snow all night and talk? Get up at once and hang on to that bell-pull you see there, and ring hard, as hard as you can, while I hammer!"
While the Rat attacked the door with his stick, the Mole sprang up at the bell-pull, clutched it and swung there, both feet well off the ground, and from quite a long way off they could faintly hear a deep-toned bell respond.
Some one is always sitting there,
In the little green orchard;
Even when the sun is high
In noon's unclouded sky,
And faintly droning goes
The bee from rose to rose,
Some one in shadow is sitting there
In the little green orchard.
Yes, when the twilight's falling softly
On the little green orchard;
When the grey dew distills
And every flower-cup fills;
When the last blackbird says,
"What—what!" and goes her way—ssh!
I have heard voices calling softly
In the little green orchard
Not that I am afraid of being there,
In the little green orchard;
Why, when the moon's been bright,
Shedding her lonesome light,
And moths like ghosties come,
And the horned snail leaves home:
I've sat there, whispering and listening there,
In the little green orchard.
Only it's strange to be feeling there,
In the little green orchard;
Whether you paint or draw,
Dig, hammer, chop or saw;
When you are most alone,
All but the silence gone. . .
Some one is watching and waiting there,
In the little green orchard.