WEEK 39 |
F OR some days past Fraülein Rottenmeier had gone about rather silently and as if lost in thought. As twilight fell, and she passed from room to room, or along the long corridors, she was seen to look cautiously behind her, and into the dark corners, as if she thought some one was coming silently behind her and might unexpectedly give her dress a pull. Nor would she now go alone into some parts of the house. If she visited the upper floor where the grand guest-chambers were, or had to go down into the large mysterious council-chamber, where every footstep echoed, and the old senators with their big white collars looked down so solemnly and immovably from their frames, she regularly called Tinette to accompany her, in case, as she said, there might be something to carry up or down. Tinette on her side did exactly the same; if she had business upstairs or down, she called Sebastian to accompany her, and there was always something he must help her with which she could not carry alone. More curious still, Sebastian, also, if sent into one of the more distant rooms, always called John to go with him in case he should want his assistance in bringing what was required. And John readily obeyed, although there was never anything to carry, and either might well have gone alone; but he did not know how soon he might want to ask Sebastian to do the same service for him. And while these things were going on upstairs, the cook, who had been in the house for years, would stand shaking her head over her pots and kettles, and sighing, "That ever I should live to know such a thing."
For something very strange and mysterious was going on in Herr Sesemann's house. Every morning, when the servants went downstairs, they found the front door wide open, although nobody could be seen far or near to account for it. During the first few days that this happened every room and corner was searched in great alarm, to see if anything had been stolen, for the general idea was that a thief had been hiding in the house and had gone off in the night with the stolen goods; but not a thing in the house had been touched, everything was safe in its place. The door was doubly locked at night, and for further security the wooden bar was fastened across it; but it was no good—next morning the door again stood open. The servants in their fear and excitement got up extra early, but not so early but what the door had been opened before they got downstairs, although everything and everybody around were still wrapped in slumber, and the doors and windows of the adjoining houses all fast shut. At last, after a great deal of persuasion from Fraülein Rottenmeier, Sebastian and John plucked up courage and agreed to sit up one night in the room next to the large council-chamber and to watch and see what would happen. Fraülein Rottenmeier looked up several weapons belonging to the master, and gave these and a bottle of spirits to Sebastian, so that their courage might not faint if it came to a fight.
On the appointed night the two sat down and began at once to take some of the strengthening cordial, which at first made them very talkative and then very sleepy, so that they leant back in their seats and became silent. As midnight struck, Sebastian roused himself and called to his companion, who, however, was not easy to wake, and kept rolling his head first to one side and then the other and continuing to sleep. Sebastian began to listen more attentively, for he was wide awake now. Everything was still as a mouse, all sound had died away from the streets even. He did not feel inclined to go to sleep again, for the stillness was ghostly to him, and he was afraid now to raise his voice to rouse John, so he shook him gently to make him stir. At last, as one struck, John woke up, and came back to the consciousness of why he was sitting in a chair instead of lying in his bed. He now got up with a great show of courage and said, "Come, Sebastian, we must go outside and see what is going on; you need not be afraid, just follow me."
Whereupon he opened the door wide and stepped into the hall. Just as he did so a sudden gust of air blew through the open front door and put out the light which John held in his hand. He started back, almost overturning Sebastian, whom he clutched and pulled back into the room, and then shutting the door quickly he turned the key as far as he could make it go. Then he pulled out his matches and lighted his candle again. Sebastian, in the suddenness of the affair, did not know exactly what had happened, for he had not seen the open door or felt the breeze behind John's broad figure. But now, as he saw the latter in the light, he gave a cry of alarm, for John was trembling all over and as white as a ghost. "What's the matter? What did you see, outside?" asked Sebastian sympathetically.
"The door partly open," gasped John, "and a white figure standing at the top of the steps—there it stood, and then all in a minute it disappeared."
Sebastian felt his blood run cold. The two sat down close to one another and did not dare move again till the morning broke and the streets began to be alive again. Then they left the room together, shut the front door, and went upstairs to tell Fraülein Rottenmeier of their experience. She was quite ready to receive them, for she had not been able to sleep at all in the anxiety of waiting to hear their report. They had no sooner given her details of the night's experience than she sat down and wrote straight off to Herr Sesemann, who had never received such a letter before in his life. She could hardly write, she told him, for her fingers were stiff with fear, and Herr Sesemann must please arrange to come back at once, for dreadful and unaccountable things were taking place at home. Then she entered into particulars of all that had happened, of how the door was found standing open every morning, and how nobody in the house now felt sure of their life in this unprotected state of things, and how it was impossible to tell what terrible results might follow on these mysterious doings.
Herr Sesemann answered that it was quite impossible for him to arrange to leave his business and return home at once. He was very much astonished at this ghost tale, but hoped by this time the ghost had disappeared. If, however, it still continued to disturb the household, would Fraülein Rottenmeier write to the grandmother and ask her if she could come and do something; she, he was sure, would soon find out a way to deal with the ghost so that it would not venture again to haunt his house. Fraülein Rottenmeier was not pleased with the tone of this letter; she did not think the matter was treated seriously enough. She wrote off without delay to Frau Sesemann, but got no more satisfactory reply from that quarter, and some remarks in the letter she considered were quite offensive. Frau Sesemann wrote that she did not feel inclined to take the journey again from Holstein to Frankfurt because Rottenmeier fancied she saw ghosts. There had never been a ghost in the house since she had known it, and if there was one now it must be a live one, with which Rottenmeier ought to be able to deal; if not she had better send for the watchman to help her.
Fraülein Rottenmeier, however, was determined not to pass any more days in a state of fear, and she knew the right course to pursue. She had as yet said nothing to the children of the ghostly apparitions, for she knew if she did that the children would not remain alone for a single moment, and that might entail discomfort for herself. But now she walked straight off into the study, and there, in a low mysterious voice, told the two children everything that had taken place. Clara immediately screamed out that she could not remain another minute alone, her father must come home, and Fraülein Rottenmeier must sleep in her room at night, and Heidi too must not be left by herself, for the ghost might do something to her. She insisted that they should all sleep together in one room and keep a light burning all night, and Tinette had better be in the next room, and Sebastian and John come upstairs and spend the night in the hall, so that they might call out and frighten the ghost the instant they saw it appear on the steps. Clara, in short, grew very excited, and Fraülein Rottenmeier had great difficulty in quieting her. She promised to write at once to her father, and to have her bed put in her room, and not to be left alone for a moment. They could not all sleep in the same room, but if Heidi was frightened, why Tinette must go into her room. But Heidi was far more frightened of Tinette than of ghosts, of which the child had never before heard, so she assured the others she did not mind the ghost, and would rather be alone at night.
Fraülein Rottenmeier now sat down to write another letter to Herr Sesemann, stating that these unaccountable things that were going on in the house had so affected his daughter's delicate constitution that the worst consequences might be expected. Epileptic fits and St. Vitus's dance often came on suddenly in cases like this, and Clara was liable to be attacked by either if the cause of the general alarm was not removed.
The letter was successful, and two days later Herr Sesemann stood at his front door and rang the bell in such a manner that everybody came rushing from all parts of the house and stood looking affrighted at everybody else, convinced that the ghost was impudently beginning its evil tricks in daylight. Sebastian peeped cautiously through a half-closed shutter; as he did so there came another violent ring at the bell, which it was impossible to mistake for anything but a very hard pull from a non-ghostly hand. And Sebastian recognised whose hand it was, and rushing pell-mell out of the room, fell heels over head downstairs, but picked himself up at the bottom and flung open the street door. Herr Sesemann greeted him abruptly and went up without a moment's delay into his daughter's room. Clara greeted him with a cry of joy, and seeing her so lively and apparently as well as ever, his face cleared, and the frown of anxiety passed gradually away from it as he heard from his daughter's own lips that she had nothing the matter with her, and moreover was so delighted to see him that she was quite glad about the ghost, as it was the cause of bringing him home again.
"And how is the ghost getting on?" he asked, turning to Fraülein Rottenmeier, with a twinkle of amusement in his eye.
"It is no joke, I assure you," replied that lady. "You will not laugh yourself to-morrow morning, Herr Sesemann; what is going on in the house points to some terrible thing that has taken place in the past and been concealed."
"Well, I know nothing about that," said the master of the house, "but I must beg you not to bring suspicion on my worthy ancestors. And now will you kindly call Sebastian into the dining-room, as I wish to speak to him alone."
Herr Sesemann had been quite aware that Sebastian and Fraülein Rottenmeier were not on the best of terms, and he had his ideas about this scare.
"Come here, lad," he said as Sebastian appeared, "and tell me frankly—have you been playing at ghosts to amuse yourself at Fraülein Rottenmeier's expense?"
"No, on my honor, sir; pray, do not think it; I am very uncomfortable about the matter myself," answered Sebastian with unmistakable truthfulness.
"Well, if that is so, I will show you and John to-morrow morning how ghosts look in the daylight. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Sebastian, a great strong lad like you, to run away from a ghost! But now go and take a message to my old friend the doctor; give him my kind regards, and ask him if he will come to me to-night at nine o'clock without fail; I have come by express from Paris to consult him. I shall want him to spend the night here, so bad a case is it; so he will arrange accordingly. You understand?"
"Yes, sir," replied Sebastian, "I will see to the matter as you wish." Then Herr Sesemann returned to Clara, and begged her to have no more fear, as he would soon find out all about the ghost and put an end to it.
Punctually at nine o'clock, after the children had gone to bed and Fraülein Rottenmeier had retired, the doctor arrived. He was a gray-haired man with a fresh face, and two bright, kindly eyes. He looked anxious as he walked in, but, on catching sight of his patient, burst out laughing and clapped him on the shoulder. "Well," he said, "you look pretty bad for a person that I am to sit up with all night."
"Patience, friend," answered Herr Sesemann, "the one you have to sit up for will look a good deal worse when we have once caught him."
"So there is a sick person in the house, and one that has first to be caught?"
"Much worse than that, doctor! a ghost in the house! My house is haunted!"
The doctor laughed aloud.
"That's a nice way of showing sympathy, doctor!" continued Herr Sesemann. "It's a pity my friend Rottenmeier cannot hear you. She is firmly convinced that some old member of the family is wandering about the house doing penance for some awful crime he committed."
"How did she become acquainted with him?" asked the doctor, still very much amused.
So Herr Sesemann recounted to him how the front door was nightly opened by somebody, according to the testimony of the combined household, and he had therefore provided two loaded revolvers, so as to be prepared for anything that happened; for either the whole thing was a joke got up by some friend of the servants, just to alarm the household while he was away—and in that case a pistol fired into the air would procure him a wholesome fright—or else it was a thief, who, by leading everybody at first to think there was a ghost, made it safe for himself when he came later to steal, as no one would venture to run out if they heard him, and in that case too a good weapon would not be amiss.
The two took up their quarters for the night in the same room in which Sebastian and John had kept watch. A bottle of wine was placed on the table, for a little refreshment would be welcome from time to time if the night was to be passed sitting up. Beside it lay the two revolvers, and two good-sized candles had also been lighted, for Herr Sesemann was determined not to wait for ghosts in any half light.
The door was shut close to prevent the light being seen in the hall outside, which might frighten away the ghost. And now the two gentlemen sat comfortably back in the arm-chairs and began talking of all sorts of things, now and then pausing to take a good draught of wine, and so twelve o'clock struck before they were aware.
"The ghost has got scent of us and is keeping away to-night," said the doctor.
"Wait a bit, it does not generally appear before one o'clock," answered his friend.
They started talking again. One o'clock struck. There was not a sound about the house, nor in the street outside. Suddenly the doctor lifted his finger.
"Hush! Sesemann, don't you hear something?"
They both listened, and they distinctly heard the bar softly pushed aside and then the key turned in the lock and the door opened. Herr Sesemann put out his hand for his revolver.
"You are not afraid, are you?" said the doctor as he stood up.
"It is better to take precautions," whispered Herr Sesemann, and seizing one of the lights in his other hand, he followed the doctor, who, armed in like manner with a light and a revolver, went softly on in front. They stepped into the hall. The moonlight was shining in through the open door and fell on a white figure standing motionless in the doorway.
"Who is there?" thundered the doctor in a voice that echoed through the hall, as the two men advanced with lights and weapons towards the figure.
It turned and gave a low cry. There in her little white nightgown stood Heidi, with bare feet, staring with wild eyes at the lights and the revolvers, and trembling from head to foot like a leaf in the wind. The two men looked at one another in surprise.
"Why, I believe it is your little water-carrier, Sesemann," said the doctor.
"Child, what does this mean?" said Herr Sesemann. "What did you want? why did you come down here?"
White with terror, and hardly able to make her voice heard, Heidi answered, "I don't know."
But now the doctor stepped forward. "This is a matter for me to see to, Sesemann; go back to your chair. I must take the child upstairs to her bed."
And with that he put down his revolver and gently taking the child by the hand led her upstairs. "Don't be frightened," he said as they went up side by side, "it's nothing to be frightened about; it's all right, only just go quietly."
On reaching Heidi's room the doctor put the candle down on the table, and taking Heidi up in his arms laid her on the bed and carefully covered her over. Then he sat down beside her and waited until Heidi had grown quieter and no longer trembled so violently. He took her hand and said in a kind, soothing voice, "There, now you feel better, and now tell me where you were wanting to go to?"
"I did not want to go anywhere," said Heidi. "I did not know I went downstairs, but all at once I was there."
"I see, and had you been dreaming, so that you seemed to see and hear something very distinctly?"
"Yes, I dream every night, and always about the same things. I think I am back with the grandfather and I hear the sound in the fir trees outside, and I see the stars shining so brightly, and then I open the door quickly and run out, and it is all so beautiful! But when I wake I am still in Frankfurt." And Heidi struggled as she spoke to keep back the sobs which seemed to choke her.
"And have you no pain anywhere? no pain in your head or back?"
"No, only a feeling as if there were a great stone weighing on me here."
"As if you had eaten something that would not go down."
"No, not like that; something heavy as if I wanted to cry very much."
"I see, and then do you have a good cry?"
"Oh, no, I mustn't; Fraülein Rottenmeier forbade me to cry."
"So you swallow it all down, I suppose? Are you happy here in Frankfurt?"
"Yes," was the low answer; but it sounded more like "No."
"And where did you live with your grandfather?"
"Up on the mountain."
"That wasn't very amusing; rather dull at times, eh?"
"No, no, it was beautiful, beautiful!" Heidi could go no further; the remembrance of the past, the excitement she had just gone through, the long suppressed weeping, were too much for the child's strength; the tears began to fall fast, and she broke into violent weeping.
The doctor stood up and laid her head kindly down on the pillow. "There, there, go on crying, it will do you good, and then go to sleep; it will be all right to-morrow."
Then he left the room and went downstairs to Herr Sesemann; when he was once more sitting in the arm-chair opposite his friend, "Sesemann," he said, "let me first tell you that your little charge is a sleep-walker; she is the ghost who has nightly opened the front door and put your household into this fever of alarm. Secondly, the child is consumed with home-sickness, to such an extent that she is nearly a skeleton already, and soon will be quite one; something must be done at once. For the first trouble, due to her over-excited nerves, there is but one remedy, to send her back to her native mountain air; and for the second trouble there is also but one cure, and that the same. So to-morrow the child must start for home; there you have my prescription."
Herr Sesemann had arisen and now paced up and down the room in the greatest state of concern.
"What!" he exclaimed, "the child a sleep-walker and ill! Home-sick, and grown emaciated in my house! All this has taken place in my house and no one seen or known anything about it! And you mean, doctor, that the child who came here happy and healthy, I am to send back to her grandfather a miserable little skeleton? I can't do it; you cannot dream of my doing such a thing! Take the child in hand, do with her what you will, and make her whole and sound, and then she shall go home; but you must do something first."
"Sesemann," replied the doctor, "consider what you are doing! This illness of the child's is not one to be cured with pills and powders. The child has not a tough constitution, but if you send her back at once she may recover in the mountain air, if not—you would rather she went back ill than not at all?"
Herr Sesemann stood still; the doctor's words were a shock to him.
"If you put it so, doctor, there is assuredly only one way—and the thing must be seen to at once." And then he and the doctor walked up and down for a while arranging what to do, after which the doctor said good-bye, for some time had passed since they first sat down together, and as the master himself opened the hall door this time the morning light shone down through it into the house.
M ANY years ago there was a king of Prussia, whose name was Frederick; and because he was very wise and very brave, people called him Frederick the Great. Like other kings, he lived in a beautiful palace and had many officers and servants to wait upon him.
Among the servants there was a little page whose name was Carl. It was Carl's duty to sit outside of the king's bedroom and be ready to serve him at any time.
One night the king sat up very late, writing letters and sending messages; and the little page was kept busy running on errands until past midnight.
The next morning the king wished to send him on another errand. He rang the little bell which was used to call the page, but no page answered.
"I wonder what can have happened to the boy," he said; and he opened the door and looked out.
There, sitting in his chair, was Carl, fast asleep. The poor child was so tired after his night's work that he could not keep awake.
The king was about to waken him roughly, when he saw a piece of paper on the floor beside him. He picked it up and read it.
It was a letter from the page's
Dearest Carl: You are a good boy to send me all your wages, for now I can pay the rent and buy some warm clothing for your little sister. I thank you for it, and pray that God will bless you. Be faithful to the king and do your duty.
The king went back to the room on tiptoe. He took ten gold pieces from his table and wrapped them in the little letter. Then he went out again, very quietly, and slipped them all into the boy's pocket.
After a while he rang the bell again, very loudly.
Carl awoke with a start, and came quickly to answer the call.
"I think you have been asleep," said the king.
The boy stammered and did not know what to say. He was frightened and ready to cry.
He put his hand in his pocket, and was surprised to find the gold pieces wrapped in his mother's letter. Then his eyes overflowed with tears, and he fell on his knees before the king.
"What is the matter?" asked Frederick.
"Oh, your Majesty!" cried Carl. "Have mercy on me. It is true that I have been asleep, but I know nothing about this money. Some one is trying to ruin me."
"Have courage, my boy," said the king. "I know how you must have been overwearied with long hours of watching. And people say that fortune comes to us in our sleep. You may send the gold pieces to your mother with my compliments; and tell her that the king will take care of both her and you."
The Campbells are comin', Oho, Oho,
The Campbells are comin', Oho, Oho,
The Campbells are comin' to bonnie Lochleven,
The Campbells are comin', Oho, Oho!
Upon the Lomonds, I lay, I lay,
Upon the Lomonds, I lay, I lay,
I lookit down to bonnie Lochleven
And saw three bonnie perches play,
The Campbells are comin', Oho, Oho.
Great Argyle he goes before,
He makes his cannons and guns to roar;
Wi' sound o' trumpet, fife and drum,
The Campbells are comin', Oho, Oho!
The Campbells are comin', Oho, Oho.
The Campbells they are a' wi' arms,
Their loyal faith and truth to show,
Wi' banners rattlin' in the wind
The Campbells are comin', Oho, Oho
The Campbells are comin', Oho, Oho.
WEEK 39 |
I N far-off Palestine the army of the crusaders lay encamped before the town of Acre. The air was hot and stifling, the sun seemed a ball of fire hung in the still blue sky. Having put off his heavy armour for the sake of coolness Prince Edward lay within his tent, wearing only a long, loose robe of linen. He lay idle, thinking perhaps of the mighty deeds which his great-uncle, Richard Cœur de Lion, had done in this same place, eighty years before; wondering, too, if he would be able to do as great things.
Presently the curtains of the doorway parted. "My lord prince," said a soldier, bowing low, "the Emir of Jaffa hath sent his servant yet again. He craves to be admitted to your presence."
"I will receive him," replied the prince, and the soldier once more left the tent.
Edward had been fighting with the Emir of Jaffa, but now, pretending that he wished to become a Christian, this Emir sent daily messages and presents to the prince. And the prince, noble and honest himself, believed the Emir to be honest too.
In a few minutes the curtains of the doorway parted once more and the Emir's dark slave crept in. He bowed himself to the ground, then, kneeling humbly before the prince, drew out a letter.
Edward took the letter and, as the prince read, the slave crouched on the ground watching him with his bright dark eyes. Then slowly, slowly his brown hand crept to the belt of his white dress. So slowly it crept that it seemed hardly to move.
Suddenly, as quick as lightning, a keen bright blade flashed in the air and fell. But Edward, too, was quick and strong. He threw up his hand and caught upon it the blow which had been aimed at his heart. Then, springing from the couch, he overthrew the slave, and placing his foot upon the man's neck, wrenched the dagger from his grasp. In another moment the slave lay still and dead upon the sand. At the noise of the struggle, several frightened servants came running into the tent, and one of them, seeing the slave upon the sand, seized a stool, and dashed his brains out.
"Foolish man," said Prince Edward, "see you not that the slave is already dead? What you do is neither brave nor honourable, but the action of a coward."
Prince Edward's wound was slight, but the dagger had been a poisoned one. When his wife, the beautiful Princess Eleanor, heard of it, she hurried to her husband's tent. Before those about her knew what she meant to do, she knelt down and, putting her lips to the wound, sucked it. It was said that if the blood from a poisoned wound was sucked at once after the wound was made, the wounded person would not die. It was a brave thing for Princess Eleanor to do, for she might herself have died. But she loved Edward so much that she was willing to risk her own life. Yet the wound grew worse, and it seemed likely that Edward would die.
He was very calm and brave, and did not fear death, but tried to comfort his friends and servants, for they were all very sorrowful.
But the princess sat beside him weeping, and would not be comforted. Then, calling for parchment and ink, Prince Edward wrote down all that he wished to be done with his money and lands, after he was dead. This was called making his will.
Now a clever doctor came to the prince and said, "I think I can cure you, only you will have to suffer a great deal of pain."
"Do what you think best," said the prince, "and cure me if you can."
Then the princess threw herself upon him, crying bitterly, and would not let any one touch him. "I know you only want to hurt him more," she sobbed, "I cannot bear it."
But Edward gently put her away, "Hush, hush," he said, and gave her into his brother Edmund's arms.
"Do you love your lord and brother?" asked the doctor, turning to Edmund.
"Ay, that I do," replied he.
"Then take this lady away, and do not let her lord see her again until I tell you."
So Princess Eleanor was led away weeping.
"Ah, weep, lady," said Edmund gently. "It is better that you should weep than that all England should mourn."
But England did not mourn, for the doctor was clever, and in less than a fortnight Prince Edward was again quite well.
The false Emir sent messengers to Edward to say that he was sorry that the prince had been wounded, and was glad that he was better. But Edward no longer trusted the Emir. He looked gravely at the messengers. "You bow before me," he said, "but you do not love me, therefore go."
And they were allowed to go in peace. Although Edward's soldiers longed to be revenged upon them and kill them, the prince would not allow it.
After this Edward did not stay long in Palestine. He heard that his father was ill, so he made a ten years' peace with the Sultan, as the king of the Turks is called, and sailed back to England. On his way home he heard of his father's death. He knew that that meant he was now King of England, but he was very sad, for Edward had loved his father, although he could not help knowing that in many things he was foolish and untrustworthy.
T HE granite rocks with rounded corners that sit on Holiday Hill year after year seem like idle things. They have a settled look as if they had been there always and would stay forever.
That giant stone, the biggest one of them all—what has it ever done? On a hot summer day, it casts a shadow where children can play comfortably or where they can sit and read without the glare of sunshine in their eyes. On blustery days, the wind breaks against the rock, leaving a quiet place on one side of it.
Perhaps you may think that is enough for a great rock to do, to make a pleasant shelter from sun and wind. What else, indeed, can it ever have done than just sit still? You will feel better acquainted with Holiday Hill itself, I think, if you know something about that huge piece of granite which looks so steadfast and unchangeable.
For the old boulder has a story of its own quite as marvelous as the tale of anything else on the hill. And in spite of the rock's quiet way of sitting there, its story is one of travel and adventure and mystery.
The mystery was a matter that kept many wise men guessing for many years.
Granite rocks with rounded corners
Vast numbers of such boulders, large and small, may be found in different places all over the northeastern part of North America. And wherever they are, there are reasons to think that they have been brought from somewhere else.
For such boulders are quite likely to be some kind of rock that is different from the solid bedrock that lies under the soil in which the boulders rest. In many places the bedrock is limestone and yet the boulders, big and little, may be granite like those of Holiday Hill.
Although they are different from the bedrock of their locality, they are like the bedrock in some other region, often far away. Certain granite boulders are like the granite mountain tops a hundred miles or more distant.
Indeed, the boulders and the mountains are so much alike that men who studied them came to think that the boulders had been broken off the mountains and scattered about the country for many miles.
The shape of the boulders puzzled people, too. They are so much like huge pebbles with their rounded sides and ends.
Of course it is easy to understand why pebbles which are touched by moving water are without sharp corners. If they are on the seashore the waves splash over them and rub them together until they become smoother and smoother. And if the little stones are in the bed of a river they are pushed against one another by the swift water currents and their rough edges are rubbed down.
But how had the great heavy rocks, in the soil or on top of it, come to be similar in shape to the little stones in rivers and on the seashore? How had their corners been worn off?
The longer people studied boulders, the more they came to believe that the large rocks had their blunt edges, as the pebbles had, by being pushed against some hard objects. It was because they thought these big stones had been knocked or rolled or bowled from one place to another that they gave them the name of boulders.
You can see what a mystery this was. What could have broken the rocky tops of mountains? What could have carried the broken pieces of rock about the country and dropped them here and there?
At last a man found an answer to these questions. His name was Louis Agassiz. In another country he had seen some high rocky mountains that were covered by enormous, deep masses of ice and snow. He knew what happened when great bodies of ice, called glaciers, pushed slowly down the mountains.
Louis Agassiz knew, too, what such a glacier did while it moved. It broke off parts of the rocks beneath it. The rocks became embedded in the ice and were carried with it. A glacier was like a solid river of ice, hundreds of feet deep, pushing rocks and soil as it went slowly on its way. And as the ice melted, of course the embedded stones dropped to the ground beneath.
A glacier is a slow‑moving river of ice
It seemed to Louis Agassiz that the boulders and much of the soil in the northeastern part of North America looked like boulders and soil that had been carried by glaciers and dropped as the ice melted.
So he believed that once, long, long ago, the mountains in this part of our country were covered with enormous weights of ice and snow. He reasoned that glaciers from these must have pushed across the land, grinding off the hilltops, broadening the valleys and shoving rocks and soil from place to place. Then, finally, as the ice melted, the boulders were left wherever they chanced to drop.
The more men thought about what Louis Agassiz told them of the movements of glaciers, the more reasonable his answer to the boulder mystery seemed. And now you may find in certain books, accounts of how the travel-worn boulders were carried by moving ice.
So we understand that the ancient stone on Holiday Hill is one of many that came from some far mountain. After a long and remarkable journey, it was left there a stranger.
But the boulder is not a stranger, now. It has sat on the same hillside for no one knows how many hundreds of years, and it seems quite at home there.
Though its travels were over long ago, its adventures were not, for changes came to the old boulder of Holiday Hill from year to year.
Air and moisture acted upon the surface of the rock, season by season, crumbling bits of it somewhat as iron is rusted when left outdoors.
Rain and snow fell upon the stone and settled in its hollows. When the water froze in winter, the rock was cracked in places.
Dust and brown dry leaves were blown upon the boulder. Some of these were later washed into the cracks by rain and formed tiny beds of soil.
Seeds, brought by wind or birds or squirrels, fell on this soil and grew. The roots of the plants reached into the cracks and pushed as far as they could into the crumbled spots.
Fires swept over that part of the hill, burning dry leaves and woody stems and tree trunks and leaving ashes and charcoal near the boulder and blackening its sides with smoke. Perhaps lightning had started some of the fires. Perhaps others had spread from Indian camps.
Plants grew on the hillside that had been cleared by fires. They scattered their seeds and spread their roots until in time the black ground was hidden under green leaves.
There were other plants of a quite different sort touching the boulder. They spread like a mat over the rock and covered much of its surface. These were the greenish gray lichens that lay with their flat parts so close against the rock that it was hard to tell where lichen left off and stone began.
Lichens had been living on Holiday Boulder ever since some tiny spores from lichens on other rocks had floated through the air and settled on this one.
The spores were finer than dust you can see in the air, but they were not too small to hold life. Young lichens grew from them, as some other plants start from seeds. The lichens had acid in them that softened the surface in which they grew. So they were able to get a firmer and firmer hold on the particles of rock to which they clung. They gave the rounded sides of the great stone a soft and lovely color.
One plant grew from a crevice in the very top of the boulder. It was a very large plant to be growing out of so narrow a crack. It was, indeed, a pine tree nearly twenty feet tall, and it was old enough to have cones with seeds.
Lichens covered the sides of Holiday Boulder and a pine tree grew in a crack at its top
Had that pine tree sprouted from a seed that had been blown to the top of the boulder years ago? Or had a bird perched there and dropped it? Or had a squirrel chosen that crack for a pantry and filled it with pine seeds, one of which had sprouted and grown?
You may ask that old giant rock as many questions as you like. But Holiday Boulder will be silent. It has no memory of any pine seed that was placed in its crevice. It does not feel the roots of the tree that are even now crowding against the sides of the crack. It does not know that blueberry bushes are brushing its surface with their branches and pushing their stems through its crumbling granite base. It does not feel the touch of the acid lichens or sense the difference between fire and frost.
Yes, you may question that ancient stone; but it has no knowledge of any of the events in all the marvelous story of its existence. Not even of that strange and icy journey that took place during those years before it came to sit on Holiday Hill!
I am a cloud in the heaven's height,
The stars are lit for my delight,
Tireless and changeful, swift and free,
I cast my shadow on hill and sea—
But why do the pines on the mountain's crest
Call to me always, "Rest, rest"?
I throw my mantle over the moon
And I blind the sun on his throne at noon,
Nothing can tame me, nothing can bind,
I am a child of the heartless wind—
But oh the pines on the mountain's crest
Whispering always, "Rest, rest."
WEEK 39 |
A LL the way to school the next morning Peter Rabbit did his best to guess who it might be that they were to learn about that day. "Old Mother Nature said that he is related to some one who lives in Farmer Brown's barnyard," said Peter to himself. "Now who can it be?" But try as he would, Peter couldn't think of any one. He asked Jumper the Hare if he had guessed who it could be. Jumper shook his head.
"I haven't the least idea," said he. "You know I seldom leave the Green Forest and I never have been over to that barnyard in my life, so of course I don't know who lives there."
Danny Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse were no wiser, nor was Johnny Chuck. But Chatterer the Red Squirrel, it was plain to see, was quite sure he knew who it was. Chatterer had been over to Farmer Brown's so often to steal corn from the corn crib that he knew all about that barnyard and who lived there. But though Peter and the others teased him to tell them he wouldn't.
So when Old Mother Nature asked who had guessed to whom she had referred Chatterer was the only one to reply. "I think you must have meant the Pig who is always rooting about and grunting in that barnyard," said he.
"Your guess is right, Chatterer," she replied, smiling at the little
He is called Wild Pig and Muskhog.
"He is a true Pig and in shape resembles that lazy, fat fellow in Farmer Brown's barnyard when he was little. You would know him for a Pig right away if you should see him. But in every other way excepting his habit of rooting up the ground with his nose, he is a wholly different fellow. For one thing his legs, though short, are more slender and he is a fast runner. There isn't a lazy bone in him, and he is too active to grow fat.
"His head is large and his nose long, and his tail is almost no tail at all; it is just a little rounded knob, as if he had at one time had a tail and it had been cut off. His hair is coarse and stiff, the kind of hair called bristles. From the back of his head along his back the bristles are long and stout. They are black at the tips so that he appears to have a black back. When Piggy is angry he raises these long bristles so that they stand straight up and this gives him a very fierce appearance.
"His color is so dark a gray that at a distance he appears black. Indeed he is black on many parts of him. Just back of the neck a whitish band crosses the shoulders, and this is why he is called the Collared Peccary. You see he seems to be wearing a collar. On each jaw are two great pointed teeth called tusks, the two upper ones so long that they project beyond the lips. These tusks are Piggy's weapons, and very good ones they are.
"The home of Piggy the Peccary is in the hot southwestern part of this country, where live Jaguar and Ocelot, the beautiful spotted members of the Cat family. They are two of his enemies. He never likes to be alone, but lives with a band of his friends and they roam about together. He is found on the plains and among low hills, in swamps and dense forests, and among the thickets of cactus and other thorny plants that grow in dry regions. Plenty of food and shelter from the hot sun seem to be the main things with Piggy."
"What does he eat?" asked Peter Rabbit.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "It would be easier, Peter, to tell you what he doesn't eat," said she. "He eats everything eatable, nuts, fruits, seeds, roots and plants of various kinds, insects, Frogs, Lizards, Snakes and any small animals he can catch. Sometimes he does great damage to gardens and crops planted by man. He delights to root in the earth with his nose and often turns over much ground in this way, searching for roots good to eat.
"On the lower part of his back he carries a little bag of musky
scent, and from this he gets the name of Muskhog. While as a rule
he wisely runs from danger, he is no coward, and will fight fiercely
when cornered. His friends at once rush to help him and surround the
enemy, who is usually glad to climb a tree to escape their gnashing
tusks. However, he is not the fierce animal he has been reported to
be, ready to attack unprovoked. He will run away if he can. Mr. and
"This is the last of the hoofed animals and the last but one of the land animals of this great country, so you see we are almost to the end of school. This last one is perhaps the queerest of all. It is Hardshell the Armadillo, and belongs to the order of Edentata, which means toothless."
"Do you mean to say that there are animals with no teeth at all?" asked Happy Jack Squirrel, looking as if he couldn't believe such a thing.
Old Mother Nature nodded. "That is just what I mean," said she. "There are animals without any teeth, though not in this country, and others with so few teeth that they have been put in the same order with the wholly toothless ones. Hardshell the Armadillo is one of these. He has no teeth at all in the front of his mouth and such teeth as he has got do not amount to much."
This is the nine‑banded Armadillo of the southwest.
"But why do you call him Hardshell?" asked Peter impatiently.
"Because instead of a coat of fur he wears a coat of shell," replied Old Mother Nature, and then laughed right out at the funny expressions on the faces before her. It was quite clear that Peter and his friends were having hard work to believe she was in earnest. They suspected her of joking.
"Do—do you mean that he lives in a sort of house that he carries with him like Spotty the Turtle?" ventured Peter.
"It is a shell, but not like that of Spotty," explained Old Mother Nature. "Spotty's shell is all one piece, but the Armadillo's shell is jointed, so that he can roll up like a ball. Spotty isn't a mammal, as are all of you and all those we have been learning about, but is a reptile. Hardshell the Armadillo, on the other hand, is a true mammal."
"Well, all I can say is that he must be a mighty queer looking fellow," declared Peter.
"He is," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is about the size of Unc' Billy Possum, and if you can imagine a pig of about that size with very short legs, a long tapering tail, feet with toes and long claws and a shell covering his whole body, the front of his face and even his tail, you will have something of an idea what he looks like.
"He lives down in the hot Southwest where Piggy the Peccary lives.
His coat of shell is yellowish in color and is divided in the middle
of his body into nine narrow bands or joints. Because of this he
is called the
Hardshell's head is very long and he carries it pointed straight down. His small eyes are set far back, and at the top of his head are rather large upright ears. The shell of his tail is divided into many jointed rings so that he can move it at will.
"His tongue is long and sticky. This is so that he can run it out for some distance and sweep up the Ants and insects on which he largely lives. His eyesight and hearing are not very good, and having such a heavy, stiff coat he is a poor runner. But he is a good digger. This means, of course, that he makes his home in a hole in the ground. When frightened he makes for this, but if overtaken by an enemy he rolls up into a ball and is safe from all save those with big and strong enough teeth to break through the joints of his shell. He eats some vegetable matter and is accused of eating the eggs of ground-nesting birds, and of dead decayed flesh he may find. However, his food consists chiefly of Ants, insects of various kinds, and worms. He is a harmless little fellow and interesting because he is so queer. He is sometimes killed and eaten by man and his flesh is considered very good. He has from four to eight babies in the early spring. The baby Armadillo has a soft, tough skin instead of a shell, and as it grows it hardens until by the time it is fully grown it has become a shell.
"Now this finishes the lessons about the land animals or mammals.
There are other mammals who live in the ocean, which is the salt
water which surrounds the land, and which, I guess, none of you
have ever seen. Some of these come on
shore and some never do.
"We do! Of course we do!" cried Peter Rabbit, and it is plain that he spoke for all.
"Will you walk into my parlor?"
Said a spider to a fly;
" 'Tis the prettiest little parlor
That ever you did spy.
The way into my parlor
Is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things
To show you when you are there."
"Oh no, no!" said the little fly,
"To ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair,
Can ne'er come down again."
"I'm sure you must be weary
With soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?"
Said the spider to the fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around,
The sheets are fine and thin;
And if you like to rest awhile,
I'll snugly tuck you in."
"Oh no, no!" said the little fly,
"For I've often heard it said,
They never, never wake again,
Who sleep upon your bed."
Said the cunning spider to the fly,
"Dear friend, what shall I do,
To prove the warm affection,
I've always felt for you?
I have, within my pantry,
Good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome—
Will you please to take a slice?"
"Oh no, no!" said the little fly,
"Kind sir, that cannot be;
I've heard what's in your pantry,
And I do not wish to see."
"Sweet creature," said the spider,
"You're witty and you're wise;
How handsome are your gauzy wings,
How brilliant are your eyes.
I have a little looking-glass
Upon my parlor shelf;
If you'll step in one moment, dear,
You shall behold yourself."
"I thank you, gentle sir," she said,
"For what you're pleased to say,
And bidding you good-morning, now,
I'll call another day."
The spider turned him round about,
And went into his den,
For well he knew the silly fly
Would soon be back again;
So he wove a subtle thread
In a little corner sly,
And set his table ready
To dine upon the fly.
He went out to his door again,
And merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty fly,
With the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple,
There's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright,
But mine are dull as lead."
Alas, alas! how very soon
This silly little fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words,
Came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft,
Then near and nearer drew—
Thought only of her brilliant eyes,
And green and purple hue;
Thought only of her crested head—
Poor foolish thing! At last
Up jumped the cunning spider,
And fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair,
Into his dismal den,
Within his little parlor—but
She ne'er came out again!
And now, dear little children,
Who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words,
I pray you, ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor
Close heart and ear and eye,
And learn a lesson from this tale
Of the spider and the fly.
WEEK 39 |
The Sheriff of Nottingham hated Robin and would have been very glad if any one had killed him.
The Sheriff was a very unkind man. He treated the poor Saxons very badly. He often took away all their money, and their houses and left them to starve. Sometimes, for a very little fault, he would cut off their ears or fingers. The poor people used to go into the wood, and Robin would give them food and money. Sometimes they went home again, but very often they stayed with him, and became his men.
The Sheriff knew this, so he hated Robin all the more, and he was never so happy as when he caught one of Robin's men and locked him up in prison.
But try how he might, he could not catch Robin. All the same Robin used to go to Nottingham very often, but he was always so well disguised that the Sheriff never knew him. So he always escaped.
The Sheriff was too much afraid of him to go into the forest to try to take him. He knew his men were no match for Robin's. Robin's men served him and fought for him because they loved him. The Sheriff's men only served him because they feared him.
One day Robin was walking through the forest when he met a butcher.
This butcher was riding gaily along to the market at Nottingham. He was dressed in a blue linen coat, with leather belt. On either side of his strong grey pony hung a basket full of meat.
In these days as there were no trains, everything had to be sent by road. The roads were so bad that even carts could not go along them very much, for the wheels stuck in the mud. Everything was carried on horseback, in sacks or baskets called panniers.
The butcher rode gaily along, whistling as he went. Suddenly Robin stepped from under the trees and stopped him.
"What have you there, my man?" he asked.
"Butcher meat," replied the man. "Fine prime beef and mutton for Nottingham Market. Do you want to buy some?"
"Yes, I do," said Robin. "I'll buy it all and your pony too. How much do you want for it? I should like to go to Nottingham and see what kind of butcher I will make."
So the butcher sold his pony and all his meat to Robin. Then Robin changed clothes with him. He put on the butcher's blue clothes and leather belt, and the butcher went off in Robin's suit of Lincoln green, feeling very grand indeed.
Then Robin mounted his pony and off he went to Nottingham to sell his meat at the market.
When he arrived he found the whole town in a bustle. In those days there were very few shops, so every one used to go to market to buy and sell. The country people brought butter and eggs and honey to sell. With the money they got they bought platters and mugs, pots and pans, or whatever they wanted, and took it back to the country with them.
All sorts of people came to buy: fine ladies and poor women, rich knights and gentlemen, and humble workers, every one pushing and crowding together. Robin found it quite difficult to drive his pony through the crowd to the corner of the market place where the butchers had their stalls.
He got there at last, however, laid out his meat, and began to cry with the best of them.
"Prime meat, ladies. Come and buy. Cheapest meat in all the market, ladies. Come buy, come buy. Twopence a pound, ladies. Twopence a pound. Come buy. Come buy."
"What!" said every one, "beef at twopence a pound! I never heard of such a thing. Why it is generally tenpence."
You see Robin knew nothing at all about selling meat, as he never bought any. He and his men used to live on what they shot in the forest.
When it became known that there was a new butcher, who was selling his meat for twopence a pound, every one came crowding round his stall eager to buy. All the other butchers stood idle until Robin had no more beef and mutton left to sell.
As these butchers had nothing to do, they began to talk among themselves and say, "Who is this man? He has never been here before."
"Do you think he has stolen the meat?"
"Perhaps his father has just died and left him a business."
"Well, his money won't last long at this rate."
"The sooner he loses it all, the better for us. We will never be able to sell anything as long as he comes here giving away beef at twopence a pound."
"It is perfectly ridiculous," said one old man, who seemed to be the chief butcher. "These fifty years have I come and gone to Nottingham market, and I have never seen the like of it—never. He is ruining the trade, that's what he is doing.
They stood at their stalls sulky and cross, while all their customers crowded round Robin.
Shouts of laughter came from his corner, for he was not only selling beef and mutton, but making jokes about it all the time.
"I tell you what," said the old butcher, "it is no use standing here doing nothing. We had better go talk to him, and find out, if we can, who he is. We must ask him to come and have dinner with us and the Sheriff in the town-hall to-day." For on market days the butchers used to have dinner altogether in the town-hall, after market was over, and the Sheriff used to come and have dinner with them.
"So, the butchers stepped up to jolly Robin,
Acquainted with him for to be;
Come, butcher, one said, we be all of one trade,
Come, will you dine with me?"
"Thank you," said Robin. "I should like nothing better. I have had a busy morning and am very hungry and thirsty."
"Come along, then," said the butchers.
The old man led the way with Robin, and the others followed two by two.
As they walked along, the old butcher began asking Robin questions, to try and find out something about him.
"You have not been here before?" he said.
"Have I not?" replied Robin.
"I have not seen you, at least."
"Have you not?"
"You are new to the business?"
"Well, you seem to be," said the old butcher, getting rather cross.
"Do I?" replied Robin laughing.
At last they came to the town-hall, and though they had talked all the time the old butcher had got nothing out of Robin, and was not a bit wiser.
The Sheriff's house was close to the town-hall, so as dinner was not quite ready all the butchers went to say "How do you do?" to the Sheriff's wife.
She received them very kindly, and was quite interested in Robin when she heard that he was the new butcher who had been selling such wonderfully cheap meat. Robin had such pleasant manners too, that she thought he was a very nice man indeed. She was quite sorry when the Sheriff came and took him away, saying dinner was ready.
"I hope to see you again, kind sir," she said when saying good-bye. "Come to see me next time you have meat to sell."
"Thank you, lady, I will not forget your kindness," replied Robin, bowing low.
At dinner the Sheriff sat at one end of the table and the old butcher at the other. Robin, as the greatest stranger, had the place of honour on the Sheriff's right hand.
At first the dinner was very dull. All the butchers were sulky and cross, only Robin was merry. He could not help laughing to himself at the idea of dining with his great enemy the Sheriff of Nottingham. And not only dining with him, but sitting on his right hand, and being treated as an honoured guest.
If the Sheriff had only known, poor Robin would very soon have been locked up in a dark dungeon, eating dry bread instead of apple pie and custard and all the fine things they were having for dinner.
However, Robin was so merry, that very soon the butchers forgot to be cross and sulky. Before the end of dinner all were laughing till their sides ached.
Only the Sheriff was grave and thinking hard. He was a greedy old man, and he was saying to himself, "This silly young fellow evidently does not know the value of things. If he has any cattle I might buy them from him for very little. I could sell them again to the butchers for a good price. In that way I should make a lot of money."
After dinner he took Robin by the arm and led him aside.
"See here, young man," he said, "I like your looks. But you seem new to this business. Now don't trust these men," pointing to the butchers. "They are all as ready as can be to cheat you. You take my advice. If you have any cattle to sell, come to me. I'll give you a good price."
"Thank you," said Robin, "it is most kind of you."
"Hast thou any horned beasts, the Sheriff then said,
Good fellow, to sell to me?
Yes, that I have, good master Sheriff,
I have hundreds two or three.
And a hundred acres of good free land,
if you please it for to see;
And I'll make you as good assurance of it,
As ever my father did me."
The Sheriff nearly danced for joy when he heard that Robin had so many horned cattle for sale. He had quite made up his mind that it would be easy to cheat this silly young fellow. Already he began to count the money he would make. He was such a greedy old man. But there was a wicked twinkle in Robin's eye.
"Now, young man, when can I see these horned beasts of yours?" asked the Sheriff. "I can't buy a pig in a poke, you know. I must see them first. And the land too, and the land too," he added, rubbing his hands, and jumping about in his excitement.
"The sooner the better," said Robin. "I start for home to-morrow morning. If you like to ride with me I will show you the horned beasts and the land too."
"Capital, capital," said the Sheriff. "To-morrow morning then, after breakfast, I go with you. And see here, young man," he added, catching hold of Robin's coat tails, as he was going away, "you won't go and sell to any one else in the meantime? It is a bargain, isn't it?"
"Oh, certainly. I won't even speak of it to any one," replied Robin; and he went away, laughing heartily to himself.
That night the Sheriff went into his counting-house and counted out three hundred pounds in gold. He tied it up in three bags, one hundred pounds in each bag.
"It's a lot of money," he said to himself, "a lot of money. Still I suppose, I must pay him something for his cattle. But it is a lot of money to part with," and he heaved a big sigh.
He put the gold underneath his pillow in case any one should steal it during the night. Then he went to bed and tried to sleep. But he was too excited; besides the gold under his pillow made it so hard and knobby that it was most uncomfortable.
At last the night passed, and in the morning
"The Sheriff he saddled his good palfrey,
And with three hundred pounds in gold
Away he went with bold Robin Hood,
His horned beasts to behold."
The sun shone and the birds sang as they merrily rode along. When the Sheriff saw that they were taking the road to Sherwood Forest, he began to feel a little nervous.
"There is a bold, bad man in these woods," he said. "He is called Robin Hood. He robs people, he—do you think we will meet him?"
"I am quite sure we won't meet him," replied Robin with a laugh.
"Well, I hope not, I am sure," said the Sheriff. "I never dare to ride through the forest unless I have my soldiers with me. He is a bold, bad man."
Robin only laughed, and they rode on right into the forest.
"But when a little further they came,
Bold Robin he chanced to spy
An hundred head of good fat deer
Come tripping the Sheriff full nigh.
"Look there," he cried, "look! What do you think of my horned beasts?"
"I think," said the Sheriff, in a trembling voice, "I think I should go back to Nottingham."
"What! and not buy any horned Cattle? What is the matter with them? Are they not fine and fat? Are they not a beautiful colour? Come, come, Sheriff, when you have brought the money for them too."
At the mention of money the Sheriff turned quite pale and clutched hold of his bags. "Young man," he said, "I don't like you at all. I tell you I want to go back to Nottingham. This isn't money I have in my bags, it is only pebble stones."
"Then Robin put his horn to his mouth,
And blew out blasts three;
Then quickly and anon there came Little John,
And all his company."
"Good morning, Little John," said Robin.
"Good morning, Master Robin," he replied. "What orders have you for to-day?"
"Well, in the first place I hope you have something nice for dinner, because I have brought the Sheriff of Nottingham to dine with us," answered Robin.
"Yes," said Little John, "the cooks are busy already as we thought you might bring some one back with you. But we hardly expected so fine a guest as the Sheriff of Nottingham," he added, making a low bow to him. "I hope he intends to pay honestly."
For that was Robin Hood's way, he always gave these naughty men who had stolen money from poor people a very fine dinner and then he made them pay a great deal of money for it.
The Sheriff was very much afraid when he knew that he had really fallen into the hands of Robin Hood. He was angry too when he thought that he had actually had Robin in his own house the day before, and could so easily have caught and put him in prison, if he had only known.
They had a very fine dinner, and the Sheriff began to feel quite comfortable and to think he was going to get off easily, when Robin said, "Now, Master Sheriff, you must pay for your dinner."
"Oh! indeed I am a poor man," said the Sheriff, "I have no money."
"No money! What have you in your saddle bags, then?" asked Robin.
"Only pebbles, nothing but pebbles, I told you before," replied the frightened Sheriff.
"Little John, go and search the Sheriff's saddle bags," said Robin.
Little John did as he was told, and counted out three hundred pounds upon the ground.
"Sheriff," said Robin sternly, "I shall keep all this money and divide it among my men. It is not half as much as you have stolen from them. If you had told me the truth about it, I might have given you some back. But I always punish people who tell lies. You have done so many evil deeds," he went on, "that you deserve to be hanged."
The poor Sheriff shook in his shoes.
"Hanged you should be," continued Robin, "but your good wife was kind to me yesterday. For her sake, I let you go. But if you are not kinder to my people I will not let you off so easily another time." And Robin called for the Sheriff's pony.
"Then Robin he brought him through the wood,
And set him on his dapple grey:
Oh, have me commended to your wife at home,
So Robin went laughing away."
A Cat was growing very thin. As you have guessed, he did not get enough to eat. One day he heard that some Birds in the neighborhood were ailing and needed a doctor. So he put on a pair of spectacles, and with a leather box in his hand, knocked at the door of the Bird's home.
The Birds peeped out, and Dr. Cat, with much solicitude, asked how they were. He would be very happy to give them some medicine.
"Tweet, tweet," laughed the Birds. "Very smart, aren't you? We are very well, thank you, and more so, if you only keep away from here."
Be wise and shun the quack.
I once had a sweet little doll, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world;
Her cheeks were so red and so white, dears,
And her hair was so charmingly curled;
But I lost my poor little doll, dears,
As I played in the heath one day;
And I cried for her more than a week, dears,
But I never could find where she lay.
I found my poor little doll, dears,
As I played in the heath one day;
Folks say she's terribly changed, dears,
For her paint is all washed away,
And her arm's trodden off by the cows, dears,
And her hair's not the least bit curled;
Yet for old sake's sake she is still, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world.
WEEK 39 |
"It is without example
In the world's history."
W HILE the Pilgrim Fathers were building their new homes on the shores of America, the eyes of Europe were turned towards Germany, where war had broken out. It was destined to be one of the most terrible wars waged in modern times. This feud between the Protestants and Roman Catholics of Germany had long been simmering; but the great armed struggle finally broke forth on May 23, 1618, and continued till it had drawn nearly every European nation into its conflict, till it had lighted the fires of battle from the Baltic to the Mediterranean Seas.
To follow the war through all its many phases would be impossible, but two great names stand out from amid the waste of war, names among the most famous in the world's history—Wallenstein and Gustavus Adolphus. The war had raged for fourteen years when these two great generals met on the battlefield of Lützen. They had never met in battle before. They were never to meet again. A greater contrast than these two famous commanders never existed.
Wallenstein, fighting on the side of the Catholics, was cold, gloomy, silent. Ambition was the ruling power of his life.
"I must command alone or not at all," he had once said. All men stood in awe of him. He was a rich landowner, and raised armies at his own expense for the emperor; but "God help the land to which these men come!" said a frightened German who had just watched Wallenstein's troops marching past.
Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, was a very different man. Frank and fearless, he was a staunch Protestant and the very idol of his own people. He now came forward to defend the liberty of his country and the Protestant religion, which both seemed in danger from Germany. Landing on the northern coast of Germany in a storm of thunder and lightning, he had been the first to leap ashore and to kneel in thanks to God for his safe passage.
"A good Christian can never be a bad soldier," he said as he led his men forward. As he passed through German territory men flocked to his standard; they even knelt before him, struggling for the honour of touching the sheath of his sword or the hem of his garment.
"This people would make a king of me," he said sadly. "My God knoweth that I have no delight in it. Soon enough shall be revealed my human weakness."
Nevertheless his march through the Protestant states of Germany was like a triumphal procession, and tears of relief and joy streamed down the cheeks of bearded men as they welcomed this "Lion of the North," who had come to deliver the oppressed Protestants.
Gustavus Adolphus had reached the very heart of the nation. No wonder the emperor became alarmed and turned to Wallenstein, the only leader at all capable of measuring swords with the King of Sweden. Wallenstein answered his emperor's call. As if by magic he collected an enormous army. His military fame drew men of all nations to his banner. From north and south, from east and west, they came. "All swarm to the old familiar long-loved banner," and
"Yet one sole man can rein this fiery host
By equal rule, by equal love and fear
Blending the many-nationed whole in one."
It was in November 1632 that this mixed army under Wallenstein found itself at Lützen, a small town in Germany. The winter was coming on and Wallenstein was moving into winter quarters, hoping his rival would do the same, when he heard that Gustavus Adolphus was marching on Lützen—indeed that he was near even now.
Through the long dark night the Swedish army had been marching, till with the first streaks of dawn, when they had intended to surprise Wallenstein, they found a thick fog hiding everything from view.
Kneeling in front of his army, the king burst into Luther's hymn, "God is a strong tower," following it with his own battle-song, which began,
"Be not dismayed, thou little flock."
Some of his officers begged Gustavus to clothe himself in steel, after the custom of the age.
"God is my armour," he cried, throwing it aside.
So he wore only a plain cloth coat and a buff waistcoat, which may be seen at Vienna
Toward eleven o'clock the sun burst forth, and the two armies could almost see the battle-light that glowed fiercely in each other's eyes. The Swedish king gave his last orders. Then drawing his sword and waving it above his head, he advanced with the Swedish war-cry: "God with us!"
"It will now be shown whether I or the King of Sweden is to be master of the world," said Wallenstein gloomily, as he led his men to the battle.
They had not fought long when the fog came down once more, and Gustavus dashed unawares into a regiment of the enemy. One shot passed through his horse, another shattered his own arm and wounded him in the back. He fell to the ground.
"Who are you?" asked one of his foes.
"I was the King of Sweden," gasped the dying king, and murmuring to himself, "My God! my God!" he died.
As the mournful tidings ran through the Swedish army it nerved the men to fresh effort. They cared not for their lives, now the most precious life had passed. With the fury of lions they rushed on the foe, and when the sun set that November night Wallenstein, defeated at last, was in full retreat.
Gustavus Adolphus, the great champion of Protestantism, was dead, but his men had won the victory as he would have had them do. They dragged a great stone to the place where their hero fell, and on it they wrote the words, "Our faith is the victory which overcometh the world."
Wallenstein was assassinated two years after this great battle. Years later peace was made, and there has never been a war of religion in Europe since those days.
S O Hercules, without being allowed any time for rest, had to go back the whole way he had come, without any certain knowledge of where the golden-fruited gardens of the Hesperides were to be found, except that it was somewhere in Africa. Somebody must know, however, or else the gardens would never have been heard of, for travelers never told anything but the truth in those days. He therefore diligently asked everybody he met where the gardens were to be found, and, among others, some nymphs whom he met on the banks of the river Po, while he was passing through Italy.
"We cannot tell you," said they; "but we know who can—old Nereus, the sea-god, if you can only get him to tell."
"And why should he not tell?" asked Hercules.
"Because he never will tell anybody anything, unless he is obliged."
"And how is he to be obliged?" asked Hercules again.
"He is bound to answer anybody who is stronger than he."
"Well, I am pretty strong," said Hercules, modestly. "Anyhow, I can but try."
"Yes, you do look strong," said the nymphs;
"And how shall I know him when I see him?" asked Hercules.
"You will see a very, very old man, older than anybody you ever saw, with bright blue hair, and a very long white beard. He has fifty daughters, so he often gets tired, and likes to sleep as much as he can."
Hercules thanked the nymphs, whom he still heard laughing after he left them, and thought to himself that it would not be much trouble to prove himself stronger than a very old man who was always tired. So, having journeyed back again to the Ægean Sea, he walked along the shore till, sure enough, he saw, sound asleep in a sunny cove, a man who looked a thousand years old, with a white beard reaching below his waist, and with hair as blue as the sea.
"Will you kindly tell me the way to the gardens of the Hesperides?" asked Hercules, waking Nereus by a gentle shake—though I expect one of Hercules' shakes was not what most people would consider gentle.
Instead of answering, Nereus tried to roll himself into the sea, at the bottom of which was his home. Hercules caught him by the leg and arm: when, to his amazement, Nereus suddenly turned into a vigorous young man, who wrestled with him stoutly to get away.
Hercules got him down at last. "Now tell me the way to the gardens of the Hesperides!" he panted—for he was out of breath with the struggle. But he found himself holding down, no longer a man, but a huge and slippery seal, which all but succeeded in plunging into the sea.
But he held on until the seal also was exhausted. And then Hercules found out what had made the nymphs laugh so. For when the seal was wearied out it changed into a gigantic crab, the crab into a crocodile, the crocodile into a mermaid, the mermaid into a sea-serpent, the sea-serpent into an albatross, the albatross into an octopus, the octopus into a mass of sea-weed, which was the hardest to hold of all. But the sea-weed turned back into the old man again, who said:—
"There—you have conquered me in all my shapes; I haven't got any more. You may let me go now, and I will answer you. You must go on through Italy and Spain, and thence across into Africa. You will then be in the land of Mauritania. You must still go south, following the sea-shore, till you come to the giant Atlas, who supports the sky upon his head, and so keeps it from falling. He"—the old sea-god's voice was growing fainter and fainter—"he will tell you all about the gardens of the Hesperides. They're close by—the gardens of the Hesp—"
And so, having finished his answer, Nereus turned over and went comfortably to sleep again.
Once more Hercules set out upon the journey which had seemed as if it would never even begin. Once more he traveled through Italy and Spain, and crossed into Africa over the strait which he himself had made. And on and on he went, always southward by the sea, till, full six hundred miles from the Pillars of Hercules, he saw what he knew must be the giant Atlas on whose head rested the sky. There Atlas, King of Mauritania, had stood ever since he had looked upon the head of Medusa. And if you wonder how the sky was held up before that time, you must ask Nereus, if you can catch him—not me.
As you may suppose, the poor giant was terribly weary of having to hold up, night and day, year after year, the whole weight of the sun, moon, and stars. Even his strength is not able to keep stars from falling now and then—sometimes on a clear night you may see them tumbling down by scores, so it is terrible to think of what would happen if he took even a moment's rest. The whole sky would come crashing down, and the universe would be in ruins. He was longing for the rest he dared not take, and so, when Hercules said to him, "I am seeking fruit from the gardens of the Hesperides," a crafty idea came into the giant's mind.
"Ah!" said he, with a nod which shook down a whole shower of stars. "There is no difficulty. All you have to do is walk through the sea towards the setting sun, till you get there. And there's nothing to prevent you from getting the golden fruit but the dragon who guards the tree on which it grows. The sea doesn't come up higher than my waist, even in the deepest part; and, if you can get past the dragon, my three daughters, the Hesperides, will no doubt receive you with the greatest surprise."
For the first time, Hercules felt dismayed. He had no boat, nor the means of building one; he could not swim further than his eyes could see. As for wading through an ocean that would come up to the waist of a giant as high as the skies, that was absurd. And as to the dragon, he remembered that Perseus had only passed it by means of a helmet which made its wearer invisible.
Atlas saw his perplexity.
"Ah, I forgot you were such a little fellow," said the giant. "I'll go and get you some of the fruit myself. It isn't many of my steps from here to the garden, and the dragon knows me—and if he didn't, I could step over him. And he couldn't hurt me, seeing that I've been turned to stone. But wait, though—what on earth's to become of the sky while I'm gone?"
"I'm pretty strong," said Hercules. "If I climb up to the peak of the next mountain to you, I daresay I could hold the sky up while you're away."
Atlas smiled to himself, for this was just what he had intended.
"Come up, then," said he. So Hercules clambered to the highest peak he could find, and Atlas, slowly bending, gradually and carefully let down the sky upon the head and shoulders of the hero. Then, heaving a deep roar of relief, he strode into the sea.
It was surely the strangest plight in which a mortal ever found himself—standing on a mountain-peak, and, by the strength of his own shoulders, keeping the skies from falling. He was answerable for the safety of the whole world: the burden of the entire universe was laid upon the shoulders of one man. They were strong enough to bear it; but it seemed like an eternity before Atlas returned. A hundred times a minute Hercules felt as if he must let all go, whatever happened; indeed he was actually tempted to yield, for he was weary of these endless labors; and it was only for mankind's sake, and not for his own, that he held on through the agony of the crushing weight of the whole universe.
But Atlas came at last, with three golden apples in his hand.
"Here they are!" he roared. "And now, good-bye!"
"What!" exclaimed Hercules. "Are you not coming back to your duty?"
"Am I a fool?" asked the giant. "Not I. Keep the honor of holding up the skies yourself, since you are so strong and willing. Never again for me!"
"At least, then," said Hercules, "let me place my lion's skin between my shoulders and the sky, so that the weight may be less painful to bear."
Atlas could take no objection to that, so he put his own shoulders under the dome of heaven to let Hercules make himself as comfortable as the situation allowed. Hercules seized the chance, and let the whole weight of the sky fall upon the shoulders of Atlas once more. And there it still rests; and thus Atlas failed in trying to shift his own proper burden to another's shoulders.
"Only three apples!" exclaimed Eurystheus, when Hercules returned. "You can't have taken much trouble to get so little. Go to Hades, and bring me Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Pluto! . . . He will never do that!" he thought to himself. "To reach Hades, one must die!"
WEEK 39 |
T HERE was once a man whose wife was an awful talker. Her name was Susanna. No matter how important it was to keep a matter quiet, if Susanna knew about it, she just had to talk. She was always running to the neighbors and exclaiming:
"Oh, my dear, have you heard so and so?"
Her husband was an industrious fellow. He set nets in the river, he snared birds in the forest, and he worked at any odd jobs that came along.
It happened one day while he was out in the forest that he found a buried treasure.
"Ah!" he thought to himself, "now I can buy a little farm that will keep me and Susanna comfortable the rest of our days!"
He started home at once to tell his wife the good fortune that had befallen them. He had almost reached home when he stopped, suddenly realizing that the first thing Susanna would do would be to spread the news broadcast throughout the village. Then of course the government would get wind of his find and presently officers of the law would come and confiscate the entire treasure.
"That would never do," he told himself. "I must think out some plan whereby I can let Susanna know about the treasure without risking the loss of it."
He puzzled over the matter for a long time and at last hit upon something that he thought might prove successful.
In his nets that day he had caught a pike and in one of his snares he had found a grouse. He went back now to the river and put the bird in the fishnet, and then he went to the woods and put the fish in the snare. This done he went home and at once told Susanna about the buried treasure which was going to be the means of making their old age comfortable.
She flew at once into great excitement.
"La! La! A buried treasure! Whoever heard of such luck! Oh, how all the neighbors will envy us when they hear about it! I can hardly wait to tell them!"
"But they mustn't hear!" her husband told her. "You don't want the officers of the law coming and taking it all from us, do you?"
"That would be a nice how-do-you-do!" Susanna cried. "What! Come and take our treasure that you found yourself in the forest?"
"Yes, my dear, that's exactly what they'd do if once they heard about it."
"Well, you can depend upon it, my dear husband, not a soul will hear about it from me!"
She shook her head vigorously and repeated this many times and then tried to slip out of the house on some such excuse as needing to borrow a cup of meal from a neighbor.
But the man insisted on her staying beside him all evening. She kept remembering little errands that would take her to the houses of various neighbors but each time she attempted to leave her husband called her back. At last he got her safely to bed.
Early next morning, before she had been able to talk to any one, he said:
"Now, my dear, come with me to the forest and help me to carry home the treasure. On the way we'd better see if we've got anything in the nets and the snares."
They went first to the river and when the man had lifted his nets they found a grouse which he made Susanna reach over and get. Then in the woods he let her make the discovery of a pike in one of the snares. She was all the while so excited about the treasure that she hadn't mind enough left to be surprised that a bird should be caught in a fishnet and a fish in a birdsnare.
Well, they found the precious treasure and they stowed it away in two sacks which they carried home on their backs. On the way home Susanna could scarcely refrain from calling out to every passerby some hint of their good fortune. As they passed the house of Helmi, her dearest crony, she said to her husband:
"My dear, won't you just wait here a moment while I run in and get a drink of water?"
"You mustn't go in just now," her husband said. "Don't you hear what's going on?"
There was the sound of two dogs fighting and yelping in the kitchen.
"Helmi is getting a beating from her husband," the man said. "Can't you hear her crying? This is no time for an outsider to appear."
All that day and all that night he kept so close to Susanna that the poor woman wasn't able to exchange a word with another human being.
Early next morning she escaped him and ran as fast as her legs could carry her to Helmi's house.
"My dear," she began all out of breath, "such a
wonderful treasure as we've found but I've sworn never
to whisper a word about it for fear the government
should hear of it! I should have stopped and told you
yesterday but your husband was beating
"What's that?" cried Helmi's husband who came in just then and caught the last words.
"It's the treasure we've found!"
"The treasure? What are you talking about? Begin at the beginning."
"Well, my old man and me we started out yesterday
morning and first we went to the river to see if there
was anything in the nets. We found a
"Yes, we found a grouse in the nets. Then we went to the forest and looked in the snares and in one we found a pike."
"Yes. Then we went and dug up the treasure and put it in two sacks and you could have seen us yourself carrying it home on our backs but you were too busy beating poor Helmi."
"I beating poor Helmi! Ho! Ho! Ho! That is a good one! I was busy beating my wife while you were getting birds out of fishnets and fish out of snares! Ho Ho! Ho!"
"It's so!" Susanna cried. "It is so! You were so beating Helmi! And you sounded just like two dogs fighting! And we did so carry home the treasure!"
But Helmi's husband only laughed the harder. That afternoon when he went to the Inn he was still laughing and when the men there asked him what was so funny he told them Susanna's story and soon the whole village was laughing at the foolish woman who found birds in fishnets and fish in snares and who thought that two yelping dogs were Helmi and her husband fighting.
As for the treasure that wasn't taken any more seriously than the grouse and the pike.
"It must have been two sacks of turnips they carried home on their backs!" the village people decided.
The husband of course said nothing and Susanna, too, was soon forced to keep quiet for now whenever she tried to explain people only laughed.
O NE day I saw a boy making a hole in the ground, and he dug out a worm.
I said to the boy, "What can you tell me about worms?"
The boy said, "Worms are long, soft things, alike at both ends. If you cut one in two, each end goes off, and makes a whole new worm. They have no heads and no feet and no feelings, and are no good but for fish-bait."
The boy thought he knew all about worms. But really he knew very little about them. All that he had told me was wrong.
Worms belong to the great class of ringed, or jointed, animals. These creatures have bodies made in rings or joints.
Let us take a careful look at our humble friend, the earth-worm.
He is a long, round, soft, dark, slimy thing, and you say, "He is alike at both ends."
Is he? Let us see. His body is made of from one hundred to two hundred rings. These rings are smaller toward the two ends of the body, which are the head and tail.
Like and Not Like
Each ring has on it tiny hooks, too small for you to see. These hooks take the place of the jointed feet that his cousins have. The feet on a caterpillar will show you about how these hooks would look, if you could see them.
By these hooks the worm moves along, and digs his way in the ground. Mr. Worm can hold so fast to his den or hole, that you have hard work to pull him out.
Have you seen Mr. Robin brace his feet and tug with all his might, when he pulls out a worm? The worm is holding fast by his hooks.
You see the hooks are Mr. Worm's feet. Let us now look for his head. You have five senses. You can hear, see, feel, smell, taste. The worm can feel and taste. Some think he can smell some things. Some say that he cannot see or hear. I think that he hears, but maybe what makes him come up to look about is not hearing, but feeling a jar on the ground.
Why do we say he has a head, if he has no eyes nor ears nor nose? We say he has a head because he has a mouth and a brain.
His mouth has two lips. The upper lip is larger than the under. He has no teeth. In the back of his head, not far from his mouth, is his brain, or nerve-centre.
The worm is the only jointed animal that has red blood. Mr. Worm is dark-colored because his body is full of the earth which he swallows.
If you keep him out of the earth for a while, his skin will get pale and clear. Then you can see his red blood run in two long veins. He needs fresh air to keep this red blood pure. He dies very soon if he is shut up in a close box or case.
WEEK 39 |
Daniel v: 1 to 31.
HE great kingdom or empire of Nebuchadnezzar was made up of many smaller kingdoms which he had conquered. As long as he lived his kingdom was strong; but as soon as he died it began to fall in pieces. His son became king in his place, but was soon slain; and one king followed another quickly for some years. The last king was named Nabonidus. He made his son Belshazzar king with himself, and left Belshazzar to rule in the city of Babylon, while he was caring for the more distant parts of the kingdom.
But a new nation was rising to power. Far to the east were the kingdoms of Media and Persia. These two peoples had become one, and were at war with Babylon, under their great leader, Cyrus. While Belshazzar was ruling in the city of Babylon, Cyrus and his Persian soldiers were on the outside, around the walls, trying to take the city. These walls were so great and high that the Persian soldiers could not break through them.
But inside the city were many who were enemies of Belshazzar and were friendly to Cyrus. These people opened the gates of Babylon to Cyrus. At night he brought his army quietly into the city and surrounded the palace of King Belshazzar.
On that night King Belshazzar was holding in the palace a great feast in honor of his god. On the tables were the golden cups and vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem; and around the table were the king, his many wives, and a thousand of his princes and nobles. They did not know that their city was taken, and that their enemies were at the very doors of the palace.
Belshazzar gives a great feast in honor of his God.
While they were all drinking wine together suddenly a strange thing was seen. On the wall appeared a great hand writing letters and words that no one could read. Every eye was drawn to the spot, and all saw the fingers moving on the wall, and the letters written. The king was filled with fear. His face became pale and his knees shook. He called for the wise men of Babylon, who were with him in the palace, to tell what the writing meant. He said, "Whoever can read the words on the wall shall be dressed in a purple robe, and shall have a chain of gold around his neck, and shall rank next to King Belshazzar as the third ruler in the kingdom."
But not one of the wise men could read it, for God had not given to them the power. At last the queen of Babylon said to Belshazzar, "O king, may you live forever! There is one man who can read this writing, a man in whom is the spirit of the holy gods, a man whom Nebuchadnezzar, your father, made master of all the wise men. His name is Daniel. Send for him, and he will tell you what these words are and what they mean."
Daniel was now an old man; and since the time when Nebuchadnezzar died he had been no longer in his high place as ruler and chief adviser of the king. They sent for Daniel, and he came. The king said to him, "Are you that Daniel who was brought many years ago by my father to this city? I have heard of you, that the spirit of the holy gods is upon you, and that you have wisdom and knowledge. If you can read this writing upon the wall, and tell me what it means, I will give you a purple robe, and a gold chain, and a place next to myself as the third ruler in the kingdom."
And Daniel answered the king, "You may keep your rewards yourself, and may give your gifts to whom you please, for I do not want them; but I will read to you the writing. O king, the Most High God gave to Nebuchadnezzar this kingdom, and great power, and glory. But when Nebuchadnezzar became proud, and boasted of his greatness, then the Lord took from him his crown and his throne, and let him live among the beasts of the field, until he knew that the most High God rules over the kingdoms of men. O Belshazzar, you knew all this, yet you have not been humble in heart. You have risen up against the Lord, and have taken the vessels of his house, and have drunk wine in them in honor of your own gods of wood and stone; but you have not praised the Lord God who has given to you your kingdom and your power. For this reason God has sent this hand to write these words upon the wall. This is the writing, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. And this is the meaning, Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided.
"MENE: God has counted the years of your kingdom, and has brought it to an end.
"TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and have been found wanting.
"UPHARSIN: Your kingdom is divided, and taken from you, and given to the Medes and the Persians."
King Belshazzar could scarcely believe what he heard; but he commanded that the promised reward be given to Daniel. And almost while he was speaking his end came. The Persians and the Medes burst into his palace; they seized Belshazzar and killed him in the midst of his feast.
On that night the empire or great kingdom set up by Nebuchadnezzar came to an end. A new empire arose, greater than that of Babylon, called the Persian Empire. And in the place of Belshazzar, Cyrus, the commander of the Persians, made an old man named Darius king until the time when he was ready to take the kingdom for himself.
The fall of Babylon.
This empire of Persia was the third of the world-kingdoms of which we read in the Bible. The first was the Assyrian kingdom, having Nineveh for its capital. This was the kingdom that carried the Ten Tribes of Israel into captivity. The second was the Babylonian or Chaldean kingdom, which carried the Jews into captivity. And the third was the Persian kingdom, which lasted two hundred years, ruling all the lands named in the Bible.
"That reminds me," said the polite Water Rat; "you happened to mention that you were hungry, and I ought to have spoken earlier. Of course, you will stop and take your midday meal with me? My hole is close by; it is some time past noon, and you are very welcome to whatever there is."
"Now I call that kind and brotherly of you," said the Sea Rat. "I was indeed hungry when I sat down, and ever since I inadvertently happened to mention shell-fish, my pangs have been extreme. But couldn't you fetch it along out here? I am none too fond of going under hatches, unless I'm obliged to; and then, while we eat, I could tell you more concerning my voyages and the pleasant life I lead—at least, it is very pleasant to me, and by your attention I judge it commends itself to you; whereas if we go indoors it is a hundred to one that I shall presently fall asleep."
"That is indeed an excellent suggestion," said the Water Rat, and hurried off home. There he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger's origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes. Thus laden, he returned with all speed, and blushed for pleasure at the old seaman's commendations of his taste and judgment, as together they unpacked the basket and laid out the contents on the grass by the roadside.
The Sea Rat, as soon as his hunger was somewhat assuaged, continued the history of his latest voyage, conducting his simple hearer from port to port of Spain, landing him at Lisbon, Oporto, and Bordeaux, introducing him to the pleasant harbours of Cornwall and Devon, and so up the Channel to that final quayside, where, landing after winds long contrary, storm-driven and weather-beaten, he had caught the first magical hints and heraldings of another Spring, and, fired by these, had sped on a long tramp inland, hungry for the experiment of life on some quiet farmstead, very far from the weary beating of any sea.
Spell-bound and quivering with excitement, the Water Rat followed the Adventurer league by league, over stormy bays, through crowded roadsteads, across harbour bars on a racing tide, up winding rivers that hid their busy little towns round a sudden turn; and left him with a regretful sigh planted at his dull inland farm, about which he desired to hear nothing.
By this time their meal was over, and the Seafarer, refreshed and strengthened, his voice more vibrant, his eye lit with a brightness that seemed caught from some far-away sea-beacon, filled his glass with the red and glowing vintage of the South, and, leaning towards the Water Rat, compelled his gaze and held him, body and soul, while he talked. Those eyes were of the changing foam-streaked grey-green of leaping Northern seas; in the glass shone a hot ruby that seemed the very heart of the South, beating for him who had courage to respond to its pulsation. The twin lights, the shifting grey and the steadfast red, mastered the Water Rat and held him bound, fascinated, powerless. The quiet world outside their rays receded far away and ceased to be. And the talk, the wonderful talk flowed on—or was it speech entirely, or did it pass at times into song—chanty of the sailors weighing the dripping anchor, sonorous hum of the shrouds in a tearing North-Easter, ballad of the fisherman hauling his nets at sundown against an apricot sky, chords of guitar and mandoline from gondola or caique? Did it change into the cry of the wind, plaintive at first, angrily shrill as it freshened, rising to a tearing whistle, sinking to a musical trickle of air from the leech of the bellying sail? All these sounds the spell-bound listener seemed to hear, and with them the hungry complaint of the gulls and the sea-mews, the soft thunder of the breaking wave, the cry of the protesting shingle. Back into speech again it passed, and with beating heart he was following the adventures of a dozen seaports, the fights, the escapes, the rallies, the comradeships, the gallant undertakings; or he searched islands for treasure, fished in still lagoons and dozed day-long on warm white sand. Of deep-sea fishings he heard tell, and mighty silver gatherings of the mile-long net; of sudden perils, noise of breakers on a moonless night, or the tall bows of the great liner taking shape overhead through the fog; of the merry home-coming, the headland rounded, the harbour lights opened out; the groups seen dimly on the quay, the cheery hail, the splash of the hawser; the trudge up the steep little street towards the comforting glow of red-curtained windows.
Lastly, in his waking dream it seemed to him that the Adventurer had risen to his feet, but was still speaking, still holding him fast with his sea-grey eyes.
"And now," he was softly saying, "I take to the road again, holding on southwestwards for many a long and dusty day; till at last I reach the little grey sea town I know so well, that clings along one steep side of the harbour. There through dark doorways you look down flights of stone steps, overhung by great pink tufts of valerian and ending in a patch of sparkling blue water. The little boats that lie tethered to the rings and stanchions of the old sea-wall are gaily painted as those I clambered in and out of in my own childhood; the salmon leap on the flood tide, schools of mackerel flash and play past quay-sides and foreshores, and by the windows the great vessels glide, night and day, up to their moorings or forth to the open sea. There, sooner or later, the ships of all seafaring nations arrive; and there, at its destined hour, the ship of my choice will let go its anchor. I shall take my time, I shall tarry and bide, till at last the right one lies waiting for me, warped out into midstream, loaded low, her bowsprit pointing down harbour. I shall slip on board, by boat or along hawser; and then one morning I shall wake to the song and tramp of the sailors, the clink of the capstan, and the rattle of the anchor-chain coming merrily in. We shall break out the jib and the foresail, the white houses on the harbour side will glide slowly past us as she gathers steering-way, and the voyage will have begun! As she forges towards the headland she will clothe herself with canvas; and then, once outside, the sounding slap of great green seas as she heels to the wind, pointing South!
"And you, you will come too, young brother; for the days pass, and never return, and the South still waits for you. Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! 'Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new! Then some day, some day long hence, jog home here if you will, when the cup has been drained and the play has been played, and sit down by your quiet river with a store of goodly memories for company. You can easily overtake me on the road, for you are young, and I am ageing and go softly. I will linger, and look back; and at last I will surely see you coming, eager and light-hearted, with all the South in your face!"
The voice died away and ceased as an insect's tiny trumpet dwindles swiftly into silence; and the Water Rat, paralysed and staring, saw at last but a distant speck on the white surface of the road.
Mechanically he rose and proceeded to repack the luncheon-basket, carefully and without haste. Mechanically he returned home, gathered together a few small necessaries and special treasures he was fond of, and put them in a satchel; acting with slow deliberation, moving about the room like a sleep-walker; listening ever with parted lips. He swung the satchel over his shoulder, carefully selected a stout stick for his wayfaring, and with no haste, but with no hesitation at all, he stepped across the threshold just as the Mole appeared at the door.
"Why, where are you off to, Ratty?" asked the Mole in great surprise, grasping him by the arm.
"Going South, with the rest of them," murmured the Rat in a dreamy monotone, never looking at him. "Seawards first and then on shipboard, and so to the shores that are calling me!"
He pressed resolutely forward, still without haste, but with dogged fixity of purpose; but the Mole, now thoroughly alarmed, placed himself in front of him, and looking into his eyes saw that they were glazed and set and turned a streaked and shifting grey—not his friend's eyes, but the eyes of some other animal! Grappling with him strongly he dragged him inside, threw him down, and held him.
The Rat struggled desperately for a few moments, and then his strength seemed suddenly to leave him, and he lay still and exhausted, with closed eyes, trembling. Presently the Mole assisted him to rise and placed him in a chair, where he sat collapsed and shrunken into himself, his body shaken by a violent shivering, passing in time into an hysterical fit of dry sobbing. Mole made the door fast, threw the satchel into a drawer and locked it, and sat down quietly on the table by his friend, waiting for the strange seizure to pass. Gradually the Rat sank into a troubled doze, broken by starts and confused murmurings of things strange and wild and foreign to the unenlightened Mole; and from that he passed into a deep slumber.
Very anxious in mind, the Mole left him for a time and busied himself with household matters; and it was getting dark when he returned to the parlour and found the Rat where he had left him, wide awake indeed, but listless, silent, and dejected. He took one hasty glance at his eyes; found them, to his great gratification, clear and dark and brown again as before; and then sat down and tried to cheer him up and help him to relate what had happened to him.
Poor Ratty did his best, by degrees, to explain things; but how could he put into cold words what had mostly been suggestion? How recall, for another's benefit, the haunting sea voices that had sung to him, how reproduce at second-hand the magic of the Seafarer's hundred reminiscences? Even to himself, now the spell was broken and the glamour gone, he found it difficult to account for what had seemed, some hours ago, the inevitable and only thing. It is not surprising, then, that he failed to convey to the Mole any clear idea of what he had been through that day.
To the Mole this much was plain: the fit, or attack, had passed away, and had left him sane again, though shaken and cast down by the reaction. But he seemed to have lost all interest for the time in the things that went to make up his daily life, as well as in all pleasant forecastings of the altered days and doings that the changing season was surely bringing.
Casually, then, and with seeming indifference, the Mole turned his talk to the harvest that was being gathered in, the towering wagons and their straining teams, the growing ricks, and the large moon rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves. He talked of the reddening apples around, of the browning nuts, of jams and preserves and the distilling of cordials; till by easy stages such as these he reached midwinter, its hearty joys and its snug home life, and then he became simply lyrical.
By degrees the Rat began to sit up and to join in. His dull eye brightened, and he lost some of his listening air.
Presently the tactful Mole slipped away and returned with a pencil and a few half-sheets of paper, which he placed on the table at his friend's elbow.
"It's quite a long time since you did any poetry," he remarked. "You might have a try at it this evening, instead of—well, brooding over things so much. I've an idea that you'll feel a lot better when you've got something jotted down—if it's only just the rhymes."
The Rat pushed the paper away from him wearily, but the discreet Mole took occasion to leave the room, and when he peeped in again some time later, the Rat was absorbed and deaf to the world; alternately scribbling and sucking the top of his pencil. It is true that he sucked a good deal more than he scribbled; but it was joy to the Mole to know that the cure had at least begun.
I'm a beautiful red, red drum,
And I train with the soldier boys;
As up the street we come,
Wonderful is our noise!
There's Tom, and Jim, and Phil,
And Dick, and Nat, and Fred,
While Widow Cutler's Bill
And I march on ahead,
With a r-r-rat-tat-tat,
And a tum-titty-um-tum-tum—
Oh, there's bushels of fun in that
For boys with a little red drum!
The Injuns came last night
While the soldiers were abed
And they gobbled a Chinese kite
And off to the woods they fled!
The woods are the cherry-trees
Down in the orchard lot,
And the soldiers are marching to seize
The booty the Injuns got,
When soldiers marching come
Injuns had better scat!
Step up there, little Fred,
And, Charley, have a mind!
Jim is as far ahead
As you two are behind!
Ready with gun and sword
Your valorous work to do—
Yonder the Injun horde
Are lying in wait for you.
And their hearts go pitapat
When they hear the soldiers come
With a r-r-rat-tat-tat
And a tum-titty-um-tum-tum!
Course it's all in play!
The skulking Injun crew
That hustled the kite away
Are little white boys, like you!
But "honest" or "just in fun,"
It is all the same to me;
And, when the battle is won,
Home once again march we
With a r-r-rat-tat-tat
And there's glory enough in that
For the boys with their little red drum!