WEEK 28 |
F ROM the old and pleasantly situated village of Mayenfeld, a footpath winds through green and shady meadows to the foot of the mountains, which on this side look down from their stern and lofty heights upon the valley below. The land grows gradually wilder as the path ascends, and the climber has not gone far before he begins to inhale the fragrance of the short grass and sturdy mountain-plants, for the way is steep and leads directly up to the summits above.
On a clear sunny morning in June two figures might be seen climbing the narrow mountain path; one, a tall strong-looking girl, the other a child whom she was leading by the hand, and whose little checks were so aglow with heat that the crimson color could be seen even through the dark, sunburnt skin. And this was hardly to be wondered at, for in spite of the hot June sun the child was clothed as if to keep off the bitterest frost. She did not look more than five years old, if as much, but what her natural figure was like, it would have been hard to say, for she had apparently two, if not three dresses, one above the other, and over these a thick red woollen shawl wound round about her, so that the little body presented a shapeless appearance, as, with its small feet shod in thick, nailed mountain-shoes, it slowly and laboriously plodded its way up in the heat. The two must have left the valley a good hour's walk behind them, when they came to the hamlet known as Dörfli, which is situated half-way up the mountain. Here the wayfarers met with greetings from all sides, some calling to them from windows, some from open doors, others from outside, for the elder girl was now in her old home. She did not, however, pause in her walk to respond to her friends' welcoming cries and questions, but passed on without stopping for a moment until she reached the last of the scattered houses of the hamlet. Here a voice called to her from the door: "Wait a moment, Dete; if you are going up higher, I will come with you."
The girl thus addressed stood still, and the child immediately let go her hand and seated herself on the ground.
"Are you tired, Heidi?" asked her companion.
"No, I am hot," answered the child.
"We shall soon get to the top now. You must walk bravely on a little longer, and take good long steps, and in another hour we shall be there," said Dete in an encouraging voice.
They were now joined by a stout, good-natured-looking woman, who walked on ahead with her old acquaintance, the two breaking forth at once into lively conversation about everybody and everything in Dörfli and its surroundings, while the child wandered behind them.
"And where are you off to with the child?" asked the one who had just joined the party. "I suppose it is the child your sister left?"
"Yes," answered Dete. "I am taking her up to Uncle, where she must stay."
"The child stay up there with Alm-Uncle! You must be out of your senses, Dete! How can you think of such a thing! The old man, however, will soon send you and your proposal packing off home again!"
"He cannot very well do that, seeing that he is her grandfather. He must do something for her. I have had the charge of the child till now, and I can tell you, Barbel, I am not going to give up the chance which has just fallen to me of getting a good place, for her sake. It is for the grandfather now to do his duty by her."
"That would be all very well if he were like other people," asseverated stout Barbel warmly, "but you know what he is. And what can he do with a child, especially with one so young! The child cannot possibly live with him. But where are you thinking of going yourself?"
"To Frankfurt, where an extra good place awaits me," answered Dete. "The people I am going to were down at the Baths last summer, and it was part of my duty to attend upon their rooms. They would have liked then to take me away with them, but I could not leave. Now they are there again and have repeated their offer, and I intend to go with them, you may make up your mind to that!"
"I am glad I am not the child!" exclaimed Barbel, with a gesture of horrified pity. "Not a creature knows anything about the old man up there! He will have nothing to do with anybody, and never sets his foot inside a church from one year's end to another. When he does come down once in a while, everybody clears out of the way of him and his big stick. The mere sight of him, with his bushy gray eyebrows and his immense beard, is alarming enough. He looks like any old heathen or Indian, and few would care to meet him alone."
"Well, and what of that?" said Dete, in a defiant voice, "he is the grandfather all the same, and must look after the child. He is not likely to do her any harm, and if he does, he will be answerable for it, not I."
"I should very much like to know," continued Barbel, in an inquiring tone of voice, "what the old man has on his conscience that he looks as he does, and lives up there on the mountain like a hermit, hardly ever allowing himself to be seen. All kinds of things are said about him. You, Dete, however, must certainly have learnt a good deal concerning him from your sister—am I not right?"
"You are right, I did, but I am not going to repeat what I heard; if it should come to his ears I should get into trouble about it."
Now Barbel had for long past been most anxious to ascertain particulars about Alm-Uncle, as she could not understand why he seemed to feel such hatred towards his fellow-creatures, and insisted on living all alone, or why people spoke about him half in whispers, as if afraid to say anything against him, and yet unwilling to take his part. Moreover, Barbel was in ignorance as to why all the people in Dörfli called him Alm-Uncle, for he could not possibly be uncle to everybody living there. As, however, it was the custom, she did like the rest and called the old man Uncle. Barbel had only lived in Dörfli since her marriage, which had taken place not long before. Previous to that her home had been below in Prättigau, so that she was not well acquainted with all the events that had ever taken place, and with all the people who had ever lived in Dörfli and its neighborhood. Dete, on the contrary, had been born in Dörfli, and had lived there with her mother until the death of the latter the year before, and had then gone over to the Baths at Ragatz and taken service in the large hotel there as chambermaid. On the morning of this day she had come all the way from Ragatz with the child, a friend having given them a lift in a hay-cart as far as Mayenfeld. Barbel was therefore determined not to lose this good opportunity of satisfying her curiosity. She put her arm through Dete's in a confidential sort of way, and said: "I know I can find out the real truth from you, and the meaning of all these tales that are afloat about him. I believe you know the whole story. Now do just tell me what is wrong with the old man, and if he was always shunned as he is now, and was always such a misanthrope."
"How can I possibly tell you whether he was always the same, seeing I am only six-and-twenty and he at least seventy years of age; so you can hardly expect me to know much about his youth. If I was sure, however, that what I tell you would not go the whole round of Prättigau, I could relate all kinds of things about him; my mother came from Domleschg, and so did he."
"Nonsense, Dete, what do you mean?" replied Barbel, somewhat offended, "gossip has not reached such a dreadful pitch in Prättigau as all that, and I am also quite capable of holding my tongue when it is necessary."
"Very well then, I will tell you—but just wait a moment," said Dete in a warning voice, and she looked back to make sure that the child was not near enough to hear all she was going to relate; but the child was nowhere to be seen, and must have turned aside from following her companions some time before, while these were too eagerly occupied with their conversation to notice it. Dete stood still and looked around her in all directions. The footpath wound a little here and there, but could nevertheless be seen along its whole length nearly to Dörfli; no one, however, was visible upon it at this moment.
"I see where she is," exclaimed Barbel, "look over there!" and she pointed to a spot far away from the footpath. "She is climbing up the slope yonder with the goatherd and his goats. I wonder why he is so late to-day bringing them up. It happens well, however, for us, for he can now see after the child, and you can the better tell me your tale."
"Oh, as to the looking after," remarked Dete, "the boy need not put himself out about that; she is not by any means stupid for her five years, and knows how to use her eyes. She notices all that is going on, as I have often had occasion to remark, and this will stand her in good stead some day, for the old man has nothing beyond his two goats and his hut."
"Did he ever have more?" asked Barbel.
"He? I should think so indeed," replied Dete with animation; "he was owner once of one of the largest farms in Domleschg. He was the elder of two brothers; the younger was a quiet, orderly man, but nothing would please the other but to play the grand gentleman and go driving about the country and mixing with bad company, strangers that nobody knew. He drank and gambled away the whole of his property, and when this became known to his mother and father they died, one shortly after the other, of sorrow. The younger brother, who was also reduced to beggary, went off in his anger, no one knew whither, while Uncle himself, having nothing now left to him but his bad name, also disappeared. For some time his whereabouts were unknown, then some one found out that he had gone to Naples as a soldier; after that nothing more was heard of him for twelve or fifteen years. At the end of that time he reappeared in Domleschg, bringing with him a young child, whom he tried to place with some of his kinspeople. Every door, however, was shut in his face, for no one wished to have any more to do with him. Embittered by this treatment, he vowed never to set foot in Domleschg again, and he then came to Dörfli, where he continued to live with his little boy. His wife was probably a native of the Grisons, whom he had met down there, and who died soon after their marriage. He could not have been entirely without money, for he apprenticed his son, Tobias, to a carpenter. He was a steady lad, and kindly received by every one in Dörfli. The old man was, however, still looked upon with suspicion, and it was even rumored that he had been forced to make his escape from Naples, or it might have gone badly with him, for that he had killed a man, not in fair fight, you understand, but in some brawl. We, however, did not refuse to acknowledge our relationship with him, my great-grandmother on my mother's side having been sister to his grandmother. So we called him Uncle, and as through my father we are also related to nearly every family in Dörfli, he became known all over the place as Uncle, and since he went to live on the mountain-side he has gone everywhere by the name of Alm-Uncle."
"And what happened to Tobias?" asked Barbel, who was listening with deep interest.
"Wait a moment, I am coming to that, but I cannot tell you everything at once," replied Dete. "Tobias was taught his trade in Mels, and when he had served his apprenticeship he came back to Dörfli and married my sister Adelaide. They had always been fond of one another, and they got on very well together after they were married. But their happiness did not last long. Her husband met with his death only two years after their marriage, a beam falling upon him as he was working, and killing him on the spot. They carried him home, and when Adelaide saw the poor disfigured body of her husband she was so overcome with horror and grief that she fell into a fever from which she never recovered. She had always been rather delicate and subject to curious attacks, during which no one knew whether she was awake or sleeping. And so two months after Tobias had been carried to the grave, his wife followed him. Their sad fate was the talk of everybody far and near, and both in private and public the general opinion was expressed that it was a punishment which Uncle had deserved for the godless life he had led. Some went so far even as to tell him so to his face. Our minister endeavored to awaken his conscience and exhorted him to repentance, but the old man grew only more wrathful and obdurate and would not speak to a soul, and every one did their best to keep out of his way. All at once we heard that he had gone to live up the Alm and did not intend ever to come down again, and since then he has led his solitary life on the mountain-side at enmity with God and man. Mother and I took Adelaide's little one, then only a year old, into our care. When mother died last year, and I went down to the Baths to earn some money, I paid old Ursel, who lives in the village just above, to keep and look after the child. I stayed on at the Baths through the winter, for as I could sew and knit I had no difficulty in finding plenty of work, and early in the spring the same family I had waited on before returned from Frankfurt, and again asked me to go back with them. And so we leave the day after to-morrow, and I can assure you, it is an excellent place for me."
"And you are going to give the child over to the old man up there? It surprises me beyond words that you can think of doing such a thing, Dete," said Barbel, in a voice full of reproach.
"What do you mean?" retorted Dete. "I have done my duty by the child, and what would you have me do with it now? I cannot certainly take a child of five years old with me to Frankfurt. But where are you going to yourself, Barbel; we are now half way up the Alm?"
"We have just reached the place I wanted," answered Barbel. "I had something to say to the goatherd's wife, who does some spinning for me in the winter. So good-bye, Dete, and good luck to you!"
Dete shook hands with her friend and remained standing while Barbel went towards a small, dark brown hut, which stood a few steps away from the path in a hollow that afforded it some protection from the mountain wind. The hut was situated half way up the Alm, reckoning from Dörfli, and it was well that it was provided with some shelter, for it was so broken-down and dilapidated that even then it must have been very unsafe as a habitation, for when the stormy south wind came sweeping over the mountain, everything inside it, doors and windows, shook and rattled, and all the rotten old beams creaked and trembled. On such days as this, had the goatherd's dwelling been standing above on the exposed mountain-side, it could not have escaped being blown straight down into the valley without a moment's warning.
Here lived Peter, the eleven-year-old boy, who every morning went down to Dörfli to fetch his goats and drive them up on to the mountain, where they were free to browse till evening on the delicious mountain plants.
Then Peter, with his light-footed animals, would go running and leaping down the mountain again till he reached Dörfli, and there he would give a shrill whistle through his fingers, whereupon all the owners of the goats would come out to fetch home the animals that belonged to them. It was generally the small boys and girls who ran in answer to Peter's whistle, for they were none of them afraid of the gentle goats, and this was the only hour of the day through all the summer months that Peter had any opportunity of seeing his young friends, since the rest of his time was spent alone with the goats. He had a mother and a blind grandmother at home, it is true, but he was always obliged to start off very early in the morning, and only got home late in the evening from Dörfli, for he always stayed as long as he could talking and playing with the other children; and so he had just time enough at home, and that was all, to swallow down his bread and milk in the morning, and again in the evening to get through a similar meal, lie down in bed and go to sleep. His father, who had been known also as the goatherd, having earned his living as such when younger, had been accidentally killed while cutting wood some years before. His mother, whose real name was Brigitta, was always called the goatherd's wife, for the sake of old association, while the blind grandmother was just "grandmother" to all the old and young in the neighborhood.
Dete had been standing for a good ten minutes looking about her in every direction for some sign of the children and the goats. Not a glimpse of them, however, was to be seen, so she climbed to a higher spot, whence she could get a fuller view of the mountain as it sloped beneath her to the valley, while, with ever-increasing anxiety on her face and in her movements, she continued to scan the surrounding slopes. Meanwhile the children were climbing up by a far and roundabout way, for Peter knew many spots where all kinds of good food, in the shape of shrubs and plants, grew for his goats, and he was in the habit of leading his flock aside from the beaten track. The child, exhausted with the heat and weight of her thick armor of clothes, panted and struggled after him at first with some difficulty. She said nothing, but her little eyes kept watching first Peter, as he sprang nimbly hither and thither on his bare feet, clad only in his short light breeches, and then the slim-legged goats that went leaping over rocks and shrubs and up the steep ascents with even greater ease. All at once she sat herself down on the ground, and as fast as her little fingers could move, began pulling off her shoes and stockings. This done she rose, unwound the hot red shawl and threw it away, and then proceeded to undo her frock. It was off in a second, but there was still another to unfasten, for Dete had put the Sunday frock on over the everyday one, to save the trouble of carrying it. Quick as lightning the everyday frock followed the other, and now the child stood up, clad only in her light, short-sleeved undergarment, stretching out her little bare arms with glee. She put all her clothes together in a tidy little heap, and then went jumping and climbing up after Peter and the goats as nimbly as any one of the party. Peter had taken no heed of what the child was about when she stayed behind, but when she ran up to him in her new attire, his face broke into a grin, which grew broader still as he looked back and saw the small heap of clothes lying on the ground, until his mouth stretched almost from ear to ear; he said nothing, however. The child, able now to move at her ease, began to enter into conversation with Peter, who had many questions to answer, for his companion wanted to know how many goats he had, where he was going to with them, and what he had to do when he arrived there. At last, after some time, they and the goats approached the hut and came within view of Cousin Dete. Hardly had the latter caught sight of the little company climbing up towards her when she shrieked out: "Heidi, what have you been doing! What a sight you have made of yourself! And where are your two frocks and the red wrapper? And the new shoes I bought, and the new stockings I knitted for you—everything gone! not a thing left! What can you have been thinking of, Heidi; where are all your clothes?"
The child quietly pointed to a spot below on the mountain-side and answered, "Down there." Dete followed the direction of her finger; she could just distinguish something lying on the ground, with a spot of red on the top of it which she had no doubt was the woollen wrapper.
"You good-for-nothing little thing!" exclaimed Dete angrily, "what could have put it into your head to do like that? What made you undress yourself? What do you mean by it?"
"I don't want any clothes," said the child, not showing any sign of repentance for her past deed.
"You wretched, thoughtless child! have you no sense in you at all?" continued Dete, scolding and lamenting. "Who is going all that way down to fetch them; it's a good half-hour's walk! Peter, you go off and fetch them for me as quickly as you can, and don't stand there gaping at me, as if you were rooted to the ground!"
"I am already past my time," answered Peter slowly, without moving from the spot where he had been standing with his hands in his pockets, listening to Dete's outburst of dismay and anger.
"Well, you won't get far if you only keep on standing there with your eyes staring out of your head," was Dete's cross reply; "but see, you shall have something nice," and she held out a bright new piece of money to him that sparkled in the sun. Peter was immediately up and off down the steep mountain-side, taking the shortest cut, and in an incredibly short space of time had reached the little heap of clothes, which he gathered up under his arm, and was back again so quickly that even Dete was obliged to give him a word of praise as she handed him the promised money. Peter promptly thrust it into his pocket and his face beamed with delight, for it was not often that he was the happy possessor of such riches.
"You can carry the things up for me as far as Uncle's, as you are going the same way," went on Dete, who was preparing to continue her climb up the mountain-side, which rose in a steep ascent immediately behind the goatherd's hut. Peter willingly undertook to do this, and followed after her on his bare feet, with his left arm round the bundle and the right swinging his goatherd's stick, while Heidi and the goats went skipping and jumping joyfully beside him. After a climb of more than three-quarters of an hour they reached the top of the Alm mountain. Uncle's hut stood on a projection of the rock, exposed indeed to the winds, but where every ray of sun could rest upon it, and a full view could be had of the valley beneath. Behind the hut stood three old fir trees, with long, thick, unlopped branches. Beyond these rose a further wall of mountain, the lower heights still overgrown with beautiful grass and plants, above which were stonier slopes, covered only with scrub, that led gradually up to the steep, bare rocky summits.
Against the hut, on the side looking towards the valley, Uncle had put up a seat. Here he was sitting, his pipe in his mouth and his hands on his knees, quietly looking out, when the children, the goats and Cousin Dete suddenly clambered into view. Heidi was at the top first. She went straight up to the old man, put out her hand, and said, "Good-evening, Grandfather."
"So, so, what is the meaning of this?" he asked gruffly, as he gave the child an abrupt shake of the hand, and gazed long and scrutinizingly at her from under his bushy eyebrows. Heidi stared steadily back at him in return with unflinching gaze, for the grandfather, with his long beard and thick gray eyebrows that grew together over his nose and looked just like a bush, was such a remarkable appearance, that Heidi was unable to take her eyes off him. Meanwhile Dete had come up, with Peter after her, and the latter now stood still a while to watch what was going on.
"I wish you good-day, Uncle," said Dete, as she walked towards him, "and I have brought you Tobias' and Adelaide's child. You will hardly recognize her, as you have never seen her since she was a year old."
"And what has the child to do with me up here?" asked the old man curtly. "You there," he then called out to Peter, "be off with your goats, you are none too early as it is, and take mine with you."
Peter obeyed on the instant and quickly disappeared, for the old man had given him a look that made him feel that he did not want to stay any longer.
"The child is here to remain with you," Dete made answer. "I have, I think, done my duty by her for these four years, and now it is time for you to do yours."
"That's it, is it?" said the old man, as he looked at her with a flash in his eye. "And when the child begins to fret and whine after you, as is the way with these unreasonable little beings, what am I to do with her then?"
"That's your affair," retorted Dete. "I know I had to put up with her without complaint when she was left on my hands as an infant, and with enough to do as it was for my mother and self. Now I have to go and look after my own earnings, and you are the next of kin to the child. If you cannot arrange to keep her, do with her as you like. You will be answerable for the result if harm happens to her, though you have hardly need, I should think, to add to the burden already on your conscience."
Now Dete was not quite easy in her own conscience about what she was doing, and consequently was feeling hot and irritable, and said more than she had intended. As she uttered her last words, Uncle rose from his seat. He looked at her in a way that made her draw back a step or two, then flinging out his arm, he said to her in a commanding voice: "Be off with you this instant, and get back as quickly as you can to the place whence you came, and do not let me see your face again in a hurry."
Dete did not wait to be told twice. "Good-bye to you then, and to you too, Heidi," she called, as she turned quickly away and started to descend the mountain at a running pace, which she did not slacken till she found herself safely again at Dörfli, for some inward agitation drove her forwards as if a steam-engine was at work inside her. Again questions came raining down upon her from all sides, for every one knew Dete, as well as all particulars of the birth and former history of the child, and all wondered what she had done with it. From every door and window came voices calling: "Where is the child?" "Where have you left the child, Dete?" and more and more reluctantly Dete made answer, "Up there with Alm-Uncle!" "With Alm-Uncle, have I not told you so already?"
Then the women began to hurl reproaches at her; first one cried out, "How could you do such a thing!" then another, "To think of leaving a helpless little thing up there,"—while again and again came the words, "The poor mite! the poor mite!" pursuing her as she went along. Unable at last to bear it any longer Dete ran forward as fast as she could until she was beyond reach of their voices. She was far from happy at the thought of what she had done, for the child had been left in her care by her dying mother. She quieted herself, however, with the idea that she would be better able to do something for the child if she was earning plenty of money, and it was a relief to her to think that she would soon be far away from all these people who were making such a fuss about the matter, and she rejoiced further still that she was at liberty now to take such a good place.
I N Persia, when Cyrus the Great was king, boys were taught to tell the truth. This was one of their first lessons at home and at school.
"None but a coward will tell a falsehood," said the father of young Otanes.
"Truth is beautiful. Always love it," said his mother.
When Otanes was twelve years old, his parents wished to send him to a distant city to study in a famous school that was there. It would be a long journey and a dangerous one. So it was arranged that the boy should travel with a small company of merchants who were going to the same place.
"Good-by, Otanes! Be always brave and truthful," said his father.
"Farewell, my child! Love that which is beautiful. Despise that which is base," said his mother.
The little company began its long journey. Some of the men rode on camels, some on horses. They went but slowly, for the sun was hot and the way was rough.
Suddenly, towards evening, a band of robbers swooped down upon them. The merchants were not fighting men. They could do nothing but give up all their goods and money.
"Well, boy, what have you got?" asked one of the robbers, as he pulled Otanes from his horse.
"Forty pieces of gold," answered the lad.
The robber laughed. He had never heard of a boy with so much money as that.
"That is a good story," he said. "Where do you carry your gold?"
"It is in my hat, underneath the lining," answered Otanes.
"Oh, well! You can't make me believe that," said the robber; and he hurried away to rob one of the rich merchants.
Soon another came up and said, "My boy, do you happen to have any gold about you?"
"Yes! Forty pieces, in my hat, said Otanes.
"You are a brave lad to be joking with robbers," said the man; and he also hurried on to a more promising field.
At length the chief of the band called to Otanes and said, "Young fellow, have you anything worth taking?"
Otanes answered, "I have already told two of your men that I have forty pieces of gold in my hat. But they wouldn't believe me."
"Take off your hat," said the chief.
The boy obeyed. The chief tore out the lining and found the gold hidden beneath it.
"Why did you tell us where to find it?" he asked. "No one would have thought that a child like you had gold about him."
"If I had answered your questions differently, I should have told a lie," said Otanes; "and none but cowards tell lies."
The robber chief was struck by this answer. He thought of the number of times that he himself had been a coward. Then he said, "You are a brave boy, and you may keep your gold. Here it is. Mount your horse, and my own men will ride with you and see that you reach the end of your journey in safety."
Otanes, in time, became one of the famous men of his country. He was the advisor and friend of two of the kings who succeeded Cyrus.
To the bound
Of the vast horizon's round,
All sand, sand, sand—
All burning, glaring sand—
On my camel's hump I ride,
As he sways from side to side,
With an awkward step of pride,
And his scraggy head uplifted, and his eye
So long and bland.
Naught is near,
In the blear
And the simmering atmosphere,
But the shadow on the sand,
The shadow of the camel on the sand;
All alone as I ride
O'er the desert's ocean wide,
It is ever at my side;
It haunts me, it pursues me, if I flee or if I stand.
Not a sound
Save the paddled heat and bound
Of the camel on the sand
Of the feet of the camel on the sand.
Not a bird is in the air,
Though the sun, with burning stare,
Is prying everywhere,
O'er the yellow thirsty desert, so
WEEK 28 |
W ILLIAM THE RED died in 1100 A.D. He had no children, so his brother Henry became king after him. Henry was the youngest son of William the Conqueror. He was fond of learning and could read and write better than most people in those days, so he was called Beauclerc, which is French and means "fine scholar."
Henry's eldest brother Robert, Duke of Normandy, was still alive, and the Norman barons in England still wanted to have him for their king. So they sent over to France and asked Robert to come to fight again for the crown.
Once more the English people had to choose between the Norman king and the Norman barons. Once more they decided for the King and fought for him, even although William the Red had forgotten his promises and cruelly deceived them. For although Henry's father and mother had been Norman, Henry himself had been born in England, and the English people felt as if that almost made him English. So once more they chose to fight for the King against the barons.
Henry Beauclerc did not repay the people with promises only, as his brother had done. He gave them a written letter, or charter as it was called, in which he promised to do away with many of William the Red's cruel laws, to restore the good laws of Edward, and to lessen the power of the barons.
Later on another king gave the people a much more important charter, but in the meantime the English were very glad to get this one.
Besides giving them this charter, Henry pleased the English very much by marrying the Scottish Princess Maud, or Matilda as she was sometimes called.
Edgar the Ætheling had a sister named Margaret. She married
the Scottish King
Although many of the nobles were angry, Henry's marriage did a great deal of good, for other Normans followed the King's example and married English ladies so that the hatred between the two races began to disappear a little.
Thus it happened that when Robert and his barons came to fight Henry, they were met by an army of English, whose hearts were with their king and who "nowise feared the Normans." So hopeless did Robert feel it to be, that he made peace with his brother and went back to Normandy without fighting.
Then Henry punished the rebel barons by taking their lands away from many of them and banishing others. The English helped him and rejoiced at the defeat of the proud barons.
Later on Robert and Henry quarrelled again. Henry sailed over to Normandy with an army of English soldiers, defeated his brother, and took possession of Normandy. So now instead of England belonging to Normandy, Normandy belonged to England.
When Henry had been king for about twenty years a great and terrible grief came upon him. He and his son, Prince William, had been in Normandy together. Just as they were ready to return to England, a sailor came and begged Henry to honour him by using his ship. "My father Stephen," he said, "steered the ship in which your father sailed over to England when he went to conquer Harold. My father was a good sailor, and he served King William until he died. I, too, am a sailor like my father. I have a beautiful boat called the White Ship. It is newly rigged and freshly painted, it is manned by fifty trusty sailors, and is in every way worthy of a king. Honor me, as your father honoured my father, and give me leave to steer you to England."
"I thank you, good Master FitzStephen," said Henry, "but I have already made choice of the ship in which I intend to sail, and I cannot change. But," he added, seeing the man looked disappointed, "my son, Prince William, is with me and you may steer him and his company over the channel."
Thomas FitzStephen was very glad when he heard that, and he hurried away to tell his sailors to prepare to receive the prince.
Late in the afternoon King Henry set sail, leaving Prince William to follow in the White Ship. But Prince William was young and gay, and he did not feel inclined to start at once. He stayed on shore drinking and feasting and making merry with his friends. When at last he did go on board, he ordered the captain to give the sailors three barrels of good red wine with which to drink his health. So there was still further delay. As was usual in those days, priests came to bless the ship before it started, but the prince and his gay companions laughed at them, and the sailors, whom the wine had made merry, chased them away.
One of the King's friends, who had been left behind with the prince, now urged the captain to start. "Oh, there is no hurry," said FitzStephen, "my beautiful White Ship has sails like the wings of a bird. She skims over the water swifter than a swallow. We can easily overtake the King and be in England before him."
At last they started. The deck was crowded with fine ladies and gay gentlemen. These ladies and gentlemen had many servants, so that, together with the sailors, there were about three hundred people on board the ship.
The sails were set, the sailors bent to the oars, and to the sound of song and laughter the gay ship left the harbour, skimming over the waves like a beautiful bird, as the captain had said.
It was a clear and frosty winter's evening. The red sun had sunk and a silver moon shone brightly. All was merriment and laughter when, suddenly, there was an awful crash. The ship seemed to shiver from end to end and then stand still. The next minute it began to sink. It had struck upon a rock.
One fearful wail of agony rose from the hearts of three hundred people, breaking the stillness of the night. Far away over the sea Henry heard that cry. "What is it?" he asked, straining anxious eyes through the darkness.
"Only some night bird, sire," replied the captain.
"Methought it was some soul in distress," said Henry, still looking back over the sea, anxious he knew not why.
On the White Ship all was terrible confusion. Without losing a moment FitzStephen thrust the prince into the only small boat, and bade the sailors row off. He at least must be saved, though all the rest should perish.
The prince, hardly knowing what had happened, allowed the sailors to row away from the sinking vessel. But suddenly a voice called to him, "Ah, William, William, do you leave me to perish?"
It was the voice of his sister Marie.
William was careless and selfish, but he loved his sister. He could not leave her. "Go back," he said to the sailors, "go back, we must take my sister too."
"We dare not, sire," replied the boatmen. "We dare not, we must go on."
"You dare not," cried the prince, "am I not the son of the King of England? Obey me."
The prince spoke so sternly that the men turned the boat and went back to the sinking ship.
As the boat drew near, the Princess Marie, with a cry of joy, leaped into her brother's arms. But, alas! many others, eager to be saved, crowded into the little boat. The sailors tried in vain to keep them back, the little boat was overturned and the prince was drowned.
The White Ship sank fast, until only the mast was seen above the water. Clinging to it were two men—all that were left of that gay company. One of these men was a noble called Geoffrey de l'Aigle. The other was a poor butcher of Rouen, called Berthold.
As they clung there, a third man appeared swimming through the waves. It was the captain, FitzStephen.
"What of the prince?" he asked.
"The prince is drowned," replied Geoffrey.
"Ah, woe is me!" cried FitzStephen, and throwing up his arms, he sank.
Hour after hour the two men clung to the mast. They were numbed with cold and perishing from hunger. Again and again, as long as they had strength, they called aloud for help. But there was no one to hear. The bright stars twinkled overhead and the moon shone calmly, making paths of shining silver over the still water. But no voice answered their cries.
All through the terrible long night the noble and the
butcher talked and tried to comfort each other. But towards
morning the noble became exhausted.
When the wintry sun rose, Berthold, faint and benumbed, was still clinging to the mast. He was the poorest of all those who had sailed in the beautiful White Ship. While the others had been dressed in silk and satin and velvet, his coat was of sheepskin, and perhaps that helped to save him for the rough skin kept out the cold and wet far better than a coat of satin could have done.
It was beginning to grow light when three fishermen, passing in their boat, caught sight of something floating in the water. They rowed near to see what it was, and found the poor butcher almost dead from cold and hunger.
The fishermen lifted him into their boat and took him home. When they had warmed and fed him, and he could speak again, he told his dreadful story.
Alas, what news to carry to England! There was mourning and tears among the nobles when they heard it, for almost every one among them had lost a son or a brother.
But who should tell the King? No one dared. The nobles knew that Henry loved his son above everything on earth, so for three days, in spite of his anxious questions, no one dared to tell him the truth. When alone they wept for their dear ones, but in presence of the King they put away their tears and tried to smile and jest as usual.
At last one of the nobles, taking his little son by the hand, and whispering to him, "Go, tell the King," gently pushed the child into the room where Henry was sitting.
The little boy felt frightened and shy at finding himself alone with the stern King, although he hardly understood how terrible a tale he had to tell. Half sobbing with excitement and fear, he knelt before Henry and stammered out the story.
The little boy knelt before the King and stammered out the story.
As Henry listened, his hands clutched his robe, his lips moved, but no sound came. Then suddenly he fell senseless to the floor, and the little boy, now quite frightened, burst into loud sobbing.
At the sound of the fall the nobles rushed into the room. They lifted the King and placed him upon a couch. He lay there with a white face and closed eyes. When he opened his eyes again there was a look in them that no one had seen before; his face was lined and drawn with sorrow, and no one ever saw him smile again.
Henry had no other son, but he had a daughter who was called Matilda, as her mother had been. He resolved that this daughter should be queen after he was dead.
In those days it was thought strange for a country to be ruled by a woman, and the haughty Norman nobles hated the thought of it. But Henry was so strong and stern that he forced them to promise that Matilda should be queen. How they kept that promise you shall hear.
After Prince William's death, Henry spent a great deal of his time in Normandy. He was there when he died. It is said that his death was caused by eating too many lampreys. Lampreys are fish something like eels.
Henry was very fierce and stern, but he was wise, and in those days it was necessary for a king to be stern in order to keep the strong barons in check. He loved justice so much that he was called the Lion of Justice. He took the side of the English people against the Norman barons, and the English repaid him by being true to him. We read of Henry that, "Good he was and mickle awe was of him. No man durst misdo with other in his day. Peace he made for man and deer."
Peace he made and peace he loved, so that he was called the "peace-loving king."
Kneeling beside King Henry, as he lay dying, the Archbishop of Rouen prayed, "God give him the peace he loved."
H OLIDAY STREAM ran through a muddy place soon after it left the pond. Near the edge of the water there were some marks in the soft earth. If a baby had been playing there and had pressed his fat hands into the mud, he would have made marks much like these by the stream. They could not be the marks of a baby, however, for they were not made in the daytime. They were left there at night when it was too dark for a child to find the way through the woods to the stream.
After the sun had set, one pleasant evening in May, Mother Lotor went for her usual walk. The shadbushes were white with bloom, and the plum trees scattered their fragrance through the dusk, but Mother Lotor did not seem to notice the flowers. She was hungry. She had eaten nothing since the night before.
Mother Lotor was hungry.
When she reached the stream she paused a moment to look and listen and sniff. She did not rest on her toes like a cat or a dog. She stood with the bare soles of her feet flat on the ground, as a bear does. Because of the shape of her feet, the marks she made in the mud were somewhat like the prints of a baby's hands.
She was about thirty inches long from the tip of her nose to the tip of her bushy tail. The fur next her body was a dull brown, but the longer hairs were gray and those on the back were tipped with black. Her pointed head was shaped a little like that of a fox. Part of her face was whitish, but her cheeks near the eyes were black.
You have guessed by this time that Mother Lotor was a raccoon. It was so dark that you could not have seen how handsome a creature she was, if you had met her by the stream; but it was not too dark for her night eyes to see what was near her.
Mother Lotor was a skillful hunter and fisher. Her movements were both quiet and swift. She caught a few frogs and killed them so quickly that they had no time to suffer. She caught some little fishes and tossed them on the shore.
The frogs and fishes were quite clean. They had just been taken from the water where they had soaked all their lives. But Mother Lotor washed each one before she ate it. She washed it with her hands and she washed it with her feet. She squeezed it and she crushed it. She was in no haste. Leisurely she rested her back against a tree and held her food between her feet while she stripped the white meat into shreds and ate it daintily from her hands.
After her evening meal she went for a walk. She did not wander far, however, for five reasons. Each reason was a little Lotor, and each little Lotor was hungry. So she soon went home to feed her babies. She did not take fishes and frogs to them. They were too young, indeed, for any food except warm milk, the natural first food of all young mammals.
When they had sucked their milk they cuddled together and went to sleep. At first they had been blind and very helpless, but now they were old enough to open their eyes and to play with one another a little. There was not room for very much frolic, though, for their nursery was only a hollow in an old tree.
A woodpecker started the hollow years before, rather high up in the tree, near where a branch had been broken off in a windstorm. The woodpecker nested there one season, and after that some squirrels used it for a bedroom and pantry.
A tree frog found the rotting wood at the bottom of the hollow one cold autumn night when he felt the need to dig into some such soft sheltered place, so he spent the winter there. He liked his home so much that he lived there for four or five years except for a while each spring when he went to the pond to join the spring chorus there. After that season of song he found his way back to his tree hole and stayed inside on very bright sunny days. When the skies were dark with night or clouds, he came out and hunted and sang. His music was a pleasant trilly sort of purr.
As the opening through the bark became older and bigger, more and more rain and snow drifted in each year and the wet wood rotted. Big ants tunneled through the edges, and boring beetles made their trails.
So the woodpecker and the squirrels and the tree frog and the ants and the beetles and doubtless many other creatures had been the strange carpenters that had helped make the tree cabin large enough for the Lotor family.
The five little Lotors knew nothing about the other cave dwellers that had lived in their home before they were born. They knew nothing about all the strange world outside their hollow.
They did not even know their own father very well yet. He came and looked at them and sometimes he brought meat to Mother Lotor. She took such food to the pond or the stream and washed it. Perhaps Father Lotor had squeezed and pounded it in the stream before he gave it to her, but that was no help to her. She felt a need to wash it for herself.
For several months Father Lotor did much of his fishing and hunting alone, although he often met Mother Lotor.
For several months Father Lotor did most of his hunting alone.
One night early in July he went to watch a turtle nearly buried in the mud. Her head and the front edge of her shell were up out of the mud, but not much else showed. She had been there for almost a week and had not tried to get out. She had, indeed, buried herself in the soft ground and seemed in no hurry to move. Father Lotor had seen her a night or two before and had watched her then for a few hours. He had not disturbed her. She was a big snapping turtle, and he was not foolish enough to try to catch her even if she was deep in the mud. This happened to be the end of her stay, however, and at last she wallowed out and walked off with awkward thumping, dragging steps toward a pond that was half a mile or more away.
Before the old snapping turtle was well out of sight, Father Lotor was busy digging in the mud in the very place she had just left. He uncovered about three dozen eggs in their muddy nest, and the sight of them made him feel very hungry. He was not, however, a selfish raccoon, and he knew that Mother Lotor liked turtle eggs. So he called. His voice trembled, and perhaps if you had heard him you would have thought the quavering sound was the note of an owl. Many people make that mistake. But Mother Lotor, who happened to be hunting not far away, had no doubt. She knew who spoke. A few minutes later the two raccoons were seated beside the turtle's nest ready for a feast. In the hands of each was a little ball-shaped egg. Each nipped a hole in the whitish shell and drank daintily, spilling hardly a drop. Egg after egg was eaten in this way until the meal was finished.
Then Mother Lotor ran back to her five hungry baby raccoons, and Father Lotor climbed a tall pine tree and went to sleep in an empty crow's nest. One-third of his length was fluffy tail, and by curving his body until the tip of his nose was covered with the tip of his tail, he fitted the crow's nest very well.
Now and then Father Lotor would see Mother Lotor at the edge of the water when they happened to go to the same place to wash their food. One evening when they were together, they heard a cry. Perhaps if you had heard the sound, you would have thought it was made by a frightened human baby. But Mother Lotor made no mistake. She rushed to the hollow tree as fast as she could go. There, at the foot of the tree, was a little raccoon. He had climbed out of the hollow and slipped and fallen. He did not know where his mother was. The world seemed very big. The ground felt queer. He was so frightened that he whimpered.
Mother Lotor urged him back up the tree by following him and poking him with her nose. When he reached the hollow, she gave him a gentle shove and he cuddled against the other little raccoons, still whimpering with fright.
The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wandering light,
Began to cry, but God, ever nigh,
Appeared like his father, in white.
He kissed the child, and by the hand led,
And to his mother brought,
Who in sorrow pale, through the lonely dale,
Her little boy weeping sought.
WEEK 28 |
F course, you all know to what branch of the Dog family Old Man
Coyote belongs," said Old Mother Nature, and looked expectantly at
the circle of little folks gathered around her. No one answered.
"Well, well, well!" exclaimed Old Mother Nature, "I am surprised.
I am very much surprised. I supposed that all of you knew that
"Do you mean that he is really a true Wolf?" asked Striped Chipmunk timidly.
"Of course," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is all Wolf and nothing
but Wolf. He is the Prairie Wolf, so called because he is a lover
of the great open plains and not of the deep forests like his big
cousin, Howler the Timber Wolf.
"Old Man Coyote varies in size from not so very much bigger than
"In his habits, Old Man Coyote is much like Reddy, but being larger
and stronger he is able to kill larger animals, and has won the hate
of man by killing young Pigs, Lambs, newly born Calves and poultry.
Because of this, he has been and is continually hunted and trapped.
The Prairie Wolf who is as clever as Reddy Fox.
"Old Man Coyote is a good father and husband and a good provider
for his family. He and
"Old Man Coyote has one of the strangest voices to be heard anywhere, and he delights to use it, especially at night. It is like many voices shouting together, and one who hears it for the first time cannot believe that all that sound comes from one throat.
"His big cousin, Howler the Gray Wolf, sometimes called Timber Wolf—is
found now only in the forests of the North and the mountains of
The Timber or Gray Wolf, so long dreaded by man.
"Howler and Mrs. Wolf mate for life, and each is at all times loyal to the other. They are the best of parents, and the little Wolves are carefully trained in all that a Wolf should know. Always the hand of man has been against them, and this fact has developed their wits and cunning to a wonderful degree. Man in his effort to destroy them has used poison, cleverly hiding it in pieces of meat left where Howler and his friends could find them. Howler soon found out that there was something wrong with pieces of meat left about, and now it is seldom that any of his family come to harm in that way. He is equally cunning in discovering traps, even traps buried in one of his trails. Sometimes he will dig them up and spring them without being caught.
"When Wolves hunt in packs they have a leader, usually the strongest or the smartest among them, and this leader they obey. In all the great forests there is no more dreadful sound than the howling of a pack of wolves. There is something in it that strikes terror to the hearts of all who hear it.
"The color of Howler's coat usually is brownish-gray and that is
why he is called the
"My!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit, "I am glad Howler doesn't live around here."
"You well may be," said Old Mother Nature. "He would make just about one bite of you, Peter."
Peter shivered. "Are Old Man Coyote and Howler friends?" asked Peter.
"I wouldn't call them exactly friends," replied Old Mother Nature.
"All branches of the Dog family are alike in one thing: they walk on their
toes. They never put the whole foot down flat as does Buster Bear.
And, as you have already discovered, all branches of the Dog family
are very smart. They are intelligent. Hello, there is Black Pussy,
the cat from Farmer Brown's, coming down the Lone Little Path! I
suspect it will be well for some of you smallest ones to get out
of sight before she arrives. She doesn't belong over here in the
Green Forest, but she has a cousin who does,
Yowler the Bob Cat.
Shall I tell you about Yowler and his cousins
"We'd love to have you!" cried Happy Jack, speaking for all. Then, as Black Pussy was drawing near, they separated and went their several ways.
Jackson was an able man, and an honest one in his way. He was once a judge, he kept a store, he went to Congress, and then to the United States Senate. When the "War of 1812" with England broke out he was sent as a general of Tennessee volunteers to defend New Orleans. When he had waited some time at Natchez he was ordered to disband his troops, as they were not needed. Those who sent such an order from Washington did not stop to ask how the poor Tennesseeans were to make their way back to their homes. Jackson refused to obey the order, pledged his own property to get food for his men, and marched them to Tennessee again. The men became devoted to him, and gave him the nickname of "Old Hickory."
But after a while war broke out in the Southwest in earnest. Tecumseh, in his Southern trip, had persuaded a half-breed chief, who was known to the whites as Weathersford and to the Indians as Red Eagle, to "take up the hatchet" and go to war. The Indians attacked Fort Mimms, in which four hundred men, women, and children were shut up. They burned the fort and killed the people in it. Weathersford tried to stop the massacre, but he could not control his savages.
Chief in Full Dress
When the news of this slaughter reached Tennessee Jackson was very ill from a wound in the arm and a ball in the shoulder which he got in a foolish fight. But in spite of his wounds, the fiery general marched at the head of twenty-five hundred men to attack the savages. He had a great deal of trouble to feed his troops in the wilderness; the men suffered from hunger, and some times rebelled and resolved to go home. Jackson once ordered out half his army to keep the other half from leaving. Again, the half that had tried to desert was used to make the others stay. At another time he stood in the road in front of his rebellious soldiers, and declared in the most dreadful words that he would shoot the first villain who took a step.
In spite of all these troubles with his wild soldiers, Jackson beat the enemy by rapid marches and bold attacks. In 1814 the savages had fortified themselves at a place called Horseshoe Bend. Here Jackson had a terrible battle with the Indians, who fought until they were almost all dead. At length most of the savages submitted, or fled into Florida, which at that time belonged to Spain. The white men had vowed to kill Weathersford, the chief; but that fearless fellow rode up to Jackson's tent, and said that he wanted the general to send for the Indian women and children, who were starving in the woods. When the white soldiers saw Weathersford, they cried out, "Kill him!" But Jackson told them that anybody who would kill so brave a man would rob the dead.
Weatherford Surrenders to General Jackson
Jackson was suffering all this time from a painful illness, and was hardly able to sit in the saddle. But he marched to Mobile, which he succeeded in defending against an English force that had landed in Florida, and had been joined by Florida Indians. Jackson resolved that the Spaniards should not give any further aid to the enemies of the United States. He therefore marched his army into Florida and took the Spanish town of Pensacola, driving the English away.
It soon became necessary for him to go to New Orleans to defend that place. The English landed twelve thousand fine men below that city. Jackson armed the free negroes and the prisoners out of the jails, but, after all, he had only half as many soldiers as the English. The general, though yellow with illness, was as resolute as ever. He had several fights with the English as they advanced, but the decisive battle was fought on the 8th of January, 1815, when the English tried to carry the American works by storm. Jackson's Southwestern troops were many of them dead shots. They mowed down the ranks of the British whenever they charged, until more than one fifth of the English troops had been killed or wounded and their general was also dead. Though the English had lost twenty-six hundred brave men, the Americans had but eight killed and thirteen wounded.
One little English bugler, fourteen years old, had climbed into a tree near the American works and blown his bugle charge, to cheer the English, till there were non left to blow for. An American soldier then brought him into camp, where the men made much of their young prisoner, because he was so brave.
This wonderful defense of New Orleans ended the "War of 1812." General Jackson became the darling of his country. When the United States bought Florida from Spain, he was sent to take possession of that country.
In 1828 Jackson was elected President of the United States. He was a man of the plain people, rough in speech and stern in manner, but his popularity was very great. He was the first President who put out of office those who had voted against him, and appointed his own friends to their places. He enforced the laws with a strong hand, and he managed affairs with other nations in such a way as to make the country respected in Europe.
General Jackson died in 1845. He was, as we have seen, a man of strong will and fierce passions. But he was faithful to his friends, affectionate with his relatives, and exceedingly kind to his slaves. He had no children, but he adopted a nephew of his wife and brought him up as his son. He also adopted an Indian baby, found after one of his battles in its dead mother's arms. His splendid defense of New Orleans showed Jackson to be one of the very ablest generals American has ever produced.
Hamelin Town's in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover city;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.
At last the people in a body
To the Town Hall came flocking:
" 'T is clear," cried they, "our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation—shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin!
You hope, because you're old and obese,
To find in the furry civic robe ease?
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!"
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.
An hour they sat in council;
At length the Mayor broke silence:
"For a guilder I'd my ermine gown sell,
I wish I were a mile hence!
It's easy to bid one rack one's brain—
I'm sure my poor head aches again,
I've scratched it so, and all in vain.
Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!"
Just as he said this what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
"Bless us," cried the Mayor, "what 's that?"
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle green and glutinous)
"Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!"
"Come in!"—the Mayor cried, looking bigger
And in did come the strangest figure!
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red,
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in;
There was no guessing his kith and kin:
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: "It's as my great-grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!"
He advanced to the council table:
And, "Please your honors," said he, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper."
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the selfsame check;
And at the scarf's end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
"Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nizam
Of a monstrous brood of vampire bats:
And as for what your brain bewilders,
If I can rid your town of rats
Will you give me a thousand guilders?"
One? fifty thousand!"—was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.
Into the street the Piper stepped,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives—
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser,
Wherein all plunged and perished!
Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As he, the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary:
Which was, "At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider press's gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter casks:
And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, 'O rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast drysaltery!
So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!'
And just as a bulky sugar puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said: 'Come, bore me!'
—I found the Weser rolling o'er me."
You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
"Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles,
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders,
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!"—when suddenly, up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market place,
With a, "First, if you please, my thousand guilders!"
A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havoc
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gypsy coat of red and yellow!
"Beside," quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
"Our business was done at the river's brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what's dead can't come to life, I think.
So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something for drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!"
The Piper's face fell, and he cried
"No trifling! I can't wait, beside!
I've promised to visit by dinner time
Bagdat, and accept the prime
Of the Head Cook's pottage, all he's rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph's kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor;
With him I proved no bargain driver,
With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe after another fashion."
"How?" cried the Mayor, "d' ye think I brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!"
Once more he stept into the street
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling;
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering.
And, like fowls in a farmyard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.
The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step, or cry
To the children merrily skipping by,
—Could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the Piper's back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack,
And the wretched Council's bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its waters
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However, he turned from south to west,
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
"He never can cross that mighty top!
He's forced to let the piping drop,
And we shall see our children stop!"
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast,
Did I say, all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,—
"It's dull in our town since my playmates left!
I can't forget that I'm bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me,
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed, and fruit trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles' wings:
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!"
Alas, alas for Hamelin!
There came into many a burgher's pate
A text which says that heaven's gate
Opes to the rich at as easy rate
As the needle's eye takes a camel in!
The Mayor sent east, west, north, and south,
To offer the Piper, by word of mouth,
Whenever it was men's lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart's content,
If he'd only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw 't was a lost endeavor,
And Piper and dancers were gone forever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear,
"And so long after what happened here
On the Twenty-second of July,
Thirteen hundred and seventy-six":
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the children's last retreat,
They called it, the Pied Piper's Street—
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labor.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn;
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the great church-window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That in Transylvania there's a tribe
Of alien people who ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbors lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterraneous prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why, they don't understand.
So, Willy, let me and you be wipers
Of scores out with all men—especially pipers!
And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice,
If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise!
WEEK 28 |
A S Ganelon and Blancandrin rode along together beneath the olive-trees and through the fruitful vineyards of sunny Spain, the heathen began to talk cunningly. "What a wonderful knight is thy Emperor," he said. "He hath conquered the world from sea to sea. But why cometh he within our borders? Why left he us not in peace?"
"It was his will," replied Ganelon. "There is no man in all the world so great as he. None may stand against him."
"You Franks are gallant men indeed," said Blancandrin, "but your dukes and counts deserve blame when they counsel the Emperor to fight with us now."
"There is none deserveth that blame save Roland," said Ganelon. "Such pride as his ought to be punished. Oh, that some one would slay him!" he cried fiercely. "Then should we have peace."
"This Roland is very cruel," said Blancandrin, "to wish to conquer all the world as he does. But in whom does he trust for help?"
"In the Franks," said Ganelon. "They love him with such a great love that they think he can do no wrong. He giveth them gold and silver, jewels and armour, so they serve him. Even to the Emperor himself he maketh rich presents. He will not rest until he hath conquered all the world, from east to west."
The Saracen looked at Ganelon out of the corner of his eye. He was a right noble knight, but now that his face was dark with wrath and jealousy, he looked like a felon.
"Listen thou to me," said Blancandrin softly. "Dost wish to be avenged upon Roland? Then by Mahomet deliver him into our hands. King Marsil is very generous; for such a kindness he will willingly give unto thee of his countless treasure."
Ganelon heard the tempter's voice, but he rode onward as if unheeding, his chin sunken upon his breast, his eyes dark with hatred.
But long ere the ride was ended and Saragossa reached, the heathen lord and Christian knight had plotted together for the ruin of Roland.
At length the journey was over, and Ganelon lighted down before King Marsil, who awaited him beneath the shadow of his orchard trees, seated upon a marble throne covered with rich silken rugs. Around him crowded his nobles, silent and eager to learn how Blancandrin had fared upon his errand.
Bowing low, Blancandrin approached the throne, leading Ganelon by the hand. "Greeting," he said, "in the name of Mahomet. Well, O Marsil, have I done thy behest to the mighty Christian King. But save that he raised his hands to heaven and gave thanks to his God, no answer did he render to me. But unto thee he sendeth one of his nobles, a very powerful man in France. From him shalt thou learn if thou shalt have peace or war."
"Let him speak," said King Marsil. "We will listen."
"Greeting," said Ganelon, "in the name of God—the God of glory whom we ought all to adore. Listen ye to the command of Charlemagne:—Thou, O king, shalt receive the Christian faith, then half of Spain will he leave to thee to hold in fief. The other half shall be given to Count Roland—a haughty companion thou wilt have there. If thou wilt not agree to this, Charlemagne will besiege Saragossa, and thou shalt be led captive to Aix, there to die a vile and shameful death."
King Marsil shook with anger and turned pale. In his hand he held an arrow fledged with gold. Now, springing from his throne, he raised his arm as if he would strike Ganelon. But the knight laid his hand upon his sword and drew it half out of the scabbard. "Sword," he cried, "thou art bright and beautiful; oft have I carried thee at the court of my king. It shall never be said of me that I died alone in a foreign land, among fierce foes, ere thou wert dipped in the blood of their bravest and best."
For a few moments the heathen king and the Christian knight eyed each other in deep silence. Then the air was filled with shouts. "Part them, part them," cried the Saracens.
The noblest of the Saracens rushed between their king and Ganelon. "It was a foolish trick to raise thy hand against the Christian knight," said Marsil's Calif, seating him once more upon his throne. " 'Twere well to listen to what he hath to say."
"Sir," said Ganelon proudly, "thinkest thou for all the threats in the wide world I will be silent and not speak the message which the mighty Charlemagne sendeth to his mortal enemy? Nay, I would speak, if ye were all against me." And keeping his right hand still upon the golden pommel of his sword, with his left he unclasped his cloak of fur and silk and cast it upon the steps of the throne. There, in his strength and splendour, he stood defying them all.
" 'Tis a noble knight!" cried the heathen in admiration.
Then once more turning to King Marsil, Ganelon gave him the Emperor's letter. As he broke the seal and read, Marsil's brow grew black with anger. "Listen, my lords," he cried; "because I slew yonder insolent Christian knights, the Emperor Charlemagne bids me beware his wrath. He commands that I shall send unto him as hostage mine uncle the Calif."
"This is some madness of Ganelon!" cried a heathen knight. "He is only worthy of death. Give him unto me, and I will see that justice is done upon him." So saying, he laid his hand upon his sword.
Like a flash of lightning Ganelon's good blade Murglies sprang from its sheath, and with his back against a tree, the Christian knight prepared to defend himself to the last. But once again the fight was stopped, and this time Blancandrin led Ganelon away.
Then, walking alone with the king, Blancandrin told of all that he had done, and of how even upon the way hither, Ganelon had promised to betray Roland, who was Charlemagne's greatest warrior. "And if he die," said Blancandrin, "then is our peace sure."
"Bring hither the Christian knight to me," cried King Marsil.
So Blancandrin went, and once more leading Ganelon by the hand, brought him before the king.
"Fair Sir Ganelon," said the wily heathen, "I did a rash and foolish thing when in anger I raised my hand to strike at thee. As a token that thou wilt forget it, accept this cloak of sable. It is worth five hundred pounds in gold." And lifting a rich cloak, he clasped it about the neck of Ganelon.
"I may not refuse it," said the knight, looking down. "May Heaven reward thee!"
"Trust me, Sir Ganelon," said King Marsil, "I love thee well. But keep thou our counsels secret. I would hear thee talk of Charlemagne. He is very old, is he not?—more than two hundred years old. He must be worn out and weary, for he hath fought so many battles and humbled so many kings in the dust. He ought to rest now from his labours in his city of Aix."
Ganelon shook his head. "Nay," he said, "such is not Charlemagne. All those who have seen him know that our Emperor is a true warrior. I know not how to praise him enough before you, for there is nowhere a man so full of valour and of goodness. I would rather die than leave his service."
"In truth," said Marsil, "I marvel greatly. I had thought that Charlemagne had been old and worn. Then if it is not so, when will he cease his wars?"
"Ah," said Ganelon, "that he will never do so long as his nephew Roland lives. Under the arch of heaven there bides no baron so splendid or so proud. Oliver, his friend, also is full of prowess and of valour. With them and his peers beside him, Charlemagne feareth no man."
"Fair Sir Ganelon," said King Marsil boldly, knowing his hatred, "tell me, how shall I slay Roland?"
"That I can tell thee," said Ganelon. "Promise thou the Emperor all that he asketh of thee. Send hostages and presents to him. He will then return to France. His army will pass through the valley of Roncesvalles. I will see to it that Roland and his friend Oliver lead the rear-guard. They will lag behind the rest of the army, then there shalt thou fall upon them with all thy mighty men. I say not but that thou shalt lose many a knight, for Roland and his Peers will fight right manfully. But in the end, being so many more than they, thou shalt conquer. Roland shall lie dead, and slaying him thou wilt cut off the right arm of Charlemagne. Then farewell to the wondrous army of France. Never again shall Charlemagne gather such a company, and within the borders of Spain there shall be peace for evermore."
When Ganelon had finished speaking, the king threw his arms about his neck and kissed him. Then turning to his slaves, he commanded them to bring great treasure of gold, and silver and precious stones, and lay it at the feet of the knight.
"But swear to me," said Marsil, "that Roland shall be in the rear-guard, and swear to me his death."
And Ganelon, laying his hand upon his sword Murglies, swore by the holy relics therein, that he would bring Roland to death.
Then came a heathen knight who gave to Ganelon a sword, the hilt of which glittered with gems so that the eyes were dazzled in looking upon it. "Let but Roland be in the rear-guard," he said, "and it is thine." Then he kissed Ganelon on both cheeks.
Soon another heathen knight followed him, laughing joyfully. "Here is my helmet," he cried. "It is the richest and best ever beaten out of steel. It is thine so that thou truly bring Roland to death and shame." And he, too, kissed Ganelon.
Next came Bramimonde, Marsil's queen. She was very beautiful. Her dark hair was strung with pearls, and her robes of silk and gold swept the ground. Her hands were full of glittering gems. Bracelets and necklaces of gold, rubies and sapphires fell from her white fingers. "Take these," she said, "to thy fair lady. Tell her that Queen Bramimonde sends them to her because of the great service thou hast done." And bowing low, she poured the sparkling jewels into Ganelon's hands. Thus did the heathen reward Ganelon for his treachery.
"Ho there!" called King Marsil to his treasurer, "are my gifts for the Emperor ready?"
"Yea, Sire," answered the treasurer, "seven hundred camels' load of silver and gold and twenty hostages, the noblest of the land; all are ready."
Then King Marsil leant his hand on Ganelon's shoulder. "Wise art thou and brave," he said, "but in the name of all thou holdest sacred, forget not thy promise unto me. See, I give thee ten mules laden with richest treasure, and every year I will send to thee as much again. Now take the keys of my city gates, take the treasure and the hostages made ready for thine Emperor. Give them all to him, tell him that I yield to him all that he asks, but forget not thy promise that Roland shall ride in the rearguard."
Impatient to be gone, Ganelon shook the King's hand from his shoulder. "Let me tarry no longer," he cried. Then springing to horse he rode swiftly away.
Meanwhile Charlemagne lay encamped, awaiting Marsil's answer. And as one morning he sat beside his tent, with his lords and mighty men around him, a great cavalcade appeared in the distance. And presently Ganelon, the traitor, drew rein before him. Softly and smoothly he began his treacherous tale. "God keep you," he cried; "here I bring the keys of Saragossa, with treasure rich and rare, seven hundred camels' load of silver and gold and twenty hostages of the noblest of the heathen host. And King Marsil bids me say, thou shalt not blame him that his uncle the Calif comes not too, for he is dead. I myself saw him as he set forth with three hundred thousand armed men upon the sea. Their vessels sank ere they had gone far from the land, and he and they were swallowed in the waves." Thus Ganelon told his lying tale.
"Now praised be Heaven!" cried Charlemagne. "And thanks, my trusty Ganelon, for well hast thou sped. At length my wars are done, and home to gentle France we ride."
So the trumpets were sounded, and soon the great army, with pennons waving and armour glittering in the sunshine, was rolling onward through the land, like a gleaming mighty river.
But following the Christian army, through valleys deep and dark, by pathways secret and unknown, crept the heathen host. They were clad in shining steel from head to foot, swords were by their sides, lances were in their hands, and bitter hatred in their hearts. Four hundred thousand strong they marched in stealthy silence. And, alas! the Franks knew it not.
When night came the Franks encamped upon the plain. And high upon the mountain sides, in a dark forest the heathen kept watch upon them.
In the midst of his army King Charlemagne lay, and as he slept he dreamed he stood alone in the valley of Roncesvalles, spear in hand. There to him came Ganelon who seized his spear and broke it in pieces before his eyes, and the noise of the breaking was as the noise of thunder. In his sleep Charlemagne stirred uneasily, but he did not wake. The vision passed, and again he dreamed. It seemed to him that he was now in his own city of Aix. Suddenly from out a forest a leopard sprang upon him. But even as its fangs closed upon his arm, a faithful hound came bounding from his hall and fell upon the savage beast with fury. Fiercely the hound grappled with the leopard. Snarling and growling they rolled over and over. Now the hound was uppermost, now the leopard. " 'Tis a splendid fight," cried the Franks who watched. But who should win the Emperor knew not, for the vision faded, and still he slept.
Fiercely the hound grappled with the leopard
The night passed and dawn came. A thousand trumpets sounded, the camp was all astir, and the Franks made ready once more to march.
But Charlemagne was grave and thoughtful, musing on the dream that he had dreamed. "My knights and barons," he said, "mark well the country through which we pass. These valleys are steep and straight. It would go ill with us did the false Saracen forget his oath, and fall upon us as we pass. To whom therefore shall I trust the rear-guard that we may march in surety?"
"Give the command to my step-son, Roland, there is none so brave as he," said Ganelon.
As Charlemagne listened he looked at Ganelon darkly. "Thou art a very demon," he said. "What rage possesseth thee? And if I give command of the rear to Roland, who, then, shall lead the van?"
"There is Ogier the Dane," said Ganelon quickly, "who better?"
Still Charlemagne looked darkly at him. He would not that Roland should hear, for well he knew his adventurous spirit.
But already Roland had heard. "I ought to love thee well, Sir Step-sire," he cried, "for this day hast thou named me for honour. I will take good heed that our Emperor lose not the least of his men, nor charger, palfrey, nor mule that is not paid for by stroke of sword."
"That know I right well," replied Ganelon, "therefore have I named thee."
Then to Charlemagne Roland turned, "Give me the bow of office, Sire, and let me take command," he said.
But the Emperor sat with bowed head. In and out of his long white beard he twisted his fingers. Tears stood in his eyes, and he kept silence. Such was his love for Roland and fear lest evil should befall him.
Then spoke Duke Naimes, "Give the command unto Roland, Sire; there is none better."
So, silently, Charlemagne held out the bow of office, and kneeling, Roland took it.
Then was Ganelon's wicked heart glad.
"Nephew," said Charlemagne, "half my host I leave with thee."
"Nay, Sire," answered Roland proudly, "twenty thousand only shall remain with me. The rest of ye may pass onward in all surety, for while I live ye have naught to fear."
Then in his heart Ganelon laughed.
So the mighty army passed onward through the vale of Roncesvalles without doubt or dread, for did not Roland the brave guard the rear? With him remained Oliver his friend, Turpin the bold Archbishop of Rheims, all the peers, and twenty thousand more of the bravest knights of France.
As the great army wound along, the hearts of the men were glad. For seven long years they had been far from home, and now soon they would see their dear ones again. But the Emperor rode among them sadly with bowed head. His fingers again twined themselves in his long white beard, tears once more stood in his eyes. Beside him rode Duke Naimes. "Tell me, Sire," he said, "what grief oppresseth thee?"
"Alas," said Charlemagne, "by Ganelon France is betrayed. This night I dreamed I saw him break my lance in twain. And this same Ganelon it is that puts my nephew in the rear-guard. And I, I have left him in a strange land. If he die, where shall I find such another?"
It was in vain that Duke Naimes tried to comfort the Emperor. He would not be comforted, and all the hearts of that great company were filled with fearful, boding dread for Roland.
A Peacock, puffed up with vanity, met a Crane one day, and to impress him spread his gorgeous tail in the Sun.
"Look," he said. "What have you to compare with this? I am dressed in all the glory of the rainbow, while your feathers are gray as dust!"
The Crane spread his broad wings and flew up toward the sun.
"Follow me if you can," he said. But the Peacock stood where he was among the birds of the barnyard, while the Crane soared in freedom far up into the blue sky.
The useful is of much more importance and value, than the ornamental.
I saw a ship a-sailing, a-sailing, a-sailing,
With emeralds and rubies and sapphires in her hold;
And a bosun in a blue coat bawling at the railing,
Piping through a silver call that had a chain of gold;
The summer wind was failing and the tall ship rolled.
I saw a ship a-steering, a-steering, a-steering,
With roses in red thread worked up in her sails;
With sacks of purple amethysts, the spoils of buccaneering,
Skins and musky yellow wine, and silks in bales,
Her merry men were cheering, hauling on the brails.
WEEK 28 |
"The silent ocean of the past, a waste
Of water weltering over graves."
T HOUGH Sir Humphrey Gilbert had laid down his life, his efforts at colonisation had not been in vain. His step-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, now took up his work, in something of the same spirit, though his efforts, too, were doomed to failure.
At this time Raleigh was in high favour at the Court of Elizabeth, and she readily helped him to follow in Gilbert's steps and found a colony in America.
So on April 27, 1584, two sea-captains with their ships left England to find some suitable part of the country with good soil, good water, and possibly gold, as yet unclaimed by Spaniards. The sea-captains, following the track of Columbus, sailed to the West Indies, whence they coasted northwards some 120 miles and entered a harbour which seemed promising. They knelt down, thanked God for their safe arrival, and took possession of the country in the name of Queen Elizabeth and her courtier Raleigh.
The beauty of the new country filled them with rapture. Wild grapes grew in plenty, the forests were filled with birds, the air was delicious, the growth luxuriant. There was no doubt this would make a grand site for the first English colony over the seas. Would the native Indians object?
"Oh no," said the sea-captains when they arrived in England. "The natives were most gentle, loving, and faithful, void of all guile and treason, and such as lived after the manner of the Golden Age."
Raleigh listened to this glowing account and decided to begin a colony there at once. His fame rose higher than ever, for he had given to his queen a new country, to which she now gave the name of Virginia, after herself—the Virgin Queen—while Raleigh was to become "lord and governor of Virginia."
Seven ships and a hundred colonists were soon ready, under the command of Sir Richard Grenville, who with Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher stood in the forefront of Elizabeth's sea-heroes. After eighty days on the high seas, Grenville's fleet arrived on the coast of Virginia. All looked fair and prosperous.
"It is the goodliest soil under heaven—the paradise of the world," said Sir Richard Grenville with enthusiasm, as he set to work to make the new colony a success. But his little band of Englishmen turned out to be gold-seekers rather than colonists. They lived on food furnished by the Indians, while they made search for gold, until the day came that the Indians turned on them, fighting took place, and the supply of food was stopped. Matters grew from bad to worse. Starvation stared them in the face. Their commander had sailed to England for help. They were in despair, when an English ship one day hove in sight, with Sir Francis Drake on board bringing aid for the colony. With one accord the would-be colonists begged to be taken home, and Drake could not refuse them; one and all embarked for England, and so perished the next attempt at colonising Virginia.
An old story tells us that these colonists first brought the tobacco-plant back to England, for they had learnt to smoke from the Indians. But we know now that Hawkins had already introduced it into England years before this, and that Drake and Raleigh were both great smokers.
One day, the story runs, Raleigh sat smoking his pipe, when his servant entered his room with a flask of spiced ale. Aghast at seeing smoke coming from his master's mouth, as if he were on fire, he dashed the contents of the flask into Raleigh's face.
The first potato is said to have been planted in Ireland by Sir Walter Raleigh, though again Hawkins and Drake had been before him by introducing it into England and Germany. And a German poet, Heine, quaintly remarked, "Luther shook Germany to its foundation, but Drake pacified it again: he gave us the potato."
Yet once more Raleigh fitted out a colony for Virginia. This time seventeen women were sent to make comfortable the new homes beyond the sea. Under the command of John White they sailed away for the New World, but again they were doomed to failure. The Indians refused help and food, and fighting took place. The only brightness amid the general gloom was the birth of a child, the first English baby born in America, called after the colony, Virginia. Matters grew worse, and John White sailed to England for help. He arrived to find the Spanish Armada threatening the invasion of England; no one had any thoughts for the distant colony in the Far West. The Armada came and went before anything was done, and when White at last reached the shores of Virginia, he found the place a desert, every trace of the colonists gone, nor was anything ever heard of them again!
And so perished Raleigh's second attempt at colonising in America. He fitted out no more expeditions, and it was many years before anything further was done in this direction.
"Some one has been betraying me," thought the king angrily. But he hid his anger, and said: "You have done very well so far. I am sorry to say, however, that the Golden Fleece has other guards. Do you see these serpents' teeth? You must sow these in the furrow you have made with your plough—and then the gods help you if they can."
So Jason, having finished his ploughing, sowed the serpents' teeth as if they were seeds of corn. And then from that seed sprang up, in less than an hour, a strange harvest—an army of giants, as many as the stalks of wheat in a wide field, who rushed upon Jason and the Greeks, and trampled them to the ground.
And every one of them would have been slain had not Jason bethought him of Medea's sling and stone. Aiming at the chief of the giants, he let fly, and straightway the army vanished like the phantoms of a dream.
The king began to be afraid, for he was coming to an end of his spells. He felt sure he had been betrayed, but could not guess the traitor. But again he pretended friendship, and said: "That, too, was very well done. I see there is something in you Greeks, after all. But it grieves me to the heart to tell you that the most terrible guards of the Golden Fleece still remain—a mighty dragon that never sleeps, but watches the Fleece night and day. If you can kill him—why then—"
"I can but try," said Jason. So he and his comrades were guided by winding paths to the foot of a tree on which hung the Golden Fleece, splendid in the sun. But at the foot of the tree was a dragon that could have devoured ten times as many, armor and all, with one crunch of his jaws. And he breathed forth such fiery pestilence that none could come near.
Truly it seemed at last as if the adventure was to be in vain.
But, at midnight, Medea came to Jason as before, and gave him another herb, and said, "Take this—and remember your vow."
Jason was not thinking of the vow, but only of the dragon. The next morning he set forth alone, and having found his way to the tree, waved the herb before the monster. No sooner had the smell of it reached its nostrils than its eyes began to droop and close, and presently the ever-watchful dragon was sleeping soundly. Instantly Jason darted past him, snatched the Golden Fleece from the tree, and hastening back to the palace, displayed it before the king's astonished eyes.
"Seize the robber!" cried King Æetes, to his guards. But he had come to an end of his enchantments: Jason's comrades rallied round their captain with drawn swords, and made for the shore.
The king raved and stormed. "Fetch Medea to me," he cried; "she shall raise such a tempest as will sink the foreign pirates to the bottom of the sea." But even as he spoke, in ran one of the slaves with the news—
"The Princess Medea—the Greeks are carrying her away!"
"Medea—against her will? No!" cried the king, who now knew who had betrayed him. "There is no power on earth that could make her captive, or carry her away unless she chose to go. Absyrtus," he said, turning to his son, "hasten after those brigands, and bid your sister return, and I will follow with my whole army to cut them off from their ship and destroy them all."
The news was true: Medea was so passionately in love with Jason that she had forgotten her father and her country, and was even now guiding the Greeks back to where the Argo lay. But, great enchantress though she was, she was not all-powerful, and she knew that her spells would be in vain against her own people. And her father and her brother knew this too.
Her ears were quick, however; and while the Greeks were still far from the shore, she heard the footsteps of Absyrtus swiftly tracking them; and what was worse, she heard, further off, a tramp and clash, which told her that the whole Colchian army was in pursuit at full speed.
"Hasten on," she said to Jason. "I will wait here."
So, while he and the Greeks pressed forward, she faced round and stood in the middle of the path until Absyrtus came up with her. Before he could utter a word, she plunged a dagger into her brother's heart, cut off his head and limbs, and then slowly followed Jason, dropping a bleeding limb in the path every few yards.
Things happened just as she intended. When King Æetes, riding fast at the head of his horsemen, saw his son's head lying in the path before him, he threw himself from his horse with a cry of grief; and seeing what lay further along the ground, forgot everything else, even the Golden Fleece, in his sorrow. The cruel witch, Medea, had foreseen that her father would never leave the remains of his dead son ungathered and unburied by the wayside, for the advancing horses to trample and for the vultures to devour. King Æetes was so long in seeking for the last limb that, by the time it was found, Jason and the Greeks had reached their ship and had set sail, and Medea with them.
But the murder of Absyrtus seemed to cling like a curse to the Argo, and to keep her from coming home. Driven out of her course by storms and contrary winds, she wandered into unknown oceans, drifting even so far as the wild and desolate islands of Britain, in the mysterious Northern Sea. The Argonauts narrowly escaped being devoured, ship and all, by the horrible sea-fiend Scylla, with twelve feet, six hideous heads, each with three rows of teeth, and a body made of barking dogs, who sits upon a rock and watches for sailors. And, just avoiding her jaws, they nearly fell into the whirlpool of Charybdis, another sea-fiend, so close to Scylla that it was hardly possible to escape one without being destroyed by the other. They passed the island of the Sirens, of whom you read in the story of Neptune, and would have fallen victims to their singing had not Orpheus made such music on his lyre that the Sirens ceased their own song to listen, and let the ship pass by.
I do not know what Medea was doing all this while. Perhaps she was powerful only on land; perhaps she could do nothing without her magic herbs; perhaps her passion for Jason had made her weak; perhaps she felt some touch of remorse; perhaps her wicked witch-craft was of no effect in the presence of Æsculapius, who, knowing more magic even than she, used his knowledge for helping and healing. But I do know that Jason was beginning to suffer sorely because of the vow he had made of his faith and life to Medea, and to feel that murder and black magic, and a wife whom he dreaded and did not love, were too high a price to pay even for glory. He was not like Perseus, who had warred against evil with the weapons of the gods: Jason had sought only his own glory, and had gained it by means hateful to gods and men.
But his comrades knew nothing of all this—to them he was a hero of heroes, and they made the wanderings of the Argo famous for something better than narrow escapes from peril. They cleared the sea of pirates—a work in which Castor and Pollux especially distinguished themselves; and they righted many wrongs, and carried the knowledge of the gods among far away barbarian tribes. And at last they saw once more the coast of Greece; at last they touched the land of Călydon, where the father of Meleager, one of the Argonauts whom I have already named, was king.
Now this Meleager had a charmed life. The three Fates had been present at his birth—the first had given him courage; the second, strength; but the third had decreed that he should live only so long as a log of wood, then burning upon the hearth, should remain unconsumed. So his mother, Althæa, had forthwith snatched the brand from the burning, and had kept it with care, because upon it depended the life of her son. Meleager welcomed Jason and his companions to Calydon; but they no sooner landed than they heard evil news. The whole country was being laid waste by a huge boar, which not even armies could kill.
Here was another adventure for the Argonauts. They proclaimed a great hunt, and tracked the boar, through mountains and forests, to his very den. In front of the hunters were Meleager; but next to him came Atalanta—that famous huntress, swift-footed as Diana, who had sailed with the Argonauts in the disguise of a man, and had betrothed herself to Meleager while they were homeward bound. They followed the rest, vying with each other which should be foremost; and besides the Argonauts were the princes and nobles of Calydon, led by the two brothers of Althæa, who still kept the fatal fire-brand secure.
They drove the boar to bay at last, and, after a desperate struggle, Meleager gave it its death-blow. All his companions rejoiced at his good fortune; but when he gave the boar's head, as a trophy, to Atalanta, the two brothers of Althæa stood forth and said:—
"It is not right to give such honor to a woman—a woman who has no more right to it than we. Such trophies are for men!"
So saying, they tried to seize it from her. But Meleager, enraged at the insult to Atalanta, defended her with his sword, and so unfortunately well that both his uncles were slain.
Althæa, watching from her window for the return of the hunters, at last saw them pass mournfully, bearing the bodies of her dead brothers. "Who has done this?" she cried; and being told it was Meleager, she cursed him, and, in her grief and passion, threw the fatal brand upon the hearth, where it was caught by a flame. Meleager, though still far off, was forthwith seized with scorching pains in all his limbs. As the brand burned, so he burned also, and when it was consumed, a flame seemed to clutch his heart, and he fell dead in Atalanta's arms.
Althæa, overwhelmed, when it was too late, with horror at the result of her rage, slew herself with her own hand. And such was the miserable ending of the Hunt of Calydon.
The Argonauts, having now returned to Greece, parted, and went each to his own home. Jason drew the Argo on shore near Corinth, consecrating it to Neptune, and leaving it there as a monument of so famous a voyage. Then he returned to Iolcos, bringing the Golden Fleece with him.
He was received with triumph and rejoicing, and a great feast was prepared to welcome him home. But, to his sorrow, he found his father Æson so enfeebled by old age as not to be able to be present at the festival.
"Do not trouble yourself about that," said Medea. "Let Æson only put himself in my hands, and he shall be as young as you."
Jason, knowing his wife's power, consented. So she drew all the blood out of Æson's veins, and filled them with the juice of certain herbs; and he came to the festival as young-looking and as vigorous as his own son.
But Pelias, the usurper, who hated Jason, was getting old, too; and his daughters, when they saw what had happened to Æson, besought Medea that she would make their father also young and strong again.
"You need not come to me for that," said she. "You can do it for yourselves when I have shown you how."
So she killed an old ram, cut him up, and boiled the pieces in a caldron into which she had secretly thrown some herbs. When the water was cold, out from the caldron skipped a young lamb, and frisked away.
The whole thing looked so easy that the daughters of Pelias, that very night, prepared a caldron; and, when the water boiled, killed their father, divided him limb from limb, and threw in the pieces, just as Medea had done with the ram. But nothing happened, though they waited till the flesh had boiled away from the bones.
They hastened to Medea to help them. But she received them with scorn.
"Murderesses!" she exclaimed, "and fools! It is you who butchered Pelias; it is you who must make him live again, if you can. His death is on your hands; not on mine."
Thus Jason was delivered from his enemy. But the manner of his deliverance got about among the people. They rose up against Medea, and drove her out of the city; and Jason had to follow her to whom he had sold his soul for glory.
He had never loved her; and now his fear of her was turning into hate, and the hate into loathing and horror. All the wickednesses and cruelties she had committed for his sake seemed to have become his own, and to be so many curses upon him. And even her magic had not prospered, seeing that it had cost him the kingdom he might have gained by fair means, and had driven him into exile. His only comfort was in their two children, whom he loved dearly; and at last he could bear life with the terrible Medea no longer. He determined to divorce her; to take the children away from such a mother; and to take another wife whom he could love, and who would not be a terror to him.
Such a wife he found in Creusa, a princess of Corinth. But he was terribly mistaken if he thought he could break the vow he had made to Medea at the altar of Hecate, the Witch-Queen.
Medea affected to be quite content with what had been arranged. She sent Creusa a wedding-dress, and had her children brought to her to bid them farewell. The feast was at its height, and Jason was rejoicing in his freedom, when a cold cloud seemed to come over the guests; and there stood Medea, dark and stern, leading her two children by the hand.
"Traitor and perjurer!" she said to Jason, so that all the guests could hear. "Is this your return for the love I have given you; for the country I left for you; for the sins I have done for you—sins that you took the fruits of, but were too cowardly to do? I have given you to the last moment to prove your faith; and now the last moment has gone. As you choose to be bound to me no longer, my own hands shall destroy the last links that bind you and me."
So saying, like the tigress she was, she took up the children and dashed them dead upon the floor. At the same moment Creusa shrieked with the agony of the poisoned robe that was clinging to her and destroying her. Jason rushed upon Medea with his sword. But before he could reach her, a chariot drawn by flying dragons, none knew whence, had borne her away, none knew whither, through the air.
Jason, from that time, seemed haunted by the Furies. He wandered aimlessly about the world, unable to rest, until one day his eyes fell upon the ship Argo, still reposing peacefully upon the shore. One may imagine all the things the sight brought to his mind—his old dreams of glory; the unholy vow which had seemed to fulfill them; the weakness and the unfaithfulness which had destroyed them, and him, and others through him. Doubtless, he then saw in Medea not so much the cruel witch as the evil of his own heart, which had taken shape and form and had become a curse from which he could not get free. "If I could only rest like you!" he cried out, falling on his knees before the ship with bowed head and clasped hands. And it seemed as if the Argo heard her old captain's prayer. A yard dropped from the mainmast upon his bowed head: and ship and captain lay at rest together.
WEEK 28 |
HERE was once a girl who was lazy and would not spin, and her mother could not persuade her to it, do what she would. At last the mother became angry and out of patience, and gave her a good beating, so that she cried out loudly. At that moment the Queen was going by; as she heard the crying, she stopped; and, going into the house, she asked the mother why she was beating her daughter, so that every one outside in the street could hear her cries.
The woman was ashamed to tell of her daughter's laziness, so she said,
"I cannot stop her from spinning; she is for ever at it, and I am poor and cannot furnish her with flax enough."
Then the Queen answered,
"I like nothing better than the sound of the spinning-wheel, and always feel happy when I hear its humming; let me take your daughter with me to the castle—I have plenty of flax, she shall spin there to her heart's content."
The mother was only too glad of the offer, and the Queen took the girl with her. When they reached the castle the Queen showed her three rooms which were filled with the finest flax as full as they could hold.
"Now you can spin me this flax," said she, "and when you can show it me all done you shall have my eldest son for bridegroom; you may be poor, but I make nothing of that—your industry is dowry enough."
The girl was inwardly terrified, for she could not have spun the flax, even if she were to live to be a hundred years old, and were to sit spinning every day of her life from morning to evening. And when she found herself alone she began to weep, and sat so for three days without putting her hand to it. On the third day the Queen came, and when she saw that nothing had been done of the spinning she was much surprised; but the girl excused herself by saying that she had not been able to begin because of the distress she was in at leaving her home and her mother. The excuse contented the Queen, who said, however, as she went away,
"To-morrow you must begin to work."
When the girl found herself alone again she could not tell how to help herself or what to do, and in her perplexity she went and gazed out of the window. There she saw three women passing by, and the first of them had a broad flat foot, the second had a big under-lip that hung down over her chin, and the third had a remarkably broad thumb. They all of them stopped in front of the window, and called out to know what it was that the girl wanted. She told them all her need, and they promised her their help, and said,
"Then will you invite us to your wedding, and not be ashamed of us, and call us your cousins, and let us sit at your table; if you will promise this, we will finish off your flax-spinning in a very short time."
"With all my heart," answered the girl; "only come in now, and begin at once."
Then these same women came in, and she cleared a space in the first room for them to sit and carry on their spinning. The first one drew out the thread and moved the treddle that turned the wheel, the second moistened the thread, the third twisted it, and rapped with her finger on the table, and as often as she rapped a heap of yarn fell to the ground, and it was most beautifully spun. But the girl hid the three spinsters out of the Queen's sight, and only showed her, as often as she came, the heaps of well-spun yarn; and there was no end to the praises she received. When the first room was empty they went on to the second, and then to the third, so that at last all was finished. Then the three women took their leave, saying to the girl,
"Do not forget what you have promised, and it will be all the better for you."
So when the girl took the Queen and showed her the empty rooms, and the great heaps of yarn, the wedding was at once arranged, and the bridegroom rejoiced that he should have so clever and diligent a wife, and praised her exceedingly.
"I have three cousins," said the girl, "and as they have shown me a great deal of kindness, I would not wish to forget them in my good fortune; may I be allowed to invite them to the wedding, and to ask them to sit at the table with us?"
The Queen and the bridegroom said at once,
"There is no reason against it."
So when the feast began in came the three spinsters in strange guise, and the bride said,
"Dear cousins, you are welcome."
"Oh," said the bridegroom, "how come you to have such dreadfully ugly relations?"
And then he went up to the first spinster and said,
"How is it that you have such a broad flat foot?"
"With treading," answered she, "with treading."
Then he went up to the second and said,
"How is it that you have such a great hanging lip?"
"With licking," answered she, "with licking."
Then he asked the third,
"How is it that you have such a broad thumb?"
"With twisting thread," answered she, "with twisting thread."
Then the bridegroom said that from that time forward his beautiful bride should never touch a spinning-wheel.
And so she escaped that tiresome flax-spinning.
D O all the shell-fish feed on other shell-fish? Oh, no. Some of them live on seaweed. Some of them live by fishing. They catch, from the water, small bits of food, as small as grains of sand.
The shell-fish that lives on seaweed has a long, slim tongue. It is somewhat like that of the drill. The tongue is like a tiny strap.
The teeth are set on it, three or more in a row, like the points of pins. As the teeth wear out from work on the tough weed, more grow.
These shell-fish walk along on their one big foot. First one side of the foot spreads out, and then the other.
That pulls them along. Is it not very slow work? But what of that? All they have to do is to move about and find food. They can take all day for it. They have no houses to build and no clothes to make.
They creep along to a good bed of seaweed. Then they put out the fine, file-like tongue.
At Low Tide
It cuts off flakes of seaweed for them to eat. They are never tired of that one kind of food.
That queer limpet, who sits on a rock and has a shell like a cap, has a head, and a foot, and a tongue that is like a rasp. And he can walk along the floor of the sea.
He can climb up the rocks. The limpet has his own rock and his own hole in the rock. He goes back to his rock when he has had all that he wants to eat.
At Low Tide
The world of the sea is as full of life as the world of the land. There is one nice little shell-fish, not so big as a pea. He lives in the seaweed that grows on rocks. He is brown, or green, or black, or red, or dark yellow.
He can live in the damp weed in the hours when the tide is out, and has left the rocks dry. He eats seaweed. Let us look at him. He has two little feelers.
He has two wee, black eyes. He has a little snout, like a tiny pig. At the end of this snout is his little mouth. His small, dark foot has a dent in it.
He puts out his fine, file-like tongue, and laps it out and in, as a dog does when he drinks water. The sharp teeth cut off little scales of weed for him to eat. Take ten or more of these little shells in your hand. Each tiny animal draws in his tiny foot.
As the little animals hide in this way, put down your ear, and you will hear a faint squeak. It is made by the air in the shells.
Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.
WEEK 28 |
II Chronicles xxi: 1, to xxiv: 27.
EHOSHAPHAT, the king of Judah, was a good man and a wise king, but he made one mistake which brought great trouble upon his family and upon his land in after days. He married his son Jehoram to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and the wicked Jezebel. When Jehoshaphat died and Jehoram became king of Judah, his wife, Athaliah, led him into all the wickedness of the house of Arab. Jehoram killed all his brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat, so that no one of them might rise up against him. His queen Athaliah, set up idols all around Jerusalem and in Judah, and led the people in worshipping them.
The prophet Elijah was still living in Israel when Jehoram began to reign in Judah. He sent to King Jehoram a letter containing a message from the Lord. He wrote:
"Thus saith the Lord, the God of David, 'Because you have not walked in the ways of your father, Jehoshaphat, but have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and have led the people of Jerusalem and of Judah to turn from the Lord to idols, and because you have slain your brothers, who were better than you, therefore the Lord will strike you and your house, and your people; and you shall have a terrible disease that none can cure."
And after this great troubles came upon Jehoram and his land. The Edomites on the south, who had been under the rule of Judah since the days of David, broke away from King Jehoram and set up a kingdom of their own. The Philistines on the west and the Arabians of the desert made war upon him. They broke into his palace, and carried away his treasures, and killed all his children except one, the youngest.
And upon Jehoram himself fell a sickness that lasted many years, and caused him great suffering. No cure could be found, and after long years of pain Jehoram died. So evil had been his reign of eight years that no one was sorry to have him die, and they would not allow his body to be buried among the kings of Judah.
After Jehoram his youngest son, Ahaziah, became king. His mother was the wicked Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel. Ahaziah reigned only one year; for while he was visiting King Jehoram of Israel, his uncle, he was slain by Jehu, as we read in Story 89; for this was the time when Jehu rose against the house of Ahab, killed Jehoram, Ahab's son, and Jezebel, Ahab's widow, and made himself king of Israel. But Jehu gave to the body of Ahaziah a king's burial, for he said, "He was the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the Lord with all his heart."
When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, heard that her son was dead, all the fierceness of her mother Jezebel arose in her. She seized the princes who belonged to the family of David and killed them, so that there was not a man of the royal line left. And she made herself queen and ruler over the land of Judah. She shut up the house of the Lord, and built a temple for Baal; and for six years led the people of Judah in all wickedness.
In the slaughter of the royal family by Athaliah one little child of Ahaziah had been saved alive. His name was Joash. He was a baby, only a year old when his grandmother, Athaliah, seized the throne, and his aunt, a sister of Ahaziah and the wife of the priest Jehoiada, hid him in the Temple of the Lord, and kept him safe from the hate of Queen Athaliah. There he stayed for six years, while Jehoiada, the priest, was preparing to make him king.
When all things were ready and little Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada, the priest, brought him out of his hiding-place, and set him before the people and the rulers in the temple, and placed the crown upon his head. Then all the people shouted, "Long live the king! Long live the king!"
The little Joash is crowned king.
Queen Athaliah heard the noise of the shouting, and came out of her palace to see what had taken place. She saw the little boy-king standing by a pillar in the Temple, with the crown upon his head, and around him the soldiers and the people, crying aloud, "Long live the king!"
Athaliah was very angry as she saw all this. She called for her servants and her soldiers to break up this gathering of the people, and to take the boy-king. But no one would follow her, for they were tired of her cruel rule, and they wished to have for their king one who came from the line of David.
Jehoiada said to the soldiers, "Take this woman a prisoner, and carry her out of the Temple of the Lord. Let not her blood be spilled in the holy house."
So they seized Athaliah, and dragged her out of the Temple, and killed her. Then Jehoiada and all the people made a promise to serve the Lord only. They tore down the house of the idol Baal, and destroyed the images, and broke its altar in pieces. They made the Temple holy once more, and set the house in order, and offered the sacrifices, and held the daily worship before the altar. And all the people were glad to have a descendant of David, one of the royal line, once more on the throne of Judah.
As long as Jehoiada the good priest lived, Joash ruled well, and his people served the Lord. When King Joash grew up he wished to have the Temple of the Lord made new and beautiful; for in the years that had passed since the Temple had been built by Solomon, it had grown old, and had fallen into decay. Then, too, Queen Athaliah and the men who worshipped Baal had broken down the walls in many places, and they had carried away the gold and the silver of the temple to use in the worship of Baal.
At first King Joash told the priests and Levites, who served in the Temple, to go through the land, and ask the people for money to be spent in the fitting up of the Temple. But the priests and the Levites were slow in the work, and the king tried another plan for getting the money that was needed.
He caused a large box or chest to be made, and had it placed at the door of the Temple, so that all would see it when they went to worship the Lord. In the lid of the box was a hole through which they dropped money into the box. And the king caused word to be sent through all the land that the princes and the people should bring gifts of money, and drop it into the chest, whenever they came to the Temple.
The people were glad, and brought their gifts willingly; for they all wished to have God's house made beautiful. In a short time the box was full of gold and silver. Then the king's officers opened the box, and tied up the money in bags, and placed the bags of money in a safe place. The box was filled with gold and silver many times, until there was money in abundance to pay for all the work needed in the Temple, and for making new ornaments of gold and silver for the house.
When Jehoiada, the good priest, was very old, he died; and after his death there was no one to keep King Joash in the right way. The princes of the land loved to worship idols, and did not serve God, and they led King Joash into wicked ways after he had done so well. God was not pleased with Joash after he forsook the Lord, and God allowed the Syrians from the north to come upon the land. They robbed the cities and left Joash sick and poor. Soon after the coming of the Syrians his own servants killed him, and made Amaziah, his son, king in his place.
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.
The Rat, astonished and dismayed at the violence of Mole's paroxysm of grief, did not dare to speak for a while. At last he said, very quietly and sympathetically, "What is it, old fellow? Whatever can be the matter? Tell us your trouble, and let me see what I can do."
Poor Mole found it difficult to get any words out between the upheavals of his chest that followed one upon another so quickly and held back speech and choked it as it came. "I know it's a—shabby, dingy little place," he sobbed forth at last, brokenly: "not like—your cosy quarters—or Toad's beautiful hall—or Badger's great house—but it was my own little home—and I was fond of it—and I went away and forgot all about it—and then I smelt it suddenly—on the road, when I called and you wouldn't listen, Rat—and everything came back to me with a rush—and I wanted it!—O dear, O dear!—and when you wouldn't turn back, Ratty—and I had to leave it, though I was smelling it all the time—I thought my heart would break.—We might have just gone and had one look at it, Ratty—only one look—it was close by—but you wouldn't turn back, Ratty, you wouldn't turn back! O dear, O dear!"
Recollection brought fresh waves of sorrow, and sobs again took full charge of him, preventing further speech.
The Rat stared straight in front of him, saying nothing, only patting Mole gently on the shoulder. After a time he muttered gloomily, "I see it all now! What a pig I have been! A pig—that's me! Just a pig—a plain pig!"
He waited till Mole's sobs became gradually less stormy and more rhythmical; he waited till at last sniffs were frequent and sobs only intermittent. Then he rose from his seat, and, remarking carelessly, "Well, now we'd really better be getting on, old chap!" set off up the road again, over the toilsome way they had come.
"Wherever are you (hic) going to (hic), Ratty?" cried the tearful Mole, looking up in alarm.
"We're going to find that home of yours, old fellow," replied the Rat pleasantly; "so you had better come along, for it will take some finding, and we shall want your nose."
"Oh, come back, Ratty, do!" cried the Mole, getting up and hurrying after him. "It's no good, I tell you! It's too late, and too dark, and the place is too far off, and the snow's coming! And—and I never meant to let you know I was feeling that way about it—it was all an accident and a mistake! And think of River Bank, and your supper!"
"Hang River Bank, and supper too!" said the Rat heartily. "I tell you, I'm going to find this place now, if I stay out all night. So cheer up, old chap, and take my arm, and we'll very soon be back there again."
Still snuffling, pleading, and reluctant, Mole suffered himself to be dragged back along the road by his imperious companion, who by a flow of cheerful talk and anecdote endeavoured to beguile his spirits back and make the weary way seem shorter. When at last it seemed to the Rat that they must be nearing that part of the road where the Mole had been "held up," he said, "Now, no more talking. Business! Use your nose, and give your mind to it."
They moved on in silence for some little way, when suddenly the Rat was conscious, through his arm that was linked in Mole's, of a faint sort of electric thrill that was passing down that animal's body. Instantly he disengaged himself, fell back a pace, and waited, all attention.
The signals were coming through!
Mole stood a moment rigid, while his uplifted nose, quivering slightly, felt the air.
Then a short, quick run forward—a fault—a check—a try back; and then a slow, steady, confident advance.
The Rat, much excited, kept close to his heels as the Mole, with something of the air of a sleep-walker, crossed a dry ditch, scrambled through a hedge, and nosed his way over a field open and trackless and bare in the faint starlight.
Suddenly, without giving warning, he dived; but the Rat was on the alert, and promptly followed him down the tunnel to which his unerring nose had faithfully led him.
It was close and airless, and the earthy smell was strong, and it seemed a long time to Rat ere the passage ended and he could stand erect and stretch and shake himself. The Mole struck a match, and by its light the Rat saw that they were standing in an open space, neatly swept and sanded underfoot, and directly facing them was Mole's little front door, with "Mole End" painted, in Gothic lettering, over the bell-pull at the side.
Mole reached down a lantern from a nail on the wall and lit it, and the Rat, looking round him, saw that they were in a sort of fore-court. A garden-seat stood on one side of the door, and on the other a roller; for the Mole, who was a tidy animal when at home, could not stand having his ground kicked up by other animals into little runs that ended in earth-heaps. On the walls hung wire baskets with ferns in them, alternating with brackets carrying plaster statuary—Garibaldi, and the infant Samuel, and Queen Victoria, and other heroes of modern Italy. Down on one side of the forecourt ran a skittle-alley, with benches along it and little wooden tables marked with rings that hinted at beer-mugs. In the middle was a small round pond containing gold-fish and surrounded by a cockle-shell border. Out of the centre of the pond rose a fanciful erection clothed in more cockle-shells and topped by a large silvered glass ball that reflected everything all wrong and had a very pleasing effect.
Mole's face-beamed at the sight of all these objects so dear to him, and he hurried Rat through the door, lit a lamp in the hall, and took one glance round his old home. He saw the dust lying thick on everything, saw the cheerless, deserted look of the long-neglected house, and its narrow, meagre dimensions, its worn and shabby contents—and collapsed again on a hall-chair, his nose to his paws. "O Ratty!" he cried dismally, "why ever did I do it? Why did I bring you to this poor, cold little place, on a night like this, when you might have been at River Bank by this time, toasting your toes before a blazing fire, with all your own nice things about you!"
The Rat paid no heed to his doleful self-reproaches. He was running here and there, opening doors, inspecting rooms and cupboards, and lighting lamps and candles and sticking them up everywhere. "What a capital little house this is!" he called out cheerily. "So compact! So well planned! Everything here and everything in its place! We'll make a jolly night of it. The first thing we want is a good fire; I'll see to that—I always know where to find things. So this is the parlour? Splendid! Your own idea, those little sleeping-bunks in the wall? Capital! Now, I'll fetch the wood and the coals, and you get a duster, Mole—you'll find one in the drawer of the kitchen table—and try and smarten things up a bit. Bustle about, old chap!"
Encouraged by his inspiriting companion, the Mole roused himself and dusted and polished with energy and heartiness, while the Rat, running to and fro with armfuls of fuel, soon had a cheerful blaze roaring up the chimney. He hailed the Mole to come and warm himself; but Mole promptly had another fit of the blues, dropping down on a couch in dark despair and burying his face in his duster. "Rat," he moaned, "how about your supper, you poor, cold, hungry, weary animal? I've nothing to give you—nothing—not a crumb!"
"What a fellow you are for giving in!" said the Rat reproachfully. "Why, only just now I saw a sardine-opener on the kitchen dresser, quite distinctly; and everybody knows that means there are sardines about somewhere in the neighbourhood. Rouse yourself! pull yourself together, and come with me and forage."
They went and foraged accordingly, hunting through every cupboard and turning out every drawer. The result was not so very depressing after all, though of course it might have been better; a tin of sardines—a box of captain's biscuits, nearly full—and a German sausage encased in silver paper.
"There's a banquet for you!" observed the Rat, as he arranged the table. "I know some animals who would give their ears to be sitting down to supper with us to-night!"
"No bread!" groaned the Mole dolorously; "no butter,
"No pâte de foie gras, no champagne!" continued the Rat, grinning. "And that reminds me—what's that little door at the end of the passage? Your cellar, of course! Every luxury in this house! Just you wait a minute."
I met a little Elf-man, once,
Down where the lilies blow.
I asked him why he was so small
And why he didn't grow.
He slightly frowned, and with his eye
He looked me through and through.
"I'm quite as big for me," said he,
"As you are big for you."