WEEK 26 |
T HEIR belief in the Magic was an abiding thing. After the morning's incantations Colin sometimes gave them Magic lectures.
"I like to do it," he explained, "because when I grow up and make great scientific discoveries I shall be obliged to lecture about them and so this is practise. I can only give short lectures now because I am very young, and besides Ben Weatherstaff would feel as if he was in church and he would go to sleep."
"Th' best thing about lecturin'," said Ben, "is that a chap can get up an' say aught he pleases an' no other chap can answer him back. I wouldn't be agen' lecturin' a bit mysel' sometimes."
But when Colin held forth under his tree old Ben fixed devouring eyes on him and kept them there. He looked him over with critical affection. It was not so much the lecture which interested him as the legs which looked straighter and stronger each day, the boyish head which held itself up so well, the once sharp chin and hollow cheeks which had filled and rounded out and the eyes which had begun to hold the light he remembered in another pair. Sometimes when Colin felt Ben's earnest gaze meant that he was much impressed he wondered what he was reflecting on and once when he had seemed quite entranced he questioned him.
"What are you thinking about, Ben Weatherstaff?" he asked.
"I was thinkin'," answered Ben, "as I'd warrant tha's gone up three or four pound this week. I was lookin' at tha' calves an' tha' shoulders. I'd like to get thee on a pair o' scales."
"It's the Magic and—and Mrs. Sowerby's buns and milk and things," said Colin. "You see the scientific experiment has succeeded."
That morning Dickon was too late to hear the lecture. When he came he was ruddy with running and his funny face looked more twinkling than usual. As they had a good deal of weeding to do after the rains they fell to work. They always had plenty to do after a warm deep sinking rain. The moisture which was good for the flowers was also good for the weeds which thrust up tiny blades of grass and points of leaves which must be pulled up before their roots took too firm hold. Colin was as good at weeding as any one in these days and he could lecture while he was doing it.
"The Magic works best when you work yourself," he said this morning. "You can feel it in your bones and muscles. I am going to read books about bones and muscles, but I am going to write a book about Magic. I am making it up now. I keep finding out things."
It was not very long after he had said this that he laid down his trowel and stood up on his feet. He had been silent for several minutes and they had seen that he was thinking out lectures, as he often did. When he dropped his trowel and stood upright it seemed to Mary and Dickon as if a sudden strong thought had made him do it. He stretched himself out to his tallest height and he threw out his arms exultantly. Color glowed in his face and his strange eyes widened with joyfulness. All at once he had realized something to the full.
"Mary! Dickon!" he cried. "Just look at me!"
They stopped their weeding and looked at him.
"Do you remember that first morning you brought me in here?" he demanded.
Dickon was looking at him very hard. Being an animal charmer he could see more things than most people could and many of them were things he never talked about. He saw some of them now in this boy.
"Aye, that we do," he answered.
Mary looked hard too, but she said nothing.
"Just this minute," said Colin, "all at once I remembered it myself—when I looked at my hand digging with the trowel—and I had to stand up on my feet to see if it was real. And it is real! I'm well—I'm well!"
"Aye, that tha' art!" said Dickon.
"I'm well! I'm well!" said Colin again, and his face went quite red all over.
He had known it before in a way, he had hoped it and felt it and thought about it, but just at that minute something had rushed all through him—a sort of rapturous belief and realization and it had been so strong that he could not help calling out.
"I shall live forever and ever and ever!" he cried grandly. "I shall find out thousands and thousands of things. I shall find out about people and creatures and everything that grows—like Dickon—and I shall never stop making Magic. I'm well! I'm well! I feel—I feel as if I want to shout out something—something thankful, joyful!"
Ben Weatherstaff, who had been working near a rose-bush, glanced round at him.
"Tha' might sing th' Doxology," he suggested in his dryest grunt. He had no opinion of the Doxology and he did not make the suggestion with any particular reverence.
But Colin was of an exploring mind and he knew nothing about the Doxology.
"What is that?" he inquired.
"Dickon can sing it for thee, I'll warrant," replied Ben Weatherstaff.
Dickon answered with his all-perceiving animal charmer's smile.
"They sing it i' church," he said. "Mother says she believes th' skylarks sings it when they gets up i' th' mornin'."
"If she says that, it must be a nice song," Colin answered. "I've never been in a church myself. I was always too ill. Sing it, Dickon. I want to hear it."
Dickon was quite simple and unaffected about it. He understood what Colin felt better than Colin did himself. He understood by a sort of instinct so natural that he did not know it was understanding. He pulled off his cap and looked round still smiling.
"Tha' must take off tha' cap," he said to Colin, "an' so mun tha', Ben—an' tha' mun stand up, tha' knows."
Colin took off his cap and the sun shone on and warmed his thick hair as he watched Dickon intently. Ben Weatherstaff scrambled up from his knees and bared his head too with a sort of puzzled half-resentful look on his old face as if he didn't know exactly why he was doing this remarkable thing.
Dickon stood out among the trees and rose-bushes and began to sing in quite a simple matter-of-fact way and in a nice strong boy voice:
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
When he had finished, Ben Weatherstaff was standing quite still with his jaws set obstinately but with a disturbed look in his eyes fixed on Colin. Colin's face was thoughtful and appreciative.
"It is a very nice song," he said. "I like it. Perhaps it means just what I mean when I want to shout out that I am thankful to the Magic." He stopped and thought in a puzzled way. "Perhaps they are both the same thing. How can we know the exact names of everything? Sing it again, Dickon. Let us try, Mary. I want to sing it, too. It's my song. How does it begin? 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow'?"
And they sang it again, and Mary and Colin lifted their voices as musically as they could and Dickon's swelled quite loud and beautiful—and at the second line Ben Weatherstaff raspingly cleared his throat and at the third he joined in with such vigor that it seemed almost savage and when the "Amen" came to an end Mary observed that the very same thing had happened to him which had happened when he found out that Colin was not a cripple—his chin was twitching and he was staring and winking and his leathery old cheeks were wet.
"I never seed no sense in th' Doxology afore," he said hoarsely, "but I may change my mind i' time. I should say tha'd gone up five pound this week, Mester Colin—five on 'em!"
Colin was looking across the garden at something attracting his attention and his expression had become a startled one.
"Who is coming in here?" he said quickly. "Who is it?"
The door in the ivied wall had been pushed gently open and a woman had entered. She had come in with the last line of their song and she had stood still listening and looking at them. With the ivy behind her, the sunlight drifting through the trees and dappling her long blue cloak, and her nice fresh face smiling across the greenery she was rather like a softly colored illustration in one of Colin's books. She had wonderful affectionate eyes which seemed to take everything in—all of them, even Ben Weatherstaff and the "creatures" and every flower that was in bloom. Unexpectedly as she had appeared, not one of them felt that she was an intruder at all. Dickon's eyes lighted like lamps.
"It's Mother—that's who it is!" he cried and he went across the grass at a run.
Colin began to move toward her, too, and Mary went with him. They both felt their pulses beat faster.
"It's Mother!" Dickon said again when they met half-way. "I knowed tha' wanted to see her an' I told her where th' door was hid."
Colin held out his hand with a sort of flushed royal shyness but his eyes quite devoured her face.
"Even when I was ill I wanted to see you," he said, "you and Dickon and the secret garden. I'd never wanted to see any one or anything before."
The sight of his uplifted face brought about a sudden change in her own. She flushed and the corners of her mouth shook and a mist seemed to sweep over her eyes.
"Eh! dear lad!" she broke out tremulously. "Eh! dear lad!" as if she had not known she were going to say it. She did not say, "Mester Colin," but just "dear lad" quite suddenly. She might have said it to Dickon in the same way if she had seen something in his face which touched her. Colin liked it.
"Are you surprised because I am so well?" he asked.
She put her hand on his shoulder and smiled the mist out of her eyes.
"Aye, that I am!" she said; "but tha'rt so like thy mother tha' made my heart jump."
"Do you think," said Colin a little awkwardly, "that will make my father like me?"
"Aye, for sure, dear lad," she answered and she gave his shoulder a soft quick pat. "He mun come home—he mun come home."
"Susan Sowerby," said Ben Weatherstaff, getting close to her. "Look at th' lad's legs, wilt tha'? They was like drumsticks i' stockin' two month' ago—an' I heard folk tell as they was bandy an' knock-kneed both at th' same time. Look at 'em now!"
Susan Sowerby laughed a comfortable laugh.
"They're goin' to be fine strong lad's legs in a bit," she said. "Let him go on playin' an' workin' in th' garden an' eatin' hearty an' drinkin' plenty o' good sweet milk an' there'll not be a finer pair i' Yorkshire, thank God for it."
She put both hands on Mistress Mary's shoulders and looked her little face over in a motherly fashion.
"An' thee, too!" she said. "Tha'rt grown near as hearty as our 'Lizabeth Ellen. I'll warrant tha'rt like thy mother too. Our Martha told me as Mrs. Medlock heard she was a pretty woman. Tha'lt be like a blush rose when tha' grows up, my little lass, bless thee."
She did not mention that when Martha came home on her "day out" and described the plain sallow child she had said that she had no confidence whatever in what Mrs. Medlock had heard. "It doesn't stand to reason that a pretty woman could be th' mother o' such a fou' little lass," she had added obstinately.
Mary had not had time to pay much attention to her changing face. She had only known that she looked "different" and seemed to have a great deal more hair and that it was growing very fast. But remembering her pleasure in looking at the Mem Sahib in the past she was glad to hear that she might some day look like her.
Susan Sowerby went round their garden with them and was told the whole story of it and shown every bush and tree which had come alive. Colin walked on one side of her and Mary on the other. Each of them kept looking up at her comfortable rosy face, secretly curious about the delightful feeling she gave them—a sort of warm, supported feeling. It seemed as if she understood them as Dickon understood his "creatures." She stooped over the flowers and talked about them as if they were children. Soot followed her and once or twice cawed at her and flew upon her shoulder as if it were Dickon's. When they told her about the robin and the first flight of the young ones she laughed a motherly little mellow laugh in her throat.
"I suppose learnin' 'em to fly is like learnin' children to walk, but I'm feared I should be all in a worrit if mine had wings instead o' legs," she said.
It was because she seemed such a wonderful woman in her nice moorland cottage way that at last she was told about the Magic.
"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin after he had explained about Indian fakirs. "I do hope you do."
"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee a well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million—worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it—an' call it what tha' likes. Tha' wert singin' to it when I come into th' garden."
"I felt so joyful," said Colin, opening his beautiful strange eyes at her. "Suddenly I felt how different I was—how strong my arms and legs were, you know—and how I could dig and stand—and I jumped up and wanted to shout out something to anything that would listen."
"Th' Magic listened when tha' sung th' Doxology. It would ha' listened to anything tha'd sung. It was th' joy that mattered. Eh! lad, lad—what's names to th' Joy Maker," and she gave his shoulders a quick soft pat again.
She had packed a basket which held a regular feast this morning, and when the hungry hour came and Dickon brought it out from its hiding place, she sat down with them under their tree and watched them devour their food, laughing and quite gloating over their appetites. She was full of fun and made them laugh at all sorts of odd things. She told them stories in broad Yorkshire and taught them new words. She laughed as if she could not help it when they told her of the increasing difficulty there was in pretending that Colin was still a fretful invalid.
"You see we can't help laughing nearly all the time when we are together," explained Colin. "And it doesn't sound ill at all. We try to choke it back but it will burst out and that sounds worse than ever."
"There's one thing that comes into my mind so often," said Mary, "and I can scarcely ever hold in when I think of it suddenly. I keep thinking suppose Colin's face should get to look like a full moon. It isn't like one yet but he gets a tiny bit fatter every day—and suppose some morning it should look like one—what should we do!"
"Bless us all, I can see tha' has a good bit o' play actin' to do," said Susan Sowerby. "But tha' won't have to keep it up much longer. Mester Craven'll come home."
"Do you think he will?" asked Colin. "Why?"
Susan Sowerby chuckled softly.
"I suppose it 'ud nigh break thy heart if he found out before tha' told him in tha' own way," she said. "Tha's laid awake nights plannin' it."
"I couldn't bear any one else to tell him," said Colin. "I think about different ways every day. I think now I just want to run into his room."
"That'd be a fine start for him," said Susan Sowerby. "I'd like to see his face, lad. I would that! He mun come back—that he mun."
One of the things they talked of was the visit they were to make to her cottage. They planned it all. They were to drive over the moor and lunch out of doors among the heather. They would see all the twelve children and Dickon's garden and would not come back until they were tired.
Susan Sowerby got up at last to return to the house and Mrs. Medlock. It was time for Colin to be wheeled back also. But before he got into his chair he stood quite close to Susan and fixed his eyes on her with a kind of bewildered adoration and he suddenly caught hold of the fold of her blue cloak and held it fast.
"You are just what I—what I wanted," he said. "I wish you were my mother—as well as Dickon's!"
All at once Susan Sowerby bent down and drew him with her warm arms close against the bosom under the blue cloak—as if he had been Dickon's brother. The quick mist swept over her eyes.
"Eh! dear lad!" she said. "Thy own mother's in this 'ere very garden, I do believe. She couldna' keep out of it. Thy father mun come back to thee—he mun!"
L ONG, long ago, there lived in Persia a little prince whose name was Cyrus.
He was not petted and spoiled like many other princes. Although his father was a king, Cyrus was brought up like the son of a common man.
He knew how to work with his hands. He ate only the plainest food. He slept on a hard bed. He learned to endure hunger and cold.
When Cyrus was twelve years old he went with his mother to Media to visit his grandfather. His grandfather, whose name was Astyages, was king of Media, and very rich and powerful.
Cyrus was so tall and strong and handsome that his grandfather was very proud of him. He wished the lad to stay with him in Media. He therefore gave him many beautiful gifts and everything that could please a prince.
One day King Astyages planned to make a great feast for the lad. The tables were to be laden with all kinds of food. There was to be music and dancing; and Cyrus was to invite as many guests as he chose.
The hour for the feast came. Everything was ready. The servants were there, dressed in fine uniforms. The musicians and dancers were in their places. But no guests came.
"How is this, my dear boy?" asked the king. "The feast is ready, but no one has come to partake of it."
"That is because I have not invited any one," said Cyrus. "In Persia we do not have such feasts. If any one is hungry, he eats some bread and meat, with perhaps a few cresses, and that is the end of it. We never go to all this trouble and expense of making a fine dinner in order that our friends may eat what is not good for them."
King Astyages did not know whether to be pleased or displeased.
"Well," said he, "all these rich foods that were prepared for the feast are yours. What will you do with them?"
"I think I will give them to our friends," said Cyrus.
So he gave one portion to the king's officer who had taught him to ride. Another portion he gave to an old servant who waited upon his grandfather. And the rest he divided among the young women who took care of his mother.
The king's cupbearer, Sarcas, was very much offended because he was not given a share of the feast. The king also wondered why this man, who was his favorite, should be so slighted.
"Why didn't you give something to Sarcas?" he asked.
"Well, truly," said Cyrus, "I do not like him. He is proud and overbearing. He thinks that he makes a fine figure when he waits on you."
"And so he does," said the king. "He is very skillful as a cupbearer."
"That may be so," answered Cyrus, "but if you will let me
be your cupbearer
King Astyages smiled. He saw that Cyrus had a will of his own, and this pleased him very much.
"I shall be glad to see what you can do," he said. "Tomorrow, you shall be the king's cupbearer."
You would hardly have known the young prince when the time came for him to appear before his grandfather. He was dressed in the rich uniform of the cupbearer, and he came forward with much dignity and grace.
He carried a white napkin upon his arm, and held the cup of wine very daintily with three of his fingers. His manners were perfect. Sarcas himself could not have served the king half so well.
"Bravo! bravo!" cried his mother, her eyes sparkling with pride.
"You have done well" said his grandfather. "But you neglected one important thing. It is the rule and custom of the cupbearer to pour out a little of the wine and taste it before handing the cup to me. This you forgot to do."
"Indeed, grandfather, I did not forget it," answered Cyrus.
"Then why didn't you do it?" asked his mother.
"Because I believed there was poison in the wine."
"Poison, my boy!" cried King Astyages, much alarmed. "Poison! poison!"
"Yes, grandfather, poison. For the other day, when you sat at dinner with your officers, I noticed that the wine made you act queerly. After the guests had drunk quite a little of it, they began to talk foolishly and sing loudly; and some of them went to sleep. And you, grandfather, were as bad as the rest. You forgot that you were king. You forgot all your good manners. You tried to dance and fell upon the floor. I am afraid to drink anything that makes men act in that way."
"Didn't you ever see your father behave so?" asked the king.
"No, never," said Cyrus. "He does not drink merely to be drinking. He drinks to quench his thirst, and that is all."
When Cyrus became a man, he succeeded his father as king of Persia; he also succeeded his grandfather Astyages as king of Media. He was a very wise and powerful ruler, and he made his country the greatest of any that was then known. In history he is commonly called Cyrus the Great.
"Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" calling,
Ere the early dews were falling,
Farre away I heard her song.
"Cusha! Cusha!" all along;
Where the reedy Lindis floweth,
From the meads where melick groweth
Faintly came her milking song,—
"Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" calling,
"For the dews will soon be falling;
Leave your meadow grasses mellow,
Quit your cowslips, cowslips yellow;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot,
Quit the stalks of parsley hollow,
Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow,
From the clovers lift your head;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot,
Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow,
Jetty, to the milking shed."
WEEK 26 |
W ILLIAM was ruler of the land, but English hearts never accepted him. Norman and Englishman lived side by side, yet a wide sea of hatred kept them apart.
As he had promised, William rewarded the Norman barons and nobles who had helped him to conquer England. He gave them the lands and goods of the conquered people, so it was not wonderful that there was fierce hatred between the two races.
The Normans were greedy, and they not only took the lands which William gave them, but they forced the English to pay large sums of money too. Every high position was filled by Normans, and the English were forced to be the servants and slaves of these proud Norman masters.
The Normans talked a great deal of "right," but the more they talked of right, the more wrong they did. The very sheriffs and judges, who ought to have seen that the laws were kept and that justice was done, were more greedy than thieves and robbers, and the king was greediest of all. He made the people pay tolls and taxes until they had hardly any money left. Much of this money he took away with him to France, much he kept locked up in his strong treasure-room.
As if he had not already spoiled enough of the country in battle, William next laid waste a great part in the south, simply because he was very fond of hunting and he wanted a good hunting-ground. He turned the people out of their houses, burning and ruining whole villages in order to make a great place in which to ride and hunt. He called this place the New Forest and it is so called to this day.
Having made this forest, William also made forest laws. These laws were very cruel. If any person was found hunting or killing the deer or other wild animals, his eyes were put out or his hands and ears were cut off. So the poor people, who had been driven from their homes dared not even kill the wild animals for food.
William did not do much that was kind, but some things which he did were wise. Among the wise things was the law which he made that all lights and fires must be put out at eight o'clock at night.
Nowadays we should think it very hard indeed if all fires and lights had to be put out at eight o'clock. But in those days people used to rise very early, and go to bed very early, so that it was not a great hardship. It was really a wise rule, because nearly all the houses were built of wood, and if people were careless and went to bed leaving large fires burning, the houses were apt to catch fire. In a town all built of wood, if one house caught fire sometimes a whole street would be burned to the ground before the fire could be put out.
By this wise law William made the danger of fires much less.
Every night at eight o'clock a bell was rung. This bell was
Another wise thing which William did was to make what is called the Domesday Book, or book of judgment. This was a very big book in which a description of all the great houses and lands in the kingdom was written down, with the names of the people to whom the land and houses belonged. This book was very useful at the time, and it has been very useful since. For one thing it shows us how much land was taken from the English and given to the Normans.
When William gave the Normans land he did not give it to them for nothing. In return they had to promise to come to help the King in battle and to bring men with them. The more land they got the more men they had to promise to provide in time of war. When William wished to know how many men a certain lord would bring to fight for him, he only needed to look at his great book to see how much land he had. This plan of paying for land by fighting was called the feudal system, and it lasted in England for many years.
William spent a great deal of time in Normandy, for, though he was proud to be King of England, he loved his Norman home far better. It was in Normandy that he died.
William had been fighting with the King of France, and, with his usual cruelty, he had burned a town belonging to that king. While William was riding about among the ruins, his horse stepped upon some hot ashes, stumbled, and he was thrown to the ground. William was by this time very fat and old, and the fall hurt him so much that in a few days he died.
Only two of William's sons were with him at the time. Robert, the eldest, had quarrelled with his father long before, and was far away. But, as he lay dying, William wished to be at peace with every one. He forgave Robert and left the crown of Normandy to him. "And," he said, "although the crown of England is not mine to give away, I should like William to have it." And the son, eager to claim his father's crown, seized the great signet ring which the dying king still wore, and drew it from his finger.
To Henry, his youngest son, William left a large sum of money.
Then William and Henry hurried off to England; the one to demand the crown, the other to make sure of his treasure. The great Conqueror was left to die alone.
A strange thing happened while William was being buried. Fire broke out in the streets just as it had done when he was being crowned. The people who were carrying the bier fled, so once more the Conqueror was left alone with a few priests. They would have buried him hurriedly but, as they began the service, a young man stepped forward and stopped them. "This ground," he said, "was taken from my father by the very king whom you now wish to bury here. He has no right to the land. It is mine, not his. I refuse to allow him to be buried in it."
So even in death the Conqueror was to find no resting-place. But the priests bargained with the young man, and at last, for the sum of sixty shillings, he allowed them to bury the King in his ground.
And there the Conqueror was at last laid to rest.
S OMEWHERE, in a pleasant country place, there is a little lake. It is cheerfully called "Holiday Pond." The name itself sounds like an invitation to come and have a happy vacation.
Blueberry bushes grow on a hill near by; and the fruit, ripened in the sunshine, is very sweet. When you bend over to pick the berries, the sun makes the back of your neck feel warm at first, then hot. In spite of the juice in the berries you become thirsty.
So you go down to the water to bathe your face and drink and wade. After that you rest on the shore where some bushes make a cool shadow.
Then you forget that you have been hot and tired, for you begin to see the stories of Holiday Pond. Real stories—live stories—and so many of them going on at the same time that you may choose the ones that please you most!
There are frogs, those of each kind with manners of their own. The spotted pickerel frogs, sunning themselves in plain sight among the stones a rod or so up the bank, hop quietly to the water when you come near them. An old water-soaked trunk of a fallen tree makes a bridge across a corner of the pond. If you walk out on it the clamoring frogs that have been hiding there, plunge and splash into the water. They yell wildly as they leap and the first time you hear them you jump nearly as far as they do. They surprise you so! There is a calm bullfrog sitting on a broad lily leaf. His body is so nearly the color of the leaf that you might not notice him if it were not for his bright eyes. Those eyes watch you but the frog does not seem nervous. He does not bother to jump until you are almost near enough to touch him.
Some tiny painted turtles, all just the same size, are paddling about and stretching their necks while they hunt for their dinner.
Four young sandpipers walk along the edge of the water. Each bird calls to the others often enough to keep the members of the family from straying too far apart.
A damsel-fly, a dainty blue cousin of the dragon-fly, wraps her filmy wings about her body and creeps down the stem of a plant to the bottom of the pond. You can see her moving about in the clear water for many minutes, and you watch to see whether she will come up again and fly away.
The queer tracks at the margin of the pond are those of the raccoon who came down to wash his food before he ate it.
At the outlet, near the mouth of Holiday Stream are a lot of little fishes. They are ready to leave the pond and follow the stream to the sea. You would like to walk along the bank and go with them. But just then something flies down to the yellow pond lily and you creep as near as you can to see what it is.
So you stay at Holiday Pond and choose which of the real stories—live stories—you will watch. Perhaps some of them will be like those which are written in this book.
A flower was offered to me,
Such a flower as May never bore;
But I said, "I've a pretty rose tree,"
And I passed the sweet flower o'er.
Then I went to my pretty rose tree,
To tend her by day and by night;
But my rose turned away with jealousy,
And her thorns were my only delight.
WEEK 26 |
"T HE two remaining members of the Weasel family none of you have ever seen," began Old Mother Nature, when she opened school at the old meeting place in the Green Forest the morning after their visit to the Smiling Pool. "You have never seen them because they live in the deep forests of the Far North. But were you living up there, you would know them, and the dread of them would seldom be out of your mind. One is called Spite the Marten and the other Pekan the Fisher.
"Spite the Marten is also called the Pine Marten and the American Sable, and he is one of the handsomest members of the Weasel family. Shadow the Weasel can climb, but he spends most of his time on the ground. Jimmy Skunk and Digger the Badger are not climbers at all. Little Joe Otter spends most of his time in the water. But Spite the Marten is a lover of the tree tops, and is quite as much at home there as Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"When he is moving about in the trees, he looks much like a very
large Squirrel, while on the ground he might be mistaken for a
young Fox. His coat is a rich, dark, yellowish-brown, becoming
almost black on the tail and legs. His throat usually is yellow,
though sometimes it is almost white. The sides of his face are
grayish, and his
He is found only in the great forests of the North.
"Chatterer, you and your Cousin
"But he by no means confines himself to the trees. He is quite at home on the ground, and there he moves with much of the quickness of Shadow the Weasel. He delights to hunt Rabbits and he covers great distances, being even more of a traveller than Billy Mink. He doesn't kill for the love of killing, but merely for food. If he kills more than he can eat at a meal he buries it, and when he is hungry again he returns to it. Like all the other members of his family, he is a great hunter of Mice. Also he catches many birds, especially those birds which nest on the ground. Birds, eggs, Frogs, Toads, some insects and fish vary his bill of fare. But unlike his smaller cousins, he eats some other things besides flesh, including certain nuts, berries and honey.
"He isn't in the least social with his own kind but prefers to
live alone and is always ready to fight if he meets another
Marten. Being so great a traveler he has several dens.
"As I told you in the beginning he is found only in the great forests of the North. The darker and deeper they are, the better it suits him. His own cousin, Pekan the Fisher, and Tufty the Lynx, are probably the only natural enemies he has much cause to fear. His one great enemy is man. His coat is one of the most highly prized of all furs and he is persistently hunted and trapped. In fact, his coat is one of the chief prizes of the fur trappers.
"In this same deep, dark forest clear across the northern part of the country lives Pekan the Fisher, also called the Pennant Marten and Blackcat. He is larger and heavier than Spite the Marten and his coat is a brownish-black, light on the sides, and browner below. His nose, ears, feet and tail are black. He gets his name of Blackcat from his resemblance to a Cat with a bushy tail, though on the ground he looks more like a black Fox. Like his cousin, Spite the Marten, he lives in the pine and spruce forests and prefers to be near swamps. He is a splendid climber but spends quite as much time on the ground. However, he is even livelier in the trees than is Spite the Marten. Spite can catch a Squirrel in the tree tops, but Pekan can catch Spite, and often does. He isn't afraid of leaping to the ground from high up in a tree, and often when coming down a tree he comes down headfirst. He is very fond of hunting the cousins of Jumper the Hare and is so tireless that he can run them down. He is very clever and, like his cousin, Glutton the Wolverine, makes no end of trouble for trappers by stealing the baits from their traps.
One of the valuable fur‑bearing animals.
"You all remember how frightened Prickly Porky was when I merely mentioned Pekan the Fisher. It was because Pekan is almost the only one Prickly Porky has reason to fear. If Pekan is hungry he doesn't hesitate to dine on Porcupine. He has learned how to turn a Porcupine on his back, and, as you have already found out, the under part of the Porcupine is unprotected.
"Just why Pekan should be called Fisher, I don't know. True, he
eats fish when he can get them, but he isn't a water animal and
doesn't go fishing as do
"Probably all of you have guessed that being a true Marten, Pekan's coat is highly prized by the fur trappers. He hates the presence of man and with good cause.
"Now this ends the Weasel family, but that's only one family of the
order of Carnivora, or flesh eaters. There is one family you all
well that I think we will take that up next. It is the
family to which
"To-morrow morning when you get here, I may have a surprise for you."
One of the members of Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 was Benjamin Harrison, a stout and jolly man. When Congress chose John Hancock for its President, or chairman, Hancock made a modest speech, as though he would decline the place. But Benjamin Harrison just took him up in his arms and set him down in the chair.
The third son of this Benjamin Harrison was William Henry Harrison. He was born in Virginia in 1773. His father died when he was young. Young Harrison began the study of medicine, but there was a war with the Indians in the West, and he wanted to go to the war. His guardian wished him to stick to his study of medicine; but there was more soldier than doctor in Harrison, and President Washington, who had been his father's friend, made the young man an officer in the army when he was but nineteen years old.
When Harrison got to the western country the army, under the lead of General St. Clair, had been surprised by the Indians and defeated. Washington appointed General Wayne to take St. Clair's place, and Wayne gave Harrison a place on his staff. Wayne trained his men carefully, and practiced them in shooting, and when he marched it was with every care not to be surprised. The Indians called Wayne "the Chief who never Sleeps." He fought a battle with the Indians on the Maumee River, in Ohio, and he pushed them so hotly with bayonets and guns fired at short range that the Indians fled in every direction. They were so thoroughly beaten that they made peace with the white people, and the Western settlers had rest from war for a while.
In 1801 a new Territory, called Indiana, was formed. It took in all the country which now lies in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and it had but few white people in it. Harrison was made governor of this large region.
There was a young Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh [te-cum´-seh], who had fought against Wayne in 1794. He was much opposed to the Indians' selling their lands. He declared that no tribe had a right to sell land without the consent of the other tribes. There were at that time seventeen States, and the Indians called the United States the "Seventeen Fires." Tecumseh got the notion of forming all the Indian tribes into a confederacy like the "Seventeen Fires," or States, of the white men.
Tecumseh was not born a chief, but he had gathered a great band of followers, and had thus become a powerful leader. He made long journeys to the North and West, and then traveled away to the South to bring the Indians into his plan for a great war that should drive the white people back across the Alleghany Mountains. In one council at the South the Indians refused to join him. Tecumseh told them that, when he got to Detroit, he would stamp on the ground and make the houses in their village fall down. It happened soon after that an earthquake did destroy some of their houses, and the frightened Indians said, "Tecumseh has arrived at Detroit." They immediately got ready to help him against the white people.
Tecumseh had a brother who pretended to be a prophet, and who was called "The Open Door." He gathered many Indians about him at Tippecanoe, in Indiana, and he preached a war against the white people.
Governor Harrison held a council with Tecumseh at Vincennes. Seats were placed for the chief on the piazza of the governor's house, but Tecumseh insisted on holding the council in a grove. He said that the white people might bring out some chairs for themselves, but that the earth was the Indians' mother, and they would rest on her bosom.
Harrison's Council with Techmseh at Vincennes
In the discussions Tecumseh grew very angry, and his warriors seized their tomahawks and sprang to their feet. Harrison drew his sword, a white man near him showed a dirk, and a friendly Indian cocked his pistol to defend the governor, while a Methodist minister ran with a gun to protect Harrison's family. Others present armed themselves with clubs and brickbats. The soldiers now came running up to fire on the Indians; but Harrison stopped them, and told Tecumseh that he was a bad man, and that he could now go.
Tecumseh cooled down and had another talk with the governor the next day, and Harrison even went to the chief's tent with only one companion.
But General Harrison soon saw that, in spite of all he could do, war would come. Tecumseh went South to stir up the Southern tribes. He gave these far-away Indians bundles of sticks painted red. He told them to throw away one stick every day, and, when all were gone, they were to fall upon the white people.
But General Harrison thought, if there had to be war, he would rather fix the time for it himself; so, while Tecumseh was leaving his almanac of red sticks in the South, the general marched from Vincennes [van-senz´], up the Wabash [waw´-bash] to Tippecanoe [tip´-pe-ka-noo´], which was Tecumseh's home. Knowing that the Indians would try to surprise him, he fooled them into believing that he was going up on one side of the river, and then crossed to the other. He got nearly to Tippecanoe in safety, but the prophet sent messengers to him, pretending that the Indians would make peace the next day.
Harrison's men lay on their arms that night. About four o'clock on the morning of November 7, 1811, the general was pulling on his boots, intending to awaken the army, when a sentinel fired at a skulking Indian, and the war whoop sounded from the tall grass on every side. The white men put out their camp fires, so that the Indians could not see to shoot at them, and the fierce battle raged in the darkness. The signals to charge and to fall back were given to the Indians by the rattle of deers' hoofs. The prophet sung a wild war song on the neighboring hill, after promising his followers that bullets should not hurt them. But many an Indian and many a white man fell in that bloody struggle. When daylight came, Harrison's men made a charge which drove away the savages.
Harrison burned the village of Tippecanoe, and Tecumseh came back to find his plan for driving the white men over the mountains spoiled. But the war with England broke out soon after this, and Tecumseh entered the British army, and was made a brigadier general.
General Harrison was now once more opposed to Tecumseh, for he was put in command of the United States army in the West. In 1813 he was besieged in Fort Meigs [megs] by an English army under General Proctor and a body of Indians under Tecumseh.
While the English were building their batteries to fire into the fort, the Americans were very busy also, but they kept a row of tents standing to hide what they were doing. When the English guns were ready, the Americans took down their tents and showed a great earthwork that would shelter them from the batteries. This made Tecumseh angry. He said that General Harrison was like a ground hog—he stayed in his hole, and would not come out and fight like a man.
Proctor, though belonging to a civilized nation, was a heartless brute. Tecumseh was a born a savage, but he was always opposed to cruelty. Some of Harrison's men had been captured, and Proctor allowed the Indians to put them to death. When Tecumseh saw what was going on, he rushed in between the Indians and their prisoners with his tomahawk in hand, and stopped the slaughter.
"Why did you allow this?" he demanded of General Proctor.
"I could not control the Indians," said Proctor.
"Go home and put on petticoats," said Tecumseh.
The English fleet on Lake Erie was beaten in a fight with the American ships under Commodore Perry in the fall of 1813. Harrison now crossed into Canada, and the British army retreated to the river Thames [temz], where Harrison overtook it, and a battle followed. Proctor was afraid to fall into the hands of the Americans, who hated him for his cruelties to prisoners and the wounded. He ran away before the battle was over. Brave Tecumseh was killed in this fight.
Harrison left the army soon after this. In 1840 he was living in a simple way on his farm at North Bend, in Ohio, when he was nominated for President of the United States. He was elected, but he died on the 4th of April, 1841, one month after taking office.
Mowers, weary and brown and blithe,
What is the word methinks ye know,
Endless over-word that the Scythe
Sings to the blades of grass below?
Scythes that swing in the grass and clover,
Something still they say as they pass;
What is the word that, over and over,
Sings the Scythe to the flowers and grass?
Hush, ah hush, the Scythes are saying,
Hush, and heed not, and fall asleep;
Hush, they say to the grasses swaying,
Hush, they sing to the clover deep!
Hush—'tis the lullaby Time is singing—
Hush, and heed not, for all things pass.
Hush, ah hush! and the Scythes are swinging
Over the clover, over the grass!
WEEK 26 |
For seven long years the great King Charlemagne had been fighting in Spain against the Saracens. From shore to shore he had conquered the land. Everywhere the heathen people had bowed before him, owning him as their master and Christ as their God. Only the fair city of Saragossa, sitting safe among its hills, was yet unconquered. But Charlemagne had taken the not far distant Cordres, and he now was making ready to march against Saragossa.
King Marsil knew not how to save his city from the conqueror. So one day he seated himself upon his marble throne, and called his wise men together. The throne was set under the shade of his great orchard trees, for there, when the summer sun was hot, he held his court.
"My lords," he said, "great Karl of France besets our town. No host have I strong enough to meet him in the field, none that may guard our walls against him. I pray you, my lords, give me counsel. How shall we guard us, that shame and death come not upon us?"
Then all the wise men were silent, for well they knew the power and might of Charlemagne, and they wist not what to counsel.
At last Blancandrin spoke. A knight of great valour was he, and of all the heathen lords he was the wisest and most prudent. And when he spoke, all men listened.
"Send a message to this proud and haughty Karl," he said. "Promise him great friendship, give him rich presents of lions, bears and dogs; seven hundred camels ye shall send unto him, a thousand falcons. Give him four hundred mules laden with gold and silver; give him as much as fifty waggons may hold, so that he may have gold and to spare with which to pay his soldiers. But say to him, 'Too long hast thou been far from France. Return, return to thy fair city of Aix, and there at the feast of Holy Michael will I come to thee and be thy man, and be baptized, and learn of thy gentle Christ.' Charlemagne will ask hostages of thee. Well, give them—ten—twenty—whatever he may ask of thee. We will give our sons. See! I will be the first, I will give my son. And if he perish it is better so than that we should all be driven from our land to die in beggary and shame."
Then Blancandrin was silent, and all the heathen lords cried aloud, "It is well spoken."
"Yea," Blancandrin went on, "by my long beard I swear, then shalt thou see the Franks quickly return to their own land, each man to his home. St. Michael's Day will dawn. Charlemagne will hold a great feast awaiting thee. But the days will pass and thou wilt not come. Then, for the Emperor is terrible and his wrath fierce, he will slay our sons whom he holds as hostages for thee. Better so, I say, than that we should lose fair Spain and live in slavery and woe."
"Yea, so say we all!" cried the heathen lords.
"So be it," said King Marsil; "let it be done as Blancandrin hath said."
Then one by one the King called ten of his greatest lords about him. "Go ye with Blancandrin," he said. "Take olive branches in your hands in token of peace and lowliness. Say to the great Karl that for the sake of his gentle Christ he shall show pity upon me, and give me peace. Say that ere a month has gone I will follow after you. Then will I kneel to him, and put my hands in his, and swear to be his true and faithful vassal. Then shall he sprinkle me with the water of Holy Christ, and I shall be his for evermore."
All this King Marsil said with treachery in his heart, for well he knew that he would do none of these things.
"It is well," said Blancandrin, "the peace is sure."
Then mounted upon white mules, with saddles of silver and harness of gold, with olive branches in their hands and followed by a great train of slaves carrying rich presents, Blancandrin and the ten messengers set out to seek the court of the great Christian King, Charlemagne.
A very young Mouse, who had never seen anything of the world, almost came to grief the very first time he ventured out. And this is the story he told his mother about his adventures.
"I was strolling along very peaceably when, just as I turned the corner into the next yard, I saw two strange creatures. One of them had a very kind and gracious look, but the other was the most fearful monster you can imagine. You should have seen him.
"On top of his head and in front of his neck hung pieces of raw red meat. He walked about restlessly, tearing up the ground with his toes, and beating his arms savagely against his sides. The moment he caught sight of me he opened his pointed mouth as if to swallow me, and then he let out a piercing roar that frightened me almost to death."
Can you guess who it was that our young Mouse was trying to describe to his mother? It was nobody but the Barnyard Cock and the first one the little Mouse had ever seen.
"If it had not been for that terrible monster," the Mouse went on, "I should have made the acquaintance of the pretty creature, who looked so good and gentle. He had thick, velvety fur, a meek face, and a look that was very modest, though his eyes were bright and shining. As he looked at me he waved his fine long tail and smiled.
"I am sure he was just about to speak to me when the monster I have told you about let out a screaming yell, and I ran for my life."
"My son," said the Mother Mouse, "that gentle creature you saw was none other than the Cat. Under his kindly appearance, he bears a grudge against every one of us. The other was nothing but a bird who wouldn't harm you in the least. As for the Cat, he eats us. So be thankful, my child, that you escaped with your life, and, as long as you live, never judge people by their looks."
Do not trust alone to outward appearances.
Fly, white butterflies, out to sea,
Frail pale wings for the wind to try,
Small white wings that we scarce can see,
Some fly light as a laugh of glee,
Some fly soft as a low long sigh;
All to the haven where each would be,
WEEK 26 |
"And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold."
B ESIDES Howard, Drake, and Hawkins, no one had been of more use in pursuing the Spanish Armada than Martin Frobisher.
Born in 1535, he had been at sea all his life; for he was one of the first among early explorers to sail amid the ice of the far north in search of a passage to China by North America. For years past it had been the dream of every voyager to find a short way to the East by which English wares could be exchanged for the pearls and spice of India without the long voyage by the Cape of Good Hope.
It had been the dream of Cabot, and the dream of Sir Hugh Willoughby, who had perished in the attempt. It was now the dream of Martin Frobisher. The discovery of the north-west passage, he said, was "the only thing of the world that was yet left undone by which a notable mind might be made famous and fortunate." He did not care for plundering Spanish ships laden with treasure. Rather did he look for honour for his country, fame for himself, knowledge of new lands for the whole world. The idea did not appeal to his countrymen, and, like Columbus before him, he asked for ships and money in vain.
For thirteen long years he toiled, until at last a patron arose to supply the necessary funds, and in the year 1576 two little ships, the Gabriel and Michael, left England for the ice-bound regions of the north. Wondrous, indeed, was the courage of the man who set forth on such an expedition of danger, with two small ships and a crew of only thirty-five men.
Queen Elizabeth stood at an open window of her palace at Greenwich waving farewell to the captain of this little fleet bound for unknown seas of ice. She recognised the greatness of his spirit and the daring of his adventure, but she had not stirred a finger to get him new ships for his perilous undertaking.
So Frobisher sailed away to the north by the eastern coast of England and the north of Scotland. Here a furious storm broke over the little ships, and before ever Frobisher had reached the icy coast of Greenland the Gabriel was alone. The Michael had deserted and gone home with the story that Frobisher himself had perished in a storm. Meanwhile the captain was sailing bravely onwards with his storm-shattered ship and his diminished crew of eighteen.
"I will sacrifice my life to God rather than return home without discovering a north-west passage to Cathay," he said to his men with that enthusiasm which alone can carry a man through great enterprises. And the men, catching his spirit of courage, sailed their battered ship across to the shores of Labrador. Amid a group of American islands he entered what seemed to be a strait that might lead to the East. Bearing in mind Magellan's Straits, leading from the Atlantic to the Pacific by South America, he named these Frobisher's Straits, hoping they might lead from ocean to ocean by North America. Further than all former mariners he sailed into this unknown sea. Yet for all his courage, the expedition failed: man after man died, the weather grew very cold, snow fell heavily, and reluctantly he sailed home.
A curious thing now happened. A stone which he had brought from the frozen regions to England was said to contain gold. Martin Frobisher sprang into fame. A new fleet was at once fitted out, not for the discovery of the north-west passage, but for the discovery of more gold. The queen sent a large ship of her own this time; men offered their services by the score; Frobisher was made High Admiral of all seas and waters, countries, lands, and isles, of the icy north, and in 1577 he sailed off on his second expedition. The fleet did not go far, but it returned laden with supposed gold. Kneeling on the frozen snow, the little party of Englishmen had taken possession of the country in the name of the queen, leaving a cross of stones and the English flag flying.
While Drake was sailing round the world, Martin Frobisher was being given command of a yet more famous fleet of fifteen ships, so that he should sail to the frozen land of gold, and leave there a little colony of Englishmen to protect English interests from strangers. Away sailed the magnificent fleet, away once more to the northern coast of America, towards Frobisher's Straits. Amid snow and ice, fogs and gales, the ships made their way. One vessel was crushed between mighty icebergs. In a thick fog the ships lost their course, but Frobisher now made the greatest discovery of his life. He had found out that Frobisher's Straits were no straits, but a bay.
Now, to the north of Frobisher's Bay he was sailing west, through another channel, which might lead on into the open sea beyond. In reality he was sailing up the straits known later as Hudson's Straits, and he was close on the entrance to the great inland sea of North America, when he turned back to fulfill his orders and search for gold. The ships returned home with their freight of stones, but by this time England was raging with disappointment, for little enough gold had been produced from the black stones of the frozen north, and no more ships were sent in search of it. The plan of a colony was given up. It was three hundred years before the north-west passage into the Pacific Ocean was found, after many a ship had been lost and many a life laid down. Intricate enough was the channel that led from sea to sea, and far to the north of anything that Martin Frobisher, with all his courage and with all his enthusiasm, could ever have found with the imperfect ships at his command.
Well was it for Perseus that he remembered what would happen to him if he looked at Medusa. And yet how in the world was he to fight her without looking at her? That was a puzzle indeed. Suddenly he bethought himself of Minerva's shield, which was polished like a mirror. He turned it towards Medusa, and saw, not herself indeed, but her reflection in the polished shield, which did just as well.
She was indeed a monster—more terrible even than he had expected. She was of gigantic size, hideous and cruel in face, with the scales and wings of a dragon, horrible claws, and hundreds of writhing and hissing snakes on her head instead of hair. No wonder that anybody who looked on her was turned at once into stone. Perseus, wearing his helmet, and guiding himself by his mirror, from which he never moved his eyes, drew his diamond blade, sprang upon the monster, gave one stroke just between her chin and where her scales began, and, in a single moment, her hideous head was rolling on the sand. The snakes gave one last hiss, and the deed was done.
Still keeping his eyes turned away, Perseus, by using his mirror, found the head, which he slung out of his sight behind him. Scarcely had he done this when he heard again the sound of wings, like a great wind—the sisters of Medusa, the other two Gorgons, were flying over the lake like hurricanes to take vengeance upon her slayer. They could not see Perseus himself, because of his helmet; but they saw their sister's head at his back, and could thus swoop down upon him. But Perseus, remembering his winged sandals, sprang up into the air, and off he flew, with the raging Gorgons after him.
It was a terrible race! Perseus would not throw away the head, though it left such a track behind him. For from one of the splashes of blood which fell upon the earth sprang the giant Chrysaor, armed with a golden sword; from another leaped into life the winged horse Pegasus, who immediately darted off through the air and never stopped until he alighted among the Muses upon Mount Helicon; the smaller drops of blood as they fell became countless serpents, and all manner of loathsome crawling things. On and on Perseus flew, not knowing whither, like one hunted in some horrible dream, till his strength failed him, and he came down to earth, swiftly and half fainting.
When he opened his eyes and raised himself from the ground, he found himself in the most beautiful garden he had ever seen, full of trees laden with fruits of gold. But before him stood a huge giant, so tall that his head was above the clouds. The giant stooped till Perseus could see his face, and said in a voice of thunder:—
"I am Atlas, King of Mauritania! How has a miserable pigmy like you passed the dragon who guards the gate of the garden of golden apples, and entered in?"
"Then from you, as king of this land," said Perseus, "I claim shelter and protection in my father's name! For the avengers of blood are following after me to kill me."
"You are safe with me," said Atlas. "But who is your father, that you claim shelter and protection in his name?"
"My name is Perseus," said Perseus, proudly, "and I am the son of Jupiter, the king of gods and men!"
"Of Jupiter?" thundered Atlas. "Then—prepare to die!"
"You would kill a son of Jupiter?" asked Perseus, amazed.
"Ay, and any son of Jupiter who comes in my way! For hath it not been foretold that by a son of Jupiter shall I be robbed of my golden apples? For what else are you here? Son of Jupiter, once more, prepare to die!" And so saying, he lifted his enormous arm, one blow of which would have swept away ten thousand men as if they were a swarm of flies.
Perseus gave himself up for lost, for he had no more chance against Atlas than a beetle would have against an elephant. However, like a brave knight, he resolved to die fighting: he drew his sword and grasped his shield—at least what he meant to be his shield; for it chanced to be Medusa's head which he brought from behind his shoulder and held up before the giant. Down came the huge right arm of Atlas to crush him. But even in death the head did its work. No sooner were Medusa's staring eyes turned upon the giant than all in a moment his limbs stiffened, and he became a vast mountain of stone, with its head above the clouds. And there stands Mount Atlas to this day.
Thankful for his wonderful escape, Perseus, without taking a single golden apple, continued his journey, no longer pursued by the Gorgons, who had doubtless lost trace of him. Leaving Mauritania, he recrossed the great Libyan desert, and traveled on and on until he reached the coast of Ethiopia, and entered a great city on the seashore.
But though the place was evidently great and rich, the whole air seemed full of sadness and gloom. The people went about silent and sighing, and altogether so woe-begone that they had no attention to spare for a stranger. When he reached the king's palace the signs of mourning were deeper still: it was like entering a tomb, all was so plunged in speechless sorrow.
"What is the matter?" asked Perseus at last, seizing a passing servant by the arm, and compelling him to listen. "Is it the death of the king?"
"Ah, if it were only that!" said the man. "But no; King Cepheus is alive and well. Alas, and woe is me!" And so once more he fell to wailing, and passed on.
Thus over and over again Perseus vainly sought an answer, getting nothing but tears and groans. And so, none heeding him, he went on till he reached a chamber where sat the king himself in the midst of his court; and here was the deepest mourning of all.
"I perceive you are a stranger," said King Cepheus. "Pardon us if we have seemed inhospitable and unlike the Æthiopians, the friends of the gods; it is not our way. But," he continued, the tears flowing as he spoke, "if you knew, you would understand."
"Let me know," said Perseus gently, for he was filled with pity for the king's tears.
"My daughter, the Princess Andrŏmĕda," answered the king, "is condemned to a horrible death; I know not whether she is yet alive."
"How," asked Perseus, "can a king's daughter be condemned to death against her father's will?"
"No wonder it sounds strange," answered Cepheus; "but listen: Andromeda is my only child. For some reason—I know not what—the gods have permitted the land to be ravaged by a monster which came out of the sea, whose very breath is a blight and a pestilence, and which spares neither man, woman, nor child. Not one of us is left without cause to mourn. Fearing the destruction of all my people, I asked of the great oracle of Ammon in what way the work of the monster could be stayed. Alas! the oracle declared that nothing would avail but delivering up Andromeda herself to its fury to be devoured. What could I do? Could I doom all my people to lose all their children for the sake of my own? There was but one thing for a king, who is the father of all his people, to do: and even now—" But he could say no more.
"Oracle or no oracle," said Perseus, "it shall not be while I am alive! Where is the princess?"
"She was chained at sunrise to a rock on the seashore, there to wait for the monster. But where she is now—"
Perseus did not wait for another word, but, leaving the palace, hurried alone the shore, already half covered by the rising tide, helping himself over the difficult places by the wings at his heels. At last he came to what made his heart beat and burn with pity and rage. Chained by her wrists to a pillar of rock was the most beautiful of all princesses, stripped naked, but for the long hair that fell over her shoulders, and for the rising waves, which were already nearly waist-high. But what struck Perseus most was her look of quiet courage and noble pride—the look of one who was devoting herself to a cruel death for the country's sake, and in order that others might be saved.
The whole heart of Perseus went out to her: he vowed, if he could not save her, to share her doom. But before he could reach her side, a huge black wave parted, and forth came the monster—a creature like nothing else of land or sea, with a bloated, shapeless body, studded with hungry, cruel eyes, and hundreds of long, slimy limbs, twisting and crawling, each with a yawning mouth, from which streamed livid fire and horrible fumes. Andromeda turned pale as the loathsome creature came on with a slowness more dreadful than speed. Perseus could not wait. Springing from the rock with his wings, he threw himself, like lightning, full upon the monster, and then began such a struggle as had never been seen before. The creature twined its limbs around Perseus, and tried to crush him. As soon as Perseus tore himself from one, he was clutched by another, while the pulpy mass seemed proof against thrusts or blows.
Perseus felt his life passing from him; he put all the strength left him into one last blow. It fell only on the monster's right shoulder. But that was the one place where it could be pierced. The coils relaxed, and Perseus, to his own amaze, saw the monster floating, a shapeless corpse, upon the waves.
Having released Andromeda, who had watched the struggle in an agony of dread for what had seemed the certain fate of her champion, he carried her back through the air to her father's palace; and I need not tell how the mourning turned into wonder and joy!
"What can I do to show my gratitude?" asked Cepheus of Perseus. "Ask of me whatever you will, and it shall be yours, on the word of a king!"
"Give me Andromeda to be my wife," said Perseus. "That is all I want in the world."
"Gladly," said Cepheus; but suddenly he became grave. "I have promised on the word of a king, which cannot be broken. But I must warn you that you are not the first in the field. Andromeda has long been claimed in marriage by the powerful Prince Phineus: and he is not the man to lose what he wants without giving trouble."
"He never gave any trouble to the monster," said Perseus, thinking that Cepheus, though kind and honorable, was rather a weak and timid sort of king. So the marriage of Perseus and Andromeda was settled, to the great joy of both; and all the nobles were invited to a great festival in honor of the wedding, and of the delivery of the land. The Æthiopians were famous for their feasts,—so much so that the gods themselves would often leave the nectar and ambrosia of Olympus to be guests at their tables.
Everything went on very happily, when in the very midst of the banquet was heard the clash of arms; and those who were nearest the door cried out that Prince Phineus had come with an army to carry off the bride.
"Do not be alarmed," said Perseus. "Only let everybody shut his eyes until I bid him open them again."
It seemed an odd order; but Cepheus and all his Court had such faith in Perseus that they instantly obeyed him, and all shut their eyes. Perseus, especially bidding Andromeda close hers, drew forth Medusa's head, turning the face towards the door. And when, at his bidding, Cepheus and the rest opened their eyes and looked, they saw Phineus and his army all turned into statues of stone.
After resting from his adventures at the Court of King Cepheus, Perseus set sail with Andromeda, in one of the king's ships, for Seriphus, where they arrived after a safe and pleasant voyage. He was impatient to see his mother again, and to show King Polydectes how well he had done his errand. On reaching Seriphus, he left Andromeda in the ship, while he went alone on shore to see how things had gone while he had been away.
His way to the palace led him past the temple of Minerva, at the gate of which he found great confusion. Forcing his way through the crowd, he entered, and was astonished to see his mother, Danae, crouching in terror by the altar, with Dictys the fisherman standing before her, and defending her from King Polydectes and his guards, who were crowding the temple. Clearing his way to the altar-steps, Perseus heard hurriedly from Dictys what was happening: how the king, taking advantage of his absence, had been persecuting Danae to marry him against her will, and had at last driven her into the temple to make her his wife by force. Dictys alone had come to her rescue; but what could one man do against the king and all his guards?
"And now you have come," sighed Dictys, "you will be slain too. See, they are coming on!"
"You sent me to slay Medusa, King Polydectes," cried Perseus. "See how well I have obeyed you!"
So saying, he held up the fatal head; and the king and his guards forthwith became stone. Thus was Polydectes destroyed by his own treachery.
The people desired to make Perseus king; but he had a longing to pay a visit to the land of Argos, where he had been born, but which he had never seen. So he made Dictys the fisherman King of Seriphus, thinking that kindness, courage, and faithfulness were the chief things to be looked for in the choice of a ruler, and set sail for Argos with his wife and mother.
Of course nobody there knew any of them; for Perseus had left the country when a child in arms, and Danae had spent her girlhood shut up in a brazen tower. It so happened that, when they reached land, the people of Larissa were celebrating some solemn games in honor of their king, who had just died—wrestling, racing, and so forth; and Perseus, hearing the news, went round by way of Larissa to take part in them.
Having shown himself best in every spot, he joined in a game of quoits, in which, as always, he found himself without a rival. Having outdone all others, he thought he would outdo even himself; and, taking up the heaviest quoit, he cast it so far that it passed over the heads of the circle of spectators, so that none could see where it fell—
Until they were startled by a cry which made the people crowd to where an old man had fallen from his seat, and now lay dead upon the ground. The quoit had struck him on the head, and—
"Fly!" cried those who stood about Perseus. "It is Acrisius, King of Argos, whom your unlucky quoit has killed!"
And thus came to pass what had been foretold at the beginning—King Acrisius had been slain by his daughter's son.
As for Perseus, whose adventures were now at an end, he refused the kingdom of Argos, which had come to him in such an unfortunate manner, and, traveling further into Greece, built a city and made a kingdom for himself, which he called Mycenæ. Here, with Andromeda and Danae, he lived in peace and happiness, ruling so well and wisely that when he died he was made a demigod, and admitted into Olympus. There are two constellations which are still called Perseus and Andromeda. The Gorgon's head he consecrated to Minerva, who fixed it in the middle of her shield, where it still retained its power of turning the enemies of the goddess of Wisdom into blocks of stone.
I expect that one part of this story has reminded you of how St. George of England rescued the Princess Sabra from the dragon. Well, there is this great likeness among all good knights, that they have the help of heaven, because they would be equally good and brave whether they had such help or no.
WEEK 26 |
H ANS had served his master seven years, and at the end of the seventh year he said,
"Master, my time is up; I want to go home and see my mother, so give me my wages."
"You have served me truly and faithfully," said the master; "as the service is, so must the wages be," and he gave him a lump of gold as big as his head. Hans pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and tied up the lump of gold in it, hoisted it on his shoulder, and set off on his way home. And as he was trudging along, there came in sight a man riding on a spirited horse, and looking very gay and lively. "Oh!" cried Hans aloud, "how splendid riding must be! sitting as much at one's ease as in an arm-chair, stumbling over no stones, saving one's shoes, and getting on one hardly knows how!"
The horseman heard Hans say this, and called out to him,
"Well Hans, what are you doing on foot?"
"I can't help myself," said Hans, "I have this great lump to carry; to be sure, it is gold, but then I can't hold my head straight for it, and it hurts my shoulder."
"I'll tell you what," said the horseman, "we will change; I will give you my horse, and you shall give me your lump of gold."
"With all my heart," said Hans; "but I warn you, you will find it heavy." And the horseman got down, took the gold, and, helping Hans up, he gave the reins into his hand.
"When you want to go fast," said he, "you must click your
tongue and cry
And Hans, as he sat upon his horse, was glad at heart, and rode off with merry cheer. After a while he thought he should like to go quicker, so he began to click with his tongue and to cry "Gee-up!" And the horse began to trot, and Hans was thrown before he knew what was going to happen, and there he lay in the ditch by the side of the road.
The horse would have got away but that he was caught by a peasant who was passing that way and driving a cow before him. And Hans pulled himself together and got upon his feet, feeling very vexed. "Poor work, riding," said he, "especially on a jade like this, who starts off and throws you before you know where you are, going near to break your neck; never shall I try that game again; now, your cow is something worth having, one can jog on comfortably after her and have her milk, butter, and cheese every day, into the bargain. What would I not give to have such a cow!"
"Well now," said the peasant, "since it will be doing you such a favour, I don't mind exchanging my cow for your horse."
Hans agreed most joyfully, and the peasant, swinging himself into the saddle, was soon out of sight.
And Hans went along driving his cow quietly before him, and thinking all the while of the fine bargain he had made.
"With only a piece of bread I shall have everything I can possibly want, for I shall always be able to have butter and cheese to it, and if I am thirsty I have nothing to do but to milk my cow; and what more is there for heart to wish!"
And when he came to an inn he made a halt, and in the joy of his heart ate up all the food he had brought with him, dinner and supper and all, and bought half a glass of beer with his last two farthings. Then on he went again driving his cow, until he should come to the village where his mother lived. It was now near the middle of the day, and the sun grew hotter and hotter, and Hans found himself on a heath which it would be an hour's journey to cross. And he began to feel very hot, and so thirsty that his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth.
"Never mind," said Hans; "I can find a remedy. I will milk my cow at once." And tying her to a dry tree, and taking off his leather cap to serve for a pail, he began to milk, but not a drop came. And as he set to work rather awkwardly, the impatient beast gave him such a kick on the head with his hind foot that he fell to the ground, and for some time could not think where he was; when luckily there came by a butcher who was wheeling along a young pig in a wheelbarrow.
"Here's a fine piece of work!" cried he, helping poor Hans on his legs again. Then Hans related to him all that had happened; and the butcher handed him his pocket-flask, saying,
"Here, take a drink, and be a man again; of course the cow would give no milk; she is old and only fit to draw burdens, or to be slaughtered."
"Well, to be sure," said Hans, scratching his head. "Who would have thought it? of course it is a very handy way of getting meat when a man has a beast of his own to kill; but for my part I do not care much about cow beef, it is rather tasteless. Now, if I had but a young pig, that is much better meat, and then the sausages!"
"Look here, Hans," said the butcher, "just for love of you I will exchange, and will give you my pig instead of your cow."
"Heaven reward such kindness!" cried Hans, and handing over the cow, received in exchange the pig, who was turned out of his wheelbarrow and was to be led by a string.
So on went Hans, thinking how everything turned out according to his wishes, and how, if trouble overtook him, all was sure to be set right directly. After a while he fell in with a peasant, who was carrying a fine white goose under his arm. They bid each other good-day, and Hans began to tell about his luck, and how he had made so many good exchanges. And the peasant told how he was taking the goose to a christening feast.
"Just feel how heavy it is," said he, taking it up by the wings; "it has been fattening for the last eight weeks; and when it is roasted, won't the fat run down!"
"Yes, indeed," said Hans, weighing it in his hand, "very fine to be sure; but my pig is not to be despised."
Upon which the peasant glanced cautiously on all sides, and shook his head.
"I am afraid," said he, "that there is something not quite right about your pig. In the village I have just left one had actually been stolen from the bailiff's yard. I fear, I fear you have it in your hand; they have sent after the thief, and it would be a bad look-out for you if it was found upon you; the least that could happen would be to be thrown into a dark hole."
Poor Hans grew pale with fright. "For heaven's sake," said he, "help me out of this scrape, I am a stranger in these parts; take my pig and give me your goose."
"It will be running some risk," answered the man, "but I will do it sooner than that you should come to grief." And so, taking the cord in his hand, he drove the pig quickly along a by-path, and lucky Hans went on his way home with the goose under his arm. "The more I think of it," said he to himself, "the better the bargain seems; first I get the roast goose; then the fat; that will last a whole year for bread and dripping; and lastly the beautiful white feathers which I can stuff my pillow with; how comfortably I shall sleep upon it, and how pleased my mother will be!"
And when he reached the last village, he saw a knife-grinder with his barrow; and his wheel went whirring round, and he sang,
"My scissors I grind, and my wheel I turn;
And all good fellows my trade should learn,
For all that I meet with just serves my turn."
And Hans stood and looked at him; and at last he spoke to him and said,
"You seem very well off, and merry with your grinding."
"Yes," answered the knife-grinder, "my handiwork pays very well. I call a man a good grinder who, every time he puts his hand in his pocket finds money there. But where did you buy that fine goose?"
"I did not buy it, but I exchanged it for my pig," said Hans.
"And the pig?"
"That I exchanged for a cow."
"And the cow?"
"That I exchanged for a horse."
"And the horse?"
"I gave for the horse a lump of gold as big as my head."
"And the gold?"
"Oh, that was my wage for seven years' service."
"You seem to have fended for yourself very well," said the knife-grinder. "Now, if you could but manage to have money in your pocket every time you put your hand in, your fortune is made."
"How shall I manage that?" said Hans.
"You must be a knife-grinder like me," said the man. "All you want is a grindstone, the rest comes of itself: I have one here; to be sure it is a little damaged, but I don't mind letting you have it in exchange for your goose; what say you?"
"How can you ask?" answered Hans. "I shall be the luckiest fellow in the world, for if I find money whenever I put my hand in my pocket, there is nothing more left to want."
And so he handed over the goose to the pedlar and received the grindstone in exchange.
"Now," said the knife-grinder, taking up a heavy common stone that lay near him, "here is another proper sort of stone that will stand a good deal of wear and that you can hammer out your old nails upon. Take it with you, and carry it carefully."
Hans lifted up the stone and carried it off with a contented mind. "I must have been born under a lucky star!" cried he, while his eyes sparkled for joy. "I have only to wish for a thing and it is mine."
After a while he began to feel rather tired, as indeed he had been on his legs since daybreak; he also began to feel rather hungry, as in the fulness of his joy at getting the cow, he had eaten up all he had. At last he could scarcely go on at all, and had to make a halt every moment, for the stones weighed him down most unmercifully, and he could not help wishing that he did not feel obliged to drag them along. And on he went at a snail's pace until he came to a well; then he thought he would rest and take a drink of the fresh water. And he placed the stones carefully by his side at the edge of the well; then he sat down, and as he stooped to drink, he happened to give the stones a little push, and they both fell into the water with a splash. And then Hans, having watched them disappear, jumped for joy, and thanked his stars that he had been so lucky as to get rid of the stones that had weighed upon him so long without any effort of his own.
"I really think," cried he, "I am the luckiest man under the sun." So on he went, void of care, until he reached his mother's house.
H ERE is a small shell-fish. He looks like Mr. Conch, but he is not so large. He is small. His real size in the sea is not much larger than he is in this picture. His name is Mr. Drill.
His color is dark brown. His shell has ridges on it. The body of the drill is dark green. It has a long tail to twist round in its shell.
The drill does not live alone in a place by himself. A whole host of them live near one another.
The very strangest thing about the drill is his tongue. It is from his tongue that he gets his name.
Did you ever see a man use a file? With it he can cut a hole in a piece of iron or stone. The tongue of the drill is like a file. I wish you could see this queer tongue!
It is a little soft band that will move in any way, or roll up, or push out. In this fine band are set three rows of teeth. There are many teeth in each row. The teeth are fine and as hard as the point of a pin. We could not see them if we did not use the glass that you were told of.
With this fine tongue the drill can cut or saw a hole in a thick shell.
The drill is very greedy. He eats many kinds of shell-fish. He likes best of all to eat the oyster.
How does he go to work? He cannot break the shell of the oyster as the conch can. No. The way he does is this.
With his tough foot he gets fast hold of the oyster-shell. He picks out the thin, smooth spot called the eye of the shell. Then he goes to work to file his hole. It will take him a long time.
Some say it will take him two days. But he is not lazy. He keeps fast hold and saws away. At last the hole is made clear through the shell.
It is small, smooth, even no man could make a neater hole. Then he puts into the hole a long tube which is on the end of his cloak or veil. He can suck with that, and he sucks up the oyster till the poor thing is all gone.
The Little Robber
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear;
There is ever a something sings alway:
There's the song of the lark when the skies are clear,
And the song of the thrush when the skies are gray.
The sunshine showers across the grain,
And the bluebird trills in the orchard tree;
And in and out when the eaves drip rain,
The swallows are twittering ceaselessly.
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear,
In the midnight black, or the midday blue;
The robin pipes when the sun is here,
And the cricket chirrups the whole night through.
The buds may grow and the fruit may grow,
And the autumn leaves drop crisp and sear;
But whether the sun, or the rain, or the snow,
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear.
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear,
Be the skies above or dark or fair,
There is ever a song that our hearts may hear—
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear—
There is ever a song somewhere.
WEEK 26 |
II Kings xv: 8, to xvii: 41.
HE power and peace that Judah enjoyed under Jeroboam the second did not last after his death. His great kingdom fell apart, and his son Zechariah reigned only six months. He was slain in the sight of his people by Shallum, who made himself king. But after only a month of rule, Shallum himself was killed by Menahem, who reigned ten years of wickedness and of suffering in the land, for the Assyrians spoiled the land and took away the riches of Israel. Then came Pekahiah, who was slain by Pekah, and Hoshea, who in turn slew Pekah. So nearly all the latter kings of Israel won the throne by murder, and were themselves slain. The land was helpless, and its enemies, the Assyrians from Nineveh, won victories, and carried away many of the people, and robbed those who were left. All these evils came upon the Israelites, because they and their kings had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers and worshipped idols.
Hoshea was the last of the kings over the Ten Tribes; nineteen kings in all, from Jeroboam to Hoshea. In Hoshea's time, the king of Assyria, whose name was Shalmanezer, came up with a great army against Samaria. He laid siege against the city; but it was in a strong place, and hard to take, for it stood on a high hill. The siege lasted three years, and before it was ended, Shalmanezer, the king of Assyria, died, and Sargon, a great warrior and conqueror, reigned in his place. Sargon took Samaria, and put to death Hoshea the last king of Israel. He carried away nearly all the people from the land, and led them into distant countries in the east, to Mesopotamia, to Media, and the lands near the great Caspian Sea. This Sargon did, in order to keep the Israelites from again breaking away from his rule.
As in their own land the children of Israel had forsaken the Lord and had worshipped idols, so after they were taken to these distant lands they sought the gods of the people among whom they were living. They married the people of those lands, and ceased to be Israelites; and after a time they lost all knowledge of their own God, who had given them his words and sent them his prophets. So there came an end to the Ten Tribes of Israel, for they never again came back to their own land, and were lost among the people of the far east.
But a small part of the people of Israel were left in their own land. The king of Assyria brought to the land of Israel people from other countries, and placed them in the land. But they were too few to fill the land, and to care for it; so that the wild beasts began to increase in Israel, and many of these strange people were killed by lions who lived among the mountains and in the valleys. They thought that the lions came upon them because they did not worship the God who ruled in that land, and they sent to the king of Assyria, saying, "Send us a priest who can teach us how to worship the God to whom this land belongs; for he has sent lions among us, and they are destroying us."
They supposed that each land must have its own God, as the Philistines worshipped Dagon, and the Moabites Chemosh, and the Tyrians and Zidonians, Baal and Asherah. They did not know that there is only one God, who rules all the world, and who is to be worshipped by all men.
Then the king of Assyria sent to these people a priest from among the Israelites in his land; and this priest tried to teach them how to worship the Lord. But with the Lord's worship, they mingled the worship of idols; and did not serve the Lord only, as God would have them serve him. In after time these people were called Samaritans, from Samaria, which had been their chief city. They had their temple to the Lord on Mount Gerizim, near the city of Shechem, and in that city a few of them are found even in our time.
Presently they all sat down to luncheon together. The Mole found himself placed next to Mr. Badger, and, as the other two were still deep in river-gossip from which nothing could divert them, he took the opportunity to tell Badger how comfortable and home-like it all felt to him. "Once well underground," he said, "you know exactly where you are. Nothing can happen to you, and nothing can get at you. You're entirely your own master, and you don't have to consult anybody or mind what they say. Things go on all the same overhead, and you let 'em, and don't bother about 'em. When you want to, up you go, and there the things are, waiting for you."
The Badger simply beamed on him. "That's exactly what I say," he replied. "There's no security, or peace and tranquillity, except underground. And then, if your ideas get larger and you want to expand—why, a dig and a scrape, and there you are! If you feel your house is a bit too big, you stop up a hole or two, and there you are again! No builders, no tradesmen, no remarks passed on you by fellows looking over your wall, and, above all, no weather. Look at Rat, now. A couple of feet of flood water, and he's got to move into hired lodgings; uncomfortable, inconveniently situated, and horribly expensive. Take Toad. I say nothing against Toad Hall; quite the best house in these parts, as a house. But supposing a fire breaks out—where's Toad? Supposing tiles are blown off, or walls sink or crack, or windows get broken—where's Toad? Supposing the rooms are draughty—I hate a draught myself—where's Toad? No, up and out of doors is good enough to roam about and get one's living in; but underground to come back to at last—that's my idea of home."
The Mole assented heartily; and the Badger in consequence got very friendly with him. "When lunch is over," he said, "I'll take you all round this little place of mine. I can see you'll appreciate it. You understand what domestic architecture ought to be, you do."
After luncheon, accordingly, when the other two had settled themselves into the chimney-corner and had started a heated argument on the subject of eels, the Badger lighted a lantern and bade the Mole follow him. Crossing the hall, they passed down one of the principal tunnels, and the wavering light of the lantern gave glimpses on either side of rooms both large and small, some mere cupboards, others nearly as broad and imposing as Toad's dining-hall. A narrow passage at right angles led them into another corridor, and here the same thing was repeated. The Mole was staggered at the size, the extent, the ramifications of it all; at the length of the dim passages, the solid vaultings of the crammed store-chambers, the masonry everywhere, the pillars, the arches, the pavements. "How on earth, Badger," he said at last, "did you ever find time and strength to do all this? It's astonishing!"
"It would be astonishing indeed," said the Badger simply, "if I had done it. But as a matter of fact I did none of it—only cleaned out the passages and chambers, as far as I had need of them. There's lots more of it, all round about. I see you don't understand, and I must explain it to you. Well, very long ago, on the spot where the Wild Wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself and grown up to what it now is, there was a city—a city of people, you know. Here, where we are standing, they lived, and walked, and talked, and slept, and carried on their business. Here they stabled their horses and feasted, from here they rode out to fight or drove out to trade. They were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders. They built to last, for they thought their city would last for ever."
"But what has become of them all?" asked the Mole.
"Who can tell?" said the Badger. "People come—they stay for a while, they flourish, they build—and they go. It is their way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I've been told, long before that same city ever came to be. And now there are badgers here again. We are an enduring lot, and we may move out for a time, but we wait, and are patient, and back we come. And so it will ever be."
"Well, and when they went at last, those people?" said the Mole.
"When they went," continued the Badger, "the strong winds and persistent rains took the matter in hand, patiently, ceaselessly, year after year. Perhaps we badgers too, in our small way, helped a little—who knows? It was all down, down, down, gradually—ruin and levelling and disappearance. Then it was all up, up, up, gradually, as seeds grew to saplings, and saplings to forest trees, and bramble and fern came creeping in to help. Leaf-mould rose and obliterated, streams in their winter freshets brought sand and soil to clog and to cover, and in course of time our home was ready for us again, and we moved in. Up above us, on the surface, the same thing happened. Animals arrived, liked the look of the place, took up their quarters, settled down, spread, and flourished. They didn't bother themselves about the past—they never do; they're too busy. The place was a bit humpy and hillocky, naturally, and full of holes; but that was rather an advantage. And they don't bother about the future, either—the future when perhaps the people will move in again—for a time—as may very well be. The Wild Wood is pretty well populated by now; with all the usual lot, good, bad, and indifferent—I name no names. It takes all sorts to make a world. But I fancy you know something about them yourself by this time."
"I do indeed," said the Mole, with a slight shiver.
"Well, well," said the Badger, patting him on the shoulder, "it was your first experience of them, you see. They're not so bad really; and we must all live and let live. But I'll pass the word around to-morrow, and I think you'll have no further trouble. Any friend of mine walks where he likes in this country, or I'll know the reason why!"
When they got back to the kitchen again, they found the Rat walking up and down, very restless. The underground atmosphere was oppressing him and getting on his nerves, and he seemed really to be afraid that the river would run away if he wasn't there to look after it. So he had his overcoat on, and his pistols thrust into his belt again. "Come along, Mole," he said anxiously, as soon as he caught sight of them. "We must get off while it's daylight. Don't want to spend another night in the Wild Wood again."
"It'll be all right, my fine fellow," said the Otter. "I'm coming along with you, and I know every path blindfold; and if there's a head that needs to be punched, you can confidently rely upon me to punch it."
"You really needn't fret, Ratty," added the Badger placidly. "My passages run further than you think, and I've bolt-holes to the edge of the wood in several directions, though I don't care for everybody to know about them. When you really have to go, you shall leave by one of my short cuts. Meantime, make yourself easy, and sit down again."
The Rat was nevertheless still anxious to be off and attend to his river, so the Badger, taking up his lantern again, led the way along a damp and airless tunnel that wound and dipped, part vaulted, part hewn through solid rock, for a weary distance that seemed to be miles. At last daylight began to show itself confusedly through tangled growth overhanging the mouth of the passage; and the Badger, bidding them a hasty good-bye, pushed them hurriedly through the opening, made everything look as natural as possible again, with creepers, brushwood, and dead leaves, and retreated.
They found themselves standing on the very edge of the Wild Wood. Rocks and brambles and tree-roots behind them, confusedly heaped and tangled; in front, a great space of quiet fields, hemmed by lines of hedges black on the snow, and, far ahead, a glint of the familiar old river, while the wintry sun hung red and low on the horizon. The Otter, as knowing all the paths, took charge of the party, and they trailed out on a bee-line for a distant stile. Pausing there a moment and looking back, they saw the whole mass of the Wild Wood, dense, menacing, compact, grimly set in vast white surroundings; simultaneously they turned and made swiftly for home, for firelight and the familiar things it played on, for the voice, sounding cheerily outside their window, of the river that they knew and trusted in all its moods, that never made them afraid with any amazement.
As he hurried along, eagerly anticipating the moment when he would be at home again among the things he knew and liked, the Mole saw clearly that he was an animal of tilled field and hedge-row, linked to the ploughed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot. For others the asperities, the stubborn endurance, or the clash of actual conflict, that went with Nature in the rough; he must be wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a lifetime.
The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.
She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;
And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.