WEEK 40 |
H ERR SESEMANN, a good deal irritated and excited, went quickly upstairs and along the passage to Fraülein Rottenmeier's room, and there gave such an unusually loud knock at the door that the lady awoke from sleep with a cry of alarm. She heard the master of the house calling to her from the other side of the door, "Please make haste and come down to me in the dining-room; we must make ready for a journey at once." Fraülein Rottenmeier looked at her clock; it was just half-past four; she had never got up so early before in her life. What could have happened? What with her curiosity and excitement she took hold of everything the wrong way, and it was a case with her of more haste less speed, for she kept on searching everywhere for garments which she had already put on.
Meanwhile Herr Sesemann had gone on farther and rung the bells in turn which communicated with the several servants' rooms, causing frightened figures to leap out of bed, convinced that the ghost had attacked the master and that he was calling for help. One by one they made their appearance in the dining-room, each with a more terrified face than the last, and were astonished to see their master walking up and down, looking well and cheerful, and with no appearance of having had an encounter with a ghost. John was sent off without delay to get the horses and carriage ready; Tinette was ordered to wake Heidi and get her dressed for a journey; Sebastian was hurried off to the house where Dete was in service to bring the latter round. Then Fraülein Rottenmeier, having at last accomplished her toilet, came down, with everything well adjusted about her except her cap, which was put on hind side before. Herr Sesemann put down her flurried appearance to the early awakening he had caused her, and began without delay to give her directions. She was to get out a trunk at once and pack up all the things belonging to the Swiss child—for so he usually spoke of Heidi, being unaccustomed to her name—and a good part of Clara's clothes as well, so that the child might take home proper apparel; but everything was to be done immediately, as there was no time for consideration.
Fraülein Rottenmeier stood as if rooted to the spot and stared in astonishment at Herr Sesemann. She had quite expected a long and private account of some terrible ghostly experience of his during the night, which she would have enjoyed hearing about in the broad daylight. Instead of this there were these prosaic and troublesome directions, which were so unexpected that she took some time to get over her surprise and disappointment, and continued standing awaiting further explanation.
But Herr Sesemann had no thought or time for explanations and left her standing there while he went to speak to Clara. As he anticipated, the unusual commotion in the house had disturbed her, and she was lying and listening and wondering what had happened. So he sat down and told her everything that had occurred during the past night, and explained that the doctor had given his verdict and pronounced Heidi to be in a very highly strung state, so that her nightly wanderings might gradually lead her farther and farther, perhaps even on to the roof, which of course would be very dangerous for her. And so they had decided to send her home at once, as he did not like to take the responsibility of her remaining, and Clara would see for herself that it was the only thing to do. Clara was very much distressed, and at first made all kinds of suggestions for keeping Heidi with her; but her father was firm, and promised her, if she would be reasonable and make no further fuss, that he would take her to Switzerland next summer. So Clara gave in to the inevitable, only stipulating that the box might be brought into her room to be packed, so that she might add whatever she liked, and her father was only too pleased to let her provide a nice outfit for the child. Meanwhile Dete had arrived and was waiting in the hall, wondering what extraordinary event had come to pass for her to be sent for at such an unusual hour. Herr Sesemann informed her of the state Heidi was in, and that he wished her that very day to take her home. Dete was greatly disappointed, for she had not expected such a piece of news. She remembered Uncle's last words, that he never wished to set eyes on her again, and it seemed to her that to take back the child to him, after having left it with him once and then taken it away again, was not a safe or wise thing for her to do. So she excused herself to Herr Sesemann with her usual flow of words; to-day and to-morrow it would be quite impossible for her to take the journey, and there was so much to do that she doubted if she could get off on any of the following days. Herr Sesemann understood that she was unwilling to go at all, and so dismissed her. Then he sent for Sebastian and told him to make ready to start; he was to travel with the child as far as Basle that day, and the next day take her home. He would give him a letter to carry to the grandfather, which would explain everything, and he himself could come back by return.
"But there is one thing in particular which I wish you to look after," said Herr Sesemann in conclusion, "and be sure you attend to what I say. I know the people of this hotel in Basle, the name of which I give you on this card. They will see to providing rooms for the child and you. When there, go at once into the child's room and see that the windows are all firmly fastened so that they cannot be easily opened. After the child is in bed, lock the door of her room on the outside, for the child walks in her sleep and might run into danger in a strange house if she went wandering downstairs and tried to open the front door; so you understand?"
"Oh! then that was it?" exclaimed Sebastian, for now a light was thrown on the ghostly visitations.
"Yes, that was it! and you are a coward, and you may tell John he is the same, and the whole household a pack of idiots." And with this Herr Sesemann went off to his study to write a letter to Alm-Uncle.
Sebastian remained standing, feeling rather foolish. "If only I had not let that fool of a John drag me back into the room, and had gone after the little white figure, which I should do certainly if I saw it now!" he kept on saying to himself; but just now every corner of the room was clearly visible in the daylight.
Meanwhile Heidi was standing expectantly dressed in her Sunday frock waiting to see what would happen next, for Tinette had only woke her up with a shake and put on her clothes without a word of explanation. The little uneducated child was far too much beneath her for Tinette to speak to.
Herr Sesemann went back to the dining-room with the letter; breakfast was now ready, and he asked, "Where is the child?"
Heidi was fetched, and as she walked up to him to say "Good-morning," he looked inquiringly into her face and said, "Well, what do you say to this, little one?"
Heidi looked at him in perplexity.
"Why, you don't know anything about it, I see," laughed Herr Sesemann. "You are going home to-day, going at once."
"Home," murmured Heidi in a low voice, turning pale; she was so overcome that for a moment or two she could hardly breathe.
"Don't you want to hear more about it?"
"Oh, yes, yes!" exclaimed Heidi, her face now rosy with delight.
"All right, then," said Herr Sesemann as he sat down and made her a sign to do the same, "but now make a good breakfast, and then off you go in the carriage."
But Heidi could not swallow a morsel though she tried to do what she was told; she was in such a state of excitement that she hardly knew if she was awake or dreaming, or if she would again open her eyes to find herself in her nightgown at the front door.
"Tell Sebastian to take plenty of provisions with him," Herr Sesemann called out to Fraülein Rottenmeier, who just then came into the room; "the child can't eat anything now, which is quite natural. Now run up to Clara and stay with her till the carriage comes round," he added kindly, turning to Heidi.
Heidi had been longing for this, and ran quickly upstairs. An immense trunk was standing open in the middle of the room.
"Come along, Heidi," cried Clara, as she entered; "see all the things I have had put in for you—aren't you pleased?"
And she ran over a list of things, dresses and aprons and handkerchiefs, and all kinds of working materials. "And look here," she added, as she triumphantly held up a basket. Heidi peeped in and jumped for joy, for inside it were twelve beautiful round white rolls, all for grandmother. In their delight the children forgot that the time had come for them to separate, and when some one called out, "The carriage is here," there was no time for grieving.
Heidi ran to her room to fetch her darling book; she knew no one could have packed that, as it lay under her pillow, for Heidi had kept it by her night and day. This was put in the basket with the rolls. Then she opened her wardrobe to look for another treasure, which perhaps no one would have thought of packing—and she was right—the old red shawl had been left behind, Fraülein Rottenmeier not considering it worth putting in with the other things. Heidi wrapped it round something else which she laid on the top of the basket, so that the red package was quite conspicuous. Then she put on her pretty hat and left the room. The children could not spend much time over their farewells, for Herr Sesemann was waiting to put Heidi in the carriage. Fraülein Rottenmeier was waiting at the top of the stairs to say good-bye to her. When she caught sight of the strange little red bundle, she took it out of the basket and threw it on the ground. "No, no, Adelaide," she exclaimed, "you cannot leave the house with that thing. What can you possibly want with it!" And then she said good-bye to the child. Heidi did not dare take up her little bundle, but she gave the master of the house an imploring look, as if her greatest treasure had been taken from her.
"No, no," said Herr Sesemann in a very decided voice, "the child shall take home with her whatever she likes, kittens and tortoises, if it pleases her; we need not put ourselves out about that, Fraülein Rottenmeier."
Heidi quickly picked up her bundle, with a look of joy and gratitude. As she stood by the carriage door, Herr Sesemann gave her his hand and said he hoped she would remember him and Clara. He wished her a happy journey, and Heidi thanked him for all his kindness, and added, "And please say good-bye to the doctor for me and give him many, many thanks." For she had not forgotten that he had said to her the night before, "It will be all right to-morrow," and she rightly divined that he had helped to make it so for her. Heidi was now lifted into the carriage, and then the basket and the provisions were put in, and finally Sebastian took his place. Then Herr Sesemann called out once more, "A pleasant journey to you," and the carriage rolled away.
Heidi was soon sitting in the railway carriage, holding her basket tightly on her lap; she would not let it out of her hands for a moment, for it contained the delicious rolls for grandmother; so she must keep it carefully, and even peep inside it from time to time to enjoy the sight of them. For many hours she sat as still as a mouse; only now was she beginning to realize that she was going home to the grandfather, the mountain, the grandmother, and Peter, and pictures of all she was going to see again rose one by one before her eyes; she thought of how everything would look at home, but this brought other thoughts to her mind, and all of a sudden she said anxiously, "Sebastian, are you sure that grandmother on the mountain is not dead?"
"No, no," said Sebastian, wishing to soothe her, "we will hope not; she is sure to be alive still."
Then Heidi fell back on her own thoughts again. Now and then she looked inside the basket, for the thing she looked forward to most was laying all the rolls out on grandmother's table. After a long silence she spoke again, "If only we could know for certain that grandmother is alive!"
"Yes, yes," said Sebastian, half asleep; "she is sure to be alive, there is no reason why she should be dead."
After a while sleep fell on Heidi too, and after her disturbed night and early rising she slept so soundly that she did not wake till Sebastian shook her by the arm and called to her, "Wake up, wake up! we shall have to get out directly; we are just in Basle!"
There was a further railway journey of many hours the next day. Heidi again sat with her basket on her knee, for she would not have given it up to Sebastian on any consideration; to-day she never even opened her mouth, for her excitement, which increased with every mile of the journey, kept her speechless. All of a sudden, before Heidi expected it, a voice called out, "Mayenfeld." She and Sebastian both jumped up, the latter also taken by surprise. In another minute they were both standing on the platform with Heidi's trunk, and the train was steaming away down the valley. Sebastian looked after it regretfully, for he preferred the easier mode of travelling to a wearisome climb on foot, especially as there was danger no doubt as well as fatigue in a country like this, where, according to Sebastian's idea, everything and everybody were half savage. He therefore looked cautiously to either side to see who was a likely person to ask the safest way to Dörfli.
Just outside the station he saw a shabby-looking little cart and horse which a broad-shouldered man was loading with heavy sacks that had been brought by the train, so he went up to him and asked which was the safest way to get to Dörfli.
"All the roads about here are safe," was the curt reply.
So Sebastian altered his question and asked which was the best way to avoid falling over the precipice, and also how a box could be conveyed to Dörfli. The man looked at the box, weighing it with his eye, and then volunteered if it was not too heavy to take it on his own cart, as he was driving to Dörfli. After some little interchange of words it was finally agreed that the man should take both the child and the box to Dörfli, and there find some one who could be sent on with Heidi up the mountain.
"I can go by myself, I know the way well from Dörfli," put in Heidi, who had been listening attentively to the conversation. Sebastian was greatly relieved at not having to do any mountain climbing. He drew Heidi aside and gave her a thick rolled parcel, and a letter for her grandfather; the parcel, he told her, was a present from Herr Sesemann, and she must put it at the bottom of her basket under the rolls and be very careful not to lose it, as Herr Sesemann would be very vexed if she did, and never be the same to her again; so little miss was to think well of what he said.
"I shall be sure not to lose it," said Heidi confidently, and she at once put the roll and the letter at the bottom of her basket. The trunk meanwhile had been hoisted into the cart, and now Sebastian lifted Heidi and her basket on to the high seat and shook hands with her; he then made signs to her to keep her eye on the basket, for the driver was standing near and Sebastian thought it better to be careful, especially as he knew that he ought himself to have seen the child safely to her journey's end. The driver now swung himself up beside Heidi, and the cart rolled away in the direction of the mountains, while Sebastian, glad of having no tiring and dangerous journey on foot before him, sat down in the station and awaited the return train.
The driver of the car was the miller at Dörfli and was taking home his sacks of flour. He had never seen Heidi, but like everybody in Dörfli knew all about her. He had known her parents, and felt sure at once that this was the child of whom he had heard so much. He began to wonder why she had come back, and as they drove along he entered into conversation with her. "You are the child who lived with your grandfather, Alm-Uncle, are you not?"
"Didn't they treat you well down there that you have come back so soon?"
"Yes, it was not that; everything in Frankfurt is as nice as it could be."
"Then why are you running home again?"
"Only because Herr Sesemann gave me leave, or else I should not have come."
"If they were willing to let you stay, why did you not remain where you were better off than at home?"
"Because I would a thousand times rather be with grandfather on the mountain than anywhere else in the world."
"You will think differently perhaps when you get back there," grumbled the miller; and then to himself, "It's strange of her, for she must know what it's like."
He began whistling and said no more, while Heidi looked around her and began to tremble with excitement, for she knew every tree along the way, and there overhead were the high jagged peaks of the mountain looking down on her like old friends. And Heidi nodded back to them, and grew every moment more wild with her joy and longing, feeling as if she must jump down from the cart and run with all her might till she reached the top. But she sat quite still and did not move, although inwardly in such agitation. The clock was striking five as they drove into Dörfli. A crowd of women and children immediately surrounded the cart, for the box and the child arriving with the miller had excited the curiosity of everybody in the neighborhood, inquisitive to know whence they came and whither they were going and to whom they belonged. As the miller lifted Heidi down, she said hastily, "Thank you, grandfather will send for the trunk," and was just going to run off, when first one and then another of the bystanders caught hold of her, each one having a different question to put to her. But Heidi pushed her way through them with such an expression of distress on her face that they were forced to let her go. "You see," they said to one another, "how frightened she is, and no wonder," and then they went on to talk of Alm-Uncle, how much worse he had grown that last year, never speaking a word and looking as if he would like to kill everybody he met, and if the child had anywhere else to go to she certainly would not run back to the old dragon's den. But here the miller interrupted them, saying he knew more about it than they did, and began telling them how a kind gentleman had brought her to Mayenfeld and seen her off, and had given him his fare without any bargaining, and extra money for himself; what was more, the child had assured him that she had had everything she wanted where she had been, and that it was her own wish to return to her grandfather. This information caused great surprise and was soon repeated all over Dörfli, and that evening there was not a house in the place in which the astounding news was not discussed, of how Heidi had of her own accord given up a luxurious home to return to her grandfather.
Heidi climbed up the steep path from Dörfli as quickly as she could; she was obliged, however, to pause now and again to take breath, for the basket she carried was rather heavy, and the way got steeper as she drew nearer the top. One thought alone filled Heidi's mind, "Would she find the grandmother sitting in her usual corner by the spinning-wheel, was she still alive?" At last Heidi caught sight of the grandmother's house in the hollow of the mountain and her heart began to beat; she ran faster and faster and her heart beat louder and louder—and now she had reached the house, but she trembled so she could hardly open the door—and then she was standing inside, unable in her breathlessness to utter a sound.
"Ah, my God!" cried a voice from the corner, "that was how Heidi used to run in; if only I could have her with me once again! Who is there?"
"It's I, I, grandmother," cried Heidi as she ran and flung herself on her knees beside the old woman, and seizing her hands, clung to her, unable to speak for joy. And the grandmother herself could not say a word for some time, so unexpected was this happiness; but at last she put out her hand and stroked Heidi's curly hair, and said, "Yes, yes, that is her hair, and her voice; thank God that He has granted my prayer!" And tears of joy fell from the blind eyes on to Heidi's hand. "Is it really you, Heidi; have you really come back to me?"
"Yes, grandmother, I am really here," answered Heidi in a reassuring voice. "Do not cry, for I have really come back and I am never going away again, and I shall come every day to see you, and you won't have any more hard bread to eat for some days, for look, look!"
And Heidi took the rolls from the basket and piled the whole twelve up on grandmother's lap.
"Ah, child! child! what a blessing you bring with you!" the old woman exclaimed, as she felt and seemed never to come to the end of the rolls. "But you yourself are the greatest blessing, Heidi," and again she touched the child's hair and passed her hand over her hot cheeks, and said, "Say something, child, that I may hear your voice."
Then Heidi told her how unhappy she had been, thinking that the grandmother might die while she was away and would never have her white rolls, and that then she would never, never see her again.
Peter's mother now came in and stood for a moment overcome with astonishment. "Why, it's Heidi," she exclaimed, "and yet can it be?"
Heidi stood up, and Brigitta now could not say enough in her admiration of the child's dress and appearance; she walked round her, exclaiming all the while, "Grandmother, if you could only see her, and see what a pretty frock she has on; you would hardly know her again. And the hat with the feather in it is yours too, I suppose? Put it on that I may see how you look in it?"
"No, I would rather not," replied Heidi firmly. "You can have it if you like; I do not want it; I have my own still." And Heidi so saying undid her red bundle and took out her own old hat, which had become a little more battered still during the journey. But this was no trouble to Heidi; she had not forgotten how her grandfather had called out to Dete that he never wished to see her and her hat and feathers again, and this was the reason she had so anxiously preserved her old hat, for she had never ceased to think about going home to her grandfather. But Brigitta told her not to be so foolish as to give it away; she would not think of taking such a beautiful hat; if Heidi did not want to wear it she might sell it to the schoolmaster's daughter in Dörfli and get a good deal of money for it. But Heidi stuck to her intention and hid the hat quietly in a corner behind the grandmother's chair. Then she took off her pretty dress and put her red shawl on over her under-petticoat, which left her arms bare; and now she clasped the old woman's hand. "I must go home to grandfather," she said, "but to-morrow I shall come again. Good-night, grandmother."
"Yes, come again, be sure you come again to-morrow," begged the grandmother, as she pressed Heidi's hands in hers, unwilling to let her go.
"Why have you taken off that pretty dress?" asked Brigitta.
"Because I would rather go home to grandfather as I am or else perhaps he would not know me; you hardly did at first."
Brigitta went with her to the door, and there said in rather a mysterious voice, "You might have kept on your dress, he would have known you all right; but you must be careful, for Peter tells me that Alm-Uncle is always now in a bad temper and never speaks."
Heidi bid her good-night and continued her way up the mountain, her basket on her arm. All around her the steep green slopes shone bright in the evening sun, and soon the great gleaming snowfield up above came in sight. Heidi was obliged to keep on pausing to look behind her, for the higher peaks were behind her as she climbed. Suddenly a warm red glow fell on the grass at her feet; she looked back again—she had not remembered how splendid it was, nor seen anything to compare to it in her dreams—for there the two high mountain peaks rose into the air like two great flames, the whole snowfield had turned crimson, and rosy-colored clouds floated in the sky above. The grass upon the mountain-sides had turned to gold, the rocks were all aglow, and the whole valley was bathed in golden mist. And as Heidi stood gazing around her at all this splendor the tears ran down her cheeks for very delight and happiness, and impulsively she put her hands together, and lifting her eyes to heaven, thanked God aloud for having brought her home, thanked Him that everything was as beautiful as ever, more beautiful even than she had thought, and that it was all hers again once more. And she was so overflowing with joy and thankfulness that she could not find words to thank Him enough. Not until the glory began to fade could she tear herself away. Then she ran on so quickly that in a very little while she caught sight of the tops of the fir trees above the hut roof, then the roof itself, and at last the whole hut, and there was grandfather sitting as in old days smoking his pipe, and she could see the fir trees waving in the wind. Quicker and quicker went her little feet, and before Alm-Uncle had time to see who was coming, Heidi had rushed up to him, thrown down her basket and flung her arms round his neck, unable in the excitement of seeing him again to say more than "Grandfather! grandfather! grandfather!" over and over again.
And the old man himself said nothing. For the first time for many years his eyes were wet, and he had to pass his hand across them. Then he unloosed Heidi's arms, put her on his knee, and after looking at her for a moment, "So you have come back to me, Heidi," he said, "how is that? You don't look much of a grand lady. Did they send you away?"
"Oh, no, grandfather," said Heidi eagerly, "you must not think
that; they were all so kind—Clara, and grandmamma, and Herr
Sesemann. But you see, grandfather, I did not know how to bear
myself till I got home again to you. I used to think I should
die, for I felt as if I could not breathe; but I
never said anything because it would have been ungrateful. And then
suddenly one morning quite early Herr Sesemann said to me—but I
think it was partly the doctor's doing—but perhaps it's all in
"That belongs to you," said the latter, laying the roll down on the bench beside him. Then he opened the letter, read it through and without a word put it in his pocket.
"Do you think you can still drink milk with me, Heidi?" he asked, taking the child by the hand to go into the hut. "But bring your money with you; you can buy a bed and bedclothes and dresses for a couple of years with it."
"I am sure I do not want it," replied Heidi. "I have got a bed already, and Clara has put such a lot of clothes in my box that I shall never want any more."
"Take it and put it in the cupboard; you will want it some day I have no doubt."
Heidi obeyed and skipped happily after her grandfather into the house; she ran into all the corners, delighted to see everything again, and then went up the ladder—but there she came to a pause and called down in a tone of surprise and distress, "Oh, grandfather, my bed's gone."
"We can soon make it up again," he answered her from below. "I did not know that you were coming back; come along now and have your milk."
Heidi came down, sat herself on her high stool in the old place, and then taking up her bowl drank her milk eagerly, as if she had never come across anything so delicious, and as she put down her bowl, she exclaimed, "Our milk tastes nicer than anything else in the world, grandfather."
A shrill whistle was heard outside. Heidi darted out like a flash of lightning. There were the goats leaping and springing among the rocks, with Peter in their midst. When he caught sight of Heidi he stood still with astonishment and gazed speechlessly at her. Heidi called out, "Good-evening, Peter," and then ran in among the goats. "Little Swan! Little Bear! do you know me again?" And the animals evidently recognized her voice at once, for they began rubbing their heads against her and bleating loudly as if for joy, and as she called the other goats by name one after the other, they all came scampering towards her helter-skelter and crowding round her. The impatient Greenfinch sprang into the air and over two of her companions in order to get nearer, and even the shy little Snowflake butted the Great Turk out of her way in quite a determined manner, which left him standing taken aback by her boldness, and lifting his beard in the air as much as to say, You see who I am.
Heidi was out of her mind with delight at being among all her old friends again; she flung her arms round the pretty little Snowflake, stroked the obstreperous Greenfinch, while she herself was thrust at from all sides by the affectionate and confiding goats; and so at last she got near to where Peter was still standing, not having yet got over his surprise.
"Come down, Peter," cried Heidi, "and say good-evening to me."
"So you are back again?" he found words to say at last, and now ran down and took Heidi's hand which she was holding out in greeting, and immediately put the same question to her which he had been in the habit of doing in the old days when they returned home in the evening, "Will you come out with me again to-morrow?"
"Not to-morrow, but the day after perhaps, for to-morrow I must go down to grandmother."
"I am glad you are back," said Peter, while his whole face beamed with pleasure, and then he prepared to go on with his goats; but he never had had so much trouble with them before, for when at last, by coaxing and threats, he had got them all together, and Heidi had gone off with an arm over either head of her grandfather's two, the whole flock suddenly turned and ran after her. Heidi had to go inside the stall with her two and shut the door, or Peter would never have got home that night. When Heidi went indoors after this she found her bed already made up for her; the hay had been piled high for it and smelt deliciously, for it had only just been got in, and the grandfather had carefully spread and tucked in the clean sheets. It was with a happy heart that Heidi lay down in it that night, and her sleep was sounder than it had been for a whole year past. The grandfather got up at least ten times during the night and mounted the ladder to see if Heidi was all right and showing no signs of restlessness, and to feel that the hay he had stuffed into the round window was keeping the moon from shining too brightly upon her. But Heidi did not stir; she had no need now to wander about, for the great burning longing of her heart was satisfied; she had seen the high mountains and rocks alight in the evening glow, she had heard the wind in the fir trees, she was at home again on the mountain.
W HAT boy or girl has not heard the story of King Robert Bruce and the spider? I will tell you another story of the same brave and famous king.
He had fought a battle with his enemies, the English. His little army had been beaten and scattered. Many of his best friends had been killed or captured. The king himself was obliged to hide in the wild woods while his foes hunted for him with hounds.
For many days he wandered through rough and dangerous places. He waded rivers and climbed mountains. Sometimes two or three faithful friends were with him. Sometimes he was alone. Sometimes his enemies were very close upon him.
Late one evening he came to a little farmhouse in a lonely valley. He walked in without knocking. A woman was sitting alone by the fire.
"May a poor traveler find rest and shelter here for the night?" he asked.
The woman answered, "All travelers are welcome for the sake of one; and you are welcome."
"Who is that one?" asked the king.
"That is Robert the Bruce," said the woman. "He is the rightful lord of this country. He is now being hunted with hounds, but I hope soon to see him king over all Scotland."
"Since you love him so well," said the king, "I will tell you something. I am Robert the Bruce."
"You!" cried the woman in great surprise. "Are you the Bruce, and are you all alone?"
"My men have been scattered," said the king, "and therefore there is no one with me."
"That is not right," said the brave woman. "I have two sons who are gallant and trusty. They shall go with you and serve you."
So she called her two sons. They were tall and strong young men, and they gladly promised to go with the king and help him.
The king sat down by the fire, and the woman hurried to get things ready for supper. The two young men got down their bows and arrows, and all were busy making plans for the next day.
Suddenly a great noise was heard outside. They listened. They heard the tramping of horses and the voices of a number of men.
"The English! the English!" said the young men.
"Be brave, and defend your king with your lives," said their mother.
Then some one outside called loudly, "Have you seen King Robert the Bruce pass this way?"
"That is my brother Edward's voice," said the king. "These are friends, not enemies."
The door was thrown open and he saw a hundred brave men, all ready to give him aid. He forgot his hunger; he forgot his weariness. He began to ask about his enemies who had been hunting him.
"I saw two hundred of them in the village below us," said one of his officers. "They are resting there for the night and have no fear of danger from us. If you have a mind to make haste, we may surprise them."
"Then let us mount and ride," said the king.
The next minute they were off. They rushed suddenly into the village. They routed the king's enemies and scattered them.
And Robert the Bruce was never again obliged to hide in the woods or to run from savage hounds. Soon he became the real king and ruler of all Scotland.
When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round,
And the whirring sail goes round;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.
When merry milkmaids click the latch,
And rarely smells the new-mown hay,
And the cock hath sung beneath the thatch
Twice or thrice his roundelay,
Twice or thrice his roundelay;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.
WEEK 40 |
I N the days when knights wore armour and fought with sword and lance, they used often to play at war, as if they had not real fighting enough.
These mock wars were called tournaments. They took place in
a great open space or plain, which was called the lists. The
knights, dressed in full armour, with painted shields and
waving plumes, met each other and fought as they would in
battle. Each wore the badge of his
Round the lists were seats where fair ladies and great princes sat to watch the tournament. Each knight was eager to do great deeds, so that he might win the praise of the beautiful ladies who looked on. When the jousting, as it was called, was over, the fairest lady placed a crown of bay leaves on the head of the victor. This crown was prized more than if it had been of gold and gems, and each knight did his best to win it. It was thought that no knight could show his love and reverence for his lady better than by jousting and tilting in her name.
As Edward travelled home to England he passed through France, and near to a little town called Chalons. When the count of that place heard that the great English prince was passing through his land, he sent a message asking that they might meet in a tournament with a thousand knights on either side, lance for lance.
Far and wide Edward was known as a brave and courteous warrior, and although his knights whispered that the Count of Chalons had no love for the prince and meant to do him harm, Edward accepted the challenge, as such a message was called. Indeed it seemed to him that he was in honour bound to do so, for it was counted unknightly to refuse a challenge. Great preparations were made, and on a fair day in May the plain of Chalons was gay with knights on horseback, and lovely ladies and people of all ranks in holiday dress, crowding to see the tournament.
The earth seemed to shake as Edward and his thousand splendid and brave English knights thundered over it. But the Count of Chalons came to meet them, not with one thousand men as had been agreed, but with two thousand.
Yet the English had no fear, and the tournament began. It was soon seen, however, that it was no friendly trial of strength, but a fight of bitter hate.
The count rode again and again at Edward, until his lance was splintered in his hand. Then throwing away the shaft, he seized the prince round the neck, and tried to drag him from his horse.
The Count rode again and again at Edward till his lance was splintered in his hand.
This, according to the rules of the tournament, was a mean and unknightly thing to do. Edward sat his horse like a rock, and, great though the strength of the French count was, he could not move him. Then suddenly Edward spurred his horse, it sprang forward, and the count, who still clung tightly to Edward, was pulled from his saddle and fell to the ground with a fearful crash.
Enraged at such unknightly behaviour, Edward leaped down and beat with the shaft of his lance upon the armour of the fallen count, heeding not his cries for mercy. As of a hammer upon an anvil, blow after blow fell, until at last the rage of the prince was spent, and he allowed the count to rise.
The count then offered his sword to the prince in token of submission, but Edward turned from him in scorn. "Nay, sir knight," he said, "this day have you proved yourself no true knight. My servants may receive your tarnished sword, I shall not touch it." So the count was obliged to give up his sword to a common soldier, which, for a true knight, was the deepest disgrace.
Meanwhile the English archers outside the lists, seeing that the French knights far outnumbered the English, and that there was no fair play, shot with their arrows at the horses of the French. Many of them fell dead, dragging their riders to the ground, where they lay helpless, trampled upon alike by friend and foe. Then the French foot-soldiers joined in the fight, and the tournament became a battle.
The English were far outnumbered, but even so they had the best of it. They took many of the French knights prisoners, making them pay large sums of money for their freedom. The common soldiers they slew because, they said, "they were but rascals and of no great account." So fierce a tournament was this that, ever after, it was called "The little war of Chalons."
H EATH is a name for open uncultivated land. Many kinds of plants cannot live on certain heaths. The soil is not right for them. Other plants, however, thrive in such ground. Indeed, one family of plants is called "Heath Family" because so many of its members grow on heaths.
Blueberries belong to the Heath Family. As you already know, there are blueberries growing on Holiday Hill. Some of them, which are close to the old stones, are neighborly enough to reach through cracks in the crumbling granite.
Blueberry bushes pushed their stems through cracks in the crumbling granite
There are blueberry bushes growing away from the rocks, too. Their roots have run in all directions until one whole slope of the hill is covered with them.
No man planted these blueberry bushes. They were growing there long before any man found them. For many years the berries were picked and the seeds were scattered without any help from people.
Bears and smaller furry animals, with a fondness for sweet fruit, had countless pleasant picnics on the sunny hillside.
Sometimes gulls flew away from the sea and the shore to the hill where they gathered blueberries for a change. Fruit-eating song birds came often to feast there.
Doubtless both the furry and the feathered berry-pickers scattered seeds here and there; and doubtless some of these seeds grew to make more bushes. But, except for such seeds as they chanced to drop, animals of those sorts could do little to aid the blueberry plants.
But there were certain other animals that helped in a different and more important way. These were the insects that hovered over the heath while the blossoms dangled like little pink and creamy bells.
Among the visiting insects, none were more abundant and useful than bees. For bees flew to the bushes to drink the sweet nectar they found in the blossoms; and while they were sipping nectar they did a good deed to the plants that fed them. The service which bees and some other insect guests performed was to carry pollen from blossom to blossom.
Each blueberry flower needed pollen from another blueberry flower to enable its juicy fruit and its seeds to grow. Wind could not carry the pollen for them and drop it into the nodding bell-shaped heath blossoms. Nothing could help these plants in this way except the insects. Such heath plants and insects have lived together for ages. They need each other.
Of course these insects never knew they were helping the blueberries. They simply felt thirsty for nectar and went to the blossoms to drink.
When a visiting bee thrust her strong tongue up into a blueberry blossom, she moved the parts inside that held the pollen. The golden dust poured down upon her and stuck to her body. Then when she reached another blossom and brushed against its moist sticky stigma, some of the pollen came off her body and stayed on the stigma.
All through blossom time thousands of bees have been carrying their dusty loads of pollen year after year. But, of course, the birds and the beasts have never known that they had little insects to thank for all the sweet juicy berries they picked on the hillside!
The open blueberry slope of Holiday Hill once had trees growing on it so close together that but little sunlight could get through their branches. Some of these trees were cut and some were burned by white men. It is quite likely that some were burned by Indians before that. And perhaps lightning may have set some blazing fires that spread over the hillside.
Lightning may have set some blazing fires
No place could have been more inviting to blueberry bushes than such sunny land free from overhanging branches. Their roots and underground stems reached into the soil that had been cleared by fires. More and more new bushes sprouted from the old ones until, after a long time, these plants covered most of the ground that had once been shaded by trees.
It has been several years since a bear was seen on Holiday Hill, though certain smaller furry animals still come and go. So do birds with a liking for good sweet fruit. Their happy chirps may be heard from time to time.
There is another cheerful sound, too, that often floats about the hillside nowadays. The laughter of children is in the air—children with berry-stained fingers and faces.
Even though they spend much of their time among the blueberries, they find other plants of the Heath Family, too.
Bearberry shrubs with trailing stems grow in rocky places. Their red fruits are pretty to look at, but the children do not find them good to eat.
Bearberry blossoms are bell‑like
Another member of the Heath Family grows well in the granite gravel on the hillside. Spicy red checkerberries may be found on this plant almost any time of year. They have a pleasant flavor in the late summer before they are full-grown. They stay on the plant all winter and are still good early the next summer when they are nearly a year old. These berries are firmer than blueberries and not so juicy.
Checkerberry, or wintergreen, or teaberry
Checkerberry plants, too, have insects to thank for all their seeds. And no animal could enjoy the rosy fruit if it were not for the little pollen-bearers.
Of course the feathered and furry berry-pickers do not know about heath blossoms and insects. Children, however, are wiser and can learn to think thankfully of little wild bees whenever they gather tasty heath berries.
But the fruit is not the only good-flavored part of a checkerberry plant. When the leaves are young and tender, they are quite as good as the berries to eat. The leaves are fragrant. "Aromatic" is the word that a botanist uses when he speaks of checkerberry leaves.
That is a pleasant-sounding word for spicy leaves. Wintergreen is another name for a checkerberry. That is a good name for it, as its leaves stay green all winter.
You do not really need to eat checkerberry leaves or fruit to learn about wintergreen flavor. You can find out, if you wish, by eating certain kinds of candy.
But, of course, it is much pleasanter to visit the plants themselves. And while you are there on Holiday Hill, you may like to think that once long ago some Indians climbed that slope and found the same kind of heath plants growing.
For Indians used to gather the aromatic wintergreen leaves and steep them in hot water for tea. And if you wish to learn how that sort of drink tastes, why not make some for yourself? As you sip it you may be interested to know that this member of the Heath Family has still another name and is sometimes called teaberry.
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof, there thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe;
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
"The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest eve,
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.
"The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees."
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
WEEK 40 |
I T was the last day of Old Mother Nature's school in the Green Forest, and when jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun had climbed high enough in the blue, blue sky to peep down through the trees, he found not one missing of the little people who had been learning so much about themselves, their relatives, neighbors and all the other animals in every part of this great country. You see, not for anything in the world would one of them willingly have missed that last lesson.
"I told you yesterday," began Old Mother Nature, "that the land is surrounded by water, salt water, sometimes called the ocean and sometimes the sea. In this live the largest animals in all the Great World and many others, some of which sometimes come on land, and others which never do.
"One of those which come on land is first cousin to Little Joe Otter and is named the Sea Otter. He lives in the cold waters of the western ocean of the Far North. He much resembles Little Joe Otter, whom you all know, but has finer, handsomer fur. In fact, so handsome is his fur that he has been hunted for it until now he is among the shyest and rarest of all animals, and has taken to living in the water practically all the time, rarely visiting land. He lies on his back in the water and gets his food from the bottom of the sea. It is chiefly clams and other shellfish. He rests on floating masses of sea plants. He is very playful and delights to toss pieces of seaweed from paw to paw as he lies floating on his back. Of course he is a wonderful swimmer and diver. Otherwise he couldn't live in the sea.
"Another who comes on land, but only for a very short distance from
the water, is called the Walrus. He belongs to an order called
Finnipedia, which means
"The Sea Lions belong to this same
"The largest member of the family is the Steller
"The most valuable member of the family, so far as man is concerned,
"The true Seals are short-necked, thick-bodied, and have rather round heads with no visible ears. The Walrus and Sea Lions can turn their hind flippers forward to use as feet on land, but this the true Seals cannot do. Therefore they are more clumsy out of water. Their front flippers are covered with hair.
"The one best known is the Harbor or Leopard Seal. It is found along both coasts, often swimming far up big rivers. It is one of the smallest members of the family. Sometimes it is yellowish-gray spotted with black and sometimes dark brown with light spots.
"The Ringed Seal is about the same size or a little smaller than the Harbor Seal and is found as far north as it can find breathing holes in the ice. You know all these animals breathe air just as land animals do. This Seal looks much like the Harbor Seal, but is a little more slender.
"Another member of the family is the Harp, Saddle-back or Greenland Seal. He is larger than the other two and has a black head and gray body with a large black ring on the back. The female is not so handsome, being merely spotted.
"The handsomest Seal is the Ribbon Seal. He is about the size of his cousin the Harbor Seal. He is also called the Harlequin Seal. Sometimes his coat is blackish-brown and sometimes yellowish-gray, but always he has a band of yellowish-white, like a broad ribbon, from his throat around over the top of his head, and another band which starts on his chest and goes over his shoulder, curves down and finally goes around his body not far above the hind flippers. Only the male is so marked. This Seal is rather rare. Like most of the others it lives in the cold waters of the Far North.
"The largest of the Seals is the Elephant Seal, once numerous, but killed by man until now there are few members of this branch of the family. He is a tremendous fellow and has a movable nose which hangs several inches below his mouth.
"The queerest-looking member of the family is the Hooded Seal. Mr. Seal of this branch of the family is rather large, and on top of his nose he carries a large bag of skin which he can fill with air until he looks as if he were wearing a queer hood or bonnet.
"The Seals complete the list of animals which live mostly in the
water but come out on land or ice at times. Now I will tell you
of a true mammal, warm-blooded, just as you are, and air-breathing,
but which never comes on land. This is the Manatee or
"This curious animal lives on water plants. Sometimes it will come
close to a river bank and with head and shoulders out of water feed
on the grasses which hang down from the bank. The babies are, of
course, born in the water, as the Manatee never comes on shore.
Now I think this will end
Peter Rabbit hopped up excitedly. "You said that the largest animals in the world live in the sea, and you haven't told us what they are," he cried.
"True enough, Peter," replied Old Mother Nature pleasantly. "The largest living animal is a Whale, a true mammal and not a fish at all, as some people appear to think. There are several kinds of Whales, some of them comparatively small and some the largest animals in the world, so large that I cannot give you any idea of how big they are. Beside one of these, the biggest Walrus would look like a baby. But the Whales do not belong just to this country, so I think we will not include them.
"Now we will close school. I hope you have enjoyed learning as much as I have enjoyed teaching, and I hope that what you have learned will be of use to you as long as you live. The more knowledge you possess the better fitted for your part in the work of the Great World you will be. Don't forget that, and never miss a chance to learn."
And so ended Old Mother Nature's school in the Green Forest. One by one her little pupils thanked her for all she had taught them, and then started for home. Peter Rabbit was the last.
"I know ever and ever so much more than I did when I first came to
you, but I guess that after all I know very little of all there is
to know," said he shyly, which shows that Peter really had learned
a great deal. Then he started for the dear Old Briar-patch,
And so, as you have seen, Benjamin Franklin became in time one of the foremost men in our country.
In 1753, when he was forty-five years old, he was made deputy postmaster-general for America.
He was to have a salary of about $3,000 a year, and was to pay his own assistants.
People were astonished when he proposed to have the mail carried regularly once every week between New York and Boston.
Letters starting from Philadelphia on Monday morning would reach Boston the next Saturday night. This was thought to be a wonderful and almost impossible feat. But nowadays, letters leaving Philadelphia at midnight are read at the breakfast table in Boston the next morning.
At that time there were not seventy post-offices in the whole country. There are now more than seventy thousand.
Benjamin Franklin held the office of deputy postmaster-general for the American colonies for twenty-one years.
In 1754 there was a meeting of the leading men of all the colonies at Albany. There were fears of a war with the French and Indians of Canada, and the colonies had sent these men to plan some means of defence.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the men from Pennsylvania at this meeting.
He presented a plan for the union of the colonies, and it was adopted. But our English rulers said it was too democratic, and refused to let it go into operation.
This scheme of Franklin's set the people of the colonies to thinking. Why should the colonies not unite? Why should they not help one another, and thus form one great country?
And so, we may truthfully say that it was Benjamin Franklin who first put into men's minds the idea of the great Union which we now call the United States of America.
The people of the colonies were not happy under the rule of the English. One by one, laws were made which they looked upon as oppressive and burdensome. These laws were not intended to benefit the American people, but were designed to enrich the merchants and politicians of England.
In 1757 the people of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Georgia, decided to send some one to England to petition against these oppressions.
In all the colonies there was no man better fitted for this business than Benjamin Franklin. And so he was the man sent.
The fame of the great American had gone before him. Everybody seemed anxious to do him honor.
He met many of the leading men of the day, and he at last succeeded in gaining the object of his mission.
But such business moved slowly in those times. Five years passed before he was ready to return to America.
He reached Philadelphia in November, 1762, and the colonial assembly of Pennsylvania thanked him publicly for his great services.
But new troubles soon came up between the colonies and the government in England. Other laws were passed, more oppressive than before.
It was proposed to tax the colonies, and to force the colonists to buy stamped paper. This last act was called the Stamp Tax, and the American people opposed it with all their might.
Scarcely had Franklin been at home two years when he was again sent to England to plead the cause of his countrymen.
This time he remained abroad for more than ten years; but he was not so successful as before.
In 1774 he appeared before the King's council to present a petition from the people of Massachusetts.
He was now a venerable man nearly seventy years of age. He was the most famous man of America.
His petition was rejected. He himself was shamefully insulted and abused by one of the members of the council. The next day he was dismissed from the office of deputy postmaster-general of America.
In May, 1775, he was again at home in Philadelphia.
Two weeks before his arrival the battle of Lexington had been fought, and the war of the Revolution had been begun.
Franklin had done all that he could to persuade the English king to deal justly with the American colonies. But the king and his counselors had refused to listen to him.
During his ten years abroad he had not stayed all the time in England. He had traveled in many countries of Europe, and had visited Paris several times.
Many changes had taken place while he was absent.
His wife, Mrs. Deborah Franklin, had died. His parents and fifteen of his brothers and sisters had also been laid in the grave.
The rest of his days were to be spent in the service of his country, to which he had already given nearly twenty years of his life.
Benjamin Franklin was not only a printer, politician, and statesman, he was the first scientist of America. In the midst of perplexing cares it was his delight to study the laws of nature and try to understand some of the mysteries of creation.
In his time no very great discoveries had yet been made. The steam engine was unknown. The telegraph had not so much as been dreamed about. Thousands of comforts which we now enjoy through the discoveries of science were then unthought of; or if thought of, they were deemed to be impossible.
Franklin began to make experiments in electricity when he was about forty years old.
He was the first person to discover that lightning is caused by electricity. He had long thought that this was true, but he had no means of proving it.
He thought that if he could stand on some high tower during a thunderstorm, he might be able to draw some of the electricity from the clouds through a pointed iron rod. But there was no high tower in Philadelphia. There was not even a tall church spire.
At last he thought of making a kite and sending it up to the clouds. A paper kite, however, would be ruined by the rain and would not fly to any great height.
So instead of paper he used a light silk handkerchief which he fastened to two slender but strong cross pieces. At the top of the kite he placed a pointed iron rod. The string was of hemp, except a short piece at the lower end, which was of silk. At the end of the hemp string an iron key was tied.
"I think that is a queer kind of kite," said Franklin's little boy. "What are you going to do with it?"
"Wait until the next thunderstorm, and you will see," said Franklin. "You may go with me and we will send it up to the clouds."
He told no one else about it, for if the experiment should fail, he did not care to have everybody laugh at him.
At last, one day, a thunderstorm came up, and Franklin, with his son, went out into a field to fly his kite. There was a steady breeze, and it was easy to send the kite far up towards the clouds.
Then, holding the silken end of the string, Franklin stood under a little shed in the field, and watched to see what would happen.
The lightnings flashed, the thunder rolled, but there was no sign of electricity in the kite. At last, when he was about to give up the experiment, Franklin saw the loose fibres of his hempen string begin to move.
He put his knuckles close to the key, and sparks of fire came flying to his hand. He was wild with delight. The sparks of fire were electricity; he had drawn them from the clouds.
That experiment, if Franklin had only known it, was a very dangerous one. It was fortunate for him, and for the world, that he suffered no harm. More than one person who has since tried to draw electricity from the clouds has been killed by the lightning that has flashed down the hempen kite string.
When Franklin's discovery was made known it caused great excitement among the learned men of Europe. They could not believe it was true until some of them had proved it by similar experiments.
They could hardly believe that a man in the far-away city of Philadelphia could make a discovery which they had never thought of as possible. Indeed, how could an American do anything that was worth doing.
Franklin soon became famous in foreign countries as a philosopher and man of science. The universities of Oxford and Edinburgh honored him by conferring upon him their highest degrees. He was now Doctor Benjamin Franklin. But in America people still thought of him only as a man of affairs, as a great printer, and as the editor of Poor Richard's Almanac.
All this happened before the beginning of his career as ambassador from the colonies to the king and government of England.
I cannot tell you of all of his discoveries in science. He invented the lightning rod, and, by trying many experiments, he learned more about electricity than the world had ever known before.
He made many curious experiments to discover the laws of heat, light, and sound. By laying strips of colored cloth on snow, he learned which colors are the best conductors of heat.
He invented the harmonica, an ingenious musical instrument, in which the sounds were produced by musical glasses.
During his long stay abroad he did not neglect his scientific studies. He visited many of the greatest scholars of the time, and was everywhere received with much honor.
The great scientific societies of Europe, the Royal Academies in Paris and in Madrid, had already elected him as one of their members. The King of France wrote him a letter, thanking him for his useful discoveries in electricity, and for his invention of the lightning rod.
All this would have made some men very proud. But it was not so with Dr. Franklin. In a letter which he wrote to a friend at the time when these honors were beginning to be showered upon him, he said:
"The pride of man is very differently gratified; and had his Majesty sent me a marshal's staff I think I should scarce have been so proud of it as I am of your esteem."
In 1776 delegates from all the colonies met in Philadelphia. They formed what is known in history as the Second Continental Congress of America.
It was now more than a year since the war had begun, and the colonists had made up their minds not to obey the oppressive laws of the King of England and his council.
Many of them were strongly in favor of setting up a new government of their own.
The Congress, therefore, appointed a committee to draft a declaration of independence. Benjamin Franklin was one of that committee.
On the 4th of July, Congress declared the colonies to be free and independent states, no longer subject to the laws of England. Among the men who signed their names to this Declaration of Independence was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.
Soon after this Dr. Franklin was sent to Paris as minister from the United States. Early in the following year, 1777, he induced the King of France to acknowledge the independence of this country.
He thus secured aid for the Americans at a time when they were in the greatest need of it. Had it not been for his services at this time, the war of the Revolution might have ended very differently, indeed.
It was not until 1785 that he was again able to return to his home.
He was then nearly eighty years old.
He had served his country faithfully for fifty-three years. He would have been glad if he might retire to private life, but the people who knew and appreciated his great worth, would not permit him to do so.
When he reached Philadelphia he was received with joy by thousands of his countrymen.
General Washington was among the first to welcome him, and to thank him for his great services.
That same year the grateful people of his state elected him President of Pennsylvania.
Two years afterwards, he wrote:
"I am here in my niche in my own house, in the bosom of my family, my daughter and grandchildren all about me, among my old friends, or the sons of my friends, who equally respect me.
"In short, I enjoy here every opportunity of doing good, and everything else I could wish for, except repose; and that I may soon expect, either by the cessation of my office, which cannot last more than three years, or by ceasing to live."
The next year he was a delegate to the convention which formed the present Constitution of the United States. By the adoption of this Constitution, the thirteen United States became a single nation worthy to be ranked with the other great governments of the world.
In a letter written to his friend, General Washington, not long afterwards, Benjamin Franklin said: "For my personal ease I should have died two years ago; but though those years have been spent in pain, I am glad to have lived them, since I can look upon our present situation."
In April, 1790, he died, and was buried by the side of his wife, Deborah, in Arch street graveyard in Philadelphia. His age was eighty-four years and three months.
Many years before his death he had written the following epitaph for himself:
He clasps the crag with hookèd hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
WEEK 40 |
"Come, children all, and listen a while,
And a story to you I'll unfold;
I'll tell you how Robin Hood served the Bishop,
When he robbed him of his gold."
The Bishop of Hereford was very angry with Robin Hood for the trick he had played him at Allan-a-Dale's wedding. He was so angry that he would have been pleased if any one had caught or killed Robin. But no one did. The wicked people were nearly all afraid of Robin and his brave men. The people who were kind and good loved him.
One day the Bishop had to take a great deal of money to a monastery. A monastery is a large house in which a number of good men live together. In those days, however, the men who lived in the monasteries were not always good. Sometimes they were very wicked indeed.
To reach the monastery the Bishop had to pass through part of Sherwood Forest. He felt sure he would meet Robin Hood, so he gathered together all his servants, and as many soldiers as he could. He hoped either to kill Robin or to take him prisoner, and bring him to Nottingham to have him hanged there.
He hoped most to take him prisoner, because he knew his friend, the Sheriff of Nottingham, was Robin's greatest enemy, and had promised to give a large sum of money to any one who would take him prisoner.
It was a bright, sunshiny day in the middle of June when the Bishop set out. It was cool and shady under the great leafy trees of the forest. Wild roses and pink and white morning-glory trailed across the path. The banks and ditches were gay with bright yellow moneywort and tansy. Sweetbrier and honeysuckle scented the air. Birds sang and twittered in the branches, and all the world was full of beauty.
Into the still and peaceful forest rode the Bishop and his men. Soon the woody paths were filled with the noise of neighing and trampling horses. The clang of swords, and the clatter and jingle of steel harness and armour, frightened the deer in their lairs, and the birdies in their nests.
But it was a splendid sight to see all those bold soldiers in shining armour riding along. The Bishop rode in the middle of them, wearing a gorgeous robe, trimmed with lace, over his armour.
Robin loved to roam in the forest, and he would often leave his men and wander off by himself. This morning everything was so bright and beautiful that he went on and on, hearing nothing but the song of birds, seeing nothing but the trees and flowers.
Suddenly he saw the Bishop and his men riding down a wide forest path. They, too, saw him quite plainly, for he was standing right in the middle of the path, looking up into a tree, listening to a blackbird singing.
"O what shall I do, said Robin Hood then,
If the Bishop he doth take me?
No Mercy he'll show unto me, I know,
But hangèd I shall be."
One man singly, however brave he might be, could not fight against all these soldiers. Nor could Robin call his men by blowing on his horn, as he generally did, when he was in danger. They were so far away, that long before they could reach him, Robin knew that he would be killed or taken prisoner.
It was a dreadful moment. With wild shouts of triumph the Bishop and his men were riding down upon him. There was only one thing to do. And Robin did it. He ran away.
Fast and faster he ran, closely followed by the Bishop's men. In and out among the trees he went, twisting and turning. After him came the soldiers, shouting wildly. He led them to the thickest part of the wood. On they came, trampling down the ferns, and crushing the pretty wildflowers.
Closer and closer grew the trees; narrower and narrower the pathways. Horses stumbled over roots or trailing branches of ivy, sending their riders sprawling on the ground. There they lay, unable to rise, because of the weight of their armour. The overhanging branches of the trees caught others, and knocked them off their horses, which galloped away riderless and terrified far into the forest.
It was a mad and breathless chase. Robin knew every path and secret way in all the woods. The trees seemed to bend down to hide him as he passed, or spread out their tough roots to trip up the horses of the Bishop's men.
Robin's suit, too, of Lincoln green, was almost the colour of the leaves in summer, and that helped him. The men found it more and more difficult to follow, and at last they lost him altogether.
He could hear their shouts growing fainter and fainter in the distance, but still he ran on. He knew the danger was not yet over. In the very thickest part of the wood he came to an old woman's cottage. He often sent presents to this poor old woman, so he was sure she would help him.
Knocking loudly on the door, he called out, "Open, open quickly and let me in."
The old woman hobbled to the door and opened it as fast as she could.
"Why, who art thou? said the old woman,
Come tell to me for good.
I am an outlaw as many do know,
And my name is Robin Hood.
And yonder's the Bishop and all his men;
And if that I taken be,
Then day and night he'll work me spite,
And hangèd I shall be."
"Come in," said the old woman, plucking him by the sleeve. "Come in quickly."
Robin stepped into the house. The old woman shut and bolted the door after him.
"If you are really Robin Hood," said she, looking at him hard, "I'll do anything I can to hide you from the Bishop and his men."
"I swear to you, my good woman, that I am truly Robin Hood. If you help me, neither my men nor I will ever forget it."
"I believe you, sir, I believe you. You have an honest face," answered the old woman. "And I'm not likely to forget all the kindness I have had from you and your Merry Men. Why, no later than last Saturday night you sent me a pair of shoes and some fine woollen stockings. See," she added, putting out one foot, "I'm wearing the shoes at this very minute. But haste ye lad, haste ye," she went on more quickly, "where will ye hide?"
"In your grey gown," said Robin with a laugh.
The old woman looked at him in astonishment. "In my grey gown?" she said.
"Yes," said Robin; "give me a grey dress and a big white cap like those you wear. Dressed in them I can go safely through the wood till I meet my men. If I do chance to come across the Bishop and his soldiers I will hobble along like any old woman, and they will never stop to look at me. Then do you put on my suit of Lincoln green. If the Bishop follows me here, as I think he will, he will mistake you for me. Let him take you prisoner, and do not be afraid, for my good fellows and I will soon be back to rescue you from him."
"Bless your life, sir, what a head you have," said the old woman laughing. "I doubt if my old mutch ever covered so great a wit before."
Then she hobbled off, to get the clothes for Robin, as fast as ever she could.
When he was dressed, she gave him a spindle and flax in one hand and a stout walking-stick in the other.
"And when Robin was so arrayed,
He went straight to his company;
With his spindle and twine, he oft looked behind
For the Bishop and his company."
Once he met several of the Bishop's men who were now scattered through the woods, hunting everywhere for him. But he bent his back and hobbled slowly along like a very old woman, muttering and mumbling to himself till they were out of sight. So he got safely past.
It took him a long time to get to where his own men were. For one thing he found it was very difficult to walk in a dress. On the other hand, he was afraid to go too fast in case he should be seen by any of the Bishop's people.
At last he got to the place where he had left his men. There stood Little John looking out for him.
Robin waved his stick and shouted, but he was so well disguised that even his great friend did not know him.
"Look at that queer creature," said Little John to Will Scarlet who stood beside him. "I believe it's a witch. I'll shoot an arrow at her and see."
Little John knew that if it was a witch she would mount upon her stick and fly away over the trees as soon as she saw the arrow coming, and he wanted to see her do it.
He laid an arrow to his bow, and was just going to shoot when Robin cried out, "Stop, stop, Little John. It is Robin Hood."
Little John threw down his bow, and ran to him calling out, "Master, master, I might have shot you. What has happened that you come back in this guise?"
Robin soon told all his tale. Then said, "Now gather all our men, for we must fight the Bishop and save this good old woman."
Very soon, Robin, once more dressed in Lincoln green, was marching gaily at the head of his men, through the forest, searching for the Bishop and his company.
The old woman had barely had time to get into Robin's clothes before the Bishop arrived. He was pretty sure that Robin would take refuge in her cottage.
"So the Bishop he came to the old woman's house,
And he called with furious mood;,
Come let me soon see, and bring unto me
That traitor Robin Hood."
The old woman said never a word. She let them shout and bang at her door as much as they liked. With Robin's hat pulled well down over her face, she stood in a dark corner and waited. After a great deal of noise, they burst the door open and rushed in. They shouted with triumph when they saw the figure in green standing in the corner.
The old woman had armed herself with a good stout stick. With this she laid about her making a great show of fighting. She did indeed give one or two of the Bishop's men hearty smacks on the head. The noise was tremendous. Outside she could hear the Bishop shouting, "Gently, my men, gently. Take him alive, take him alive."
After a little she pretended to give in, and allowed several of the men to tie her hands behind her back. They led her out to the Bishop. So glad was he to see Robin Hood, as he thought, captured and bound, that he rocked in his saddle for very joy.
"Aha, my man," he cried, "we have you at last. Say farewell to your Green Wood. You will never see it again."
The old woman held her head down, though her hat was pulled well over her face, for fear the Bishop would find out that she was not Robin Hood at all.
But the Bishop was so old and blind that he could not tell that it was not Robin. Besides, he was so sure that he had got him that he hardly even looked at the old woman's face. He thought Robin was hanging his head in shame.
"Ho there," he cried, "honour to the prince of thieves. The finest horse in the company for the King of Sherwood Forest."
So a milk-white horse, the finest in all the company, was brought forward. Two men helped the old woman on to it. They tied her on firmly in case she should try to jump off and run away.
"He is ugly enough anyhow," said one man, looking at the old woman.
"As ugly as sin," said another.
"Ah, my children," said the Bishop, who heard them, "you see what sin does. This man leads a wicked life, and it has left its mark on his face."
When the old woman heard that, she shook with anger. It was so untrue.
The Bishop thought that Robin was trembling in fear. "Ah, you may well tremble my man," he said. "The punishment of all your wicked deeds is near." But the old woman never answered a word.
"Sound the trumpet," said the Bishop turning to the captain of his soldiers. "Call in all our scattered men, for I would be at St. Mary's Abbey by noon."
So the trumpet was sounded, and all the Bishop's servants and soldiers gathered together again. Once more they set off, the old woman on her beautiful white horse riding beside the Bishop on his dapple grey pony.
As they rode along the Bishop laughed and sang for joy. He was so glad that he had taken Robin Hood prisoner. His laughter did not last long, however.
"For as they were riding the forest along,
The Bishop chanced to see
A hundred brave bowmen stout and strong
Stand under the Green Wood Tree."
"Who are these," said the Bishop, "and what man is that who leads them?"
Then for the first time the old woman spoke. "Faith," said she, "I think it is a man called Robin Hood."
The Bishop made his pony stop, and laying a hand on the old woman's reins turned to her with a pale face. "Who are you, then?" he asked.
"Only an old woman, my Lord Bishop. Only an old woman and not Robin Hood at all," she replied.
"Then woe is me, the Bishop said,
That ever I saw this day!
He turned him about, but Robin so stout,
Called to him and bid him to stay."
"No, my Lord Bishop," said Robin, taking his hat off and bowing politely, "no, my lord, you cannot go yet. You owe us something for all the trouble you have given us."
"No, my Lord Bishop," said Robin, "you cannot go yet"
Then he went to the old woman, unbound her hands, and lifted her gently to the ground. "I thank you, dame," he said, "for your kindness to me this day. Robin Hood will never forget it. Now you must have more comfortable clothes. If you follow Much the Miller's son he will take you to Maid Marian. She is waiting for you."
"Thank you kindly," said the old woman, as she went away laughing, "but I think I'll take to wearing Lincoln green myself."
The Bishop's men did not attempt to fight. They saw it was useless. Robin had gathered so many of his brave men that they could easily have killed all the Bishop's men if they had tried. So they laid down their swords and spears and waited quietly to see what would happen next.
"Then Robin took hold of the Bishop's horse,
And tied him fast to a tree;
Then smiled Little John his master upon,
For joy of his company."
Robin then helped the Bishop to get off his horse, and gave him a comfortable seat on the root of a tree. Then seating himself opposite he said, "Now, my Lord Bishop, how much money have you with you?"
"The money which I have with me is not mine," replied the Bishop.
"Very true it is not yours," agreed Robin smiling.
"It belongs to the monastery of St. Mary," said the Bishop.
"Pardon me, it belongs to the poor people from whom you have stolen it," said Robin sternly, "to whom it is now going to be returned. Little John, bring the Bishop's money bags."
Little John brought the Bishop's money bags and counted out five hundred pounds upon the ground.
"Now let him go," said Robin.
"Master," said Little John, "it is a long time since I have heard High Mass sung, or indeed since we have had any service except what Friar Tuck gives us. May the Bishop not sing Mass before he goes?"
"You are right," said Robin, gravely rising and laying his hand on Little John's arm. "I have to-day much to be thankful for. The Bishop shall sing Mass before he goes."
So in the dim wood, beneath the tall trees which formed an archway overhead, as if they had been in a great cathedral, Robin and his men, and the Bishop and his men, friend and foe, knelt together side by side while the Bishop sang Mass. The birds joined in the singing and the trees whispered the amens.
Then Robin called for the Bishop's pony. He set him on it and led him and his men back to the broad path through the woods.
There he took leave of them. "Go," he said to the Bishop, "thank God for all His mercies to you this day, and in your prayers forget not Robin Hood."
There was once a Dog who was very fond of eggs. He visited the hen house very often and at last got so greedy that he would swallow the eggs whole.
One day the Dog wandered down to the seashore. There he spied an Oyster. In a twinkling the Oyster was resting in the Dog's stomach, shell and all.
It pained the Dog a good deal, as you can guess.
"I've learned that all round things are not eggs," he said groaning.
Act in haste and repent at leisure—and often in pain.
The Captain stood on the carronade—"First lieutenant," says he,
"Send all my merry men aft here, for they must list to me,
I haven't the gift of the gab, my sons—because I'm bred to the sea;
That ship there is a Frenchman, who means to fight with me.
Odds blood, hammer and tongs, long as I've been to sea,
I've fought 'gainst every odds—but I've gained the victory.
That ship there is a Frenchman, and if we don't take she,
'T is a thousand bullets to one, that she will capture we;
I haven't the gift of the gab, my boys, so each man to his gun;
If she's not mine in half an hour, I'll flog each mother's son.
Odds bobs, hammer and tongs, long as I 've been to sea,
I've fought 'gainst every odds, and I've gained the victory.
We fought for twenty minutes when the Frenchmen had enough.
"I little thought," said he, "that your men were of such stuff."
The Captain took the Frenchman's sword, a low bow made to he;
I haven't the gift of the gab, Monsieur, but polite I wish to be.
Odds bobs, hammer and tongs, long as I've been to sea,
I've fought 'gainst every odds, and I've gained the victory."
Our Captain sent for all of us, "My merry men," said he,
"I haven't the gift of the gab, my lads, but yet I thankful be;
You've done your duty handsomely, each man stood to his gun;
If you hadn't, you villains, as sure as day, I'd have flogged each mother's son.
Odds bobs, hammer and tongs, as long as I'm at sea
I'll fight 'gainst every odds—and I'll gain the victory."
WEEK 40 |
"To navigate is necessary, to live is not."
—Motto of the Hanseatic League.
T HE Thirty Years' War was over. A general peace had been made, which included most of the nations of Europe. Holland and Spain made peace, too, after long years of fighting, and the King of Spain admitted that Holland was now free—no longer dependent on Spain.
The little country reclaimed from the sea had never been so great before. She made the most of her opportunity, and soon rose to be foremost amid all the nations of Europe. Ever a sea-faring people, it was now to the sea that they again turned. Commerce was almost as necessary to Holland as the religious liberty for which she had fought so long. Since the days when the Beggars of the Sea had taken Brille, and the fireships of Antwerp had helped in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, her sea-power had been rapidly growing. If England had formed an East India Company, Holland had followed her quickly with a Dutch East India Company. And even before the death of Sir Walter Raleigh her ships had outwitted those of England.
"The Hollanders send into France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy," he cried to his king, "with Baltic produce about 2000 merchant ships, and we have none. They traffic into every city and port around about this land with five or six hundred ships, and we into three towns in their country with forty ships."
So the ships of Holland grew and multiplied; they were better and faster than the English; they had ousted the
Portuguese from their strong positions in the East. To carry on better their trade with India and the Spice
Islands, the Dutch had built themselves a town in the Island of Java. It was like a miniature Amsterdam, with
its busy dockyards, its crowded wharfs, its shaded canals, and its huge warehouses. Indeed it was built upon a
swamp and called after their old country, Batavia. It soon became the headquarters of the Dutch East India
Company, and is
Here, at Batavia, they shipped the spices which made their country so wealthy. It is hard to understand how eagerly our forefathers loved these Eastern spices. Ginger, pepper, mace, nutmegs—these were always in great demand, and at feasts in Europe a seat near the spice-box was the seat of honour.
The sale of these spices brought untold wealth into Holland, as they would let no one else sell them. So the Dutch people bought nutmegs at 4d. per lb. in the East to sell them at 3s. per lb. in Europe. Pepper, which cost 2 ½ d. per lb. out there, was sold at nearly 2s. elsewhere.
Not only did they sail to the East, but also to the West. One day a Dutch admiral, Piet Hein, chased some Spanish ships in the Atlantic. They were bringing home to Spain a rich cargo of silver from Mexico, all of which Piet Hein captured.
"Piet Hein. Short is his name.
But great is his fame,
For the silver fleet he's ta'en,"
sang his countrymen as they stored their riches at Amsterdam.
All their riches and merchandise the Dutch stored at Amsterdam. There they built warehouses supported on piles driven into the swampy soil, in which they stowed the treasures of the world, until Amsterdam was the most famous city in Europe.
Not only was Holland teaching the rest of the world the value of the sea, but she was teaching them how to make more of the land. As soon as peace had come to the country the people had begun to reclaim more land for cultivation. They pumped and pumped till they had got a great piece of rich meadow-land from what had been a vast shallow lake of water. The cattle grazing on this land became the finest in Europe; the produce of Dutch dairies found a ready market in foreign countries.
Then, too, their market-gardens were better than any of their neighbours. They cultivated and exported potatoes and turnips nearly a century before England. They discovered the use of clover and improved grasses for fodder.
Keen as they were after profit to be obtained by trade, diligent in working out the resources of their country, they were also distinguished in art, literature, and painting. They had their artists in Rembrandt and Vandyke, their poet in Vondel.
Toward the end of the seventeenth century the Dutch were more famous by land and sea than any other nation in Europe. They were also the first to colonise the Cape of Good Hope, on the site now occupied by Cape Town.
I DARESAY you have forgotten—for it is a long way back—the name of Admētus, that King of Pheræ in Thessaly, whom Apollo, when banished from heaven, served as a shepherd for nine years. Admetus did not know that it was a god whom he had to keep his sheep; but he was so good and kind a master that Apollo, revealing himself at the end of his exile, bade him name any boon he desired, and it should be granted.
There is no such difficult question in the world to answer as that. Admetus answered, "Grant that I may never die."
But that is the one thing which not even the gods can grant to mortal men. The very cause of Apollo's having been banished to earth was his killing the Cyclops for forging the thunderbolt with which Jupiter had killed Æsculapius for making dead men live again. Not even the Fates could change that law even for the sake of Apollo. But they said, "Admetus shall live so long as he can find somebody else to die instead of him whenever his death-time comes," which was all they could allow.
After the return of Apollo to heaven, Admetus lived on in great happiness and welfare. He was one of the Argonauts; and he took part in the hunting of the Calydonian boar. He had fallen in love with Alcestis, the beautiful daughter of that King Pelias of whom you read in the story of the Golden Fleece, whose hand had been promised to the man who should come for her in a chariot drawn by a wild boar and a lion. This Admetus did; and in this chariot he drove her back to his own kingdom of Pheræ, where he made her his queen. And there they lived in great love and happiness for many years.
But the day came at last which had been appointed to Admetus for his death-time. Then Admetus, remembering the promise of the Fates, and not able to bear losing the happiness of living, thus besought his old father, Pheres—
"Father, you are already old and near to death; you have lived your life; it matters nothing to you whether your old age lasts a year less or a year more. What you now call life is only weariness and pain. But I am still young and strong, with the best part of my life still unlived, and my children ungrown, and my kingdom to govern: I beseech you to die for me, so that I also may live to be as old and as wise as you."
But his father answered: "No, my son; life is precious, even when one is old. The nearer we approach the cold dark grave, the dearer grow the sunshine and the living air. I will do anything else for you, but not die."
Then Admetus besought Clymēne, his mother—
"Mother, you are old and weak, and a woman; I am young and strong, and a man. What is such life as yours compared with mine? I beseech you to die for me: let not a mother doom to death her own child."
But his mother answered: "No, my son; he who loves his life as you love it, and fears death as you fear it, is not one for whom even his mother ought to die."
Then Admetus besought all his friends and kinsmen but all were deaf to him. For well the Fates had known that their promise would be in vain. But at last his dear and beautiful wife Alcestis came to him, and said—
"I will die for you, and gladly!" Ah, those Fates do not know everything after all!
Admetus, with all his selfishness, had never thought of sacrificing his wife; and he was overcome with horror. He prayed that Apollo's gift might be taken back; but the Fates are not to be played fast and loose with in that way, and they were angry perhaps at finding themselves baffled by a mere loving woman. Alcestis had to die instead of Admetus; and so she died, as she had said, proudly and gladly.
Now that it was too late, her husband was broken-hearted at having caused his wife's death for the sake of what had been but a selfish whim. All he could do for her in return was honor her love and devotion by a splendid funeral, to which people came from far and near to cover her grave with flowers.
Alcestis was buried, and the farewell hymn was being sung, when there thrust his way, rather roughly, through the crowded temple a stranger of mighty build, carrying a club, and clad with a lion's skin, seemingly the worse for wine. Admetus was too absorbed in his grief to notice this rude intrusion; but some of the bystanders cried shame on the stranger, and one of the priests came in his way, and said sternly—
"Who are you that dare to trouble grief like ours?"
"Who am I? Why, the servant of Eurystheus, King of Argos and Mycenæ. Is this how you receive strangers in your land? I had heard that Admetus of Pheræ is the most generous of kings, and Alcestis the most gracious of queens; and here I find you all like ghosts at a funeral. Where is the king?"
"There stands the king," said the priest, solemnly. And then he told the stranger the story which many a poet has told since—the story of how strong true love is, and how foolish it is to measure life by the number of its years.
Hercules—for he the stranger was—was sobered in a moment. "It is a shame!" he exclaimed, bringing down his club on the floor. "Fates or no fates, it shall not be! I am bound to Hades on an errand for my own king, and I will not come back unless I do a better one for yours."
So, leaving them all offended at what they took for a drunken boast, he dropped into the open grave: the people only thinking that he had passed from the temple somewhat suddenly. Hence he followed the passage taken by the queen's soul till he reached the Styx; and hard work must poor old Charon have had to row across such a weight as Hercules instead of the ghosts to which he was accustomed. On he went, finding his way as best he could without a guide, until, chancing upon the black gate of Tartarus, there growled in the middle of his path the three-headed dog Cerberus, with flashing eyes and flaming jaws.
Orpheus, you remember, had quieted Cerberus with the music of his lute: Hercules, going to work in other fashion, brought down his club upon one of the dog's skulls in a way that bewildered the other two. Then, seizing the monster by the throat, and in spite of its furious struggles, he fairly dragged it along with him by sheer strength, even into the very presence of Pluto and Proserpine.
"And," he cried, "god and goddess though you are, I will brain this dog of yours upon the steps of your throne unless you surrender to me the soul of Alcestis, that I may deliver her from death, and lead her back into life again."
It was an unheard-of thing that a man should thus take Hades by storm, and dictate terms to its king and queen. But for that moment I verily believe that Hercules became more than man—nay, more than Alcestis, because, while she had betaken herself to Elysium for the love of one who was dear to her, he had dared the torments of Tartarus out of pity for strangers and hate of wrong. Nay, I think it was truly this which had made his grip so fast on the dog's throat, and his club so heavy on the dog's three skulls; and this that made a mortal stand as their master before even Pluto and Proserpine.
"In the name of all the gods," said Pluto, "take the woman, and begone."
Then Alcestis appeared—a mere gray shade, the touch of whose hand was but like a film of gossamer. But as he dragged the less and less struggling Cerberus with one hand, and led her with the other, her shade took color and formed, and her fingers tightened upon his, until the living Alcestis, more beautiful than before, stepped with him out of her still open grave, and threw herself into her husband's arms.
Hercules did not wait for thanks; indeed, with Cerberus still on his hands, his only thought was to hurry back to Mycenæ. It is the strangest picture one can think of—a man dragging along the three-headed dog of Hades in the open light of day. It was one long strain on his whole strength, all day and all night long, for many nights and days. But he reached Mycenæ at last—and into his brazen pot leaped Eurystheus in the twinkling of an eye.
"I have brought him," said Hercules. "Cerberus is yours."
"Then," cried Eurystheus, as well as his terror would let him, "be off with you, Cerberus and all. Never more be servant of mine; never let me see your face or hear of you again!"
Thus Hercules, by obedient service, won his freedom, and his great penance was fulfilled. And the first use he made of freedom was to give it to Cerberus, who straightway, with a terrible howl, plunged into the earth, and disappeared.
WEEK 40 |
HERE was once a rich man whose wife lay sick, and when she felt her end drawing near she called to her only daughter to come near her bed, and said,
"Dear child, be pious and good, and God will always take care of you, and I will look down upon you from heaven, and will be with you."
And then she closed her eyes and expired. The maiden went every day to her mother's grave and wept, and was always pious and good. When the winter came the snow covered the grave with a white covering, and when the sun came in the early spring and melted it away, the man took to himself another wife.
The new wife brought two daughters home with her, and they were beautiful and fair in appearance, but at heart were black and ugly. And then began very evil times for the poor step-daughter.
"Is the stupid creature to sit in the same room with us?" said they; "those who eat food must earn it. Out upon her for a kitchen-maid!"
They took away her pretty dresses, and put on her an old gray kirtle, and gave her wooden shoes to wear.
"Just look now at the proud princess, how she is decked out!" cried they laughing, and then they sent her into the kitchen. There she was obliged to do heavy work from morning to night, get up early in the morning, draw water, make the fires, cook, and wash. Besides that, the sisters did their utmost to torment her,—mocking her, and strewing peas and lentils among the ashes, and setting her to pick them up. In the evenings, when she was quite tired out with her hard day's work, she had no bed to lie on, but was obliged to rest on the hearth among the cinders. And as she always looked dusty and dirty, they named her Aschenputtel.
It happened one day that the father went to the fair, and he asked his two step-daughters what he should bring back for them.
"Fine clothes!" said one.
"Pearls and jewels!" said the other.
"But what will you have, Aschenputtel?" said he.
"The first twig, father, that strikes against your hat on the way home; that is what I should like you to bring me."
So he bought for the two step-daughters fine clothes, pearls, and jewels, and on his way back, as he rode through a green lane, a hazel-twig struck against his hat; and he broke it off and carried it home with him. And when he reached home he gave to the step-daughters what they had wished for, and to Aschenputtel he gave the hazel-twig. She thanked him, and went to her mother's grave, and planted this twig there, weeping so bitterly that the tears fell upon it and watered it, and it flourished and became a fine tree. Aschenputtel went to see it three times a day, and wept and prayed, and each time a white bird rose up from the tree, and if she uttered any wish the bird brought her whatever she had wished for.
Now it came to pass that the king ordained a festival that should last for three days, and to which all the beautiful young women of that country were bidden, so that the king's son might choose a bride from among them. When the two step-daughters heard that they too were bidden to appear, they felt very pleased, and they called Aschenputtel, and said,
"Comb our hair, brush our shoes, and make our buckles fast, we are going to the wedding feast at the king's castle."
Aschenputtel, when she heard this, could not help crying, for she too would have liked to go to the dance, and she begged her step-mother to allow her.
"What, you Aschenputtel!" said she, "in all your dust and dirt, you want to go to the festival! you that have no dress and no shoes! you want to dance!"
But as she persisted in asking, at last the step-mother said,
"I have strewed a dish-full of lentils in the ashes, and if you can pick them all up again in two hours you may go with us."
Then the maiden went to the back-door that led into the garden, and called out,
"O gentle doves, O turtle-doves,
And all the birds that be,
The lentils that in ashes lie
Come and pick up for me!
The good must be put in the dish,
The bad you may eat if you wish."
Then there came to the kitchen-window two white doves, and after them some turtle-doves, and at last a crowd of all the birds under heaven, chirping and fluttering, and they alighted among the ashes; and the doves nodded with their heads, and began to pick, peck, pick, peck, and then all the others began to pick, peck, pick, peck, and put all the good grains into the dish. Before an hour was over all was done, and they flew away.
Then the maiden brought the dish to her step-mother, feeling joyful, and thinking that now she should go to the feast; but the step-mother said,
"No, Aschenputtel, you have no proper clothes, and you do not know how to dance, and you would be laughed at!"
And when Aschenputtel cried for disappointment, she added,
"If you can pick two dishes full of lentils out of the ashes, nice and clean, you shall go with us," thinking to herself, "for that is not possible." When she had strewed two dishes full of lentils among the ashes the maiden went through the back-door into the garden, and cried,
"O gentle doves, O turtle-doves,
And all the birds that be,
The lentils that in ashes lie
Come and pick up for me!
The good must be put in the dish,
The bad you may eat if you wish."
So there came to the kitchen-window two white doves, and then some turtle-doves, and at last a crowd of all the other birds under heaven, chirping and fluttering, and they alighted among the ashes, and the doves nodded with their heads and began to pick, peck, pick, peck, and then all the others began to pick, peck, pick, peck, and put all the good grains into the dish. And before half-an-hour was over it was all done, and they flew away. Then the maiden took the dishes to the step-mother, feeling joyful, and thinking that now she should go with them to the feast; but she said, "All this is of no good to you; you cannot come with us, for you have no proper clothes, and cannot dance; you would put us to shame."
Then she turned her back on poor Aschenputtel, and made haste to set out with her two proud daughters.
And as there was no one left in the house, Aschenputtel went to her mother's grave, under the hazel bush, and cried,
"Little tree, little tree, shake over me,
That silver and gold may come down and cover me."
Then the bird threw down a dress of gold and silver, and a pair of slippers embroidered with silk and silver. And in all haste she put on the dress and went to the festival. But her step-mother and sisters did not know her, and thought she must be a foreign princess, she looked so beautiful in her golden dress. Of Aschenputtel they never thought at all, and supposed that she was sitting at home, and picking the lentils out of the ashes. The King's son came to meet her, and took her by the hand and danced with her, and he refused to stand up with any one else, so that he might not be obliged to let go her hand; and when any one came to claim it he answered,
"She is my partner."
And when the evening came she wanted to go home, but the prince said he would go with her to take care of her, for he wanted to see where the beautiful maiden lived. But she escaped him, and jumped up into the pigeon-house. Then the prince waited until the father came, and told him the strange maiden had jumped into the pigeon-house. The father thought to himself,
"It cannot surely be Aschenputtel," and called for axes and hatchets, and had the pigeon-house cut down, but there was no one in it. And when they entered the house there sat Aschenputtel in her dirty clothes among the cinders, and a little oil-lamp burnt dimly in the chimney; for Aschenputtel had been very quick, and had jumped out of the pigeon-house again, and had run to the hazel bush; and there she had taken off her beautiful dress and had laid it on the grave, and the bird had carried it away again, and then she had put on her little gray kirtle again, and had sat down in the kitchen among the cinders.
The next day, when the festival began anew, and the parents and step-sisters had gone to it, Aschenputtel went to the hazel bush and cried,
"Little tree, little tree, shake over me,
That silver and gold may come down and cover me."
Then the bird cast down a still more splendid dress than on the day before. And when she appeared in it among the guests every one was astonished at her beauty. The prince had been waiting until she came, and he took her hand and danced with her alone. And when any one else came to invite her he said,
"She is my partner."
And when the evening came she wanted to go home, and the prince followed her, for he wanted to see to what house she belonged; but she broke away from him, and ran into the garden at the back of the house. There stood a fine large tree, bearing splendid pears; she leapt as lightly as a squirrel among the branches, and the prince did not know what had become of her.
So he waited until the father came, and then he told him that the strange maiden had rushed from him, and that he thought she had gone up into the pear-tree. The father thought to himself,
"It cannot surely be Aschenputtel," and called for an axe, and felled the tree, but there was no one in it. And when they went into the kitchen there sat Aschenputtel among the cinders, as usual, for she had got down the other side of the tree, and had taken back her beautiful clothes to the bird on the hazel bush, and had put on her old gray kirtle again.
On the third day, when the parents and the step-children had set off, Aschenputtel went again to her mother's grave, and said to the tree,
"Little tree, little tree, shake over me,
That silver and gold may come down and cover me."
Then the bird cast down a dress, the like of which had never been seen for splendour and brilliancy, and slippers that were of gold.
And when she appeared in this dress at the feast nobody knew what to say for wonderment. The prince danced with her alone, and if any one else asked her he answered,
"She is my partner."
And when it was evening Aschenputtel wanted to go home, and the prince was about to go with her, when she ran past him so quickly that he could not follow her. But he had laid a plan, and had caused all the steps to be spread with pitch, so that as she rushed down them the left shoe of the maiden remained sticking in it. The prince picked it up, and saw that it was of gold, and very small and slender. The next morning he went to the father and told him that none should be his bride save the one whose foot the golden shoe should fit. Then the two sisters were very glad, because they had pretty feet. The eldest went to her room to try on the shoe, and her mother stood by. But she could not get her great toe into it, for the shoe was too small; then her mother handed her a knife, and said,
"Cut the toe off, for when you are queen you will never have to go on foot." So the girl cut her toe off, squeezed her foot into the shoe, concealed the pain, and went down to the prince. Then he took her with him on his horse as his bride, and rode off. They had to pass by the grave, and there sat the two pigeons on the hazel bush, and cried,
"There they go, there they go!
There is blood on her shoe;
The shoe is too small,
Then the prince looked at her shoe, and saw the blood flowing. And he turned his horse round and took the false bride home again, saying she was not the right one, and that the other sister must try on the shoe. So she went into her room to do so, and got her toes comfortably in, but her heel was too large. Then her mother handed her the knife, saying, "Cut a piece off your heel; when you are queen you will never have to go on foot."
So the girl cut a piece off her heel, and thrust her foot into the shoe, concealed the pain, and went down to the prince, who took his bride before him on his horse and rode off. When they passed by the hazel bush the two pigeons sat there and cried,
"There they go, there they go!
There is blood on her shoe;
The shoe is too small,
Then the prince looked at her foot, and saw how the blood was flowing from the shoe, and staining the white stocking. And he turned his horse round and brought the false bride home again.
"This is not the right one," said he, "have you no other daughter?"
"No," said the man, "only my dead wife left behind her a little stunted Aschenputtel; it is impossible that she can be the bride." But the King's son ordered her to be sent for, but the mother said,
"Oh no! she is much too dirty, I could not let her be seen."
But he would have her fetched, and so Aschenputtel had to appear.
First she washed her face and hands quite clean, and went in and curtseyed to the prince, who held out to her the golden shoe. Then she sat down on a stool, drew her foot out of the heavy wooden shoe, and slipped it into the golden one, which fitted it perfectly. And when she stood up, and the prince looked in her face, he knew again the beautiful maiden that had danced with him, and he cried,
"This is the right bride!"
The step-mother and the two sisters were thunderstruck, and grew pale with anger; but he put Aschenputtel before him on his horse and rode off. And as they passed the hazel bush, the two white pigeons cried,
"There they go, there they go!
No blood on her shoe;
The shoe's not too small,
The right bride is she after all."
And when they had thus cried, they came flying after and perched on Aschenputtel's shoulders, one on the right, the other on the left, and so remained.
And when her wedding with the prince was appointed to be held the false sisters came, hoping to curry favour, and to take part in the festivities. So as the bridal procession went to the church, the eldest walked on the right side and the younger on the left, and the pigeons picked out an eye of each of them.
And as they returned the elder was on the left side and the younger on the right, and the pigeons picked out the other eye of each of them. And so they were condemned to go blind for the rest of their days because of their wickedness and falsehood.
I TOLD you the earth-worm has two veins. One runs down his back, the other runs along the under side of his body.
There are tiny holes, like pin pricks, in his body. These are for the air to reach his blood, to keep it red and pure.
In his body poor Mr. Worm has something that no other creature has. He has two bags or sacks for lime. This is in some way to help him with his food.
Mr. Worm has no teeth with which to grind his food. He has inside his body small bits of stone. These are as small as grains of sand. They are instead of teeth to grind his food.
When you study birds you will find that, like Mr. Worm, they have no teeth. They, too, carry little millstones inside their bodies.
The little bags of lime help to grind or change the worm's food in some way, not yet well known.
The soft body of the worm will stretch like India-rubber. It will hold a great deal of food.
Now you see that Mr. Worm is not alike at both ends. One end has the head, the stomach, the parts that serve for a brain, and a heart.
The hooks begin at the fourth ring behind the head. Look at the worm when he lifts his head, and you will see his mouth.
The tail end has very strong hooks with which to hold fast to his cell. This tail end is also his trowel, or mould, a tool with which this poor, ugly worm helps to build the world.
Ah! now I have told you a great thing, a strange thing. Is it true that the feeble, useless worm helps to build the world? Where is that boy who knew so much about worms?
But before you hear how the worm helps to build the world, let us go back to what the boy said. He said, "If you cut the worm in two, each end will go off and be a whole worm."
That is not true of the worm. When the worm is cut in two, the parts do not die at once. As there are hooks and rings on each part, they each can move off.
It is thought that if the fore part is left safe, the cut can close up, and the worm can still live. A new tail may grow upon the front part, as Mr. Crab's new claw or eye-peg grows.
The hind part cannot live and grow. It cannot get a new mouth or heart, so it can take no food, and have no blood. It soon dries up and dies.
The boy told me that the worm "had no feelings." A worm can feel. The sense of touch is the best sense it has. Put your finger on its body, and see it move and shrink.
If the worm can hear, the organs that serve for ears have not yet been found. It crawls up as you come near, and pokes its head out of its hole and wags it to and fro. It has felt the jar of your steps.
The worm cannot see. Creatures that live under ground have but little use for eyes. Fishes that live in dark cave-rivers have no eyes. If the worm moves from the light and hides from it, it is because it feels the action of light on its skin. It does not see the light.
What does Mr. Worm eat? Some tell you that he eats dirt. It is true that he fills his body full of earth. That is to carry it to the top of the ground. Mr. Crab has claws and legs to bend into the shape of a basket. Poor Mr. Worm has no arms, legs, or claws, so he must make a basket of himself.
Suppose you should be sent for fruit, and turn yourself into a basket in that way! Your mamma might find fault. She would not wish you to act like a worm.
It is true that the worm may find a little food in the earth which he swallows. But the chief food of the worm is dead leaves and stems of plants. It does not care for fresh, live leaves and stems and roots. The worm also likes meat,—fat, raw, or cooked. Worms will gnaw or suck the bodies of dead worms. We say worms gnaw. As they have no teeth, they do not really gnaw. They pinch off what they eat.
Worms like onions and cabbage best of all food. They need plenty of water, and must live in damp places. They soon die if they are put into water. They choke as a fish chokes if kept out in the air.
When the worm gets food into its mouth, the rings of its body begin to move out and in. They look as if they were opening and shutting. By this motion they press the food down into the body.
When the worm wants to move, it stretches out its body to its full length. Then it takes hold of the earth with its hooks. Next it draws up its body, and so moves on. This is a wave-like motion, you see. Watch it, and you will see that it travels with a motion like waves.
If you wish to find worms to study, you must seek for them in early morning or late in the evening. You will be likely to find them when all the earth is moist with dew, or when it is raining. They avoid heat and sun.
Worms hurry to the surface of the soil to enjoy the falling rain. When there is a long, dry time, the worms go down deeper and deeper into the earth. You cannot find them when you dig for them. They need to keep down where the earth is moist, soft, and cool.
Across the lonely beach we flit,
One little sandpiper and I,
And fast I gather, bit by bit,
The scattered driftwood, bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,
The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit,—
One little sandpiper and I.
Above our heads the sullen clouds
Scud, black and swift, across the sky;
Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds
Stand out the white lighthouses high.
Almost as far as eye can reach
I see the close-reefed vessels fly,
As fast we flit along the beach,—
One little sandpiper and I.
I watch him as he skims along,
Uttering his sweet and mournful cry;
He starts not at my fitful song,
Nor flash of fluttering drapery.
He has no thought of any wrong,
He scans me with a fearless eye;
Stanch friends are we, well tried and strong,
The little sandpiper and I.
Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night,
When the loosed storm breaks furiously?
My driftwood fire will burn so bright!
To what warm shelter canst thou fly?
I do not fear for thee, though wroth
The tempest rushes through the sky;
For are we not God's children both,
Thou, little sandpiper, and I?
WEEK 40 |
Daniel vi: 1 to 28.
HE lands which has been the Babylonian or Chaldean empire now became the empire of Persia; and over these Darius was the king. King Darius gave to Daniel, who was now a very old man, a high place in honor and in power. Among all the rulers over the land Daniel stood first, for the king saw that he was wise, and able to rule. This made the other princes and rulers very jealous, and they tried to find something evil in Daniel, so that they could speak to the king against him.
These men knew that three times every day Daniel went to his room, and opened the window that was toward the city of Jerusalem, and looking toward Jerusalem made his prayer to God. Jerusalem was at that time in ruins, and the Temple was no longer standing; but Daniel prayed three times each day with his face toward the place where the house of God had once stood, although it was many hundreds of miles away.
These nobles thought that in Daniel's prayers they could find a chance to do him harm, and perhaps cause him to be put to death. They came to King Darius, and said to him:
"All the rulers have agreed together to have a law made that for thirty days no one shall ask anything of any god or any man, except from you, O king; and that if any one shall pray to any god, or shall ask anything from any man during thirty days, except from you, O king, he shall be thrown into the den where the lions are kept. Now, O king, make the law, and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, for no law among the Medes and Persians can be altered."
The king was not a wise man, and being foolish and vain, he was pleased with this law which would set him even above the gods. So, without asking Daniel's advice, he signed the writing; and the law was made, and the word was sent out through the kingdom that for thirty days no one should pray to any god, or ask a favor of any man.
Daniel knew that the law had been made, but every day he went to his room three times, and opened the window that looked toward Jerusalem, and offered his prayer to the Lord, just as he had prayed in other times. These rulers were watching near by, and they saw Daniel kneeling in prayer to God. Then they came to the king and said, "O King Darius, have you not made a law that if any one in thirty days offers a prayer, he shall be thrown into the den of lions?" "It is true," said the king. "The law has been made, and it must stand."
They said to the king, "There is one man who does not obey the law which you have made. It is that Daniel, one of the captive Jews. Every day Daniel prays to his God three times, just as he did before you signed the writing of the law."
Then the king was very sorry for what he had done, for he loved Daniel, and knew that no one could take his place in the kingdom. All day, until the sun went down, he tried in vain to find some way to save Daniel's life; but when evening came these men again told him of the law that he had made, and said to him that it must be kept. Very unwillingly the king sent for Daniel, and gave him order that he should be thrown into the den of lions. He said to Daniel, "Perhaps your God, whom you serve so faithfully, will save you from the lions."
They led Daniel to the mouth of the pit where the lions were kept, and they threw him in; and over the mouth they placed a stone; and the king sealed it with his own seal and with the seals of his nobles, so that no one might take away the stone and let Daniel out of the den.
Daniel in the den of lions.
Then the king went again to his palace, but that night he was so sad that he could not eat, nor did he listen to music as he was used to listen. He could not sleep, for all through the night he was thinking of Daniel. Very early in the morning he rose up from his bed, and went in haste to the den of lions. He broke the seal, and took away the stone, and in a voice full of sorrow he called out, scarcely hoping to hear any answer except the roaring of the lions, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God been able to keep you safe from the lions?"
And out of the darkness in the den came the voice of Daniel, saying, "O king, may you live forever! My God has sent his angel, and has shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because my God saw that I had done no wrong. And I have done no wrong toward you, O king!"
Daniel answers the king.
Then the king was glad. He gave to his servants orders to take Daniel out of the den. Daniel was brought out safe and without harm, because he had trusted fully in the Lord God. Then, by the king's command, they seized those men who had spoken against Daniel, and with them their wives and their children, for the king was exceedingly angry with them. They were all thrown into the den, and the hungry lions leaped upon them, and tore them in pieces as soon as they fell upon the floor of the den.
It was very cruel and unjust to put to death with these men their wives and children, who had done no wrong, either to King Darius or to Daniel. But cruel and unjust as it was, such things were common in all the lands of that part of the world. The lives of people were but little cared for, and children often suffered death for their parent's crime.
After this King Darius wrote to all the lands and the peoples in the many kingdoms under his rule, "May peace be given to you all abundantly! I make a law that everywhere among my kingdoms men fear and worship the Lord God of Daniel, for he is the living God, above all other gods, who only can save men."
And Daniel stood beside King Darius unto the end of his reign, and afterward while Cyrus the Persian was king over all the lands.
Daniel lived for a number of years after being saved from the lions. He had several wonderful dreams and visions, which showed him what would come to pass many years afterward, and even to the coming of Jesus Christ.
T HE front door of the hollow tree faced eastwards, so Toad was called at an early hour; partly by the bright sunlight streaming in on him, partly by the exceeding coldness of his toes, which made him dream that he was at home in bed in his own handsome room with the Tudor window, on a cold winter's night, and his bedclothes had got up, grumbling and protesting they couldn't stand the cold any longer, and had run downstairs to the kitchen fire to warm themselves; and he had followed, on bare feet, along miles and miles of icy stone-paved passages, arguing and beseeching them to be reasonable. He would probably have been aroused much earlier, had he not slept for some weeks on straw over stone flags, and almost forgotten the friendly feeling of thick blankets pulled well up round the chin.
Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes first and his complaining toes next, wondered for a moment where he was, looking round for familiar stone wall and little barred window; then, with a leap of the heart, remembered everything—his escape, his flight, his pursuit; remembered, first and best thing of all, that he was free!
Free! The word and the thought alone were worth fifty blankets. He was warm from end to end as he thought of the jolly world outside, waiting eagerly for him to make his triumphal entrance, ready to serve him and play up to him, anxious to help him and to keep him company, as it always had been in days of old before misfortune fell upon him. He shook himself and combed the dry leaves out of his hair with his fingers; and, his toilet complete, marched forth into the comfortable morning sun, cold but confident, hungry but hopeful, all nervous terrors of yesterday dispelled by rest and sleep and frank and heartening sunshine.
He had the world all to himself, that early summer morning. The dewy woodland, as he threaded it, was solitary and still: the green fields that succeeded the trees were his own to do as he liked with; the road itself, when he reached it, in that loneliness that was everywhere, seemed, like a stray dog, to be looking anxiously for company. Toad, however, was looking for something that could talk, and tell him clearly which way he ought to go. It is all very well, when you have a light heart, and a clear conscience, and money in your pocket, and nobody scouring the country for you to drag you off to prison again, to follow where the road beckons and points, not caring whither. The practical Toad cared very much indeed, and he could have kicked the road for its helpless silence when every minute was of importance to him.
The reserved rustic road was presently joined by a shy little brother in the shape of a canal, which took its hand and ambled along by its side in perfect confidence, but with the same tongue-tied, uncommunicative attitude towards strangers. "Bother them!" said Toad to himself. "But, anyhow, one thing's clear. They must both be coming from somewhere, and going to somewhere. You can't get over that, Toad, my boy!" So he marched on patiently by the water's edge.
Round a bend in the canal came plodding a solitary horse, stooping forward as if in anxious thought. From rope traces attached to his collar stretched a long line, taut, but dipping with his stride, the further part of it dripping pearly drops. Toad let the horse pass, and stood waiting for what the fates were sending him.
With a pleasant swirl of quiet water at its blunt bow the barge slid up alongside of him, its gaily painted gunwale level with the towing-path, its sole occupant a big stout woman wearing a linen sun-bonnet, one brawny arm laid along the tiller.
"A nice morning, ma'am!" she remarked to Toad, as she drew up level with him.
"I dare say it is, ma'am!" responded Toad politely, as he walked along the tow-path abreast of her. "I dare it is a nice morning to them that's not in sore trouble, like what I am. Here's my married daughter, she sends off to me post-haste to come to her at once; so off I comes, not knowing what may be happening or going to happen, but fearing the worst, as you will understand, ma'am, if you're a mother, too. And I've left my business to look after itself—I'm in the washing and laundering line, you must know, ma'am—and I've left my young children to look after themselves, and a more mischievous and troublesome set of young imps doesn't exist, ma'am; and I've lost all my money, and lost my way, and as for what may be happening to my married daughter, why, I don't like to think of it, ma'am!"
"Where might your married daughter be living, ma'am?" asked the barge-woman.
"She lives near to the river, ma'am," replied Toad. "Close to a fine house called Toad Hall, that's somewheres hereabouts in these parts. Perhaps you may have heard of it."
"Toad Hall? Why, I'm going that way myself," replied the barge-woman. "This canal joins the river some miles further on, a little above Toad Hall; and then it's an easy walk. You come along in the barge with me, and I'll give you a lift."
She steered the barge close to the bank, and Toad, with many humble and grateful acknowledgments, stepped lightly on board and sat down with great satisfaction. "Toad's luck again!" thought he. "I always come out on top!"
"So you're in the washing business, ma'am?" said the barge-woman politely, as they glided along. "And a very good business you've got too, I dare say, if I'm not making too free in saying so."
"Finest business in the whole country," said Toad airily. "All the gentry come to me—wouldn't go to any one else if they were paid, they know me so well. You see, I understand my work thoroughly, and attend to it all myself. Washing, ironing, clear-starching, making up gents' fine shirts for evening wear—everything's done under my own eye!"
"But surely you don't do all that work yourself, ma'am?" asked the barge-woman respectfully.
"O, I have girls," said Toad lightly: "twenty girls or thereabouts, always at work. But you know what girls are, ma'am! Nasty little hussies, that's what I call 'em!"
"So do I, too," said the barge-woman with great heartiness. "But I dare say you set yours to rights, the idle trollops! And are you very fond of washing?"
"I love it," said Toad. "I simply dote on it. Never so happy as when I've got both arms in the wash-tub. But, then, it comes so easy to me! No trouble at all! A real pleasure, I assure you, ma'am!"
"What a bit of luck, meeting you!" observed the barge-woman, thoughtfully. "A regular piece of good fortune for both of us!"
"Why, what do you mean?" asked Toad, nervously.
"Well, look at me, now," replied the barge-woman. "I like washing, too, just the same as you do; and for that matter, whether I like it or not I have got to do all my own, naturally, moving about as I do. Now my husband, he's such a fellow for shirking his work and leaving the barge to me, that never a moment do I get for seeing to my own affairs. By rights he ought to be here now, either steering or attending to the horse, though luckily the horse has sense enough to attend to himself. Instead of which, he's gone off with the dog, to see if they can't pick up a rabbit for dinner somewhere. Says he'll catch me up at the next lock. Well, that's as may be—I don't trust him, once he gets off with that dog, who's worse than he is. But meantime, how am I to get on with my washing?"
"O, never mind about the washing," said Toad, not liking the subject. "Try and fix your mind on that rabbit. A nice fat young rabbit, I'll be bound. Got any onions?"
"I can't fix my mind on anything but my washing," said the barge-woman, "and I wonder you can be talking of rabbits, with such a joyful prospect before you. There's a heap of things of mine that you'll find in a corner of the cabin. If you'll just take one or two of the most necessary sort—I won't venture to describe them to a lady like you, but you'll recognise them at a glance—and put them through the wash-tub as we go along, why, it'll be a pleasure to you, as you rightly say, and a real help to me. You'll find a tub handy, and soap, and a kettle on the stove, and a bucket to haul up water from the canal with. Then I shall know you're enjoying yourself, instead of sitting here idle, looking at the scenery and yawning your head off."
"Here, you let me steer!" said Toad, now thoroughly frightened, "and then you can get on with your washing your own way. I might spoil your things, or not do 'em as you like. I'm more used to gentlemen's things myself. It's my special line."
"Let you steer?" replied the barge-woman, laughing. "It takes some practice to steer a barge properly. Besides, it's dull work, and I want you to be happy. No, you shall do the washing you are so fond of, and I'll stick to the steering that I understand. Don't try and deprive me of the pleasure of giving you a treat!"
Toad was fairly cornered. He looked for escape this way and that, saw that he was too far from the bank for a flying leap, and sullenly resigned himself to his fate. "If it comes to that," he thought in desperation, "I suppose any fool can wash!"
He fetched tub, soap, and other necessaries from the cabin, selected a few garments at random, tried to recollect what he had seen in casual glances through laundry windows, and set to.
A long half-hour passed, and every minute of it saw Toad getting crosser and crosser. Nothing that he could do to the things seemed to please them or do them good. He tried coaxing, he tried slapping, he tried punching; they smiled back at him out of the tub unconverted, happy in their original sin. Once or twice he looked nervously over his shoulder at the barge-woman, but she appeared to be gazing out in front of her, absorbed in her steering. His back ached badly, and he noticed with dismay that his paws were beginning to get all crinkly. Now Toad was very proud of his paws. He muttered under his breath words that should never pass the lips of either washerwomen or Toads; and lost the soap, for the fiftieth time.
A burst of laughter made him straighten himself and look round. The barge-woman was leaning back and laughing unrestrainedly, till the tears ran down her cheeks.
"I've been watching you all the time," she gasped. "I thought you must be a humbug all along, from the conceited way you talked. Pretty washerwoman you are! Never washed so much as a dish-clout in your life, I'll lay!"
Toad's temper which had been simmering viciously for some time, now fairly boiled over, and he lost all control of himself.
"You common, low, fat barge-woman!" he shouted; "don't you dare to talk to your betters like that! Washerwoman indeed! I would have you to know that I am a Toad, a very well-known, respected, distinguished Toad! I may be under a bit of a cloud at present, but I will not be laughed at by a barge-woman!"
The woman moved nearer to him and peered under his bonnet keenly and closely. "Why, so you are!" she cried. "Well, I never! A horrid, nasty, crawly Toad! And in my nice clean barge, too! Now that is a thing that I will not have."
She relinquished the tiller for a moment. One big, mottled arm shot out and caught Toad by a fore-leg, while the other gripped him fast by a hind-leg. Then the world turned suddenly upside down, the barge seemed to flit lightly across the sky, the wind whistled in his ears, and Toad found himself flying through the air, revolving rapidly as he went.
The water, when he eventually reached it with a loud splash, proved quite cold enough for his taste, though its chill was not sufficient to quell his proud spirit, or slake the heat of his furious temper. He rose to the surface spluttering, and when he had wiped the duck-weed out of his eyes the first thing he saw was the fat barge-woman looking back at him over the stern of the retreating barge and laughing; and he vowed, as he coughed and choked, to be even with her.
He struck out for the shore, but the cotton gown greatly impeded his efforts, and when at length he touched land he found it hard to climb up the steep bank unassisted. He had to take a minute or two's rest to recover his breath; then, gathering his wet skirts well over his arms, he started to run after the barge as fast as his legs would carry him, wild with indignation, thirsting for revenge.
The barge-woman was still laughing when he drew up level with her. "Put yourself through your mangle, washerwoman," she called out, "and iron your face and crimp it, and you'll pass for quite a decent-looking Toad!"
October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came,
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand;
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed,
The lovely Misses Maple
In scarlet looked their best.
All balanced to their partners
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.
Then in the rustic hollow
At hide-and-seek they played;
The party closed at sundown
And everybody stayed.
Professor Wind played louder;
They flew along the ground,
And then the party ended
In hands across, all round.