WEEK 21 |
T HE harder Tom tried to fasten his mind on his book, the more his ideas wandered. So at last, with a sigh and a yawn, he gave it up. It seemed to him that the noon recess would never come. The air was utterly dead. There was not a breath stirring. It was the sleepiest of sleepy days. The drowsing murmur of the five and twenty studying scholars soothed the soul like the spell that is in the murmur of bees. Away off in the flaming sunshine, Cardiff Hill lifted its soft green sides through a shimmering veil of heat, tinted with the purple of distance; a few birds floated on lazy wing high in the air; no other living thing was visible but some cows, and they were asleep. Tom's heart ached to be free, or else to have something of interest to do to pass the dreary time. His hand wandered into his pocket and his face lit up with a glow of gratitude that was prayer, though he did not know it. Then furtively the percussion-cap box came out. He released the tick and put him on the long flat desk. The creature probably glowed with a gratitude that amounted to prayer, too, at this moment, but it was premature: for when he started thankfully to travel off, Tom turned him aside with a pin and made him take a new direction.
Tom's bosom friend sat next him, suffering just as Tom had been, and now he was deeply and gratefully interested in this entertainment in an instant. This bosom friend was Joe Harper. The two boys were sworn friends all the week, and embattled enemies on Saturdays. Joe took a pin out of his lapel and began to assist in exercising the prisoner. The sport grew in interest momently. Soon Tom said that they were interfering with each other, and neither getting the fullest benefit of the tick. So he put Joe's slate on the desk and drew a line down the middle of it from top to bottom.
"Now," said he, "as long as he is on your side you can stir him up and I'll let him alone; but if you let him get away and get on my side, you're to leave him alone as long as I can keep him from crossing over."
"All right, go ahead; start him up."
The tick escaped from Tom, presently, and crossed the equator. Joe harassed him awhile, and then he got away and crossed back again. This change of base occurred often. While one boy was worrying the tick with absorbing interest, the other would look on with interest as strong, the two heads bowed together over the slate, and the two souls dead to all things else. At last luck seemed to settle and abide with Joe. The tick tried this, that, and the other course, and got as excited and as anxious as the boys themselves, but time and again just as he would have victory in his very grasp, so to speak, and Tom's fingers would be twitching to begin, Joe's pin would deftly head him off, and keep possession. At last Tom could stand it no longer. The temptation was too strong. So he reached out and lent a hand with his pin. Joe was angry in a moment. Said he:
"Tom, you let him alone."
"I only just want to stir him up a little, Joe."
"No, sir, it ain't fair; you just let him alone."
"Blame it, I ain't going to stir him much."
"Let him alone, I tell you."
"You shall—he's on my side of the line."
"Look here, Joe Harper, whose is that tick?"
"I don't care whose tick he is—he's on my side of the line, and you sha'n't touch him."
"Well, I'll just bet I will, though. He's my tick and I'll do what I blame please with him, or die!"
A tremendous whack came down on Tom's shoulders, and its duplicate on Joe's; and for the space of two minutes the dust continued to fly from the two jackets and the whole school to enjoy it. The boys had been too absorbed to notice the hush that had stolen upon the school awhile before when the master came tiptoeing down the room and stood over them. He had contemplated a good part of the performance before he contributed his bit of variety to it.
When school broke up at noon, Tom flew to Becky Thatcher, and whispered in her ear:
"Put on your bonnet and let on you're going home; and when you get to the corner, give the rest of 'em the slip, and turn down through the lane and come back. I'll go the other way and come it over 'em the same way."
So the one went off with one group of scholars, and the other with another. In a little while the two met at the bottom of the lane, and when they reached the school they had it all to themselves. Then they sat together, with a slate before them, and Tom gave Becky the pencil and held her hand in his, guiding it, and so created another surprising house. When the interest in art began to wane, the two fell to talking. Tom was swimming in bliss. He said:
"Do you love rats?"
"No! I hate them!"
"Well, I do, too—live ones. But I mean dead ones, to swing round your head with a string."
"No, I don't care for rats much, anyway. What I like is chewing-gum."
"Oh, I should say so! I wish I had some now."
"Do you? I've got some. I'll let you chew it awhile, but you must give it back to me."
That was agreeable, so they chewed it turn about, and dangled their legs against the bench in excess of contentment.
"Was you ever at a circus?" said Tom.
"Yes, and my pa's going to take me again some time, if I'm good."
"I been to the circus three or four times—lots of times. Church ain't shucks to a circus. There's things going on at a circus all the time. I'm going to be a clown in a circus when I grow up."
"Oh, are you! That will be nice. They're so lovely, all spotted up."
"Yes, that's so. And they get slathers of money—most a dollar a day, Ben Rogers says. Say, Becky, was you ever engaged?"
"Why, engaged to be married."
"Would you like to?"
"I reckon so. I don't know. What is it like?"
"Like? Why it ain't like anything. You only just tell a boy you won't ever have anybody but him, ever ever ever, and then you kiss and that's all. Anybody can do it."
"Kiss? What do you kiss for?"
"Why, that, you know, is to—well, they always do that."
"Why, yes, everybody that's in love with each other. Do you remember what I wrote on the slate?"
"What was it?"
"I sha'n't tell you."
"Shall I tell you?"
"Ye—yes—but some other time."
"No, not now—to-morrow."
"Oh, no, now. Please, Becky—I'll whisper it, I'll whisper it ever so easy."
Becky hesitating, Tom took silence for consent, and passed his arm about her waist and whispered the tale ever so softly, with his mouth close to her ear. And then he added:
"Now you whisper it to me—just the same."
She resisted, for a while, and then said:
"You turn your face away so you can't see, and then I will. But you mustn't ever tell anybody—will you, Tom? Now you won't, will you?"
"No, indeed, indeed I won't. Now, Becky."
He turned his face away. She bent timidly around till her breath stirred his curls and whispered, "I—love—you!"
Then she sprang away and ran around and around the desks and benches, with Tom after her, and took refuge in a corner at last, with her little white apron to her face. Tom clasped her about her neck and pleaded:
"Now, Becky, it's all done—all over but the kiss. Don't you be afraid of that—it ain't anything at all. Please, Becky." And he tugged at her apron and the hands.
By and by she gave up, and let her hands drop; her face, all glowing with the struggle, came up and submitted. Tom kissed the red lips and said:
"Now it's all done, Becky. And always after this, you know, you ain't ever to love anybody but me, and you ain't ever to marry anybody but me, never never and forever. Will you?"
"No, I'll never love anybody but you, Tom, and I'll never marry anybody but you—and you ain't to ever marry anybody but me, either."
"Certainly. Of course. That's part of it. And always coming to school or when we're going home, you're to walk with me, when there ain't anybody looking—and you choose me and I choose you at parties, because that's the way you do when you're engaged."
"It's so nice. I never heard of it before."
"Oh, it's ever so gay! Why, me and Amy
The big eyes told Tom his blunder and he stopped, confused.
"Oh, Tom! Then I ain't the first you've ever been engaged to!"
The child began to cry. Tom said:
"Oh, don't cry, Becky, I don't care for her any more."
"Yes, you do, Tom—you know you do."
Tom tried to put his arm about her neck, but she pushed him away and turned her face to the wall, and went on crying. Tom tried again, with soothing words in his mouth, and was repulsed again. Then his pride was up, and he strode away and went outside. He stood about, restless and uneasy, for a while, glancing at the door, every now and then, hoping she would repent and come to find him. But she did not. Then he began to feel badly and fear that he was in the wrong. It was a hard struggle with him to make new advances, now, but he nerved himself to it and entered. She was still standing back there in the corner, sobbing, with her face to the wall. Tom's heart smote him. He went to her and stood a moment, not knowing exactly how to proceed. Then he said hesitatingly:
"Becky, I—I don't care for anybody but you."
No reply—but sobs.
"Becky"—pleadingly. "Becky, won't you say something?"
Tom got out his chiefest jewel, a brass knob from the top of an andiron, and passed it around her so that she could see it, and said:
"Please, Becky, won't you take it?"
She struck it to the floor. Then Tom marched out of the house and over the hills and far away, to return to school no more that day. Presently Becky began to suspect. She ran to the door; he was not in sight; she flew around to the play-yard; he was not there. Then she called:
"Tom! Come back, Tom!"
She listened intently, but there was no answer. She had no companions but silence and loneliness. So she sat down to cry again and upbraid herself; and by this time the scholars began to gather again, and she had to hide her griefs and still her broken heart and take up the cross of a long, dreary, aching afternoon, with none among the strangers about her to exchange sorrows with.
A little while before Charles Martel fought the battle of Tours and drove the Mohammedans or Moors out of Gaul, they came into Spain, and before long the southern part of that country was in their hands. They became very prosperous, and founded splendid cities, of which the most famous were Granada and Valencia. The earlier comers, the Goths, held the northern part of Spain; and there were continual wars between the two peoples. The Goths, now called Spaniards, also fought among themselves; and in their quarrels they were glad of any one's help, no matter whether he was Christian or Mohammedan. Of all these warriors, Rodrigo Diaz, or the Cid, was the greatest. The Poem of the Cid was afterward written about his exploits, besides a countless number of ballads. The following are some of the stories that were told about him:—
The Alhambra, at Granada, Spain, Showing Court of the Lions
Long before he was made a knight, two of the Spanish kings had a quarrel about a certain city that lay on the line between their two kingdoms. Each wanted it, and the dispute would have come to war if one of them had not suggested that each should choose a warrior, and that single combat should settle the question. One king chose a famous knight, but the other chose the young Rodrigo. "I will gladly fight for you," he said to his king, "but I have vowed to make a pilgrimage, and I must do that first."
So on the pilgrimage he went. On the way he saw a leper who begged for help. Rodrigo helped him out of the bog in which he was fast sinking, set him in front of him on his own horse, and carried him to an inn. There he and the leper used the same trencher, or wooden plate, and they slept in the same bed. In the night Rodrigo awoke with the feeling that some one had breathed upon him so strongly that the breath had passed through his body. The leper was gone, but a vision of St. Lazarus appeared to him and said, "I was the leper whom you helped, and for your kindness God grants that your foes shall never prevail against you.'' Upon returning from his pilgrimage, Rodrigo vanquished in single contest the knight opposed to him and so gained the city for his king. After this people called him the Campeador, or Champion.
Even before this he had won his title of the Cid, or chief, by overcoming five Mohammedan kings. Instead of putting them to death, however, he had let them go free, and they were so grateful that they agreed to become his vassals, and to send him tribute. But this was not the end of their gratitude. A while later some of the counts of Castile became so envious of the Cid's greatness that they plotted to bring about his death. They made what they thought was a most excellent plan. They wrote to a number of the Moors, saying that in the next battle that should be fought they all intended to desert the Cid; and then, when he was alone, the Moors could easily capture him or slay him. The Moors would have been delighted to do this; but, unluckily for the plotters, some of the letters went to the five kings to whom the Cid had shown mercy. They had not forgotten his kindness; they sent him word of the proposed treachery, and the wicked counts were driven out of the kingdom.
The greatest exploit of the Cid was his capture of the Moorish city of Valencia, the richest city in all Spain. After a siege nine months long, the city yielded; and the people were in terror of what the Cid might do to them for having resisted him so long. But he was a humane warrior. He called the chief men together and told them that they were free to cultivate their lands, and that all he should ask from them was one-tenth of their gains. The ruler of Valencia was a man who had slain their rightful king. While the siege was going on, he had sold food to the starving people at a great price; and after the surrender he offered to the Cid the money that he had made in this way; but the Cid would not accept it, and he put the wicked man to death with many tortures.
The Cid was now a mighty ruler and a very wealthy man. Even the Sultan of far-away Persia sent noble gifts to him and earnestly desired his friendship.
After some years the Cid heard that the king of Morocco was about to come upon him with six and thirty other kings and a mighty force, and he was troubled. But one night St. Peter came to him in a vision. "In thirty days you will leave this world," he said, "but do you atone for your sins, and you shall enter into the light. Be not troubled about the coming of the Moors upon your people, for even though you are dead, you shall win the battle for them."
Then the Cid made himself ready for death. He ordered that, after he was dead, his people should put his body in battle array with helmet and armor, with shield and sword, and fix it firmly upon his horse with arm upraised as if to strike. This they did, and they went forth with the body of the Cid at their head to meet the six and thirty kings. The knights of the Cid came so suddenly and fought so fiercely that the six and thirty kings fled, and galloped their horses even into the sea. "We saw an amazing sight," the Moors afterwards declared, "for there came upon us full 70,000 knights, all as white as snow. And before them rode a knight of great stature, sitting upon a white horse with a bloody cross. In one hand he bore a white banner, and in the other a sword which seemed to be of fire, and he slew many."
The Cid's Last Battle
Twenty-two of the six and thirty kings were slain. The others went their way and never even turned their heads. Then when the body of the Cid had been lifted down from the horse, his friends robed it in cloth of purple and set it in the ivory chair of the conqueror, with his sword Tizona in its hand. And after ten years it was buried close by the altar of St. Peter in a monastery at Cardena.
One of his followers cared for Banieca, the horse that had been so dear to the Cid. Every day he led it to water and led it back and gave it food with his own hand. When the horse died, he buried it before the gate of the monastery. He set an elm at its head and another at its feet, and he bade that, when he himself should die, he should be buried beside the good horse Banieca whom he had loved so well, and for whom he had cared so tenderly.
Merrily swinging on brier and weed,
Near to the nest of his little dame,
Over the mountain-side or mead,
Robert of Lincoln is telling his name.
Spink, spank, spink,
Snug and safe is this nest of ours,
Hidden among the summer flowers.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln is gayly dressed,
Wearing a bright, black wedding-coat;
White are his shoulders, and white his crest,
Hear him call in his merry note,
Spink, spank, spink,
Look what a nice, new coat is mine;
Sure there was never a bird so fine.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln's Quaker wife,
Pretty and quiet, with plain brown wings,
Passing at home a patient life,
Broods in the grass while her husband sings,
Spink, spank, spink,
Brood, kind creature, you need not fear
Thieves and robbers while I am here.
Chee, chee, chee.
Modest and shy as a nun is she;
One weak chirp is her only note;
Braggart, and prince of braggarts is he,
Pouring boasts from his little throat,
Spink, spank, spink,
Never was I afraid of man,
Catch me, cowardly knaves, if you can.
Chee, chee, chee.
Six white eggs on a bed of hay,
Flecked with purple, a pretty sight;
There as the mother sits all day,
Robert is singing with all his might,
Spink, spank, spink,
Nice good wife that never goes out,
Keeping house while I frolic about.
Chee, chee, chee.
Soon as the little ones chip the shell,
Six wide mouths are open for food;
Robert of Lincoln bestirs him well,
Gathering seeds for the hungry brood,
Spink, spank, spink,
This new life is likely to be
Hard for a gay young fellow like me.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln at length is made
Sober with work, and silent with care;
Off is his holiday garment laid,
Half forgotten that merry air,
Spink, spank, spink,
Nobody knows but my mate and I,
Where our nest and our nestlings lie.
Chee, chee, chee.
Summer wanes; the children are grown;
Fun and frolic no more he knows;
Robert of Lincoln's a hum-drum crone;
Off he flies, and we sing as he goes,
Spink, spank, spink,
When you can pipe that merry old strain,
Robert of Lincoln, come back again.
Chee, chee, chee.
WEEK 21 |
A NOTHER brave and handsome man, who was a great favourite with the Queen, was the Earl of Essex. He was so handsome and graceful that the Queen liked to have him always near her, although she quarrelled with him very often.
Essex loved fighting more than attending upon the Queen, and twice when there was war he ran away without leave. Elizabeth was angry, but Essex did great deeds and helped to make the name of England famous, so she forgave him. Later she made him commander of an expedition which, however, was not very successful. Again they quarrelled.
One day the Queen and her councillors were talking about who should govern Ireland. Elizabeth wanted one man, Essex another. He grew so angry because she would not take his advice, that he turned his back upon her. This was a very rude thing to do, for one must never turn one's back to a king or queen, but must even walk out of the room backwards when leaving their presence.
Elizabeth was furious, and, springing up, she boxed the Earl's ears.
Essex had been angry before, now he was in a terrible rage. Forgetting that a man must never fight with a woman, he laid his hand upon his sword. Then a gentleman who was there threw himself between the angry Queen and Earl, trying to calm them both.
But Essex would not be calmed. "I will take a blow from no one," he cried. "I would not have endured it from her father, King Henry. I will not take it from a king in petticoats." And, swearing dreadfully, he flung himself out of the room, refusing to return.
For some time the advisers of the Queen, and the friends of the Earl, tried to make peace between them, but in vain. Essex would not apologise, the Queen would not say that she was sorry. But in the end the Queen forgave Essex, and he came back to court.
As they had quarrelled over who should be sent to govern Ireland, Elizabeth decided to send Essex himself. This was not at all what Essex wanted. It was a very difficult post, and he did not wish to accept it, but he was obliged to do so.
He went to Ireland, but he did not succeed in ruling as the Queen would have liked. She wrote bitter, angry letters to him, and he replied with letters as bitter and angry as hers.
At last Essex decided to come back to England to see the Queen, and try to make friends with her again. Elizabeth forbade him, but in spite of her orders, he came.
Early one morning he arrived in London, dusty, dirty, and untidy from his long journey. He was in such haste to see the Queen that he did not stop to make himself fit to appear at court. Dusty and untidy as he was, he rushed straight to the palace. It was so early that the Queen was not up. Hearing that, Essex ran to her room, without even waiting till some one had told her that he had arrived.
The Queen was sitting in her room with her hair hanging down, waiting for her ladies to dress her, when Essex rushed in and, flinging himself on his knees beside her, kissed her hand again and again. The Queen was so surprised to see Essex, and so sorry when she saw how miserable he looked, that she spoke gently to him and comforted him. So presently he rose from his knees, and went away feeling that he was forgiven.
But it was only surprise which had made the Queen kind to Essex. Later in the day she received him very coldly. Later still she sent him to prison.
For some time Essex was kept a prisoner, then he was set free, but he could not again win the Queen's favour. Her unkindness hurt him so much, that he grew more and more unhappy, and more and more angry. He began to say unkind things about the Queen, calling her a foolish old woman who was growing crooked in mind and body.
It was quite true that Elizabeth was growing old and, being as vain as ever, she liked to think that she was still young and pretty. She covered her grey hair with a wig and painted her face; she sang and danced although she was nearly seventy years old. But it was wrong and foolish of Essex to speak as he did, and people were not slow to carry his words to the Queen.
At last Essex grew so angry, that he tried to raise a rebellion against Elizabeth. The rebellion failed, and Essex and those who had helped him were sent to the Tower.
In spite of all their quarrels Elizabeth really loved Essex. Now she felt it very hard to condemn him to death. Still she did.
Long before this, Elizabeth had one day given Essex a ring telling him, that if ever she should be angry with him, she would forgive him, if he sent this ring back to her.
When Essex heard that he was to die he remembered this promise, and he made up his mind to send the ring to Elizabeth, hoping that she would pardon him. But he did not know how to send it. He was afraid to give it to any of the Queen's courtiers, for he knew that many of them were his enemies. They were only too glad that he should be in disgrace, and would never deliver the ring to the Queen.
At length one day, as he looked sadly from his prison window, he saw a boy passing. The boy had a pleasant, honest face, and Essex felt sure that he might be trusted. He called to him and, throwing the ring down, told him to take it to his cousin, who was a kind lady and loved him. "Tell the lady," he said, "to show this ring to the Queen, and all will be well."
The boy took the ring, promising to do as he was asked. Then Essex threw down a purse full of gold, as a reward for his kindness, and the boy went away very pleased.
But by mistake he gave the ring to the wrong lady. Instead of giving it to the cousin of Essex, who loved him, he gave it to another lady, who hated him. This lady showed the ring to her husband, and as he, too, hated Essex, they resolved to keep the ring and say nothing about it. So Elizabeth never knew that Essex had sent it.
She, too, had remembered her promise, and hoped that Essex would send the ring. She waited and waited, but day after day went past, and it never came. At last, thinking that he was too proud to ask forgiveness, she ordered his head to be cut off. So proud and foolish Essex died, believing his Queen was still angry with him.
Elizabeth was growing old; many of her friends had died and left her, and after the death of Essex she was often very sad. The people too, who had loved Essex, were angry with her for having put him to death, and that made her more sad still.
When the lady who had kept back the ring was about to die she felt very sorry for what she had done. She could not find peace until she had confessed to the Queen, and asked her forgiveness. She sent a message to the Queen, begging her to come to her. Elizabeth came, but when she heard the story, instead of forgiving the poor dying lady, she shook her fiercely, saying, "God may forgive you, I never can."
At last Elizabeth herself grew very ill, but she would not go to bed. She sat day and night upon cushions on the floor, doing nothing but staring before her, with her finger in her mouth.
Then Sir Robert Cecil, the son of the great Lord Burleigh, who had been so wise and faithful a friend to Elizabeth, said, "For the sake of your people, madam, you must go to bed."
"Must!" exclaimed the Queen,
But at last she allowed herself to be carried to bed. Some of her lords, knowing that she had not long to live, asked whom she wished to reign after her. "I will have no rascal's son in my seat," she said, and would say no more.
Later they asked again, "Do you desire your cousin, the King of Scotland, to have the crown?"
The Queen only moved her head, but it seemed to those around that she meant to say, "Yes." She never spoke again.
On March 24, 1603 A.D., this great queen died, having
She was the last of the Tudor sovereigns, and with her successor, James, a new race of kings, called the Stuarts, began to reign in England.
T HERE was a swish of wings, a flash of gray, a cry of pain; a squawking, cowering, scattering flock of hens; a weakly fluttering pullet; and yonder, swinging upward into the sky, a marsh hawk, buoyant and gleaming silvery in the sun. Over the trees he beat, circled once, and disappeared.
The hens were still flapping for safety in a dozen directions, but the gray harrier had gone. A bolt of lightning could hardly have dropped so unannounced, could hardly have vanished so completely, could scarcely have killed so quickly. I ran to the pullet, but found her dead. The harrier's stroke, delivered with fearful velocity, had laid head and neck open as with a keen knife. Yet a little slower and he would have missed, for the pullet warded off the other claw with her wing. The gripping talons slipped off the long quills, and the hawk swept on without his quarry. He dared not come back for it at my feet; so, with a single turn above the woods he was gone.
The scurrying hens stopped to look about them. There was nothing in the sky to see. They stood still and silent a moment. The rooster chucked. Then one by one they turned back into the open pasture. A huddled group under the hen-yard fence broke up and came out with the others. Death had flashed among them, but had missed them. Fear had come, but it had gone. Within two minutes from the fall of the stroke, every hen in the flock was intent at her scratching, or as intently chasing the gray grasshoppers over the pasture.
Yet, as the flock scratched, the high-stepping cock
would frequently cast up his eye toward the treetops;
would sound his alarum at the flight of a robin; and
if a crow came over, he would shout and dodge and start
to run. But instantly the shadow would pass, and
"He looketh as it were a grym leoun,
And on hise toos he rometh up and doun;
Thus roial as a prince is in an halle."
He wasn't afraid. Cautious, alert, watchful he was, but not afraid. No shadow of dread lay dark and ominous across the sunshine of his pasture. Shadows came—like a flash; and like a flash they vanished away.
We cannot go far into the fields without sighting the hawk and the snake, whose other names are Death. In one form or another Death moves everywhere, down every wood-path and pasture-lane, through the black waters of the mill-pond, out under the open of the April sky, night and day, and every day, the four seasons through.
I have seen the still surface of a pond break suddenly with a swirl, and flash a hundred flecks of silver into the light, as the minnows leap from the jaws of the terrible pike.
Then a loud rattle, a streak of blue, a splash at the centre of the swirl, and I see the pike twisting and bending in the beak of the terrible kingfisher. The killer is killed. But at the mouth of the nest-hole in the steep sand-bank, swaying from a root in the edge of the turf above, hangs the terrible black snake, the third killer; and the belted kingfisher, dropping the pike, darts off with a startled cry.
I have been afield at times when one tragedy has followed another in such rapid and continuous succession as to put a whole shining, singing, blossoming springtime under a pall. Everything has seemed to cower, skulk, and hide, to run as if pursued. There was no peace, no stirring of small life, not even in the quiet of the deep pines; for here a hawk would be nesting, or a snake would be sleeping, or I would hear the passing of a fox, see perhaps his keen, hungry face an instant as he halted, winding me.
There is struggle, and pain, and death in the woods, and there is fear also, but the fear does not last long; it does not haunt and follow and terrify; it has no being, no shape, no lair. The shadow of the swiftest scudding cloud is not so fleeting as this Fear-shadow in the woods. The lowest of the animals seem capable of feeling fear; yet the very highest of them seem incapable of dreading it. For them Fear is not of the imagination, but of the sight, and of the passing moment.
"The present only toucheth thee!"
It does more, it throngs him—our little fellow mortal of the stubble-field. Into the present is lived the whole of his life—he remembers none of it; he anticipates none of it. And the whole of this life is action; and the whole of this action is joy. The moments of fear in an animal's life are few and vanishing. Action and joy are constant, the joint laws of all animal life, of all nature—of the shining stars that sing together, of the little mice that squeak together, of the bitter northeast storms that roar across the wintry fields.
I have had more than one hunter grip me excitedly, and with almost a command bid me hear the music of the baying pack. There are hollow halls in the swamps that lie to the east and north and west of me, that catch up the cry of the foxhounds, that blend it, mellow it, round it, and roll it, rising and falling over the meadows in great globes of sound, as pure and sweet as the pearly notes of the veery rolling round their silver basin in the summer dusk.
What music it is when the pack breaks into the open on the warm trail! A chorus then of tongues singing the ecstasy of pursuit! My blood leaps; the natural primitive wild thing of muscle and nerve and instinct within me slips its leash, and on past with the pack I drive, the scent of the trail single and sweet in my nostrils, a very fire in my blood, motion, motion, motion in my bounding muscles, and in my being a mighty music, spheric and immortal!
"The fair music that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motions
But what about the fox, loping wearily on ahead? What part has he in the chorus? No part, perhaps, unless we grimly call him its conductor. But the point is the chorus—that it never ceases, the hounds at this moment, not the fox, in the leading rôle.
"But the chorus ceases for me," you say. "My heart is with the poor fox." So is mine, and mine is with the dogs too. No, don't say "Poor little fox!" For many a night I have bayed with the pack, and as often—oftener, I think—I have loped and dodged and doubled with the fox, pitting limb against limb, lung against lung, wit against wit, and always escaping. More than once, in the warm moonlight, I, the fox, have led them on and on, spurring their lagging muscles with a sight of my brush, on and on, through the moonlit night, through the day, on into the moon again, and on until—only the stir of my own footsteps has followed me. Then, doubling once more, creeping back a little upon my track, I have looked at my pursuers, silent and stiff upon the trail, and, ere the echo of their cry has died away, I have caught up the chorus and carried it single-throated through the wheeling, singing spheres.
There is more of fact than of fancy to this. That a fox ever purposely led a dog to run to death would be hard to prove; but that the dogs run themselves to death in a single extended chase after a single fox is a common occurrence here in the woods about the farm. Occasionally the fox may be overtaken by the hounds; seldom, however, except in the case of a very young one or of one unacquainted with the lay of the land, a stranger that may have been driven into the rough country here.
I have been both fox and hound; I have run the race too often not to know that both enjoy it at times, fox as much as hound. Some weeks ago the dogs carried a young fox around and around the farm, hunting him here, there, everywhere, as if in a game of hide-and-seek. An old fox would have led the dogs on a long coursing run across the range. But the young fox, after the dogs were caught and taken off the trail, soon sauntered up through the mowing-field behind the barn, came out upon the bare knoll near the house, and sat there in the moonlight yapping down at Rex and Dewey, the house-dogs in the two farms below.
Rex is a Scotch collie, Dewey a
dreadful mix of dog-dregs. He had been tail-ender in
the pack for a while during the afternoon. Both dogs
answered back at the young fox. But he
could not egg them
on. Rex was too
fat, Dewey had
not so the
young fox. It had been fun. He wanted more.
"Come on, Dewey!"
he cried. "Come on, Rex, play tag again! You're
I was at work with my chickens one spring day when the fox broke from cover in the tall woods, struck the old wagon-road along the ridge, and came at a gallop down behind the hen-coops, with five hounds not a minute behind. They passed with a crash and were gone—up over the ridge and down into the east swamp. Soon I noticed that the pack had broken, deploying in every direction, beating the ground over and over. Reynard had given them the slip—on the ridge-side, evidently, for there were no cries from below in the swamp.
Leaving my work at noon, I went down to restake my cow in the meadow. I had just drawn her chain-pin when down the road through the orchard behind me came the fox, hopping high up and down, his neck stretched, his eye peeled for poultry. Spying a white hen of my neighbor's, he made for her, clear to the barnyard wall. Then, hopping higher for a better view, he sighted another hen in the front yard, skipped in gayly through the fence, seized her, and loped across the road and away up the birch-grown hills beyond.
The dogs had been at his very heels ten minutes before. He had fooled them. And no doubt he had done it again and again. They were even now yelping at the end of the baffling trail behind the ridge. Let them yelp. It is a kind and convenient habit of dogs, this yelping, one can tell so exactly where they are. Meantime one can take a turn for one's self at the chase, get a bite of chicken, a drink of water, a wink or two of rest, and when the yelping gets warm again, one is quite ready to pick up one's heels and lead the pack another merry dance. The fox is quite a jolly fellow.
This is the way the races out of doors are all run off. Now and then they may end tragically. A fox cannot reckon on the hunter with a gun. He is racing against the pack of hounds. But, mortal finish or no, the spirit of the chase is neither rage nor terror, but the excitement of a matched game, the ecstasy of pursuit for the hound, the passion of escape for the fox, without fury or fear—except for the instant at the start and at the finish—when it is a finish.
This is the spirit of the chase—of the race, more truly; for it is always a race, where the stake is not life and death, but rather the joy of winning. The hound cares as little for his own life as for the life of the fox he is hunting. It is the race, instead, that he loves; it is the moments of crowded, complete, supreme existence for him—"glory" we call it when men run it off together. Death, and the fear of death, the animals can neither understand nor feel. Only enemies exist in the world out of doors, only hounds, foxes, hawks—they, and their scents, their sounds and shadows; and not fear, but readiness only. The level of wild life, of the soul of all nature, is a great serenity. It is seldom lowered, but often raised to a higher level, intenser, faster, more exultant.
The serrate pines on my horizon are not the pickets of a great pen. My fields and swamps and ponds are not one wide battle-field, as if the only work of my wild neighbors were bloody war, and the whole of their existence a reign of terror. This is a universe of law and order and marvelous balance; conditions these of life, of normal, peaceful, joyous life. Life and not death is the law; joy and not fear is the spirit, is the frame of all that breathes, of very matter itself.
"And ever at the loom of Birth
The Mighty Mother weaves and sings;
She weaves—fresh robes for mangled earth;
She sings—fresh hopes for desperate things."
But suppose the fox were a defenseless rabbit, what of fear and terror then?
Ask any one who has shot in the rabbity fields of southern New Jersey. The rabbit seldom runs in blind terror. He is soft-eyed, and timid, and as gentle as a pigeon, but he is not defenseless. A nobler set of legs was never bestowed by nature than the little cottontail's. They are as wings compared with the bent, bow legs that bear up the ordinary rabbit-hound. With winged legs, protecting color, a clear map of the country in his head,—its stumps, rail-piles, cat-brier tangles, and narrow rabbit-roads,—with all this as a handicap, Bunny may well run his usual cool and winning race. The balance is just as even, the chances quite as good, and the contest every bit as interesting to him as to Reynard.
I have seen a rabbit squat close in his form and let a hound pass yelping within a few feet of him, but waiting on his toes as ready as a hair-trigger should he be discovered.
I have seen him leap for his life as the dog sighted him, and, bounding like a ball across the stubble, disappear in the woods, the hound within two jumps of his flashing tail. I have waited at the end of the wood-road for the runners to come back, down the home-stretch, for the finish. On they go through the woods, for a quarter, or perhaps a half a mile, the baying of the hound faint and intermittent in the distance, then quite lost. No, there it is again, louder now. They have turned the course.
The quiet life of the woods is undisturbed; for the voice of the hound is only an echo, not unlike the far-off tolling of a slow-swinging bell. The leaves stir as a wood mouse scurries from his stump; an acorn rattles down; then in the winding wood-road I hear the pit-pat, pit-pat, of soft furry feet, and there at the bend is the rabbit. He stops, rises high up on his haunches, and listens. He drops again upon all fours, scratches himself behind the ear, reaches over the cart-rut for a nip of sassafras, hops a little nearer, and throws his big ears forward in quick alarm, for he sees me, and, as if something had exploded under him, he kicks into the air and is off,—leaving a pretty tangle for the dog to unravel, later on, by this mighty jump to the side.
My children and a woodchopper were witnesses recently of an exciting, and, for this section of Massachusetts, a novel race, which, but for them, must certainly have ended fatally. The boys were coming through the wood-lot where the man was chopping, when down the hillside toward them rushed a little chipmunk, his teeth a-chatter with terror; for close behind him, with the easy, wavy motion of a shadow, glided a dark-brown animal, which the man took on the instant for a mink, but which must have been a large weasel or a pine marten. When almost at the feet of the boys, and about to be seized by the marten, the squeaking chipmunk ran up a tree. Up glided the marten, up for twenty feet, when the chipmunk jumped. It was a fearfully close call.
The marten did not dare to jump, but turned and started down, when the man intercepted him with a stick. Around and around the tree he dodged, growling and snarling and avoiding the stick, not a bit abashed, stubbornly holding his own, until forced to seek refuge among the branches. Meanwhile, the terrified chipmunk had recovered his nerve and sat quietly watching the sudden turn of affairs from a near-by stump.
I frequently climb into the cupola of the barn during the winter, and bring down a dazed junco that would beat his life out up there against the window-panes. He will lie on his back in my open hand, either feigning death or really powerless with fear. His eyes will close, his whole tiny body throb convulsively with his throbbing heart. Taking him to the door, I will turn him over and give him a gentle toss. Instantly his wings flash; they take him zigzag for a yard or two, then bear him swiftly round the corner of the house and drop him in the midst of his fellows, where they are feeding upon the lawn. He will shape himself up a little and fall to picking with the others.
From a state of collapse the laws of his being bring the bird into normal behavior as quickly and completely as the collapsed rubber ball is rounded by the laws of its being. The memory of the fright seems to be an impression exactly like the dent in the rubber ball—as if it had never been.
Memories, of course, the animals surely have; but little or no power to use them. The dog will sometimes seem to cherish a grudge; so will the elephant. Some one injures or wrongs him, and the huge beast harbors the memory, broods it, and awaits his opportunity for revenge. Yet the records of these cases usually show that the creature had been living with the object of his hatred—his keeper, perhaps—and that the memory goes no farther back than the present moment, than the sight of the hated one.
At my railroad station I frequently see a yoke of great sleepy, bald-faced oxen, that look as much alike as two blackbirds. Their driver knows them apart; but as they stand there, bound to one another by the heavy bar across their foreheads, it would puzzle anybody else to tell Buck from Berry. But not if he approach them wearing an overcoat. At sight of me in an overcoat the off ox will snort and back and thrash about in terror, twisting the head of his yoke-fellow, nearly breaking his neck, and trampling him miserably. But the nigh ox is used to it. He chews and blinks away placidly, keeps his feet the best he can, and doesn't try to understand at all why greatcoats should so frighten his cud-chewing brother. I will drop off my coat and go up immediately to smooth the muzzles of both oxen, now blinking sleepily while the lumber is being loaded on.
Years ago, the driver told me, the off ox was badly frightened by a big woolly coat, the sight or smell of which probably suggested to the creature some natural enemy, a panther, perhaps, or a bear. The memory remained, but beyond recall except in the presence of its first cause, the greatcoat.
To us there are such things as terror and death, but not to the lower animals except momentarily. We are clutched by terror even as the junco was clutched in my goblin hand. When the mighty fingers open, we zigzag, dazed, from the danger; but fall to planning before the tremors of the fright have ceased. Upon the crumbled, smoking heap of San Francisco a second splendid city has arisen and shall ever rise. Terror can kill the living, but it cannot hinder them from forgetting, or prevent them from hoping, or, for more than an instant, stop them from doing. Such is the law of life—the law of heaven, of my pastures, of the little junco, of myself. Life, Law, and Matter are all of one piece. The horse in my stable, the robin, the toad, the beetle, the vine in my garden, the garden itself, and I together with them all, come out of the same divine dust; we all breathe the same divine breath; we have our beings under the same divine laws; only they do not know that the law, the breath, and the dust are divine. If, with all that I know of fear, I can so readily forget it, and can so constantly feel the hope and the joy of life within me, how soon for them, my lowly fellow mortals, must vanish all sight of fear, all memory of pain! And how abiding with them, how compelling, the necessity to live! And in their unquestioning obedience, what joy!
The face of the fields is as changeful as the face of a child. Every passing wind, every shifting cloud, every calling bird, every baying hound, every shape, shadow, fragrance, sound, and tremor, are reflected there. But if time and experience and pain come, they pass utterly away; for the face of the fields does not grow old or wise or seamed with pain. It is always the face of a child,—asleep in winter, awake in spring and summer,—a face of life and health always, as much in the falling leaf as in the opening bud, as much under the covers of the snow as in the greensward of the spring, as much in the wild, fierce joy of fox and hound as they course the turning, tangling paths of the woodlands in their fateful race as in the song of brook and bird on a joyous April morning.
Thou art, O God, the life and light
Of all this wond'rous world we see;
Its glow by day, its smile by night,
Are but reflections caught of Thee.
When youthful Spring around us breathes,
Thy spirit warms her fragrant sigh,
And ev'ry flow'r the Summer wreathes
Is born beneath that kindling eye.
WEEK 21 |
H, how beautiful! Oh, my goodness, how beautiful they are!
There are some whose wings are barred with red on a garnet
background; some bright blue with black circles; others are
sulphur-yellow with orange spots; again others are white
Now their uncle told the children the names of the
butterflies that flew on the flowers in the garden. "This
one," said he,
"whose wings are white with a black border and
three black spots, is called the cabbage butterfly. This
larger one, whose yellow wings barred with black terminate
in a long tail, at the base of which are found a large rust
colored eye and blue spots, is called the
And Uncle Paul continued thus, naming the butterflies that a bright sun had drawn to the flowers.
"The Argus ought to be difficult to catch," observed Emile. "He sees everywhere; his wings are covered with eyes."
"The pretty round spots that a great many butterflies have on their wings are not really eyes, although they are called by that name; they are ornaments, nothing more. Real eyes, eyes for seeing, are in the head. The Argus has two, neither more nor fewer than the other butterflies."
"Claire tells me," said Jules, "that butterflies come from caterpillars. Is it true, Uncle?"
"Yes, my child. Every butterfly, before becoming the graceful creature which flies from flower to flower with magnificent wings, is an ugly caterpillar that creeps with effort. Thus the cabbage butterfly which I have just shown you, is first a green caterpillar, which stays on the cabbages and gnaws the leaves. Jacques will tell you how much pains he takes to protect his cabbage patch from the voracious insect; for, you see, caterpillars have a terrible appetite. You will soon learn the reason.
"Most insects behave like caterpillars. On coming out of the egg, they have a provisional form that they must replace later by another. They are, as it were, born twice: first imperfect, dull, voracious, ugly: then perfect, agile, abstemious, and often of an admirable richness and elegance. Under its first form, the insect is a worm called by the general name of larva.
"You remember the lion of the
"Well, this initial state of the insect, this worm, first form of youth, is called the larva. The wonderful change which transforms the larva into a perfect insect is called metamorphosis. Caterpillars are larvæ. By metamorphosis they turn into those beautiful butterflies whose wings, decorated with the richest colors, fill us with admiration. The Argus, now so beautiful with its celestial blue wings, was first a poor hairy caterpillar; the splendid swallowtail began by being a green caterpillar with black stripes across it and red spots on its sides. Out of these despicable vermin metamorphosis has made those delightful creatures which only the flowers can rival in elegance.
Red-humped Apple Tree
(b) caterpillar natural size
"You all know the tale of Cinderella. The sisters have left
for the ball, very proud, very smart. Cinderella, her heart
full, is watching the kettle. The godmother arrives. 'Go,'
says she, 'to the garden and get a pumpkin.' And behold, the
"These powerful godmothers for whom it is play to change mice into horses, lizards into footmen, ugly clothes into sumptuous ones, these gracious fairies who astonish you with their fabulous prodigies, what are they, my dear children, in comparison with reality, the great fairy of the good God, who, out of a dirty worm, object of disgust, knows how to make a creature of ravishing beauty! He touches with his divine wand a miserable hairy caterpillar, an abject worm that slobbers in rotten wood, and the miracle is accomplished: the disgusting larva has turned into a beetle all shining with gold, a butterfly whose azure wings would have outshone Cinderella's fine toilette."
IT is a sad experience to get a necessity and then find it utterly impossible to raise the money to pay for it. This means debt, and debt often means suffering to honest men.
And if debt means suffering here in America
Now, the debtors' prisons were often visited by an English general, James Oglethorpe. He was of a kind and sympathetic nature, and it seemed to him a dreadful thing—this imprisonment for debt. Was there no way to help these poor people in their misery?
While he was pondering as to what he could do, an opportunity came. The English colony of South Carolina in America lay exposed to attacks from the Spaniards in Florida. The South Carolina settlers needed protection on the south. Here was Oglethorpe's chance. Why could not the most deserving of the poor imprisoned debtors be taken to America? And why could they not be settled in a colony which would serve as a military outpost against the Spaniards?
General Oglethorpe laid his
scheme before the
English King and
the English Government. Both
The land lying
between the Savannah and the
was granted to the
new colony. The
colony was named
Georgia in honor
In January, 1733, General Oglethorpe, his released debtors and their families, entered the Savannah River. Upon the arrival of the settlers, an Indian chief came forward and welcomed them. "Here is a present for you," said he to Oglethorpe. It was a buffalo hide, painted on the inside with the head and feathers of an eagle. "The feathers are soft and signify love, the buffalo skin is the emblem of protection; therefore love and protect us and our families," said the chief. From this time the Indians were kindly treated by Oglethorpe; and, as usual, they rewarded friendship with friendship.
The settlers bought from the Indians the land along the southern bank of the Savannah River, laid out a town, and named it Savannah.
Later other emigrants came and made other settlements in Georgia. These were persecuted Protestants from Germany and Austria, Scotch peasants from the Highlands, and even a small party of settlers from New England.
True to his promise to make his colony a military outpost against the Spaniards, Governor Oglethorpe built forts and insisted on military drills.
There were other things he insisted upon. No liquor could be imported into the colony, and no colonist could have slaves. Having no slaves, the settlers themselves were forced to work. The raising of rice and indigo were the chief occupations.
Before many years General Oglethorpe had a chance to
prove that his colony made a valuable protection for
South Carolina. In 1739 war broke out between Spain and
England. The next spring Oglethorpe gathered an army of
colonists and friendly Indians and marched into
Florida. For five weeks the English besieged
The Spaniards now determined to invade Georgia. Great
preparations were made. Finally
For ten years Governor Oglethorpe devoted himself to his colony. In 1743 he bade adieu to his sorrowing friends, both the settlers and the Indians, and left for his English home. Here he lived to a good old age, honored and loved by his countrymen as much as by the unfortunate debtors whom he had treated so kindly.
You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow 'ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
There's many a black, black eye, they say, but none so bright as mine;
There's Margaret and Mary, there's Kate and Caroline;
But none so fair as little Alice in all the land they say,
So I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake,
If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break;
But I must gather knots of flowers, and buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
As I came up the valley whom think ye should I see
But Robin leaning on the bridge beneath the hazel-tree?
He thought of that sharp look, mother, I gave him yesterday,
But I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
He thought I was a ghost, mother, for I was all in white,
And I ran by him without speaking, like a flash of light.
They call me cruel-hearted, but I care not what they say,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
They say he's dying all for love, but that can never be;
They say his heart is breaking, mother—what is that to me?
There's many a bolder lad 'ill woo me any summer day,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
Little Effie shall go with me to-morrow to the green,
And you'll be there, too, mother, to see me made the Queen;
For the shepherd lads on every side 'ill come from far away,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
The honeysuckle round the porch has woven its wavy bowers,
And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckoo-flowers;
And the wild marsh-marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
The night-winds come and go, mother, upon the meadow-grass,
And the happy stars above them seem to brighten as they pass;
There will not be a drop of rain the whole of the livelong day,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
All the valley, mother, 'ill be fresh and green and still,
And the cowslip and the crowfoot are over all the hill,
And the rivulet in the flowery dale 'ill merrily glance and play,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
So you must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear,
To-morrow 'ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
To-morrow 'ill be of all the year the maddest merriest day,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
WEEK 21 |
O SMOND DE CENTEVILLE was soon convinced that no immediate peril threatened his young Duke at the Court of Laon. Louis seemed to intend to fulfil his oaths to the Normans by allowing the child to be the companion of his own sons, and to be treated in every respect as became his rank. Richard had his proper place at table, and all due attendance; he learnt, rode, and played with the Princes, and there was nothing to complain of, excepting the coldness and inattention with which the King and Queen treated him, by no means fulfilling the promise of being as parents to their orphan ward. Gerberge, who had from the first dreaded his superior strength and his roughness with her puny boys, and who had been by no means won by his manners at their first meeting, was especially distant and severe with him, hardly ever speaking to him except with some rebuke, which, it must be confessed, Richard often deserved.
As to the boys, his constant companions, Richard was on very friendly terms with Carlo-man, a gentle, timid, weakly child. Richard looked down upon him; but he was kind, as a generous-tempered boy could not fail to be, to one younger and weaker than himself. He was so much kinder than Lothaire, that Carloman was fast growing very fond of him, and looked up to his strength and courage as something noble and marvellous.
It was very different with Lothaire, the person from whom, above all others, Richard would have most expected to meet with affection, as his father's god-son, a relationship which in those times was thought almost as near as kindred by blood. Lothaire had been brought up by an indulgent mother, and by courtiers who never ceased flattering him, as the heir to the crown, and he had learnt to think that to give way to his naturally imperious and violent disposition was the way to prove his power and assert his rank. He had always had his own way, and nothing had ever been done to check his faults; somewhat weakly health had made him fretful and timid; and a latent consciousness of this fearfulness made him all the more cruel, sometimes because he was frightened, sometimes because he fancied it manly.
He treated his little brother in a way which in these times boys would call bullying; and, as no one ever dared to oppose the King's eldest son, it was pretty much the same with every one else, except now and then some dumb creature, and then all Lothaire's cruelty was shown. When his horse kicked, and ended by throwing him, he stood by, and caused it to be beaten till the poor creature's back streamed with blood; when his dog bit his hand in trying to seize the meat with which he was teazing it, he insisted on having it killed, and it was worse still when a falcon pecked one of his fingers. It really hurt him a good deal, and, in a furious rage, he caused two nails to be heated red hot in the fire, intending to have them thrust into the poor bird's eyes.
"I will not have it done!" exclaimed Richard, expecting to be obeyed as he was at home; but Lothaire only laughed scornfully, saying, "Do you think you are master here, Sir pirate?"
"I will not have it done!" repeated Richard. "Shame on you, shame on you, for thinking of such an unkingly deed."
"Shame on me! Do you know to whom you speak, master savage?" cried Lothaire, red with passion.
"I know who is the savage now!" said Richard. "Hold!" to the servant who was bringing the red-hot irons in a pair of tongs.
"Hold?" exclaimed Lothaire. "No one commands here but I and my father. Go on Charlot—where is the bird? Keep her fast, Giles."
"Osmond. You I can command—"
"Come away, my Lord," said Osmond, interrupting Richard's order, before it was issued. "We have no right to interfere here, and cannot hinder it. Come away from such a foul sight."
"Shame on you too, Osmond, to let such a deed be done without hindering it!" exclaimed Richard, breaking from him, and rushing on the man who carried the hot irons. The French servants were not very willing to exert their strength against the Duke of Normandy, and Richard's onset, taking the man by surprise, made him drop the tongs. Lothaire, both afraid and enraged, caught them up as a weapon of defence, and, hardly knowing what he did, struck full at Richard's face with the hot iron. Happily it missed his eye, and the heat had a little abated; but, as it touched his cheek, it burnt him sufficiently to cause considerable pain. With a cry of passion, he flew at Lothaire, shook him with all his might, and ended by throwing him at his length on the pavement. But this was the last of Richard's exploits, for he was at the same moment captured by his Squire, and borne off, struggling and kicking as if Osmond had been his greatest foe; but the young Norman's arms were like iron round him; and he gave over his resistance sooner, because at that moment a whirring flapping sound was heard, and the poor hawk rose high, higher, over their heads in ever lessening circles, far away from her enemies. The servant who held her, had relaxed his grasp in the consternation caused by Lothaire's fall, and she was mounting up and up, spying, it might be, her way to her native rocks in Iceland, with the yellow eyes which Richard had saved.
"Safe! safe!" cried Richard, joyfully, ceasing his struggles. "Oh, how glad I am! That young villain should never have hurt her. Put me down, Osmond, what are you doing with me?"
"Saving you from your—no, I cannot call it folly,—I would hardly have had you stand still to see such—but let me see your face."
"It is nothing. I don't care now the hawk is safe," said Richard, though he could hardly keep his lips in order, and was obliged to wink very hard with his eyes to keep the tears out, now that he had leisure to feel the smarting; but it would have been far beneath a Northman to complain, and he stood bearing it gallantly, and pinching his fingers tightly together, while Osmond knelt down to examine the hurt. "'Tis not much," said he, talking to himself, "half bruise, half burn—I wish my grandmother was here—however, it can't last long! 'Tis right, you bear it like a little Berserkar, and it is no bad thing that you should have a scar to show, that they may not be able to say you did all the damage."
"Will it always leave a mark?" said Richard. "I am afraid they will call me Richard of the scarred cheek, when we get back to Normandy."
"Never mind, if they do—it will not be a mark to be ashamed of, even if it does last, which I do not believe it will."
"Oh, no, I am so glad the gallant falcon is out of his reach!" replied Richard, in a somewhat quivering voice.
"Does it smart much? Well, come and bathe it with cold water—or shall I take you to one of the Queen's women?"
"No—the water," said Richard, and to the fountain in the court they went; but Osmond had only just begun to splash the cheek with the half-frozen water, with a sort of rough kindness, afraid at once of teaching the Duke to be effeminate, and of not being as tender to him as Dame Astrida would have wished, when a messenger came in haste from the King, commanding the presence of the Duke of Normandy and his Squire.
Lothaire was standing between his father and mother on their throne- like seat, leaning against the Queen, who had her arm round him; his face was red and glazed with tears, and he still shook with subsiding sobs. It was evident he was just recovering from a passionate crying fit.
"How is this?" began the King, as Richard entered. "What means this conduct, my Lord of Normandy? Know you what you have done in striking the heir of France? I might imprison you this instant in a dungeon where you would never see the light of day."
"Then Bernard de Harcourt would come and set me free," fearlessly answered Richard.
"Do you bandy words with me, child? Ask Prince Lothaire's pardon instantly, or you shall rue it."
"I have done nothing to ask his pardon for. It would have been cruel and cowardly in me to let him put out the poor hawk's eyes," said Richard, with a Northman's stern contempt for pain, disdaining to mention his own burnt cheek, which indeed the King might have seen plainly enough.
"Hawk's eyes!" repeated the King. "Speak the truth, Sir Duke; do not add slander to your other faults."
"I have spoken the truth—I always speak it!" cried Richard. "Whoever says otherwise lies in his throat."
Osmond here hastily interfered, and desired permission to tell the whole story. The hawk was a valuable bird, and Louis's face darkened when he heard what Lothaire had purposed, for the Prince had, in telling his own story, made it appear that Richard had been the aggressor by insisting on letting the falcon fly. Osmond finished by pointing to the mark on Richard's cheek, so evidently a burn, as to be proof that hot iron had played a part in the matter. The King looked at one of his own Squires and asked his account, and he with some hesitation could not but reply that it was as the young Sieur de Centeville had said. Thereupon Louis angrily reproved his own people for having assisted the Prince in trying to injure the hawk, called for the chief falconer, rated him for not better attending to his birds, and went forth with him to see if the hawk could yet be recaptured, leaving the two boys neither punished nor pardoned.
"So you have escaped for this once," said Gerberge, coldly, to Richard; "you had better beware another time. Come with me, my poor darling Lothaire." She led her son away to her own apartments, and the French Squires began to grumble to each other complaints of the impossibility of pleasing their Lords, since, if they contradicted Prince Lothaire, he was so spiteful that he was sure to set the Queen against them, and that was far worse in the end than the King's displeasure. Osmond, in the meantime, took Richard to re-commence bathing his face, and presently Carloman ran out to pity him, wonder at him for not crying, and say he was glad the poor hawk had escaped.
The cheek continued inflamed and painful for some time, and there was a deep scar long after the pain had ceased, but Richard thought little of it after the first, and would have scorned to bear ill-will to Lothaire for the injury.
Lothaire left off taunting Richard with his Norman accent, and calling him a young Sea-king. He had felt his strength, and was afraid of him; but he did not like him the better—he never played with him willingly—scowled, and looked dark and jealous, if his father, or if any of the great nobles took the least notice of the little Duke, and whenever he was out of hearing, talked against him with all his natural spitefulness.
Richard liked Lothaire quite as little, contemning almost equally his cowardly ways and his imperious disposition. Since he had been Duke, Richard had been somewhat inclined to grow imperious himself, though always kept under restraint by Fru Astrida's good training, and Count Bernard's authority, and his whole generous nature would have revolted against treating Alberic, or indeed his meanest vassal, as Lothaire used the unfortunate children who were his playfellows. Perhaps this made him look on with great horror at the tyranny which Lothaire exercised; at any rate he learnt to abhor it more, and to make many resolutions against ordering people about uncivilly when once he should be in Normandy again. He often interfered to protect the poor boys, and generally with success, for the Prince was afraid of provoking such another shake as Richard had once given him, and though he generally repaid himself on his victim in the end, he yielded for the time.
Carloman, whom Richard often saved from his brother's unkindness, clung closer and closer to him, went with him everywhere, tried to do all he did, grew very fond of Osmond, and liked nothing better than to sit by Richard in some wide window-seat, in the evening, after supper, and listen to Richard's version of some of Fru Astrida's favourite tales, or hear the never-ending history of sports at Centeville, or at Rollo's Tower, or settle what great things they would both do when they were grown up, and Richard was ruling Normandy—perhaps go to the Holy Land together, and slaughter an unheard-of host of giants and dragons on the way. In the meantime, however, poor Carloman gave small promise of being able to perform great exploits, for he was very small for his age and often ailing; soon tired, and never able to bear much rough play. Richard, who had never had any reason to learn to forbear, did not at first understand this, and made Carloman cry several times with his roughness and violence, but this always vexed him so much that he grew careful to avoid such things for the future, and gradually learnt to treat his poor little weakly friend with a gentleness and patience at which Osmond used to marvel, and which he would hardly have been taught in his prosperity at home.
Between Carloman and Osmond he was thus tolerably happy at Laon, but he missed his own dear friends, and the loving greetings of his vassals, and longed earnestly to be at Rouen, asking Osmond almost every night when they should go back, to which Osmond could only answer that he must pray that Heaven would be pleased to bring them home safely.
Osmond, in the meantime, kept a vigilant watch for anything that might seem to threaten danger to his Lord; but at present there was no token of any evil being intended; the only point in which Louis did not seem to be fulfilling his promises to the Normans was, that no preparations were made for attacking the Count of Flanders.
At Easter the court was visited by Hugh the White, the great Count of Paris, the most powerful man in France, and who was only prevented by his own loyalty and forbearance, from taking the crown from the feeble and degenerate race of Charlemagne. He had been a firm friend of William Longsword, and Osmond remarked how, on his arrival, the King took care to bring Richard forward, talk of him affectionately, and caress him almost as much as he had done at Rouen. The Count himself was really kind and affectionate to the little Duke; he kept him by his side, and seemed to like to stroke down his long flaxen hair, looking in his face with a grave mournful expression, as if seeking for a likeness to his father. He soon asked about the scar which the burn had left, and the King was obliged to answer hastily, it was an accident, a disaster that had chanced in a boyish quarrel. Louis, in fact, was uneasy, and appeared to be watching the Count of Paris the whole time of his visit, so as to prevent him from having any conversation in private with the other great vassals assembled at the court. Hugh did not seem to perceive this, and acted as if he was entirely at his ease, but at the same time he watched his opportunity. One evening, after supper, he came up to the window where Richard and Carloman were, as usual, deep in story telling; he sat down on the stone seat, and taking Richard on his knee, he asked if he had any greetings for the Count de Harcourt.
How Richard's face lighted up! "Oh, Sir," he cried, "are you going to Normandy?"
"Not yet, my boy, but it may be that I may have to meet old Harcourt at the Elm of Gisors."
"Oh, if I was but going with you."
"I wish I could take you, but it would scarcely do for me to steal the heir of Normandy. What shall I tell him?"
"Tell him," whispered Richard, edging himself close to the Count, and trying to reach his ear, "tell him that I am sorry, now, that I was sullen when he reproved me. I know he was right. And, sir, if he brings with him a certain huntsman with a long hooked nose, whose name is Walter, tell him I am sorry I used to order him about so unkindly. And tell him to bear my greetings to Fru Astrida and Sir Eric, and to Alberic."
"Shall I tell him how you have marked your face?"
"No," said Richard, "he would think me a baby to care about such a thing as that!"
The Count asked how it happened, and Richard told the story, for he felt as if he could tell the kind Count anything—it was almost like that last evening that he had sat on his father's knee. Hugh ended by putting his arm round him, and saying, "Well, my little Duke, I am as glad as you are the gallant bird is safe—it will be a tale for my own little Hugh and Eumacette at home—and you must one day be friends with them as your father has been with me. And now, do you think your Squire could come to my chamber late this evening when the household is at rest?"
Richard undertook that Osmond should do so, and the Count, setting him down again, returned to the dais. Osmond, before going to the Count that evening, ordered Sybald to come and guard the Duke's door. It was a long conference, for Hugh had come to Laon chiefly for the purpose of seeing how it went with his friend's son, and was anxious to know what Osmond thought of the matter. They agreed that at present there did not seem to be any evil intended, and that it rather appeared as if Louis wished only to keep him as a hostage for the tranquillity of the borders of Normandy; but Hugh advised that Osmond should maintain a careful watch, and send intelligence to him on the first token of mischief.
The next morning the Count of Paris quitted Laon, and everything went on in the usual course till the feast of Whitsuntide, when there was always a great display of splendour at the French court. The crown vassals generally came to pay their duty and go with the King to Church; and there was a state banquet, at which the King and Queen wore their crowns, and every one sat in great magnificence according to their rank.
The grand procession to Church was over. Richard had walked with Carloman, the Prince richly dressed in blue, embroidered with golden fleur-de-lys, and Richard in scarlet, with a gold Cross on his breast; the beautiful service was over, they had returned to the Castle, and there the Seneschal was marshalling the goodly and noble company to the banquet, when horses' feet were heard at the gate announcing some fresh arrival. The Seneschal went to receive the guests, and presently was heard ushering in the noble Prince, Arnulf, Count of Flanders.
Richard's face became pale—he turned from Carloman by whose side he had been standing, and walked straight out of the hall and up the stairs, closely followed by Osmond. In a few minutes there was a knock at the door of his chamber, and a French Knight stood there saying, "Comes not the Duke to the banquet?"
"No," answered Osmond: "he eats not with the slayer of his father."
"The King will take it amiss; for the sake of the child you had better beware," said the Frenchman, hesitating.
"He had better beware himself," exclaimed Osmond, indignantly, "how he brings the treacherous murderer of William Longsword into the presence of a free-born Norman, unless he would see him slain where he stands. Were it not for the boy, I would challenge the traitor this instant to single combat."
"Well, I can scarce blame you," said the Knight, "but you had best have a care how you tread. Farewell."
Richard had hardly time to express his indignation, and his wishes that he was a man, before another message came through a groom of Lothaire's train, that the Duke must fast, if he would not consent to feast with the rest.
"Tell Prince Lothaire," replied Richard, "that I am not such a glutton as he—I had rather fast than be choked with eating with Arnulf."
All the rest of the day, Richard remained in his own chamber, resolved not to run the risk of meeting with Arnulf. The Squire remained with him, in this voluntary imprisonment, and they occupied themselves, as best they could, with furbishing Osmond's armour, and helping each other out in repeating some of the Sagas. They once heard a great uproar in the court, and both were very anxious to learn its cause, but they did not know it till late in the afternoon.
Carloman crept up to them—"Here I am at last!" he exclaimed. "Here, Richard, I have brought you some bread, as you had no dinner: it was all I could bring. I saved it under the table lest Lothaire should see it."
Richard thanked Carloman with all his heart, and being very hungry was glad to share the bread with Osmond. He asked how long the wicked Count was going to stay, and rejoiced to hear he was going away the next morning, and the King was going with him.
"What was that great noise in the court?" asked Richard.
"I scarcely like to tell you," returned Carloman.
Richard, however, begged to hear, and Carloman was obliged to tell that the two Norman grooms, Sybald and Henry, had quarrelled with the Flemings of Arnulf's train; there had been a fray, which had ended in the death of three Flemings, a Frank, and of Sybald himself—And where was Henry? Alas! there was more ill news—the King had sentenced Henry to die, and he had been hanged immediately.
Dark with anger and sorrow grew young Richard's face; he had been fond of his two Norman attendants, he trusted to their attachment, and he would have wept for their loss even if it had happened in any other way; but now, when it had been caused by their enmity to his father's foes, the Flemings,—when one had fallen overwhelmed by numbers, and the other been condemned hastily, cruelly, unjustly, it was too much, and he almost choked with grief and indignation. Why had he not been there, to claim Henry as his own vassal, and if he could not save him, at least bid him farewell? Then he would have broken out in angry threats, but he felt his own helplessness, and was ashamed, and he could only shed tears of passionate grief, refusing all Carloman's attempts to comfort him. Osmond was even more concerned; he valued the two Normans extremely for their courage and faithfulness, and had relied on sending intelligence by their means to Rouen, in case of need. It appeared to him as if the first opportunity had been seized of removing these protectors from the little Duke, and as if the designs, whatever they might be, which had been formed against him, were about to take effect. He had little doubt that his own turn would be the next; but he was resolved to endure anything, rather than give the smallest opportunity of removing him, to bear even insults with patience, and to remember that in his care rested the sole hope of safety for his charge.
That danger was fast gathering around them became more evident every day, especially after the King and Arnulf had gone away together. It was very hot weather, and Richard began to weary after the broad cool river at Rouen, where he used to bathe last summer; and one evening he persuaded his Squire to go down with him to the Oise, which flowed along some meadow ground about a quarter of a mile from the Castle; but they had hardly set forth before three or four attendants came running after them, with express orders from the Queen that they should return immediately. They obeyed, and found her standing in the Castle hall, looking greatly incensed.
"What means this?" she asked, angrily. "Knew you not that the King has left commands that the Duke quits not the Castle in his absence?"
"I was only going as far as the river—" began Richard, but Gerberge cut him short. "Silence, child—I will hear no excuses. Perhaps you think, Sieur de Centeville, that you may take liberties in the King's absence, but I tell you that if you are found without the walls again, it shall be at your peril; ay, and his! I'll have those haughty eyes put out, if you disobey!"
She turned away, and Lothaire looked at them with his air of gratified malice. "You will not lord it over your betters much longer, young pirate!" said he, as he followed his mother, afraid to stay to meet the anger he might have excited by the taunt he could not deny himself the pleasure of making; but Richard, who, six months ago could not brook a slight disappointment or opposition, had, in his present life of restraint, danger, and vexation, learnt to curb the first outbreak of temper, and to bear patiently instead of breaking out into passion and threats, and now his only thought was of his beloved Squire.
"Oh, Osmond! Osmond!" he exclaimed, "they shall not hurt you. I will never go out again. I will never speak another hasty word. I will never affront the Prince, if they will but leave you with me!"
A crow flying across a road saw a Partridge strutting along the ground.
"What a beautiful gait that Partridge has!" said the Crow. "I must try to see if I can walk like him."
She alighted behind the Partridge and tried for a long time to learn to strut. At last the Partridge turned around and asked the Crow what she was about.
"Do not be angry with me," replied the Crow. "I have never before seen a bird who walks as beautifully as you can, and I am trying to learn to walk like you."
"Foolish bird!" responded the Partridge. "You are a Crow, and should walk like a Crow. You would look silly indeed if you were to strut like a partridge."
But the Crow went on trying to learn to strut, until finally she had forgotten her own gait, and she never learned that of the Partridge.
Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Or woods or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-linéd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.
A belt of straw and ivy-buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
An' if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my Love.
Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepar'd each day for thee and me.
The shepherd-swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my Love.
WEEK 21 |
"When the battle rages loud and long,
And the stormy winds do blow."
T HE French had been beaten by the English in the East and in the West by land. Now they were to be beaten again by the English, this time by sea, and off their own coast. France was threatening an invasion of England, when Sir Edward Hawke was given command of an English fleet, with orders to blockade the French fleet and destroy the ships if possible.
How, through wild storms and tempests, the English sailor kept his dogged watch, and how, finally, he destroyed the fleet with "heroic daring," and by so doing saved his country, is one of the most thrilling stories in history.
Born in the year 1705, Hawke had been at sea ever since he was a small boy.
"Would you like to be a sailor, Ned?" he had been asked.
"Certainly, sir," the boy had answered quickly.
"Are you willing to go now, or to wait till you are bigger?"
"This instant, sir," replied the little hero.
His mother grieved bitterly over his departure from home.
"Good-bye, Ned," she said, with difficulty controlling herself. "I shall expect you soon to be a captain."
"A captain," replied the boy with derision; "Madam, I hope you will soon see me an admiral."
He rose quickly in the service. More than once he distinguished himself in sea-fights. He had more than fulfilled the traditions of the British navy, lately disgraced by the behaviour of the British Admiral Byng, who for the loss of Minorca had been tried and shot on the deck of his own ship.
Pitt had chosen Wolfe to carry out his plans at Quebec; he now chose Hawke to sail against the French, and so frustrate the threatened invasion of England.
It was in the middle of May 1759 that Hawke hoisted his flag and sailed from Torbay, to fulfil his difficult task. The French fleet, under Conflans, the ablest of French commanders, was lying snugly in the well-sheltered harbour of Brest, while more ships lay to the south at the mouth of the Loire. Hawke was to block all the ships in the harbour of Brest, and prevent their joining the others. He sailed over to the French coast, and there for six months he doggedly blockaded the French fleet. But it was a stormier season than usual. His officers and men died of disease, the bottoms of the ships grew foul, the vessels were battered by autumn gales and knocked about by the high rolling seas from the Bay of Biscay. Still the British sailor stuck to his post. Autumn drew on. Again and again the wild north-west gales drove him from his blockading ground at the mouth of the harbour of Brest; again and yet again he fought his way back.
On November 6, a tremendous gale swept over the English fleet. For three days Hawke stood his ground, but he was forced to run back to the shores of England for shelter. Two days later he put to sea again, but the wind was blowing as furiously as ever, and he was again obliged to put back to Torbay. His own ship was rotten and water-logged, so he shifted his flag to the Royal George and struggled out again into the storm.
He was just too late. The French fleet had escaped, and the ships were even now running gaily with the wind behind them down the west coast of France to join the rest of the fleet. Conflans' daring plan might have succeeded had he not had against him a man whose genius, patience, and resolution were proof against the wildest waves and the fiercest winds. In the teeth of the gale Hawke fought his way across the channel to France to find the harbour empty, his prey gone. On ran the French ships before the gale. Very soon the white sails of the English might have been seen hurrying after them. With the waves breaking over their decks, weighed down by the weight of sail, battered by the wild wind that whistled through their rigging, the English ships ran on, every hour bringing them nearer and nearer to the enemy.
"I will attack them in the old way," cried Hawke, "and make downright work of them."
As night drew on, the wind blew harder than ever. Conflans now devised a bold plan. He ran his ships coastwards, among islands and shoals of which he knew the English to be ignorant. It was a wild stretch of dangerous coast, on which the huge Atlantic waves broke with a roar as of thunder, tossing their white foam high into the air. The wind blew with ever-increasing fury, and the night was black as pitch. Only the genius of a Hawke could save the fleet in such a night. But to the successor of Drake and Hawkins all things were possible. "Where there is a passage for the enemy, there, is a passage for me. Where a Frenchman can sail, an Englishman can follow," cried Hawke. "Their pilot shall be our pilot. If they go to pieces on the shoals, they will serve as beacons for us. Their perils shall be our perils."
"And so, on the wild November afternoon, with the great billows that the Bay of Biscay hurls on that stretch of iron-bound coast, Hawke flung himself into the boiling cauldron of rocks and shoals and quicksands. No more daring deed was ever done at sea."
The battle began, and the roar of the guns answered the din of the tempest. The wildly rolling fleets were soon hopelessly mixed up together. Ship after ship went down with its guns and its crews, but the flagship with Hawke on board was making for the white pennant which flew from the mast of Conflans' ship. Soon the two great ships had begun their fierce duel. Night fell before the battle was ended,—a wild night filled with the shrieking of the gale, and morning broke no less wild and stormy. Seven French ships had run for shelter to the coast, two had gone to pieces on the rocks. But in the very centre of the English fleet lay the flagship of Conflans, battered and helpless. In the darkness and confusion of the night the French commander had mistaken his friends for his foes, and anchored unconsciously in the middle of the English fleet.
As the misty grey dawn showed him his mistake, Conflans cut his cables and made for the shore. The battle of Quiberon was over. The French ships were too much damaged to put to sea any more, and Hawke was free to sail home to receive the honours that a joyous England was ready to bestow upon the faithful and brave Admiral who had saved her from a French invasion.
GAINST the time when the riders of Muspelheim, with the Giants and the evil powers of the Under-world, would bring on battle, Odin All-Father was preparing a host of defenders for Asgard. They were not of the Æsir nor of the Vanir; they were of the race of mortal men, heroes chosen from amongst the slain on fields of battle in Midgard.
To choose the heroes, and to give victory to those whom he willed to have victory, Odin had battle-maidens that went to the fields of war. Beautiful were those battle-maidens and fear- less; wise were they also, for to them Odin showed the Runes of Wisdom. Valkyries, Choosers of the Slain, they were named.
Those who were chosen on the fields of the slain were called in Asgard the Einherjar. For them Odin made ready a great Hall. Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain, it was called. Five hundred and forty doors had Valhalla, and out of each door eight hundred Champions might pass. Every day the Champions put on their armour and took their weapons down from the walls, and went forth and battled with each other. All who were wounded were made whole again, and in peace and goodly fellowship they sat down to the feast that Odin prepared for them. Odin himself sat with his Champions, drinking wine but eating no meat.
For meat the Champions ate the flesh of the boar Sæhrimnir; every day the boar was killed and cooked, and every morning it was whole again. For drink they had the mead that was made from the milk of the goat Heidrun, the goat that browsed on the leaves of the tree Læradir. And the Valkyries, the wise and fearless battle-maidens, went amongst them, filling up the drinking-horns with the heady mead.
Youngest of all the battle-maidens was Brynhild. Nevertheless, to her Odin All-Father had shown more of the Runes of Wisdom than he had shown to any of her sisters. And when the time came for Brynhild to journey down into Midgard he gave her a swan-feather dress such as he had given before to the three Valkyrie sisters—Alvit, Olrun, and Hladgrun.
In the dazzling plumage of a swan the young battle-maiden flew down from Asgard. Not yet had she to go to the battle-fields. Waters drew her, and as she waited on the will of the All-Father she sought out a lake that had golden sands for its shore, and as a maiden bathed in it.
Now there dwelt near this lake a young hero whose name was Agnar. And one day as Agnar lay by the lake he saw a swan with dazzling plumage fly down to it. And while she was in the reeds the swan-feather dress slipped off her, and Agnar beheld the swan change to a maiden.
So bright was her hair, so strong and swift were all her movements, that he knew her for one of Odin's battle-maidens; for one of those who give victory and choose the slain. Very daring was Agnar, and he set his mind upon capturing this battle-maiden even though he should bring on himself the wrath of Odin by doing it.
He hid the swan-feather dress that she had left in the reeds. When she came out of the water she might not fly away. Agnar gave back to her the swan-feather dress, but she had to promise that she would be his battle-maiden.
And as they talked together the young Valkyrie saw in him a hero that one from Asgard might help. Very brave and very noble was Agnar. Brynhild went with him as his battle-maiden, and she told him much from the Runes of Wisdom that she knew, and she showed him that the All-Father's last hope was in the bravery of the heroes of the earth; with the Chosen from the Slain for his Champions he would make battle in defence of Asgard.
Always Brynhild was with Agnar's battalions; above the battles she hovered, her bright hair and flashing battle-dress out-shining the spears and swords and shields of the warriors.
But the grey-beard King Helmgunnar made war on the young Agnar. Odin favoured the grey-beard King, and to him he promised the victory. Brynhild knew the will of the All-Father. But to Agnar, not to Helmgunnar, she gave the victory.
Doomed was Brynhild on the instant she went against Odin's will. Never again might she come into Asgard. A mortal woman she was now, and the Norns began to spin the thread of her mortal destiny.
Sorrowful was Odin All-Father that the wisest of his battle-maidens might never appear in Asgard nor walk by the benches at the feasts of his Champions in Valhalla. He rode down on Sleipner to where Brynhild was. And when he came before her it was his, and not her head that was bowed down.
For she knew now that the world of men was paying a bitter price for the strength that Asgard would have in the last battle. The bravest and the noblest were being taken from Midgard to fill up the ranks of Odin's champions. And Brynhild's heart was full of anger against the rulers of Asgard, and she cared no more to be of them.
Odin looked on his unflinching battle-maiden, and he said, "Is there aught thou wouldst have me bestow on thee in thy mortal life, Brynhild?"
"Naught save this," Brynhild answered, "that in my mortal life no one but a man without fear, the bravest hero in the world, may claim me for wife."
All-Father bowed his head in thought. "It shall be as thou hast asked," he said. "Only he who is without fear shall come near thee."
Then on the top of the mountain that is called Hindfell he had a Hall built that faced the south. Ten Dwarfs built it of black stone. And when the Hall was built he put round it a wall of mounting and circling fire.
More did Odin All-Father: he took a thorn of the Tree of Sleep and he put it into the flesh of the battle-maiden. Then, with her helmet on her head and the breast-mail of the Valkyrie upon her, he lifted Brynhild in his arms and he carried her through the wall of mounting and circling fire. He laid her upon the couch that was within the Hall. There she would lie in slumber until the hero who was without fear should ride through the flame and waken her to the life of a mortal woman.
He took farewell of her and he rode back to Asgard on Sleipner. He might not foresee what fate would be hers as a mortal woman. But the fire he had left went mounting and circling around the Hall that the Dwarfs had built. For ages that fire would be a fence around where Brynhild, once a Valkyrie, lay in sleep.
WEEK 21 |
T HERE was once a poor man who had four sons, and when they were grown up, he said to them, "My dear children, you must now go out into the world, for I have nothing to give you, so set out, and go to some distance and learn a trade, and see how you can make your way."
So the four brothers took their sticks, bade their father farewell, and went through the town-gate together.
When they had travelled about for some time, they came to a cross-way which branched off in four different directions.
Then said the eldest, "Here we must separate, but on this day four years, we will meet each other again at this spot, and in the meantime we will seek our fortunes."
Then each of them went his way, and the eldest met a man who asked him where he was going, and what he was intending to do?
"I want to learn a trade," he replied.
Then the other said, "Come with me, and be a thief."
"No," he answered, "that is no longer regarded as a reputable trade, and the end of it is that one has to swing on the gallows."
"Oh," said the man, "you need not be afraid of the gallows; I will only teach you to get such things as no other man could ever lay hold of, and no one will ever detect you."
So he allowed himself to be talked into it, and while with the man became an accomplished thief, and so dexterous that nothing was safe from him, if he once desired to have it.
The second brother met a man who put the same question to him what he wanted to learn in the world.
"I don't know yet," he replied.
"Then come with me, and be an astronomer; there is nothing better than that, for nothing is hid from you."
He liked the idea, and became such a skillful astronomer that when he had learnt everything, and was about to travel onwards, his master gave him a telescope and said to him, "With that canst thou see whatsoever takes place either on earth or in heaven, and nothing can remain concealed from thee."
A huntsman took the third brother into training, and gave him such excellent instruction in everything which related to huntsmanship, that he became an experienced hunter. When he went away, his master gave him a gun and said, "It will never fail you; whatsoever you aim at, you are certain to hit."
The youngest brother also met a man who spoke to him, and inquired what his intentions were. "Would you not like to be a tailor?" said he.
"Not that I know of," said the youth; "sitting doubled up from morning till night, driving the needle and the goose backwards and forwards, is not to my taste."
"Oh, but you are speaking in ignorance," answered the man; "with me you would learn a very different kind of tailoring, which is respectable and proper, and for the most part very honorable."
So he let himself be persuaded, and went with the man, and learnt his art from the very beginning. When they parted, the man gave the youth a needle, and said, "With this you can sew together whatever is given you, whether it is as soft as an egg or as hard as steel; and it will all become one piece of stuff, so that no seam will be visible."
When the appointed four years were over, the four brothers arrived at the same time at the cross-roads, embraced and kissed each other, and returned home to their father.
"So now," said he, quite delighted, "the wind has blown you back again to me."
They told him of all that had happened to them, and that each had learnt his own trade. Now they were sitting just in front of the house under a large tree, and the father said, "I will put you all to the test, and see what you can do."
Then he looked up and said to his second son, "Between two branches up at the top of this tree, there is a chaffinch's nest, tell me how many eggs there are in it?"
The astronomer took his glass, looked up, and said, "There are five."
Then the father said to the eldest, "Fetch the eggs down without disturbing the bird which is sitting hatching them."
The skillful thief climbed up, and took the five eggs from beneath the bird, which never observed what he was doing, and remained quietly sitting where she was, and brought them down to his father.
The father took them, and put one of them on each corner of the table, and the fifth in the middle, and said to the huntsman, "With one shot thou shalt shoot me the five eggs in two, through the middle."
The huntsman aimed, and shot the eggs, all five as the father had desired, and that at one shot. He certainly must have had some of the powder for shooting round corners.
"Now it's your turn," said the father to the fourth son; "you shall sew the eggs together again, and the young birds that are inside them as well, and you must do it so that they are not hurt by the shot."
The tailor brought his needle, and sewed them as his father wished.
When he had done this the thief had to climb up the tree again, and carry them to the nest, and put them back again under the bird without her being aware of it. The bird sat her full time, and after a few days the young ones crept out, and they had a red line round their necks where they had been sewn together by the tailor.
"Well," said the old man to his sons, "I begin to think you are worth more than green clover; you have used your time well, and learnt something good. I can't say which of you deserves the most praise. That will be proved if you have but an early opportunity of using your talents."
Not long after this, there was a great uproar in the country, for the King's daughter was carried off by a dragon.
The King was full of trouble about it, both by day and night, and caused it to be proclaimed that whosoever brought her back should have her to wife.
The four brothers said to each other, "This would be a fine opportunity for us to show what we can do!" and resolved to go forth together and liberate the King's daughter.
"I will soon know where she is," said the astronomer, and looked through his telescope and said, "I see her already, she is far away from here on a rock in the sea, and the dragon is beside her watching her."
Then he went to the King, and asked for a ship for himself and his brothers, and sailed with them over the sea until they came to the rock. There the King's daughter was sitting, and the dragon was lying asleep on her lap.
The huntsman said, "I dare not fire, I should kill the beautiful maiden at the same time."
"Then I will try my art," said the thief, and he crept thither and stole her away from under the dragon, so quietly and dexterously, that the monster never remarked it, but went on snoring.
Full of joy, they hurried off with her on board ship, and steered out into the open sea; but the dragon, who when he awoke had found no princess there, followed them, and came snorting angrily through the air.
Just as he was circling above the ship, and about to descend on it, the huntsman shouldered his gun, and shot him to the heart. The monster fell down dead, but was so large and powerful that his fall shattered the whole ship. Fortunately, however, they laid hold of a couple of planks, and swam about the wide sea.
Then again they were in great peril, but the tailor, who was not idle, took his wondrous needle, and with a few stitches sewed the planks together, and they seated themselves upon them, and collected together all the fragments of the vessel. Then he sewed these so skilfully together, that in a very short time the ship was once more seaworthy, and they could go home again in safety.
When the King once more saw his daughter, there were great rejoicings. He said to the four brothers, "One of you shall have her to wife, but which of you it is to be you must settle among yourselves."
Then a warm contest arose among them, for each of them preferred his own claim.
The astronomer said, "If I had not seen the princess, all your arts would have been useless, so she is mine."
The thief said, "What would have been the use of your seeing, if I had not got her away from the dragon? so she is mine."
The huntsman said, "You and the princess, and all of you, would have been torn to pieces by the dragon if my ball had not hit him, so she is mine."
The tailor said, "And if I, by my art, had not sewn the ship together again, you would all of you have been miserably drowned, so she is mine."
Then the King uttered this saying, "Each of you has an equal right, and as all of you cannot have the maiden, none of you shall have her, but I will give to each of you, as a reward, half a kingdom."
The brothers were pleased with this decision, and said, "It is better thus than that we should be at variance with each other." Then each of them received half a kingdom, and they lived with their father in the greatest happiness as long as it pleased God.
M ISS Apis is probably as proud of her hive when she gets it stored full of honey and bee-bread, as your mother is of her pantry when she gets the jelly and preserves done in the fall.
At least, I should think she would be.
It is a very cunning art to take nectar from the flowers, and in one's honey-sac change it into delicious honey.
It is not every creature that can do that. In fact, I know of but one or two besides Miss Apis and her near relatives that can.
Although the nectar is changed to honey, it still retains its own flavor, so that the bee-keepers can often tell by the taste what kind of flowers honey is made from.
Miss Apis is very particular about the quality of her honey, and does not like to mix up different kinds. If she starts out to gather white clover honey, she will visit the clover fields all day, and for many days, and pass by other flowers, rather than mix their nectar with the clover nectar.
White clover honey is delicate and delicious, and bees are very fond of visiting the white clover heads. Honey-bees do not gather much honey from the red clover, because the little flower tubes are too long for their tongues, and generally they cannot reach the nectar.
Bumble-bees love the red clover, but you shall hear a story about that later.
Sweet clover yields good honey, and where it grows the bees gather a great deal from it.
The fragrant flowers of the basswood are great favorites with the bees, and when a basswood tree is in bloom, it sometimes sounds like an enormous bee-hive, there are so many bees after its honey.
Most people who live in the north are familiar with the dark-colored buckwheat honey, and those who live far south know the clear delicate orange-blossom honey.
Sometimes bees gather honey from poisonous plants, but that does not happen very often in this country. When you read Xenophon's "Anabasis," you will learn how Xenophon's whole army were poisoned by eating some honey they found while marching through Asia. The Retreat of the Ten Thousand is a very interesting story, and I hope you will hurry and get old enough to read the "Anabasis."
Miss Apis sometimes gathers other sweets than flower-juice. I am sorry to say she will even steal the honey from other bees if she can get it.
Sometimes she takes cider, but that makes very poor honey indeed. When ripe fruits split open, or the wasps bite holes in them, Miss Apis may sometimes be seen taking her share of the fruit juice.
It is not often, however, that Miss Apis preserves fruit juice; she leaves that for us to do.
She does collect honey-dew, though, and sometimes will fill her hive full of honey made from it.
Probably you do not know what honey-dew is; it is not everybody that does know, but I do, and I am going to tell.
You all have heard of the aphides, the ants' cows?
You know they are tiny little insects with two horns on their backs. They give out a sweet liquid of which the ants are very fond. We are told that some ants take care of the aphides, protect them and treat them as if they were indeed little insect cows.
At certain seasons of the year the aphides are very abundant. We sometimes call them plant-lice, and I am sure you have all seen them on rose bushes, and lilies, and other garden plants. Sometimes they are green, sometimes brown, sometimes they have wings, sometimes not. They are very curious little creatures, and sometime you must learn more about them.
An aphis puts her bill into the skin of a leaf, and there she stays and sucks out its juice, which you can imagine is not very good for the leaf.
Some of the juice which the aphides eat is changed into the sweet liquid the ants are so fond of; and if there are no ants to eat it, the aphides are obliged to get rid of it, and they squirt it out in the air.
I have stood under a tulip-tree and watched a perfect shower of this honey-dew come raining down from the countless aphides on the leaves. The aphides stay on the under-side of the leaves and the honey-dew falls on the upper side of the leaves below them. Sometimes the leaves of a tree or a bush will shine as if they had been varnished, because of the honey-dew that covers them. Such leaves are sticky to the touch, too, and, in fact, become very disagreeable, as dust settles on the sticky surface.
I once saw all the plants in the Carolina Mountains covered with this honey-dew. The season had been dry, which is what the aphides like, and they were over everything.
The little mountain children used to pick these sweet leaves and lick off the honey-dew. You see, they have no candy in the mountains, and the children took the honey-dew without waiting for the bees to make it into honey.
But bees and children are not the only lovers of honey-dew.
I have often watched the squirrels lick it from the leaves.
They take a leaf between their paws and hold it to their mouths, while their little tongues lick the leaf all over. It is great fun to watch the squirrels do this, and I hope you will see it yourself some day. I do not know whether squirrels like candy, but I am perfectly sure they like honey-dew.
Honey-dew used to be a great mystery to people, and very funny notions were held regarding it.
Pliny, an old Latin naturalist, supposed it was "the perspiration of the sky, the saliva of the stars, or the moisture deposited by the atmosphere while purging itself, corrupted by its admixture with the mists of earth."
We know that it is not the perspiration of the sky, nor the saliva of the stars, but just the work of the little aphides.
There are many people still living who think the honey-dew goes up as a sort of mist from the earth, and falls again as a sweet dew on the leaves.
Bees like the honey-dew very much, and I have eaten honey made from it, but I must confess I did not like it.
Some honey-dew is said to make very good honey, but I prefer to have the bees bring my honey from the flowers.
There once was a frog,
And he lived in a bog,
On the banks of Lake Okeefinokee.
And the words of the song
That he sang all day long
Were, "Croakety croakety croaky."
Said the frog, "I have found
That my life's daily round
In this place is exceedingly poky.
So no longer I'll stop,
But I swiftly will hop
Away from Lake Okeefinokee."
Now a bad mocking-bird
By mischance overheard
The words of the frog as he spokee.
And he said, "All my life
Frog and I've been at strife,
As we lived by Lake Okeefinokee.
"Now I see at a glance
Here's a capital chance
For to play him a practical jokee.
So I'll venture to say
That he shall not
Leave the banks of Lake Okeefinokee."
So this bad mocking-bird,
Without saying a word,
He flew to a tree which was oaky.
And loudly he sang,
Till the whole forest rang,
"Oh! Croakety croakety croaky!"
As he warbled this song,
Master Frog came along,
A-filling his pipe for to smokee,
And he said,
Has escaped from the bog
"I am filled with amaze
To hear one of my race
A-warbling on top of an oaky;
But if frogs can climb trees,
I may still find some ease
On the banks of Lake Okeefinokee."
So he climbed up the tree;
But alas! down fell he!
And his lovely green neck it was brokee;
And the sad truth to say,
Never more did he stray
From the banks of Lake Okeefinokee.
And the bad mocking-bird
Said, "How very absurd
And delightful a practical jokee!"
But I'm happy to say
He was drowned the next day
In the waters of Okeefinokee.
WEEK 21 |
Matthew ix: 18 to 38; x: 1 to 42;
Mark v: 22 to 43;
Luke viii: 41 to 56; ix: 1 to 5.
HEN Jesus and his disciples landed at Capernaum, after their sail across the lake, they found a crowd of people on the shore waiting for them. And a man came forward from the throng and fell down at the feet of Jesus. He was one of the chief men in the synagogue, and his name was Jairus. He said:
"O Master, come to my house at once! My little daughter is dying; but if you will come and lay your hands upon her, she will live."
And Jesus went with Jairus, and his disciples followed him, and also many people, who thronged around Jesus. In the crowd was a poor woman who had been ill for very many years from a sore out of which her blood ran, so that she was very weak. Many doctors had tried to help her, but they could not; and she had spent all her money, so that she was now very poor.
This woman had heard of Jesus; and she tried to come to him, but she could not reach him in the throng of people. She said to herself, "If I can only touch his garment, I know that the touch will make me well." And as Jesus passed by, she reached out her hand and touched the hem of his robe. At that instant she felt in her body that she was cured. Jesus himself felt her touch, and turning around, said, "Who touched me?"
The woman touching the hem of Jesus' robe.
Peter said to him, "Master, the crowd throngs around
you and pressed upon you. How can you ask, 'Who touched
But Jesus said, "Some one has touched me; for I feel that power has gone out from me."
And he looked around to see who it was. Then the woman came forward, fearing and trembling over what she had done. She fell down before Jesus, and told how she had touched him and had been made well. But Jesus said to her, "Daughter, be of good comfort; your faith has made you well; rise up and go in peace."
And from that hour the woman was free from her disease. All this time, while Jesus was waiting, Jairus, the father of the dying child, stood beside Jesus in great trouble, for he feared that his child would die before Jesus could come to his house. And at that moment some one came to him and said, "It is too late; your daughter is dead; you need not trouble the Master any more."
But Jesus said to him, "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will yet be saved to you."
Soon they came to the house where Jairus lived; and they could hear the people weeping and crying aloud. Jesus said to them, "Why do you make such a noise? The little girl is not dead, but only asleep."
Jesus meant by this that we need not be filled with sorrow when our friends die, for death is only a sleep for a time until God shall awake them. But they did not understand this; and they would not be comforted, for they knew that the child was dead.
Jesus would not allow any of the crowd of people to go into the room where the dead child was. He took with him three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the child, and shut out all the rest of the people. On a couch was lying the dead body of a girl, twelve years old. Taking the hand of the child into his own, he said to her, "Little girl, rise up!"
Jesus raising Jairus' daughter to life.
And the life of the little girl came again. She opened her eyes, and sat up. Jesus told them to give her something to eat; and he said to them, "Do not tell any one how the little girl was brought to life."
Already the crowds following him were so great that he could not teach the people in the city; and if it became known that he could raise the dead to life, the throng and the press of the multitudes would be greater. His great work was to teach and to bring life to the souls of men, rather than to heal, or to raise the dead.
And he went out once more among the villages of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, and healing the sick people who were brought to him. He pitied the people, because there was no one to give them the gospel; and they were like sheep wandering and lost without a shepherd. He said to his disciples:
"The harvest truly is great, but the workers to gather the harvest are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send out reapers into these harvest-fields."
Jesus healing the sick.
And after this Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to different places to preach in his name to the people. He sent them forth in pairs, two of them together, so that they could help each other. And he gave them power to heal the sick, and to cast out evil spirits from men. He said to them:
"Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out the evil spirits; freely you have received, freely give. Do not take any money with you; but at every place ask for some good man, and stay at his house.
"And if any people will not listen to your words, when you go out of that house or out of that city, shake off the dust from your sandals, as a sign; and God will judge that house or that city.
"He that hears you, hears me; and he that hears me, hears him who sent me. And if any one will give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, he shall not lose his reward."
The twelve disciples went out in pairs, as Jesus had commanded them, and preached in all the cities of Galilee, that men should cease from their sins and turn to God.
C URDIE spent many nights in the mine. His father and he had taken Mrs. Peterson into the secret, for they knew mother could hold her tongue, which was more than could be said of all the miners' wives. But Curdie did not tell her that every night he spent in the mine, part of it went in earning a new red petticoat for her.
Mrs. Peterson was such a nice good mother! All mothers are more or less, but Mrs. Peterson was nice and good all more and no less. She made a little heaven in that poor cottage on the hill-side—for her husband and son to go home to out of the dreary earth in which they worked. I doubt if the princess was very much happier even in the arms of her huge great-grandmother than Peter and Curdie were in the arms of Mrs. Peterson. True, her hands were hard, and chapped, and large, but it was with work for them; and therefore, in the sight of the angels, her hands were so much the more beautiful. And if Curdie worked hard to get her a petticoat, she worked hard every day to get him comforts which he would have missed much more than she would a new petticoat even in winter. Not that she and Curdie ever thought of how much they worked for each other: that would have spoiled everything.
When left alone in the mine, Curdie always worked on for an hour or two at first, following the lode which, according to Glump, would lead at last into the deserted habitation. After that, he would set out on a reconnoitring expedition. In order to manage this, or rather the return from it, better than the first time, he had bought a huge ball of fine string, having learned the trick from Hop-o'-my-Thumb, whose history his mother had often told him. Not that Hop-o'-my-Thumb had ever used a ball of string—I should be sorry to be supposed so far out in my classics—but the principle was the same as that of the pebbles. The end of this string he fastened to his pickaxe, which figured no bad anchor, and then, with the ball in his hand, unrolling as he went, set out in the dark through the natural gangs of the goblins' territory. The first night or two he came upon nothing worth remembering; saw only a little of the home-life of the cobs in the various caves they called houses; failed in coming upon anything to cast light upon the foregoing design which kept the inundation for the present in the background. But at length, I think on the third or fourth night, he found, partly guided by the noise of their implements, a company of evidently the best sappers and miners amongst them, hard at work. What were they about? It could not well be the inundation, seeing that had in the meantime been postponed to something else. Then what was it? He lurked and watched, every now and then in the greatest risk of being detected, but without success. He had again and again to retreat in haste, a proceeding rendered the more difficult that he had to gather up his string as he returned upon its course. It was not that he was afraid of the goblins, but that he was afraid of their finding out that they were watched, which might have prevented the discovery at which he aimed. Sometimes his haste had to be such that, when he reached home toward morning, his string, for lack of time to wind it up as he "dodged the cobs," would be in what seemed the most hopeless entanglement; but after a good sleep, though a short one, he always found his mother had got it right again. There it was, wound in a most respectable ball, ready for use the moment he should want it!
"I can't think how you do it, mother," he would say.
"I follow the thread," she would answer—"just as you do in the mine."
She never had more to say about it; but the less clever she was with her words, the more clever she was with her hands; and the less his mother said, the more, Curdie believed, she had to say.
But still he had made no discovery as to what the goblin miners were about.
A BOUT this time, the gentlemen whom the king had left behind him to watch over the princess, had each occasion to doubt the testimony of his own eyes, for more than strange were the objects to which they would bear witness. They were of one sort—creatures—but so grotesque and misshapen as to be more like a child's drawings upon his slate than anything natural. They saw them only at night, while on guard about the house. The testimony of the man who first reported having seen one of them was that, as he was walking slowly round the house, while yet in the shadow, he caught sight of a creature standing on its hind legs in the moonlight, with its fore feet upon a window-ledge, staring in at the window. Its body might have been that of a dog or wolf—he thought, but he declared on his honor that its head was twice the size it ought to have been for the size of its body, and as round as a ball, while the face, which it turned upon him as it fled, was more like one carved by a boy upon the turnip inside which he is going to put a candle, than anything else he could think of. It rushed into the garden. He sent an arrow after it, and thought he must have struck it; for it gave an unearthly howl, and he could not find his arrow any more than the beast, although he searched all about the place where it vanished. They laughed at him until he was driven to hold his tongue; and said he must have taken too long a pull at the ale-jug. But before two nights were over, he had one to side with him; for he too had seen something strange, only quite different from that reported by the other. The description the second man gave of the creature he had seen was yet more grotesque and unlikely. They were both laughed at by the rest; but night after night another came over to their side, until at last there was only one left to laugh at all his companions. Two nights more passed, and he saw nothing; but on the third, he came rushing from the garden to the other two before the house, in such an agitation that they declared—for it was their turn now—that the band of his helmet was cracking under his chin with the rising of his hair inside it. Running with him into that part of the garden which I have already described, they saw a score of creatures, to not one of which they could give a name, and not one of which was like another, hideous and ludicrous at once, gamboling on the lawn in the moonlight. The supernatural or rather subnatural ugliness of their faces, the length of legs and necks in some, the apparent absence of both or either in others, made the spectators, although in one consent as to what they saw, yet doubtful, as I have said, of the evidence of their own eyes—and ears as well; for the noises they made, although not loud, were as uncouth and varied as their forms, and could be described neither as grunts nor squeaks nor roars nor howls nor barks nor yells nor screams nor croaks nor hisses nor mews nor shrieks, but only as something like all of them mingled in one horrible dissonance. Keeping in the shade, the watchers had a few moments to recover themselves before the hideous assembly suspected their presence; but all at once, as if by common consent, they scampered off in the direction of a great rock, and vanished before the men had come to sufficiently to think of following them.
My readers will suspect what these were; but I will now give them full information concerning them. They were of course household animals belonging to the goblins, whose ancestors had taken their ancestors many centuries before from the upper regions of light into the lower regions of darkness. The original stocks of these horrible creatures were very much the same as the animals now seen about farms and homes in the country, with the exception of a few of them, which had been wild creatures, such as foxes, and indeed wolves and small bears, which the goblins, from their proclivity toward the animal creation, had caught when cubs and tamed. But in the course of time, all had undergone even greater changes than had passed upon their owners. They had altered—that is, their descendants had altered—into such creatures as I have not attempted to describe except in the vaguest manner—the various parts of their bodies assuming, in an apparently arbitrary and self-willed manner, the most abnormal developments. Indeed, so little did any distinct type predominate in some of the bewildering results, that you could only have guessed at any known animal as the original, and even then, what likeness remained would be more one of general expression than of definable conformation. But what increased the gruesomeness tenfold, was that, from constant domestic, or indeed rather family association with the goblins, their countenances had grown in grotesque resemblance to the human. No one understands animals who does not see that every one of them, even amongst the fishes, it may be with a dimness and vagueness infinitely remote, yet shadows the human: in the case of these the human resemblance had greatly increased: while their owners had sunk toward them, they had risen toward their owners. But the conditions of subterranean life being equally unnatural for both, while the goblins were worse, the creatures had not improved by the approximation, and its result would have appeared far more ludicrous than consoling to the warmest lover of animal nature. I shall now explain how it was that just then these animals began to show themselves about the king's country house.
The goblins, as Curdie had discovered, were mining on—at work both day and night, in divisions, urging the scheme after which he lay in wait. In the course of their tunneling, they had broken into the channel of a small stream, but the break being in the top of it, no water had escaped to interfere with their work. Some of the creatures, hovering as they often did about their masters, had found the hole, and had, with the curiosity which had grown to a passion from the restraints of their unnatural circumstances, proceeded to explore the channel. The stream was the same which ran out by the seat on which Irene and her king-papa had sat as I have told, and the goblin-creatures found it jolly fun to get out for a romp on a smooth lawn such as they had never seen in all their poor miserable lives. But although they had partaken enough of the nature of their owners to delight in annoying and alarming any of the people whom they met on the mountain, they were of course incapable of designs of their own, or of intentionally furthering those of their masters.
For several nights after the men-at-arms were at length of one mind as to the facts of the visits of some horrible creatures, whether bodily or spectral they could not yet say, they watched with special attention that part of the garden where they had last seen them. Perhaps indeed they gave in consequence too little attention to the house. But the creatures were too cunning to be easily caught; nor were the watchers quick-eyed enough to descry the head, or the keen eyes in it, which, from the opening whence the stream issued, would watch them in turn, ready, the moment they left the lawn, to report the place clear.
Into the sunshine,
Full of the light,
Leaping and flashing
From morn till night!
Into the moonlight,
Whiter than snow,
Waving so flower-like
When the winds blow!
Into the starlight
Rushing in spray,
Happy at midnight,
Happy by day!
Ever in motion,
Blithesome and cheery,
Still climbing heavenward,
Glad of all weathers,
Still seeming best,
Upward or downward,
Motion thy rest.
Full of a nature
Nothing can tame,
Changed every moment,
Ever the same.
Darkness or sunshine,
Let my heart be
Fresh, changeful, constant,
Upward, like thee!