WEEK 25 |
A ND the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles. In the robin's nest there were Eggs and the robin's mate sat upon them keeping them warm with her feathery little breast and careful wings. At first she was very nervous and the robin himself was indignantly watchful. Even Dickon did not go near the close-grown corner in those days, but waited until by the quiet working of some mysterious spell he seemed to have conveyed to the soul of the little pair that in the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves—nothing which did not understand the wonderfulness of what was happening to them—the immense, tender, terrible, heart-breaking beauty and solemnity of Eggs. If there had been one person in that garden who had not known through all his or her innermost being that if an Egg were taken away or hurt the whole world would whirl round and crash through space and come to an end—if there had been even one who did not feel it and act accordingly there could have been no happiness even in that golden springtime air. But they all knew it and felt it and the robin and his mate knew they knew it.
At first the robin watched Mary and Colin with sharp anxiety. For some mysterious reason he knew he need not watch Dickon. The first moment he set his dew-bright black eye on Dickon he knew he was not a stranger but a sort of robin without beak or feathers. He could speak robin (which is a quite distinct language not to be mistaken for any other). To speak robin to a robin is like speaking French to a Frenchman. Dickon always spoke it to the robin himself, so the queer gibberish he used when he spoke to humans did not matter in the least. The robin thought he spoke this gibberish to them because they were not intelligent enough to understand feathered speech. His movements also were robin. They never startled one by being sudden enough to seem dangerous or threatening. Any robin could understand Dickon, so his presence was not even disturbing.
But at the outset it seemed necessary to be on guard against the other two. In the first place the boy creature did not come into the garden on his legs. He was pushed in on a thing with wheels and the skins of wild animals were thrown over him. That in itself was doubtful. Then when he began to stand up and move about he did it in a queer unaccustomed way and the others seemed to have to help him. The robin used to secrete himself in a bush and watch this anxiously, his head tilted first on one side and then on the other. He thought that the slow movements might mean that he was preparing to pounce, as cats do. When cats are preparing to pounce they creep over the ground very slowly. The robin talked this over with his mate a great deal for a few days but after that he decided not to speak of the subject because her terror was so great that he was afraid it might be injurious to the Eggs.
When the boy began to walk by himself and even to move more quickly it was an immense relief. But for a long time—or it seemed a long time to the robin—he was a source of some anxiety. He did not act as the other humans did. He seemed very fond of walking but he had a way of sitting or lying down for a while and then getting up in a disconcerting manner to begin again.
One day the robin remembered that when he himself had been made to learn to fly by his parents he had done much the same sort of thing. He had taken short flights of a few yards and then had been obliged to rest. So it occurred to him that this boy was learning to fly—or rather to walk. He mentioned this to his mate and when he told her that the Eggs would probably conduct themselves in the same way after they were fledged she was quite comforted and even became eagerly interested and derived great pleasure from watching the boy over the edge of her nest—though she always thought that the Eggs would be much cleverer and learn more quickly. But then she said indulgently that humans were always more clumsy and slow than Eggs and most of them never seemed really to learn to fly at all. You never met them in the air or on tree-tops.
After a while the boy began to move about as the others did, but all three of the children at times did unusual things. They would stand under the trees and move their arms and legs and heads about in a way which was neither walking nor running nor sitting down. They went through these movements at intervals every day and the robin was never able to explain to his mate what they were doing or trying to do. He could only say that he was sure that the Eggs would never flap about in such a manner; but as the boy who could speak robin so fluently was doing the thing with them, birds could be quite sure that the actions were not of a dangerous nature. Of course neither the robin nor his mate had ever heard of the champion wrestler, Bob Haworth, and his exercises for making the muscles stand out like lumps. Robins are not like human beings; their muscles are always exercised from the first and so they develop themselves in a natural manner. If you have to fly about to find every meal you eat, your muscles do not become atrophied (atrophied means wasted away through want of use).
When the boy was walking and running about and digging and weeding like the others, the nest in the corner was brooded over by a great peace and content. Fears for the Eggs became things of the past. Knowing that your Eggs were as safe as if they were locked in a bank vault and the fact that you could watch so many curious things going on made setting a most entertaining occupation. On wet days the Eggs' mother sometimes felt even a little dull because the children did not come into the garden.
But even on wet days it could not be said that Mary and Colin were dull. One morning when the rain streamed down unceasingly and Colin was beginning to feel a little restive, as he was obliged to remain on his sofa because it was not safe to get up and walk about, Mary had an inspiration.
"Now that I am a real boy," Colin had said, "my legs and arms and all my body are so full of Magic that I can't keep them still. They want to be doing things all the time. Do you know that when I waken in the morning, Mary, when it's quite early and the birds are just shouting outside and everything seems just shouting for joy—even the trees and things we can't really hear—I feel as if I must jump out of bed and shout myself. And if I did it, just think what would happen!"
Mary giggled inordinately.
"The nurse would come running and Mrs. Medlock would come running and they would be sure you had gone crazy and they'd send for the doctor," she said.
Colin giggled himself. He could see how they would all look—how horrified by his outbreak and how amazed to see him standing upright.
"I wish my father would come home," he said. "I want to tell him myself. I'm always thinking about it—but we couldn't go on like this much longer. I can't stand lying still and pretending, and besides I look too different. I wish it wasn't raining to-day."
It was then Mistress Mary had her inspiration.
"Colin," she began mysteriously, "do you know how many rooms there are in this house?"
"About a thousand, I suppose," he answered.
"There's about a hundred no one ever goes into," said Mary. "And one rainy day I went and looked into ever so many of them. No one ever knew, though Mrs. Medlock nearly found me out. I lost my way when I was coming back and I stopped at the end of your corridor. That was the second time I heard you crying."
Colin started up on his sofa.
"A hundred rooms no one goes into," he said. "It sounds almost like a secret garden. Suppose we go and look at them. You could wheel me in my chair and nobody would know where we went."
"That's what I was thinking," said Mary. "No one would dare to follow us. There are galleries where you could run. We could do our exercises. There is a little Indian room where there is a cabinet full of ivory elephants. There are all sorts of rooms."
"Ring the bell," said Colin.
When the nurse came in he gave his orders.
"I want my chair," he said. "Miss Mary and I are going to look at the part of the house which is not used. John can push me as far as the picture-gallery because there are some stairs. Then he must go away and leave us alone until I send for him again."
Rainy days lost their terrors that morning. When the footman had wheeled the chair into the picture-gallery and left the two together in obedience to orders, Colin and Mary looked at each other delighted. As soon as Mary had made sure that John was really on his way back to his own quarters below stairs, Colin got out of his chair.
"I am going to run from one end of the gallery to the other," he said, "and then I am going to jump and then we will do Bob Haworth's exercises."
And they did all these things and many others. They looked at the portraits and found the plain little girl dressed in green brocade and holding the parrot on her finger.
"All these," said Colin, "must be my relations. They lived a long time ago. That parrot one, I believe, is one of my great, great, great, great aunts. She looks rather like you, Mary—not as you look now but as you looked when you came here. Now you are a great deal fatter and better looking."
"So are you," said Mary, and they both laughed.
They went to the Indian room and amused themselves with the ivory elephants. They found the rose-colored brocade boudoir and the hole in the cushion the mouse had left but the mice had grown up and run away and the hole was empty. They saw more rooms and made more discoveries than Mary had made on her first pilgrimage. They found new corridors and corners and flights of steps and new old pictures they liked and weird old things they did not know the use of. It was a curiously entertaining morning and the feeling of wandering about in the same house with other people but at the same time feeling as if one were miles away from them was a fascinating thing.
"I'm glad we came," Colin said. "I never knew I lived in such a big queer old place. I like it. We will ramble about every rainy day. We shall always be finding new queer corners and things."
That morning they had found among other things such good appetites that when they returned to Colin's room it was not possible to send the luncheon away untouched.
When the nurse carried the tray down-stairs she slapped it down on the kitchen dresser so that Mrs. Loomis, the cook, could see the highly polished dishes and plates.
"Look at that!" she said. "This is a house of mystery, and those two children are the greatest mysteries in it."
"If they keep that up every day," said the strong young footman John, "there'd be small wonder that he weighs twice as much to-day as he did a month ago. I should have to give up my place in time, for fear of doing my muscles an injury."
That afternoon Mary noticed that something new had happened in Colin's room. She had noticed it the day before but had said nothing because she thought the change might have been made by chance. She said nothing to-day but she sat and looked fixedly at the picture over the mantel. She could look at it because the curtain had been drawn aside. That was the change she noticed.
"I know what you want me to tell you," said Colin, after she had stared a few minutes. "I always know when you want me to tell you something. You are wondering why the curtain is drawn back. I am going to keep it like that."
"Why?" asked Mary.
"Because it doesn't make me angry any more to see her laughing. I wakened when it was bright moonlight two nights ago and felt as if the Magic was filling the room and making everything so splendid that I couldn't lie still. I got up and looked out of the window. The room was quite light and there was a patch of moonlight on the curtain and somehow that made me go and pull the cord. She looked right down at me as if she were laughing because she was glad I was standing there. It made me like to look at her. I want to see her laughing like that all the time. I think she must have been a sort of Magic person perhaps."
"You are so like her now," said Mary, "that sometimes I think perhaps you are her ghost made into a boy."
That idea seemed to impress Colin. He thought it over and then answered her slowly.
"If I were her ghost—my father would be fond of me," he said.
"Do you want him to be fond of you?" inquired Mary.
"I used to hate it because he was not fond of me. If he grew fond of me I think I should tell him about the Magic. It might make him more cheerful."
"M OTHER, what are the clouds made of? Why does the rain fall? Where does all the rain water go? What good does it do?"
Little William Jones was always asking questions.
"I want to know," he said; "I want to know everything."
At first his mother tried to answer all his questions. But after he had learned to read, she taught him to look in books for that which he wished to know.
"Mother, what makes the wind blow?"
"Read, and you will know, my child."
"Who lives on the other side of the world?"
"Read, and you will know."
"Why is the sky so blue?"
"Read, and you will know."
"Oh, mother, I would like to know everything."
"You can never know everything, my child. But you can learn many things from books."
"Yes, mother, I will read and then I will know."
He was a very little boy, but before he was three years old he could read quite well. When eight years of age he was the best scholar at the famous school at Harrow. He was always reading, learning, inquiring.
"I want to know; I want to know," he kept saying.
"Read, and you will know," said his mother. "Read books that are true. Read about things that are beautiful and good. Read in order to become wise.
"Do not waste your time in reading foolish books. Do not read bad books, they will make you bad. No book is worth reading that does not make you better or wiser."
And so William Jones went on reading and learning. He became one of the most famous scholars in the world. The king of England made him a knight and called him Sir William Jones.
Sir William Jones lived nearly two hundred years ago. He was noted for his great knowledge, the most of which he had obtained from books. It is said that he could speak and write forty languages.
Come to me, O ye children!
For I hear you at your play,
And the questions that perplexed me
Have vanished quite away.
Ye open the eastern windows,
That look towards the sun,
Where thoughts are singing swallows
And the brooks of morning run.
In your hearts are the birds and the sunshine,
In your thoughts the brooklet's flow,
But in mine is the wind of Autumn
And the first fall of snow.
Ah! what would the world be to us
If the children were no more?
We should dread the desert behind us
Worse than the dark before.
What the leaves are to the forest,
With the light and air for food,
Ere their sweet and tender juices
Have been hardened into wood,—
That to the world are children;
Through them it feels the glow
Of the brighter and sunnier climate
Then reaches the trunks below.
Come to me, O ye children!
And whisper in my ear
What the birds and winds are singing
In your sunny atmosphere.
For what are all our contrivings,
And the wisdom of our books,
When compared with your caresses,
And the gladness of your looks?
Ye are better than all the ballads
That ever were sung or said;
For ye are living poems,
And all the rest are dead.
WEEK 25 |
W ILLIAM of Normandy had won the battle of Hastings, but he had not won England. Harold was dead, but the people would not call William king. For five days after the battle he waited, expecting the English lords to come to do homage to him, as their new master. But not one came. The people were full of grief and anger at the death of Harold, and of sullen hate for the conqueror. They would not own him as king.
After five days, William waited no longer. More soldiers had come from Normandy to replace those who had been killed at the battle of Hastings. With these new soldiers William marched through the land, and so fierce and terrible was he, that he forced the people to own him as king. By December all the south of England was in William's power, and on Christmas Day he was crowned at Westminster.
Scarcely a year before, the people had crowded to the same place to see Harold, and to cheer and welcome him as their king. Now all was changed. The people were sullen and silent, the way was lined with Norman soldiers, and Norman faces and Norman costumes were everywhere to be seen.
Stigand, the archbishop who had crowned Harold, refused to crown William, and William in wrath retorted that he was no true bishop, and that he did not wish to be crowned by him. Yet William forced Stigand to be present at the coronation.
Once again, as so short a time before, the voice of the bishop rang through the great church, "Do you take William of Normandy to be your king?" Once again the answer came, "We do." But this time the question was asked and answered in French, and the English voices were silent. So the question was asked again in English, and the answer came from unwilling English lips, but not from English hearts, "We do." Then an echoing cry was heard without—not the shout of a glad people, but a cry of agony and despair. The Norman soldiers, instead of keeping order, had begun to fight and kill. They had set fire to the houses near the church, and were slaying and robbing. Those within the church rushed out, some in fear, others eager to join the robbers. William was left alone with only the bishops and the priests.
Then for the first time in his life the great William was afraid. Through the windows of the church he could see the flicker of flames, and could hear the savage yells of soldiers and the shrieks of frightened women and children. Yet he did not know whether the English had risen in revolt, or whether it was only his own wild soldiers who were attacking the people.
But whatever it might be William meant to be King of England—a king crowned and anointed. So although his cheek was pale and his voice shook, he forced the archbishop to go on with the ceremony.
With trembling hands the archbishop placed the crown upon William's head—not Harold's crown, but a new one glittering with splendid gems—and in a hurried and mumbling voice he finished the service. Then William, kneeling at the altar, promised to fear God, to rule the people well, and to keep the laws of Alfred and Edward, "so that the people be true to me," he added.
As he stood up no shout greeted him, the church was silent and empty. He passed down the aisle in lonely splendour, followed only by the trembling priests, while without was heard the sound of the crackling flames mingled with fierce yells and curses.
William was crowned, but the English rejected him as king. They wanted an English king. But alas! there was no strong man whom they could choose. Harold's brave brothers had all died with him at Hastings. There, too, had fallen the noblest and the best of the English lords. There was no one left who seemed to have any right to the throne, except the little boy Edgar the Ætheling, Edmund Ironside's grandson. Even he did not seem to be English, for he had lived nearly all his life in Hungary, and could hardly speak his own language. But at least he was not Norman, so the English chose him to be king.
The people of Northumberland rose in fierce rebellion against William, and he in as fierce anger marched against them with his soldiers. From north to south he laid waste to the country, burning towns, destroying farms, killing cattle, murdering the people, till the whole of Northumberland was one dreary desert. So fierce and terrible was his wrath that even the ploughs and farming tools were destroyed, and the land lay untilled and desolate. Those of the people who were not killed in battle died miserably of cold and hunger. When William marched south again, he left only blackened ruins and dismal waste, where happy homes and smiling fields had been. From very need, most of the English lords now bowed to William and owned him master. Even Edgar came to him to do homage and strange to say William treated him kindly. Perhaps he felt that he was so strong and Edgar so weak, that he had no need to fear him.
Still the English were not all conquered. In the Isle of Ely, in what is called the Fen country, the people made one last stand. There, under the leadership of a brave Englishman called Hereward, they held out against William.
In the time of Edward the Confessor, Hereward had been banished for some reason, perhaps because he had quarrelled with one of Edward's Norman friends. He had lived for many years across the sea in a country called Flanders. But when he heard that Edward was dead, that Harold was also dead, and that William the Norman had seized the crown of England, Hereward came back determined to fight for his own land.
All the noblest and bravest of the English who still resisted William gathered to Hereward and they made their camp in the Isle of Ely. The monks who already lived there shared their monastery with the soldiers. So in the great hall peaceful monks and warlike men sat side by side at meals, and the walls which had been hung with holy relics and pictures of saints were now covered with weapons and armour.
Hereward built a castle at Ely, but it was a wooden one, while all through England the Normans were building strong fortresses of stone, such as the English had never seen before.
Hereward hoped that, from his castle at Ely, he would gradually win all England again. But the hope was vain, for William was too strong. Yet it took him a long time to conquer Hereward. Like Harold, Hereward was a good general, and he was both clever and brave.
After trying vainly to find a way through the marshes and fens to Hereward's camp, William decided at last to build a road strong enough and broad enough to carry his army over. So the soldiers set to work at once with stones, wood, and skins of animals, to make a strong, broad, solid road. When it was finished William's men marched over it to attack Hereward's men in their own camp, but the English fought desperately, and the Normans were driven back.
In those days people believed in witches. So William next found a poor old woman who was supposed to be a witch. He built a wooden tower, placed it on wheels, and with the witch inside, pushed it along the road, at the head of the Norman army. This poor old woman was meant to cast a spell over the English soldiers, so that they would not be able to fight any more. Of course she could really do them no harm, and Hereward and his men captured the tower and burned it up, witch and all. Again William had failed.
Hereward had brought large stores of food into the camp, and he and his men hunted wild animals, so that there was always enough to eat, although the fare was plain. But the monks who were used to living a very easy life and to having fine things to eat and drink, grew tired of fighting and of plain food, and they sent a message to William telling him of a secret way through the fens to the camp.
So Hereward who could not be conquered was betrayed.
One evening the Norman soldiers, led by the wicked monks, came stealthily through the thick woods among the marshes. In the gathering dusk they came creeping, silent and eager. Then, when they were close upon the camp, they burst with wild cries upon the unsuspecting English, and, when the sun had set, the sky was red with the flames from burning English homes.
Many lay dead, many were taken prisoners. To the prisoners William was very cruel. He put out their eyes, cut off their hands, and treated them so dreadfully that they cried aloud, "It is better to fall into the hands of God than into those of the Norman tyrant."
Hereward escaped, and with some of his bravest followers continued to fight, although all hope of freedom for England was gone. But he, too, yielded at length and bowed his proud head to the conqueror. William of Normandy was at last master of all England. He was indeed William the Conqueror.
A GALENA had no backbone; but she was not a cripple. She could do much that no animal with a backbone can do. She had eight eyes. She had two more legs than an insect, and an insect has six legs. Her home was a web of silk. Yes, I am sure you have guessed, by this time, that Agalena was a spider.
Agalena and her many brothers and sisters spent the winter together in an egg-sac. The egg-sac was under the bark of an old stump. It was rather flat and it was protected by a sheet of silk.
A silk sheet does not seem a very warm covering for nights when the weather was so cold that the mercury in the thermometer went down to the zero mark. However, spider eggs keep well in cold storage when they are in a fairly dry place. If the baby spiders, still in their eggshells, were chilled during the winter it did them no harm. In early spring they hatched. Later, one warm day, Agalena ran off on her eight little legs and found a house lot for her home.
The stump under the bark of which she, while an egg, had spent the winter was in the hedgerow at the edge of Holiday Meadow. As she was a grass-spider she did not need to travel far before she came to a suitable place to stay.
It took her from spring until fall to finish her house although it was all right to live in after the first few days. Even when it was done it was not much more than a floor and a back hall. The hall was a tube which led from her floor to the ground. It had two door-holes which were always open. When she felt timid she ran off her floor into her hall and then down to the ground as fast as her eight legs could carry her. She hid among the grass clumps until she felt like going up through her hall again. Her floor sloped a little toward the hole that opened into her tube-like hall. Altogether her home was somewhat funnel-shaped.
The stuff of which she built her home was silk. It all came out of her own body. It was made in her silk glands and forced through many fine spinning-tubes out where the spinning-organs (spinnerets) could use it. Her six spinnerets were at the tip of her body where they were placed near together somewhat like three pairs of little tails.
Of course while Agalena was a baby spider as she was when she left the egg-sac in the spring, she needed only a tiny floor and hall. So, at first, her "funnel" was very little indeed. By the time she had finished working on it, however, her floor measured about twelve inches across. It took a great many silk threads to spin so wide a web.
As the young spider grew, her plump body became crowded inside her firm skin. Then she ripped a hole in her tight old skin and crept out of it, finding herself in a new one which was more stretchy so that her body had room to grow. Later this new skin, in its turn, needed to be shed when it became too snug for comfort. She changed her skin several times before she was a fully grown spider.
Such a process of shedding skin is called molting. Spiders are not the only animals that molt this way as they grow. Other backbone-less animals with jointed legs, such as insects and crabs and crayfishes, also molt several times before they become full-grown.
After Agalena grew to be about three-fourths of an inch long she did not molt again. She was now yellow with dashes of pale gray here and there and with some long dark stripes and some light stripes on her body. She was a very good-looking spider.
This little eight-legged yellow and gray animal hunted for her living. She did not, however, take long hunting trips. She caught what she needed without leaving her own door-yard. Her favorite food was insect-juice. Because many of the insects she caught were injurious to grass, the man who owned Holiday Farm liked to have her hunting in his meadow.
She spent much of her time waiting in her narrow hall or runway. When an insect chanced to alight on her floor it jarred the silk a little. She could feel the very gentle shaking of her web and she would run out and capture a breakfast or luncheon or dinner for herself. She always hurried at such times as if she were excited.
She depended on the way her floor trembled when it was touched to know when her food arrived instead of watching with her eight eyes. And sometimes she was fooled.
Quite often Anne and Dick, the cousins from Holiday Farm, came to visit Agalena. One of them would touch her floor gently with a piece of stiff straw. Agalena would feel the quiver of the web and would rush out and grab the end of the straw. This game did the spider no real harm and it did give the children a chance to watch Agalena. They could see whether she had grown larger and how she looked after she had molted and had on a new suit of skin. They became much interested in the spider.
Agalena had spun strands of silk reaching from her floor to the twigs of a meadow-sweet bush that grew next her yard at the edge of the grass field. When insects blundered against these slender ropes of silk they often fell to the web beneath them where the spider could catch them easily.
The little hunter had a strange sort of appetite. When insects came to her web in great numbers she could eat the juices of all she caught and not feel overfed. But during days when she caught nothing at all, she did not starve. She could eat a great deal or very little indeed and could fast for long times. The size and time of her meals depended on how much food she caught and when she caught it.
When the men from the farm harvested the grass in the meadow, the hay-rake tore away part of Agalena's house. She soon mended her floor, however, and was as well off as before.
In the spring the young spider's small and dainty web hardly showed at all in the grass. Even in the summer, when the silk floor had been made thicker with many added threads of silk, a person could usually walk right past Agalena's yard without noticing her home. But on mornings after clear nights, during which heavy dew formed, her moist carpet glistened in the light.
When dew is on the web it shows plainly.
It was easy, at such times, for Anne and Dick to learn something about the number of spiders in the meadow. For Agalena, of course, was not the only grass-spider living there. Thousands of webs like hers had been made during the spring and summer. After the hay was cut these could be seen, on a dewy morning, like little dainty white cloths spread in the field to dry.
Spider webs in a grassy place.
In spite of all her neighbors, many of them, indeed, her sisters and cousins and other near relatives, Agalena lived alone until fall. But on a pleasant autumn day another grass-spider came to call on her. One of his names was Næ'‑vi‑a; and it was at this time that Miss Agalena became Mrs. Nævia.
Soon after this Mrs. Nævia left the silk home where she had grown and molted and hunted during so many weeks. She never returned to it. She was done with it forever. She had other matters to attend to now.
For the time had come when she must find a good place for her eggs. She wandered about until she reached a sheltered place beneath a piece of loose bark on a tree in the hedgerow. Here she laid her pretty round eggs and spun a fine firm sac about them. Over the sac she laid a sheet of silk, spinning it thread by thread as she moved back and forth. Next she scattered some tiny dark bits of bark over the white sheet. It did not show quite so plainly then.
Her important task was completed. Mother Agalena Nævia sat down beside the winter bed she had made for her egg babies and rested.
The sun descending in the west,
The evening star does shine;
The birds are silent in their nest,
And I must seek for mine.
The moon, like a flower
In heaven's high bower,
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.
Farewell, green fields and happy grove,
Where flocks have took delight,
Where lambs have nibbled, silent move
The feet of angels bright;
Unseen, they pour blessing,
And joy without ceasing,
On each bud and blossom,
And each sleeping bosom.
They look in every thoughtless nest
Where birds are covered warm;
They visit caves of every beast,
To keep them all from harm:
If they see any weeping
That should have been sleeping,
They pour sleep on their head,
And sit down by their bed.
When wolves and tigers howl for prey,
They pitying stand and weep;
Seeking to drive their thirst away,
And keep them from the sheep.
But, if they rush dreadful,
The angels, most heedful,
Receive each mild spirit,
New worlds to inherit.
And there the lion's ruddy eyes
Shall flow with tears of gold:
And pitying the tender cries,
And walking round the fold:
Saying: "Wrath by his meekness,
And, by his health, sickness,
Is driven away
From our immortal day.
"And now beside thee, bleating lamb,
I can lie down and sleep,
Or think on him who bore thy name,
Graze after thee, and weep.
For, washed in life's river,
My bright mane for ever
Shall shine like the gold,
As I guard o'er the fold."
WEEK 25 |
HE bank of the Smiling Pool was a lovely place to hold school at
that hour of the day, which you know was just after
"Good morning, Jerry Muskrat," said Old Mother Nature pleasantly, as
Jerry's brown head appeared in the Smiling Pool. "Have you seen
"Little Joe went down
to the Big River last night," replied Jerry Muskrat. "I don't know
when he is coming back, but I wouldn't be
surprised to see him any
"Who is that can't keep still five minutes?" demanded a new voice, and there was Billy Mink himself just climbing out on the Big Rock.
"Jerry was speaking of you," replied Old Mother Nature. "This will be a good chance for you to show him that he is mistaken. I want you to stay here for a while and to stay right on the Big Rock. I may want to ask you a few questions."
Just then Billy Mink dived into the Smiling Pool, and a second later his brown head popped out of the water and in his mouth was a fat fish. He scrambled back on the Big Rock and looked at Old Mother Nature a bit fearfully as he laid the fish down.
"I—I didn't mean to disobey," he mumbled. "I saw that fish and dived for him before I thought. I hope you will forgive me, Mother Nature. I won't do it again."
"Acting before thinking gets people into trouble sometimes," replied Old Mother Nature. "However, I will forgive you this time. The fact is you have just shown your friends here something I wanted them to see. Now, go ahead and eat that fish and be ready to answer questions."
As Billy Mink sat there on the Big Rock every one had a good look at him. One glance would tell any one that he was a cousin of Shadow the Weasel. He was much larger than Shadow, but of the same general shape, being long and slender. His coat was a beautiful dark brown, darkest on the back. His chin was white. His tail was round, covered with fairly long hair which was so dark as to be almost black. His face was like that of Shadow the Weasel. His legs were rather short. As he sat eating that fish, his back was arched.
He is equally at home on land or in the water.
Old Mother Nature waited until he had finished his feast. "Now then, Billy," said she, "I want you to answer a few questions. Which do you like best, night or day?"
"It doesn't make any particular difference to me," replied Billy. "I just sleep when I feel like it, whether it be night or day, and then when I wake up I can hunt. It all depends on how I feel."
"When you go hunting, what do you hunt?" asked Old Mother Nature.
Billy grinned. "Anything that promises a good meal," said he. "I'm not very particular. A fat Mouse, a tender young Rabbit, a Chipmunk, a Frog, Tadpoles, Chickens, eggs, birds, fish; whatever happens to be easiest to get suits me. I am rather fond of fish, and that's one reason that I live along the Laughing Brook and around the Smiling Pool. But I like a change of fare, and so often I go hunting in the Green Forest. Sometimes I go up to Farmer Brown's for a Chicken. In the spring I hunt for nests of birds on the ground. In winter, if Peter Rabbit should happen along here when I was hungry, I might be tempted to sample Peter." Billy snapped his bright eyes wickedly and Peter shivered.
"If Jerry Muskrat were not my friend, I am afraid I might be tempted to sample him," continued Billy Mink.
"Pooh!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit. "You wouldn't dare tackle Jerry Muskrat."
"Wouldn't I?" replied Billy. "Just ask Jerry how he feels about it."
One look at Jerry's face showed everybody that Jerry, big as he was, was afraid of Billy Mink."How do you hunt when you are on land?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"The way every good hunter should hunt, with eyes, nose and ears," replied Billy. "There may be folks with better ears than I've got, but I don't know who they are. I wouldn't swap noses with anybody. As for my eyes, well, they are plenty good enough for me."
"In other words, you hunt very much as does your cousin, Shadow the Weasel," said Old Mother Nature.
Billy nodded. "I suppose I do," said he, "but there's one thing he does which I don't do and that's hunt just for the love of killing.
"Once in a while I may kill more than I can eat, but I don't mean to. I hunt for food, while he hunts just for the love of killing."
"You all saw how Billy catches fish," said Old Mother Nature. "Now, Billy, I want you to swim over to the farther bank and show us how you run."
Billy obeyed. He slipped into the water, dived, swam under water for a distance, then swam with just his head out. When he reached the bank he climbed out and started along it. He went by a series of bounds, his back arched sharply between each leap. Then he disappeared before their very eyes, only to reappear as suddenly as he had gone. So quick were his movements that it was impossible for one of the little people watching to keep their eyes on him. It seemed sometimes as though he must have vanished into the air. Of course he didn't. He was simply showing them his wonderful ability to take advantage of every little stick, stone and bush.
"Billy is a great traveler," said Old Mother
Nature. "He really
loves to travel up and down the Laughing Brook, even for long
distances. Wherever there is plenty of driftwood and rubbish,
Billy is quite at home, being so slender he can slip under all
kinds of places and into all sorts of holes. Quick as he is on
land, he is not so quick as his Cousin Shadow; and good swimmer
as he is, he isn't so good as his bigger cousin,
"Here he comes now," cried Jerry Muskrat. "I rather expected he
would be back." Jerry pointed towards where the Laughing Brook
left the Smiling Pool on its way to the Big River. A brown head
was moving rapidly towards them. There was no mistaking that head.
belong to no one but Little Joe Otter. Straight on to
A famous fisherman and swimmer.
"What's going on here?" asked Little Joe Otter, his eyes bright with interest.
"We are holding a session of school here to-day," explained Old
Mother Nature. "And we were just hoping that you would appear.
Hold up one of your feet and spread the toes,
Little Joe Otter obeyed, though there was a funny, puzzled look on his face. "Whyee!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit. "His toes are webbed like those of Paddy the Beaver!"
"Of course they're webbed," said Little Joe. "I never could swim the way I do if they weren't webbed."
"Can you swim better than Paddy the Beaver?" asked Peter.
"I should say I can. If I couldn't, I guess I would go hungry most of the time," replied Little Joe.
"Why should you go hungry? Paddy doesn't," retorted Peter.
"Paddy doesn't live on fish," replied Little Joe. "I do and that's
the difference. I can catch a fish in a
"You might show us how you can swim," suggested Old Mother Nature.
Little Joe slipped into the water. The Smiling Pool was very still and the little people sitting on the bank could look right down and see nearly to the bottom. They saw Little Joe as he entered the water and then saw little more than a brown streak. A second later his head popped out on the other side of the Smiling Pool.
"Phew, I'm glad I'm not a fish!" exclaimed Peter and everybody laughed.
"You may well be glad," said Old Mother Nature. "You wouldn't stand
much chance with Little Joe around. Like Billy Mink, Little Joe is
a great traveler, especially up and down the Laughing Brook and the
Big River. Sometimes he travels over land, but he is so heavy and
his legs are so short that traveling on land is slow work. When he
does cross from one stream or pond to another, he always picks out
the smoothest going. Sometimes in winter he travels quite a bit.
Then when he comes to a
smooth hill, he slides down it on his
stomach. By the way,
Little Joe nodded. "I've got one down the Laughing Brook where
the bank is steep," said he.
"What do you mean by a slippery slide?" asked Happy Jack Squirrel, who was sitting in the Big Hickory-tree which grew on the bank of the Smiling Pool.
Old Mother Nature smiled. "Little Joe Otter and his family are quite as fond of play as any of my children," said she. "They get a lot of fun out of life. One of their ways of playing is to make a slippery slide where the bank is steep and the water deep. In winter it is made of snow, but in summer it is made of mud. There they slide down, splash into the water, then climb up the bank and do it all over again. In winter they make their slippery slide where the water doesn't freeze, and they get just as much fun in winter as they do in summer."
"I suppose that means that Little Joe doesn't sleep in winter as Johnny Chuck does," said Peter.
"I should say not," exclaimed Little Joe. "I like the winter, too. I have such a warm coat that I never get cold. There are always places where the water doesn't freeze. I can swim for long distances under ice and so I can always get plenty of food."
"Do you eat anything but fish?" asked Peter Rabbit.
"Oh, sometimes," replied Little Joe. "Once in a while I like a little fresh meat for a change, and sometimes when fish are scarce I eat Frogs, but I prefer fish, especially Salmon and Trout."
"How many babies do you have at a time?" asked Happy Jack Squirrel.
"Usually one to three," replied Little Joe, "and only one family a year. They are born in my comfortable house, which is a burrow in the bank. There Mrs. Otter makes a large, soft nest of leaves and grass. Now, if you don't mind, I think I will go on up the Laughing Brook. Mrs. Otter is waiting for me up there."
Old Mother Nature told Little Joe to go ahead. As he disappeared,
she sighed. "I'm very fond of Little Joe Otter," said she, "and
it distresses me greatly that he is hunted by man as he is. That
fur coat of his is valuable, and man is forever hunting him for
it. The Otters were once numerous all over this great country,
but now they are very scarce, and I am afraid that the day isn't
far away when there will be no
More than a hundred years ago a sickly Scotch boy named James Watt used to sit and watch the lid of his mother's teakettle as it rose and fell while the water was boiling, and wonder about the power of steam, which caused this rattling motion. In his day there were no steamboats, or steam mills, or railways. There was nothing but a clumsy steam engine, that could work slowly an up and down pump to take water out of mines. This had been invented sixty years before. Watt became a maker of mathematical instruments. He was once called to repair one of these wheezy, old-fashioned pumping engines. He went to work to improve it, and he became the real inventor of the first steam engine that was good for all sorts of work that the world wants done.
When once steam was put to work, men said, "Why not make it run a boat?" One English inventor tried to run his boat by making the engine push through the water a thing somewhat like a duck's foot. An American named Rumsey moved his boat by forcing a stream of water through it, drawing it in at the bow and pushing it out at the stern. But this pump boat failed.
Then came John Fitch. He was an ingenious, poor fellow, who had knocked about in the world making buttons out of old brass kettles, and mending guns. He had been a soldier in the Revolution and a captive among the Indians. At length he made a steamboat. He did not imitate the duck's foot or the steam pump, but like most other inventors, he borrowed from what had been used. He made his engine drive a number of oars, so as to paddle the boat forward. His boat was tried on the Delaware River in 1787. The engine was feeble, and the boat ran but slowly. Fitch grew extremely poor and ragged, but he used to say that, when "Johnny Fitch" should be forgotten, steamboats would run up the rivers and across the sea. This made the people laugh, for they thought him what we call "a crank."
Robert Fulton was born in Pennsylvania in 1765. He was the son of an Irish tailor. He was not fond of books, but he was ingenious. He made pencils for his own use out of lead, and he made rockets for his own Fourth of July celebration.
With some other boys he used to go fishing on an old flatboat. But he got tired of pushing the thing along with poles, so he contrived some paddle wheels to turn with cranks, something like those in the picture. He was fourteen years old when he made this invention.
Fulton's First Invention
At seventeen he became a miniature painter in Philadelphia, and by the time he was twenty-one he had earned money enough to buy a little farm for his mother. He then went to Europe to study art.
But his mind turned to mechanical inventions, of which he now made several. Among other things, he contrived a little boat to run under water and blow up war vessels; but, though he could supply this boat with air, he could not get it to run swiftly.
He now formed a partnership with Chancellor Livingston, the American Minister to France, who was very much interested in steamboats. Fulton had two plans. One was to use paddles in a new way; the other was to use the paddle wheel, such as he had made when he was a boy. He found the wheels better than paddles.
He built his first steamboat on the River Seine, near Paris, but the boat broke in two from the weight of her machinery. His next boat made a trial trip in sight of a great crowd pf Parisians. She ran slowly, but Fulton felt sure that he knew just what was needed to make the next one run faster.
Fulton and Livingston both returned to America. Fulton ordered from James Watt a new engine, to be made according to his own plans. In August, 1807, Fulton's new boat, the Clermont, was finished at New York. People felt no more confidence in it than we do now in a flying machine. They called it "Fulton's Folly." How- ever, a great many people gathered to see the trial trip and laugh at Fulton and his failure. The crowd was struck with wonder at seeing the black smoke rushing from the pipes, and the revolving paddle wheels, which were uncovered, as you see in the picture, throwing spray into the air, while the boat moved without spreading her sails. At last a steamboat had been made that would run at a fair rate of speed.
Fulton's First Steamboat
The Clermont began to make regular trips from New York to Albany. When the men on the river sloops first saw this creature of fire and smoke coming near them in the night, and heard the puff of her steam, the clank of her machinery, and the splash of her wheels, they were frightened. Some of the sailors ran below to escape the monster, some fell on their knees and prayed, while others hurried ashore.
While Fulton was inventing and building steamboats, people became very much interested in machinery. A man named Redheffer pretended to have invented a perpetual-motion machine, which, once started, would go of itself. People paid a dollar apiece to see the wonder, and learned men who saw it could not account for its motion. Fulton was aware that it must be a humbug, because he knew that there could be no such thing as a machine that would run of itself. But his friends coaxed him to go to see it. When Fulton had listened to it awhile he found that it ran in an irregular way, faster and then slower, and then faster and slower again.
"This is a crank motion," he said. "If you people will help me, I'll show you the cheat."
The crowd agreed to help. Fulton knocked down some little strips of wood, and found a string running through one of them from the machine to the wall; he followed this through the upper floor until he came to a back garret. In this sat a wretched old man, who wore an immense beard, and appeared to have been long imprisoned. He was gnawing a crust of bread, and turning a crank which as connected with the machinery by the string. When the crowd got back to the machine room Redheffer had run away.
Fulton died in 1815. Before his death many steamboats were in use. Some years after his death steam was applied to railways, and a little later steamers were built to cross the ocean.
Over the shoulders and slopes of the dune
I saw the white daisies go down to the sea,
A host in the sunshine, an army in June
The people God sends us to set our heart free.
The bob-o'-links rallied them up from the dell,
The orioles whistled them out of the wood;
And all of their singing was, "Earth, it is well!"
And all of their dancing was, "Life, thou art good!"
WEEK 25 |
Then was the heart of Wiglaf sad when he saw upon the earth his dearest king lie still. His slayer, the frightful Fire-Dragon, lay there too. No more would he fly through the midnight air working deadly harm, no more would he guard his treasure. Beowulf had conquered him, but his victory was repaid in death.
Sorrowing, Wiglaf knelt beside his lord. He bathed his face with water, he called to him to awake. But it was of no avail. He could not, however much he longed, call back his king to earth. No prayers could turn back the doom which God the ruler had sent forth.
Now that the fight was over, it was not long before the cowards, who during all the combat had forsaken their king and sheltered in the wood, came forth. Dastard faith breakers, ten of them together now came to the place where Wiglaf knelt beside his king. They durst not draw the sword to aid at this their liege lord's need. But now ashamed, they came bearing their shields, wearing their war-garments now that all need of them was past.
Then Wiglaf, sorrowful in soul, looked with anger at the cowards. No soft words had he for the craven-hearted crew.
"Lo," he cried, "he that would speak truth may well say that the liege lord who gave you these war-garments in which ye stand utterly castaway his gifts. Helmets and coats of mail he gave to those he deemed most worthy. But when war came upon him truly the king had little cause to boast of his warriors. Yet the Lord of All, the Ruler of Victories, granted him valour so that he avenged himself alone with his sword. I could give him in the combat little protection and aid. Yet I undertook above my means to help my kinsman. Weak I am, yet when I struck with my sword the Dragon's fire flamed less fiercely. When I smote the destroyer, fire gushed less violently forth from him.
"Too few defenders thronged round their prince when need came. And now for you there shall be no more sharing of treasure, no more giving of swords, no more joy in your homes. Houseless and beggared shall ye wander when far and wide the nobles shall hear of your flight, of your base deed. Death is better for every warrior than a life of shame."
Then Wiglaf turned from the cowards in scorn. Up over the sea cliff a troop of warriors had sat all day from early morn awaiting the return of their king. To them Wiglaf commanded that the issue of the fight should now be told.
So a messenger rode to the cliff. Loud he spake so that all might hear his baleful news. "Now is the kind Lord of the Goth folk fast on his deathbed. He resteth on his fatal couch through the Dragon's deed. By him lieth his deadly foe done to death with sword-wounds. Beside Beowulf, Wiglaf sits. One warrior over another lifeless holdeth sorrowful ward 'gainst friend or foe.
"Now may the people of the Danes expect a time of war. For as soon as the fall of the king be known among the Franks and Frisians they will make battle-ready. Yea, such is the deadly hate of men, that I ween from all around they will attack us when they shall learn our lord is lifeless. For he it was who defended our land against the foe. He it was who kept safe both treasure and realm with his wisdom and valour.
"Now it were best that with all speed we brought the great king to the funeral pile. It is not meet that treasure of little value be buried with the bold king. For here lieth a house of treasure, of gold uncounted, sadly bought with his life's blood. These the fire must devour, the flame must enwrap. No warrior shall wear bracelet or collar for remembrance. No fair maiden shall deck her neck with the gold's sheen. Nay rather, sad of mood, with golden ornaments laid aside, often shall they tread a strange land now that our war leader has ceased from laughter, from sport, and from song of joy. No longer now shall sound of harp awaken the warriors; but the hand that held the sword shall lie cold. The dark raven over the dead shall croak, he shall tell the eagle how he sped with his meal, while the wolf spoiled the carcasses of the slain."
Thus spake the bold warrior, bringer of evil tidings.
And now the troop all arose. Sadly and with welling tears they went under the cliff-ways to behold the fearful sight.
They found upon the sand, lifeless and soulless, him who before time had given them gifts. So was the end, and the good chief was gone. He in death heroic had perished.
There too they saw a more strange thing. Near the king lay the Dragon all loathly along the plain. Fifty feet long he lay scorched with his own fires, grim and ghastly to look upon. He who of old joyed to fly through the air in the night-time now lay fast in death. Never more would he fly through the air, never more gloat in his cave. By him stood cups and vessels, dishes and precious swords, rusty and eaten away. They seemed as if they had lain a thousand years in the earth.
Then Wiglaf lifted up his voice and spake. "Often must a brave man endure sorrow for another, as it hath happened with us. We could in no wise hold our king back from this combat. The hoard here hath been dearly bought. I have been within and beheld all the treasures of the cave. As much as I could carry I bore out to my lord who was yet living. Then many things spake he, the wise king. He bade me greet you, prayed that ye would make a lofty cairn, great and glorious, upon the coast here, for he was a warrior most famous throughout all the earth. Come now, let us hasten a second time to see and seek the wonders within the cave. I will be your guide, and ye shall see rings and piled gold such as ye have gazed upon never before.
"Let the bier be made ready against our return. Then let us bear our lord to the place where he shall long rest in the peace of the All-Powerful."
Then did Wiglaf send commandment to all those who possessed land, houses, and slaves, that they should bring wood for the pile for the funeral of the good king.
"Now," he said, "shall the flame devour, the wan fire and the flame shall grow strong, and shall destroy the prince of warriors. He who so often in the thickest of the fight awaited the storm of darts shall now depart hence for evermore."
Then having given commandment that the people should build the funeral pile, Wiglaf called seven of the best of the king's thanes to him. With them he went into the dark treasure-cavern.
Before them marched a warrior bearing in his hand a flaming torch. And when they saw the treasure lying around, gold and jewels in countless numbers, the thanes marvelled greatly. Quickly they gathered of the hoard and carried it forth. A great wagon they loaded with twisted gold and all manner of precious stuffs, and brought it to the funeral pile.
As for the winged beast which lay dead upon the plain, they thrust it over the cliff into the sea below. There he sank, and the waves closed over the dead guardian of the treasure of which the cave was now all despoiled.
And now the aged warrior was laid upon a bier. Then with bowed heads and lagging steps his thanes bore him to the cliff where high above the sea the funeral pile was laid.
Roundabout it was hung with helmets and with shields and with bright coats of mail. And in the midst was laid the great king, while the warriors mourned and wept for their beloved lord.
Then the funeral pyre was lit. Great flames sprang upward, dark clouds of smoke rolled up to the sky. The roar of the flame was mingled with the weeping of the Goth people, as with heavy hearts in woful mood they mourned the death of their liege lord.
Then a dirge of sorrow was sung by an aged dame in honour of Beowulf. Again and again she wailed forth her sore dread of evil days to come. Much blood-shed, shame, and captivity would come upon the land, she cried, now that its lord was dead.
And as she wailed the fire flamed and roared until the wood was all burned away. Then the great pyre sank together in ashes: the body of the great king was all consumed in flame.
Then did the Goth people build a high cairn upon the hill where the fire had been. It was high and broad, and might be seen for many miles by the travellers upon the sea. For ten days they built up the beacon of the war-renowned, famous king. They surrounded it with a wall in the most honourable manner that wise men could devise. Within the cairn they placed the rings and bright jewels and all manner of precious ornaments which they had taken from the Dragon's hoard. And thus they left the great treasure to the earth to hold. Gold they laid in the dust, where it yet remains to men as useless as of old. Then round the cairn twelve war-chiefs slowly rode. And as they rode they spoke and sang of their king.
They praised his valour, they sang of his manhood and his courtesy. Even so it is fitting that a man should praise his liege lord and love him.
Thus the Goth people wept for their fallen lord. His comrades said that he was of all the kings of the earth the best. Of men he was the mildest and the kindest, and to his people the gentlest. Of all rulers he was most worthy of praise.
Thus went the great king to his last rest.
A Fox fell into a well, and though it was not very deep, he found that he could not get out again. After he had been in the well a long time, a thirsty Goat came by. The Goat thought the Fox had gone down to drink, and so he asked if the water was good.
"The finest in the whole country," said the crafty Fox, "jump in and try it. There is more than enough for both of us."
The thirsty Goat immediately jumped in and began to drink. The Fox just as quickly jumped on the Goat's back and leaped from the tip of the Goat's horns out of the well.
The foolish Goat now saw what a plight he had got into, and begged the Fox to help him out. But the Fox was already on his way to the woods.
"If you had as much sense as you have beard, old fellow," he said as he ran, "you would have been more cautious about finding a way to get out again before you jumped in."
Look before you leap.
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
WEEK 25 |
"When that great fleet Invincible against her bore in vain
The richest spoils of Mexico, the stoutest hearts of Spain."
T HE romantic daring of Drake's voyage and the vastness of his spoil roused great enthusiasm in England. But the honours heaped upon him by Elizabeth were looked on by Philip of Spain with fierce anger. She had accepted his stolen treasure, and plans with regard to the conquest of England now began to take shape. The dockyards of Spain became busy centres, and the first ships of that great Armada, or armed force, destined for war with England, began to collect in the Tagus. If England were conquered, the empire of Spain would be safe, so thought Philip, whose possessions even now rivaled the Roman empire of old.
That a great fleet was building in Spain soon became known in England, and Drake hurried off to the scene of action. He sailed to Cadiz, entered the harbour, sank the guardship, sent flying a fleet of ships intended for the invasion of England, set fire to others, and sailed out again, having lost neither man nor boat.
"I have singed the King of Spain's beard this time," said Drake, while all Europe was wondering at his last adventure.
Then, not content with having delayed the Armada, he seized the largest Spanish merchant ship afloat, laden with spoil from India, which he towed triumphantly into Dartmouth harbour. Not only was it the richest cargo that had ever entered an English port, but on board were found papers telling of the richness and mysteries of the East Indian trade, hitherto known only to Spain and Portugal.
By the end of April 1588 the Spanish Armada was ready.
July found the fleet—named by the Spaniards the Invincible Armada—at the mouth of the English Channel with a fair wind. It was formidable enough as it sailed on in the form of a crescent extending for seven miles. There were 130 ships, standing high out of the water. On board were guns, many soldiers and sailors, priests, surgeons, and food for six months. The whole was under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, from whose flagship waved the Imperial banner, bearing on one side the crucified Christ and on the other His mother Mary; for this was not only an attack on England, it was an attack on England's Protestantism too.
It was the 19th of July when the Spanish fleet, so long expected, was seen by the English off the coast of Cornwall. At once fires of alarm were lit along the coast.
"Far on the deep the Spaniards saw, along each southern shire,
Cape beyond cape, in endless range, those twinkling points of fire."
Playing Bowls with his Captains.
When the news arrived at Plymouth, the English commander, Lord Howard of Effingham, was playing bowls with his captains. None knew better than Drake what the news meant. There was not a moment to lose, for the English ships were all huddled in ports along the coast at the mercy of the Spanish. On the other hand, a panic would spoil all. He refused to stop playing bowls.
"There is time to play the game and beat the Spaniards," he said quietly.
But there was no sleep for England that night. While in port and harbour the ships were manned and sailed, bells of alarm rang out all night, horsemen gathered together, cannon's roar and notes of the bugle broke the silence of the night.
"Night sank upon the dusky beach and on the purple sea,
Such night in England ne'er had been, nor e'er again shall be."
There was but one hope for the English in this desperate struggle. Her ships, though fewer, were lighter and faster-sailing than those of the enemy, therefore a close encounter would be fatal. Worrying and harrying the Spanish fleet, the English ships pursued them up the English Channel till Calais was reached. For nearly a week this running fight had lasted. By July 29 the Spaniards had lost 4000 men: three great ships had sunk; their masts were shot away, the men had lost heart. The Spanish commander decided to retreat to Spain by way of Scotland.
Nevertheless, as Drake said, the fleet seemed still "wonderful great and strong." The "work of destruction was reserved for a mightier foe than Drake." Suddenly the wind rose into a storm, which drove pursuers and pursued across to the Netherlands. Narrowly escaping shipwreck on the flat coast of Holland, the shattered Armada was driven pitilessly northwards, hurrying before the wind.
"There was never anything pleased me better," said Drake as he followed after, "than seeing the enemy flying with a southerly wind to the northwards."
Supplies fell short and forced the English ships to give up the chase. The Spaniards sailed on to the Orkney Islands at the north of Scotland, where the storms of the northern seas broke on them furiously. Round the coast they staggered, scattering the shores with their wrecks. Eight thousand Spaniards perished near the Giant's Causeway; 1100 bodies were washed up on to the coast of Ireland. Out of the magnificent fleet that had sailed from Spain only fifty ships returned, bearing a few thousand sick and maimed Spaniards.
"I sent you to fight against men and not with the winds," said Philip to his unfortunate commander, who slunk away to his home to be tormented ever after by boys crying under his window, "Drake is coming! Drake is coming!"
It was indeed Drake's name with which Europe rang as the news of the victory spread, though Elizabeth acknowledged the power of the storm when she struck a medal with this motto, "God blew with His wind and they were scattered."
O NCE upon a time there was a king of Argon named Acrĭsius, to whom it had been foretold that he would be slain by his daughter's son.
This troubled him greatly. So he built a high tower of brass, and imprisoned his daughter Dănăë in the very highest room. Having furnished her with provisions and amusements to last her all her life, he closed up all the entrances, so that nobody could get into the tower, and set guards all round it, so that nobody could even come near it. He did all this so that she should never marry and have a son who would grow up to kill him.
You may imagine what sort of a life Danae led, shut up in the brazen tower. She was made comfortable enough, and had plenty to eat and drink, and musical instruments, and pictures, and jewels, and all such things; but she never, from year's end to year's end, saw a face, except when she looked into the looking-glass, nor heard a voice but when she sang to herself—which she soon got tired of doing. She could not even look out of the window, because there were no windows to look from. She lived by lamplight, and she knew that this was to be her life for all the rest of her days.
So Acrisius felt safe and satisfied, and thought he had baffled Fate very cleverly indeed. And thus things went on for many years—what endless years they must have been to the imprisoned princess!—till one day she heard a little chinking noise, as if a gold coin had fallen upon the brazen floor of her room. She did not, however, pay any particular heed; indeed, she must by that time have got used to all sorts of queer fancies. But presently she heard it again. And, looking down in an idle way, sure enough she saw a couple of gold coins lying on the floor.
That seemed rather odd, for whence could they have come? Then a third coin joined the two others, and, raising her eyes to the ceiling, she saw coin after coin coming through a crack so small that she had not known till now that it was there. Faster and faster came the coins, till they became a shower, and the heap of gold on the floor stood higher than her head. Then the shower ceased, and the crack was still so small that she could not see whence the coins had fallen. As she stood wondering, the heap began to stir itself; the gold pieces melted into a single mass, which gradually seemed to take life and form. At last, where the gold had been, she saw the form of a man, but so stately and royal, and so much grander and nobler than any mere man could be, that she fell upon her knees before him.
"I am Jupiter," said he, raising her, "and I have chosen you to be my earthy bride."
So just that little crack in the ceiling, only just big enough for a thin gold coin to squeeze through, brought about what Acrisius had been at such trouble to prevent. And in time the news came to the king that a child had been heard crying in the brazen tower. He broke his way in, hurried up the staircase to the highest room, and there, to his rage and terror, he found Danae with a child, a boy, in her arms.
But he was determined not to let fate conquer him. He could not very well have his daughter and grandson put to death—at least openly. But he had them carried out to sea and then turned adrift in a small leaky boat without sail, oars, or rudder, so that they were certain to be drowned. This having been done, Acrisius felt happy and comfortable again.
Now there lived on the little island of Serīphus, more than two hundred miles away, an honest fisherman named Dictys. It is often rough weather about there, and bad for fishing; but he was a brave and skilful sailor, and the weather, in order to keep him ashore, had to be very rough indeed. You may think, therefore, how bad the weather was when, for the first time in his life, he was unable to cast his nets for many days and nights together,—so many that he began to wonder what in the world he should do to get food for his wife and children. He used to lie awake listening to the howling wind and roaring sea, and then, going down to the beach, sought for food among the rocks and pools, thinking himself lucky if he could find a damaged crab or a bunch of eatable sea-weed.
One morning while he was searching about with a heavy heart, he, passing a jutting rock, came suddenly upon a young and handsome woman, in clothes all torn and drenched by the waves, sitting with a baby in her lap, and forlornly rocking herself to and fro. Hard by were the broken timbers of a boat, which had doubtless been blown ashore by the wind. Dictys questioned her kindly, but she could not or would not answer; so, taking her by the hand, he led her to his cottage, where his wife, who was as good-hearted as he, made a big fire of wreck-wood, and gave the mother and child a share of what food they had left, though it could ill be spared. From their famished looks he judged that they must have been tossing about on the waves for many days. But though the woman thanked him gratefully, with tears in her eyes, she did not tell him anything of her story except what he could see for himself—that she had been lost at sea.
"Perhaps she has lost her memory," he said to his wife, when their guests were sleeping, worn out with all they had gone through. "What is to be done? We do not even know who they are."
"And look at their clothes!" said his wife. "For all their being in rags, they might have been made for a queen and a queen's son. But whoever they are," she said with a sigh, "we can't let them perish of hunger and cold. I never saw such a beautiful child—not even among our own."
Dictys sighed still more deeply, for to be burdened with two more mouths to feed in those bad times was a serious thing, even though his heart also bled for the misery of the mother and the beauty of the boy. . . . "I have it, wife!" he exclaimed at last. "As soon as they are rested, and as I've nothing else to do, worse luck, I'll take them to the king. He'll do something for them, I'm sure. And if he doesn't, why, we must do what we can, that's all, and hope for better times."
So when the mother and child were quite rested and refreshed, Dictys set off with them for the king's palace, doing his best to cheer them by the way. Seriphus is a very little island, not more than a dozen miles round, so they had not to go far, and fortunately they found the king at home. The King of Seriphus at that time was Polydectes, who, having heard the fisherman's story, and being struck with the beauty and high-born air both of the woman and of the child, kept them in his own palace, treated them as guests whom he delighted to honor, and was much too polite to ask questions. The mother told nobody anything except that her child's name was Perseus, and that hers was Danae.
Perseus grew up into such splendid manhood that for a long time Polydectes was fond and proud of him, and treated him as if he were his own son. He was strong and handsome, brave, noble-minded, and marvelously accomplished both in mind and body. He was devoted to his mother; and he could never do enough to show his gratitude to Dictys the fisherman, who had been kind to her in her need. But his very virtues became his misfortune. Polydectes gradually became jealous of him, for he could not help seeing that the people of Seriphus loved and honored Perseus more than the king himself, and he was afraid that they might rebel and make Perseus their king. Besides that, he wanted to have Danae in his power, and without a protector, so that he might marry her against her will. Therefore he bethought him of a plot by which he could get rid of Perseus forever in a seemingly honorable way.
So one day he called the young man to him, and said:—
"Perseus, I know how brave you are, and how fond of all sorts of difficult adventures. Did you ever hear of the Gorgons? Well, the Gorgons are three terrible demon sisters who live in the middle of Africa. Their bodies are covered with scales like dragons, which no spear can pierce; their hands are brazen claws; they have snakes instead of hair, just like the Furies—I mean the Eumenides; and they have teeth as long as the tusks of a wild boar; and whoever looks upon them is turned to stone. All three are dreadful; but the one who is named Medusa is the most dreadful of all. Now I have been thinking, as you are so fond of adventures, you might go and cut off Medusa's head. It would be something to be proud of for the rest of your days."
Perseus was rather taken aback by such an errand. In the first place, he did not know where to find the Gorgons; in the second place, how was he to kill a creature who would turn him into stone by one glance of her eyes? But he was much too brave to refuse, or even to think of refusing. "I will just bid my mother good-bye, and then I will start at once," said he. He did not tell his mother what he had undertaken to do for fear of alarming her; but he said good-bye to her as cheerfully as if he were only going for a night's fishing with their friend the fisherman. Then, having asked Dictys to take care of his mother till he came back again, he lay down to get a little sleep before starting.
He had a curious dream. He thought that Pluto, Minerva, and Mercury came to his bedside, and that each made him a parting present. Pluto gave him a helmet, Minerva a shield, and Mercury a pair of sandals, with little wings fastened to them, and a curious weapon, of which the blade was shaped like a scythe, and made of a single diamond. But the dream was not so strange as what he found when he woke. There, on his bed, actually lay the helmet, the shield of polished steel, the winged sandals, and the scythe-shaped dagger.
Well, somebody must have put them there. Perhaps they were parting gifts from King Polydectes. So first he put on the helmet; then he placed the weapon in his belt; then he slung the shield over his shoulders; last of all, he bound the winged sandals on his feet, and when the wings spread themselves at his heels, and carried him high up into the air, he began to think that the visit of the gods must have been something more than a dream.
He went up so high that the earth looked like a large map spread out below him, on which the island of Seriphus seemed but a mere speck in the sea over which he was drifting southward. After many hours of this strange sort of travel, he began to descend, and came down upon his feet in the middle of a hot sandy plain, where neither hill nor tree nor water was to be seen. He could not tell where he was. But he did not lose courage; and he set out across the desert, knowing that if he kept straight on in one direction, he must reach somewhere or other in time.
But not till nearly nightfall did he see, in the far distance, a cluster of palm-trees—the sure sign of water, which his long journey over the hot and glaring sand, under the blazing sun, had made him need sorely. Reaching the palm-trees at last, he found, in the midst of the cluster, a wooden hut. Wondering that anybody should live in such a place, but hoping to find food and guidance, he knocked boldly on the door with the hilt of his sword, and was bidden, by a hoarse, cracked voice, to come in.
He entered, and found three very old women warming their hands at a few burning sticks, although it was so hot in the desert that Perseus could hardly bear the weight of his shield. As he came in, the three crones turned their faces towards him; and he saw that one of them had only one eye and no teeth, that another had only one tooth and no eye, and that the third had neither teeth nor eyes.
"I am a traveler," said Perseus, "and have lost my way. Will you kindly tell me where I am?"
"Come in and show yourself," said the crone who had the eye, sharply. "I must see who you are before I answer," she added, though her one eye was looking straight at him all the while.
"Here I am," said Perseus, stepping into the middle of the room. "I suppose you can see me now."
"It's very strange—very strange!" said the old woman. "Sisters, I hear a man's voice, but I see no man!"
"Nonsense, sister!" said the one who had the tooth. "You can't have put the eye in right. Let me try."
To the amazement of Perseus, the first old woman took out her eye and passed it to the second, who, after giving it a polish, put it into her own face and looked round; but she also saw nothing.
The two wrangled for a while as to whether there was anything to be seen; and then the eye was passed round to the third sister. But she also failed to see Perseus, though the eye rolled in her head, and glowed like a live coal.
And so they kept passing the eye round from one to another, and yet nothing could they see. At last Perseus, feeling terribly hot and tired, took off Pluto's helmet to cool himself, when suddenly—
"There he is! I see him now!" exclaimed the old woman who, at the moment, happened to be using the eye.
The Perseus found out that his helmet made him invisible when he put it on; and he had already found out the use of his sandals. Perhaps the other gifts would have their uses too.
He let the old women have a good look at him each in turn, and then said—
"I am very hungry and thirsty and tired, and don't know where I am. Will you give me a little food, and tell me who such kind ladies are, and what this place is, and put me on the right road to where I want to go?"
It was the one who happened to have the eye in her head that always spoke.
"We will give you some food," said she, "for you seem a very well-behaved young man. This place is the great desert of Libya" (which is what we now call the desert of Sahara, in Africa) "and we are three sisters, called the Graiæ. And where do you want to go?"
"I want to visit the Gorgons, and particularly Medusa," said he. "Do you happen to know where they are?"
"Of course we know, for they are our own kinswomen! But never, no, never, will we tell you where they live, or the way to get there. Never will we let so handsome a youth be turned into stone!"
"Never!" croaked the old woman with the tooth.
"Never!" mumbled the third.
Perseus did all he could to persuade them, but they were so stubborn that he was only wasting words. Meanwhile they laid out supper, which they ate in a very strange way, each taking her turn with the one tooth which they had among them, and passing it round from one to the other, just as they did with their only eye. This made the meal rather long and slow, for they ate enormously. After supper they put the eye and the tooth into a little box while they took a nap, when Perseus, watching his opportunity, snatched up the box, put on his helmet, and cried out—
"Now tell me the way to Medusa, or else you shall never see or eat again!"
The poor old Graiæ went down on their knees, and implored him to give them back their only tooth and their only eye. But he said—
"It is my turn to be stubborn. Tell me where to find Medusa, and you shall have them back; but not a minute before."
"I suppose we must, then," said the eldest, with a sigh. "Well, it won't be our fault now, whatever happens. And after all, it's better that you should be turned into stone than that we should be blind and starved."
"Much better," her sisters groaned.
"Very well, then," said the eldest Graia, "you must go straight on, night and day, until you come into the country of King Atlas, which is called Mauritania. Near the king's palace is a garden where the trees bear golden apples, guarded by a dragon. If the dragon does not devour you, you must pass the garden gate, and go on, a long, long way, till you come to a great lake where, if you do not find the Gorgons, you will be a lucky man."
Perseus gave the old women back their tooth and eye, which they received with joy, and thanking them for their information, left the hut and traveled on. After many days and nights, during which he found it hard to find food, he came into a fertile country wherein stood a stately palace, so high that it seemed to touch the clouds. Hard by was a vast garden enclosed by a high wall, and at the gate, sure enough, sat a monstrous dragon with glaring eyes. But Perseus, wearing his invisible helmet, passed by safely, because unseen.
In time he came to the lake, where he took off his helmet to quench his thirst. While he was drinking, he was startled by the approach of what sounded like a mighty rush of wind, and he had but just time to put on his helmet again before he saw, reflected in the lake, the flying form of a terrible Medusa—the Gorgon whom he had vowed to slay, and who, not seeing him, sat down beside him with folded wings.
WEEK 25 |
HERE was a drummer marching along the high-road—forward march!—left, right!—tramp, tramp, tramp!—for the fighting was done, and he was coming home from the wars. By and by he came to a great wide stream of water, and there sat an old man as gnarled and as bent as the hoops in a cooper shop. "Are you going to cross the water?" said he.
"Yes," says the drummer, "I am going to do that if my legs hold out to carry me."
"And will you not help a poor body across?" says the old man.
Now, the drummer was as good-natured a lad as ever stood on two legs. "If the young never gave a lift to the old," says he to himself, "the wide world would not be worth while living in." So he took off his shoes and stockings, and then he bent his back and took the old man on it, and away he started through the water—splash!
But this was no common old man whom the drummer was carrying, and he was not long finding that out, for the farther he went in the water the heavier grew his load—like work put off until to-morrow—so that, when he was half-way across, his legs shook under him and sweat stood on his forehead like a string of beads in the shop-window. But by and by he reached the other shore, and the old man jumped down from his back.
"Phew!" says the drummer, "I am glad to be here at last!"
And now for the wonder of all this: The old man was an old man no longer, but a splendid tall fellow with hair as yellow as gold. "And who do you think I am?" said he.
But of that the drummer knew no more than the mouse in the haystack, so he shook his head, and said nothing.
"I am king of the storks, and here I have sat for many days; for the wicked one-eyed witch who lives on the glass hill put it upon me for a spell that I should be an old man until somebody should carry me over the water. You are the first to do that, and you shall not lose by it. Here is a little bone whistle; whenever you are in trouble just blow a turn or two on it, and I will be by to help you."
Thereupon King Stork drew a feather cap out of his pocket, and clapped it on his head, and away he flew, for he was turned into a great, long, red-legged stork as quick as a wink.
But the drummer trudged on the way he was going, as merry as a cricket, for it is not everybody who cracks his shins against such luck as he had stumbled over, I can tell you. By and by he came to the town over the hill, and there he found great bills stuck up over the walls. They were all of them proclamations. And this is what they said:
The princess of that town was as clever as she was pretty; that was saying a great deal, for she was the handsomest in the whole world. ("Phew! but that is a fine lass for sure and certain," said the drummer.) So it was proclaimed that any lad who could answer a question the princess would ask, and would ask a question the princess could not answer, and would catch the bird that she would be wanting, should have her for his wife and half of the kingdom to boot. ("Hi! but here is luck for a clever lad," says the drummer.) But whoever should fail in any one of the three tasks should have his head chopped off as sure as he lived. ("Ho! but she is a wicked one for all that," says the drummer.)
That was what the proclamation said, and the drummer would have to try for her; "for," said he, "it is a poor fellow who cannot manage a wife when he has her"—and he knew as much about that business as a goose about churning butter. As for chopping off heads, he never bothered his own about that; for, if one never goes out for fear of rain one never catches fish.
Off he went to the king's castle as fast as he could step, and there he knocked on the door, as bold as though his own grandmother lived there.
But when the king heard what the drummer had come for, he took out his pocket-handkerchief and began to wipe his eyes, for he had a soft heart under his jacket, and it made him cry like anything to see another coming to have his head chopped off, as so many had done before him. For there they were, all along the wall in front of the princess's window, like so many apples.
But the drummer was not to be scared away by the king's crying a bit, so in he came, and by and by they all sat down to supper—he and the king and the princess. As for the princess, she was so pretty that the drummer's heart melted inside of him, like a lump of butter on the stove—and that was what she was after. After a while she asked him if he had come to answer a question of hers, and to ask her a question of his, and to catch the bird that she had set him to catch.
"Yes," said the drummer, "I have come to do that very thing." And he spoke as boldly and as loudly as the clerk in the church.
"Very well, then," says the princess, as sweet as sugar candy, "just come along to-morrow, and I will ask you your question."
Off went the drummer; he put his whistle to his lips and blew a turn or two, and there stood King Stork, and nobody knows where he stepped from.
"And what do you want?" says he.
The drummer told him everything, and how the princess was going to ask him a question to-morrow morning that he would have to answer, or have his head chopped off.
"Here you have walked into a pretty puddle, and with your eyes open," says King Stork, for he knew that the princess was a wicked enchantress, and loved nothing so much as to get a lad into just such a scrape as the drummer had tumbled into. "But see, here is a little cap and a long feather—the cap is a dark-cap, and when you put it on your head, one can see you no more than so much thin air. At twelve o-clock at night the princess will come out into the castle garden and will fly away through the air. Then throw your leg over the feather, and it will carry you wherever you want to go; and if the princess flies fast it will carry you as fast and faster."
"Dong! Dong!" The clock struck twelve, and the princess came out of her house; but in the garden was the drummer waiting for her with the dark-cap on his head, and he saw her as plain as a pikestaff. She brought a pair of great wings which she fastened to her shoulders, and away she flew. But the drummer was as quick with his tricks as she was with hers; he flung his leg over the feather which King Stork had given him, and away he flew after her, and just as fast as she with her great wings.
By and by they came to a huge castle of shining steel that stood on a mountain of glass. And it was a good thing for the drummer that he had on his cap of darkness, for all around outside of the castle stood fiery dragons and savage lions to keep anybody from going in without leave.
But not a thread of the drummer did they see; in he walked with the princess, and there was a great one-eyed witch with a beard on her chin, and a nose that hooked over her mouth like the beak of a parrot.
"Uff!" said she, "here is a smell of Christian blood in the house."
"Tut, mother!" says the princess, "how you talk! do you not see that there is nobody with me?" For the drummer had taken care that the wind should not blow the cap of darkness off of his head, I can tell you. By and by they sat down to supper, the princess and the witch, but it was little the princess ate, for as fast as anything was put on her plate the drummer helped himself to it, so that it was all gone before she could get a bite.
"Look, mother!" said she, "I eat nothing, and yet it all goes from my plate; why is that so?" But that the old witch could not tell her, for she could see nothing of the drummer.
"There was a lad came to-day to answer the question I shall put to him," said the princess. "Now what shall I ask him by way of a question?"
"I have a tooth in the back part of my head," said the witch, "and it has been grumbling a bit; ask him what it is you are thinking about, and let it be that."
Yes; that was a good question for sure and certain, and the princess would give it to the drummer to-morrow, to see what he had to say for himself. As for the drummer, you can guess how he grinned, for he heard every word that they said.
After a while the princess flew away home again, for it was nearly the break of day, and she must be back before the sun rose. And the drummer flew close behind her, but she knew nothing of that.
The next morning up he marched to the king's castle and knocked at the door, and they let him in.
There sat the king and the princess, and lots of folks besides. Well, had he come to answer her question? That was what the princess wanted to know.
Yes; that was the very business he had come about.
Very well, this was the question, and he might have three guesses at it; what was she thinking of at that minute?
Oh, it could be no hard thing to answer such a question as that, for lasses' heads all ran upon the same things more or less; was it a fine silk dress with glass buttons down the front that she was thinking of now?
No, it was not that.
Then, was it of a good stout lad like himself for a sweetheart, that she was thinking of?
No, it was not that.
No? Then it was the bad tooth that had been grumbling in the head of the one-eyed witch for a day or two past, perhaps.
Dear, dear! but you should have seen the princess's face when she heard this! Up she got and off she packed without a single word, and the king saw without the help of his spectacles that the drummer had guessed right. He was so glad that he jumped up and down and snapped his fingers for joy. Besides that he gave out that bonfires should be lighted all over the town, and that was a fine thing for the little boys.
The next night the princess flew away to the house of the one-eyed witch again, but there was the drummer close behind her just as he had been before.
"Uff!" said the one-eyed witch, "here is a smell of Christian blood, for sure and certain." But all the same, she saw no more of the drummer than if he had never been born.
"See, mother," said the princess, "that rogue of a drummer answered my question without winking over it."
"So," said the old witch, "we have missed for once, but the second time hits the mark; he will be asking you a question to-morrow, and here is a book that tells everything that has happened in the world, and if he asks you more than that he is a smart one and no mistake."
After that they sat down to supper again, but it was little the princess ate, for the drummer helped himself out of her plate just as he had done before.
After a while the princess flew away home, and the drummer with her.
"And, now, what will we ask her that she cannot answer?" said the drummer; so off he went back of the house, and blew a turn or two on his whistle, and there stood King Stork.
"And what will we ask the princess," said he, "when she has a book that tells her everything?"
King Stork was not long in telling him that; "Just ask her so and so and so and so," said he, "and she would never dare to answer the question."
Well, the next morning there was the drummer at the castle all in good time; and, had he come to ask her a question? that was what the princess wanted to know.
Oh, yes, he had come for that very thing.
Very well, then, just let him begin, for the princess was ready and waiting, and she wet her thumb, and began to turn over the leaves of her Book of Knowledge.
Oh, it was an easy question the drummer was going to ask, and it needed no big book like that to answer it. The other night he dreamed that he was in a castle all built of shining steel, where there lived a witch with one eye. There was a handsome bit of a lass there who was as great a witch as the old woman herself, but for the life of him he could not tell who she was; now perhaps the princess could make a guess at it.
There the drummer had her as tight as a fly in a bottle, for she did not dare to let folks know that she was a wicked witch like the one-eyed one; so all she could do was to sit there and gnaw her lip. As for the Book of Knowledge, it was no more use to her than a fifth wheel under a cart.
But if the king was glad when the drummer answered the princess's question, he was twice as glad when he found she could not answer his.
All the same, there is more to do yet, and many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip. "The bird I want is the one-eyed raven," said the princess; "Now bring her to me if you want to keep your head off of the wall yonder."
Yes; the drummer thought he might do that as well as another thing. So off he went back of the house to talk to King Stork of the matter.
"Look," said King Stork, and he drew a net out of his pocket as fine as a cobweb and as white as milk; "take this with you when you go with the princess to the one-eyed witch's house to-night, throw it over the witch's head, and then see what will happen; only when you catch the one-eyed raven you are to wring her neck as soon as you lay hands on her, for if you don't it will be the worse for you."
Well, that night off flew the princess just as she had done before, and off flew the drummer at her heels, until they came to the witch's house, both of them.
"And did you take his head this time?" said the witch.
No, the princess had not done that, for the drummer had asked such and such a question, and she could not answer it; all the same, she had him tight enough now, for she had set it as a task upon him that he should bring her the one-eyed raven, and it was not likely he would be up to doing that. After that the princess and the one-eyed witch sat down to supper together, and the drummer served the princess the same trick that he had done before, so that she got hardly a bit to eat.
"See," said the old witch when the princess was ready to go, "I will go home with you to-night, and see that you get there safe and sound." So she brought out a pair of wings, just like those the princess had, and set them on her shoulders, and away both of them flew with the drummer behind. So they came home without seeing a soul, for the drummer kept his cap of darkness tight upon his head all the while.
"Good-night," said the witch to the princess, and "Good-night" said the princess to the witch, and the one was for going one way and the other the other. But the drummer had his wits about him sharply enough, and before the old witch could get away he flung the net that King Stork had given him over her head.
"Hi!" But you should have been there to see what happened; for it was a great one-eyed raven, as black as the inside of the chimney, that he had in his net.
Dear, dear, how it flapped its wings and struck with its great beak! But that did no good, for the drummer just wrung its neck, and there was an end of it.
The next morning he wrapped it up in his pocket-handkerchief and off he started for the king's castle, and there was the princess waiting for him, looking as cool as butter in the well, for she felt sure the drummer was caught in the trap this time.
"And have you brought the one-eyed raven with you?" she said.
"Oh, yes," said the drummer, and here it was wrapped up in this handkerchief.
But when the princess saw the raven with its neck wrung, she gave a great shriek and fell to the floor. There she lay and they had to pick her up and carry her out of the room.
But everybody saw that the drummer had brought the bird she had asked for, and all were as glad as glad could be. The king gave orders that they should fire off the town cannon, just as they did on his birthday, and all the little boys out in the street flung up their hats and caps and cried, "Hurrah! Hurrah!"
But the drummer went off back of the house. He blew a turn or two on his whistle, and there stood King Stork. "Here is your dark-cap and your feather," says he, "and it is I who am thankful to you, for they have won me a real princess for a wife."
"Yes, good," says King Stork, "you have won her, sure enough, but the next thing is to keep her; for a lass is not cured of being a witch as quickly as you seem to think, and after one has found one's eggs one must roast them and butter them into the bargain. See now, the princess is just as wicked as ever she was before, and if you do not keep your eyes open she will trip you up after all. So listen to what I tell you. Just after you are married, get a great bowl of fresh milk and a good, stiff switch. Pour the milk over the princess when you are alone together, and after that hold tight to her and lay on the switch, no matter what happens, for that is the only way to save yourself and to save her."
Well, the drummer promised to do as King Stork told him, and by and by came the wedding-day. Off he went over to the dairy and got a fresh pan of milk, and out he went into the woods and cut a stout hazel switch, as thick as his finger.
As soon as he and the princess were alone together he emptied the milk all over her; then he caught hold of her and began laying on the switch for dear life.
It was well for him that he was a brave fellow and had been to the wars, for, instead of the princess, he held a great black cat that glared at him with her fiery eyes, and growled and spat like anything. But that did no good, for the drummer just shut his eyes and laid on the switch harder than ever.
Then—puff!—instead of a black cat it was like a great, savage wolf, that snarled and snapped at the drummer with its red jaws but the drummer just held fast and made the switch fly, and the wolf scared him no more than the black cat had done.
So out it went, like a light of a candle, and there was a great snake that lashed its tail and shot out its forked tongue and spat fire. But no; the drummer was no more frightened at that than he had been at the wolf and the cat, and, dear, dear! how he dressed the snake with his hazel switch.
Last of all, there stood the princess herself. "Oh, dear husband!" she cried, "let me go, and I will promise to be good all the days of my life."
"Very well," says the drummer, "and that is the tune I like to hear."
That was the way he gained the best of her, whether it was the bowl of milk or the hazel switch, for afterwards she was as good a wife as ever churned butter; but what did it is a question that you will have to answer for yourself. All the same, she tried no more of her tricks with him, I can tell you. And so this story comes to an end, like everything else in the world.
N OW in these strings you have the whole story. First, the tiny string Mrs. Conch left on the sand grew to be a big string with large cases like these. The small specks in it were to become shells, and the jelly was to be the food of the baby conchs while in the case. There are very many in each case.
They grew and grew. They ate up all the jelly. They were true shell-fish, only very small. Then it was time for them to go out.
They saw the thin skin over the small, round hole. They felt sure that this was their door. They ate off the thin skin, and went into the sea.
The conch lays its egg-strings from March to May. It lays a great many. In the egg-case the baby shells rock up and down, not on a tree, but on the sea.
This dry string, still full of shells, is one in which the baby conchs are all dead. It was cast on shore when the little ones were too young to come out. That made them all die.
These little things have a hard time to grow up. But if they can live until they are of a good size, they will have a thick shell. Then they will be out of harm's way, and will live a long time.
But how do these shell-fish grow? Do they pull off their shells when they are too tight, as crabs do?
No. All these shell-fish wear a cloak, or veil. It is by their cloak they grow. Why, how is that? This cloak, or veil, is fine and thin. It is part of the body of the fish, and folds all over it.
This fine cloak takes lime out of sea-water, and with it builds more shell. As the animal needs more room, it spreads out this veil over the edge of the shell, and builds with it new shell. You can see the little rims where the cloak built each new piece. The color and the waved lines on the shell are made by this veil.
So the shell-fish need not change his house. He just builds on more room as he wants it.
O have you seen the Pine Lady,
Or heard her how she sings?
Have you heard her play
Your soul away
On a harp with moonbeam strings?
In a palace all of the night-black pine
She hides like a queen all day,
Till a moonbeam knocks on her secret tree,
And she opens her door with a silver key
While the village clocks
Are striking bed
Nine times sleepily.
O come and hear the Pine Lady,
Up in the haunted wood!
The stars are rising, the moths are flitting,
The owls are calling,
The dew is falling;
And, high in the boughs
Of her haunted house
The moon and she are sitting.
Out on the moor the night-jar drones
The beetle comes
With his sudden drums
And many a silent unseen thing
Frightens your cheek with its ghostly wing;
While there above,
In a palace builded of needles and cones,
The pine is telling the moon her love,
Telling her love on the moonbeam strings—
O have you seen the Pine Lady?
Or heard her how she sings!
WEEK 25 |
II Kings xiii: 1 to 25;
Jonah i: 1, to iv: 11.
FTER Jehu, his son Jehoahaz reigned in Israel. He was not only a wicked but also a weak king; and under him Israel became helpless in the hands of its enemies, Hazael, the fierce king of Syria, and his son, Ben-hadad the second. But when Jehoahaz died, his son Joash became king, and under his rule Israel began to rise again.
Elisha, the prophet, was now an old man, and very feeble, and near to death. The young king, Joash, came to see him, and wept over him, and said to him, as Elisha himself had said to Elijah (Story 82), "My father, my father, you are to Israel more than its chariots and its horsemen!"
But Elisha, though weak in body, was yet strong in soul. He told King Joash to bring to him a bow and arrows, and to open the window to the east, looking toward the land of Syria. Then Elisha caused the king to draw the bow, and he placed his hands on the king's hands. And as the king shot an arrow, Elisha said, "This is the Lord's arrow of victory, of victory over Syria, for you shall smite the Syrians in Aphek, and shall destroy them."
King Joash shooting the arrow.
Then Elisha told the king to take the arrows, and to strike with them on the ground. The king struck them on the ground three times, and then stopped striking. The old prophet was displeased at this, and said, "Why did you stop? You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have won as many victories over Syria; but now you shall beat the Syrians three times, and no more."
Soon after this Elisha died, and they buried him in a cave. In the spring of the next year the bands of the Moabites came upon the place just as they were burying another man, and in their haste to escape from the enemies they placed the body in the cave where Elisha was buried. When the body of this man touched the body of the dead prophet, life came to it, and the man stood up. Thus, even after Elisha was dead, he still had power.
After the death of Elisha, Joash, the king of Israel, made war upon Ben-hadad the second, king of Syria. Joash beat him three times in battle, and took from him all the cities that Hazael, his father, had taken away from Israel. And after Joash, his son Jeroboam the second reigned, who became the greatest of all the kings of the Ten Tribes. Under him the kingdom grew rich and strong. He conquered nearly all Syria, and made Samaria the greatest city in all those lands.
But though Syria went down, another nation was now rising to power, Assyria, on the eastern side of the river Tigris. Its capital was Nineveh, a great city, so vast that it would take three days for a man to walk around its walls. The Assyrians were beginning to conquer all the lands near them, and Israel was in danger of falling under their power. At this time another prophet, named Jonah, was giving the word of the Lord to the Israelites. To Jonah the Lord spoke, saying, "Go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it, for its wickedness rises up before me."
But Jonah did not wish to preach to the people of Nineveh, for they were the enemies of his land, the land of Israel. He wished Nineveh to die in its sins, and not to turn to God and live. So Jonah tried to go away from the city where God had sent him. He went down to Joppa, upon the shore of the Great Sea. There he found a ship about to sail to Tarshish, far away in the west. He paid the fare, and went on board, intending to go as far as possible from Nineveh.
But the Lord saw Jonah on the ship, and the Lord sent a great storm upon the sea, so that the ship seemed as though it would go in pieces. The sailors threw overboard everything on the ship, and when they could do no more, every man prayed to his god to save the ship and themselves. Jonah was now lying fast asleep under the deck of the ship, and the ship's captain came to him, and said, "What do you mean by sleeping in such a time as this? Awake, rise up, and call upon your God. Perhaps your God will hear you, and will save our lives."
But the storm continued to rage around the ship, and they said, "There is some man on this ship who has brought upon us this trouble. Let us cast lots, and find who it is."
Then they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. They said to him, all at once, "Tell us, who are you? From what country do you come? What is your business? To what people do you belong? Why have you brought all this trouble upon us?" Then Jonah told them the whole story: how he came from the land of Israel, and that he had fled away from the presence of the Lord. And they said to him, "What shall we do to you, that the storm may cease?" Then Jonah said, "Take me up, and throw me into the sea; then the storm will cease, and the waters will be calm; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you."
But the men were not willing to throw Jonah into the sea. They rowed hard to bring the ship to land, but they could not. Then they cried unto the Lord, and said, "We pray thee, O Lord, we pray thee, let us not die for this man's life; for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee." At last, when they could do nothing else to save themselves, they threw Jonah into the sea. At once the storm ceased, and the waves became still. Then the men on the ship feared the Lord greatly. They offered a sacrifice to the Lord, and made promises to serve him.
Jonah thrown overboard by the sailors.
And the Lord caused a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was alive within the fish for three days and three nights. Long afterward, when Jesus was on the earth, he said that as Jonah was three days inside the fish, so he would be three days in the earth; so Jonah in the fish was like a prophecy of Christ. In the fish Jonah cried to the Lord; and the Lord heard his prayer, and caused the great fish to throw up Jonah upon the dry land.
By this time Jonah had learned that some men who worshipped idols were kind in their hearts, and were dear to the Lord. This was the lesson that God meant Jonah to learn; and now the call of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.
"Arise; go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it what I command you."
So Jonah went to the city of Nineveh, and as he entered into it, he called out to the people, "Within forty days shall Nineveh be destroyed." And he walked through the city all day, crying out only this, "Within forty days shall Nineveh be destroyed."
And the people of Nineveh believed the word of the Lord as spoken by Jonah. They turned away from their sins, and fasted, and sought the Lord, from the greatest of them even to the least. The king of Nineveh arose from his throne, and laid aside his royal robes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes, as a sign of his sorrow. And the king sent out a command to his people, that they should fast, and seek the Lord, and turn from sin.
And God saw that the people of Nineveh were sorry for their wickedness, and he forgave them, and did not destroy their city. But this made Jonah very angry. He did not wish to have Nineveh spared, because it was the enemy of his own land, and also he feared that men would call him a false prophet when his word did not come to pass. And Jonah said to the Lord:
"O Lord, I was sure that it would be thus, that thou wouldest spare the city; and for that reason I tried to flee away; for I knew that thou wast a gracious God, full of pity, slow to anger, and rich in mercy. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
And Jonah went out of the city, and built a little hut on the east side of it, and sat under its roof, to see whether God would keep the word that he had spoken. Then the Lord caused a plant with thick leaves called a gourd to grow up, and to shade Jonah from the sun; and Jonah was glad, and sat under its shadow. But a worm destroyed the plant; and the next day a hot wind blew, and Jonah suffered from the heat; and again Jonah wished that he might die. And the Lord said to Jonah, "You were sorry to see the plant die, though you did not make it grow, and though it came up in a night and died in a night. And should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, where are more than a hundred thousand little children, and also many cattle, all helpless and knowing nothing?"
Jonah and his gourd.
And Jonah learned that men, and women, and little children, are all precious in the sight of the Lord, even though they know not God.
In most of the books of the Old Testament, we read of the Israelite people, and of God's care of them; but we do not find in the Old Testament much about God as the Father of all men of every nation and every land. The book of Jonah stands almost alone in the Old Testament, as showing that God loves people of other nations than Israel. Even the people of Nineveh, who worshipped images, were under God's love; God was ready to hear their prayer and to save them. So the book of Jonah shows us God as "our heavenly Father."
In accordance with the kindly Badger's injunctions, the two tired animals came down to breakfast very late next morning, and found a bright fire burning in the kitchen, and two young hedgehogs sitting on a bench at the table, eating oatmeal porridge out of wooden bowls. The hedgehogs dropped their spoons, rose to their feet, and ducked their heads respectfully as the two entered.
"There, sit down, sit down," said the Rat pleasantly, "and go on with your porridge. Where have you youngsters come from? Lost your way in the snow, I suppose?"
"Yes, please, sir," said the elder of the two hedgehogs respectfully. "Me and
little Billy here, we was trying to find our way to school—mother
would have us
go, was the weather ever so—and of course we lost ourselves, sir, and Billy he
got frightened and took and cried, being young and faint-hearted. And at last we
happened up against Mr. Badger's back door, and made so bold as to knock, sir,
for Mr. Badger he's a kind-hearted gentleman, as every one
"I understand," said the Rat, cutting himself some rashers from a side of bacon, while the Mole dropped some eggs into a saucepan. "And what's the weather like outside? You needn't 'sir' me quite so much," he added.
"O, terrible bad, sir, terrible deep the snow is," said the hedgehog. "No getting out for the likes of you gentlemen to-day."
"Where's Mr. Badger?" inquired the Mole, as he warmed the coffee-pot before the fire.
"The master's gone into his study, sir," replied the hedgehog, "and he said as how he was going to be particular busy this morning, and on no account was he to be disturbed."
This explanation, of course, was thoroughly understood by every one present. The fact is, as already set forth, when you live a life of intense activity for six months in the year, and of comparative or actual somnolence for the other six, during the latter period you cannot be continually pleading sleepiness when there are people about or things to be done. The excuse gets monotonous. The animals well knew that Badger, having eaten a hearty breakfast, had retired to his study and settled himself in an arm-chair with his legs up on another and a red cotton handkerchief over his face, and was being "busy" in the usual way at this time of the year.
The front-door bell clanged loudly, and the Rat, who was very greasy with buttered toast, sent Billy, the smaller hedgehog, to see who it might be. There was a sound of much stamping in the hall, and presently Billy returned in front of the Otter, who threw himself on the Rat with an embrace and a shout of affectionate greeting.
"Get off!" spluttered the Rat, with his mouth full.
"Thought I should find you here all right," said the Otter cheerfully. "They were all in a great state of alarm along River Bank when I arrived this morning. Rat never been home all night—nor Mole either—something dreadful must have happened, they said; and the snow had covered up all your tracks, of course. But I knew that when people were in any fix they mostly went to Badger, or else Badger got to know of it somehow, so I came straight off here, through the Wild Wood and the snow!
Through the Wild Wood and the snow.
My! it was fine, coming through the snow as the red sun was rising and showing against the black tree-trunks! As you went along in the stillness, every now and then masses of snow slid off the branches suddenly with a flop! making you jump and run for cover. Snow-castles and snow-caverns had sprung up out of nowhere in the night—and snow bridges, terraces, ramparts—I could have stayed and played with them for hours. Here and there great branches had been torn away by the sheer weight of the snow, and robins perched and hopped on them in their perky conceited way, just as if they had done it themselves. A ragged string of wild geese passed overhead, high on the grey sky, and a few rooks whirled over the trees, inspected, and flapped off homewards with a disgusted expression; but I met no sensible being to ask the news of. About halfway across I came on a rabbit sitting on a stump, cleaning his silly face with his paws. He was a pretty scared animal when I crept up behind him and placed a heavy forepaw on his shoulder. I had to cuff his head once or twice to get any sense out of it at all. At last I managed to extract from him that Mole had been seen in the Wild Wood last night by one of them. It was the talk of the burrows, he said, how Mole, Mr. Rat's particular friend, was in a bad fix; how he had lost his way, and 'They' were up and out hunting, and were chivvying him round and round. 'Then why didn't any of you do something?' I asked. 'You mayn't be blest with brains, but there are hundreds and hundreds of you, big, stout fellows, as fat as butter, and your burrows running in all directions, and you could have taken him in and made him safe and comfortable, or tried to, at all events.' 'What, us?' he merely said: 'do something? us rabbits?' So I cuffed him again and left him. There was nothing else to be done. At any rate, I had learnt something; and if I had had the luck to meet any of 'Them' I'd have learnt something more—or they would."
"Weren't you at all—er—nervous?" asked the Mole, some of yesterday's terror coming back to him at the mention of the Wild Wood.
"Nervous?" The Otter showed a gleaming set of strong white teeth as he laughed. "I'd give 'em nerves if any of them tried anything on with me. Here, Mole, fry me some slices of ham, like the good little chap you are. I'm frightfully hungry, and I've got any amount to say to Ratty here. Haven't seen him for an age."
So the good-natured Mole, having cut some slices of ham, set the hedgehogs to fry it, and returned to his own breakfast, while the Otter and the Rat, their heads together, eagerly talked river-shop, which is long shop and talk that is endless, running on like the babbling river itself.
A plate of fried ham had just been cleared and sent back for more, when the Badger entered, yawning and rubbing his eyes, and greeted them all in his quiet, simple way, with kind enquiries for every one. "It must be getting on for luncheon time," he remarked to the Otter. "Better stop and have it with us. You must be hungry, this cold morning."
"Rather!" replied the Otter, winking at the Mole. "The sight of these greedy young hedgehogs stuffing themselves with fried ham makes me feel positively famished."
The hedgehogs, who were just beginning to feel hungry again after their porridge, and after working so hard at their frying, looked timidly up at Mr. Badger, but were too shy to say anything.
"Here, you two youngsters be off home to your mother," said the Badger kindly. "I'll send some one with you to show you the way. You won't want any dinner to-day, I'll be bound."
He gave them sixpence apiece and a pat on the head, and they went off with much respectful swinging of caps and touching of forelocks.
Out on the breeze,
O'er land and seas,
A beautiful banner is streaming,
Shining its stars,
Splendid its bars,
Under the sunshine 'tis gleaming.
Hail to the flag,
The dear, bonny
The flag that is red, white, and blue.
Over the brave
Long may it wave,
Peace to the world ever bringing,
While to the stars
Linked with the bars
Hearts will forever be singing:
Hail to the flag,
The dear, bonny
The flag that is red, white, and blue.