WEEK 44 |
T HE next morning the doctor climbed up from Dörfli with Peter and the goats. The kindly gentleman tried now and then to enter into conversation with the boy, but his attempts failed, for he could hardly get a word out of Peter in answer to his questions. Peter was not easily persuaded to talk. So the party silently made their way up to the hut, where they found Heidi awaiting them with her two goats, all three as fresh and lively as the morning sun among the mountains.
"Are you coming to-day?" said Peter, repeating the words with which he daily greeted her, either in question or in summons.
"Of course I am, if the doctor is coming too," replied Heidi.
Peter cast a sidelong glance at the doctor. The grandfather now came out with the dinner bag, and after bidding good-day to the doctor he went up to Peter and slung it over his neck. It was heavier than usual, for Alm-Uncle had added some meat to-day, as he thought the doctor might like to have his lunch out and eat it when the children did. Peter gave a grin, for he felt sure there was something more than ordinary in it.
And so the ascent began. The goats as usual came thronging around Heidi, each trying to be nearest her, until at last she stood still and said, "Now you must go on in front and behave properly, and not keep on turning back and pushing and poking me, for I want to talk to the doctor," and she gave Snowflake a little pat on the back and told her to be good and obedient. By degrees she managed to make her way out from among them and joined the doctor, who took her by the hand. He had no difficulty now in conversing with his companion, for Heidi had a great deal to say about the goats and their peculiarities, and about the flowers and the rocks and the birds, and so they clambered on and reached their resting-place before they were aware. Peter had sent a good many unfriendly glances towards the doctor on the way up, which might have quite alarmed the latter if he had happened to notice them, which, fortunately, he did not.
Heidi now led her friend to her favorite spot where she was accustomed to sit and enjoy the beauty around her; the doctor followed her example and took his seat beside her on the warm grass. Over the heights and over the far green valley hung the golden glory of the autumn day. The great snowfield sparkled in the bright sunlight, and the two gray rocky peaks rose in their ancient majesty against the dark blue sky. A soft, light morning breeze blew deliciously across the mountain, gently stirring the bluebells that still remained of the summer's wealth of flowers, their slender heads nodding cheerfully in the sunshine. Overhead the great bird was flying round and round in wide circles, but to-day he made no sound; poised on his large wings he floated contentedly in the blue ether. Heidi looked about her first at one thing and then at another. The waving flowers, the blue sky, the bright sunshine, the happy bird—everything was so beautiful! so beautiful! Her eyes were alight with joy. And now she turned to her friend to see if he too were enjoying the beauty. The doctor had been sitting thoughtfully gazing around him. As he met her glad bright eyes, "Yes, Heidi," he responded, "I see how lovely it all is, but tell me—if one brings a sad heart up here, how may it be healed so that it can rejoice in all this beauty?"
"Oh, but," exclaimed Heidi, "no one is sad up here, only in Frankfurt."
The doctor smiled and then growing serious again he continued, "But supposing one is not able to leave all the sadness behind at Frankfurt; can you tell me anything that will help then?"
"When you do not know what more to do you must go and tell everything to God," answered Heidi with decision.
"Ah, that is a good thought of yours, Heidi," said the doctor. "But if it is God Himself who has sent the trouble, what can we say to Him then?"
Heidi sat pondering for a while; she was sure in her heart that God could help out of every trouble. She thought over her own experiences and then found her answer.
"Then you must wait," she said, "and keep on saying to yourself: God certainly knows of some happiness for us which He is going to bring out of the trouble, only we must have patience and not run away. And then all at once something happens and we see clearly ourselves that God has had some good thought in His mind all along; but because we cannot see things beforehand, and only know how dreadfully miserable we are, we think it is always going to be so."
"That is a beautiful faith, child, and be sure you hold it
fast," replied the doctor. Then he sat on a while in silence,
looking at the great overshadowing mountains and the green,
sunlit valley below before he spoke
"Can you understand, Heidi, that a man may sit here with such a shadow over his eyes that he cannot feel and enjoy the beauty around him, while the heart grows doubly sad knowing how beautiful it could be? Can you understand that?"
A pain shot through the child's young happy heart. The shadow
over the eyes brought to her remembrance the grandmother, who
would never again be able to see the sunlight and the beauty up
here. This was Heidi's great sorrow, which re-awoke each time
she thought about the darkness. She did not speak for a few
minutes, for her happiness was interrupted by this sudden pang.
Then in a grave voice she
"Yes, I can understand it. And I know this, that then one must say one of grandmother's hymns, which bring the light back a little, and often make it so bright for her that she is quite happy again. Grandmother herself told me this."
"Which hymns are they, Heidi?" asked the doctor.
"I only know the one about the sun and the beautiful garden, and some of the verses of the long one, which are favorites with her, and she always likes me to read them to her two or three times over," replied Heidi.
"Well, say the verses to me then—I should like to hear them too," and the doctor sat up in order to listen better.
Heidi put her hands together and sat collecting her thoughts for a second or two: "Shall I begin at the verse that grandmother says gives her a feeling of hope and confidence?"
The doctor nodded his assent, and Heidi
Let not your heart be troubled
Nor fear your soul dismay,
There is a wise Defender
And He will be your stay.
Where you have failed, He conquers,
See, how the foeman flies!
And all your tribulation
Is turned to glad surprise.
If for a while it seemeth
His mercy is withdrawn,
That He no longer careth
For His wandering child forlorn,
Doubt not His great compassion,
His love can never tire,
To those who wait in patience
He gives their heart's desire.
Heidi suddenly paused; she was not sure if the doctor was still listening. He was sitting motionless with his hand before his eyes. She thought he had fallen asleep; when he awoke, if he wanted to hear more verses, she would go on. There was no sound anywhere. The doctor sat in silence, but he was certainly not asleep. His thoughts had carried him back to a long past time: he saw himself as a little boy standing by his dear mother's chair; she had her arm round his neck and was saying the very verses to him that Heidi had just recited—words which he had not heard now for years. He could hear his mother's voice and see her loving eyes resting upon him, and as Heidi ceased the old dear voice seemed to be saying other things to him; and the words he heard again must have carried him far, far away, for it was a long time before he stirred or took his hand from his eyes. When at last he roused himself he met Heidi's eyes looking wonderingly at him.
"Heidi," he said, taking the child's hand in his, "that was a beautiful hymn of yours," and there was a happier ring in his voice as he spoke. "We will come out here together another day, and you will let me hear it again."
Peter meanwhile had had enough to do in giving vent to his anger. It was now some days since Heidi had been out with him, and when at last she did come, there she sat the whole time beside the old gentleman, and Peter could not get a word with her. He got into a terrible temper, and at last went and stood some way back behind the doctor, where the latter could not see him, and doubling his fist made imaginary hits at the enemy. Presently he doubled both fists, and the longer Heidi stayed beside the gentleman, the more fiercely did he threaten with them.
Meanwhile the sun had risen to the height which Peter knew pointed to the dinner hour. All of a sudden he called at the top of his voice, "It's dinner time."
Heidi was rising to fetch the dinner bag so that the doctor might eat his where he sat. But he stopped her, telling her he was not hungry at all, and only cared for a glass of milk, as he wanted to climb up a little higher. Then Heidi found that she also was not hungry and only wanted milk, and she should like, she said, to take the doctor up to the large moss-covered rock where Greenfinch had nearly jumped down and killed herself. So she ran and explained matters to Peter, telling him to go and get milk for the two. Peter seemed hardly to understand. "Who is going to eat what is in the bag then?" he asked.
"You can have it," she answered, "only first make haste and get the milk."
Peter had seldom performed any task more promptly, for he thought of the bag and its contents, which now belonged to him. As soon as the other two were sitting quietly drinking their milk, he opened it, and quite trembled for joy at the sight of the meat, and he was just putting his hand in to draw it out when something seemed to hold him back. His conscience smote him at the remembrance of how he had stood with his doubled fists behind the doctor, who was now giving up to him his whole good dinner. He felt as if he could not now enjoy it. But all at once he jumped up and ran back to the spot where he had stood before, and there held up his open hands as a sign that he had no longer any wish to use them as fists, and kept them up until he felt he had made amends for his past conduct. Then he rushed back and sat down to the double enjoyment of a clear conscience and an unusually satisfying meal.
Heidi and the doctor climbed and talked for a long while, until the latter said it was time for him to be going back, and no doubt Heidi would like to go and be with her goats. But Heidi would not hear of this, as then the doctor would have to go the whole way down the mountain alone. She insisted on accompanying him as far as the grandfather's hut, or even a little further. She kept hold of her friend's hand all the time, and the whole way she entertained him with accounts of this thing and that, showing him the spots where the goats loved best to feed, and others where in summer the flowers of all colors grew in greatest abundance. She could give them all their right names, for her grandfather had taught her these during the summer months. But at last the doctor insisted on her going back; so they bid each other good-night and the doctor continued his descent, turning now and again to look back, and each time he saw Heidi standing on the same spot and waving her hand to him. Even so in the old days had his own dear little daughter watched him when he went from home.
It was a bright, sunny autumn month. The doctor came up to the hut every morning, and thence made excursions over the mountain. Alm-Uncle accompanied him on some of his higher ascents, when they climbed up to the ancient storm-beaten fir trees and often disturbed the great bird which rose startled from its nest, with the whirl of wings and croakings, very near their heads. The doctor found great pleasure in his companion's conversation, and was astonished at his knowledge of the plants that grew on the mountain: he knew the uses of them all, from the aromatic fir trees and the dark pines with their scented needles, to the curly moss that sprang up everywhere about the roots of the trees and the smallest plant and tiniest flower. He was as well versed also in the ways of the animals, great and small, and had many amusing anecdotes to tell of these dwellers in caves and holes and in the tops of the fir trees. And so the time passed pleasantly and quickly for the doctor, who seldom said good-bye to the old man at the end of the day without adding, "I never leave you, friend, without having learnt something new from you."
On some of the very finest days, however, the doctor would wander out again with Heidi, and then the two would sit together as on the first day, and the child would repeat her hymns and tell the doctor things which she alone knew. Peter sat at a little distance from them, but he was now quite reconciled in spirit and gave vent to no angry pantomime.
September had drawn to its close, and now one morning the doctor appeared looking less cheerful than usual. It was his last day, he said, as he must return to Frankfurt, but he was grieved at having to say good-bye to the mountain, where he had begun to feel quite at home. Alm-Uncle, on his side, greatly regretted the departure of his guest, and Heidi had been now accustomed for so long to see her good friend every day that she could hardly believe the time had suddenly come to separate. She looked up at him in doubt, taken by surprise, but there was no help, he must go. So he bid farewell to the old man and asked that Heidi might go with him part of the return way, and Heidi took his hand and went down the mountain with him, still unable to grasp the idea that he was going for good. After some distance the doctor stood still, and passing his hand over the child's curly head said, "Now, Heidi, you must go back, and I must say good-bye! If only I could take you with me to Frankfurt and keep you there!"
The picture of Frankfurt rose before the child's eyes, its rows of endless houses, its hard streets, and even the vision of Fraülein Rottenmeier and Tinette, and she answered hesitatingly, "I would rather that you came back to us."
"Yes, you are right, that would be better. But now good-bye, Heidi." The child put her hand in his and looked up at him; the kind eyes looking down on her had tears in them. Then the doctor tore himself away and quickly continued his descent.
Heidi remained standing without moving. The friendly eyes with the tears in them had gone to her heart. All at once she burst into tears and started running as fast as she could after the departing figure, calling out in broken tones: "Doctor! doctor!"
He turned round and waited till the child reached him. The tears were streaming down her face and she sobbed out: "I will come to Frankfurt with you now at once, and I will stay with you as long as you like, only I must just run back and tell grandfather."
The doctor laid his hand on her and tried to calm her excitement. "No, no, dear child," he said kindly, "not now; you must stay for the present under the fir trees, or I should have you ill again. But hear now what I have to ask you. If I am ever ill and alone, will you come then and stay with me? May I know that there would then be some one to look after me and care for me?"
"Yes, yes, I will come the very day you send for me, and I love you nearly as much as grandfather," replied Heidi, who had not yet got over her distress.
And so the doctor again bid her good-bye and started on his way, while Heidi remained looking after him and waving her hand as long as a speck of him could be seen. As the doctor turned for the last time and looked back at the waving Heidi and the sunny mountain, he said to himself, "It is good to be up there, good for body and soul, and a man might learn how to be happy once more."
T HERE was once a caliph of Cordova whose name was Al Mansour. One day a strange merchant came to him with some diamonds and pearls which he had brought from beyond the sea. The caliph was so well pleased with these jewels that he bought them and paid the merchant a large sum of money.
The merchant put the gold in a bag of purple silk which he tied to his belt underneath his long cloak. Then he set out on foot to walk to another city.
It was midsummer, and the day was very hot. As the merchant was walking along, he came to a river that flowed gently between green and shady banks.
He was hot and covered with dust. No one was near. Very few people ever came that way. Why should he not cool himself in the refreshing water?
He took off his clothes and laid them on the bank. He put the bag of money on top of them and then leaped into the water. How cool and delicious it was!
Suddenly he heard a rustling noise behind him. He turned quickly and saw an eagle rising into the air with his moneybag in its claws. No doubt the bird had mistaken the purple silk for something good to eat.
The merchant shouted. He jumped out of the water and shouted again. But it was no use. The great bird was high in the air and flying towards the far-off mountains with all his money.
The poor man could do nothing but dress himself and go sorrowing on his way.
A year passed by and then the merchant appeared once more before Al Mansour. "O Caliph," he said, "here are a few jewels which I had reserved as a present for my wife. But I have met with such bad luck that I am forced to sell them. I pray that you will look at them and take them at your own price."
Al Mansour noticed that the merchant was very sad and downcast. "Why, what has happened to you?" he asked. "Have you been sick?"
Then the merchant told him how the eagle had flown away with his money.
"Why didn't you come to us before?" he asked. "We might have done something to help you. Toward what place was the eagle flying when you last saw it?"
"It was flying toward the Black Mountains," answered the merchant.
The next morning the caliph called ten of his officers before him.
"Ride at once to the Black Mountains,"
he said. "Find all the old men
that live on the mountains or in the flat country around, and command
them to appear before me one week from
The officers did as they were bidden. On the day appointed, forty gray-bearded, honest old men stood before the caliph. All were asked the same question. "Do you know of any person who was once poor but who has lately and suddenly become well-to-do?"
Most of the old men answered that they did not know of any such person. A few said that there was one man in their neighborhood who seemed to have had some sort of good luck.
This man was a gardener. A year ago he was so poor that he had scarcely clothes for his back. His children were crying for food. But lately everything had changed for him. Both he and his family dressed well; they had plenty to eat; he had even bought a horse to help him carry his produce to market.
The caliph at once gave orders for the gardener to be brought before him the next day. He also ordered that the merchant should come at the same time.
Before noon the next day the gardener was admitted to the palace. As soon as he entered the hall the caliph went to meet him. "Good friend," he said, "if you should find something that we have lost, what would you do with it?"
The gardener put his hand under his cloak and drew out the very bag that the merchant had lost.
"Here it is, my lord," he said.
At sight of his lost treasure, the merchant began to dance and shout for joy.
"Tell us," said Al Mansour to the gardener, "tell us how you came to find that bag."
The gardener answered: "A year ago, as I was spading in my garden, I
saw something fall at the foot of a palm tree. I ran to pick it up and
was surprised to find that it was a bag full of bright gold pieces.
I said to myself, 'This money must belong to our master, Al Mansour.
Some large bird has stolen it from his
"Well, then," said the caliph, "why did you not return it to us at once?"
"It was this way," said the gardener: "I looked at the gold pieces, and then thought of my own great necessities. My wife and children were suffering from the want of food and clothing. I had no shoes for my feet, no coat for my back. So I said to myself, 'My lord Al Mansour is famous for his kindness to the poor. He will not care.' So I took ten gold pieces from the many that were in the bag.
"I meant only to borrow them. And I put the bag in a safe place, saying
that as soon as I could replace the
ten pieces, I would return all to
my lord Al Mansour. With much hard labor and careful management I have
saved only five little silver pieces. But, as I came to your palace
this morning, I kept saying to myself, 'When our lord Al Mansour learns
just how it was that I borrowed the gold, I have no doubt that in his
kindness of heart he will forgive me the
Great was the caliph's surprise when he heard the poor man's story. He took the bag of money and handed it to the merchant.
"Take the bag and count the money that is in it," he said. "If anything is lacking, I will pay it to you."
The merchant did as he was told. "There is nothing lacking," he said, "but the ten pieces he has told you about; and I will give him these as a reward."
"No," said Al Mansour, "it is for me to reward the man as he deserves."
Saying this, he ordered that ten gold pieces be given to the merchant in place of those that were lacking. Then he rewarded the gardener with ten more pieces for his honesty.
"Your debt is paid. Think no more about it," he said.
From The Eve of Election
From gold to gray
Our mild, sweet day
Of Indian summer fades too soon;
Above the sea
Hangs, white and calm, the hunter's moon.
In its pale fire
The village spire
Shows like the zodiac's spectral lance;
The painted walls
Whereon it falls
Transfigured stand in marble trance.
WEEK 44 |
A FTER the death of Bohun there was no more fighting that day. The sun soon set, and during the short summer night the two armies lay opposite each other, silently waiting for the dawn.
When day broke, the whole plain was astir. Trumpets sounded, drums beat, and as the English army advanced, they seemed to roll onward like mighty waves. "No hand but God's can save us from so great a host," said the Scots. And, as a holy abbot with bare feet and head passed along the lines to bless them, they knelt in prayer.
"See," cried King Edward, "they kneel! they ask for mercy!"
"True," replied the knight to whom he spoke, "they ask for mercy, but from Heaven, not from us. These men will conquer, or die on the field."
The fight began and long and fiercely it raged. The Scottish horse scattered the English archers, and the English horse fell into the pits which Bruce had caused to be dug. The English army was already in confusion when suddenly, over the brow of a neighbouring hill, there appeared what seemed to them another Scottish army.
Then the English fled. Blind with fear they rode, hardly knowing where. Many were drowned while trying to cross the river Forth, others fell over the rocky banks of the Bannock till the stream was choked with the dead.
The new army which had so frightened the English was no army at all, but only the servants and camp-followers whom Bruce had separated from the soldiers and sent to wait behind the hill. They had grown tired of watching and doing nothing, so they tied cloths on to poles for banners, armed themselves with sticks, and came to join the fight. They came just at the right time, for the English, already beginning to feel that the battle was lost, fled before this new host.
Edward, although he was no coward, fled too. He went first
to Stirling, but the Governor would not let him stay there.
"Have you forgotten, my lord," he said,
So Edward rode south, attended only by a few knights. One brave man rode with the King until he thought he was safe, then drawing rein, "Farewell, my liege," he said, "I am not wont to flee," and turning he rode back, and fell fighting with his face to the enemy.
The King fled on, and he had need to flee fast. For, when it became known that he had left the field, he was hotly pursued as far as Dunbar, which was still in the hands of the English. From there he went in a little fishing-boat to Berwick and so reached England and safety.
So eagerly he was pursued,
They got to him so near,
He was on point of being ta'en,
But got into Dunbar.
To Berwick in a fishing boat
They sculled him away,
While to be kept from wrath of Scots
He earnestly did pray.
Upon the field many of England's noblest men lay dead, many were wounded, many taken prisoner. So much spoil fell into the hands of the Scots, and so much money was paid to them as ransom for their prisoners, that it was said that Scotland became rich in one day. Scotland became not only rich but free in one day, for if the battle of Bannockburn did not quite end the war, it showed what Scotsmen loving their country could do, and in the dark days which were still to come they never again despaired.
The battle of Bannockburn is the greatest battle ever fought on Scottish ground. It is great not because so many noble men fell upon the field; but because at one blow it made the Scots free.
Beaten and angry Edward returned to England, and the rest of his life was dark and miserable. He ruled so badly that at last the nobles put him from the throne, and crowned his little son, who was also called Edward.
A WISE man said, long, long ago, that the way of a serpent upon a rock was too wonderful for him to know.
So when you meet Sir Talis you need not be ashamed if there are many wonderful things about him that you do not know. He may seem a bit mysterious to you as he glides out of sight.
This much you will know, of course—that you need never fear Sir Talis; for he is a peaceful garter snake with no harm in him for any man, woman, or child. He is a quite gentlemanly fellow who attends only to his own affairs.
Years ago, when noblemen wore silk and velvet clothes of rich and lovely colors, their garters were gay-striped ribbons. There is an ancient Order of the Garter having princes and knights for members. The badge of this Order is a velvet ribbon edged with gold.
If you look at Sir Talis with friendly eyes, you may perhaps be reminded of a ribbon striped with gold. For, along the middle of his back and low on each side, there is a yellow stripe running from head to tail.
Since the name of this graceful snake is written in learned books with sir to begin it, we may, perhaps, be excused if we speak of his father and mother as Sir and Lady Garter.
The mother of Sir Talis
These two old snakes spent the winter on Holiday Hill. At the back of a crevice under some granite boulders there was an opening into an underground apartment. A woodchuck had dug this cave and used it as its first tenant, but it chanced to be vacant at the time and quite satisfactory to the Garters.
During the warmer midday hours of autumn Sir and Lady Garter often took sun baths in their hillside garden. From time to time other serpents of the same kind joined them, until at last there was a rather large house party of Garters.
They were all very fat and too lazy to go hunting. Their favorite amusement seemed to be basking in the sunshine. They did not allow themselves to become too heated; but they enjoyed having the temperature of their bodies raised a few degrees. Quite likely this was the best sort of way for them to pass the last pleasant fall days, for they would have no sunshine at all during the winter.
It was fortunate that these snakes were so sociable in the fall for, before really cold weather overtook them, all they needed to do was to retreat to cozy Woodchuck Den. This proved to be an excellent chamber for their winter rest.
They had a queer ceremony to perform while they were preparing for their long sleep. All the snakes twisted and curled and tied their bodies together into one big bundle of serpents.
This may not seem to you to be a comfortable resting position; but you have never taken the sort of sleep those snakes had. All through the coldest weather they did not yawn or stretch. They did not move. Looking at them very closely, you could not have seen that they were even breathing. They did not eat a mouthful; but their bodies were fat in the fall and thin in the spring, and so we may know that they were nourished by their own fat.
Such an almost breathless and almost foodless winter sleep, which certain animals take in cold climates, is called hibernation. Not all hibernating creatures rest in companies, as many seek solitary dens. Some, however, collect in bunches. And it is interesting to know that earthworms even tangle themselves into balls, a great many together. Being somewhat snakelike in shape, this is easy for them to do.
The warmth of spring wakened Sir and Lady Garter and all the others of the snake company. They came into the open and enjoyed the sunshine as much as they had enjoyed it in the fall.
But the snakes had somehow changed. They were not fat and lazy. They had lost their idle sociable house-party manners. After their long fast they needed food. They felt like hunting. And, after the manner of true hunters, they went forth alone.
Lady Garter slipped quietly along her solitary trail. Soon she found herself beyond the foot of the hill and at the edge of Holiday Meadow.
She stopped there for refreshments. For her spring breakfast she ate earthworms with pleasure. There is really nothing that tastes better to a half-starved garter snake than earthworms.
Of course frogs are good, too—hind legs and all! So it is not strange that she followed the stream along the meadow's edge and came to Holiday Pond, where larger game was abundant.
The edge of the pond was a pleasant hunting ground
Lady Garter enjoyed the pond. She had not bathed all winter and her body felt very comfortable in the water. She soaked herself for some time. After she left her bath, she squeezed between two stones that were close together. As she pushed into the crevice she tore her skin near her jaws.
You need not feel sorry for Lady Garter. The torn place caused no pain. It was time for her to shed her skin. And thrusting her head between two rough stones was an easy way to begin to molt. It was not necessary to find a crevice at such times, but it was convenient.
After she had peeled her head, eyes and all, she crept on through the narrow place and freed herself of all her old thin skin, which she left behind her turned inside out like the finger of a tight glove.
The dry discarded molt did not remain long where it was left beside the stones, however. A crested flycatcher was delighted to find it; for a bird of this kind never seems to be quite satisfied with her nest unless it has a good snake-skin lining.
Lady Garter was a handsome reptile in her fresh garment of scales. Her eyes were bright. Her back and sides were olive-brown with three long yellow stripes. The under part of her body was pale yellow with a tinge of green.
Her spring and early summer passed pleasantly enough. There was plenty to eat, and there were quiet places to rest. No exciting change came to her way of living until August when she found herself with a family of baby Garters.
Many kinds of snakes lay eggs which they leave for the warmth of the sun to hatch. But garter snakes do not lay their eggs. They keep them in their bodies until the little snakes inside all the eggs are fully formed. Then the young are born and they are able to run about at once.
Lady Garter's family of infant serpents numbered thirty-six. That was a moderate-sized family because sometimes garter snakes have fifty or sixty babies or even more.
Sir Talis and his thirty-five brothers and sisters were each about six inches long when they were born, and they grew rather fast because they ate so many nourishing earthworms.
All the young Garters could do their own hunting. They even found their very first breakfast-worms for themselves. They were lively little things and enjoyed hunting for their food.
It was well for the mother that she did not need to pick up food and bring it to her three dozen youngsters. She had cares enough without attending to their diet of worms. For every time anything alarming happened, she was worried about her family.
She would lift her head and call "Hiss‑iss‑ss," and suddenly the young Garters would rush to their mother and almost immediately the whole family would be quite safe inside an underground den Lady Garter had chosen for her summer retreat.
Just how they all vanished so quickly and safely I, myself, never saw. During August and September I did not meet Lady Garter often enough for her to feel very well acquainted with me. There was always a stone or a bush or a hummock of grass between us. I never did get a clear view of that performance. So I have no records in my notebook about the mysterious disappearance of the Garter Family. I can only say that this is one of the wonderful ways of the serpent that I do not yet know.
The question is, after the mother snake lifted her head and gave her hissing call, did she hold her mouth open and did the little snakes rush into it? Did she then dart into the hole with them? Or did they merely run swiftly beside her and get into the hole that way?
Some people, who have written about garter snakes, have said that the mother snake never carries her very young babies to safety in her mouth and big stretchy throat. Would they, perhaps, have been wiser to say merely that they had never seen a garter snake do so?
For, on the other hand, some people who have watched very, very young garter snakes have a different sort of report to make. The most interesting account I have ever read was written by an acquaintance of mine who has kindly given me permission to quote from it as follows:
"The country school in Iowa which the writer attended was held in the ordinary frame schoolhouse supported by a 'cobblestone' foundation of water-worn rocks more or less embedded in mortar. The schoolhouse faced the south and a set of narrow steps led up to the single central door. Through the foundation wall about halfway between these steps and the southeast corner of the building, and about eight to ten inches above the surface of the ground, was an irregular opening about two inches in diameter. This opening was used as a refuge one spring and summer by a large and 'motherly' looking specimen of the common garter snake of the region. The snake kept close to the hole at first and disappeared at the slightest sound. Later as we became interested in it, it was not disturbed and became accustomed to the ordinary noises of the children and would, if not too closely approached, often lie in the sun alongside the wall during recess time. One day as we came trooping out at noon the snake raised its head several inches from the ground and opened its mouth quite widely. This rather frightened us and all eyes were on the snake, when from around the corner of the house and from farther away in the yard came a number of small snakes which rushed pellmell into the mouth of the mother. When the last one was in, the mother snake raised her head quite high, wriggled over to the hole and disappeared. She was back there again the next recess and the performance was repeated for a number of days."
Sir Talis and his brothers and sisters kept within hearing of their mother's call during their first weeks. They came and stretched out beside her when they went to sleep.
The youngsters had a happy time that fall. They were peaceful, contented little serpents; and their affectionate mother guarded them so well when they were afraid that their courage soon came back to them.
They were even prettier than their mother while they were small. The dark olive color of their skin was a bit more greenish. Their narrow yellow stripes were clear and bright. And young snakes are much more slender and graceful than older ones.
Of course if you had seen Sir Talis just before one of his molting times, you would not have thought him to be very good-looking. His coat of scales was rather dull then. His eyes seemed whitish and he couldn't see very well.
When his eyes troubled him like that, he rubbed his head against a stone. After he was rid of the old skin on his head, it was rather easy for him to creep out of what was over the rest of his body. So, presently, there was Sir Talis again as fresh as new!
Like all Garters, Sir Talis was shy. If a person came near him, he usually slipped out of sight swiftly and quietly. He was not a coward, however, and stood his ground bravely enough if he were cornered. But in spite of his courage, he could not hurt even a child; so it was fortunate that the grown people and children of Holiday Farm were friendly to harmless kinds of snakes.
Sir Talis had fine sharp teeth but there were no poison fangs in his mouth. His teeth were not for defense but to help him when he ate. They did not meet like chewing teeth but pointed inward. Since he could not chew he must swallow his food whole and the sharp slanting teeth helped push the food into his throat.
One of the queer ways of Sir Talis was that he could swallow a frog bigger than himself. His body walls stretched. He had an extra bone which hinged the upper jaw to the lower one and the jaws could spread wide apart. The two parts of his lower jaw could separate at the middle.
Thanks chiefly to earthworms and frogs, Sir Talis was fat before cold weather came. He felt rather lazy as he climbed Holiday Hill one day. He was glad to stop and join a Garter Party. Later, of course, he disappeared for the winter months, after the manner of his kind.
The ribbon snake, a slender relative of the garter snake
Perhaps you may meet him next spring while he is taking a sun bath on the hillside. And, as he vanishes among the rocks, you may think such swiftness in a creature with no feet is wonderful indeed. So it has seemed to wise men and poets. It was Emily Dickinson who wrote:
Yet when a child and barefoot, I more than once, at morn,
Have passed, I thought, a whiplash unbraided in the sun,
When, stooping to secure it, it wrinkled, and was gone.
When I am all alone
Envy me most,
Then my thoughts flutter round me
In a glimmering host;
Some dressed in silver,
Some dressed in white,
Each like a taper
Most of them merry,
Some of them grave,
Each of them lithe
As willows that wave;
Some bearing violets,
Some bearing bay,
One with a burning rose
When I am all alone
Envy me then,
For I have better friends
Than women and men.
WEEK 44 |
I saw the little fellow again, in a curious way, a few nights later. A wild storm was raging over the woods. Under its lash the great trees writhed and groaned; and the "voices"—that strange phenomenon of the forest and rapids—were calling wildly through the roar of the storm and the rush of rain on innumerable leaves. I had gone out on the old wood road, to lose myself for a little while in the intense darkness and uproar, and to feel again the wild thrill of the elements. But the night was too dark, the storm too fierce. Every few moments I would blunder against a tree, which told me I was off the road; and to lose the road meant to wander all night in the storm-swept woods. So I went back for my lantern, with which I again started down the old cart path, a little circle of wavering, jumping shadows about me, the one gray spot in the midst of universal darkness.
I had gone but a few hundred yards when there was a rush—it was not the wind or the rain—in a thicket on my right. Something jumped into the circle of light. Two bright spots burned out of the darkness, then two more; and with strange bleats a deer came close to me with her fawn. I stood stockstill, with a thrill in my spine that was not altogether of the elements, while the deer moved uneasily back and forth. The doe wavered between fear and fascination; but the fawn knew no fear, or perhaps he knew only the great fear of the uproar around him; for he came close beside me, rested his nose an instant against the light, then thrust his head between my arm and body, so as to shield his eyes, and pressed close against my side, shivering with cold and fear, pleading dumbly for my protection against the pitiless storm.
I refrained from touching the little thing, for no wild creature likes to be handled, while his mother called in vain from the leafy darkness. When I turned to go he followed me close, still trying to thrust his face under my arm; and I had to close the light with a sharp click before he bounded away down the road, where one who knew better than I how to take care of a frightened innocent was, no doubt, waiting to receive him.
I gave up everything else but fishing after that, and took to watching the deer; but there was little to be learned in the summer woods. Once I came upon the big buck lying down in a thicket. I was following his track, trying to learn the Indian trick of sign-trailing, when he shot up in front of me like Jack-in-a-box, and was gone before I knew what it meant. From the impressions in the moss, I concluded that he slept with all four feet under him, ready to shoot up at an instant's notice, with power enough in his spring to clear any obstacle near him. And then I thought of the way a cow gets up, first one end, then the other, rising from the fore knees at last with puff and grunt and clacking of joints; and I took my first lesson in wholesome respect for the creature whom I already considered mine by right of discovery, and whose splendid head I saw, in anticipation, adorning the hall of my house—to the utter discomfiture of Old Wally.
At another time I crept up to an old road beyond the little deer pond, where three deer, a mother with her fawn, and a young spike-buck, were playing. They kept running up and down, leaping over the trees that lay across the road with marvelous ease and grace—that is, the two larger deer. The little fellow followed awkwardly; but he had the spring in him, and was learning rapidly to gather himself for the rise, and lift his hind feet at the top of his jump, and come down with all fours together, instead of sprawling clumsily, as a horse does.
I saw the perfection of it a few days later. I was sitting before my tent door at twilight, watching the herons, when there was a shot and a sudden crash over on their side. In a moment the big buck plunged out of the woods and went leaping in swift bounds along the shore, head high, antlers back, the mighty muscles driving him up and onward as if invisible wings were bearing him. A dozen great trees were fallen across his path, one of which, as I afterwards measured, lay a clear eight feet above the sand. But he never hesitated nor broke his splendid stride. He would rush at a tree; rise light and swift till above it, where he turned as if on a pivot, with head thrown back to the wind, actually resting an instant in air at the very top of his jump; then shoot downward, not falling but driven still by the impulse of his great muscles. When he struck, all four feet were close together; and almost quicker than the eye could follow he was in the air again, sweeping along the water's edge, or rising like a bird over the next obstacle.
Just below me was a stream, with muddy shores on both sides. I looked to see if he would stog himself there or turn aside; but he knew the place better than I, and that just under the soft mud the sand lay firm and sure. He struck the muddy place only twice, once on either side the fifteen-foot stream, sending out a light shower of mud in all directions; then, because the banks on my side were steep, he leaped for the cover of the woods and was gone.
I thought I had seen the last of him, when I heard him coming, bump! bump! bump! the swift blows of his hoofs sounding all together on the forest floor. So he flashed by, between me and my tent door, barely swerved aside for my fire, and gave me another beautiful run down the old road, rising and falling light as thistle-down, with the old trees arching over him and brushing his antlers as he rocketed along.
The last branch had hardly swished behind him when, across the pond, the underbrush parted cautiously and Old Wally appeared, trailing a long gun. He had followed scarcely a dozen of the buck's jumps when he looked back and saw me watching him from beside a great maple.
"Just a-follerin one o' my tarnal sheep. Strayed off day 'fore yesterday. Hain't seen 'im, hev ye?" he bawled across.
"Just went along; ten or twelve points on his horns. And say, Wally"—
The old sinner, who was glancing about furtively to see if the white sand showed any blood stains,—looked up quickly at the changed tone—
"You let those sheep of yours alone till the first of October; then I'll help you round 'em up. Just now they're worth forty dollars apiece to the state. I'll see that the warden collects it, too, if you shoot another."
"Sho! Mister, I ain't a-shootin' no deer. Hain't seen a deer round here in ten year or more. I just took a crack at a pa'tridge 'at kwitted at me, top o' a stump"—
But as he vanished among the hemlocks, trailing his old gun, I knew that he understood the threat. To make the matter sure I drove the deer out of the pond that night, giving them the first of a series of rude lessons in caution, until the falling leaves should make them wild enough to take care of themselves.
Hush! the waves are rolling in,
White with foam, white with foam;
Father toils amid the din;
But baby sleeps at home.
Hush! the winds roar hoarse and deep,—
On they come, on they come!
Brother seeks the wandering sheep;
But baby sleeps at home.
Hush! the rain sweeps o'er the knowes,
Where they roam, where they roam;
Sister goes to seek the cows;
But baby sleeps at home.
WEEK 44 |
Robin Hood lived to be very old. Though his hair was white, his back was straight as that of a young man. He was strong, and brave as an old lion, and his men loved and obeyed him as much as ever.
As the years went on Little John and he loved each other more and more. They were hardly ever apart.
But at last Robin began to feel weak and ill. He said sadly to Little John, "I am not able to shoot any more; my arrows will not fly. I do not know what is the matter with me. Let us go to my cousin the Prioress of Kirkley Abbey. Perhaps she will be able to cure me."
In those days there were hardly any doctors. When people were ill they used to go to clever women like the Prioress of Kirkley Abbey to be made well again.
They had a very curious way of making people well. They made a cut in the sick person's arm and let the blood flow out. After a few minutes the wound was bound up again to stop the blood flowing. This was called "bleeding."
Sometimes people got well after this. At other times they grew worse and died.
Little John and Robin set off together to Kirkley Abbey as fast as they could go. It was a difficult and painful journey. It was only a few days before Christmas. The snow lay thick on the ground, the roads were almost impassable and the cold terrible. They went bravely on, but on the journey Robin became very ill indeed—so ill that he could not sit on his horse. Along the last part of the road, Little John carried him in his arms through the deep snow.
They arrived at Kirkley Abbey on Christmas Eve. The Prioress said she was very pleased to see them. "But, good cousin Robin, what is the matter with you? You look so pale and thin."
"He is very ill," replied Little John in a broken voice. "I feared he would die on the way. I have brought him here so that you may cure him."
Then the Prioress bent over Robin and looked at him carefully. "Yes," she said, "he is very ill. I must bleed him."
If Little John had seen the face of the Prioress, as she bent over his master, he would have taken him away again. There was such a wicked look upon it. But he did not see.
"Come, good Little John," she said, turning to him, "I have a pleasant room on the south side of the abbey looking towards your dear Sherwood. Take up my cousin and carry him there."
So Little John took Robin in his arms and followed the Prioress down the cool, quiet passages, to the little room on the south side of the abbey.
It was very still and peaceful in this little room, which was far away from where the other people in the abbey lived.
Little John wanted to stay beside Robin, but the Prioress said, "No, he must have perfect quietness if he is to get better."
"I will not move nor make a sound," said Little John, "if you will only let me stay."
"No," said the Prioress again, "I must be alone with him if I am to make him better."
"When may I come back, then?" asked Little John.
"In a few hours, perhaps. Perhaps tomorrow morning," replied the Prioress. "I will call you when it is time."
So with a very heavy heart Little John walked away. He went out into the abbey garden. There he sat down under a tree where he could watch the window of Robin's room. Hour after hour he waited patiently in the cold.
Now the Prioress was a bad woman. Robin had always been very kind to her, and she had pretended to love him. Really she hated him, and longed to hurt him.
As long as Robin was well and strong she could do nothing that would hurt him. But now that he had come to her, weak and ill, he was in her power. She meant not to cure him, but to kill him. That was why she sent Little John away. She was a very wicked woman indeed.
As soon as she was alone with him the Prioress made a cut in Robin's arm so that the blood flowed out. She pretended to bind the wound up again, but she put the bandage on so badly that the blood flowed all the same. Then she locked Robin in the room and went away.
Robin was so weak and weary that he soon fell asleep. He slept for many hours. And all the time Little John sat patiently under the tree in the garden—waiting.
When Robin woke he found he was so weak that he could hardly move. He saw the blood was still flowing from his arm and knew that if it was not stopped he would soon die.
He tried to raise himself to the window, but he had not strength. Then he thought of his bugle-horn. With great difficulty he put it to his mouth, and blew three faint blasts.
"Then said Little John on hearing him,
As he sat under the tree,
I fear my master is near dead,
He blows so wearily."
Little John sprang up, and ran as fast as he could to the room in which Robin was lying. The door was locked, so he put his shoulder against it and burst it open. There he found his master almost dead.
Carefully and quickly he bound up the arm. His heart was full of love and grief for his master, and of anger against the wicked Prioress.
"Grant me one favour, master," he said.
"What favour is it you would ask, dear Little John?" replied Robin.
"It is that you will give me leave to gather all our men together, and bring them here to burn this abbey, and kill the wicked Prioress as she has killed you."
"Now nay, now nay, quoth Robin Hood,
That boon I'll not grant thee,
I never hurt a woman in all my life.
Nor man in woman's company:
I never hurt fair maid in all my life,
Nor at my end shall it be."
So Little John promised he would not try to punish the wicked Prioress. But his heart was full of anger against her.
Robin lay still for a short time, and Little John knelt beside him. Then he said, "Little John, I should like to shoot once more. Carry me to the window. Give me my good bow into my hands, and hold me up while I shoot. Where the arrow falls there bury me."
So Little John lifted him up and held him while he shot. The arrow only went a very little way and fell in the garden, not far from where Little John had been sitting.
"It was a good shot, master, a very good shot," said Little John, though he could hardly speak for tears.
"Was it indeed, friend? I could not see," replied Robin, "but you will bury me where it fell."
"Lay me a green sod under my head,
And another at my feet,
And lay my bent bow by my side,
Which was my music sweet;
And make my grave of gravel and green,
Which is most right and meet.
Let me have length and breadth enough,
With a green sod at my head,
That they may say when I am dead,
Here lies bold Robin Hood."
Little John promised to do everything as Robin asked.
"Thank you, dear friend, good-bye," whispered Robin, and he lay still in Little John's arms.
"Thank you, dear friend, good-bye"
Presently he raised himself up, and looking eagerly out of the window, "Was it indeed a good shot?" he said.
Then he fell back again—dead.
Just at that moment the convent bells began to ring for the Christmas Eve service. Through the open window came the sound of the sweet voices of the nuns singing a Christmas carol.
"It is the vigil holy,
The Eve of Noël fair,
When Christ the King comes lowly
Man's miseries to share.
Our sins are clean forgiven,
Our injuries forgot,
And Kneeling pure and shriven,
We wait the birth of God."
But Robin was dead. Never again would he hear the sweet Christmas carol he had loved so well.
Beside him knelt Little John almost broken-hearted.
There was great sorrow all through the land, when it became known that Robin Hood was dead. There was also great anger against the Prioress, but no one tried to punish her, because Robin had asked them to spare her.
Little John called all the Merry Men together for the last time, and they buried their master where his last arrow fell, in the garden of Kirkley Abbey, in Yorkshire.
Over the grave they placed a stone, and carved upon it these
"Here, underneath this stone,
Lies Robert, Earl of Huntingdon;
No archer ever was so good,
The people called him Robin Hood.
Such outlaws as he and his men
Will England never see again."
A young Mouse in search of adventure was running along the bank of a pond where lived a Frog. When the Frog saw the Mouse, he swam to the bank and croaked:
"Won't you pay me a visit? I can promise you a good time if you do."
The Mouse did not need much coaxing, for he was very anxious to see the world and everything in it. But though he could swim a little, he did not dare risk going into the pond without some help.
The Frog had a plan. He tied the Mouse's leg to his own with a tough reed. Then into the pond he jumped, dragging his foolish companion with him.
The Mouse soon had enough of it and wanted to return to shore; but the treacherous Frog had other plans. He pulled the Mouse down under the water and drowned him. But before he could untie the reed that bound him to the dead Mouse, a Hawk came sailing over the pond. Seeing the body of the Mouse floating on the water, the Hawk swooped down, seized the Mouse and carried it off, with the Frog dangling from its leg. Thus at one swoop he had caught both meat and fish for his dinner.
Those who seek to harm others often come to harm themselves through their own deceit.
He comes,—he comes,—the Frost Spirit comes! You may trace his footsteps now
On the naked woods and the blasted fields and the brown hill's withered brow.
He has smitten the leaves of the gray old trees where their pleasant green came forth,
And the winds, which follow wherever he goes, have shaken them down to earth.
He comes,—he comes,—the Frost Spirit comes! from the frozen Labrador,
From the icy bridge of the Northern seas, which the white bear wanders o'er,
Where the fisherman's sail is stiff with ice, and the luckless forms below
In the sunless cold of the lingering night into marble statues grow!
He comes,—he comes,—the Frost Spirit comes! on the rushing Northern blast,
And the dark Norwegian pines have bowed as his fearful breath went past.
With an unscorched wing he has hurried on, where the fires of Hecla glow
On the darkly beautiful sky above and the ancient ice below.
He comes,—he comes,—the Frost Spirit comes! and the quiet lake shall feel
The torpid touch of his glazing breath, and ring to the skater's heel;
And the streams which danced on the broken rocks, or sang to the leaning grass,
Shall bow again to their winter chain, and in mournful silence pass.
He comes,—he comes,—the Frost Spirit comes! Let us meet him as we may,
And turn with the light of the parlor-fire his evil power away;
And gather closer the circle round, when that firelight dances high,
And laugh at the shriek of the baffled Fiend as his sounding wing goes by!
WEEK 44 |
"And sweep through the deep
While the stormy winds do blow,
While the battle rages long and loud,
And the stormy winds do blow."
C ROMWELL had conquered all upon the land. He now turned to the sea, and tried to improve the trade of England by stopping the Dutch ships from bringing so much goods to English shores. No longer now could Dutch ships carry corn from Russia to England; no longer could they fish so freely for herrings off the English coast to take to Germany and other countries. No longer could they be the chief carriers of Europe, "waggoners of the sea." The ships of England were to take their own share of the world's sea-traffic.
From olden days England had claimed her right over the English Channel.
"It is the custom of the English to command at sea," the king used to say with pride. Indeed up to this time the flags of all other countries had been lowered before the flag of England while sailing through the narrow English Channel.
One day—it was in the year 1651—a Dutch fleet passed through the Channel without lowering the flag in salute to an English ship which it passed. The English admiral asked the reason of this insult, and as the Dutch captain refused to explain, he captured the flagship.
Relations now became very strained between the two countries. War was not yet declared, when suddenly one day the Dutch admiral, Tromp, sailed into the English Channel and anchored off the south coast with forty ships.
Now this Admiral Tromp was a great man. He had been born at Brille, the Beggars' town, and had gone to sea as a very little boy. At the age of eleven he had seen his father murdered on board his ship by English sea-robbers. Later in life the brave sailor Piet Hein, who had taken the Silver Fleet, was shot at his side. So Martin Tromp had seen a good deal of life and service, and he was one of Holland's greatest admirals.
But Tromp had his equal in the English admiral, Blake. Both men had been born in the same year; but while Tromp
had gone to sea as a very small boy, Blake had not begun his seafaring career till he was fifty. In those days
it was not thought necessary that an admiral or a captain should be a sailor. One man was in command of the
soldiers on board the ship, another in command of the
sailors and the ship herself. There was no uniform such as seamen have
"It is very ill-bred of Tromp to break my windows," said Blake, knowing that the Dutch admiral was not far off.
Then crash came the Dutch flagship into the English one; guns boomed over the quiet sea. For five long hours the fleets fought fiercely under Tromp and Blake, and the sun had long since set when, disabled and shattered, the Dutch ships sailed away for Holland, and Blake made his way to Dover to make known to Cromwell what had happened.
War now blazed out between the two countries—war for the command of the sea. It was just a year after their first fight when Blake and Tromp met again. The Dutch admiral, with some eighty ships and ten fireships, was sailing about midway between the English and Dutch coasts when he met Blake. But Blake, with forty ships, was totally unprepared to encounter such a superior force as now lay before him on the sea. He hastily called his officers together and they resolved to fight, though at such a disadvantage. But Tromp and his splendid fleet was too strong for them. The Dutch gained the victory, and in triumph Tromp tied a broom to his mast-head and sailed down the Channel, boasting that he would sweep the sea of every English ship! A few months later a more equal fight took place, and this time Blake was triumphant. The war had resolved itself into a duel between these two famous admirals. Now one was victorious, now the other.
In a later fight Blake was severely wounded, and the "Sea King," as the English called him, was unable to fight any longer. Soon after this, Martin Tromp, the "father of sailors," was killed.
"I am done for. Maintain the battle, my children," he gasped, as he fell mortally wounded on the deck of his ship.
When the news of the admiral's death spread through the fleets, as if by common consent, all stopped firing. A great man had died, and the fleets each sailed away in silence.
Both countries grew tired of the conflict, and were glad enough to make peace in the year 1654. True, the Dutch had to consent to the old tribute to the English flag; but they were still supreme on the seas, and though England was learning much from them, though she was growing stronger every day, yet at this time there was no Power in Europe which could compete with Holland on the high seas.
WEEK 44 |
T HE Flax stood in blossom; it had pretty little blue flowers delicate as a moth's wings, and even more delicate. The sun shone on the Flax, and the rain-clouds moistened it, and this was just as good for it as it is for little children when they are washed, and afterward get a kiss from their mother; they become much prettier, and so did the Flax.
"The people say that I stand uncommonly well," said the Flax, "and that I'm fine and long and shall make a capital piece of linen. How happy I am! I'm certainly the happiest of beings. How well I am off! And I may come to something! How the sunshine gladdens, and the rain tastes good and refreshes me! I'm wonderfully happy; I'm the happiest of beings."
"Yes, yes, yes!" said the Hedge-stake. "You don't know the world, but we do, for we have knots in us;" and then it creaked out mournfully:
The song is done."
"No, it is not done," said the Flax. "To-morrow the sun will shine or the rain will refresh us. I feel that I'm growing. I feel that I'm in blossom! I'm the happiest of beings."
But one day the people came and took the Flax by the head and pulled it up by the root. That hurt; and it was laid in water as if they were going to drown it, and then put on the fire as if it was going to be roasted. It was quite fearful!
"One can't always have good times," said the Flax. "One must make one's experiences, and so one gets to know something."
But bad times certainly came. The Flax was moistened and roasted and broken and hackled. Yes, it did not even know what the operations were called that they did with it. It was put on the spinning-wheel—whir! whir! whir!—it was not possible to collect one's thoughts.
"I have been uncommonly happy," it thought, in all its pain. "One must be content with the good one has enjoyed. Contented! contented! Oh!" And it continued to say that when it was put to the loom, and till it became a large, beautiful piece of linen. All the Flax, to the last stalk, was used in making one piece.
"But this is quite remarkable! I should never have believed it! How favorable fortune is to me! The Hedge-stake is well informed, truly, with its:
The song is not done by any means. Now it's beginning in earnest. That's quite remarkable! If I've suffered something I've been made into something! I'm the happiest of all! How strong and fine I am! how white and long! That's something different from being a mere plant; even if one bears flowers one is not attended to, and only gets watered when it rains. Now I'm attended to and cherished; the maid turns me over every morning, and I get a shower bath from the watering-pot every evening. Yes, the clergyman's wife has even made a speech about me, and says I'm the best piece in the whole parish. I cannot possibly be happier!"
Now the Linen was taken into the house, and put under the scissors. How they cut and tore it, and then pricked it with needles! That was not pleasant; but twelve pieces of body linen of a kind not often mentioned by name, but indispensable to all people, were made of it—a whole dozen!
"Just look! Now something has really been made of me! So that was my destiny. That's a real blessing. Now I shall be of some use in the world, and that's right, that's a true pleasure! We've been made into twelve things, but yet we're all one and the same; we're just a dozen. How charming that is!"
Years rolled on, and now they would hold together no longer.
"It must be over one day," said each piece. "I would gladly have held together a little longer, but one must not expect impossibilities."
They were now torn into pieces and fragments. They thought it was all over now, for they were hacked to shreds and softened and boiled; yes, they themselves did not know all that was done to them; and then they became beautiful white paper.
"Now, that is a surprise, and a glorious surprise!" said the Paper. "Now I'm finer than before, and I shall be written on; that is remarkable good fortune."
And really the most beautiful stories and verses were written upon it, and only once there came a blot; that was certainly remarkably good fortune. And the people heard what was upon it; it was sensible and good, and made people much more sensible and better; there was a great blessing in the words that were on this Paper.
"That is more than I ever imagined when I was a little blue flower in the fields. How could I fancy that I should ever spread joy and knowledge among men? I can't yet understand it myself, but it really is so. I have done nothing myself but what I was obliged with my weak powers to do for my own preservation, and yet I have been promoted from one joy and honor to another. Each time when I think 'the song is done' it begins again in a higher and better way. Now I shall certainly be sent about to journey through the world, so that all people may read me. That cannot be otherwise; it's the only probable thing. I have splendid thoughts, as many as I had pretty flowers in the old times. I'm the happiest of beings."
But the Paper was not sent on its travels—it was sent to the printer, and everything that was written upon it was set up in type for a book, or rather for many hundreds of books, for in this way a very far greater number could derive pleasure and profit from the book than if the one paper on which it was written had run about the world, to be worn out before it had got half-way.
"Yes, that is certainly the wisest way," thought the Written Paper. "I really did not think of that. I shall stay at home and be held in honor, just like an old grandfather; and I am really the grandfather of all these books. Now something can be effected; I could not have wandered about thus. He who wrote all this looked at me; every word flowed from his pen right into me. I am the happiest of all."
Then the Paper was tied together in a bundle and thrown into a tub that stood in the wash-house.
"It's good resting after work," said the Paper. "It's very right that one should collect one's thoughts. Now I'm able for the first time to think of what is in me, and to know oneself is true progress. What will be done with me now? At any rate, I shall go forward again; I'm always going forward; I've found that out."
Now, one day all the Paper was taken out and laid by on the hearth; it was to be burned, for it might not be sold to hucksters to be used for covering for butter and sugar, they said. And all the children in the house stood round about, for they wanted to see the Paper burn, that flamed so prettily, and afterward one could see many red sparks among the ashes careering here and there. One after another faded out as quick as the wind, and that they called "seeing the children come out of school," and the last spark was the old schoolmaster; one of them thought he had already gone, but the next moment there came another spark. "There goes the schoolmaster!" they said. Yes, they knew all about it; they should have known who it was who went there; we shall get to know it, but they did not. All the old Paper, the whole bundle, was laid upon the fire, and it was soon alight. "Ugh!" it said, and burst out into bright flame. Ugh! that was not very agreeable, but when the whole was wrapped in bright flames, these mounted up higher than the Flax had ever been able to lift its little blue flowers, and glittered as the white Linen had never been able to glitter. All the written letters turned for a moment quite red, and all the words and thoughts turned to flame.
"Now I'm mounting straight up to the sun," said a voice in the flame; and it was as if a thousand voices said this in unison; and the flames mounted up through the chimney and out at the top, and more delicate than the flames, invisible to human eyes, little tiny beings floated there, as many as there had been blossoms on the Flax. They were lighter even than the flame from which they were born; and when the flame was extinguished, and nothing remained of the Paper but black ashes, they danced over it once more, and where they touched the black mass the little red sparks appeared. The children came out of school, and the schoolmaster was the last of all. That was fun! and the children sang over the dead ashes:
The song is done."
But the little invisible beings all said:
"The song is never done, that is the best of all. We know it, and therefore we're the happiest of all."
But the children could neither hear that nor understand it, nor ought they, for children must not know everything.
L OOK at a worm crawling about on the earth. Then look at a fly with blue or green body and thin wings. See how it whirls in the air! You will say, "These two are not at all alike."
Yet there is one time in a fly's life when it is very like a worm.
For this reason many wise people set flies and worms next to each other when they study them.
You know, as soon as you look at a fly, that it is an insect.
You have learned that an insect has wings, six legs, a body in three parts, and a pair of feelers like horns.
Insects breathe through all the body, and not by lungs as you do. They have a row of holes in each side to breathe through.
The life of an insect passes through three states. These are the egg, the grub or worm, and the pupa. When it is in the pupa it gets legs and wings. The word "pupa" means baby or doll.
There are some kinds of insects that vary in some of these points. The fly is one that varies from this rule.
If you look at a fly, you will see that it has two wings, not four. It is not one of the hook-wings.
Many insects can fold their wings. The fly cannot fold its wings; it lays them back over its body.
Let us first look at a fly when it is most like an earth-worm. The fly comes, in the first place, from a tiny egg laid by the mother fly.
When the egg opens, the baby fly is not like a fly, but like a little earth-worm, both in its looks and in the way in which it is made. It is a small white worm with rings, and on the rings are hooks.
If you wish to watch this change, lay a bit of meat in the sun on a hot day. Soon flies will lay eggs on it.
The next day these eggs will be turned to grubs, which grow very fast. The fly's eggs are small and white, and are put upon the meat as if they had been planted on one end.
The worm of the fly has a pair of jaws like hooks. It has two little dots which will become eyes when it has grown to a fly. In the hooked jaws and these eye-points it is not like an earth-worm.
The fly grub eats and grows. Then its skin gets tough and hard, and forms a little case like a barrel. This shuts the worm in it, as in a coffin. Now the baby fly seems to be dead.
But it is not dead. It is turning into a creature that has wings and legs, and can fly and walk.
As the fly lies in its case, first the legs and then the wings grow. It gets a head with mouth, eyes, and a trunk or tube, and from a poor worm it turns to a wonder, as you will see.
But in its little coffin it is shut close, and its legs and wings are all bent up. In a few days the change is made. Now it is ready to come out.
It moves, and pulls, and gets free from the hard case. Then it strikes the end of the case with its head time after time. At last it breaks the case open, and out comes the fly!
Then it stands in the air, and in the sun if it can, and shakes itself. It is cold and weak; but the air dries its wings and blows out the wrinkles.
In a very few minutes the fly is strong and gay.
Then it spreads its wings and sails off to enjoy its life, and to look for something good to eat.
From The Eve of Election
From gold to gray
Our mild, sweet day
Of Indian summer fades too soon;
Above the sea
Hangs, white and calm, the hunter's moon.
In its pale fire
The village spire
Shows like the zodiac's spectral lance;
The painted walls
Whereon it falls
Transfigured stand in marble trance.
WEEK 44 |
Ezra iii: 8, to vi: 22;
Haggai i: 1, to ii: 23;
Zechariah iv: 6 to 10.
FTER the Jews came back to their own land they first built the altar upon Mount Moriah, as we read in the last Story. Then they built some houses for themselves, for the winter was coming on. And early in the next year they began to build again the Temple of the Lord. Zerubbabel, the prince, and Joshua, the priest, led in the work, and the priests and Levites helped in it. They gave money to masons, and carpenters, and they paid men of Tyre and Sidon, on the shore of the Great Sea, to float down cedar-trees from Mount Lebanon to Joppa; and from Joppa they carried them up the mountains to Jerusalem for the building of the house.
When they laid the first stones in the new building the priests in their robes stood ready with trumpets, and the Levites with cymbals, to praise the Lord for his goodness in bringing them once again to their own land. The singers sang:
"Praise the Lord, for he is good;
His mercy endureth forever toward Israel his people."
And all the people shouted with a great shout as the first stones were laid. But some of the priests, and Levites, and Jews, were old men who had seen the first Temple, while it was still standing, more than fifty years before. These old men wept as they thought of the house that had been burned, and of their friends who had been slain in the destruction of the city. Some wept, and some shouted, but the sound was heard together, and those who heard at a distance could not tell the weeping from the shouting.
But these builders soon found enemies, and were hindered in their work. In the middle of the land, near the cities of Shechem and Samaria, were living the Samaritan people, some of whom from the old Ten Tribes, and others from the people that had been brought into the land by the Assyrians many years before. (See Story 91.) These worshipped the Lord, but with the Lord they worshipped other gods. These people came to Prince Zerubbabel, and said, "Let us join with you in building this house, for we seek the Lord as you do, and we offer sacrifices to him."
But Zerubbabel and the rulers said to them, "You are not with us, and you do not worship as we worship. You have nothing to do with us in building the Lord's house. We will build up ourselves to our God, the God of Israel, as Cyrus, the king of Persia, has told us to build."
This made the people of Samaria very angry. They tried to stop the Jews from building, and frightened them, and wrote letters to the king, urging him to stop the work. Cyrus, the king, was a friend to the Jews, but he was in a land far away in the east, carrying on war, so that he could not help them; and soon after this he died. His son, who took his great kingdom, did not care for the Jews, and he, too, died in a few years. Then a nobleman of another family seized the throne, and held it nearly a year before he was slain. His name was Smerdis, but he is called in the Bible by another name, Artaxerxes. While this king was reigning, the Samaritan rulers wrote to him a letter, saying:
"Let it be known to the king that the Jews have come back to Jerusalem. They are building again the city which was always bad, and would not obey the kings when it was standing before. If that city be built, and its walls finished, then the Jews will not serve the king, nor pay to him their taxes. We are true to the king, and we do not wish to see harm come to his rule. Of old time this city was rebellious, and for that cause it was laid waste. If it is built again, soon the king will have no power anywhere on this side of the river Euphrates."
The King Smerdis, or Artaxerxes, wrote an answer to the chief men of Samaria, thus:
"The letter which you sent has been read to me. I have caused search to be made in the records; and I find that the city of Jerusalem has been in old time a strong city, with great kings ruling in it, and ruling also the lands around it. I find, too, that this city did rise up and make war against the kings of empires in the past. Command the men who are building the city of Jerusalem to stop the work; and let it not go on until an order is given from the king."
The Samaritans and other enemies of the Jews were glad to have this letter come from the great king of Persia. They went to Jerusalem and made the work of building the Temple and the city stop. So the foundations of the Temple lay unfinished through several years.
But after a time two prophets arose in the land of Judea. They were Haggai and Zechariah; and they spoke the word of the Lord to the people, telling them to go forward with the building. Haggai said, "Is it a time for you to dwell in richly furnished houses of your own while the Lord's house lies waste? Go up to the mountains, and bring wood, and build; and I will be pleased with you, and will bless you, saith the Lord. The glory of this house shall be greater than the glory of the other house, and in this place I will give peace, saith the Lord of hosts."
And Zechariah, the other prophet, said, "It shall not
be by might nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the
Lord. The hands
of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house,
and his hands shall finish it. He shall lay the
head-stone with shoutings of 'Grace, grace unto
Then Zerubbabel, and Joshua, and the rest of the Jews, began again, and went on with the work. Soon after this a new king began to reign in Persia. He was a wise man and a great ruler, whose name was Darius.
King Darius looked in the records of Persia, and found it written that Cyrus, the king, had commanded the Temple to be built. He wrote a letter to the rulers in all the lands around Judea no longer to hinder the work, but to help it, and to give what was needed for it. Then the Jews went on with the building in great joy; and it was finished at last, twenty-one years after it had been begun, while Zerubbabel, the prince, and Joshua, the priest, were still ruling over the people.
The Temple, which was thus built for the second time, was like the one built by Solomon nearly five hundred years before (see Story 72); but though larger, it was not so beautiful nor costly. In front of it was an open court, with a wall around it, where the people could go to worship. Next to the people's court, on higher ground, was the priests' court, where stood the altar, and the laver for washing. Within this court rose the house of God, with the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies, separated by a great vail. In the Holy Place, as before, stood the table for bread, the golden lampstand, and the golden altar for incense. But in the Holy of Holies there was no ark of the covenant, for this had been lost, and was never brought back to Jerusalem. In place of the ark stood a marble block, upon which the high-priest sprinkled the blood, when he went into the Holy of Holies, on the great day of atonement, once in each year. (See the account of the Tabernacle and its worship in Story 28.)
"It's no good, Toad!" called the Rat after him. "You'd better come back and sit down; you'll only get into trouble."
But the Toad was off, and there was no holding him. He marched rapidly down the road, his stick over his shoulder, fuming and muttering to himself in his anger, till he got near his front gate, when suddenly there popped up from behind the palings a long yellow ferret with a gun.
"Who comes there?" said the ferret sharply.
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Toad, very angrily. "What do you mean by talking like
that to me? Come out of that at once, or
The ferret said never a word, but he brought his gun up to his shoulder. Toad prudently dropped flat in the road, and Bang! a bullet whistled over his head.
The startled Toad scrambled to his feet and scampered off down the road as hard as he could; and as he ran he heard the ferret laughing and other horrid thin little laughs taking it up and carrying on the sound.
He went back, very crestfallen, and told the Water Rat.
"What did I tell you?" said the Rat. "It's no good. They've got sentries posted, and they are all armed. You must just wait."
Still, Toad was not inclined to give in all at once. So he got out the boat, and set off rowing up the river to where the garden front of Toad Hall came down to the waterside.
Arriving within sight of his old home, he rested on his oars and surveyed the land cautiously. All seemed very peaceful and deserted and quiet. He could see the whole front of Toad Hall, glowing in the evening sunshine, the pigeons settling by twos and threes along the straight line of the roof; the garden, a blaze of flowers; the creek that led up to the boat-house, the little wooden bridge that crossed it; all tranquil, uninhabited, apparently waiting for his return. He would try the boat-house first, he thought. Very warily he paddled up to the mouth of the creek, and was just passing under the bridge, when . . . Crash!
A great stone, dropped from above, smashed through the bottom of the boat. It filled and sank, and Toad found himself struggling in deep water. Looking up, he saw two stoats leaning over the parapet of the bridge and watching him with great glee. "It will be your head next time, Toady!" they called out to him. The indignant Toad swam to shore, while the stoats laughed and laughed, supporting each other, and laughed again, till they nearly had two fits—that is, one fit each, of course.
The Toad retraced his weary way on foot, and related his disappointing experiences to the Water Rat once more.
"Well, what did I tell you?" said the Rat very crossly. "And, now, look here! See what you've been and done! Lost me my boat that I was so fond of, that's what you've done! And simply ruined that nice suit of clothes that I lent you! Really, Toad, of all the trying animals—I wonder you manage to keep any friends at all!"
The Toad saw at once how wrongly and foolishly he had acted. He admitted his errors and wrong-headedness and made a full apology to Rat for losing his boat and spoiling his clothes. And he wound up by saying, with that frank self-surrender which always disarmed his friends' criticism and won them back to his side, "Ratty! I see that I have been a headstrong and a wilful Toad! Henceforth, believe me, I will be humble and submissive, and will take no action without your kind advice and full approval!"
"If that is really so," said the good-natured Rat, already appeased, "then my advice to you is, considering the lateness of the hour, to sit down and have your supper, which will be on the table in a minute, and be very patient. For I am convinced that we can do nothing until we have seen the Mole and the Badger, and heard their latest news, and held conference and taken their advice in this difficult matter."
"Oh, ah, yes, of course, the Mole and the Badger," said Toad, lightly. "What's become of them, the dear fellows? I had forgotten all about them."
"Well may you ask!" said the Rat reproachfully. "While you were riding about the country in expensive motor-cars, and galloping proudly on blood-horses, and breakfasting on the fat of the land, those two poor devoted animals have been camping out in the open, in every sort of weather, living very rough by day and lying very hard by night; watching over your house, patrolling your boundaries, keeping a constant eye on the stoats and the weasels, scheming and planning and contriving how to get your property back for you. You don't deserve to have such true and loyal friends, Toad, you don't, really. Some day, when it's too late, you'll be sorry you didn't value them more while you had them!"
"I'm an ungrateful beast, I know," sobbed Toad, shedding bitter tears. "Let me go out and find them, out into the cold, dark night, and share their hardships, and try and prove by—Hold on a bit! Surely I heard the chink of dishes on a tray! Supper's here at last, hooray! Come on, Ratty!"
The Rat remembered that poor Toad had been on prison fare for a considerable time, and that large allowances had therefore to be made. He followed him to the table accordingly, and hospitably encouraged him in his gallant efforts to make up for past privations.
They had just finished their meal and resumed their arm-chairs, when there came a heavy knock at the door.
Toad was nervous, but the Rat, nodding mysteriously at him, went straight up to the door and opened it, and in walked Mr. Badger.
He had all the appearance of one who for some nights had been kept away from home and all its little comforts and conveniences. His shoes were covered with mud, and he was looking very rough and touzled; but then he had never been a very smart man, the Badger, at the best of times. He came solemnly up to Toad, shook him by the paw, and said, "Welcome home, Toad! Alas! what am I saying? Home, indeed! This is a poor home-coming. Unhappy Toad!" Then he turned his back on him, sat down to the table, drew his chair up, and helped himself to a large slice of cold pie.
Toad was quite alarmed at this very serious and portentous style of greeting; but the Rat whispered to him, "Never mind; don't take any notice; and don't say anything to him just yet. He's always rather low and despondent when he's wanting his victuals. In half an hour's time he'll be quite a different animal."
So they waited in silence, and presently there came another and a lighter knock. The Rat, with a nod to Toad, went to the door and ushered in the Mole, very shabby and unwashed, with bits of hay and straw sticking in his fur.
"Hooray! Here's old Toad!" cried the Mole, his face beaming. "Fancy having you back again!" And he began to dance round him. "We never dreamt you would turn up so soon! Why, you must have managed to escape, you clever, ingenious, intelligent Toad!"
The Rat, alarmed, pulled him by the elbow; but it was too late. Toad was puffing and swelling already.
"Clever? O, no!" he said. "I'm not really clever, according to my friends. I've only broken out of the strongest prison in England, that's all! And captured a railway train and escaped on it, that's all! And disguised myself and gone about the country humbugging everybody, that's all! O, no! I'm a stupid ass, I am! I'll tell you one or two of my little adventures, Mole, and you shall judge for yourself!"
"Well, well," said the Mole, moving towards the supper-table; "supposing you talk while I eat. Not a bite since breakfast! O my! O my!" And he sat down and helped himself liberally to cold beef and pickles.
Toad straddled on the hearth-rug, thrust his paw into his trouser-pocket and pulled out a handful of silver. "Look at that!" he cried, displaying it. "That's not so bad, is it, for a few minutes' work? And how do you think I done it, Mole? Horse-dealing! That's how I done it!"
"Go on, Toad," said the Mole, immensely interested.
"Toad, do be quiet, please!" said the Rat. "And don't you egg him on, Mole, when you know what he is; but please tell us as soon as possible what the position is, and what's best to be done, now that Toad is back at last."
"The position's about as bad as it can be," replied the Mole grumpily; "and as for what's to be done, why, blest if I know! The Badger and I have been round and round the place, by night and by day; always the same thing. Sentries posted everywhere, guns poked out at us, stones thrown at us; always an animal on the look-out, and when they see us, my! how they do laugh! That's what annoys me most!"
"It's a very difficult situation," said the Rat, reflecting deeply. "But I think
I see now, in the depths of my mind, what Toad really ought to do. I will tell
you. He ought
"No, he oughtn't!" shouted the Mole, with his mouth full. "Nothing of the sort!
You don't understand. What he ought to do is, he ought
"Well, I shan't do it, anyway!" cried Toad, getting excited. "I'm not going to
be ordered about by you fellows! It's my house we're talking about, and I know
exactly what to do, and I'll tell you. I'm going
By this time they were all three talking at once, at the top of their voices, and the noise was simply deafening, when a thin, dry voice made itself heard, saying, "Be quiet at once, all of you!" and instantly every one was silent.
It was the Badger, who, having finished his pie, had turned round in his chair and was looking at them severely. When he saw that he had secured their attention, and that they were evidently waiting for him to address them, he turned back to the table again and reached out for the cheese. And so great was the respect commanded by the solid qualities of that admirable animal, that not another word was uttered until he had quite finished his repast and brushed the crumbs from his knees. The Toad fidgeted a good deal, but the Rat held him firmly down.
When the Badger had quite done, he got up from his seat and stood before the fireplace, reflecting deeply. At last he spoke.
"Toad!" he said severely. "You bad, troublesome little animal! Aren't you ashamed of yourself? What do you think your father, my old friend, would have said if he had been here to-night, and had known of all your goings on?"
Toad, who was on the sofa by this time, with his legs up, rolled over on his face, shaken by sobs of contrition.
"There, there!" went on the Badger, more kindly. "Never mind. Stop crying. We're going to let bygones be bygones, and try and turn over a new leaf. But what the Mole says is quite true. The stoats are on guard, at every point, and they make the best sentinels in the world. It's quite useless to think of attacking the place. They're too strong for us."
"Then it's all over," sobbed the Toad, crying into the sofa cushions. "I shall go and enlist for a soldier, and never see my dear Toad Hall any more!"
"Come, cheer up, Toady!" said the Badger. "There are more ways of getting back a place than taking it by storm. I haven't said my last word yet. Now I'm going to tell you a great secret."
Toad sat up slowly and dried his eyes. Secrets had an immense attraction for him, because he never could keep one, and he enjoyed the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he went and told another animal, after having faithfully promised not to.
"I'll tell you how the leaves came down,"
The great tree to his children said:
"You're getting sleepy, Yellow and Brown,
Yes, very sleepy, little Red.
It is quite time to go to bed."
"Ah!" begged each silly, pouting leaf,
"Let us a little longer stay;
Dear Father Tree, behold our grief!
'Tis such a very pleasant day,
We do not want to go away."
So, for just one more merry day
To the great tree the leaflets clung,
Frolicked and danced, and had their way,
Upon the autumn breezes swung,
Whispering all their sports among—
"Perhaps the great tree will forget,
And let us stay until the spring,
If we all beg, and coax, and fret."
But the great tree did no such thing;
He smiled to hear their whispering.
"Come, children, all to bed," he cried;
And ere the leaves could urge their prayer,
He shook his head, and far and wide,
Fluttering and rustling everywhere,
Down sped the leaflets through the air.
I saw them; on the ground they lay,
Golden and red, a huddled swarm,
Waiting till one from far away,
White bedclothes heaped upon her arm,
Should come to wrap them safe and warm.
The great bare tree looked down and smiled.
"Good-night, dear little leaves," he said.
And from below each sleepy child
Replied, "Good-night," and murmured,
"It is so nice to go to bed!"