WEEK 43 |
T HE early light of morning lay rosy red upon the mountains, and a fresh breeze rustled through the fir trees and set their ancient branches waving to and fro. The sound awoke Heidi and she opened her eyes. The roaring in the trees always stirred a strong emotion within her and seemed to draw her irresistibly to them. So she jumped out of bed and dressed herself as quickly as she could, but it took her some time even then, for she was careful now to be always clean and tidy.
When she went down her ladder she found her grandfather had already left the hut. He was standing outside looking at the sky and examining the landscape as he did every morning, to see what sort of weather it was going to be.
Little pink clouds were floating over the sky, that was growing brighter and bluer with every minute, while the heights and the meadow lands were turning gold under the rising sun, which was just appearing above the topmost peaks.
"O how beautiful! how beautiful! Good-morning, grandfather!" cried Heidi, running out.
"What, you are awake already, are you?" he answered, giving her a morning greeting.
Then Heidi ran round to the fir trees to enjoy the sound she loved so well, and with every fresh gust of wind which came roaring through their branches she gave a fresh jump and cry of delight.
Meanwhile the grandfather had gone to milk the goats; this done he brushed and washed them, ready for their mountain excursion, and brought them out of their shed. As soon as Heidi caught sight of her two friends she ran and embraced them, and they bleated in return, while they vied with each other in showing their affection by poking their heads against her and trying which could get nearest her, so that she was almost crushed between them. But Heidi was not afraid of them, and when the lively Little Bear gave rather too violent a thrust, she only said, "No, Little Bear, you are pushing like the Great Turk," and Little Bear immediately drew back his head and left off his rough attentions, while Little Swan lifted her head and put on an expression as much as to say, "No one shall ever accuse me of behaving like the Great Turk." For White Swan was a rather more distinguished person than Brown Bear.
And now Peter's whistle was heard and all the goats came along, leaping and springing, and Heidi soon found herself surrounded by the whole flock, pushed this way and that by their obstreperous greetings, but at last she managed to get through them to where Snowflake was standing, for the young goat had in vain striven to reach her.
Peter now gave a last tremendous whistle, in order to startle the goats and drive them off, for he wanted to get near himself to say something to Heidi. The goats sprang aside and he came up to her.
"Can you come out with me to-day?" he asked, evidently unwilling to hear her refuse.
"I am afraid I cannot, Peter," she answered. "I am expecting them every minute from Frankfurt, and I must be at home when they come."
"You have said the same thing for days now," grumbled Peter.
"I must continue to say it till they come," replied Heidi. "How can you think, Peter, that I would be away when they came? As if I could do such a thing?"
"They would find Uncle at home," he answered with a snarling voice.
But at this moment the grandfather's stentorian voice was heard. "Why is the army not marching forward? Is it the field-marshal who is missing or some of the troops?"
Whereupon Peter turned and went off, swinging his stick round so that it whistled through the air, and the goats, who understood the signal, started at full trot for their mountain pasture, Peter following in their wake.
Since Heidi had been back with her grandfather things came now and then into her mind of which she had never thought in former days. So now, with great exertion, she put her bed in order every morning, patting and stroking it till she had got it perfectly smooth and flat. Then she went about the room downstairs, put each chair back in its place, and if she found anything lying about she put it in the cupboard. After that she fetched a duster, climbed on a chair, and rubbed the table till it shone again. When the grandfather came in later he would look round well pleased and say to himself, "We look like Sunday every day now; Heidi did not go abroad for nothing."
After Peter had departed and she and her grandfather had breakfasted, Heidi began her daily work as usual, but she did not get on with it very fast. It was so lovely out of doors to-day, and every minute something happened to interrupt her in her work. Now it was a bright beam of sun shining cheerfully through the open window, and seeming to say, "Come out, Heidi, come out!" Heidi felt she could not stay indoors, and she ran out in answer to the call. The sunlight lay sparkling on everything around the hut and on all the mountains and far away along the valley, and the grass slope looked so golden and inviting that she was obliged to sit down for a few minutes and look about her. Then she suddenly remembered that her stool was left standing in the middle of the floor and that the table had not been rubbed, and she jumped up and ran inside again. But it was not long before the fir trees began their old song; Heidi felt it in all her limbs, and again the desire to run outside was irresistible, and she was off to play and leap to the tune of the waving branches. The grandfather, who was busy in his work-shed, stepped out from time to time smiling to watch her at her gambols. He had just gone back to his work on one of these occasions when Heidi called out, "Grandfather! grandfather! Come, come!"
He stepped quickly out, almost afraid something had happened to the child, but he saw her running towards where the mountain path descended, crying, "They are coming! they are coming! and the doctor is in front of them!"
Heidi rushed forward to welcome her old friend, who held out his hands in greeting to her. When she came up to him she clung to his outstretched arm, and exclaimed in the joy of her heart, "Good-morning, doctor, and thank you ever so many times."
"God bless you, child! what have you got to thank me for?" asked the doctor, smiling.
"For being at home again with grandfather," the child explained.
The doctor's face brightened as if a sudden ray of sunshine had passed across it; he had not expected such a reception as this. Lost in the sense of his loneliness he had climbed the mountain without heeding how beautiful it was on every side, and how more and more beautiful it became the higher he got. He had quite thought that Heidi would have forgotten him; she had seen so little of him, and he had felt rather like one bearing a message of disappointment, anticipating no great show of favor, coming as he did without the expected friends. But instead, here was Heidi, her eyes dancing for joy, and full of gratitude and affection, clinging to the arm of her kind friend.
He took her by the hand with fatherly tenderness. "Take me now to your grandfather, Heidi, and show me where you live."
But Heidi still remained standing, looking down the path with a questioning gaze. "Where are Clara and grandmother?" she asked.
"Ah, now I have to tell you something which you will be as sorry about as I am," answered the doctor. "You see, Heidi, I have come alone. Clara was very ill and could not travel, and so the grandmother stayed behind too. But next spring, when the days grow warm and long again, they are coming here for certain."
Heidi was greatly concerned; she could not at first bring herself to believe that what she had for so long been picturing to herself was not going to happen after all. She stood motionless for a second or two, overcome by the unexpected disappointment. The doctor said nothing further; all around lay the silence—only the sighing of the fir trees could be heard from where they stood. Then Heidi suddenly remembered why she had run down there, and that the doctor had really come. She lifted her eyes and saw the sad expression in his as he looked down at her; she had never seen him with that look on his face when she was in Frankfurt. It went to Heidi's heart; she could not bear to see anybody unhappy, especially her dear doctor. No doubt it was because Clara and grandmother could not come, and so she began to think how best she might console him.
"Oh, it won't be very long to wait for spring, and then they will be sure to come," she said in a reassuring voice. "Time passes very quickly with us, and then they will be able to stay longer when they are here, and Clara will be pleased at that. Now let us go and find grandfather."
Hand in hand with her friend she climbed up to the hut. She was so anxious to make the doctor happy again that she began once more assuring him that the winter passed so quickly on the mountain that it was hardly to be taken account of, and that summer would be back again before they knew it, and she became so convinced of the truth of her own words that she called out quite cheerfully to her grandfather as they approached, "They have not come to-day, but they will be here in a very short time."
The doctor was no stranger to the grandfather, for the child had talked to him so much about her friend. The old man held out his hand to his guest in friendly greeting. Then the two men sat down in front of the hut, and Heidi had her little place too, for the doctor beckoned her to come and sit beside him. The doctor told Uncle how Herr Sesemann had insisted on his taking this journey, and he felt himself it would do him good as he had not been quite the thing for a long time. Then he whispered to Heidi that there was something being brought up the mountain which had travelled with him from Frankfurt, and which would give her even more pleasure than seeing the old doctor. Heidi got into a great state of excitement on hearing this, wondering what it could be. The old man urged the doctor to spend as many of the beautiful autumn days on the mountain as he could, and at least to come up whenever it was fine; he could not offer him a lodging, as he had no place to put him; he advised the doctor, however, not to go back to Ragatz, but to stay at Dörfli, where there was a clean tidy little inn. Then the doctor could come up every morning, which would do him no end of good, and if he liked, he, the grandfather, would act as his guide to any part of the mountains he would like to see. The doctor was delighted with this proposal, and it was settled that it should be as the grandfather suggested.
Meanwhile the sun had been climbing up the sky, and it was now noon. The wind had sunk and the fir trees stood motionless. The air was still wonderfully warm and mild for that height, while a delicious freshness was mingled with the warmth of the sun.
Alm-Uncle now rose and went indoors, returning in a few minutes with a table which he placed in front of the seat.
"There, Heidi, now run in and bring us what we want for the table," he said. "The doctor must take us as he finds us; if the food is plain, he will acknowledge that the dining-room is pleasant."
"I should think so indeed," replied the doctor as he looked down over the sun-lit valley, "and I accept the kind invitation; everything must taste good up here."
Heidi ran backwards and forwards as busy as a bee and brought out everything she could find in the cupboard, for she did not know how to be pleased enough that she could help to entertain the doctor. The grandfather meanwhile had been preparing the meal, and now appeared with a steaming jug of milk and golden-brown toasted cheese. Then he cut some thin slices from the meat he had cured himself in the pure air, and the doctor enjoyed his dinner better than he had for a whole year past.
"Our Clara must certainly come up here," he said, "it would make her quite a different person, and if she ate for any length of time as I have to-day, she would grow plumper than any one has ever known her before."
As he spoke a man was seen coming up the path carrying a large package on his back. When he reached the hut he threw it on the ground and drew in two or three good breaths of the mountain air.
"Ah, here's what travelled with me from Frankfurt," said the doctor, rising, and he went up to the package and began undoing it, Heidi looking on in great expectation. After he had released it from its heavy outer covering, "There, child," he said, "now you can go on unpacking your treasures yourself."
Heidi undid her presents one by one until they were all displayed; she could not speak the while for wonder and delight. Not till the doctor went up to her again and opened the large box to show Heidi the cakes that were for the grandmother to eat with her coffee, did she at last give a cry of joy, exclaiming, "Now grandmother will have nice things to eat," and she wanted to pack everything up again and start at once to give them to her. But the grandfather said he should walk down with the doctor that evening and she could go with them and take the things. Heidi now found the packet of tobacco which she ran and gave to her grandfather; he was so pleased with it that he immediately filled his pipe with some, and the two men then sat down together again, the smoke curling up from their pipes as they talked of all kinds of things, while Heidi continued to examine first one and then another of her presents. Suddenly she ran up to them, and standing in front of the doctor waited till there was a pause in the conversation, and then said, "No, the other thing has not given me more pleasure than seeing you, doctor."
The two men could not help laughing, and the doctor answered that he should never have thought it.
As the sun began to sink behind the mountains the doctor rose, thinking it was time to return to Dörfli and seek for quarters. The grandfather carried the cakes and the shawl and the large sausage, and the doctor took Heidi's hand, so they all three started down the mountain. Arrived at Peter's home Heidi bid the others good-bye; she was to wait at grandmother's till her grandfather, who was going on to Dörfli with his guest, returned to fetch her. As the doctor shook hands with her she asked, "Would you like to come out with the goats to-morrow morning?" for she could think of no greater treat to offer him.
"Agreed!" answered the doctor, "we will go together,"
Heidi now ran in to the grandmother; she first, with some effort, managed to carry in the box of cakes; then she ran out again and brought in the sausage—for her grandfather had put the presents down by the door—and then a third time for the shawl. She had placed them as close as she could to the grandmother, so that the latter might be able to feel them and understand what was there. The shawl she laid over the old woman's knees.
"They are all from Frankfurt, from Clara and grandmamma," she explained to the astonished grandmother and Brigitta, the latter having watched her dragging in all the heavy things, unable to imagine what was happening.
"And you are very pleased with the cakes, aren't you, grandmother? taste how soft they are!" said Heidi over and over again, to which the grandmother continued to answer, "Yes, yes, Heidi, I should think so! what kind people they must be!" And then she would pass her hand over the warm thick shawl and add, "This will be beautiful for the cold winter! I never thought I should ever have such a splendid thing as this to put on."
Heidi could not help feeling some surprise at the grandmother seeming to take more pleasure in the shawl than the cakes. Meanwhile Brigitta stood gazing at the sausage with almost an expression of awe. She had hardly in her life seen such a monster sausage, much less owned one, and she could scarcely believe her eyes. She shook her head and said doubtfully, "I must ask Uncle what it is meant for."
But Heidi answered without hesitation, "It is meant for eating, not for anything else."
Peter came tumbling in at this minute. "Uncle is just behind me,
ORE than a hundred years ago, two boys were fishing in a small river.
They sat in a heavy
When they wanted to move the boat from one place to another they had to pole it; that is, they pushed against a long pole, the lower end of which reached the bottom of the stream.
"This is slow work, Robert," said the older of the boys as they were poling up the river to a new fishing place. "The old boat creeps over the water no faster than a snail."
"Yes, Christopher; and it is hard work, too," answered Robert. "I think there ought to be some better way of moving a boat."
"Yes, there is a better way, and that is by rowing," said Christopher. "But we have no oars."
"Well, I can make some oars," said Robert; "but I think there ought to be still another and a better way. I am going to find such a way if I can."
The next day Robert's aunt heard a great pounding and sawing in her woodshed. The two boys were there, busily working with hammer and saw.
"What are you making, Robert?" she asked.
"Oh, I have a plan for making a boat move without poling it or rowing it," he answered.
His aunt laughed and said, "Well, I hope that you will succeed."
After a great deal of tinkering and trying, they did succeed in making two paddle wheels. They were very rough and crude, but strong and serviceable.
They fastened each of these wheels to the end of an iron rod which they passed through the boat from side to side. The rod was bent in the middle so that it could be turned as with a crank. When the work was finished, the old fishing boat looked rather odd, with a paddle wheel on each side which dipped just a few inches into the water.
The boys lost no time in trying it.
"She goes ahead all right," said Christopher, "but how shall we guide her?"
"Oh, I have thought of that," said Robert. He took something like an oarlock from his pocket and fastened it to the stern of the boat; then with a paddle which worked in this oarlock one of the boys could guide the boat while the other turned the paddle wheels.
"It is better than poling the boat," said Christopher.
"It is better than rowing, too," said Robert. "See how fast she goes!"
That night when Christopher went home he had a wonderful story to tell. "Bob Fulton planned the whole thing," he said, "and I helped him make the paddles and put them on the boat."
"I wonder why we didn't think of something like that long ago," said his father. "Almost anybody could rig up an old boat like that."
"Yes, I wonder, too," said Christopher. "It looks easy enough, now that Bob has shown how it is done."
When Robert Fulton became a man, he did not forget his experiment with the old fishing boat. He kept on, planning and thinking and working, until at last he succeeded in making a boat with paddle wheels that could be run by steam.
He is now remembered and honored as the inventor of the steamboat. He became famous because he was always thinking and studying and working.
You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms, do not wrong;
Come not near our fairy queen.
Philomel, with melody,
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby!
Nor spell nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good-night, with lullaby.
Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm, nor snail, do no offence.
Philomel, with melody,
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby!
Nor spell nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good-night, with lullaby.
WEEK 43 |
HEN Edward, the first Prince of Wales, was young, he had a
French friend called Piers Gaveston. Piers was tall and
handsome and gay, but he was wicked. He led the prince into
all kinds of mischief until at last King
When Edward lay dying he begged his son never to bring Piers
back again. The Prince of Wales promised, but, as soon as his
father was dead, he broke his word and sent for Piers.
The English barons were very angry at again having a foreigner to rule. They hated Piers, and Piers laughed at and insulted them. He called them all sorts of names, such as "the Jew," "the actor," "the black dog," and "the hog."
At last the hatred of the barons grew so fierce that they forced Edward to send Piers away, and when after a time Edward brought him back, they seized him and put him to death.
Edward was very angry with the barons for killing Piers, and he was sad too, for he had really loved his friend. He was too weak a king, however, to punish the barons, so he was obliged to pretend that he forgave them. But he did not become a better king, even after his favourite was dead.
Meanwhile the Scots were fighting against the English, and
driving them out of Scotland. A king, called Robert the
Bruce, was now upon the throne, and under him the Scots
fought so bravely that soon the English had lost all the
Scottish towns which they had, except Stirling. The castle
of Stirling was strong, and the English soldiers within it
brave. But the Scots were brave too, and determined, for
they were fighting for their freedom and their country. At
last the governor, feeling that he could hold out no longer,
promised to yield the castle on
As they passed through the country to Stirling, fear filled the hearts of the women and children. They thought of their husbands, and fathers and brothers who were gathered at Stirling to meet this great army, and wept for them as lost.
The whole of Robert the Bruce's army numbered less than forty thousand men, and they were neither so well drilled nor so well armed as the English. But King Robert was a great soldier and a wise general. He knew that he could only hope to defeat the English by using his brain as well as his sword and battle-axe. Therefore he chose the position of his army with great care. In front there lay marshes, through which the English would have to ride in order to reach the Scots, who were drawn up upon the dry plain beyond. Where the ground was firm, Bruce made his men dig pits about three feet deep. These pits were filled with twigs and branches of gorse, and the turf was then laid over them again, so that from a distance it seemed like a firm and level plain.
On one side of King Robert's position rose the steep castle hill, and on the other flowed the little stream called the Bannock. Only from the front could the English attack, and the front was guarded by pits and marshes.
Not till the 23rd of June, the very day before the governor had promised to give up the castle, did King Edward appear and camp opposite the Scottish army.
When King Robert heard that the English were near he drew up his army in battle array ready to fight, although he did not expect to do so that day.
Randolph, Earl of Moray, the nephew of King Robert, was given charge of a small body of horsemen, and told that he must stop any of the English who might try to get into Stirling. For it might have been very bad for the Scots had the English been able to take a strong position there.
The Scottish leaders stood watching the advance of the English, when King Robert's eye caught the gleam of armour away to the east. Turning to his young nephew he said, "Ah, Randolph, a rose has fallen from your crown." By this he meant that Randolph had missed a chance of making himself famous. For a party of English horsemen were quietly stealing towards Stirling, and Randolph, who had been told to prevent this, had not noticed.
Too ashamed to reply Randolph called to his men and dashed upon the English. They turned and charged Randolph so fiercely that Douglas, another of the Scottish leaders, begged to be allowed to go to his help.
"No," replied King Robert, "let Randolph win back the honour which he has lost, or die. I cannot risk the whole battle because of a careless boy. Leave him."
So Douglas waited and watched. It seemed to him as if the little company of Scotsmen were being swallowed up by the English horsemen.
Then Douglas could bear it no longer. "My Lord King, I pray you, let me go," he said. "Randolph and his men are sore pressed. I cannot stand idly by and see him die." And scarcely waiting for permission Douglas rode off.
But, as he came near to Randolph, he saw that the English were giving way. "Halt," he called to his men. "Randolph has no need of our help. We will not take the honour from him." And without striking a blow, he and his men turned and rode back to the King.
Soon the English horsemen were seen flying from the field, and Randolph, joyful and victorious, returned to his place. He had recovered the rose which had fallen from his crown.
Meanwhile the rest of the English army was steadily advancing. King Robert the Bruce, mounted upon a little brown pony and wearing a gold crown upon his helmet, rode up and down in front of his army, watching everything, commanding and encouraging. His armour was light, and for a weapon he carried only a battle-axe.
Seeing King Robert so lightly armed, an English knight, called Sir Henry de Bohun, thought he would earn a great name for himself and win the battle at one blow. So setting spurs to his horse he rushed upon the King at full speed.
As the full-armed knight came thundering along on his great
Bruce lifted his battle‑axe high in the air,
then brought it crashing down upon the helmet of Bohun.
Cheer upon cheer rose from the Scottish ranks and the nobles crowded round their King, glad yet vexed with him. "My lord, my lord, is it well thus to risk your life?" they said. "Had you been killed, our cause were lost."
But the King paid no heed to them. "I have broken my good axe," was all he said, "I have broken my good axe."
M ANY years ago men often wore sleeveless cloaks or mantles. These garments were long and loose. They were open in front so that the men who wore them could use their arms easily. A Greek name for such a mantle is chlamys.
It has long been a custom of people who study plants and animals to give them Greek names. The name of the small animal in this story is Chlamys. He was called Chlamys because he wore a strange cloak or mantle.
Like the mantles the old Greeks wore, the cloak of little Chlamys was open in front. He thrust his head and his six legs out through this opening and held his cloak over the rest of his body.
If you had met Chlamys walking along Sweet Fern Lane, you might have mistaken him for a very tiny snail. For his mantle was not soft like a piece of cloth but stiff and shell-like. And, although he traveled on six small feet instead of one large foot, his motions seemed somewhat like those of a snail as he went across a leaf.
When Chlamys was disturbed, he had a habit of drawing his head and feet into his mantle. As there was then nothing to hold him to the leaf, he rolled off and fell to the ground.
That was an excellent place for him to hide. He would lie there looking like a little brown pellet among the bits of brown leafy loam under the sweet fern branches. Not even a keen-eyed bird was likely to find him in such a hiding place. He was lost to everything except himself! When all seemed quiet again, out would come his head and six feet, and Chlamys would climb the sweet fern bush and eat a fresh tender leaf for a salad.
In spite of his snail-like manners of carrying his shelter wherever he went, and of pulling himself safely inside when he was touched, Chlamys was not a snail. As of course you know, no snail ever traveled on six feet. He was, indeed, an infant beetle.
Certain young insects make little coverings in which they live while they are in their early stages. Such insects are called "case-bearers" because they carry, or bear, their mantles or cases. When they become grown insects with wings, they put aside these little things and leave them empty like garments that have been thrown away.
Perhaps Chlamys would have eaten certain other kinds of leaves if his mother had put the egg from which he hatched on another sort of bush. Beetles of this species are said to like the leaves of raspberry and blackberry and some other plants. But certainly there is no flavor they like better than that of the sweet fern.
You cannot always tell, by its name, what a thing really is. An oak-apple is not an apple but a large round gall caused by an insect. A high-bush cranberry is not a cranberry but a sour red fruit that grows on a plant closely related to a snowball bush. A guinea pig is not a pig but a cavy. And a sweet fern is not a fern but a bush belonging to the Sweet Gale Family.
Plants that belong to the same family are alike in some ways. Near Holiday Farm there were three kinds of plants of the Sweet Gale Family, and they all had fragrant leaves. One of these was the sweet gale shrub that grew on low boggy ground at one side of Holiday Pond. Another was the bayberry that lived within sight of the sea at Holiday Cove. And the third kind was the sweet fern that thrived on Holiday Hill. The flowers of these three plants grow in catkins. Their fruits are small and dry and nutlike.
Sweet gale flower-catkins come in spring before the leaves are out. If they are boiled, a fragrant wax may be obtained from them. The fruit is covered with particles of wax. In some countries candles have been made from sweet gale wax. Parts of the plant may be used to color different things. Indians, in Canada, liked to use the catkin buds to dye their porcupine quills.
The aromatic wax of the bayberry is more abundant than that of the sweet gale shrub. It forms a rather thick coating over the dry fruit. Even in these days, when paraffin candles are so common, people still make candles of bayberry wax. Perhaps you have had dull green, tapering candles, called "bayberry dips," to burn at Christmas time. When you blow out the light of such a candle, the room is filled with its fragrance. Another name for this shrub and its fruit is candleberry.
Sweet fern shrubs grew in great numbers on Holiday Hill. Indeed, there were so many of them on parts of the hill among the blueberries that they were looked upon as weeds. They shaded the lower bushes too much; and their roots and underground stems crowded those of other plants that were near them. Men sometimes came up from the farm and tore out these bushes to give the blueberries a better chance to grow.
In many places on the hill, however, the sweet ferns were permitted to stay year after year. Some children had a path through them which they called "Sweet Fern Lane." They loved to go along this path because of the spicy scent that filled the air when they brushed against the leaves and bruised them.
Overhanging Sweet Fern Lane
Some one told them that Indians used to gather sweet fern leaves for pillows. So the children made little pillows filled with the fragrant leaves and catkins.
Quite possibly the mother of Chlamys liked the scent of sweet fern as well as people do. Perhaps it had even a stronger attraction for her. It may be that one day when she smelled it she could not keep away from it.
However it came about, this much is certain—the mother beetle put her eggs on the plant that would furnish food for her young. Six-footed mothers have a way of laying their eggs in places that will make good homes for their larval infants; and, of course, the mother of Chlamys was no exception to this rule.
The mother of Chlamys
She was a pretty beetle a little more than an eighth of an inch long. Her colors were green and bronze. The wing-covers, that lay like a curved shield over her back when they were closed, had many tiny humps on them. She glistened like polished metal and looked like an ornament. She would have made a beautiful model for a decoration on a bronze vase.
When anything came too near her, she hid in a way that is called "playing 'possum." Whenever an opossum is afraid, it lies absolutely still as if it were not alive. Most animals in their natural homes are not easily seen unless they are moving. Keeping quiet is one of their best ways of hiding. Animals that do this are said to be "playing 'possum." This habit is also called "freezing," because the animals are stiff and still as if they were frozen.
When she let go of the leaf she rolled off; but she did not even wiggle when she hit the ground. She lay without a motion in the leafy rubbish there. She could not have been any quieter if she had fainted. After a while she crept out of her hiding place; but by that time everything was calm again.
Being so small, herself, you could hardly expect her eggs to be much bigger than specks. I doubt if you could find one without a magnifying glass.
And, of course, the baby Chlamys that hatched from one of her eggs was a tiny creature to begin with. Tiny but capable! Soon after eating his first few sweet fern salads, he had made a little cloak for himself. He made it the right size, too. Think of that! A mere baby beetle could fasten little brown bits together with a sort of gluey silk until he had a mantle that exactly fitted him!
As fast as he grew he added more brown bits to his cloak, so it was always big enough to cover him. He did not need a new one, because he could piece the old one. It did not look as if it had been made of scraps, however, and its edges were always tidy.
All the time Chlamys was a growing larva he had the protection of his cloak. After he had eaten all the sweet fern salads he could hold, he was ready for a rather long rest. But he did not leave his cloak while he took his nap. He fastened it to a twig of sweet fern and closed the opening.
During his sleep, the little mantle, or sac, served as a sort of cocoon. He had stopped being a growing larva. He was not yet a winged beetle. He was now in the stage between a larva and an adult insect. He was a pupa. While an insect is a pupa many changes take place in its body. It loses the legs and mouth and skin it has had from the beginning, and new parts are formed. Its shape is changed in many ways. And its wings grow.
So, when Chlamys woke, he was a different-looking creature altogether. Instead of being a fat little grub, he had become a fully grown beetle a bit more than an eighth of an inch long. Like his mother before him, he looked like a little metal ornament. If some artist wished to find a good model for a decoration on a bronze vase, what better shape could he find than Chlamys?
When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry "Weep! weep! weep! weep!"
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.
There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved; so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."
And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!—
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.
And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.
Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.
And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm—
So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.
WEEK 43 |
I WAS camping one summer on a little lake—Deer Pond, the natives called it—a few miles back from a quiet summer resort on the Maine coast. Summer hotels and mackerel fishing and noisy excursions had lost their semblance to a charm; so I made a little tent, hired a canoe, and moved back into the woods.
It was better here. The days were still and long, and the nights full of peace. The air was good, for nothing but the wild creatures breathed it, and the firs had touched it with their fragrance. The faraway surge of the sea came up faintly till the spruces answered it, and both sounds went gossiping over the hills together. On all sides were the woods, which, on the north especially, stretched away over a broken country beyond my farthest explorations.
Over against my tenting place a colony of herons had their nests in some dark hemlocks. They were interesting as a camp of gypsies, some going off in straggling bands to the coast at daybreak, others frogging in the streams, and a few solitary, patient, philosophical ones joining me daily in following the gentle art of Izaak Walton. And then, when the sunset came and the deep red glowed just behind the hemlocks, and the gypsy bands came home, I would see their sentinels posted here and there among the hemlock tips—still, dark, graceful silhouettes etched in sepia against the gorgeous afterglow—and hear the mothers croaking their ungainly babies to sleep in the tree tops.
Down at one end of the pond a brood of young black ducks were learning their daily lessons in hiding; at the other end a noisy kingfisher, an honest blue heron, and a thieving mink shared the pools and watched each other as rival fishermen. Hares by night, and squirrels by day, and wood mice at all seasons played round my tent, or came shyly to taste my bounty. A pair of big owls lived and hunted in a swamp hard by, who hooted dismally before the storms came, and sometimes swept within the circle of my fire at night. Every morning a raccoon stopped at a little pool in the brook above my tent, to wash his food carefully ere taking it home. So there was plenty to do and plenty to learn, and the days passed all too swiftly.
I had been told by the village hunters that there were no deer; that they had vanished long since, hounded and crusted and chevied out of season, till life was not worth the living. So it was with a start of surprise and a thrill of new interest that I came upon the tracks of a large buck and two smaller deer on the shore one morning. I was following them eagerly when I ran plump upon Old Wally, the cunningest hunter and trapper in the whole region.
"Sho! Mister, what yer follerin?"
"Why, these deer tracks," I said simply.
Wally gave me a look of great pity.
"Guess you're green—one o' them city fellers, ain't ye, Mister? Them ere's sheep tracks—my sheep. Wandered off int' th' woods a spell ago, and I hain't seen the tarnal critters since. Came up here lookin' for um this mornin'."
I glanced at Wally's fish basket, and thought of the nibbled lily pads; but I said nothing. Wally was a great hunter, albeit jealous; apt to think of all the game in the woods as being sent by Providence to help him get a lazy living; and I knew little about deer at that time. So I took him to camp, fed him, and sent him away.
"Kinder keep a lookout for my sheep, will ye, Mister, down 't this end o' the pond?" he said, pointing away from the deer tracks. "If ye see ary one, send out word, and I'll come and fetch 'im.—Needn't foller the tracks though; they wander like all possessed this time o' year," he added earnestly as he went away.
That afternoon I went over to a little pond, a mile distant from my camp, and deeper in the woods. The shore was well cut up with numerous deer tracks, and among the lily pads everywhere were signs of recent feeding. There was a man's track here too, which came cautiously out from a thick point of woods, and spied about on the shore, and went back again more cautiously than before. I took the measure of it back to camp, and found that it corresponded perfectly with the boot tracks of Old Wally. There were a few deer here, undoubtedly, which he was watching jealously for his own benefit in the fall hunting.
When the next still, misty night came, it found me afloat on the lonely little pond, with a dark lantern fastened to an upright stick just in front of me in the canoe. In the shadow of the shores all was black as Egypt; but out in the middle the outlines of the pond could be followed vaguely by the heavy cloud of woods against the lighter sky. The stillness was intense; every slightest sound,—the creak of a bough or the ripple of a passing musquash, the plunk of a water drop into the lake or the snap of a rotten twig, broken by the weight of clinging mist,—came to the strained ear with startling suddenness. Then, as I waited and sifted the night sounds, a dainty plop, plop, plop! sent the canoe gliding like a shadow toward the shore whence the sounds had come.
When the lantern opened noiselessly, sending a broad beam of gray, full of shadows and misty lights, through the even blackness of the night, the deer stood revealed—a beautiful creature, shrinking back into the forest's shadow, yet ever drawn forward by the sudden wonder of the light.
She turned her head towards me, and her eyes blazed like great colored lights in the lantern's reflection. They fascinated me; I could see nothing but those great glowing spots, blazing and scintillating with a kind of intense fear and wonder out of the darkness. She turned away, unable to endure the glory any longer; then released from the fascination of her eyes, I saw her hurrying along the shore, a graceful living shadow among the shadows, rubbing her head among the bushes as if to brush away from her eyes the charm that dazzled them.
I followed a little way, watching every move, till she turned again, and for a longer time stared steadfastly at the light. It was harder this time to break away from its power. She came nearer two or three times, halting between dainty steps to stare and wonder, while her eyes blazed into mine. Then, as she faltered irresolutely, I reached forward and closed the lantern, leaving lake and woods in deeper darkness than before. At the sudden release I heard her plunge out of the water; but a moment later she was moving nervously among the trees, trying to stamp herself up to the courage point of coming back to investigate. And when I flashed my lantern at the spot she threw aside caution and came hurriedly down the bank again.
Stared steadfastly at the light
Later that night I heard other footsteps in the pond, and opened my lantern upon three deer, a doe, a fawn and a large buck, feeding at short intervals among the lily pads. The buck was wild; after one look he plunged into the woods, whistling danger to his companions. But the fawn heeded nothing, knew nothing for the moment save the fascination of the wonderful glare out there in the darkness. Had I not shut off the light, I think he would have climbed into the canoe in his intense wonder.
Dartmouth College is at Hanover, New Hampshire. It is one of the oldest colleges in America and among its students have been many of the foremost men of New England.
It was in the fall of 1797, that Daniel Webster entered this college.
He was then a tall, slender youth, with high cheek bones and a swarthy skin.
The professors soon saw that he was no common lad. They said to one another, "This young Webster will one day be a greater man than any of us."
And young Webster was well-behaved and studious at college. He was as fond of sport as any of the students, but he never gave himself up to boyish pranks.
He was punctual and regular in all his classes. He was as great a reader as ever.
He could learn anything that he tried. No other young man had a broader knowledge of things than he.
And yet he did not make his mark as a student in the prescribed branches of study. He could not confine himself to the narrow routine of the college course.
He did not, as at Exeter, push his way quickly to the head of his class. He won no prizes.
"But he minded his own business," said one of the professors. "As steady as the sun, he pursued, with intense application, the great object for which he came to college."
Soon everybody began to appreciate his scholarship. Everybody admired him for his manliness and good common sense.
"He was looked upon as being so far in advance of any one else, that no other student of his class was ever spoken of as second to him."
He very soon lost that bashfulness which had troubled him so much at Exeter. It was no task now for him to stand up and declaim before the professors and students.
In a short time he became known as the best writer and speaker in the college. Indeed, he loved to speak; and the other students were always pleased to listen to him.
One of his classmates tells us how he prepared his speeches. He says: "It was Webster's custom to arrange his thoughts in his mind while he was in his room, or while he was walking alone. Then he would put them upon paper just before the exercise was to be called for.
"If he was to speak at two o'clock, he would often begin to write after dinner; and when the bell rang he would fold his paper, put it in his pocket, go in, and speak with great ease.
"In his movements he was slow and deliberate, except when his feelings were aroused. Then his whole soul would kindle into a flame."
In the year 1800, he was chosen to deliver the Fourth of July address to the students of the college and the citizens of the town. He was then eighteen years old.
The speech was a long one. It was full of the love of country. Its tone throughout was earnest and thoughtful.
But in its style it was overdone; it was full of pretentious expressions; it lacked the simplicity and good common sense that should mark all public addresses.
And yet, as the speech of so young a man, it was a very able effort. People said that it was the promise of much greater things. And they were right.
In the summer of 1801, Daniel graduated. But he took no honors. He was not even present at the Commencement.
His friends were grieved that he had not been chosen to deliver the valedictory address. Perhaps he also was disappointed. But the professors had thought best to give that honor to another student.
While Daniel Webster was taking his course in college, there was one thing that troubled him very much. It was the thought of his brother Ezekiel toiling at home on the farm.
He knew that Ezekiel had great abilities. He knew that he was not fond of the farm, but that he was anxious to become a lawyer.
This brother had given up all his dearest plans in order that Daniel might be favored; and Daniel knew that this was so.
Once, when Daniel was at home on a vacation, he said, "Zeke, this thing is all wrong. Father has mortgaged the farm for money to pay my expenses at school, and you are making a slave of yourself to pay off the mortgage. It isn't right for me to let you do this."
Ezekiel said, "Daniel, I am stronger than you are, and if one of us has to stay on the farm, of course I am the one."
"But I want you to go to college," said Daniel. "An education will do you as much good as me."
"I doubt it," said Ezekiel; "and yet, if father was only able to send us both, I think that we might pay him back some time."
"I will see father about it this very day," said Daniel.
He did see him.
"I told my father," said Daniel, afterwards, "that I was unhappy at my brother's prospects. For myself, I saw my way to knowledge, respectability, and self-protection. But as to Ezekiel, all looked the other way. I said that I would keep school, and get along as well as I could, be more than four years in getting through college, if necessary, provided he also could be sent to study."
The matter was referred to Daniel's mother, and she and his father talked it over together. They knew that it would take all the property they had to educate both the boys. They knew that they would have to do without many comforts, and that they would have a hard struggle to make a living while the boys were studying.
But the mother said, "I will trust the boys." And it was settled that Ezekiel, too, should have a chance to make his mark in the world.
He was now a grown-up man. He was tall and strong and ambitious. He entered college the very year that Daniel graduated.
As for Daniel, he was now ready to choose a profession. What should it be?
His father wanted him to become a lawyer. And so, to please his parents, he went home and began to read law in the office of a Mr. Thompson, in the little village of Salisbury, which adjoined his father's farm.
The summer passed by. It was very pleasant to have nothing to do but to read. And when the young man grew tired of reading, he could go out fishing, or could spend a day in hunting among the New Hampshire hills.
It is safe to say that he did not learn very much law during that summer.
But there was not a day that he did not think about his brother. Ezekiel had done much to help him through college, and now ought he not to help Ezekiel?
But what could he do?
He had a good education, and his first thought was that he might teach school, and thus earn a little money for Ezekiel.
The people of Fryeburg, in Maine, wanted him to take charge of the academy in their little town. And so, early in the fall, he decided to take up their offer.
He was to have three hundred and fifty dollars for the year's work, and that would help Ezekiel a great deal.
He bade good-bye to Mr. Thompson and his little law office, and made ready to go to his new field of labor. There were no railroads at that time, and a journey of even a few miles was a great undertaking.
Daniel had bought a horse for twenty-four dollars. In one end of an old-fashioned pair of saddlebags he put his Sunday clothes, and in the other he packed his books.
He laid the saddlebags upon the horse, then he mounted and rode off over the hills toward Fryeburg, sixty miles away.
He was not yet quite twenty years old. He was very slender, and nearly six feet in height. His face was thin and dark. His eyes were black and bright and penetrating—no person who once saw them could ever forget them.
Young as he was, he was very successful as a teacher during that year which he spent at Fryeburg. The trustees of the academy were so highly pleased that they wanted him to stay a second year. They promised to raise his salary to five or six hundred dollars, and to give him a house and a piece of land.
He was greatly tempted to give up all further thoughts of becoming a lawyer.
"What shall I do?" he said to himself. "Shall I say, 'Yes, gentlemen,' and sit down here to spend my days in a kind of comfortable privacy?"
But his father was anxious that he should return to the study of the law. And so he was not long in making up his mind.
In a letter to one of his friends he said: "I shall make one more trial of the law in the ensuing autumn.
"If I prosecute the profession, I pray God to fortify me against its temptations. To be honest, to be capable, to be faithful to my client and my conscience."
Early the next September, he was again in Mr. Thompson's little law office. All the money that he had saved, while at Fryeburg, was spent to help Ezekiel through college.
For a year and a half, young Daniel Webster stayed in the office of Mr. Thompson. He had now fully made up his mind as to what profession he would follow; and so he was a much better student than he had been before.
He read many law books with care. He read Hume's History of England, and spent a good deal of time with the Latin classics.
"At this period of my life," he afterwards said, "I passed a great deal of time alone.
"My amusements were fishing and shooting and riding, and all these were without a companion. I loved this solitude then, and have loved it ever since, and love it still."
The Webster family were still very poor. Judge Webster was now too old to do much work of any kind. The farm had been mortgaged for all that it was worth. It was hard to find money enough to keep Daniel at his law studies and Ezekiel in college.
At last it became necessary for one of the young men to do something that would help matters along. Ezekiel decided that he would leave college for a time and try to earn enough money to meet the present needs of the family. Through some of his friends he obtained a small private school in Boston.
There were very few pupils in Ezekiel Webster's school. But there were so many branches to be taught that he could not find time to hear all the recitations. So, at last, he sent word to Daniel to come down and help him. If Daniel would teach an hour and a half each day, he should have enough money to pay his board.
Daniel was pleased with the offer. He had long wanted to study law in Boston, and here was his opportunity. And so, early in March, 1804, he joined his brother in that city, and was soon doing what he could to help him in his little school.
There was in Boston, at that time, a famous lawyer whose name was Christopher Gore. While Daniel Webster was wondering how he could best carry on his studies in the city, he heard that Mr. Gore had no clerk in his office.
"How I should like to read law with Mr. Gore!" he said to Ezekiel.
"Yes," said Ezekiel. "You could not want a better tutor."
"I mean to see him to-day and apply for a place in his office," said Daniel.
It was with many misgivings that the young man went into the presence of the great lawyer. We will let him tell the story in his own words:
"I was from the country, I said;—had studied law for two years; had come to Boston to study a year more; had heard that he had no clerk; thought it possible he would receive one.
"I told him that I came to Boston to work, not to play; was most desirous, on all accounts, to be his pupil; and all I ventured to ask at present was, that he would keep a place for me in his office, till I could write to New Hampshire for proper letters showing me worthy of it."
Mr. Gore listened to this speech very kindly, and then bade Daniel be seated while he should have a short talk with him.
When at last the young man rose to go, Mr. Gore said: "My young friend, you look as if you might be trusted. You say you came to study and not to waste time. I will take you at your word. You may as well hang up your hat at once."
And this was the beginning of Daniel Webster's career in Boston.
He must have done well in Mr. Gore's office; for, in a few months, he was admitted to the practice of law in the Court of Common Pleas in Boston.
It was at some time during this same winter that Daniel was offered the position of clerk in the County Court at home. His father, as you will remember, was one of the judges in this court, and he was very much delighted at the thought that his son would be with him.
The salary would be about fifteen hundred dollars a year—and that was a great sum to Daniel as well as to his father. The mortgage on the farm could be paid off; Ezekiel could finish his course in college; and life would be made easier for them all.
At first Daniel was as highly pleased as his father. But after he had talked with Mr. Gore, he decided not to accept the offered position.
"Your prospects as a lawyer," said Mr. Gore, "are good enough to encourage you to go on. Go on, and finish your studies. You are poor enough, but there are greater evils than poverty. Live on no man's favor. Pursue your profession; make yourself useful to your friends and a little formidable to your enemies, and you have nothing to fear."
A few days after that, Daniel paid a visit to his father. The judge received him very kindly, but he was greatly disappointed when the young man told him that he had made up his mind not to take the place.
With his deep-set, flashing eyes, he looked at his son for a moment as though in anger. Then he said, very slowly:
"Well, my son, your mother has always said that you would come to something or nothing—she was not sure which. I think you are now about settling that doubt for her."
A few weeks after this, Daniel, as I have already told you, was admitted to the bar in Boston. But he did not think it best to begin his practice there.
He knew how anxious his father was that he should be near him. He wanted to do all that he could to cheer and comfort the declining years of the noble man who had sacrificed everything for him. And so, in the spring of 1805, he settled in the town of Boscawen, six miles from home, and put up at his office door this sign:
Lord Lovel was standing at his stable door,
Combing his milk-white steed;
And out came lady Nancybell,
To wish her lover good speed.
"Oh, where are you going, Lord Lovel?" she said,
"I pray you tell to me:"
"Oh, I am going a far journey,
Some strange countrie to see."
"And when will you return, Lord Lovel?" she said,
"I pray you tell to me."
"Oh, I'll return in seven long years,
Fair Nancybell for to see."
He had not been in merry England
A month but barely three,
When languishing thoughts came into his mind,
And Nancybell fain would he see.
So he rode and he rode along the highway
Till he came to yonder town;
He heard the sound of a chapel bell,
And the ladies were mourning around.
He asked them who it was that was dead,
And the ladies did him tell:
They said, "It is fair Nancybell,
She died for Lord Lovel."
The lid of the coffin he opened up,
The linens he folded down,
And now he kissed the pale, pale lips,
And the tears came trickling down.
"Oh, hast thou died, fair Nancybell,
Oh, hast thou died for me?
Oh, hast thou died, fair Nancybell?
Then I will die for thee!"
Lady Nancybell died, as it were, this day,
Lord Lovel, he died to-morrow.
Lady Nancybell died of pure, pure love,
Lord Lovel, he died of sorrow.
Lady Nancy was buried in St. Mary's church,
Lord Lovel in the choir,
And out of her breast there sprang a red rose,
And out of Lord Lovel's sweet-briar.
They grew and they grew to the top of the church,
And then they could grow no higher,
They grew till they made a true-lover's knot,
For all true lovers to admire.
WEEK 43 |
"King Richard hearing of the pranks
Of Robin Hood and his men,
He much admired, and more desired
To see both him and them."
When Richard Cœur de Lion came back from the Holy Land, he found England in a sad state. Prince John had ruled very badly and had done many cruel and unjust acts. He had made the people very unhappy, so they rejoiced greatly when the King returned.
He set to work at once to try to put things right again. After he had been in London a short time, he decided to go to Nottingham to find out for himself the truth about Robin Hood.
With a dozen of his lords he rode to Nottingham. He went to the castle, where he stayed for some weeks, during which time the town was very gay. There were balls and parties and all sorts of entertainments in honour of the King.
He often used to hunt in Sherwood Forest, or even wander about there by himself. But never once did he meet Robin Hood. And Robin Hood was the very person he wanted to meet most.
Other people used still to come into Nottingham with tales of having met Robin. He still stopped all the abbots and priors and haughty knights, and made them pay toll for passing through the forest. But try how he might, King Richard never met him.
Yet Robin often saw the King, and was quite near him many times. But whenever Richard came into the forest, Robin and his men used to hide. They thought that he would probably be very angry with them for killing his deer, and for taking so much money from the haughty Norman nobles and priests. So they kept out of the way.
And because they honoured and loved the King himself, they would never have dreamed of stopping him, and of taking money away from him. Indeed Robin gave orders to his men to follow the King, if he should go to any dangerous part of the wood, so that they might protect him, and fight for him if need be. For there were many other robbers in Sherwood who were wicked men, and not just and noble like Robin.
One day the King was complaining that he had never been able to see Robin. The Bishop of Hereford heard him, and said, "If you were but a Bishop, your Majesty, or even a plain monk, you might meet with him oftener than you cared for."
The King laughed and said nothing, but the next day he and his twelve nobles disguised themselves as monks, and rode out into the forest.
They had not gone very far before they met Robin, at the head of his men, ready to attack any rich knight or abbot who might pass that way.
As the King was very fine looking, and much taller than his nobles, Robin thought he must be an abbot at least. He was very glad to see him, as abbots always had a great deal of money, and just then Robin wanted some very much.
"He took the King's horse by the head:
Abbot, says he, abide;
I'm bound to rue such knaves as you,
That live in pomp and pride."
"But we are messengers from the King," said the King himself. "His Majesty sent us to say he would like to see you. As a sign he sends you this ring."
He held out his hand and Robin saw that he wore the King's ring.
In those days people used very seldom to write letters. When the King wished to send a message to any one he called a friend or servant, told him the message, and gave him a ring. This ring the messenger had to show as a sign that he really had come from the King. Then the person to whom the message was sent knew that he was not being deceived.
These rings were called signet rings, because a certain sign was carved upon them, which only the King might use.
Every one knew the King of England's ring. As soon as Robin saw it he knew that this must indeed be a messenger from Richard.
"God bless the King," said he, taking off his hat. "God bless all those who love him. Cursed be all those who hate him, and rebel against him."
"Then you curse yourself," said the King, "for you are a traitor."
"I am not a traitor," replied Robin, "and if you were not the King's messenger you should pay dearly for that lie.
"For I never yet hurt any man,
That honest is and true;
But those who give their minds to live
Upon other men's due.
I never hurt the husbandmen,
That use to till the ground;
Nor spill their blood that range the wood,
To follow hawk or hound.
"I fight most against monks and abbots, and take as much money as I can from them, because they steal it from poor people. They ought to live good lives, and show others a good example. But they do not. They live wicked lives, therefore they ought to be punished. If they had ruled England well, while King Richard was away, we should not have to live in the woods as we do. But come," added Robin, smiling again, "you are the King's messengers and therefore are welcome to all we have. You must come and have dinner with us now. We will make you as comfortable as we can."
The Knight and all his nobles wondered very much what kind of dinner they would get. They would much rather have gone back to Nottingham, for they thought it would be a very poor sort of dinner that Robin would be able to give them. But the King wanted to see more of Robin, so he thanked him and said they would be very pleased to come.
Robin again took hold of the King's horse and led him to the place where he and his men generally had meals.
"If you were not the King's messengers," he said with a laugh and a merry twinkle in his eye, "I fear we would not treat you quite so kindly. But as it is, if you had as much gold with you as ever I counted, I would not touch a penny of it."
Presently they arrived at a big, open space with tall trees round it. Here the King and his nobles saw that dinner was prepared for a great number of people. It looked like a large picnic, for everything was laid out on the grass.
Robin showed them where to put their horses, and where to sit. Then several page boys, dressed in green, came with large silver basins full of clean, fresh water. As the custom was in those days, they knelt on one knee, before each guest, so that he might wash his hands. The King was very much surprised to find everything so comfortable.
"Then Robin set his horn to his mouth,
And a loud blast did he blow,
Till a hundred and ten of Robin Hood's men,
Came marching all in a row.
And when they came bold Robin before,
Each man did bend his knee;
Oh, thought the King, 'tis a gallant thing,
And a seemly sight to see."
When the King saw that every man passed in front of Robin, and bowed to him before he went to his place, he was very much astonished. He said to himself, "These men honour their master as if he were a King. They are far more humble before him than my men are before me."
When they were all in their places, Friar Tuck said grace in Latin. Then every one sat down and dinner began.
It was a very fine dinner indeed.
"Venison and fowls were plenty there,
With fish out of the river;
King Richard swore, on sea or shore,
He never had feasted better."
Venison is the flesh of deer. No one was supposed to shoot the deer in Sherwood Forest except the King himself. When Richard saw Robin and his men feasting on his venison he hardly knew whether to be angry or to laugh.
"You say you are no traitor," said he, turning to Robin, "yet you shoot the King's deer."
"I cannot starve my men," replied Robin. "Were Richard himself here I think he would scarcely find it in his heart to grudge these fine men their food."
"Perhaps not," replied the King with a laugh; "but it is a bold thing to do. However, it is excellently cooked, and I have never enjoyed a meal better, so I at least must forgive you."
When dinner was over, Robin took a can of ale in his hand and stood up. "Let every man fill his can," said he. "Here's a health to the King."
Every man sprang to his feet, and shouting, "God save the King," drank his health.
The King himself drank to the King. He knew he must, or Robin would have found out who he was. So he stood up with the rest, and drank his own health.
"Now," said Robin, "we must amuse our guests. Get your bows and arrows and we will show what we can do in the way of archery. Shoot your very best. Shoot as if King Richard himself were here, for these gentlemen are his friends. They will tell him if you have shot well or ill when they see him again."
"They showed such brave archery,
By cleaving sticks and wands,
That the King did say, such men as they,
Live not in many lands."
"Well, Robin," then said Richard, "if I could get your pardon from the King, would you be willing to serve him and leave this wild life in the woods? Richard has need of good men and true such as you."
"Yes, with all my heart," said bold Robin Hood.
"Men, he called out, "would you be willing to serve King Richard of England—Richard Cœur de Lion?"
"Yes, with all our hearts," they shouted. Then they flung off their hoods and caps, and swore, standing bareheaded, to serve the King in everything.
"You see, Sir Abbot," said Robin, turning to him, "we are all loyal people here."
"So I see," replied the King, and his voice sounded husky.
"If you will be so kind to me as to ask the King to forgive me," went on Robin, "I think I will begin to love monks again. A Bishop was the first cause of our misfortunes, and that is what makes me hate them all. But from this day I shall try to like them again."
Then the King felt he could keep his secret no longer. He flung off the
monk's hood with which he had kept his face and head covered till now, and
"I am thy King, thy sovereign King,
That appears before you all;
When Robin saw that it was he,
Straight then he down did fall."
"Stand up again," said the King, "I give you your pardon gladly. Stand up, my friend, I doubt if in all England I have more faithful followers than you and your men."
"Stand up again," said the King
When his men saw Robin kneeling they all knelt down too, wondering very much what was going to happen next. "It's the King," whispered one man who was near enough to hear what was said. "It's the King," whispered the next one. "The King, the King," whispered one after another, till every man in Robin's band knew that King Richard himself was standing before them.
When Richard had made Robin rise and stand by his side, he turned to the men and said, "I am King Richard. Are you ready to keep the oath you swore a few minutes ago? Are you ready to follow me as your master is, and be my men?"
"That we are!" they all shouted, flinging their hats in the air. "That we are! Long live King Richard! Three cheers for Richard Cœur de Lion!"
"So they've all gone to Nottingham
All shouting as they came,
And when the people did them see,
They thought the King was slain."
Such excitement there was, when it became known that Robin and his men were marching in a body to the town, shouting and singing as they came. Some people were frightened and wanted to run away, but they did not know where to run to.
Everybody wanted to see the sight. They came out of their houses and stood in the streets or leaned from the windows; all anxious to see what was happening.
"They have killed the King," some said.
"They are coming to take the town."
"They mean to hang the Sheriff."
"And all the Normans too."
"They are going to beat all the monks and friars."
"They will pull the monastery down."
The excitement grew and grew, till every one's face was red and every throat was hoarse.
"They haven't killed the King at all," some one shouted at last.
"He is riding at the head of them along with Robin Hood. Long live King Richard. Long live Robin Hood. Hurrah! Hurrah!"
"The ploughman left his plough in the field,
The smith ran from his shop,
Old folks also that scarce could go,
Over their sticks did hop.
The King soon let them understand
He had been in the Green Wood;
And from that day, for evermore,
Had forgiven Robin Hood."
There was great rejoicing when the people heard that Robin Hood and the King were friends. They walked up and down the streets nearly all day, singing "God Save the King."
The only person who was sorry was the Sheriff. "What! Robin Hood," said he, "that creature whom I hate?"
But Robin Hood came to him and said, "Let us be friends. I want to be friends with every one to-day. See, I have brought you back the money you paid me for your dinner in the forest."
The Sheriff was delighted to get his three hundred pounds again. He was so glad that he almost forgave Robin for all the tricks he had played.
"Now," said Robin laughingly, "I have given you back your money, so you owe me a dinner for that one I gave you in the forest. Ask the King if he will honour you by coming to supper. If he does, I will come too."
The Sheriff groaned, "If I ask the King to supper it will cost me three hundred pounds and more."
"Of course it will," replied Robin. "See that it is a fine supper, and worthy of a king."
So the poor Sheriff was obliged to ask the King to supper. He came, and so did Robin Hood. It was a very fine supper indeed. But the poor Sheriff could hardly eat anything. It made him miserable to see the King and his old enemy Robin Hood such friends. And the thought of all the money he had spent made him more miserable still. He was so unhappy that he thought he should have died.
Next day they all went off to London.
"They're all gone now to London Court,
Robin Hood and all his train;
He once was there a noble peer,
And now he's there again."
But very soon after this, unfortunately, Richard Cœur de Lion died. Prince John became King as Richard had no sons.
Prince John hated Robin, so once more he had to fly to the Green Wood with all his Merry Men, and there he remained until he died many years after.
A poor Woodman was cutting down a tree near the edge of a deep pool in the forest. It was late in the day and the Woodman was tired. He had been working since sunrise and his strokes were not so sure as they had been early that morning. Thus it happened that the axe slipped and flew out of his hands into the pool.
The Woodman was in despair. The axe was all he possessed with which to make a living, and he had not money enough to buy a new one. As he stood wringing his hands and weeping, the god Mercury suddenly appeared and asked what the trouble was. The Woodman told what had happened, and straightway the kind Mercury dived into the pool. When he came up again he held a wonderful golden axe.
"Is this your axe?" Mercury asked the Woodman.
"No," answered the honest Woodman, "that is not my axe."
Mercury laid the golden axe on the bank and sprang back into the pool. This time he brought up an axe of silver, but the Woodman declared again that his axe was just an ordinary one with a wooden handle.
Mercury dived down for the third time, and when he came up again he had the very axe that had been lost.
The poor Woodman was very glad that his axe had been found and could not thank the kind god enough. Mercury was greatly pleased with the Woodman's honesty.
"I admire your honesty," he said, "and as a reward you may have all three axes, the gold and the silver as well as your own."
The happy Woodman returned to his home with his treasures, and soon the story of his good fortune was known to everybody in the village. Now there were several Woodmen in the village who believed that they could easily win the same good fortune. They hurried out into the woods, one here, one there, and hiding their axes in the bushes, pretended they had lost them. Then they wept and wailed and called on Mercury to help them.
And indeed, Mercury did appear, first to this one, then to that. To each one he showed an axe of gold, and each one eagerly claimed it to be the one he had lost. But Mercury did not give them the golden axe. Oh no! Instead he gave them each a hard whack over the head with it and sent them home. And when they returned next day to look for their own axes, they were nowhere to be found.
Honesty is the best policy.
North wind came whistling through the wood,
Where the tender, sweet things grew.
The tall fair ferns and the maiden's hair,
And the gentle gentians blue,
"It is very cold; are we growing old?"
They sighed, "What shall we do?"
The sigh went up to the loving leaves,—
"We must help," they whispered low.
"They are frightened and weak, O brave old trees!
But we love you well, you know."
And the trees said, "We are strong—make haste!
Down to the darlings go."
So the leaves went floating, floating down,
All yellow and brown and red,
And the frail little trembling, thankful things
Lay still and were comforted.
And the blue sky smiled through the bare old trees
Down on their safe warm bed.
WEEK 43 |
"Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud,
Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast ploughed."
T HE famous Navigation Act, which brought on the war between England and Holland, was one of the last acts in the life of the great Englishman Oliver Cromwell. Before telling the stories of the fine old Sea Admirals who fought in that war for the power of the seas, let us see what this man Cromwell had already done for his country.
Oliver Cromwell was a very giant among men, the "wonder of Europe and the glory of his age." Like the Pilgrim Fathers, he was a Puritan, steeped in the language of his Bible, intolerant of Roman Catholics. He had a mighty brain and a great soul; but he was no perfect hero, no spotless saint. He was just a strong man, who did what he thought best for his country in a difficult age.
The young Oliver was four years old when Queen Elizabeth died and James became King of England. There is a story that, when he was a small baby, a large monkey seized him out of his cradle and carried him up on to the roof of the house. Another story says, that the very year of James's accession, his little son, Prince Charles, was worsted at "fisticuffs" while playing with Oliver Cromwell, who was but a year older than himself. But as the little Prince did not speak till he was five, and crawled on his hands and knees till he was seven, this is not likely.
It was a sorry day for England when this same young prince became king, on the death of his father in 1625, and the long quarrels were begun which ended only with his execution.
Now, England was governed by a king and Parliament. This latter consisted of a number of men from all parts of the country who decided on laws and taxes for the good of the land. In this Parliament sat young Oliver Cromwell. No one thought much of him. He slouched in and out in a home-spun suit, took little part publicly, and seemed glad enough to return to his farm, his wife and children, near Ely, in the eastern counties. It was not till Charles had plunged his country into civil war, by reason of his unjust taxation, that Cromwell rose to play his great part.
There was no standing army in England at this time. Troops were raised by private people, and Oliver Cromwell found himself in command of a troop of horse. Together with his parliamentary friends he was present at the first battle against the king. The king, helped by his fiery nephew, Prince Rupert, fresh over from the Thirty Years' War, was victorious. Cromwell knew why.
"Your troops," he said to one of his friends, "are old decayed serving-men, and the king's troops are gentlemen's sons. Do you think that the spirits of such base and mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen, that have honour and courage and resolution in them?"
The final result of the whole war lay in these words. Cromwell now chose men for the army who were sternly Puritan, who had their hearts in the cause, who had some conscience in what they did. Every soldier henceforth had to undergo a severe training. Cromwell himself, having learned from a Dutchman the art of war, drilled the men, until he had a cavalry regiment under his orders so fiery with zeal, so well restrained, that no body of horse could compare with it. No longer was there any thought of flight, none of retreat; deeds of eternal fame were done, endless and infinite. "From that day forward they were never beaten." So Cromwell and his Ironsides, as the soldiers were called, advanced to victory. Red coats were worn for the first time in this "New Model Army," as it was called.
The king was finally beaten and brought to trial in London. Then came the signing of the death-warrant by Cromwell and fifty-seven others, and preparations for the execution. The dignity which had failed the poor king in his life, came to him in these last days. He was allowed to say good-bye to his young children, a scene among the most pathetic in history. Having taken them on his knee and kissed them again and yet again, he ordered them to be taken away. When they reached the door they flew back to his arms, sobbing aloud, until the wretched King Charles tore himself away, only to fall on his knees in prayer.
Firmly he mounted the scaffold. As his head was lifted up to the sight of his subjects, a groan of pity and horror burst from the crowd. The news was received throughout Europe in silent horror.
But the death of the king was a great landmark in history. The old rule was behind, the new rule was before. A new life had arisen for England, which would affect the history of Europe.
Oliver Cromwell was now a king in all but name. Of his campaigns in Ireland and Scotland there is no time to tell. At the age of forty-three he had girt on his sword. At the age of fifty-two he laid it down.
"See what a multitude of people come to attend your triumph," they said to him when he returned from the wars.
"More would come to see me hanged," he had answered with a careless smile, knowing how unpopular he was.
The country had been torn by war for ten years. Cromwell now turned his attention to a settlement of affairs. And first and foremost came the Act giving to the English increased power at sea, with more far-reaching results than even Oliver Cromwell could foresee.
N ever was such a wedding-feast known as that of Pēleus and Thĕtis. And no wonder; for Peleus was King of Thessaly, and Thetis was a goddess—the goddess who keeps the gates of the West, and throws them open for the chariot of the Sun to pass through when its day's journey is done.
Not only all the neighboring kings and queens came to the feast, but the gods and goddesses besides, bringing splendid presents to the bride and bridegroom. Only one goddess was not there, because she had not been invited; and she had not been invited for the best of all reasons. Her name was Atē, which means Mischief; and wherever she went she caused quarreling and confusion. Jupiter had turned her out of heaven for setting even the gods by the ears; and ever since then she had been wandering about the earth, making mischief, for they would not have her even in Hades.
"So they won't have Me at their feast!" she said to herself, when she heard the sound of the merriment to which she had not been bidden. "Very well; they shall be sorry. I see a way to make a bigger piece of mischief than ever was known."
So she took a golden apple, wrote some words upon it, and, keeping herself out of sight, threw it into the very middle of the feasters, just when they were most merry.
Nobody saw where the apple came from; but of course they supposed it had been thrown among them for frolic; and one of the guests, taking it up, read aloud the words written on it. The words were:—
"For The Most Beautiful!"
"What a handsome present somebody has sent me!" said Juno, holding out her hand for the apple.
"Sent you?" asked Diana. "What an odd mistake, to be sure! Don't you see it is for the most beautiful? I will thank you to hand me what is so clearly intended for Me."
"You seem to forget I am present!" said Vesta, making a snatch at the apple.
"Not at all!" said Ceres; "only I happen to be here, too. And who doubts that where I am there is the most beautiful?"
"Except where I am," said Proserpine.
"What folly is all this!" said Minerva, the wise. "Wisdom is the only true beauty; and everybody knows that I am the wisest of you all."
But it's for the most beautiful!" said Venus. "The idea of its being for anybody but Me!"
Then every nymph and goddess present, and even every woman, put in her claim, until from claiming and disputing it grew to arguing and wrangling and downright quarreling: insults flew about, until the merriment grew into an angry din, the like of which had never been heard. But as it became clear that it was impossible for everybody to be the most beautiful, the claimants gradually settled down into three parties—some taking the side of Venus, others of Juno, others of Minerva.
"We shall never settle it among ourselves," said one, when all were fairly out of breath with quarreling. "Let the gods decide."
For the gods had been silent all the while; and now they looked at one another in dismay at such an appeal. Jupiter, in his heart, thought Venus the most beautiful; but how could he dare decide against either his wife Juno or his daughter Minerva? Neptune hated Minerva on account of their old quarrel; but it was awkward to choose between his daughter Venus and his sister Juno, of whose temper he, as well as Jupiter, stood in awe. Mars was ready enough to vote for Venus; but then he was afraid of a scandal. And so with all the gods—not one was bold enough to decide on such a terrible question as the beauty of three rival goddesses who were ready to tear out each other's eyes. For Juno was looking like a thunder-cloud, and Minerva like lightning, and Venus like a smiling but treacherous sea.
"I have it," said Jupiter at last. "Men are better judges of beauty than the gods are, who never see anything but its perfection. King Priam of Troy has a son named Paris, whose judgment as a critic I would take even before my own. I propose that you, Juno, and you, Minerva, and you, Venus, shall go together before Paris and submit yourselves to his decision, whatever it may be."
And so it was settled, for each of the three goddesses was equally sure that, whoever the judge might be, the golden apple was safe to be hers. The quarrel came to an end, and the feast ended pleasantly; but Ate, who had been watching and listening, laughed in her sleeve.
Troy, where King Priam reigned, was a great and ancient city on the shore of Asia: it was a sacred city, whose walls had been built by Neptune, and it possessed the Pallădium, the image of Minerva, which kept it from all harm. Priam—who had been the friend of Hercules—and his wife Hecuba had many sons and daughters, all brave and noble princes and beautiful princesses; and of his sons, while the bravest and noblest was his first-born, Hector, the handsomest and most amiable was Paris, whom Jupiter had appointed to be the judge of beauty.
Paris, unlike his brothers, cared nothing for affairs of State, but lived as a shepherd upon Mount Ida with his wife Œnone, a nymph of that mountain, in perfect happiness and peace, loved and honored by the whole country round, which had given him the name of "Alexander," which means "The Helper." One would think that if anybody was safe from the mischief of Ate, it was he.
But one day, while he was watching his flocks and thinking of Œnone, there came to him what he took for three beautiful women—the most beautiful he had ever seen. Yet something told him they were more than mere women, or even than Oreads, before the tallest said—
"There is debate in Olympus which is the most beautiful of us three, and Jupiter has appointed you to be the judge between us. I am Juno, the queen of gods and men, and if you decide for me, I will make you king of the whole world."
"And I," said the second, "am Minerva, and you shall know everything in the whole universe if you decide for me."
"But I," said the third, "am Venus, who can give neither wisdom nor power; but if you decide for me; I will give you the love of the most beautiful woman that ever was or ever will be born."
Paris looked from one to the other, wondering to which he should award the golden apple, the prize of beauty. He did not care for power: he would be quite content to rule his sheep, and even that was not always easy. Nor did he care for wisdom or knowledge: he had enough for all his needs. Nor ought he to have desired any love but Œnone's. But then Venus was really the most beautiful of all the goddesses—the very goddess of beauty; no mortal could refuse anything she asked him, so great was her charm. So he took the apple and placed it in the hands of Venus without a word, while Juno and Minerva departed in a state of wrath with Paris, Venus, and each other, which made Ate laugh to herself more than ever.
Now the most beautiful woman in the whole world was Helen, step-daughter of King Tyndărus of Sparta, and sister of Castor and Pollux: neither before her nor after her has there been any to compare with her for beauty. Thirty-one of the noblest princes in Greece came to her father's Court at the same time to seek her in marriage, so that Tyndarus knew not what to do, seeing that, whomsoever he chose for his son-in-law, he would make thirty powerful enemies. The most famous among them were Ulysses, King of the island of Ithăca; Diomed, King of Ætolia; Ajax, King of Sălămis, the bravest and strongest man in Greece; his brother Teucer; Philoctētes, the friend of Hercules; and Mĕnĕlāus, King of Sparta. At last, as there was no other way of deciding among them, an entirely new idea occurred to Ulysses—namely, that Helen should be allowed to choose her own husband herself, and that, before she chose, all the rival suitors should make a great and solemn oath to approve her choice, and to defend her and her husband against all enemies thenceforth and forever. This oath they all took loyally and with one accord, and Helen chose Menelaus, King of Sparta, who married her with great rejoicing, and took her away to his kingdom.
And all would have gone well but for that wretched apple. For Venus was faithful to her promise that the most beautiful of all women should be the wife of Paris: and so Menelaus, returning from a journey, found that a Trojan prince had visited his Court during his absence, and had gone away, taking Helen with him to Troy. This Trojan prince was Paris, who, seeing Helen, had forgotten Œnone, and could think of nothing but her whom Venus had given him.
Then, through all Greece and all the islands, went forth the summons of King Menelaus, reminding the thirty princes of their great oath: and each and all of them, and many more, came to the gathering-place with all their ships and all their men, to help Menelaus and to bring back Helen. Such a host as gathered together at Aulis had never been seen since the world began; there were nearly twelve hundred ships and more than a hundred thousand men: it was the first time that all the Greeks joined together in one cause. There, besides those who had come for their oath's sake, were Nestor, the old King of Pylos—so old that he remembered Jason and the Golden Fleece, but, at ninety years old, as ready for battle as the youngest there; and Achilles, the son of Peleus and Thetis, scarcely more than a boy, but fated to outdo the deeds of the bravest of them all. The kings and princes elected Agamemnon, King of Mycenæ and Argos, and brother of Menelaus, to be their general-in-chief; and he forthwith sent a herald to Troy to demand the surrender of Helen.
But King Priam was indignant that these chiefs of petty kingdoms should dare to threaten the sacred city of Troy: and he replied to the demand by a scornful challenge, and by sending out his summons also to his friends and allies. And it was as well answered as that of Menelaus had been. There came to his standard Rhesus, with a great army from Thrace; and Sarpēdon, the greatest king in all Asia; and Memnon, king of Æthiopia, with twenty thousand men—the hundred thousand Greeks were not so many as the army of Priam. Then Agamemnon gave the order to sail for Troy: and Ate laughed aloud, for her apple had brought upon mankind the First Great War.
And now I seem to be waking from a dream which is fading away. The gods are becoming shadows, vanishing farther and farther away from man. I could tell you, if I would, the story of how Troy was taken and burned after ten years of fighting, and how Priam and his sons were slain; of the wonderful adventures of Ulysses by sea and land before he returned home; of the deeds of Achilles and Hector; of how the few Trojans who escaped the slaughter followed Prince Æneas into Italy, where he made a kingdom, and was the forefather of Rōmŭlus, who built the city of Rome; which brings us from Mythology—the stories of gods and heroes—into History—the stories of men. All these things came from Ate's apple: yes, even the history of Rome, and of England, and of all the world.
You will read in the great poems of Homer the story of the siege of Troy and the wanderings of Ulysses; and in the "Æneid" of Virgil—to my mind the very greatest of all poems—the whole story of Æneas. But my stories end where the great poets begin theirs. I seem, as I have said, to have been dreaming a long dream: and before I quite wake I see the gods growing fainter and fainter, year by year and century by century, while men and women believed in them less and less, until—when they were well-nigh forgotten, or thought of only as poets' fables—there came a great loud cry which made the whole world sigh and tremble:—
"Pan is Dead!"
men heard all Nature cry; and they knew it to mean that the last of the gods was no more; that a new time had come for the world. And that same night a star rose into sight at Bethlehem, and stood over the manger where a young Child lay.
And yet, gone and lost though the gods be, you will be very blind indeed if you never catch a glimpse of a Dryad in the woods or of an Oread on the hill; if you never think of Hercules when things seem against you and hard to understand; if you do not see in Perseus the true knight that a true man should strive to be. What more shall I say before I lay down my pen? Only that these stories are not nonsense—no, not one of them; that the more one thinks of them the wiser he is; and that I love them so much, and think so much of what made me begin them, that I cannot believe that I have come to the end.
WEEK 43 |
HE old King lay dying and was very much worried in his mind because he was leaving behind him, as his heir, his son, who was a headstrong and willful youth, not yet come to years of wisdom. He called to his bedside faithful John, who had been his servant ever since he was a boy, and charged him thus:
"I am going to my last rest, and am sorrowful because my boy is left alone in a high position, and will have no other guidance but yours. Be his guardian and counselor, and serve him faithfully even as you have served me, or I cannot die happily."
"Master, I will," answered faithful John, "even if it cost me my life."
"Now I can rest in peace," said the King. "When I am dead you must lead him all over the castle, and show him the halls and chambers and the vaults and the treasures therein. But one room he must never enter, the last room in the long corridor, for there hangs the portrait of the daughter of the King of the Golden Palace, and she is so beautiful that whoever gazes on her picture will fall down in a swoon for love of her, and will go through great perils for her sake. Therefore he must never enter that room."
The trusty servant pressed his master's hand and promised to do his commands, and soon afterwards the King laid his head on the pillow and died.
After the old King was laid in his grave, the faithful John told the young King of the commands his father had laid upon him, and swore to serve him faithfully, even unto death.
When the days of mourning were over he told the young King that it was now time for him to see his inheritance; so they went all over the castle, up into the towers and down into the vaults, and saw all the great treasure the old King had collected; and they went into all the grand halls and splendid chambers, into all save one—the last room at the end of the long corridor, wherein hung the portrait.
The King noticed that they always passed this door, and asked John why.
"There is something there that it is dangerous to see," said John.
"But," answered the King, "I have seen everything else that I possess, and you must not imagine I am going away without seeing this."
Faithful John tried to argue him out of it, but it was of no use, and the obstinate King even made an effort to force the door open, and declared that he would not leave the spot till he had seen the contents of the chamber.
So John, seeing that there was nothing for it but to yield, sorrowfully took the key from the bunch and put it in the lock. He turned it suddenly and hurried in, hoping to cover over the portrait before the King saw it; but he was close on his heels, and John was too late to prevent the catastrophe, for no sooner had his master set eyes on the wonderful painting which appeared to be living, breathing flesh, than he fell on the floor in a swoon.
Poor John carried him tenderly to his bed, deeply bewailing the misfortune that had come upon them, and by dint of forcing wine down his throat he brought him round again. The first words that he uttered were:
"Who is the lady of the beautiful picture?"
"She is the daughter of the King of the Golden Palace," replied John.
"Then," said the King, "we must seek her at once, for I am filled with so great a love for her that if all the leaves on the trees had tongues they should not gainsay it."
Then trusty John thought for a long, long time as how to set about the matter, for it was very difficult to reach the presence of the beautiful Princess. At last he thought of a plan, and he said to the King:
"I have thought of a way by which you may achieve your end; all the things the Princess uses, and all the things about her, are gold—chairs, tables, dishes, pots and pans, all are fashioned of gold. There are five tons of gold bars in your cellars; you must have them wrought into articles of every kind, even into beasts and flowers, and then we will set out and seek her favor."
So the King sent for all the goldsmiths in the kingdom, and they worked day and night till all the gold was made into most wonderful and beautiful forms of the finest workmanship. Then they took them all aboard a great ship and set sail. They sailed for many days, till they came to the city where dwelt the daughter of the King of the Golden Palace.
The faithful John had decided that it was better for him to go ashore, so he told the King to remain on board and have all things in readiness, the treasures displayed and all in order, lest he should bring the Princess back with him. Then he tied up some of the smaller things in a handkerchief and rowed ashore.
When he entered the courtyard of the palace, he saw a beautiful girl filling two golden pails at the well. When they were full she turned, and, perceiving the stranger, demanded his business. So he untied the handkerchief and showed her the dainty trinkets. She was delighted with them, and at once said:
"The Princess must see these, for she has a passion for golden things, and will, no doubt, buy them all." So she took him by the hand and led him to the King's daughter. The Princess was even more beautiful than report had made her, and John was dazzled. The lady was very gracious to him, and was charmed with his treasures, which she wished to purchase. But John said:
"I am only a servant. My master is a rich merchant who has even more beautiful things than these aboard his ship."
"Let them be brought hither," replied the Princess; but he said:
"That would take many days and nights, their number is so vast, and even if they were all brought hither there is no room in the palace large enough to show them to advantage."
The Princess's curiosity was very much excited by this time and she said: "Bring me to the ship, and I will see them there."
Faithful John was overjoyed at the success of his plans and conducted her thither immediately. When the King saw her, he was so overcome with her beauty that he could hardly help her aboard, but he managed to control the violent beatings of his heart, and led her down into the cabin. John remained on deck, and commanded the helmsman to steer out to sea, and put on all the sail he could, so that they might leave the land far behind.
Down below the Princess was enjoying herself immensely, looking at all the beautiful and curious things, and several hours passed before she bethought her that it was time to go ashore. So she went on deck prepared to land immediately, and behold! no land was to be seen, nothing but the wide sea all around her.
"Ah!" she screamed, in sudden terror, "I am entrapped by a strange merchant. I would rather die than remain in his power!"
The King reassured her, and taking her hand he said: "I am no merchant, I am a king of royal blood like yourself. I have carried you off because my love for you is so great that I cannot live without you. You must know that when I saw your portrait, I was so stricken with love for you that I fell in a swoon before it."
When the King's daughter heard this her fear disappeared, and love grew in its place and she was willing to be his bride.
One day, when John was sitting on deck piping sweet music, three crows flew over the ship, talking hard all the time.
John understood every word they said, and this is what he heard:
"There he is, sailing home with the daughter of the King of the Golden Palace," said the first, "Ah! they are not home yet," said the second. "But she is with him in the ship," said the third. "What matters that?" began the first again; "when they land there will come a beautiful fox-colored horse, and he will spring upon it and the horse will bound away with him up into the air and he will never be seen again."
"But is there no way to save him?" the second one asked. "Yes, if one springs up quickly behind him and seizes the pistols which are in the holsters and shoots the fox-colored horse, then the King will be saved. But nobody knows, and if one knew and told him, he would be turned into stone from toe to knee."
Then the second crow spoke again:
"I know still more, for even if the horse be shot he will not keep his lovely bride. When they arrive at the castle a bridal shirt will be brought to him on a dish, looking as though it were made of silver and gold, but it is only sulphur and pitch, and when he puts it on he will be burned to the marrow of his bones."
"Is there no way to save him?" asked the third crow.
"Oh, yes! if one were to take up the shirt with his gloves on and throw it on the fire before the King touches it, he will be saved. But what matter? for no one knows that, and if one knew and were to tell, he would be turned into stone from his knee to his heart."
Then the third crow spoke again:
"I know even more. Even if the shirt be burned the King will not keep his bride. After supper a dance will be held, and suddenly, when she is dancing, the Queen will turn pale and fall in a faint; and if some one does not raise her up and take three drops of blood from her little finger and throw them away, she will die. But if anyone knows that and tells it, he will be turned into stone from the crown of his head to the toes of his feet."
Then the crows flew away, leaving John very quiet and sad; for if he concealed what he knew, misfortune would fall upon his master, and if he told, he must lose his own life; but he decided that whatever happened to himself he must save his master.
When they landed it happened just as the crows had said, and a beautiful fox-colored horse appeared in front of the King. He exclaimed with pleasure:
"Splendid! this shall carry us to the castle." And he sprang into the saddle.
But John sprang up after him, and finding the pistols, shot the horse dead. The other servants who were jealous of John, began to grumble at this, and said:
"Shame to kill such a lovely animal, which was fit to bear the King!"
But the King said:
"Peace; be silent. He is my faithful servant and I trust him. Who knows what he has saved us from?"
Then they went on to the castle, and in the hall it happened just as it had been foretold—a beautiful bridal shirt was brought to the King. He was just about to pick it up and put it on when John threw himself in front of him, and seizing the shirt, carried it to the fire and burned it.
Again the other servants set up a murmur:
"What is he about? See, he has burned the bridal shirt!"
But the King silenced them and said:
"He is my faithful John, and I trust him. Who knows what danger he has averted?"
After the wedding supper a grand ball was given, and John watched the Queen very carefully while she danced. Suddenly he saw her turn pale and fall in a faint. He hurried toward her, and lifting her up he carried her away to her chamber. Then he knelt down, and drawing three drops of blood from her little finger he threw them away. Soon the Queen stirred, and then sat up, quite herself again. But the King had watched all this, and this time he was furiously angry with faithful John, and ordered him to be thrown into prison. Next day he was brought to trial and condemned to be hanged at the gallows. When he was about to be executed he asked for the usual privilege of a condemned prisoner, to speak once what was in his mind. The King granted it, and faithful John began:
"I am innocent of any crime against you, and have always served you faithfully."
Then he told what he had heard the crows saying at sea; and how he had done all these things to save his master's life.
Then the King cried: "Pardon, pardon, my faithful friend; you are innocent!"
But at the last word he had spoken John had fallen down, turned into stone.
After this there was great sorrow and lamentation in the palace, and they had the statue raised and taken to their chamber and placed near the bed, and often the King looked at it and said:
"Ah! my trusty John, could I but bring you back to life again!"
Some time afterwards, to their great joy, twins were born to them, two healthy boys. One day the Queen was at church and the King was at home playing with his children, when he looked up at the statue and said:
"Ah, my poor faithful John, what would I not do to bring you back to life!"
To his surprise the statue answered him and said:
"If you will sacrifice what is dearest to you, you can restore my life to me."
"I will do anything in the world for you, only tell me what," answered the King.
Then the statue spoke again:
"Cut off the heads of your children, and sprinkle me with their blood, and I will be restored to life."
The poor King was horrified when he heard this, for how could he do such an awful deed as to kill his own children? But he thought of all John had done for him, and how much he had sacrificed, and, without flinching, he drew his sword to cut off their heads.
But as he was about to kill the little princes, faithful John became alive again, crying:
"Stop, stop, my master! Your faith in me is rewarded, and I am free."
The King was now as happy as he could be, and he thought to give his wife a pleasant surprise; so when he heard her coming he hid faithful John and the twins in a cupboard. When she came in he asked her if she had prayed for all her friends.
"Yes," she answered; "but I have been thinking of poor John, who is past our prayers."
Then the King said:
"We can restore him to life again, but we must sacrifice both our sons."
The Queen turned very pale at this and nearly fainted; but she thought of how it was their fault that John had suffered, and she said bravely that if it was to restore him to life it must be done.
The King was overjoyed to find that she thought as he did, and he threw open the cupboard door and disclosed, not only the twins, but faithful John also. Then they all rejoiced and were happy together to the end of their days.
B ABY worms are just like the parent worms, only smaller, and with not so many rings. As they grow, they get more rings by the dividing of the last one.
In some kinds of soil the wee worms are born in a little hard skin bag. This keeps them from harm, until they get strong enough to take care of themselves.
Mr. Worm's home is like a row of long halls. These halls are lined with a kind of glue from the worm's body. This glue makes the walls firm.
The halls are not deep under ground. If the weather is very cold, or very dry, the worms dig down deeper. Worms dislike cold or drought. They enjoy warmth. They also like water, and wet soil.
When winter comes the worms plug up the doors of their houses. This is done by dragging into the doorway a plant stem that will fit and fill it.
The worms carry into their homes leaves and stalks to eat. They bring out, and throw away, things which they do not like. Worms show much sense in the way in which they carry things in and out of their holes. If a stem will not go in, they turn it over, and try it in some other way.
Mr. Worm at Home
Worms usually come out of their holes at night or in wet weather. If they go far from their house, they cannot find their way back. Then they make a new hole. Each worm lives alone.
Often in the evening or early morning, or during rain, you will see worms near their houses. You may find them with their heads just put out of their doors. You will see the worm casts in early day or after rain. It is then the worms dare to come out. Sun and heat dry worms up very fast, and so kill them.
The birds know all these ways of the worms. Watch a robin or a bluebird. He searches for his food at sunrise, or after sunset, or while it rains.
Now his keen eyes see the worm at his door! In goes his sharp bill! He pulls like a good fellow! He is hungry. He wants his breakfast. The worm holds fast by his hooks. The bird braces his feet and his tail, and tugs hard. Out comes the worm to feed Mr. Bird.
Out comes the worm.
The bird shows great skill in the way he pulls the worm out of the hole. He does not break off even one little bit of his soft body. No boy could get him out in that way.
Some say that the worm lies by his door at sunrise for warmth. I do not think that is so. I think what he likes is the fresh dew. He loves dampness. He fears cold, but he also dies of heat.
Any worm will die in one day in dry air, but some kinds of worms will live for weeks quite down under water. He needs an even, moist warmth. His home must not be hot, nor cold, nor dry.
Little young worms know how to dig houses, make worm-casts, carry out the soil, find food, and plug up the door of their houses. They know at once all that old worms do. But then worm houses do not require as much skill as bee or wasp houses.
The sea-side worms make the prettiest houses. On shells, stone, wood, or wound alone in a lump, you will find their tubes. They are white and as hard as shell. Inside they are pink or blue.
These tubes curve and twist about, as the worm went that built them. Some are very pretty. There is a soft kind of tube made of sand and bits of shell, stone, and weed. The sand and weed are held together by a kind of glue. The worm makes this glue in its mouth.
I have some tubes very clear and white. You can see the lines where the worm went when he built them, ring by ring. Some of these tubes are so small you can just run a fine needle into them. Some are as large as a straw, and some as large as a fine fat earth-worm.
Now you see how much is to be learned, even of such a small humble thing as a worm. Think how much even such a weak creature can do!
There is much more to be found out about worms, which I hope you will be glad to learn for yourselves.
The ordinary merchant
Lives just like you or I;
His house is made of brick or stone,
His rooms are warm and dry;
And if we want his merchandise,
On foot or in a 'bus
We journey to his shop, because,
His shop won't come to us.
But Basket-making Gipsies
Consider people more:
They harness horses to their house
And bring it to your door;
And 'neath the shelter of the trees
It stands when day is
A kitchen, bedroom, workroom, shop
And nursery in one.
The Basket-making Gipsies,
A pleasant life is theirs,
Without the sameness of a street,
The weariness of
They've every day another ride,
Another town to see,
And, in the shade beside the road,
Another picnic tea.
WEEK 43 |
But all this while the Prince Conon waited with no little impatience for news of Ursula. He had been baptized and joined the Christian faith, he had sent the companions she desired, and now he waited for her to fulfil her promise.
And ere long a letter reached him, written round and fair in the princess's own handwriting, telling him that as he had so well fulfilled her conditions, and was now her own true knight, she gave him permission to come to her father's court, that they might meet and learn to know each other.
It was but little time that Prince Conon lost before he set sail for Brittany. The great warships made a prosperous voyage over the sea that parted the two countries, and came sailing majestically into the harbour of Brittany, where the people had gathered in crowds to see the young prince who had come to woo their fair princess.
From every window gay carpets were hung, and the town was all in holiday, as Ursula stood on the landing-place, the first to greet the prince as he stepped ashore, and all that Conon had heard of her seemed as nothing compared to the reality, as she stood before him in her great beauty and welcomed him with gentle courtesy. And he grew to love her so truly that he was willing to do in all things as she wished, though he longed for the three years to be over that he might carry her off to England and make her his queen.
But Ursula told the prince of the vision that had come to her in her dream, when the angel had said she must first go through much suffering, and visit the shrines of saints in distant lands. And she told him she could not be happy unless he granted her these three years in which to serve God, and begged him meanwhile to stay with her father and comfort him while she was gone.
So Ursula set out with her eleven thousand maidens, and the city was left very desolate and forlorn. But the pilgrims were happy as they sailed away over the sea, for they were doing the angel's bidding, and they feared nothing, for they trusted that God would protect and help them.
At first the winds were contrary and they were driven far out of their course, so that instead of arriving at Rome, which was the place they had meant to go to, they were obliged to land at a city called Cologne, where the barbarous Germans lived. Here, while they were resting for a little, another dream was sent to Ursula, and the angel told her that in this very place, on their return, she and all her maidens would suffer death and win their heavenly crowns. This did not affright the princess and her companions, but rather made them rejoice, that they should be found worthy to die for their faith.
So they sailed on up the River Rhine till they could go no further, and they landed at the town of Basle, determined to do the rest of their pilgrimage on foot.
It was a long and tedious journey over the mountains to Italy, and the tender feet of these pilgrims might have found it impossible to climb the rough road had not God sent six angels to help them on their way, to smooth over the rough places, and to help them in all dangers so that no harm could befall them.
First they journeyed past the great lakes where the snow-capped mountains towered in their white glory, then up the mountain-road, ever higher and higher, where the glaciers threatened to sweep down upon them, and the path was crossed by fierce mountain-torrents. But before long they began to descend the further side; and the snow melted in patches and the green grass appeared. Then followed stretches of flowery meadow-land, where the soft southern air whispered to them of the land of sunshine, fruit, and flowers.
Lower down came the little sun-baked Italian villages, and the simple, kindly people who were eager to help the company of maidens in every way, and gazed upon them with reverence when they knew they were on a pilgrimage to Rome.
Thus the pilgrims went onward until at length they came to the River Tiber and entered the city of Rome, where were the shrines of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Now the Bishop of Rome, whom men call the Pope, was much troubled when it was told him that a company of eleven thousand fair women had entered his city. He could not understand what it might mean, and was inclined to fear it might be a temptation of the evil one. So he went out to meet them, taking with him all his clergy in a great procession, chanting their hymns as they went.
And soon the two processions met, and what was the amazement and joy of the Pope when a beautiful maiden came and knelt before him and asked for his blessing, telling him why she and her companions had come to Rome.
"Most willingly do I give thee my blessing," answered the old man, "and bid thee and thy companions welcome to my city. My servants shall put up tents for you all in some quiet spot, and ye shall have the best that Rome can afford."
So the maidens rested there in quiet happiness, thankful to have come to the end of their pilgrimage and to have reached the shrines of God's great saints. But to Ursula an added joy was sent which made her happiness complete.
For the prince, whom she had left behind, grew impatient of her long absence, and the longing for his princess grew so strong he felt that he could not stay quietly at home not knowing where she was nor what had befallen her. So he had set out, and, journeying by a different route, had arrived in Rome the same day as Ursula and her maidens were received by the good bishop.
It is easy to picture the delight of Conon and Ursula when they met together again, and knelt hand in hand to receive the Pope's blessing. And when Ursula told him all that had happened and of the angels whom God had sent to guide and protect them, the only desire the prince had was to share her pilgrimage and be near her when danger threatened. And his purpose only became stronger when she told him of the vision she had had in the city of Cologne.
"How can I leave thee, my princess," he asked, "when I have but now found thee? Life holds no pleasure when thou art absent. The days are grey and sunless without the sunshine of thy presence. Bid me come with thee and share thy dangers, and if it be, as thou sayest, that it is God's will that thou and all these maidens shall pass through suffering and death for His sake, then let me too win the heavenly crown that we may praise God together in that country where sorrow and separation can touch us no more."
And Ursula was glad to think that, through love of her, the prince should be led to love God, and so granted his request and bade her companions prepare to set out once more.
The Pope would fain have persuaded them to stop longer in Rome, but Ursula told him of her vision, and how it was time to return as the dream had warned her. Then the Pope and his clergy made up their minds to join the pilgrimage also, that they too might honour God by a martyr's death.
Now there were in Rome at that time two great Roman captains who were cruel heathens, and who looked upon this pilgrimage with alarm and anger. They commanded all the imperial troops in the northern country of Germany; and when they heard that Ursula and her maidens were bound for Cologne they were filled with dismay and wrath. For they said to each other:
"If so many good and beautiful women should reach that heathen land the men there will be captivated by their beauty and wish to marry them. Then, of course, they will all become Christians, and the whole nation will be won over to this new religion."
"We cannot suffer this," was the answer. "Come, let us think of some way to prevent so great a misfortune that would destroy all our power in Germany."
So these two wicked heathen captains agreed to send a letter to the king of the Huns, a fierce savage, who was just then besieging Cologne. In it they told him that thousands of fair women in a great company were on their way to help the city, and if they were allowed to enter all chances of victory for his army would vanish. There was but one thing to be done and that was to kill the entire band of maidens the moment they arrived.
Meanwhile Ursula and her companions had set sail for Cologne, and with them were now Prince Conon and his knights and the Pope with many bishops and cardinals. And after many days of danger and adventure the pilgrims arrived at the city of Cologne.
The army of barbarians who were encamped before the city was amazed to see such a strange company landing from the ships. For first there came the eleven thousand maidens, then a company of young unarmed knights, then a procession of old men richly robed and bearing no weapons of any kind.
For a moment the savage soldiers stood still in amazement, but then, remembering the orders they had received in the letter from the Roman captains, they rushed upon the defenceless strangers and began to slay them without mercy. Prince Conon was the first to fall, pierced by an arrow, at the feet of his princess. Then the knights were slain and the Pope with all his clergy.
Again the savage soldiers paused, and then like a pack of wolves they fell upon the gentle maidens, and these spotless white lambs were slain by thousands.
And in their midst, brave and fearless, was the Princess Ursula, speaking cheerful words of comfort to the dying and bidding one and all rejoice and look forward to the happy meeting in the heavenly country. So great was her beauty and courage that even those wicked soldiers dared not touch her, and at last, when their savage work was done, they took her before their prince that he might decide her fate.
Never before had Ursula's beauty shone forth more wonderfully than it did that day when she stood among these savage men and gazed with steadfast eyes upon the prince, as one might look upon a wild beast.
The prince was amazed and enchanted, for he had never seen so lovely a maid in his life before, and he motioned to the soldiers to bring Ursula nearer to him.
"Do not weep, fair maiden," he said, trying to speak in his gentlest voice, "for though you have lost all your companions you will not be alone. I will be your husband, and you shall be the greatest queen in Germany."
Then most proudly did Ursula draw herself up, and her clear eyes shone with scorn as she answered:
"Does it indeed seem to thee as though I wept? And canst thou believe that I would live when all my dear ones have been slain by thee, thou cruel coward, slayer of defenceless women and unarmed men?"
And when the proud prince heard these scornful words he fell into a furious rage, and, bending the bow that was in his hand, he shot three arrows through the heart of Princess Ursula and killed her instantly.
So the pure soul went to join the companions of her pilgrimage and to receive the crown of life which the angel of her dream had promised her, and for which she had laid down her earthly crown as gladly as when in her peaceful home she laid it aside before she went to rest.
T HE Rat put out a neat little brown paw, gripped Toad firmly by the scruff of the neck, and gave a great hoist and a pull; and the water-logged Toad came up slowly but surely over the edge of the hole, till at last he stood safe and sound in the hall, streaked with mud and weed, to be sure, and with the water streaming off him, but happy and high-spirited as of old, now that he found himself once more in the house of a friend, and dodgings and evasions were over, and he could lay aside a disguise that was unworthy of his position and wanted such a lot of living up to.
"O, Ratty!" he cried. "I've been through such times since I saw you last, you
can't think! Such trials, such sufferings, and all so nobly
borne! Then such
escapes, such disguises such subterfuges, and all so cleverly planned and
carried out! Been in prison—got out of it, of course! Been thrown into a
canal—swam ashore! Stole a horse—sold him for a large sum of money! Humbugged
everybody—made 'em all do exactly what I wanted!
Oh, I am a smart Toad, and no
mistake! What do you think my last exploit was? Just hold on till I
"Toad," said the Water Rat, gravely and firmly, "you go off upstairs at once, and take off that old cotton rag that looks as if it might formerly have belonged to some washerwoman, and clean yourself thoroughly, and put on some of my clothes, and try and come down looking like a gentleman if you can; for a more shabby, bedraggled, disreputable-looking object than you are I never set eyes on in my whole life! Now, stop swaggering and arguing, and be off! I'll have something to say to you later!"
Toad was at first inclined to stop and do some talking back at him. He had had enough of being ordered about when he was in prison, and here was the thing being begun all over again, apparently; and by a Rat, too! However, he caught sight of himself in the looking-glass over the hat-stand, with the rusty black bonnet perched rakishly over one eye, and he changed his mind and went very quickly and humbly upstairs to the Rat's dressing-room. There he had a thorough wash and brush-up, changed his clothes, and stood for a long time before the glass, contemplating himself with pride and pleasure, and thinking what utter idiots all the people must have been to have ever mistaken him for one moment for a washerwoman.
By the time he came down again luncheon was on the table, and very glad Toad was to see it, for he had been through some trying experiences and had taken much hard exercise since the excellent breakfast provided for him by the gipsy. While they ate Toad told the Rat all his adventures, dwelling chiefly on his own cleverness, and presence of mind in emergencies, and cunning in tight places; and rather making out that he had been having a gay and highly-coloured experience. But the more he talked and boasted, the more grave and silent the Rat became.
When at last Toad had talked himself to a standstill, there was silence for a while; and then the Rat said, "Now, Toady, I don't want to give you pain, after all you've been through already; but, seriously, don't you see what an awful ass you've been making of yourself? On your own admission you have been hand-cuffed, imprisoned, starved, chased, terrified out of your life, insulted, jeered at, and ignominiously flung into the water—by a woman, too! Where's the amusement in that? Where does the fun come in? And all because you must needs go and steal a motor-car. You know that you've never had anything but trouble from motor-cars from the moment you first set eyes on one. But if you will be mixed up with them—as you generally are, five minutes after you've started—why steal them? Be a cripple, if you think it's exciting; be a bankrupt, for a change, if you've set your mind on it: but why choose to be a convict? When are you going to be sensible, and think of your friends, and try and be a credit to them? Do you suppose it's any pleasure to me, for instance, to hear animals saying, as I go about, that I'm the chap that keeps company with gaol-birds?"
Now, it was a very comforting point in Toad's character that he was a thoroughly good-hearted animal and never minded being jawed by those who were his real friends. And even when most set upon a thing, he was always able to see the other side of the question. So although, while the Rat was talking so seriously, he kept saying to himself mutinously, "But it was fun, though! Awful fun!" and making strange suppressed noises inside him, k-i-ck-ck-ck, and poop-p-p, and other sounds resembling stifled snorts, or the opening of soda-water bottles, yet when the Rat had quite finished, he heaved a deep sigh and said, very nicely and humbly, "Quite right, Ratty! How sound you always are! Yes, I've been a conceited old ass, I can quite see that; but now I'm going to be a good Toad, and not do it any more. As for motor-cars, I've not been at all so keen about them since my last ducking in that river of yours. The fact is, while I was hanging on to the edge of your hole and getting my breath, I had a sudden idea—a really brilliant idea—connected with motor-boats—there, there! don't take on so, old chap, and stamp, and upset things; it was only an idea, and we won't talk any more about it now. We'll have our coffee, and a smoke, and a quiet chat, and then I'm going to stroll quietly down to Toad Hall, and get into clothes of my own, and set things going again on the old lines. I've had enough of adventures. I shall lead a quiet, steady, respectable life, pottering about my property, and improving it, and doing a little landscape gardening at times. There will always be a bit of dinner for my friends when they come to see me; and I shall keep a pony-chaise to jog about the country in, just as I used to in the good old days, before I got restless, and wanted to do things."
"Stroll quietly down to Toad Hall?" cried the Rat, greatly excited. "What are you talking about? Do you mean to say you haven't heard?"
"Heard what?" said Toad, turning rather pale. "Go on, Ratty! Quick! Don't spare me! What haven't I heard?"
"Do you mean to tell me," shouted the Rat, thumping with his little fist upon the table, "that you've heard nothing about the Stoats and Weasels?"
What, the Wild Wooders?" cried Toad, trembling in every limb. "No, not a word! What have they been doing?"
Toad leaned his elbows on the table, and his chin on his paws; and a large tear welled up in each of his eyes, overflowed and splashed on the table, plop! plop!
"Go on, Ratty," he murmured presently; "tell me all. The worst is over. I am an animal again. I can bear it."
"When you—got—into that—that—trouble of yours," said the Rat, slowly and
impressively; "I mean, when you—disappeared from
society for a time, over that
misunderstanding about a—a machine, you
Toad merely nodded.
"Well, it was a good deal talked about down here, naturally," continued the Rat, "not only along the river-side, but even in the Wild Wood. Animals took sides, as always happens. The River-bankers stuck up for you, and said you had been infamously treated, and there was no justice to be had in the land nowadays. But the Wild Wood animals said hard things, and served you right, and it was time this sort of thing was stopped. And they got very cocky, and went about saying you were done for this time! You would never come back again, never, never!"
Toad nodded once more, keeping silence.
"That's the sort of little beasts they are," the Rat went on. "But Mole and Badger, they stuck out, through thick and thin, that you would come back again soon, somehow. They didn't know exactly how, but somehow!"
Toad began to sit up in his chair again, and to smirk a little.
"They argued from history," continued the Rat. "They said that no criminal laws had ever been known to prevail against cheek and plausibility such as yours, combined with the power of a long purse. So they arranged to move their things in to Toad Hall, and sleep there, and keep it aired, and have it all ready for you when you turned up. They didn't guess what was going to happen, of course; still, they had their suspicions of the Wild Wood animals. Now I come to the most painful and tragic part of my story. One dark night—it was a very dark night, and blowing hard, too, and raining simply cats and dogs—a band of weasels, armed to the teeth, crept silently up the carriage-drive to the front entrance. Simultaneously, a body of desperate ferrets, advancing through the kitchen-garden, possessed themselves of the backyard and offices; while a company of skirmishing stoats who stuck at nothing occupied the conservatory and the billiard-room, and held the French windows opening on to the lawn.
"The Mole and the Badger were sitting by the fire in the smoking-room, telling stories and suspecting nothing, for it wasn't a night for any animals to be out in, when those bloodthirsty villains broke down the doors and rushed in upon them from every side. They made the best fight they could, but what was the good? They were unarmed, and taken by surprise, and what can two animals do against hundreds? They took and beat them severely with sticks, those two poor faithful creatures, and turned them out into the cold and the wet, with many insulting and uncalled-for remarks!"
Here the unfeeling Toad broke into a snigger, and then pulled himself together and tried to look particularly solemn.
"And the Wild Wooders have been living in Toad Hall ever since," continued the Rat; "and going on simply anyhow! Lying in bed half the day, and breakfast at all hours, and the place in such a mess (I'm told) it's not fit to be seen! Eating your grub, and drinking your drink, and making bad jokes about you, and singing vulgar songs, about—well, about prisons and magistrates, and policemen; horrid personal songs, with no humour in them. And they're telling the tradespeople and everybody that they've come to stay for good."
"O, have they!" said Toad, getting up and seizing a stick. "I'll jolly soon see about that!"
"It's no good, Toad!" called the Rat after him. "You'd better come back and sit down; you'll only get into trouble."
The door was shut, as doors should be,
Before you went to bed last night;
Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,
And left your window silver white.
And now you cannot see the trees
Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;
But there are fairer things than these
His fingers traced on every pane:
Rocks and castles towering high;
Hills and dales and streams and fields;
And knights in armor riding by,
With nodding plumes and shining shields.
And here are little boats, and there
Big ships with sails spread to the breeze;
And yonder, palm-trees waving fair
On islands set in silver seas.
And butterflies with gauzy wings;
And herds of cows and flocks of sheep;
And fruit and flowers and all the things
You see when you are sound asleep.
He paints them on the window-pane
In fairy lines with frozen steam;
And when you wake, you see again
The lovely things you saw in dream.