WEEK 27 |
I N each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered. In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before. In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.
So long as Mistress Mary's mind was full of disagreeable thoughts about her dislikes and sour opinions of people and her determination not to be pleased by or interested in anything, she was a yellow-faced, sickly, bored and wretched child. Circumstances, however, were very kind to her, though she was not at all aware of it. They began to push her about for her own good. When her mind gradually filled itself with robins, and moorland cottages crowded with children, with queer crabbed old gardeners and common little Yorkshire housemaids, with springtime and with secret gardens coming alive day by day, and also with a moor boy and his "creatures," there was no room left for the disagreeable thoughts which affected her liver and her digestion and made her yellow and tired.
So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his detestation of people who looked at him and reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring and also did not know that he could get well and could stand upon his feet if he tried to do it. When new beautiful thoughts began to push out the old hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins and strength poured into him like a flood. His scientific experiment was quite practical and simple and there was nothing weird about it at all. Much more surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.
"Where you tend a rose, my lad,
A thistle cannot grow."
While the secret garden was coming alive and two children were coming alive with it, there was a man wandering about certain far-away beautiful places in the Norwegian fiords and the valleys and mountains of Switzerland and he was a man who for ten years had kept his mind filled with dark and heart-broken thinking. He had not been courageous; he had never tried to put any other thoughts in the place of the dark ones. He had wandered by blue lakes and thought them; he had lain on mountain-sides with sheets of deep blue gentians blooming all about him and flower breaths filling all the air and he had thought them. A terrible sorrow had fallen upon him when he had been happy and he had let his soul fill itself with blackness and had refused obstinately to allow any rift of light to pierce through. He had forgotten and deserted his home and his duties. When he traveled about, darkness so brooded over him that the sight of him was a wrong done to other people because it was as if he poisoned the air about him with gloom. Most strangers thought he must be either half mad or a man with some hidden crime on his soul. He was a tall man with a drawn face and crooked shoulders and the name he always entered on hotel registers was, "Archibald Craven, Misselthwaite Manor, Yorkshire, England."
He had traveled far and wide since the day he saw Mistress Mary in his study and told her she might have her "bit of earth." He had been in the most beautiful places in Europe, though he had remained nowhere more than a few days. He had chosen the quietest and remotest spots. He had been on the tops of mountains whose heads were in the clouds and had looked down on other mountains when the sun rose and touched them with such light as made it seem as if the world were just being born.
But the light had never seemed to touch himself until one day when he realized that for the first time in ten years a strange thing had happened. He was in a wonderful valley in the Austrian Tyrol and he had been walking alone through such beauty as might have lifted any man's soul out of shadow. He had walked a long way and it had not lifted his. But at last he had felt tired and had thrown himself down to rest on a carpet of moss by a stream. It was a clear little stream which ran quite merrily along on its narrow way through the luscious damp greenness. Sometimes it made a sound rather like very low laughter as it bubbled over and round stones. He saw birds come and dip their heads to drink in it and then flick their wings and fly away. It seemed like a thing alive and yet its tiny voice made the stillness seem deeper. The valley was very, very still.
As he sat gazing into the clear running of the water, Archibald Craven gradually felt his mind and body both grow quiet, as quiet as the valley itself. He wondered if he were going to sleep, but he was not. He sat and gazed at the sunlit water and his eyes began to see things growing at its edge. There was one lovely mass of blue forget-me-nots growing so close to the stream that its leaves were wet and at these he found himself looking as he remembered he had looked at such things years ago. He was actually thinking tenderly how lovely it was and what wonders of blue its hundreds of little blossoms were. He did not know that just that simple thought was slowly filling his mind—filling and filling it until other things were softly pushed aside. It was as if a sweet clear spring had begun to rise in a stagnant pool and had risen and risen until at last it swept the dark water away. But of course he did not think of this himself. He only knew that the valley seemed to grow quieter and quieter as he sat and stared at the bright delicate blueness. He did not know how long he sat there or what was happening to him, but at last he moved as if he were awakening and he got up slowly and stood on the moss carpet, drawing a long, deep, soft breath and wondering at himself. Something seemed to have been unbound and released in him, very quietly.
"What is it?" he said, almost in a whisper, and he passed his hand over his forehead. "I almost feel as if—I were alive!"
I do not know enough about the wonderfulness of undiscovered things to be able to explain how this had happened to him. Neither does any one else yet. He did not understand at all himself—but he remembered this strange hour months afterward when he was at Misselthwaite again and he found out quite by accident that on this very day Colin had cried out as he went into the secret garden:
"I am going to live forever and ever and ever!"
The singular calmness remained with him the rest of the evening and he slept a new reposeful sleep; but it was not with him very long. He did not know that it could be kept. By the next night he had opened the doors wide to his dark thoughts and they had come trooping and rushing back. He left the valley and went on his wandering way again. But, strange as it seemed to him, there were minutes—sometimes half-hours—when, without his knowing why, the black burden seemed to lift itself again and he knew he was a living man and not a dead one. Slowly—slowly—for no reason that he knew of—he was "coming alive" with the garden.
As the golden summer changed into the deeper golden autumn he went to the Lake of Como. There he found the loveliness of a dream. He spent his days upon the crystal blueness of the lake or he walked back into the soft thick verdure of the hills and tramped until he was tired so that he might sleep. But by this time he had begun to sleep better, he knew, and his dreams had ceased to be a terror to him.
"Perhaps," he thought, "my body is growing stronger."
It was growing stronger but—because of the rare peaceful hours when his thoughts were changed—his soul was slowly growing stronger, too. He began to think of Misselthwaite and wonder if he should not go home. Now and then he wondered vaguely about his boy and asked himself what he should feel when he went and stood by the carved four-posted bed again and looked down at the sharply chiseled ivory-white face while it slept and the black lashes rimmed so startlingly the close-shut eyes. He shrank from it.
One marvel of a day he had walked so far that when he returned the moon was high and full and all the world was purple shadow and silver. The stillness of lake and shore and wood was so wonderful that he did not go into the villa he lived in. He walked down to a little bowered terrace at the water's edge and sat upon a seat and breathed in all the heavenly scents of the night. He felt the strange calmness stealing over him and it grew deeper and deeper until he fell asleep.
He did not know when he fell asleep and when he began to dream; his dream was so real that he did not feel as if he were dreaming. He remembered afterward how intensely wide awake and alert he had thought he was. He thought that as he sat and breathed in the scent of the late roses and listened to the lapping of the water at his feet he heard a voice calling. It was sweet and clear and happy and far away. It seemed very far, but he heard it as distinctly as if it had been at his very side.
"Archie! Archie! Archie!" it said, and then again, sweeter and clearer than before, "Archie! Archie!"
He thought he sprang to his feet not even startled. It was such a real voice and it seemed so natural that he should hear it.
"Lilias! Lilias!" he answered. "Lilias! where are you?"
"In the garden," it came back like a sound from a golden flute. "In the garden!"
And then the dream ended. But he did not awaken. He slept soundly and sweetly all through the lovely night. When he did awake at last it was brilliant morning and a servant was standing staring at him. He was an Italian servant and was accustomed, as all the servants of the villa were, to accepting without question any strange thing his foreign master might do. No one ever knew when he would go out or come in or where he would choose to sleep or if he would roam about the garden or lie in the boat on the lake all night. The man held a salver with some letters on it and he waited quietly until Mr. Craven took them. When he had gone away Mr. Craven sat a few moments holding them in his hand and looking at the lake. His strange calm was still upon him and something more—a lightness as if the cruel thing which had been done had not happened as he thought—as if something had changed. He was remembering the dream—the real—real dream.
"In the garden!" he said, wondering at himself. "In the garden! But the door is locked and the key is buried deep."
When he glanced at the letters a few minutes later he saw that the one lying at the top of the rest was an English letter and came from Yorkshire. It was directed in a plain woman's hand but it was not a hand he knew. He opened it, scarcely thinking of the writer, but the first words attracted his attention at once.
"I am Susan Sowerby that made bold to speak to you once on the moor. It was about Miss Mary I spoke. I will make bold to speak again. Please, sir, I would come home if I was you. I think you would be glad to come and—if you will excuse me, sir—I think your lady would ask you to come if she was here.
"Your obedient servant,
Mr. Craven read the letter twice before he put it back in its envelope. He kept thinking about the dream.
"I will go back to Misselthwaite," he said. "Yes, I'll go at once."
And he went through the garden to the villa and ordered Pitcher to prepare for his return to England.
In a few days he was in Yorkshire again, and on his long railroad journey he found himself thinking of his boy as he had never thought in all the ten years past. During those years he had only wished to forget him. Now, though he did not intend to think about him, memories of him constantly drifted into his mind. He remembered the black days when he had raved like a madman because the child was alive and the mother was dead. He had refused to see it, and when he had gone to look at it at last it had been such a weak wretched thing that every one had been sure it would die in a few days. But to the surprise of those who took care of it the days passed and it lived and then every one believed it would be a deformed and crippled creature.
He had not meant to be a bad father, but he had not felt like a father at all. He had supplied doctors and nurses and luxuries, but he had shrunk from the mere thought of the boy and had buried himself in his own misery. The first time after a year's absence he returned to Misselthwaite and the small miserable looking thing languidly and indifferently lifted to his face the great gray eyes with black lashes round them, so like and yet so horribly unlike the happy eyes he had adored, he could not bear the sight of them and turned away pale as death. After that he scarcely ever saw him except when he was asleep, and all he knew of him was that he was a confirmed invalid, with a vicious, hysterical, half-insane temper. He could only be kept from furies dangerous to himself by being given his own way in every detail.
All this was not an uplifting thing to recall, but as the train whirled him through mountain passes and golden plains the man who was "coming alive" began to think in a new way and he thought long and steadily and deeply.
"Perhaps I have been all wrong for ten years," he said to himself. "Ten years is a long time. It may be too late to do anything—quite too late. What have I been thinking of!"
Of course this was the wrong Magic—to begin by saying "too late." Even Colin could have told him that. But he knew nothing of Magic—either black or white. This he had yet to learn. He wondered if Susan Sowerby had taken courage and written to him only because the motherly creature had realized that the boy was much worse—was fatally ill. If he had not been under the spell of the curious calmness which had taken possession of him he would have been more wretched than ever. But the calm had brought a sort of courage and hope with it. Instead of giving way to thoughts of the worst he actually found he was trying to believe in better things.
"Could it be possible that she sees that I may be able to do him good and control him?" he thought. "I will go and see her on my way to Misselthwaite."
But when on his way across the moor he stopped the carriage at the cottage, seven or eight children who were playing about gathered in a group and bobbing seven or eight friendly and polite curtsies told him that their mother had gone to the other side of the moor early in the morning to help a woman who had a new baby. "Our Dickon," they volunteered, was over at the Manor working in one of the gardens where he went several days each week.
Mr. Craven looked over the collection of sturdy little bodies and round red-cheeked faces, each one grinning in its own particular way, and he awoke to the fact that they were a healthy likable lot. He smiled at their friendly grins and took a golden sovereign from his pocket and gave it to "our 'Lizabeth Ellen" who was the oldest.
"If you divide that into eight parts there will be half a crown for each of you," he said.
Then amid grins and chuckles and bobbing of curtsies he drove away, leaving ecstasy and nudging elbows and little jumps of joy behind.
The drive across the wonderfulness of the moor was a soothing thing. Why did it seem to give him a sense of home-coming which he had been sure he could never feel again—that sense of the beauty of land and sky and purple bloom of distance and a warming of the heart at drawing nearer to the great old house which had held those of his blood for six hundred years? How he had driven away from it the last time, shuddering to think of its closed rooms and the boy lying in the four-posted bed with the brocaded hangings. Was it possible that perhaps he might find him changed a little for the better and that he might overcome his shrinking from him? How real that dream had been—how wonderful and clear the voice which called back to him, "In the garden—In the garden!"
"I will try to find the key," he said. "I will try to open the door. I must—though I don't know why."
When he arrived at the Manor the servants who received him with the usual ceremony noticed that he looked better and that he did not go to the remote rooms where he usually lived attended by Pitcher. He went into the library and sent for Mrs. Medlock. She came to him somewhat excited and curious and flustered.
"How is Master Colin, Medlock?" he inquired.
"Well, sir," Mrs. Medlock answered, "he's—he's different, in a manner of speaking."
"Worse?" he suggested.
Mrs. Medlock really was flushed.
"Well, you see, sir," she tried to explain, "neither Dr. Craven, nor the nurse, nor me can exactly make him out."
"Why is that?"
"To tell the truth, sir, Master Colin might be better and he might be
changing for the worse. His appetite, sir, is past understanding—and
"Has he become more—more peculiar?" her master asked, knitting his brows anxiously.
"That's it, sir. He's growing very peculiar—when you compare him with what he used to be. He used to eat nothing and then suddenly he began to eat something enormous—and then he stopped again all at once and the meals were sent back just as they used to be. You never knew, sir, perhaps, that out of doors he never would let himself be taken. The things we've gone through to get him to go out in his chair would leave a body trembling like a leaf. He'd throw himself into such a state that Dr. Craven said he couldn't be responsible for forcing him. Well, sir, just without warning—not long after one of his worst tantrums he suddenly insisted on being taken out every day by Miss Mary and Susan Sowerby's boy Dickon that could push his chair. He took a fancy to both Miss Mary and Dickon, and Dickon brought his tame animals, and, if you'll credit it, sir, out of doors he will stay from morning until night."
"How does he look?" was the next question.
"If he took his food natural, sir, you'd think he was putting on flesh—but we're afraid it may be a sort of bloat. He laughs sometimes in a queer way when he's alone with Miss Mary. He never used to laugh at all. Dr. Craven is coming to see you at once, if you'll allow him. He never was as puzzled in his life."
"Where is Master Colin now?" Mr. Craven asked.
"In the garden, sir. He's always in the garden—though not a human creature is allowed to go near for fear they'll look at him."
Mr. Craven scarcely heard her last words.
"In the garden," he said, and after he had sent Mrs. Medlock away he stood and repeated it again and again. "In the garden!"
He had to make an effort to bring himself back to the place he was standing in and when he felt he was on earth again he turned and went out of the room. He took his way, as Mary had done, through the door in the shrubbery and among the laurels and the fountain beds. The fountain was playing now and was encircled by beds of brilliant autumn flowers. He crossed the lawn and turned into the Long Walk by the ivied walls. He did not walk quickly, but slowly, and his eyes were on the path. He felt as if he were being drawn back to the place he had so long forsaken, and he did not know why. As he drew near to it his step became still more slow. He knew where the door was even though the ivy hung thick over it—but he did not know exactly where it lay—that buried key.
So he stopped and stood still, looking about him, and almost the moment after he had paused he started and listened—asking himself if he were walking in a dream.
The ivy hung thick over the door, the key was buried under the shrubs, no human being had passed that portal for ten lonely years—and yet inside the garden there were sounds. They were the sounds of running scuffling feet seeming to chase round and round under the trees, they were strange sounds of lowered suppressed voices—exclamations and smothered joyous cries. It seemed actually like the laughter of young things, the uncontrollable laughter of children who were trying not to be heard but who in a moment or so—as their excitement mounted—would burst forth. What in heaven's name was he dreaming of—what in heaven's name did he hear? Was he losing his reason and thinking he heard things which were not for human ears? Was it that the far clear voice had meant?
And then the moment came, the uncontrollable moment when the sounds forgot to hush themselves. The feet ran faster and faster—they were nearing the garden door—there was quick strong young breathing and a wild outbreak of laughing shouts which could not be contained—and the door in the wall was flung wide open, the sheet of ivy swinging back, and a boy burst through it at full speed and, without seeing the outsider, dashed almost into his arms.
Mr. Craven had extended them just in time to save him from falling as a result of his unseeing dash against him, and when he held him away to look at him in amazement at his being there he truly gasped for breath.
He was a tall boy and a handsome one. He was glowing with life and his running had sent splendid color leaping to his face. He threw the thick hair back from his forehead and lifted a pair of strange gray eyes—eyes full of boyish laughter and rimmed with black lashes like a fringe. It was the eyes which made Mr. Craven gasp for breath.
"Who—What? Who!" he stammered.
This was not what Colin had expected—this was not what he had planned. He had never thought of such a meeting. And yet to come dashing out—winning a race—perhaps it was even better. He drew himself up to his very tallest. Mary, who had been running with him and had dashed through the door too, believed that he managed to make himself look taller than he had ever looked before—inches taller.
"Father," he said, "I'm Colin. You can't believe it. I scarcely can myself. I'm Colin."
Like Mrs. Medlock, he did not understand what his father meant when he said hurriedly:
"In the garden! In the garden!"
"Yes," hurried on Colin. "It was the garden that did it—and Mary and Dickon and the creatures—and the Magic. No one knows. We kept it to tell you when you came. I'm well, I can beat Mary in a race. I'm going to be an athlete."
He said it all so like a healthy boy—his face flushed, his words tumbling over each other in his eagerness—that Mr. Craven's soul shook with unbelieving joy.
Colin put out his hand and laid it on his father's arm.
"Aren't you glad, Father?" he ended.
"Aren't you glad? I'm going to live forever and ever and ever!"
Mr. Craven put his hands on both the boy's shoulders and held him still. He knew he dared not even try to speak for a moment.
"Take me into the garden, my boy," he said at last. "And tell me all about it."
And so they led him in.
The place was a wilderness of autumn gold and purple and violet blue and flaming scarlet and on every side were sheaves of late lilies standing together—lilies which were white or white and ruby. He remembered well when the first of them had been planted that just at this season of the year their late glories should reveal themselves. Late roses climbed and hung and clustered and the sunshine deepening the hue of the yellowing trees made one feel that one stood in an embowered temple of gold. The newcomer stood silent just as the children had done when they came into its grayness. He looked round and round.
"I thought it would be dead," he said.
"Mary thought so at first," said Colin. "But it came alive."
Then they sat down under their tree—all but Colin, who wanted to stand while he told the story.
It was the strangest thing he had ever heard, Archibald Craven thought, as it was poured forth in headlong boy fashion. Mystery and Magic and wild creatures, the weird midnight meeting—the coming of the spring—the passion of insulted pride which had dragged the young Rajah to his feet to defy old Ben Weatherstaff to his face. The odd companionship, the play acting, the great secret so carefully kept. The listener laughed until tears came into his eyes and sometimes tears came into his eyes when he was not laughing. The Athlete, the Lecturer, the Scientific Discoverer was a laughable, lovable, healthy young human thing.
"Now," he said at the end of the story, "it need not be a secret any more. I dare say it will frighten them nearly into fits when they see me—but I am never going to get into the chair again. I shall walk back with you, Father—to the house."
Ben Weatherstaff's duties rarely took him away from the gardens, but on this occasion he made an excuse to carry some vegetables to the kitchen and being invited into the servants' hall by Mrs. Medlock to drink a glass of beer he was on the spot—as he had hoped to be—when the most dramatic event Misselthwaite Manor had seen during the present generation actually took place.
One of the windows looking upon the courtyard gave also a glimpse of the lawn. Mrs. Medlock, knowing Ben had come from the gardens, hoped that he might have caught sight of his master and even by chance of his meeting with Master Colin.
"Did you see either of them, Weatherstaff?" she asked.
Ben took his beer-mug from his mouth and wiped his lips with the back of his hand.
"Aye, that I did," he answered with a shrewdly significant air.
"Both of them?" suggested Mrs. Medlock.
"Both of 'em," returned Ben Weatherstaff. "Thank ye kindly, ma'am, I could sup up another mug of it."
"Together?" said Mrs. Medlock, hastily overfilling his beer-mug in her excitement.
"Together, ma'am," and Ben gulped down half of his new mug at one gulp.
"Where was Master Colin? How did he look? What did they say to each other?"
"I didna' hear that," said Ben, "along o' only bein' on th' step-ladder lookin' over th' wall. But I'll tell thee this. There's been things goin' on outside as you house people knows nowt about. An' what tha'll find out tha'll find out soon."
And it was not two minutes before he swallowed the last of his beer and waved his mug solemnly toward the window which took in through the shrubbery a piece of the lawn.
"Look there," he said, "if tha's curious. Look what's comin' across th' grass."
When Mrs. Medlock looked she threw up her hands and gave a little shriek and every man and woman servant within hearing bolted across the servants' hall and stood looking through the window with their eyes almost starting out of their heads.
Across the lawn came the Master of Misselthwaite and he looked as many of them had never seen him. And by his side with his head up in the air and his eyes full of laughter walked as strongly and steadily as any boy in Yorkshire—Master Colin!
T HERE was a caliph of Persia whose name was Al Mamoun. He had two sons whom he wished to become honest and noble men. So he employed a wise man whose name was Al Farra to be their teacher.
One day, after lesson hours, Al Farra rose to go out of the house. The two boys saw him and ran to fetch his shoes. For in that country, people never wear shoes in the house, but take them off at the door.
The two boys ran for the teacher's shoes, and each claimed the honor of carrying them to him. But they dared not quarrel and at last agreed that each should carry one shoe. Thus the honor would be divided.
When the caliph heard of this he sent for Al Farra and asked him, "Who is the most honored of men?"
The teacher answered, "I know of no man who is more honored than yourself."
"No, no," said the caliph. "It is the man who rose to go out, and two young princes contended for the honor of giving him his shoes but at last agreed that each should offer him one."
Al Farra answered, "Sir, I should have forbidden them to do this, but I feared to discourage them. I hope that I shall never do anything to make them careless of their duties."
"Well," said the caliph, "if you had forbidden them thus to honor you, I should have declared you in the wrong. They did nothing that was beneath the dignity of princes. Indeed, they honored themselves by honoring you."
Al Farra bowed low, but said nothing; and the caliph went on.
"No young man nor boy," said he, "can be so high in rank as to neglect three great duties: he must respect his ruler, he must love and obey his father, and he must honor his teacher."
Then he called the two young princes to him, and as a reward for their noble conduct, filled their pockets with gold.
How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and the heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs!
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!
Across the windowpane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!
The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks.
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.
From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Engulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.
In the country on every side,
Where far and wide,
Like a leopard's tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!
In the furrowed land
The toilsome and patient oxen stand;
Lifting the yoke-encumbered head,
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man's spoken word.
Near at hand
From under the sheltering trees,
The farmer sees
His pastures and his fields of grain,
As they bend their tops
To the numberless beating drops
Of the incessant rain.
He counts it as no sin
That he sees therein
Only his own thrift and gain.
WEEK 27 |
W ILLIAM RUFUS, or the Red as he was called, from the colour of his hair, took the ring from his father's hand and hurried off to seize the throne of England, without waiting even till the Conqueror should die. In little more than a fortnight the crown was upon the head of William Rufus, and England had another Norman king.
But even the Norman nobles were not pleased with their new king. The Conqueror had ruled them with an iron hand, and they had hoped, when he was dead, to have some one who would be less severe. They wanted Robert, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, because they knew that he was much less harsh than William, and they thought that they would be able to do what they liked if Robert were king. So they rebelled against William the Red and asked Robert to come to England to fight for the crown.
Now the English hated to have a Norman king, but they hated the Norman nobles even more. Although William the Red was Norman he had lived in England ever since he had been about six years old. He could speak English, which the Conqueror could never learn to do, and which the Confessor had never cared to do.
So William the Red appealed to the English people. He said to them, "If you stand by me and fight for me, I will reward you. I will take away some of the heavy taxes, I will give you more liberty, and I will not allow the Norman barons to oppress you."
So the English people fought for their Norman king, and they beat the Norman nobles. Robert was obliged to fly back to France, and William the Red, with the help of the English people, sat safely on the English throne.
But as soon as he was safe, William forgot about his promises. He oppressed the people as much as ever, and they were almost more unhappy than they had been in the time of his father.
The Red King was wicked and greedy. He stole money from every one, even from the churches, and spent it on his own pleasure. Little good can be said of him except that he was fearless. Still when he was ill, and thought he might die, he became frightened because of the wicked things he had done, and promised to do better. But as soon as he was well again he forgot his fears and was as wicked as before. He was not truly a brave man, and he was very cruel.
One day William the Red went to hunt with his friends in the New Forest—that forest which his father had made by destroying so many villages. Before the hunting-party started, a man came to the King and gave him six beautiful new arrows. The King admired them very much and he gave one of them to his friend, Walter Tyrrell, who was a very good shot, saying, "The best arrows should be given to him who knows best how to use them."
It was a gay scene. The King in his rich hunting-dress rode first. His friends and servants, gayly dressed, followed. There was much talking and laughing and barking of dogs.
As they rode into the forest, the frightened deer fled before them, and soon every one was eagerly following the chase. In the many paths of the forest, the King became separated from his friends. The nobles did not notice that the King was not among them, for it often happened in hunting that a few would be separated from the others. When the hunt was over, one by one the hunting-party returned to the palace. Only the King did not return—the King and one noble, Walter Tyrrell.
What had happened?
As the shadows began to lengthen and the sun to set, the people of his household became uneasy. Who was with the King? Who saw him last?
As the question was asked, a peasant's cart came slowly up the street. It was a rough wooden cart drawn by an old white horse, led by a peasant in poor and shabby clothes.
The question was answered. In the cart the King, who so short a time before had ridden gayly away, lay dead, with an arrow through his heart.
"Who has done this?" asked the barons, seizing the peasant. "Villain, answer."
"I know naught of it, my lords," replied the man. "I was passing through the forest on my way home when I found this man lying dead as you see him. I bethought me that it was the King, so I brought him thither."
How William the Red was killed can never be known. Some people say that Walter Tyrrell, while aiming at a deer, hit the king by mistake, that the arrow struck a tree and, glancing off, pierced the king in the breast and killed him. These people think that Walter Tyrrell frightened at what he had done, fled away as fast as he could; that he fled to the seashore, got into a ship and sailed over to France.
Certain it is that Walter Tyrrell did run away that day, and did not return to England for many years. But when he came back, he vowed very solemnly that he had not done the deed and that he had not even been near the King that day when he died.
There was no sorrow for the dead king. He was hated so much that, when he was buried, no bell was rung, no prayers were said, and when some time after the tower of the church fell, people said it was because of the wickedness of William, the Red King, who lay buried there.
R ANA, the green frog, stretched in his bed of mud and moss. He had slept without moving during the coldest days and nights of the year and now his long winter's nap was over.
The mud and moss had been frozen and he had lain in an icy nest, but the chill had not made him ache. He had known nothing about it. The colder his body was, the less it felt and when it was very, very cold indeed it became numb and felt nothing at all.
The sun of springtime warmed the earth. The blossoms on the willows grew big and furry. The ice was gone from the pond and the melted snow ran down the banks. Some of it flowed into Rana's bed and made a bath tub of it. The stiffness left his arms and legs and he kicked about in the water.
After a few splashes he found himself at the surface of the pond. He poked out his head and breathed deeply. It was good to draw in the warm spring air. He had hardly breathed at all while he slept the winter away, a stiff and numb little object.
Now that he was breathing and moving and feeling, he became hungry. A young water insect swam near and Rana swallowed it. It was soft and tender, and the taste of it pleased him. He had eaten nothing whatever for weeks and weeks and his appetite was keen. One small morsel was not enough so he hunted in the pond for the rest of his spring breakfast.
When Rana swam, his legs bent and then straightened out behind him. They were strong little legs and well formed. Even his toes were perfect in every joint. Yet a few years ago he had been a cripple for a time. He had an accident and one of his legs was broken off at the knee. He never knew where the lost part went. It disappeared very quickly. At the time there was a rather pleased turtle near by; but if the turtle knew anything about the missing leg, he did not tell.
However, the accident was not very serious, for it happened while Rana was a tadpole. A tadpole, as you may know, is fortunately able to grow a new leg in place of one he may chance to lose. Of course, since Rana had become a frog he would do well to be more careful of his legs. If he lost one now he would be a cripple for the rest of his life.
When Rana was a tadpole he had a small mouth and a tail that was longer than all the rest of his body. After he became a frog he had a wide mouth and no tail at all. Altogether his body changed very much while it was growing. It changed inside and outside. He even breathed in a different way.
A tadpole breathes with gills much as a fish does. The gills are on each side of the throat and are covered with skin. On the left side there is an opening or breathing pore in the skin. The water passes into the mouth and nostrils, flows through the gill chambers, and then goes out through the breathing pore. There is air enough in the water for the gills to use in breathing.
A grown frog takes in air through his nostrils and breathes by means of lungs. At least that is the way he breathes when his head is out of the water. He can breathe a little, however, through his skin—enough so that he can live at the bottom of the pond as long as he cares to stay there. A frog, happily, is in no danger of drowning.
Some tadpoles change into frogs their first summer, but Rana was rather slow in growing up and was a tadpole for two summers. The third summer he was a frog. That season he did a great deal of yelping. So did all the other young green frogs in the pond. They sprang into the air and cried every time they were frightened.
Two boys, who were spending the summer at a farm not far away, often came to the pond. One day they ran pell-mell down the slope to the edge of the water where Rana and about forty of his kind were hidden among the sedges.
Suddenly, all about the boys, the frogs leaped into the air, yelled, and splashed into the water. The boys jumped, too. They slipped on some wet stones and fell into the pond with screams and splashes that were even louder than those the frogs made. Then the boys laughed, and after that day, whenever they met a green frog, they called him a "yelping frog." It was so good a nickname that other children who played by the pond used it too. So that is how it happens that a green frog in that neighborhood is known by the name which is used for the title of this story.
Even after Rana grew older, he still had the habit of jumping high into the air and falling to the water with a splash, if he chanced to be alarmed while he was sitting among the plants at the edge of the pond. But the cry he gave at such times was different, for his voice had changed and the old frog called a low and rather pleasant-sounding "chung" when he was frightened.
Early in the spring Rana had still another note. After he left his cold winter-bed he liked to sit in the shallow water near the edge of the pond and croak his spring song. It was a jerky sort of song, but it was the best he could do. There were neither words nor tune in his croaking, but there was joy in it. It seemed to mean that the frozen ground had grown mellow; the quiet, sleepy, stiff old earth was stirring and young again. Sap was running in the trees and bushes. Brooks were racing down their little valleys and chuckling as they went. The big butterflies with yellow edges on their brown wings, after dozing through the cold months in some hollow tree, were flying by day. It was spring!
So in the shallow water at the edge of the pond Rana sat and sang every night. He put so much force into his voice that his whole body jerked with every croak. The water was so cold that had you tried to wade in it, you would have shaken and shivered and stepped quickly to the shore. But it was not chilly to Rana. He was no warm-blooded creature who must wait until summer for his swimming. His little body, with cold blood inside and cold water outside, was comfortable enough. So he croaked and he jerked right cheerfully.
Rana was not singing a solo. He was singing in a chorus. All about him the voices of the other green frogs were croaking the same jerky, tuneless music. Another, different sort of croaking helped make the chorus louder. The spotted pickerel frogs also wakened early in the year, and they too sat in the water and sang at night.
It was during the season of the great spring chorus that Rana met his mate. Her throat was white and her ears were about the same size as her eyes. Rana's throat was yellow as an orange and his ears were larger than his eyes—much larger. Except for the color of their throats and the size of their ears, the two frogs looked very much alike.
The yelping frog had a large flat ear on each side of his head.
Their flat, circular ears, at the sides of their heads, had no outer parts to fill with water when they swam. The eardrums were even with the surface of the head and covered with skin. Their heads and shoulders were bright, shiny green, and their backs were the color of olives. Their bodies were white underneath, and their sides were dappled with green and brown. Rana was nearly three inches long from the tip of his nose to the end of his body (not measuring his legs), and his mate was nearly two inches longer.
Rana and Mrs. Rana looked, indeed, so much like small-sized bullfrogs that it would have been easy to mistake them for bullfrogs. Rana, however, had a little fold of skin along each side, reaching from his eye to the end of his body. So did Mrs. Rana. A bullfrog has no such side fold in his skin. If you ever wish to know whether you are looking at a bullfrog or a yelping frog, you can tell by the side fold, or the lack of it.
Mrs. Bullfrog also lived in Holiday Pond.
One day, rather early in the spring, Mrs. Rana swam off to lay her eggs. Rana went with her. An alder bush was growing at the edge of the pond, and one of its lower branches dipped down into the water. This branch seemed to please Mrs. Rana, and on it she fastened a clear, colorless, jelly-like mass. In the mass were her eggs.
It was a queer sort of nest, and after it was once in place Rana and Mrs. Rana both went off and left it. They never went back to look at it again. They did not know how many days it took the sun, shining on the jelly-mass near the top of the water, to hatch their eggs. When the young tadpoles began to swim about in the pond, Father and Mother Rana did not know their own children from their nephews and nieces. The old frogs did not feed the baby tads even so much as a single mosquito wriggler. The youngsters found their own food. Their legs grew on the outside of their bodies, and their arms grew on the inside, in the gill chambers. All this happened and the parent frogs paid no attention.
The young tadpoles took care of themselves. They did not even know who Mother Rana was.
When they were old enough, each young frog thrust his left arm out through the breathing pore and went about with only one free arm. There was no breathing pore on the right side for the other arm to come through. For this reason each tadpole kept his right arm inside, and as it grew bigger and bigger it looked like a bunch in his side. When the arm grew big enough and strong enough, it tore the skin and poked out through the hole. So after a time each little tadpole had two arms outside instead of one arm out and one arm in.
It seems almost a pity that the parent frogs missed all the fun of watching their young grow up. If Mother Rana could have thought, "All our little sons and daughters are poking out their left arms to‑day," it might have given her pleasure. If Father Rana could have croaked, "The youngsters have broken through with their strong right arms," he might have liked watching the growth of the tadpoles.
But it is the way of frogs to pay no attention at all to their young ones. And a very good way it is too—for frogs. With so large a family of tadpoles, it would be rather hard on the parents if they needed to take care of the little ones all the time their mouths were growing wider and their tails were growing smaller and their gills were growing useless and their lungs were growing useful.
Rana found enough to do to keep him contented. He hunted for his food. He did not take long hunting trips through the meadows as the spotted pickerel frogs did when they went out to catch grasshoppers.
The spotted pickerel frog went into the meadow to hunt for grasshoppers.
Rana sometimes hid among the marsh marigolds at the edge of the pond, but he always stayed near enough to leap splashing into the pond if anything frightened him. In fact he spent about as much time in the water as the bullfrogs did.
Now and then, several times a year in fact, he molted his skin. His old skin would loosen on his body. Then it would tear down the middle when he shrugged his shoulders. After that he wriggled out of it as best as he could. He pulled with his legs as if trying to get his feet out of some stockings. He moved his arms as if taking off a pair of gloves. If he happened to be out of the water when he took his skin off, he usually stuffed it into his mouth and ate it. That was one way to get rid of it. If he molted under water, the old skin floated off out of reach and he did not swim after it and catch it. There were plenty of kinds of food to hunt in the pond without bothering about his old torn skin.
On warm days he liked to sit on a lily pad with his head in the air. On days when the air was colder than the water, he was in the habit of lying flat on the bottom of the pond.
He did not lead a very busy life. Even in summer he had many idle hours.
One hot summer day three cricket frogs perched on green Rana's back, which was moist and cool.
As the days grew colder toward the end of the season, he was quiet most of the time. Then there came a day when the pleasant shallow edge of the pond no longer satisfied him. His body had a queer feeling. He did not seem to like the light. The mud near by was black and soft. Slowly, very slowly, he pushed into the mud. Farther and farther he dug his way, until at last he made a little cave at the end of his journey. He felt drowsy—so very drowsy—and after that he felt nothing at all until the long winter was over. Then he stretched in his bed of mud and sought the light of a fair spring day.
"Father, father, where are you going?
O do not walk so fast!
Speak, father, speak to your little boy,
Or else I shall be lost."
The night was dark, no father was there,
The child was wet with dew;
The mire was deep, and the child did weep,
And away the vapour flew.
WEEK 27 |
HEN school was called to order the following morning not one was
missing. You see, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly
Porky, there was not one in whose life
Just imagine the feelings of these little people when, just as they
had comfortably seated themselves for the morning lesson, Reddy
himself stepped out from behind a tree. Never before was a school
so quickly broken up. In the
winking of an eye Old Mother Nature
was alone, save for
Reddy Fox looked as if he felt uncomfortable. "I didn't mean to break up your school," said he to Old Mother Nature. "I wouldn't have thought of coming if you hadn't sent for me."
Old Mother Nature smiled. "I didn't tell any one that I was going to send for you, Reddy," said she, "for I was afraid that if I did no one would come this morning. I promised them a surprise, but it is clear that no one guessed what that surprise was to be. Go over by that old stump near the Lone Little Path and sit there, Reddy."
The familiar Red Fox who holds his own against man.
Then Old Mother Nature called each of the little people by name,
commanding each to return at once. She spoke sternly, very sternly
indeed. One by one they appeared from all sorts of hiding places,
glancing fearfully towards
When at last all were crowded about her as closely as they could
get, Old Mother Nature spoke and this time her voice was soft. "I
am ashamed of you," said she. "Truly I am ashamed of you. How
could you think that I would allow any harm to come to you?
"It may seem queer to you that Reddy Fox belongs to the same family as Bowser the Hound, but it is true. Both are members of the Dog family and thus are quite closely related. Howler the Wolf and Old Man Coyote are also members of the family, so all are cousins. Look closely at Reddy and you will see at once that he looks very much like a small Dog with a beautiful red coat, white waistcoat, black feet and bushy tail. Now, Peter, you probably know as much about Reddy as any one here. At least you should. Tell us what you have learned in your efforts to keep out of his clutches."
Peter scratched a long ear thoughtfully and glanced sideways at
Johnny Chuck, Danny Meadow Mouse and
Whitefoot the Wood
Mouse nodded as if they quite agreed. Then Peter continued, "Reddy
lives chiefly by hunting, and in his turn he is hunted, so he needs
to have sharp wits. When he isn't hunting me he is hunting Danny
Meadow Mouse or Whitefoot or Striped Chipmunk or
"Your guess is wrong, Peter," spoke up Reddy Fox, who had been listening with a grin on his crafty face. "I am rather fond of certain kinds of fruits. You didn't know that, did you, Peter?"
"No, I didn't," replied Peter. "I'm glad to know it. I think it is dreadful to live entirely by killing others."
"You might add," remarked Reddy, "that I like a meal of fish occasionally, and eggs are always welcome. I am not particular what I eat so long as I can get my stomach full."
"Reddy Fox hunts with ears, eyes and nose," continued Peter. "Many a time I've watched him listening for the squeak of Danny Meadow Mouse or watching for the grass to move and show where Danny was hiding; and many a time he has found my scent with his wonderful nose and followed me just as Bowser the Hound follows him. I guess there isn't much going on that Reddy's eyes, ears and nose don't tell him. But it is Reddy's quick wits that the rest of us fear most. We never know what new trick he will try. Lots of enemies are easy to fool, but Reddy isn't one of them. Sometimes I think he knows more about me than I know about myself. I guess it is just pure luck that he hasn't caught me with some of those smart tricks of his.
"Reddy hunts both day and night, but I think he prefers night. I guess it all depends on how hungry he is. More than once I've seen him bringing home a Chicken, but I am told that he is smart enough not to steal Chickens near his home, but always to go some distance to get them. Also I've been told that he is too clever to go to the same Chicken yard two nights in succession. So far as I know, he isn't afraid of any one except a hunter with a terrible gun. He doesn't seem to mind being chased by Bowser the Hound at all."
"I don't," spoke up Reddy. "I rather enjoy it. It gives me good exercise. Any time I can't fool Bowser by breaking my trail so he can't find it again, I deserve to be caught. I am not even so terribly afraid of a hunter with a gun. You see, usually I can guess what a hunter will do better than he can what I will do."
Old Mother Nature nodded. "That sounds like boasting," said she,
"but it isn't. Reddy Fox is one of the few animals who has
succeeded in holding his own against man, and he has done it simply
by using his wits. There is no other animal as large as Reddy Fox
who has succeeded as he has in living close to the homes of men.
It is simply because he has made the most of the senses I have given
him. He has learned to use his eyes, ears and nose at all times and
to understand and make the most of the information they bring him.
Reddy has always been hunted by man, and it is this very thing which
has so sharpened his wits. It is seldom that he is guilty of making
the same mistake twice. All of you little people fear Reddy, and I
suspect some of you hate him. But always remember that he never
kills for the love of killing, and only when he must have food.
There would be something sadly missing in the Green Forest and on
the Green Meadows were there no
"This year our home is up in the Old Pasture," replied Reddy. "We
have the nicest kind of a house dug in the ground underneath a big
It has only one entrance, but this is because there is no
need of any other. No one could possibly dig us out there. Last
year our home was on the Green Meadows and there were three doorways
to that. The year before we dug our house in a gravelly bank just
within the edge of the Green Forest. The babies are born in a
comfortable bedroom deep underground. Sometimes we have a storeroom
in addition to the bedroom; there
"Our children are well trained if I do say it. We teach them how to hunt, how to fool their enemies, and all the tricks we have learned. No one has a better training than a young Fox."
"Here is a conundrum for you little folks,"
said Old Mother Nature.
"When is a
"That's the answer," said Old Mother Nature. "Once in a while a
Reddy Fox had been listening intently and now Mother Nature noticed a worried look on his face. "What is it, Reddy?" said she. "You look anxious."
"I am anxious," said he. "What you have just said has worried me.
You see, one of my cubs at home is all black. Now that I have
learned that his fur is so valuable,
"I want you all to know that Reddy Fox and
"There's one thing I do envy Reddy," spoke up Peter Rabbit, "and that is that big tail of his. It is a wonderful tail. I wish I had one like it."
How everybody laughed as they tried to picture Peter Rabbit with a
big tail like that of
"In the South and some parts of the East and West, Reddy has a
cousin of about his own size whose coat is gray with red on the
sides of his neck, ears and across his breast. The under part of
his body is reddish, his throat and the middle of his breast are
white. He is called the
In some places he is called the Tree Fox.
"The Gray Fox of the South is not the only cousin of Reddy's,"
continued Old Mother Nature. "In certain parts of the Great West,
on the plains, lives one of the smallest of Reddy's cousins,
"In the hot, dry regions of the Southwest, where the Kangaroo Rats
and Pocket Mice live, is another cousin, closely related to the
"The Arctic, or White Fox, lives in the Far North, in the land of
snow and ice. He is a little fellow, bigger than the
His coat is all white in the winter months.
"The Blue Fox is really only a colored
This is really a color phase of the Arctic Fox.
"Now I think this will do for Reddy Fox and his relatives. Reddy
is going to stay right here with me, until the rest of you have
had a chance to get home. After that you will have to watch out
for yourselves as usual. Just remember that Reddy has become the
quick-witted person he is because he has been so much hunted. If
you are as smart as Reddy, you will understand that the more he
hunts you, the quicker-witted you also will become.
General Andrew Jackson's father was also named Andrew Jackson. He was an Irishman, who came to the Waxhaw settlement, on the line between North and South Carolina, about ten years before the Revolution. He had built a log cabin, cleared a little land, and raised a crop of corn, when he sickened and died. In this sad time his son, Andrew Jackson, was born. Andrew's mother lived with her relatives, and spun flax to earn a little money.
From a little fellow "Andy" was a hot-tempered boy. Some larger boys once loaded a gun very heavily, and gave it to Andy to fire, in order to see him knocked over by the "kick" of the gun. But the fierce little fellow had no sooner tumbled over, than he got up and vowed that he would kill the first one that laughed, and not one of the boys dared to provoke him. He grew up in a wild country and among rough people. What little schooling he got was at an old-field schoolhouse.
When he was but thirteen the Revolutionary War began. In the South the struggle was very bitter, neighbor battling against neighbor with any weapons that could be found. Of course, a fiery fellow like Andrew wanted to have a hand in the fight against England. Whenever he went to a blacksmith's shop he hammered out some new weapon. Young as he was, he was in two or three skirmishes. In one of these, Andrew and his brother were taken prisoners. A British officer ordered Andrew to clean the mud off his boots. Young Jackson refused, and got a sword cut on his head for it. His brother was treated in the same way. The two wounded boys were then confined in a forlorn prison pen, where they took the smallpox. Their mother managed to get them exchanged, and brought the sick boys home.
Andrew Jackson makes his Own Weapons
When Andrew Jackson was eighteen years old he went to the village of Salisbury to study law. At this time many settlers were crossing the mountains into the rich lands to the westward, and young Jackson moved to the newly settled country of Tennessee. Here, in the fierce disputes of a new country, it took a great deal of courage to practice law.
Jackson was not only brave; he was also a quick-tempered man, who got into many quarrels during his life, and sometimes fought duels. The rough people among whom he lived were afraid of him. One day he was eating at a long table which the keeper of the tavern had set out of doors for the crowd that had come to see a horse race. A fight was going on at the other end of the table; but fights were so common in this new country that Jackson did not stop eating to find out what it was about. Presently he heard that a friend of his, one Patten Anderson, was likely to be killed. Jackson could not easily get to his friend for the crowd, but he jumped up on the table and ran along on it, putting his hand into his pocket as though to draw a pistol. He cried out at the same time, "I'm coming, Patten!" and he opened and shut the tobacco box in his pocket with a sound like the cocking of a pistol. The crowd was so afraid of him that they scattered at once, crying "Don't fire!"
O! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming—
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming!
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
On that shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner; O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto—"In God is our trust":
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!
WEEK 27 |
T HE Emperor Charlemagne was well pleased, for at last, after much fighting, he had taken the city of Cordres. The walls lay in ruins, and with his great war engines he had shattered the towers and turrets. Within the town his knights had found rich plunder of gold and silver and precious stones, of wrought armour and princely weapons. So they were well rewarded for days of fighting and of toil.
But most of all Charlemagne was glad that not a heathen man remained within the walls. For those who would not be baptized, and become good Christian men, had been slain. Such was the great Emperor's way. To every prisoner was given the choice to live as Christian or to die as heathen.
And now, resting after his labours and his battles, great Karl sat in a sunny orchard. Around him were gathered his mighty men. Wise and old, bearded and grave, they sat upon gay carpets spread upon the ground, talking together or playing chess. Of the younger knights, some wrestled or ran or tried their strength in friendly wise in the cool shadow of the trees. Among them was the Emperor's nephew Roland, the bravest knight of France, and his fast friend Oliver.
And into the cool shade of the orchard, where these knights rested and played, rode Blancandrin and his train, on their white mules. Bending low before Charlemagne, "In the name of God we greet thee," said the messengers.
Then kneeling humbly, Blancandrin spoke. "The valiant King Marsil sends me to thee," he said, "with presents rich and rare. He promises to become thy vassal; he will place his hands within thy hands, and swear to serve thee. But already thou hast been too long time distant from thy fair realm of France. Go back, and there will King Marsil come to do thee homage."
When Blancandrin had finished speaking, the Emperor bowed his head in thought. He was never quick to speak, and now he pondered long before he answered the kneeling stranger. In silence around him, his own knights and the messengers of Spain awaited his reply.
At last Charlemagne raised his head. "Thou hast spoken well," he said to Blancandrin, "but King Marsil is my great enemy. Thy words are fair, but how may I know if there be any truth in them?"
This was even as Blancandrin had foreseen. "We will give thee hostages," he said, "ten—twenty—whatever number thou wilt ask. I will send mine own son to thee. And if we keep not faith with thee, if King Marsil come not, as he swears he will, to bow the knee to thee and receive the baptism of Holy Christ, then mayest thou slay them all."
"So be it"; said Charlemagne, "it seemeth me King Marsil may yet find grace."
Then as the day was far gone, and the evening sun sent long shadows through the trees, the Emperor gave orders that the Saracens should be lodged with honour, that every respect should be paid to them and that they should be waited upon as noble guests.
So the night passed and very early in the morning, Charlemagne rose. And after hearing morning prayer, he called his wise men round him that they might give him counsel.
"My lords and barons," he said, "King Marsil hath sent messengers to me with fair words and rich presents. He promises to be my vassal and to be baptized in the name of Holy Christ. And to this end he will follow me to France, if I now return thither. But how may I know whether he lie to me, or whether he speak truth?"
"Beware of him, beware!" cried the Franks.
Then, as silence once more fell upon them, Roland rose. His cheek was flushed, his eye flashed in anger. "Believe not thou this Marsil!" he cried. "He was ever a traitor. Once before, dost thou not remember it, there came from him false messengers, with olive branches in their hands and lies upon their lips. And when thou sentest two of thy knights to him, he smote off their heads. Listen not unto him, but end as thou hast begun. Carry the war to Saragossa, and if the siege should last all thy life long, it were still worth it, to avenge the death of our noble knights upon this felon Marsil. War! I say war!"
The Emperor bent his head. With his fingers he twisted his long white beard as he sat in thought, and to his nephew he answered no word good or bad. Around him stood his knights and nobles, silent too.
Then in the stillness, a knight whose name was Ganelon sprang up. His face was dark and haughty, and with proud gestures he strode to the foot of the throne. "Listen not to the counsel of fools!" he cried. "Think rather of thine own best good. King Marsil's gifts and promises, I say, thou oughtest to accept. He who counselleth thee to refuse is a fool, and thinketh not of the death we all may die. Listen not to the counsel of pride. Let fools be, and hearken to the wise." And casting a look of dark hatred at Roland, Ganelon was silent.
Then from his seat an old man rose. He was the Duke Naimes. His face was brown and wrinkled, his beard was white and long, and in all the Emperor's court there was none more wise than he.
Turning to the Emperor, "Thou hast heard," he said, "the
words of Count Ganelon. It is wise counsel that he giveth.
Let it be followed. King Marsil is vanquished in war. Thou
hast taken all his castles, the walls of his towns are laid
low by thy war engines, his villages are burned, his men are
Then all the Franks cried out, "The Duke hath spoken well."
"My lords and barons," said the Emperor, "since ye think it well, whom shall we send to do our bidding at Saragossa?"
"I will go right gladly," said Duke Naimes. "Give me here and now thy glove and mace as tokens that I am thy messenger, and let me go."
"Nay," replied the Emperor, "wisest art thou in counsel. By my beard, thou shalt not go so far from me! Sit thee down, I command thee!"
Duke Naimes was silent, and again the Emperor spoke. "My lords and barons, whom will ye that we send?"
"Send me!" cried Roland, "right joyfully will I go."
"Nay," said Oliver, springing forward, "nay, not so. Too fiery of temper art thou. Thou wouldst bring but evil out of this. Let me go rather, if the Emperor will."
"Be silent, both!" thundered Charlemagne. "Not a step shall ye go, either one or other of you. Nay, by my white beard, I swear none of my twelve chosen peers shall go." For Roland and Oliver were two of the twelve noblest and best of Charlemagne's knights, known as the Peers of France.
Before the anger of the Emperor the Franks stood silent and abashed. Then from the ranks of knights, Turpin, the old Archbishop of Rheims, stepped out. Raising his clear, strong voice, he spoke. "Sire," he cried, "thy knights and barons have suffered much in war these seven long years. Let them now rest. But give to me thy glove and mace. I will find this Saracen lord, and will speak unto him my mind."
"Nay," said the Emperor, and his brow grew yet more dark, "nay, by my troth thou shalt not go. Sit thee down, and speak not again until I command thee." Then, as Turpin was silent and went back to his place, once again the Emperor turned to his knights. "My lords of France," he cried, "now choose ye, choose ye whom we shall send to do our bidding at Saragossa!"
"Ah!" said Roland, "if I may not go, then send Ganelon my step-father. Nowhere canst thou find a better knight or wiser man."
"Well said! well said!" shouted the Franks. "If so the Emperor will, there were no man better."
"Good," replied Charlemagne, "Ganelon it shall be. Approach, Count, and receive the mace and glove. The Franks have chosen thee. Thou hast heard."
But Ganelon stood in his place white and trembling with passion. "This is Roland's work," he said in a voice low, yet sharp with anger. "For this, I vow, I will love him no more. No more will I love Oliver, for he is Roland's friend. No more will I love the Peers, for they are his companions. There, Sire, before thy face I fling defiance at them."
"Ganelon," replied the Emperor sternly, "there is too much anger here. Since I order it, thou shalt go."
"Oh, I will go," cried Ganelon mad with anger, "I will go, and I will die as the two knights before me died. For if I go to Saragossa, I know well that I shall never return." Then seeing that his anger moved not the Emperor one whit, he began to speak in a pleading, gentle voice. "Forget not thou thy sister who is my wife," he said. "Forget not my son, too. Oh, my pretty boy! If he lives he will be a noble knight, and to him I leave all my lands and riches. Be thou good to him and love him, for I shall never see him more."
"Ganelon," said Charlemagne scornfully, "thy heart is too tender methinks. If I command thee to go, go thou must."
And now Count Ganelon's anger knew no bounds. Shaking with wrath, he flung his cloak backward from his shoulders, showing the silken vest which he wore beneath. He was very tall and splendid, and his dark proud face glowed with passion, and his grey eyes glittered as he turned to Roland. "Fool," he cried, "dastard, why this hatred against me? Ah! every one knows. I am thy step-father, and therefore hast thou condemned me to go to Marsil and to death. But wait," he went on, his voice trembling and choking with passion, "wait, and if it please Heaven that I return, I will bring upon thee such sorrow and mourning as shall last all thy life long."
"Pride and folly," laughed Roland scornfully, "thou knowest that I care not for thy threats. But such a message as that upon which the Emperor now sends thee requires a man of wisdom, and if so the Emperor will, I will take thy place."
But neither did this please Ganelon. "Thou art not my vassal," he cried, "nor am I thy lord. The Emperor hath commanded me to go to Saragossa, and go I shall. But I shall do thee and thy companions an evil to avenge me of this day."
At that Count Roland laughed aloud in scorn.
When Ganelon heard Roland laugh he became as one beside himself. His face grew purple with anger, he gasped and choked. "I hate thee," he hissed at last, "I hate thee!" Then struggling to be calm he turned once more to the Emperor. "Great Karl," he said, "I am ready to do thy will."
'I hate thee,' hissed Ganelon
"Fair Sir Ganelon," said the Emperor, "this is my message to the heathen King Marsil. Say to him that he shall bend the knee to gentle Christ and be baptized in His name. Then will I give him full half of Spain to hold in fief. Over the other half Count Roland, my nephew well-beloved, shall reign. If Marsil doth not choose to accept these terms then will I march to Saragossa. I will besiege and take his city. I will bind him hand and foot, and will lead him prisoner to Aix, my royal seat. There he shall be tried, and judged and slain, dying a death of torture and disgrace. Here is the letter which I have sealed with my seal. Give thou it into the hands of the heathen lord."
Thus speaking, the Emperor held out the letter and his right hand glove to Ganelon. But he, in his anger scarce knowing what he did, as he knelt to take them, let the glove slip from his fingers, and it fell to the ground between them.
"Alas!" cried the Franks, "that is an evil omen. Ill-luck will come to us of this quest."
"Ye shall have news of it anon," said Ganelon darkly, turning from them. Then to the Emperor he said, "Sire, let me go. Since go I must, why delay?"
The Emperor raised his hand, and signed him with the sign of the cross. "Go," he said, "in Christ's name and mine." And giving his mace into Ganelon's hand, he bade him God-speed.
Without a look at the gathered peers, without a word of farewell, Ganelon turned on his heel, and went to his own house. There he clad himself in his finest armour. Golden spurs were bound upon his feet, a cloak of rich fur and silk was flung about his shoulders. Murglies, his famous sword, he girt to his side, and as he sprang upon his horse Taschebrun, many a knight pressed round him to say farewell, many begged to be allowed to go with him. For they were gallant knights and bold, and to go upon a quest of danger was their greatest joy. But Ganelon would have none of them. "God forbid!" he cried; "I had rather go upon my death alone. But, gentle sirs, ye return to fair France, whither I too would fain go. Greet there for me my dear lady and my boy. Defend him and guard his rights as ye would your own." Then with bent head Ganelon turned slowly from their sight, and rode to join the heathen Blancandrin.
As he journeyed, his heart was heavy. Sadly he thought of that fair France which he might never see again, more sadly still of his wife and child whom never again perhaps would he hold in his arms. Then his heart grew hot with jealous anger at the thought that these knights and nobles whom he hated would now soon return to France, and that he alone of all that gallant host would be left to die in heathen Spain.
A Wolf had been prowling around a flock of Sheep for a long time, and the Shepherd watched very anxiously to prevent him from carrying off a Lamb. But the Wolf did not try to do any harm. Instead he seemed to be helping the Shepherd take care of the Sheep. At last the Shepherd got so used to seeing the Wolf about that he forgot how wicked he could be.
One day he even went so far as to leave his flock in the Wolf's care while he went on an errand. But when he came back and saw how many of the flock had been killed and carried off, he knew how foolish to trust a Wolf.
Once a wolf, always a wolf.
When the poppies with their shield,
Forest and the harvest fields,
In the hill
Of a blossom, fair to see
There I stall the humble bee,
My good stud;
There I stable him and hold,
Harness him with fairy gold,
There I ease his burly back
Of the honey and its sack
Gathered from each bud.
Where the glowworm lights its lamp
There I lie;
Where, above the grasses damp,
Moths go by;
Now within the fussy brook,
Where the waters wind and crook
Round the rocks,
I go sailing down the gloom
Straddling on a wisp of broom,
Or, beneath the owlet moon,
Trip it to the cricket's tune
Tossing back my locks.
Ere the crowfoot on the lawn lifts its head,
Or the glowworm's light be gone
Dim and dead,
In a cobweb hammock deep
Twixt two ferns I swing and sleep
Where the drowsy musk-rose blows
And a dreamy runnel flows
In the land of Faery,
Where no mortal thing can see
All the elfin day.
WEEK 27 |
"He sat upon the deck,
The Book was in his hand.
'Do not fear. Heaven is as near,'
He said, 'by water as by land.' "
E LIZABETH had been Queen of England for twenty years before any steps were taken to colonise the New World, towards which all eyes were turned. But while she and her adventurers were dazzled by dreams of gold in the frozen regions of the north, one of her subjects was watching the English fishermen on the coasts of Newfoundland and planning homes for them in America.
This man was Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Year by year ships came from Spain and Portugal, England and France, to the shores of this Newfoundland, and here it was that Gilbert planned a little colony of his own countrymen. His most faithful friend and adviser was his step-brother, Walter Raleigh, who was hereafter to play a large part among Elizabeth's seamen. Both were Devonshire men, like Drake and Hawkins; but Gilbert was among the first Englishmen to see that the love of adventure, which was leading so many at this time to annoy the Spaniards, might be turned to better account. England, he thought, was playing an ignoble part. Instead of taking the lead in voyages of discovery, as she might have done, with the best of ships and sailors, she had given herself up to plundering the treasure-ships of Spain. Drake was the hero of the hour. The queen herself had shared his ill-gotten plunder. The cry of Elizabeth's England was for gold.
So when Gilbert undertook the task of carrying English colonists to the shores of the New World, Elizabeth tried to turn him from his purpose. He was willing to brave the displeasure of his royal mistress. There was no gold to be got out of his lofty scheme, but he stood firm. He had dreams of making his colony a starting-point for the north-west passage. He was no common adventurer. He had a great mind and a great soul.
"He is not worthy to live at all that, for fear or danger of death, shunneth his country's service and his own honour, seeing death is inevitable and the fame of virtue immortal," he used to say when pleading for the Arctic voyage.
In 1578, when Drake was sailing round the world in his little Pelican, and Frobisher was fighting his way amid the frozen seas of the north, Sir Humphrey Gilbert was collecting ships and men to plant his colony over the seas. With eleven ships and some 500 men he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Newfoundland, but from the very beginning the expedition was a failure. One of the ships was lost, and misfortune after misfortune compelled the rest to return.
Undaunted, he tried again. With Walter Raleigh's help he fitted out a second expedition. In 1583 the little fleet left England with a parting gift from the queen in the shape of a golden anchor. But again a series of disasters overtook the expedition. Two days after leaving harbour the largest ship in the fleet deserted. Angrily Gilbert sailed on without it, arriving in safety on the shores of Newfoundland. Summoning Spanish and Portuguese together, he raised a pillar with the arms of England engraved on it, and formally took possession of the country in the queen's name.
But it was not easy to keep order. The sailors, after the manner of their day, were lawless adventurers, pirates, and robbers. They only wanted to make their fortune; they had no industry, perseverance, or endurance—qualities needed for all colonisation.
Everything went wrong, and at last the would-be colonists begged to be taken home. Only two ships were left, the Squirrel and the Golden Hind. Gilbert commanded the Squirrel, the smallest of the two, and totally unfit to "pass through the ocean sea at that season of the year."
But "I will not forsake my little company going homeward, with whom I have passed through so many storms and perils," said their commander. The weather was very wild, the oldest sailor on board had never seen "more outrageous seas."
The Squirrel could not weather them, and one night she foundered with all hands. Gilbert was last seen, his Bible in his hand, bidding his terrified companions be of good cheer.
"We are as near to heaven by water as by land," he cried as the little Squirrel went down into the deep Atlantic with her brave commander. Though he failed, Sir Humphrey Gilbert was called the Father of American colonisation, because it was he who first turned men's thoughts from plundering exploits to the higher aims of civilisation.
W HEN Æson, who was King of Iolcos, began to grow old, he left his kingdom to his infant son, Jason. But the throne was usurped by his uncle Pēlĭas, who forthwith consulted an oracle as to what he should do to make himself secure. The answer of the oracle was strange. It was—"Fear nobody who cometh not with and without a shoe."
"There is nothing very alarming about that," thought Pelias; so, instead of having Jason killed, as he had first thought of doing, he sent away the child into Thessaly, a long way off, among the people called Centaurs, hoping that he would never hear of him again.
The Centaurs were a very singular race. They were half man and half horse, as if a man's body down to the waist were set upon a horse's shoulders. Thus they had a horse's four legs for running, and a man's head and arms for thinking and fighting: they were famous archers, very learned, and very brave. Their most famous chief was Chiron, who, besides being their best archer, was also a great philosopher and physician. Chiron, struck by Jason's quickness, became his teacher, so that the young prince grew up skilled both in all manly exercises and in every branch of human knowledge.
When he had become a man, the Centaur thought it only right that he should know his birth and parentage, and should have a chance of regaining his father's throne, since he was so fit to be a king. But first he consulted the oracle, which gave to Chiron as strange an answer as it had given to Pelias—"Who seeks a crown shall wear the leopard's hide."
So Jason, by Chiron's counsel, went out hunting, and, having killed a leopard, dressed himself in its skin. Then he set out, on foot and alone, for Iolcos; and proceeded without anything happening to him, until he reached a mountain-torrent, so deep, so broad, and so strong, that the best of swimmers could not hope to reach the other side.
He was gazing at the torrent, wondering what he should do, when a very old woman, bent and lame, came hobbling by, and asked him why he stared so sadly at the stream.
"Reason enough," said he, "when the water is keeping me from a kingdom."
"Is that all?" asked the old woman; "I can soon put that right for you. I am going across myself; and I'll take you on my back with the greatest pleasure in the world."
Jason thought she was laughing at him. But something about her—he could not tell what—made him feel that she was no common old woman; and even as he looked her back seemed to straighten itself and her figure to enlarge. No; she was certainly not joking: her smile was only friendly and kind. It might not be very dignified for a rightful king to enter his kingdom dressed up in a leopard's skin and riding on the back of an old woman, and it did not seem very safe, either. However, as there was certainly nothing else to be done, he got upon the back of the old woman, who at once stepped out into the raging stream.
How strong the flood was he could tell from the forest-trees which it had torn up by the roots and was carrying away headlong. But while Jason's brain reeled with the whirl, the old woman remained as steady as a rock, and strode through the deepest and roughest places with ease. In a wonderfully short time Jason reached the other side, with no worse mishap than the loss of his left shoe.
"Never mind that," said the old woman. "The river is bound to have something. You have only given it a shoe; most people have to give it their lives."
"But what do you give it then?" asked Jason.
"Oh, the gods go toll-free," said the old woman. "I am Juno." And before Jason had recovered from his surprise, she was gone.
Jason continued his journey till he reached Iolcos, where the oddity of a man dressed in nothing but a leopard's skin soon gathered a crowd around him. The news of the sight spread about till it reached the ears of King Pelias himself, who came out of his palace to discover what was going on. But as soon as he caught sight of the stranger in the leopard-skin he started with dismay. There stood a man with a shoe and without a shoe—just what the oracle had warned him to fear!
Seeing that it was the king, Jason at once went up to him, and said—
"I am Jason, son of Æson. Give up to me this kingdom, which is rightfully mine!"
His boldness and his royal bearing had a great effect upon the people, who hated Pelias, and were glad to welcome back the rightful heir. They set up a great shout for Jason, which alarmed Pelias still more; and many of them pressed forward with drawn swords.
But Pelias, if he had not much courage, had plenty of craft. And so he answered, after a moment's thought:—
"Why, of course you shall have what is your own. Do you think I want to rob you—to keep what is not mine for a single day! I am only too glad to welcome you, my dear nephew, home again. I have been wondering what had become of you, and not till after long searching did I give you up for lost. I think you will find that I have taken good care of your kingdom while you have been away. I deserve some credit for having had all the hard work, while you, no doubt, have been going about and amusing yourself. I am very glad to see you—indeed I am."
Jason was rather surprised to find everything so easy, and his uncle so friendly. Indeed he hardly knew what to say.
"I am only eager to enter upon my duties," said he at last; "and I shall look to you to help me to govern well."
"That is the right spirit," said Pelias. "So I will tell you the first of your duties; one that I rejoice to give over to better and younger hands than mine. It is difficult and even dangerous—"
"All the better," said Jason. "It will bring all the more glory."
"You are an admirable young man! Well, you must know that many generations ago King Athămas of Thebes married a princess of Cloudland, named Nĕphĕle, and had two children, Phryxus and Helle. Nephele going mad, he divorced her, and married the princess Ino, and had two children more. Ino hated Nephele's children, because they stood in the way of her own. So, being a witch, she desolated Thebes by a plague, and got a false oracle to declare that the plague should never cease so long as Phryxus and Helle were alive. Do you understand?"
"Perfectly," said Jason. "Except that I don't see what all this old family history has to do with me."
"Patience, and you will see," said Pelias. "Just as Phryxus and his sister Helle were about to be sacrificed, a winged ram, with a fleece of pure gold, came out of the sea, took the brother and sister on his back, and flew away with them through the air. Unluckily, while they were flying, Helle turned giddy, tumbling off the ram's back, and was drowned. You have heard of the Hellespont, I suppose? Well, this is the part of the sea where Helle fell. Phryxus, however, arrived safely at the Court of Æētes, King of Colchis, beyond the great Black Sea, where he sacrificed the ram to Jupiter, out of gratitude for his escape; but kept the golden fleece and married the king's daughter. At last Æetes, wanting the fleece for himself, murdered Phryxus. There—do you see your royal duty now?"
"I cannot," said Jason, "honestly say that I do."
"What? Why, Phryxus was the son of Athamas, who was the son of Æolus, who was the father of Cretheus, who was the father of Æson, who is the father of you. It is as clear as day that Phryxus was your own first cousin once removed. And what duty can be clearer than avenging the murder of a first cousin once removed? Especially when the murderer has a fleece of pure gold waiting for some brave man to bring away. It is so clear a duty that, if you decline it, I will undertake the adventure myself, old as I am, rather than let the wrongs of our royal house go unavenged."
Now glory was Jason's ruling passion. He would have felt disgraced if he had declined any adventure, however difficult it might be: and the greater the danger, the greater the glory.
So he had it announced through Iolcos and all the neighboring countries that he had undertaken the Adventure of the Golden Fleece, and that all brave knights who desired to share in its perils and glories would be welcome. The effect of the proclamation was something wonderful. Iolcos was speedily thronged with princes and knights, the best and noblest of all Greece, eager to take part in the expedition; so that Jason found himself captain of a host the like of which for birth and valor had never been seen—fifty chiefs, and every one of them known to fame. It would be too long to name them all. But I must mention "the great twin brethren," Castor and Pollux, whom you know by more than name: and Orpheus the minstrel, and that other great minstrel, Amphīon, whose music had built the walls of Thebes: and Autŏlycus, the craftiest, and Nestor, the wisest, of all mankind: and Hercŭles, the son of Jupiter, of whose deeds you will read hereafter: and Mĕlĕăger, who had also a famous story of his own: and Theseus of Athens, with whom you will also meet again,—all these and all their comrades were, like their captain, in the very flower of their youth, strength, and valor. Atalanta, a princess of Scyros, a great huntress, joined the expedition disguised as a man: and Æsculapius was its surgeon and physician.
The next thing was to build a ship to carry so large a company across the great and terrible Black Sea, which the Greeks called the "Euxine," or "Friendly"—giving it a good name just because they were afraid to give it a bad one, lest it should be angry. The ship was at last built, and called the Argo.
The "Argonauts," as Jason and his company are called—that is to say, the crew of the Argo—set sail in great state and honor from a port of Thessaly, crossed the Ægean Sea, passed through the Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmora (as those parts are now called), and then through the Hellespont, the strait where Helle had been drowned, into the Black Sea.
From end to end of these dark and dangerous waters the good ship Argo sailed without mishap, save the death of its pilot, Tīphys, soon after starting. Erginus took his place at the helm. But I cannot help thinking that there was another reason for the good luck of the Argo. For once, when a great storm arose and threatened shipwreck, suddenly two flames of light were seen to play round the heads of Castor and Pollux, and forthwith the wind fell and the waves became calm. You know that—
"Safe comes the ship to haven,
Through tempests and through gales,
If once the great Twin Brethren
Sit shining on the sails";
and if this was the virtue of their spirits after death, one may be certain that it was a good thing to have Castor and Pollux on board during their brave and blameless lives. Those two flames of light are still often seen hovering about a ship in stormy weather, and sailors still believe them to be of good omen.
After a long voyage, the Argo arrived safely at Æa, the capital of Colchis, where dwelt King Æetes, the same who had murdered Phryxus. Colchis proved to be a rich and fertile country, inhabited by a people curiously like the Gypsies, with very dark complexions and black hair, dressed in brightly colored linen which they alone knew how to weave and dye. They claimed to be descended from a tribe of Egyptians who had wandered thither ages ago; and they had many other secrets which none but they and the Egyptians knew.
Jason, at the head of his company, went before King Æetes, and demanded from him the Golden Fleece. Æetes received him in state, sitting upon his throne; and, after hearing Jason's demand, answered:—
"Far be it from me, a mere barbarian chieftain, to refuse what is asked of me by so noble an embassy of princes and heroes. I would even now deliver up to you the Golden Fleece, were it in my power. But how can I give it to you when it is guarded, even from myself, by two fierce bulls with brazen horns, which breathe forth flame, and are a match for armies? Before you can obtain the fleece, you must first tame these bulls."
Jason desired nothing better. So he and all his comrades went into the field where the bulls were, and endeavored to bind them. But neither he, with all his courage, nor the craft of Autolycus, nor the might of Hercules, nor the courage, skill, and strength of the whole company together, could prevail against the bulls, who breathed fire, and gored right and left with their brazen horns. There was work for Æsculapius that day.
King Æetes had known very well how it would be; but Jason, when night came, retired to the chamber which had been assigned to him in despair. Midnight found him still waking, when the door opened, and there stood before him, holding a lamp, a tall and beautiful woman, dark-skinned, black-eyed, and with long black hair—beautiful, as I have said, but terrible in her beauty.
"You have no cause for shame," said she, in a softer voice than he would have expected. "They were enchanted bulls: and not ten times your number would have fared better. This is a nation of enchanters, whose king knows how to laugh you Greeks and your boasted bravery to scorn. But I am the greatest of all enchanters; and I will teach you how to tame the bulls—if you will promise me one thing."
"Anything!" said Jason. "Only tell me who you are, and what you require of me."
"I am Medēa, the king's daughter," said she. "And what I require is that you shall marry me this night in the Temple of Hecate, the Queen of Witches, and that you will swear before her altar to be true and faithful to me forever."
"Gladly," exclaimed Jason, who, to succeed in his adventure, would have gladly sworn anything to any one.
So he followed her to the Temple of Hecate, the Witch-Queen, and there, with many strange and dreadful rites, he married her, and swore to be true and faithful to Medea forever. Then she gave him a magic herb, and said:—
"This will tame the bulls." And she also gave him a sling and a stone, adding, "Use this when there is need."
The next morning Jason went into the field alone. As soon as the scent of the herb reached the bulls' nostrils they crouched at his feet; and when Æetes and his Court, and the Greek princes with them, came forth, lo! there was Jason quietly driving a plough drawn by the bulls, who were now as tame as common oxen.
WEEK 27 |
NCE there was a king, who, as time went on, found himself waxing old in years and feeble in body, so he began to think of giving up the cares of government and of taking his ease for as much of life as was left him. But here was the trouble: there were three princes, and each one of them was just as clever as the other two, so that the old king could not tell which to choose as the right one to sit in his place. He thought and thought and thought, until at last he plucked an apple off of his thinking-tree, as folks say. All three of the princes should go out into the world, and whichever of them should fetch back an apple from the Tree of Happiness should rule over all of the kingdom. And I speak the truth when I say that the apple was cheap enough even at that price.
So off went the three to seek for what they wanted. They travelled along without let or stay until towards evening they came to a place where two houses stood, the one on the one side of the road and the other on the other.
One of them was as fine a house as a body ever saw. Every window was lit up by the warm fires and the bright lights within, and even out on the high-road one could hear the merry times the folks were having; laughing and singing and clinking their glasses together. As for the good things cooking in the kitchen, why it was enough to make one hungry just to smell the steam of them. Over the door was a sign, and on the sign was written.
"WHO ENTERS HERE SHALL HAVE WHAT
HE LIKES AND PAY NOTHING FOR IT."
The other house was a poor, mean, little, tumble-down hut, as silent as death, and with never a spark of light or fire shining at the windows. There was also a sign over the door, and on the sign was written,
"WHO ENTERS HERE SHALL HAVE WHAT HE
NEEDS AND PAY WHAT HE CAN."
"Yonder is the place for us," said the older brothers, and they pointed with their thumbs to the grand house, where there was good company with plenty to eat and drink and nothing to pay.
"Yes," says the youngest of the three, "that is all very well, but I would rather pay for what I need than get what I like for nothing."
Dear, dear, how the two did laugh at the one to be sure! but all the same, the one held to what he had said, and so at last the two flew into a huff. "Go your way," said they, "and we will go ours." And into the grand house they went. There they gave themselves up to ease and comfort, and it was a merry time they had of it, I can tell you.
But the youngest brother went over to the little dark house and knocked upon the door, and it was opened by a poor old man whose head and beard were as white as the snow, and whose clothes hung about him all in tags and tatters.
"Come in and welcome," said he, "for you are the first who has been here for twenty-seven ages;" and that is a long time, as anybody knows without the telling.
But in the little house there was no wood to make a fire, and there was no water to boil in the pot. So the prince took the axe and went out and chopped an armful of wood, and then he took the pot and filled it at the well.
Out in the stable stood a white cow with silver horns; but there was never a straw for it to lie upon, and never a bit of hay for it to eat. So the prince shook down a bed for it, and then he filled the rack with hay and left it munching away for dear life.
Out in the yard was a red cock and a white hen, but though they scratched and scratched it was never a grain that they found. So the prince threw them a handful of barley and left them pecking away at it, as though they had not seen the like for a week of Sundays.
After he had done all these things, he and the old man sat down to supper together, and if it was not of the finest, why the prince had a good appetite, and one can have no better sauce to a crust than that.
The prince stayed all night, and the next morning he was for jogging on his way. But before he went he offered the old man what money he had, because anybody could read the sign over the door.
But the old man shook his head. "No, no," said he, "you have paid your score. You have given what you can, and you shall have what you need. Here is a little book, and in it you may read whatever you wish to know. Go out into the stable and you will find a barley straw back of the white cow's ear. Take that with you, for you will need it. Look in the manger and you will find an egg that the white hen has laid; take it with you also, for it is worth the having."
Then he said good-bye and shut the door, and that was the last the prince saw of him.
The prince went to the stable, and there he found the barley straw and the egg, just as the old man had said, and off he marched with them.
He went to the grand house over the way and called his brothers, but they only came to the windows and laughed and jeered at him. "No, no," said they, "we are going no farther along the road, for we know very well when the world is smooth with us. The Fruit of Happiness can bring us nothing better than what we have at hand."
And so the young prince had to trudge away by himself. But what to do with the straw and the egg he knew no more than my grandmother's cat. So he opened his little book, and this was what it said between the leaves:
"Mount the straw and ride it whither it takes you."
"So," said the prince; "that would be a strange thing to do for sure and certain. All the same, an easy task is worth the trying;" so he just flung his leg over the straw and—whisk! pop!—there he was, astride of a great splendid horse with smooth hair as yellow as gold.
That straw was a straw worth having!
And the best part of the matter was that the prince had no need to draw the bridle-rein either to the right or to the left; for the yellow horse took the bit in his teeth and away he pounded so that the ground smoked under his hoofs, and the wind whistled back of the prince's ears. By and by they came to a great sandy desert-place where not a twig or a leaf was to be seen, but only white bones scattered here and there, for the prince was not the first by many who had tried to cross that desert to the Tree of Happiness.
But he had better luck than the others, for the yellow horse carried him along like the wind, and on and on until at last he came within sight of the Tree of Happiness. There sat three terrible giants, an old giant and his two sons, and alongside of each lay a great iron club with sharp spikes in the end of it. But all three sat with their eyes shut, sleeping away as though they would never awaken. And that was a good thing for the prince, for he had never seen such terrible, wicked-looking creatures as the old giant and his two sons. He leaped from off the back of the yellow horse, and there it was, nothing but a barley straw. He put it in his pocket and took out his Book of Knowledge and opened it. This was what it said:
"Fear not the giants, for they will not awake; but touch neither the golden fruit nor the silver fruit, for they are not for you."
When the prince read what the Book of Knowledge said, he knew that it was so. Up he marched to the Tree of Happiness as bold as bold could be, and the giants snored away so that the leaves shook.
There hung three apples; the first was of gleaming gold, the second was of shining silver, and the third was just a poor, weazened, shriveled thing, that looked as though there were not three drops of juice in it.
"Prut!" says the prince, "it can never be that I have travelled all this way for nothing in the world but a dead apple. After all, it must be the golden fruit that I am to take, in spite of what the Book of Knowledge said; for if happiness is to be found in anything, it is to be found in such as it."
So he reached up his hand and plucked the golden apple, and then—hi! what a hubbub, for the Tree of Happiness began to clamor and call as though every leaf on it had become a tongue to speak with.
"Help! help!" it cried. "Here is one coming to rob us of our golden fruit!"
Up jumped the three giants, and each one snatched up his iron club and came at the prince as though to put an end to him without any more talk over the business. But the prince begged and prayed and prayed and begged that they would spare his life.
"Listen," said the old giant; "if you will promise to bring us the Sword of Brightness that shines in the darkness and cuts whatsoever the edge is turned against, we will not only spare your life, but give you the Fruit of Happiness into the bargain." That was what the old giant said, and the others agreed to it; for if they could once lay hand upon such a sword as that they would be masters of all the world.
Well, the prince promised that he would get them the Sword of Brightness, for one will promise much before one will be knocked on the head with an iron club; and then the giant let him go, and glad enough he was to get away.
Off he went back of the hill. He drew out his barley straw and threw his leg over it, and there he sat astride of his yellow horse again.
"I should like," said he, "to be carried to where I can find the Sword of Brightness that shines in the darkness and cuts whatever its edge is turned against." That was all that he had to say, and away clattered the yellow horse over stock and stone so that the ground smoked beneath his hoofs. On they went and on they went for a great long while, until at last they came to a tall castle as black as your hat, and there was where the Sword of Brightness was to be found. In front of the castle gate lay two great fiery dragons, with smoke coming up out of their nostrils instead of the breath of life, and all over their bodies were brazen scales that shone like gold in the sunlight. But both dragons were sound asleep.
Inside of the court-yard were many and one fierce soldiers armed in shining armor and each with a battle-axe or a sword or an iron club lying beside him; but they too were as sound asleep as the dragon.
Down jumped the prince from the great yellow horse, and there was the barley straw again. He took out the Book of Knowledge from his pocket, and this was what it said:
"Fear not the dragons nor the fierce soldiers, for they will not awaken; but take only the old leathern scabbard with the sword."
So up walked the prince as bold as brass, and the soldiers and the dragons said never a word, but just snored away so that the windows rattled. Into the castle he walked, and nobody said "No" to him. There sat an old man, as wicked as sin and as grey as the ashes in the hearth. He never moved a hair, only his little red eyes turned here and there, and were never still for a wink. A great keen sword lay on the table in front of him, and the light on the blade was like the bright flash of lightning. The prince took the sword up from the table, and the little old man looked at him, but said never a word, good or bad.
On the wall hung three scabbards; one was of gold studded all over with precious stones; another of silver that gleamed like the light of the moon in frosty weather; and the third was of nothing but old, shabby, worm-eaten leather that looked as though they had just fetched it down from the dusty garret.
"It would be a pity," said the prince, "to put such a fine sword into such a poor scabbard. I'll not choose the gold because of what happened to me over at the Tree of Happiness yonder, but surely silver is none too good for the Sword of Brightness."
So he took down the silver scabbard and thrust the sword into it, and therewith dipped his spoon into the wrong pot again; for, no sooner had he sheathed the sword in the silver scabbard than the old gray man began to thump on the table in front of him and to bawl at the top of his voice, "Help! help! here is one come to steal our Sword of Brightness."
At this the soldiers outside woke up and began to clash and rattle with their battle-axes and swords and iron clubs, and the dragons began to roar and send up clouds of smoke like a chimney afire.
In ran the soldiers, and were for putting an end to the prince without another word being said, but he begged and prayed and prayed and begged that his life might be spared, just as he had done with the giants over yonder at the Tree of Happiness.
"Listen," says the old grey man at last; "if you will promise to bring me the White Bird from the black mountain, I will not only spare your life, but will give you the Sword of Brightness into the bargain."
Yes, the prince would get the White Bird if anybody in the world could get it. And thereupon they let him go, and glad enough he was to get away.
Back of the hedge he threw his leg over the barley straw.
"I would like," said he, "to be taken to where I can find the White Bird that lives on the black mountain;" and away thundered the yellow horse, like a storm in June.
If it was far that they travelled before, it was farther that they travelled this time. But at last they came to the black mountain, and the prince jumped off the nag and thrust the straw into his pocket.
There was not a blade of grass nor a bit of green to be seen on the hill, but only a great lot of round, black stones scattered from top to bottom. That was all that was left of the lads who had come that way before to find the White Bird.
On the top of the mountain sat an old witch with golden hair, and in her hand was the White Bird. The prince opened his Book of Knowledge, and there he read that if one would gain the White Bird one would have to catch the witch by her golden hair, for then she would be compelled to grant whatever was asked of her; only he would have to be very careful in his doings, for if the witch caught sight of him upon the black hill she would change him into a stone just as she had all the rest who had come that way.
But how was he to climb the hill without the witch seeing him? That was what the prince would like to know. So he turned over another leaf of the Book of Knowledge, and there it was all in plain black and white. This was what it said:
"Crack the egg of the white hen and put on the cap."
The prince cracked the egg, and sure enough, inside of it was a little cap of feathers. He put on the feather cap and—whisk!—as quick as a wink he was changed into a titmouse, which is the least of all the birds in that land.
He spread his wings and flew and flew and flew, until he was close behind the witch where she sat on the black mountain. He took off his cap and there he was in his own shape again. He caught the old witch by her golden hair and held her fast. And you should have heard how she screamed and scolded, and you should have seen how she twisted and turned!
But the prince just held fast, and she could make nothing of it for all her trying.
"And what do you want, that you come here to torment me?" said she at last.
"I want the White Bird," said the prince; "and I will be satisfied with nothing else." It was all to no purpose that the old witch stormed and scolded, for what he had said he had said, and he would be satisfied with nothing else. So at last, willy-nilly, she had to give him what he asked for.
The prince took it in his hands, and it was a white bird no longer, but the prettiest lass that ever a body's eyes looked upon, with cheeks as red as roses and skin as white as snow.
But still the prince held tight to the old witch's hair, and now what else was it he was wanting.
Why, before he would let her go, she must change all the round stones back again into the lads of flesh and blood they had been before.
So the old witch had to do that also, and there stood so many stout lads in the place of the hard, round stones.
But still the prince held fast to her golden hair. And what else was it he was wanting?
Why, this! The old witch must promise to do no harm to him or to anybody else who should come that way. The old witch had to promise. And then he let go of her hair, and you can guess what a rage she was in.
But the prince cared nothing for that, for he had found what he came for.
He took the barley straw out of his pocket and threw his leg over it. Then he took the princess up behind him on the great yellow horse, and away he clattered, leaving the witch scolding behind him.
After a while he came to the black castle; there he took out his Book of Knowledge, for now that he had the White Bird he could not bear to think of giving her up; and this was what the book said:
"Take the White Bird to the old grey man and he will give you the Sword of Brightness, turn the edge against him and against the fierce soldiers and against the two dragons, and then ride away with your White Bird."
So up he rode to the black castle, and the fiery dragons let him pass when they saw that the White Bird rode behind him. The old grey man gave the lad the Sword of Brightness quickly enough, for the White Bird was worth that and a great deal more, I can tell you.
As soon as the prince had hold of the Sword of Brightness, he turned the keen edge of the blade against the wicked old man and the soldiers and the dragons; off flew their heads, and there they lay as dead as red herrings in a box.
Then he thrust the Sword of Brightness into the leathern scabbard, for he had learned a grain or two of wisdom by this time, and away he rode with the White Bird sitting behind him.
On they rode and on they rode until they came to the desert place and the Tree of Happiness. And then the prince took out his Book of Wisdom and turned over the leaves, for he was of no mind to give up the Sword of Brightness if he could help doing so.
"Turn the edge of the blade against the three giants."
Thus said the book, and the lad did so, and there they lay all three of them as dead as stocks.
I know that this is true which I tell, because since then there have been no cruel giants to keep a body from getting a taste of the Fruit of Happiness now and then, if a body chooses to travel that far to find it. But that is neither here nor there, and what I have to tell is this:
The young prince rode away towards home with the White Bird sitting behind him, the Sword of Brightness hanging by his side, and the Fruit of Happiness in his pocket.
By and by he came to the place where the two houses stood, the one on the one side of the road, and the one on the other, and there he took out his Book of Knowledge to have a peep at it, and this was what it said:
"Buy no black sheep."
"Prut!" says the prince, "what should I want with black sheep I should like to know?"
By and by he met a great crowd, and in the midst of all the rest were his two brothers with their hands tied behind them with stout ropes.
And what were they going to do with the two? That was what the prince would like to know.
"Why," said those who held them, "they have spent all their money at the great house over yonder, and have run up a score for good things besides, and now they are packing off to prison because they cannot pay what they owe."
"Come, come," says the prince, "let them go and I will pay their reckoning;" and so he did, and that was what the Book of Wisdom meant by buying black sheep.
After that they all stepped homeward, right foot foremost; for since the young prince had brought the Fruit of Happiness along with him, there was no need of the other brothers going to look for it.
By and by they felt weary and sat down by the roadside to rest, and as they sat there the youngest prince fell asleep. While he slept the elder brothers stole away the Sword of Brightness and the Fruit of Happiness. Then they wakened him and made him strip off his fine clothes, and gave him a parcel of rags and tatters fit for no one but a beggar, and he had to put them on or go without.
As for the White Bird, they made her vow and swear that she would say nothing of this. Then off they marched with her and with the Sword of Brightness, and left the prince with never a stitch or a thread that was worth the having.
"See," said they, as soon as they came home, "not only have we brought the Fruit of Happiness, but the Sword of Brightness and the White Bird into the bargain."
As for the youngest brother, they told the king that he had stopped over at the tavern yonder, and had spent all his money in eating and drinking, just as they themselves had really done.
But the White Bird did nothing but weep and weep, and neither this brother nor that could draw the Sword of Brightness from its leathern scabbard. And when the king came to taste the Fruit of Happiness, it was as bitter as gall. So, after all the two gained nothing by what they had done.
But the young prince was not for giving up all that he had lost, without trying to get what he could back again. Off he marched in his rags and tatters until he came to the castle where the king, his father lived. Up he stepped to the door and knocked, but nobody would let him in because he looked like nothing but a beggar. So down he sat beside the gate of the castle garden, since he could not come into the house.
After a while the folks came out, one by one and two by two, to walk in the garden and take the air, and all the time the prince sat there and nobody knew him.
Last of all came the old king, and with him walked the White Bird. The king was for passing the lad by as all the rest had done. But as soon as the White Bird saw him, she knew who he was and ran to him and threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
"Here is my own sweetheart," said she, "and he has come back to me again."
The prince told the king all that had happened from beginning to end, and how it really was he who had found the White Bird, the Sword of Brightness, and the Fruit of Happiness.
"Yes, yes," says the king, "that is all very well, but it is just the tale that your brothers tell; now can you draw the Sword of Brightness from the leathern scabbard?"
"Oh, yes," said the prince, "I can do that easily enough." So the sword was brought and—whisk—he whipped the blade out of the scabbard so that the light of it dazzled the eyes of everybody that looked upon it.
Then the king saw what had happened as plain as the nose on his face, and was for punishing the elder brothers as they deserved, but nobody could find them, for as soon as they heard that the youngest prince had come home again they packed off without waiting to learn more news.
And why do I call this the story of the White Bird? Listen: any Tom or Jake or Harry might have found the Sword of Brightness or the Fruit of Happiness; but you may depend upon it that nobody but a real prince could ever have found the White Bird.
W HEN the drill gets on the back of an oyster, what can the oyster do? Nothing. The poor oyster cannot help himself. Does he hear hour after hour the file of the drill on his shell? Yes.
He knows the drill will get in and kill him, but all that he can do is to keep still and wait.
The oyster is not the only kind of shell-fish that the drill eats. When the drill goes after the poor shell-fish that have no heads, he eats them at his ease.
They cannot help themselves. They do not know how to get away from Mr. Drill. The shell-fish that have no heads live in shells made of two parts, like the covers of a book. The two parts are held to each other by a hinge. The oyster has such a shell.
It is a bad thing, it seems, to have no head. Without a head who can take care of himself?
Let us see Mr. Drill try a fight with a shell-fish that has a head. Now he meets his match!
He goes to the top of the shell. He makes fast, and begins—file, file, file. The fish inside hears him. "O, are you there, Mr. Drill?"
What do you think the shell-fish does? He draws his body out of the way, and builds up a nice little wall! So, when Mr. Drill gets his hole made, and puts in his tongue—no fish, only a hard wall! Then Mr. Drill also moves along.
He picks out a good place. Once more he goes to work—file, file, file. "O, here you are, Mr. Drill!" And the shell-fish with a head once more pulls his body out of the way, and makes a new wall.
Then Mr. Drill has the same luck as before. Sometimes he gets tired of the war and goes off. Now and then, as he too has a head, he finds a spot where there is no room for the wall. There he makes his hole and sucks out the animal.
You will find very many of the shells on the seabeach with these pinholes in them. The holes were made by Mr. Drill on his hunt for food.
But you will now and then find shells, such as the thick clam shell, full of holes, like a network. This is not done by Mr. Drill.
Shells and bones are made of two kinds of stuff. One is lime, which is hard like stone. The other is not so hard; it is more like dry glue.
These shells with so many holes are old shells, long empty, and the glue part has gone out of them.
How did it get out? It was bored out by a kind of sponge. Only the lime part is left, like a fine net.
When bones or shells have only the lime part left, they will break and crack like glass. If they have too little lime, they will bend.
For all Mr. Drill has a head, he is not so wise as at first he seemed to be.
He will sit down and make a hole in an old dead shell where no fish lives. Now and then he makes a hole in an old shell, long ago turned into stone. He will spend two days on such a shell as this!
Did you know that bones and shells and plants sometimes turn to stone?
You will some day learn about that strange fact.
I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.
I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.
I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.
I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.
And out again I curve and flow.
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.
WEEK 27 |
II Chronicles xii: 1, to xx: 37.
OW we turn from the story of the kingdom of Israel in the north to the story of the kingdom of Judah in the south. You read in Story 74 how the Ten Tribes broke away from the rule of King Rehoboam and set up a kingdom of their own under Jeroboam. This division left the kingdom of Judah very small and weak. It reached from the Dead Sea westward to the land of the Philistines on the shore of the Great Sea, and from Beersheba on the south not quite to Bethel on the north; but it held some control over the land of Edom on the south of the Dead Sea. Its chief city was Jerusalem, where stood the Temple of the Land and the palace of the king.
After Rehoboam found that he could no more rule over the Ten Tribes, he tried to make his own little kingdom strong by building cities and raising an army of soldiers. But he did not look to the Lord as his grandfather David had looked; he allowed his people to worship idols, so that soon on almost every hill and in almost every grove of trees there was an image of stone or wood. God was not pleased with Rehoboam and his people, because they had forsaken him for idols. He brought upon the land of Judah a great army from Egypt, led by Shishak, the king of Egypt. They marched over all the land of Judah, they took the city of Jerusalem, and they robbed the Temple of all the great treasure in gold and silver which Solomon had stored up. This evil came upon Judah because its king and its people had turned away from the Lord their God.
After Rehoboam had reigned seventeen years he died, and his son Abijah, became king of Judah. When Jeroboam, the king of Israel, made war upon him, Abijah led his army into the land of Israel. But Jeroboam's army was twice as large as Abijah's, and his men stood not only in front of the men of Judah but also behind them, so that the army of Judah was in great danger of being destroyed. But Abijah told his men to trust in the Lord, and to fight bravely in the Lord's name. And God helped the men of Judah against Israel, and they won a great victory; so that Jeroboam never again came against Judah.
Abijah's reign was short, only three years; and after him came Asa, his son, who was a great warrior, a great builder of cities, and a wise ruler. Against Asa a great army of enemies came up from Ethiopia, which was south of Egypt. Asa drew out his little army against the Ethiopians at a place called Mareshah, in the south of Judah, near the desert. He had no hope of success in his soldiers, because they were so few and the enemies were no many. But Asa called upon the Lord, and said:
"O Lord, it makes no difference to thee whether there are few or many. Help us, O Lord, for we trust in thee; and in thy name we fight this vast multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let not man succeed against thee."
The Lord heard Asa's prayer, and gave him a great victory over the Ethiopians. Asa took again the cities in the south which had gone over to the side of the Ethiopians, and he brought to Jerusalem great riches, and flocks of sheep, and heads of cattle, and camels, which he had taken from his enemies.
Then the Lord sent to Asa a prophet named Azariah. He said, "Hear me, King Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him you shall find him; but if you forsake the Lord he will forsake you. Now be strong, and put away the wickedness out of the land, and the Lord shall reward your work."
Then Asa rebuilt the altar of the Lord which had fallen into decay, and he called upon his people to worship. He went through the land, and broke down the idols, and burned them. He found that his own mother, the queen, had made an idol, and he cut it down and broke it in pieces; and he would not allow her to be queen any longer, because she had worshipped idols.
Until Asa was old he served the Lord; but in his old age he became sick, and in his sickness he did not seek the Lord. He turned to men who called themselves physicians or doctors, but they were men who tried to cure by the power of idols. This led many of Asa's people to worship images, so that when he died there were again idols throughout the land.
Asa's son, Jehoshaphat, was the next king, and he was the wisest and strongest of all the kings of Judah, and ruled over the largest realm of any. When he became king Ahab was king of Israel, of whom we read in Part Fourth. Jehoshaphat made peace with Israel, and united with the Israelites against the kingdom of Syria. He fought against the Syrians in the battle at Ramath-gilead, where King Ahab was slain (see Story 71), and afterward with Ahab's son, Jehoram, he fought against the Moabites. (See Story 73.)
Jehoshaphat served the Lord with all his heart. He took away the idols that had again arisen in the land; he called upon his people to worship the Lord, and he sent princes and priests throughout all Judah to read to the people the law of the Lord, and to teach the people how to serve the Lord.
The Lord gave to Jehoshaphat great power. He ruled over the land of Edom, over the wilderness on the south, and over the cities of the Philistines upon the coast. And Jehoshaphat chose judges for the cities in all the land, and he said to them:
"Remember that you are not judging for men, but for the Lord; and the Lord is with you, and sees all your acts. Therefore fear the Lord, and do his will. Do not allow men to make you presents, so that you will favor them; but be just toward all, and be strong in doing right."
At one time news came to King Jehoshaphat that some of the nations on the east and south and north, Moabites, Ammonites, and Syrians, had banded together against him, and were encamped with a great army at En-gedi, near the Dead Sea. Jehoshaphat called forth his soldiers, but before they went to battle he led them to the Temple to worship the Lord. And Jehoshaphat called upon the Lord for help, saying:
"O Lord, the God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? Dost thou not rule over the nations of earth? Is not power thine, so that none can stand against thee? Now, Lord, look upon these hosts who have come against thy people. We have no might against this great company, and we know not what to do; but our eyes look toward thee for help."
Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the Levites, a man named Jahaziel, and he said:
"Hear, ye men of Jerusalem and Judah, and hear, O King
Jehoshaphat. Thus saith the Lord, 'Fear not this great
host of your enemies, for the battle is not yours, but
the Lord's. Go out against them; but you will not need
to fight. You shall stand still, and see how the Lord
will save you. Do not fear, for the Lord is with
The priests teach the people.
Then Jehoshaphat and all his people worshipped the Lord, bowing with their faces on the ground. And the next day, when they marched against the enemies, the Levites walked in front, singing and praising the Lord, while all the people answered:
"Give thanks to the Lord, for his mercy endureth forever."
When the men of Judah came to the camp of their enemies, they found that a quarrel had risen up among them. The Ammonites and the Moabites began to fight with the rest of the bands, and soon all the host were fighting and killing each other. And when the men of Judah came part of the host were lying dead, and the rest had fled away into the desert, leaving behind them great treasure. So it came to pass as the prophet Azariah had said, they did not fight, but the Lord fought for them, and saved them from their foes.
The place where this strange battle had taken place they named "the valley of Berachah," which means "blessing," because there they blessed the Lord for the help that he had given them. And afterward they came back to Jerusalem with songs, and praises, and the great riches which they had taken. And God gave to King Jehoshaphat peace and rest from his enemies, and great power as long as he lived.
The valley of Jehoshaphat at Jerusalem as seen
T HE sheep ran huddling together against the hurdles, blowing out thin nostrils and stamping with delicate fore-feet, their heads thrown back and a light steam rising from the crowded sheep-pen into the frosty air, as the two animals hastened by in high spirits, with much chatter and laughter. They were returning across country after a long day's outing with Otter, hunting and exploring on the wide uplands where certain streams tributary to their own River had their first small beginnings; and the shades of the short winter day were closing in on them, and they had still some distance to go. Plodding at random across the plough, they had heard the sheep and had made for them; and now, leading from the sheep-pen, they found a beaten track that made walking a lighter business, and responded, moreover, to that small inquiring something which all animals carry inside them, saying unmistakably, "Yes, quite right; this leads home!"
"It looks as if we were coming to a village," said the Mole somewhat dubiously, slackening his pace, as the track, that had in time become a path and then had developed into a lane, now handed them over to the charge of a well-metalled road. The animals did not hold with villages, and their own highways, thickly frequented as they were, took an independent course, regardless of church, post office, or public-house.
"Oh, never mind!" said the Rat. "At this season of the year they're all safe indoors by this time, sitting round the fire; men, women, and children, dogs and cats and all. We shall slip through all right, without any bother or unpleasantness, and we can have a look at them through their windows if you like, and see what they're doing."
The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture—the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation. Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log.
But it was from one little window, with its blind drawn down, a mere blank transparency on the night, that the sense of home and the little curtained world within walls—the larger stressful world of outside Nature shut out and forgotten—most pulsated. Close against the white blind hung a bird-cage, clearly silhouetted, every wire, perch, and appurtenance distinct and recognisable, even to yesterday's dull-edged lump of sugar. On the middle perch the fluffy occupant, head tucked well into feathers, seemed so near to them as to be easily stroked, had they tried; even the delicate tips of his plumped-out plumage pencilled plainly on the illuminated screen. As they looked, the sleepy little fellow stirred uneasily, woke, shook himself, and raised his head. They could see the gape of his tiny beak as he yawned in a bored sort of way, looked round, and then settled his head into his back again, while the ruffled feathers gradually subsided into perfect stillness. Then a gust of bitter wind took them in the back of the neck, a small sting of frozen sleet on the skin woke them as from a dream, and they knew their toes to be cold and their legs tired, and their own home distant a weary way.
Once beyond the village, where the cottages ceased abruptly, on either side of the road they could smell through the darkness the friendly fields again; and they braced themselves for the last long stretch, the home stretch, the stretch that we know is bound to end, some time, in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden firelight, and the sight of familiar things greeting us as long-absent travellers from far over-sea. They plodded along steadily and silently, each of them thinking his own thoughts. The Mole's ran a good deal on supper, as it was pitch-dark, and it was all a strange country for him as far as he knew, and he was following obediently in the wake of the Rat, leaving the guidance entirely to him. As for the Rat, he was walking a little way ahead, as his habit was, his shoulders humped, his eyes fixed on the straight grey road in front of him; so he did not notice poor Mole when suddenly the summons reached him, and took him like an electric shock.
We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal's inter-communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word "smell," for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning, inciting, repelling. It was one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again; and with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.
Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the River! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day's work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.
The call was clear, the summons was plain. He must obey it instantly, and go. "Ratty!" he called, full of joyful excitement, "hold on! Come back! I want you, quick!"
"Oh, come along, Mole, do!" replied the Rat cheerfully, still plodding along.
"Please stop, Ratty!" pleaded the poor Mole, in anguish of heart. "You don't understand! It's my home, my old home! I've just come across the smell of it, and it's close by here, really quite close. And I must go to it, I must, I must! Oh, come back, Ratty! Please, please come back!"
The Rat was by this time very far ahead, too far to hear clearly what the Mole was calling, too far to catch the sharp note of painful appeal in his voice. And he was much taken up with the weather, for he too could smell something—something suspiciously like approaching snow.
"Mole, we mustn't stop now, really!" he called back. "We'll come for it to-morrow, whatever it is you've found. But I daren't stop now—it's late, and the snow's coming on again, and I'm not sure of the way! And I want your nose, Mole, so come on quick, there's a good fellow!" And the Rat pressed forward on his way without waiting for an answer.
Poor Mole stood alone in the road, his heart torn asunder, and a big sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down inside him, to leap up to the surface presently, he knew, in passionate escape. But even under such a test as this his loyalty to his friend stood firm. Never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him. Meanwhile, the wafts from his old home pleaded, whispered, conjured, and finally claimed him imperiously. He dared not tarry longer within their magic circle. With a wrench that tore his very heart-strings he set his face down the road and followed submissively in the track of the Rat, while faint, thin little smells, still dogging his retreating nose, reproached him for his new friendship and his callous forgetfulness.
With an effort he caught up to the unsuspecting Rat, who began chattering cheerfully about what they would do when they got back, and how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour would be, and what a supper he meant to eat; never noticing his companion's silence and distressful state of mind. At last, however, when they had gone some considerable way further, and were passing some tree-stumps at the edge of a copse that bordered the road, he stopped and said kindly, "Look here, Mole old chap, you seem dead tired. No talk left in you, and your feet dragging like lead. We'll sit down here for a minute and rest. The snow has held off so far, and the best part of our journey is over."
The Mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stump and tried to control himself, for he felt it surely coming. The sob he had fought with so long refused to be beaten. Up and up, it forced its way to the air, and then another, and another, and others thick and fast; till poor Mole at last gave up the struggle, and cried freely and helplessly and openly, now that he knew it was all over and he had lost what he could hardly be said to have found.
It was an old, old, old, old lady,
And a boy that was half-past three;
And the way that they played together
Was beautiful to see.
She couldn't go running and jumping,
And the boy, no more could he;
For he was a thin little fellow,
With a thin little twisted knee.
They sat in the yellow sunlight,
Out under the maple tree;
And the game that was played I'll tell you,
Just as it was told to me.
It was Hide-and-Go-Seek they were playing,
Though you'd never have known it to be—
With an old, old, old, old lady,
And a boy with a twisted knee.
The boy would bend his face down
On his little sound right knee,
And he guessed where she was hiding,
In guesses One, Two, Three!
"You are in the china closet!"
He would cry, and laugh with glee—
It wasn't the china closet;
But he still had Two and Three.
"You are up in papa's big bedroom,
In the chest with the queer old key!"
And she said: "You are warm and warmer;
But you're not quite right," said she.
"It can't be the little cupboard
Where Mamma's things used to be—
So it must be the clothespress, Gran'ma!"
And he found her with his Three.
Then she covered her face with her fingers,
That were wrinkled and white and wee,
And she guessed where the boy was hiding,
With a One and a Two and a Three.
And they never had stirred from their places,
Right under the maple tree—
This old, old, old, old lady,
And the boy with the lame little knee—
This dear, dear, dear old lady,
And the boy who was half-past three.