WEEK 11 |
OBBIE knew the secret now. A sheet of old newspaper wrapped round a parcel—just a little chance like that—had given the secret to her. And she had to go down to tea and pretend that there was nothing the matter. The pretence was bravely made, but it wasn't very successful.
For when she came in, everyone looked up from tea and saw her pink-lidded eyes and her pale face with red tear-blotches on it.
"My darling," cried Mother, jumping up from the tea-tray, "whatever is the matter?"
"My head aches, rather," said Bobbie. And indeed it did.
"Has anything gone wrong?" Mother asked.
"I'm all right, really," said Bobbie, and she telegraphed to her Mother from her swollen eyes this brief, imploring message—"Not before the others!"
Tea was not a cheerful meal. Peter was so distressed by the obvious fact that something horrid had happened to Bobbie that he limited his speech to repeating, "More bread and butter, please," at startlingly short intervals. Phyllis stroked her sister's hand under the table to express sympathy, and knocked her cup over as she did it. Fetching a cloth and wiping up the spilt milk helped Bobbie a little. But she thought that tea would never end. Yet at last it did end, as all things do at last, and when Mother took out the tray, Bobbie followed her.
"She's gone to own up," said Phyllis to Peter; "I wonder what she's done."
"Broken something, I suppose," said Peter, "but she needn't be so silly over it. Mother never rows for accidents. Listen! Yes, they're going upstairs. She's taking Mother up to show her—the water-jug with storks on it, I expect it is."
Bobbie, in the kitchen, had caught hold of Mother's hand as she set down the tea-things.
"What is it?" Mother asked.
But Bobbie only said, "Come upstairs, come up where nobody can hear us."
When she had got Mother alone in her room she locked the door and then stood quite still, and quite without words.
All through tea she had been thinking of what to say; she had decided that "I know all," or "All is known to me," or "The terrible secret is a secret no longer," would be the proper thing. But now that she and her Mother and that awful sheet of newspaper were alone in the room together, she found that she could say nothing.
Suddenly she went to Mother and put her arms round her and began to cry again. And still she could find no words, only, "Oh, Mammy, oh, Mammy, oh, Mammy," over and over again.
Mother held her very close and waited.
Suddenly Bobbie broke away from her and went to her bed. From under her mattress she pulled out the paper she had hidden there, and held it out, pointing to her Father's name with a finger that shook.
"Oh, Bobbie," Mother cried, when one little quick look had shown her what it was, "you don't believe it? You don't believe Daddy did it?"
"No," Bobbie almost shouted. She had stopped crying.
"That's all right," said Mother. "It's not true. And they've shut him up in prison, but he's done nothing wrong. He's good and noble and honourable, and he belongs to us. We have to think of that, and be proud of him, and wait."
Again Bobbie clung to her Mother, and again only one word came to her, but now that word was "Daddy," and "Oh, Daddy, oh, Daddy, oh, Daddy!" again and again.
"Why didn't you tell me, Mammy?" she asked presently.
"Are you going to tell the others?" Mother asked.
"Exactly," said Mother; "so you understand why I didn't tell you. We two must help each other to be brave."
"Yes," said Bobbie; "Mother, will it make you more unhappy if you tell me all about it? I want to understand."
So then, sitting cuddled up close to her Mother, Bobbie heard "all about it." She heard how those men, who had asked to see Father on that remembered last night when the Engine was being mended, had come to arrest him, charging him with selling State secrets to the Russians—with being, in fact, a spy and a traitor. She heard about the trial, and about the evidence—letters, found in Father's desk at the office, letters that convinced the jury that Father was guilty.
"Oh, how could they look at him and believe it!" cried Bobbie; "and how could anyone do such a thing!"
"Someone did it," said Mother,
"and all the evidence was against Father.
"Yes. How did the letters get into his desk?"
"Someone put them there. And the person who put them there was the person who was really guilty."
"He must be feeling pretty awful all this time," said Bobbie, thoughtfully.
"I don't believe he had any feelings," Mother said hotly; "he couldn't have done a thing like that if he had."
"Perhaps he just shoved the letters into the desk to hide them when he thought he was going to be found out. Why don't you tell the lawyers, or someone, that it must have been that person? There wasn't anyone that would have hurt Father on purpose, was there?"
"I don't know—I don't know. The man under him who got Daddy's place when he—when the awful thing happened—he was always jealous of your Father because Daddy was so clever and everyone thought such a lot of him. And Daddy never quite trusted that man."
"Couldn't we explain all that to someone?"
"Nobody will listen," said Mother, very bitterly, "nobody at all. Do you
suppose I've not tried everything? No, my dearest, there's nothing to be
done. All we can do, you and I and Daddy, is to be brave, and patient,
"Mother, you've got very thin," said Bobbie, abruptly.
"A little, perhaps."
"And oh," said Bobbie, "I do think you're the bravest person in the world as well as the nicest!"
"We won't talk of all this any more, will we, dear?" said Mother; "we must bear it and be brave. And, darling, try not to think of it. Try to be cheerful, and to amuse yourself and the others. It's much easier for me if you can be a little bit happy and enjoy things. Wash your poor little round face, and let's go out into the garden for a bit."
The other two were very gentle and kind to Bobbie. And they did not ask her what was the matter. This was Peter's idea, and he had drilled Phyllis, who would have asked a hundred questions if she had been left to herself.
A week later Bobbie managed to get away alone. And once more she wrote a letter. And once more it was to the old gentleman.
My dear Friend, [she said] you see what is in this paper. It is not true. Father never did it. Mother says someone put the papers in Father's desk, and she says the man under him that got Father's place afterwards was jealous of Father, and Father suspected him a long time. But nobody listens to a word she says, but you are so good and clever, and you found out about the Russian gentleman's wife directly. Can't you find out who did the treason because he wasn't Father upon my honour; he is an Englishman and uncapable to do such things, and then they would let Father out of prison. It is dreadful, and Mother is getting so thin. She told us once to pray for all prisoners and captives. I see now. Oh, do help me—there is only just Mother and me know, and we can't do anything. Peter and Phil don't know. I'll pray for you twice every day as long as I live if you'll only try—just try to find out. Think if it was your Daddy, what you would feel. Oh, do, do, do help me. With love
I remain Your affectionately little friend
P.S. Mother would send her kind regards if she knew I am writing—but it is no use telling her I am, in case you can't do anything. But I know you will. Bobbie with best love."
She cut the account of her Father's trial out of the newspaper with Mother's big cutting-out scissors, and put it in the envelope with her letter.
Then she took it down to the station, going out the back way and round by the road, so that the others should not see her and offer to come with her, and she gave the letter to the Station Master to give to the old gentleman next morning.
"Where have you been?" shouted Peter, from the top of the yard wall where he and Phyllis were.
"To the station, of course," said Bobbie; "give us a hand, Pete."
She set her foot on the lock of the yard door. Peter reached down a hand.
"What on earth?" she asked as she reached the wall-top—for Phyllis and Peter were very muddy. A lump of wet clay lay between them on the wall, they had each a slip of slate in a very dirty hand, and behind Peter, out of the reach of accidents, were several strange rounded objects rather like very fat sausages, hollow, but closed up at one end.
"It's nests," said Peter, "swallows' nests. We're going to dry them in the oven and hang them up with string under the eaves of the coach-house."
"Yes," said Phyllis; "and then we're going to save up all the wool and hair we can get, and in the spring we'll line them, and then how pleased the swallows will be!"
"I've often thought people don't do nearly enough for dumb animals," said Peter with an air of virtue. "I do think people might have thought of making nests for poor little swallows before this."
"Oh," said Bobbie, vaguely, "if everybody thought of everything, there'd be nothing left for anybody else to think about."
"Look at the nests—aren't they pretty?" said Phyllis, reaching across Peter to grasp a nest.
"Look out, Phil, you goat," said her brother. But it was too late; her strong little fingers had crushed the nest.
"There now," said Peter.
"Never mind," said Bobbie.
"It is one of my own," said Phyllis, "so you needn't jaw, Peter. Yes, we've put our initial names on the ones we've done, so that the swallows will know who they've got to be so grateful to and fond of."
"Swallows can't read, silly," said Peter.
"Silly yourself," retorted Phyllis; "how do you know?"
"Who thought of making the nests, anyhow?" shouted Peter.
"I did," screamed Phyllis.
"Nya," rejoined Peter, "you only thought of making hay ones and sticking them in the ivy for the sparrows, and they'd have been sopping long before egg-laying time. It was me said clay and swallows."
"I don't care what you said."
"Look," said Bobbie, "I've made the nest all right again. Give me the bit of stick to mark your initial name on it. But how can you? Your letter and Peter's are the same. P. for Peter, P. for Phyllis."
"I put F. for Phyllis," said the child of that name. "That's how it sounds. The swallows wouldn't spell Phyllis with a P., I'm certain-sure."
"They can't spell at all," Peter was still insisting.
"Then why do you see them always on Christmas cards and valentines with letters round their necks? How would they know where to go if they couldn't read?"
"That's only in pictures. You never saw one really with letters round its neck."
"Well, I have a pigeon, then; at least Daddy told me they did. Only it
was under their wings and not round their necks, but it comes to the
"I say," interrupted Bobbie, "there's to be a paper-chase to-morrow."
"Who?" Peter asked.
"Grammar School. Perks thinks the hare will go along by the line at first. We might go along the cutting. You can see a long way from there."
The paper-chase was found to be a more amusing subject of conversation than the reading powers of swallows. Bobbie had hoped it might be. And next morning Mother let them take their lunch and go out for the day to see the paper-chase.
"If we go to the cutting," said Peter, "we shall see the workmen, even if we miss the paper-chase."
Of course it had taken some time to get the line clear from the rocks and earth and trees that had fallen on it when the great landslip happened. That was the occasion, you will remember, when the three children saved the train from being wrecked by waving six little red-flannel-petticoat flags. It is always interesting to watch people working, especially when they work with such interesting things as spades and picks and shovels and planks and barrows, when they have cindery red fires in iron pots with round holes in them, and red lamps hanging near the works at night. Of course the children were never out at night; but once, at dusk, when Peter had got out of his bedroom skylight on to the roof, he had seen the red lamp shining far away at the edge of the cutting. The children had often been down to watch the work, and this day the interest of picks and spades, and barrows being wheeled along planks, completely put the paper-chase out of their heads, so that they quite jumped when a voice just behind them panted, "Let me pass, please." It was the hare—a big-boned, loose-limbed boy, with dark hair lying flat on a very damp forehead. The bag of torn paper under his arm was fastened across one shoulder by a strap. The children stood back. The hare ran along the line, and the workmen leaned on their picks to watch him. He ran on steadily and disappeared into the mouth of the tunnel.
"That's against the by-laws," said the foreman.
"Why worry?" said the oldest workman; "live and let live's what I always say. Ain't you never been young yourself, Mr. Bates?"
"I ought to report him," said the foreman.
"Why spoil sport's what I always say."
"Passengers are forbidden to cross the line on any pretence," murmured the foreman, doubtfully.
"He ain't no passenger," said one of the workmen.
"Nor 'e ain't crossed the line, not where we could see 'im do it," said another.
"Nor yet 'e ain't made no pretences," said a third.
"And," said the oldest workman,
And now, following the track of the hare by the little white blots of scattered paper, came the hounds. There were thirty of them, and they all came down the steep, ladder-like steps by ones and twos and threes and sixes and sevens. Bobbie and Phyllis and Peter counted them as they passed. The foremost ones hesitated a moment at the foot of the ladder, then their eyes caught the gleam of scattered whiteness along the line and they turned towards the tunnel, and, by ones and twos and threes and sixes and sevens, disappeared in the dark mouth of it. The last one, in a red jersey, seemed to be extinguished by the darkness like a candle that is blown out.
"They don't know what they're in for," said the foreman; "it isn't so easy running in the dark. The tunnel takes two or three turns."
"They'll take a long time to get through, you think?" Peter asked.
"An hour or more, I shouldn't wonder."
"Then let's cut across the top and see them come out at the other end," said Peter; "we shall get there long before they do." The counsel seemed good, and they went.
They climbed the steep steps from which they had picked the wild cherry blossom for the grave of the little wild rabbit, and reaching the top of the cutting, set their faces towards the hill through which the tunnel was cut. It was stiff work.
"It's like Alps," said Bobbie, breathlessly.
"Or Andes," said Peter.
"It's like Himmy what's its names?" gasped Phyllis. "Mount Everlasting. Do let's stop."
"Stick to it," panted Peter; "you'll get your second wind in a minute."
Phyllis consented to stick to it—and on they went, running when the turf was smooth and the slope easy, climbing over stones, helping themselves up rocks by the branches of trees, creeping through narrow openings between tree trunks and rocks, and so on and on, up and up, till at last they stood on the very top of the hill where they had so often wished to be.
"Halt!" cried Peter, and threw himself flat on the grass. For the very top of the hill was a smooth, turfed table-land, dotted with mossy rocks and little mountain-ash trees.
The girls also threw themselves down flat.
"Plenty of time," Peter panted; "the rest's all down hill."
When they were rested enough to sit up and look round them, Bobbie cried:
"What at?" said Phyllis.
"The view," said Bobbie.
"I hate views," said Phyllis, "don't you, Peter?"
"Let's get on," said Peter.
"But this isn't like a view they take you to in carriages when you're at the seaside, all sea and sand and bare hills. It's like the 'coloured counties' in one of Mother's poetry books."
"It's not so dusty," said Peter; "look at the aqueduct straddling slap across the valley like a giant centipede, and then the towns sticking their church spires up out of the trees like pens out of an inkstand. I think it's more like
There could he see the banners
Of twelve fair cities shine.
"I love it," said Bobbie; "it's worth the climb."
"The paper-chase is worth the climb," said Phyllis, "if we don't lose it. Let's get on. It's all down hill now."
"I said that ten minutes ago," said Peter.
"Well, I've said it now," said Phyllis; "come on."
"Loads of time," said Peter. And there was. For when they had got down to a level with the top of the tunnel's mouth—they were a couple of hundred yards out of their reckoning and had to creep along the face of the hill—there was no sign of the hare or the hounds.
"They've gone long ago, of course," said Phyllis, as they leaned on the brick parapet above the tunnel.
"I don't think so," said Bobbie, "but even if they had, it's ripping here, and we shall see the trains come out of the tunnel like dragons out of lairs. We've never seen that from the top side before."
"No more we have," said Phyllis, partially appeased.
It was really a most exciting place to be in. The top of the tunnel seemed ever so much farther from the line than they had expected, and it was like being on a bridge, but a bridge overgrown with bushes and creepers and grass and wild-flowers.
"I know the paper-chase has gone long ago," said Phyllis every two minutes, and she hardly knew whether she was pleased or disappointed when Peter, leaning over the parapet, suddenly cried:
"Look out. Here he comes!"
They all leaned over the sun-warmed brick wall in time to see the hare, going very slowly, come out from the shadow of the tunnel.
"There, now," said Peter, "what did I tell you? Now for the hounds!"
Very soon came the hounds—by ones and twos and threes and sixes and sevens—and they also were going slowly and seemed very tired. Two or three who lagged far behind came out long after the others.
"There," said Bobbie, "that's all—now what shall we do?"
"Go along into the tulgy wood over there and have lunch," said Phyllis; "we can see them for miles from up here."
"Not yet," said Peter. "That's not the last. There's the one in the red jersey to come yet. Let's see the last of them come out."
But though they waited and waited and waited, the boy in the red jersey did not appear.
"Oh, let's have lunch," said Phyllis; "I've got a pain in my front with
being so hungry. You must have missed seeing the red-jerseyed one when
he came out with the
But Bobbie and Peter agreed that he had not come out with the others.
"Let's get down to the tunnel mouth," said Peter; "then perhaps we shall see him coming along from the inside. I expect he felt spun-chuck, and rested in one of the manholes. You stay up here and watch, Bob, and when I signal from below, you come down. We might miss seeing him on the way down, with all these trees."
So the others climbed down and Bobbie waited till they signalled to her from the line below. And then she, too, scrambled down the roundabout slippery path among roots and moss till she stepped out between two dogwood trees and joined the others on the line. And still there was no sign of the hound with the red jersey.
"Oh, do, do let's have something to eat," wailed Phyllis. "I shall die if you don't, and then you'll be sorry."
"Give her the sandwiches, for goodness' sake, and stop her silly mouth," said Peter, not quite unkindly. "Look here," he added, turning to Bobbie, "perhaps we'd better have one each, too. We may need all our strength. Not more than one, though. There's no time."
"What?" asked Bobbie, her mouth already full, for she was just as hungry as Phyllis.
"Don't you see," replied Peter, impressively, "that red-jerseyed hound
has had an accident—that's what it is. Perhaps even as we speak he's
lying with his head on the metals, an unresisting prey to any passing
"Oh, don't try to talk like a book," cried Bobbie, bolting what was left of her sandwich; "come on. Phil, keep close behind me, and if a train comes, stand flat against the tunnel wall and hold your petticoats close to you."
"Give me one more sandwich," pleaded Phyllis, "and I will."
"I'm going first," said Peter; "it was my idea," and he went.
Of course you know what going into a tunnel is like? The engine gives a scream and then suddenly the noise of the running, rattling train changes and grows different and much louder. Grown-up people pull up the windows and hold them by the strap. The railway carriage suddenly grows like night—with lamps, of course, unless you are in a slow local train, in which case lamps are not always provided. Then by and by the darkness outside the carriage window is touched by puffs of cloudy whiteness, then you see a blue light on the walls of the tunnel, then the sound of the moving train changes once more, and you are out in the good open air again, and grown-ups let the straps go. The windows, all dim with the yellow breath of the tunnel, rattle down into their places, and you see once more the dip and catch of the telegraph wires beside the line, and the straight-cut hawthorn hedges with the tiny baby trees growing up out of them every thirty yards.
All this, of course, is what a tunnel means when you are in a train. But everything is quite different when you walk into a tunnel on your own feet, and tread on shifting, sliding stones and gravel on a path that curves downwards from the shining metals to the wall. Then you see slimy, oozy trickles of water running down the inside of the tunnel, and you notice that the bricks are not red or brown, as they are at the tunnel's mouth, but dull, sticky, sickly green. Your voice, when you speak, is quite changed from what it was out in the sunshine, and it is a long time before the tunnel is quite dark.
It was not yet quite dark in the tunnel when Phyllis caught at Bobbie's skirt, ripping out half a yard of gathers, but no one noticed this at the time.
"I want to go back," she said, "I don't like it. It'll be pitch dark in a minute. I won't go on in the dark. I don't care what you say, I won't."
"Don't be a silly cuckoo," said Peter; "I've got a candle end and matches, and—what's that?"
"That" was a low, humming sound on the railway line, a trembling of the wires beside it, a buzzing, humming sound that grew louder and louder as they listened.
"It's a train," said Bobbie.
"Let me go back," cried Phyllis, struggling to get away from the hand by which Bobbie held her.
"Don't be a coward," said Bobbie; "it's quite safe. Stand back."
"Come on," shouted Peter, who was a few yards ahead. "Quick! Manhole!"
The roar of the advancing train was now louder than the noise you hear when your head is under water in the bath and both taps are running, and you are kicking with your heels against the bath's tin sides. But Peter had shouted for all he was worth, and Bobbie heard him. She dragged Phyllis along to the manhole. Phyllis, of course, stumbled over the wires and grazed both her legs. But they dragged her in, and all three stood in the dark, damp, arched recess while the train roared louder and louder. It seemed as if it would deafen them. And, in the distance, they could see its eyes of fire growing bigger and brighter every instant.
"It is a dragon—I always knew it was—it takes its own shape in here, in the dark," shouted Phyllis. But nobody heard her. You see the train was shouting, too, and its voice was bigger than hers.
And now, with a rush and a roar and a rattle and a long dazzling flash of lighted carriage windows, a smell of smoke, and blast of hot air, the train hurtled by, clanging and jangling and echoing in the vaulted roof of the tunnel. Phyllis and Bobbie clung to each other. Even Peter caught hold of Bobbie's arm, "in case she should be frightened," as he explained afterwards.
And now, slowly and gradually, the tail-lights grew smaller and smaller, and so did the noise, till with one last whiz the train got itself out of the tunnel, and silence settled again on its damp walls and dripping roof.
"Oh!" said the children, all together in a whisper.
Peter was lighting the candle end with a hand that trembled.
"Come on," he said; but he had to clear his throat before he could speak in his natural voice.
"Oh," said Phyllis, "if the red-jerseyed one was in the way of the train!"
"We've got to go and see," said Peter.
"Couldn't we go and send someone from the station?" said Phyllis.
"Would you rather wait here for us?" asked Bobbie, severely, and of course that settled the question.
So the three went on into the deeper darkness of the tunnel. Peter led, holding his candle end high to light the way. The grease ran down his fingers, and some of it right up his sleeve. He found a long streak from wrist to elbow when he went to bed that night.
It was not more than a hundred and fifty yards from the spot where they had stood while the train went by that Peter stood still, shouted "Hullo," and then went on much quicker than before. When the others caught him up, he stopped. And he stopped within a yard of what they had come into the tunnel to look for. Phyllis saw a gleam of red, and shut her eyes tight. There, by the curved, pebbly down line, was the red-jerseyed hound. His back was against the wall, his arms hung limply by his sides, and his eyes were shut.
"Was the red, blood? Is he all killed?" asked Phyllis, screwing her eyelids more tightly together.
"Killed? Nonsense!" said Peter. "There's nothing red about him except his jersey. He's only fainted. What on earth are we to do?"
"Can we move him?" asked Bobbie.
"I don't know; he's a big chap."
"Suppose we bathe his forehead with water. No, I know we haven't any, but milk's just as wet. There's a whole bottle."
"Yes," said Peter, "and they rub people's hands, I believe."
"They burn feathers, I know," said Phyllis.
"What's the good of saying that when we haven't any feathers?"
"As it happens," said Phyllis, in a tone of exasperated triumph, "I've got a shuttlecock in my pocket. So there!"
And now Peter rubbed the hands of the red-jerseyed one. Bobbie burned the feathers of the shuttlecock one by one under his nose, Phyllis splashed warmish milk on his forehead, and all three kept on saying as fast and as earnestly as they could:
"Oh, look up, speak to me! For my sake, speak!"
T he saxons were fond of singing at their feasts old songs about a hero named Beowulf. Those of them who left their earlier home and came to England did not forget these songs. More incidents were added, and by and by, just as in the case of the tale of the Nibelungs and that of King Arthur, some one wove them together into one long story. The following is the story of "Beowulf."
The old king Hrothgar, who ruled in the land of the Danes, built a mighty hall in which his heroes might feast when they returned from their hard-fought battles. Every one who saw it admired it, but a wicked monster called Grendel, who prowled about in the darkness, was angry. He could not bear to hear the merry sounds of music and feasting; and one night while the men lay asleep, he crept up to the hall and slew thirty of the warriors, dragging their bodies away with him to devour.
The Wicked Monster Grendel
Night after night this same slaughter went on, and the old king was almost broken-hearted at the loss of his beloved heroes. But help was coming. The young champion Beowulf, of the land of Gotland, had heard of the trouble, and he determined to free the king and his men. So, with some brave comrades, he sailed away from his home, and soon reached the land of the Danes. The young warriors had hardly stepped on shore when the warden of the land, who had been watching them from the cliffs, demanded sharply who they were, for he feared they might be enemies. Upon learning Beowulf's name and the purpose for which he had come, he conducted the strangers to the hall of Hrothgar. Then the king was glad at heart, for he had heard of the amazing prowess of Beowulf.
That night, while the warriors lay asleep, Grendel stole up through the mists, as usual. His eyes shone like fire as he stretched out his arm to seize the newcomer. But Beowulf caught his hand and held it in such a grip as the monster had never known. He was afraid and tried to flee, but he could not. The heroes awoke and drew their swords, but no weapon could pierce the skin of Grendel; he must be overcome by strength alone. At length he escaped, but his arm was torn from its socket and left in the iron grasp of Beowulf.
In the morning there was great rejoicing. The king loaded the hero with lavish gifts. The queen brought him handsome garments and hung about his neck a fair golden collar; and all were glad and happy.
Alas, on the following night Grendel's mother, another monster as terrible as he, came up from her cavern, beneath a lake, for revenge. She seized and carried away with her one who was very dear to the aged Hrothgar. The king grieved sorely, but Beowulf promised vengeance. Then Beowulf and Hrothgar and a company of chosen men found their way by a lonely path to the lake in which was the den of the fiends. The head of him who was dear to Hrothgar lay on a rock, and swimming in the water were fearful serpents and dragons. Beowulf put on his armor and sprang into the lake. Down, down he sank through the gloomy water. Grendel's mother clutched at him and dragged him into her frightful den. The men by the shore saw the water become red with blood and they grew very sorrowful; but after a long, long while they saw Beowulf swimming toward the land. He had slain Grendel's mother, and he bore with him the terrible head of Grendel.
Then there was great joy in the beautiful hall of King Hrothgar. Many costly gifts were bestowed upon him who had delivered the followers of the king, and then Beowulf bade them all farewell and set out for his homeland.
Beowulf was soon chosen chief of his people and ruled for many years. When he was an old man, a fire-breathing dragon that dwelt in his country came forth by night and went through the land killing people and burning towns and cities. This dragon guarded a vast treasure, and King Beowulf said to himself, "I will win this treasure for my people, and I will avenge their wrongs." He did slay the dragon, but he himself was mortally wounded.
His men grieved sorely. They built a great funeral pyre, all hung about with helmets and shields and coats of mail, and on it they laid gently the body of their dead leader. Afterward they reared in his honor a mighty mound on a hill beside the sea, and in it they buried many rings of gold and other treasures which they had brought forth from the dragon's cave. In after days they often spoke together of Beowulf, and they said, "He cared more for glory than did any other king who dwelt on the earth. He was kind and gentle, too, and he truly loved his people."
Queen and Huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heav'n to clear, when day did close:
Bless us then with wishéd sight,
Goddess excellently bright.
Lay thy bow of pearl apart
And thy crystal shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever:
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright.
WEEK 11 |
N the reign of
After printing was discovered and books became cheaper, people began to read and, in consequence, to think much more than they had done before. The more people read and thought, the more difficult some of them found it to believe just what they were ordered to believe by the Pope.
It was not only in England that this was happening, but in many other lands as well. In Germany a monk called Martin Luther, after thinking a great deal about it, decided that some things which were done in the Romish Church were wrong. He was brave enough to say what he thought and, in spite of the anger of the Pope and the priests, a great many people followed Martin Luther and left the Roman Catholic Church.
This is the beginning of what is called the Reformation. That is a long word, but it is quite easy to understand. It is made from two Latin words, re, "again," and formare, "to form or make." It means that the people who left the Roman Church again formed or made the Church.
These people were called Protestants. The word Protestant is also made from two Latin words, pro, "publicly," and testari, "to bear witness." So a Protestant really means some one who openly and publicly bears witness or protests.
We can hardly understand how bold and brave a thing these Protestants did. Now everyone is free to believe what they think is best and right but, in those days, people who could not agree with the Pope were cruelly punished or put to death. Now, Protestant churches and Roman Catholic churches stand side by side, and we do not kill and hate each other because we worship God in different ways, but in those days nothing caused such cruel suffering and such bitter hatred.
When King Henry heard what Martin Luther had done, he was very angry. Being a clever man, and proud of his learning and knowledge about religion, he wrote a book against Martin Luther and his teaching. This book he had bound most beautifully, and then he sent it to the Pope.
With great splendour and ceremony, dressed in his most magnificent robes, and sitting upon his throne with all his priests around him, the Pope received Henry's messenger. The messenger knelt humbly presenting the book and kissing first the Pope's toe and then his cheek.
Afterwards the messenger made a long speech, and the Pope made a long speech, and so the ceremony ended.
When the Pope had read the book, he was so pleased with it that he gave the King of England a new title. He called him Fidei Defensor, which means, "Defender of the Faith." He wrote a letter to Henry thanking him for his book, and calling him "Our most dear son Henry, the illustrious King of England and Defender of the Faith."
Henry was very proud of his new title, and he held a solemn service in the church at Westminster, when the Pope's letter was read, and the King's new title proclaimed.
Afterwards Henry quarrelled with the Pope, but he kept the
title of Defender of the Faith, and it has been borne by the
kings and queens of England ever since, although the faith
they now defend is no longer the faith of the Roman Catholic
Church. If you look at some of the coins which we use now
you will see F.D. or
King Henry quarrelled with the Pope because he would not let him put away his wife, Queen Katherine. Queen Katherine had done no wrong, but she was some years older than Henry, and now that he had been married to her for nearly twenty years, and she was no longer young and pretty, he had grown tired and wanted another wife.
Henry was very selfish. He thought a great deal of his own pleasure and always wanted to have his own way. Years before, when he wished to marry Katherine, he had made the Pope give him leave to do so, although it was against the laws of the Church because, as you remember, she had already been married to his brother Arthur. Now Henry began to think, or pretended to think, that he had been wrong ever to marry her at all, and he tried to make the Pope say so.
Wolsey, whom the Pope had made a cardinal, tried very hard to make him say so too, but in vain. After a long time the Pope sent another cardinal to England, and a great trial was held to decide whether Henry should be allowed to put away his wife or not.
Many wise men were gathered together with the King and Queen, the two cardinals, and their priests and clerks. When the Queen's name was called she rose from her chair, but although she tried to speak, she could not. She stood a moment, then crossing the hall to where the King sat, she threw herself at his feet. "Sir," she said, "I pray you do me justice and right, and take some pity upon me. For I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominion. Alas, sir, how have I offended you? I take God to judge that I have ever been your true and humble wife. I have been glad for the things which have made you glad, and I have been sorry for the things which have made you sorry. Your friends have been my friends, your enemies my enemies. I have loved, for your sake, all whom you have loved. I have been your wife these twenty years and more. If there be any just cause for the anger you have against me, I am content to depart in shame and rebuke: if there be none, then I pray you to let me have justice at your hand."
With that she rose up, and making a low curtsey to the King, she walked proudly out of the court, a most unhappy woman, but a grand and dignified Queen.
The King sent messengers after her to call her back, but she would not return. Nor did she ever again come into the court.
The cardinals and the wise men talked for a long time, but they could not decide whether Henry might be allowed to send his wife away or not. The fact was the Pope was afraid of Henry on the one hand and of the Emperor of Germany, who was Katherine's nephew, on the other, and dared say nothing.
Then Henry grew very angry and impatient, and blamed Wolsey. Perhaps Wolsey had something to do with the delay, for although he did not love Queen Katherine, and would have been quite glad to have had her sent away, he hated Anne Boleyn, the lady whom Henry now wished to marry.
Anne Boleyn hated Wolsey too, and little by little she so turned the King against his old friend that he took many of his offices from Wolsey, and in the end sent him away from court.
Henry sent Wolsey away from court.
When Wolsey was sent away, he went to a house which he had
in the country, a sad and
The nobles hated Wolsey because he was proud and haughty. They could not forget that he was a butcher's son, and yet they knew that although Henry ruled England, Wolsey ruled Henry.
The common people hated him because when Henry needed money it was Wolsey, his Chancellor, who had to wring it from the poor. So they looked upon him as the cause of all their sorrows, and there were few who mourned and many who were glad at his fall.
Henry next accused Wolsey of treason and sent for him to come to London to be tried. Worn with sorrow and sickness, the cardinal started on his journey, but when he reached Leicester he was so ill that he could go no further.
"Father, I am come to lay my bones among you," he said sadly to the abbot, who came to welcome him when he arrived at the Abbey of Leicester. It was true, for in a few days the great cardinal lay dead. "Had I served my God as faithfully as I have served my King," he said before he died, "He would not have cast me off in my old age."
T HE February freshet had come. We had been expecting it, but no one along Maurice River had ever seen so wild and warm and ominous a spring storm as this. So sudden and complete a break-up of winter no one could remember; nor so high a tide, so rain-thick and driving a south wind. It had begun the night before, and now, along near noon, the river and meadows were a tumult of white waters, with the gale so strong that one could hardly hold his own on the drawbridge that groaned from pier to pier in the grip of the maddened storm.
It was into the teeth of this gale that a small boy dressed in large yellow "oil-skins" made his slow way out along the narrow bank of the river toward the sluices that controlled the tides of the great meadows.
The boy was in the large yellow oil-skins; not dressed, no, for he was simply inside of them, his feet and hands and the top of his head having managed to work their way out. It seems, at least, that his head was partly out, for on the top of the oil-skins sat a large black sou'wester. And in the arms of the oil-skins lay an old army musket, so big and long that it seemed to be walking away with the oil-skins, as the oil-skins seemed to be walking away with the boy.
I can feel the kick of that old musket yet, and the prick of the dried sand-burs among which she knocked me. I can hear the rough rasping of the chafing legs of those oil-skins too, though I was not the boy this time inside of them. But I knew the boy who was, a real boy; and I know that he made his careful way along the trembling river-bank out into the sunken meadows, meadows that later on I saw the river burst into and claim—and it still claims them, as I saw only last summer, when after thirty years of absence I once more stood at the end of that bank looking over a watery waste which was once the richest of farm lands.
Never, it seemed, had the village known such wind and rain and such a tide. It was a strange, wild scene from the drawbridge—wharves obliterated, river white with flying spume and tossing ice-cakes, the great bridge swaying and shrieking in the wind, and over everything the blur of the swirling rain.
The little figure in yellow oil-skins was not the only one that had gone along the bank since morning, for a party of men had carefully inspected every foot of the bank to the last sluice, for fear that there might be a weak spot somewhere. Let a breach occur with such a tide as this and it could never be stopped.
And now, somewhat past noon, the men were again upon the bank. As they neared Five-Forks sluice, the central and largest of the water-gates, they heard a smothered boom above the scream of the wind in their ears. They were startled; but it was only the sound of a gun somewhere off in the meadow. It was the gun of the boy in the oil-skins.
Late that afternoon Doctor "Sam," driving home along the flooded road of the low back swamp, caught sight, as he came out in view of the river, of a little figure in yellow oil-skins away out on the meadow.
The doctor stopped his horse and hallooed. But the boy did not hear. The rain on his coat, the wind and the river in his ears drowned every other sound.
The dusk was falling, and as the doctor looked out over the wild scene, he put his hands to his mouth and called again. The yellow figure had been blotted out by the rain. There was no response, and the doctor drove on.
Meanwhile the boy in the yellow oil-skins was splashing slowly back along the narrow, slippery clay bank. He was wet, but he was warm, and he loved the roar of the wind and the beat of the driving rain.
As the mist and rain were fast mixing with the dusk of the twilight, he quickened his steps. His path in places was hardly a foot wide, covered with rose and elder bushes mostly, but bare in spots where holes and low worn stretches had been recently built up with cubes of the tough blue mud of the flats.
The tide was already even with the top of the bank and was still rising. It leaped and hit at his feet as he picked his way along. The cakes of white ice crunched and heeled up against the bank with here and there one flung fairly across his path. The tossing water frequently splashed across. Twice he jumped places where the tide was running over down into the meadows below.
How quickly the night had come! It was dark when he reached Five-Forks sluice—the middle point in the long, high bank. While still some distance off he heard the sullen roar of the big sluice, through which the swollen river was trying to force its way.
He paused to listen a moment. He knew the peculiar voice of every one of these gateways, as he knew every foot of the river-bank.
There was nothing wrong with the sullen roar. But how deep and threatening! He could feel the sound even better than he could hear it, far down below him. He started forward, to pass on, when he half felt, through the long, regular throbbing of the sluice, a shorter, faster, closer quiver, as of a small running stream in the bank very near his feet.
Dropping quickly to his knees, he laid his ear to the wet earth. A cold, black hand seemed to seize upon him. He heard the purr of running water!
It must be down about three feet. He could distinctly feel it tearing through.
Without rising he scrambled down the meadow side of the bank to see the size of the breach. He could hear nothing of it for the boiling at the gates of the sluice. It was so dark he could scarcely see. But near the bottom the mud suddenly caved beneath his feet, and a rush of cold water caught at his knees.
The hole was greater than he feared.
Crawling back to the top of the bank, he leaned out over the river side. A large cake of ice hung in water in front of him. He pushed it aside and, bending until his face barely cleared the surface of the river, he discovered a small sucking eddy, whose swirling hole he knew ran into the breach.
He edged farther out and reached down under the water and touched the upper rim of the hole. How large might it be? Swinging round, he dug his fingers into the bank and lowered himself feet first until he stood in the hole. It was the size of a small bucket, but he could almost feel it going beneath his feet, and a sudden terror took hold upon him.
He was only a boy, and the dark night, the wild river, the vast, sweeping storm, the roar and tremor and tumult flattened him for a moment to the ridge of the bank in a panic of fear!
But he heard the water running, he felt the bank going directly beneath where he lay, and getting to his feet he started for the village. A single hasty step and, but for the piles of the sluice, he would have plunged into the river.
He must feel his way; but he never could do it in time to save the bank. The breach must be stopped at once. He must stop it and keep it stopped until the next patrol brought help.
Feeling his way back, he dropped again upon his hands and knees above the breach to think for a moment. The cake of ice hung as before in the eddy. Catching it, he tipped it and thrust it down across the mouth of the hole, but it slipped from his cold fingers and dived away. He pushed down the butt of his musket, turned it flat, but it was not broad enough to cover the opening. Then he lowered himself again, and stood in it, wedging the musket in between his boots; but he could feel the water still tearing through at the sides, and eating all the faster.
He clambered back to the top of the bank, put his hand to his mouth and shouted. The only answer was the scream of the wind and the cry of a brant passing overhead.
Then the boy laughed. "Easy enough," he muttered, and, picking up the musket, he leaned once more out over the river and thrust the steel barrel of the gun hard into the mud just below the hole. Then, stepping easily down, he sat squarely into the breach, the gun like a stake in front of him sticking up between his knees.
Then he laughed again, as he caught his breath, for he had squeezed into the hole like a stopper into a bottle, his big oil-skins filling the breach completely.
The water stood above the middle of his breast, and the tide was still rising. Darkness had now settled, but the ghostly ice-cakes, tipping, slipping toward him, were spectral white. He had to shove them back as now and then one rose before his face. The sky was black, and the deep water below him was blacker. And how cold it was!
Doctor Sam had been stopped by the flooded roads on his way home, and lights shone in the windows as he entered the village. He turned a little out of his way and halted in front of a small cottage near the bridge.
"Is Joe here?" he asked.
"No," answered the mother; "he went down the meadow for muskrats and has not returned yet. He's probably over with the men at the store."
Doctor Sam drove on to the store.
There was no boy in yellow oil-skins in the store.
Doctor Sam picked up a lighted lantern.
"Come on," he said; "I'm wet, but I want a look at those sluices," and started for the river, followed immediately by the men, whom he led in single file out along the bank.
Swinging his lantern low, he pushed into the teeth of the gale at a pace that left the line of lights straggling far behind.
"What a night!" he growled. "If I had a boy of my
Ahead he heard the roar of Five-Forks sluice, and swung his lantern high, as if to signal it, so like the rush of a coming train was the sound of the waters.
But the little engineer in yellow oil-skins could not see the signal. He had almost ceased to watch. With his arm cramped about his gun, he was still at his post; but the ice-cakes floated in and touched him; the water no longer felt cold.
On this side, then on that, out over the swollen river, down into the tossing meadow flared the lantern as the doctor worked his way along.
Above the great sluice he paused a moment, then bent his head to the wind and started on, when his foot touched something soft that yielded strangely, sending a shiver over him, and his light fell upon a bunch of four dead muskrats lying in the path.
Along the meadow side flashed the lantern, up and over the river side, and Doctor Sam, reaching quickly down, drew a limp little form in yellow oil-skins out of the water, as the men behind him came up.
A gurgle, a hiss, a small whirlpool sucking at the surface,—and the tide was again tearing through the breach that the boy had filled.
The men sprang quickly to their task, and did it well,
while Doctor Sam, shielding the limp little form from
the wind, forced a vial of something between the white
lips, saying over to himself as he watched the closed
eyes open, "If I had a boy of my own—If I had a
No, Doctor Sam never had a boy of his own; but he always felt, I think, that the boy of those yellow oil-skins was somehow pretty nearly his.
After a long, cold winter how I love the spatter on my face of the first February rain! The little trout brook below me foams and sometimes overruns the road, and as its small noise ascends the hill, I can hear—the wind on a great river, the wash of waves against a narrow bank, and the muffled roar of quaking sluices as when a February freshet is on.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
WEEK 11 |
N OW, that day, Mother Ambroisine was very tired. She had taken down from their shelves kettles, saucepans, lamps, candlesticks, casseroles, pans, and lids. After having rubbed them with fine sand and ashes, then washed them well, she had put the utensils in the sun to dry them thoroughly. They all shone like a mirror. The kettles particularly were superb with their rosy reflections; one might have said that tongues of fire were shining inside them. The candlesticks were a dazzling yellow. Emile and Jules were lost in admiration.
"I should like to know what they make kettles of, they shine so," remarked Emile. "They are very ugly outside, all black, daubed with soot; but inside, how beautiful they are!"
"You must ask Uncle," replied his brother.
"Yes," assented Emile.
No sooner said than done: they went in search of their uncle. He did not have to be entreated; he was happy whenever there was an opportunity to teach them something.
"Kettles are made of copper," he began.
"And copper?" asked Jules.
"Copper is not made. In certain countries, it is found already made, mixed with stone. It is one of the substances that it is not in the power of man to make. We use these substances as God has deposited them in the bosom of the earth for purposes of human industry; but all our knowledge and all our skill could not produce them.
"In the bosom of mountains where copper is found, they
hollow out galleries which go down deep into the earth.
There workmen called miners, with lamps to light them,
attack the rock with great blows of the pick, while others
carry the detached blocks outside. These blocks of stone in
which copper is found are called ore. In furnaces made for
the purpose they heat the ore to a very high temperature.
The heat of our stove, when it is
"The coppersmith continues the work. He takes the shapeless basin and, with little strokes of the hammer, fashions it on the anvil to give it a regular shape."
"That is why coppersmiths tap all day with their hammers," commented Jules. "I had often wondered, when passing their shops, why they made so much noise, always tapping, without any stop. They were thinning the copper; shaping it into saucepans and kettles."
Here Emile asked: "When a kettle is old, has holes in it and
can't be used, what do they do with it? I heard Mother
Ambroisine speak of selling a
"It is melted, and another new kettle made out of the copper," replied Uncle Paul.
"Then the copper does not wear away?"
"It wears away too much, my friend: some of it is lost when they rub it with sand to make it shine; some is lost, too, by the continual action of the fire; but what is left is still good."
"Mother Ambroisine also spoke of recasting a lamp which had lost a foot. What are lamps made of?"
"They are of tin, another substance that we find
IN 1631 an earnest young Puritan named Roger Williams sailed from England for Massachusetts. He became a minister at Salem.
It was true that the Puritans had left England to worship God as they wished. And they had had a great deal to say about the King's trying to make people worship only as he worshiped. But once settled in America, their leaders did just the same thing. They ordered the colonists to attend the Puritan Church, and those who were not church members could not vote.
Now, Roger Williams soon saw that this was not at all the freedom the colonists should have. He believed that a man could vote just as well if he did not belong to the church. So he said, and so he preached.
Moreover, Roger Williams told the colonists that they had no real right to the land where they were living. They replied that they had, because their charter granted it to them. That made no difference, Williams insisted; the land belonged to the Indians, and no English company had a right to give it away, and no English colonists had a right to live on it until the Indians had been paid.
It was very alarming to the Puritan leaders to have Williams spreading such notions among the settlers. What was to be done about it? The good Puritan fathers held a council and told Williams to retract. Still "he stood fast in his rocky strength." The council then ordered him to leave the colony, but allowed him to remain till spring, "if he did not go about to draw others to his opinion."
Williams still preached his views. This could not go on, so a policeman was sent to arrest him. He had fled.
Thus in the dead of winter, Roger Williams became an exile in the desolate forests. For weeks he traveled through the snow, sleeping under any shelter he could find and living on parched corn, acorns, and roots. At last he reached the Indian tribe of which Massasoit was chief; and the friendly old Indian received him as a brother and fed and cared for him.
Still he was within the boundaries of Massachusetts, and the Puritans would not have him there. He was warned to leave. So, buying from the Indians a tract of land on the shore of Narragansett Bay, Williams went to live where he would no longer be bothered by his enemies. He named his new land Providence "for God's providence to him in his distress."
However, by banishing Roger Williams the Puritans did not end their troubles. There were other people left in the colony who were "like Roger Williams or worse."
One of these was Mrs. Anne Hutchinson. Her ideas
were not unlike Williams's; and she, likewise, insisted
on spreading them. Then she, too, must be banished; and
so must her friends who agreed with her. In accord with
The Indians gave the exiles the beautiful tract of land called Rhode Island. And there, a little later, was established a colony where, in very truth, each man could believe and worship according to his heart's desire.
For a while after this, the Puritans had no serious
disturbances. Their next trouble came in a different
way. A fierce
Here was Roger Williams's chance to show that he was willing to practice what he preached. Although he could not agree with the Puritans, he held no grudge against them because they had refused to listen to him and had turned him out. Going to the Narragansett Indians, Williams urged them not to join the Pequots; and so great was his influence that they refused to fight.
The Pequots, nothing daunted, determined to attack the settlers without outside aid. They did not come out in open battle, but waylaid a party of whites and killed thirty of them.
This must be stopped. So a small party of English, with a large number of friendly Indians advanced on the Pequots. Before sunrise one spring morning in 1637, the English approached the Pequots' stronghold. All were asleep. Before the Indian sentries knew what had happened, the foe was in their midst. The fort was set on fire. Only five Indians escaped, while more than four hundred perished. The great Pequot tribe was crushed, and nearly forty years of peace ensued. How different might have been the result, but for the forgiving spirit of Roger Williams!
Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.
WEEK 11 |
ITTLE Otto was lying upon the hard couch in his cell, tossing in restless and feverish sleep; suddenly a heavy hand was laid upon him and a voice whispered in his ear, "Baron, Baron Otto, waken, rouse yourself; I am come to help you. I am One-eyed Hans."
Otto was awake in an instant and raised himself upon his elbow in the darkness. "One-eyed Hans," he breathed, "One-eyed Hans; who is One-eyed Hans?"
"True," said the other, "thou dost not know me. I am thy father's trusted servant, and am the only one excepting his own blood and kin who has clung to him in this hour of trouble. Yes, all are gone but me alone, and so I have come to help thee away from this vile place."
"Oh, dear, good Hans! if only thou canst!" cried Otto; "if only thou canst take me away from this wicked place. Alas, dear Hans! I am weary and sick to death." And poor little Otto began to weep silently in the darkness.
"Aye, aye," said Hans, gruffly, "it is no place for a little child to be. Canst thou climb, my little master? canst thou climb a knotted rope?"
"Nay," said Otto, "I can never climb again! See, Hans;" and he flung back the covers from off him.
"I cannot see," said Hans, "it is too dark."
"Then feel, dear Hans," said Otto.
Hans bent over the poor little white figure glimmering palely in the darkness. Suddenly he drew back with a snarl like an angry wolf. "Oh! the black, bloody wretches!" he cried, hoarsely; "and have they done that to thee, a little child?"
"Yes," said Otto, "the Baron Henry did it." And then again he began to cry.
"There, there," said Hans, roughly, "weep no more. Thou shalt get away from here even if thou canst not climb; I myself will help thee. Thy father is already waiting below the window here, and thou shalt soon be with him. There, there, cry no more."
While he was speaking Hans had stripped off his peddler's leathern jacket, and there, around his body, was wrapped coil after coil of stout hempen rope tied in knots at short distances. He began unwinding the rope, and when he had done he was as thin as ever he had been before. Next he drew from the pouch that hung at his side a ball of fine cord and a leaden weight pierced by a hole, both of which he had brought with him for the use to which he now put them. He tied the lead to the end of the cord, then whirling the weight above his head, he flung it up toward the window high above. Twice the piece of lead fell back again into the room; the third time it flew out between the iron bars carrying the cord with it. Hans held the ball in his hand and paid out the string as the weight carried it downward toward the ground beneath. Suddenly the cord stopped running. Hans jerked it and shook it, but it moved no farther. "Pray heaven, little child," said he, "that it hath reached the ground, for if it hath not we are certainly lost."
"I do pray," said Otto, and he bowed his head.
Then, as though in answer to his prayer, there came a twitch upon the cord.
"See," said Hans, "they have heard thee up above in heaven; it was thy father who did that." Quickly and deftly he tied the cord to the end of the knotted rope; then he gave an answering jerk upon the string. The next moment the rope was drawn up to the window and down the outside by those below. Otto lay watching the rope as it crawled up to the window and out into the night like a great snake, while One-eyed Hans held the other end lest it should be drawn too far. At last it stopped. "Good," muttered Hans, as though to himself. "The rope is long enough."
He waited for a few minutes and then, drawing upon the rope and finding that it was held from below, he spat upon his hands and began slowly climbing up to the window above. Winding his arm around the iron bars of the grating that guarded it, he thrust his hand into the pouch that hung by his side, and drawing forth a file, fell to work cutting through all that now lay between Otto and liberty.
It was slow, slow work, and it seemed to Otto as though Hans would never finish his task, as lying upon his hard couch he watched that figure, black against the sky, bending over its work. Now and then the file screeched against the hard iron, and then Hans would cease for a moment, but only to begin again as industriously as ever. Three or four times he tried the effects of his work, but still the iron held. At last he set his shoulder against it, and as Otto looked he saw the iron bend. Suddenly there was a sharp crack, and a piece of the grating went flying out into the night.
Hans tied the rope securely about the stump of the stout iron bar that yet remained, and then slid down again into the room below.
"My little lord," said he, "dost thou think that if I carry thee, thou wilt be able and strong enough to cling to my neck?"
"Aye," said Otto, "methinks I will be able to do that."
The next moment they were hanging in mid-air.
"Then come," said Hans.
He stooped as he spoke, and gently lifting Otto from his rude and rugged bed he drew his broad leathern belt around them both, buckling it firmly and securely. "It does not hurt thee?" said he.
"Not much," whispered Otto faintly.
Then Hans spat upon his hands, and began slowly climbing the rope.
They reached the edge of the window and there they rested for a moment, and Otto renewed his hold around the neck of the faithful Hans.
"And now art thou ready?" said Hans.
"Aye," said Otto.
"Then courage," said Hans, and he turned and swung his leg over the abyss below.
The next moment they were hanging in mid-air.
Otto looked down and gave a gasp. "The mother of heaven bless us," he whispered, and then closed his eyes, faint and dizzy at the sight of that sheer depth beneath. Hans said nothing, but shutting his teeth and wrapping his legs around the rope, he began slowly descending, hand under hand. Down, down, down he went, until to Otto, with his eyes shut and his head leaning upon Hans' shoulder, it seemed as though it could never end. Down, down, down. Suddenly he felt Hans draw a deep breath; there was a slight jar, and Otto opened his eyes; Hans was standing upon the ground.
A figure wrapped in a dark cloak arose from the shadow of the wall, and took Otto in its arms. It was Baron Conrad.
"My son—my little child!" he cried, in a choked, trembling voice, and that was all. And Otto pressed his cheek against his father's and began crying.
Suddenly the Baron gave a sharp, fierce cry. "Dear Heaven!" he cried; "what have they done to thee?" But poor little Otto could not answer.
"Oh!" gasped the Baron, in a strangled voice, "my little child! my little child!" And therewith he broke down, and his whole body shook with fierce, dry sobs; for men in those days did not seek to hide their grief as they do now, but were fierce and strong in the expression of that as of all else.
"Never mind, dear father," whispered Otto; "it did not hurt me so very much," and he pressed his lips against his father's cheek.
Little Otto had but one hand.
O NCE upon a time a number of carpenters lived on a river bank near a large forest. Every day the carpenters went in boats to the forest to cut down the trees and make them into lumber.
One day while they were at work an Elephant came limping on three feet to them. He held up one foot and the carpenters saw that it was swollen and sore. Then the Elephant lay down and the men saw that there was a great splinter in the sore foot. They pulled it out and washed the sore carefully so that in a short time it would be well again.
He held up one foot and the carpenters saw that it was swollen and sore.
Thankful for the cure, the Elephant thought: "These carpenters have done so much for me, I must be useful to them."
So after that the Elephant used to pull up trees for the carpenters. Sometimes when the trees were chopped down he would roll the logs down to the river. Other times he brought their tools for them. And the carpenters used to feed him well morning, noon and night.
Now this Elephant had a son who was white all over—a beautiful, strong young one. Said the old Elephant to himself, "I will take my son to the place in the forest where I go to work each day so that he may learn to help the carpenters, for I am no longer young and strong."
So the old Elephant told his son how the carpenters had taken good care of him when he was badly hurt and took him to them. The white Elephant did as his father told him to do and helped the carpenters and they fed him well.
The Elephant used to pull up trees for the carpenters.
When the work was done at night the young Elephant went to play in the river. The carpenters' children played with him, in the water and on the bank. He liked to pick them up in his trunk and set them on the high branches of the trees and then let them climb down on his back.
One day the king came down the river and saw this beautiful white Elephant working for the carpenters. The king at once wanted the Elephant for his own and paid the carpenters a great price for him. Then with a last look at his playmates, the children, the beautiful white Elephant went on with the king.
With a last look at his playpmates the beautiful white Elephant went on with the king.
The king was proud of his new Elephant and took the best care of him as long as he lived.
Daffy-down-dilly came up in the cold,
Through the brown mold.
Although the March breezes blew keen on her face,
Although the white snow lay on many a place.
Daffy-down-dilly had heard under ground
The sweet rushing sound
Of the streams, as they burst off their white winter chains—
Of the whistling spring winds and the pattering rains.
"Now then," thought Daffy, deep down in her heart,
"It's time I should start!"
So she pushed her soft leaves through the hard frozen ground,
Quite up to the surface, and then she looked round.
There was snow all about her—gray clouds overhead,
The trees all looked dead.
Then how do you think Daffy-down-dilly felt,
When the sun would not shine and the ice would not melt?
"Cold weather!" thought Daffy, still working away
"The earth's hard to-day!
There's but a half inch of my leaves to be seen,
And two-thirds of that is more yellow than green."
"I can't do much yet—but I 'll do what I can.
It 's well I began!
For unless I can manage to lift up my head,
The people will think that the Spring herself's dead."
So, little by little, she brought her leaves out,
All clustered about;
And then her bright flowers began to unfold,
Till Daffy stood robed in her spring green and gold.
O Daffy-down-dilly! so brave and so true!
I wish all were like you!
So ready for duty in all sorts of weather,
And holding forth courage and beauty together.
WEEK 11 |
"Stay, traveller, awhile and view
One who has travell'd more than you;
Quite round the globe, through each degree,
Anson and I have plough'd the sea."
T HE story of Lord Anson's famous voyage in the Centurion, and his capture of the great Spanish treasure-ship, is one of the finest records of the sea.
Frederick the Great had just ascended the throne of Prussia when Anson started off on his expedition against the Spaniards. England and Spain had once more been quarrelling over their trading rights in America, and matters were brought to a crisis by an episode known as "Jenkins's ear." One day an English merchant captain, called Jenkins, told a story in London of how he had been tortured by the Spaniards. He produced from a little box a human ear, which he declared the Spaniards had cut off and bid him take to the English king. England was furious at this insult, and war became inevitable.
George Anson, captain of the ship Centurion, was now appointed to command an expedition bound for the East India islands by way of South America, with orders to ravage the coast of Peru, capture the Spanish treasure-ships sailing from Mexico, and repeat as far as possible the dashing exploits of Hawkins and Drake a hundred and sixty years before.
The expedition met with delays in starting. It was difficult to get sailors and soldiers for the enterprise, which had to be kept as secret as possible. At last 500 old and infirm soldiers were told off for service under Anson: some were over seventy years of age, some were cripples. The unhappy invalids were unwilling to go, and "all who had limbs and strength to walk away, deserted."
Thus handicapped from the start, Anson at last set out on his "ill-fated but splendid voyage." The year was far advanced, and they were so delayed by winter storms and gales that they took forty days to reach Madeira, a voyage now performed in four days. It was March before they reached the south of America. No longer were the Straits, where Magellan and Drake had encountered such terrific storms, the acknowledged sea-route to the Pacific Ocean. Ships now sailed round Cape Horn, at the extreme south of the island known as Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire. The weather was now pleasant, and thinking the worst was over, Anson cheered himself by planning his raid on the Spanish treasure-ships. But no sooner had they reached the extreme south than a tremendous storm of wind, accompanied by hail and rain, broke over the little fleet.
"Never were fiercer seas or blacker skies more cruelly edged with sleet and ice. The very sails were frozen. The rigging was turned into mere ladders of ice. The decks were slippery as glass, and the great seas dashed over them incessantly. The groaning and overstrained ships let in water in every seam, and for over fifty days each furious gale was followed, by one yet more furious."
It was a desperate time of year to attempt such a dangerous passage, and it was a wonder that any of the little ships escaped complete destruction. As it was, after two months of battling with wind and waves, the Centurion found herself alone on the Pacific Ocean. Still there was no peace. Strong westerly gales raged day after day, till the long narrow coast of Chili became "one mad tumult of foam." The skies were dark and black, and when from time to time a glimmer of light made its way through the darkness, it was only to show the heights of the Andes white with snow.
And now a fresh trouble arose. Scurvy broke out among the crew. The legs and arms of the men broke out into open sores, old wounds broke out afresh. They died at the rate of five and six a-day, until 200 had found their last rest under the stormy sea. Still storm upon storm broke over the now half-wrecked ship, full of sick and dying men, until at last the Centurion and two battered ships—all that was left of the fleet that had started—found a long-sought shelter in the harbour of the island of Juan Fernandez, off the southern coast of America. Of the 961 men who had sailed from England, only 335 were left alive. How could such as these ever hope to capture Spanish treasure-ships? But the brave heart of Anson was undaunted; each fresh disaster made him only more determined to succeed.
After a stay of 130 days on the island for repairs and refreshment, he set sail for the coast of Chili and Peru. How he captured the Spanish town of Paita at dead of night with only sixty British sailors, and carried off the silver from the treasury, is a story unsurpassed in naval history. Sailing on past Panama, he next laid wait off Acapulco for one of the great Mexican treasure-ships, but the Spaniards caught sight of an English sail in the distance, and they kept their treasure-ships at home. Had not the fight of Sir Richard Grenville on the little Revenge taught them to beware of the Englishman at sea?
It was no use waiting there any longer, so Anson turned his ships and faced the trackless path of the lonely Pacific Ocean. It was now May 1742. Two ships were left him now, and a furious gale disabled one; so the Centurion alone, with her great figurehead of a huge lion rampant carved in wood, ploughed the merciless waves of the wide Pacific. Scurvy was again doing its work and carrying off the crew by scores. Food was bad, water scarce; but for three months Anson resolutely kept on his way until the Ladrone Islands were reached. He was now down with scurvy himself, but pure water and fresh fruits soon revived the drooping men, and onwards they sailed once more.
It was now two years since he had left England,—years of hardship and suffering, of heroism unshaken by plague or storm. But his orders were yet unfulfilled. A treasure-ship from Mexico was due at the Philippine Islands on its way home to Spain. It would be a "stout ship and fully manned," probably with a crew of 600. Anson's crew was now 201. Should they try and capture her? With a shout of joy the stout-hearted sailors expressed their willingness to do or die. It was early dawn, one morning in June, when a cry rang through the silent air, "The ship! the ship!"
The Spanish vessel bore in sight, and the little Centurion sailed quickly towards her. In a squall of wind and rain Anson attacked her while she was yet totally unprepared. He scourged the Spanish decks with fire and drove the men from their guns. Soon he had captured his prize. With a mere handful of men, for he lost 150 killed and wounded, he navigated his own ship and the Spanish galleon through dangerous and unknown seas, he rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and landed in England on June 15, 1744, with his treasure. His voyage had been yet more amazing than that of Drake 160 years before. Amid unrivalled disaster Anson had brought his ship right round the world, he had fulfilled his orders, and he had added enduring fame to the British flag.
NCE, when his wisdom was less great, Odin had lived in the world of men. Frigga, his Queen, was with him then; they had lived on a bleak island, and they were known as Grimner the Fisherman and his wife.
Always Odin and Frigga were watching over the sons of men, watching to know which ones they would foster and train so that they might have the strength and spirit to save the world from the power of the Giants. And while they were staying on the bleak island, Odin and Frigga saw the sons of King Hrauding, and both thought that in them the spirit of heroes could be fostered. Odin and Frigga made plans to bring the children to them, so that they might be under their care and training. One day the boys went fishing. A storm came and drove their boat on the rocks of the island where Odin and Frigga lived.
They brought them to their hut, Odin and Frigga, and they told them they would care for them and train them through the winter and that in the spring they would build a boat that would carry them back to their father's country. "We shall see," said Odin to Frigga that night, "we shall see which of the two of them can be formed into the noblest hero."
He said that because Frigga favored one of the boys and he favored the other. Frigga thought well of the elder boy, Agnar, who had a gentle voice and quiet and kindly ways. But Odin though more of the younger boy. Geirrod, his name was, and he was strong and passionate, with a high and a loud voice.
Odin took Geirrod into his charge, and he showed him how to fish and hunt. He made the boy even bolder than he was by making him leap from rock to rock, and by letting him climb the highest cliffs and jump across the widest chasms. He would bring him to the den of the bear and make him fight for his life with the spear he had made for him. Agnar went to the chase, too, and showed his skill and boldness. But Geirrod overcame him in nearly every trial. "What a hero Geirrod will be," Odin would often say.
Agnar stayed often with Frigga. He would stay beside her while she spun, listening to the tales she told, and asking such questions as brought him more and more wisdom. And Agnar heard of Asgard and of the Dwellers in Asgard and of how they protected Midgard, the World of Men, from the Giants of Jötunheim. Agnar, though he did not speak out, said in his own mind that he would give all his life and all his strength and all his thought to helping the work of the Gods.
PRING came and Odin built a boat for Geirrod and Agnar. They could go back now to their own country. And before they set out Odin told Geirrod that one day he would come to visit him. "And do not be too proud to receive a Fisherman in your hall, Geirrod," said Odin. "A King should give welcome to the poorest who comes to his hall."
"I will be a hero, no doubt of that," Geirrod answered. "And I would be a King, too, only Agnar Little-good was born before me."
Agnar bade goodby to Frigga and to Odin, thanking them for the care they had taken of Geirrod and himself. He looked into Frigga's eyes, and he told her that he would strive to learn how he might fight the battle for the Gods.
The two went into the boat and they rowed away. They came near to King Hrauding's realm. They saw the castle overlooking the sea. Then Geirrod did a terrible thing. He turned the boat back toward the sea, and he cast the oars away. Then, for he was well fit to swim the roughest sea and climb the highest cliffs, he plunged into the water and struck out toward the shore. And Agnar, left without oars, went drifting out to sea.
Geirrod climbed the highest cliffs and came to his father's castle.
King Hrauding, who had given up both of his sons for lost, was rejoiced to see him. Geirrod told of Agnar that he had fallen out of the boat on their way back and that he had been drowned. King Hrauding, who had thought both of his sons were gone from him, was glad enough that one had come safe. He put Geirrod beside him on the throne, and when he died Geirrod was made King over the people.
ND now Odin, having drunk from Mimir's Well, went through the kingdoms of men, judging Kings and simple people according to the wisdom he had gained. He came at last to the kingdom that Geirrod ruled over. Odin thought that of all the Kings he had judged to be noble, Geirrod would assuredly be the noblest.
He went to the King's house as a Wanderer, blind of one eye, wearing a cloak of dark blue and with a wanderer's staff in his hands. As he drew near the King's house, men on dark horses came riding behind him. The first of the men did not turn his horse as he came near the Wanderer, but rode on, nearly trampling him to the ground.
As they came before the King's house the men on the dark horses shouted for servants. Only one servant was in the stable. He came out and took the horse of the first man. Then the others called upon the Wanderer to tend their horses. He had to hold the stirrups for some of them to dismount.
Odin knew who the first man was. He was Geirrod the King. And he knew who the man who served in the stable was. He was Agnar, Geirrod's brother. By the wisdom he had gained he knew that Agnar had come back to his father's kingdom in the guise of a servant, and he knew that Geirrod did not know who this servant was.
They went into the stable together. Agnar took bread and broke it and gave some to the Wanderer. He gave him, too, straw to seat himself on. But in a while Odin said, "I would seat myself at the fire in the King's hall and eat my supper of meat."
"Nay, stay here," Agnar said. "I will give you more bread and a wrap to cover yourself with. Do not go to the door of the King's house, for the King is angry to‑day and might repulse you."
"How?" said Odin. "A King turn away a Wanderer who comes to his door! It cannot be that he would do it!"
"To-day he is angry," Agnar said. Again he begged him not to go to the door of the King's house. But Odin rose up from the straw on which he was seated and went to the door.
A porter, hunchbacked and with long arms, stood at the door. "I am a Wanderer, and I would have rest and food in the King's hall," Odin said.
"Not in this King's hall," said the hunchbacked porter. He would have barred the door to Odin, but the voice of the King called him away. Odin then strode into the hall and saw the King at a table with his friends, all dark-bearded, and cruel-looking men. And when Odin looked on them he knew the boy whom he had trained in nobility had become a King over robbers.
"Since you have come into the hall where we eat, sing to us, Wanderer," shouted one of the dark men. "Aye, I will sing to you," said Odin. Then he stood between two of the stone pillars in the hall and he sang a song reproaching the King for having fallen into an evil way of life, and denouncing all for following the cruel ways of robbers.
"Seize him," said the King, when Odin's song was finished. The dark men threw themselves upon Odin and put chains around him and bound him between the stone pillars of the hall. "He came into this hall for warmth, and warmth he shall have," said Geirrod. He called upon his servants to heap up wood around him. They did this. Then the King, with his own hand, put a blazing torch to the wood and the fagots blazed up around the Wanderer.
The fagots burned round and round him. But the fire did not burn the flesh of Odin All-Father. The King and the King's friends stood round, watching with delight the fires blaze round a living man. The fagots all burned away, and Odin was left standing there with his terrible gaze fixed upon the men who were so hard and cruel.
They went to sleep, leaving him chained to the pillars of the hall. Odin could have broken the chains and pulled down the pillars, but he wanted to see what else would happen in this King's house. The servants were ordered not to bring food or drink to him, but at dawn, when there was no one near, Agnar came to him with a horn of ale and gave it to him to drink.
The next evening when the King came back from his robberies, and when he and his friends, sitting down at the tables, had eaten like wolves, he ordered the fagots to be placed around Odin. And again they stood around, watching in delight the fire playing around a living man. And as before Odin stood there, unhurt by the fire, and his steady and terrible gaze made the King hate him more and more. And all day he was kept in chains, and the servants were forbidden to bring him food or drink. None knew that a horn of ale was brought to him at dawn.
And night after night, for eight nights, this went on. Then, on the ninth night, when the fires around him had been lighted, Odin lifted up his voice and began to sing a song.
His song became louder and louder, and the King and the King's friends and the servants of the King's house had to stand still and harken to it. Odin sang about Geirrod the King; how the Gods had protected him, giving him strength and skill, and how instead of making a noble use of that strength and skill he had made himself like one of the wild beasts. Then he sang of how the vengeance of the Gods was about to fall on this ignoble King.
The flames died down and Geirrod and his friends saw before them, not a friendless Wanderer, but one who looked more kingly than any King of the earth. The chains fell down from his body and he advanced toward the evil company. Then Geirrod rushed upon him with his sword in hand to kill him. The sword struck him, but Odin remained unhurt.
Thy life runs out,
The Gods they are wroth with thee;
Draw near if thou canst;
Odin thou shalt see.
So Odin sang, and, in fear of his terrible gaze, Geirrod and his company shrank away. And as they shrank away they were changed into beasts, into the wolves that range the forests.
And Agnar came forward, and him Odin declared to be King. All the folk were glad when Agnar came to rule over them, for they had been oppressed by Geirrod in his cruel reign. And Agnar was not only kind, but he was strong and victorious in his rule.
"Little by little," an acorn said,
As it slowly sank in its mossy bed.
"I am improving every day,
Hidden deep in the earth away."
Little by little, each day it grew,
Little by little, it sipped the dew;
Downward it sent out a thread-like root,
Up in the air sprung a tiny shoot.
Day after day, and year after year,
Little by little, the leaves appear,
And the slender branches spread far and wide,
Till the mighty oak is the forest's pride.
"Little by little," said a thoughtful boy,
"Moment by moment I'll well employ;
Learning a little every day,
And not spending all my time in play;
And still this rule in my mind shall dwell—
'Whatever I do, I'll do it well.'
"Little by little, I'll learn to know
The treasured wisdom of long ago,
And one of these days perhaps we'll see
That the world will be the better for me."
And do you not think that this simple plan
Made him a wise and useful man?
WEEK 11 |
W HEN Prince Dolor sat up in bed, trying to remember where he was, whither he had been, and what he had seen the day before, he perceived that his room was empty.
Generally his nurse rather worried him by breaking his slumbers, coming in and "setting things to rights," as she called it. Now the dust lay thick upon chairs and tables; there was no harsh voice heard to scold him for not getting up immediately—which, I am sorry to say, this boy did not always do. For he so enjoyed lying still, and thinking lazily about everything or nothing, that, if he had not tried hard against it, he would certainly have become like those celebrated
"Two little men
Who lay in their bed till the clock struck ten."
It was striking ten now, and still no nurse was to be seen. He was rather relieved at first, for he felt so tired; and besides, when he stretched out his arm, he found to his dismay that he had gone to bed in his clothes.
Very uncomfortable he felt, of course; and just a little frightened. Especially when he began to call and call again, but nobody answered. Often he used to think how nice it would be to get rid of his nurse and live in this tower all by himself—like a sort of monarch able to do everything he liked, and leave undone all that he did not want to do; but now that this seemed really to have happened, he did not like it at all.
"Nurse—dear nurse—please come back!" he called out. "Come back, and I will be the best boy in all the land."
And when she did not come back, and nothing but silence answered his lamentable call, he very nearly began to cry.
"This won't do," he said at last, dashing the tears from his eyes. "It's just like a baby, and I'm a big boy—shall be a man some day. What has happened, I wonder? I'll go and see."
He sprang out of bed—not to his feet, alas! but to his poor little weak knees, and crawled on them from room to room. All the four chambers were deserted—not forlorn or untidy, for everything seemed to have been done for his comfort—the breakfast and dinner-things were laid, the food spread in order. He might live "like a prince," as the proverb is, for several days. But the place was entirely forsaken—there was evidently not a creature but himself in the solitary tower.
A great fear came upon the poor boy. Lonely as his life had been, he had never known what it was to be absolutely alone. A kind of despair seized him—no violent anger or terror, but a sort of patient desolation.
"What in the world am I to do?" thought he, and sat down in the middle of the floor, half inclined to believe that it would be better to give up entirely, lay himself down and die.
This feeling, however, did not last long, for he was young and strong,
and I said before, by nature a very courageous boy. There came into
his head, somehow or other, a proverb that his nurse had taught him—the
people of Nomansland were very fond of
"For every evil under the sun
There is a remedy, or there's none;
If there is one, try to
If there isn't, never mind it."
"I wonder—is there a remedy now, and could I find it?" cried the Prince, jumping up and looking out of the window.
No help there. He only saw the broad bleak sunshiny plain—that is, at first. But, by-and-by, in the circle of mud that surrounded the base of the tower, he perceived distinctly the marks of a horse's feet, and just in the spot where the deaf-mute was accustomed to tie up his great black charger, while he himself ascended, there lay the remains of a bundle of hay and a feed of corn.
"Yes, that's it. He has come and gone, taking nurse away with him. Poor nurse! how glad she would be to go!"
That was Prince Dolor's first thought. His second—wasn't it natural?—was a passionate indignation at her cruelty—at the cruelty of all the world toward him, a poor little helpless boy. Then he determined, forsaken as he was, to try and hold on to the last, and not to die as long as he could possibly help it.
Anyhow, it would be easier to die here than out in the world, among the terrible doings which he had just beheld. From the midst of which, it suddenly struck him, the deaf-mute had come—contrived somehow to make the nurse understand that the king was dead, and she need have no fear in going back to the capital, where there was a grand revolution, and everything turned upside down. So, of course, she had gone.
"I hope she'll enjoy it, miserable woman—if they don't cut off her head too."
And then a kind of remorse smote him for feeling so bitterly toward her, after all the years she had taken care of him—grudgingly, perhaps, and coldly; still, she had taken care of him, and that even to the last: for, as I have said, all his four rooms were as tidy as possible, and his meals laid out, that he might have no more trouble than could be helped.
"Possibly she did not mean to be cruel. I won't judge her," said he. And afterwards he was very glad that he had so determined.
For the second time he tried to dress himself, and then to do everything he could for himself—even to sweeping up the hearth and putting on more coals. "It's a funny thing for a prince to have to do," said he, laughing. "But my godmother once said princes need never mind doing anything."
And then he thought a little of his godmother. Not of summoning her, or asking her to help him—she had evidently left him to help himself, and he was determined to try his best to do it, being a very proud and independent boy—but he remembered her tenderly and regretfully, as if even she had been a little hard upon him—poor, forlorn boy that he was! But he seemed to have seen and learned so much within the last few days, that he scarcely felt like a boy, but a man—until he went to bed at night.
When I was a child, I used often to think how nice it would be to live in a little house all by my own self—a house built high up in a tree, or far away in a forest, or halfway up a hillside,—so deliciously alone and independent. Not a lesson to learn—but no! I always liked learning my lessons. Anyhow, to choose the lessons I liked best, to have as many books to read and dolls to play with as ever I wanted: above all, to be free and at rest, with nobody to tease or trouble or scold me, would be charming. For I was a lonely little thing, who liked quietness—as many children do; which other children, and sometimes grown-up people even, cannot always understand. And so I can understand Prince Dolor.
After his first despair, he was not merely comfortable, but actually happy in his solitude, doing everything for himself, and enjoying everything by himself—until bedtime.
Then he did not like it at all. No more, I suppose, than other children would have liked my imaginary house in a tree, when they had had sufficient of their own company.
But the prince had to bear it—and he did bear it, like a prince—for fully five days. All that time he got up in the morning and went to bed at night without having spoken to a creature, or, indeed, heard a single sound. For even his little lark was silent: and as for his travelling-cloak, either he never thought about it, or else it had been spirited away—for he made no use of it, nor attempted to do so.
A very strange existence it was, those five lonely days. He never entirely forgot it. It threw him back upon himself, and into himself—in a way that all of us have to learn when we grow up, and are the better for it—but it is somewhat hard learning.
On the sixth day Prince Dolor had a strange composure in his look, but he was very grave and thin and white. He had nearly come to the end of his provisions—and what was to happen next? Get out of the tower he could not; the ladder the deaf-mute used was always carried away again; and if it had not been, how could the poor boy have used it? And even if he slung or flung himself down, and by miraculous chance came alive to the foot of the tower how could he run away?
Fate had been very hard to him, or so it seemed.
He made up his mind to die. Not that he wished to die; on the contrary, there was a great deal that he wished to live to do; but if he must die, he must. Dying did not seem so very dreadful; not even to lie quiet like his uncle, whom he had entirely forgiven now, and neither be miserable nor naughty any more, and escape all those horrible things that he had seen going on outside the palace, in that awful place which was called "the world."
"It's a great deal nicer here," said the poor little Prince, and collected all his pretty things round him: his favorite pictures, which he thought he should like to have near him when he died; his books and toys—no, he had ceased to care for toys now; he only liked them because he had done so as a child. And there he sat very calm and patient, like a king in his castle, waiting for the end.
"Still, I wish I had done something first—something worth doing, that somebody might remember me by," thought he. "Suppose I had grown a man, and had had work to do, and people to care for, and was so useful and busy that they liked me, and perhaps even forgot I was lame? Then it would have been nice to live, I think."
A tear came into the little fellow's eyes, and he listened intently through the dead silence for some hopeful sound.
Was there one?—was it his little lark, whom he had almost forgotten? No, nothing half so sweet. But it really was something—something which came nearer and nearer, so that there was no mistaking it. It was the sound of a trumpet, one of the great silver trumpets so admired in Nomansland. Not pleasant music, but very bold, grand, and inspiring.
As he listened to it the boy seemed to recall many things which had slipped his memory for years, and to nerve himself for whatever might be going to happen.
What had happened was this.
The poor condemned woman had not been such a wicked woman after all. Perhaps her courage was not wholly disinterested, but she had done a very heroic thing. As soon as she heard of the death and burial of the King and of the changes that were taking place in the country, a daring idea came into her head—to set upon the throne of Nomansland its rightful heir. Thereupon she persuaded the deaf-mute to take her away with him, and they galloped like the wind from city to city, spreading everywhere the news that Prince Dolor's death and burial had been an invention concocted by his wicked uncle—that he was alive and well, and the noblest young Prince that ever was born.
It was a bold stroke, but it succeeded. The country, weary perhaps of the late King's harsh rule, and yet glad to save itself from the horrors of the last few days, and the still further horrors of no rule at all, and having no particular interest in the other young princes, jumped at the idea of this Prince, who was the son of their late good King and the beloved Queen Dolorez.
"Hurrah for Prince Dolor! Let Prince Dolor be our sovereign!" rang from end to end of the kingdom. Everybody tried to remember what a dear baby he once was—how like his mother, who had been so sweet and kind, and his father, the finest-looking king that ever reigned. Nobody remembered his lameness—or, if they did, they passed it over as a matter of no consequence. They were determined to have him to reign over them, boy as he was—perhaps just because he was a boy, since in that case the great nobles thought they should be able to do as they liked with the country.
Accordingly, with a fickleness not confined to the people of Nomansland, no sooner was the late King laid in his grave than they pronounced him to have been a usurper; turned all his family out of the palace, and left it empty for the reception of the new sovereign, whom they went to fetch with great rejoicing; a select body of lords, gentlemen, and soldiers travelling night and day in solemn procession through the country until they reached Hopeless Tower.
There they found the Prince, sitting calmly on the floor—deadly pale, indeed, for he expected a quite different end from this, and was resolved, if he had to die, to die courageously, like a prince and a king.
But when they hailed him as prince and king, and explained to him how matters stood, and went down on their knees before him, offering the crown (on a velvet cushion, with four golden tassels, each nearly as big as his head)—small though he was and lame, which lameness the courtiers pretended not to notice,—there came such a glow into his face, such a dignity into his demeanour, that he became beautiful, king-like.
"Yes," he said, "if you desire it, I will be your king. And I will do my best to make my people happy."
Then there arose, from inside and outside the tower, such a shout as never yet was heard across the lonely plain.
Prince Dolor shrank a little from the deafening sound. "How shall I be able to rule all this great people? You forget, my lords, that I am only a little boy still."
"Not so very little," was the respectful answer. "We have searched in the records, and found that your Royal Highness—your Majesty, I mean—is fifteen years old."
"Am I?" said Prince Dolor; and his first thought was a thoroughly childish pleasure that he should now have a birthday, with a whole nation to keep it. Then he remembered that his childish days were done. He was a monarch now. Even his nurse, to whom, the moment he saw her, he had held out his hand, kissed it reverently, and called him ceremoniously "his Majesty the King."
"A king must be always a king, I suppose," said he half sadly, when, the ceremonies over, he had been left to himself for just ten minutes, to put off his boy's clothes and be reattired in magnificent robes, before he was conveyed away from his tower to the Royal Palace.
He could take nothing with him; indeed, he soon saw that, however politely they spoke, they would not allow him to take anything. If he was to be their king, he must give up his old life for ever. So he looked with tender farewell on his old books, old toys, the furniture he knew so well, and the familiar plain in all its levelness—ugly yet pleasant, simply because it was familiar.
"It will be a new life in a new world," said he to himself; "but I'll remember the old things still. And, oh! if before I go, I could but once see my dear old godmother."
While he spoke he had laid himself down on the bed for a minute or two, rather tired with his grandeur, and confused by the noise of the trumpets which kept playing incessantly down below. He gazed, half sadly, up to the skylight, whence there came pouring a stream of sun-rays, with innumerable motes floating there, like a bridge thrown between heaven and earth. Sliding down it, as if she had been made of air, came the little old woman in grey.
There came pouring a stream of sun-rays . . . like a bridge . . . Sliding down it, as if she had been made of air, came the little old woman in grey.
So beautiful looked she—old as she was—that Prince Dolor was at first quite startled by the apparition. Then he held out his arms in eager delight.
"Oh, godmother, you have not forsaken me!"
"Not at all, my son. You may not have seen me, but I have seen you, many a time."
"O, never mind. I can turn into anything I please, you know. And I have been a bear-skin rug, and a crystal goblet—and sometimes I have changed from inanimate to animate nature, put on feathers, and made myself very comfortable as a bird."
"Ha!" laughed the Prince, a new light breaking in upon him as he caught the infection of her tone, lively and mischievous. "Ha! ha! a lark, for instance?"
"Or a magpie," answered she, with a capital imitation of Mistress Mag's croaky voice. "Do you suppose I am always sentimental, and never funny?—If anything makes you happy, gay or grave, don't you think it is more than likely to come through your old godmother?"
"I believe that," said the boy tenderly, holding out his arms. They clasped one another in a close embrace.
Suddenly Prince Dolor looked very anxious. "You will not leave me now that I am a king? Otherwise I had rather not be a king at all. Promise never to forsake me!"
The little old woman laughed gaily. "Forsake you? that is impossible. But it is just possible you may forsake me. Not probable though. Your mother never did, and she was a queen. The sweetest queen in all the world was the Lady Dolorez."
"Tell me about her," said the boy eagerly. "As I get older I think I can understand more. Do tell me."
"Not now. You couldn't hear me for the trumpets and the shouting. But when you are come to the palace, ask for a long-closed upper room, which looks out upon the Beautiful Mountains; open it and take it for your own. Whenever you go there you will always find me, and we will talk together about all sorts of things."
"And about my mother?"
The little old woman nodded—and kept nodding and smiling to herself many times, as the boy repeated over and over again the sweet words he had never known or understood—"my mother—my mother."
"Now I must go," said she, as the trumpets blared louder and louder, and the shouts of the people showed that they would not endure any delay. "Good-bye, Good-bye! Open the window and out I fly."
Prince Dolor repeated gaily the musical rhyme—but all the while tried to hold his godmother fast.
Vain, vain!—for the moment that a knocking was heard at his door the sun went behind a cloud, the bright stream of dancing motes vanished, and the little old woman with them—he knew not where.
So Prince Dolor quitted his tower—which he had entered so mournfully and ignominiously, as a little helpless baby carried in the deaf-mute's arms—quitted it as the great King of Nomansland.
So Prince Dolor quitted his tower . . . quitted it as the great King of Nomansland.
The only thing he took away with him was something so insignificant that none of the lords, gentlemen, and soldiers who escorted him with such triumphant splendour could possibly notice it—a tiny bundle, which he had found lying on the floor just where the bridge of sunbeams had rested. At once he had pounced upon it, and thrust it secretly into his bosom, where it dwindled into such small proportions, that it might have been taken for a mere chest-comforter—a bit of flannel, or an old pocket-handkerchief.
It was his travelling-cloak!
D ID Prince Dolor become a great king? Was he, though little more than a boy, "the father of his people," as all kings ought to be? Did his reign last long—long and happy? and what were the principal events of it, as chronicled in the history of Nomansland?
Why, if I were to answer all these questions, I should have to write another book. And I'm tired, children, tired—as grown-up people sometimes are; though not always with play. (Besides, I have a small person belonging to me, who, though she likes extremely to listen to the word-of-mouth story of this book, grumbles much at the writing of it, and has run about the house clapping her hands with joy when mamma told her that it was nearly finished. But that is neither here nor there.)
I have related, as well as I could, the history of Prince Dolor, but with the history of Nomansland I am as yet unacquainted. If anybody knows it, perhaps he or she will kindly write it all down in another book. But mine is done.
However, of this I am sure, that Prince Dolor made an excellent king. Nobody ever does anything less well, not even the commonest duty of common daily life, for having such a godmother as the little old woman clothed in grey, whose name is—well, I leave you to guess. Nor, I think, is anybody less good, less capable of both work and enjoyment in after life, for having been a little unhappy in his youth, as the Prince had been.
I cannot take upon myself to say that he was always happy now—who is?—or that he had no cares; just show me the person who is quite free from them! But whenever people worried and bothered him—as they did sometimes, with state etiquette, state squabbles, and the like, setting up themselves and pulling down their neighbours—he would take refuge in that upper room which looked out on the Beautiful Mountains, and, laying his head on his godmother's shoulder, become calmed and at rest.
Also, she helped him out of any difficulty which now and then occurred—for there never was such a wise old woman. When the people of Nomansland raised the alarm—as sometimes they did—for what people can exist without a little fault-finding?—and began to cry out, "Unhappy is the nation whose king is a child," she would say to him gently, "You are a child. Accept the fact. Be humble—be teachable. Lean upon the wisdom of others till you have gained your own."
He did so. He learned how to take advice before attempting to give it, to obey before he could righteously command. He assembled round him all the good and wise of his kingdom—laid all its affairs before them, and was guided by their opinions until he had maturely formed his own.
This he did, sooner than anybody would have imagined, who did not know of his godmother and his travelling-cloak—two secret blessings, which, though many guessed at, nobody quite understood. Nor did they understand why he loved so the little upper room, except that it had been his mother's room, from the window of which, as people remembered now, she had used to sit for hours watching the Beautiful Mountains.
Out of that window he used to fly—not very often; as he grew older, the labours of state prevented the frequent use of his travelling-cloak; still he did use it sometimes. Only now it was less for his own pleasure and amusement than to see something, or investigate something, for the good of the country. But he prized his godmother's gift as dearly as ever. It was a comfort to him in all his vexations; an enhancement of all his joys. It made him almost forget his lameness—which was never cured.
However, the cruel things which had been once foreboded of him did not happen. His misfortune was not such a heavy one, after all. It proved to be of much less inconvenience, even to himself, than had been feared. A council of eminent surgeons and mechanicians invented for him a wonderful pair of crutches, with the help of which, though he never walked easily or gracefully, he did manage to walk, so as to be quite independent. And such was the love his people bore him that they never heard the sound of his crutch on the marble palace-floors without a leap of the heart, for they knew that good was coming to them whenever he approached.
Thus, though he never walked in processions, never reviewed his troops mounted on a magnificent charger, nor did any of the things which make a show monarch so much appreciated, he was able for all the duties and a great many of the pleasures of his rank. When he held his levées, not standing, but seated on a throne ingeniously contrived to hide his infirmity, the people thronged to greet him; when he drove out through the city streets, shouts followed him wherever he went—every countenance brightened as he passed, and his own, perhaps, was the brightest of all.
When he drove out through the city streets, shouts followed him wherever he went.
First, because, accepting his affliction as inevitable, he took it patiently; second, because, being a brave man, he bore it bravely; trying to forget himself, and live out of himself, and in and for other people. Therefore other people grew to love him so well, that I think hundreds of his subjects might have been found who were almost ready to die for their poor lame king.
He never gave them a queen. When they implored him to choose one, he replied that his country was his bride, and he desired no other. But, perhaps, the real reason was that he shrank from any change; and that no wife in all the world would have been found so perfect, so lovable, so tender to him in all his weaknesses as his beautiful old godmother.
His four-and-twenty other godfathers and godmothers, or as many of them as were still alive, crowded round him as soon as he ascended the throne. He was very civil to them all, but adopted none of the names they had given him, keeping to the one by which he had been always known, though it had now almost lost its meaning; for King Dolor was one of the happiest and cheerfullest men alive.
He did a good many things, however, unlike most men and most kings, which a little astonished his subjects. First, he pardoned the condemned woman who had been his nurse, and ordained that from henceforth there should be no such thing as the punishment of death in Nomansland. All capital criminals were to be sent to perpetual imprisonment in Hopeless Tower and the plain round about it, where they could do no harm to anybody, and might in time do a little good, as the woman had done.
Another surprise he shortly afterwards gave the nation. He recalled his uncle's family, who had fled away in terror to another country, and restored them to all their honours in their own. By-and-by he chose the eldest son of his eldest cousin (who had been dead a year), and had him educated in the royal palace, as the heir to the throne. This little prince was a quiet, unobtrusive boy, so that everybody wondered at the King's choosing him when there were so many more; but as he grew into a fine young fellow, good and brave, they agreed that the King judged more wisely than they.
"Not a lame prince, either," his Majesty observed one day, watching him affectionately; for he was the best runner, the highest leaper, the keenest and most active sportsman in the country. "One cannot make oneself, but one can sometimes help a little in the making of somebody else. It is well."
This was said, not to any of his great lords and ladies, but to a good old woman—his first homely nurse—whom he had sought for far and wide, and at last found, in her cottage among the Beautiful Mountains. He sent for her to visit him once a year, and treated her with great honour until she died. He was equally kind, though somewhat less tender, to his other nurse, who, after receiving her pardon, returned to her native town and grew into a great lady, and I hope a good one. But as she was so grand a personage now, any little faults she had did not show.
But as she was so grand a personage now, any little faults she had did not show.
Thus King Dolor's reign passed year after year, long and prosperous. Whether he were happy—"as happy as a king"—is a question no human being can decide. But I think he was, because he had the power of making everybody about him happy, and did it too; also because he was his godmother's godson, and could shut himself up with her whenever he liked, in that quiet little room, in view of the Beautiful Mountains, which nobody else ever saw or cared to see. They were too far off, and the city lay so low. But there they were, all the time. No change ever came to them; and I think, at any day throughout his long reign, the King would sooner have lost his crown than have lost sight of the Beautiful Mountains.
In course of time, when the little prince, his cousin, was grown into a tall young man, capable of all the duties of a man, his Majesty did one of the most extraordinary acts ever known in a sovereign beloved by his people and prosperous in his reign. He announced that he wished to invest his heir with the royal purple—at any rate, for a time—while he himself went away on a distant journey, whither he had long desired to go.
Everybody marvelled, but nobody opposed him. Who could oppose the good King, who was not a young king now? And besides, the nation had a great admiration for the young Regent—and, possibly, a lurking pleasure in change.
So there was a fixed day when all the people whom it would hold assembled in the great square of the capital, to see the young Prince installed solemnly in his new duties, and undertaking his new vows. He was a very fine young fellow; tall and straight as a poplar tree, with a frank handsome face—a great deal handsomer than the King, some people said, but others thought differently. However, as his Majesty sat on his throne, with his grey hair falling from underneath his crown, and a few wrinkles showing in spite of his smile, there was something about his countenance which made his people, even while they shouted, regard him with a tenderness mixed with awe.
He lifted up his thin, slender hand, and there came a silence over the vast crowd immediately. Then he spoke, in his own accustomed way, using no grand words, but saying what he had to say in the simplest fashion, though with a clearness that struck their ears like the first song of a bird in the dusk of the morning.
"My people, I am tired: I want to rest. I have had a long reign, and done much work—at least, as much as I was able to do. Many might have done it better than I—but none with a better will. Now I leave it to others; I am tired, very tired. Let me go home."
There arose a murmur—of content or discontent none could well tell; then it died down again, and the assembly listened silently once more.
"I am not anxious about you—my people—my children," continued the king. "You are prosperous and at peace. I leave you in good hands. The Prince Regent will be a fitter king for you than I."
"No, no, no!" rose the universal shout—and those who had sometimes found fault with him shouted louder than anybody. But he seemed as if he heard them not.
"Yes, yes," said he, as soon as the tumult had a little subsided: and his voice sounded firm and clear; and some very old people, who boasted of having seen him as a child, declared that his face took a sudden change, and grew as young and sweet as that of the little Prince Dolor. "Yes, I must go. It is time for me to go. Remember me sometimes, my people, for I have loved you well. And I am going a long way, and I do not think I shall come back any more."
He drew a little bundle out of his breast pocket—a bundle that nobody had ever seen before. It was small and shabby-looking, and tied up with many knots, which untied themselves in an instant. With a joyful countenance, he muttered over it a few half-intelligible words. Then, so suddenly that even those nearest to his Majesty could not tell how it came about, the King was away—away—floating right up in the air—upon something, they knew not what, except that it appeared to be as safe and pleasant as the wings of a bird.
And after him sprang a bird—a dear little lark, rising from whence no one could say, since larks do not usually build their nests in the pavement of city squares. But there it was, a real lark, singing far over their heads, louder and clearer and more joyful as it vanished further into the blue sky.
Shading their eyes, and straining their ears, the astonished people stood, until the whole vision disappeared like a speck in the clouds—the rosy clouds that overhung the Beautiful Mountains.
Then they guessed that they should see their beloved king no more. Well-beloved as he was, he had always been somewhat of a mystery to them, and such he remained. But they went home, and, accepting their new monarch, obeyed him faithfully for his cousin's sake.
King Dolor was never again beheld or heard of in his country. But the good he had done there lasted for years and years; he was long missed and deeply mourned—at least, so far as anybody could mourn one who was gone on such a happy journey.
Whither he went, or who went with him, it is impossible to say. But I myself believe that his godmother took him, on his travelling-cloak, to the Beautiful Mountains. What he did there, or where he is now, who can tell? I cannot. But one thing I am quite sure of, that, wherever he is, he is perfectly happy.
And so, when I think of him, am I.
O F course no one, not even Miss Apis nor the lovely Venus herself, could live entirely upon nectar.
We know that the gods and goddesses, when they had a party on Mount Olympus, always had ambrosia as well as nectar.
They sat around and had it passed to them by the graceful goddess Hebe. She was as beautiful as the springtime, and I have no doubt they often ate and drank more than was good for them, just for the sake of having her bring them one more cup of nectar or one more slice of ambrosia.
The nectar of the gods was like honey; some say that nine-tenths of it was honey.
Just what ambrosia was, I am not able to say, but I suppose it was like the best bread that ever was made on earth, only a great deal better; and like the most delicious cake that ever was concocted for Christmas time, only a great deal more delicious; and like all the bonbons and good things rolled into one, only a great deal sweeter and finer than anything we can possibly imagine.
Miss Apis, too, takes ambrosia with her nectar, though hers is not at all like that of the gods and goddesses. She gets it from the flowers, and is very fond of it. Though we do not agree with her concerning the excellence of her feast. But then we might not like the ambrosia the gods were fond of. Tastes differ. Her ambrosia just suits Mill Apis. In fact, she finds it so much to her mind that she seldom eats anything else. She drinks nectar and eats ambrosia. Her nectar is the sweet juice of the flowers, and her ambrosia is the pollen of the flowers, —a very precious ambrosia indeed.
Miss Apis not only eats all she wants when she visits the flowers, but she mixes nectar and pollen together and carries them away with her.
She is able to do this for she always carries baskets on purpose. She never yet was known to go away from home and forget to take her pollen baskets.
WEEK 11 |
The glad season of Easter was close at hand, but it held no meaning for the people of this dark land. True, they had their own religion, a strange worship of the sun, and their priests, who were called Druids, were said to possess magical powers and great wisdom. They had great festivals too in which all the people joined, and one of these was just about to be held at Tara. Here the Druids were all assembled to do honour to the sun, which was becoming powerful enough to put winter to flight and warm the spring buds into summer blossoms. For some days before the feast, every fire was put out, and not a light was allowed to be kindled, on pain of death, until the great festal light should be lighted on the Hill of Tara.
Now Patrick was brave as a lion, and his heart was set on delivering his message and spreading the True Light in this heathen darkness, so there was no room for fear. The gathering of the priests and the presence of the powerful King Laoghaire seemed to him a splendid opportunity of fighting the powers of evil.
Across hill and dale he travelled swiftly with his little band of followers until he reached the Hill of Slane, close to Tara. There, on Easter Eve, when the land was wrapt in darkness, when not the faintest glimmer of a light could be seen in the solemn blackness that brooded over Tara's Hill, he lit his Easter fire and watched the tongues of flame as they shot up and lighted the whole country round.
The King and his councillors the Druids came hastily together in anger and astonishment when they saw the glowing light.
"Who has dared to do this thing?" asked the King in a fury.
"It is none of our people," said the priest: "it is the challenge of an enemy."
The wise men were troubled and talked together in half-fearful tones. There was an ancient prophecy which rung in their ears, and made them wonder if the man they had seen wending his way at the head of his little company that day to the Hill of Slane was possessed of some magic power.
Slowly one of the Druids chanted the verse, while the others listened sullenly.
"He comes, he comes with shaven crown,
from off the storm-tossed sea,
His garment piercèd at the neck,
with crook-like staff comes he.
Far in his house, at its east end,
his cups and patins lie.
His people answer to his voice:
Amen, Amen, they cry. Amen, Amen."
"Whoe'er he be, he shall not come to challenge our power," quoth the King. "We will go forth and punish this bold stranger."
Down the dark silent hillside the King and his councillors rode furiously, and never stopped until they reached the Hill of Slane. But there the Druids called a halt.
"Let a messenger be sent to fetch forth the man," they said; "we will not venture within the line of his magic fire."
"We will receive him here," said the King, "and let no man rise when he approaches lest he should think that in any way we seek to honour him."
So the men sat down silently to wait until the messenger should return, and ere long Patrick was seen to come swiftly down the hill towards them. That was the man, there was no doubt of it. As he came nearer they could see the shaven crown, the robe pierced at the neck, and in his hand the crook-like staff, while from the hill-top could be heard the music of the Easter hymn and the chanting of the loud "Amen."
The company sat silent and unmoved as Patrick approached. Only one little lad, watching with intent eyes the face of the stranger, rose to his feet in reverent greeting, forgetting the King's command.
A gentle look came into Patrick's eyes as he noticed the eager greeting and, raising his hand, he blessed the little lad.
"Who art thou, and what is thy errand here?" thundered the King.
"I am a torchbearer," answered Patrick. "I bring the True Light to lighten this dark land, to spread around peace and goodwill. All I ask is that thou wilt hear my message."
Alone and unarmed but quite fearless, Patrick stood up before the angry men next day, and spoke such words as they had never heard before. It was a new and wonderful teaching, and many of the wise men and nobles listened eagerly; and when he was done they came and asked to be baptized and enrolled under the banner of Patrick's God.
That was a glad Eastertide for the bishop, and as time went on the light spread far and wide. Many there were who shut their eyes and loved the darkness rather than the light, but Patrick was wise in his dealings with them all. He was never harsh or scornful of their beliefs, but always tried to lead them through what was good and beautiful in their own religion, using old customs and feasts to do honour to Christ, giving them a new meaning that linked them to His service.
Then, too, he wisely tried to win over the chief men of the land to become Christians, knowing that their followers would the more readily follow their masters. Young boys were also his special care, remembering as he always did his bitter years of lonely slavery, and these lads were to him as sons. The boy he had blessed on that Easter Eve on the hillside of Slane was now one of his followers, and years afterwards we hear of him as Bishop of Slane. It was one of these lads whom Patrick loved so well, whose bravery and loyal devotion once saved the good bishop's life.
Coming one day to the spot where a great stone marked the place of the Druids' worship, Patrick overthrew the stone that he might set up an altar instead. This was considered a terrible insult, and one of the heathen chiefs vowed that, come what might, he would kill Patrick wherever he found him.
Now the lad who drove Patrick's chariot heard this threat, and accordingly guarded his master with increased watchfulness. At last, however, his enemy's opportunity came, for Patrick's journeying took him past the chief's abode. The boy Oran knew that his master had no fear and would never turn aside to escape danger, so, as they neared the place, he thought of a plan to save him.
"I grow so weary with this long day of driving, my master," he said. "My hands can scarce hold the reins. If thou wouldst but drive for a space and let me rest, all would be well."
"Thou shouldst have asked sooner, my son," said the bishop kindly. "I am but a hard master to overtask thy strength."
So saying, Patrick changed seats, and gathering up the reins, drove on, while the boy sat behind in his master's seat, and prayed that the gathering darkness might close in swiftly, so that no one could mark the change.
Very soon they reached the outskirts of a dense wood, and from the sheltering trees a dark figure sprang out. The frightened horse reared for a moment, there was a singing sound of some weapon whizzing through the air, and when Patrick turned to see what it meant, the boy lay dead with a javelin in his heart—the murderer's weapon, which had been meant for the master. Well might Patrick, as he knelt there in his bitter grief, bear in his heart the echo of his Master's words, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Journeying on from place to place teaching the people, Patrick came at one time to Cruachan, and there, by the well of Clebach, he stopped to rest in the early morning with his little band of followers. Very earnestly they talked together in the dim morning light, and they had no eyes to notice the glorious golden banners flung out in the east to herald the rising sun, nor did they notice two white-clad figures that came stealing up towards the well where they sat.
When the day is just awakening, and the stillness and mystery of the night still lies hid in sleepy hollows and shadowy woods, there is a magic spell upon the earth. It is the same old world, and yet all is fresh, all is good and beautiful. Fear is not yet awake. Wild creatures are tame and friendly. Who would hurt them in this magic hour? Every flower holds its drop of dew close at its heart; there will be time enough to open later on when the sunbeams steal in and drink the crystal drops. Some there are who call this time "God's hour," and say the strange hush and peacefulness are there because the good God walks through His world at dawn.
It was at this hour that King Laoghaire's two daughters, Ethne and Fedelin, stole up the hillside to bathe in the clear waters of the Clebach spring. Hand in hand they climbed, glancing half fearfully at the hollows where the shadows still lingered, and speaking in whispers lest they should frighten the fairies that had been dancing all night on the hillside.
Suddenly, when they came in sight of the well, they stopped in amazement and half in fear. Had they caught the fairies at last, or were these spirits, these quiet solemn men seated there like a circle of grey ghosts?
Slowly Ethne the Fair went forward and spoke to the spirit who seemed to be king among the rest.
"Whence do you come?" she asked, "and what is your name?"
Fedelin the Ruddy then drew near to hear the answer. She was no longer afraid when she saw how kindly was the look in the stranger's eyes.
"Nay," answered Patrick, "it matters little who I am and whence I came, for I must soon pass away. Better it were to seek to know the God whom I serve, for He liveth for ever."
"Who is your God?" asked Ethne, "and where is He? Is He in heaven or in earth, in the sea or in mountains?"
"How can we know Him?" asked Fedelin. "Where is He to be found?"
"My God is the God of all men, and He is everywhere," answered Patrick. Then, pointing to the rosy east, the mist-wrapt mountains and homely meadowland, he told them how God had made the world and all that is in it, how He loved it, and had sent His son, born of a pure virgin, to redeem it.
"He is the King of Heaven and Earth," said Patrick, "and it is meet that ye, the daughters of an earthly king, should also be the children of the heavenly King."
It was a wonderful story, and the two maidens listened with breathless attention. "Teach us most diligently how we may believe in the heavenly King," they said. "Show us how we may see Him face to face, and whatsoever thou shalt say unto us, we will do."
The clear water of the fountain was close at hand, and Patrick led the two fair princesses to the brink and there baptized them in the name of Christ.
"Yet can ye not see the King face to face," he said, "until ye sleep in death and your souls shall wing their way up to His starry chamber."
The maidens earnestly prayed that they might not have long to wait, and the old story tells us that then they "received the Eucharist of God, and they slept in death." Like two fair flowers just opening their petals in the dawning light, the Master's hand gathered them before the heat and dust of the working day had time to wither their freshness or soil their spotless purity.
Many there were besides these gentle maidens who learned to believe in Patrick's God. His teaching came like a trumpet-call to the strong men and lawless chieftains who ruled the land. They were brave and fearless warriors these heathen chiefs, men who met pain and suffering with unflinching courage and scorned to show their hurt; men after Patrick's own heart, fit soldiers to serve his King. There was one, Aengus by name, King of Munster, who gladly obeyed the call and welcomed Patrick to his palace, asking that he might be baptized and received as God's servant. The water was brought and Patrick, leaning on his crozier, did not notice that the sharp point was resting on the foot of Aengus. Deeper and deeper the point pierced the bare foot as Patrick went through the service, but not a sign did the brave man make. This, he thought, must be part of his baptism, and he was ready, nay, eager to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Not until Patrick tried to lift his staff did he perceive what he had done, and then, in spite of his sorrow, the sight of that pierced foot made him thank God in his heart for a brave man's endurance.
It was the custom of many of these chieftains when they became Christians, to give Patrick a piece of land on which to build a church, so ere long churches and monasteries were built wherever Patrick journeyed, and there he left teachers to carry on his work. All who loved learning found their way to these monasteries, and among them were many of the Druids, who were the poets and musicians of that time. They tuned their harps now in God's service, and so beautiful was the music they made that it is said "the angels of heaven stooped down to listen," and the harp became the badge of Christian Ireland.
As a rule Patrick was allowed to choose which piece of land he wanted, but when he came to Armagh, the chieftain, whose name was Daire, would only allow him to have a piece of low-lying meadowland, and refused to give him the good place on the hillside which Patrick had wanted. Then, perhaps feeling a little ashamed of himself, he thought that he would make it up to the good bishop by presenting him with a splendid present. This was a wonderful brass cauldron which had been brought from over the sea, and there was no other like it in the land. So Daire came to where Patrick was and presented the cauldron.
"This cauldron is thine," said Daire. "Gratzacham" (I thank thee), answered the saint. That was all, and Daire went home, becoming more and more angry as he went.
"The man is a fool," he said; "he can say nothing for a wonderful cauldron of three firkins except Gratzacham."
Then, turning to his slaves, he added: "Go and bring us back our cauldron."
So back they went and said to Patrick, "We must take away the cauldron." And all that Patrick said was, "Gratzacham, take it."
Now, when they returned to Daire, carrying the cauldron, he asked them, "What said the Christian when ye took away the cauldron?"
"He said Gratzacham again," answered the slaves.
"He saith the same when I give as when I take away," said Daire. "He is a man not easily moved, and he shall have his cauldron back."
And not only was the cauldron returned, but the chieftain himself came to Patrick and told him he should have the piece of land which he desired. Together they went to climb the hill, and when they came to the place they found there a roe lying with her fawn. The men ran forward and would have killed the fawn, but Patrick was quicker than they, and he lifted the little creature gently in his arms and carried it to another place of safety. The roe seemed to know he was a friend, and trotted happily by his side until he stooped down and gave her back her fawn once more. Some say that the altar of the great cathedral of Armagh covers the spot where once on the grassy hillside the fawn found a shelter in the arms of Saint Patrick.
The years went by, and each day was filled by Patrick with service for his Master, until the useful life drew to a close. Then, in the spring of the Year, when the March winds were blowing, when the shamrocks he loved were decking the land in dainty green, came the King's command, "Come up higher." It was but a gentle call, for he had dwelt so close to the Master that it was only a step from the Seen to the Unseen, and he needed no loud summons, for his feet were on the threshold of home.
"Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot-seat,
Christ in the ship."
So runs part of the beautiful old hymn of Saint Patrick, and we do not wonder that he who was so truly a follower of Christ came to be called a saint.
A helpless captive, a hard-worked slave, a lonely swineherd! Who would have dreamed that to him would have belonged the honour of leading into freedom and light the land of his captivity? Who would have thought that the lowly slave would be the torchbearer of the King, the patron saint of the green isle of Erin?
O F course you, who see above that this is the eleventh (and last) chapter, know very well that the day of which this chapter tells must be the last on which Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane will have a chance of getting anything out of the Psammead, or Sand-fairy.
But the children themselves did not know this. They were full of rosy visions, and, whereas on the other days they had often found it extremely difficult to think of anything really nice to wish for, their brains were now full of the most beautiful and sensible ideas. "This," as Jane remarked afterwards, "is always the way." Everyone was up extra early that morning, and these plans were hopefully discussed in the garden before breakfast. The old idea of one hundred pounds in modern florins was still first favourite, but there were others that ran it close—the chief of these being the "pony-each" idea. This had a great advantage. You could wish for a pony each during the morning, ride it all day, have it vanish at sunset, and wish it back again next day. Which would be an economy of litter and stabling. But at breakfast two things happened. First, there was a letter from mother. Granny was better, and mother and father hoped to be home that very afternoon. A cheer arose. And of course this news at once scattered all the before-breakfast wish-ideas. For everyone saw quite plainly that the wish of the day must be something to please mother and not to please themselves.
"I wonder what she would like," pondered Cyril.
"She'd like us all to be good," said Jane primly.
"Yes—but that's so dull for us," Cyril rejoined; "and besides, I should hope we could be that without sand-fairies to help us. No; it must be something splendid, that we couldn't possibly get without wishing for."
"Look out," said Anthea in a warning voice; "don't forget yesterday. Remember, we get our wishes now just wherever we happen to be when we say 'I wish.' Don't let's let ourselves in for anything silly—to-day of all days."
"All right," said Cyril. "You needn't talk so much."
Just then Martha came in with a jug full of hot water for the tea-pot—and a face full of importance for the children.
"A blessing we're all alive to eat our breakfast!" she said darkly.
"Why, whatever's happened?" everybody asked.
"Oh, nothing," said Martha, "only it seems nobody's safe from being murdered in their beds nowadays."
"Why," said Jane as an agreeable thrill of horror ran down her back and legs and out at her toes, "has anyone been murdered in their beds?"
"Well—not exactly," said Martha; "but they might just as well. There's been burglars over at Peasemarsh Place—Beale's just told me—and they've took every single one of Lady Chittenden's diamonds and jewels and things, and she's a-goin out of one fainting fit into another, with hardly time to say 'Oh, my diamonds!' in between. And Lord Chittenden's away in London."
"Lady Chittenden," said Anthea; "we've seen her. She wears a red-and-white dress, and she has no children of her own and can't abide other folkses'."
"That's her," said Martha. "Well, she's put all her trust in riches, and you see how she's served. They say the diamonds and things was worth thousands of pounds. There was a necklace and a river—whatever that is—and no end of bracelets; and a tarrer and ever so many rings. But there, I mustn't stand talking and all the place to clean down afore your ma comes home."
"I don't see why she should ever have had such lots of diamonds," said Anthea when Martha had flounced off. "She was not at all a nice lady, I thought. And mother hasn't any diamonds, and hardly any jewels—the topaz necklace, and the sapphire ring daddy gave her when they were engaged, and the garnet star, and the little pearl brooch with great-grandpapa's hair in it,—that's about all."
"When I'm grown up I'll buy mother no end of diamonds," said Robert, "if she wants them. I shall make so much money exploring in Africa I shan't know what to do with it."
"Wouldn't it be jolly," said Jane dreamily, "if mother could find all these lovely things, necklaces and rivers of diamonds and tarrers?"
"Ti—aras," said Cyril.
"Ti—aras, then,—and rings and everything in her room when she came
home. I wish she
The others gazed at her in horror.
"Well, she will," said Robert; "you've wished, my good Jane—and our only chance now is to find the Psammead, and if it's in a good temper it may take back the wish and give us another. If not—well—goodness knows what we're in for!—the police of course, and—— Don't cry, silly! We'll stand by you. Father says we need never to be afraid if we don't do anything wrong and always speak the truth."
But Cyril and Anthea exchanged gloomy glances. They remembered how convincing the truth about the Psammead had been once before when told to the police.
It was a day of misfortunes. Of course the Psammead could not be found. Nor the jewels, though every one of the children searched the mother's room again and again.
"Of course," Robert said, "we couldn't find them. It'll be mother who'll do that. Perhaps she'll think they've been in the house for years and years, and never know they are the stolen ones at all."
"Oh yes!" Cyril was very scornful; "then mother will be a receiver of stolen goods, and you know jolly well what that's worse than."
Another and exhaustive search of the sand-pit failed to reveal the Psammead, so the children went back to the house slowly and sadly.
"I don't care," said Anthea stoutly, "we'll tell mother the truth, and she'll give back the jewels—and make everything all right."
"Do you think so?" said Cyril slowly. "Do you think she'll believe us? Could anyone believe about a Sammyadd unless they'd seen it? She'll think we're pretending. Or else she'll think we're raving mad, and then we shall be sent to the mad-house. How would you like it?"—he turned suddenly on the miserable Jane,—"how would you like it, to be shut up in an iron cage with bars and padded walls, and nothing to do but stick straws in your hair all day, and listen to the howlings and ravings of the other maniacs? Make up your minds to it, all of you. It's no use telling mother."
"But it's true," said Jane.
"Of course it is, but it's not true enough for grown-up people to believe it," said Anthea.
"Cyril's right. Let's put flowers in all the vases, and try not to think about the diamonds. After all, everything has come right in the end all the other times."
So they filled all the pots they could find with flowers—asters and zinnias, and loose-leaved late red roses from the wall of the stableyard, till the house was a perfect bower.
And almost as soon as dinner was cleared away mother arrived, and was clasped in eight loving arms. It was very difficult indeed not to tell her all about the Psammead at once, because they had got into the habit of telling her everything. But they did succeed in not telling her.
She was clasped in eight loving arms.
Mother, on her side, had plenty to tell them—about Granny, and Granny's pigeons, and Auntie Emma's lame tame donkey. She was very delighted with the flowery-boweryness of the house; and everything seemed so natural and pleasant, now that she was home again, that the children almost thought they must have dreamed the Psammead.
But, when mother moved towards the stairs to go up to her bedroom and take off her bonnet, the eight arms clung round her just as if she only had two children, one the Lamb and the other an octopus.
"Don't go up, mummy darling," said Anthea; "let me take your things up for you."
"Or I will," said Cyril.
"We want you to come and look at the rose-tree," said Robert.
"Oh, don't go up!" said Jane helplessly.
"Nonsense, dears," said mother briskly, "I'm not such an old woman yet that I can't take my bonnet off in the proper place. Besides I must wash these black hands of mine."
So up she went, and the children, following her, exchanged glances of gloomy foreboding.
Mother took off her bonnet,—it was a very pretty hat, really, with white roses in it,—and when she had taken it off she went to the dressing-table to do her pretty hair.
On the table between the ring-stand and the pin-cushion lay a green leather case. Mother opened it.
"Oh, how lovely!" she cried. It was a ring, a large pearl with shining many-lighted diamonds set round it. "Wherever did this come from?" mother asked, trying it on her wedding finger, which it fitted beautifully. "However did it come here?"
"I don't know," said each of the children truthfully.
"Father must have told Martha to put it here," mother said. "I'll run down and ask her."
"Let me look at it," said Anthea, who knew Martha would not be able to see the ring. But when Martha was asked, of course she denied putting the ring there, and so did Eliza and cook.
Mother came back to her bedroom, very much interested and pleased about the ring. But, when she opened the dressing-table drawer and found a long case containing an almost priceless diamond necklace, she was more interested still, though not so pleased. In the wardrobe, when she went to put away her "bonnet," she found a tiara and several brooches, and the rest of the jewellery turned up in various parts of the room during the next half-hour. The children looked more and more uncomfortable, and now Jane began to sniff.
Mother looked at her gravely.
"Jane," she said, "I am sure you know something about this. Now think before you speak, and tell me the truth."
"We found a Fairy," said Jane obediently.
"We found a Fairy," said Jane obediently.
"No nonsense, please," said her mother sharply.
"Don't be silly, Jane," Cyril interrupted. Then he went on desperately. "Look here, mother, we've never seen the things before, but Lady Chittenden at Peasemarsh Place lost all her jewellery by wicked burglars last night. Could this possibly be it?"
All drew a deep breath. They were saved.
"But how could they have put it here? And why should they?" asked mother, not unreasonably. "Surely it would have been easier and safer to make off with it?"
"Suppose," said Cyril, "they thought it better to wait for—for sunset—nightfall, I mean, before they went off with it. No one but us knew that you were coming back to-day."
"I must send for the police at once," said mother distractedly. "Oh, how I wish daddy were here!"
"Wouldn't it be better to wait till he does come?" asked Robert, knowing that his father would not be home before sunset.
"No, no; I can't wait a minute with all this on my mind," cried mother. "All this" was the heap of jewel-cases on the bed. They put them all in the wardrobe, and mother locked it. Then mother called Martha.
"Martha," she said, "has any stranger been into my room since I've been away? Now, answer me truthfully."
"No, mum," answered Martha; "leastways, what I mean to
"Come," said her mistress kindly, "I see someone has. You must tell me at once. Don't be frightened. I'm sure you haven't done anything wrong."
Martha burst into heavy sobs.
"I was a-goin' to give you warning this very day, mum, to leave at the end of my month, so I was,—on account of me being going to make a respectable young man happy. A gamekeeper he is by trade, mum—and I wouldn't deceive you—of the name of Beale. And it's as true as I stand here, it was your coming home in such a hurry, and no warning given, out of the kindness of his heart it was, as he says, 'Martha, my beauty,' he says,—which I ain't, and never was, but you know how them men will go on,—'I can't see you a-toiling and a-moiling and not lend a 'elping 'and; which mine is a strong arm, and it's yours Martha, my dear,' says he. And so he helped me a-cleanin' of the windows—but outside, mum, the whole time, and me in; if I never say another breathing word it's gospel truth."
"Were you with him the whole time?" asked her mistress.
"Him outside and me in, I was," said Martha; "except for fetching up a fresh pail and the leather that that slut of a Eliza'd hidden away behind the mangle."
"That will do," said the children's mother. "I am not pleased with you, Martha, but you have spoken the truth, and that counts for something."
When Martha had gone, the children clung round their mother.
"Oh, mummy darling," cried Anthea, "it isn't Beale's fault, it isn't really! He's a great dear; he is, truly and honourably, and as honest as the day. Don't let the police take him, mummy! Oh, don't, don't, don't!"
It was truly awful. Here was an innocent man accused of robbery through that silly wish of Jane's, and it was absolutely useless to tell the truth. All longed to, but they thought of the straws in the hair and the shrieks of the other frantic maniacs, and they could not do it.
"Is there a cart hereabouts?" asked the mother feverishly. "A trap of any sort? I must drive in to Rochester and tell the police at once."
All the children sobbed, "There's a cart at the farm, but, oh, don't go!—don't go!—oh, don't go!—wait till daddy comes home!"
Mother took not the faintest notice. When she had set her mind on a thing she always went straight through with it; she was rather like Anthea in this respect.
"Look here, Cyril," she said, sticking on her hat with long sharp
violet-headed pins, "I leave you in charge. Stay in the dressing-
And she locked her bedroom door and went off with the key in her pocket.
The children could not help admiring the dashing and decided way in which she had acted. They thought how useful she would have been in organising escape from some of the tight places in which they had found themselves of late in consequence of their ill-timed wishes.
"She's a born general," said Cyril,—"but I don't know what's going to happen to us. Even if the girls were to hunt for that old Sammyadd and find it, and get it to take the jewels away again, mother would only think we hadn't looked out properly and let the burglars sneak in and get them—or else the police will think we've got them—or else that she's been fooling them. Oh, it's a pretty decent average ghastly mess this time, and no mistake!"
He savagely made a paper boat and began to float it in the bath, as he had been told to do.
Robert went into the garden and sat down on the worn yellow grass, with his miserable head between his helpless hands.
Anthea and Jane whispered together in the passage downstairs, where the cocoanut matting was—with the hole in it that you always caught your foot in if you were not careful. Martha's voice could be heard in the kitchen,—grumbling loud and long.
"It's simply quite too dreadfully awful," said Anthea. "How do you know all the diamonds are there, too? If they aren't, the police will think mother and father have got them, and that they've only given up some of them for a kind of desperate blind. And they'll be put in prison, and we shall be branded outcasts, the children of felons. And it won't be at all nice for father and mother either," she added, by a candid after-thought.
"But what can we do?" asked Jane.
"Nothing—at least we might look for the Psammead again. It's a very, very hot day. He may have come out to warm that whisker of his."
"He won't give us any more beastly wishes to-day," said Jane flatly. "He gets crosser and crosser every time we see him. I believe he hates having to give wishes."
Anthea had been shaking her head gloomily—now she stopped shaking it so suddenly that it really looked as though she were pricking up her ears.
"What is it?" asked Jane. "Oh, have you thought of something?"
"Our one chance," cried Anthea dramatically; "the last lone-lorn forlorn hope. Come on."
At a brisk trot she led the way to the sand-pit. Oh, joy!—there was the Psammead, basking in a golden sandy hollow and preening its whiskers happily in the glowing afternoon sun. The moment it saw them it whisked round and began to burrow—it evidently preferred its own company to theirs. But Anthea was too quick for it. She caught it by its furry shoulders gently but firmly, and held it.
"Here—none of that!" said the Psammead. "Leave go of me, will you?"
But Anthea held him fast.
"Dear kind darling Sammyadd," she said breathlessly.
"Oh yes—it's all very well," it said; "you want another wish, I expect. But I can't keep on slaving from morning till night giving people their wishes. I must have some time to myself."
"Do you hate giving wishes?" asked Anthea gently, and her voice trembled with excitement.
"Of course I do," it said. "Leave go of me or I'll bite!—I really will—I mean it. Oh, well, if you choose to risk it."
Anthea risked it and held on.
"Look here," she said, "don't bite me—listen to reason. If you'll only do what we want to-day, we'll never ask you for another wish as long as we live."
The Psammead was much moved.
"I'd do anything," it said in a tearful voice. "I'd almost burst myself to give you one wish after another, as long as I held out, if you'd only never, never ask me to do it after to-day. If you knew how I hate to blow myself out with other people's wishes, and how frightened I am always that I shall strain a muscle or something. And then to wake up every morning and know you've got to do it. You don't know what it is—you don't know what it is, you don't!" Its voice cracked with emotion, and the last "don't" was a squeak.
Anthea set it down gently on the sand.
"It's all over now," she said soothingly. "We promise faithfully never to ask for another wish after to-day."
"Well, go ahead," said the Psammead; "let's get it over."
"How many can you do?"
"I don't know—as long as I can hold out."
"Well, first, I wish Lady Chittenden may find she's never lost her jewels."
The Psammead blew itself out, collapsed, and said, "Done."
"I wish," said Anthea more slowly, "mother mayn't get to the police."
"Done," said the creature after the proper interval.
"I wish," said Jane suddenly, "mother could forget all about the diamonds."
"Done," said the Psammead; but its voice was weaker.
"Would you like to rest a little?" asked Anthea considerately.
"Yes, please," said the Psammead; "and, before we go any further, will you wish something for me?"
"Can't you do wishes for yourself?"
"Of course not," it said; "we were always expected to give each other our wishes—not that we had any to speak of in the good old Megatherium days. Just wish, will you, that you may never be able, any of you, to tell anyone a word about Me."
"Why?" asked Jane.
"Why, don't you see, if you told grown-ups I should have no peace of my life. They'd get hold of me, and they wouldn't wish silly things like you do, but real earnest things; and the scientific people would hit on some way of making things last after sunset, as likely as not; and they'd ask for a graduated income-tax, and old-age pensions, and manhood suffrage, and free secondary education, and dull things like that; and get them, and keep them, and the whole world would be turned topsy-turvy. Do wish it! Quick!"
Anthea repeated the Psammead's wish, and it blew itself out to a larger size than they had yet seen it attain.
"And now," it said as it collapsed, "can I do anything more for you?"
"Just one thing; and I think that clears everything up, doesn't it, Jane? I wish Martha to forget about the diamond ring, and mother to forget about the keeper cleaning the windows."
"It's like the 'Brass
"Yes, I'm glad we read that or I should never have thought of it."
"Now," said the Psammead faintly, "I'm almost worn out. Is there anything else?"
"No; only thank you kindly for all you've done for us, and I hope you'll have a good long sleep, and I hope we shall see you again some day."
"Is that a wish?" it said in a weak voice.
"Yes, please," said the two girls together.
Then for the last time in this story they saw the Psammead blow itself out and collapse suddenly. It nodded to them, blinked its long snail's eyes, burrowed, and disappeared, scratching fiercely to the last, and the sand closed over it.
It burrowed, and disappeared, scratching fiercely to the last.
"I hope we've done right?" said Jane.
"I'm sure we have," said Anthea. "Come on home and tell the boys."
Anthea found Cyril glooming over his paper boats, and told him. Jane told Robert. The two tales were only just ended when mother walked in, hot and dusty. She explained that as she was being driven into Rochester to buy the girls' autumn school-dresses the axle had broken, and but for the narrowness of the lane and the high soft hedges she would have been thrown out. As it was, she was not hurt, but she had had to walk home. "And oh, my dearest dear chicks," she said, "I am simply dying for a cup of tea! Do run and see if the water boils!"
"So you see it's all right," Jane whispered. "She doesn't remember."
"No more does Martha," said Anthea, who had been to ask after the state of the kettle.
As the servants sat at their tea, Beale the gamekeeper dropped in. He brought the welcome news that Lady Chittenden's diamonds had not been lost at all. Lord Chittenden had taken them to be re-set and cleaned, and the maid who knew about it had gone for a holiday. So that was all right.
"I wonder if we ever shall see the Psammead again," said Jane wistfully as they walked in the garden, while mother was putting the Lamb to bed.
"I'm sure we shall," said Cyril, "if you really wished it."
"We've promised never to ask it for another wish," said Anthea.
"I never want to," said Robert earnestly.
They did see it again, of course, but not in this story. And it was not in a sand-pit either, but in a very, very, very different place. It was in a—— But I must say no more.
Out of the hills of Habersham,
Down the valleys of Hall,
I hurry amain to reach the plain,
Run the rapid and leap the fall,
Split at the rock and together again,
Accept my bed, or narrow or wide,
And flee from folly on every side
With a lover's pain to attain the plain
Far from the hills of Habersham,
Far from the valleys of Hall.
All down the hills of Habersham,
All through the valleys of Hall,
The rushes cried Abide, abide,
The wilful waterweeds held me thrall,
The laving laurel turned my tide,
The ferns and the fondling grass said Stay,
The dewberry dipped for to work delay,
And the little reeds sighed Abide, abide,
Here in the hills of Habersham,
Here in the valleys of Hall.
High o'er the hills of Habersham,
Veiling the valleys of Hall,
The hickory told me manifold
Fair tales of shade, the poplar tall
Wrought me her shadowy self to hold,
The chestnut, the oak, the walnut, the pine,
Overleaning, with flickering meaning and sign,
Said, Pass not, so cold, these manifold
Deep shades of the hills of Habersham,
These glades in the valleys of Hall.
And oft in the hills of Habersham,
And oft in the valleys of Hall,
The white quartz shone, and the smooth brook-stone
Did bar me of passage with friendly brawl,
And many a luminous jewel lone
—Crystals clear or a-cloud with mist,
Ruby, garnet and amethyst—
Made lures with the lights of streaming stone
In the clefts of the hills of Habersham,
In the beds of the valleys of Hall.
But oh, not the hills of Habersham,
And oh, not the valleys of Hall
Avail: I am fain for to water the plain.
Downward the voices of Duty call—
Downward, to toil and be mixed with the main.
The dry fields burn, and the mills are to turn,
And a myriad flowers mortally yearn,
And the lordly main from beyond the plain
Calls o'er the hills of Habersham,
Calls through the valleys of Hall.