WEEK 31 |
T HE next morning the sun came out early as bright as ever, and then Peter appeared with the goats, and again the two children climbed up together to the high meadows, and so it went on day after day till Heidi, passing her life thus among the grass and flowers, was burnt brown with the sun, and grew so strong and healthy that nothing ever ailed her. She was happy too, and lived from day to day as free and light-hearted as the little birds that make their home among the green forest trees. Then the autumn came, and the wind blew louder and stronger, and the grandfather would say sometimes, "To-day you must stay at home, Heidi; a sudden gust of the wind would blow a little thing like you over the rocks into the valley below in a moment."
Whenever Peter heard that he must go alone he looked very unhappy, for he saw nothing but mishaps of all kinds ahead, and did not know how he should bear the long dull day without Heidi. Then, too, there was the good meal he would miss, and besides that the goats on these days were so naughty and obstinate that he had twice the usual trouble with them, for they had grown so accustomed to Heidi's presence that they would run in every direction and refuse to go on unless she was with them. Heidi was never unhappy, for wherever she was she found something to interest or amuse her. She liked best, it is true, to go out with Peter up to the flowers and the great bird, where there was so much to be seen, and so many experiences to go through among the goats with their different characters; but she also found her grandfather's hammering and sawing and carpentering very entertaining, and if it should chance to be the day when the large round goat's-milk cheese was made she enjoyed beyond measure looking on at this wonderful performance, and watching her grandfather, as with sleeves rolled back, he stirred the great cauldron with his bare arms. The thing which attracted her most, however, was the waving and roaring of the three old fir trees on these windy days. She would run away repeatedly from whatever she might be doing, to listen to them, for nothing seemed so strange and wonderful to her as the deep mysterious sound in the tops of the trees. She would stand underneath them and look up, unable to tear herself away, looking and listening while they bowed and swayed and roared as the mighty wind rushed through them. There was no longer now the warm bright sun that had shone all through the summer, so Heidi went to the cupboard and got out her shoes and stockings and dress, for it was growing colder every day, and when Heidi stood under the fir trees the wind blew through her as if she was a thin little leaf, but still she felt she could not stay indoors when she heard the branches waving outside.
Then it grew very cold, and Peter would come up early in the morning blowing on his fingers to keep them warm. But he soon left off coming, for one night there was a heavy fall of snow and the next morning the whole mountain was covered with it, and not a single little green leaf was to be seen anywhere upon it. There was no Peter that day, and Heidi stood at the little window looking out in wonderment, for the snow was beginning again, and the thick flakes kept falling till the snow was up to the window, and still they continued to fall, and the snow grew higher, so that at last the window could not be opened, and she and her grandfather were shut up fast within the hut. Heidi thought this was great fun and ran from one window to the other to see what would happen next, and whether the snow was going to cover up the whole hut, so that they would have to light a lamp although it was broad daylight. But things did not get as bad as that, and the next day, the snow having ceased, the grandfather went out and shovelled away the snow round the house, and threw it into such great heaps that they looked like mountains standing at intervals on either side the hut. And now the windows and door could be opened, and it was well it was so, for as Heidi and her grandfather were sitting one afternoon on their three-legged stools before the fire there came a great thump at the door, followed by several others, and then the door opened. It was Peter, who had made all that noise knocking the snow off his shoes; he was still white all over with it, for he had had to fight his way through deep snowdrifts, and large lumps of snow that had frozen upon him still clung to his clothes. He had been determined, however, not to be beaten and to climb up to the hut, for it was a week now since he had seen Heidi.
"Good-evening," he said as he came in; then he went and placed himself as near the fire as he could without saying another word, but his whole face was beaming with pleasure at finding himself there. Heidi looked on in astonishment, for Peter was beginning to thaw all over with the warmth, so that he had the appearance of a trickling waterfall.
"Well, General, and how goes it with you?" said the grandfather, "now that you have lost your army you will have to turn to your pen and pencil."
"Why must he turn to his pen and pencil?" asked Heidi immediately, full of curiosity.
"During the winter he must go to school," explained her grandfather, "and learn how to read and write; it's a bit hard, although useful sometimes afterwards. Am I not right, General?"
"Yes, indeed," assented Peter.
Heidi's interest was now thoroughly awakened, and she had so many questions to put to Peter about all that was to be done and seen and heard at school, and the conversation took so long that Peter had time to get thoroughly dry. Peter had always great difficulty in putting his thoughts into words, and he found his share of the talk doubly difficult to-day, for by the time he had an answer ready to one of Heidi's questions she had already put two or three more to him, and generally such as required a whole long sentence in reply.
The grandfather sat without speaking during this conversation, only now and then a twitch of amusement at the corners of his mouth showed that he was listening.
"Well, now, General, you have been under fire for some time and must want some refreshment; come and join us," he said at last, and as he spoke he rose and went to fetch the supper out of the cupboard, and Heidi pushed the stools to the table. There was also now a bench fastened against the wall, for as he was no longer alone the grandfather had put up seats of various kinds here and there, long enough to hold two persons, for Heidi had a way of always keeping close to her grandfather whether he was walking, sitting or standing. So there was comfortable place for them all three, and Peter opened his round eyes very wide when he saw what a large piece of meat Alm-Uncle gave him on his thick slice of bread. It was a long time since Peter had had anything so nice to eat. As soon as the pleasant meal was over Peter began to get ready for returning home, for it was already growing dark. He had said his "good-night" and his thanks, and was just going out, when he turned again and said, "I shall come again next Sunday, this day week, and grandmother sent word that she would like you to come and see her one day."
It was quite a new idea to Heidi that she should go and pay anybody a visit, and she could not get it out of her head; so the first thing she said to her grandfather the next day was, "I must go down to see the grandmother to-day; she will be expecting me."
"The snow is too deep," answered the grandfather, trying to put her off. But Heidi had made up her mind to go, since the grandmother had sent her that message. She stuck to her intention and not a day passed but what in the course of it she said five or six times to her grandfather, "I must certainly go to-day, the grandmother will be waiting for me."
On the fourth day, when with every step one took the ground crackled with frost and the whole vast field of snow was hard as ice, Heidi was sitting on her high stool at dinner with the bright sun shining in upon her through the window, and again repeated her little speech, "I must certainly go down to see the grandmother to-day, or else I shall keep her waiting too long."
The grandfather rose from table, climbed up to the hay-loft and brought down the thick sack that was Heidi's coverlid, and said, "Come along then!" The child skipped out gleefully after him into the glittering world of snow.
The old fir trees were standing now quite silent, their branches covered with the white snow, and they looked so lovely as they glittered and sparkled in the sunlight that Heidi jumped for joy at the sight and kept on calling out, "Come here, come here, grandfather! The fir trees are all silver and gold!" The grandfather had gone into the shed and he now came out dragging a large hand-sleigh along with him; inside it was a low seat, and the sleigh could be pushed forward and guided by the feet of the one who sat upon it with the help of a pole that was fastened to the side. After he had been taken round the fir trees by Heidi that he might see their beauty from all sides, he got into the sleigh and lifted the child on to his lap; then he wrapped her up in the sack, that she might keep nice and warm, and put his left arm closely round her, for it was necessary to hold her tight during the coming journey. He now grasped the pole with his right hand and gave the sleigh a push forward with his two feet. The sleigh shot down the mountain-side with such rapidity that Heidi thought they were flying through the air like a bird, and shouted aloud with delight. Suddenly they came to a standstill, and there they were at Peter's hut. Her grandfather lifted her out and unwrapped her. "There you are, now go in, and when it begins to grow dark you must start on your way home again." Then he left her and went up the mountain, pulling his sleigh after him.
Heidi opened the door of the hut and stepped into a tiny room that looked very dark, with a fireplace and a few dishes on a wooden shelf; this was the little kitchen. She opened another door, and now found herself in another small room, for the place was not a herdsman's hut like her grandfather's, with one large room on the ground floor and a hay-loft above, but a very old cottage, where everything was narrow and poor and shabby. A table was close to the door, and as Heidi stepped in she saw a woman sitting at it, putting a patch on a waistcoat which Heidi recognised at once as Peter's. In the corner sat an old woman, bent with age, spinning. Heidi was quite sure this was the grandmother, so she went up to the spinning-wheel and said, "Good-day, grandmother, I have come at last; did you think I was a long time coming?"
The woman raised her head and felt for the hand that the child held out to her, and when she found it, she passed her own over it thoughtfully for a few seconds, and then said, "Are you the child who lives up with Alm-Uncle, are you Heidi?"
"Are you the child who lives up with Alm-Uncle, are you Heidi?"
"Yes, yes," answered Heidi, "I have just come down in the sleigh with grandfather."
"Is it possible! Why your hands are quite warm! Brigitta, did Alm-Uncle come himself with the child?"
Peter's mother had left her work and risen from the table and now stood looking at Heidi with curiosity, scanning her from head to foot. "I do not know, mother, whether Uncle came himself; it is hardly likely, the child probably makes a mistake."
But Heidi looked steadily at the woman, not at all as if in any uncertainty, and said, "I know quite well who wrapped me in my bedcover and brought me down in the sleigh: it was grandfather."
"There was some truth then perhaps in what Peter used to tell us of Alm-Uncle during the summer, when we thought he must be wrong," said grandmother; "but who would ever have believed that such a thing was possible? I did not think the child would live three weeks up there. What is she like, Brigitta?"
The latter had so thoroughly examined Heidi on all sides that she was well able to describe her to her mother.
"She has Adelaide's slenderness of figure, but her eyes are dark and her hair curly like her father's and the old man's up there: she takes after both of them, I think."
Heidi meanwhile had not been idle; she had made the round of the room and looked carefully at everything there was to be seen. All of a sudden she exclaimed, "Grandmother, one of your shutters is flapping backwards and forwards; grandfather would put a nail in and make it all right in a minute, or else it will break one of the panes some day; look, look, how it keeps on banging!"
"Ah, dear child," said the old woman, "I am not able to see it, but I can hear that and many other things besides the shutter. Everything about the place rattles and creaks when the wind is blowing, and it gets inside through all the cracks and holes. The house is going to pieces, and in the night, when the two others are asleep, I often lie awake in fear and trembling, thinking that the whole place will give way and fall and kill us. And there is not a creature to mend anything for us, for Peter does not understand such work."
"But why cannot you see, grandmother, that the shutter is loose. Look, there it goes again, see, that one there!" And Heidi pointed to the particular shutter.
"Alas, child, it is not only that I cannot see—I can see nothing, nothing," said the grandmother in a voice of lamentation.
"But if I were to go outside and put back the shutter so that you had more light, then you could see, grandmother?"
"No, no, not even then, no one can make it light for me again."
"But if you were to go outside among all the white snow, then surely you would find it light; just come with me, grandmother, and I will show you." Heidi took hold of the old woman's hand to lead her along, for she was beginning to feel quite distressed at the thought of her being without light.
"Let me be, dear child; it is always dark for me now; whether in snow or sun, no light can penetrate my eyes."
"But surely it does in summer, grandmother," said Heidi, more and more anxious to find some way out of the trouble, "when the hot sun is shining down again, and he says good-night to the mountains, and they all turn on fire, and the yellow flowers shine like gold, then, you will see, it will be bright and beautiful for you again."
"Ah, child, I shall see the mountains on fire or the yellow flowers no more; it will never be light for me again on earth, never."
At these words Heidi broke into loud crying. In her distress she kept on sobbing out, "Who can make it light for you again? Can no one do it? Isn't there any one who can do it?"
The grandmother now tried to comfort the child, but it was not easy to quiet her. Heidi did not often weep, but when she did she could not get over her trouble for a long while. The grandmother had tried all means in her power to allay the child's grief, for it went to her heart to hear her sobbing so bitterly. At last she said, "Come here, dear Heidi, come and let me tell you something. You cannot think how glad one is to hear a kind word when one can no longer see, and it is such a pleasure to me to listen to you while you talk. So come and sit beside me and tell me something; tell me what you do up there, and how grandfather occupies himself. I knew him very well in old days; but for many years now I have heard nothing of him, except through Peter, who never says much."
This was a new and happy idea to Heidi; she quickly dried her tears and said in a comforting voice, "Wait, grandmother, till I have told grandfather everything, he will make it light for you again, I am sure, and will do something so that the house will not fall; he will put everything right for you."
The grandmother was silent, and Heidi now began to give her a lively description of her life with the grandfather, and of the days she spent on the mountain with the goats, and then went on to tell her of what she did now during the winter, and how her grandfather was able to make all sorts of things, seats and stools, and mangers where the hay was put for Little Swan and Little Bear, besides a new large water-tub for her to bathe in when the summer came, and a new milk-bowl and spoon, and Heidi grew more and more animated as she enumerated all the beautiful things which were made so magically out of pieces of wood; she then told the grandmother how she stood by him and watched all he did, and how she hoped some day to be able to make the same herself.
The grandmother listened with the greatest attention, only from time to time addressing her daughter, "Do you hear that, Brigitta? Do you hear what she is saying about Uncle?"
The conversation was all at once interrupted by a heavy thump on the door, and in marched Peter, who stood stock-still, opening his eyes with astonishment, when he caught sight of Heidi; then his face beamed with smiles as she called out, "Good-evening, Peter."
"What, is the boy back from school already?" exclaimed the grandmother in surprise. "I have not known an afternoon pass so quickly as this one for years. How is the reading getting on, Peter?"
"Just the same," was Peter's answer.
The old woman gave a little sigh. "Ah, well," she said, "I hoped you would have something different to tell me by this time, as you are going to be twelve years old this February."
"What was it that you hoped he would have to tell you?" asked Heidi, interested in all the grandmother said.
"I mean that he ought to have learnt to read a bit by now," continued the grandmother. "Up there on the shelf is an old prayer-book, with beautiful songs in it which I have not heard for a long time and cannot now remember to repeat to myself, and I hoped that Peter would soon learn enough to be able to read one of them to me sometimes; but he finds it too difficult."
"I must get a light, it is getting too dark to see," said Peter's mother, who was still busy mending his waistcoat. "I feel too as if the afternoon had gone I hardly know how."
Heidi now jumped up from her low chair, and holding out her hand hastily to the grandmother said, "Good-night, grandmother, if it is getting dark I must go home at once," and bidding good-bye to Peter and his mother she went towards the door. But the grandmother called out in an anxious voice, "Wait, wait, Heidi; you must not go alone like that, Peter must go with you; and take care of the child, Peter, that she does not fall, and don't let her stand still for fear she should get frozen, do you hear? Has she got anything warm to put around her throat?"
"I have not anything to put on," called back Heidi, "but I am sure I shall not be cold," and with that she ran outside and went off at such a pace that Peter had difficulty in overtaking her. The grandmother, still in distress, called out to her daughter, "Run after her, Brigitta; the child will be frozen to death on such a night as this; take my shawl, run quickly!"
Brigitta ran out. But the children had taken but a few steps before they saw the grandfather coming down to meet them, and in another minute his long strides had brought him to their side.
"That's right, Heidi; you have kept your word," said the grandfather, and then wrapping the sack firmly round her he lifted her in his arms and strode off with her up the mountain. Brigitta was just in time to see him do all this, and on her return to the hut with Peter expressed her astonishment to the grandmother. The latter was equally surprised, and kept on saying, "God be thanked that he is good to the child, God be thanked! Will he let her come to me again, I wonder! the child has done me so much good. What a loving little heart it is, and how merrily she tells her tale!" And she continued to dwell with delight on the thought of the child until she went to bed, still saying now and again, "If only she will come again! Now I have really something left in the world to take pleasure in." And Brigitta agreed with all her mother said, and Peter nodded his head in approval each time his grandmother spoke, saying, with a broad smile of satisfaction, "I told you so!"
Meanwhile Heidi was chattering away to her grandfather from inside her sack; her voice, however, could not reach him through the many thick folds of her wrap, and as therefore it was impossible to understand a word she was saying, he called to her, "Wait till we get home, and then you can tell me all about it." They had no sooner got inside the hut than Heidi, having been released from her covering, at once began what she had to say, "Grandfather, to-morrow we must take the hammer and the long nails and fasten grandmother's shutter, and drive in a lot more nails in other places, for her house shakes and rattles all over."
"We must, must we? who told you that?" asked her grandfather.
"Nobody told me, but I know it for all that," replied Heidi, "for everything is giving way, and when the grandmother cannot sleep, she lies trembling for fear at the noise, for she thinks that every minute the house will fall down on their heads; and everything now is dark for grandmother, and she does not think any one can make it light for her again, but you will be able to, I am sure, grandfather. Think how dreadful it is for her to be always in the dark, and then to be frightened at what may happen, and nobody can help her but you. To-morrow we must go and help her; we will, won't we, grandfather?"
The child was clinging to the old man and looking up at him in trustful confidence. The grandfather looked down at Heidi for a while without speaking, and then said, "Yes, Heidi, we will do something to stop the rattling, at least we can do that; we will go down about it to-morrow!"
The child went skipping round the room for joy, crying out, "We shall go to-morrow! we shall go to-morrow!"
The grandfather kept his promise. On the following afternoon he brought the sleigh out again, and as on the previous day, he set Heidi down at the door of the grandmother's hut and said, "Go in now, and when it grows dark, come out again." Then he put the sack in the sleigh and went round the house.
Heidi had hardly opened the door and sprung into the room when the grandmother called out from her corner, "It's the child again! here she comes!" and in her delight she let the thread drop from her fingers, and the wheel stood still as she stretched out both her hands in welcome. Heidi ran to her, and then quickly drew the little stool close up to the old woman, and seating herself upon it, began to tell and ask her all kinds of things. All at once came the sound of heavy blows against the wall of the hut and the grandmother gave such a start of alarm that she nearly upset the spinning-wheel, and cried in a trembling voice, "Ah, my God, now it is coming, the house is going to fall upon us!" But Heidi caught her by the arm, and said soothingly, "No, no, grandmother, do not be frightened, it is only grandfather with his hammer; he is mending up everything, so that you shan't have such fear and trouble."
"Is it possible! is it really possible! so the dear God has not forgotten us!" exclaimed the grandmother. "Do you hear, Brigitta, what that noise is? Did you hear what the child says? Now, as I listen, I can tell it is a hammer; go outside, Brigitta, and if it is Alm-Uncle, tell him he must come inside a moment that I may thank him."
Brigitta went outside and found Alm-Uncle in the act of
fastening some heavy pieces of new wood along the wall. She
stepped up to him and said, "Good-evening, Uncle, mother and I
have to thank you for doing us such a kind service, and she would
like to tell you herself how grateful she is; I do not know who
else would have done it for us; we shall not forget your
kindness, for I am
"That will do," said the old man, interrupting her. "I know what you think of Alm-Uncle without your telling me. Go indoors again, I can find out for myself where the mending is wanted."
Brigitta obeyed on the spot, for Uncle had a way with him that made few people care to oppose his will. He went on knocking with his hammer all round the house, and then mounted the narrow steps to the roof, and hammered away there, until he had used up all the nails he had brought with him. Meanwhile it had been growing dark, and he had hardly come down from the roof and dragged the sleigh out from behind the goat-shed when Heidi appeared outside. The grandfather wrapped her up and took her in his arms as he had done the day before, for although he had to drag the sleigh up the mountain after him, he feared that if the child sat in it alone her wrappings would fall off and that she would be nearly if not quite frozen, so he carried her warm and safe in his arms.
So the winter went by. After many years of joyless life, the blind grandmother had at last found something to make her happy; her days were no longer passed in weariness and darkness, one like the other without pleasure or change, for now she had always something to which she could look forward. She listened for the little tripping footstep as soon as day had come, and when she heard the door open and knew the child was really there, she would call out, "God be thanked, she has come again!" And Heidi would sit by her and talk and tell her everything she knew in so lively a manner that the grandmother never noticed how the time went by, and never now as formerly asked Brigitta, "Isn't the day done yet?" but as the child shut the door behind her on leaving, would exclaim, "How short the afternoon has seemed; don't you think so, Brigitta?" And this one would answer, "I do indeed; it seems as if I had only just cleared away the mid-day meal." And the grandmother would continue, "Pray God the child is not taken from me, and that Alm-Uncle continues to let her come! Does she look well and strong, Brigitta?" And the latter would answer, "She looks as bright and rosy as an apple."
And Heidi had also grown very fond of the old grandmother, and when at last she knew for certain that no one could make it light for her again, she was overcome with sorrow; but the grandmother told her again that she felt the darkness much less when Heidi was with her, and so every fine winter's day the child came travelling down in her sleigh. The grandfather always took her, never raising any objection; indeed he always carried the hammer and sundry other things down in the sleigh with him, and many an afternoon was spent by him in making the goatherd's cottage sound and tight. It no longer groaned and rattled the whole night through, and the grandmother, who for many winters had not been able to sleep in peace as she did now, said she should never forget what the Uncle had done for her.
D ID you ever hear of King Charles the Twelfth, of Sweden? He lived two hundred years ago, and was famous for his courage in defending his country.
One day he was in the midst of a great battle. The small house in which he had taken shelter was almost between the two armies.
He called to one of his officers and bade him sit down and write a short order for him.
The officer began to write, but just as he finished the first word, a bomb came through the roof of the house and struck the floor close by him. He dropped the pen and sprang to his feet. He was pale with fear.
"What is the matter?" asked the king.
"Oh, sir," he answered, "the bomb! the bomb!"
"Yes, I see," said the king. "But what has the bomb to do with what I wish you to write? Sit down, and take your pen. When your country is in danger, you should forget your own safety."
Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.
Now the darkness gathers,
Stars begin to peep,
Birds and beasts and flowers
Soon will be asleep.
Through the long night-watches
May Thine angels spread
Their white wings above me,
Watching round my bed.
When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise
Pure and fresh and sinless
In Thy holy eyes.
WEEK 31 |
K ING HENRY was very fond of Thomas à Becket. They used to work very seriously, but when work was done they would play together like two boys.
The chancellor took care of the King's great seal, looked after the royal chapel, and had many other duties. He was a very important person, lived in splendid style, and dressed magnificently. In fact, his house and servants were richer and grander than those of the King. Many of the nobles sent their sons to serve in the chancellor's house, and the proudest were glad to wait on him and to try to please him.
Every day a great number of people dined with the chancellor. Sometimes the King would come in from riding, in the middle of dinner, jump over the table with a merry jest, and sit down among the guests.
Many stories are told of the fun the King and the chancellor used to have together. One day, while out riding, Thomas and King Henry met an old beggar, shivering and in rags.
"It would be a good action to give that poor man a coat," said the King.
"It would indeed," replied the chancellor.
"Then give him yours," and the King laughingly seized the cloak which Thomas was wearing.
It was a beautiful new cloak of silk and fur, and Thomas did not wish to lose it. So he held it tight, while the King tugged hard to pull it off. Neither would let go until, between struggling and laughing, they both nearly fell off their horses.
The courtiers watched and laughed too, but at last the King succeeded in getting the cloak and flung it to the beggar. Thomas was not very pleased, but he had to make the best of it and go shivering for the rest of his ride. The poor beggar went away greatly delighted with the King's joke.
Once Henry sent Thomas with a message to the King of France. Thomas took so many soldiers and servants in glittering dress, so many horses and carriages with him, that the people came out of their houses to stare at him wherever he passed.
"Who is it?" every one asked.
"The Chancellor of England," was the reply.
"Only the chancellor," cried the astonished people. "What must the King be, if the chancellor is so grand?"
Henry worked hard, and with the help of his chancellor improved many things in England. He found that the Church and the clergy, like everything else, had grown very unruly and disorderly. He determined to put them in order, and Thomas à Becket he thought would be the best man to help him. Thomas had been brought up as a priest, and King Henry resolved to make him Archbishop of Canterbury and head of all the clergy in England.
But Thomas was gay and worldly. He loved fine clothes and rich food. "I do not want to be Archbishop of Canterbury," he said to the King.
"You must be," said the King.
"Then we shall quarrel," said Thomas.
"Why?" said the King.
"Because if you make me head of the Church I shall work for the Church and not for you. We shall no longer be friends, but enemies," replied Thomas.
But King Henry did not believe Thomas when he talked like this and, in spite of all he could say, he made him Archbishop of Canterbury.
As soon as he became archbishop, Thomas changed his way of living. He gave up his fine house and fine clothes and his great number of servants. He began to wear coarse, rough clothes, lived in a little narrow cell, ate very plain food and drank only water.
It is difficult to understand why he did this. Perhaps he thought that the Primate of all England, as the Archbishop of Canterbury is called, ought to be a very holy man, and he knew no other way of becoming holy, for in those days if a man fasted and went barefoot and wore coarse clothing it was thought that he must be a saint.
Thomas now wrote to the king and told him that he must find another chancellor, as he could not be archbishop and chancellor too. This was a great surprise and grief to the King. In those days it was nothing unusual for one man to be archbishop as well as chancellor. Henry had expected Thomas still to be chancellor and still to help him. He had merely made him primate so that he should help him more.
But that was only the beginning of the troubles.
The Bishop of Rome, whom we call the Pope, said that he was the head of the whole Christian Church, and that no one could be made a bishop in England without his consent. Henry said that he, the King, was the head of the English church, and he would make what bishops he chose. Thomas, instead of siding with the King, sided with the Pope, so they quarrelled, as Thomas had warned Henry that they would.
In those days some of the clergy had grown very wicked. Instead of leading good lives, and being an example to others, they led bad lives. Priests and clergy who did wicked things were not judged by the same courts as other people. They were judged by a bishop's court. Now a bishop's court had no power to order any very severe punishment. If a priest killed a man, the worst that could happen to him would be that he would be beaten—not very hard—and have only bread and water to live on for a few days. Many wicked people became priests simply that they might be able to do as much wrong as they liked, without being punished for it.
Henry wished to put an end to this, so he said that all people who did wrong must be tried by the same judges, whether they were priests or not. But Thomas à Becket would not agree. Clergymen had always been judged by a bishop's court, he said, and by a bishop's court they should continue to be judged.
So the King and the primate quarrelled worse than ever, till the quarrel grew so fierce, and the King so angry, that Thomas fled over the sea to escape from him.
After a time Henry forgave Thomas and he came back to England, but almost at once he again began to quarrel with the King. This time Henry lost all patience and, in a burst of anger, he exclaimed, "Are there none of the idle people who eat my bread that will free me from this quarrelsome priest?"
Henry was angry, and did not really mean what he said. But four knights heard, and thinking to please their king they took ship (for Henry was in Normandy at this time), crossed the sea to England, and rode to Canterbury. Arrived there they went to the archbishop's house. They found him almost alone. With angry words they told him that he must either promise not to quarrel with Henry or he must leave England.
"I shall do what I think is right," replied Thomas. "If the King tells me to do things which I think are wrong, I will not obey him. I am the servant of God. God is higher than the King; I shall obey Him."
This answer enraged the knights, and more angry words were spoken. Then they went away, telling Thomas to beware, for they would come again.
"You will find me here," replied Thomas proudly. "Never again will I forsake my people."
All the archbishop's friends, and the monks and priests who lived with him, were very much afraid. They felt sure that these angry knights meant to do something dreadful. They begged Thomas to leave his house and take refuge in the cathedral, but he would not. "I said they would find me here," he replied to all entreaties.
The day passed. The time for evening service came. Then only did Thomas consent to leave his house and go into the cathedral, for, said he, "It is my duty to lead the service." The priests tried to hurry him, they tried to drag him along quickly, but Thomas would not hasten. He walked slowly and solemnly, having the great cross carried before him as usual. He feared no man.
When at last he was safe within the cathedral, the priests wished to lock and bar the doors. But Thomas forbade them. "This is not a fortress but the House of God, into which every one is free to enter. I forbid you to bar the doors," he said.
The priests were in despair. They loved their archbishop, they knew that he was in danger, but he would not try to save himself.
Even as he spoke there was a great noise without. The door burst open, and the four knights, dressed in complete armour and carrying drawn swords in their hands, rushed into the cathedral.
The frightened people fled in all directions. The archbishop was left almost alone. Only three remained with him—his cross-bearer and two other faithful friends.
In the dim twilight which filled the cathedral it would have been easy for Thomas to escape. But he would not go. "I told them that they should find me here," he said again to the monks who tried to drag him away.
Even as it was, the knights could not find him. In the gathering darkness they clanked and clanged through the great church, seeking him.
"Where is the traitor?" called one of them.
No one answered. Only the word "traitor" echoed again through the silence.
"Where is the archbishop?" he called again.
"I am here," answered the voice of Thomas à Becket out of the darkness. "I am here; no traitor, but a servant of God. What do you want?"
They stood before him, four armed knights against one unarmed priest. Yet he was not afraid.
"Will you be at peace with the King?" asked the knights.
"What I have done I shall continue to do," replied Thomas.
The knights seized him and tried to drag him out of the cathedral, for they feared to kill him in a holy place.
But Thomas would not go. He held tightly to a pillar. His cross-bearer, still holding the cross, threw one arm round the archbishop, trying to protect him.
The knight who had first spoken struck at Thomas. The cross-bearer received the blow upon his arm, which dropped to his side broken. The next stroke fell on Thomas à Becket's defenceless head.
In a few minutes all was over.
"In the name of Christ, and for the defence of the Church, I die willingly," said Thomas, and spoke no more.
Then the knights, fearful of what they had done, fled, leaving the dead archbishop alone in the dark, silent cathedral.
T HOUSANDS and thousands of little black sail-like objects were leaving the sea and heading into Holiday Stream. They looked like sails, tiny sails, moving on top of the sparkling water. But really they were fins on the backs of fishes. The alewives had begun their spring voyage.
The alewives belong to the Herring family. They are about twelve inches long when they are grown. Their backs are dark blue and their sides are silvery. That is the way they look when they are in the water.
The alewife belongs to the Herring family.
If you take one up in your hands and hold it in the sunshine for a moment, the flat overlapping scales look like glistening jewels. The scales on the back are deep blue, almost black, shading to paler blue. Those high on the sides are like opals, gleaming pink and blue and fiery gold and green. The lower scales are white, like pearls.
Most of the time the alewives live in the ocean, but in the spring they swim into fresh water.
The alewives waiting at the mouth of Holiday Stream were so close together that they touched one another. Their tails all pointed toward the sea, and their heads all pointed upstream. They were eager to go away from the ocean, and yet they waited. It was easy to see what held them back. The falls near the mouth of the stream were too high for them to climb. So they were trapped between the ocean to which they would not return and the falls they could not pass.
The tide was out. Shells and seaweeds which had been tossed by the last high water, now lay far up the shore in the sunshine. The barnacles clinging to the water-darkened piles of the nearest wharf showed how low the sea was, for it was only when the tide went out that the barnacles were uncovered.
Then something happened. The lowest barnacles that had been in sight were under water again. They had been clinging to the same spot all the time. They had not moved at all. As they had not gone down, the water must have come up. Yes, that was what had happened. The tide had turned. The sea was rising in the bay.
The waves slapped the smooth stones and swished along the shore. The nearest shells and seaweeds were no longer in the sunshine. They were in the sea again. As the water pushed farther and farther up the shore and crept higher and higher on the piles where the barnacles clung, it flowed into the mouth of Holiday Stream until it reached the falls.
The water that poured over the top of the falls was fresh. The water that washed against the foot of the falls was salt. And there, in the sparkling bay where the stream mixed with the sea, the little sail-shaped fins of the waiting fishes showed in the sunshine.
You can guess what was happening. The ocean was slowly climbing the falls and lifting the alewives with the tide. At last, where there had been high falls, there were hardly more than rapids.
The eager fishes waited no longer. They went up the rapids and struggled against the current with all their strength. Those hurrying in front were pushed by those that followed fast behind.
Many of the alewives mounted the rapids by plunging straight up the current. They went quick as flashes, their backs looking like blue streaks under the water. They did not leap out of the stream in climbing, as salmon and trout do, but took their chances in the current.
Some of the fishes were tossed back by the water, and they tried again and again to get through the rough places. Often they lost their balance in the swift and whirling current and were thrown over on their sides. Such fishes would flop along sidewise and push against the rocks with their fins.
It was hard work, but the fishes seemed to like putting their strength against that of the stream. Not one of all the many thousands gave up trying. Not one left his struggling comrades and went back to swim easily in the sea.
They were very quick and they tried very hard, but there were so many thousands of them that they could not all crowd into the stream above the rapids before the tide turned.
As the tide went out and the rapids again became falls too steep for fish to climb, those that had not gone over the top halted. They waited with their heads toward the falls and their tails toward the sea. As the water went lower and lower and they sank with it, not one went back to swim in the broad ocean. They stayed crowded in the narrow mouth of the stream.
What held them there? They had spent most of their lives in the great salt sea. Why should they leave it and seek fresh water? How had it come about that the numerous fleet of tiny black sails had entered port together? What strange and wonderful feeling had come to them out in the ocean with power to turn them all so suddenly, all so eagerly, toward the gushing stream?
You might as well have asked the bobolinks why they had come. They were singing just then over the fields. There was joy in every note. What had happened to them in the pleasant South American places? Why did they fly back again every spring, gladly and with song?
The bobolinks had an errand in northern meadows, an errand of eggs and nests and young.
Well, the alewives had an errand too. I do not suppose they thought about it that way with their little brains. Perhaps there was something about the spring sunshine that drew them toward the shallow water near the shore. Perhaps some of the fresh water reached them as it rushed out of the mouth of the stream, and seemed good. Perhaps, in the springtime, swimming up into the fresh current seemed so pleasant that they could not help going.
We can only say "perhaps" because we do not really know how the fishes felt about their journey. But we may be sure that they liked it from the way they acted. And we may guess that if they could sing, they would have gone on their way with glad sounds, as the bobolinks go.
But after the alewives had pushed through the rapids at high tide, they were tired. Soon they came to a place sheltered by rocks, where the water was quiet as a pool. There they rested, swimming so slowly that they hardly seemed to move. It took them a week to reach Six-foot Falls, which was about half a mile away. The weather that spring was very cold, and the alewives were twice as long reaching the falls as they had been the year before, when the weather was warmer.
You might think Six-foot Falls too high for them to climb. They found a way at one side, however, where the rocks were like rough steps. They went up through that passage, and they went quickly. There was nothing slow about the alewives when they swam against swift water.
About a week after they left Six-foot Falls, the first of the alewives reached Holiday Pond, and the others followed when they were ready. They seemed contented in the pond and stayed there for some time. During their visit to Holiday Pond, the alewives laid their eggs.
At last the visitors from the sea found Holiday Pond.
As one alewife could lay sixty thousand eggs or more, there were soon a great many eggs in the pond. The eggs were small and sticky, and they were placed in gluey masses on stones and other objects rather near the shore.
After the alewives had laid their eggs, they did not seem to care much for the fresh water of pond and stream. Perhaps they were hungry, for they had not eaten since they left the sea. Be that as it may, they went out of the pond in small companies from time to time.
It was easy to tell when they were ready to go, for they gathered in little groups where Holiday Stream ran out of the pond. There they waited, their moving tails pointing downstream. Then, when they were ready, off they started, tail-first, for the ocean.
The eggs which had been left in shallow water were warmed by the sun, and they hatched in a few days.
When the little fishes began to swim, Holiday Pond was a lively place. The fresh water was good for their health, and they found plenty of food to make them grow. They hunted in the pond, and before the summer was over they looked much like their fathers and mothers, except for size.
They had grown to be two or three inches long, when they started on a strange journey. It was still warm weather and the pond quite as pleasant as ever, though perhaps there was less food in it. They may have been hungry, or tired of freshwater fare.
Nobody knows exactly why they left Holiday Pond, but leave it they did. They went down Holiday Stream, over Six-foot Falls, through the rapids, and into the sea. And they seemed to be having a good time all the way.
O thou, who passest thro' our vallies in
Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat
That flames from their large nostrils! thou, O Summer,
Oft pitched'st here thy golden tent, and oft
Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld
With joy, thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.
Beneath our thickest shades we oft have heard
Thy voice, when noon upon his fervid car
Rode o'er the deep of heaven; beside our springs
Sit down, and in our mossy vallies, on
Some bank beside a river clear, throw thy
Silk draperies off, and rush into the stream:
Our vallies love the Summer in his pride.
Our bards are fam'd who strike the silver wire:
Our youth are bolder than the southern swains:
Our maidens fairer in the sprightly dance:
We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy,
Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven,
Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.
WEEK 31 |
O LD MOTHER NATURE was just about to open school when a slight noise up the Lone Little Path drew all eyes in that direction. There, shuffling down the Lone Little Path, was a queer looking fellow. No one needed more than one look at that funny, sharp, black and white face of his to recognize him.
The Raccoon has the neat habit of washing his food.
"Bobby Coon!" shouted Peter Rabbit. "Are you coming to join our school, Bobby?"
Bobby shuffled along a little nearer, then sat up and blinked at them sleepily. No one needed to be told that Bobby had been out all night. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Hello, everybody," said he. "I wish I felt as bright and lively as all of you look. I'd like to join your school, but I'm afraid if I did I would go to sleep right in the middle of the lesson. I ought to have been home an hour ago. So I guess I'll have to be excused."
Old Mother Nature pointed an accusing finger at Bobby Coon. "Bobby," said she, "You've been getting in mischief. Now own up you've been stealing some of that sweet, milky corn from Farmer Brown's cornfield."
Bobby Coon hung his head. "I—I—I don't think it was stealing," he mumbled. "That corn just grows, and I don't see why I shouldn't have my share of it. I help myself to other things, so why shouldn't I help myself to that?"
"I'll tell you why," replied Old Mother Nature. "Farmer Brown planted that corn and took care of it. If he hadn't planted it, there wouldn't have been any corn there. That makes it his corn. If it grew wild, you would have a perfect right to it. As it is, you haven't any right to it at all. Now take my advice, Bobby, and keep away from that cornfield. If you don't, you will get in trouble. One of these fine nights Bowser the Hound will find you there and you will have to run for your life. Keep away from temptation."
"But that corn is so good," sighed Bobby Coon, smacking his lips. "There is nothing I like better than sweet, milky corn, and if I don't get it from Farmer Brown's cornfield, I can't get it at all, for it doesn't grow wild. He'll never miss the little I take."
Old Mother Nature shook her head and looked very grave. "Bobby," said she, "that is no excuse at all. Mark what I say: If you keep on you certainly will get in trouble. If you would be satisfied to take just an ear or two, I don't believe Farmer Brown would care, but you know very well that you spoil many times what you eat. You sample one ear, then think that probably the next ear will be better and sweeter and you try that. By the time you get through you have spoiled a lot, and eaten only a little. I think I'll punish you a little myself by keeping you here a while. If you think you can't keep awake, just go over and sit down there by Prickly Porky; he'll keep you awake."
"I—I think I can keep awake," stammered Bobby and opened his eyes very wide as if he were trying to stretch his eyelids so as to make them stay open.
"I'll help you by asking you a few questions," replied Old Mother Nature. "Who is it that people sometimes call you the little cousin of?"
Bobby grinned. "Buster Bear," said he.
"That's right," replied Old Mother Nature. "Of course,
being a Raccoon, you are not a Bear, but you are related
to the Bear family. I want you all to notice Bobby's footprints
over yonder. You will see that the print of his hind foot shows
the whole foot, heels and toes, and is a lot like
footprint on a small scale. Bobby shuffles along in much the same
way that Buster walks. No one ever mistakes
Once more Bobby hung his head. It was quite clear that Bobby didn't want to answer that question. But Old Mother Nature insisted, and finally Bobby blurted it out. "I was up to Farmer Brown's hen house," said he.
"What for?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"Oh, just to look around," replied Bobby.
"To look around for what?" insisted Old Mother Nature.
"Well," said Bobby, "I thought one of those Hens up there might have dropped an egg that she didn't really care about."
"Bobby," said Old Mother Nature sternly, "why don't you own up that you went over there to try to steal eggs? Or did you think you might catch a tender young Chicken? Where were you night before last?"
"Over at the Laughing Brook and the Smiling Pool," replied Bobby promptly, evidently glad the subject had been changed.
"Well, you didn't find sweet corn or eggs or Chickens over there, did you?" said Old Mother Nature.
"No, but I caught three of the sweetest tasting little fish in a little pool in the Laughing Brook, and I got some of the tenderest Clams I've ever eaten," replied Bobby, smacking his lips. "I raked them out of the mud and opened them. Down at the Smiling Pool I had a lot of fun catching young Frogs. I certainly do like Frogs. It is great sport to catch them, and they are fine eating."
"I suppose you have had an eye on the beech trees and the wild
Bobby's face brightened. "Indeed I have," said he. "There will be splendid crops of beechnuts and grapes this fall. My, but they will taste good!"
Old Mother Nature laughed. "There is small danger that you will go hungry," said she. "When you can't find enough to eat times must be very hard indeed. For the benefit of the others you might add that in addition to the things mentioned you eat other fruits, including berries, insects of various kinds, birds when you can catch them, Mice, Turtles, in fact almost anything that can be eaten. You are not at all fussy about the kind of food. But you have one habit in regard to your food which it would be well if some of these other little folks followed. Do you know what it is?"
Bobby shook his head. "No," said he, "not unless you mean the habit I have of washing my food. If there is any water near, I always like to take what I am going to eat over to it and wash it; somehow it tastes better."
"Just so," replied Old Mother Nature. "More than once I've seen you in the moonlight beside the Laughing Brook washing your food, and it has always pleased me, for there is nothing like cleanliness and neatness. Did you raise a family this year, Bobby?"
"Mrs. Coon did. We had four of the finest youngsters you have ever seen over in a certain big hollow tree. They are getting big and lively now, and go out with their mother every night. I do hope the hunters will leave them alone this fall. I hate to think of anything happening to them. If they can just get through the hunting season safely, I'll enjoy my winter sleep better, and I know Mrs. Coon will."
At this Johnny Chuck pricked up his ears. "Do you sleep all winter, Bobby?" he asked eagerly.
"Not all winter, but a good part of it," replied Bobby. "I don't turn in until the weather gets pretty cold, and it is hard to find anything to eat. But after the first snow I'm usually ready to sleep. Then I curl up in a warm bed of leaves in a certain big hollow tree, and don't care how cold or stormy the weather is. Sometimes I wake up once or twice, when the weather is mild, and take a little walk around for exercise. But I don't go far and soon return to sleep."
"What do you do when Bowser the Hound gets after you?" asked Peter Rabbit.
"Run till I get out of breath," replied Bobby. "And if by that time I haven't been able to fool him so that he loses my trail, I take to a tree. Thank goodness, he can't climb a tree. Sometimes I climb from the top of one tree into the top of another, and sometimes into a third and then a fourth, when they are near enough together. That fools the hunters, if they follow Bowser."
"Have you any relatives, Bobby?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"I didn't know I had until you mentioned that fellow with the ringed tail you said you would tell us about. I didn't know there was anybody with a tail like mine, and I would like to know about it," replied Bobby.
"He isn't exactly a Raccoon, but he is more nearly related to you
than any one else," replied Old Mother Nature. "His tail shows
that. Aside from this, he is nothing like you at all. He is
He is neither a Cat nor a Civet but a Bassaris.
"He is quick and graceful in his movements, and, like Bobby, prefers
to be abroad at night.
Also, like Bobby, he eats about everything
that he can find—flesh, reptiles, fruit, nuts and insects. He
lives in the Far Southwest, and also in some of the mountains of
the Far West. Why he should be called
"Now, Bobby, you can trot along home, and I hope all that green
corn you have eaten will not give you the stomach ache.
Five years after Daniel Boone took his family to Kentucky there came over the mountains a man named Abraham Lincoln, bringing his wife and children. The Lincolns and Boones were friends. They were much the same kind of people, hunters and pioneers, always seeking a new and wild country to live in. This Abraham Lincoln, the friend of Boone, was a grandfather of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1809.
A Schoolhouse in the Backwoods
When little Abe Lincoln was seven years old, his father moved from Kentucky to southwestern Indiana, which was then a wild country. Here he lived in a house of the roughest and poorest sort known to backwoods people. It had three sides closed with logs. The other side was left entirely open to the weather. There was no chimney, but the fire was built out of doors in front of the open side. There was no floor. Such a wretched shelter is called a "half-faced camp." It is not so good as some Indian wigwams. Of course, the food and clothes and beds of a family living in this way were miserable.
Poor little Abe Lincoln sometimes attended backwoods schools. The log schoolhouses in Indiana at that time had large open fireplaces, in which there was a great blazing fire in the winter. The boys of the school had to chop and bring in the wood for this fire. The floor of such a schoolhouse was of rough boards hewn out with axes. The schoolmasters were generally harsh men, who persuaded their pupils to study by means of long beech switches, such as they were accustomed to use in driving oxen. These schoolmasters did not know much themselves, but bright little Abe Lincoln soon learned to write. This was very handy for his father and other men in the neighborhood who could not write, and who got Abraham to write their letter for them.
Young Lincoln Writing Letters for the Neighbors
Lincoln could not get many books to read in a community so destitute and illiterate. He could not have wasted his time and weakened his mind, as so many boys and girls do now, by reading exciting stories, for he did hot have them. He read carefully the books that he had. The Bible, Æsop's Fables, Pilgrim's Progress, a life of Washington, and life of Henry Clay he read over and over again, for he could get no other books. Whenever he heard any subject talked about that he did not understand, he would go off alone and think it out, and try to put it into clear words. This habit of close and careful thinking, and this practice in clothing his thoughts in word that exactly fitted them, was the best education in the world. Many boys and girls who have good schools and good books never learn to think for themselves.
When one is poor, a little money means a great deal. One day Abraham Lincoln, by this time eighteen years old, rowed two men with their baggage from the shore out to a steamboat in the Ohio River. For this the men dropped two silver half-dollars into the boat. Abraham was overjoyed. To think that a poor boy could earn so much money in so short a time made the whole world seem wider and fairer before him, he said.
An Ohio River Flatboat
The people of southern Indiana in that day used to send what they raised on their farms to New Orleans. They loaded their corn, hay, and potatoes on large flatboats, sometimes a hundred feet long. These boats were floated on the current of the Ohio River to where that river empties into the Mississippi, and then down the Mississippi. It was a long voyage, and the boatmen had to live on their boats for many weeks. They rowed the boats with long sweeps, or oars, which required two and sometimes four men to move each one of them. Lincoln was much trusted, and when he was nineteen years old he was sent down the river in charge of one of these boats. This gave him his first knowledge of the world.
By the time he was twenty-one he had attained the height of six feet four inches. His father, who was always poor, once more sought a newer country by removing to Illinois. Here Abraham helped to build a log cabin, and then he split the rails to make a fence around the new cornfield. In order to get clothes, he went out to work as a hired man on a neighbor's farm. The cloth used by the Western people at that time was woven by hand in their own homes. Lincoln had to split four hundred rails to pay for each yard of the homespun brown jeans that went to make his trousers. Perhaps he was sorry to be so tall and to need so much cloth for a pair of trousers.
Lincoln went a second time on a flatboat to New Orleans. The boat was loaded with live hogs, and it is said that Lincoln, finding that the hogs could not be driven, carried them on board that boat in his long arms. After he came back he became a clerk in a country store, where he employed his spare time in reading. Like Franklin, he got his education by the right use of his leisure time. In this store he showed that careful honesty for which he was always remarkable. Once, when by mistake he had taken a "fip"—that is, six and a quarter cents—more than was due from a customer, he walked several miles the same night to return the money. When he found that, by using the wrong weight, he had given a woman two ounces of tea less than she ought to have had, he again walked a ling distance in order to make the matter right.
One of the things he wanted to learn was English grammar, in order to speak more correctly; but grammars were hard to find at that time. He heard of a man eight miles away who had a grammar, so he walked the eight miles and borrowed it. Lincoln got a lawyer who sometimes visited the store to explain what he could not understand in his grammar.
Over hill, over dale, through bush, through brier,
Over park, over pale, through flood, through fire,
I do wander everiewhere, swifter than the moonè's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen to dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be,
In their gold coats spots you see,
Those be rubies, fairy favors,
In those freckles live their savors:
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
WEEK 31 |
N the dawning of the day Roland looked to the mountain and
looked to the plain. Everywhere the Franks lay dead around
him. Then, like a noble cavalier, he wept for them. "My
lords and barons," he sighed, "may God have mercy on you.
May your souls reach paradise and rest among the holy
flowers for ever. Better vassals than ye were never seen.
Well have ye served me these many years. Oh land of France!
oh my loved country!
So once again Roland the Terrible arose and swung his sword Durindal, until, as deer before the hounds, the heathen fled before him.
"Good," cried Archbishop Turpin, " 'tis ever thus a knight should fight, else he had better be a monk, praying in some lonely cell, that our sins may be forgiven us."
"Strike, strike!" cried Roland, "strike and do not spare."
So once again the clash and clang of battle rang out upon the still morning air. But now the Christian knights were wondrous few, the heathen many. Through the thickest of the fight rode King Marsil, slaying many a knight. "Cursed be thou," cried Roland, "full many a comrade hast thou slain before my face. Yet ere we part thou shalt know the name of my good sword." Then with one stroke he cut off the King's right hand, and with another laid his son dead at his feet.
Then in terror Marsil fled. "Mahomet avenge us," he cried, "upon these felon Franks whom Charlemagne hath left in our fair Spain."
But although Marsil fled, the Calif, his uncle, still remained. It was that same Calif of whom Ganelon had lied, saying he had seen him drown before his eyes. Now with savage war-cry he threw himself upon the dwindling Christian company.
"Now," cried Roland, "the end hath come. Now, no longer have we to live. But strike, my lords, strike. Sell your lives as dearly as may be. Strike, so that France be not dishonoured, and when Charlemagne shall come and shall find fifteen heathen dead for one of us, he will bless us even while he mourns."
"Shame, shame to the laggard!" cried Oliver, dashing into the fray. But the traitor Calif struck him from behind, full in the middle of his back. Through silken cloak and coat of steel drove the lance until it pierced the breast of the gallant knight.
"Aha!" cried the Calif, "now hast thou thy death-blow. In thee alone have I avenged all our host."
Oliver was indeed sorely wounded, but, wheeling quickly, he lifted his good sword high in the air, and brought it crashing down upon the Calif's golden helmet. The sparkling gems with which it was set were scattered upon the grass. From crown to chin his head was cloven, and without a groan the heathen sank upon the earth.
Still wielding his sword right manfully, Oliver called to
Roland. "Roland, Roland, come to me. Be thou near me at the
Through the battle Roland spurred his horse to Oliver's side. With mournful eyes he looked upon his ashen face, and upon the red stream which trickled from his wound. "Alas, my gentle friend," he cried, "alas, is this the end of all thy prowess, all thy fame? Now is the Emperor's loss complete indeed." And saying these words, from grief and pain he fainted, sitting upon his horse.
As Roland fainted he reeled against Oliver, and he, his eyes already dark in death, knew not his friend. Only feeling that he was struck, he returned the blow. Striking heavily upon Roland's helmet, he clove it in two. But his sword went no further, and Roland was unwounded.
The blow brought Roland to his senses once again, and he, marvelling at it, turned to look upon his friend. "Was it thou, comrade, who struck me?" he whispered softly and tenderly. "Thou hast not done it knowingly? I am thy friend Roland, who loveth thee. Thou hast no anger against me in thine heart?"
"I hear thee," replied Oliver, "but I cannot see thee, friend. God seeth thee. Have I struck thee, brother? I did it not knowingly. Forgive it me."
"I am not hurt," said Roland, "and before God I forgive it thee." Then these two in perfect love and trust leaned each on the other to say a last farewell.
Now Oliver's eyes were dark, his ears were stopped in death. Dismounting from his horse he knelt upon the ground. Joining his hands he confessed his sins and prayed God to bless fair France and Charlemagne his king, and above all men his comrade Roland. Then he bowed his head, and stretching himself upon the battle-field, he died.
When Roland saw Oliver lie still, very softly he mourned. "Dear my friend," he sighed, "to what sorrow hath thy valour brought thee! Many the day, many the year we two have been together, thou and I. Never hast thou done me wrong, nor I thee. Now that thou art gone it is but pain to live." And for very grief Roland swooned again as he sat upon his horse.
Once again Roland opened his eyes and looked around upon the utter ruin of all his knights. Of all the Christian host but two remained with him alive. These were Turpin, the brave Archbishop, and Gautier of Hum, a right noble count.
With lances broken, shields pierced and armour shattered, the valiant three still fought the heathen throng. Saracen after Saracen fell beneath their blows. "What fearsome men!" cried they, "but they shall not escape alive. Craven is he who attacketh them not. More craven he who letteth them escape."
But soon, such was the might of the dauntless three that the heathen dared no more attack them. A thousand foot and forty thousand horse there still remained of the Saracen host. Yet afar they stood, hurling lance and spear and javelin at the three who faced them side by side.
Soon Gautier fell dead, pierced by a flying dart. Next the Archbishop's horse was killed beneath him, and Turpin was carried to the ground. But in a moment he sprang up again. "I am not vanquished yet!" he cried to Roland. "As long as a good warrior hath breath, he fights." And dashing upon the heathen, sorely wounded though he was, he laid about him with such good will that, as it was told in after days, they found four hundred dead about him.
Roland too fought in deadly pain, and sorely he longed to know if Charlemagne were near. So now again he took his horn, and blew upon it a faint and feeble blast.
The pitiful soft notes floated through the air, and faint and feeble though they were, they reached the ear of Charlemagne. The Emperor drew rein and bent his ear to listen. "My lords," he said, "it goeth ill with us. This day I ween my nephew is lost to me. So wearily he winds his horn, 'tis like a dying man. If ye would reach him ere it is too late, set spur to horse and let every trumpet in the army sound, that he may know we come."
Then at the command of the Emperor, sixty thousand trumpets sounded. Loudly the brazen clamour rose. The mountains echoed and the hills answered, until the heathen heard it where they fought, and they stood aghast. "It is Charlemagne who comes," they cried; "it is Charlemagne. The Emperor! the Emperor returns! These are French trumpets that we hear. If Charlemagne come, what disaster for us will betide. If Roland live, the battle is to fight again, and Spain, our fair broad Spain, is lost."
Then four hundred of the boldest of the heathen drew together, and marching in close rank, shoulder to shoulder they charged down upon Roland.
As Roland saw them come he felt his strength return to him. While he had life he would never yield, and rather death than flight. So, striking spurs, he urged his wearied horse forward, and dashed alone against four hundred heathen. At his stirrup ran the Archbishop, and as the Saracens saw the dauntless heroes come, they were seized with terror and fled before them.
"Flee, flee!" they cried, "it is the trumpets of France we hear. Charlemagne the Mighty is upon us."
Roland was ever the bravest and most courteous of knights. Now he drew rein and turning to the Archbishop said, "I am on horseback, thou on foot; that should not be. For love of thee I will halt here. Good or ill we will share together, and for no man in the world will I forsake thee. Together we will await the heathen."
"Shame be to him who first stints his blows!" cried Turpin. "After this battle we will fight no more, truly. But Charlemagne is nigh, and he will avenge us."
And now the heathen, gathered at a distance, talked among themselves. "We are born to misfortune," said they. "And this day is the blackest that ever we have seen. We have lost all our lords and leaders, and now dread Charlemagne returns with his great army. Already we can hear the trumpets call, already we can hear the cry, 'Montjoie, Montjoie.' And nothing equals the pride of this Count Roland. There is no man that can vanquish him. Let us flee, but ere we go let each man hurl at him lance and spear, so that he die."
So ere they fled, the heathen hurled their spears and lances at Roland. His shield was broken, his hauberk riven asunder, and beneath him sank his good horse pierced with thirty wounds. The Archbishop too lay silent on the ground. But the last heathen had fled, and on that ghastly field Roland stood alone.
Two Pots, one of brass and the other of clay, stood together on the hearthstone. One day the Brass Pot proposed to the Earthen Pot that they go out into the world together. But the Earthen Pot excused himself, saying that it would be wiser for him to stay in the corner by the fire.
"It would take so little to break me," he said. "You know how fragile I am. The least shock is sure to shatter me!" "Don't let that keep you at home," urged the Brass Pot. "I shall take very good care of you. If we should happen to meet anything hard I will step between and save you."
So the Earthen Pot at last consented, and the two set out side by side, jolting along on three stubby legs first to this side, then to that, and bumping into each other at every step. The Earthen Pot could not survive that sort of companionship very long. They had not gone ten paces before the Earthen Pot cracked, and at the next jolt he flew into a thousand pieces.
Equals make the best friends.
Over hill, over dale, through bush, through brier,
Over park, over pale, through flood, through fire,
I do wander everiewhere, swifter than the moonè's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen to dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be,
In their gold coats spots you see,
Those be rubies, fairy favors,
In those freckles live their savors:
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
WEEK 31 |
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That hath such people in't."
W HEN Sir Walter Raleigh had done chasing the Spanish Armada from Plymouth to the North Sea, he crossed over to Ireland, where he visited his friend Edmund Spenser. That Spenser was a poet of no mean order Raleigh well knew, but he was hardly prepared for the wonderful new poem that Spenser read to him on this visit, under the name of the "Fairy Queen."
Here indeed was a poet—the first singer of Elizabeth's newly awakened England—the pioneer of that new glory which burst forth in this marvellous sixteenth century. Elizabeth must hear the poem from the poet's own lips. Together the two men made their way to England and stood before their queen. She listened with rapture. In the "Fairy Queen" she recognised herself. But the new poem was not for her alone. It was published in 1590, to be received by a burst of welcome, for did it not express the very life of the times? It was the truest picture of the world of mystery and wonder, which was opening before the eyes of Englishmen—a mixture of the chivalry of the middle ages and the new learning which had spread from Italy. Here is one of the stories from the "Fairy Queen."
In the far-off kingdom of Fairyland stood a splendid city surrounded by a golden wall. Here lived Gloriana the Queen of the Fairies, and to her came all noble knights in search of adventure and all persons in distress.
One day there arrived a royal maiden named Una, who had journeyed from the Euphrates, away in the Far East. She had been driven from home by a huge and cruel dragon, which had laid waste the country, the king and queen had fled for safety to a strong castle, and she had come to the Fairy Queen for help. Many a knight had tried to slay the monster in vain. It was not long before a young noble, known as the Red Cross Knight, at the palace of Gloriana, undertook to go and slay the dragon, if Una would show him the way. Away they started together, the knight on a fiery steed, Una at his side on a snow-white ass. Soon a storm drove them to shelter in a deep wood, where presently they lost their way. Finding a cave, the young knight dismounted, and in spite of Una's remonstrances he looked into a dark hole. By the light of his glittering armour he saw an ugly monster, named Error, lying in the cave. After a tremendous struggle he killed the monster and returned to Una.
"Fair knight, ye have won glory this day," she said. "May all your adventures succeed as well as this."
On they went again. But before long the Red Cross Knight was led astray by a false lady, Duessa. Left alone and solitary, Una wandered through desert and wilderness to find her lost knight. She was lying at rest on the grass when suddenly a ramping lion rushed out of a wood. With open mouth he rushed at her greedily; but when he saw her nearer he stopped, and, instead of devouring her, he kissed her weary feet and licked her white hands. When she rose to go the lion followed her as her faithful guide.
Still searching for her Red Cross Knight, Una met Prince Arthur, the champion knight of Fairyland. His armour glittered like the rays of the sun, his tunic shone like twinkling stars with precious stones. His helmet was of gold, with a golden dragon. Ever bent on deeds of kindness, Arthur undertook to find for Una her Red Cross Knight, who was even now languishing in a dark dungeon in the castle of a giant, where dwelt the false Duessa. Horrible to behold was the monster giant who came forth to meet Arthur; but it was not long before he lay at Arthur's feet—dead. Then Arthur brought the poor Red Cross Knight, ill and low and weak. Duessa had fled, so they stayed and refreshed themselves at the castle. Then they parted from Arthur, and the knight and his dear Una went on their way. And at last they arrived at Una's home.
"This is the city of the great king, where eternal peace and happiness dwell," said an old man, who took the knight to a high mountain from whence he could see the goodly city. "The way to it, after long labour, will bring you to joyous rest and endless bliss. And thou, fair knight, dost well to succour this desolate princess till thou hast rid her of her foe. That done, thou mayest travel this path, which shall lead thee to the great city. And there in after-times shalt thou be a saint and befriend thine own nation. St George of merry England shalt thou be."
His eyes were yet dazzled with the brightness of the distant city when a hideous roaring sound was heard, that seemed to shake the very earth. It came from a dreadful dragon stretched on the sunny side of a hill. He was covered with huge brazen scales, which he clashed together with a dreadful noise; his huge tail was wrapped in a hundred folds; his jaws opened like an abyss, showing long ranges of iron teeth; his eyes blazed like fire.
Putting Una into a place of safety, the Red Cross Knight advanced fearlessly to his great task. For two days and nights he fought the mighty beast, and at the last he slew it. It was safe now for the king and queen to appear, for the dragon was slain. And clad in sombre robes they came forth, old and hoary with time, to embrace their daughter Una and to give her in marriage to the conqueror of the dragon, the Red Cross Knight, St George of England.
The "Fairy Queen" was the first ideal poem that England produced, the source of her modern poetry. It lifted its readers at once into a clear, pure air. "No man can read the 'Fairy Queen' and be anything but the better for it," says a great American writer. "The land of Spenser is the land of Dreams, but it is also the land of Rest."
"Here may thy storm-beat vessel safely ride;
This is the port of rest from troublous toil.
The world's sweet inn from pain and wearisome turmoil."
At last, however, drew nigh that evil hour of Athens—that day in every year when the seven youths and seven maidens had to be sent to King Minos of Crete to be devoured by the Minotaur. The rule was to choose the victims by lot: so that none felt safe who had sons and daughters young enough to suit the taste of the monster. The seven girls were first chosen. But when it came to drawing lots for the youths, Theseus said:—
"You need draw only six this year. I will myself be the seventh. It may be that I shall find a way to deliver Athens from this tribute; if not, it is for a prince who cannot save his people to perish with them."
Ægeus was in despair. But no entreaties could turn Theseus from his desperate resolve: neither the prayers of his own father, nor those of all the fathers and mothers in Athens, who would have drawn the seventh lot rather than he who was the pride and hope of the city should go to certain destruction. The ship which bore the yearly victims to Crete always carried black sails in token of public mourning. Theseus, in order to leave a little hope behind him, promised that, if he came back alive, he would hoist a white sail while returning, so that his safety might be seen from afar. Then, in solemn procession, amid the weeping of the crowd, the youths and maidens embarked in the black-sailed ship, Theseus leading them with the calmness of the only true courage—that which can, in cold blood, face danger for the sake of duty. None would have thought the worse of him had he stayed behind: and if he perished it would be as a mere victim, and without glory. Nor was it as if he were encouraged by any oracles, or helped by gifts from the gods. He is the first hero who was both a mere man and who never had any help but his own manfulness. And for all these reasons I think that his voyage to Crete is the finest story I have yet told.
When the ship reached Crete, the fourteen victims were conducted to the Labyrinth, there to be imprisoned until they should be given to the Minotaur. As they passed before Minos and his Court, the king's youngest daughter, Ariadne, was filled with pity and love for Theseus, and set her thoughts to work how she might save him from his doom. But how in the world was such a thing to be done? None without the clue could either enter or escape from the maze: and even were that possible, it was not likely that the Minotaur would let himself be balked of his prey.
But she watched and waited: she hovered round the Labyrinth night after night, examining every door: until at last she was rewarded by finding, just within one of them, a little silken skein hidden away in a dark corner. The next night, having procured a torch and a sword, she bravely entered the door where the skein was, and, by winding up the silk, followed the clue. Through one twisting passage after another she wandered on and on, up and down long flights of steps, sometimes through great halls confused with columns, and sometimes through tunnels in which it was scarcely possible to stand. There seemed no end to the way. At last, however, the end of the silken thread told her that she had reached the inmost hall: and there her torch showed a sight that froze her with fear.
The victims had been delivered over to the Minotaur. Crowded together in a corner of the hall were six youths and seven girls: stamping and tossing his horned head was the horrible monster, furious with hunger and the sight of human food. Between the Minotaur and his despairing prey stood Theseus, facing the monster, so that he, by being the first victim, might prolong the lives of the others. He had no hope: he could not even struggle, for his hands were bound behind him with cords.
The sight of his courage gave back Ariadne hers. She darted forward, and cut his bonds with her sword. "Fly!" she cried: "follow me—I have the clue!" But as soon as Theseus felt the touch of the steel, he seized the sword from her hand, and, instead of flying, set upon the Minotaur with such fury that the monster bellowed with rage, amazement, and pain.
It was the hardest fight Theseus had ever fought: the wild bull of Marathon had been nothing to the Minotaur, who fought with a bull's strength and a man's skill and cunning. But the champion of Athens prevailed at last: and the monster fell down dead with a groan which echoed through the Labyrinth like the bellowing of thunder.
"It will wake the whole city!" cried Ariadne: "follow me!" Theseus and his companions, scarce knowing that they were saved, followed Ariadne, who wound up the clue as she ran. When they reached the entrance-gate, the alarm of their escape had been given. Making straight for the shore, they found their black-sailed ship, sped on board, and, thanks to a kindly wind, were out at sea before they could be pursued.
The wind carried them to the island of Naxos: and here they remained—Theseus, Ariadne, and the rest—till the breeze should blow towards Athens. Such a breeze came in time; and then Theseus set sail for home with his thirteen companions, leaving Ariadne behind, to her great sorrow. Nor can anything make me believe that he meant this for a real parting, or that she thought so. One can think of many reasons why she should remain in Naxos for a while: it is quite certain that her powerful father Minos, who had already conquered the Athenians, and shown, by a cruel vengeance, how he hated them, would have attacked them again with all his fleets and armies if he had heard that they were giving shelter to a daughter who had betrayed him. So, leaving Ariadne safe in Naxos, Theseus returned to Athens as the savior of his city and the slayer of the Minotaur.
Meanwhile his father, Ægeus, had been every day and all day long looking out to sea from the farthest point of the shore for the return from Crete of the ship of mourning. He had but little hope, but nobody can help having a little: nor did he quite despair until one morning he saw on the horizon a vessel which he felt sure was the one he was watching for in such agony of mind. Nearer and nearer it came—alas! its sails were still as black as when it was outward bound. Theseus had forgotten to hoist the white sail which was to be the sign of safety.
So Ægeus, giving up his son for lost, threw himself into the sea and perished, just when Theseus was within sight of home. And that sea is called the Ægean, or the Sea of Ægeus, to this day. And thus Theseus, to the joy of the people, but with sorrow in his own heart, found himself king.
And the best of kings he made. The strength of his rule was only equaled by its gentleness. He made wise laws; he took care that all men received justice; he honored the gods; he obtained the respect and friendship of foreign nations; he taught the Athenians to be free, and to govern themselves, so that when he died they remained as great a people as while he was alive.
He sent for his mother, Æthra, and kept her in all love and honor. I wish I could tell you that he sent for Ariadne also. But he never had any other wife: and she was lost to him. There is a strange, mysterious story of how, when she was left sorrowing in Naxos, the god Bacchus (of whom you read in the First Story of Midas)—the god of the bounty of Nature and of the joy that men and women find in her—comforted Ariadne, and made her his bride, and raised her above the earth, giving her a crown of seven stars, which is still to be seen in the sky, and is called "Ariadne's Crown."
And there is a yet stranger story of how Theseus, after he was king, had the very wildest of all adventures—nothing less than an attempt to rescue from Hades the goddess Proserpine, and other imprisoned souls. But what happened to him there, and how he escaped the punishment of his daring, belongs to another story. It is as the hero and champion of Athens that he is remembered: and as such we will leave him.
WEEK 31 |
T HERE was once a King who had an illness, and no one believed that he would come out of it with his life. He had three sons who were much distressed about it, and went down into the palace-garden and wept. There they met an old man who inquired as to the cause of their grief. They told him that their father was so ill that he would most certainly die, for nothing seemed to cure him.
Then the old man said, "I know of one more remedy, and that is the water of life; if he drinks of it he will become well again; but it is hard to find."
The eldest said, "I will manage to find it," and went to the sick King, and begged to be allowed to go forth in search of the water of life, for that alone could save him.
"No," said the King, "the danger of it is too great. I would rather die." But he begged so long that the King consented. The prince thought in his heart, "If I bring the water, then I shall be best beloved of my father, and shall inherit the kingdom."
So he set out, and when he had ridden forth a little distance, a dwarf stood there in the road who called to him and said, "Whither away so fast?"
"Silly shrimp," said the prince, very haughtily, "it is nothing to do with you," and rode on.
But the little dwarf had grown angry, and had wished an evil wish. Soon after this the prince entered a ravine, and the further he rode the closer the mountains drew together, and at last the road became so narrow that he could not advance a step further; it was impossible either to turn his horse or to dismount from the saddle, and he was shut in there as if in prison.
The sick King waited long for him, but he came not.
Then the second son said, "Father, let me go forth to seek the water," and thought to himself, "If my brother is dead, then the kingdom will fall to me." At first the King would not allow him to go either, but at last he yielded, so the prince set out on the same road that his brother had taken, and he too met the dwarf, who stopped him to ask, whither he was going in such haste?
"Little shrimp," said the prince, "that is nothing to thee," and rode on without giving him another look. But the dwarf bewitched him, and he, like the other, rode into a ravine, and could neither go forwards nor backwards. So fare haughty people.
As the second son also remained away, the youngest begged to be allowed to go forth to fetch the water, and at last the King was obliged to let him go. When he met the dwarf and the latter asked him whither he was going in such haste, he stopped, gave him an explanation, and said, "I am seeking the water of life, for my father is sick unto death."
"Dost thou know, then, where that is to be found?"
"No," said the prince.
"As thou hast borne thyself as is seemly, and not haughtily like thy false brothers, I will give thee the information and tell thee how thou mayst obtain the water of life. It springs from a fountain in the courtyard of an enchanted castle, but thou wilt not be able to make thy way to it, if I do not give thee an iron wand and two small loaves of bread. Strike thrice with the wand on the iron door of the castle and it will spring open: inside lie two lions with gaping jaws, but if thou throwest a loaf to each of them, they will be quieted. Then hasten to fetch some of the water of life before the clock strikes twelve, else the door will shut again, and thou wilt be imprisoned."
The prince thanked him, took the wand and the bread, and set out on his way.
When he arrived, everything was as the dwarf had said. The door sprang open at the third stroke of the wand, and when he had appeased the lions with the bread, he entered the castle, and came to a large and splendid hall, wherein sat some enchanted princes whose rings he drew off their fingers. A sword and a loaf of bread were lying there, which he carried away. After this, he entered a chamber, in which was a beautiful maiden who rejoiced when she saw him, kissed him, and told him that he had delivered her, and should have the whole of her kingdom, and that if he would return in a year their wedding should be celebrated; likewise she told him where the spring of the water of life was, and that he was to hasten and draw some of it before the clock struck twelve.
Then he went onwards, and at last entered a room where there was a beautiful newly-made bed, and as he was very weary, he felt inclined to rest a little. So he lay down and fell asleep.
When he awoke, it was striking a quarter to twelve. He sprang up in a fright, ran to the spring, drew some water in a cup which stood near, and hastened away. But just as he was passing through the iron door, the clock struck twelve, and the door fell to with such violence that it carried away a piece of his heel.
He, however, rejoicing at having obtained the water of life, went homewards, and again passed the dwarf. When the latter saw the sword and the loaf, he said, "With these thou hast won great wealth; with the sword thou canst slay whole armies, and the bread will never come to an end."
But the prince would not go home to his father without his brothers, and said, "Dear dwarf, canst thou not tell me where my two brothers are? They went out before I did in search of the water of life, and have not returned."
"They are imprisoned between two mountains," said the dwarf. "I have condemned them to stay there, because they were so haughty."
Then the prince begged until the dwarf released them; but he warned him, however, and said, "Beware of them, for they have bad hearts."
When his brothers came, he rejoiced, and told them how things had gone with him, that he had found the water of life and had brought a cupful away with him, and had rescued a beautiful princess, who was willing to wait a year for him, and then their wedding was to be celebrated and he would obtain a great kingdom.
After that they rode on together, and chanced upon a land where war and famine reigned, and the King already thought he must perish, for the scarcity was so great. Then the prince went to him and gave him the loaf, wherewith he fed and satisfied the whole of his kingdom, and then the prince gave him the sword also wherewith he slew the hosts of his enemies, and could now live in rest and peace. The prince then took back his loaf and his sword, and the three brothers rode on.
But after this they entered two more countries where war and famine reigned and each time the prince gave his loaf and his sword to the Kings, and had now delivered three kingdoms, and after that they went on board a ship and sailed over the sea.
During the passage, the two eldest conversed apart and said, "The youngest has found the water of life and not we, for that our father will give him the kingdom,—the kingdom which belongs to us, and he will rob us of all our fortune." They then began to seek revenge, and plotted with each other to destroy him. They waited until they found him fast asleep, then they poured the water of life out of the cup, and took it for themselves, but into the cup they poured salt sea-water.
Now therefore, when they arrived home, the youngest took his cup to the sick King in order that he might drink out of it, and be cured. But scarcely had he drunk a very little of the salt sea-water than he became still worse than before. And as he was lamenting over this, the two eldest brothers came, and accused the youngest of having intended to poison him, and said that they had brought him the true water of life, and handed it to him.
He had scarcely tasted it, when he felt his sickness departing, and became strong and healthy as in the days of his youth. After that they both went to the youngest, mocked him, and said, "You certainly found the water of life, but you have had the pain, and we the gain; you should have been sharper, and should have kept your eyes open. We took it from you whilst you were asleep at sea, and when a year is over, one of us will go and fetch the beautiful princess. But beware that you do not disclose aught of this to our father; indeed he does not trust you, and if you say a single word, you shall lose your life into the bargain, but if you keep silent, you shall have it as a gift."
The old King was angry with his youngest son, and thought he had plotted against his life. So he summoned the court together and had sentence pronounced upon his son, that he should be secretly shot. And once when the prince was riding forth to the chase, suspecting no evil, the King's huntsman had to go with him, and when they were quite alone in the forest, the huntsman looked so sorrowful that the prince said to him, "Dear huntsman, what ails you?"
The huntsman said, "I cannot tell you, and yet I ought."
Then the prince said, "Say openly what it is, I will pardon you."
"Alas!" said the huntsman, "I am to shoot you dead, the King has ordered me to do it."
Then the prince was shocked, and said, "Dear huntsman, let me live; there, I give you my royal garments; give me your common ones in their stead."
The huntsman said, "I will willingly do that, indeed I should not have been able to shoot you."
Then they exchanged clothes, and the huntsman returned home; the prince, however, went further into the forest.
After a time three waggons of gold and precious stones came to the King for his youngest son, which were sent by the three Kings who had slain their enemies with the prince's sword, and maintained their people with his bread, and who wished to show their gratitude for it.
The old King then thought, "Can my son have been innocent?" and said to his people, "Would that he were still alive, how it grieves me that I have suffered him to be killed!"
"He still lives," said the huntsman, "I could not find it in my heart to carry out your command," and told the King how it had happened.
Then a stone fell from the King's heart, and he had it proclaimed in every country that his son might return and be taken into favour again.
The princess, however, had a road made up to her palace which was quite bright and golden, and told her people that whosoever came riding straight along it to her, would be the right wooer and was to be admitted, and whoever rode by the side of it, was not the right one, and was not to be admitted.
As the time was now close at hand, the eldest thought he would hasten to go to the King's daughter, and give himself out as her deliverer, and thus win her for his bride, and the kingdom to boot. Therefore he rode forth, and when he arrived in front of the palace, and saw the splendid golden road, he thought, it would be a sin and a shame if he were to ride over that, and turned aside, and rode on the right side of it.
But when he came to the door, the servants told him that he was not the right man, and was to go away again.
Soon after this the second prince set out, and when he came to the golden road, and his horse had put one foot on it, he thought, it would be a sin and a shame to tread a piece of it off, and he turned aside and rode on the left side of it, and when he reached the door, the attendants told him he was not the right one, and he was to go away again.
When at last the year had entirely expired, the third son likewise wished to ride out of the forest to his beloved, and with her forget his sorrows.
So he set out and thought of her so incessantly, and wished to be with her so much, that he never noticed the golden road at all. So his horse rode onwards up the middle of it, and when he came to the door, it was opened and the princess received him with joy, and said he was her deliverer, and lord of the kingdom, and their wedding was celebrated with great rejoicing.
When it was over she told him that his father invited him to come to him, and had forgiven him. So he rode thither, and told him everything; how his brothers had betrayed him, and how he had nevertheless kept silence. The old King wished to punish them, but they had put to sea, and never came back as long as they lived.
A NTS live in nests, made in the earth. We call them ant-hills, from the shape of the part that is above ground. It is the queen ant who begins to build the ant-hill.
The New Home
Like the mother wasp, the ant works on her nest until enough ants grow up to do all the work. After that, like the queen bee, she does no work. The work ants will not allow her to go from home.
When the ant finds a place for her home, how does she take off her wings? They would be in her way while she worked. She presses the edge of a wing upon the ground and so pushes it up and loosens the hook, just as you unhook a dress. Then she begins to dig. She acts at first much as your dog does when he digs after a chipmunk or a rabbit.
The ant lays her big head close to the ground. With her fore-feet she digs up the soil, and tosses it back between her hind legs. She digs as her cousin, Mrs. Wasp, digs.
She keeps waving her little feelers, as if to find out the kind of soil. Soon she has a hole deep enough to cover her body. It is too deep for her to throw out the dirt with her feet. Now she uses her feet, and her jaws, also, to dig with.
Sappers and Miners
Where the soil is sandy, she takes it out, grain by grain. At first, she must back out of her hole. Soon her hall-way is so wide that she can turn about after she has backed a few steps.
Ants are very kind to each other in their work. If they push or tread on each other in their haste, they never fight about it.
The ants know how to work and how to rest. After a little hard work they stop, clean their bodies, take some food, and sleep.
As the making of the hall goes on, the ants bite off with their jaws bits of dirt, and roll them up with their feet. They soon use the hind part of the body to press and push the earth into a firm ball. These balls are carried out and laid by the door. By degrees the balls form the "ant-hill."
When the hall is two or three inches long, they make a room. Then they make more halls and more rooms. The rooms are for eggs, for larvæ, for pupæ, and for food.
Sappers and Miners
People who have studied much about ants have had them build nests in glass jars. Thus they have been able to see how they work.
To make a room, the ants often have to stand on their hind legs, and bite the earth off, as they reach up their heads. Sometimes the ant lies on its side, to clean off or smooth the side wall. They have been seen at work, lying on their backs, as men do in mines.
The jaws of the ant have tiny teeth. In old work ants the teeth are often quite worn off. The feet and jaws of the ant are well made for digging. The feet have small hairs. By the aid of these the ants can run up a piece of glass, or hang on a wall, as you would say, "upside down."
An ant-hill is made of very many little halls and rooms. Some open into each other; some do not. The rooms are bedrooms, nurseries, pantries, and dining rooms. Many of the rooms are shaped like a horseshoe. Some are round.
The ants press and knead the floors and walls to make them hard and smooth. Sometimes they line them with a sticky soil, like paste, to keep the earth from falling in.
Some ants seem to make a kind of glue, or varnish, with which they line their walls.
The fairies have never a penny to spend,
They haven't a thing put by,
But theirs is the dower of bird and flower
And theirs is the earth and sky.
And though you should live in a palace of gold
Or sleep in a dried up ditch,
You could never be as poor as the fairies are,
And never be as rich.
Since ever and ever the world began
They danced like a ribbon of flame,
They have sung their song through the centuries long,
And yet it is never the same.
And though you be foolish or though you be wise,
With hair of silver or gold,
You can never be as young as the fairies are,
And never be as old.
WEEK 31 |
II Kings xxi: 1, to xxiii: 25;
II Chronicles xxxiii: 1, to xxxv: 27.
ANASSEH, the fourteenth king of Judah, followed the sins of his grandfather Ahaz, and not the good deeds of his father Hezekiah. He was only twelve years old when he began to reign, too young for so great a care as the kingdom; and in his youth he turned away from the teachings of the prophet Isaiah and from the service of the Lord. He built again the altars to Baal and the Asherah, which his father Hezekiah had thrown down; he worshipped the sun, and moon, and stars; he set up images even in the Temple, the house of the Lord. When Manasseh grew older, and had children of his own, he made them go through the fire, seeking to please the false gods. He would not listen to the prophets whom the Lord sent to warn him; and there is reason to believe,—though the Bible does not say it,—that he put to death the good prophet Isaiah.
And Manasseh in his wickedness reigned a long time, longer than any of the wicked kings who had gone before him; so that he led his people further away from God than even Ahaz, who had been as wicked as Manasseh. Because of Manasseh's sins, and the sins of his people, the Lord brought upon the land the generals of the Assyrian army with their host. They took Manasseh a prisoner, and bound him with chains, and carried him to the city of Babylon, where the king of Assyria was then living. There Manasseh was kept a prisoner for a time.
While he was in prison Manasseh saw how wicked he had been, and he sought the Lord. He prayed to be forgiven for his sins, and the Lord heard him. Afterward, the king of Assyria allowed Manasseh to rule over his land again. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was the only true God; and from that time he worshipped the Lord only. He took the altars and the images of the false gods out of the Temple, and built again the altar of the Lord, and caused the offerings to be laid upon it. He commanded his people to worship the Lord, and to leave the idols; but they had gone too far to come back, and only a few of them followed their king's example in seeking the Lord. He could easily lead his people into sin, but he could not bring them back to God.
After a long reign of fifty-five years Manasseh died, and his son Amon became king. He reigned only two years, but they were years of wickedness and of worshipping idols. Then his servants in his own house killed Amon; but the people killed them in turn, and made his son Josiah king.
Josiah, the sixteenth king, was only eight years old when his father Amon was slain. At first he was too young to rule over the land, and the princes of his court governed in his name. But when Josiah was sixteen years old he chose the Lord God of his father David, the God whom Hezekiah had worshipped; and he served the Lord more fully than any of the kings who had gone before him. When he was twenty years old, he began to clear away the idols and the idol-temples from the land of Judah. He did this work more thoroughly than it had ever been done before, by Jehoshaphat or by Hezekiah; for he left in all the land not a single place where idols were worshipped. He went even beyond his own borders, into the land that had been the land of Israel, from which most of the people had been carried away captive long before: and in every place he broke down the altars, and burned the images, and even dug up the bones of the idol-priests, and burned them with their images.
He came to Bethel, twelve miles north of Jerusalem, where Jeroboam of Israel had built the temple for the worship of the golden calves, two hundred years before. (See Story 75.) There, as he was burning the bones of the idol-priests upon the ruins of their own altars, he found a tomb, and asked who was buried there. They said, "This is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah, and warned King Jeroboam of one who would do these very things that you are doing."
"Let his bones rest," said King Josiah. "Let no man touch the bones of the prophet."
While the men of King Josiah were at work in the Temple on Mount Moriah, taking away the idols, and making the house pure once more, they found an old book, written upon rolls of leather. It was the book of the law of the Lord, given by Moses, but it had been hidden so long that men had forgotten it. They brought the book, and read from it aloud to the king.
The words of the law are read before the king.
And when King Josiah heard the words of the law, and
the warning of the woes that were to come upon the
people for disobeying them, the king was filled with
alarm. He said to the rulers: "Go and ask of the Lord
for me and for all the people. Great is the anger of
the Lord against us, because our fathers have disobeyed
the words of the Lord written in this book." They
sought for a prophet to give them the word of the Lord,
and they found a woman named Huldah, living in
Jerusalem, to whom the word of the Lord came. She was
called "a prophetess," and they brought to her the
message of King Josiah. And the prophetess Huldah said
to them, "Thus saith the Lord,
the God of Israel, 'Go and tell the man who has sent
you, Behold, I will bring evil on this place and on the
people living in it, because they have forsaken the
Lord and have worshipped other gods. My anger will fall
upon this city and upon this land. But because King
Josiah has sought the Lord, and has done God's will,
and has called upon the Lord, therefore the Lord says
that he will hold back his anger against this city and
this land as long as Josiah lives, and he shall go down
to his grave before all these evils come upon Judah and
When Josiah heard this he called all the princes and the priests and the people to meet in the Temple of the Lord. There the king stood by a pillar and read to all the people the words of the book that had been found. Then the king and all his people made a promise to serve the Lord and to do his will, and to keep his law with all their hearts. And this promise they kept while Josiah lived; but that was only a few years.
All this time the kingdom of Judah, like all the kingdoms around, was a part of the greater kingdom or empire of Assyria. But the great kings of Assyria had passed away, and now the kingdom or empire of Assyria was becoming weak and falling apart. Pharaoh-nechoh, the king of Egypt, went to war with the Assyrians, and on his way passed through the land of Judah and what had once been Israel before its people were carried away captive. Josiah thought that as the king of Assyria was his over-lord, he must fight against the king of Egypt, who was coming against him.
Pharaoh-nechoh, the king of Egypt, sent a message to King Josiah, saying, "I have nothing against you, O king of Judah, and I am not coming to make war on you, but on the king of Assyria. God has sent me, and commanded me to make haste. Do not stand in my way, or you may be destroyed."
But Josiah would not heed the message of the king of Egypt. He went out against him with his army, and met him in battle on the great plain of Esdraelon, where so many battles had been fought before and have been fought since. There the Egyptians won a victory, and in the fight the archers shot King Josiah. He died in his chariot, and they brought his dead body to Jerusalem. And all the land mourned and wept for the king whom they loved because he had ruled wisely and well. And with the good King Josiah died the last hope of the kingdom of Judah.
One fine morning the Rat, whose turn it was to go on duty, went upstairs to relieve Badger, whom he found fidgeting to be off and stretch his legs in a long ramble round his wood and down his earths and burrows. "Toad's still in bed," he told the Rat, outside the door. "Can't get much out of him, except, 'O leave him alone, he wants nothing, perhaps he'll be better presently, it may pass off in time, don't be unduly anxious,' and so on. Now, you look out, Rat! When Toad's quiet and submissive and playing at being the hero of a Sunday-school prize, then he's at his artfullest. There's sure to be something up. I know him. Well, now, I must be off."
"How are you to-day, old chap?" inquired the Rat cheerfully, as he approached Toad's bedside.
He had to wait some minutes for an answer. At last a feeble voice replied, "Thank you so much, dear Ratty! So good of you to inquire! But first tell me how you are yourself, and the excellent Mole?"
"O, we're all right," replied the Rat. "Mole," he added incautiously, "is going out for a run round with Badger. They'll be out till luncheon time, so you and I will spend a pleasant morning together, and I'll do my best to amuse you. Now jump up, there's a good fellow, and don't lie moping there on a fine morning like this!"
"Dear, kind Rat," murmured Toad, "how little you realise my condition, and how very far I am from 'jumping up' now—if ever! But do not trouble about me. I hate being a burden to my friends, and I do not expect to be one much longer. Indeed, I almost hope not."
"Well, I hope not, too," said the Rat heartily. "You've been a fine bother to us all this time, and I'm glad to hear it's going to stop. And in weather like this, and the boating season just beginning! It's too bad of you, Toad! It isn't the trouble we mind, but you're making us miss such an awful lot."
"I'm afraid it is the trouble you mind, though," replied the Toad languidly. "I can quite understand it. It's natural enough. You're tired of bothering about me. I mustn't ask you to do anything further. I'm a nuisance, I know."
"You are, indeed," said the Rat. "But I tell you, I'd take any trouble on earth for you, if only you'd be a sensible animal."
"If I thought that, Ratty," murmured Toad, more feebly than ever, "then I would beg you—for the last time, probably—to step round to the village as quickly as possible—even now it may be too late—and fetch the doctor. But don't you bother. It's only a trouble, and perhaps we may as well let things take their course."
"Why, what do you want a doctor for?" inquired the Rat, coming closer and examining him. He certainly lay very still and flat, and his voice was weaker and his manner much changed.
"Surely you have noticed of
"Look here, old man," said the Rat, beginning to get rather alarmed, "of course I'll fetch a doctor to you, if you really think you want him. But you can hardly be bad enough for that yet. Let's talk about something else."
"I fear, dear friend," said Toad, with a sad smile, "that 'talk' can do little in a case like this—or doctors either, for that matter; still, one must grasp at the slightest straw. And, by the way—while you are about it—I hate to give you additional trouble, but I happen to remember that you will pass the door—would you mind at the same time asking the lawyer to step up? It would be a convenience to me, and there are moments—perhaps I should say there is a moment—when one must face disagreeable tasks, at whatever cost to exhausted nature!"
"A lawyer! O, he must be really bad!" the affrighted Rat said to himself, as he hurried from the room, not forgetting, however, to lock the door carefully behind him.
Outside, he stopped to consider. The other two were far away, and he had no one to consult.
"It's best to be on the safe side," he said, on reflection. "I've known Toad fancy himself frightfully bad before, without the slightest reason; but I've never heard him ask for a lawyer! If there's nothing really the matter, the doctor will tell him he's an old ass, and cheer him up; and that will be something gained. I'd better humour him and go; it won't take very long." So he ran off to the village on his errand of mercy.
The Toad, who had hopped lightly out of bed as soon as he heard the key turned in the lock, watched him eagerly from the window till he disappeared down the carriage-drive. Then, laughing heartily, he dressed as quickly as possible in the smartest suit he could lay hands on at the moment, filled his pockets with cash which he took from a small drawer in the dressing-table, and next, knotting the sheets from his bed together and tying one end of the improvised rope round the central mullion of the handsome Tudor window which formed such a feature of his bedroom, he scrambled out, slid lightly to the ground, and, taking the opposite direction to the Rat, marched off lightheartedly, whistling a merry tune.
It was a gloomy luncheon for Rat when the Badger and the Mole at length returned, and he had to face them at table with his pitiful and unconvincing story. The Badger's caustic, not to say brutal, remarks may be imagined, and therefore passed over; but it was painful to the Rat that even the Mole, though he took his friend's side as far as possible, could not help saying, "You've been a bit of a duffer this time, Ratty! Toad, too, of all animals!"
"He did it awfully well," said the crestfallen Rat.
"He did you awfully well!" rejoined the Badger hotly. "However, talking won't mend matters. He's got clear away for the time, that's certain; and the worst of it is, he'll be so conceited with what he'll think is his cleverness that he may commit any folly. One comfort is, we're free now, and needn't waste any more of our precious time doing sentry-go. But we'd better continue to sleep at Toad Hall for a while longer. Toad may be brought back at any moment—on a stretcher, or between two policemen."
So spoke the Badger, not knowing what the future held in store, or how much water, and of how turbid a character, was to run under bridges before Toad should sit at ease again in his ancestral Hall.
Meanwhile, Toad, gay and irresponsible, was walking briskly along the high road, some miles from home. At first he had taken by-paths, and crossed many fields, and changed his course several times, in case of pursuit; but now, feeling by this time safe from recapture, and the sun smiling brightly on him, and all Nature joining in a chorus of approval to the song of self-praise that his own heart was singing to him, he almost danced along the road in his satisfaction and conceit.
"Smart piece of work that!" he remarked to himself chuckling. "Brain against brute force—and brain came out on the top—as it's bound to do. Poor old Ratty! My! won't he catch it when the Badger gets back! A worthy fellow, Ratty, with many good qualities, but very little intelligence and absolutely no education. I must take him in hand some day, and see if I can make something of him."
Filled full of conceited thoughts such as these he strode along, his head in the air, till he reached a little town, where the sign of "The Red Lion," swinging across the road half-way down the main street, reminded him that he had not breakfasted that day, and that he was exceedingly hungry after his long walk. He marched into the Inn, ordered the best luncheon that could be provided at so short a notice, and sat down to eat it in the coffee-room.
He was about half-way through his meal when an only too familiar sound, approaching down the street, made him start and fall a-trembling all over. The poop-poop! drew nearer and nearer, the car could be heard to turn into the inn-yard and come to a stop, and Toad had to hold on to the leg of the table to conceal his over-mastering emotion. Presently the party entered the coffee-room, hungry, talkative, and gay, voluble on their experiences of the morning and the merits of the chariot that had brought them along so well. Toad listened eagerly, all ears, for a time; at last he could stand it no longer. He slipped out of the room quietly, paid his bill at the bar, and as soon as he got outside sauntered round quietly to the inn-yard. "There cannot be any harm," he said to himself, "in my only just looking at it!"
The car stood in the middle of the yard, quite unattended, the stable-helps and other hangers-on being all at their dinner. Toad walked slowly round it, inspecting, criticising, musing deeply.
"I wonder," he said to himself presently, "I wonder if this sort of car starts easily?"
Next moment, hardly knowing how it came about, he found he had hold of the handle and was turning it. As the familiar sound broke forth, the old passion seized on Toad and completely mastered him, body and soul. As if in a dream he found himself, somehow, seated in the driver's seat; as if in a dream, he pulled the lever and swung the car round the yard and out through the archway; and, as if in a dream, all sense of right and wrong, all fear of obvious consequences, seemed temporarily suspended. He increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was only conscious that he was Toad once more, Toad at his best and highest, Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night. He chanted as he flew, and the car responded with sonorous drone; the miles were eaten up under him as he sped he knew not whither, fulfilling his instincts, living his hour, reckless of what might come to him.
"To my mind," observed the Chairman of the Bench of Magistrates cheerfully, "the only difficulty that presents itself in this otherwise very clear case is, how we can possibly make it sufficiently hot for the incorrigible rogue and hardened ruffian whom we see cowering in the dock before us. Let me see: he has been found guilty, on the clearest evidence, first, of stealing a valuable motor-car; secondly, of driving to the public danger; and, thirdly, of gross impertinence to the rural police. Mr. Clerk, will you tell us, please, what is the very stiffest penalty we can impose for each of these offences? Without, of course, giving the prisoner the benefit of any doubt, because there isn't any."
The Clerk scratched his nose with his pen. "Some people would consider," he
observed, "that stealing the motor-car was the worst offence; and so it is. But
cheeking the police undoubtedly carries the severest penalty; and so it ought.
Supposing you were to say twelve months for the theft, which is mild; and three
years for the furious driving, which is lenient; and fifteen years for the
cheek, which was pretty
bad sort of cheek, judging by what we've heard from the
witness-box, even if you only believe one-tenth part of what you heard, and I
never believe more myself—those figures, if added together correctly, tot up to
"First-rate!" said the Chairman.
"An excellent suggestion!" said the Chairman approvingly. "Prisoner! Pull yourself together and try and stand up straight. It's going to be twenty years for you this time. And mind, if you appear before us again, upon any charge whatever, we shall have to deal with you very seriously!"
Then the brutal minions of the law fell upon the hapless Toad; loaded him with chains, and dragged him from the Court House, shrieking, praying, protesting; across the marketplace, where the playful populace, always as severe upon detected crime as they are sympathetic and helpful when one is merely "wanted," assailed him with jeers, carrots, and popular catch-words; past hooting school children, their innocent faces lit up with the pleasure they ever derive from the sight of a gentleman in difficulties; across the hollow-sounding drawbridge, below the spiky portcullis, under the frowning archway of the grim old castle, whose ancient towers soared high overhead; past guardrooms full of grinning soldiery off duty, past sentries who coughed in a horrid, sarcastic way, because that is as much as a sentry on his post dare do to show his contempt and abhorrence of crime; up time-worn winding stairs, past men-at-arms in casquet and corselet of steel, darting threatening looks through their vizards; across courtyards, where mastiffs strained at their leash and pawed the air to get at him; past ancient warders, their halberds leant against the wall, dozing over a pasty and a flagon of brown ale; on and on, past the rack-chamber and the thumbscrew-room, past the turning that led to the private scaffold, till they reached the door of the grimmest dungeon that lay in the heart of the innermost keep. There at last they paused, where an ancient gaoler sat fingering a bunch of mighty keys.
"Oddsbodikins!" said the sergeant of police, taking off his helmet and wiping his forehead. "Rouse thee, old loon, and take over from us this vile Toad, a criminal of deepest guilt and matchless artfulness and resource. Watch and ward him with all thy skill; and mark thee well, greybeard, should aught untoward befall, thy old head shall answer for his—and a murrain on both of them!"
The gaoler nodded grimly, laying his withered hand on the shoulder of the miserable Toad. The rusty key creaked in the lock, the great door clanged behind them; and Toad was a helpless prisoner in the remotest dungeon of the best-guarded keep of the stoutest castle in all the length and breadth of Merry England.
Toad was a helpless prisoner in the remotest dungeon.
Now Harry Hippopotamus had such a heavy tread
That when he ran about the house his mother often said,
"Good gracious, Harry, softly, please! Your stamping hurts my head!
Besides, you'll wake the baby, who is fast asleep in bed!
Why, Harry, one would really think your feet were made of lead!"
I like to think that long ago a change was seen in Harry,
And he became as graceful and as lightsome and as airy
As any meadow butterfly or any woodland fairy! Who knows?
Perhaps the change has made his parents glad and merry.
(And yet, an agile hippo would be far from ordinary!)